#AusReads #LoveOzYA Book Review: “The Dragon Healer” by Tiani Davids

Title: The Dragon Healer (Chronicles of Eldras #1)
Author: Tiani Davids
Genre: Fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 14/11/2022 – 26/11/2022
Rating: 
★★★☆

Review: 

I was following Tiani Davids on Instagram when she made the decision to go indie with this series, so I’ve been looking forward to reading it for quite a while. The cover is absolutely gorgeous, and you all know I’m a sucker for dragons.

The Dragon Healer is a strong series opener with strong characters and interesting world-building. I really enjoyed the history of Eldras, the supposed reasons why the dragons were expelled from there, and the way this history slowly unravelled the more the main characters investigated.

Elinta is a great main character. I liked that her strength is healing, and she consistently demonstrates the knowledge she has learned from her apprenticeship. The dynamic between her and Zhayra, the dragon, is delightful.

Lorrin, the Crown Prince, and Niles, his best friend, are fun characters, though at times they almost border on being a little too perfect. I’m sitting down to write this review a week after reading the book, and I can recall very few instances of conflict with them. Given how much time Elinta spent in the palace and how much of an outsider she was, it might have been interesting to see something come between them.

Apart from this, the main thing that lets the story down a bit is the pacing. The first half moves along quite well, but then things grind almost to a halt once Elinta arrives at the palace. The plot needed a lot of time to pass, but apart from research, there wasn’t a lot for Elinta to do to fill it.

Given the way this book ends, I don’t think this will be such an issue in subsequent instalments in the series. The characters have moved off on their adventure now, and there is lots for them to discover. I look forward to book two!


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November 2022 Reading Wrap-up

An emoji of two books next to each other, with the text "Monthly Reading Wrap-up"

Hello from Florence, Italy! Despite travelling since November 14, I have managed to read 3 books so far on this trip! Turns out train travel is good like that.

PAST MONTHS’ READING HIGHLIGHTS:

  1. The Eighth Wonder by Tania Farrelly (historical fiction – 3 stars – review)
  2. The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall (dystopia/adventure/literary fiction – 2 stars – review)
  3. The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman (fantasy – 3 stars)
  4. The Dragon Healer by Tiani Davids (YA fantasy – 3.5 stars – review forthcoming))
  5. High Tide by Pip Russell-Brown (contemporary fiction – 4 stars)

I’m skipping the usual Booktube and Bookstagram sections on this post. To be honest, I haven’t been terribly active on either, especially Booktube. That’s something I don’t think I’ll get back to until 2023, and I’m okay with that!

CURRENTLY READING:

I am actually completely inbetween books at the moment, having finished the only one I had on the go earlier this evening. I am not sued to having nothing for this section!

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

I’m doing the Reindeer Readathon this month (despite travel!) so it will be something from my TBR for that. I’m leaning towards A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher. You know how I love any book that combines baking and magic.

What are you reading? 🙂

October 2022 Reading Wrap-up

An emoji of two books next to each other, with the text "Monthly Reading Wrap-up"

The eagle-eyed among you will have seen that I started reviewing again this month! Some of the busy-ness I’ve had going on for the past few months has finally settled down, letting me get back to fun things I’ve had to ignore for a while.

PAST MONTHS’ READING HIGHLIGHTS:

Five book covers in a row - the Coming of the Fairies by Arthur Conan Doyle, The House in the Woods by Yvette Fielding, Witchnapped in Westerham by Dionne Lester, The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie and Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas.

  1. A Remarkable Woman by Jules van Mil (historical fiction – 3 stars – review) (read June, reviewed October)
  2. Malice by Pintup Dunn (YA sci-fi/romance – 3.5 stars – review) (read September, reviewed October)
  3. The Coming of the Fairies by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (non-fiction – unrated)
  4. The House in the Woods by Yvette Fielding (MG horror – 2 stars)
  5. Witchnapped in Westerham by Dionne Lester (urban fantasy/cozy mystery – 2 stars – review)
  6. The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie (mystery/adventure – 3 stars)
  7. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (YA fantasy/romance – 3.5 stars – review)

I’m skipping the usual Booktube and Bookstagram sections on this post. To be honest, I haven’t been terribly active on either, especially Booktube. That’s something I don’t think I’ll get back to until 2023, and I’m okay with that!

