Category: Reviews

Sufficiently Twisty, But Not Much Oomph: The Girl Before by JP Delaney

Posted February 8, 2017 by Hannah in Adult, Reviews / 1 Comment

Sufficiently Twisty, But Not Much Oomph: The Girl Before by JP DelaneyThe Girl Before by JP Delaney
Published by Quercus, Hachette Australia on 31st January 2017
Pages: 361
Format: E-ARC
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
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A psychological thriller that spins one woman’s seemingly good fortune, and another woman’s mysterious fate, through a kaleidoscope of duplicity, death, and deception—and the hottest title at the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair.

A damaged young woman gets the unique opportunity to rent a one-of-a-kind house. When she falls in love with the sexy, enigmatic architect who designed it, she has no idea she is following in the footsteps of the girl who came before: the house’s former tenant.

The eerie parallels in the two girls’ lives lay bare an enthralling story…and make this novel the must-read thriller of the season.

Imagine the perfect house. One that can be tuned to your every want and need. How do you like your showers? Housekeeper will find out for you so you never have to deal with the dreaded hot-cold-hot problem again.  Sleek, minimalistic, a house that encourages better habits, and in turn, makes you a better person. Kitted out with the full mod cons, all at the press of an app.

Sounds like a dream, right?

That’s 1 Folgate Street for you. But living at 1 Folgate Street isn’t like living in a normal rental. There are rules. No pets. No kids. No clutter. Housekeeper records all your data – your every move.

Cue our story. The Girl Before was an interesting read, although it did lack that heart thumping vibe you get from the cover and the blurb. Told from two perspectives, Jane – the Now, and Emma, the Then – there were many twists and turns that kept you wanting to read more, but ultimately, it was a story that failed to grip the reader.

What I did love about The Girl Before was the way the dual narration played out. It was easy to get complacent, as a lot of the narration falls into the same pattern as both girls explore their relationship with the house, and in turn the controlling, enigmatic owner and architect Edward Monkford. The exact precision of events was creepy enough in itself, but then at a certain point was flipped, and all of a sudden you find yourself not knowing who or what to believe. It was at that point that I decided to keep reading – a good chunk of the story at first is quite repetitive, which may not be for some, but I promise it’s worth sticking around just to figure out what the heck is going on.

I did like how a lot of the novel was centred around mental illness. Edward’s grief for his loss turned into obsession with meticulous detail and perfectionism, Emma’s paranoia (and subsequently a lot of other issues I can’t mention without spoiling!) and Jane’s depression were something I keenly felt throughout the novel. I felt however that a lot of the time the story was too fast paced, too quick. There wasn’t nearly enough time to really get to understand the characters on a personal level. There was also too much of a fascination and concentration around Edward, the architect of the house himself, which meant that the ending fell a little flat and unexplored, the ending losing a lot of its momentum.

What could have been a deliciously creepy novel about obsession and technology taking over our lives sadly was not all that it could have been, but nevertheless, The Girl Before was still an enjoyable read. And would I live in 1 Folgate Street? Absolutely not. There were no bookshelves!

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Magical, Mysterious & Mesmerizing: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Posted February 5, 2017 by Hannah in Reviews, Young Adult / 3 Comments

Magical, Mysterious & Mesmerizing: Caraval by Stephanie GarberCaraval Series: Caraval #1
by Stephanie Garber
Published by Hodder & Staughton, Hachette Australia on 31st January 2017
Pages: 416
Format: E-Book, E-ARC
Source: Publisher, Netgalley
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Two sisters bound by love and a father they fear escape their tiny, secluded island for the wondrous performance of Caraval, where the audience plays along in a mysterious and magical game of determining what's real and what's fantasy. And where only one sister might be brave enough to win the ultimate prize of 'an impossible wish'...

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for lonely Scarlett, it represents freedom, an escape from her abusive father and from her own dark past.

Still, Scarlett is too scared of her father to leave Trisda. Until she is kidnapped by her wild younger sister Donatella and a dangerous yet oh-so-seductive sailor named Julian and taken to the mystical Isla de los Suenos, the site of this year's Caraval. When they arrive, her sister immediately disappears. Since protecting Tella is all she knows, Scarlett is forced to join forces with Julian and find her before the evil Master of Caraval does...

You’ll hear a lot of pretty words used to describe Caraval – spellbounding, mystical, magical, breathtaking, atmospheric – pretty much all are accurate and true. Caraval is one of those stories that is so visually stunning, that for a debut author, Garber has cemented herself as an author whose words truly leap off the page.

So what’s all the fuss about? What we have is our heroine, Scarlett, who haslonged to participate in Caraval, the legendary magical circus-come-scavenger hunt. When she is gifted three tickets – one for her, one for her sister Tella, and one for the fiancee she’s never met. But when Tella goes missing on their arrival and Scarlett is left with Julian, the enigmatic sailor who whisked them to the island, Scarlett must play the game – and win – in order to get her sister back, and alive.

Caraval is full of plot twists, which is part of what makes the book so delectable. If you think you’re getting the stock standard YA fantasy, then you’re wrong. I was so caught up in ‘playing the game’ with Scarlett and trying to second guess every next step and play that I was completely swept up in the book, and couldn’t put it down. Was it real or not real? Only a game or not? I’ll leave you in suspense and make you go read the book.

The relationship between Tella and Scarlett was amazing, and sadly, I just wanted more and more. As you can tell, Tella isn’t present for a lot of the book, popping every now and again but there was a such a strong sense of love and devotion between the two. They were two incredibly different characters, and at times I felt that there could have been more depth to both. At times I felt Scarlett to be quite a judgemental character, but I was impressed at her determination in never giving up in finding Tella. And a character with synesthesia? I’d never heard of that before now, and at first it was a little confusing, but once I begun to understand Scarlett, it made a great aspect of the novel. Speaking of relationships – I can’t not mention Julian, who was probably my favourite character. I loved the banter between him and Scarlett, and the way he pushed her to be a better person.

There were a few minor niggles that made Caraval a four star instead of five star read, and I hope that they’ll be explored more in coming books (oh please tell me there’s more books!). Firstly is the world building – you get a brief sense of the world that Scarlett lives in, a conglomerate of islands ruled by governors, but you don’t get much beyond that. And I always find fantasy worlds so fascinating, so this left me a little disappointed. I wanted to know more about the culture, the history – from my sense, I got a very Italian vibe, especially with the names and costumes. Look at me, always wanting more!

So if you are wanting a book that is visually rich as it is enchanting, then look no further than Caraval. And if you don’t do it for the story, those covers, am I right?!

A huge big thanks to Hachette Australia who provided me a copy in exchange for review. Caraval is out now in all major bookstores and retailers.

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Five Reasons to Fall in Love: New York Nights by C.J. Duggan

Posted February 4, 2017 by Hannah in New Adult, Reviews / 0 Comments

Five Reasons to Fall in Love: New York Nights by C.J. DugganNew York Nights Series: Heart of the City #2
by C.J. Duggan
Published by Hachette Australia on 1st February 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher, Finished Review Copy
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Sarah Williams is a spirited, independent Aussie who has always dreamed of New York City. So when a job opportunity arises to become an au pair for a successful businessman in the heart of Manhattan, Sarah jumps at the chance to follow her dream.

What she didn't bet on was a beautiful newborn and a distant, abrasive man whose eyes hold a million anguished secrets. Determined to care for his daughter and face the challenges of the impossible Ben Worthington, Sarah was always prepared to follow her heart; she just wasn't prepared to lose it to a complicated man like Ben.

It’s not that hard to fall in love with a C.J. Duggan book. They’re always so perfect for any situation – perfect for a long, warm summer’s night with a glass of wine. Perfect for snuggling on a cold winter’s night – with a glass of wine. Perfect for, well, any occasion really. With a C.J. Duggan book, you know what you are getting – romance, adventure and that good fuzzy feeling at the end of it all.

As for New York Nights? Well, it’s definitely one of my favourites, that’s for sure. Okay, okay, I’m purely judging on my “Duggan Boys,” and Ben is Top 3, that’s for sure (what are the other two? Dean and Sean of course, and not necessarily in that order!), but New York Nights has many other qualities that we can discuss too. So if you’re looking for five reasons to pick this little gem up, here we go!

  1. New York, New York! What a Wonderful Town!

New York is one of my favourite cities in the world, and provides the most gorgeous & lush backdrop to Sarah’s story. We see the city through her eyes –  a first timer, fresh off the plane Aussie and it’s exciting to see her experience it for the first time. New York City is beautiful, and there’s a certain magic to it. Of course, it doesn’t help that the book is mainly set in the Village areas near Washington Park – I’d totally die to have a zipcode there!

      2. What’s Lacking in Plot is Made Up for in Characters

Look, not every book needs to have oodles of plot. And as with a lot of contemporary romances, there’s more of a focus here on the main characters themselves, and not necessarily the plot. With New York Nights, what you see is what you get, and what I love about C.J. is she doesn’t beat around the bush – simply, Sarah is an expat au pair for a broody, hardly-ever-present, single Dad with a newborn. While not exactly enthralling stuff for some, what C.J. does is give us characters that make something of it and turn the narrative into a gorgeous story. Sarah is compassionate, a little naive and stubborn. Which clashes perfectly with an equally stubborn Ben who is finding it hard to transition from workaholic into parent. The secondary characters are stars themselves, and you are left wanting just a little bit more so that you can spend time with them all.

        3. Small Town Aussie Girl, Big City Dreams

I can’t help it, I love it. People who seize their independency and seek the world beyond their sphere are my type of people. Don’t get me wrong, if this is not you, then that’s fine as well. But I see so much of myself in a character like Sarah, one who takes the opportunities that come their way with no bars hold and put aside their fears to grab on to it and make something of themselves. With every uncertainty, we saw Sarah’s sense of humour shine through, and her ability to take on any challenge made me so proud.

       4. Warm Fuzzies Galore

Have I said anything about the warm fuzzies this book gives you yet? Probably, but here it is again. New York Nights is full of cute little moments that have you squeeing and sighing all book long.

      5. Did I Mention Ben Worthington Yet?

HA. Of course I have. Maybe ten or fifteen times, but listen up, I’m going to tell you again. WHY ARE ARCHITECTS JUST SO DAMN ATTRACTIVE? There’s a running joke with my friends that “I’m going to find myself an architect.” Sadly, thus far in life they’ve all been in books. It must be because they’re creative and good at math. But man alive, Ben Worthington was swoon material to the max. He was that broody Alpha male without the over the top you get in a lot of romances. He was kind, he was caring, and why does a baby make guys 1456478% more attractive? I loved how Ben’s relationship with little Grace was adorable and sweet and swoon.

Basically? If you need a pick me up, C.J’s got you covered. I can’t wait to read the other Heart of the City books – Paris Lights is out now, and London Bound is due in March and there you have it, a trio of wonderful reads that will leave you lusting for more.

(legit an accurate representation of me after reading this book)

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Fire & Ice Rarely Play Nice: Frostblood by Elly Blake

Posted January 2, 2017 by Hannah in Reviews, Young Adult / 0 Comments

Fire & Ice Rarely Play Nice: Frostblood by Elly BlakeFrostblood Series: Frostblood Saga #1
by Elly Blake
Published by Hodder & Staughton, Hachette Australia on 10th January 2017
Pages: 304
Format: E-Book, E-ARC
Source: Publisher, Netgalley, Won
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The first in a page-turning young adult fantasy series perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard's Red Queen and Sarah J. Maas's Throne of Glass series.

In a land governed by the cruel Frostblood ruling class, seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has spent most of her life hiding her ability to manipulate heat and light - until the day the soldiers come to raid her village and kill her mother. Ruby vows revenge on the tyrannous Frost King responsible for the massacre of her people.

But Ruby's powers are unpredictable...and so are the feelings she has for Arcus, the scarred, mysterious Frostblood warrior who shares her goal to kill the Frost King, albeit for his own reasons. When Ruby is captured by the Frost King's men, she's taken right into the heart of the enemy. Now she only has one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who took everything from her - and in doing so, she must unleash the powers she's spent her whole life withholding.

Frostblood is set in world where flame and ice are mortal enemies - but together create a power that could change everything.

Frostblood is the first fantasy release of 2017 that I’ve read, and boy oh boy, does it set the bar high for the rest of 2017’s fantasy releases. If this is the calibre of books coming out, then please, by all means, hit me with them.

Ruby is our heroine, a girl with fire running through her veins who watches her mother die at the hands of the ruling Frostbloods and imprisoned. Years later, she is rescued by an order of monks, who wish for her to help them depose of the Frost Throne and in turn, the ruthless King. When Ruby is captured by the Frost King’s men and forced to fight for her life, what she must overcome in order to survive will be her greatest test.

There is so much to love about this book. The two opposing sides, Frostbloods and Firebloods, have a tumultuous history that Blake is able to weave into the story without info dumping like a boring world history lesson. Instead, what we do learn about Sudesia and Tempesia and the world Ruby lives in is given to us in little pockets, making you wish for more. In fact, if it’s the only thing I didn’t like so much was that I wanted to know more about the history of the world and the Gods and how the Frost & Fire Bloods became to be, but that’s probably just me being greedy.

I loved Ruby as a character too, which is interesting because at first, she bothered me a lot in that at time, she was quite whiny and petulant. But all characters must grow, and so does Ruby, and I loved that she wasn’t a stereotypical “Chosen One” character and in fact at times pushed against the notion of her abilities and strengths. Watching her come to terms with who she was and what she could do was great, and I loved that her vulnerability shone through at times as well. She wasn’t perfect, and we need more YA heroines like her because let’s face it, none of us are.

And I’d be remiss to leave out the romance too, because of course who doesn’t love a mysterious brooding interest? Arcus was great, albeit a little predictable in his character arc, and the banter between him and Ruby as their relationship grew is the sort of romance that fuels me, and once again I’ve lost myself to a fictional character. Arcus made me want to weep in parts with what he’s been through, and to see him grow and learn through Ruby (and vice versa) was just great. They may say that “affairs between fire and frost rarely end well”, but they’ve clearly never met Arcus and Ruby, have they?

For fans of Red Queen and Throne of GlassFrostblood will dazzle you with fiery passion and fast paced adventure that will leave you burning for more at every page (see what I did there?!). It’s safe to say that its sequel will be just as explosive, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

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Three Reasons You Need to Read As We Know It by Carrie Butler

Posted December 28, 2016 by Hannah in Adult, Reviews / 3 Comments

Three Reasons You Need to Read As We Know It by Carrie ButlerAs We Know It by Carrie Butler
Published by Indie on 12th December 2016
Format: E-ARC
Source: Author
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Deep beneath the ocean, stretching hundreds of miles alongside the Pacific Northwest coastline, lies the Cascadia subduction zone—a fault on the verge of unleashing a catastrophic earthquake, thirty times more powerful than the San Andreas. Unfortunately, like most tourists, Elena Cordova is oblivious.

She’s got her own pent-up stress to deal with, a humiliating breakup that’s driven her to end her tenure as a human doormat once and for all. So, when a pickpocket makes off with the last remnant of her relationship, she takes action—only to get trapped with him when disaster strikes.

Now, if either one hopes to survive, they’ll have to get past their initial impressions and work together . . . because in fifteen minutes, half the town will be underwater.

Let me just put it out there – I love disaster films. Which is probably already weird, but when you add in the fact that earthquakes are one of the only things that strike fear into my heart, you might be wondering, “Huh? I don’t think that’s healthy?” To be honest, I think it’s a kind of coping mechanism, because the scary thing about pretty much every natural disaster film out there is that there’s a harsh reality behind it.

So naturally when one of my favourite New Adult authors offered up her new novel for review and I found out it was a romance survival story, I jumped at the chance to read it. “But why should I read As We Know It?” I hear you asking, wondering where I’m going with this whole conversation about earthquakes and romance. Well, I have three very good reasons for you, and if you’re looking to branch out into adult fiction in 2017 (or even the end of 2016!), then I highly suggest you add As We Know It to your TBR!

A Well Rounded Host of Diverse Characters. I haven’t come across much diversity in adult contemporary romance, if I’m honest you with you. And I hadn’t really expected it in As We Know It, so it was completely refreshing to read about people from all walks of life who are brought together because of one situation. Our MC, Elena, is a feisty Hispanic that really shines as a woman who can stand on her own two feet and has a sassy sense of humour I absolutely loved. Vincent, the romantic interest, is a war veteran suffering from PSTD. There’s great diversity between all the supporting characters as well, which just hones in the point that in a crisis, there’s more people of colour in the world than just Dwayne Johnson and his all white family from San Andreas.

Insta-Love That Actually Works (What?!). I know. If you’re like me, insta-love has always been a big no no, but after reading As We Know It, it’s really made me assess that word, and what it means when applied to different situations that we face. Granted, I don’t think you can fall in love at first sight (fall in attraction, yes), but life is full of little meet cutes, romantic or not. And natural disasters are no different, I guess? Two people relying on each other for survival and comfort are bound to bond in some way or another, and I love the way Carrie explored this in such a natural way.

Real, Nitty, Gritty Fiction That’s Not Marred by the Hollywood Complex. It’s so easy for these types of stories, in whatever format they appear, to become unrealistic, but Carrie keeps her plot firmly grounded in reality with every situation one that you can put yourselves in. Which makes the determination of the characters to survive this ordeal so much more personal. In other words, Carrie knows how to take the ordinary and put them into the extraordinary, all the while maintaining a level of humanity. There’s no sugarcoating either; there’s a darker side to humanity that is shown in As We Know It, but at the same time, Carrie instills a level of hope and determination that I hope I can carry on if I were ever in a natural disaster (and please, let’s hope not).

All in all, a heart pounding mixture of grim reality coupled with sweet romance makes As We Know It a thrilling read, and one I’d highly recommend. 

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Unsportsmanlike Conduct by Sophia Henry

Posted December 19, 2016 by Hannah in Adult, Reviews / 0 Comments

Unsportsmanlike Conduct by Sophia HenryUnsportsmanlike Conduct Series: Pilots Hockey #4
by Sophia Henry
Published by Random House Flirt on 18th October 2016
Pages: 266
Format: E-Book, E-ARC
Source: Publisher, Netgalley
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The author of Delayed Penalty returns with the story of a free spirit who believes she’s found forever with a playboy on a singles cruise. Discover why Kelly Jamieson calls the Pilots Hockey series “fun and flirty, warm and sweet.”

Kristen Katsaros wants a life full of adventure and laughter. After a difficult childhood, her motto is to live each day like it’s her last—because it just might be. So when Kristen’s parents send her on a post-grad singles cruise in the Caribbean to meet a Greek husband, she promptly hooks up with the hottest guy she’s ever met. Pasha’s decidedly not Greek, but Kristen gives him a pass because he’s got fun written all over his rock-hard abs.

Pavel Gribov, the cocky playboy of the Detroit Pilots hockey team, can score any girl he wants. But when a teammate drags him on a singles cruise, he can’t resist the chance to help out a drop-dead gorgeous damsel in distress by pretending to be her boyfriend. Before long, the fake fling turns intimate, fueled by something much deeper than lust.

Kristen and Pasha both agree to walk away once the cruise is over, but reality hits like a slap shot when Kristen finds out Pasha lied about everything. Just when she’s ready to start living again, the two stubborn survivors must decide if they can bear to lose the best thing that ever happened to either of them.

You guys, I think I’ve found my new favourite trope.

Hockey players. Swoon.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct is the story of Kristen, a post grad Greek on a cruise (around the Caribbean) of a lifetime…but it has a catch. It’s a Singles cruise her parents have booked her on to find a Greek husband. And when the world is your oyster, a husband definitely isn’t in your plans – especially for Kristen, whose battle with Cystic Fibrosis has her living each day like it’s her last. Until she meets Pasha – not Greek, and not the kind of guy you bring home to your parents.

What was essentially a quick, lazy day read turned into something that was a little bit more – a story about living life and breaking down barriers placed upon you by society. The relationship between Pasha and Kristen was really intense, something I’m not quite used to be a slow burn type of girl, but at the same time it’s good to see people who fall madly in love in such a short time frame (it is, after all, how my parents met!).

Having not read any of the other Pilot novels in the series meant that I didn’t really get Pasha’s “bad boy” image as much, so he just came across as brooding most of the time. But he was a good match for Kristen, who at times was a little too nice and naive…but they were like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

And most importantly – the way Henry wrote about a disability I thought was very well done. You don’t see a lot of novels depicting people with Cystic Fibrosis, and I thought Henry really outshone here. There was nothing degrading or…what’s that word? Condescending about the way she wrote about Kristen’s condition, but instead gave us an insight into what it is like to live every day with a condition that gets little attention. Which should be the norm in fiction (so that’s five stars in itself)!

So if you enjoy your couples falling head first in love, you’ll definitely enjoy Unsportsmanlike Conduct. Just remember to bring a fan, because it packs some serious heat, and I’m not talking about the Caribbean sunshine (I mean abs. Pasha’s abs.)

For more information about Cystic Fibrosis in America, visit here. For Australia, visit here. For the U.K., visit here

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