Wednesday 31 January 2018

Books Read in January

As you probably already know, every year I set my Goodreads reading challenge to 100 books.

And this year I thought it might be cool to post a list of the books I read at the end of each month.

Here's my January list:

  1. The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace
  2. Libby in the Middle by Gwyneth Rees
  3. Psycho by Robert Bloch
  4. We See Everything by William Sutcliffe (DNF @3 chapters)
  5. Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
  6. The Given by Fiona Dodwell
  7. Cloudy with a Chance of Destruction by Gwenda Bond
  8. A Real Work of Art by Gwenda Bond
  9. The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories by Charlaine Harris
  10. Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
  11. Everless by Sara Holland
  12. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
  13. Endlessly by Kiersten White
  14. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz 
  15. Ringer by Lauren Oliver
  16. 1922 by Stephen King (from anthology)
  17. Requiem by Lauren Oliver
  18. Alex by Lauren Oliver
  19. The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (DNF @5 chapters)

Novels read: 8
Novellas read: 3
Short stories read: 3 + 1 collection
Poem collections read: 2
DNF: 2

Finished series: 4

I like those stats!

I'm determined to read more novellas, short stories (+ anthologies) this year, and I think this is a great start! Not to mention that my catching up/finishing off a bunch of series books is also (finally) happening. ☺

Happy reading!

Monday 29 January 2018

RINGER by Lauren Oliver

The sequel to the epic two-story novel, REPLICA. 

In the world outside of the Haven Institute, LYRA and Caelum are finding it hard to be human - and Lyra, infected at Haven with a terrible disease, finds her symptoms are growing worse. When Caelum leaves without warning, Lyra follows him, seeking a pioneering organization in Philadelphia that might have a cure. But what they uncover there is a shocking connection to their past, even as their future seems in danger of collapsing. T

hough GEMMA just wants to go back to her normal life after Haven, she soon learns that her powerful father has other plans for the replicas - unless she and her boyfriend Pete can stop him. But they soon learn that they aren't safe either. The Haven Institute wasn't destroyed after all, and now Gemma is the one behind the walls. 

Bestselling author Lauren Oliver brings the Replica duology to a shocking close in RINGER, but like both Gemma and Lyra, you won't be able to leave the world of Haven behind after you've turned the last page. 

I read REPLICA a few years back and loved Lyra and Gemma's books. A lot. I actually thought their stories were done, and then I found out it was a duology. So I was curious about what else could happen to them.

Just like I did with the first book, I decided to start with LYRA

Lyra used to be known only by a number, but now she has a life outside of the Haven Institute. She also has Caelum, who is so much like her but not at all. 

The couple lives in a trailer park with Lyra's real father. While life isn't perfect, it's hers. She shares herself with Caelum during the nights, but spends much of her days exploring the world on her own. Until Caelum runs off, the Suits find their location, and she has no choice but to run...

I thought this was an interesting story. It was another honest and often sad account about how hard Lyra finds it to fit in. No matter what she does or who she meets, she'll never be considered a true person.

It was interesting to see the vastness of the world through the eyes of a girl who'd only known the inside of an institution for most of her life. As well as how hard she finds trying to love the father she barely knows until it's too late. 

I did enjoy this half of the book, but when I was done wondered if it was necessary. 

After taking several days away, I read GEMMA

Since Gemma found out the truth about who she really is and met Lyra & Caelum after the Haven Insitute burned to the ground, she can't let it go. She can't even enjoy spending time with her adorable boyfriend or her best friend, and when she finds out that Lyra & Caelum are in trouble, she heads out with Pete and gets herself into deep trouble... 

I was really excited about reading this half of the book because Gemma's first story revealed some really cool secrets. But I just couldn't get into this one. I found everything that happened to her to be boring, meh and kinda pointless. 

It was certainly nowhere near as exciting as her tale in REPLICA. It's such a shame because I ended up skimming most of the book after I reached page 70. Like I said, for many reasons, this didn't work for me. :( 

Ringer is the last book in the Replica duology and--although I enjoyed Lyra--to be honest, I don't know if either of these books were necessary. They were missing all the suspense and mystery of the first instalment.

I kinda (secretly) wish I hadn't read past the first book. 

This has been happening a lot to me lately with duologies and trilogies. o_O

Ringer, October 2017, ISBN 9781473615052, Hodder & Stoughton

Thursday 25 January 2018

When an Old Idea Becomes a New Idea

I've mentioned (several times) how important I find artwork when it comes to getting ideas, and even building on them. It's something that's always happened, but has been even stronger during the last few years.

The other day, I stumbled on a very cool image on Twitter. One featuring someone covering their face while red-eyed demons hovered behind them. At first, I thought it was cool. Then, I realised how well this pic fit with an idea I had several years back. 

An idea I remember writing notes about, getting excited about. An idea that went nowhere. That happens sometimes. I've actually got a handful of ideas I'm currently researching, collecting pics for and taking notes... even though I know they're not ready to be written yet. 

Some ideas come almost fully formed and are pretty much ready to be written right away--like the 3 first drafts I wrote last year--others need some heavy percolating. This can take months, or even years. All the pieces start coming together but are just too far from each other to connect yet. And that's okay.

Just like stories, every idea sets its own pace and rules. Mostly my process is similar for all projects, but never identical.

That's why I don't get rid of files. I don't want to lose anything. Even if I've placed a WIP on hiatus, like a bunch of sequels I had planned for books no longer published.

Anyway, after last year's sorting & purge of all my writing files, everything is much easier to find. So I looked up this particular idea and was surprised to find that I'd written quite a few handy plot notes already. I'd even written the first chapter! 

So now I have a legit folder set up for what I'm calling SKETCH. There are about 40 inspirational pics, a tiny bit of research and a doc with the character names, story details and quotes. Oh, and I can't forget the first chapter! But the most important thing is that the spark I'd lost has been reignited, to the point where I'm super excited about this story and have snippets dropping into my head all the time. o_O

Man, I've said it before and I'll say it again, writing sometimes feels like magic.

There you have it. This is (some of) what I've had on my mind lately. I haven't posted anything for a few weeks, so I thought this would be a cool thing to chat about.

Have a great weekend!

Saturday 20 January 2018


Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, #1)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OMG. I LOVED this book. SO much!

My daughter bought and read this book a few years back, and has been telling me to read it for ages. She said I would love it... so when I was putting my current TBR pile together, she added it on there.

And my gosh, she was right. I did love it. As soon as I started reading on Friday afternoon, I was hooked. I just wanted to get a taste, but Ari's voice grabbed my attention and I ended up reading the first 50 pages in one sitting.

How could I not be intrigued by his very intimate voice? Or that the story starts with the mention of a Heart song, followed by Los Lobos? Yeah. I was totally there. Plus, everyone knows I have a thing for the 80s.

Aristotle and Dante meet the summer they're both 15. When Dante offers to teach Ari how to swim, these two very different boys embark on an unexpected friendship.

Ari's a bit standoffish, doesn't have any real friends, and spends a lot of time in his head. His parents are lovely, but between having an older brother in prison and his father's time in Vietnam, they hoard too many secrets.

Dante's the kind of guy who shares just about everything he's feeling. He loves art, likes animals, and hates wearing shoes. His parents are both professionals. They're also very kind, and are open about everything with their son. And for that, he loves them in a way most teenagers don't seem to.

Together, the boys develop an intense friendship that forms a deep bond neither is able to break. No matter how hard Ari tries to stay aloof, Dante's under his skin and as they get older and the world changes around them, they'll both realise just how much they mean to each other...

Wow. This book is totally captivating.

I loved spending so much time in Ari's head. I loved how wonderful Dante was. I loved how their parents seemed so different, but really weren't. I loved how the bonds of friendship is explored in such a raw and honest way. I loved how it developed into something deeper, yet the narrator refused to see it. And I absolutely loved how this story delves into the different levels of what it means to be an immigrant's child.

It was amazing how much I related to being caught between two cultures. I know because I lived through exactly this. In the 80s. While growing up, I was always caught between not being Australian enough for Aussies, and not being Spanish enough for Spaniards. No wonder I love this book with an intensity I didn't expect!

Not to mention the parents. Both sets of parents are real people with their own awesome qualities, flaws and ambitions. They love their kids so much they unintentionally end up hurting them with such fierce protectiveness. Not realising how they're damaging their kids. This is especially true with Ari's parents. The family secrets don't help Ari, thet haunt and change him.

Everything about this story wormed its way into my heart. I couldn't put it down. Didn't want to. It's honest, heartbreaking, happy, sad, tragic--and everything in between. Plus, Legs! That dog was as adorable as this story.

Why did I wait so long to read this beautiful book? It was such a joy.

Thursday 18 January 2018

ENDLESSLY by Kiersten White

Endlessly (Paranormalcy, #3)Endlessly by Kiersten White
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This year, I've decided to finish off a bunch of trilogies, duologies and series I've somehow managed to fall behind on. Some for years. :/

And I started with this one.

All Evie wants is to live a normal life and spend Christmas with her shapeshifter boyfriend, Lend. But trouble always manages to find her. Especially now that someone new is in charge of the IPCA, and they want her back. Her annoying faery ex wants her help, though she might need his too. Her enemy is back and seems to be helpful, and even useful. Plus all the paranormals need her help for something that might end up destroying her...

It was nice to be back in Evie's world because I always liked her lighthearted voice. In spite of living in a dark world surrounded by weird and wonderful creatures, she always manages to come across as fun and is very witty. And in this book, she needs all her wits about her if she's going to overcome the complications laid out in front of her.

While I enjoyed this instalment and the story captured my imagination as much as the other books, I thought the last half dragged a bit. The events of the last 100 pages just seemed to stretch out for too long, and my mind started wandering a bit.

In the end, while it was a cool book, I didn't love it to bits like I did the first two.

Either way, I'm glad that I (finally) finished the trilogy.

Tuesday 16 January 2018

More Reading Thoughts

The other day I posted about my Reading 2018 plans. Today I want to chat a bit more about those plans/goals and something that happened on Friday.

I love libraries. I think they're an amazing place that offer a bunch of wonderful services for the community. When I was a kid I borrowed from our local library all the time. I also borrowed a lot of books from my school library (both primary & secondary) and was even a library monitor.

Yes, my love for books started early. I was that kid who borrowed books we weren't studying from my English teachers because I've always read like a maniac.

Anyway, my reason for mentioning libraries is because I've decided to stop borrowing books from our local library. It's a decision that sucks, but also feels like a weight lifted off my shoulders.

Although our library has given me the chance to read a lot of wonderful books--because I just can't buy ALL THE BOOKS--the service is appalling. We've returned books that don't get marked off, the clerks are rude and act like we're putting them out when asking them to do their job in the nicest way possible. They're always unapproachable, grouchy and I have to double check the books I've returned have been removed every single time.

Bottom line: the people working at our local library are awful and don't know how to do their jobs. I'm pretty sure none of them are even librarians!

We've put up with their BS for too long, and the other day two different people were as rude as hell for no reason. So, we returned the excellent book (that was my last) and as soon as I got home, I removed all of my holds.

I'm done with their incompetence.

It's a shame we've been pushed to this, but it's for the best. I'd been thinking about this all week and after chatting to hubby, realised my mind had already been made up.

This brings me back to my 2018 Reading. TBH, their rudeness and pathetic incompetence might actually be a great thing.

Why? Because I've got my own libraries:
  • a wall of bookshelves FULL of books. Books I've been neglecting so much I've fallen behind in most of my fave series. 
  • a digital library chock-full of new books I can't wait to get stuck into. 
  • a teetering pile of review books.

Yep. Why am I even borrowing books when I have SO MANY of my own? Seriously. There are stacked layers on my shelves, I keep buying Kindle books, buy from bookstores, and receive review books all the time. So I won't be missing out on anything. :)

I've also decided the best way to deal with my TBR piles is by choosing 4 or 5 from each SHELF and reading whichever strikes my fancy at the time.

Here's the first lot:

Yesterday I finished EVERLESS, and have already started ENDLESSLY. So, there you go. It's totally working out. 😉

Sometimes a negative can really be turned into a positive.

Happy reading!

Monday 15 January 2018

EVERLESS by Sara Holland

Time is a prison. She is the key. 

In the land of Sempera, the rich control everything - even time. Ever since the age of alchemy and sorcery, hours, days and years have been extracted from blood and bound to iron coins. The rich live for centuries; the poor bleed themselves dry.

 Jules and her father are behind on their rent and low on hours. To stop him from draining himself to clear their debts, Jules takes a job at Everless, the grand estate of the cruel Gerling family.

There, Jules encounters danger and temptation in the guise of the Gerling heir, Roan, who is soon to be married. But the web of secrets at Everless stretches beyond her desire, and the truths Jules must uncover will change her life for ever ... and possibly the future of time itself.

This is one of the books that were mentioned when hubby and I went to the 2017 Date a Book YA Blogger Night at Hachette HQ last year. 

So I couldn't wait to start reading. Not to mention that the cover is as beautiful in its simplicity as the inside.

In Sempera, the currency of time is blood. And the rich control it by bleeding days, weeks, months and even years from the poor to turn it into iron coins. As a result, the wealthy can live for centuries, while the poor end up bleeding most of their days away.

That's exactly what Jules finds out her father is doing. And if he doesn't stop, he's going to run out of time sooner than later. 

When she hears Everless needs extra servants for the upcoming royal wedding, and that they'll get paid very well, Jules decides to join. Even if she has a complicated history with the Gerling brothers. 

A history that will only put her and her father in danger...

As soon as I started this book, I was hooked. 

Jules Ember's voice pretty much swept me away instantly. I loved the way her narrative flowed so easily from action to thought to the world around her. Everything that came before and was happening in the moment just fit together effortlessly.

The world building for this intriguing world, where the cruelty of the rich is literally paid (and taken) in blood, unfolds perfectly. In a very organic way, complementing the narrator's voice so well it becomes impossible to separate one from the other. And that, in hindsight, is such a clever way of telling this fantastic tale.

I loved the parasitic way the wealthy hoarded blood from the poor. I hated how the poor were forced to give their blood in order to pay the rich. Everything about this system of existence was cruel and unfair, but the only way for everyone to survive in this harsh world of so many contrasts.

The way life itself was seen as time running out, rather than the constant reminder of looming death was such a unique way to quantify life.

As I mentioned above, Jules was a terrific character. Even though the cast of characters is vast and wonderful, she shines brighter than anyone else. The more I read, the more I liked her. The further I got in the story, the grander and darker the world became. The deeper I fell into the truth of what was really happening, the more I fell in love with everything about this book.

