Review: Lost Girl

Lost Girl
Lost Girl by J.C. Grey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Despite my best intention to avoid books with ‘Girl’ in title, the haunted house in this book drew me. Lost Girl is not a psychological thriller and reads more a little like Kate Morton’s stories with alternating timelines. The difference, however, is that this book has only one single perspective and the alternating timelines are mere breaths away. This could have proven confusing but clear breaks and headers between the two made the stories easier to read. ‘Tis not an easy story, however, as it is full of heartache. It’s not a sob-story (despite the teary ending) but a love story; love that cannot succeed if both sides do not work together in an equal partnership.

“You always think love should feel like butterfly wings or sunshine inside you, something sappy. In fact, it feels like a Rottweiler has a grip on your throat.”

Admittedly the secrets aren’t as explosive in revelation as it would’ve been in Kate Morton’s and I really had some difficulty with hauntings in Australia (our sunny disposition makes it a little harder to imagine the dark & gloomy) but I grew to love Em, her secret pain, and Marc, Mr Perfect! Lost Girl is fearful in tone, filled with atmospheric details, and in the end, an absolute delight to read. I’ve definitely lost myself for a while there and in good company.

Many thanks to Harlequin (Australia) for copy of eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: The Strays

wp-1484100547222.jpgThe Strays by Emily Bitto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: Library copy

On her first day at a new school, Lily meets Eva, one of the daughters of the infamous avant-garde painter Evan Trentham. He and his wife are attempting to escape the stifling conservatism of 1930s Australia by inviting other like-minded artists to live and work with them at their family home. As Lily’s friendship with Eva grows, she becomes infatuated with this makeshift family and longs to truly be a part of it.

Looking back on those years later in life, Lily realises that this utopian circle involved the same themes as Evan Trentham’s art: Faustian bargains and terrible recompense; spectacular fortunes and falls from grace. Yet it was not Evan, nor the other artists he gathered around him, but his own daughters, who paid the debt that was owing.

My Blurb

This book pulled me in two opposite directions. On the one hand, I am just like the young Lily who was fascinated and absolutely loved the freedom in the Trentham’s family home. But on the other hand, as a young parent, I was absolutely horrified by the way the children’s needs were ignored. Of course, these children, whilst appreciating their freedom, also resented their parents for not being parents.

The novel opens with the adult Lily, with a grown child of her own, living a ‘normal’ boring life. She received a letter from her best friend whom she has not been in contact for a very long time. We didn’t find out exactly the reason why until near the end but this reason blew me away. I expected a tragedy in the shape of a death, an accident, or something just as devastating but a ‘that’s life’ kind of reaction from me BUT the reason repulsed me. I can’t say anything more without spoiling the ending so suffice to say, I was bowled over and I love it.

Years later, the consequences of the Trenthams’ lifestyle (parenting) choice are still reverberating in their lives. The author, via the oldest child (Bea), also acknowledged in a ‘you reap what you sow’ kind of way. The Strays was very easy to get lost in; Lily’s reminiscence and regrets were clearly felt throughout the story. I loved immersing myself in 1930s Melbourne though I did get quite worked up at the end so I can only afford a 4-stars rating.

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My 2016 Reading Trend

So. I failed my Australian Women Writers 2016 challenge. I must admit to NOT keeping track of this challenge as diligently as I could’ve. This being the case, I have been rather reluctant in signing up for 2017. I thought, though, I should see what my reading trend was in 2016. I went through all my 2016 reads (thanks, Goodreads!) and made these pie charts:

m-vs-f

I’m not surprised by this first pie chart as I know that I tend to read a LOT of female authors overall. That’s not to say that I read a lot of chick-lit or romance novels though as I actually don’t. I guess most of my books will have an angle on romance but they don’t particularly fall under the romance genre. Looking at my shelf, I’d say most would be either a fantasy or mystery series.

continents

Eep, I thought I read a lot of Aussie books BUT over half my books are actually written by American authors!! And less than a quarter of what I’ve read are Aussie 😦 I’m a little surprised as I do feel like I try to read as widely as I can but I guess in terms of general proportion, there are a lot more American authors than there are Aussie authors. This is despite completing my Aussie Author Challenge 2016 on the Aussie Readers group on GR.

m-vs-f-au

 

Of the Australian authors, this result mirrors my overall male:female authors ratio though how I still fail AWW16… I must’ve slacked off with the reviewing!

ya-or-not-ya

 

 

 

Now this result absolutely SHOCKED me! I definitely thought I read a LOT of YA but overall, it seems to maked up only 21% of my reads… I am pleased though with the 14% Non-Fiction result.

 

What does this mean for me in 2017?

  1. Signing up for AWW17 and be very diligent in reviewing Australian Women Writers’ books
  2. I want to read at least 3 books by African authors, 4 books by South American authors, and 2 books by New Zealand authors (these numbers are 2016 ones so I’d like to either match or exceed).
  3. Aiming for at least 25% books read to be by Australian authors. I have signed up for the Aussie Author Challenge 2017 on the Aussie Readers group on GR but seeing my 2016 result, I’m going to have to ramp up my effort by consciously reading Aussie books for other challenges too.
  4. In addition, I’ve got 3 big-classic-books I’m going to tackle this year; starting with Martin Chuzzlewit (Dickens), The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (Hugo), and I will give War & Peace (Tolstoy) another go.

How did you go in 2016? Any particular reading resolution in 2017?

So far, I’ve read 6 books (am going back to work tomorrow, boo hoo): 3 of 6 are NF, 2 of 6 Aussie Authors (1 male & 1 female). I’m off to a very good start in 2017!

Kindle Scout Nomination: Silk by Louise Cusack

I read and loved Louise Cusack’s fantasy trilogy, Shadow through Time, 4 years ago (wow, felt like I just read them the other day!) and since then, Louise has kept me updated with her works. I love it when I get emails from her! Sometimes, it’s just so hard to keep up with things as there are a million and one things happening. Louise’s current project is a fantasy series of which book 1, Silk, is up for nomination on Kindle Scout. I’ve never heard of Kindle Scout previously but I’ve happily signed up and nominated Louise’s book without even reading it. But… she has also generously provided me a with a copy of the manuscript [screams: I love you, Louise!] and I’ll share my thoughts with you all now.

silk-louise-cusack

 

Silk (Florentia: Book1) by Louise Cusack

In a lost world that da Vinci discovered and his patrons conquered, ruthless Medici kings have ruled for 500 years, amassing a huge empire. Silk, a young, idealistic diplomat, is forced to wed a brutal Medici prince to save her starving people. But when a handsome archaeological engineer from our world enters hers, she must choose between the heartless prince who can save her people, and the gentle inventor who has the knowledge to destroy them all.

 

Doesn’t the cover just look absolutely divine?!! Yep, I’m a cover slut but the description also sounds luscious! Whilst I’m not at all keen with love triangles, I was willing to gamble with this read and I really wasn’t disappointed. I really loved this spin of the Florentian world! Or is it really Florentian?! Silk is a mash-up of historical fantasy with alternate worlds and a dash of cyberpunk (well, it’s not actually cyberpunk but there’s advanced technology whilst the novel reads more like historical fantasy). It’s a rich-textured world with very interestingly conflicted characters. There were a couple of things which I did not particularly care for but there were only a couple of small things so I would dearly love to see this book selected for publication. Plus, I’d love to know what happens next and if I know Louise, I know it’s going to take me totally by surprise (and this doeth not often happen!).

Please NOMINATE Silk on Kindle Scout. Follow the link and you’ll also be able to read an excerpt.

Reading Challenges for the family

My 7 year old has had very good teachers for his 2 schooling years and especially this year, he has been pushed quite hard by his teacher. I don’t want him to lose whatever he’s achieved this school year in the summer holidays so I thought I’ll have to bribe him somehow but also having fun at the same time.

I am totally obsessed over reading challenges. I think this dated back to 2008 where I was introduced to Shelfari (merged with Goodreads earlier this year), specifically a group called Play Book Tag where they ran an amazing challenge. This group has moved to Goodreads so you can find them, here. When I first joined Goodreads (also in 2008), I wanted something similar to this group but more challenges than anything else, so I started a group called Pick-a-Shelf. This way I can create my own reading challenges any way I want! It’s been a blast and it’s been fairly good for my tbr 😉

These bookish social platforms, of course, limit the ages of their members and certainly, most reading challenges will NOT suit a 7yo. I’ve also searched online for “Kids Reading Challenges” and did not like what I found. This only spurred me on to create my own. And here it is…

reading-challenge-childSorry it’s a bit blurry, it’s too wide to show clear prints of text but if you click on the image, it should open it up bigger and clearer.

The challenge is to read a book as per required by task (shown above) to earn points as per noted under each task. If he completes a section, he’s awarded bonus points as per noted in the grey shaded boxes. At the end of the challenge (either completed all tasks or end of school holidays), he may redeem points he’s achieved for prizes.

BUT… how do you know if he actually reads the book? This is always the hard part as this will need you to sit down and go through some comprehensive questions. I decided a booklet with 4 generic questions will be a good start. He’ll need to write down (Writing exercises! 2 birds with 1 stone) his answers and then we can discuss the book along with his answers. So I’ve printed a booklet and am very excited that I also want to do it along with him (sans prizes). Of course, I’d have to adjust the number of page for the pages tasks but other than that I’ve left them as is.

I’ve also decided that the 2yo will also benefit from being included and he loves being read to so I’ve left most tasks the same except reduce the number of pages for the pages tasks. I’m still trying to talk hubby into this (he’s most definitely NOT a reader). I told him, the least he could do is encourage his sons by example… It’s not looking likely…

I wanted to share this Reading Challenge in case anyone would like to use it too. If you do, I’d love to hear from you: what did you change to suit you and/or your child, success or fail, etc. I’d also like to hear if you have any feedback, even if you’re not using this Reading Challenge, especially if you’re a teacher who works with young children.

Here are the links for you to download excel/word documents of the challenge.

Summer Reading Challenge – Worksheets

Summer Reading Challenge – Child Booklet

Summer Reading Challenge – Adult Booklet

The worksheet is for you to adjust tasks as per your liking. Then you’ll have to screen print and paste onto the Word doc for the booklet. When printing booklet, set to print double sided but to flip on the SHORT side. Booklet is designed so that the tasks are show in the middle of the booklet and the outside of booklet is plain so you can decorate cover as you please. I’ll try to take a Instagram video over the weekend so you can see what it looks like 🙂

Review: This Love

This Love
This Love by Lea Darragh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a second novella of Lea Darragh that I’ve read. I’ve learnt now that she writes emotionally gut wrenching stories. I mean, isn’t it one of the worse things ever for your bridegroom to die in a car accident on the way to the wedding? And that’s how this story began.

The grief Emerson felt pervaded her whole being and there was nothing left of her. It is time for her to embrace life once again and she feels that she may be ready for it. Life, however, always brings some unexpected twist which sometimes can be the ultimate gift. Personally, I can’t say whether this grief felt by Emerson & Jack are genuine as I’ve never really experience the death of a dearly loved one (*knock wood*). I’m actually not quite sure how realistic it is the story of Emerson & Jack; it just seems to be an enormous step for anyone to make and will require a very very big heart and a ton of courage. Nevertheless, it’s rather nice to think that anyone can.

I was rather amused with the characters checking with Dr. Google. I wasn’t quite amused by the length of the sex scenes which spanned approximately 10% and in one big chunk. I wouldn’t mind so much if it was spread out a bit, I think, but after 5%, I lost interest even though what they’re supposed to have was a lovely act between 2 loving consenting adults. Overall, I rather enjoyed this novella; a quick charming read in yesterday’s heat.

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

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Blog Tour (Review & Giveaway): Moon Chosen by P. C. Cast

About the book

moon-chosen

Moon Chosen

Chosen to embrace her true identity. Chosen to follow her destiny. Chosen to change her world.

Mari is an Earth Walker, heir to the unique healing powers of her Clan, but she has been forced to turn from her duties, until she is chosen by a special animal ally, altering her destiny forever. When a deadly attack tears her world apart, Mari reveals the strength of her powers and the forbidden secret of her dual nature as she embarks on a mission to save herself and her people. It is not until Nik, the son of the leader from a rival, dominating Tribe, strays across her path that Mari experiences something she has never felt before…

Now evil is coming, and with it, a force more terrible and destructive than the world has ever seen, leaving Mari to cast the shadows from the earth. By breaking Clan Law and forming an alliance with Nik, she must make herself ready. Ready to save her people. Ready to save herself and Nik. Ready to embrace her true destiny…and battle the forces that threaten to destroy them all.

My Blurb

That is not a wolf on the cover… it’s a German Shepherd! It is so obvious that I wasn’t paying that much attention to the cover before I read the book! This is not a paranormal novel as I expected but a book of Tales of a New World– stories set in a post apocalyptic world with a supernatural angle. Even though this divergence from my expectation threw me off a little, I have actually enjoyed this fascinating new world.

The world has changed in so many ways and so has its people. Some have attached themselves to the Earth, others to the trees and dogs, and I believe, there are yet others to come in later books. Each of these groups has found a way to survive and even flourish. However, each group also have their own unique threats to their lives. And still yet, they are isolated from each other with distrust growing from the unknown. Things are about to change, however, as Mari and Nik, both seen as being different from their own Clan and Tribe respectively, are about to come across many things that will change their perspectives.

Both Mari and Nik struggled with their being different from their own Clan and Tribe respectively. In that way, they are prepared to think outside the square. At first, I wasn’t too keen on Nik for a particular obsession of his at the beginning. As I got to know him though, he’s proven to be loyal to a fault, loving, and actually quite humble. Mari, on the other hand, was very easy to like despite her insecurities at the start but that is all very understandable and she grew quite quickly into her power and confidence. It took sometime before these 2 actually crossed paths but when they have, the story move quite quickly.

Moon Chosen reads rather like a historical fantasy because of the way these characters are living. However, it is also a captivating blend of post apocalyptic and the supernatural. I, for one, can’t wait for the next book as I really want to meet the other survivors and their chosen ways of lives.

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

Quick Q&A

1.       Dogs play a large role in Moon Chosen. Are you a dog lover?

PC: I’m an enormous dog lover!  The entire series was inspired by my working dog – an Eastern European German Shepherd named Badger, and a plethora of Scottie dogs! 

2.       What’s the one thing your fans would be surprised to learn about you?

PC: That I’ve been vegan for about 3 ½ years.

3.       Out of all your books, which would you say is your favourite cover?

PC: This one!  I love love love the MOON CHOSEN cover!  

About the author

P.C. Cast was born in the Midwest, and grew up being shuttled back-and-forth between Illinois and Oklahoma, which is where she fell in love with Quarter Horses and mythology (at about the same time). After high school, she joined the United States Air Force and began public speaking and writing. After her tour in the USAF, she taught high school for 15 years before retiring to write full time. PC is a #1 New York Times and #1 USA Today Best-Selling author and a member of the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame. Her novels have been awarded the prestigious: Oklahoma Book Award, YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Prism, Holt Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, Booksellers’ Best, and the Laurel Wreath. PC is an experienced teacher and talented speaker. Ms. Cast lives in Oregon near her fabulous daughter, her adorable pack of dogs, her crazy Maine Coon, and a bunch of horses.

Find PC on: goodreads  |  website  |  twitter

Giveaway (AU only)

I have 1 brand new copy of this book to giveaway but Australian address only (sorry, peeps, can’t afford overseas shipping :/). To enter, simply leave me a comment.

I will contact the winner on Monday, 5th December for his/her postal details.

moon-chosen-tour-final-art-v2