Review: Ambulance Girls

Ambulance Girls by Deborah Burrows
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: Paperback copy courtesy of publisher

Ever since I fell completely in adoration of Deborrah Burrows’ last book, A Time of Secrets a couple of years ago, I’ve been waiting for another book. And while I was waiting, I kinda stalk her on Goodreads and twitter so I knew she’s been traipsing (sorry, researching) all over London when living there. I greeted the cover reveal of Ambulance Girls with a squeal of excitement and I think my heart might have stopped for mo when I received a copy in the mail.

Firstly, I do love this cover and I really like war historical fiction especially when this particular book’s main character was inspired by a real life historical Aussie woman serving in the London Auxiliary Ambulance Station during the Blitz. There were a lot of things I learnt from this novel about women during the Blitz. I guess there have been quite a number of books or even documentaries but the way it was written here made it all the more real to me. It was obvious that a lot of research was done in the writing of this novel and not just about the women or the Blitz as novel itself feels like veritable literary tour of London.

The novel opens with Lily on duty and having to face one of her fears of enclosed spaces. It was a great start to the novel and you’d easily fall in love with Lily. Her other fears though were not as easily conquered… Aside from her courage, empathy, and her wish to do well unto others, she’s also got a great sense of humour. Maybe that’s her Aussie flavoured humour that coloured her interactions with her friends and gave the book a reminiscent air. We follow Lily through her struggles with daily life during the Blitz; the grief of losing a friend and the joy of falling in love. There were some shaky moments where I thought things were just not going to be right with this book but thankfully, all was made quite well! I had to give the book a bit of a hug from relief and an affectionate pat when I finished reading for I was well & truly shaken.

There were a number of characters both likeable and despicable in this book and the variety and dynamics between these characters were really quite interesting. The book is told from Lily’s perspective only so in a way, we miss out on a lot about the other characters as only a few were well developed. However, as this is the first book of a trilogy, I do believe we will get to know some of the others quite well later on (and I look forward to this!). What you cannot mistake in this novel is the author’s views on anti-semitism (ignorant) and Hitler (evil); she’s loud and clear on that front. Hear! Hear! These things can never be stated enough and whilst Hitler is gone, there are still those like him & share his views.

If you loved the show, Call the Midwife, or the books that inspired it, you would love Ambulance Girls. Lily Brennan may not be English but she’s as brave as those midwives in facing uncertainties & adversities of the time. And I dare say that her Australian personality shone through especially against the foil of English reserved façade.

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

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Review: The Immortal Bind

The Immortal Bind
The Immortal Bind by Traci Harding
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been following Traci Harding for nigh on 20 years; I can’t believe it! I still felt like I’ve only just read her first book, The Ancient Future just the other week. I have always felt drawn to her books because the inner-romantic me loved that idea of love across time; of soulmates finding each other again and again over their karmic cycles. 20 years on, I’m still enamoured by this idea and still loved the stories weaved around this theme by Traci Harding.

Unlike her previous works, this book is stand-alone and was apparently a revised work of her earlier movie transcript. Her usual theme of karma and love across times, however, did not change. In The Immortal Bind, Sara and Jon currently living on opposite sides of the world from each other, found themselves enchanted by a pair of antique bejewelled chairs. Through these mediums, they relived their past lives and the curse that followed them through time. To break the curse and be free to be with each other this lifetime, amends must be made.

As Jon & Sara relive their past lives; for the readers, it’s like reading tragic love stories over and over again. On the one hand, it’s lovely to read of young love a number of times but on the other hand, a little frustrating. However, as their lives crossed many times periods in a variety of settings, The Immortal Bind definitely kept the readers interested as we come across different cultures. The only downside is that we do not really get in-depth pictures of each culture/time setting.

This book actually reminds me a little of Barbara Erskine’s epic books. I mean that literally her books are twice the size of The Immortal Bind. If this is your first read of Traci Harding’s, aside from her other books, I’d also recommend Erskine’s. If you are a fan of Barbara Erskine, please do give Harding a chance! The Immortal Bind is a story of love reaching across time but more than that, it is a story of self and lesson in selflessness… for how can you love when you are selfish?

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

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Review: The Orphan Sky

The Orphan Sky
The Orphan Sky by Ella Leya
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A gem of a find when searching for a book to fit a reading challenge! Who would have thought that I’d find a book set almost completely in Azerbaijan?! The author herself was born there and emigrated to the US in late 80s. This book, therefore, seems to be set at the time when she would herself been a teen in Azerbaijan. The main protagonist, Leila, is a piano prodigy and it seems the author herself was a talented musician in her own right. It’s very interesting to know that the way of life reflected in this book most probably reflects the author’s own.

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This novel opens with Leila in her 30s seeking closure of some sort. The story follows as she traced the events in her youth which brought her to her current dilemma. It is a coming of age story as well as a love story from which a parallel to a mythical tale of the Maiden Tower (an actual mysterious monument in Azerbaijan). In her mid-teens, Leila was a good girl; focused on her future as a pianist and firm in her belief of Communism. She was instructed to ‘spy’ upon a shop owner suspected as an American mole. What she found, however, was a talented boy with an arty soul that complemented her own. The way of true love, however, is never straight…

Despite my frustration of Leila’s naivety (how could she again trust that snake who she knew manipulated her earlier downfall?!), I felt that is a true reflection of her rearing; she’s had everything handed to her previously so it feels like she hasn’t any resources of her own! The Orphan Sky is a blend of legendary love in the modern world; a story full of treachery and heartbreak yet there is always hope.

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Review: The House of Silk

The House of Silk
The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a new mystery for Sherlock Holmes and it is told by his trusted companion, Dr. John Watson. The author’s note at the back of the book said that he was approached by the trustee to write this. Dr. Watson has reached a ripe old age and is writing down some last memories he had of Sherlock Holmes; ones which he previously could not have published. As Holmes and many other protagonists had passed away and Watson’s plan to have this manuscript locked away until he also has passed, it was deemed safe to set this out on paper.

Watson has been married for about a year when he found himself visiting his old friend, Holmes, on Baker Street and of course, once again involved in his adventure. What began as a request of help from a frightened man turned sinister when his stalker was found dead. However, as always, things are never as they seem especially with Sherlock Holmes at its centre. They sought Mycroft’s assistance for information and they received advice to stay away. Because it’s Sherlock Holmes, a mystery can never stay a mystery! He plunged directly into the whirlpool and by a conspiracy of the highest degree, he found himself in prison accused of murder. With his usual resilience, bountiful resources, and great bolt of energy, Sherlock Holmes once again proved himself to be the greatest detective of the time.

Overall, I thought this book to be fairly successful in emulating Dr. John Watson’s original story telling. The language (which the author also has acknowledged at the end of the book) was modernised a little so as “not to put-off” today’s readers. The mysteries themselves, I think, was worthy of Doyle’s own though one particular perversion probably was not publish-able back then. I have no doubt that such things may have existed though I’m not sure if Doyle would ever have thought to write such things. Other than that, a great adaptation of Sherlock Holmes & his sidekick, Dr. John Watson.

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Blog Tour: Freeks by Amanda Hocking

freeksFreeks by Amanda Hocking

Welcome to Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, where necromancy, magical visions, and pyrokinesis are more than just part of the act…

Mara has always longed for a normal life in a normal town where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future. Instead, she roams from place to place, cleaning the tiger cage while her friends perform supernatural feats every night.

When the struggling sideshow is miraculously offered the money they need if they set up camp in Caudry, Louisiana, Mara meets local-boy Gabe…and a normal life has never been more appealing.

But before long, performers begin disappearing and bodes are found mauled by an invisible beast. Mara realizes that there’s a sinister presence lurking in the town with its sights set on getting rid of the sideshow freeks. In order to unravel the truth before the attacker kills everyone Mara holds dear, she has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she was capable of—one that could change her future forever.

Bestselling author Amanda Hocking draws readers inside the dark and mysterious world of Freeks.

My Blurb

I’ve probably said it enough times that thanks for Enid Blyton’s Mr. Galliano’s Circus series, I have this deep abiding love for circus in fiction. Needless to say, I was drawn to this novel by the fact that this is set within a circus sort of scene. The difference is that this is actually a travelling sideshow so you know… lots of those strange and wonderful and not-so-wonderful things! You go there to be entertained, to be horrified, and to have lots of stupid fun.

I didn’t realise that this book is a spin-off of some sort of the Trylle Trilogy and I’ve not actually read them yet so I can’t tell you (if you’re a fan) if this compares well to the original trilogy or if any of previous characters is in this book though from what I can see on Goodreads, they seem to have different sets of characters. After reading this book though, I am rather curious of this world as it’s paranormal with a gothic vibe (especially with all the ‘freeks’ or to be PC, specially talented people).

For some reason, it rather shocked me that the whole book is set in late ’80s. I mean why would you set a book in the ’80s? Especially a YA? However, there are a lot of historical/paranormal YA books set in 19th century & other periods so why not the ’80s?! It really is an historical period despite the fact that I was already alive then :p Of course, quite a few things resonate with me (ie. cassettes, music, etc) and that brings back other memories.

Freeks is a very easy read though rather long. The main characters were easily likeable. The mystery was acceptable. The ending was rather abrupt but totally as I expected. Overall, it was a rather average read; entertaining enough but missing that particular sparkle. I think there was too much in the middle and the build-up for the final confrontation didn’t quite deliver. It’s a cute read for the romance and of course, the ‘circus’ feel.

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

About the author

Amanda Hocking is a lifelong Minnesotan obsessed with Batman and Jim Henson. In between watching cooking shows, taking care of her menagerie of pets, and drinking too much Red Bull Zero, she writes young adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

Several of her books have made the New York Times Bestsellers list, including the Trylle trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her zombie series, The Hollows, has been adapted into a graphic novel by Dynamite. She has published over fifteen novels, including the Watersong quartet and My Blood Approves series. Frostfire, Ice Kissed, and Crystal Kingdom – all three books in her bestselling trilogy, The Kanin Chronicles – are out now.

Her latest book is Freeks – a standalone YA paranormal romance novel set in the 1980s that follows a travelling sideshow, and it is a available now. Her next books will be a duology about Valkyries – due out in 2018.

Find her on: goodreads  |  website  | pinterest  |  tumblr  | facebook  | youtube  | instagram

Nicola Moriarty: Q&A

Thank you, Nicola Moriarty, for your time in sharing your thoughts with me in this Q&A session.

  • There’s something unique about letters, isn’t there? Could you share with us your thoughts about letters seeing that they are feature strongly in your new book, The Fifth Letter? What is special about letters to you personally?

I completely agree there’s something unique about letters as opposed to email or text or even face-to—face conversation. I think the reason letter-writing appeals to me is because sending and receiving letters was something I loved to do when I was younger. I wrote to my cousin when she moved to England for a year when we were both about eleven. I wrote to my sister when she moved away to study at Yale university (and I filled those letters with teenage angst and confessions) and I wrote love letters to my first boyfriend when I was fourteen!

  • And continuing on the above question… I haven’t received or sent a letter by snail mail in a very, very long time – so long that I can’t even remember the last time (not counting any greeting cards). Have you sent or received a letter by snail mail recently? And if so why was the letter not in email form instead?

I haven’t sent a letter myself for a little while now, but I encourage my 8 year old daughter to write letters to her best friend who moved away to Mudgee last year, because I remember the joy of writing letters to friends when I was young. There’s just something special about sharing stories and secrets and sealing them up inside envelopes and sending them out into the world and then waiting for the all-important response!

  • Can you tell us about the inspiration behind The Fifth Letter?

I have a great group of friends that have been with me since high school (we’ve been in each other’s lives for more than 20 years now!) Obviously our friendships have had their ups and downs, but despite this, we’re all still very close and we have girls’ holidays away together every now and then. These holidays often result in lots of drinking and chatting way into the night and during these late night, wine-fueled conversations, all sorts of revelations from our past often come up. Sometimes we do argue or get frustrated with one another, but usually, we can move past any disagreements.

I found myself wondering what would happen if something really serious, something really dark or sinister come up in one of these chats with my friends? What if it turned out that they were hiding secrets? That I didn’t actually know them as well as I thought I did?

At the same time, I already had this completely random idea at the back of my mind of a group of friends swapping anonymous letters. I think originally I was actually envisioning a group of high school students doing it on a dare or as a bit of fun. The two ideas sort of merged together and from there, the story of a group of long-term female friends sharing secrets in anonymous letters was formed.

I liked the concept of the feeling of helplessness you might feel if you read something heartbreaking in a letter and knew that one of your friends was hurting but you couldn’t help them because you didn’t know which friend it was.

  • What kind of research was involved in the writing of The Fifth Letter?

The story didn’t require a great deal of research, but I did have to find out a bit about certain infertility issues, plus I learned a little about abseiling and I asked the advice of some friends who are nurses to help determine the possible outcomes of a certain injury.

  • Do you listen to music whilst writing? If so, was there a particular set of songs you listened to when writing your new book?

I love to listen to music when I write. With The Fifth Letter, I listened to a lot of 90s music because it gave me a great sense of nostalgia, taking me back to the time when I was in high school with my best friends. I listened to a mix of Greenday, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Smash Mouth, Nirvana, Fatboy Slim, Spiderbait, Jebediah, The Offspring, Soundgarden and Powderfinger.

  • What kind of music do you think the main characters in The Fifth Letter would enjoy? And do they have any favourite songs?

Eden likes a bit of drum and bass and some jazz as well. I think her favourite artists would be Massive Attack, Regina Spektor, Chairlift, Portishead, Tricky, The Submarines, The Sneaker Pimps and Florence + The Machine.

Deb has eclectic taste. Sometimes she’s into hip hop, sometimes it’s old 60s or 80s music, sometimes it’s dance. She usually doesn’t know the name of the song that she’s listening to.

Trina’s into old-school grunge or punk. She likes Weezer, Reel Big Fish, Eskimo Joe and Blink 182.

Joni likes feel-good, fun, poppy kind of music like P!nk or Ke$ha or Katy Perry.

  • Can you tell us what’s next for you?

Yes, I’m working on my next novel, which is about parenting in general plus the divide between working mums, stay at home mums and women without children. It’s also about the judgement between parents and about the sometimes toxic influence of social media groups on women… and that’s all I can say at this stage without giving too much away!

2016 v. 2017:

  1. What was your favourite book/s of 2016?

A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (I know it originally came out in 2015, but I only just read it last year!)

Love at First Flight by Tess Woods

  1. What is your most anticipated book/s for 2017?

The Golden Child by Wendy James (I was lucky enough to read an early copy and I could not put it down!)

The Lucky One by Caroline Overington

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

  1. What is the thing you are most proud of having tackled in 2016?

Depression – it decided to re-appear and settle in around about the beginning of autumn. It took most of the year to shake it off my back yet again, but I’m happy to say I’m finally starting to feel like myself now (the happier version of myself anyway!).

Thanks for sharing this with us, Nicola. Thank you for your stories and your courage & determination. I’m glad to hear that you’re feeling more like yourself and look forward to more of your insightful stories into the lives of normal women like us xox

If anyone out there feels like you need some help, please reach out. If you need it, Lifeline Australia can be reached on 13 11 14.

  1. What is something tough you are looking to tackle (or have started to tackle) in 2017?

My health and fitness, it got a little off track towards the end of 2016, so I’m super keen to get it back under control this year.

Thanks very much for taking the time to answer these questions Nicola, and all the very best with The Fifth Letter!

You can check out my thoughts on The Fifth Letter, here

About the author

moriarty-nicola-2-credit-steve-menasse

Nicola lives in Sydney’s north west with her husband and two small (but remarkably strong willed) daughters. In between various career changes, becoming a mum and studying at Macquarie University, she began to write. Now, she can’t seem to stop.

Her writing was once referred to as ‘inept’ by The Melbourne Age. Luckily on that same day the Brisbane Courier Mail called her work ‘accomplished, edgy and real.’ So she stopped crying into her Weetbix, picked up a pen and continued to write. She has been fueled by a desire to prove The Age wrong ever since.

These days, she writes everything from novels to football stadium announcements to VW radio ad scripts and Home Loan EDMs to the occasional Mamamia article and the odd Real Estate advert.

Her first two novels, Free-Falling and Paper Chains were published by Random House Australia in 2012 and 2013. Free-Falling was translated into Dutch and German and was awarded the title of ‘Best Australian Debut’ from Chicklit Club. Paper Chains was later picked up for publishing in the U.S. by HarperCollins and will be released there mid 2017.

She has four older sisters and one older brother and she lives in constant fear of being directly compared to her two wildly successful and extraordinarily talented author sisters, Liane Moriarty and Jaclyn Moriarty. Unless of course, the comparison is something kind, perhaps along the lines of, “Liane, Jaci and Nicola are all wonderful writers. I love all of their books equally.”

 

Find Nicola: website | facebook | twitter | goodreads

Review: The Fifth Letter

the-fifth-letter
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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