Everless is one of the best fantasy novels I've ever read. Not YA fantasy, I'm talking about ALL fantasy. It's a breath of fresh air in such a crowded genre, and offers something new. It's an amazing story with so many intricately woven threads that the characters, world building and plot all connect to create a deep emotional experience. Not to mention that the tension kept me turning pages. Or that the secret at the very heart of everything blew me away once all the pieces fell into place.

If you're looking for a story featuring a strong heroine, a dazzling new world, danger so deep it'll leave you breathless, and even a hint of romance... You have to read this.

You won't regret it.

I don't know if this is a duology or a trilogy or even a series, but I can't wait for the next book.

Everless, January 2018, ISBN 9781408353622 Orchard Books

Friday 12 January 2018


For the first time together in one volume, the complete short story collection starring Sookie Stackhouse - with new introductions from the #1 Sunday Times bestselling author of the series, Charlaine Harris. 

New fans can fill in the gaps in their Sookie lore, while old friends can revisit some of their favourite moments and characters. From investigating the murder of a local fairy to learning that her cousin was a vampire, from remodelling Tara's house to attending a wedding with her shapeshifting boss Sam, Sookie navigates the perils and pitfalls of the paranormal world. 

Gather round the bar at Bon Temps' favourite watering hole and hear stories that will make you wish that Sookie never left.

The Sookie Stackhouse series might have ended in a satisfying way, but there are still stories set in her world that I hadn't read before.

And that's why this collection, including all of them in one volume, was something I definitely wanted to read!

A fairy walks into a bar...

No, seriously, she does. Claudine walks into Merlotte's looking for Sookie because her and her brother Claude need Sookie's help to figure out who killed their triplet, Claudette. They've got three human suspects: a stripper, a bouncer and the owner of the club.

But who did it, and why?

This is such a fun story! Sookie uses her telepathic ability to figure out who killed the fairy. I enjoyed it heaps, and liked finding out a little more about Claudine, Claude and fairies in general.

While Sookie is doing some late-night gardening with Bubba, a limo arrives at her house. A man who claims to be a lawyer by the name of Mr. Cataliades gets out and tells her that her cousin Hadley is dead, but that's not all he's there to tell her.

His visit entails more revelations then she expected...

I really liked the simplicity of this story. It's straightforward and gives Sookie some answers about her estranged cousin, but also has a few very cool twists at the end. Well-worth reading. 

When Eric invites Sookie to Fangtasia for an annual vampire event to celebrate Dracula's birthday, she agrees to go, and finds out Eric is quite the Dracula fan. He's such a fanboy he secretly hopes Dracula will make an appearance at his party.

But when the person who claims to be the Lord of Darkness himself shows up, the unexpected happens...

I enjoyed this one too. It was a lot of fun to see the cool, calm, and collected Eric acting a little neurotic. Pam was great in this little story, her side comments made me LOL a lot.

When Greg Aubert pays Sookie a visit, hoping she'll help him figure out who's been sneaking past his spell to get into his insurance office at night, Amelia and Sookie investigate.

What that entails is a telepath and a witch following one clue after another, until Sookie can find whoever's responsible...

This was another great story that captured not only Sookie's world, but what makes a well-written short story really work. Loved it!

Sookie's all alone on Christmas Eve, but when she goes for a walk in the woods and finds an injured Were, she insists on taking him home to make sure whoever attacked doesn't return to finish him off.

But the mysterious stranger brings a little festive magic to her lonely night...

Oooooh. This was a nice story that proves good things come to those who wait. I wasn't expecting the sneaky twist at the end. Very cool.

Sookie and Pam head out on a roadtrip to Mississippi so they can do a mysterious task for Eric. Sookie doesn't mind going along for the ride, even though Pam scares her a bit.

Visiting the casinos and overindulging on buffets goes well, but when the meeting takes place, of course things don't go according to plan...

In typical Sookie fashion, her voice and methodical way of doing things sucked me right into the story. 

This was a lot of fun because Pam & Sookie get caught up in some hilarious stripper business. Not to mention how well their quick thinking syncs, and the little twist at the end was also very cool.

When Sam and Sookie go to help Tara and JB with a home-improvement project, they didn't expect to find a bloodied hammer within the walls. Or the angry presence they unleash, and the nanny who might end up being the only one who can help them solve this old murder mystery...

This was an interesting take on hauntings, and also a great way to learn some darker and less known historical facts about Bon Temps. It's also always very cool to read any story that enhances just how much Sookie means to Sam. :)

Sookie and Sam leave Bon Temps to go to Wright, a small town in Texas. They're going to attend Sam's brother's wedding, which should be a joyful event, but turns out to be another nightmarish incident in Sookie's life.

After the werewolves and shifters came out to the public, a lot of people developed a new prejudice against them. And this town seems to be filled with those awful people...

I really enjoyed this tale, and read it in one sitting. I particularly enjoyed spending time with Sam and Sookie, just being friends. 

Also, the closure she finally finds with Quinn was a great touch to the story. 

All Sookie was supposed to do was deliver a bunch of cupcakes to her nephew's kindergarten class. Instead, as usual, Sookie ends up getting caught between a hostile gunman and a powerful witch...

