Thursday 22 June 2023

Book Review: O2 by Nic D'Alessandro



Nic D'Alessandro

Publisher: Self Published
Publication date: 22nd June 2023
Series: Dylan Malloy #1
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 260
RRP: $26.00 (paperback on Booktopia)
Source: Courtesy of the author

My review of O2

O2, the first book in the Dylan Malloy series, is a taut medical drama and aviation thriller combination. 
Nic D'Alessandro explores the concept of how we cope when life throws us consistent curve balls.
I was pulled straight into the story from the prologue with a life or death situation and Dylan hanging in the balance. The story then goes back to what led to this event.

Dylan has had a troubled upbringing with no real stability. He is often left with his aunt when his mother is working overseas. His aunt's partner is abusive and makes it clear he doesn't want Dylan around. I found him to be an angry young man and I had trouble warming to him. Maybe it was his disease that made him this way, but he was handed plenty of opportunities and it took him well into his 20's to realise this. That aside, Nic's portrayal of Dylan's slow decline in health and his denial that he was seriously ill, and his eventual character growth, was well written.

The in-air flight drama was up there with T.J. Newman's Falling and had me on the edge of my seat. It was a compelling ending to the novel.
O2 is a story of human endurance, overcoming adversity, re-imagining your dreams when life doesn't go as you planned and accepting the things you cannot change.
There are some truly memorable supporting characters in this story who I would love to see again in future novels; pothole the truck driver, Nancy, and Dylan's friend Allie.
I'm hoping Dylan will be less cynical and learn some empathy in future novels.

My rating 3 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Born and bred on an island state, Nic D'Alessandro is passionate about the wilderness, sea, and sky. He's a writer, photographer, and education consultant who is fascinated by human condition, and anything that floats or flies.
Nic is a keen sailor, and when he is not on the water, he takes to the sky in aircraft whenever he can. He obtained his pilots licence at age seventeen, and later celebrated his forties by building a full-size 737 flight simulator in his garage.
Prior to writing fiction, Nic forged a career as an education leader,  manager in the public sector, and specialist in the aviation industry.
Nic lives in Tasmania, Australia with his wife, and extended family.

Wednesday 21 June 2023

Book Review: Inkflower by Suzy Zail



Suzy Zail

I think there is no better day than Global MND Day to post my review of Inkflower
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication date: 5th July 2023
Genre: Young Adult / Historical Fiction
Pages: 384
RRP: $22.99AU (paperback)
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

My review of Inkflower

Fifteen year old Lisa's father has Motor Neurone Disease and only six months to live. He gathers the family together to tell them the story of his childhood. A story of a young boy who fought against all odds to survive.
Lisa battles with the idea of this new version of her father; a dying man with a devastating childhood. His stories bring to life the grandparents, aunts and uncles she never had the chance to meet.
Inkflower unfolds in a dual time-line narration. The now, set in the 1980's, is narrated by Lisa as she navigates school and friendships whilst coming to grips with her father's illness and also who she is. The then, is narrated by Lisa's father Emil as he tells his family the harrowing story of a young boy bullied at school for being Jewish, taken from his home in Czechoslovakia and the horrors of his years in Auschwitz.
The balance and parallels between Emil's years of fighting for survival in Auschwitz and his battle against the debilitating effects of MND were astutely portrayed.
Inkflower is a deeply moving story of survival inspired by the true events of the author and her family.
Suzy Zail has written an honest and candid story of love, courage, family and resilience.
There can never be too many stories detailing the horrors of Auschwitz and they need to be recorded now because soon there won't be any survivors left.
My rating 5 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 
Publisher's recommended age: 14+

About the author

Suzy Zail has worked as a litigation lawyer, specialising in family law, but now writes full time. Among other titles, she has written The Tattooed Flower, a memoir about her father's time as a child survivor of the holocaust, the story which inspired this novel. Her first novel for young adults, the Wrong Boy, was short listed for the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards, the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, the WAYRBA, USBBY and YABBA awards. 
You can visit Suzy online at and on Instagram @authorsuzyzail

Saturday 17 June 2023

Book Review: The Ghost of Gracie Flynn by Joanna Morrison

 The Ghost of Gracie Flynn


Joanna Morrison

Publisher: Fremantle Press
Publication date: 5th October 2022
Genre: Crime / Mystery
Pages: 288
RRP: $32.99AU (Paperback)
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

My review of The Ghost of Gracie Flynn

I raced through this book! It is such a great read!
Don't let the title deter you, The Ghost of Gracie Flynn is not a paranormal story.
 Narrated in second person by Gracie's ghost as she is telling the story to baby Isla, the daughter of her onetime friend Sam.
Gracie's second person omniscient point of view did take me a couple of chapters to get used to but I quickly became immersed in the story.

The novel opens with a death, but it's not Gracie, so I was immediately thrown into a double mystery.
A chance meeting of old college friends Sam, Cohen and Robyn brings up old memories and reopens old wounds. They haven't seen each other since Gracie died and they each went their own separate ways almost two decades ago. The four friends were inseparable at Uni.

Through the dual timeline narration we get a sense of how the three are now and how close they all were when younger.
The plot is easy to follow, even though it jumps between then and now, it is easy to read and flows well. The mystery of Gracie's death kept me invested and gives an extra layer of connection when narrated by Gracie herself.

Each of the three friends went on to be quite successful in life, but not in love, and the chance meeting comes at a time when their lives seem to be falling apart.
With themes of love, happiness, loss, unrequited love and obsession The Ghost of Gracie Flynn is a story full of simmering menace. Compulsive reading!

My rating 5 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Joanna Morrison has a background in journalism and a PhD in Creative Writing. Her short fiction has appeared in Australian literary journals and anthologies. In 2020, The Ghost of Gracie Flynn was shortlisted for the City of Fremantle Hungerford Award. Joanna lives in Perth with her husband, two sons and a miniature schnauzer, Scout.


Saturday 10 June 2023

Book Review: A Man of Honour by Simon Smith

 A Man of Honour


Simon Smith

Publisher: Echo Publishing
Publication date: 7th February 2023
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 307
RRP: $32.99AU (Paperback)
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

 My review of A Man of Honour

Simon Smith says in his prologue the seed of this story was planted in his mind as a young boy when his mother sat him down and told him the story of his ancestor; a young man who tried to assassinate  a prince.

A Man of Honour is a powerful story, beautifully told through polished prose. Smith's writing is old worldly and lyrical. The realness of the time, the setting, the language and characters make this an immersive read. O'Farrell was a master of subterfuge and I could feel his charisma working its charm throughout the novel. O'Farrell believed he was exacting revenge for all Irish by killing the one person that was so loved by Queen Victoria. But was he a terrorist, a patriot or a madman?

Simon Smith uses both fact and fiction in this retelling of the life and ultimate execution of Henry James O'Farrell the Irish born Australian who shot and injured Prince Alfred during his visit to Australia in 1868.

Every character in this story is a real person and Smith uses artistic license to add the thoughts and emotions of his characters. Many of the conversations are copied from real transcripts kept in archives and some of the letters of correspondence are copies of the actual letters sent. Smith's acknowledgement of sources shows the research was extensive.
The plot does jump all over the place with the point of view often changing, however well detailed chapter headings let the reader know precisely where you are in the story.
A Man of Honour is a mesmerizing story of a man who may or may not have been completely sound of mind, but he was misled by his friends and paid the ultimate price for his crime. 

My rating 4 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Simon Smith has travelled the world for most of his life as a freelance cinematographer. From a small village on the island of Pentecost in Vanuatu, to the rehearsal room of an Ibsen play in Brooklyn, to a Foreign Legion barracks in France, to refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian border, to camping out with First Nations artists in the Great Sandy Desert, he has relished hearing remarkable people's stories and sharing them with the wider world. Now he has swapped his camera for pen and paper, and become a storyteller himself. A Man of Honour is his debut novel.
Simon lives with his partner and their congenial cat Danny Boy in Darlinghurst, Sydney.

Friday 9 June 2023

Book Review: The Money Club by Fiona Lowe

 The Money Club


Fiona Lowe

Wealth. Trust. Betrayal. 

Publisher: Harlequin Australian
Publication date: 3rd May 2023 

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Pages: 528

RRP: $32.99AU (Paperback)

Source: Courtesy of the publisher

My review of The Money Club

With The Money Club Fiona Lowe brings her readers right into a small country town devastated when a well respected member of their community goes missing, along with the money they invested with him.

Brad Quinn is charismatic and affable. He and his fiancée, Izzy, live a life of luxury and Brad is happy to share the secret to his success with his close friends and family. As the money rolls in everyone in Brad's Elite Club is able to buy luxury cars and overseas holidays, until Brad and their money disappear.

Fiona explores how easy it is for people to be caught up in these schemes when they are advised by a close friend, preying on the bonds between them.

I found it very hard to like any of the characters or find any sympathy for them. Many of the characters blamed everyone but themselves for their loss. I did however like the growth of the three main characters. Izzy, Lucy and Birdie showed great strength and fortitude by the closing of the book.
I enjoyed the mystery part of the plot and this had me hooked as the tension hung in the air and there was an unexpected turn of events that truly shocked me.

Fiona Lowe explores themes of community, family, home ownership, trust, friendship, financial stress and starting over.

Does the small town of Glingilly survive this devastating financial blow? You will have to read the book to find out!

My rating 3.5 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐½

About the author

Fiona Lowe has been a midwife, a sexual health counsellor and a family support worker; an ideal career for an author who writes novels about family and relationships. She spent her early years in Papua New Guinea where, without television, reading was the entertainment and it set up a lifelong love of books. Although she often re-wrote the endings of books in her head, it was the birth of her  first child that prompted her to write her first novel. A recipient of the prestigious USA RITA award and the Australian RuBY award. Fiona writes books that are set in small country towns. They feature real people facing difficult choices and explore how family ties and relationships impact on their decisions.

When she is not writing stories, she's a distracted wife, mother of two 'ginger' sons, a volunteer in her community, guardian of eighty rose bushes, a slave to a cat, and is often found collapsed on the couch with wine.


Thursday 1 June 2023

Book Review: Dawnlands by Philippa Gregory



Philippa Gregory

A King in trouble. A country divided. A woman determined.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 15th November 2022
Series: The Fairmile #3
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 544
RRP: $32.99AU (paperback) 
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

My review of Dawnlands

Dawnlands, set in 17th century England, is the third book in The Fairmile series.
Dark Tides ended with Alys and Alinor settled in their merchant business on the wharves in London and Alinor's brother, Ned Ferryman, living in America.

As with the previous two books there is a large gap of time between this book and the previous book. Having the books set in different time frames allows them to be read well as standalone.

Ned is leaving America to join the rise against King James II. The native American Pokanoket people have been enslaved and are being sent to the sugar farms in Barbados.

I love how Gregory mixes history and fiction and as you read it on the page it feels like her characters are real and were part of the downfall of James II.
Livia is back and scheming her way into the young Queen's favour to garner position for herself and her son. The character of Livia will not disappoint! She is beautiful, charismatic and evil. No act was too low for her if it meant bettering her position in life.

Dawnlands is a story of tyranny, greed, slavery and the fight for equality and freedom. The slavery and conditions on the sugar farms was an eye-opening addition to the story, showing the greed and cruelty of plantation owners. Apart from the cruelty we also get the thoughts of 'good white folk' who thought slavery was fine as long as you treated them well, thinking they were actually doing these people a favour.

Gregory states that Dawnlands took three years to write and I think it was well worth the wait. Her writing is captivating and it flows effortlessly from one scene to the next with each point of view being just as interesting as the last.

An extensive bibliography shows that the novel was thoroughly researched.

Bringing a new generation into the story with Alys's granddaughters and Rob's daughter makes me feel like this series won't be ending here!

Trades done, deals made, slaves entrenched, intrigue abounded, loves lost and a King overthrown; Dawnlands is a must read!
My rating 5 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Philippa Gregory is the author of many New York Times bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl, and is a recognised authority on women's history.
Many of her works have been adapted for the screen.

Reviews of other books in this series: