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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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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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

 

REVIEW: The Long Paddock by Alissa Callen

Published: 23rd January 2017

Publisher: Harlequin Australia

Pages: 352

Format: Ebook courtesy of the publisher & netgalley

RRP: $29.99 (paperback)/ $9.99 (Ebook)

5/5 Stars

A captivating love story about community and second chances.

Country-girl Cressida Knight fills her days with her farm, a mischievous pet bull called Reggie and her volunteer emergency services work. The busier she keeps, the less she thinks about the cowboy who left her behind. She’s convinced the small-town Woodlea grapevine that she’s moved on, but now it’s time to move on for real. 

Champion bull rider Denham Rigby shares Cressy’s deep love for the land and all he’s ever wanted was to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Cressy through life. But three years ago a dark family secret left him no choice but to run. Now family duty gives him no choice but to return to the bush.

What Denham hasn’t come home to do is to hurt Cressy by rekindling their relationship. He’s nothing but a liability and the beautiful, self-reliant cowgirl has to stay off limits. But when faced with Cressy’s desperation to save her drought-stricken farm, he can’t keep his distance. He joins her out droving on the long paddock. Then when Woodlea is hit by more than just rodeo fever, they are further thrown together and Denham loses the battle to lock down his emotions.

But has he left it too late to stop running? And will the woman he’s always loved be prepared to risk her heart for a second time?

Set in the heart of Australia,The Long Paddock is the story of Cressida ‘Cressy’ Knight and Denham Rigby, two neighbouring farmers who have shared more than the odd drought season together. Fighting unresolved chemistry and feelings for one another, the pair are put through their paces time and time again as life in the country throws everything it has at them. What ensures is a book of remarkable character, strength and heart. One I couldn’t put down.

Giving a voice to some pretty serious, and often taboo / rarely spoken about topics, Callen doesn’t shy from representing all aspects of rural life in Australia, nor from revealing the often fatal and unfortunate toll our beautiful sunburnt country can and does sometime inflict on its inhabits. Each of her characters reflect various attitudes and standpoints of Australia, and in fact most small towns, that its often hard to look away. These characters and the situations/conflicts they endure, could easily be anyone of us. It’s heartbreaking, but incredible to witness and seeks to remind us all of what we stand to loose if we do not act.

Callen absolutely nails the Australian dialect in this book, so much so that you can totally hear the characters talking to each other as you read the book. When you combine this with her vivid imagery and larger than life characters, it’s no wonder the book swept me away.

I know I’ve mentioned it a lot lately, but this book is the King of slow burns. When the book opens we already know that Cressy and Denham have had a romantic past, but we don’t know the reasons for why they aren’t together now; a point of intrigue and conflict since it’s clearly evident to the reader that they were made for each other. Throughout the course of the novel we get to glimpse both characters heartaches and longings as they learn to navigate the hardships that life continues to throws at them. Both characters grow exponentially throughout the course of the novel because of this, and the fragile relationship they build together is not only a beautiful sight to behold, but one of the most magical and honest thing one can hope to witness.

The Long Paddock is a delightful and inspiring rural novel that hits all the right boxes: an alpha male and he’s equally stubborn childhood sweet heart, a rather cheeky bull with a carrot addiction, a cattle dog with swinging loyalties and bucket loads of mystery, small town gossip and a good dash of romance thrown in as well. More importantly though, The Long Paddock has so much heart and soul that it is sure to grip the reader until the very last page. Perhaps, if you are like me, even longer than that!!

So far 2017 has been a top notch reading year for me personally, and this latest addition from Aussie Author Alissa Callen is no exception. Full of mystery and intrigue and a good dash of romance, it’s the kind of book that is going to demand the readers attention and never let them go. Dealing with some heavier topics – alcoholism, mental illness, suicide and drought – it’s the kind of book that I find myself often returning too for it is unmatched in heart and soul. It’s brilliant and one page turner that you won’t want to miss this Summer.

 

To purchase a copy of The Long Paddock, visit the following online retailers:

Booktopia | Harlequin Australia | Dymocks | ibooks Australia | Amazon AUS | Amazon US | Google Books | Kobo |

 

To learn more about Alissa Callen, visit the following social media sites:

Author Website | Goodreads | FacebookHarlequin Australia |

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REVIEW: Family Forest by Kim Kane and Illustrated by Lucia Masciullo

Published: 1st June 2010

Publisher: Hardie Grant Books

Pages: 32

Format: Paperback picture book (purchased)

RRP: $16.99

5/5 Stars

While some kids have a family tree, we have a family forest! Do you have half-sisters, big brothers, step-parents? The modern family comes in all shapes and sizes. This gentle and witty picture book looks at one such family.

Family Forest is an ingenious little picture book explaining the somewhat complex nature of non-nuclear/blended families.

Using humour and some amazing illustrations by Lucia Masciullo, Family Forest seeks to explain and clarify what all the different terms in a blended family mean and to illustrate that these non-traditional/nuclear confirming families are not only perfectly normal, but are happy and whole in their own way.

Kim Lane utilises simple and easy to understand language to explain the concept of what a half-sister/big-brother/step-mum/partner is through everyday terms and easy to comprehend objects.

Eliza is my HALF-sister.

No! She has a right leg!

And a right arm too!

By combining use of humour in Lane’s narrative and Masciullo’s hilarious and witty illustrations, the importance of family and the family forest narrative is not only fun and unique, but it’s brought to life in the most incredible, fun filled way.

Masciullo’s full page illustrations are a bit quirky and loveable, meaning that the reader can find something new on the page with almost every read and I absolutely loved the reworking of the family tree angle to a family forest. Not only is it an amazing concept, but visually is works so well!

Family Forest is the perfect book for anyone trying to explain their family dynamics and relations to a young child. It’s quirky in design and visual appeal and is sure to be a book that young children reach for time and time again just because they can.

 

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

Hardie Grant Egmont | Booktopia | Amazon US | Dymocks | Angus & Robertson’s Bookworld

 

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REVIEW: This Love by Lea Darragh

Published: 15th September 2016

Publisher: Escape Publishing

Pages: 180

Format: Ebook courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley

RRP: $4.99

3/5 Stars

Forgiveness can be hard—even when it’s the only way to save your life.

When Emmy’s fiancé, Ethan, is killed by a speeding driver on the way to their wedding, she is devastated beyond words. Numb and confused, she withdraws from the world.

Eighteen months later, Emmy has settled herself into the coastal town of Cobbler’s Cove. With satisfying work in a new restaurant, a quiet home by the sea, and friends who pick her up when grief comes back to haunt her, she’s finally daring to dream of a bright future.

That is, until she meets Jack Archer—a worldly chef who draws people to the restaurant. Emmy and Jack have mutual friends and a common goal, but their history could tear them both apart.

When Emmy finds herself falling for Jack, she begins to question her love for Ethan. She’s tortured by the past and scared of the future. Does she have the strength to forgive and move on?

This Love by Lea Darragh is a book I’m in two minds about. On one hand I really loved aspects of the book and was deeply moved by the emotions encountered and those it stirred up in myself, and on the other hand I’m left a little bit dizzy by the pace of the book and the quick flip encountered that kind of leaves me feeling like I just read two joined books at once.

Let me start by saying this is NOT a happy go lucky book. In fact it couldn’t be further from that. The heroine is mentally and emotionally scarred almost to the point of no return for part of the narrative. But it does offer hope and lessons in love. Although a relative quick read, I’m not entirely sure this book will be for everyone, or suitable as a summer beach read. For some it will bring back all too real emotions, for others it will bog them down in the first half of the books weighty guilt and despair, but for those brave enough to continue on with the narrative, they will witness a small slice of life – the good and the bad – and be rewarded with a HEA that suits both the characters and the story.

One aspects that I adored about this book was the simple fact that the two leads face perhaps the biggest hurdle life can throw at you: the death of a loved one and a death caused by your own hand, no matter how deliberate it may or may not have been. The hero and heroine are on two very different, and at times opposing, journeys  to overcome life and death consequences, grief and learning to move past the blanket of grief and despair that is wrapped tightly around their shoulders. They need to learn to trust themselves again and how to open oneself back up to the possibility of love – to fell worthy and capable of love. For the first time in longer than I can recall the characters in this book face a conflict bigger and more powerful that the stubbornness of ones personality or a simple misunderstanding/miscommunication and lack of courage to ask an underlying questions. It’s a book about the pain in your heart and the grief that swallows you whole. In this regard, it’s one of the most honest and raw books I’ve read in a long time.

As mentioned above, the aspect that confuses me most about this book – and has me constantly flipping my feelings on it – is the two very different but connected stories fit within the one narrative. There is the pain and the grief of the novel’s start, and then the overwhelming love and physical attraction and intense romance of the second part of the book. For me, where this became a problem was the pacing where these two aspects connected. I was still in mourning with Emmy, and then it was like she flicked a switch and was a totally different person pursuing Jack and ranching up the book. This is a very personal observation, but for me, I think I would have preferred a slower, but just as intimate relationship between Emmy and Jack. I didn’t need the door to be so open on their physical manifest of their mutual attraction. I didn’t need the sex to believe them, and while I have no problem reading erotic narratives, it just felt rushed and out of place here.

The biggest and perhaps the most powerful message this book does portray however is the strength of the human spirit and heart to overcome even the darkest and most bleak moments of our lives, especially when surrounded by great friends. More importantly however is the timely reminder that the heart wants what the heart wants; we don’t get to choose who we love or when we love, or why.  It’s a powerful message and one this book does deliver in spades.

 

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

Escape Publishing | Amazon AUSAmazon US | Barnes & Noble | Booktopia | Ibooks | Google Books

 

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