This is another great story. I enjoyed how well the suspense and danger was captured in a school surroundings. 

The focus was on Sookie and Hunter's talent going up against the very real terror that grips American classrooms too often in real life. But the supernatural flair was also present.

When Manfred Bernardo heads to Bon Temps after his dead grandmother tells him to go in a dream, he ends up at a softball tournament sitting beside a pretty blonde woman who can totally read his mind.

He enjoys her company but takes a while to figure out why his grandma sent him there in the first place...

The interesting thing about this story is that it's in the POV of Manfred Bernardo from the Harper Connelly series and the Midnight, Texas trilogy. So it was very cool to read a story featuring Sookie, but seen through the eyes of a different character.

Not to mention the tease of Manfred's future.

The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories is an awesome collection. Not just because all of Sookie's short stories are in one place, but also because the UK hardback volume is so nice.

I also enjoyed the story introductions by the author, because I love the behind-the-scenes stuff.

Sookie Stackhouse is one of my favourite characters, and one of the series that introduced me to urban fantasy and captivated my imagination so much. Dragging me deeply into this dangerous world of vampires, werewolves, shifters, witches, fairies, and SO much more.

Great book.

The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories, January 2018, ISBN 9781473222311,Gollancz

Thursday 11 January 2018

BONFIRE by Krysten Ritter

BonfireBonfire by Krysten Ritter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I borrowed this from the library last Friday and couldn't wait to read it. As soon as I started, I was hooked. Abby's voice drew me in as much as the story.

Abby Williams left Barrens ten years ago and never looked back, but she never forgot the nightmarish things that happened while growing up in this shitty town. Never forgot the pain of losing her mother, how much she hated her father, or that her childhood best friend was a sociopath.

Now she lives in Chicago, has her own life and is an environmental lawyer. She left all the baggage behind, in the past, so she can concentrate on the future.

When a case takes her back to Barrens, a small town in Indiana, to investigate the town's lifeline, Optimal Plastics, everything she's done to distance herself from this place starts to fall apart. She doesn't just stumble on an environmental water issue, but into a disturbing cover-up that can be traced all the way back to the old friend who disappeared...

Wow. Krysten Ritter is a woman of many talents. Not only do I love her portrayal of Jessica Jones, but she's a hell of a writer!

This book turned out to be an amazing, and totally addictive experience. It had all the things that are guaranteed to grab my interest: a damaged lost woman with a whole lot of unrealised strength, a small town with seriously dark secrets, paranoia, not being able to trust anyone, a romantic entanglement with its own risks, and a web of mystery I couldn't wait to untangle.

The writing is solid. The voice so raw it sometimes edges on surreal. The town feels so dirty that the filth practically jumps off the page. And the mystery at the heart of everything didn't disappoint.

Excellent book! This is a slow-burn thriller with page-turning suspense. I couldn't put it down.

I LOVED this book. I really hope this author writes many more.

Wednesday 10 January 2018

A REAL WORK OF ART by Gwenda Bond

A Real Work of Art (Lois Lane)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Early this morning I read (and really enjoyed) Cloudy with a Chance of Destruction, and after posting my review I noticed this story was available on Wattpad.

So of course I had to read it. And I'm glad I did because this shortie was even more fun than the first one. I seriously loved this!

Lois Lane is starting a new school. Again. And on her first day she has to attend an art class. She's not good at art. Even if her mother insists she spotted a stroke of genius when Lois was six.

Her lesson goes as expected--not well. But, she does end up putting her investigative skills to work when she suspects the creepy art teacher might be someone of interest...

Man, this was so cool. I love her attitude, and her knack for finding trouble wherever she goes. Plus there were some really funny monents in this story. Loved her Rorschach painting. LMAO.

There was a whole lot of great stuff packed into this story!


Cloudy With a Chance of Destruction (Lois Lane)Cloudy With a Chance of Destruction by Gwenda Bond
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had this short story on my phone for a while--and have always been a Lois Lane fan--so I finally decided to read it this morning.

Lois Lane is in a new school, and because of that she doesn't have a chemistry partner. This gives her the opportunity to work alone, and eavesdrop on a couple breaking up.

Good thing she does, because in an attempt to get his girlfriend back, the guy takes a dangerous device to school that might end up getting the attention of everyone in the class. And not in a good way...

This was a fun short story. A cool snippet into Lois Lane that totally captures her investigative skills. If not for her curious nature, the idiot guy in this story would've caused a lot of trouble.

I liked this intro to teenage Lois and can't wait to read the first book. And to find out who this SmallvilleGuy could be. ;)

Tuesday 9 January 2018

THE GIVEN by Fiona Dodwell

Madison Walter thought she had everything.  A good job. A perfect husband. A baby on the way. 

 When a terrible tragedy turns her life upside down, Madison knows things will never be the same again. 

 Intent on saving her marriage, she joins her husband on a luxury trip abroad. However, a week in the sun turns into an abyss of despair and horror. 

 Can Madison save her life, her sanity and her family before it's too late?

I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of this great book. I was really looking forward to checking it out, and ended up reading the novella in a few sittings.

Madison and Damon Walter used to have a happy marriage, but after they suffer one of the worst things that can happen to new parents, their life spins out of control. Maddy spirals into a deep well of depression, while Damon throws himself into his work.

So when Damon suggests they go abroad to a luxury resort, so they can take a breath and leave behind the house that reminds them so much of their loss, Maddy agrees. It doesn't matter that it's costing them a fortune, or that a change of scenery won't magically make her forget what she lost, but she's willing to try to reconnect with her husband.

The resort is a strange place. There might be good food, plenty of sun, and even a friendly couple they manage to befriend, but something dark is going on beneath all the brightness. Something that doesn't feel right.

And it looks like everything might lead back to Maddy...

Wow. Okay.

I need a moment.

After I finished this novella, that's exactly how I felt. As soon as I started reading this story, I was caught in its mysterious web. I couldn't put it down.

The best thing about this novella is the quiet genius that sweeps the reader away. How caught up I got in what starts as a troubled marriage in desperate need of healing, and quickly evolves into a roller-coaster ride into the darkness of grief.

Maddy and Damon find themselves continually circling back to the same argument. Things between them get so bad she starts to push him away, begins to see things no one else seem to notice. A nightmarish situation ending in a horrifying, yet promising decision. A double-edged sword loaded into an  unfathomable choice she knows she has to make.

The Given is an excellent, often nightmarish suspense novella. The atmosphere is vivid and even sickly. The story is so well written that even though the luxury of the resort shines through, there's no denying the rotten core. And when you reach the ending. Wow. I did NOT see THAT coming. Yet as soon as I read it and retraced the story, it made total sense.

Loved this story!

Oh, and there are also two bonus short stories:

Red Rain was a very dark story about two sisters who are forced to stay indoors as smelly, lethal torrents of fleshy rain fall from the sky and never seem to end.

It's very post-apocalyptic, and although it hooks you in and I enjoyed it, don't expect much hope from this one.

The Uninvited is another dark story. This time about a waitress who works her butt off every single day to support herself and her lazy boyfriend. The only light of her day is a stray dog that eventually ends up meaning more to her than anyone else in the world.

It's another great read, especially if you're an animal lover who can't stand cruelty against them.

Monday 8 January 2018

Some Kind of Goals

Welcome to my 2018 Goals edition.

If you've read any of my past blog posts, you already know that I don't do New Year's resolutions. Making resolutions has never worked for me. It's almost like the mention of that word begs to be abandoned. LMAO.

Instead, I make goals. I come up with a yearly list, but constantly make goals and put together to-do list for myself monthly, weekly, and even set daily tasks.

These are the things I would like to achieve this year:
  • Continue this awesome habit of two daily walks (early morning & late afternoon)
  • Read 100 books
  • Get back into yoga (no pressure, just adding a workout whenever)
  • Write between 200-300k words
  • Play more games on my 2DS
  • Finalise spooky YA horror & query
  • Revise 2017 novel first drafts (3)
  • Write two new novels
  • (Try) to write a novella
  • Keep writing short stories & sub
  • Take part in NaNoWriMo 

So that's my list of goals for 2018. Like last year, it's a pretty ambitious list but I'm determined to attempt all of the above. 

Well, did you make any goals?

Friday 5 January 2018


Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2)Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Last year I read and really enjoyed Every Heart a Doorway, so today I decided it was time to read the next Wayward Children story.

I'm not going to call it a sequel because it's really a prequel about the twins Jack & Jill.

These intriguing girls were part of the original story in a very intense way. And this little gem tells the story of why their selfish parents decided to have kids in the first place. It also shows how these parents mistreated the girls by forcing them into roles they end up not being happy with, but has long-lasting effects that screws around with them. And how these virtual strangers (who happen to be sisters) end up finding a door that leads them into a dark place ruled by a vampire...

This certainly didn't disappoint.

I loved the whimsical storytelling, the fairy tale darkness dripping from every word, and how the story of these two sisters totally explains the dire situation the poor characters in EHaD find themselves in.

Jack was such an amazing character. I loved how selfless she is, without her sister ever realising. She's strong and smart and nice. That she becomes the apprentice of a kind-hearted mad scientist is also very cool.

Man. This story is SO good. Even though there's plenty of sadness, the ending leads back to the start of this series. Very clever!

This really was a creepy modern fairy tale. An atmospheric horror book. A story dripping with vivid imagery. A story of vampires and werewolves without focusing on either. A tale that wraps itself around you and drags you in so deeply, it takes your breath away.

Loved this.

Tracking Words & Pages

During the last few years I've posted a screenshot of my Tracking Sheets for the previous year. 

So of course I have to do the same this year:

Total words written: 322,913. 
Total pages revised 1,793.

As you can see, this not only gives me yearly figures but also breaks everything down to monthly totals. Including how many pages I edited/revised.

