Book Review: ‘The Whispering’ by Veronica Lando

Imagine a rainforest that overshadows your local town. The sounds of the leaves rustling, the swoosh of the trees moving and the crackle of branches being trodden on the damp and mossy floor which create a sort of compelling whispering.

A whispering that many young people have heard before.

A whispering that is believed to take people away, into the rainforest and never come out again.

‘The Whispering’ by Veronica Lando had an eerie, compelling and unique spin on crime fiction. I have only read one other novel similar in this spiritual/naturalist/mystical sub genre of crime fiction, and that book was ‘The Bluffs’ by Kyle Perry. It was one of my favourite books of 2021. It was a given as soon as I read the blurb of this novel, I was hooked. ‘The Whispering’ was also the winner of the Banjo Prize for Fiction in 2020, therefore I was also more inclined to start reading. This prize is awarded by Harper Collins Australia to an unpublished Australian manuscript and author with the hope of launching their writing career.

Now about the book … Callum Haffenden never believed he would return to Granite Creek. It’s a place of heartbreak, sickening memories and feelings of physical and emotional loss. In the past and as a teenager, Callum was involved in an accident that caused the loss of his leg from the kneecap down. At the same time, he also lost the girl who was his first love and she lost her elder sister. The tragic series of accidents have always been swirled with mystery and secrets. But a feeling, or a whispering of events unresolved, are calling him back now.

In the present, a local, well-known and well-loved community man has gone missing in the rainforest, around the same dangerous boulders of Callum’s accident. When his body is soon discovered, Callum’s previous journalism traits jump to action. In search of answers, Callum’s past and present collide. This isn’t the only secret that Callum begins to uncover the more questions he asks around town. You quickly discover as the reader that nobody is trustworthy and everybody has a motive to be part of this towns historical eeriness.

This was a quick but slow read. Quick because the storyline mostly flowed and the amount of dialogue included helped to move things along well. Slow because, I personally felt some aspects were disjointed. One moment I was in one place and then the next the story had moved on without a clear explanation or connection. HOWEVER, I will hand on heart admit I read a lot of this novel before bed and mostly falling asleep. This is also one the first crime book I’ve read in a while (like, 6 months a while), so my judgement could be swayed. Overall an enjoyable read for a debut fiction ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 (3.5/5 stars)

Book Review: ‘Heartstrong: Chumpy, Minnie & Me’ by Ellidy Pullin w/ Alley Pascoe

Chumpy, Ellidy and Minnie’s story is one for the ages. Their perspective on love, life and strength is unbelievable. In particular I strongly admire Ellidy’s ability to keep living through her grief and bring Minnie into a world swirled by strong belief that she is loved, she is a miracle creation and first and foremost, that she is the daughter of Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin.

Let’s start by chatting about the big and colourful being that was Chumpy.

Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin was an Australian snowboarder who competed at the 2010, 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics. He held the honour of carrying the Australian Flag in the opening of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. He won the snowboard cross World Championship – twice. He was an athlete. He was the musical creator and singer behind Chumpy and the Sunsetaroonies. He was a bright soul and he was Ellidy’s person for this wonderful thing called life.

On the 8th of July 2020, the life that Ellidy knew took a devastating turn. Chumpy tragically passed away in a shallow water diving blackout at the age of 33. This unfathomable accident shook those who knew Chumpy personally, had followed his athletic life and achievements, those who competed with him, those in his home town, celebrities across the globe and just ordinary people like myself who heard this on the news one morning. A fit, healthy and active man who was incredibly experienced in the water, passing away. Surely this doesn’t happen right?

A little about Ellidy – she and Chumpy met at the age of 21 and fell immediately in love. She had studied nursing, commerce and worked in a variety of jobs. Chumpy used to describe her as someone who was ‘always happy’ and ‘woke up happy’. For Ellidy to still find that light within herself and for Minnie, even now after the tragedy she’s experience, I’m just in awe and admiration. A really large part of what Ellidy’s purpose, advocacy and awareness is around shallow water diving blackouts. She also aims to shine a light on post mortem sperm retrieval, as this is how little Minnie was created.

Ellidy and Chumpy always knew they’d start a family and they’d been trying for the past 12 months before Chumpy’s accident. Luck was never on their side. They felt as if they came close a few times, but sadly never fell pregnant. IVF appointments were discussed, plans were made and then suddenly, Chumpy wasn’t there. In the hours after Chumpy’s passing, a close friend that actually brought Ellidy and Chumpy together in the first place, relayed to Ellidy’s brother this amazing procedure called post mortem sperm retrieval. Ellidy only had to hear the words, “There is still a chance you and Chumpy can have a baby” and that was enough for her to say “Yes, go, do what you need to do”, for close friends and family to jump to action. There are a number of loop holes in making a procedure like this happen, including time sensitivity after a persons passing, legal requirements and state legislations. The stars aligned and Ellidy likes to believe that Chumpy was along the journey pushing for those green lights from above.

Even through her grief, Ellidy knew that having Chumpy’s baby was something she had to do. She had her parent’s support, her brother, Chumpy’s parents and sister, as well as her multitude of close friends encouraging her to make this happen when she was ready. 15 months after Chumpy’s passing, que the creation of Minnie Alex Pullin. And let me tell you folks, she’s bloody gorgeous!

I’m so glad this heartbreakingly beautiful story was one of my first reads this year. I love watching my daily Instagram stories of Minnie, as found on Ellidy’s profile, and watching her grow surrounded by love. I encourage you to read this book, educate yourself on the power of true love and absorb the wonderful miracles that are created through modern medicine. Below, you’ll find one of the most heartwarming videos of Minnie and her dad 💫💖

💫 Mini Review 💫

Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney was a quick, captivating and unexpected spooky crime read! I absolutely adored it 👻

Listening in on audio made this book a whole lot quicker for me to consume. With a cast of characters and repetitive events to help you recap and continue on through the story seamlessly, I was in a tight grip of waiting for events to unfold.

Who was killing everyone? How is the family riddle changing as family members die? Will Daisy Darker survive the night?

Daisy Darker is a novel about well, Daisy Darker. Daisy was born with a heart defect and due to this, her health had always been a battle as a child. With lots of scares and ongoing hospital admissions, Daisy’s bond with her reliable grandmother grew immensely. Daisy’s grandmother even went as fair as to write an award winning, and quite profitable, children’s book with a little girl called Daisy as the main character. Daisy siblings resented her immensely for this and for being grandma’s favourite.

In the present, Daisy’s grandmother is bringing all the family back together on her quirky, isolated island estate because she’d been told by a psychic many years ago that she would die at 80. Tomorrow happens to be her 80th birthday and she’d like to spend her last waking hours with her dear family … which also happens to be on Halloween.

Each family member has complex and strained relationships with one another. Daisy’s mother and father are divorced. Daisy never fit in with her two older sisters. Throw a boy in the mix, a niece and a secret accident that happened years ago and we have a recipe for messy murders.

I enjoyed going into this novel not knowing much about it and I would encourage you to do the same. I’ve tried not to give too much away in this mini review! Happy *late* Halloween reading 👻

Book Review: ‘Marriage For One’ by Ella Maise

Do you want romantic angst? ✅

Do you want a NYC cafe setting? ✅

Do you love reading about broody incessant fictional males that are hard core romantics and not at all like real men ✅ (we can always hope)

Marriage For One by Ella Maise was recently picked up and her four romance novels recovered by Pip Watkins and Simon & Schuster UK. And man, have they found a whip smart novelist!

A fellow book store regular recommended this to me on Wednesday and from the get go, I was hooked. She said she instantly fell in love with Jack and Rose’s story. Also mentioning that this was her favourite Ella Maise book she’s read thus far. Tick, tick, tick from me.

