Book Review | Fates Illuminated, Aimee Vance

Goodreads Blurb:

The dawn of Shelbie’s 31st birthday found her melancholy, adrift in a world where she felt bound to be always a side character, never the star of her own story.

All of that changed when she spontaneously booked a trip to Sweden with an itinerary full of hiking and horseback riding – two things that weren’t exactly in her comfort zone.

She expected to see the Northern Lights, nurse sore muscles, and, heaven forbid, pee in the woods. Those things she had time to prepare for, even if none of her preparations went as she had planned.

What she didn’t expect, though, was for her Fate to be tied to a much larger story, one that had unfolded long ago, and would immerse her in a world of people and things she’d only ever read about in novels.

But was any of it real?

My Thoughts:

I finished this at 1am in the morning because it was such a fun read and I just couldn’t wait to see how it concluded. Everything about this novel was an absolute delight! I was drawn to this story first because of the protagonist – Shelbie Smith, 31 years old, and about to be thrown into a world she never expected. It was a breath of fresh air to read a more ‘relaxed’ fantasy with a protagonist who isn’t in their late teens/early twenties! Especially one who declares themselves a ‘Hot Mess Express’ (an expression I am going to be using for myself I am sure), and feels like she is drifting through life. The great characters didn’t stop with Shelbie either. I really enjoyed meeting them all as I read.

I loved the premise for this story. Late night, alcohol infused social media scrolling leading to the booking of spontaneous flights to Sweden – a trip filled with activities way outside Shelbie’s comfort zone. I loved how Shelbie decided to embrace the trip, even when things started to get whacky. She is thrown into a world that is not her own, and decides to roll with it, leading to a trip she never expected. The twist that throws Shelbie into this world kept me guessing right until the end. Wondering how it was all possible just as Shelbie was. I loved how she embraced what what was going on even while feeling confused and lost.

As the narrator of the story, Shelbie is hilarious. I love her inner voice, it’s relatable, and really fun to read. I was invested immediately. Especially with all the vibrant characters making this novel so good, Shelbie included. I loved that every character felt fleshed out, even those who weren’t the main focus of the story. I found myself laughing out loud while reading, but found myself really emotional the next moment. Aimee Vance writes beautifully, I really felt I was in the moment with Shelbie as she trundles through the new experiences life throws at her.

Fates Illuminated had me still grinning for ages after I finished reading, and I am still puzzling over the twist even now. If you are looking for a light-hearted, but still exciting fantasy read with wonderful characters and a steamy, slow-burn romance this is the novel for you!

Thank you to the author, Aimee Vance, for sending me this free eARC (eAdvanced Reader Copy). I am leaving this review voluntarily. This title will be published 26th April 2022.

Book Review | It Sounded Better in My Head, Nina Kenwood

Goodreads Blurb:

When her parents announce their impending separation, Natalie can’t understand why no one is fighting or at least mildly upset. And now that Zach and Lucy, her two best friends, have fallen in love, she’s feeling slightly miffed and decidedly awkward.

Where does she fit in now? And what has happened to the version of her life that played out like a TV show—with just the right amount of banter, pining and meaningful looks?

Nothing is going according to plan.

But then an unexpected romance comes along and shakes things up even further.

It Sounded Better in My Head is a tender, funny and joyful novel about longing, confusion, feeling left out and finding out what really matters.

My Thoughts:

I discovered this book a while ago at an Emerging Writers Festival during a talk by the author. My friend I was there with won a copy that day, read it, and loved it. She recommended I read it and even leant me her copy which I eventually returned, unread (I gathered I wasn’t in the mood). Then recently she reminded me of this book and I thought it was about time. I am so glad that my friend persisted with recommending I read it! This was such a lovely read!

All the characters were wonderful and relatable, and especially the MC Natalie. As the pov character and the narrator she was so entertaining to read. Plus her thoughts were so relatable. This is why I found it such an enjoyable read.

The romances felt realistic, and didn’t feel at all forced. This is something I find with romance in YA that will usually put me off the genre all together. The interactions between the romantic interests felt natural, was wonderfully fumbling and awkward, but equally sweet to read.

It was so nice as well reading an Aussie YA romance novel – all the references I just got and they made me smile too. These were just little things, but they made the novel so nice for me to read! They made it feel warm, and homely, which made this such a special read for me.

If you’re looking for a fun, relatable, and enjoyable YA romance this one is for you!

Book Review | Graphite and Turbulence, Jami Fairleigh

Goodreads Blurb:

He will need courage, resilience, and a bit of magic—to survive fatherhood.

Artist Matthew Sugiyama finally has a location to start his search for his birth family, but no one prepared him for the turbulence of a scowling, unhappy child. Not only is the depot is far away, his fledgling parenting skills are not cutting it… and everyone has plenty of advice to offer on fatherhood. Before Matthew can find his bearings, Akiko disappears.

In a blink, Matthew’s priorities change. Time is running out and when old friends and enemies arrive in the depot, the situation leaves Matthew scrambling. He needs a plan—and he needs help—but who can he trust?

A profoundly moving father daughter story of the search for love and connection, Graphite and Turbulence celebrates the magic that transforms friendly strangers into family.

My Thoughts:

It was so nice to dive back into the story of Matthew and his search to find his home. Especially now that he is travelling with Akiko, his adopted daughter. This sequel read quite similarly to it’s predecessor – in that it is a cosy, travel story which allows for the focus to be on the characters and their relationships. This is why I loved this so much – I find the novel to be more focused on character than plot (while the plot does hold it’s own).

This was an emotional rollercoaster of a read, I am so invested in these characters that this novel had me on edge – stressing about what would happen next. I love the false sense of security I get from the early chapters as I sit down to read about Matthew’s travels and then get hit with fear, chaos and confusion. This is all evened out though with the beautiful characters and the friendships they make. There are some wonderful additions to Matthew’s found family this novel, as well as some side characters I am going to miss. Jami Fairleigh has a knack for creating these really vibrant characters, which are some of my favourite parts of this novel.

As I said before, plot-wise, things got intense! I loved how the story continued on from the events of Oil and Dust (Book 1), and while it answered some questions, it also asked so many more. There is so much on the line for these characters, and I found that the story had a nice mix of stressful scenes as well as light hearted. Fairleigh writes beautifully, and really has created such an interesting and complex world for this story to unfold in.

I think one of my favourite things about this novel is the found family aspects. Found family makes me melt emotionally. Here, I am so invested it’s not funny! I recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a cosy read with wonderful characters and an exciting plot. Though it goes without saying, read Oil and Dust first! You’ll love it!

Thank you to BookSirens, the author, and the publisher for sending me this free eARC (eAdvanced Reader Copy). I am leaving this review voluntarily. This title was published 1st March 2022.

Book Review | The Unusual Abduction of Avery Conifer, Ilsa Evans

Goodreads Blurb:

Beth’s daughter Cleo and Shirley’s son Daniel used to be married. Now Cleo is in gaol for supposedly contravening a family violence order, and Daniel has full-time care of their four-year-old daughter, Avery.

When Shirley suspects that Daniel is harming Avery, she enlists Beth to abduct their own granddaughter, even though the two women can’t stand each other. They are joined on the run across country Victoria by Winnie, Shirley’s own 89-year-old tech-savvy mother, and Harthacnut, Beth’s miniature schnauzer.

The abduction gives rise to crises both personal and social, as Shirley’s large and interfering family – including her toxic son – struggle to come to terms with her actions, amid a whirl of police investigation and media excitement. This heartfelt, wise, witty and wholly original novel explores of the lengths we may go to for those we love, and the unintended damage folded into daily life.

My Thoughts:

This was such a wonderful novel to read. I was hooked after only having read the blurb – bad-ass grandmothers who aren’t on good terms working together for the safety of their granddaughter? This is exactly the sort of plot I can get behind. This novel had a perfect balance of complex family drama, well-tailored humour, and deep, complicated emotions, making it a trundling rollercoaster of a read. Within the drama and humour though is a story exploring some heavier topics, which, through this platform, are explored in a way which shows the more emotionally taxing side of family drama like this.

