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Secrets of Catalpa Hall - Lori Lapekes



This was actually a good story to read when you are sick and stuck at home with a sick hubby and toddler. It required no thinking, all I had to do was read and follow the storyline. And being called upon right in the middle of a chapter isn’t a deal breaker in any way. It wasn’t a Great whodunit mystery; okay, it was predictable but the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ spin to it kept me entertained. I am partial to ‘Beauty and the Beast’ but not exactly the fairy tale or the Disney version but rather the miniseries which I loved back in the 90s (oops, showing my age here)



The book opens with an interesting picture of Gideon creeping down a secret stairway and as a recluse. Gideon is just like the Beast – a huge purplish birthmark which marked him as ‘ugly’, shunned society in general but has his own small circle family and friends who loved him dearly, and is basically a gentle giant with a burdensome secret. As he found the love of his life again, he will need to find the courage to face his past but will he be able to keep her by his side?


Melody Moon returned to her childhood home which was filled with many good memories but also some pretty awful ones. It’s been a very long time and whilst some things are vague, some are just as bright like Gideon. She came for healing for her daughter but also for herself. She hoped to confront the past and to move on. The past, however, had hid a lot more secrets than she ever knew.


I love alternative POVs in books. I just feel privileged in knowing both sides of the story but sometimes it also drive me nuts because so very often all they needed to do was to talk openly… yeah, all misunderstandings in life will be so easily settled if we all just sit down and talk openly. Whilst I like Gideon well enough, I actually found Melody to be quite annoying and weak. I got quite frustrated with her –she earned some ‘eye-roll’ moments. The characters I was actually fond of this book are actually the minor ones: Sandra, Melody’s friend, and the 3 crusty old poker buddies of Gideon. I reckon they are the gem in this story.


The romance is kind sweet and I was kept entertained enough at home not to feel cooped up so overall it is a good light read for a restful [though many timed interrupted] day.


Thank you, Astraea Press, for copy of the book in exchange of honest review.

The First Third - Will Kostakis

This books hurts me. Seriously. Physically. Hurts. Me.

Lesson learnt: Do Not Read this book when you are sick because:

1. Laughter will turn to a coughing fit which hurt your chest and will earn you the dirtiest looks from your fellow commuters;

2. Staying up to finish reading end up with bucketload of tears [did I mention that I also suffer from over-sensitive tearducts?] which as a result completely blocked my nose passages and followed by the worst-head-pounding-headache from lack of oxygen… So… I barely had any rest that day and couldn’t sleep at night because this book is one that will stay with you for a long time. Forgiveness was easily granted.



Billy Tsiolkas is in Year 12 when his yiayia (grandmother) handed him a list of 3 things she’d like him to do. They are not, in any way, easy to do as it required him to find happiness for the 3 members of his immediate family (mother and 2 brothers) and to keep them together as a family. Even though he struggled with what to do with this list, his yiayia evidently saw something in him when she passed the torch to him, or rather the “gluestick”. She expected him to keep the family together as she has been doing, when she is no longer around. This is a big ask even for an adult but Billy found that he does want his family to stick together and he will give up even his one chance at making it big for this.


Reaching out to teenage boys aren’t easy. I lead a Year 10 group at church and bar 1, I would be so very lucky to get a grunt or a one word response from them. Amazingly though, they are not so reticent online. LOL. The point is that Billy truly has his work cut out for him. He found support in his best friend, Lucas (Sticks), and a girl whose grandfather shared a room with his yiayia at the hospital. With their ideas and backup, he managed to set up his mum on a date, checked up on his brother online public profile, and entrapped his younger brother to be in a room with him for one whole night.


