Thursday, 11 August 2022

All That’s Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien

The insight into Vietnamese refugee life in the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta was interesting and compelling but sadly the story line did not keep me engaged.

Ky Tran, a young Vietnamese-Australian journalist returns home following the death of her brother, Denny, in a local restaurant. Everyone present at the scene claim to have seen nothing.

Ky feels the police are not doing enough to discover what happened to her brother and beings interviewing the patrons that were present.

Her investigation leads to Ky examining her own memories, background and relationships.

It is more than a mystery story. In fact, the mystery of Ky’s brother’s death often falls into the background and secondary to the struggles of family relationships, fitting into a new world and the setting making it slow reading. 

It is reasonably well written but needs to be tighter and the characters need to be more relatable

Thank you to Netgalley for a copy of the book in return for an honest review

My rating 2* 

Dewey Decimated by Allison Brook

Having worked in a haunted library (unfortunately I didn’t get to talk to the ghost) and for my local council I found a lot to relate to in this book.

This is the first book in the series I have read so I wasn’t familiar with the main characters Carrie and Dylan (an engaged couple), Evelyn (the library’s friendly ghost and Smokey Joe (the library cat). 

I think it works OK as a standalone story. Topics and character information from previous stories were smoothly incorporated so the reader doesn’t feel lost, but I still wish I had read the previous stories. (This is the 6th book in the series). 

The story is set in a charming small town, Clover Ridge where everyone knows each other but there are still hidden secrets. We meet Carrie, one of the local librarians responsible for events and newly appointed member of the local council. The council has purchased the building next door to the library which is being converted to extend the facilities. 

The library is haunted by a friendly ghost, Evelyn, who has helped Carried solve murders in the past. Carrie and her niece are the only ones who can see Evelyn who is friendly and charming. 

Carrie is well known as the local amateur sleuth. It is evident she has assisted the local police on previous occasions.

During the demolition of the building a body is discovered and obvious he was killed many years earlier.

Carrie has resolved not to take on anymor amateur sleuthing but when the ghost of the murdered man turns up in the library with amnesia and refuses to leave until he finds out who he is and what happened, she is forced to get involved. He is disruptive as he rushes through the library disturbing both papers and patrons. She calls on Evelyn for help to control him and help solve his murder. They call him Charlie. Later they discover he is Alex Dunmore, Dylan’s uncle. 

An irritating and determined local reporter, Julie Theron, wants to join with Carrie to solve the murders. 

Meanwhile, a secondary story involves her position on council. It is the role of the council to decide on the future of a parcel of land known as Seabrook Preserve. There are three options put to council – a high class park, development of condos or leave it as a protected reserve. A member of the council who is also involved in the library renovation is later killed. But how are the two stories connected? 

The characters were likeable when they should have been, and the unlikeable ones were well portrayed.

My rating 4*

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Thursday, 9 June 2022

Here for the Right Reasons by Jodi McAlister

I don’t watch reality TV, but I have seen enough to be familiar with the format. It has also been years since I have read a romance novel. I accepted this book for review, hoping it would be a light read and an interesting insight into how reality shows are presented.

Here for the Right Reasons is a contemporary romance about a dating show set during the Covid pandemic.

The main character, Cece, shares a home with her two best friends. They are all huge fans of the reality show Marry Me, Juliet. One evening, a little drunk on vodka pineapples, they decide to submit entries for the show. She is the only one of the three selected to be one of the Juliets hoping to win the heart of Romeo.


Like most of the Juliets selected she is not there for the right reasons, that is to find love.


In Cece’s case, she has lost her job due to Covid and is unable to pay her share of the rent. She is now 26, a maters student and, not having family, only has herself to rely on. Merry Me, Juliet, and the pay given to the competitor as well as social media fame after the show is her only hope. 

Romeo for the show is Dylan. He’s good-looking, intelligent and sensitive. He is also the first coloured Romeo. 
Cece is eliminated in the first episode but because of the pandemic, all the eliminated girls must stay in lock-down together. The producers agree to introduce a new aspect to the show where Cece and Dylan are to demonstrate men and women can be friends without romantic notions. As the segments are filmed they discover there is an attraction more than just friendship. 
Meanwhile, we get the action behind the scenes with the other girls and the production crew. 
I felt most of the characters lacked depth and Dylan a little too perfect. Cece was a strong character and the character I did like was Lily, the usual nasty girl of reality shows. She turned out to be nice but with her own agenda for the future. 

Themes of racism, mental health, and social media influences were well handled. 

Some twists keep you turning the pages but overall, it is predictable. The dialogue was uninspiring and repetitive. 
Overall, this book wasn’t for me, but I am sure fans of romance will love it. 
Thank you, NetGalley, Simon & Schuster (Australia), and Jodi McAlister for the ARC. All thoughts are my own. 

My rating 3* but this is a personal viewpoint and I am sure fictional romance lovers will enjoy it.

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Thursday, 12 May 2022

Out of Breath by Anna Snoekstra

Jo keeps running away. In a small town in England she runs from her family then from art college in London. Arriving in Australia she must work on farm to meet the requirements of her visa. She finds herself in a remote area near coastal Broome in north west Australia picking mangoes but finds herself running again. She thought she had found paradise in an isolated off the grid community. But was there something sinister underneath the happy smiles and idyllic life?


Jo is a complicated character haunted by her past. She is both likeable and frustrating as times. It is interesting how, with each escape, her name gets shortened– Josephine, Josie, Jo, J All the other characters are realistic and clearly depicted.


I enjoyed reading this thriller although even with its mystery and intrigue, it took me a while to get into the story. I kept pushing through waiting for something more dramatic to happen. When it did (about a third of the way through) it became more exciting and the final chapters were particularly hard to put down.


I commend Anna Snoekstra on her descriptive writing making it easy to get to know, and understand the characters and to see, hear and feel the Australian outback – the heat, colours and dangers.


Overall, it was an enjoyable read. The plot and storyline were unique and I loved the ending.


Thanks to Anna Snoekstra, NetGalley, and HarperCollins for providing an ARC.


My rating 4*

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