CURRENTLY READING:

The cover of The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman. The background is made to look like dark blue suede, with the title and decorations in the corners like silver filigree.

Physical book: Nothing at the moment.

Ebook: The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman. This is the eighth and final book in the Invisible Library series. I’ve enjoyed this series enough to want to see it through, though I have to admit the first three books were the strongest. Still, it’s good to complete a series (within a year, no less!) and tick it off the list!

Audio book: The Eighth Wonder by Tania Farrelly. This is a historical fiction that I am enjoying, though now that I am not driving for an hour every day due a commitment wrapping up, I have to admit that my inclination to listen to the last few hours has been low. I’ll endeavour to finish it soon, though, before it returned itself on the library app!

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PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

The cover of The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall. The title is laid over an abstract patch of colours, possibly a scarf crumpled up in a pile. It is hard to tell exactly what the image is.

I’ll be finishing The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall. I started this as an audio book but I have now got the paperback out from the library to finish it, as I was getting a bit bored with the audio version.

Hopefully, I’ll manage that before I head off travelling in mid-November. For the next little while, it’ll be e-books only. It’ll be good to clear my Kindle backlog a bit!

What are you reading? 🙂

“You don’t need anyone’s permission to be you, Yads.” // Review of “Cemetery Boys” by Aiden Thomas

Title: Cemetery Boys
Author: Aiden Thomas
Genre: Fantasy/romance
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 19/10/2022 – 26/10/2022
Rating: 
★★★☆

Review: 

This book has been on my TBR ever since it came out and I actually bought it last year in my pile of “buy books during lockdown to support the bookshops!” spree. And then it’s taken me this long to get around to it, as per usual.

The plot of Cemetery Boys sadly underwhelmed me. It was quite slow-moving, and really only became gripping in the last 50 pages.

Having said that, the characters were charming and really drove it. I really enjoyed how Yadriel and Julian’s relationship developed, and the stark contrast between introverted good boy Yadriel and the more outgoing Jules.

It was delightful seeing Yadriel’s family as they prepared for Dia de Muertes, and painful to see the way they unintentionally hurt Yadriel when they misgendered him or otherwise didn’t recognise his true identity.

I got a bit teary at the end when the ghosts of Brujx past visited for Dia de Muertes and we saw just how unconditionally his mother accepted him. That was beautiful.

And on the other side of things, we had Julian’s older brother and friends, with their disparate origins but their fierce loyalty to one another.

Where it fell down for me was the plot. We have at least one dead body from the end of Chapter One, and more to come, but they mystery of how these people died seemed almost secondary. The last fifty pages or so were action-packed, but it felt a little off-balance with the rest of the book. Before that, things moved so slowly, even though the story actually only takes place over a few days. 150 pages in, I felt like very little had happened.

There’s nothing wrong with character-driven stories, of course, but this promised a bit more than that, and then didn’t deliver as well as it might have. Still, this was a debut, and I’m keen to check out Aiden Thomas’ second novel, Lost in the Never Woods, which was another of my lockdown purchases!


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Book Review – “Malice” by Pintip Dunn

Title: Malice
Author: Pintip Dunn
Genre: Sci-fi/romance
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 25/09/2022 – 27/09/2022
Rating: 
★★★☆

Review: 

This was a random library pick based entirely on the cover, and I have to say, I enjoyed it!

I really liked the way the time travel was conceptualised. A consciousness being able to travel back to its past self was a really nifty idea!

Having said that, it did seem a bit silly that so much information was withheld from Alice on the basis of “Even the smallest amount of foreknowledge can change the future” when she was literally being asked to kill someone to prevent a world-ending catastrophe before it happened.

As for the characters, I was conflicted by how quickly Alice accepted the time travel – on the one hand, it was super-fast! But on the other hand, it would have slowed down the story to have her come around at a more realistic pace.

The love interest is Thai, like the author, and it was cool to get a little bit of his cultural background peppered into the story. The romance developed maybe a bit quickly for my tastes but I liked the way it was handled at the end. Damn that time travel messing things up for the characters!

The villain’s motivations felt a little cartoonish in the future compared to how we see them in the present-day setting. It was a little hard to reconcile the two versions, but I liked that the time travel didn’t create an insta-fix, and that the characters would all still have to work together going forward to make sure the world didn’t end.

The writing was engaging and I found myself looking forward to picking the book up when I wasn’t reading it. This is my first read by Pintip Dunn and I’m intrigued to check out more of her writing.


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July-September 2022 Reading Wrap-up

An emoji of two books next to each other, with the text "Monthly Reading Wrap-up"

I’ve got to be honest, when I opened up A Keyboard and an Open Mind to check how long it had been since my last post, I was surprised it had only been three months. In those three months, I’ve been in rehearsals for a production of HMS Pinafore, had COVID, had another non-COVID bad cold thing, finished booking a trip to Europe, and managed to continue at my day job despite our team being rather depleted at the moment (long story).

Often it’s felt like I haven’t been reading much, but in those three months, I’ve read another nineteen books, bringing my total for the year to forty-one. These nineteen books have all been three or four star reads – nothing terrible but also nothing really stand-out. I’m hoping for a five-star read soon!

I’ll just post the highlights below, but you can see the full list on my GoodReads 2022 Challenge Page.

PAST MONTHS’ READING HIGHLIGHTS:

  1. The Ghosts of Paris by Tara Moss (historical fiction – 4 stars)
  2. The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu (historical fantasy – 4 stars)
  3. All Systems Red by Martha Wells (sci-fi – 4 stars)
  4. This Is Not a Ghost Story by Andrea Portes (YA horror – 3.5 stars)
  5. Malice by Pintip Dunn (YA sci-fi – 3.5 stars)

In the interests of not fiddling around with this post forever, I’m skipping the usual Booktube and Bookstagram sections! To be honest, I haven’t been terribly active on either, especially Booktube. That’s something I don’t think I’ll get back to until 2023, and I’m okay with that!

CURRENTLY READING:

Physical book: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Moreno-Garcia is an insta-buy author for me. Her books are all very different and I don’t always enjoy them but I love reading her takes on the horror genre mixed with aspects of her Mexican heritage.

Ebook: Nothing at the moment.

Audio book: The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall. This is an Australian near-future thriller and it’s quite slow, but I’m interested to see where it goes.

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PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

It will likely be Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova. I’ve had this on my shelf for a long time, and it fit one of the prompts for October’s Whodunitathon perfectly!

What are you reading? 🙂

June 2022 Reading Wrap-up

An emoji of two books next to each other, with the text "Monthly Reading Wrap-up"

Ooof, it is nice to feel like I’m back into regular reading patterns again. It’s only taken… six months. Even with it taking me a week to get through one novel in June, I still had a total of seven. While I am still trying not to treat reading as a numbers game, it’s still nice to feel like I’m back to my old self.

PAST MONTH’S READING:

The covers of Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero, The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie, A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo.

  1. Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero (horror – 2.5 stars)
  2. The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie (mystery – 4 stars)
  3. A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow (fantasy/retelling – 3 stars)
  4. Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo (fantasy – 4 stars)
  5. The Eleventh Doctor Tales by various authors (sci-fi/media tie-in – 4 stars)
  6. House of Salt and Sorrow by Erin A. Craig (YA fantasy – 4 stars)
  7. A Remarkable Woman by Jules van Mil (historical fiction – 3 stars)
The covers of The Eleventh Doctor Tales by various authors, A House of Salt and Sorrow by Erin A. Craig and A Remarkable Woman by Jules van Mil.

BOOKTUBE:

I have a YouTube channel where I promote Australian books using the hashtag #AusReads, and also indulge my compulsion for signing up to readathons. Here are the latest videos:

  1. Jurassic Journey Readathon TBR

BOOKSTAGRAM:

That heading has always said “favourite bookish photo” in the past, but recently I’ve been branching out into Reels rather than photos. So now this section can be for either and I’ll post whatever type of content I’ve enjoyed most during the month.

A stack of books, from bottom to top:
Goblin by Josh Malerman
the Gulp by Alan Baxter
A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

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

CURRENTLY READING:

The cover of The Ghosts of Paris by Tara Moss.  A white woman in a red coat with the collar turned up looks over at a river. the Eiffel Tower is visible in the background.

Physical book: By the time I’m writing this, we’re already a week into July and I’ve finished two more books. However, I’m planning to start The Ghosts of Paris by Tara Moss today. I really enjoyed the first Billie Walker book and I’m keen to dive into this one.

Ebook: Nothing at the moment.

Audio book: Nothing at the moment.

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PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

The cover of The Ruby's Curse by Alex Kingston. It has a Doctor Who logo at the top, and the title is laid over an image of the character River Song in profile, with a coat collar pulled up around her chin.

I only went to the library the other afternoon to use the bathroom, but when I walked past The Ruby’s Curse by Alex Kingston and Jane Raynor on one of the display shelves, I simply couldn’t resist. I’ve been feeling very nostalgic for Doctor Who lately and reading quite a lot of the books. This is such a beautiful hardcover. I keep just picking it up. I hope the content lives up to expectations!

What are you reading? 🙂

April and May 2022 Reading Wrap-up

An emoji of two books next to each other, with the text "Monthly Reading Wrap-up"

Where’d you go, Emily?” I hear you ask. “I thought you had plans to enliven this blog again!”

Okay, maybe no one is asking that, but I’ll answer anyway. My stated plans to enliven this blog were rather dashed just after Easter when we noticed wet carpet in our living room. Long story short, while the issue could have been fixed (in our humble opinions), we ended up in the very stressful situation of having to find a new rental property instead, in a very short space of time. Let’s just say I don’t have much time for property management after this experience.

Fortunately, we have had very good luck and we are now somewhat settled in a new place, though the living room is still virtually uninhabitable due to being populated by full moving boxes.

I don’t want to jinx it, but I think coming into June, I have finally blasted the reading slump I was in, and I’ll be reading a lot more going forward. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been up to over the past couple of months.

PAST MONTH’S READING:

  1. Doctor Who: Twelve Angels Weeping by Dave Rudden (sci-fi/short stories – 4 stars)
  2. Waking Romeo by Kathryn Barker YA sci-fi/romance – 5 stars)
  3. The Mortal Word (the Invisible Library #5) by Genevieve Cogman (fantasy – 3 stars)
  4. The Secret Chapter (the Invisible Library #6) by Genevieve Cogman (fantasy – 3 stars)
  5. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (fantasy – 4 stars)

BOOKTUBE:

I have a YouTube channel where I promote Australian books using the hashtag #AusReads, and also indulge my compulsion for signing up to readathons. Here are the latest videos:

  1. Jurassic Journey Readathon TBR

BOOKSTAGRAM:

That heading has always said “favourite bookish photo” in the past, but recently I’ve been branching out into Reels rather than photos. So now this section can be for either and I’ll post whatever type of content I’ve enjoyed most during the month.

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

CURRENTLY READING:

Physical book: Nothing right now.

Ebook: The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie. My book club has chosen this as our next read and I am enjoying it thoroughly, though I’m only about 50 pages in so far.

Audio book: I am finally reading Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, and I wish I had listened to Six of Crows as well, as I think I would have enjoyed it more that way. Each POV character has their own voice actor and it really adds to the experience. Having said that, I’m almost at the 70% mark and feeling rather confused about Kaz’s big plan.

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

After Waking Romeo became my first five star read of the year, I immediately grabbed In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker from the library. I’m planning to read this one over the weekend and I hope it’s as good as its successor!

What are you reading? 🙂

Down the TBR Hole #6

Down the TBR hole banner
Welcome to the Down The TBR Hole meme. It’s been nearly two years since I last did this, but in the interests of enlivening this blog a bit, I thought it would be fun to return.

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!

arrowsmelissagorzelanczykcover

Arrows by Melissa Gorzelanczyk

While this sounds like an interesting take on Greek-gods-in-the-modern-world… but the ebook is expensive and my library doesn’t have a copy… I’m not really feeling strongly enough about it to go the effort of obtaining a copy. 