The language is easy to understand and will appeal to all generations. Sentences are pretty short and direct with humour being delivered sharply to hit you in the right spot. The First Third is light reading in terms language but will have you clutching your stomach in hilarity (or in my case, my chest –see above) and tears will sneak out without you realising that the story has truly touch the deepest part of your heart. The only thing missing to make this a full experience for me is a recipe of yiayia’s moussaka! I was totally teary and salivating at the same time ;)


Thank you, Penguin Teen Australia, for providing copy of book through your Live Event

The Sweetest Hallelujah - Elaine Hussey

Two women from opposite side of town found a reason to come together amidst pain, betrayal, grief, friendship and love.  This is a novel of forgiveness, of being true to one self, and fighting for what you believe is right despite opposition.  A remarkable story woven across the boundaries of race, sex, and social class. In the end, a small group of courageous women who believe they can change the world one step at a time.


”I’m not afraid of the future, my friend.”  Cassie wrapped her arms around Betty Jewel and half lifted her off the swing.  “This world’s got to change.  What if it could start with four women?”


The story is told from 3 perspectives: Billie, the about-to-be-orphaned-child; Cassie, a childless widow still trying to come to terms with her grief; and Betty Jewel, dying and wanting much for her beloved child.  These threefold hurt makes the book sad and yet, the beautiful friendships forged and explored in this book made it bearable and hopeful.  They are a strong reminder that women, in all their fragility, are made of sterner stuff.  We are made to endure and endure we will.


The universe was whispering, and Cassie was listening.  You can’t go through life with a shut-down heart, is what she was hearing.  You can’t crab walk backward and crawl into a hole.  To live abundantly, you have to race toward the future with arms and heart wide open.  You have to risk everything and let the universe take care of the details.


I understand that some people are superstitious and looking at the time this book is set in, they were even more so then.  However, the extent of looking for signs (either from God or other dead people) for what they are to do etc got to the point where it was starting to be really annoying.  Believe in yourself, woman, and just do what you believe is right!  There was also one point which was repeated, pretty nearly word for word, 3 pages later.  I’m not sure whether that was intended as it felt strange and overdone to me.  In saying that though, I could also do with an additional 100 pages to the book of additional perspectives of minor characters –them fine strong ladies deserve some more words!


My book covers noted “For the fans of The Help” and I’d have to agree.  Whilst I don’t think it’s as good as The Help, it is definitely similar, especially in setting, and its own charms.  It is a lovely book to curl up with along with a cup of hot tea (it’s winter here) though the book is set in the heat of summer so it will make a fine summer reading for those of you on the other side of the world.


Thank you, Harlequin MIRA, for providing copy of book in exchange of honest review.


Combustion - Steve  Worland After the action-packed [b:Velocity|18045449|Velocity|Steve Worland|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370616540s/18045449.jpg|21556072] (Worland’s debut), the beginning feels slow. Understandably so, however, as [b:Combustion|18045367|Combustion|Steve Worland|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370614780s/18045367.jpg|25324203] is set approximately a year after [b:Velocity|18045449|Velocity|Steve Worland|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370616540s/18045449.jpg|21556072]. The main characters’ current situations and the new set of baddies need to be set up prior to the action taking off. In Velocity, the terrorists are avenging personal injury whilst with [b:Combustion|18045367|Combustion|Steve Worland|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370614780s/18045367.jpg|25324203], they are seeking to ‘save the world’ (albeit punishing it by destruction) from environmental threats. It was an interesting sci-fi / speculative twist to the method of punishment.About 25% into the book though, BAM!Explosions left, right, and centre –everywhere you turn your eyesBuildings are collapsingCars, trucks, planes crashing, blowing up“…looks like a war zone.”I couldn’t stop reading and I couldn’t read fast enough! It was jam-packed with actions, friendship, and humour. I just loved the pairing of Judd Bell and Corey Purchase – a true friendship forged in fire again and again. They work well together in saving each other and the world. But most of all, their humorous interaction in-between the suspense was a great tool of relief (my tense shoulders are thankful for the short breaks).[Corey] ‘Jesuschwepppes.’[Judd] ‘You know it’s Jesus wept, right? As in, “boo hoo, I’m having a tear”, not Schweppes as in, “Thank you, Stephan, I’ll have another gin and tonic”.’‘Are you sure?’‘One hundred per cent.’Corey’s not at all convinced.There really wasn’t enough room for character growth amongst all the action but amazingly, there were! Of course, with life-changing experiences such as these will not leave anyone unchanged, especially in their appreciation of life and loved ones. Whilst at times, I had to suspend my disbelief that an astronaut and a helicopter pilot from woop woop (for the non-Aussies, woop woop is something like ‘middle of nowhere’) came to save the world twice over, I really had so so MUCH fun reading this. Not that I had a hard time doing that, there was too much excitement and things were happening so fast that I really didn’t want to spare time to ponder anything else but the words in front of me. If you’re after a fast, fun, suspenseful, gripping read, this is it!I really enjoyed [b:Velocity|18045449|Velocity|Steve Worland|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370616540s/18045449.jpg|21556072] a lot that it was an easy decision to pick this one up and I enjoyed this one even more! I think I’m addicted. Steve Worland had just made it to my list of always-read-author.Coincidentally, I really just had to get this out there:1. Really, the release date should be 27th July NOT 24th (you’ll understand if you read the epilogue);2. Just curious, why purple?3. What’s with the iPhones?! :p Thank you, Steve Worland, Penguin Books Australia & Netgalley for ecopy of book

Skin (Flesh, #2)

Skin - Kylie Scott Six months ago, I would not have read any sort of zombie books. Something about them quite repulsed me even Justine Larbalestier’s arguments for them in [b:Unicorns Vs. Zombies|7171748|Zombies Vs. Unicorns|Holly Black|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1287515911s/7171748.jpg|7589446] did not win me over. Thankfully, it also did not turn me off completely. I found, however, that I quite enjoyed it if the zombies are the baddies. Bring on the shambling-lumbering moaning-groaning hungry for human flesh zombies!I say all the time that I’d read pretty much everything so I thought I should really give these zombies a chance. I’m so glad that I read [b:Flesh (Skin #1)|15845945|Flesh (Flesh, #1)|Kylie Scott|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1361429937s/15845945.jpg|21589818] as I fell completely, head over heels, in love with Daniel and Kylie Scott for creating this beautiful man! Hence, my second foray into zombie-world with Skin.The tension were sizzling off the page and I don’t mean just sexual but everything from fear, attraction, and of course, sexual. And I loved being strung along for the ride. It was a shaky beginning for me with Nick’s ‘purchase’ of Roslyn and her captivity however it was Ros who won me over with her determination, vulnerability, and courage. Nick’s Alpha male attitude was a bit much at times and yet again, it’s Ros who balanced it out with her independent will. Ros was a school librarian and it appears, she likes to categorise people into Dewey decimals (which I found hilarious and cute at the same time), something like this…He appeared to be doing the rugged-man thing again, overdue for a shave. She’d shove him into 573.3-Prehistoric Man.I really can’t help to compare this book with the first one as I was completely blown away with Flesh. Unfortunately, Nick just isn’t Daniel (I am faithful, see!) and whilst the tension at the beginning was delicious, it didn’t last as it did in Flesh. However, I do like Ros more than Ali and I am starting to enjoy this dystopian/post-apocalyptic/invaded by zombies Australia. More, please!Thank you, [a:Kylie Scott|6476625|Kylie Scott|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1359854541p2/6476625.jpg] & Momentum, for providing a copy of the book

Peace, Love and Khaki Socks

Peace, Love and Khaki Socks - Kim Lock Of my first glimpse of this book I remembered thinking, hhmm… interesting title – bit hippie but yea… maybe… and I moved on. I am thankful though that Kim Lock approached me for a review as it prompted me to a closer look and acceptance. It was such a lovely, heart-warming book and I found myself (unconsciously) smiling all the time whilst reading it. I could barely wipe the smile off my face and it wasn’t because it was funny but because it was all so… relatable to myself as a mother.Amy Silva has not thought about starting a family and definitely had no idea with what it will involve or what she’d need to do. So when she found herself to be with child, she was absolutely gobsmacked and lost. She tried to seek advice from a GP and then later her obstetrician as she tried to come to terms with her pregnancy but instead of feeling empowered, she felt merely incompetent. It seems that pregnancy just does not agree with Amy Silva.Amy herself is very lucky in the love department. She is living with the love of her life and whilst their relationship isn’t without its rough patches, they are confident of each other’s love. As Amy struggles to understand pregnancy, its immediate and future consequences, she is really struggling to understand who she really is. Whilst this is not a ‘coming-of-age’ book as its standard definition, in a way it is similar to that or better put ‘coming-of-womanhood’.Peace, Love and Khaki Socks is a book you can easily dive into and just continue on reading. You’d actually forget to surface to take a breather until something totally startling shocked you out of it. And when it did, I always found that I have unintentionally smiled the whole way through (sorry, train commuters, I swear I’m not a lunatic!). Whilst I couldn’t really relate to Amy’s concerns on pregnancy (I had different concerns), it reminded me so much of what I have forgotten in the experience of pregnancy and birth. There were times, however, that I thought this would’ve been ‘TMI moment’ if I haven’t gone through the same sort of experience. But since I had, I just found it hilarious.I would recommend this book to all mothers out there –may it bring you many happy memories, and to all non-mothers (if you dare) –may it open your mind to possibilities. I received an eCopy of book courtesy of author, Kim Lock, in exchange of an honest review (apologies for the delay). Thank you, Kim, for the smiles, reminiscences, and even some tears. Am awaiting your next work with great anticipation.


Contact - Carl Sagan wow - the ending completely stumped me. As in I'm stumped as to whether I like it or not. Love the existence of a twist but not sure if I like it where it is. Got you confused? I'm confused!

Dream of Time

Dream of Time - Nancy J. Price One sure fire way to get me to read a book is by telling me that it’s a time-travel one. Of course, due to my obsession I’m also sensitive to any title which may be interpreted in such a way. Thus I stumbled upon this little gem on Netgalley (Cheers!).Robin is such an amazing character! She is definitely intense but also courageous, resourceful, and determined. I feel tired just thinking of the things she has to do. Living one life is enough for me but living two lives, Robin is truly a super-woman. She did pretty well living 2 lives for a while although the strain “time travelling” of it will kill any human. (You’d understand this when you read this book and find out how she time-travelled)I love Travis! He is definitely a dreamy gentleman. *sighs* He was gentle, considerate, thoughtful, and totally charming. Interestingly, there was another side of him that was quite violent though according to the times and his position, it seems to be an acceptable thing. As the story is told alternatively between the ‘now’ and the ‘past’ although there are a lot more in the past so at times, it really feels like Robin’s present time and her children are not real at all. Understandably, there was a big mystery in the past which needed solving and that’s the focus of this book. It’s more of a mystery-historical-time-travel-fiction; the mystery is the reason Robin is being sent to the past and through that, we get to enjoy the historical perspectives of San Francisco. The only thing I felt was lacking was the actual mechanics of the time-travel – it was sort of explained in a sort of divinely unexplainable way so it fell short with me.This book was very much a fun book to read with enough humour and romance to make it into a light relaxing reading that doesn’t require you to think too much.Thank you Synchronista via Netgalley for privilege to read & review eGalley

The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession

The Bookman's Tale - Charlie Lovett It was a good premise, a good mystery but I was disappointed with the predictability of it all. I was hoping for a twist or two or of at least being surprised which unfortunately, I wasn’t at all. There was a point where something I expected happened and I was actually that disappointed that I had to stop reading for a few days. In saying that, it wasn’t a hardship at all to read. It was a pretty enjoyable and relaxing read. I especially enjoyed the love story between Peter and Amanda -a very sweet and endearing romance.The story is told from 3 different time period settings which took a bit of getting used to, in the beginning. Each is very different in either characters and / or localities so each was enjoyable in its own merit. The only downside was that as we reached a peak moment in one period, we move on to another time period in the next chapter so the momentum was lost. It was as disconcerting as falling on your ass whilst crossing the road during peak traffic!Whilst I appreciate the author’s effort on tying up loose ends, there was just the one instance where I thought was completely unnecessary and out of place. It was a “really…?” *roll-eye* moment. The tough issue with this type of book is the ending. You could either go controversial and copped a lot of flack as well as praises or… conservative that it’s anticlimactic enough for readers not to feel unsatisfied. Hence, the average rating.Thank you, Viking Adult via Edelweiss, for the privilege to read & review this galley

The Hunt

The Hunt   - Andrew Fukuda review to come

The Last Runaway

The Last Runaway - This book reminds me somewhat of [b:Caleb's Crossing|9684523|Caleb's Crossing|Geraldine Brooks|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1303284000s/9684523.jpg|14572532] by [a:Geraldine Brooks|211268|Geraldine Brooks|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1303284528p2/211268.jpg] though not as heartbreaking. The beginning of this book, “She could not go back,” was gut-wrenching but not heartbreaking. There were many instances in the books where it tugs your heart and at times, squeezes it, but no heartbreaking moments.Honor Bright is likeable enough as a character though I don’t love her. She’s running away from England due to a heartache and whilst, I understand that she misses home so much, it was still hard to be patient with all her comparisons to home and complaints. Thankfully, she does appreciate some American things, her first experience of eating corn on the cob was most amusing, or I would have lost patience a long time ago.The read was engrossing mostly due to the simple language and, whilst I’m not a quilter, I’ve always been fascinated by it and have always been tempted to try a project, so I enjoyed the quilting tidbits and felt like I’m participating in a quilting project vicariously. In fact, I think I might seriously look into taking up a quilting project ;)The book was mostly morally upstanding though that’s to be expected noting Main Character is a Quaker and therefore, Quaker environment. However, I found it a bit strange that the dissipated male in the “love triangle” (am using this phrase loosely) wasn’t a little more persuasive –in fact, he is a little outside of the story and I can’t quite make out why.I found the ending to be unsatisfying; am content but feels that something is missing.Thank you HarperCollins Australia & The Reading Room for providing copy of book

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Digital Audio) - Ken Kesey, Tom Parker a bit sad over the ending :(

The Pirate's Wish

The Pirate's Wish - Cassandra Rose Clarke The Pirate’s Wish is the sequel to The Assassin’s Curse and it picked up the story pretty much where it left off. I really enjoyed The Assassin’s Curse that I couldn’t believe it when I actually reached the end of the book, it just felt too short (note: it’s an average sized book). This sequel and final book did not disappoint. In fact, it has truly superseded the first book. A fantastical adventure filled with magic, battles, pirates, princess, and of course, true love.This story is jam-packed with action, twists and turns that it’s really UN-put-down-able. I really like this world; magical, exotic and off-worldly all blended together. There was an excellent mix of characters; a broody assassin, a young girl keen on achieving her dreams in a world of men, quirky magical creatures, and lots of pirates. There were adventures, romance, humour, actions – what more could one ask for in a book!?After The Assassin’s Curse, though, it felt like the story was slightly rushed. It felt like it has a different pace and it has numerous things stuffed in similar number of pages. I’ve to confess that after reading this book, I actually thought that it would’ve been better being published as one book! I’ve just read though that it was originally one big book – I would like that ONE please If you think The Assassin’s Curse is good, The Pirate’s Wish is your wish comes true…Thank you, Angry Robot via NetGalley for the privilege to read & review eGalley

Gameboard of the Gods

Gameboard of the Gods - There is everything to love in this book!The world: spick & span shiny High-Tech Dystopian country (the Republic of United North America) yet there are primitive settlements surrounding it, not to mention the Romanesque religions (the worship of many gods) incongruously rooted as part of life.The kick-ass heroine: Absolutely gorgeous chick, intelligent and super strong, she can literally kick ass! I defy you to not love this goddess! um, no, that’s not at all a spoilerThe player hero: With a handsome face and tons of charm, women fell at his feet left, right, and centre. And yet… no one knew of his inner struggles, his dreams, his fears – his charm covers it all up.The chemistry: The tension was just delicious! The attraction was pretty obvious and I am ever grateful for the alternate perspectives between Mae and Justin. They both have their own secrets that they bury deep inside until one encounter whilst each at their weakest, open a window into their souls exposing parts of the secret selves to each other. They are both experts at hiding their true feelings but how long can you deny yourself of the truth?I’m sure I have missed a lot in my first reading of the book and I predict that this is one of those books I must own so I can re-read again and again because I’ll find something new at each readings.A note to Richelle Mead fans, I’ve not read many of her works. I’ve only read the first book of VA (am not a fan of Rose, sorry!) but am enjoying Bloodlines (I love Sydney & Adrian) but Age of the X is more my style! As I understand it, it is quite different from her other works but I love it & I can’t wait for the next instalment!!Thank you Dutton Adult via Edelweiss for the privilege to read & review eARC

The Railwayman's Wife

The Railwayman's Wife - Ashley Hay I adore the first chapter as it sets the tone of this book. Slow as a small seaside town in the 30s-40s. The most important thing, of course, was that Annika Lachlan was reading… and I can feel myself being drawn into the story and looking through Annika’s point of view.3 broken persons are seeking for healing, for themselves. Each of them had their own unique gut-wrenching heart-breaking experience and found themselves drawn to each other by the brokenness they sensed in each other. In the midst of all the sadness, there are also beauty- of sweet memories of love from the past, of the beauty surrounding them, of rows of words interlinking. It renders a bittersweet overtone throughout the book which was surprisingly maintained from the beginning to the end and left me with a gasp.Thirroul is described so beautifully that makes me want to visit! I’m only about an hour’s drive away but due to the descriptions of the book, I’d like to catch a train there. I catch the train 4 days in a week and am not a fan of cityrail. Most Sydneysiders aren’t. However, I now want to go to Thirroul on the train just to be in the footsteps of Annika and to experience the beauty… though since the book is set in the 40s, I doubt I’d feel the same…The engine is puffing and blowing, pulling hard, and the train presses on towards the archway that’s been carved to open up the mountain… They’re in darkness, the sound monumental, the speed somehow faster when there’s only blackness beyond the windows. And then they’re out, in the light, in the space, in the relative quiet. And there’s the ocean, the sand, the beginnings of this tiny plain that has insinuated itself, tenuous, between the wet and the dry.It is a reminder of the beauty all around us which we really shouldn’t take for granted for there are also much brokenness. But brokenness are a part of life which makes the beauty of it all more precious.Thank you, Allen & Unwin and The Reading Room for a copy of Uncorrected Proof of which I truly enjoyed

The French Promise

The French Promise - Fiona McIntosh Fiona McIntosh dedicated this novel to Bryce Courtenay, “who convinced me [Fiona] I was a storyteller and insister I write down those tales.” Thank you, Bryce Courtenay and to Fiona, for such an amazing story of courage and hope.The story flows very smoothly and it took me on an emotional ride as I was swept along first by grief and heartbreak, a bleak horizon, to hope, happiness, a warm kitchen in a cold windy English weather, and back again. These emotions were woven through the story with such expertise that sometimes it took me by surprise that I’ve moved on from one emotion to another.We were taken from the hopeless and desolate concentration camp during WWII for a treat to bright sunny Tasmania and glamorous Paris. The differences in each place visited in the novel was visibly aromatic and I felt that I made this trip with the characters.Note: I have only just found out, at time of writing this review, that there is a novel which precedes this one, [b:The Lavender Keeper|13506058|The Lavender Keeper|Fiona McIntosh|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1330577717s/13506058.jpg|19056756], so if you like to read in order, I’d suggest to read that one first