Monday, 31 July 2017

Book Review (YA novel) - The Impossible Story Of Olive In Love by Tonya Alexandra

I opted to read and review this book as I really liked the sound of it when I read the blurb, even though it isn't a genre that I would usually read.
The main character is 17-year-old Olive, who is burdened with an Irish gypsy curse that makes her invisible to everyone except her one true love. 
Her mother is dead, her father lives in another country. 
She has one sister, Rose, whom she lives with. 
Rose has never seen Olive, but she is a great support, and has sacrificed a lot to make Olive's life as happy as can be.
Olive has a best friend named Felix, who is blind, and she is grateful for his companionship.
But one day she meets Tom, and he sees her for the person she is. 
Can Olive make this relationship with Tom work, or will Olive always feel invisible, even when she can be seen?

I really liked the premise of this story; I was intrigued as I had never read any book that has an invisible character in it, so it was certainly different!
But unfortunately, I wasn't as convinced by it as I wanted to be.
I just couldn't get into Olive's character, and the relationship with Tom felt very rushed and rather fake at times too.
Olive is demanding and quite the drama queen, which I didn't like, though I could see why her personality would be that way, given she can't be seen by anyone and would seek attention in other ways.
I think that the author did a great job of portraying the struggles that an invisible person would face - being isolated a lot, not being able to drive or catch a taxi, or have a normal job. 
The story gelled enough for me to want to keep reading, but I can't say that it was one that will stay with me for long.
Having said that, it is clever and creative, and I think that it would appeal to young/teen readers. 

Friday, 28 July 2017

Books For Pre-Schoolers

Silly Lily And The First Day Of Kindergarten by Jedda Robaard 

Silly Lily is a new book series targeted at pre-schoolers as they experience life's 'first' moments. 

In Silly Lily And The First Day Of Kindergarten, Lily is nervous to begin her first day at kindergarten, but she soon plunges herself into all that the day has to offer, including petting the class pet, drawing, and eating all of her snacks. But when she realises that her first day experiences aren't turning out the way she had hoped, Lily sets about putting things right so that her first day of kindergarten can really be a success!

Silly Lily aims to teach young children about what they should expect in certain situations that they are faced with for the first time. It also leads the young reader to recognise what behaviours are acceptable when they are in these circumstances. 

I adore the illustrations in Silly Lily; they are soft watercolour style images depicting Lily and other recurring characters. The thicker pages in this board book make it ideal for younger readers to handle. 

Silly Lily And The First Day Of Kindergarten is released this month through Five Mile Press, with an RRP of $16.99
For further information, head here

Monday, 24 July 2017

Book Review: The Fence by Meredith Jaffe 

Gwen Hill resides with her husband Eric in an idyllic suburban neighbourhood in Rosedale. They were the first home owners in the area, some 54 years ago.
Gwen is a passionate gardener, and has been writing a gardening column for 40 years. 
Her best friend, next-door neighbour Babs Mody, recently passed away from stomach cancer, and when Babs' son Michael announces that he plans to sell the house, Gwen is interested to see who the new residents next door to her on Green Valley Avenue will be.
It isn't long before married couple Francesca 'Frankie' Desmarchelliers and Brandon Boyd shift in, with 4 young children and 2 dogs in tow.
Frankie works full-time whilst Brandon is the house husband. 
They moved to the area to start afresh after problems in their marriage, in the hope that a change of scenery may be beneficial for their relationship.
When they want to erect a fence between their property and next door, they are met with refusal from their neighbours.
Gwen's reasoning behind it is that she has a row of trees that she claims serve as an informal division of the properties that have been there for years, which she has taken excellent care of.
Unable to work out an agreement, the matter is then taken to court on two separate occasions, and the outcome isn't all that satisfying for either party.
As Gwen faces challenges with Eric's health, and Frankie finds herself stressed out trying to juggle her job, the kids, and Brandon, their priorities shift, but the conflict between them continues..
Will they ever be able to see eye-to-eye, or is a neighbourhood war imminent?

I was so enraptured with this book that I finished it within a couple of days. The author has done a remarkable job with this novel. We hear about these sorts of things on the news occasionally, and this is a fantastic portrayal of that neighbourhood drama. 
I was able to feel empathetic towards both of the main female characters, and although I did side more with Gwen, I just couldn't dislike Frankie. 
Even when I didn't agree with her and found her to be quite stubborn and a person who jumped the gun in many situations, I still felt empathy, which I wasn't expecting. Author Meredith Jaffe makes the reader feel like they know so much about each and every character, including the children. They all added a different perspective which I adored.
I give this book top marks as there isn't anything I could fault. Even the cover is gorgeous.
If you haven't read The Fence, then put it on your list pronto!

Friday, 21 July 2017

Beauty & Lace Book Review:  Not A Sound by Heather Gudenkauf 

Not A Sound is a fantastic thriller that I finished over a couple of days.
The story is told from the point of view of Amelia Winn, a former nurse at Queen Of Peace Hospital.
A couple of years prior, Amelia and one of her patients were involved in a hit and run. The patient died, and Amelia was deafened as a result of the collision. The driver of the car was never found.
The incident wreaked havoc not only her personal but her professional life.
Now, two years on, Amelia is a recovering alcoholic, estranged from her husband David and step-daughter Nora, and is looking to regain control of her life and return to the workforce.
On the day of a job interview that she has with Dr Joseph Huntley, the director of a cancer centre, she is out for a paddle with her dog Stitch when she discovers a body floating along the river.
She is shocked when she realises that the victim is known to her - Gwen Locke used to work with Amelia and was once considered a good friend of hers until Amelia shut out everyone out after the accident she was involved in.
When Amelia realises that Gwen had tried to contact her only months before, Amelia feels that she owes it to her friend to try and piece together the circumstances that led her to her tragic death. 
With the help of her brother's best friend, detective Jake Schroeder, Amelia puts herself in danger on more than one occasion to uncover the truth.

The story moved along at a good pace, and I was left guessing who the culprit was until the revelation, despite there being several suspects. 
I thought that Amelia was a great character. I admired her determination to regain the trust and respect from her ex-husband. I also felt for her because of the struggles she faced by being hearing impaired. She had worked for 15 years as a nurse, and a further 3 years as a sexual assault nurse examiner, and was clearly quite passionate about her job. Her willingness to return to the workforce after what she had faced was really impressive.  
I adored her dog Stitch, he was such a loyal companion and made sure that Amelia was alert and aware of her surroundings, even when she couldn't hear what was going on. 
This book had all of the things I look for in a good read; a great cast of characters, and a well-written story line. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys a suspenseful page-turner!

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of Not A Sound with thanks to Harlequin Books Australia and Beauty & Lace. To see the original review, head to the Beauty & Lace post here 

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Book Review: The Spectacular Spencer Gray by Deb Fitzpatrick (For Middle Readers)

Spencer Gray is back in this highly-anticipated second book in the series - the first, The Amazing Spencer Gray, was released in 2013. 
Spencer is just an ordinary young boy who happens to find himself in some rather extraordinary situations. 
This time round, he is at primary school enjoying a game of soccer with his friends when he notices some suspicious activity at the BBO - bush behind the oval.
Spencer discovers that there is an operation to smuggle one of Australia's most endangered mammals out of the country, but he decides not to alert his parents.
Instead, he confides in his friends, Charlie and Leon, who offer to help Spencer.
But will Spencer be able to pull off something spectacular in order to save the very rare Gilbert's Potoroo? Be prepared to be taken on a wild adventure as Spencer attempts to save the day!

This book is suitable for readers aged 8-12 years old, and I like how Deb has chosen an endangered animal that many would not have heard of (myself included). It is a great way to bring awareness to young children about our beautiful Australian wildlife, and the ways we can protect these creatures. 
Spencer's bravery and determination are highly admirable qualities, making him a great role model. 
The Spectacular Spencer Gray is released this July through Fremantle Press, and has an RRP of $14.99
For further information head here 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Children's Book Review: One Thousand Trees by Kyle Hughes-Odgers

(Ideal for ages 2 - 8 years)

In this delightful hard covered book, the expressive and detailed illustrations tell the main story about Frankie, who is deep in the heart of the city, and dreams about a thousand trees.
With only a few words interspersed throughout the pages, this picture book really showcases the talents of author, Australian artist Kyle Hughes-Odgers, who has been involved in large-scale art projects both in Australia and worldwide.

'Wordless' books such as this one really allow your child's imagination to expand, and allow you to have some really interesting discussions about what they think is happening in the story.
They also allow your child to be creative with their interpretation of the story - what one child may think is happening in the story could be totally different to what another child believes is happening. 
They're also a great way to develop your child's storytelling skills.
If you're after a book that will engage your young reader and help them practice their comprehension skills, then I highly suggest that you check out One Thousand Trees. 
It is published by Fremantle Press, with an RRP $24.99. More info can be found here

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Book Review: The Party by Robyn Harding 

Hannah Sanders is turning sweet 16, and is celebrating her milestone with a party with a few girlfriends in the basement of her family home.
Her parents, Kim and Jeff, know that their daughter is a good kid who is doing well at school, and see no harm in having four of Hannah's friends over for a slumber party.
The guests include Ronni Monroe, who was once Hannah's best friend when they were younger; Lauren Ross, the popular, mean girl; and two of Hannah's oldest friends, Marta and Caitlin.
Hannah wants to impress her friends, particularly Lauren, as she desperately wants to fit in with the popular kids just like Lauren does.
So when the girls decide to break Kim's rules of no drinks, no drugs, and no boys, things turn disastrous.
Ronni is left seriously injured and disfigured when a horrible accident takes place. 
When Ronni's mum Lisa finds out, she is understandably distraught. But her pain quickly leads to anger, and she decides to sue Hannah's parents for negligence for the sum of $3,000,000.
The law suit brings out the worst in everyone. 
Those who were friends now become enemies, and as the families continue to battle it out, many secrets and lies are exposed.
Meanwhile, Ronni struggles to cope with the bullying taunts she is faced with upon her return to school. 
Kim and Jeff have their own personal battles to face, and it is quite clear that the repercussions of the incident will change all of their lives forever.

Many of the characters have secrets and are untruthful, at times not only to others, but to themselves.
It was interesting to see how the effects of the lawsuit took its toll on the characters.
The book is told from several points of view, so the reader gains a good understanding of how each of the characters deal with the situation that unfolded on the night of the party. 
I think that Hannah and Ronni were definitely the more mature characters, even more so than the adults at times. 
The outcome of the story seemed fairly realistic, and overall, I thought that The Party was a compelling book which highlighted the damaging effects that peer pressure, drugs, and drinking can cause, particularly when they are combined together.

Disclosure: I was given an ARC of The Party thanks to Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I was not paid for this review. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

New Release Lift-The-Flap Books: 

Find Spot At The Museum by Eric Hill

Did you know that the very first Spot book, Where's Spot, was published way back in 1980?! 
All these years later, and this adorable canine character is still very much adored!
The latest book due for release is the first in a new flip-the-flap series. It is titled Find Spot At The Museum, and features Spot visiting the museum with his mum Sally and friend Tom.
But as he is exploring the exhibitions, he manages to get himself lost. Tom and Sally search all over the museum before finding him at long last. 
This board book has thick pages, making it ideal for smaller hands to turn them. The lift-the-flaps are sure to delight younger readers as they open them up to reveal hidden surprises. 
Available from 3rd July through Penguin Random House Australia.

My First Mr.Men Lift-The-Flap by Roger Hargreaves

When I was a young girl, I had a collection of Mr. Men books that I enjoyed reading over and over. I still have my collection, and whilst some are looking a little worse for wear, my children have now claimed them as their own, and read them as I once did.
This month, My First Mr. Men Lift-The-Flap will be released. It is the first in a range of books aimed at younger fans of this delightful series.
Your child can be just like Mr. Nosey and open up the flaps to discover what's hiding behind the doors, what is on television, and much more!
The board book has an RRP of $14.99,  and is available through Penguin Random House Australia

Friday, 7 July 2017

Children's Book Review: 
The Chalk Rainbow by Deborah Kelly and Gwynneth Jones

The Chalk Rainbow is a delightful children's picture book that explores one family's experience of living with a son and brother who has ASD (Austism Spectrum Disorder)...

Zane is a young boy who is different to many other children. He has certain rituals that he carries out, and he also doesn't like the colour black. In fact, he refuses to eat, touch or wear anything that is black.
His father gets angry, and his mother also struggles to explain things to him. 
Zane doesn't handle their reactions well, and so he huddles into a ball and screams at the top of his lungs.
Luckily, Zane has a big sister that wants to help him, so she draws a chalk rainbow for Zane on the front steps of their home. 
Zane's sister is the narrator, and through her voice, we come to understand that her love for her younger brother is pure and absolute, and that his happiness means a lot to her. 
Zane appreciates when his sister patiently shows him that there are ways to look at things differently, and to find a way to explore life together.
The Chalk Rainbow is a story about trusting others and experiencing unconditional love. 
The illustrations in this book are beautiful and bright, with many pages highlighted with colourful rainbows. 

The Chalk Rainbow is ideal for young readers aged 4-8 years, and is available now through EK Books, with an RRP of $24.99
For further information, head here

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Blog Tour Book Review: Diamond Sky by Annie Seaton 

I was recently given the opportunity to read and review Diamond Sky as part of a blog tour through Pan Macmillan Australia to coincide with the book release on the 27th June. 
Rural fiction is a genre that I really enjoy, so I was happy to be involved.
Although this is the third book in the 'Porter Sister' series, it can be read as a stand-alone book, as I read it, though after reading Diamond Sky, I am eager to check out the other two books in the series as I thoroughly enjoyed this outback mystery!

The majority of the book is set in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia at the Matsu diamond mine.
The CEO of Matsu, John Robinson, hires a security specialist named Connor Kirk to investigate a diamond theft that has occured at the mine.
He believes that the suspect could be an employee, despite the rigid security measures that are in place, and so Connor goes undercover as a workplace safety officer to see if he can discover what happened to the missing gems.
Connor is a former member of the federal police, but circumstances that don't come to light until later on in the story have led Connor to change his career to his current position.

Drusilla Porter is an environmental engineer at Matsu, and she is the most likely suspect out of three employees.
Known by her co-workers as "the ice queen", she is an independent, capable woman who prefers to keep to herself where possible.
An event from her past involving a mysterious man in Dubai still continues to haunt her, although we don't discover much about him apart from his name - Zayad Al Tayer.
Could he be connected to the thefts, and what is Dru's connection to him?
It's up to Connor to find out, but it won't be easy. 
As Connor looks into Drusilla's past, he knows that she is hiding something and with the help of his former police partner, Greg, they  delve further until they are almost certain that she is the culprit. All they need is the evidence.
But Connor and Dru's instant dislike for each other threatens to overshadow the real danger that is lurking in the diamond mine...

The story that unfolds is compelling, and the author's descriptions of the rural landscape compliment the story beautifully. 
Diamond mining was a topic that I knew little about prior to reading Diamond Sky, and Annie's descriptions of what is involved is expressed in great detail. I found it to be very informative and I gained a better understanding of the processes involved, including the high security rules and regulations.
The cast of characters are diverse, and I thought Dru was a really determined, strong woman, particularly when put under pressure.
The elements of mystery and romance appealed greatly to me. And how breath-taking is the book cover?! 
If you enjoy rural fiction packed with secrets and thrills, then I urge you to read Diamond Sky.

Diamond Sky is out now through Pan Macmillan Australia. It has an RRP of $29.99.
For further information, head here 

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Beauty & Lace Book Review: 
Ache - Eliza Henry-Jones

I have seen this book across my social media on many occasions and was glad to be given the opportunity to read a copy of it recently.
The story centres around Annie, who is married to Tom, and has a six-year-old daughter named Pip.
A year ago, a bushfire ripped through the mountains where Annie grew up.
Her mother's home was partially destroyed, and her beloved grandmother Gladys was killed when a tree toppled over, pinning her underneath. The entire close-knit community was affected.

Annie and Pip were there when the tragic events of that day panned out, but they managed to escape unscathed. However, a year on, and they are still both traumatised by the things they witnessed on that fateful day.
When Annie receives a call from her Uncle Len letting her know that her mother isn't coping well, Annie makes the decision to return back to the mountains, quitting her job at a vet clinic in the city, and taking Pip with her. She is hoping that the move back to the mountains will allow them both to begin to heal.
As the story continues, we are given a real insight into what the community experienced on the day of the bushfire; the lives, the homes, and the animals that were lost. 
The effects the bushfire has had on all of the residents and wildlife in the area is described exceptionally well. 
The trauma of the bushfire presents itself in many forms. In Annie's case, she experiences flashbacks, sleepwalking and nightmares. 
Young Pip regresses and insists on being called "Phillip". She wets the bed and lashes out at those trying to help her. And Annie's artist mother, Susan, isn't able to paint anymore, and instead spends her days baking dozens upon dozens of cupcakes. It is as though the bushfire has robbed these individuals of a piece of themselves in their hearts, their minds, and their being.
Eliza has done a remarkable job of portraying grief in many different forms. It is clearly evident that she has a background in grief and trauma counselling. She captures the way that it can become all-consuming and affect the way that we treat others and ourselves.
But this is also a book about having the courage to face the things that we don't think are possible.
If you are after a happy story, then this isn't it, although there are some funny parts woven in. 
But please don't let that deter you, as Ache is a riveting story of hope, and of learning to pick up the pieces again, and it definitely deserves all of the praise that it has been getting. 

Have you read Ache? If so, I'd love to hear what you thought of it. 

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of Ache through Beauty And Lace in exchange for an honest review. To read the original review on the Beauty & Lace website, you can head here
All opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way. I was not paid for this review.