Review: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson


Title: Furiously Happy

Author: Jenny Lawson

Published: Picador: Pan Macmillan Australia October 2015

Status: Read from October 03 to 04, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

In case you are unaware, Jenny Lawson is a blogger whose brutally candid and often profane posts as The Bloggess, about living with depression, anxiety and a variety of other psychiatric disorders are wildly popular.
Laugh out loud funny, poignant and a little crazy, read this and make yourself #FuriouslyHappy

I generally choose not to rate memoirs for several reasons (but if I did, I’d give this 5 stars).


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Review: Menagerie by Rachel Vincent


Title: Menagerie { Menagerie #1}

Author: Rachel Vincent

Published: Harlequin MIRA September 2015

Status: Read from September 21 to 22, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A darkly imaginative and captivating tale, Menagerie introduces a new fantasy series from Rachel Vincent for an adult audience.

On her twenty fifth birthday, Delilah Marlow’s boyfriend presents her with tickets to Metzger’s Menagerie, a travelling carnival, whose attractions include cryptids, creatures of legend and myth kept captive since the horror of The Reaping. Delilah has never been comfortable with society’s treatment of cryptids, and she is horrified when she witnesses a keeper abuse a young female werewolf, but she is as stunned as everyone around her when her fury manifests physically.

“But if monsters could look like humans, and humans could look like monsters, how could anyone ever really be sure that the right people stood on the outside of all those cages?”

Vincent presents a stunning alternate reality in Menagerie where supernatural creatures are caged, enslaved and exploited by humans. Afforded no rights cryptids are feared and hated, blamed wholesale for an event known as The Reaping which killed hundreds of thousands of children decades earlier.

Delilah is utterly unaware she is anything but human until the night she plunges black talons into the skull of the abusive keeper, and is utterly terrified when she is arrested and then denied any recourse when the Sheriff sells her to Metzger’s Menagerie. Vincent creates a powerful and disturbing portrait of Delilah’s disenfranchisement as she is chained and caged, placed at the mercy of sadistic keepers who force her to become a sideshow attraction despite being unable to identify her ‘type’, alongside the circus’s collection of trolls, ogres, mermaids, djinn, were creatures, and a rare minotaur.

Vincent spares little as she describes the conditions under which the cryptids live in Metzger’s Menagerie. Abused, tortured, starved and drugged, their experiences are harrowing and for Delilah the dislocation is extreme. As she tries to hold onto her dignity, she displays courage, resilience and determination. Only one keeper shows her any kindness, Gallagher, who comes to believe that Delilah is the rarest of cryptid’s, and the only one who can save them all.

Menagerie though is much more than just a thrilling tale of fantasy, it is a story that explores the concepts of humanity, and its capacity for savagery when threatened or fearful, injustice and vengeance. It reflects some of society’s worst impulses such as the internment camps, acts of genocide, human trafficking and forcible slavery. This provocative edge to the story may be overlooked by some, but the parallels were clear to me.

With literally extraordinary characters, dazzling world building and a captivating plot, Menagerie is a sensational read. I can’t wait for the story to continue.

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Also by Rachel Vincent at Book’d Out

Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas


Title: Queen of Shadows {Throne of Glass #4)

Author: Sarah J Maas

Published: Bloomsbury September 2015

Status: Read from September 01 to 03, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

“She was fire, and light, and ash, and embers. She was Aelin Fireheart, and she bowed for no one and nothing, save the crown that was hers by blood and survival and triumph.”

Queen of Shadows is the fourth book in Sarah J Maas’s riveting fantasy adventure series, Throne of Glass. At just over 650 pages, this is an epic installment offering plenty of intrigue, danger, fast paced action and romance.

In Queen of Shadows, our heroine returns to Rifthold, not as the assassin Celaena Sardothien, but as Aelin Galathynius, rightful heir to the throne of Terrasen, determined to put an end to the King and his alliance with the demon Valg. Her first task is to rescue her cousin Aedion from public execution, her second to destroy Arobynn, all the while plotting to free magic, save Dorian from Valg possession and ensure the safety of the people she loves.

In the interest of avoiding spoilers for fans of this gripping series I’m just going to heap general praise on it. The plot is fast paced and action packed with plenty of exciting confrontations that left me breathless. It is also clever, Maas allows Aelin to keep secrets not just from her friends but also from the reader resulting in some startling surprises. The plot twists and turns as Aelin doggedly pursues her goal, and the final confrontation between the Queen and her enemies was nothing short of epic.

Queen of Shadows embraces both old and new allies and enemies. Aelin’s loyal circle includes Aedion and fae warrior Rowan, Chaol, despite his emotional turmoil, rebel Nesryn, and courtesan Lysandra. I really enjoyed the shifting dynamics between all of these characters as the novel progressed.

Personally the fan driven controversy regarding Aelin’s romantic choices seems extreme to me, perhaps because I’m a mature aged reader I understand more clearly why Aelin and Chaol are no longer a good fit, and though I am not completely convinced Rowan is her soul mate, I do believe he is her ideal partner for the moment.

Though not truly an enemy, Dorian, inhabited by a Valg prince, is a wild card and Aelin struggles to decide how best to deal with him. She has no such hesitation when it comes to Arobynn when his true capacity for deceit is unequivocally revealed.

Aelin also shares the narrative with Manon Blackbeak who was introduced in Heir of Fire. Manon, a ruthless witch, is in Morath readying herself and her kind for battle on the side of the King, but she unexpectedly finds herself questioning orders at the urging of her second Aestrin, a crippled slave girl, Elide, and a young broken woman with an extraordinary ability.

Queen of Shadows is an enthralling read, and I resented having to put it down even briefly to attend to the ordinary demands of existence. It is going to be a longgg wait for the next (possibly final??) book.

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Read my reviews for the first three books in the series

Review: Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton


Title: Little Black Lies

Author: Sharon Bolton

Published: Transworld UK July 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read from July 07 to 09, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Little Black Lies is a taut, twisty thriller from Sharon Bolton. It begins when a child goes missing, the third in three years from the sparsely populated Falkland Islands.

The narrative is divided into thirds, unfolding from the perspectives of three unique and complex characters. For Catrin the disappearance is an inconvenience. She has a schedule to keep, plans for the woman she blames for the tragic death of her young sons as an anniversary approaches. Callum, an ex-soldier with PTSD, has a theory about the abducted children that the local police are choosing to ignore. Rachel, who spends most of her days in bed, is largely oblivious until her youngest son goes missing.

The well crafted plot, which I don’t wish to elaborate on, reveals the links between these characters, whose lives have been tainted by grief and tragedy, and their connection to the missing children over a period of five days. Though the pace is measured, the story is propelled by cinching tension and breath taking twists.

The setting is atmospheric, the isolated island itself has great presence in the novel from its rugged coastline to its rocky terrain, and its history, as the site of the bloody if short lived war for sovereignty between Britain and Argentina in the early 1980’s, also plays into the story.

Fans of poetry should enjoy the references throughout the novel to ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Bolton skilfully utilises the imagery the verses evoke.

Since then, at an uncertain hour,
That agony returns:
And till my ghastly tale is told,
This heart within me burns.

Little Black Lies is a tense, dark and disturbing story about revenge and redemption, that leads to a stunning conclusion. I could hardly put it down.

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Seasoned Traveller 2015

Review: The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White


Title: The Perfect Son

Author: Barbara Claypole White

Published: Lake Union Publishing July 2015

Status: Read from July 05 to 07, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

When Ella Fitzwilliam is hospitalised after a life threatening heart attack her workaholic husband, Felix, is forced to assume the daily care of his teenage son, Harry. Harry is a bright, handsome sixteen year old, with Tourette Syndrome, ADHD and anxiety, and father and son struggle to cope in Ella’s absence.

Told from the perspectives of White’s three main characters, Harry, Ella and Felix, The Perfect Son is a heart warming and poignant story about family, acceptance, trust and love. The changing dynamic of the Fitzwilliam family is beautifully crafted and White writes with insight and compassion for the complexities of a family in crisis.

Ella has always been her son’s advocate and his strongest supporter. She doesn’t regret devoting her life to ensure Harry’s well being but hovering between life and death she is forced to let go and trust her husband and son will find their way.

As a perfectionist who is uncomfortable with both physical and emotional disorder, Felix struggles to negotiate both the everyday and extraordinary challenges involved in parenting Harry. Initially Felix is largely an unsympathetic character, while devoted to his wife, his attitude towards his son is cold and critical, however as White reveals his painful back story I began to understand his inability to relate to his son, and I really enjoyed the way in which the author developed him.

Harry is a wonderful character and I was impressed with White’s well rounded portrayal of him. Harry’s neurobiological issues are a part of who he is, but that isn’t all he is. Like any other teen Harry is contemplating his options for college, falling in love, learning to drive and testing parental limits. He deals admirably with the extra pressure of his mother’s illness and his father’s cluelessness and is a special and genuine young man.

White’s secondary characters are also a delight. Ella’s closest friend, Katherine, the family’s feisty elderly neighbour, Eudora, and in particular Harry’s best friend, Max, add humour and sentiment to the plot.

Tender, funny, sad and sweet, The Perfect Son is a wonderful story that pulls at the heart strings and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

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Review: Forensics by Val McDermid


Title: Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime

Author: Val McDermid

Published: Grove Press July 2015

Status: Read from June 18 to 20, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

“The story of forensic science, of that road from crime scene to courtroom, is the stuff of thousands of crime novels.”

Val McDermid is the bestselling crime fiction author of more than thirty novels, including her popular series featuring criminal profiler Tony Hill and Detective Inspector Carol Jordan. In Forensics, Val McDermid pays homage to the science that informs her work.

Drawing on interviews with leading forensic scientists about the history, practice and future of their varied disciplines, the latest research, and her own experiences, McDermid delves into the grimly fascinating anatomy of crime.

In exploring a wide range of forensic disciplines; fire scene investigation, entomology, pathology, toxicology, fingerprinting, blood spatter, DNA, anthropology, facial reconstruction, digital forensics, and forensic psychology, McDermid illustrates the science with both historical and modern day landmark cases, from the fire that razed London in 1666, to the dozens of serial murders committed by Doctor Harold Shipman.

The factual and scientific detail presented is easily accessible, clear, concise and not overly complex. I was fascinated to learn about the advances in DNA profiling for example, and the development of the science of entomology, first documented more than 750 years ago in a Chinese handbook for coroners called The Washing Away of Wrongs.

McDermid also takes the time to dispel some popular myths given life by television shows such as CSI and Law and Order. Despite her admiration for the usefulness of forensic sciences, she is careful to explain that no forensic discipline is infallible, DNA can be contaminated, fingerprints can be misinterpreted, crime scenes can be manipulated. Solving crimes, and perhaps more importantly ensuring convictions, relies on thorough investigation along with a combination of forensic disciplines.

Informative and entertaining, Forensics is an utterly engrossing read that should interest crime fiction readers, writers and anyone with interest in the field of forensics or law.

UK/AUS Cover

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Review: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman


Title: My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry

Author: Fredrik Backman

Published: Atria Books June 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from June 14 to 15, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

For all it made me feel, I declared Fredrik Backman’s debut novel, A Man Called Ove my favourite book of 2014 and My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She’s Sorry is now my favourite of 2015.

Elsa is an improbably precocious but utterly adorable seven year old girl who loves her grandmother, Harry Potter and Wikipedia, in that order. Bullied at school, Granny is Elsa’s best and only friend, her guide to the Land-of-Almost-Awake, a dreamscape of fairy tales, magic and adventure that comforts them both when life is difficult, and her very own superhero.

She shouldn’t take any notice of what those muppets think, says Granny. Because all the best people are different – look at superheroes.”

Just before Granny dies she presses an envelope into Elsa’s hand, and asks her granddaughter to deliver a letter.

“Give the letter to him who’s waiting. He won’t want to accept it, but tell him it’s from me. Tell him your granny sends her regards and says she’s sorry”

And so begins Elsa’s adventure, part quest, part treasure hunt, part superhero mission, Granny’s letter leads Elsa first to the door of a wurse, and then The Monster (also known as Wolfheart), another letter leads her to the Sea-Witch and yet another much later to the Princess of Miploris. With each letter, offering apologies and regrets, Elsa unravels the truth about the fairy tales that form the foundation of the Land-of-Almost-Awake, and the secrets of her grandmother’s exceptional life.

“Elsa doesn’t know if this means that Granny took all her stories from the real world and placed them in Miamas, or if the stories from Miamas became so real that the creatures came across to the real world. But the Land-of-Almost-Awake and her house are obviously merging.”

In My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Backman weaves a creative tapestry of the ordinary together with the extraordinary. Characters that are real, flawed yet magnificent, or as Granny puts it,

“no one is entirely a sh*t and almost no one is entirely not a sh*t”.

It tells a story that is both wise and insightful, absurd and wondrous as it explores the themes of grief, love, difference, connection, regrets and forgiveness.

Funny, moving, heartfelt and inspiring, it made me laugh and cry.
Not five stars but ten… at least!


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Review: The Martian by Andy Weir


Title: The Martian

Author: Andy Weir

Published: Crown Publishing Jan 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from January 29 to 31, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

“So that’s the situation. I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last thirty-one days. If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.
So yeah. I’m fucked.”

I wasn’t expecting The Martian to be funny but I found myself chuckling surprisingly often. Watney’s logs are full of witty wisecracks and good humour, even if it is occasionally juvenile and crude. Mark Watney is an optimist – perhaps the ultimate optimist. No matter the challenges thrown at him – lack of food, an exploding tent, a smashed faceplate, disco music, he just keeps going, solving one problem at a time. Watney’s MacGyver-like skill may be a little hard to swallow but I was willing to go with it and believe in him.

“Also, I have duct tape. Ordinary duct tape, like you buy at a hardware store. Turns out even NASA can’t improve on duct tape.”

The amount of tension was also a surprise, with each setback on Mars, and back on Earth as the rescue effort gets underway, I found myself more and more anxious for Watney. I really wasn’t sure if he would or would not survive, but I desperately wanted him to find a way off of the planet and get back home.

“Mars and my stupidity keep trying to kill me.”

I have no idea if the science in The Martian is accurate, but I believed Weir anyway, plus this is science fiction so he is allowed plenty of leeway. While I admit that on occasion I found some of the technical detail tedious, I appreciated the sense of authenticity it lent to the story, and I feel like I learnt stuff – always a bonus.

“The chemistry is on my side. the question now is how do I actually make this reaction happen slowly, and how do I collect the hydrogen? The answer is: I don’t know.
I suppose I’ll think of something. Or die.”

Witty, clever and thrilling The Martian is a terrific read. Science fiction is far from my favourite genre but this book may well be one of my favourites of the year.

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SciFi set in space

Review: Things Half in Shadow by Alan Finn

Title: Things Half in Shadow

Author: Alan Finn

Published: Gallery Books December 2014

Status: Read from December 28 to 30, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Things Half in Shadow is an entertaining mystery thriller with a paranormal twist, set in postbellum Philadelphia, in which author Alan Finn (the pen name of Todd Ritter) introduces an unusual crime solving duo – independently wealthy crime reporter, Edward Clark and brazen confidence trickster, Lucy Collins, who become unlikely allies when they are present at the death of Lenora Grimes Pastor, the city’s most highly regarded medium.

Edward tells the tale of Things Half in Shadow as an old man sharing the story with his granddaughter. The two lead characters are wonderfully drawn, interesting and believable with intriguing secrets.
Edward is a gentleman, a veteran of the civil war, independently wealthy and engaged to a young lady of society. Tasked by his editor to expose Philadelphia’s psychic fraudsters preying on the grieving families of those lost in the war, he is reluctant to do so, though he has a secret that makes him uniquely qualified for the feature.
Mrs. Lucy Collins claims to be a ‘spiritually gifted’ young widow, offering her services as a medium to the bereaved of Philadelphia and is Edward’s first target for his newspaper expose. In truth she is a ‘fallen’ woman, successfully scamming Philadelphia society with simple sleight of hand.

The plot sees Edward and Lucy forced to cooperate in the wake of Pastor’s murder to clear their names, despite their mutual antipathy. There are several suspects including the other man and women who were in attendance at the seance, Leonora’s husband and a mysterious man in black who seems to be shadowing Edward. The suspense is well crafted, and the mystery behind Leonora’s unusual death is much more complex than it seems, eventually exposing a startling conspiracy that stretches back into Edward’s past.

Historically atmospheric, with a surprise cameo from PT Barnum, Things Half in Shadow is a great mystery tale, and one of my favourite books for 2014. Finn hints that Edward and Lucy may return soon, I can’t wait.

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Review: The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin


Title: The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes

Author: Anna McPartlin

Published: Black Swan: Transworld UK December 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from December 20 to 21, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting, wildly funny and emotionally devastating, The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes is a superb novel from Anna McPartlin.

Forty year old, single mother Mia ‘Rabbit’ Hayes has bravely fought the ravages of cancer for four years, but now she and her family are forced to face the truth…she has just days left to live. As Rabbit drifts in and out of consciousness in her hospice bed, recalling the most important moments of her youth, her family and friends struggle to accept their impending loss.

A story of heartbreak, joy, love and loss, a novel with heart and soul… I was smiling broadly through it all, despite the tears running down my face.

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