Thursday 30 November 2017

HARDCORE 24 by Janet Evanovich

Headless bodies have started appearing across town in Trenton, New Jersey. At first, it's just corpses from a funeral home and the morgue that have had the heads removed. Then a homeless man is murdered and dumped behind a church. Stephanie Plum knows that she's the only one with a prayer of catching this killer. 

If that's not enough, Diesel's back in town. The six-foot-tall, blond-haired hunk accepts no limits - that includes locked doors, closed windows and underwear. Trenton's hottest cop, Joe Morelli, isn't pleased at his arrival, nor is Ranger, the high-powered security consultant with his own plans for Stephanie. 

Jersey's favourite bounty hunter is stuck in the middle with more questions than answers. Who is behind the startling epidemic of mutilated corpses? And is the enigmatic Diesel's sudden appearance a coincidence or the cause of recent deadly events?

Reading the next Stephanie Plum book always feels like catching up with old friends. It also never gets old. 

Headless bodies are turning up all over Trenton, and Stephanie's (kinda) boyfriend Morelli is on the case. Stephanie has cases of her own--a grave robber, a former skip who's come back to town, a professional protestor, and anyone else Connie can throw her way. But with a hungry wayward snake to deal with, zombies hiding in the woods, and the reappearance of the enigmatic Diesel, the problems keep piling up.

And if all of this isn't enough, Grandma Mazur has a new squeeze who lives in Florida. Plus Lula's convinced she's somehow psychically connected to zombies... 

Just when you think Janet Evanovich can't come up with a new way to torment Stephanie & Co, she raises the stakes. Not just in the danger level, but also the hilarious situations and fresh/familiar characters thrown into the mix. This is what keeps the series exciting even after this many books! Not to mention that she tapped into the ever-popular zombie genre in a very streetwise way, and you gotta love that.

The love complications are tripled in this book because Diesel magically appears, ready to turn her life upside down with his mysterious ways. As if dealing with her sort-of relationship with Morelli, and the never-ending temptation Ranger constantly provides wasn't enough. LMAO.

The storyline with Grandma Mazur was outrageously fun. I like that she's so tech-savvy she managed to find a potential boyfriend online. And now we have a new doggy to add to the cast. Can't wait to see what adventures Grandma & Henry get up to.

Hardcore 24 is another super fun addition to this very AWESOME series. The mystery was intriguing, and seriously freaky. The gnome thing had me in stitches, the snake thing was peculiar, and Lula never fails to make me smile.

I'll never get tired of these characters. I'll never get tired of the hilarity. I never want Stephanie to choose one guy. And I'll always (always) LOL while reading these books because Janet Evanovich has a way of hooking me in every single time. :)

Bring on the next one!

Hardcore 24, November 2017, ISBN 9781472245915, Headline Review


The Princess Diarist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had this on my Paperwhite for several months, but just wasn't ready to read it. Not so soon after Carrie Fisher passed away. I needed a bit of time. With the next Star Wars movie coming out soon, I finally felt ready.

I loved this book.

It's such a lovely, bittersweet and often melancholy book narrated in a very real and honest way. That was something I always liked about Carrie Fisher, she said what she wanted no matter what. Of course now it's obvious that her headspace was one often filled with way too many thoughts, and most were very critical of herself.

Her account of the time she spent filming the original Star Wars is overshadowed by her affair with Harrison Ford. It doesn't matter which way you look at it, this older man totally took advantage of a much younger girl. I got the impression that he assumed too much about her because of how friendly, talkative and open she was. I also realise it was very much consensual because she got swept away by this handsome older man who wanted to spend time with her... but he should've known better. I'm not excusing Carrie for partaking in this affair, and she seemed to suffer quite a bit as a result, but he clearly crossed several lines he shouldn't have.

I found the actual pages (and poems) from the diary she kept at nineteen to be especially sad. She was obviously mixed up, concerned and quick to blame herself. It was also very clear that she fell in love with Harrison and he clearly didn't.

The bit about the signings, for me, was the weakest part if the book but still made me laugh. Love how she teases her fans, but at the same time loves their tenacity.

I also liked the pictures added throughout. My favourite is the one right at the end of the book. That Leia shot is perfect and captures everything that makes Princess Leia the iconic character she became.

I'm really glad I read this book.

Monday 27 November 2017


The Start of Me and You
It's been a year since it happened-when Paige Hancock's first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school. . .and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her-the perfect way to convince everyone she's back to normal. Next: Join a club-simple, it's high school after all. But when Ryan's sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

The cover for this book is very pretty, and the blurb sounded interesting, so I was looking forward to checking this out.

When Paige lost her boyfriend, she became the girl who everyone looked at with pity. Actually, even after a year of shutting herself out of her own life, some people still look at her like that. Not her friends, though. They've been there every step of the way, and she's grateful. But now that the new school year is starting, she's decided it's time to set some goals and jump back into life.

That includes dating, but will it be with the guy she's had a crush on forever, or has someone else captured her heart? Someone totally unexpected...

Well, this was such a wonderful book. An awesome character study about how everyone deals with loss and grief differently, and how pushing yourself never gets you anywhere.

I loved how Paige's vulnerability was balanced out by the strength she didn't even realise she had. As well as how her need to move on without ever forgetting the pain of loss, conflicted with her desire to not be treated/looked at with pity. I think this roller-coaster of moods and emotions was captured perfectly. 

She's a girl who doesn't want to be defined by a tragedy she couldn't control. Yet at the same time feels guilty for wanting to get on with her life. I also liked how it explored the very real consequence of being in a relatively short relationship--she was with Aaron a few months--but getting stuck in an endless cycle of mourning. And not just of her own making, because most of it was from other people.

Such delicate and heartbreaking issues were dealt with in a very real and raw way, without sugarcoating.

Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was how friendships were portrayed. Not just the strong female bonds of her friend group--which was awesome--but also about meeting new people, and starting/keeping friendships with boys. While also sometimes slipping into more without even realising it.

I really liked her grandmother! She was awesome and cute, even with the very serious medical condition she was suffering. :,(

The emails at the end were a cool addition. :)

The Start of Me and You is a beautiful, unconventional love story with a lot of sad moments and plenty of emotional baggage. It's also addictive, funny and even cosy. The pop culture references were cool, and Paige's voice was so interesting I couldn't put the book down.

Yeah, I really enjoyed this book. It was amazing, how easily I slipped from happy vibes to super sad, and then felt super comfy again in a matter of chapters.

(PS. The title is really clever because of how meticulous Paige is about grammar. 😁)

The Start of Me and You, November 2017, ISBN 9781408888377, Bloomsbury Children's Books

Saturday 25 November 2017

MOXIE by Jennifer Mathieu

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her high school teachers who think the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules. 

Viv's mum was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the '90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother's past and creates Moxie, a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She's just blowing off steam, but other girls respond and spread the Moxie message. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realises that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution. 


This is another book I've had on my TBR pile that I was really excited about. When I started reading it the other day, I didn't want to put it down.

Vivian Carter's a good, quiet girl who never speaks out. In East Rockport High, that's the best way to be because everyone knows that the school is run by the rowdy boys in the football team. No matter how much their sexist comments and actions anger her, she doesn't stir trouble. After all, even the faculty lets these jerks get away with doing and saying whatever the hell they want.

But Viv's had enough of the biased dress code, the disgusting T-shirts, of the groping games, and the filthy comments. 

Inspired by her mother's feminist past and their joint love for girl punk rock bands, she decides to start an anonymous zine she calls Moxie. And when Moxie starts to gain interest from other girls and the message sweeps through the school, Viv starts to realise she's started a revolution. But will everything that's going on get in the way of her need to be good and stay under the radar? Maybe it will even get in the way of her interest in the new boy in school...

This book is revolutionary and totally awesome!

Every girl needs to read this. I'm serious, grab a copy right now because you won't regret it. You also won't be able to fight the sense of pride and sisterhood this book makes you feel. Remember that feeling you got when you started watching Wonder Woman and first spotted the Amazons in Themyscira? Yep. That's what I'm talking about.

No matter how old you are, this story will sweep you away and have you nodding and cheering the characters on. Every. Step. Of. The. Way.

Viv was badass. Lucy was tough. Their friends were very cool, and real. The joint strength and loyalty they all display was fantastic. It's always great to read a story about girls who don't see each other as competition, but as equals. The competition thing is such a ridiculous habit to slip into because like the Moxie zine says, it's a tool of division the patriarchy has created to control and keep women 'in their place'.

I despise that saying. It disgusts me, always has. But I loved the way it was dealt with here.

I also really liked Seth. He was such a kind and gentle soul who tries so hard to understand Viv's experience. I loved them together, too. The fact a feminist girl who wants to support and empower other girls also wants to enjoy time with her boyfriend is tackled very well. I've always hated that bullshit about feminists hating boys/men. That's another fabrication meant to belittle our sense of belonging.

As far as the school, the assholes, and the faculty supporting and covering up all of this, they made my blood boil. Trying to hold girls responsible for how some boys behave badly and letting them run riot because they can play sport is such a pathetic excuse. I say: Fuck that! There are so many women's teams performing WAY better than men's, but they don't get the proper attention or as much money.

BTW, that's another thing that's dealt with in this brilliant book with the girls soccer team.

I also LOVED the actual Moxie zine pages added throughout the book. Not only was it an awesome addition to an already fantastic book, it also gives the reader a chance to share in the fun!

MOXIE is a feminist gem with a very powerful message wrapped up in an inspiring story. It might start out as the story of one girl in one high school, but it quickly becomes the very familiar story of every girl in every school and beyond.

I seriously LOVED this book so much I want to hug it. And you know what? I'm gonna go and draw some hearts and stars on my hands right now. 😊


Moxie, September 2017, ISBN 9781444940633, Hodder Children's Books

Friday 24 November 2017

NaNoWriMo: Week Four


The fourth week is almost over. We're hitting the bottom end of November, and December is just around the corner. 

So how's your NaNo novel going?

As I mentioned in my post earlier this week, I validated my NaNoWriMo WIP on Tuesday. Then I took Wednesday off to read Peter Pan. On Thursday I read Beauty and the Beast, grabbed the random scrap pieces of paper & sticky notes I collected while writing my WIP, and added all the relevant info to my notebook. Oh, and I started a Revision List.

I even re-read one of my short stories and ended up revising it! I only meant to read the beginning on my Kindle, but got so caught up I kept going. LOL. I'm thinking about subbing this one.

Anyway, here's this week's w/c:
  • Monday: 53,144 (added 1419w) 
  • Tuesday: 53,623 (added 479w) 

So the final word count ended up being 53k, which I'm really happy with. I'm seriously excited about this first draft because although there's plenty of heartbreak and a bittersweet ending, this story makes me very happy. It captured something I'd envisioned in a way I thought would only work inside my head but translated very well outside of it too. 

Of course, this happiness could just be because I'm still in that fully-in-love-with-my-own-book stupor. 😊

Today I made the short story changes to the Word doc, updated all my inspirational pics, got a bit of housework done, and sat down to read for a bit. I was originally going to watch a movie but my head's too scrambled to concentrate on a screen and TBH, more and more, I find reading the most appealing way to unwind. (No surprise there.)

Well, that's it for this week's update. I'm looking forward to spending the weekend with hubby

Have an awesome one!

Thursday 23 November 2017


Beauty and the Beast

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a fan of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. It's one of those stories that has been told over and over again, so I decided to read this version.

When Beauty's father takes a rose to give to his youngest daughter, a Beast comes out of nowhere and demands the merchant send his daughter to him. Of course the merchant doesn't want to because he loves his child. But unlike her sisters, Beauty is willing to do whatever it takes to help her father and goes to the hideous Beast willingly. And because her heart is in the right place, she sees beyond the outer shell and into the very heart of the Beast...

So romantic, right?

I was surprised at how short this story was and expected it to be rushed, but it really wasn't. Although it is short and gets to each point very quickly, it still felt right.

This is just one of those stories that while being told/read seems like it's missing too many details but, when you think about it afterwards, everything totally fits and becomes SO MUCH more in your mind.

Even as I write this and recall how quickly Beauty falls for the Beast and vice versa, it feels real. Love at first sight might be a trope people dislike these days*, but it doesn't mean it can't be a beautiful way to tell a story. And I think it totally works here.

The differences between this one and the Disney version are many--the bookish love, the sisters, the villain, the circumstances, the household servants, the rose--but the essence of the story is there. This will always be a love story about seeing past the way someone looks, and about two strangers finding safety in each other. Not to mention that Beauty is kind-hearted, devoted to her father, and willing to get to know the Beast no matter what he looks like.

Yeah, there's a nice moral to this story.

It might not be the most detailed tale. It might seem rushed in some places. But the heart of what makes Beauty and the Beast a timeless classic we'll continue to retell, and one of my favourites, is still right there.

* Personally, I have no problem with love at first sight and insta-love. 😀

Wednesday 22 November 2017

PETER PAN by J.M. Barrie

Peter Pan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I decided to read this book because although I've grown up reading/watching stories featuring Peter Pan, I'd never actually read the original.

So I picked up a free copy for my Kindle yesterday and got stuck into it.

We all know the story of Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up. We know about Neverland and Tinker Bell and the Lost Boys and Hook, etc. But, did we know that Peter is a cocky jerk? Did we know that Tinker Bell is an evil shit? What about that Wendy appears like a smart girl but lets this asshole kid boss her around and treat her like crap? Maybe. Maybe not. The thing is that Peter is a disgusting turd. I had zero sympathy for this manipulative egomaniac. He's obnoxious, a user, a poser, a liar, and just such a JERK!

Ugh. He sucks. All he cares about is himself. He talks about himself like he's the best thing ever. Ugh again.

Still, it wasn't all bad. I actually (kinda) enjoyed some very cool things about this story:

· whimsical storytelling.
· the shadow thing.
· mothers sorting through their children's daily thoughts while they sleep.
· a dog nanny.
· the stars and moon watching over everyone.
· some very cool imagery.
· that kids are portrayed as 'innocent and heartless'. (I kid you not!)
· the ticking crocodile.
· Hook.

These things are what kept me reading. They're the reason I got swept away. They were very cool elements and the way the story was told was addictive.

BUT! There were some really weak things that totally pissed me off:

· Peter Pan, the asshole.
· stealing a child under the guise of being interested in her only to turn her into the mother of a bunch of kids. (I mean, seriously, WT actual F?)
· Tinker Bell, the asshole.
· the redskin thing. *shudders*
· the way girls are portrayed.
· the obvious hatred of mothers. O_o
· Mr. Darling is such a crybaby!
· the weak way the action scenes were written.


This is a story that I both loved and hated at the same time. The good things were SO GOOD. The bad things were SO BAD. And the ending was annoying as hell. I think the first half of the book was a lot more magical than the last half, and that was disappointing.

Still, I'm glad I finally read it. :)

Tuesday 21 November 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 is done!

Yesterday, I validated my novel...


As I mentioned on Friday, I technically finished the first draft of my latest WIP then. BUT, during the weekend I made a small list of stuff that needed to be added before (really) calling it done.

That's what I did on Monday + Tuesday. And when that was all taken care of, I scrambled my novel and validated it on the NaNo website.

I'm super excited about completing another novel during NaNoWriMo. 😊

Here are some stats:

The story I ended up writing is one that has been inside my head for several months. It all started with a folder full of (lovely) inspirational pics I kept on my phone and a notebook to jot down my ideas. So I was pretty sure about what was going to happen and how the story was going to end. 

Then, a week before NaNo, I decided that the main character I originally planned to tell the story was all wrong. Hubby helped me talk through this prob, and I ended up writing the story in the POV of a different character. The RIGHT character, because I loved telling this tale of scary things, wonderful things, and love.

I'm SO happy with how it turned out and can't wait to revise it. But that's for another time. Right now I need to take the rest of the week off.

Happy NaNoWriMo! 

Sunday 19 November 2017

MIRROR, MIRROR by Cara Delevingne

Friend. Lover. Victim. Traitor.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

Sixteen-year-old friends Red, Leo, Rose, and Naomi are misfits; still figuring out who they are and who they want to be. Life isn't perfect, but music brings them together, and they are excited about what the future holds for their band, Mirror, Mirror. That is until Naomi vanishes before being pulled unconscious out of the river.

She's left fighting for her life in a coma. The police claim it was a failed suicide attempt, but her friends aren't convinced. Will Naomi ever wake up? What - or perhaps who - led her to that hospital bed? And how did Red, the self-styled protector of the group, fail to spot the warning signs?

While Rose turns to wild partying and Leo is shrouded by black moods, Red sets out to uncover the truth. It's a journey that will cause Red's world to crack, exposing the group's darkest secrets. Nothing will ever be the same again, because once a mirror is shattered, it can't be fixed. convinced. Will Naomi ever wake up? What - or perhaps who - led her to that hospital bed? And how did Red, the self-styled protector of the group, fail to spot the warning signs?

After I DNFd two books this weekend and started another I thought I would love but disappointed me enough to put it aside... I started this book. And couldn't put it down.

Red, Naomi, Rose and Leo are in a school band, but even more than that they're really close friends. During the last year these four kids have gotten past their differences to become a solid group that sticks together while making awesome music and having fun.

When Naomi goes missing, everything starts to unravel around them. And when she's found unconscious in the river and ends up in a coma, the group totally falls apart. The mystery of what really happened to their friend will either draw them closer than ever before, or tear them apart forever...

This is one super awesome book!

The writing style was intimate in a way that wrapped itself around me until it felt like I was part of their world. Red's voice was raw and often confused or lost, yet so strong that I enjoyed every moment she shared with the reader. Her thoughts aren't linear or even clear sometimes, which made her an amazing and realistic narrator.

This is quite a dark book that deals with some pretty heavy teenage and adult issues. It doesn't shy away from showing and revealing some awful truths about what it's really like to grow up in some very intense environments.  But it's dealt with in such an honest way that it's hard not to get wrapped up in everything--whether good or bad--that's going on. Because these characters are awesome!

Red is the drummer. She's into girls and has a really messed up family life. Her mother's an alcoholic, her father's never home, so the emotional neglect is deep. Leo is a troubled kid who's trying to be good, but his criminal brother tries to ruin that for him. Rose is a strong, beautiful rich girl who outwardly has everything, but inwardly suffers deeply. Ash is Naomi's sister, she's a tech-whiz and wants to find out what really happened to her younger sister. Leckraj was an easygoing and really cool addition to the band. And Naomi, well, she's a great musician and a girl who tried so hard to hide herself that somewhere along the way, she gets so lost it nearly kills her.

Together, these kids are amazing. With all the crap they put up with at home, everything they struggle with while trying to discover themselves, the pressures of school, and even the really shitty things they put each other through, they form a very strong foundation to Mirror, Mirror. I'm talking about the band, not the book. :P

Mirror, Mirror is an addictive book that hooked me in from the very first sentence and kept me turning the pages, because I needed to know how and where this tragic tale was going to take me. More than that, Red's engaging voice and the mystery at the heart of the story swept me away until it's shocking revelation.

I seriously LOVED this book, and can't say enough good things about it. I honestly didn't know what to expect, but certainly didn't expect such raw awesomeness.

BTW, the cover's really cool too. It wasn't until I took a closer look that I noticed the hidden details in the squiggles.

Mirror, Mirror, October 2017, ISBN 9781409172758, Trapeze

Saturday 18 November 2017


What I hope you take away from this book: good Mexican food deserves to go viral; good underwear never features the word 'string'; good mental health is the single most important thing you need to live a happy life.

I don't have a psychology degree - in fact, I once tried to throw a typewriter at a child psychiatrist (this was in the days before MacBook pros) - but I do have experience, understanding and coping mechanisms to help you get your sh*t together. From anxiety and eating disorders to OCD and psychosis, I want to help break down taboos surrounding mental health conditions (which directly affect 1 in 4 of us each year - you are NOT alone) and help you come out the other side happier and healthier. I'd also like to gift you with a deeper understanding of what's going on in your head, and how to navigate through life without feeling overwhelmed or isolated. 

Where my lack of medical background becomes an issue, Dr Radha swoops in to the rescue. As a GP, mental-health expert and co-host of BBC Radio 1's The Surgery, I've worked with her to make sure all the information and advice is spot-on. She's clever, she's kind and she GETS it. I wish my teenage brain had had access to Dr Radha.

This was a surprise title I received from Hachette Australia. A book I hadn't expected and didn't know anything about, but it sounded interesting. So I decided to check it out and found myself squeezing in a bit here and there, between some of the other books I've read during the last month.

I wanted to take my time, and finished it tonight.

Rae Earl might not have a degree in psychology, but she's been through enough mental health issues and situations to know a thing or two. And that's why she wrote this book, which is a great way of presenting serious issues such as anxiety, OCD, depression, psychosis, and so much more in a way readers of all ages can both understand and relate to. 

This might be one person's account of a life full of mental health experiences, but there's a lot of familiar issues mentioned throughout, and even some very helpful coping mechanisms. It's also a book that engages the reader and talks to them on a level that feels more like a conversation. There's no judgement, preaching or pushing an agenda, which is essential when dealing with such delicate and sometimes taboo situations.

There were some things that had me nodding my head because I could totally relate, and others I've never experienced/seen. It's quite an eye-opener.

I thought the addition of an actual mental-health expert was a great idea, because it helps support all the things Rae Earl discusses.

The layout is very cool. The illustrations by Jo Harrison are excellent and totally capture so much of the important stuff. It even helps to break everything down so the information doesn't become overwhelming.

Every single person, for a variety of different reasons, will be affected by a certain degree of mental health issues during their life. Or at least know someone who is. So it's important to realise we're not alone, and that there are ways to make it out from under the dark cloud.

It's All In Your Head is a very cool book that deals with some very serious topics, yet is presented in such a fun, interesting and visual pleasing way that the reader is quickly drawn into a comfortable and safe environment. The familiarity in a lot of the experiences will also keep readers stuck to the page.

I'll be passing this over to my teenage daughter so she can check it out too.

It's All In Your Head: A Guide to Getting Your Sh*t Together, September 2017, ISBN 978, Wren & Rook 

Friday 17 November 2017

NaNoWriMo: Week Three

The third week of NaNoWriMo is over.

Well, it's over for me because it's Friday in Oz and I spent the day adding new words to my WIP. 

This was a busy week because asides from adding a bunch of words, hubby and daughter were home for a few days (sick leave), we went to the DAB YA Blogger night on Wednesday (which was a LOT of fun!) and I even read an awesome book.

Yeah. Lots of stuff going on. No wonder I'm tired. LOL.

Anyway, here's this week's w/c: 
  • Monday: 36,329 (added 3285w)
  • Tuesday: 40,936 (added 4607w)
  • Wednesday: 43,554 (added 2608w)
  • Thursday: 46,575 (added 3031w)
  • Friday: 51,725 (added 5150w)

Why is the Friday word count amount in bold? Well, that would be because I reached the NaNoWriMo 50k goal AND also finished the first draft. Why is this a big deal? I finished NaNo and the story I was writing. Yay. That rarely happens. Actually, I can't remember the last time I did this because all my other drafts usually go way past 50,000 words.

I had a great time writing this story and enjoyed the hell out of seeing a simple idea--consisting of several inspirational pics--becoming a Sci-Fi adventure, then turning into a very emotional, tense and mysterious story.  There's still adventure. There's still strange hidden things. There's still a love story. Just not the one I expected. 💕

And that's a cool thing.

Although I reached The End of the story, as well as the challenge, I'm not calling this WIP (officially) finished until I take care of my page of notes. (Yes, there's always a page of scribbled notes.) That might include some additions, a bunch of notes to add to my Story Notebook, and possibly reading the last few chapters again.

That's for Monday, because I'm taking the weekend off. I need a breather, but man I LOVE this story. The characters, what happens to them and especially their love story.

Right now I'm very happy with how it turned out. That'll probably change during the revision process, but today I'm in love with this story. 😍

Have a good weekend

Thursday 16 November 2017

DREAMLAND BURNING by Jennifer Latham

When seventeen-year-old Rowan Chase finds a skeleton on her family's property, she has no idea that investigating the brutal century-old murder will lead to a summer of painful discoveries about the past... and the present.

Nearly one hundred years earlier, a misguided violent encounter propels seventeen-year-old Will Tillman into a racial firestorm. In a country rife with violence against blacks and a hometown segregated by Jim Crow, Will must make hard choices on a painful journey towards self discovery and face his inner demons in order to do what's right the night Tulsa burns.

One of the deadliest race riots in US history happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on a hot 1921 night when the economically and culturally thriving black community of Greenwood was burned to the ground. Dreamland Burning gives voice to this little-known moment in history, crossing historical fiction with a cold case mystery in a story that makes bold statements about how racial tensions have changed --- or haven't --- in nearly 100 years. 

This is a book I've been looking forward to reading for a while, so I'd like to thank Hachette Australia for sending me a lovely hardback copy.

When Rowan finds a skeleton on her property because a construction team disturbed the servants' quarters on her family's property, she's drawn into the mysterious death of someone who was clearly murdered almost 100 years before. 

William lives in Tulsa during 1921, when tensions between whites and blacks reached a dangerous level. One stupid, selfish and very thoughtless act on a drunken night sets off a horrible chain of events that echo long into the future.

These two teenagers might have almost a century between them, but what happened in the past echoes into present day...

Wow. This book is SO damn good. 

It's amazing, in a very confronting and brutal way, because it presents two fictional stories and one is set during a very intense time in American history. It made me uncomfortable, angry, sad, and even proud. Because where there is hate for no real reason but to push a pathetic agenda, there will always be people who understand right from wrong and will follow the correct path. People who take the time to get to know others and offer the hand of friendship, no matter what the cost.

I really liked Rowan and her friend, James.  They have a strong friendship that's realistic but not without its problems. She's a kid caught between two worlds, but has lived most of hers in one more than the other. But when she finds the skeleton and gets a job in a clinic and is exposed to the ugly side of what society still does to people with dark-coloured skin, she starts to realise just how cruel and unjust the world really is. This pushes her forward into the investigation. While her life takes her down a dark path of guilt and grief, the past leads her to some very surprising places. And even more fascinating people.

As for Will. I didn't like him at the beginning because he came across like just another white boy who thought he was owed things. In this case it was a girl. So while what happened to the innocent guy involved upset me, I was glad it made Will see what a bad thing he'd done. And as I found out more about his mixed heritage, it was a relief to see his attitude change and watch him become a better and stronger person.

As for the historical event at the centre of this story--the Tulsa Race Riots--that part made me really sad. And so angry. But it's part of the history of this violent and cruel world, so I'm glad this book shines a spotlight on it.

Sometimes, when I see the news and see what's going on in the U.S. I feel as if we're still in that awful place of division, and wish humanity would move past the absurdity that feeds racism. Because at the end of the day, that's what it is. Systematic hate fed to impressionable young minds is an offense that needs to stop. It should've stopped years ago. No one is better than anyone else, and no one has the right to tell others how to live their lives. 

Dreamland Burning is a powerful, well-written and thought-provoking book that doesn't hide from the shameful racist truth of America's past, or how it's unfortunately still there. It made me uncomfortable and so very sad, but there's so much heart in the words that I couldn't help but love it. The way the story is told works brilliantly because it's a contemporary tale with a historical plot expertly interwoven through its core.

I was hooked by the premise, and the kids who told their own interconnected but separate stories kept me glued to the page. 

Dreamland Burning, July 2017, ISBN 9780316384933, Little, Brown Young Readers US

Sunday 12 November 2017

CONTAGION by Teri Terry

An epidemic is sweeping the country. You are among the infected. There is no cure, and you cannot be permitted to infect others. You are now under quarantine. 
 The very few of the infected who survive are dangerous and will be taken into the custody of the army. 

 Young runaway Callie survived the disease, but not the so-called treatment. Her brother Kai is still looking for her. And his new friend Shay may hold the key to uncovering what truly happened. 

 From the author of the international sensation Slated comes the first book in a powerful new story of survival and transformation; love and power. 

I picked this up on Friday night with the intention of checking it out. You know, to get a feel for the story? I ended up reading over 100 pages in one sitting! 

So yeah, I was instantly hooked. :)

Something strange is happening to Callie in the facility she lives in. Shay is trying to escape bullies when she stumbles on a flyer that sparks a forgotten memory. Kai is desperate to find his missing sister, so when he gets a call out of nowhere from a girl who claims she saw Calista a year ago, he rushes to gather information.

When Shay and Kai meet, they realise there's an instant connection between them, but neither realise just how deep it really is. Or that they're not alone, because someone is shadowing their every move. When a deadly epidemic hits out of nowhere and spreads across the country faster than it can be contained, they find themselves in serious danger. And in the middle of a terrible secret capable of destroying everyone in their path...

Wow. This is one addictive book. It's also very trippy--in the best way possible. I loved how the author blended science and New Age ideas in such creative ways, and fills the reader with so much wonder you HAVE to keep going forward.

I'm serious. As I said above, I grabbed it on Friday night and was so captivated by what was going on that I was finished by Sunday afternoon. I couldn't stop reading. I had to know where the first book in the trilogy was going to take me.

The story is told in the alternating POV of two characters--Callie and Shay. It's written in such a fast-paced way that the volatile events and tension mount to fever pitch very quickly. The stakes keep getting higher, and don't stop. Not even when you reach the shocking conclusion!

Shay is a great narrator. A smart girl with an understanding mother whose entire life changes from ordinary to extraordinary because of one seemingly forgotten, and very random, moment a year before. This changes her life in a wonderful way because she meets the handsome Kai, and in him finds a kindred spirit. Yet at the same time fills her with devastation because she stands to lose everything, including herself. I loved her POV. And her interactions with Kai were awesome.

I always love when two lost characters find strength in each other.

Callie gives an amazing, and very unexpected angle to the story. She's a girl who's suffered so much cruelty and destruction, without truly understanding why she got there in the first place. Her POV was fascinating and I can't wait to see how she evolves.

You might have noticed that I haven't mentioned much about the actual story, and that's on purpose. I remember the first time I read the blurb and wondered why the details were so vague, but once I started reading I totally got it. This is one of those books that is better enjoyed the less you know going in. Trust me. At first it might seem disorienting, but it doesn't take long to get your bearings. 

And when you do, you won't want to stop 

Contagion is an awesome and super clever book full of sciency goodness, and a lot of heart. It's scary, creepy, mysterious, interesting and a definite page-turner that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. There's just something very special about Teri Terry's writing style, and the concept is captivating.

Loved this book. What a fun, thrilling and melancholy ride!

BTW, the cover captures the story perfectly. And the red edge pages are cool, plus add to the urgency of this story.

I can't wait to see what happens in the next book.

Contagion, May 2017, ISBN 9781408341728, Orchard Books

Friday 10 November 2017

NaNoWriMo: Week Two


The second week of NaNoWriMo is almost over, huh? Well, for me it is because I'll be taking the weekend off. I've got some notes to take, ideas to jot down and a chapter summary to update but I won't be adding any new words until Monday. And that's cool.

I need the mental downtime.

I'm super excited about NaNoWriMo. I like how the story is shaping up, and I'm really happy with the daily word count progress. 😃

Here's how this week's w/c looked: 
  • Monday: 16,106 (added 4686w)
  • Tuesday: 20,181 (added 4075w)
  • Wednesday: 24,294 (added 4113w)
  • Thursday: 29,306 (added 5012w)
  • Friday: 33,044 (added 3738w)

Not bad. 

I've reached that (very cool) stage in the story where I can actually see The End. When that happens all of the upcoming events get jumbled inside my head and need some streamlining. That's where the scribbling comes in very handy! Brainstorming on paper, and writing a list of what needs to happen, helps me get to the finish line before the details slip away.

This story--tentatively titled Cosmic Girl for some very good reasons--is one that I've been excited about for several months. From the moment I first saw a series of disconnected inspirational pics that sparked off this idea, I couldn't wait to get started. But it takes time, and several creative steps.

After I started collecting pics, the details started building. The characters became clearer. I started casting them, naming them. I chose the setting. Everything collided and began to slot into place while all the pieces were percolating in the back of my brain... So when it came to choosing a NaNo project, this one was the logical choice. LOL.

It feels so good to be telling this strange story about friendship, family and love. It's like emptying some stuff from my cluttered brain!

Oh, and the other cool thing is that I've even had some time to reward myself with reading at the end of the day!

Well, that's my writing update for this week. I'm excited. I'm driven. And I can't wait to see what other surprises this story reveals.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday 9 November 2017

THE MURDERER by Ray Bradbury

The Murderer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is another story my daughter read for school and suggested I check out. I like Ray Bradbury and I enjoy a good short story, so I did.

Mr. Brock calls himself The Murderer because he's made it his mission to kill all the devices that hold people hostage every moment of the day. When the psychiatrist interviews him, Mr. Brock explains, in great detail and delight, how he went about doing it, and why...

This is is a short story that starts out suddenly and proves Mr. Brock's detailed assumptions about contraptions before we even meet him. That the psychiatrist is surrounded my never-ending music and takes several calls while walking down a busy office block before the interview is sheer brilliance.

I also liked how Ray Bradbury not only predicted OUR future, but created devices that echo the ones we have while also being totally unique. Loved that! Very clever.

One of my favourite things is when The Murderer refers to the TV as Medusa, because ain't that the truth?

Anyway. I felt bad for Mr. Brock. All he wanted was a bit of peace and quiet.

Is that really too much to ask for?

Tuesday 7 November 2017

THE LAST NAMSARA by Kristen Ciccarelli

Once there was a girl who was drawn to wicked things 

Asha is a dragon-slayer. Reviled by the very people she's sworn to protect, she kills to atone for the wicked deed she committed as a child - one that almost destroyed her city, and left her with a terrible scar. 

But protecting her father's kingdom is a lonely destiny: no matter how many dragons she kills, her people still think she's wicked. 

Even worse, to unite the fractured kingdom she must marry Jarek, the cruel commandant. As the wedding day approaches, Asha longs for freedom. 

Just when it seems her fate is sealed, the king offers her a way out: her freedom in exchange for the head of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard. 

And the only person standing in her way is a defiant slave boy...

I need to start by saying that both the ARC and the finished copies of this book are beautiful. The ARC has the dragon king's emblem on the cover and looks like a book packed with illicit myths. While the actual cover is gorgeous, shiny and so pretty!

Asha is a dragon slayer. She's the Iskari, the most feared person in Firgaard because of what she did years ago. She wears her scars as trophies to remind her of why she set on this rageful path in the first place. She's also the dragon king's daughter, and is betrothed to the powerful and cruel commandant. But she lives life by her own rules and that includes keeping her cousin (a half-blood) by her side, and running off to the Rif to lure dragons by telling them ancient stories before taking them down. 

Asha has killed a lot of dragons, but has always had her sights set on one. Kozu is the First Dragon. The one who keeps the old and forbidden stories alive. He's also the dragon who burned her body, and the only thing able to save her from a violent marriage.

When her brother Dax returns with enemies as guests, and Asha crosses paths with a fearless slave, her life changes forever. The kingdom is falling apart and everything she thought she knew about her father, her kingdom, dragons and even herself is at risk. And the only way to find out the truth is to face her greatest nemesis...

Wow! This book is outstanding.

This year I've tried reading several YA fantasy books and none of them have kept my attention. I DNFd most of them. But THIS one hooked me in from the beginning, and didn't let go until The End. I couldn't put it down! I grabbed it and read a bit more every spare moment I had. (Which is saying a lot because I'm doing NaNoWriMo atm. LOL)

The worldbuilding is exquisite. A world where one race has enslaved another, the dragon king charges his daughter with killing dragons, and the princess is scarred and feared/hated by everyone. Her past actions almost destroyed her kingdom and no one's forgiven her for that, but I loved how she kept her head up and didn't let this stop her ultimate mission.

Asha is tenacious and strong. She's always angry and devoted to her father because he valued her when no one else did. Her loyalty is one of her sharpest weapons, but it's used against her in the cruellest of ways. The secrets that are unveiled are shocking, even devastating. But one of the best things about this book is Asha's character growth. Experience and truth reveals what she couldn't see, and her strength and intelligence through everything is noble.

I also loved Torwin. He's another amazing and very patient character who helps shape a lot of the changes in Asha. He's kind, smart and caring. The perfect match to such a prickly heroine. Their connection is pure and beautiful, but also heartbreaking.

And the dragons! I can't forget about the DRAGONS. OMG. I love dragons so it was awesome to read a story where the use of stories and dragons is blended in a way that coils everything together. The clues were always in the stories. Shadow and Kozu are so very cool.

The Last Namsara turned out to be an amazing surprise. A fantasy story with action, dirty politics, lies, devastating secrets and a wonderful heroine. The dragon angle was intriguing, and intertwined brilliantly with old stories and myths. Everything about this book kept me turning the page, and got my heart pumping at every turn.

I LOVE this book SO MUCH! And can't wait to see what Asha, Torwin and Rozu get up to next... 

The Last Namsara, October 2017, ISBN 9781473218130, Gollancz

Saturday 4 November 2017

THE YELLOW WALLPAPER by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. What a clever story!

My daughter read this for English, and since she knows I like creepy tales of madness, she recommended I check this out.

I'm glad I did.

A woman and her husband go to stay in a country house for three months so she can rest. She has a 'condition' that isn't revealed at the beginning, and there's a baby she can't bring herself to look after. Oh, and there's the fact that her doctor husband treats her like she's a foolish child who needs rest and nothing else. And that's how she ends up spending so much time in the upstairs room with ugly yellow wallpaper and the nailed bed. O.o

She hates the wallpaper with a passion from the very beginning, so it's no surprise when she starts to notice things moving behind it...

This story might be short but it definitely packs a heavy punch that knocks the reader off their feet. The imagery is vivid and so darn freaky. The main character's descent into a delusional state is terrifying. The transition happens so smoothly and so unexpectedly that I wasn't ready. YET, everything came crashing down into my brain at the same time. Until so many of the hints throughout the narrative finally made sense.

I especially found the revelation about the streak marking the wall all the way around to be super creepy. Yikes.

I guess everyone will get a different meaning from this fascinating and well-written story, but I'll share mine. I think the MC is definitely suffering from post-natal depression, and that's why she sleeps a lot and is always tired and doesn't spend time with the baby. I also think it's about what forced isolation can do to a person. Her husband might be a doctor, but he treated her like she was a delicate useless thing and I even suspected him of slipping something into her food and drink.

Oh, and another very important issue is her desire to write. Her husband pretty much forbids her from doing it, so she writes in secret. She's also clearly a creative person who is prone to letting her imagination wander freely. And when a writer doesn't write, she isn't able to use it as an outlet to channel her ideas, thoughts and feelings. And I think suppressing her natural desire to write is what tipped her over the edge.

The woman caged behind the yellow wallpaper was always her, because that was exactly how she felt. She was a prisoner in her own life, and because she never socialised with anyone and didn't write as much and as freely as she wanted to, she slowly tumbled into the madness of delirium.

Um, I didn't realise a short story would encourage such a long review. But when it comes to women and how badly they were treated (and still are) I have a lot to say!

PS. After discussing my thoughts with my daughter, we decided that this story also totally works as a freaky supernatural tale full of intrigue. And THAT just makes this so much better.


The Haunting by Alex Bell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I borrowed this book from the library because it sounded interesting and also because I lurve YA horror. So I was really looking forward to getting stuck into it and couldn't put it down. But because I started NaNoWriMo this week, I had to and instead rewarded myself with reading a bit at the end of each day. :)

The Waterwitch inn has a dark history of ghosts, curses and witches. It was also built using the salvaged timber from the actual cursed ship with a horrifying history of betrayal, torture and revenge.

Emma is confined to a wheelchair and seven years after her accident, she goes back to Looe to visit her sick grandmother. She warns her about going back to the inn because it's dangerous, but Emma can't stay away. Not when she notices a light inside the inn in the middle of the night. And especially not when she finds out her childhood friends are actually staying there.

But the curiosity of these three teenagers and their need to escape leads them into a whole lot of trouble. And one of them in particular will discover a hidden legacy that might curse them all...

This book is CREEPY. In the best way possible.

It's also very well written because the story is told in the first-person POV of three characters and each of them is very different. Emma, Jem and Shell provide insight on what's going on around them at any given time, but they also move the story forward and fill in all the blanks for the reader. And that is an outstanding narrative tool. One that is done perfectly in this book. *thumbs up*

I also liked the mystery and history at the heart of The Haunting. I found the events that happened on the Waterwitch ship to be fascinating, and the witch angle so intriguing. Not to mention that the vivid descriptions made me feel as if the ocean was constantly leaping off the pages.

There's something really horrifying and sad about the history of witches that always makes me shed a tear. The persecution of women has a long and disgusting trail of hate and lies, but none as filthy and infuriating as the witch hunts. Makes me angry and fills me with sadness. :,(

But anyway. I really enjoyed this book. It's an excellent horror story with interesting characters I cheered for, and creepy visuals I got a real kick out of.



Friday 3 November 2017

NaNoWriMo: Week One

It's hereeeeeeee! (whispers in creepy Poltergeist movie voice) 

Can you believe NaNoWriMo is here again? Or that it's actually November? The year is moving fast. Too fast, if you ask me.

As I mentioned in my post last month, of course I'm taking part in NaNoWriMo again. I can't help myself. LOL.

The 1st of November didn't hit until midweek, so I spent Monday and Tuesday doing some NaNoPrep. I even spent some time organising my clothes and reading an awesome book. I also enjoyed the hell out of Halloween.🎃 We found a whole bunch of adorable knick-knacks this year, and my skull collection has grown HEAPS.💀

When Wednesday hit, I grabbed my notes and laptop, then set up a new Word doc and started writing...

Tackling the first chapter is always a good mix of daunting and exciting. It's just so amazing how you can go from an Idea File filled with inspirational pics & notes in a notebook, to starting an actual story and stepping into the life of a new set of characters.

Sometimes, writing feels like magic.

It's also weird to think that until last weekend I was still trying to decide whose POV would be the best to tell this story, because my main character's voice is loud and clear, and also full of surprises. Now that I'm actually writing from her POV, I can't believe I didn't think of her sooner. It was thanks to hubby helping me through my conundrum during one of our evening walks that I had a lightbulb moment. And now I'm SO happy to be telling her story.

Anyway, this is how my first week's word count went: 
  • Wednesday: 3,456 
  • Thursday: 7,585 (added 4,129w)
  • Friday: 11,420 (added 3,835w)

This is another story that I've had in my Idea Files for so many months it's super cool to FINALLY let the narrative out. These characters are SO ready to tell their story of friendship, mystery and love. BUT! Even though that's the case, several surprises have already popped up. Like a creepy attic chapter I hadn't expected featuring a bizarre character I didn't meet until I was actually writing Chapter Two. Yikes!

Gotta *love* that.

I'm excited about this novel. It was the right choice because even though I'm abandoning my YA horror addiction for this project, this story will still be packed with creepy girl stuff and freaky shadowy situations.

I've written 11k in three days and that makes me very happy. But like I always do while working on a WIP,  I'm taking the weekend off.

Have a good one!

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