It was really interesting following the story of these grandmothers on the run as they do everything in their power to protect their granddaughter. Especially as they are the most unlikely pair to take on anything of this nature. Their age aside, Beth and Shirley can’t stand each other, which makes their dynamic fascinating to read within the circumstances of the novel. Each woman has her own approach to their situation, and so creating clashes as well as moments where their styles compliment each other to great results. The groups journey is a wild ride from start to finish, all under the close watching eye of the Australian public who both cheer for the run away grannies and in some cases sympathise with the ‘betrayed father’ image which Avery’s father shows the public.

Every character was so vibrant, and full of life which made this so much more interesting to read. I loved how nearly every character had a chapter written from their point of view. At first, when I realised that this was how the novel was going to be set out I had concerns that the novel may feel choppy and disconnected. Having finished the novel I realise that the story couldn’t really have been written any other way. Each perspective is vital in telling a unique perspective on the situation and how it is being played out. Each character’s voice was executed very well, and shone it their own way. This story telling style worked especially well as it allowed the reader to see the story from the onlookers in the form of the media and the Australian public.

My one small issue with this novel is that it felt like there was a lot of content in the middle which could have been covered in much less time. Yes, some of these parts were important to the development of the budding friendship of Beth and Shirley, but I felt as if they could have been shortened slightly so the novel didn’t feel quite as drawn out. In saying that though, every moment of character development I did love to read, I just felt like there was so much of it that it took away from the flow of the drama of the whole situation.

This was such a beautifully written and fun read which I will very happily read again in the future. I recommend this to anyone who wants a read with great, well fleshed out characters set in a complex family drama which is elevated by the humour and realtionships throughout.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher Harlequin Australia for sending me this free eARC (eAdvanced Reader Copy) in exchange for an honest review. This title was published 1st September 2021.

Film Review | Little Women


As soon as I heard that another film adaptation was being made of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women I was both overjoyed and a little apprehensive. I have loved the novel since I was a teen, and with that much love for a story, a film adaptation will be held within high expectations.

I needn’t have worried.

I left the cinema having gone through an entire packet of tissues, but for me that was inevitable. This adaptation of Little Women was beautiful. I was absolutely enchanted by the scenery and sets, each shot carefully crafted to show the point in Jo’s timeline that we following at the time. In saying this, it took a little while for me to follow the jumps in time, but not enough that it took away from my viewing and understanding of the film.

I was very happy with the casting. The character of Jo is such an important one for me and I think Saoirse Ronan fit perfectly in the role. The same goes for most of the rest of the casting, there was something strange to me about Timothée Chalamet in the role of Laurie. While I think he did do a wonderful job, there was something that I feel didn’t quite work. It felt to me like he gave the character a lot more life for the scenes set back when Laurie and the sisters were all much younger, within the scenes set further into the future there felt as if there was something missing.

I remember realising though, on my walk home from the cinema, that my perception of Chalamet’s Laurie was probably clouded by my love of Jo’s character and the idea of her as a free spirit. I feel like this idea negates my previous points somewhat, so I’ll have to do a re-read of the novel, as well as watch some of the other adaptations again to see whether it might be a different understanding of both Jo and Laurie’s characters to how I previously viewed them. I have a feeling this may have contributed to the way I saw Chalamet’s Laurie*.

My favourite thing about this film (as with other adaptations and the book), is the relationship between the four sisters. As someone with sisters myself, I know the feeling of feeling completely infuriated with them one minute, then loving them the next. It is always wonderful to see, and with the casting of the March sisters for this adaptation the sibling chemistry of both love and rivalry was tangible.

This film’s original score was beautiful. I have been listening to it nearly non-stop since I left the cinema. I can’t comment technically on the music itself, but to me it fit beautifully with the characters and the scenes they were in. It made the film a delight to watch, and really brought a lot to the more emotional scenes of the film.

Overall this adaptation of Little Women was a beautiful film which seemed to have been put together with a lot of care. It had a huge amount of heart, and was a true tribute to a story about family, love, and finding yourself in a world which isn’t quite ready for you yet.

*Watch this space, (if you’re interested that is), I have a feeling I will talk back to this idea in another post.