Tag Archives: #aww2018

Review: Lightning Tracks by A. A. Kinsela

Lightning Tracks (Song Gate #1) by A.A. Kinsela

The rider angled the blade so Nick could see the oily residue on the metal.

‘All that’s needed to kill you, boy, is a single cut. A scratch. The poison will do the rest.’ His mask shifted, and Nick could’ve sworn he was smiling. ‘But that wouldn’t be any fun, would it?’

Nick gulped. ‘Why are you doing this?’

The rider leaned closer and hissed, ‘Because you exist.’

Nick isn’t a warrior. He knows some basic karate, but that’s it.

So when an assassin turns up to settle a blood debt, Nick narrowly escapes with his life. In his haste, he unwittingly flees to Korelios, a place he thought existed only in his eccentric aunt’s ancient legends.

All too soon, he finds himself caught in the middle of a war, and he must make an impossible choice: do his duty or follow his heart.

His choice will decide the fate of an entire civilisation.

Published 1 November 2018 |  Publisher: Plainspeak Publishing  |  RRP: AUD$4.99 (ebook) 

Buy Links: Amazon | B&N Nook | iBooks  |  kobo  

My Blurb (3.5 / 5 stars)

I was approached by the author with a review request and I was very intrigued by the (loose) premise: “What if the Roman Empire had made it all the way to Australia?” The book basically is set in the present times, as such, if the Roman Empire made it to Australia. Such a fascinating proposition! What do you think Australia would be like if the Roman Empire conquered Australia at the height of its power?

Lightning Tracks also contained one of my favourite tropes, world within a world; specifically a gateway from our present-times Australia to another world (albeit hidden) where Empires rule over the world. There isn’t a Roman Empire as such, in fact, all the empires and/or races in the story are made up though loosely based on Romans, Greek, etc. I thought there was also an Indigenous spin but it appears I was wrong (see tomorrow’s Q&A post with the author).

The novel opens with Nick getting into trouble at school on his sixteenth birthday. When he got home that day, he found himself fighting for his life and having to flee, found himself in a part of Australia he didn’t know existed but yet some things felt familiar. A very exciting start to the story, for sure! Nick has to quickly find out all he can about this world and his position in it as there is a war brewing; hostilities escalating on both sides and atrocities abound.

There is actually a second perspective to this story, Cal, a highlander boy kidnapped to be a soldier of the Empire. He has been very obedient so far (even in committing a most atrocious act) due to the threat to his family’s lives but event transpired which had him running for his life. For both Cal & Nick, the answer lies in the city Auremos, the rebellion centre of strength.

I liked both characters & perspectives. Nick, a troublesome teen, is not actually aggressive but is rather thoughtful & kind. He’s got a temper which he has to learn to control. Cal, on the other hand, has been trained to be calculated in his moves and he kicks ass!

Lightning Tracks takes the readers on an adventure in Australia’s hidden depth. However, it reads more like a fantasy novel with a couple jarring mentions of Australia. With betrayals, tragedies, secrets, and battles, Lightning Tracks is an exciting & fascinating read for all teens especially for those who feel they are different (like Nick).

Thanks to the author, A.A. Kinsella, for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

A. A. Kinsela is a pseudonym for Alethea Kinsela

I’m a writer/teacher/archaeologist/jack-of-all-trades. My latest book Lightning Tracks is a dark YA alternative history/fantasy novel set in Australia. You can read an extract on my website. I’ve also got a little educational textbook about Australian archaeology, Ancient Australia Unearthed.

I’m halfway through a Creative Writing PhD, and I sometimes teach in the School of Education at La Trobe University and host writing and archaeology workshops for kids and teachers.

Find Thea on:  goodreads  |  twitter   |  instagram

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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

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: Burning Fields by Alli Sinclair

Burning Fields by Alli Sinclair

1948. The world is struggling to regain a sense of balance after the devastation of World War II, and the sugar cane-growing community of Piri River in northern Queensland is no exception.

As returned servicemen endeavour to adjust to their pre-war lives, women who had worked for the war effort are expected to embrace traditional roles once more.

Rosie Stanton finds it difficult to return to the family farm after years working for the Australian Women’s Army Service. Reminders are everywhere of the brothers she lost in the war and she is unable to understand her father’s contempt for Italians, especially the Conti family next door. When her father takes ill, Rosie challenges tradition by managing the farm, but outside influences are determined to see her fail.

Desperate to leave his turbulent history behind, Tomas Conti has left Italy to join his family in Piri River. Tomas struggles to adapt in Australia—until he meets Rosie. Her easy-going nature and positive outlook help him forget the life he’s escaped. But as their relationship grows, so do tensions between the two families until the situation becomes explosive.

When a long-hidden family secret is discovered and Tomas’s mysterious past is revealed, everything Rosie believes is shattered. Will she risk all to rebuild her family or will she lose the only man she’s ever loved?

Published 21 May 2018 |  Publisher: Harlequin MIRA  |  RRP: AUD$29.99

My Blurb (3.5 / 5 stars)

Burning Fields is a novel set in post-war Australia where men struggled with the things they saw in war & women struggled at being expected to step back to their relegated role in the home. This novel tries to reconcile these 2 issues in a typically Australian outback setting. The lush and promising land beguiled all to believe that anything is possible.

This novel opens with Rosie Stanton returning to her family farm after she lost her bid for independence. Both her brothers went to war and neither returned. She is reluctant to face her parents and their grief. Despite her love for the farm and her capabilities, her father will not have her working at the farm. Her mother appears to be struggling with her own demons. Rosie is determined for her father to recognise her abilities and help her mother. There is also the attractive newcomer at the next farm…

Tomas Conti & his family are the new neighbours. Despite their attraction, Tomas is a troubled man. His recognition of Rosie’s independence is a big plus but will he be able to put the past behind to live in the present?

The story is mainly told from Rosie’s perspective in the present. Every few of Rosie’s chapter is broken by a chapter of Tomas’ perspective from the past (the war in Italy). I must say that each of Tomas’ chapters filled me with dread as I expected whatever horrid thing to happen then. Both characters are easily likeable and I enjoyed Rosie’s persistent effort to be recognise as being capable as any man.

Burning Fields is an easy and enjoyable read. It was rather easy to put down & pick back up again. It is a sweet romance and I love how the town people (or rather most of them anyway) get together as a community to support each other.

Thanks to Harlequin MIRA & Netgalley for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

Alli Sinclair is an Australian multi-award winning author published who has lived in Argentina, Peru, and Canada. She’s climbed some of the world’s highest mountains and worked as a tour guide in South and Central America. Australia has always been close to Alli’s heart as she loves the diverse landscapes and the rich multicultural heritage of this wonderful land.

Alli’s books explore history, culture, love and grief, and relationships between family, friends and lovers. She captures the romance and thrill of discovering old and new worlds and loves taking readers on a journey of discovery.

Find Alli on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook

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: The Juliet Code by Christine Wells

The Juliet Code by Christine Wells

It’s 1947 and the war is over, but Juliet Barnard is still tormented by secrets. She was a British agent and wireless operator in occupied Paris until her mission went critically wrong. Juliet was caught by the Germans, imprisoned and tortured in a mansion in Paris’s Avenue Foch.

Now that she’s home, Juliet can’t – or won’t – relive the horrors that occurred in that place. Nor will she speak about Sturmbannführer Strasser, the manipulative Nazi who held her captive. . .

Haunted by the guilt of betrayal, the last thing Juliet wants is to return to Paris. But when Mac, an SAS officer turned Nazi-hunter, demands her help searching for his sister, Denise, she can’t refuse. Denise and Juliet trained together before being dropped behind enemy lines. Unlike Juliet, Denise never made it home. Certain Strasser is the key to discovering what happened to his sister, Mac is determined to find answers – but will the truth destroy Juliet?

Published 30 April 2018 |  Publisher: Penguin Random House  |  RRP: AUD$32.99

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

I read Code Name Verity a few weeks ago so found the premise of this book even more compelling. Unlike Code Name Verity, however, The Juliet Code follows the aftermath of captivity. There is a dual timeline, albeit only a few years apart, of course, to provide the background of her capture and ultimately, on her survival.

Juliet Barnard is not one of those ‘kick-ass-heroine’ or at least, she’s not described as such to begin with. In the opening chapter, she’s a broken woman, fearful of what’s happened during her incarceration in France. In the earlier timeline, she’s compared unfavourably against other women who are better physically & mentally. She is intelligent and determined but not particularly capable as an agent in training but the country is desperate and cannot spare anyone. I love this characterisation of Juliet because it made her completely relate-able.

I loved the glamorously romantic cover and my chronically romantic self fell head over heels over this love story. If you are not a fan of insta-love, however, this book is not for you. Whilst I’m fascinated by war stories, for me, The Juliet Code is a beautiful romance story than anything else. In fact, this romantic story haunts me over the past week since I’ve finished reading and I’ll probably continue to daydream about Juliet & Felix for the next few months at least.

Thanks to Penguin Random House for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

Christine Wells worked as a corporate lawyer in a city firm before exchanging contracts and prospectuses for a different kind of fiction. In her novels, she draws on a lifelong love of British history and an abiding fascination for the way laws shape and reflect society. Christine is devoted to big dogs, good coffee, beachside holidays and Antiques Roadshow, but above all to her two sons who live with her in Brisbane.

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

Review: Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

The setting is the Mallee, wide flat scrubland in north-western Victoria, country where men are bred quiet, women stoic and the gothic is never far away. Olive Lovelock has just turned twelve. She is smart, fanciful and brave and on the cusp of something darker than the small world she has known her entire life.

When she learns that she once had a baby sister who died — a child unacknowledged by her close but challenging family — Olive becomes convinced it was murder. Her obsession with the mystery and relentless quest to find out what happened have seismic repercussions for the rest of her family and their community. As everything starts to change it is Olive herself who has the most to lose as the secrets she unearths multiply and take on complicated lives of their own.

Little Gods is a novel about the mess of family, about vengeance and innocence lost. It explores resilience and girlhood and questions how families live with all of their complexities and contradictions. Resonating with echoes of Australian classics like Seven Little Australians, Cloudstreet, and Jasper Jones, Little Gods is told with similar idiosyncrasy, insight and style. Funny and heartbreaking, this is a rare and original novel about a remarkable girl who learns the hard way that the truth doesn’t always set you free.

Published March 2018 |  Publisher: Allen & Unwin  |  RRP: AUD$29.99

My Blurb (2.5 / 5 stars)

I struggled with this novel. According to GR, I started reading at the end of April. I think I tried for 2 days’ commuting’s worth (approx 3.5 hours) and gave up. Usually, I would’ve nearly finished a novel but I read only about 1/3 of this novel. This was months ago so all I vaguely remember is the jumbled confusion on who’s who. The novel is told from solely from Olive’s perspective and most of the time, she refers to her mother by her name (the same applies to her aunts & uncles). There were 3 sisters and 3 brothers and somehow they formed one big family. It took me absolutely forever to sort them out. Actually, I don’t think I did then…

Today, I decided that the book deserves one last chance. Unbelievably, I caught on fairly quickly and finished the novel in no time at all. I guess the story did pick up after the confusing first third of the book. All the background set up is done and we can actually progress with what’s happened next. It’s obvious from the book’s description that the mystery was a tragedy and it’s something the family does not speak about. I admired Olive’s persistence in finding out the truth and when it hurt (a lot of inferences need to be drawn by the readers as to what’s actually happened; I was rather annoyed with this), she dealt and lived.

I wanted to read this book as it supposedly echoed Seven Little Australians, Cloudstreet, & Jasper Jones. I loved these three Aussie classics but unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Little Gods. Maybe, I picked it up at the wrong time and so struggled badly with the beginning of it, who knows?! Whilst I totally agree that this novel has a very Aussie vibes, I’m left dissatisfied at the close of the book.

Thanks to Allen & Unwin for copy of book in exchange of honest review


About the author

Jenny Ackland is a writer and teacher from Melbourne. She has worked in offices, sold textbooks in a university bookshop, taught English overseas and worked as a proof-reader and freelance editor. Her short fiction has been published in literary magazines and listed in prizes and awards. Her debut novel The Secret Son – a “Ned Kelly-Gallipoli mash-up” about truth and history – was published in 2015. Little Gods is her second novel.

Find Kim on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  instagram