Posted in Book Club, Book Review, Reading Adventures

August Bookshelf

August was my birthday month and I may have gone a little crazy with book gifts for myself *not even sorry*, and the reading wasn’t too shabby though it started with the worst book I have ever rated. And yet another month had passed when I did not bury my head in the plethora of paperbacks I still have on my TBR. Eek … always hoping for next month.

The growing beauty of my office/Sapphic/Indie bookshelf (several more shelves are scattered and filled elsewhere throughout the house).

The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampire’s by Grady Hendrix – ⭐️⭐️ – I wanted to like this book. I wanted to damn well love this book. I didn’t. In fact there were times I almost DNF’d this book. It takes a LOT for me to even consider DNF’ing a book. But, I stuck it out (100% because the narrator was awesome) and it’s not like the book was horrible, just so so frustrating. There is a huge chunk in the middle of the book that I felt was entirely unnecessary and this was the part where I nearly DNF’d. It was also filled with gaslighting the main character by EVERY SINGLE other character. It was then her backing down even though she knew they were doing this. It was the most frustrating thing I’ve read in such a long time and it wasn’t broken up with anything else and it dragged out. Despite this. There were some good things about the book, the writing was ok and the story wasn’t entirely terrible, just so many unnecessary parts for me, and no character was likeable. I do however get pissed off reading things about this book being a fantastic humour horror. There is no humour. If an author tries to highlight the depravity of society they need to make that clear, with exaggerations, with word choices. The author did NONE of this. It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t satirical. It was racist, sexist, elitist SHIT. If it weren’t for the narrator I would have DNF’d AND given a single star review.

Ignis by KJ – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – There is so much to love about this book. From the start we are thrown into two worlds, two times. The back and forth is fabulous. When you are in each part you are completely enveloped, almost forgetting about the other time, the other story.
The mysteries are compelling and the writing is delicious.
I adore the main characters and the beautiful balance of dark mystery and these moments that made me smile and sometimes even giggle.
A brilliant read. Highly recommend if you like dark mysteries.

Queerly Beloved: A Love Story Across Genders by Diane and Jacob Anderson-Minshall – I can’t star this book, I don’t know how to. I have rarely read memoirs, and never one that has hit so close to home. Did I enjoy the reading? Yes and no. Some of it was a little repetitive. Did I find it helpful? Yes and no. I felt seen but also had to remind myself of how different me and my OH are to the authors. Do I recommend this book? Yes and no. I think it’s a great educational read, as long as people realise this is two peoples personal experiences in the transgender world. I definitely saw similar situations and fears, thoughts, and doubts. But also some things that I was shocked, because we have not had the same experience. Were there some chapters I could have lived without reading, some experiences they went through that I could have not known so much about? Sure. But I feel like that’s sort of a memoir staple.
Overall, I’m glad I read this book. And I would love to read about more personal accounts of diversity in our beautiful and colourful rainbow community. I did a video review, going in to a little more detail. You can view it here.

Dead Lez Walking by G. Benson – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Omg. I have no idea how G. Benson does it but damn this book gave me all the feels … the mix of dark humour, true fear, devastating sadness, some pretty gruesome scenes, and actual wtf moments. Brilliant book that I chewed through (yep pun totally intended) ridiculously quickly. I adore the authors inclusivity in her books, gender, race, nationality, sexuality. She embraces the true diversity of humans in her stories. And I loved the ensemble cast. Taren freakin cracked me up (her chapter sub headings were freakin snort laughing worthy), and Xin was adorable – even if I may or may not have called the author a monster at one (several) points lol

Under Your Skin by Lee Winter – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – This book was delicious. A sequel to the incredible Red Files. If you like seeing an ice queen melt without changing who they are, this is THE ultimate book. I have such a love for small town settings and this book has it in spades, and the humour … laugh out loud coffee spitting moments, with Lauren’s charming upfront nature and Catherine’s acerbic thoughts and tongue:
* It’s only Chaos if you stop and look at it, the rest of the time it’s just fun.
* About the speed of an asthmatic turtle
Also, hotness rating … cold showers required! 😉

Faith and Fire (Sisters of Battle #1) by James Swallow – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Was surprised how much I enjoyed this. The audio was recommended to me. The narrator was amazing. The writing was surprisingly beautiful, and the story was quite fun and brutal. I thought I would get lost not having played World of Warcraft, but I understood the world enough to keep up with what was happening, and it was quite exciting.

The Roommate Arrangement by Jae – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Third book of the year to make me cry!
I was so frustrated with one of the characters at the start, Jae perfectly captured the frustrations of Ray having to deal with her new roommate. But just as she grew on Ray, Stephanie grew on me as well. A hilarious female the odd-couple book, with ALL the feels. Brilliant writing, fantastic dynamic characters, and a story that flows (and kept this reader up until 1am).

Full English by Rachel Spangler – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Another small town sapphic read .. need I say more? Well, actually yes. I LOVED the dynamics of the characters in this book. Spangler turns the traditional characterisations on their heads and I am all for it! Brilliant themes of breaking the binary and contradictory assumptions of society. I love that the village girl isn’t sweet and virginal and the famous millionaire isn’t suave and sophisticated. The descriptions of the beautiful scenery of the town and the sea were so engulfing, it was a holiday during a time when holidays seem like a distant memory and a not promised future.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 – A perfect classic gothic horror of the time. But, reading it from a modern day perspective, I struggled to love it, though I did like it and enjoy it. I listened to it on audio and the narration lacked several times as the voices for the two female protagonists had the same tones and quirks and it was difficult to follow along as times. I did enjoy the writing, it was often beautiful but the story had me confused at times.

Hush Little Baby by RH Herron – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – *Trigger Warnings for infertility and child abduction. *
Literally could not stop listening to this book. My first book by this author and now I have to read more. The writing is absolutely beautiful, from descriptions of humanity to the earth, to the complicated duality of human nature, to the way the author reaches in and stabs sharpened nails into your heart before ripping it out of your chest.
Not a book I could have read during my long fertility journey, or pregnancy, or even when my child was in their first year of life. But such an incredible story. 

So ten books for August is a pretty good effort. 😀

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen

Posted in Book Club, Book Review, Reading Adventures

May’s Bookshelf

Another month and another delicious intake of words. Did I get all the books from my TBR shelf for May …. EEEK, no! Did I read other books that weren’t on my TBR … of course n… yeah, I absolutely did. A total of 13 books when I was certain I wouldn’t reach the TBR total of 8 … of course only 3 were from my tbr but that’s hardly the point

My outstanding pics of the month are *drum roll please* (really hard because I want to pick half of them but I was like,it myself as always.)

In Solitude’s Shadow by David Green, And playing the role of herself by K.E Lane, and This is How you Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone.

The Killing Ground by Syd Parker – 3.5 stars – A serial killer is on the loose, a detective and an FBI special agent are on the case. A recipe for so much potential. This book started so strong. Raw and gritty and should definitely carry a CW when debating whether to read it. The writing hooked me in, the crime was hideous and damn I wanted the bastard caught. Then we got more about the two main characters and while the characters have strong potential, this is where I felt the book struggled. I could see what the author was trying to get at with the characters but it was told to us and we never really saw the development and changes. The two main characters also blended together a little for me and I often had remind myself who was who. Overall it was an ok book, not one of my favourites but I did enjoy the gritty darkness of the crime (even if it make me roll my eyes a little and I had guessed the end about half way through.)

Conflict of Interest by Jae – 5 stars – Phenomenal. This book was exceptional. I’m curious to know if it began as a fanfic for Law & Order: SVU, and if so how fantastic. It reminded me of how much I love and miss that show (haven’t watched it for a few years now). The characters are so dynamic and real, and the frustrations and fear were like spiders crawling over my skin during those unknown parts during the main trial in the book. And the sensitivity Jae has used in writing this book is beautiful. It touches on so many real life issues and doesn’t gloss over the impact rape and abuse has on people, not just for a week or two, but for the rest of their lives.

The Cobra Queen by Tara Moss – 4.5 stars – A brilliant addition to the Pandora English Series. Everything in this book is just that little bit more pulling than the previous books in the series. Pandora is really growing into herself and the story line was wonderful and epic. I cannot wait until Tara Moss gets book 5 out. I am very eager to know what happens next. And, I confess I was shocked and a little heart squeezed throughout this book.
There was one particular part where Pandora spoke about grief and I went back many times to listen to it. It was powerful and strong, and felt like it hit on exactly who Pandora was.
I did a booktube review of the Pandora English series (books 1 -4). You can have a look here.

Kismet by T.B Markinson – 4.5 Stars – I freaking adored this book. It was such a delicious book. Easily my favourite Markinson book to date. Both characters are such strong individuals and their layers are wonderfully human and are revealed and threaded through the book so seemlessly and with such wonderful writing. I love how Markinson has such real language in her characters thoughts and words, the language and turn of phrases made this book so easily to devour.

Gretel on her own by Elena Holst – 4 stars – I think this is my absolute favourite retelling of Hansel and Gretel I’ve ever read. Taking place 20 years after the breadcrumbs, the witch, and the fire, we meet Gretel once again. Within a very short time, she is alone and we see her as she tries to find a life, a normal life at the edges of the small town who all know her and her past. Until a stranger comes to town and Gretel remembers what a sweet tooth she has. *chefs kiss*. What I loved most about this book I don’t want to go too much into detail with because it will definitely be a spoiler, but I recommend it. It’s a short dark read and a twisted fairytale where I felt I got represented. Lesbians in fairytales. I am all for more of these. My booktube review for Gretel on her own is up now. Take a look here.

And Playing the Role of Herself by K.E. Lane – 5 stars – Firstly, I freaking loved the freedom of the swearing in this book. Both in the dialogue and in the internal thoughts of the main character. And I LOVE that was only get the one perspective. I may have mentioned this a few times (expect it to be mention more and more). The characters are brilliant, even Liz and her southern attitude and multi layered friendship she has with Caid. I love how Lane has touched on the prejudices we have of others even in our own community. Whether it was intentional or not, for me it really made me feel warmed and a little seen as it shows not just how miscommunications can occur but this assumption of sexuality being an immovable state, and how sex defines ones sexuality. At least that was an extra layer I got out of the book. I loved the writing and the story, and Caidence was just a fantastically wonderful character and I’m so glad the book is from her perspective. I enjoyed Robin as well, but this was by far Caidence’s story.

