Category Archives: Uncategorized

Review: Sideshow

Sideshow
Sideshow by Nicole Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Of course, it was a reading challenge that got me to search for a particular sort of books at the library that landed me this book! And what an amusing read… totally unexpected despite the GR description of hilarious and rollicking. There aren’t many books that actually make me laugh (even if they’re shelved under humour) but this one did. Of course, I tried to contain as much as I could whilst reading on the commute which leads me to an apology to my fellow commuters who noticed my ugly contorted face & shaking body as I tried to hold back laughter; I swear I’m not certifiably insane.

As with all funnies, I do think that most times, there is something really sad behind it all. That was the feeling I got at the start of this little novel and each time, she put on or remove her stage make up. However, she was always very quick in pushing it to the back of her mind and got busy in the pleasures of life. Oh, the shenanigans they got up to!

The hilarity stems mostly from the characters. I think if I just read an extract of what I thought was funny in the book, without knowing the characters or the book, I wouldn’t think it funny at all. Interestingly, most of the characters were “un-named”, rather they were known by their Royal Stage Names: The Prince, The Duke, The Duchess, The Lady, The Courtesan (our main character whose perspective we enjoyed) Or their role in the troupe except… for one guy… or two…

Right now, I’m wondering whether I’d still find it as hilarious if I re-read it. Yes, I am considering a reread because it was so much fun!

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Review: Ned Kelly: The Story of Australia’s Most Notorious Legend

Ned Kelly: The Story of Australia's Most Notorious Legend
Ned Kelly: The Story of Australia’s Most Notorious Legend by Peter FitzSimons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have always thought Ned Kelly to be one of those historical personages who achieved their legendary status by urban myths; that is there were not many historical supporting evidence of his existence, much less his feats. This tome (848 pages = 30+ hours audio) had me revising my views. There were numerous historical data to be had and sort through though of course, there remains questions which we’ll never have answers to. Despite all this data, there also remains the debate whether Ned Kelly is a good guy or bad guy. This, as always, is a matter of personal views.

The book started with the humble beginning of Ned Kelly, his parents’ origins and his birth, to conclude by his ignominious death and consequences thereafter. To begin with, I’m a total Kelly sympathiser; I felt the indignation of the family as one of the poor (life was oh so very hard and I mean this sincerely) and being hounded by the police, some of them liars and scoundrels to boot, pushed them beyond their limits. At the halfway mark, I do question whether there is motives of greed, of self-grandiose, of narcissism. And at the end, I do feel sorry that his life ended as it was, especially with a trial where it seemed justice was miscarried; it was really unfair that he could not get a fair representation. Nevertheless, the Kelly outbreak did cause a review of the police and of the unfair treatment of the poor Irish which is what he wanted so I guess he got what he wanted, after all. And his legend lives on…

This is the second Peter FizSimons’ works I’ve had the pleasure of reading and I’ll be trolling through the rest of them soon. I’ve really liked them because they’re not dry; he has inserted some personal views (so stated) but that is precisely why I like them. It made the works personal like he’s sharing and not telling/lecturing. If you’re a hard-core historian, you may not appreciate this but for a layman like myself, utterly enjoyable.

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Review: Close Your Eyes

Close Your Eyes
Close Your Eyes by Iris Johansen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I seem to be in a habit of picking up books that are similar. A couple of months ago, it was all about grief in YA. This time, I happen to be reading a biography of The Blind Traveler (he became blind in his twenties after some mysterious illness) and Close Your Eyes where the main character, Kendra Michaels, was born blind but underwent a miraculous surgery in her twenties that restored her sight. Interestingly, the biography noted it’s not that other senses became sharper but rather more
eloquent
and Kendra Michaels demonstrated that by diligently taking notice of absolutely everything (in which everyone can do but do not).

It is this aptitude which made Kendra a valuable asset to investigators. However, she has been previously burnt by failures and horrific images that haunt her dreams. When Adam Lynch, ex-FBI, approached her, she had decided that this was not the life for her and to stay away from any kind of investigations. However, Adam Lynch is not known as The Puppetmaster for no reason, he’s dangled a carrot or two and led her on. Nevertheless, Kendra wished to only be involved in a limited capacity. Things never go to plan, however, as her loved ones are hurt and the fate of humanity is threatened.

Both Kendra and Adam were easily likeable and the chemistry between them generates those little sparks of excitement. Surprisingly, this book is clean (no hanky panky) though who knows how clean the sequels will be 😉 We get to know Kendra quite well in this book but Adam is still a mystery… a delicious one, I hope! As to the actual mysterious case in this book, it was quite complex and fast-paced that this turned out to be a really interesting read. It is, for me, a page-turner comfort-read and I will definitely be on the lookout for the rest of the series.

Many thanks to MacMillan Australia; I received a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: The Semester of Our Discontent

The Semester of Our Discontent
The Semester of Our Discontent by Cynthia Kuhn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A cover crush! The purple is eye-catching but I love all the curlicues found on the title & fence.

Lila Maclean is easily likeable as main character and did not come across as nosy. She is however determined to proof her cousin innocent. She is new at this University and therefore, unsure of her steps but she’s courage enough to stand for what’s right. This applies also in her academic profession which involves a fairly complex politicking and a rival who wants her job. In addition to all this, there exists a secret society with a mysterious purpose.

The trouble with first books in series is that they can be quite slow with a lot of setting up. I found that I skimmed quite a bit and got a little confused with unfamiliar authors; there is a mix of real and fictional authors. I don’t really want to have to look them all up myself so I just sort of ignore that and kept going. Despite all this, I really enjoyed the resolution at the end and think that this is a fairly promising start of a series.

The Semester of Our Discontent is an engaging mystery with hints of romance and lots of references to books to appeal to fans of cozy mysteries.

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

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Review: The Twisted Knot

The Twisted Knot
The Twisted Knot by J.M. Peace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I’m still on a high from A Time to Run which was such an amazing thriller. I knew book 2, The Twisted Knot won’t be in the same boat because really, she cannot be a victim year after year! However, this was still a very good read in a somewhat different way. It’s still a mystery/crime book but Sammi Willis is now a Constable doing the investigation rather than a victim on the run.

I love the Australian flavour of this novel; set in a small town in the state of sunny Queensland. You would’ve thought a small town to be a safe place for everyone and for the children to run free but the reality is, it’s not that safe anywhere. In Angel’s Crossing, a devastating secret is about to be unearthed and the public is demanding justice to be served. The police aren’t able to act on baseless rumours though and as the people are getting restless, they cannot just sit on the by-lines. Nevertheless, it seems justice will be served one way or another.

The ending was fascinating especially noting the author, J.M. Peace is currently serving as a police officer. Despite this fact, however, she is also a natural person and a mother with her own private views. We have to appreciate the fact that police officers may have different personal views but are there to enforce and uphold the laws which sometimes fail the public.

I’d recommend this book to all crime/mystery lovers. The author definitely knows this world professionally and have brought it, realistically, into fiction for readers to enjoy. I’d love to see what Sammi will get up to in the next book!

If you’ve interested, you can find an extract for chapter 1, here.

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

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Review: Journey’s End

Journey's End
Journey’s End by Jennifer Scoullar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jennifer Scoullar did not disappoint with her latest instalment. I’d expected lots of environmental titbits and I definitely got that and more! This time, even as she’s garnering support for the regeneration of Australian nature, she’s also explored elsewhere for a little. I’ve read 3 of her novels so far and each contained different animals to be appreciated and preserved. I think I’ve enjoyed Journey’s End most because of the chosen animal here is closer to my personal preference. I know I’m being very vague but I’m trying to stick to what the book blurb tells you.

Aside from the particular species featured in this book, I also really liked that another culture was brought into the mix. A culture that is currently not-so-popular. Even if Scoullar didn’t particular delve deep into this, she’s brought up the fact that we should never judge a person by their looks / nationality. There is a lot of misguidance / misconceptions in the world spread by hatred and the only way out, is to dig deep and learn the truth.

Kim Sullivan is easily likeable and despite understanding her grief etc, there were times where she was just so frustrating. Nevertheless, I haven’t ever been in her position so I’m also a bit conflicted about how much sympathy I should have for her and whether I should be feeling guilty about being frustrated of her not moving on. Thankfully, that’s not my job and all I had to do was cheer for the other characters when expressed their thoughts!

Journey’s End is a novel full of grief, prejudice, relationships and life while exploring the beauty of natural ecological systems. It is an easy book to get into but it’s really a light chick-lit sort of reading. My warning to you: Be prepared to be touched and get teary…

Thanks to Penguin Books Australia for copy eARC via NetGalley in exchange of honest review

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Review: Legacy of Kings

Legacy of Kings
Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Legacy of Kings is not a book I’d normally pick up but as it was received in a goodie bag from Harlequin AU (thanks very much!!), I gave it a go anyway. And… I’m so glad I did! I NEED book 2 right now! Thankfully, I don’t think I have long to wait at all.

This was slow to start especially with the multiple POVs as the storytelling moved each chapter to different POVs. As usual, the problem with multiple POVs is how the readers developed a preferred attachment to some characters and get frustrated with the other POVs in between. This was an issue at the beginning but by the end of the book, I LOVE ALL the characters; even Cynane, the crazy cat!

The mystery was fairly easy to guess but the suspense as we follow the characters in uncovering them was exciting. Of course, the battle was also very thrilling. It was also a joy to immerse myself in an ancient world so widely different from today’s day-to-day living and beliefs.

Legacy of Kings is a world shrouded in conspiracies and betrayals but in such adversity, one finds love and loyalty are all the more fierce. It’s a fairly clean YA fantasy historical fiction with a touch of romance and is quite easy to read. All you have to do is get used to the switching of POVs for the first half the book and you’ll enjoy the read.

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Review: Raelia

Raelia
Raelia by Lynette Noni
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have enjoyed this second instalment of The Medoran Chronicles much better. I think this is due to the fact that I’m rather over the “Harry Potter X Narnia X X-Men” comparison and so, was not trying to actually do any comparisons! I felt more relaxed and was able to appreciate this tale on its own merit.

Alexandra Jennings continued to live up to her sassy attitude though really she’s a very loving and caring personality. Yet again, she can’t help being talented at things she’d rather not and plunging into troubles when she’s rather avoid them. Nevertheless, her courage, perseverance, and faith in her friends carried her through. The hint of romance, of course, is not misplaced! I am awaiting Draekora with bated breath!

An epic-ly FUN read guaranteed, whether you’re sunbathing at the pool or on the commute to work facing a dreary day. It will lighten up your day and bring a bit of magic to your outlook for the day.

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

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Review: My Career Goes Bung

My Career Goes Bung
My Career Goes Bung by Miles Franklin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read My Brilliant Career a while ago and was happy to leave Sybylla Melvyn where she was (though I was informed the movie ending differs! I’ve still yet to watch it). There has not been many encouraging reviews for My Career Goes Bung either so I did not actually put the book on my tbr list. However, I’ve recently read Miles Franklin biography, Stella Miles Fraklin: A Biography and my curiosity was piqued. Both books were meant to be fiction but were apparently close enough to her own life that it was rather like an autobiography though it was denied as such by the author herself. From, her biography, I found that Miles Franklin to be an admirable woman of strength who formed her own opinions and stuck true to herself. There were, of course, some decisions which sounded strange but she was a rather unique personality.

Despite the not-so-good reviews for this particular book, I have actually enjoyed it. I had to keep in mind that this book was written immediately after My Brilliant Career was published though it was not published until 1946 (the foreword in my edition noted; “The spectre of libel actions loomed too large and Robertson [publisher] at that time had no choice but to refuse publication.”) so it was still a very young Miles Franklin who wrote this book. The thoughts on women and their places in society were the reflection of a young intelligent woman rather than a bitter unmarried lady (she seemed a little bitter later on in her biography). It was glaringly obvious that Sybylla was seeking to be her own self and to enjoy her writing without having to oblige to society’s demand of marriage. She was also capably independent though somewhat naive so there were some chuckles over her encounters with men.

I don’t particularly understand any woman’s wish to stay unmarried but that is a matter of personal preferences and we each differ in so many ways. I do, however, understand that repressiveness portrayed by Sybylla Melvyn of being shackled by society’s expectation of a woman and her wish to dislodge these old conceptions. She, like Miles Franklin herself, is a modern woman alive in the cusp of old-to-new age and was born to fight so we women can be where we are today.

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Review: The Other Side of Summer

The Other Side of Summer
The Other Side of Summer by Emily Gale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I seem to encounter a lot of grief in my YA readings the past month. I am wondering whether I am being particularly sensitive as I didn’t really notice this much grief previously. I’m not struggling with it myself at the present so I’m not quite sure what’s really going on! Maybe the universe is telling me to brace up or something…

This is one of the books included in the goodie bag from TeenCon 2016 (Sydney Writer’s Festival) in the form of an Uncorrected Proof which did have some corrections to be done. From the title and cover alone, I did not pick this as a tragedy driven sort of book. It looked kind of ‘summery’ to me but Summer is actually the name of the girl. I guess it could’ve described who she really was before tragedy struck and grief rent everything asunder.

Her parents are struggling with their own sadness though her mother seemed to have drowned and unable to help the rest of the family. Her father is doing his best and by this, he is transplanting them to a new place on the far side of the world. Things went quite awry and Summer felt her old self buried deeper inside of her. There was someone else who needed her help though… but he was a mystery she needed to solve with help from an unlikely corner.

Summer is about 12-13 years old in this story so this book is suitable for the younger audience. There was a particular bit about Wren which I found totally curious in being inserted in this story and which parents may wish to be aware of in case it sparks some interesting questions aside from the grief theme. Otherwise, I found the book to be completely satisfying, sad and a bit angry but also sweet.

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