#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 Book Review: “A Pocketful of Eyes” by Lili Wilkinson

Title: A Pocketful of Eyes
Author: Lili Wilkinson
Genre: Mystery/contemporary 
Audience: YA
Date Read: 15/11/2020
Rating: 
★★★★

Review:

I read this book over the course of one afternoon. I had to suspend my disbelief quite often, but gosh darn it, it was fun!

Bee has a summer job working for a taxidermist called Gus, and she’s enjoying the routine they’ve built up. Then suddenly a new guy called Toby is also in the office. And Gus is behaving strangely, just before he winds up dead. The police rule it a suicide, but Bee isn’t so sure. Drawing on her lifelong obsession with Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, Bee is determined to solve the mystery of who killed her mentor.

I had to wonder whether Bee was supposed to autistic, or perhaps ADHD. She definitely displayed traits of both, though it is never mentioned on the page. I’ve seen this before where authors give themselves an out in case they get it ‘wrong’ – “what, no, I didn’t write them as autistic! I never mentioned anything about that!” Perhaps it’s just that Bee is very observant and logical and just likes routine, and gets very focused on things to the point of basically ignoring all else. But I did have to wonder.

I really enjoyed lots of the details of taxidermy and that it included a lot of details about the behind-the-scenes of a museum. I work in the GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, museums) sector, so a lot of it was stuff I already knew, but I liked that it was included. There were a few times where I picked up on things that probably weren’t quite right, but most readers aren’t going to notice that.

The mystery was a bit convoluted but it actually all makes a lot of sense. I probably didn’t pick up on all the clues at the time, but they were all there. It does rely on the police being a bit useless at their job in order for the teenagers to come in with the big reveal at the end (was there no autopsy?), but look, it’s a YA mystery. Just roll with it.

I enjoyed the romance aspect as well. Toby is such a nerd! (Though I sometimes wondered if he was a nerd so that Lili Wilkinson had an excuse to just dump random animal mating facts into the dialogue – there didn’t seem a whole lot of point to it happening so often). There were times when I was like “Guys, you have each other’s numbers, why are you not just picking up the phone!” I appreciated that Toby cooled off when Bee came out and accused him of murder [would have been weird if he’d been so in love with her to not do that!], but that it all worked out.

I recommend this one when you need something light and fun, with an unusual setting and quirky characters. Spend your Sunday afternoon on it!


This review is part of my 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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September/October 2020 Reading Wrap-up

It’s another “monthly” wrap-up covering two months, as I didn’t really read enough during September to warrant the effort of writing a post. October improved, even as I was madly scrabbling to finish my last book to make it count for this month.

SEPTEMBER READING:

  1. Sleep No More by Ellie Marney (YA crime – 4 stars – review) (read August, reviewed September)

  2. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (gothic horror – 3 stars – review) (read August, reviewed September)

  3. The Blood Countess (Pandora English #1) by Tara Moss (YA urban fantasy – 3 stars – review)

  4. Holiday Brew (Belladonna U #2) by Tansy Rayner Roberts (urban fantasy – 4 stars – review)

  5. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (historical fantasy – 4 stars – re-read, no review)

OCTOBER READING:

  1. People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield (historical fiction – 4 stars – review)

  2. Veiled War by Celine Jeanjean (steampunk fantasy – 5 stars – review)

  3. Future Girl by Asphyxia (YA contemporary/sci-fi – 5 stars – review)

  4. It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake by Claire Christian (contemporary romance/comedy – 5 stars – review)

  5. Lovely War by Julie Berry (historical/magical realism – 4 stars – not intending to review)

  6. Coraline by Neil Gaiman (MG horror- 2 stars – not intending to review)

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. August 2020 Trope-ical Readathon Wrap-up
  2. How I Failed at #AusReadsSept
  3. #AusReads Mid-month Update

FAVOURITE BOOKISH PHOTO:

I didn’t post any bookish photos in September, so have a couple from October:

The book “Future Girl” by Asphyxia being held up in front of a sign that says “Paperchain Manuka”. The photo was taken for Love Your Bookshop Day on October 03.
The book “Lovely War” by Julie Berry sitting on a wooden table, with a bunch of white flowers next to it.

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

CURRENTLY READING:

Physical book: Harlequin’s Riddle by Rachel Nightingale. I have to admit this hasn’t really grabbed me, but I’m about two thirds of the way through and I plan to finish it.

Ebook: Nothing on the go at the moment.

Audio book: Doing Time by Jodi Taylor… i have to admit I’m less than an hour in and I already have a few issues with the writing style, but I’m giving it a bit more of a chance before I write it off.

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta has been on my monthly TBRs for a while now but this is the month it definitely gets read! Promise!

What are you reading? 🙂

#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 Book Review: “Future Girl” by Asphyxia

Title: Future Girl
Author: Asphyxia
Genre: Scifi/dystopia/contemporary 
Audience: YA
Date Read: 10/10/2020– 14/10/2020
Rating: 
★★★★★

Review:

This book is unlike anything I’ve read before. It snuck up on me a bit. At first I was finding it a bit slow and then I reached a point where I couldn’t put it down.

Future Girl is set in a near-future Melbourne and there’s the temptation to call it a dystopia, but it’s not really that. Well, maybe kind of. It’s not like your usual YA Dystopia where the oppressive regime is really obvious about it and you don’t understand why the revolution hasn’t happened earlier.

It’s the more insidious oppression, where the government is doing some good stuff, which makes the population a little less inclined to question the iffy stuff. And that aspect is done really well. In fact, I suspect a lot of the population in the book had no idea the dodgy stuff was going on.

This is an Own Voices book. Asphyxia is a Deaf author/artist/activist and so is the MC, Piper. Piper has grown up wearing hearing aids and lip-reading, and it’s not until she meets Marley, a CODA (child of a Deaf adult), that she begins to learn Auslan. I loved seeing her enthusiasm for her new language, and the scenes where she interacts with Robbie, Marley’s Deaf mother, were wonderful. The descriptions are amazing! I tried doing some of the signs based on the written descriptions and I am sure I did a miserable job, but I am planning on spending some time on Asphyxia’s website watching her introductory Auslan videos.

I was actually surprised to discover I still remembered how to fingerspell the entire alphabet in Auslan, after learning in primary school. It wasn’t taught in class, and I can’t even remember how we ended up learning it, but we did, and… maybe that should be an official thing in primary schools? Just maybe?

It also reminded me of being a kid in the 90s and trying to replicate the signing described in the Baby-sitter’s Club books when Jessie was sitting a Deaf kid and learning ASL. Which makes you realise how few Deaf characters there are in books for kids and YA, since the only other book I can think of where characters use sign language is Mira Grant’s Into the Drowning Deep, which I read earlier this year.

The book is also a bit of introduction to activism for those who might be interested in it. We follow Piper as she becomes aware of issues around her, and starts trying to find a way she can advocate for her beliefs. We’re there when things go wrong and when she has the courage to really stand up for herself.

The idea of the book is that you are reading Piper’s art journal, and it is absolutely beautiful! Every page is illustrated in some way, even if it’s just a border made to look like washi tape around the edges. There are also artworks that Piper talks about drawing, which you often actually see a couple of pages before the entry where she writes about drawing it.

One of my favourite aspects of the format was that as I was reading, I noticed many times the word “deaf” had a capital D over it in red. It’s not until the last third of the book where Marley explains to Piper the difference between dead and Deaf, and she describes going through the journal and making the corrections.

You won’t find another book quite like this one and I definitely recommend picking this up.


This review is part of my 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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Book Review: “The Veiled War” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: The Veiled War (The Viper and the Urchin #8)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Steampunk/fantasy
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 05/10/20 – 07/10/20
Rating:
★★★★★

Review:

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

Argh, I’m a terrible ARC reviewer, I swear with each time a new book in this series comes out, my review is even later.

After a brief foray into Adelma’s backstory in the previous book, The Veiled War reunites us with our favourite ragtag group of spies. Celine was quite smart in inserting The Opium Smuggler into the series where she did. Characters introduced in The Opium Smuggler had parts to play in this next installment and it was good to already be familiar with them; it would have slowed things down to give them the introduction they needed in this setting.

Once again, we get to see more of Damsport. This time, it’s the Mansion where the Marchioness lives, along with the Damsport prison. The world-building just keeps getting bigger and better in this series.

Character-wise, I think Rafe and Cruickshank were my favourites this time around, even if I did keep wanting to shake Rafe into Just. Talking. To. Rory. But still, I enjoyed the way his arc progressed. Ditto for Cruickshank, as one of the older characters, it was hard seeing her wrestle with the new war coming to their shores.

The political intrigue was also great, especially when you realise how long things have been going on under the characters’ noses. I’m looking forward to seeing how this all pans out.


Thank you to Celine Jeanjean for a gratis copy of The Veiled War in exchange for a review.

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), The White Hornet (book 5), The Shadow Palace (book 6) and The Opium Smuggler (book 7) by clicking their titles.

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ARC Review: “People of Abandoned Character” by Clare Whitfield

Title: People of Abandoned Character
Author: Clare Whitfield
Genre: Historical/thriller
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 29/09/2020 – 04/10/2020
Rating: 
★★★★

Review:

This book wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but it was still a great read.

I was expecting a fast-paced thriller, with main character Susannah racing against the clock to discover whether her husband is Jack the Ripper and possibly prevent the next murder.

Instead, it was slower, with a sense of dread creeping insidiously under the surface. The book takes it time looking at attitudes towards both women and queer people at the time. It doesn’t shy away from vivid descriptions of life in Whitechapel and other slums of London in the 1880s.

I loved the way (is loved the right word? Probably not) the Jack the Ripper murders were tied into the plot of Susannah as she tries to make her marriage work despite Thomas becoming more and more erratic and volatile. In particular the way the murder of Mary Jane Kelly is tied in is especially clever, though when I try to sleep tonight I am probably going to regret enlarging the police photograph of her body on Wikipedia to compare it to the description in the book (pro-tip: don’t do that).

Susannah is not an entirely reliable narrator and she’s definitely the sort of character to be labelled “unlikable” with all the baggage that comes with that descriptor. I imagine she would have been a difficult character to write, particularly in the first person, and I applaud Clare Whitfield for how consistently she wrote Susannah. This is Whitfield’s debut novel and I think she will definitely be an author to watch out for in the future!


Thank you to Zeus Books for the gratis copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 Book Review: “The Blood Countess” by Tara Moss

Title: The Blood Countess (Pandora English #1)
Author: Tara Moss
Genre: Paranormal/urban fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 15/09/2020– 22/09/2020
Rating: 
★★★

Review:

You know when you really wish you enjoyed a book more than you did? Yeah, this was one of those.

There’s a lot in this book – ghosts, vampires, and zombies to name a few – and I can’t help but think it would have been better to introduce some of them later on. As it was, I didn’t really feel that all the supernatural elements got the introduction they deserved.

I enjoyed the glimpses into the NYC fashion scene, something I know Tara Moss writes of with experience. And I really enjoyed seeing Pandora research the BloodofYouth beauty cream and expose it. Maybe that’s because I’m a nerd like that and would do the same kind of digging.

I was excited when a sexy Civil War-era ghost showed up in Pandora’s new home. I’m a sucker for a ghost romance… but that all happened very quickly and didn’t really have any build-up, which was a bit disappointing. And speaking of lack of build-up, the main antagonist was introduced quite late in the piece and was then defeated really easily.

This is a series opener, and I have a feeling that now this book has done a lot of the setup, I could enjoy the subsequent books more. While I didn’t find this to be the most gripping YA paranormal, I haven’t entirely written off Pandora English just yet.


This review is part of my 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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“Books. Moonlight. Melodrama.” // Review of “Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Gothic horror
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 09/08/2020– 12/08/2020
Rating: 
★★★

Review:

Hoo boy. This was one of my most anticipated 2020 reads, but I have to put the disclaimer that I maybe didn’t know what I was getting into? I loved Moreno-Garcia’s Gods of Jade and Shadow enough that I wanted to check out her haunted house book. This is despite only managing to get through 30 pages of the last haunted house book I tried because I am a wuss.

It may be that my lack of experience with the horror genre, and with gothic horror in particular, meant I didn’t know what to expect. Some of it was expected, like the creepy, barely accessible house with a lot of death in its history, the awful people living there, and strange dreams and glowing apparitions. But I have to admit the final twist lost me! Without saying anything too spoilery, is that sort of thing common in gothic horror?

Still, the historical world-building and the characterisations were spot on. There’s also a lot of exploration of themes such as racism and misogyny, and colonialism is also an important aspect of this story. I had real visceral reactions, both good and bad, to some of these characters and the things they said and their ways of thinking. This was the reason I wanted to see it through to the end, even when things got a bit too strange for me…


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#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 “A large male orderly stands sentry, securing her passage to the place beyond sanity, and Emma steps inside…” // Review of “None Shall Sleep” by Ellie Marney

Title: None Shall Sleep
Author: Ellie Marney
Genre: Thriller/historical fiction
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 17/08/2020– 20/08/2020
Rating: 
★★★★

Review:

People who know me tend to view me as the boppy, cheery, showtune-belting one, so it always comes as a surprise to them when I announce how much I love books about serial killers (only fictional ones; I can’t do the real ones).

When Ellie Marney announced earlier this year that she was writing a serial killer thriller, I couldn’t have been happier! (I’m sure there’s a showtune I could find to express the excitement.)

I did find that I took a little while to really get into this one, but by the time I got to the end, I was thinking it was my favourite Ellie Marney book (second only to White Night). There are lots of twists and turns, including a character death I totally wasn’t expecting. There are lots of references to blood, and the climax gets violent and bit gory, so I would caution against it if you are faint of heart.

I was surprised there was no romance, given this is an Ellie Marney book. But it works just fine without it, and to be honest, given the things the characters have already gone through and what they continue to go through, it would probably be a bit squiffy to have it in there as well. I really liked the friendship that formed between Emma and Travis instead, that they could recognise each other’s trauma and be there for each other, but also knew how much the other could take and when they needed to step in.

The book is set in 1982 but to be honest, I sometimes forgot! Until the characters are trying to get somewhere without a map, or need to go and find a nearby phone to contact someone. This was fairly early days in the behavioural science field, and it was interesting hearing learning about that.


This review is part of my 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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(I received a free copy of this book from Ellie Marney in a Twitter giveaway)

August 2020 Reading Wrap-up

I’m a little bit disappointed as I sit down to write this post. I swear I read more than this post suggests. I guess it’s because I started two 500+ page books, neither of which I have managed to finish yet.

PAST MONTH’S READING:

  1. Euphoria Kids (YA fantasy – 4 stars – review) (read July, reviewed August)
  2. Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant (sci-fi/horror – 4 stars – review) (read July, reviewed August)
  3. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (YA fantasy – 4 stars – review)
  4. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (gothic horror – 3 stars – review forthcoming)

  5. None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney (YA thriller – 4 stars – review forthcoming)

  6. Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell (memoir – 4 stars – not intending to review)

BOOKTUBE:

I’m really enjoying vlogging again! I’m hoping to stick with it! Even if I didn’t do so great with the readathon!

I didn’t put anything up this month (I’ve got a couple of things lined up and ready to go, though), but here are the videos I posted in July again, in case you’re interested:

  1. 2020 Trope-ical Readathon TBR
  2. Trope-ical TBR Blooper Reel

FAVOURITE BOOKISH PHOTO:

The cover of Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

I think my re-read of Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina marks the first time I have re-read in print a book that I first read in audio form.

The difference was amazing! I didn’t find the audio book engaging at all, and only gave the book 2 stars as a result. But reading it in print, seeing the way the characters stories and the overall storytelling and the formatting all interact. It was brilliant!

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

CURRENTLY READING:

Physical book: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I’m re-reading this for one of my book clubs, having initially listened to the audio book in 2016. It’s such beautiful writing!

I’m also reading The Toll by Neal Shusterman, the third and final book in the Arc of Scythe series. Yay for actually finishing series that I start!

Ebook: Scone and Spells by Rosie Pease. I started this a few weeks ago but I got distracted. This is a fairly light read though so once I get back to it, it shouldn’t take too long to get through.

Audio book: Axiom’s End by Lindasy Ellis. This is absolutely my jam. I love books that explore the political ramifications of first contact. And this one sounds like it has linguistic stuff, too! Agggh. I’m less than an hour into it at the moment but I think I’m going to really enjoy it!

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

Apart from the books hanging over from August, I’m only reading Australian books this month! Or attempting to. I think I’ll read Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta next. I’ve had this one on my shelf for a while and I’ll still be in a fantasy mood after The Night Circus, most likely!

What are you reading? 🙂

July 2020 Reading Wrap-up

July was a bit of a weird reading month. It started strong but then I got stuck on an ARC I wasn’t enjoying and ended up in a bit of a slump. I came through in the end though, with a total of four books read in the month.

When lockdown hit and I only read one book for the entire month of March, I lowered my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal from my usual 75 down to 50. I’ve hit 41 now and I am hoping to read at least 9 books in August (I’m doing another readathon!) So I’ll definitely surpass my goal and it’ll be interesting to see by how much.

PAST MONTH’S READING:

  1. Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans (YA fantasy – 3.5 stars – review forthcoming)

  2. Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant (sci-fi/horror – 4 stars – review forthcoming)

  3. The Opium Smuggler (The Viper and the Urching #7, Origins #1) by Celine Jeanjean (fantasy/steampunk – 4 stars – review)

  4. Catching Teller Crow by Ambellin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina (YA magical realism – 4 stars – reread, no review)

BOOKTUBE:

I resurrected my Booktube account! I posted two thing!. I decided I’m going to do readathons via YouTube, and keep this here blog for reviews and monthly wrap-ups. And the occasional tags like Down the TBR Hole (which I haven’t done in a while – time to get back to that one!)

Here’s what I posted:

  1. 2020 Trope-ical Readathon TBR
  2. Trope-ical TBR Blooper Reel

    FAVOURITE BOOKISH PHOTO:

    Damsel by Elana K. Arnold and Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova

    I almost thought I didn’t post anything bookish this month, until I remembered my birthday photos!

    It was my birthday last weekend and while I was not expecting gifts from anyone, several people gave me book vouchers! So I was not complaining! One of the vouchers went towards Damsel by Elana K. ARnold and Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova, both books I have on my TBR.

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

    CURRENTLY READING:

    Physical book: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte. This is a library book I I had to put on hold while I was reading ARCs, and it got to the point I had to renew it, but I’m enjoying diving into it now.

    Ebook: Scone and Spells by Rosie Pease. I started this a few weeks ago and again got distracted. This is a fairly light read though so once I get back to it, it shouldn’t take too long to get through.

    Audio book: All Systems Red by Martha Wells… to be honest, I’m not entirely sure I am going to continue with this. The book has come highly recommended but the audio book is not read in a very engaging way. So I might switch to the ebook.

    PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

    Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. This was, um, my book club’s July read, but I’m not sure any of us managed to finish it in July. Our meet-up is not until August 09 for this reason!

    What are you reading? 🙂