Book Review | Son of Sin, Omar Sakr

Goodreads Blurb:

An estranged father. An abused and abusive mother. An army of relatives. A tapestry of violence, woven across generations and geographies, from Turkey to Lebanon to Western Sydney. This is the legacy left to Jamal Smith, a young queer Muslim trying to escape a past in which memory and rumour trace ugly shapes in the dark. When every thread in life constricts instead of connects, how do you find a way to breathe? Torn between faith and fear, gossip and gospel, family and friendship, Jamal must find and test the limits of love.

In this extraordinary work, Omar Sakr deftly weaves a multifaceted tale brimming with angels and djinn, racist kangaroos and adoring bats, examining with a poet’s eye the destructive impetus of repressed desire and the complexities that make us human.

My Thoughts:

I picked up this book at an event at the State Library last year and I honestly wish I’d read it sooner. This was such a heartbreakingly beautiful read. I flew through it in just over two days and was completely immersed for every moment.

Told in parts, across main character Jamal’s life as he grows to try and accept himself and navigate his world. Each section felt distinct with subtle changes in narrative voice to indicate as such. On the whole, I feel I connected more, and so, more enjoyed reading the earlier half of the novel. It didn’t take away from the ending for me in any way, but I did find the earlier sections of the novel more impactful.

With this novel, Sakr treads the line between poetry and prose wonderfully. It is easy to tell that he is a poet – his use of language to evoke emotion in his work feels rather lyrical. Making the emotions that much more tangible to me as I read. While this is a work of fiction, there is something painfully real, and honest in Sakr’s words.

I highly recommend this novel. There is something intoxicating about the use of language in this novel which has stuck with me well after I finished reading. I will most definitely be on the look out for anything else Sakr publishes, as well as having a look for his poetry too.

Book Review | Smoke Show, B. Perkins and Aimee Vance

Goodreads Blurb:

When the dean of Bishop College in Boston threatened to close Petra Ambrose’s Pre-Revolutionary American History department, she could feel all of her work towards her dream career slipping through her fingers. To her dismay, students weren’t interested in American Puritanical culture and the status of women in their time, not unless it involved trendy witches glamourized in modern society.

In a last hope to save her job, Petra was tasked with finding something new and exciting to draw in more students. Not exactly sure where to start, she headed up the coast to explore sites other than cliche and touristy Salem.

Small-town Maine had her imagining a quaint village straight out of a romance novel on the water. To some extent, she found it, with the quirky, nosy neighbors, but Deadlights Cove was entirely too dingy to be run by its no-nonsense mayor. Plus, everyone in town seemed to be in on some joke at her expense, none more so than the mischievous and overly friendly bartender, Blaze. Far too handsome for his own good, the man had the unfair ability to irritate her more than anyone else ever had while simultaneously setting her heart racing.

With obstacles popping up at every turn, Petra was ready to throw her hands up and go back to the drawing board for a new strategy until she wound up at the center of a murder investigation.

Nothing was as it seemed in Deadlights Cove, and Petra could have just unearthed more than she’d ever imagined. But was discovering the truth about this town worth giving up everything she’d worked so hard for?

My Thoughts:

Do you ever start a book and know that from the first few pages you read that you will absolutely love it? That is what happed for me with B. Perkins and Aimee Vances’ Smoke Show. I had read Vance’s other series, Call of the Norns, so this new series she has been writing with Perkins has been high on my TBR for quite a while now (and since then they have published more in the Deadlights Cove series so I am keen to read those at some point too).

Everything about this novel from it’s wonderful characters to the witty humour was an absolute delight to read. I love the world these two authors have created together with the small town of Deadlights Cove. It feels like a small town should feel – strange but well suited locals, buildings that house more than one attraction (or seemingly the wrong attraction), and a bar that everyone frequents, and I mean everyone. It all felt very real to me, enhanced by the cagey town inhabitants and their secrets. Even while those secrets were paranormal in nature- actually, especially so.

The romance was really sweet to follow, and I loved being able to read the perspectives of both Petra and Blaze. Both their inner voices were amusing to read, and the story flowed nicely between both points of view. The side characters were also a lot of fun. I think my favourite had to be Orion. He was wonderfully surly, but you can tell he is a softy underneath it all. His friendship with Blaze was fun to read two as they are both so different.

I enjoyed the murder mystery throughout, especially with it’s paranormal ties. I found it flowed nicely with the romance plot, not taking away from it but adding to it in part. I am interested to see if future books in the series have a bit of a mystery to them or not. Though I will be reading them regardless.

I recommend this to anyone looking for a fun and very sweet romance novel that has both mystery and paranormal elements. This was so much more than just romance novel, and I found myself delightfully rereading some of my favourite lines as I read.

Book Review | Me, Elton John

Goodreads Blurb:

Christened Reginald Dwight, he was a shy boy with Buddy Holly glasses who grew up in the London suburb of Pinner and dreamed of becoming a pop star. By the age of twenty-three, he was performing his first gig in America, facing an astonished audience in his bright yellow dungarees, a star-spangled T-shirt and boots with wings. Elton John had arrived and the music world would never be the same again.

In Me Elton also writes powerfully about getting clean and changing his life, about finding love with David Furnish and becoming a father. In a voice that is warm, humble and open, this is Elton on his music and his relationships, his passions and his mistakes. This is a story that will stay with you, by a living legend.

My Thoughts:

In all honesty, I don’t read enough autobiographies. Not that one has to read any at all if it isn’t your thing. However, I do find them interesting, and even entertaining, depending on the person the book is about that is. This was one such occasion. Elton John wasn’t really on my radar as a musician until a couple of years ago now, but his music has become something I listen to quite regularly now. So when I saw he had an autobiography coming out I was instantly interested, especially after watching the bio-pic about him – Rocketman.

I ended up both reading the physical copy I have as well as listening to the audiobook. I’d switch between the two rather than read and listen at the same time, so I would like to go back and listen to the whole book at some point too. The audiobook was narrated both by Elton John himself, as well as Taron Egerton, the actor who portrayed him in the film and I think their narration really enhanced my experience with this book. It was so interesting learning more about his life and his thoughts on his own music and music writing process.

This autobiography was highly entertaining while simultaneously being honest, and heartfelt. I found myself chuckling at some things while feeling emotional the next moment. It never felt dry or stodgy to get through, especially as I am a predominant fiction reader and sometimes find it difficult to stick with any non-fiction.

For any Elton John fans, or for anyone who is just curious for more of an insight into such a vibrant human, this is the autobiography for you. I highly recommend the audiobook for this too, if that is something you enjoy.

Book Review | Broken Valley, Owen Lach

Goodreads Blurb:

Adan Testa is on the run. Somehow he can use the centuries-old tech left behind by Neska’s original colonists. And that makes him the target of powerful forces willing to do whatever it takes to learn Adan’s secret for themselves. With relentless Union operatives hot on his heels, Adan and his friends begin a perilous journey along the 500-year-old trail to find the only thing that can give Adan the answers he seeks.

Don’t miss this thrilling new addition to the smash hit Queer YA Sci-Fi series The Neskan Chronicles from best-selling author Owen Lach!

My Thoughts:

I love a good sequel. I feel like book two is always the hardest of a series to get right (book one aside, and other than maybe the last in a series). It’s the one that – as much as book one – convinces the reader that they should keep going. I know I find it much harder to stop reading a series if book two is great. Broken Valley by Owen Lach – second in the Neskan Chronicles – has certainly done just that.

The story picked up pretty much where book one left off which I really liked for this novel. It was nice just settling back in with the characters and their story. Like with book one, I found myself on the edge of my seat for the most part, anxious for the fate of these characters on the run. Though things were a little slow at first, the pacing ramped up quickly enough to make for an exciting read. With some of the intense fight scenes some of my favourites in the book.

The development of the relationship between the protagonist Adan and his boyfriend Garun was really sweet. Especially with how gentle and supportive they were with one another as they dealt with the stress of the events of the last book.

I also really enjoyed the further exploration of the world where this novel is set as well as its history the more the protagonist Adan learned. Lach has created an interesting world with a very in depth history which I think enhances the story.

This was a reality great book for my first read of the year. I recommend this novel for anyone looking for an exciting sci-fi novel, with great characters and an intriguing plot. Just make sure you’ve read book one ‘Founder’s Mercy’ first!

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for gifting me this ARC (Advanced Review Copy). I am leaving this review voluntarily. This title will be published 24th January 2023

Book Review | The City of New Aphros, L. B. Benson

Goodreads Blurb:

After eight years in hiding as a prostitute, former priestess Andromeda never thought she would find love. Now she has, in Captain William Lennox, a brash pirate who uncovered more than a few secrets on their journey aboard the Bartered Soul.

Deciding to wait out the winter storms in the mild climate of New Aphros, a little serenity is just what Andromeda is hoping to find. Never having ventured far from her home in Selennia, she is looking forward to exploring a new city and, with any luck, settling into a new life with Lennox at her side.

When she meets the cunning Madame Salome, who holds more knowledge about the Old Ways than Andromeda could have ever imagined, it becomes clear this winter will bring much more than whiskeys by the fire as a respite from the storms. 

When the threat of King Dargan Blackwell and his priests comes knocking even across the sea, Andromeda must choose — live the life of freedom she so craves, even if it means continuing to live in hiding, or face her past and step into the full extent of her power.

The City of New Aphros is the second book in Andromeda’s Account. Fans of fantasy, historical fiction, romance, pirates, and magic will enjoy this sequel to The Bartered Soul.

Content Warning:
The City of New Aphros is an adult fantasy/romance is intended for readers over the age of 18. Please visit the author’s website for detailed content warnings.

My Thoughts:

It has been so good to dive back into L. B. Benson’s ‘Andromeda’s Account’ series with ‘The City of New Aphros’. I really enjoyed this as a sequel, and it brought just as much excitement, heartache, and steamy romance as ‘The Bartered Soul’ (if not more). I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while, and it didn’t disappoint.

I really love this world that Benson has created, it has heart but can be cruel, it nurtures it’s characters as much as it challenges them. There is so much support and love between the main characters of this story that it is almost tangible. It makes it so much easier to sink into this world. In a similar train of thought, that romance, so beautiful, and so steamy! I love the support that Lennox and Andromeda give each other, it is so beautiful to read.

It was so lovely to catch up with Andromeda and see how her journey continues. Some pretty big things are revealed for her which further her journey and it was so exciting to see the results of said revelation as her power grows. Especially with that ending! It was wonderfully intense and heart breaking in equal measure. I am really looking forward to book 3!

Pick up this book if you are looking for something action packed with equal amounts of tender and emotional moments, a sweet found family and rich world building you can really sink into.

*Keep in mind there are some content warnings for this novel. You can find them on the author’s website if you want.

Thank you to the author for gifting me this ARC (Advanced Reader Copy). I am leaving this review voluntarily. This title was published 20th December 2022.