Review: ‘Every Breath’ by Ellie Marney

Every Breath

Rachel Watts is an unwilling new arrival to Melbourne from the country. James Mycroft is her neighbour, an intriguingly troubled seventeen-year-old genius with a passion for forensics. Despite her misgivings, Rachel finds herself unable to resist Mycroft when he wants her help investigating a murder. And when Watts and Mycroft follow a trail to the cold-blooded killer, they find themselves in the lion’s den — literally.

A night at the zoo will never have quite the same meaning again…

A lot of people had recommended this book to me but, despite that, I probably never would have picked it up because it’s a murder mystery and that’s not my usual thing. However, I’m doing a couple of reading challenges this year — the Australian Women Writers challenge and one that’s Australian writers across different genres — so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and read Every Breath as my mystery installment.

I’m glad I did, and here are some of the reasons why:

* The characters are inspired by Sherlock Holmes without it actually being a retelling. Mycroft is a bit like Sherlock, but has his differences (I don’t think Sherlock was as good at making friends with strangers, and he wasn’t as insecure as Mycroft — though it’s been over a decade since I read any of the stories). Watts keeps Mycroft grounded — and fed — but has her own issues.

* I say “knowingly inspired” because they are aware of the connection their names suggest and make the occasional Sherlock Holmes joke, without it being overbearing. I actually really enjoyed that touch; I expected it to be a retelling, with the parallels unacknowledged by the characters, sort of an in joke between the author and reader. The fact the characters were in on the joke was awesome.

* I loved the characters, especially Mycroft and Watts, but also Mai, their Vietnamese friend, with her alternative dress code and occasionally hilarious t-shirts. I don’t think Mai owns a single plain t-shirt, which I can relate to!

* The plot is zippy and the murder mystery interesting. I did pick the murderer from their first scene, but that may just be because I’ve watched too many TV crime shows. ;)

* The romance subplot is obvious from the start, but doesn’t hog the limelight. The fact Mycroft and Watts started out as friends was great to see, but I also liked the fact that once they realised they liked each other, there wasn’t too much wailing and angst. They just got on with the kissing.

* The family dynamics are interesting. Watts’s parents are semi-present (as is traditional in YA) due to them being shiftworkers, but they do come together when they realise something is going on. Her brother, Mike, is more present than they are, and provides some familial guidance. (Mycroft on the other hand … the poor boy. I wanted to take him in and feed him.)

* It’s Australian! Obviously I knew this going in, given that’s why I picked it up, but it is so Australian, without straying into the stereotypical Crocodile Dundee drawl so few of us actually use. (There were “cuppas” and “uni”, but not “sheila” and “cobber”, if you know what I’m saying.)

The main thing I didn’t like about the book was actually the blurb. (Did “a night at the zoo” have some special meaning I wasn’t aware of? Also, why mention the lions? Why not leave that to be a surprise?!) I am also not a huge fan of the cover, although I don’t hate it.

Summary: Ellie Marney has game, and I’ll definitely read the next book to see what happens next.

Five stars

News: Isla’s Inheritance re-release coming soon

I’ve been sitting on some big news for a few days now, because I wanted to wait till it was official, and to give myself a chance to let it digest. My publisher for the Isla’s Inheritance trilogy, Turquoise Morning Press, is closing its doors this month. That means that the books will soon be temporarily unavailable while I get them ready to re-release.

I admit the timing isn’t great for me, given that Lucid Dreaming comes out next month. (Speaking of which, signups for the book blitz are up now!) But TMP hasn’t gone broke — meaning royalties are getting paid out — and the owner is doing her damnedest to look after the authors. That puts it light years ahead of some small press closures that I’ve heard of. #silverlining

Anyway, all of this means that, if you want to buy the trilogy with its current covers, you need to be quick*! I’ve decided to give the books a fresh look, with covers by KILA Designs, the same cover artist who did the gorgeous Lucid Dreaming cover. I want the books to all have a similar feel, since they’ll all be released by the “publishing house” that is me. (Branding, yada yada yada.)

In other news, I am over at Aussie Owned and Read today, talking about writing your way out of a sad place. The timing is coincidental, I swear!

*If you’re interested in a paperback of Isla’s Inheritance, I have a limited supply available that I am happy to sell for AU$10 plus postage — that’s less than cost! Send me an email at cassandrapage01 (at)


Review: ‘Burn’ by Paula Weston (The Rephaim #4)


Gaby remembers everything.

