Book Review: “Bitter Falls” by Rachel Caine

Title: Bitter Falls (Stillhouse Lake #4)
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre:
Thriller
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 13/01/2020 – 17/01/2020
Rating:★☆

Review:

I’m not sure if this is the last book in the Stillhouse Lake series or not (a few things at the end made me feel it might be), but either way, I think it is the last one I will read.

The depiction of the PTSD all of the Proctors are experiencing is really well done. There’s a scene early on during an active shooter drill at the kids’ schools, and it was particularly heartbreaking seeing Connor’s reaction.

I also thought the cult was depicted well, including the self-proclaimed prophet who lead the group, the way many women were the most stout believers, and the whole setup itself. The action sequences at the end of the book are well done, as usual. There is one explosion that is particularly chilling, knowing what its intended purpose was even if it didn’t achieve it.

If I had realised that the case Gwen is working on in this book was closely connected to the events of the previous one, I might have re-read it beforehand. As it was, being eight months between instalments, I didn’t remember all the ins and outs and so I felt a bit lost. It’s not as connected to Wolfhunter River as Killman Creek is to Stillhouse Lake, but I would recommend having the events of Book 3 fresh in your mind.

I also couldn’t help feeling frustrated with some of the decisions the characters made, particularly running into things without solid plans, and in contradiction to what law enforcement has advised them. I know that without them doing things like this, there is no story, and that it was quite in character for Gwen, but it reached the point where I couldn’t suspend my disbelief anymore.

All this meant that I was never especially keen to pick the book up, and that I wasn’t terribly engaged when I did. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic series, and Stillhouse Lake/Killman Creek as a duology are definitely among my favourite thrillers ever. But as I mentioned at the top of the review, I think I’ve reached my limit with this series.


Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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Emily’s Top 12 Books of 2019

This year I hit on a better way to do my top books of the year post. In past years, I’ve always looked at my GoodReads yearly challenge page in December and tried to narrow down a top ten for the year. Often the books at the end of the year were fresh in my mind but memories of the ones from earlier were starting to fade. It always felt weird having mostly books from the last few months in such a wrap-up post.

That’s why during 2019, I’ve kept a list of my favourite book each month as the year went along, so I can safely say these were my favourite books of the year, even if I sometimes can’t remember why. (Except for really mind-blowing favourites, the details tend to fade for me).

So without further ado, here are Emily’s Top 12 Books of 2019:

January:

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. The prose in this book is spectacular all the way through, but nothing beats the chapters where Lazlo and Sarai fell in love over the course of a shared dream. *swoon*

February:

Famous Last Words by Katie Alender. This was such a fun, ghostly book! It reminded me that I enjoy ghost stories (as long as they’re not too scary). It was also a fun thriller, which is what I needed after all the SFF.

March:

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray. Mostly, I loved this book because of its forbidden romance element in the Russia-verse, but the whole book was so entertaining! And the audio book is so well performed by Tavia Gilbert.

April:

I have to say it’s a tie between Ten Thousand Skies Above You and A Million Worlds With You by Claudia Gray because I couldn’t get enough of this series, even when it was a bit predictable. Honourable mention to Romanov by Nadine Brandes because even though I didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped, it made me think a lot about the real Romanovs and got under my skin.

May:

The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate. This was a fun, twisty dystopian, with an ending that left me wanting more. I’m not sure if there will actually be a second book but I sure hope so, because that ending was quite something!

June:

The Diviners by Libba Bray. This had so many things I like – old-timey New York City (it’s set during Prohibition), ghosts, serial killings and occult mischief. And it was just the right amount of scary. Not to mention January LaVoy does such a great job on the audio version, really bringing this whole world to life.

July:

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis– maybe this is because of nostalgia? Even though I never read the books as a child, I did watch the BBC adaptation an awful lot. I really need to get back to my plan to read the rest of the Narnia books.

August:

Women of Wasps and War by Madeleine D’Este. I read this nearly all in one sitting. It was so powerful and made me feel a lot of things. It explored societal privilege in detail and I particularly liked how D’Este examined the way you can love an individual and still recognise they are part of the oppressive system.

September:

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I’d been looking forward to this book for a while by the time it was released. It took me a little while to get into it but I eventually realised that was because I was reading it in small doses. It needs your full and undivided attention. I loved learning about Mexican mythology, and the writing is poetry!

 

October:

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg. Almost-human robots in a dystopian Disneyland. What’s not to love? This was fast-paced and incredibly fun! I was worried I had hyped it up to myself too much, but it lived up to my expectations! Now I want a sequel where the robots stage a revolution!

November:

Portable Curiosities by Julie Koh. I’ve become more interested in short story collections in the past few months and this was definitely a quirky, enjoyable one. Sometimes I had to think about the stories before I figured out what they were really saying, and there were a few that I didn’t get at all, but the satire was really entertaining.

December:

A Holiday by Gaslight by  Mimi  Mathews. I was in such a readinig slump and this delightful little Victorian romance was exactly what I needed to pull me out. It had everything I wanted in a romance and loved the characters.

You  can see the full list of books I read this year at my GoodReads 2019 Challenge page.

Here’s to more amazing books in 2020! Can’t wait to hang out with you all some more!

 

Introducing #StartOnYourShelfathon! Dec 2019 – Dec 2020

Hello friends! Blogging has kind of fallen by the wayside for the rest of the year. I have two more books to read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, plus one more general one, and they are the only ones I’ll be reviewing between now and January.

I’ve ended up in a bit of a reading funk, brought on by end-of-year exhaustion, a couple of books I didn’t enjoy, along with some other life-related stresses that don’t help. That meant I fell completely off the bandwagon with the Triwizard Readathon from a few posts ago, but that’s okay.

Anyway, I’m here to talk about a year-long readathon I’ll be participating in next year! Technically it’s already started, but it’s unlikely I’ll manage much for it between now and January 01.

#StartOnYourShelfAthon is all about reading the books you already own, be they physical or electronic. It’s hosted by The Quiet Pond and you can read all the info here.

What I appreciate about readathons like this one is that they have a lot of wriggle room for setting your own goals. This challenge ties in with some goals I was already planning to set myself for 2020, and this way, I’ll have some public accountability.

So what are those goals you ask? Easy!

  • Read 20 Australian books – this will tie in with my Australian Women Writers Challenge, as well as give me plenty of fuel for my Booktube Channel, where I talk about Aussie books.
  • Read 10 Discworld novels – I’ve had a whole bunch of Discworld novels sitting on my shelf that I bought off a friend who was going overseas… years ago. I’ve only read a few. And it’s ridiculous, because I know I enjoy them.
  • Read 10 other ebooks – I have all the unread books on my Kindle in a collection together, so it’s easy for me to see what I have and haven’t read, and I’ve got plenty to choose from.

I usually read about 75-90 books in a year, so aiming for 40 challenge books still gives me plenty of room for new releases, library books, that sort of thing.

In the coming weeks, I’ll set up a separate page here on the blog to keep track of the titles I read for the challenge. I don’t think I’m quite up for a star chart, so  a page will have to do.

Come join in the fun if you feel so inclined!

#HocusPocusReadathon – Wrap-up Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Down The TBR Hole #3

Down the TBR hole banner

Welcome to the Down The TBR Hole meme. I have stolen this idea off Sofii at A Book. A Thought. because it seemed like a great way to get my TBR down. Mine isn’t as out of control as some of yours 😋but it is probably still worth trying to get it down a bit. I’d love your comments on any of my decisions.

I actually have my GoodReads TBRs sorted into standalones and series, with another separate shelf for books I plan to read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. For purposes of these posts, I’m going to start with the standalones shelf (which is effectively the want-to-read shelf on GoodReads).

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!

Em & Em by Linda Budzinski

Pros: it’s pretty short, the blurb makes it sound like there’s some interesting suspense going on.

Cons: on GoodReads it is mostly shelved as romance and the publisher is a romance imprint as well, which means the romance might actually overshadow the things that sound interesting. It also sounds like maybe it gets a bit preachy?

~~ Decision:  GO ~~

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

While I’m not 100% sure that I would enjoy this book, I think I have to keep it on my list. I love fractured fairytales and the idea of a boy propelled into a fairytale world that reflects the fact that he is in mourning for his mother, sounds really intriguing. The reviews are mixed, but I want to make up my own mind.

~~ DECISION:  KEEP ~~


We Were Liars
by E. Lockhart

This book has really mixed reviews, but I think this is another case of wanting to find out for myself what the book is like. The blurb gives very little away, but it sounds like it’s  YA psychological thriller? And I like those! Also sounds like it might be a bit literary, which I am less into. But I think I’ll keep this one just so I can eventually find out what everyone is talking about.

~~ DECISION: KEEP ~~

The Last of the Spirits by Chris Priestley

So I enjoy a spin an old story as much as the next person, and this version of A Christmas Carol from the perspective of two street urchins pushed aside by Scrooge sounds quite intriguing. It’s also only a short book and my library has a copy, but… I just don’t find myself pulled in by the description.

~~ DECISION: GO ~~

Time Storm by Steve Harrison

Ehh… time travel isn’t my favourite and the idea of a boatload of eighteenth or nineteenth century convicts figuring out twenty-first century Sydney honestly doesn’t appeal to me… even if the main character’s name is Kit, which is one of my favourite names, and even if he is a gentleman.

~~DECISION: GO ~~

TODAY: 2 keep, 3 go.

ALL TIME: 6 keep, 9 go.

What do you think of these choices? Have you read any of these titles? Would you have chosen differently?

See you next time!

Down The TBR Hole #2

Down the TBR hole banner

Welcome to the Down The TBR Hole meme. I have stolen this idea off Sofii at A Book. A Thought. because it seemed like a great way to get my TBR down. Mine isn’t as out of control as some of yours 😋but it is probably still worth trying to get it down a bit. I’d love your comments on any of my decisions.

I actually have my GoodReads TBRs sorted into standalones and series, with another separate shelf for books I plan to read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. For purposes of these posts, I’m going to start with the standalones shelf (which is effectively the want-to-read shelf on GoodReads).

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!

A Curious Tale of the In Between by Lauren DeStefano

Just looking at the cover, I was nearly ready to get rid of this one, but then I re-read the synopsis, and it has ghooooosts! (Probably should have figured that from the reflection with no figure above the water). I love ghosts! And going by the reviews, it is a really charming but emotional MG read. So I’m going to keep this one.

~~ Decision: KEEP ~~

Ash by Malinda  Lo

On revisiting, this one… just doesn’t sound that interesting. My friends’ reviews seem to suggest that while the writing is very good, the plot meanders a bit.  And fairytale retellings are so popular now that if I want to find a lesbian Cinderella, there’s probably another one to  choose.

~~ Decision: GO~~

Mortal Musings by Arai Glazki

Aghh, that cover is so cute. But I feel like I’ve read things very similar to this since I first added it to my TBR. While I have enjoyed modern day stories with characters from Greek mythology in the past, I’m not sure it’s really my thing anymore. Also I think there’s probably more sexy times in this one than I generally prefer. So I’m going to let this one. go.

~~ Decision: GO ~~

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

I don’t think this is quite my thing. I’m not terribly into Victorain comedy-style stuff and the blurb gives me vibes of Gail Carriger’s Soulless, which was not one of my favourites. There are many other Victorian murder mysteries waiting in the wings that I would rather pick up.

~~ DECISION: Go ~~

The Fantastic Fable of Peter Able by Natalie Grigson

Oh man. I’d love to keep this. It sounds very clever – the story of what a fictional character does once his series has wrapped up and he is no longer bound by a plotline… but the reviews aren’t great and when I checked the preview, I wasn’t impressed (it was all EXPOSITION!!!). Also I often miss allusions to other works of literature, and the author says in her own review that there are lot of those.

~~ DECISION: Go ~~

TODAY: 1 keep, 4 go.

(I was rather ruthless today, wasn’t I?)

ALL TIME: 4 keep, 6 go.

What do you think of these choices? Would you have chosen differently?

See you next time!

“I have a story I was meant to live. And not even you can unwrite it.” // Review of “Romanov” by Nadine Brandes

Title: Romanov
Author: Nadine Brandes
Genre:
Historical fantasy
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 17/04/2019 – 19/04/2019
Rating: ★★★

Review:

Ah man. I was approved for this ARC back in November 2018 and I’d been really looking forward to it. I’d hyped it up a lot in my head. So imagine my disappointment when I re-read the blurb when I was about 20% into the book and realised that I had totally misread it the first time, and the reason it wasn’t quite meeting my expectations was beceause I was stupidly expecting something that was never promised to me.

For some reason I got into my head that the execution of the Romanov family would happen fairly early on, and that the book would be about Anastasia being on the run through the Russian wilderness.

There is far less adventuring than that. A good half of the book takes place before the execution, and depicts the exile of the Romanov family in Impatiev House. Apart from the occasional mention of spells, this first half felt like it was straight historical fiction. The fantasy is barely there. Then in the second half, the pacing speeds up the nth degree and everything is about spells and spellwork. It is almost two different books, and it was a little jarring.

In terms of characters, I really enjoyed the close-knit family dynamic of the Romanovs. I enjoyed the cheeky Alexei, and I actually was pretty into the forbidden romance between Grand Duchess Maria and Bolshevick soldier Ivan, which I learned after reading is actually historically accurate.

But apart from that, the characters all felt.. superficial, I guess. A bit shallow. I didn’t really buy the romance between Anastasia and Zash at all, except for one or two moments. And even I with my limited knowledge know that Tsar Nikolai II was not the loving, kind, beneficient ruler devoted to the Russian people that he is presented as here. I want to give benefit of the doubt, because it is from Anastasia’s first person perspective and she may well have viewed her father that way, but it would have been good to see her delve into the whys and wherefores of the revolution a bit more.

Still, I read the vast majority of it in one day, so take from that what you will. I have a copy of Fawkes, Nadine Brandes’ other historical fantasy, which I still intend to check out.


Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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Down The TBR Hole #1

Down the TBR hole banner

Welcome to my first Down The TBR Hole post. I have stolen this idea off Sofii at A Book. A Thought. because  it seemed like a great way to get my TBR down. Maybe. Mine isn’t as out of control as some of yours 😋but it is probably still worth trying to get it down a bit. I don’t know how often I’ll have a chance to post these, but I’d love your comments on any of my decisions.

I actually have my GoodReads TBRs sorted into standalones and series, with another separate shelf for books I plan to read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. For purposes of these posts, I’m going to start with the standalones shelf (which is effectively the want-to-read shelf on GoodReads).

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!

Treason, Treason! by Josh Langston

This is an alternate history where the United States never existed and North America is still under British rule. In 2012, two scientists have invented time travel and go back to the War of Independence in the hopes of finding George Washington and helping him secure a better future.  I’ve had it on my TBR since 2014! And I actually do have the ebook already, and I’ve read the first chapter or two and enjoyed it.

~~ Decision: KEEP ~~

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas

I already own a copy of this one, too! And it was highly recommended to me by some friends. I’m not sure that it will be exactly my cup of tea (I suspect it might get a little too deep and philosopohical), but I am definitely interested enough to keep it on my TBR.

~~ Decision: KEEP ~~

The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi

I read John Scalzi’s “Red Shirts” a few years back and wasn’t a big fan, but I always said I wanted to try another of his books. Having said that, the way the blurb of this one is written on GoodReads, it sounds like the humour is similar, and that’s one of the things I didn’t really click with in Red Shirts. I don’t think I’ll worry about this one.

~~ Decision: GO ~~

Mademoiselle Chanel by C. W. Gortner

I was interested in this book as a fictionalised version of Coco Chanel’s rise through the fashion world. But to be honest, I don’t actually have that much of an interest in fashion or in Chanel personally so I’m not really sure why I sought this out. I can’t see myself being terribly interested in this.

~~ Decision: GO ~~

None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio

This is a book about a girl who discovers she was born intersex, a fact that gets around her whole school before she is able to properly process this herself. There are very few books that depict this experience and I try to read about diverse experiences, so this is on is staying on my TBR.

~~ Decision: KEEP ~~

I was going to do ten, but I’ve already had this post in draft form for a week and I want to get it posted, dammit! Haha. I guess 3 keeps and two goes is not too bad! I’ll keep whittling away at it through these posts whenever I get the chance.

See you next time!

Book Review: “Wolfhunter River” by Rachel Caine

Title: Wolfhunter River (Stillhouse Lake #3)
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre:
Thriller
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 11/04/2019 – 17/04/2019
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Back in 2017, I devoured books one and two in this series in four days. I absolutely loved them, so I was really looking forward to the long-awaited third instalment. It didn’t quite deliver on the fronts I hoped it would, but it was still a good read overall.

At the heart of the novel is the Proctor family, along wtih Sam Cade, trying to move on with their lives post-Melvin Royal. Their pasts still haunt them in ways they could never imagine, and there are betrayals lurking around every corner. I enjoyed this character-driven stuff even as I was a bit disappointed that the suspense was lacking.

The crime story and the suspense really picked up in the last third. Up until the 60% mark, I was thinking that not much had really been happening plot-wise, but there was enough in that last third to make up for the rest. It did get a bit complicated and I had to remember who a lot of different people were. A few different sub-plots all came together, so there was a lot to keep track of.

I suspect that this is something of a bridging book between the original Melvin Royal duology and future crime-solving instalments. I am definitely interested to see if/how this series continues.


Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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Friday Five: 5 Bookish Snacks

Hello everyone! Welcome to my first Friday Five post. I’m joining Molly from Molly’s Madness in this meme. I’ve seen various iterations of Friday Five around the Internet, but this one is book-themed.

This week’s topic: Top five reading snacks

This was a tricky topic as I tend not to allow myself too many snacks while doing things like reading. My problem is I graze mindlessly and next thing I know I’ve polished off an entire block of chocolate or something. But these are the things I would choose if that wasn’t an issue.

5. Pretzels

If you’re looking for something savoury but don’t want anything greasy that will get fingerprints all over your book, pretzels are a good alternative to crisps. I could easily polish off a whole packet though I’m supposed to watch my salt intake, so I’d have to just pour myself a small bowl and ration it over my reading session.

4 . Cheese and crackers

This can be anything from Jatz and Homeband Tasty to fancy fruit and nut crackers with Brie or Camembert. Probably a good match with some character-driven literary fiction. Hey, now there’s an idea for a blog series: matching snacks to books as you do meals with wine.

3. Chocolate

I mean, duh. Bonus if it’s the ones with different flavoured cremes in the middle. I don’t know why, but Cadbury Roses is the vibe I’m getting when I think books + chocolate.  Though in googling that link I discovered they’ve changed a bunch of flavours and the wrappers, so it’s possible this reading experience would be wholly disappointing now.

2. Fresh fruit

Things like grapes or strawberries are particularly good because you can have a bowl full of them and just grab some whenever you need. Plus, it’s totally healthy! (Shhh, sugar? What sugar?)

1. Hot beverage

I usually do actually have a cuppa of some sort with my while I’m reading. I’m mostly a coffee in the morning, tea for the rest of the day type of person. I used to drink a lot more hot chocolate but I think maybe the combination of milk and it being very sweet makes it kind of hard on my stomach nowadays.