All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Women In The Walls by Amy Lukavics

women-in-the-wallsThe Women In The Walls
Amy Lukavics
Simon & Schuster AUS
2016, 272p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Lucy Acosta’s mother died when she was three. Growing up in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods with her cold, distant father, she explored the dark hallways of the estate with her cousin, Margaret. They’re inseparable—a family.

When her aunt Penelope, the only mother she’s ever known, tragically disappears while walking in the woods surrounding their estate, Lucy finds herself devastated and alone. Margaret has been spending a lot of time in the attic. She claims she can hear her dead mother’s voice whispering from the walls. Emotionally shut out by her father, Lucy watches helplessly as her cousin’s sanity slowly unravels. But when she begins hearing voices herself, Lucy finds herself confronting an ancient and deadly legacy that has marked the women in her family for generations.

I have to admit, I don’t read a lot of horror. I’ve never read a lot of horror. Well ok, when I was much younger I read a fair bit of R.L. Stine. But that was a long time ago and it’s not a genre I gravitate to now and I haven’t read much over recent years that I feel really fits that description. So this was something a bit new for me and if I’d read this as a teen it would probably have freaked me out nicely.

Lucy is 17 and lost her mother at a very young age. Shortly after, her mother’s sister Penelope moved in with her daughter Margaret to help care for Lucy and manage the family manor. Lucy’s father married into a very old, wealthy family and is still seen as an outsider or usurper by the local members of a mysterious country club. His life revolves around throwing lavish parties for these members in an attempt to be respected and seen as one of them. In this dedication he neglects his daughter, leaving her primary upbringing to Penelope. When Penelope goes for a walk in the woods and doesn’t return, the already fractured household begins to spiral further out of control. Penelope’s daughter Margaret, already not the stablest person emotionally, begins acting even stranger. Lucy is left isolated and scared. Margaret has narrowed Lucy’s world until it was her and when she withdraws from Lucy, it means that Lucy has nothing left. She spends her days sitting in the library, staring out the window, waiting to see if Penelope is found.

This book took quite a grim swerve – it starts off pretty dark, with a death on the first page and then only gets worse. I was truly horrified by what happened to Margaret but I’m not sure that the tragedies were having the effect on Lucy as a character that they should’ve been. Even though she’d been brought up in a very ‘stiff upper lip, good breeding, don’t show anything’ type of way, it feels as though she should’ve shown more emotion at the tragedies that were happening in the house. And then she decides to start searching for information and with one google search on the family house, seems to acquire relevant information.

I can’t deny that the author did create a really creepy atmosphere within this house. In a way the house was kind of like a character in itself, stately and grand but with creepy hidden secrets within the walls. But the pacing dragged a little in places and raced in others and I had a little bit of a difficult time wrapping my head around the supernatural aspects, which was not something Lucy seemed to struggle with at all. I would’ve liked a slower, more thought out introduction to the supernatural side, something that unfolded thoughtfully rather than a few rushed ‘am I hearing things or not’ moments, a vague childhood memory and then full immersion in some pretty out there stuff. It felt a bit jarring because I was expecting more Jane Eyre than The Exorcist when I picked up the book.

This was just okay for me….it had its strong points but it also had weak points as well. It was a very quick read, it’s quite a slim book and I know it’s for younger adults but I think that some filler could’ve been cut from the middle, which is really just Lucy wandering around. Then the author could’ve expanded on areas like Margaret and Lucy’s friendship, which is alluded to but never really shown as they are almost virtually estranged when the book begins. Also some time could’ve been spent developing the supernatural story a little more. It just felt so rushed.

6/10

Book #206 of 2016

 

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Review: Turbo Twenty-Three by Janet Evanovich

turbo-twenty-threeTurbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum #23)
Janet Evanovich
Headline Review
2016, 304p
Copy courtesy of Hachette AUS via NetGalley

Blurb {from Goodreads.com}:

In the heart of Trenton, N.J., a killer is out to make sure someone gets his just desserts.

Larry Virgil skipped out on his latest court date after he was arrested for hijacking an eighteen-wheeler full of premium bourbon. Fortunately for bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, Larry is just stupid enough to attempt almost the exact same crime again. Only this time he flees the scene, leaving behind a freezer truck loaded with Bogart ice cream and a dead body—frozen solid and covered in chocolate and chopped pecans.

