“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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#WWW Wednesday – January 24, 2018

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.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5) by Jonathan Stroud and it was a very satisfying conclusion to the series. Sometimes when I had read the previous installments, I didn’t really get why the characters were doing things or going to certain places, but everything drew together very nicely at the end.  I’m really looking forward to seeing what Stroud comes up with next. I posted my review on Monday.

 

What are you currently reading?

I have started reading Every Breath by Ellie Marney. Ellie Marney was one of the instigators of the #LoveOzYA movement, so I’ve been keen to check out this series for a while. I am only in chapter 2 at time of writing so it’s very early days, but based on the couple of chapters and the blurbs for all three books (I picked up all three from the library at the same time), it might be one of those YA series that could either go very, very right or very, very wrong.

I am still going with The Hospital by the River by Catherine Hamlin on audio but I have made some good progress and I think I’m at about the 80% mark now.

What do you think you’ll read next?

As it was last week, I’m not quite sure. I would like to knock one more book off my Jan-Feb TBR before the end of January, as then I’ll be halfway through it. I also need to look at some of my ARCs pretty soon.

~ Emily

““This is what the Problem means. This is the effect it has. Lives lost, loved ones taken before their time.” // Review of “The Empty Grave” by Jonathan Stroud

Title: The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5)
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Genre: YA/urban fantasy
Date Read: 11/01/2018 – 21/01/2018
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

There’s always a sense of bittersweet when you come to the end of a series you’ve enjoyed. While the fourth installment of Lockwood and Co left me underwhelmed, everything from the previous four books came together in this one to give a really satisfyinng conclusion.

I have to admit that this wasn’t as scary as the other books. I think this was because Lockwood & Co. didn’t actually deal with that many ghosts in this one, and when they did, they dealt with them fairly swiftly. Something I loved about the earlier books was that some of the scenes where Lockwood & Co visited various haunted sites had me staying up late because if I didn’t see the battle out, I knew I wouldn’t sleep that night. Book four didn’t do that, and neither did this one. The conflict in Book 5 was more to do with the origins of the Problem, and the early ghost-hunting agencies.

Still, I loved the team dynamics here. I had often felt a bit uncomfortable with the way George was made fun of, usually due to his weight, so it was nice to see how much it really did affect the rest of the team when something happened to him. The Lockwood/Lucy romance that so many readers were hoping for was hinted at (rather heavily at the end) but never actually detailed. I am torn between thanking the gods for a YA series with no romance and wanting to have seen them get together, or at least admit to some mutual feelings, on the page.

This is the second series by Jonathan Stroud that I have followed and he has been one of my favourite authors ever since I read the Bartimaeus series. I am looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next!


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#aww2018 Book review: “False Awakening” by Cassandra Page

Title: False Awakening
Author: Cassandra Page
Genre: urban fantasy
Dates read: 26/12/17 – 04/01/18
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I reviewed the prequel to this book almost exactly two years ago. I think this book suffered a little from me not remembering all the details of the previous book; however, the dreamscapes of Cassandra Page’s Oneiroi world do make for enjoyable reading.

Dream-therapist Melaina thought that her problems with nightmare spirits and dream blights was over with, but  that’s not the case. Other people around her are still being possessed, the Morpheus himself wants an audience with her, and her cousin has gone msising. All three things seem to be connected, but can Melaina save those she loves?

The dream sequences are definitely what I enjoyed best about this book. Page expands on the world-building she did in the first book, bringing in new Oneiroi characters, setting up more of their laws and customs. Once again the scenes where Melaina fights off the blights in other people’s dreams were also well done. There was a lot of action, and the rules of the magic system were well maintained.

The characters are well-written and I particularly like the contrast between Melaina and her wealthy relatives. I have to admit, though, that with the exception of the climax, I never really felt myself invested in the characters and what was going to happen to them.

also have to admit that I will always simultaneously love reading books set in my adopted city of Canberra and also find it a bit weird recognising all the locations. This is obviously not a criticism of the author; just an observation!


This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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Book Review: “Mystery at Maplemead Castle” by Kitty French

Title: Mystery at Maplemead Castle (Chapelwick Mysteries #2)
Author: Kitty French
Genre: NA/urban fantasy
Date Read: 21/06/2017 – 22/06/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

As with the first book in this series, this installment was a lot of fun, though a bit long, and I could have used a bit more focus on the ghosts.

Melody Bittersweet’s second gig with the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency is to clear Maplemead Castle of ghosts before a film crew shows up the following week. The new owners of the Castle love media attention, so she has to work with her ex, Leo Dark, around again,  as well as put up with the presence of Fletcher Gunn, who is doing a story on her for the local newspaper. Fletcher continues to to seek to discredit Melody’s ghost-seeing abilities, but at the same time, the attraction between them can’t be denied.

If I’m honest, the mystery itself was fairly basic, and could have been solved a lot earlier if some of the characters had just communicated a bit better. However, the way in which the ghosts ended up finally able to move on required the characters to spend time together first, so I guess it is fair that the story was strung out a bit longer. I did still really enjoy the ghost characters, even though their story ended up quite sad.

A lot more of the book was spent on the tricky love-hate relationship between Melody and Fletch. For the most part, the lustful banter was fun and there was a pretty great phone sex scene in there as well. I still felt a little ambivalent about Fletcher, though, and the tragic backstory we learned about in this book felt a little forced and at odds with the snark and innuendo he was throwing around so often.

The other side characters, from Melody’s colleagues Marina and Arthur, to her mother and grandmother, and the owners of Maplemead Castle, were all well drawn and fun. They all have their own distinct personalities which makes for an entertaining ensemble cast. While I don’t feel these books are any kind of literary masterpiece, they are definitely the perfect book for when you need something light and frothy and I will definitely be continuing with the series.


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Cover Reveal: False Awakening by Cassandra Page #aww2017

Hey everyone! It’s been a bit of a while since I last did a cover reveal! I read Lucid Dreaming by Cassandra Page about twelve months or so ago (review here) so I was excited to read that there’s a follow-up due out in August this year, and I’m also pleased to be taking part in the cover reveal today! Read on to find out more.

False Awakening
Cassandra Page
(Lucid Dreaming #2)
Publication date: August 2017
Genres: New Adult, Urban Fantasy

Melaina, half-human dream therapist, just wants her life to return to normal. Yes, her Oneiroi father is in prison and, yes, the place she worked burned down, but she has a cute boyfriend and a new house. She beat the bad guy. She’s earned a break. Right?

Unfortunately for Melaina, people are still getting possessed by nightmare spirits; the police are investigating her past; and the bad guy’s brother, the Morpheus himself, is coming to town to demand answers. When a deranged ex-nurse checks himself out of hospital on the same day her cousin runs away from home, Melaina is dragged into a fight not just for her life but for her soul.

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Sequel to:

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Request a review copy of book 1 – Lucid Dreaming – here!

Author Bio:

Cassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra, Australia’s bush capital, with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat — despite being allergic to cats. She has loved to read since primary school, when the library was her refuge, and loves many genres — although urban fantasy is her favourite. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up?

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Book Review: “the Asp of Ascension” by R. B. Myers

Title: The Asp of Ascension
Author: R. B. Meyers
Genre:
Mystery/ YA
Date Read: 17/04/2017 – 21/04/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

After a slow start, this book did grow on me a little, but I was still left feeling that it was a little rough around the edges.

Nefertari “Terry” Hughes is still recovering from the accident that killed her mother and left her permanently injured. Now she has to start at a new school while her dad helps to organise an exhibit at the local museum, which may feature the sarcophagus of Cleopatra. But when Terry’s dad is found unconscious in the museum’s Egypt Room, she finds herself trying to solve a 50-year-old mystery and dealing with what may be a 3000-year-old Egyptian curse.

The plot of this book, with its mystery and also small supernatural element, was actually pretty tight, but the writing style felt more middle-grade than young adult. Apart from the romance, which felt pretty target-age-appropriate, the characters felt a lot younger than their sixteen/seventeen years. Some of them  actually also felt rather two-dimensional, particularly in the beginning. At about 20% in, I was reading on the bus and turned to my partner to complain that the characters were all such archetypes, “the jocks”, “the cheerleaders”, “the one who doesn’t fit in”, “the quirky one”,  etc. Fortunately, the main characters did at least develop a little more depth, though several of the side characters still felt two dimensional.

There was also the issue that took 75% of the book to hit me, but once it did I couldn’t let it go: one of the characters is an Egyptian Prince (allegedly). With all the talk of Cleopatra and pharaohs, I didn’t question it at first, until my brain finally caught up said, “But wait… Egypt’s a republic!” I did Google it just to be sure, and Wikipedia tells me the monarchy in Egypt was dissolved in 1952. And the thing is, this character doesn’t even need to be a Prince for the story and his character arc to make sense. He could have just been a diplomat. It wouldn’t have made any difference, apart from the fact that the teenage characters couldn’t swoon over there being a literal prince in the vicinity.

Okay, I feel like I’ve ranted a lot, so here are the things I did like. I thought the mystery was well-constructed and I enjoyed seeing the characters doing some really good research into the past of the museum. I also really appreciated that there was some ethnic diversity among the characters; I’m not sure but I got the impression that one or both of Terry’s parents had been Middle-Eastern or of Middle-Eastern descent. Not only that but there was the fact that Terry was dealing with chronic injury/pain, which is uncommon in YA protagonists. I also really loved the frienship between Terry and Maude, who was another social outcast at the school. The scene where Maude admitted she hadn’t acted when the school bully started approaching Terry was because it was nice to not be the target anymore  felt painfully honest.

Having said all that, the book was enjoyable but nothing amazing for me, so I don’t think I’ll be reading the second book in the series.


(Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

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“Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations.” // Review of “Soulless” by Gail Carriger

Title: Soulless (Parasol Protectorate #1)
Author: Gail Carriger
Genre: Urban fantasy/historical fiction/humour
Date Read: 05/04/2017 – 13/04/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This book was well-written and genuinely funny. I want to put that out there. But unfortunately I found that it was trying to do too many things to be really great at any one of them.

Alexia Tarabotti is a 26-year-old spinster with theh ability to render any supernatural power useless at her touch. When she is attacked by a vampire and accidentally kills it, she finds herself tangled up in a conspiracy where supernatural creatures are appearing and going missing at a rate of knots… not to mention, tangled up with the dashing werewofl, Lord Maccon, who is investigating by order of Queen Victoria.

I felt that the comedy of manners aspect of this book was the major player in the genre field. The steampunk and supernatural elements were almost window dressing. There was a great deal of witty banter, and that was where the laugh-out-loud moments came from. The plot itself, and the mystery contained therein, I didn’t actually find very engaging. That meant that when the comedy started wearing a bit thin, there wasn’t much left to hold my interest.

While the writing was overall strong, there were also some stylistic things that bugged me, such as the main character being referred to in the narration as Alexia in one paragraph, then Miss Tarabotti in the next.  Obviously, being the Victorian era, what the characters called each other was quite important, but when the narration was from Alexia’s point of view, it felt odd to hear her essentially refer to herself formally.

While it wasn’t for me, I do still recommend the book/series, as I know others have enjoyed it a lot more, and the genre blend will probably work for others better than it worked for me.


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#aww2017 “I’m always watching around corners. I just keep watching for something special.” // Review of “A Tangle of Gold” by Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: A Tangle of Gold(Colours  of Madeleine #2)
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Genre: YA/urban fantasy
Date Read: 11/03/2017 – 14/03/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

Agggh, writing this review is causing me a lot of angst. Over the few days between finishing the book and beginning this review, I have tried to work out what to rate it. When I first rated it on GoodReads, I gave it four stars, stating in the text of the review that it was 3.5 but I was going to round it up because I loved the first two books so much. But then I thought about it and decided it was really only a three-star read for me, because while it had a few good moments, I didn’t love it as much as the other two. The next morning I was still thinking about what had bothered me overall, and realised there was really only one moment that I really loved, and I wasn’t entirely sure that it outweighed the stuff that frustrated me. So here we are, with a 2.5 star rating for the final book, after two solid four-star reads.

Yikes, that was a rambling paragraph.

Anyway.

