Hello Lovelies! Please excuse our dust while we do a bit of construction on the blog. We will still be posting exciting reviews, brilliant guest posts, and exciting giveaways but we are in the process of transforming the blog and adding new content and features for you to enjoy.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Painted Sky by Alice Campion

Title:  The Painted Sky

Author: Alice Campion
ISBN: 9780857984852
Pages: 350 pages
How I Read It: ARC ebook
Genre: romance, women’s fiction, chick lit, Australia
My Rating:  four crowns


Alice Campion is the pseudonym for five members of a Sydney book club who challenged themselves to write a '21st Century Thorn Birds'. The result is a captivating rural novel, brimming with romance, mystery and suspense. Nina never knew what happened to her father, the celebrated artist Jim Larkin. One minute he was her devoted dad, the next he'd disappeared without trace. Seventeen years later, she's still haunted by the mystery. Until a call from outback Wandalla changes everything. At first, Nina's inheritance of a waterless property and a farmhouse stuffed with junk seems more like a burden than a gift. But this was her father's childhood home - and possibly her last chance to discover the truth. So what is the local solicitor, Harrison Grey, not telling her as he hands over the keys? Why does the area's wealthiest resident, Hilary Flint, seem to hate her so much? What is the significance of the gold locket with cryptic engravings that Nina always wears? And why, on top of everything, is she inexplicably drawn to her soon-to-be-married neighbour, Heath Blackett?

My thoughts:

As soon as I read this book’s tag line in connection with  ‘Thorn Birds”, I was intrigued! A 21st Century Thorn Birds remake! Now whilst I might not be fully convinced on that score, I have to admit to being captured from the very first paragraph:

“Yearning can be like white noise in a life. It can be part of the background hum of thought and feeling in a way that’s barely detectable. Sometimes on the verge of waking we hear it whispering, telling us that something is missing, but then we let the music of the day drown it out”.

It really is quite incredulous when you stop to think that five individuals who belonged to the same book club wrote this tale. This story is good, very good and when you consider the amount of collaboration that must have been undertaken, it truly is quite incredible. If you go looking for the change in ‘voice’, ‘tone’, or ‘style’ you will be sadly disappointed – it is seamless. These five women have come together to produce a story that has a little bit of everything – romance, mystery, suspense – that undulates throughout to a solid conclusion.

The central character, Nina, is portrayed realistically. It is all about her journey and struggles as she attempts to discover the truth about her missing father.

“The thread that still attached her to anything at all was this quest to find her father, and she was going to give it every atom of effort she had”

However, what she also finds is a whole lot more. Nina bravely confronts the Australian bush, leaving behind the city life in her quest and, through circumstances and the people she meets, starts to unravel the mysterious disappearance and start to uncover the truth about herself and where she belongs. You see Nina evolve from an indecisive wanderer to a grounded, strong individual with real purpose.

I also very much enjoyed the setting – outback, rural Australia (maybe the only real tie to ‘Thorn Birds’). The vivid descriptions of the land and the people that lived there were realistic and inviting. There were some great characters that lent real depth to the story and it’s portrayal of country life. My only small criticism is the ‘baddie’ – the woman who wanted to steal all the fame and fortune was just ridiculously bad. Her actions and a certain ‘showdown’ had me cringing and thinking it was slightly far fetched.

Overall however, this is a great read; pure Aussie escapism with multiple characters and intrigues to engage you throughout.

“The rich soil of The Springs that she imagined. But then, as he smiled, his eyes became Heath’s – silvery grey against that painted sky”.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Mermaid's Child by Jo Baker

Title:  The Mermaid’s Child

Author: Jo Baker
Publisher: 17th March 2015 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Pages: 350 pages
How I Read It: ARC ebook
Genre: fantasy, historical fiction, adult
My Rating:  two crowns


In this fantastical novel, the acclaimed author of Longbourn brings us the magical story of a young girl in search of her mother...who just might be a mermaid. Malin has always been different, and when her father dies, leaving her alone, her choice is clear: stay, and remain an outsider forever, or leave in search of the mythical inheritance she is certain awaits her. Apprenticed to a series of strange and wonderful characters, Malin embarks on a gruelling journey that crosses oceans and continents—from the high seas to desert plains—and leads to a discovery that she could never have expected. Beautifully written and hauntingly strange, The Mermaid’s Child is a remarkable piece of storytelling, and an utterly unique work of fantasy from literary star Jo Baker.

My thoughts:

From the blurb, my italics:

“Apprenticed to a series of strange and wonderful characters (Strange? Most certainly. Wonderful? Sadistic maybe), Malin embarks on a gruelling journey (repeatedly defying death) that crosses oceans and continents—from the high seas to desert plains (both of which she was left for dead, yet survived)—and leads to a discovery that she could never have expected. (she’s right back where she started!)”

Sorry to be so trite. But to say I struggled with this book would be an understatement. I excitedly took the opportunity to read Jo Baker’s novel after receiving so much enjoyment from her ‘Longbourn” tale.  Firstly, as you can read above, I have issues with the blurb – um, it’s misleading.  The description leads you to believe that it will be a fantasy tale, inclusively of mermaids somewhere throughout. This could not be further from the truth. Let me state right now, there is no fantasy and not a hint of magical realism. The reality of the situation is that this is a very dark, cruel story, a gruesome historical drama. So if you like that kind of genre, with a lot of emphasis on ‘doom and gloom’ then this may be the book for you. It was not the book for me, sorry to say.

If you are able to overcome the repeated horrible and torturous situations the lead character finds herself in, (for it most certain is cyclical  - I think I counted eight settings where Malin would find herself abused in some form or other) you would still be hard pressed to try and accept the long list of near-death scenarios, that it becomes ridiculous – unbelievable. Maybe there is fantasy after all.  For Malin does pass as a pregnant boy after all! For me, however, the constant repetition of violent encounters just starts to numb the reader, to the point that you become blasé. Here we go again. It just became too much for me and most definitely was not my cup of tea at all.

“Rest: just a moment’s rest. I sank down to my knees, fumbled in my bad and drew out the canteen. I tugged at the stopper, brought the bottleneck to my lips. The water slid across my tongue and was gone”.

Why give it two stars? Jo Baker can write! Her prose is very good, powerful and picturesque. She really immerses her reader in time and place. So whilst I loved ‘Longbourn’, I would steer clear of  ‘The Mermaid’s Child’ unless you are comfortable with a dark and cruel read.

“What was the point of struggling, of dragging yourself on for another day, another mile, when all that you were stumbling on towards all the time was death”.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.