As fate would have it, Stephanie’s mentor and occasional employer, Ranger, needs her to go undercover at the Bogart factory to find out who’s putting their employees on ice and sabotaging the business. It’s going to be hard for Stephanie to keep her hands off all that ice cream, and even harder for her to keep her hands off Ranger. It’s also going to be hard to explain to Trenton’s hottest cop, Joe Morelli, why she is spending late nights with Ranger, late nights with Lula and Randy Briggs—who are naked and afraid—and late nights keeping tabs on Grandma Mazur and her new fella. Stephanie Plum has a lot on her plate, but for a girl who claims to have “virtually no marketable skills,” these are the kinds of sweet assignments she does best.

I know. I know.

I honestly can’t count how many times I’ve quit (or tried to) this series. It’s gone on so long now….I read the first 6 books back in 2000, so the series is probably over 20 years old. I’ve loved some, hated some, been ambivalent on others. Every time I’ve tried to say ok that’s it, that’s enough, not bothering anymore, somehow I end up getting dragged back in.

In saying that, this book was a pleasant surprise. I’ve been critical of some of the more recent books in the series for having so little plot and just being thinly held together by a string of “comedic” moments and weird animal interactions. Thankfully the comedic moments are toned down here and there isn’t a ridiculous animal moment that stands out (past ones involve a bear, giant spiders, geese and an alligator).

But this book shows some pretty strong threads of what I adored about the first half of the series. Stephanie is actually doing her job in this book (with varying degrees of success, as is expected) and she’s also going undercover for Ranger, who has been employed by an ice cream company to overhaul security. Shenanigans are going on and Ranger hopes that Stephanie might be able to uncover some information and she helps him out as it seems to be weirdly connected to one of her FTA’s and because she needs the money. Stephanie always needs money. Apart from this job making Ranger and Rangeman look slightly incompetent, which is weird, because Ranger is always presented as being half a step away from magic, it was pretty decent. Stephanie going undercover locally seemed implausible, given her notoriety but this is addressed and not just left as a plot hole which is good.

In terms of the love triangle…..I didn’t mind this one although there are some people that I think might find Stephanie’s behaviour a bit distasteful. Both Joe and Ranger are given kind of equal billing in this book and obviously Stephanie is no closer to a decision although Ranger does give her a bit of a home truth about Joe and whether or not his commitment to her is real. He makes a good point…..I’m never sure how much time is supposed to pass in Plum Land because even though time rolls on, Stephanie barely seems to age, but her and Joe and have been doing this dance for more than likely a few years now and have gotten precisely nowhere. “Engaged to be engaged” isn’t even a believable thing.

It’s funny because in the first few books, I was a Joe fan. Until the famous “Nice dress…..take it off” line when I realised that I wasn’t happy with who she’d chosen and all of a sudden it became about Ranger for me. I think that quite often the “Rangerbabes” get the short end of the stick because Ranger doesn’t do relationships and half the time the best they can hope for is some flirtatious banter or a stolen kiss in the alley beside the bonds office. Every now and then you get a book that drip feeds a little more, just enough to keep it simmering. And yet in the background Stephanie is pretty much always with Joe in some way or another. I’d love to see a pure Ranger book but I don’t expect that to ever happen because he’s been written in a way that suggests it never will unless he does a pretty epic backflip but I think it’d be an interesting dynamic to see him as the “boyfriend” and Joe as the bit on the side. But these books run to a formula and it’s been one that’s been very successful for Evanovich over the past 20 years.

To be honest, I enjoyed this book more than I thought I was going to. My curiosity and nostalgia for them keeps me coming back. Sometimes that works for me, like with this one. I actually thought it was pretty good, it kept me turning the pages and I liked the plot and the way that everything ended up playing out. There was a bit of Lula but not too much, which was good. Reading this actually made me think back on how much I adored these books, how they were the few books I always bought, even when I was a dirt poor student who could barely afford to feed herself properly.

7/10

Book #199 of 2016

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Review: The Pretty Delicious Cafe by Danielle Hawkins

pretty-delicious-cafeThe Pretty Delicious Cafe
Danielle Hawkins
Harper Collins AUS
2016, 352p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

On the outskirts of a small New Zealand seaside town, Lia and her friend Anna work serious hours running their restored cafe. The busy season is just around the corner, and there are other things to occupy them. Anna is about to marry Lia’s twin brother, and Lia’s ex-boyfriend seems not to understand it’s over.

When a gorgeous stranger taps on Lia’s window near midnight and turns out not to be a serial killer, she feels it’s a promising sign. But the past won’t let them be, and Lia must decide whether events rule her life or she does.

The Pretty Delicious Cafe will remind you of those special, good things we love about living. And the food is great.
A warm, witty novel, brimming with the trademark romance, friendship and eccentricity that Danielle Hawkins’s fans adore.

Oh my gosh, I love Danielle Hawkins. I really do. When I opened up a hefty parcel from the lovely people at Harper Collins Australia and this tumbled out, I might’ve squealed. Firstly, because I adore her two other books. Her previous novel, Chocolate Cake For Breakfast is one of my favourites. And secondly because I didn’t know that she had a new book coming out and it was such an awesome, fun surprise! Of course I pretty much had to read it straight away.

I’ve never been to New Zealand but this book has made me even more keen to visit. The setting is truly beautiful and described as such a natural part of the story. Lia and her friend Anna run a cafe which is still in the ‘taking off’ stage but the busy season is just around the corner and they have high hopes that it will be successful. I feel as though I must warn potential readers – don’t read this book when you’re hungry! It will have you craving the amazing delicious treats Lia describes as she makes them but helpfully the book does come with a half dozen or so recipes in the back, things that Lia makes to sell at Pretty Delicious Cafe.

Lia is single, having recently broken up with someone who seems to be having trouble accepting that what’s done is done. When new-to-the-area Jed knocks on her door at midnight and turns out not to be a crazy serial killer, Lia sees the potential for something with him. Jed has his baggage though and although there’s a strong attraction between the two of them, the way things in his life are means that his stay isn’t going to be permanent. Danielle Hawkins writes cute but realistic romance so well and I loved the blossoming friendship plus a bit more that Lia and Jed are experiencing. Jed has some quite serious commitments and I appreciated that his situation was not something I read about too often in fiction, but in this time is increasingly more common.

Anna is engaged to Lia’s twin brother Rob and the three of them have a somewhat complex dynamic due to the deep connection that Lia and Rob share. I’ve always found twins really interesting, I’ve known several pairs of twins both identical and not and it does seem as though they do often have special connections. As Rob’s partner, I think Anna is somewhat wary of this connection, it’s something that she can’t be a part of, either with her partner or her best friend. And I think it’s something that she perhaps finds a bit difficult to accept because of the nature of it. I didn’t particularly blame her about that, I think it’d be something that would be quite difficult to be comfortable with.

Although this book is super funny with plenty of quirky characters, amusing moments and that lazy, laid back feel of rural coastal life, it also has a very serious side, tackling an issue that is very prevalent in society today. The novel did end up taking a darker swerve than I anticipated towards the end but I think that Hawkins did a great job balancing out the lighter side of the book with the darker and nothing felt out of place or jarring. Lia’s situation slowly escalates but in a way that still makes you surprised at the act towards the end.

Like her other books, this one was a winner for me. I loved every turn of the page and it lives up to the expectations I had of a good read when it arrived. I would be super happy if every book I read left me at satisfied as Danielle Hawkins’ books do.

8/10

Book #192 of 2016

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November Reading Wrap Up

Total Books Read: 9
Fiction: 9
Non-Fiction: 0
Library Books: 0
Books On My TBR List: 1
Books in a Series: 7
Authors I’d Never Read Before: 5
Male/Female Authors: 0/9
Kindle Books: 6
Books I Owned or Bought: 5
Favourite Book(s): Rebel Of The Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Least Favourite Books: The Earl’s Desire by Alexia Praks
Books That Qualify For Challenges: 2

I knew when I wrote my October reading wrap up that November was going to be pretty much a bust in terms of getting much reading/reviewing done and it was! I only read 9 books for the entire month and only managed to get one review up. However a few of the books I read were December releases and I am sitting down today to smash out 3-4 reviews and 2 sets of author questions for some exciting stuff I have coming up.

In terms of what I read – it was a mixed bag. No 5-star reads, which in the year of 5-star reads is quite unusual. However 5 of the books I read were really good, solid 4-star reads which is awesome.

This month my youngest graduated kinder (pre-school). Next year he is off to “big school” and we have been involved in a whirlwind of transition sessions at the school, uniform buying (ye gods, that’ll send me broke), end of year kinder concerts and basically, things that are breaking my heart. He’s too little, I’m not ready for this yet! He looks so ridiculously small in his school uniform and he’s such a shy and self-conscious little fellow that my heart is full of fear for how he will adjust. Academically he’s very ready. He’s teaching himself to read, he can write quite well, he knows his numbers and understands the basics of simple arithmetic. He knows the date and month, the seasons etc. But socially, he’s very shy and the school he’s going to is very large. There will be around 200 students in his year alone and the grand total of students at the school will probably tip over 2000. Even after a year at kinder, his circle of friends is small and he’s not the sort to go up and introduce himself and ask to play. But although at his first transition session he was super nervous, yesterday during his second he went off with the teacher without a backward glance, waving goodbye which makes me super hopeful. I think he will love the school work – he just needs a few kids to help him feel at ease socially and he should thrive. Ugh, this parenting stuff is stressful! You never think of worrying about stuff like this.

Back to books! My Dec TBR pile is a little bit exciting! In fact it’s so exciting I am going to post a picture of it.

img_4051It’s a conservative 6 books but I always end up reading a couple of eBooks too so I thought I would try and keep it from being overwhelming given I anticipate December will be a bit busy with holiday-type things! Apart from A Court of Thorns & Roses they are all books I have received for review.

Hope you all had a good November reading month….. If you’ve read anything on my December TBR or plan to read something on there, be sure to let me know! And if you plan on reading anything else, be sure to let me know that too.

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Blog Tour Review: Sapphire Falls by Fleur McDonald

sapphire-falls-coverSapphire Falls
Fleur McDonald
Allen & Unwin
2016, 400p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Fiona Forrest is devastated when her husband Charlie commits suicide after the accidental shooting of his mate, Eddie. Though Fiona decides to keep farming their successful property, rumours that she intends to sell keep circulating.

When Detective Dave Burrows arrives to sign off on the investigation into Eddie’s death his suspicions are aroused by some strange anomalies at the scene. As Dave becomes increasingly convinced that something sinister is going on, Fiona finds herself dealing with a series of disasters on the farm…

By the bestselling author of Crimson Dawn, this suspenseful novel about a woman fighting to preserve her husband’s dream and a detective determined to uncover the truth will keep you guessing til the very last page.

Sapphire Falls is Fleur McDonald’s eighth novel showcasing rural Australia and the reader is introduced to young widow Fiona, whose husband has just taken his life, one tragedy after another. Although Fiona only really came to farming when she met and married Charlie, now that he is gone she finds herself motivated to stay on the property and continue their work. Wherever she goes though she is dogged by rumours that she’s going to sell, finding herself almost harassed about it.

Fiona is strong and stubborn despite her grief or perhaps because of it. She had slowly immersed herself in more and more of farming during her marriage to Charlie but there was still a lot she didn’t know, such as the finances. She pushes herself to get through the daily tasks, working mostly on her own probably doing the work of two people. Her tasks suddenly begin to seem even more difficult when there are a few suspicious incidents around the farm that are beginning to look a bit like deliberate sabotage. Coupled with the rumours that she’s selling, Fiona begins to wonder just exactly who wants her farm so badly…and why.

Detective Dave Burrows is asked to look into the investigation of the tragic shooting that occurred on Fiona and Charlie’s farm before Charlie committed suicide. A young, enthusiastic officer was quick to write it off without dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s and now it falls to Dave to tidy up some of the sloppy policework. Dave is methodical, a fan of the proper process. The more Dave digs the more he finds to make him question if this was really the tragic accident it seemed.

I didn’t envy Dave his job in this circumstance. The local community has been rocked by the tragic shooting of Eddie during an accident while Charlie and some mates were out attempting to hunt a wild dog killing stock. Charlie then took his own life leaving behind a devastated widow and a town that was trying to heal. He knew no one would want him coming in and stirring up memories again, asking questions but it was something that had to be done. Dave’s personality made the reader sympathetic towards him and his attempt to make sure that everything was done correctly. Dave is also dealing with something potentially devastating in his personal life with his partner Kim. Fiona and Kim cross paths quite by accident one night and strike up a mutually supportive friendship. Fiona needs all the supportive people she can get in her life to be honest and although the friendship did seem a bit random and rapid, the exchange of text messages seemed a format that worked well for both of them, kept busy by their day to day lives.

There’s a thread of suspense running through the story in several layers and really my only real kind of curiosity with this book was that I found it too easy to put together the pieces of what was going on quite early on which then meant I had to wait for everyone to catch up and then I got to see if I was right. It was still a clever idea, I just think that perhaps for me, it was signposted a bit too easily in the beginning and I never really had that chance to think about whether or not I was right or if there was going to be another twist. To be honest figuring it out early didn’t at all alter my enjoyment of the book because the suspense plot I think, was secondary to me behind Fiona’s development as a character and how events played out for her personally. I think Fleur McDonald did a fantastic job constructing the character of Fiona – her heartbreak and grief, her mixed emotions at the news she gets soon after Charlie’s death, her determination, her stubbornness, her fear and confusion and then anger at what is going on with her farm and her cautious hope for the future.

Sapphire Falls is a wonderfully enjoyable story with a strength in showcasing human relationships. In particular, the long distance relationship that Fiona has with her brother who lives in New York, was fantastic. It plays out via messaging online but in few words it managed to create a very close sibling relationship that was also realistic. I also really enjoyed the depiction of the rural farming town and some of the issues that farmers face in terms of weather, wild animals, stress with prices and things like spraying for weeds and pests. Fiona has such admirable determination – she could’ve leased out the farm but kept it as a legacy but she chooses (for good reason) to stay and work it herself, even though it must’ve been so exhausting and daunting to face it alone, especially while she would’ve been in such a fragile mental state. She does have a few people to support her but a lot of what Fiona does falls to her alone and she just keeps going, even when things are looking pretty grim.

This is easily a novel you can sink into and become invested. I read it in two sittings, specifically setting it aside for when I was waiting for my youngest son to finish appointments because I knew it would hold my interest and make the time fly.

8/10

Book #196 of 2016

Find Fleur McDonald online:
Twitter: @fleurmcdonald
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Buy Sapphire Falls online:
Booktopia
iBooks
Kindle

 

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October Reading Wrap Up

Total Books Read: 16
Fiction: 16
Non-Fiction: 0
Library Books: 0
Books On My TBR List: 3
Books in a Series: 10
Authors I’d Never Read Before: 4
Male/Female Authors: 0/16
Kindle Books: 14
Books I Owned or Bought: 10
Favourite Book(s): Frankie, by Shivaun Plozza
Least Favourite Books: The Gift Of A Lifetime, by Melissa Hill
Books That Qualify For Challenges: 4

Oh hayfever, how I hate you.

Spring has come late to my area of the world and with it, violent hayfever. Not only do I get it but both of my kids are affected too, which makes life pretty difficult at this time of year. Over the counter stuff really only does so much (ie not much) and the lack of sleep, itchy eyes, blocked and yet somehow also running noses are the pits. A side effect of that is that I find concentrating on things such as reading pretty difficult as my eyes get very sore. In fact at the moment, one of them is swollen and bloodshot – must’ve burst some blood vessels at some stage lol. It’s awful.

The positives – October wasn’t a bad reading month! 16 books is about as good as it gets for me these days and I read a few really good ones. Apart from my fave listed up there, I also really liked A Few Good Women by Camilla Chafer, Santa and the Saddler by Cathryn Hein, Bellwether by Connie Willis and a super exciting book, The Pretty Delicious Cafe by Danielle Hawkins. I looove her books and that one, which is out later this month, was a super lovely surprise from the fabulous people at Harper Collins AU. I didn’t even know she had a new book out and I absolutely had to read it as soon as it arrived.

I talked in my last couple of reading wrap ups about doing a book cull and I actually did it! I culled probably close to 300ish titles from my shelves. To be honest, about 40 of those were Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler novels that I was sent for review that I just never read because they’re not my thing. Quite a few of them were nice hardbacks as well – just not the sort of books I like to read. And they’re bricks, lol. There was recently a drive in my neighbourhood to donate clothing, toys and books for hampers and things to be made up for Christmas so I donated probably 100 or more to that. I sent pics of everything I was culling to a friend of mine and she picked whatever she wanted – which ended up being about 3-4 boxes worth! I also made up a box of younger-level YA for her daughter, who is about 11 and a mad reader.

I still have some work to do regarding my shelves. I didn’t go in depth into my shelves, I just pulled out books I knew from first glance that I haven’t and never will read or didn’t like. There are others that I need to decide and there’s one shelf (my TBR shelf) that I didn’t tackle at all yet. I will do a second cull in the coming months and look to further reduce my numbers. I’ve already made some more shelf space though, which is exciting.

I don’t know how my reading will go this month – as the year gets closer to the end, things are getting insanely busy. My kids have birthday parties (plural) what seems like every day of every weekend. My youngest has group OT as well as prep transition days and end of year kinder concerts and it feels like each day is packed with things. If I make it through a book or two a week, I think I’ll be happy.

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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/Goodreads.com}:

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.

8/10

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/Goodreads.com}:

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.

6/10

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/Goodreads.com}:

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/Goodreads.com}:

THE MAKING OF A LEGEND…

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.

5/10

Book #178 of 2016

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