June 2020 Reading Wrap-Up

Wow, we are now halfway through 2020! For a year that has dragged on beyond belief in some ways, it’s hard to believe we’re already at the midpoint.  

Past Month’s Reading

  1. Burn by Patrick Ness (YA alternate history/fantasy – 4 stars – review)
  2. Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl #1) by Eoin Colfer (MG fantasy – 5 stars – not intending to review)
  3. Thunderhead (Arc of Scythe 2) by Neal Shusterman (YA dystopia – 3 stars – not intending to review)
  4. What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin (YA contemporary – 4 stars – review)
  5. A Natural History of Dragons (Memoirs of Lady Trent #1) by Marie Brennan (fantasy – 4 stars – review)
  6. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (sci-fi – 2.5 stars – not intending to review)
  7. Of Hair and No Hair (Gretchen’s Misadventures #3) by P. A. Mason (fantasy/satire – 4 stars – not intending to review)

Favourite Bookish Photo:

It was definitely the month for reading dragon stories and writing dragon stories and buying other dragon stories I haven’t read yet! There were a lot of dragons this month. You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

Currently Reading:

Physical book: Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans. This is a beautiful YA fantasy about trans and non-binary characters just living their lives with fairies and witchcraft. I’m really enjoying it. 

Ebook: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant is both my ebook and audio book at the moment thanks to Whisper Sync. I love that this delves into mermaids but with a sci-fi bent. But also some horror elements. It’s not what I would normally read but I love Seanan McGuire (Mira Grant’s alter ego) so I wanted to check this out. 

Audio book: See above.

Planning to Read Next:

This is not completely set in stone, but I think it will be Angel Mage by Garth Nix. I got rather distracted from my 20 Books in Summer challenge of reading all the Australian books I own, so it’s time to get back to that. 

What have you been reading lately? 🙂

Blog tour review: What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin

Hello everyone! This is a little different to my usual review post, as I’m taking part in my very first blog tour! This is a truly powerful novel and I really appreciate the opportunity to read it and make some noise about it!

Blurb:

Lex was taken–trafficked–and now she’s Poppy. Kept in a hotel with other girls, her old life is a distant memory. But when the girls are rescued, she doesn’t quite know how to be Lex again.

After she moves in with her aunt and uncle, for the first time in a long time, she knows what it is to feel truly safe. Except, she doesn’t trust it. Doesn’t trust her new home. Doesn’t trust her new friend. Doesn’t trust her new life. Instead she trusts what she shouldn’t because that’s what feels right. She doesn’t deserve good things.

But when she is sexually assaulted by her so-called boyfriend and his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her and that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight and realizes she has the power to help others. But first she’ll have to confront the monsters of her past with the help of her family, friends, and a new love.

Kate McLaughlin’s What Unbreakable Looks Like is a gritty, ultimately hopeful novel about human trafficking through the lens of a girl who has escaped the life and learned to trust, not only others, but in herself.

About the author:

KATE McLAUGHLIN likes people, so much so that she spends her days making up her own. She likes writing about characters who are bent, but not broken – people who find their internal strength through friends, strife and sometimes humor. When she’s not writing, she likes studying people, both real and fictional. She also likes playing board games with friends, talking and discovering new music. A proud Nova Scotian, she’ll gladly tell you all about the highest tides in the world, the magical creation known as a donair, and people who have sofas in their kitchens. Currently, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and four cats. She’s the author of What Unbreakable Looks Like.

Visit Kate at her Twitter.

Review:

I was immediately sucked into Lex’s sordid world when I started this book. After struggling with my last few reads, I read the first 30% of this one in an hour or so. And it’s the first book in quite a while to make my cry.

McLaughlin doesn’t hold back in her descriptions. There are multiple flashbacks to the time before Lex’s rescue, showing exactly how a girl like Lex can get caught up in the trafficking industry.

The supporting characters are also really well-drawn. I really felt like they have their own lives, and how those intersect with Lex’s forms an important part of her arc. She knows that some of the things she feels about those around her are selfish, but she can’t help it all the time. She makes jokes about what happened to her to throw up a shield, sometimes hurting others in the process, not believing she’s in a position to let herself be vulnerable.

One of the most important things in this book is Lex’s journey to finding that sex can still be amazing with the right person, even after experiencing sexual trauma. Her journey to this is not linear, it’s really messy at times, but I loved how it played out.

Obviously the book comes with about a million trigger warnings, especially for rape and violence, but it is definitely worth the read.

★★★

What Unbreakable Looks Like is available now – click here to purchase.


Thank you to Wednesday Books for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour.

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#Medievalathon and General May Reading Wrap-up

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I thought this was going to be another slow reading month, but much to my surprise, I finished quite a few books! I managed to negate what I thought was a trend of reading fewer than five books in odd-numbered months and many more in even-numbered ones. So yay that!

Past Month’s Reading:

I decided to do a Medievalathon wrap-up and my usual monthly wrap-up in the same post, since there didn’t seem to be much point in repeating what I read during the month in two separate posts. So instead of just a list, you also get the prompts these books filled as well. The graphics show you what I earned by fulfilling each prompt.

 A Pristine Book: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (literary spec fic – 4 stars – review).

A book under 300 pages: Greythorne by L. M. Merrington (Gothic/historical fiction – 4 stars – review)

A book with a dragon on the cover: Ochre Dragon by V. E. Patton (fantasy – 4 stars – review)

A scary book: The King of Crows by Libba Bray (The Diviners #4) (YA historical fantasy – 4 stars – review forthcoming)

A book with orange on the cover: Oasis by Katya de Becerra (YA sci-fi – 2.5 stars – review)

A romance: Kindred: 12 Queer #LoveOzYA Stories edited by Michael Earp (YA short stories/various genres – stars – review forthcoming).

I also read Writing Killer Cover Copy by Elana Johnson, but it didn’t fit any of the prompts. It was a non-fiction four-star read. 

So to sum up, I made it to the rank of Queen at least, and Empress if you count the non-prompt-y book. Not a bad effort! 

Favourite Bookish Photo:

Uhhh… this was my only bookish photo this month. It also might be my most popular Instagram post ever!  You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

Currently Reading:

Physical book: Burn by Patrick Ness. Alternate history — with dragons! I’m really enjoying this so far. I don’t even notice the pages turning. I was hoping to finish this in May and also earn the shield for Medievalathon (a book you have high expectations for) but I guess if my weapon is bows and arrows, I can’t hold a shield anyway, can I? 

Ebook: Potency (Glow #1) by Aubrey Hadley. I haven’t had any ARCs for a while but I remembered I had two due in June, so I thought I’d best make a start. This was originally slated for release a year ago, but the consistent feedback they received from Netgalley led to them taking time to redevelop a lot of it. This is the updated version (I never received the original). I’m interested to see how it goes. 

Audio book: .Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman, number two in the Arc of Scythe. I didn’t love the first book enough to go out and buy the second, so I waited until my library’s copy became available. I’m really enjoying Greg Tremblay’s narration. I wonder if I might have liked the first book a bit more had I also listened to it. 

Planning to read next:

I’m taking part in the blog tour (my first one!) for What Unbreakable Looks Like by Katie McLaughlin, so I want to make sure I’ve read it well before the due date of my review. 

What are you reading? 🙂

#20BooksOfSummer20 TBR

I’m hoping that 746Books, the host of this reading challenge, doesn’t mind me taking liberties and making my own graphic for it. I wanted to make reference to the fact that it… is really not summer here right now.  😁 I am writing this in front of the heater, wearing woolly socks and with a blanket over my lap.

But why should that preclude me from a challenge?! Sure, I could start my own Southern Hemisphere version and run it December – February, but… eh. That sounds like work!

The 20 Books of Summer challenge is exactly what it sounds like. Between June 1 and September 1, participants can choose to read 10, 15 or 20 books.

I’m going to continue my 2020 challenge of reading all the Australian books that I own.

My Australian fiction bookshelf, showing a number of the books on my 20 Books of Summer list, as well as some I’ve already read, and some I’ll get to a bit later.

I find that even when I only do month-long reading challenges, my final result is always a little different from my intitial TBR, but these are the ones I’m going to try for:

