All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Top 10 Tuesday 30th May

Hello and welcome to another edition of Top 10 Tuesday, hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl. It features a different bookish-related theme or topic each week. Last week we talked about the things that make us want to immediately pick up a book so it only makes sense that this week the topic is…..

Things That Make Me NOT Want To Pick Up A Book

  1. Cancer. I really struggle with books that feature cancer quite prominently. I just do not want to pick up a book that is going to trigger bad memories and potential future fears. I read to get away from things like cancer, to escape that part of real life. I also really don’t like it when a book hits me with surprise cancer.
  2. Infidelity. I’ve tried a few infidelity books, because even though I’m really against it, I thought well, if a book could make me understand it, to believe in the reason for it, it must be a good book….. given my stance on it. I’ve never found that book so now I just avoid.
  3. Dub-con and non-con. I read a lot of romance – and I like a lot of different types. None of this is to yuck on anyone’s yum or anything, I just am not interested in reading anything that contains either dubious consent or non-consent between the two main characters. It’s quite common in dark romance and I’ve learned that almost all dark romance is not for me.
  4. Descriptions of graphic violence (particularly domestic violence and/or violence towards children) or books where terrible things happen to animals. I really dislike reading books where violence is graphically described for the sake of it. Like we don’t necessarily need scenes of vivid detail of mostly women being brutalised (it’s like graphic rape scenes on tv). I think you can get the point across without pages of description. And if the animal dies horribly – no thank you.
  5. Why choose books. They’re just not for me. I know a lot of people love them and that what’s better than one amazing love interest? Many amazing love interests/partners. But I prefer 1 on 1 stories.
  6. Stream of consciousness. Just as a way of literary expression, I find it really hard to read. I’ve read a few and i’m actually part way through one at the moment that I just honestly, cannot finish. Every time I pick it up, the amount of concentration it was taken kept giving me a headache. That’s a bit unfortunate as it was a required text for the class I was taking.
  7. A cover I don’t connect with. Look, I know we’re not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover. But I do – I can’t help it. If I find a cover really cringeworthy or just unappealing then it can make me not want to pick up a book. Sometimes I eventually still will, if the synopsis sounds really good but it can definitely turn me off.

To be honest, I think that’s pretty much it! There’s not a lot of things that I won’t at least try. I have a few plot points that I just don’t want to read but for the most part, I am willing to give a lot of things a go.

What about you? Is there anything that makes you not want to pick up a book?


Review: Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

Fourth Wing (The Empyrean #1)
Rebecca Yarros
2023, 500p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}: Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general—also known as her tough-as-talons mother—has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.

But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away…because dragons don’t bond to “fragile” humans. They incinerate them.

With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother’s daughter—like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant.

She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise.

Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom’s protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret.

Friends, enemies, lovers. Everyone at Basgiath War College has an agenda—because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die.

I saw Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out reviewed this and then I began seeing it everywhere. I also read one quote on thread of people’s favourite lines from books they’re reading and bought it based pretty much solely on that. Now it’s generating a lot of hype and generally, books don’t always live up to that. And this probably won’t for everyone. But did it for me?

Absolutely. And then some.

I am trash for this book, this world, these characters. Just…honestly, the whole lot.

Violet is the youngest child of General Sorrengail, in a world where the people repel attacks from enemies and would-be invaders using dragons and wards. Violet, born with some physical limitations and chronic conditions, was supposed to become a scribe. But her mother views this as unacceptable. Sorrengails are riders and she manipulates things to make sure Violet will be in the batch of 20 year olds to enter Basgiath War College for the Riders Quadrant instead. To be honest, just the walk in can kill you. Everything can kill you. Including your fellow cadets. The training will kill a huge number of them. The dragons themselves, will pick off the ones they don’t like, incinerating them where they stand. But if they succeed and a dragon chooses them, they’ll join the air wings that protect the borders, strengthen the wards and defend the territory of Navarre.

To complicate matters, about six years ago there was a rebellion by some families within Navarre, an uprising. It was quelled, the adults executed and the children spared, although they wear the marks that denote them as the children of traitors and are forced to enter the college to try and become dragon riders. When Violet enters, she realises that the son of the leader of the uprising, Xaden Riorson, will kill her if he sees her – her mother ordered his father’s execution. And he’s a third year, who manipulates things to be her direct superior. Xaden’s father is also responsible for the death of Violet’s brother Brennan, so she has just as much reason to loathe him as he does to loathe her.

Every day for Violet is a battle. Her hair makes her stand out. She’s smaller, physically weaker than the other candidates and deals with pain on a constant basis. She has made herself a target for some, who see her as a liability. And then there’s Xaden, who is definitely the one person Violet shouldn’t keep staring at…..but can’t stop. And every time she does, he’s staring right back.

I am obsessed with everything about this. I love it all. Violet is amazing. It’s great to see a character who has to work their fucking ass off to do something. She’s at a disadvantage for so many reasons – her joints are hypermobile and seem to dislocate a lot, she’s easily targeted and she hasn’t trained like this for years like most of the would-be cadets have. She always planned to become a scribe like her father, she was thrown into the deep end with six months left until the conscription day and although she makes it into the college, she has to rely on other methods to keep herself alive. And she has to work hard to overcome her physical disadvantages, with extra training as well, to try and strengthen her muscles and joints.

This had everything. The enemies to lovers is *chefs kiss* perfect. Violet makes herself some enemies but she also makes herself some friends too (and there’s one friend who might not be such a great one). There’s danger around every corner and you literally never know when the next person will die. And for those who make it to the end of the training, to the arena to have a dragon choose them, there are about 100 dragons willing to bond for the 150-odd cadets. And the dragons are incredible. Honestly, such an amazing part of the story. They are full of personality (Andarna is hilariously adorable) and there’s so much still to learn about them as well, in future books in this series. Dragons gift their riders with a power they channel through the dragon and the more powerful the dragon, the more powerful your gift will be. Some are valuable in a war or battle sense, others make more sense in a protection way and others are more intellectual or helpful in other areas. Getting to the stage where the dragons become a part of the story was such a ride and it only picked up after that as you learn who has made it and who has not and then they wait for their gift, known as a signet, to manifest through the bond with their dragon.

The end brings a few surprises, one maybe-not surprise, depending on if you picked up on the Easter egg or two that was dropped and a complete recalibration for some. I cannot wait for the next book, thankfully it’s not a super long wait – it’ll be out in November and at the moment, the author has five books plotted.

Bring them on.

This isn’t ~perfect~ but it was readable as hell and dragged me in good.


Book #110 of 2023


Top 10 Tuesday 23rd May

Hello and welcome back to another instalment of Top 10 Tuesday, hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl. It features a different bookish related theme each week. This week we are talking:

Things That Make Me Want To Instantly Read A Book

Now this can be anything – tropes, authors, etc. So I’m going to do 5 tropes or plot-related things that I am trash for and five authors that I am equally trash for. First up – tropes/plot things:

  1. Enemies to lovers. Inject it into my veins please. Both deadset your family murdered mine we are enemies for life and also I am very irritated by this inconvenient lust I have for you, of all people. I accept all types of this trope and I especially enjoy it combined with grumpy/sunshine where the male character is grumpy and doubly especially if they are the first to fall.
  2. Dragons. I just finished Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros and it has taken over my life. I loved everything about this book (it has the enemies to lovers from above) and the dragons are incredible. I loved that element so much and immediately need more books with dragons. I actually haven’t read a lot of books with dragons in them so if you have any that you can recommend – especially if there is a bond between a dragon and a human, dragon riders, etc – then please leave them down below.
  3. Telepathy/being able to speak mind-to-mind. That book reminded me of how much I love this as a plot point too, when two (or more) characters or beings discover that they have a connection where they can communicate without speaking aloud and also over distance.
  4. Amnesia (in romance). Ok who am I kidding, pretty much all of this is for romance. But I love me some characters not remembering that they either love someone and now don’t trust them or some reason OR they forget that they hate someone and actually feel like they should trust them.
  5. Found family. I eat that up. Give me a group of people (like the group in Six of Crows) who connect on different levels for various reasons, who would die for each other, kill for each other, who have no reason to trust anyone but for some reason, have found the ones they can trust…..and I am obsessed. And this doesn’t have to be fantasy, it can work just as well for me in contemporary without all the killing stuff. Just be ride or die.
  6. Emily Henry and Ali Hazelwood. Will buy whatever they write, don’t care what it is. Also yes I’m cheating by grouping them together but it’s my list and I am allowed to do that.
  7. Mhairi McFarlane. One of my favourite authors of all time, one who so consistently makes me feel every emotion in her story. Has written so many books I have just adored, will continue to be obsessed with everything she releases.
  8. Fredrik Backman. Okay I’ve only read 3 of his books (I have a 4th here on my shelf and plans for buying more). But the thing is, even though I find each of his books to be a 5-star read, you can’t just like….pick one up and read it whenever. Or I can’t anyway. I have to be mentally prepared for having my soul ripped out and put through a blender and then handed back to me. I have to be prepared for the fact that I’ll probably sob throughout most of, if not all of, the book. So yeah, when I wake up feeling like I’d like to go through the absolute emotional wringer, I know that Backman is there and waiting. And despite that, it’ll also be so heartwarming and beautiful.
  9. Susanna Kearsley. It’s been a while since I read a Susanna Kearsley book. I’m not sure if it’s been a while since she published one or if somehow, I’ve missed one. But after she was recommended to me by my friend Marg, I went on an absolute binge of everything she had available at the time and have continued to read her releases ever since. She has that kind of dual time line with sliiiiight magical elements at times (my favourite of hers was a book where the two main characters both had telepathy, probably not a coincidence).
  10. Melina Marchetta. It doesn’t matter what Melina Marchetta is writting: YA contemporary, fantasy, adult crime, adult contemporary, I don’t care. I’ll read everything she writes and completely obsess over it

Honestly I have a lot more autobuy authors – probably like, another 20 or 30! But I can’t include everyone on this list so I tried to just narrow it down to the five (ok, six) that popped into my head immediately when I thought of this.

If you share any of my must-haves, please let me know (especially if there are dragons!).


Review: Between Us by Mhairi McFarlane

Between Us
Mhairi McFarlane
Harper Collins AUS
2023, 400p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}: When Joe and Roisin join their group of friends for a weekend at a country house, it’s a triple celebration – a birthday, an engagement and the launch of Joe’s shiny new crime drama on TV.

For Roisin, it’s a chance to connect with the group of friends she made a decade before, working at Waterstones. But for Joe, it’s a distraction as his writing career soars.

As the weekend unfolds, tensions are revealed between the group and Roisin’s sense of foreboding about her own relationship grows.

And when the friends watch the first episode of Joe’s drama, she realises that the secrets she told him are right there on the screen.

But is that all he’s used? What if the fictional hero’s infidelity also isn’t fictional after all?

Mhairi McFarlane is one of those authors that for me, is so consistent in terms of quality and beauty of story. She’s one of my absolute favourite authors and each year a new book is a joy – something to look forward to. Lucky for me I only ended up reading her release from last year earlier this year so I got to enjoy two of her books in 2023.

Roisin is a high school English teacher in England, who has chalked up a decade in a relationship with Joe, a screenwriter. She and Joe (and about 4 others) met when they all worked at a Waterstones during college or around that time and they’ve all been a tight friendship group ever since. Some of the group are wealthier than others, including Dev, who won a prize on a reality TV show and spun it into millions. Dev has hired a luxury Heritage listed house for a getaway where the original group, plus Dev’s partner, will gather for a weekend to catch up and also watch the first episode of Joe’s new show.

But although Roisin is thrilled to spend a weekend with her friends, she can’t deny that something is missing these days – not just in the core group, which has some distance between some of the friendships that time and different levels of socioeconomic status have amplified. There’s also something between her and Joe. Roisin supported Joe for many years whilst he struggled to make a name in writing but his previous show, the one before this one they are gathering to watch, was a breakout hit and now Joe is a big name with a lot of accolades and a lot of people wanting to work with him. Roisin has noticed a slow change over him too – he’s not the same person he was, there’s an arrogance now, a casual attitude that seems to put him above the others, He’s caustically dismissive of Matt, one of the friendship group in a way that makes Roisin cringe and although she seems to take it rather well, Joe’s attitude towards Gina, another in the friendship group, is admiring bordering on a bit obsessive. When Roisin watches the first episode of Joe’s new show, she’s horrified, hurt and disgusted to see that he’s taken something that she told him in private, and splashed it across for the world to see. Even worse, when she confronts him about it, he doesn’t seem to understand the need to if not ask her for permission to use her story (which she wouldn’t give) but at least warn her. It makes Roisin wonder about the other stuff in Joe’s new show…. if that doesn’t come from real life as well.

Main characters in McFarlane novels almost always go through an upheaval, generally personal where they end up leaving a longterm relationship and needing to kind of start over. Roisin has been in this relationship for a a very long time and it’s only since Joe became so successful with his last show that she feels like she’s seeing a different person. He’s so busy and dismissive and caught up in his own self-importance. Before the weekend away, Roisin has clearly already been struggling with the relationship and it’s almost like when she sees his betrayal laid out upon the screen for her, it’s all she really needs to get the courage to do what she’s probably already wanted to do anyway. Especially because he’s not really contrite at all when she confronts him – he’s on his way to some important meeting and can barely be bothered to have the conversation and he’s all puffed up about it, taking inspiration from around him and it’s not personal and no one is going to know. And the time she has spent with him over the weekend has seemingly only solidified all the things that don’t work between them now – his constant sniping and jealousy of Matt, etc. For Roisin, the decision isn’t that hard, but Joe has to rush off so they agree to table it until he gets back.

I loved the struggle of keeping a friendship group together, through the decade of being in your twenties and then into your thirties. Things become so different – when everyone isn’t working part time or getting through college, everyone has different financial and social commitments, people change. It can be a real challenge and for some people, the desire to hang onto it, to try and recreate it or hold it together, can be really strong. And I think that’s Dev’s desire in this. He’s much richer than the rest of them now, he thinks nothing of dropping 12k (English pounds) on a house for the weekend, so they can all hang out and catch up and enjoy each other’s company. He hasn’t lost who he was, he still really cares about each of them in the group and wants them to stay close. There are a few lines fracturing that group though and some of them threaten to break it forever. Especially when there’s a couple pairing within a friendship group, there’s always the threat of having to navigate a possible break up and what would happen then. There are also a few undercurrents of…other feelings…that have been running between group members for potentially a long time, one of which Roisin is aware of and one of which she definitely is not.

Romance is never a huge part of McFarlane’s books – there’s a clear thread that runs through it but it’s never the primary part of the story. That is always the main character coming to terms with upheaval and change, generally from a break up of a long term relationship but sometimes there are other issues at play as well, like a past trauma that still overshadows them in the present, or the loss of a loved one and grief, etc. In this book, you have to be patient for Roisin to get an idea of the kind of partner she deserves, after Joe uses her and her quiet investigations uncover his betrayal in so many more ways. And nothing gets me like long term pining after someone so I was all in on that one!

Another wonderful story and now unfortunately I have to wait for the next one.


Book #107 of 2023

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Review: The Rush by Michelle Prak

The Rush
Michelle Prak
Simon & Schuster AUS
2023, 340p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}: SOME THREATS ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR …

The first drops start to fall when Quinn spies the body. With no reception and nothing but an empty road for miles, does she stop to help or keep driving to safety?

Back at the iconic country pub where Quinn works, Andrea is sandbagging the place in preparation for heavy rains. Alone with her sleeping son in the back room, she reluctantly lets a biker in to wait out the storm.

Out on the wet roads, tensions arise among four backpackers on their way to Darwin. They haven’t prepared for this kind of weather and the flooding isn’t the only threat on the horizon …

Chilling, tense and twisted, this compulsive thriller will send adrenaline coursing through your veins. 

This is a tense, rural Australian thriller designed to make you rethink that dream road trip for many reasons.

It’s told from three perspectives. Hayley is a university student who just wants to have a holiday with her boyfriend and she’s finally agreed to get him to do a road trip from Adelaide to Darwin, through some of the most remote areas of Australia. To cut down on costs, they’ve linked up with two other people keen on doing the trip: Livia, a tourist from Brazil who has a boat to catch in Darwin and Joost, a young man from the Netherlands. The four of them will split fuel costs, driving Hayley’s boyfriend Scott’s grandfather’s old four-wheel drive. It can handle the terrain and is big enough to hold what they need. Because it’s the summer, they’ll spend nights camping. Then there’s Quinn, a young woman who works at the Pindarry Pub. She grew up locally and is supposed to be clearing out the house on the family farm now that no one is left there, to get it ready for sale. But she’s dragging her feet a bit. Quinn’s boss is Andrea, who runs the pub with her husband. They also have a small toddler son. Although Andrea doesn’t mind the isolation and the clientele, she recently discovered something that might be making her rethink her priorities. These three woman will find themselves thrown together with only each other and they’ll have to puzzle out the truth from the lies.

An impending doom looming in the distance is the oncoming rain. As Quinn knows all too well from her childhood, the rains are welcomed….unless they don’t stop and then they can cause many more problems. She’s heading back to the pub from the family farm, the clouds building ominous in the distance when she sees a body on the road. At first she thinks they’re dead – until they grab her.

The set up of this is so great. Hayley is such an earnest character, all she wants to do is have a fun holiday with her boyfriend, do some exploring of the country and undertake a bit of an adventure. She feels that Scott has become a bit introverted of late, they don’t connect much anymore and she thinks this trip could be a great way for them to get that back. She also likes and admires Livia, the tourist from Brazil, who is funny and confident. Having some others along could be good although it doesn’t seem to take long for a few little disagreements and snarky comments to emerge which brings a tension to the trip that Hayley wasn’t anticipating. I really felt for Hayley because she just wanted to do something fun with her boyfriend, to try and capture some good feelings back into their relationship…..but oh Hayley. Because it’s going to get so much worse than just feeling a bit disconnected from her boyfriend and awkward with two strangers.

I also found Andrea really interesting as a character. The job she and her husband do is definitely not for everything – the pub is very remote, mostly populated by travellers undertaking big trips or as we see in this, bikers on rides. The group of bikers that stops by are not exactly what you’d call model clientele and cause Andrea a bit of grief and stress due to their antics. Her husband is also much more of a pacifist, more the ‘we can’t ask them to leave, they’re paying customers love’ type of person, never mind what they’ve been up to causing mischief whilst they’re there. Which in Andrea’s position, would honestly infuriate me. The safety of the workers and families should be paramount over the customers but Andrea’s husband is clearly unwilling to rock the boat, more of the ‘just be pleasant and give them what they want and they’ll soon be on their way’ type of thing. Which probably doesn’t make Andrea feel very comfortable at times. She’s also hiding a bit of a secret which she’s been worrying over and making her question this way of life.

The book builds the tension and story nicely but I have to say a large amount of quite important stuff happens off page or is retold later, which I think lessened impact a little. I can understand the author making a choice not to have something highlighted on the page in particular, as that thing can often be lingered over a little too much in crime fiction, but finding out things the way that we did kind of distanced me from the impact of it.

The showcasing of isolation is done really well – loved the feeling of Andrea in the pub preparing for the storm, her apprehension when someone knocks on the door and her feeling of being kind of helpless in terms of being able to exert her authority. Likewise I loved the descriptions of the road trip, the escalating tensions and the realisation that things are not going to go as planned. However some of the skips in the story and addressing these later on, wasn’t very effective for me.


Book #104 of 2023

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Review: Drowning by T.J. Newman

T.J. Newman
Simon & Schuster AUS
2023, 304p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}: Six minutes after takeoff, Flight 1421 crashes into the Pacific Ocean. During the evacuation, an engine explodes and the plane is flooded. Those still alive are forced to close the doors—but it’s too late. The plane sinks to the bottom with twelve passengers trapped inside.

More than two hundred feet below the surface, engineer Will Kent and his eleven-year-old daughter Shannon are waist-deep in water and fighting for their lives.

Their only chance at survival is an elite rescue team on the surface led by professional diver Chris Kent—Shannon’s mother and Will’s soon-to-be ex-wife—who must work together with Will to find a way to save their daughter and rescue the passengers from the sealed airplane, which is now teetering on the edge of an undersea cliff.

There’s not much time.

There’s even less air.

With devastating emotional power and heart-stopping suspense, Drowning is an unforgettable thriller about a family’s desperate fight to save themselves and the people trapped with them—against impossible odds.

Flight attendant turned New York Times bestselling author T. J. Newman—whose first book Falling was an instant #1 national bestseller and the biggest thriller debut of 2021—returns for her second book, an edge-of-your-seat thriller about a commercial jetliner that crashes into the ocean, and sinks to the bottom with passengers trapped inside, and the extraordinary rescue operation to save them.

Firstly, before I get into this book, I think it is a bit of an odd choice that the cover is almost exactly the same as the author’s debut novel, Falling. At a casual glance, they are almost indistinguishable, so much so that when I received this I thought it was the book I’d already read and that I’d been sent it as a mistake. It wasn’t until later that I realised it was a different book. There are a few slight cover differences, I think the perspective of the plane is above for one and from below for the other. Even the titles are similar enough to not make them distinguishable for people who are just casually browsing a bookstore. If you read Falling a year ago and like me, read a bunch of books since then, seeing this one in a bookstore wouldn’t scream that this is a new book. It just looks like a slightly different version of the other book.

Coastal Flight 1421 is two minutes after take off from Honolulu, Hawaii when one of its engines explodes and they lose all hydraulics and a bunch of other important stuff. They can’t turn around. They can’t make any other airports like Maui. Their only option is to ditch into the ocean, a last resort and definitely not as easy as Captain Sullenberger makes it look on the Hudson. Although the captain manages this relatively well, a severe fire is started from spilled fuel igniting which makes evacuating the aircraft both difficult and deadly. One of the passengers, a man named Will travelling with his 11 year old daughter Shannon, tells a small handful of people to stay on the plane. Seal it up, wait for the rescue. After all, the air traffic control know exactly where they are. They’ll be dispatching everything at their disposal to rescue everyone. They’re safer on the plane than they are in the burning water with its high swells and swirling currents. Some disagree but a small amount of passengers and crew, about a dozen, stay on the plane, which slowly starts to sink. It hits something about 50m below the surface and is wedged in – they’re safe for now. But the rescue effort just got a whole lot more difficult.

The plane is mostly water tight and has a pocket of air that will last those on board a few hours. They are able to make contact with the outside world to let them know they’re down there via an emergency phone and those on the surface begin to puzzle through the best way of rescuing them. There are several theories that are floated and rejected, a few others that are tossed around. But Will’s estranged wife and Shannon’s mother Chris and her work crew were working on a naval boat when news got out of the plane going down. Chris runs some sort of….marine industrial diving company? They fix and weld stuff underwater, or something, I honestly don’t really know. But whatever she does, it’s very relevant because she has an idea of exactly how to rescue everyone on the plane. And she’s super motivated because that’s her child (and yeah, her ex-husband is there too) in there! Chris has to convince some very high up Navy person that she has the only idea that will work which they agree to, then they don’t and they try something else and then they have to go back to Chris’ idea.

Along the way you get the story of Will and Chris and why they’re no longer married and what happened to them. It’s very sad and both of them haven’t really been able to deal with it. Will is overprotective of Shannon, so much so that he insists on flying with her to San Francisco where she’s going, but honestly as the mother of an almost 12 year old, this was made out to be incredibly unreasonable of him and I didn’t think it was that bad. It’s a decent flight from Hawaii to the west coast and Shannon is only 11. You can travel as an unaccompanied minor (one of the other dozen passengers still on the plane after it sinks is an unaccompanied minor) but I honestly didn’t think wanting to travel with someone of her age was that bad. If Shannon had been like, 14 or 15 or something, I’d have found it to be the level of ridiculous that others seemed to and it seemed even less ridiculous considering the plane crashed into the ocean and Will’s quick thinking is basically the reason Shannon is still alive because what happened to the people that escaped the plane for the most part…..wasn’t good.

How much a reader will enjoy this will I think, depend on a couple of things: how much you can suspend your disbelief that this entire thing revolves around three people from the same family and how much you enjoy those personal stories woven into the suspense of the rescue. Whilst I didn’t mind the personal stories of the passengers (and in fact there were some I really loved, such as the elderly couple that remain on the plane) and wish that more of the characters were fleshed out, I did find the idea of Chris being the one person who knows how to get them out, a bit of a stretch. You could argue that no one would be more motivated than Chris and that is certainly true as her whole life is on that plane and after what she’s already been through, she needs them to be okay. But for the same reason, it could also be true that the pressure would be a detriment as well, that Chris in fact has so much invested that she overlooks things or could make mistakes. She has a team but for the most part, the entire operation is her baby.

I think that the suspense in this was built very well. There’s a lot at stake, the plane is under the ocean, in a precarious position, there’s not a lot of options for rescuing the survivors without big risk of something happening, including completely compromising the plane’s structural integrity. The air is also running out as several things have made the plane shift where it is, and there are children and elderly people and just a lot happening. The writing is very good at making you understand in a small way, what it might be like to be trapped in such a situation and that I think was for me, the best part of the story. The author is or was a flight attendant (I think from memory they were furloughed during COVID and I don’t know if they’ve returned to work) and it’s clear from the description of plane procedures, both cockpit and cabin, that comes across. There’s a knowledge of internal working processes, what to do in an emergency, how to utilise equipment even when there isn’t power, all that sort of thing. It definitely makes you feel like you can imagine it and I think this would make a pretty decent movie, with the right special effects.

One minor thing – if I’m going to read a book about a plane crash, I want to know why it crashed. Give me a brief mention of the NTSB report, please. Even if it’s only the interim findings. I watch Air Crash Investigations (known as Mayday in other markets), I want the information. Especially as this book could’ve done it. If it’s the main hook of your plot, in 2023, I want a reason for it.


Book #102 of 2023

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Top 10 Tuesday May 16th

Hello and welcome back to another edition of Top 10 Tuesday, hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl. It features a different bookish or literature related theme each week and this week we are talking… (thanks to A Cocoon of Books)….

Things Getting In The Way Of Reading

I honestly try not to let things get too much in the way of reading, it’s how I reset and recharge but sometimes… happens! And at the moment, life is happening.

  1. University. I went back to university last year. I’m doing it externally (I’m even thousands of kilometres away from my university home campus) and honestly, I’m still getting back into the swing of managing my time. I’m good, unless something comes up – and let’s face it, lots of things come up when you’re a mother of 2. This year, my semester started the week I had to go away and to be honest, I feel like I’ve been a bit behind ever since. We are winding down now, this is week 10 (it’s a 12 week semester) and pretty much everything is due soon. However, I need to be extra organised and on top of things because I need to have my stuff ready to submit EARLY because….
  2. I am going on a reading/book club retreat next week! An author friend of mine hosts an online book club that I am an admin/moderator in and we are doing an in-person retreat. In a country as big as Australia, that’s a hard thing to organise especially as I live on the opposite coast from the hosts. The members are spread out all over the country so we had to try and choose a sort of central location. I will be leaving next Wednesday (the retreat itself is Fri – Sun) and returning Monday which eats into a huge chunk of my assignment finishing time which is why I’m trying to have everything done before I go. And despite really looking forward to this retreat and thinking I’ll have fun, and despite it being about books and reading, I do not expect to get any actual reading done on it! Except probably on the plane there and back.
  3. Ice hockey. It’s the playoffs and they’re actually down to playing all the games on TV here in Australia (we only have 2x ESPN channels, so it has to fight basketball, baseball, NFL and who knows what else usually). I love ice hockey and I’ve been pretty invested this playoff season even though my team is literal garbage at the moment and I don’t really have a dog in the fight anymore. My husband follows the Dallas Stars and for reasons, I still love Joe Pavelski so I’d be happy to see them make the final. But they’re still a while away. But yeah, I’ve been getting distracted by a lot of the hockey that’s on at the moment.
  4. General Life Admin. I have two kids, one is in grade 6 and the other is in grade 9 so on one hand, they’re well out of needing me in the way young children do, in the way that keeps the tiny humans alive. But they always need other things (generally money) like notes signed, diaries signed, school uniforms, excursions, copious amounts of food. How much do teen and pre-teen boys eat for crying out loud? My 11 year old eats more pasta than I’ve ever seen a person consume in my life before. Plus there’s the other stuff that comes along with maintaining a household and I split this with my husband pretty equally but it’s just time consuming.
  5. I have one last book I need to read for one of the classes I’m taking and I need to decide if I want to use it in my final comparative essay or use the book I’ve already read for the course and another of my choice. I’m just dragging my heels on finally reading it and I don’t know why. It’s just sitting there, looking at me and I’m like well I can’t read anything else until I’ve read this…..
  6. Fatigue. Both of my classes involve a lot of reading – one wholly academic articles, the other novels and sometimes, after I’ve worked on the one that requires me to do a lot of academic reading and I’ve been taking notes and writing a report or an essay and staring at a screen or something with words on it for hours, I just do not want to look at anymore words. Even a book I really want to read. My eyes are tired. My brain is tired. I want to lay on the couch and stare at the ceiling or watch someone doing something relaxing on YouTube lol.

Most of this will go away in a couple of weeks, when the semester is finished and I have an 8 or 9 week break before the next one starts. And when that happens, I plan to do a lot of reading over the winter (as it will be here) as where I live it tends to be pretty miserable in winter – not cold enough for snow, just cold enough to make being outside unpleasant, generally with a side of wind and rain.

What is keeping you from reading?


Review: Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan

Nora Goes Off Script
Annabel Monaghan
Hodder & Stoughton
2022, 240p
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/}: Nora’s life is about to get a rewrite…

Nora Hamilton knows the formula for love better than anyone. As a romance channel screenwriter, it’s her job. But when her too-good-to work husband leaves her and their two kids, Nora turns her marriage’s collapse into cash and writes the best script of her life. No one is more surprised than her when it’s picked up for the big screen and set to film on location at her 100-year-old-home. When former Sexiest Man Alive, Leo Vance, is cast as her ne’er-do-well husband Nora’s life will never be the same.

The morning after shooting wraps and the crew leaves, Nora finds Leo on her porch with a half-empty bottle of tequila and a proposition. He’ll pay a thousand dollars a day to stay for a week. The extra seven grand would give Nora breathing room, but it’s the need in his eyes that makes her say yes. Seven days: it’s the blink of an eye or an eternity depending on how you look at it. Enough time to fall in love. Enough time to break your heart.

Filled with warmth, wit, and wisdom, Nora Goes Off Script is the best kind of love story–the real kind where love is complicated by work, kids, and the emotional baggage that comes with life. For Nora and Leo, this kind of love is bigger than the big screen.

I forget where I first heard about this or honestly, why I wanted to read it! I must’ve read about it somewhere, because I requested it through my local library and it came in with a bunch of other holds.

Nora is a screenwriter who typically writes Hallmark Channel style movies (called something else in this book, The Romance Channel or something) where mostly the stories follow a formula. City person comes to small rural town to either buy something or destroy something or do something hostile and falls in love with person from small country town (usually one who would be grossly impacted by city person’s original plan). There’s some sort of separation and heartbreak as city person departs back for the city but then they return and happily ever after. It’s been just enough to keep Nora’s family afloat over the years, especially since her former husband Ben was ambitious but lacked work ethic. He wanted to be rich but didn’t want to do anything to become rich and he spent everything Nora scraped together and then some. Ben left her and their children a little while ago and Nora wrote a very different sort of script that deals with their separation and her reaction to it. It’s being made into an actual feature film and the crew want to film it in Nora’s teahouse on her property. It’s starring some big names, they’ll be paying her extra for the use of her land and the teahouse and that money will help her enormously. It also brings Leo, one of the highest paid Hollywood actors, into her life.

You can guess how this goes. When the film crew departs, Nora finds Leo on her porch. He wants to stay a little longer and he’ll pay her for the inconvenience. At first Leo is quite annoying – during the filming and a bit after, Nora keeps finding him in her home, just…..hanging out and look, that’s a bit rude? Leo is also kind of rude to Nora in the beginning, he’s definitely flippant and doesn’t seem to at all consider it weird to just continue invading her personal space. Which he does, at pretty much every opportunity, like an overexcited puppy he watches over her shoulder when she’s trying to write, he follows her when she does errands, he inserts himself into the lives of her children, who are both hurting and vulnerable in different ways after the abrupt departure of their father. You can tell that Leo is definitely Going Through Some Things and re-evaluating his life and what he wants from it and it seems Nora’s tiny rural town is the ideal place for that? People are excited when they see him with Nora at the grocery store or her kid’s soccer game or something but mostly they leave him alone. No one invades her home to oogle at him or anything. I don’t know how long Leo has been acting, his family seem relatively normal, regular people so I’m not sure why he was so clueless about regular things, like going to a supermarket and cooking dinner. He’s quite dismissive of Nora’s cooking or meal schedule, and look dude, she’s on a budget. Quite a strict one – her house stretched her and her husband to everything they had, he put them in debt and she’s left alone now to kind of try and manage everything back to reasonable circumstances. I did find Leo to be a bit of a dick, early on. In a very unnecessary way as well, like this lady is offering you hospitality when she could’ve told you to take a hike. At least be polite – sometimes Leo is definitely a bit much.

But he grew on me. I felt like when he settled in a bit there, he kind of…..steadied out a bit? They have a romance and he’s very invested and promised things but then the next movie came up and so he had to leave and Nora warns him about hurting her kids, who can’t take being abandoned again and he promises again that he’ll be back but he might be just a bit delayed but he’ll be back! But then he ghosts her and Nora is left alone again, but this time (unlike when her marriage ended) her heartbreak is real.

I knew the reason for him disappearing was going to have to be good. You could tell as the reader that Leo was really in love with Nora and cared about her kids. He was going to have to have the absolute best excuse to be redeemed at all because Nora, after everything she had been through with her husband, deserved a person who would be there for her, who would show up for her, who would keep their promises and not put added pressure or strain on her and who would not damage her kids. For a while, Leo poured everything into the three of them, including winning over Nora’s more prickly son, who seemed to be hurting the most. For him to disappear….I was like okay, why? Why did you win me over and then vanish, Leo? This is not okay. And I have to say, I thought that it worked. It wasn’t what I expected but I thought it explained his actions and showed his true feelings.

I ended up quite enjoying this, I thought it turned out to be a lot of fun. Celebrities and normal people aren’t generally my favourite type of romance because I often have trouble picturing them truly happily ever after but this one I thought, quite worked. I felt like Leo, despite his original presentation, actually turned out to be quite good to and for Nora and he was definitely good for her kids. And like I said, the reason for his vanishing ended up working in the end – and the whole thing played out just like one of Nora’s movies. Which was cute.


Book #103 of 2023

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Review: Wolfsong by T.J. Klune

Wolfsong (Green Creek #1)
T.J. Klune
2022 (originally 2016), 568p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}: Ox was twelve when his daddy taught him a very valuable lesson. He said that Ox wasn’t worth anything and people would never understand him. Then he left.

Ox was sixteen when he met the boy on the road. The little boy who talked and talked and talked. Ox found out later the little boy hadn’t spoken in almost two years before that day, and that the little boy belonged to a family who had moved into the house at the end of the lane.

Ox was seventeen when he found out the little boy’s secret and it painted the world around him in colors of red and orange and violet, of Alpha and Beta and Omega.

Ox was twenty-three when murder came to town and tore a hole in his head and heart. The boy chased after the monster with revenge in his bloodred eyes, leaving Ox behind to pick up the pieces.

It’s been three years since that fateful day—and the boy is back. Except now he’s a man, and Ox can no longer ignore the song that howls between them.

I have read two T.J. Klune books so far and loved them both so I think anything he does is going to be autoread for me. This is an older book, I think, it seems to have been published in 2016 by Dreamspinner Press, who have attracted controversy recently. Now they’re being repackaged and republished by Tor – all of them have such beautiful covers. I’m not sure when the next ones will be coming out but all the covers are available to see on Klune’s website and they’re all going to look spectacular together.

So this book takes place in Green Creek, a very small rural town. We are introduced to Ox when he is quite young – he’s a big lad, but constantly told by his father that he’s dumb or slow. He doesn’t seem to have many friends and when his father leaves, Ox steps up to be a man. He gets a cash-in-hand job at the garage where his father worked to look after his now-single mother, who works at the local diner. Ox lives in a small house almost at the end of the street – there’s one more house and it’s been mostly empty until the Bennetts return. Three sons, a mother and father and an uncle. They immediately befriend Ox because their youngest son Joe, just 10 to Ox’s 16, takes to him and because of some trauma in Joe’s past, the family are immediately intrigued by Ox and the comfort that Joe finds with him. Older sons Carter and Kelly befriend Ox too, defend him from bullies at school and give him friends to sit with at lunch. And family patriarch Thomas and his wife Elizabeth pull Ox in too, giving him the sort of family he has always craved. The sort of acceptance. Years of being told he wasn’t smart has led Ox to severely doubt his self-worth but the Bennetts love him for who he is. It isn’t long until Ox realises his new friends have a secret – they’re all werewolves. And even though it’s unusual, Ox has been accepted into their pack and with him, his mother too.

I loved so much about this. I loved the setting and I loved Ox. And his mother and their dynamic as well. I enjoyed the arrival of the Bennetts as well as the obvious tension between Gordo, Ox’s boss at the mechanic garage and Mark, the uncle in the Bennett household. Gordo’s reluctance for Ox to spend time with them and his role in the reveal of them being werewolves was so entertaining. I enjoyed the greater story about the pack itself and their desire to protect Joe from a rogue werewolf. I liked Carter and Kelly and Elizabeth and Thomas. The fact that it’s a series is great because it feels like a while since I’ve had a really good series to get into. It’s a bit long and at times felt like it could’ve been trimmed up a bit but for the most part, it just drew me into the story and kept me there.


There’s a but. I did at times, find myself deeply uncomfortable with the relationship between Joe and Ox. And not because of Ox, who as the older of the two, would probably, under most circumstances, be the character a reader would be concerned about. But Ox is so clueless and so innocent, it’s quite clear that he could never be seen as grooming. He literally has no idea what is going on and sees Joe mostly as a smaller brother figure. But Joe is 10 and Ox 16 when they meet and Joe immediately latches onto him (both metaphorically and literally) and defines Ox as his best friend and gifts him something precious and special (the meaning of which Ox is oblivious to, which doesn’t give him a chance to consent to receiving it). Joe is aggressive and mean to Ox’s high school girlfriend, something Ox is also oblivious to and his role in their family I think often blinds him to some of the more problematic things that occur, such as the way Joe treats anyone who is close to Ox. Especially because Joe is still basically a child, barely a teenager and Ox is almost a legal adult.

The book neatly sidesteps anything too icky by having Ox only notice Joe physically when he gets to be about 17 and then removes Joe from the narrative for the next three years so that when he returns he’s 20, a full grown man and also Alpha, which I have another issue with because Joe for me, was a terrible Alpha. I don’t understand how Alpha determination works, Joe was the last born son but it was always known he would be the Alpha and despite training from Thomas, a very good Alpha (although perhaps not as much as he should’ve had, Joe became an Alpha pretty young) he just doesn’t seem to be great at it. He immediately makes a terrible decision, but one that serves its role to keep Joe and Ox separate until Joe is older. But as the reader, because a lot of Joe’s aging takes place either in the background (like a new chapter will be like Ox recapping a year that has gone by or whatever) or offscreen in the three years he and his brothers leave for…reasons… doesn’t feel to me like he really did age. Joe spends the most amount of time on page as a young kid and therefore, it was hard to reconcile the fact that he was 20 when he never felt 20. His actions never made him feel 20 either. And look, 20 is still young. I didn’t really feel the Ox and Joe thing, maybe because so much of it is told from Ox’s perspective and he doesn’t really see it for so long or understand the wolf part of it. But even in the section where they are both adults, Ox is hurting from Joe leaving and their interactions are really not very involved. Also in Joe’s absence, the most unusual thing happens to Ox himself, despite him being human and that incorporates something entirely new into Ox and Joe’s dynamic that they must work through.

But I still really want to read the rest of the series – the next book is Mark and Gordo and I love their dynamic so much. They’re both also grown adults, which is reassuring.

Would I recommend this still? Yes, definitely, just for the world and the other characters. I didn’t like Joe at all, not as a kid and not really as an adult (I honestly think Ox deserves better) but everyone else? Love them.


Book #101 of 2023

This book was on my 23 Books to Read in 2023 pile! It’s the 6th book read so far for the challenge. Yay progress!

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Review: Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake by Mazey Eddings

Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake (A Brush With Love #2)
Mazey Eddings
2022, 328p
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/}: Lizzie has made endless mistakes. Kitchen fires, pyramid schemes, bangs (of the hair and human variety), you name it, she’s done it… and made a mess of it too. One mistake she’s never made is letting anyone get closer to her than a single hook-up. But after losing yet another bakery job due to her uncontrolled ADHD, she breaks her cardinal rule and has a two-night-stand that changes everything.

Once burned, twice shy, Rake has given up on relationships. And feelings. And any form of intimacy for that matter. Yet something about charming, chaotic Lizzie has him lowering his guard. For two nights, that is. Then it’s back home to Australia and far away from the pesky feelings Lizzie pulls from him. But when Lizzie tells him she’s got an unexpected bun in the oven, he’ll do whatever it takes to be a part of his child’s life… except be emotionally vulnerable, obviously. He’s never going to make that mistake again.

Through a series of mishaps, totally “platonic” single bed sharing, and an underground erotic baking scheme, Lizzie and Rake learn that even the biggest mistakes can have the most beautiful consequences.

I didn’t realise when I requested this based on a mention on a romance thread, that it was the second in a series but it honestly didn’t really matter. It’s a companion series, where each book focuses on a different person in a friendship group and although the couple from the previous book features in a scene, you really don’t need to have read that one, in order to have read this one. I also have the third book requested from my library, which features another friend from the group. I also have the first one, A Brush With Love checked out as well, I just picked this one up first because it seemed a bit more interesting.

However. I didn’t really love it.

I do not have ADHD, so I cannot speak to the portrayal of that, but Lizzie, the main character, has ADHD that means every day presents her with numerous challenges and there does seem like a considerable effort was spent on showcasing this. She constantly forgets things, loses things, is late and has struggled to maintain a job. She also constantly forgets to take her medication and only sets an alarm on her phone to do so well into this book and look, maybe that might’ve been a bit helpful earlier on? I’m sure that there are many people who will find that Lizzie’s challenges will resonate with them on a deeply personal level as well as the way those challenges can affect your personal and professional relationships. I have to admit though, I really struggled with Lizzie sometimes – I think some of the scenes where she does things might be intended to show her as quirkily charming or how her ADHD does make her often socially awkward but the scene with her longtime friends, where they first meet Rake and she awkwardly blurts out how big his dick is, had me actually cringing. Rake has literally met these people three seconds ago. Look, he takes it well and that ends up being a ‘thing’ in the book, how much he accepts Lizzie, with all her challenges and how much he loves how different her brain is. But that just felt so uncomfortable and weird. Also it’s not unreasonable for her boss to expect her to be on time for work – and then after they have already had one discussion that day and she’s late back from her lunch break it’s not unreasonable for him to be at the end of his rope there either.

The romance didn’t really work for me. I appreciate the sex positivity of Lizzie’s outlook but Lizzie and Rake hooking up so early meant that for me, I never really got a chance to feel any chemistry between them, any lust, any want. And accidental pregnancy is not a favourite trope of mine, especially the whole take from Friends about condoms having expiry dates. Also Rake’s motivation for upping and moving halfway across the world to immediately coparent a child that isn’t even born yet (and hasn’t even exited the first trimester) felt a little……aggressive, as did his suggestion they get married, because it is 2022 when this was written, not 1952. The reasoning behind Rake’s determination also didn’t work for me, for many reasons (all of which would be spoilers) but like, the implied demonisation was probably the worst. Like there had to be this nefarious reason for it, like why else would that person want to do that, especially without even consulting him. There’s literally no reason for Rake to be Australian other than ‘it’s far away’ so that when he moves to the US it’s such a huge deal and kind of ignores the privilege of how difficult it would realistically be to do that. Just a flippant offhand quip about dual citizenship and a chat to his boss and boom, it’s done. So easy. He’s there in minutes. Literally, he appears to jump on the next available flight out of Sydney. I assume he has a house/apartment, furniture, a car, a life…..nope. All gone, he’s out of there for the US in a heartbeat after one phone call to his boss. He also does things like acquire an apartment for them to live in but it’s a studio, with no bedrooms and like, what? That was the only suitable apartment in Philadelphia? They’ve slept together twice and barely know each other and honestly, this is the living arrangement of nightmares. It’s done for the “one bedroom!” trope so that the author can showcase the sexual tension because they also decide that they should be platonic co-parenters but…..I didn’t really feel it. Lizzie also is the quintessentially “things will work out” sort of person, which ok, when you’re 20-something on your own, fine. But when you’re about to bring a person into the world, you need something that at least resembles a path forward, a way in which you’re going to do this. Not one moment seems to be devoted to the practicalities of raising a child.

Also Lizzie’s parents were like, cardboard cut out rich parents who didn’t ‘get her’ because whatever would they tell the people at the Country Club?

I mentioned that I have the previous book also checked out and the next one on request from the library but I’m not sure if this author is for me. Maybe I’ll try A Brush With Love and just see…..because it could just be that this book wasn’t for me. Because it really wasn’t.


Book #100 of 2023

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