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Review: Summer At Rose Island by Holly Martin

Summer At Rose IslandSummer At Rose Island (White Cliff Bay #3)
Holly Martin
Bookouture
2016, 311p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Fall in love with the gorgeous seaside town of White Cliff Bay this summer and enjoy long sunny days, beautiful beaches and… a little romance.

Darcy Davenport is ready for a fresh start. Determined to leave a string of disastrous jobs and relationships behind her, she can’t wait to explore White Cliff Bay and meet the locals.

When Darcy swims in the crystal clear waters of the bay, she discovers the charming Rose Island Lighthouse. But it’s not just the beautiful building that she finds so intriguing…

Riley Eddison doesn’t want change. Desperate to escape the memories of his past, he lives a life of solitude in the lighthouse. Yet he can’t help but notice the gorgeous woman who swims out to his island one day.

Darcy is drawn to the mysterious and sexy Riley, but when it seems the town is trying to demolish his home, she soon finds herself having to pick sides.

She’s fallen in love with White Cliff Bay. But is that all Darcy’s fallen for?

Pull up a deck chair, sink back with a bowl of strawberry ice cream and pick up the summer read you won’t be able to put down.

Where I live, we are about to plunge headfirst into winter and the last couple of days have given us a taste of it already. We had two days averaging around 13C with non-stop rain. So despite the fact that summer is a long way off, I don’t mind the slew of northern hemisphere summer flavoured novels that pour out of publishers around this time. It’s a nice way to escape the bleak weather and dream of the warmer months.

I really liked the setting in this book – White Cliff Bay sounds like a really lovely place. Darcy has moved there in order to take up a new job. She doesn’t exactly know what the job is but Darcy has lurched from one career disaster to the next and she’s determined to make this one work. Failure is not an option, because then she’ll once again have to move back in with her permanently disappointed-in-her parents. They see Darcy as a giant joke, an embarrassment and they’re not exactly shy about letting her know about it. Darcy used to visit her aunt in White Cliff Bay during the summer as a child and has fond memories of it. She loves swimming and adores the sea – she’s actually a qualified marine biologist although her new role will not be in that field.

Darcy meets Riley, an American whose family built and own the lighthouse in White Cliff Bay. Things do not get off to a good start – Darcy finds Riley rude and he isn’t happy that she keeps swimming out to his lighthouse, even going so far as to have the police warn her off for trespassing. Darcy attempts to give him a piece of her mind a few times but generally ends up embarrassing herself in front of him in some way or other because apparently, that’s just how she is. Despite the fact that his first few appearances make him seem quite rude, Riley turns out to be a total gentleman and Darcy is incensed when she finds out the local council have slapped some sort of compulsory sale order on the lighthouse and it’s been bought by a company who plan to develop a very large resort type thing. Darcy immediately begins fighting to save it, helping Riley which means they spend quite a bit of time together and discover that their feelings have definitely evolved past initial hostilities.

While I loved the setting, I didn’t love either Darcy or Riley. The clumsy heroine trying to find herself has been done soooo much lately and I found myself cringing during a lot of Darcy’s moments, wondering how she manages to get out of bed each morning if she really is that big of a disaster. Surely it’s not possible to have been fired from 17 jobs before you’re 35? Anyway. I think she had a good heart and her marine biology stuff was interesting but I found the rest of Darcy hard work to slog through. And when she found out what her job was? I know that she didn’t want another failure but it was naive at best to assume that the local people and Riley were going to be okay with her new role. That was pretty ridiculous to be honest. And Darcy and Riley never really felt overly believable to me, things changed for them so quickly and the chemistry wasn’t given long enough to simmer and develop. It felt really rushed and like there were also at the same time, so many setbacks. It felt like they were forever having a misunderstanding and then making up, back and forth, back and forth.

All in all, this one was just okay for me. I didn’t feel the need to DNF it really but at the same time, I didn’t love it either.

5/10

Book #119 of 2016

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Review: His Wicked Wish by Olivia Drake

His Wicked WishHis Wicked Wish (Cinderella Sisterhood #5)
Olivia Drake
St Martin’s Paperbacks
2016, 336p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

MARRIAGE TO A NOBLEMAN? NOT IN HER WILDEST DREAMS. . .

The daughter of a disgraced woman and a common actor, Madelyn Swann has been shunned by the nobility. No proper lady would traipse about on a Covent Garden stage, let alone sell herself at auction to the highest bidder. So why in heaven’s name would Nathan Atwood, Viscount Rowley, make a generous offer for her hand?

Turns out Maddy is exactly the type of woman Nathan wants as his wife. Finally, he can embarrass his snobbish and cruel father, the Earl of Gilmore—and scandalize London society—with his beautiful, unsuitable bride. Then he’ll depart England forever and leave his wife behind. Having secret plans of her own, Maddy is happy to play the role … only to find that enjoying her husband’s seduction requires no acting whatsoever. But as she falls madly in love with Nathan, can she persuade him to stay with her for always?

Normally I really like a good marriage of convenience story. Especially one where the hero is at first, a bit of a womaniser (or let’s face it, a twat) and ends up being brought to his knees by the weight of his misconceptions and arrogance. This probably should’ve ticked all my boxes but…..I found it a bit of a struggle to be honest.

In trying to pinpoint the reason why, I think it’s Nathan. He’s kind of a tool. I understand that he had quite the miserable upbringing at the ends of a bitter cuckholded father who already had the heir and made it clear he had precious little need for the spare. Nathan disappears to China to make his fortune in trade, returning only when he believes his father to be dead. Instead he arrives back in London to find that his father is very well and it’s actually his older brother and heir to the title that has passed away leaving Nathan the new Viscount Rowley. Nathan decides that he’s going to wreak some havoc by parading the worst sort of wife he can find as the future countess. That wife turns out to be actress Madelynn Swann who has decided to forego treading the boards to auction her innocence off to the highest bidder/protector/whatever you want to call it. Only Nathan offers her marriage and despite the fact that marrying a Viscount/future Earl doesn’t exactly gel with Madelynn’s ambitions, she does see an opportunity. And despite the fact that Nathan is, as mentioned previously, a bit of a tosser when she meets him, she decides to accept his offer over all others.

Okay.

**Mild SPOILERS ahead on Maddy’s identity, which is revealed early in the book but anyway, be forewarned**

Nathan wants Maddy to act as crassly as possible – talking about inappropriate things at the dinner table, wearing dresses that ladies wouldn’t be seen in, etc. It’s quite tedious but it has the intended effect, sending his father the Earl, Nathan’s grandmother the Dowager Countess and his brother’s widow into various fits of snobbery, rudeness and apoplexy. Despite the fact that they’re supposed to be gentlemen and ladies they’re incredibly rude and don’t shy away from doing it to her face. I get the whole “class” thing and that they deem Maddy so far beneath them as not to even deserve their courtesy but….they basically act incredibly horrible and then because Maddy actually turns out to *gasp* be not at all as lowly born as people imagine, they immediately begin treating her differently.

When Nathan finds out Maddy isn’t at all some nobody (she’s the granddaughter of a pretty haughty and super rich Duke, how bout that?) he’s all put out and angry because he no longer married a cheap, tarty nobody to anger his family, he married the granddaughter of a Duke! And he carries on about it for a bit because his little plan is ruined and now not only did she turn out to be a virgin after he believed her free with her favours but now her blood is, as he says “even bluer than mine”. It makes him look yet again, like an immature jerk, something that he excels at throughout most of the book. Perhaps the worst of these was when Maddy attempted to tell him that the auction was actually for her virginity and he was all like *wink* oh yes, of course it was, you’re right into this role, aren’t you? *smirk* and Maddy is like wait, this is serious and Nathan is *nudge nudge* of course you’re a virgin LOLOLOLOL. Sigh.

End ***SPOILERS***

Also running through the book is a kind of danger plotline about someone that wanted to win Maddy’s favour (her virginity) and then doesn’t take losing and the subsequent reveals about Maddy too well. I didn’t really feel it added anything to the plot except to make the book longer and it felt a bit unbelievable.

To be honest, Maddy was really the only thing I liked about this book and then she lost a lot of herself after she married Nathan.

4/10

Book #117 of 2016

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Review: Accidentally Compromising The Duke by Stacy Reid

Accidentally Compromsing the DukeAccidentally Compromising The Duke (Wedded By Scandal #1)
Stacy Reid
Entangled Publishing
2016, 287p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

England, 1817.

Miss Adeline Hays is out of options. Determined to escape marriage to a repugnant earl, Adeline plans to deliberately allow herself to be caught in a compromising position at a house party with the much kinder man she’d hoped to marry. Instead, Adeline accidentally enters the wrong chamber and tumbles into the bed of the mad duke.

Edmond Rochester, the Duke of Wolverton, is seeking a wife to care for his two daughters. A young lady of sensibilities, accomplishment, and most importantly, one who he is not attracted to—a complete opposite of the bewitching beauty who traps him into marriage. But despite the lust he feels for his new duchess, Edmond is resolved to never allow them intimacy, refusing to ever again suffer the tormenting loss of a loved one.

I really only have one word for this book and that word is: YES.

This is exactly the sort of historical romance that I love. Adeline is an oppressed, bullied woman. Her father is about to accept the offer of a boorish man who did something awful to her, someone that is horrible and frightens her. Neither her father nor her stepmother hear her pleas not to be married off to this man merely because he’s an Earl and so Adeline decides to do something drastic and arrange to be caught in a compromising position with a man she she cares for. Instead she is caught in the room of the reclusive Duke of Wolverton, a man known as the mad Duke.

Edmond, the Duke, does the honourable thing and offers for Adeline’s hand and a Duke trumps an Earl, so even her father and stepmother cannot find fault with this. Although Adeline goes in a bit hopeful, Edmond soon tells her he wants a marriage of convenience – his name and title will make sure she’s never shunned in society and in return, she’ll be a mother for his daughters. He doesn’t even plan to consummate the marriage – his first wife died in childbirth and it’s something that haunts him terribly.

The only problem is, Edmond is struggling to contain his feelings for Adeline. He’s been attracted to her from the beginning and he’s also been celibate for a long time. He was profoundly affected by the death of his wife, who he loved and his feelings surrounding it are extremely complicated. Edmond is a Duke who had two daughters first, so there was always the obligation for his wife to provide the heir, something that ultimately cost her her life. Morbidity in childbirth was a very prevalent problem at this time and Edmond is incredibly determined never to place a woman in that position again. That means he must attempt to exert quite a lot of self control….

The interactions between Edmond and Adeline are so awesome – from their very first encounter when Adeline realises she’s in the wrong room. Even though they’re in darkness, there’s a very strong chemistry and that only grows the more interactions they have. Adeline also desires children and she wants a happy marriage. It might’ve come about by mistake, but she wants it to develop and grow and believes very much that the Duke is a man worth loving, if only he would cast off his guilt and self-loathing over the death of his wife. Edmond is pretty stubborn though and at times it’s not an easy path for Adeline.

Although not a choice Edmond would’ve made if he’d gone about securing the next Duchess in the usual way of lords and ladies, it’s soon very apparent that Adeline is exactly what Edmond and also his two daughters are in desperate need of. The way in which Adeline takes his two daughters under her wing and begins to bring back fun to their lives is truly wonderful and the growth of those two girls leaps off the page. As Edmond’s mother mentions, Edmond has been merely existing since the death of his wife and it’s definitely had an impact on his daughters and the household in general. Adeline could change that, if only he would let her….but first he must get over the fear that being with her will lead to her dying in childbirth. And that is not going to be an easy task for him, especially when things do end up getting a little complicated.

Throughout this story, the seeds are sewn for what will most likely be the next installment, featuring one of Adeline’s friends. That sounds just as awesome as this one was and I can’t wait for that book. Angsty historical romance can be so good when it’s done right and after this, I’m convinced that Stacy Reid knows how to do it right. I really enjoyed this. Bring on the next one.

8/10

Book #111 of 2016

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Review: One With You by Sylvia Day

One With YouOne With You (Crossfire #5)
Sylvia Day
Penguin Books AUS
2016, 462p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Gideon Cross. Falling in love with him was the easiest thing I’ve ever done. It happened instantly. Completely. Irrevocably.

Marrying him was a dream come true. Staying married to him is the fight of my life. Love transforms. Ours is both a refuge from the storm and the most violent of tempests. Two damaged souls entwined as one.

We have bared our deepest, ugliest secrets to one another. Gideon is the mirror that reflects all my flaws … and all the beauty I couldn’t see. He has given me everything. Now, I must prove I can be the rock, the shelter for him that he is for me. Together, we could stand against those who work so viciously to come between us.

But our greatest battle may lie within the very vows that give us strength. Committing to love was only the beginning. Fighting for it will either set us free … or break us apart.

And so with this book, the Crossfire series has come to a conclusion. A quick glance back through my blog tells me I reviewed the first title, Bared To You in July of 2012 so it’s been almost four years! In that time we’ve seen Gideon and Eva go through a lot and come out the other side each time.

The Crossfire series was originally supposed to be a trilogy but I suppose the sales figures of the first couple plus the success of books like 50 Shades of Grey meant that it was restructured into five books. Now that everything is finished, I do have to wonder if that was the right thing to do for the story.  In the fourth book Day obviously knew something a bit fresh and new was needed and so she introduced Gideon’s point of view, alternating chapters with Eva. This continues in this novel as well but to be honest, it’s about the most interesting thing that happens.

I have enjoyed this series, been able to put aside the flowery descriptions of love and how hot everyone is and how much sex they can have without everything feeling like sandpaper because there’s been other things going on for me to focus on. In this book there’s precious little else going on – Gideon and Eva love each other a lot, we get that. The past four books have cemented it well. Both of them are hot. Eva is blonde with big boobs and Gideon is dark with blue eyes and hung like a horse. I know. It’s all been hammered out to me before. In this book it happens an awful lot more because Eva quits her job so she can focus on basically planning the society wedding she and Gideon are going to have for other people. And for a workaholic billionaire, Gideon only really works when he feels like it which leaves him plenty of time to sleep with Eva and talk about how beautiful she is and how he wants to protect her from every single thing that could possibly happen to her.

I don’t know where this book was going. Nothing happens for about the first half and then it goes off on a weird tangent involving Eva’s mother that was not only not foreshadowed previously but seemed to have very little bearing on anything anyway. And then what happens towards the end just comes out of no where and makes so little sense that it’s hard to even comprehend it. There are so many reasons for why someone might attempt what this person attempted but the one that the author chose to go with was so weak and uninspired and so ridiculously unbelievable. Gideon does something stupid and doesn’t inform Eva of a devastating impact of the event, pretending she didn’t hear anything and then drugs her (I’m assuming, he makes her drink something) so that she’ll go to sleep and he has time to prepare himself for telling her. Gideon, you can’t protect Eva from life. People will come and go, be born and die and no matter how much money you have, you can’t stop that. And despite the fact that the entire series has made a huge thing of Eva not liking Gideon lying to her, she basically doesn’t care an iota when she finds out he lied to her. The whole thing was just bizarre.

Other things are begun and then abruptly dropped or go nowhere, like the story line involving Gideon’s brother Christopher. The reader never really learns what was going on concerning him and the attempt to resolve their hostile relationship within a few pages was sloppy. The same could be said of Gideon’s confrontation with his mother, which is anticlimactic and doesn’t at all come close to addressing the sort of abuse and neglect that Gideon experienced because of his mother’s actions and her dismissal of his claims. Instead his mother storms in to defend Corinne and can she just go away already because Corinne has been done to death. Thankfully Gideon steers the conversation away from Corinne and she doesn’t actually appear in this book because her scenes and the conversations about her have been repeated many times. How do the women in Gideon’s life all come unhinged so easily? There are so few positive portrayals of women in this series. Monica, Eva’s mother is a vacuous social climber who smothers and oppresses Eva, Eva was abused, Gideon’s mother is horrid, his exes are jealous and interfering at best and borderline experiencing psychosis at worst. I didn’t really notice this until I sat down to write the review, but Eva doesn’t even have one good female friend when she moves to New York. She does make a couple of good friends but mostly her life has seemed to revolve around Cary.

I have to admit, I am a little disappointed in the final installment. It felt very much like it was padded out with a lot of filler and there wasn’t much happening until almost the end and then it went off on a tangent that made so little sense. I do feel it leaves the reader with the feeling that Gideon and Eva are sure to make it, but to be honest, I never had too many doubts about that throughout the series. Their conflicts were just enough to make things painful for them, not to make me truly believe that either of them would ever seriously leave the other. But overall this book gives me the impression that the author really did struggle to stretch the story out to five cohesive and well structured books, which was a shame. The first three books were really quite good but I’m not sure the fourth and the fifth overall, were really necessary.

5/10

Book #116 of 2016

 

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Series Review: Rose Strickland Mysteries by Terri L. Austin

Diners Dives and Dead EndsDiners, Dives & Dead Ends (#1)
Last Diner Standing (#2)
Diner Impossible (#3)
Diner Knock Out (#4)
Terri L. Austin
Henery Press
eBook
Copies purchased via iBooks

Blurb (Diners, Dives & Dead Ends) courtesy Goodreads.com:

As a struggling waitress and part-time college student, Rose Strickland’s life is stalled in the slow lane. But when her close friend, Axton, disappears, Rose suddenly finds herself serving up more than hot coffee and flapjacks. Now she’s hashing it out with sexy bad guys and scrambling to find clues in a race to save Axton before his time runs out. With her anime-loving bestie, her septuagenarian boss, and pair of IT wise men along for the ride, Rose discovers political corruption, illegal gambling, and shady corporations. She’s gone from zero to sixty and learns when you’re speeding down the fast lane, it’s easy to crash and burn.

I mentioned in my April Reading Wrap Up that in May, I’ve done a lot of reading. A ridiculous amount actually. It’s basically all I’ve been doing. And it seems that my crack of choice has moved on from historical romance to cozy-type mysteries and I basically began buying anything I could find on iBooks or Goodreads lists that seemed like it might fit my needs. To be honest, I’m not sure how I found this series – I discovered Henery Press somewhere in my iBooks browsing. The first novel their series’ are often free or $1.99 and so I took a punt on a few. This was probably the 2nd or 3rd series I tried and it is one of my faves.

Rose is in her mid-20s and the daughter of a very wealthy and influential family. Five years ago Rose turned her back on all that wealth and privilege because she didn’t want to remain at the college her parents were paying for. They were unwilling to pay for another and cut her off so Rose got a job waiting tables in a breakfast cafe and takes a couple classes a semester, paying her own way through a local college. Her life is far removed from what it was growing up but Rose has her freedom and her independence. She’s created her own sort of family: her boss Ma, the elderly owner of the cafe she works at, Roxy, another waitress at the cafe and Axton, who is also exiled from his wealthy family.

In the first novel, Axton entrusts something to Rose and then vanishes. The cops don’t care, his brother doesn’t care. Rose knows that it’s up to her to find him. This means that she crosses path with a mysterious and sinister figure who demands Rose give up what Axton gave her if she ever wants to see him again. Rose has a feeling that if she gives back whatever Axton gave her, it isn’t going to just be that easy…and so she decides that the only way to get Axton back is to take him back….and win the battle.

It took me a ridiculously short amount of time to become obsessed with this series. I love Rose – she’s a lot of fun and she really doesn’t take any shit from anyone. Not her society Mama who tries to make her feel like rubbish and bully her into returning to the pretentious fold, not thugs who want to threaten her or mysterious, rich men who are used to getting what they want. She’s fiercely loyal – there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for the people she cares about, even put herself in danger. Even though her own family are ashamed of the menial job she now has and the fact that she’s 24 and her life consists of a beat up car, a studio apartment you can’t swing a cat in and barely enough money to eat, Rose isn’t ashamed of the life she’s chosen for herself. The most important thing to her seems to be having the luxury of making any and all choices for herself.

I ripped through the four novels currently available in about 2 days. Because I read these on my iPad I’m not sure how they compare with an average paperback but they never seem to take very long to read. In the next three, Rose finds herself involved in more mysteries and eventually begins working at a private investigation firm, learning (or….supposedly learning) to investigate in a methodical manner, instead of going in all guns blazing and stumbling around into death and destruction. However because it’s Rose….things never really go to plan.

Running throughout the books (2-4 really) there’s also a romance for Rose which won’t be everyone’s sort of thing but pushes all my buttons. When it comes to fiction, I tend to be a walk on the wild side girl. I’m a Ranger, not a Morelli. So those are the types of pairings I tend to ‘ship’ – which is a huge portion of the reason I enjoy this series. The author has pushed a few boundaries with Rose’s love interest (ok, probably more than a few) but I think it’s what works for Rose. She’s not going to marry a lawyer, a doctor or an accountant and settle down in the neighbourhood her parents live in and become her mother. That sort of life isn’t for her. There’s a lot of chemistry and Rose represents a weakness that her love interest wasn’t aware he had, very early on in their interactions but theirs is a volatile pairing – doubting, secrets, criminal activity…..lots of stuff going on. I love it! And I really, really want a fifth installment. Soon.

8/10

Book #s 104, 105, 106 & 107 of 2016

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Review: The Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie Fornasier

Things I Didn't SayThe Things I Didn’t Say
Kylie Fornasier
Penguin Books AUS
2016, 311p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

I hate the label Selective Mutism – as if I choose not to speak, like a child who refuses to eat broccoli. I’ve used up every dandelion wish since I was ten wishing for the power to speak whenever I want to. I’m starting to wonder if there are enough dandelions.

After losing her best friend that night, Piper Rhodes changes schools, determined that her final year will be different. She will be different. Then she meets West: school captain, star soccer player, the boy everyone talks about. Despite her fear of losing everything all over again, Piper falls in love – and West with her – without Piper ever speaking one word to him. But will it last?

The Things I Didn’t Say is Australian YA author Kylie Fornasier’s second book, a contemporary story set in the Blue Mountains of NSW revolving around Piper, a young girl about to begin her final year of school. Piper has Selective Mutism, which means that she cannot speak around, well pretty much everyone who isn’t her family or someone she’s known a long time, that she feels comfortable with. After an incident that cost her her best friend at her former school, Piper has elected to switch to a different school rather than have to face her former friend every day. This choice brings with it a new set of challenges – it’s hard enough to make friends at school as it is. How do you create friendships when you can’t even speak to people?

That’s just one of the challenges Piper faces as she begins her new school. Most of her teachers have been briefed on her situation but there are always those who are substitute teachers and aren’t aware or who perhaps don’t really understand – and that’s a theme that runs through the book. People do seem to have a hard time grasping that Piper isn’t just doing this for attention, or could change it if she really wanted to. I don’t know much about Selective Mutism – actually, scratch that. I don’t know anything about it and wasn’t really familiar with it before I read this book. I don’t know anyone with the condition, so I don’t know if what is portrayed here is accurate or not. I did a little bit of reading around after I finished this, just to try and understand the condition a bit more. I think a lot of people can relate to portions of it, even though it’s much more than just being shy or having a fear of speaking in front of certain people, or a certain number of people.

Piper can speak to her family and before her falling out with her friend, she could speak to her. When she starts her new school, she can’t speak to anyone. She must rely on writing notes or smiles/gestures to communicate how she is feeling or what she wants to say. It doesn’t appear that the students in her year were informed of her condition but Piper does manage to find herself some supportive friends who don’t mind that she doesn’t talk to them.

Piper also meets West – school captain, soccer player, popular student. A ‘Royal’, as Piper calls them, one of that popular group that exists in probably every high school in the world. You’re either one….or you’re very much not. And Piper doesn’t feel at all like she could ever be one of them….however West makes an effort to befriend Piper, pretty much ignoring Piper’s attempts to brush him off lest she incur the wrath of the girl Royals. Piper and West’s friendship is very sweet but it’s not without it’s problems. Although it manages to develop into something deeper, West isn’t immune to the frustration about Piper’s Selective Mutism. He knows she can talk to her family and that generally she can talk to people when her relationship with them reaches a certain point where she feels comfortable. He wonders when that point will be with him….and you can understand how he would be thinking this, given how attached they do become to each other. But for Piper, it’s just a sign to her that West doesn’t get it, that he thinks she can control it.

I think that The Things I Didn’t Say is a very appealing, well written story….the character of Piper is well crafted, it took me right back to what it’s like being at school, especially starting a new one. Piper’s frustrations with her condition as well as people’s inability to understand it are well conveyed and Fornasier does a great job with constructing the romance, despite the fact that Piper never utters a word to West. It still somehow manages to remain believable. I have to admit, the ending was a bit dramatic, which seemed a touch out of place with the rest of the book but it certainly gave Piper a chance to showcase both her dedication and stubbornness and the ways in which she could express herself and her feelings without being able to speak.

I loved it – read it in one sitting. I think that Kylie Fornasier is going to be a very strong voice in Aussie YA and I’m looking forward to her next book already.

9/10

Book #112 of 2016

AWWC2016

The Things I Didn’t Say is book #26 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016

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Review: Who’s That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane

Who's That GirlWho’s That Girl?
Mhairi McFarlane
Harper Collins AUS
2016, 535p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Before: Living the dream.
After: Living at home.
Who’s That Girl? If only Edie Thompson knew…

When Edie is caught in a compromising position at her colleagues’ wedding, all the blame falls on her – turns out that personal popularity in the office is not that different from your schooldays. Shamed online and ostracised by everyone she knows, her boss suggests an extended sabbatical – ghostwriting an autobiography for hot new acting talent, Elliot Owen. Easy, right?

Wrong. Banished back to her home town of Nottingham, Edie is not only dealing with a man who probably hasn’t heard the word ‘no’ in a decade, but also suffering an excruciating regression to her teenage years as she moves back in with her widowed father and judgey, layabout sister.

When the world is asking who you are, it’s hard not to question yourself. Who’s that girl? Edie is ready to find out.

I wasn’t familiar with Mhairi McFarlane before I received this book for review and I was a bit apprehensive when I read the blurb. A main character that is caught in a compromising position at a wedding? Interesting! However it was the sort of book I was in the mood for at the present moment so I gave it a go and could not put it down from the first page.

Edie, in a way, looks as though she leads a fun and charmed life. Good job, has moved away from the family home to London and has her own apartment. However, take a closer look and there’s a few cracks – her office flirtation is engaged to a colleague, her close friend is absolutely not to be trusted and after she’s caught in a bad position at a wedding, she becomes a social pariah, shunned and reviled by almost everyone she knows. In an attempt to keep her employed, her boss sends her back to her hometown while the scandal “blows over” under the guise of ghosting an autobiography for hot actor Elliot Owen.

Things don’t exactly go well at their first meeting, leaving Edie feeling as though Elliot Owen is just another spoiled actor but the threat of failing forces her to persist, eventually getting Elliot to agree to the book. I think that although normal girl-famous guy tropes in romance are popular they are hard to get right. Mhairi McFarlane succeeds here because she takes careful time to humanise Elliot, to make him more than just the successful actor. He gets embarrassed, he makes mistakes, he says and does things that make him just as awkward as Edie at times. He doesn’t have that super suave, arrogant personality that I was expecting. He comes across a bit that way at first but as he and Edie spend more time together and get to know each other, his jadedness with the machine of acting and publicity becomes more apparent, as well as the way in which his ‘relationship’ with another starlet is more a construct than an actual genuine interaction.

Edie has some severe self-esteem issues – she had a heartbreaking childhood and is now mostly estranged from her family. Although she loves and gets on well with her dad, she finds the guilt of not visiting home more often easier dealt with by…avoiding going home. Her relationship with her sister Meg is antagonistic on Meg’s part, with Edie not quite sure what she’s done to deserve such ire. And it extends to most parts of her life – Edie seems willing to accept a flirtation from a man she cannot have, wrapping it up in ‘it’s innocent because it’s just messaging’ completely unaware she’s being taken for a giant ride. Likewise her ‘friend’ is a poisonous snake of the worst sort and even though Edie does at least appear to realise this, she cannot extract herself from the situation, nor even really stand up for herself. She spends a lot of time sitting back and just accepting things.

Something about being home in Nottingham seems to change that – she begins to seem to finally see the way things are, now that she’s removed from the situation in London. Edie does some brave things in this book, as it seems the longer she spends back in her childhood home, the more she begins to find herself and realise what it really is that she wants out of life. I admired a lot of the decisions that Edie made towards the end of the book where she put herself and her wants and needs first, choosing what was probably the more difficult option but I think that in the context of Edie’s personal growth, it worked.

I loved the chemistry that Elliot and Edie had as well as the way in which their friendship developed as they worked on Elliot’s book. It had a few ups and downs but I found their journey really quite believable. I liked that Elliot had moments of insecurity and jealousy as well, that he wasn’t completely removed from those feelings simply because he was good looking and famous.

This book was so much fun and gave me all the feels – so much so that I bought a bundle of three of her previous books. Hopefully I love them all as much as this one, because as an introduction to an author, this is a fabulous place to start.

9/10

Book #78 of 2016

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April Reading Wrap Up

Total Books Read: 17
Fiction: 17
Non-Fiction: 0
Library Books: 0
Books On My TBR List: 2
Books in a Series: 12
Authors I’d Never Read Before: 8
Male/Female Authors: 0/17
Kindle Books: 15
Books I Owned or Bought: 9
Favourite Book(s): Dirty by Kylie Scott, Who’s That Girl by Mhairi McFarlane
Books That Qualify For Challenges: 1

This has been a rough week. So much so that it took me 7 days to notice that I hadn’t done an April wrap up of my reading yet. The reason it’s been so rough? On Monday I received news that a friend of mine had passed away. Now we weren’t super close friends. We met in 2014 when our sons were both in prep and became friends, inviting each other to their birthdays, etc. We became friendly…..we probably would’ve become much closer friends had she not been diagnosed with cancer that year. It was a grim diagnosis from the very beginning and she fought to beat it but just 18 months later she lost her fight. She was only 38 years old and leaves behind a husband and 2 children who are 8 and 6. Yesterday I went to her funeral which was a mix of heartbreak and genuinely fond, happy remembrance. She chose the music and when Pink’s “Get This Party Started” kicked off the funeral, you knew you were in for some laughs, even through the sadness.  She was a strong, genuinely good person and I’m glad I knew her. I was very affected by her death, I think perhaps because it hits so very close to home. We are similar in age. Our kids are almost the same ages. I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like for her, during those months after they realised there was really nothing they could do to fight anymore, medically. To look at your children and realise you won’t even know what they will look like as adults…..is a horror I cannot even contemplate. Children shouldn’t lose their mothers, ever. Her 8yo was brave enough to get up and speak a few sentences yesterday, a testament I think, to the wonderful job they’ve done with him. I’ve every confidence that her husband can continue alone – he’s a fantastic dad. But he shouldn’t have to.

In between all of that I’ve been sick. Nothing too bad, just a minor cold but I’ve been taking refuge from it and the sadness I’ve been feeling in reading…..so I think in May so far I’ve read almost as many books, if not more as I did in the entirety of April! So the next wrap up I write will be a big one but to be honest…..there wasn’t a lot in April that really stood out for me. I had 2 books that I really loved, mentioned above. Both were five star reads for me and there were a few 4s as well. Books that I enjoyed but to be honest, probably couldn’t tell you much about them now.

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Review: Keep Me Posted by Lisa Beazley

Keep Me PostedKeep Me Posted
Lisa Beazley
Text Publishing
2016, 320p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Cassie and Sid Sunday, once as close as sisters could be, have drifted apart. Cassie’s struggling as a stay-at-home mother to twin toddlers in Manhattan, while Sid lives an expat’s life of leisure in far-off Singapore. It doesn’t help that Sid spurns social media while Cassie is addicted to her iPhone.

So when Sid suggests they reconnect the old-fashioned way—through real, handwritten letters—Cassie is on board. Intimate and honest, their correspondence becomes a kind of mutual confessional and renews their bond. But Cassie’s made a big mistake—one that their relationship, not to mention their marriages, might not survive.

Keep Me Posted is a fresh and funny debut about the struggles of keeping in touch, keeping it real and keeping it together.

I love writing letters even though these days I have no one to write them to! Writing letters have been replaced by email, texting, instant messaging, facebook, instagram etc. A thousand and one ways that are easier and quicker than writing longhand letters and posting them. When I was 11 and in grade 6, my parents sold their house and we moved 6hrs north. My best friend and I wrote letters for years, exchanging probably hundreds. It’s been a while since we wrote to each other – around the time we started university we switched to email and now we keep up to date with each other’s lives via facebook and interact on the odd occasion via private message on there.

I miss the letter writing!

So books that revolve around this sort of thing are always of interest to me. I like a good epistolary novel and I like ones that include things like letters, emails, texts, etc. They always are a fun way to show a picture, to round out a story and that’s how people communicate these days. So I was immediately drawn to this book because the idea of it sounded so good. I’d love someone to suggest writing letters to me but I don’t have a sister and my brother is very much a texting person!

Cassie and Sid live very different lives – Sid is living with her husband in Singapore as an ex-pat, her time filled by hiring staff and hopping around Indonesia for various yoga retreats. Cassie shares a cramped New York brownstone with her husband and their twins, Cassie unwilling to give up their apartment’s fantastic location for something a bit more spacious. Whilst Sid’s life seems glamorous, aided by the in-home help that everyone has in Singapore, Cassie is struggling a little with being a stay-at-home parent and a chance meeting with her ex leaves her wondering what might have been….and sends her on a potentially dangerous path.

The letters are supposed to be private. But Cassie wants a way to keep a record so she scans each one she writes before she sends it and then each one she receives, so that they can be saved in order, making up one long story. Unfortunately what was supposed to be a private record, for Cassie’s eyes alone, suddenly becomes public and goes viral. Although the wider public doesn’t have enough information to identify the letter writers, there’s certainly enough incriminating evidence for friends and family to and it only needs one person to put names to the letters. Cassie knows she needs to confess – both to her husband and her sister, that their personal business is out there for the public to read. But in doing so, she could lose two of the most important people in her life.

Oh, Cassie! I did feel for her, because she thought that she’d done enough to keep the letters private and the way in which they became public wasn’t her fault but she did choose to keep a record of the letters! Without also telling her sister Sid, who was spilling her most personal and intimate thoughts and details of her life in her return letters to Cassie. It’s one thing to potentially splash your own dirty laundry across the internet but in this case, there was collateral damage as well. I thought it was quite interesting that it was Cassie, the one who is supposed to be savvy with technology (glued to her iPhone, kept a blog etc) that ended up accidentally broadcasting everything.

As much as I did feel for Cassie and her ‘oops’ moment, I also found her a bit frustrating. I get the whole ‘what might have been’ thing, I think everyone has those moments, especially when they are struggling with the little things. Running into an ex-boyfriend can trigger those sorts of things but Cassie does go a bit further than just wondering, putting herself into the position where they’d be crossing paths again and again…. And then when she knows that word has gotten out there, that things have become public, she takes so long to tell her husband. And the way in which she does it….doesn’t flatter her at all. It’s much less than he deserves really and I don’t blame him for being furious and humiliated and not wanting to listen to her. Why should he? Cassie seems to expect immediate understanding and forgiveness, not just from her husband but basically from everyone else she talked about in her letters. Now obviously they were meant to be private, for Sid’s eyes only but….they ended up public. And that means you have to deal with the resulting fallout, Cassie. Not just expect everyone to basically get over it.

I enjoyed this book…..I loved the letters between the sisters and the way in which the relationship between them was explored. I would’ve liked a little bit more from Sid to be honest, to balance out the Cassie. The only part of the book that didn’t really work for me was the ending. It felt so neat, almost too good to be true. Like the book spent a lot of time telling me these things and then almost reversed them for the ending in order to tie up all the loose ends. They felt ‘too’ tied up, like everything worked out super perfectly without a single solitary lingering issue. It just didn’t feel particularly believable for me, nor in keeping with the rest of the book.

7/10

Book #73 of 2016

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Review: The Untamed Earl by Valerie Bowman

Untamed EarlThe Untamed Earl (Playful Brides #5)
Valerie Bowman
St Martin’s Paperbacks
2016, 304p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

AN INDECENT PROPOSAL

Lady Alexandra Hobbs, the daughter of the Duke of Huntley, has intended to marry Lord Owen Monroe since she first glimpsed him from the window of her bedchamber, back when she was just a girl. But the duke has already chosen Alex’s infamously spoiled elder sister, Lavinia, for Owen. And now there’s no turning back.

Owen has spent most of his bachelor years drinking, gambling, and skirt-chasing. He won’t see another pound from his parents, however, until he’s engaged to Lavinia. Desperate, he accepts an offer from her innocent and spirited–and absolutely beautiful–sister Alex: She will
turn him into a perfectly tamed suitor, and show him how to woo the shrew. But when Alex’s true motives come to light, will their bargain lead to recriminations–or to a romance that defies everyone’s expectations?

I requested this book before realising it was fifth in a series – something I seem to do a lot! Luckily I had no trouble sourcing the first four books on iBooks. To me, this is a situation when ebooks just come into their own perfectly. There’s no need to go traipsing around to various bookstores or libraries trying to track down previous installments in a series only to discover that you can find 2 and 4 but no one has 1 and 3 or something similar. Instead you can just download them 1 after the over and get to reading, to catch you up to where you should be for the release of the most recently book. And in this series, that’s book #5, The Untamed Earl.

The titular Earl is Lord Owen Monroe (actually heir to the earldom) the brother of Cassandra Monroe from book 2 so he’s someone the reader has seen in a few previous books. Lord Owen is a bit of a wastrel, gadding about drinking, gambling and chasing women. His father has had enough of Lord Owen’s footloose and fancy-free ways and threatens him with what every heir fears the most – the suspending of the family coffers until he toes the line. Owen won’t get another cent until he secures the engagement of Lady Lavinia, a famously pretty but savagely tongued daughter of a Duke.

Lady Lavinia’s younger sister Lady Alexandra has admired Lord Owen from afar for years and now that she’s out she wants to finally have her shot. When she hears that her father has picked the man she wants for herself for her spoiled sister, Lady Alexandra seeks to sabotage it by pretending to actually assist Owen in his endeavour. This puts the two of them into close proximity, which is exactly what Lady Alexandra wants. She knows that he and her sister are not at all suited and that’s not a fate she’d wish on her worst enemy, let alone the man she truly wants for her own.

Alexandra is such a fun character that I think she carries most of this book. She’s the younger, more down to earth sister and she’s endured a lot of suffering and being overlooked because of the way her sister has been cossetted and spoiled, which has ended up in her having a very unlikable character. Alexandra is the polar opposite and I found her to have a wicked sense of humour as well as a strong independent streak which leads her to go after Owen herself. She knows that she’ll probably get found out that she’s not exactly ‘helping’ him court Lavinia but by then she hopes that she’s spent enough time with Owen that he recognises that there might just be other options for him.

The two of them do have a pretty enjoyable chemistry and I liked their secret meetings (ostensibly so Alexandra can help Owen, and in return he agrees to pay her some token attention to make her look attractive to other young eligible bachelors). Importantly, I could see Alexandra fitting in perfectly with the little group that has slowly grown in the previous books – the Duchess of Claringdon, her friend (and Owen’s sister) Cassandra, the Countess of Swifdon and several others and I do like how the friendships and the group has evolved in the books to include more and more people, most of which are not typical ton types. Probably Owen and Alexandra are the closest to being standard ton families where a marriage between their offspring wouldn’t raise much of an eyebrow.

I went back and forth on Owen – when he’s with Alexandra, he’s quite fun. Roguish but not in a ruining virgins kind of way. But in his scenes with his father, I kind of just wanted to slap him and tell him to man up. His family are pains, I remember from Cassandra’s book but honestly he’s nearly 30 or something and his daddy has to threaten him with cutting off his allowance in order to get him to finally agree to get married and get about furthering the line to inherit the earldom. He’s positively whiny when he gets his money cut off, despite the fact that he’s had ample warning that it’s time to stop spending and wasting money and actually start taking on a little bit of responsibility. A lot of the time the heroes have inherited their title and are at least busy in some way managing their estates or whatever whereas Owen really does nothing at all except spend money and drink at his club. I feel as though Alexandra will definitely make Owen mature the way that he needs to but also the two of them will continue to have fun.

Another fun installment in this series….and it set up the next one perfectly.

8/10

Book #69 of 2016

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