#HocusPocusReadathon – Wrap-up Post

Hey Team Undead! The Hocus Pocus Readathon has come to an end! And I made it to the end! I’m pretty chuffed, honestly!

This readathon is hosted by Tiffy and Alyssa. I have chosen to participate as part of Team Undead, since those are the prompts that worked best for me. Our team leaders are Nox and Fyrekatz.

I have clearly got over my reading slump as I’ve been flying through books this week. With travel and moving house, I was feeling really down about how little reading I’d done, so it’s making me really happy to see these totals building up.

You can read my halfway point check-in here. And now, here are the rest of my titles for the readathon.

  1. Zombies, Graveyards and Cats. Oh my! Read a book with a non-human main character. (5pts)
    Vampire Islandby Adele Griffin was a random digital library find and a short read. I listened to the audio book while I was cooking. The phrase “vegan vampires” caught my eye and sounded amusing, but I couldn’t work out what the book was trying to do… partially it seemed to be making an environmental statement, but other parts of it seemed to go against that, and I wondered if it was just trying to be funny.
  2. The Sanderson Sisters have risen. Read a book with a female protagonist. (5pts)*Ahhh!

    I loved The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg so much! I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and when I got to the twists at the end, I realised all the clues had been there all along! I want to read a sequel with a Fantasist uprising, but this one does end kind of perfectly, so if there is no sequel, I will still feel satisfied.

    * The Team Undead strength gives us the ability to swap out one of our prompts for one from another team, so this prompt replaces Winifred Sanderson raises you from the dead. Read a book that can bring someone back from the grave (5 pts). I was initially going to use the “Read a fantasy novel” prompt from Team Sanderson but I rejigged my TBR and this one worked better.

  3. Help your team stand up to Winifred Sanderson. Read the Group Read. (10pts)


    I chose Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin for my group read. So this was unexpected! For a while it felt like a 3 or 3.5 star read, then somewhere along the  way, I got totally sucked in and had to actively force myself to put it down and go to bed on Friday night so I could get up for work on Saturday.If I were rating it purely on how it gripped me while I was reading it, it would be a five star read… but I only gave it four because there were things that bothered me when I wasn’t reading it but when I was thinking about it… some of the language was anachronistic, and I also had no idea where or when it was set… is it a fictional kingdom in this world? Somewhere else? And they have indoor plumbing but no cars or electricity or anything…

    And as much as I enjoyed reading the romance, I could never *quite* believe in it… even if he is the first person to ever treat you well, and he’s pretty sexy, how do you develop feelings for someone who is honour-bound to kill you if he learns who you really are? How do you get past that?

The only thing left to do now is watch the movie to celebrate! I am writing this post on Saturday but by the time it goes live on Sunday I will have done that.

I’ve had a really good time doing this readathon. I’ve met lots of new bloggers and added a whole bunch of books to my TBR. I’ve definitely got the readathon bug now, so I’ve signed up for the Triwizard Tournament Readathon, which starts on October 31! Maybe I’ll see you there!

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#HocusPocusReadathon – Halfway Point Update

Hey Team Undead! We’re halfway through the Hocus Pocus Readathon so it’s time for a check-in.

This readathon is hosted by Tiffy and Alyssa. I have chosen to participate as part of Team Undead, since those are the prompts that worked best for me. Our team leaders are Nox and Fyrekatz.

It’s not quite halfway through going by the dates, but I am halfway through the prompts! So here I am!

I have clearly got over my reading slump as I’ve been flying through books this week. With travel and moving house, I was feeling really down about how little reading I’d done, so it’s making me really happy to see these totals building up.

The prompts I’ve managed so far are:

  1. Not all Undead are monsters. Read a book with paranormal or supernatural elements. (5pts)
    Evangeline and the Spiritualist by Madeleine D’Este. The spiritualist was a fake but there was obviously a real ghost in the room, and she knew a lot about Evangeline. This is the third book in the Antics of Evangeline series of novellas, and my favourite so far!
    .
    I was actually going to read a different book for this prompt, but I realised pretty early on that Dreaming Anastasia wasn’t for me. I haven’t returned it to the library yet, and I may still read it after the readathon, but I didn’t want to waste precious time.
    .
  2. The Graveyard is especially spooky on Halloween night. Read a spooky atmospheric book. (5pts)
    .
    .
    I’ve got to admit I was a bit disappointed in  The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley. I think maybe I was too old for it? I think I would have found it a lot spookier if I read it when I was ten. As it was, it felt more like the author was checking off various haunted house tropes without really giving them much depth. And the skull on the cover has nothing to do with the story at all. :\
    .
    Since it was short, I used this book to cover the Team Undead weakness, which required us  to read a book all in one spot. I read it only when I was travelling on the bus this week.
  3. Catch those kids, but don’t lose your head! Read a random book from your TBR. (5pts)
    .

    I was going to read Briar Rose by Jana Oliver for this prompt, but I only got to page 47 before it irritated me too much to keep going. I hadn’t even really got the Sleeping Beauty aspects yet. As I said on GoodReads, maybe at another time I might have perservered, but I didn’t have the patience for it this week.
    .
    Instead, I read Songbird by Ingrid Laguna, about  a young refugee girl from Iraq who is struggling to fit in at her new school in Melbourne and worries about her father, who is still in Iraq. She finds a place for herself when she joins the school choir. This was such a sweet book! It’s really short and I read it all in one sitting and I loved it! This books kills two birds with one stone as it will also count towards my Australian Women Writers Challenge.
    .
  4. Currently reading:
    .

    For the group read, I’m reading Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin. I’m at about 15% at the moment and enjoying it so far. It feels a bit like what I hoped The Gilded Wolves would be (I didn’t manage to finish that one). I’m not the biggest fan of having multiple first-person narrators, but these ones are distinct enough for it to be okay.

Well, that’s it from me for now, but I’ll be back next Saturday with a wrap-up post.

#HocusPocusReadathon – TBR List

I’ve signed up for my first readathon! I hope I’m doing this right! I generally don’t do these because I’ve got too much going on or I find them a bit too confusing or they’re 24 or 48-hour ones and I am a boring grown-up who has to do things like work and sleep.

But the Hocus Pocus Readathon goes for 13 days and only requires us to read six books (plus watch the movie) and I can do that! I’ve just emerged from a reading slump so I’m feeling energised, and besides, who doesn’t love Hocus Pocus?

This readathon is hosted by Tiffy and Alyssa. I have chosen to participate as part of Team Undead, since those are the prompts that worked best for me. Our team leaders are Nox and Fyrekatz. If you’re interested in signing up last minute, here is the official Twitter with links to the prompts and the sign-up spreadsheet.

Here are the Team Undead prompts and the books I intend to read for them.

  1. Zombies, Graveyards and Cats. Oh my! Read a book with a non-human main character. (5pts)
    I just heard about The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg yesterday and I love it already! (Don’t develop unrealistic expectations, she tells herself, already hyping this to beyond in her head). It’ a bit of a cross between Westworld and Disneyland, with courtroom drama thrown in.I’m pretty certain that the main character is a robot, given the references to her programming and the fact that she has never experienced love before.
  2. The Graveyard is especially spooky on Halloween night. Read a spooky atmospheric book. (5pts)
    I don’t actually know that The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley will be spooky and atmospheric, but considering it’s about a child alone in a haunted house at Christmas, it definitely sounds like it! I was looking through the library shelves this morning with this readathon in mind and thought this sounded perfect.
  3. Winifred Sanderson raises you from the dead. Read a book that brings someone back from the dead. (5pts)I’m going to swap this one out with one of the prompts from the other teams. See below.
  4. Catch those kids, but don’t lose your head! Read a random book from your TBR. (5pts) 


    Briar Rose by Jana Oliver has been on my TBR for a little while now and I spotted it at the library today. Love a good fairytale retelling.

  5. Not all Undead are monsters. Read a book with paranormal or supernatural elements. (5pts)
    I have a feeling that I have avoided Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble before due to the  mixed reviews, but I couldn’t resist an Anastasia Romanov-inspired story when I walked past it at the library.  In this book, Anastasia and another character are linked through their dreams. There might be other magic stuff going on, too. Not sure.
  6. Help your team stand up to Winifred Sanderson. Read the Group Read. (10pts)


    There are two group reads to choose from for this challenge and I’ve decided to read Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin. I know nothing about this one so I’ll be going in blind. Sounds good from the synopsis, though!
  7. Celebrate by watching the movie. (15pts)
    Well, okay! That’s easy enough. 😀

Team Strengths: You can switch your prompt with another team’s prompt.

I’m going to swap out the “book that brings someone back from the grave” prompt with “Don’t get caught by the Sanderson Sisters. Study magical foes by reading a fantasy novel” from Team Trick or Treaters.

For this prompt I’m going to read Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, which I picked up at a second-hand book fair a couple of weeks ago. I’ve heard really good things about it so I have high hopes!

Team Weakness: you are trapped in the cemetery. Read one book all in the same spot.

The Dead of Winter is under 250 pages so I’m pretty sure a couple of sessions on my couch of an evening should see this one done!

Team Goal: Help defeat the Sanderson Sisters and enjoy your eternal rest (50pts)

And that’s it! I’ll post an update at the halfway point and a conclusion post at the end. See you on the other side!

“Dreams are for mortals.” “Why?” “Because they must die.”// Review of “Gods of Jade and Shadow” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: Gods of Jade and Shadow
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Historical fantasy
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 22/08/19 – 16/09/19
Rating: ★★★★★

Review:

This is one of those books that I completely loved in spite of having a few quibbles with it. It has a beautiful, poetic style that deserves to be absorbed all in one sitting, rather than the dribs and drabs I read it in. I loved it anyway, but I did read it at the wrong time.

Moreno-Garcia really captures the atmosphere of 1920s Mexico. I felt like I was there. The haircuts and the architecture and the dances they did, it was all there.

I really loved both Casiopea and Hun-Kamé and I enjoyed watching their relationship develop. I wasn’t really sure which direction it was going to take at the end – a happy ending seemed unlikely but I was maybe secretly hoping a bit. In the end, I think their story ends the only way it can, and I can assure you, I definitely smiled as I read the final pages.

did feel sometimes that the battles were won quite easily. The main characters got the upper-hand and immediately their foes just handed over the prizes… but in a way, I felt that added to the mythological feel, and the way the prose is written to make you feel like you’re listening to a story being told to you by someone who had it told to them… So after it’s been passed down a few times it’s just “look, this thing happened, don’t question it. that’s the way the story goes.”

I have no idea if I’m making any sense…

Anyway, read this book for atmospheric, slow-burn romantic, poetic historical fantasy. It won’t disappoint.


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#AWW2019 // Book Review: “Women of Wasps and War” by Madeleine D’Este

Title: Women of Wasps and War
Author: Madeleine D’Este
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 11/08/19 – 12/08/19
Rating:
★★★☆

Review:

Oof. This was a powerful book. I read about 20% of it one night and then the rest of it the following day because I couldn’t put it down. A lot of my reactions were simply “Argh!” or “Mmngnng” and could probably be summed up better in reaction gifs than a proper review, but I’ll try my best. Here goes.

D’este has crafted a believable patriarchal fantasy world where men do not question their authority and women know their place. This arrangement has been interrupted by war, and many of the women who ran Ambrovna in the men’s absence are not so keen to see it go back to the way it was before.

I was constantly frustrated by the men’s inability to see the women’s point of view, and I appreciated the way D’Este explored the fact that you can love an individual dearly while still not recognising your privilege overall, or conoversely while knowing that your loved one is the oppressor.

Some of the women did terrible things in the hopes of earning their place back as head of the household, and I have to admit that it generally felt completely justified. Of course, these things come at a price and a foreboding feeling I had about one incident turned out to be correct.

I have to admit I did feel the epilogue took away from the power of the final chapter, but that it really the only complaint I had. This book is addicitve.

Trigger warnings for graphic physical and emotional abuse.


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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“Potentially evil. Potentially good, too, I suppose. Just this huge powerful potentiality waiting to be shaped.” // Review of “Good Omens” by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

Title: Good Omens
Author: Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Genre: Urban fantasy
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 04/08/19 – 11/08/19
Rating: ★★★

Review:

Well, this is a bit awkward. From what everyone’s been saying, I was expecting this to be a 5 star read. And it definitely started off that way. But after a while, I just wished I was reading a Discworld book instead.

There is definitely a fascinating premise here: what happens if the child destined to bring about Armageddon, rather than being evil, is just… basically a good kid?

I think my main issue was that there were a lot of characters, and most of them could have been done without, and the same story still told. I often felt like characters were being introduced just to give the authors a chance to be funny, such as with the Other Four Horsemen. There were pages devoted their conversations and they didn’t even make it to Armageddon.

I honestly feel you could have just had the Crowley and Aziraphale scenes and the Adam and Them scenes, and had roughly the same story. Everyone else I found a bit superfluous.

I do wonder if some of this comes from the fact that I have never clicked with Neil Gaiman’s writing. While it is not written in such a way that you can point to certain parts and say “Gaiman wrote that bit” or “Pratchett wrote that section”, perhaps the Gaiman influence is what put me off? I have always enjoyed Discworld and as I said, reading Good Omens made me wish I was reading a Discworld I haven’t read yet (and there are stll a lot of those).


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“It’s all a mix here in Appalachia.” // Review of “Cleaning House” by Jeanne G’Fellers

Title: Cleaning House (Appalachian Elementals #1)
Author: Jeanne G’Fellers
Genre: Queer fantasy
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 18/07/19 – 03/08/19
Rating: ★★★

Review:

There is a lot to really like in this book. I have realised over the past year or so that I much prefer the homey, witchy kind of fantasy with personal stakes over epic sword-and-sorcery save-the-whole-world kind of fantasy. Cleaning House very much falls into the former category, with its blend of Appalachian folklore and witchcraft with Chrsitianity and other spiritual elements. I really enjoyed Cent’s family group, and how they were tied to each to each other throughout centuries of iterations. I also really loved Cent’s Chicago friend, Betty, and how they supported each other.

I did find that the story itself dragged, as so much of the book is given to world-building and the history of the characters (they have a long history). I know that this is a matter of personal preference as other readers will love the slow-moving narrative exploring those relationships. Another thing where personal preference probably affected my enjoyment is that I prefer to read about characters falling in love and getting together… an established relationship such as Cent and Stowne’s is less interesting to me, even if they are rediscovering each other.

Long story short, while parts of this book were right up my alley, other aspects of it just weren’t rewlly my thing. I’m pretty sure the right reader will love this.


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Book Review: “The Nowhere Emporium” by Ross McKenzie

Title: The Nowhere Emporium
Author: Ross McKenzie
Audio Book Narrator: Monty d’Inverno
Genre: Fantasy
Intended audience:
MG
Date Read: 06/07/19 – 09/07/19
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This book reminded me a lot of The Night Circus by Erin Morgernstern and going by the reviews, I’m not the only one. Obviously, this is for much younger readers, and it has its differences. I still enjoyed the idea of a magical shop with infinite rooms containing Wonders drawn directly from imgination.

Daniel Holmes lives in present-day Glasgow, but when he comes across a mysterious  shop where the owner doesn’t expect him to remember his time inside, he is taken on as an apprentice to Mr Silver of the Nowhere Emporium. But Mr Silver has a long and sad past, and his sworn enemy is still looking for him. Daniel finds himself in the middle of this fued, and in a race to save the Emporium and the staff he’s come to love.

There are some really wonderful rooms described throughout the Emporium. Many of them were whimsical and delightful and made me feel nostalgic for childhood. And I’m all for a tragic backstory, so the fact that that was at the heart of the conflict was really enjoyable for me, too.

I did think that some of the running around to try to stop Vindictus Sharpe from destroying the Emporium did get a bit tedious, especially when it was a case of “Go to this room – no, that didn’t work at all” followed by the same again. It seemed only to serve to throw some more backstory in, because some of these rooms turned out to be no use at all.

Still, I did appreciate how the challenges that Sharpe and Daniel set each other at the end played into fears and biases that had been set up for each of the characters earlier on, and they had to face them in the only way they knew how. The ending may have been a little rush, but I still felt that it was satisfying. I got through this is only a few days and really appreciated a simply, whimsical story with a lot of heart.


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“For dreams, too, are ghosts, desires chased in sleep, gone by morning.” // Review of “Lair of Dreams” by Libba Bray

Title: Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2)
Author: Libba Bray
Audio book narrator: January LaVoy
Genre: Historical fantasy/horror
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 09/06/19 – 06/07/19
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This book had a lot to live up to after I enjoyed the first one so much. I’ve got to be honest, there were times when I was just plain bored, and as you can see from the dates above, it took me nigh on a full month to get through. But it did pick up in the final quarter, and that’s why it still gets the rating it does from me.

There are a number of different threads through this book. First, Henry and his new friend, Ling Chan, are both dreamwalkers, and they meet as a mysterious sleeping sickness is taking over New York. So much of this storyline was devoted to character back stories and world building. I sometimes felt these parts were very, very slow.

Evie, Sam and Jericho are still about. Evie has become a sensation with her own radio show, The Sweetheart Seer, but to be honest, I found her a bit irritating in this book. In the first book, she was superficial but you could see what she was using that superficiality to mask. But there was less of that hidden vulnerability here, and she got a bit tiresome. The fact that there is a love triangle developing between her, Sam and Jericho also made me a bit weary.

Having said that, part of this aspect of the story is the search for Sam’s mother, which is hinted at, at the end of book one. I did find this stuff intriguing, and the extra information we got about Project Buffalo. I’m still not sure where the oft-mentioned King of Crows comes into that, but I suppose that will be revealed later in the series.

I guess the main reason I struggled more with this book than the first is that the pacing is entirely different. In the first book, there is a race to find the killer before he attacks again. There is no such time pressure in this book. So many scenes are devoted to dream walking, but the dreamscape is the same each time. And the characters aren’t really doing much, just hanging out and chatting. No one actually knows how to fix the sleeping sickness, so they just sort of generally worry about it.

Libba Bray does do a very good job representing true realities of life in the 1920s, and the gap between the privileged and the marginalised. I loved that Ling is a disabled character, and that forms part of her identity but isn’t her whole story. She is also part-Chinese and the book doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the anti-Chinese sentiments that were alive and well at that time.

There are some characters I haven’t mentioned, such as Theta, Memphis and Isaiah, and that’s because while they’re there, I didn’t really feel their scenes/chapters added much to this particular story. As I said, there’s a lot of character and background stuff, and I’m sure some of things we learned about the characters in this book will play out in the next installments but… it made it long.


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“There is no greater power on this earth than story.” // Review of “The Diviners” by Libba Bray

Title: The Diviners (The Diviners #1)
Author: Libba Bray
Audio book narrator: January LaVoy
Genre: Historical fantasy/horror
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 28/05/19 – 07/06/19
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This book had everything I want in a book! 1920s New York, serial killings, the occult, ghosts. Not to mention January LaVoy is a fantastic narrator.

There is a large cast of characters, whose paths intersect in various ways, but the main ones are Evie O’Neill and co., who are assisting the police in solving a series of occult murders. In between these, we get spooky chapters detailing each killing (don’t listen to these after dark!), along with chapters introducing us to others with powers that will become known as Devining, making them Deviners.

Evie is pretty selfish and self-centred, though she has moments of vulnerability. She puts on a front to hide the grief of losing her brother in the war eight years earlier. But she and the others make a good team when it comes to solving the murders.

The rest of the ensemble cast all have really fleshed out characters, too. Even though in the cases of a lot of these  characters, the book is setting up for the sequel where they become central characters, their scenes never felt like filler. I really iked Mabel, Evie’s BFF, though I wished she would sometimes stand up for herself a bit more (though she definitely has potential to come into her own later). I had mixed feelings about Sam Lloyd and Jericho Jones, whom I am pretty sure are going to both become love interests.

I loved all the history involved in the mystery. There are fifty-year-old cults, and weird ceremonies, and prophecies and all sorts of fun things. And it’s so detailed. There are creepy murder scenes that were probably made extra creepy by the fact that I always seemed to reach them when I was walking after dark from the bus stop, or driving alone late at night. January LaVoy has a certain talent with voices, I must say. The climax is especially scary, with Evie mostly on her own against an army of ghosts.

There did seem to be about an hour at the end of the book where things were being either tied up or set up for  the next book. There are so many different characters, it really did feel like Bray was actively having to tick each one off to make sure she’d dealt with them. But I was still keen to start the second book as soon as this one was finished.


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