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The Beast's GardenThe Beast's Garden / Kate Forsyth

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Rating: ★   ★   ★  ★   ★ - 5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fairytale retelling

The Grimm Brothers published a beautiful version of the Beauty & the Beast tale called ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’ in 1819. It combines the well-known story of a daughter who marries a beast in order to save her father with another key fairy tale motif, the search for the lost bridegroom. In ‘The Singing, Springing Lark,’ the daughter grows to love her beast but unwittingly betrays him and he is turned into a dove. She follows the trail of blood and white feathers he leaves behind him for seven years, and, when she loses the trail, seeks help from the sun, the moon, and the four winds. Eventually she battles an evil enchantress and saves her husband, breaking the enchantment and turning him back into a man.


The Beast’s Garden is the kind of story that appears to be a simple fairy tale retelling, a classic tale woven through history; but in actual fact it is a powerful and important story, filled with bold thoughts and acts of defiance, bringing history to life under the guise of a mere fairy tale. It is brutal and honest, yet told so wonderfully that amongst the horror of war and the raw subject, you are captivated and amazed at what happens, real or otherwise.


From the first pages Forsyth holds nothing back, showing off the beauty and danger early on, something that remains until the very last page. The combination and close proximity beauty and danger has in this novel is wonderful, the way Forsyth shows how both existed side by side for so long also adds a lot of meaning. The fact day to day life coexisted with such horror, especially in the early years, is incredible to discover, even more so in novel form.


This is a story that is riddled with real faces and real events, connected and combined with characters that are filled with bravery, bold opinions, and incredible strengths. It is a novel told against the backdrop not only of history but of a fairytale, and one that demonstrates the power Germany had shown the world, but it also shows the power hidden within Germany itself. A spectacular story.

RiskRisk / Fleur Ferris

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Rating: ★   ★   ★  ★   ★ - 5 Stars
Genre: Young Adult

Taylor and Sierra have been best friends for their whole lives. But Taylor’s fed up. Why does Sierra always get what – and who – she wants? From kissing Taylor’s crush to stealing the guy they both met online for herself, Sierra doesn’t seem to notice when she hurts her friends.
So when Sierra says Jacob Jones is the one and asks her friends to cover for her while she goes to meet him for the first time, Taylor rolls her eyes.
But Sierra doesn’t come back when she said she would.
One day. Two days. Three . . .
What if Taylor’s worrying for nothing? What if Sierra’s just being Sierra, forgetting about everyone else to spend time with her new guy?
When Taylor finally tells Sierra’s mum that her daughter is missing, Taylor and her friends are thrown into a dark world they never even knew existed.
Can Taylor find Sierra’s abductor in time? Or should she be looking for a killer?


What Ferris has done is told a gripping story that is real and could easily be a report on the news. This is an incredible message about the people on the internet and the possible dangers they pose. It’s about mistakes, friendships, evil, and the modern world. The parallels with reality are evident and there is a strong message woven through it, but it isn’t overbearing. What makes this not a report on the news is that Ferris includes all the elements to make this story feel real and truthful, but at the same time she also makes it a compelling novel, with all the great novel components. It is a beautiful story that is told with such heart.


I implore everyone to read this book, it is not just a gripping and suspense filled story, but it acts as an educator for teens and parents alike. Ferris has used her skills and her background to create a captivating and truly beautiful story that also offers guidance and explores some very real consequences of the online world.

An Echo in the BoneAn Echo in the Bone (Outlander #7) / Diana Gabaldon

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Rating: ★   ★   ★  ★ - 4 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Jamie and Claire Fraser are back again in this seventh novel in the Outlander series which follows the story of Jacobite highlander Jamie Fraser and his time travelling wife Claire Fraser as they navigate through the Scottish uprising and American Revolution.

Jamie and Claire have had to flee from North Carolina with the American Revolution at its peak and personal danger becoming too great. Meanwhile, their daughter Brianna and her husband Roger have fled to the present day 20th century and are looking for clues as to the fate of their family they left behind.  

Once again Gabaldon has given us a novel rich in historical detail and a story dripping in personal intrigue. Admittedly I am a huge outlander fan and have thoroughly enjoyed journey through the past and back again with Jamie and Claire. However I found myself a little disappointed with the execution of the multilayered storyline. Unlike the previous books in the series which followed Jamie and Claire’s storyline, this novel attempts to share this spotlight with the stories of Brianna & Roger, Jamie’s nephew Ian Murray and Jamie’s illegitimate son William – a technique which, for me, diluted major plot points leaving me wishing for a little more.

BUT all is forgiven for me due to the dedication to historical detail and the cliff hanger ending which will definitely see me reaching for the next novel in the series.

Odd and the frost giantsOdd and the frost giants / Neil Gaiman

The winter isn't ending. Nobody knows why.
And Odd has run away from home, even though he can barely walk and has to use a crutch. Out in the forest he encounters a bear, a fox, and an eagle - three creatures with a strange story to tell. Now Odd is faced with a stranger journey than he had ever imagined.A journey to save Asgard, City of the Norse Gods, from the Frost Giants who have invaded it. It's going to take a very special kind of boy to defeat the most dangerous of all the Frost Giants and rescue the mighty Gods. Someone cheerful and infuriating and clever. Someone just like Odd...
It wasn’t to easy and it wasn’t to hard. I love adventure books so it was great.
Rating: 3/4

The Reluctant JillarooThe Reluctant Jillaroo / Kaz Delaney

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Rating: ★   ★   ★  ★   ★ - 5 Stars
Genre: Young Adult/ Romance/ Mystery

Harper Gage has won the opportunity of a lifetime – ten days at Winmaroo Jillaroo and Jackaroo school. The camp could give her the recommendation she needs to go to the exclusive Agricoll for years 11 and 12. But when an accident leaves Harper hospitalised, her twin sister, Heidi, goes in her place. The only problem is that Heidi is not much of a country girl – not like her sister. And to make life even more complicated, her sister’s biggest rival Trent is going to be there. Will she be able to fool him?


And then the reality of the school hits Heidi hard. It’s all dust, snakes and heat – a million miles away from the surf she loves. When she meets the fun and handsome Chaz, life at the school suddenly doesn’t seem so bad, although with Trent acting up and trouble brewing with the other students, Heidi’s not sure how long she can keep her identity secret. And if her secret is revealed, will Chaz ever be able to trust her again?


Once again Kaz Delaney had me awake until 3am finishing one of her books. Read, finished, and loved the same day I got it and it was wonderful from start to finish! Heidi is a great and admirable character. She’s a Batman lover (a great start), but she is also friendly and welcoming, even when she is out of her depth, and her loyalty and determination outweigh her fears and trepidations. She’s uncertain in her surroundings but she is strong and determined, not willing to let her sister down. There really is so much to love about this story, it’s fun, suspenseful, and filled with mystery and madness that keeps you hooked from the start, not to mention an ending that will amaze!

 

The beekeepers daughterThe beekeepers daughter / Santa Montefiore
England, 1932: Grace Hamblin is growing up in a rural idyll. The beekeeper's daughter, she knows her place and her future - that is until her father dies and leaves her alone. Alone, that is, except for one man who she just can't shake from her thoughts…
Massachusetts, 1973: Grace's daughter Trixie Valentine is in love with an unsuitable boy. He's wild and romantic, and in a band that might be going somewhere. But when tragedy strikes and he has to go home to England, he promises to come back to Trixie one day, if only she will wait for him.
Both mother and daughter are searching for love and happiness, unaware of the secrets that bind them. To find what they are longing for they must confront the secrets of the past, and unravel the lies told long ago…

I’m not too fussed on adulterous plots, but it was an easy read and to the point.
Rating: 2/4

YellowYellow / Megan Jacobson

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Rating: ★   ★   ★  ★   ★ - 5 Stars
Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal

If fourteen-year-old Kirra is having a mid-life crisis now, then it doesn’t bode well for her life expectancy. Her so-called friends bully her, whatever semblance of a mother she had has been drowned at the bottom of a gin bottle ever since her dad left them for another woman, and now a teenage ghost is speaking to her through a broken phone booth. Kirra and the ghost make a pact. She’ll prove who murdered him almost twenty years ago if he does three things for her. He makes her popular, he gets her parents back together, and he doesn’t haunt her. Things aren’t so simple however, and Kirra realises that people can be haunted in more ways than one.


To quote a line from an incredibly wise author by the name of Megan Jacobson, “this is the kind of book that makes you stop and just rest the pages on your chest from the truth of it”. Yellow is a brilliant, emotionally charged book that reveals so much about the various struggles in people’s lives. There is an incredible amount of beauty and honesty and raw strength in this story; Jacobson captures so much from so many angles and connects them together into this life of a fourteen-year-old.

 

MutiniesMutinies / Barry Stone
Intriguing, compelling, spellbinding, frightening that mutiny still goes on.
Rating: 3/4

Remembering Anita Cobby / Mark Morri

John Cobby finally tells his story, 30 years after the murder of his wife, Anita. On 4 February 1986, John Cobby's life imploded. He was driving up the coast looking for his missing wife, Anita, when over the radio he heard: 'The body of a naked woman has been found in a paddock in western Sydney.' . . . As details emerged of the rape and murder of the gentle nurse and former beauty queen, outrage engulfed Australia. Five men were caught and, amid unprecedented security, jailed for life.


For young reporter Mark Morri, the case was a baptism of fire. Told to 'find the husband', he despaired: Cobby had changed his name and disappeared. But the Daily Mirror found him, and Morri's interviews sold like hotcakes. For nearly 30 years, Morri and Cobby kept in touch.

Anyone but Ivy PocketAnyone but Ivy Pocket / Caleb Crisp
Ivy Pocket is a twelve-year-old maid of no importance, with a very lofty opinion of herself. Dumped in Paris by the Countess Carbunkle, who would rather run away to South America than continue in Ivy's companionship, our young heroine (of sorts) finds herself with no money and no home to go to ... until she is summoned to the bedside of the dying Duchess of Trinity.

For the princely sum of £500 (enough to buy a carriage, and possibly a monkey), Ivy agrees to courier the Duchess's most precious possession – the Clock Diamond – to England, and to put it around the neck of the revolting Matilda Butterfield on her twelfth birthday. It's not long before Ivy finds herself at the heart of a conspiracy involving mischief, mayhem and murder.

It was a little hard for me but I still liked it. But I don’t know if I would go out and read it again.
Rating: 2/4

The ghost at the weddingThe ghost at the wedding / Shirley Walker

Three generations, two world wars, one family. In the year of 1914, in the canefields of northern New South Wales, the young men couldn't wait to set off for the adventure of war. The women coped as best they could, raised the children, lived in fear of being next to receive an official telegram. They grieved their dead, and came to learn that for returned men there are worse things than death in combat. They bore more children to replace those lost in the First World War, and the sons were just the right age to go off to the second. The Ghost at the Wedding is like no other account of war, chronicling events from both sides – the horror of the battlefields and the women who were left at home. Shirley Walker's depictions of those battles – Gallipoli, the Western Front, the Kokoda Track – are grittily accurate, their reverberations haunting. Written with the emotional power of a novel, here is a true story whose sorrow is redeemed by astonishing beauty and strength of spirit.
A captivating insight into one family’s history over 3 generations.
Rating: 3/4

Falling LeavesFalling leaves / Adeline Yen Mah
Born in 1937 in a port city a thousand miles north of Shanghai, Adeline Yen Mah was the youngest child of an affluent Chinese family who enjoyed rare privileges during a time of political and cultural upheaval. But wealth and position could not shield Adeline from a childhood of appalling emotional abuse at the hands of a cruel and manipulative Eurasian stepmother. Determined to survive through her enduring faith in family unity, Adeline struggled for independence as she moved from Hong Kong to England and eventually to the United States to become a physician and writer.

A compelling, painful, and ultimately triumphant story of a girl's journey into adulthood, Adeline's story is a testament to the most basic of human needs: acceptance, love, and understanding. With a powerful voice that speaks of the harsh realities of growing up female in a family and society that kept girls in emotional chains, Falling Leaves is a work of heartfelt intimacy and a rare authentic portrait of twentieth-century China.

A very emotional and gripping story of the 5th child Adeline who was born in an affluent and rich family. Had to suffer emotional abuse and go through painful childhood.
Rating: 4/4