REVIEW: The Golden Child by Wendy James

Published: 1st February 2017

Publisher: Harper Collins Australia

Pages: 348

Format: paperback courtesy of the publisher

RRP: $32.99

5/5 Stars

Can bad children happen to good mothers? A totally absorbing novel, for readers of Liane Moriarty, Lionel Shriver and Christos Tsiolkas.

Blogger Lizzy’s life is buzzing, happy, normal. Two gorgeous children, a handsome husband, destiny under control. For her real-life alter-ego Beth, things are unravelling. Tensions are simmering with her husband, mother-in-law and even her own mother. Her teenage daughters, once the objects of her existence, have moved beyond her grasp and one of them has shown signs of, well, thoughtlessness …
Then a classmate of one daughter is callously bullied and the finger of blame is pointed at Beth’s clever, beautiful child. Shattered, shamed and frightened, two families must negotiate worlds of cruelty they are totally ill-equipped for.
This is a novel that grapples with modern-day spectres of selfies, selfishness and cyberbullying. It plays with our fears of parenting, social media and Queen Bees, and it

Simply put The Golden Child is one hell of a gripping and chilling read. It’s the kind of book that grabs your attention and holds you hostage for 348 pages. 348 pages where you feel constantly uneasy, where it’s not unusual to break out in goose-bumps or to grip the book tighter in shock. Where you will find yourself feeling physically sick with the cruel games teenagers play on social media.

What Wendy James has achieved in this book is nothing short of a miracle. She’s taken a well know reality – cyber bullying pushing kids too far – and brought it into every readers home. As readers we glimpse every side of the issue: the spiteful and horrifying bully, the victims families and any who are close enough when the collateral damage is dished out. It’s truly horrifying, superbly written, but horrifying for what it represents; many people’s every day reality.

When I opened this book, I had a vague idea of what to expect. James is a master of blurring the lines between the morally and emotionally right and she has this effortless way of presenting every day ‘victimless’ crimes with so much scope and insight that you become shaken to the core. What I didn’t expect however was the way that I would react to this book. Like the book itself, when I started reading I was smiling, eager to dive in the books pages. Then came that uncomfortable feeling where you just know you can’t trust your narrators any more, that there is something terrifying amiss just below the surface, that space where you know what is being projected is not the rosy reality behind the scenes. Until finally my skin was crawling and my mind screaming at the injustices. I wanted to scream at key players to wake up and realise what the hell was going on and I was so damn disappointed and terrified and just so, so unprepared.

As far as the plot goes, I’m not saying a thing. This is a book you will viscerally react to. One that I think every person, young and old, teen or parent, needs to read. It’s a book about those hard truths that we sometimes try to deny at a cost greater than any of us can pay.

I know it’s only February and there are still some astounding books to come out this year, but hands down I can already tell you that The Golden Child will be a book in my top ten this year. It’s a book that haunts me. It’s a book I can guarantee you will not be able to put down.

To purchase a copy of The Golden Child, visit the following online retailers:

Harper Collins Australia | Booktopia | Kobo | Dymocks | QBD | ANgus & Robertson’s bookworld

 

To learn more about Wendy James, visit the following social media sites:

Wendy James’ Website | Harper Collins Australia | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads |

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AWW Bingo Challenge 2017!

A short time ago, The Australian Women Writer’s Challenge issues their 2017 Bingo Reading cards and I’m really looking forward to playing around with this challenge again. While I’m quietly confident I should be able to complete card one over the course of the year, card two this time is going to be a more challenging. I can knock off two squares from it in March when I reread one of my all time favourite books and it’s subsequent non-fiction author diary, but the rest are going to require some more thought!

 

A book that surprised me:

A Book by an Indigenous Author:

A book with a beach setting: In At The Deep End by Penelope Janu

A book of non-fiction:

A book with poems:

A book that’s more than ten 10 years old:

A short story collection:

A book that won an award:

 

 

19th Century:

1920s and 1930s:

A book of non-fiction:

Early 20th century:

1960s and 1970s:

A book not yet reviewed for AWW:

1940s and 1950s:

REVIEW: Valentine by Jodi McAlister

Published: 30th January 2017

Publisher: Penguin Books Australia

Pages: 395

Format: Paperback courtesy of the publisher

RRP: $19.99 (or $9.99 fro the ebook)

4/5 Stars

Valentine is the first in a smart, witty and page-turning YA series with a paranormal twist for fans of Holly Black and Sarah J. Maas.

Four teenagers – all born on the same Valentine’s Day – begin to disappear. As the bodies mount up, Pearl Linford has to work out what in the supernatural hell is going on, before it happens to her.

Finn Blacklin is the boy with whom Pearl shares a birthday, the boy she has known all her life and disliked every second of it, the boy her subconscious has a totally annoying crush on. Finn is also the Valentine: a Seelie fairy changeling swapped for a human boy at birth. The Unseelie have come to kill the Valentine – except they don’t know who it is. And now both the Seelie and the Unseelie think Pearl is the Valentine, and if they find out she isn’t, she’ll disappear too.

Pearl must use all her wits to protect herself. Finn must come to terms with his newfound heritage. And then there’s the explosive chemistry between them that neither of them know quite what to do about . . .

Jodi McAlister is a natural born storyteller. Right from that first sentence she had had me hooked until the very end of the book. So much so that I devoured it in one sitting and have been contemplating the characters, the situation and the world ever since. While there are a few niggling issues for me with the book, on the whole I can say that the story is totally and utterly addictive. The world Valentine inhabits is mysterious, crazy and so full on that it’s hard not to get swept up in it all. The characters, albeit a bit immature at times, are engaging and charismatic and the setting is so vivid and believable that I felt as though I transported through the pages to the town of Haylesford itself. That doesn’t happen often.

The thing that stands out the most for me in this book, is the relationship between Pearl and Finn. It would have been so easy for McAlister as a debut author (or any author for that matter) to have a simple enemies-to-lovers relationship between the two and yet what McAlister has done is so much more than that. Even after the two are forced together neither character is complacent, nor all that accepting of their new found ‘relationship’; they fight like cats and dogs and question everything and anything. I can not stress to you how relieved I was with this turn in events, especially since there was no insta-love between any of the characters in the book. What’s more, the blurred lines of uncertainty hovering around Pearl and Finn makes their warring tolerance of one another so much refreshing. Here are two very confused and overwhelmed kids who are allowing themselves to be confused and overwhelmed and not rushing into anything head first. It was a refreshing and brilliant move on the author’s part.

I really enjoyed Finn’s character and his complexities and look forward to seeing him grow more (and gain more page space) as the series continues. As for Pearl, she is a bit hysterical for my tastes, and rather over the top. Because of this it took me a while to warm up to her personally, but I did really enjoy her character. After all, anyone is entitled to be that hysterical and overwhelmed given the shit she’s seen and the situations she’s faced. I really enjoyed the unique family atmosphere that Pearl has having been raised by her older twin siblings and I’m rather intrigued as to the mystery regarding this family and what it could spell for future books.

I read a lot of fantasy and fey books, and I want to thank Jodi McAlister from the bottom of my heart for filling a gap in the market and writing fantasy YA novel that rivals those coming out of States. Aussie YA has a strong place on the market, and yet for some reason there are very few Australian fantasy based YA novels that deal with the fey. Not going to lie, reading this book made me smile like an idiot, as only a book set in your own backyard can. There’s just something about having local settings that just enhances a book, don’t you think?

Valentine by Jodi McAlister was like a breath of fresh air. Personally I can not wait for the second book in the series, Ironheart, to be released as I have so many questions and theories surrounding Pearl and Finn that I just really need to get them out!

Ideal of fans of Holly Black, Julie Kagawa and Sarah J Maas.

 

To purchase a copy of Valentine, visit the following online retailers:

Penguin Random House Australia | Angus & Robertson’s BookworldAmazon AUS | Booktopia | Dymocks | Google Books | ibooks AUS | Kobo | OBD |

To learn more about Jodi McAlister, visit the following social media sites:

 Goodreads | Penguin Random House Australia | Twitter | Tumbler |

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Previously hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey; Now Hosted by Book Date

 

Currently Reading:

Valentine is the first in a smart, witty and page-turning YA series with a paranormal twist for fans of Holly Black and Sarah J. Maas.

Four teenagers – all born on the same Valentine’s Day – begin to disappear. As the bodies mount up, Pearl Linford has to work out what in the supernatural hell is going on, before it happens to her.

Finn Blacklin is the boy with whom Pearl shares a birthday, the boy she has known all her life and disliked every second of it, the boy her subconscious has a totally annoying crush on. Finn is also the Valentine: a Seelie fairy changeling swapped for a human boy at birth. The Unseelie have come to kill the Valentine – except they don’t know who it is. And now both the Seelie and the Unseelie think Pearl is the Valentine, and if they find out she isn’t, she’ll disappear too.

Pearl must use all her wits to protect herself. Finn must come to terms with his newfound heritage. And then there’s the explosive chemistry between them that neither of them know quite what to do about . . .

New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder brings her Poison Study series to its exhilarating conclusion.

Despite the odds, Yelena and Valek have forged an irrevocable bond and a family that transcends borders. Now, when their two homelands stand on the brink of war, they must fight with magic and cunning to thwart an Ixian plot to invade Sitia.

Yelena seeks to break the hold of the insidious Theobroma that destroys a person’s resistance to magical persuasion. But the Cartel is determined to keep influential citizens and Sitian diplomats in thrall and Yelena at bay. With every bounty hunter after her, Yelena is forced to make a dangerous deal.

With might and magic, Valek peels back the layers of betrayal surrounding the Commander. At its rotten core lies a powerful magician and his latest discovery. The fate of all rests upon two unlikely weapons. One may turn the tide. The other could spell the end of everything.”

Hoping to read:

She can run but she can’t hide…

As her father’s only heir, Catherine Cottingham expects to inherit their sprawling property in the Hunter Valley. What she doesn’t understand is why her father is trying to push her into a marriage to the pompous and repulsive Sydney businessman Henry W. Bartholomew.

When the will is read it becomes clear money, or the lack of it, lay behind her father’s plans. Catherine is mortified — as a married woman all her possessions will pass to her husband, the overbearing Bartholomew. Her only alternative is to wait until her twenty-first birthday and inherit the property in her own right, but can she elude such a determined man until then?

A chance encounter with a travelling circus and its fiery lead performer, Sergey Petrov, offers the perfect solution and Catherine escapes to the goldfields. But there is more to the circus than spangles and sawdust and Catherine finds herself drawn into a far-reaching web of fraud and forgery…

A stunning new novel from the bestselling author of The Horse Thief and The Cedar Cutter

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REVIEW: Magic Study By Maria. V. Snyder (Study Series Book 2)

Published: 1st October 2006

Publisher: Harlequin Australia

Pages:390

Format: Paperback (purchased)

RRP: $16.99

3.5/5 Stars

You know your life is complicated when you miss your days as a poison taster…

With her greatest enemy dead, and on her way to be united with the family she’d been stolen from long ago, Yelena should be pleased. But although she has gained her freedom, she once again finds herself alone – separated from her lover Valek and suspected as a spy for her reluctance to conform to Sitian ways.

Despite the turmoil, she’s eager to start her magic training – especially as she’s been given one year to harness her power or be put to death. But her plans take a radical turn when she becomes embroiled in a plot to reclaim Ixia’s throne for a lost prince – and gets entangled in powerful rivalries with her fellow magicians.

If that wasn’t bad enough, it appears her brother would love to see her dead. Luckily, Yelena has some old friends to help her with her new enemies.

Continuing on from Yelena’s adventures in Poison Study, Magic Study is the story of Yelena moving to Sitian after being exiled from Ixia for having magical abilities. But never fear, Yelena is never far away from a truck load of trouble and a hell of a lot of mystery and intrigue.

I’m not going to lie, having finished Poison Study in record time, I dived into this book head first and was disappointed to say the least with the first third of the book. Coming off the backs of non-stop-action of book one, I expected the same thing was surprised to find the first third of this book plateau-ing as Snyder set up an entire different world in Sitia. The book did pick up pace after a while though, so I highly encourage anyone else encountering the same issue to stick with it.

Magic Study is a bit hit and miss for me at times. Don’t get me wrong there are moments of pure gold, but there are also whole chunks of craziness and unpredictable and unprecedented character development … if you could call it that. I missed the smart and sassy, intelligent and strong Yelena from the first book. The girl who watched and listened, gathered facts and knew when to fight and when to run is missing in this book. Instead we have a carbon copy in parts, who naturally befuddled by the new environment and her families expectations and outright dismissal and suspicions, is throwing tantrums, showing off, bossing everyone around and generally not listening to advice. One of the things I loved most about Yelena in the first book was that she was a strong and independent heroine who was more than capable of getting herself out of the various scraps she would inevitably find herself in. This book some of that charm is missing.

Another small misgiving with this book was the lack of Valek for two thirds of the book. While I understand it’s Yelena’s story, and there is no place for Valek in Sitia, I could help but crave his influence on the story (much like Yelena craved for her lover in Ixia).

