All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Last Train by Sue Lawrence

The Last Train
Sue Lawrence
Allen & Unwin
2018, 342p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

At 7 p.m. on 28 December 1879, a violent storm batters the newly built iron rail bridge across the River Tay, close to the city of Dundee. Ann Craig is waiting for her husband, the owner of the largest local mill, to return home. From her window Ann sees a strange and terrible sight as the bridge collapses, and the lights of the train in which he is travelling plough down into the freezing river waters.

As Ann manages the grief and expectations of family and friends, amid a town mourning its loved ones, doubt is cast on whether Robert was on the train, after all. If not, where is he, and who is the mysterious woman who is first to be washed ashore?

In 2015, Fiona Craig wakes to find that her partner Pete, an Australian restaurateur, has cleared the couple’s bank account before abandoning his car at the local airport and disappearing. When the police discover his car is stolen, Fiona conducts her own investigation into Pete’s background, slowly uncovering dark secrets and strange parallels with the events of 1879.

This was an interesting book….and I mean that in two ways. The first way is interesting as in really compelling. It starts with the most amazing scene of Ann Craig, awaiting her husband’s return from a visit to his aunt. There’s a raging storm and she quite literally sees the train her husband should be on plunge into the river when the bridge collapses. There are no survivors and the conditions are quite impossible. Basically all loved ones can do is wait until the bodies start to appear.

Ann and her husband do not have a happy marriage and her primary concern is fear for her future when she sees the train go into the river. Although married to a wealthy man, she has no wealth of her own. But as the days pass and his body is yet to be recovered, it has to be questioned if he was even on the train. And if he wasn’t, then why not? And where is he?

In the modern day part of the story, Fiona Craig discovers that her Australian partner Pete has vanished. She’s already lost one partner, her husband, to cancer. And now Pete, who has wormed his way into not only her heart but that of her young son as well, has left too, but voluntarily. Fiona has to move back in with her parents and finds that she cannot let the idea of Pete go. She’s determined to find out where he went and why he left them.

Both of these stories start off in ways that suck you straight into the story. I started reading this before I had to go pick up my kids one day – my husband was at work so I had to take a bus to get them and I honestly could not put it down and ended up taking it with me on the bus to read and also reading it at the school while I waited for them to finish. Both of the stories were such great mysteries – was Robert really on the train? Is he dead? If not, why wasn’t he? Where is he? He must know of the train’s demise and that his family thinks he’s possibly dead. And why would Pete just vanish from such a happy life? Good relationship, excellent job that was really starting to get him noticed. Fiona is so completely baffled – it seems they had no real issues leading up to Pete’s abrupt departure although when she starts to look into it, contacting previous work places etc, she is told some things that really make her questions what Pete has told and and also the sort of person that he was.

And then there’s the other sort of interesting that this book was….which was a bit less positive in that both of these mysteries had such great set ups for me, they also both had really disappointing conclusions. In the case of Ann, her story escalates so quickly it’s almost dizzying and then some of the most important stuff happens off the page and you only get one scene that kind of wraps everything up and tells you her fate but in a kind of unsatisfactory manner. In Ann’s actions, I can well understand her motivation. Women had so few rights in those days, even over their own children. And for all her faults, Ann did love her children. It’s quite sad that she did something so desperately to preserve her relationship with them that in the end, didn’t have the intended effect. Her planning was poor however and I found her resolution probably realistic but quite disappointing and a little depressing.

The resolution of Pete was probably for me, the weakest part of the entire story. I was really looking forward to some answers about Pete and it seems as if we get some and everything is resolved – only for once again, something to be alluded to and then it skips forward to an ‘after’ and the explanation is both disappointing and lacking in any impact whatsoever. It should’ve been a very powerful part of the story but instead I had to go back and read it again because I thought I’d missed something major – but no, it was just basically that vague. It left me kind of shaking my head because it had been such a good chunk of this story and the ideas were there but….the execution just left me wanting more. A lot more.

I did enjoy this – loved the setting, loved the way the two mysteries were woven. I just think that the resolutions needed a bit more thought and just a little bit more page time. But it was still a good read.

7/10

Book #28 of 2018

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Blog Tour Review: Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard

Goodbye, Perfect
Sara Barnard
Pan Macmillan AUS
2018, 320p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

When I was wild, you were steady . . .
Now you are wild – what am I?

Eden McKinley knows she can’t count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with the boyfriend Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. Especially when the police arrive on her doorstep and Eden finds out that the boyfriend is actually their music teacher, Mr Cohn.

Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie’s location, and that’s the way it has to stay. There’s no way she’s betraying her best friend. Not even when she’s faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts.

As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.

I found this to be a really interesting book that gave me a lot of topics to mull over.

Eden and Bonnie are best friends and have been for a long time. Eden was generally considered the wild one – adopted after time in foster homes and being in and out of her mother’s care, she has occasionally acted out. Bonnie, on the other hand, was the excellent student who was focused on getting excellent grades for her GCSE’s. When Bonnie disappears less than a week before their exams start, no one is more surprised than Eden. After all, they’re supposed to be best friends. And now Eden finds out that not only has Bonnie had a secret boyfriend for some months, but that secret boyfriend is also one of their teachers.

The police and probably both Bonnie and Eden’s parents are convinced that Eden most likely knows where Bonnie is and they want her to confess. But for Eden, loyalty is important and Bonnie’s friendship is not something she’s going to risk. At all. Eden may not understand why Bonnie has entered into a relationship with a man much older than her and a teacher but she’s not going to rat her out.

One of the interesting things that I think this book addresses is in the media coverage of Bonnie’s disappearance. She’s reported missing and once it’s discovered that she’s run off with her music teacher, a man in his mid-20s, there’s a large print and screen media campaign to try and flush them out. A lot of the focus is on the fact that Bonnie is a “good girl” – quiet and studious, not the sort of person who would do this sort of thing. What even is a good girl? Bonnie is a teenager, subject to whims and desires and you could argue that her very character made her somewhat an ideal target for what is essentially, a man in a position of power preying on someone more vulnerable. Bonnie is so studious, so focused on her exams and getting good grades and doing this or that, that the strain begins to show in the months leading up to her disappearance. But the focus of the media is on her ‘goodness’, the fact that she’s been raised right, from a good family, like this somehow makes her exempt from crushes or even rash and reckless actions. And this is something you see quite often in real life – girls and women are dissected in terms of good or bad behaviour and held up and judged accordingly. I had no doubt that if it were someone like Eden that had run off with her teacher, the media coverage would most likely have had a very different focus – capitalising on her ‘troubled’ upbringing, her mother’s issues, the fact that she was taken into care and no doubt that no matter how much love and devotion her adopted family had lavished on her, she couldn’t escape her roots. Bonnie’s mother even levels a similar sort of accusation at Eden at one stage during the book.

Even though the book is told from the perspective of Eden, who knows nothing about Bonnie and Mr Cohn before they disappear, I think the author did an amazing job of showing how it developed and how Eden found it so completely unbelievable that Bonnie could find herself in this position….Eden is in a position to listen to people who explain to her about grooming. I felt that Eden’s relationship with her adoptive family is amazing. It’s clear she still has a standoffishness to her, particularly towards her older adopted sister. Eden’s adoptive parents already had a child of their own when they adopted both Eden and her younger biological sister and Eden struggles with feelings of inadequacy compared to her adoptive sister. There are times when she also refuses her adoptive mother’s overtures too but it’s very clear how protective she is of Eden but also how careful she is around her so as not to disturb their still developing relationship. It’s a very unique family environment which is handled with great care.

I really enjoyed this and the thought processes I had while reading it. I am way beyond teenage years but not so beyond that I couldn’t understand Eden’s reasoning for several of her decisions. I could also see the other side too so those sorts of internal debates were an added experience.

8/10

Book #25 of 2018

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Review: Off Limits by Clare Connelly

Off Limits
Clare Connelly
Harlequin Dare
2018, 182p
Copy courtesy of Harlequin AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

“I want to taste you tonight.”

With chemistry this hot, it’s worth getting burned…

Billionaire Jack Grant is totally off-limits to Gemma Picton. He’s wild, deliciously dangerous…and her boss. When working late turns X-rated, it’s better than her wildest imaginings—and Gemma’s imagined a lot! But Jack has major emotional baggage, so when Gemma starts wanting to heal his heart as well as enjoy his body, she knows she’s in big trouble…

I read a lot of Mills & Boon novels from the time I was probably 11 or 12. My nan had a subscription and I started off only being allowed to read the ‘Sweet’ ones (no sex) or ones my mother had read and deemed ok. But I was a very fast reader, far faster than my mother and eventually she got tired of me pestering her if I could read this book or that and just let me read whatever. I was still developing my reading tastes at the time and just wanted to read anything that was handy. It took me a while to decide what I enjoyed and soon I learned to cherry pick based on author or plot, knowing that I’d enjoy some more than others.

I haven’t read much M&B in the last decade or so. I’ve read the odd one that’s caught my eye and when I heard they were launching a new category, I was curious. I was offered the chance to read one of the first titles from this new imprint and so I thought I’d give it a go.

The boss-employee trope is not one of my favourites and this one is made a bit ickier when I realised that Jack seems to work from home and Gemma is his ‘in house counsel’. To be honest, I don’t even know what that means but I’m pretty sure no one’s job description should involve waking up their naked boss. I found that scene (which is actually the opener) really distasteful and it made me query why it should be deemed okay just because Jack is super hot. Gemma works for Jack. He should be expected to conduct himself in a professional and respectful manner and deliberately being naked when she comes to wake him up (because Jack is a billionaire that’s apparently too lazy to get out of bed on time on his own) is not at all what constitutes respectful and professional. If Jack were old and saggy, or big and threatening or well, basically anything other than hot with cut abs and a tattoo and an Irish drawl, it’d be gross that Gemma was expected to put up with that. For me, it’s still gross. Gemma is an intelligent, capable, professional woman. But the sight of a butt turns her into a quivering wreck. Romances can still be sexy and not play with what really is a sexual harassment suit waiting to happen. I got the feeling Jack enjoyed making Gemma wake him up naked because he thinks she’s all buttoned up and icy. She’s at work, Jack. Not on a Girls Gone Wild vacation.

It just went downhill from there. Jack is an asshole with what are supposed to deep seated issues but when the story finally spills out it falls really flat and doesn’t seem to warrant the attitude Jack has towards well, everything. There’s more unprofessional behaviour (orgasms in the board room like 2 minutes before people walk in for a meeting. Really? You think people wouldn’t notice? And even grosser, you think people wouldn’t be able to smell it? Sex and even some forms of foreplay leaves a pretty obvious calling card).  Jack’s insistence on keeping things separate is also rubbish, considering he really has no idea what boundaries are and how one should probably respect them. His attitude towards women is pretty horrendous as well (mostly fucktoys for his amusement, since his wife’s death has left him so devastated).

I just don’t feel like this was deep enough for me. I never really felt the connection between the characters, or the chemistry. I couldn’t see at all why Gemma would be so interested in Jack. He treated her with such disrespect, even in regards to her work. She was the only one who had stayed in the position since his wife died, you got the feeling the list of departed was rather long. Either because he’d shagged them or just been hideous to them. Or maybe because they didn’t care to wake him up naked. I don’t know. But Jack wasn’t an attractive person, his bitterness and brooding just seemed like a convenient excuse not to be mature about things. Gemma’s background was interesting and perhaps it explained why she stayed all that time but it wasn’t explored in a deep enough way. About the only highlight in this story was her relationship with her grandmother, which was excellent. Both believable and witty.

This was quick but it was unfortunately quite a disappointing read.

3/10

Book #27 of 2018

 

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Blog Tour Review: Differently Normal by Tammy Robinson

Differently Normal
Tammy Robinson
Hachette NZ
2018, 344p
Copy courtesy Hachette AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure, DIFFERENTLY NORMAL is about first love and the sacrifices you’ll make for the ones you hold close. For fans of Nicholas Sparks and Jojo Moyes.

For Maddy, life is all about routine. It has to be, to keep her sister with autism happy and healthy. With just Maddy and her mother as Bee’s full-time carers, there’s no time in Maddy’s life for complications like friends, let alone a boyfriend. So when Bee joins a new Riding for the Disabled stable and they meet Albert, the last thing on Maddy’s mind is falling in love.

Some things, she’s about to learn, are outside of our control. Albert has resigned himself to always being a disappointment to his strict father. When he meets Maddy, he gets a glimpse of what being part of a family can be like, and of the tremendous sacrifices that people will make for the ones that they love.

DIFFERENTLY NORMAL is a heart-wrenching tale of love and loss, because sometimes it takes letting someone else in to discover who you really are . . .

This is the first Tammy Robinson book I’ve ever read. I think it’s her first traditionally published title but she has quite an extensive backlist available on Amazon. At first glance of the cover I didn’t realise that this is actually very much a YA/NA story. Both Maddy and Albert  have recently finished high school. Both are also working – in Maddy’s case it was easy to take the full time job at the place she worked at through school. It’s close, she needs the money to contribute and she can work her shifts around her mother’s work so that one of them is always around to care for Maddy’s sister Bee, who is intellectually disabled. In Albert’s case, he fell into a job after he volunteered at a stable and now he’s scraping together enough money to get out of the house he’s grown up in, away from his father’s domineering personality and non-stop criticism. Nothing Albert does pleases his father and although he knows he shouldn’t bother, Albert still can’t help but crave some sort of approval.

Albert and Maddy meet when Maddy takes Bee to the stables where Albert works for Bee to do Riding for the Disabled therapy. Albert is pretty attracted to her from the very beginning but Maddy has her life quite mapped out and she’s got no time for a boyfriend. They don’t tend to understand just how much time taking care of someone like Bee requires. Albert sets out to prove her wrong though – he likes Bee as well and he’s happy for Maddy to bring Bee along when they meet up if it’s her turn to be looking after her. And slowly, Albert wins Maddy over.

Both Albert and Maddy have lives that I would say don’t fully satisfy them although in Albert’s case it’s more openly obvious. He enjoys his work at the stables and he feels as though he could be good at it, moving into other areas and so do his superiors. Nothing is ever good enough for his father though, who is judgemental and verbally abusive. Through Albert’s eyes you watch the disintegration of his parent’s marriage as his mother retreats further and further from her life and his blustering father either remains oblivious or blames his mother’s discontent on Albert’s inability to make something of his life. It’s not difficult to understand precisely why Albert wants to leave so badly. No one would want to stay in that environment.

Conversely, Maddy knows that leaving isn’t really an option for her. Her mother can’t cope with Bee’s needs alone and work as well. Respite care is difficult and not always reliable and despite the restrictions Bee places upon her life, Maddy genuinely loves her sister and wouldn’t have it any other way. She has natural frustrations about not being as free as other people – she sees to have very few friends, knowing that her inability to be spontaneous and also make plans have led to people drifting away. But Bee is her first priority and that’s an incredibly admirable thing. Maddy, Bee and their mother are a tight family unit – they have struggles, generally of the money variety and it does seem without saying it that their mother does feel the stresses and pressures of single parenting with one child being severely autistic.

I found myself quite charmed by the burgeoning relationship between Albert and Maddy. Both of them feel like very genuine characters who talk and act in a way you’d expect teens to and their relationship also develops in a realistic way as well. They share a lot of themselves with each other. For Albert, Maddy’s family might not have a lot of money but there’s a love and warmth that has always been missing from his own. Maddy and her mother do work as a team, both of them always prioritising Bee often to the detriment of themselves. Maddy has hopes and dreams of her own but has accepted them as unrealistic with her life. Although often a bit prickly, Maddy has a strength and maturity far beyond her age.

To be honest, the only issue I had with this book was the ending. I wasn’t particularly expecting that direction, especially as there’s a swerve and then another one but it just didn’t really work for me as far as having the sort of emotional impact on me as a reader that it should have. I wasn’t entirely sure why some of the drama happened what I would term as ‘off page’ either because that contributed to the disconnected feeling. It was used as a catalyst for change too, but why did it need to be? Probably some of those changes should’ve been made long ago.

A promising start and I appreciated the dedication to portraying a family struggling to make ends meet in various jobs whilst also caring full time for a disabled family member. There was a cute romance with promise but I felt as though the tightness of the story lost its way toward the end.

7/10

Book #29 of 2018

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Review & Author Q&A: Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-Time Husband by Barbara Toner

Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-Time Husband
Barbara Toner
Penguin Random House AUS
2018, 373p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

When Adelaide Nightingale, Louisa Worthington, Maggie O’Connell and Pearl McLeary threw caution to the winds in the most brazen way imaginable, disgrace was inevitable.’

It’s September 1919. The war is over, and everyone who was going to die from the flu has done so. But there’s a shortage of husbands and women in strife will flounder without a male to act on their behalf.

And in the southern NSW town of Prospect, four ladies bereft of men have problems that threaten to overwhelm them.

Beautiful Louisa Worthington, whose dashing husband died for King and Country, is being ruined by the debts he left behind.

Young Maggie O’Connell, who lost her mother in childbirth and her father to a redhead, is raising her two wayward brothers and fighting for land she can’t prove is hers.

Adelaide Nightingale has a husband, but he’s returned from the war in a rage and is refusing to tackle the thieving manager of their famous family store.

Pearl McLeary, Adelaide’s new housekeeper, must find her missing fiancé before it’s too late and someone dies.

Thank God these desperate ladies have a solution- a part-time husband who will rescue them all. To find him, they’ll advertise. To afford him, they’ll share . . .

I loved the idea of this book. Post-WWI Australia is not a setting I encounter a lot and I was very intrigued with it. It was a very strange time – whilst men were away at war women had to take on roles they would previously not have done. There were men who had not gone to war (Australia did not have conscription for WWI and therefore all that signed up were volunteers) found their jobs given to returning soldiers or that those soldiers had returned to reclaim the jobs they’d had before they left. There had been the Spanish flu epidemic on the tail end of WWI and many areas had been drastically affected by both. Whereas flu generally killed the elderly or the very young, this one killed those in the prime of their lives.

All four of the women are struggling, in different ways. Louisa is now a widow and is also being targeted about her husband’s debts. Although Adelaide’s husband returned, he’s struggling and isn’t interested in her claims that the family general store is being ripped off by the manager. Maggie is very young, left to raise her hellion little brothers and Pearl is new in town. She’s taken a job as a housekeeper but her real reasons for being in Prospect, NSW are to try and find her wayward fiancé, who returned from the war and disappeared.

As women in 1919, they are restricted by social expectations and also aren’t particularly taken seriously. Adelaide can’t get anyone to listen to her about the general store manager, the men that Pearl must talk to in seeking her fiancé won’t give her any answers. Louisa has her own problems and Maggie needs a firm hand to help her pull the boys into line. And perhaps get back the land that is rightfully belonging to her family. The idea of hiring a man to ‘share’ between them is a great one, albeit scandalous, should anyone ever find out the man’s true reason for being in town. A man will be able to do the things that they as ladies cannot do, conduct conversations that they cannot indulge in. Unfortunately, the choice is entrusted to someone else and they send them…..Martin Duffy.

From first glance it’s appallingly obvious that Martin Duffy is not the man that any of the ladies need. He doesn’t have the confident and assured manner to deal with many different types of people but that doesn’t matter to several of them, who rather fancy that Martin Duffy could become less of a figurative husband and more of an actual husband. Although Martin does do his best to investigate the various problems the four ladies are happen, he’s rather inadequate for the task. I think some of the story does fall a bit flat because it relies a lot on the premise that these four women have faith in him to help them out. Their attitudes towards him are quite interesting – and there’s a lot of bickering over who has the greater problem and needs him to sort it out for them first. The women are not what you’d call friends – they’re from different walks of life, different social classes, they have various feuds and foibles between them and at times their relationships really do reflect this is a forced situation. Four women who need a man to sort something for them in a world where they cannot reliably do it for themselves. Of them all, Pearl is the most capable. She really only needs a man to accompany her to the railway construction sites in order to try and get some information from the men working there to find if her fiancé has been through this area. She is able to keep Adelaide’s house, mind her child and be the voice of reason at almost every turn. Maggie is young and panicked, saddled with a stressful situation and judged by quite a few of the locals. Adelaide came across as high strung but she had the right idea and I did find the journey for her and her husband very interesting – I wish a bit more could have been spent on it. Louisa was the character I had the most trouble connecting with and there were a lot of…..unresolved issues with her story. My favourite part of the story was Pearl and her love interest.

I did feel a little of this story was left unfinished but in the below Q&A with author Barbara Toner there’s a bit of information that helps with that feeling!

7/10

Book #20 of 2018

And now……10 Questions with Barbara Toner

Q1. Hello Barbara and welcome to my blog. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for me. To start, could you share your road to publication?

This is the twelfth book I’ve had published and I wrote it without finding a publisher first because I wanted to take my time with it.  Once a book has been commissioned (as the sequel to Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband has been) then there is a deadline and this creates an urgency, which can he helpful but not necessarily.  When I was more or less happy with it, I gave it to my agent, who offered it to Bantam who offered us a deal. But if you mean how was I first published, then I did write a commissioned book. I’d just had my first baby and was looking for some guidance on combining motherhood with a career. When I couldn’t find it, I decided to write it and Double Shift, A Practical Guide For Working Mothers was commissioned.

Q2. Let’s talk writing! Are you a meticulous planner or a wing it and see where things go writer?

Bit of both. I do a lot of thinking before I start and I make a long list of everything I know about the book I think I want to write. This is very helpful for brain sorting.  With some books I’ve stuck very closely to the original outline but with this book I knew where I was headed but that was it. I   worked out the twists and turns as I went along.  There was a lot of plotting because I had four heroines whose stories needed to be entwined.

Q3. Is writing a full-time occupation for you or do you balance it with other work?

It’s full time. I spent most of my life combining books with journalism and that was easily done and very rewarding.

Q4. Is there anywhere you prefer to write (such as a study/office or café) and anything you consider essential for the mood, such as coffee/tea or music?

Mostly I write at my desk in my study. I work for about five hours a day with a break for lunch.  I get up and wander about as often as I can remember or when something in the plot is bothering me.  Usually I do a couple of hours revision before lunch and three hours new work in the afternoon.  No tea, no coffee, no music.

Q5. How much research did you have to do for the 1919 small town setting for Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part Time Husband?

I did quite a lot of reading about rural NSW in 1919.  This helped me with the political and social landscape but   then I only fact checked when the need arose. I’ve almost certainly made mistakes in the interests of a good story for which I apologise to anyone offended by them.

Q6. What made you include the walers in the story? Was there a prior interest or something that just came up?

The curious thing about the walers was that I wanted Louisa to be under siege and was tantalised by the idea of   horses being delivered to her in the dead of night.  I was well into the book before I came across the walers and they fitted perfectly into the plot that was unfolding for her.

Q7. You’ve written both non-fiction and fiction titles. For you, how different (or similar!) are the processes?

The process is very different.  Factual books require meticulous research and a lot of analysis then cross-checking of the information.  Fiction for me is largely about dreaming a world into existence and making it both accessible and compelling to people other than yourself.

Q8. For some fun…….what 3 things would you want if you were stranded on a desert island?

Laptop, wi fi and water. I’d be utterly useless.

Q9. What 5 books or authors would you recommend?

Authors:  EM Forster, Patrick de Witt, Elizabeth Strout, William Thackeray, Richard Pike Bissell

Q10. And lastly…..what’s next for you? Can you share anything about what you might be working on or have plans to?

As above am currently writing the sequel to this book, set in the same place about the four ladies ten years later.

Thanks once again for joining me on my blog! ~Bree

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Review: Irresistible You by Kate Meader

Irresistible You (Chicago Rebels #1)
Kate Meader
Pocket Star
2017, 400p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Hot in Chicago series author Kate Meader returns with her all new, scorching Chicago Rebels hockey series. Three estranged sisters inherit their late father’s failing hockey franchise and are forced to confront a man’s world, their family’s demons, and the battle-hardened ice warriors skating into their hearts.

Harper Chase has just become the most powerful woman in the NHL after the death of her father Clifford Chase, maverick owner of the Chicago Rebels. But the team is a hot mess—underfunded, overweight, and close to tapping out of the league. Hell-bent on turning the luckless franchise around, Harper won’t let anything stand in her way. Not her gender, not her sisters, and especially not a veteran player with an attitude problem, a chip on his shoulder, and a smoldering gaze designed to melt her ice-compacted defenses.

Veteran center Remy “Jinx” DuPre is on the downside of a career that’s seen him win big sponsorships, fans’ hearts, and more than a few notches on his stick. Only one goal has eluded him: the Stanley Cup. Sure, he’s been labeled as the unluckiest guy in the league, but with his recent streak of good play, he knows this is his year. So why the hell is he being shunted off to a failing hockey franchise run by a ball-buster in heels? And is she seriously expecting him to lead her band of misfit losers to a coveted spot in the playoffs?

He’d have a better chance of leading Harper on a merry skate to his bed…

I collect freebies and bargains from iBooks all the time. I can’t even remember when I bought this or how much I paid for it but at a guess it was either free or under $4.99. I chose it on a whim the other day and I’m so glad I did because I thought it was such a fun read and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series (which I now have to buy).

Harper has just inherited ailing NHL team the Chicago Rebels after her father dies. There’s plenty of catches – her two sisters are her co-owners, one of which she barely knows. There’s some caveats on performance as well, just another way for Harper’s father to reiterate that he doesn’t think she can do this, all the way from the grave. Desperate to yank the team up through the table in its division, Harper has traded in Remy DuPre, a veteran of years of experience but who has never won the Stanley Cup. This is it for Remy, his final year and he wants that silver. He is none too happy to be shunted off to a team that doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell and he’s not afraid to show it. If Harper wants him to pull this team together, she’s going to have to give him something he wants in return…..

NHL isn’t super big here – we only get a couple games shown each week and it’s pretty random what they are. But I have a few American and Canadian friends who are dead into it and for fun I picked a team to follow based on the age old method of “choose the one with the jersey you like the most”. That for me, was the San Jose Sharks. I’ve kept up with how they’re doing, watched a few games (other teams) but I have to admit, I still don’t know all the rules, etc yet. However I do quite enjoy the sport so I was pretty confident I’d like the setting for this and I was right.

I love the premise – Harper has a lot of issues stemming from not only her doubting father, who made no secret of the fact that he seemed to regard the hockey world as a male one and that Harper would never be able to make her mark on it, but also a violent relationship from her past. There’s the added complication of having to work with her sisters to make the team a success. They share only a father in common, all having different mothers and having been raised in very different circumstances. But they must work together in order to inherit and they must make the team a success. It’s slow going and Harper is a bit of a control freak and also, Remy DuPre has her stuck between a rock and a very hard place.

Remy is of Cajun background, which I loved. Haven’t come across too many in romance books before – I’m sure they’re out there, I just haven’t read many. He was very polite but first in a kind of ‘fuck you’ sort of way because he resented being traded in to the Rebels and wanted to play hardball to get what he wanted. The attraction between him and Harper is pretty immediate but Harper is already facing issues with being a woman in a very male dominated world. If it got out that she, as CEO, was sleeping with one of her players, she feels it’d be a disaster – the end of her. But she can’t resist either – the chemistry is pretty sizzling and I really liked Remy. Yes he’s a super hot veteran ice hockey player but he’s not a stereotypical jock. And I understood his anger at being traded – he’d already missed several chances to win the Stanley in his career and this was really his final chance. His anger is directed towards Harper but almost in a polite, gentlemanly style way. He’s pretty good at getting what he wants but things become complicated for Remy when he has to question just what is the most important thing for him.

The romance was great in this – Harper is kind of uptight and driven, she definitely needs a bit of chilling out and Remy provides those slower vibes (as well as loads of hot sex to relax her too!). He’s got a lot of hidden depths and he’s a really interesting character. He’s very open about when he finishes playing he wants to settle down, have a family. He’s the sort you can see as a stay at home dad! But as much as I did enjoy the romance aspect, I also really liked the arc that’s going to continue over the series, which is Harper and her sisters trying to turn this team around. Harper spends time getting to know her sisters in this book and therefore, so do we. Both her sisters have their own books coming up – I’m pretty keen for the next one which involves middle sister Isobel and an icy Russian player the Rebels picked up to be their left winger. Right now, these are perfect reads to break up my review copies.

8/10

Book #25 of 2018

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Review: The Three Of Us by Kim Lock

The Three Of Us
Kim Lock
Pan Macmillan AUS
2018, 416p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

A life lived in the shadows. A love that should never have been hidden.

In the small town of Gawler, South Australia, the tang of cut grass and eucalyptus mingles on the warm air. The neat houses perched under the big gum trees on Church Street have been home to many over the years. Years of sprinklers stuttering over clipped lawns, children playing behind low brick walls. Family barbecues. Gossipy neighbours. Arguments. Accidents. Births, deaths, marriages. This ordinary street has seen it all.

Until the arrival of newlyweds Thomas and Elsie Mullet. And when one day Elsie spies a face in the window of the silent house next door, nothing will ever be ordinary again…

In Kim Lock’s third novel of what really goes on behind closed doors, she weaves the tale of three people with one big secret; a story of fifty years of friendship, betrayal, loss and laughter in a heartwarming depiction of love against the odds.

This book was not the story I was expecting when I picked it up!

Thomas and Elsie are newlyweds, moving into their first home together in Gawler. It’s not modern day, so Elsie resigns from her job upon her marriage and her new role is to keep house for her husband and presumably, to become a mother when nature takes its course. This is not a role Elsie seems to adapt to or even seems suited to but at the time, it was the only role really available to her. It was what was expected – she also had to socialise with the wives of her husband’s work colleagues, joining knitting circles and bringing baked goods.

The house next door at first appears abandoned but one day Elsie spots a face in the window. It’s resident is reclusive, but slowly she and Elsie establish a friendship that will change all of their lives….in many ways.

This book is so hard to review. I loved it – more than I expected to and it took me a little while to realise that I was going to love it. I wasn’t sure that I was going to like the direction but the author completely surprised me with the way it went and I found it really interesting. I spent a lot of time internally debating things with myself. This is the perfect book for a book club and would be great to discuss with people but it makes it very hard to review because there’s lots I could talk about but I don’t want to for fear of spoiling things.

It’s set in the past and in a small country town and so there’s a completely different set of rules and societal regulations to consider, most of which are no longer applicable in this day and age but there’s definitely some that will still cause raised eyebrows, gossip and probable ostracisation. The way in which this book deals with those issues, in a time where it would be even more cause for local concern, is both sensitive and thorough. All of the characters wonder about what they are embarking on, how it affects other people, how it affects themselves. There’s a lot of thoughtful consideration, some back and forth but in the end, what they are doing is right for them without harming anyone. And that’s an interesting way to look on it that challenged my own thoughts and feelings on such things. I’m not particularly conservative, or at least I don’t think I am and reading this book made me examine that about myself. And come to some new conclusions on things.

That’s all very vague I know but I really did enjoy this book. It’s complex but not complicated, well written and really engaging. It’s quite a decent sized book but it never feels that way. The beginning of it sucks you in and makes you think hey, what’s going on, how did that happen? It’s set in the present day, some 50 years from when Thomas and Elsie marry and move into their new home, and then takes you back to ‘fill in the blanks’ so to speak. It makes you want to know more and get stuck into how this happened in such a time in such a place. There’s also a lot of looking at the choices or lack thereof that were available to women in the past and how they were somewhat helpless or reliant on men. Men made their decisions, kept them clothed and fed and quite often, exerted their will by force whether that be physical or not. This book definitely has women that were forced to accept the roles and rules enforced upon them by men but who also challenged them in different ways and were able to take what they wanted and what made them happy.

I wholeheartedly recommend people read this book! And then come and discuss it with me 😉

9/10

Book #24 of 2018

 

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Top 10 Tuesday 6th February

It’s Top 10 Tuesday time! Originally created and hosted by The Broke & the Bookish, Top 10 Tuesday now has a new home with Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week our topic is:

Top 10 Books I’ve Had On My TBR The Longest That Are Still Unread

  1. Insurgent and Allegiant by Veronica Roth. I’ve read Divergent and I liked it but I had a few things spoiled for me before I read the next couple of books in the series and it made me not really want to continue on with the books.
  2. So many Maria Snyder books. I own like, 10 of her books. I’ve read precisely none of her books. I bought them all years ago super cheap on recommendations from people and have just….never gotten around to reading them. There’s just so many on my shelves. It’s like they multiply when I’m not looking.
  3. The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness. Oh wow, I can’t even remember how long I’ve owned these. Maybe 7 or 8 years? I know I had to have them! And I know so many people who have sung their praises to me and yet I still haven’t read them. I don’t even know why.
  4. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. I remember buying this at the very first Melbourne Writers Fest I went to so 2012? I’ve actually read another book of hers and I loved it! I know this one is sitting on my shelf. It’s set in Alaska too, which is like crack to me.
  5. Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams. I got this book at a Penguin publishing event I went to in 2011. It’s been on my YA TBR shelf ever since.
  6. Blindness by Jose Saramago. This was another book I just had to have. I’d heard so much about it and the concept was just so fascinating. Unlike the others though, I think I did actually read a few pages of this once and then I set it aside. And so it’s still on the TBR shelf some 7 or so years later.
  7. Pretty much every classic I’ve ever bought. I have about 30 of them. Some I’ve bought because I think I should read them because of what they are. Some I’ve bought because they’re the most beautiful versions. Others I’ve bought because I’ve read some of the author’s other work and think I should round it out by finishing their backlist. Others I’m just curious about. Almost all of them remain unread.
  8. Memoirs Of An Imaginary Friend by Matthew Green. I’ve had this one for about 6yrs! My husband picked it up in a bookshop when he was away for work and although it sounds good I haven’t gotten around to it yet.
  9. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. Haha. At this stage it’s ridiculous to even consider that I might read this. I won’t. It’s a brick. My inability to get along with prize winners continues. I tried the first page of this and it made my brain hurt. I put it back on the shelf quick smart.
  10. Questions Of Travel by Michelle de Kretser. Lol, another prize winner. Probably had this 5 years. Bought it because I liked the cover.

I do cull books so these ones I either consider to be ‘one day, I’ll still get there’ or I haven’t decided if I can part with them yet. Room {or the lack of it} is making me rethink the books I keep. I still have way too many, around 3000 at a guess, I’m not sure. It’s been a while since I counted. And I’m running out of room big time in my house. But I also like having a healthy TBR pile too. It’s good to have options. And every now and then I pick something from it that has been there a while – every so often I hear someone talking about a book from a few years ago and I know it’s on my shelf and I can go check it out. So there’s value in having a good stash of books ‘to read’ as well.

But sometimes? I do feel guilty about the books I just ‘have to have’ and haven’t read yet…….

 

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Review: Graevale by Lynette Noni

Graevale (The Medoran Chronicles #4)
Lynette Noni
Pantera Press
2018, 447p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Light or dark, only one can win. This world cannot survive in shades of grey.

Now that Aven Dalmarta sits upon the throne of Meya, Alex must race against the clock to save the rest of Medora from the Rebel Prince’s wrath.

Haunted by an unspeakable vision of the future, Alex and her friends set out to warn the mortal races. But making allies out of ancient enemies proves difficult.

With her nights spent deep in the Library under the guidance of a mysterious new mentor, Alex is desperate to strengthen her gift and keep all those she loves safe. Because in a world where nothing is certain, she is sure of only one thing: 

Aven is coming.

Woah.

This is one of the most intriguing series I’ve read in a long time. The first book I have to say, was just okay for me. But I was urged to continue and the premise was interesting enough. And ever since, they’ve just gotten better. This is the second last book and it’s all starting to come together and the pay off is promising to be absolutely epic.

Please note, there might be a few general broad  ***SPOILERS*** for previous books in the series.

I had so many questions after the last book! I was lucky in that I only read it last month so I had a very short amount of time to wait until this one came out. That short wait ended with this book as I’m now officially ‘caught up’ and I have to wait until the next and final book is released next year! Thankfully this book does also answer some of my questions….but it also raises more. The way in which it is told feels quite slow and methodical at first but then…..it picks up pace really quickly and all of a sudden before you know it chaos is breaking out and everything is kind of a blur (in a good way) and there’s so much stuff happening and it’s heartbreaking and scary and I must have had about twelve heart attacks in the latter part of this book.

But skipping back to the beginning – everyone is back at Akernae after their break and Alex fills in her friends on how she really spent her break. They’re skeptical (really, at this point, is anything questionable?) but she has a few things that convince them. Even though Aven now sits on the throne having incapacitated his brother, life at Akernae rolls on in a semi-normal way. Alex knows she has to warn the other species and plans to do it even though she’s been told not to and even though she’s been warned she won’t get a friendly reception…anywhere. But still has to try.

Alex is so tenacious – or stubborn. There’s nothing she isn’t willing to do in order to be heard and to warn everyone of the impending danger that Aven represents. After all, she’s been given a glimpse of the future that will exist should she fail. As always she is backed by her faithful band of followers in Bear, D.C and Jordan, who is struggling with what has happened to him but is doing his best to get back to normality. And then there’s Kaiden, who mysteriously knows where Alex spent her break before she tells him…and other things that she’s puzzled about.

I’ve been curious about Kaiden for a while – he was inconveniently barely in the last book, only really appearing as a manifestation of Alex’s to guide her somewhere. But this book makes up for that because Kaiden is present and we get a lot of answers about him, such as what his gift is, how it works and how he seems to know things that he hasn’t been told. That reveal is actually pretty funny and I’m sure he has an important role to play in how things are going to pan out. There’s a reason they’ve been put together to train by their mysterious mentor.

Sometimes in books you know something is coming but when it comes it doesn’t mean that the impact was lessened in any way and that’s kind of how I felt about a part of this book. It’s not something that surprised me but the way in which it happened did and the aftermath as well. But it had to happen and now basically, I think several things mean all bets are off. In this book Alex struggles with the idea of killing Aven to beat him. She seems to think that she can do it without killing him and I know that she’s a teenager who has been thrust into a strange world with things that she’s had very little time to deal with. But she’s seen what Aven will do if she fails. She’s seen what he’s done both prior to her arrival and also what he does in this book. I just am not sure that’s a vow she can carry on with. I don’t really feel at this stage, that Aven is a character who can be rehabilitated, with all he has wreaked. What he was is not what he is now. He’s had a long time to become what he is now and that can’t be undone in a short period of time. He’s a threat to everyone else and it’s my opinion that he should be eliminated. Entirely. So it will be interesting to see where Alex goes with that moral dilemma in the next (and last!) book as that showdown comes closer. Because there has to be a showdown – everything Alex has done has been in preparation for being able to take on Aven and win.

It’s weird to feel that it’s so close now! Five books is a very decent sized series and I think Lynette Noni has done a fantastic job orchestrating this one – each new instalment adds something more to the story, another layer and more for Alex to experience. The story has become so much richer, the world fleshed out more and more. In this one we meet many more different….species? and experience their very different environments. I loved it – and now the wait for the final book will be eternal. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve read these 4 in a relatively short amount of time but now I must wait {not so} patiently to find out the end game.

9/10

Book #23 of 2018

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Review: The Right Girl by Ellie O’Neill

The Right Girl
Ellie O’Neill
Simon & Schuster AUS
2018, 393p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

What do you do when your perfect life . . . isn’t?

Freya has the best life – she’s officially in love and her floristry business, Blooming Brilliant, is going from strength to strength.

Two years ago, it was a different story. She was barely employed as the worst waitress in the world, with no hope of a boyfriend, and no bank balance. But then she got BBest, a lifestyle app that knows you better than you know yourself. It changed everything. It streamlined her life, taking her likes and dislikes and skills and foibles, and gave her the best options so she doesn’t make mistakes anymore. Freya has never looked back – and neither has anyone else. Everyone loves BBest, it’s a game changer.

But if she’s so in love, why doesn’t it feel exactly right? And who is that mysterious man in her beloved grandfather’s bookshop with soulful eyes that leave her unstitched? All of a sudden Freya has so many questions – and no one seems to be able to answer them. She begins to wonder what she really agreed to when she let BBest into her life. Then her grandfather is arrested, and Freya is thrust into a world she could never have imagined in her shiny, successful existence.

When you have the perfect life, should you listen to your head or your heart?

I found this a super enjoyable, fun and light-hearted story but also with a serious undertone.

In Freya’s world, everyone has come to rely on the app BBest. It basically takes control of your life and makes decisions for you. Don’t know what you want as a career? Answer a few questions and it’ll tell you. It’ll suggest what to wear, what to eat, if you want a coffee or not and soon begins to link up with financial institutions and dating apps. If you’re applying for a loan at the bank and it sees that you adopt all of BBest’s choices for you, that reflects well.

For Freya, BBest is everything. She loves it. She consults it for everything and is always a first choice adopter. With her boyfriend Mason comes a 93% approval rating, practically unheard of. Everything should be perfect. After all, BBest knows her better than she even knows herself. But if it’s doing such a good job organising her life and making choices for her, then why doesn’t Freya ‘feel it’ with Mason? He doesn’t make her heart sing, she doesn’t get those little flutters when she thinks about it, or when she spots him in the distance. Perhaps that is teenage infatuation and BBest has mapped out the very best future for her. But if that’s true, Freya doesn’t feel very enthusiastic about its choice, which is confusing for her. BBest has helped her out in so many other aspects. When Freya meets a man at her grandfather’s bookshop/library hybrid, she wonders just why he gives her the feelings Mason doesn’t.

I liked Freya and I can relate to her not knowing what she wants to do with her life. In some parts of my life I can be very indecisive and a push in a direction, any direction, could be very comforting about things I’m not sure about. I honestly can’t see myself giving up almost every decision to an app like Freya does but the scary thing is, I can see how an app of this might get its roots. It’s quick and convenient, like asking Siri a question. And the answer is instantaneous. All those pesky decisions we agonised over are resolved in a moment.

But as much as Freya trusts BBest to make the best choices for her, she realises that her grandfather, a bit of a Luddite who shuns a lot of this modern technology, has been right. An app can’t make you feel and although Mason might be her best match on paper, he doesn’t seem to be her heart’s desire. It should be a straightforward situation – but BBest’s entangling of many facets of life, maybe all facets of life means that it’s not. And Freya’s torn about what to do. And for this, she’s on her own because she can’t do what she’d usually do and consult BBest! And several of her friends work for the company and its so ingrained in culture that even talking to people in a reasonable way about its decisions and how they may not be for the best, is difficult. Not to mention it becomes quite apparent that there are…consequences for not adopting BBest’s choices and recommendations.

People have agonised over the sensible choice vs the heart-fluttery unknown for ages, that’s nothing new. The app is a modern day complication to freedom of choice with negative impacts that are not currently in play in ‘real life’ but it isn’t too hard to stretch the imagination really to these kinds of information gathering lifestyle apps filtering and selling that information on to interested parties – such as banks, housing companies, employment or recruiting organisations, etc. We already give away so much information – facebook records things we look at and offers us ads it thinks is tailor made to our interests, amazon records what we buy, how fast we read books and suggests similar titles. There are dating apps that rank your matches on compatibility already. Fitbits record our exercise and sleep, gently reminding us when we haven’t moved enough and praising us when we meet targets. All those things combined and a few more creative steps and BBest isn’t such a stretch of the imagination.

I enjoyed this a lot. I really liked the characters of Freya and her grandfather and their relationship. His bookshop/library thing sounds like a dream! I probably have enough books to start one of my own to be honest. I thought the exploration into giving up choices was quite well done – it was light hearted in manner but with enough serious undertones that the reader could really ponder the consequences of such a thing like BBest and perhaps apply it to their own lives, what impact such a thing might have. The story is a little bit quirky, a little bit fun which keeps the pages turning but that doesn’t detract from the overall message.

8/10

Book #22 of 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

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