The Song of Us by JD Barrett

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Title: The Song of Us

Author: J.D. Barrett

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 11th April 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 330

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Zoe Wylde is a woman at a crossroad. Five years ago, she fled her successful career as a concert harpist in London to return to her Bondi home. She still plays, but now her audience is on the way out … literally. It’s complicated and complication is something Zoe understands well. Her best friend is chasing a new love, her brother’s chasing too much love and her father has been married far too many times. Compared to them she thought she was doing okay. She’s met the guy she is sure is the ONE. He wooed her and has been sleeping with her for almost five years. It would all be perfect … if he wasn’t married.

Zoe is learning that hearts, like harps, are capable of beautiful music if treated the right way and can be tricky to manoeuvre. She’s over the old tune. But does Zoe have the courage to rewrite the song of her own life?

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aww2017-badgeIn The Song of Us, we are introduced to Zoe Wylde, the child of a broken home, and many failed relationships, including the current one she is in, and despite being with the same man for five years, he is married, and stringing Zoe along, promising her the world, but disappointing her, and in a way, himself and his family, though they are unaware of his relationship with Zoe. Her father, who has been married several times since the death of Zoe’s mother, has been living with his current wife and stepchildren, abandoning Zoe and her brother as teenagers. And Zoe’s brother Tom is keen for love, but perhaps a little fearful of the commitment that comes with it. Lexie, her best friend has fallen for a woman who is married, but is determined that this is the one.

Zoe is a musician, a harpist who once played in concerts in London, but fled to her Bondi home five years ago, and has been a bedside musician since, helping people in a local hospice with their final journey. Her patients make quite the impression, with one, Clara, giving her a quest: to wear Clara’s clothes and take them to all the places she didn’t get to see, places like New York and London. Zoe undertakes this quest, setting aside her failed relationship with Ross until he turns up on the plane, and decides to accompany her on the journey, part of which includes her audition for the concert group she left five years ago. When things go just as Zoe expects them to go, and Ross leaves, Zoe continues her journey, armed with Clara’s clothes and wine recommendations for each location from the father of one of Zoe’s youngest audience members, Sam. She auditions for Jules and Gigi, members of the symphony, and then heads to Bali, where she meets up with her brother, Tom, and Lexie, and Lexie’s new love, Vivianne. From here, Zoe finds out that when it matters, the ones who really love you aren’t necessarily the one you think you’ll spend the rest of your life with. It’s family, and the friends you make along the way whose love is unconditional.

imagesZoe Wylde is definitely not the typical perfect female protagonist of many love stories out there. She is awkward, she has flaws – she spends five years on and off with a married man, and her family isn’t so perfect – unless you count her brother Tom, who is the best male character in the book. The flaws in Zoe, Lexie and Tom make them relatable, and easy to connect with. It is definitely not a conventional love story, but one of family love and friendship – which made it more appealing to me. It allowed for the characters to fail, and allowed imperfections to be shown. And it showed same sex love as well – in the way that love should be – with the same ups and downs that characters like Bridget Jones and Nina Proudman have in their love lives. Lexie was definitely a favourite character – she was amusing and cheeky, and someone who was a good friend to Zoe. She was caring and sympathetic, but also, could give the hit of reality when it was needed. She was impulsive in contrast to the cautiousness Zoe showed at times. I think Zoe, Tom and Lexie made the perfect trio of main characters, and the supporting characters were just as flawed, just as realistic as well.

The Song of Us is an enjoyable, light hearted novel about love of all kinds, love lost and love found, of family love, the love of friends and love that takes years to come back to us. It shows all of this in a way that readers can relate to, and is funny and witty. Just like Bridget and Nina, Zoe is awkward – which is why I liked her. She seemed to embrace her flaws and face her fears as the book progressed, showing that we don’t need to be absolutely perfect to fit it: We can just be ourselves. We need more characters like Zoe who show that it is okay not to be absolutely perfect. I look forward to reading this again.

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The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles

Title: The Edge of Everything

Author: Jeff Gilesedge-of-everything

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 1st February 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 360

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: For the perfect love, what would you be willing to lose?

It’s been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who’s still reeling from her father’s shocking death in a caving accident and her neighbors’ mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying subzero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in the woods–only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.

X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe’s evil attacker and others like him. X is forbidden from revealing himself to anyone other than his prey, but he casts aside the Lowlands’ rules for Zoe. As they learn more about their colliding worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future. But escaping the Lowlands and the ties that bind X might mean the ultimate sacrifice for them both.

Gripping and full of heart, this epic start to a new series will bring readers right to the edge of everything.

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The Edge of Everything opens with an anonymous observation of Zoe, who gives the character she shares the spotlight with his name: X. X is a bounty hunter from the Lowlands, sent to collect souls of those who are deemed to be a threat to innocent people, and who need to be punished, and are made to relive the horrors that have brought this fate upon them. But when X meets Zoe and her younger brother Jonah, and rescues them from freezing to death, he begins to form a bond with both of them – and becomes a part of their lives, and starts to find his feelings for Zoe changing him and what he wants out of life, and forging a desire to leave the Lowlands. X and Zoe forge a relationship, slowly, and perhaps a little awkwardly – it is not the focus of the novel, though. Rather, it is a dual storyline, where each character’s point of view is shown in alternating sections.

Zoe’s close relationship with her younger brother Jonah drives the narrative too. For me, this was the most important relationship – the love of the siblings – and how the sudden death of their father becomes the driving force behind the novel. Zoe is determined to find out what really happened, and with the help of X, a strange bounty hunter from the Lowlands, which is run by lords who punish the innocent for fun, they embark on a journey, along with two souls X knows from the Lowlands, to find out the truth.

There are moments of darkness, and of light, of hope, and devastation, and the final chapters had me holding my breath, hoping everything would be okay. The power within these pages is the characters are all flawed, all hurting in some way, and despite this, they are strong. They are real, or in X and Ripper’s case, as real as they can be in urban fantasy, an intriguing genre that situates fantasy elements within an urban environment to tell a story. Jeff Giles has excelled at this.

I hope that there is more to the story. Upon completion, I felt there could be, and the cliffhanger was neither negative nor tragic – but hovered somewhere between hope and sadness. It is aimed at ages twelve and up, but I feel can be read by anyone who wishes to. It is the kind of novel that creeps under your skin and leaves you wondering – what next?

Looking forward to more about Zoe and X – and Jonah, my favourite character.

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