Category Archives: Contemporary

Review: All Fall Down by Ellie Marney

All Fall Down (Circus Hearts #2) by Ellie Marney

A ringmaster’s daughter and a bearded lady’s son join forces to stop a saboteur…

Nineteen-year-old Fleur Klatsch is loyal to her trapeze team and her ringmaster father, dedicated to the circus, and tough on everyone around her. After a series of accidents at Klatsch’s Karnival, Fleur is left holding the ball: she’s running the carnival, trying to stop a saboteur, and taking care of her dad. She doesn’t need anyone’s help, least of all Eugenia Deloren’s son, Marco, who’s been trying to break out of show life since the moment he was born into it. All Marco needs to do is get Klatsch’s back on its feet so he can leave. But after one fateful kiss with Fleur, will he really want to? And will Fleur and Marco figure out who’s trying to kill the show before someone kills them…

Dark YA romance, with a criminal twist – Circus Hearts: Step. Right. Up.

Published 1 October 2018 |  Publisher: Bearded Lady Press  |  RRP: AUD$4.99 (ebook only)

Buy Links: Amazon AU | A&R  | B&N Nook | iBooks  |  kobo  | Mondadori | !ndigo 

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

Personally, I don’t like it with series which has different MCs for each serial book. I think mostly because sometimes, it portrays the earlier character that you love in an unlikable light. Or sometimes, like the case here, because the protagonist in this book was so very much UNlikable in the first book. I truly wondered if I was going to be pulling my hair out reading this book.

I’m glad to say that there was no hair-pulling head-banging moments at all. I loved how Fleur recognised her mistake (and we’ve all made stupid mistakes at one point or another) and didn’t run away. And when push comes to shove, she pulled out all the stops to make sure things happen.

Once upon a time, Marco and Fleur were inseparable until the day Marco left to find a steady home-life. He returned to help when Fleur’s dad was injured in a sabotage incident. While Fleur is still angry at him for leaving, she recognise that he’s making her feel everything she’s never felt for any boys before. But will she risk all for someone who’ll be leaving her again soon?

I liked the mystery better in this one as there is actually one. I think my problem with this series is that the books are just too short! I’d love a couple extra more twists in these stories. I am very much looking forward to book 3!! I was disappointed that Ren was mostly missing in this instalment but can’t wait to read about her next.

All Fall Down is a story of redemption; of trust and loyalty. The characters in this book is a little bit older (19+) so again I’d say this borders on New Adult though there is limited sexual content (lots of smooching, peeps, relax!). Sometimes, I find New Adult books to be too much so if you’re looking for a clean-ish sort of New Adult book, I’d highly recommend this one.

Thanks to the author, Ellie Marney, for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

Ellie Marney is a teacher and YA author of the Every series (Every BreathEvery WordEvery Move), a highly-awarded crime trilogy for Young Adults – in 2015, Every Breath was named by the Australian Library Information Association as one of the top ten most-borrowed YA books in Australian libraries. Ellie has helped spearhead a collaborative group of literary sector professionals under the banner ‘#LoveOzYA’ to advocate for and promote Australian YA literature. She is one of the contributors to Begin End Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, and she hosts a book club – ‘#LoveOzYAbookclub’ – online. She is an Ambassador for the Stella Prize Schools Program, and is a regular speaker at schools, events and festivals. In 2017, Ellie released No Limits, a companion novel to the series – her latest novel is White Night.

Ellie was born in Brisbane, and has lived in Indonesia, Singapore and India. Now she writes, teaches, talks about YA literature, and gardens when she can, while living in a country idyll (actually a very messy wooden house on ten acres with a dog and lots of chickens) near Castlemaine, in north-central Victoria. Her partner and four sons still love her, even though she often forgets things and lets the housework go.

Find Ellie on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook  | instagram | pinterest

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Review: All the Little Bones by Ellie Marney

All the Little Bones (Circus Hearts #1) by Ellie Marney

A teenage trapeze artist and an apprentice strongman on the run from a terrible crime…

Seventeen-year-old Sorsha Neary’s life is changed in one night when she defends herself behind the vans of her family circus troupe. Now Sorsha and apprentice strongman Colm Mackay are travelling south, to evade the fallout and escape the long arm of the law. All they have in their favour is talent, an old promise, and slim acquaintance with the crew members and performers of their new home, Klatsch’s Karnival. But the question for Sorsha and Colm isn’t if the police will catch up with them, but when…

Dark YA romance, with a criminal twist – Circus Hearts: Step. Right. Up.

Published 1 September 2018 |  Publisher: Bearded Lady Press  |  RRP: AUD$4.99 (ebook only)

Buy Links: Amazon AU | A&R  | B&N Nook | iBooks  |  kobo  | Mondadori | !ndigo 

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

*laughs* I don’t know why I think this was a fantasy novel! Well, the cover is sooo pretty and it’s shelved as fantasy on Goodreads. I didn’t bother looking into it further because I’ve been wanting to read Ellie Marney’s books but yet… too many books too little time, as always. Suffice to say when the chance came up, I grabbed it.

I may have a tiny tad bit disappointed that there wasn’t that particular [fantasy] magic but circus has always held a special magical place in my heart so this turned out to be a special sort of read especially when I came across words in my native tongue (Bahasa Indonesia)! *oh how my heart sings* (and pssst, I found out today, this particular character’s story is coming in book 3, squee!!)

All the Little Bones opened with Sorsha and Colm on the run. Something awful has happened and Sorsha is struggling to come to terms with it all. Strongman Colm has been a rock but Sorsha knows this is something she must face herself. At the beginning, Sorsha is at her most vulnerable but as time passes, her strength returned and was such an amazing character. And Colm… *dreamy sighs* I’ve never really had a crush on the strongman in any circus fiction but boy, this one ticks all the boxes 😉

There wasn’t a great big mystery on what’s happened to Sorsha and I guess the only twist in the book is what bring the matter to head. After that, things seem to snowball and I found the ending to be rather rushed. I didn’t expect Sorsha’s story to end in this book, tbh, I expected it to go for 3 books long. I loved Sorsha and didn’t really want to say goodbye this early.

I also kept expecting some sort of name of the place and/or town they were in. Descriptions of the areas etc but it was a bit sparse and I found a bit sketchy that it all felt rather unreal. I felt the romance, all right, but I could not get a feel of the setting very well. I do love the showtime though. I feel that the excitement and magic of the show came through very clearly. And I had a lot of fun imagining the costumes etc 😉

All the Little Bones is a very pretty book with a lot of feels. If you love YA romance (or even New Adult, as I feel this book borders on NA), you’d love this magical romance!

Thanks to the author, Ellie Marney, for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

Ellie Marney is a teacher and YA author of the Every series (Every BreathEvery WordEvery Move), a highly-awarded crime trilogy for Young Adults – in 2015, Every Breath was named by the Australian Library Information Association as one of the top ten most-borrowed YA books in Australian libraries. Ellie has helped spearhead a collaborative group of literary sector professionals under the banner ‘#LoveOzYA’ to advocate for and promote Australian YA literature. She is one of the contributors to Begin End Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, and she hosts a book club – ‘#LoveOzYAbookclub’ – online. She is an Ambassador for the Stella Prize Schools Program, and is a regular speaker at schools, events and festivals. In 2017, Ellie released No Limits, a companion novel to the series – her latest novel is White Night.

Ellie was born in Brisbane, and has lived in Indonesia, Singapore and India. Now she writes, teaches, talks about YA literature, and gardens when she can, while living in a country idyll (actually a very messy wooden house on ten acres with a dog and lots of chickens) near Castlemaine, in north-central Victoria. Her partner and four sons still love her, even though she often forgets things and lets the housework go.

Find Ellie on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook  | instagram | pinterest

Review: Stone Girl by Eleni Hale

Stone Girl by Eleni Hale

A heartbreaking novel of raw survival and hope, and the children society likes to forget.A stunning and unforgettable debut YA for older readers.

An unspeakable event changes everything for twelve-year-old Sophie. No more Mum, school or bed of her own. She’s made a ward of the state and grows up in a volatile world where kids make their own rules, adults don’t count and the only constant is change.

Until one day she meets Gwen, Matty and Spiral. Spiral is the most furious, beautiful boy Sophie has ever known. And as their bond tightens she finally begins to confront what happened in her past.

I’m at the police station. There’s blood splattered across my face and clothes. In this tiny room with walls the colour of winter sky I hug a black backpack full of treasures. Only one thing is certain . . . no one can ever forgive me for what I’ve done.

Published 30 April 2018 |  Publisher: Penguin Books Australia  |  RRP: AUD$19.99

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

Truthfully, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I saw the chance and grabbed it; I’m spontaneous like that because otherwise, I’m rather indecisive and will take forever and a day to make up my mind. I don’t think I even looked at the blurb at the back of the book and just started reading… boy, did I get the shock of my life!

The novel opens with a shocked twelve-year-old Sophie sitting at the police station. Her mother had died and it is all her fault. Her father is in Greece and she has no other family to care for her. She was placed in the care of social workers and hence begins her journey through the system. About 1/3 through the book, we skipped to 2 years later and Sophie’s life did not get any better… is it possible to even be worse than it already is? Her life is like a roller coaster and she’s about to hit rock bottom…

We only have each other

Stone Girl tells of brutal lives of teens who have been betrayed again and again. First by their parents who reversed the roles by having the children as carers then to disappoint them by leaving (or dying) and/or breaking promises again and again. No wonder these children do not and cannot place any kind of trust in adults. How can you when all they’ve learnt are betrayals and disappointments?

The homes have taught me some important life lessons: need no one, rely on no one, trust no one. Cry inside. Feel but don’t show. If you think you need someone to talk to about deep stuff? Don’t. Sort it out alone. Mask up and survive.

I can’t tell you just how heartbreaking this story is. And to read in the author’s note that she herself has lived through this system back in the 1990s made this book all the more heartbreaking and powerful in its inspiration of hope. It wasn’t an easy book to read and whilst it holds no trigger moments for me, it came quite close. I won’t say that it’s a must-read for anyone because not everyone could survive reading this but I do very much hope that the message it brings will reach those who need it.

It’s not too late…You can if you are tenacious, determined. Try, and never give up… You have a choice to make and pretending you don’t is a choice in itself.

Thanks to the author, Eleni Hale, for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

Eleni Hale was a reporter at the Herald Sun, a communications strategist for the union movement and has written for many print and online news publications. Her short story fig was published as part of the ABC’s In their branches project and she has received three Varuna awards. She lives in Melbourne, and is currently working on her second book. Stone Girl is her first novel.

Find Eleni on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook  | instagram

Come back tomorrow for Q&A with Eleni! 😀

Review: Meet Me at the Intersection

Meet Me at the Intersection edited by Rebecca Lim & Ambelin Kwaymullina

Meet Me at the Intersection is an anthology of short fiction, memoir and poetry by authors who are First Nations, People of Colour, LGBTIQA+ or living with disability. The focus of the anthology is on Australian life as seen through each author’s unique, and seldom heard, perspective.

With works by Ellen van Neerven, Graham Akhurst, Kyle Lynch, Ezekiel Kwaymullina, Olivia Muscat, Mimi Lee, Jessica Walton, Kelly Gardiner, Rafeif Ismail, Yvette Walker, Amra Pajalic, Melanie Rodriga, Omar Sakr, Wendy Chen, Jordi Kerr, Rebecca Lim, Michelle Aung Thin and Alice Pung, this anthology is designed to challenge the dominant, homogenous story of privilege and power that rarely admits ‘outsider’ voices.

Published September 2018 |  Publisher: Fremantle Press  |  RRP: AUD$19.99

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

I’m so excited to see a book, an anthology, dedicated to #ownvoices ! Finally, something for everyone (or almost). Editors did a fine job in collating stories of representation from a cross-section of those who are different, unique; of voices whom we rarely hear.

There are a couple of poetry which I struggled with… I don’t know how to read poetry! Although what really helps is the blurb at the beginning of each chapter describing who the authors are and sometimes, what their pieces are about. Each one of these authors are amazing humans!

Of course, I am absolutely partial to the Asian stories / authors as I understood them better from the cultural perspective. However, this did not diminish my enjoyment of the other stories (except for poetry as I mentioned above) for each of these stories help me to better understand their side of the story. I mean why else do we read but to open our minds to others and in listening to them, be better able to love as they deserve to be loved. I highly recommend this anthology for all who seek to understand.

Thanks to Fremantle Press for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

Rebecca Lim is a writer, illustrator and lawyer based in Melbourne. Rebecca is the author of eighteen books, and has been shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award, INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award, Aurealis Award and Davitt Award for YA. Rebecca’s work has also been longlisted for the Gold Inky Award and the David Gemmell Legend Award. Her novels have been translated into German, French, Turkish, Portuguese and Polish.

Find Rebecca on:  goodreads

Ambelin Kwaymullina is an Aboriginal writer and illustrator who comes from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She is the author and illustrator of a number of award-winning picture books as well as a YA dystopian series. Her books have been published in the United States, South Korea and China. Ambelin is a prolific commentator on diversity in children’s literature and a law academic at the University of Western Australia.

Find Ambelin on:  goodreads

Review: One Small Thing by Erin Watt

One Small Thing by Erin Watt

From the No. 1 New York Times bestselling author duo of The Royals series and When It’s Real comes a sensational new novel about a girl falling for the one boy she should never have met…

Beth’s life hasn’t been the same since her sister died. Her parents try to lock her down, believing they can keep her safe by monitoring her every move. When Beth sneaks out to a party one night and meets the new guy in town, Chase, she’s thrilled to make a secret friend. It seems a small thing, just for her.

Only Beth doesn’t know how big her secret really is…

Fresh out of juvie and determined to start his life over, Chase has demons to face and much to atone for. Beth, who has more reason than anyone to despise him, is willing to give him a second chance. A forbidden romance is the last thing either of them planned for senior year, but the more time they spend together, the deeper their feelings get.

Now Beth has a choice to make – follow the rules, or risk tearing everything apart…again.

Harlequin Books  |  9 July 2018  |  AUD$19.99

My Blurb (2.5 out of 5 stars)

I really wasn’t sure what to make of this book. I liked the cover and really, by reading the description, you know what the story is… I’m still wondering why I picked up this book in the first place?

The only thing I liked was that it was an easy & fast read. I understood Beth’s grief & anger and while, as a third party, I understood the need to forgive and am able to sympathise with Beth, I struggled to empathise with her. And I believe most readers will be in the same position.

I struggled also with the parents. It’s really hard not to be judgemental (as the novel is told from Beth’s perspective and we feel a lot of what she feels; being ignored and treated unfairly) and yet, at the same time, I cannot place myself as a parent whose child’s death preceded theirs.

I do, however, liked Chase. He was acting out and had to face the consequences. He’s trying hard to fix himself with whatever limited opportunity he has. He’s trying to do the right thing.

There is a twist; if you can call it that. It was pretty clear earlier on that there was something not quite right about one of the characters so it wasn’t that big of a surprise. If you’re looking for a fast easy read without too much thinking involved, One Small Thing is for you. I did struggle with a few things but if you don’t think too hard, I think you’d enjoy it anyway.

Thanks to Harlequin Books for copy of book in exchange of honest review 

About the author

The #1 New York Times Bestselling Author, loving brainchild of Jen Frederick & Elle Kennedy

Find Erin on:  website  |  goodreads  |  facebook  |  instagram  |  twitter

Blog Tour: Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 1 July, 2018
Australian RRP: $17.99

Charlie Grant tries to keep her life as normal as possible. Hanging out with her best friend, pining for Jesse Foster – who she’s loved since she was twelve – and generally flying under the radar as much as she can.

But sometimes normal is just another word for stuck, and this weekend that’s all going to change. Not only will everyone be back home for her sister’s wedding, but she’s also juggling:

– a rented dog that just won’t stop howling
– an unexpectedly hot wedding-coordinator’s nephew
– her favourite brother bringing home his HORRIBLE new girlfriend
– fear that her parents’ marriage is falling apart
– and the return to town of the boy she’s loved practically all her life…

Over the course of four days Charlie will learn there’s so much more to each member of her family than she imagined, even herself, and that maybe letting go of the things she’s been holding on tightest to can help her find what really keeps them together.

Purchase Links: booktopia boomerang  | dymocks  | iBooks  |  QBD  | google

My Blurb (4/5 stars)

Things are changing but Charlie Grant doesn’t want them to. Her parents are selling the house she’s always lived in. She’s about to head to college though she’s yet made her choice. And her sister is getting married. This Weekend! She is, however, looking forward to having all her family members together. She absolutely adores her family and always seek their company. This weekend is not about to go smoothly for her though despite her high hopes.

This novel is told purely from the perspective of Charlie Grant so we only find things out as she does and/or as she thought of them. She is definitely an identifiable protagonist; we all cling to things we love. And the Grant family sounds positively the place you’d want to be in. However, nothing is perfect. There were signs, right from the start, that things weren’t going quite the way Charlie thinks they are.

I love this story of the Grant family and the dynamics of Charlie’s relationships to the people around her. I adore the comic strips that began each part of the story. It is certainly no wonder why Charlie loves her family so much to the extent of neglecting her best friend. It’s a story of a wonderful family; being wonderful does not mean perfect.

Save the Date is a heart-warming coming-of-age story where the protagonist came to the realisation that whilst seasons change and some things ended, there are wonderfully new beginnings to start and things to explore. As she reaches adulthood, relationships may shift but her family will always be there for her. Save the Date is a light & easy read with a dash of humour and where love sparkles brightest of all.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for copy of book in exchange of honest review. And thanks, AusYABloggers for organising the tour.

Find all the other stops (there are chances to win copies at some stops) by following the Tour Schedule 

About the author

Morgan Matson is a New York Times bestselling author. She received her MFA in writing for children from the New School and was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start author for her first book, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, which was also recognized as an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults. Her second book, Second Chance Summer, won the California State Book Award. She lives in Los Angeles.

Find her on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  | instagram

Review: Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan

Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan

Clarissa Goenawan’s dark, spellbinding literary debut opens with a murder and shines a spotlight onto life in fictional small-town Japan.

Ren Ishida is nearly finished with graduate school when he receives news of his sister Keiko’s sudden death. She was viciously stabbed one rainy night on her way home, and there are no leads. Ren heads to Akakawa to conclude his sister’s affairs, still failing to understand why she chose to abandon the family and Tokyo for this desolate town years ago.

But Ren soon finds himself picking up where Keiko left off, accepting both her teaching position at a local cram school and the bizarre arrangement of free lodging at a wealthy politician’s mansion in exchange for reading to the man’s catatonic wife.

As he comes to know the figures in Akakawa, from the enigmatic politician to his fellow teachers and a rebellious, alluring student named Rio, Ren delves into his shared childhood with Keiko and what followed, trying to piece together what happened the night of her death. Haunted in his dreams by a young girl who is desperately trying to tell him something, Ren struggles to find solace in the void his sister has left behind.

My Blurb (3 stars)

Judging by the book’s blurb alone, it is doubtful that I’d have picked it up. Judging by the cover, I would have definitely added it to my TBR but who knows when I’d have read it. However, a quick look at the author’s Indonesian surname clinched it. If you don’t already know, I was born & grew up in Indonesia. On the other hand, this may be a bad thing cuz you know you expect a lot from your own countrymen or women (or maybe that’s just me…).

I thought it was a little bit iffy that the book is fully Japanese (set in Japan with Japanese MC, etc). Then again, as we grew up (in Indonesia) obsessed with everything Japan (their mangas, dramas, etc), it’s really not a strange choice at all. I am a big fan of Japanese lit myself… I’ve read my share of mangas, watched J-dramas, & read a number of novels too. From all this, I’d say that Clarissa Goenawan has made a fair representation of Japanese style of living. I wonder though what Japanese people actually think…?

In essence, I do feel that this book is quite Japanese. The strange dreams (Haruki Murakami, anyone?) and relationships (brother-sister, teacher-student, etc). I loved Murakami’s books so I didn’t mind the dreams and in a way, maybe this author seeks to emulate him? And those relationships… well… I’ve seen them in mangas (especially ones for mature audiences) but I’m so glad that there were lines that were not crossed in this book.

The story is being told from the sole perspective of Ren Ishida who came to the town of Akakawa because his sister has been murdered. At the beginning, he just appears to be lost and aimless… in his grief, he drifted and some things just kind of fell on his lap. I don’t feel like he actively tried to investigate his sister’s murder so I don’t see this novel as the usual who-dun-it. He was driven more by his dreams to find something of which he wasn’t quite sure what. Will the truth destroy him or set him free?

“Sadness alone can’t harm anyone. It’s what you do when you’re sad that can hurt you and those around you.”

The reading was easy and quite enjoyable. There were some parts which I thought were kinda stilted but not many. I loved the little town with its gothic-esque feel. The MC, Ren, was easy on the eye & developed to grow easy on the heart too. If you like everything Japanese, you may enjoy this easy fare (in comparison to Japanese works that is).

About the author

Clarissa Goenawan is an Indonesian-born Singaporean writer. Her debut novel, Rainbirds, is the winner of the 2015 Bath Novel Award. Her short stories have won several awards and been published in various literary magazines and anthologies, such as The MacGuffin, Your Impossible Voice, Esquire, Monsoon Book, Writing The City, Needle in the Hay,
and many others. She loves rainy days, pretty books, and hot green tea.

 

Find Clarissa on:  website  |  goodreads  |  instagram  | twitter  |  facebook