~~ Decision:  GO ~~

dearmryoucover

Dear Mr You by Mary-Louise Parker

Honestly I’m not even sure why this was on my TBR… non-fiction epistolary format? Not really my thing at all. This is an easy decision.

~~ DECISION:  GO ~~

wearetheantscover
We Are the Ants
by Shaun David Hutchinson

This one sounds intriguing! It might get a bit too literary for me but it has aliens and big decisions and lost loves, so I think I could get into it!

~~ DECISION: KEEP ~~

mygrandmotheraskedcover

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman, translated by Henning Koch

This is by the same author who wrote A Man Called Ove and there are quite a few 5-star reviews among my GoodReads friends. That said, I’m not really sure it’s for me.

~~ DECISION: GO ~~

betrayalspotlightcover

Betrayal: the Crisis in the Catholic Church by the Boston Globe

There is no doubt this an important book. It’s the story of the Boston Globe journalists who broke the story of the mass cover-ups of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Having said that, I’m much inclined to read non-fiction in the form of articles and blogs, rather than books. I don’t think I’m likely to read the book.

~~DECISION: GO ~~

TODAY: 1 keep, 4 go.

ALL TIME: 15 keep, 20 go.

Wow, that was rather ruthless! Do you have any opinions about my choices today? Let me know in the comments!

You can read my previous Down the TBR Hole posts here.

See you next time!

February and March 2022 Reading Wrap-up

An emoji of two books next to each other, with the text "Monthly Reading Wrap-up"

The last few months have been an interesting exercise. As I mentioned in my January wrap-up, my only goal for the year was to make reading more intentional. To read for pleasure and not make it a numbers game.

I’ve been doing pretty well on this front, but as it stands we’re a quarter through the year and I’ve only read 10 books. If I continue at that rate, that’s only 40 books for the year, compared with the 70+ I’ve read for the past several. Even as I tell myself this is totally fine, there’s still a part of me hoping that once daylight savings finishes this weekend, I’ll be more functional and I’ll be able to read faster.

Anyway. I’ll keep working on that. The other thing I’m hoping April might bring is more motivation to write reviews and enliven this blog a bit. In the meantime, here are the seven books I’ve read since my last wrap-up.

PAST MONTH’S READING:

  1. Fireborne by Rosaria Munda (YA fantasy – 4 stars)
  2. The Voyage of the Basilisk (Memoirs of Lady Trent #3) by Marie Brennan (fantasy – 3 stars)
  3. A Users’s Guide to Make-Believe by Jane Alexander (thriller/sci-fi – 2.5 stars)
  4. Doctor Who: Tales of Terror by various authors (sci-fi/short stories – 2.5 stars)
  5. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie (crime – 3 stars)
  6. The Lost Plot (the Invisible Library #4) by Genevieve Cogman (fantasy – 3 stars)
  7. Come Join Us by the Fire: Season 2 by various authors (horror/short stories – 4 stars)

BOOKTUBE:

I have a YouTube channel where I promote Australian books using the hashtag #AusReads, and also indulge my compulsion for signing up to readathons. Here are the latest videos:

  1. February Royal Readathon Wrap-up

FAVOURITE BOOKISH PHOTO:

To be honest, over February and March, my Instagram has been taken up by posts about my own writing rather than books I’ve been reading. So I’ll leave you with the cover reveal for my latest release, Enchanted Sleep, which you can buy here.

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

CURRENTLY READING:

Physical book: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. This is my first ever buddy read! The book is very well written but taking up a hell of a lot of my time! We’re nearly halfway through and things are starting to blow up in the Gentlemen Bastards’ faces. I can only imagine it’s going to get even worse as we go on.

Ebook: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. I started this for one of my book clubs and I’m enjoying it but it’s not my usual type of read, so it’s taking me a while.

Audio book: Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly is downloaded on my phone though I haven’t actually started it yet. I’ve had this author on my radar for a while now and I’m very much looking forward to her fairytale retellings!

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

I’ve had Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd out from the library for literal months (yay for rolling renewals!) and I’m keen to finally start it. I read this author’s The Madman’s Daughter trilogy back around 2016 and I’m interested to see whether my tastes have changed and how this holds up in comparison.

What are you reading? 🙂