Book Review: The Unflinching Ash by Angela Armstrong

Rating: ★★★★
RRP Paperback: $25.00 NZD

Goodreads Synopsis:

In a world like ours, Mystics once ruled the night. Well, so long as they were men. On Ash’s day of naming, she chose the Mystic path nonetheless. The same illusions that garner gasps of awe from the lamp-lit crowds earn her scorn from the basilica. There is only one way forward: a perilous quest – earn the Queen’s Seal, a badge of honour, and immunity. She’ll simply have to avoid being hanged, burned or drowned first.

First of all I’d like to give a huge thank you to the author, Angela Armstrong, for giving me not only an electronic copy of The Unflinching Ash, but also the beautiful physical copy you see in the photo above. (Seriously, how does any book have the right to be this gorgeous?)

Diving straight in, this book was fantastic! I really found myself enjoying it the whole way through. The Unflinching Ash tells the story of Ash, a female Mystic (kind of like a modern day illusionist or escape artist) who strives to win the Queens favour and gain protection from those who seek to harm her from within the bigoted and cruel Church. This book was full of grit and perfectly timed humour, but also touched on some very heavy topics. I absolutely loved it.

I found the beginning a little bit slow and confusing, but it didn’t take long before I got myself situated within the world and the story really took off. I loved the writing style and felt it fit perfectly with the world and the characters that Armstrong built. Speaking of which, I fell hard for these characters! Especially Ash and her love interest, Ren. This book is perfect for those who enjoy a bit of romance within the plot, but aren’t looking for it to completely over power the story.

Ash herself was a total badass and I kind of wish I was more like her. She’s completely headstrong and sure of herself (even if sometimes my introverted ass was screaming “PLEASE DON’T DO ANYTHING STUPID!”). I just found it hard to sit back and relax when she wouldn’t take help from anyone… but I mean, if I was as much of a badass as she is, I probably wouldn’t need any either.

The fact that the author drew a lot of inspiration from real historical events made a lot of what I read a whole lot more harrowing, but I loved seeing our girl, Ash, navigate through these situations and come out stronger.

Over all, this book was amazing. I really loved it. I think the characters were just *chefs kiss* perfection and I’d definitely pick up another book if it meant seeing more of them in the future (please, Angela… PLEASE? CAN WE HAVE MORE?!)

Is an E-Reader Worth the Money?

Once upon a time I was adamant I would never own a kindle. “I love physical books,” I would bellow! “How do I smell the crisp pages of an e-reader?” I would lament. Turns out… e-readers are actually mad convenient and I would 100% recommend getting one if you’ve been on the fence about it. Below are just a few of the reasons I adore my e-reader and believe you will too.

You don’t have to wait for books!

The amount of times I’ve finished the first book in a series and had to haul ass to the bookstore for the sequel has been unfortunate. Not only was it annoying and inconvenient, but on occasion the store wasn’t even open when I desperately needed the next book! Well not anymore! I can just jump online, purchase the book with a tap of my finger, and have it downloading to my Kindle in a matter of minutes. No more waiting! Woo!

It’s compact and easy to take traveling!

It’s so light that I take it with me everywhere. I’m the kind of person who always likes to have a book on them just in case, and now I can have several hundred books on me if I so choose! I barely notice when it’s in my bag an I love only having to carry my Kindle, rather than several different books when I’m close to finishing the first one and know I’ll want to start a new one. It’s an absolute game changer.

Books are way more affordable!

Don’t get me wrong, I love physical books and will continue to purchase my most anticipated reads in physical format, but if I’m not sure about a book or I’m not fussed on having it on my shelves, I’d much rather pay the $4-$12 for the ebook. I can also appreciate that the upfront cost of an e-reader can be a bit off putting, but it definitely begins to pay for itself when the books are so much cheaper than buying them physically!

You can read in the dark!

Yep. This was one of the biggest assets for me! Backlit pages have made it possible for me to read when others are sleeping or even watching a movie! I won’t disturb anyone while I sit in the corner or lay in bed, feverishly tapping through pages, seeking answers.

You can look up and highlight your favourite quotes without feeling like you’re desecrating your book.

I know not everyone cares about this, but I’m a massive stickler when it comes to not dog-earring a book and there will certainly be no writing, drawing or highlighting in a physical book on my watch. Having an e-reader has made keeping all my favourite quotes highlighted in one spot so easy and I don’t carry any guilt about it!

So whether you’re against e-readers or not, there is no denying that they are a convenient, eco friendly option for those looking to switch up their reading style. Go on, do it, get the e-reader! You won’t regret it, I promise!

Book Review: Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone

Rating: ★★★.5
RRP Paperback: $24.99 AUD
Release Date: September 2021

A huge thank you to the wonderful people at Macmillan AU for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads synopsis:

There are monsters in the world.

When Violeta Graceling arrives at haunted Lakesedge estate, she expects to find a monster. She knows the terrifying rumors about Rowan Sylvanan, who drowned his entire family when he was a boy. But neither the estate nor the monster are what they seem.

There are monsters in the woods.

As Leta falls for Rowan, she discovers he is bound to the Lord Under, the sinister death god lurking in the black waters of the lake. A creature to whom Leta is inexplicably drawn…

There’s a monster in the shadows, and now it knows my name.

Now, to save Rowan—and herself—Leta must confront the darkness in her past, including unraveling the mystery of her connection to the Lord Under.

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This book absolutely gave me dark, gothic, atmospheric vibes. I swear I could taste the mist in the air while reading due to the lyrical and poetic writing style. It truly was lovely to read.

Lakesedge tells the story of Violeta Graceling and her brother Arien. Due to the nature of Arien’s magic, the siblings are summoned to the Lakesedge estate by Rowan Sylvanan to help heal the land after it was corrupted by an insidious magic.

I enjoyed this novel! The characters were great and I really liked the way the sibling bond between Leta and her brother was portrayed. The ‘I’d do anything for you’ love she showed for him was heartwarming (even though at times I wanted to shout directly at the book for her not to do anything stupid!) The supporting characters were fantastic and provided a lot of witty banter that definitely helped lighten the dark atmosphere of the book. I also appreciated that we got some lgbtq+ representation throughout!

The romance was good, not mind blowing, but it was good! This, along with some of the other plot points, did feel a little bit rushed. This could have more to do with the fact we were told how much time passed at the estate rather than shown, but it didn’t take away from what made the book enjoyable for me. Also, side note: I don’t know if it has something to do with my weakness for dark, mysterious characters, but I’m not convinced the characters involved in the romance are end game! (Once you read it, please come and tell me your thoughts, I need to know if it was just me or not!)

Overall, I enjoyed this book and look forward to seeing what’s in store for the next instalment. I would really love to learn more about the world. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being at the Lakesedge estate, but I’d love to see more of what the world has to offer these characters. 3.5 stars!

Once again, a huge thank you to Macmillan AU for sending me an ARC of Lakesedge in exchange for an honest review.

Just Like the Others… (My Publishing Story.)

If you’ve arrived here thinking this is going to have a happy ending, well.. I suppose it does. It’s just not the happy ending you’d expect. I haven’t landed some amazing book deal, I’m not on my way to the best seller list. But I have learned a lot about resilience and taking criticism with grace, and understanding that my novel wont be for everyone (and thats ok.)

I started writing my new adult fantasy novel with the feverish enthusiasm of someone who’s never been cut down for their work. I’d sit for hours each day, stealing time when my child was napping and then when she’d sleep at night. Staying up into the wee hours of the morning, learning more about my characters as I wrote and falling in love with them just a little bit more each chapter. I didn’t care what other people might think at that stage. I didn’t care that one day someone, anyone, might have to actually read it. I just wrote, and boy oh boy, did it feel amazing.

Flash forward about 5 months and I had completed my first draft. I sat looking it over, thinking it was amazing and ready for that first read through by someone who wasn’t me! But the more I thought about sending it off to my friends, the more I felt uneasy. The writing was clunky and it didn’t flow. I knew it wasn’t ready. So instead, I spent another few months going through my work and making changes.

Eventually I felt it was ready. I sent it off to my close friends and the feed back was actually positive! I was ecstatic! It was time to try my hand with the sharks, I mean… the publishers. (No offence to the publishers, but sending your novel in for the first time is kind of like jumping head first into a herd of hungry sharks with a bag of dead fish. It’s terrifying.)

I initially sent my novel to 10 different publishing companies. It wasn’t easy either, with each company wanting different things, the process to just get my applications sorted took months. You’d think I would have grown used to the slow process of book writing and publishing, but then came the longest wait of all. The one where you sit by your email, waiting for someone to accept or reject your baby.

Months go by and I eventually get a response from some of the publishing houses (not all, because most won’t reply if you’re unsuccessful.) Several were straight up rejections, but one, one, was promising. They wanted to see my full novel, not just the first three chapters, but the whole thing!

I send it in and more time goes by, I wait anxiously, checking my emails constantly for a response.

Then it comes…

The worst rejection of all.

The one where my childish enthusiasm finally took a dive.

Don’t get me wrong, they were right to reject the novel where it was at. It wasn’t where it needed to be to be published. I was given some feedback (which I can now appreciate more than anything, as it was proper, editor feedback, not best friend feedback.) It was interesting to see where things needed to change and how I needed to rework my novel to make it a more dynamic, fleshed out read.

Feeling disheartened, I decided to step away from publishing for a while and turned to Wattpad instead, a place I knew I would find a plethora of willing readers ready to give me feedback. I began uploading my novel one part at a time, reworking the story chapter by chapter. It turned out to be a really fun and fulfilling project. The novel changed in a lot of ways, scenes where added, characters where given more depth and the whole story just felt more… mature somehow. It became something I actually felt pretty dang proud of.

For now, the story will stay online and I’ll give people the opportunity to give me their feedback. Maybe one day I’ll try again and see if the publishers are willing to give a new adult fantasy novel a chance. But until then, you can find me plotting book number 2 and forever chasing that feverish enthusiasm I had prior to all the rejection.

If you’re interested in reading Daughters of Prophecy, you can read it here or by clicking the image below.

Book Review: Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

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Rating: ★★★★
RRP Paperback: $29.99 AUD

A huge thank you to the wonderful people at Pan Macmillan Publishing for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads synopsis:

North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women’s Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?

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This book really took me by surprise! Having been sent this book by Pan Macmillan, it wasn’t the kind of book I would normally pick up! But I am honestly so glad I did! It was really emotional and woven together so perfectly. It honestly felt like watching a painting come together.

Big Lies in a Small Town is told from two separate perspectives. One is that of Anna Dale, an ambitious young female artist in the 1940’s who, having won a competition, is chosen to create a mural that will hang in the post office of a small town in North Carolina. The other is that of Morgan Christopher, a woman serving time for a crime she did not commit, who is given a life altering opportunity to be released from prison early in exchange for restoring an old mural.

I really fell in love with how this story was told. it flowed so well from one perspective to the next and had this really beautiful way of making you slowly fall in love with these characters. The diversity of the supporting characters was amazing, the way the author delved into mental health and trauma was done incredibly well and I really enjoyed the history that was woven throughout the novel. I also really appreciated that we got two strong leading ladies in this book!

The plot itself was amazing. I want to say it’s almost a little bit of a “slow burn” in terms of pacing! It takes its time getting to know the ins and outs of the characters and unveils each plot point in a really intricate and interesting way. There were times I felt heartbroken, times I was genuinely shocked and times that I was in awe! A couple of the plot points I did find the tiniest bit predictable, but others were so intricate and surprising that it made for a really interesting read.

An emotional and perfectly painted mural of a book, that I highly recommend picking up. 4 stars!

Book Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

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Rating: ★★★★★
Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

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Just call me Cather, because I am FANGIRLING! I’m going to preface this review and say that if you don’t understand that reference, go away and read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell before you dive into Carry On. It isn’t necessary, but it does add to the fun of reading!

I have seen A LOT of negative reviews for Carry On. A LOT. Most of them comparing Carry On to Harry Potter. I went into this without any expectations, I didn’t compare it to anything, I just enjoyed the story. AND IT WAS AMAZING. We get the sweetest enemies to lovers, gay romance, which I think really carried this whole thing for me. The story was fun, but it’s not anything that hasn’t been done before. It’s Rainbow Rowell’s take on the classic “Chosen One” story! But the romance! That was perfection. I could re-read this over and over and I’d still squeal with excitement when Simon and Baz finally admit they have feelings for each other.

Now the only negative thing I really have to say is that the first quarter of this was fairly bland world building. Because we meet Simon in his last year at Watford School of Magicks, we have a bit of backstory to catch up on so it felt like not a lot happened. But once Baz enters the scene and we finally start getting a more character driven book, it becomes something you can devour in one sitting! As I have said, Simon and Baz made this book for me, I could take or leave a few of the supporting characters, but the romance was such perfection that I’ve already purchased a snowbaz t-shirt and pre-ordered Wayward Son (I told you to call me Cather, I was not joking around.)

I could honestly re-read this again immediately. I loved the quirky magic and easy going flow of the writing. It’s the mark of a great book when I can’t imagine picking up anything different. It’s given me a literal book hangover!

Just go read it, you won’t regret it. 1 million stars.

She’s Finally Reviewing ‘Sumpton’

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Well would you look at that! I finally did it! I took the plunge! I decided to start a blog. It’s an idea I have toyed with for such a long time. But to be honest I never really thought I’d be very good at it. Don’t get me wrong, I have had a blog before, but it was more of a cathartic letting of emotions after my brother passed away. A mish-mash of feelings and terrible events. The words just flowed from me back then, like a dam bursting. This blog however has been a long time coming and will be a place for joy and the overwhelming love of literature!

For as long as I can remember I have appreciated books. I felt it was about time that I write my reviews down and let them out into the world, instead of just thinking them!  So now I have a place to ramble, review and muse. If you’re interested in reading book reviews, or the nonsensical ramblings, rantings and ravings of a bibliophile, stick around!