The Reluctant Jillaroo by Kaz Delaney

Published: 4th January 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Allen & Unwin
Pages: 348
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult/ Romance/ Mystery
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Harper Gage has won the opportunity of a lifetime – ten days at Winmaroo Jillaroo and Jackaroo school. The camp could give her the recommendation she needs to go to the exclusive Agricoll for years 11 and 12. But when an accident leaves Harper hospitalised, her twin sister, Heidi, goes in her place. The only problem is that Heidi is not much of a country girl – not like her sister. And to make life even more complicated, her sister’s biggest rival Trent is going to be there. Will she be able to fool him?

And then the reality of the school hits Heidi hard. It’s all dust, snakes and heat – a million miles away from the surf she loves. When she meets the fun and handsome Chaz, life at the school suddenly doesn’t seem so bad, although with Trent acting up and trouble brewing with the other students, Heidi’s not sure how long she can keep her identity secret. And if her secret is revealed, will Chaz ever be able to trust her again?

Once again Kaz Delaney had me awake until 3am finishing one of her books. Read, finished, and loved the same day I got it and it was wonderful from start to finish!

Kaz gets your attention early on by starting in the middle of a moment, we are thrown into the story with no idea what has happened, and only Heidi’s thoughts to fill us in. I love stories that drop you straight in the action; it makes your curious and engaged right away. The idea that Heidi and Harper have concocted is well within the realm of believability, and Kaz writes so well that the story flows seamlessly and you get caught up in the story naturally.

Of course Heidi’s experience isn’t going to go smoothly, having to act like her sister and hiding her inexperience is drama enough without also dealing with a budding romance and the unexpected arrival of someone who actually knows her sister. Watching Heidi deal with everything that comes her way is fun and commendable. She never gives in and covers her tracks as best she can, not without the pang of guilt and the sadness she feels at lying to people she’s become good friends with.

Heidi is a great and admirable character. She’s a Batman lover (a great start), but she is also friendly and welcoming, even when she is out of her depth, and her loyalty and determination outweigh her fears and trepidations. She’s uncertain in her surroundings but she is strong and determined, not willing to let her sister down. Her commitment to her sister drives her to succeed and sees her doing things she wouldn’t normally do. What I also adored about her is that she has a great moral sense and good nature that makes her want to help people and make them feel included. Looking after other camp attendees and noticing what others are doing or feeling, making sure they are happy, is what makes her a wonderful person.

But this is not just a simple story where Heidi mustn’t be found out, there are mysterious things happening at the camp as well. The gradual introduction of the mystery is subtle and at the same time doesn’t deter from Heidi’s fish out of water experiences. Kaz connects everything brilliantly and there are twists and turns offering up a different thrill away from watching Heidi try to drench sheep or milk cows.

The best part about reading this though is how it feels like you are right alongside these characters, riding along trails, whispering at night in bunks, and having everyday experiences. That’s what makes Kaz’s writing so wonderful, it feels so realistic. Everything happens all at once, everything overlaps, and there can be fun and drama and love alongside one another.

It’s clear Kaz has done some amazing research and gone to a lot of effort to make this story feel authentic, not just in the camp activities, but also in making sure every character feels like a complete person, full, developed, and with experiences of their own behind them. You can’t help but love them all for their quirks and their different personalities; the comradery and friendships are evident, even after such a short time.

There really is so much to love about this story, it’s fun, suspenseful, and filled with mystery and madness that keeps you hooked from the start, not to mention an ending that will amaze!

You can purchase The Reluctant Jillaroo via the following

Dymocks | Kindle | Booktopia

iTunes | Publisher

Amazon Aust | QBD

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AWW 2016 Update

AWW16When I signed up for the AWW2016 I only chose to read 10 books and review 6. Having already read and reviewed three I think my goal might need updating soon. My plan is at the start of each month look back and tally up how well I have done in the challenge in the previous month. Next month I will have updated my goal and hopefully have a longer list, but for now I think three books is a great start.

There is still plenty of time if you wish to join the challenge, you can sign up at any time during the year until the end of November. Visit the AWW website for more information.

AWW BOOKS Jan-Feb

The Princess Companion by Melanie Cellier – Reviewed

Dead, Actually by Kaz Delaney – Reviewed

Almost Dead by Kaz Delaney – Reviewed

AWW2016 TOTAL

Read: 3/10

Reviewed: 3/6

Almost Dead by Kaz Delaney

Published: 1st January 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Allen & Unwin
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal Romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

A glitzy whodunit set amongst the Gold Coast elite and a hilarious romance between Macey Pentecost, the privileged teenager with a social conscience who just happens to see ghosts, and the good-looking surf champion Finn.

Macey’s life has been turned upside down. Her mother has left, her father is absent and her two best friends (her brother Seth and his girlfriend Willow) are MIA. On top of that Macey is being visited by ghosts who need her help to ‘move on’. But as wild as all that sounds, it’s all under Macey’s control until a rakish, good-looking spirit called Nick turns up … in her bedroom!

Nick’s a spirit with spirit who insists he’s not dead, he’s astral travelling and has a message for Macey: someone is out to get her. Macey’s biting wit has got her in trouble before, so she’s not surprised but when the threatening notes start turning up, she’s seriously shaken. Does someone want her dead?

It’s all rather disturbing but she’s finding it hard to focus on who could mean her harm with the annoyingly handsome surf god Finn turning up at the most inopportune times and a father with a rather large surprise of his own.

Is it a case of bad timing? Or are these things somehow connected? And if they are, what on earth should she wear when she’s solving the mystery?

Even at 400 pages I flew through this book. I started at maybe 11pm and by 3:30 am I was done. I kept telling myself I should stop but then I convince myself to read some more and then all of a sudden I’d read another 40 pages and I was telling myself to stop again. And so the cycle continued until 3:30 when I finished the final page.

There is a perfect balance between the paranormal, the mystery, and the every day, and Kaz’s writing is so inviting that you want to keep turning the page. Her words draw you in and even closing the book for sleep is unthinkable because you don’t want to leave the story. Your curiosity overrules sleep, and who could sleep anyway when such an enthralling tale is being told!

A companion book to Dead, Actually, this time it’s Macey’s story that gets told. What I loved about this was that it was a completely new story but didn’t forget what had come before it. It is impossible to compare the two because they both have very different mysteries with different focuses, but the similarities and same surroundings is a comfortable familiarity. Willow and Seth are not forgotten, and there are throwbacks and references to the other book, but not so much that it tries to make you connect the two and see it as a sequel. Macey’s story is her own and Willow’s hers, and I loved that Kaz gave them both stories that suited them.

There are so many drawcards about this book, not only the creative paranormal aspect, but the mystery, the drama, and the realities of life that all mix together. It is easy to love the amazing events that play out around Nick as well as Macey’s newly discovered gift, not to mention the surprising home life she had found herself living in. Kaz’s portrayal of the stresses and confusion in Macey’s life is divine, as well as managing to express beautifully how overwhelmed and out of her depth she becomes. It’s wonderful.

Macey and Finn’s relationship is cheeky and adorable. He is a wonderful friend, loyal and protective, and seeing Macey fight her feelings for him reveals more of who she is and why. Everything connects and has consequences with this story and moments fit together and react off each other with style and creativity. This is just one of the many things that interact and connect, sometimes you don’t even realise just how connected things are until the last moment.

The mystery side definitely needs mentioning because the way Kaz plays it out you find yourself suspecting even the most innocent of people. There are hints and clues, and no clear motive which means anyone could be the culprit. With so much else happening in Macey’s life, having someone stalk her is another thing she has to worry about, and seeing it overlap with her other problems makes the story more intense and enthralling.

This multifaceted story has something for everyone’s tastes: There are great characters to fall in love with and great friendships to admire, there’s a great YA story, a thrilling mystery, some excellent paranormal, a budding romance, family drama, self discovery and acceptance, and an ending that’s beautiful – all wrapped up in a thrilling 400 pages.

You can purchase Almost Dead via the following

Dymocks | Kindle | Booktopia

iTunes | Publisher

Amazon Aust | QBD

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Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016

AWW16It’s a new year and time for new challenges. This year I’ve signed up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge (AWW). This is something I have been meaning to do for a few years and finally going to commit to doing it. For those that are unaware, the AWW is a wonderful challenge that encourages people to read and review books by Australian women. This is a challenge that anyone can participate in, you don’t have to be a blogger, you can review on Goodreads, Facebook, or other social media!

I have chosen the Franklin level which  means I will be reading 10 books with an aim to review 6 of them. This seems manageable and I look forward to discovering some awesome Aussie women writers. There are various levels to aim for, or you can be brave and choose your own goal.

To find out more about the challenge and see if it’s something you would like to participate in, check out the website. The challenge runs from 1st January to 31st December so there is plenty of time to complete your goal, and you can sign up at any time during the year until the end of November.

 

 

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