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The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean

August 11, 2019

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone is an incredibly well written atmospheric mystery novel that drew me into Tikka’s world right to the very last page. Felicity McLean has a marvellous way with words, whether it was describing the more mundane aspects of the character’s life, “There I watched the world through the glass eye of my microscope, pinning things under my focus” or detailing all the little clues that are interwoven throughout the novel. “They had six kneecaps, ninety-nine vertebrae, three skulls and thirty fingernails. Six kneecaps, forty-eight carpal bones, and more than three million strands of blonde hair, all tinged alien-green by the chlorine in their pool…”

The story is told from the view of one of the best friends of the Van Apfel Girls, Tikka, who has returned to the small town after spending several years overseas. And in doing so, is plagued by guilt as she recounts the events that happened so many years ago and learns a few new details from some unlikely sources.

For a mystery, by the end of the novel I was expecting at least a few of the questions that had been building throughout the story to be answered by the time I finished, but unfortunately I was left more than a bit wanting. Though there was still some sense of closure for Tikka despite that.

4 out of 5 stars.

* This eBook ARC was provided by HarperCollins Publishers Australia through NetGalley for an honest review.

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Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford

August 1, 2019

It was always going to be one of the identical twin sisters, Zadie or Nor, that was going to be chosen in the ceremony to become the next princess, but an accident that left Nor scarred took her out of the running. Or so she thought. Events unfold in unexpected ways, and Nor is soon standing in for her sister, and sent away from her beloved ocean town of Varenia to marry Prince Ceren, whom she quickly learns is cruel, and has anything but her, or Varenia’s best interests at heart.

While I found the story predictable, with little in the way of surprises, I still enjoyed it all the same. The world building, including the maps at the start was fantastic, and I immediately found myself drawn into the world that Mara Rutherford has woven between the pages. I enjoyed the sisterly bond between Nor and Zadie, even if I also found myself strongly disliking Zadie. Instead I preferred the bold, courageous and honour bound Nor. With enough of the story left open at the end, I’m very much looking forward to a sequel. It will be high on my list to read.

4 out of 5 stars.

* This eBook ARC was provided by Harlequin Australia through NetGalley for an honest review.

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Echoes of War: A Novel by Cheryl Campbell

July 28, 2019

Three of my favourite genres, survival, post apocalyptic and science fiction, all in one book? Add into the mix a complex, and flawed female protagonist, and plenty of action to keep me interested, it’s easy to see why I couldn’t look past Echoes of War when I saw it offered up on Netgalley for an honest review. And despite my high expectations, Echoes of War did not disappoint.

The first in a trilogy by Cheryl Campbell, Echoes of War is an edgy, post-apocalyptic sci-fi set in New England. Dani is a scavenger, living on the fringes of society as a Brigand, not trying to be a hero, and just trying to live another day with her brother, Jace. She avoids the Wardens, an alien race that has come to Earth and spent the last few decades trying to eradicate humans. But that all changes when she risks her life to save a human boy, and when he calls her out on her inaction, she decides to step up and out of the shadows, and try to fight back against the Wardens.

I loved the fact that Dani was far from perfect. She makes mistakes, sometimes even big ones, and in doing so, felt much more believable and complex. I enjoyed her gradual growth as a character from the first chapter, right up to the very end, the changes brought about by not only the events that unfold, but the friendships she builds over the years.

I found the first few chapters a bit confusing and it was difficult to really tell what was going on, and who was who. But once I got my head around that, I found Echoes of War difficult to put down. The romances, like the characters, were complex, and not the focus of the novel, though I did find Gavin’s love for Dani a bit sudden and out of the blue, with few scenes at that point to establish it. However, as we do start to see them interact, it does start to make more sense.

Overall, I really enjoyed Echoes of War, and can’t wait to see what Cheryl Campbell comes up with next in the sequel.

* This eBook ARC was provided by Sparkpress & Smith Publicity through NetGalley for an honest review.

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To Be Perfectly Honest by Jess Vallance

June 26, 2019

After uncovering a family secret, Grace Dart has had enough with lying and has dedicated the next fifty days of her college life to telling nothing but the truth, no matter how hard, or insulting, or at times, hilarious it might be.

I hadn’t read the first in the series, but I didn’t actually feel it impacted negatively on my reading experience, I didn’t feel like I’d missed out on anything by not having done so. I did find it hard to like Grace at first, she was selfish, rude, self absorbed, and at times the things she said to people could have caused a lot of harm, and she seemed almost entirely oblivious to it for the first half of the book.

But as the story was told, we start to see Grace realising, if a little belatedly, the impact her ‘truths’ were having on the people around her, and seeing her trying to fix and make things right with the people she’s hurt along the way was heart warming.

All and all, a fun and delightful read.

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The Bakery at Seashell Cove by Karen Clarke

June 30, 2018

This heart warming story tells the tale of bride-to-be Meg Larson who is starting to have doubts about her upcoming marriage to Sam, who seems more interested in cycling and one of the women on his tour than Meg herself. Add to that, a less than welcoming group of potential in-laws and it is not surprising that Meg is starting to get cold feet.

But things are starting to turn around for her: a potential buyer has come forward for the Bakery she wishes to run, and her dream job is now fully in her sights, along with Nathan, her estate agent, who she just can’t stop thinking about.

When I picked up this book, I had no idea it was the second in a series, but to be honest, it did not matter, and worked well as a standalone. The story had me giggling right from the first page, and pulled me in with it’s relatable characters that left me craving cake and other baked goods the whole way through! It was a light and easy read, with a romance that left me rooting for both Meg and Nathan right to the last page.

4 out of 5 stars.

* This eBook ARC was provided by Bookouture through NetGalley for an honest review.

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All the Ever Afters by Danielle Teller

May 18, 2018

This is not the Cinderella fairy tale you’ve been brought up with. Gone is the wicked step mother and the horrible step sisters, and in their place we have Agnes, and the often heart breaking and emotional tale of her struggling desperately to keep her family together and safe from the harsh realities of serfdom.

This retelling has a surprising amount of depth, and touches on some fairly thought provoking themes, among them looking into the meaning of beauty, and how self absorbed and cruel society can be towards those who do not meet their beauty standards. And how all too often in stories, beauty is associated with all that is kind and good in the world, while those who are less attractive are typically the evil antagonist.

It does not take place in a magical fairy tale kingdom, but instead it is woven into a more realistic and medieval world full of peasants and arranged marriages, of poverty, sickness and abuse. Where those born into serfdom struggle to be fed, with little chance to change their fate. They die, and often and in tragic ways, while those born to titles want for little, and care naught for the struggles of others.

Twisted, novel, and delightfully dark, I thoroughly enjoyed All the Ever Afters.

4 out of 5 stars.

* This eBook ARC was provided by HarperCollins through Edelweiss for an honest review.

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The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

May 14, 2018

The Perfect Mother is a page-turning psychological thriller about a mothers group called the May Mothers that get together regularly to talk about their experiences raising a newborn baby. But when one of their own has her young baby kidnapped while the group is having a rare night out together, they are quick to rally around her and try do everything they can to help Winnie get her baby Midas back.

This book was well-paced and difficult to put down, and while with most of this genre I usually guess exactly what is what, with the Perfect Mother Molloy had more than a few surprises in store for me as I read. I found the characters engaging, flawed and very relatable as a young mother myself, I could see little bits of myself in all of them. I found the reflection on the pressures society places on mothers to be perfect, and do everything ‘just so’ particularly relevant. And how often mothers feel the need to present ourselves with this perfect image even to other mothers, who are likely struggling just as much as we are.

And through it all, that bond of friendship that has been created in that May Mothers group shines as they learn more about each others darkest secrets, and work together to solve this mystery.

4 out of 5 stars.

* This eBook ARC was provided by Hachette Australia through NetGalley for an honest review.

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Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

March 15, 2018

Let Me Lie is a psychological thriller about a new Mum, Anne, trying to cope in the aftermath of the suicidal death of her two parents just over a year ago. Both having killed themselves in the same manner, at a local cliff, within a few months of each other.  On the anniversary of her mother’s death, Anne receives a card through her mail box, and what starts as a straight forward and open-and-shut case, quickly becomes something much more complex once Anne, and ex- Crime Investigator Murray starts to delve into it.  All of this takes place within the normality of their world, with each of the character dealing with their own spectrum of problems, from mental illness, money woes, and family issues.

One particular thing I do want to mention: I must admit, I did love seeing Anne breastfeeding publicly and while we’re told over and over that this is okay, it’s rare that we see this represented in novels. And Murray’s reaction was appropriate, and reflective of how a lot of people new to the experience might feel when faced with it for the first time.

I went into this story largely blind, avoiding the blurb, and any reviews about it to avoid the possibility of spoilers, either intentional or accidental. I wanted to go on that journey of discovery of Anne and be running theories through my head and getting that special kind of thrill when you learn you’re right! And I wasn’t disappointed, and while I certainly did guess  a couple of the major plot twists, there were plenty that I did not, enough to keep it interesting, and make it one of those hard-to-put-down reads.

This is the first novel of Clare Mackintosh that I have read, and it absolutely won’t be the last.

4 / 5 stars.

* This ebook ARC was provided by Hachette Australia through NetGalley for an honest review.

 

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The Boy from Earth by Darrell Pitt

March 11, 2018

I had the honor of receiving a copy of The Boy From Earth in return for an honest review. Though rather than read this book myself, I handed it over to my ten year old son to enjoy and give me his thoughts on it; he fits the book’s audience much more so than I!

This middle grade book follows a young boy, Bobby, who is scared of almost everything, which makes the prospect of attending an international Space Academy all the more frightening. My son, who has a few fears of his own, was easily able to relate to Bobby, and right from the first chapter was invested in the character and how the story would unfold. It was funny, and my son was laughing while reading frequently, and the fact that it was set in space too was just the icing on the cake as far as he was concerned.

It was perhaps a little bit below his reading level, so it was a quick and easy book for him to read, but he still loved it all the same.

* This ebook ARC was provided by Text Publishing through NetGalley for an honest review.

4 / 5 Stars.

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I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman

March 6, 2018

I Have Lost My Way follows the lives of three individuals as they collide into each other in a very literal way when Freya falls from a bridge, only to land on Nathaniel, with Harun there to witness. Freya is an up and coming singer, who has lost her voice. Nathaniel is a small town boy who has just arrived in New York with little to his name, and Harun is a homosexual Muslim son, destined to leave home and find a wife and recently lost the love of his life, James.

The story follows their lives over the next twenty four hours as they find themselves connected in more ways than they imagine, each dealing with loss, and grief and struggling to cope. These three beautifully written and diverse characters band together, working to help each other overcome their obstacles and in doing so, realizing that they are no longer alone.

I have not read anything by Gayle Forman before, so I wasn’t at all sure what to expect in I Have Lost My Way, and was more than pleasantly surprised to find myself immediately hooked from the first few pages. It was a light and easy read, and it wasn’t long before I felt invested in the characters, eager to see how things turn out. It was an emotional read and I loved the themes of empathy and loss, and seeing how important sometimes even the little things can be to someone.

* This ebook ARC was provided by Simon & Schuster through NetGallery for an honest review.