Tuesday, 24 January 2017

THE GIRL BEFORE by JP Delaney

Everything that is yours, was once hers . . .

Enter the world of One Folgate Street and discover perfection . . . but can you pay the price?
Jane stumbles on the rental opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to live in a beautiful ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect, on condition she abides by a long list of exacting rules. After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there - and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before.

As twist after twist catches the reader off guard, Emma's past and Jane's present become inexorably entwined in this tense, page-turning portrayal of psychological obsession.


This is a book I've been looking forward to reading since I heard about it. Firstly, because it sounded intriguing. Secondly, because I love a good thriller. And lastly, because I'm a sucker for thrillers with the word Girl in the title. 

One Folgate Street is a house like no other. Clutter is forbidden. There are no light switches, bookshelves, or door handles. Even the staircase doesn't have handrails. It's all straight lines, efficient, clean and clear surfaces, plus high-tech everything.

To rent this minimalist's dream means filling out a very thorough, bizarre questionnaire. It also means agreeing to an insane amount of rules about living conditions, and meeting the eccentric architect. Not to mention letting him into your life.

Emma and Jane are two very different women with similar physical attributes, and they both live in this house at different times. But both of them will end up facing similar creepy and very dangerous circumstances...

Wow. This book is intoxicating. As soon as I started reading, I didn't want to put it down.

Told in the alternating POVs of Then and Now, the separate lives of Emma and Jane unfold as they each lose themselves to a house that might help minimize material possessions, but does nothing for mind clutter. In fact, it makes it worse. Not to mention the dangerous sensual games they play, and what they lead to. I also thought that peppering the book with some of the bizarre questionnaire questions was clever.

The characters in this story are all amazing in their own messed-up way. Everyone has issues of their own. They are flawed people with dark problems, quirks and pasts filled with tragedy, sadness, manipulation and obsession. The amount of toxicity and fixations between these people is huge. It's so easy to love and hate them at the same time. The house itself is also a character. Sometimes the minimalist surroundings are the perfect living space and make even the reader comfortable. Other times it becomes a cold, unreliable claustrophobic nightmare that seems to turn against the resident.

I also liked how the story explores the varying degrees of control. Ranging from the need to control others, your environment, their surroundings, habits and especially oneself. Not to mention how different people react when someone tries to force control on them. It all adds to the tense atmosphere of this very original and interesting story.

The Girl Before is an addictive, fast paced, page-turner that keeps the psychological tension going from start to finish. It's twisted. It's screwed up. It's sensual. It's sad. And sometimes, it's downright creepy. And the mystery at the heart of the story is so well written that it kept me guessing to the very end. Even when I thought I knew exactly what was going on, it spun everything around and caught me by surprise.

Thank you Hachette Australia for sending me a copy of this awesome book. It might only be the beginning of the year, but I agree, this is definitely going to make many Best Of 2017 lists.


The Girl Before, February 2017, ISBN 9781786480286, Quercus

Monday, 23 January 2017

Raising Some Progress


Remember this beautiful cover? The always awesome Kanaxa made it, and it's absolutely perfect. So perfect for the book that I was devastated when I thought it wasn't going to make it to publication.

But, that's changed now.

This book is the second Elsewhere book. It's also the last book in the duology. The original release date was supposed to be late last year, but then Samhain Publishing closed down. So I got the rights back. When the publisher opened again, I decided to sign a new contract for this book. 

You might be wondering, why? Why did I re-sign with Samhain after everything that happened? Well, after some thought and chatting with hubby about it, it just made sense for THIS book--as I said above, the last installment in a duology, and technically the last book in the Sierra Fox world--to be published in the one place.

So, RAISING SOME HELL has been added to the 2017 New Release schedule. Yay.

I'm really excited.

I actually spent the last two weeks working on the first round of content edits, and it's been nice to return to this book after a longer than expected hiatus. Though I have to admit, it was hard work because my editor, Laura, spotted a bunch of things that needed to be fixed. Nothing huge, but cosmetic things that totally made sense. Not to mention that after such a long time, I found quite a few things I wanted to fix myself. :)

It's amazing what a difference distance makes. I was very critical about every word. But you know what? It's awesome, because after the extensive work, the book is going to end up being SO MUCH better.

So, what's this book about?

It's Willow's book. If you've read the Sierra Fox series, you'll know who she is. ;) This book takes place five years after the first Elsewhere book.

So, there you have it. This is not only the first project I'm focusing on in 2017, but also some cool news.

I'll post the blurb soon...

Saturday, 21 January 2017

BONE GAP by Laura Ruby


18806240
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

O.M.G. This book, it is awesome!

Last weekend, I started two books. By mid-week, I'd lost interest in both of them. So I grabbed my Paperwhite and started this one. I'd heard great things about it and was intrigued by the blurb.

And I was hooked instantly.

Bone Gap is a strange place, and the people who live there are a peculiar bunch. But when the mysterious Roza arrives, they're all smitten. Especially the O'Sullivan brothers. Two hardworking boys--Sean and Finn--who were abandoned by their flighty mother. When Roza disappears and Finn can't provide an accurate description of the man who took her, it changes everything.

But Finn refuses to forget about her, he's sure Roza is out there, and is determined to find her...

That barely describes the true scope of this beautiful story. The small town is vivid, yet strange. The people are strange, yet intriguing. The story is intriguing and wonderful.

I loved the characters. Finn is a pretty boy, but everyone thinks he's weird. Roza is a beautiful girl everyone underestimates. Sean is a gentle giant who gave up a dream to become his brother's guardian. Petey is a smart, determined girl, but all everyone sees is that she's not pretty. And the all the animals--cats, horse, goat, dogs, bees chickens--are wonderful.

The fantastical element is both magical and dark. Mythology gets all twisted up with real life and obsession and kidnapping and fantasy. It's a truly amazing mix that makes this book a very special experience.

I loved the odd and quirky qualities. I loved how it explores what people really notice about others. Some only see the surface, others go deeper, while most make assumptions. But mostly, I loved how everything is balanced so well. This is storytelling at its best: great writing, unforgettable characters, vivid locations.

This book is a keeper!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Let's Talk Planners


For the last few years, I've been using Darth Vader Moleskines.

This is my first Moleskine, which was an 18-month (2014-15) planner:

 

This is my 2016, 12-month planner:


I wasn't kidding when I said I used Darth Vader planners. LOL.

But this year, although I'm still using a 12-month Week To One Page Opposite a Blank Page planner, I've now switched to Peanuts:


I love this format, it's perfect for me because I can record everything on the weekly display page on the left, and then take more detailed notes on the right. I love it!

Now I'm looking forward to filling up this year's Moleskine with as much detail, stickers, updates and washi tape as last year's.

What about you? Are planners something you actually use?

Happy planning!

Saturday, 14 January 2017

HER MOTHER'S SECRET by Natasha Lester

A sweeping story of love and ambition from England to the Manhattan of the 1920s and 1940s by the author of A KISS FROM MR FITZGERALD 

1918, England. Armistice Day should bring peace into Leonora's life. Rather than secretly making cosmetics in her father's chemist shop to sell to army nurses such as Joan, her adventurous Australian friend, Leo hopes to now display her wares openly. Instead, Spanish flu arrives in the village, claiming her father's life. Determined to start over, she boards a ship to New York City. On the way she meets debonair department store heir Everett Forsyth . . . In Manhattan, Leo works hard to make her cosmetics dream come true, but she's a woman alone with a small salary and a society that deems make-up scandalous. 

1949, New York City. Everett's daughter, Alice, a promising ballerina, receives a mysterious letter inviting her to star in a series of advertisements for a cosmetics line. If she accepts she will be immortalized like dancers such as Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Ginger Rogers. Why, then, are her parents so quick to forbid it? 

HER MOTHER'S SECRET is the story of a brave young woman chasing a dream in the face of society's disapproval.


Last year I read an amazing historical romance called A KISS FROM MR FITZGERALD by Natasha Lester. So I was very excited when I received this ARC.

Leonora East is a simple girl living in a small English village. She works in her father's chemist shop and loves experimenting with cosmetics, which she sells to army nurses and hopes to one day sell openly. Leo also loves spending time with her friend, Joan--an Australian nurse--and looking after her father.

When the war is over, everyone's rejoicing and keen to get back to living normal lives. But the Spanish influenza has other ideas, and when it hits Leo's village it devastates her personally. That's when she decides to embark on an ambitious adventure and moves to New York City.

But on the way, during a weather delay, Leo meets the dashing Everett Forsyth and he sweeps her off her feet. What she thought would be one fantastic night she would fondly remember, turns into the event that changes her life forever. Because suddenly, Everett is everywhere. 

They travel in the same social circles and asociate with the same people, so she can't get away from him and certainly can't be with him. So she throws herself into her work. Leo makes good friends and several enemies, finds a wealthy benefactor, and suffers the long-term consequences of a very hard life decision...

Oh my. This story is SO good! *sigh*

Wow. How do I capture the true scope of this book? I don't think words can really express how deeply this story grabbed me and then dragged me through the many ups and downs, until I was an emotional wreck.

I loved Leo instantly. She's kind and smart and ambitious and beautiful. She fills the pages with excitement and happiness and so much hope, even despair. No matter what, she never forgets who she is or what she wishes to achieve. And Everett. Wow. What an awesome and dashing hero. An honorable man who sacrifices his own happiness to help others. 

The supportive characters are also awesome. From the strong Jia, to the talented Lottie and the fresh-faced Alice. As well as the awful Faye and the conniving Mattie. And Ben, the man with his own dreams and the many fears holding him back.

Yeah, I absolutely LOVED this book. And found the cosmetics revolution absolutely intriguing. Not to mention the determination of these strong, yet different women seeking their wildest dreams during a time when the world was trying to keep them in 'their place'.