In Solitude’s Shadow by David Green – 5 stars – (I received an ARC copy – here is my honest review) A Droking Great Read. A true epic fantasy. From the first page you are drawn into a world of races and war. With beautiful writing and tangible descriptions, enveloping you into the story and the intense themes all in one:
* A fever lurked behind the man’s eyes; he’d tasted war, addictive as Octarian spice.
* He reminded Zanna of a fish. One with teeth and a nasty disposition.
* The stench of death hung heavy in the room—rusted iron and voided bowels.
* No details, no faces, just a churning mass of bodies animated by blind panic.
I could go on, but let’s not spoil the read.
I couldn’t stop wondering what would happen next, events unfurling and pushing me along while the layered characters were revealed, all hurting and fighting in their own ways.
And oh my, the rush as we get to the finale, and the finale itself … wow.
If you love dark epic fantasy I can’t recommend this book high enough. And I cannot wait for book 2.
As an added bonus, this book is not only OUT TODAY but I got the opportunity to chat with the author. You can watch the interview here.

A Place Beyond the Storm by David Green – 4 stars – A second David Green all in a row. This one I had been hanging out to read. A short apocalyptic read. And it was brilliant. Living in caves, underground we begin our adventure with Panam from the day of her becoming an official adult, at the age of 14. It’s real and believable … so kind of terrifying in that way.

Hunter’s Way by Gerri Hill – 3.5 Stars – I enjoyed this crime mystery. It had some pretty gritty scenes and some awesome twists and turns. The characters were awesome, but I do have my own personal issue with ice Queen characters who soften to everyone, and in essence feel like they have changed who they are so utterly. I also felt the extreme changes from minor characters to be a little too drastic and unrealistic at times, when the book itself has such real life grittiness to it. My biggest issue was the way the rape was dealt with. It was good to see the character break down a little but her recovery and ability to move on and function sexually and healthily seemed a little too fast and unrealistic. I still enjoyed the book, it definitely has some intense triggering scenes, and I am interested to see more of these characters in the series.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman – 5 Stars – A re-read … except this time I listened to Neil Gaiman himself read it. It was such a wonderful and different experience. Plus it made it easier to see the book and not the movie. I quite like the movie … but they are such different feels and adventures. And the book remains a delicious treat I discovered many years ago now. I love Neil Gaiman’s voice and reading. I did a video review and exploration about my feelings toward the audio.

Next of kin by Jae – 5 stars – just when I thought conflict on interest could not get better, Jae epically proves me wrong with book 2 of the Portland Police Bureau series. Not only do we follow Aiden and Dawn as their lives continue after the dramatic events of book 1, but we get Cadence and Del’s adventures, as well as small sections of a sidequel through memories and flashbacks. It’s another delicious slice into the lives of these incredibly real and dynamic characters.

Change of pace by Jae – 4 stars – a short novella set a little time after Next of Kin. A fun tale about Cadence’s mum as she inadvertently helps some lesbians move house. It was a fun quick read, but I always prefer Jae’s longer stories, as they really let me feast on the dynamics of human nature.

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone – 5 stars. I am in love with this book. I need to get a paper book copy. The amount of highlighted sections I have is phenomenal and I literally had to stop myself highlighting just as many again. This book is my kind of poetry. And you if you are a reader wanting to understand the depth of every line you may get frustrated and feel stupid, I was tempted to at times, until I understood that this book is poetry in prose. The lines I didn’t understand were beautiful and so I took them for what they were. I never once felt like I was lost or confused about the story that is being told around the poetry.
It’s told in a dual alternating 3rd and 1st person perspective. Blue and Red are on opposite sides of the time war and at the start they almost taunt each other, seeing the other as a true adversary worth their own skills. They exchange letters through the most beautiful and unique of ways. And they eventually fall in love. And oh what a love story it is. With wonderful parallels to a Romeo and Juliet story, I love this version with all of my being. There are so many delicious lines and ways these authors let you know where and how in time the characters are without stamping a date at the start of each new chapter. Some of my favourite lines:
* But we’re all deviant in our different ways.
* Adventure works in any strand – it calls to those who care more for living than for their lives.
* Red wrote too much too fast. Her pen had a heart inside, and the nib was a wound in a vein. She stained the page with herself.
* I want to meet you in every place I have loved.
* Blue closes her eyes as she licks colour from her lips obliterates its name even as she coast her tongue with it, listens to the deep velvety green of Garden’s voice.

Keep reading my friends. And tell me, what were your favourite reads this month?

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen x

Posted in Australia, Book Club, Book Review, Interview, Reading Adventures

April Bookshelf

Middle of Autumn and I’m listening to lots more books than sitting and flicking pages, because staying still in this weather is illegal and mostly frowned upon.

The Skeleton Key by Tara Moss – 4 stars (narration 2 stars) – The story and writing were good, interesting, and the build up of some of the tension was beautifully crafted … as long as you didn’t listen to the audio. I struggled to get through the audio and ended up reading the text instead. Tara Moss has really helped Pandora’s character grow and I’m finding her a lot more layered and likable now, though still a little naïve at times until I remember she’s 19 years old. I was also glad that there wasn’t as much detailed description of every characters outfits. While I do find those details interesting I struggle with so much of it as it’s not really something I’m all too interested in myself. There was still enough to see the characters and understand what the clothes were presenting about them, but not too much that I wish for the story to more on and past again. I think I enjoyed this book the most so far out of the series.

