Posted in Book Review, Reading Adventures

September Bookshelf

Lots of books this month. TWELVE!!!! I got to try some new authors and I’m always down for that. I love exploring how other authors play and manipulate words. I also finished two of my three book challenges – I have hit the Unicorn Badge AND the Dragon Badge for Jae’s Sapphic Reading Challenge. Will get to those videos over on the Hyperactive Bookworm shortly 😀

Malice (Malice Duology #1) by Heather Walter – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – OMGoddess. This book is EVERYTHING. I was downright shaking and speechless when I finished this book. Heather Walter has turned a fairytale I was completely ambivalent to into my favourite fractured fairy tale I’ve read so far.
The writing is absolutely beautiful, the characters are dynamic and interesting, and the world building is *chefs kiss*
Alice is so relatable, and I love her.
And the themes of this book are so intense and explored so well. This idea of you reap what you sow came across so strongly to me, as well as investigating the power of intent versus results.

No Good Reason (The Dark Peak #1) by Cari Hunter – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – I really enjoyed this book. A crime novel with a detective and a doctor who are BFF’s with benefits. I fell in love with Meg, the doctor Sanne can’t take out in public. I love the hints and insights into these characters, the similarities that make them connect and the differences that make them crave each other. One of the things I really enjoyed about this story, was that Sanne, the detective, isn’t old and wizened. She is new, relatively untried, and is finding her strength and power to listen to her own gut feelings.
The crime/storyline itself was riveting and heart pounding at all the right times. Horrible and ruthless and brutal.
Can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

A Little Bit of Spice by Georgia Beers – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – I finally got around to reading a Georgia Beers story. And I get it. Her writing is easy and fun to read. A lesbian fiction romance with the enemies to lovers trope and intensely hot sex scenes. The complications of the story are fun and entertaining, so it was an enjoyable read. But let’s me honest, when the first line is “Are you fucking kidding me?” I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy something about it. I also had lots of fun getting quite the beer education.

Heart of Thorns: Terror in the Sky by Chris Hewitt – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Another great installment in the dystopian AFTER series by Eerie River Publishing. Mystery and family drama mixed with the horror of

Sin Chaser: Terror from the Heavens by S. O. Green – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – What an amazing take on the seven deadly sins, faith, and a post apocalyptic world. As a naturalist I often find stories about ‘religion’ hard to take (despite writing them as well lol) but I could not get enough of this story. It was beautifully written with Green’s turn of phrase being spot on brilliance. They ramp up the tension perfectly and damn what an ending. I can’t wait to read more of their work.

Five Moons Rising by Lise MacTague – ⭐️⭐️⭐️ – It was a good read though I did find myself getting a little bored in a few places. I enjoyed the writing but got frustrated by the voices of the three main characters not entirely being distinguishable a few times. I was also confused by a few of the story points, as to why they characters did certain things. Overall a good read and some interesting ideas for the world building.

Art of Magic by KJ – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Holy hell. I have too many words to say about Art of Magic and all of them are fighting for attention.
I have annotated the crap out of this book, I have scrawled in the margins, spat coffee over pages as I couldn’t hold back the giggles and know 100% Cath is my spirit animal … ok maybe not 100% … but 98 … 95%? Look, all I’m saying is I feel incredibly seen and maybe a little stalked (but not really).
This book is amazing, the writing, the humour, the characters, the world is all beautiful … and then boom … throw in magic realism and I’m all aquiver.
I loved this book and it will become tattered beyond its now desecrated state from rereading. 

Darkness Falls by KC Luck – ⭐️⭐️⭐️ – I’m torn about this book. It made me feel a little contradictory. The writing is good, the story has its compelling moments but the end of the world I thought I was reading about was less the focus then the romance. Which others might like more than I did.
I also feel like a few scenes pushed the consent barrier and made me squirm a little, and it seemed a bit uncharacteristic for the protagonist. But again others might not see a problem with it.
I did enjoy the ensemble cast, though I get the sisters relationship didn’t ring altogether true for me. I feel like they would have been more concerned about each other.
But I did adore the friendship that developed between Lexi and Taylor

Derelict by T. M. Brown – ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 – It took me a little to get into this world but still a good read and investigation into a world where the oceans receded and humans have had to find a way to survive with limited resources and a desperation to live. Some really nice turns of phrase.

Rescued Heart by Georgia Beers – ⭐️⭐️⭐️ – I liked the start ok … got really frustrated in the middle … quite enjoyed the end. A good romance story. Got very pissed off at the flippancy of the sexual harassment. Good writing.

Cold to the Touch by Cari Hunter – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Holy Hannah. I thought the first one was good. This is such an incredible sequel. I love getting to know more about Sanne and Meg, their past, and their complications.
I adore both characters so much but feel akin to Meg. She’s just fabulous.
Cari Hunter has an incredible way of pulling you through the story, the red herrings and the breadcrumbs so perfectly placed.
Can’t wait to read the last book of the series, and then the rest of Cari Hunter’s books.

Fading Echoes by Joel R Hunt – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 – A brilliant read. It was intense but mostly easy to follow throughout the entire journey. A small confusion at one point that got cleared up, and another confusion that remained but not vital. Definitely curious about what happens next in this post apocalyptic world.

Be Brave
Be Kind
Be Safe

Neen

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 Review, Reading Adventures

July’s Bookshelf

For the first year ever I thought I’d embark on the insanity of doing not just November’s NaNoWriMo but also Camp NaNo … with that being said, I was very surprised to get as many books read as I did … I also managed to do a few Beta Reads. And no, in case you are wondering … I have not slept this month ;-p

Take note of just how many sequels I read this month … who knew I was such a series addict. Also seriously ridiculous how amazingly brilliant the books for this month were. No bad ones to be seen, not even any luke warm humming or harring ones. So total win month here.

Six Days to Hell by E.L Giles – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Oomph with a one two punch. A virus has caused a world pandemic (feels a little close to home doesn’t it). An anxiety ridden quick read. Follow Garcia on his post apocalyptic countdown with an ache for redemption and a question to the power of the past. A few times the lulls had me drifting a little but they didn’t last long until we head on the run again. I had to know how it ended, as I continued the countdown despite that spider tingle of anxiety. The beautiful language is stark against the horror of a world laid bare. A great dark read.

Dead Man Walking (Nick Holleran #1) by David Green – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 Stars – For a second, Hell holds its breath. Dead Man Walking: A Nick Holleran book is a wicked little love child between Sin City and Constantine. The atmosphere reminiscent of the 1950’s PI’s of the past hits from the very start. The world building and side characters that David Green has created makes me already cross my fingers, hoping there is more of the same to come. Humour is mixed with horror and it is tantalisingly weaved throughout the story. When I finished Dead man Walking I felt as though I had been given a small window, or perhaps a fireplace view, of a moment in this world, a moment in Holleran’s life. And oh boy, what a moment it is.

Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, #2) by Tamsyn Muir – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – What. The. Actual. F$&@. I loved this book. That much I know. I need recovery time to write up this review, and perhaps another read through. Most important to note … ‘it’s complicated, is all I’m saying.’ Just a few points: I never knew I could love 2nd person, but oh my how I love this and the 2nd person narrator. I love the snarky dialogue, internal and external. And my mind has completely blown, to the point of now rereading Gideon from an entirely new perspective. SO MUCH AWESOMENESS. I took some time and ended up doing an entire reading Vlog of this book … you can find the vid here.

Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge (Chronicles of Alsea #2) by Fletcher DeLancey – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – I started this book with excitement and heartbreak. I was grieving and couldn’t understand that while I loved the writing and even the story why I was not getting as pulled in … and then it all came together. I was feeling too much exactly how the main character Aldira Tal was feeling. It was writing with such realism in grief and mourning that it was breaking my heart to feel her going through it, and I have never loved Fletcher DeLancey’s writing more. This book took me everywhere, the full spectrum where I felt heavy limbed and lost to laughing out loud, to a damn near a panic attack. The writing is beautiful and the story is so perfectly paced and balanced. What I am so wonderfully surprised and amazed at is how much I want to know more about all of the characters. I love the dynamic and deliciously complicated main characters. But so are the minor ones. I want to know more about all of them, even the ones I would cheer Micah on f he were to go a round or two with them to teach a lesson. What a fantastic second addiction to the Chronicles of Alsea series. I’m so glad I have more to read.

The Devil Walks in Blood (Nick Holleran #2) by David Green – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 Stars – Nick Holleran is a smart arsed shmuck and I can’t wait to read more of his adventures.This second instalment has us go deeper into Nick’s life, his acceptance or lack thereof about hell and the realisation he’s still a shmuck who hasn’t quite got it all worked out like he thought. A darker and gritty adventure, with Nick thrown into a shit storm after shit storm. I loved that minor characters from the first book came back to play as well as some intriguing new additions. The overarching story Nick is travelling has my hairs standing to attention and my curiosity well and truly peaked. A great series. I can’t wait for the next instalment

True Nature (Shape-Shifter, #2) by Jae – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – I have never been a huge shifter fan. The idea of finding an animal attractive rankles. I read the first of this series last year and was stunned by how much I enjoyed it. The attraction between the shifter and the human never crossed that line of the animal form itself being part of the attraction. Jae is a mistress of the slow burn and this also makes a difference. So I finally got around to reading True Nature and I love it. Again there was no disturbing animal attraction, the slow burn and human emotions were powerful and real. And the story was brilliant. As frustrating as some of her characters are, I loved it because they were frustrating. They were real and dynamic, prejudiced and stubborn, flawed and trying. This is another great example of a powerful read and magnifying glass in to human relationship, and familial dynamics. The writing is easy and beautiful and I spent two night staying up well past sanity to get this read in two days because I kept wanting to know what happens and couldn’t stop thinking about the characters. What better endorsement can I give really?

Changing the Script by Lee Winter – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Another brilliant piece of art from Lee Winter. The balance of tension and amusement throughout Changing Script is as masterfully crafted as a katana.
An American film director trying to save the worst movie in the world goes up against a Patriotic New Zealand local who she nearly kills on meeting. I mean what could possibly go wrong.
Highlights:
– New Zealand realism in the use of words, familial relationships, culture, and humour
– The sexiest and most realistic flirting scene I have read in a long time
– Characters who are layered without having to have their personality traits jammed over and over at the reader
– Appearances of characters from Breaking Character
– Laugh out loud moments that made me the entertainment of fellow commuters.
This book is so great.
I did suss out the mystery about half way through but because the writing and the way things developed in the story, I still wasn’t 100% convinced I was right until I read the end, and it was well worth the read.

Metaphoria by K.B Elijah – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ When a book starts with “Should I begin with the tale of the cannibalistic peacocks, perhaps?” You know you are in for a ride … but oh man this was a whirly derby ride of hilarity and snarky dialogue and I loved every second of it. The two main characters are fun and unique, easily recognisable from their dialogue, and *french kiss* the chemistry was enjoyable and wonderfully built. Twice I was reminded that this story was mostly dialogue, but I didn’t have time to linger long as I was pulled back into the story. The theme of who is hero and who is villain is delightful, but my oh my did the fourth wall get bashed in with a wrecking ball. It was damn near Brechtian – delicious. My recommendation is to grab a drink and set aside an hour or two because this delicious pocket size read is a one sitting perfect example of escapism and enjoyment.

What a brilliant month of reads. I’m really partial not only to the sequels but to the shorter readers it seems 🙂

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen

Posted in Australia, Book Review, Reading Adventures

June’s Bookshelf

Midyear and though life is busier and things get crazy from here on – because they have been so calm until now *rolls eyes* – I read 10 books this month.
Reading remains my precious and sacred lifesaver.

My favourites for the month:

The Brutal Truth by Lee Winter – 5 stars. An Aussie in New York, an Ice Queen in Sydney, dying magazines, a bet, and beautiful designer clothes. A great read. I also love learning about worlds I have never and foresee myself never being intimate in, but with this book you feel like you get a real insight. My goal was to make sure I read this before it’s sidequel, The Awkward Truth comes out .. done and done. I also foresee a few more reads between then and now. Lee Winter gives us another wonderful exploration in to human nature, passion, the magazine industry, and ooh I love the theme of ‘bad’ things becoming the best things in your life. And of course, I am head over heels in love with Elena Bartell. There are Ice Queens and then there are Lee Winter’s Ice Queens.

Poppy Jenkins by Clare Ashton – 4.5 stars – Poppy Jenkins was an outstanding and in depth look into everyday lives and how scratching beneath the surface can reveal a rainbow of colours you previously couldn’t fathom. Did I get frustrated while reading this book? yep in all those parts where I was supposed to, I might also have wanted to shake Poppy a few times, but I loved how Clare Ashton showed all sides of the coins for the characters. I adore Rosaline, and I truly love Emma. I also used this book for my first ever Reading Vlog and it was such a fantastic book to do this with. Check out the Vlog here

Spiffing by Tim Mendees – 4 Stars – Spiffing was a fantastic read. While it builds slowly, engulfing you in the every day debauchery of the ensemble cast it soon speeds up and the horror is palatable through the use of humour and curiosity as you want to know what will happen next. I found myself a little confused at the beginning with the multitude of characters but this confusion cleared up as I continued to read. The description, particularly of the more horrific and terrifying moments of Spiffing, is fantastic and tangible. Mendees does himself proud with a fabulous horror short read, highly recommended for a dark and stormy night, just make sure you keep the lights on.

The Miracle Girl by T.B Markinson – 4 Stars. A brilliant start with a miracle girl going back to her home town twenty years after a heartbreaking leave. I got a little lost wondering where it was all go for maybe a chapter or two, and then the book became addictive, with a desire to throttle a few characters. I really like JJ as a character. I am really looking forward to reading the 2nd book in this series.

Sentinel by Drew Starling – 4 stars – A young family move to Bensalem, a small town with the beauty of nature surrounding them, what could possibly go wrong. Sentinel is a slow build up as we learn about the townspeople of this small sleepy town, which is not nearly as sleepy as first impressions give. Once the story speeds up, it drags you along, heart kicking and screaming. An ensemble cast, there were definitely some characters I felt a deeper connection to then others, but I cannot wait to see what they have in store for them in the next installment.

The Enchanted Woods by Enid Blyton – This book will ALWAYS be a 5 for me, for no other reason but for nostalgic purposes. I have such a love for the Magic Faraway Tree series. They were so important and influential to me when I was growing up. Now, listening to it read aloud by Kate Winslet, it’s so adorable and wonderful. She does a marvelous job, though I do cringe every time I hear Frannie – if you understand this, welcome to my age group ;-P

The Thing about Tilly by G Benson – 5 stars – Oh I just adore so much about this book. From the pace that made Tilly’s wanderlust thud inside my own chest, to the diversity and wonderful realness of the characters, to the truly beautiful way Benson describes everything that happens in and around the characters and the story.

Dani by Angelique Jordonna – 3 stars – A great premise, good story, promising writing.
What I liked:
A disturbing story with interesting characters. It reminded me of a lesbian cross between Silence of the Lambs and Dexter, with the authors unique flare shining through.
What missed the mark for me:
The 1st Person present POV was a little difficult to get into and slipped into immediate past a few times. I would have liked to see some more of the scenes as they played out, instead of being told about them after the fact.
Overall a good read. Jordonna definitely has promise and I’m looking forward to seeing more from her.

Irregular heartbeat by Chris Zett – 4.5 Stars – I adored this book. There is nothing quite like the melting of an Ice Queen to make me smile. I really enjoyed the depths and dynamics of the two main characters. Some heartbreaking moments mixed up with some laugh out loud parts. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes a bit at the intense coincidences of characters meeting. The writing was delicious and I’m always a fan of pop culture references in contemporary fiction. I really enjoyed this book and will definitely look at reading more of Chris Zett’s work.

The Creeping Void by Tim Mendees – 5 Stars – A short read with everything you could ever want from a post apocalyptic short read. Characters that are brilliantly flawed and trying to find a way to survive. Mendees influences and supplication to the elder gods. Brilliantly timed humour that helps to balance the heart pumping horror and deliciously decrepit descriptions. I can’t give this anything less than a five. Brilliant work.

Hope you all have had a successful first half of the year … I’m on my way to 100 books, and the dragon and unicorn badges for Jae’s Sapphic Reading Challenge.

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 Review, Reading Adventures

March Bookshelf

As always, I’ve let a few spoilers slip in, hopefully nothing too traumatic but oh what a month of reading I’ve had.
I’ve chipped away at the Sapphic Reading Challenge which has been a hoot. I’ve also had some health issues and the mourning of my dear friend, Aarjaun has been a heavy cloud, especially with some of this months books. But, they have also helped me push through the beauty of life, and the need to live, not just exist.

The top contenders for the month:

Alone by E.J Noyes – 5 stars – Oh My Goddess …. What a way to start a month. I listened to this book, ready by Abby Craden and oh my, that was delicious in and of itself. About 2 hours in I had to reprimand myself and say no, I cannot keep stopping the book, and going back to note another beautiful way E.J. Noyes has with her writing. If I kept doing that the entire thing would be written out and I would never get to the end.
It was so beautifully done. The way she uses words is the most delicate and intricate spiders web glistening in the morning sun’s dew. And THEN she goes and throws in this incredible main character who is contradictory and damaged, wonderful and funny. Oh I laughed out loud several times, and chuckled under my breath many more times.
There is so much emphasis on time in this book, and I fell in love with the way the main character, Celeste, talks and experiences her own time, her own world, and what it means.
The pop culture references balance beautifully against the darkness of the experiment, and Celeste’s own memories and hallucinations.
I have more than 30 quotes I keep reading over from this book … but I’m going to end this review with just the one.
😂 Apart from shooting you I’m a regular Mary fucking Poppins.

Third by Q. Kelly – 3 Stars – Overall, I found this book hard to get through. But the premise was intriguing.
Pros: Some lovely writing, and the overall story is an interesting idea of time travel, while also exploring human nature.
Cons: I felt a little like I was being beat over the head with ‘look how cool and how much I know about history’. At times it read more like a thesis or academic research piece, with half hearted sex scenes thrown in.
It might be more interesting to those who know very little about Henry VIII, his reign, and his wives.

The Caphenon by Fletcher DeLancey – 5 stars – I’m in Sci-fi bliss. For me this book was a beautiful mash up of Voyager meets Stargate, with a delicious mix of humour, sexy as characters (who isn’t a sucker for a strong red head), and a storyline that made sleep invalid as a pastime. The authors attention to details was everything. From the use of colours, and oh my the architecture was delightful. The beauty in the descriptions so vivid and real, I wanted to reach out and touch the structures, both natural and industrial. My heart broke with the snippets of everyday life interspersed with the main characters and their storylines. But every character, they were real and tangible. Even ones that didn’t speak, the ones gone after a page. And all the characters with the major roles, personalities are shown in the most subtle but impactful ways. There are so many brilliant sections I was in book hangover for days afterwards. I felt exhausted in the most delightful and beautifully spent way. I read this as an ebook … the paperback is now on it’s way to my hands so I can read it again and again, pour over the words and move on to the rest of the series. I can’t wait.
👽 How could aliens she had never met view her as if she had wronged them? They were ready to mete out justice for an offense she hadn’t committed (Ooomph, right to the feels of being the minority and the prevalence of hate crimes in this world)

With Bone and Ash (Anthology) – 4.5 stars – Holy hell … this book has blown me away. I’ve had to take a few days to write this up as I’m still a little book hungover from the amazing worlds and oh my, I was hooked at elemental magic.
Here’s a brief run down of my first impression of each of the 7 stories. I’ve tried desperately not to spoil it because honestly, if you like dark fantasy … you have got to read this.
The spring in the desert by Wynne F. winters – such a brilliant fast paced story. A snap shot in a post apocalyptic world of magic and destruction. I was hooked by the characters and was desperate to know more about them.
Master and apprentice by David green – Ripped out my beating heart and took a bite. Such a powerful look into heartbreak in familial relationships. Shows how that fine line between love and hate cuts far deeper then a known enemy.
The monster of Carroch by Rose Strickman – reminiscent of a retelling of an old story we’ve heard as children of the big bad stealing us from our beds. But such a beautifully written version with its own twists and lores.
Fire and wisdom by Joel R. Hunt – Shut up and take my money. Such a powerful world and even more powerful story. His descriptions are phenomenal and his characters tangible, even the ones with the briefest of page time.
The child of fire by Michael d Nadeau – I love this world and the mythos of the children and the elements. I felt a little rushed in the conclusion, and almost as though the battle could have been harder (I’m a bit of a bully with characters) but I’m really hoping there is more to read from this author set in this incredible world.
What we were made by Crystal Lynn Hilbert – though the begin was a little disorienting being dropped in amidst thoughts with little context my first impressions were of a twisted hansel and Gretel with a taste of words reminiscent of Brian Lumley; spine chillingly beautiful.
The hounds of everspire by T.M Brown – oomph, and what a way to end an incredible collection. I want more of this world that feels almost like a commentary of power in institutions – one of my own personal kryptonites.

Reaping the Benefits by E.J Noyes – 5 stars – While I know the author has said she didn’t write this book as a paranormal romance, I totally see it as one. Or perhaps I’m not really that big a fan of them because this is literally the best paranormal I’ve read. It was delightful. The characters were wonderfully layered, and I mean who doesn’t love death’s minions?! The story was great, and there were moments of such pure beauty in the words and the theme I felt as times almost breathless.
💚 Sometimes I want to remind them that bodies are nothing more than containers to hold all the wonderful stuff that makes up humans.
💚 But thinking someone was cute and had a great personality didn’t mean you couldn’t be frustrated at their inability to deal with something that was a normal oart of life.
The humour as well has me chuckling to myself.
📇 Morgan’s gaze snapped back down to her desk, yes very busy and important in my office doing ordinary everyday data storage things that a human would do.

London Calling by Clare Lydon – 4 stars – Book 1 of Clare Lydon’s London series. Whenever I pick up a Clare Lydon book I know I’m going to get a contemporary light read. And London Calling is no exception. I loved the comparisons and contrasts the main character experiences as she travels from Sydney Australia to start her life anew, back home in London. Jess loves the concrete jungle and the use of description is wonderful. A great exploration of failing and catching yourself again. Of moving on and embracing new steps forward, pivoting on her projectory of life and enjoying it. And, oh who can forget the joys and funs of family dynamics.
🚎 We exchanged the lesbian look-it’s a bit like when bus drivers acknowledge each other, albeit with fewer buses. (LOL)
🤣 Thank you Jesus, even though I believe you to be a mythical character *coffee was spat*
📞 I shrugged, always effective in a phone call.
💚 Goddam my romance tourette’s.

Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur – 5 stars – The start made me laugh so hard, and then the humour and then some just kept on going. Laughing and heartbreak waltz around hand in hand. Elle is a great example of those that struggle to stand up and be who she is, and embrace what makes her happy. A beautiful conversation with her mother near the end of the book nearly had me in tears.
I loved the characters and the dynamics and juxtapositions of their personalities shown wonderfully through things like the apartments and their clothes. I also smiled at all of the zodiac lists. They made me smile and often laugh out loud as the author uses these as fantastic conversational points with the characters throughout.
Some of my favourite quotes:
🤣 God pretty people made her stupid
💚 Elle was technicolored chaos
😂 Brandon was getting fucking socks for Christmas. Boring, black, argyle ones.

This London Love by Clare Lydon – 4 Stars – Book 2 of the London series. It ticks all the boxes I look for when wanting a funny Lesfic romance, with at least one of the characters carrying quirks and humour that makes me smile while I flick the pages. Humour is always wonderfully rife in Lydon’s books and I truly love it. If you are looking for love and humour, this series so far is giving both on silver platters. And trust Lydon to take a funeral and turn it into a chance for love. I found it interesting her characters prejudice against lesbian florists .. I might have called out several times (scaring the dog) that she needed to watch ‘Imagine me & you* … because the characters are real and while you read them they can definitely hear your interactions.
🥪 Sometimes food didn’t need to be fancy, it just needed to be exactly what you wanted.

Let me know if you had a favourite read of the month.

Be Safe
Be Kind
Be Brave

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 – 5 stars – 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