January 2023 Reading Wrap-up

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

We have been back on home turf for a week now, and it’s been such a relief! I’m heading back to work tomorrow and it will be good to really settle back into routines. Quantitatively, it’s been an excellent reading month, but Heartstopper was the only book that I gave more than three stars to. The rest of my reads have all been fine down to okay. Fingers crossed for some 4 and 5 star reads in February!

PAST MONTH’S READING:

A banner showing the covers of the following books: Cupcakes, Trinkets and Other Deadly Magic by Meghan Ciana Doidge, The Ghostly Grounds: Murder and Breakfast by Sophie Love, Miss Percy's Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson, A Study in Time by Maureen Flynn
  1. Cupcakes, Trinkets and Other Deadly Magic (Dowsers #1) by Meghan Ciana Doidge (cozy mystery/urban fantasy – 2 stars – review)
  2. The Ghostly Grounds: Murder and Breakfast by Sophie Love (cozy mystery – 3 stars – review)
  3. Miss Percy’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons (historical fantasy – 3 stars)
  4. A Study in Time by Maureen Flynn (sci-fi – 3 stars)
  5. Behind the Veil by E. J. Dawson (historical fantasy/horror – 3 stars – review forthcoming)
  6. Mrs Rochester’s Ghost by Lindsa Marcott (thriller – 2 stars)
  7. The Mightnight Library by Matt Haig (magical realism – 3 stars)
  8. Heartstopper by Alice Oseman (YA romance/graphic novel – 4 stars)
A banner showing the covers of the following books: Behind the VEil by EJ Dawson, Mrs Rochester's Ghost by Lindsay Marcott, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and Heartstopper volume 1 by Alice Oseman.

BOOKTUBE:

I’ve started making booktube videos again! Here’s the latest:

  1. Sims Readathon February TBR

INSTAGRAM:

Not exactly a bookish photo but book-adjacent! I only used my British Library card for one day and I won’t get back there before it expires, but I was pretty chuffed to get it!

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

CURRENTLY READING:

I don’t actually have anything on the go at the moment. I finished Heartstopper earlier this afternoon.

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

It’s very likely it will be Heartstopper Volume 2. Being very simple graphic novels, these do not take long to get through at all and my partner has bought the whole series. I’m doing the Sims Readathon in February and one of the prompts is to read a book with a school setting, for which this series works perfectly.

What are you reading? 🙂

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Book Review: “The Ghostly Grounds: Murder and Breakfast” by Sophie Love

Title: The Ghostly Grounds: Murder and Breakfast (Canine Casper Cozy Mystery #1)
Author: Sophie Love
Genre: Urban fantasy/cosy mystery
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 03/01/2022 – 04/01/2022
Rating: 
★★★

Review: 

I have to admit, I went into this because it looked spooky and paranormal. Having now read it, I would have to say that is the books’ weakest feature. While there is definitely something ghostly going on, it really had no impact on the story itself.

I did enjoy the cast of characters. It was particularly nice having a lead character, Marie, who is nearing 40, rather than the usual mid-20s protagonists. I did have to suspend my disbelief a little with how easily she set up the B&B – less than $11k in savings to fix the place up and no building inspections or approvals in sight. Just set up a website!

Sometimes the writing felt a little bit repetitive, especially as different characters kept asking Marie about the rumours that her aunt’s manor might be haunted, and she gave the same answer every time. There was also a lot of hand-wringing over whether she could afford to keep the B&B running, which got a bit tiresome after a while, even if it is realistic.

But the idea of a paranormal investigator being in town at the same time as a noted sceptic and the latter ending up dead… that’s an excellent premise for a cozy mystery, and I did enjoy that side of the book. The investigation moves along at a good pace, and it doesn’t feel like there’s any padding while the story waited for Marie to find more clues.

While I enjoyed this instalment well enough, I did pick this up as a freebie. I am not sure I am necessarily invested enough to continue the series. It might remain at the back of my mind, but I have so many other books to read, it’s unlikely I’m going to return to these ones.


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Book Review: “Cupcakes, Trinkets and Other Deadly Magic” by Meghan Ciana Doidge

Title: Cupcakes, Trinkets and Other Deadly Magic (Dowsers #1)
Author: Meghan Ciana Doidge
Genre: Urban fantasy/cosy mystery
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 01/01/2022 – 02/01/2022
Rating: 
★★

Review: 

I’m not having a lot of luck with urban fantasies lately. Anyone who knows me I will snap up anything that features both baking and magic, but this one really needed a good edit to make it stand out.

There were a lot of things that weren’t really explained very well, and other times where the main character explains too much at a bad time, halting the plot and making the reader forget what was actually happening. Several times, the narration would say something like “Now that I knew how to…” or “so that was why…” and I had no idea where the revelation had come from.

They mystery itself was actually decent enough. I didn’t mind reading the ins and outs of the characters pursuing their leads. The villain was fairly obvious but when it came down to it, I couldn’t quite understand their reasoning, and I’m still not sure what actually transpired at the end. Maybe that’s explained in later books, but I’m not interested enough to continue the series.

I think my favourite character was the vampire Kett. He was the one who seemed to have the most interesting personality, and who seemed like the most fully-formed of the side characters. While there were more werewolves on the scene than vampires, the most interesting one of them ends up dead early on and I never particularly warmed to any of the others.

One more thing to note: a key element of the story is that Jade thought she was half-human, half-witch, but the human aspect may not be correct (she never knew her father). When she finally does get her mother and grandmother to open up at the end of the book, they tell her her father was someone her mother hooked up with while backpacking through Australia and taking part in an “aboriginal fertility ceremony”. Yikes. I’m not an Indigenous Australian, but I would still encourage this Canadian author to not throw around terms like that in the name of humour or a quirky plot point.


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December 2022 Reading Wrap-up

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

Hello from Rome, and Happy New Year! December started off strong in the reading department, but it fell down in the second half of the month. Obviously that’s going to happen while travelling. Honestly, it’s 19 days until we return to Australia and as much as we still have some great places to visit, I am looking forward to being home again.

PAST MONTHS’ READING HIGHLIGHTS:

  1. Planting Pearls by Virginia King (suspense/paranormal – 5 stars – review)
  2. A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Bakin g by T. Kingfisher (MG fantasy – 4 stars – review)
  3. The War of the Fae: the Changelings (YA fantasy – 1 star – review)
  4. The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne by Jonathan Stroud (YA fantasy/dystopia – 3 stars – review)

Once again, I’m skipping the usual Booktube and Bookstagram sections on this post. From February, I’m hoping to be more active in both those spaces again and then I’ll re-incorporate them into the blog.

CURRENTLY READING:

Physical book: Nothing at the moment. I will admit that I am looking forward to being home with my bookcases.

Ebook: Cupcakes, Trinkets and Other Deadly Magic by Meghan Ciana Doidge. This was a Kindle freebie and it’s… fine. It’s a light-hearted paranormal mystery but it’s nothing mind-blowing.

Audio book: Nothing on the go at the moment. Maybe I should download something for the plane home…

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

Genuinely no idea! It’s harder to determine that when you’re confined to ebooks and can’t cast your eyes over the bookshelves to see what you fancy. I am sure I’ll find something, though.

Well, this post has been short and sweet! I’ll finish it up here.

What are you reading? 🙂

#AusReads Planting Pearls by Virginia King

Title: Planting Pearls (Selkie Moon #1)
Author: Virginia King
Genre: Mystery/paranormal
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 01/12/22 – 02/12/22
Rating: 
★★★★★

Review: 

I heard about this series through the author’s sister, with whom I do musical theatre, and I’m so glad I checked it out. I loved this one!

Planting Pearls is a suspense novel with a hint of paranormal. I really enjoyed the way that Hawaiian folklore was incorporated into the story. Admittedly, I am not familiar with any of the stories and I have no idea whether the folklore and native stories have been well represented, but at face value, they add to the story.

I mentioned in a recent review that the main character was a sexual assault or rape survivor, but this only ever seemed like a superficial reason for the character to want to leave town. I was pleased that in Planting Pearls, the effects of an abusive relationships were well-developed, as awful as they were. Selkie’s (ex-)husband sends her threatening text messages, cancels her hotel reservations once he’s discovered where she’s gone, and makes Selkie out to be the villain to their friends.

Selkie is a strong lead character, and her friends, particularly Wanda and Derek, make a good team. The mystery unfolds at a solid pace and I didn’t ever feel like the author was trying to pad the story out. I’m definitely looking forward to checking out more of Selkie Moon’s adventures.


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November 2022 Reading Wrap-up

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Hello from Florence, Italy! Despite travelling since November 14, I have managed to read 3 books so far on this trip! Turns out train travel is good like that.

PAST MONTHS’ READING HIGHLIGHTS:

  1. The Eighth Wonder by Tania Farrelly (historical fiction – 3 stars – review)
  2. The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall (dystopia/adventure/literary fiction – 2 stars – review)
  3. The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman (fantasy – 3 stars)
  4. The Dragon Healer by Tiani Davids (YA fantasy – 3.5 stars – review forthcoming))
  5. High Tide by Pip Russell-Brown (contemporary fiction – 4 stars)

I’m skipping the usual Booktube and Bookstagram sections on this post. To be honest, I haven’t been terribly active on either, especially Booktube. That’s something I don’t think I’ll get back to until 2023, and I’m okay with that!

CURRENTLY READING:

I am actually completely inbetween books at the moment, having finished the only one I had on the go earlier this evening. I am not sued to having nothing for this section!

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

I’m doing the Reindeer Readathon this month (despite travel!) so it will be something from my TBR for that. I’m leaning towards A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher. You know how I love any book that combines baking and magic.

What are you reading? 🙂

#AusReads “You will not recognise me, she thinks, when I find you…” // Review of “The Mother Fault” by Kate Mildenhall

Title: The Mother Fault
Author: Kate Mildenhall
Audio book narrator: Claudia Karvan
Genre: Dystopian/literary fiction
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 25/09/22 – 05/11/22
Rating: 
★★

Review: 

Oh man. This book frustrated me to no end. I ended up switching from audio book to physical about halfway through because I was finding it slow-going and I needed to move things along.

I know there’s that whole conversation about how female characters are held to impossible standards and we should all get behind unlikeable female characters because sometimes that’s how the world is (or something… I’m not very eloquent I know). But I just couldn’t stand Mim at all.

I understood that this was supposed to be an examination of the way women can lose parts of their pre-motherhood identities once they have kids. I don’t know if this would hit differently if I was a parent and had shared some of these experiences. As it was, Mim was just awful.

She puts not only herself, but her kids, her wider family and pretty much everyone else she comes into contact with in danger. She gets pissy at people when things go wrong, even though it’s mostly down to her poor judgement that they are in the bad situations to begin with. She feels guilty a lot of the time, but that never quite equates with taking any responsibility.

And the ending? I don’t want to say anything too spoilery, but I felt it basically cancelled out the entire story that came before it. Why did the characters even bother?

So why two stars rather than one, given how cranky I sound in all the above? Well, it was easy to read and despite my issues, I did fly through the pages once I had moved on to the phsyical book. (Was I rage-reading? Maybe I was rage-reading.) I suspect that I might actually enjoy Kate Mildenhall’s first book, which is historical fiction, a lot more.


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#AusReads Book Review: “The Eighth Wonder” by Tania Farrelly

Title: The Eighth Wonder
Author: Tania Farrelly
Audio book narrator: Annabelle Stephenson, Leinad Walker
Genre: Historical fiction
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 07/10/22 – 03/11/22
Rating: 
★★★

Review: 

This is one of those books that leaves me wringing my hands a bit as I try to review it. It’s fine. The writing is good. The characters are interesting. The setting is immersive. And yet, for whatever reason, the best I can do is damn it with faint praise and say I guess I enjoyed it.

I think my main problem here was that for so long I couldn’t really tell where the story was going. Things happened to the characters, but there seemed to be little set-up and little payoff later. Things just happened.

The two main character don’t even really meet until more than halfway through (though there had been a couple of encounters prior to that). For a while, I wasn’t sure whether an entirely different character was supposed to be the love interest! (Though he seemed unlikely).

While things did come together somewhat at the end, this wasn’t quite as satisfying as I had hoped.

Like I said, the writing in and of itself is very good, especially for a debut. Farrelly has clearly done her research into Golden Age New York City. I could picture the different parts of the city clearly as the characters travelled around.

I do have to warn for scenes of animal cruelty – one of the main characters adopts animals that have been abused by the entertainment industry, and some scenes of that cruelty are depicted.

I know a lot of my feelings about this book ultimately come down to personal preference. And I know many others have really enjoyed it. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, I would say it’s one to check out.


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October 2022 Reading Wrap-up

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The eagle-eyed among you will have seen that I started reviewing again this month! Some of the busy-ness I’ve had going on for the past few months has finally settled down, letting me get back to fun things I’ve had to ignore for a while.

PAST MONTHS’ READING HIGHLIGHTS:

Five book covers in a row - the Coming of the Fairies by Arthur Conan Doyle, The House in the Woods by Yvette Fielding, Witchnapped in Westerham by Dionne Lester, The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie and Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas.

  1. A Remarkable Woman by Jules van Mil (historical fiction – 3 stars – review) (read June, reviewed October)
  2. Malice by Pintup Dunn (YA sci-fi/romance – 3.5 stars – review) (read September, reviewed October)
  3. The Coming of the Fairies by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (non-fiction – unrated)
  4. The House in the Woods by Yvette Fielding (MG horror – 2 stars)
  5. Witchnapped in Westerham by Dionne Lester (urban fantasy/cozy mystery – 2 stars – review)
  6. The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie (mystery/adventure – 3 stars)
  7. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (YA fantasy/romance – 3.5 stars – review)

I’m skipping the usual Booktube and Bookstagram sections on this post. To be honest, I haven’t been terribly active on either, especially Booktube. That’s something I don’t think I’ll get back to until 2023, and I’m okay with that!

CURRENTLY READING:

The cover of The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman. The background is made to look like dark blue suede, with the title and decorations in the corners like silver filigree.

Physical book: Nothing at the moment.

Ebook: The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman. This is the eighth and final book in the Invisible Library series. I’ve enjoyed this series enough to want to see it through, though I have to admit the first three books were the strongest. Still, it’s good to complete a series (within a year, no less!) and tick it off the list!

Audio book: The Eighth Wonder by Tania Farrelly. This is a historical fiction that I am enjoying, though now that I am not driving for an hour every day due a commitment wrapping up, I have to admit that my inclination to listen to the last few hours has been low. I’ll endeavour to finish it soon, though, before it returned itself on the library app!

.

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

The cover of The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall. The title is laid over an abstract patch of colours, possibly a scarf crumpled up in a pile. It is hard to tell exactly what the image is.

I’ll be finishing The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall. I started this as an audio book but I have now got the paperback out from the library to finish it, as I was getting a bit bored with the audio version.

Hopefully, I’ll manage that before I head off travelling in mid-November. For the next little while, it’ll be e-books only. It’ll be good to clear my Kindle backlog a bit!

What are you reading? 🙂

#AusReads Book Review: “Witchnapped in Westerham” by Dionne Lister

Title: Witchnapped in Westerham (Paranormal Investigation Bureau #1)
Author: Dionne Lister
Genre: Urban fantasy/cosy mystery
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 10/10/2022 – 16/10/2022
Rating: 
★★

Review: 

Honestly? If I hadn’t been reading this for a readathon I’m already behind on, I don’t know that I would have finished it.

I will say one thing – I liked the concept of Lily being able to see the past or the future through her photography. That was cool and I liked that it was tied in with her passion.

The characters were annoying and for so long it felt like little was happening. Some character motivations seemed non-existent – such as Angelica making really snooty, snide comments one moment and then swearing that Lily can trust her the next?

Also I had to go back to the book and look up Angelica’s name because I had entirely forgotten, despite the fact that I finished reading half an hour ago. Oops.

Lily is also pretty self-absorbed. I get that her brother’s missing and she’s worried – but literally risking getting shot because she wants a cup of coffee and instant isn’t good enough? I appreciated she got dressed down for that and then I was kind of annoyed when one of the other characters went and got her a coffee anyway.

The villain was so over the top and so cartoonish – not to mention obvious. It wasn’t even that it was obvious to the reader and not to the characters – Lily had accurately figured it out by the halfway mark – she just needed proof, and apart from a couple of setbacks, gets it pretty easily.

Oof. I didn’t intend to get so ranty in this review. I will say that I didn’t realise how established this series was and I only downloaded the book because it was free. I didn’t enjoy it enough to continue with the rest of the books.


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