All The Books I Can Read

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Review: Angel In Armani – Melanie Scott

Angel In ArmaniAngel In Armani (New York Saints #2)
Melanie Scott
St Martin’s Press
2014, 352p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

For Sara Charles, flying has always been a part of her life. Her grandfather was a pilot and so was her father. She was working towards her commercial license at 16 and then worked in the defense force flying helicopters. Now Sara has returned home to help out with the family charter business after her father put a helicopter down in a storm and injured himself badly. With one bird and pilot out of business, it’s up to Sara to pull in the money to not only keep the business afloat but pay her father’s growing medical bills.

Sara’s newest client is Dr Lucas Angelo, top orthopedic surgeon and also team doctor for baseball team the New York Saints. Lucas criss-crosses the east coast seeing to top athletes who have injured themselves, working his magic so that they have as little damage as possible. He’s also part-owner of the baseball team and in the off season, spends a lot of time travelling to their winter Florida base helping shape the new members of the team. He doesn’t like flying and if he can get around quickly and easily, it makes everything much better.

Lucas decides to ask Sara to be his personal pilot – she’s the only one where he feels safe in the air. Sara has been trying to forget about Lucas since one moment of madness on the last job she did for him but she needs the money and the offer is more than generous. Even though she’s attracted to Lucas, she doesn’t want to get involved. They’re too different. Little does she know that Dr Gorgeous isn’t going to be that easily dissuaded. And he plays for keeps.

Angel In Armani is the second novel in Melanie Scott’s New York Saints series. The first, The Devil In Denim was about Lucas’ business partner Alex. Together they make up two thirds of the ‘terrible trio’ that purchased the New York Saints and are now trying to turn the team around. The third member is Malachi Coulter who gets his own book in the third installment entitled Lawless In Leather. I haven’t read The Devil In Denim but it isn’t really necessary. Although this book obviously continues on after the purchase of the team and details their attempts to replace players that have left or been traded, it’s still very easy to pick up, even for an Australian who doesn’t know much about or even like baseball. The story is self-contained enough to be easily enjoyed without having read Alex’s story.

Sara is under an extreme amount of pressure when the book begins and it becomes even worse after the remaining helicopter, the one she has been piloting, is damaged in a storm. She is really feeling the stress of trying to keep the business afloat and on top of her father’s medical bills at the same time. He’s not recovering particularly well from his surgery and his progress in physical therapy seems to have stalled. Sara knows that if she doesn’t do something soon, they could lose everything. Both helicopters are tied up with the insurance companies and so when Lucas tracks her down to offer her the personal pilot job, it’s like lifeline, even though it comes with the complication of Lucas himself.

Sara broke her own rules when she spent one night with Lucas on the last job she did for him and now she knows that she will again be tempted by him. Lucas is gorgeous and funny and has made it very clear how attracted he is to her. The sex is scorching but Sara is fixed on the fact that they come from different worlds. Lucas is from wealth and privilege and Sara is not. She has her own hang ups about the world Lucas inhabits and she wants to keep anything that happens between them a secret from everyone. She needs to protect her reputation and the reputation of her business and there’s no way she could have people knowing she’s sleeping with one of the guys who hunted her down and now pays the bills.

Lucas is keen to get things out in the open, he isn’t ashamed of Sara or being with her and he thinks it’d be easier if at least his friends knew about it. But Sara is paranoid and insists on everything being kept secret. I actually felt that Sara was pretty unfair on Lucas on a few occasions in this book. She judges him by his background, not by the person that he is, the person that she has been getting to know very intimately. Her judgement is coloured by an experience from her past but I think it’s a mistake not to have Sara talk about it properly. Instead it’s something her father tells Lucas and I think that if Sara’s feelings had been more explored, her prejudice might have made a bit more sense. At times it seems as though Sara is determined to screw things up. She asks something of Lucas professionally, using their personal relationship as leverage and then when Lucas has to prioritise something else, Sara sees it as him choosing money over her, which is ridiculous. Her blow up is irrational and insulting and if I was Lucas, I’d wonder why on earth she’d spent that amount of time with him recently if that was the way she really felt underneath. I think it was fair enough for Sara to be intimidated by Lucas’ wealth, it is intimidating when you don’t have it. But she was definitely wrong to blame him for it and to assume that it was all he cared about. Lucas didn’t do anything wrong. He made a decision that doctors have to make every day, choosing a new injury to fix before an old one. He knew that he could do more if he got to the new one quickly.

Despite Sara’s brain snap at the end of the novel which I felt was over the top, I enjoyed this story. I found the stuff about the baseball team rather interesting, although I don’t particularly like the game myself. I really liked Lucas and his friends, especially Malachi so I’m quite looking forward to his book. I think I’ll have to go back and read Alex’s as well.

