Goodreads reading challenge – 2016 wrap-up

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Actual figure: 48. See note below.

I’m a huge fan of the Goodreads reading challenge, as it’s something that keeps me motivated to read, even when life gets crazy busy and sometimes I’d rather just sleep. (What? I like sleep!) So, once again, here are the books I read in 2016, with some handy statistics. (I also like statistics. I did up an Excel spreadsheet with formulas and everything!)

I haven’t included any of my own books that I’ve read in the editing process, because then Goodreads asks me to rate them and I personally don’t want to go there.

  • 77% were one stripe or another of speculative fiction, with 27% being fantasy, 21% being urban fantasy and 17% being sci-fi. Interestingly, 10% were superhero fiction, which is something I hadn’t really read at all before 2016.
  • 63% of the books I read were by women writers (or had a women co-author in the case of Gemina). I am very happy with this stat. In 2015, I over-corrected from my male-dominated reading habits to get to 87% women. I prefer it to be closer to balanced, but — given that I do the Australian Women Writers challenge every year too — the numbers are always going to favour women writers a little.
  • Two new-to-me authors featured very heavily this year: Brandon Sanderson (21%) and Emmie Mears (13%). I hadn’t read either of them before 2016 and they are now big favourites. (They are also responsible for all the superhero books I read, and the bulk of the fantasy!) Sanderson also made up the majority of the books by men that I read in 2016. I am nothing if not consistent.
  • Format-wise, 48% of my reads were paperback or hardcover books; 16% were audiobooks; and 9% were on my Kindle.

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One thing I noticed after I got the screen grabs from Goodreads is that it didn’t record me having re-read Divided, even though I changed the date completed. Grr. I did include it in the stats above, but here is a picture of the cover, so the book doesn’t feel left out:

DIVIDED full digital

How did you go with your reading this year? What was your favourite book (or your favourite top five if you’re like me and can’t commit to one)?


Australian Women Writers Challenge – 2016 wrap up

AWW2016he Australian Women Writers’ Challenge is part of a world-wide movement to raise awareness of excellent writing by women. It helps readers to challenge the subconscious stereotypes that govern our choice of books to read. The challenge encourages avid readers and book bloggers, male and female, Australian and non-Australian, to read and review books by Australian women throughout the year. You don’t have to be a writer to sign up. You can choose to read and review, or read only.

This is my third year doing the Australian Women Writers challenge — I set myself the goal of reading and reviewing 15 books, the same as I achieved last year. Again, I managed to get there, but only by a hair’s breadth. Well, a day. Which could be construed as a hair in some circles, I suppose.

I also did the Goodreads challenge, which I completed a while back. I’ll do a post on that in the next day or two. (I don’t want too many posts in a row; given I’ve been AWOL lately, I don’t want to frighten you all!)

Here is a link to each review, as well as my star rating for each book. They are listed in chronological order.

You’ll note that the link to Undivided is to my review on Goodreads; I originally reviewed the book a couple of years ago when it had another name, but I re-read it before I read Shattered. I updated the Goodreads review, but not the one on the blog. You’ll also note that I couldn’t find a paperback cover anywhere for The Firebird (which I listened to as an audiobook, or I would’ve scanned it!). This fact still pains me… :S

It has been a good year. I can’t wait to see what awesome books I discover in 2017!


Review: ‘Darkness Unbound’ by Keri Arthur

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The fight against darkness rages on for the next generation—in New York Times bestselling author Keri Arthur’s exciting new series set in the world of the Guardians.

Being half werewolf and half Aedh, Risa Jones can enter the twilight realms between life and death and see the reapers, supernatural beings that collect the souls of the dead. But she soon makes a terrifying discovery: Some sinister force is stealing souls, preventing the dead from ever knowing the afterlife.

Reapers escort souls — not snatch them — but Risa is still unnerved when a reaper shadows her in search of someone Risa has never met: her own father, an Aedh priest, who is rumored to be tampering with the gates of hell for a dark purpose. With the help of her “aunt” — half-werewolf, half-vampire Riley Jenson — and an Aedh named Lucian who may have lost his wings but none of his sex appeal, Risa must pursue whatever shadowy practitioner of blood magic is seizing souls, and somehow stop her father . . . before all hell breaks loose.

I had a vague idea that this was the first book in a series set in a world already established by a previous series. But, because it was the first book, I figured I’d be safe not to read the other series first. I was only partially correct in that assumption.

Keri Arthur’s world is … complicated. By way of example, her main character, Risa, is the daughter of a woman who is a cloned werewolf psychic consultant to celebrities; her father is an Aedh (a spirit being roughly akin to an angel). Her housemates and business partners are a horse shapeshifter who is a powerful witch, and a half-werewolf with pyrokinetic powers.

I managed to wrap my head around that part, but then you have all of Risa’s “aunts” and “uncles” (who I thought were really her aunts and uncles until towards the end of the book, when I realised they were her mother’s friends, presumably from the first series). They include half vampires, werewolves, guardians and I don’t even know what else. There were so many names and supernatural backstories that they blurred together. But I found once we got past the cameos and associated info dumps and I decided it didn’t matter, Darkness Unbound was an easier read.

The other thing I had to put to one side was that Risa is a bit of a Mary Sue character: gorgeous, with a selection of awesome superpowers and scad-loads of money. She even describes herself as “obscenely wealthy” at one point, and she had her housemates co-run a successful restaurant. I found her a little hard to relate to, because she never seems to really struggle for anything in her day-to-day life (and her restaurant income doesn’t seem to explain her alleged wealth). Again, this might be a symptom of the second-generation nature of the story — maybe her mother and the aunts and uncles already did the struggling so that Risa could benefit? I don’t know.

All of that being said, I still gave Darkness Unbound three stars, which is “I liked it” on the Goodreads scale (which I use because I’m lazy!). There are redeeming features in the story itself: there are bad guys with dastardly plans that Risa gets drawn into investigating. There’s a fair amount of shirtless eye candy (although a baffling lack of regular humans given the story is set in Melbourne!). Risa does get her ass handed to her on occasion, but she is also competent and quick-thinking when she gets into a jam, and can kick a decent amount of butt in her own right. That’s my favourite kind of heroine, so she gets points for that too.

One thing I should point out that didn’t bother me but that may not be to everyone’s taste is that werewolves in this world have the morals and sexual drive of a cat on heat. It may be related to the moon being full? I wasn’t clear on the details, but the upshot is that Risa is part-werewolf and casual sex is a thing. (I gather she has also used male werewolf sex workers in the past to satisfy her lusts — I personally like that girl power angle!) There’s even an orgy at one point. We’re not talking “Anita Blake later in that series” numbers of sexual encounters, thank goodness — it’s not the point of the story by any means. But the sex scenes in Darkness Unbound are explicit to the point of being erotica.

The last quarter of the book is where things really pick up pace and get more interesting, and that’s what saved Darkness Unbound somewhat for me. But there is less closure than some might like. The plot involving the “gates of hell” mentioned in the blurb is obviously the meta-plot for the series, and — although some questions are answered and there’s a twist that I found motivating (if not that surprising as it was well foreshadowed) — there are a lot of threads left unresolved.

If you’re looking for a complex urban fantasy world with some steamy sex, then I’d recommend this series. Actually, no, I think I’d recommend the other series first. That way this one will be less of a shock to the system.

(Edited to add: Goodreads tells me the first book in the original series has a lot more sex than this one … if that influences your decision-making one way or the other! 😉 )

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Three stars


My top five(ish) Instagram posts of 2016

I was going to do a list of my favourite bookish Christmas Instagram posts by other people, because there are some corkers out there, but WordPress restrictions prevent me from properly embedding Instagram posts so that people can readily access the original. And I wasn’t comfortable copying the images off Instagram and uploading them separately, even with links, because that way lies madness and copyright infringement.

So. I decided instead to list my own top five most liked posts from 2016 — because that way they are my own photos and I can’t get in trouble from anyone but me. (I may have a stern word with myself later…) I’m still relatively small time in #bookstagram circles, but these posts did better than usual, and I’m rather proud of that.

You’ll notice that every single one of these images has something in common: a PopVinyl figure. I have a rather embarrassing collection of them and, while I do post a few images without them, those never seem to be as popular. I can understand that. I love my Pops too! ❤

Five — 99 likes

I chose five because that’s how I roll. Of course, the problem is that three of my images are tied at 99 likes each. And if you don’t think that the missing like to get them to 100 is driving me nuts, you’re kidding yourself. :p

jewelhermy mockingjaybookmark newthufflepuff

Four– 103 likes

This is such a simple photo — I noticed that my Katniss Pop went really well with the cover of Atlanta Burns, so I, um, popped the two together and snapped a pic. I didn’t predict how well it would do.

atlantaburnskatniss

Three– 105 likes

I posted this just after Fantastic Beasts came out (it’s a great movie, btw), so I guess it was always going to do reasonably well! The book was a Christmas present from my son, but (because he’s seven and I actually had to pay for it) I took the picture before we wrapped it up. Shh!

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Two — 109 likes

Another tie! The picture of Cinder is very recent; I only took and posted it this week. The other one is about a month old. Rose isn’t my favourite companion, but for reasons I don’t understand you can’t get Donna Nobel or Martha Jones as Pops. Gah!

rosedoctor cindercinderella

One — 133 likes

I’m tickled pink that my most liked picture so far is of my own books. I’d like to imagine that is the reason, but I suspect it has more to do with the Sarah PopVinyl (from Labyrinth), and the fact I had a Scentsy burner in there. Still, I’m going to call it a win!

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Three of my 2016 Australian Women Writer reads that you should definitely check out

Like I did in 2015, I set myself the goal of reading and reviewing fifteen books by Australian women writers. I’m currently at fourteen and on my last read now — hopefully I’ll be able to get it finished in the next couple of days, despite various holiday commitments. I’ll review it and then post a wrap-up post when I’m done.

Still, I’m confident in being able to recommend three reads from these fifteen books already. I was originally going to make this a top five for 2016, but that got too hard. I’ve already listed my top five YA reads over at Aussie Owned and Read; three of those were by Australian women writers — Gemina, The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, and Every Word (as well as Every Move in the same series) — and I didn’t want to be repetitive. Consider all three of them already heartily endorsed.

I’ve also excluded the Aussie Owned and Read girls’ books because I am friends with them (though you should check out Fame, Pretend and Shattered).

So, with that in mind — and noting that I’m basically recommending nine books here, not three 🙂 — here are three you should definitely check out.

‘Heart of Brass’ by Felicity Banks

Regular readers of my blog will know that I only reviewed this one last month. It’s by a Canberra writer who I only just discovered, and is a steampunk set in gold rush Victoria. In the space of a couple-hundred words, we get to see the main character, Emmeline, go from proper society lady who conforms to (most) social expectations while chaffing at the restrictions they impose to convict and criminal rebelling against an unfair system.  The last 100 pages of the paperback are a Choose Your Own Adventure. Seriously!

‘Faking It’ by Gabrielle Tozer

Faking It is the sequel to The Intern, which I reviewed last year; however, it stands alone. It’s very light, fun and easy to read, with a fair number of cringe-worthy moments. But, for me, the shining treasure in this book is the dialogue, especially Josie’s. Her intermittent verbal filter meant that she often came out with lines that had me giggling, and at other times were raw in their honesty. The other thing I really enjoyed was catching a glimpse of Josie’s mother recovering from her shattered relationship and starting to date again. Even though Josie was quietly horrified, I was all, “You go, Josie’s mum!”

‘Their Fractured Light’ by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

This is the third and final book in the Starbound series; I also read the second book this year, but I enjoyed the third one more. However, unlike with Faking It, you really need to read the entire series to fully appreciate the conclusion to the meta-plot that flows through all three books. You won’t regret it, though. (By the way, I know that Meagan Spooner isn’t Australian, but Amie is — in the same way that I included Gemina as an AWW read despite the fact that Jay Kristoff is a dude. It totally counts!)

Now, since I’m planning on doing the AWW challenge again in 2017, this is your chance to recommend me some awesome books by Aussie women from your own reading lists. Please leave a comment! 🙂

 


Merry Christmas, with a song

I’ve blogged a little less this year than I did last year — mostly book reviews, as I’m sure you’ve all noticed — but I absolutely can’t miss my tradition of a Christmas wish and a song.

This is the fifth year I’ve done one of these posts. And it’s not the first time I’ve used a Straight No Chaser song, but I only discovered the below today and I’ve been playing it … rather a lot. Not only does it have amazing a cappella, but it has Kristen Bell, who is always a delight. ❤

This year has been quieter for me than 2015 was on a publishing front, though that’s not hard. I self-published Melpomene’s Daughter after the closure of my small press. I also finished writing my Greek-inspired fantasy, and wrote the vast bulk of False Awakening, the sequel to Lucid Dreaming. (I have half a chapter left to go. It’s so close I can smell the champagne and chocolate!)

I can’t wait to sink my teeth into something new. 😀

As I’ve said previously, I’m not a religious person, but I do love the tradition, sharing and joy (primarily my son’s) at Christmas time. We’re going to my parents’ place; most of my family will be there. There’ll be music, pavlova and prawns (not together).

As always, thanks to everyone who has supported me this year — my beta readers, designer, editor, friends and family. Thanks also to anyone that has bought and/or reviewed any of my books. May your Christmas cracker jokes be not too terrible and may your food bountiful and delicious. (Or if you’re not Christian and don’t celebrate Christmas, have a wonderful day anyway! There’s a new Pokemon Go event starting — go out and catch all the gyms while the rest of us are busy. Except my gym. You can’t have that.)


Book announcement: ‘Lucid Dreaming’ sequel coming in 2017

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I’ve posted so many reviews lately that recent followers of my blog might be forgiven for thinking that’s all I do here. But, despite appearances, I have been slowly beetling away for the better part of the year on the sequel to Lucid Dreaming, my adult urban fantasy. I’m about half a chapter from “the end” — the goal is to have the first draft done before Christmas, if I can overcome the distractions of the silly season.

It’ll be a near thing.

At this stage, the plan is for Lucid Dreaming and its sequel to be a duology — a two-book series. The goal is to release the sequel in the middle of 2017.

So, what can I tell you about this sequel?

The title!

Well, first off, there’s the title:

False Awakening title fireworks

Source: Image Chef

Yes, False Awakening — inspired by that phenomenon that is “a vivid and convincing dream about awakening from sleep, while the dreamer in reality continues to sleep”. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

The blurb!

I can also share an early version of the blurb (although this one is subject to change once my lovely editor finishes her maternity leave!).

“Sometimes I have nightmares where I dream I’ve woken up, and then I start attacking people…”

Melaina, half-human dream therapist, just wants her life to return to normal. Yes, her Oneiroi father is in prison and, yes, the place she worked burned down, but she has a cute boyfriend and a new house. She beat the bad guy. She’s earned a break. Right?

Unfortunately for Melaina, people are still getting possessed by nightmare spirits; the police are investigating her past; and the bad guy’s brother, the Morpheus himself, is coming to town to demand answers. When a deranged ex-nurse checks himself out of hospital on the same day her cousin runs away from home, Melaina is dragged into a fight not just for her life but for her soul.

Also, note — if you’re a Goodreads user, you can add False Awakening to your “to read” shelf. You know, if you want to.

The sale!

To celebrate, the Lucid Dreaming ebook is on sale for $0.99 (US) at the following websites.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Australia
Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Tell your friends!

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Not the book cover — I don’t have one of those yet. But it is pretty! Source: Shutterstock