“Our mother the City is not a merciful mother.” // Review of “Court of Miracles” by Kester Grant

Title: Court of Miracles (The Court of Miracles #1)
Author: Kester Grant
Genre: Alternate history/retelling
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 23/08/2021 – 27/08/2021
Rating: 
★★★

Review: 

Don’t you hate it when the very thing that sold you on a book turns out to be the thing that disappoints you about it? That was definitely the case with this book. A Les Miserables fantasy-style retelling sounded absolutely my cup of tea. And yet, having now read the book, I felt the connections to Les Mis were tenuous at best. While the author is obviously entitled to take inspiration wherever she chooses, I’m not sure selling this as a retelling or alternate history Les Mis was the way to go.

I’ll admit I’ve never read Les Mis. My knowledge of it comes purely from the musical, which I know well enough to have spotted the lyrics cheekily peppered throughout this book. Maybe the setting here takes more inspiration from the original novel, but to be honest it felt like an original fantasy world more than nineteenth century Paris.

THAT SAID, in and of itself, I enjoyed the world that Grant established, and the characters. The writing style is quick and easy to digest. As much as I roll my eyes at love triangles, I’m a sucker for relationships like that between Eponine and the Dauphin, completely forbidden and yet has the potential to be really sweet in further books. I wasn’t quite as convinced by St Juste as a love interest. It seemed more forced, with lots of “I’m definitely not attracted to him, or so I tell myself” type sentences, when there was very little chemistry between them.

It probably says something that I’m sitting down to write this review a couple of weeks after reading the book, and apart from what I identified in my GoodReads updates, I find it hard to remember many of the specifics. It was fun and enjoyable at the time, but not memorable. And given the next book isn’t due out until 2023, I suspect I’m not going to worry about continuing on with the series.


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

“Look to the stars. Aim. Ignite.” // Review of “Geekerella” by Ashley Poston

Title: Geekerella (Once Upon a Con #1)
Author: Ashley Poston
Genre: Contemporary/retelling
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 28/08/2021 – 30/08/2021
Rating: 
★★★☆

Review: 

I don’t understand my reaction to this book. It was full of things that would annoy me in any other book, and yet, I was fully engaged, and devoured it. I even dreamed about it. The next day, I was still thinking about it.

And I’m not sure why.

My theory is that on some deeper level, I was harking back to my own days in fandom and feeling nostalgic. We’re in lockdown so maybe the nostalgia hit harder. I don’t know.

I liked Darien, the movie star “Prince Charming” of this retelling from the moment we met him. I think the fact that his nerdiness was a quieter, internal thing made it easier for me to relate to him than to Elle, whose fandom is all hardcore shipping and angry blogs. And because I warmed to Darien so quickly, I found Elle even more difficult because she was making assumptions about Darien that I as the reader knew to be false.

I also enjoyed the descriptions of rehearsals and being on a movie set, though honestly, I raised my eyebrows at the idea that any actors would be allowed to have their phones on them while they were filming. I know, I know, plot convenience.

It did bother me that all of the villains were cartoonishly nasty. That works in a Disney movie, not in a full-length contemporary novel.

It also bothered me that the entire romance was based on text messages. And unless I missed something, in the final scene, they’re kissing before they’ve even absolutely confirmed that each was the person the other was texting.

But for all that, the writing was addictive and I wanted to see these characters get together! I don’t know if I’ll continue the series but this was definitely a great read.


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

August 2021 Reading Wrap-up

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

With eleven books finished this month, this is not only a 2021 record, but the most I’ve read in one month in a really long time! Could it be the new lockdown having something to do with it? I certainly have more free time than I did this time last month. And I’m walking each day, giving me more time for audio books. Not that any of this would make me wish our new slew of COVID cases on anyone just for more reading time!

PAST MONTH’S READING:

Five book covers side by side: This will be funny someday by Katie Henry, I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara, They Dry by Jane Harper, Sadie by Courtney SUmmers and Happy Days by Samuel Beckett.
  1. Hidden By Jade (Razor’s Edge Chronicles #5) by Celine Jeanjean (urban fantasy – 3 stars – review) (read July, reviewed August)
  2. Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia (contemporary/magical realism– 4 stars – review) (read July, reviewed August)
  3. This Will Be Funny Someday by Katie Henry (contemporary YA – 4 stars – review)
  4. I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara (non-fiction/true crime – 3 stars – review)
  5. The Dry by Jane Harper (crime/thriller – 4 stars – review)
  6. Sadie by Courtney Summers (YA crime/thriller – 3 stars – review)
  7. Happy Days by Samuel Beckett (play script – unrated – not intending to review)
  8. Where Shadows Rise (Sanctuary #1) by Amy Laurens (YA fantasy – 3 stars – review)
  9. Paddington Helps Out by Michael Bond (children’s – 4 stars – not intending to review)
  10. Shadowblack (Spellsilnger #2) by Sebastien de Castell (YA fantasy – 4 stars – review forthcoming)
  11. Ferryman (Ferryman #1) by Claire McFall (YA fantasy/romance – 2.5 stars – review forthcoming)
  12. The Court of Miracles (A Court of Miracles #1) by Kester Grant (YA historical/retelling – 3 stars – review forthcoming)
  13. Geekerella by Ashley Poston (YA contemporary/retelling – 4 stars – review forthcoming)
Six book covers side by side. Left to right they are: Where Shadows Rise by Amy Laurens, Paddington Helps Out by Michael Bond, Shadowblack by Sebastien de Castell, Ferryman by Claire McFall, The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant and Geekerella by Ashley Poston.

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. Royal Readathon TBR
  2. Royal Readathon Mid-Month Update
  3. Royal Readathon Wrap-Up

FAVOURITE BOOKISH PHOTO:

I’ve really enjoyed the first two books in the Spellslinger series. These were the only two I had on hand when I took this photo, but I now have the rest of the series and I can’t wait to dive into book three.

a white hand holds up Spellslinger and Shadowblack by Sebastian de Castell. Spellslinger is on the bottom, it has a white and red spine with black text. Shadowblack is the same but in blue.

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

CURRENTLY READING:

The cover of The Performance by Claire Thomas.

Physical book: nothing at the moment.

Ebook: I have just started The Performance by Claire Thomas for book club. It’s technically the August book but our catch-up is not until September 5 so I have plenty of time!

Audio book: I’ve started tentatively dipping my toe into the horror genre, despite being a wimp most of the time. Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes was recommended for people of my scaredy-cat level, so I have started listening to it.

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

I’m keen to get started on Charmcaster by Sebastien de Castell, the third Spellslinger book. I’m also planning to spend September reading some more books and other resources relating to self-publishing so those are definitely high on the list.

What are you reading? 🙂

July 2021 Reading Wrap-up

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

A switch flicked within me this month. Suddenly book reviewing hasn’t felt like such a burden, and I’ve actually reviewed (or am intending to review) every book I read this month, rather than just the ARCs or challenge books I was required to. I got back into audio books and listened to two (and a half), after not being in the mood for months! I filmed a new booktube video and I have a TBR planned for an August readathon. It feels nice to have this mojo back! I’m definitely going to make the most of it while it lasts.

PAST MONTH’S READING:

Murderland by Pamela Murray, Devolution by Max Brooks, Dead Man’s Switch by Tara Moss, Ariadne by Jennifer Saint, Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia, Hidden by Jade by Celine Jeanjean.
  1. An Unforeseen Demise (Trouble Down Under #1) by P. A. Mason (urban fantasy/cozy mystery– 4 stars – review) (read June, reviewed July)
  2. Murderland (Manchester Murders #1) by Pamela Murray (crime fiction/thriller – 3 stars – review)
  3. Devolution by Max Brooks (survival horror – 4 stars – review)
  4. Dead Man’s Switch by Tara Moss (historical crime fiction – 4 stars – review)
  5. Ariadne by Jennifer Saint (historical fiction/mythology retelling – 2.5 stars – review)
  6. Tuesday Mooney Talks To Ghosts by Kate Racculia (mystery/paranormal – 3.5 stars – review forthcoming)
  7. Hidden By Jade by Celine Jeanjean (urban fantasy – 4 stars – review forthcoming)

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. May-July 2021 #AusReads Wrap-up

FAVOURITE BOOKISH PHOTO:

This is a combined reading/writing photo. My writing group and I had a weekend away during July, and I took this pile of books on crystal healing and witchcraft with me. I needed to some world-building for the urban fantasy I’m writing. Sitting in front of the fire over the weekend, I managed to flesh out my magical system AND write a chunk of the chapter where my main character brews her first potion!

A pile of books siting on a wooden chest. they are all on the topics of witchcraft and crystal healing. There are unpainted bricks in the background.

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

CURRENTLY READING:

The cover of I'll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara.

Physical book: Nothing on the go at the moment.

Ebook: This Will Be Funny Someday by Katie Henry. I am really enjoying this so far! Main character, Isabel, is coming out her shell, but she’s still got a long way to go. I’m rooting for her!

Audio book: I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara. I am about halfway through this and while it’s fascinating journalism, the fact that the narrative jumps back and forth in time means I am starting to lose track of some names and dates.

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

I’m honestly not sure, though it will be something from my Royal Readathon TBR, which is taking place this month. Maybe Geekerella by Ashley Poston.

What are you reading? 🙂

June 2021 Reading Wrap-up

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

We’re halfway through the year! Australia is currently in a weird situation, with various Local Government Areas in various states of lockdown, and my own state dealing with its first mask mandate, in spite of no current community transmission. Everything feels like it’s in a state of flux, but in amidst all of that, the books are still there for us.

PAST MONTH’S READING:

Butter Witch by Tess Lake, Marked By Azurite by Celine Jeanjean, Spellslinger by Sebastian de Castell, Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Neill, Music and Mirrors by Celine Jeanjean, An Unforeseen Demise by P. A. Mason.
  1. The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk (YA contemporary – 3.5 stars – review) (read May, reviewed June)
  2. Sky on Fire by Jessy Greyson (YA dystopian– 3.5 stars – review) (read May, reviewed June)
  3. Butter Witch by Tess Lake (urban fantasy/cozy mystery – 3 stars – not intending to review)
  4. Marked by Azurite (Razor’s Edge Chronicles #3) by Celine Jeanjean (urban fantasy – 4 stars – review)
  5. Spellslinger by Sebastian de Castell (YA fantasy – 4 stars – not intending to review)
  6. Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Neill (fantasy/magical realism – 3 stars – review)
  7. Music and Mirrors by Celine Jeanjean (historical fiction/retelling – 4 stars – review)
  8. An Unforeseen Demise (Trouble Down Under #1) by P. A. Mason (urban fantasy/cozy mystery– 4 stars – review forthcoming)

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. April Wrap-up and May TBR

FAVOURITE BOOKISH PHOTO:

Despite good intentions, I actually didn’t post any bookish photos on Instagram in June. They were all related to my writing, but I don’t think that should stop me from sharing one here, should it? The snippets I’ve been sharing have all been from my current urban fantasy project, Lucy Williams Is A Witch. This line is spoken by Lucy’s mentor, Grace, when she shows Lucy her potion book for the first time.

Two leather-bound books stand next to each other. the one on the left is a cream colour while the one on the right is brown. Next to the books are two small jars full of coloured liquid, one red, one blue. They have cork stoppers. There is an out-of-focus fire and fireplace in the background. The text reads "It's the most important recipe book in my collection" in curly font. Emily Wrayburn 2021 is in plain font in the top left corner. ⁠

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

CURRENTLY READING:

I don’t actually have anything on the go at the moment. I finished An Unforeseen Demise earlier today and am yet to start anything. I’ve been doing pretty well at keeping to just one book at a time, and I haven’t been in the mood for audio books, so nothing there either.

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

I will soon be starting Ariadne by Jennifer Saint for book club. It’s been on my radar for a while, but I admit the book club factor is the only reason I’m getting onto it this soon. I honesty have no idea what to expect from it or whether I will like it. I guess we’ll see!

What are you reading? 🙂

#AWW2021 “As a girl, the fairies came to me; they whispered in my dreams and left songs in my head. I went to the glen and found them there.” // Review of “Reluctantly Charmed” by Ellie O’Neill

Title: Reluctantly Charmed
Author: Ellie O’Neill
Genre: Magical Realism/Contemporary
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 26/05/2021 – 17/06/2021
Rating: 
★★★

Review: 

This is one of those books that’s hard to rate. 3 stars seems too generous for how I felt about it but anything less (even 2.5) feels harsh.

Honestly, the book’s title is a good description of how I felt about it. While it’s classified as magical realism, I felt it had a bit too much fantasy to qualify as such. But at the same time, not enough fantasy to be a proper fantasy book.

