#AWW2020 Book Review: “Holiday Brew” by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Title: Holiday Brew (Belladonna U #2)
Author: Tara Moss
Genre: Paranormal/urban fantasy
Intended audience: New Adult
Date Read: 29/09/2020– 30/09/2020
Rating: 
★★★★

Review: 

I have really enjoyed the Belladonna U novellas I have read in the past, so I was pretty excited when I saw there were more up for grabs.

This is such a fun series, set in an alternate version of Australia where magical ability is commonplace, and where universities are divided into the College of the Real, where magic is studied, and the College of the Unreal, for non-magical disciplines. There’s all the usual content you’d expect in a series about uni students: relationships, share houses, drinking, concerns for the future… all with added magical shenanigans.

It’s also got a distinctly Australian feel, which I love about all of Tansy Rayner Roberts’ books.

There are many POV characters, some written in first person, some written in third. I have to admit I sometimes I forgot whose perspective I was reading, and got a bit confused. This was probably not helped by the fact that it had been quite a while since I read Fake Geek Girl and The Bromancers, so it took me a while to remember who was who.

I didn’t find that these issues detracted too much. The plots are fun! I particularly liked Halloween is Not a Verb. They stories and tone are very light-hearted, even as they deal with some big issues, and I really like that. I’m definitely hoping to read more of these characters and this world!


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

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I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

August 2020 Reading Wrap-up

I’m a little bit disappointed as I sit down to write this post. I swear I read more than this post suggests. I guess it’s because I started two 500+ page books, neither of which I have managed to finish yet.

PAST MONTH’S READING:

  1. Euphoria Kids (YA fantasy – 4 stars – review) (read July, reviewed August)
  2. Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant (sci-fi/horror – 4 stars – review) (read July, reviewed August)
  3. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (YA fantasy – 4 stars – review)
  4. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (gothic horror – 3 stars – review forthcoming)

  5. None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney (YA thriller – 4 stars – review forthcoming)

  6. Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell (memoir – 4 stars – not intending to review)

BOOKTUBE:

I’m really enjoying vlogging again! I’m hoping to stick with it! Even if I didn’t do so great with the readathon!

I didn’t put anything up this month (I’ve got a couple of things lined up and ready to go, though), but here are the videos I posted in July again, in case you’re interested:

  1. 2020 Trope-ical Readathon TBR
  2. Trope-ical TBR Blooper Reel

FAVOURITE BOOKISH PHOTO:

The cover of Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

I think my re-read of Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina marks the first time I have re-read in print a book that I first read in audio form.

The difference was amazing! I didn’t find the audio book engaging at all, and only gave the book 2 stars as a result. But reading it in print, seeing the way the characters stories and the overall storytelling and the formatting all interact. It was brilliant!

You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

CURRENTLY READING:

Physical book: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I’m re-reading this for one of my book clubs, having initially listened to the audio book in 2016. It’s such beautiful writing!

I’m also reading The Toll by Neal Shusterman, the third and final book in the Arc of Scythe series. Yay for actually finishing series that I start!

Ebook: Scone and Spells by Rosie Pease. I started this a few weeks ago but I got distracted. This is a fairly light read though so once I get back to it, it shouldn’t take too long to get through.

Audio book: Axiom’s End by Lindasy Ellis. This is absolutely my jam. I love books that explore the political ramifications of first contact. And this one sounds like it has linguistic stuff, too! Agggh. I’m less than an hour into it at the moment but I think I’m going to really enjoy it!

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

Apart from the books hanging over from August, I’m only reading Australian books this month! Or attempting to. I think I’ll read Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta next. I’ve had this one on my shelf for a while and I’ll still be in a fantasy mood after The Night Circus, most likely!

What are you reading? 🙂

July 2020 Reading Wrap-up

July was a bit of a weird reading month. It started strong but then I got stuck on an ARC I wasn’t enjoying and ended up in a bit of a slump. I came through in the end though, with a total of four books read in the month.

When lockdown hit and I only read one book for the entire month of March, I lowered my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal from my usual 75 down to 50. I’ve hit 41 now and I am hoping to read at least 9 books in August (I’m doing another readathon!) So I’ll definitely surpass my goal and it’ll be interesting to see by how much.

PAST MONTH’S READING:

  1. Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans (YA fantasy – 3.5 stars – review forthcoming)

  2. Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant (sci-fi/horror – 4 stars – review forthcoming)

  3. The Opium Smuggler (The Viper and the Urching #7, Origins #1) by Celine Jeanjean (fantasy/steampunk – 4 stars – review)

  4. Catching Teller Crow by Ambellin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina (YA magical realism – 4 stars – reread, no review)

BOOKTUBE:

I resurrected my Booktube account! I posted two thing!. I decided I’m going to do readathons via YouTube, and keep this here blog for reviews and monthly wrap-ups. And the occasional tags like Down the TBR Hole (which I haven’t done in a while – time to get back to that one!)

Here’s what I posted:

  1. 2020 Trope-ical Readathon TBR
  2. Trope-ical TBR Blooper Reel

    FAVOURITE BOOKISH PHOTO:

    Damsel by Elana K. Arnold and Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova

    I almost thought I didn’t post anything bookish this month, until I remembered my birthday photos!

    It was my birthday last weekend and while I was not expecting gifts from anyone, several people gave me book vouchers! So I was not complaining! One of the vouchers went towards Damsel by Elana K. ARnold and Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova, both books I have on my TBR.

    You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

    CURRENTLY READING:

    Physical book: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte. This is a library book I I had to put on hold while I was reading ARCs, and it got to the point I had to renew it, but I’m enjoying diving into it now.

    Ebook: Scone and Spells by Rosie Pease. I started this a few weeks ago and again got distracted. This is a fairly light read though so once I get back to it, it shouldn’t take too long to get through.

    Audio book: All Systems Red by Martha Wells… to be honest, I’m not entirely sure I am going to continue with this. The book has come highly recommended but the audio book is not read in a very engaging way. So I might switch to the ebook.

    PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

    Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. This was, um, my book club’s July read, but I’m not sure any of us managed to finish it in July. Our meet-up is not until August 09 for this reason!

    What are you reading? 🙂

#20BooksofSummer20 and #ReadARainbow Midway Check-in

In which I do Summer reading challenges in my winter months because Dec-Feb is too busy and annoying a period to do challenges, and the Internet is all Northern Hemisphere-centric anyway. 😝

20 Books of Summer is hosted by Cathy at 746books.com and the aim, as you may have guessed, is to read 20 book in Summer (i.e. 1 June to 1 September).

How am I going? Well, if you mean in terms of the number of books I’ve read during this period… I’m going great!

If you mean, am I sticking to the TBR I set for myself at the start of June?

Um… I’ve read one of them. Honestly, this was always bound to happen. It’s happening with the low-pressure readathon I’m doing this July (see below). It happened with my first readathon last year. It happens.

So what have I read so far?

  1. Burn by Patrick Ness.
  2. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
  3. Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
  4. What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin
  5. A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
  6. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  7. Of Hair and No Hair by P. A. Mason
  8. Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans
  9. Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Of these, Euphoria Kids was the only TBR read. And it’s not looking promising for the next little while. I’ve got a couple of ARCs to read. And my July book club book. Nyyyargh. 

I’m also doing the Read A Rainbow challenge on Twitter and Discord. This is  hosted by Books and Pixie Dust.

My original TBR for this one has gone out the window, too, but at least both my ARCs will count towards it! Here’s what I’m going for now: 

  1. Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant (red on the cover) (read)
  2. A Pocketful of Eyes by Lili Wilkinson (orange on the cover)
  3. Angel Mage by Garth Nix (yellow on the cover)
  4. The Opium Smuggler by Celine Jeanjean (green on the cover) (ARC)
  5. Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte (blue on the cover) (currently reading)
  6. The Lost City by Amanda Hocking (purple on the cover) (ARC) (currently reading)
  7. Scones and Spells by Rosie Pease (pink on the cover) (currently reading)

Unfortunately my July book club read – Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – doesn’t fit any of those colours (only red, which I’ve already covered), so I’m also going to fit it in somewhere! I’m sure this is all fine! (*cries in the corner*)

So that’s where I am right now! Reading is going a little slowly at the moment because it’s been a bit of a busy week, but I’m hoping to be able to dive in on the weekend and make some solid progress. 

How is your reading going? Is lockdown helping or hindering your reading goals? 

June 2020 Reading Wrap-Up

Wow, we are now halfway through 2020! For a year that has dragged on beyond belief in some ways, it’s hard to believe we’re already at the midpoint.  

Past Month’s Reading

  1. Burn by Patrick Ness (YA alternate history/fantasy – 4 stars – review)
  2. Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl #1) by Eoin Colfer (MG fantasy – 5 stars – not intending to review)
  3. Thunderhead (Arc of Scythe 2) by Neal Shusterman (YA dystopia – 3 stars – not intending to review)
  4. What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin (YA contemporary – 4 stars – review)
  5. A Natural History of Dragons (Memoirs of Lady Trent #1) by Marie Brennan (fantasy – 4 stars – review)
  6. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (sci-fi – 2.5 stars – not intending to review)
  7. Of Hair and No Hair (Gretchen’s Misadventures #3) by P. A. Mason (fantasy/satire – 4 stars – not intending to review)

Favourite Bookish Photo:

It was definitely the month for reading dragon stories and writing dragon stories and buying other dragon stories I haven’t read yet! There were a lot of dragons this month. You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

Currently Reading:

Physical book: Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans. This is a beautiful YA fantasy about trans and non-binary characters just living their lives with fairies and witchcraft. I’m really enjoying it. 

Ebook: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant is both my ebook and audio book at the moment thanks to Whisper Sync. I love that this delves into mermaids but with a sci-fi bent. But also some horror elements. It’s not what I would normally read but I love Seanan McGuire (Mira Grant’s alter ego) so I wanted to check this out. 

Audio book: See above.

Planning to Read Next:

This is not completely set in stone, but I think it will be Angel Mage by Garth Nix. I got rather distracted from my 20 Books in Summer challenge of reading all the Australian books I own, so it’s time to get back to that. 

What have you been reading lately? 🙂

#Medievalathon and General May Reading Wrap-up

"monthly reading wrap-up" banner

I thought this was going to be another slow reading month, but much to my surprise, I finished quite a few books! I managed to negate what I thought was a trend of reading fewer than five books in odd-numbered months and many more in even-numbered ones. So yay that!

Past Month’s Reading:

I decided to do a Medievalathon wrap-up and my usual monthly wrap-up in the same post, since there didn’t seem to be much point in repeating what I read during the month in two separate posts. So instead of just a list, you also get the prompts these books filled as well. The graphics show you what I earned by fulfilling each prompt.

 A Pristine Book: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (literary spec fic – 4 stars – review).

A book under 300 pages: Greythorne by L. M. Merrington (Gothic/historical fiction – 4 stars – review)

A book with a dragon on the cover: Ochre Dragon by V. E. Patton (fantasy – 4 stars – review)

A scary book: The King of Crows by Libba Bray (The Diviners #4) (YA historical fantasy – 4 stars – review forthcoming)

A book with orange on the cover: Oasis by Katya de Becerra (YA sci-fi – 2.5 stars – review)

A romance: Kindred: 12 Queer #LoveOzYA Stories edited by Michael Earp (YA short stories/various genres – stars – review forthcoming).

I also read Writing Killer Cover Copy by Elana Johnson, but it didn’t fit any of the prompts. It was a non-fiction four-star read. 