For a year she believed she was a backpacker chilling out in Pandanus Beach. Working at the library. Getting over the accident that killed her twin brother.

Then Rafa came to find her and Gaby discovered her true identity as Gabe: one of the Rephaim. Over a hundred years old. Half angel, half human, all demon-smiting badass—and hopelessly attracted to the infuriating Rafa.

Now she knows who faked her memories, and how—and why it’s all hurtling towards a massive showdown between the forces of heaven and hell.

More importantly, she remembers why she’s spent the last ten years wanting to seriously hurt Rafa.

I considered not reviewing this book on the blog and instead just writing a paragraph on Goodreads, since Burn is the fourth and final book in the Rephaim series, and if you’re considering starting this series you’re more likely to be swayed by a review of the first or maybe the second book. (I reviewed the second one, Hazehere and the third, Shimmerhere. I didn’t review the first on the blog, Shadows, because I read it before I was hugely into reviewing things. But I did write a short review on Goodreads.)

Then I remembered I’m behind on the Australian Women Writers challenge for this year. I’m aiming to read and review fifteen books by Aussie women, and I’m at nine.

So. Here it is, folks.

Some people review things with gifs.

If I were to review this book with gifs, these are some of the ones I’d use:


My excitement when I sat down to read Burn

Olaf beach

How all the talk about beaches made me feel

Who Gaby made me think of

Who Gaby made me think of



Boo sleepy

How I felt after staying up past my bedtime two nights in a row to finish Burn

And some people review things with lists.

Here is a list of things you should know about Burn, and the Rephaim series more generally.

  • It is Aussie urban fantasy. That means that, while some parts of it are set in the US and Europe, a large chunk of it is set on the Australian east coast, in a little tourist town backed by rainforests. The setting is divine. And made me want to go to the beach so badly it hurts. Hence the Olaf gif.
  • It has angels, half-angels and demons in it. The demons are all bad, but everyone else can best be described as “shades of grey”. And not the creepy billionaire kind.
  • OMG, the characters. Gaby. Rafa. Jude. (I still have a mad crush on Jude, but Rafa comes a close second.) There were a lot of extra characters that I found harder to keep straight at first, due to the gap between books, but Burn has a handy list at the front that tells you what faction the various Rephaim are in. It’s a lifesaver.
  • The plot is so fast it leaves you breathless. I’m not kidding, guys. The four books of this series are set over less than two weeks. Sure, there are flashbacks, particularly in Burn — an entire section is devoted to Gaby’s returned memories. I loved it; given I’d spent the first three books guessing what on earth she and Jude got up to, it was very gratifying to finally find out. Now all four books have been released, you won’t experience the excruciating wait that I did!
  • There are actual LOLs. It’s not a comedy, but the tension is relieved through humour.
  • Speaking of relieving tension… there is some heat to a couple of scenes, but it’s not graphic. We’re talking hot, not scorching. No naughty words are used or anything. ;)

I gave the preceding three books in the series five stars, so it’ll probably be no surprise to you that I gave this one five stars too. You all need to read these books. Now. Go.

Five stars

Review: ‘How To Save A Life’ by Lauren K. McKellar

How to Save a Life

I learnt the hard way that labels stick. Laura took “lovely”, and the teacher branded me “ladylike”. It stuck with me, even through my high school years. It felt like that was all I’d ever be. 

Until everything changed.

Lonely Lia.
Little Lia.
Lia the liar.
Lia the lost …

Now the choices are endless. But I don’t want to be any of those either.

My name is Lia Stanton. And this is my story.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Lauren McKellar’s writing, so perhaps it won’t be a surprise that this book BLEW ME AWAY. Lauren is one of a few contemporary authors who are on my “must read” list, and for very good reason. (With most, I’m like, “Yeah, but where’s the magic? Vampires? Witches? …no?”)

Lia is a seventeen year old in desperate need of a hug. She’s effectively the adult in her family life because of her mother’s issues with alcohol, but she doesn’t want her friends to know about it because above all else she can’t stand being the object of pity. Of course, that means that she doesn’t cry for help when she really should.

The closest Lia gets to a cry for help is her music. She’s a pianist, and her dream is to win a scholarship and move to Melbourne, away from her family and the people who know its secrets.

Enter Jase. I love Jase so hard. Lauren has this knack for writing amazing love interests, you guys! Jase is covered in tattoos and mixes a wicked cocktail (you can tell Lauren’s hubby is a bartender), but he also has this deeper side that makes me want to redacted

Can’t say that. :p

Jase leaves the most adorable notes on Lia’s wind-shield after hearing her play. I love them so hard.

I was broken.
I was scared.
Then I believed.
This is how you
Make me feel.

Other parts of the story are told through the use of flashbacks (often via nightmares). These were masterfully handled. Sometimes if I’m more interested in one storyline than another, I resent books that jump between times like this, but these flashbacks were interested and gave just enough detail to keep you on the hook.

Despite me needing to censor my review, the heat level in How to Save a Life is “medium” rather than “scorching”. The most we get is some heated kissing scenes. However, there is a problematic scene in there for those that are triggered by certain issues. It’s hard to say what without spoilers, but you can probably guess.

The only slight quibble I have is with one of the elements of the ending. It felt just a little bit too “happily ever after”, given the way previous events played out. But this quibble wasn’t enough to make me dock half a star or anything, and if anyone deserves a happily ever after, it’s Lia!

Five stars

Snazzy Snippets returns: excerpts from my work in progress

Snazzy Snippets

It’s the second instalment of Emily and Alyssa’s Snazzy Snippets writing blog link-up. You can find the details here, but basically the idea is that writers share three snippets of less than 500 words on set themes. It’s designed to let you have fun, analyse your work on a smaller level, or just write something to join in.

I already shared three snippets from Lucid Dreaming (my November release) last time. So to mix it up, this time I’ll share some excerpts from my WIP, an as-yet-unnamed fantasy that I describe as “Beauty and the Beast meets the Minotaur”.

It really needs a name, because although that’s a good description it’s quite clunky!

Snippet number one: a snippet with FOOD in it.

This is from chapter nine. I realised, reading it, that it’s the second scene I’ve written with porridge in it. (The first is in Lucid Dreaming.)

I guess I really like porridge.

A low table filled the centre of the room, with lounges on either side of it. Parthenia reclined in one, eating sliced and pitted plums from a plate on the cushion beside her. Dora stood by the table, her silver braid hanging over her shoulder and down the front of her body in a glimmering rope.

The old woman smiled as Rheia entered. “Please, sit,” she said, indicating the other lounge. “Would you like porridge?”

Rheia’s stomach rumbled. “Yes. Please.” She watched with interest as Dora spooned the food into a shallow bowl. The grains glistened with honey, and were mixed through with raisins gone fat with soaking, and with soft whey cheese. Not so dissimilar to the porridge she’d have made at home, although her family’s stock of raisins had been exhausted months ago. Dora added a handful of fresh-picked blackberries; they dimpled the surface of the porridge.

Rheia’s stomach fluttered as it struck her that she wouldn’t be able to go picking grapes later in the season. Autumn was her favourite season. She loved roaming the skirt of the mountain, basket filled with fruit. Would her mother take Aias alone this year?

Snippet number two: a snippet you’re really proud of.

This one is from chapter eight. I’m not sure if I’m really proud of it (I tried to find something without spoilers, and with some description), but it’s alright. :p

Grass sprung underfoot as Dora led Rheia across to a covered walkway on the far side, past a caregiver woman hunched over, carefully tending a low bush. Pillars ran along the walkway’s outside edge, while the inner wall opened onto several rooms.

One of them was closed off by a heavy curtain. “That is the other tribute’s room,” Dora said, nodding at it. “Her name is Parthenia. I am sure you will meet her at the evening meal.” Rheia recalled the proud, grey-eyed tribute she’d seen on the docks, the one who’d regarded the crowd with such contempt. Her stomach fluttered nervously at the idea of meeting the girl. “And this room is yours,” Dora continued.

The chamber was at least five times as large as Rheia’s bedroom at home. Its stone floor was covered with rich brown furs, and the bed was big enough for three, the cushions fat with downy feathers. The clothes chest was huge, its lid open so she could see folded fabric in an array of colours; a small shelf above it bore neatly arranged brooches to pin the chitons. Other chests sat around the room, lids closed. The inner walls were covered with tapestries: one, a rolling hillside covered with flowers; another, a herd of goats grazing peacefully, watched over by a small girl.

The windows were blocked by wooden panels carved with flower-shaped holes each the size of Rheia’s fist — large enough to allow her to see out and to admit a breeze, but small enough that she couldn’t escape through them. Her stomach swooped as she saw the room for what it was: an elaborate cage.

Snippet number three: The first paragraph from a WIP.

Okay, it’s a little more than a paragraph. :p

“The ships. They’re in the harbour!”

Rheia’s younger brother brushed past her, sandals slapping against the flagstones in the central courtyard as he darted for the villa’s outer door. Scowling, she steadied the heavy jar of oil in her arms and glared after him. Then his words sank in. “Aias, wait. I’ll come with you!”

The door slammed and he was gone.

She cursed, hurrying into the kitchen and setting the jar down on a shelf next to its almost-empty twin.

“Watch your language.” Rheia’s grandmother, Charis, sat by the stove, basking in the warmth from a log whose heart glowed cherry red as it slowly turned to cinders. Her hands worked busily, grinding barley into powder to make bread. “You sound like a soldier with that mouth. Or a sailor.”

So those are my snippets. If you want to take part, you can link your post so others can see it — just scroll to the bottom of this post and you’ll find the linky list there. You can also paste the link in the comments below so I can go check it out.


Audiobooks, colouring and being an adult


Since I joined Audible in June last year (they lured me in with a month’s free trial), I’ve become a bit of an audiobook addict. Usually I read my paperbacks in bed, and these days I’m generally so tired when I hit the sack that I barely manage to read a chapter before I fall asleep. Audiobooks, on the other hand, give me something to listen to in the car other than music and the news. I’d also listen to them while preparing dinner, folding the washing, that sort of thing.

More recently, I bought myself one of those newfangled adult colouring books and a set of coloured pencils. Now my new favourite form of relaxation is to sit at the dining table, surrounded by pencils and shavings, and scribble away while listening to the doings of whatever characters I’m shipping at the time.

It is basically the best thing ever.

When I first heard that adult colouring books were a thing, I was a bit bemused by the idea. (Trivia: there are also “adult” colouring books, if you know what I mean. *wink wink, nudge nudge* I don’t have any of those, but apparently Amazon does if you’re curious.) One of my friends expressed an interest in them, so after the Aussie Owned and Read post on them, I ordered a couple for her birthday — and then in the meantime she went out and bought herself one of the same ones. So I kept the double-up, which is Secret Garden by Johanna Basford.

Colouring in is a great, meditative way to keep my hands busy while my mind is off on a fantastical adventure. (Or listening to a memoir.) It’s more fun than folding the washing, and more satisfying than driving the car.

Don’t colour while driving, though. #protip

One of my photo-manipulations, from years ago

“Faye” – a photomanipulation by yours truly

I’ve experimented with various forms of art over the years – I did art in high school, but never really excelled. I’ve also experimented with digital art (photomanipulations), which is something I’m better at, but not brilliant at. Writing is the art-form I’m best at, probably because it requires less hand-eye coordination — though there’s always something new to learn there too (thankfully, or wouldn’t it be boring?).

Still, even though I’m still a bit of an amateur, it’s such a delight to be able to look back through the colouring book — I decided to do the pictures in order — and see how much my shading in particular has improved. It’s also funny to see the way I associate particular images with different books. :)

Colouring and audiobooks: I highly recommend it.

Cover reveal: ‘Lucid Dreaming’

I do a few cover reveals on this blog, mostly for folks that I know and whose writing I adore. But this one is special, because it’s for ONE OF MINE!

*insert incoherent squealing here*

Who would have thought your dreams could kill you?

Melaina makes the best of her peculiar heritage: half human and half Oneiroi, or dream spirit, she can manipulate others’ dreams. At least working out the back of a new age store as a ‘dream therapist’ pays the bills. Barely.

But when Melaina treats a client for possession by a nightmare creature, she unleashes the murderous wrath of the creature’s master. He could be anywhere, inside anyone: a complete stranger or her dearest friend. Melaina must figure out who this hidden adversary is and what he’s planning – before the nightmares come for her.

Add on Goodreads


Designer: KILA Designs

I have been wanting to share this book with you guys for more than a year now, so I’m delighted that it’s finally going to happen. To celebrate, here is a teaser! Noticed how I coordinated the colours? Because that’s how I roll. :D



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