Review: No Name Lane

no name laneNo Name Lane by Howard Linskey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: uncorrected proof courtesy of publisher

I have read my share of mysteries / thrillers / crime novels. I’ve read a wide range of them from police procedurals to the amateur sleuths (including those called ‘cozy mysteries’). From the blurb, I expected No Name Lane to be a police procedurals kind of mystery but it didn’t quite fit the bill as the journalist seems to be the one doing the detecting. In effect, the book sent me slightly off kilter since the police appear to be quite incompetent in solving mysteries.

”You’re more of a copper than a reporter,” [said the Detective Constable to the journalist]

There were 2 main perspectives: Tom Carney (journalist) and Detective Constable Ian Bradshaw. With Tom, we probed the mysteries from angles which would best present the stories to sell to newspapers. Tom was one of the local boys and as he’s not with the police, he has a better chance to speak with the villagers to dig into their stories. He might’ve been down on his luck but he is an intelligent man intent on solving mysteries. Tom’s perspective is the more interesting of the two as clues were dropped and secrets unfurled.

Detective Constable Ian Bradshaw hasn’t been doing too well either. He is a flop in his chosen career and he continues to blunder his way on the job. With Ian, we witnessed the highly political situation within the ranks and just how clicky his colleagues are; these are probably the reason for their ineffectualness. I found this to be peculiar in that whilst their investigations eliminate suspects etc., there doesn’t seem to be many clues uncovered to lead them to successful investigations.

There wasn’t an established firm relationship between Tom and Ian to begin with, so they weren’t quite working together. If this is supposed to be a first book of series, then it’s a fairly promising start. If not, it is interesting choices of POVs. In addition to these two, there were also Helen’s (a local journalist), the killer’s, and also a few visitations to the 1930s. This last was an absolute shock to my system as the chapters were told in 1930s whilst the rest of the novel is set in current times.

There were a number of things in this book which I thought were a bit of an odd fish. They’re not necessarily bad but they really threw me off. On another note, though, I really enjoyed the mysteries and I really liked Tom Carney. Despite the slow beginning, the pace of the story picked up quite well as soon as all characters introduced and was actually a captivating read. No Name Lane was a surprising read but with an engaging plot, I was caught in the thrill of the chase and enjoyed the twisting ride.

Thanks to Penguin Books Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Review: In the Shadow of Winter

In the Shadow of WinterIn the Shadow of Winter by Lorna Gray
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

For some reason, I had a different impression of the blurb. I’m blaming it on my currently permanent status of babybrain. Somehow, I thought the stranger rescued had amnesia… I love this type of stories! He didn’t have amnesia at all so I was a little disappointed but I did quite enjoy the book anyway. I’ve just read A Time of Secrets which is also set in 1940s in Australia which I loved (my blurb). These readings weren’t planned to be back to back but as it happened, of course, I’d automatically compare these 2 historical fiction works… I think I might like this book better if I didn’t read it right after A Time of Secrets.

I loved the descriptive narrative employed by Lorna Gray in In the Shadow of Winter. She’s made nature come alive and I could feel the crispness of the snow, see the cold puffs of horses’ breaths, and oh… those hot cups of tea just sound so divine. I’ve never been to England though I’d like to one day visit nor am I someone who would live on a farm but I do really want to now. Despite the hardship felt by Eleanor (shortage & rations due to WW2), everything sounds beautiful & appealing. This, I believe, is contributed by Eleanor’s love of her surrounding area, her horses, and her highly sympathetic nature. She is an easily likeable character; generous, loving, courageous, funny, and at times, clumsy –in other words, human… a woman who is just like your best friend.

The mystery element was interesting enough. The ending was hardly surprising but I do love following Eleanor and Matthew sleuthing around. There were that combination of tension (of discovery and of romance) that was just lovely. The one surprising thing with this novel is just how clean the romance is! There is barely a kiss and even then, so very circumspect. I’m not complaining as the romance is still quite sweet especially when you consider the world these characters are inhabiting. I’d describe is as just a tad more racy than Jane Austen’s ;)

I could just imagine myself reading this in the middle of winter curled up in a very comfy armchair by a roaring fire with a rug over my lap and a very hot cuppa nearby. It would’ve been just the perfect setting to read In the Shadow of Winter. As it is (we’re in Autumn in Australia), I really had to depend on the author’s words to bring me her world and she truly had me ensconced in British winter. It was a lovely & easy-going read for my busy mummy days.

Thanks to HarperImpulse for copy of eARC via NetGalley in exchange of honest review

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Review: A Time of Secrets

a time of secretsA Time of Secrets by Deborah Burrows
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

A Time of Secrets was an absolute joy to read. It is an engaging tale of wartime in Australia, combining mystery and romance with a distinctive Aussie touch.

I was drawn into this world immediately from the beginning of the book and was completely immersed in this era for the next few days as I read this book. I find this era quite romantic possibly because of the desperation because the insecurity of the future just makes the passion you feel that much more intense. And there was so much passion in this book and I don’t mean just the romantic kind. There was passion for live, for joyful living, for art and buildings, etc. This has definitely brought the book alive to me –I basically had a film reel going on in my head as I read.

There are quite a number of interesting characters from the very capable Stella Aldridge who kept her past close to her heart, the lively Dolly –Stella’s flatmate, the troubled Nick –Stella’s superior, the reserved Eric –Stella’s romantic interest, to the voluble old Mrs Campbell who lived in the apartment downstairs from Stella and who is actually very sharp. Never have I been so torn about a love triangle! There isn’t actually a love triangle in this book as Stella is very certain on who she’s attracted to but… I can’t help but feel for the other guy. I am very happy that Stella isn’t one of those characters who can’t make up her mind and I am satisfied with the ending of the story. And yet… I am also just a tad devastated.

In a way, A Time of Secrets reminds me of the Wonder Woman -tv series but without the super power thing, of course. Diana Prince (aka Wonder Woman) worked in the army’s intelligence services with Captain Steve Trevor as her superior and they caught spies, solved mysteries, and basically saved the day. I just adore this tv series, and I supposed it’s one of the reason why I connected so well with this book as it just so similar in setting. My one petty complaint though was that each time Stella complained about having to wear her khaki uniform all the time, I kept thinking of the green uniformed girl on the cover. I just can’t reconcile this though I still love the cover, it is gorgeous, but green is not khaki.

Whilst there was no surprises in terms of the resolution of the mystery, the plot itself was fine woven and a delight to read. I would unreservedly recommend this to historical fiction / mystery lovers. This was my first Burrows’ but I am keen to hunt down the rest of her works.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Review: Paper Planes

paper planesPaper Planes by Steve Worland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

Most readers would be keen to read a book before seeing the movie and usually, I’m quite particular about it too. However, seeing that this is rather movie to book, I’d opted to watch it first before reading. I really enjoyed the movie (especially, at the end, when I caught hubby trying to hide a tear or two he is not going to live this one down, lol). It was a fun movie with excellent casting.

As the book is adapted from the movie, it’s no surprise that it’s faithful to the movie. All through the reading, I have a vivid memory of the scenes from the movie. I really can’t complain having David Wenham & Sam Worthington in my head ;) Reading it as adult though, you really need to suspend your scepticism and just allow yourself to dream the impossible. Let yourself to be beguiled by Dylan’s hopes and follow his journey to get his father back.

The language is quite simple and definitely aimed at children. I would recommend readers from year 3 onwards though only if your child is an advanced reader in year 3. There were a lot of Aussie slang noting that this was mostly set in a small Aussie town. If you could read together with your child then I’d suggest you do so as there can be quite a number of good discussions ranging from bereavement, grief, bullying, etc. Unfortunately, the issues aren’t dealt in depth or at least, not as in-depth as I’d like it to be. Therefore, it is mostly a fun read but your discussions could be as deep as you like by your guidance as parents / teachers.

Thanks to Penguin Books Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Review: The Dagger in the Desk

the dagger in the deskThe Dagger in the Desk by Jonathan Stroud
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

I’m not usually one who reads short stories that are in between series. I got overexcited when I saw this title on NetGalley and automatically, requested it as I thought it to be the 3rd book. In any case, I still read it and it was still a very fun read.

This li’l book basically is about a case taken on by Lockwood & Co. It is basically an adventure/horror tale with a moral lesson. If you’re after something fun to read to squeeze in whilst waiting for the doctor or during lunchtime, this is a good one to pick up as it really doesn’t require too much brain power but will amuse greatly. If you’ve not read the series yet, you could read this as a sample that’s still a full story with an ending. If you’ve read the series, you don’t really have to pick this up as it doesn’t have any bearing on the continuity of the series.

I just wish, though, that if Stroud is writing a short story that there’d be an #0.5 –a story about Anthony Lockwood or about Lockwood & Cubbins Before Lucy.

Thank you, RHCP Digital for copy of eARC via NetGalley

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Review: Wild Wood

wild woodWild Wood by Posie Graeme-Evans
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

Wild Wood is an intriguing story of one family’s existence through the ages. A family with a folklore that is living to ensure their continuity & maybe even prosperity. The novel spans 6 centuries of secrets hidden in a little town by the Scottish borders.

This tale is told from 2 perspectives: Jesse in 1981 and Bayard in 1321. Jesse had recently found out that she was adopted and is in doubt of her identity. She is looking for her birth parents and by several incidents, she got to Hundredfield where it all unfolded. Jesse is likeable enough though I don’t feel there was anything special about her. Her story felt pretty average to me –a bit slow to develop and not one character to really grab me except maybe one minor character. The twist about her family didn’t surprise me one bit either. I could see it coming a long way.

Bayard’s story is the one that appeals to me in this novel. He was a man of war –that was his lot, being the youngest son of three. And yet, in the midst of battle-hardened men, he was considerate and surprisingly, gentle. His is a tale of brutality of the age, of superstition, and also, of love. I was quite happy with this perspective which really is the highlight of this novel for me.

Expectations! It can easily wreck a book for you. I feel that this is what mostly let me down in Wild Wood. It has not got any time travel nor does the time-slip work out to be such. So, there is a bit of “magic” (of folklore) but it didn’t quite grab me. I like the premise of it but I don’t think the origin of it was explored enough –just that it’s there and how what happened in 14th century related to what’s happening now. It turned out to be a pretty average read as it was slow to develop, twists which didn’t catch me by surprise, and my inability to connect with the ‘contemporary’ characters.

Thank you, Simon & Schuster (Australia) for copy of eARC via NetGalley

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Review: Sorceress

sorceressSorceress by Claudia Gray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

Please note this is a review of the third and final book of the Spellcaster trilogy and there may be spoilers in respect to earlier books, Spellcaster (my blurb) & Steadfast (my blurb).

At the end of Steadfast, Nadia made a decision which everyone knew just isn’t going to turn out well. And yet, no one has a better answer. In Sorceress, Nadia continues to feel the terrible conflict of that decision. She senses the darkness is creeping in and taking over her despite her best effort at fighting it. It’s a losing battle but she’s not going down alone and she will save her loved ones. Meanwhile… the world is coming to an end.

No one knew exactly how Elizabeth planned to bring forth the One Beneath but as Captive is being inundated with disaster after disaster, the townspeople rally to keep their town and each other alive. As solidarity prevails in times of peril, so does suspicions in times of stress & grief. The townspeople have now noticed all the strange incidents in the past and are looking for someone to blame. Of course, the obvious choice would be Verlaine with her lack of ‘being loved’ ability. She’s a courageous girl but she needed to be even braver now. Her salvation, though, came from an unlikely quarter. Verlaine, I think, trumps Nadia in this final instalment of the trilogy.

The many perspectives in Sorceress is what made the story flow in an ever changing current. This factor also gave the story the many facets enabling it to sparkle like crystals. It was such a fast read that just builds and builds to a crescendo in the final battle between light and dark.

I’ve really enjoyed the book and this trilogy. In comparison to the first 2 books, I seem to be missing the wham factor of the beginning and ending –they’re just not as memorable / engaging as the first 2 books. I’m quite happy with the ending except for 1 thing but I guess you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Thank you, HarperCollinsPublishers for providing copy of book in exchange of honest review

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