There’s a lot to like here – Kate McDaid is a relatable main character, and she and her group of closest friends make a fun group. The misunderstandings in the romantic subplot were quite obvious but it was still cute.

And the premise of an nineteenth century witch leaving a plea from the fairies for her twenty-first century niece to reveal step-by-step is an awesome premise, which worked well.

Where I started getting tripped up was how quickly Kate became SO famous. I could understand her going viral and becoming a bit of an Internet celebrity. But within two weeks of her starting to publish the Steps, she has the paparazzi following her around, and she’s appearing in gossip rags. Her parents are appearing on national breakfast TV because she doesn’t want to, and they’re hiring an agent and being asked to be the face of advertising campaigns. This just didn’t make sense to me.

I also felt the ending was quite unsatisfying. It all wrapped up in a bit of a rush, too much of a rush. It was all too easy and everything worked out in a couple of chapters. There’s a kidnapping that Kate simply runs away from virtually unscathed. Her choices to do with the Final Step don’t have any real repercussions, apart from one thing which actually should be a HUGE DEAL and is glossed over in a couple of paragraphs in the epilogue (sorry, trying not to be spoilery).

I’m sure this will be a properly charming read for some readers. It just didn’t work for me.


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

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

#AWW2021 #LoveOzYA Book Review – “Sky On Fire” by Jesse Greyson

Title: Sky On Fire
Author: Jesse Greyson
Genre: Dystopia
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 20/05/2021 – 25/05/2021
Rating: 
★★★☆

Review: 

Ahh. I was in the mood for a good dystopia and this definitely hit the spot in a lot of ways.

I loved that this was set in a specifically Australian climate-ravaged dystopia. Greyson is obviously drawing on her own knowledge of the Gold Coast when her characters navigate the city.

The world-building was strong enough to carry the story but didn’t get bogged down in details. It told me what I needed to know (solar flares, mutations) but left the rest to my imagination.

I also thought the central characters were really well done – they are all quite distinct and I never had any trouble knowing who was who.

Having said that, I was a little bit bothered that the only character who was either fat or disabled was the villain. While the manipulative, abusive mother was incredibly well-written, and I had genuine angry reactions to some of her actions, but there is a wider stereotype of disabled people as villains, and this plays into that.

Where the book started to fall down for me was in the plotting. I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt and wonder if I just missed a sentence here or there that would have explained things, but as it was, there were a few plot inconsistencies that bothered me. At one stage, Dante had an hour to obtain another dose of insulin for his mother, but then spent the day exploring. Earlier in the book, Dante trades with a gang for insulin, because the gang had already hit up the MegaPharm. But then later in the book, the main characters raid the MegaPharm for more. It seemed unlikely to me that in the events of the book, the pharmacy would have been able to restock.

Having said all of that, the book had a strong hopeful ending that I really liked. A book’s ending can make or break it for me, and in this case, it made it.


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

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

“Dreams didn’t follow logical, step-by-step patterns. They swirled, never taking you down a straight path.” // Review of “The Others Side of Perfect” by Mariko Turk

Title: The Other Side of Perfect
Author: Mariko Turk
Genre: Contemporary
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 25/05/2021 – 27/05/2021
Rating: 
★★★☆

Review: 

I was so excited to win an ARC of this book in a giveaway. There aren’t too many books that cater to us musical theatre nerds, so the fact that the MC was doing the school musical and that was a major part of the plot made me very keen!

I loved the content from the other musical theatre kids – it was kind of cool having the main character as an outsider and having those references explained, so that those readers less initiated into the world of musicals would be able to at least understand a bit. And reading about these teenagers who are drawn to theatre for the same reasons I am – that it’s a place that misfits can feel like they fit in somewhere.

I also loved the discussions about racism in ballet, and the juxtapositions between ballet and contemporary dance, and how they seek (or don’t) to challenge traditions. The reactions of the ballet mistress to Alina and her best friend Colleen when they called her out on racist casting where disappointingly realistic (defensiveness and anger and a rant about “tradition”).

Unfortunately, I found that the main character spent far too much of the book being self-absorbed and not recognising how much she was hurting other people. Yes, that was part of her arc, and yes, people called her out on it, but it just went on for too long. I stopped sympathising.

I did find that the process of mounting and producing the musical seemed a little unrealistic, but I was able to accept that because they plot needed to move forward somehow. I think I was possibly just not quite the right reader for this book.


