All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Lone Child by Anna George

The Lone Child
Anna George
Penguin Books AUS
2017, 265p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Neve Ayres has always been so careful. Since her mother’s death when Neve was seven, she’s learned to look after herself and to keep her cards close. But now her deliberately constructed world has collapsed: her partner’s left her when she was eight months pregnant. And so, alone with her newborn son, she’s retreated to her cliff-top holiday house in coastal Flinders.

There, another child comes into her life. 

The first time Neve sees Jessie, the small girl is playing on an empty stretch of beach. On the cold autumn day, she is bare-legged and alone, while her mother is distracted by her own troubles. At once, almost despite herself, Neve is intrigued and concerned, and Jessie is drawn to Neve’s kindness – and to her home. 

To Neve’s surprise, Jessie becomes an unlikely source of much needed care for her and her baby. Having been lost in the sleepless haze of new motherhood, Neve is touched, and finds herself grappling with how to best help the forgotten girl. She has the spacious house, the full pantry, the resources . . . But how much can you – should you – do for a stranger’s child?

Hmmm.

This is an interesting book but I have mixed feelings about it.

Neve is a new mother. Her baby son Cliff is only nine weeks old and things have not been easy. Her former partner left her in the last month of her pregnancy, her family are distant and her friends are mostly without children. Neve is using her father’s coastal house to try and establish herself at this parenting thing and hopefully come to terms with how she feels about being a mother.

Parenting any newborn is hard, doing it on your own with zero support is even harder. Cliff is not sleeping well and Neve’s hopes of feeding for an hour and then sleeping for three are fast becoming dashed. Instead she finds herself feeding constantly and struggling to piece together more than a few moments of sleep. She is also struggling emotionally, not really feeling connected to her baby or with being a parent at all. A lot of people speak of the instant bond they have with their baby, the immediate rush of overwhelming love but it isn’t like that for everyone. It’s not uncommon for some people to feel detachment or even resentment, for the small being that has interrupted their lives so thoroughly and is either permanently attached to some part of your anatomy or screaming to be.  Neve at times does seem to be blindly going through the motions – she doesn’t even refer to the baby by his name in the narrative until a scene in the book where someone asks her what the baby’s name is. In fact Neve shows more interest in the young girl she sees on the beach, perhaps because she’s alone and then Neve ends up having to save her but it’s something that she feels more connected to than her own son. Later on, when she discovers the child near her home and invites her in, she’s incensed at the child being neglected.

Neve snaps to judge “Jessie’s” mother (Leah) from their first interaction and it’s admittedly true that their first two encounters aren’t positive. However the narrative unfolds to share Leah’s story as well and reads as almost a gentle warning against those immediate judgements based perhaps on someone’s appearance and possessions (or lack thereof). I actually found Leah’s story far more engaging than Neve’s struggles to bond with her son in her immaculate piece of modern real estate overlooking the beach and I wanted to know more about Leah’s life. It had come to such a desperate point and she needed support and praise because she was doing the best she could in an utterly bleak situation and still it was not enough, for her or her kids. With threats of services hanging over her head, Leah is in a panic and makes several quite terrible mistakes.

Neve’s state of mind is questionable at the time – she’s sleep deprived and possibly depressed, struggling to cope. She doesn’t seem particularly attached to anything or anyone. Even talking about the ex who left her she seems more annoyed that now she’s on her own rather than grieving a loss of a relationship. She does seem to latch on to “Jessie” quite quickly and there’s a bit of almost woo-woo about Jessie being almost some sort of baby whisperer that magically calms Cliff. Neve is so uneven in her behaviour that it even causes people to question whether or not Jessie even exists, after she confides in someone – almost to the point where Neve herself begins to question it. I think this could’ve been a really good thread if it had been run with a little longer, to the point where everyone was questioning it but it’s over and done with very quickly and the reader knows Jessie is real because they also read the point of view of her mother searching for her. So it serves little point in the narrative other than for someone to interfere by bringing in someone else and for the both of them to begin making decisions for Neve, which I found a bit arrogant.

