Review: Drive By

drive byDrive By by Michael Duffy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: Uncorrected Proof won on publisher’s FB comp

A crime novel set in my own backyard was what I thought drew me to this novel. Ever since reading the Detective Jill Jackson series by Leah Giarratano, I’ve been somewhat nervous each time I had to go to a certain train station ~a certain fictional event is haunting me. Drive By, though set in Western Sydney, wasn’t quite in my hood and for that, I think I’m grateful.

Despite the comparison to Peter Temple’s works in the blurb, which I have read and loved, I approached this work somewhat hesitantly. The cover has a look of non-fiction and I must say, not quite attractive to fiction lovers like myself. However, when you take in consideration the author’s background as a journalist, the cover totally makes sense.

Drive By is told from 3 alternative perspectives –each as different as s/he could be. Bec, Rebecca Ralston, is a young Constable ensnared in a circumstance and left to fend for herself with nary a person to turn to who hasn’t got their own agendas. She, interestingly, is 1/8 Indigenous and protected herself with big words. Jabber ‘John’ Habib, Honest John, was told by his family that he must stand on the other side of the line in the sand –to be a law-abiding citizen. His love for his family drives him to do all he can to keep them safe yet it also blinds him. The prosecutor, Karen Mabbey, hasn’t been able to care about her work; not since her life feels like it’s spiralling out of her control.

The beginning feels quite slow to me though what fascinated me were the characters. I had to roll my eyes / snort each time Bec’s wordy speech, was driven to frustration by John’s slow uptake or may be even selective blindness, and felt nothing but sympathy for Karen. At about 2/3 of the way, however, I was jolted by a twist and then again and again… It was turn after turn in a complex layer of duplicity with a mind blowing conclusion. I must confess though after this whirlwind of the plot, where each of the characters end up didn’t really surprise me though I wish for something somewhat different (what can I say, I’m an optimist :p).

The reference to Peter Temple’s works though is not due to the writing style as it is quite different but in reference to the bold un-crossable line between the crims and law-enforcers. And this was quite evident in the novel. <Drive By is hands-down the best crime novel I’ve read so far this year and one I would highly recommend to all crime readers.

Thanks, Allen & Unwin, for the giveaway

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Review: Luna Tango

luna tangoLuna Tango by Alli Sinclair
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

Judge a book by the cover? Always! Sometimes the cover does tell you quite a bit on what the book is about and Luna Tango definitely falls within this category. Let’s not dismiss the title either though I can tell you that it’s definitely not about (literally) dancing the tango in moonlight ;) A gorgeous cover with bright colours and a promise of the exotic –what more can you ask for as cover for a romantic novel? And which girl can resist a sexy & broody hero?

Dani McKenna’s love life has just bombed out and she’s now in pursuit of her career –or so she thinks. She has decided to write about Tango, the curse of her family, and her first interviewee is to be Carlos Escuedero; a well-known tango dancer who has had to give up his dancing days due to some scandal. As always, things are not what they seem and Dani & Carlos will have to work out whether they can trust each other with their secrets.

Parallel to Dani’s story is Louisa’s story set in 1950s which had become (by Dani’s time) a somewhat mysterious legend for when the truth is known may rock the Tango world and maybe even the country. I must confess my preference for this past-world as I feel the love story was more heartfelt and rather grand –reaching over the years despite the anguish. With this comparison, I also found that the Dani & Carlos ‘relationship’ seems to be rather easy… ie. ‘stumbling blocks’ seem rather like pebbles and all smoothed out with just a tad of distress. Their attraction and sexual tension was felt but there was a lack of the entertaining playful teasing that I most appreciate in romance novels; I seem to only remember one particular bit of this in this book.

This book is totally rated on the ease of reading and it was so very easy –I inhaled it within a few hours and basically ignored everybody else in the house. It was a precious few peaceful hours well spent in the company of tango (there were bits & pieces about tango including some history that I appreciated). I think all I was missing was the background tango music in an otherwise, perfect evening in Argentina with a bunch of exotic men <3 <3 <3

Thank you, Harlequin Books Australia for copy of eARC via NetGalley.

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Review: The Whispering Skull

the whispering skullThe Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

I read the first book of Lockwood & Co. at the beginning of this year and was completely enamoured with the whole setup. Whilst I first started with the thought of finding out what’s available in the children’s sections these days (my son is starting school next year, eep!); I truly completely loved The Screaming Staircase that I didn’t hesitate to request The Whispering Skull when I saw it on NetGalley. I enjoyed the company of Lockwood & Co. even more this time around.

The book opens with a creepy scene with action quickly following on its heel; an investigation of Lockwood & Co. that didn’t quite turn out as they wished. This was such a terrific and most engaging start. It also promises a more sinister tone to this book than the first instalment. A promised well-fulfilled, if I may say so. The Whispering Skull gives us scary situations, frightening creatures, & spine-chilling items that threatened the well-being of the whole world.

What I mostly loved about this book, however, is the development of characters, not only of Lockwood, George, and Lucy but also of Kipps & co. I loved how Kipps is (whilst being the most annoying nemesis) ‘humanised’ and all are called to sympathise with him. I also loved the development of friendship between Lockwood, George, & Lucy – that there’s ups and downs in friendships & that trust is a requisite in a well-oiled relationships.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough to all children and parents out there looking for an adventure. You will love the characters and be thrilled by the plot. Girls & Boys, get into it!

Thank you, Disney-Hyperion, for copy of eARC via NetGalley

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Review: Allegiant

allegiant Allegiant by Veronica Roth
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Source: purchased own paperback copy

First I must note that I wasn’t one of those who raved about Divergent when it was released few years ago. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it either. It was a pretty average read for me… a quick & easy read that didn’t really encourage me to pick up the second book. It took some time for me to get to Insurgent though the ending of that book made me really excited for the next installment.

Allegiant is another quick & easy read –easy to put down and pick up wherever you left off too. Being the type of reader I am though, I finished it in no time at all even when I didn’t skim (I think this is an easy book to just skim through if you’re curious about the ending but don’t want to read all of the book). I am settling for another average rating for this book because…

1. There seems to be some sort of formula with this trilogies:

Displacement ✓

Dishonest Leaders ✓ (um, what does this say about our own political leaders?

Rebellion ✓

Tris wanting to do something different or more than the rebels ✓

Etc…

2. I actually didn’t mind the ending which I think where most fans will / had complained about. Although I did find that particular incident to be just too anticlimactic. It didn’t provoke any sort of reaction whatsoever –I just shrugged my shoulders and went on with the read…

3. I might have read this part (between the lines) incorrectly but I thought there was some sort of ‘hint’ as to what the password is to get into that room but it wasn’t even thought of, afterwards?

In summary, I’m not totally keen on Allegiant but… I did manage to read the whole book without any attempts to chuck it at the wall so I figure this would rate as pretty average for me.

I re-read Divergent with a little more excitement (um, hello, Theo James!!, Can you blame me?!) just prior to the release of the movie but it was still not one I loved completely. And when I finally picked up Allegiant, it was because I needed a break in between some serious adult historical fiction novels I’ve been reading. It’s done its trick and now, I just want to see more of Theo James…

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Review: The House on Burra Burra Lane

the house on burra burra lane - jennie jonesThe House on Burra Burra Lane by Jennie Jones

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

I was just in the mood for some light reading after some classics & literary works. The House on Burra Burra Lane definitely fits the bill and lightened up my day. An easygoing and entertaining read with (of course) an HEA are requisites for an Aussie outback romance to my mind. I found all these in Jennie Jones’ debut.

I loved the opening of the book –a massive pig, a damsel in distress, a down-to-earth-knight-in-shining-armor… It was funny. It was electric. It sets the tone of the book. Samantha Walker is truly a likeable character; a city chick after a treechange with an all-can-do attitude. Ethan Granger might have chosen a solitary life after some disastrous past; somewhat reserved but still unable to not be around Sammy. This tension and secrets will keep you turning the pages until all is revealed.

The secrets or what I think it supposed to be the twist to the story, unfortunately, didn’t surprise me at all. I was actually a little disappointed to be proven right and wished there was something more unexpected. There was also one particular bit in the book which I thought was off; a particular usage of a word which I thought was out of place in this book though it might work well in a different type of romance novel. I was otherwise kept entertained enough to enjoy a light romantic fling in the outback.

The House on Burra Burra Lane is a light romantic read which will help smooth your day; perfect for the beach / poolside in the summer.

Thank you, Harlequin Books Australia, for copy of this book

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Review: Sense & Sensibility

sense & sensibility - joanna trollopeSense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: purchased own paperback copy

A retelling of a classic in contemporary setting isn’t usually my cup of tea so I picked this up mostly due to a reading challenge. I seem to do that a lot… picking up “random” books to complete a challenge. There is no other way to describe this book but that it’s pure fluff. Do your brain cells need a break? This one will definitely proof to be a relaxation. You will, however, find it a Requirement to follow up the read by watching the movie.

The thing about retelling is that we know where the story is going so there’s no surprises there. Though being one of a well-loved story, there is still that tiny bit of anticipation of each favourite scenes as they come and the ending, whilst still good isn’t as satisfactory as the original so I always have to go back & re-read. There were some difficulties, I think, in transposing the entailment of inheritance to the male descendant in contemporary times –as Elinor continues to protest that we are no longer in the 19th century. It galls me a little that such prejudices might still prevail but… as you’re reading, keep in mind that this is a retelling and meant only for your light-reading enjoyment. Don’t take it too seriously.

I really could NOT help it that throughout my reading, I was haunted by the images of Emma emma & hughThompson (Elinor) and Hugh Grant (Edward). That was the best adaptation ever (of this book) and far being from annoying, I was loving imagining them in the contemporary setting as per this retelling. As always, considerations are to be made for individual interpretation and artistic licence for characters & their development. I somehow found Marianne and her mother to be a lot more annoying that their originals –I guess I personally just can’t stand those wishy washy (disguised as following your passion) type of people. For me, it’s common sense all the way!

 

Despite some rough patches, Trollope’s retelling of Sense & Sensibility was the light entertainment I needed at the time. I loathed to put it down and could not stop but continue thinking what should happen next and in what way… An adorable fluff.

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Review: The Immortal Crown

the immortal crown - richelle meadThe Immortal Crown by Richelle Mead

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: eARC via NetGalley courtesy of Penguin Books Australia

Please note there may be spoilers of book 1 as this is a review of book 2 in the Age of X series.  If you’ve not read book 1 yet, check my review of Gameboard of the Gods, here.

I loved loved loved Gameboard of the Gods and was super excited to see The Immortal Crown coming out. I’ve to admit of not being a big fan of the cover, though… it’s beautiful and all but… it doesn’t match my cover of book 1 so am so very sad about that. On the other hand, am keen to be back in the RUNA for a few days.

I’m a big fan of Mae Koskinen because she kicks ass big-time and yet so very vulnerable emotionally at the same time. She’s amazingly good at what she does, loves deeply, protective, and resourceful. I love the tension between her and Justin and their chemistry which made all their interactions just, oh, so delicious! That’s really what drawn me to this couple –the tension of wanting something you couldn’t have.

The pace of this book is definitely faster than the first book –that’s probably mostly due to the fact that quite a few pieces of the world building was done previously. I find, however, that I really only care about the Justin’s & Mae’s POVs and every time the story switched to Tessa, I was just really impatient. Tessa’s perspectives provided a more complex storyline which we will probably see being better developed in later books but in this book, they slows down the action quite a bit.

I don’t like Arcadia at all! It might be a great setting for a covert sort of mission but it was really an unpleasant place to be, even vicariously. I understand the tale being woven required an awful place to heightened tension and makes the mission all the more dangerous and exciting. It is no different than all those epic fantasy tales where we sometimes long to live despite the danger. The difference is though, you will not want to be in Arcadia. I think I may just insert a disclaimer here in reference to my extra sensitive state with pregnancy…I’m not usually so delicate

The ending has left me um-ing and ah-ing as I’m in 2 minds about it… Most specifically the character being introduced which firstly made me go, ‘ta da da dum’ and then, a little disappointed that a well-known character being inserted here. By well-known, I don’t just mean easily recognisable but is popular in today’s culture due to some current works. However, I’m suspending full judgement until I see where Richelle Mead is taking us to next. There were a couple of other twists which served my craving for next book a lot better. Bring on 2015 & book 3!

My sincere thanks to Penguin Books Australia for copy of eARC via NetGalley

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