“I’m going to carve my name into his soul.” // Review of “Sadie” by Courtney Summers

Title: Sadie
Author: Courtney Summers
Audiobook narrator: Full Cast
Genre: Crime/thriller
Intended audience: YA/Adult
Dates Read: 08/08/2021 – 14/08/21
Rating: ★★★


There are a lot of five star reviews for this book but I have to admit, I didn’t quite see what all the fuss was about. It’s not bad book by any means, but I saw things coming and found the ending quite unsatisfying, so I just never got the heartbreaking emotional payoff that I think so many other readers got.

Some reviews have vaguely referred to “the big twist”, and if it’s what I think it is, then I saw it coming quite early on. To be honest, it all seemed kind of predictable to me.

Having said that, the characters are very well done. Sadie is broken and hellbent on revenge. The more reckless she become as the plot progresses, the more I had no idea whether she would make it out alive.

West McCray, the podcaster following Sadie’s path five months later, was harder for me to get into. He just seemed a bit bland, but I eventually warmed to his need to know attitude. Wes has the final line of the book, one that ties in with a theme that’s run throughout the whole story, and I’ll admit, delivered in that final way made me tear up.

Other characters such as Claire and May Beth, Sadie’s mother and surrogate grandmother, are also well drawn, and this was strengthened further by the full cast audio production. While I thought the full cast aspect worked well in the podcast chapters, I could have done without it in the chapters solely from Sadie’s POV. Every time a random other voice appeared in there, it threw me off.

I mentioned that I found the ending unsatisfying, and that was because I felt it was inconclusive. I get that it was probably aiming to mirror real life by leaving a few strands untied, but at the end fo the day, this is a novel, and I have certain expectations. I don’t mind an ambiguous ending, but I don’t feel like I even got enough for this to be ambiguous. Sadie’s POV sort of just stopped and flipped back to the podcast.

Still, if you’re looking for a gritty YA revenge thriller… this is probably up your street.

CW: Pedophilia, sexual abuse, drug abuse, murder

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Book Review: “Firekeeper’s Daughter” by Angeline Boulley

Title: Firekeeper’s Daughter
Author: Angeline Boulley
Genre: Contemporary/thriller
Intended audience: YA
Dates Read: 24/03/2020 – 31/03/21
Rating: ★★


I really struggled with this one and I’m so disappointed. Apparently this is being touted as a thriller, but there is a crime/investigation element to it, I didn’t find it thrilling at all. For the most part, I was bored.

Let’s start with what I did like. Check out that incredible cover! It’s stunning.

I also really loved the descriptions of the Ojibwe traditions. I will confess that while I know there are others out there, this is the first Own Voices book I have read by a Native American author. I really appreciate Boulley being willing to allow the rest of us in. I did have to guess at the meanings of some of the words used, but most I was able to figure out from context.

But the rest? The drug ring investigation? The romance? I just didn’t feel anything. It was a hard slog to get through, and I think it was just too long. It did pick up in the last 20% but overall it was too little too late to really get me engaged.

Also on the romance: a) it came pretty much out of nowhere. I didn’t really feel like the characters had any chemistry. And b) was incredibly inappropriate. Admittedly, another character did call it out as such, but I just… felt pretty squicked by it. I could understand why Jamie would connect with Daunis as he did, but still…

The other thing that kept throwing me off was that it was set in 2004 for no reason that I could really figure out (though some reviews I’ve read say that 2004 was around the time crystal meth was really starting to take off, so I wondered if that was it). Apart from the absence of social media and the occasional reference to a now-outdated phone, there was very little to place it there, so whenever a specific reference was made (such as “class of 2004” or a mention of Janet Jackson’s infamous Superbowl wardrobe malfunction) it always threw me for a second.

I am obviously in the minority with this view – the current GoodReads average is 4.55/5 from over 1700 ratings. I wish I could have been one of the 5 star reviews but not this time.

Thank you to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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#LoveOzYA #aww2019 “But it’s not like we pick and choose what to be afraid of. It’s like our fears pick us.” // Review of “Small Spaces” by Sarah Epstein

Title: Small Spaces
Sarah Epstein
Genre: Psychological thriller
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 17/03/19 – 19/03/19


I have to admit that I had hoped I would love this book more than I did. It definitely had its moments, but I ultimately felt a little bit unsatisfied. 

Tash Carmody is haunted by the memory of her imaginary friend Sparrow leading away family friend when they were both small. Mallory Fisher has never spoken about the abduction and Tash thinks that Sparrow is gone from her mind… until the Fishers move back to town and she starts seeing Sparrow out of the corner of her eye again… 

First of all, I have to admit that I was nerding out every time the setting of the book was mentioned, because I grew up in the same area. My parents were hoping I would stay at home after school and commute to Newcastle Uni (I moved five hours away instead). There was a mention of Gloucester Shire Council, members of whom my mum just recently had a meeting with. And my family used to go camping in Barrington National Park, which is where Mallory was found wandering a week after her abduction. So that was fun. 

The treatment of mental illness in this book was realistic but infuriating. Everyone just thought Tash was doing things for the attention. There was a particularly poignant moment where Tash asks “Why would I want this kind of attention?!” and I wish more people would think about that before hurling such accusations. It was really great to see her validated at the end. 

There were genuine creepy moments throughout. At one point, I was berating myself for reading just before bed, because I was too wired when I turned the lights off. I walked to the bathroom in dim light and kept my back to the wall just in case. 

I did feel that the book felt a bit long. While there were certain things that of course needed to be set up and established, I thought it could have been done a bit faster?! And to be honest, I’m not exactly sure why I felt underwhelmed by the ending. It was well plotted and lead up to a logical conclusion. But for all that, I just found myself thinking, “oh, is that what it was?” I feel like I’m being unfair on the book and the author here because I don’t know what I wanted or expected, but whatever it was, I just feel I didn’t quite get it. 

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

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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“This is the kind of dream you don’t wake up from, Henry.” // Review of “Famous Last Words” by Katie Alender

Title: Famous Last Words
Author: Katie Alender
Genre: Paranormal mystery/thriller
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 23/02/19 – 25/02/19
Rating: ★★★★


Okay, so I have a confession to make. Several reviewers I follow on GoodReads gave another Katie Alender book, Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, pretty average-to-negative reviews. I’ve seen that book at the library a number of times and always avoided  it because of that. If I had noticed the line of text underneath Katie Alender’s name that said “Author or Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer”, I may very well have not picked up this book. And that would be sad.

I’ve been reading a lot of SFF, and while this book still had ghosts in it, the contemporary setting and the thriller aspects made it a good break from the more epic stuff I’ve been reading. I really liked that this had a pretty traditional  take on ghosts – dripping taps, knocking on doors, strange dreams – rather than a ghostly figure who can actually communicate.

I did guess who the killer was (well, I had too suspects but it wasn’t hard to narrow it down), but that honeslty didn’t affect my enjoyment. I ploughed through this book in a couple of days, which isn’t something I’ve been inclined to do lately.

I did wish some of the characters were delved into a little more, particularly Willa’s mother and new stepfather. It is mentioned that  the famous Hollywood director came in an swept the small-town widow off her feet but it seemed quite strained a lot of the time. And it is never fully explained why she did turn into such a 1950s housewife once she married him when she had a successful career before (though it is clear at the end that she is finding her way back into that again).

I actually realised after reading this that  I have another of Katie Alender’s books on my TBR. I’m keen to bump it up the list now. 😀

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Book Review: “In Another Life” by C. C. Hunter

Title: In Another Life
Author: C. C. Hunter
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 01/02/19 – 02/02/19


This book was engaging enough. I read it in a couple of sittings. I also want to add the disclaimer that I read the ARC and it’s possible some of my issues will be fixed in the final version. The formatting was a problem as there was no indication of a change in POV – and as there were several POV characters, this did frequently pull me out of the story.

I was intrigued by the premise of this book – I knew that illegal adoptions happened but didn’t really know anything about them. The idea of someone growing up in a happy adoptive family only to discover there is another family somewhere missing them and hoping they might one day return is a really great premise for a novel.

The way the book is structured meant that we knew more about the mystery than the characters did and in some ways, I felt that lessened the stakes too soon. We knew who the bad guys were and figured they would probably get their comeuppance, so there wasn’t as much mystery as there might have been.

I thought Chloe was a very well-written character. She’s got a lot goinig on – her parents’ divorce, her mother up and moving her to a different city, and now a strange guy claiming she’s trying to con his foster parents by pretending to be their long-lost daughter. I did think the romance betwee her and Cash happened a little fast, but I guess that could just be because I’m a sucker for a slow-burn. I did like the fact that when it was revealed that Chloe had been kidnapped, she still acknowledged her adoptive parents as mum and dad, even as that upset her birth parents.

Cash frustrated me a bit with his absolute refusal to accept any help from his foster parents. I got that he didn’t think he deserved it, but he just went on and on and there never seemed to be an arc there. There are several villains of the piece and to be honest, I got them all a bit confused.

All that being said, I did find this book an engaging read and I think it was a good break after I’d read a tonne of fantasy.

(Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for a gratis copy of the book in exchange for an honest review)

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