Monday, 26 December 2016

Book review: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the SkyAll the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

You know when you read a popular book and you think "huh?!"
This.
For what is meant to be Adult SciFi/Fantasy, a large proportion of the book is based around the MCs in school. But then even when they are adults, their characters and dialogue never matures. So you end up with this weird YA vibe, but with occasional course language and a sex scene that just comes out of nowhere.
All of the characters are completely annoying and horrible, save for perhaps the AI, and are just caricatures of stereotypes. The amount of cruelty and bullying violence described was completely unrealistic and a poorly written attempt at character development.
I can't possibly explain all the things wrong with this novel, it is just a massive MESS. I absolutely forced myself to finish it purely because it was a group read with my book club, but otherwise I would have put it down and regretted that purchase by about 15%.
The only reason this gets a second star is because of the occasional Pratchet-esque humour which was the only thing I liked about this book.
Charlie Jane Anders, you are just not for me.

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Friday, 23 December 2016

Book review: The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

The Perks Of Being A WallflowerThe Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Told as a set of letters from Charlie to an unknown person, this is a coming-of-age story from a boy that just doesn't fit in. He is socially awkward and has no friends since his best friend committed suicide. Then he meets Susan and Patrick who instantly like him for who he is, and become strong friends and allies.
I found the style of this book probably the biggest barrier as Charlie does get tiresome. Although I mostly enjoyed the novel, I found it very slow and I never really had an urge to pick the story back up again.

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Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Book review: Goldenhand by Garth Nix

Goldenhand (Abhorsen, #5)Goldenhand by Garth Nix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was so happy when Clariel was released last year because it had been so long since the Abhorsen series was written, and unexpected that we would get a prequel.
And now here we are with Goldenhand, which although chronologically by publication date is book 5, it is really book 4 as it takes place about 6 months after the events of book 3 (Abhorsen).
This is certainly one of those series that has just gotten better with each book, and Lirael was always one of my favourite characters (book 2 being my favourite in the original trilogy). I love Nix's style of writing because it is Fantasy but without unecessary descriptions or dialogue. I read that unlike other Fantasy authors he does not sketch out a world before writing, he just writes and makes notes for himself as he goes about the world. And I think that really comes through for concise novels with good pacing that leave the reader wanting more and loving the characters.

As a side note, I had the audiobook and the narration was very good (but no longer narrated by Tim Curry as the first 3 books were), but the paperback includes a bonus story at the end so is worth getting your hands on.
Also, the story lines for this series are intertwined so you need to read the whole series before starting this, including the short story in Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories about Nicholas to truly appreciate the book.
Let's hope for a book 6 soon :)

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Saturday, 17 December 2016

Book review: The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman

The Schwa Was Here (Antsy Bonano, #1)The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Told by Antsy Bonano, this is the story of how Calvin Shwa is "functionally invisible". Most people can't see when he is right in front of them and even if they do, they often forget he exists - a term deemed "the Shwa effect".
Antsy and Calvin become friends and do some experiments regarding "the Shwa effect" and through this process Antsy realises there is more to Calvin than even he has realised.
This is a great coming of age story from Shusterman - a classic tale but with an almost invisible character gives it the Shusterman spin. The MC is 14/15 years old and this book is well suited to a Middle Grade audience. The audio is also narrated by the author which is always great as you get a true insight to the characters.

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Thursday, 15 December 2016

Book review: The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Angel's Game (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #2)The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This gothic tale reminded me at times of Dracula and The Picture of Dorian Gray. It was a well written story, but perhaps a little too long and convoluted.
I'm also not sure why it is considered book 2 in the 'Cemetery of Forgotten Books' series other than the publisher trying to make money from its publication, because apart from two minor references to that Cemetery, there really is no major connection here to The Shadow of the Wind, and it is not a continuation of that story. It is much more of a "companion" book.

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Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Book Review: Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Elantris (Elantris, #1)Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm so glad I finally got around to reading this. I have read three of Sanderson's books so far (Reckoners 1 and 2 and Mistborn 1) and he is a truly fabulous writer. Especially considering this was his debut novel, it is easy to see why he has such a following. He writes Fantasy, but it isn't "typical" Fantasy which may put some people off this stand-alone novel. Although set in another world where there is a magic system, the book is much more about the exploration of politics and religion and the intersection of these. There is very little magic or other elements that typically define Fantasy books.
I thought the characters were really well developed and thoroughly believable with their flaws, and their skills. The pacing kept me interested and so intrigued that I was disappointed to not have a physical copy of the book (I only had an audio) because if I had, I would have been able to read faster to find out what would happen next! Speaking of, the audio narration is fantastic and highly recommended.
Although I don't typically give books 5 stars, I really can't think of anything I didn't like about this, and so I feel like it deserves it :)

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Sunday, 11 December 2016

Book review: Don't Mean a Thing by Renee Conoulty

Don't Mean a Thing (Got That Swing, #1)Don't Mean a Thing by Renee Conoulty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's nothing quite like a book that you can start and finish with a smile!
Macie is in her early 30s and has decided on a career change into the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). She has finished her training and just arrived in Darwin to start her new life in the military. There is so much to like about Macie. She is genuine with her friendships, strong in her beliefs and just plain likeable.
I loved the juxtaposition of swing dancing and military life. I don't know much about either and I found the descriptions so interesting. It was also refreshing to have a female character in the military, but without gender issues ever coming into the storyline.
Lastly, I loved the descriptions of Darwin and the author's unapologetic use of Australian slang. It may require a dictionary for some overseas readers, but I found it encapsulated "small town" Australian dialogue perfectly.
A fantastic novel for anyone wanting a nice romance with wonderful realistic characters. A perfect read while sitting in the sun with a muffin and a cup of tea :)

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Book Review: Madness: a Memoir by Kate Richards

Madness: a MemoirMadness: a Memoir by Kate Richards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gosh I've found myself a sobbing mess at the end of this book. The raw emotions and honesty shown by Kate while describing her very long battle with depression and psychosis are confronting, and well worth reflecting on.
I can't help but put myself in the shoes of her parents, or her work colleagues, friends etc. because we have all come across those "crazy" people who just can't get their shit together. But that is just the problem, they CAN'T get it together which is very different to WON'T get it together.
As a Doctor, Kate has a unique insight into mental illness and medications, and even then, took more than ten years and countless hospitalisations to truly understand her ongoing illness and how it will never just "go away", but like any other illness needs constant monitoring, and in her case, medication. It is a truly brave step to write this very personal memoir, and I hope that others will find themselves more understanding of mental illness for having read it.

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Friday, 9 December 2016

Book review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark MatterDark Matter by Blake Crouch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those fantastic I-just-can't-put-you-down reads. Fast paced and thrilling from start to finish, it also asks questions about what makes you, you.... and what impact our choices have.
There is a bit of quantum physics which is explained in a relatively simple way, and the science explanations are quite short and do not impact the novel pacing.
Highly recommended for anyone looking for a thriller that doesn't have too much violence and is just a gripping story.

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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Book review: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs, #1)Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I thought I would be in for a cozy mystery, but instead we get a very small 'case' which ends up being not much of a mystery at all, and then we go back 10+ years and learn all about how Maisie grew up and her work in WWI and then we go back to her current day (1929) and have another small case which also isn't much of a mystery.
It just felt all a little 'meh'.
Quite a while ago I accidentally read book #3 in this series and I thought I was ambivalent about it as I had read it out of order, but I think it is just this series isn't for me.

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Monday, 5 December 2016

Book review: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

One Hundred Years of SolitudeOne Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm sure that the historical importance and themes contained in this book make it an enduring classic with lots of value to the literary world, but I really struggled with it. I just didn't find it that engaging and the use of the same names for generations makes keeping the characters straight really confusing. I tried going from audio to ebook and back again, but it didn't really help that much in the end. Just not for me.

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Saturday, 3 December 2016

Book review: The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun Is Also a StarThe Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every so often an author comes along that just amazes me. Yoon's Everything, Everything was one of my favourite books of 2015 and this is certainly one of my favourites for 2016. Contemporary YA that is well written, with believable characters and no love triangle is so rare. Add in great writing and some fantastic plot devices and you have Nicole Yoon.

David meets Natasha by chance one day when he needs to go for an interview for Yale (which he doesn't want to do, but is going for his parents), and she is trying to stop a deportation order from the US back to Jamaica where she hasn't lived since she was a child. Natasha loves science, facts, logic and truth. David loves poetry, love, fate, destiny and hope. Over the course of a day in New York they get to know and experience the other's mindset which is so different and challenging to their own. Although the book is told in alternating POVs between Natalie and Daniel, it also has short chapters from side characters and some general facts which I just loved to give us a really rich understanding of everyone involved in this day.

I'm so impressed with Nicola Yoon that she has written two mesmerising and enjoyable novels and like only a select few, she has become an "auto buy" author for me. Big thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy of this book in exchange for a voluntary review.

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Thursday, 1 December 2016

Book Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity, #1)This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another enjoyable book from Schwab who has really great ideas for Fantasy novels, I just wish she would finish a series before starting another!
I liked the idea of the 3 different types of monsters and how the city is divided in order to maintain a truce. Kate is a strong and interesting character trying to live up to what she assumes are her father's expectations, while August is just trying to find his place in the world and to be more 'human'.
The book has good pacing, suspense and a nice ending which wraps up some of the story while leaving an overarching storyline to be continued in book 2.

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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Book review: Faithful by Alice Hoffman

FaithfulFaithful by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"What is behind you is gone, what is in front of you awaits"
I loved this line from the book because it perfectly sums up the crux of this novel.
Shelby is involved in a terrible car accident as a teenager and shuts herself away from the world. We follow her over the next several years as she copes (or doesn't) with her guilt and anger and slowly reconnects with the world.
This is only my second Hoffman novel (the first being The Dovekeepers) and the novels couldn't be more different in topic, but also I found the writing of this book much more accessible and contemporary. I was surprised to find myself wanting to be friends with Shelby and really caring about her and not wanting to say goodbye at the end of the novel. And for anyone to be able to write characters like that is a real skill.
I recommend this to anyone that loves an easy to read contemporary fiction about life, love and family.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Book Review: Murder and Mendelssohn by Kerry Greenwood

Murder and Mendelssohn (Phryne Fisher, #20)Murder and Mendelssohn by Kerry Greenwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've really enjoyed reading Phryne's adventures over the last two years, and the audio narration by Stephanie Daniel is fantastic.
This is a standard Phryne book with lots of fun and further proof of her belief-stretching talents (including seducing a gay man!). I was disappointed that Lin Cho didn't make an appearance for this final novel. Perhaps Greenwood is keeping the door open on more additions to the series?...

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Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Book Review: The Art of Keeping Secrets by Rachael Johns

The Art of Keeping SecretsThe Art of Keeping Secrets by Rachael Johns
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book follows the lives of three friends as they share some huge secrets that have made an impact on their lives.
I really enjoyed the characterisations and I thought they were all likeable and believable. It was also a story with a few surprises, tears and laughs.
On the flip side, I found the prose and the dialogue a little superfluous and a proper edit would have taken this from a good book to a great one that could sit along side other fabulous contemporary Australian authors such as Liane Moriarty.
For example, a character drives to a church and we are told "when they arrived...(she) slipped the car keys into her clutch bag and walked over to join Zoe, Seb...." The keys going into her bag and her walking over to these characters adds nothing to the story. I probably wouldn't notice this once or twice, but it was continual through the book that we are given step-by-step and it just isn't needed. Also, some of the dialogue "your daughters will be happy to have you closer to come again too, especially Hannah who will also be here". or "Would you like me to run you a bath and pour you a glass of wine" That just isn't how someone would actually speak in a casual setting. This may seem like I'm being picky, but it did bug me through the book as I think there is so much potential here.
Having said all of that, I did enjoy it and would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Book Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the ForestThe Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My favourite part of this book was the concept that the Fae can live alongside us mere mortals in "every day" life, but not necessarily in a peaceful way.
The characters were generally easy to like and accept, but not overly developed. I also felt that there were many conveniences taken with the story to move it along which resulted in a few plot holes, but it was still an enjoyable read.
3.5 stars

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Sunday, 6 November 2016

Book Review: Sheltering Rain by Jojo Moyes

Sheltering RainSheltering Rain by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jojo Moyes is one of the best writers I have come across when it comes to character driven fiction. I had delayed reading her earlier work for fear that it may not be as good as all of her other books that I've read, but there was really no need. This lady has talent and clearly has continued to hone it over time, but these earlier works are just as good.
This is a story about family, secrets, assumptions and love. Although I didn't really connect with the mother, Kate, I still found her character believable and at the end of the book I was really sad to say goodbye to everyone.

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Friday, 4 November 2016

Book Review: The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

The Other EinsteinThe Other Einstein by Marie Benedict
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I find this a very difficult book to rate because of the creative license the author has taken when it comes to historical accuracies. I understand this is fiction, but I do still feel that when a historical fiction book is about a real figure, there is an onus on the author to portray that person and the facts as close to the truth as possible. The portrayal of Albert Einstein as a selfish, dismissive, and increasingly cruel husband surprised me. Upon reading the Author's Notes at the end, and other article's on Albert's character, I'm not sure how true to life his character is. Also the role of his wife, for which this book centres around, makes claims that are generally thought of as untrue in regards to her role with Albert's work.
The book was well written, and I appreciate the author's research, but for me, I would have preferred the narrative to be more focussed on Mileva rather than the relationship between her and her husband, and for there to be a little more truth than fiction to the characters and their actions.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.



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Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Book Review: The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall

The Woman Before Me (Cate Austin, #1)The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I found this an uncomfortable read. In many ways because it is not easy to read about the death of babies, but also because the main character was so unlikeable. Reminiscent of Gone Girl, The Good Girl and The Girl on the Train, she was just a little too unhinged to ever really feel any interest in her story.
Considering this is meant to the the first book in the "Cate Austin" series, we really learn very little about Cate and I didn't feel her character was well developed.
Add into this a scene where a female gets drunk at a party, goes back to her male colleagues' house to "sleep it off" where he tries to have sex with her despite her repeated drunken attempts to remove him and say "no"... and this was never accepted as attempted rape, but just another funny story about how the new girl in the office was 'easy', led someone on, and embarrassed him. Made me sick actually and the book loses a star for that.

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Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Book Review: When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

When the Moon Was OursWhen the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

McLemore writes magical realism very well. Her first novel, The Weight of Feathers took me a little while to get used to and then I loved it. This book I found did the opposite. I fell in love from the start, and then it slowed down considerably and I would have liked to see a braver edit to keep a more steady, albeit still relatively slow, pace.
The author explains in her Author's Note that her husband is transgender and this, along with her interest in bacha posh (a cultural practice in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan in which families who only have daughters dress one as a boy in order to be the "son" of the family) became the inspiration for this story about a girl called Miel who appeared out of the water on day with roses growing from her arm, and Sam the boy who has secrets he wants to keep.
It is a Young Adult book so there was a bit of teen angst, and beyond the magical realism there was also the "mean girls" story with a group of four perfect sisters who want to ruin what Miel and Sam have.
I would recommend to anyone who enjoys magical realism or stories about identity and truth. I look forward to the next novel the author releases.
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Thursday, 29 September 2016

Book Review: Black Rock White City by A.S. Patric

Black Rock White CityBlack Rock White City by A.S. Patric
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jovan and his wife Suzana fled Bosnia and sought refuge in Australia. Both previously literature professors at University, he is now a cleaner at a hospital and she is a cleaner for a private home.
As this story progresses we slowly receive more and more information as to their past and what they have fled. Overlaying this is the mystery surrounding Jovan's workplace where someone has been leaving graffiti throughout the hospital with strange words and small poems, and the graffiti slowly escalates to murder.
Language is a key theme in this book. The things we say, and don't say. The way that Jovan can think and feel poetically, but his grasp of the English language means that he is unable to convey these thoughts. The graffiti using words as weapons. Suzana's direct and sometimes hurtful and brutal honesty.
This is not an easy read and the use of short sentences that are not descriptive can make the reading sometimes jarring as the reader attempts to catch up with what just happened. However, there is a kind of strange beauty in the writing style and is worth the effort of reading.

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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Book review: The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, #2)The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eeek! Another cliffhanger ending. I am absolutely loving this series though. It is one of the best YA Fantasy series I have read for quite some time. I think because the world is really fascinating with some great characters who Pullman isn't afraid to kill off. I'm not sure about the right age range for the books though as although the MC is 11, I'm not sure that and average 11 year old should be reading these as there is a fair bit of violence, and even some sexual innuendo in this book!
Another great full cast audio narration which really brings the book to life and is highly recommended.

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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Book Review: The Birdman's Wife by Melissa Ashley

The Birdman's WifeThe Birdman's Wife by Melissa Ashley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Starting in the early 1800s, this book is told in first person by Elizabeth as she meets and marries John Gould who becomes a famous ornithologist during a period of intense public interest in exotic birds. Elizabeth is an amateur artist who finds herself encouraged (somewhat pushed) by her husband into drawings of bird species while also giving birth to 8 children and joining him on a 2 year trip to Australia! This was not usual for a woman of the time, and so the author became fascinated with Elizabeth and clearly did an amazing amount of research not just into the Gould's, but also their professions. While I admire her research and devotion to brining Elizabeth's story to the world, I found it a very slow book and the descriptions of the birds and the drawing techniques became very tiresome to me. I would have much preferred more images of Elizabeth's work and less descriptions.
I would recommend this book to historical fiction fans who would like to learn more about a woman who has been somewhat forgotten in the shadow of her husband, and who don't mind a slow paced book with lots of details.
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Monday, 26 September 2016

Book Review: Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

Northern Lights (His Dark Materials, #1)Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fabulous children's / YA Fantasy novel. I loved the characters and the world, especially the idea that humans have daemons in a mutual symbiotic relationship. Although there was a cliffhanger ending which is my least favourite kind, I felt like there was a lot explored in the novel. There are still plenty of questions to be answered and I'm going to jump straight into book 2.
I listened to the audio version which was fantastic. The author narrates the actual narration and all the characters are voiced by different actors. The full cast just brings this to life like a play (albeit a long play at 10 hours for the audio!)

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Sunday, 25 September 2016

Book Review: Curious Minds by Janet Evanovich

Curious Minds (Knight and Moon, #1)Curious Minds by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As I started reading this, I decided that the authors had decided to make a parody of a Thriller, because surely such experienced and well known writers wouldn't write something like this seriously. Would they?
As a parody it is lots of fun. There are the evil henchmen that can't die, the evil family plot to take over the world (bwaaa-haaa-haaa), "top secret government installations", and amateur detectives who figure everything out and are the only ones who can save us from "the new world order".

So for a book I could laugh with (or is that at?) I gave it 3 stars. If you are after an actual thriller, then you may be best to move on.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Saturday, 24 September 2016

Book Review: The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

The Girl in the Blue CoatThe Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hanneke is 19 and living in Netherlands during the German occupation in 1943. She finds and sells black market goods, but isn't interested in joining the resistance until chance and circumstance lead her to a meeting of other teens who are risking their lives in the resistance. At the same time she becomes borderline obsessed with finding a young Jewish girl whom she has never met, but who disappeared.
I found the historical aspect interesting, but it didn't really offer anything new that I haven't read before in other WWII books. I also found Hanneke quite frustrating and it was not really clear or really believable to me why she would take such a sudden interest into the disappearance of someone she had never met.
Possibly a book better suited to teens who don't know much about WWII and would like to explore some of the stories based upon real events.

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Friday, 23 September 2016

Book Review: The Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne

The Purloined PoodleThe Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a nice novella told from Oberon's point of view which means it contains a lot of references to food (especially sausages) and sniffing other dogs behinds! It was a short mystery that he and Atticus set out to solve and a good edition to the series.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Book review: A Deadly Affection by Cuyler Overholt

A Deadly AffectionA Deadly Affection by Cuyler Overholt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

New York, 1907 and Genevieve is lucky enough to have the means, and progressive parents, that enable her to come a Doctor. Specifically, a psychiatrist who is trialling out a new form of therapy which we now know as cognitive therapy. When one of her patients is accused of murder, she is convinced of her innocence and so tries to track down the real killer.
I liked the time period and the writing, and most of the characters were well developed. I didn't really warm to Genevieve though, and I found some of her actions quite frustrating. Also, the mystery became a little comical in how convoluted it was, and even despite this it wasn't too hard to guess.
In summary, I thought this was a pretty good book and would suit Historical Fiction fans that don't mind a mystery, but I didn't really "love" it.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Sunday, 18 September 2016

Book review: Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Truly Madly GuiltyTruly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Moriarty is one of the best writers of character driven novels I have come across. Each of her books has taken me on a journey through the lives of some wonderful and interesting characters, usually with a few laughs and tears along the way.
It was hard to stop reading this book. It is most like Big Little Lies in that there is a mystery to this book which keeps you turning the pages. It is not until well after half way through the book that we discover what happened at "the barbecue" and then, of course, I wanted to keep reading to know how it would all end!

Great read.

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Friday, 16 September 2016

Book review: Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastard, #2)Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The long con and double, triple crossing got a little tiresome for me in this book. Perhaps because I read this right after re-reading book 1 and so it just felt a bit much?
Regardless, the relationship between Locke and Jean is cemented even further and I love how this is being developed. The humour and wit was also wonderful.
I will be continuing the series, but I think I may just need a short break before delving back into this world!

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Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Book Review: Not My Father's Son: A Memoir by Alan Cumming

Not My Father's Son: A MemoirNot My Father's Son: A Memoir by Alan Cumming
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I only know Alan Cumming from The Good Wife, but I'd heard such good things about this memoir, and I found it was narrated by the author which always appeals to me.
I did love his narration, which was in his natural Scottish accent, and full of emotion and power where required and gentle and subtle where not.
There were many components of this book that resonated with me, and I loved his bravery in his honesty and his ability to verbalise his thoughts and feelings. A wonderful read about a difficult period in someone's life.

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Monday, 12 September 2016

Book Review: Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary CanalGulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mary Roach simply owns this space of "highly accessible non-fiction about taboo-ish 'sciency' subjects told in plain English in an engaging and humorous way". It is quite a genre to own ;)

This is my second book of hers (the first I read was Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers) and I just love them. I learn SO much and I find the subject matter endlessly fascinating. SO much more entertaining to read Roach's work than a bunch of textbooks and papers.

Can't wait to read another.

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Saturday, 10 September 2016

Book review: The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

The Forgetting TimeThe Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was chosen for my book club, and I'll be honest and say I wasn't really looking forward to it based on the synopsis. It sounded a bit depressing and I don't do well with stories of children being harmed or in distress.
So, to my surprise, I actually ended up reading it quite quickly and rather enjoying it.
I liked that the book included excerpts from real cases of apparent "past lives", presumably the works that inspired the author. But this is not a spiritual novel, actually the discussion around reincarnation is clinical and 'factual'. It is more about the potential for things in this world we can't understand, and of course there was quite a mystery running through the book which kept the pace up and the pages turning.
I didn't really understand the need for some of the sub-plots, and even at the end I wondered about why it was necessary, but as a debut author I thought this was a very well written and intriguing bit of fiction.

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Friday, 9 September 2016

Book review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two (Harry Potter, #8)Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Unfortunately I can understand the poor and ambivalent reviews, and I have to say that having read this, I have no interest in seeing the play even if I was able to get tickets and make the journey! Five hours of this flimsy story? No thanks.

What I did like was Scorpius - great character as the son of Draco, and I liked being able to see Draco grown up as he was just a child in an impossible situation. I also liked that Harry has a son who doesn't enjoy Hogwarts and the impact that has on Harry. The first Act made me so happy to be back in HP world that I am still giving this three stars.

What I didn't like was that the characters weren't very well developed, and although I know this is a play, I've certainly read fantastic plays that have been able to convey character's thoughts and feelings and develop them appropriately. More so, I just didn't like the story. It was unoriginal and seemed like a cheap re-hash. I do wonder what JKR was thinking. There were also plot holes galore and the big 'reveal' just had me shake my head.

I've loved everything JKR has done until this point. I wish I had my own time turner to go back in time and stop her from ever agreeing to do this.

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Monday, 29 August 2016

Book Review: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

The Watchmaker of Filigree StreetThe Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed about 80% of this book. It had some interesting characters and setting with a bit of a mystery surrounding the watchmaker, Mori, his craft and his abilities. Unfortunately the end of the book was confusing and disjointed and left me feeling quite unsatisfied.

Great premise and cover and the writing was quite good, so I would probably read more by this author.

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Saturday, 27 August 2016

Book Review: A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester

A Kiss from Mr FitzgeraldA Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Evie throws herself into New York and into a life that is completely shocking for the time (1922)... she decides she wants to be a Doctor. And not just any Doctor... and obstetrician! Add to this her night job as a Ziegfeld girl and you have a recipe for a book that embraces the glitz and glam of the time, while exploring the historical progression of women in the medical field.
This book is a lot of fun and has some great characters and romances, but it also deftly explores the role of women and medicine in the 1920s.
For those that have read Lester's previous work, I would say the writing is just as compelling, but the subject matter is much more "upbeat" I highly recommend this to Historical Fiction fans.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review, and to the author Natasha Lester for agreeing to participate in a give-away and Author Q&A with our book group, Nothing But Reading Challenges.

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Friday, 26 August 2016

Book review: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond FearBig Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I normally scoff at "self help" books, but I am now on the Elizabeth Gilbert bandwagon! Despite the genre, she says that she wrote the book for herself, and if that then helps others, then great. And this shows, because the book is not preachy, but it is interesting and delivered by her audio narration perfectly. I felt like I was sitting in a really comfortable theatre just listening to her talk.
Sometimes it is so important to read/listen to these types of books to put a deposit in our own emotional piggy bank and remember why creativity is so vital to our lives.

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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Book Review: Replica by Lauren Oliver

Replica (Replica, #1)Replica by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is two books ; one from Lyra's point of view, and then flip the book over and you get the same story but from Gemma's point of view. According to the note from the author you can read them as alternating chapters, or read one full POV and then the other. Cool, huh?
As I had an e-copy I read all of Lyra's POV first, and them Gemma's. At the end of Lyra's book I felt like something was missing and I was a bit disatisfied. So to then start Gemma's book, all of the pieces came together and I was totally enthralled and couldn't stop reading.

Lauren Oliver has a beautiful writing style, often descriptive without being "wordy", and at times even poetic. I didn't find this came through as much in this novel, but her imagination and creativity did. It is YA, so there is a bit of "insta-love" and some very convenient, but not quite believable, acts to keep the story flowing, but to be honest, it is such an easy and enjoyable read that this is totally forgivable.

A unique way to write a novel, and I'm looking forward to the next in the series!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Book Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1)The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first read this about two years ago and I really enjoyed it - kind of a cross between "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" and "Oliver Twist" but set in an alternative world, somewhat like Venice in the 18th century, but with a small magical/fantasy element.

My memories of this were not clear enough to start book 2, so I decided to do a re-read and listened to the audio which is expertly and perfectly done. It is not often I re-read books, so it is a credit to the author and shows how much the "enjoyment" memory of reading this book remained even if the details didn't.

A great story, full of some black humour, a little bit of gore (but not too much), and lovable criminal characters.

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Friday, 12 August 2016

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book had a perfect mix of humour, realistic teen characters and an easy, fast pace. It was very reminiscent of John Green's style of writing in that it is simplistic (not in a bad way) which makes it very accessible and a fast read.
I thought this book would be good not just for teens, but also their parents, as it gives a pretty realistic portrayal of what goes on inside a confused 17 year old's mind.


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Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Book Review: The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

The ChaperoneThe Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When this novel begins, it is 1922 and a middle-aged housewife from Kansas, Cora, volunteers to chaperone a 15 year old Louise Brooks across the country to New York City for a month. Louise is head-strong, flirtatious, and quite wild - the complete opposite of Cora and neither of them ever see eye to eye.

Spanning 60 years, although most of the book takes place between 1922 and 1929, we witness huge transformations in society through the eyes of Cora. This was my favourite part of the book, including being transported to a 1922 NYC summer.
We are also passengers to the awakening of Cora and her small town mindset during this short time in NYC, and how over the decades that shapes her life, although this is not obvious to most people around her.

Once I finished the book, I noted in the acknowledgements that Louise Brooks was a real historical figure, and so I did a bit of searching about her also. I like that this small part of history was injected into the book, and it made Louise's tale much sadder, but at the end of the day this is a book about Cora and how that one summer altered the rest of her life.

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Monday, 8 August 2016

Book Review: Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal #1)Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Set in England during the Regency Era, where magic is a normal part of the world and yet is diminishing in England for an unknown reason... sound familiar? As much as there are similarities between the premise of this book and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, in my opinion, Clarke's work is far superior.
I struggled to engage with this book and it felt like quite a chore for a significant part. The only reason I finished it was because I was reading with others for a "Book of the Month" and so felt compelled to keep going.
Cho has chosen to write the book as not only set in that period, but also her style of writing. This does create a barrier while reading and makes it difficult for the story to flow.
More than that, I just really did not like the characters. And if I have no one to like, then it becomes impossible for me to enjoy the story.
Finally, this book had so many YA components that although the MCs are adults, I still feel the book should be marketed as YA. This did not work for me as an adult Fantasy book.

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Friday, 5 August 2016

Book Review: At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

At the Water's EdgeAt the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maddie is married to Ellis, and along with his best friend Hank, the trio are a selfish, spoilt, society set with no thought to WWII raging while they are cocooned in Philadelphia.
On a whim they decide to go to Scotland, and told through Maddie's eyes, this story explores their adventures looking for the Loch Ness Monster in a town where they are unwelcome and disliked. It is only Maddie who seems to start to understand their selfish ways and questions the life she is living.

I didn't like these three characters at all, and as the book went on, I warmed (just a little) to Maddie, but for the most part found her naivety eminently frustrating. The characters at the Inn in Scotland are lovely and well developed and the descriptions of the time period were very good.

The book just really lacked something for me. I didn't dislike it exactly, but I was just never really invested. Sara Gruen is a talented writer, but I much preferred Ape House and Water for Elephants.

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Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Book Review: Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

Age of Myth (The Legends of the First Empire #1)Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was really intrigued from the start with this world where humans (Rhunes) are seen as inferior to Fhrey (whom they treat as gods). In reality, the Fhrey are no different to humans, except they live a lot longer and they are able to access "The Arts" (a form of magic). And so as this first book in the series begins, a Rhune is able to kill a "God" (Fhrey) and therefore a clan of Rhunes discover that maybe there are more similarities than differences after all.
The characters are well developed and I particularly enjoyed the role of Suri who is a mystic and Persephone who is a very strong female leader.

At the beginning of the novel there is a few pages of "Author's notes" where Michael explains how the series has been written to completion, as he writes all the books at once, and his explanation of how and why he does this was really interesting. He also explains that this book is set 3000 years before his other series and you do not need to read the other series in order to read this one.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys Fantasy novels where characters drive the plot, an interesting world but no needless pages of world-building, and a good pace.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Sunday, 31 July 2016

Book Review: Dear Thing by Julie Cohen

Dear ThingDear Thing by Julie Cohen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm sure from the synopsis you can already see this is going to be a difficult book. Ben and Claire have been trying for six years to have a baby and every attempt and intervention has failed. Although we aren't there for this emotional roller-coaster, we get given a great insight into the aftermath on their emotional well-being and relationship. It is, naturally, heart breaking.
Romily is Ben's best friend since College and one drunken evening declares she will be their surrogate, using her egg and Ben's sperm.

I found this book so hard to put down because I was so intrigued and curious as to how Cohen would be able to manage this seemingly impossible situation. I loved the characters and felt for all of them, and just like The Day Of Second Chances I was swept into their lives.

The ending wasn't quite satisying, and I still had a lot of questions about what happens next, but I also don't know how this kind of story could be ended in another way.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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