Complex Peoples – a REview of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Books that you study in school. They’re hits and they’re misses. And this one I decided to try, as it was the first book that didn’t get stale the more you studied it.

Christopher goes for a walk one night to find his neighbour’s dog dead. Against his father’s wishes not to get involved, this teen boy starts an investigation to work out who killed the dog and share this and his other thoughts in a book he decides to write. What makes his brain tick, how his brain operates different from other people, and what takes him on a journey someone like him would normally never attempt to do.

Christopher was the first portrayal of an autistic character I had come across. And I must say, upon reading this again I am uncertain of how well. It highlights a lot of the difficulties someone with autism may have, and while he does go out of his comfort zone to do good things it still focuses more on the struggles of autism than may be appropriate today. I wouldn’t know, as it is something I need to look into more. At least it’s no Sia movie.

The biggest point of interest within this novel is the writing style. It perfectly captures our main character, Christopher, and the way his mind works. That being said, in the short amount of time I read this, as I am a faster read than I was when I first read this, eventually the style became tiresome and predictable. Something I got bored of, which is weird. I wouldn’t call it sluggish to get through, but it had its moments where I didn’t want to read it or I wanted to take a breather just because of how it was written.

The other characters, the neurotypical I guess I should say, were equally complex in their own ways. The main ones to focus on here being Christopher’s family. Their motivations and actions were clear the further into the book you got, and the many other people who got tangled into it too became very interesting. This book’s conflict was all about the people, and I think with this book in particular few people realise that.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time gets a score of 4/5. Complex people make storytelling strong.


A Streak Broken – a REview of The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket

As previously illustrated, the odd books thus far in A Series of Unfortunate Events have been the weakest ones. That is, until now. Things are changing in the world of Violet, Klaus and Sunny.

The Baudelaires become students at Prufrock Prep, a morbid boarding school with obscure rules that make school life difficult and miserable. But they are able to find joy as they make their first true friends since being orphaned, Duncan and Isadora Quagmire. They soon discover the absurdities of how much they have in common and are able to bond over their circumstances. And then the five must team together as Count Olaf makes his way into the staff of Prufrock Prep.

This was the first book in the series to expand beyond Count Olaf’s escapades of trying to wrangle up the children, and I was here for it. It built up the world of Unfortunate Events so much more, which I could see having read the series many years before and knowing snippets of what to expect. This made the plot very refreshing and engaging compared to the other books, and sets up new mysteries to be solved later in the series.

I was a fan of exploring this new setting of a school too, for the short time we were present. The last book poked fun at labour and poor working conditions, and this book decided to poke fun at school by showing the most absurd one you could think of. And as someone who in my later years of high school realised how absurd schooling systems get when it comes to teaching us information they think valuable and beyond, this book was entertaining satire. With, of course, the typical Snicket spin.

The characters are getting more interesting now as well, especially as we are seeing more motivations in our characters and less surface level characters who off the top of my head we won’t be seeing again. I’m interested to re-remember how certain characters return and in what kind of scope.

And now I am truly interested in seeing how this series will turn out upon reread now that things have gotten deeper.

The Austere Academy gets a score of 4.5/5. Things are developing, and I’m here for it.


How to Write Animals – a review of Pax by Sarah Pennypacker

It was a book with a fox on the cover. It intrigued me, and reading the blurb I had some things to expect in what I thought was a wholesome tale.

My god was it so much more.

A boy and his fox, considered inseparable, are forced to separate as Peter leaves his fox Pax in some woods on the side of the road. Both must learn to survive from then on without each other. But as Peter learns of the war that will enter the forest he left Pax in, he runs away from his new abode to find him again.

Wow, this book was sad. From the very start. A very wholesome sad that warms you up a little bit, but sad nonetheless. There’s nothing that hits me harder than two people who care about each other and have such a deep connection fighting for their bond. And that was done so powerfully in this book. From the start, I repeat. How can a book be so powerful to do that to me?

I knew that this book took POVs from both the fox Pax and the boy Peter, but I was expecting one to be stronger than the other. They were both so valuable for such different reasons.

Pax’s POV I thought would be weak. To write about something non-humanoid on first pitch seems difficult, but what Pennypacker wrote was just plain mastery. It brought such emotion, curiosity and sentience to the fox without making it seem human in the slightest. It perfected the portrayal of animals through an animal’s point of view.

Peter, in the meantime, had the humanity to change people and interact with them in insightful and interesting ways. It wasn’t entirely what I expected from his arc, but I still liked the direction it took in the end. I think Peter’s arc really showcased the themes of the book as well of bonds and how they evolve with the people.

I will say that the ending felt too abrupt, but I heard there was a sequel to this. I am further intrigued and am ready to get teary again. I’m just hoping the two can spend more time together in the sequel.

Pax gets a score of 4.5/5. Sad and wholesome animals stories hit me right in the feels.


Even Books are Superior- a REview of The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket

This aeon long journey of gradually finishing rereads of this long-ass series continues. You would know that thus far my opinions of A Series of Unfortunate Events has fluctuated between books and quite often I wonder if I should actually continue this series. But there seems to be a pattern with my opinion of these books.

The Baudelaires, no longer having legal guardians to take care of them, have been put into a new home of sorts. They are forced to work in a sawmill with questionable working conditions nobody has the guts to fight back on. But that isn’t the worst of the problems. When an accident has Klaus’s glasses break, his return from an eye doctor has him acting strangely. Maybe Count Olaf is right around the corner plotting against the Baudelaires still.

A lot of this book I had forgotten the plot of before I read it again. I think I only remembered Count Olaf’s disguise and alias from this book, so I went into this book expecting it to be forgetful. Stereotypical. Without excitement. All I remembered was a mill and Count Olaf. But as I read it the contents slowly came back to me.

We have lost the repetition I complained about in the previous novel, thankfully. That was my biggest fear coming into this book was that the plot was going to be yet another rehash, but I was pleasantly surprised instead by the mystery elements in this book. For a long time Count Olaf is not in the picture but working within the shadows, wreaking havoc in the mill in his own little ways. And we’re just seeing the results of his plotting and planning coming into fruition. It was refreshing to see him in such a light and to see other terrible people affecting the Baudelaires.

This novel particularly leaned into the absurdity of the Baudelaire’s situation, and while it took a while for me to suspend my disbelief it turned into some more dark comedic angles later on. Children working in a mill with terrible conditions? It’s a wonder they got into such a position in the first place, knowing what comes up in later books that are arguably better. But the adults are treated just as bad in the place. Knowing the consumer environment we live in today, some of the allusions hit a little too close to home. It felt very sweatshop adjacent.

This novel was also a chance for Violet to shine as the main person knowing things are awry, and the main person to have agency to save her siblings. This is especially in ways that are not typical of her. She’s performing the research Klaus is normally known for and making investigations. She still has some inventive moments to shine, but it is good to see her out of her comfort zone and still able to solve problems. An element that shakes things up for this middle grade audience.

But now I’m sitting here scared that book 5 is not going to be good if this odd/even pattern continues.

The Miserable Mill gets a score of 4/5. I have faith that book 6 in the series will be good now.


A Thousand Lives – a review of The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Needless to say, this book has its trigger warnings with the main theme of it being suicide. And I know that opinions on this book’s themes become very diverse. I won’t comment on the suicide themes as I have been lucky enough to not be in a position where I face these thoughts and I have not yet been diagnosed with any mental disabilities. I cannot comment on how well this novel depicts suicide, or not, and I don’t intend to.

I’m just here to talk about the story and its message.

Nora finds herself in a place between space and time after she commits suicide. She walks into a library filled with books that represent alternate versions of her life, lives where she makes changes big and small and her entire way of living changes. Any one of these lives could be a new life for Nora to choose. But to pick between them all becomes a challenge as she discovers lives where she is still depressed, where more of her loved ones die or where she realises her childhood dreams have equal nightmares. Nora wonders why she can’t find the life right for her, or if one even exists for her out there.

The language sold me like nothing else. That was the highlight of this novel for me – the writing style and the way everything was described throughout. There was a lot of artistry in each chapter that made so many paintings in my mind out of prose. I could imagine each of Nora’s stories vividly with the words put before me, making each of them so enthralling to read. And wow, there was so much.

Nora’s character felt very everyman and was easy to relate to. It is very universal to wonder what you are going to do with your life at any age, and Nora’s was taken to an extreme. It was easy to relate to aspects of her for me with her many interests and the struggle throughout this story to find one to truly put your heart and soul into in the hopes that it will be fulfilling. I loved to explore these different facets and passions of Nora.

Above all else, this novel made me change my thinking. Novels that do this instantly gain an high reputation in my eyes. Since reading this book I have put the novel’s message forth into my own day to day actions and it has offered a grand perspective on my own life henceforth. For the right people, this novel can leave you feeling hopeful and can give you your agency for your life back in spite of the struggles to try and work out what we want out of it.

The Midnight Library gets a score of 5/5. A book that changes the way I think with such prose deserves this.


Real and Revealed – a review of Loveless by Alice Oseman

Oh look. An Ace Author reviews yet another ace book. Hate to break it to you, but we’re gonna get a lot more of this in the future. And this is not just any ace book. This is the ace book. The first recommendation anyone would give to you when you say you want a book with ace representation at the forefront.

So let’s judge the popular.

Georgia starts to wonder why she hasn’t fallen in love with anyone despite how much she wants to. Not a single crush, not a single person she has found attraction towards, not a single desire to have sex. And when people notice this about her and an accident reveals that as her final year of high school comes to a close, she makes herself a vow to fall in love as she starts a new life at university. And as she realises how picky she is, asexuality and aromanticism come to her knowledge for the first time. And she doesn’t know what it means or anything about why she doesn’t want to love no matter how hard she tries.

This novel had stellar characters like no other contemporary novels characters I have read about. A tight cast makes for an in depth focus on each of them and their adversities. And each of them brought something different to the table. Their arcs and adversities, their personalities and the the way they present themselves. It is rare to find casts so diverse and yet likeable, with no villains and people just living their lives. This felt so much like just people living their lives.

More so on that point, this novel did feel like a life. It had just enough pop culture to make it feel current but not saturations that date it or make it feel like a walking advertisement. It had characters doing real things and having real worries. Oseman illustrated such reality that it felt warming to read this. Having spent a lot of my university life in lockdown, I was glad to have lived it through this book instead.

Once again, a novel about discovering asexuality has me feel so visible. But unlike other asexual characters and their stories, this one did even more. It challenged the way I thought of my asexuality and what to do with it. Now I’m not like Georgia, who is fully ace and aro. I just have asexuality. But even so, I read this in a time of my life where a lot of my relationships with people were forced to change. But the lessons with how to treat all relationships in my life with passion and care when I truly cared for someone really stuck with me. It’s something even a non-ace can take away from this book.

Read it so you know what I mean. I dare you.

Loveless gets a score of 5/5. Be there. Be loving. For everyone.


Why the Hell was this discontinued? – a REview of Paperchase by G Brassi

Guys. This a problem.

This book is so good but nobody can get it anymore. It is discontinued to the point where it’s existence as far as the internet is aware is a myth. It’s time to bust.

When Gemma returns home from school to see her sister packing her bags with a bruise on her face, she instantly knows she has to accompany Brianna. With stolen money from their mum’s boyfriend, the two of them fly across the Tasman to Australia in an attempt to find their father they haven’t seen in eight years. But he’s difficult to find. The two go across cities and the entire country in a bid to find him all whilst learning about the true dreams of each other, themselves and their families along the way.

I didn’t realise how mature this story would be. I literally forgot everything about this book and rereading it was a literal experience to fall in love with it again. For the record, I read this when I was 12. Before I knew what mental health was. Before I understood things like domestic violence and PTSD – which I should mention are triggers. I love it when authors understand the maturity that preteens hold and delve into like nothing. And in my unprofessional opinion it was well done.

The characters were absolutely beautiful. It wasn’t just our pre-teen protagonist Gemma that held the arcs and maturity that stole the show. No, this was a heist! A team of characters stealing my heart each with their roles and masteries. From the older sister with her heart in the wrong place but not quite her head to the hot goth she meets along the way and every big and little person in between. What a cast!

I loved how artistic the descriptions were. Very appropriate considering the art training of our main character Gemma, who turned everything into a landscape… even the landscapes (sorry, I just had to put it in there). Such interpretations wouldn’t make sense any other way, Brassi got the style of this book on lock. I wonder if they had artistic prowess themselves to be able to think and describe this way or if it just came out of a writer’s brain. Regardless, it charmed me.

The coming of age was amazing within the events of this book. I have yet to have read a book (that I can remember) that does this plotline with such finesse. It’s a typical trope for young adult fiction, but can you get tired of it when it turned so mature as Gemma both gained and let go of mature thinking? This can go up there with the classics.

But I’m upset. Because as much as I gush over this book, you’re gonna have to fight to find it. And I want you to. Just don’t steal my copy.

Paperchase gets a score of 5/5. Find this book somewhere. I dare you.

The Wide Window

Chekhov’s Gun – a REview of The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket

I just realised this now that I have finished reviewing book 3 in this thirteen book series. With the way that I read and review on this platform with series that are already out it will take me three years to complete reviewing this series. I am truly in this for the long haul. And I hope you guys are too.

So anyway, here’s book three of a Series of Unfortunate Events after rereading it.

Now staying with their most paranoid Aunt Josephine, the Baudelaire children find themselves in a state of forceful happiness. That is until they find Count Olaf in disguise trying to thwart them once more. And when Aunt Josephine disappears with a suicide note being proof of it, the three of them are convinced it was Olaf’s doing. They must follow the breadcrumbs to prosecute him before they are once again in his clutches with their fortune.

I don’t remember much about the first time that I read this book so I’m just gonna skip this bit. I remember scenes in it and that’s it.

What this book did well was hinting. It took time for the children to work things out in spite of the hints, and even though I knew the solutions I was glad that the solutions didn’t come up straight away for them. Like all good characters, they had to work for it. This was what I now realise the movie adaptation failed to do. Working for these puzzle pieces truly made the stakes rise higher and made these smart children not seem unbeatable. Hell. Yes.

I should also mention how this novel is the epitome of Chekhov’s Gun like nothing else. It is basically a rule that dictates anything that is pointed out or theorised will happen is actually going to happen, and oh boy did everything happen. This was of course done in a comedic fashion but it made it all the more satisfying and tight. I love a tight plot! The tighter the plot the more that I will enjoy it.

This series is getting a little bit monotonous now. It felt a look like a reskinned version of the previous installment. I get that this is a children’s series and kids appreciate a routine that’s easy to follow, but give me a break. It was just different enough to keep me reading, but it almost felt like I was reading save the cat word for word. Or the hero’s journey word for word. Or whatever was used to outline this story.

I seriously hope that my memories of book four being different will serve me right.

The Wide Window gets a score of 3/5. The Reptile Room Part II, Electric Boogaloo

Yours in writing



Close the Door on this Open Ending- a review of There There by Tommy Orange

Upon expanding the representation of BIPOC on my bookshelves, I got drawn to Native American culture. This was one that came highly rated upon searching for this criteria with a premise that allowed meto give it a go.

Urban Native Americans, ones in touch with a culture they will never truly see. The Big Oakland Powwow brings many Native Americans together. Some seek to find their families again, others to connect with family slowly drifting away from them. Some are so in touch with their cultures and others wish to be part of that culture again, just to observe the events or to actually come to run and take part in it. There There follows twelve of them coming to the Powwow for celebration… And some come with more sinister intentions in the midst of crime and drug dealerships. Regardless, these twelve all have something to overcome and discover.

Each character in this novel was so well developed and each so unique. With the characters and their unique stories alone, this feels like the Native American interpretation of In The Heights minus the optimism and musical numbers. There was such a diversity of goals, as with any group of characters, but seeing cultural connections tie them together added a lot of meaning to the ensemble. Especially when their narratives brought them together and wove them into this blanket collection of stories. The characters by far made this story what it is and it the pure core of it.

One thing still confuses me – why were the POVs in different personages, even for specific characters? At first I thought the first person perspectives were of the survivors and the third the ones who would die, but then individual POVs changed from first to third in different chapters too. And then one was randomly in second person. This really dragged me out of the story as I failed to find significance in this. and I’m now convinced it was some kind of editing error. I mean, there probably was some kind of meaning behind it, but I can’t see it even now to save my life. This will genuinely haunt me for years.

Another thing I was unsure of is the ending. It made me confused as to what the point of this story was at the end. It was an open ending, yes, but that’s not always something I’m mad about. But an open ending that leaves you confused is not a good open ending. I pity the fate of the characters and found that good, but a lot of the arcs of characters felt unfulfilled. And there was a lot of them with POVs. And ending can make or break a story for me, and let’s just say it broke this one after a very strong beginning with very strong characters.

I should finish by respecting the intention of this novel and the things I learned about modern Native American culture while reading this. I’m happy to take that as a giveaway with a story I didn’t wound up enjoying enough.

There There gets a score of 3/5. An opening ending that doesn’t appeal.

Yours in writing



Short and Deep – a Re-View of The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket

Been a while since we touched The Bad Beginning, it was only a matter of time until we found out how the story continued. And things get better!

For the readers, not for the children sadly.

Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire cunningly escape the clutches of Count Olaf and instead meet the eccentric Doctor Montgomery, their new garden. Fascinated by his studies of snakes, the children think they have found their new home and family to grow up with. But Count Olaf soon returns in disguise, still wanting to get his hands on their fortune. And his next plans require more cunning on their part as they attempt to prove him guilty of murder.

This book was in so many ways better than its predecessor. Maybe this was because in book one I was still getting re-introduced to Snicket’s writing style, or maybe because of others points I will later discuss. The writing style was far more tolerable this time. I felt like I was being talked down to in the writing style far less, for one thing. But Snicket’s unreliable narration that put rainclouds over a lot really shone this time.

What made this novel work so well in terms of plot was the short timeframe it covered. This is often something people underestimate, and I love any kind of long-length story that takes place up to three days. Well, this one took up a week I think, but my point still stands! These kinds of plots allow us to pay attention to any detail thrown at us and we are in the present with the characters. We won’t forget anything, these horrible thoughts feel very real in the moment. This book ticks all those boxes.

I particularly enjoyed how each of the characters had their moments to shine. While in The Bad Beginning Violet felt like the only one in control of getting out of her forced marriage, the climax of The Reptile Room involved all three in each of their elements. I won’t go into details, but this installment felt far more equitable in terms of the children.

But what really brought this book to such a high score was the tone. This book had its highs as well as lows, and in spite of us knowing those lows would be hit the highs had a bittersweetness that became very enjoyable. It really brought these characters to life once their time with Uncle Monty started spiralling downhill. Felt a little too real, but that’s humanity.

The Reptile Room gets a score of 4.5/5. The shorter the time period, the better the story and hijinks.

Yours in writing



Mature Children – a review of Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur

I would call this a RE-view, but I didn’t even remember what happened in this book. So it was basically like reading this for the first time. I read this book in my final year of Intermediate school, got my best friend into it and we were obsessed with this book for a while.

11-year-old Aubrey is home alone. Her dad and sister died in an accident and her grieving mother abandoned her. She didn’t mind this lifestyle until Grandma arrived and took her to her home in Vermont to stay with her. Not only must Aubrey come to terms with a new life, but she must come to turns with the past at the same time and how things will never be the same.

This was the first book that made me cry, but I couldn’t remember what about it made me cry. It was ten years ago since I read that book and I had read tonnes more since then. Even so, this held such a place in my heart and I reminisced on the feelings I felt while reading it. There were bits and pieces I remembered of it but nothing stronger than the emotion – the crying and the joy mixed into the pages.

This was a stellar character driven story, perfect for a contemporary novel. You could clearly see interactions and opinions impact characters in such a real way. Each revelation hit hard or brought joy. Each character and their relationships felt real, developed, thoughtful. Contemporary novels in my perspective have some of the richest and most well rounded characters I’ve ever read, and LaFleur’s work is not exception.

Aubrey’s character and her arc were stellar. She had so much dimension, maturity and at the same time youth for her age. That and it felt so relatable and universal. Love, Aubrey revolves around children’s grief and PTSD through her perspective, and even though it relates to her dealing with it that doesn’t consume her or the plot. Her developments are very mature and signify a coming of age.

One thing that brought it down for me were a bunch of cliches in the language of this novel. You can expect language cliches in middle grade novels, the same metaphors and similes you see all the time. And seeing cliches of ways to describe things doesn’t usually get me mad. But when they come in this huge quantity it does made me think less of the novel. You couldn’t think of any new ways to describe that river? Or that feeling in your gut? I know how wild a child’s imagination can get, and this wasn’t it.

But don’t let that take the rating of this fantastic book down too far. This is still an incredible story for anyone to read, so make you cry and warm your heart all at once.

Love, Aubrey gets a score of 4.5/5. Enough emotion and purity to last me the rest of the year.

Yours in writing



This Isn’t Rush Hour – a REview of Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer

We’ve been doing a lot of re-views lately, haven’t we? HOWEVER something new did come out of this.

A book I loved and thought I was devoted to wound up disappointing me.

When her aunt’s diner shuts down, Hope Yancey moves with her to a diner needing a pick-me-up in Wisconsin. A few days after the two of them start working there they discover that the owner, G.T., decided to run for mayor once he discovered he had cancer. Hope then gets swept up in a whirlwind with the other teens of the town to campaign against the corrupt mayor and help the town out financially in as many ways as possible. But when your mayor is a corrupt moneybags giant, you bet they have ways to stiffen morale.

Back when I read this I was 14, got intrigued by the title and bought this at the book fair. I think I was reading this during an election period myself? Regardless, this was a very touching and heartwarming book that nearly made me cry towards the end, seeing Hope find a family instead of wishing for her own to find her again.

Clearly back then I didn’t know what good storytelling was.

The plot itself was great, very compelling and hit me in the right places again on the second read. It was very interesting to see the twists, turns and processes mentioned in the election campaign and you the corrupt mayor fought back. That side of things made for a very interesting plot in spite of its simplicity.

But then we get to problems I didn’t see back when I was 14. First off, it was rushed. Crazy rushed. That made a lot of those moments last not nearly as long as I wanted them to. How dare. And this was more rushed than in other novels, which is surprising. I should’ve known based on how thin the book was, but I’ve read novels with same page number and yet bigger font sizes that had more cohesively paced stories than this.

Second, I don’t get why it was told from Hope’s point of view. Not only is she a Mary Sue in this novel, but she has no agency relating directly to the plot. I think only one problem in this novel relating to the main plot was solved by her. And when she said she found her family and people to care for her at the end of the novel, I was struggling to find the moments that claimed so.

The other characters weren’t greater either. Not only did this include love-interest-exists-only-to-make-the-lead-feel-horny syndrome, but none of the other characters aside from the villain had any personal and clear goals except for maybe one of the other waitresses at the diner. Even the main character, as mentioned before. The entire town was full of plot vessels. Terrible storytelling.

So I think I had my head in the clouds. And this book which I have kept for eight years will find a new home at a charity thrift shop.

Hope Was Here gets a score of 2/5. I’ve never read a story that took place in such a boring town before.

Yours in writing



Who Needs A Thesaurus?- a RE-view of The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

This was the first series I read in its entirety. Granted it was out of order, so I thought it was time to give it another try from the start. And in order – the way it was meant to be read.

After the death of their parents in a house fire, siblings Violet, Klaus and Sunny are put into the care of Count Olaf who immediately mistreats them behind closed doors. The three of them seek escape, but when adults don’t listen to them or care enough about them they need to take matters into their own hands to work out what the Count has planned for them in order to get their fortune, locked away.

This novel was introduced to me at age 8 by my teacher, who was a huge fan of the series. This was a particularly impactful series for me because it signified a coming of age for me, much like each character experiences gradually at some point in the series. For me, it was the abandoning of 50-page “chapter” books on fairies and unicorns.

This novel’s biggest strength is definitely its mood. It had a way with putting pessimism on things in simple ways. I feel like it could’ve been described more, but with it being middle grade it worked out fairly well in how the mood was set. This novel would scream dark academia if it was released in the past five years. Well, it still could, but that would be a huge marketing point for this novel if it was newer to shelves.

With it being a middle grade novel, it definitely embraced that side of things. At times it was charming and others it was annoying. Snicket definitely had his clever moments in his writing, but at times they were foreshadowed by how often he explained the meaning of a new word. This wasn’t that much of a deal to me when I read it at the appropriate age, but reading it as an adult I found it passively condescending. Ironically, so did Klaus when adults tried explaining things to him.

The interesting take this novel took was explaining tragedy, trauma and other mature topics to a younger audience. A lot of it is glossed over, but the parts that stayed were very impactful altogether. The parts that explained emotions and behaviours the children experienced, the shock factor of the abuse the Count put them through, how they care for each other. That’s what particularly drew me in – how it was never floury or joking over that aspect of the novel. It had the space to be quirky and eccentric, but knew when not to be.

I’m definitely not as into it as I was initially, but I think this series is one I’ll keep going through and rereading. Just to see what the whole story looks like.

The Bad Beginning gets a score of 3.5/5. Not a bad start for a bad start.

Yours in writing



Major Style Points – a review of The Liminal Space by Jacquie McRae

This author studied at the same university as me. Not the same degree – I studied digital communications, not creative writing – but that’s still cool. A small world to find a New Zealand author publishing a fiction novel.

With the church of a small British village called Radley losing money, their library may be shutting down as a result. And in the middle of this village crisis are four people. First is William, a retired doctor and kind soul without history. He helps out Emily, who is in love with an abusive husband and retreats to her workplace at the library to find peace. Next door to William is Arlo and his son Marco, who is struggling to play London rent after not making enough sales as a real estate agent. And fourth is James, depressed and anxious as his father makes his life choices for him. To save the Radley library, together these four will first save themselves.

This book has got some triggering topics that are worth mentioning now: depression, anxiety, suicide, and sexual abuse, all described and playing parts in the narrative. If any of these trigger or upset you, this book isn’t for you. You’re okay to not read this review.

I loved all these characters and the perspectives they provided. Each one felt so real and so genuinely cared for that I cannot discern favourites, because each of them focussed on such real subjects, some of which I could relate to. And the ones that I couldn’t relate to were laced with such an incredible writing style that I would claim it as similar as Markus Zusak’s. How poetic the mundane and the normal was.

With contemporary novels being a big hit-or-miss for me, sometimes the conflicts or the plotlines don’t feel real enough. But each of these conflicts faced by the main characters were very much real and connected with each other very well. It didn’t feel Avengers-y where they all team up to solve a big issue, but the little impacts they make on each other when they meet it the beauty of this novel. It showcases them as individuals even when their POV voices are so unique and similar at the same time. As if I haven’t gushed enough about the writing style already. This is what really captures you when you read this novel.

My only complaint would be how abruptly the character arcs had finished. They did make sense, but in some cases it felt like they happened too soon. James’s plot, which focuses on mental health, is a strong example. It is framed that his mental health problems are “solved” by the end of the book, which in reality would not be. And then another character doesn’t have a POV chapter to solve their problems and finish their character arc, it is just in the background? I didn’t vibe with that.

I didn’t think I would vibe with this book when I saw a almost brand new copy of it in a second-hand book shop and bought it because it was cheap. But as soon as I read it, I knew I was glad to pick it up. And you should pick it up too.

The Liminal Space gets a score of 4/5. A strong writing style foundation with fantastic characters building it up.

Yours in writing



Only Humans – a review of The Messenger by Markus Zusak

Markus Zusak has written my favourite book of all time, The Book Thief. I have read one of his other works prior, Bridge of Clay, and wasn’t amazed admittedly. This made me wonder if the Book Thief was the sole place where Zusak peaked.

After reading The Messenger, I decided he is just that good of an author.

Ed Kennedy wants to be more than an underage taxi driver, but he has never found the chance to do so. However, after he stops a bank robbery – albeit a pathetic one – everything changes. His week of fame ends with a single envelope address to him appearing in his letterbox; the ace of clubs with three addresses written on it. With nothing better to do, Ed decides to visit these addresses. And so he spirals into an obsession with these cards and unhealthy selflessness.

Zusak always masters narrative voice in his works, and Ed is no exception. What is most noticeable in The Messenger, however, is the evolution of the voice with the character. As the story went on, so did the depth of Ed’s thoughts and the sheer poetry of what was going on around him. It is very natural for narrative voice to evolve as a story goes on, as an author’s style is very literally improving with each paragraph. But Zusak goes a step further with distinguishable ways that Ed changes in the novel. It makes the words really feel like his thoughts. Zusak flourishes his perfection of writing in first person.

His mastery of characters expands even further to the wide cast in this book. It is very literally showing the characters changing and opening up as Ed takes each of them on different character arcs. It is quite a mission to connect so many short stories so expertly as Ed changes the lives of twelve different people and their families. They were all raw. They were all real. They were all relatable. I felt like I collected their hearts and tenderly loved them all.

But what I especially loved was how it was all laced together. The card game. Well, as it is on the surface. Contemporary stories can be unusual for me, because they focus on very regular things in life and either oversell or undersell what goes on. This was a story about people making do in a small Australian town and not reaching their goals or dreams. And all it took was one person to connect them to their needs. It is a story that truly showed the human condition and how that small thing connects us and is how we evolve. Just by needing that small push, that agent to guide you on the right path. To make yourself.

If you don’t read it, you won’t understand what I’m on about. Pick up a copy right now. You’ll regret it if you don’t. This book was a lucky find in a second hand shop that is worth gold.

The Messenger gets a score of 5/5. Markus Zusak again makes a favourite of mine.

Yours in writing