Down The TBR Hole #4

Down the TBR hole banner

Welcome to the Down The TBR Hole meme. I stole this idea off Sofii at A Book. A Thought. a year ago, did three posts and then never got back to it. But in the interests of making this blog a little more active again, I thought it would be a good series to get back into.

My TBR isn’t as out of control as some of yours 😋but it is probably still worth trying to get it down a bit. I’d love your comments on any of my decisions.

Here’s how it works, feel free to join in!

    1. Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
    2. Order on ascending date added.
    3. Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
    4. Read the synopses of the books
    5. Decide: keep it or should it go?

So, without further ado!

Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming

I’m kind of torn about this one because on the one hand, I love Alan Cumming as a performer. On the other hand, I don’t really love memoirs… but the GoodReads listing for this makes me intrigued enough to still want to take a look at it.

~~ Decision:  KEEP

24 Hours by Claire Seeber

Man, when was the last time I read a good thriller? Feels like such a long time ago! I wish there was a bit to the blurb for this one, though… it’s hard to decide based on a couple of lines… so I think for the moment I’m going to let this one go.

~~ DECISION:  GO ~~


The Girls at the Kingfisher Club 
by Genevieve Valentine

Um, yeah, a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses set in Jazz Age New York? That’s a no-brainer.

~~ DECISION: KEEP ~~

The Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher

As much as this sounds really interesting and I do love anything to do with the early twentieth century’s obsession with the occult… reading the reviews it sounds like this isn’t the most well-written book on the subject. It also sounds like it gets quite dense at times and I suspect I would love interest quickly.

~~ DECISION: GO ~~

Alice Takes Back Wonderland by David D Hammons

It’s my lifelong quest to find good Alice in Wonderland retellings/continuations/adaptations. There have been a few but most of them end up really disappointing me… and yet I continue searching. While I’m not 100% wowed by this book’s description, the fact that it contains characters from other fantasy stories is intriguing, so I will keep it on the list.

~~DECISION: KEEP ~~

TODAY: 3 keep, 2 go.

ALL TIME: 9 keep, 11 go.

What do you think of these choices? Have you read any of these titles? Would you have chosen differently?

You can read my previous Down the TBR Hole posts here.

See you next time!

Book Review: “The Shadow Palace” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: The Shadow Palace (The Viper and the Urchin #6)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Steampunk/fantasy
Intended audience: Upper YA/Adult
Date Read: 28/01/20 – 01/02/20
Rating:
★★★

Review:

Please note: this review may contain minor spoilers for the previous books in this series.

It took me a little while to get into this next Viper and the Urchin book, but I think that is because I was feeling a bit reading slumpy. Having said that, I think the story itself did pick up in the second half and that did help me to become more engaged.

This instalment picks up where the previous one left off, with Rory and Rafe trying to snag a meeting with the Minister Voynia in order to aid their mission for the Old Girl back in Damsport.

One thing I really enjoy about this series, especially the books not set in Damsport, is trying to spot the real-life cultures that inspired the ones in the books. I was imagining the Airnian Court much like Versailles – ridiculously wide dresses, wigs, powedered faces, vacuous courtiers… Celine Jeanjean’s descriptions are once again strong and vibrant and I had a really clear picture in my head.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but there was a particular aspect of Longinus’ arc that had me genuinely wondering how he would get himself out of the tight spot he was in. It was very touch and go for a while. He also had some really great character development as a result of what happens to him in Airnia. I love seeing a favourite character evolve.

We also learned a few things about Rafe that we didn’t know before and I think that’s going to play a bigger part in the upcoming books – he’s going to have to learn to be honest with Rory or she’s going to ditch him.

There’s big political stuff going on, too, and now that the team have found some answers in AIrnia, it’s going to be interesting to see how things play out in Damsport.

Even though this book wasn’t my favourite in the series, it was still highly readable and as always, I’ll be eagerly awaiting the follow-up!


(Thank you to Celine Jeanjean for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. This did not affect my opinions in any way)

You can read my reviews of The Bloodless Assassin (book 1),  The Black Orchid (book 2), The Slave City (book 3), The Doll Maker (book 4) and The White Hornet (book 5) by clicking their titles.

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#WWW Wednesday – 29 January 2020

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished Don’t Read The Comments by Eric Smith and I totally loved it! It was not the kind of book I expected to keep me up late, but I kept saying “Just another chapter….” Really well done. Here’s my review.

After that, I read Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine and to be honest, didn’t love it. There’s only going to be one more book in the series so I might read it to see the series through, but on the other hand, I feel like I’m good with leaving it where I am. Here’s my review.

Last but not least, I finished Blackbirch: the Beginning by K. M. Allan. This author is part of my 6am writing group on Twitter, so I’ve been watching this book evolve for a while and I’m so pleased it’s finally out! My review will be up on Friday and the book comes out on Feb 17. If you like witchcraft and spooky forests, add it to your TBR!

Since my last WWW, I also reviewed It Sounded Better In My Head by Nina Kenwood, and you can read that review here.

What are you currently reading?!

I haven’t been listening to audio books as much as usual, so I’m very slowly going through Before The Devil Breaks You, the third in the Diviners series by Libba Bray. Still really enjoying this series but there are times when it feels like it goes on way too long. And the next book is even longer! Ah well.

I have paused my Audible membership for three months so I don’t have to pay anything while I work through 50ish hours of unlistened-to content!

I’ve just today started The Shadow Palace, which is book 6 in Celine Jeanjean’s Viper and the Urchin steampunk series. I’ve given the last couple of books in this series 5 stars, so let’s hope the streak continues!

I am still going with The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross but to be honest, it’s on hold while I get through my ARCs.

What do you think you will read next?

Next I’ll be reading Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok, another ARC. I just can’t resist historical fantasy set in France. There’s something about it.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

Book Review: “Don’t Read The Comments” by Eric Smith

Title: Don’t Read The  Comments
Author: Eric Smith
Genre:
Contemporary
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 07/01/2020 – 13/01/2020
Rating:
★★★★★

Review:

I’ve got to admit that when I requested this book on NetGalley, I was not expecting it to be one that kept me up reading past bedtime. And yet….

This book has a lot of really topical, timely themes: doxing, online bullying and poverty, and of course, your more usual YA themes of figuring out what to do after high-school and first loves and coming of age.

really loved the two main characters! Divya is strong and resourceful, and there for others. She’s also dorky, which is why she gets on with Aaron so well. Aaron was a fantastic example of non-toxic masculinity in a sea of trolls. I liked that it confronted his privilege – that Divya has to assume he could be as bad as the rest until proven otherwise, and how this realisation takes him completely by surprise. And I had such a silly grin on my face when they started sending each other heart emojis over the chat.

I also thought the horror of knowing trolls have your home address was really well depicted as was the realisation of “Wow… they’re actually kind of pathetic, aren’t they?” when the trolls are faced in person. It doesn’t take away the horror, but for a little while you feel that they actually can be beaten, even as they keep trying to sound their battle cry as they’re dragged away.

Also there’s the jerks like Aaron’s ”friend” Jason who, while not exactly part of the group, don’t denounce them and in fact, want to impress them. I knew from the moment I met him Jason would be The Worst and he did not disappoint.

I loved the descriptions of the Reclaim the Sun game and Divya’s livestreams. I really felt that Eric Smith is a nerd/geek himself and has spent time playing this type of game. It all rang true to me, and that’s something I have found lacking in other books about nerd culture.

All in all,  this one comes highly recommended!


(Thank you to Harlequin Australia for sending a free copy my way in exchange for an honest review)

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#WWW Wednesday – 08 January 2020

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

Um… hi?

Apparently my last WWW post was October 31. I went on a bit of a hiatus, and then I started wondering “Well, If I do a WWW post, how far back do I go with what I’ve been reading?” And I couldn’t decide. So then I eventually decided I would just start with today and only talk about books read in 2020.

… Yes, I overthink these things.

What have you recently finished reading?

It Sounded Better In My Head by Nina Kenwood was a sweet YA contemporary. It had some pacing issues and I didn’t really feel like I knew anything about the love interest, but it was painfully realistic when it came to messy friendship dynamics, which I liked a lot.

I’ll have a review up on Friday.

What are you currently reading?!

Don’t Read The Comments by Eric Smith. Apparently I’m in a YA contemporary mood at the moment. Though to be fair, this is an ARC and I need to read it before January 20. Not very far in at the moment but I think it will be quite topical.

I also started The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross. This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast from the Beast’s POV. I’m only a few chapters in but the writing is really lyrical and beautiful! Also a digital version of the cover really doesn’t do it justice. The paperback is so shiny!

What do you think you will read next?

Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine comes out on January 20, so I need to read this ARC next. To be honest, I’m a bit worried about  whether I’ll enjoy it. Stillhouse Lake and Killman Creek were such amazing books but I didn’t love Wolfhunter River as much… So we’ll have to see how it goes.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

Emily’s Top 12 Books of 2019

This year I hit on a better way to do my top books of the year post. In past years, I’ve always looked at my GoodReads yearly challenge page in December and tried to narrow down a top ten for the year. Often the books at the end of the year were fresh in my mind but memories of the ones from earlier were starting to fade. It always felt weird having mostly books from the last few months in such a wrap-up post.

That’s why during 2019, I’ve kept a list of my favourite book each month as the year went along, so I can safely say these were my favourite books of the year, even if I sometimes can’t remember why. (Except for really mind-blowing favourites, the details tend to fade for me).

So without further ado, here are Emily’s Top 12 Books of 2019:

January:

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. The prose in this book is spectacular all the way through, but nothing beats the chapters where Lazlo and Sarai fell in love over the course of a shared dream. *swoon*

February:

Famous Last Words by Katie Alender. This was such a fun, ghostly book! It reminded me that I enjoy ghost stories (as long as they’re not too scary). It was also a fun thriller, which is what I needed after all the SFF.

March:

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray. Mostly, I loved this book because of its forbidden romance element in the Russia-verse, but the whole book was so entertaining! And the audio book is so well performed by Tavia Gilbert.

April:

I have to say it’s a tie between Ten Thousand Skies Above You and A Million Worlds With You by Claudia Gray because I couldn’t get enough of this series, even when it was a bit predictable. Honourable mention to Romanov by Nadine Brandes because even though I didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped, it made me think a lot about the real Romanovs and got under my skin.

May:

The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate. This was a fun, twisty dystopian, with an ending that left me wanting more. I’m not sure if there will actually be a second book but I sure hope so, because that ending was quite something!

June:

The Diviners by Libba Bray. This had so many things I like – old-timey New York City (it’s set during Prohibition), ghosts, serial killings and occult mischief. And it was just the right amount of scary. Not to mention January LaVoy does such a great job on the audio version, really bringing this whole world to life.

July:

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis– maybe this is because of nostalgia? Even though I never read the books as a child, I did watch the BBC adaptation an awful lot. I really need to get back to my plan to read the rest of the Narnia books.

August:

Women of Wasps and War by Madeleine D’Este. I read this nearly all in one sitting. It was so powerful and made me feel a lot of things. It explored societal privilege in detail and I particularly liked how D’Este examined the way you can love an individual and still recognise they are part of the oppressive system.

September:

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I’d been looking forward to this book for a while by the time it was released. It took me a little while to get into it but I eventually realised that was because I was reading it in small doses. It needs your full and undivided attention. I loved learning about Mexican mythology, and the writing is poetry!

 

October:

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg. Almost-human robots in a dystopian Disneyland. What’s not to love? This was fast-paced and incredibly fun! I was worried I had hyped it up to myself too much, but it lived up to my expectations! Now I want a sequel where the robots stage a revolution!

November:

Portable Curiosities by Julie Koh. I’ve become more interested in short story collections in the past few months and this was definitely a quirky, enjoyable one. Sometimes I had to think about the stories before I figured out what they were really saying, and there were a few that I didn’t get at all, but the satire was really entertaining.

December:

A Holiday by Gaslight by  Mimi  Mathews. I was in such a readinig slump and this delightful little Victorian romance was exactly what I needed to pull me out. It had everything I wanted in a romance and loved the characters.

You  can see the full list of books I read this year at my GoodReads 2019 Challenge page.

Here’s to more amazing books in 2020! Can’t wait to hang out with you all some more!

 

Book Review: “A Holiday by Gaslight” by Mimi Matthews

Title: A Holiday By Gaslight
Author: Mimi Matthews
Genre:
Historical romance
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 17/12/2019
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

I’ve got to be honest, I wasn’t 100% this novella would be my cup of tea going in, but I’m so glad I picked it up because my holiday reading this season has been a mixed bag and this one finally pulled me out of the dumps.

Sophie Ampersett is used to making sacrifices for the happiness and security of her family, but she hopes that when she marries, it might be someone she at least likes.

Ned Sharpe, a wealthy tradesman, is smitten with Sophie the first time he lays eyes on her, but after following the advise in a gentleman’s ettiquette guide,  he doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere, and Sophie is about to call the courtship off.

But Sophie decides their courtship is worth one last chance, so she invites Ned and his family to her family home in Derbyshire for Christmas, with the hope of finally finding love.

This was such a sweet book! In such a short book, it can be hard to really flesh out your characters, but Matthews has really done just that, not just for the two leads, but the supporting characters as well. There are so many different attitudes from the characters, which leads to misunderstandings and conflict. I loved it.

I loved Ned and Sophie, and how their relationship developed once they agreed to be candid with one another. I loved Ned’s awkwardness. As a tradesman, he was trying so hard to fit in with the upper classes and floundering. Sophie was strong and independent without being anachronistic. I loved the stolen moments they shared in secret alcoves around the house. Secret kisses under mistletoe! Things never felt lusty or steamy; it suited the period and the tone of the writing perfectly.

found myself getting frustrated and angry at Sophie’s father, who has spent the entire family fortune, including his two daughters’ dowries, on upgrades to their home, such as gaslight and eventually indoor plumbing.

There is a side plot with Ned’s friend and business partner and Sophie’s sister which felt less well-developed. I was taken a bit by surprise with that one, though its outcome did lead to more misunderstandings and moved the Sophie and Ned’s story into its final stages.

I hadn’t come across Mimi Matthews before, but I am definitely going to check out her other historical romances when I am in the mood for this kind of thing.


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Introducing #StartOnYourShelfathon! Dec 2019 – Dec 2020

Hello friends! Blogging has kind of fallen by the wayside for the rest of the year. I have two more books to read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, plus one more general one, and they are the only ones I’ll be reviewing between now and January.

I’ve ended up in a bit of a reading funk, brought on by end-of-year exhaustion, a couple of books I didn’t enjoy, along with some other life-related stresses that don’t help. That meant I fell completely off the bandwagon with the Triwizard Readathon from a few posts ago, but that’s okay.

Anyway, I’m here to talk about a year-long readathon I’ll be participating in next year! Technically it’s already started, but it’s unlikely I’ll manage much for it between now and January 01.

#StartOnYourShelfAthon is all about reading the books you already own, be they physical or electronic. It’s hosted by The Quiet Pond and you can read all the info here.

What I appreciate about readathons like this one is that they have a lot of wriggle room for setting your own goals. This challenge ties in with some goals I was already planning to set myself for 2020, and this way, I’ll have some public accountability.

So what are those goals you ask? Easy!

  • Read 20 Australian books – this will tie in with my Australian Women Writers Challenge, as well as give me plenty of fuel for my Booktube Channel, where I talk about Aussie books.
  • Read 10 Discworld novels – I’ve had a whole bunch of Discworld novels sitting on my shelf that I bought off a friend who was going overseas… years ago. I’ve only read a few. And it’s ridiculous, because I know I enjoy them.
  • Read 10 other ebooks – I have all the unread books on my Kindle in a collection together, so it’s easy for me to see what I have and haven’t read, and I’ve got plenty to choose from.

I usually read about 75-90 books in a year, so aiming for 40 challenge books still gives me plenty of room for new releases, library books, that sort of thing.

In the coming weeks, I’ll set up a separate page here on the blog to keep track of the titles I read for the challenge. I don’t think I’m quite up for a star chart, so  a page will have to do.

Come join in the fun if you feel so inclined!

Triwizard Tournament Readathon – First Task Wrap-up and Second Task TBR

WElcome to the Triwizard Tournament Readathon!

This readathon snuck up on me so this is my first blog on the subject and we’re at the end of the First Task. Probably stating the obvious here, but the challenges for this readathon are based on the Triwizard Tournament tasks in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. You can find more info at Chapter Charms.

Teams were decided on by date of birth, and I am on Team Durmstrang. For the first task, I had to Swedish Short-snout.

The prompt: These dragons are sought after to use their skin to make shields and gloves, re-read a favourite that makes you feel protected.

When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne

I’ve got to be honest, part of me was freaking out about this prompt because I’ve got so many books to read for the first time right now, and I didn’t think I had time to re-read anything. However, I can always count on the Winnie-the-Pooh books to give me warm fuzzies, and they are very quick reads.

There was also the method of defeating the dragon. I used distraction.

The prompt: Distract your dragon by transfiguring a rock into an animal, read a book with an animal on the cover.

Portable Curiosities: Stories by Julie Koh

With a cat on the cover! This was a really entertaining collection of short stories. There were some I didn’t really get, but others were fantastic. They were all a bit weird in some way or another.

So now that the first task is over, there is a week until the second task begins. In the second task, Harry and the other Triwizard Champions had to rescue a loved on from the Hogwarts Lake. Durmstrang team members will be rescuing a friend.

The prompt: Read a book about friendship.

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

I’m going to hope this works for this prompt anyway! Otherwise there’ll be a mad dash for me to find another one. But there’s such a large cast in the Diviners novels, I figure I’ll be able to make it work in one way or another.

And of course, the question is how do I rescue my friend from the lake? I’m going with transfiguration.

The Prompt: Partially transfigure yourself into a sea creature by reading a book about a sea creature.

Into the Drowning Deep by MIra Grant

I originally had this book down for the third task, under “read a book containing something you fear” because you can bet I am terrified of the ocean. I mean, I’m happy enough going to the beach, but anything more than a few feet underwater and I start getting bothered. But I didn’t really have anything else for any of the prompts for this challenge, so I’m moving it here. There’s till plenty of time to figure out my titles for the Third Task.

The second task runs from Monday November 25 to Sunday December 01, so I’ll be back with another wrap-up post sometime after that.

See you then!

Book Review: “A Christmas Wish and a Cranberry Kiss at the Cosy Kettle” by Liz Eeles

Title: A Christmas Wish and a Cranberry Kiss at the Cosy Kettle
Author: Liz Eeles
Genre:
Contemporary romance
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 30/10/19 – 06/11/19
Rating: ★★

Review:

Ah man. I hate being that person. That is, the first person to give a negative review of a book. I just didn’t love this one!

Look, I probably should have checked my review of A Summer Escape and Strawberry Cake at the Cosy Kettle, the second book in this series, before I requested this one. I thought I had given that one four stars, and that this one would be much the same. But actually, it was only a 3-star read for me, and I think I had a lot of the same issues with this one.

It started out well. I found Becca really relatable at first. But her inability to see that Logan was usiing her combined with letting the book club crew walk over her and insist on helping her (“they’re being kind” she says as they push her into something she’s not entirely comfortable with for the fifth time) just made her feel more like a doormat after a while.

Most of the side characters were pretty one dimensional. I ddi mention in my review of the previous book that I thought Stanley was a bit over the top, and that feeling continued in this one. He was pushy, and inserted himself into situations he had no real right to be in. While I understood Becca’s anxieties about her twin sister and thought they were well-written, Jasmine herself was irritating. I guess she was supposed to be a little, though.

A lot of the complications in the second half of the book would be alleviated if the characters just talked to one another. I get that it’s difficult to tell someone you have feelings for them, but a quck “Are you and my sister a couple?” would have helped.

And given that Logan was booking the Cosy Kettle for one night only, it seemed odd that Becca spent a good couple of weeks leading up to his party redecorating the cafe to his requirements.

I feel like such a Grinch giving a feel-good holiday romance a bad review, but I guess at the end of the day I just had too many niggles to really enjoy.


(Thank you to Bookouture for sending a free copy my way in exchange for an honest review)

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