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

Poetry, feelings, and the NINSAABO scale

I may have mentioned this before. I tend to follow the shiny bouncy ball of life, but only once it’s smacked me in the face a few times. My stubbornness gets in my way, and even when it’s a decision I already teetered on the edge of, I demand the push before I fall up.

Only three days into the new year and I’ve been smacked left right and up the back of the head. Poetry and feelings. Two things I have love/hate and decidedly complicated relationships with.

I used to cry a lot. But after years of being told to suck it up, years of learning to school the icy shards of emotions from my face and reactions. And while the tears have been easy to tame, I have never stopped apologising for my excitement over what others deem insignificant. I still get ‘overly’ enthusiastic about the things I love, only to ruminate about them later and worry I expresses TOO much emotion. But when it comes to crying, I don’t. Or at least I hadn’t for a very long time. Not only had I come to think of tears as distasteful in myself (I love people who can cry) but almost impossible to reach.

Enter last year and my introduction to some of the most amazing authors and human beings I have ever been lucky enough to know. The LGBTQIA writing community I have found have been ridiculously supportive and boosting.

Last year, 5 books made me cry. I almost fell over the first time it happened. I remember it clearly. I was stirring a pot of pasta, ensuring it didn’t stick to the bottom of the pot, I’m not a terribly good or attentive kitchen person. But I was reading, holding the book in one hand while the other hand half mindedly stirred the pasta and water. I didn’t realise I was crying. I was reading and my chest grew hot and tight. Being constricted as though wrapped up by a boa. My cheek tickled. My brows furrowed and I lifted the hand stirring up to my cheeks. Before I could really take in the tears I yelped as hot water splashed on me and my book. Saving me from investigating the phenomenon. 4 more times it happened. And by the end of the year I felt a fear and an excitement over being able to. More than that, I felt indebted to these amazing authors who plucked at the chains wrapped around my emotions and let them be expressed.

Three days into the new year and the first book I’ve read has made me cry. The second book is a poetry book and I’ve felt winded as it talked about societies pressure to not feel. To not admit we are human with all the ranges of emotions. Bring on my burgeoning relationship with poetry.

As if these weren’t enough, just this morning I had a conversation with a fellow author whom I am beta reading for, below is what happened when she asked me for some specific details and feedback for the book.

My first reaction was horror. How can I be associated with sobbing? But that lasted a mere micro second because now I can’t take the smile off my face.

So here is to a new year of poetry and feelings. A year of rating books on the NINSAABO scale.

Here’s to not apologising for my emotions, the sadness, the fullness, the fear, and the excitement.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen

Posted in Book Review, Reading Adventures

December bookshelf – the final reads

The final reads for the year. Some good, some painful, some a little different then expected, but all part of the wonderful reading journey. Books can be there for you in so many different ways. Even re-reads often offer different insights, not because they change, but you, the reader, changes. You come to the book as who you are in that moment, and between the pages you are offered a variety of things; education, entertainment, understanding, visibility, anger, revenge, a way to sort through your own human turmoil. I have experienced all of these and more, just this year.

But enough of me waxing lyrical, here are my December books

An Unexpected Gift by KJ – Washing machine of emotions. As I read each of these stories I made little notes throughout and then my main point for each on their titles.
Some of my favourite comments (the ones that aren’t spoilers) range from:
It’s the hallmark movie I want to see
Ooh stealing this wording, not even sorry
The KJ line in a KJ story.
Well now that’s rather sexy isn’t it
Good god woman
Ooh the threads and Easter eggs. A tapestry tale.
So basically what I’m saying is, every single story has something beautiful to add to this Southern Hemisphere Christmas. And I loved each of them for their own unique characters, story, and wording.

