Posted in Reading Adventures, Writing Adventures

Everyone Should Write – Yes, I’m Talking To You

It’s a strange concept, or at least it seemed like one to me when I first heard it talked about with some of the amazing authors in the sapphic writers community. But most authors (and I argue all good authors) are readers. They will read more books than they will ever manage to write. If every reader wrote, there would still be more books wanted, more books being read than being written.

But this can sometimes be hard to imagine as the plethora of books and TBR piles and new releases can seem overwhelming at times. And I suppose it also depends on what you write. It’s taken me a long time and I’m still settling into my happiest writers niche. Just to clarify, Sapphic Speculative Fiction is totally my writing jam, but even that has many genres and sub genres beneath this umbrella.

I’m finding there are more out there then I originally thought and this has been so exciting as a reader, and truly terrifying as a writer. It’s worried at the back of my brain. But while reading one of my favourtie sapphic sci-fi authors this morning, I had an epiphany of happiness for the writer in me.

I belong to many different reader groups. There are often multiple recommendation requests a day. I cannot think of a single request that asks for something opposite to what the reader has enjoyed. More often than not the requests going along something like this:

I just finished [insert title and author here] and loved it. I’m looking for more of the same.

Let me just repeat that here: LOOKING FOR MORE OF THE SAME.

That’s right. We readers may not always want the same genre or trope for every single book we read, but often WE DO go back and forth between what we love most. Myself, I will mix up what I read, but then I often go back and revisit the same genres and tropes. They are my favourites for a reason.

Ok, so you’re probably thinking, yes that’s all well and good but how could my writing ever compare to [insert your favourite book in your writing genre]. Here’s a revolutionary concept. It doesn’t have to compare. What you love about a book, another reader might find annoying and the worst part. You will always be your harshest critic with your own writing. That’s why it’s such a great and vital idea to have beta readers, editors, and a plethora of others whose opinion you value and who aren’t afraid to tell you both their loved and not so loved parts.

And no-one, not even yourself, can write the exact same story twice. So, don’t let that snide little negative nelly voice in your head stop you from loving your own stories.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen x

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 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

Posted in Publications, Reading Adventures

Very Grateful and Humbled

In a previous post I mention the awesome WLW author Jae and the Sapphic Reading Challenge 2021 she is running. It’s the most amazing challenge, and the work Jae has done for this is incredible. It shows her generosity not only to her own readers, but for other authors as well.

To check out the challenge you can go to https://jae-fiction.com/sapphic-reading-challenge-2021/

I recently received an email from Jae advising that my first novella ‘Cold as Hell’ was added to her upcoming recommended reads for the butch/butch category of the Sapphic Reading Challenge. It suits a few other categories as well, but so touched and humbled that she has added it, seeing as it’s not yet released until April.

It’s going to be a crazy wild ride for both reading and writing this year, but I’m looking forward to each book I get to experience, both sapphic and non-sapphic, as well as my own books stepping out into the big wide world.

Be Safe
Be Kind
Be Brave

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

Well that was a week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be safe
Be brave
Be kind

Posted in Reading Adventures

December Book Reviews

I only managed 4 books this month, but I think that’s a pretty fair effort considering the craziness this month has been, even with the CoVid19 limitations. I’m embarking on doing more in-depth reviews … which has turned out to have a few spoilers … but I think I’ve marked the spoilers before I dive in and leave you unprepared.

Mirrorverse by Pamela Jeffs – Pamela Jeffs is a master of words and emotions. She has an incredible skill at pulling you directly into another world with just a few beautifully structured and emotive sentences. Mirrorverse is a brilliant example of the extreme talent and skill Jeffs has to offer with her writing.

Christmas in Mistletoe by Clare Lydon – What can I say, I’m a complete sucker for Clare Lydon’s wit, humour, and fabulous writing. There were some true laugh out loud moments, and a few lines that made me go pwhhaaaa at the emotional punch. It’s definitely a brilliant read to help you get into the shiny, sparkly Christmas feel … even if (or perhaps especially if) you are sweating in Australia and wishing to run through the Christmas tree farm in your shorts and singlet. Get in the festive season mood with another great romance from Clare Lydon.

The Setup by T.B Markinson – The setup is a delicious story from T.B Markinson. T.B Markinson has created characters that are complicated and real, even the ones you never meet. It was a bit of a shock to get into the story so quickly, being used to reading Markinson’s longer reads, but once I got over that it was all good.
I just adore the main character, Rory, to bits. The story is told from Rory’s point of view, an American moved to London for a two year work contract.

Her thoughts are adorable and her energy and buzz is infectious. Banter, as always, is top notch and the sex scenes are steamy and natural. It was again a shock when the book ended, because I wanted so much more. I’d love to read more of this world and get to meet some of the off the page characters. Some favourite laugh out loud lines:
 Couple my blunder with her one-word answer, and I had the urge to stand up and say, “This, ladies and gentlemen, is how not to make a first impression. Can you point out where I went wrong? Let’s learn from this together.”
 They tried to understand, but it was like explaining space travel to Jane Austen. Or so I imagined.
My expression hopefully conveyed my second language was lunatic.

