All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

Hidden BodiesHidden Bodies (You #2)
Caroline Kepnes
Simon & Schuster AUS
2016, 400p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Joe Goldberg is no stranger to hiding bodies. In the past ten years, this thirty-something has buried four of them, collateral damage in his quest for love. Now he’s heading west to Los Angeles, the city of second chances, determined to put his past behind him.

In Hollywood, Joe blends in effortlessly with the other young upstarts. He eats guac, works in a bookstore, and flirts with a journalist neighbor. But while others seem fixated on their own reflections, Joe can’t stop looking over his shoulder. The problem with hidden bodies is that they don’t always stay that way. They re-emerge, like dark thoughts, multiplying and threatening to destroy what Joe wants most: true love. And when he finds it in a darkened room in Soho House, he’s more desperate than ever to keep his secrets buried. He doesn’t want to hurt his new girlfriend—he wants to be with her forever. But if she ever finds out what he’s done, he may not have a choice…

A couple of years ago, I read You by Caroline Kepnes, a novel told from the point of view of Joe, a young man who fell in love, stalked his prey obsessively, using her very visual presence on social media to track her movements and also to woo her. Things went bad by the end of that novel….very bad. But even though Joe is a psychopath, I couldn’t help but sympathise with him at times, which was a weird feeling. There was something about Joe in You, a kind of sad vulnerability of a man who just wanted to be loved, but kept picking the wrong sort of people to love him.

The reason You worked for me is because it made me feel that sympathy for Joe. I’d actually kind of forgotten about there being potential for a sequel until Hidden Bodies turned up on my doorstep, quite a few months ago now. Finally I decided to see what Joe was up to, to see if the sequel could reproduce that mixture of emotions in me – horror at what Joe is but also that strange sort of feeling where I want him to win. I want him to triumph, which literally means Joe getting away with murder.

Sadly for me, Hidden Bodies did not give me that same sort of internal conflict that You did. In the sequel, Joe has begun a relationship with the girl who turns up right at the end of You and he’s trying to avoid slipping back into old habits something made easier by the fact that his new love has very little online presence, unlike his old love. But when Joe is viciously betrayed, he makes a decision not to take it lying down. He moves from New York to California in search of revenge and from there, things kind of…..spiral.

I enjoyed the first part of the book, which was Joe in his new relationship, panicking about the one mistake he thinks he made during the events of the previous book. He’s a good narrator, he’s intelligent and insightful and he claims he loves but I don’t really believe that’s the case. Joe is narcissistic – he wants, he obsesses, he needs or desires but I don’t think that he ever really truly loves. In having a relationship, Joe is almost trying to reassure himself that he’s ‘normal’, that he can have these traditional interactions, belong in society. But there are always things simmering under the surface, ways in which he trips up.

When he’s betrayed, I did feel for him but that all began to evaporate the second he moved across the country. I really lost interest in the book when the setting changed and the more Joe immersed himself in the California scene, the less I enjoyed it. Especially as he just seemed to snap in a way, immersing himself in his psychopathic ways with the smallest (most ridiculous) provocations. The addition of the characters of Love and Forty (yes those are actual people, twins nonetheless) just drove the book even further down for me. Everyone Joe meets is conveniently rich and not really needing to work traditional 9-5 jobs. They play around at screenwriting or acting, take drugs and party. To be honest, this section of the book was really boring and I actually abandoned it for 5 or 6 days before finally deciding to finish it. It seems that this book was also left quite open for another installment of Joe and his ‘adventures’ as well as he’s in quite a precarious position.

I think that Joe really got off track after arriving in California. Suddenly it becomes all about Love and Forty and their never ending family dramas and it distracts him from his original purpose. So much so that he eventually just gets over it and can’t even be bothered when an opportunity for revenge pretty much drops into his lap. I didn’t really enjoy ‘new Joe’ who went around willfully murdering whoever annoyed him and attempted to justify it in various stupid ways. It just didn’t seem as believable or intriguingly sympathetic as before….perhaps too much of a good thing? Or maybe California just warped Joe into an even more disturbing version of himself, it’s hard to say. I just felt he had less in the way of awkward vulnerability in this book and was more cold blooded and ruthless.

The writing is good and Joe is an interesting character but his complexity in this novel seemed less developed and explored. In the end it seemed that Joe functioned on autopilot, dispatching those that were a bother or threat and his bond with Love never really convinced me. I found them quite boring together and because that looks quite cemented, I don’t think I’d rush out to read a third book in this series.

5/10

Book #161 of 2016

Leave a comment »

Review: Curious Minds by Janet Evanovich & Phoef Sutton

Curious MindsCurious Minds (Knight & Moon #1)
Janet Evanovich & Phoef Sutton
Headline Review
2016, 336p
Copy courtesy of Hachette AUS via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

They couldn’t be less compatible, but they make a great team…

Emerson Knight is introverted, eccentric, and has little-to-no sense of social etiquette. Good thing he’s also brilliant, rich and (some people might say) handsome.

Riley Moon has just graduated from Harvard. Her assertive (some people might say aggressive) spitfire attitude has helped land a dream job at Blane-Grunwald bank. At least, Riley Moon thinks it’s her dream job until she is given her first assignment: babysitting Emerson Knight.

