Book Review | Jack’s on Fire, Owen Lach

Goodreads Blurb:

What if you were a queer teenage musician outed by his vengeful ex-boyfriend and not a fairy tale princess trapped in a castle tower? What if your wicked stepmother was your ordinary, thoughtless, uncaring mother? What if your fairy godmother was your older brother? What if your Prince Charming was captain of the JV soccer team? Maybe you’d be forgiven for not realizing you were living in a sort of fairy tale.

Faced with the impossible choice of staying home to risk being sent away to Father Sullivan’s special school for exceptionally happy boys or moving in with his older brother in California, 16-yr-old Jack Martin leaves behind everything he knows in Minneapolis to go to San Francisco.

My Thoughts:

This was an absolute delight to read! It was so nice to read a Queer story that was filled with so much joy and hope, but that didn’t shy away from the realities of being a Queer teen. This, I think this threw me a little at first, everything was always going so well that I was waiting for something to go seriously wrong for Jack but it didn’t happen, not like I expected anyway. I realised a little while in that the hopefulness of the story, and the series of lucky events read just like the fairy tale the novel’s tag line promised. I loved this novel for that.

I loved as well that Jack seemed so disbelieving in his good circumstances after such a rough start to the beginning of this story. It would be so easy for him to take it all for granted, but he questions it before he accepts all the good things happening to him. I think this really does align with a lot of Queer stories (and for people’s stories in general, but in this specific context, Queer stories especially) where the person has it rough for so long that when things start heading in a positive direction it seems almost impossible. This made Jack’s character, so much more genuine for me.

I did find though that some of the dialogue felt a little off, especially the regular use of “bro” used between Jack and his brother, and “babe” used between Jack and Damon. Those dialogue choices almost brought me out of the story as I read. if I also found there was a lot of narrative that slowed down for the story for me.

The relationship between Jack and Damon was really sweet. I especially loved Jack’s awkward, and almost fumbling internal dialogue, especially when he was around Damon or thinking about him. It felt so natural for his character and the story.

As I said before this was a really lovely romance to read. Pick this one up if you are looking for a heartwarming read with engaging characters and great plot.

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for gifting me this ARC (Advanced Reader Copy). I am leaving this review voluntarily. This title was published 27th September 2022.

Doctor Who by Series | Series 6 – 2011

I brought them here. They’d say it was their choice, but offer a child a suitcase full of sweets and they’ll take it. Offer someone all of time and space and they’ll take that, too. Which is why you shouldn’t. Which is why grown-ups were invented.

Eleventh Doctor, Doctor Who, S06E11
‘The God Complex’

Every time I watch Series 6 I forget until I am actually watching it just how ‘timey-wimey’ and convoluted it is. Not all of it, but enough to be confusing. There is also a lot of episodes to do with River Song which I think definitely contributes to that. In saying this, I thoroughly enjoyed Series 6. Plus some of my all time favourite episodes for Matt Smith’s Doctor are in this series. I just may need a timeline to keep it all straight in my head.

Christmas Special: S06E00 ‘A Christmas Carol’

This episode probably isn’t one of my favourite Christmas specials, but in saying that, it really is a gosh darn wonderful episode. There are some great 11th Doctor moments, Amy and Rory in their Police Woman and Roman Centurion costumes respectively, that song Katherine Jenkins sings as Abigail at the end of the episode – Abigail’s Song (Silence is All You Know) – it makes me cry every time, and of course, the shark pulling the carriage through the clouds at the end.

I love how they managed to perfectly meld the story of A Christmas Carol into the Doctor Who world and not make it feel out of place. Aesthetically, this really is a beautiful episode. I love the contrast between the chaos of the crashing spaceship and the heartfelt, slow moving story of the Doctor, Kazran, and Abigail. I think this one has grown on me the more that I’ve rewatched it.

First Episode(s): S06E01/02 ‘The Impossible Astronaut’/‘Day of the Moon’

This was a really wild two episode story, with a convoluted and rather sad beginning, and a very creepy alien, but I enjoyed it all the same. The episodes mark the beginning of an arc that (you now realise) has been set up in Series 5, and continues with a reoccurring character (River Song) who was introduced in Series 4 – so an epic set up for these episodes (and the rest of the series) really.

The Silence are a wonderful creation, and my gosh are they creepy! You forget them the moment you look away, and they can influence you while you are looking at them so you won’t know why you’re doing something when you look away. They are such a clever creation, especially as one for a whole world threat.

The episodes also asked SO many questions which was both great and not so good. Mostly because it meant I was waiting each week for the next episode and making my own theories (it’s been that long now that I don’t know what these were), but also, this was Doctor Who so who knew if any of these questions would be answered.

Favourite Episode: S06E11 ‘The God Complex’

The concept for this episode is so gosh darn cool, it is also on my list of top episodes for me – of all time. A prison masquerading as a hotel that has fears in each room, all guarded by, as Amy calls it an ‘Alien Minotaur’, which is a recipient for both a very entertaining and very emotional episode of Doctor Who.

What I love about this episode I think is that there is such a wonderful collection of new characters. The characters really have to shine in a story like this, especially in such a contained setting. There is so little room to move (figuratively, that is – the characters are running around an ever expanding and changing hotel for the episode, so if anything they have too much room. Rita has to be a favourite of mine, she is a character I would love to see again (if it were possible).

There is so much to this story, I could honestly go on about it forever, but I won’t, as I have limited room here, and many more episodes to write about. I will say this though, I had quite a few quotes in the running for the one you see up the top there. There are so many beautiful lines in this episode (funny ones too), but I will finish this little piece with one from Rory which haunts my mind.

You know, Howie had been in speech therapy. He’d just got over this massive stammer. What an achievement. I mean, can you imagine? I’d forgotten not all victories are about saving the universe.

Most Emotional Episode: S06E10 ‘The Girl Who Waited’

This episode quite possibly put me into an emotional spiral the first time I watched it, a spiral which means that I need to choose wisely for when I rewatch this episode. Also, I can only do so with a box of tissues, some form of comfort food, and a blanket.

There is something so heartbreaking about Amy living for nearly forty years in the Two Streams facility on a distant planet not knowing when the Doctor and Rory would eventually come and save her. So much so that she started to believe that they wouldn’t come for her at all. The ending of this episode makes me sob every single time. It is beautiful and heartbreaking.

Special Mention: S06E07 ‘A Good Man Goes to War’

I cannot write about Series 6 without mentioning ‘A Good Man Goes to War’. There is so much packed into this episode that every time I watch it there is a fair amount of ‘mind boggling’ that goes on, and I love it. There is a lot that is revealed about the character of River Song that has been puzzled over since she was first introduced.

I did not expect the “River is Amy and Rory’s daughter” reveal, and I vividly remember watching it for the first time as I somehow didn’t get spoiled for the moment (thank goodness). I am pretty sure I was sitting there in a daze throughout the credits because of it. Especially with that piece of music playing at the time. River song was already a favourite character of mine, then she became so much more awesome.

Series Final: S06E13 ‘The Wedding of River Song’

This is another rather mind boggling and ‘timey-wimey’ episode. Time is converging after the events of the first episode were diverted by River. Now time is stuck and people aren’t who they’re meant to be, nor do they remember the correct version of time. Apart from Amy of course.

There is something wonderfully chaotic about this episode, especially the ending. The resetting of time is heartbreaking, but also hopeful in a classically Doctor Who way. Then is punctuated by another reveal, and so realisation that never fails to make me laugh (and then most likely cry).

In a word (well, two words) I would say that overall this series is just ‘mind-boggling’. There is a lot to keep track of, and a lot that is revealed about River Song that both answers questions, and asks more of them. Which is both a good and bad thing in my eyes.

What were your picks for the above? I’d love to know your thoughts! Thank you for reading!

Book Review | The Syren’s Mutiny, Jessica. S. Taylor

Goodreads Blurb:

“It’s frightful bad luck to have a woman aboard.”

Brigid knew the superstition, but when her father tried to marry her off, she had no choice but to stowaway on a ship bound for Bhodheas. When she’s discovered and discarded, her fate seems sealed…until she’s saved by the ocean and its queen.

Transformed into a syren and given new life, Brigid now has the power to seek revenge on those who wronged her.

Caelum has spent his entire life trying to help those who couldn’t help themselves. After years suffering the cruelty of his pirate father, saving others from a similar fate was ingrained in him. But when he’s unable to save a young girl from being thrown overboard for hiding away, he’s devastated.

Until one day, when he’s thrown into the water by unforeseen forces, he comes face to face with the past, and maybe, with his future.

But there’s a darkness lurking on the seas they both call home. And Caelum and Brigid have no idea just how intertwined their stories really are.

My Thoughts:

I was very easily drawn into this book by the cover and great blurb and I am so glad I was. This novel gripped my right from the first few pages. It was intense and gruesome, and a great introduction to the novel.

I think the thing I loved most about this novel was the characters. ed They all shone through on the page, making me want to read more of their story. My favourite I think had to be Sorcha, she really was so sweet, bless her. I really enjoyed reading the relationship develop between Brigid and Caelum, I found that with the dual POV story I was really able to delve into the minds of the characters. It was a nice change to read from the POV of both romantic leads too.

In saying that, I did feel that while the novel was off to a strong start, I found that there was a little repetitiveness within the narration of certain phrases that made the beginning quite a slow read after the first few more action filled chapters. I found though once the rest of Caelum’s crew was introduced and had more ‘page time’ the pace picked up for me.

I really enjoyed the lore of the world this is based in with the vengeful Syren’s and how they are so fierce. Their sisterhood was one of the main things I loved about this novel and how they worked together to meet their goals, and (for the most part) stuck by them.

I also really loved how the author put an ‘author’s note’ at the beginning with name and place pronunciations, as well as trigger warnings and a map (yes, a map! This gal loves a map!). I really enjoyed this one, and how it didn’t shy away from the violence of the Syren’s, painting them as rather terrifying beings (I wouldn’t want to get on their bad side!), while still showing their grace and compassion. That ending had me in tears, my gosh, that cliff-hanger too. I am so excited for book two!

Thank you to the author, Jessica. S. Taylor for gifting me this ARC (Advanced Reader Copy). I am leaving this review voluntarily. This title will be published 8th November 2022.

Doctor Who by Series | Series 5 – 2010

Just twenty minutes. Just believe me for twenty minutes. Look at it. Fresh as the day you gave it to me. And you know it’s the same one. Amy, believe for twenty minutes.

Eleventh Doctor, Doctor Who, S05E01
‘The Eleventh Hour’

I remember being so nervous going into Series 5, I had adored Tennant’s run, and change is hard, but there was nothing that was going to stop me from loving this series. It took about 30 seconds of Matt Smith on screen for me to accept him as the Doctor, and from that moment on I was so excited for what was to come. Matt Smith has become one of one of my favourite Doctors (I think I say this every regeneration but it doesn’t stop me from loving his incarnation of the Doctor dearly).

Series 5 introduced Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor, Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, and Arthur Darvill as Rory Williams. One of my favourite TARDIS trios! Also that new version of the Doctor Who theme/title sequence, gosh darn, amazing!

I love the quote I picked for Series 5 – I really feel like it is both the Doctor speaking to Amy and Matt Smith speaking to the Doctor Who fan base.

New Doctor’s First Episode: S05E01 ‘The Eleventh Hour’

This episode I think is still one of my favourite ‘New Doctor’ episodes (with S11E01 The Woman Who Fell to Earth a close second). Matt Smith’s Doctor was just so funny in this episode – the script had the perfect mix of comedy and enchanting/heartfelt moments. The sequence where the Doctor is trying to find a food he likes never fails to make me smile, especially with the conclusion that he needed “fish-fingers and custard”.

(Which I tried, by the way – managed to disgust my family in the name of my obsession with a TV show – and as it turned out, it wasn’t that bad. Then I find out that Matt Smith was just eating cake made to look like fish-fingers – which makes sense, because he would have had to do a lot of scenes eating that – but I did feel possibly a little betrayed.)

There is something so magical about this episode of Doctor Who, and I think that is why this one is one of my most rewatched in this series. I love how young Amelia Pond is the first person he meets and from there the Doctor becomes almost childlike in his fascination with the universe he is travelling through.

That scene on the rooftop though! The Eleventh Doctor walking through the hologram image of the Tenth Doctor’s face and saying, “Hello, I’m the Doctor” – just plain epic. Also the New TARDIS interior is gorgeous, I remember tearing up in that scene.

Favourite Episode: S05E07 ‘Amy’s Choice’

Most of the episodes in this little review I could easily put into this category, as Series 5 is easily my favourite Eleventh Doctor series, but I really love the concept of this episode. Two dreams within a dream, and a choice for Amy. It is honestly quite a cruel conundrum, but does make for entertaining TV.

As the trio try to figure out which dream is the real one it becomes more and more evident that they’re not choosing between two dreams, but that Amy is choosing between Rory and the Doctor, or between two paths her life could take. It makes Amy make her decision for the most heartbreaking reason.

Plus amongst the chaos and the emotional moments of the whole episode, there is a wonderful amount of humour as the trio tries to decide which is the dream and which is the reality. This episode says so much about each character, and I think that is why I love it so much.

Scariest Episode: S05E04/05 ‘The Time of Angels’/‘Flesh and Stone’

Series 5 is packed with episodes that I could happily write about in any of these categories, this two part story is no exception. We get the return of River Song – last seen in the two part story from Series 4 ‘Silence in the Library’/‘Forest of the Dead’ that I wrote about here, we also get the return of the Weeping Angels last seen in Series 3 in ‘Blink’ which I wrote about here. Both River and the Weeping Angels have become favourites of mine in the Whoniverse, so I have a lot I want to say about these episodes, but so little space to do so (I have to stop at some point).

To be honest, I remember that at first I wasn’t so sure if bringing the Angels back was a good idea. They had been so good as the monster in ‘Blink’ and I really wasn’t sure how they could be any more scary than they already were. As it turns out, a few rogue Angels are a manageable amount of creepy/scary in a Doctor Who episode, but with two episodes containing a ship full of Angels that initially weren’t seen to be Angels? Pure fear.

There’s a scene where the Doctor, Amy and River are walking through the tunnels to try and get to the crashed ship and the Doctor realises the statues surrounding them aren’t what he thought they were. Surrounded by one headed statues, meant to be the fossilised versions of the people who used to live in the catacombs, there’s a beat of silence before River says “The Aplans…They’ve got two heads” followed by the Doctor saying, “So why don’t the statues?” It gives me chills every time.

This two part story also gives more insight into the character of River Song – something else I didn’t expect going into Series 5 (until I watched the trailer of course. I love her character, and her story, as heartbreaking as it is. Especially as at the time that I watched these episodes I didn’t know just how much of her story there was to come.

Most Emotional Episode: S05E10 ‘Vincent and the Doctor’

To start off, even just the mention of this episode, or the mention of Vincent Van Gogh is enough to make me emotional with little to no detail. It’s not just the content of this episode, but the beautiful way it is shot and cut together, along with the orchestral score and choice of song at the end. Everything about this episode is beautiful, and it brings me to tears every single time.

It really is heartbreaking, with this episode, with Amy’s reactions to everything. It feels as if she went into that trip thinking she’d be able to help Van Gogh avoid his fate. Then when she can’t, it breaks her heart. Provoking another of my favourite quotes from the Doctor in Series 5, this one in response to Amy not thinking she made a difference in Van Gogh’s life:

The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but visa versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant.

Eleventh Doctor, Doctor Who

Then there’s the end where they bring him to the Galley and I weep every time.

As close second to this is the ending for the two part story of ‘The Hungry Earth’ and ‘Cold Blood’ where Rory saves the Doctor and ends up dying in the process. Amy’s reaction is heartbreaking, especially as she knows that she’ll forget him if he dies. Then the quick turn around of emotion once she does forget. What tops it off though is knowing that the Doctor remembers him but can’t say anything.

Series Final: S05E12/13 ‘The Pandorica Opens’/‘The Big Bang’

My gosh this series final was epic! Romans, all the monsters and aliens working together for a common cause (even if said cause actually made things worse), time jumps, the Doctor in a fez (for about 5 minutes before it was disintegrated), and a wedding. So a perfectly normal episode of Doctor Who. Right?

I love the scale of this two part story. Especially having so many of the monsters/aliens in the same space. There is so much going on and it is amazing! My favourites had to be the Daleks (pepper-pots) or the Sontarans (talking potatoes) in this case.

I remember being so on edge when I watched this the first time. There was so much going on, and so much at stake for the characters. I remember finding the whole thing really emotional (and still do).

I think Series 5 has to be my favourite series of Matt Smith’s Doctor. Do you have a favourite series for his Doctor?

What were your picks for the above? I’d love to know your thoughts! Thank you for reading!

Melbourne Writers Festival 2022

I was lucky enough this year to be able to get tickets to this years Melbourne Writers Festival – an utterly fabulous, and finally in person (after two years online) annual event. Perchance, I was scheduled on the night shift this past weekend so during the day I could book myself into various Writers Festival events and leave myself completely exhausted by Sunday night. Totally worth it though!

Thurs 8th Sept – ‘The Boy in the Dress’ – Author Jonathan Butler in conversation with Yves Rees

This was such a wonderful start to the week. Butler talked about his debut book – part memoir, part investigation – which started as an investigation into the murder of a relative in 1944. It was so interesting listening to Butler talk about his research process and the different avenues it took him on over the ten years he was doing so.

Fri 9th Sept – ‘Love, Factually’ – Trent Dalton & Clementine Ford in conversation with Elizabeth McCarthy

Was I expecting to be in tears at 10:30 in the morning? No. Was I in tears though? Big yes! And for the best possible reason too. Love, Factually brought heartfelt stories, life advice, and a lot of laughs into one room. I found the whole conversation both inspiring, and emotional. There was a great, effortless dynamic between the three on the panel which was so interesting to listen to.

Fri 9th Sept – ‘Small Town Thrills’ – JP Pomare and Dinuka McKenzie in conversation with Fi Wright

I’ve always loved books set in small towns, especially crime fiction novels. There is something in the closeness and community that you can only find in a small town that makes crime fiction set there so much more intense. I loved listening to the two authors talk about why they chose small towns as the settings for their novels, and how they went beyond the small town tropes to make it their own. So keen to read their books!

Sat 10th Sept – Talking About a Revolution – Yassmin Abdel-Magied in conversation with Roj Amedi

After a day in the city with a friend of mine, it was great to go to this event in the evening. I listened to Yassmin Abdel-Magied talk quite a few years ago at another Writers Festival in Melbourne and absolutely loved hearing her speak. For this event she was talking about a new collection of essays she has published. As always she was engaging to listen to, and managed to be humorous around the more serious topics of conversation.

Sat 10th Sept – Queerstories – Hosted by Maeve Marsden, with stories from Shane Jenek aka Courtney Act, Krystal De Napoli, CS Pacat, Yves Rees, and Omar Sakr.

Queerstories was the most wonderful end to the festival for me. While I had gone to the writers festival before, I hadn’t attended a Queerstories night before, I am so glad to have now done so. Queerstories asks leading LGBTQI+ voices to share a story they’ve always wanted to tell, but have never been asked to before. This led to a night of both humorous and emotional stories, all told with a strong presence and with heart. I also discovered that there is a Queerstories podcast so I will be giving that a listen to soon!

It really has been such a fun and insightful few days! I am excited to get stated on these books by some of the wonderful people I met.

I’ve realised as well that I have a new goal in my writing: to be one of the people to talk about my writing and my books at one of these writers festivals. It would be amazing!

In the meantime, I will always be booking tickets to these events, as it is always such a fun weekend.