Blog Tour Review: All That is Lost Between Us by Sara Foster

 

Title: All That is Lost Between Us

Author: Sara Foster

Published: Simon & Schuster AU Feb 2016

Status: Read from February 03 to 04, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

All That is Lost Between Us is a compelling modern domestic thriller from Sara Foster.

Unfolding from the perspectives of the four members of the Turner family, it is a story about guilt, secrets, betrayal and loyalty.

Seventeen year old Georgia Turner, high school student and champion Fells runner, is preoccupied by a secret she can’t share, not even with her best friend and cousin, Sophia.
Anya is frustrated by her inability to connect with her increasingly withdrawn daughter who spurns both her concern and affection, as does her husband, Callum.
Callum, mired in unspoken resentments, has thrown himself into his voluntary work with the local Fells rescue team, and taken solace in the attentions of a younger colleague.
When Zac accidentally discovers a shocking photo hidden in his sister’s bedroom, he is at a loss as how to best deal with his discovery.

A hit and run incident involving Georgia and Sophia is the catalyst that drives the members of the Turner family to the brink of crisis. As suspicion grows that the actions of the unidentified driver was deliberate, Foster builds the tension as secrets begin to collide.

One of the main themes Foster’s story thoughtfully explores is the vulnerabilities of family. Emotional distance has frayed the bonds between husband and wife, parent and child, in All That is Lost Between Us. The strained relationships are sensitively and realistically portrayed, disconnected, they are each vulnerable in the crisis and struggle to bridge the gap to offer each other the support they need.

Georgia’s angst is well drawn, her increasingly fraught emotional state is believable as she obsesses over her secret with the self absorption of youth.
I empathised strongly with Anya, it is difficult to let your children pull away from you, to find the balance between encouraging them to make their own choices, and protect them from their inevitable mistakes. My oldest daughter is 19 and I too feel as if she is “breaking off a piece of my heart and taking it with her.” as she forges her own life.

Set in England’s Lake District, Foster’s descriptions of the landscape are vivid and evocative. The rugged beauty of the Fells, its craggy peaks and forested valleys and sheer cliffs, also reflects the changeable emotional states of the characters.

All That is Lost Between Us is a captivating read I’d recommend to both an adult and mature young adult audience.

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Review: Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar

 

Title: Summer Skin

Author: Kirsty Eagar

Published: Allen & Unwin Feb 2016

Status: Read from February 01 to 02, 2016 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Summer Skin offers a ‘girl meets boy’ story, a typical trope in YA/NA fiction, but author Kirsty Eagar has stripped back the common artifice of the construct to present a love story that honest, unique and relevant.

I found Jess to be a particular refreshing character for the YA/NA genre, though a mess of contradictions, she reflects a realistic young woman still figuring out that life and its challenges are rarely black and white.

Mitch challenges Jess in interesting ways, at first glance he is everything Jess despises – an arrogant rugby playing sexist pig, and she holds tightly to that initial assessment, which she often uses as an excuse and justification throughout their relationship for her own behaviour, even as she learns that Mitch is a much more than that. They both struggle to define their relationship in terms of both their own identities, and each other.

There is real depth to this novel beneath the humor, mischief, drunken revelry, dress up balls, and instagram poses that exemplifies campus life. The author explores modern day feminism and how its meaning varies between individuals, illustrated by the differing attitudes and opinions of Jess and each of her close friends, Farren, Leanne and Allie. She captures the conflict many young women face when negotiating issues of lust, sex and intimacy in the age of the hook-up culture. Eagar also touches on several relevant issues affecting today’s young adults including the use, and abuse of social media, the way in which porn distorts attitudes to sex, the risks of speeding and drink driving, but she never preaches.

Aimed squarely at a mature young adult/new adult audience, Summer Skin is smart, funny, sexy and thought-provoking. There is nothing typical about it.

Available to purchase from

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Also by Kirsty Eagar

@ Goodreads

Review: Numbered by Amy Andrews & Ros Baxter

 

Title: Numbered

Author: Amy Andrews & Ros Baxter

Published: Harlequin MIRA AU Jan 2016

Read an Extract

Status: Read from January 26 to 29, 2016 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

‘Where are the damn tissues?’ is what I wrote when I finished Numbered by authors Ros Baxter and Amy Andrews.

When twenty nine year old Poppy Devine finds a lump in her breast she decides to get a jump on her bucket list, and surprises herself by crossing off three items in one day – Number one: Jump out of a plane, Number ten: Have sex with a stranger, Number twelve: Eat a Mexican meal.

Numbered is an emotive story, the tragedy of Poppy’s terminal diagnosis can’t fail to tug at the heart strings, but it is ultimately a celebration of life as Poppy with the support of her best friend Julia and no-longer-a-stranger ‘Ten’ (aka Quentin Carmody) endeavour to fulfil her bucket list before her time runs out.

Most of the story is told from the alternating perspectives of Julia and Quentin. Julia is both furious and devastated when her best friend is diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer and is determined that Poppy will beat it. In the meantime she will do everything she can to ensure Poppy has whatever she wants, she just doesn’t think that Poppy is making a wise choice in keeping Mr-Rock-God-Surfer-Boy-Football-Legend around. Twenty two year old musician/short order cook Quentin Carmody has never had a relationship that has lasted longer than a few weeks but he’s found something special with Poppy, both in and out of bed, and he’s determined not to let her go.

Numbered is as much a story about they way in which Julia and Quentin cope with Poppy’s inevitable death, more perhaps, than it is about Poppy’s courageous last days. I loved Julia’s feisty spirit and take no prisoners attitude, and the way in which Quentin sees past Poppy’s illness. Both strong personalities, Julia and Quentin want what is best for Poppy but they don’t always agree on what that is or how to make it happen. The bickering between them is often hilarious, providing much needed light relief, but is clearly edged with the pain and grief they feel.

Beautifully written with heart and humour, Numbered is a poignant yet life affirming novel about friendship, love, hope, grief and redemption, a wonderful read that will likely leave you smiling through your tears.

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Also by Amy Andrews & Ros Baxter

Review: It’s.Nice.Outside. by Jim Kokoris

 

Title: It’s.Nice.Outside

Author: Jim Kokoris

Published: St Martins Press December 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from January 02 to 03, 2016 — I own a copy  (Courtesy the publisher)

My Thoughts:

“Everyone is waiting for us in Charleston, South Carolina. That’s a long way. We’re going to drive there. Isn’t that fun? Isn’t that crazy? Mom thinks I’m crazy for doing this. I’m starting to think I’m crazy for doing this, and we haven’t even pulled out of the driveway. Isn’t that crazy? Yes, sir, it sure is. Yes, sir.”

John Nichols is driving cross country with his son Ethan to attend his eldest daughter’s wedding. He once dreamed of taking aimlessly to the open road, but this trip requires factoring in Ethan’s restlessness, frequent meltdowns, bathroom breaks and stops for pickles at Cracker Barrel. Born with an extra chromosome resulting in global cognitive delays, Ethan is essentially a nineteen year old toddler and though John fiercely loves his son, he is exhausted by the demands of caring for him.

Little of John’s life has turned out as he expected, at 57 he is an ex-basketballer player, ex-author, ex-philanderer, ex-husband, ex-high-school English teacher’ but now John has an ‘Overall Plan’. Phase I is getting to the wedding on time, Phase II will be a little more complicated.

Jim Kokoris’ fourth novel, It’s. Nice. Outside. is a funny, honest and moving novel about family, love, regret, joy, doubt and hope.

The trip is fraught with emotion, reflection and re-evaluation, beset by crisis when Karen’s wedding is cancelled, contention when youngest daughter Mindy joins them, and chaos when John finally reveals his Overall Plan to his ex-wife. John is convinced he is doing the right thing for his son, for his family and as he admits, for himself, but letting go maybe the thing that tears them all apart.

“I kept thinking that if we stuck together, we would eventually get to where everything was going to be fine. That we were going to make it, all of us. We were going to arrive someplace together and be fine…. A happy ending”

I laughed loudly at Stinky Bear (“a sassy, horny little teddy bear, full of insightful and often…outrageous comments about life, love, and the state of the civilisation.” and was moved by John’s frustrations and angst. Primarily though I felt compassion for the family’s very real struggle to determine what is best for Ethan.

Kokoris’s dialogue is sharp and snappy and the interactions between the various characters ring true. The author’s sense of comedic timing is impeccable, clever and hilarious, though also often dark and acerbic. Well crafted, the pace of the story is great and events unfold naturally.

I was really impressed by It’s.Nice.Outside. for Kokoris’s wit and candor and the insight into a complicated family dynamic.

 

Available via

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Review: Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew

 

Title: Recipes for Love and Murder {Tannie Maria #1}

Author: Sally Andrew

Published: Canongate Books September 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read from November 27 to 30, 2015   – I own a copy

Meet Tannie Maria: A woman who likes to cook a lot and write a little. Tannie Maria writes recipes for a column in her local paper, the Klein Karoo Gazette.
One Sunday morning, as Maria savours the breeze through the kitchen window whilst making apricot jam, she hears the screech and bump that announces the arrival of her good friend and editor Harriet. What Maria doesn’t realise is that Harriet is about to deliver the first ingredient in two new recipes (recipes for love and murder) and a whole basketful of challenges.
A delicious blend of intrigue, milk tart and friendship, join Tannie Maria in her first investigation. Consider your appetite whetted for a whole new series of mysteries . . .”

My Thoughts:

“Recipe for Murder
1 stocky man who abuses his wife
1 small tender wife
1 medium-sized tough woman in love with the wife
1 double-barrelled shotgun
1 small Karoo town marinated in secrets
3 bottles of Klipdrift brandy
3 little ducks
1 bottle of pomegranate juice
1 handful of chilli peppers
1 mild gardener
1 fire poker
1 red-hot New Yorker
7 Seventh-day Adventists (prepared for The End of the World)
1 hard-boiled investigative journalist
1 soft amateur detective
2 cool policemen
1 lamb
1 handful of red herrings and suspects mixed together
Pinch of greed
Throw all the ingredients into a big pot and simmer slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon for a few years. Add the ducks, chillies and brandy towards the end and turn up the heat”

Full review to come

Available via

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Review: After You by JoJo Moyes

Title: After You {Me Before You #2}

Author: JoJo Moyes

Published: Penguin AU September 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read from November 23 to 26, 2015   – I own a copy

The long-awaited sequel to the worldwide phenomenon Me Before You.
Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. And when an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.
In a church basement, with the motley crew of the support group Moving On, Lou attempts to kick-start her life again. And when she meets strong, capable Sam Fielding things seem like they are going in the right direction. This is until a figure from Will’s past appears out of the blue . . .”

My Thoughts:

Review to come

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A thought about: The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

 

Title: The Natural Way of Things

Author: Charlotte Wood

Published: Allen & Unwin October 2015

Status: Read from October 26 to 27, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in an abandoned property in the middle of a desert in a story of two friends, sisterly love and courage – a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted.

She hears her own thick voice deep inside her ears when she says, ‘I need to know where I am.’ The man stands there, tall and narrow, hand still on the doorknob, surprised. He says, almost in sympathy, ‘Oh, sweetie. You need to know what you are.’

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken-down property in the middle of nowhere. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a ‘nurse’. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl’s past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue — but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.

My Thoughts:

A thought provoking, provocative novel that explores a chilling near-future dystopia drawn from the realities of contemporary society for women. Beautifully written but deeply disquieting.

 

Available via

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Review: Night Owls by Jenn Bennett

 

Title: Night Owls

Author: Jenn Bennett

Published: Simon & Schuster September 2015

Status: Read on October 01, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Night Owls is a charming contemporary young adult novel from Jenn Bennet.

When aspiring medical illustrator Beatrix Adams meets a handsome teenage boy while waiting for San Francisco’s owl bus, she’s surprised to learn he is responsible for the stunning word graffiti that has the city in an uproar. Busy putting together an entry for an art contest, and her summer job, Bex doesn’t expect to see him again, but after Jack makes a grand gesture on her birthday, everything changes.

The romance between Jack and Beatrix is sweet and gentle. I liked the way Bennett developed their relationship, and even though the time-frame was fairly short, I believed in their progression. I enjoyed their banter during their first meetings and later, the support they offered each other. I was a little surprised by the sexual intimacy, but I think it was beautifully written.

The connection Bex and Jack make through their art is an important part of Night Owls. I love that Bex is an aspiring medical illustrator, it’s such a unique choice and I really like the way Bennett worked the idea throughout the novel. Jack’s graffiti art is intensely personal, and his motive very touching.

Though the romance between Bex and Jack is a major element of the story, Bennett also explores several important themes including divorce and mental illness. Bex and Jack’s family’s are very much a part of the story. Bex is close to her older brother Heath and her single mother but she is estranged from her father who left the family after an affair and is unsure when he reaches out to her. Jack’s family situation is also complicated though in an entirely different, and heartbreaking way.

A witty, stirring, and poignant story about love, family, art and heart, Night Owls is beautifully written.

“BEGIN, FLY, BELONG, JUMP, TRUST, BLOOM, CELEBRATE, ENDURE, RISE, LOVE”

Night Owls is available via

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* Also published  as The Anatomical Shape of the Heart

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Giveaway & Review: Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

 

Title: Cloudwish

Author: Fiona Wood

Published: Pan Macmillan AUS September 2015

Status: Read from September 20 to 21, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Cloudwish is a delightful new contemporary young adult novel from Fiona Wood, author of Six Impossible Things and Wildlife.

Asked to choose a prop for a creative writing assignment, Vân Uoc Phan selects a small glass vial. Inside, a slip of paper says wish. Vân Uoc considers the possibilities, she could wish not be the only ‘scholarship/poor/smart/Asian’ in her privileged private school, or that the government would stop persecuting asylum seekers, but Vân Uoc’s most private and fervent wish, is for Billy Gardiner to like her.

Readers familiar with Wildlife might recognise Vân Uoc and Billy for their role in the book as minor characters.
Vân Uoc is the only daughter of Vietnamese refugees, she lives in a housing commission flat, attending the prestigious Crowthorne Grammar on an academic scholarship. She is quiet and studious, her parents expect she will become a doctor or a lawyer, though Vân Uoc dreams of becoming an artist.
Billy Gardiner is Crowthorne Grammar’s golden boy, he is smart but takes very little seriously. One of the first eight on the successful school rowing team, the son of wealthy parents, he takes his privilege for granted in a way Vân Uoc never can.

When Billy suddenly takes notice of her, Vân Uoc assumes she is being set up for a joke but as his attention persists, she begins to wonder if a wish really can come true. The ensuing relationship between Vân Uoc and Billy is sweet and believable, deftly handled by the author within the context of the story.

But this is not just a story about a teen romance, throughout the story, Wood sensitively explores the experience of diversity in all its forms with a focus on socioeconomic, racial and cultural difference. Vân Uoc keenly feels the divide between herself and her classmates, she can’t afford designer jeans or even a cup of coffee after school, her free time is limited to spending Friday nights watching movies in her neighbours flat, and she has responsibilities they can’t imagine. Vân Uoc is also haunted by her parents experiences as refugees. Though she knows few of the details, her mother’s annual slide into depression suggests unimaginable horrors.

With references to Jane Eyre, Vân Uoc’s idol, and Pretty in Pink, Australian politics and the legitimacy of asylum seekers, mean girls, Chapel Street, and magic, Cloudwish is a wonderfully observed and heartfelt Australian story about identity, belonging, love, and dreams.

“Jane had all the answers. Of course she did. When had she ever let Vân Uoc down? It struck her like a proverbial bolt from the blue that within Jane Eyre’s framework of realism – of social commentary on class, on charity schools, on imperious rich relations, on gender equality and the restricted opportunity for women, on love and morality…there was also some mad magic.”

Available to purchase from

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#cloudwishblogtour2015

GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of Pan Macmillan, I have

1 print edition of

Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

to giveaway to one lucky Australian resident.

Leave a comment on this post and then

CLICK HERE TO ENTER

*Sorry, entry is for Australian residents only*

Entries close October 4th, 2015

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Review: Breakaway by Kat Spears

 

Title: Breakaway

Author: Kat Spears

Published: Pan Macmillan October 2015

Status: Read from September 15 to 16, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Breakaway by Kat Spears is contemporary young adult fiction for an empathetic and perceptive reader.

In the wake of his younger sister’s death, Jason Marshall is sad, angry and lost. As his single mother sinks into depression, Jaz should be able to rely on his best mates, but Mario is too busy getting high, Jordan is distracted by his new girlfriend, and Chick has his own problems.

Written in the first person, Jason doesn’t really have insight into much of what motivates him, nor Spears other characters, so the underlying pathos that unravels his story has to be pieced together from the context and subtle leads in the narrative.

Struggling with his past and present, Jason is a sympathetic protagonist. Desperate to protect himself from further pain related to his father’s desertion, his mother’s emotional absence, and his sisters death, he retreats into himself, often taking refuge in an abrupt, defensive and sarcastic attitude.

While previously the linchpin for his group of best friends, Jason simply doesn’t have the emotional strength to confront either Mario or Jordan, or cope with Chick’s distress at the relationship drift. It’s easier for him to just let it go and pretend it doesn’t matter, or to blame circumstances outside his control, especially as his experience has taught him that everybody leaves.

Raine proves to be an excellent distraction for Jason. Convinced she couldn’t be interested in him, he feels in control of their interactions, and most importantly to him, there is no risk of the rejection he fears. Raine in turn is good for Jason, calling him out on his worst behaviours and attitudes, and eventually offering him hope that things can be different.

An edgy, poignant coming of age novel exploring the themes of friendship, loss and love, Breakaway reflects the ordinary, often messy, complicated and dark, reality of adolescence.

 

Available to purchase via

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