All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Top 10 Tuesday 5th January

Hello everyone and welcome to 2021! I hope you all had a lovely holiday period and that the new year is going well. We all know 2021 isn’t a magical reset button but hopefully things can slowly improve! Today it’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday post. Top 10 Tuesday is hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl and features a different bookish-themed topic each week. This week is a fun topic….we are talking:

Top 10 Most Anticipated Releases For The First Half Of 2021

These are in no particular order, just as I thought of them or came across them as I searched lists and posts for up and coming releases.

1. Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore (Graceling Realm, #4)

Okay so I remembered hearing at some stage that there was another Graceling book coming out but then I got an email from Goodreads about books out soon by authors I had rated highly and this was on it and it is out, like super soon. In fact it’s in just a couple of weeks! I’m so excited, I have to go and pre-order it or something so that I can read it right away. I adored all of the books in the Graceling series and I remember the way Bitterblue, book 3 ended and how it felt like there was more to be said.

2. Rescue Me by Sarra Manning.

I love Sarra Manning’s books! She writes a lot of really unusual romances, tapping in to some things that not a lot of people could make work. This one, about two people who after a misunderstanding, end up both sharing custody of a foster dog. I just love the sound of this and I think it’ll give all the feels.

3. Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert.

I really loved Get A Life, Chloe Brown and I have Take A Hint, Dani Brown which is ready for me to read and I can just tell from the description of it, that it’s 100% my sort of read. So I’m definitely excited for the third in the Brown Sisters trilogy.

4. The Notorious Virtues by Alwyn Hamilton.

I loved Alwyn Hamilton’s Rebel Of The Sands trilogy so I’m keen to read something new from her and I absolutely love this cover. It’s the sort of cover where there’s so much going on it feels like it’s impossible to see it all. And probably however wonderful it looks in a picture, it’s probably much better in person. This sounds full of murder and mystery and intrigue and toxic family and probably some romance. Can’t wait.

5. Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne.

Sally Thorne’s first novel, The Hating Game is one of my favourites and I’ve re-read it so many times! Her second novel wasn’t personally to my taste but I’m definitely hoping that I enjoy her third one as much as I did her debut so this still makes my list of most-anticipated.

6. Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane.

love Mhairi McFarlane. Absolutely love her and her books. Anything from her is an automatic buy and so I cannot wait for this.

7. One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston. 

I loved Red, White & Royal Blue it basically put Casey McQuiston onto my auto-read list. This sounds a little bit different – I think there’s some time travel involved? Or something? I’m interested to see how this plays out but I do feel like I’m probably going to love this also.

8. People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry.

I adored Beach Read so you can just go ahead and inject this right into my veins.

9. The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary.

Beth O’Leary is for me, a bit like Sally Thorne. Absolutely loved The Flatshare so much….but I didn’t really love The Switch. However I know that she can put out a book I’ll love and I am a big fan of road trip books, they’re one of my favourite types of plots. And this is a character being forced to road trip to a wedding with her ex-boyfriend, so there’s so much potential. I hope I love this.

10. The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni.

I thought that Lynette Noni’s debut series, The Medoran Chronicles, grew in strength with each instalment. This sounds really interesting and I love the cover!

These are just some of the books I am really excited about seeing released in the first half of 2021 – anything here you’re excited for too? If so, let me know!

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Reading Challenges For 2021: Part 4


So I’m a little bit late signing up for this challenge! The Australian Women Writers Challenge is a challenge I have participated in every year but one (a year when I did no challenges) since it’s inception. It was originally created to redress an imbalance in published review:

The AWW challenge was set up to help overcome gender bias in the reviewing of books by Australian women. The challenge encourages avid readers and book bloggers, male and female, living in or outside Australia, to read and review books by Australian women throughout the year. You don’t have to be a writer to sign up. You can choose to read and review, or read only. (Our guidelines for what makes a good review can be found here.)

You can find all the details about the challenge on this page, including various levels, how to link your reviews, etc. I always create my own challenge, as I tend to read a lot of Australian women writers naturally, without even having to try or seek them out. Last year I think I set my goal at 50 and read 87 so I’m going to keep it at 50 titles for this year as well.

I’ve already read one so….off to a good start!

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December & 2020 Yearly Reading Wrap Up

Total Books Read: 8
Fiction: 8
Non-Fiction: 0
Library Books: 1
Books On My TBR List: 2
Books in a Series: 6
Authors I’d Never Read Before: 1
Male/Female Authors: 0/8
Kindle Books: 1
Books I Owned or Bought: 5
Favourite Book(s): Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (audio), The Queen Of Nothing by Holly Black (audio)
Least Favourite Books: Nothing below a 3/5 this month
Books That Qualify For Challenges: 2

Okay, so December was definitely kind of a bust, reading wise. I only actually read 6 books and I listened to two on audiobook, one of which (The Queen Of Nothing by Holly Black) I’ve read in print multiple times. So overall, there wasn’t really a lot going on. I ended up contributing no more to the challenges I had hoped to finish in December and actually, didn’t even get close to picking up any one of the books I needed in order to finish them. I don’t even really have that many excuses for not reading except that mostly, I didn’t want to! A little way through the month I just decided to completely go with it and mostly take December off and hope that I’d be refreshed and ready for 2021!

Challenge check in!

Australian Women Writers Challenge: 87/50

Read Non Fiction Challenge: 11/12 {technically complete, upgraded the challenge to the top level and trying for all 12}

Reading Women Challenge: 23/26

As you can see, no progress made from November! Overall I’m pretty happy with my results in the challenges I took part in – I deliberately lowballed my AWWC total and easily surpassed it. Originally I signed up for the mid-level of participation in the Read Non Fiction Challenge, which I completed and then I tried to finish all the categories and made it to 11 out of the 12, which is pretty good. And I did get to 23 of the 26 prompts in the Reading Women Challenge which is not too bad either.  I’m taking part in all of these challenges again next year, but I can’t say I expect to improve on my totals here. I had a lot more reading time, having experienced about 20-24 weeks of lockdown of some description or other that we hopefully will not have to do again in 2021.

And the yearly reading wrap up…….

Total Books Read: 241
Authors I’d Never Read Before: 114
Male/Female Authors: 31/210
Kindle Books: 82
Library Reads: 65
5-Star Reads: 34 (I include 4.5 and 5-star reads in this total)
Most Prolific Reading Month: April & July – 26 books
Least Prolific Reading Month: December – 8 books

Thanks to the spreadsheet I use to track my reading, I have access to a whole bunch of other fun stats as well, so some of those are….

  • I read 208 fiction books and 33 non-fiction books
  • 200 were classed as adult, 39 as young-adult and 2 as middle grade or children’s
  • books were audiobooks – something of a record for me!
  • Although most books (226) I read are classed as prose, I also read books of poetry, novellas, graphic novels, essay collections and short story collections.
  • 26 books by an author of colour
  • books in translation
  • re-reads
  • 110 books were received from the publisher for review
  • 111 books were published in Australia first, followed by 92 from the US and 29 from the UK
  • I spent $331.94 on books I purchased and read in 2020 – this does not include books I purchased in 2020 that I have not read yet!
  • In the break down of why I read books, 114 were read for ‘fun’ which means they were something I wanted to read, 110 were read for ‘work’ (which is how I classify ARCS), 15 I read for personal development and I read solely because they were a choice for a book club I’m in
  • General fiction was my most read genre with 70 titles followed by romance with 43 and then mystery/crime with 34 and historical with 33. The spreadsheet only allows me to choose one genre so many of these probably cross over and I just pick what I feel is the primary one in order to classify it
  • My most popular rating is 4-stars – I rated 103 books that way in 2020
  • I rated books 1-star and books 5-stars so I’m stingy with both my effusive praise but also my disdain! It’s rare that I choose a book for myself that I hate – one of my 1-stars was an ARC, the other an audiobook where I hated the narration. That audiobook was also my only DNF for the year
  • Overall I read 82,139 pages and spent 3 days, 10hrs and 54 minutes listening to audiobooks
  • 107 books were between 300-400 pages. I read books greater than 700p and books that were less than 100p

I read more books in 2020 than in 2019, but obviously a large part of that was basically not leaving the house for months between late March and late September. I don’t usually set reading goals or resolutions and I have no idea what 2021 is going to bring (I feel things are still a bit precarious) so I’m not going to note down any here.

Here’s my January TBR – it’s bigger than I expected it to be, a few of these turned up right on the last day we got mail before Christmas.

Hoping 2021 brings the return of my reading mojo!

 

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Top 10 Tuesday 29th December/My Favourite Books Of 2020

Well we are nearly ready to farewell 2020 and it’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday and this week’s topic combines perfectly with one of my regular end of year posts. Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme now hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl. This week our topic is….

Top 10 Books Of 2020!

1. The Last Migration by Charlotte McConaghy. 

One of the three books I rated 10/10 in 2020. I really loved this beautiful, futuristic-but-realistic tale of a world where so many species are going extinct, where the oceans are choked with rubbish. It showcases a journey from the top of the world, near Greenland, right down to Antarctica. It’s a stunningly written story, absolutely compelling. I heard that movie rights have been optioned and honestly, this has potential to be incredible in both storytelling and scenery and how they could potentially show a planet on its way to devastation.

2. Know My Name by Chanel Miller.

Another 10/10 read and the only non-fiction one I rated so high. This was an amazing book – heartbreaking and rage-inducing and just….all of the feels. Chanel Miller is brave, putting herself out there like that, we all know this is the age of internet trolls and people who feel obliged to vomit their every opinion no matter the impact or consequences. This book showcases pretty much everything that is also wrong with sexual assault law and prosecution and how difficult it is to get a reasonable conviction, even when there are witnesses.

3. The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan. 

My third 10/10 for the year – these are the only 3 books I rated so high for the year. For me, this was the perfect crime novel. I do so enjoy this series (this is the third and most recent) and they just seem to keep getting better. The lead character is so interesting and I really enjoy the dynamics in both his work and personal life.

4. With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo. 

I loved this. And I’ve never really been a fan of novels in verse but this was brilliant. I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Elizabeth Acevedo.

5. The Lost Love Song by Minnie Darke. 

This was so beautifully and uniquely told. I didn’t really know anything about this going in and I just loved it so much! I recommended it to a lot of other people as well.

6. The Chronicles of Ixia by Maria V. Snyder.

2020 was the year I finally got around to reading so many of the Maria V. Snyder books, most of which I’ve owned for like, 10 years! I actually went to an event with Maria when I was pregnant with my youngest son, who is now 9. I read all of the Chronicles of Ixia and enjoyed the Study books enormously (I liked Opal’s story as well, but I have a soft spot for Yelena and Valek) and I also read a few of her other books as well. I’m part of the way through several trilogies, need to get back to them at some stage.

7. Beach Read by Emily Henry. 

I listened to this and it really helped me get back into audiobooks. I’ve always had a bit of a strange relationship with them, because they take forever to listen to – I can read 2-3 books in the time it takes me to listen to an average paperback on audio. This was brilliant, I loved it so much. It had excellent humour but also delved into a lot of serious issues. January and Augustus had excellent banter and great chemistry. Can’t wait for Emily Henry’s next book.

8. The F Team by Rawah Arja. 

This was probably the surprise read of 2020. I really enjoyed this book, told from the perspective of a 15yo Lebanese-Australian boy and his struggle with identity and perception and family and growing up.

9. The Secrets Of Strangers by Charity Norman. 

This was a gripping story of a hostage situation in a cafe – how it came about, why, who was trapped there, the changing tides of emotions and thoughts and feelings. It was incredibly well done and I found myself swept along. It’s the sort of book where you feel like you’d feel one way, based on the blurb only for it to play out completely differently and your opinions to completely change.

10. The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker.

I really love this series, especially the first book and this book. I have such a love for a grumpy, kinda asshole hero and this sunshiny heroine who is too bright and bubbly to even realise when the male character is being sarcastic or she notices and just completely blithely ignores them and this book is full of moments like that. This one is added fun because Griff, the hero, realises from a very long time out that he’s in loads of trouble where Freddy is concerned. I already loved Freddy from her previous appearances. I adored Richard and Lainey in book #1 but I think I loved Griff and Freddy even more.

……honourable mentions, because I can never have just 10!

Catch & Kill by Ronan Farrow.
The Shearer’s Wife by Fleur McDonald.
Flying The Nest Something To Talk About by Rachael Johns
Trust by Chris Hammer
The Secret Life Of Shirley Sullivan by Lisa Ireland
Dead Man’s Track by Sarah Barrie
The Farm At Peppertree Crossing by Leonie Kelsall
The Year The Maps Changed by Danielle Binks
Hidden Victims by LynDee Walker
Break The Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli
Charlotte Pass by Lee Christine

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas period, if you were celebrating! If you’ve read anything on my list, be sure to let me know (or if you want to). These lists are always hell on my TBR but I do enjoy finding new reads that I feel like I’ll love!

See you in 2021!

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Review: The Valley Of Lost Stories by Vanessa McCausland

The Valley Of Lost Stories 
Vanessa McCausland
Harper Collins AUS
2020, 406p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Beautiful, beguiling and treacherous … Big Little Lies meets Picnic at Hanging Rock in a secluded valley over the Blue Mountains.

Four women and their children are invited to the beautiful but remote Capertee Valley for a much-needed holiday.

Once home to a burgeoning mining industry, now all that remains are ruins slowly being swallowed by the bush and the jewel of the valley, a stunning, renovated Art Deco hotel. This is a place haunted by secrets. In 1948 Clara Black walked into the night, never to be seen again.

As the valley beguiles these four friends, and haunts them in equal measure, each has to confront secrets of her own: Nathalie with a damaged marriage; Emmie yearning for another child; Pen struggling as a single parent; and Alexandra hiding in the shadow of her famous husband.

But as the mystery of what happened seventy years earlier unravels, one of the women also vanishes into this bewitching but wild place, forcing devastating truths to the surface.

Recently this book arrived in a cute little package, wrapped up like a present with a card that said after 2020, it’d be nice to have a bookish escape. To be honest, after reading a lot through my lockdowns (which totalled, I think, almost 20 weeks) I haven’t read much at all in December. But I feel like my reading mojo might be slowly returning and I picked this book up just intending to read a few chapters and see how I went but I ended up reading about three quarters of it and then finished it the next day.

The book focuses around four women: Emmie, Nathalie, Alexandra and Pen, who all have children at the same school. At an event, Emmie finds herself sitting with the beautiful, well known Nathalie and her friend Alexandra, two of the mothers that everyone is in awe of and probably wants to be friends with. They make a pact to take each other if they win the raffle prize of a week at another mother’s beach house and Emmie is surprisingly the winner. She also includes her friend Pen, a single mother who struggles with her youngest child Will. When the beach house falls through, Alexandra knows someone who offers them a place where they can still take their holiday, with enough room for the women and their kids: a hotel in a remote part of NSW past the Blue Mountains. At first it seems idyllic – beautiful, empty with grounds for the children to play and a pool and stream to swim in during the sweltering summer heat. But then things take a bit of a sinister turn and the Valley is more eerie, than beautiful. And there’s definitely more to their mysterious host than meets the eye.

I really enjoyed this. It’s a dual timeline, the book also takes us back to 1948, when the area was used for shale mining. There’s a great divide in the local community – those in charge of the mine, the engineers and the like, reside in the grand hotel with balls and parties and luxuries. The workers are often relegated to fibre shacks and there’s never enough money to go around. One night, Clara Black vanishes and Jean was the last person to see her alive. In the present day, it seems that there are many secrets from that time to still be discovered.

Each of the women have children the same age and all except Emmie have more than one child. Pen has a teenage daughter, who also struggles with the fact that Will is different and that Pen cannot provide the luxuries her friend’s parents can. Alexandra has two boys and is married to a television personality and from the outside, her life looks idyllic. Nathalie has three children including two under five and she is sinking. A lot of the women are struggling with many issues: parental guilt, feeling inadequate, a bit too much reliance on wine to get through the day, sexuality, secondary infertility, inadequacy. In one of the first scenes, Emmie is at the school, wondering how she has been doing drop offs and pick ups for four years and still hasn’t found her “group”, women to stand with and chat to, to share secrets with. She meets Nathalie by accident really and falls into accidental friendship created by the pact to share the prize should any of them win it. They are not long term friends when they go on the holiday (with the exception of Nathalie and Alexandra). All of the women are relatable in some way or another, whether it’s the struggle of adding another child, the feeling of not being the mother you should be, marital struggles, money issues, there was a lot of realism in some of their interactions, thoughts and actions. I felt interested by Pen’s story in particular and her blunt thoughts about her son were interesting to me. Will was a challenge, a surprise, one that turned her life upside down and there’s always a lot of pressure on women in particular, to have this magical, immediate love for a child the second you find out you’re carrying it or if not then, definitely the second you’ve delivered it. For a lot of women, it doesn’t go that way and there can be a real fear to talk about it because of this “motherhood bond” that is so revered. One of the women is also really, really struggling with an alcohol problem which it seems everyone is ready to ignore – is it because some of them don’t know her very well? Or is drinking so ingrained in the culture that it takes a while for people to notice that she has a very big problem. Even her own husband doesn’t notice. And I think sometimes, the “Mummy wine time” is quite glamorised on social media, places like instagram. For some, that one glass turns into two….turns into a bottle….turns into every night…..turns into mid afternoon…..

I enjoyed the historical mystery aspect of the story as well as the atmosphere of the hotel and the valley itself. It takes up much less page space than the present day story but still feels well researched, constructed and portrayed with some acknowledgement of the history in the area where this book is set. The book went in several different directions that I did not expect and I thought the twists and turns were deftly written. The ending wasn’t neat either, which reflects life and the way that people’s relationships work.

8/10

Book #240 of 2020

The Valley Of Lost Stories is book #87 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2020

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Top 10 Tuesday 22nd December

Welcome back to another edition 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:

Top 10 Books I Hope Santa Brings ❤

1. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell.

This is actually one of the few books I have requested to possibly receive for Christmas (secret Santa book swap, we had to provide up to 3 preferences). The rest are just my wishful thinking and for future reference! I am really keen to read this.

2. The Book Of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd.

I’ve seen this around and I remember one of the author’s previous books also but I didn’t really look into this too much until I saw it on the Goodreads Choice Awards. It sounds really interesting.

3. You Had Me At Hola by Alexis Daria.

This sounds awesome – a soap opera star coming off a break up and a telenovela star are cast to be leads in a romcom for a streaming service. It’s like romance inception.

4. The Invisible Life Of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab.

I have picked this up 2-3x in bookstores recently and looked at it to buy and then put it back, simply because I sort of put myself on a book buying ban until after Christmas presents were all done and everything was sorted. So it’d be nice if Santa snuck it in, wouldn’t it?!

5. A Song Of Wraiths & Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown.

Love the sound of this! Enemies to lovers is my thing – in order to save his sister, Malik must kill Karina, the Crown Princess. But Karina has her own endgame and she needs the beating heart of a King….which she might obtain through marriage. This sound amazing and I am so keen to read it!

6. Betty by Tiffany McDaniel. 

I’ve seen this around a lot lately and the cover has really stuck in my mind for some reason. This actually sounds like it might be quite a traumatic read….definitely one for when I’m in the mood for that type of thing.

7. The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller.

A girl with ambition to marry a king and then kill him and steal his kingdom? Why not. Some of my choices for this topic are quite bloodthirsty haha.

 

8. The Little Bookshop Of Love Stories by Jaimie Admans.

This sounds ridiculously cute. The main character wins a bookstore as some sort of prize – who wouldn’t want to own a bookstore?! It just sounds like a nice, easy, sweet sort of read which at the moment, I could really use more of.

9. Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett.

I love Jenn Bennett but somehow this escaped me when it was released and I am still yet to read it. So it’s high on my wishlist for 2021! Or maybe to round out 2020.

10. Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch.

This series looks really cute – and the perfect read for our summer holidays here right now.

It’s been a year, guys. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas (or whatever you choose to celebrate, if you celebrate anything at all) and that you are able to have a nice day, even if circumstances prevent it from being the day you would wish for. Hopefully Santa brings you some of the books on your own wish lists, to pass the time. If you’ve read anything from mine, be sure to let me know!

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Review: The Godmothers by Monica McInerney

The Godmothers
Monica McInerney
Penguin Random House AUS
2020, 448p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

‘I don’t want two wishy-washy godmothers,’ Jeannie had said that afternoon in the country hospital when Eliza was only a day old. ‘No dolls. No pink dresses. Just lots of adventures. Lots of spoiling. The pair of you like two mighty warriors protecting her at every step.’

Eliza Miller grew up in Australia as the only daughter of a troubled young mother, but with the constant support of two watchful godmothers, Olivia and Maxie. Despite her tricky childhood, she always felt loved and secure. Until, just before her eighteenth birthday, a tragic event changed her life.

Thirteen years on, Eliza is deliberately living as safely as possible, avoiding close relationships and devoting herself to her job. Out of the blue, an enticing invitation from one of her godmothers prompts a leap into the unknown.

Within a fortnight, Eliza finds herself in the middle of a complicated family in Edinburgh. There’s no such thing as an ordinary day any more. Yet, amidst the chaos, Eliza begins to blossom. She finds herself not only hopeful about the future, but ready to explore her past, including the biggest mystery of all – who is her father?

Set in Australia, Scotland, Ireland and England, THE GODMOTHERS is a great big hug of a book that will fill your heart to bursting. It is a moving and perceptive story about love, lies, hope and sorrow, about the families we are born into and the families we make for ourselves. 

I’ve been reading Monica McInerney for a very long time. I think my Nan has been buying her books since the late 90s or early 2000s. I haven’t read all her books but I have read quite a few and I think I’ve really enjoyed most of them. A new book by her is always something to look forward to. This was the December choice for my online book club and it’s a bit unfortunate to say that I personally, did not love it.

I think Monica McInerney does an amazing job writing complex and flawed families, ones that you find believable and ones that in some ways, remind you of bits and pieces of your own family. This book is another indication of that. Eliza grew up the only child of a single mother, never knowing even who her father is. Her mother was volatile – prone to fancies and stories and moving around frequently. For Eliza though, no one could’ve loved her more or provided a better upbringing. It was them two against the world, although Eliza did also have the benefit of her two godmothers Olivia and Maxie, her mother’s best friends from the Catholic boarding school they all attended. When Jeannie, Eliza’s mother goes through one of her phases, Olivia and Maxie make a pact to give her a break each year, alternating with each other taking Eliza on a holiday. This works well until tragedy strikes when Eliza is 17 and her life is shattered.

When Eliza is 30, she finds herself without a job and without an apartment and so she heads to Edinburgh for the wedding of one of her godmothers and decides to go on a quest to find the father she has never known. I don’t know what it’s like to have such important part of your life missing – to not know who a parent is, to not even have a name, is definitely something that would really make a mark on a person. And Jeannie promised to tell Eliza everything when she turned 18, however that was never able to happen. Olivia and Maxie don’t even know, Jeannie didn’t even confide in them.

Parts of this book I enjoyed, I didn’t mind Eliza’s quest to discover things about herself but a lot of the plot just felt like it meant nothing and went nowhere. Characters are introduced and take up relatively large parts of the page only for it to fizzle out towards the end and not really bring any meaning to the story. There were several characters that I thought would have a marked impact on Eliza, but to be honest it never really panned out that way. Some felt remarkably bland (Laurence) and some are incredibly over the top (Celine) for little in the way of relevance.

I think my biggest issue was that I felt like Eliza had been frustratingly let down by almost, if not everyone, in her life but this was something that never really changed. Her mother Jeannie was obviously mentally unwell. She also resorted to a lot of heavy drinking, even though it was obviously something that made Eliza very uncomfortable. She needed a lot of help but was reluctant to get it. She told Eliza a lot of lies about her life and this could’ve been a part of her mental illness processing the things that had happened to her but it was actually quite damaging to Eliza and it made it very difficult to sort the truth – I’m honestly not sure if Jeannie was lying about the theft she talked about or not. Even her godmothers, who were adults with a better grasp of what they were seeing in Jeannie’s behaviour were never honest with her about the extent of her mother’s issues, even well into Eliza’s adulthood. I think a lot of Jeannie’s teenage years as being somewhat “wild” meant that some of her behaviour was overlooked, as she was a free spirit or something. Eliza had her mother on a pedestal, refusing to see that she was actually quite a damaged and damaging woman. She may have loved Eliza fiercely but she definitely did not always do the best thing for her or by her and she kept secrets, hid things and misdirected constantly. It felt to me like Eliza needed a lot of therapy. She does mention going to see a therapist at one point but I think it’s phrased in a way that suggests she hasn’t been there in a while.

Also I’m not really sure about the end. I didn’t like it, the way it was structured and although it posed an interesting moral dilemma, it further cemented the issue I had above.

6/10

Book #239 of 2020

The Godmothers is book #86 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2020

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Review: The Kingdom Of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty

The Kingdom Of Copper (The Daevabad Trilogy #2)
S.A. Chakraborty
Harper Voyager
2019, 625p
Personal purchased copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of the battle that saw Dara slain at Prince Ali’s hand, Nahri must forge a new path for herself, without the protection of the guardian who stole her heart or the counsel of the prince she considered a friend. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family and one misstep will doom her tribe.

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid, the unpredictable water spirits, have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.

I haven’t really been reading much lately – before I finished this I’d read just four books in December (one was an audiobook that took me 10 days to listen to). I’m not sure if it’s just the end of year burnout, with things that need to be done revolving around Christmas, or if it’s just the fact I can leave my house and do other things now, reading isn’t my only option for entertainment anymore! But I’ve been wanting to read more but when it comes time to do it, I just can’t be bothered picking anything up. I decided to try this book because I bought it straight after finishing the first one and I did want to read it before I forgot everything that happened in City Of Brass.

It picks up briefly just after the end of the first book and then skips forward about five years in time. Nahri has been married to Muntadhir for about four years and Ali escaped from those accompanying him after his banishment when there was an attempt made on his life. He’s managed to find his way to a community who embrace him for his new…skills, acquired after the events toward the end of the previous book. However there’s about to be a big celebration in Daevabad and Ali finds himself manipulated back into that location for the celebration. Although Nahri is understandably hostile at first after what Ali did, they bond over a shared desire to rebuild the hospital Nahri’s ancestors once worked in. Nahri even has a grand idea for the hospital to treat both djinn and shafit, healers of both types working on their own kinds and learning from each other. She is hoping it might bring a sort of peace to the area but there are still violent uprisings and events which make this incredibly difficult.

This felt like a really dark book. Like where the Empire Strikes Back in Star Wars type of thing, which isn’t uncommon in the middle instalment in a trilogy. There’s a lot of violence, bloodshed, plotting to overthrow the King, Nahri being shot down in different ways about her ideas. She agreed to the marriage with Muntadhir even though the two of them don’t really know each other and Muntadhir is a prince fuckboy whose affections mostly lie in another area but all of that doesn’t bother Nahri. She knew she was going to have to marry him anyway and so she negotiated best she could. The two of them sort of rub along together okay, they don’t really interact that much unless they really have to. The arrival of Ali back into the palace complicates things enormously as Muntadhir resents his brother right now, for lots of different reasons. And I think Ali is deeply envious of Muntadhir, who has many things that Ali desire and is grateful for approximately none of them.

This is told by three different narrators: Ali, Nahri and one other. For some of the book they are all in separate locations but then Nahri and Ali come together when he returns to Daevabad and slowly the friendship they once had is forged anew, albeit in a different fashion. The past cannot be ignored but with time and knowledge and trust, it can be moved on from. Then, right at the end, the third narrator joins them in the same location in the most shocking of ways and Nahri is forced to make a terrible choice. This book ends on a really interesting note, right after she makes that choice and betrays two people for the sake of, well, everyone. In doing so, she’s made herself a powerful enemy and also potentially ruined the closest thing to a friendship she had left. If definitely made me want the third book as soon as possible.

This is a long book, no denying it and there were times when it did feel a bit…..unnecessarily long. My attention wandered a couple times in the middle, a lot of people arguing with each other rehashing the same arguments they’ve already had a lot of times: Ali’s fanaticism and his defying of his father, Muntadhir’s wastrel tendencies, Ghessan’s tyranny, Nahri’s idealism. Hopefully this won’t be as much of an issue in book 3, given the way things ended in this one!

8/10

Book #238 of 2020

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Review: Ink And Bone by Rachel Caine

Ink And Bone (The Great Library #1)
Rachel Caine
Allison & Busby
2015, 410p
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Knowledge is power. Power corrupts.

In a world where the ancient Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed, knowledge now rules the world: freely available, but strictly controlled. Owning private books is a crime.

Jess Brightwell is the son of a black market book smuggler, sent to the Library to compete for a position as a scholar . . . but even as he forms friendships and finds his true gifts, he begins to unearth the dark secrets of the greatest, most revered institution in the world.

Those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn. . . .

Recently I was very sad to hear of the death of Rachel Caine, from cancer. I have read quite a few of her books – the entire Morganville Vampires series, the Revivalist series and probably a few others here and there. It reminded me of how much I still had to read of her backlist. On one of my TBR bookcases, I have about half of the Weather Warden series. I’ve read the first book probably 10 years ago now but have never gotten around to finishing the series. And despite how much I’ve really thought this series would interest me over the years, I hadn’t even managed to start it. So I figured I would give this one a go as it is one I’ve always wanted to read.

It’s an alternative timeline series, where the Great Library of Alexandria still exists. It also controls knowledge – all the books are stored in libraries and dealing in books has become rare and contraband with the threat of death hanging over anyone who dares. Still, when anything is banned there are people who will pay handsomely for it and there are people like Jess’ father who will provide. He ropes his sons in from a very early age – already to the detriment of his eldest. Jess knows if he gets caught, he will not be rescued, he will not be acknowledged and he should spill no information.

Jess’ father summons him when he’s 16 and announces that he’s paid for Jess to take the exam to enter the Great Library under a sort of…apprenticeship? Jess still must take and pass a test, which he does and then he finds himself on the train to Alexandria, meeting his fellow students, some of which will be brutally sent home. From however many there are that begin, only 6 will be chosen. Their instruction is undertaken by Scholar Wolfe, who doesn’t seem to relish the task he has been chosen (?) for.

The world building is really interesting. In some ways the society is very advanced, in others it appears not so much. England and Wales are basically at war, there are dissenters around that want to bring down the Great Library and dismantle its power. I found the beginning of the book a bit slow but once Jess made it to Alexandria to begin his studies, it definitely picked up and became much more interesting. I really liked the group of students (there are many but about a half dozen of them or a few more become a main part of the story as Jess gets to know them, be it in a combative or friendly type of way) and I loved how the character of Scholar Wolfe developed. At first he is so dismissive of them, barely tolerating them, terrifying the life out of them. He seems like a bit of an asshole but sprinkled throughout the story (at the beginning of chapters, I think) are excerpts from communications and some of those flesh out his backstory a bit. As we get further into the story, more about him is revealed and his struggle at being chosen to be their mentor is given more light and the why becomes quite sinister.

This book went in some really exciting directions and the cast of characters is both interesting and diverse. There’s so much bubbling below the surface – Jess was only just starting to uncover some really strange and suspicious things towards the end of the book and things are not as they seem at all. I definitely want to know more about the Obscurists. This book is deliberately vague about it as Jess didn’t really know anyone who can or is willing to give him that information, but now he does, so I expect that to play a great role in books to come, especially as he seeks to free the one he loves.

I enjoyed this, despite the fact that I did find it a bit slow in the first 100-150p or so. The rest was a good read and I’ve already requested the second book from my local library.

7/10

Book #237 of 2020

 

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Top 10 Tuesday 15th December

Hi everyone and welcome back to another Top 10 Tuesday! Hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl, it features a different bookish related theme each week. This week the topic is:

Top 10 Books On My Winter Summer Reading List

1. Take A Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert.

Recently I listed to Get A Life, Chloe Brown on audiobook and really enjoyed it. Chloe has two sisters, Dani and Eve, each of which get their own book and I saw just enough of Dani in Chloe’s book to be really intrigued about this. Also this features a bit of a fauxmance, which is one of my favourite romance tropes! I really like Talia Hibbert’s voice so I’m hoping this is going to be just as much fun as Chloe’s story.

2. A Kingdom Of Flesh And Fire by Jennifer L. Armentrout.

Okay, I read the first book in this series, From Blood & Ash and I didn’t love it. It was okay – but from what I’d heard and the amount of buzz it was generating, I have to admit, I expected….more. More story, more build, better writing and better characterisation. I also disliked Hawke quite strongly (not because of what happens at the end, that was the most interesting thing about him, but who he is in the beginning is honestly just incredibly tedious and annoying). But I still want to know what happens next.

3. The Kingdom Of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty.

This is actually my current read, I’ve already started it. But it’s already summer here (our seasons change on the 1st) so it totally counts, right? The second in the Daevabad trilogy, I really enjoyed the first book The City Of Brass. This is told from 3 points of view and I’m really enjoying it so far. As soon as I finish this one I want to move onto the 3rd book but I also have the first two in the smaller mass market size paperback and I’ve only seen the third in the larger size….so I sort of want to wait until they can all match. But I also want to finish the story? It’s a conundrum haha.

4. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.

I’ve heard some really good things about this so that got me curious enough to add it to my TBR.

5. Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas.

This is actually out pretty soon (Jan 12 I think) and I’m excited for it!

6. A Court Of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas.

I will read this, even though I have some reservations. I’m one of the few people out there, it seems, who doesn’t enjoy Nesta as a character. Cassian deserves better. For me, she crosses the line and is just plain awful to pretty much everyone and I was finding it quite exhausting in the books she appeared in after they went into the cauldron thing. I’m more interested in Lucien and Elain’s story. But it seems we’re going to get Nesta first. Also the title sort of annoys me because the other books are A Court of Something AND Something and this is just A Court of Something Something. And the cover is a bit yikes. To be honest, I’ll mostly be reading this for glimpses of other characters I like more.

7. The Valley Of Lost Stories by Vanessa McCausland.

Review copy courtesy of the Australian publisher. This has been described as Big Little Lies meets Picnic At Hanging Rock which is a bit intriguing! I’ll be reading this pretty soon as I think it’s already out. I quite like the cover.

8. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo.

I have this out from my local library at the moment so I need to read it soon as I won’t be able to renew it. I requested this ages ago – but because my library basically allowed everyone to keep books for about 6 months due to the pandemic, it took quite a while for me to move up the queue into first place. So I need to get to it pretty quickly. This was a joint winner of the Booker Prize and has been a nominee or made the shortlist for many other awards! I’ve heard some high praise, so I’m keen to see how I find this.

9. Starting From Scratch by Penelope Janu. 

Penelope Janu is one of my favourite Australian contemporary romance authors so I’m super excited for this book, which is due out in January. It remains unseen whether I can wait until then to read it or if I’ll sneak it in sooner than that!

10. Anxious People by Fredrik Backman.

I’ve heard really amazing things about this so I’m definitely keen to check it out. I know a few people who have really adored this.

For interest’s sake, I went and had a look at my Spring TBR post – of the 10 books I listed on there, I read just three of them! So it’s obvious that a lot of the time for me, these lists are very much a guideline and not an actual rule. Let’s see if I do better this season!

These seasonal lists are one of my favourite Top 10 Tuesday topics because I love seeing what others have planned to read! There’s always books I know I want to read but have forgotten to include, so I get reminded about them and plenty of books I’m unfamiliar with that I find interesting too.

If you’ve read something I’ve got listed here, be sure to let me know!

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