Source: Netgalley

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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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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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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Shining Brightly: Where The Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Posted November 2, 2016 by Hannah in Reviews, Young Adult / 0 Comments

Shining Brightly: Where The Stars Still Shine by Trish DollerWhere The Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller
Published by Bloomsbury ANZ on 24th September 2013
Pages: 352
Format: E-ARC, Paperback
Source: Publisher, Bought
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Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She's never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love--even with someone who seems an improbable choice--is more than just a possibility.

Trish Doller writes incredibly real teens, and this searing story of love, betrayal, and how not to lose your mind will resonate with readers who want their stories gritty and utterly true.

I’m not sure how many times I’ve read this book now in the aim of writing a review, but every time I do read it, I still love it just as much – and maybe a little bit more – each time I do. Trish has a beautiful gift for storytelling – as we saw in her raw, emotional debut Something Like Normal, and is ever present in Where The Stars Still Shine.

Where the Stars Still Shine centres on a storyline that (morbidly, I know) fascinates me. Callie and her mother have never really settled in one place, until a routine traffic stop gives her the reason why – Callie’s mother kidnapped her at a young age, and now, with her Mom facing jail time, Callie is given back to her father and his large Greek family.

The novel isn’t very plot centric, so if you are looking for a contemporary with a lot of “action,” then this may not be for you (but still read it anyway!). However, what we do is a wonderful novel that centres around Callie coming to terms with her new family, as well as trying to understand why her mother did what she did. The way that the book deals with mental health as well was one that I loved; it wasn’t in your face or too preachy, but rather understated the whole way through.

As this book is about characters and the way they entwine with each other, we get a great host of secondary characters that are easy to fall in love with. From Callie’s relationship with her father and her new half brothers, to Kat her new best friend/cousin, and of course the gorgeous Alex, who is facing demons of his own.

This is a novel about family, about finding your own strength but realising that it is okay to lean on others as well. It’s about falling in love, all coupled with that beautiful writing style that will make Doller a firm favourite with any one.

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Evan and Darcy by Melanie Coles

Posted October 2, 2016 by Hannah in Adult, Reviews / 0 Comments

Evan and Darcy by Melanie ColesEvan and Darcy by Melanie Coles
Published by Escape Publishing on 15th July 2016
Pages: 350
Format: E-ARC
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
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Jane Austen gets a little dusty in this outback retelling of a beloved story about a man who learns that first impressions can be wrong when you’re looking for Ms Right.

Wheat farmer Evan Bennet is happy being single until his brother falls for the new girl in town, wealthy hotel owner Claire Bingley. Suddenly finding a girl seems more appealing…unless you’re talking about Claire’s best friend, pretentious lawyer Darcy Fitzwilliam. Her cold manners have Evan seeing red, and when a cute girl with links to Darcy’s past catches his eye, he’s even more determined to dislike her.

When a startling revelation turns Evan’s world upside down and he unexpectedly crosses Darcy’s path again, he’s forced to reassess his opinion of her. But just as he starts to open his heart, a crisis engulfs his family, threatening to destroy any hope of a future with Darcy.

With a cloud hanging over his family, Evan knows his chance of winning Darcy’s heart is gone… until some surprising news and a generous gift leave him wondering if her heart might be his after all.

Let’s just face the facts: I’m total trash for when it comes to a Jane Austen retelling, and Evan and Darcy is something I’ve been needing for a long time and never realised it. One thing I’ve learnt about my reading habits this year is that I’m a total sucker for rural romance, making Evan and Darcy my total kryptonite.

Evan and Darcy is a sublime retelling of a personal favourite classic, with an Australian twist that will make it a favourite. Evan is our Elizabeth, the second of five sons, and at a curveball in his life, torn between staying and helping on the family farm, or following his dream of becoming a vintner.   When he meets Darcy, a hotshot lawyer from Melbourne, the two instantly butt heads, and from there on the age old story of Pride & Prejudice plays out.

The best part of the story is the”gender bent” twist – I’ve never actually read a retelling before where the roles are reversed, and it was completely refreshing. I would have loved to have seen more interaction between Evan and Darcy (Darcy especially; I felt like we really didn’t get to see a lot of her character growth in comparison to Evan) – most of their conversations felt rushed and lacking, and one of the things I love about the original is those interactions. 

If it’s a sweet, fun romance you’re after, then definitely give this a one a go – a perfect beach read for those sunny days coming up!

 

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