Down The TBR Hole #4

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Welcome to the Down The TBR Hole meme. I stole this idea off Sofii at A Book. A Thought. a year ago, did three posts and then never got back to it. But in the interests of making this blog a little more active again, I thought it would be a good series to get back into.

My TBR isn’t as out of control as some of yours 😋but it is 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!

Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming

I’m kind of torn about this one because on the one hand, I love Alan Cumming as a performer. On the other hand, I don’t really love memoirs… but the GoodReads listing for this makes me intrigued enough to still want to take a look at it.

~~ Decision:  KEEP

24 Hours by Claire Seeber

Man, when was the last time I read a good thriller? Feels like such a long time ago! I wish there was a bit to the blurb for this one, though… it’s hard to decide based on a couple of lines… so I think for the moment I’m going to let this one go.

~~ DECISION:  GO ~~


The Girls at the Kingfisher Club 
by Genevieve Valentine

Um, yeah, a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses set in Jazz Age New York? That’s a no-brainer.

~~ DECISION: KEEP ~~

The Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher

As much as this sounds really interesting and I do love anything to do with the early twentieth century’s obsession with the occult… reading the reviews it sounds like this isn’t the most well-written book on the subject. It also sounds like it gets quite dense at times and I suspect I would love interest quickly.

~~ DECISION: GO ~~

Alice Takes Back Wonderland by David D Hammons

It’s my lifelong quest to find good Alice in Wonderland retellings/continuations/adaptations. There have been a few but most of them end up really disappointing me… and yet I continue searching. While I’m not 100% wowed by this book’s description, the fact that it contains characters from other fantasy stories is intriguing, so I will keep it on the list.

~~DECISION: KEEP ~~

TODAY: 3 keep, 2 go.

ALL TIME: 9 keep, 11 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!

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? 🙂

 

#AWW2020 “First breakfast, and then saving the world.” // Review of “Greenhaelen” by L. A. Webster

Title: Greenhaelen (Chronicles of Algarth #1)
Author:
L. A. Webster
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 04/02/20 – 10/02/20
Rating:
★★★

Review:

Quick disclaimer: L. A. Webster is a friend from the #6amAusWriters group on Twitter, and I received an ARC for free. I promise that neither of those facts have affected my review, though.

Greenhaelen has a beautiful lyrical narrative style. I want to say it feels a bit like an older style fantasy novel, even though I’m not quite sure how to explain what I mean by that. It eases you in gently, lets you get to know the characters, gives you some beautiful descriptions of gardens, and then takes you on an adventure. 

It’s the kind of story where I wanted to keep reading even when I was stuck at work because I wanted to know if my theories were correct (yes,  had theories!). 

There’s a great cast of characters, both good and bad. Sara as a main character really carries the story. My favourite, though, was Kelan, the teenage son of the woman who takes Sara in when she first arrives in Algarth. First, because he seemed to think he was cleverer than he really was (in a way that all 19-year-olds tend to) but then by the end he really came into his own and really helped the group and I was so proud, I wanted to hug him! 

The story is tightly-plotted, though there were a couple of times where characters needed to get from A to B so a couple of chapters would be devoted to travelling and not much else. This wasn’t too bad, though. It mostly sticks to the POVs of Sara and a few others, but gives us enough from other characters perspectives when necessary for us to know what’s going on. There’s magic and adventure and politics and intrigue, and I love how it all culminated at the end. 

There are parallels between The Blight, an ecological disaster destroying farms and lives in Algarth, and our own struggles with climate change, and I really enjoyed the way this was dealt with without being heavy-handed. 

This is the first in a series, and I am very much looking forward to book two and exploring Algarth further!


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

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Book Review: “The Shadow Palace” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: The Shadow Palace (The Viper and the Urchin #6)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Steampunk/fantasy
Intended audience: Upper YA/Adult
Date Read: 28/01/20 – 01/02/20
Rating:
★★★

Review:

Please note: this review may contain minor spoilers for the previous books in this series.

It took me a little while to get into this next Viper and the Urchin book, but I think that is because I was feeling a bit reading slumpy. Having said that, I think the story itself did pick up in the second half and that did help me to become more engaged.

This instalment picks up where the previous one left off, with Rory and Rafe trying to snag a meeting with the Minister Voynia in order to aid their mission for the Old Girl back in Damsport.

One thing I really enjoy about this series, especially the books not set in Damsport, is trying to spot the real-life cultures that inspired the ones in the books. I was imagining the Airnian Court much like Versailles – ridiculously wide dresses, wigs, powedered faces, vacuous courtiers… Celine Jeanjean’s descriptions are once again strong and vibrant and I had a really clear picture in my head.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but there was a particular aspect of Longinus’ arc that had me genuinely wondering how he would get himself out of the tight spot he was in. It was very touch and go for a while. He also had some really great character development as a result of what happens to him in Airnia. I love seeing a favourite character evolve.

We also learned a few things about Rafe that we didn’t know before and I think that’s going to play a bigger part in the upcoming books – he’s going to have to learn to be honest with Rory or she’s going to ditch him.

There’s big political stuff going on, too, and now that the team have found some answers in AIrnia, it’s going to be interesting to see how things play out in Damsport.

Even though this book wasn’t my favourite in the series, it was still highly readable and as always, I’ll be eagerly awaiting the follow-up!


(Thank you to Celine Jeanjean for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. This did not affect my opinions in any way)

You can read my reviews of The Bloodless Assassin (book 1),  The Black Orchid (book 2), The Slave City (book 3), The Doll Maker (book 4) and The White Hornet (book 5) by clicking their titles.

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January 2020 Reading Wrap-up

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January was definitely a slow month. With bushfires and smoke haze and heat waves (oh my!), it was hard to really relax. I only read four books, and usually January is a month where I speed through seven or eight.

Past Month’s Reading:

  1. It Sounded Better In My Head by NIna Kenwood (YA contemporary – 3.5 stars – review)

  2. Don’t Read The Comments by Eric Smith (YA contemporary – 5 stars – review)
  3. Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine (thriller – 2.5 stars – review)
  4. The Beginning (Blackbirch #1) by K. M> Allan (YA urban fantasy – 4 stars – review

Booktube:

The same listlessness that has affected my reading has also affected my desire to make videos. I do have a script mostly written, though, talking about It Sounded Better In My Head and The Beginning.

You can check out the channel whole here

Favourite Bookish Photo:

the book cover for "Don't Read The Comments" displayed on a tablet

Don’t Read The Comments was definitely my favourite book this month, and I wanted to celebrate its release in any way I could.. You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

Currently Reading:

Physical book: The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross. This book is beautiful but I’ve put it aside for a bit until I’m feeling a bit less reading slumpy. It’s so my kind of thing so I don’t want to force myself through it when I’m not in the mood. 

Ebook: The Shadow Palace by Celine Jeanjean. This is the sixth book in the Viper and the Urchin series… I’ve got to admit I’m not enjoying it quite as much as previous ones.

Audio book: Before The Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray. I’m working through this very slowly. This is a long book. I kind of feel like some of the plot threads aren’t entirely necessary. But at the same time, the ones that are pivotal are so good.

Planning to read next:

Honestly, at this point I have absolutely no idea. I’ll have to see what takes my fancy.

What are you reading? 🙂

 

#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 Book Review: “Blackbirch: The Beginning” by K. M. Allan

Title: The Beginning (Blackbirch #1)
Author:
K. M. Allan
Genre: Urban fantasy
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 04/01/20 – 07/04/20
Rating:
★★★

Review:

Quick disclaimer: K. M. Allan is a friend from the #6amAusWriters group on Twitter, and I received an ARC for free. I promise that neither of those facts have affected my review, though.

Witchcraft is my favourite form of magic, and the magick in Blackbirch definitely falls under that heading. From the start, Allan creates an almost other-worldly town in Blackbirch. It almost felt like the town wasn’t quite in the 21st century.

To be honest, my favourite character was Eve, the girl who’s something of an outcast because of her fascination with witchcraft and the town’s history. There are some hints at the end of the book as to where her character arc is likely to lead and I’m really looking forward to seeing that play out (without spoiling too much, I think it’s going to get messy).

None of that is to say the other characters weren’t interesting. It took me a little while to warm to Josh, mostly because he spends a large chunk of the novel being mopey and a bit of a stick in the mud. But there are reasons why he was doing that, which come out later. Once he was a bit more involved in the action, I was able to get more invested in him.

I am definitely jealous of Allan’s ability to write a climax – there’s a fantastic buildup to a confrontation in the woods that I really enjoyed.  And while most of the major plotlines are wrapped up, there are still plenty of opportunities for things to unfold in the coming books. I for one am really looking forward to it!

 


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#WWW Wednesday – 29 January 2020

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished Don’t Read The Comments by Eric Smith and I totally loved it! It was not the kind of book I expected to keep me up late, but I kept saying “Just another chapter….” Really well done. Here’s my review.

After that, I read Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine and to be honest, didn’t love it. There’s only going to be one more book in the series so I might read it to see the series through, but on the other hand, I feel like I’m good with leaving it where I am. Here’s my review.

Last but not least, I finished Blackbirch: the Beginning by K. M. Allan. This author is part of my 6am writing group on Twitter, so I’ve been watching this book evolve for a while and I’m so pleased it’s finally out! My review will be up on Friday and the book comes out on Feb 17. If you like witchcraft and spooky forests, add it to your TBR!

Since my last WWW, I also reviewed It Sounded Better In My Head by Nina Kenwood, and you can read that review here.

What are you currently reading?!

I haven’t been listening to audio books as much as usual, so I’m very slowly going through Before The Devil Breaks You, the third in the Diviners series by Libba Bray. Still really enjoying this series but there are times when it feels like it goes on way too long. And the next book is even longer! Ah well.

I have paused my Audible membership for three months so I don’t have to pay anything while I work through 50ish hours of unlistened-to content!

I’ve just today started The Shadow Palace, which is book 6 in Celine Jeanjean’s Viper and the Urchin steampunk series. I’ve given the last couple of books in this series 5 stars, so let’s hope the streak continues!

I am still going with The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross but to be honest, it’s on hold while I get through my ARCs.

What do you think you will read next?

Next I’ll be reading Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok, another ARC. I just can’t resist historical fantasy set in France. There’s something about it.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

Book Review: “Bitter Falls” by Rachel Caine

Title: Bitter Falls (Stillhouse Lake #4)
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre:
Thriller
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 13/01/2020 – 17/01/2020
Rating:★☆

Review:

I’m not sure if this is the last book in the Stillhouse Lake series or not (a few things at the end made me feel it might be), but either way, I think it is the last one I will read.

The depiction of the PTSD all of the Proctors are experiencing is really well done. There’s a scene early on during an active shooter drill at the kids’ schools, and it was particularly heartbreaking seeing Connor’s reaction.

I also thought the cult was depicted well, including the self-proclaimed prophet who lead the group, the way many women were the most stout believers, and the whole setup itself. The action sequences at the end of the book are well done, as usual. There is one explosion that is particularly chilling, knowing what its intended purpose was even if it didn’t achieve it.

If I had realised that the case Gwen is working on in this book was closely connected to the events of the previous one, I might have re-read it beforehand. As it was, being eight months between instalments, I didn’t remember all the ins and outs and so I felt a bit lost. It’s not as connected to Wolfhunter River as Killman Creek is to Stillhouse Lake, but I would recommend having the events of Book 3 fresh in your mind.

I also couldn’t help feeling frustrated with some of the decisions the characters made, particularly running into things without solid plans, and in contradiction to what law enforcement has advised them. I know that without them doing things like this, there is no story, and that it was quite in character for Gwen, but it reached the point where I couldn’t suspend my disbelief anymore.

All this meant that I was never especially keen to pick the book up, and that I wasn’t terribly engaged when I did. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic series, and Stillhouse Lake/Killman Creek as a duology are definitely among my favourite thrillers ever. But as I mentioned at the top of the review, I think I’ve reached my limit with this series.


Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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Book Review: “Don’t Read The Comments” by Eric Smith

Title: Don’t Read The  Comments
Author: Eric Smith
Genre:
Contemporary
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 07/01/2020 – 13/01/2020
Rating:
★★★★★

Review:

I’ve got to admit that when I requested this book on NetGalley, I was not expecting it to be one that kept me up reading past bedtime. And yet….

This book has a lot of really topical, timely themes: doxing, online bullying and poverty, and of course, your more usual YA themes of figuring out what to do after high-school and first loves and coming of age.

really loved the two main characters! Divya is strong and resourceful, and there for others. She’s also dorky, which is why she gets on with Aaron so well. Aaron was a fantastic example of non-toxic masculinity in a sea of trolls. I liked that it confronted his privilege – that Divya has to assume he could be as bad as the rest until proven otherwise, and how this realisation takes him completely by surprise. And I had such a silly grin on my face when they started sending each other heart emojis over the chat.

I also thought the horror of knowing trolls have your home address was really well depicted as was the realisation of “Wow… they’re actually kind of pathetic, aren’t they?” when the trolls are faced in person. It doesn’t take away the horror, but for a little while you feel that they actually can be beaten, even as they keep trying to sound their battle cry as they’re dragged away.

Also there’s the jerks like Aaron’s ”friend” Jason who, while not exactly part of the group, don’t denounce them and in fact, want to impress them. I knew from the moment I met him Jason would be The Worst and he did not disappoint.

I loved the descriptions of the Reclaim the Sun game and Divya’s livestreams. I really felt that Eric Smith is a nerd/geek himself and has spent time playing this type of game. It all rang true to me, and that’s something I have found lacking in other books about nerd culture.

All in all,  this one comes highly recommended!


(Thank you to Harlequin Australia for sending a free copy my way in exchange for an honest review)

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#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 Book Review: “It Sounded Better In My Head” by Nina Kenwood

Title: It Sounded Better In My Head
Author:
Nina Kenwood
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 04/01/20 – 07/04/20
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

This book was certainly sweet and I loved how painfully realistic it was at times. But some pacing issues and the lack of characterisation from anyone other than the main character left me feeling like there could have been more.

Natalie’s life is diverging from the Plan. Her parents announce their separation on Christmas Day, her two best friends have started dating so she feels like a third wheel, and she’s just finished high-school and doesn’t know what she wants to do with the rest of her life. She’s also still dealing with image issues that have haunted her throughout her teen years thanks to PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).  

Since this book is in the first person, we are very much in Natalie’s head. And she has a lot going on in there. But it did mean I felt like I didn’t really get to know the other characters. There were flashes of personality from them, such as Lucy covering awkwardness amongst her friends with OTT bubbliness, Mariella with her love of gossip about her children… but Alex is the love interest and Natalie spends so much of her time thinking about him and yet as I write this, there’s very little I could tell you about Alex as a person.

There’s also the fact that sometimes the pacing was strange. The plot would grind to a half for several pages while we got some of Natalie’s backstory. Sure, it was good to know about her and some of it moved the plot (such as learning how she met Zach and Lucy) but a lot of the time it made me forget what had just been happening.

Apart from that, though, the writing is really engaging. I flew through the pages. The messiness of teenage friendships is so realistic, I could feel my guts churning on behalf of the characters. There were times when Natalie’s body image issues and insecurities felt a little repetitive, but at the same time, I recognise the cyclical nature of such thoughts in real life.

On the other hand, I really liked how sex positive the book was, particularly in regards to its female characters. It’s mentioned that Natalie knows how to give herself an orgasm, and Lucy is the first one of their friendship group to have sex. While it’s a shock to the others, it’s still shown in a positive light.

This is Nina Kenwood’s debut and I will definitely be watching out for more of her work.


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