Under a Falling Star by Jae – So pretend there are big huge flashing signs screaming spoilers … because I’ve tried to minimise the spoilers but can’t do it. So here goes. 
The good: oh my, this list is long. But I’ll put down my top points. From the brilliant ice Queen to the cursing cockatoo, the characters of Under a Falling Star were deep and complicated. The smoothness of writing and the story both make the entire book so easy to read. I’m also in love with Jae’s ability to create tension without the often overly frustrating and dramatic let’s break up because we don’t have one simple (although emotionally difficult) conversation that would clear up all miscommunications. The conversations especially at the start show perfectly that twisted inside where your tongue fights every word, but it flows to a natural rhythm of the story, without any questions of why didn’t they just …
A special note to Jae’s use of humour, it wasn’t on every page but I found myself cackle a few times particularly from the cockatoo:
 On her way to the door, she blew Toby a kiss. “Wish me luck.” “Fuck you,” the cockatoo warbled.
And the ice Queen herself as she began to thaw:
 The thought made her roll her eyes at herself. Oh, come on. What’s up with all this sappiness?
The bad: So this is only my personal preference, but damn I wanted to see Austen’s character flaw. She was a little perfect for me, and yet I still somehow adored her, I just feel like showing a weakness would have been nice. 
The magnificent: my favourite part of this book, without a doubt is the realistic changes and fundamental lack of changes in characters. Dee, the Ice Queen is still damn terrifying to those who have to deal with her wrath, even if she has learned to say please. Her hideous family still remain stuck in their ways and rejections, and don’t simply change overnight because their daughter stood up to their shitty abuse. 
Bonus question (if you can explain this adequately you get a cookie): How else do you pronounce Austen if not like the famous author? 

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Posted in Reading Adventures

November Book Reviews

It took me so long to do some of these reviews. I’m impressed with how many books I still managed to get through with NaNoWriMo being ever so present. But I am understanding more and more the trend toward short reads. There are a few in this list, and all very worth the reads.

Requiem for Immortals by Lee Winter – This was one of the most incredible books I’ve read all year. An assassin in a love story. A little mouse with power. evocative writing. Characters you love and Love to hate. And overall a fantastic story line that grips you by the throat until it’s hard to breath. Lee Winter’s writing is fantastic and Requiem is one of the most incredible characters I’ve ever met. I cannot wait to read more of Lee Winter’s books.

The Romance Bet by Jae – One of those short reads I mentioned – It was a cute short story. I enjoyed the premise and the writing was good. The story was focused around National Novel Writing Month, which made me giggle. I do prefer reading Jae’s longer reads.

A future, Forged by Aiki Flinthart – I was nervous going into reading this because I’m so in love with the Kalima Chronicles series but I should have known better. Once again Aiki Flinthart uses words to evoke emotion and engage the senses with lines that make me smile and shiver, like She shook herself free of the swamp of dark memories. A future, Forged had me intrigued with characters and a story that hooked me right from the very beginning. It is a story that shows the world of Kalima as it was set 200 years before Iron, the first book in the Kalima Chronicles. It’s such a wonderful addition to this series, I’m so glad to read more that is set in this incredible world of Flinthart’s imagination.

Burning Reflection by Tim Mendees – Another short read and my first of Tim Mendees books. From the start to the end you are pulled into the world of the old ones. Tim Mendees creates the perfect atmosphere with every word building to the tension in a natural rhythm that won’t let you stop thinking about it, even if you have the strength to close the book. A brilliant read, highly recommended for the gothic horror enthusiast.

Dead Man Walking by David Green – Yes, another short read, I told you I was enjoying them. 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.

Shattered by Lee Winter – I couldn’t resist reading another Lee Winter book. She’s fast becoming a favourite. This book is so aptly named. It broke me. In mostly all the right ways, even the sad stuff was so brilliantly written and amazing. I love Winter’s way of creating such wonderfully flawed and yet cocky characters. Her use of language is evocative and immersive. The world building is delicious and the emotional and ethical quandaries are balanced beautifully with the action and story. I both loved and hated the ending, mostly because damn it I did not see it coming and it was a brilliant surprise. One of my favourite things about this book is that the emotional and ‘romantic’ elements are fundamental to the stories progress but there is so much more going on. In a world of superheroes, I felt like I found the most realistic and well developed characters. I cannot recommend this book enough. Especially if you love being broken, put back together, shattered, and then made whole in a completely better way for having read it. 

Chrysalis by Kimberley Rei – Yes, I ended the month on another short read. A good read. I enjoyed the premise and the development. Some beautiful language and the setting was clear. I would have liked a little more clarification about a few things, but still a good read

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Posted in Reading Adventures, Writing Adventures

Planning, who knew? Most successful NaNoWriMo

I assumed that my reading for November would be minimal because of the craziness of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but it turns out I managed to read quite a few books and there are several reasons for this.

Reading: I have found the enjoyable brilliance of short reads. Longer than a short story so you can get a bit more guts and immersion, but not a novel that will take a lot longer, especially when you are strapped for time and might have to wait a few days or weeks between picking them up again, and possibly needing to reread parts, or skim to get back into them.
November Reviews will be up soon, once I recover from a rather brutal book hangover.

Planning: Oh my … I’ve of course been told about planning your writing for years, and my usual reaction is a smile, a nod, and an immediate argument in my head that planning was just NOT for me. Turns out, I thrive whole heartedly on being able to know where the story is going before I start getting those words on to the page. In my younger writing soul, I thought it would some how squish the creativity. I now know I was completely wrong. It’s still my story, my imagination as I think through it all and work out how much crap I can put my characters through, which on a side note the answer is always ‘a bit more’ ;-p. And planning doesn’t mean your characters automatically do what you want them to, oh no. BUT overall the main points remain the same. NaNoWriMo has just finished and I’ve never done so well. My final word tally was 88001 words for the 30 days. :-D. It was amazing. I even think a large chunk of the words will be usable for my writing projects.

Day 16, when I hit the 50K word goal and the heartbeat of the entire month of November.

Let me know, are you are planner, a panster, or a plantser … are a bit of all depending on what you are writing? I’d love to know.

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Posted in Book Club, Reading Adventures, Writing Adventures

October Book Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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