#AusReads #LoveOzYA Book Review: “The Dragon Healer” by Tiani Davids

Title: The Dragon Healer (Chronicles of Eldras #1)
Author: Tiani Davids
Genre: Fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 14/11/2022 – 26/11/2022
Rating: 
★★★☆

Review: 

I was following Tiani Davids on Instagram when she made the decision to go indie with this series, so I’ve been looking forward to reading it for quite a while. The cover is absolutely gorgeous, and you all know I’m a sucker for dragons.

The Dragon Healer is a strong series opener with strong characters and interesting world-building. I really enjoyed the history of Eldras, the supposed reasons why the dragons were expelled from there, and the way this history slowly unravelled the more the main characters investigated.

Elinta is a great main character. I liked that her strength is healing, and she consistently demonstrates the knowledge she has learned from her apprenticeship. The dynamic between her and Zhayra, the dragon, is delightful.

Lorrin, the Crown Prince, and Niles, his best friend, are fun characters, though at times they almost border on being a little too perfect. I’m sitting down to write this review a week after reading the book, and I can recall very few instances of conflict with them. Given how much time Elinta spent in the palace and how much of an outsider she was, it might have been interesting to see something come between them.

Apart from this, the main thing that lets the story down a bit is the pacing. The first half moves along quite well, but then things grind almost to a halt once Elinta arrives at the palace. The plot needed a lot of time to pass, but apart from research, there wasn’t a lot for Elinta to do to fill it.

Given the way this book ends, I don’t think this will be such an issue in subsequent instalments in the series. The characters have moved off on their adventure now, and there is lots for them to discover. I look forward to book two!


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Advertisement

#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.


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

#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.


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

“You don’t need anyone’s permission to be you, Yads.” // Review of “Cemetery Boys” by Aiden Thomas

Title: Cemetery Boys
Author: Aiden Thomas
Genre: Fantasy/romance
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 19/10/2022 – 26/10/2022
Rating: 
★★★☆

Review: 

This book has been on my TBR ever since it came out and I actually bought it last year in my pile of “buy books during lockdown to support the bookshops!” spree. And then it’s taken me this long to get around to it, as per usual.

The plot of Cemetery Boys sadly underwhelmed me. It was quite slow-moving, and really only became gripping in the last 50 pages.

Having said that, the characters were charming and really drove it. I really enjoyed how Yadriel and Julian’s relationship developed, and the stark contrast between introverted good boy Yadriel and the more outgoing Jules.

It was delightful seeing Yadriel’s family as they prepared for Dia de Muertes, and painful to see the way they unintentionally hurt Yadriel when they misgendered him or otherwise didn’t recognise his true identity.

I got a bit teary at the end when the ghosts of Brujx past visited for Dia de Muertes and we saw just how unconditionally his mother accepted him. That was beautiful.

And on the other side of things, we had Julian’s older brother and friends, with their disparate origins but their fierce loyalty to one another.

Where it fell down for me was the plot. We have at least one dead body from the end of Chapter One, and more to come, but they mystery of how these people died seemed almost secondary. The last fifty pages or so were action-packed, but it felt a little off-balance with the rest of the book. Before that, things moved so slowly, even though the story actually only takes place over a few days. 150 pages in, I felt like very little had happened.

There’s nothing wrong with character-driven stories, of course, but this promised a bit more than that, and then didn’t deliver as well as it might have. Still, this was a debut, and I’m keen to check out Aiden Thomas’ second novel, Lost in the Never Woods, which was another of my lockdown purchases!


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

#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.


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Book Review – “Malice” by Pintip Dunn

Title: Malice
Author: Pintip Dunn
Genre: Sci-fi/romance
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 25/09/2022 – 27/09/2022
Rating: 
★★★☆

Review: 

This was a random library pick based entirely on the cover, and I have to say, I enjoyed it!

I really liked the way the time travel was conceptualised. A consciousness being able to travel back to its past self was a really nifty idea!

Having said that, it did seem a bit silly that so much information was withheld from Alice on the basis of “Even the smallest amount of foreknowledge can change the future” when she was literally being asked to kill someone to prevent a world-ending catastrophe before it happened.

As for the characters, I was conflicted by how quickly Alice accepted the time travel – on the one hand, it was super-fast! But on the other hand, it would have slowed down the story to have her come around at a more realistic pace.

The love interest is Thai, like the author, and it was cool to get a little bit of his cultural background peppered into the story. The romance developed maybe a bit quickly for my tastes but I liked the way it was handled at the end. Damn that time travel messing things up for the characters!

The villain’s motivations felt a little cartoonish in the future compared to how we see them in the present-day setting. It was a little hard to reconcile the two versions, but I liked that the time travel didn’t create an insta-fix, and that the characters would all still have to work together going forward to make sure the world didn’t end.

The writing was engaging and I found myself looking forward to picking the book up when I wasn’t reading it. This is my first read by Pintip Dunn and I’m intrigued to check out more of her writing.


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

#AusReads Book Review: “A Remarkable Woman” by Jules van Mil

Title: A Remarkable Woman
Author: Jules van Mil
Genre: Historical fiction
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 20/06/22 – 27/06/22
Rating: 
★★★

Review: 

A Remarkable Woman takes us from war-torn Paris to the trendy streets of 1950s Melbourne and the rolling paddocks of far-north Queensland cattle country. We follow aspiring designer Avril Montdidier as she struggles to choose between her dreams of independence and a man she can’t let go of.

If I am honest, I felt that the writing could have been developed further to give the reader a closer connection to the characters. It started strong – I was actually tearing up in the prologue! But as the book went on, I sometimes felt that I was observing from a distance rather than being in the action. Having said that, van Mil has created a memorable cast of characters, from the stoic stockman to the loveable larrikin.

I will admit that the romance was not as interesting to me as the plotline of Avril developing her own clothing line and opening her stores for business, first in Melbourne, then Sydney and Brisbane. I was much more swept up in the excitement of seeing all her plans come to fruition than I was in the relationship between her and Tim Monaghan.

That’s not to say that there was anything wrong with the romance. I think my issue was that because Avril and Tim ultimately spent so much time apart, I didn’t really feel the spark.

I know a lot of my feelings about the book came down to personal preference, and I think those who are fans of the sweeping saga style of historical fiction will really love it.  


Thank you Macmillan Australia and the Australian Book Lovers Podcast for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Book Review: “Mrs Claus and the Santaland Slayings” by Liz Ireland

Title: Mrs Claus and the Santaland Slayings (Mrs Claus #1)
Author: Liz Ireland
Genre: Urban fantasy/cozy mystery
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 02/12/2021 – 06/12/2021
Rating: 
★★★

Review: 

When I walked past this book at the library, I had to pick it up. A cozy mystery with Santa as the prime suspect? My theory was it would be enjoyable even if it turned out to be a case of “so bad it’s good”.

I was actually taken by surprise by how in depth the world-building was! It was so over-the-top cheesy festive, but it worked. There were elves and talking reindeer, and even sentient snowmen. It was fun!

I liked amateur sleuth, April Claus, and her and Nick’s valet, Jingles. The overbearing mother-in-law, Pamela Claus, was also great – she was so fussy and prim and reminded me strongly of my grandmother!

I have to admit, though, that I wasn’t overly fussed on the rest of the rest of the Claus family. While it is clear that Nick Claus has taken on the mantle of Santa somewhat unwillingly, he just seemed… so un-Santa-like. It was a bit jarring.

I know some of the other reviews have said the identity of the murderer was obvious from the beginning. I had the opposite problem, in that I felt I hadn’t really seen enough of this character, and the things that pointed towards them as the murderer either weren’t clear or I missed them. So I was just a bit “meh” about the whole revelation.

Still, this was a fun, seasonal read with a unique twist!


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

#AWW2021 Book Review: “Eleven Pipers Piping” by Pamela Hart

Title: Eleven Pipers Piping
Author: Pamela Hart
Genre: Historical romance
Intended audience: Adult
Dates Read: 03/12/2021
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

There is definitely something to be said for historical Christmas romances and their helpfulness in getting me out of reading slumps. While I have purchased this novella separately, I also own the anthology where it was originally published, so I should remember it when I am needing a book that will pull me out of a funk.

This is a sweet little novella, full of misunderstandings and miscommunications, many based on the characters adhering to the expected manners of the time. I liked that the characters were a little bit older, Elizabeth being a widow with a ten-year-old son, rather than a young woman looking for her first husband, as is often the case.

Speaking of which, I loved young Robin!

Given that the story only takes place over the course of a few weeks, some of the character development did seem to happen very quickly, especially when it came to Elizabeth’s grief over the loss of her husband. But I really enjoyed Gavan’s realisation of his feelings for Elizabeth, and also the dynamic between him and Robin.

I wasn’t feeling terribly festive before, and having picked a whole heap of Christmas-y books for the coming month, I was feeling a bit worried. But now I can thank Pamela Hart for getting me in the Christmas spirit!


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

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

#AWW2021 “My sisters. My blood. My skin. What a gruesome bond we shared.” // Review of “House of Hollow” by Krystal Sutherland

Title: House of Hollow
Author: Krystal Sutherland
Genre: Magical realism/horror
Intended audience: YA
Dates Read: 22/10/2021 – 24/10/21
Rating: ★★★☆

Review:

I recently asked for recommendations for creepy books that wouldn’t completely scare a wimp like me and this was one of the titles that came up. Having previously enjoyed Sutherland’s A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares, I was keen to give this one a look, too.

As I started, I absolutely loved the vibe that Sutherland had going on here. Missing sister, weird smells, strange flowers, a mysterious disappearance many years ago.

But then it started to peter out. It kept saying that things smelled weird, and that there were strange flowers, and if only Iris could remember what had happened that day ten years ago. What started strong was no longer interesting once I’d heard it so many times.

Admittedly in the final third things started to pick up as we started to really learn what was going on. Some new characters appeared and there were some revelations made. Some of those I had already kind of figured out, but there were still a few surprises.

While this definitely didn’t meet the high expectations that I had based on my experience of Worst Nightmares, it’s still a pretty solid read. I think it will have more appeal for those dipping their toe into horror rather than regular readers of the genre who have most likely seen everything in this book before.


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

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram