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#LoveOzYA

When I was in high school, I didn’t read much young adult fiction. This was largely due to the fact that there wasn’t a huge amount of it around. Even more disappointing, very little of it was by Australian authors. Thankfully, times have changed and Australian young adult authors are gaining a lot of recognition, not just in Oz but also on an international stage. Check out the #LoveOzYA hashtag on social media for more Aussie YA goodness!

N.B. The following list is in no particular order.

illuminae-files#1 The Illuminae Files Series by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

So, this trilogy currently only has two of the books published, but if the first two are anything to go by, the third is going to me AMAZING! Each book in this series focuses on a different teenage duo (male/female) who are living through and experiencing the same invasion in outer space, but from a different aspect. This series, apart from having an amazing story with lots of twists, is brilliant because it is not told in the traditional narrative format – each book is a report/dossier that is made up of various documents, dossiers, pictures and transcripts. In this way, the story is told in a very unique and engaging way.

#2 Frankie by Shivaun Plozza27193294

As I previously outlined in last weeks Top Ten Tuesday post, this book follows the story of its titular character, Frankie. She is a sassy, bad-ass character who isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and the people she loves. The story itself is a real page-turner as Frankie tries to track down her missing half-brother. The characters felt real and the whole story felt uniquely Australian. A brilliant Oz YA read!

the-sidekicks#3 The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

I loved the idea of this story – three main characters who share a best friend, Isaac, but who aren’t really friends themselves. So what happens to them when Isaac dies? How do they cope when they don’t have anyone else apart from each other? Just like Frankie, this novel felt very Australian. There were many aspects of Sydney school life portrayed in the book that I remembered experiencing myself in high school. At the age of 27, I finally found a young adult book that I felt like I could relate to on a personal level.

#4 The Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie Fornasier26891896

This gorgeous book tells the story of Piper and West. Piper is the new girl at school and has Selective Mutism. West is the popular, sporty school captain. Whilst going through all the struggles of teenagers in their final year of high school, West and Piper fall in love. But how can you have a relationship with someone when you’ve never spoken a single word to them? Set in the Blue Mountains, and area not far from me, this book was just so beautiful to read. Very relatable and wonderfully packed with emotion!

y450-293#5 The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub

Five very different Year 12 teens, each feeling left behind or overlooked in their own way, are forced to work together on their school yearbook committee. Set in a western Sydney school, this novel explores many issues that teens face during their last year of school — the pressures of final exams, friendships, family issues, peer pressure and bullying — just to name a few. An extremely relevant and relatable book that I highly recommend for all teens.

#6 Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson9781760110277

This is a gorgeous contemporary YA novel that I absolutely loved! Astrid is pretty, smart, one of the most popular girls in school and a keen environmental activist. Hiro is an outcast with a pessimistic life outlook. However, when they accidentally meet at the local shopping centre, they find that they are able to bring out the best in each other. Full of comic book references, comedic moments and great environmental/life messages, this is a great Aussie read for fans of John Green & Rainbow Rowell.

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#7 The Spark Series – Rachael Craw

So TECHNICALLY Rachael Craw is a New Zealander, but I am invoking the right to partake in the age-old Australian tradition of adopting anything amazing that comes from NZ as being Australian. In an age where there is a saturation of young adult books where the protagonists have amazing abilities, this series is refreshingly original and gripping. Revolving around genetic engineering and predetermined genetic abilities, this is a suspenseful and action packed series!

#8 Tomorrow When The War Began Series – John Marsdentomorrow-when-the-war-began-series

An absolutely classic Australian young adult series! I remember my grade nine English teacher getting me onto this series, and I will be forever grateful. The series follows Ellie and her friends as they return from a bush camping trip to discover that their country has been invaded and everyone in their town taken prisoner. Gripping and action packed, this series is almost a right of passage for Australian teen readers.

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#9 The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

Now famous the world over, I am going to sound completely hipster and say that I read this book before it was cool. The fact that a novel could be written from the point-of-view of someone who wasn’t the protagonist was a revelation for me. And when that someone’s point-of-view is Death… well, WOW! The use of language is elegant and refreshing, and the story itself is engaging, emotional and educational. The perfect homage to booklovers everywhere.

#10 Risk – Fleur Ferris24973955

This is a very important book. I really do feel it should be incorporated into the Australian National Curriculum as a prescribed text. It follows two best friends, Taylor and Sierra. They start chatting to a mystery guy on the Internet, and Sierra decided to meet him. Alone. Taylor covers for her, but when Sierra never comes back from the meeting, Taylor knows something is very, very wrong. A cautionary tale that is very topical and terrifyingly realistic.

Book Reviews

Forty Autumns by Nina Willner

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In this memoir, Nina Willner tells the true story of her family who were separated from each other by the Iron Curtain for over forty years, and who were reunited upon the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Hanna, the author’s mother, left her parents and seven (later, eight) siblings and escaped from East Germany into the West at the age of twenty. Eventually Hanna married and moved to America, where she had her own children, including Nina. Nina joined the intelligence services and, in a twist of fate, was posted to West Berlin as the first female Army Intelligence officer to lead intelligence operations into East Berlin at the height of the Cold War.

I am not a big reader of non-fiction or biographical books. I may read one or two a year, and often I find them average at best. But I found this story a captivating read. I know it’s only early January, but I feel like it may make it to my Top 5 Books Read in 2017.

The story would be heartbreaking as a work of fiction, but is absolutely devastating as a recount of fact. The depth of description of the events and horrors that were experienced by the author’s East German family during the Cold War was absolutely chilling to read about. The black and white family photographs that appear throughout the book also make the story that much more real, and that much more enthralling. The author gives us the big picture world events that were happening both in the West and in the Eastern Bloc throughout the decades of the Cold War.

I felt every single emotion this family felt. I felt like I had lived it with them. And in a rather roundabout way, I have.

My own grandparents, my Oma and Opa, along with my aunt and uncle (then in their early teens), fled East Germany in the mid 1950s before eventually emigrating to Australia. Through Nina Willner’s recounting of her family’s struggle living in the East and her mother’s frightening escape to the West, I feel like I now better understand my grandparents and their experiences in East Germany at that time, as well as the reasons for their terrifying escape into the West. I think this emotional connection to the story definitely enhanced my reading of the book. However, regardless, I still think this is a book that is a must-read. I haven’t before come across this level of factual detail and first hand account of life in East Germany during this time. This is an excellent novel that really hits home as to how things really were for the people who lived through this period of history.

Rating: 5/5

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Harry Potter

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Like every child who grew up in the 1990s, Harry Potter defined my reading habits, and was the centre of my reading world for 7 years. I was 10 or 11 years old and I remember a couple of my friends talking about it, and I remember seeing a lot of kids at school reading it. So, naturally wanting to fit in, I begged my mum to buy it for me. As there was no special occasion such as a birthday or Christmas coming up, my mum said no. I kept begging for an entire school term and finally, at the start of the school holidays when we were heading on vacation to Queensland, she finally bought the first book for me.

Suddenly, I was nervous. What if I didn’t like it? What if I didn’t finish it? What if all of the hype was for nothing? I think it took me a few days to actually build up the nerve to crack it open and start reading. I remember thinking that the first page was pretty boring, thank you very much (see what I did there?), but I kept going, and like everyone around the world, I was hooked. It took me two weeks to finish the book, keeping in mind that I was only about 11, and this was in the year 2000 during the Sydney Olympics, so most evenings were spent cheering on Australia. After I finished the first one, I HAD to have the second. I even used my very own pocket money to buy it. As a kid who only earned $3 a week, this was a big deal.

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The year 2000 was defined for me by Harry Potter and the Sydney Olympics

I’ve always loved books, stories and reading, but before Harry Potter, I cannot actually remember being completely drawn into any fictional story or any fictional world in the same, obsessive way that I had been with Harry Potter. It was like an awakening. Stories can be this amazing? Books can actually be this engaging and wonderful? Characters can have well-defined, relatable personalities? It was an utter revelation! Like everyone else during the peak period of Harry Potter mania (BEFORE the films, for all you young ‘uns!) it became the centre of my world. I had to have all the merchandise. Unfortunately, most of it was only readily available in the States, but luckily for me, in 2001 our family vacation took us to the West Coast of the USA, and boy did I have my Harry Potter shopping list ready! Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans? Check! Chocolate Frogs? Check! Harry Potter Trivia Board Game? Check! Harry Potter Trading Cards? Check!

In 2002, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was published. I had not been a part of the craze when Prisoner of Azkaban had come out, so this was my first experience at actually pre-ordering the new book! Mum wouldn’t let me do any of the subsequent midnight launches for any of the books 4 through 7 (boo!), but I always carefully shopped around before pre-ordering to see which department store or book store was offering the best add-on incentive to pre-order with them. Usually Dymocks bookstores had the best Harry Potter swag, usually in the form of the (now vintage) metal Harry Potter bookmarks.

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The now-vintage, metal Harry Potter bookmarks

To this day, I am still a massive fan of EVERYTHING Harry Potter. I have been done the Harry Potter studio tour in London, I saw all eight movies as they were released in the cinemas, I have visited various filming locations around the UK from the movies, I own LOTS of Harry Potter merchandise and companion guide books, I have embraced the new world of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Working in a bookstore, on the launch day in July 2016 for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I did a full costume dress-up as Hermione. For me, this book has and continues to define my reading habits. It defined an entire generation. If it weren’t for J.K. Rowling and her wonderful series of books about an orphaned boy who discovers he is a wizard, I don’t know if I would have been the same person that I am today.

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The Diagon Alley set at the Warner Bros. Studios in London, UK
Archive

The Time Traveler’s Wife

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger tells the story of Henry and Clare. Henry has a genetic condition that causes him to spontaneously and uncontrollably time travel. Clare is Henry’s wife who is left to worry about him and his frequent absences. Due to his time travelling, Clare first meets Henry when she is 6 years old, and he is 43. Henry, on the other hand, first meets Clare when he is 28 years old and she is 20. The book alternates between the first-person perspectives of these two characters, and due to the jumps in time (and ages) it can be, at first, a bit of an effort to follow and comprehend. While the book divided critics, I absolutely loved it. It was an original premise and made for an intriguing and unconventional love story. This is one of those books that I have re-read multiple times over the years. When I first heard it was being made into a movie, I was a bit worried because I loved the book so much, and the movies are NEVER as good as the books.

The 2009 film of the same name stars Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams as Henry and Clare. Much as the book did, the film also divided critics, but I actually really enjoyed it. It was a very close adaptation of the novel, and one of the better book-to-film movies I have seen. All the major and important scenes from the book are present in the film, and very few are changed or adjusted in any way for the big screen. The only major difference between the book and film is the very final scene, and while it is different, it still does the same job that the scene in the book accomplished. Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana do a fantastic job at portraying the characters of Henry and Clare, and look eerily similar to how I pictured them in my head while reading the book. Regardless of whether you have read the book or not, you will need to have tissues handy for the end of the film. I first saw this movie with two friends, one of whom had read the book, and by the end of the film all three of us were in tears. All in all, this movie is great chick flick that has emotional depth and an engaging storyline. That being said, if you are not a fan of the book, you may not be a fan of the film.

 

Rating: Book screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-1-24-14-pm/ Movie screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-1-24-14-pm

Archive

The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

The Song Rising, the third book in Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season series, is without a doubt my most anticipated read of 2017.

I first read The Bone Season in 2015 and got completely ensnared by the world Scion London and the story of Paige Mahoney. Even though the story was SO GOOD that I didn’t want it to end, I raced through the book before promptly going out and buying the follow-up, The Mime Order. With the plans for this series to be seven books long, I recommend all of you who love a meaty sci-fi/dystopian series to get started on this one pronto!

I have mentioned before about books ticking all the boxes for me, and this one is no exception; strong, real and three-dimensional characters, excellent story and plotline, fantastic world building, and brilliant writing. These alone are reasons enough to have The Song Rising on my wishlist, but why is it my MOST anticipated read of the year?

Because I have been waiting in anticipation for this novel for two whole years!

Yeah, yeah. I hear all you George R.R. Martin fans laughing at me, but you have no idea the level of cliffhanger that The Mime Order ended on! In addition to this, Samantha Shannon originally wanted to have this book out in the world by mid-2016, but ultimately her publishers (for reasons Shannon outlines on her blog here) decided on a March 2017 publication date.

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Maybe not twelve years of waiting, but it feels like it!

So, my body and mind are ready. Bring. It. On.

The Australian publication date for The Song Rising is 22nd February 2017.

 

P.S. If all of that isn’t enough to get you excited, check out the Spotify playlist that Samantha Shannon has created for The Song Rising (there are also playlists for her first two novels as well).

Archive

Books Read in 2016

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I am proud to say that I read 72 book in 2016, a new personal best with only 2 of them being re-reads. So picking only ten as my top reads for the year was a pretty hard job – there were just so many good ones! – but I finally managed it. Although I read widely and enjoy books in a variety of different genres and targeted at different demographics, the majority of books that I read are regarded as ‘young adult’, so the list is skewed slightly in that direction.

Here we go!

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#1 Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

As I mentioned in my previous post about this book, this was definitely my favourite book I read last year! It had everything I look for in a good fantasy novel; great characters, great world building, and as an added bonus a twist that I did not see coming!

#2 The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid

I devoured this book in two days! I love a good sci-fi YA novel, and this stand-alone book ticks all the boxes. It has a fantastic storyline, lots of well-written characters, and many emotional ups and downs. This novel also poses an important and topical question: should we treat someone as lesser than us just because they are different?the-diabolic-9781481472678_hr

#3 Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

This was my favourite contemporary YA book of last year. Again, it ticks the boxes of brilliant characters, clever dialogue and fantastic, heartfelt storyline. The author has made excellent use of humour throughout the novel, which was the cherry on an already delectable cake. The thing I loved most was that it was surprisingly original in a genre that can be very same-same-but-different.28186273

#4 Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Gemina is the much-anticipated sequel to my favourite book of 2015, Illuminae, and it packs just as much of a punch as the first one! It continues the space saga that began in Illuminae, but this time from the point of view of two teens on jump station Heimdall. There are lots of shocks, twists and turns, some of which may cause emotional wreck and ruin to readers so be warned!gemina-by-amie-kaufman-and-jay-kristoff

#5 The Good People by Hannah Kent

I loved Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites and this book is just as magnificent. Kent’s brilliant ability to weave the landscape into her stories makes for extremely atmospheric reading. In fact, the landscapes and terrain are so central to her stories, they almost become one of the characters. Typically bleak, dark and rugged, this story sucked me right in. 29248613

#6 People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Although originally published in 2008, I only read this book for the first time last year. As someone who has studied and has a keen interest in the subject of history, this novel had me hooked from the start. Told through multiple timelines, it follows the story and history of the Sarajevo Haggadah, an important Jewish text. A fantastic and well-researched piece of historical fiction! screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-9-37-09-pm

#7 Frankie by Shivaun Plozza

One of my favourite Australian young adult fiction novel of last year! Set in Collingwood, Melbourne, this book is a brilliant read. I especially loved the character of Frankie and her sassy, Shakespeare-tome throwing ways. With a bit of a whodunit element, the story is a real page-turner and shows that making bad decisions does not make you a bad person.27193294

#8 Broken Sky by L.A. Weatherly

This book is probably one of the most underrated young adult books of last year. The first in a new trilogy, what I really loved about this book was the fact that the world that this story was set in was a kind of distorted, dytopian-esque 1940s America. With an amazingly inspirational female main character, this is definitely a book to try if you love a good cliffhanger25925784!

#9 When We Collided by Emery Lord

What a gorgeous story. This book shines a spotlight on mental illness and how it affects those with the illness, as well as those around them. It deals with lots of important and serious issues, but it doesn’t get too bogged down in the darkness of them. The characters are vivid and it shows how colliding with the right person at the right time can change you forever9781408870082.

#10 Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

My top ten would not be complete without the new novel from Liane Moriarty. I am a massive fan of all of her work, and this one is no exception. With that same feeling and tone of knowing something has happened, but not exactly what that that she had in ‘Big Little Lies’, Moriarty brings together another thrilling page-turner with realistic characters and pockets of relevant humour. Another stand out novel from this author!1469669631233

Well, that’s my Top Ten from 2016. I’d love to know what everyone else’s favourites were. Comment below and let me know! 🙂

Book Reviews

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

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It is going to take all my willpower and skills to give a relatively succinct synopsis of this book.

So, here it goes…

With her family torn apart by the powers that be, Mia Corvere is alone and afraid with only her gift of talking to the shadows to keep her company. It is this gift that leads her to a retired killer who takes her in and teaches her his trade. Years later, Mia has vowed vengeance for her family and she becomes an apprentice with the Red Church – the deadliest, most devious group of assassins that exist. She and her fellow students are put to the test, all of them vying for the ultimate honour of becoming a Blade of the Church. But soon someone in their midst starts killing off the apprentices, and Mia discovers that finding a murderer in an institution filled with assassins is not an easy task.

Wowza! Where do I even start? As a fan of fantasy novels, I absolutely LOVED this book! This novel is definitely in my favourite of all that I read in 2016. Kristoff’s attention to detail in his world building transports you into the universe he has created, so much so that at times I completely forgot I was reading a novel. His characterisation is likewise just as brilliant, complex and well thought out as his world building. Kristoff presents us with a fantastic cast of individual personalities taking part in the story, some of which you love, some of which you hate and some of which you underestimate!

While the main character is of young adult age, and struggled with/experiences issues and emotions typical of a young adult, I would definitely NOT class this book as a ‘young adult’ fiction novel. This novel has an abundance of coarse language – f-words are frequent and c-bombs make many notable appearances. It also contains several rather explicit and descriptive sex scenes. And of course, there is all the blood, stabbing, killing and general violence.

That’s not to say that I think we should censor the reading habits of teens or that I don’t think young adults should read this. However, since the publication and worldwide success of the ‘Illuminae’ series – a series Kristoff co-authored that is targeted at young adults and therefore means many of his fans are of young adult age – I do think it is worth mentioning that there are definitely adult themes and adult language present in this novel. As always when choosing a novel to read, regardless of the reader’s age, it depends on the individual reader and what they do and don’t like in a book.

The Elevator Pitch

Think Harry Potter but sexier, and with assassins. And vengeance. And stabbing. And death. Lots and lots of stabbing and death. #stabstabstab

Rating: 5/5

Book Reviews

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

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I pride myself on the fact that I do read a large variety of books, by a variety of authors, in a variety of genres. However, if I were only allowed to read one book genre for the rest of my life (please don’t ever make me do this) it would be Young Adult (YA). If we were getting really particular, I would say specifically fantasy YA. I have great admiration for authors who are able to seemingly conjure everything – languages, countries, characters, history, maps, landscapes, creatures – out of nothing.

One of these fantasy YA epics is the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas.

This series is one that I have only ever heard good things about. In fact, I have never actually heard anything negative about if from anyone who has read it. If that’s not a glowing commendation, then I don’t know what is. And I would be an idiot not to read it in light of this. So I decided to FINALLY pick up the first book, Throne of Glass (after which the series is named), and use my Christmas break to engross myself in the entire saga.

The story centers on 18-year-old Celaena Sardothien, a highly trained and notorious assassin who, having been captured, is serving out her sentence in the salt mines of Endovier. One day, Celaena is forcibly brought before the Crown Prince, Dorian Havillard. He gives her the opportunity of a lifetime – her freedom in exchange for competing to become his father’s royal assassin. If she is successful, Celaena will serve the King for four years before finally being set free.

Under the ever-watchful eye of Chaol Westfall, the Captain of the Guard, Celaena begins her training for the competition; a series of elimination tests, culminating in a final hand-to-hand combat showdown, in which a number of thieves, assassins and warriors will be battling to be crowned the King’s Champion. But there are darker, otherworldly forces at work, and one by one the other contestants start turning up dead. Fearing for her life, Celaena decides to investigate into the deaths, and soon discovers that she has a greater destiny and purpose than she could have ever possibly imagined.

I absolutely devoured this book! Straight off the bat, we are thrown into the thick of it, with Celaena being escorted under guard to her audience with Prince Dorian. And it just keeps getting better from there. Not once did I feel that the story dragged on, or wasn’t keeping a good pace. There is a good mix of adrenaline inducing action, and slightly more passive character and relationship development.

I also adore the character Celaena; she is my favourite thing about this book. I know YA literature is full of feisty, independent females, but I feel like Celaena takes the cake here. Yes, she is feisty and independent, but she is also smart, morally flawed (at least to start with), and incredibly sassy. Bonus, she doesn’t faint at the sight of blood or violence. Let’s face it; she’d be a pretty useless assassin if she did.

I also get a kick out of a good love triangle, and it certainly looks like there is one being set up here between Celaena, Prince Dorian and Captain Westfall. Although there is not too much made of it in this novel, I have a feeling that it will certainly be brought to the fore and explored in the rest of the series. For those wondering, I am definitely #TeamChaol all the way.

To be honest, I really have nothing negative to say about this book – it has everything that I need in a good YA fantasy series and then some. I guess I have converted into one of those people who will rave on and on about how wonderful this book is.

Now to start the next book in the series, Crown of Midnight.

Bring it on.

Rating: 5/5

Book Reviews

Review: Hades by Candice Fox

 

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Have you ever read a book, recognised a location as one that you personally know, and gotten completely excited that you can accurately visualise it?

I know I have. Isn’t it the best feeling?

I think Australian readers often get the most excited when this happens.

Why?

Sadly, as readers, we do not often get to see locations we personally know in a book because not many authors, Australian or otherwise, set their stories in our wonderful country. So when I found out about a Sydney author who not only writes gritty crime, but also sets it in and around Sydney, I got a little excited. After all, as popular as psychological thrillers are at the moment, sometimes you just crave a good ol’ fashioned slice ‘em and dice ‘em crime novel.

Detective Frank Bennett has joined a new homicide unit and has been partnered with an intriguingly complex new partner. Eden Archer is a beautiful, cold mystery and between her and her brother Eric – also a member of the Sydney Metro police force – Frank Bennett is sure that there is more to the Archers than meets the eye.

At the centre of this character driven novel is, of course, a gruesome crime. A number of large steel boxes have been discovered on the bottom of Sydney Harbour with each one containing various human body parts. Naturally, Frank and Eden are put on the case. How does the title Hades fit into this, I hear you ask. It soon becomes apparent that the gruesome crime has some pretty grisly links to Eden and Eric’s unconventional childhood, and their adoptive ‘father’, Hades.

I loved this book.

I will admit, when you read a lot of crime novels, it all starts to look, feel and sound a bit similar after a while. With Hades, Candice Fox really does try to be a bit different and make her novel stand out from the crowd, an aim which I think she has successfully achieved.

Firstly, and most importantly, I loved the characters in this novel, as well as they way the author uses them. Let us take the character Hades, for example. The book is named after a character who is not only NOT the main character (in regards to the point of view the story is largely told from), but whose primary role seems to be to illustrate how the characters of Eden and Eric grew up into the kind of adults that they are. Genius.

Now, let’s take the character of Frank Bennett. The majority of the book is told from his perspective. Interestingly, despite the fact that it is through his eyes that we see the ‘current’ events unfolding, he is actually not the most interesting character in the novel. In fact, he seems to be merely the conduit through which we view the unfolding events and personalities of the more interesting characters. I have never come across this characterisation technique in a novel before, but it works!

Obviously, I also loved the use of settings and locations in this novel, but I especially loved the restraint Candice Fox showed in using them. I have found that authors quite often either focus too much on the locations, and thus lose the essence of the story they are telling, or they don’t use them enough, and you end up feeling like the story really could have taken place just about anywhere. Candice Fox manages to use her choice of locations in a way that adds to the story-taking place, but doesn’t define it. She has expertly balanced the story and the setting.

This novel is definitely one for anyone who enjoys a good, gritty crime novel, and for any fellow Aussies who would love to finally see a good storyline located in our very own sunburnt country.

Rating: 4/5

Book Reviews

Review: Disclaimer by Renée Knight

 

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In the last year we have seen two exceptional psychological thrillers top the bestsellers lists; Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train. Having read and enjoyed both of these books, I was pretty keen to hear about a new offering in the subgenre being dubbed ‘domestic noir’. The tag line for debut author Renee Knight’s Disclaimer hooked me right in: Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental…

Catherine Ravenscroft, having just moved house with her husband Robert, comes across an intriguing book amongst their belongings – The Perfect Stranger. Thinking it might belong to Robert, or may have been a forgotten gift, she begins to read it. However, the more she reads, the more she begins to feel a sense of déjà vu.

Why?

Because she is the main character.

Having failed to initially notice the opening disclaimer of “any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental” with a big red line through it, Catherine soon begins to realise the implications of it having been crossed out. For this novel not only stars her as the main character, but it also brings to light her deepest, darkest secret.

The secret that she has never told her family.

The secret she thought no one knew.

As Catherine begins to investigate into the mysterious author and their motives, the guards she has put up against her haunting secret threaten to crumble. With the past catching up with her, Catherine begins to feel her whole world falling apart, as she is forced to revisit and confront her darkest hour.

I love the idea of books that have a seemingly simple premise, yet develop into much more complex emotional and psychological stories. The idea behind this one particularly grabbed me – what if you realised that the book you were reading was all about you? It is such a simple (and somewhat creepy) idea that does end up becoming about so much more. Brilliant. I am also a bit of a fan of the parallel, double point of view storyline techniques that are becoming more and more prevalent in crime fiction, and this book definitely delivers on that front.

Admittedly, the book took a little while to get going, and felt a little disjointed at the beginning. Most of the first few chapters left me thinking they were all a bit superfluous, and I wondered when the story would actually start. It took a while for me to actually warm to the story and feel that tug that makes me want to keep reading to know what happens next.

But for me the biggest thing I look for in a good crime novel is a twist I didn’t see coming. And this novel certainly does that. Just when you thought you had everything figured out, just when you thought you know what’s going to happen, what it’s all going to come down to, it suddenly takes a turn and you wonder how you didn’t see it all along. I honestly did think I had figured it all out about halfway through, but that was obviously the authors intention, because at the end everything I thought I knew was shifted to expose the authors true intentions.

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who enjoyed Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

Rating: 3/5