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Friday, 5 March 2021

New Story Time!

Hey, how are you today? It's been a while since I posted an update, so here I am. 😄

This year is going really fast, isn't it? I mean, we're already in the third month. Yikes! And asides from the Wall of Dolls edit I worked on a few weeks ago, I haven't gotten stuck into any new writing projects all year. No first drafts. No revision. Just a LOT of reading and hanging out with hubby, which actually turned out to be a great (unintentional) decision since he's gone back to work.

Yep. Australia is getting back to normal and--as scary as it is--it's time to step back into the new normal. To try and get on with everyday life. To be as 'normal' as possible while still keeping social distance, wearing masks to the shops, and washing hands as much as possible. We're even getting our flu shots next month and made dentist appointments.

So, I decided that the best way to get back into the groove of things is to get stuck into a shorter WIP. And I had the perfect one too, because this little psychological tale of nightmares was totally ready to be told. I kid you not.

Look at how it went:
  • Monday: 5,746 
  • Tuesday: 11,309 (added 5563w)
  • Wednesday: 17,124 (added 5815w)
Yep. It took me three days to write the first draft. I'm not surprised because this little story of darkness and confusion has been trapped inside my head since December. But I am surprised that it ended up being 17k, because I was expecting 15k. 

Getting it done so quickly means I got the chance to squeeze in a bit of reading, as well as plan out the revision time frame. Think I'll be getting stuck into the second draft on Monday. Because it's a shorter story, I'll like to keep the habit I adopted last year: complete the story from start to finish, instead of putting it aside for months! 

And I have so many more writing projects planned...

You know, asides from the reading and writing, we're also doing a lot more walking. I'm back to two daily weekday walks, except for the days I do three. And we're keeping up with the yoga, too.

Oh, and we started watching The Office. This is a show we've never watched before, but it didn't take long to get hooked. OMG. Love this show and love these characters. We're already on season five! 😳

Well, that's it for now.

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, 4 March 2021

THE GIRLS I'VE BEEN by Tessa Sharpe

 

Meet Nora. Also known as Rebecca, Samantha, Haley, Katie and Ashley - the girls she's been.


Nora didn't choose a life of deception - she was born into it. As the daughter of a con artist who targeted criminal men, Nora always had to play a part. But when her mother fell for one of the men instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con herself: escape.

For five years Nora's been playing at normal - but things are far from it when she finds herself held at gunpoint in the middle of a bank heist, along with Wes (her ex-boyfriend) and Iris (her secret new girlfriend and mutual friend of Wes ... awkward). Now it will take all of Nora's con artistry skills to get them out alive.

Because the gunmen have no idea who she really is - that girl has been in hiding for far too long...


This is a book I first noticed because of the striking cover. After reading the blurb, I knew I definitely wanted to read it.

Nora O'Malley is a girl with a lot of secrets. She's the daughter of a con-artist who targeted criminal men during Nora's childhood. But she's not that girl anymore, she escaped that life.

The morning she gets caught up in the middle of a bank robbery, she's forced to forget 'normal', so she can tap into the girls she used to be. And these men don't know who they're dealing with...

Wow. This book is absolutely FANTASTIC! 

As soon as I started reading, I was hooked. The writing is engaging and so beautiful. I couldn't tear myself away from Nora's story. Speaking of Nora, her voice is strong and raw, so honest my heart broke a little more with every revelation. What this girl is forced to endure because of her own mother's doing is seriously terrible.

This book is a lot of things.

Starts out introducing a unique trio of friends with several levels of romantic complications, and soon becomes a dangerous bank heist. Before spinning everything around and turning into a fast-paced thriller with tension so thick the only way to go is forward. That's until you fully understand it's about the struggles of a young girl fighting the memory of what her con-artist mother groomed her to be and how easily she exposed her to the worst kind of danger.

BUT, it's also about the strongest of bonds: your own found family. Not bound by blood, but by something so much deeper. And at the centre, is a wonderful love story.

I don't want to say more about this book because it's an amazing and moving story that needs to be fully experienced on a very personal level. It delves into the power of teenage girls and how strong they are, even though they're so easily disregarded and seen only as pretty tokens.

The Girls I've Been is an explosive YA thriller that gets under your skin. It's packed full of tension, danger and some shocking situations. It might even tear your heart out along the way, but it's an honest tale about survival. About what trauma turns you into. It's also captivating.

Loved this!

Thank you Hachette Australia for sending me a copy.


The Girls I've Been, February 2021, ISBN 9781444960112, Hodder Children's Books

Sunday, 28 February 2021

DO NOT DISTURB by AR Torre

 

Do Not DisturbDo Not Disturb by A.R. Torre
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here's another book I picked from my bookshelf that I should've read ages ago because I enjoyed the first book so much.

Deanna's life has changed since she wandered out of the apartment she'd locked herself in for three years. Now she's excited about going on dates with her boyfriend, and even dares to go across the road for snacks. But her deadly urges are still there, and might have to rise to the surface when a new online threat appears...

Wow. What an amazing and exhausting story! I was totally invested and couldn't stop reading.

This book turned out to be as addictive as it was dark. As intriguing as it was shocking, and so unpredictable. I was definitely hooked from the very beginning. A.R. Torre's writing style is captivating, which makes Deanna's voice very easy to get lost in.

Once I started, it didn't take long for me to lose myself in the narrative and head down a pretty screwed up and dark path. Mostly told in the POV of Deanna and a new disgusting character, as well as snippets from some of the other secondary characters, this approach provided multiple angles. Led the story into some pretty tense and atmospheric situations.

I love how Deanna's tale is romantic, seductive and sexy. Manages to take us into the very intimate and often harsh world of being a camgirl. Some of the people who engage the services of these girls aren't exactly shiny beacons of society. It's raunchy one second, creepy the next, and so very disturbing most of the time.

I mean, we are dealing with a woman trying to control her killer tendencies. A very real struggle that never ends. And is made both easier and harder as she finds herself falling in love.

This turned out to be a very suspenseful ride that first seduced me into following Deanna's plight, and then kept me on the edge of my seat once things got very real during the second half. Which is made so much better by the snappy, action-packed chapters

Love it when a sequel is as good as the first book, yet manages to feel original. Not only does this add to Deanna's series, but takes us deeper and into an unexpected direction.

Can't wait to read the next one.

Great News!


Hey! How are you?

If you follow me on Twitter, then you've already seen my book announcement. But I'm super excited, so I wanted to post a little something over here too. 

I signed a contract with Otranto House! That's right. They're going to publish my supernatural YA horror book, Wall of Dolls


Yay. I'm SO excited! 😁🎉

I actually worked on the first edit last week and it was very cool to spend time with these characters again. I really love these girls, the strange town they live in, the secrets, and the creepy dolls. I'm really looking forward to sharing their story with everyone and can't wait to hear what readers think.

Also looking forward to seeing the cover and will announce the release date as soon as I know.

For now, I've actually got a short story in Otranto House's first anthology. It's called The Girls Who Walked into the Woods and it's available now:



Have a great day!

Thursday, 25 February 2021

DISAPPEARING NIGHTLY by Laura Resnick

 

Disappearing Nightly (Esther Diamond, #1)Disappearing Nightly by Laura Resnick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After completing a very detailed first edit, and not reading anything else for a week, I wanted to read something completely different to my own story. And this book definitely did the trick.

It's actually another book I've had on my bookshelf for years. Do you remember the paranormal romance/urban fantasy/fantasy imprint called LUNA? Well, this is one of them.

Esther Diamond is an actress in New York. She's the understudy for a play, and when the lead disappears, she gets her big shot. If only she could be excited about it, instead of thinking about the danger this brings.

So, she tries to avoid the part, dodge a cop investigating the disappearance, while discovering there's so much more in the world...

This was so much fun! Seriously, I had such a great time reading this funny UF story. I laughed so many times, but it's not all fun and games. There's plenty of darkness lurking beneath the surface, and an unexpected supernatural malice. But mostly, I enjoyed meeting the cast of colourful and interesting characters.

I really liked Esther. She was hilarious, witty and reacted well when forced into some pretty shitty situations. I really enjoyed getting caught up in her voice.

There's a bit of everything thrown into this book and it all appealed to me. Even the hint of romance was great. And the whole magicians thing was very cool. Yeah, I had an awesome time with this!

Also, any book that mentions how great it would be for that disgusting Trump to disappear, is a good one.

Sunday, 14 February 2021

THE FURIES by Katie Lowe

 

The FuriesThe Furies by Katie Lowe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had this book on my TBR pile since I bought it over a year ago, so it was definitely time to check it out.

When Violet was a teenager, she attended Elm Hollow Academy, where a sixteen-year-old girl was posed on a swing and found dead on the school grounds. Years later, Violet recalls what happened when she joined an advanced study group and befriended the other girls...

Yikes. This is quite a book and it sure packs a punch. As soon as Violet's story begins, tragedy strikes. Yet, this girl continues on with her life. Actually excels in her self-taught schoolwork even though her mother has resigned from life and doesn't offer much support. Violet does so well she ends up in a girls academy. Where she finds herself to be an outsider but also an insider with a particularly 'weird' group of girls most stay away from.

Her alienation and desperate need to belong catches the attention of Robin. A self-confident troublemaker who ends up influencing Violet into some very dark territory. By slipping into a passive state, Violet becomes a passenger in her own life and watches all the bad things that happen to her and around her without taking charge. It's quite disturbing to watch, but not surprising.

I actually found it quite sad. Violet is so easily pressured into going along, without much of a push, because she's in a bad place. She's obviously got a lot of grief she hasn't dealt with properly, and this affects her on a deeper level than she herself realises. It becomes very frustrating at times, but totally fits the scene.

And this is all before we consider the toxic and harmful friendship she's so devoted to. This story definitely deals with a lot of disturbing facets of teenage girls. This is as bad as it gets, goes beyond peer pressure and cuts straight to downright cruel and criminal behaviour that can fester when girls are so often hurt and manipulated by guys/men.

Some of the content in this book is truly shocking. There are no heroes within these pages, but it sure is an engrossing read. That's for sure. I enjoyed the use of the female rage and injustice via various artworks, Greek mythology and Shakespeare, to name a few. It totally worked to deepen the severity of what happens and adds a surreal quality to the storytelling that makes so much of it feel so ambiguous.

Also, the writing style is thick with description that might have felt like a slog in any other book, but provided the perfect narrative in this one. And that ending! Didn't quite expect that. 👀

I really enjoyed this. It's a very powerful book, and it's not pretty. Everything about this story is raw, ugly and seen through the gritty lens of anger.

Thursday, 11 February 2021

SLEEP LIKE A BABY by Charlaine Harris

 

Sleep Like a Baby (Aurora Teagarden, #10)Sleep Like a Baby by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love the Aurora Teagarden mystery series, so it's always great to read the next book.

Aurora and Robin might have embarked on the new adventure of parenting, but that doesn't mean trouble won't find them.

While Robin goes to a conference, Roe gets sick and needs the help of a nurse to look after their baby. But it doesn't take long for the nurse to disappear and a corpse to appear in their backyard...

As soon as I started, it was easy to slip back into Roe's life. Charlaine Harris sure knows how to write an interesting mystery, and characters that keep you coming back.

The mystery in this one was hard to figure out because there was a lot going on, plenty of red herrings and a bit of misdirection. I like it when it's hard to solve because the story kept me guessing most of the way through.

One of my favourite things about this series--and something Charlaine Harris does very well with all her stories--is how well she weaves everyday stuff into intriguing and dangerous situations. And she did that perfectly here. This time featuring Roe as a new mother, while dealing with sickness, family problems and murder.

Another great addition to this series!

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

TALES OF THE SUPERNATURAL is now available!

 

Today, I'm very excited to announce that my short story, The Girls Who Walked into the Woods, is included in this YA horror anthology!


TALES OF THE SUPERNATURAL
Otranto House


Demonic forces lurk in the woods. 

The death of a teen leads to an eerie police interview.

A vengeful spirit of an executed prisoner.

Fear and superstition leave young women vulnerable in a provincial village.

Voices from a well that whisper dark secrets. 

A small English town with sinister traditions. 
 

Tales of the Supernatural is a collection of six chilling tales that will haunt every reader and delight fans of horror. 


Featuring chilling tales from:

Yolanda Sfetsos
Sam Pope
Neve York
Martha Watson
Karen Featherstone
Jessica Allen



 Edited by Elizabeth Kennedy



 It's now available:
Otranto House | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon Australia | Amazon Canada




THE POWER OF THREE by Eliza Willard

 

The Power of Three (Charmed, #1)The Power of Three by Eliza Willard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved watching the show Charmed. So when I found this book in a local Street Library, I had to grab it.

The Halliwell sisters aren't exactly close. After their grandmother died, Prue and Piper moved back into their childhood home. They get along well enough and lead their own lives. But when Phoebe returns and reads a magical incantation from a book she finds in the attic, everything changes.

Now, the three sisters must face their dangerous destiny as the Charmed Ones...

Wow. I enjoyed the hell out of this little book. What a fun and quick read!

This is the novelisation of the very first episode of the show, but because the narrative features the alternating POVs of the three sisters, there's extra insight into each of their personal experiences, thoughts and emotions. This added depth to what I already knew about the sisters and made the book even more interesting.

There's something about this story that felt like slipping into a very familiar and comfortable place. Like catching up with old friends. It made my reading experience so much better.

As far as the story goes, there weren't many surprises for me because I've watched this episode multiple times, but it was still exciting. And I really liked the author's writing style. It was straightforward, mysterious and delved deep into each POV.

Always enjoyed how the Halliwell sisters get back together and become the Charmed Ones.

I loved this story so much I'm going to have to read more books in this series. 😈


View all my reviews

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

A LINE IN THE DARK by Malinda Lo

 

A Line in the DarkA Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love the cover of this book and was intrigued from the first time I saw it. So when I found the hardback on special at Amazon, I grabbed a copy.

Jess Wong cares a lot about her best friend Angie Redmond. More than Angie knows. She doesn't mind hanging out on the sidelines and keeping her true feelings hidden. But when Angie starts seeing a girl called Margot from a nearby boarding school, everything changes. It puts an uncomfortable distance between them, and invites a certain darkness into their seemingly average lives...

I was instantly hooked into Jess's sad and lonely world. A sad world where she's secretly in love with her best friend. And the lonely world it becomes when Angie starts seeing someone. When this happens, Jess changes. It was so unexpected, how easily the story turned from two happy friends who spend heaps of time together, to Jess losing herself in anger and jealousy. To the point of becoming a withering shadow who only finds solace in the comic book she's creating.

The first part in this book is written in the first-person POV of Jess. We get to see the events unfold through her eyes, experience her personal thoughts, and start to understand her uneasy family dynamics. But when I reached the second part, the POV shifted to Jess's third-person POV and a variety of transcripts. A move I wasn't expecting, but certainly turned the story's direction sideways and deepened my interest even further.

I thought this writing style worked so well for this story.

On the surface, Jess seems like a quiet, mousey character who is easy to take advantage of. But she's so much more. Actually, I loved that all the characters were complex and nothing is quite as it first appears.

I really enjoyed this twisty tale of how complicated and toxic teenage friendship between girls can become. How easy it is for secrets and feelings to fester when they keep the truth hidden, and how quickly everything can get totally out of control.

This is such a great book!



View all my reviews

Sunday, 7 February 2021

HIDDEN BODIES by Caroline Kepnes

 

Hidden BodiesHidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read YOU a few years ago and even watched the first season of the TV show. I really enjoyed both, yet hated just about everything about most of the characters. Especially Joe.

Just like the first book, as soon as I started I found myself gritting my teeth because Joe is such a fucking asshole. On the inside, he's all caught up in lovey-dovey thoughts about Amy, but on the outside he's still the same possessive idiotic stalker determined to stick his nose into her private business in his pathetic quest to know everything. And it goes beyond trust, because he's got some seriously deranged habits.

It was hilarious to see how his sloppy happiness doesn't last. I don't usually wish ill will on characters, but I certainly relished every time Joe found himself in a bad situation. He might think he's the most intelligent person in the room, but many of the situations he gets himself into prove he's quite the opposite. He's a silly loser chasing revenge with someone who might be his match.

The most ridiculous thing about Joe--asides from his ability to get away with terrible shit most of the time--is that his biggest quest is finding love. Seriously. All this douchecanoe wants is to find his forever love, and he's prepared to eliminate anyone who tries to get in his way during this very selfish pursuit.

Man, he really is a loser. But he does manage to fall in Love again. This time, he gets himself involved with a wealthy family with plenty of secrets and weirdness. Although Love appears quite nice and normal on the surface, she has her own problematic issues. Or introduces new problems into Joe's life that he didn't expect.

Still, Joe will do anything for love!

The thing about this series is that even though I can't stand this very annoying, sex-obsessed, psychotic, murderous asshole... I also couldn't stop reading because his story totally hooked me in. And I had to find out what was going to happen next because the tension kept me glued to the pages. 😅

To get so wrapped up in the very selfish story of this conniving prick to the level I did, really says a lot about what a great writer Caroline Kepnes is. She's got such an easygoing, yet very intense writing style that drags me in every time.

I enjoyed the hell out of this twisty book and was shocked by that very unexpected ending. I'm really looking forward to reading Joe's next sad adventure...

Saturday, 6 February 2021

Some Reading Thoughts


Earlier this year, when I posted my Reading Goals for 2021, I talked about changing my usual 100-book target to 50.

The main reason I made this change was because I wanted to read a bunch of longer books. But now, after my first month of reading, I've also decided to make another change. 

Well, it's actually an idea my husband had.

After my first skim-read this year, I was complaining to him about how I hate skims/DNFs counting towards my total annual reading total. So, he suggested that I add a book to my goal every time I skim-read/DNF something.

His suggestion sounded so cool, I can't believe I haven't thought of this myself! LMAO.

Yep. Hubby has some great ideas. 😁

So, as of right now--because I've skim-read 2 books and DNFd 1--my Reading Goal has gone up to 53

I'm pretty sure this will change again because sometimes a book just doesn't work for me, but I think it's a really cool way to make sure every book I list on my Goodreads Goal List is a book I've read from cover to cover.

My 2021 reading has been working out really well so far.

Well, that's it for this post. 

Happy Reading!


Friday, 5 February 2021

SHIVER by Allie Reynolds

 

In this propulsive locked-room thriller, a reunion weekend in the French Alps turns deadly when five friends discover someone has deliberately stranded them in a deserted mountaintop resort.


When Milla is invited to a reunion in the tiny resort that saw the peak of her snowboarding career, she drops everything to go. While she would rather forget the events of that winter, the invitation comes from Curtis, the one person she can't seem to let go. 

The five friends haven't seen each other for ten years, since the disappearance of the beautiful and enigmatic Saskia. But when an icebreaker game turns menacing, they realise they don't know who has really gathered them there and how far they will go to find the truth. In an isolated lodge high up a mountain, amid a looming snowstorm, the secrets of the past are about to come to light.



I love thrillers, especially ones written by women. So, when I spotted this book in Hachette's January catalogue, I was instantly intrigued by the concept.

When Milla gets an invitation from her old friend to attend an unexpected reunion in the resort she stayed in ten years ago at the peak of her snowboarding career, she accepts.  

These five friends haven't seen each other in a decade. Not since Saskia disappeared. As soon as they arrive, something doesn't feel right, and it doesn't take long for the suspicions to start...

Wow. This is one tense and addictive book! I started reading and found it really hard to put down, because it's so darn interesting. I wanted to find out where it was going to lead because everyone seems guilty.

Told in the intense POV of Milla and alternating through her experience in the Present and Ten Years Ago, the events move at the perfect pace. Everything starts out pretty simple: a woman in her 20s heads to the French Alps to enter a series of snowboarding competitions and befriends a group of fellow athletes. But it doesn't take long for a vicious rivalry to start, for attractions to flare up, the competition to heat up and tragedy to strike. 

