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Serious Moonlight, by Jenn Bennett

25 Jun

41453055

Format: e-ARC, 432 pages

Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK Children’s

Published: May 16, 2019

ISBN: 9781471180729

Genre: Romance, Teens & YA

Back cover blurb: Raised in isolation and home-schooled by her strict grandparents, the only experience Birdie has had of the outside world is through her favourite crime books.

But everything changes when she takes a summer job working the night shift at a historic Seattle hotel. There she meets Daniel Aoki, the hotel’s charismatic driver, and together they stumble upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—is secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell, and in doing so, realize that the most confounding mystery of all may just be her growing feelings for Daniel.

My review: Jenn Bennett can write swoony boys. No doubt about that. This book was a little different in that the main couple had hooked up before the story even started and it had ended weirdly, so there was an awkwardness to their subsequent meeting which felt so real. I enjoyed the mystery they were trying to solve, even though all the elements were pretty obvious to me from quite early on, the live-action Cluedo game was THE BEST, and the adults were all fabulous human beings. There is diversity, important messages for teens, and some quite sad moments. But Daniel is definitely a keeper.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 4/5

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Shadow of the Fox, by Julie Kagawa

29 Mar

36678416

Format: e-ARC, 416 pages

Publisher: Harlequin Australia, HQ YA

Published: September 23, 2018

ISBN: 9781489267368

Genre: Sci Fi & Fantasy, Teens & YA

Back cover blurb: One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.

Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.

There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.

With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.

My review: Julie Kagawa has been a bit of a hit-or-miss author for me, but I was keen to try her take on Japanese mythology after enjoying the Talon series. The prologue was incredible, but as things went on, and each chapter became more like “the journey continues…oh, and here’s another new demon to fight” without really progressing the plot with the scroll, I began to wonder why I was continuing. There is a slow-burn romance brewing, but I’m not sure I’m keen enough to bother with book two to find out if it eventuates. The ending did redeem the middle 300 pages, especially the very last scene, so I’m glad I persevered. If only there had been more Suki and Lady Satomi throughout.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 2.5/5

 

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Uncommon Type: Some Stories, by Tom Hanks

5 Mar

34377041Format: e-ARC, 416 pages

Publisher: Random House UK

Published: October 17, 2017

ISBN: 9781785151514

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

Back cover blurb: A collection of seventeen wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor.

A hectic, funny sexual affair between two best friends. A World War II veteran dealing with his emotional and physical scars. A second-rate actor plunged into sudden stardom and a whirlwind press junket. A small-town newspaper columnist with old-fashioned views of the modern world. A woman adjusting to life in a new neighborhood after her divorce. Four friends going to the moon and back in a rocket ship constructed in the backyard. A teenage surfer stumbling into his father’s secret life.

These are just some of the people and situations that Tom Hanks explores in his first work of fiction, a collection of stories that dissects, with great affection, humour, and insight, the human condition and all its foibles. The stories are linked by one thing: in each of them, a typewriter plays a part, sometimes minor, sometimes central. To many, typewriters represent a level of craftsmanship, beauty and individuality that is harder and harder to find in the modern world. In his stories, Mr Hanks gracefully reaches that typewriter-worthy level.

Known for his honesty and sensitivity as an actor, Mr Hanks brings both those characteristics to his writing. Alternatingly whimsical, moving and occasionally melancholy, Uncommon Type is a book that will delight as well as surprise his millions of fans. It also establishes him as a welcome and wonderful new voice in contemporary fiction, a voice that perceptively delves beneath the surface of friendships, families, love and normal, everyday behaviour.

My review: I love typewriters. So does Tom Hanks, so this book seemed like something right up my alley. Starting out, though, I wasn’t so sure. I really didn’t like the first couple of tales, but it did get better as it went along. Some stories had only a tenuous connection to typewriters, but the ones that mentioned them a lot were my favourites and reminded me of the old ones I used in my journalism career and at home. Hanks uses his experiences in film to flavour the stories with astronauts, WW2 soldiers, pilots, and of course actors, but the overall feel is one of nostalgia. The best of the collection are “A Special Weekend”, “Welcome to Mars”, “The Past is Important to Us” and “Steve Wong is Perfect.” This collection makes me want to get the old portable out and bang out a letter.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 3.5/5

 

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Consumed, by J.R. Ward

9 Nov

39293128Format: e-ARC, 416 pages

Publisher: Hachette Australia, Piatkus

Published: October 2, 2018

ISBN: 9780349420622

Genre: Romance

Back cover blurb: From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the popular Black Dagger Brotherhood series comes a brand-new novel about arson investigator, Anne Ashburn, who is consumed by her troubled past, her family’s scorched legacy, and her current case: chasing a deadly killer.

Anne Ashburn is a woman consumed…

By her bitter family legacy, by her scorched career as a firefighter, by her obsession with department bad-boy Danny McGuire, and by a new case that pits her against a fiery killer.

Strong-willed Anne was fearless and loved the thrill of fighting fires, pushing herself to be the best. But when one risky decision at a warehouse fire changes her life forever, Anne must reinvent not only her job, but her whole self.

Shattered and demoralized, Anne finds her new career as an arson investigator a pale substitute for the adrenaline-fueled life she left behind. She doesn’t believe she will ever feel that same all-consuming passion for her job again–until she encounters a string of suspicious fires setting her beloved city ablaze.

Danny McGuire is a premiere fireman, best in the county, but in the midst of a personal meltdown. Danny is taking risks like never before and seems to have a death wish until he teams up with Anne to find the fire starter. But Danny may be more than a distraction, and as Anne narrows in on her target, the arsonist begins to target her.

From the creator of the bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood, get ready for a new band of brothers. And a firestorm.

My review: Ward’s new series starts out okay, but with such an unlikeable heroine at its centre it was a bit of a slog to get through this first book.

Had it not been for the fact I read the prequel novellas I would find it difficult to see what Danny saw in Anne. She was very unsympathetic, and I had a hard time with her choosing to take the word of an acquaintance over Danny. She was pretty tough on her mother, too. Anne’s brother was horrible, and I also had a big problem with the idea that a fire chief could be in his thirties. Only Danny was great, and his buddies seem good guys – so far, so like the BDB. It seems Ward can write heroes really well but the women she has trouble with.

In fact, the more Ward I read, the more I am convinced she’s not a great writer. Her style is full of clichés and “gangsta lite” – instead of saying Danny lit a cigarette, Ward writes that he “got his smoke on.” Ugh. Tighter editing and removal of some of the clichés could have made this a much pacier, more enjoyable read.

I’ll probably continue with the series, but only because I know the heroes will probably be worth it.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 3.5/5

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The Sunday Girl, by Pip Drysdale

6 Sep

40694496Format: e-ARC, 336 pages

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia

Published: 1 September, 2018

ISBN: 9781925685824

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

Back cover blurb: The Girl on the Train meets Before I Go to Sleep with a dash of Bridget Jones in this chilling tale of love gone horribly wrong …

‘Some love affairs change you forever. Someone comes into your orbit and swivels you on your axis, like the wind working on a rooftop weather vane. And when they leave, as the wind always does, you are different; you have a new direction. And it’s not always north.’

Any woman who’s ever been involved with a bad, bad man and been dumped will understand what it feels like to be broken, broken-hearted and bent on revenge.

Taylor Bishop is hurt, angry and wants to destroy Angus Hollingsworth in the way he destroyed her: ‘Insidiously. Irreparably. Like a puzzle he’d slowly dissembled … stolen a couple of pieces from, and then discarded, knowing that nobody would ever be able to put it back together ever again.’

So Taylor consulted The Art of War and made a plan. Then she took the next step – one that would change her life forever.

Then things get really out of control – and The Sunday Girl becomes impossible to put down.

My review: Thoroughly enjoyed this and read almost all of it in one sitting. Taylor really was a naïve heroine, and I could see all the ways she would be tripped up long before she could, but there were also lovely twists and turns along the way that I didn’t see coming that kept me enthralled. I would have given this five stars except for the very end, which I found a bit weak. I was fully expecting another twist that didn’t come. However, this is a great debut and I will be sure to look out for this author in future. I really love the pink cover, too.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 4.5/5

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The Upside of Unrequited, by Becky Albertalli

4 Sep

31286202Format: e-ARC, 352 pages

Publisher: Penguin Random House UK Children’s

Published: 11 April, 2017

ISBN: 9780141356112

Genre: LGBTQIA, Teens & YA

Back cover blurb: “I don’t entirely understand how anyone gets a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend. It just seems like the most impossible odds. You have to have a crush on the exact right person at the exact right moment. And they have to like you back.”

What does a sixteen-year-old girl have to do to kiss a boy? Molly Peskin-Suso wishes she knew. She’s crushed on twenty-six guys…but has kissed exactly none. Her twin sister Cassie’s advice to “just go for it” and “take a risk” isn’t that helpful. It’s easy for her to say: she’s had flings with lots of girls. She’s fearless and effortlessly svelte, while Molly is introverted and what their grandma calls zaftig.

Then Cassie meets Mina, and for the first time ever, Cassie is falling in love. While Molly is happy for her twin, she can’t help but feel lonelier than ever. But Cassie and Mina are determined to end Molly’s string of unrequited crushes once and for all. They decide to set her up with Mina’s friend Will, who is ridiculously good-looking, flirty, and seems to be into Molly. Perfect, right? But as Molly spends more time with Reid, her cute, nerdy co-worker, her feelings get all kinds of complicated. Now she has to decide whether to follow everyone’s advice…or follow her own heart.

My review: The author writes authentically about what it’s like being a teen, all self-centred and constantly with crushes on unobtainable boys, but I found myself seriously disliking Molly’s twin sister. She is just horrible! I didn’t really find anything to like about Mina or Will and Max either. There is a lot of diversity, and that’s great, but this didn’t grab my interest quite the way it seems to have many other readers. I haven’t read Albertalli’s earlier book, which is apparently much better, so I will give that a try.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 4/5

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All That Is Lost Between Us, by Sara Foster

13 Jul

28517569Format: e-ARC, 368 pages

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Australia

Published: 1 February 2016

ISBN: 9781925184785

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

Back cover blurb: A mother’s worst fears. A daughter in distress. A family falling apart.

Seventeen-year-old Georgia has a secret – one that is isolating her from everyone she loves. She is desperate to tell her best friend, but Sophia is ignoring her, and she doesn’t know why. Before she can find out, Sophia is left fighting for her life after a hit and run, with Georgia a traumatised witness.

As a school psychologist, Georgia’s mother, Anya, should be used to dealing with scared adolescents. However, it’s very different when the girl who needs help is your own child. Meanwhile, Georgia’s father, Callum, is wracked with a guilt he can’t share – and when her younger brother, Zac, stumbles on an unlikely truth, the family relationships begin to implode.

Georgia’s secret is about to go viral, leaving her in terrible danger. Can the family rise above the lies they have told and fight for what matters most of all?

The lies we tell for love are the most dangerous of all.

Set against the stark, rugged beauty of England’s Lake District, All That is Lost Between Us is a timeless thriller with a modern twist.

My review: This is one of those books that makes you feel grateful your own family is not as dysfunctional as this. The characters here are all pretty awful, but at the same time very realistic. I understood the mother’s want to hover over her teenagers and her sadness at their growing apart, but at the same time she was stifling. The mystery relationship was obvious to me – I was reminded of Riley Redgate’s Seven Ways We Lie because the setup is almost identical – and the red herring side story was a little weird. Overall, just okay.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 3.5/5

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We All Begin As Strangers, by Harriet Cummings

13 Jul

34907292Format: e-ARC, 315 pages

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 26 April 2017

ISBN: 9781409169055

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

Back cover blurb: How well do you really know your neighbours?

In the small English village of Heathcote the temperatures are rising as summer sets in, as is the sense of unease. It started with small things at first – a perfume bottle being moved, a photograph left behind in someone’s house. Harmless enough. But now Anna is missing.

As the search for Anna gathers pace, suspicion grows and secrets are revealed. Surely one of the villagers can’t be responsible? But then how well do you really know what’s going on behind closed doors…

Praise for WE ALL BEGIN AS STRANGERS – a quirky, darkly atmospheric mystery:
‘Suspense, plot twists and drama make this an exciting read to the very read’ THE POOL

‘A dazzling debut…beautifully plotted, fantastically written and compellingly strange’ DAILY MAIL

My review: Really enjoyed this book told from five POVs about a village under siege from a mysterious burglar who breaks into people’s houses but often doesn’t take anything. It’s based on a true story, although one much more sinister, and reminded me a lot of the Broadchurch TV series, where everyone in the village is a suspect and vigilantes run amok. The different POVs remind us that everyone has secrets they keep from their neighbours, often for good reason. All the characters’ POVs were touching and I really felt badly for how each one was treated. A very good debut novel.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 4/5

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The Office Christmas Party, by Aimee Duffy

13 Jul

30400216Format: e-ARC, 289 pages

Publisher: HarperImpulse

Published: 24 November 2017

ISBN: 9780008197254

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

Back cover blurb: Natalie Taylor and Dean Fletcher are serial Christmas party crashers. But when they start crashing the same parties, the mittens are off!

As much as she loves Christmas, after her mother’s death, events planner Nat can’t face the jolly season anymore. So to get her festive hit she crashes everyone else’s party. It’s a sweet gig, until she meets her competition, tech empire millionaire, Dean, under the mistletoe…!

When it comes to relationships, Dean doesn’t do serious—being left at the altar will do that to a guy. So when he meets feisty Nat, the first woman in ten years to pique his interest, he’s tempted to break his one-night rule…just for the holidays!

Nat and Dean might get more than they bargained for in their stockings this Christmas!

My review: Of course I could see what was going to happen a mile off, but I still enjoyed this light, funny romance about a pair of Christmas party crashers who go from enemies to lovers. I really liked Dean’s POV, especially his relationship with his brother, and his mother was absolutely vile. Natalie was harder to like because I didn’t get the whole aversion to Christmas thing, but her banter was witty and I could easily see this as a Bridget Jones type festive film.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 4/5

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Flame in the Mist, by Renee Ahdieh

16 Mar

36348675Format: e-ARC, 400 pages

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 16 May 2016

ISBN: 9781473657977

Genre: Teens & YA

Back cover blurb: From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn, comes a sweeping, action-packed YA adventure set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan.

Mariko has always known that being a woman means she’s not in control of her own fate. But Mariko is the daughter of a prominent samurai and a cunning alchemist in her own right, and she refuses to be ignored. When she is ambushed by a group of bandits known as the Black Clan enroute to a political marriage to Minamoto Raiden – the emperor’s son – Mariko realises she has two choices: she can wait to be rescued… or she can take matters into her own hands, hunt down the clan and find the person who wants her dead.

Disguising herself as a peasant boy, Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan’s hideout and befriends their leader, the rebel ronin Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, Okami. Ranmaru and Okami warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. But as Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets that will force her to question everything she’s ever known.

My review: Firstly, I loved that this was set in feudal Japan. Ninjas! Throwing stars! Tea ceremonies! Add to that a kickass heroine, swoony boys, and magical powers, and you have a great read. I agree with other reviewers who found the names a bit tricky to keep track of, especially since some characters had multiple names, but other than that I really enjoyed this and look forward to reading the sequel. This was my first Renee Ahdieh book and I will certainly be reading her other works now.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 4/5

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