So to sum up, I made it to the rank of Queen at least, and Empress if you count the non-prompt-y book. Not a bad effort! 

Favourite Bookish Photo:

Uhhh… this was my only bookish photo this month. It also might be my most popular Instagram post ever!  You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

Currently Reading:

Physical book: Burn by Patrick Ness. Alternate history — with dragons! I’m really enjoying this so far. I don’t even notice the pages turning. I was hoping to finish this in May and also earn the shield for Medievalathon (a book you have high expectations for) but I guess if my weapon is bows and arrows, I can’t hold a shield anyway, can I? 

Ebook: Potency (Glow #1) by Aubrey Hadley. I haven’t had any ARCs for a while but I remembered I had two due in June, so I thought I’d best make a start. This was originally slated for release a year ago, but the consistent feedback they received from Netgalley led to them taking time to redevelop a lot of it. This is the updated version (I never received the original). I’m interested to see how it goes. 

Audio book: .Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman, number two in the Arc of Scythe. I didn’t love the first book enough to go out and buy the second, so I waited until my library’s copy became available. I’m really enjoying Greg Tremblay’s narration. I wonder if I might have liked the first book a bit more had I also listened to it. 

Planning to read next:

I’m taking part in the blog tour (my first one!) for What Unbreakable Looks Like by Katie McLaughlin, so I want to make sure I’ve read it well before the due date of my review. 

What are you reading? 🙂

#20BooksOfSummer20 TBR

I’m hoping that 746Books, the host of this reading challenge, doesn’t mind me taking liberties and making my own graphic for it. I wanted to make reference to the fact that it… is really not summer here right now.  😁 I am writing this in front of the heater, wearing woolly socks and with a blanket over my lap.

But why should that preclude me from a challenge?! Sure, I could start my own Southern Hemisphere version and run it December – February, but… eh. That sounds like work!

The 20 Books of Summer challenge is exactly what it sounds like. Between June 1 and September 1, participants can choose to read 10, 15 or 20 books.

I’m going to continue my 2020 challenge of reading all the Australian books that I own.

My Australian fiction bookshelf, showing a number of the books on my 20 Books of Summer list, as well as some I’ve already read, and some I’ll get to a bit later.

I find that even when I only do month-long reading challenges, my final result is always a little different from my intitial TBR, but these are the ones I’m going to try for:

  1. The Beast’s Heart by Lief Shallcross (fantasy)
  2. The Iron Line by L. M. Merrington (historical fiction)
  3. Rheia by Cassandra Page (fantasy)
  4. Where Shadows Rise by Amy Laurens (YA fantasy)
  5. Through Roads Between by Amy Laurens (YA fantasy)
  6. Mud and Glass by Laura E Goodin (fantasy)
  7. Harlequin’s Riddle by Rachel Nightingale (YA fantasy)
  8. The Grief Hole by Kaaron Warren (horror)
  9. No Limits by Ellie Marney (YA crime/contemporary)
  10. A Pocketful of Eyes by Lili Wilkinson (YA contemporary)
  11. The Grinding House by Kaaron Warren (horror/short stories)
  12. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta (YA fantasy)
  13. The Dry by Jane Harper (Crime)
  14. She’s Having a Laugh ed. George McInroe (non-fiction)
  15. Maternal Instinct by Rebecca Bowyer (sci-fi)
  16. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth (historical fiction)
  17. One Summer in Santorini by Sandy Barker (romance)
  18. The Blood Countess by Tara Moss (YA fantasy)
  19. Angel Mage by Garth Nix (YA fantasy)
  20. Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans (YA fantasy)

This might be ambitious because I also have a couple of ARC reviews due in June, and a couple of books from the library still to get through. And book club! But I do have the first week of June off work. So we’ll see. See you on the other side! Or at least, at a June 30 check-in.

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!

#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? 🙂