Vardaesia (Medoran Chronicles #5) byLynette Noni

Vardaesia (Medoran Chronicles #5) byLynette Noni

Vardaesia_3D-Cover.pngTitle: Vardaesia (Medoran Chronicles #5)

Author: Lynette Noni

Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 18th February 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 500

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: “When Day and Night combine and fight against one Enemy, then Dark and Light shall meet mid-strike and set the Captives free.”

In the wake of loss and devastation, Alex must cast aside her grief to seek aid from those who banished the Meyarins long ago. But the proud Tia Aurans care little for the woes of mortals and demand that Alex—and her friends—undergo the Gates of Testing to prove their world is worth saving.

With an ancient prophecy looming, Alex must confront the secrets of her past if she is to survive long enough to see the future. For if she returns to Medora without the Tia Aurans by her side, all hope will be lost.

In this explosive conclusion to The Medoran Chronicles, the fate of Medora hangs in the balance as Alex readies herself to face Aven one final time.

Who will survive, and who will fall?

“If, however, darkness wins, there is no strategy to keep from all that will be lost, and so will always be.”

~*~

Alex’s journey to save Medora from Aven Dalmarta is about to conclude, and the question of whether or not she will succeed hangs in the air as she faces yet more challenges and tragedies. Within days after the final events of Graevale, Alex and her friends are thrust into the Tia Auran world, where they must face the Gates of Testing together over a week. In undergoing these tests, Alex hopes to prove to the Tia Aurans that the humans and other mortal races of Medora are worthy of assistance from the Tia Aurans in their fight against Aven – which at the opening of the novel, feels as futile as it has for the past four books and the recent novella. As they venture through each of the gates, tested beyond their individual and collective limits, they are unaware of what is happening back home with everyone that they love and hold dear. Throughout the series, there has been a foreboding and trepidation with what is to come, and the prophecy has always lingered in the back of Alex’s mind. And finally, we are going to get our answers – will Alex and her friend succeed, or will Aven rule over all?

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I’ve been with this series since the beginning, way back in 2015 when I undertook an internship with the publisher, Pantera Press, and it is to this series, its author, Lynette Noni, and Ali and the gang at Pantera Press I have to thank for getting me wholeheartedly into my book blogging journey, which keeps me pretty busy these days. Anyway, back to the book! I was expecting it to be an emotional rollercoaster, but I don’t think I was quite prepared for some of those chapter cliff-hangers that cropped up – and that kept me reading to make sure everyone would be okay – if only for a chapter or two until the next time. There are many heart-pounding moments, and many moments that had me staring at the page hoping the worst would not happen. During one of the trials, one of my favourite lines in the whole series cropped up, spoken by Alex in defiance of the Tia Aurans:

“The surest way to become a monster is to follow in their footsteps.”

 

 

At this point, Alex reveals her strength and vulnerability – her strength of resisting the adhere to sadistic, cold desires of an immortal race, who seem to care little about the world they are part of, and her human vulnerability of love for those she holds dear, even someone she has known for a mere week whilst in Tia Auras. This is what I love about her – that she has flaws and she even embraces them at times, and jokes about them with her friends. Yet she knows that there is strength within love – and it is her love for her family, friends and Medora that will spur her on to the end, even when all seems lost.

The final climactic chapters are so fast paced, it feels like they are flying past, and to make sure I hadn’t missed anything important, I flicked back once or twice – worried I had missed an important aspect of the battle or a move Aven had made – or even just to make sure I had read something correctly, as the next lines sometimes came as a  huge shock – in more ways than one. There’s laughing, tears, and everything in between – with moments of momentary peace between the trials and battles as friends and family regroup and come to terms with the changes in their world, the changes to come. It is a perfect ending to the series, where all the threads from the rest of the series are all brought together in a finale that ensures wrapping up the series gives closure for readers and will always be a favourite.

Vardaesia is out on the 18th of February in paperback and e-book from Pantera Press.

