And That’s a Wrap: July and August 2021 Edition

So, you know how I said I was going to be consistent about doing wrap up posts to help when it came to my end of the year wrap up? Yeah, how about we just forget about that because it failed pretty much after April. Probably because I intended to do May and June together, hit a reading slump, finished only 1 book total in June and simply continued onward in the hopes that things would improve. Now, here we are.

The Maidens – Alex Michaelides ★★ | Review

I was really keen to read this one but tried not to let my expectations get away from me. Luckily I didn’t because I wasn’t the biggest fan by the end. The book revolves around a group therapist trying to solve some murders at Cambridge University, under the belief that they’re connected to a Greek tragedy professor and his female “study group” called ‘The Maidens’. While there were things I liked such as the setting, atmosphere, and way the book dealt with the MC’s grief, I couldn’t get past the weird dialogue choices, stupid decisions of the lead, underdeveloped subplot elements and multitude of unbelievable story components, especially the ending.

All of us Villains – Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman (ARC) ★★★★ | Review to Come

This book is pitched as The Hunger Games with magic so you can imagine how excited I was to get an ARC. It’s about a group of families who every generation are bound by a curse to send one of their teens into an arena to fight to the death for control of the town’s reserves of high magic. It wasn’t as bloody and action packed as I was expecting from the HG comparison but I still had a great time. The characters are really well crafted, the magic system is decently constructed and there’s an adequate build up to the arena. It also has romance elements which don’t overwhelm the story and some exciting plot threads that make me really keen for the sequel. There were a few things which could have been improved upon but, overall, a great YA fantasy read.

The Nowhere Child – Christian White ★★★★ | Review

Look at me actually reading some Australian fiction for a change! I probably should read more if it’s like this. The Nowhere Child is a split timeline book set both in the present and 1990s which deals with an Australian woman discovering she’s the victim of a 20+ year old kidnapping case in a small US town. This was a lot less of a dramatic thriller type mystery and more of a slower burn one than I expected. It focused on characters, relationships and how the kidnapping impacted the town, but I really enjoyed it. I was engaged pretty much right until the end and though that White’s writing was great, especially for a debut novel.

An Ember in the Ashes (Ember quartet 1#) – Sabaa Tahir (Re-Read) ★★★★.5

I’m finally doing my Ember re-read so I can read A Sky Beyond the Storm (I know I’m super behind). I was a little worried when I first started that it wasn’t going to be as good as I remembered but once I got past the opening chapters, I had a great time and sped through it. I still love Elias and Helene, and I think Laia grew on me more this time through. The plot is well constructed and entertaining, the world building is fantastic, and I like that the ending isn’t highly predictable. Maybe I just have a thing for competition plots. The last time I read this I gave it 4 stars but considering the YA fantasy books I’ve read since, I feel I undervalued it a little so I’m going to bump it up to a 4.5. I’ll try to reread the next book soon.


Blood of Elves (The Witcher 1#) – Andrzej Sapkowski ★★★

I rewatched the first season of The Witcher in late July and as, you can tell, suddenly became very interested in reading the first novel (I’ve already read the short stories). I didn’t mind this but there were plenty of times where I sat there wondering what the overall plot was. The middle of the book, in particular, felt very aimless. There are a lot of lengthy conversations and a great deal of time is spent world building, politically especially, in ways I’d probably find overwhelming if I weren’t already familiar with aspects of it. Still, I like Yennefer, with her brand of bitchy-snarkiness, and enjoy Ciri’s bond with both her and Geralt. Hopefully the next book has more magic/sword badassery and eventful plot drama now that Ciri has received both witcher and sorcery training.

The People in the Trees – Hanya Yanagihara ★★.5 | Review to Come

*Sigh* I started this book in June and didn’t finish it until more than halfway through August, an achievement considering I thought about DNF-ing it numerous times. It’s a fictional memoir which details the life of a Nobel-prize winning scientist who after travelling to a remote island in Micronesia discovers that a turtle there brings a sort of immortality to those who eat it. This book was super hard for me to rate and review because while I didn’t like the story (sometimes I was engaged, others I was super bored), I can’t deny that I’m impressed by it as a piece of literary fiction. It’s not an easy read and deals with super dark themes (e.g. child rape), but the narrative style and voice is extremely well done. It also explores ideas like colonialism and the destruction of the environment in impactful ways. It may not be a favourite, but I’ll be thinking about it for a long time to come.

Lock Every Door – Riley Sager ★★★★ | Review

This was $3 on the kindle store and one of the last two Sager books I had yet to read. My experiences with Sager have been varied so I wasn’t sure how this’d go but I enjoyed it. The concept is farfetched and over the top but I decided to just go with it. It’s about a woman who takes an apartment sitting job in a fancy New York building but starts to suspect something is wrong when one of the other sitters mysteriously disappears. Unlike The Final Girls, the pacing in this was really good and I read nearly all of it in one sitting. The level of tension is decent as well without being too much. As far as heroines go, I liked Jules – she was a fighter and I clearly understood the motivations for her actions. The big reveal is…a lot and brought down my rating somewhat, but like with The Last Time I Lied I found that it didn’t massively affect my overall enjoyment. No regrets about spending a lockdown day reading this one.

In the Dark – Loreth Anne White ★★★

This was good but I didn’t love it. In Agatha Christie fashion, In the Dark follows eight people as they travel to a wellness spa in isolated British Columbia. The group quickly finds that all is not as it seems and they’ve been invited there for sinister purposes. I really liked the set up for this, and the eerie vibes of the setting were great. The decision to concurrently feature the police & SAR investigation was mostly well done (if a little detail heavy) and tied in nicely to the other timeline. Plus, this plotline featured two strong characters I wouldn’t mind reading about again. However, there were points during the book where things lagged for me. The first two thirds were more enjoyable than the last, during which the tone shifted, and I found the ending slightly flat with more exposition than necessary. Also, while I appreciate what the story was trying to say about the effects of stress on group dynamics and people’s selfish sense of self-preservation, I do wish events had been more calculated (as was first insinuated) than spur of the moment.

The Push – Ashley Audrain ★★★★★

My second 5 star read of the year, hurray!!! Considering this book is on Goodreads’ list of the most read books of 2021 so far, I can’t believe it took me this long to hear about it. Because, holy moly, this steamrolled me emotionally. The writing was just raw, heartbreaking perfection. Loneliness, resentment, anxiety, defeat, and completely gut-wrenching grief, I felt it all with the main character. While it’s largely “pushed” as a thriller, it’s more of psychological drama with a heap of tension. The Push tells the story of Blythe, who becomes convinced that there is something wrong with her daughter Violet. Is she right or is it all in her head? This is a complex, brutal, and layered view of motherhood that contravenes the usual stereotype of perfection, completion and unconditional love. It’s a short, punchy read and I cannot recommend it enough!


Up until the last week or so, I’d bought almost no books at all in the last two months. I know, I’m shocked, too. Mainly because a) I’ve been unable to physically go to a bookstore (more on that later) and b) I haven’t been in a reading mood. One Last Stop was a gift from one of my best friends, sent as part of care package to boost my mood (which it did!). I was so excited to receive it and I’m looking forward to reading it in September. After going back and forth over what edition of EotV to buy for around a month, I finally pre-ordered the special Aussie red paperback edition. It should get here sometime next week, however, I was lucky enough to receive the first 300 or so pages early via Netgalley so I’ve started reading already to get a head start.

Yesterday I also ordered A Lesson in Vengeance and Once There Were Wolves online. I’m super keen for both and the latter will be signed by the author, which is pretty cool. My last purchase is a kindle one which can be attributed entirely to the fact that I re-watched Bridgerton S1 on Netflix last week. Even though I two starred the first book, I was kind of like, ‘what the hell, let’s just do it’ and bought the sequel. Let’s see what happens.


As usual, here’s the list of posts from the last two months additional to the book reviews already linked above. Just in case there’s something you missed that you’d be interested in:


Life wise, the only real update I have for you all is, unfortunately, Covid-19 related. Back in July, after months of zero cases, my home state in Australia experienced an outbreak of the Delta variant. A few weeks later Sydney was placed into lockdown and when numbers continued to grow, several government areas were placed under heavier restrictions. These limit people from leaving those areas (or your home) except for specific reasons. Unluckily, I live in one of the affected regions and have been unable to leave my house except for the occasional walk. My work hours have been reduced by a large amount (I’m still able to do some from home), but thank goodness I’ve been able to receive government support to cover this.

While the conditions here are nothing compared to what some countries have experienced, being stuck inside my house for a month, with more to come, hasn’t been the easiest time. It’s even harder in the face of people consistently flouting public health orders by hosting parties, refusing to wear masks, and attending anti-lockdown protests. Our case numbers are still awful at the moment but hopefully things will improve soon. Regardless, I’m extremely happy to have received my first vaccine dose this week.


I hope that you’re all doing well at the moment, in both life and reading, and that you and your families are staying safe. It’s scary to think that we’re already in September. I feel as though both this year and last have simultaneously taken forever and gone by in the blink of an eye. So, here’s to, fingers crossed, a great new month of reading! Much love.

And That’s a Wrap: March and April 2021

We are a quarter of the year down (somehow) and that means it’s time for another wrap up post. The last two months feel like they’ve passed quickly but I’m pretty sure I say that every wrap up. In recent months, I’ve had some good reads and some not so good reads, occasionally got off my butt and did some blogging, and as usual made frequent trips to the book store (I’ve gotta keep my TBR on its toes, after all). Here’s what’s been going on in March and April.

A bit of a mixed month in March – fantasy, thrillers, romance, even a classic. In the end though, there were a couple of eh reads and only one book managed to crack the 4 star rating threshold.

Chosen Ones – Veronica Roth ★★.5 | Review

I feel like I say this a lot but, a great concept with disappointing execution. I really loved the idea – looking at the trauma that comes with being a prophesied saviour of the world. However, the reality was a slog to get through until the last third or so, which was really good but too little too late. I also had difficulty connecting with and getting invested in the characters which brought down the enjoyment factor a lot. Although this is Roth’s first adult novel, the characters and writing still have a very YA vibe to them but this makes sense within the context of the story. The book’s use of redacted files, newspaper clippings, etc. to provide background and world building was a fun touch.

The One – John Marrs ★★★.5

I now understand why people make Black Mirror comparisons with this book. A test that uses our DNA to determine our soulmate? What an intriguing idea for a novel. Although The One is classified as a thriller, it didn’t really feel like one for most of the time I was reading it. Only really towards the end. The short chapters and approachable writing made it really easy to get stuck into but the frequent cliffhangers, which often turned out to be nothing, became frustrating after a while (I just want to go to bed, okay?!). There are quite a few character POVs in this book, probably one or two too many, and I experienced plenty of moments where I was annoyed to leave a character I was interested in at a dramatic scene only to go back to a character I wasn’t. Overall, pretty well done but I wanted more.

Kingdom of the Wicked – Kerri Maniscalco ★★★ | Review

Witchcraft, demons, murder, supernatural romance…there was no way I could resist giving this a read. It took me a while to really click with Kingdom of the Wicked and part of that was due to some issues with the writing style, however, I had a lot of fun in the second half. I found the lead, Emilia, frustrating and naive at times, and her love interest, the demon prince, Wrath, was interesting but underdeveloped. Still, I did like their interactions with one another. The atmosphere was great and I loved the transportive descriptions of Palermo. While the ending was rushed and confusing, I have really high hopes for an exciting sequel.

Final Girls – Riley Sager ★★

This was not what I was expecting. For a thriller, the pacing in Final Girls was extremely slow. Half the time the main storyline faded into the background in favour of monotonous scenes and an unnecessary side plot. Things did pick up eventually, thank goodness, but the ending didn’t really feel like it fit the rest of the story, which was a bummer. I’m still not sure how I feel about the MC, Quincy, as her journey was somewhat all over the place but I was happy with where she ended up. I also enjoyed Sager’s use of concurrent past and present timelines again which really served to increase the tension. Bonus points for the horror movie trope usage.

Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier ★★★★

I’ve wanted to read Rebecca for years so I’m super glad I’ve finally done it. The story is great – more psychological suspense than the Gothic romance critics classified it as. I loved the idea of a young woman struggling to find herself in a new marriage and stuck in the shadow of someone considered to have been the epitome of charm, beauty and wit. Rebecca has its slow points but they don’t overstay their welcome and ensure a gradual build up to the big reveals. I liked and disliked the writing. There were times where I was glued to the page and others I was bored with the overwhelming amount of descriptive detail. The ending was also too abrupt for my liking. Yet, I can’t deny, du Maurier’s prose is beautiful. I do wish that I’d read the book first instead of watching the 2020 adaptation though, as I feel like it ruined the mystery and tension for me. I probably would have rated it higher had I done so.

Layla – Colleen Hoover ★★.5

This was not what I was expecting. At all. I somehow missed the fact that it’s a paranormal romance so I was really surprised when a ghost showed up. That aside, I was pretty apathetic towards Layla for the most part. The plot was slow and most of the characters felt underdeveloped. I also wasn’t a big fan of the MC, Leeds, who’s an asshole for reasons I can’t explain without major spoilers, and this made being stuck inside his head a trial. However, the twists at the end turned it around for me somewhat and boosted my rating, even though they’re a little over the top, coincidental and try to absolve Leeds of his dick-ishness.


April was a good month of reading! My lowest rated book was 3.5 stars and I certainly cannot complain about that. I did happen to read mostly books I’d just bought which isn’t exactly great for my existing TBR but what can I say, I’m a mood reader – sue me.

Our Year of Maybe – Rachel Lynn Solomon ★★★★

This was a great YA contemporary read. It’s a slightly more mature young adult novel, which I enjoyed, and tackles themes like chronic illness, coming out, losing your virginity, co-dependency, religious belief, and the way friendships change over time. However, it does so in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s talking down to its audience or underestimating their ability to relate/understand. The writing is good and the two lead POVs, Sophie and Peter, sounded different from one another as well as felt like real teens just trying to deal with big changes in their lives. After this, I’m looking forward to reading Rachel Lynn Solomon’s other books.

The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter ★★★★.5

This was fantastically written and I get why Slaughter has remained such a popular crime author for so long. While The Good Daughter does have an overarching crime plot – a school shooting – which is good but could have been slightly more meaty, where the book really excels is its complex, well rounded and emotionally crafted characters. The relationship between the two MCs, sisters Sam & Charlie, and the way the novel handles their shared trauma was really well done, especially the use of dual POVs. The pacing is great as well, starting out with a bang and, aside from a few overly lengthy conversations, retaining strong momentum throughout. If you’re not into graphic, dark and violent reads, this won’t be for you but otherwise, I really recommend it.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder – Holly Jackson ★★★★

There’s been a lot of hype around this book so I was cautious about getting my hopes up too high, but in the end this was a really enjoyable YA mystery read! I loved the use of mixed media with third person to tell the story and thought it was a fun and effective narrative choice that really made me feel like I was piecing the mystery together with the characters. The plot was engaging but still made room for emotional investment in the characters (Ravi and Pip were cute). My biggest thing, though, is that the climax wasn’t disappointing! Colour me shocked. There were definitely a few things that bugged me (the odd & corny epilogue, an unnecessary dog death, etc.) but I’ll 100% be reading the sequel.

None Shall Sleep – Ellie Marney ★★★.5

If, like me, you’re into Silence of the Lambs or Mindhunter, and are interested in seeing a YA approach, None Shall Sleep is the book for you. This was an addictive read and I loved how much tension Marney managed to instill into her scenes, especially the conversations between our lead Emma, and her sociopathic interview subject, Simon. The writing is on the clinical side which works well in some instances but lessens the emotional impact of character centered moments and may be why I feel like the book didn’t delve as deeply into the two main characters’ traumas as it could have. The climax is really gripping and exciting but I can’t help wishing that Emma and Travis’s investigative efforts had paid off more and that the actual investigation itself had been drawn out longer.


No ARCs this time but there’s always purchases. As usual, I bought more books over the last two months than I’ve got listed here but these are the ones from the bunch that I still have yet to read. Overall, not too bad, especially when I consider the fact that most of these aren’t ridiculously long reads. People in the Trees and A Ladder to the Sky are books by two authors I’ve already read something from and loved so I’m really hoping lightening strikes twice. Death on the Nile and The Nowhere Child were bought during my mystery craze in March and I have high hopes for them.


Here are the posts you may have missed over the last two months:


Stardew Valley

Lately, I’ve been spending more time on video games than I have in a while. I’ve recently gotten into Stardew Valley, something that’s supposed to be relaxing (it’s a farming sim) but I’ve come to realise that I’m too highly strung for relaxing games to actually be, you know, relaxing. I’ve also finished a couple of Nintendo switch games recently like Luigi’s mansion 3 and Pokemon Let’s Go: Pikachu, but my newest obsession is Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I’m addicted.

Grey's Anatomy: The Complete Twelfth Season: Amazon.ca: Ellen Pompeo;  Patrick Dempsey; Justin Chambers; James Pickens Jr.; Chandra Wilson;  Jessica Capshaw; Sarah Drew; Jerrika Hinton; Camilla Luddington; Kevin  McKidd; Sara Ramirez; Caterina Scorsone;

TV wise, I’ve been binge watching my way through seasons of Grey’s Anatomy (I’m still a million years behind airing television though) and season 2 of The Circle US on Netflix. I’ve also casually been watching this wonderfully sweet Australian series called Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds. It’s about a study which pairs elderly people with young kids to help improve the adults’ quality of life and the kids’ social skills. It’s can be sad at times but it’s mostly really uplifting and nice. Perfect for dark Covid times.

Over the last few weeks I’ve also been trying to incorporate more exercise into my routine. It’s been a challenge getting up an extra hour or so early in order to fit it in before work and I’m so unfit it’s ridiculous, but I know it’s really important for my health, physical and mental, so I’m going to do my best to keep with it. Even though a dodgy ankle is making it more difficult than expected…


That’s it from me! Last year I got a bit slack when it came to my wrap ups and by the time I wanted to do my end of year posts I struggled remembering everything. So, in 2021 I’m going to make sure I’m much more consistent with it.

How have your last few months been? What have you been reading? Any new favourites to report?

And That’s a Wrap: March and April 2020 (+ O.W.Ls Magical Readathon Results)

Another two months of this crazy and unpleasant year down. Slowly, at least in the southern hemisphere, we’re making our way towards winter time. Horray! I’ve read some really great books over the last two months (and some pretty average ones), and, despite the struggle, ended up completing my O.W.Ls magical readathon with almost all the subjects I wanted to.

March

I had a great month of reading in March numbers wise. I read nearly everything on my planned TBR except one book and ended up finishing on a total of eight books. Considering I read about four a month at the moment, this was a nice surprise.

The Diviners – Libba Bray ★★★★.5

Why did I put this off for so many years? The Diviners was like and yet so different from other stuff I read. I loved the 1920s New York setting, which was so vivid – the language, music, costumes, controversies, attitudes. The other standout was the great cast of characters each with their own quirks, personalities and special abilities. The story was engaging, fabulously dark, and a little bit ballsy for a YA novel. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the rest of the series and getting to know the characters even better. Bring on the ghosts and magic.

Red Rising & Golden Son (red rising 1 & 2) – Pierce Brown ★★★★.5 & ★★★★★| Reviews

These two books were rereads for me and both were just as good the second time around. It’s always nice to reaffirm your original feelings about a book or series. I finished them in about a day or so each because, much like before, once I started I couldn’t stop. Red Rising still has a slow start (which is the reason for the less than 5 star rating) but overall I love it. This is definitely one of my favourite series.

The Bromance Book Club – Lyssa Kay Adams ★★★.5

As far as romances go, this was a pretty cute and original story. I really enjoyed the fact that instead of focusing on two people falling in love for the first time it was about a couple working on saving their marriage. The story gets contrived at points, the characters frustrated me a teensy bit, and I wish I’d been able to laugh a bit more, but overall an enjoyable and sweet read. Plus, bonus points for the smart commentary on sexism and gender roles. A very self aware romance!

The Clockwork Angel (The infernal devices 1#) – Cassandra Clare ★★★★

Considering I haven’t read this since it first came out about ten years ago, I knew going in I’d probably feel differently about it. It’s definitely still good – a great setting, likeable characters, and the story’s pretty enjoyable as well (if slow at points). However, I will say that I found Tessa a bit blander, Will more angst-y, and the humour not as laugh out loud funny this time around. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood for it? Jem is still a precious cinnamon roll though and I love his and Will’s friendship.

The Dutch House – Ann Patchett ★★★★.5

One of two surprises this month, I really liked this one! The Dutch House is the first Ann Patchett book I’ve read and it’s so nice to finish something where the hype is accurate. This isn’t my typical read but there’s something about well-written books which follow certain characters through chunks of their lives which stick with me. It’s a slower, quieter type of read (sort of a modern fairytale) which focuses heavily on the relationship between two siblings and their connection to their childhood home. Some people won’t be so keen, but I found it weirdly relaxing. Then again, it may just be Tom Hanks’s soothing narration on the audiobook…

Jane Anonymous – Laurie Faria Stolarz ★★

I was super intrigued by the concept for this one – a teen who gets kidnapped and has to try to reintegrate into her life after 7 months in captivity. I liked the structure of the book in switching back and forth between the past and present, and the way it dealt with Jane’s mental state following what happened. Yet, for some reason, I couldn’t get into the story or connect with the characters. It also didn’t help that I could see the “twist” coming from miles away which ruined the suspense somewhat. However, this might be a case of it’s not you, it’s me.

Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin ★★★★.5 | Review

Surprise of April no. 2. Wolf by Wolf is my new hidden gem recommendation. It’s an alternate history story set in a world in which Germany and Japan won WWII. They celebrate their victory every year with an epic and cutthroat motorcycle race which, this year, the resistance decide to use as an opportunity to assassinate Hitler. The plot has great momentum, I really liked the characters (especially the lead, Yael, a shapeshifter and survivor of Auschwitz), the romance doesn’t overwhelm the story, and it ends on an exciting note. I’m massively looking forward to reading the sequel.


April

In April I participated in the O.W.L.s Magical Readathon hosted by G at Bookroast. If you missed my original post about the readathon, you can find it here. Normally I find that readathons spur on my reading but this time around, it put me on the verge of a slump. The first half of the month was very slow. I ended up putting one book down 100 pages in because I knew I wouldn’t finish anything else if I continued. In the end, I was able to read enough to fulfill the subject requirements for my career choice, Trader of Magical Tomes, and one of the two bonus courses I’d planned to do. However, this was only because the comic I intended for my second bonus course fit the prompt for Charms (and made up for the book I abandoned). Phew!

history of magic: Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb 1#) – Tamsyn muir ★★★★

This is definitely one of the weirder things I’ve read. It’s also confusing, dark and quite unique. So pretty much what people said it would be. I have complicated feelings toward GtN. While I enjoyed it and was super interested in the world, magic and characters, there’s not a lot of explanation for things and feeling massively lost through large chunks of the book certainly put a dampener on it. It also takes a little bit of time for the plot to find momentum. However, there’s so much awesome potential here and I’m excited to see what happens in the sequel.

transfiguration: Sword of Destiny(The Witcher 0.75#) – Andrzej Sapkowski ★★★★

Weirdly, I think I enjoyed this second short story collection more than the first. Geralt does a lot less monster slaying here but the adventures were so much fun – mermaids, a quest to kill a dragon, Geralt running around Novigrad with Dandelion trying to catch a shapeshifter… I wasn’t as fond of the Yennefer related material (it reads very melodramatic, but perhaps it’s the translation?) but really enjoyed Geralt and Ciri’s introduction. A pretty easy read. I’ll likely pick up the first novel further down the line.

Ancient runes: The Honey Don’t List -★★.5 stars | Review to come

This wasn’t my original choice for the Ancient Runes prompt but it’s what I felt like reading by the time I got around to completing it. I went into this one with low expectations after reading some mediocre reviews and while it definitely wasn’t anywhere near as good as other CL books I’ve read, it wasn’t a bad read either. The concept was decent and I liked that there was a good focus on both of the romantic leads’ individual stories. However, I wish there had been more humour and much more time devoted to building the romance.

Charms: Fence Vol. 1 – C.S. Pacat, Johanna the Mad, Joana Lafuente ★★★★

My usual attitude towards anything sports related is: Zzzzzz… So I was super surprised by how enjoyable this was! It’s pretty short (being a comic) but the story’s fun, the characters have strong personalities, and it’s quite funny too. I even went looking to buy the second volume as soon as I finished. It’s safe to say I’ll be continuing with the series.

Herbology: Morning Star (Red Rising 3#) – Pierce Brown ★★★★★ | Review

Just like my re-reads of books 1 & 2 in March, this was similarly amazing. Morning Star is my favourite book of the series and I loved getting to experience it a second time, despite all the emotion the darn thing involves! I’m sure I’ll read these books again in the years to come. Now, I’m ready to try my hand at Iron Gold again, finally.

I bought a few books over the last couple of months and after feeling ready to start requesting ARCs again, I ended up getting two Netgalley approvals as well, Bookish and the Beast & Mexican Gothic, which I’m looking forward to. Here are the new additions to my shelf which I still have yet to read.

My blogging has been lower in frequency lately, especially this month due to my new Animal Crossing addiction *facepalm*. Still, here are the posts if you missed them:

Instead of blogging, reading and taking photos for my bookstagram, these are some of the things that have been occupying my time lately.

With the whole cinemas being closed thing, I’ve been watching more new TV than movies. However, shortly before everything shut, my sister and I went to see the latest adaptation of Emma which I enjoyed. It does get a little slow around the middle but otherwise, it’s good. The scenery and costumes are great and Anya’s really well suited to the role.

