Wednesday, 17 November 2021

 Children's Picture Book Reviews: Toy Mountain and Cookie 

 

 


 
Toy Mountain and Cookie are recent releases from EK Books, a publisher which produces picture books that have meaningful messages and important topics.

Toy Mountain features a boy named Sam, who wishes that he had some new and exciting toys to play with. When he is given the opportunity to be a toy tester and receive the latest toys on the market, Sam is thrilled! 

However, it isn't long until he realises that it may not be necessary to own so many toys after all when his beloved old toys get buried under a mountain of new ones. 

This book teaches children about sustainability and the importance of protecting the environment and using only what we need, not want.

 

Cookie is a story written by Isabelle Duff when she was 18 years old, and is inspired by her border collie Saffy.

Cookie and Girl have an unbreakable bond and bring joy to each other's lives. Even when Girl feels sad, she knows that she can depend on Cookie to cheer her up. He brings light to her dark days and cheers her up with his antics.

This is lovely story that touches on the importance of pet ownership and the love that a pet provides.

Both books are available now through EK Books. 


 

Sunday, 14 November 2021

 

 The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly  

 


I haven't read many crime novels this year, so when I was given the opportunity to read the latest release from the number one bestselling crime writer Michael Connelly, with thanks to Allen & Unwin Australia, I was interested in being involved.

This is the fourth Connelly book that stars the leading female character Renee Ballard, and although it was a first for me, I became an instant fan of hers.

Renee is a detective for the LAPD and loves working the graveyard shift. The story begins on New Years Eve, heading into 2021, as she waits out the traditional rain of bullets as revellers welcome in the new year by shooting their guns into the air. Just a few minutes after midnight, Ballard is called out to a scene where a hard-working auto shop owner named Javier Raffa has been found dead after being hit by what appears to be a falling bullet at a street party. 

Renee soon discovers that Raffa was an ex-gang member and that his death isn't accidental. She also concludes that the bullet that was used to kill him is linked to another case of an unsolved murder, which was worked on by Detective Harry Bosch some years back. She contacts Bosch and the two of them begin working together to solve the mystery surrounding the two cases.

But it doesn't stop there for Renee. She is also on the hunt for a pair of serial rapists, dubbed The Midnight Men, who have been terrorising women in the local community, and leaving no evidence behind. To say that she has her work cut out for her is an understatement, and with such low morale amongst the police department due to the pandemic and recent social unrest, she feels even more responsibility to step up and find out who is to blame for these crimes.

Renee Ballard is such a determined and feisty character, and I admired her relentless energy to get things done, and to take risks, no matter what the consequence may be. 

This is an action-packed story that is very well told, and Connelly ties in current issues including the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests, which made it all the more realistic.

If you're a fan of crime and/or action-packed thrillers then I am sure you will enjoy The Dark Hours.

Available now thorough Allen & Unwin Australia, RRP $32.99 

 

Thursday, 2 September 2021

 Book Review: The Housemate by Sarah Bailey

 


It's been  a while since I've read a thriller even though it is one of my favouite genres to read, so I was keen when I was given the opportunity to read Sarah Bailey's latest thriller novel The Housemate, which was released this week. 

 

The story is mainly set in 2015 but it reverts back in time to 2005 when the Housemate Homicide took place. Back then, Melbournian-based Olive (Oli) Groves was a junior reporter and became fascinated with the case in which a young woman, Evelyn Stanley, was murdered. One of Evelyn's housemates, Alexandra Riboni, was charged with Evelyn's murder, and her other housemate, Nicole Horrowitz went missing.

Now, ten years later, Nicole has been found dead on a remote property, and Oli is assigned to the case yet again. As she digs into the case, she uncovers a lot of secrets and questions that need answering.

Oli is a great protagonist; she's capable, determined, and passionate - all great qualities to possess. The story unravels at a decent pace, with a lot of mystery interspersed throughout. There are a lot of characters in the story and it took a while for me to get my head around them all. My favourite by far was Cooper Ng, who is partnered up with Oli to help crack the case. He's fun, inquisitive, and adorably annoying. As I don't want to spoil the story for others, I will only say that I really disliked the road Cooper went down. You'll need to read it to find out! 

I thought that this was a well-written whodunnit, and I found that I connected with the setting of the story, being based in Melbourne.  

I would recommend The Housemate for fans of crime/thriller novels.

* Worth mentioning, there are some heavy themes in The Housemate, including child abuse, which may be triggering for some readers.


The Housemate is available through Allen & Unwin RRP $32.99

 

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

 Book Review: The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang

 


 



This is Helen Hoang's third novel. Her first, The Kiss Quotient, is a New York Times bestseller, and her second, The Bride Test, was released in 2019.

I have read both of her other books, so I was happy to be offered the opportunity to receive a copy of The Heart Principle, which is due for release through Allen & Unwin Australia.

This was so much more than just a romantic novel. I read this book within a couple of days and really enjoyed it. I would say it is my favourite of the three.

Violinist Anna Sun is in a long-term relationship with Julian, and she is always putting other people's feelings before her own. She finds it difficult to say no, and to listen to her inner voice. After achieving success with a YouTube video that went viral, Anna struggles to replicate the same standard of violin playing and gets burned out.

When Julian suggests that they switch to an open relationship before deciding if he wants to make a final commitment, Anna is angry and hurt, but again finds it difficult to say no, so she agrees.

She sets up a dating app and vows to embark on a string of one-night stands.

Enter Quan Diep - covered in tattoos and a motorcycle rider, not to mention, deliciously handsome! Their first try at a one-night stand turns into a failure, but they see each other again (and again!). They start to date and Anna finds that she can be more of herself around Quan, something she has always struggled to do. 

But when tragedy strikes Anna's family, she is thrust into a role that she isn't suited for, and which threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan want to be together, but they need to find themselves first. 

I don't want to add too much more so as not to spoil this book for others, but I recommend this book highly.

The story is told in alternating chapters, which I like as it offers an insight into both Anna and Quan's personal lives. For those who have read The Kiss Quotient, you may recognise Quan as he is the cousin of Michael, one of the leading characters in that book. There are some similarities in all of Helen's three books in that they all have a leading character with autism, and issues with love, but for the most part, each story is told well.

 This story touches on a lot of sensitive topics - illness, autism, burnout, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, hospice care, death and more. Knowing that  Helen has described this to be 'half memoir' makes me even more fond of the story.

The Heart Principle is available now through Allen & Unwin Australia, $29.99

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

 Book Review: 138 Dates by Rebekah Campbell 

 


 

I was recently given the opportunity to receive a copy of the newly released book 138 Dates by Rebekah Campbell, and although it isn't a genre that I usually go for, I agreed as it sounded interesting. I'm glad I did, as it's a pretty good read.

The book is a true story about businesswoman and entrepreneur Rebekah Campbell, and her journey to find love. 

The story is set in 2012, when Rebekah is aged 35. Outwardly, it appears that Rebekah has it all, including a successful company called Posse.com, and a popular blog. However, the truth is that she is very lonely. She hasn't been on a date in ten years, and she feels as though it is time to put herself out there in the hopes of fulfilling her dream of finding love and starting a family.

Using her business experience and knowledge, she applies these tactics to help find a man. What follows is a wild roller-coaster of the dating world! 138 dates with different men from Sydney, San Fransisco and New York, all whilst trying to launch a company!

Rebekah doesn't shy away from telling her story, and really keeps it real in the retelling of her experience. I am sure that there are many out there who can relate to the effort and pressure of dating.
I really enjoyed her honesty in sharing her dating experiences,  and her vulnerability was endearing.

I also liked finding out about her family (her mum certainly is a character!), and about her earlier years and first experience with love, which set the benchmark for her relationships. 

 138 Dates is well worth a read, and is available now through Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99

Friday, 2 July 2021

Book Review: The Wattle Seed Inn by Leonie Kelsall

 




This is the first novel of Leonie's that I have read, and even before I'd finished it, I had placed a reservation from my local library for her first novel, award winning The Farm At Peppertree Crossing. I really enjoyed The Wattle Seed Inn and knew that I wanted to read more of the Australian writer's work. 

From the opening pages of The Wattle Seed Inn, the reader is transported to the beautiful rural town of Settlers Bridge, where PR executive Gabrielle Moreau takes sole ownership of the dilapidated Wurruldi Hotel and its surrounding properties after her relationship with her business partner and now ex-fiance Brendan, turns sour. 

Gabrielle plans on renovating the hotel, and even though money is no issue for her, she wants to prove that she is capable and successful without having to fall back on her privilege. When she heads to the local pub on her first night in town, she is befriended by the lovely red-headed dairy worker, Sharna, who introduces her to a few of the locals, including Hayden Paech, or Weaty as he's better known.

Their meeting is rather odd and uncomfortable as Gabrielle is a little overwhelmed by the reserved nature of Hayden, and she can't help but wonder what he is hiding. But when Sharna finds out that Gabrielle plans on renovating the ramshackle hotel, she knows that Hayden, being a stonemason, should be able to lend a hand.

However, Hayden has his reasons for holding back. Up until eighteen months ago, he was happily enjoying life surrounded by great mates and a loving family. But one tragic experience changed his life forever, and the struggles continue to plague him. 

When he spends some more time with Gabrielle, he knows that he wants to assist her with the renovations, but will be able to open up and allow himself to care for her, or will his past continue to drag him down?

This was a highly enjoyable and entertaining story with a rich sense of community and a great cast of characters. The meticulous descriptions of the stunning rural landscapes provided the perfect cherry on the top! 

The Wattle Seed Inn is available now through Allen & Unwin.


Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Book Review: Nancy Business by R.W.R. McDonald

 


 

 I finally got round to reading The Nancys about a month ago after hearing lots of good things about it. I thought that it was such a witty and funny novel with a cast of unique characters, and was really glad when I found out that they would be back for more in the sequel titled Nancy Business. 

I had the opportunity to read Nancy Business, which is released this week, and loved it just as much.

The protagonist is 12 year-old Tippy Chan. Tippy is an adorable character with a great attitude to life, and is also really brave. 

 Tippy has had to deal with a lot in her short life, including the death of her father. She loves Nancy Drew novels (especially the hand-me-down copies that her Uncle Pike gave her), and she loves solving mysteries. Along with her Uncle Pike and his partner Devon, they form 'The Nancys', a secret amateur detective club.

In Nancy Business, Pike and Devon revisit Tippy and her mum to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Tippy's father's death. 

When an early morning explosion rocks the small town where Tilly lives, three people are killed and the town hall is destroyed.

The Nancys decide to go against the advice of the local police and work together to find out who detonated the bomb, and try to work out whether the town is still under threat. Only this time around, Pike and Devon can't see eye to eye, and Tippy finds out some truths that she would have rather not known. Can they solve the mystery before it's too late? You'll have to read it to find out!

Nancy Business is highly entertaining and just a really fun read. Whilst there are some heavier topics like death and grief, they are written in a gentle, sensitive manner.

Uncle Pike and his partner Devon are hilarious and I love them both! Their unwavering love for Tilly is clearly evident, and they do their best to support both Tilly and her mum. They have great personalities and bring a lot to the series. Add in Tilly with her can-do look on life and it's the perfect trio.

I'd highly recommend both of R.W.R McDonald's novels if you're after light-hearted, fun and fabulous stories. 

Nancy Business is available now through Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99