Book review: Blood Countess by Lana Popović

Title: Blood Countess by Lana Popović

Publisher: Harry N. Abrams

Publication date: 28 January 2020

Genre: Horror | Young Adult | Romance | Historical

Page extent: 320 pages


Goodreads blurb: A historical YA horror novel based on the infamous real-life inspiration for Countess Dracula,

In 17th century Hungary, Anna Darvulia has just begun working as a scullery maid for the young and glamorous Countess Elizabeth Báthory. When Elizabeth takes a liking to Anna, she’s vaulted to the dream role of chambermaid, a far cry from the filthy servants’ quarters below. She receives wages generous enough to provide for her family, and the Countess begins to groom Anna as her friend and confidante. It’s not long before Anna falls completely under the Countess’s spell—and the Countess takes full advantage. Isolated from her former friends, family, and fiancé, Anna realizes she’s not a friend but a prisoner of the increasingly cruel Elizabeth. Then come the murders, and Anna knows it’s only a matter of time before the Blood Countess turns on her, too.

This book had one of the most intriguing premises of 2020 – sapphic romance with one of the most prolific female serial killers of all time?! Hell yes! I enjoyed this book, particularly the first half, but I do think it lacked a little horror. Don’t get me wrong, there is brutal torture and gorey murder in this book, but I felt like it needed more fear and tension. I wanted it to feel more terrifying and horrory.

The book is told from the POV of Anna, an impoverished healer who, when rescuing a kitten, runs into the new Lady of her land, Elizabeth Báthory. Elizabeth takes a shine to her, and employs her in her castle. What follows is a mix of witchcraft and lust and horror as Anna becomes bewitched by Elizabeth, and the slow realisation of all that Elizabeth is.

The first half of this book is excellent. The initial relationship between Anna and Elizabeth is incredible. The few hints of darkness behind Elizabeth’s facade, the way they stare at each other, how utterly bewitched it seems they are of each other, it is so beautifully done. The way Anna reacts to Fenrec, Elizabeth’s husband, and her fears he is causing the darkness in Elizabeth is both understandable and thrilling in how it causes her to react. I adored the start of their relationship and I really thought we might get an incredible villain romance.

But then the second half hit and it became a little predictable as Elizabeth begins her pursuit for youth and beauty. The ending felt very rushed compared to the first half, which languished unhurridely in the beauty of their developing relationship. I wanted more fear and terror and horror as Elizabeth deteriorated. I wanted to feel some of the passion from the first half of the book. Instead it just felt a little lucklustre in execution, just a little too descriptive to be impactful. All of the torture and murder scenes in particular lacked for me. It felt rather stilted. I understand this might be because this is a YA novel, and the need to keep it less gruesome and terrifying because of that. So perhaps this would have worked better as an adult when the true horror of Elizabeth could really be explored with more emotional impact.

Blood Countess was one I wanted to adore. And I think I would have if the passion and fire from the first half of the novel continued to the second half. But sadly, it didn’t and it got a little too rushed to be a satisfying ending. This is still definitely worth a read through, for the beautiful and incredible development of the sapphic romance.

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

Book review: Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

Title: Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Publication date: 29 October 2019

Genre: Contemporary | Young Adult | Romance

Page extent: 290 pages


Goodreads blurb: In a community that isn’t always understanding, an HIV-positive teen must navigate fear, disclosure, and radical self-acceptance when she falls in love–and lust–for the first time. Powerful and uplifting, Full Disclosure will speak to fans of Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon.

Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…

Full Disclosure is a book which looks at the impact of HIV in a modern setting. It is both a fun and hilarious YA contemporary as well as a timely reminder about the fear of HIV still prevalent in our society.

Simone is our protagonist. She has had HIV since she was born, passed on from her birth mother. She has recently moved to a new school after her HIV status was revealed and everyone turned on her at her last one. Now, someone at her new school is blackmailing her, threatening to reveal her secret if she doesn’t stay away from Miles, the boy she’s crushing on.

Simone really is the star of this book. She exudes energy on every page. Her interactions with both her best friends, Claudia and Lydia, as well as Miles, were hilarious. Full Disclosure really captures what’s it’s like to be a teen and discovering your sexuality. From the sex shop scene to the constant jokes about sex in her friend group, it feels so real. I love how Camryn wasn’t afraid to shy away from talking openly about sex and masturbation as a teen. It’s abundantly obvious this was written by a teen, by someone with a clear understanding of how teens actually act – because Simone’s voice, the characters, their interactions, they all sound like teens. It was very refreshing to read!

Miles is also an absolutely adorable and lovely character. His sincere support and love for Simone, and the way he tries to watch musicals so he can know more about what Simone enjoys is just wonderful! He is like the opposite to your traditional moody white boy YA love interest and I LOVE HIM.

The casual diversity in this book is incredible. From Claudia’s asexuality to Lydia’s bisexuality, Simone’s two dads, Simone’s own exploration of her queerness, to the conversation at the GSA about whether you can be a non-binary lesbian, it really shows the range of diversity within the queer community. I wasn’t expecting the internalised (and external) biphobia in the book, it hasn’t been mentioned in any of the other reviews I’ve read. It is challenged at the end of the book, but just note there are some discussions about the validity of bisexuality and what makes you “queer”. Claudia makes some nasty comments in the heat of an argument, as well as Simone’s ex, Sarah. I appreciate and understand the need for discussions such as this in YA, however it did make me feel a little sad about this book. I feel like every book I’ve read this year that deals with bisexuality has the same thing, and I’ve just gotten a little tired of reading biophobic lines this year. But as I say, I understand the importance, I’m just personally not really in the place to read books that deal with this issue right now.

There was also quite a few heavy info-dumping sections. These generally were when there was medical info to give, and whilst it was interesting to hear about U=U etc, I feel there could’ve been a more natural way to do so rather than the very large info dump at the start of the book.

Otherwise, I really enjoyed Full Disclosure! It brought the experience of HIV into a modern setting, which I don’t think I’ve read in a YA before. Simone is a fantastic character, and the heavy issue driven nature of this book was lightened by the hilarious discussions about sex. Great debut and I will definitely keep an eye on what Camryn Garrett writes next!

Book review: Opposite of Always by Justin A Reynolds

Title: Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Publication date: 5 March 2019

Genre: Contemporary | Young Adult | Romance

Page extent: 464 pages

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads blurb: Jack Ellison King. King of Almost.

He almost made valedictorian.

He almost made varsity.

He almost got the girl…

When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack. Jack’s curse of almost is finally over.

But this love story is . . . complicated. It is an almost happily ever after. Because Kate dies. And their story should end there. Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Beautiful, radiant Kate. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind. Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do—and let go—to save the people he loves. 


Wow…this was so good?! I’ve been on a fantasy kick recently and was really beginning to feel like I wasn’t enjoying books as much as I would normally. This book was a welcome relief from high fantasy overload. Whilst there is a tiny portion of magic related to time travel, the story is a contemporary romance and that is very much the plot focus. 

Opposite of Always follows Jack King, a boy who always comes second. Second to his best friend (Franny) who got with his other best friend (Jillian) after Jack was too scared to ask her out; second to almost getting on the varsity team whilst his best friend did), second, second, second. At a party when Jack contemplates giving in and kissing Jillian, he meets Kate and is immediately blown away by her. What follows is months of falling in love and hopes of a happy ever after for everyone. But then Kate dies. Suddenly, Jack is stuck in a time loop, forced to re-live the same four months over and over, as he attempts to save Kate’s life. But as he tries, his other relationships begin to fall apart and Jack has to contemplate that maybe it’s not possible to save everyone he loves. 

This was such a fun romance. I adored Jack and Kate together. There was so much banter, so many laugh out loud moments that made me snort with laughter. I did find the speed with which Jack seemed to forget his past feelings for Jillian a little unbelievable. Or, perhaps believable, but insincere. It marred the start of his relationship with Kate as I couldn’t really believe he was so suddenly in love with someone else. However, as we got to see them together across so many different timelines, it really helped the believability of their love, especially as Jack ended up living months and months of time together with Kate. 

I loved the time loop element. Yes it is SUCH a trope. But I am a sucker for a good trope. It was so interesting to see Jack try so many different ways to get his happy ending. At first, he is so sure in what would make him happy. But as the different loops play out, we see the impact of Jack’s actions on those around him, and what makes Jack happy, can at times destroy others. And suddenly, what Jack thought would make him happiest is no longer true.

I really enjoyed that even though this book felt very uplifting and happy and I felt so joyful whenever I read it, it didn’t shy away from confrontational topics. From Franny’s non-existent dad who is newly released from jail, his re-arrest after a shop owner took offence to a black man in his shop, to the shootings of innocent black men, this book doesn’t shy away from contemporary world problems and it really shows the normalcy of these actions for so many people, which I think make it incredibly impactful.

Linking to my issues with Jack’s feelings are my issues with Jillain. I won’t give anything away, but suffice to say, there are reasons which make her seem like a very insincere character and I really wasn’t convinced of her relationship with Franny.

But despite the few small flaws, I really adored reading this. It was EXACTLY the break I needed in my reading, and it was so much fun. I felt so happy reading it, so many moments made me laugh, it’s a fantastic, trope filled, summery read!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

Blog tour: The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco

I am so excited to say welcome to my first ever blog tour stop!! Thank you so much to Shealea at Caffeine Book Tours for inviting me onto the tour, and to both Rin Chupeco and the publisher for offering a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. In just a few short words: The Never Tilting World is brilliant book, one about family and truth and the corruption of power. Also bisexuals. 


Book information

Title: The Never Tilting World

Author: Rin Chupeco

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication date: 15 October 2019

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy


Frozen meets Mad Max in this epic teen fantasy duology bursting with star-crossed romance, immortal heroines, and elemental magic, perfect for fans of Furyborn.

Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by an unrelenting sun.

While one sister rules Aranth—a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wracked sea —her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.

But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses —along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and a mouthy desert scavenger —set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.

Book links: Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads


A demoness is what they call a goddess that men cannot control.

I want to start by saying a big ol’ THANK YOU to Rin Chupeco for featuring bisexuality in a fantasy novel because this is seriously all my jams, this is it, it’s all I want. The Never Tilting World was a whirlwind of action and romance, of finding family and losing family, and discovering the way power can corrupt and twist who you are. 

The Never Tilting World is told through four POVs. In an icy cold, dark and destructive world are Lan; healer Catseye suffering from PTSD, bound to protect a goddess; and Odessa, goddess suffering from an unknown illness, newly discovering her power. On the other side of the world in the blistering heat of the desert are Haidee, goddess trying to break free from her mother’s plans to wed her off, and Arjun, desert rogue and amputee who has one desire: kill the goddess. These four are pulled to the centre of the world where a dark and unknown terror awaits – the terrible Brighthenge temple which was the site of the Breaking, where the world was torn apart and the frozen and heated wastelands created.

“I didn’t hate Haidee exactly, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to throttle her for having no sense of self-preservation.”

i am so here for this snark

All four of these characters are so unique. I adored the sniping and snark between Haidee and Arjun, but I think my favourite was Odessa. Her character arc is brilliant, and it was so interesting to see from her perspective as her power grew and changed. The romance interwoven into the story was lovely, please authors I beg of you to keep writing awesome queer relationships into fantasy, it brings me such joy to see. 

Another thing I loved was the backstory of the world and how it came to be. Both Odessa and Haidee are told different stories from their mothers regarding the Breaking and what happened all those years ago, and so we the reader are as confused and intrigued by the mystery as much as the characters are. I do wish we’d gotten perhaps a little more information and closure on that but I understand completely there is a sequel which will continue this. It was really interesting to see how both Odessa and Haidee’s view of their mothers adapted as the book progressed, and as they discovered more about the events of the Breaking. The insidious way these events emerge is fantastic and I cannot wait to find out the truth about what happened.

Sacrifice is necessary for what was two to become one.

something bad will happen i know it

Another fantastically creative element were all of the twisted (although at times adorable…) creatures we met along the way. From the dolugongs, dolphin like sand sea creatures, to the giant scorpions, and horror shadow creatures that can steal you away. They were all so different and interesting, I loved all the run ins with them! 

The Never Tilting World is a really solid series start, it sets the sequel up so well (too well perhaps, I GOTS TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED). I’m already very attached to all four of our main characters and I actually don’t have one I didn’t like (rare indeed for me!) It was such a creative and interesting read, with a fascinating history and a bisexual romance which is just awesome! If you love strong bisexuals, creative creatures and a killer mysterious history, then pick up The Never Tilting World!


Please do visit all the amazing bloggers who are participating in this tour! I can’t wait to see what everyone else thought and has created for this book!

If you’re eagle eyed you’ll be able to spot the bottom right corner, which mentions the Twitter chat we’ll having on Saturday October 19! It will be happening at 9AM EST – I may not be able to make it as it will be pretty late here in Australia, but do listen in to everyone as they chat about this awesome read!

Rin Chupeco

Rin Chupeco has written obscure manuals for complicated computer programs, talked people out of their money at event shows, and done many other terrible things. She now writes about ghosts and fantastic worlds but is still sometimes mistaken for a revenant. She is the author of The Girl from the Well, its sequel, The Suffering, and the Bone Witch trilogy.

Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin always maintains her sense of hummus. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. Dances like the neighbors are watching.

Find out more about Rin over on her website, Goodreads, Instagram, Pintrest and Twitter!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

Book review: Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

Title: Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Publication date: 25 June 2019

Genre: Fantasy | Young adult

Page extent: 429 pages

Goodreads blurb: A fresh and addictive fantasy-romance set in modern-day Seoul.

Eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung has a secret–she’s a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour the energy of men in order to survive. Because so few believe in the old tales anymore, and with so many evil men no one will miss, the modern city of Seoul is the perfect place to hide and hunt.

But after feeding one full moon, Miyoung crosses paths with Jihoon, a human boy, being attacked by a goblin deep in the forest. Against her better judgment, she violates the rules of survival to rescue the boy, losing her fox bead–her gumiho soul–in the process.

Jihoon knows Miyoung is more than just a beautiful girl–he saw her nine tails the night she saved his life. His grandmother used to tell him stories of the gumiho, of their power and the danger they pose to humans. He’s drawn to her anyway.

With murderous forces lurking in the background, Miyoung and Jihoon develop a tenuous friendship that blossoms into something more. But when a young shaman tries to reunite Miyoung with her bead, the consequences are disastrous . . . forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon’s.

I can’t express how much I loved reading about the Korean mythology in this book – this was such a fun concept!

Wicked Fox is a story about  Miyoung, a young girl who is part human, part gumiho (a nine tailed fox demon). To survive, she must feed on the gi (life energy) of men, a process that kills them. Miyoung does not like her violent nature, and so only feeds once a month at the full moon, following directions from Nara, a girl who can speak to spirits, to find men who’ve committed heinous crimes to feed on. But one night, she runs into a dokkaebi attacking Jihoon, and in the process of saving him she loses her fox bead – and Miyoung will die without her fox bead. The book then follows Miyoung and Jihoon as they try to fix her bead back inside her. 

My favourite part about this book was Miyoung. I thought she was a great character, stubborn and cold on the outside for reasons which made so much sense. Her relationship with her mother was extremely interesting, guiding all her actions even if she didn’t realise it. Particularly in the first half, her anger at Jihoon felt realistic and played out well. 

I also loved the Korean mythology. The excerpts of the gumiho mythology were so interesting to read, and I really liked whenever we met one of the other supernatural beasts – particularly Nara, who despite her small time on page felt fleshed out and I loved her arc. I feel like we didn’t scratch the surface on Junu, a dokkaebi who sells protection charms. I wished we’d gotten more of his back story as I feel he would be a really interesting character. 

Another character I wish we’d had more of is Yena, Miyoung’s mother. She fills the page whenever she’s written about, very clearly executed who she is, and I wish she’d featured more. 

Unfortunately, in the second half of the book, the plot gets a little repetitive, and I did struggle to keep reading in the middle of the book. The middle focuses quite heavily on the forbidden romance mentioned in the blurb, and I can’t say I was very interested in it. I wasn’t hugely emotionally connected to the two together – and there’s actually a fantastic line about Jihoon being Miyoung’s best and only friend, and I kind of wish it had just played out as friendship, especially given that throwaway line, which ended up being one of my favourites in the book. 

All in all, Wicked Fox gives is a really fun story based on Korean mythology, with the mysterious and dangerous gumiho making a very interesting concept. There were some great characters who I wish we’d focused on more, but ultimately I wasn’t emotionally connected to the romance which heavily impacted my struggle to finish the book. 

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

My favourite October releases

So I have known for months now that October is THE month for book releases this year for me. I have so many I am looking forward to. I have been filled with both dread and excitement at the thought of all the books I want to read. So here’s just a few that I want to jump and dance about!

Crier’s War – Nina Varela

Pub date: 1 October

Queer, f/f, enemies to lovers, SIGN ME UP RIGHT NOW. This is one of my most anticipated books of the year.

Goodreads blurb: After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.

The Beautiful – Renée Ahdieh

Pub date: 8 October

I am so keen for vampires to come back into book fashion. I need more vampires in my life – and this one sounds so sultry and mysterious!

Goodreads blurb: New York Times bestselling author Renée Ahdieh returns with a sumptuous, sultry and romantic new series set in 19th century New Orleans where vampires hide in plain sight.

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sébastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of La Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sébastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.

The Never Tilting World – Rin Chupeco

Pub date: 15 October

I was lucky enough to get on the blog tour for this book, run by Shealea at Caffeine Book tours! It’s my first blog tour and I can’t wait to read this!

Goodreads blurb: Frozen meets Mad Max in this epic teen fantasy duology bursting with star-crossed romance, immortal heroines, and elemental magic, perfect for fans of Furyborn.

Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by an unrelenting sun.

While one sister rules Aranth—a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wracked sea —her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.

But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses —along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and a mouthy desert scavenger —set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands. 

War Girls – Tochi Onyebuchi

Pub date: 15 October

Everything about this book just sounds incredible – family dynamics, dystopian climate change destroyed world, incredible tech!

Goodreads blurb: Two sisters are torn apart by war and must fight their way back to each other in a futuristic, Black Panther–inspired Nigeria.

The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky.

In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life.

Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together.

And they’re willing to fight an entire war to get there.

Acclaimed author Tochi Onyebuchi has written an immersive, action-packed, deeply personal novel perfect for fans of Nnedi Okorafor, Marie Lu, and Paolo Bacigalupi.

Tarnished are the Stars – Rosiee Thor

Pub date: 15 October

Another of my hotly anticipated queer October releases! This sounds so steampunky! I always love any form of media (film, tv, books!) that has an epidemic at the centre of it so this book sounds perfect!

Goodreads blurb: The Lunar Chronicles meets Rook in this queer #OwnVoices science-fantasy novel, perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer and Sharon Cameron.

A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher’s chest: an illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog — donning the moniker Technician — to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner’s tyrannical laws.

Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner’s son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father’s respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father’s elusive affection is worth chasing at all.

Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner’s secrets at any cost — even if it means betraying her own heart.

When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic — before the Commissioner ends them first.

I Hope You Get This Message – Farah Naz Rishi

Pub date: 22 October

How cool does this premise sound?! 7 days till the world might end! What do you do when you’ve been given 7 days to live?

Goodreads blurb: Seven days. Seven days. The Earth might end in seven days.

When news stations start reporting that Earth has been contacted by a planet named Alma, the world is abuzz with rumors that the alien entity is giving mankind only few days to live before they hit the kill switch on civilization.

For high school truant Jesse Hewitt, though, nothing has ever felt permanent. Not the guys he hooks up with. Not the jobs his underpaid mom works so hard to hold down. Life has dealt him one bad blow after another — so what does it matter if it all ends now? Cate Collins, on the other hand, is desperate to use this time to find the father she’s never met, the man she grew up hearing wild stories about, most of which she didn’t believe. And then there’s Adeem Khan. While coding and computer programming have always come easily to him, forgiveness doesn’t. He can’t seem to forgive his sister for leaving, even though it’s his last chance.

With only seven days to face their truths and right their wrongs, Jesse, Cate, and Adeem’s paths collide even as their worlds are pulled apart.

The Light at the Bottom of the World – London Shah

Pub date: 29 October

This is one of the books I’ve been most excited for all year, it just sounds so unique! Weird and intriguing virus, everyone lives underwater, and a mystery to save family!

Goodreads blurb: Hope had abandoned them to the wrath of all the waters.

At the end of the twenty-first century, the world has changed dramatically, but life continues one thousand feet below the ocean’s surface. In Great Britain, sea creatures swim among the ruins of Big Ben and the Tower of London, and citizens waver between fear and hope; fear of what lurks in the abyss, and hope that humanity will soon discover a way to reclaim the Earth.

Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Leyla McQueen has her own problems to deal with. Her father’s been arrested, accused of taking advantage of victims of the Seasickness-a debilitating malaise that consumes people,often claiming their lives. But Leyla knows he’s innocent, and all she’s interested in is getting him back so that their lives can return to normal.

When she’s picked to race in the action-packed London Submersible Marathon, Leyla gets the chance to secure his freedom; the Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. The race takes an unexpected turn, though, and presents her with an opportunity she never wanted: Leyla must venture outside of London for the first time in her life, to find and rescue her father herself.

Now, she’ll have to brave the unfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep its secrets, all the while dealing with a secretive, hotheaded companion she never asked for in the first place. If she fails, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture-and her father might be lost forever.

A River of Royal Blood – Amanda Joy

Pub date: 29 October

Another one that has family at its heart and sounds oh so good – two sisters having to fight it out to win the crown, assassins, and magic!

Goodreads blurb: An enthralling debut perfect for fans of Children of Blood and Bone set in a North African-inspired fantasy world where two sisters must fight to the death to win the crown.

Sixteen-year-old Eva is a princess, born with the magick of marrow and blood–a dark and terrible magick that hasn’t been seen for generations in the vibrant but fractured country of Myre. Its last known practitioner was Queen Raina, who toppled the native khimaer royalty and massacred thousands, including her own sister, eight generations ago, thus beginning the Rival Heir tradition. Living in Raina’s long and dark shadow, Eva must now face her older sister, Isa, in a battle to the death if she hopes to ascend to the Ivory Throne–because in the Queendom of Myre only the strongest, most ruthless rulers survive.

When Eva is attacked by an assassin just weeks before the battle with her sister, she discovers there is more to the attempt on her life than meets the eye–and it isn’t just her sister who wants to see her dead. As tensions escalate, Eva is forced to turn to a fey instructor of mythic proportions and a mysterious and handsome khimaer prince for help in growing her magick into something to fear. Because despite the love she still has for her sister, Eva will have to choose: Isa’s death or her own.

A River of Royal Blood is an enthralling debut set in a lush North African inspired fantasy world that subtly but powerfully challenges our notions of power, history, and identity.

Beyond the Black Door – A.M Strickland

Pub date: 29 October

I don’t know what to say to make this more interesting than the blurb already does, it sounds INCREDIBLE! Soulwalkers! Opening the door to your own soul! Court mystery! Queer!

Goodreads blurb: Kamai was warned never to open the black door, but she didn’t listen …

Everyone has a soul. Some are beautiful gardens, others are frightening dungeons. Soulwalkers―like Kamai and her mother―can journey into other people’s souls while they sleep.

But no matter where Kamai visits, she sees the black door. It follows her into every soul, and her mother has told her to never, ever open it.

When Kamai touches the door, it is warm and beating, like it has a pulse. When she puts her ear to it, she hears her own name whispered from the other side. And when tragedy strikes, Kamai does the unthinkable: she opens the door.

A.M. Strickland’s imaginative dark fantasy features court intrigue and romance, a main character coming to terms with her asexuality, and twists and turns as a seductive mystery unfolds that endangers not just Kamai’s own soul, but the entire kingdom …

Full Disclosure – Camryn Garrett

Pub date: 29 October

Full Disclosure is a book that sounds so deeply powerful and emotional, and I know will likely be a rough, but hopeful and empowering read about acceptance and love!

Goodreads blurb: In a community that isn’t always understanding, an HIV-positive teen must navigate fear, disclosure, and radical self-acceptance when she falls in love–and lust–for the first time. Powerful and uplifting, Full Disclosure will speak to fans of Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon.

Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…


Let me know if you’re excited for any of these books, or if there’s any others I’ve missed but you are excited to read!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

Book review: Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

Title: Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Publication date: 4 June 2019

Genre: Historical (1980s) | Young adult

Page extent: 432 pages

Goodreads blurb: It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.

Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS.

Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance…until she falls for Reza and they start dating.

Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out and proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.

As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart–and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.


Sometimes you find a book you know reading will change you. And as I now sit, my face aching from clenching my jaw to stop tears, my heart feeling ripped open and feeling the strength and courage that raged through this book, I am not surprised. Because Like a Love Story is one of those powerful, unflinchingly beautiful stories about friendship and family, love and fear, but above all else, the power of life. 

Set in the late 80s, during the height of the AIDS crisis, Iranian Reza, closeted gay teen, has moved to New York with his family. There he meets Art, beautiful, strong Art, who is so colourful and brave and lights up Reza’s life. But Reza is growing up in the age of AIDS, with the fear being drilled into young people so much that he cannot face who he is, the terror that he might die overwhelming him. Instead, he finds himself befriended by Judy, Art’s best friend. Judy is Reza’s first friend, and in his struggle to accept himself and fear of losing Judy, he begins to date her. In the backdrop of the story of these three friends, told across each of their POV’s, is the struggle and fight of the ACT UP movement. We met Stephen, Judy’s gay uncle, slowly deteriorating as the disease takes over, who introduces these teens to the world of activism and the ACT UP movement. We meet so many beautiful characters, their utter strength and courage singing through the pages, even if we only see them for a glance. Art, budding photographer, photographs individuals across the book, taking snapshots of people and moments of history, and through these images he takes and his descriptions on the page, we see these characters in such a startlingly colourful way. From just a few lines describing a moment in the book, it feels like we know them so much more as Art brings these characters to life in his POV. 

The raw emotion sweeps through this book. But despite the pain and the honest depiction of loss and death, there is such a powerful message of hope and love. We see this in the scenes at protests, the fire and drive of this community roaring; we see it in the extracts from Stephen’s notebook, a series of numbered life notes on topics like Madonna, High School and Love. But most of all, we see it in the very fabric of the book, in the relationships between these characters and they’re ability to overcome such intensely difficult odds to survive. 

Art is such a powerfully intense character – his impulsiveness drives him and his complete fearlessness in the face of fighting. 

Reza, sweet innocent Reza who is so terrified of a disease which might kill him, and so hates himself from being unable to face the truth. 

Judy, kind and loving Judy who just wants someone to appreciate her and love her, and latches on to the first person to do so. I do admit, I disliked her more than the others – I couldn’t really forgive her for her horrific reaction to Reza’s coming out, no matter how terrible that must feel to her, particularly given the way she seemed to throw herself at Reza from their first meeting without ever really waiting for him to even acknowledge or show interest in her. As Art notes, the assumptions of the heterosexuals… 

These three characters are so different and yet so entwined and their individual voices shine through so well. These characters are each spectacular in all these flaws, but I thought it was Stephen who really shined through the most. He was so vibrant on every page, across every POV, being such a driving force in the journey of each of the three teens – and ultimately, driving their acceptance of themselves, and teaching them how to love themselves as he loves them.

Whilst there are moments of pain, these are always accompanied with joy and laughter, love and life: because even when dying, there is life and love and that is the legacy of these characters, this book, and the huge history on our shoulders that is left behind. This book felt like a slice of history, I could feel the power of the ACT UP movement, the unequivocal power of Madonna and the strength she gave, and even the brief mentions of Princess Diana and the way she changed the world by shaking someone’s hand.

This book is beyond phenomenal for so many reasons. For the hope, the passion, and the raging desire to fight back and be unashamedly who you are. 

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

Book review: The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen

Title: The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen

Publisher: Tor Teen

Publication date: 24 September 2019

Genre: Light fantasy| Young adult

Page extent: 336 pages

Goodreads blurb: Lauren Shippen’s The Infinite Noise is a stunning, original debut novel based on her wildly popular and award-winning podcast The Bright Sessions.

Caleb Michaels is a sixteen-year-old champion running back. Other than that his life is pretty normal. But when Caleb starts experiencing mood swings that are out of the ordinary for even a teenager, his life moves beyond “typical.”

Caleb is an Atypical, an individual with enhanced abilities. Which sounds pretty cool except Caleb’s ability is extreme empathy—he feels the emotions of everyone around him. Being an empath in high school would be hard enough, but Caleb’s life becomes even more complicated when he keeps getting pulled into the emotional orbit of one of his classmates, Adam. Adam’s feelings are big and all-consuming, but they fit together with Caleb’s feelings in a way that he can’t quite understand.

Caleb’s therapist, Dr. Bright, encourages Caleb to explore this connection by befriending Adam. As he and Adam grow closer, Caleb learns more about his ability, himself, his therapist—who seems to know a lot more than she lets on—and just how dangerous being an Atypical can be.

“What if the X-Men, instead of becoming superheroes, decided to spend some time in therapy?” (Vox on The Bright Sessions)


These quiet fantasy books are absolutely killing it! I came to The Infinite Noise completely new, I’ve never listened to the podcast it’s based on, but I am 100% going to do so now! This was quiet and understated but engaging and had so many scarily real quotes about depression.

Either I feel everything too much or I feel nothing at all, and I honestly couldn’t tell you which is worse.

The Infinite Noise comes from the podcast The Bright Sessions, a podcast series featuring people with super powers in therapy. The episodes follow several characters across a number of therapy sessions, and in The Infinite Noise we meet Caleb, a young empath. Following Caleb as he learns to control his abilities, we meet Adam, the only person outside of Caleb’s family who seems to be able to calm Caleb’s emotions. Interspersed with therapy sessions with Dr Bright, psychologist to the superheros, we discover the world of hidden Atypicals, and the danger lurking beneath the surface.

The Infinite Noise is not about action or superheros. It’s about the characters beneath the powers and very much focuses on Caleb and his development. Full of Caleb’s emotional turmoil as an empath, the book excellently expresses his struggle and really gets across the mess of emotion Caleb feels pretty much all the time. We have both Caleb and Adam’s POV, and though Caleb’s is intense in its unpredictability and overwhelming feeling of different emotion, Adam’s was even more poweful. Shippen really managed to throw some uncannily familiar and distressing quotes about Adam’s depression which made such a huge impact.

Maybe if I stay in bed long enough, I’ll just cease to exist.

I so enjoyed the quiet nature of the book, and loved the character focus but in saying that, I did get caught up in the mysterious organisation watching Atypicals and wanted to find out more about the AM group who seem to be doing creepy and unethical experiments to Atypicals. Perhaps more will be revealed in the later novels in the universe!

All in all this was a really enjoyable read, and it has definitely sold me on the podcast! Very keen to hear more from Caleb and Adam.

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

Book review: When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Title: When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia

Publication date: 28 July 2016

Genre: Contemporary | Young adult

Page extent: 354 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads blurb: Before Mina, my life was like a completed jigsaw puzzle but Mina has pushed the puzzle onto the floor. I have to start all over again, figuring out where the pieces go.

When Michael meets Mina, they are at a rally for refugees – standing on opposite sides.

Mina fled Afghanistan with her mother via a refugee camp, a leaky boat and a detention centre.

Michael’s parents have founded a new political party called Aussie Values.

They want to stop the boats. 
Mina wants to stop the hate.

When Mina wins a scholarship to Michael’s private school, their lives crash together blindingly.

A novel for anyone who wants to fight for love, and against injustice.

Honestly I am so here for all these political activism books I’ve been reading this last month. What a book. This is an absolutely unforgiving, honest, incredible portrayal of refugee politics in Australia.

When Michael met Mina he was on the opposite side of a protest. Accompanying his parents, founders of new political party Aussie Values, Michael is protesting to protect white Australian values – he’s all about stopping those boats, refugees should wait in the queue and all the other racist Australian shit. 

Mina is on the other side. As a refugee from Afghanistan, Mina has lived through entering Australia via boat, and the subsequent detention centre. When Mina wins a scholarship to Michael’s prestigious school in the Sydney Northern Shores, their paths cross again. Here, Mina faces the aggression and hate that has become everyday and normal for people of colour. Idiot teachers and idiot students dislike that she’s different and strong and fierce and not afraid to show it. She isn’t afraid to hide her views, and will shut you down if she disagrees. She is SO AWESOME.

When Michael Met Mina is a tale about activism and growth. Michael is a product of his upbringing. A classic case of what happens when you just go along with your parents’ beliefs. He’s never questioned their beliefs, or his own, until he meets Mina. The feelings he develops for Mina lead him to question what he’s learned.

He’s a bit of a shithead. I won’t lie, I can’t say I ever really got on board the Michael train. His utter privilege and lack of consideration for Mina as he ‘grew’ as a person and learned how not to be a racist asshat just really made me unable to root for him and the relationship. And if he hadn’t thought Mina was hot and wanted to get to know her….would he ever really have changed, since that was the spark that led to his growth?

“You want me to make it easier for you to confront privilege because God knows even anti-racism has to be done in a way that makes the majority comfortable?”

At the end of the day: Mina deserves so much better. She is such a strong character, such an absolute fighter. She’s so fierce and brilliant and can stand up to people like Michael. I just don’t understand how she could fall for him. Even as he’s changing as a person, he does it in a way that makes it all about him. Not cool, Michael.

The book does however fight stereotypes in a brilliant way – whenever someone makes a comment typical to hear in Australia, it is questioned and fought against. Nothing is ignored, and the book delves deep into some very recognisably Australian values, making it an extremely real and relatable book. It pictures both small and large acts of racism, from the little constant comments and stares, to the physical violence. I also thought the way Michael’s parents were pictured was absolutely spot on – they are nice, kind people. They have a ton of friends. They are cool, calm, and collected. But they’re also racists – and I liked that they were portrayed as such. Not all racists are the stereotypical incel-Nazi. We interact with them everyday. It was excellent to see this portrayal, which is something I don’t think often pictured in books – we usually only get the obvious racist, not the more common calm and polite racist. And really, it could be argued that they are the ones with more power to harm, given how they do often appear so rational and collected, as Michael’s parents did in all their interviews in the book.

When Michael Met Mina is a great story about addressing stereotypes and fighting against racism. But the romance fell short for me as I really didn’t get behind Michael’s problematic behaviour and comments.

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

Book review: Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins

Title: Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Publication date: 7 May 2019

Genre: Contemporary| Young Adult | Romance

Page count: 304 pages

Synopsis: Millie Quint is devastated when she discovers that her sort-of-best friend/sort-of-girlfriend has been kissing someone else. And because Millie cannot stand the thought of confronting her ex every day, she decides to apply for scholarships to boarding schools . . . the farther from Houston the better.

Millie can’t believe her luck when she’s accepted into one of the world’s most exclusive schools, located in the rolling highlands of Scotland. Everything about Scotland is different: the country is misty and green; the school is gorgeous, and the students think Americans are cute.

The only problem: Mille’s roommate Flora is a total princess.

She’s also an actual princess. Of Scotland.

At first, the girls can barely stand each other–Flora is both high-class and high-key–but before Millie knows it, she has another sort-of-best-friend/sort-of-girlfriend. Even though Princess Flora could be a new chapter in her love life, Millie knows the chances of happily ever afters are slim . . . after all, real life isn’t a fairy tale . . . or is it?

Continuing this year’s trend of royal love story but gay is Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins! This book is another fun read, it lacks a little depth but is very cute and enjoyable.

Millie has just caught her girlfriend kissing someone else. In order to kind of run away, kind of to see Scotland, she applies to the most prestigious boarding school in Scotland. She is accepted, and will make history as part of the first female class in school’s history. The school is known as the educator of royality and nobility, so down to earth, American Millie feels very out of her depth, especially when she realises her roomate is an actual Princess. It didn’t help that she’s already insulted the princess on the very first day.

Her Royal Highness follows Millie and Princess Flora of Scotland as Flora tries to get herself expelled, rebelling from her mother’s (the Queen) attempts at control. Millie is caught up in the mix, getting into trouble alongside Flora, despite all her best attempts to avoid it. On a camping trip in the wilds though, things seem to change – especially when Flora tells Millie she’s gay.

This book is a really cute and enjoyable romance. Flora is such a brilliant character, I love her attempts to be friends with Millie and the struggles she has to not just throw money at everything – something Millie tries to teach her about. Flora is described in great detail as well, I can picture her absolutely perfectly, from her smile to her flounce. I really enjoyed Flora’s over the top dramatics, but also found her very soft and gentle at times as well. She hides behind her confidence but at heart, is much more vulnerable than Millie realises at first. Millie is fun a little forgettable as an MC, studious and unwilling participant in Flora’s dramas. I thought Flora was much more developed and interesting. I did like the host of secondary characters from Saks, fellow noblility and Millie’s friend; Perry, a slightly weedy noble friends with Saks; Seb, Flora’s even more out of control brother; they’re all so much fun to read about.

I did think there was just something missing – there wasn’t huge depth to any of the characters or themes. This book is intended as a fun, easy read about gay royalty, and that’s exactly what it is. But in saying that, the characters were all a little one-dimensional. As fun as they were, none of them were devloped in particular depth or detail and I didn’t find myself hugely emotionally involved with them.

Whilst I wish the characters could’ve been slightly more developed, that the book had been just a little more emotive, I still very much enjoyed this read. I am here for the gay royalty books to continue – publishers please keep publishing these, and authors please keep writing!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco