Flat – A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses

by Sarah J. Maas

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Published 2015

Genres: Fiction/Fantasy/Young Adult

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she knows about only from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal but Tamlin – one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As Feyre dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility to a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it…or doom Tamlin – and his world – forever.


Mel says…

When I first decided to read this book, I didn’t really know much about it except that images of the cover were all over Instagram and blog posts, so I knew it had a lot of fans. I’m not usually into too much fantasy, but was excited to give this a read nonetheless.

My first impressions were pretty good. I devoured the first quarter of this book fairly quickly, but then I started to get bored of it. Too much of the characteristics of the protagonist, Feyre (pronounced, Fay-ruh) reminded me of The Hunger Games protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. For one, her family was poor and living in starvation – same as Katniss. Two, she had to hunt to feed her family – same as Katniss. Three, she was described as being a tomboy, yet beautiful – same as Katniss. The similarities between ACoTR and The Hunger Games didn’t stop there, but you get the picture.

The main focus of this story centres around Feyre and Tamlin’s relationship. It is described as ‘burning passion’, so you know it is going to be juicy. I found the relationship between them to actually be pretty boring. It seemed like it went from pure hatred on day 1 to passion and sex on day 4. Maybe not in that exact timeline, but it was that quick of a shift, that you get the point. I found it confusing, but I also found that some of the plot and descriptive writing fell flat. I struggled to picture a fair few of the characters as the descriptions weren’t written well.

This is one of those books where I found the main character so irritating, that I struggled to keep reading at times. For whatever reason, Maas kept jamming down our throats that Feyre was a painter. With every description of scenery, Feyre would think ‘if only I could paint this’, or ‘I tried to store every line of his face in my memory, so I could paint him later’. This happened all. the. TIME! We get it, she likes to paint. Moving on…

I know I have slammed this book with my above comments, but in the end, I finished it with the intent of seeking out the second book in the series. I’m in no hurry to read the second book, but I will eventually, when I need a bit of a ‘nothing’ book to fill some time. Seeing as this book took me a month to read, when the text is actually quite large and I didn’t really engage with many of the characters, I can’t give it anymore than 2-stars. Sorry!

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Buddy read – Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

August 2016 – Janelle’s choice

Truly Madly Guilty

by Liane Moriarty

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Published 2016

Genres: Fiction / Suspense

The air rushed from Clementine’s lungs. Afterwards, everyone would say, ‘It happened so fast’, and it did happen fast, but at the same time it slowed down, every second a freeze-frame in unforgettable full colour, lit by golden fairy lights.

Clementine leaped to her feet so fast her chair fell over. What? Where? Who?

This story revolves around three families – Erika and Oliver; Clementine, Sam, Holly and Ruby; and Tiffany, Vid and Dakota. Their insecurities, their worries, their relationships with one another, and the life events that have shaped the people they presently are. But most of all, it revolves around one day in all of their lives when their worlds are irrevocably changed. One incident at a backyard barbeque that changes everything.

Janelle says…

I think it’s safe to say I’m a “Liane Moriarty fan”, now having read two of her books. Big Little Lies blew me away with its suspense and all the connections between characters, I was really looking forward to more of the same with Moriarty’s newest – Truly Madly Guilty.

The narrative jumps back and forth between life prior to the barbeque (which is the defining point in the book), and then replaying the barbeque itself up until the point of the “incident”, and then throwing to life after the barbeque. All the while, hints are dropped along the way about what might have happened at the get-together but never giving enough away that the reader can piece it together. The gap between the two narratives gradually closes until we finally reach the incident itself and all is revealed.

As said about Big Little Lies, I do really enjoy this format of slowly working away at the puzzle, especially when the end result is something completely surprising that I didn’t see coming. All in all I enjoyed this book, the plot kept me hanging on to find out what happens, while also bringing up interesting thoughts around the themes of what is socially acceptable as an adult, as a parent, and just as a person in the world.

I had two reasons for not rating it any higher than 3 out of 5. Firstly, to me it was a dead ringer for another Australian book I read a couple of years ago, which shall remain unnamed so as not to give away the endings of either book, BUT the endings were so eerily similar that I couldn’t get it out of my head and it really bugged me that I felt like I was reading something I’d already read. My other reason is that I didn’t think it needed to go on for as long as it did. This is a pretty hefty book, and there were moments where I was reading and thinking “Yes yes yes, get to the point…how is there still 200 pages to go?!!”

It’s no Big Little Lies, but if you’re a Moriarty fan, it’s definitely worth a read.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Mel says…

This is the third Liane Moriarty book I have read and it followed the same suspenseful format that I have come accustomed to. The day this book launched, I had my hot little hands on my own copy and began devouring it. By page 100, I was hooked and hungry to know what the big “incident” at the barbecue was, that the characters kept eluding to.

The characters were all so personable. Vid was the kind of man I would love to be friends with, his wife Tiffany was the kind of woman I would be intimidated by, Clementine was the kind of person I would warm to and Erica was the kind of woman I would try and avoid. As the story unfolded, these opinions started to shift and not necessarily in the way I thought they would.

It took a fair amount of reading, but once I approached the actual “incident”, it had me gasping in shock and dismay. I couldn’t continue reading until I had given myself time to digest what happened. As the story continued past the barbecue, I started to better understand the characters, their differing reactions and the aftermath.

It is hard to go into detail, without giving away what the actual “incident” is, but I think if we were to spoil that part of the book for the readers of the blog, it would take away any desire you may have to read this book for yourself. The shock factor is what made this book a great read.

I agree with Janelle in that this book was longer than necessary, but I enjoyed the plot enough that it didn’t annoy me as much as it could have. This book is a must for any Liane Moriarty fan, or if you are looking for a read that creates intrigue, mystery and a little bit of heartache with a twist of humour. Sounds like an odd mix, but once you read it for yourself, you will understand what I mean!

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Finality – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

by JK Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

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Published 2016

Genres: Fiction/Young Adult

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-aged children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth; sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

The eighth story.
Nineteen years later.

Mel says…

Bringing out another Harry Potter book, even as a screenplay, was always a risky move. Potterheads around the world are very passionate about the stories and speaking for myself, I was so nervous about this book. It was either going to be amazing, or ruin everything JK has created.

I am sure by now, you have realised that I am a huge Potterhead. My bio picture is of me with my nose in the first Harry Potter book, so you can assume that yes, I am obsessed!

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This was the first series of novels that I fell head over heels in love with. I still remember the Christmas I received the first four books from my parents, as well as the awesome day  of reading I spent with my sister (Janelle) when the final book was released. Many laughs and tears have been shed over these characters, so let me begin my honest review, with that in mind.

It was important to me to read this with an open mind and to remember that this is not meant to be read like a normal novel. For starters, it is the rehearsal edition script for The Cursed Child play, currently being held in London. This did not bother me. I found it quite easy to navigate the dialogue of each character and create the pictures in my head from the little scene setting paragraph at the beginning of each scene and act.

The original characters still play a large role within this story, but to be honest, that annoyed me. I don’t really understand why, either. I think it may be because rehashing the original main characters when they are middle aged, takes away from the magic we are so familiar with, when they were written as children in the book series.

Focusing the main story around Harry’s son Albus and Draco’s son Scorpius, was a likeable decision. I felt emotion towards Albus, as I could imagine how he would feel intimidated by having to grow up in his father’s shadow and Scorpius Malfoy was, shockingly, like another version of Ron Weasley; very likeable.

The story itself, (and I won’t go into too much detail as I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot for everyone), was in my opinion, disappointing. I was hoping for so much more and that could be due to the enormity of the Harry Potter franchise in prior years, but with JK Rowling’s as only a co-author, I felt that this impacted on the story and you could really sense the disconnection between this screenplay and the original series.

I was really wanting to rate this as amazing, purely for the Harry Potter title, but in my honest opinion, I give it 3 stars. Will I read it again? Maybe. Will I see the play if it ever hits Aussie shores? Definitely. Do I recommend other Potterheads give this a read? Let me put it this way, I am glad JK stated that this is the final adventure for Harry, Ron and Hermione. The decision to overwrite the previous ending given to the series is completely up to you! Do I still love Harry Potter? Always…

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Satisfying – The End Of The World Running Club by Adrian J Walker

The End Of The World Running Club

by Adrian J Walker

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Published 2016

Genres: Fiction / Thriller

 

“You want to know how it feels to run thirty miles. You want to know how it feels to run thirty miles straight through mud and across scorched earth, dodging sinkholes and crawling beneath toppled trees, when you’ve already run the length of the country, when your ankle’s sprained, your fingers are broken, you’re blind in one eye and you’ve only had half a tin of baked beans for breakfast.”

Ed is a 30-something male, married, with two small children, and already in something like a mid-life crisis. It’s clear, through the way he drinks and tries to steal any time away from the house that he can get, that he’s not satisfied with where he’s found himself.

Then one day, the whole world changes. A spattering of asteroids hit Earth and devastate whole cities. Most people die. Life as it’s known, stops. But Ed and his family survive, just. When they are rescued after weeks holed up in their cellar, they are taken to an emergency evacuation centre to bunk down with other survivors. Everyone must do their bit to pitch in. Ed volunteers to assist with patrols and scavenger hunts, which also provides him with opportunities to get away from the family. But then a patrol he’s on returns to the centre to find everyone gone, including Ed’s family, taken by helicopter to the coast where ships await to ferry survivors to South Africa, and the chance to start again.

Ed, along with five other left-behind comrades, pursue the rescue mission on foot to reunite with the other survivors. Before too long, they are running in an effort to cross the country in time to get to the boats before they depart, and an unlikely but desperate running-club is born.

 

Janelle says…

I LOVED this book! It ticked all the right boxes for me – a post-apocalyptic setting, well-formed characters, fast-moving plot with twists and turns, symbolism and relatable themes, thoughts to ponder, and a satisfying ending.

My summary above seems quite long, but once I started to note down the main plot points of the story, I realised how full it actually is. A lot happens in this book, and I think it was because of that that it kept my interest the whole time, whenever I would sit down to continue on with the book I would wonder what was going to happen next.

The main character, Ed, starts out as quite unlikeable. Because of his selfishness and ignorance, his family very nearly almost doesn’t survive the asteroid pummelling. Even when they narrowly escape death, he still bemoans the life he’s found himself in and doesn’t appear grateful at all. It’s only when his family is taken away from him, that he changes his tune and truly comes to realise that he does want them in his life and would do anything for them. And by the time he does do the unthinkable to get to them, we’ve come to hope for him and cheer him on.

Even though this book is set in a world and scenario that hasn’t eventuated in our time (and hopefully doesn’t!), I felt like the characters, and their decisions and the way they process their situation, were all honest and believable. Maintaining realism in a book where the plot is determined by the choices of the characters, is something I don’t always notice if it’s going right, but if it goes wrong…..boy does it give me the irrits!

If you’re just after a really good read, something that will keep you turning the pages and leave you satisfied, then this would be a great choice. I can’t fault it.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

*I was provided with an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review*

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Lacking – The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos

by Dominic Smith

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Published 2016

Genres: Fiction / Literary

 

“By the time Gabriel came to her with the commission for At the Edge of a Wood, she had saved close to ten thousand dollars – so she technically didn’t need the money. He said the present owner wanted an exact replica made but couldn’t bear to part with the original. She remained skeptical and told him that copying an artwork was not the same as restoring it. But when he produced three high-resolution color photographs of the painting in its frame she felt her breath catch – it was unlike anything else painted by a baroque woman.”

Split narratives intertwine to reveal the path of Sara de Vos’ illusive 17th century painting, At the Edge of a Wood, and its forged copy. From Sara’s life, struggles and motives, to the most recent owner of the painting, a wealthy Manhattan socialite in the 1950’s, to the naive student skilled in art restoration and living in 1950’s Brooklyn, to the modern-day exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales which could be the setting for the truth to reveal itself.

 

Janelle says…

 

The more time I have to think about this book since finishing it, the more dissatisfied I feel about it. I don’t even have a lot to say about it, because there’s really just not that much to say. Not much happened in this book!

There’s a painting from the 17th century, which has found its way into the home of a wealthy family in the 1950’s, only to be stolen and forged at the same time, and then in the 2000’s both the original and the forgery rise to the surface ahead of an upcoming exhibition on Dutch women painters of the 17th century at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Even after the reading the book though, there are still holes in my mind as to the movements of the painting, so that’s about the best I can do in outlining the story.

I heard about this book and actually assumed it might have a light thriller or mystery-type feel to it, and so I was excited when I found a competition to win an advance copy on the publisher Allen & Unwin’s site. And then even more excited when I actually won the advance copy! I bumped it to the top of my TBR list and started reading it, but I found it hard to stay focussed on the words. I realised I was bored, twiddling my thumbs waiting for something to happen, but I stuck with it because I was sure something would happen. It had the makings of an interesting and surprising story that I could get on board with – there were literary aspects, the touches of history and culture, museum life which is something to which I can relate to and understand…..all it needed was some kind of event or revelation. So I kept reading (slowly), and then when I got to the end, finally something semi-interesting did happen, but then the book finished quite suddenly in the middle of a scene, and what I thought could actually have been a great scene had it been allowed to continue! What the?

I can sniff undertones of feminism here, in both the scenes from the 1630’s featuring Sara de Vos, and the 2000’s when we follow Eleanor Shipley, but that’s something I’ve realised may have been there only since reading the book and trying to find some kind of message, they weren’t formed ideas that were clear during the reading of it.

It might seem an obvious recommendation to people who are into art or museum culture, but I’m not sure even those people would find this interesting. It wasn’t a total blowout. I didn’t hate it. It just didn’t leave any impression at all. Still, I’m going to stick with the rating I gave it on Goodreads straight after finishing it.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Loveable – Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Lily and the Octopus

by Steven Rowley

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Published June 2016

Genres: Fiction / Literary

 

“….Thursday nights are the nights my dog, Lily, and I set aside to talk about boys we think are cute.”

Ted lives with his long-time companion, his dog Lily, and through their years together they see relationships come and go, they share heartbreak, they have adventures and they ponder cute male celebrities. But with the arrival of the octopus, their world could completely change.

 

Janelle says…

 

It was the wonderfully weird synopsis on Netgalley that enticed me to read this book – “…a struggling writer finds himself unable to open up to the possibility of love – except through the companionship of his aging dachshund Lily. But with the unexpected arrival of a small octopus that affixes itself to Lily’s head, it soon becomes clear the invader is strangling the life from his dog and threatening the bond with his one true friend.”

Now who wouldn’t be intrigued by that?

I don’t really want to say too much about the story here for fear of giving away spoilers. What I can say is that this is the story of a long friendship between a single man and his dog, and that for both of them the relationship is the most important one in their lives.

The animal lovers among us will know that our pets are there with us through our challenges and triumphs, like any other member of the family or close friendship circle. You’ll empathise with the bond that these two characters share, although perhaps you might not have been absolute best friends with your pet like Ted is with Lily in this book.

The book certainly is strange, but there is a sad logic to the strangeness. Overall I just found it to be very sweet and I was immediately endeared to Ted and Lily. I laughed out loud in spots, and then in others I teared up. At times this book felt like a great big hug, and at other times I felt like I had been punched in the chest. And I’m not saying anything more! Other than if you’ve ever loved a pet, and even if you haven’t, I think this book is well worth your time.

Lily and the Octopus will be published in June by Simon & Schuster.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

*I was provided with an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review*

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Buddy read – American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis

March 2016 – Janelle’s choice

American Housewife: Stories

by Helen Ellis

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Published January 2016

Genres: Fiction / Short Stories / Humour

 

Meet the women of American Housewife: they wear lipstick, pearls, and sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy. They casserole. They pinwheel. They pump the salad spinner like it’s a CPR dummy. And then they kill a party crasher, carefully stepping around the body to pull cookies out of the oven.
These twelve irresistible stories take us from a haunted prewar Manhattan apartment building to the set of a rigged reality television show, from the unique initiation ritual of a book club to the getaway car of a pageant princess on the lam, from the gallery opening of a tinfoil artist to the fitting room of a legendary lingerie shop.

Mel says…

Reading through this collection of short stories had me laughing out loud, cringing at stereotypes and wondering if women like the characters in each story actually exist.

I loved the differing perspectives of writing for each story and think that Helen Ellis nailed the variety of styles in each story. In one story you are reading it from a characters living perspective, the next through emails from differing characters and the next via a list of must-do’s.

If you are looking for an easy and quick read, this book is a must. It is light and funny and a good book to break up what can sometimes be an intense time in reading, when you have a long ‘to read list’ and just need a bookish holiday. This book keeps you turning pages until the very end. It is non-committal as protagonists constantly change and you aren’t required to make any emotional commitments to them, through their experiences.

This is one for the lady-on-the-go who needs to fill in a small amount of reading time.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Janelle says…

I do love a short story collection. Especially when the other book I have on the go is almost 1000 pages long. Anything to distract me from the massive commitment staring at me!

Short story collections are the anti-commitment books. Perfect “in-between” books, and great for when you’re busy. This collection had me at the title. American Housewife? Say no more, just hand it over. At 185 pages long, I can practically fit it in my back pocket.

I was expecting a snappy little collection of witty, humorous stories about the stereotypical housewife, perhaps a story or two that dared to smash that stereotype by exposing “the truth” of how much work is actually involved in being your average housewife (note: not your rich and privileged housewife) (ie. a lot). Fast forward to the contents page, with story titles such as “What I Do All Day”, “Hello! Welcome To Book Club”, and “How To Be A Grown-Ass Lady”. Oh yes, this was going to be good.

And it was good. Just good. Not fabulous. I laughed (“The Wainscoting War” – I could have read a whole book just of that one story!), but I also meh’d (“Dumpster Diving With the Stars” – which just happened to also be the longest story in the collection). I wasn’t expecting that this collection would touch on some of the not-so-funny realities of being a housewife. Like loneliness, and jealousy, and subservience. I think it’s great that it did though. That’s real life.

But I did find myself at times thinking, “ho-hum”. So for that reason, I’m ranking American Housewife in the middle, with 3 stars out of 5.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Controversial – Troublemaker by Leah Remini

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology

by Leah Remini

Published 2015

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Genres: Non-Fiction / Memoir

“It is to the Church of Scientology that I say this: I wrote this book because I feel an urgency and responsibility to reveal the injustices and hypocrisy that were perpetrated against those who left and spoke out before me. Those who again and again have been harassed and bullied into silence. This book is also a personal act of defiance – against intolerance, which I have witnessed, lived with, and been part of for far too long.

Mel says…

When I heard that Leah Remini was releasing a memoir based on her experiences in the Church of Scientology, I was so excited! I love Leah Remini, as I was a huge fan of her show King of Queens, so knew that her personality would ensure this book was highly controversial and guess what? It was!!

Leah’s brutal honesty makes this book what it was. There was no holds barred when it came to naming and shaming in this book. One such person who’s name one would expect to appear in any story around Scientology, is Tom Cruise. Yes, you do get a LOT of Tom Cruise dirt and yes, it is cringe worthy!

This book is not purely about Scientology though, despite the fact that it consumed most of her life, she does delve into the nitty gritty of her personal life. She isn’t afraid to acknowledge any transgressions she has committed and one such example was breaking up a marriage at the age of 19.

Leah Remini is a love her, or hate her kind of girl. You won’t put this book down thinking hmm…she is ok, I guess. 

I am not a Scientologist, nor have I ever read much about the religion, however this book is a real eye opening recount of one person’s experience of the church. A must read for anyone who is as curious as I was!

“..it’s been a little more than two years now since I left the organization, for the first time it’s like I’m living a real and authentic life – everything from sitting and enjoying a glass of wine with non-Scientologist girlfriends without secretly judging them as they speak about their lives and thinking Scientology could help them with that, to worrying that I am wasting my time finding enjoyment in my child or family when I should be on course or in session instead. I put so much time, energy, and resources into the church that it left little room for anything else.” 

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Action-packed – Fear Is The Rider by Kenneth Cook

Fear Is The Rider

by Kenneth Cook

9781925240856

Published 2016

Genres: Fiction / Suspense / Thriller

“There was a girl running out of the scrub towards him. The temperature was fifty degrees centigrade, there wasn’t a house within two hundred kilometres and a girl was running out of the scrub.”

Katie and John are both lone travellers, making the hot and dusty journey across Australia’s south-east corner, when they briefly cross paths in a lonely outback pub. The next day, back on the road again, they cross paths again….but this time, it’s because Katie is running for her life from the vast scrubby nothingness towards John’s car as he passes by. She’s been attacked by someone, or something, and now they will both be hunted in a terrifying and exhausting game of cat and mouse in the unforgiving desert.

 

Janelle says…

That line up there is the first line of Fear Is The Rider. This book doesn’t mess about. Action from the get go.

I read this book in one day. I haven’t managed a one-day read since The Deathly Hallows! Yes, this is a novella which makes it entirely possible to read in a day, but I don’t force my eyes to stay open until the AM hours to finish just any old book. This book packs a massive punch. I felt like I needed a cup of tea and a lie down afterwards just to get my heart rate back to normal.

Basically, this is about a couple being chased by a wacko through the outback. You’re probably thinking “Wolf Creek”, aren’t you? The story isn’t original, but what made this book so great was the pace (lightning fast), the timing (suspenseful), and the plot (unrelenting). And of course, the Australian desert landscape is the perfect foreboding setting for a tense, scary thriller, it’s almost a character in its own right.

I didn’t plan to stay up late and finish the book, but I just couldn’t stop! At no time did an appropriate place to place a bookmark and walk away present itself. It was just this non-stop roller-coaster ride that had me hiding behind my hands and gasping. It was SOOOOO GOOD.

I don’t know what else really needs to be said about this book. To me, there was no moral to the story, no commentary on this or that, no theme….it was just pure, adventurous fun. And I really want you all to read it! It’s out on 27 January 2016 – what a great way to recover from your Australia Day festivities!

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

*I was provided with an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review*

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