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Enola Holmes Mysteries: The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan by Nancy Springer

enola holmes 4Title: Enola Holmes Mysteries: The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan

Author: Nancy Springer

Genre: Historical Fiction/YA

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 4th February 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 185

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Enola Holmes might be the much younger sister of Sherlock Holmes, but she manages to outsmart him at every turn, solving thrilling mysteries in her very own way…

Enola is thrown into a tailspin when she receives a desperate message from her old friend, Lady Cecily. Enola knows she must help her friend before it’s too late – but she doesn’t know how! This complicated case has Enola hunting down clues all over London until she finally discovers the awful truth: Lady Cecily is being held prisoner! Enola must risk her own freedom and join forces with her brother, the famed Sherlock Holmes, to free Cecily. Can Enola trust her brother, and can they save Cecily in time?

~*~

Four cases in, and Enola Holmes just gets better and better. Here, she is determined to help a young woman – Lady Cecily – from a forced marriage that her family has not agreed to. But Enola’s brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock, are still after her, and Enola must weigh up the risks of revealing herself to enlist Sherlock’s help. At this point, Sherlock has been trying to communicate with Enola, using the code she used with her mother, and he seems to be quite impressed with her – happily, much to Mycroft’s chagrin. The fourth novel in the series sees Sherlock steering further from Mycroft’s goals, and shrugging off his concerns about their sister as she forges her own path and proves she is just as clever and resourceful as Sherlock. Mycroft’s slow loss of control is evident, as Enola and Sherlock have a laugh at his expense – and I hope a bond will form between the two, where they continue to thwart Mycroft at every chance they get.

I started this series, because I liked the idea of a reimagination of a classic, set in the same time period that would lead readers into the originals. When done right, retellings of fairy tales and classics are enjoyable, especially when the execution makes sense with what has come before, or the shadows and ghosts of the original are evident, whilst allowing the new characters to fulfil their purposes. The Enola Holmes Mysteries fulfils these both wonderfully, whilst still allowing Sherlock, Mycroft and Dr Watson to exist in Enola’s world. They have to – they link this to the originals, and give a fresh voice, as the originals are told only from Watson’s perspective, and only the world and cases occupied by Sherlock and John – not many in their peripheral worlds.

Together, and apart, Enola and Sherlock, in this story, are an amazing pair of investigators. They are much more alike than they have thought up until now, and it seems from this novel that Enola may have an ally in Sherlock, but perhaps they will also be in competition with each other – something I feel Sherlock – both in this incarnation and in the originals – would and will find amusing as time goes by. It would be very fun to see if they eventually do join forces and do all they can to flout and drive Mycroft spare – as siblings do – and perhaps finally prove to Mycroft that he shouldn’t be underestimating his sister – she is a great character, and shows a whole new side to the Sherlock Holmes canon.

Enola Holmes Mystery: The Case of The Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer

Enola Holmes 3.jpgTitle: Enola Holmes Mystery: The Case of The Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3)

Author: Nancy Springer

Genre: Historical Fiction/YA/Crime

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 4th February 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Enola Holmes might be the much younger sister of Sherlock Holmes, but she manages to outsmart him at every turn, solving thrilling mysteries in her very own way…

Everyone knows Dr. Watson is Sherlock Holmes’ right-hand man – so when he goes missing, it’s a shock. Even Sherlock hasn’t the slightest clue as to where he could be. Enola is intrigued but wary; she’s still hiding from her older brothers and getting involved could prove to be disastrous. But Enola can’t help but investigate, especially when she learns that a bizarre bouquet – with flowers all symbolizing death – has been delivered to the Watson residence. Enola knows she must act quickly, but can she find Dr. Watson in time?

~*~

Enola Holmes is still hiding from her brothers, using her wits and a variety of disguises to evade them at every turn, and solve cases that the police, and her brother, Sherlock are unable to solve. Still in 1889, it has been six months since she left their care, in search of her mother and a life no predicated by societal norms and expectations. Living in lodgings, she discovers that Sherlock’s colleague, Dr John Watson has gone missing. Undertaking her own investigation, Enola discovers several bouquets delivered to Joh’s wife, Mary – and uses her knowledge of flower meanings to decipher what they mean. In doing so, she finds out that John’s life is in danger – so she sets about following the person who delivers the flowers – and what she discovers will hopefully save John’s life.

Coming back to Enola Holmes was delightful. I love the original Sherlock Holmes stories and novels, as well as the Robert Downey Jr movies. Here, though, Nancy Springer has put a new twist on the stories. Where most retellings position the quirky detective and his long-suffering partner in contemporary settings – Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in modern London, or Elementary with Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu in modern day New York, this one still sits in the late 1880s, but posits the idea that Sherlock and Mycroft had an unknown sister, someone who society wasn’t aware of, but would soon become aware of.  The original Holmes stories are told from Watson’s perspective – and I have read them all, and the only family member I recall being mentioned is Mycroft, Sherlock’s brother. So, it is plausible to think Sherlock may have had a sister.

Again, Enola manages to evade her brother’s as she investigates John’s disappearance, and those who are linked to what happened. She’s a wonderful character, who despises the expectations of a Victorian girl, yet uses what she has available to her, and the norms of Victorian society to her advantage, as well as her knowledge of flowers and ciphers to form her various identities. These are quick reads, and of course, it is inevitable that Enola will solve the case as the main character. Aimed at children and young adults, these are great books for any age group, and can be appreciated by fans of the original as well as introduce a new audience to Sherlock.

This is turning out to be a very good series, and one that will surely have fans clamouring for the next instalment. I look forward to seeing how Enola continues to evade her brothers, and if, potentially, she ends up working with Sherlock, and both of them driving Mycroft to despair.

Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch (Zelda Stitch #2) by Nicki Greenberg

zelda stitch 2Title: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch (Zelda Stitch #2)

Author: Nicki Greenberg

Genre: Fantasy/Children’s

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 4th February 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 272

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Zelda Stitch is back in the classroom and ready to start Term Two. Will teaching be easier now everyone know she’s a witch? Or will there be more mischief than one witch can manage?

Goals for Term Two:
1. Be the best teacher I can be.
2. Keep my spells to myself.
3. DO NOT UPSET MELODY MARTIN.

What’s a witch to do? Zelda is likely to end up in a truckload of trouble if she can’t even follow the rules she sets herself. Especially when there’s an impressionable young witchling in the class, and the vice principal is on the warpath.

Soon both Zelda and the secret witchling are battling unruly magic, peer pressure and a seriously mean PE teacher. And then there’s the weird smell…

With the school camp coming up fast, Zelda has her work cut out for her. And as usual, Barnaby is only making things worse.

Will Zelda get to have her hero moment – or will she cause everything she cares about to disappear?

More magic, mischief and mayhem from Zelda Stitch, the wayward witch.

~*~

The new school term isn’t off to the best start. Zelda has a broken arm, her magic isn’t working as well as she’d like, and her cat, Barnaby, is being snarkier than ever. He seems to take great pleasure in watching her struggle with magic and everyday things, unlike Melvin, Briony’s cat, who is always kind and helpful. At school, Zelda has to contend with Principal Melody Martin, and her niece, Phoebe. Melody and Phoebe are also witches, and Zelda needs to follow her own rules to ensure the rest of the class doesn’t find out.

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On top of this, she has a snarky PE teacher to deal with, an upcoming school camp and Barnaby doesn’t seem to be making things easier for her – nor does her mother. Can Zelda help Phoebe and keep her own magic under wraps? Or will Zelda’s self-imposed rules shatter under increased pressure to be as normal as possible?

The second book in the Zelda Stitch series follows the same diary style format as the first one – a style that shows the world through Zelda’s eyes, and the story is told just as effectively and as enjoyably as if it were a straight narrative style. It engages the reader, and makes for quick, engrossing reading, as many books in this style do when they are written effectively by the author. Nicki Greenberg has done an excellent job using this style, as she captures Zelda’s voice, humour, observations and those of the other characters wonderfully.

As Zelda goes through her second term teaching, she faces more trials and triumphs while trying to balance teaching and being a witch. As her unpredictable magic seeps out, Zelda must find a way to work out which magic is coming from her, which magic is coming from Phoebe and if any is coming from Melody – before the school camp and before something goes really wrong. I’m really enjoying these books – yes, they are a quick read, especially for me, but they are also filled with fun, and whimsy. Zelda is a very entertaining character, and also very caring. She wants what is best for her class, especially Phoebe, and does whatever she can to follow her own rules and stay out of trouble. The plot follows this struggle very well, and captures the challenges of peer pressure and school – which even if you’re not a witch, can be very tough things to deal with. Showing how children cope with these issues in fiction, and through the lens of a young witchling shows children that it’s oaky to be scared, in an entertaining and accessible way using humour and sensitivity.

This is a great series for anyone who loves a good read or for younger readers who are just starting to branch out and read books on their own, or with a family member. I hope readers out there enjoy it.

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Challenge Check-in: January 2019 

In an effort to keep on top of my check in posts this year, I’m hoping to do monthly wrap ups, and break downs every fifteen books where possible. These Challenge check-ins will allow me to track my progress and determine how many books I read each month to make my end of year posts easier to write.

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#AWW2019 – Australian Women Writers: six books so far

  1. All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – Reviewed
  2. Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – Reviewed
  3. Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – Reviewed
  4. Saving You by Charlotte Nash – Reviewed
  5. Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nikki Greenberg – Reviewed
  6. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne – Reviewed

General challenge: Fourteen books completed.

  1. All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill
  2. Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes
  3. Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
  4. Bella Donna: Too Many Spells by Ruth Symes
  5. Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon by Tracey West
  6. Vardaesia by Lynette Noni
  7. Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills
  8. Saving You by Charlotte Nash
  9. Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg
  10. Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams
  11. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power by Ryan North
  12. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne
  13. Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer
  14. Enola Holmes: The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan (Enola Holmes #4) by Nancy Springer

#Dymocks52Challenge

#Dymocks52Challenge: Fourteen books read so far.

  1. All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill
  2. Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes
  3. Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
  4. Bella Donna: Too Many Spells by Ruth Symes
  5. Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon by Tracey West
  6. Vardaesia by Lynette Noni
  7. Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills
  8. Saving You by Charlotte Nash
  9. Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg
  10. Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams
  11. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power by Ryan North
  12. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne
  13. Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer
  14. Enola Holmes: The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan (Enola Holmes #4) by Nancy Springer

 

PopSugar Challenge: Nine categories ticked off so far.

 

A book written by a musician (fiction or nonfiction): Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

A book with a plant in the title or on the cover: Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes

A book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover: 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

A retelling of a classic: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer

A book about someone with a superpower: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power by Ryan North

A book with SALTY, SWEET, BITTER, or SPICY in the title: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

A book that’s published in 2019: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni

A book featuring an extinct or imaginary creature: Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon by Tracey West

A book featuring an amateur detective: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill

A book with a two-word title: Saving You by Charlotte Nash

Book Bingo: Seven read, and four squares ticked off.

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Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

 

January Round Up

Book Author Challenge
All the Tears in China Sulari Gentill #AWW2019, Book Bingo, overall, PopSugar, #Dymocks52Challenge
Bella Donna: Coven Road Ruth Symes PopSugar, general, #Dymocks52Challenge
Seven Little Australians Ethel Turner #AWW2019, Book Bingo, general
Bella Donna: Too Many Spells Ruth Symes general, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon Tracey West general, PopSugar, #Dymocks52Challenge
Vardaesia Lynette Noni #AWW2019, general, #Dymocks52Challenge, book bingo, PopSugar
Best Foot Forward Adam Hills Book Bingo, general, PopSugar, #Dymocks52Challenge
Saving You Charlotte Nash #AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge, general, Book Bingo, PopSugar
Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch Nikki Greenberg general, Book Bingo, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019,
Australia’s Sweetheart Michael Adams General, Book Bingo, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power Ryan North General, PopSugar, #Dymocks52Challenge
99 Percent Mine Sally Thorne General, PopSugar, #AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge
Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) Nancy Springer General, PopSugar, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Enola Holmes: The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan (Enola Holmes #4) Nancy Springer General, #Dymocks52Challenge

Book Bingo Three – Double Bingo: Crime and Non-Fiction About a Non-Famous Person

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Book Bingo Saturday with Theresa Smith and Amanda Barrett has rolled around again, and week three has provided me with my first opportunity to tick off two squares, as per our arrangement to make sure we fill out all thirty across the year. Both of these books are new releases from January this year. Of course, no reading challenge would be complete without a book by Sulari Gentill, and her new book, All the Tears in China, fits this square. My second square is the Non-Fiction About a Non-Famous Person, filled with a book about someone i had never known about before.

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3D-Cover_C-format_ATTICIn his ninth outing, artist Rowland Sinclair his friends, fellow artist, Clyde Watson Jones, sculptress Edna Higgins, and poet, Jew and Communist, Milton Isaacs have headed to China to help Rowland’s brother, Wilfred, with a business deal involving the family business. However, as it is Rowly, not everything will or can go smoothly. From beatings to a murdered Russian in his suite, arrests and people from all sides looking to harm Rowly or wrongly accuse him of nefarious crimes. As the series moves further towards the outbreak of World War Two, the threats of fascism, nationalism, jingoism and violence against any perceived as being the wrong sort are growing. Hitler’s shadow keeps rising as the books go on as well – and politics are becoming ever more cemented in narcissistic and devious, evil themes and extremes, mirroring our world today. Reading the series, Rowly and his friends are caught between sides, and being pulled in different directions with demands for support. Set in 1935, the world is teetering between two wars: The War to End all Wars and the war that nobody thought they would have to face. It has been eighteen years since the Russian Revolution, and rumours abound about the survival of the youngest daughter. In this world, and story, who is telling the truth, and who is trying to hurt Rowly and his reputation?

australia's sweetheart

The second book this week is Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams, the story of Mary Maguire, a young woman who moved from Australia to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, and the ups and downs of the world of Hollywood, and the expectations and pressures she was under during this time to fit in and fulfil the desires of people she didn’t even know. Her life was much more than this though, and Michael begins from her early days as a child growing up in her parent’s hotel, to dance classes, small films in Australia and the eventual Hollywood siren call. From here, to England, and marriage sickness and motherhood – a fraught time where her husband was arrested for being a Nazi sympathiser, and she was watched by MI5. Finally, her life took her into a new marriage, and away from the darkness of the war years. The full story is fascinating, and too full to recount it all here. I chose this for this square because Mary is a forgotten star and figure in Australia – she’s not as well-known as others from history – so I think this was a perfect fit for this square.

Look out next week for my next square!

Saving You by Charlotte Nash

saving you.jpgTitle: Saving You

Author: Charlotte Nash

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 29th January 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 370

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Three escaped pensioners. One single mother. A road trip to rescue her son. The new emotionally compelling page-turner by Australia’s Charlotte Nash

In their tiny pale green cottage under the trees, Mallory Cook and her five-year-old son, Harry, are a little family unit who weather the storms of life together. Money is tight after Harry’s father, Duncan, abandoned them to expand his business in New York. So when Duncan fails to return Harry after a visit, Mallory boards a plane to bring her son home any way she can.

During the journey, a chance encounter with three retirees on the run from their care home leads Mallory on an unlikely group road trip across the United States. Zadie, Ernie and Jock each have their own reasons for making the journey and along the way the four of them will learn the lengths they will travel to save each other – and themselves.

Saving You is the beautiful, emotionally compelling page-turner by Charlotte Nash, bestselling Australian author of The Horseman and The Paris Wedding. If you love the stories of Jojo Moyes and Fiona McCallum you will devour this book.

~*~

Saving You is the first Charlotte Nash book I have read – I had heard of her before, but her books had never really crossed my path until this one. Saving You is the story of Mallory Cook, a single mother living in a small Queensland town in Australia, by the coast, and her son, Harry. Mallory has been waiting for her son to return from a visit to America to see his estranged father, who left them a year ago to start his company in New York. When Harry’s father refuses to bring Harry home, Mallory sets off to America, and a long road trip across America to find her son and take him home. What she doesn’t expect is to take this trip with three escaped pensioners from the care facility she works at, each with their own goals and desires.

They are on a journey for themselves, each other and those that they love – so the romance in this story is more about family than anything, and in particular, a mother’s love for her son. Desperate to get him back, Mallory embarks on the journey, with unforeseen endings and events that reveal more about the lives of her residents than she previously knew. In writing this review, I did some research on Charlotte Nash, and found this story appeared to be quite different from her rural romances I haven’t read before, and I think it was the basic premise of a mother fighting for her son and a road trip that sparked my interest in this story, because it was so different from what my research suggested Charlotte wrote.

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I enjoyed that the love story that predominated this novel was familial love and struggles, as well as support from friends and support that comes from the most unlikely places and the journey that is taken to do whatever it takes to get there.  Even so, there is still a little romantic subplot with AJ, an ex-Marine on a road trip, who pops up every now and then when Mallory needs him, and slowly, they get to know each other. Because this wasn’t an insta-love was why I enjoyed it – it allowed them to grow and get to know each other. This was a very effective way to tell the story.

It was a quick read for me – let’s face it, many things are. It can be devoured or savoured, depending on how you read and want to experience this book, and I hope Charlotte’s fans enjoy this new book.

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