Rose and Jack are complete strangers, or so Rose thinks. She’s currently going through hell trying to navigate her Uncle’s Estate and Will, in which Rose’s is surprised to find a hidden clause. Her Uncle states that her husband will inherit a very profitable but empty building that she had all intentions of renovating into a cafe. However, the husband label hasn’t gone quite to plan in Rose’s life. Her ex-fiance dumped her over text (very sus, more on that when you read the book), her money hungry cousins are out to get any inheritance Rose is left with and squash her cafe dreams, and NOW, she has some grumpy, non-smiling lawyer guy proposing to her?!

Jack Hawthorne was not about to sit aside and let Rose lose everything she’d dreamed of, or be taken advantage of. Meeting Rose a year before, Jack had admired her from afar. Jack is one of the lawyers that closely worked with Rose’s Uncle, therefore he was aware of the current complications with the Will. Jack founded a secret and permanent idea. He would marry Rose out of convenience. He would be her husband. He would then inherit the empty building. Rose could open her dream store. No complications – a simple marriage for one. All Jack asks in return is for her to attend dinners, charity events and closing deals as his wife, giving the image of a ‘family man’ lawyer. He insisted this was good for his branding but there may or may not have been some secrets swirling around …

Shocked by the proposal and in disbelief, Rose finds her life changing immediately. Next thing we know, Jack and Rose are moving to together as a ‘married couple’ to his apartment. Rose is working day and night to finish painting, planning and baking for the cafe … with Jack’s surprisingly quiet and brooding help. They’re going to business dinners where Jack is unexpectedly quite good at laying on the PDA and passing them as a very happy newlywed couple. In private however, Rose is struggling to have any kind of get-to-know-you conversations with Jack as he resists her closeness. I liked hearing from his perspective every so often because it allowed us as the reader to see that he was trying his best to give her space and grow to like him on her own terms. Rose was slowly getting used to his frowning, gruff non verbal responses and blunt stares when her health takes a turn.

You won’t find any spoilers here book friends BUT I will say, Jack came through with the goods as a fake husband and a real one 😉 I really liked the growth of their relationship and their humour. I liked the ever present romantic tension and do-they-don’t-they feelings. I didn’t feel like Jack was written as a coercive male figure in the relationship which was a real possibility due to the circumstances of the plot, however Ella Maise pulled it off. Some readers may disagree with me on this but hey, this is romantic fiction. We know what we’re going here to read.

Finishing this book in 48 hours, on little sleep and feelings of happiness about finding a book to devour – I gave Marriage For One ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 4.5 stars!

Book Review: ‘The Space Between’ by Michelle Andrews & Zara McDonald

Do you ever wonder if what you’re doing at this point in your life is right? Here’s an example;

You’re in your twenties and society tells you that this is the time to be SLIVVVING! You should be out every weekend, but still have the money to keep up with the latest trends. You should be loving the idea and options of going on different dates with different people, but so many others around your age are married with kids. You should be travelling overseas, but hold down a successful career at the same time.

There are so many implied expectations of your 20’s about who you are, what you want and what you have so far in life. But the reality is, NOBODY knows what the heck they’re doing. Hell, our brains only fully develop and construct into what health expects call ‘adults’ at 25. So that space between, yeah that, what are we supposed to do with that time.

Creators of the super successful Aussie podcast Shameless, Michelle & Zara, share their honest thoughts, opinions and experiences in this book. I finished this book in a matter of a week because right now, it resonates with me strongly, and I have a good feeling it will/does with a lot of people after that scary pandemic thing, unemployment and finance rates rising … gahh adulthood. How is a young person supposed to flash their newest pair of exercise leggings and not have to have eaten tinned tuna for a week these days?!

Admittedly, I have not listened to a lot of the Shameless pod. I was introduced to them not that long ago by one of my besties and have found myself hooked ever since. I try to listen to one of their episodes every week and I encourage you to do the same. Sometimes they talk gossip, sometimes they talk relationships, sometimes they talk health and then once a month, they do book club! It’s great. So onto the book Mel, tell us about it. Okay, so it is split into 4 parts; Love; Ambition; Mind and Body; & Voice. It’s hard for me to pick a favourite because all of them used both Zara and Michelle’s personal experiences to bring home an idea. And I must say, near all of their experiences are relatable.

Love covers the fantastic aspects of being single, like; going on however many dates you please; a night out is always full of exciting opportunities to meet someone new; watching a whole tv series to yourself and not feeling guilty having to wait for someone else before hitting resume; and not having to share your precious bed, chocolate stash, dinner meal or time, with someone else. It also covers being the breaker of hearts and the receiver of broken hearts, in both romantic and friend relationships. The benefits and bamboozling implications of situation-ships. The space between family and their beliefs.

Ambition covers finishing uni and how terrifying going out into the big wide world is. It covers the space between our expectations of a career and what our life after having a 4,5,6,7 year uni degree in our back pocket actually means to our quality of life and happiness. In the ambition section, Mich and Zara cover their huge pivot of working for one of Australia’s top female lead media and journalism companies, to risking it all to start their own podcast. For them, if you read this book and find out, it was a matter of mental survival, professional growth and a touch of ‘What the heck are we thinking, are we crazy, will this even work?!’. The answer is yes, and they’re still taking the podcasting world by storm to this day. They encourage you to trust your gut, work hard for the times when you have that sparking feeling of hey, this could actually be something truely magical. They talk success and sacrifice. They talk unequal pay gaps and appropriate workplace treatment. They talk openly about mental health, anxiety and work-life balance. It’s relatable, raw and fantastic. (… okay maybe this was my favourite section …)

Mind & Body covers, you guessed it, all things mind and body. A checklist is included to help you differentiate if you have in-fact matured beyond the point of pasta for dinner every night ‘semi-adult’ or full blown, I have a grocery list and do not wander outside of its bounds ‘adulthood’. Mich and Zara talk about sex and the uncomfortableness that can be female pleasure. They talk anxiety and what that looks like for some people who lead a day-to-day, busy and bustling life but still cope in the face of adversity and crippling mental illness. They talk fertility, endometriosis and personal experiences with family planning. One of my favourite parts of this section was their discussion on influence – it literally made me jump on my instagram and unfollow any, and all of the female and male ‘influencers’ that felt, to me, that they were not teaching me anything. They were not bringing anything new and positive into my brain. That’s not to say I went and followed all of these inspo quote type of pages – no. I followed people like Julia Gillard and Malala Yousafzai, AND Michelle Andrews and Zara McDonald.

Voice covers the big things that we believe can’t be coffee table discussions or casual chats over a glass of wine (but in actual fact is totally acceptable) – and that is empowerment. Empowerment to tell a bloke when he’s taken a joke too far. Empowerment to disagree with someone even when you know they will challenge you and believe you wrong. Empowerment to say “No thanks” to another vodka soda when you know you’d rather spend your Sunday going for a walk, cleaning your house, Facetiming a friend, working on your side hustle or grabbing a coffee – instead of lying in bed all day hungover. Empowerment to stand up for your workplace rights. Empowerment on YOUR autonomy and allowing you to lead your own life. You’re a strong woman, you can make the right choices for you.

If you’ve read this book review to the end, I hope you can feel through my words just how passionate this book made me feel. It helped me and if you pick it up because you’re feeling a little lost and hopeless – don’t worry, it’s got you xx

‘The Space Between’ by Michelle Andrews & Zara McDonald

Book Review: ‘The Marriage Portrait’ by Maggie O’Farrell

My, oh my, oh my! Now you all know how much I ADORED and have RAVED about ‘Devotion’ by Hannah Kent (CLICK HERE to read my review). If you have met me in the bookstore, I can guarantee I have put any and all of Hannah Kent’s books in your hands. For me to say that THIS BOOK – ‘The Marriage Portrait’ by Maggie O’Farrell, comes in as a close contender as one of my favourite books of 2022 is big. It’s BIG people!

‘The Marriage Portrait’ by Maggie O’Farrell is well paced novel curated to intrigue and explore the devastatingly controlled life of Lucrezia, Duchess of Ferrara. By the age of 15 she was married to a Duke for the purposes of political and land gain. By 16 she was dead.

Set in the mid 1500’s, our opening scene introduces us to Lucrezia and her husband Alfonzo, as they dine for the very last time together before he supposedly, *as history believes* poisons her. This scene is chilling as we’re in the mind of a 16 year old girl who is contemplating what her life has come to and what to expect will come next. We then flash back in time to Lucrezia’s birth and the disconnected relationship she has growing up within her Medici family.

Lucrezia is the somewhat middle child Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany and Eleanor of Toledo. If you know your Italian history, you’d know that the Medici lineage is one of the most infamous and long ruling families/Italian royalty. The marriage of Cosimo and Eleanor was a loving one, yet Eleanor’s expression of love towards Lucrezia was never the same compared to her other children.

Lucrezia had a milk mother (or wet nurse as the role is more commonly known), of whom was lower class. Lucrezia’s early life was spent in the cook room, playing with her milk mother’s daughter and not learning the skills of her royal family. This resulted in her being somewhat of an outcast with her siblings and also when it came to linear education. Her art was how she expressed herself from a very young age and it followed throughout her short life. She also has an unusually calm connection to animals.

Lucé’s connection to animals comes to the forefront of the novel when there is a piercing scene with herself, her siblings and her father, Cosimo. It was hard to remove this picture from my mind throughout the rest of the story. Maggie O’Farrell brings so much truth to Lucé’s story and it was actually rumoured that in real life, Cosmio held a collection of exotic animals in the basement of the Palazzo Vecchio. The fictional scene follows Lucrezia as she witnesses the arrival of a new animal, a tiger. She is possessed by its beauty, power and its inability to fit in with the other animals. She feel connection and comfort with this animal. They speak the same emotional and mental language. As she falls behind the group, she reached her hand in the tiger’s cage and awaits its presence. Slowly, the animal comes to her and connecting with her hand is the animals fur. It sees Lucé, it feels her, it knows her. They are two creatures but their feelings are that of one. Her Father, terrified to turn and see this animal near his daughter, seeks to destroy the animal immediately. This is ultimately a turning point in the novel.

I believe this pivotal scene mimics Lucé’s future courtship and marriage with Alfonso. He sees her as beautiful, powerful and caged. He takes advantage of this young, innocent and disconnected creature. His pure use for her is to produce heirs, yet down the line we learn that this is something that does not come easily for him.

I was seized by this story immediately and I believe you will be too. I wanted to learn about how this young girl had experienced a life completely out of her control. The 1500’s time period is one I have not explored a great deal before and Italian history is always something I will jump to read considering my own heritage. I am now adding all of Maggie O’Farrell’s books to my TBR because her writing was just spectacular. I don’t think any other author I’ve read before has made me feel the way she has. Perhaps Hannah Kent would truly be the closest. The ending of this novel was also the perfect way to close the fictional story of the beautiful Lucrezia, Duchess of Ferrara. I am still thinking of this novel months after reading a prerelease copy – I am glad to finally place it in book lovers hands this September.

Lucé’s love for art is her saviour at different times throughout the novel. Yet, when it comes to her famous marriage portrait arranged by Alfonso, she is taken with how the different forms of art can depict a scene or moment of a person. Her own portrait is created by a collection of specialsed artists, one of whom is selective mute – or so we think. His name is Jacopo. Jacopo will go on to play an important role in Lucé life, whether that be fictional or true – I do not know.

💫 Mini Review 💫

‘The It Girl’ by Ruth Ware

This was a quick read, with cliff hangers at the end of every chapter. The chapters themselves were also short and immersive which I really enjoyed. I would highly recommend for those who have enjoyed ‘Behind Her Eyes’ and ‘Pieces of Her’ on Netflix 📺💥🌪

April Clarke-Cliveden was the first person Hannah met at Oxford. She was decked out in her luxury branded clothing, exclusive haircut and performative posture. She had a particular air about her, as some may say. April is clearly the kind of girl that makes herself known. She’s the ‘it girl’.

Hannah and April are in shared uni accommodation, therefore they begin to learn the ins and outs of each other’s life. Their friendship is magnetic, twisted and dangerous. April is a dominant personality, not only within their immediate friendship, but also within their outer circle of friends, with lecturers and classmates. This power allows her to manipulate those around her for the benefit of her own desires. April likes to plays pranks on her friends to induce the feeling of confusion and control. Her pranks initially start as a way of getting back at someone for not complimenting her – but her tactics, twists and stories start becoming expert level. They’re cruel and calculated, almost like she’s a whole other person.

Then it all goes wrong. 

On the closing night of April’s theatre performance on Oxford campus, she is all glamour and shine. Until Hannah discovers April’s body in her room later on that night. April is dead … or so Hannah thinks. April has been murdered … or so Hannah thinks. 

Fast forward to the present and we have Hannah happily married to April’s then boyfriend, Will. They are expecting their first child. Hannah and Will escaped to Scotland to free themselves of the ongoing press, court case and mystery motive surrounding April’s death. The trauma causes Hannah a lot of grief, especially with her being one of the focal witnesses in the ‘so-called’ attack.

We see Hannah start to retrace her memory on the lead up, and on the night of April’s death due to the ‘convicted’ murderer presently dying in prison. Hannah starts to remember and piece together the how’s, when’s and why’s of her friendship with April. She also begins to dig deeper into her repressed memories, which then leads to the questioning of her closest and most trustworthy friends at the time of their living at Oxford. Was someone close to Hannah more involved with April than she ever knew? Was someone out to get April? Who is in danger? Is April alive? 

Book Review: ‘ When Only One’ by Meg Gatland-Veness

How do you help someone who doesn’t want to be helped?

I need to be explicitly upfront about this novel and its raw topics before I feel dive into this review. This book surrounds the tragic event of a fictional high school shooting in Australia. It provided insight into grief and loss, poverty, domestic abuse, neglect and suicide. These are heavy topics but if you are up to it, do not let that deter you. ‘When Only One’ is one of THE BEST books I’ve read this year and I have absolutely no doubt, in all fibres of my body, that this book will be winning awards in the Australian contemporary young adult category.

Let’s jump into talking about this special novel shall we?

Samson is a teenager, the eldest of five boys and belongs to an average income earning household. His father works a desk job while his mother is unfaltering in her Catholic faith, stability and routine at home with five boys. Sam’s home structure is just that – stable. However his reemerged best friend, Emily, comes from a household that is anything but stable. Her father works when he wants too, drinks too much and is abusive toward her mother. Cynthia, Emily’s mum, suffers from mental illness which becomes quite evident early on in the book. Her mother collects shoes and requires a ‘shoe-toll’ before Emily or Sam can enter the house. She hoards these shoes and gathers them around her for a sense of comfort. The shoe collecting is quite humorous at times with Emily and Sam searching all over town for shoes, to Emily missing her shoes within the floor to ceiling shoe garage, to Sam giving up his good runners for a desperate chance to speak with Emily. Until one afternoon when Emily’s dad snaps – the humour is gone.

Emily’s household is violent, neglectful and poverty-stricken. The local town, school and teenagers know this but nobody believes they can or should do anything to help, as they themselves would rather turn a blind eye and continue on with their safe and comfortable lives. Emily finds her solace and safety in sneaking through Sam’s bedroom window and sleeping on top of his clean bed. Sam lets her, while he takes the bean bag. Emily sometimes stays for meals, plays with Sam’s brothers and gets driven around by Sam’s mum if they both need to go somewhere. However, there is always this divide and ‘frowned-upon’ nature that Sam’s mother holds towards Emily. She will never quite let her be a part of their family, even though it is clearly obvious that she needs help. Emily is also adamant on refusing help, claiming she can handle the cards life has dealt her, but she’s only a teenager. She shouldn’t have to handle these challenges on her own, let alone suffer the consequences of them.

Sam and his close group of guy friends are all training for the Ironman Championship and sporting scholarship. They all want to be fit, athletic and well trained sportsmen, like on the Nutri-grain cereal box. His closest friends consist of; Daniel – a flirtatious Italian; Jeff – quiet and hardworking; Patrick – from a well off family but doesn’t like to admit it; and Milo – who grew up on a dairy farm, his mother committed suicide from postnatal depression, leaving Milo, his under 1 year old sister and their father falling apart. There is a piercing passage on pg. 218 that throws the social divisions of Australian high school and small town communities in your face. It reads;

“At our school, there are three main factions. First, there’s the rich kids from town. They mostly have two working parents and a swimming pool. Then there’s us, mid-grounders. We live in town but the wrong side of the main road. We mostly have stay-at-home mums or single parents. We have clean clothes and brushed hair, but our uniforms are clearly from the faded second-hand box and not shiny and bright from the uniform shop. Jeff, Daniel and I fall into that category. Patrick likes to pretend he does, but he’s secretly a rich kid. Then there’s the third faction: the farm kids and derros who live on the outskirts. The Emilys and Milos of the school. The ones with foetal alcohol syndrome, or mums with no teeth, or brothers in jail, or dads with restraining orders against them. They are the ones who hardly ever last to the end of Year 10.”

Meg’s ability to put social hierarchy in such plain words created real feeling for me. I believe it rang true in its bluntness and clear vision through the teenage eyes of Sam, who is discovering the awareness of adversity and privilege all around him. From this, Sam is learning the unwavering power and influence that adversity and privilege have over a persons life. One teenager in this story who was aware of their privilege was Rei. Rei has recently moved to Sam’s school and it was love at first sight for him. Her Asian background and unidentified faith plagued Sam’s mother at times, but he does truly love Rei. Rei advocates for social justice, wins schooling debates and cries over inequalities. Meg does a great job of still painting Rei as a young teenager, with emotion led decision making, self-confidence issues and the feelings of grief and loss surrounding migrating to a new country.

Ultimately, the adversities, disadvantages and addictions faced by the characters in this story, create the demise for severe loss of mental control and physical actions. The escalation is chilling, sickening and unexplainable, but arguably explainable from the perspective of the one character committing the action. I have to say that the novel does not keep you in this heaviness. It gives the reader a clear feeling of immediate grief and how that looks in the realistic lives of teenagers, yet we also see and feel the ongoing cycle of grief. We learn its moving sensation and how it becomes a part of who you are, then you keep growing, then growing, then growing. To say this novel touched me is an understatement. Even now writing this review, I am flipping open pages and thinking gosh I want to write about this, and this, but I can only give you so much book lovers. I need to leave the rest up to you 💖

💫 Mini Review 💫

‘Today Tonight Tomorrow’ by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Looking for a feel good read? ✅

Looking for an enemies to lovers plot? ✅

Looking for a romance that moves from high school into new young adulthood? ✅

This young adult fiction encompasses all of the good suff, making it light, romantic and a quick read. Rowan Roth is a determined young woman and hard working right up to the very end of high school but her witty drive is pushed along by the likes of Neil McNair. The two have been in hefty competition with each other since the time they met. Their schooling has been a constant battle of who will be in first place and who will come in second. Rowan is set on not placing second best in their last bid for victory … winning valedictorian.

Yet as graduation looms and their end of Senior Year celebrations of a Seattle scavenger hunt kicks off, Rowan and Neil begin to realise that rather than opposing each other, they are smarter, swifter and more aligned working together than they ever realised. Slowly, they learn about one another’s lives outside of the small portion of school they experience with one another. Outside hobbies, passions and home lives come into play, furthering even more of their connection.

I read this over a weeks holiday and it was the perfect accompaniment for a light and happy time. I needed a story to get me out of a book slump as I’d just come off the back of reading my second favourite literary novel of 2022 (review coming soon 🤗) – so I needed something a little lighter. The lovely Josh from @joshhortinela recommended this strongly and I was convinced to pick it up!

Book Review: ‘Paperbark Hill’ by Maya Linnell

If you’re looking to fall in love with a new country romance writer, Maya Linnell is your gal! She just gets it – the challenges of falling in love in rural areas, small town community feelings of support and shared business, opinions and expectations. She also holds a firm grip of what the dynamics of inside a family look like. Her writing makes you feel as if you’re sitting around a dining room table, in a country home, having realistic conversations about farming, family and children.

Paperbark Hill is the conclusion to Maya’s four book series following the McIntyre sisters. All books can be read individually but have overlapping characters, environmental settings and storylines. Believe me when I say, Paperbark Hill has set me up well for devouring the rest of Maya’s books!

Paperbark Hill follows Diana McIntyre and her 4 boys as they learn to navigate and continue on their lives after the death of their stronghold, their husband and father. Diana is surrounded by her loving sisters and father, who encourage her dreams of cut flower farming, selling locally and creating a name for herself in the industry. Flower farming and raising her 4 boys is the highest priority. This remains so throughout the novel. Her thoughts and feelings do however increase when Ned Gardiner, an ex-local comes back to town after the unexpected loss of his father.

Ned is a locaum pharmacist and a bit of a gypsy. His flexible job allows him and his two beautiful, sweet and worldly children to move around. This is bit of a relief for Ned after his wife and mother to his two children, just up and left. Ned’s routines and travelling is thrown out the window when the loss of his father brings him back to his home town. His father was a keen chicken egg farmer and flower gardener. It also turns out, his father was Diana’s sidekick in maintaining and starting her flower farming. Both Diana and Ned are feeling the heavy loss of Ned’s father, which ultimately brings them together.

The warm buzz between Ned and Diana grows. Their time spent together in the flower fields, bringing their children together for play dates, stopping for afternoon tea together and chatting over salty scones, are just some of my favourite subtle ways of their relationship growing. I really could appreciate that their relationship was about stability, trust and respect. They’ve both been hurt in the past, they both have children who are the centre of their world, and they are both trying to navigate new found love at 40+. It’s slow, romantic and the development of love grows through gesture.

I think Maya was clever to include some challenges to new found love at 40. She wove the protests of children surrounding new parental relationships and the questions they ask. Diana’s teenage boy found the adjusts hard and was defiant in letting a new person into Diana’s life. He felt as if Diana would forget about his father and not acknowledge significant past birthdays or anniversaries. However, he grows to realise that it is about a balance of blending the two together and recognising that Ned is never going to stop Diana from loving, thinking of, or celebrating her late husband. Ultimately Ned and Diana show harmony within their two families individually, therefore when they bring the two together, it is just a big group of love and happiness!

Reading Diana and Ned’s story had me swept away in a matter of 48 hours – I couldn’t step away from their story for too long!! I am incredibly grateful and humbled to have received this copy of Paperbark Hill from Allen & Unwin and Maya Linnell to personally read and review 💖 This copy of Maya’s book has already been loaned a friend to read and also love 💫