If this is to be psychological suspense I can honestly say that I found the suspense part lacking and therefore it left me with a bit of “is that it?” at the end of the book. I was expecting a more dramatic conclusion I think, perhaps a longer and more drawn out type of suspense. However it just seemed to be over quite quickly and left me feeling a bit like I was missing a final chapter. But then again, that’s my personal preferences coming in to play perhaps. I’m not a big fan of abrupt endings which don’t address certain things or give you answers you’ve been looking for for the past 200 pages.

However I liked the exploration of motherhood and the ways in which women can be judged on their mothering skills, even by other women. Other mothers.

7/10

Book #126 of 2017

The Lone Child is book #41 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi
Sandhya Menon
Hodder & Stoughton
2017, 378
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The arranged-marriage YA romcom you didn’t know you wanted or needed… 

Meet Dimple.

Her main aim in life is to escape her traditional parents, get to university and begin her plan for tech world domination.

Meet Rishi.

He’s rich, good-looking and a hopeless romantic. His parents think Dimple is the perfect match for him, but she’s got other plans…

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell, Jenny Han and Nicola Yoon, WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI is a frothy, funny contemporary romance set at a coding convention in San Francisco over one exciting summer. Told from the dual perspectives of two Indian American protagonists, Dimple is fighting her family traditions while Rishi couldn’t be happier to follow in the footsteps of his parents. Could sparks fly between this odd couple, or is this matchmaking attempt doomed to fail?

I ordered this online recently after a couple of weeks looking for it locally with no success. It arrived yesterday so I decided to drop all my other plans and read it straight away. Yesterday was such a perfect day for reading – I have  a recliner that gets all the winter sun and it’s my favourite place to read. I was really excited for this, I’d heard such good things about it and it felt so different to a lot of the YA I’ve been reading.

Dimple has just graduated high school and will start at Stanford University after summer break. She lives and breathes coding and will be doing a degree in computer science. Prior to starting there she wants to undertake a summer program which she believes will not only give her a good grounding for beginning her degree but also enable her to possibly meet her idol and win the chance to develop her very own app. It’s something she’s really thought about and it’s important to her. She’s very surprised when her parents agree to allow her to go with no protest (although she will discover their ulterior motive soon enough). Dimple’s mother is very traditional and believes that her university degree will be a stepping stone to what is really important – finding an IIH (Ideal Indian Husband). This is not something Dimple is interested in at all.

Rishi has also just graduated high school and will be starting at MIT in the fall. His parents traditional values and hopes are very important to him and he’s a willing participant in their plans and dreams for him. Like Dimple he’s also enrolled in the summer school program. His passion is drawing, specifically comics but this is not a wise and trusted career path so instead his degree will be something parent approved that will result in a good career.

I really liked both the characters – Dimple is smart and super focused. She knows what she wants and what she doesn’t want and she doesn’t really allow her mother to pressure her into too much, such as wearing make up and growing her hair long trying to look good to get a husband. She loves coding, it’s what she wants to do and she has good ideas. The last thing she’s interested in is finding a husband – relatively normal for a 17yo who was born and raised in America. As she says, her family’s traditions aren’t always her traditions and when she’s visited India she’s often felt left out as the ‘foreigner’. In contrast, Rishi is super into the traditions and he’s not afraid to stand up for them and to broadcast how proud he is of his heritage. He admires his parents a great deal – their marriage has been enduring and positive and he feels as though they will provide him with a wife that will hopefully result in an equally long lasting and comfortable relationship. That’s what he wants – a solid grounding for the future. Dimple was also feisty but non confrontational, more the type to let things go rather than call someone out on bad behaviour whereas Rishi was go with the flow but intolerant of people’s rudeness and willing to stand up to them.