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

May 2021 Reading Wrap-up

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

Despite feeling like Six of Crows took forever to get through, I actually had a really great reading month in May, with a total of seven books. That being said, I didn’t rate any of them above 3.5 stars, but that’s not to say that I didn’t find them enjoyable and engaging.

PAST MONTH’S READING:

The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte, Un-cook Yourself by Nat’s What I Reckon, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  1. Lifted By Water by Celine Jeanjean (urban fantasy – 3 stars –review) (read April, reviewed May)
  2. Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow (MG fantasy – 4 stars – review (read April, reviewed May)
  3. The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte (YA dystopia/fantasy – 2 stars – review)
  4. Uncook Yourself by Nat’s What I Reckon (memoir/self-help – 3 stars – not intending to review)
  5. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (fantasy – 3 stars – not intending to review)
  6. Down Among The Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2) by Seanan MacGuire (fantasy/magical realism – 3 stars – not intending to review)
  7. Underneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children #3) by Seanan MacGuire (fantasy/magical realism – 3 stars – not intending to review)
  8. Sky on Fire by Jesse Greyson (YA dystopia – 3.5 stars – review forthcoming)
  9. The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk (YA contemporary – 3.5 stars – review forthcoming)
Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire, Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire, Sky on Fire by Jesse GReyson, The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk

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. April Wrap-up and May TBR

FAVOURITE BOOKISH PHOTO:

I struggled with Six of Crows a bit, and I have to admit it didn’t quite live up to the hype for me. But it was good to discuss thoughts with other readers in the comments on this photo. That’s why I love the bookish communities on various social media platforms so much.

A black and white photo of a hand holding up a Kindle. The cover of Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows is displayed on the screen.

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

CURRENTLY READING:

Physical book: Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell. A friend loaned this to me months ago, and I’m finally sitting down with it. I think it’s going to be a fun, quirky YA fantasy.

Ebook: Nothing at the moment.

Audio book: Butter Witch by Tess Lake. While the title is a bit unfortunate (the events of the story involve a butter sculpting competition), so far this is quite entertaining. A friend and I spotted it together and both bought it. We’re planning to read it this week and then get together to talk about it.

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

I’ve got Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Neill out from the library. I’m hoping I will be charmed by this one. I’m not sure whether there are actual fairies involved or whether it’s more the suggestion of them, but either way, I’m here for Irish folklore in the modern day.

What are you reading? 🙂

#AWW2021 #LoveOzYA“We begin as we end; we end as we begin. It’s the middle we must hold onto ” // Review of “The Vanishing Deep” by Astrid Scholte

Title: The Vanishing Deep
Author: Astrid Sholte
Genre: Dystopia
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 27/04/2021 – 02/05/2021
Rating: 
★★

Review: 

Please be warned, this review may be a bit spoilery at the end.

Last year, I tried reading Astrid Scholte’s Four Dead Queens but decided to DNF it. At the time I though it was a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”, but now I’m thinking maybe me and Astrid Scholte’s writing just don’t mix.

Some of it is personal preference, like the dual first person narratives, something I am never a fan of. At first, I didn’t even realise I’d switched to another character’s POV and was very confused.

I never particularly warmed to the two main characters, which made it really hard to be invested in the book at all. I really didn’t care for their romance, which I was supposed to believe took place in a single 24-hour period. I can understand being attracted to someone immediately, but the whole “I can’t get her out of my head” and “she’s so beautiful”… eh.

I especially had trouble with Lor, his one bit of angst got so repetitive! And the twist about him at the end wasn’t a surprise to him, so it felt odd that everything had been told to me in just such a fashion to not point me in that direction.

At least with Tempest, I could at least admire her devotion to her sister and family, even if I didn’t really like her.

The other problem I had was the world-building. None of it really made much sense (this was the same issue I had with Four Dead Queens). I could buy that the resurrected person was linked to their Warden via the Warden’s heartbeat, but given that the whole issue was the dead person’s heart was weakened and they could only be revived once, it didn’t make any sense that just stopping the Warden’s heartbeat instead would mean that the resurrected person could go on living after their twenty-four hours. And I had other issues, too, but that was the main one.

On top of all this, the ending felt quite flat with a unimpressive villain who disappeared without a word at the end. I wanted to really like this one but there were too many things that didn’t work for me.


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

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram