Thursday, June 29, 2017

Review: Every Last Lie

Title: Every Last Lie
Author: Mary Kubica
Publisher: 1 June 2017 Harlequin (Australia), TEEN / MIRA HQ Fiction Australis
Pages: 336 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre:  fiction, suspense, adult, contemporary, crime
My Rating: 4.5 cups

New York Times bestselling author of THE GOOD GIRL, Mary Kubica is back with another exhilarating thriller as a widow's pursuit of the truth leads her to the darkest corners of the psyche.
"The bad man, Daddy. The bad man is after us."
Clara Solberg's world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon.
Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick's death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit.
Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara's investigation and Nick's last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.

My Thoughts

“The police decided,” she says, as if the police are some all-knowing deity, as if the police never ever make mistakes. “They said it was an accident.”

It has been a goal of mine to read some Mary Kubica, noted as one of the better suspense writers in publishing. My first dabble into her writing was most rewarding. This mystery is littered with plenty of possibilities that will keep you guessing to the very end. For a tale that does not really go anywhere, Kubica writes in a way that will keep you turning the pages.

‘Everyone is sorry. So very sorry. But they’re also relieved it’s happened to me and not them.’

The story is told in alternating perspectives of Clara’s pursuit and investigation into the death of her husband and, her husband Nick and the last few months leading up to his accident. It’s riveting yet also sad to explore how grief can consume someone and totally mess with perspective to the extent that reality and fiction can become mixed. Being a new mother in itself and facing lack of sleep, unable to properly function, many can relate to alone. Mix into that, loss of a spouse at such a critical time and the ability to function would be almost certainly insurmountable.

‘I wish that they would put a Band-Aid on it so that we could all go home.’

This is an entertaining read that travels along at an easy pace with a somewhat, unexpected ending. This is a tale that needs to be slowly swallowed and savoured as it’s about the characters themselves, rather than the action. Clara is emotionally distraught in trying to ascertain the truth, and that accounts for unexpected questions in her search for answers. The way Kubica delves into her thought processes is uncanny and you are swept along this trail of speculation and supposition. Even with Nick, you will begin to feel disbelief, confusion, sympathy, pity and frustration, just to name a few. The dual narrative most definitely helped to build up the tension and backstory offering  a real sense of suspense.

Kubica builds the tension gradually as Clara slowly unravels the crumbs of clues. Don’t enter into this read expecting high paced action or unreadable plot twists. This is a work of slowly peeling away the ‘onion layers’ to reveal precisely what transpired in the weeks preceding Nick’s death and how circumstances collided together to present an unmitigating fallout.

Who killed Nick, or did Nick kill Nick?

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Review: A Different Blue

Title: A Different Blue
Author: Amy Harmon
Publisher: 30 May 2017 by Spencer Hill Press
Pages: 330 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: young adult, romance contemporary
My Rating: 5 cups


Blue Echohawk doesn't know who she is. She doesn't know her real name or when she was born. Abandoned at two and raised by a drifter, she didn't attend school until she was ten years old. At nineteen, when most kids her age are attending college or moving on with life, she is just a senior in high school. With no mother, no father, no faith, and no future, Blue Echohawk is a difficult student, to say the least. Tough, hard, and overtly sexy, she is the complete opposite of the young British teacher who decides he is up for the challenge, and takes the troublemaker under his wing.

This is the story of a nobody who becomes somebody. It is the story of an unlikely friendship, where hope fosters healing and redemption becomes love. But falling in love can be hard when you don't know who you are. Falling in love with someone who knows exactly who they are and exactly why they can't love you back might be impossible.

My Thoughts

‘What we believe affects our choices, our actions, and subsequently, our lives.’

Having read Amy’s previous books (though of a different genre - ‘The Bird and the Sword Chronicles’) I was intrigued to try something of hers that was not fantasy.  I went in with no real expectations, except knowing Amy to be a talented author, and in the end, was blown away by, ‘A Different Blue’. Amy Harmon can most certainly write, and this little book is really quite extraordinary in making you a part of Blue’s journey.

‘My life, my history, would be laid out before me like a movie script . . . complete with crime scenes and character descriptions. And like a movie script, none of it seemed real.’

This tale slowly and subtly creeps up on you, until you cannot put it down until complete. The power lies in it’s quiet reflections and intricately weaved sublayers. So many lessons here to learn from and move on from. Blue is a wonderful leading character with so many complexities that you cannot help but feel her hurt and pain. Then there is Wilson, this extraordinary caregiver, putting her first all the way through. The synopsis does not begin to convey the power of this book and I am so glad I went into this trusting the storytelling gifts of Amy.

‘My heart pounded in my throat and my mind screamed at me, demanding I catalog every detail of the event I had dreamed about but never dared hope for.’

Let me make it very clear, romance is not the sole focus here. This is a story about a girl and her journey of self discovery - literally and figuratively. Yes, Wilson (our leading man) assists with that but he is a guiding hand in what remains a story about Blue. Their relationship is a slow burn so as not to be drawn away from other key elements and the slow and steady evolution of their relationship is all the more rich for the gradual growth and understanding.

‘Why don’t you focus on where you’re going and less on where you come from?’

Then there is the symbolism which is infiltrated throughout, with again subtle ties to Native American legends, woven both perfectly and poignantly. Often reading like a history lesson, there is much to love and appreciate here.

Amy Harmon's writing is beautiful and lyrical and this book holds such depth and soul, sorrow and pain, hope and humour, with moments that will simply steal your heart away. Do yourself a favour and go read some Amy Harmon. You won’t be disappointed.

‘Who we are is made up of the little choices, the little acts, the little moments that comprise our lives, day after day.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Review: Along Country Roads

Title: Along Country Roads
Author: Mandy Magro
Publisher: 22 May 2017 by Harlequin (Australia), Teen/Mira
Pages: 320 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, romance
My Rating: 3 cups


Can love ever be enough to heal two damaged souls?

On the run from her troubled past in a stolen four-wheel drive, Matilda Denver seeks the sanctuary of sleepy Moonstone Valley where she hopes to heal and make a fresh start. But her plans go awry when the vehicle breaks down and she's stranded at the side of a deserted country road.

Ryan Hunter, after working himself into the ground at his interstate truck-driving job since his sister's death, is making his last run before a well-earned month off. On the last stretch home, he happens across a beautiful woman and scraggy dog hitchhiking. It's not long before he connects Matilda's bruises to her past and what she's on the run from. He instinctively wants to protect Matilda and offers her a place to stay at Heartsong Hills.

Although both battling their own demons, they start to discover how much they have in common – and soon they're also battling the strong desire to fall hard for one another. But when Ryan tries to help by organising for the four-wheel drive to be fixed, he unwittingly gives away Matilda's location and her life may be on the line. Can Ryan find her before it's too late?

My Thoughts

Having read Mandy’s previous book, I was looking forward to another escape to the country. All the right ingredients are there for an enjoyable escape as Mandy portrays real characters facing real issues, thus ensuring that the reader is always engaged. There is a bit of background mystery to our two main leads in this tale which helps to build the tension. Add to the mix a sincere and swoon worthy male lead, a female looking to break free and some wonderful secondary characters, even including the stray dog Huckleberry, and what you have here is some great escapism.

‘They were both too broken to be anything other than friends.’

On a serious note, this is a heartbreaking look at the trauma of domestic violence to all of those involved. Nothing is left unturned here as an authentic portrayal of perpetrator, victim and victim’s family are all given credence in this tale. I also appreciated the inclusion of a look at anxiety and how it can inhibit individuals to a staggering degree. I believe Mandy uses this medium to take the opportunity to present serious issues in today’s society and, especially concerning the anxiety attacks some useful strategies, and I applaud her for that.

‘It was a terrible illness and people often shunned those who experienced it because they didn’t understand it. But given the right tools, panic attacks were something to never fear again.’

Unfortunately this one did not quite hit the mark for me, despite the commendable stance taken on some relevant issues. Even though you know what you are getting in for in picking up these lovely rural romances, I found this one to be somewhat cliched. The ‘insta-love’ in the first few hours of meeting was sadly unbelievable for me, as were a few coincidental outcomes.

‘She couldn’t help but admire Ryan’s depth—she’d never met a man quite like him.’
I would still read Mandy again as her detailed Aussie outback locations are always inviting. Combine that with her efforts to always bring a different slant to the usual formulaic approaches on this genre, and one is always assured of some fruitful time spent reading.

‘You read much?’ ‘Whenever I can. It’s my way of shutting off from the world for a while.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Review: The Heart of Malice

Title: The Heart of Malice
Author: Lisa Edmonds
Publisher: June 13th 2017 by City Owl Press
Pages: 381 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
My Rating: 4 cups


The first time Moses Murphy’s granddaughter killed on his orders, she was six years old.

For twenty years, she was a prisoner of an organized crime syndicate, forced to use her magic to make Moses the most powerful and feared man on the East Coast. To escape his cruelty, she faked her own death and started a new life as Alice Worth. As a private investigator specializing in cases involving the supernatural, Alice walks a precarious line between atoning for the sins of her grandfather’s cabal and keeping her true identity hidden. Hired to investigate the disappearance of a mysterious object of power, Alice enlists the help of Malcolm, a ghost running from a past as nightmarish as her own. It soon becomes clear the missing object was taken by someone with a dangerous secret and an unknown agenda. When her client is kidnapped, Alice must find her and the object of power before a vengeful killer destroys the city and slaughters thousands—starting with Alice.

My Thoughts:
Heart of Malice is the first book in the 'Alice Worth' series by the debuting author Lisa Edmonds and she really kicks this series off in great style! It is Urban Fantasy at its best; with fast paced action, humour and magic bursting off the page from the very first chapter.

Nice car,” I remarked as we approached it.

“Thanks,” he said, and punched me.

I felt him tense up and managed to turn a fraction of a second before he swung, so his massive fist connected with my side instead of my stomach.

Pain exploded in my ribs. I gasped and hit Scott’s chest with both hands. Magic flared, and he flew backward into the side of the restaurant, leaving a man-sized crater in the brick wall. He landed in a crouch with a snarl, his eyes blazing bright red.
For 5 years, Alice Worth has been in hiding from her grandfather Moses Murphy, a powerful and vicious Cabal leader. After fleeing her horrifying imprisonment, Alice fakes her own death, changes her identity and tries her best to keep under the radar of the Cabals and the Supernatural and Paranormal Entity Management Agency while working as an MPI (Mage Private Investigator). Alice is a mage of great power; however, remains scarred physically and emotionally by the horrors she experienced at the hands of the East Coast Cabal, and her aura is tainted by the blood magic she was forced to perform. Alice is a kick ass MPI with a sassy mouth and a tough, take-no-prisoners attitude but her trust issues confine her to a lonely, isolated existence. That is, until Malcolm, a ghost with unusual gifts and a terrible past of his own, becomes mysteriously bound to her. When Alice takes on a case to find an magical object her client believes to be missing from their library, she and her new side-kick, Malcolm, embark on a terrifying series of twists and turns. Their torturous journey leads them to a crazed killer who plans to destroy everything in their path. Added to the craziness is an alpha werewolf, Sean, who lets Alice be the person she needs to be while reigning in his inherently protective nature; as well as a crafty, manipulative vampire with a hidden agenda, and a SPEMA agent who follows the hints and blood trails to her door. I am a big fan of the Urban Fantasy genre with its imaginative world building and exciting story-lines and I feel that Heart of Malice fits the mould beautifully. There is a lot to love about this book as it really has something for everyone! Lots of action, some very cool magic, some fun romance (and a little bit of sexy-time), laughs, and great secondary characters. I feel that Lisa Edmonds is going to be someone to watch closely in the future, and I can't wait to see what else she has up her sleeve! Overall, Heart of Malice is a well written, entertaining story and I am very much looking forward to seeing where this series goes.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Review: The Woolgrower's Companion

Title: The Woolgrower’s Companion
Author: Joy Rhoades
Publisher: 8 June 2017 Random House UK, Vintage Publishing Chatto & Windus
Pages: 320 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre:  historical fiction, Australia
My Rating: 4 cups

Kate Dowd’s mother raised her to be a lady but she must put away her white gloves and pearls to help save her family’s sheep farm in New South Wales.
It is 1945, the war drags bitterly on and it feels like the rains will never come again. All the local, able-bodied young men, including the husband Kate barely knows, have enlisted and Kate’s father is struggling with his debts and his wounds from the Great War. He borrows recklessly from the bank and enlists two Italian prisoners of war to live and work on the station.
With their own scars and their defiance, the POWs Luca and Vittorio offer an apparent threat to Kate and Daisy, the family’s young Aboriginal maid. But danger comes from surprising corners and Kate finds herself more drawn to Luca than afraid of him.
Scorned bank managers, snobbish neighbours and distant husbands expect Kate to fail and give up her home but over the course of a dry, desperate year she finds within herself reserves of strength and rebellion that she could never have expected.
The Woolgrower’s Companion is the gripping story of one woman’s fight to save her home and a passionate tribute to Australia’s landscape and its people.

My Thoughts

A detailed and well written account of life on the land at the conclusion of WWII in Australia. Times are tough, the drought goes on and personal circumstances make life for Kate a challenge to say the least.

‘You were right, you know,’ Meg called. ‘Sheilas have to be brave every bloody day. Men just need it in bursts, the bastards.’

I enjoyed how each chapter title included a quote from, ‘The Woolgrower’s Companion’; and how the author tried to tie in the text to events that were to immediately unfold. Aside from an interesting narrative, there are many topical issues fictionalised which made for interesting reading.

Firstly there are the Australian Aborigines and the ‘Stolen Generation’ - the whole racism issue and the way society treated, especially young Aboriginal girls, in these circumstances is well handled I feel. There is also the anxiety Kate faces concerning her father’s behaviour. Twofold here as on the one hand he faces PTSD from his time in the war and the loss of his wife, followed by what would appear to be the onset of dementia. A traumatic time for all involved, and once again I feel that the author realistically portrayed both the anguish for family and the great sadness for this largely non prescribed disease of the 1940s. I appreciated also how the book presented the strict social codes of the time with regards to Kate and her relationships with everyone from her father, to absent husband, to Aboriginal maid, to even her dealings with the bank manager. Kate’s struggle to evolve in these various roles is again authentic and gently portrayed. Finally we have the addition of Italian POWs brought to Australia to work on outback stations. Shipped from POW camps for labour on these farms, is a fact I was not familiar with and found most interesting.

A little slow at times and with characters needing a little more depth (for example it would have been good to have alternate narrators and not just Kate - what of her father? husband? Luca?) to truly feel engaged with these sad circumstances. However, the author has done her research, even down to all the Australian slang, making this a recommended read should this time period appeal to you.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Review: Seven Days in May

Title: Seven Days in May
Author: Kim Izzo
Publisher: 2 May 2017 by Harper 360
Pages: 356 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, historical fiction, world war I
My Rating: 5 cups


For readers of Kate Williams, Beatriz Williams and Jennifer Robson, a captivating novel of love and resilience during the Great War, inspired by the author’s family history.

As the First World War rages in continental Europe, two New York heiresses, Sydney and Brooke Sinclair, are due to set sail for England. Brooke is engaged to marry impoverished aristocrat Edward Thorpe-Tracey, the future Lord Northbrook, in the wedding of the social calendar. Sydney has other adventures in mind; she is drawn to the burgeoning suffragette movement, which is a constant source of embarrassment to her proper sister. As international tempers flare, the German embassy releases a warning that any ships making the Atlantic crossing are at risk. Undaunted, Sydney and Brooke board the Lusitania for the seven-day voyage with Edward, not knowing that disaster lies ahead.

In London, Isabel Nelson, a young woman grateful to have escaped her blemished reputation in Oxford, has found employment at the British Admiralty in the mysterious Room 40. While she begins as a secretary, it isn’t long before her skills in codes and cyphers are called on, and she learns a devastating truth and the true cost of war.

As the days of the voyage pass, these four lives collide in a struggle for survival as the Lusitania meets its deadly fate.

My Thoughts

This book was such an unexpected surprise - I was enthralled from cover to cover. It incorporated so much and so well, that I found each and every aspect engaging - and there are many. This is what historical fiction is all about - transporting you to another time and place, and on this occasion, from war torn London to the deck of a ship doomed for tragedy.

‘... received anonymous telegrams warning them not to sail on the Lusitania because “she was doomed,” the implication being the great ship was going to be torpedoed.’

Firstly you have the tale of the Lusitania. I consider myself a fairly well read historian but the light Izzo sheds on some facts here is heart-rending. Firstly let’s just consider how well she has written to take such an established story (we all know the ship is doomed) and make it into a page turning travesty. The sinking of the ship is so vivid, in fact quite graphic, that images from James Cameron’s ‘Titanic’ immediately spring to mind. And knowing that it’s all true, is gut wrenching: of the 1959 passengers who sailed that fateful day, only 764 survived, of 33 babies on board only 6 survived. Some of the conspiracy theories are raised, the main one focussing around, “Does Churchill want the Germans to target a neutral ship just to get the Americans to join the war?”

‘Churchill would use it to lure the Americans into the conflict. Somehow in Isabel’s mind she thought that if she intercepted a message at the right time then she could prevent tragedy. What was the purpose of breaking codes if they couldn’t be used to save lives?’

Secondly there is the role of women during this period of time. Everything from women’s political rights, to reproductive rights, to Isabel and her working rights in the light of an extra-matrimonial affair. Isabel is such an interesting character and her role in ‘Room 40’ - the top secret office set on breaking through codes for the British Admiralty office - and her quest and concern is honourable to the very end.

‘Ever since she had transcribed the ship’s name on the target list she felt responsible for it.’

Then there is the fall of the English aristocracy and the investment of American dollars to keep them afloat. What were people prepared to do for their manor or a title? The high-life of American heiresses and stories of the rich and famous, that would eventually go down with the ship, are recounted here. Izzo gives you  a true indication of the stark contrasts between how the rich compared to steerage passengers fared in the first few days of this luxury liner sailing.

‘Her sister belonged in a world that was fading from fashion only she was too immersed in it to see it. The European penchant for titles and class was on the edge of collapse; the war was going to see to that.’

‘He was caught between ideology and tradition, needs and wants, morality and duty. His honesty, however, was not for sale.’

Overall what you have here is a rich historical tale of two really strong female leads who are intelligent and inspirational in many ways. The writing is so engaging - I can smell the cigarette smoke in Room 40 and feel the sea breeze aboard the Lusitania - Izzo does it so well. The depth of research and integration with fiction is truly commendable - it’s real and authentic through and through. The alternating tale between what happens on board ship, with real time what happens behind the scenes at Whitehall and the Admiralty is engrossing. The final scenes of the torpedo and sinking of the ship are indeed harrowing and gut wrenching.  

“The Lusitania ... not only are they the most luxurious and safest transatlantic passenger liners in the world, they also have the capacity to become the fastest and most powerful armed cruisers in the war, should the need arise.”

I couldn't put this book down and highly recommend it to all lovers of historical fiction.

“We need to forget what happened and move on. We had seven wonderful days together ... let that be enough.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Review: Jewel In The North

Title: Jewel In The North (Flinders Ranges Series #3)
Author: Tricia Stringer
Publisher: 24 April 2017 Harlequin (Australia), TEEN / MIRA
Pages: 488 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre:  historical fiction
My Rating: 4 cups


Jewel in the North: A longstanding feud of land and love, a family torn apart and a quest for the ultimate prize…
A breathtaking historical family saga of love, death and forgiveness and a quest for the Jewel in the North
1895 The Flinders Ranges are a beautiful but harsh landscape as Joseph Baker, a pastoralist in that unforgiving environment, knows all too well. For three generations his family have farmed the land, married and had children at their property at Wildu Creek, but now, struggling with hostility from the local community for his choice of wife, Joseph finds himself fighting to save not just his friends and family but his very existence.
His son William has his own battles to fight: not only the drought that takes over the land but his own despair, as he faces rejection from the woman he loves. Meanwhile, a ruthless enemy will stop at nothing to take from William what he considers to be his. Could the vicious and cunning Charles Wiltshire be his nemesis? Or does another man, in a quest for the Jewel of the North, hold the key to his destruction?
As the First World War looms on the horizon, two men struggle to survive both the elements and each other on a quest to find that they hold dear — but only one will have the courage to stand strong.
The deeply satisfying conclusion to the bestselling Flinders Ranges series.

My Thoughts

This was the final instalment in a  three generational saga, titled ‘Flinders Ranges Series’ by Tricia Stringer. Each of the three novels can be read as a stand-alone book, with each instalment providing it’s own storyline in relation to the time period. Some characters carry over, especially seeing as this was the final book of the trilogy; however, there is no real confusion (I had not read the preceding two books).

This book alone was a wonderful indepth look at society at the turn of the century in Australia, set against the backdrop of the rugged outback - a harsh and often cruel country, especially during times of drought. Life on the land was hard and this is a first hand account of what it might have been like to live during such a pioneering time.

Moving from the late 1800s through the turn of the century, the history teacher in me particularly enjoyed the Federation celebrations. With the focus on two main families - the Bakers and the Wiltshires - this is family drama at it’s finest: love and loss, joy and grief played out amongst these two feuding families over the years. It was I feel,  a realistic portrayal of life on the land and the hardships they endured in their struggle for survival. You got a real sense of community in the outback and what life at the time may have been like.

That being said, there is quite an array of characters (given it spans over three books/generations) and each is given their voice - so you must be concentrating on the various relationships and understandings. Probably the most difficult thing I found was the time jumps - there did not appear to be ‘rhyme or reason’ to the chapter/dates provided. I found this a little disconcerting that a month, then maybe six months or longer may have passed by. I could not comprehend the significance of these dates and often large jumps in time.

Anyway, if you are looking to lose yourself back to the time of Australia becoming a nation and a genuine reflection of what life had been like, with the love and losses for those involved, then Tricia Stringers trilogy is for you.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release