BTW, I have to thank Sidney Bristol because she created this very awesome Tracking Sheet and shared it on her blog. I haven't seen one for 2018, but I suppose I can just use a past spreadsheet. Either way, I had to give her the credit she desrves.

To see a detailed breakdown of my 2017 Goals and what I achieved, you can read THIS POST.

But here's a summary I posted on Twitter:

Not bad. I'm actually really happy with last year's total output. I wanted to concentrate on my love for writing, and totally ended up doing just that. :)

After the publishing side of writing fell apart for me, I really needed to get back into telling the stories in my head and in my heart. The ones that spoke the loudest.

And I can genuinely say that I certainly achieved this.

Here's to more productivity!


Thursday 4 January 2018

PSYCHO by Robert Bloch

PsychoPsycho by Robert Bloch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I watched Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho years ago. And if I'm honest, asides from the shower scene, the weirdo Norman Bates and the creepy twist, I don't remember much more. I didn't bother with the remake, for obvious reasons.

But I've been interested in checking out the novel it was based on for a while now. So I started reading it this morning and was instantly hooked!

Norman Bates is a loner who runs a motel. A motel that barely gets any visitors. But he doesn't care because he's got his mother with him.

The night a pretty woman stays in one of the rooms, the many secrets the Bates family keeps well hidden start to unravel. Almost as quickly as Norman's sanity...

That's pretty much all I need to say about a story the whole world is pretty familiar with. LOL. But you know what? In spite of going in knowing so much, I was surprised by how much the story actually surprised me.

This book is an outstanding study of psychology. Focuses on a man who was dominated so deeply by his mother as a child, it splinters his psyche to the point of backfiring against the one person who thought she had such a tight grip on him.

I was fascinated from the beginning. Totally hooked, first by Norman's quiet madness and then by Mary Crane. She was such a cool character. A young woman who wants so badly to get on with her life that one impulsive choice steers her life to a dark place she never expected. I really liked her, and was quite sad when she... you know what happens.

The supporting characters were also interesting. I liked her sister. Mary mentions the sacrifices she made for her younger sister early on, so when Lila goes out of her way to find her it was really touching. I just felt bad about all these men trying to tell her to be patient and calm down so often she ends up taking matters into her own hands. Which was really good to see in a novel from 1959.

Actually, I really liked how women were portrayed as strong enough to run their own lives, while still allowing men to fulfil their roles. This also clashed with the way Norman saw all women as bitches because they were at the root of provoking evil deeds. So it was done very well.

Sam is an odd one. I did like him because he totally comes through in the end, but his calm reaction to his missing fiancé just takes too long to manifest into action. IMO.

Oh, and the last chapter is truly amazing. That chapter wraps up a super spooky and creepy as fuck horror story and turns it into a classic. Seriously awesome stuff.

I'm SO glad I read this book.

My New Planner

New year means new planner.

After taking a break last year from Darth Vader Moleskine planners, and using a Peanuts one instead...

This year I've gone back to Vader:

As you can see HERE, I've got a thing for Vader planners. So it was only a matter of time before I went back to the Dark Side. LMAO.

I LOVE this planner style. It's a 12-month Week To One Page with Opposite Blank Page. I love this format because I can keep a record of everything I do daily on the left, and then take more detailed notes on the right. Love it!

 What about you?
Do you use a planner?

Happy planning!  

Wednesday 3 January 2018


Libby in the Middle
Libby and her big sister Bella used to be close, but lately it's felt like Bella is a closed book: she's sarcastic and mean and obsessed with her boyfriend. Then there's six-year-old Grace, the baby of the family. Whenever Mum and Dad aren't at work, it's all about Grace. So where does Libby fit in? 

Things change suddenly when the girls move to the tiny village where their dad grew up – as their bossy Aunt Thecla has offered to pay for them to go to a posh new school. Libby doesn't mind, but Bella can't bear to leave her boyfriend behind. 

 Soon there are secrets everywhere …

I received this book from Bloomsbury Australia before the Christmas break, and since I really enjoyed Cherry Blossom Dreams a few years ago, I was looking forward to starting this one.

Libby is the middle child. Her older sister Bella thinks she's too young and dorky to hang out with. Plus is way too obsessed with her boyfriend anyway. And her younger sister Grace is the baby of the family and too little to hang out with.

Libby feels like she's stuck in the middle, and always out of the spotlight.

Now that her family is moving back to the village her father grew up in, all of their lives are about to change. They'll have to share a room, they'll all be going to a new school, and will now see their snobby Aunt Thecla every single day.

As summer winds down, Libby finds herself caught in the middle of a bunch of situations she didn't expect. And everything she learns will teach her a lot about herself...

I really enjoyed this. I wasn't sure what to expect when I started, but it didn't take long to get into the swing of things. Besides, the mention of family secrets is a sure way to grab my attention. :)

Libby's family appears quite normal: Mum is a dentist, Dad is a web designer, older sister Bella is almost 16, Libby is almost 13, and the youngest Grace is 6. But that's only on the surface.

