Book Review: “Lifted By Water” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: Lifted By Water (Razor’s Edge Chronicles #3)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Urban fantasy
Intended audience: YA/Adult
Dates Read: 11/04/2021 – 19/04/21
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I am the worst – this book has been out for two weeks and I am only just getting my ARC review done now.

Lifted By Water follows on from Bound By Silver, with Apiya procrastinating about tracking down her birth parents… but when she finally does, she finds herself with more questions than answers. Not to mention Mayak are going missing and in the hunt for them, Apiya turns up powers she never knew she had.

I felt this one took a little while to get going, but it picked up in the second half. I really loved the descriptions of the Baku’s powers of illusion. I felt like I was standing on a cliff as well! And the scenes on the dock are intriguing, leaving more to be discovered in the next book.

The wider difficulties of the Mayak “going public” in the Mundane world work really well as a backdrop for Apiya’s more personal adventures. I was getting a bit of an X-Men vibe with some politicians insisting that the Mayak should all be registered for the safety of the Mundanes. Let’s face it, that’s exactly how humanity would react, as is China and the US offering to “help” a much smaller nation with its magical population.


With thanks to Celine Jeanjean for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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April 2021 Reading Wrap-up

An emoji of two books next to each other, with the text "Monthly Reading Wrap-up"

March was definitely an improvement on January and February in terms of reading, even if things did slow down in the second half of the month. I finished seven books, so nearly twice as many as I have in past two months. This included two audio books. I’ve finally acknowledged that the one I was stuck on was not working for me, and I’m going to get a physical copy from the library to continue.

PAST MONTH’S READING:

Four book covers for the following: Damsel by Elana K. Arnold, Amulet #1: The Stonekeeper and Amulet #2: The Stonekeeper's Curse by Kazu Kibuishi, Lifted by Water by Celine Jeanjean
  1. Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley (YA contemporary/Own Voices – 2 stars – review) (read March, reviewed April)

  2. Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta (YA contemporary – 4 stars – review) (read March, reviewed April)
  3. Damsel by Elana K. Arnold (dark fantasy – 4 stars – not intending to review
  4. Amulet #1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi (graphic novel/fantasy – 3 stars – not intending to review)
  5. Amulet #2: The Stonekeeper’s Curse by Kazu Kibuishi (graphic novel/fantasy – 3 stars – not intending to review)
  6. Lifted By Water by Celine Jeanjean (urban fantasy – 3 stars –review forthcoming)
  7. Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis (fantasy/classic – 3 stars – not intending to review)
  8. The Ghost Writer by Ross Mueller (play script – no star rating – not intending to review)
  9. Hollowpox by Jessica Townsend (MG fantasy – 4 stars – review forthcoming)
  10. Jane In Love by Rachel Givney (historical/contemporary fiction – 4 stars – review)
The book covers of the following: Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis, The Ghost Writer by Ross Mueller, Hollowpox by Jessica Townsend, Jane in Love by Rachel Givney

BOOKTUBE:

I have a YouTube channel where I promote Australian books using the hashtag #AusReads, and also indulge my compulsion for signing up to readathons. Here are the latest videos:

  1. March Trope-ical Readathon Wrao-up
  2. My New Personal Reading Challenge

FAVOURITE BOOKISH PHOTO:

I enjoyed Jane In Love so much that I ended up alternating between the audio book and paperback in order to focus on it more and read it faster. While I could take or leave the love story, I was really invested in the outcome.

A paperback of the novel Jane In Love by Rachel Givney. On top of it, at an angle, sits a grey phone with the audiobook of the same book open on the play screen.

You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

CURRENTLY READING:

Physical book: The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte. This isn’t really doing it for me but I bought it with birthday money so I feel determined to get all the way through it.

Ebook: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. This was our April book club pick (and given how most of us are going, it will probably just cover May, too 😂) and I was a bit apprehensive because there’s just So. Much. Hype. surrounding this series. I’m about 20% of the way in and haven’t been wowed, but I’m still getting to the main crux of the story so it’s got plenty of time to impress me yet.

Audio book: Nothing at the moment.

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

I’m not really sure. I’ve been flitting between a few different books lately and I want to try to settle and finish those. The first will probably be Vigil by Angela Slatter, an Australian urban fantasy set in Brisbane. After that, I’ll probably try for Mud and Glass by Laura E. Goodin. I’ve also got a few library books I’ll have to fit in there somewhere.

What are you reading? 🙂

#AWW2021 “What happens when the words don’t come?” “You grit your teeth and grip the pen and keep going.” // Review of “Jane in Love” by Rachel Givney

Title: Jane In Love
Author: Rachel Givney
Audio book narrator: Amber McMahon
Genre: Romance
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 18/04/2021 – 23/04/2021
Rating: 
★★★★

Review: 

I was immediately intrigued when I read the premise of this book: Jane Austen travels to the twenty-first century, where she falls in love, and has to choose between love and her literary legacy. I first borrowed it in paperback from the library, then when I thought I wouldn’t get to the book, started the library’s digital audio copy. By the end I was invested enough that I put aside the other physical book I was reading and was going between paperback when I could and audio when I driving, speeding through it a lot faster than I expected.

To be honest, the love story was actually the weakest part of the book for me. Perhaps it’s because I am a hardened cynic and I can never quite bring myself to believe people can be so deeply in love after a short time. Don’t get me wrong, Jane and Fred definitely have their sweet moments, and I was definitely hanging out for them to kiss as much as anyone during a scene where Fred saves Jane from drowning. But I just never quite got into it overall.

I was much more interested in the friendship between Jane and Fred’s movie star sister, Sofia. It helped that due to a few circumstances, Jane was able to convince Sofia that she truly was Jane Austen quite early on, so there was less beating around the bush, trying to come up with convincing lies. And by paralleling Jane’s storyline of aspiring woman writer in the nineteenth century with Sofia’s of aging film star in 2020, Givney was able to show how much women’s roles are a case of “the more things change, the more things stay the same.” While perhaps some of the chapters relating to Sofia and not Jane were not entirely necessary, I really enjoyed Sofia’s arc as a character. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that the end of the final chapter focused on Sofia made me tear up enough I had to stop reading for a minute.

I really enjoyed Jane’s observations on 21st century life, and the way she navigated this new time. It struck the right balance between curiosity and amazement, without bogging down the story or turning Jane into a terrified, traumatised mess. The time travel logic was kept to a minimum, which I appreciated, leaving the reader to fill in the gaps however they liked. It was a bit of a Back to the Future style of time travel, with things yet to have happened merely fading out of existence when the time travel started to prevent them from having happened. Only those closest to Jane remember her books as they literally blink out of existence.

Amber McMahon was a brilliant narrator of the audio book, giving each character a unique voice appropriate to their time and place. I didn’t even realise she was Australian until I got to the acknowledgements at the end, her accents were that good!

I have seen a few comments in other reviews saying that this is not a book for Austen purists. I wouldn’t know, since I have only read Emma in full and know the contents of the other five books because of BBC period dramas and other movies. But I can see how that would be the case. So while I recommend this book, that definitely does come as a caveat.


This review is part of my 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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Book Review: “Firekeeper’s Daughter” by Angeline Boulley

Title: Firekeeper’s Daughter
Author: Angeline Boulley
Genre: Contemporary/thriller
Intended audience: YA
Dates Read: 24/03/2020 – 31/03/21
Rating: ★★

Review:

I really struggled with this one and I’m so disappointed. Apparently this is being touted as a thriller, but there is a crime/investigation element to it, I didn’t find it thrilling at all. For the most part, I was bored.

Let’s start with what I did like. Check out that incredible cover! It’s stunning.

I also really loved the descriptions of the Ojibwe traditions. I will confess that while I know there are others out there, this is the first Own Voices book I have read by a Native American author. I really appreciate Boulley being willing to allow the rest of us in. I did have to guess at the meanings of some of the words used, but most I was able to figure out from context.

But the rest? The drug ring investigation? The romance? I just didn’t feel anything. It was a hard slog to get through, and I think it was just too long. It did pick up in the last 20% but overall it was too little too late to really get me engaged.

Also on the romance: a) it came pretty much out of nowhere. I didn’t really feel like the characters had any chemistry. And b) was incredibly inappropriate. Admittedly, another character did call it out as such, but I just… felt pretty squicked by it. I could understand why Jamie would connect with Daunis as he did, but still…

The other thing that kept throwing me off was that it was set in 2004 for no reason that I could really figure out (though some reviews I’ve read say that 2004 was around the time crystal meth was really starting to take off, so I wondered if that was it). Apart from the absence of social media and the occasional reference to a now-outdated phone, there was very little to place it there, so whenever a specific reference was made (such as “class of 2004” or a mention of Janet Jackson’s infamous Superbowl wardrobe malfunction) it always threw me for a second.

I am obviously in the minority with this view – the current GoodReads average is 4.55/5 from over 1700 ratings. I wish I could have been one of the 5 star reviews but not this time.


Thank you to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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March 2021 Reading Wrap-up

An emoji of two books next to each other, with the text "Monthly Reading Wrap-up"

March was definitely an improvement on January and February in terms of reading, even if things did slow down in the second half of the month. I finished seven books, so nearly twice as many as I have in past two months. This included two audio books. I’ve finally acknowledged that the one I was stuck on was not working for me, and I’m going to get a physical copy from the library to continue.

PAST MONTH’S READING:

Book covers: the Girl in the Sunflower Dress by Katie Montinaro, Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta, the Christmas Hirelings by E. M. Braddon and Bound in Silver by Celine Jeanjean
  1. Rebel Rose by Emma Theriault (historical fantasy/retelling – 4 stars – review) (read February, reviewed March)

  2. Touched By Magic by Celine Jeanjean (urban fantasy – 3 stars – review) (read February, reviewed March)

  3. The Girl in the Sunflower Dress by Katie Montinaro (YA contemporary – 4 stars – review)

  4. Looking For Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta (YA contemporary – 4 stars – review forthcoming)

  5. The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (classic – 4 stars – not intending to review)

  6. Bound By Silver by Celine Jeanjean (urban fantasy – 4 stars – review)

  7. The Grandest Bookshop in the World by Amelia Mellor (MG historical fiction/magical realism– 4 stars – review)

  8. The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis (fantasy – 3 stars – not intending to review)

  9. Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley (YA contemporary/Own Voices – 2 stars – review forthcoming)

Book covers: The Grandest Bookshop in the World by Amelia Mellor, The horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis and Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley

BOOKTUBE:

I have a YouTube channel where I promote Australian books using the hashtag #AusReads, and also indulge my compulsion for signing up to readathons. Here are the latest videos:

  1. March 2021 Trope-ical Readathon TBR

FAVOURITE BOOKISH PHOTO:

We attended the local tri-annual book fair in March and while I didn’t find some of the recent YA books I was hoping for, there were plenty of classics that I’d been trying to track down.

A pile of 9 books. Vigil by Angela Slatter is on the bottom, followed by five Paddington Bear boks and three volumes of Mary Stewart’s Merlin Chronicles.

You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

CURRENTLY READING:

Physical book: Damsel by Elana K. Arnold. I thought this was YA, but it’s actually adult. But I only started it on the bus to work today and have already read 100 pages, so it’s going to be a very quick read and I expect I’ll finish it over the Easter weekend.

Ebook: No ebooks on the go right now.

Audio book: I am continuing through the Chronicles of Narnia and am currently listening to Prince Caspian.

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

I am absolutely determined to read Hollowpox by Jessica Townsend this month! It’s been too long already! I can’t wait to dive into Nevermoor again! I just hope there will be more Jupiter North this time around!

What are you reading? 🙂

Book Review: “Bound By Silver” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: Bound By Silver (Razor’s Edge Chronicles #2)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Urban fantasy
Intended audience: YA/Adult
Dates Read: 08/03/2021 – 16/03/21
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

I was right in my suspicions that I would probably be more into this book than its predecessor. While the first book had the hefty task of setting up the series, this one was free to start playing with the broad mythology and really get into the story arc.

I did for a while think this was more of a standalone without a huge link to the first book. The ghost plotline seemed separate from the Mayak/Mundane conflict, but in the second half, the link between these two issues became clear and was actually quite tightly plotted.

I really liked the interpersonal conflicts in this one, especially between Apiya, Chai and Sarroch. Chai feeling he had something to prove, particularly to Sarroch, along with not trusting Api’s feelings, and Sarroch’s awkwardness at being saved by a Touched all led to great, difficult dynamics between the three of them that I really enjoyed reading. And it was fun imagining Apiya’s dad doing a presentation for the Mayak.

I’m looking forward to what happens in the next book – things definitely ramped up at the end of this one and I’m really intrigued to see Apiya’s role in the new order of things (watch me being way too vague in attempts to not spoil things).


With thanks to Celine Jeanjean for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

Read my review of Book 1 in the Razor’s Edge series here.

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Book Review: “Touched By Magic” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: Touched by Magic (Razor’s Edge Chronicles #1)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Urban fantasy
Intended audience: YA/Adult
Dates Read: 25/02/2021 – 27/02/21
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I will admit that I am a little resistant to change. Having been a follower of Celine Jeanjean’s Viper and the Urchin series for several years, I was sad to see it come to an earlier this year, even as I was excited to see what Celine would write next. It’s going to be nigh impossible for me to not compare this new series to the former, so please bear with me.

This one did not grab me quite the same way the first Viper book did, but it was still a fun ride. I’ve been careful to be reading fairly light-hearted books lately since a few heavy stories left me in a reading slump for most of February, and this was exactly the type of story I was looking for.

It does feel like a series opener, with lots of explanations and a big set-up towards the end for future books, rather than standing too much on its own. But Apiya is a fun lead character (I think she and Rory from the Viper… series would get on famously). I really adored the relationship between Apiya and her parents, her dad especially. He’s such a nerd!

I think my favourite part of this book was towards the end when Apiya had to face the most powerful magical beings and defend herself and her actions throughout the book. It really felt like we had left the real world behind for something entirely different, and this was where I felt things really started to take off. This scene is where the setup for the second book really started, too, so I’m looking forward reading book two and seeing more of this new magical world.


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Book Review: Rebel Rose by Emma Theriault

Title: Rebel Rose (The Queen’s Council #1)
Author: Emma Theriault
Genre: Historical fantasy/fairytale continuation
Intended audience: YA
Dates Read: 17/02/21 – 21/02/21
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

I know a lot of people didn’t like this book and honestly I can see why. This continuation of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was at times hard to reconcile with the original cartoon movie. But I still enjoyed it for what it was, perhaps because in this version it was far enough away from the movie for me to treat as something separate.

One of the main complaints I saw about the book is that the character of Belle is so far removed from the vivacious, outspoken character we know from the movie. While this is true, I could accept that while Belle was outspoken within her village, that now trying to fit into royal society and not knowing her way around, she became a little more subdued.

Some of it was a bit predictable and I knew who the villain was from chapter one or two. Having said that, I had assumed his motivations were the complete opposite of what they turned out to be, and I felt what I had expected would have made more sense than what transpired.

Once I got used to the idea of Disney characters set against real world events, I enjoyed the historical setting. It does make things a bit grittier, but I thought it worked. I did wish we got to see a bit more of the side characters – Lumiere, Cogsworth and Mrs Potts all make appearances, but I would have liked more.

Despite those niggles, I found the writing quite engaging. Maybe that was because this was the kind of story I needed to pull me out of a two-week reading slump. Whatever the reason, I found myself ignoring chores and staying up a bit late to finish this one. Now knowing how the series is intended to tie together, I’m interested to see how the other Disney properties are tied into this one.


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February 2021 Reading Wrap-up

An emoji of two books next to each other, with the text "Monthly Reading Wrap-up"

February was another slow reading month and I was lucky to get through four books. I went through a two week reading slump where I DNFed a few things and didn’t feel like reading anything. Fortunately, I feel that I have pulled out of that now. GoodReads is telling me I’m four books behind schedule on my goal (75 books for the year) but I’m hopeful I’ll be able to catch up in March.

PAST MONTH’S READING:

  1. A Whole New World (Twisted Tales #1) by Liz Braswell (YA fairy tale retelling/fantasy – 3 stars – review) (read December 2020, reviewed February 2021)

  2. A Wild Winter Song by Gregory Maguire (magical realism/historical fantasy – 2.5 stars – review) (read January, reviewed February)

  3. Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed (YA contemporary/historical – 4 stars – review) (read January, reviewed February)

  4. Hard Time (Time Police #2) by Jodi Taylor (YA sci-fi- 3 stars – review) (read January, reviewed February)

  5. Axiom’s End (Noumena #1) by Lindsay Ellis (sci-fi – 4 stars – review)

  6. Everless by Sara Holland (YA fantasy – 3 stars – reread, no review)

  7. Rebel Rose by Emma Theriault (historical fantasy/retelling – 4 stars – review forthcoming)

  8. Touched By Magic by Celine Jeanjean (urban fantasy – 3 stars – review forthcoming)

BOOKTUBE:

I have a YouTube channel where I promote Australian books using the hashtag #AusReads, and also indulge my compulsion for signing up to readathons. Here are the latest videos:

  1. March 2021 Trope-ical Readathon TBR

FAVOURITE BOOKISH PHOTO:

This was the library haul I ended up with very early on in the year. Usually I have a decent amount of self-restraint when I go to the library but it failed me a few times in a row .

Teo books standing side-by-side. They are The Binding by Bridget Collins and sligthly taller, The Betrayals, also by Bridget Collins.

You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

CURRENTLY READING:

Physical book: I have started Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta as my first Trope-ical Readathon book. The prompt is a book written pre-2000; it was published in 1992.

Ebook: I am a couple of chapters into my ARC of The Girl in the Sunflower Dress by Katie Montinaro. I met Katie on a self-publishing course last year and we connected on social media afterwards. I was excited to get a copy of her debut and give her that support.

Audio book: I will soon be starting The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. This is under 4 hours long and I’m using it for the audio book for Trope-ical Readathon.

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

In the interests of keeping the reading slump at bay, I am planning to keep reading fairly light books. I’ve been meaning to read Geekerella by Ashley Poston for a while, so I think that will be my next read.

What are you reading? 🙂

Book Review: “Hard Time” by Jodi Taylor

Title: Hard Time (Time Police #2)
Author: Jodi Taylor
Genre: Sci-fi/humour
Intended audience: YA
Dates Read: 17/01/2021 – 25/01/21
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I didn’t review the first book in this series here on the blog, but in my Goodreads review, I specifically said, “I don’t think I’ll be reading [the second book].” But let’s face it, I’m easily swayed by an attractive cover on a shiny new paperback on prominent display at the library. This series is fun, and I did find myself once again reasonably attached to Team Weird.

I summed up the vibe of this series to someone at work by saying “Imagine those low-budget BBC kids shows from the 90s, but in a book.” She got exactly what i was trying to say. I hope you do, too.

But I just find the world-building and some of the plotting so strange. I can never get a real sense of time and place. Society is much the same as it is now, except there is time travel, and some of the TP’s weapons are a bit futuristic. The pop culture references are all contemporary. But in the first book, the twentieth century was this weird awful time in the far past, or so it seemed.

There are also two characters with the same first name, which just seemed like such a strange choice to make. It was fine when one of them was only being referred to as “Major Ellis”. But now Ellis and North are on first-name terms, it was jarring to hear her calling him Matthew when one of the central three characters is also Matthew. Of course it’s a common name, but that doesn’t mean you confuse your reader by reflecting that aspect of real life in your novel.

The author has a weird thing about fat people. In the first book, there was a whole thing focused on one overweight family, and there’s another character in this one treated the same way. The motivations of the villains of this piece didn’t really make a lot of sense, to be honest; their decisions seemed based on narrative convenience more than anything else.

But for all that, I have to admit that I enjoyed seeing Jane and Luke undercover, and seeing Jane uncover Luke’s hidden depths. Matthew is not quite as interesting to me, and I feel that maybe his existence is mostly so that the St Mary’s characters can keep making cameo appearances. Having not read the St Mary’s books, these feel a bit in-jokey.

Still, I’ve marked book three as “to read” on GoodReads because I might as well admit that I’m going to read it.


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