An inquiry about missing Knight money leads to a missing man, missing gold and a life-and-death race across the country. Through the streets of Washington D.C., and down into the underground vault of the Federal Reserve in New York City, an evil plan is exposed. A plan so sinister that only a megalomaniac could think it up, and only the unlikely duo of the irrepressibly charming Emerson Knight and the tenacious Riley Moon could hope to stop it…

Oh Janet Evanovich. I have such mixed feelings about you. Fond nostalgia mixed with disappointment. If anyone had asked me between the years 2000-2006 what my favourite author was, I would’ve said Janet Evanovich with absolutely zero hesitation. I loved the Stephanie Plum books until probably number eleven but I hung in there, buying them until I think, 16 or 17. And then I read them from my local library until 21 and then I just gave up completely. I got sick of rating them 1 star and being disappointed with pretty much each installment. It was time to cut my losses.

But apparently I can’t fully quit Evanovich because the promise of a new series has me clicking the request button on NetGalley to see what is being offered up. Perhaps the fact that it’s….co-written? (I don’t even know how this works) with someone else, will mean that the crazy Evanovich things that bug me (old people, fat jokes, animal moments) will be missing from this new offering.

I’ve read a slew of books recently with characters that are brilliant but “eccentric”. Emerson Knight is one of these – he’s inherited a ginormous amount of money which is held in the form of gold bars. He wants to view these gold bars and his bank sends a junior representative in Riley Moon to tell him that nope, you can’t just go and look at them but sure, they’re totally safe. Emerson isn’t the sort of person who just accepts being told these things, he is determined to go and see them for himself. He suspects shenanigans are afoot and it turns out the bank seems to have misplaced a few other things, like employees. Emerson is determined to track down his missing money manager and his gold and he decides that seeing as Riley is there, she’s going to help him.

This was okay. I didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. It was just….alright.  I think it had some potential, had they decided to make the mystery really meaty and interesting but in the end, it didn’t play out that way and I guess of course it didn’t play out that way because this is a ‘funny’ book, not a serious book. A lot of the focus is on how mismatched Emerson and Riley are. Emerson is good looking but socially awkward and a bit odd. Riley is super focused and determined to work her way up the ladder. She has two degrees and is amazingly grateful to have landed a position at the bank. She doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardise her future there but unfortunately for her Emerson doesn’t care too much about that and just merrily barrels along, thinking up crazy plots and schemes. He has a lot of random contacts in a lot of places which enables him to pull many things off with barely a hitch. Reading this book requires you let a lot go and don’t worry about why they weren’t arrested seven million times.

Riley and Emerson do have an interesting dynamic and I did like a few of their scenes together. This is the first in a series, so I’m unsure of exactly how it will progress but there’s a very slight undercurrent of possible romantic tension. It’s not very well developed yet, more like the hint that it might be. I hope however, if that’s the direction they choose to go in, that a third person isn’t introduced to make it a triangle. I really don’t think anyone wants Stephanie-Morelli-Ranger Mk II to spin out for another infinity number of books. The two of them being so different could make for very interesting times ahead if that’s the direction they choose. If not – I’m happy for it to be a friendship dynamic.

I have to say, I was interested enough in this to read the next one, just to see how it goes. So I guess Janet Evanovich’s name still has some sort of power over me because I probably wouldn’t have even glanced at it without it. The second I don’t enjoy one, that’s it though. I’m not hanging in hoping for it to get better for a half dozen books like I did when the Stephanie Plum novels went haywire!

6/10

Book #143 of 2016

Leave a comment »

Review: Shadow Falling by Rebecca Zanetti

Shadow FallingShadow Falling (The Scorpius Syndrome #2)
Rebecca Zanetti
Zebra (Kensington Books)
2016, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Before the Scorpius Syndrome tore through North America and nearly wiped out the population, Vivienne Kennedy was the FBI’s best profiler. The bacteria got her anyway. But she survived. She recovered. And when she woke up from a drug-nightmare of captivity, her skills as a hunter of men had gone from merely brilliant to full-on uncanny. Her mysterious rescuer wants her to put them to the test. But no matter how tempting he is, with his angel’s eyes and devil’s tongue, Vinnie knows she shouldn’t trust him.

If the FBI were still around they would rate Raze Shadow as one of the bad guys. His military training can’t wipe out his association with the Mercenaries, the most feared gang in a thousand miles. His loyalties are compromised. He won’t even tell Vinnie his real name. But there’s no FBI in the new America of fear and firepower, only instinct and risk.

And the way his arms wrap around Vinnie tells its own story. Whatever else Raze is concealing, he can’t hide his desire . . .

I enjoyed the set up of these two characters in the first book of this series, Mercury Striking. It’s a new world, somewhere around 90% of the population has been wiped out by the mysterious virus and what’s left is barely controlled chaos. Jax Mercury runs a tight ship in Los Angeles, ruling a compound of survivors with military precision but there are external threats everywhere.

And possibly an internal threat in the form of Raze Shadow, a former military man who offered his services as an officer in Jax’s army. Raze rescued Dr Vivienne Kennedy at the close of the last book from a truly terrifying situation and now seems personally responsible for her….but it becomes quite clear early on that Raze has an ulterior motive. He’s motivated by external forces and he’s going to have to choose what (or who) is most important to him.

I really liked Raze in the first book – what’s not to like? He’s a mysterious man with skills. I enjoyed his thoughts in this story but I had trouble with the character of Vivienne, who goes by the nickname Vinnie. Due to the drugs she was fed in captivity (and perhaps something else, hard to say) and the captivity itself, she’s a bit unstable, suffering night terrors, hallucinations and an internal monologue that borders on the hysterical. Possibly fair play, given what she’s been through but the internal monologue is mostly comprised of Raze and Vinnie waits all of about a week after being rescued from a terrifying situation as a hostage that was only going to end badly, to start wanting Rafe super bad.

Like I said earlier, I know it’s a new world and the rules of civilisation as I know it don’t really apply anymore. I did have trouble believing Vinnie’s recovery – I expected her to be far more of a mess after what she’s experienced and I would’ve liked to hear more about what was actually happening during her capture. I feel as though it was kept deliberately vague, perhaps in order to keep the man who captured her more sinister for not knowing much about him. This book is also a bit repetitive as it again features basically two women needing to be rescued from the same psycho by the same badasses.

What I did enjoy was the power play between Jax and Raze. Jax is unequivocally the leader and it’s not particularly a democracy. He’ll listen to suggestions and plans but ultimately he’s the one that makes the decisions. He gets taken by surprise in an alarming way in this book and I’m not sure that the resulting fallout really painted Jax in the strongest light. He came across as a good leader in the first book (with some flaws) but in this book he seems almost wearily stumped at times in a ‘why is this happening to me?’ kind of way. He does attempt to be a good guy, trying to make sure that no one is being coerced to do anything but at the same time, he seems vague about the overall problem. I think Jax was stretched a bit thin in this book and that he needed to promote a few to generals because he can’t rule over everything with the same eagle eye. His conversations and interactions with Raze regarding Raze’s questionable appearance and loyalty were really good though and the two of them ended up establishing a very good dynamic that would bode well for divvying up responsibilities in the future, were it to ever happen.

We meet a new crew in this book, the leader of which is certain to be featured in probably the 4th or 5th book as the groundwork was laid early here. There’s plenty of opportunity in this new civilisation to continue to draw this series out, flesh out the world more and explore the political ramifications. I’d like to see some more of that in the next book…….plot development is important and these books could end up feeling like you’re just reading the same ones over and over again if things don’t start to move along a little and the romance continues to take over. But I suppose with heroes with names like Jax Mercury, Raze Shadow, Tace Justice and Greyson Storm…..the romance/sex is always going to be strong.

6/10

Book #155 of 2016

Leave a comment »

Review: The Regulars by Georgia Clark

RegularsThe Regulars
Georgia Clark
Simon & Schuster AUS
2016, 400p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

GIRLS meets BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY (with a magical twist) in this fierce and hilarious women’s fiction debut, as three average girls become extraordinarily beautiful and have all their fantasies come true … or do they?

Best friends Evie, Krista and Willow are just trying to make it through their mid-twenties in New York. They’re regular girls with typical quarter life crises: making it up the corporate ladder, making sense of online dating, and making rent.

Until they come across Pretty, a magic tincture that makes them, well …gorgeous. Like, supermodelgorgeous. With a single drop, each young woman gets the gift of jaw-dropping beauty for one week, presenting them with unimaginable opportunities to make their biggest fantasies come true…

I’m in two minds about this one.

It’s an interesting idea. Three girls living and working (struggling) in New York are good friends. Their lives are no where near perfect: feminist Evie works for a trashy magazine that features articles on boys and make up. Krista is an actress trying to make it. Willow is an artist who feels as though she stands in the shadow of her famous movie director father. Krista runs into an old friend who gives her a vial of “Pretty”, a magical purple elixir that turns whoever drinks a drop of it pretty for seven days. Not just a prettier version of themselves, a stunningly beautiful new version. Krista, who is quite short, grows inches after consuming it. Their features are perfect, luminous. They look so different that they can all choose new names and identities, completely ignoring their real lives and identities for the week.

I kind of feel like if you want me to believe in this sort of thing happening in a “normal” setting then you need to give me something as to what it is and why/how it does it. This book gives nothing about what Pretty is at all. All the reader knows is that you must consume a drop of it every 7 days because the pretty effect will wear off and you’ll go back to being your regular self. The transformation into “Pretty” is kind of hideous – the sort of thing best done in private. Although Evie is somewhat concerned about what it is or what it could do to them long term, the chance to do something that’s like her dream job has her taking it as well, after Willow and Krista have succumbed.

To be honest I didn’t really connect with any of the characters or their struggles much. I didn’t feel as though what they did with their new appearances were all that revolutionary either – Willow begins to test her boyfriend’s fidelity with her new beautiful self, basically serving her prettiness up on a platter and then being upset when he begins to succumb (but it doesn’t stop her). Krista scores a part in a movie and behaves in an embarrassingly rude way. Evie wants to smash the construct of women in media but finds herself stonewalled and overruled. I appreciated that the characters were of diverse backgrounds and sexuality but felt that the book could’ve explored the themes of being prettier doesn’t necessarily make your life better in more ways than sexual gymnastics. The three of them really begin to let their friendship slide after taking pretty, so much so that there is a grave fear for the wellbeing of one of them at the end of the story. The become quite self-involved and some of the antics are actually quite cringeworthy. I almost put the book down a couple of times but a few things kept me going – hoping for more information on Pretty and how Willow’s situation with her boyfriend was going to be resolved.