7/10

Book #261 of 2014

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Review: Bones Never Lie – Kathy Reichs

Bones Never LieBones Never Lie (Temperance Brennan #17)
Kathy Reichs
Bantam Books (Random House)
2014, 323p
Read from my local library

Forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan is unexpectedly called in to the Charlotte PD’s Cold Case Unit. When Temperance sees the briefs, two murders thousands of miles apart but with the same MO, she knows why she’s there. They look to be connected to Anique Pomerleau, the one who ‘got away’ from Tempe and her then-partner, Detective Andrew Ryan. In Canada, Anique kidnapped, tortured and murdered girls and after escaping, vanished off the radar. The only photo they had of her was one from when she was 15 years old, which would be over 20 years ago. Now it seems that she has resurfaced in America and this time Tempe is determined to get her.

But to do that, they need Detective Andrew Ryan who has vanished, disappeared off the radar himself since the death of his daughter Lily. Those involved think that Tempe is the best person to draw Ryan out – if anyone can find him, bring him back and get him to help, it’s her. But Tempe has had only an email from Ryan and she has no idea where in the world he is. He could be anywhere. She gets help from a surprising source that allows her to find him but Ryan is reluctant to return with her. He’s left that life behind and he’s a shadow of his former self, a broken man.

The cases keep coming and Tempe has her hands full. There are several unsolved cases that fit the profile that were ignored for other reasons and eventually a pattern is recognised. These are definitely connected to Pomerleau and the disappearances in Canada and Tempe knows that this time, she has to solve them, get them justice. But she also has to get Ryan motivated, keep the various different bureaucracies from each other’s throats and deal with personal news that rocks her to the core.

Bones Never Lie is the 17th novel in the Temperance Brennan series and for me, this one is a pleasant return to form after a few that have been well, rather lacklustre. I think that for me, it’s really not hard to guess why I enjoyed this one more than some of the other recent books. For a start, we don’t have to deal with Tempe’s annoying-as-heck ex-husband Pete and his new partner/wife/whatever she is Summer and also, Tempe’s daughter Katy remains far away in Afghanistan. Thankfully Ryan returns in a proper capacity after just basically phoning it in the last couple of books as he dealt with personal issues and then dropped off the planet completely. He’s not the Detective Andrew Ryan of old but there were some glimpses. It’s kind of odd that everyone makes a huge deal about needing Ryan though, because once he actually does decide to go back with Tempe to help when she tracks him down, he really doesn’t do that much. It’s mostly Tempe who puts most, if not everything together with the help of her mother (yeah, what? I don’t know where that come from either). My belief in Tempe’s foray into crime solving was always tenuous at best but it did seem to work better with Ryan.

This book is connected to book number 7, Monday Mourning. I actually didn’t realise that when I started to read it – I knew it was referencing a previous book but I read a lot of the earlier books in 2010, so nearly 5 years and about 600 books ago. The details are fuzzy. Even after reading the blurb for Monday Mourning I still don’t really remember that much about it so I’d recommend anyone who hasn’t read that one in a while to revisit it before picking up this one. It would definitely help to remember the actual villain that they’re chasing. Bits and pieces came back to me as I read it but not enough. For some reason, Tempe’s mother plays a large role in researching the crimes in this book. I don’t know why Reichs always seems to find a way to shoehorn people who aren’t cops into investigations or if she’s trying to say something? But the fact that Tempe’s mother in some sort of “facility” is able to find out so much information and discover random things that end up being the “big bang” moment in the case, didn’t really ring true to me at all.

Despite my reservations about the involvement of Tempe’s mother, I did enjoy this one more than I have some of the other more recent ones. There’s lot of digging – they have to do a lot of work to connect the cases and prove that some of the other unsolved cases could also potentially be linked so you get a feel of how various people work on attempting to solve a cold case as well as a more recent one. There’s not as much scientific jargon in this one either, Tempe isn’t needed to explain things to people in great detail although she does kind of receive a lecture herself which makes a nice change. There’s no denying that Kathy Reichs must possess an extremely broad knowledge base and do lots of research for her books but sometimes those descriptions can make these books feel like they’re interspersed with chunks from a textbook.

The end of this one made the next one look quite interesting….I’m interested to see where things go for Ryan and Tempe after their hiatus. Their relationship has always been off/on but whenever it was off you always saw the way back for them. The last few made that very difficult to see so, I’m curious after Ryan’s seeming change of heart whether or not Reichs will honour the promise she seems to have made readers here.

7/10

Book #260 of 2014

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Top 10 Tuesday 16th December

TTT

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly feature created and hosted by The Broke & the Bookish. This week the topic is:

Top 10 Books I Read In 2014

  1. A Song Of Ice And Fire series, by George R.R. Martin. I finally got around to reading these earlier this year. Actually they helped get me through a very bad reading slump. I could sing their praises for paragraphs but everyone out there pretty much already knows how good they are. After I read the books I watched Game of Thrones seasons 1-4. The series is good – very good. But the books definitely help to really flesh out some of the characters, the relationships, the politics etc. I found that I understood much more having read the books.
  2. Every Word, by Ellie Marney. Quite probably the best YA book I’ve read in a long time. A clever story set in Melbourne, with teens who speak and act in a believable manner and realistic family relationships. And the chemistry between Mycroft and Rachel…woah.
  3. Deeper Water, by Jessie Cole. Beautiful writing and a moving story. It’s a hard book to describe, hard to do its poetry justice but it’s a story of isolation and sexual awakening. Absolutely one of the best written books of 2014 and one of my favourites.
  4. Island Of A Thousand Mirrors, by Nayomi Munaweera. This was a heartbreaking story of the Sri Lankan civil war and portrayed one of the most sympathetic insights into martyrdom I’ve read. It made me understand why some make this horrible choice.
  5. Nona & Me, by Clare Atkins. Another Aussie YA book. This one is set on a remote community in the Northern Territory and details the deep friendship of a young white Australian girl and an Indigenous Australian girl. They are so close they are family but then the Indigenous girl moves away and when she returns, they are teenagers. Much has changed and both struggle to reconcile the now with their closeness in the past.
  6. This House Of Grief, by Helen Garner. A deep look into a devastating tragedy that rocked Australia, the death of three boys who drowned in a dam after their father drove his car into it on the way back from an outing. Was it deliberate, the work of a man furious at his ex-wife for ending their marriage? Or did he really black out at the wheel in an unfortunate spot, like he claimed. This book is fascinating and very well done.
  7. Isla & the Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins. Cute and fun. Stephanie Perkins makes me feel all of the feels.
  8. Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty. This book sucked me in right from the beginning. It’s such a well constructed tale of the politics of the school gate and how it escalated into a death. Liane Moriarty just gets better with each book she writes.
  9. Terms & Conditions, by Robert Glancy. I read this one so long ago I’d almost forgotten about it! But it was so cleverly written (like the terms and conditions of a contract with subclauses and footnotes, etc) and a great story. Definitely something quite different and very enjoyable.
  10. The Old School and Beams Falling, by P.M. Newton. The first two books of a series featuring a female police officer working a difficult beat in Sydney. Chosen for her Vietnamese heritage, it’s mostly ignored that Nhu “Ned” Kelly was born here and doesn’t speak the language or embrace the foreign culture. Set in the early 90s in a time of corruption, this is a series that pulls no punches.

I read many other really stellar books in 2014, some that I would include in this list were it Top 20 or 30 Tuesday. The ones I’ve chosen in the Top 10 are all there because they showed me something different, went that extra mile somehow or managed to stir up more in the way of thoughts and feelings.

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Review: Our Kind Of Love – Victoria Purman

Our Kind of LoveOur Kind Of Love (Boys of Summer #3)
Victoria Purman
Harlequin MIRA AUS
2014, 352p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Anna Morelli was always the good Italian girl who did exactly what was expected of her. She’s a doctor with her own practice in Adelaide and she married a lawyer and had the huge Italian wedding. But now Anna has done something that wasn’t expected of her. Her marriage has ended, her husband preferring someone who better fits the bill of a lawyer’s wife. Anna hasn’t told her family yet – she’ll be the first person ever in their family to get divorced. And then she does something even more reckless, indulging in a one night stand when she was at a wedding down the coast in Middle Point.

Former journalist hotshot Joe Blake is back in Middle Point where he grew up. He lost his job and his wife and since then he’s been living with his sister Lizzie trying to figure out exactly what he wants to do next. When he meets Anna, there’s plenty of chemistry and he thinks he might be able to turn their very enjoyable night into a regular thing. But Anna drops a bombshell on him and then runs away.

Joe is determined to make Anna see that this can work – they can work. But Anna is carrying a lot of baggage, mostly relating to her family and she wants to avoid any complications. Just when it seems like she’s ready to jump in with both feet, she and Joe discover that they’re on opposite ends of a very important spectrum.

Our Kind Of Love is the third and final book in the Boys of Summer trilogy which kicked off with Nobody Like Him and followed up with Someone Like You. We met Joe and Anna in previous books – Joe is Lizzie’s (from Someone Like You) sister and Anna is friends with the two previous heroes and had a long-ago relationship with one of them. They’ve stayed friends and Anna attended Ry’s wedding to Julia which is where she met Joe. They had a great night and Joe took her home but in the light of day Anna couldn’t get away quick enough. Even though she’s been separated from Alex, her husband for a little while now, Anna still hasn’t told her old-school Italian family that the marriage is over. It’s something she’s been dreading and so she lies to them at regular family dinners and events, pretending that Alex is busy working. There’s only so long you can put off the inevitable though!

I married a man whose parents were both born in Sicily. They came here separately and other members of their family and community came here too, all settling in the one town and making a big, Italian bubble. My mother-in-law is a staunch Catholic who goes to church about a hundred times per week and every event is filled with people, noise and food. I get the whole Italian thing. My husband was also married before me, so he was the first person in his extended family to get a divorce (although he wasn’t married either time in a Catholic church so it’s quite possible no one really considered him married anyway). A lot is made of Anna’s reluctance and inability to tell her parents but in the end, when she does, pretty much nothing happens except of course, them being supportive and feeling for her. A bit later her mother is scandalised when Anna brings Joe to an engagement party, even though most of their extended circle isn’t aware of the fact that she’s split up with her husband and she also attempts to begin setting Anna up with new, eligible and of course, Italian men. It’s interesting, because my husband is one of three boys and none of them married or were pressured to marry, Italian women. But – he has quite a lot of female cousins and most, if not all of them, married Italian men, if they married at all. His male cousins also married non-Italian women as well…perhaps they were attempting to avoid marrying versions of their mother! A lot of the scenes involving Anna’s family were things I’ve experienced before, with the possible exception of the one where people begin asking Joe’s intentions. Do people still ask intentions in this day and age?

I liked Joe in Lizzie’s book but I found that I actually liked him less in this one. I found that he was quite bossy and pushy, trying to get to the bottom of why Anna is reluctant to see him again and I sort of just felt like saying no means no, ok Joe? His persistence made him like a dog with a bone – or like he was on the lead of a good story. He plays reporter a bit too much in his personal life quizzing people and trying to find a way in, get them to confess things and it didn’t seem fair. The story takes place over the course of about nine or ten months, so in some ways, it does seem like things evolve between Joe and Anna. Even though she resolves to stay away, she finds herself returning again and again to Middle Point, and of course, running into Joe. They do start to spend time together but just when you think they might be on the way to happy ever after, Anna discovers something about Joe that is utterly the opposite of how she feels. It’s a big issue, one that is probably a dealbreaker for many people and Anna decides that she has to end it, for the sake of herself and the thing she wants probably the most out of life. What I found a bit unrealistic was that how someone who was as adamant as Joe on the topic somehow totally turns around – obviously someone had to in order for them to get back together. But it felt very abrupt and like there could’ve been more done between them, working this issue out rather than it kind of magically resolving itself whilst they were apart.

6/10

Book #258 of 2014

AWWW2014

Book #94 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014

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Review: #scandal – Sarah Ockler

#scandal#scandal
Sarah Ockler
Simon Pulse
2014, 416p
Free read on pulseit.com

It’s prom night but Lucy would much rather be at home destroying zombies online. Instead her best friend Ellie, who has fallen sick, has convinced her to get dressed up and go to prom in her place. Including as the date of Ellie’s boyfriend Cole. Things are made complicated by the fact that Lucy has had feelings for Cole ever since she met him four years ago. But he’s been with Ellie the last three.

Cole convinces her to come to the after party as well even though Lucy had planned to go home. When he kisses her, Lucy momentarily allows herself to be swept away before remembering Ellie. But it’s too late – the next day Lucy finds herself the victim of an online scandal. Someone took her phone at the party and used it to upload a number of incriminating photos to Lucy’s facebook, photos Lucy didn’t take. Photos that incriminate her, showing her kissing Cole and later, sleeping in bed with him. And Lucy isn’t the only one in compromising pictures – everyone is tagged which means parents and any number of people see them.

By Monday morning, Lucy is a pariah. Branded a slut and worse, the whole grade is against her not only for publicly kissing someone else’s boyfriend but also exposing all of their own secrets and partying behaviour. Despite the fact that she didn’t take the pictures or post them, the fact that they’re posted under her facebook account is damning. Lucy absolutely has to find who the real culprit is and expose them. She also needs to apologise to Ellie and beg her best friend’s forgiveness and graduate without this scandal hanging over her head.

There are scandals in any online community – you only have to look at the plagiarism, authors vs bloggers over reviews etc in the book blogging community to realise that it happens everywhere. And navigating social media whilst in high school would obviously provide some challenges. All of a sudden every humiliating moment is able to be document and shared with thousands of your ‘closest friends’. Secrets are hard enough to keep – they’re even harder when everyone has a smart phone and instant access to the internet. So chances are if you’re going to do something like kiss your best friend’s boyfriend at a party, there’s going to be someone around to take a snap. The twist is Lucy’s phone is also stolen and the incriminating photos are uploaded to her own facebook account.

Unfortunately there was a bit of this book that didn’t really work for me and the first bit is Cole. We’re told by Lucy a lot of times that she has feelings for him, that she’s always had feelings for him but the book begins at the prom so we never get to see any of those moments between Lucy and Cole. We never get to see her fall for him and then we never feel her agony when he starts dating her best friend and continues to do so for three years. Also, Cole is barely a blip on the radar in this book. They spend the prom together, obviously but then after the scandal erupts, they barely see each other or speak. I will say that Cole does support Lucy and he tries to contact her but she seems to spend most of her time avoiding his texts or calls because she ‘can’t talk to him right now’. It seemed to make no sense. What I think would’ve been better, was if the love interest shifted to a character the reader actually got to know, the student journalist on the school paper who attempts to help Lucy by wanting to present her side of the story. The two of them develop quite a rapport and it turns out later on that there’s actually an excellent chance for conflict. But instead Lucy remains fixated on Cole, even if she barely spends any time with him. It meant that I never really cared about Lucy and Cole being able to find their happiness together because I never really got a chance to see what that might actually look like.

Warning: The following paragraph does contain ***SPOILERS*** Skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid a key plot point being given away

Also it turns out later in the book that Cole and Ellie broke up before the prom and didn’t tell anyone. Lucy is upset that Ellie kept this secret from her before remembering that she’s been keeping the secret of having feelings for Cole from her best friend too. I think Ellie’s reasons for pretending to be sick and avoid the prom were flimsy at best. She missed out on a night she’d wanted to go to for the whole year. And then she forced her best friend, a bit of an introvert and not a girly girl, someone who’d rather play online zombie killing games than dress up, to go with Cole. It was really just weird. And okay, Ellie didn’t tell Lucy but maybe Cole should have? Way, way before he did. Maybe before he kissed her. That whole plot point was kind of stupid and felt like it was just thrown in there to avoid having the main character do something that other people find distasteful in making out with her best friend’s boyfriend but in the end it doesn’t make much difference because Lucy didn’t know they were no longer together. The fact that Cole didn’t tell her just gave him another black mark.

End ***SPOILERS***

For some reason a bit of this book is devoted to Lucy’s sister, a spoiled star on a TV soap who seems to be unable to tell reality from the fictional TV land she inhabits at work. I’m not entirely sure why this is, perhaps as holding up a mirror to the slut shaming that Lucy faces at school but her sister is a huge pain and I spent most of the book wanting her to go away. The only time I really felt connected to Lucy as a character was when she recounted the story of what happened to her when she went to visit her sister. That felt like the most real Lucy was in the entire book. However she doesn’t seem able to articulate her feelings about it to anyone else. Her parents are absent (conveniently) throughout this whole novel and when they are present they seem to be oblivious and overly impressed by Lucy’s sister’s rise to fame. I can’t even remember her name now, so that’s how great an impression she made on me.

For me, this is one of those books that sounded great when I read the blurb but then didn’t deliver. The author could’ve done so much more about why Lucy was bullied and harassed relentlessly after the photos were uploaded, but Cole was unaffected. I did like that Ellie didn’t condone the bullying of Lucy and did stand up for her on several occasions, even though she wasn’t speaking to her. But there could’ve been much more about society’s tendency to ‘blame the woman’. I also found the school’s way of dealing with this incredibly inappropriate and bordering on the ridiculous. I’m not sure if that was supposed to be humorous – perhaps because I’m a parent now, I don’t find dismissal of bullying behaviour unacceptable. The principal of this school basically has zero idea and acts unprofessionally and in a way that makes it difficult to believe she would ever be appointed to the role she holds.

Points for a good idea and an attempt at a hard subject but the lack of depth and too much meandering in the plot made it a bit of a disappointing read.

5/10

Book #255 of 2014

 

 

 

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Review: The Affair – Santa Montefiore

Santa Montefiore Bind-UpThe Affair
Santa Montefiore
Simon & Schuster
2014 (originally 2010 Hodder & Stoughton), 369p
Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster AUS

Angelica is happily married to the handsome, dashing Frenchman Olivier. Together they have two children, Joe and Isabel. They have a beautiful home and a close circle of wonderful friends. Olivier works in The City and Angelica writes children’s fantasy novels. She has everything she could ever want but as the years tick by, Angelica has felt her husband’s passion turn to criticism. He’s demanding and sometimes difficult, expecting to be pampered and coddled after a long day at the office. Angelica sometimes longs for him to look at her the way he used, to. Before the children and the few extra pounds.

At a dinner party she is seated next to Jack, a charismatic South African who makes her feel beautiful again. He’s attentive and complimentary and the sparks between them are obvious to them both. A few witty emails turn into lunch which turns into more. A chance business trip to South Africa means that Angelica can see Jack in his own environment.

Even though both are married, it seems that neither of them can deny themselves. In the savage beauty of South Africa, Angelica will experience the heady highs of love and the devastating lows of crime…and the discovery of a terrible and heartbreaking secret that Jack has been keeping from her.

It’s interesting, I don’t usually want to read novels that deal with infidelity. I’ve read one Santa Montefiore book before and enjoyed it so I requested this bind-up of two of her titles and The Affair is the first one. Given the title, it’s sort of obvious where the story is going to go and I was curious to see how I would feel about it and how it would all play out.

It’s kind of hard to identify with the characters in this novel – they’re all unspeakably rich. I’m talking London terraces with holiday homes in luxurious locations, live in help, drivers and children in expensive private schools. Angelica is the main character and she’s part of a tightknit group with several other women and their husbands. The husbands rarely play a role in the novel with the exception of Angelica’s own husband Olivier but even his role is rather insignificant most of the time.

Montefiore takes time to paint Olivier in a negative light in the beginning of the book. He speaks thoughtlessly to Angelica, comes across as demanding and also hypocritical. He enjoys a good flirt but doesn’t believe it’s as innocent for women it is for men. Angelica is feeling rather disillusioned, longing for the days where he couldn’t keep his hands off her and made her feel special and beautiful. They’ve been together for over a decade and she feels that he doesn’t particularly appreciate or respect her. He works a demanding, very high paid job but Angelica does contribute income with the publishing of her children’s novels. Olivier seems dismissive of her career, feeling as though her first priority should be taking care of him and their children, a fact that is reinforced by his French mother who fusses and indulges him and doesn’t understand why Angelica works when she should be devoting herself to the needs of her husband. Olivier, for an intelligent man, often acts rather ridiculously, carrying on like a small sulky child when he has a sore throat. However, all of these little moments can be part of what makes up a marriage and at times it feels as though there’s too much of an attempt to paint Olivier negatively in the beginning and then redeem him later on as he comes to realise that he has indeed become complacent and unappreciative.

I understand Angelia’s need to still feel attractive and appreciated and I can also understand the way that a good and harmless flirt with an attractive person can make you feel. But then there’s temptation and putting yourself in its path and that’s what Angelica does. She resolves many times not to see Jack. But then: it was just a conversation, she tells herself. And then it’s just a few emails, nothing wrong with that. And it’s just lunch with a friend, I’m not doing anything wrong, she tells herself over, and over. But the thing is, she lies about where she is and what she’s doing and who Jack is and she doesn’t tell Olivier what she’s doing. Which does make it wrong. She’s indulging in an emotional affair long before it ever becomes a physical affair. But I will say for Santa Montefiore that the evolution of it felt very natural. Frighteningly natural, actually. How this attraction became a real friendship which became the basis for something else entirely. Jack and Angelica fit well together, he’s interested in her as a person, her likes and dreams, her career and choices. I didn’t always warm to Jack, he came across as deep and philosophical and I think he was supposed to be “charmingly offhand” about being the whole dog off the porch thing but I didn’t find it charming. But I could see what Angelica needed and so could Jack. For most of the book it seems that Olivier is too concerned about the impending global financial crisis and perhaps too complacent in his marriage to see where she’s truly at personally. Familiarity can be a dangerous thing – couples get too comfortable with each other and they become bored. Feel lonely and unappreciated. And that’s when vulnerability to flattery and attention can appear and Angelica seems ripe for it.

I didn’t guess Jack’s secret, nor did I expect it but I do feel as though it did serve to make things “easier” for Angelica because it takes away either of them having to make a choice. In some ways it provides a way out, the “perfect” affair even though it also causes her much personal grief. She never really has to deal with the consequences of her actions other than with herself, which to some would be satisfactory but I sort of feel a bit sorry for oblivious partners. Olivier is at times, a bit of a thoughtless jerk but is that justification to seek a relationship outside of the marriage? I don’t really think so.

Nevertheless I did enjoy this story, it’s a very interesting look at marriage.

7/10

Book #254 of 2014

 

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Review: Girls Night In 10th Anniversary Collection – Jessica Adams

Girls Night InGirls Night In the 10th Anniversary Collection
Jessica Adams
Penguin Books AUS
2014, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Description {from the Publisher}: This bumper Tenth Anniversary Edition of Girls’ Night In brings together much-loved stories from the previous four books by some of the biggest names in women’s fiction – Marian Keyes, Candace Bushnell, Cathy Kelly and Maggie Alderson, to name a few.

Have fun and do good at the same time – by buying this book you’ll be helping kids caught up in the turmoil of war, with all royalties going to War Child, a charity that funds projects for children in areas of conflict.

So grab a cup of tea and reserve a place on the couch to enjoy all the comedy, romance, adventure and drama of some of the best short fiction on offer.

I can remember reading the first first Girls Night In release when I was at university and living on 2 minute noodles and peanut butter on toast. My nan had bought it and then decided it wasn’t really for her (she’s not keen on short stories, I think she was swayed by the wonderful line up of names). She passed it on to me and my house mate Claire and I ended up both reading it. She was a reader too, one of my few reading friends and during the time we lived together (almost 3 years, 2 years in a dorm on campus and then 1 year in our own place) we spent countless hours discussing books we’d read, books we loved, books we were recommending to each other and books we’d heard about. It’s probably what cemented our friendship as we had little else, if anything, in common.

Since then there’s been several other releases, some featuring male authors by invitation. This is a ‘best of’ collection, a coming together of stories from the previous volumes. I’m not sure what happened to my copy of the original – I suspect Claire may have ended up with it when we divided up our belongings! However I was pretty sure it wouldn’t matter that I’d probably read some of these before – after all that’s a decade and many, many hundreds of books ago. Turns out I was right. There’s very little in here that I remember, other than the story by Nick(ola) Earls. There are plenty of some old favourite authors: Marian Keyes, Fiona Walker, Cathy Kelly, Liane Moriarty, Monica McInerney and Sophie Kinsella, to name just a few. Names that have adorned my bookshelves for almost two decades in some cases. Names that are still autobuys.

I have to admit that like my nan, I’m not really a short story person. I like to sink into a novel, to get involved and the often cryptic endings of short stories can leave me confused and unsatisfied. However there were some really brilliant ones in here – Cecilia Ahearn’s The End which is a story told backwards about a break-up, Isla Dewar’s The Alma Club about a group of successful women and the hairdresser that changed and shaped them, Wishing Carefully by Marian Keyes and Mothers’ Group by Liane Moriarty.

Despite the size of this collection, it was a very quick read, each story flying along because they’re only a few pages. I read it in two sittings but it would be very easy to snatch a story here and there – would make a great book for public transport or perhaps for bed time. It also supports a worthy cause, with all the proceeds going to War Child.

8/10

Book #253 of 2014

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Review: How To Beguile A Duke – Ally Broadfield

How To Beguile A DukeHow To Beguile A Duke
Ally Broadfield
Entangled Publishing LLC
2014, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Catherine Maboeuf has divided her time between the Bahamas and New Orleans but now she is returning to England, her mother’s homeland. Her mission is two fold – her wealthy shipping merchant father has given her leave to purchase her mother’s childhood home which was lost to her after her father died and it was entailed away to a male cousin. Secondly she must find her great-grandmother’s journal and use the clues hidden within it to find a lost family treasure.

What Catherine didn’t count on was Nick, the Duke of Boulstridge who has purchased Walsley Manor, her mother’s former home and restored it to its original glory after it fell into neglect and disrepair. He now considers it his home and has no desire to sell it at all. Amused by Catherine’s spirit and her determination, he is also aware of how her manners are less than what England’s high society would consider ideal and so he makes her a wager: if she can secure a genuine offer from a titled member of London’s society before the end of the season, he will sell her the Manor.

Catherine might not be as gently behaved as some young London ladies but she is exceedingly rich and that’s always a drawcard for a man with an impoverished estate. She’s certain she’ll win – after all, Nick has said that she doesn’t have to accept the offer, merely receive one. The trouble is, the longer she spends in London, the more she realises that the only offer she wishes to receive is from the man who believes that she won’t get any at all. Meanwhile the Duke is realising that an unconventional lady just might be what he needs himself.

I love historical romance with a twist and I found this one a lot of fun. Catherine is a bit of an unusual heroine given that she’s not born and raised in England and has instead lived her life between the Bahamas and New Orleans. Because of this, what she considers to be socially acceptable is much different to what London’s society considers to be acceptable. For example, she carries a cutlass underneath her skirts and another knife and she knows how to use them. She’s unused to requiring a chaperone to go anywhere and tends to speak her mind. She knows that she needs to be on her best behaviour in England if she isn’t to stand out, something that’s reinforced after she meets the Duke and they end up making their wager.

Catherine is sponsored by her mother’s old friend and she finds a friend in the lady’s daughter, named Jane. Jane is out for the season is well and is hoping to secure an offer and is unperturbed by the rumours swirling around Catherine, such as her father being a pirate, she not being civilised, etc. In this book, Catherine manages to get Jane into reading Jane Austen’s novels and she’s reading Pride & Prejudice which is interesting as there are some parallels. Nick is also proud, like Darcy albeit for rather different reasons and he’s also strongly attracted to a woman he likes but believes isn’t a suitable match. Nick doesn’t plan to marry at all but he laments that the one woman who does interest him is from an inferior background and he doesn’t hesitate in telling her most of this either. He actually doesn’t seem to see how insulting what he’s saying is and Catherine actually does quite well in holding her ground against him. They have some really good interactions, including their first one where they meet in Nick’s study after Catherine has broken into it.

I have to admit I was kind of less interested in the plot about the missing family heirloom which leads to danger for Catherine. It felt a bit far-fetched at the best of times and even though it serves to continue to throw Nick and Catherine together, I don’t feel like it ever really went far enough within the framework of the story. It doesn’t really satisfy me either, the way in which it all played out, which was rather disappointing. Fortunately for me, I more than found Nick and Catherine’s interactions enough to carry the book. Nick is rather uptight and very correct – he’s determined to restore his family’s good name after his father savaged it and therefore he tends to believe that things should be done a certain way and people should behave a certain way. He regards Catherine with wavering emotions – at times, he’s playful with her and you get a glimpse of the man Nick might’ve been if he’d had another male influence other than his father. Other times he’s quite stern and a bit proper but the longer he spends with Catherine, the more she breaks down those barriers, even as he wars with himself. I really liked the character of Nick’s mother, she provided a voice of reason to his fears and insecurities and she seemed a remarkable lady, despite all that she had endured.

I enjoyed this book – it was something a bit different and a lot of fun.

7/10

Book #252 of 2014

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Review: 12 Daves Of Christmas – Juliet Madison

12 Daves of Christmas12 Daves Of Christmas
Juliet Madison
Escape Publishing (Harlequin AUS)
2014, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Abby Solomon writes romances for a living but lives a bit of a solitary life with no significant other. When her recently deceased Grandma pays her a visit, Abby wonders if maybe all that solitude is getting to her and she’s hallucinating. But no, Grandma Charlotte really is there and she has a task for Abby.

She wants Abby to find her long lost love, a man named Dave that she waited for during the war. They were supposed to meet after it ended but Dave never showed and eventually Charlotte married someone else and had a long and happy life with him. But he’s gone and now Charlotte’s chance of happiness in the ever-after hinges around finding Dave. Abby’s research yields 12 possibilities in the area Charlotte thinks that Dave would’ve chosen to settle down and she decides to undertake a roadtrip for Christmas, visiting the 12 Daves over 12 days and seeing if any of them are The One.

It’s not easy, finding the Daves and engineering meetings that don’t look suspicious. Some of the Daves are easily discounted – too young, too old, not quite right in other ways. Then Abby meets a Dave of her own, a young doctor. Maybe this road trip might not only secure Grandma Charlotte’s future happiness but also Abby’s own.

I have to admit, Juliet Madison’s books seem to be an exception to the rule that I don’t like books with a bit of the ‘woo woo’ magic in them. This is the second I’ve read now and they’re highly entertaining and very fun to read. I really should read all the others, I don’t know what’s stopping me. Oh right, of course I do. My TBR pile of hundreds and hundreds of books!

Anyway, in this one Abby is a romance author. She quit her job to write full time, having loved romance since reading her grandma’s Mills & Boons as a teenager (didn’t we all! That’s how I got into reading romance). Grandma has recently passed away and Abby is still feeling the loss – until Grandma pops into her living room as a ghost. They can’t touch but Abby can see her and hear her and after the initial shock wears off, she’s thrilled to have her grandmother back in her life again. But Grandma doesn’t just want to sit around and chit chat – she wants Abby to help find the true love of her life, a man she never got to reconnect with after the Second World War. The details are pretty sketchy – all her grandmother knows is his name, which is quite a common one and the area he most probably settled down after he returned. Abby sleuths around and discovers 12 possibilities and decides to throw caution to the wind and head out on a road trip to meet them all and see if any are the one.

Grandma Charlotte is of course, along for the ride and each of the Daves they find are different in their own way. Some are lovely, some are not, some are too young, some are too old. All of the Daves have something that means they’re not The Dave that they’re looking for, all except one who wasn’t at home when Abby came through. Backtracking to find that Dave, Abby runs into a handsome doctor she’d seen when she first came through, although the situation she’d found herself in then is not one she particularly wants to revisit.

Abby realises she has to explain something difficult to Doctor Dave, something that he may find almost impossible to believe. But she does it anyway, desperate to help her grandmother fulfill her wish to find the person that is the key to her happiness in the afterlife. And even though Dave is skeptical, he at least hears Abby out and it seems that the two of them have found their own spark. The relationships in this novel are so fun – there are few characters, Abby and her grandmother shine for most of it. Their relationship is a very, very close one and although Grandma Charlotte stands to gain from this adventure locating the 12 Daves, she’s also pushing Abby to step outside of her comfort zone as well. To put herself out there and meet new people, because she’s not going to find her special someone sitting at home and typing on her keyboard. I loved reading their conversations as they traveled from place to place. It helped give a very good picture about Abby but without a lot of info-dumping.

A sweet and heartwarming story – really must read the rest of her books. I enjoyed this a lot, it’s exactly the sort of read that’s perfect for the run up to Christmas and it gives you that Australian Christmas feel as it’s set on the coast of New South Wales. It makes me want to do a road trip for Christmas, but I’m afraid that’s going to have to wait until next year.

8/10

Book #247 of 2014

AWWW2014

12 Daves of Christmas is book #90 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014

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Reading Challenges 2015: Eclectic Reader Challenge

eclecticreader15In 2014 I took some time off from challenges, just doing the ones which required me to read books by Australian authors both male and female. But I really enjoy challenges so I am signing up for a few to do in 2015. I’ve seen the Eclectic Reader Challenge, hosted by ShelleyRae at Book’d Out being done over the past few years so this year I’ve decided to make that one the first one I sign up for.

The gist:

  • The challenge will run from January 1st – December 31st 2015.
  • Select, read and review a book from each category listed below during the year for a total of 12 books. A book may be in print, electronic or audio format.
  • You can choose your books as you go or create a list in advance. You may combine this challenge with others if you wish.
  • Where a book is identified by more than one genre eg historical romance, it may only count for either the historical fiction or romantic fiction genres – not both.
  •  You can read your chosen titles in any order, at any pace, just complete the challenge by December 31st 2015 to be eligible for the prize drawing.

Categories

  1. Retellings (of fairytale, legends or myth)
  2. A book set in a country starting with the letter S (eg. Sweden, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Slovakia)
  3. PI Crime (fiction featuring a private investigator)
  4. A novel published before you were born
  5. Contemporary romance
  6. Fiction for foodies (fiction featuring food/food related business)
  7. Microhistory (Non Fiction)
  8. Science Fiction set in space
  9. Sports (Fiction or Non fiction)
  10. Featuring diversity
  11. Epistolary Fiction (fiction written in the format of letters/emails/diary entries)
  12. Middle Grade/YA Adventure

I have decided not to make a list of titles to read before I start – I’m just going to wing it and see what comes up. Some I will specifically have to hunt down most likely, such as Science Fiction set in space (although I do have an idea for that one), Retelling, Microhistory (right after I actually google that) and possibly the foodie challenge. For some others, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of books next year that will fit into the categories. I’m going to try and tick one category off a month and most likely the category I tick off in January will be Contemporary romance, simply because I already read so much of it. Most of the other categories will push me though, which is fun.

For more information, check out the sign up page at Book’d Out or the Challenge Page found here

 

 

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