#AWW2021 Book Review: “Where Shadows Rise” by Amy Laurens

Title: Where Shadows Rise (Sanctuary #1)
Author: Amy Laurens
Genre: Fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 09/08/2021 – 1508/2021
Rating: 
★★★

Review: 

This is a good series opener, though I have to admit I was expecting a bit more. I’ll be up front and say that my main issue was I felt the world was a bit under-developed.

Sanctuary is supposed to be a literal fairyland, with fairies and unicorns, but I never really got a good sense of its depth or any mythos behind it.

I did feel the descriptions of the Valley, the dark opposite of Sanctuary, were more powerful, particularly towards the end as main character Edge begrudgingly fought to save someone she didn’t care for.

Edge, Gemma and Scott also read a lot older than thirteen, which also threw me a bit. I really doubt there are many thirteen-year-olds who know the word “incorrigible”, let alone use it. The only reason I learned it at fifteen was because it was in one of my lines in play!

Still, I have the second book on hand and I plan to continue with the series. I have a feeling that this is the type of series that will build and develop as it goes, and I’m looking forward to book two being a stronger read.


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

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Mini Book Reviews: Hidden By Jade by Celine Jeanjean, Tuesday Mooney Talks To Ghosts by Kate Racculia, This Will Be Funny Someday by Katie Henry

Sometimes I don’t really have a lot to say about a book. It doesn’t really warrant a full-length review. And so once again, I bring you, mini-reviews!


Hidden By Jade

by Celine Jeanjean
(Razor’s Edge #5)
Urban fantasy
★★★
The cover of Hidden by Jade by Celine Jeanjean. It shows an East Asian woman with pink hair and a swirling ball of magic in her right hand.

Apiya’s adventures continue in Book 5 of the Razor’s Edge Chronicles, and now her identity is known amongst the Mayak, but her standing among them remains up for debate. I really enjoyed the scenes within the Baku’s world and Ilmu’s memories, the descriptions of those scenes were fantastic. Particularly entering into the Ilmu’s memories, I thought that was a really cool concept. Also Apiya’s accidental taking of Mayak life and her reaction to that was done really well.

But I must say there was a great deal of talking in this book and I didn’t always feel that it was talking that moved the plot forward.

One thing I’ve felt a bit iffy about ever since the first book in this series is the use of non-Christian deities as purely fantasy/mythological figures, and there is quite a bit of that in this book.

Apiya’s choices at the end of the book were also a bit questionable. Yes, she was in a tight spot but she put Sarroch in an even worse one (well, maybe an equally bad one). Still, the ending of this one promises new realms and characters in the next one, and I’m looking forward to seeing where that goes.

(Thank you to the author for a gratis copy in exchange for a review)


Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts

by Kate Racculia
Contemporary/magical realism
★★★★

I want to start by saying that the title of this book is metaphorical, and thusly a bit misleading at the outset. There’s maybe one ghost, and there’s the possibility that she is all in Tuesday’s head.

This book has a charming cast of unique characters and I really enjoyed all of them. The plot became a little convoluted and ended up being not quite what I expected. I was hoping for some Ready Player One-style treasure hunting, and there was that, but it was really more a story about finding “your people” and letting go of the past.

While it wasn’t what I expected (honestly, between the title and the cover I was expecting a charming paranormal middle-grade story), I still found it really engaging and wanted to put aside work and other commitments to keep reading. I’m keen to look up Kate Racculia’s other books now.


This Will Be Funny Someday

by Katie Henry
Contemporary YA
★★★★
The cover of "This Will Be Funny Someday" by Katie Henry. there is a banana peel on a red background. The title is made to look like it has been written along the banana peel in pencil. The author's name is in yellow text at the bottom.

This book made me feel a lot of things. And isn’t that all you can ask of a book, really?

For a book about stand-up comedy, this book sure delves into a lot of heavy topics. Having said that, I think it manages to handle them pretty well. It does sometimes get a little bit heavy-handed in the delivery of its message (e.g. sometimes an entire scene would just be two characters talking about societal expectations of women, or white supremacy, or another Issue).

In particular I thought the author handled the abusive relationship aspect quite well. Main character Isabel has herself absolutely convinced that Alex needs her and loves her, even though it’s clear to everyone that isn’t the case. Seeing her evolve and become independent was fantastic.

It did bother me that for a while even when she was called out on the things she was doing wrong, it took Izzy a long time to recognise that. She wanted everything to go back to the way it was, and it seemed to come as a surprise when people pointed out their own perspectives and why going back would be weird for them now the truth was out.

Still, it ends on such a strong hopeful note and I felt so proud of how far Izzy had come. This is a really powerful book!


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#AWW2021 Book Review: “An Unforeseen Demise” by P. A. Mason

Title: An Unforeseen Demise (Trouble Down Under #1)
Author: P. A. Mason
Genre: Urban fantasy/cozy mystery
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 27/06/2021 – 30/06/2021
Rating: 
★★★★

Review: 

I have to admit that when I heard P. A. Mason was writing a series of witchy cozy mysteries set in Australia, I wasn’t actually expecting an American main character but I understand the choice. Mason’s audience is likely to be mostly Americans, or at least largely non-Australian, and an audience stand-in who can ask questions about kangaroos and our odd colloquialisms was probably necessary.

Kat Crowe is one of a family of witches who travels to Australia to take care of her Aunt Tabitha’s affairs after the older woman’s unexpected death. But Aunt Tabby’s death seems suspicious, not the least because as a seer, she should have seen it coming, and seemingly didn’t.

This book has all the elements you expect from a cozy mystery: small town, nosy neighbours, and residents who aren’t all they seem. I loved some of the witchy additions, like the “witchy web”, an app that connects the magical community but appears as a phony astrology app to non-magical people who stumble across it.

The solution to the mystery was somewhat bittersweet, but it more than answered the question of why no one knew about Aunt Tabby’s death before it happened.

I’m definitely looking forward to more of Kat’s adventures in future instalments!


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

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Book Review: “Marked By Azurite” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: Marked By Azurite (Razor’s Edge Chronicles #4)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Urban fantasy
Intended audience: YA/Adult
Dates Read: 06/06/2021 – 08/06/21
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

I received a free copy of this book from the author, but then I went out and bought a copy anyway, because I am continuing my streak of reading reviewing my “advance” copies at least a week after the book is released. Good work there, Emily.

I was surprised to realise on reflection that I think this might be my favourite book in this series so far. The reason for that is mostly that the events in this book feel a lot more personal. This one is really about Apiya finding out who she is.

In addition to that, we get some great backstories for Sarroch and Yue. I don’t want to spoil too much but let’s just say, Sarroch has made some bad, selfish choices in his long life, and Yue was kinda sorta almost… humanised? (For want of a better word, since she is not human). I’m really interested to see how this stuff pans out – Apiya as usual has got herself caught in the middle of things and bluffed her way to this point, but it’s hard to see how she’s going to persuade Yue to stop trying to kill her.

The revelations about Apiya’s true identity are going to have some pretty huge ramifications for the entire Mayak world and I’m also interested to see how that plays out, both within the Mayak community and in the wider negotiations between Mayak and Mundane. Definitely looking forward to the next book! Enough I might even manage to review that one before the official release date. 😂


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Book Review: “Lifted By Water” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: Lifted By Water (Razor’s Edge Chronicles #3)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Urban fantasy
Intended audience: YA/Adult
Dates Read: 11/04/2021 – 19/04/21
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I am the worst – this book has been out for two weeks and I am only just getting my ARC review done now.

Lifted By Water follows on from Bound By Silver, with Apiya procrastinating about tracking down her birth parents… but when she finally does, she finds herself with more questions than answers. Not to mention Mayak are going missing and in the hunt for them, Apiya turns up powers she never knew she had.

I felt this one took a little while to get going, but it picked up in the second half. I really loved the descriptions of the Baku’s powers of illusion. I felt like I was standing on a cliff as well! And the scenes on the dock are intriguing, leaving more to be discovered in the next book.

The wider difficulties of the Mayak “going public” in the Mundane world work really well as a backdrop for Apiya’s more personal adventures. I was getting a bit of an X-Men vibe with some politicians insisting that the Mayak should all be registered for the safety of the Mundanes. Let’s face it, that’s exactly how humanity would react, as is China and the US offering to “help” a much smaller nation with its magical population.


With thanks to Celine Jeanjean for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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Book Review: “Bound By Silver” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: Bound By Silver (Razor’s Edge Chronicles #2)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Urban fantasy
Intended audience: YA/Adult
Dates Read: 08/03/2021 – 16/03/21
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

I was right in my suspicions that I would probably be more into this book than its predecessor. While the first book had the hefty task of setting up the series, this one was free to start playing with the broad mythology and really get into the story arc.

I did for a while think this was more of a standalone without a huge link to the first book. The ghost plotline seemed separate from the Mayak/Mundane conflict, but in the second half, the link between these two issues became clear and was actually quite tightly plotted.

I really liked the interpersonal conflicts in this one, especially between Apiya, Chai and Sarroch. Chai feeling he had something to prove, particularly to Sarroch, along with not trusting Api’s feelings, and Sarroch’s awkwardness at being saved by a Touched all led to great, difficult dynamics between the three of them that I really enjoyed reading. And it was fun imagining Apiya’s dad doing a presentation for the Mayak.

I’m looking forward to what happens in the next book – things definitely ramped up at the end of this one and I’m really intrigued to see Apiya’s role in the new order of things (watch me being way too vague in attempts to not spoil things).


With thanks to Celine Jeanjean for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

Read my review of Book 1 in the Razor’s Edge series here.

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Book Review: “Touched By Magic” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: Touched by Magic (Razor’s Edge Chronicles #1)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Urban fantasy
Intended audience: YA/Adult
Dates Read: 25/02/2021 – 27/02/21
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I will admit that I am a little resistant to change. Having been a follower of Celine Jeanjean’s Viper and the Urchin series for several years, I was sad to see it come to an earlier this year, even as I was excited to see what Celine would write next. It’s going to be nigh impossible for me to not compare this new series to the former, so please bear with me.

This one did not grab me quite the same way the first Viper book did, but it was still a fun ride. I’ve been careful to be reading fairly light-hearted books lately since a few heavy stories left me in a reading slump for most of February, and this was exactly the type of story I was looking for.

It does feel like a series opener, with lots of explanations and a big set-up towards the end for future books, rather than standing too much on its own. But Apiya is a fun lead character (I think she and Rory from the Viper… series would get on famously). I really adored the relationship between Apiya and her parents, her dad especially. He’s such a nerd!

I think my favourite part of this book was towards the end when Apiya had to face the most powerful magical beings and defend herself and her actions throughout the book. It really felt like we had left the real world behind for something entirely different, and this was where I felt things really started to take off. This scene is where the setup for the second book really started, too, so I’m looking forward reading book two and seeing more of this new magical world.


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#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 Book Review: “The Blood Countess” by Tara Moss

Title: The Blood Countess (Pandora English #1)
Author: Tara Moss
Genre: Paranormal/urban fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 15/09/2020– 22/09/2020
Rating: 
★★★

Review:

You know when you really wish you enjoyed a book more than you did? Yeah, this was one of those.

There’s a lot in this book – ghosts, vampires, and zombies to name a few – and I can’t help but think it would have been better to introduce some of them later on. As it was, I didn’t really feel that all the supernatural elements got the introduction they deserved.

I enjoyed the glimpses into the NYC fashion scene, something I know Tara Moss writes of with experience. And I really enjoyed seeing Pandora research the BloodofYouth beauty cream and expose it. Maybe that’s because I’m a nerd like that and would do the same kind of digging.

I was excited when a sexy Civil War-era ghost showed up in Pandora’s new home. I’m a sucker for a ghost romance… but that all happened very quickly and didn’t really have any build-up, which was a bit disappointing. And speaking of lack of build-up, the main antagonist was introduced quite late in the piece and was then defeated really easily.

This is a series opener, and I have a feeling that now this book has done a lot of the setup, I could enjoy the subsequent books more. While I didn’t find this to be the most gripping YA paranormal, I haven’t entirely written off Pandora English just yet.


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

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#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 Book Review: “Blackbirch: The Beginning” by K. M. Allan

Title: The Beginning (Blackbirch #1)
Author:
K. M. Allan
Genre: Urban fantasy
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 04/01/20 – 07/04/20
Rating:
★★★

Review:

Quick disclaimer: K. M. Allan is a friend from the #6amAusWriters group on Twitter, and I received an ARC for free. I promise that neither of those facts have affected my review, though.

Witchcraft is my favourite form of magic, and the magick in Blackbirch definitely falls under that heading. From the start, Allan creates an almost other-worldly town in Blackbirch. It almost felt like the town wasn’t quite in the 21st century.

To be honest, my favourite character was Eve, the girl who’s something of an outcast because of her fascination with witchcraft and the town’s history. There are some hints at the end of the book as to where her character arc is likely to lead and I’m really looking forward to seeing that play out (without spoiling too much, I think it’s going to get messy).

None of that is to say the other characters weren’t interesting. It took me a little while to warm to Josh, mostly because he spends a large chunk of the novel being mopey and a bit of a stick in the mud. But there are reasons why he was doing that, which come out later. Once he was a bit more involved in the action, I was able to get more invested in him.

I am definitely jealous of Allan’s ability to write a climax – there’s a fantastic buildup to a confrontation in the woods that I really enjoyed.  And while most of the major plotlines are wrapped up, there are still plenty of opportunities for things to unfold in the coming books. I for one am really looking forward to it!

 


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Cover Reveal! Blackbirch: The Beginning by K. M. Allan

Hello everyone! I’m really proud to be helping out with this cover reveal today.

The #6amAusWriters group over on Twitter are very special to me and K. M. Allan is one of our members. I’m so excited that you’ll all get to read Blackbirch: The Beginning, when it comes out on February 17.

I’ve been hearing great things about it from the ARC readers who are ahead of me with reading it, and I’ve dived into the first chapter myself today.

And of course, it doesn’t hurt when a book has a cover as gorgeous as this one:


Argh, it’ so shiny! Can’t wait until I have a copy on my shelf!

Here’s the blurb:

Welcome to Blackbirch. It’s a place no one forgets. Except for Josh Taylor.

The fatal car crash took more than 17-year-old Josh’s parents. It stole his memories and returned him to his birthplace, Blackbirch, a tourist town steeped in a history of witchcraft.

Amongst friends he’s forgotten and a life he doesn’t want, Josh is haunted by nightmares so believable he swears the girl in his dreams is real. Kallie is so captivating he ignores her blood-stained hands, but he can’t overlook the blue glow summoned to her skin.

Kallie says it’s an ancient magic they share and a secret worth hiding, because as Josh discovers, they aren’t the only gifted ones.

To restore his memories and find the true cause of the car accident, he must learn what’s real. And what secrets Blackbirch has buried in its woods.

IF that sounds like your cup of tea, you can add it to Goodreads here. Pre-order links will be available soon.

Watch out for my review in the next week or two!