Threaded through this exciting story, pumped full of energy and the high adrenaline of snowboarding, is the creepy deserted mountaintop these five friends currently find themselves in. Someone has clearly rounded them up and isolated them, but no one knows who, why, or what their intentions are.

Watching everything unravel is captivating.

Not to mention that Milla is an obsessive and unsteady narrator. In the past she was a competitive fiend who did anything--and I mean anything--to get ahead of her opponents. In the present she's full of doubt, suspects everyone, but is still hiding plenty.

Shiver is a startling and very claustrophobic thriller that chilled me to the bone. Not just because the cold atmosphere is so vivid it leaps off the page, but also because the mystery is so gripping, the secrets are many and so very dark. And these characters are all the perfect level of frustrating and flawed.

I loved this book!

Thank you Hachette Australia for sending me a copy! 



Shiver, January 2021, ISBN 9780733644900, Hachette Australia

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

GIRLS WITH RAZOR HEARTS by Suzanne Young

 

Girls with Razor Hearts (Girls with Sharp Sticks, #2)Girls with Razor Hearts by Suzanne Young
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed the first book in this trilogy, so I was looking forward to checking this one out.

Mena and her friends--Sydney, Marcella, Brynn and Annalise--might have escaped the Innovations Academy, but the trauma from the violence they suffered and the truths they uncovered aren't as easy to leave behind. Especially when they make it their mission to track down an investor by enrolling in Ridgeview Prep.

In this private school, they find that the world is a hard place for girls. No matter where they are...

Wow. This is another powerful addition to this daring and totally awesome feminist SF trilogy.

The story pretty much starts where the first book ends. There's a lot going on within the pages of this engrossing book, and most of it will make you squirm. Not just because of the awful world these girls find themselves in even after escaping the academy, but also because so much of it will sound familiar. Unfortunately, sexism and violence against women is very real, but in Mena's world it's also very much accepted because powerful men are trying so hard to strip the rights of women.

Like the first installment, the sense of sisterhood between the main group of girls is amazing. Strong and true. Unfaltering. But now, we also meet several girls/women who are so hellbent on getting their lives back, they're on the border of becoming just as bad as the men. 😳

I can't wait to see what happens in the third/final book, because Mena and her friends refuse to paint all guys/men with the same brush. And I'm looking forward to seeing their idea of a revolution. Did I mention I love these brave girls?

These characters are great, but there are plenty of malicious types from both genders, too. Some that inspire so much hate you can't wait to see them go down.

Oh, and don't even get me started on the twists and turns. There are many, and they're all SO good. Can't wait to find out more about the very fascinating Raven.

Like I've said before, every time I read a book like this, I enjoy the hell out of these kinds of uncomfortable stories. Where men try to mentally and physically beat them down, but girls/women always find a clever way to not just overcome this adversity, but destroy it!

Bring on the next one.

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY: Women of Horror Volume 3 is now available!

 

Last year, I was lucky enough to be included in the first Women of Horror anthology released by Kandisha Press, as well as the second volume.


Today, I'm super excited to announce that my short story, Lady of the House, appears in Volume 3..


THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY: 2020 WOMEN OF HORROR ANTHOLOGY, VOLUME 3
Kandisha Press

What doesn't kill me, might make me kill you!

30 women authors from around the world were challenged to write about The One That Got Away. Here you'll find tales of unrequited love, blind dates gone wrong, stalkers and their prey, cursed guitars, alien symbiotes, sinister letters, and bitter acts of revenge. Dive into these murky depths and discover what hides inside the minds of women scorned.


Featuring chilling tales from:

Carmen Baca
Ushasi Sen Basu
Demi-Louise Blackburn
Ashley Burns
R.A. Busby
Amira Krista Calvo
Dawn DeBraal
Shawnna Deresch
Ellie Douglas
Amy Grech
KC Grifant
Meg Hafdahl
Rowan Hill
Stevie Kopas
Michelle Renee Lane
Catherine McCarthy
Villimey Mist
Mocha Pennington
Faith Pierce
Janine Pipe
Lydia Prime
Paula RC Readman
Marsheila Rockwell
Lucy Rose
Rebecca Rowland
Yolanda Sfetsos
Hadassah Shiradski
Barrington Smith-Seetachitt
J Snow
Sonora Taylor


 Edited by Jill Girardi
With Foreword by Gwendolyn Kiste (Bram Stoker award winning author of The Rust Maidens)

With cover art design by Ilusikanvas.


 It's now available:
Kindle | Paperback | Kobo | NOOK | Apple



Sunday, 31 January 2021

A Month of Reading

Hey! 

How are you today? Can you believe the first month of 2021 is almost over? Yikes. 😳

So, what have you been up to? 

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I started the year with edits and interviews. Then, without consciously planning to, I ended up taking a bit of a break during the rest of January. 

I hung out with hubby, we went for a lot of walks (started going for two daily walks every second day), did plenty of yoga (a workout every second day), sorted my bookshelves/piles, donated heaps of these books, and read quite a few awesome books.

