“I had been a fool to trust in a hero.” // Review of Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Title: Ariadne
Author: Jennifer Saint
Genre: Mythology retelling
Intended audience: YA/Adult
Date Read: 27/06/2021 – 19/06/2021
Rating: 
★★☆

It took me two weeks to get through the first third of this book, then five days to get through the rest. I’m not sure why, I didn’t really feel more investment in the later parts than the first. I guess I had a bit more time to dedicate to it in that five days, and thus was able to move through a bit quicker?

The writing style made it feel like all the events had already happened, and that someone was telling me about them afterwards. I was not there as the events were happening. That combined with the fact that Ariadne is passive as all get out, I didn’t feel compelled to pick up the book again whenever I wasn’t reading.

This changed a little when Phaedra was introduced as a second POV character in Part Two, but it still didn’t entirely save the story for me.

Perhaps it’s because I was already familiar with a fair amount of the mythology, and as far as I can tell, the book didn’t really bring anything new to the table. I liked the exploration of the themes about patriarchy and women’s places in society, namely that women are often punished for the misdeeds of men. But again, it sort of made this point and then… just kept making it, without any real change. I know, I know, it’s ancient Greece, and it’s the Ancient Greek gods, what was I expecting? But still.

Some of the writing is really good, and there were parts I enjoyed. Mostly chapters from Phaedra’s perspective, though I also enjoyed the relationship between Ariadne and Dionysus.

But overall, compared to other recent Greek mythology retellings such as Madeleine Miller’s Circe, I felt this didn’t live up to the hype at all

“It was an imperfect world, and her chosen profession was decidedly imperfect, but for now she had a hint of that spark again.” Review of “Dead Man’s Switch” by Tara Moss

Title: Dead Man’s Switch (Billie Walker Mystery #1)
Author: Tara Moss
Audio book narrator: Danielle Carter
Genre: Mystery/Historical
Intended audience: Adult
Dates Read: 03/07/2021 – 18/07/21
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Ah, what a great piece of historical fiction this was! Set in Sydney in 1946, just after the war, this is the first in a series of mysteries featuring Billie Walker, former war reporter and now private inquirer. While most of her cases involve tailing cheating men and gathering evidence to give their wives grounds for divorce, but when a woman asks Billie to investigate the disappearance of her 17-year-old son, Billie finds herself thrown into something far more sinister.

Moss’s extensive research is clear and makes all the difference to the book. Details of buildings, fashions, cars, the police force and post-war rationing, just to name a few, are all there, and it makes you feel like you’re there, too.

Billie is a strong lead who carries the story very well, and she’s supported by some great side characters including her baroness mother, her veteran secretary Sam, a quiet but sturdy Detective Inspector, and a young Aboriginal informant.

The mystery runs along at a good pace, with two seemingly unconnected plotlines converging on an exciting climax.

I also want to mention Danielle Carter’s narration of the audio book. She did a spectacular job bringing all these different characters with different accents and backgrounds to life.


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

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“The threat is here… I’m ready. Another howl. Closer. Here we go.” Review of “Devolution” by Max Brooks

Title: Devolution
Author: Max Brooks
Genre: Horror/thriller
Intended audience: Adult
Dates Read: 06/07/2021 – 13/07/21
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

I’ve been thinking for a while that I want to read more horror. I’m a bit inhibited on that front, though, by virtue of being an absolute scaredy-cat. Still, I enjoyed Max Brook’s World War Z, so I thought Devolution might be a good second toe-in-the-water.

I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish it, and with the initial just-finished momentum, gave the book five stars. The last 70 pages or so are full of fast-paced action that’s hard to put down. I kept making deals with myself about when I would go to bed, before finally acknowledging that I was going to have to find out what happens in the end.

The opening of the novel creates a lovely insidious feeling of isolation, and a sense that something is very wrong. Brooks gently criticises these types of “back to nature” people who don’t really want to get back to nature at all, who just want all the modern conveniences of urban life surrounded by some trees. One of my favourite lines in the book was “They all want to live “in harmony with nature” before some of them realize, too late, that nature is anything but harmonious.”

But the book did drag a bit in the middle. Yes, it was interesting observing the changing character dynamics as the characters realised they were cut off from the rest of the world and under threat. And yes, I made this GoodReads update at page 231: “Damn book lulled me into a false sense of security and now I’m all creeped out again.” But the real threat did sort of disappear for a while.

This was probably exacerbated by the framing device of an abandoned journal, which meant we knew that the character always survived the events she was describing, though we are told in the introduction that since the last entry, she’s been missing for thirteen months.

Still, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it overall, and it has led me off on Wikipedia rabbit holes about Sasquatch, Yowie, and other related personas such the Grizzly Man, Timothy Treadwell (who thought he had a communion with the bears in an Alaskan national park, until he was eaten by one in 2003). It gives a lot of food for thought, and not just about Bigfoot/Sasquatch. Recommended for fans of survival thrillers as well as horror.


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Book Review: “Murderland” by Pamela Murray

Title: Murderland (Manchester Murders #1)
Author: Pamela Murray
Audiobook narrator: Clare Eden
Genre: Crime/thriller
Intended audience: Adult
Dates Read: 20/06/2021 – 23/06/21
Rating: ★★★

Review:

It’s been quite a while since I read a thriller or listened to an audio book. It was a pretty good feeling to get back into both. This was an easy read, and honestly, I did like it, but I found there were a few things that bothered me enough to prevent me from enjoying it more.

The first is that this was written in a very detached style. The old adage of “show, don’t tell” was definitely not adhered to, and I really felt like I was listening to someone relate the events of the book after the fact, instead of being in amongst the action. On top of this, it’s written in 3rd person omniscient, not a perspective I read much. And I have to admit, I didn’t enjoy jumping between different characters’ thoughts and perspectives on the regular.

These two aspects combined particularly bothered me when I was told things like “the DCI knew that Burton had strong feelings for Fielding.” Well, okay, but there’s not been much at all to really suggest that to me. Fielding and Burton share the stage for quite a bit of the novel and there was very little chemistry there. There were also lots of “He felt that” and “It seemed to her” type sentences, which put me at an arms length from the action.

I also felt the murderer’s motivation, once revealed, was a bit far-fetched.

Still, it was a reasonably entertaining thriller. I found myself wanting to know more and being drawn back to it. Clare Eden’s delivery of the audiobook sometimes felt a bit dry, but as far as I could tell with my limited knowledge of Northern English accents, she had a fairly good grasp on the small differences between the regions.

I still haven’t decided whether I’ll continue with the series, but I certainly haven’t written it off entirely yet.


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Book Review: “Music & Mirrors” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: Music and Mirrors
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Historical fiction
Intended audience: YA/Adult
Dates Read: 20/06/2021 – 23/06/21
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

While I know that it’s a bit of a problematic trashfire, Phantom of the Opera is pretty much my favourite musical, so I was extremely excited when Celine Jeanjean announced to her advance team that she would be publishing a Phantom retelling this month. When I saw that gorgeous cover, my excitement only increased.

This is very different to Celine’s other books – her characteristic humour and snark are absent, and it’s a lot more character-driven that her other books. There were a couple of occasions when I found myself thinking “but nothing has actually happened“. Things had happened, though, but so much of it about the character arcs and what happens to them as people, rather than actual action or events.

And there are still hints of the Jeanjean signature style. I was getting some definite Viper and the Urchin series vibes from the descriptions of the feats of engineering in and under the opera house.

This version of the story is genderbent, with a female “phantom” and an aspiring bass-baritone opera singer. Also present is Ada Byron aka Ada Lovelace, in our own world commonly viewed as the earliest “computer programmer”. Jeanjean’s Ada is clearly autistic, even though the word obviously is never used. I wasn’t quite sure why it was necessary to have Ada Lovelace present as a character and not just an original aristocratic character, but in and of herself, I loved this character.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of Eric when we first met him, but he grew on me as the story went on. His love for his sister really shines through and it becomes clear early on that he will genuinely do anything for her. I also really loved that he respected Ada’s boundaries and the fact that she didn’t make eye contact or want to be touched.

In the original story, we learn about Erik’s disownment by his mother and how he travelled Europe and Asia before taking up residence under the Opera House. I wish we had got a bit of a similar backstory for Miriam, the Phantom equivalent in this story, especially given that she was the owner of the opera house and incredibly wealthy. I was intrigued where all that came from. Jeanjean does a good job of humanising the character without justifying her terrible actions, and I certainly sympathised with her as she realised towards the end that her loneliness was mostly of her own making.

I am pretty sure this is intended as a standalone, but I’d be interested in seeing more of these characters if Celine is willing to revisit them. I feel like there’s still so much ahead of them that could be explored!


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

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Book Review: “Marked By Azurite” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: Marked By Azurite (Razor’s Edge Chronicles #4)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Urban fantasy
Intended audience: YA/Adult
Dates Read: 06/06/2021 – 08/06/21
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

I received a free copy of this book from the author, but then I went out and bought a copy anyway, because I am continuing my streak of reading reviewing my “advance” copies at least a week after the book is released. Good work there, Emily.

I was surprised to realise on reflection that I think this might be my favourite book in this series so far. The reason for that is mostly that the events in this book feel a lot more personal. This one is really about Apiya finding out who she is.

In addition to that, we get some great backstories for Sarroch and Yue. I don’t want to spoil too much but let’s just say, Sarroch has made some bad, selfish choices in his long life, and Yue was kinda sorta almost… humanised? (For want of a better word, since she is not human). I’m really interested to see how this stuff pans out – Apiya as usual has got herself caught in the middle of things and bluffed her way to this point, but it’s hard to see how she’s going to persuade Yue to stop trying to kill her.

The revelations about Apiya’s true identity are going to have some pretty huge ramifications for the entire Mayak world and I’m also interested to see how that plays out, both within the Mayak community and in the wider negotiations between Mayak and Mundane. Definitely looking forward to the next book! Enough I might even manage to review that one before the official release date. 😂


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Book Review: “Lifted By Water” by Celine Jeanjean

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

Review:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Book Review: “Bound By Silver” by Celine Jeanjean

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

Review:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Book Review: “Touched By Magic” by Celine Jeanjean

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

Review:

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

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

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

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


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