I found the ending somewhat unsatisfactory. The lack of information on Pretty and how it came to be, what the person who gave it to Krista does (we get a small glimpse into her life which is awful) and the way in which the three girls clumsily decide they don’t need Pretty, they’re fine just as they are, etc. It could’ve been something gently explored throughout the novel but instead seems to be wrapped up hastily at the end after a chain of disasters.

Unfortunately, this just wasn’t my sort of book. I see the potential in it but the way in which it was executed didn’t really work for me.

5/10

Book #154 of 2016

1 Comment »

Review: The Matchmakers Of Minnow Bay by Kelly Harms

Matchmakers Of Minnow BayThe Matchmakers Of Minnow Bay 
Kelly Harms
St Martin’s Press
2016, 288p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

A young painter, Lily has reached a crossroads in her life. Her career hasn’t taken off, her best friend may no longer be the trusted friend she thought, her boyfriend is a disappointment, and now she can’t keep up with the rising cost of living in the city. With no one to turn to, Lily is forced to move from her beloved apartment, but while packing she comes across a piece of mail that had slipped to the back of her junk drawer: a letter detailing further action needed to finalize the annulment of a quickie Vegas wedding. Ten years ago!

Lily decides it’s time to turn over a new leaf and the first item on her list of things to fix is getting the annulment… but you can’t just send a reply ten years later, “Hey by the way we are still married.” This is something that must be addressed in person. Lily takes to the road to track down her husband – the charming, fun, and sexy man she connected with all those years ago – Ben Hutchinson.

Ben Hutchinson left a wealthy dot-com lifestyle behind to return home to his family and the small town he loves, Minnow Bay. He’s been living off the grid and the last thing he expects is a wife he didn’t know he had to show up on his doorstep.

By chance, Lily arrives at the magical Minnow Bay Inn, and there she will discover not just a place to lay her head, but new friends, a thriving art community, and maybe even the love of her life.

Lily’s life is a disaster. She’s still living the same way that she was as a university student over a decade ago, barely making rent. Her friend thinks that if she hasn’t made it by now then perhaps it’s time to give up the art, get a respectable job and grow up a bit. When Lily finds a document she never filed to annul a fun Vegas wedding years ago, she decides that she’s going to track her husband down and sort everything out in person. Maybe a trip to Minnow Bay, Wisconsin where her estranged ‘husband’ now lives, will help her figure out her life.

I found Lily quite a frustrating character at times because she was so content to let others dictate things to her. She has a sort-of boyfriend who is quite clearly screwing her money-wise and who treats her like a dirty secret he’s ashamed of but she continually makes excuses for him and refuses to see what is so obvious. Her best friend Renee is about fed up with her paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle and also clearly harbours some resentment toward Lily, who dated Renee’s husband before she married him. It comes out at the worst moments, such as when Lily needs somewhere to live and is refused – this is her best friend. She’s also critical when Lily decides to go to Minnow Bay and when she seems to be carving out a bit of a niche for herself there as well.

I loved the idea of the whole Vegas wedding on a whim – both Lily and Ben are visiting Vegas, Lily for Renee’s bachelorette party and she decides to kind of beat Renee at something and her and Ben marry for fun, never intending for it to be serious. However Lily forgets to complete the paperwork to annul the marriage and realises that she’s been legally married for 10 years – and so has Ben. The possible ramifications of this could be huge, especially if Ben has married again in the past decade, believing that he’s free to. He’s an intensely private person but Lily does some pretty impressive detective work and manages to track him down so that she can explain everything, get it all sorted and then move on with the next stage of her life.

In arriving in Minnow Bay, Lily meets Colleen, inn keeper and Jenny, her best friend who happens to run a gallery. Jenny is immediately taken with some of Lily’s work and is very sure she can get good prices for them – so good in fact that Lily smells a rat. Either Jenny has no idea what she’s talking about or she’s being ripped off by her boyfriend back home and that’s something that definitely warrants some investigating. Lily finds herself falling into an easy friendship with the women and even more than that, falling into an easy lifestyle in Minnow Bay. She has a place to create and an idea. When they find out the story, it seems like the whole town wants to push Ben and Lily together, not help facilitate the annulment.

I loved the small town of Minnow Bay – it seemed like a beautiful place to live although the Aussie in me definitely struggled with the thought of the snow! I also liked the person Lily evolved into, the more time she spent there. Prior to going there, she was in a rut, surviving by the skin of her teeth, whining about a lot of things and really going nowhere. The trip to Minnow Bay seems to shake her into action and she begins taking control of her life and her career. She doesn’t just coast along anymore.

I’d have liked a bit more romance, Ben is as expected, not entirely thrilled to find out that the annulment never went through all those years ago. He’s become quite reclusive, despite the best efforts of the locals and there are times when he’s abrupt and not really that likable (although I did really like him in the Vegas flashbacks). I think I’d have liked some more scenes between him and Lily, but so much was about Lily’s growth and finding some faith in herself and her abilities, so that I enjoyed. More romance would’ve been a bonus.

7/10

Book #134 of 2016

 

Leave a comment »

Review: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

The Hating GameThe Hating Game
Sally Thorne
Hachette AUS
2016, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher}:

Nemesis (n.)
1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
2) A person’s undoing.
3) Joshua Templeman


Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual.

Trapped in a shared office together forty (ok, fifty or sixty) hours a week, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, ridiculous never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game. The Mirror Game. The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything-especially when a huge new promotion goes up for the taking.

If Lucy wins this game, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she suddenly having steamy dreams about Joshua, and dressing for work like she’s got a hot date? After a perfectly innocent elevator ride ends with an earth-shattering kiss, Lucy starts to wonder whether she’s got Joshua Templeman all wrong.

Maybe Lucy Hutton doesn’t hate Joshua Templeman. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

I’ve been frustrated with reading lately because I keep picking up books that sound like they won’t be depressing and getting hit with wham! cancer. Or wham! dying hero. I am not in the mood for any of that right now, so I remembered that I’d requested this and it sounded like there’d be no potential for tragedy – right up my alley at the moment. Books only have to have all the characters come through unscathed and I’m happy.

But oh woah. This book. This book.

Guys with dark hair and blue eyes are my thing. Animosity as a front for lust is my thing. Witty banter is my thing. Realising the guy is utterly tormented over his feelings for the girl is my thing. This book is basically all of my things in one wonderful package. And it was amazing. I think I’ve read it three times, maybe four in two days.

Ugh, this story gave me all of the feelings. It made me laugh sooo many times and almost got me to cry a couple of times as well. Our narrator is Lucy, a (very) petite sweetheart who serves as executive assistant to one of two CEO’s in a merged publishing company. Joshua Templeman, a giant, serves as the other and the two share an area outside of the twin offices and spend their days engaged in games of loathing. They are as different as two people could be in many ways – Lucy is faultlessly nice, a bit of a pushover, wants to be universally loved by all at the company, and she is – except, she believes, by Joshua Templeman. In contrast, Josh is a ruthless hardass, terrorising most of the company, accepting no excuses, giving no extensions.

Lucy has always believed that Josh hated her but when she tries to make him notice her, tries to punish him in a way, by wearing a hot dress to work and claiming to have a date it sparks a reaction in Josh that she never could’ve imagined and it.was.glorious. The chemistry between the two, which simmered as a sort of weird resentment explodes as Lucy comes to realise that perhaps she’s been misinterpreting not only her own feelings for Josh but definitely his for her as well.

The reader has to interpret Josh’s feelings and thoughts through Lucy’s eyes as we’re not treated to his point of view so at first of course, Josh comes across as a total asshole because that’s the way she sees him. Lucy begins to scratch the surface of the impeccably dressed implacable Josh, exposing the insecurity, thoughts and feelings underneath. Josh is such an interesting character, the more time Lucy spends with him, especially as it begins to drift into after office hours, the more layers of his personality she reveals, the more the way that Josh comes across on the page, changes. Lucy learns to read him more, identify and interpret the expressions that she previously didn’t notice or didn’t understand, especially the ones relating to her. Lucy realises that she alone might hold the key to unlocking wall that Josh has built around himself – her thoughts and attitudes are often the ones that shape their interactions. When she’s hostile, Josh becomes closed off and abrupt. However if she drops her guard….she gets more. Much more.

I can’t find the words to explain just how much I loved this. Just sometimes you find a book that’s perfect and this was one of those for me. I sort of wish I could read a thousand more, just like this one but perhaps I love it so much because I can’t. I loved the burn of this, the way that Lucy came to realise precisely how and why things had been acrimonious. Their evolution is awkward and not at all smooth. Lucy is at times, quite breathtakingly dense as she fails to understand precisely what has Josh tied up in a knot but her slow realisation is done so well. She’s prone to the odd freak out as she negotiates the changing landscape and Josh’s way of dealing with them is adorable.

The only thing I don’t like about this book is that it’s a debut. That means I have no backlist I can go and immerse myself in. Sally Thorne needs to write more books….and quickly.

10/10

Book #149 of 2016

Leave a comment »

July Reading Wrap Up & Melbourne Writers Fest Sessions

Total Books Read: 14
Fiction: 14
Non-Fiction: 0
Library Books: 0
Books On My TBR List: 2
Books in a Series: 10
Authors I’d Never Read Before: 10
Male/Female Authors: 1/13
Kindle Books: 12
Books I Owned or Bought: 9
Favourite Book(s): The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Least Favourite Books: The Fairy Tale Bride by Kelly McClymer, The Taming of the Bastard by L.A. Dale
Books That Qualify For Challenges: 1

To be honest, the less said about July’s reading efforts, the better. I read one book that I absolutely loved (and might be excessively still re-reading bits of) and about 3-4 that were pretty good. The rest were just filler, things I read to put me to sleep at night.

I started quite a few books in July and put them aside because……death. I just can’t even with death books at the moment. Especially surprise death or illness. Books that you pick up thinking oh this should be quite light and then bam! character gets hit with some sort of horrid terminal cancer. Or one that looks like a nice women’s fic or romance and then the main male character ends up dying of a brain bleed or something at the end of the book. I just don’t want to read these types of things right now. So right now my house has a pile of books I’ve tossed aside for being Yet Another Cancer Book or Book That Lulled Me Into A False Sense of Security. Sometimes I’m fine with tear jerkers, books that attack my feels but now…..is just not one of those times. Down with that sort of thing. If I pick up a book and it’s got that vibe or hits me with Unexpected Cancer/Tragedy etc, it’s getting tossed aside.

The Melbourne Writers Fest program was released in July, as were tickets. To be honest (this is quite shameful) I’d forgotten about it. Normally I’m hanging out in June/July waiting for the program but I didn’t even realise this year until the day of its release! Once I had a look though I was pretty interested and I bought myself a 10-pack pass and set about chucking some sessions onto it. I’ve half filled it so far, I’ll decide on the rest a bit later once I’ve sorted out what is happening family-wise the two weekends I’ll be going. But here’s what I’ve signed up for so far:

Saturday 27th August

  • Justin Cronin: The Passage. Woo, I’m a big fan of The Passage and The Twelve. Shamefully I’ve bought City Of Mirrors but I haven’t read it yet. I feel as though I need to prob re-read the other two before I do.
  • Liane Moriarty: Truly Madly Guilty. Also a big fan of Liane Moriarty. Loved her last couple of books and bought her most recent to read before I attend this session.

Sunday 28th August

  • YA Superstars. The fabulous Danielle Binks of Alpha Reader fame is hosting this session with David Levithan and Rainbow Rowell!
  • Melina Marchetta: Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil. Yessss, I’ve seen Melina Marchetta before at MWF and this one is about her newest book (and first adult book!). Can’t wait for this.

Sunday 4th September

  • Lionel Shriver: The Mandibles. I am a huge Lionel Shriver fan. Love so many of her books. I was a bit cranky when I missed out on this session (it was scheduled to be in a stupidly small venue) but they switched it to a much bigger venue and I snatched up a ticket after they made the change. Out of everyone, I think she’s the author I’m most looking forward to hear speak. I’ve never been to see her before and she’s such an amazing writer with the most incredible vocab and I’ve read quite a few interesting pieces she’s written. I think this session should be ah-may-zing!

Potential Sessions To See:

  • Anna Funder: The Art of Fiction
  • Writing Family
  • Fantasy Fiction (Lev Grossman & Rainbow Rowell)
  • Wiradjuri Stories (Stan Grant & Anita Heiss)
  • A Shrinking Democracy? (Gillian Triggs – bet she’d be interesting to listen to and Bob Carr)
  • Writing Gender (C.S. Pacat, Nick Earls & Jacinta Halloran)
  • Miles Franklin Award: Meet The Winner
  • The Marriage Enigma
  • Barracuda: From Page To Screen
  • Talking Text Classics

Some of the above most likely clash and obviously I can’t attend them all – only have 5 slots left on my pass. I still have to decide which ones I want to go to. Will hopefully sort that out in the next couple of days. I’m hoping also that MWF kickstarts me back into a better frame of mind, reading wise. I’m excited to get to the Moriarty/Marchetta books and I always end up buying some others during my days in Melbourne too.

I’m off to start Truly Madly Guilty in preparation.

 

 

1 Comment »

Review: People Who Knew Me by Kim Hooper

People Who Knew MePeople Who Knew Me
Kim Hooper
Pan Macmillan AUS
2016, 304p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

People who knew me think I’m dead.

Emily Morris got her happily-ever-after earlier than most. Married at a young age to a man she loves passionately, she is building the life she always wanted. That is, until her husband’s business fails and her mother-in-law becomes chronically ill, causing cracks to appear in her marriage. To cope, Emily throws herself into her work.

That’s when she falls in love with her boss.

That’s when she gets pregnant.

Just as Emily is finally ready to make the choice between the two men, 9/11 splits the world apart. Amid this terrible tragedy, Emily sees an opportunity to remake herself.

But fourteen yaers later, a life-threatening diagnosis forces her to deal with the legacy of what she left behind.

Told in alternating time periods, People Who Knew Me is a riveting debut about a woman who must confront the past in order to secure the future.

I bet most people born after 1990 can tell you where they were and what they were doing when they heard about the Twin Towers being hit by planes on September 11th, 2001. I know I can. I was in my dorm room at university listening to music and working on an assignment when one of the guys banged on my door. You’ve got to come out and see this, he said. They had the TV on in the common room when they cut into whatever midnight timeslot crap was playing (I’m in Australia, so this was late at night) and went live to the footage from New York. Half my floor was up, the rest wandered out in dribs and drabs and we sat there and watched it all unfold most of the night and the next day. Some of that footage I’ll never forget, as long as I live.

In this novel, Emily has kind of backed herself into a corner. She and her husband Drew have been having troubles for a long time, they barely see each other due to circumstances that are really beyond their control and Emily has begun an affair with her boss. She keeps promising him that she’ll tell Drew about them but she never does. On 9/11, Emily is told to take the day off, sleep in and therefore she’s not in her office on the 101st floor when the plane hits. Emily sees a way out of well, everything. Pregnant, unsure who the father is and struggling to see the way forward, she leaves behind Emily Morris in New York and emerges as Connie in California. For fourteen years, “Connie” lives with her daughter Claire. Only a devastating diagnosis forces her to face the lies she’s told and the secrets she’s kept for her daughter’s welfare.

I’m afraid I’m going to bring a bit of a prejudice into this review, although I’m clearly stating it. When I read the synopsis of this, I was immediately intrigued – someone faking their own death and reinventing themselves is pretty interesting. I wanted to see what it was that had made Emily go to such lengths. The book is told in a back and forth style between Emily/Connie in the present day and the events in her history that led to her making this decision. I quite enjoyed this telling but there were many things I did not enjoy.

This bit is my prejudice because this book turned into Another Cancer Book. They’re everywhere at the moment, it’s like they’re following me. I’ve honestly had enough of cancer in my real life – my dad had cancer a few years go, my husband has had two tumours removed in the past two years, one from his kidney and another from his lung. A couple months ago a friend of mine died at just 38 after a very short battle with a very aggressive cancer. Everywhere I turn, there it is. Our life now revolves around 3-monthly MRIs to ensure it hasn’t returned. I read to get away from cancer. And it seems that it’s getting harder and harder to do. I almost put this book down when Emily/Connie got her diagnosis. All I could think was oh please, not again. I understand that so many people face cancer these days that it’s obviously going to be featured and explored in books a hundred different ways. At the moment though, I just don’t want to read any of it.

However I persevered because I wanted to get to the bottom of why Emily left New York and in the end, the reason was kind of disappointing to me. I felt as though a lot of her behaviour over the course of the novel when she’s married and still living in New York, was pretty selfish. She had a lot to put up with, I certainly don’t deny that. And her husband Drew had certainly had his selfish moments as well. But a lot of what Drew did later in their marriage was mired in love and duty as well and even though it impacted on Emily’s life greatly I don’t think she ever acknowledged the sacrifice Drew was making too. There is of course, also a big debate that could be had about the American health care system and the strain it puts on the families of people who don’t have health insurance. Some of what Drew and Emily had to deal with is incomprehensible to me as an Australian, where our health system is very different.

Ultimately I found Emily a coward. Choosing to fake her death and flee to the other side of the country to avoid a potential outcome just didn’t really sit well with me. Especially with the whole 9/11 thing, so many people perished in that. It felt somewhat tasteless to use such a monumental tragedy as a way to change her life because she didn’t have the guts to speak to her husband about what she’d been doing and what the potential outcomes might have been and maybe she didn’t want to be married to him anymore. I did wonder if Emily had been sure of the outcome, if she would’ve left….or if she would’ve just stayed in New York and gone on pretending, going through the motions.

This left me a little unsatisfied. I would’ve liked a bit more of Connie’s life in California, I never really got the feeling what it was like for her to start again, cut off from everyone and raise a child pretty much singlehandedly. She seemed to have the perfect house + job combo fall in her lap but I’m sure there must’ve been trying times when Claire was a baby where she struggled to cope alone. Instead she seemed to sail through life up until the diagnosis, the only thing that made her reconsider some of her actions and tell Claire about her father. If she’d never been diagnosed, it never would’ve occurred to her to stop depriving her daughter of the father that was still living or her ex-husband (current? there’s a whole bunch of stuff that’s never examined, like the fact that Drew has since married again since Emily’s “death”, a marriage that is surely invalid/bigamous/illegal/whatever now that he knows that Emily is still live…..it’s not discussed) of a child. You could argue that he wasn’t being deprived, because he never knew of her existence and perhaps that’s true. But Claire certainly knew that she had a father although she believed him to be dead. Ugh, there’s just too much here. Claire actually takes all of this news rather well, far better than Connie/Emily actually deserved.

An intriguing idea but a lot of it just didn’t really work for me and a few holes left me with far more questions than I find enjoyable.

6/10

Book #145 of 2016

Leave a comment »

Review: A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

A Curious BeginningA Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell #1)
Deanna Raybourn
Titan Books
2015, 320p
Purchased personal copy via iBooks

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

London, 1887. Veronica Speedwell intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime. But fate has other plans. When Veronica thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron, he offers her sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker – a reclusive and bad-tempered natural historian. When the Baron is murdered, Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

That’s the briefest blurb I’ve ever seen.

I was a big fan of Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey series so although I was sad when that series came to a close I was quite happy when I read that Raybourn was writing another mystery series set in Victorian times. She writes the sort of characters I enjoy and she can orchestrate chemistry between them like nobody’s business. Surprisingly I kind of forgot about this book coming out until I stumbled across it during a late night iBooks session. iBooks is dangerous – so very dangerous. I’ve been buying a lot of books there recently and when I saw this I clicked the button and sent it straight to the top of the TBR.

Veronica Speedwell is an independent woman in her mid-20s who has just buried the last of her 2 guardians, elderly spinsters who raised her. She knows nothing of her origins and now that her guardians are gone, she seeks to travel the world having adventures. Speedwell is a lepidopterist which means she studies butterflies and she enjoys travelling abroad to find and capture new specimens. Before she can depart however she is saved from an intruder by a gentleman who seems to believe her in grave danger. Because he wishes to take her somewhere Veronica was planning on going anyway, she goes with him, only for the gentleman to leave her with a dear friend of his, a taxidermist and natural historian by the name of Stoker. However the mysterious gentleman, who knows who Veronica’s mother was, never returns and is murdered in his study. Stoker and Veronica flee London and suspicion, determined to find out themselves why he was murdered….and what the secret of Veronica’s heritage is.

I will say that I think this book was mostly a win for me….mostly. I like Veronica, I think she’s fun and I really liked Stoker. I love Raybourn’s men and Stoker clearly has some demons and a few hidden secrets which will be delicious when they come out. The chemistry in this opening installment was good, nothing too overt but it’s simmering nicely. Both are quick witted and the banter can be very amusing. Both are very intelligent and share similar interests and it’s easy to see that there really are a lot of options for how this fledgling partnership can progress.

However – there’s no denying that some of the book felt a bit weak. In particular I often felt Raybourn was trying to beat me into submission with how progressive Veronica is. She’s a Victorian lady – the era of chastity and whatever, but Veronica is remarkably modern in her views on sexual relationships, the opposite sex and feminism. I’m not saying that there were no women feeling and acting this way during this time but it seems to be reiterated throughout the book a little too often to feel natural. Veronica is constantly reminding us that she’s had lovers, she’s experienced, she’s traveled all over the world despite being quite young and travel being slow and difficult in these times. She’s capable of taking care of herself, there are many instances during her travels where she’s had to do this or that and to be honest, it did get a little bit wearying. She’s different. I get it. It might’ve felt less jarring if Veronica didn’t wax quite so lyrical quite so often. The dialogue at times often felt very modern and there was far too much of it. Dialing back a little and revealing Veronica’s thoughts and actions over a bit more time might’ve made it feel like she wasn’t trying to shout down everyone she met.

I love a story where two characters are forced to go on the run – it’s all the better if they’re forced into sharing a room or bed due to circumstances….I don’t know why, it’s just one of those things that I really enjoy. I find putting two characters in a room together shakes things up nicely and helps identify whether or not the chemistry is really there or if it’s being forced. So that part of the story really did work for me, which was good as it takes up quite a large portion of the book as they hide out in a couple of different places in order to avoid both people who seem to want Veronica as well as London’s finest, who have decided that Stoker makes a very convenient suspect. The mystery started off promising but I kind of found that it went some pretty strange places and if this sort of thing continues in each book, Veronica is in danger of becoming a bit of a Victorian Mary Sue.

I think this was a pretty decent start and I see a lot of promise…..but I also think that there’s a possibility that it will murder itself with too much witty banter and snappy dialogue, like it’s an 1800’s episode of Gilmore Girls if the mysteries aren’t a bit meatier in the future. I like it enough to continue and I really want to see where it goes with Stoker and Veronica. The first book in the Lady Julia series wasn’t the strongest either and it found its footing more as it went on, so I hope this one is the same.

7/10

Book #144 of 2016

Leave a comment »

Review: The Blue Bath by Mary Waters-Sayer

Blue BathThe Blue Bath
Mary Waters-Sayer
St Martin’s Press
2016, 320p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Kat Lind, an American expatriate living in London with her entrepreneur husband and their young son, attends an opening at a prestigious Mayfair art gallery and is astonished to find her own face on the walls. The portraits are evidence of a long-ago love affair with the artist, Daniel Blake. Unbeknownst to her, he has continued to paint her ever since. Kat is seduced by her reflection on canvas and when Daniel appears in London, she finds herself drawn back into the sins and solace of a past that suddenly no longer seems so far away.

When the portraits catch the attention of the public, threatening to reveal not only her identity, but all that lies beyond the edges of the canvases, Kat comes face to face with the true price of their beauty and with all that she now could lose.

Moving between the glamour of the London art world and the sensuous days of a love affair in a dusty Paris studio, life and art bleed together as Daniel and Kat’s lives spin out of control, leading to a conclusion that is anything but inevitable.

This book was…..weird. And a further reminder why infidelity books so rarely ever work for me.

I thought this one might be an interesting exploration of what it might be like for someone to be confronted with a past great love that was never truly resolved, perhaps delve into a struggle. But to be honest, it wasn’t really like that at all. Kat’s husband is pretty much absent throughout the entire novel, you don’t get a chance to meet him or care for him, he might as well not even exist. And the flashbacks of Kat and Daniel’s relationship years ago in Paris didn’t really do much to persuade me it was a great love. It was poorly executed, bringing visions of an unhealthy attachment between two characters who had little idea about anything and wasn’t presented in a way where either character had much going for them.

In the present day, Kat hears that her long-ago lover is having a showing and decides to go. There she’s confronted by paintings that are entirely of her – parts of her, that make up a whole. In their state, just pieces of her on each canvas, it’s not immediately obvious who the girl on canvas is but the more time Kat begins to spend with Daniel, the more likely it will be and everything she has will be lost.

Characters do stupid things left, right and centre in this novel. Kat going to the showing itself wasn’t totally stupid because I think it’s somewhat normal to be curious about a former flame that you haven’t seen in a long time but it also wasn’t really the wisest thing to do either. And if you turn up and find out that some guy has only been painting you for the past 20 years, just hundreds of canvases featuring different part of you, isn’t that, I don’t know….. a little ok a lot creepy? Kat seems to find it fascinating, that for the last two decades her former love has been so obsessed by her and their relationship and the end of it that it’s all he’s been able to successfully paint. With her husband conveniently out of the country and their son even more conveniently away on holiday at his paternal grandparent’s, Kat feels free to indulge in pretty much any sort of behaviour that she likes and doesn’t seem to at all think about the consequences. Or even really care about them, to be honest.

But the weirdness of that is nothing compared to the ending of the novel. It actually really annoyed me in a way – I found it incredibly random and it seemed to make so little sense. Even worse, Kat never really had to face the choice she needed or, nor the consequences of her actions – all of that was taken away from her. I really dislike books that leave me feeling unsatisfied and unfortunately this one was definitely that type of book. Daniel and Kat are not only unlikable but they’re also uninteresting. I found nothing about Kat’s personality intriguing or even notable. She seemed removed from so many things – her marriage, the renovation of her home, even her affair with Daniel in a way. The only things that seemed to humanise her at all were her son (when he was there, but not enough to actually make a decision about what she was doing) and her feelings about her mother. Everything else just made Kat seem like a selfish robot, doing whatever it was she felt like with little regard for others.

4/10

Book #139 of 2016

 

 

 

Leave a comment »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,960 other followers