#AusReads #LoveOzYA Book Review: “The Dragon Healer” by Tiani Davids

Title: The Dragon Healer (Chronicles of Eldras #1)
Author: Tiani Davids
Genre: Fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 14/11/2022 – 26/11/2022
Rating: 
★★★☆

Review: 

I was following Tiani Davids on Instagram when she made the decision to go indie with this series, so I’ve been looking forward to reading it for quite a while. The cover is absolutely gorgeous, and you all know I’m a sucker for dragons.

The Dragon Healer is a strong series opener with strong characters and interesting world-building. I really enjoyed the history of Eldras, the supposed reasons why the dragons were expelled from there, and the way this history slowly unravelled the more the main characters investigated.

Elinta is a great main character. I liked that her strength is healing, and she consistently demonstrates the knowledge she has learned from her apprenticeship. The dynamic between her and Zhayra, the dragon, is delightful.

Lorrin, the Crown Prince, and Niles, his best friend, are fun characters, though at times they almost border on being a little too perfect. I’m sitting down to write this review a week after reading the book, and I can recall very few instances of conflict with them. Given how much time Elinta spent in the palace and how much of an outsider she was, it might have been interesting to see something come between them.

Apart from this, the main thing that lets the story down a bit is the pacing. The first half moves along quite well, but then things grind almost to a halt once Elinta arrives at the palace. The plot needed a lot of time to pass, but apart from research, there wasn’t a lot for Elinta to do to fill it.

Given the way this book ends, I don’t think this will be such an issue in subsequent instalments in the series. The characters have moved off on their adventure now, and there is lots for them to discover. I look forward to book two!


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“You don’t need anyone’s permission to be you, Yads.” // Review of “Cemetery Boys” by Aiden Thomas

Title: Cemetery Boys
Author: Aiden Thomas
Genre: Fantasy/romance
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 19/10/2022 – 26/10/2022
Rating: 
★★★☆

Review: 

This book has been on my TBR ever since it came out and I actually bought it last year in my pile of “buy books during lockdown to support the bookshops!” spree. And then it’s taken me this long to get around to it, as per usual.

The plot of Cemetery Boys sadly underwhelmed me. It was quite slow-moving, and really only became gripping in the last 50 pages.

Having said that, the characters were charming and really drove it. I really enjoyed how Yadriel and Julian’s relationship developed, and the stark contrast between introverted good boy Yadriel and the more outgoing Jules.

It was delightful seeing Yadriel’s family as they prepared for Dia de Muertes, and painful to see the way they unintentionally hurt Yadriel when they misgendered him or otherwise didn’t recognise his true identity.

I got a bit teary at the end when the ghosts of Brujx past visited for Dia de Muertes and we saw just how unconditionally his mother accepted him. That was beautiful.

And on the other side of things, we had Julian’s older brother and friends, with their disparate origins but their fierce loyalty to one another.

Where it fell down for me was the plot. We have at least one dead body from the end of Chapter One, and more to come, but they mystery of how these people died seemed almost secondary. The last fifty pages or so were action-packed, but it felt a little off-balance with the rest of the book. Before that, things moved so slowly, even though the story actually only takes place over a few days. 150 pages in, I felt like very little had happened.

There’s nothing wrong with character-driven stories, of course, but this promised a bit more than that, and then didn’t deliver as well as it might have. Still, this was a debut, and I’m keen to check out Aiden Thomas’ second novel, Lost in the Never Woods, which was another of my lockdown purchases!


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Book Review – “Malice” by Pintip Dunn

Title: Malice
Author: Pintip Dunn
Genre: Sci-fi/romance
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 25/09/2022 – 27/09/2022
Rating: 
★★★☆

Review: 

This was a random library pick based entirely on the cover, and I have to say, I enjoyed it!

I really liked the way the time travel was conceptualised. A consciousness being able to travel back to its past self was a really nifty idea!

Having said that, it did seem a bit silly that so much information was withheld from Alice on the basis of “Even the smallest amount of foreknowledge can change the future” when she was literally being asked to kill someone to prevent a world-ending catastrophe before it happened.

As for the characters, I was conflicted by how quickly Alice accepted the time travel – on the one hand, it was super-fast! But on the other hand, it would have slowed down the story to have her come around at a more realistic pace.

The love interest is Thai, like the author, and it was cool to get a little bit of his cultural background peppered into the story. The romance developed maybe a bit quickly for my tastes but I liked the way it was handled at the end. Damn that time travel messing things up for the characters!

The villain’s motivations felt a little cartoonish in the future compared to how we see them in the present-day setting. It was a little hard to reconcile the two versions, but I liked that the time travel didn’t create an insta-fix, and that the characters would all still have to work together going forward to make sure the world didn’t end.

The writing was engaging and I found myself looking forward to picking the book up when I wasn’t reading it. This is my first read by Pintip Dunn and I’m intrigued to check out more of her writing.


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#20BooksofSummer20 and #ReadARainbow Midway Check-in

In which I do Summer reading challenges in my winter months because Dec-Feb is too busy and annoying a period to do challenges, and the Internet is all Northern Hemisphere-centric anyway. 😝

20 Books of Summer is hosted by Cathy at 746books.com and the aim, as you may have guessed, is to read 20 book in Summer (i.e. 1 June to 1 September).

How am I going? Well, if you mean in terms of the number of books I’ve read during this period… I’m going great!

If you mean, am I sticking to the TBR I set for myself at the start of June?

Um… I’ve read one of them. Honestly, this was always bound to happen. It’s happening with the low-pressure readathon I’m doing this July (see below). It happened with my first readathon last year. It happens.

So what have I read so far?

  1. Burn by Patrick Ness.
  2. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
  3. Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
  4. What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin
  5. A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
  6. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  7. Of Hair and No Hair by P. A. Mason
  8. Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans
  9. Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Of these, Euphoria Kids was the only TBR read. And it’s not looking promising for the next little while. I’ve got a couple of ARCs to read. And my July book club book. Nyyyargh. 

I’m also doing the Read A Rainbow challenge on Twitter and Discord. This is  hosted by Books and Pixie Dust.

My original TBR for this one has gone out the window, too, but at least both my ARCs will count towards it! Here’s what I’m going for now: 

  1. Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant (red on the cover) (read)
  2. A Pocketful of Eyes by Lili Wilkinson (orange on the cover)
  3. Angel Mage by Garth Nix (yellow on the cover)
  4. The Opium Smuggler by Celine Jeanjean (green on the cover) (ARC)
  5. Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte (blue on the cover) (currently reading)
  6. The Lost City by Amanda Hocking (purple on the cover) (ARC) (currently reading)
  7. Scones and Spells by Rosie Pease (pink on the cover) (currently reading)

Unfortunately my July book club read – Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – doesn’t fit any of those colours (only red, which I’ve already covered), so I’m also going to fit it in somewhere! I’m sure this is all fine! (*cries in the corner*)

So that’s where I am right now! Reading is going a little slowly at the moment because it’s been a bit of a busy week, but I’m hoping to be able to dive in on the weekend and make some solid progress. 

How is your reading going? Is lockdown helping or hindering your reading goals? 

#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 “Inhale. Exhale. Survive.” // Review of “Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal” by Anna Whateley

Title: Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal
Author:
Anna Whateley
Genre: Contemporary/romance
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 06/04/20 – 09/04/20
Rating:
★★★★

Anna Whateley is a Twitter friend of mine and we’ve both been part of the #6amAusWriters group for about a year now, so I was excited and proud to get my hands on a copy of her debut.

This book. I kind of want to hug it. It feels like such an honest, authentic depiction of the neurodivergent experience. Even if I didn’t know it was an #ownvoices book, I would probably have been able to guess. 

Peta is such a wonderful lead character. The book is in first person, which I don’t always enjoy, but this book could not have been any other way. We needed to be in Peta’s head. Seeing her try to fit in and follow the “rules” she has learned through therapy and through observing others could be heartbreaking at times, but it was so liberating seeing her grow and find her own way in a world that is not designed to allow her to succeed. 

I think the only thing I might have liked to see a bit more of was the development of the romance between Peta and Sam. As it was, it felt like it leapt straight from “Oh, look, I am definitely attracted to her” to pushing their dorm beds together and kissing a lot. But it was fine that way, and the aftermath and fallout after that is treated really well. Even as I was wanting to yell “No! Sam! Don’t be ridiculous! It’s not like that!” I could absolutely see Sam’s point of view as well. 

Also must give a shout-out to Jeb, Peta’s best friend. I can tell just from reading he gives the best hugs. And I loved how he knew Peta’s quirks and what she needed and just responded. She never had to feel weird around him. 


Thank you to Allen and Unwin for choosing me as a winner in their recent Facebook giveaway and sending me a proof copy of this book!

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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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#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 Book Review: “It Sounded Better In My Head” by Nina Kenwood

Title: It Sounded Better In My Head
Author:
Nina Kenwood
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 04/01/20 – 07/04/20
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

This book was certainly sweet and I loved how painfully realistic it was at times. But some pacing issues and the lack of characterisation from anyone other than the main character left me feeling like there could have been more.

Natalie’s life is diverging from the Plan. Her parents announce their separation on Christmas Day, her two best friends have started dating so she feels like a third wheel, and she’s just finished high-school and doesn’t know what she wants to do with the rest of her life. She’s also still dealing with image issues that have haunted her throughout her teen years thanks to PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).  

Since this book is in the first person, we are very much in Natalie’s head. And she has a lot going on in there. But it did mean I felt like I didn’t really get to know the other characters. There were flashes of personality from them, such as Lucy covering awkwardness amongst her friends with OTT bubbliness, Mariella with her love of gossip about her children… but Alex is the love interest and Natalie spends so much of her time thinking about him and yet as I write this, there’s very little I could tell you about Alex as a person.

There’s also the fact that sometimes the pacing was strange. The plot would grind to a half for several pages while we got some of Natalie’s backstory. Sure, it was good to know about her and some of it moved the plot (such as learning how she met Zach and Lucy) but a lot of the time it made me forget what had just been happening.

Apart from that, though, the writing is really engaging. I flew through the pages. The messiness of teenage friendships is so realistic, I could feel my guts churning on behalf of the characters. There were times when Natalie’s body image issues and insecurities felt a little repetitive, but at the same time, I recognise the cyclical nature of such thoughts in real life.

On the other hand, I really liked how sex positive the book was, particularly in regards to its female characters. It’s mentioned that Natalie knows how to give herself an orgasm, and Lucy is the first one of their friendship group to have sex. While it’s a shock to the others, it’s still shown in a positive light.

This is Nina Kenwood’s debut and I will definitely be watching out for more of her work.


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#LoveOzYA Book Review: “Monuments” by Will Kostakis

Title: Monuments (Monument #1)
Author:
Will Kostakis
Genre: Urban fantasy
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 27/09/19 – 30/09/19
Rating:
★★★

Review:

I had been seeing a lot about Monuments in the lead-up to its release so by the time I got my hands on a copy at the Canberra launch last week, I was really looking forward to it.

This is such a fun book! The protagonist, Connor, is a sweetheart. I was on his side immediatley. And he brings all the sass. He and Locky made such a cute pair. Sally was an interesting character with a few surprises up her sleeve – there is a lot we don’t know about her until towards the end.

I did have a few questions about how a bunch of ancient gods ended up in Australia but thankfully those were answered, and in a way that made a lot of sense.

The first two thirds of the story are a fairly straightforward adventure story but then the time travel starts and things do get a bit confusing. There’s a lot of hopping between lots of different times and for a while I lost track of what was what. But that calmed down after a few chapters and I was able to sink back into the story again.

Some of the scenes I liked best weren’t really about the adventuring but about Connor more personally. Connor feels guilty for not visiting his grandfather a lot after dementia took over and his grandfather was put in a home. I don’t want to spoil things but I will say that the way Connor makes amends is pretty epic.

Enough is wrapped up in this book to not feel like you’re left hanging, but the story isn’t over. I am definitely looking forward to book two!


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#LoveOzYA #cbca2019 Book Review: “The Things That Will Not Stand” by Michael Gerard Bauer

Title: The Things That Will Not Stand
Author:
Michael Gerard Bauer
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 02/05/2019
Rating:
★★

Review:

This book was kind of unexpected. I wasn’t expecting the humour and banter and pathos. I knew it was short but I wasn’t expecting to fly through it in one day. But here we are. 

From the opening chapter, Seb has a really distinct narrative voice. The book is written in first person present tense, which I think really emphasises the immediacy of the action taking place over a single day.

I really enjoyed the banter between Seb and Frida, and how it became more obvious as the book went on that something about Frida didn’t add up. I do have to admit, though, that apart from the three main characters of Seb, Frida and Seb’s best friend, Tolly, the remainder of the characters seemed a little 2D… particularly the burly university security guard who kept seeming to pop up. He seemed a bit of a stereotype.

While I was really struck by the puns and the humour at the start of the book, the continued use of them did start to wear a bit thin as we moved towards the end. I did appreciate the book’s overall message of letting someone know when you think they’re worth it, and that anyone is deserving of that, no matter what they might think of themselves. figured out Frida’s riddle at the end a lot faster than Seb did, though, so I did want him to get a wriggle on with figuring that out. That was probably a little drawn out for my tastes but maybe it was because I did already know what she meant.


I am trying to read as many of the books as possible on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notables List. Click here to see the titles.

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#LoveOzYA #aww2019 Book Review: “Lucid” by Kristy Fairlamb

Title: Lucid (Lucid #1)
Author:
Kristy Fairlamb
Genre: Paranormal/contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 27/04/19 – 05/05/19
Rating:
★★

Review:

I was intrigued by the premise of Lucid, but I have to admit it started off quite slowly for me.

While the blurb is all about how main character, Lucy, experiences real people’s deaths in her dreams, the first half of the book is focused more on the burgeoning romance she has with new boy, Tyler. Yes, Tyler was featured in her dreams about a year ago, and yes, they share a connection through their dreams, but to be honest, it felt like I was reading a straight contemporary. There’s nothing wrong with contemporary, of course, but I was expecting something else.

Fortunately, this does pick up at about the 60% mark. This is where Lucy’s begins to recognise the extent of her powers, and that they’re not simply bad dreams. I think the series has been set up in such a way that some of the repercussions of this power will be explored in the second book, but this one is mostly about Lucy’s relationship with Tyler and how that changes her.

I still enjoyed reading it, but I suppose I was hoping for some more exploration of the implications of Lucy’s dreams and the power they come with, and where that power comes from.


Thank you to NetGalley and Lakewater Press for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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