In my review of book two of this series, I said that one thing I appreciated was the fact that it didn’t give more of the same, but instead built on the first book and took all the concepts further. The same could be said of this book, except that it didn’t have the same effect this time.

One of the issues (probably the main issue) was that Kiera, a secondary character in the second book, became a principle character in this one and I Did. Not. Like. Her. She looked down her nose at everybody, including my favourite characters, and even when she sort of addressed this, I didn’t feel like she stopped, just that she managed to hide her snobbery a bit better. I started flipping forward to see how many more chapters I would have to read from her point-of-view before we returned to Madeleine or Elliot.

Speaking of Elliot, I didn’t like his character arc either. He made a lot of decisions that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. He was using huge leaps of logic to come to the conclusions he based his decisions on, and he always seemed smarter than that.

I can’t say too much about Madeleine without delving into huge spoiler territory, but I will say that the large twist regarding her and her mother that took place was a big enough game changer that it changed the way the story worked, and it just wasn’t the story/premise/situation I fell in love with after that (having said that, the twist itself was the aforementioned one moment I really loved). Elliot and Madeleine had no way of corresponding like they always used to, and that was one of my favourite aspects of the series.

Plot-wise, everything also got quite convoluted. The theories behind the cracks between Cello and the World got very confusing and then there were secret organisations that kind of came out of nowhere playing their parts, and everything go tied up a bit too nicely at the end. I closed the book feeling unsatisfied, and there is little worse than that, particularly when it’s the conclusion of a series that started out so well.


(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017. Click here for more information).

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#AWW2017 “How about we meet at midnight tomorrow and try this. I close my eyes, believe in you, and there you’ll be.” // Review of “The Cracks in the Kingdom” by Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: The Cracks in the Kingdom (Colours  of Madeleine #2)
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Genre: YA/urban fantasy
Date Read: 06/03/2017 – 11/03/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

(If you haven’t read my review for the first book in this series, A Corner of White, you can do so here.)

My instinct when I finished this book was to give it five stars, but on reflection I decided it was more of a four. I’ve said in previous reviews that my star ratings are often based on  a vibe rather than any objective ratings system, and that’s the case with this one. I actually had to make myself stop reading the third one and write this review because I was so intent on staying with these characters, but knew I’d forget details if I didn’t stop now.

I won’t go into the plot too much because I don’t want to spoil anything for the previous book. The plot picks up where the first one left off, but rather than giving us more of the same, which is often what happens with middle books, this one builds on what came before.

It did seem that Jaclyn Moriarty clearly delighted in teasing me with numerous moments of Elliot and Madeleine nearly meeting through the crack between their worlds.  And those moments brought them even closer together, relationship-wise. Their relationship isn’t romantic, at least not really (it has the potential to go that way), but they’ve got such a deep bond, even though they sometimes disagree and argue and sometimes their friendship gets messy and difficult. I haven’t been this invested in two characters in a long time. I have so many feelings!

The other great thing with this book is that we got to see the other provinces of the Kingdom of Cello, via Elliot’s meetings with Princess Ko and the other members of the Royal Youth Alliance. Jagged Edge is full of interesting technology while Olde Quainte is… well, old and quaint. And hilarious. It’s a serious breach of ettitquette in this province to not have a simile in at least every third sentence you speak, though it doesn’t matter if the simile doesn’t make any sense. I also really enjoyed the descriptions of the Magical North, where magic interferes with technology, but where the Royal Family makes its home.

As with the first book, the action really ramped up in the last third. There were a few times where I was torn between stopping to make an “OMG!” status update on GoodReads and continuing to read. Continuing to read kept winning out and in the end, I only made one update for the entire book (which is unusual; normally I like to squee a lot when I’m enjoying a book, so that shows you how hooked I was).

I think I will leave this here before I get even more gushy and decide that actually yes, I should be rating this five stars (I think I figured out while writing this review that the main reason it’s only four is because Madeleine doesn’t really do a lot for herself, not anything that’s plot related anyway, and mostly just does what she’s told re: the Royal Family). And I’m going to go keep reading the next book in the series and spend more time with these characters.


(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017. Click here for more information).

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