Her Mother's Secret is the lavish, inspiring, adventurous, sad story of an ambitious woman determined to chase her dreams in a glitzy city promising so much more. It's also a wonderful, yet heartbreaking love story that spans decades and proves true love never dies. And the amazing way that Natasha Lester captures the feel of this exciting historical era, is perfect!

I enjoyed every moment of this roller-coaster of emotions. Can't wait to see what other thrilling stories this wonderful author has to tell.


Her Mother's Secret, March 2017, ISBN 9780733634659, Hachette Australia

Friday, 13 January 2017

Some Kind of Goals


Well. It looks like 2017 is in full swing. I know that it (technically) started a few weeks ago, but I don't think it's ever too late to talk about goals.

I've said this before and I'll say it again: I don't do New Year's resolutions. The word resolution sounds so bogus to me, and everyone forgets about them by the end of January. So, I make goals. I do that all the time, not just at the beginning of the year.

Anyway. Friday the 13th seems like a good time to post my plans.

These are the things I would like to achieve this year:

  • Get back into regular yoga workouts
  • Continue my daily walks 
  • Aim to write more than 110k words
  • Complete the editing process for RAISING SOME HELL (Elsewhere #2)
  • Celebrate the release of RAISING SOME HELL during first half of the year
  • Complete the editing process for TYING THE KNOT (Sierra Fox #5.5)
  • Celebrate the release for TYING THE KNOT during second half of the year
  • Be super excited & proud & happy to have ALL my Sierra Fox World stories published in the one place (Samhain Publishing)
  • Revise, finalise & sub my 2016 YA NaNoWriMo novel (by end of year)
  • Write at least 6 short stories & sub a few to professional markets
  • Write at least two novels (first drafts)
  • Write at least two novellas (first drafts)
  • Continue to sub my 80's YA novel
  • Take part in NaNoWriMo
  • Read 100 books
  • Catch up on a bunch of TV shows we've fallen behind on

There you have it! There's my list of goals for 2017. It's a more ambitious list than last year, but I'm determined to try as hard as I can to achieve these goals.

Actually, I spent this week working on round 1 edits for RAISING SOME HELL and I'm halfway through. I intend to finish it next week. *fingers crossed*

I go out of my way to walk around the river every morning. And because it's summer, hubby and I have been going on evening walks. Now we just need to squeeze yoga in there somewhere...

Do you make yearly goals?

Friday, 6 January 2017

WE COME APART by Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan

We Come Apart
Jess would never have looked twice at Nicu if her friends hadn't left her in the lurch. Nicu is all big eyes and ill-fitting clothes, eager as a puppy, even when they're picking up litter in the park for community service. He's so not her type. Appearances matter to Jess. She's got a lot to hide. 

 Nicu thinks Jess is beautiful. His dad brought Nicu and his mum here for a better life, but now all they talk about is going back home to find Nicu a wife. The last thing Nicu wants is to get married. He wants to get educated, do better, stay here in England. But his dad's fists are the most powerful force in Nicu's life, and in the end, he'll have to do what his dad wants. 

 As Nicu and Jess get closer, their secrets come to the surface like bruises. The only safe place they have is with each other. But they can't be together, forever, and stay safe – can they?


Late last year I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this beautiful ARC, and I was really looking forward to reading it.

Jess is a troubled girl with an awful homelife she wants to escape. Nicu is an immigrant with a homelife that keeps him trapped in the past. Their circumstances may be different, but they still lead to the same place: community service.

When they meet, Jess doesn't want to get involved with the strange and quiet Nicu. She doesn't care about anything, and certainly doesn't trust anyone, but she's drawn to him. Nicu just wants people to give him a chance, to get  to know him and see beyond his accent. When Jess does, Nicu starts to believe that maybe--just maybe--he might be able to find his place in this new country.

Once their worlds collide, the circumstances start to escalate and they soon realise there might only be one thing left for them to do...

OMG. *cries*

I grabbed this book on Friday night with the intention of getting a feel for the characters... and before I knew it, I'd read 200 pages. I was hooked instantly, and couldn't put the book down.

This story is told in verse and alternates between Jess's snarky voice and Nicu's hopeful broken English voice. Although their hardships originate from very different family situations, these two kids weren't that different. Jess is trying to escape a pattern of violence she's known for most of her life, while Nicu is trying to escape the shadow of tradition that refuses to leave his family.

Getting caught up in a cycle of violence and trying to keep it hidden is hard. Being an immigrant and trying to overcome prejudice is hard. But what's even harder is being brave and strong enough to become friends in spite of it. And that's what I loved the most about these two very flawed, misunderstood kids.

We Come Apart is a heartbreaking, emotional and beautiful book that filled me with hope and at the same time tore me apart. I was totally caught up in the story and by the time I reached the last half of the book, I raced to the end. And, that ending! OMG. :(

This is such an amazing story with a very deep message. A message that is really important nowadays because tolerance, empathy and understanding is something the world needs more than ever.

Do yourself a favour and read this excellent book!

 


We Come Apart, March 2017, ISBN 9781408878866, Bloomsbury Childrens

 
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