Posted in Book Review, Reading Adventures

February Reviews

A short month but so many great reads, ranging from Lesfic sci-fi and romance, urban fantasy, short reads, and even a wonderful middle grade book thrown in there. As always, there are minor spoilers throughout … mostly in the form of quotes.

Top contenders for favourite read of the month

The Blood Countess by Tara Moss – 4 stars – A well written book, with some great description and intrigue. I love Moss’s attention and detail to clothing and colours. I would imagine it is one of her own personal interests, as this is one of several books I’ve read of hers that has such detail, love, and care for clothing. It seeps into the words and it’s beautiful.
My only real issues for the book are the continuity issue which I kept waiting to be resolved but which wasn’t, and at times the main characters lack of intelligence and continued denial about her gifts.
I loved all the references to ancient mythology. I also found I laughed out loud with some of Pandora’s internal monologue.
🗿 This woman was Medusa, and could turn me to stone if I met her eyes

Finding Forever (Your Way #3) by Jamey Moody – 3.5 Stars – The third book in the series, but definitely able to be read and enjoyed on it’s own. Nice, easy to read writing with lots of fun activities and adventures with the two main characters. I am not the biggest of sappy readers, and this was one romantic sappy book. It works perfectly for what it is and Moody has done a great job of bringing the feels.
The beginning was a little difficult to figure out who was who as it’s such a full cast. But I really enjoyed the minor characters, and knowing they are the main characters of the first two books, this would probably not be an issue if read in order of the series.
The sex scenes … I didn’t feel as though all of them were actually necessary to be put in with such detail. A few could have been a fade to black/close the door as they didn’t progress characterization or story, except to show the characters in high honeymoon relationship stage.

Summer Brook Spring by Lynne Lumsden Green – 5 stars – what a purely delightful book about an 11 year old who has to move from England to Rural Australia. I adored the way the authentic view of Australia and it’s landscape and hardships wrapped around me like a familiar blanket. Not only is the landscape beautiful, the writing is rich in description and emotion. The view point of Freya was so spot on and memories from my own child hood flooded back from her perspective and way of seeing the world around her.
👩 Emma Lloyd was a gold and brown girl; she had tanned skin and long hair bleached by the sun.
🐄 A few dozen caramel-coloured cows, with a sprinkling of black-and-white cows among them.
🍳She felt like she was dipping her toast soldiers into liquid sunshine
I can’t wait to read more of these books and am eager to see what other hobby farm adventures the Freya and Emma get up to.

Those Who Wait by Haley Cass – 5 Stars – I get it, I now understand why so many people have talked about and recommended this book. It is fabulous. It took me a few days to write this because I had to try and get my thoughts together so it wasn’t simply a rush of words. I’ve at least tried to explain a little of why this is so far THE BOOK of 2021 for me.
The story – It is truly captivating. Each step as things progress I felt my heart catch in my throat, and while you think you know what will happen, you just aren’t 100% sure. And for a romance, that’s a feat in and of itself.
The characters – I adore both of the main characters. And what’s better is that the minor characters also made their way in to my affections.
The Sex – Cold showers and strong fans are a definite must while reading this book. I have read (and written) quite a few (read – a LOT) of sex scenes .. but these ones (yes plural) were phenomenal. Each had a purpose and pushed the overall narrative forward.
The writing – Rich emotive words and internal dialogue. For all the romances I have read, this is the FIRST that has ever brought me to tears. I can feel the emotions of books, but I rarely find myself in tears. I was sobbing at one point in this book and was so utterly stunned. But the power and passion, it was tangible.

The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker – 5 stars – Such a master of the twisted horror. This story is brilliant. If you’ve ever seen or heard of Even though it’s quite old now it still managed to get my heart racing. It was such a brilliant experience getting to listen to it read by Clive himself. The amount of times I stopped it to capture his way of describing the scene or the emotions left me with a huge list of quotable lines. But here are just a few of my top favourites.
🩸Wore it’s frayed nerve on it’s bleeding sleeves
⚰️ If nothing was worth living for it followed didn’t it, that there was nothing worth dying for either.
📞 The line was watery as though the deluge outside has seeped down the phone.