TV wise, much like with The Circle, in March I caved to FOMO and watched Love is Blind. I know, I know. As expected, it was a mindlessly enjoyable trainwreck. Also in March I binge-watched my way through season 3 of Elite, one of my favourite guilty pleasure shows.

More recently, I finished Normal People. I’ve read the book the show is adapted from and surprisingly, this is one of those cases where I liked the adaptation a lot more, despite the two being very similar. While I was lukewarm about the book, I thought the show was great. It’s shot wonderfully and the acting is fantastic and heart-wrenching. I found the linear storytelling much easier to follow and the slightly altered ending was a big improvement. I’ve also already hit the soundtrack up on Spotify.

And, last but not least, I recently bought myself a Nintendo Switch Lite and a copy of Animal Crossing New Horizons and…it’s taken over my life. I named my island Isla Sorna, after one of the islands in Jurassic Park, and have been fishing, chopping trees, selling fruit, and getting into the stalk market! This thing chews up hours of my time and I’m having so much fun designing my island.


And that’s a wrap on March and April 2020! I hope you’re all well and taking care of yourselves under the difficult circumstances. Let me know what you’ve been up to and the books/things that have been getting you through social distancing/isolation.

And That’s A Wrap: Jan and Feb 2020 Edition

Just like that, the first two months of 2020 are over. It feels as though it’s gone fairly quickly even though I’ve done basically nothing except work, read, blog and watch TV. Exciting stuff, I know. So far I’m really enjoying this more laid back approach to my yearly reading goal. There’s been a lot less stress and I’ve managed to tackle a few bigger books. There are also so many books that I’m super excited to read and re-read in the coming months which is such a great feeling. But let’s get to recap, shall we?

JANUARY

The Whisper Man – Alex North ★★★.5 | Review

A solid start to the year. The Whisper Man was an enjoyable read and well written. The characters were developed and realistic, and despite a few lulls in momentum, the story was engaging. As far as crime or thriller novels go, it was a decent book but where the novel really excels is its focus on grief and father-son relationships. The potential paranormal element was also a nice surprise.

Skyward – Brandon Sanderson ★★★★★ | Review

A re-read before tackling Starsight. Skyward was my favourite read of 2019 and after a second go around, I’m still 100% sure it was the right decision. I love this book – the characters, story, action, world building, humour and writing. It’s just fantastic all around.

Starsight – Brandon Sanderson ★★★★.5 | Review

I was nervous going into this but, in the end, I shouldn’t have been because Starsight was a great sequel. It was certainly different to Skyward in terms of its approach to plot, sense of momentum and themes, but still good different. I did miss some of the characters from book one but I loved seeing Sanderson’s universe expand in an exciting way and seeing our lead, Spensa, continue to grow.

Loveboat, Taipei – Abigail Hin Wen ★★★.5 | Review

Summer camp in Taipei! I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. While it’s pretty predictable, has too many side characters and tries to cover more heavier themes than it should, it’s still a good read. Loveboat does well where it looks at ideas of belonging, family and identity, and I really sympathised with the MC, Ever, and her classmates’ difficulties. The setting is a lot of fun and I picked up quite a few new bits of info about Taiwan. Also, yes, there is a love triangle but as both sides of it were likeable, it didn’t bother me much.

FEBRUARY

Becoming – Michelle Obama ★★★★★

I went with the audiobook on this one and I’m so glad I did. Listening to Michelle tell her own story, all the way from childhood through to leaving The White House, was both engaging and inspiring. I learnt a lot from this autobiography and in it Michelle discusses a wide range of things including politics, family, parenting, relationships, growing up working class, and the experiences of African Americans. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara ★★★★★ | Review

I did not see this book coming. I decided to read it on a whim and it ended up being the most surprising and emotional reading experience I’ve had in a long time. The writing was gorgeous and the characters just felt so real to me. It’s a long read and deals with some extremely tough subject matters (e.g. child sexual abuse, suicide, domestic violence, etc.) but despite the few issues I had, I honestly loved this book. It broke my heart and I cried. Hard.

10 Blind dates – Ashley Elston ★★★

This was a sweet, rom-com-esque holiday read. It’s nothing particularly memorable and unlikely to bump your favourite YA romance reads off their thrones, but it’s fun. 10 Blind Dates is exactly what it claims to be – a girl being set up on a bunch of blind dates with different guys to help get her mind off a break up. Plus, there’s a happy ending. I liked Sophie as a heroine and really loved her crazy, enormous, Sicilian family, which is really the heart of this book. If you’re after something light and cute (which I needed after A Little Life), this is a good choice.

The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewell ★★ | Review to Come

For the majority of its run, I found The Family Upstairs a decent read. Even with the cult, child abuse, and mysterious deaths, it somehow gives off this weirdly laid back vibe which makes it very readable. I think it may be the writing. I liked the concurrent past and present timelines and although the twists in the story aren’t particularly shocking, I was okay with them. This would have been a 3 star read if not for the ending, which felt flat, weird and lazy, and my realisation that almost an entire plotline could have been removed without damaging the story at all.

To avoid you guys having to see the same book covers over and over again, I’m only going to include the books that I bought over the last two months and still have yet to read. Plus, it makes me look so much better spending wise. Also, although Crescent City was purchased this month, because it’s a pre-order, I won’t get it till after release day on March 3rd.

Just in case you missed them and there was something that would have interested you, here are my posts from Jan & Feb (excluding the book reviews which are linked above).

Life

As I mentioned earlier, life for me has been largely uneventful for the last two months. However, as I’m sure you’ve heard, I can’t say the same for my country. This summer has brought absolutely terrible bushfires, devastating floods, an extension of our longest and worst drought in history, and now a cyclone. Australia has always been a land of extreme weather, but this year’s has been far more extreme than ever before. I am extremely lucky to live in a city area where the impacts of things like this aren’t as prevalent but so many others haven’t been so fortunate. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to watch the news everyday for months on end and see images of people crying over the ruins of burned down homes, wildlife injured, killed or without habitats, and farmers desperately praying for rain in regions that look like dusty wastelands with the remaining livestock almost skeletal in appearance. The photos below come from near my grandpa’s farm in an area of regional NSW where fire destroyed more than 21,500 hectares of forest in just one day. I hope that things will get better soon because honestly, anything has to be better than this.

TV & Movies

On to something less serious. Here are some of the TV and Movies that have been occupying my time over the last few months. There’s a weird mix. There was the amazing (Sex Education S2, Unbelievable), good (Ready or Not, The Little Drummer Girl, Little Women), terrible yet addictive (The Circle), disappointing (P.S. I Still Love You, Titans S2) and just not my thing (Midsommar, Marriage Story). And yes, I may have fallen in love with Florence Pugh just a little bit.


And that’s a wrap on January and February 2020! I hope you’ve had a good start to the year and that there are plenty of fabulous books on the horizon for you.

And That’s a Wrap: November Edition

Only one month to go before 2019 is over and we begin both a new year and a new decade. I recently reached my revised reading goal of 65 books and have managed to cross a few books off my purchased TBR of late, so I’m feeling quite relaxed going into December. Here’s how November went:

The Wicked King – Holly Black ★★★★.5 | Review

Why yes, this is the second time I’ve read this in 2019. I can’t remember as far back as January so a re-read was necessary to prep for The Queen of Nothing‘s release. As expected, still fabulous and once again finished it in the blink of an eye.

Darkdawn – Jay Kristoff ★★★.5

Having been putting it off since September, I finally hit up Darkdawn. It ended up taking me a while to get through because of some pacing issues, repetition and my reaction to a few plot choices. I admit, I’m just the tiniest bit disappointed because I love this series and have been waiting so long for this book. However, despite the negatives there were still a bunch of things I liked – Jonnen and Mia’s relationship, the new pirate characters, Mia getting revenge on SO MANY PEOPLE, Jay taking digs at his own writing, and the usual amounts of sass. Not my favourite, but not bad either.

The Queen of Nothing – Holly Black ★★★.5

Another release I’ve been dying to get my hands on & again one that didn’t reach my expectations. *sigh* I liked The Queen of Nothing, don’t get me wrong, I just have issues with it. The main ones are that I feel as though it (a) was lacking the drama, twists and scheming of books 1 & 2, (b) left some plot strands hanging while resolving others in quick, unfulfilling ways e.g. Taryn’s deceptions, Locke, Jude’s banishment, etc. (c) and…the ending was both a little anticlimactic & cheesy. Regardless, the pacing was good and Cardan & Jude turned out to be end game so I can’t complain too much.

More Than We Can Tell – Brigid Kemmerer ★★★

An enjoyable read but not as much as Letters to the Lost. I love the fact that Brigid isn’t afraid to tackle real issues and heavy themes in her YA novels. This book looked at child abuse, trauma, and online harassment/bullying, and I feel as though it largely handled them compassionately and well. I really like Rev as a character and it was great to see him in greater focus here but I wish the climax to his story had been different. I wasn’t a huge fan of Emma – despite what she was going through, I couldn’t get on board with how awfully she treated the people around her. There was also a side character’s story which I feel could have been handled better. Overall though, I still liked this one.

Three Women – Lisa Taddeo ★★★

My latest foray into non-fiction. I found the writing in Three Women to be stylistically odd but also a bit frustrating as it frequently got bogged down by tangents, mundane details and philosophical musings about life, people and relationships. Content wise, I enjoyed myself and easily maintained the motivation to read it from start to finish. The stories of each of these women are not”the norm” enough for this to be considered the case study on female desire that it’s been marketed as, nor is it the super feminist read it’s been claimed to be. However, if you look at it purely as three stories of women’s different, individual experiences with sex and relationships, it’s interesting and entertaining.

I only bought four books this month. One I’ve already finished, and another I’m a fair way into so I’m pretty happy with that. I’m sure I’ll pick up a few more in December with gifts, sales, and extra down time over the Christmas break to read.

After taking a few months off, I returned to my blog this month with some good momentum and I’m happy with how things turned out. Here’s what I published in November:

This month I’ve been eagerly counting down the days until my office shuts for the Christmas break. I’ll get an absolutely wonderful two weeks off and as someone who works in real-estate and doesn’t usually get even two days off in a row, I am beyond excited. Christmas is my favourite time of the year so I’m looking forward to stuffing myself with good food, spending time with my family & cats, and recharging my batteries. I could do without the hot, humid weather but you can’t get everything you want.

I’ve also started thinking about potential holidays for 2020. Even after Christmas, I’ll have a lot of annual leave saved up and as someone who hasn’t had a proper holiday since January 2018, my travel bug is getting antsy. I’m still not sure where I’d like to go, but I’ve got plenty of time to decide.

Image result for lucifer poster"

Movies and TV wise, this month I completely fell in love with Lucifer. I binged all 4 seasons on Netflix in less than two weeks and let me tell you, the withdrawal has been HARD. I’ll just be over here, sitting in a ball until season 5 drops some time next year. In movie land, I went to see Doctor Sleep and Charlie’s Angels, both of which I really enjoyed, and also sat down to watch The Knight Before Christmas (on Netflix) which was…er…well, pretty darn terrible.


That’s it from me for this month. I hope you’re all doing really well and that November has brought you some good things. Happy reading for December, everyone!

Mini-Reviews | Ashley’s Contemporary Romance Binge of 2019

As some of you may remember, towards the end of 2018 I went on a short contemporary romance binge to close out my reading goal for the year. Now, here we are in 2019, the year of the major book burnout, and once again the CR binge has made a return – with a vengeance.

Why read contemporary romance?

  1. They’re fluffy, sweet, sometimes mind-numbing, and just generally a lot of fun
  2. They often feature flawed protagonists older than I am still getting their life together, which is a fantastic reminder that it’s okay for me to not have my shit sorted yet
  3. And, they’re extremely easy to power through super quickly

During September I read 3 in the space of a week. And did I generally feel better about myself and the world? Why yes, yes, I did. And just like the books themselves, here are three short & light reviews of each of them.


Josh + Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating – Christina Lauren

Ever since I read Autoboyography last year, I’ve been wanting to give one of Christina & Lauren’s adult romance books a try and as far as first picks go, this ended up being a fabulous one. I was hooked from the start right til the very end.

As you can gather from the title, the book is about two friends, Hazel & Josh, who meet at university through a series of awkward interactions before bumping into one other again years later and becoming besties.  After Josh’s long-term relationship crashes and burns, Hazel comes up with what she thinks is the perfect way to get him out of the house again – set each other up on blind double dates. What could be better? Hanging out together plus the potential to find new partners. Because, I mean, it’s not like Josh and Hazel are into each other…

Although they’re completely different, Josh and Hazel are ridiculously likeable characters and I loved spending time with them. Hazel, a third-grade teacher with no filter, is the kind of person I think most of us wish we could be – quirky, spirited, completely comfortable in herself, and unwilling to change who she is for anyone. Josh, a physical therapist, is more reserved and organised, but also extremely sweet and supportive. He also happens to be of Korean heritage (WOOO, diversity!).

For all those friends-to-lovers trope fans out there, this book will definitely hit the sweet spot. While Josh & Hazel’s relationship does inevitably evolve into something romantic, I adored their perfect opposites attract friendship as well. There’s such a sense of ease to their scenes with one another and seeing them quickly become closer and closer (or should I say, seeing Hazel hit Josh’s life like a hurricane), is both lovely and entertaining. By the time the romance (or smut *wiggles eyebrows*) hits, it feels just right.

The plot in this book revolves almost entirely around the relationship between the two main characters. So, fair warning, if you need things going on outside the developing romance, you may get bored on this one. The series of failed double dates provides a bit of humour in that they turn out in a variety of different ways, especially as Josh & Hazel start to the hit the bottom of the barrel for potential suitors and realise their feelings for one another.

The one negative, and reason I deducted half a star, is that I wasn’t very keen on the ending. It felt rushed and unnecessary, and the transition between the final chapter and epilogue is unpleasantly abrupt. Still, while I wish the plot had gone a different direction, it wasn’t enough to badly damage the overall experience too much for me.

4.5 stars and I’ll make sure to keep this one on the back-burner in the future if I ever need something light and adorably wonderful to brighten up my week.


The Unhoneymooners – Christina Lauren

I will unashamedly admit that I bought and downloaded this on my Kindle about ten minutes after finishing Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating. I have zero regrets.

Our protagonist is Olive – single, unemployed, and just trying to get through her sister Ami’s wedding without murdering her nemesis, the groom’s brother, Ethan. After the reception buffet leaves everyone but Olive and Ethan with severe food poisoning, Ami’s all-expenses paid honeymoon to Hawaii goes up for grabs. Ami insists that Olive take it, while her husband gifts it to Ethan. With neither willing to budge on the chance at a free holiday, they agree to briefly put their differences aside to head off to paradise. However, when both Olive’s future boss and Ethan’s ex-girlfriend turn up at the same hotel, the pair find themselves pretending that they’re newlyweds. But the more time Olive spends with Ethan, the more she comes to realise that not only is he not who she thought he was, she might even like him.

While I may not have loved Olive and Ethan as much as Hazel and Josh, I did still really enjoy them (Olive more so than Ethan). Olive is one of those solid rom-com heroines that you can very easily get behind – the flawed, my-life’s-a-bit-of-a-mess-right-now-but-I’ll-turn-it-around kind of character. Meanwhile, Ethan is your standard start-out-as-a-stuffy-sarcastic-ass-before-showing-some-depth type of love interest that you find in enemies-to-lovers books. But hey, I have no problem with this archetype. The two characters have a great rapport and reading as the verbal barbs are thrown in both directions is very entertaining, particularly when they involve a good Harry Potter reference.

I’m a sucker for both the ‘enemies to lovers’ and ‘fake dating’ tropes so a story like this was guaranteed to be enjoyable for me, and it was. The first 70% deals with the wedding and Olive & Ethan’s time on holiday while the rest focuses on the effect their new relationship has on their lives and loved ones back home. Stage one is a lot of fun and contains all the hijinks and character/relationship building you’d expect. There’s a hot massage scene, a paintball competition with a bunch of thirteen-year-olds, a night involving too many Mai Tais, and a Norman Reedus look-a-like. Stage two isn’t as popular with a lot of other readers and I can understand why – it’s heavier and involves a few trust issues which I seriously question the logic of, especially where it comes to Ethan’s behaviour (it makes zero sense with the info he has at hand). Still, everything resolves itself in a satisfying way, complete with Olive fixing up a few elements of her messy life, in order to finish off with an adorably imperfect ending.

Overall, we’ll go with 4 stars for this one and I’ll just sit here wondering why my life can’t involve taking an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii with a hot man who can banter like there’s no tomorrow.


The Bride Test – Helene Hoang

During my binge of 2018, I tackled Helen Hoang’s debut The Kiss Quotient and had an absolutely great time. So, when I saw that the follow up, The Bride Test, had been released, I very quickly picked up that cheery, yellow beauty and took it straight to check out.

The Bride Test turns its attention to Khai, Michael from The Kiss Quotient’s cousin. Khai is Vietnamese-American, autistic, loves mathematics, and believes himself to be emotionally defective. Due to his lack of effort in the romantic department, his mother decides to go to Vietnam to select him a wife. Here she meets Esme Tran, a mixed-race cleaner and single mother living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City who dreams of meeting her American father. When Co Nga offers Esme a three-month trip to California in exchange for her attempting to pursue a romance with Khai, Esme sees the opportunity to give herself and her family a new life. And so, she heads to the US, moves in with Khai, and our story properly kicks off.

One of the best things about The Bride Test is that although it does have many of the sweet, fun and sexy moments you look for in a romantic contemporary, it also manages to be emotionally deep and showcase some more serious plot elements. Seeing Esme and Khai fall in love is great, but it’s also enjoyable and satisfying to follow their individual journeys. Esme tries to track down her father, pursues an education, and struggles to independently secure a future in the US for her and her family. Meanwhile, Khai deals with grief and realises how his autism effects his emotional responses and relationships with people. The way in which these plotlines play out does feel somewhat contorted and frustrating at certain points (the conflicts drag on longer than I would have liked) but overall, the story itself is entertaining.  

As characters, I really liked both Esme and Khai. Seeing Esme try to navigate both a new country and Khai himself was really endearing. She’s caring, considerate, hardworking and I loved just how determined she was to better herself. Although Khai has autism much like Stella in The Kiss Quotient, Hoang doesn’t simply rehash old territory and Khai’s experiences are very much his own. Learning about a different expression of the disorder was really interesting for me and I found that because of the boundaries and communication Khai’s autism required of Esme, it actually brought a fantastic element of consent and greater degree of intimacy into their relationship.

Aside from the autistic element, I have to note just how fantastic it is to have a mainstream romance novel involving two non-white leads. The book uses Vietnamese names, heavily integrates elements of Vietnamese culture, and details the difficulties of poorer immigrants in moving to a new country with very little to their names and minimal knowledge of the language. If you do choose to read this book, make sure to also read the author’s note. You would be remiss not to.    

If you’re looking for a diverse, inclusive, sweet, steamy, and heartfelt novel, this is one to add to the list. 4 stars


And that’s all for now, folks! Have you got any fun romantic contemporaries for me to add to the list for my next binge? I’m always on the lookout.

And That’s a Wrap: June ’19 Edition

Six months down, six months to go. I’m now almost exactly halfway towards my reading goal for 2019. Up until the beginning of last week, I was about 3 weeks behind on my challenge which was stressful to put it mildly, especially since I’ve consistently been ahead of the game up until this month. Still, I’m pushing through. Let’s have a look back at June.

This month was a light one for me in terms of the number of books finished. I had a slow start to the beginning of June and my motivation to read was fairly low for some inexplicable reason (even though I was reading books I was enjoying). It’s improved a little in the last few weeks but we’ll have to see how July goes. The books I managed to finish this month were:

Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor ★★★★.5 | Review

Strange the Dreamer was a re-read for me. I knew there was no way I’d be able to tackle Muse of Nightmares without doing one. As expected, the book was just as good as the first time around. I love the world building, characters, and absolutely stunning writing – Laini makes magic with words. While the plot is slow, I really enjoy it and the book definitely goes out with a bang.

Muse of Nightmares – Laini Taylor ★★★★

While I didn’t enjoy this as much as Strange the Dreamer, I still think it’s a really good book. I appreciate how Laini was able to expand her world and story in an unexpected direction, however, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the resolution to that expansion. It was great to get some more backstory on the Mesarthim and answers to the questions from STD. The book treats its characters well (plus introduces compelling new ones) and I like that it still manages to keep smaller roles in the picture.

All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven ★★★.5

This is a tough one to review. For the most part I found ATBP mildly enjoyable. It has some really lovely moments and the characters are okay (even though Finch does seem a little ‘manic pixie dream boy’). The book also puts a spotlight on some heavy topics like suicide, abuse and mental health – even though I’m questioning the way these were handled at times. However, the book does feel a bit emotionally manipulative and even with the author drawing on her own experiences, the ending still feels like something you’d find only in a novel. This was an up and down read for me which made scoring it hard. I have to say though, Jennifer Niven’s author’s note is an easy five stars.

Magic for Liars – Sarah Gailey ★★★

Harry Potter meets Noir. The concept for MfL is great and I was quite excited about it. In the end though, the execution could have been better. Despite dealing with some emotional things, the characters and story didn’t connect with me as much as they should have. There are a few plot elements that feel kind of thrown in without much real purpose and I wasn’t so keen on the ending itself. However, I did enjoy the way magic was handled (a little more scientifically) and the general mystery aspect (even if it did take a bit of time to warm up).

The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss ★★★★★

It’s been about four months and by George, I’ve finally done it. And what a fabulous ride it was. I’ve had this book on my to read list for about 8 years(!) and kept putting it off for fear it’d be slow and disappointing. While I can understand why it may not appeal to some people, that wasn’t the case for me. I thoroughly enjoyed reading TNotW at a leisurely pace – the characters, the incredible and extensive world building, even the writing itself, it’s all fantastic and I understand why it’s considered a masterpiece of the fantasy genre.

In June I added four books to my physical TBR. NOS4A2 and Recursion were both bought using birthday money (and credit on my Dymocks membership card – win).

This month Book Depository also had a good sale going on and FINNNAAALLLLYYY the hardback edition of Winter was discounted. I’ve been waiting a very long time for this. There was a happy dance involved before I hit the order button.

Magic for Liars was an ARC approval but weirdly enough I was only approved for it on release day. Still, I’m not going to complain about a free copy of a book I was interested in reading.

I meant to read Beartown in June but with my lacking motivation for the past month, that just didn’t happen. I’ve started it today and I hope it’s as good as people have said. Last month I bought Legendary and in order to refresh my memory, I’ll probably do a re-read of Caraval some time in July as well. As for the rest of this month’s reads, it’s a bit of a mystery. We’ll see how I feel as the weeks progress.

MUSIC

Songs I had on repeat in June were:

  • Don’t Throw it Away & Rollercoaster – The Jonas Brothers (Happiness Begins)
  • Never Really Over – Katy Perry
  • You Need to Calm Down – Taylor Swift
  • Outta My Head – John Mayer & Khalid
  • Star Maps – Aly & AJ

TV & MOVIES

I watched less TV & movies in June than usual but what I did watch included:

  • Stranger Things S1 & S2 (rewatch to prepare for S3 in July)
  • Started HBO’s Chernobyl mini series
  • Started Veronica Mars (rewatch to prepare for S4 in July)

LIFE

  • This month both my sister and I celebrated birthdays – we’re 4 years and 3 days apart. They were both very low key this year. Twenty-six is a…littttttle bit scary but I guess time progresses even if we don’t want it to.
  • At work we’ve been preparing to move to a brand new office which we finally did just a few days before the end of the month. It’s going to take some getting used to but it’s good to have a bit more space.
  • I’ve been wanting to get back into bookstagram lately but boy, finding the right light during winter is hard. One minute the sun is there and the next, poof, behind a cloud. *sigh*

And that’s a wrap on June. Not the best month reading or blogging wise (except for my finally finishing The Name of the Wind, which I’m psyched about). Here’s hoping for a better month in July all around.

And That’s a Wrap: May ’19 Edition

Another month is over and the next one begins. As usual, that means it’s time for a wrap up. Overall, May’s been a pretty decent month for reading, book purchases and well…life, I guess. Let’s review, shall we?

Verity – Colleen Hoover ★★★★.5

Unlike Colleen’s other books, Verity is a thriller and it’s a dark one at that. But god, was this addictive. Once I started, I had so much trouble putting it down – I just needed to know what happened. While it does involve a romance, there’s a lot more to the plot than that. You may guess some of the twists but it’s enjoyable all the same and the ending is far from clear cut.

One True Loves – Taylor Jenkins Reid ★★★.5

Having only read Reid’s later work, I was interested to see how her early romantic contemporaries compared. One True Loves is a decent read. There’s real emotion behind it and the characters are easy to sympathise with, even if the premise is unbelievable. If you’re looking for some chick lit, this is a fairly enjoyable pick. Unfortunately for me though, it’s not something I’d consider memorable or be keen to reread in future.

Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston ★★★★★ | Review

You guys have heard me gush about this book enough this month. It was sweet, sexy, and funny. It’s massively LGBTI positive and the characters are great. I don’t usually read much in the way of new adult but if there are more reads like RW&RB out there, maybe I should!

Slayer – Kiersten White ★★★.5

As I mentioned in my recent Buffy book tag post, I’m a huge BtVS fan so there was no way I was going to be able to resist this. The world building is great and it’s clear how much White adores Buffy. Unfortunately though, the plot is slow for long stretches and predictable. Also, on numerous occasions the characters’ actions are very frustrating. Yet, things certainly pick up in the last third or so and I found that Nina as a protagonist grew on me as the book progressed. There were also some nice emotional moments. If I’m in the mood, I may pick up the sequel when it releases.

Aurora Rising – Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman ★★★.5

Amie and Jay are back with more space adventures! I was massively excited for this release and while I enjoyed it, I can’t say I loved it. The characters are likeable but after everything, I still feel like I don’t know them very well and haven’t properly connected. For this reason, the ending didn’t really hit me as hard as it should have, but points for being unexpected. The world building was really good and I’m looking forward to spending more time in this version of our galaxy. The plot certainly has momentum, but I’m not too sure how I feel about the choice of the antagonistic element here. Still, I’ll definitely give the next book a go.

After – Anna Todd ★

Yeah, yeah. I knew this would be trash, I was just interested in finding out what kind of trash. Plus it was something easy to read on my trip to Melbourne. Not only is the romance extremely toxic, there’s basically no plot (it pretty much just alternates between Hardin & Tessa fighting and having sex) and the writing itself is pretty darn awful (has Anna Todd ever heard of contractions before? Everyone in this book talks like a robot). How this was so popular, I have no idea.

Four books this month, two of which I read during it, so not so bad at all! Originally I had no plans to continue with the Caraval books but with Finale having just been released and it popping up EVERYWHERE, I caved and bought Legendary.

I’ve wanted to read the His Dark Materials books for years now and just never really gotten around to it. This month I had an extra credit on my audible account so I thought why not now? Especially with the new HBO series releasing later this year.

Book Memes

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Adaptations I’d Like to Watch

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Books Published in the Last Ten Years

WWW Wednesday | 15.05.19

Book Reviews

Again, but Better – Christine Riccio

Middlegame – Seanan McGuire

Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston

Book Tags

The Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tag

I’ve already begun my reread of Strange the Dreamer in preparation to finally read Muse of Nightmares which has sadly been sitting on my shelf for far too long, being it’s gorgeous orange self. I have no ARCs to read in June and there aren’t any new releases I’m anxiously waiting around for either so that means I can actually read some books off my existing TBR – this month I’m thinking Beartown and All the Bright Places.

Movies, Television & Music

As you’d expect, I went to the movies to see Aladdin this month. Sure, there are some flaws but on the whole it’s a fun way to spend a few hours. Major props to the costume department and set designers who did a phenomenal job. Also, does anyone else have a huge girl crush on Naomi Scott, or is it just me?

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In May, my two TV obsessions were Killing Eve (my Top 10 Tuesday list pushed me to finally watch it) and The Bold Type. Killing Eve was different from what I expected but so good. It somehow has this weird blend of drama and dark humour, plus Jodie Comer is amazing. The Bold Type is additive as hell and I’m absolutely in love with it. While it can be a little heavy handed on some issues, I really like the humour and characters. I’m almost finished season 2 now and having a blast.

Music wise, Aly & AJ are still playing through my speakers on repeat but have been joined by Marina’s new album Love + Fear, some Carly Rae Jepsen and a bit of Betty Who.

LIFE

This month I took a three day trip to Melbourne to finally see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child! Ahhhhh! I was so excited as I’ve been wanting to see this for for almost three years now. There was a point where I even thought I’d have to go all the way to London for it. I still have a few issues with the story (as I did when I read the screenplay) but the production itself is absolutely wonderful. How they manage to make all the magic happen on stage, I’ll never know. I also had absolutely no idea that they’d completely redone the theatre itself – new carpet, chairs, wall coverings, windows, all designed especially for this show. Crazy. Still, my friend and I had a great time. So worth the money and effort.

And that’s a wrap on May. As always, I hope you all had a wonderful month and wish you the best for the next one. What was your favourite book of May? What are you most looking forward to reading in June?

And That’s a Wrap: April ’19 Edition (+ OWLs Magical Readathon Results)

As I mentioned in my TBR post for April, I participated in the OWLs Magical Readathon hosted by G @ Bookroast again this year. This time around we were able to tailor our subject choices to achieve certain wizarding career choices and I decided to go for either an Auror or Hogwarts Professor (depending on the number of subjects I managed to get through). While my blogging efforts may have been abysmal this month, my reading numbers were on track.

I managed to get through 6 books and 1 comic this month which I’m quite pleased with. I completed each of the core subjects I needed to cover for either of my chosen careers and covered enough subjects in total to do the Hogwarts professor career if I want to. Guess we’ll just have to see if I can keep it up when the NEWTs readathon rolls around.

Herbology: A Plant on the Cover

It Ends with Us – Colleen Hoover ★★★★

My first Colleen Hoover book and a great pick too. Colleen’s writing style is really easy to get on board with. She takes a heavy topic like domestic violence and manages to perfectly express the emotional complexity of such a situation in all its shades of grey. I really liked the characters and feel like they were given a good degree of depth. The book ends in a really nice way as well. I will 100% look into reading some of her other work.

Arithmancy – Written By Two or More Authors

Always Never Yours – Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
★★★★

Is this a perfect read? No, but is it enjoyably fluffy? Very much so. I mean, there’s a cute theatre related story involving a production of Romeo & Juliet, as well as a sweet, biracial romantic lead. We’re already ahead. While the lead, Megan, is frustrating (& young) at times, I did like the fact that she was confident in her own sexuality, learnt from her mistakes, and that she and Owen had fabulous chemistry (I ship them HARD). The plot was sort of on the melodramatic side at times but not enough to really turn me off. Also, for a co-authored book, the writing is very smooth (and in a few moments quite funny). I’ll definitely look into reading their next book – If I’m Being Honest.

Defence Against the Dark Arts – Reducto: Book/Series starting with ‘R’

Radio Silence – Alice Oseman ★★★★

This book felt quite different from a lot of the other YA contemporaries I’ve read. The characters have great depth and are really well developed, plus the story just feels very real. There’s LGBTI representation all over it, but at the same time the focus of the book is on a friendship (& a really sweet one at that), rather than a romance which I freakin’ loved. There are also a lot of themes e.g. finding yourself, dealing with difficult family situations, and that there are multiple pathways to success in life, that I think younger readers will really relate to and benefit from. There are moments where it does feel a little long yet, overall I think it’s a good read.

Potions – Next Ingredient: A Sequel

City of Lost Souls – Cassandra Clare ★★★

Better than City of Fallen Angels but still nowhere near as enjoyable as City of Glass. That’s where we’re at with this. To be fair, I ended up enjoying this more than I thought I would, however there were still some majorly annoying elements. The frustrating Clary-Jace angst was still there, but because Jace is kind of mind-warped for most of the book, it’s far more bearable than CoFA (that’s wrong for me to say, isn’t it? Eh.) Maia & Jordan are boring and there’s quite a lot of nothing plot sections in the middle, but at least my little Sizzy Ship is starting to set sail. If only Alec and Magnus were doing as well…

History of Magic – Published at Least 10 Years Ago

Pet Sematary – Stephen King ★★★.5

If you were to look up the term ‘slow-burn’, you would 100% find a reference to this book. While a major moment does happen about two thirds of the way through, the s*** does not properly hit the fan until the book’s almost over. This was actually my very first audiobook and Michael C. Hall is an absolutely amazing narrator. While the book is slow, I found that it didn’t bother me a great deal as I was focused on what it was saying about ideas like death, grief and family. However, once again, King lets me down on the ending. Not a bad read but not something I’ll reread (re-listen to?) either.

Charms – An Adult Book

Middlegame – Seanan McGuire ★★ (ARC)

The blurb for this one had me really excited to get stuck in, but in the end the book didn’t live up to expectations. Confused is how I would describe myself through most of this. I kept feeling like things would finally make sense and…they didn’t. The concept is interesting, I just couldn’t get on board with the execution. The plot is really slow and while the characters were okay, overall I just wasn’t that phased by them. The constant time jumps and re-writing of history (aka the events I’d previously read) didn’t exactly help. Honestly, by halfway, this was struggle town to finish, but at least the momentum increased in the climax/ending.

Transfiguration – A Red Cover

Saga Vol. 2 – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples ★★★★.5

This comic series is so bizarre and wacky but I kind of love it. The art is wonderfully done and the dialogue is fabulously funny at points. Even the story itself is a great blend of sci fi, action, and romance. I’m kind of disappointed in myself for waiting so long to read vol. 2, in fact. Good thing I have vol. 3 already ready to go because that ending…

Only three books to add to my TBR this month. The Near Witch I bought because I attended a V. E. Schwab signing and thought I should probably buy her new/first release for her to sign. Red, White & Royal Blue is a Netgalley approval and I’m so excited to read it because early reviews have been great! Verity I’ve been intrigued by for a while but because it’s not a wide publication, I ended up buying it on my Kindle. Truth be told, I’ve already finished it (in about two days) and it was great. Addictively dark.

It was a very, very sad blogging month in April but I think I needed a bit of a break. Next month may be light on the post count as well but there should at least be more than this month. Here are the extremely small number of posts from April (excluding my TBR post):

Aside from Verity, which I’ve already finished, here are some of the things I plan to tackle in May. I started One True Loves yesterday so that’s already under way. Aurora Rising comes out this coming week and of course I’m going to drop everything to read it. I also plan to continue with the Saga comic series. It looks like a good month ahead!

As I mentioned above, I went to a Victoria Schwab signing this month! AHHHHHH! I honestly didn’t think I’d ever get to meet Schwaby unless I flew to the states for some kind of event and then, next thing I know, she’s doing signings in Australia. Wooooo. At the Sydney event, she was interviewed by Australian fantasy author, Garth Nix (he wrote Sabriel). It was a short little Q&A but quite funny and nice. Among other things, Victoria talked about her crazy writing process, dog, love of Edinburgh, and current project – The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue (which sounds amazing). She’s such a sweet person and arrived wearing a cat ear headband, so there’s that. Plus she had no problem signing the mountainous stacks of books many people brought (me included).

TV & Music

This month I’ve started watching Gotham on Netflix. They’ve definitely done a lot of things different from what you’d expect of a simple prequel of the Batman comics but I guess that’s okay. Keeps things interesting. I’ve also got back into watching Grey’s Anatomy. My sister and I are now on season 7 – I cannot believe we’ve seen that many seasons so far and there’s still like…8 to go. Crazy. Even when it’s not amazingly good, the drama is so addictive.

Deluxe

I’ve been majorly replaying Aly & AJ’s new music this month. It’s got such a great sound and I’m loving the 80s synth/electric vibes. Plus the new video for their song Church is stunning. I used to love their music back in the day – it’s nice to see it grow and change as I have. Also, we’re finally in the new Taylor Swift era. YAAAASSSS. I am unashamedly a big T-Swizzle fan and it’s so exciting to be getting new music. Me! isn’t the best song she’s ever produced, but it’s definitely fun and happy, and I love that it’s a Brendon Urie collab.

And that’s it from me for April! As always, I hope you had a good reading month and I wish you an even better one for the month ahead. What was your favourite book of April?

And That’s a Wrap: March ’19 Edition

March 2019 is over, and April begins. I say this every month, but it honestly feels like the year is just flying by. In a few short weeks, it’ll be Easter and I’ve done basically NOTHING in 2019 yet. Well, I have read some books. There’s always that. Speaking of which…

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers ★★★★

This book was exactly what people said it would be – a richly developed group of characters travelling across space. While the plot itself isn’t super action packed and does get slow, it’s okay because I loved the crew of the Wayfarer – they’re this wonderful, oddball family. The world building is fantastic and I have to admire how well Chambers managed to created so many distinct species. Such a wonderfully diverse read which really advocates acceptance.

Again, but Better – Christine Riccio ★★.5

I was looking forward to a fun and more mature YA contemporary with this one. Unfortunately, while the book noticeably improved after the midway twist, I had a lot of issues with the plot and writing (e.g. excessive detail, weird chapter cut offs, constant 2011 references, etc.). I often found myself bored through large sections and had trouble connecting with the characters. There were a few engaging and sweet moments, but I can’t help feeling extremely disappointed.

A Curse so Dark and Lonely – Brigid Kemmerer ★★★.5

I’m a big Beauty and the Beast fan so I was majorly excited for this release. I enjoyed the slightly darker tone, inclusion of a strong protagonist with cerebral palsy, and fact that Kemmerer was able to bring her own spin to the original story. Although, some of the things I wasn’t so keen on were the bland world building, slow paced and repetitious plot sections, underdeveloped villain, and at times forced chemistry between the two leads. A decent retelling but I’m not sure if I’ll read the sequel.

Daisy Jones & The Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid ★★★.5 | Review

While not nearly as enjoyable as Evelyn Hugo, Daisy Jones shares a similarly great sense of place and realism. Some people may be put off by the documentary transcript style but chronological ordering and sticking to common topics helps retain a degree of flow. The book deals with some heavy themes and although we only get to know a few of the characters well, Reid digs deep on them. There’s a great sense of female empowerment throughout and bonus points to Reid for actually writing full songs for the band too!

The Boy Who Steals Houses – C. G. Drews ★★★★.5

Somehow managing to be both wonderfully fluffy & sweet, and heartbreakingly sad, TBWSH straddles these contrasting tones exceptionally well. The characters are loveable, the dialogue is funny, and the book features some fantastic autism rep. I did have a couple of issues with loose ends and elements of writing style, but overall I really enjoyed this contemporary, which at it’s heart is all about family.

The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious 2#) – Maureen Johnson ★★★★

Welcome back to Ellingham Academy, home of the unsolved mystery. TVS is just as fun as book one but without the slow introductory section. The death of Hayes takes a back seat this time around, with focus turning to Ellie’s disappearance and the Ellingham kidnappings, both of which we get big answers on. There’s some relationship drama and the book ends on a dramatic cliffhanger than makes me eager for book 3.

Legend – Marie Lu ★★★

Legend isn’t up to the standard of Warcross but that’s okay. There were a few not so great things – (a) the characters are only 15 and kicking ass, like what the? (b) why do we need a rushed romantic story aspect?, and (c) elements of the world building were a little vague. These aside, I didn’t mind the characters themselves, the plot was fairly engaging (especially the last third), and I generally found it an easy, alright kind of read. I’ve heard the books get much better as we go on so I’ll probably read the sequel at some point.

In March, I bought 3 books and was approved for 1 ARC (The Boy Who Steals Houses). With TBWSH due to come out next week, I made sure to tackle it soon after I received it. Originally I’d planned on reading another one of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books this month but after remembering that Daisy Jones was coming out, I couldn’t resist getting stuck into it right after I bought it. In the end, only two additions to my physical TBR which I’m super happy about!

I’ve largely stepped back to just two posts a week this month which I’m finding more manageable. I’m not sure if I’ll go back to three in April. I guess we’ll see! As usual, just in case you missed March’s posts, here they are:

Top 10 Tuesday

Book Reviews

Book Tags

Miscellaneous

Next month, I’ll once again be taking part in the O.W.Ls Magical Readathon hosted by G at Book Roast. I had a great time doing this readathon back in 2018 so I’m looking forward to the second time around. I’ll be putting up a post this week which lists the prompts I’m doing and the books I’ve allocated to them. I’ll also detail the wizarding profession I’ll be aiming for with my subject choices.

TV/MOVIES

  • I saw Captain Marvel at the beginning of this month and enjoyed it. It’s not the best Marvel movie I’ve seen but it’s pretty good. Yay for female superheroes! Goose the cat (or Flerken) is for sure my fave.
  • I managed to finally track down The Hate U Give. As far as adaptations go, I think they did a pretty good job and Amandla’s acting was great. I’m still mad that it was so hard to find a way to see this in Australia though. Ugh!
  • I’ve been alternating binge-ing two series this month. The first is The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel which I’ve only heard amazing things about for AGES. Turns out they were all correct. It’s fabulous and so funny. Nothing beats Amy Sherman-Palladino dialogue. The second is Game of Thrones. Last year I started a re-watch in prep for season 8 and stopped half way through season 2. Then, at the beginning of the month I realised just how close the premier date was for the new season. So, I sat down and set myself the task of finishing the rest in time. I’m now at the end of season 6 so it’s looking like I’ll be fine. I’M SO KEEN FOR SEASON 8.

Other

  • I had a visit from one of my lovely best friends! She lives in Canberra (we met when I was studying at uni). Our annoying schedules often make it difficult to link up but we make it work. It’s always so nice to see her – we shop, eat bad food and have a great time. I was also FINALLY able to give her her Christmas present!
  • My family and I went to see a production called “Potted Potter”. It’s a Harry Potter parody show in which two British guys condense the events of all 8 HP books into one 70 min show. They play all of the characters and utilise a random assortment of props. It’s ridiculous but also very funny.
  • I’ve decided to try my hand at Bullet Journaling to help get me on track with a few things – goals, habits, easier reading tracking, etc. I went out and bought the journal yesterday. Now I just need to make the time to sit down and design it. Considering tomorrow is April, I’m clearly doing well with my time management… *face palm*

I hope you all had a wonderful March and read some amazing books. What were the best and the worst books you read this past month? And what are you hoping to read in April?