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Reviewsday: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

I love contemporaries, and "Anna and the French Kiss" is up there with the best of them.

Fluffy, cute, beautiful, real, brilliant and imaginative; "Anna and the French Kiss" is an absolutely adorable read that will have you hooked and leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

I love how Anna and Étienne didn’t just have chemistry, but friendship too. They are absolutely adorable together and I just following their relationship – all the little things he would give her, the way they laughed together and confided in each other, the days out and movies – brought tears to my eyes. They were each other’s rock. If I had a relationship, I’d want it to be like theirs (minus the complications with Ellie).

I love how Stephanie made every character important. The “side” characters made you love them (or hate them, it depends) and were brilliantly well developed. They were deep – each with their own story to tell. The beauty of it is that they weren’t just there, a prop the author needed in order for the protagonist to do something or get somewhere, but they were important – they could tell their stories and they did. Not one character was overlooked.

I just – it was perfect. The scenery; the character development; the giggly, mushy feeling in your chest as you followed the story, and which you were left with; the overall ease of reading.

"Anna and the French Kiss" isn’t just about romance, but family, friendships and life – dealing with it, enjoying it, finding people who will stick by you no matter what and making mistakes along the way. It is about endings and beginnings, possibilities, the future, relationships and practicalities and forgiveness. "Anna and the French Kiss has lessons in it for us all.

- Melissa, QBD Plenty Valley

As an added bonus we have hunted down a deleted chapter from the book! Check it out on Stephanie Perkins' blog here

Reviewsday: The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

Let me start by saying how much I enjoy reading local Australian content novels. There's nothing wrong with overseas titles but an Aussie title always draws me deeper in. It's not the sometimes over-the-top outback dramas I'm talking about (which I do love!) but the ordinary settings and situations. Things like the seasons being the right way around; the sounds; the localities and the references to society, events & culture. Even Australian crime seems a little bit more believable...

Gemma is a detective in the same regional town that she grew up in. Sometimes that can be beneficial to investigations but at others it can all get just a bit too close to home & personal. This is one such case. The victim is a teacher at the local high school, the same school Gemma attended ten years back- with Rose as one of her classmates. There was some type of connection between the two back then but Gemma swears that her personal feelings will not effect her impartiality to the investigation. Rose appears to have been well liked so who could be responsible for her death? Is it random or personal?

The investigation drags along like the long, hot days of pre-Christmas summer. For Gemma, the case opens up old wounds that she tries to keep hidden from her partners- work & life , but even here the lines are blurred. Gemma is a great detective but will this be the case that breaks her?

A solid debut from Sarah Bailey and one that I really liked.

~ Susan, Eastlands QBD

Reviewsday: Joelle Charbonneau’s Dividing Eden

Having read Joelle Charbonneau's Testing series (which has a Hunger Games-esque vibe to it for all of you dystopian novel lovers!), I think I can safely say I was jumping up and down out of excitement when Dividing Eden popped up on my radar.

Reminiscent of The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye, Dividing Eden tells the tale of twin royals, Carys and Andreus, pitted against each other in a battle for the crown after a disastrous accident leaves them with equal claim to the throne. Faced with a power hungry council watching their every move and faceless enemies stirring up trouble, the twins can only do what they've been doing their entire lives – stick together, watch each other's backs and, above all, protect the secret that's been haunting them since birth.

The novel was intriguing from the get go but I felt that Carys definitely emerges as the stronger lead throughout the book with Andreus' story taking a surprising turn that, whilst being beneficial to the plot line, was still a little tough to read through (if you find yourself shaking the book in frustration and wailing “Noooo!”, don't say I didn't warn you!). There a quite a few shady characters that appear in and around the castle which left me questioning almost everyone's motives. Even after finishing the book, I'm still suspicious as to who is really on which side.

Dividing Eden is truly an engrossing read – clear your calendar because you won't want to put it down until you've worked your way through all of the secrets, lies and manipulative madness that await you.

New Life for a Beloved Classic

When Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale was released in 1985, it was an immediate and visceral success. Thirty-two years later, the novel is even more terrifying and socially relevant today.

Set in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian theocracy that has overthrown the United States government, The Handmaid's Tale follows the story of Offred - a woman that is prized for her fertility in the same way horsebreeders value a winning horse. Offred is a Handmaid, a woman in indentured servitude to the Commander. She has one purpose only - to bear his healthy children (not as easy as one may think in this near future dystopia) and then to be assigned to her next household. But Offred is not a horse. she is a woman; she can remember a time before Gilead, her husband and young daughter, and perhaps more dangerously...she remembers her own name.

The Handmaid's Tale is a story of survival in the face of oppression, and the strength of the human condition despite all attempts to break it down. Readers today will no doubt identify just as strongly with Offred's plight as they did when the novel was first published. This is a must-read for any fan of thrilling dystopia, or someone just looking to remind themselves why our lives today are so precariously wonderful.

The Handmaid's Tale has just been adapted into a critically acclaimed HBO television series, but as always, there's nothing better than the book!

Reviewsday: 16th Seduction by James Patterson

James Patterson novels are like a rollercoaster - thrilling, heart stopping action with a brief moment of relief to twist a mystery into your brain.

This the 16th Murder Women's Club book co-written with Maxine Paetro is as good as the first and every bit as entertaining. It follows a group of professional women that have become friends while solving murders and foiling evil plots together. Lindsay the Detective, Claire the Medical Examiner, Yuki the Lawyer and Cindy the Reporter all collaborate (or not!) to unravel and expose multiple surprising threads of revenge and betrayal. I loved the interaction between the women as it rings true for me and the mystery brilliantly strings you along.

James Patterson and his women never disappoint!
~Gillian, Australia Fair QBD