All The Books I Can Read

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Review: Deeper Water – Jessie Cole

Deeper WaterDeeper Water
Jessie Cole
Harper Collins AUS
2014, 337p
Copy courtesy of the author

Mema lives a sheltered life, at home with her mother in a remote cottage deep in bushland. Homeschooled, Mema has rarely ventured beyond the farm, making only brief journeys to the small town nearby and the markets where she and her mother sell their pots.

During heavy summer floods Mema is out tending to a cow who is about to give birth when she sees a car washed off a bridge and into the creek. Thinking quickly, she is able to encourage the driver to smash the window and she helps him get to shore by extending a large branch for him to hold onto. Mema takes him home as there is no where else for him to go. Hamish, an environmental consultant from the city is a fish out of water in the small cottage which loses power in heavy storms, that doesn’t have a computer or the internet.

Hamish has to stay at the cottage with Mema and her mother until the waters recede and he can get to the nearby town. Mema shows him what her life involves – bodyboarding down the swollen creek, exploring the local bush and running in the rain. Sheltered as she has been, Mema has never really spent much time with a man before and he opens up a whole new world of feeling and intrigue for her.

In the last four years, I’ve reviewed a lot of books. Sometimes the words come easy, sometimes I have to coax them. The reasons for the writers block can be varied but I honestly think this is probably the first time I haven’t really known what to write because the book is so beautifully written and I’m not sure how to convey that accurately. It’s now almost two weeks since I read this book, having come down with the flu the day after I finished it. I normally like to write the review as close to finishing the book as possible, so everything is fresh in my mind. However perhaps with this book, time to reflect on it and mull it over in my mind is a bonus, rather than a disadvantage.

Mema is a truly unique character, sheltered from the outside world in many ways. She spends most of her time at her family’s isolated cabin where there’s no television and no computer. Mema’s mother earns just enough money for them to survive by selling the clay pots she makes and Mema contributes too, making mugs and smaller items to sell at markets. There’s an innocence to Mema that’s so utterly charming, she has a really interesting way of looking at nature and the environment. Her surroundings are precious to her and she has love for everything that makes up nature, even the ugly parts that no one else cares for, such as cane toads which are known pests. Seeing the world through Mema’s eyes was somewhat of a revelation as she takes the time to really see and experience what is happening around her. She takes pleasure from the simplest things – running as fast as she can manage in the rain, body boarding down the creek swollen in the floods. Her childlike enthusiasm and wonder is infectious and city boy Hamish finds himself rather swayed by her even as he doesn’t really understand her.

If this book was a romance, Hamish would turn his back on his city life and live happily ever after in the bush with Mema, building them a cabin or something. But that isn’t the way this story unfolds – there’s much more realism in this story. Hamish is trapped with Mema’s family and he is intrigued by her but at the same time it is quite obvious that Mema is innocent in so many ways, not used to men at all. Mema, although aware of her own ability to self-pleasure, has never connected this to another person before and the arrival of Hamish triggers her sexual awakening and feelings involving other people, wanting to be with another person in a way that she hasn’t before. Mema isn’t unaware of sex and she’s certainly aware of her own mother’s reputation surrounding it, but it’s not something that she seems to have ever been interested in for herself, before Hamish.

It’s hard to accurately describe how vivid the writing is in this novel. Every nuance of the bush is so easy to picture – I experienced running in the rain, the bodyboarding down the creek, even Mema pulling Hamish to safety and then searching for the cow had calved, like I was there myself. Mema’s small cabin that she shares with her mother and occasionally her sister and her sister’s two children is wonderfully depicted, right down the the occupants that occasionally invade the shower and freak Hamish out so much. Mema’s friendship with the troubled Anja is full of an unexpected depth and intrigue. I felt a real connection to Mema and her observations about life – she has older brothers who have all left home, some of which they no longer even hear from anymore and yet Mema remains, not quite ready to leave the nest. The world beyond doesn’t seem to interest her as much as her own surroundings do. Hamish shakes her comfortable existence, offers new experiences and feelings and paves the way toward a new future.

I read Jessie Cole’s first novel, Darkness On The Edge Of Town and was impressed by it but this novel showcases her evolution and advancement as a writer. It’s the sort of book that you wish went a bit longer, just so you could keep reading it and experiencing it.

9/10

Book #163 of 2014

AWWW2014

Deeper Water is book #61 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014

Check out the book trailer for Deeper Water here:

 

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Review: Tease Me Cowboy – Rachael Johns

Tease Me CowboyTease Me, Cowboy
Rachael Johns
Montana Born Books
2014, eBook
Copy courtesy of the author

Selan Davis left her small hometown in Montana behind long ago and now works as a journalist in Seattle for a magazine. She’s on a rare trip home for the Marietta Rodeo where she’s going to be interviewing the country and western star special guest as well as a few cowboys. Over drinks with her best friends, Selah tells them she’s been working on a more serious article about regrets. She confesses that her regret in life is not sleeping with her high school boyfriend, Levi Monroe.

At that moment, Levi walks into the bar. He’s also back in Marietta for the rodeo, competing in what is going to be his last before setting up his own business. He and Selah haven’t seen each other for a long time but Levi has never forgotten her. He’s supposed to be aiming for top honours at the rodeo but he’s distracted already by Selah….and the distraction is about to get worse!

Selah’s friends dare her to proposition Levi to a one night stand to rectify her greatest regret and Selah finds herself blurting it out. If she can get this done, she might be able to put Levi out of her head and move on. But Selah, the daughter of a minister, has always been the ‘good girl’ and one night stands have never been her thing. She’s older now, so surely she can get through this without putting her heart in danger…surely?

Tease Me, Cowboy is a fun romantic novella from Aussie author Rachael Johns that makes up part of the Copper Mountain Rodeo Novellas by Montana Born Books series where all are set in the fictional Montana town of Marietta. You can read any of them stand alone but the characters do appear in other books, although in supporting roles so there’s reward in reading them all as well. I have only read this one and although I didn’t suffer for not knowing anything about the town and who everyone was, there were definitely a few characters mentioned that really interested me and I’d love to go back and read their stories now!

Selah Davis is back in her hometown for the rodeo, doing some interviews and catching up with her best friends. The daughter of religious parents, Selah was always the good girl growing up, especially after what happened to her sister. This caused a few bumps in her teen relationship with Levi Monroe, because he was keen to go all the way and although she was too, there was something always stopping her from taking that final step. They ended up breaking up and haven’t seen each other since….until now.

Not taking that final step has always been Selah’s regret and now she has a chance to fix it. Selah and Levi have a lot of fun interactions in this novel and I appreciated the dinner that they have, which allows them to get to know each other all over again as a lot of time has gone under the bridge! They are able to catch up on each other’s lives and find out that they still have things in common and that the conversation still flows. It isn’t just all about getting down to business! I have to admit that I felt Levi’s hang up about Selah not gifting her virginity to him was something that he really needed to get over. They were teenagers and she did have every right to say no if she wasn’t comfortable or ready. Punishing her for it over a decade later did seem a bit silly and I think Selah took it in a far more good-natured way than I would have in her position!

I enjoyed reading this and I enjoyed the community too – I actually just tried to buy the bundle for the first few novellas but the link seems to be broken so I need to see how I can get them all onto my kindle and read about all of Selah’s friends and the hot cowboy types they find love with! This is both sweet and saucy and although it’s quite short, there’s enough done to flesh out the two characters and give them the groundwork they need for their happy ever after.

8/10

Book #165 of 2014

AWWW2014

Tease Me, Cowboy is book #62 of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2014

 

 

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Review: Quick – Steve Worland

QuickQuick
Steve Worland
Penguin Books AUS
2014, 366p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Billy Hotchkiss was a teenage driving sensation until, at age 18, he rolled his V8 Commodore on a lap of the Bathurst 1000 and was severely injured. He walked away from racing car driving and joined the Victorian police force, seeking the rush that driving a high performance vehicle gave to him. When he’s walking in Melbourne during the first round of the Formula 1 World Championship, Billy spots a diamond heist in progress. He isn’t able to stop the thieves but his efforts do not go unnoticed. Even though he’s forced to resign from his job with Victoria Police, Billy is almost immediately offered new employment.

Interpol have seen footage of Billy’s attempt at stopping the heist and it’s only a matter of time until they see some of his driving footage too. They think he’d be perfect to go undercover in the Formula 1 world because every time there’s a race, somewhere else in the city there’s a daring theft of diamonds. Billy has the perfect cover – no one would suspect a laidback Aussie just looking to get back into the sport. Saddled with a reluctant French partner named Claude Michelle who needs to return to the field to ensure a promotion, Billy joins the Iron Rhino F1 team.

From Singapore to Dubai to the cream of the F1 calendar in Monaco, Billy and Claude race to gather the information they need to bring down the brazen criminals. However the more they find out, the more they realise the diamonds are just the beginning and there’s a huge finale planned that could cause a catastrophic loss of life during the pinnacle of the F1 season. It’s up to Billy and Claude to work together and stop a terror attack.

Quick is Steve Worland’s third action packed novel and we turn to the high-octane world of Formula One racing as the backdrop. What I know about Formula One racing you could about fit on the head of a pin because it begins and ends with basically Schumacher. However my brother is a bona fide obsessive who gets up to watch races at odd times (who watches qualifying!) and knows pretty much all there is to know and he was on the other end of the phone throughout the whole time I was reading this book as I asked him questions and verified things! In fact my brother hasn’t read a book since high school (and I’m not entirely sure that he even read the ones he was supposed to for school) but when I told him about this one, he got really interested. He likes action movies and he loves car racing and I had him very curious from the opening pages, which describe Billy’s ill-fated lap in the 2008 Bathurst 1000. And this book was actually enough to get me curious about Formula 1 racing! I’ve never had much interest in it before (or any) but learning about some of the ins and outs of the sport and the money that gets poured into it and how hard it is to break into it and the skill in driving has made me realise just how much goes into the sport and how much it drives the economy in some places as well as how much some teams spend to advance! It seems well researched and accurate, the only difference I can see is that Worland seems to have played a little fast and loose with the F1 calendar, rearranging the schedule to give his criminals opportunities to hit large targets consecutively.

I’ve said before that I think Worland’s novels would make great movies, should they ever be able to achieve an option that comes with a Hollywood blockbuster budget and this one is no exception. There’s plenty of action, some of it even on the racing track! Billy, despite still carrying some injuries is still an adrenalin seeker, always searching for something that gives him the same thrill as driving did. Unfortunately, most things don’t and he is known in his job for going that extra mile, sometimes too far. He’s a quintessentially laid-back Aussie guy kinda character, the sort of person that it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine yourself knowing or having grown up with. Billy is the kind of character that will appeal to most readers because he’s the “everyday” kinda man but one who has some pretty mad skills. He gets paired up with Claude Michelle, a French Interpol agent who has been working a desk job in recent years although he was once a formidable field operative. To say Claude is reluctant to be paired with a green Aussie is an understatement and the two of them get off on the wrong foot and have a series of awkward moments and disagreements before learning to work together and respect each other’s abilities as they search for the identity of the criminals, who they are convinced are from the F1 world. There’s no denying that the organisation behind the group is second to none and the heists are all very clever, quick and easily pulled off. Billy is perhaps the only person who has a clue to one of the member’s identities although it’s still nothing concrete. I really enjoyed how the story surrounding the ‘Three Champions’ (the name Interpol gives the thieves) played out – it taps into something gossip magazines have been wondering about for years and couples it with a terrorist threat that could lead to a result potentially greater than 9/11.

Quick is an extremely fast-pace, high thrill action adventure that will keep the reader hooked from beginning to end. Even if you’re not a fan of car racing, don’t let that turn you off this novel. It’s not a hugely invasive part of the story line and more just provides a glamorous international backdrop. However if you are a fan then I also think there’s enough in here about the sport to keep the reader satisfied.

8/10

Book #164 of 2014

Aussie-Author-Challenge-2014-final-badge

Quick is book #13 of the Aussie Author Challenge 2014.

 

 

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Top 10 Tuesday 26th August

TTT

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme created and hosted by the people at The Broke & the Bookish featuring a different books and reading theme each week. Today we are talking:

Top 10 Books I Really Want To Read But Don’t Own Yet

  1. Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty. I have been seeing this book everywhere and I already know quite a few people that have read it and seriously loved it. It’s been heavily promoted overseas and has already propelled Moriarty to the top of the best seller’s list. In fact I’ve seen much more about it coming from the US publisher than her local Australian publisher. I’ve read quite a few of Moriarty’s other books and really enjoyed them so I cannot wait to read this one.
  2. Landline, by Rainbow Rowell. This is Rowell’s fourth book and all 3 of her others have been faves of mine so I definitely need to read this one and soon!
  3. Isla And The Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins. Who hasn’t been waiting for this one since Anna and Lola?
  4. The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling. I read the first Cormoran Strike book, The Cuckoo’s Calling when it was revealed that the writer was actually JK Rowling. As a confirmed non-Harry Potter reader, it was my first Rowling book and I found it a pretty good read. I read the first one from my library and I’ve requested this one but I’m 18th in the queue so I think it’ll probably be a little while.
  5. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler. Every year I pick out a few books from the longlists of various prizes in an attempt to work my way up to one day maybe tackling a whole list. Basically it never happens – I might read one, two if there’s some sort of literary miracle. This one was one of the books I picked to give a go from this year’s Man Booker longlist.
  6. Razorhurst, by Justine Larbalestier. Another book that was released to much talk and praise recently and I’ve never actually read anything by Larbalestier. 1930’s, mob bosses, Sydney: what’s not to like?
  7. When The Night Comes, by Favel Parrett. This is Australian author Parrett’s, second book and it’s actually released today and will be launched later this week at the Melbourne Writer’s Fest. It’s set in Hobart around a young girl named Isla who one day sees a supply ship to Antarctica docking. There’s a sailor from the ship who befriends Isla’s mother and shares stories of Antarctica, where he comes from in Denmark, etc. I love anything that features Antarctica in any way, so I was always going to want this one! And Favel Parrett writes so beautifully.
  8. This House of Grief, by Helen Garner. Another fantastic Aussie author with a new release. This House of Grief tackles the very real Robert Farquharson case that gripped the nation in recent years, playing out the characters in the courtroom with the search for truth and justice. I’m very interested to read this.
  9. Since You’ve Been Gone, by Morgan Matson. Yes, I still haven’t read Matson’s second book even though I’ve owned it for years, because I know it will make me ugly cry. Now I need to buy this one, which was released a couple of months ago. I’m pretty sure I’ll end up reading this one way before Second Chance Summer.
  10. The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell. Another I picked out from the Man Booker list – looks super interesting and the version I’ve seen is beautiful.

So there are my 10 Books I Want To Read But Don’t Own Yet. To be honest, some of these I may get from the library but I’ll definitely be ordering some of them at some stage. I am a bit behind in my reading at the moment so I haven’t actually purchased a new book for a while….but that never lasts long!

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Review: Luna Tango – Alli Sinclair

Luna TangoLuna Tango (Dance Card #1)
Alli Sinclair
Harlequin MIRA AUS
2014, 321p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Journalist Dani McKenna has journeyed to Argentina to kickstart her career in writing features. Helped along by Tourism Argentina, Dani plans to write articles on the famous tango and she wants the help of Carlos Escudero. A renown tango dancer, an accident ended his career and now he famously keeps to himself. He has a known distrust of journalists and Dani needs to win him over.

Carlos offers Dani a deal – for every step she learns, he will answer a question. Dani has never danced. When she was 5 years old her mother left her and her father and ran away to Argentina and became one of the most celebrated tango dancers. Dani thinks she has two left feet but Carlos is confident that he can teach anyone to tango.

While learning from Carlos, Dani becomes fascinated of a legend of tango and music from 1950s Argentina. She feels drawn to it, she needs to know more. Despite Carlos warning her off digging deeper into the story, Dani cannot help herself. She knows that this story not only needs to be solved but also that it involves her and her family and explains three generations of heartache, loss and love/hate for the tango.

Because tango, like love is complicated.

I have to admit the cover of this book was pretty much the driving force behind my requesting it for review. There’s something so compelling about that close pose, the gorgeous building in the background. I was ready for a story of passion and dance and mystery. And to be honest, that’s pretty much what I got.

Dani has arrived in Argentina and sets out to secure the impossible, an interview with the now famously reclusive Carlos Escudero. A hot blooded Latin to his core, Carlos was one of the country’s most celebrated dancers, along with his ex-fiance before a car accident left him with a damaged leg. He no longer dances, instead he teaches others and although Dani has always avoided the tango, as it brings painful memories, she wants Carlos’s input and so she agrees to his conditions.

Interspersed with Dani’s story is that of Louisa, muse for the famous composer Eduardo Canziani in 1953 and how it ended in murder and tragedy. Despite being warned off by Carlos, because this is an Argentine mystery, Dani still feels as though she could possibly find out what happened. She also needs to work through her issues with her mother, who is believed to be living somewhere remote in Argenina, having retired from dancing. Dani wants answers from her mother why she left her, why she gave up her family in order to dance. Despite the fact that tango has been the cause of much pain in Dani’s life and she feels negatively about it, there’s no doubt that it’s already in her blood and that she’s drawn to it. After all she’s made it the subject of her articles and she agrees to Carlos’s demand that she learn to dance. And under his tutelage, she is making a lot of progress.

I found both the historical and contemporary stories really easy to become invested in. I liked Dani almost immediately and enjoyed most of her sparring matches with Carlos. At first he tends to believe that all journalists are evil and opportunistic and Dani is trying to prove to him that she doesn’t care about the accident that ruined his career, only the history of the tango and how it evolved. Slowly he comes to believe her, especially when she gives up opportunities for other stories, things that would run in gossip columns and probably receive a lot of attention. Dani is coming off a broken engagement but she and Carlos have a simmering kind of attraction almost right from the beginning and the more they get to know each other, the more it seems obvious that Dani is going to find more than just answers on this trip.

As a mother myself, I had a little trouble understanding Dani’s own mother Iris and her motivations for leaving behind her husband and 5yo child. One of my children is 5 and the idea of vanishing from his life by choice is so foreign to me, something that I cannot grasp. Much is made of tango being a way of life, an obsession, something that takes precedence over all others and the seeking of that perfect moment in harmony with another person (entrega) but perhaps I’m far too practical to really be able to grasp that. For me, my family is far more important and always would be and even if I were unhappy in my current life, I couldn’t see myself being happy anywhere else without them. I actually thought Dani, after a little bit of anger, was pretty forgiving of the choices her mother had made. I guess she wanted the chance to have the relationship with her mother as an adult that was denied to her as a child.

Luna Tango is an entertaining blend of romance, passion, mystery and intrigue in an exotic setting that I really enjoyed reading. I loved watching the story of Louisa unfold and actually, I think I could’ve read a whole book devoted to that. Interestingly, this is the first in a series so I’m curious to see where it goes from here.

8/10

Book #162 of 2014

AWWW2014

Luna Tango is book #60 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014

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Review: Let’s Get Lost – Adi Alsaid

Let's Get LostLet’s Get Lost
Adi Alsaid
Harlequin Teen
2014, 326p
Copy courtesy of Harlequin AUS via NetGalley

Leilia is on a mission to road trip north to Alaska and see the Northern Lights. On her travels she meets four teenagers and through her brief interaction with each, helps change the path of their lives.

First is Hudson, a 17yo who works in his father’s auto-repair shop in small town Minnesota. Leila brings her car to be fixed and Hudson promises to show her around, introduce her to some hidden treasures. He has a very important appointment the next day with the Dean of a university some 60 miles away about a full scholarship for a medical degree. But in spending one night with Leila, whom he is instantly attracted to, will Hudson risk everything for love?

And then there’s Bree, a teenage runaway who has been on the road for months. She left her sister’s oppressive rules and now she’s all about living life on a whim, travelling around and not obeying any rules. And occasionally, she shoplifts simply for the thrill. But when Bree goes one step too far, it might only be Leila who can mend things between her and her sister.

Elliott has just confessed to his best friend that he’s in love with her only for her not to feel the same way. Drunk and depressed after the prom, he’s in the middle of the road when Leila nearly runs him over. She decides that it’s time Elliott put some effort and in and went out to get the girl – just like they do in rom-coms.

Sonia lost her boyfriend of two years over six months ago. And now she thinks she might’ve been lucky enough to find love again but she’s at the wedding of her former boyfriend’s sister. His family means so much to her and she’s terrified of what their reaction might be, especially as her new love is pushing her to come clean and confess to everyone. Enter Leila to save the day….but only after a lot of running around first.

Now that she’s fixed things for others, it’s time for Leila to make it to Alaska and see these Northern Lights…because maybe they’re what she needs to fix herself.

I love a good road trip book so when I heard about this one being promoted at BEA a little while ago, I was always going to be keen to read it. And I did like it, but not as much as I expected to. I think this for me, was one of those books that was just good enough to keep reading but when I finished it, I began to see things that didn’t work for me, or how it might’ve been better. Firstly, Leila.

Leila is an epic portrayal of the MPDG and I’ve never read a book where the characterisation is as appallingly obvious as it is in this book. She’s “unique” and she exists solely to help people “embrace life” and she shows them what they truly want. It’s terribly brutal in the first section, with Hudson. Despite only knowing Hudson 2 minutes, she allows him to drive her car around the town, goes home with him for dinner and then sits in her car and waits outside after Hudson goes to bed. He has to be up early the next day to travel to a university but instead Hudson decides to sneak out and hang out with Leila some more. I’m not going to say what happens because it’s so damn obvious I don’t need to but the aftermath is Leila is smug and knows more about what Hudson wants than Hudson does and of course she had to show him and Hudson is a jerk.

I really didn’t enjoy Bree’s section, which involves a lot of stealing things and then getting arrested but without mentioning how Bree had survived as a runaway for so long, which I would’ve liked to know. And Elliott’s section was another raving mad MPDG moment that ended really inexplicably. I did like the interactions between Elliott and Leilia, which could be quite amusing at times but the whole mad goose chase was really trying and I don’t know how/why it ended the way it did? The reader never got to find out why that happened, after so much indicating the other way. And that’s kind of a pattern in this book, there’s so much that you aren’t told which becomes very disappointing.

I think I probably enjoyed Sonia’s section the best but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t without its issues. I think the border stuff is supposed to be funny but I find it hard to believe that people don’t make day trips from the US to Canada and have to cross over twice in a small time. Canada surely aren’t that paranoid about people coming back in to Canada? Surely they could have just told them a facsimile of the truth, which was they were going to a wedding in Canada and needed to get the rings. And bribing agents at the border with Tim Hortons donuts seems like trying to bribe the Colonel with some crumbed chicken or something. I just didn’t get it.

And then there was Leila’s story, which we finally get in the fifth and final section of the book but there was a lot that didn’t add up there either and things that you never found out. In one of the sections, Leila’s credit card is declined twice….but why? All of these characters are teenagers who get into a car with a stranger and drive around. It pretty much goes against everything anyone is ever taught, even if the person driving the car is a seventeen year old girl. She’s picking up strangers as well, not to mention undertaking a 4,268 mile (6,868km) trip on her own. For references sake, driving from Melbourne (where I live) to Perth (on the opposite side of our pretty large country) is about 3,418km. That’s almost exactly half of Leila’s trip so it’s basically driving from Melbourne to Perth and back. Hers is slightly different as there are more towns, etc to stop at but still. Holy crap that’s a long way, for anyone! Let alone a teen doing it alone.

I think I’d really have preferred this book if it were more about the road trip itself and Leila’s journey, rather than her inserting herself into the lives of randoms she meets along the way.

6/10

Book #161 of 2014

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Top 10 Tuesday 12th August

TTT

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly feature created and hosted by the girls at The Broke & The Bookish featuring a different bookish theme each week. This week….

Top 10 Books I’m Not Sure I Want To Read!

  1. The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton. I bought this last year. It’s the winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize and every now and then I go through this desire to read prize winners and the shortlists. I don’t know why, because most of the time it never works out. This book is ginormous and I read the first page not long after I bought it, went “Yep, no!” and put it back on the shelf and haven’t looked at it since. I’ve heard a few people get to the end, who invested a lot of time and were like “Bleugh”. So yeah. Not sure about that one.
  2. Wolf Hall, by Hillary Mantel. I’ve mentioned this book quite often on my blog. I’ve owned it for at least four years. Not long after I bought it, I started reading it. I got to page 30 and gave up because I was bored and there my bookmark has stayed ever since. It was my bookclub book a couple of months ago and I had such good intentions of going to give it another go but I just didn’t get to it. I have heard it’s brilliant of course (another Man Booker Prize winner, naturally) but you have to slog through the past 50-100p and I don’t know if I can be bothered anytime soon.
  3. The Rest of the Mortal Instruments Series, by Cassandra Clare. I don’t own all the books, but I think I have the first 4 or 5. I’ve read the first one and it was okay. But I think the problem is so much of this series has basically been spoiled for me everywhere that I just don’t know if there’s any point actually going and reading the rest of it myself when I already know a lot about it.
  4. The Rest of the Outlander series, by Diana Gabaldon. I read the first book at much urging a couple of years ago and was very underwhelmed. I didn’t love Jamie, like it appears pretty much everyone else did and there were several incidences in the book that just..didn’t sit well with me. I’ve told that the first book isn’t the best and you need to keep going but…just not sure I want to commit to that big of an investment.
  5. The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick. I was sent this for review and it ties into the Lizzie Bennet diaries on youtube but I haven’t watched that either and I have a really poor record of liking adaptations and manipulations.
  6. Every classic I’ve ever bought at some stage. I go through moods when I’m buying books. I’m swayed by a pretty cover or a great synopsis and sometimes, because I feel like I have gaps in my reading that I need to go back and fill. I don’t have a great relationship with classics but I keep collecting them because every now and then I find a real gem. But I tend to swing wildly between desperately wanting to read them and wondering what the heck they’re even doing on my shelves.
  7. Second Chance Summer, by Morgan Matson. Okay I’ve owned this for a couple of years and I absolutely loved Amy & Roger. So why haven’t I read it? Because all I hear about are how hard people ugly cried when reading this book. If a book makes me ugly cry unexpectedly, I’m okay with that. But I have to be in a certain mood to go into a book knowing that I’m most likely going to bawl my eyes out. And so far, I haven’t found that mood yet.
  8. The Signature Of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is another book I was sent for review (months ago now) and I’ve never really been inspired to pick it up despite the fact that most things I’ve heard about it are extremely positive. I don’t know why, just doesn’t really grab me?
  9. One Plus One, by Jojo Moyes. Can anything live up to the amazingness that was Me Before You? I’m not really sure.
  10. This Is What Happy Looks Like, by Jennifer E Smith. I love the Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight but I’ve also read three other books by Smith and….didn’t really love any of them. Some of them I only just liked. I don’t know whether to keep trying, because there might be another TSPoLaFS or just give up.

I have a heap of other books on my shelves that I was desperate to read when I bought them and now they’ve been sitting there so long that my interest has waned. I keep them though, in the hope that interest comes back in the future.

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Review: Deadly Obsession – Karen M. Davis

Deadly ObsessionDeadly Obsession (Detective Lexie Rogers #2)
Karen M. Davis
Simon & Schuster AUS
2014, 417p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Early on a winter morning in Sydney, two walkers find the body of a young woman near Clovelly Beach. She’s laying perfectly arranged, clutching a red rose in her hand. Oddly, there’s a puncture wound on her neck and an empty packet of prescription drugs in her jacket pocket. At first glance, if not for the puncture wound, it could be an overdose or suicide. But Detective Lexie Rogers and her partner Brad Sommers know that this is murder.

The victim Melissa was a British nurse who had only been in Australia six months. She also worked with Lexie’s ex-husband, paramedic Zach and the closer Lexie digs, the more connections she keeps finding. Melissa and Zach may have also been briefly involved and Melissa is also friends with and works with the woman who destroyed Lexie’s marriage to Zach.

Lexie needs something to keep her busy since Josh Harrison broke up with her and left for Bali to grieve over his sister’s untimely death. Lexie herself is still struggling with what has happened to her in the past, both the incident when she was still stationed at Kings Cross and also the one involving the bikie chapter when she first moved to Bondi Junction. She’s working on suppressing the panic attacks and the fear although too often she finds her thoughts straying to Josh. And if this case wasn’t close to home enough, it’s going to get even more so and it’s going to bring Josh back into her life.

Lexie gets to lead the investigation and she finds herself attracting the attention of the killer. If Lexie doesn’t figure out who it is soon enough, the next victim could be a friend of hers…or even Lexie herself.

I really enjoyed the first Detective Lexie Rogers book, Sinister Intent which was released last year and I had been looking forward to the next one after finding out Lexie would be getting another story. In some ways, this book is a really excellent follow up to Sinister Intent and in Lexie we have an interesting female protagonist. She’s a new detective, she’s at a relatively new posting and she’s still getting over the horrific things that have happened to her in the past. She is very organised and controlled and she has coping mechanisms that she uses to get her through situations that may cause her to begin to panic. In this book, Lexie is given the lead on the investigation, despite the fact that she’s the junior officer. Despite his constant eating and laid back manner, it seems that Brad is a good partner and he and Lexie tend to go well together. He’s protective of her (this is especially obvious when Lexie’s ex-husband Zach is introduced into the story) and it’s quite clear he’s also really cheering for her and Josh to be able to patch up their differences and get back together whenever Josh comes back from Bali. He also meddles in this a little as well, but in a kind way I think.

Which brings me to Josh. I have to admit, I didn’t have a lot of love for him here. I did like him in the first book and I know that grief is a powerful thing and Josh is struggling with something that borders very closely (perhaps too closely) on alcoholism. I felt that Lexie’s determination to hold her ground against him for a while was solid – he had done something pretty jerk-like and had rejected not only her but also her love and support. So therefore I also felt that she collapsed like a house of cards all too easily and perhaps this was because Josh’s involvement in this book rubbed me the wrong way. I wanted Lexie to make him work for it, because it was no less than he deserved really, after a month pickling his liver in Bali. Josh also seemed to play into my feelings about him when he is supposed to be waiting for Lexie in her apartment but he ends up leaving because someone rings him and asks him out for a drink, despite the fact that he knows that the killer has a key to Lexie’s apartment and has already been into the apartment. They get the locks changed but honestly Josh, would it have been so hard to wait until she got home? It might’ve been handy if you did. If there’s a third novel with Lexie, I hope Josh grows up a bit and dries out.

I did like the extra glimpses into Lexie’s life that meeting Zach and several people from her past provided. There was enough there to give the reader the basic idea of what happened but you didn’t get any information about them as a couple other than what brought about their break up so there’s always plenty of room for Zach to reappear in the future. I was really intrigued by the mystery and thought it was paced out rather well and even though I guessed the culprit it was around the same time that the detectives did as well so it wasn’t something that felt too easy or totally out of left field. But I think the best bit in the book was the epilogue – truly chilling!

7/10

Book #160 of 2014

AWWW2014

Deadly Obsession is book #59 read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014

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Review: What A Girl Wants – Lindsey Kelk

What A Girl WantsWhat A Girl Wants (A Girl #2)
Lindsey Kelk
Harper Collins
2014, 398p
Copy courtesy of Harper Collins AUS

Please note: This review assumes a familiarity with the first A Girl novel, About A Girl and will contain general ***SPOILERS*** for the happenings in that book. This book is best not read as stand-alone and should be read after About A Girl. 

Tess Brookes still has a choice to make. She could stay in London and start up a new advertising company with her best friend, and the man she’s loved for the past decade. Or she can throw caution to the wind and jet off to Milan to help Albert Bennett by photographing his latest project. And Tess cannot decide which one she wants to do. She’s a planner, so the safety of London and the promise of security with the new job and agency, beckons to her. She has no where to live at the moment, no money and she doesn’t cope very well with not being gainfully employed.

But then there’s Milan. And the dream of photography, which is something that has always been in the back of her mind and, as it turns out, something that she might be really good at. And of course it’s not just a choice between London and advertising versus Milan and photography. It’s also about Charlie and Nick.

Charlie is the one that Tess has loved since university. But after his awkwardness and inability to return her feelings, she jetted off to Hawaii under false pretenses and there she met Nick. He was difficult and rude and gorgeous and irresistible and many other things and Tess knows she needs to fix how it ended badly between them.

But the problems only keep piling up for Tess – she finds herself agreeing to both things and caught in an even more complicated position between Charlie and Nick. Is she ever going to figure out what she wants? And if so…is she going to be able to actually tell the people involved?

So About A Girl, the first novel in this series was lots of fun and I was so keen to dive into this one and find out what Tess decides, because basically she’s hopeless at making decisions and the previous book ended on a cliffhanger. To most people, this would be a no brainer: go to Milan! Take beautiful photos! Enjoy seeing people like Al and Kekipi again! And of course, find out what is going on with that angry ball of angst, Nick. But because Tess is Tess, she gets herself into an even more complicated situation with Charlie first.

And yet I can’t help but love Tess, despite the numerous mistakes she makes and the fact that she cannot seem to express herself properly to people! All she needed to do was actually talk to people in this book and it would’ve gone so much easier for her. But she hides and procrastinates and put things off until the end when she’s finally ready to talk to everyone about everything but by then so much has happened and people have discovered things and it’s messy. But I am someone who avoids confrontation too and hates putting myself out there, so I also understand her, even as I’m cringing for her and at her!

Nick is as bi-polar as ever in this novel, but not without good reason. At the end of the previous novel he found out that “Vanessa” was really Tess and given the issues he has around truthfulness and honesty he’s angry. And yet he can’t keep away from her either and when he turns up in Milan to work with Al as well, the two of them have some amazing moments of chemistry and heartbreak. Nick is so angsty and he’s such a bastard at times but you sort of can’t help but like him anyway because I think he keeps Tess on her toes. She needs someone that believes in her but also someone who really challenges her and forces her to be open and not hide herself away. She wasted years of her life pining after Charlie, who never really saw her until he was given no choice. And I get the feeling that Charlie is so lazy that Tess has become the ‘easy option’ for him. She’s someone that he thinks will probably always be there, steady and reliable.

I loved the setting, it’s always nice to visit exotic locations in fiction given I’m not about to visit them in reality! I really like the character of Al and the relationship that Tess has built up with him. He believes in her as well and he’s always encouraging her to go for it and just trust in herself. He has given her such amazing opportunities and I also really enjoy the little plot that concerns him and his son and I’m so keen to see where that goes. This book is obviously not the last we’ll see of Tess, Nick, Al and the gang and I’m sure there’s a lot more still to come.

There’s one thing that kind of does bother me and that’s the fact that Tess keeps claiming to herself that she’s not a drinker, that she doesn’t drink, that she can’t handle it but then basically drinks until she vomits every night, sometimes into gutters. She is a drinker and she’s drinking quite a lot. I didn’t count the amount of drinks she consumed in this novel but there’s a lot of her grabbing another glass or pouring herself another drink, or knocking back the one she’s holding, or ordering another round. It gets a bit wearying at times, because she’s on this job and it seems like she’s getting hammered every night and complaining of a hangover every morning. Her friend Amy wasn’t much help here, seeming to view this as one huge party (why was she even there anyway? The way she shoehorned herself into this trip was ridiculous, and I basically hate Amy and think she’s a terrible friend and don’t know why Tess thinks she’s so amazing) guilting Tess into going out with her and drinking all the time and sulking if Tess actually wants to stay back and work. Um, Tess is working. Or supposed to be? Not a lot actually gets done in this book, really!

The way this one ended has made me quite anxious for the next one and it’s going to be quite a long wait! Lindsey Kelk has created a really fun character in Tess and put her in a situation where you want to see her succeed and learn to just believe in herself and have the courage to stand on her own two feet. She knows what she wants now and I think the next book is going to hopefully be all about getting it.

8/10

Book #159 of 2014

 

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Review: Batter Up – Robyn Neeley

Batter UpBatter Up
Robyn Neeley
Harlequin Escape Publishing
2014, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Every Monday night Emma Stevens mixes up a special cake batter in her cake shop. The local bachelors gather around and one special one is chosen. Then the cake batter will spell out the name of his true love and gives him the courage he needs to approach her. So far Emma’s track record is impeccable – lots of marriages and happy ever afters. No bad endings. It’s tradition in her family and she’s simply the next in line to mix the batter.

Reporter Jason Levine is in Las Vegas when he and his friend find themselves somehow mixed up in a bridal party. This leads to an impulsive invitation to attend the wedding in a chapel being overseen by an Elvis impersonator and the groom spills the beans about the special cake batter. Intrigued, Jason decides to head to Buttermilk Falls himself to see what is really going on in this town and if there’s a story there. If there’s fraud happening here then he will have no qualms exposing it for all of the townspeople.

But when Jason meets Emma, everything changes. She’s interesting and fun and it’s pretty clear that she’s not a fraud at all. But is Jason able to accept the Batter Up part of Emma? And Emma knows Jason has always had an ulterior motive for being in Buttermilk Falls. No matter how much she likes him, she might not be able to forgive him if he writes his story after all.

This is a fun, sweet romance with just a small touch of whimsy. I wasn’t too sure about it at first because I’m not really a believer in magic etc but it’s actually not too large a part of the story. It just serves as the way to bring Emma, who is at least a third generation “witch” and probably at least the third generation presiding over Batter Up night and Jason, a very pragmatic and practical reporter, together.

Not long ago, Emma’s long-term boyfriend said that he needed space and moved away in an attempt to find himself and what he wanted. Emma has never been able to make the batter spell out a name for herself, it doesn’t work that way but she’s always kind of thought that this guy was the one, until he dropped his bombshell. When her cousin gives it a go, to the surprise of both of them, the batter simply spells out the letter ‘J’.

Emma and Jason do not hit it off immediately but there’s a real interest there (although it’s a bit instantaneous) and things get moving when Emma is goaded into beating her high school nemesis bidding for Jason as her ‘Summer Fling’. I absolutely loved the town of Buttermilk Falls, it seems like it would be such a wonderful place to live. There’s Emma’s cake shop, a fabulous cafe (although I’m really not convinced by their obsession with putting blueberries in and on everything, including coffees and hamburgers) and the community events seem like such fun. I love fairs and summer markets and fetes and all of those types of things so I really enjoyed that aspect of the novel. I also liked Emma’s cousin and the way her story played out – she could probably get her own book to take the reader deeper into that, to see it from her point of view. I wouldn’t mind reading that story!

Ultimately this was a fun and quick read, something a little different really but I do prefer my romance to have a bit more depth of feeling to it (and a little bit more description!). This was really light and very sweet, so I think I tend to prefer a bit more angst. I think the conflict was quite good – Jason’s skepticism and also his threatening to expose Emma but I was never truly convinced by the passion. I also think that a better scene between Emma and her ex-boyfriend might have helped resolve the story between them a little bit better. But if you’re looking for something feel-good then this one is a good choice!

7/10

Book #156 of 2014

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