One thing I will say is that I absolutely adored the moments with Janco, Ari and Valek once more. These three heroes are pure gold and they instantly pick up the moral of the story where it lags. I love their sassy humour and wicked charm. There were a number of new Sixian characters introduced too that were equally as entertaining. I for one loved Dax and his playful awareness of Yelena and everything stacking up against her. And as for Cahill, well the jury is still out on how much of a bad guy he really is. One thing is for sure with Yelena, Valek, Janco and Ari around there will never be a dull moment. Or any time to sleep either for that matter. Do these guys every get a holiday from saving everyone?

Lastly, the magical elements and developments in this book were satisfying and enjoyable. The fact that Yelena can’t master everything at once was a welcome change. Some of the names – like Moon Man etc – did seem a bit juvenile however, but being such a small thing overall I was more than happy to ignore that face. The involvement of Kiki was a bizarre, yet welcome twist too.

Despite my misgivings, will I continue with the series, Yes. One hundred percent. But I’m hoping in Fire Study and the subsequent three books after that, that Yelena sorts herself out and gets back on the same footing as book one.

To learn more about Maria V. Snyder, visit the following social media pages:

Author Website Goodreads | Harlequin Australia |

To purchase a copy of Poison Study, visit the following online retailers:

Harlequin Australia | Booktopia | Angus & Robenrtson’s Bookworld | Ibooks | Google Play | Amazon AUS | Amazon US | Kobo

 

 

REVIEW: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (Study Series Book 1)

Published:1st October 2005

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Pages: 409

Format: Paperback (Purchased)

RRP: $16.99

5/5 Stars

Choose: A quick death or slow poison …

On the eve of her execution for murder, Yelena Zaltana is offered an incredible reprieve – on the condition that she becomes the food taster for the military leader of Ixia, Commander Ambrose.

Avoiding poison is the least of her troubles, however … General Brazell, father of the man she killed, has vowed bloody revenge; she’s beginning to have feelings for her captor, Valek; and someone is plotting the downfall of the current regime.

In a desperate race against time, Yelena must learn to control the growing magical talent withinn her and master the demons of her past. The Commander’s life, the future of Ixia and all those she loves depend on it …

For years I’ve struggled to classify a particular type of book that I  love to read.  Set in similar circumstances to the Medieval Ages (one of my favourite times in history to explore), I thought at first that it was historical fiction that I adored. But I failed to find anything remotely close to the Middle Ages in historical fiction and so I sulked and still sought out ‘my type of book’. It wasn’t until discovering Poison Study some years ago that I learnt that I have a massive weakness for Fantasy, and that it is this genre that I find myself most drawn to time and time again.

As one might imagine, coming from that background, Poison Study was and still is one of my favourite types of books to read. Full of mystery and intrigue, set in a time period different to our own, and featuring amazing world building and some kick arse characters it’s a book, and series that I simply can not get enough of.

One of the things I admire most about Snyder’s writing is the way she makes you feel. Right from the books opening I was on tenterhooks with Yelena as she awaits to find out if her future includes the noose or not. I can remember feeling elated when she narrowly missed the noose (this isn’t a spoiler it happens in the first couple of pages) but I was oh-so-worried when she was reassigned as the Commander’s food taster with death-by-poison constantly hovering over her head and in her food daily. Within the space of a couple of pages I was totally and utterly invested in this strange and strong girl who defied odds at every turn. What’s more I was so caught up in Snyder’s effortless writing that within next to no time I found myself at the books end.

The one negative thing I will say, is that I felt that the romance element (not the slow burn, but the climax at the end) was kind of rushed. Having heard Snyder talk in 2016 at an event, I know this book was originally written as a stand alone and from that basis I get it. But as the series we all know and love today, I just want more from the point that we acknowledge feelings to the point that it’s all head over heels, I’ll-lay-down-and-die-for-you-Romero-and-Juliet-style.

With riveting characters, suspense and thriller aspects and a slow burn romance, there is not much this book doesn’t have. I personally adore the strength that the characters have and the world building was second to none.

Poison Study is so much more than meets the eye on first look. Here is a book that is written in simple and basic English, but it’s easy to understand and so engrossing that you don’t realise how much you’ve read until the book is finished. Thankfully for me, by the time I’d started this series, the first four books were out. I highly recommend this series for anyone who likes a bit of adventure, mystery, suspense, the odd murder and a good dash of romance. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

 

To learn more about Maria V. Snyder, visit the following social media pages:

Author Website Goodreads | Harlequin Australia |

 

To purchase a copy of Poison Study, visit the following online retailers:

Harlequin Australia | Booktopia | Angus & Robenrtson’s Bookworld | Ibooks | Google Play | Amazon AUS | Amazon US | Kobo