The Monarch of the Glen by Neil Gaiman – 5 stars – A fun beautifully written short adventure. It’s two years after American Gods and Shadow finds himself hired as a body guard, but not is it all as it seems, which surprises no one, least of all Shadow. Brilliant use of words and myths, from the talented Mr Neil Gaiman.
🤍 He told himself sometimes, he did not care if he ever went back, and sometimes he almost came close to believing himself.

Wherever You Go by Monique Mulligan – 5 stars. First a confession. I did 3 false starts of this book before I finally gave in and began it properly. It wasn’t the writing, most definitely not. It was the heartbreak you could feel from the very first chapter. Once I finally gave into the heartbreak properly, I couldn’t put it down. The writing is truly masterful. I have notes scrawled in margins and favourite lines highlighted. And the way she uses the power of her words to layer emotions in each page is incredible. The characters, from Mat and Amy, Nick and Devi, Frank, June, Irene, Bonnie, and Ashlee. You can see them, hear them and wish you we’re friends with them. Even Una and Sharon. Ok maybe not friends with them, but oh we’ve all known them. All these characters have the same things in common. They are layered and beautiful, complicated and human. Reading this book also made my mouth water and a desire to learn to cook. But let’s be honest, I’m definitely more like Frank. But this book is definitely one hell of a foodies dream. A wonderful journey into grief and trauma, paced perfectly with love and laughter.

The Lily and the Crown by Roslyn Sinclair – 5 stars – I am unashamedly in love with both of the main characters in this story. For such extremely different reasons, but love all the same. Of course, I could only dream about being as powerful and confident, and shiver down the spine as Assistant, though I saw many familiar traits in the effervescent, socially awkward, blurter of thoughts, and moral Ariana. There is everything brilliant and beautiful in this story. It’s so much fun getting to read all the genres I grew up devouring, but now with main characters I can relate to and fall in love with. Sinclair’s descriptions and world building is fantastic, while I definitely got all the feels most often in magnificently worded internal thoughts of Ariana.
😜 More often than not it led to very enjoyable shenanigans (I’m giggling again)
🦹‍♀️ She should wonder if Mir wasn’t a creature out of ancient lore, a powerful spirit that descended onto mortals and whisked them away to another world. (How magical is this wording, and the emotions and images it creates).
I highly recommend giving this book a go, and if you feel brave enough try Angela Dawe’s narration … but be advised, do not operate heavy machinery while listening … specifically to some truly delectable sex scenes.

The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashely Poston – 4 stars – I don’t tend to read a lot of YA fiction. Especially contemporary. The few YA fiction that I adore have been Speculative Fiction. In saying that, there were so many references to cult classics and the world of gaming, tv shows, movies, and the like that I often forgot it was set in a contemporary world.
My biggest issue with the book is that it was a little frustrating. The author included a Lesbian romance parrallel to a heterosexual one, which was awesome. However, I felt like I really wanted the bravery of the character to also be reflected in the book. I would have loved to have two lesbian romances, or for the perspectives to be solely on the two lesbian characters. Instead it felt more focused on the heterosexual character and her romantic (mis)adventures, while not pushing or embrace enough bravery to have solely a lesbian geek story.
Overall I did enjoy this book. Poston has the quirkiest, cutest way of writing, mixed with some of the sweetest and soppiest heart thoughts.
🐈 I am a ball of anxious wet cats
🔪 I unlatch the door and peek through the peephole, but someone has their finger blocking it. Because that isn’t murdery at all. I’m going to die.
🦠 He says the last bit slowly, oily, and a tremble races down my spine.
🧠 Brain, you have failed me for the last time.
👄 There’s adventure tucked into the corner of her mouth.
🕳 She is curious, and I am Alice falling into the rabbit hole.
🔑 Oh sweet baby Daleks
🗡 I am not a princess waiting to be saved, I will do my own saving.
💋 She kisses me and the world is too small and my skin is too tight and the universe is impossible.
(ok I’ll stop now but know, there are about three times this list again highlighted from this deliciously quotable book)
Princess was a fun trip doing my own geek and nerdy days. There are so many scenes in this book that I found myself nodding and smiling at, remembering the feel and energy of con days before the state of the world took them away. It’s definitely made me yearn for when we can go back to sci-fi and pop culture conventions.

The Spider Goddess by Tara Moss – 4.5 stars – I really enjoyed this read, even more than the first of the series. I feel like Pandora English is really coming into herself. I know it’s called the spider goddess but eeeewww yep shivered with the sensation of hairy legs crawling up my spine several times through out the book. So kudos to Tara Moss for getting that spot on. The book answers some of the things left hanging in the first book, and reminds you of some of the overall questions that are being set up to be answered in later books in the series (I hope). The writing is brilliant, beautiful words of description and humour, and the story was easy and fast paced. You didn’t have time to stop and wonder why Pandora didn’t just do x, y, or z. And her confidence and internal snark is definitely becoming more entertaining, the character in general more likable. I love all the pop references mixed in with ancient mythology, and who wouldn’t love a relative like Pandora’s Great Aunt Cecilia.
🕺Danced awkwardly about the workshop, like Mick Jagger on bad acid.
📖 Just because it’s in a book doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
🧛‍♀️ There was nothing quite like the ennui of a depressed young vampire
👩‍🎓 The philosophers and thinkers of this age have thrown out spiritiualism with religion. They believe in chaos, chance, happenstance. You would do well to unlearn those ideas.
🕷 I could feel the paralysis of her spider kiss.

The Reckoning by Stephanie Scissom – A short read that throws you in from the start.

My favourite quote from The Reckoning

A mystery ghost story reminiscent of those stories you pretended didn’t raise goosebumps on the back of your neck. Well worth the read.

Was a surprisingly long list for such a short and busy month. But I really enjoyed the reads.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

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 Australia, Book Review, Reading Adventures, Writing Adventures

Not a review … as such

I’ve only just discovered the beauty of audio books. I take my time in getting acquainted with change. Usually denouncing the change stubbornly until I finally experience it and become they biggest spokes person.

Yesterday I spent a good chunk of my day listening to my latest audiobook, A Heart This Big by Cheyenne Blue. I’m still only three quarters of the way through, so I can’t really give a full review as yet, but oh how this book has effected me already. It’s one of the first books I’ve read that has made me feel nostalgic in the most beautiful way to the landscape of my childhood.

I’ve read emotional books before, where they tear your heart out. But this book is a new level of emotion for me. It’s so beautiful and refreshing to read about Australia and fall back in love with my homeland. There’s no lying about the dusty landscape or the chicken shit, but the way Cheyenne has captured all the things I love about this beautiful country has me smiling and breathing deeper.

Much of what I myself write I have set in QLD, Australia. Because I love this country. Since I began writing I’ve had the discouragements and the downright statements that setting my writing anywhere in Australia will have me fail. I gave in a few time and took out specific town names, and obvious descriptors, and I have to say I’ve not liked the stories nearly as much. So after awhile I flipped the bird to the nay sayers and have continued to set my worlds obviously in this country. That doesn’t mean I haven’t worried at my bottom lip when I’ve sent a manuscript off with the tell tale names and places. But I’ve fallen in love with many overseas places through the words of others, I would love to one day make a reader want to see this country, or to fall in love with their own country.

A Heart This Big also sent me skittering to the kitchen. There is something so inherent in my childhood about cooking. My mum isn’t a big cooker, but my grandma was – possibly the only positive thing I could say about the woman. I danced around the kitchen with my son while I cooked and cleaned, baked, and chopped apples. The apples were to dry, but the smell sent me back to days where I would be at the farm and wander into the house to smell my Gran’s apple pies baking.

I feel like I’ve always appreciated this country, but perhaps the struggles of my childhood have made me forget how much I loved Australia even back then, and the country girl in me is still alive and well.

Thank you Cheyenne for reminding me that this country is beautiful, and always has been.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind