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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#AWW2021 Book Review: “The Girl Grandest Bookshop In the World” by Amelia Mellor

Title: The Grandest Bookshop in the World
Author: Amelia Mellor
Genre: Historical fantasy
Intended audience: MG
Date Read: 19/03/2021 – 24/03/2021
Rating: 
★★★★

Review: 

Oh gosh this was lovely! There was something about knowing that the Book Arcade in this book was once a real place that made it extra special.

I got a lot of Nevermoor vibes reading this. It had the same charming, whimsical veneer whilst getting deep into issues of grief, sibling rivalry, and a child’s feelings of powerlessness against more powerful adults.

The descriptions of Cole’s Book Arcade, which really existed in Melbourne in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, made me wish I could have visited! Edward Cole sounds like a fascinating person and Mellor draws such a vivid picture of his whole family!

The magical aspect was simple but provided far-reaching application, giving Mellor a broad canvas of magic that many of her characters could perform.

I was never quite sold on the Obscurosmith’s reasons for wanting to get his hands on the Arcade, and I felt at the end he was defeated perhaps a little too easily, but because I was being swept along for the ride, I didn’t mind too much.

The book sometimes does get a little dark and might be scary for some younger readers. It’s also reasonably long as far as MG novels go. But I think a mature reader will absolutely love it!


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

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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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“I cannot expect people to do for me what I cannot.” // Review of “A Whole New World” by Liz Braswell

Title: A Whole New World (Twisted Tales #1)
Author: Janella Angeles
Genre: Fantasy/Retelling
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 22/12/2020– 26/12/2020
Rating: 
★★★

Review: 

Ahh, I hate it when a book has so much potential it doesn’t live up to. To be fair, for the most part it was engaging and I did enjoy it. But I had so many little niggles that kept pulling me out of the story.

For those unfamiliar with Disney’s Twisted Tales series, each book takes a well known Disney property and asks “What if?” about a certain aspect of it – in this case, what if Jafar had got to the Genie’s lamp instead of Aladdin?

I wasn’t quite sure what this book was trying to be. The writing felt middle-grade, but the characters were aged up (Princess Jasmine refers to being nearly twenty at one point). The writing style was very unsophisticated, too, and never gave a sense of place. It was really modern, with phrases like “you guys” peppering it (what modern Princess would use “you guys”, let alone one from a so-called “ancient” city?). These are things that don’t bother me in a cartoon movie but a book requires something more.

It also bothered me that every time the characters referred to Princess Jasmine, they called her “the royal princess”. Every. Time. Let’s not use tautology, okay? The royalty is implied in the word “princess”.

Having said that, I enjoyed the overall ideas and the way the story was twisted. The last third was pretty engaging, as Aladdin and Jasmine’s army started to find its feet and the action started ramping up. I did find Jafar’s defeat a little rushed, and a bit too easy, but I did tear through to the end, so that’s something.

I’m still interested to try the other Twisted Tales. This was the first one written, and it’s also the one with the lowest rating on GoodReads. There are also a few different authors writing them so that might also make a difference.


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Book Review: “The Rising Rooks” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: The Rising Rooks (The Viper and the Urchin #9)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Steampunk/fantasy
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 04/01/2021 – 07/01/21
Rating:
★★★★

Review:

risingrookscover

I can’t believe this is the last book in the Viper and the Urchin series! What a journey it has been.

This is a fitting finale for this series. There’s action and high stakes as our ragtag favourites attempt to take back Damsport from invaders. The action begins straight away, with a sabotage attempt failing due to the characteristic grudges of the Rookery folks preventing them from working together.

A lot of strands from previous books are brought back and tied up. We get to find out a little more about Rory’s origins, and old foes with questionable loyalties reappear.

Some things did seem to get tied up a little too quickly at the end, but I was left with a smile on my face, sad to say goodbye to my favourite characters but knowing that there’s so much more possibility for them (and maybe a new series?) on the horizon.

I truly recommend the whole Viper and the Urchin series if you enjoy light-hearted fantasy/steampunk. There’s such a great cast of characters, banter, adventure, all tied up in fantastic, well-written stories.


Thank you to Celine Jeanjean for a gratis copy of The Rising Rooks in exchange for a review.

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), The White Hornet (book 5), The Shadow Palace (book 6), The Opium Smuggler (book 7) and The Veiled War (book 8) by clicking their titles.

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“I know I don’t have to prove a single thing to them. What matters most is what I prove to myself.” // Review of “Where Dreams Descend” by Janella Angeles

Title: Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards #1)
Author: Janella Angeles
Audio book narrator: Imani Jade Powers, Steve West
Genre: Fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 21/11/2020– 10/12/2020
Rating: 
★★★★

Review: 

Ever since I heard of this book, and its comparisons to Moulin Rouge and Phantom of the Opera, I knew I had to read it.

This book is beautifully atmospheric, with incredible descriptions of the mysterious nightclub, Hellfire House, and the city of Glorian and its buildings and inhabitants. Main character Kallia’s magic acts were always described vividly so I could see it all play out in my mind.

Kallia herself was a difficult character to figure out sometimes. For all her insecurities, she sure had a lot of bravado, to the point where she sometimes came across as quite arrogant. This made sense sometimes, when she was up against male characters just as arrogant, but felt just plain mean when she was doing to characters like Demarco or Aaros, who just wanted to be there for her. I get it, she’s putting up walls because she’s been hurt before, but still.

Need to shout out to Aaros, who is a perfect, sweet, precious boy and so far he’s got away unscathed. If anything happens to him in the second book, I will be Having Words.

Demarco is a good guy, well-meaning but awkward. I was glad when his secrets were explained in more detail towards the end of the book – up until then, there were just references that didn’t mean much, and I wondered whether that was going to be held over until book two, which would have been irritating. There are definitely connections between his own past and where I think Kallia has ended up through the disaster performance at the end of the book, so I’m definitely intrigued to see how their paths converge more as the story goes on.

Jack comes across as a bad boy, but I think there’s more to him than that. While it seems his whole relationship with Kallia is based on lies, or at least lies by omission, it seems there are bigger things at play that he is trying to keep at bay. There was a big reveal about him at the end of this book and it seems he’ll be playing a bigger part in the next one, so hopefully we’ll learn more about him then.

All in all, this was an evocative fantasy with a fun cast of characters and a mystery that I look forward to resolving. Can’t wait for book two!


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#AWW2020 Book Review: “A Very Krampy Christmas” by P. A. Mason

Title: A Very Krampy Christmas (Gretchen’s [Mis]Adventures #8)
Author: P. A. Mason
Genre: Fantasy/humour
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 15/12/2020– 16/12/2020
Rating: 
★★★★

Review: 

Gretchen’s Misadventures is such a fun series and this is exactly the type of light-hearted, witchy Chrismtas story I’d been craving this month.

I’m actually rather behind on the series, having only read the prequel and the first two installments, but there weren’t too many references to past events that I didn’t understand.

We get to see various Christmas traditions – or at least we hear about them, as quite a few of them are interrupted by the arrival of a flurry of tiny Krampuses, thanks to an upset young witch not yet in control of her powers. Piper is a great addition to the cast of characters and will add a bit of a new dynamic to the stories going forward. I’m looking forward to seeing what she and Gretchen get up to together.

I don’t know much about The Krampus mythology, so I am not sure how much of the Gretchen’s solutions to the Krampus invasion are true to tradition and how many were invented for this story. But a Christmas demon/monster/creature that is defeated by alcohol and silver? Definitely a festive solution to festive problem. As someone who was wholly freaked out when I first heard of Krampus, I appreciated the ways in which Mason was able to make the legend a lot more lighthearted than the original.

This review is brief because the story itself is brief, but I definitely recommend this series if you like seeing folklore and fairy tales turned on their heads. There are eight stories so far and more to come. Get on it!


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

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“We take those memories and put them where they can’t do any harm. That’s all books are.” // Review of “The Binding” by Bridget Collins

Title: The Binding
Author: Bridget Collins
Genre: LBGTI+/Romance/Magical Realism
Intended audience: upper YA/adult
Date Read: 25/11/2020– 02/12/2020
Rating: 
★★★★

Review: 

Okay, I liked this book but it’s going to be kind of hard to review I expect. It’s one that’s going to be hard to talk about without being too spoilery, but I’ll do my best. Let’s dive in, shall we?

First of all, the writing is beautiful and descriptive, even if a bit slow at times. I took a while to get into the story. The book is divided into three parts, and a significant portion of Part 1 is spent keeping things from the main character for no good reason, other than it would give away the plot too soon.

It took me over a week to get through the first 150-200 pages, then I read the rest in a couple of sittings because that was when I found a reason to be invested. Without giving too much away, this is where the romance begins, and the flirting and initial awkward steps towards a relationship were what made me invested, whereas before, little had happened for me to really care.

I will say, though, that the romance is something of a love triangle, and I felt bad for the third character involved. She was treated pretty badly by the other two, all things considered, and they dove into things without really caring about her feelings. They snuck around, deliberately leaving her in the dark. When things go pear-shaped, she received quite a lot of blame, which was unfair to her.

The POV shifts to a different character in Part 3, which felt a bit jarring for a while, but made sense for the story. I did think the ending left a bit to be desired. The characters were going to be all right in the short-term, but I had no sense of how they would actually continue on after the events of the book. I wanted a bit more resolution.

I did find it hard to get a sense of time or place. There are a couple of references to China (the country, not the ceramics), but apart from that, it seemed to be an invented world. I think Castelford was the book’s equivalent of London? There are references to daguerreotypes and Luddites, both of which suggest a mid-nineteenth century, post-industrial-revolution time period, but most of the time, it felt set a couple of centuries before that.

This was my book club’s November read, and while we’ve ended up not finding a convenient time to meet up in December, I’m really looking forward to discussing it when we reconvene in January. There’s going to be lots to discuss and I’m really keen to hear what the others thought about it.

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Book Review: “The Veiled War” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: The Veiled War (The Viper and the Urchin #8)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Steampunk/fantasy
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 05/10/20 – 07/10/20
Rating:
★★★★★

Review:

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

Argh, I’m a terrible ARC reviewer, I swear with each time a new book in this series comes out, my review is even later.

After a brief foray into Adelma’s backstory in the previous book, The Veiled War reunites us with our favourite ragtag group of spies. Celine was quite smart in inserting The Opium Smuggler into the series where she did. Characters introduced in The Opium Smuggler had parts to play in this next installment and it was good to already be familiar with them; it would have slowed things down to give them the introduction they needed in this setting.

Once again, we get to see more of Damsport. This time, it’s the Mansion where the Marchioness lives, along with the Damsport prison. The world-building just keeps getting bigger and better in this series.

Character-wise, I think Rafe and Cruickshank were my favourites this time around, even if I did keep wanting to shake Rafe into Just. Talking. To. Rory. But still, I enjoyed the way his arc progressed. Ditto for Cruickshank, as one of the older characters, it was hard seeing her wrestle with the new war coming to their shores.

The political intrigue was also great, especially when you realise how long things have been going on under the characters’ noses. I’m looking forward to seeing how this all pans out.


Thank you to Celine Jeanjean for a gratis copy of The Veiled War in exchange for a review.

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), The White Hornet (book 5), The Shadow Palace (book 6) and The Opium Smuggler (book 7) by clicking their titles.

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