All at Sea by Cheyenne Blue – Total Gilmore girls vibes at parts and damn I’ve never wanted to feel a deck beneath my feet so much. A brilliant adventure that starts with a chance meeting. This book is so much more than the coincidences I often roll my eyes at.
Everything flows and the real human insights that are delved into are so spot on.
I got frustrated with one character near the beginning but as you get to know her, the reasons for her frustrating actions become understood and even acceptable.
I loved that neither character is perfect. There is no idea of ‘but they are too good for me.’
I adore Cheyenne Blue’s way with words. Beautiful phrases from ordinary words. My book is a neon sign of highlights and scrawled writing in the margins.
Cheyenne is a master of relationships. The relationship between the two characters is beautiful. I love that it wasn’t Insta love and the development is real. Best of all, they find themselves arguing, and then they talk it though. Then don’t clam up despite lumps in the throat. They don’t create unnecessary tension (human lives have enough of that already) by biting their tongues. The relationships don’t end there. I fell in love with the sisters and their support for each other, and the focus on family obligations. *chefs kiss*.
Well worth a read if you love brilliant character development, insights into human nature, and want to find yourself smiling while you read.

Cosa Nostra by Emma Nichols – 3.5 Stars for me. I loved the gangster story here. From the beginning I adored Maria and understood that she wanted out of the life she’d been born into, and the job she had unwillingly inherited.
I was less impressed with the insta-love of the characters. I understood what the authors was wanting to achieve here but for me it felt like there were no moments between the two characters that showed me why it was anything more than lust. A little too much telling of events and not enough showing their growing attraction beyond the physical.
The writing was interesting and I really enjoyed the lines of family, love, responsibility, and friendships.
I enjoyed the gangster story, but if I were to read it again I would skip a lot of the repetitive love story that stated the two were in love with each other without showing how lust grew to love.

Slattery Falls by Brennan LaFaro – If you like well written horror and ghost stories, give it a go. I did a video review of this amazing book. After a week of finishing this book I still found myself thinking about how LaFaro managed to build and drop the tension with such seeming ease. This book is the best example of a written rollercoaster ride I’ve read. I’ve read many books where the rollercoaster feels as though it’s just going up and down the same slope, the same issues, but this pushed forward with each dip and climb. The end left a few things unanswered but that sort of made me feel like it was more realistic, we don’t always get closure, and for me that made it even more terrifying and wonderful. Note, I also LOVED that one of the characters appears to be on the autism spectrum, go LaFaro.

Jericho by Ann McMan – What a wonderful book to listen to. Over 20 hours and I couldn’t get enough of it. Christine Williams did an amazing job narrating.
My first, but will not be my last, Ann McMan book.
The BEST slow burn that focuses on the two main characters truly developing a friendship before attraction and complications arise. The banter is wonderful and the characters, Main and side are all so well rounded and relatable.
I’m excited about their being a sequel 😀 

Go Around by E J Noyes – A second chance romance with amazingly realistic and terrifying stalking aspects and law enforcement thrown in.
Did I squeal with excitement and glee at the Easter egg of Alone that happens just after the halfway mark? Why yes, yes I did. I love the self referential deprecation as well as the internal monologues. If anyone was going to make a gamer geek kick arse, I’m not at all surprised that it’s this amazing author.
Noyes has smashed it out of the park once again. I listened to the audio version of Go Around and damn, the combination is a heady experience. Noyes’ amazing build up of arousal and heartbreak, tension and fear mixed with the husky tones and amazing voice acting from Abby Craden … gurgle and puddle.

Ask, Tell by E J Noyes – Recommended for those needing to be emotionally ruined and put back together in loving and beautiful ways. I bought this book months ago, but I’ve been so nervous to start it. I needn’t have been worried. Yes, the book handles some very heavy themes and is set in a time where our community was allowed to exist as robots and something less then human. But this book. The fifth book this year to have me in tears.
😭
The writing is beautiful and heart wrenching. There are pages now highlighted and margins with scrawls. So often a line would get me for the beauty and emotion pressed into the words surrounding it as much as the words of the line itself.
📝
I had moments where it reminded me of the movie Serving in Silence and tension would tighten around my chest. Would someone overhear? Did someone know? Did they have proof? But my god, the way Noyes writes it is everything.
😚
The story itself is insightful and the insight of armed services and family made me smile and weep.
🎖
And though I feel like it goes without saying, for anyone who hasn’t read an EJ Noyes book before. As always her sexy scenes are 🔥🔥🔥🔥

Language of Love: A Flirty, Festive anthology – A beautiful collection of Christmas short stories set in all different places in the world. I laughed, I awed, and I loved the stories. Was a brilliant read over the holiday period.

Shattered by Lee Winter – This was a reread. It was my first Lee Winter novel and it hooked me right from the start. This time I listened to it and that only increased my love for this story. The characters, the world, the dynamics are all so wonderful and powerful.

Happy Holidays and however you welcome in the new year

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen xo

Posted in Book Review, Reading Adventures

November Bookshelf, reviews and thoughts

November is a crazy month. NaNoWriMo takes up so much of my time. But with that being said, I love that reading is still a priority. In fact, I think I would be nervous to call myself a writer if I gave no time to reading. To me, they have and always will go hand in hand. So six books in November isn’t terrible, but I think it is my least amount of books all year.

Fetish by Tara Moss – This was a re-read and this time I listened to it. It’s a really awesome book. I actually enjoyed it more this time than I can remember enjoying it years ago when it was first published. There is some awesome tension and mystery going with Mak, and I still LOVE this character so much.
I think it’s held up pretty well, as long as you remember it’s set before EVERYONE had mobile phones. Great read, looking forward to listening to the rest of the series. I’ve not read all of the books so that’s exciting to look forward to.

Compass Rose by Anna Burke – There are so many things I adored about this book. The dystopian world and all it’s dynamics, the star trek gone wrong underwater sort of vibes and the characters, of the characters. Yes, of course I related to Rose, I damn near swooned over Miranda, but heck the other characters were what made it such a fun and interesting journey.
I adored the pirates and the powerful balance of action, responsibility, lust, longing, and humour.
I can’t wait to read the sequel. I squealed a little when I found out there was a sequel. 

A Place to Call Home by Jae – So in the past I have said that I prefer Jae’s longer fiction … bite my tongue. This was the most delightful and delicious short story. It is a beautiful insight and wonderfully realistic portrayal into the dynamics of Luke and Nora as they start their new lives. They struggle against the social norms and finding a place to call home in each other. One of my favourite short reads of the year. If you are after a historical short feel-good read that has beautiful representation of characters fighting against the roles society this is definitely the read for you.

Brimstone Bound (Firebrand #1) by Helen Harper – If you’re looking for a British take and twist of true blood, without the overly sexual focus and more on the crime and mystery. This is the book for you.
I had so much fun reading this book. The crime and mystery were fantastic. The characters were great.
It had a grittier, more realistic sort of feel to it and ooh the breadcrumbs and red herrings throughout the whole thing had me loving every reveal and twist.
Now if only we could get some sapphic in the mix this would be an ultimate book for me 😜

Sliced Ice by Lee Winter – Everything I wanted and more. 10 incredible short stories, each with their own one two punch. Here’s my break down (I also did a reading Vlog of it, there is blushing and fangirling here:
Five Times Felicity Met Elena – Oh Elena Bartell, my all time favourite of Lee Winter’s Ice Queens. I mean, what a perfect way to start this collection. And from Felicity’s point of you, I always found her snarkiness rather interesting, but now I’m even more excited about The Awkward Truth. It’s on my list I promise!
Aliens in New York – OMG I didn’t know we would be getting more than one story about the wonderful Elena. I mean, it’s awesome to see what happens to Madeliene with her writing after The Brutal Truth. *phew, got away with that one*. A magnificent snap shot into Lee Winter’s ability to craft beauty and emotion.
The Brutal Lie – ELENA! Cold shower required, and a truly interesting look into the ideas of outing others and the growing acceptance of people, irrelevant of sexuality.
Skye Storm’s Invite Absolutely Everyone Ultimate Pool Party – I adore Skye and her eccentric and wonderful take on life. An LA hippy. I also laughed out loud (in the middle of the shops) at her openness with her children, and ability to make them groan. She’s wonderful. Oh, I had also forgotten just how much I love Bess, so charmingly british and wonderful.
The Friend – This was a surprising addition but I think it might possibly be my favourite. Christmas in Australia, family drama, an Ice Queen in the most unexpected of places (or at least that’s how I interpret it)
Number Five – BLUSH! Holy Hannah. This is what happens when I refuse to know what’s coming up … BOOM! Hot as hell erotica story from the Madame herself of Duxton Hotel.
Flash Bang – Indeed. A nice hot scene with amusing insights into the crazy world of fashion.
When DC met Iowa – I LOVED this story so much. I am adoring Lee’s insights into side characters. This starts hilariously with a wake up in an unknown room and unknown woman in bed. Turns, with snarky humour, into something quite sweet.
First-Class Villians – All for a special bottle of Champaign, three of Lee Winter’s most delicious villians and one insidious bitch tell their stories for the prize. Yeah, there’s no secret that I hate Grace, but seeing others not put up with her shit was brilliant.
Love Is Not Nothing – My very first Lee Winter writing and it was the story I fell in love with her characters and her writing. A melted ice Queen, but only for her faux mouse. Sexy delicious writing with assassination and protectiveness thrown in.

Worthy of Love by Quinn Ivins – There is something truly beautiful about the way Quinn Ivins writes a balance of the beauty of humans and the worst part of humans. Characters you wanna cuddle and others you want to throttle. The characters in Worthy of Love are so real I feel like I’ve known many of them (not always happily) my entire life.
I adore the sex scenes in this book. Not only are they hot as hell without being an instruction manual but the realism even down to consent and internal monologues are balanced and smooth.
Quinn Ivins also manages yet again to make me care about things I’ve never really known much about before in my life.
Another great tick in the box is the way the characters talk to each other instead of having long drawn out angst because they simply won’t have a conversation.
Definitely recommend this book if you love real dynamic and diverse characters, hot sex scenes with realistic consent, an interesting story, and brilliant writing. Worthy of Love ticks all the righ

Paper Love by Jae – The beauty of this books makes me wish I could fly overseas right now and explore the beauty of Freiburg that Jae describes within the pages and step over (or into) a Bachle, grab a coffee and go sniff some stationary.
Susanne and Anja are pitted against each other in the beginning. A softish Ice Queen and a stationary junkie. And it’s delicious on so many levels.
In true, wonderful Jae style, the angst is low and conversations that need to happen actually do happen, and before 75% of the book. In fact, most issues of communication get resolved pretty quickly and I’ve never been so happy. The development of the relationships between the characters, all the characters not just Susanne and Anja, are realistic and human.
I also have a bit of a soft spot for Anja’s best friend, Miri. I feel akin to her, and her huge family and the effect of being the only childless sibling (at least until I was in my mid thirties). Of course, Miri is the funnier, cuter, and braver version of my life but I really adore this side character.
So if you love low angst, slow burns, steamy sex scenes that are 100% worth the wait and characters you hope to meet when visiting the sunniest city in Germany, Paper Love might be just what you are looking for.

Hope you enjoy my reviews of these books. I’d love to know if any interest you enough to try them out.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen xo

Posted in Book Review, Reading Adventures

October Bookshelf

Seeing as I usually read a good amount of spooky books all year round I didn’t focus on reading just spooky for October. Turns out I should have. I read a pathetic amount of scary books, less than every other month. I make my own rules, usually through lack of planning and being too busy to realise what is going on in the world outside my lunchbox.
In my defense, I did read 10 books and ended the month on an awesome spooky high.

Top Reads of the Month:

Pics of the Month

Quantum Rule: Terror Underground by Jay Sandlin – 4.5 stars – Best start I’ve read in a novella in a while. I was hooked from the get go. There were breadcrumbs that made you suspect what comes next but never enough for you to be sure. A few HA’s out loud as I got completely surprised a few times. This was an epic addition to the AFTER series. Great fight scenes and an intriguing world dynamics.

Born with Teeth by Kate Mulgrew – 4.5 stars – Oh my. Ten plus hours of listening to Captain Kathryn Janeway to fall in love with Kate Mulgrew. She narrates as the true actor she i s and oh how it’s a beautiful memoir of her life. Her memories, her perspectives of her life. The rawness she goes into. It’s riveting and heartbreaking. If you listen to the audio, the interview at the end is well worth it, and possibly bumped up my experience with the book at least half a star.

The Best New True Crime Stories: Serial Killers by Mitzi Szereto – 4 stars – Some lesser known serial killers and what we know of them and their crimes. A lot of speculation as many of the crime facts have been lost to the past, but they do a good job of piecing what they do have together and coming to very plausible outcomes.

Carry On by Holley Cornetto – 4 Stars – Delicious and dusty. I loved the characters and the realistic portrayal into human nature, and what we might be willing to do to survive. Absolutely loved and adored the main character, and the books look into the importance or lack there of to names.

A Quiet Death (The Dark Peaks #3) by Cari Hunter – 5 stars –  WOW! What an ending to an amazing trilogy. I both love and hate that that’s the end. I want more of Meg and Sanne.
One of my favourite things about this instalment to the dark peak series is seeing inside a third persons POV. Gotta love a woman in charge.
The writing and story was brilliant, and Cari Hunter is definitely one of my top new found authors.
If you like brilliantly written mystery with characters so real you discuss them as you would a mate up the street, check out this series. Incredible.

Freedom to Love by Ronica Black – 3.5 star. There was lots to love about this book. I loved the immediate plunge into the action of the story, it sucked me right in. I also loved that there were no chapters that dragged with the characters umming and ahhing about wanting to be together. They were adults thrown into situations and instead of lying or hedging, they pretty much said what they thought, mostly.
I wasn’t a fan of the sex scenes, though I’m sure they are other peoples cup of tea.

Easy Nevada and the Pyramid’s Curse by Georgette Kaplan – 4 Stars – I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. Navada is quirky with history and layers, and even with the self-referential mentions of being like Jane Jones or Lara Croft, it was that sort of fun adrenaline spiked adventure. Mix in some The Mummy feels, with Brendan Fraser being a hot chick and you’ve pretty much nailed how this read felt. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending but I’m still really looking forward to the next book in the series.

Unbreakable by Cari Hunter – 5 stars – OMG, the rollercoaster and speed of this book is epic and fantastic … the writing is natural and hooks you in the entire time. Characters are wonderful and real and flawed and hilarious. I love reading crime, I always have but there is something so much cooler about reading a genre you love that has representation you can relate to

Coming Home by KJ – 5 stars – Ok, so I may have read these books backwards but damn, I regret nothing. This book is so delicious and sweet and funny and Aussie. It’s literally everything I love about KJ’s writing. There are lines I wish I had written and lines that made me spit coffee with laughter … and yep, it’s true, there’s even a line that made this cold hearted bitch burst into tears.
4th book of the year, bugger I’m going to start getting a reputation of having a heart.
It’s a truly delicious celebrity romance book with amazing characters and real people.

The Pseudopod that Rocks the Cradle by Time Mendees – 4 Stars – Perfect way to end the spooky month. This short story collection from Tim Mendees is twisted and titillating, terrifying and tentacle filled, so naturally I loved it, and highly recommend it.
There was something disturbing to take away from each story but my stand out favourites were definitely:
* Afterimage – feel the burn – such an intense story and idea. Blinked many times after finishing it.
* Mr mannequin – anyone for a tattoo – the creepy crime that made me shiver.
* The Face in the Fabric – looking at clothes never seemed so terrifying.
So if you like twisted gritty stories about disturbed minds (or insanely normal minds twisted to insanity) and worshippers of the old gods this is the collection for you.

This month I completed ALL of my reading challenges for the month. Which is awesome. I made some sapphic reading challenge videos over on the Hyperactive Bookworm channel. Drop by and take a look, leave a comment, or if you like what you hear/see you can always subscribe.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen

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