  1. The Beast’s Heart by Lief Shallcross (fantasy)
  2. The Iron Line by L. M. Merrington (historical fiction)
  3. Rheia by Cassandra Page (fantasy)
  4. Where Shadows Rise by Amy Laurens (YA fantasy)
  5. Through Roads Between by Amy Laurens (YA fantasy)
  6. Mud and Glass by Laura E Goodin (fantasy)
  7. Harlequin’s Riddle by Rachel Nightingale (YA fantasy)
  8. The Grief Hole by Kaaron Warren (horror)
  9. No Limits by Ellie Marney (YA crime/contemporary)
  10. A Pocketful of Eyes by Lili Wilkinson (YA contemporary)
  11. The Grinding House by Kaaron Warren (horror/short stories)
  12. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta (YA fantasy)
  13. The Dry by Jane Harper (Crime)
  14. She’s Having a Laugh ed. George McInroe (non-fiction)
  15. Maternal Instinct by Rebecca Bowyer (sci-fi)
  16. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth (historical fiction)
  17. One Summer in Santorini by Sandy Barker (romance)
  18. The Blood Countess by Tara Moss (YA fantasy)
  19. Angel Mage by Garth Nix (YA fantasy)
  20. Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans (YA fantasy)

This might be ambitious because I also have a couple of ARC reviews due in June, and a couple of books from the library still to get through. And book club! But I do have the first week of June off work. So we’ll see. See you on the other side! Or at least, at a June 30 check-in.

“If this isn’t hell, the devil is surely taking notes.” // Review of “The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” by Stuart Turton

Title: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Author:
Stuart Turton
Genre: Literary/speculative fiction
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 01/05/20 – 08/05/20
Rating: 
★★★

Review: 

What even was this book?

No, that’s not rhetorical. Please, someone tell me.

Okay, maybe I’m being a bit disingenuous there, but I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to say this book is unlike any other I’ve read. It was compelling, even as I sometimes struggled to keep track of things. I had a small list of murder suspects, and I was ALMOST right!

You do sort of have to roll with this book. It would be easy to try to sit there picking apart all the time travel logic and how it  all works. I suspect Stuart Turton must have had a dozen spreadsheets in order to keep it all straight, and I think there are still times when things don’t quite add up. But as long as you’re willing to suspend your disbelief, then you will keep turning the pages, perhaps even start dreaming about the book as I did!

I have to say that up until about the last 30 or so pages, this was a five star read for me, despite the nit-picking. But as I was nearing the end, I realised that I wasn’t going to find out certain details about how the events of the book all came to pass in the first place… there are hints dropped, but nothing really concrete. We learn that certain character development (as in, a person changed due to their experiences) took place before the book starts, meaning we just have to accept them, rather than seeing it happen.

This didn’t kill the enjoyment for me, but it meant I closed the book at the end feeling dissatisfied. Maybe that’s just me, though? Don’t let me put you off!


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Down the TBR Hole #6

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Welcome to the Down The TBR Hole meme. The aim behind this game is to whittle your TBR down a little by going through and removing books you’ve lost interest in or aren’t truly likely to pick up.

My TBR is not as out of control as some of yours, but I figure it’s 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!

Inconceivable! by Tegan Wren

I’m a bit torn about this one. It sounds cute and I enjoy a royal romance as much as the next person. But it’s a full on romance-to-marriage-to-trying-to-have-a-baby within 350 pages? Honestly sounds like it might be trying to do a bit too much and while I appreciate a book that explores infertility, I’m not sure it’s for me.   

~~ Decision:  GO ~~

5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

Honestly… as much as the idea of a dystopia set in future India feels different and fresh, I think I’d rather read one from an Indian author. Also a few reviewers that I follow say the world-building is sketchy, which means I’m bound to pick it apart and ask too many questions. I’m going to let this one go.

~~ DECISION:  GO ~~


The Forbidden Wish
by Jessica Khoury

This one sounds really good! I’m not sure if it’s a fairytale retelling exactly, but it has djinn! I love djinn! They’re one of my favourite mythological creatures and I am willing to read any book featuring them. So this is a kepeer.

~~ DECISION: KEEP ~~

Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet by H. P. Wood

There’s a note at the end of the blurb for this on stating that it’s not a children’s or YA book. Which is weird because the blurb totally reads like middle-grade. And based on some of the reviews, the things that would have drawn me to it – Coney Island, carnival oddballs – are not actually a major feature. Apparently it’s more about an outbreak of yellow fever, with a bit of magical realism thrown in. Again, I don’t think it’s for me.

~~ DECISION: GO ~~

Stitching Snow by R. C. Lewis

Fairytale retelling! Yay! Sci-fi? Yeeehhh? But it sounds intriguing? Gonna keep this one for now.

~~DECISION: KEEP ~~

TODAY: 2 keep, 3 go.

ALL TIME: 14 keep, 16 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!

#Medievalathon – May 2020 – TBR!

Wheeenothing quite like finding out about a readathon the day before it starts and deciding to take part anyway!

During the month of May, I’m going to be participating in Medievalathon, hosted by Holly Hearts Books.

plan to read at least seven books this month and become divine Empress of the four corners of the globe. Or something. Anyway. Here are the levels you can aim for:

And I’m going to do that while wearing some pretty rocking outfits. I had a lot of books that fitted the outfit prompts. 😂

OUTFITS

A pristine book: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Under 300 pages: Greythorne by L. M. Merrington

Green on the dust jacket: Harlequin’s Riddle by Rachel Nightingale

A book with a dragon on the cover: Ochre Dragon by V. E. Patton

WEAPONS

A romance: The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross

A heavy book: Angel Mage by Garth Nix

A book I have high expectations for: The Dry by Jane Harper

Pet COMPANIONS

A scary book: The Grief Hole by Kaaron Warren

Orange on the dust jacket: A Pocketful of Eyes by Lili Wilkinson

And that’s it for not! I’ve spent way too much time putting this together this morning and I need to go get ready for work! At least it’s a work from home day. I’ll do a progress post about halfway through the month and see you then!

March/April 2020 Reading Wrap-up

What a weird month March was! I read one whole book and DNFed a bunch. I just wasn’t in the mood. Things were changing so rapidly and I just didn’t have the space for books. I was more interested in spending time on Facebook checking in on friends and trying to get work-from-home arrangements all sorted.

Fortunately, I feel like April has calmed down a little. I know this comes from a place of privilege, but now that shut-down has reached the point of “Don’t go out except for essentials” and there is actually a list of what those are, I feel like I know what I’m doing, rather than balancing on a knife-edge, waiting for more news.

Since I only read one book in the whole of March, I’ve rolled that month in with this month’s wrap-up. As usual, I have not always written a review, but I’ll link to GoodReads if I expressed more than a sentence or two of thoughts there.

Past Month’s Reading

  1. The True Colour of the Sea by Robert Drewe (short stories/literary fiction – 2 stars – GoodReads)
  2.  Scythe (Arc of Scythe #1) by Neal Shusterman (YA dystopia – 3.5 stars – review)
  3. Troll Hunter: Witch For Hire by P A. Mason (fantasy – 4 stars – not intending to review)
  4. The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews (historical romance – 3 stars – not intending to review)
  5. That Night In Paris (Holiday Romance #2) by Sandy Barker (romance – 3.5 stars – review)
  6. Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley (YA contemporary – 5 stars – review)
  7. The Damsel Gauntlet by P. A. Mason (fantasy – 4 stars – review)
  8. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman (contemporary romance – 3 stars – mini review
  9. Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (YA sci-fi – 4 stars – review)
  10. There she Goes by Lynne Shelby (contemporary romance – 3 stars – mini-review)
  11. Cookies and Curses by Rosie Pease (cozy mystery/paranormal – 3.5 stars stars – mini review)

Interesting how many of these were romances of one form or another. I have no idea where to find it now but I was reading an article a few weeks ago about how sales of romance always go up in times of crisis, and how romance books basically kept the publishing industry afloat during WW2.  I think we all need a guaranteed happy ending or two to get us through these strange times. 

Booktube

I have an announcement on that front. After several months of sporadic posting, I have finally decided to let my Booktube channel die. It was started on a bit of a whim and it was fun for a while. But I wasn’t really invested in it and putting together videos takes a lot more work than blogging. So I’m just going to keep this as my little corner of the bookish Internets. 

Favourite Bookish Photo:

March: 

I’m probably a little bit biased with this one, as I’m currently in (online) rehearsals for a musical adaptation of The Thornthwaite Inheritance by Gareth P. Jones. But seriously, these books were such fun. If you enjoy The Addams Family and A Series of Unfortunate Events and quirky British humour, then you will love these books! 

April: 

We might be going into the colder months here but we are lucky enough to still get beautiful sunny days even when it’s chilly. This photo was taken on a Saturday morning when I  sat outside on my sun lounge and read for a couple of hours. I read Aurora Rising just in time for the sequel, which came out a couple of days ago. 

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

Currently Reading: 

Physical book: Ochre Dragon by V. E. Patton. I’m finally reading this! This is by one of my dear writer friends, and also it has dragons so how has it taken me this long? Also I love that one of the characters is a woman over 50! How often do you see that in fantasy?

Ebook: No ebook at the moment. 

Audio book: The King of Crows by Libba Bray, book four in the Diviners series. This is… three big road trips at the moment? Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying it, it’s just,… taking a while to literally get anywhere. 

Planning to Read Next: 

I’m not completely sure yet but I suspect it might be Oasis by Katya de Becerra. I won a signed copy recently and i can’t wait to get started. I’ve heard such good things about it and it sounds fascinating! I just hope it lives up to expectations. 

What have you been reading lately? 🙂

Mini Book Reviews: Cookies and Curses by Rosie Pease, There She Goes by Lynne Shelby, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

Sometimes I don’t really have a lot to say about a book. It doesn’t really warrant a full-length review. And while I’m sure the authors appreciate the Goodreads and Amazon reviews, I was trying to think of a way to get the word out to my blog followers, too.

This morning it occurred to me to incorporate a few reviews into one post. Duh. So here are three romances I’ve read recently and a few thoughts about each.


Cookies and Curses

by Rosie Pease
(Matchmaking Grimoire #1)
★★★☆

Argh, this book made me crave baked sweets! So many mouth-watering descriptions! I have to admit, the reason I picked this up is because I can never go past books that combine witches with baking. Which is a really niche interest but there seems to be a reasonable amount of it!

I really enjoyed the idea of matchmaking being a witchy skill and seeing how the ghosts interfered with that.

I loved Ken and Ivy, and really appreciated that when Joanie was first embarking on dating Ken, that the book delved into the complexities of dating someone who already has kids.

I did feel like the mystery dragged on a little long, but that was a minor quibble.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go bake some choc-chip cookies!


There She GOes

by Lynne Shelby
(Theatreland #2)
★★★

My main quibble with this book was how early the two characters got together, given that the tag line is “Will they ever share more than an onstage kiss?” I was expecting a slow burn and it was not that at all.

There never seemed to be much in the way of conflict, and what was there was usually easily resolved in the following chapter.

Having said that, as a community theatre practitioner, I did enjoy the aspects of the professional theatre scene, auditions, call backs, etc. As well as the waiting for word, the crappy day jobs, the agony of being so close but so far.

And the writing was engaging, even if I did think the plot was a bit light on the ground.


The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

by Abbi Waxman
★★★

This started off entertaining but I have to admit that after a while the whole cute and quirky vibe wore off a bit. I didn’t find myself terribly invested in the romance. I didn’t see any chemistry between Nina and Tom, they just apparently fancied each other and then they were together.

What I did enjoy were the dynamics between Nina and her newly-discovered extended family. I loved how with some of them she slipped right in like she’d never been apart, but others were much more hesitant.

I also really appreciated the sensitive treatment of Nina’s anxiety.


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Down The TBR Hole #5

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Welcome to the Down The TBR Hole meme. The aim behind this game is to whittle your TBR down a little by going through and removing books you’ve lost interest in or aren’t truly likely to pick up.

My TBR is not as out of control as some of yours, but I figure it’s 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!

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway

This is a time travel romance and to be honest, nothing about this summary jumps out at me anymore (it’s been on my TBR for a full five years). This is any easy go decisions. 

~~ Decision:  GO ~~

Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal

This one’s summary is a bit wordy, which always makes me wonder about the book itself. Does it meander, too? Given the voice the MC hears is that of Jacob Grimm, presumably this has something to do with fairy tales, but there’s nothing there to really hook me so this is another one to say goodbye to.

~~ DECISION:  GO ~~


The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry 
by Gabrielle Zevin

I’m not entirely sure about this one but it has a lot of good reviews and many of my friends have really enjoyed it. And it’s a book-about-books, and those are usually good (says the philistine who didn’t like 84 Charing Cross Road). I think I’ll keep this one for now.

~~ DECISION: KEEP ~~

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

The blurb of this doesn’t give much away, to the point where I wasn’t even sure if it was a fantasy or something more sinister, like a thriller about a group of kidnapped kids. But Goodreads says it’s fantasy, and I’m intrigued. It’s got mixed reviews from my friends but I want to make up my own mind.

~~ DECISION: KEEP ~~

The Axeman’s Jazz by Ray Celestin

I’m a bit of sucker for historical crime fiction, particularly if there’s a serial killer involved. And this one is partially based on fact? Yeah, gonna have to keep this one.

~~DECISION: KEEP ~~

TODAY: 3 keep, 2 go.

ALL TIME: 12 keep, 13 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!