Backward to Oregon by Jae – 5 stars – I love books where I can find myself in the pages. And in so many great lesbian fictions books I’ve found elements and situations that I can stop and think … hmmm yeah I understand that … but this book … OOMPH … Since my partner realised gender fluid wasn’t quite accurate and he is transgender, I’ve found very few if any books that I can relate to in this way, I’ve never read a book that encompasses issues so real to my life … until this book. Yes, heaps of differences and historical to boot. But oh my. 1
To the writing itself, there is something magnetic about Jae’s skill with words. Every book of hers I have read I can’t stop thinking about when I am forced to function in my daily life. I am always racing to get back to it, to find out how this is going to work out, knowing it will in some way but, HOW?
And it’s not just the story, though oh my, the anxiety I felt. Backward to Oregon is a masterpiece of capturing situational emotions and wrapping it’s words around your chest and then letting up enough for vital breaths where you laugh in relief, until the situation is resolved. It also taps into so many themes and issues and made me stop and think. I love a book that makes me think deeper like Jae’s so often do.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – reread – 5 stars – Just finished my second read of this masterpiece. I am more in love with it than I was after the first read. It’s a true journey of beautiful words and a detailed and wonderfully created universe. I can’t wait to read the second book, but might need a lighter read to recover and breathe. A fantastic epic adventure. There were moments where I gasped for breath realising I was so into the action that I had forgotten to breathe. And other moments where I laughed so hard I thought I was going to start crying. I really love the rhythmic beauty of Tamsyn Muir’s words. It’s a music that speaks to every fibre of my being.

The Power of Mercy by Fiona Zedde – 5 Stars – The power of Mercy is gritty, dark, and intense. It’s superheroine, mystery, and a little horror all thrown in together. Zedde weaves words with magic as the story flows and you are brought into Mai’s world and nightmares. She holds no punches and doesn’t save the reader with closed doors or fade to blacks and it is done so brilliantly and powerfully. Power is such an intense theme of this book and it shows. An intense look into family, secrets, and betrayal. Incredible read.
To see me chatting with Fiona Zedde about this book, her writing, and life you can find the video here.

Magic, Murder & Mistletoe by Ellen Jane – 3.5 stars – It was a quick and quirky fun read. I enjoyed the wallpaper and the flowers that reminded me of Alice in wonderland. A few things had me feeling like I was being donked over the head and information rammed down my throat, not allowing me to solve the mystery with and for the characters. While some information was left floating around. I do hope the threads will be tied up in sequels, but they were threads that were hung just a little too loosely for me. Still an enjoyable palate cleanser and short read.

Forever and a Day: A Those Who Wait story by Haley Cass – 5 stars – I had expected a short snippet in to Charlotte and Sutton’s life after Those Who Wait. But this was so much more. And again Haley Cass has tapped into the real pull of emotions in a realistic heart wrenching way. A brilliant sum up of a fantastic book and completely wonderful in its own right.

Aurora’s Angel by Emily Noon – 4.5 stars – I cannot believe how much I loved this book. I’ve never really been drawn to shifter books, the concept hasn’t really appealed to me. This was phenomenal. The characterisation’s were exquisite and the dynamics between Aurora and Evie is delicious. The description landscape was so real that I could see the world they travelled, and I couldn’t help but laugh and love Aurora’s mum, despite the obvious issues. I had tears of laughter during a few parts, which were placed perfectly between the tension and action of the book. One specific part of crying laughter was about someone keeping their ears … I couldn’t help but wonder if it were a homage to The Princess Bride. Either way, I fell in love with both characters, and Noon did an incredible job in making every character dynamic and real.

No Strings Attached (The Pink Bean, #1) by Harper Bliss – 4 stars – An enjoyable later in life coming out story. I really liked the characters in this and there were a few moments where the experiences of the nerves and anxiety of coming out hit right on the mark. Curious about the series, and looking forward to seeing whose stories we get to see in greater detail.

A Pinch of Salt (The Towers of the Earth #0.1) by Nita Round – 3.5 stars – It took me a little bit to get into this book, which could have more to do with my minimal but growing exposure to steam punk. It felt as though it took a little time to fully get into the pace and rhythm of the story but once it did it was full steam ahead (intentional, I like my puns). I really enjoyed the gradual drip of information that’s given and the characters and mysteries are quite fascinating. Was it the best written book? No. Was it a worthwhile short read? Yeah. I look forward to reading more of the with, and this author.

The Red Files by Lee Winter – 5 stars – ** little spoiler alert ** Hold on to your hats because this is going to be a long and rant filled one.
I’m slowly making my way through Lee Winter’s back catalogue. Slowly only because I don’t want to have no more to look forward to. But each unread book I start I think, will the poor woman survive the pedestal of the books I’ve read so far of hers.
And each book I finish with a huge smile on my face and think … this is my favourite Lee Winter book lol … until I reread a previous one or begin the next one.
Now after that fangirling moment on to The Red Files itself and yep, there will be spoilers.
I’m not the most politically intelligent person and always find myself squishing my lips up in worry that the politics will go over my head and I’ll lose some of the impact of the story. It didn’t happen here. The political side was explained enough without feeling like I was beat over the head. Always a bonus to not feel like a moron when reading.
The mystery of the book was fabulous. There were brilliantly placed red herrings that never dragged out long enough to cause frustrations and all lose ends were tied up if not entirely then definitely satisfactorily (I’m looking at you scar face)
The use of humour in her books always gets me. Lauren’s internal (and sometimes external) dialogue had me laughing out loud and I loved the Voyager references, especially the Janeway love. cues up Macrocosm.
Without a doubt Lee Winter is the ruling royalty of the Ice Queen. Seriously. Her ice Queens are delicious and so frosty and they remain just that, except to the ray of sunshine that help to warm the small part of their hearts just enough to show what love can do and mean without destroying who they are as people.
I also love that the entire book is from one characters perspective. I can appreciate why so many lesfic novels have both main character POV’s happening but there is something fun and delightful about truly not knowing for sure what the other character’s internal thoughts are. For me it really punched home the emotions and insecurities or ‘kicked puppy’ fears of Lauren.
The sex – I don’t often remember a lot of the sex scenes once I’ve finished a book. I remember if the sex scenes were good of it I was tempted to flipped pages but the specifics all tend to blur together, except for a few exceptions, and the last sex scene in The Red Files fits firmly in the second category. There was something so wonderfully different about it. There was far less interest in the mechanics and where and how and focused all on the feels and for me, that was one of the sexiest sex scenes I’ve ever read.
So, overall (if you’ve read this far kudos, that’s impressive) I loved this book. The writing, the character development, and the story all sucked me in completely.
Another book beneath your feet on that pedestal (sorry Lee).
I highly recommend if you enjoy real characters, great writing, and an intriguing mystery.

Code of Conduct by Cheyenne Blue – 4 stars – I am in love with the settings of Cheyenne’s books. Code of Conduct is not just set in Australia, but in the Australia I know and love. The country girl in me shines when I read her books. This is the first sport romance book I’ve read, and I loved it. Of all the sports, bring on tennis and the Australian Open. The characters were so great. I could relate to Viva on many levels and it was so nice to see and feel the book in a way I never can when it comes to books always set in worlds I know nothing about. I really enjoyed the story and the character developments. A great sports romance read.

Girl A by Abigail Dean – 4 stars – I heard about this book from Rachel Herron’s podcast How Do You Write. She read out the first page before she interviewed the author and I was hooked. Beyond that I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve seen a few negative/DNF type reviews and if you are expected a lineal story and the conventions of the novel, I can see how you would not be impressed. But I fell in love with the gritty internal struggles of Girl A. A few times I was a bit lost as time jumps back and forth and characters are easily confused. But I feel like this was a deliberate insight into how the mind works. We don’t stop and explain who these people are when we catch up with people we haven’t’ seen in years. We don’t think lineal. Our minds pop back and forth, random things setting tangential thoughts in to motion.
After reading this book I had the biggest emotional stretched book hang over. I’m still trying to figure out if it’s good or bad.
The writing was beautiful and the authors use of descriptions had me swoon. It feels like an intentional jarring of the beauty to the abuse and trauma of the story.
Most impressionable theme I got from the book was this raw and gritty look into human nature and our desire to see others pain and, oh such a commentary on media and obsession with real life trauma. It’s such an intense personal insight and above all, for me, it read like a non-fiction and the feels hit with more power than I can remember feeling in similar stories.

It was an intense reading month. A few short reads but mostly quite long adventures.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen

Posted in Book Club, Book Review, Reading Adventures

January Reviews

A huge post here. January has been a big reading month. Which is a great start for the reading challenges I’ve given myself this year. Fair warning, there are some spoilers in some of the reviews, so *SOME SMALL SPOILERS BELOW*

The Queen’s Blade by Natasja Rose – An assassin, a poisoner, a Queen, her inner circle of hand maidens, demi-gods, and a constant presence of those wanting the Queen off of her throne. What more can one ask for? Oh, also a great many Women loving Women characters which always makes this little reader very happy.
I finished The Queen’s Blade with a desire for more. Rose’s mastery of setting up the oomph impact of the ending was brilliant and the vulnerability she explores not just in her main characters, Sayfiya and Alexandra, but in many minor characters is beautifully human. I would love to see stories of the minor characters lives.
A good read, with some beautiful prose. My favourite part of this book is how Rose sets up power and rips it away with heartbreaking strength. I also enjoyed the unexpected humour that rose it’s head a few times throughout.
‘If she has nothing else, she has the audacity.’
There were a few large chunks of telling that made me beg for just a little more showing, or at least broken up between action a bit more. At times there were A LOT of characters and I struggled to keep up with who everyone was but this tends to be a struggle for this reader when it comes to fantasy.
The Queen’s Blade is a short easy read that taps into the emotions of those who love but are often limited.
‘Her voice was calm, in the way of the still air that came before a hurricane.’
(Note: I did a video chat with Natasja Rose on the facebook Les Fiction Book Club page, and will be up soon on my YouTube channel.)

The Funeral Birds by Paula R.C. Readman – I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this read. The murder! Mystery! Mayhem! gave me a very different idea of what this would be. But after the first few pages the humour and tone of the book became obvious. The relationship with the main character and his wife is great. The dialogue is realistic and the dynamics quite cute. The description is spotted throughout the book and seems to reflect the main characters personality, which is a huge tick for me as the book is written in first person. I loved the humour and there was a bit of a Pratchett feel, whether it was an intentional hat tilt or not, I really enjoyed that element.
I kept waiting for a bigger reveal, a twist, or a bigger complication to the story line but there just really wasn’t one. I knew how it would end beforehand, the red herrings not entirely convincing for me.
It’s a quick easy read, that is enjoyable and fun. While there was no big twist, the pace was perfect.

Hotel Queens by Lee Winter – An ice Queen and a Fire Queen with Lee Winter’s brilliant style and in-need-of-a-cold-shower sex scenes, Hotel Queens more than delivered.
The humour and sarcasm, the layers to characters, the effects of caustic family, the emotive language that makes you gasp or laugh or cringe (sometimes all within seconds of each other) are just the tip of the iceberg (pun intended) on the brilliance of Hotel Queens.
Secondary characters Quinn and Millie are truly fantastic, sometimes a little too perfect at being the main characters right hands? Or perhaps I’m just dying to see more of them as the main characters, and find the nitty gritty behind their awesomeness.
As in true Lee Winter fashion I found myself laughing out loud, both in humour and a little facepalming at times.
Some of my favourite lines (it was hard to cut it down from the thirty I highlighted during reading).
* Kai wasn’t called The Closer because she sold zippers.
* Milly didn’t say a word. But the “we’re screwed” was loud and clear.
* Finally Quinn cleared her throat and said. “I’ll leave you two to your eye-sex. I’m going to find Milly.”

(Note: This was the second book for the Les Fiction Book Club January. I got to chat with Lee Winter and ask questions about this book and her writing. She’s a fantastic author well worth look up)

Whispers in the Dark by K. B. Elijah – A brilliant short read that had my internal (and sometimes external) dialogue ranting and trying to keep up.

Half way through … and the commentary didn’t end.

I adore the writing of Whispers in the Dark. The dialogue is smooth and natural and the description is often beautiful even in it’s horrific subject matter.
* No spark meant no extinguishment. No hope meant no disappointment.
* defanging the vicious bite of time.
* It was curious that the complete absence of light invented its own vision.

Speaking Out: A 21st Century Handbook for Women and girls by Tara Moss – My first ever Audio Book and I’m hooked. Tara Moss eloquently discusses cultural and systemic silencing of women and how that is not only in our past but continues to happen today. She gives some incredible and practical advise at how to combat the pressure females still received to shhhh and remain silent. She has used her own voice in calm and intelligent ways, with facts and research to back up her words. With her own experience mixed in with others (who have given her permission to disclose) she helps connect to readers and help them understand, they are not alone. Tara Moss does this without sugar coating the backlash we all might face should we choose to speak out.

Stone Cold Bastards by Jake Bible – I have such a love for Gargoyles. I have been obsessed with them since I was a child so my own experience in reading Stone Cold Bastards might be slightly biased. That being said, this is an incredibly well written story, the world building is phenomenal and the characters are brilliant. It has such a large cast of characters, and yet Jake Bible manages to make them all wonderfully unique enough that I never found myself asking who was who. The description of this apocalyptic second world is breath taking at times. The humour and sarcasm he uses is totally my jam, from the nasty demons to the gargoyle fairies with the sailor mouths.

A Woman Lost by T.B. Markinson – Oh my hell. The urge to smack Lizzie is so strong in this novel, while also giving her a cuddle and hair tussle at the same time. She seems so oblivious to just about everything around her, and yet I am eager to read more of her misadventures in the future. T.B. Markinson is really good at writing characters that make me shake my head at their actions, and yet I love them for their lack of perfection and crazy troubles they usually put themselves in to. I think it captures perfectly, human beings nature to self-sabotage. The writing is wonderful and by the end I really did like Lizzie, no longer in spite of her self centered views but with an understanding of this being the beginning of her growing up. From her bizarre and dysfunctional friendship with Ethan, to her inability to see anything but perfection as worth it, to her family, oh her family …
* Ethan giggled as he stirred his coffee. “Talking to you about your family always makes me feel better about my own messed-up family.”
* How was that possible? How could two people do something together and have two completely different experiences?
* Maddie’s face paled and my stomach flipped. Enter The Scotch-Lady.
* I had a hairline fracture. Not even a real break—a wimpy hairline fracture. Just like my wimpy illness.

A Heart this Big by Cheyenne Blue – I laughed so much during this book. A lot of my chuckles came from Nina’s internal dialogue and humour, as she runs Banksia farm. And then, wow we get Leigh Willoughby … the powerhouse lawyer. I am a complete sucker for a good slow burn, and this was brilliant. The interactions are sweet and often amusing … there is a lot of chicken shit involved, and the reasons they can’t be together right away make sense. While there were times it was frustrating, there was always a small glimmer of hope and light at the end of the tunnel which avoided the doom and gloom so many slow burns revel in too long for my liking. I also loved the way everyday things were beautiful and interesting in the way they were written. I wrote an entire blog about my love for this book. The story line was great, and the writing spot on. But what sold me was the landscape and the love of Australia that seeps through every page and wedges itself firmly in my heart. I can’t wait to read more of Cheyenne Blue’s books.

The Love Factor by Quinn Ivins – OH WOW! There is so much about this book I want to go on a raving spree about. I found myself smiling in a whirl of nostalgia while giggling at the late nineties and all that entails. I also found the pressure sit on my chest and make it hard to breath as the characters own trials were so relatable. I remember battling my own sexuality and place in the world at the same time as the characters (slightly different age). The writing is brilliant and the characters are entirely delightful. Molly’s enthusiasm is adorable. She’s a bouncy, energetic, and passionate person who finds common ground with the ice queen herself. Oh, how I crushed on so many lecturers at uni who were so similar to the powerful Carmen. The biggest shock was realising just how long ago 1997 was … surely I’m not really THAT old?!. Brilliant debut novel from Quinn Ivins. I can’t wait to see more of her work.

Winter’s Vindication (An Anthology edited by Abigail Linhardt) – Overall this anthology was good to read, not the best I’ve read but a long way from the worst. Here is my breakdown of the 9 stories:
The Silent Tower by Abigail Linhardt – 3.5 Stars – A good story, with some lovely writing. The pace was great, the tension built beautifully. There were a few points where I was confused about who was speaking, but for me I felt like the end didn’t quite tie everything up as well as I would have liked. Still an enjoyable story to read.
For I Hear you Calling by C. Murray Hultman – 3 Stars – This story was my least favourite in the collection. The writing was quite beautiful at times, but I felt as though the story itself was more a chapter instead of a short story that stood on it’s own. I got frustrated very quickly with the main character ‘talking to her son’.
For Humanity by Christine Watts – 4.5 stars – A great piece, beautiful in story, pace, language use, and character. I was swept up in Lynne’s plight and could not devour it fast enough.
The Snow Warrior by Erin Fanning – 4.5 Stars – Such a brilliant spine chilling story. I had goosebumps over my flesh, and absolutely adored the authors way of describing the snowman.
Iced by Thaddeus Rutkowski – 3.5 stars – There was nothing wrong with the writing as such, but it read more like a series of journal entries. It felt like nothing ended up happening and while it reminded me a little of 19th literature, I didn’t expect to find a piece like this in this anthology.
The Warden’s Game by John M. Floyd – 5 Stars – Brilliant. Everything about this was great. The writing, the characters, the story. Everything pulled me toward the end, which was wonderfully satisfying.
The Saviors by David Green – 5 Stars – Another truly brilliant piece of writing. Right from the very first paragraph I wanted to know what was going on. Everything is done with skilled purpose and the pace is entirely spot on. A brilliant futuristic piece with gasps of shock to add to the fun. The descriptions are so perfect for the barren landscape.
Freezings Greetings by Derek Power – 5 Stars – This is the most fun and quirky piece. I laughed out loud many times reading this story. I enjoyed the descriptions and Filthy Henry is a fantastic character. I’d love to see more of his adventures in this world that the author has created so brilliantly.
Fractured Thinking by Louise Pierce – 3.5 stars – An interesting piece of writing. I wanted to know more though, as though this were merely a preview or trailer to the real story itself. A few questions unanswered and at times unsure who was actually speaking.

Mount Terror by E.L Giles – A brilliant short read to end out the month. Set in the mid 1930’s, Henry Chapelton embarks on a mission to rescue Captain Ernst Land after hearing the man’s last distressed communication.
This story is beautifully written and the pace gets your heart racing right along side Henry’s. Several descriptions made me shiver alongside the characters and reading this was, to use Giles’ word from this book, an ‘orgy of madness.’
* It’s strange that sometimes only the most awful and gruesome things have the power to ignite out motivation and push us to work our hardest.

11 books done – 5 that can go toward Jae’s Sapphic reading challenge .. not too shabby 🙂

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Posted in Book Club, Life Adventures, Reading Adventures, Writing Adventures

Well that was a week

I’m not sure anyone really expected life to suddenly become perfect but I’m almost certain no one thought 2020 was a shocking calm before the storm. And perhaps it is neither extreme but this first week of 2021 has certainly thrown a spanned in the works.

I don’t want to go into the world at large thing, because we all know the dumpster fire has followed us into the New Year. Locally, we are in a sudden 3 day lockdown, which sounds minimal but I’m not delusional enough to think that after three days life will be great again. Nor will I be shocked if the lockdown is extended, again and again.

On a personal note, things have been a bit rough as well.

Three of the most influential and important women in my life are in dire situations with their health (mum if you are reading this, you are NOT allowed to get sick) one has even been given the devastating prognosis of approximately 6 weeks.

Last night when I learned this I sobbed into my partners shoulder and felt a crushing pain in my chest. I cried myself to sleep and have woken sadden but aware that if I were to let this stop me grabbing everyday and doing what I can with it, she would not only kick my arse but damn what a disrespect that would be. The sadness remains but along with that, I have the memories and light of her being in my life.

So what has 2021 offered so far to help light the rough days ahead. I have finally got this blog up and running properly and have my website good to go. I am working on finally getting my newsletter happening, and I’m so excited about it. I have a short story I am itching to give away to all subscribers and have the most beautiful cover made by the incredibly talented Pamela Jeffs. Her writing is mind blowing and her cover designs (a hobby she says) are truly stunning.

Reading:
I’ve embarked on a very optimistic goodreads reading challenge for 2021 of 100 books. Last year I managed 61 in the end and thought that incredible, but what’s a challenge if you aren’t pushing yourself beyond what you already know you can do.
In these 100 books I’m also working on the Sapphic Reading Challenge 2021 created by the incredibly awesome and talented Jae.

https://jae-fiction.com/sapphic-reading-challenge-2021/

I’m aiming for the dragon level 1 badge (1 book from each 50 categories) AND the bonus unicorn badge (10 of the 12 category). If you want to up your reading challenge and embark on some sapphic reading, and perhaps find new authors and categories then go take a look. There are many levels of badges, for all levels of readers.

I finished my first book The Queen’s Blade by Natasha Rose and am almost half way through Hotel Queens by Lee Winter. Both books are featured on the Les Fiction Book Club Facebook group this month. There will be author interviews, Q&A’s, and discussion at the end of the month. I’m also hoping to get some quick video reviews done as well.

Writing:
I finished my first full draft rewrite of Gargoyles, a dystopian novella I’m hoping to submit to a publisher by the end of February.
I’ve almost finished my last read through of The Void for the Publishers deadline of the end of the month.
I have also, with the help of my lovely partner, set up a writing space in our office. It’s so pretty and exciting.

New writing space .. Not yet finished but well on its way

So I hope you are all staying safe, and I’d love to hear if you’re doing any reading challenges this year, or any other challenges you are embarking on in 2021.

Be safe
Be brave
Be kind

Posted in Book Club, Reading Adventures, Writing Adventures

October Book Reviews

October has been a mammoth month of reading. These reviews are my own personal interpretations and opinions. I’m always up for book discussions, so let me know what you think.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – I wasn’t sure what to expect, all I had heard about it was lesbian necromancers in space. Sounded promising. And on almost all levels it certainly delivered. Overall I really enjoyed the story, but I found I kept expecting some kind of outward expression of Gideon being a lesbian (perhaps an indication of the dominant lesbian fiction out there?) and at times the near literary writing found some sections harder to get through. However, It was refreshing and freaking amazing reading a lesbian fiction story that isn’t Romance as it’s predominate theme. More speculative fiction lesbian books is needed in my opinion. Gideon the Ninth is a fantastical epic adventure of beautiful words and a detailed and wonderfully created universe. It is a brilliant read, but worth knowing exactly what you are embarking on. I am looking forward to reading book two, Harrow the Ninth with a little more understanding of what I’m about to read. I’m so happy to see other genres embrace lesbian main characters.

Finding Jessica Lambert by Clare Ashton – Finding Jessica Lambert is a contemporary romance. Everything about this book was deliciously beautiful. The words were divine, and the characters so real in a world that many may not have any experience with. The family dynamics and contrary actions of people were so human. It tapped in to anxieties so honestly they resonated and wrapped around me. It was a brilliant commentary on societies expectation that people should always have their shit together and the shame that’s created when keeping the struggles hidden. I also love the idea of second chances that is sewed through out the story. I loved this book and will be looking up more by this author.

Reservations of the Heart by T. B. Markinson – Reservations of the Heart was delightful from the first page to the last. I adored the characters and their fantastically witty and Laugh out loud banter. The dynamics between family relationships were varied and relatable while the writing was brilliant. T.B Markinson has spoken many times about her dislike of sex scenes but the many in this book were heat worthy phenomenal. It was also nice to read a book where both main characters are already aware of their sexuality.

Try me Again by Clare Lydon – A beautifully written snapshot of love, wrong choices, and second chances. Try me Again is easy to read with the flow and intrigue, while Clare Lyndon uses her humour, stunning scene setting, and insights of human nature to make you fall in love along with the characters.

Brooms Away by D. A. Kelly – A cosy mystery meets quirky fantasy. It is a fun adventure that will make you giggle. The mystery is intriguing, and the main character, Arabella is a riot of humour and rushing in to a world she doesn’t know much about. The writing is beautiful and the description and scenery is immersive. D.A. Kelly has done a fantastic job of putting her imaginative world on to the page and into our hearts. I can’t wait to read more from this author.

Out of Nowhere: Moments in Time Anthology volume 2 by K. B. Elijah – I had so much fun reading these stories. Elijah’s writing is captivating and inviting while her characters make you chuckle or roll your eyes (intentionally), sometimes both. My favourites were definitely the stories about Death. She has created such a fun world and a unique and fun twist to a character I want to read far more adventures about.
Out of Nowhere ended with such a fantastic story, which brought together several other characters, from both this anthology and Volume 1. But no need to worry, the story stands completely on it’s own, but a fun little inside knowledge always makes this more enjoyable ;-p

Carnage by J. A. Henderson – In true Henderson style I devoured this book in three sittings (the downside of being an adult and needing to do life stuff). From the beginning to the end, Carnage entertained and pulled me in. I love the way J.A. Henderson gives you all the information, which somehow seems completely unrelated until his reveals where you slap yourself on the forehead and think, well of course, that makes entire sense. It’s a brilliant read, with laugh out loud moments, brilliant well rounded characters, and a story you need to know the end to. Highly recommend this book and the author.

The Rise of the Great Old One by Jasmine Jarvis – A quick dark read. A homage to Lovecraft and a spine chilling tale to make you question ‘where do writers really get their ideas’ ;-). Jarvis’ first solo publication that shows the skill and twisted mind of a great writer. I loved where the story began, setting up an interesting ended that made me shiver.

My last quick review was a live video I did for The Les Fiction Book Club group on Facebook. The review was on Clare Lydon’s ‘Before you Say I Do’, October’s book for the group. I also got a chance to chat with Clare during another live video, where we talked about her book, and other fun things like the first lesbian fiction book she read, different romance tropes, and her upcoming Christmas book. If you would like to check these videos out, you can join the group here.

Hope October was a good month for you all, and that November is fantastic. If anyone is embarking on the craziness of NaNoWriMo, GOOD LUCK … if you want to have me as a NaNo buddy, my user name is evil_koalas.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Posted in Book Club

Book Club

Before I was a writer, I was a reader. A devouring-anything-I-could-get-my-hands-on type of reader.

September’s Book of the Month

The problem I had was that there were no representations of myself in the books I found. There weren’t many books I could see myself in, and even fewer I could access.

Now a days there are so many more books with such a diverse range of representations, but it’s not always easy to find people to talk about them with.

So instead of trying to find them, I decided to run a Facebook Les Fiction Book Club. *insert wide eyes and deep breathes now*.

It’s all new, and it’s really exciting. Being able to talk about books that feature characters I can relate to … it’s a little like heaven.

If you’re interested by all means jump on over to the Facebook group and see if it’s for you. https://www.facebook.com/groups/lesfictionbookclub

I’m going to be talking to author Jae about ‘Wrong Number, Right Woman’, our first book for the group, this coming Monday at 8:30pm (Australian Eastern Standard Time).

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind