Category Archives: Reviews

Review: The Fifth Letter

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The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

Do you have a group of best friends? Do they know everything about you or do you think you know all there is to know about each other? I have a group of my own best friends; four of us grew close during high school – almost like Joni, Deb, Eden, & Trina. Like them, 3 of us are married with children and one has just found The One and about to tie the knot in a few months’ time. *sniffs – am so very happy for her*

The beginning of their friendship is almost laughable. It was pointed out to them that they all have 2 things in common: surnames starting with “C” and their star signs (Scorpios). It’s not the silliest thing that have begun deep friendships, of course, but this was the basis that Joni decided that the four of them are meant to be best friends forever. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the most innocent start of the group…

scorpio

Years later, they were still good friends. They see each other regularly and even have girls weekend away sometimes. This weekend though, things rather fell apart. They decided to each write an anonymous letter of secrets to tell each other. It really wasn’t that easy to be anonymous when you know each other well and in addition to that, Joni found a fifth letter with a rather menacing tone. What is she to do with it? Is she supposed to do anything about it?

I really enjoyed the beginning of The Fifth Letter. The stage was being set with Joni finding the letter, her confessional conversation with a Catholic priest (my favourite character), then flashbacks to their teen years. I started smiling on page 3 and found at the end of my train trip, that I still had a wide smile on my face. It wasn’t just funny but the flashbacks also remind me of my own memories of my friends. I didn’t actually like any of these 4 ladies even though I can identify/empathise with all of them in one thing or another. Joni, being the main protagonist and whose perspective we read from, can be very frustrating! She is lovely really but oh, she can be so blind! In saying that, however, I also couldn’t really pick the fifth letter writer. And that precious ending, oh wow, I was literally choking with laughter!

What began as a rather humorous and reminiscing read, this novel took a turn into a dark complex of human emotions. These women each have their own issues which they feel they cannot voice yet that is the first step towards healing. The Fifth Letter engages the reader to look beyond the surface, to check our unrealistic expectations of women and see them as a person, an individual, who is not perfect (no one is perfect) and needs loving supports.

Thank you, Nicola Moriarty, for this novel and the chance to reflect of my own friendships. Like Joni, Deb, Eden, & Trina, I’m sure that we do not know everything about each other and that’s okay… I am certain, however, that none of us harbours any ill will towards anyone in the group 😀

Thank you Harper Collins Publishers Australia for providing paperback copy in exchange of honest review

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Review: Crimson Lake

crimson-lakeCrimson Lake by Candice Fox
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was soooo excited to see Candice Fox was to release a new book. I must admit to being a teeny weeny disappointed to find out that it is NOT an Archer & Bennett but still… It’s a must-read. If you love crime novels, Candice Fox’s books are must-reads!

Despite being told that this is her best book yet, I can NOT make this distinction. I love ALL her books fairly equally and they are ALL my favourites. The mysteries are terrific but the characters and what she made them go through are just mind-boggling. They are fragile. They are broken. They are survivors.

The main difference in Crimson Lake to the Archer & Bennett books to my mind is that it’s cracking hilarious. Wait a minute, Amanda Pharrell is horrendously hilarious. I can see some people might find her annoying and if she’s someone I know IRL, I’d probably want to kill her myself but seriously the stuff she said were Lough Out Loud Funny. Err, yes, I’m most probably that crazy lady on the train… Here’s one of the things she said that cracked me up to no end & I kept going back to it:

“… I’m dead fascinated with your case. I’m so fascinated, someone should pin me in their hair and wear me to the races.”

We don’t know very much how Amanda’s mind works as the novel is told from Ted Conkaffey’s perspective but one thing we do know is that she’s full on contradictions. She’d slunk away for certain confrontations and yet,

“…doesn’t anything scare you anymore?”
“Not really,” she said brightly…

Ted Conkaffey is hiding. He’s tired and he’s sad. He has had no choice but to accept what fate has dealt him to date. The geese found him. Amanda baffled him. Her cases interest his mind and his brain geared up to put these puzzles together. Maybe there is something else he could do even now… Despite being told from Ted’s perspective; Amanda completely took over the whole book. Maybe we’ll have her perspective in the next book?

Aside from these amazing characterisation, I also love Fox’s prose; the way she draws you to the characters then the setting and then weaves tangled weave of mysterious circumstances which leave you guessing ‘til the end. Crimson Lake, with its tightly developed plot, unique characters and a snapping end, is a thoroughly enjoyable read.

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

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Blog Tour: A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

About the book

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A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn’t a lightning strike, it’s the rumbling roll of thunder.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.

From the bestselling author of Beautiful Broken Things comes a love story about the times when a whisper is as good as a shout.

My Blurb

A Quiet Kind of Thunder is a beautiful read. Mind you, there were stacks of romance in here though I think you can kind of tell by the number of hearts on the cover 😉 There were times that I found the romance crossed the corny cheesy line but I made the allowance for “First Love”. They really weren’t that bad; just a teeny weeny bit more than I liked so you may love it.

At the beginning, however, Steffi was facing first day back at school without her best friend. She’s 16 so she’s in sixth form; which term I actually had to look up as I’m not familiar with the British education system (thanks, Google!) and it’s like years 12 & 13. She may know all the students there but it’s a big day for her. She is determined that she will speak this year. She needs to prove to herself and her parents that she’s capable of ‘normality’ so they will let her go to university. Minutes later, she met a boy who cannot hear, Rhys, and he’s rather cute…

There is only one perspective, Steffi’s, and we get to hear everything she’s saying in her head. She’s getting help and she’s working very hard to overcome that which limit her. I love that we get to hear these things; she may not be able to speak but it doesn’t mean that her head is empty! I can’t tell how accurate the things she’s thought of in relation to other people who are in the same boat as Steffi but it felt just as how they could’ve thought (feel free to correct me) and in some ways were really enlightening. Meeting Rhys with a different type of limitation helps her in a way as they found support in each other; tackling the world which place those limitations on them and along the way, found her confidence and identity.

I have truly enjoyed this book. It was a fun, educational, heart-warming, and totally encouraging book to read. It really inspires you to reach for your dreams despite what the world tells you; only you can decide your limits.

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

Quick Q&A

  1. What kind of research was involved in writing A Quiet Kind of Thunder?

A lot! I learned some (very basic) sign language and read as much as I could on deaf culture and community. I also watched videos on YouTube, including those from/about people in deaf/hearing relationships. For selective mutism, I did a lot of general research into things like diagnosis and treatment, and read the materials that were aimed at teachers and parents to get an idea of how they would deal with a child in that situation.

  1. Is there an interesting story/incident that you came across during your research that you could share with us?

Everything I learned about deaf culture and BSL was fascinating, and I really loved watching BSL music videos online – they absolutely blew my mind.

  1. What is it that drives you to write contemporary YA and of such confronting truths?

For me, those are the kinds of books I most love and that I take the most from. I love books that are honest about people, relationships and the world, and so I suppose it makes sense that I would also try to do this in my own writing. Writing is also a great cathartic way to explore issues and problems that goes beyond just talking or thinking about them, so there’s probably an element of that, too.

About the author

sara-barnardSara lives in Brighton and does all her best writing on trains. She loves books, book people and book things. She has been writing ever since she was too small to reach the “on” switch on the family Amstrad computer. She gets her love of words from her dad, who made sure she always had books to read and introduced her to the wonders of secondhand book shops at a young age.

Sara is trying to visit every country in Europe, and has managed to reach 13 with her best friend. She has also lived in Canada and worked in India.

Sara is inspired by what-ifs and people. She thinks sad books are good for the soul and happy books lift the heart. She hopes to write lots of books that do both. BEAUTIFUL BROKEN THINGS is her first book and a dream come true.

Find Sara on: goodreads  |  tumblr  |  twitter  | instagram

 

Quick Reviews #1

For 2017, I’m determined to write a review for all the books I read – even if only a minimal 1 paragraph summing up my feelings/thoughts of the book. So here’s my first Quick Thoughts on a few books I read the first half of January.

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Raven Black (Shetland Island #1) by Ann Cleeves ~ 4 out of 5 stars

I added this book on my tbr ecause I came across it as a kindle freebie last year. I read this book because, of course, it was picked for a reading challenge. For some strange reason, I keep forgetting that author is British and this book is set in Scotland. I keep thinking US and when certain words crop up, they sent me spinning. I got confused quite a bit with this book but that is my own fault. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the mystery, the interesting characters, and especially the surprising ending! Do not let people’s bias influence you; form your own opinion by looking into the issues yourself.

tags: #mystery #crime #murder #scotland

where-the-sea-takes-usWhere the Sea Takes Us:A Vietnamese-Australian Story by Kim Huynh ~ 4 out of 5 stars

I added this book on my tbr in 2008, the year I registered on Goodreads! It’s one of my project this year to clear my tbr of whatever books I added in 2008 (thankfully, only a handful of them left). My interest in this books lies in the fact that my husband’s parents fled Vietnam in the late 70’s when my mother-in-law was heavily pregnant. My husband was born in the refugee camp in Thailand! The in-laws do not, however, ever speak of their trials so I read of others’.

This book tells of the author’s parents, their backgrounds (the first 2 chapters were about both sets of grandparents and their origins), their struggles against poverty, their little victories, and in the end, their endeavour in seeking better futures for their sons. Both families were living quite comfortably when the Indochina War broke. Both families lost everything and had to suffer through terrible hunger. The devotion of the parents, the hard work of both parents and children, most of them survived and despite flirtation with communism, fought for education to pull themselves through to better living conditions. The author is a politician in Canberra and his brother is a doctor living in an affluent Sydney suburb so I guess the parents are very happy and proud of their sons’ achievements in freedom.

tags: #memoir #history #vietnam #nonfiction

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Last Orders at Harrods: An African Tale (Kuwisha Trilogy #1) by Michael Holman  ~ 2 out of 5 stars

A rather random find on BorrowBox to fit a reading challenge task. I didn’t have any particular book in mind so I was browsing and thought this might be a fun-funny sort of read. I guess there was some funny bits but there wasn’t enough for me to think it as a funny read. This cover (the blues and yellows) made me think that it’s going to be a hilarious romp through Africa but boy, was I wrong! And unfortunately, I just wasn’t that interested in the story or any of the characters but I didn’t mind the wily ending. I don’t think I’d read the rest of the trilogy.

tags: #contemporary #africa
last-night-i-dreamedLast Night I Dreamed of Peace: An Extraordinary Diary of Courage from the Vietnam War by Đặng Thùy Trâm ~ 4 out of 5 stars

An incredibly lucky find when researching for a reading challenge task. I was looking for a non-fiction book set in South East Asia (excluding Indonesia) that has been translated to English. You know Anne Frank & her diary? Well, this is also a diary by a girl, a young adult in her early 20s. She may be a communist but she is also a person, a human who bled red with a breakable heart and beautiful dreams. As I read her most intimate thoughts, my heart broke for her over and over. This is only part of the diary she kept as earlier books are lost. In the beginning, you learn that her heart was broken by a boy she loved and throughout the book, she continued to love him, was sad throughout, yet exhorting herself to work hard to forget him and strive for her dream of peace. She is a doctor and she believes in the idea of communism; she is fighting for her country to be free and to prosper. Her idealism, though transparent in the diary, did not saturate the writings. She wrote from the heart and so this book is full of her wishes, longings, and dreams. It is therefore even more heartbreaking that she died so very young.

tags: #memoir #history #vietnam #diary #nonfiction

Wawaldenlden; or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau ~ 3 out of 5 stars

I ended up rating this book 3 stars though I was close to 1 or 2 stars, at least the beginning. I was struggling firstly with the prose of very very long sentences. I keep having to re-read a sentence because I keep missing his point after all the ramblings. Then I also felt that he was rather condescending with some of his points and sometimes rather preachy. The only parts I really like were his descriptions of nature and his appreciation of it which I guess is why this book is such a classic but other than that, I was totally underwhelmed.

tags: #memoir #history #massachusetts #nonfiction #nature

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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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.

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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.

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.

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