Thursday, October 28, 2021

Review: The Keeper of Night

Title: The Keeper of Night

Author: Kylie Lee Baker

Publisher: 27th October 2021 by Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA

Pages: 381 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: fantasy, young adult, historical fiction

My Rating: 4 crowns


Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death… only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.

My Thoughts

‘The hush of leaves in the wind was a thousand formless whispers, both in my ear and a hundred miles away. Ocean waves sighed over our feet and shattered like glass. Even the air resonated with the heavy faraway hum of a bell toll. The underworld felt alive in a way that that living world never did.’

The Keeper of Night is the first book in a historical fantasy duology by debut author Kylie Lee Baker. It is a thrilling, vivid and engrossing young adult novel built upon the history of Japanese folklore. This story has embodied pages of detail, aesthetic prose and incorporates many themes and ideas that make you pause,  put down the book for a second to consider and contemplate.

Ren Scarborough is the protagonist of this entrancing historical fantasy novel. She is half British Reaper and half Japanese Shinigami and introduces us to an incredible world of time, death, urban legends and so much more. This is a fantastical story incorporating various elements of Japanese folklore, for example, Shinigami (death spirits) and Yomi (the Underworld). It also touches on topics such as race, identity, acceptance, neglect and bullying which are always important to issues to both address and discuss.


The Keeper of Night is such a promising first book as it brings a fresh approach to YA fantasy with its unique world building, magic and strong characterisation. Kylie Lee has captured feelings that may appear harsh but are memorably tied together with a battle between power and hope. I look forward to seeing where she will take Ren’s character in the next. 

‘For every time we stopped the clock, we could hear a distant ticking that grew louder as the stolen moments passed, reminding us that one day, no matter how much we tried to steal back, Death would come for us.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Review: How Decent Folk Behave

Title: How Decent Folk Behave

Author: Maxine Beneba Clarke

Publisher: 27th October 2021 by Hachette Australia

Pages: 182 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: poetry

My Rating: 4 cups


A vibrant, thought-provoking collection from the ABIA and Indie award-winning author of The Hate Race and Carrying the World.

we are all just one small disaster

away from sinking, 

and sometimes you only realise

when you're gasping for air

On a daylight street in Minneapolis Minnesota, a Black man is asphyxiated - by callous knee of an officer, by cruel might of state, and under crushing weight of colony. In Melbourne the body of another woman has been found - this time, after catching a late tram home.

The Atlantic has run out of the English alphabet, when christening hurricanes this season. The earth is on fire - from the redwoods of California, to Australia's east coast. The sea draws back, and tsunamis lash out in Samoa and Sumatra. Water rises in Sulawesi and Nagasaki. Bloated cod are surfacing, all along the Murray Darling.

The virus arrives, and the virus thrives. Authorities seal the public housing towers up, and truck in one cop to every five residents. Notre Dame is ablaze - the cathedral spire blackened, and teetering.

Out in Biloela, the deportation vans have arrived. Every Friday, in cities all across the world, children are walking out of school. The wolves are circling. The wolves are circling.

These poems speak of the world that is, and sing for a world that may one day be.

My Thoughts

WOW! This one powerful book … small in size but packs a real punch! Poetry can convey what is sometimes difficult to express. Maxine through her eloquent prose has captured the thoughts and feelings, hopes and fears that many of us have been confronted with over these past few somewhat traumatic times.

The monsters are out

And the women of melbourne,

We’re leaving early again:

Sending are you home? Texts glancing

Over shivering shoulders keeping

Friends on the line until

They key’s in the lock

Who is Maxine?

Maxine Beneba Clarke is an Australian writer of short fiction, non-fiction and poetry and has been published in numerous publications. Her critically acclaimed short fiction collection, Foreign Soil won the ABIA for Literary Fiction Book of the Year 2015 and the 2015 Indie Book Award for Debut Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Matt Richell Award for New Writing at the 2015 ABIAs and the 2015 Stella Prize. She was also named as one of the Sydney Morning Herald's Best Young Novelists for 2015. Maxine has published three poetry collections and has just released this new collection, ‘How Decent Folk Behave’

How Decent Folk Behave is an extraordinary collection of poetry on wide ranging topics. From floods and fires, racial violence, violence against women, #metoo, #blacklivesmatter and, of course, the pandemic. Maxine manages to cleverly capture the many challenges of what many of us have been feeling over recent times. I wanted to read this book as I feel that the language of poetry would succinctly capture these plethora of emotions the world is witnessing. 

For a moment, we forgot the pandemic

And the floods, and the shootings

And the blasts, forgot to wonder

Where next month’s rent

Would be coming from

And the whole world stood

And watched, in awe

Who is Maxine? 

A literary phenomenon. She takes these matters and uses her words to be both confronting and consoling, to be honest yet inspirational in this rare yet pure form of storytelling. She is angry, she is proud … she is a powerhouse in this literary genre. In her own words:

‘How Decent Folk Behave allowed me to write on the things that have permeated our consciousness over the last few years. To me, poetry is also a hopeful, joyful space. In a busy world, poetry can be a long ‘tapping out’ of the world around us, or else can be read at leisure, in stops and starts, filling the gaps between living with something profound, or funny, or nostalgic, soul-stirring. It provides a moment off the treadmill – to stop and reflect, and listen.’

Sometimes a handout is a hand up,

That’s that thing

And it’s never you

It’s never you,

Until it is

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Review: The Fossil Hunter

Title: The Fossil Hunter
Author: Tea Cooper

Publisher: 27th October 2021 by Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA

Pages: 384 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: historical fiction, mystery 

My Rating: 5 cups


A fossil discovered at London's Natural History Museum leads one woman back in time to nineteenth century Australia and a world of scientific discovery and dark secrets in this compelling historical mystery.

Wollombi, The Hunter Valley 1847

The last thing Mellie Vale remembers before the fever takes her is running through the bush as a monster chases her - but no one believes her story. In a bid to curb Mellie's overactive imagination, her benefactors send her to visit a family friend, Anthea Winstanley. Anthea is an amateur palaeontologist with a dream. She is convinced she will one day find proof the great sea dragons - the ichthyosaur and the plesiosaur - swam in the vast inland sea that millions of years ago covered her property at Bow Wow Gorge, and soon Mellie shares that dream for she loves fossil hunting too...


When Penelope Jane Martindale arrives home from the battlefields of World War 1 with the intention of making her peace with her father and commemorating the death of her two younger brothers in the trenches, her reception is not as she had hoped. Looking for distraction, she finds a connection between a fossil at London's Natural History museum and her brothers which leads her to Bow Wow Gorge. But the gorge has a sinister reputation - 70 years ago people disappeared. So when PJ uncovers some unexpected remains, it seems as if the past is reaching into the present and she becomes determined to discover what really happened all that time ago...

My Thoughts

‘In this moment she recognised that her curiosity about the past - this house, Bow Wow Gorge, its fossils and Anthea Winstanley - had become a consuming passion. Who was the elusive woman and what had made her leave this place?’

A new Australian historical fiction book by Tea Cooper is reason to celebrate as she guarantees great escapism. I have enjoyed all of Tea’s previous works as they have proven to be consistently engaging and masterfully crafted tales of mystery and intrigue. 

In her latest offering, The Fossil Hunter, Tea provides the perfect blend of fact and fiction in a riveting historical mystery. Giving her readers a dual narrative timeline set in the years 1847 and 1919, Tea has cleverly placed both people and incidents that let her readers gather all the clues to place together for a satisfying conclusion. 

‘You have to be patient. You can look, and look, and see nothing and then the next moment the very thing you’ve been searching for is right in front of your eyes, where it has sat forever. It’s a lot like life.’

I fully appreciated how the mysteries of the past lent beautifully into the present timeline of discovery. I felt the themes ranging from folklore to scientific discoveries, or bullying and PTSD were sensitively presented by Tea. Along with unique characters and family secrets, Tea included such fascinating information on fossil collecting and interesting scientific revelations. 

‘Only at Bow Wow, beneath the dense canopy of the trees, did Anthea truly find peace, the place where the layers of life reached back to the beginning of time, before a single human had walked the land, before the earth solidified. From the towering sandstone cliffs to the meandering creek, which over millions of years had carved a narrow winding gorge, the landscape had slowly revealed its secrets.’

Tea is to be congratulated for presenting such an engaging and comprehensive tale. The settings both in England and Australia are authentic, particularly with the incorporation of real life events such as the fossil discoveries in Lyme Regis in England. It is the everyday cultural feel, from traipsing down Bow Wow Gorge in the Hunter Valley, to visiting the Natural Museum in London that Tea effortlessly includes the reader so seamlessly into her riveting tale.

Congratulations Tea on once again proving your prose is up there with the best. From strong protagonists, to family drama and mystery, to the breathtaking vistas of the bush - I highly recommend the tale that is, The Fossil Hunter.

‘PJ took one last look at the dappled gorge and, tucking the fossil in her pocket, left behind the fascinating secrets of Bow Wow Gorge, regret prickling her skin.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Review: The Hush

Title: The Hush
Author: Sara Foster

Publisher: 27th October 2021 by HarperCollins Australia

Pages: 368 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: thriller, mystery, science fiction, dystopia

My Rating: 4.5 cups


A multigenerational, female-led thriller, and a terrifying conspiracy that goes right to the heart of the British Government.

Six months ago, in an English hospital, a healthy baby wouldn’t take a breath at birth. Since then there have been more tragedies, and now the country is in turmoil. The government is clamping down on people’s freedoms. The prime minister has passed new laws granting authorities sweeping powers to monitor all citizens. And young pregnant women have started going missing.

As a midwife, Emma is determined to be there for those who need her. But when her seventeen-year-old daughter Lainey finds herself in trouble, this dangerous new world becomes very real, and both women face impossible choices. The one person who might help is Emma’s estranged mother Geraldine, but reaching out to her will put them all in jeopardy …

The Hush is a new breed of near-future thriller, an unflinching look at a society close to tipping point and a story for our times, highlighting the power of female friendship through a dynamic group of women determined to triumph against the odds.

My Thoughts

‘Now, it’s more like I want the world to change. I feel sadness and frustration rather than fiery outrage when I consider what’s happening, watching humanity repeating the same flawed patterns over and over.’

Sara Foster does it again with The Hush!  This is a fabulous futuristic dystopian thriller, set in a time not long after the pandemic of COVID-19. She has produced such a clever plot with credible twists and turns that can easily be considered as a result of our current world predicament - something we would not have contemplated two years ago. 

‘It’s been clear for a while that the government would like to have more control on the rate of reproduction - and that’s not just here, it’s happening the world over, now there’s so much more stress on supplies and resources, and the planet is in such a precarious and unpredictable state.’

Sara has cleverly included realistic threads that make her story quite believable. There is a cast of solid characters and as they range from adolescent to grandparents, this book is sure to appeal to a wide ranging audience. As outlined in the synopsis, this is a multigenerational, female-led story with women who are strong, resilient and courageous. It is wonderful to have such strong female leads all prepared to take on a society that has lost its way. 

There are a range of themes from adolescent and family issues, right up to senior government conspiracies and crucial environmental world issues. What Sara presents in this post-pandemic world, is a society with a government that has slowly mandated new laws in ‘community safety and well-being’ but is very much ‘big brother’ watching and monitoring you. Sara offers both a thoughtful and thought provoking scenario. 

‘Listen, you might have been able to march like that a year ago, but it's not a good idea anymore. There are too many crises hitting us all at once. The government is determined to crack down on demonstrations. It’s a different world now than it was five or ten years ago.’

The Hush is certain to be the book people will be talking about in the last few months of this year and for quite some time. Women working together in a fast paced dystopian thriller that, scarily, would appear to be not that too far removed from our current reality. Highly recommend this book to readers who are partial to quality writing on creditable themes. 

‘The system that supports you can also be used to control you, Emma. Don’t ever forget that, will you.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Review: Outback Secrets

Title: Outback Secrets
Author: Rachael Johns

Publisher: 27th October 2021 by Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA

Pages: 380 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: romance, Australia, women’s fiction

My Rating: 5 cups


Keeping secrets comes naturally to him ... but will it ruin his chance at love?

Liam Castle knows the secrets of everyone in Bunyip Bay. As the owner of the pub, he's heard it all - from marriage proposals and farming disasters to family rifts and everything in between. The locals love to confide in him, but no one knows he's hiding a tragic past.

And he wants to keep it that way.

Agricultural pilot Henrietta Forward lives for her job, choosing work over romance. But when an incident in the air brings Henri home to Bunyip Bay earlier than planned, she finds herself questioning everything she believes about herself.

But Henri's secret isn't her only problem.

Her mother will stop at nothing to have her settled down back in the Bay, and while Henri had always known domesticity wasn't the life for her, now she wonders what her future holds. So when Liam - always the first to lend a hand to those in need - agrees to play along with Henri's scheme to ward off her mother, she has mixed feelings. What happens when a pretend romance starts to feel like the real thing?

Will Henri's demons and Liam's traumatic past prove too great a barrier to love?

My Thoughts

Ahh … Rachael … you had us with your take on the good ol’ cuppa ….

‘Tilley all but collapsed into a seat next to Henri and sighed when her mum poured the tea and placed a china cup in front of her. ‘Ah, there’s just something about tea that soothes the soul,’ she said as she lifted the cup to take a sip.’

Along with a soothing cuppa there is much else to be praised for Outback Secrets. It is the fifth book in the Bunyip Bay series by Aussie author Rachael Johns - I have not read the others and had no problem easily reading this as a standalone. Bunyip Bay (fictional) on the west coast of Australia is certainly a place I would want to visit as Rachael made it sound picturesque and the town itself full of interesting characters. 

‘She stood in the doorway frozen, feeling like she was lingering between two worlds and she didn’t want to be in either of them.’

I really enjoyed this book. Rachael’s books are like a big cosy blanket that allows you to have all the feels by getting lost in a great story. What she does best is capture the heart of outback Australia with her down to earth writing style and characters that are engaging and relatable. On this occasion the two leads, Henri and Liam, have fabulous character arcs with the back story that each of them bring, really providing that extra layer of depth and engagement. The cast of secondary characters are fabulous with a bit shout out to Rex on his bar stool!

‘… life isn’t a Danielle Steel novel. It just doesn’t work that way for everyone, and I don’t want to sacrifice who I am to get it.’

Outback Secrets takes you into small town living with its family dramas and some hot romance. Yet, kudos to Rachael for really bringing her ‘A’ game to this story with the inclusion of themes such as family pressures, bereavement, the problem of keeping secrets and learning to face life’s challenges. This book is a definite read for all of Rachael’s many fans and indeed anyone who needs a breath of fresh outback air and is looking for a romantic getaway to brilliant Bunyip Bay!

‘Next year she’d make sure she was as far away as possible. Timbuktu was looking good.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.