Valley Of Secrets (#1) by Morgan Knight

Published: 9th October 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Green Rhino Media LLC
Pages: 497
Format: ebook
Genre: New Adult Paranormal Dark Romance
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

A secret past. An alluring stranger seeking to destroy her. A power she must harness and a truth she must uncover to stay alive.

Emilia never quite understood why her parents refused to talk about their past. She was just a child when they died suddenly, leaving her to wonder about who they really were and where she came from. When an attorney contacts her regarding a family estate matter in Europe, she seizes the opportunity to learn more, and ventures to an isolated village in the Tatra Mountains seeking answers.

Massimino is a sorcerer looking to use Emilia to advance his own powers and seek vengeance on those who banished him centuries ago. He knows she is the last of a powerful bloodline, so invading her dreams, he calls to her, seduces her, and makes her body respond in new, thrilling ways.

Can Emilia uncover her origins and the influence her ancestors once held over a hidden world of mystical forces? They kept the past from Emilia for a reason, but Massimino has found her anyway. Once he has made her fall in love, will she die for him?

Note: I received a copy of this book for review

I was wary when I saw this was a 500 page story, especially for what I thought was a fantasy but Knight has actually concocted an engaging story that keeps you turning the page. What it actually is is a contemporary new adult story that has elements of mystery and paranormal elements. There’s manipulation and magic, the dark romance is there too but Knight has done a good job making sure it isn’t too explicit or crude and every moment is there as part of the story and not only there for shock. The sex scenes are described tastefully as they can given the context, but even then there are strange relationship of acceptance, reluctance, and persuasion.

The mystery of this story follows Emilia’s past and her family she knows almost nothing about. When Emilia is given a chance to find out where she comes from she jumps at the chance which takes her on an unexpected journey. The details of the mystery are gradually uncovered and enough information is given to keep you engaged without being left in the dark with countless obscurities and vague answers.

The introduction to this world is good, something I’d expect from a story being this length, but there’s plenty to expand into more books without straining for additional narrative. The move from the contemporary to the paranormal felt natural and the gradual introduction meant there was a natural cross over and no sudden shifts. There is real world magic but I liked that there was a connection to the old world with castles and curses. The mix of the modern and the old was a great contrast and it was interesting to see how to two worlds lived side by side.

I believed the sister relationship between Amanda and Emilia, from best friends to adopted sisters it is a great demonstration of their friendship, especially one that has been long established. I also loved that the girls were in their early 20s and therefore not in the teenage category, which also makes the events in this story acceptable and believable.

Emilia’s strength and her intellect are a great combatant for what she comes up against in this narrative and Knight brings it out at the right moments when you think these girls are lost in an environment they may otherwise be out of their depth. Emilia is an adult and smart and you cans ee both girls’ personalities coming through in their interactions with one another and those around them.

Without spoilers I will say that the way Knight has made a contemporary story feel like one that has fantasy and magical elements was wonderful. Even a touch of the historical as well. At times I had to remind myself that this was still a contemporary story with internet and planes and modern evil but it was believable that there were magical ties as well. Knight has left plenty to move into the next story and I look forward to seeing where this series is heading.

You can purchase Valley of Secrets via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

There’s an Alien in your Book by Tom Fletcher

Published: 16th May 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Puffin
Illustrator: Greg Abbott
Pages: 35
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott have created a new interactive adventure, this time featuring an adorable alien who has crash-landed in YOUR book!

You’ll have to help Alien back up into space, because aliens don’t belong on Earth . . . do they?

What I love about Fletcher’s books is how interactive they are. They require you to blow on pages, turn the book upside down, or pretend to draw on the pages. This time an alien has crashed into our book and we have to help him get home.

I love how the narration openly speaks to the reader and asks them to participate. It makes the alien into a real creature who is tampering and having consequences in and on the book itself. The text moves and changes as the narrative instructs so if you don’t follow along you may find it hard to read if you haven’t turned the book upside down, and it certainly is a lot more fun if it feels like your actions have an effect on the alien.

Abbott’s illustrations are a stand out once again. The adorableness of his creations are one reason why I love these books. While Fletcher’s words and instructions are entertaining, there is an extra level added by seeing the character react to these actions.

The story teaches kids about being helpful and also that everyone deserves to belong no matter what they look like. Being unique and different is not a bad thing and I love that Fletcher doesn’t leave it vague, he makes a point and then changes his mind to make the message clear.

If you loved having fun with Fletcher’s dragon and his monster than you will certainly love this story as well, especially since there is a nice surprise cross over.

You can purchase There’s an Alien in Your Book via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Long Lost Review: Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 22nd March 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Century
Pages: 387
Format: Paperback
Genre: Thriller
★   ★  ★  ★ – 4 Stars

You think you know the truth. The truth is you know nothing.

If your husband was murdered,
And you were a witness,
How do you explain, seeing him on your nanny cam?
You thought you trusted him.
Now you can’t even trust yourself.

A very fractured Long Lost Review this month. I went through my review drafts and found this one, half a thought in barely two paragraphs so I’m trying to work with what I remember because I know I really loved it at the time.

I had never read a Coben book before but I knew how popular he is. This book came across my desk at work in 2017 and after reading the blurb I borrowed it right away. I’ve always loved stories about people faking their own deaths, I know that sounds odd, but it intrigues me. This had intrigue and a whole lot more. For a while this became my go to book to recommend for people if they wanted a captivating and engaging story with a lot of surprises.

The only character I remember is Maya; ex-military who is haunted by decisions she made that got her discharged. I don’t remember anyone else but I loved how we become doubtful ourselves as Maya starts to doubt what she sees and hears. It’s told in third person I think so we don’t get her inner thoughts but I remember that not being important as I could still become invested in her and her circumstance.

It’s a complicated case where you are unsure who to trust, what to believe, and when you think you know what is happening Colburn shakes things up again spectacularly. There’s a lot of twists and surprises but it only added to the experience, you never knew where it was going but when the reveal happened it was a well earned result. I know when I finished this I was planning on reading more of his to see if they gave me the same reaction, but I have yet to do so but maybe it’s time to revisit that since I remember liking this one so much. Maybe I need a reread of this first?

Lords of St Thomas by Jackson Ellis

Published: 10th April 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Green Writers Press
Pages: 180
Format: ebook
Genre: Historical Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

In the Mojave Desert, at the southern end of the isolated Moapa Valley, sat the town of St. Thomas, Nevada. A small community that thrived despite scorching temperatures and scarce water, St. Thomas was home to hardy railroad workers, farmers, shopkeepers, teachers, and a lone auto mechanic named Henry Lord.

Born and raised in St. Thomas, Lord lived in a small home beside his garage with his son, Thomas, his daughter-in-law, Ellen, and his grandson, “Little” Henry. All lived happily until the stroke of a pen by President Coolidge authorizing the construction of the Boulder (Hoover) Dam. Within a decade, more than 250 square miles of desert floor would become flooded by the waters of the Colorado River, and St. Thomas would be no more.

In the early 1930s, the federal government began buying out the residents of St. Thomas, yet the hardheaded Henry Lord, believing the water would never reach his home, refused to sell. It was a mistake that would cost him―and his family―dearly.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book for review

This may only be a quick read but it is an engaging and captivating story. It crosses two points in time, when our narrator Henry is a young boy and when he is an old man. These two points in time alternate but the story mainly focuses on the earlier time period. I enjoyed this change because from the opening I was expecting the story to go another way and I am glad it went in the direction it did.

The story is about home and the past. It is also about family. Ellis has written a fascinating story that questions all of this and weaves it together with style and seamlessness. The two periods rest side by side and Ellis uses the narrator’s voice to give us all the information we need without heavy exposition. Instead it is woven through and details are revealed at intervals when they are pertinent. Little Henry tells the story of his childhood living in St Thomas and the changes that come about when there is a threat to the town with the construction of the new dam. As a non-American I was interested in the history the story shows about the development of the dam and even though Ellis has fictionalised it, there are pictures included at the end that show where his inspiration came from.

This story could easily have been longer but I am glad Ellis has kept it short. It has a lot more power and through the narrative and dialogue all the information we need has been included without it become too wordy. The character development is all there and through Henry’s reflections and observations we gain more insight into characters whose voices we don’t often get to hear. Ellis shows well and doesn’t often tell and even with his few observations there is a lot said in a few words. The imagery is also wonderfully vivid and I could picture everything Henry is telling us, from the small run down school room to the encroaching water and hard dry desert.

There is heartache and mystery but there is also a bittersweet reality that I really liked. The hardships the family endures and the drama around their lives takes it toil but there is also strong family bonds. The novel takes place across the decades of the 20th century and seeing the changes from the 1930s to the 1990s and beyond not only shows to contrast in the environment, but also in the progress of humanity and it is a reminder of what life was like in those early years. It certainly has a lot of poignancy and intrigue and to capture all that in 180 pages is a wonderful feat.

You can purchase Lords of St Thomas via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Wordery

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

It’s a Long Way to the Shop by Heidi McKinnon

Published: 1st November 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic Australia
Illustrator: Heidi McKinnon
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

They cant run, swim, fly or jump… so how will these two little rocks get to the shop? 
Find out in this hilarious tale of adventure and persistence, to reach a snack thats totally worth it.

There’s so much to love about this book. Not only are the two characters simply called Rock, but they are optimistic, hilarious, and practical.

McKinnon uses dialogue for the entire story but instead of using quotations and padding it out, she uses differentiating colours to show who is speaking. Pink rock and green rock work out the issues they have in trying to get to the shop and seeing their deliberations is an absolute delight. Pink rock is definitely the more optimistic, while green is the practical one of the two, but even so they manage to climb and float and fly their way to the shop.

There are puns and the simple humour is divine. McKinnon uses a washed out tone for the backgrounds but sticks with the green, grey colouring which makes the bright pink and green of the two rocks stand out.

I love the ending of this because it was exactly what I wanted and I had an absolute blast getting there. What is even better though is McKinnon takes it one extra step further and it becomes even more hilarious.

You can purchase It’s A Long Way to the Shop via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Amazon Aust

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