#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!

“Potentially evil. Potentially good, too, I suppose. Just this huge powerful potentiality waiting to be shaped.” // Review of “Good Omens” by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

Title: Good Omens
Author: Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Genre: Urban fantasy
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 04/08/19 – 11/08/19
Rating: ★★★

Review:

Well, this is a bit awkward. From what everyone’s been saying, I was expecting this to be a 5 star read. And it definitely started off that way. But after a while, I just wished I was reading a Discworld book instead.

There is definitely a fascinating premise here: what happens if the child destined to bring about Armageddon, rather than being evil, is just… basically a good kid?

I think my main issue was that there were a lot of characters, and most of them could have been done without, and the same story still told. I often felt like characters were being introduced just to give the authors a chance to be funny, such as with the Other Four Horsemen. There were pages devoted their conversations and they didn’t even make it to Armageddon.

I honestly feel you could have just had the Crowley and Aziraphale scenes and the Adam and Them scenes, and had roughly the same story. Everyone else I found a bit superfluous.

I do wonder if some of this comes from the fact that I have never clicked with Neil Gaiman’s writing. While it is not written in such a way that you can point to certain parts and say “Gaiman wrote that bit” or “Pratchett wrote that section”, perhaps the Gaiman influence is what put me off? I have always enjoyed Discworld and as I said, reading Good Omens made me wish I was reading a Discworld I haven’t read yet (and there are stll a lot of those).


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WWW Wednesday – 21 August 2019

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

Due to illness, other commitments and then a three-week overseas holiday, it’s been over a month since I last did a WWW post. July wasn’t much of a reading month but I’ve been making up for that in August so here is everything I’ve read since mid-July.

What have you recently finished reading?

Cupid’s Match by Lauren Palphreyman, which did take some rather large liberties with Greek and Roman mythology (what has Pandora got to do with the Seven Deadly Sins, a Christian construct, for example?) but it was kind of fun regardless.I gave it three stars and reviewed it here.

Mother Tongue by Julie Mayhew took me a while to get through. It’s written in a very disconnected style and it didn’t really go anywhere? Here’s my review.

I stood in a second-hand shop in New York City and read The Book With No Pictures by B. J. Novak. My partner had told me about it before so I was interested to finally see it. It was quite funny. I can imagine kids loving it.

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden was next. It took me a while to get through. It’s a MG and I guess I wasn’t the target audience really. I was hoping I would find it creepier than I did. I did find the narrator’s voice a bit grating, which didn’t help.

I finished Cleaning House by Jeanne G’fellers the following day. I loved the basis in Appalachian folklore but I found the narrative itself a little too repetitive. But if you like quiet, character-driven folklore-y/witchy stories, then this is definitely for you. Here’s my review.

Next I read Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and… wasn’t that impressed? I mean, I gave it three stars. But the way everyone talks about it, I was expecting to give it five. And I honestly thought at the start that I would, because the start is great. But then it got to dragging. Anyway, I have a full review scheduled, so keep an eye out for that.

For something completely different, I followed that with Women of Wasps and War by Madeleine D’Este, which was un-put-down-able gritty feminist fantasy and my favourite book so far this month.

Finally, I finished A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which was okay, but I was definitely skimming by the end. I know a lot of people love it but I think a lot of those same people read this as children, which I think would make the difference.

I also posted reviews of Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray and The Nowhere Emporium by Ross McKenzie since my last post.

What are you currently reading?

I only just finished A Wrinkle In Time this evening, so I haven’t started a new book yet.

What do you think you will read next?

I have The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis audio book  to put on my phone. And I really want to start Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Morena-Garcia. I’m getting behind on my Australian Women Writers Challenge, though, so that also needs to be a priority.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

 

 

 

“It’s all a mix here in Appalachia.” // Review of “Cleaning House” by Jeanne G’Fellers

Title: Cleaning House (Appalachian Elementals #1)
Author: Jeanne G’Fellers
Genre: Queer fantasy
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 18/07/19 – 03/08/19
Rating: ★★★

Review:

There is a lot to really like in this book. I have realised over the past year or so that I much prefer the homey, witchy kind of fantasy with personal stakes over epic sword-and-sorcery save-the-whole-world kind of fantasy. Cleaning House very much falls into the former category, with its blend of Appalachian folklore and witchcraft with Chrsitianity and other spiritual elements. I really enjoyed Cent’s family group, and how they were tied to each to each other throughout centuries of iterations. I also really loved Cent’s Chicago friend, Betty, and how they supported each other.

I did find that the story itself dragged, as so much of the book is given to world-building and the history of the characters (they have a long history). I know that this is a matter of personal preference as other readers will love the slow-moving narrative exploring those relationships. Another thing where personal preference probably affected my enjoyment is that I prefer to read about characters falling in love and getting together… an established relationship such as Cent and Stowne’s is less interesting to me, even if they are rediscovering each other.

Long story short, while parts of this book were right up my alley, other aspects of it just weren’t rewlly my thing. I’m pretty sure the right reader will love this.


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Book Review: “Cupid’s Match” by Lauren Palphreyman

Title: Cupid’s Match
Author: Lauren Palphreyman
Genre: Urban fantasy/romance
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 07/07/19 – 15/07/19
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I am a fan of ancient-gods-in-modern-times type stories, so I was definitely interested when I saw this one available on Netgalley. Is one of those books where I really enjoyed parts of it, but there were other aspects I had qualms about, enough to affect my enjoyment.

The romance is where I felt the book’s main strength lay. While I did actually spend a fair chunk thinking/hoping it was going to take a different direction, it built the relationship between Lila and Cupid quite well. They had a decent amount of chemistry and there was certainly some entertaining banter between them.

I did feel some of the plotting was a bit weak. For example, after a character jumps off a building in the height of passion (don’t worry, he survives), rather than being completely horrified and upset, his classmates all decide they should still go to a house party that night as planned, because… it’s whathe would have wanted or something? (Or, because the author needed the characters to be at that party, because it was plot relevant, regardless of whether it made sense.)

The policy documents for the Cupid Matchmaking Agency, supposedly written two or three millenia ago, were written in modern-day corporate speak, which was amusing, but didn’t make much sense. And in her nightmare world, Pandora faces off with physical manifestations of the Seven Deadly Sins, a Christian construct.

The book does rely on the main character being kept in the dark about certain things until the other characters are ready for her to know and that got a bit tedious at times. Once that reveal came about, did enjoy the build up to the climax, even if the day seemed a little too easily won in the end.

Look, basically, this is one of those books that’s fine and entertaining for a while but ultimately not that memorable.


(Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

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WWW Wednesday – 03 July 2019

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

What have you recently finished reading?

After taking a month to get through one audio book, I finished two this week! First was Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray. I didn’t love it as much as the first book but it definitely had its moments. Haven’t decided whether to continue the series on audio or grab the paperback of Book 3.

Next, I listened to The Nowhere Emporium by Ross McKenzie, which was a sort of middle-grade version of The Night Circus. I tend to enjoy anything that’s full of whimsical magic rooms, so I enjoyed this one.

No physical books finished this week but I did post my review for Beau and Bett by Kathryn Berla. Click the title to read it.

What are you currently reading?

I am about halfway through the ARC of Mother Tongue by Julie Mayhew. It’s well-written but not the easiest read so I am taking a bit of a break from it.

In the meantime, I am reading Cupid’s Match by Lauren Palphreyman, which… I mean. I can see why mythology purists are upset about it. But I’m just enjoying it for what it is. I’m not even sure I’m really seeing it as a mythological-characters-in-the-modern-day story so much as a general urban fantasy. It’s fun.

What do you think you will read next?

After promising last week that I would finally continue with The Chronicles of Narnia, I have The Horse and His Boy audio book from the library and ready to be copied onto my phone. Just need to get around to it.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

 

 

 

P. S. If you’re keen to read an excerpt of my current WIP, come on over to my writing blog to see what I’m working on.

Book Review: “Sugar Spells” by Lola Dodge

Title: Sugar Spells (Spellwork Syndicate #2)
Author: Lola Dodge
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Target audience: NA (upper YA?)
Date Read: 30/10/18 – 06/11/18
Rating: ★★★

I have a pretty terrible memory for the details of books, and I read the first one back in March. But I’m pretty sure I liked this one even more than the first!

Lola Dodge’s culinary descriptions continued to make me drool and once again, the cover is really stunning. The way Anise’s magic is infused with the baking was also described in detail and Dodge was able to expand on the magic system she established in book one. We also got to see more of Blair’s necromancy and Gabi’s cryptoid veterinary clinic, both of which were enjoyable.

Character-wise, my favourite part was the burgeoning friendship between Anise and her bodyguard, Wynn. I love begrudging friendships! And this was definitely begrudging on Wynn’s part. We also got to learn how he ended up in his contract as Anise’s bodyguard and what that meant for him. I loved Anise’s attempts to help him and how he opened up as he realised she was genuine about it.

I never saw the twist coming, but in hindsight, I should have known something was up. And those are the best sorts of twists, I think. The different sub-plots of the story all wove together into the climax, and I ended up taking a longer lunch break than I should have to finish the book. From the sounds of it, it looks like book three in the series follows pretty closely from the events of this one, and I can’t wait until March to read it!


(Thank you to the Publishers and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review)

“This warlock really should’ve checked out the women in my corner before she made me her target.” // Review of “Deadly Sweet” by Lola Dodge

Title: Deadly Sweet (Spellwork Syndicate #1)
Author: Lola Dodge
Genre:
Urban fantasy
Date Read: 19/02/2018 – 05/03/2018
Rating:
 ★★★★

Review:

Even if I had hated this book, I have to say that cover is going down as one of my all-time favourites. Just look at it. It is everything.

Now that I have that out of the way, this was also a really fun book! I loved the world-building: both the wider idea of the Vortex, and of witches being sneered at by wider society, and the more micro stuff, like the magical bakery. The descriptions made my mouth water every time. There’s also so much more that Lola Dodge can build on in subsequent books.

I also loved the characters. Mostly due to the way this world is set up, the majority of the characters are women, and I loved how much they support each other. Seeing how witches with different powers worked together was really awesome.

Sometimes the plot got a little predictable, or I didn’t feel like there was much going on. I did call the twist chapters before it happened, but predictability is not necessarily a bad thing. This book is nice and cosy. The kind of book I would hug if I had a physical copy and not an e-version. It made me feel happy reading it, and that is by any means a good sign. I also appreciated that it is very G-rated, even though the characters are all college-age or older. I don’t need steam in every book I read.

This was a really enjoyable book and definitely one you could curl up with and read in an afternoon (if you have more time than I currently do). I’m definitely watching out for the next book in 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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