Mum is busy and constantly caught between disliking her outspoken sister-in-law and respecting her. Dad works from home and is super protective, plus refuses to talk about his past and is always angry with his sister. Bella is selfish, self-absorbed and only cares about her boyfriend. Grace is a cute and adventurous kid willing to learn. And Libby... well, she just wants to fit in. She wants to make friends, and hates feeling like she's invisible because of her two shiny sisters.

There was a lot to like about this book--how well it was written, how the spirit of childhood is captured, and how well the characters are portrayed. I really liked Libby, but constantly got frustrated with Bella. That girl was infuriating! I didn't like how easily she manipulated Libby with fake interest. Bella was truly awful, so when her truth comes out it helped make sense of some of her behaviour.

Everyone masks their fears and insecurities in different ways. This story also did an awesome job at exploring family dynamics.

I also really liked Aunt Thecla. I loved how the family saw her as a stuffy spinster without a filter, but she turned out to be such an interesting woman with an intriguing past.

Libby in the Middle is a charming story about family, friendship, growing up, and what happens when all these threads collide. It was a fast read that caught me by surprise. I was entranced by Libby's voice and as soon as the story started to unravel, I was so hooked I pretty much read the book in a day! I couldn't put it down.

Great book!

Libby in the Middle, January 2018, ISBN 9781408852774, Bloomsbury Children's Books

Reading 2018


Well, 2018 is here and that means I've set a new Reading Challenge over at Goodreads.

Like usual, I've set myself the goal of reading 100 books. This total will include novels, novellas, short stories, comic books, poems, etc. 

 I also like to give myself a few Mini Reading Challenges. That can be as simple as making sure I balance my reading with a variety of books: bookshelves, review books, Kindle, Kobo, tablet, and library books. Or as detailed as going through my unfinished trilogy and series books, and making sure I catch up/complete these trilogies/duology/series.

A new reading goal I'd like to add is reading more short story anthologies. 😃

I'm also determined to not waste time with books that just don't grab me, and plan to keep unapologetically DNFing. 

I have to admit that I absolutely hate DNFing books. I feel bad, guilty, awful... because being a writer myself, I know how much hard work goes into a book. BUT, I have way too many books to waste time on boring stories, or ones that I don't find appealing.

 Anyway, you can keep up with my progress on My Reading Page, or at Goodreads

So, how many books do you plan to read this year? 

 Here's to another awesome year of reading!

Tuesday 2 January 2018


The Princess Saves Herself in this One (Women are Some Kind of Magic, #1)The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is actually my daughter's book. She got it ages ago and really enjoyed it. I've had my eye on it for a while. So I thought this might be a nice way to start my reading year.

I picked it up after my morning walk and was finished before it was time for my morning cup of tea. Not just because it's relatively short, but also because they hooked me in and I didn't want to stop.

Every single one of these poems is raw and honest and so heartfelt. I love how the princess trope is applied to contemporary suffering (eating disorder, self-harm) and achievements (finding yourself, unconditional love) and even older, but still familiar issues (family problems, deaths). Each poem stands in its own but is definitely part of a bigger picture.

I truly enjoyed this and think girls and women should read it at least once. All the issues dealt with in this very emotional book are ageless. Besides, the poems themselves will hook you in.

This was definitely a great choice as my first book of 2018.

How I ended the year...

So, this happened over the last two nights of 2017:
(Posted on Twitter: 30th Dec & 31st Dec)

On Saturday morning, while it was raining outside and I was chilling on the couch with hubby, one of my short story ideas started whispering inside my head.

So I grabbed one of my (many) notebooks, a pen and started writing. I wrote a couple of pages, put it aside and figured this was a good start. A story I could then finish on my laptop later in the week.

I got on with my day, but when we settled down for the evening and hubby started playing 80s film clips on YouTube I got the itch to keep writing. And wrote a total of ten pages before bed.

The next morning, I added a few more pages and kept putting it aside. But in the background, this spooky tale of friendship was quickly unfolding. It wouldn't stop trickling into my head, working itself out faster than I expected. So while we waited for the New Year to hit and hubby was once again playing 80s tunes on the telly, I grabbed the notebook again.

I wrote and wrote, and wrote some more...

Twenty-eight pages of longhand later, I was finished. The first draft was now a total of thirty-eight handwritten pages. And I'd finished before the new year! Very cool.

I honestly hadn't expected to finish the short story over a few nights, but was super excited that I did. Yay.

Now I have to type it up and put it aside for a few days. At this stage I have no idea how many words I ended up writing, so I'm looking forward to finding out.

Anyway, I just wanted to write a little something about the spark of unexpected creativity that hit me just before 2017 ended.


ETA: I just typed up this short story & thirty-eight handwritten pgs turned out to be eleven typed pages. Or 4,042w.

Monday 1 January 2018

Happy New Year!

It's time to say goodbye to 2017 and get ready to make new goals and plans for the new year.

Let's hope that 2018 is a much better year, with less insanity and a lot less ridiculous crap.

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