All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Long Way Home by Nicola Marsh

Long Way Home (Brockenridge #1)
Nicola Marsh
Harlequin AUS
2019, 368p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

A prodigal daughter returns to Brockenridge…

Eleven years ago Ruby Aston left Brockenridge – and its small-town gossip – for the anonymity of the big city. Now, a grieving Ruby is forced to come home to the place she loathes. But it also means returning to someone she’s always regretted leaving behind…

Connor Delaney is determined to prove himself and not get by on his family name alone. To do this he needs to acquire the local roadhouse. He never anticipated the owner would be the same ‘bad girl’ who ditched him at the high school ball and was never heard from again.

For Alisha Nathieson, the grief of suddenly losing her dear friend and employer Clara Aston has forced her to examine her choice to stay to support her aging parents. As she battles a growing need to explore her past, temptation wars with duty. And then there are her feelings for handsome chef Harry, who has secrets of his own…

If Ruby follows her heart and saves her mother’s legacy, will she lose the one man she’s longed for all along?

This the first in a new series revolving around the town of Brockenridge, up in the north of Victoria. In this book, Ruby Aston left town over ten years ago after years of bullying and abuse from her fellow students. She planned a bigger, better life for herself in Melbourne getting herself a marketing degree and starting her own company. She never returned to the small town she grew up in and experienced such cruelty, preferring to catch up with her mother in the city and spoil her there.

But now Ruby has to return for perhaps the worst reason of all. All the memories come flooding back of how she was treated, even though there are people that worked with her mother that care for her like she’s part of their families. And then there’s Connor Delaney, who is also returning for the first time in a long time. Connor asked Ruby to the graduation dance but she stood him up when she left town. There’s still a lot of feelings left though but there’s also a lot of hostility considering Connor wants to acquire Ruby’s new inheritance.

There was a lot about this that I really enjoyed. I think Ruby’s background and the treatment she experienced is showcased really well and it also demonstrated how that type of treatment in formative years can have a long lasting effect. It bothered her so much that in eleven years, she never returned to Brockenridge and when she has to return, she still feels sick about going back, about the people she might see, about what they might say to her. It’s something that I think a lot of people could relate to, facing people that have treated them poorly in the past. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much time has passed, the wounds are still fresh.

I really enjoyed the local community, particularly the trio that work for the roadhouse that Ruby’s mother managed. Tash, Alisha and Harry have worked there for a long time, throughout probably most if not all of Ruby’s childhood and are still there. They’re like a family to her and each other, although there are some rising complications between Alisha and Harry, which I found to be a great secondary romance storyline. Especially as they’re a little older than most people in romances (Alisha is in her early 40s, Harry is almost 10 years older). I also loved Alisha’s background and her quest to discover more about her heritage and how she dreamed to travel and explore the world. She and Harry had great chemistry and his backstory was really interesting and unexpected too. I think there’s definitely more to learn about Tash, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s the main character of a future book in this series.

When Ruby and Connor cross paths again, there’s a lot of conflict between them not just about Ruby standing him up a decade ago (which honestly, felt a bit ridiculous to me) but also because Connor is back in town to work on his first project for his family company, which will involve developing the land that Ruby’s new inheritance sits on. Ruby was originally going to sell and go back to her Melbourne life but she feels her childhood home get under her skin and soon she changes her mind, deciding to use her marketing skills to make the road house even more profitable. When she doesn’t want to sell, Connor tries to both make her and manipulate her into it and occasionally he came across as quite overbearing for me. I wasn’t really a big fan of Connor, although he kind of got a bit better by the end. There seemed to be a general assumption that if Connor’s family company took Ruby to court they’d win, which I wanted a bit more information about. I know the government can acquire private property for their interests, especially if what they’re doing is in the public interest, like to build new roads or train lines. But this was a private company so I was curious to see how they could legally force Ruby to sell. Perhaps because they could prove the development would benefit the local community more? Providing more jobs, etc? I’m not sure. Not sure I agree with it as an idea, the thought that someone could be made give up something they own. And I didn’t blame Ruby for being pretty fired up about it and determined to try and hang onto it.

This was an engaging read, a good start to a new series.

7/10

Book #186 of 2019

 

 

 

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Review: Lost But Found by Peter Sharp

Lost But Found
Peter Sharp
Pan Macmillan AUS
2019, 216p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Sydney Dogs & Cats Home is unique in its ability and commitment to find that ‘one in a million’ owner for animals in their care, as well as that ‘one in a million’ pet for people looking to adopt.

In Lost but Found , you will meet forty special dogs who have spent time at the Home. Their stories reveal how the dogs came to be lost, how and why they were in the shelter, and the love and care they received while there and in their new forever homes.

Fully illustrated and with both before- and after-adoption photography from award-winning pet photographer Peter Sharp of Tame & Wild Studio, this touching collection of precious pups will warm the hearts of animal lovers near and far.

All royalties from the sale of this book will be donated to Sydney Dogs & Cats Home.

I’m a big fan of the #adoptdontshop philosophy when it comes to animals. At the moment we own a cat, Loki, whom we adopted from a shelter in Geelong. Prior to adopting Loki, we had two rescued greyhounds, both of which we got at 3/4 years of age in 2007. They lived until 2015 and 2016 and were both wonderful pets. Very different personalities but both incredible animals. After having two such big dogs, I wanted to go in a different direction, which was why we adopted a cat. Neither of the greyhounds had been cat tolerant, so it was something we weren’t able to do whilst we had them in our lives. But I definitely plan to adopt another greyhound in the future because they’re exactly what I’m after in a dog – loving and affectionate but also pretty lazy and content with minimal exercise. That’s my jam.

This book is kind of about the animals that are difficult to adopt out. They are elderly or have physical challenges or behavioural issues. Some of them are bull breeds, which exploded in popularity and are pretty rife in backyard breeding. They are often purchased by people and abandoned in high numbers. Load up any shelter’s website and you’ll see huge numbers of various bull breed crosses. A lot of these stories are wonderful and uplifting and some are incredibly sad as well. Some of these animals come into the shelter in such poor conditions – mange is common, often so bad that they have to be shaved and isolated. There are dogs that come in with literal broken legs that have to later be amputated so that the dogs can have quality of life.

A lot of the time, it takes very special people to adopt dogs like this. Many of them are adopted and returned to the shelter when it doesn’t work out – sometimes more than once. Which must be incredibly confusing and disrupting for them. Some dogs don’t do well in shelters either, it doesn’t showcase them at their absolute best, which is understandable. Shelters can be depressing places sometimes, even though what they are doing is good and positive. Many of the dogs are fostered with volunteers (something I’ve done in the past too, having raised litters of kittens for adoption) and sometimes, these foster carers end up falling in love with their charges and adopting them permanently.

Stories like this are wonderful to be put out there, because I think the more people that consider adopting their next pet from a shelter, the better. Finally some legislation is starting to come through about backyard breeding and people that keep animals in horrible conditions just to churn out designer puppies that sell for exorbitant price tags. I also like that every animal adopted from a shelter already has all their vet work done – vaccinations and especially (most importantly) they are spayed/neutured. That means that they can’t ever be used for breeding and contributing to the huge breeding numbers. And the numbers of dogs which end up in shelters.

I think this book serves multiple purposes – it’s got a lot of feel good stories within it, about dogs that find the home they deserve, sometimes after a very long time. But also I think it’s important for people to realise (really realise) that getting a pet is a huge responsibility and it’s not something that should be done on a whim. Because if you make a decision that you later regret, those animals end up lost, dumped in shelters and sometimes, on death row, through no fault of their own. There were many instances in this book where dogs were brought in to vets or wherever as strays and they were microchipped and the owners could be contacted, only for them to say they weren’t interested in taking the animal back and surrendering it to the shelter.

The one issue may be that the stories of difficult animals may put inexperienced pet owners looking to adopt off going to a shelter, if they believe that all of the animals will experience such problems. There are a few trouble free stories in here but a lot of these dogs had some very serious health issues and required a lot of patience and understanding. And that’s not for everyone, because there are all types out there, who want different types of pets. Some work a lot and require a pet with low levels of anxiety and maintenance. Others opt for older dogs because they can be already house trained and the like, cutting out that often difficult puppy stage! I know when we adopted our greyhounds, that was a rather large draw for us – they’d been fostered out, house trained and socialised after finishing their racing careers and when we adopted them, it felt like we didn’t have to do any of that work!

I really enjoyed this – these are stories that need to be told, people need to understand the consequences of not wanting that pet anymore and hopefully choose really carefully when they decide they do want a pet. And it’s wonderful to see dogs that have had in some cases, really difficult lives, get a chance at a wonderful home and some happiness.

7/10

Book #185 of 2019

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Review: Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell

Wayward Son (Simon Snow #2)
Rainbow Rowell
Macmillan
2019, 354p
Read from my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The story is supposed to be over.

Simon Snow did everything he was supposed to do. He beat the villain. He won the war. He even fell in love. Now comes the good part, right? Now comes the happily ever after…

So why can’t Simon Snow get off the couch?

What he needs, according to his best friend, is a change of scenery. He just needs to see himself in a new light…

That’s how Simon and Penny and Baz end up in a vintage convertible, tearing across the American West.

They find trouble, of course. (Dragons, vampires, skunk-headed things with shotguns.) And they get lost. They get so lost, they start to wonder whether they ever knew where they were headed in the first place…

With Wayward Son, Rainbow Rowell has written a book for everyone who ever wondered what happened to the Chosen One after he saved the day. And a book for everyone who was ever more curious about the second kiss than the first. It’s another helping of sour cherry scones with an absolutely decadent amount of butter.

Come on, Simon Snow. Your hero’s journey might be over – but your life has just begun.

I didn’t realise it’d been four years since Carry On, the first Simon Snow book, had been released. I remember I was very apprehensive when I heard that it was going to be published. I’d read FanGirl and really liked that but I thought the idea of publishing a book about the characters that Cath was writing fan fiction about, was kind of getting a bit much. I don’t even think I was going to read it, but then the publisher sent me a review copy and I was really curious, so I thought might as well. And I absolutely loved it! So I was very excited when I heard that there was going to be more Simon and Baz. I love them together so much, they are my jam.

The dynamic is different but it also isn’t. In Carry On, Simon and Baz are enemies, room mates who are each other’s nemesis. Baz is also super hopelessly in love with Simon and has known for a long time but Simon doesn’t figure out what his obsession with Baz is until quite a significant portion into the book. They have amazing chemistry, there’s lots of angst and pining and good stuff. In this book they’re a couple yes, but things are not going easy for them. Simon is really struggling with the loss of his magic, which he sacrificed in the first book for the greater good. He still has wings and a tail and no one is really any the wiser about why they stayed or what they mean. Penelope and Baz keep having to spell them invisible so that Simon can go out and about. Simon is kind of….well he’s wallowing. He’s not sure what his life is anymore, everything he once was, he is now not. So in order to try and cheer him up, Penelope suggests they go on a road trip in America to visit Agatha, Simon’s ex-girlfriend who isn’t responding to messages. They’ll stop off and visit Micah, Penelope’s boyfriend on the way. Even though Penelope is smart and an incredible magician, she’s shit at geography and doesn’t realise the actual reality of driving from Micah’s place to Agatha’s (thirty-one hours). For an Aussie, yeah that’s like a trek too but not the worst. For Brits? They’re horrified!

Because this is Penelope, Simon and Baz, they also manage to stumble into well, a lot of trouble. But their stumbling also has its advantages because it allows them to recognise that actually, Agatha is in trouble and they are going to need to be able to help her. And they’re going to need some allies, namely a squad of Las Vegas vampires and this weird kid called Shepard, who followed them. He claims to be a Normal, he just likes finding and befriending non-Normals. He does have a lot of contacts and information and does prove to be quite helpful, even if he’s not exactly honest with them about himself.

I love road trips. And I love reading about them. So I was always going to be super excited to read this. I also love that although Rainbow Rowell is American, she writes from a really British perspective with all these characters and it’s so accurate in the ways that foreigners see the US. The geography, the states that blend together in a blur of flat farms, the obsession with obnoxiously large pick up trucks. I love Baz’s observations in particular. He’s my favourite character and I love the complexity of the softness he has for Simon and the disdain he has for almost everything else. Simon and Baz are definitely in a place where they are struggling a bit, mostly because of Simon and his existential crisis. It means that the angst is still quite present as they dance around each other and Simon contemplates breaking up with Baz before Baz ends up leaving him. The communication in this between them is really bad and both of them are suffering with the distance and uncertainty between them. I know it’s probably not good reading them just being incredibly happy with no issues….but the moments are few and far between in this so I wouldn’t have been averse to a few more!

I really enjoyed this. It feels busy because there’s a lot of driving and the second half has quite a bit of action in it. I liked that the different viewpoints from the first novel continued as well. It’s so good being able to get all of the character’s thoughts and perspectives, it gives you the ability to see things from different angles. And I’m really excited for the fact that there’s a third Simon and Baz book, Any Way The Wind Blows so hopefully everything will be sorted out in that one. I’m keen to know why they need to get back to Watford so quickly and what is going down.

8/10

Book #184 of 2019

 

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Review: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

The Unhoneymooners
Christina Lauren
Simon & Schuster Audio
2019, 9hrs 07m
Downloaded personal copy from Audible.com

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

For two sworn enemies, anything can happen during the Hawaiian trip of a lifetime—even love—in this witty and swoonworthy romance from the New York Times bestselling duo who “hilariously depict modern dating” (Us Weekly) and authors of Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating and Roomies.

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Amy, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of…lucky.

A couple of weekends ago, I found myself feeling unwell and I thought I was coming down with the flu. I was super cold and couldn’t get warm, could feel my joints starting to ache. I went to bed, trying to stay warm and I didn’t feel up to actually reading but I was also super bored just laying in bed. So I remembered all the Audible credits I had accumulated a very long time ago and started looking for something to listen to. I don’t have a great relationship with audiobooks. I find my attention wanders and the fact that it takes me 9hrs to listen to a basic paperback I could read in 2.5 is kind of annoying. But in this case I didn’t really have much choice. I couldn’t focus enough to watch Netflix, I wasn’t tired enough to sleep. I just wanted to close my eyes and listen to something. I’d heard a lot of good things about Christina Lauren’s more recent novels and this sounded like it could be fun.

And I think it could’ve been. Look probably I’d have enjoyed it a little more if I’d read it. Because the woman who narrated read Ethan’s voice like was a college frat boy when he was a 34yo mathematician. He sounded like he belonged in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure a lot of the time, which was really distracting because it’s not really how I would’ve expected someone of his description to sound. And weirdly enough, there’s an epilogue to this book from Ethan’s point of view, which is read by a man and he doesn’t depict the voice the same way. If he’d read all of Ethan’s parts, I probably would’ve still disliked Ethan (because he’s a complete dick a lot of the time) but I’d have enjoyed the listening experience a little more.

Olive is an ‘unlucky’ kind of girl, the total opposite to her lucky sister Ami. In fact Ami is so lucky that she manages to pull together an amazing wedding for 200 guests mostly for free by winning competitions and the like. However Ami’s luck runs out when everyone except Olive and the groom’s brother Ethan get incredibly sick from the seafood buffet. Olive is allergic and Ethan doesn’t trust buffets so they are the only ones not affected. Given Ami and Olive are identical twins, Ami insists that Olive go on her all expenses paid 10 day honeymoon in Maui. And Ethan goes too, because Ami only had to give the surname of her travelling companion.

I think this book kind of helped me hone in on why I struggle with audiobooks. It’s the cringy scenes. I generally want to listen to something romancey and light and generally romance is my favourite genre. But a lot of the time, romance genre heroines have embarrassing things happen to them. Either in front of the crush/love interest or involving them. And I can skim those in a book, but I find listening to them excruciating. Really, really excruciating. The scenes just seem to go on forever. There’s a few scenes like that in this book, particularly when Olive and Ethan have to pretend to be honeymooners in Maui as the holiday is supposed to be non-transferable. So Olive is pretending to be Ami and Ethan her husband. Olive is completely shit at lying, she can’t do it and she’s incredibly crap at it, oversharing and babbling instead of just keeping things simple, so that makes for a lot of really stupid conversations.

The thing that bothered me is that so much is made of the fact that Olive can’t lie. She’s terrible at it, she has so many giveaways and anyone who knows her at all would know when she’s lying. So it makes little sense when she tells Ethan something late in the book (after they’ve gone from enemies to lovers) and he thinks she’s lying and breaks up with her. She’s not lying and she actually has nothing to gain from lying about it. And when Ethan discovers she was telling the truth, he wants to apologise but the apology is kind of weak and there’s no actual real dealing with the situation and how it made her feel and the fact that he didn’t believe her and how would they move forward from that? Instead it’s about how Olive was negative before Ethan but now she has a chance to be a different person and give him a second chance. Yikes. I’m all for giving people another chance but it felt like the book completely brushed aside the issue of Ethan not believing her to pile shit on Olive and the apparent flaws she had as a person before Ethan. It’s probable that Olive did jump to conclusions a lot and see the negative in things but I think she’d know the repercussions of what she had to tell Ethan and the fact that he didn’t believe her and dumped her over it was really an issue for me. I didn’t much like dude-bro Ethan anyway in the beginning, he got okay in the middle and then when this happened I was basically like nope. It wasn’t even a proper apology and the whole way in which he apologised was stupid. Especially given the boss that sacked her on her first day was there, inexplicably.

This was disappointing. I didn’t love the Beautiful Bastard book I read by this duo and I think this might prove that their books are not for me. They sound like they are but upon reading, I don’t think it’s the case.

4/10

Book #182 of 2019

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Review: Wearing Paper Dresses by Anne Brinsden

Wearing Paper Dresses 
Anne Brinsden
Pan Macmillan AUS
2019, 384p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

You can talk about living in the Mallee. And you can talk about a Mallee tree. And you can talk about the Mallee itself: a land and a place full of red sand and short stubby trees. Silent skies. The undulating scorch of summer plains. Quiet, on the surface of things.

But Elise wasn’t from the Mallee, and she knew nothing of its ways.

Discover the world of a small homestead perched on the sunburnt farmland of northern Victoria. Meet Elise, whose urbane 1950s glamour is rudely transplanted to the pragmatic red soil of the Mallee when her husband returns to work the family farm. But you cannot uproot a plant and expect it to thrive. And so it is with Elise. Her meringues don’t impress the shearers, the locals scoff at her Paris fashions, her husband works all day in the back paddock, and the drought kills everything but the geraniums she despises.

As their mother withdraws more and more into herself, her spirited, tearaway daughters, Marjorie and Ruby, wild as weeds, are left to raise themselves as best they can. Until tragedy strikes, and Marjorie flees to the city determined to leave her family behind. And there she stays, leading a very different life, until the boy she loves draws her back to the land she can’t forget…

This is a bit of a tough one, in terms of trying to articulate how I felt about it. I love the cover – it’s incredibly detailed and eye catching. I’ve never read any Rosalie Ham, so the comparisons weren’t a draw for me. I liked the sound of reading about the Mallee and the tough farming community that populated it. I had a feeling this wasn’t going to be an easy sort of read but it ended up being quite a bit more difficult than I anticipated.

It begins with the story of Bill and his wife Elise. Bill had left his family farm deep in the Mallee in northern Victoria to work in Melbourne and send money back to his parents, struggling to keep the farm afloat. Elise is a city girl and they meet, marry and welcome their two girls living in the city as well. But then Bill’s mother dies and Bill’s father, the taciturn ‘Pa’, summons him back to the family farm to help out. There’s no one else after all – Bill’s two sisters are married to farmers with their own properties, and anyway they’re women. Everyone knows that farming is man’s work. So Bill takes his wife and two daughters up to the Mallee where Elise struggles to be accepted by the local women, who are deeply suspicious of her different ways. She doesn’t know how to cook the hearty meals and snacks the shearers want, she doesn’t know the right sort of food when asked to ‘bring a plate’. The women are confused by her gloves, make up and dressy appearance. Her French meringues are met with disdain and disbelief. Elise spirals downwards into a depression, the harsh landscape of the Mallee sucking the life out of her. For Rose and Marjorie, Bill and Elise’s two daughters, Elise’s fragile nerves become something to not only navigate with delicacy at home but also something that local kids use as bullying tools.

On one hand, this is a very in depth look at what I think it must’ve been like to have a mental illness at a time when it was not particularly well understood and also in a location where isolation and ostracisation were rampant. Elise is deeply snubbed by local women, one even going out of her way to constantly berate and belittle her, telling her bluntly to her face that she doesn’t fit in or belong here. Elise is like the flowers she so desperately wants to grow, suffocating and dying in the scorching and unforgiving landscape. And Bill, her husband is so infuriating it hurts. Especially late in the book, when a terrible tragedy strikes that he immediately lays blame for. So much of Elise’s illness management falls on her two young daughters, who are pre-teens and teens during the bad times, as Elise worsens. A lot of the book is from Marjorie’s point of view and she doesn’t have the gentle knack of placating Elise and letting things slide by. Marjorie is more combative and she often finds herself on the receiving end of Elise’s mood swings, which bring scorn and criticism. This makes Marjorie even more belligerent and it turns into a cycle.

The pressure placed upon Rose and Marjorie (and Marjorie alone after Rose leaves for teachers college) is immense. They are two young girls and then teenagers, who don’t really know what they’re dealing with. Or why it’s happening. They have little in the way of support, given the way the locals treat Elise and the fact that the two men in their lives mostly seem to feel as though this is “women’s business” of fragile nerves and eventually Elise will be fine. I didn’t really like the character of Pa for a lot of the book – he’s a typical sexist traditionalist. But he actually kind of grew on me throughout the story and it seemed as though in the end, he was doing better at trying to understand and help Elise than her own husband was. Pa cares for his two granddaughters in the best way that he can when Elise is unable to, making Marjorie breakfast (even though he’s typically useless), keeping her out of the hot sun when she’d have waited there all day for Elise when she was in one of her manic phases, just generally trying to make sure life kept going even though it wasn’t his forte. Bill however, gave me the irrits especially at the end. His cruel, thoughtless words had such severe consequences and it didn’t even seem like he recognised this, or was sorry for it. Especially because it wasn’t true and what happened was a product of his own negligence and ignorance. He may not have known what to do, and he wouldn’t have been alone. But dumping this on his own children, saying it was their ‘job’ to look after their mother, was about the worst thing he could’ve done in terms of helping basically anyone in this equation.

For the first part of the book, I was mostly ambivalent about it but I ended up with a lot of anger and sadness towards Marjorie and Rose towards the end. I also really felt that the wider community were portrayed like mostly a bunch of jerks and then decided to be nice at the end and everyone felt they should be thanked for basically acting like actual decent human beings. If someone had literally ostracised and cruelly baited a family member of mine, one where it was quite obvious they were in a struggling situation as well and then decided like 10+ years later they might do one nice thing for them because they feel differently now, my overwhelming response wouldn’t be one of gratitude….

6/10

Book #181 of 2019

Wearing Paper Dresses is the 69th novel read for The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019. Just 11 titles to go and I’ll complete my goal.

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Blog Tour Review: Weapon by Lynette Noni

Weapon (Whisper #2)
Lynette Noni
Pantera Press
2019, 407p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

I already knew he was a psychopath. But now?
He’s more dangerous than ever.
And I have less than twenty-four hours to stop him.

After escaping Lengard and finding sanctuary with the Remnants, Alyssa Scott is desperate to save those she left behind ─ and the rest of the world ─ from the power-hungry scientist, Kendall Vanik. But secrets and lies block her at every turn, and soon Lyss is left questioning everything she has ever believed.

When long-lost memories begin to surface and the mysteries of her past continue to grow, Lyss battles to retain her hard-won control. Allies become enemies and enemies become allies, leaving her certain about only two things: when it comes to Speakers, nothing is ever as it seems… and the only person she can trust is herself.

Recently Lynette Noni has become one of my favourite YA authors with her series The Medoran Chronicles which got simply better and better with each book. Last year she released something totally new and different, Whisper, which was the first book in a duology. This concludes the series and I was really excited to find out what was going to happen to Alyssa after she escaped Lengard and was able to find some sort of freedom and sanctuary with the Remnants in the catacombs under Taronga Park Zoo.

I’ve read a lot of books since Whisper but it was so easy to settle back into this world and pick up precisely where I left off. Alyssa has spent almost a week recovering after her escape and the first thing she wants to do is go back to Lengard and rescue those that were left behind. But with Kael seemingly uninterested in fulfilling his promise of helping her at the present time, Alyssa is forced to wait and assess and try and come up with a new plan. She also needs to hone her skills using her ability.

This is a wild ride of a book. It’s absolutely packed with twists and turns, shocking reveals and revelations that leave Alyssa reeling on both a personal and ‘professional’ level concerning her powers and the powers of those around her. She will be forced to realise and deal with the fact that seemingly, everyone is lying to her. Even those she cares about the most. Another she cares about is lost to her, under the power of true evil and although she’s desperate to rescue them, she needs to bide her time and wait. With waiting comes information and Alyssa is going to need every single bit of information that she can gather in order to be able to defeat her nemesis and free the people of Lengard.

I absolutely love the world that Noni has created here, it utilised the setting of Sydney’s CBD so well and the ferries/harbour and locations around the zoo. This book gives the reader more background, especially concerning Alyssa and her upbringing and her family, which was something I always wanted more from in Whisper. It’s explained how she came to be in Lengard and why and all of this is woven together in a really expert way. It’s like the longest con ever and the way in which the pieces fall into place is very well done. Even though for me, there were some personal disappointments in how things panned out but the way in which they did were surprising and unexpected and I really enjoyed that about the story, that it gave me that shock value, made me question what I’d read in the previous book and reassess everything.

Alyssa really does go through the wringer here emotionally. She had a lot to deal with anyway in the previous book and this one just continues to pile things on, really and it’s up to her to try and sort out what she’s finding out and deal with it, as well as trying to decide who is lying to her, what they’re lying about and why they’re lying to her. Who has something that they want to hide so much that they’ll do anything and say anything to prevent her from finding out their secret? The pace in this is slower in the beginning as Alyssa recovers from her escape and tries to regather herself as well as find her role within the Remnants. But as you move through the book it picks up to breakneck pace and there’s just so much going on that it becomes about finding out those answers as quick as you can, putting everything together and wanting Alyssa to be the one who gets there first before she ends up in a situation that she can’t extract herself from. It’s amazing to realise who has been working against her from the beginning and who actually proves to be an ally, even when it seems like they might be an antagonist.

This was what I’ve come to expect from Lynette Noni novels and honestly, it’s too long until she’ll have another book out.

8/10

Book #178 of 2019

Weapon is the 69th book read for my participation in The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019

It was also the 7th and final book in my Mate-A-Thon Challenge.

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Review: The Confession by Jessie Burton

The Confession
Jessie Burton
Picador
2019, 464p
Copy courtesy Pan Macmillan AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The sensational new novel from the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist and The Muse.

One winter’s afternoon on Hampstead Heath in 1980, Elise Morceau meets Constance Holden and quickly falls under her spell. Connie is bold and alluring, a successful writer whose novel is being turned into a major Hollywood film. Elise follows Connie to LA, a city of strange dreams and swimming pools and late-night gatherings of glamorous people. But whilst Connie thrives on the heat and electricity of this new world where everyone is reaching for the stars and no one is telling the truth, Elise finds herself floundering. When she overhears a conversation at a party that turns everything on its head, Elise makes an impulsive decision that will change her life forever.

Three decades later, Rose Simmons is seeking answers about her mother, who disappeared when she was a baby. Having learned that the last person to see her was Constance Holden, a reclusive novelist who withdrew from public life at the peak of her fame, Rose is drawn to the door of Connie’s imposing house in search of a confession . . .

I’ve never read Jessie Burton before so this was a great opportunity to finally be able to try her work.  I remember I meant to read The Miniaturist which was made into a BBC television series, but I could never seem to fit it in. I even recorded the tv series but ended up deleting it as I wanted to read the book first. Still haven’t gotten to that yet!

The cover of this is incredibly eye catching, the picture used here doesn’t really do the colours justice. It’s set in two different timelines, the 1980s in London, LA and New York and also 2017 in London. In the 1980s, Elise Morceau, a young woman who left home as a teenager and works in a cafe, meets Constance Holden, a charismatic novelist and the two become embroiled in a passionate relationship. When one of Constance’s novels is optioned for a Hollywood movie, Constance asks Elise to accompany her out to LA while it’s being filmed. There top movie star Barbara Lowden finds herself leaning on Constance as they discuss the ins and outs of her star role and Elise finds herself on the outer.

In the present day, Elise’s daughter Rose is struggling. She’s in her 30s and has never known her mother after Elise disappeared when she was still very young. Rose has always wanted answers and her father hasn’t had any to give her. Rose is treading water – she’s working in a cafe and her 10 year relationship with partner Joe is stagnant. Joe has jacked in his job to realise his food truck dream that Rose has contributed to financially but she’s unimpressed with Joe’s lack of progress and work ethic, the comfortable wealth of his parents providing a cushy backdrop and little motivation for Joe to drum up business. After her father finally gives her a clue about her mother, Rose approaches novelist Constance Holden, determined to get some answers.

The beginning of this was amazing. I wasn’t sure what to read one night so I thought I’d read the first chapter of this and the first chapter of another book and then decide. I picked this up – and didn’t put it down! I ended up reading 100p before I had to go to bed and then raced through the rest of it the next day. The hook is so good and the opening chapters set it up perfectly, introducing the reader to Elise and Constance in the 1980s and then Rose in the present day.

Rose’s idea for approaching Constance has so many alarm bells ringing but she refuses to hear them and she gets quite annoyed when both her best friend and her boyfriend don’t seem supportive. I was sympathetic to Rose’s desire for answers – growing up without a mother obviously left a huge hole in her life and the fact that she just disappeared point blank, leaving a small Rose alone in an apartment until someone came home, would be a really difficult thing to deal with. What had made her do this? How had she never resurfaced? Was she even alive? Would the only answer Rose gets be a body at some stage? But her idea is so out there and the fact that she can’t really see the problem is a little concerning.

The story of Constance and Elise’s relationship is volatile. There’s an age gap between them – Elise is 22 or so and Constance around 36 when they meet. I think Constance is very confident in who she is, she’s also very demanding and seems to like getting her own way pretty much all of the time. She doesn’t make Elise uproot her life but she certainly encourages it and then when they get to LA, she is immediately distracted by many other things…the filming of her book into a movie, the lead actress, the lifestyle. Elise is bored and feeling neglected, wondering why she’s even there if Constance doesn’t really seem to want her or need her around. The cracks start to appear and an unhappy Elise makes waves in just about every direction. I think Elise’s youth came into play here, as well as her own tragic loss of her mother early in life, when she feels the need to take revenge after she is hurt. She kind of tosses a grenade and then it’s all about the fallout.

Rose is not as combative as Elise (of course she also has a completely different dynamic with Constance) and she’s more aware of the things she can and cannot press Constance on, although that doesn’t stop her from occasionally trying to get something out of Constance, fishing for some sort of hint or reference to the past. After a very long hiatus, Constance is writing a book and I think Rose feels as though the answers she seeks will be in the narrative. She seems to be trying to read between the lines for the answers she wants, somehow feeling that Constance is writing this book just so she’ll know what she needs to know. It can’t end well it just seems to be a matter of time before Rose’s deception is uncovered.

I found this a fascinating read and I loved both timelines. I definitely need to go back and read Jessie Burton’s other novels.

8/10

Book #179 of 2019

 

 

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October Reading Wrap Up

Total Books Read: 29
Fiction: 26
Non-Fiction: 3
Library Books: 4
Books On My TBR List: 7
Books in a Series: 12
Authors I’d Never Read Before: 12
Male/Female Authors: 4/25
Kindle Books: 2
Books I Owned or Bought: 11
Favourite Book(s): I Am Change by Suzy Zail, Guest House For Young Widows: Among The Women Of ISIS by Azadeh Moaveni.
Least Favourite Books: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Books That Qualify For Challenges: 11

October was a big reading month.

I’m not 100% sure why I managed to get through so many books – a combination of having a lot of good books to read, making more reading time, especially at night when I’d usually be watching mindless TV and also joining the Mate-A-Thon Challenge, which had set challenges but all pages read counted towards your overall total, so I was motivated to read more and add more pages for my team! I read a lot of really solid books in October, but there were two real stand outs for me. Both of these titles tackled women’s issues and being women in difficult situations. In I Am Change, the main character is a young girl in rural Uganda, struggling to break tradition and get herself an education so that she might become a writer. This was an amazing, eye opening book, often difficult to read at times. And Guest House For Young Widows was also difficult too, in lots of ways, challenging thinking about women who left in some cases, safe and secure countries to go and be a part of something new. I only had one book that I didn’t really enjoy that much for October, which was an audiobook. Actually the only audiobook I think I have listened to this year. It’s not really my preferred format but it suited my situation at the time.

This is my November ARC pile. It’s actually relatively tame but I do have quite a lot of other books I hope to read this month. I’ve got a few out from my local library at the moment plus I’ve bought some recently that I am looking to make time for as well. I am definitely trying to read more books that I own, rather than just moving them to my unread shelf! I’m attempting to make my way through the Leigh Bardugo Grisha books – I read Shadow & Bone this month, which was actually a re-read but it’s been 6 or so years since I’ve read it! Hopefully I’ll move on to Siege & Storm this month. I also have to read Smoke In The Sun to round out that duology and considering I have In Darkness Visible in my ARC pile, I picked up the first book, The Twentieth Man from my local library. In October I also bought The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth and I also have Scrublands Silver by Chris Hammer which I’d like to fit in too. I’ve heard really amazing things about both of those and I want to see what all the fuss is about! Last month I got through all of my ARC pile except one so that rolls over to this month too, I need to fit it in because it’s the December read for my online book club.

The year is beginning to wind down, we are getting pretty close to the end now. We will be heading away in mid December or so, trekking north for Christmas and I won’t be taking any books away with me, although I’ll have my iPad and access to everything that’s on there. Ideally I’d like to be finished with my challenges by then, and just take the three weeks that I’m away to read purely books that I’ve had on my iPad for a long time and fluffy holiday type reads. So November is my ‘ticking things off’ month, where I hope to finish my Goodreads challenge and try and get to 80 books read for my Australian Women Writers Challenge.

Hope you all had a great October!

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Mini Reviews {8}: What I’ve Been Reading Lately

Flame In The Mist (Flame In The Mist #1)
Renee Ahdieh
Hodder & Stoughton
2017, 402p
Read from my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Mariko has always known that being a woman means she’s not in control of her own fate. But Mariko is the daughter of a prominent samurai and a cunning alchemist in her own right, and she refuses to be ignored. When she is ambushed by a group of bandits known as the Black Clan enroute to a political marriage to Minamoto Raiden – the emperor’s son – Mariko realises she has two choices: she can wait to be rescued. . . or she can take matters into her own hands, hunt down the clan and find the person who wants her dead.

Disguising herself as a peasant boy, Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan’s hideout and befriends their leader, the rebel ronin Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, Okami. Ranmaru and Okami warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. But as Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets that will force her to question everything she’s ever known.

This was chosen for my Mate-A-Thon participation, for the prompt read a title with the letters M A T E in the title. I’ve read one of Renee Ahdieh’s books before (although I haven’t read the second in that duology!). I actually spotted the sequel of this, Smoke In The Sun on the display shelf at my local library and it had such a lovely cover that I grabbed it and was able to find this one as well and it fit a prompt perfectly.

For the most part I enjoyed this but there were things that irritated me about it. Mariko is a privileged daughter on her way to be married to the son of the Emperor when her convoy is attacked and everyone except her is murdered. She decides to hunt them down, despite the fact she survived by accident rather than any real skill. And when she finds them they sort of kidnap her and pretend like they’re going to kill her but most of the time they’re just massive dicks to her and it got a bit annoying, when they were just tormenting her for the literal sake of it. She’s disguised as a boy so it’s all confusing when she starts having feelings for one of the Clan and in response he doesn’t feel as though he can trust her because there’s something about her/him that unnerves him blah blah. I actually couldn’t tell at first which of two characters she was supposed to be going to have feelings for but then she picks the most annoying one because of course.

But underneath these childish two bickering was an entertaining story. The world is interesting (I think it’s supposed to be kind of inspired by Mulan but I’ve never seen Mulan nor read any versions of it so I didn’t have feelings about that either way) and I liked some of the characters. I like Mariko when she wasn’t bickering with some of the Black Clan but she needed to take her own advice and not react so much. She keeps priding herself on being calm but she also keeps biting at every jibe that comes her way. I definitely want to see what happens – this book finished on a bit of a cliffhanger, probably the most interesting thing that happened all book and Mariko puts herself in an interesting position too. So I’m glad I already have the next one from the library so I can finish it off.

It was okay. Not amazing but certainly enough to keep me entertained for an afternoon.

7/10

Book #174 of 2019

Book #5 in my Mate-A-Thon Challenge.

We Hunt The Flame (Sands Of Arawiya #1)
Hafsah Faizal
Farrar Straus Giroux
2019, 469p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

People lived because she killed. People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Set in a world inspired by ancient Arabia.

I’d heard some really good things about this online and the cover drew me a couple of times when I was browsing in a local bookstore.

I picked it up a couple weeks ago and when I was looking for a book that might have a map for my Mate-A-Thon challenge, I figured I’d check this one and yep – there’s a map! So it became part of that challenge.

Not going to sugar coat it, this started off quite slow for me. In fact so slow that I actually put it down and basically fell asleep one afternoon – but it probably wasn’t all the book’s fault. I was lying in the sun and it was the first good spring day in a while, so it was a combination of things. I picked it back up again a couple hours later and it definitely picked up and the further into it, the more intrigued by the world and the happenings I became. It’s nothing terribly unique to be honest – it’s set in a world that mimics or is inspired by ancient Arabia, a world that used to possess magic. But a bit over 100 years ago, the six sisters that controlled? were the reason for magic? the power of? I’m not sure really, died. And now there’s no magic. The world is split into caliphates with a kind of overruling Sultan who is becoming more power hungry by the day – there’s also a weird creeping forest that’s covering the land. Zafira receives an invitation to go and retrieve some sort of book from some island that will help return magic to the world. She is one of the only people who can navigate the creeping forest and she hunts to provide for her village, despite the fact that women are not valued in such a way and are not supposed to do such things.

Zafira of course has special abilities, the devotion of her childhood friend and she also catches the attention of the man sent to make sure she succeeds in her task (and then he must kill her). At times it felt like there were a lot of things I’d read before but a lot of the rest of it was fresh and I appreciated the interesting setting. There’s a strange group of people basically thrown together (ah the reluctant allies, one of my favourites!) and at first there’s a lot of hostility and distrust but the further they get, the more they kind of grow on each other and bonds of loyalty are formed and strengthened. Things got really interesting probably the last third of the book or so and it’s definitely enough to make me want to pick up the next in the series, whenever it’s going to be released.

7/10

Book #177 of 2019

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Review: Just One Wish by Rachael Johns

Just One Wish
Rachael Johns
Harlequin AUS
2019, 436p
Copy courtesy of the author

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Three women, three secrets, one life-changing journey. Alice has always been a trailblazer as a scientist, activist, and mother. She knew her choices would involve sacrifices, but now, on the eve of her eightieth birthday, she’s beginning to wonder if she’s sacrificed too much.

Alice’s daughter Sappho rebelled against her unconventional upbringing, choosing to marry young and embrace life as a homemaker, but her status as a domestic goddess has recently taken a surprising turn.

Ged has always been the peacemaker between her grandmother and mother. A tenacious journalist she knows what she wants in life and love, yet when everything in her world starts falling apart, she begins to question whether she really knows anyone at all.

At a crossroads in each of their lives, Alice, Sappho and Ged embark on a celebratory trip together, but instead of bringing them closer, the holiday sparks life-changing consequences and lifts the lid on a fifty-year secret.

Can Ged rescue her family if their story is built on a betrayal?

In the interest of full disclosure, Rachael Johns is not only one of my favourite authors but she’s also what I’d call a close friend. We’ve talked on a regular basis for many years – from just before her first book, Jilted, was released. I’ve read all her books. I also help moderate her online Book Club on Facebook and so, I readily acknowledge that for me, I’m probably not the most impartial when it comes to reading her books. But I also had the chance to read this before it was published and provide some feedback with a few questions she was having about parts of the story, as a reader and as someone who regularly reviews books. So I like to think I’m also pretty honest too.

Just One Wish revolves around three generations of women from the same family – staunch feminist and grandmother Alice, her daughter Sappho (who goes by Marie), a proud purveyor of “new domesticity”, aka being a very traditional housewife, and Marie’s daughter Ged, a journalist. When Alice turns 80, she surprises her daughter and granddaughter with tickets to an Elvis cruise and for each of them, it reveals something very different in their lives. For Alice it’s about catching a glimpse of what she turned her back on many years ago, Marie comes to a shocking revelation about herself and Ged’s life takes a new turn both professionally, as she seeks to write Alice’s memoirs and also personally as she moves on from a relationship that has broken down.

Each of the women are at different stages in their lives – Alice has recently retired, for reasons that become clear later in the story and Marie is discovering a career for the first time, growing her social media following about new domesticity. Ged is looking forward to a promotion but soon finds that life has other plans for her. The thing that I so enjoyed about this was the complex issues the three women are facing that blend together perfectly to create a cohesive narrative that doesn’t feel too crammed or overcrowded. The women are very different and at times there is conflict but the relationships they have despite their differences and the decisions they sometimes make, hold the story together. Alice was one of the early feminists, well known for raising Marie as a single mother holding down a full time job and also finding time to campaign for women’s rights. She’s lived a fascinating and worthy life but it hasn’t been without its downsides. Her daughter felt the sting of being raised in a situation that was still frowned upon and instead of embracing the rights that Alice fought so hard for, has seemingly regressed back to a 1950s housewife, cooking and cleaning for her husband. Her two children are grown and have left the nest and seemingly by accident, Ged’s hooking Marie up on instagram has made her a sensation. She’s now well known and does YouTube videos on how she keeps her happy home. Alice and her have definitely had their differences – Alice never married and Marie is the very definition of a traditional housewife. But at the very core of it, Alice did everything she did for Marie so that she and other women like her might have the choice. What Marie/Sappho discovers about herself rocks a lot of people I think, and it’s something that I think was portrayed very well, both with Marie’s back and forth over it and internal agony and also the views and thoughts of those around her, as she goes through it.

Ged’s relationship with Alice is very special too and this was something I could relate to because I’m very close to the grandmother I have left in my life. She was a huge part of my childhood, I credit her for the reason I am the reader I am today. She always bought me books as a child and an avid reader herself, always encouraged me in the pursuit when others were telling me to get my head out of a book. Although probably not what would one would define as a feminist, she always worked, even during a time when it was unusual. Alice is clearly such a role model for Ged, someone that she really looks up to and admires as well as loves and she’s desperate to tell her story, for other people to be able to read about her and see her the way Ged does. I really enjoyed their bond, which is not without its little squabbles that family members have but ultimately Alice, Marie and Ged all support each other during the difficult times that come about in this story, even when they perhaps don’t agree with decision that have been made or are being made.

There’s romance here too (in several different forms actually) and not gonna lie, when I read this earlier I felt like I really knew where I wanted Ged to end up in the end and who with. I enjoyed it for the difference of it – two people who didn’t have that much in common, who had some arguments, who had some differences in what they wanted out of life. It wasn’t all smooth sailing and it’s definitely complicated by forces from other areas also but I liked the way it grew and changed and adapted and almost snuck up on them both. For me, it gave a real sense of realism, genuine connection that is made from working at it, listening to each other and growing and changing in ways that aren’t necessarily expected. And even though I enjoyed the romance, it’s not the core part of the story, it’s just like the glazed veggies that accompany your meal. Delicious, but not the bit that’s the most important. The three women, that’s the crucial part of the story. This book also contains the most perfect scene and I can’t talk about it because it’s such a spoiler. But it’s the incredible blend of happiness and heartbreak, old and new and love and grief.

9/10

Book #176 of 2019

Just One Wish is the 68th book read for The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019

 

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