All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Deader Homes and Gardens by Angie Fox

deader-homes-gardensDeader Homes and Gardens (Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries #4)
Angie Fox
Season Publishing
2016, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Southern belle Verity Long is back in business—as a ghost hunter. Now all she has to do is visit the town’s creepiest mansion and exorcise a family of vengeful spirits. Piece of cake. After all, ghosts love her and need her…that is until she meets the ghosts of Rock Fall mansion. They’ll do anything to keep their murderous secrets hidden within the cliff-side fortress—even if that means getting rid of one meddling ghost hunter.

With the entire town skeptical and scrutinizing her every move, Verity struggles to uncover the century-old mystery behind the house. And when she stumbles upon a very fresh, very dead body, she realizes there’s more to it than she ever imagined. With the help of her sexy cop boyfriend, Ellis, and her ghostly gangster sidekick, Frankie, she braves the overgrown gardens, the desolate family cemetery, and the haunted mansion that have been locked away for generations.

Can Verity unearth the truth before she’s the next one buried on the deadly grounds?

This is such a fun series!

I found the first on NetGalley and to be honest, I can’t say what made me request it because ghosts and the like are usually not my sort of thing. But there was something about it that sounded interesting and I’m super glad I did because I really, really enjoy these books.

Verity accidentally emptied out the ashes of a dead 1920’s gangster named Frankie and in the process she “tethered” him to her property. Now he can’t go anywhere unless Verity takes Frankie’s urn with her. Together they’ve formed a bit of a ghost busting team – Frankie has the ability to let Verity tune in to the supernatural plane, seeing the spirits and even being able to interact with them in a way that other people can’t. Throughout the series they’ve solved a few mysteries, helped some ghosts be reunited and even dealt with a couple of annoyed poltergeists.

Frankie and Verity have such an interesting friendship and it keeps me laughing throughout each installment. Frankie is so frustrated about being dead (and very touchy about how he came to be dead) and he’s kind of unaware that times have moved on. It’s all about underground speakeasys, dames, dolls, bootleg whiskey, poker games and guns. He wants to reconnect with his pals but he generally can’t do that unless Verity takes him somewhere so in this novel he kind of works out a deal whereby if Verity wants his help to solve a case, she has to give him something in return. It’s occasionally a bit fractious but banter aside they are developing a pretty cool connection.

I love the romance in these stories too, although it’s understated and not at all the dominant focus. After a disastrous almost-wedding in which her mother-in-law then stuck her with an enormous bill, Verity was thrown together with her former fiance’s brother Ellis who is also a local officer of the law. The first book is an awesome simmering attraction combined with a mutual dislike and misconception and from that it’s evolved into a comfortable but still complicated-by-various-things relationship. Ellis is a great character – he was incredibly skeptical of Verity at first, his opinion coloured by the events that had taken place. But the more he saw, the more he began to believe her and now he’s her staunchest supporter and is always willing to go along for the ride as back up.

Sometimes these stories actually go in a much darker direction than I expect – I still keep thinking it’ll be super fluffy and light but some of these spirits are tortured and savage souls and it can get pretty tense! I like the way Verity becomes invested in the mysteries – even when it gets scary as all heck and she should probably run away, she can’t bring herself to leave the situation unfinished and she keeps going back in order to sort out the problems best she can. I always look forward to the next installment to see what Verity has got herself into and how her relationship with Ellis is progressing. It’s fun learning more about Frankie and his friends too and I’m so curious about whether or not we’ll find out what actually happened to him.


Book #185 of 2016

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Review: Seducing The Marquess by Callie Hutton

seducing-the-marquessSeducing The Marquess (Lords & Ladies In Love #1)
Callie Hutton
Entangled Publishing LLC
2016, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Richard, Marquess of Devon is satisfied with his ton marriage. His wife of five months, Lady Eugenia Devon, thought she was, too, until she found the book. Their marriage is one of respect and affection, with no messy entanglements such as love. Devon’s upbringing impressed upon him that gentlemen slake their baser needs on a mistress, not their gently bred wives. However, once married, he was no longer comfortable bedding a woman other Eugenia. When
she stumbles onto a naughty book, she begins a campaign to change the rules.

Lady Eugenia wants her very proper husband to fall in love with her. But her much changed and undeniably wicked behavior might inadvertently drive her confused husband to ponder the unthinkable—his perfect Lady has taken a lover. But the only man Eugenia only wants is her husband. The book can bring sizzling desire to the marriage or it might cause an explosion.

When I read the description of this, I had to request it. A lot of the historical romances I’ve read revolve around the characters falling in love before they marry but in this story, Richard, the Marquess of Devon and his wife, Lady Eugenia have already been married for a few months. Both are impeccably well bred and it’s probably one of those society matches that everyone looks at with approval.

However, Eugenia is slightly dissatisfied with her polite society marriage and she wants more. She wants her husband to fall in love with her, to treat her as more than just a pretty, delicate society wife. When she hears news that her husband’s mistress is no more, she decides that the time has come to attempt to take this marriage a step further, before her husband can find someone else to fill the role. Eugenia wants to be both wife and mistress and she happens upon a useful book that she uses to change her look, just slightly, to attract her husband’s attention as well as for instruction on how to play a more active role in the bedroom.

Like Eugenia, Devon has also been raised a certain way and part of that upbringing was his father impressing upon him very forcefully that your wife is not to be disturbed (sexually) unless it’s for the getting of heirs. You visit politely when necessary and you are quick and perfunctory. Any other needs should be taken care of with one’s mistress, as they don’t possess the delicate sensibilities of ladies. Even though Devon hasn’t actually been with another woman since he married Eugenia (something she’s unaware of) he’s still reluctant to increase the sexual activity….until Eugenia begins acting different, which then makes him assume she’s taken a lover and this is where she’s getting all her new ideas.

I found the idea of Eugenia trying to seduce her own husband quite interesting but the idea itself is kind of limited by Eugenia’s upbringing. She finds a book and uses it for ideas but the ideas themselves are really very quite tame…. doing her hair in a slightly different way and ordering dresses with lower cut bodices make up the majority of it and these are looked upon by Devon as slightly scandalous. He can’t believe so much of his wife’s bosom is on display which is really kind of hilarious, especially as he notes that her dresses aren’t really that low compared to other society ladies. They’re just lower cut than the debutantes and the more modest dresses that she previously wore.

I did enjoy the portrayal of a society marriage where both of them did want more but were caught up by their social constructs to really express properly what it was that they wanted. I think also Devon’s ideas of the sort of wife he wanted, changed quite dramatically after the marriage. He chose to court Eugenia because she was so very cool and composed. Eugenia has a bit of fire beneath that coolness and when it begins to show some months after they’re married, Devon is at first a bit baffled but he’s also really intrigued by this new side of her, even if he does fear that it’s been brought on by her taking a lover.

Unfortunately what I feel let the book down for me was that I didn’t really get too great of a picture of their courtship and relationship prior to marrying and their interactions during their marriage made it hard to really get behind them as a couple. Eugenia gives a few flowery descriptions of how she fell in love with him almost right away but the two of them have very little real personality. Eugenia is kind of well, boring. She’s nothing remarkable, not the sort of character I’ll remember reading about in a month or so and to be honest the same goes for Devon. The most interesting thing about him was that he gave up his mistress after marrying, which was very sweet and probably very unusual. But it’s hard to get excited about two people who lead almost separate lives, coming together for social occasions or on the nights Devon schedules a ‘visit’ to her chambers! I would’ve like a little more spark, even though Eugenia finds the book and all of that, their chemistry was a bit lukewarm for me. I understand this is hard to do when both characters are working through societal expectations etc, but even when their sexual experiences begin to change, it never really felt exciting.

This was an interesting idea and I did enjoy the read, so I’m interested to see where the series goes. It will be quite intriguing if the rest of them are to feature married couples too, because I think there are a lot of ways that you can explore arranged/societal marriages in historical romance but I also think if so, a background does need to be established quite firmly (or the married couple need to interact more, especially in different ways) in order for the reader to really care about the outcome.


Book #185 of 2016

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Review: The Gift Of A Lifetime by Melissa Hill

gift-of-a-lifetimeThe Gift Of A Lifetime
Melissa Hill
St Martins Griffin
2016, 384p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Hollywood movies are Beth’s passion. She hopes her life will always be filled with classic movie moments, where magical things happen every day. Her boyfriend Danny has always been the embodiment of her perfect Hollywood hero—though after seven years together the initial silver-screen romance has settled into something more predictable.

Then one morning at work just before Christmas, Beth receives an anonymous gift of a take-out coffee cup with a cryptic message. From there, she is given a series of other gifts and riddles directing her to some of NYC’s most popular landmarks—a treasure trail using unique rom-com-related prompts perfect for a movie-lover like Beth to decipher.

And she is forced to wonder: has Danny realized their relationship needs a boost—or could it be that charming new work colleague Ryan with his intense gaze, flirtatious smile, and almost encyclopedic movie knowledge, wants to sweep her off her feet? How would she feel about taking a chance on a leading man who seems determined to give her the Christmas gift of a lifetime…

It’s not often that I can say this and to be honest I really don’t actually like saying it but I didn’t like this book. At all.

I requested it as part of my holiday reading – I took my kids to see my family up north for two weeks where the weather is infinitely better and imagined lazy days reading fluffy books by the pool. At first glance, this seemed pretty perfect. It looked like a straightforward story about a movie addict torn between her suddenly-distant-boyfriend-of-seven-years-who-won’t-propose and a hot new guy at work who seems more than interested. Add in a movie themed treasure hunt around New York City and it just seemed like perfect, light-hearted fun.

A portion of the way through I began to feel like I was being incredibly manipulated and that the carefully placed few scenes from Beth’s boyfriend Danny’s point of view were supposed to be make me assume one thing – all the vague evidence seemed to point that way. But I wasn’t particularly convinced. And halfway through I said to myself “If this turns out to be X, I’m chucking this book at the wall.”

It turned out to be X. But I was reading it on my iPad, so I refrained from chucking it at the wall.

I’m not going to spoil anything, or reveal who orchestrated the treasure hunt for Beth. What I will say however, is that I actually thought it was a really shitty thing to do, given the circumstances that played out. I’m not a movie aficionado so most of the time the leaps in logic Beth made to figure out clues and move onto the next totally went over my head – it seemed unnecessarily complicated at times, super involved and detailed a lot of running around New York where everything seemed to also go incredibly smoothly and her path toward the next clue was never blocked nor did she have too much trouble figuring everything out.

I didn’t really connect with any of the characters and never really felt invested in either wanting Beth and Danny’s long term relationship to pan out or hoping that Beth dumped him and ran off with the good looking colleague who’d just started working at the same department store as Beth. I found Beth’s burying her head in the sand over Danny’s constant absences from their home, his strange and apparently out-of-character behaviour and seeming withdrawal from their relationship very odd. They’ve been a couple for seven years and she can’t sit down and ask him what’s going on with him and why he’s never around anymore? She just wants to pretend it’s not happening and yet seems to harbour a secret hope that the orchestrator of the treasure hunt is Ryan from work, presumably so that if Danny is having an affair, as she suspects, then she can say oh well, this guy from work wants me anyway!

Unfortunately I just really disliked this (and the biggest reason why I can’t say without spoiling the entire plot). However I’m pretty much on my own as there are many glowing reads on Goodreads so don’t let my dislike of emotional manipulation and “twists” put you off if you’re curious about it. What absolutely didn’t work for me will be what other people love about it.

Book #184 of 2016

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Review: The Legendary Lord by Valerie Bowman

legendary-lordThe Legendary Lord (Playful Brides #6)
Valerie Bowman
St Martin’s Paperbacks
2016, 320p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:


When Christian Bancroft, Viscount Berkeley, flees the stuffy ballrooms of London for his Scottish hunting lodge, the last thing he expects to find ensconced before his fire is an incredibly beautiful woman. But the plight of lovely young Sarah Highgate, who has run away from an unwanted betrothal, inspires an eminently practical exchange. He’ll safeguard her reputation with the ton while she advises him how to best attract a proper bride…

As the undisputed belle of the season, Sarah has enchanted plenty of suitors. Still, she isn’t interested in marriage, especially not to the pompous bore her father has chosen for her. But her hasty escape seems reckless now that she’s estranged from her family and has no one to count on besides Christian. Turning the luckless lord into such a catch has another unplanned consequence for Sarah: Has he run away with her heart?

I’ve read all of this series now and although I’ve enjoyed most of them, there have been a couple that I struggled with and unfortunately this was one of them. It just seemed like there were far too many things happening here where it would have been impossible to smooth the way in society for the characters. And each time the Duchess of Claringdon comes up with another hairball scheme it’s all kind of brushed aside in a “haha, I’m a Duchess, I do what I like and people love me because I’m precocious.” Even though what she’s come up with is usually absolutely ridiculous.

At first Lady Sarah is presented as a bit of a rebel – she’s absconded with a chaperone to escape (or at least buy some time) before she’s forced to marry an undesirable man. She’s been raised strictly to always do what she is told, to not really think for herself. All important decisions will be made for her, first by her father and then presumably then by her husband. She’ll wear pretty dresses and as the daughter of an Earl, be expected to marry well, run a household and produce the standard heir and spare. Lady Sarah flees to Scotland where she ends up staying for a few days in a type of cabin, which is on Christian’s Scottish property. Christian arrives whilst she’s staying there and due to unforseen circumstances (the Scottish weather and her chaperone being injured) they spend several days alone together.

Christian is well known from previous books in this series, having been a contender for the aforementioned Duchess of Claringdon’s hand before she married the Duke all the way back in book 1. It seems that Christian has been forever on the fringe, interested in a few ladies but ultimately overlooked for someone else they fall in love with. He’s ready to settle down and get married but is just unable to land a bride – which is kind of hard to believe given that Christian is supposed to be good looking, wealthy and titled. You’d think that the mothers of the young ladies would have him firmly in their sights but perhaps being a viscount just isn’t enough to be eligible, what with the plethora of Dukes, Marquess’ and Earls that populate historical romance.

After her disappearance Christian promises that his powerful women friends will help her smooth over her reputation and in return, she will make him a ‘legend’ that the debutantes will all be desperate to marry. My biggest problem was that Sarah went to the trouble of sneaking away, escaping this betrothal with seemingly little plan for what would come after. She just seems resigned to go back to London and end up marrying her father’s choice anyway so it made her flight seem a little pointless. It was also surprising that they didn’t know each other – although Sarah is aware of a Viscount Berkely, she’s unaware that Christian himself is the Viscount.

I’ve liked Christian in previous books and he was okay in this one too. I think Sarah was the biggest problem I had – her character just seemed so inconsistent. She keeps remembering her upbringing, the ‘do what you’re told Sarah’ with loathing and regret and yet she had a chance to change it but ultimately she would’ve gone back and married her betrothed and settled for that unhappy, bland life with barely a flicker, after her time in Scotland. She seems so different, like she wants to break the mold and be an entirely different person but then she just keeps doing the boring, staid things that are expected of her, intending to sacrifice her own happiness in the process. I found the ending unexpected – it went in a different direction to what I had assumed but I also found it a little bit cringeworthy too. I think it was supposed to be romantic and dramatic but it just came across as a bit…..weird.

I’m not sure if this is the last installment of this series but I think it will be for me. This was disappointing and Christian’s story was one I had looked forward to. Normally I love glimpses of previous characters when I’m reading a series but I’ve definitely had enough of the Duchess of Claringdon and her schemes. It’s run its course.


Book #178 of 2016

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Review: Crosstalk by Connie Willis

Connie Willis
2016, 400p
Copy courtesy Hachette AUS via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Briddey is about to get exactly what she thinks she wants…

Briddey is a high-powered exec in the mobile phone industry, overseeing new products from concept (‘anything to beat the new apple phone’) to delivery. And she works with her wonderful partner, Trent. They’ve been together for six magical weeks, in a whirlwind of flowers, dinners, laughter and now comes the icing on the cake: not a weekend away or a proposal but something even better. An EDD. A procedure which will let them sense each other’s feelings. Trent doesn’t just want to tell her how much he loves her – he wants her to feel it.

Everything is perfect.

The trouble is, Briddey can’t breathe a word of it to anyone (difficult, when the whole office is guessing) until she’s had two minutes to call her family. And they’re hounding her about the latest family drama, but when they find out about the EDD – which they will – they’ll drop everything to interrogate her. And it might just be easier to have the procedure now and explain later. Only Apple are poised to deliver an amazing new product and she has to be one step ahead …if she can only persuade their tech genius, C. B., to drop his crazy ideas about a ‘privacy phone’ with its ‘do not disturb’ settings, and focus on what people really want: more efficient, instinctive and immediate ways to communicate.

The race is on: not just for new, cutting-edge technology, but also for a shred of privacy in a public world and – for Briddey – a chance for love at the heart of it all.

This book is one of my favourite recent reading finds! I read it whilst I was away on holidays and liked it so much I ended up rereading it a couple of times. And I’m only partially sure what it was that I loved about it so much.

Briddey works for Commspan, a communications company specialising in mobile phones/apps and in direct competition with Apple. For the past 6wks she’s been dating executive Trent, making her the envy of the office. Especially as word has gotten out that Trent wants he and Briddey to have a procedure known as an EDD, something that will allow them to sense the other’s emotions and feelings. That way when he proposes, they will feel their love for one another. Briddey thinks it’s all impossibly romantic but her bossy, interfering Irish family don’t agree and keep constantly popping up in her life to tell her so. So does C.B. Schwartz, a computer genius who works for Commspan and warns Briddey that there could be unforeseen circumstances of her procedure.

That’s quite the understatement and it turns out that Briddey ends up hearing voices, not feeling emotions. She can hear other people’s thoughts, triggered by the neurological change. What starts off as a minor irritant for her becomes overwhelming and terrifying and she is forced to rely on someone to help her through it, creating an intimate bond that doesn’t exist with her boyfriend. In fact the less time Briddey spends with Trent in her attempt to keep him from finding out that she can talk to other people in her mind, the more she realises that their relationship is somewhat lacking.

Even though I tend to veer away from “woo-woo” things, the exception to this seems to be telepathy. I absolutely love books featuring it and in this book, Willis gives a very no-holds-barred look at what it might be like to be privvy to so many private thoughts. Briddey starts off hearing just one person, someone who can keep their own thoughts shielded from her and can just talk to her. Then she begins hearing the thoughts of others, starting with work colleagues, some of whom are even thinking less than complimentary things about her before it escalates. Then she’s hearing the thoughts of everyone around her, which becomes overwhelming, terrifying and something that could very easily have driven her to do something drastic, had she not had someone to calmly talk her through her terror and help her establish defenses against the deluge. Briddey’s experience and panic felt incredibly realistic…..if telepathy were suddenly a thing, if someone were to wake up with that ability, I believe it would feel quite like what she goes through, only potentially without someone to assist her. Interestingly enough, her rescuer went through the same thing when their ability manifested and appeared to learn to manage it without help, something that must’ve been an incredible display of mental strength.

I loved the subtle romance in this book – and I don’t mean the one between Trent and Briddey. For the past 6 weeks, before the book begins, Briddey has presumably been swept off her feet and wined and dined by the handsome Trent, but he has about as much personality as a piece of cardboard and as the book progresses it becomes quite obvious that his interest in Briddey has ulterior motives. Instead Briddey is forging a connection with someone else, something that she initially blames on her procedure but the more time they spend together, both physically and mentally, the stronger it becomes and the more she sees to him. To be honest, there were times when Briddey was horribly bitchy and horribly unfair to someone who only ever tried to do their best to help her, make her adjust as painlessly and easily as possible and it’s so obvious that he has feelings for her, probably has done for quite a while. There were times when I wanted to kick her for being so horrid to him but Briddey’s strength is in her growth and maturity as she begins to steer away from the materialistic Trent and the shallow relationship they had and accept that there was something infinitely special and real out there, someone more special and real. The two of them worked so well together, it was the most perfect thing in the book.

A minor irritant for me was Briddey’s family who were ridiculously overbearing and irritating, particularly in the beginning of the book. Personal space and privacy appeared to be a foreign thing to them and it frustrated me a bit. I quite liked Briddey’s niece Maeve and her attempts to escape her ridiculously smothering and overprotective mother, which added some humour to the story.

This was my first Connie Willis book and now I’ve made it a mission to find and read as much of her backlist as I possibly can. I loved this! It was just one of those books, they come along every so often where after I finish it, I immediately just want to re-read it as often as possible. Even writing this review, about 2wks later, has made me want to start re-reading it again.


Book #177 of 2016


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September Reading Wrap Up

Total Books Read: 9
Fiction: 9
Non-Fiction: 0
Library Books: 0
Books On My TBR List: 3
Books in a Series: 6
Authors I’d Never Read Before: 3
Male/Female Authors: 0/9
Kindle Books: 9
Books I Owned or Bought: 5
Favourite Book(s): The Art Of Keeping Secrets, by Rachael Johns & Crosstalk by Connie Willis
Least Favourite Books: Call Of The Dragon by Elianne Adams
Books That Qualify For Challenges: 2

Ok so September all round was a reading fail. It was kind of a blogging fail too – I had wanted to get back into the swing of things posting 2-3x every week but seeing as how I read so little, I ended up posting way less than I wanted to. However, I do kind of have excuses….

Firstly, my parents spent a week at our place for the 5th birthday of my youngest and I spent pretty much no time reading or on the computer while they were there. Secondly about two days before they arrived, I made a snap decision to go back with them to their place when they left ours, taking my two kids for a holiday. The weather at home was crappy and miserable and the weather where my parents live is amazeballs so we’ve been here the past week and it has been fabulous! 24 and sunny EVERY FREAKING DAY and so we’ve been going out visiting parks and family and just generally soaking up the sun. I’ve read a couple of books since I arrived here (couple is right, I’ve just checked and it’s 2. And one of those was yesterday!) but mostly I haven’t really been concerned with reading. I’ve been doing other things.

In last month’s reading wrap up, I singled out a handful of books I wanted to get read in September. Just going to throw it out there, that was also an epic fail. I actually didn’t complete a single one of them. I started one but it got on my nerves after a dozen pages (funny that, it was actually called Nerve) and I threw it on the DNF pile. I’m here for another week and the books I singled out last month are all physical copies that are back at home so it’ll still be a while before I get to any of those! I only have my iPad with me but I have a couple of interesting sounding books from NetGalley and iBooks so maybe I’ll get a couple books read this week. But maybe I won’t.

Last month I also mentioned that I intended to do a bookcull. That was going to be my project the second week of the Victorian school holidays but then I decided to go on vacation instead so that didn’t get done either. Instead I will be getting stuck into that when I get home and I’m even more determined now to bring some order to my chaotic and overflowing shelves. As I’m reading a bit less these days I’m acquiring books at a bit of a slower rate too so I’m hoping I can get numbers down to a manageable level and even have some room to continue adding new books. That might be a bit of a stretch, as I’ve pretty much run out of places to put bookshelves in my house but I’m really starting to change my attitude about book hoarding and just be about keeping books that I really love. I’m much more receptive to eBooks now than I was because I can have sooooo many of them and they don’t take up any physical space.

Not going to pick some books to read this month – I think I’ll try that again next month when I’m back at home for the entire month and have my TBR pile easy at hand.


Review: The Art Of Keeping Secrets by Rachael Johns

art-of-keeping-secretsThe Art Of Keeping Secrets
Rachael Johns
Harlequin MIRA AUS
2016, 464p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Little secrets grow up to be big lies…

They’ve been best friends since their sons started high school together, and Felicity, Emma and Neve share everything … or so they thought.

But Flick’s seemingly perfect marriage hides a shocking secret which, with one word, threatens to destroy her and her family’s happiness. Emma is in denial about a potential custody battle, her financial constraints, the exhaustion she can’t seem to shake off and the inappropriate feelings she has for her boss. And single mum Neve is harbouring a secret of her own; a secret that might forever damage her close-knit relationship with her son.

When the tight hold they have each kept on their secrets for years begins to slip, they must face the truth. Even if that truth has the power to hurt the ones they love, and each other.

Perhaps some secrets weren’t made to be kept.

Popular rural romance author Rachael Johns takes a couple more very brave steps outside of her familiar comfort zone with her second ‘life lit’ offering, The Art of Keeping Secrets. Focusing on a trio of women brought together by their sons starting a prestigious high school together some 5-6 years ago, Flick, Emma and Neve have developed a tight knit friendship where they probably thought they knew all of each others secrets. But as their sons get ready to graduate, each woman faces the possibility of secrets that they’ve kept from each other and perhaps even themselves coming out and their lives as they know it drastically changing.

Flick has two children, a daughter about to be married and the son about to graduate. Both Emma and Neve are single mothers – Emma for only a short amount of time and Neve has raised her son entirely on her own. Both are envious of Flick’s seemingly perfect marriage to the wonderful Seb but if only they knew….. Although Seb is a fantastic husband and father, their marriage hides a secret that Flick has been prepared to cope with for the past twenty years. When she discovers (is blindsided) by the fact that Seb wants to take this secret much further, Flick is thrown savagely into a cesspit of horror, uncertainty and confusion. She knows she needs to make a decision about what she wants to do with her marriage and it’s not going to be easy. She fluctuates, because she loves Seb but she’s not sure she can get on board with what he needs to do. Flick’s through processes are brutally honest in the book – it’s confronting and ugly and uncomfortable but quite realistic as well. She has had her status quo rocked and her mind goes to some pretty dark places, even if it’s only briefly.

Neve’s son has expressed a desire to meet his father, who has never been in his life. Although Neve expected this day to come at some stage, for Neve it means admitting to her son that she lied to him. The two of them have always been close as it’s been just the two of them and Neve fears that what she has to confess will destroy their relationship, perhaps irreparably. Not only does Neve have to confess something to her son but she also needs to track down the former love of her life and admit something to him too, the thought of which makes her feel ill. Neve’s journey takes her to New York, with Flick and Emma tagging along for moral support and the chance to escape from their own situations.

Emma is now a struggling single mother of three as her former husband left her for a much younger woman and has somehow managed to manipulate the financial situation so that Emma is left without much support. He then lavishes expensive holidays and gifts on their children that Emma cannot compete with, leaving her fearing that the children will eventually prefer to live with their father in his McMansion. She’s also harbouring some crush-type feelings on her lovely, handsome boss that everyone thinks might possibly be gay as well as experiencing some crushing headaches that just don’t seem to go away. Emma is also reevaluating her friendship with Neve after some of Neve’s secrets were spilled and although Neve is trying to make things right, Emma’s situation means that it takes some time for her to be able to to accept that.

These three women are written with such honestly. I had a range of emotions whilst reading this book from cheering for them, wanting them to be my friends to disbelief, irritation and even horror at some of their thoughts and actions. It was impressively real and made their secrets all the more believable because their reactions to theirs and to their friends were so realistic. They had ugly moments, beautiful moments, strong moments, weak moments. All throughout however, that strong friendship was underpinning everything, holding the three of them together both individually and as a group, even when there was some discord. The friendship is written as the core of the book, the secrets are in a way, what serves to strengthen and showcase that friendship as each of them face something in their lives and move through it with the help, support and understanding of their friends. Even though there are some times where things don’t always go smoothly, the three women are always able to move on and be almost better for it. This is why I love Rachael Johns’ books so much, be they her rurals or her women’s/life lit because she captures emotion and human nature so well. I enjoyed the fact that at times I viewed their actions or thoughts negatively because it was brutally honest and reflected the sort of thoughts or reactions I myself might have had in the same situation……they were things that it would be hard to react positively or thoughtfully to straight off the bat and it’s human nature at times to react first and think later. I think we also all harbour those secret thoughts, ones that we might not admit to or be ashamed to admit to but they’re there nonetheless and so I can find them quite understandable given the situations!

This is the sort of book that I think it’s best to set aside a couple of hours/a whole afternoon or evening before you start it because once you do start, it’s hard to find a break in the story to put it down. Don’t start it late at night or you could end up being up all night! It’s not just a compelling story, it’s several compelling stories woven together into one big one. I do have to admit, it did leave me with a few curiosities at the end of the story, things I was pondering over and wondering about. I’m annoyingly addicted to closure though and knowing everything, so sometimes my nosiness backfires on me when it comes to reading!

Incredible writing and a great story. A must for old fans and should definitely attract some new ones.


Book #175 of 2016


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Review: Lethal Lifestyles by LynDee Walker

lethal-lifestylesLethal Lifestyles (Headlines In High Heels #6)
LynDee Walker
Henery Press
2016, 288p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Wedding bells are ringing at the Richmond Telegraph, and maid of honor Nichelle Clarke is determined to give her friends the perfect fairytale beginning to their happily ever after. So when a corpse crashes rehearsal weekend, Nichelle ditches her wedding coordinator shoes for her crime reporter ones, and a little poking around turns up a big problem: the victim and the groom have a history, and it’s not a pretty one.

Evidence against groom Grant Parker piles up, leaving Nichelle wishing a hostile bridesmaid was still her biggest worry as she tries to fend off Richmond’s favorite TV reporter—and her own scheming publisher. At odds with the cops, her beloved editor, and the ticking clock, Nichelle races to uncover the truth and save the day before this perfect wedding turns into a funeral.

I love this series. I consider it one of my favourite discoveries this year and I was lucky as 5 had already been released when I came across it. I binged on them all during my cozy mystery stage and I’ve been anxiously awaiting this book and the next books in several other series’ as well.

I think the thing I really like about these books is that Nichelle is so damn good at her job. She’s not a bumbling heroine, stumbling from one disaster to the next or unemployed and constantly unable to make her rent or buy food. She is a crime reporter for a newspaper in Richmond, Virginia and she works long hours covering terrible incidents and quite often becomes invested in what she’s reporting. And involved. Nichelle does have a bit of a tendency to find herself in the firing line but it kind of works, the way that the books play out. She’s strong and dedicated with some interesting quirks.

In this installment, sports reporter Grant Parker, a regular in previous books, is marrying his girlfriend. Nichelle set them up in a previous book so the reader is more than familiar with them and due to her orchestration of their relationship, Nichelle is a bridesmaid who is going above and beyond the call of duty with wedding organisation and is determined that everything be perfect. The first spanner in the works there is the discovery of a dead body in a wine barrel at the wedding location and really, it all just kind of snowballs from there.

I always find the mysteries really interesting in these books and they do end up being quite intricate but without being confusing. Nichelle really does have a wealth of fabulous contacts and she is well versed in the politics of what she can and cannot use in her pieces so she manages to get the story without treading on toes or offending people. Nicey (what her friends call her) is involved in a friendly rivalry with the crime reporter for a local TV station with the two of them going head to head in the fight for exclusives. Nichelle and her boss Bob, an old-school reporter are constantly in the firing line from someone higher up who’d love nothing more than to be rid of both of them. Only Nichelle’s track record in getting the story keeps her employed and speaks of just how clever she is. She is passionate about her work and wanting to give victims a voice as well as get the facts across.

There’s some romance running through this series too. Nichelle meets the enigmatic “call me Joey” in book 1, an obvious mafioso who trades information in bits and pieces to further the agendas of his connections. However there are times when Nichelle’s quests put her in direct conflict with what Joey and his cohorts might consider a desirable outcome and as the chemistry and affection between Nichelle and Joey grows, so does Joey’s struggle with his two worlds. Given that he appears to be in the business of furthering crime in some way or another (his exact role has never been made clear and Nichelle has a strict policy of not asking) and Nichelle is in the business of uncovering and exposing it, it seems likely that eventually this will cause some sort of catastrophic explosion. Add in the fact that Nichelle’s former boyfriend is a hotshot ATF agent who wouldn’t mind a) removing the “former” from that description and b) uncovering Joey’s secrets and bringing down the entire hierarchy of the organisation he works for, there’s a lot of tension that simmers in these books nicely. For now Nichelle and Joey are moving forward (and I looove this because I really like Joey and especially Joey with Nichelle).

This was one of my faves of the series so far – they’re all good, continuing to get better as we get to know Nichelle more and her relationship with Joey develops and Kyle, the ATF agent continues to complicate matters. Now the only problem is waiting for the next one.


Book #169 of 2016

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Review: Breaking Him by Sherilee Gray

breaking-himBreaking Him
Sherilee Gray
Entangled Publishing LLC
2016, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Folks in town call him a monster—say he’s dangerous. But I know him simply as Elijah Hays, the quiet, gentle giant who works with the horses on my ranch. I can feel him watching me, that steady intense gaze making me crave things I don’t quite understand, burn in a way that frightens me. He’s always kept his distance…until that night.

I remember him coming to my rescue, me following him into the barn, giving him his first taste of a woman, and his inexperienced yet barely reined touch turning me to ash.

Now all I can think about is exposing the dark desire I see deep inside him—having him turn those dark desires on me. That low, gritty voice rasping orders in my ear. Those huge, rough hands holding me down when a storm blows in.

I want his surrender. His control. I want to break him…and have him break me…

I like trying to find romance books that are kind of outside the box – different types of heroes, heroines or a twist on classic tropes. I requested this book because it has a virgin hero, which is not something I come across a lot of in reading. They’re out there, if you look for them but when one crosses my path I find it intriguing. Romance has traditionally revolved around many a “manwhore or rogue/sexually inexperienced female” pairing so something that throws that upside down is fun.

The thing is, I think it’s only fun in idea. Because there’s not a lot about Elijah here that actually really fits him being not just a virgin but a man who has had basically no sexual experience with a woman ever. There’s a kissing scene where it’s quite obvious for a few moments that it’s his first kiss, where Abigail is leading and coaxing him into it but then basically Elijah becomes……every other hero, ever. I’m not even sure there was a point to making him so inexperienced because he morphs into a bossypants with stamina up the wazoo and dominant tendencies in about three and a half minutes. I’d have liked that to play out a little slower, because Abigail in the beginning was a great sexually confident character who does initiate their first encounters but then it becomes about him “punishing” her, spanking her etc and omg haven’t I read this two thousand times already? I’d have found it more interesting and more fitting if Abigail had continued a more dominant role for longer.

I did find Elijah’s background very interesting but it wasn’t really explored enough to make it anything other than a vague part of the book. It could’ve been something that was really expanded upon, both his experiences and other people’s reactions to it as well as what it was like for him to be given a chance on Abigail’s ranch. Super hot sex is all well and good (and there is a lot of sex) but it’s also about creating an emotional connection between the characters, a deep sharing of thoughts, history and feelings and I just didn’t feel like the story did enough for me there. It merely skimmed over things and parts of the word count seemed a bit wasted on weird things like the scenario with the bank manager and Abigail’s less-than-supportive friend. Also there were things that were wrapped up rather quickly, such as Elijah’s road to acceptance within the community.

This one was just okay for me.


Book #166 of 2016


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Blog Tour Review: Words In Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

words-in-deep-blueWords In Deep Blue
Cath Crowley
PanMacmillan AUS
2016, 352p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

This is a love story.
It’s the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets.
It’s the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea.
Now, she’s back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal and looking for the future in the books people love, and the words they leave behind.

This is my first Cath Crowley book although bloggers I know have sung the praises of her Graffiti Moon for a long time. It’s one of those books that speaks to a reader in so many ways, an interwoven tale of love, grief, friendship and books. What more could a reader want?

Rachel is 18 and has just failed year 12 after a devastating personal loss ten months ago. She’s moving back to Gracetown, a fictional suburb in north Melbourne where she lived up until three years ago, when she moved close to the sea. She was to start a job at a cafe in a hospital but after it falls through her aunt gets her a job at the second hand bookstore owned by the parents of a boy who was once her closest friend. She will be cataloguing all the books but it will mean working with Henry, who Rachel stopped writing to after she moved away.

For Henry, there is so much confusion. Rachel, his best friend, stopped talking to him. Amy, the girl he loves won’t stop messing with his head. She’s broken up with him again but she always comes back. And now Rachel is back too, working at the bookstore. She is suffering but whatever is causing her pain, she keeps silent on it. And now Henry’s mother wishes to sell the bookstore, which is barely breaking even and he has to decide which way his vote should go.

This is a book that will stay with you. The characters of Rachel and Henry are superb. They share the narrative and each is clearly defined. Rachel’s grief is palpable, almost leaping off the page to punch you in the face. Her loss is substantial and it’s coloured with a ‘what if’ guilt that haunts her. She loved Henry when she lived in Gracetown previously but he chose red-haired, manipulative Amy. Despite his desperation over Amy, an unlikable character in the extreme, Henry is still lovable and his dedication to the bookshop is….incredible.

Which brings me to the setting. Oh, the setting of this book. It’s like my spirit animal. I love all bookstores, they’ve been my happy place for as long as I can remember – from a 7/8yo going to Bookworld before it was bought by Angus & Robertson, picking up the next Baby Sitters Club or Thoroughbred series book to now. Second hand bookstores are just as good, the potential in there is unlimited. You never know what sort of gem you might find in there. Living in a town without a real bookstore is a struggle these days – if I want something I have to order online and wait or travel 40min in either direction to find a proper bookstore. The setting of Howling Books is such a beautiful place – this novel is littered with literary references, classical and contemporary. In the bookstore is a section called the Letter Library where patrons can read a book from the shelves there and leave notes, etc in the margins, or letters to other readers, but they cannot buy those books or remove them from that part of the store. It forms such an incredible part of the novel, which includes letters exchanged between the characters. Not just Rachel and Harry but also between Harry’s sister George and several others as well as letters and comments from Harry’s parents to each other which gives the reader such insight into their personalities and also their predicament with selling the store. It’s a good location on a big block and it will fetch such a price that all of them will financially comfortable. However for that they will trade away the bookstore and for Harry, George and their father, this is indeed a heavy price to pay.

I really enjoyed the story of George, Harry’s sister and her evolving relationship with Martin, a guy her age who is also hired to catalog the store contents. George is a prickly sort, ostracised and bullied at school and Martin, who used to date her nemesis, faces a hard road in winning her over. The character of Martin was adorable and some of his letters and moments with George were a real highlight.

Words In Deep Blue is really beautiful coming of age story, thoughtfully exploring love and grief in some of their purest forms. It’s not just about romantic love either, it’s deeper than that with homage to friendship, literature and home. I enjoyed every second of it and am putting Graffiti Moon on my ‘must acquire’ list straight away.


Book #172 of 2016

This review is part of the Words In Deep Blue blog tour. Please make sure you check out the rest of the stops listed below for some awesome reviews and author interviews.



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