“If this isn’t hell, the devil is surely taking notes.” // Review of “The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” by Stuart Turton

Title: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Author:
Stuart Turton
Genre: Literary/speculative fiction
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 01/05/20 – 08/05/20
Rating: 
★★★

Review: 

What even was this book?

No, that’s not rhetorical. Please, someone tell me.

Okay, maybe I’m being a bit disingenuous there, but I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to say this book is unlike any other I’ve read. It was compelling, even as I sometimes struggled to keep track of things. I had a small list of murder suspects, and I was ALMOST right!

You do sort of have to roll with this book. It would be easy to try to sit there picking apart all the time travel logic and how it  all works. I suspect Stuart Turton must have had a dozen spreadsheets in order to keep it all straight, and I think there are still times when things don’t quite add up. But as long as you’re willing to suspend your disbelief, then you will keep turning the pages, perhaps even start dreaming about the book as I did!

I have to say that up until about the last 30 or so pages, this was a five star read for me, despite the nit-picking. But as I was nearing the end, I realised that I wasn’t going to find out certain details about how the events of the book all came to pass in the first place… there are hints dropped, but nothing really concrete. We learn that certain character development (as in, a person changed due to their experiences) took place before the book starts, meaning we just have to accept them, rather than seeing it happen.

This didn’t kill the enjoyment for me, but it meant I closed the book at the end feeling dissatisfied. Maybe that’s just me, though? Don’t let me put you off!


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Down the TBR Hole #6

Down the TBR hole banner
Welcome to the Down The TBR Hole meme. The aim behind this game is to whittle your TBR down a little by going through and removing books you’ve lost interest in or aren’t truly likely to pick up.

My TBR is not as out of control as some of yours, but I figure it’s 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!

Inconceivable! by Tegan Wren

I’m a bit torn about this one. It sounds cute and I enjoy a royal romance as much as the next person. But it’s a full on romance-to-marriage-to-trying-to-have-a-baby within 350 pages? Honestly sounds like it might be trying to do a bit too much and while I appreciate a book that explores infertility, I’m not sure it’s for me.   

~~ Decision:  GO ~~

5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

Honestly… as much as the idea of a dystopia set in future India feels different and fresh, I think I’d rather read one from an Indian author. Also a few reviewers that I follow say the world-building is sketchy, which means I’m bound to pick it apart and ask too many questions. I’m going to let this one go.

~~ DECISION:  GO ~~


The Forbidden Wish
by Jessica Khoury

This one sounds really good! I’m not sure if it’s a fairytale retelling exactly, but it has djinn! I love djinn! They’re one of my favourite mythological creatures and I am willing to read any book featuring them. So this is a kepeer.

~~ DECISION: KEEP ~~

Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet by H. P. Wood

There’s a note at the end of the blurb for this on stating that it’s not a children’s or YA book. Which is weird because the blurb totally reads like middle-grade. And based on some of the reviews, the things that would have drawn me to it – Coney Island, carnival oddballs – are not actually a major feature. Apparently it’s more about an outbreak of yellow fever, with a bit of magical realism thrown in. Again, I don’t think it’s for me.

~~ DECISION: GO ~~

Stitching Snow by R. C. Lewis

Fairytale retelling! Yay! Sci-fi? Yeeehhh? But it sounds intriguing? Gonna keep this one for now.

~~DECISION: KEEP ~~

TODAY: 2 keep, 3 go.

ALL TIME: 14 keep, 16 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!

#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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#Medievalathon – May 2020 – TBR!

Wheeenothing quite like finding out about a readathon the day before it starts and deciding to take part anyway!

During the month of May, I’m going to be participating in Medievalathon, hosted by Holly Hearts Books.

plan to read at least seven books this month and become divine Empress of the four corners of the globe. Or something. Anyway. Here are the levels you can aim for:

And I’m going to do that while wearing some pretty rocking outfits. I had a lot of books that fitted the outfit prompts. 😂

OUTFITS

A pristine book: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Under 300 pages: Greythorne by L. M. Merrington

Green on the dust jacket: Harlequin’s Riddle by Rachel Nightingale

A book with a dragon on the cover: Ochre Dragon by V. E. Patton

WEAPONS

A romance: The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross

A heavy book: Angel Mage by Garth Nix

A book I have high expectations for: The Dry by Jane Harper

Pet COMPANIONS

A scary book: The Grief Hole by Kaaron Warren

Orange on the dust jacket: A Pocketful of Eyes by Lili Wilkinson

And that’s it for not! I’ve spent way too much time putting this together this morning and I need to go get ready for work! At least it’s a work from home day. I’ll do a progress post about halfway through the month and see you then!

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? 🙂

Mini Book Reviews: Cookies and Curses by Rosie Pease, There She Goes by Lynne Shelby, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

Sometimes I don’t really have a lot to say about a book. It doesn’t really warrant a full-length review. And while I’m sure the authors appreciate the Goodreads and Amazon reviews, I was trying to think of a way to get the word out to my blog followers, too.

This morning it occurred to me to incorporate a few reviews into one post. Duh. So here are three romances I’ve read recently and a few thoughts about each.


Cookies and Curses

by Rosie Pease
(Matchmaking Grimoire #1)
★★★☆

Argh, this book made me crave baked sweets! So many mouth-watering descriptions! I have to admit, the reason I picked this up is because I can never go past books that combine witches with baking. Which is a really niche interest but there seems to be a reasonable amount of it!

I really enjoyed the idea of matchmaking being a witchy skill and seeing how the ghosts interfered with that.

I loved Ken and Ivy, and really appreciated that when Joanie was first embarking on dating Ken, that the book delved into the complexities of dating someone who already has kids.

I did feel like the mystery dragged on a little long, but that was a minor quibble.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go bake some choc-chip cookies!


There She GOes

by Lynne Shelby
(Theatreland #2)
★★★

My main quibble with this book was how early the two characters got together, given that the tag line is “Will they ever share more than an onstage kiss?” I was expecting a slow burn and it was not that at all.

There never seemed to be much in the way of conflict, and what was there was usually easily resolved in the following chapter.

Having said that, as a community theatre practitioner, I did enjoy the aspects of the professional theatre scene, auditions, call backs, etc. As well as the waiting for word, the crappy day jobs, the agony of being so close but so far.

And the writing was engaging, even if I did think the plot was a bit light on the ground.


The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

by Abbi Waxman
★★★

This started off entertaining but I have to admit that after a while the whole cute and quirky vibe wore off a bit. I didn’t find myself terribly invested in the romance. I didn’t see any chemistry between Nina and Tom, they just apparently fancied each other and then they were together.

What I did enjoy were the dynamics between Nina and her newly-discovered extended family. I loved how with some of them she slipped right in like she’d never been apart, but others were much more hesitant.

I also really appreciated the sensitive treatment of Nina’s anxiety.


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#AWW2020 Book Review of “The Damsel Gauntlet” by P. A. Mason

Title: The Damsel Gauntlet (Gretchen’s [Mis]Adventures #1)
Author:
P. A. Mason
Genre: Fantasy/Satire
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 10/04/20 – 11/04/20
Rating:
★★★

This new short reads series from P. A. Mason promises to be chock-full of things I enjoy.

Witches. Sarcasm. Fairy tale characters. Subverting tropes. Humour. 

I don’t want to spoil the concept of this first instalment but just let me say that when I read why the King and Queen were hiring Gretchen for, I laughed out loud. 

Gretchen’s a great character. I enjoy her sarcastic front, but underneath she really sees the good in people and just wants things to work out all right in the end.

This is the first in what will be a series of monthly installments on the Kindle short-reads store, but it is much more than that. Visit the website for bonus content each time an episode comes out.   


Thank you to P. A. Mason for supplying me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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Down The TBR Hole #5

Down the TBR hole banner

Welcome to the Down The TBR Hole meme. The aim behind this game is to whittle your TBR down a little by going through and removing books you’ve lost interest in or aren’t truly likely to pick up.

My TBR is not as out of control as some of yours, but I figure it’s 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!

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway

This is a time travel romance and to be honest, nothing about this summary jumps out at me anymore (it’s been on my TBR for a full five years). This is any easy go decisions. 

~~ Decision:  GO ~~

Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal

This one’s summary is a bit wordy, which always makes me wonder about the book itself. Does it meander, too? Given the voice the MC hears is that of Jacob Grimm, presumably this has something to do with fairy tales, but there’s nothing there to really hook me so this is another one to say goodbye to.

~~ DECISION:  GO ~~


The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry 
by Gabrielle Zevin

I’m not entirely sure about this one but it has a lot of good reviews and many of my friends have really enjoyed it. And it’s a book-about-books, and those are usually good (says the philistine who didn’t like 84 Charing Cross Road). I think I’ll keep this one for now.

~~ DECISION: KEEP ~~

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

The blurb of this doesn’t give much away, to the point where I wasn’t even sure if it was a fantasy or something more sinister, like a thriller about a group of kidnapped kids. But Goodreads says it’s fantasy, and I’m intrigued. It’s got mixed reviews from my friends but I want to make up my own mind.

~~ DECISION: KEEP ~~

The Axeman’s Jazz by Ray Celestin

I’m a bit of sucker for historical crime fiction, particularly if there’s a serial killer involved. And this one is partially based on fact? Yeah, gonna have to keep this one.

~~DECISION: KEEP ~~

TODAY: 3 keep, 2 go.

ALL TIME: 12 keep, 13 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!

#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 “Inhale. Exhale. Survive.” // Review of “Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal” by Anna Whateley

Title: Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal
Author:
Anna Whateley
Genre: Contemporary/romance
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 06/04/20 – 09/04/20
Rating:
★★★★

Anna Whateley is a Twitter friend of mine and we’ve both been part of the #6amAusWriters group for about a year now, so I was excited and proud to get my hands on a copy of her debut.

This book. I kind of want to hug it. It feels like such an honest, authentic depiction of the neurodivergent experience. Even if I didn’t know it was an #ownvoices book, I would probably have been able to guess. 

Peta is such a wonderful lead character. The book is in first person, which I don’t always enjoy, but this book could not have been any other way. We needed to be in Peta’s head. Seeing her try to fit in and follow the “rules” she has learned through therapy and through observing others could be heartbreaking at times, but it was so liberating seeing her grow and find her own way in a world that is not designed to allow her to succeed. 

I think the only thing I might have liked to see a bit more of was the development of the romance between Peta and Sam. As it was, it felt like it leapt straight from “Oh, look, I am definitely attracted to her” to pushing their dorm beds together and kissing a lot. But it was fine that way, and the aftermath and fallout after that is treated really well. Even as I was wanting to yell “No! Sam! Don’t be ridiculous! It’s not like that!” I could absolutely see Sam’s point of view as well. 

Also must give a shout-out to Jeb, Peta’s best friend. I can tell just from reading he gives the best hugs. And I loved how he knew Peta’s quirks and what she needed and just responded. She never had to feel weird around him. 


Thank you to Allen and Unwin for choosing me as a winner in their recent Facebook giveaway and sending me a proof copy of this book!

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#AWW2020 Book Review: “That Night In Paris” by Sandy Barker

Title: That Night In Paris (Holiday Romance #2)
Author:
 Sandy Barker
Genre: Romance
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 01/04/20 – 05/04/20
Rating: 
★★☆

Even though it’s not the first book in the series, this is my first book by Sandy Barker and what a fun trip it was!

After a night of bad decisions, Cat Parsons books a fortnight trip through Europe to get away from real life. On the trip she quickly bonds with three other women running away from problems of their own. And then a chance encounter makes Cat question if she can always run from love.

The descriptions of the various locations were done really well. I went on a similar bus tour of Europe myself when I was in my early 20s, and it was fun to relive some of the locations. Tour group hook-ups and other shenanigans were rife on that trip and the one in this book, too. I don’t know if some might find it unrealistic, but my reaction was “Yep, sounds about right.”

I have to admit I was much more intersted in the relationships that developed between the four women than the romance, really! Particularly between Cat and “bus bestie” Lou. It was sweet and realistic and I really enjoyed the way it developed. The other two, Jaylee and Dani, were fun though I sometimes couldn’t remember which one of them was which.

Cat is an intersting protagonist. It did take me a while to warm to her, I guess just because we are So. Different. so at first I found it hard to relate. And perhaps I was bothered by the fact that she was a bit self-involved, but as she started to recognise that about herself and change her behaviour, it became easier to get behind her… though I don’t think I ever want to hear the phrase “lady parts” again.

As to the romance, I have to say, I did love Jean-Luc. But I think just a bunch of personal preferences meant I didn’t get wholly into it. The nature of the story meant that the romance played out in a few short encounters over a two week period, where I tend to prefer a slowburn. It’s also a second-chance-at-love romance, which again, is not really my thing.

There’s nothing wrong with either of these tropes! Don’t get me wrong! They’re just not what I generally would seek out. Someone who is really into those will definitely love this book!


Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for supplying me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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

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