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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“The dragon within my heart stirred, shifting her wings, as if remembering they could be used to fly.” // Review of “A Natural History of Dragons” by Marie Brennan

Title: A Natural History of Dragons (Memoirs of Lady Trent #1)
Author:
Marie Brennan
Audio book narrator: Kate Reading
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 05/06/20 – 22/06/20
Rating: 
★★★

Review: 

I have to admit, for a book with this title, I expected, well… more dragons. Having said that, I enjoyed the story and characters in and of themselves. Marie Brennan has crafted a really strong character in Isabella Camherst/Lady Trent, and Kate Reading’s delivery of the audio book really built on that.

The world Lady Trent inhabits is based on 19th Century England, and while it is perfectly crafted, the fact that she is an upper-class character did occasionally wear thin. The characters travel to a small village for their scientific expedition and Isabella is horrified when a) the woman helping them doesn’t have the manners of a proper ladies’ maid and b) the villagers don’t even seem to know what a wardrobe is!

I was hoping the attitude would change a little, but as with nineteenth century English explorers, the characters were quite convinced they were in the right about everything.

Sometimes it felt like the characters other than Isabella were a little bland, but I still ended up quite attached to them all, as I realised when one died just before the end of the book! I wasn’t expecting it at all.

As this series is set out as Lady Trent’s memoirs, written as an old woman, there is a fair amount of “authorial” intrusion. Often that bothers me, but I think the fact that it was still the character, rather than the actual author, meant that I could let it go. It might not be for everyone, though. It does of course, also mean that we know that she survives every danger she comes across, or else she wouldn’t be setting down this tale after the fact. So that limits the stakes a little, but I still found it to be entertaining.

As I said, there were fewer dragons than I expected for a book with this title. In this world, they are simply another animal predator, like bears or wolves, albeit a species little is known about. They are very much an object of study, rather than characters in the book, and a lot of the conflict actually comes from other humans. As I said, it was a good story in and of itself, but I can see some people feeling a bit mislead.

“How does the world end? It ends in fire.” // Review of “Burn” by Patrick Ness

Title: Burn
Author:
 Patrick Ness
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 30/05/20 – 03/06/20
Rating: 
★★★★

Review:

the cover of the Patrick Ness novel Burn. It has a black background and the shape of a dragon emerges from flames at the bottom.

It’s not going to be easy to review this book in a way that does it justice. I do feel that it’s a story that only Patrick Ness could write. It has so many different components and could have been a huge mess but somehow he pulls it off.

I’m not going to go into the plot too much. Suffice to say this book is about a girl called Sarah, whose father has hired a dragon to work their farm in late 1957. The Cold War is going on, Sputnik is about to be launched, and an assassin is headed to their small town…

This isn’t some fast-paced action adventure like the Chaos Walking trilogy. If you want to compare to Ness’ other books, I think it’s much closer to A Monster Call. There’s lots of introspection and it’s very philosophical and it builds slowly to a climax rather than racing there.

It’s beautifully written because of course it is, it’s by Patrick Ness. I didn’t really feel any connection to the characters but I was drawn into this world and I didn’t mind that too much because the prose was engaging.

If you like dragons in your fantasy, I would definitely recommend this one. It won’t be to everyone’s liking, but it’s definitely worth giving a chance.

#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? 🙂

#AWW2020 #LoveOzYA Book Review: “Oasis” by Katya de Becerra

Title: Oasis
Author:
Katya de Becerra
Genre: Fantasy/Sci-fi
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 18/05/20 – 22/05/20
Rating: 
★★☆

Review: 

Okay, so this was… weird. I honestly am not sure whether it’s a 2.5 or maybe a 3 star rating but this is definitely a case of not living up to the hype. I was expecting to give this 5 stars when I read it. You know those times when you think “Did I read the same book my friends did? I don’t get it.” Yeeaaaah.

The writing was engaging, I will give it that. There are some great descriptions, though I think the author did better when describing abstract things like the heat or the weird dreams Alif, the MC, has, than when describing more physical things like the sand dunes.

I never believed in the characters, which I think was my main issue. I’m supposed to believe this group have been friends for years, when all they seem to do is quibble. There are multiple times when Alif has the realisation that despite Luke having been part of their group for a long time, she “never really knew him”. Like, surely you have to be really good friends with someone to go on an overseas trip with them. And if you’re that close, and you’re not interested in archaeology, surely you can tell your friend that visiting her dad’s dig site isn’t really for you. You know, rather than getting there and being a jerk about it.

Also Luke and Tommy facing off and getting all macho at each over over Alif… ugh.

The world-building was limited and there was minimal explanation of anything… and then there was the open-ended conclusion that just left me feeling unsatisfied. I genuinely don’t actually understand what happened, and what it meant for the events of the previous 100 pages. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy an open ending, but this was just… a nothing ending.

I’m really disappointed because I’d been really looking forward to it, and I knew a few people who’d really enjoyed it. I guess it was just not to be.


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

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#AWW2020 Book Review: “Ochre Dragon” by V. E. Patton

Title: Ochre Dragon (Opal Dreaming Chronicles #1)
Author:
V. E. Patton
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 27/04/20 – 12/05/20
Rating: 
★★★★

Review: 

This was definitely different to the fantasy I usually read. I guess that may be partly because a lot of the fantasy I read is YA, and therefore has a different feel and pace.

Ochre Dragon is the first in the Opal Dreaming Chronicles and it follows three women at different stages of life, living on different worlds, who are irrevocably linked.

The book seamlessly blends science and magic, giving us dystopia, deities, dragons and time gates, to name a few. Somehow it never seems like the book is overdoing it.

I’ll admit it did take me a while to get into it, and I think that was partly because for the first while, I was reading in very small dribs and drabs. It’s the sort of book that deserves to be properly absorbed in as few sittings as possible, I think. The writing is very lyrical and the plot is well set out.

It does end on a cliffhanger, but now that the cast is all in the position, I am very interested to see where they go from here!

Content warning: there are two instances of attempted rape and the suggestion of past sexual violence.


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

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#AWW2020 Book Review: “Greythorne” by L. M. Merrington

Title: Greythorne
Author:
L. M. Merrington
Genre: Historical fiction/Gothic novel
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 08/05/20 – 12/05/20
Rating: 
★★★

Review:  

I’ve had a copy of Greythorne for quite some time and I’m finally getting to it now that I am actively aiming to read the Australian books I own.

Merrington draws on the Gothic tradition, as you can probably tell from the cover. The main character, Nell, is sent to Greythorne Manor, an isolated house on a difficult-to-reach island (rocky outcrop?), to become governess to 8-year-old Sophie, the daughter of a scientist.

The sense of isolation within a large, empty house is very well done, and I could imagine Nell wandering empty corridors with the wind billowing outside. And particularly when Professor Greythorne.

I was getting some distinct Frankenstein vibes from the Professor, and while I was somewhat on the right track with that, Merrington definitely puts her own spin on the gothic mad scientist trope. I am probably already giving things away so I don’t want to elaborate anymore on that one.

Following in the tradition of the gothic novels before it, the story moves quite slowly, with the increasing sense of uneasiness. There is some good foreshadowing of things that really become important later. While it took me a few days to get through this one due to time, I think this a good one to dedicate a cozy winter afternoon to.


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

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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? 🙂

February 2020 Reading Wrap-up

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So far in 2020, reading has been hard work, which is never fun! I’ve downgraded my GoodReads reading challenge from 75 to 50 because of my slow start. I’ve dropped off blog hops and am pretty much sticking to reviews and these monthly wrap-up posts. This is by no means a permanent change, but it’s all I have the energy for at the moment. I’ll come back to other things when I come back to them.

Sadly, that does mean I’m mostly missing out  on visiting your blogs as well. Just finding the time is a challenge. 

Having said that, when I sat down to write this post, I realised I did actually get through 8 books in February! It certainly didn’t feel like that. I finished two audio books that I’d been listening to for a very long time, so that felt pretty satisfying.  

I haven’t always had the energy to review them, so below some links will go to reviews here on the blog and others will go to GoodReads where I wrote some notes. And some don’t have a review at all yet. 

Past Month’s Reading:

  1. The Shadow Palace by Celine Jeanjean (The Viper and the Urchin #6) (steampunk – 3.5 stars – review)

  2. The Thornthwaite Inheritance by Gareth P. Jones (middle-grade – gothic/contemporary/mystery – 4 stars – GoodReads thoughts)
  3. Greehaelen by L. A. Webster (Chronicles of Algarth #1) (fantasy – 4 stars – review)
  4. Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray (the Diviners #3) (historical fantasy – 3 stars – GoodReads thoughts)
  5. Heroines: An Anthology of Short Fiction and Poetry edited by Sarah Nicholson and Caitlin White (speculative fiction anthology – 3 stars – not intending to review)
  6. The Thornthwaite Betrayal by Gareth P. Jones (middle-grade – gothic/contemporary/mystery – 5 stars – GoodReads thoughts
  7.  Circe by Madeleine Miller (historical fantasy/retelling – 4 stars – review forthcoming)

No, that’s not a mistake in my graphics – I did read The Thornthwaite Inheritance twice. It and its sequel were my favourites this month. 

Booktube:

wrote a script for a new BookTube video but never filmed it. Maybe in March? Or maybe I’m just going to give up this whole vlogging thing…

Favourite Bookish Photo:

I was so proud of my #6amAusWriters friends for their February releases! It took me a while to get good shot of Greenhaelen by Lyn Webster in among my neighbour’s flowers, but when gardens and nature are so central to the book, it absolutely had to be that way. You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

Currently Reading:

Physical book: Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton. Apparently I’ve only been reading this for two weeks, which is slow, but not as slow as I thought! It’s about a school shooting and the subsequent operation to get the children out safely while there’s still a gunman in the building. It should be totally my cup of tea but something is holding me back. 

Ebook: That Night In Paris by Sandy Barker. Another member of the #6amAusWriters team! Everybody is publishing books this year! I need to get my butt into gear. I have only just started this but I think it will be light and fun and romantic, which is what I’m looking for. 

Audio book: The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews. After enjoying Matthew’s Victorian Christmas romance, A Holiday by Gaslight, I decided to snap this one up when I saw it on Audible. 

Planning to read next:

I’ve had a sneaky look at There She Goes by Lynne Shelby and a romance set in “theatreland” sounds exactly my kind of thing. The opening chapter with an awkward audition was so relatable. So yes, this will be next. 

What are you reading? 🙂