Yep. Our days were full of time together, delish meals, naps, hubby playing Hades/Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and me reading up a storm. 😁

These are the books I read:
  1. Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis
  2. Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall
  3. Meridian by Amber Kizer
  4. Dead Silence by Kimberly Derting
  5. You Must Not Miss by Katrina Leno
  6. Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M McManus
  7. Ironside by Holly Black
  8. None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney
  9. Cruel Summer by Juno Dawson
  10. Beautiful Decay by Sylvia Lewis
  11. The Sad Ghost Club by Lize Meddings
  12. A Dowry of Blood by ST Gibbons
  13. Lore by Alexandra Bracken
  14. Outlawed by Anna North
Did you notice something about the 14 books I read this month? That's right, every single one of them is written by women. And most of them are YA, which is actually a mini challenge I set for myself. 

I'm really glad this is how we spent the beginning of the year because it's summer, and after the heavy revision I tackled during December (don't usually work that hard on completing writing projects in December) and the edits, my brain needed a break.

Besides, we're still in the middle of a pandemic. Sure, compared to the rest of the world Australia is doing really well and we're starting to see some normalcy in our everyday lives, but we still have to be very cautious. And trust me, we're still keeping our distance, wear masks to the shops and clean our hands constantly.

We refuse to get complacent. 😷

Now that the month is almost over, the writing bug has been nagging at me. This week, I've been taking notes for my novelette idea, collecting more research, and have finally found the right direction for this story. Which is really cool.

Oh, and I popped into Paula RC Readman's Clubhouse for a chat.

Well, that's it for now. This month was lovely. I enjoyed the long days with hubby, and am now ready to face the challenges of the upcoming month.

Stay safe!



Saturday, 30 January 2021

THE WIRED CITY is now available!

 

My Weird. Wonderful. Other Worlds. novella is now available from Demain Publishing.

Tolliver is caught in a cycle of boredom she desperately wants to escape. She hates her job writing silly slogans, doesn’t have any friends, and lives in a crowded city full of mindless androids.

When she stumbles on a mysterious classifieds message specifically targeted at her, Tolliver decides to leave her claustrophobic unit and finds herself in an unexpected adventure. A seemingly simple task leads her to a conspiracy theory that will put her life in danger, introduce her to a lot of potential friends, and some hard truths that circle back to her.


You can grab a copy from: 


 You can also: 



I've said this twice before and I'll say it again: I REALLY love the cover Adrian Baldwin made for Tolli's novella. This time, he actually created a poster mentioned in the story! It's so amazing to see such perfect attention to detail.   

THE WIRED CITY is a bit SF, a bit cyberpunk, has a bunch of robots and is definitely dark. 🤖 

Tolliver starts out disillusioned and bored, wishing for adventure. And when she finds it, she never expected to find herself caught in the middle of a dangerous situation. 

I'm so excited about sharing this story, and very happy to have another book released by Demain Publishing. 

Yay!

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

OUTLAWED by Anna North

In the year of our Lord 1894, I became an outlaw.

On the day of her wedding-dance, Ada feels lucky. She loves her broad-shouldered, bashful husband and her job as an apprentice midwife.

But her luck will not last. It is every woman's duty to have a child, to replace those that were lost in the Great Flu. And after a year of marriage and no pregnancy, in a town where barren women are hanged as witches, Ada's survival depends on leaving behind everything she knows.

She joins up with the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang. Its leader, a charismatic preacher-turned-robber, known to all as The Kid, wants to create a safe haven for women outcast from society. But to make this dream a reality, the Gang hatches a treacherous plan. And Ada must decide whether she's willing to risk her life for the possibility of a new kind of future for them all.


When I received an email about this book, I was instantly interested in checking it out. How could I not be interested in a feminist western version of The Handmaid's Tale meets the Salem witch trials?

In an alternate version of 1894, after the Great Flu, it's a woman's duty to have children. If she doesn't deliver, her life isn't worth much, she gets kicked out of the house, and most are eventually labelled witches. 

Ada's happy to get married while being an apprentice midwife with her mother, but when she can't get pregnant she escapes the town. This leads to the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang led by the enigmatic The Kid, and a very dangerous life...

I really enjoyed this story!

There's a lot to like about this book, and I especially loved the writing style. Ada's voice is simple, interesting and totally engrossing. Her narrative also manages to sneak in a lot of worldbuilding in such a natural and gripping way, that it adds to the experience. 

Ada is such a great character because she's smart, kind and respectful but most people don't see that. All they care about is her lack of getting pregnant and that she asks too many questions. She's inquisitive and wants to help others, plus she's damned good at medicine. 

There are so many brilliant women and none of them are taken seriously because of the religious brainwashing storming through their collective towns. Outdated and silly superstitions strong enough to devalue these women enough all they want to do is escape the confines of this small thinking and start their own safehaven.

I also thought it was really cool how so many familiar problems we still face in society nowadays were woven into this story in a great way. And that the narrative doesn't shy away from different types of mental illness and sexual orientation.

Outlawed is an intriguing and fantastic book that swept me away to a harsh and unfair alternate history that mirrors some of the worst things about our world. Stories like these always interest me because I love to see women fighting the system for themselves and each other. It's messy, unstable and the relationships can get rough sometimes, but I love where they take me. 

Thank you Hachette Australia for sending me a copy!


Outlawed, January 2021, ISBN 9781474615358, W&N

Sunday, 24 January 2021

LORE by Alexandra Bracken

 

LoreLore by Alexandra Bracken
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a book I've wanted to read since I saw that awesome cover. I mean, Medusa is one of my faves in Greek mythology, so of course!

But I'm sad to say it didn't work for me.

I have to admit that I had a problem with this whole Agon thing from the beginning. Even though, on the surface, everything about the worldbuilding seemed to add up and make sense if you have pre-knowledge of Greek Mythology... the more the story moved along, the more inconsistencies started popping up. I had too many questions about this whole god hunt/kill thing and the Houses. The story started to drag (a lot) and I wasn't invested in any of the characters.

The beginning grabbed me because I liked Lore's tough attitude, but I quickly lost interest. Still, I pushed on. Reached the halfway point before I realised I didn't want to invest too much more time on this book. So, I skimmed the rest. Skipped chunks of pages without losing the thread or missing much. I found out all the secrets and twists and was very disappointed with all of them.

I really feel like this book should've been a lot shorter. And it would've flowed way better without the endless infodumps thrown all over the place.

Also, the main reason why I was so interested in this story--Medusa--wasn't worth the time I wasted anticipating how she fit in.

This makes me sad because I really wanted to love this book, and just couldn't. 😢

Friday, 22 January 2021

A DOWRY OF BLOOD by ST Gibson

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets. 

 With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.


I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book from the publisher this week, and couldn't wait to get started.

While left for dead on the battlefield, Constanta captures the attention of a mysterious man who saves her by turning her into something else. And so begins her life as one of the brides of the cunning Dracula. A vampire tyrant who hides cruelty behind love and strips freedom away from everyone who crosses his path...

Wow. This is such a lyrical and beautiful story. An addictive tale I couldn't put down.

Told from the POV of Constanta, as she confesses via a series of long and intimate letters to the vampire who gave her a second chance and shaped her world, I was captivated by the vivid imagery and strong emotional impact.

The words captured my imagination and swept me off my feet instantly. The tale that unravels within the pages of this wonderful book is seductive, dark, full of lavish excess, and features many historical settings. It features unquenchable lust and a shared love capable of hurting as much as it pleasures.

All the characters involved in this family are fascinating in their own way. Magdalena is sweet and vibrant, an independent woman whose fire slowly dims. Alexi is a shining beautiful young man with so much energy and enthusiasm who finds himself stifled. And Constanta is a gentle soul full of love and belief, even after her transformation. I was drawn to these amazing characters and drowned in sympathy because of what they go through.

This story is full of the manipulations of a wretched creature able to destroy anyone he comes in contact with. The narrative doesn't shy away from bloody violence, abuse, and dares to tread into some very dark places. It's also sexy, passionate, romantic and so lovely.

It's everything a vampire story should be and more. So much more.

I really enjoyed this book, and the cover is creepy and perfect. Totally suits the melancholy impression Constanta left with me long after reading her last word. 


Thursday, 21 January 2021

My First Mini Reading Challenge


Hey! How are you?

Today, I wanted to stop by to chat about my reading so far this year. I might have posted my personal Reading Goals for 2021 at the beginning of this month and even posted it on Goodreads, but I also like giving myself spontaneous Mini Challenges.

The first one I gave myself was to read 10 highly-anticipated (by me) YA (paperback) books written by women. 

Here's how I did:

As you can see, I actually ended up reading 11. There's a great mix of books in this bunch featuring different genres, authors and styles. And 10 out of those 11 were 5-star ratings! Yay.

I even managed to read the last book in a thriller quartet and the last in an urban fantasy series. Books I'd been meaning to read for years

I'm SO excited about completing these two books. 😃

Well, that's about it. I'm just very excited about getting such a great start to my reading this year. I hope it continues!



THE SAD GHOST CLUB by Lize Meddings

 

Ever felt anxious or alone? Like you don't belong anywhere? Like you're almost... invisible? Find your kindred spirits at The Sad Ghost Club. (You are not alone. Shhh. Pass it on.) 

This is the story of one of those days - a day so bad you can barely get out of bed, when it's a struggle to leave the house, and when you do, you wish you hadn't. But even the worst of days can surprise you. When one sad ghost, alone at a crowded party, spies another sad ghost across the room, they decide to leave together. What happens next changes everything. 

 Because that night they start the The Sad Ghost Club - a secret society for the anxious and alone, a club for people who think they don't belong. 



As soon as I spotted this book in the Hachette catalogue, I knew I had to read it. Not just because the cover is adorable, but also because I found the concept intriguing. And somewhat familiar.

Sam desperately wants to finish his essay, but he stayed up too late and the cat won't leave him alone. Before he realises what he's doing, he's accepted a party invitation and that sets off a new bunch of racing thoughts. If only he'd just concentrated on his essay...

OMG. This is such a lovely graphic novel! Not only is the book beautiful and the illustrations lovely, but the story within these pages is very relatable. How many times have simple thoughts caused a landslide of anxiety within your mind? Until you feel like you're tumbling down a dark hole full of worries that never stop?

Let me take a breath because I know exactly what that feels like. Magnifying the smallest of concerns to the point of exhaustion is how Sam deals with his day. Until he finds he's not alone. And that there are others with even darker and more helpless problems.

That's when he decides it's time to reach out.

The Sad Ghost Club is a moving story anyone who's ever felt invisible will not only relate to, but really enjoy. I Iiked how unpredictable everything was, loved where it ended and thought using ghosts to represent this state of mind was perfect. The message was sweet too. We're never really alone, and there's always someone who'll see you no matter how little you think you matter.

Thank you Hachette Australia for sending me a copy! 


The Sad Ghost Club, January 2021, ISBN 9781444957358, Hodder Children's Books

BEAUTIFUL DECAY by Sylvia Lewis

 

Beautiful DecayBeautiful Decay by Sylvia Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book I found last year while checking out Amazon paperback deals. It was cheap, sounded very interesting, and I love the title!

Ellie lives an isolated, lonely life and everyone at school calls her a freak. Even her parents are uncomfortable around her because her touch rots anything she touches.

She wears gloves all the time, her only friend is online, and although Ellie's smart she isn't looking forward to much of a future. Until she meets the new kid in school. Nate has his own condition and as their friendship intensifies, Ellie realises she's not the only freaky person in town...

Wow. I didn't expect to enjoy such an unknown book SO much. It was awesome! I shouldn't be surprised because a lot of great titles slip under the radar, so I'm really glad I found this one.

I was very curious about this book since it arrived and moving it up to the top of my TBR pile was a great idea. The supernatural angle was dark and so fascinating. It was delivered in a very organic way and also took a very unexpected turn I didn't expect.

What starts out as a story about a shunned girl with a rotten curse everyone avoids, soon becomes the tale of two online friends, before shifting to her finding her first true friend in the boy in school. BUT, before you get comfortable with all of that, the supernatural twist hits and you realise the boy has even more secrets than the girl. And that while Nate's condition makes him a little temperamental, there's a real emotional connection between these two. And this is before you find out the secret he's keeping at home! 👀

Yep. This story is packed full of so much awesome stuff, and Ellie's such a wholesome narrator--though she has so many reasons to not be--that I couldn't help falling deeply into her antiseptic, loveless life as she discovers the true sense of mutual caring. As she slowly learns she does in fact deserve love and respect.

I also really liked Mackenzie because she was cool, understanding and fun. Not to mention has her own very interesting story.

The worst characters in this book were the parents. They were awful and kept the secrets they had no right to keep quiet. But it was refreshing to see adults behaving like the assholes some can be to their own children.

This is a great YA supernatural story with some great ideas and some fantastic imagery. Loved it! 🌱

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

CRUEL SUMMER by Juno Dawson

 

Cruel SummerCruel Summer by Juno Dawson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here's another book I've had my eye on for years and finally purchased a copy.

Ryan hasn't seen his school friends in a year. Not since their friend committed suicide after their prom. Now, they're all getting together for a few weeks in a beautiful Spanish villa.

Time might have gone by and put a bit of distance between them, but soon confusing thoughts start to resurface as quickly as memories and the group dynamic. And Ryan's still convinced Janey didn't kill herself... 

OMG! Yikes. Juno Dawson never disappoints. No matter what subgenre she tackles, she sure delivers an engrossing and entertaining story. I was instantly hooked and couldn't wait to find out how this was going to end. 👀

Ryan's voice is addictive, interesting and even funny. He's super snarky too. I love how his side of the story is narrated in a very TV-show style, because it presents all the facts in such a cool way. It makes following this group of friends an intoxicating experience that I found hard to pull away from.

Alisha's POV also provided great insight and filled in the blanks between Ryan's POV. Oh, and the surprise ones were very informative too.

Essentially, this is a murder mystery featuring beautiful self-absorbed young characters who are so obviously keeping secrets from each other, find cheeky ways of concealing the truth by presenting pretty lies, and share a toxic friendship that ties them together. This group has so much room for destruction, it's no wonder they barely talked to each other since finishing school. There's also a lot of stylish drama and biting dialogue. Yes, the snark is strong in these characters. And I loved every minute of it. 😁

Another thing I enjoyed about this book is how well the location and season is portrayed. The description of the villa and beach is perfect to set the summery scene, making the heat drip off every page. Not to mention that as gorgeous as the view is, there's also a strong sense of unease beneath the surface the whole time. And when things start to unravel, it all comes undone very quickly. And violently.

This story might appear lovely on the surface, but there's a very ugly core at the heart of everything. The secrets these friends are keeping provide a twisty and awesome tale of deceit it's very easy to lose yourself in. None of these characters are innocent and it's easy to judge them, but I was still sad at the end. 😢

Man, I LOVED this excellent dark and twisted thriller that keeps you guessing until the end. 

 
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