I really enjoyed a lot about this book. I feel as though a lot of children born to migrants do have the weight of their parent’s expectations, culture and traditions placed upon them, which may war with the upbringing they’re getting in a new country and I think this book perfectly showcases that and the different ways in which those children may respond to it. Dimple is a rebel – she struggles against her mother’s dedication to see her married to the IIH and learning to be a perfect housewife. She wants to experience life on her own terms and she’s passionate about her career – for her, university is not just the place she’ll meet her future husband. It’s a place of freedom and learning so that she can really push herself. Rishi is much more placid – as the oldest son he’s felt that it’s his duty to accept what his parents plan for him, to make them proud of him. His younger brother basically does what he wants but Rishi is content to dutifully follow the ‘right’ path – until he meets Dimple (which is kind of funny). She teaches him that it’s okay to follow your own dream, to be true to yourself and to do something that you are really passionate about. And at the same time, Rishi helps Dimple realise that their parents are coming from a good place, that it’s not all about stifling them and ruining their lives. Dimple is able to reach a new understanding with her mother because of it, a less combative place.

For me the romance was just okay – a lot of things fell into place and it was quite sweet but it wasn’t my favourite part of the story. The chemistry felt a bit lukewarm and at times, Dimple was quite frustrating about things. The conflict towards the end of the story was a bit weak and the resolution very “rom-com” but it was okay. I think they were a good example of opposites that work in a relationship but I think Rishi and how he felt about things was probably the driving reason for that. Dimple at times felt very prickly.

A good solid story, will definitely read the author’s future books.

7/10

Book #125 of 2017

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Review: Daintree by Annie Seaton

Daintree (The Porter Sisters #2)
Annie Seaton
Pan Macmillan AUS
2016, 326p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The Daintree breeds survivors, those who can weather the storms, heat and floods that come hand-in-hand with its beauty. Doctor Emma Porter is one such survivor, dedicated to her patients and to preserving this precious land where she has made a home.

Emma’s quiet life is disrupted when Doctor Jeremy Langford starts working at the hospital, bringing back painful memories: Jeremy was her first love and embodies all that she left behind in Sydney. Jeremy has demons of his own, however, and the tight-knit community of Dalrymple seems to promise the peace he has been looking for.

But while some come to the Daintree to find shelter, others are here to exploit the rainforest’s riches. And they will stop at nothing to get their hands on its bounty.

For the middle book in this trilogy, we move away from the Northern Territory to north Queensland and the tropical rainforest setting of the Daintree. Emma works as an emergency doctor and also has a practice in town where she focuses on her passion of a holistic approach. The local area has been understaffed for some time but it appears that finally they are getting someone to help share the load. It’s hard to say who is more surprised at seeing the other – Emma or Dr Jeremy Langford.

Years ago at university in Sydney the two were in an intense relationship which ended abruptly with the death of Emma’s father when she had to go back to the Northern Territory. A series of {deliberate} misunderstandings lead them both to think that the other has ended things suddenly. The two were very different – Jeremy comes from a very prominent and wealthy Sydney family of private practitioners with a private school upbringing and Emma’s family always struggled to make the mango farm profitable. She had plenty of insecurity about whether or not she would fit in in Jeremy’s world. After a long period of no contact, the two will be working closely together and living in close proximity.

As well as dealing with the reappearance of Jeremy in her life and what that might mean for her both professionally and personally, Emma has noticed that there’s something weird going on in the forest. There are definitely people up to something in there and when she stumbles across something that gives her a clue, it could threaten her life.

This was another really solid story with a combination of romance and suspense that blended together really well in an exotic location. Emma is a very solitary person at the book’s opening – she lives in an isolated cottage accessed by a punt across a river with temperamental amenities. Although she works with people and occasionally socialises with a group, she seems to shun close relationships and seems to enjoy keeping her distance. I enjoyed her approach to medicine and the way in which she looks to traditional methods to supplement her modern knowledge.

Jeremy was an okay character, I didn’t really love him. I felt his assumption that Emma had dropped out because she couldn’t cope in Sydney quite arrogant and also unfounded. She got excellent marks – in fact Emma remembers to herself how Jeremy used to sulk if she got a better mark than he did. Jeremy’s background was a bit of a cliche – rich doctor dad, socialite mother, over-achieving brothers. Jeremy wants something different for himself and after a really traumatic event that he witnessed that touched him personally, he wants to approach his career in medicine quite differently. That was interesting although I do feel that he overcame his obstacles about practicing in an emergency department sort of magically, merely by telling Emma about it. That felt a bit of an easy way out for me and I’ve liked to see him do a bit more work to overcome this almost a form of PTSD. There was also little resolution with the actions of one of his family members that I felt could’ve been addressed for the sake of closure.

The mystery of what was going on in the forest was a really strong part of the story. At first I definitely thought the culprits were up to something else and I didn’t even consider the possibility of what they were actually doing. It’s plausible and I have to admit that although I was right in my suspicions about a couple of people that were involved, I was definitely surprised by the identity of the final person. It felt like the suspense built really nicely and there were a couple of really dangerous events that raised the tension level a few notches.

Although this is the second book in the series, for me it’s the final one as I read the third one first. All together they are a really nice trilogy. I thought all the sisters were great, they were all strong, independent women with interesting careers (chopper pilot, doctor, engineer) and the romances weren’t super strong parts of the plots, more like a complimentary piece of the overall picture. I’d love to read more romantic suspense novels set in rural Australia – we have such a broad array of settings that are ripe for this sort of genre and Annie Seaton has utilised some of them really cleverly in this trilogy.

8/10

Book #124 of 2017

Daintree is book #40 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

 

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Review: Empire Of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

Empire Of Storms (Throne Of Glass #5)
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury ANZ
2016, 693p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those don’t.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?

I’m not sure I say this very often but…. Oh. My. God.

I thought the fourth book was pretty intense but this book stepped it up another notch. Maybe several notches. I haven’t actually read the prequel novellas (which I think are now bound up in one volume) before reading this and I’d probably recommend doing that as I feel a lot of the people who show up with Aelin starts calling in favours are probably detailed more in those stories. But it reads well enough without that background – we already know Aelin has traveled far and wide as Celaena and has markers all over the place or people she can blackmail into assisting her.

This book is non stop from the very beginning and there’s just so many threads of the story that knit together in this part. A lot of people come together finally in this section, you can see a core group re-establishing as well but it’s not without its own issues. And just when you think Aelin has been too clever, that she’s foreseen everything and put things in place to counter, she gets outmaneuvered in the most epic of ways and this book ends in a way that kind of makes you want to scream. I’m lucky, I read it last month and the next one is supposed to come out in September (although from what I read that’s a story about Chaol and Nesryn and what they’ve been up to on the Southern Continent that runs parrallel to this one, kind of like the most recent two George R.R. Martin books, so maybe that won’t give me any resolution and I’ll have to wait until next year).

The romance is strong in this volume – quite strong. I don’t mind this as I do like a strong romance thread to run through my books. A lot of what I choose to read is romance or has romantic elements. Rowan has his critics and that’s fine, no character will please everyone and I’ve been on the wrong side of a ship in lots of books I’ve read (*cough* The Hunger Games) but I don’t mind him really. I certainly like him a lot better than Chaol and I like the two of them together. However there’s no denying that there quite a few similarities between Sarah J. Maas’ two series and they’re very apparent reading this book. Some of the things almost mirror each other and upon reflection, that can be a little jarring. But it’s not a detraction from this book or this series, more like a curiosity. I quite like the romance in this series (all of them) and there are some truly heartbreaking moments in this book. Some O.M.G. reveals as well – in terms of one character, part of their whole life has been a lie.

For me, Lorcan and Elide have somehow become almost my favourite part of this. I love everything about their dynamic – everything. Lorcan is basically an asshole who only loves/worships/serves Maeve and Elide is all that is pure and courageous and eventually she begins to break down the shell that surrounds Lorcan. But he still does the most douchiest of things, even when he’s doing kind things and ugh in this book Lorcan, I wanted to kill you. You are the actual worst. But I still sort of like you but gosh I hope Elide punishes you for a looooooong time. Their angst sings to me and I want to read whole books about them. I think part of this is because I think it’s equally likely that their ending won’t be happy as that it will be. I can’t tell which way it’s going to go but whatever it is, I feel there’s going to be lots of moments along the way.

In terms of how invested I am and just how utterly engrossing this book was, how much it messed with my emotions, I can honestly only give it…….

10/10

Book #114 of 2017

 

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Review: Dangerous Minds by Janet Evanovich

Dangerous Minds (Knight & Moon #2)
Janet Evanovich
Headline Review
2017, 336p
Copy courtesy of Hachette AUS via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

DANGEROUS MINDS is a thrilling, adrenaline-fuelled adventure featuring unlikely sleuths Knight & Moon from Janet Evanovich, author of the New York Times bestseller CURIOUS MINDS, which introduced Knight and Moon, and beloved author of the No. 1 bestsellers in the Stephanie Plum series. A must-read for fans of Sue Grafton and J D Robb.

Buddhist monk Wayan Bagus has lost his island of solitude and wants it back. The Pacific island had a mountain, beaches, a rainforest, and a volcano. And now it’s gone. Poof! Vanished without a trace.

Boyishly charming Emerson Knight likes nothing better than solving an unsolvable mystery. Finding a missing island is better than Christmas morning in the Knight household. When clues start leading to a dark and sinister secret, Emerson will need to assemble a crack team for help. Since a crack team isn’t available, he enlists his cousin Vernon and Riley Moon. Riley Moon has a Harvard business degree and can shoot the eyes out of a grasshopper at fifty feet, but she can’t figure out how to escape Emerson Knight’s odd world. Vernon has been Emerson’s loyal and enthusiastic partner in crime since childhood.

Together, this mismatched trio will embark on a world-wide investigation that will expose a conspiracy one hundred years in the making. 

I’m a bit confused about the writing of this series. I thought the entire thing was a collaboration with Phoef Sutton but this book bills only Janet Evanovich and to be honest, it feels different from the first one. Particularly the character of Emerson Knight. And although Curious Minds, the first book in this series is listed on Phoef Sutton’s website, this one is not. So I’m not sure if it’s still a collaboration? I thought it was for 4 books but honestly, who knows.

This book is ridiculous. But I think that people who pick up books with Janet Evanovich’s name on the front cover probably expect ridiculous by now. The first one was kind of ridiculous too but tempered ridiculous, if that makes sense. I get the feeling that the tempered may be going by the wayside from now on though.

Riley is now working for Emerson, I’m not even sure what she does, he has some ridiculous name for it but basically she’s some sort of assistant. I guess he felt bad for her considering he basically cost her her job and he has buckets of money so he can afford to employ her. I guess she’s getting used to Knight because she doesn’t really seem to bat an eye when a Monk turns up and tells Knight that the island he was living on in the South Pacific is just….gone.

I’m not American so I don’t know anything about Teddy Roosevelt or the Rough Riders but plugging it into google tells me that they were an actual thing and Janet Evanovich turns them into a modern day group of villains here doing all sorts of stuff that I can’t really explain but it involves Yellowstone National Park, lava/magma and the potential to make the entire world go BOOM.

There were some things I did like – I love an adventure so part of this book did feel like one big adventure with camping and chasing bad guys and all that sort of thing. And because Emerson is stinking rich, and I do mean utterly stinking rich, they can do a lot of it in style with new cars, private planes, etc. I’m a girl who likes my creature comforts so I’m totally on board with that sort of thing. They are unusual characters so a lot of the time they go about things in unusual ways. Sometimes that pays off, sometimes it doesn’t.

What I didn’t like? The extras, including the monk guy and Emerson’s creepy cousin, both of whom smacked of Janet Evanovich’s patented “comedy sidekicks for the LOLs”. I just don’t think that they’re entirely necessary on board for the whole thing and didn’t really add anything to the plot or provide any pivotal moments. Emerson’s character was inconsistent throughout this book and in comparison to the last book (the comment about he might be a horn dog, for instance, read very strange). Perhaps this is a result of the fact that this one doesn’t seem to have been co-written, perhaps it’s being chalked up to “character evolution”, I don’t know. It just read quite jarring. I also really disliked the way the book ended, which was quite abruptly and on a snappy one-liner which gave no resolution to something promised earlier on in the story and just felt really unexpected, like I was left annoyingly hanging. And I just know the next book will pick up some time in the future and either never mention what should’ve happened, or gloss over it.

This one was middle of the road for me. A quick read that was entertaining in parts but it had a few things that I struggled with.

5/10

Book #123 of 2017

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Review: The Beast by J.R. Ward

The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood #14)
J.R. Ward
New American Library
2016, 508p
Read from my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Nothing is as it used to be for the Black Dagger Brotherhood. After avoiding war with the Shadows, alliances have shifted and lines have been drawn. The slayers of the Lessening Society are stronger than ever, preying on human weakness to acquire more money, more weapons, more power. But as the Brotherhood readies for an all-out attack on them, one of their own fights a battle within himself…

For Rhage, the Brother with the biggest appetites, but also the biggest heart, life was supposed to be perfect—or at the very least, perfectly enjoyable. Mary, his beloved shellan, is by his side and his King and his brothers are thriving. But Rhage can’t understand—or control—the panic and insecurity that plague him…

And that terrifies him—as well as distances him from his mate. After suffering mortal injury in battle, Rhage must reassess his priorities—and the answer, when it comes to him, rocks his world…and Mary’s. But Mary is on a journey of her own, one that will either bring them closer together or cause a split that neither will recover from… 

To be honest, I mostly just read these here and there for the laughs now. But I do prefer the “original gangster” Brotherhood – Wrath, Rhage, Zsadist, Phury (although not really), Vishous. And those names look even more ridiculous when you type them all out like that. And they’re just the tip of the weird name ice berg.

Rhage found his shellan in Mary in the second book. Mary is a human but the Scribe Virgin kindly fixed it so they can be together forever, although they will never be able to have children (young, as the vampires call them) of their own. A bit of time has passed since their book and both Rhage and Mary feel that there are some troubles in their relationship. They still love each other but they don’t feel as connected, as though they’re on the same page as before. With several young being born into the household in recent times (Wrath and Beth, Zsadist and Bella) and Layla the Chosen pregnant with twins, the issue of them never having their own young has reared its head and Rhage in particular is thinking about it.

I’ve dropped off these in recent years – I read The King which was about Wrath and Beth. That was book 12 and I read it three years ago. The rage around book 13 meant I stayed away but I saw this at my local library the other day when I took my kids to pick out a book each and thought I might as well get it and see what was happening. Rhage and Mary aren’t really one of my favourite couples but I also liked them a lot more than a lot of the others and I’m a sucker for an update. This book though, it’s a bit of a hot mess. Actually this entire series is a hot mess these days.

There’s just so much going on. Apart from Rhage and Mary, there’s also Vishous having some sort of personal crisis and eventually pondering whether he might one day want to be a father himself, a bunch of text devoted to Assail the vampire coke addict and something gruesome he uncovers, Layla trying to gestate her twins and some character I’ve never seen before named Jo who is a real estate agent? receptionist? who investigates reportings of vampires, mostly by drugged out youtubers. And yet this book is 500+ pages and I read it in a couple of hours. I have to admit I skimmed a few pages here and there mostly ones that involved Lassiter because he is really annoying.

Because I didn’t read The Shadows I had no idea who Bitty was but it didn’t really matter, just understand that she is the Perfect Answer to the question posed in this book. She was okay as a character, weirdly precocious in the way of book children, who talk and act way above their years but also possess a childlike innocence, etc. I just feel like this book really scraped the barrel for conflict between the couples. Rhage does something unbelievably stupid, Mary somehow miraculously manages to fix it, they finally have a conversation or two and basically everything is then fine. I’m not even sure how this got a full length book but Zsadist and Bella only got a novella as their “second book/update book”.

God help me though, I remember Layla and Xcor’s story from The King and I didn’t mind it. It continued on in this book although they don’t even have a scene together in the entire thing and….I think I like it? Enough to want to read the next book which is The Chosen about Layla and Xcor and apparently it’s already out. So I guess I’ll be going back to the library at some stage. It’s like there’s always something that keeps me coming back, whether it be an update book or enough of an interest in a part of the story to get the next book. I don’t know why, because I find the writing quite abrasive, the vernacular/slang just hard to read at times.

An average read but somehow I’m still sucked into this series.

5/10

Book #122 of 2017

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Review: Fatal Mistake by Karen M. Davis

Fatal Mistake (Lexie Rogers #3)
Karen M. Davis
Simon & Schuster AUS
2017, 342p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Detective Lexie Rogers is tough, smart and at the top of her game. She’s seen it all, from bikies, blood and betrayal to drugs, deviants and deception … and the violent knife attack that almost killed her as a young cop on the beat.

Lexie’s sent on the job of a lifetime — to go deep undercover, as beautiful Lara Wild, a drug distributor, to expose a huge dealing ring among Sydney’s most treacherous criminals. What she discovers is that being undercover is the safest place to be, especially when you’re a cop with target on your head, but one false move means she’ll die. And creeping from the shadows is the darkness of her past, something she can never outrun.

Lexie knows she can’t trust anyone — but the trouble is, she’s not even sure if she can trust herself.

This is the third book in the Detective Lexie Rogers series and it’s been one of my most anticipated books for a couple of years now. In fact I’ve just looked and realised that the second book came out in 2014. I hadn’t realised it had been that long.

Lexie is about to start her first undercover operation, working with a familiar face in Rex Donaldson. Lexie is posing as Rex’s niece to get close to a drug supplier and she’s playing the role of a beautiful, confident but unattainable woman in order to get their target’s attention. While she’s working this job her boyfriend Josh is in northern NSW working another job looking for drug plantations. Soon not only do both of them discover far more than what they bargained for but also threats to their relationship from different directions. Then Rex faces a challenge of a different sort leaving Lexie without his protection and backup in meetings. This forces her to take a more confident role and places her even closer to the target.

I have really enjoyed this series. This one gave a really interesting glimpse into what it might be like to be an undercover operative and I liked reading about the tactics and how everything came together, especially when several separate operations begin to blend into one large one. The book starts with a big bang and to be honest that kind of sets the tone for the whole book. Between Josh, Lexie, her colleagues at her station and also Rex, there’s so much going on here that it feels fast paced, even when Lexie is only laying the groundwork and gathering information. The action revolves between 5-6 or so key players, including a couple of new characters. As well as her undercover operation, Lexie also has an up and coming court case hanging over her where she will have to give evidence against the man that tried to kill her. Her life is pretty stressful at the moment, she has to make sure she plays her role to perfection. One slip and she will be dead. And if someone else has their way, she’ll be dead anyway, blown or not.

The author is a former detective and undercover operative herself and I think she takes care to portray the difficulties involved in each role and the danger that officers constantly face in their day to day lives. Lexie over the course of the three books has been attacked in various ways, other officers are killed in explosions or on the job in some way, there are constant threats to their safety. Despite this, they go on doing the job, dedicated to trying to make a safer environment for people. Lexie lost a brother and has suffered from that and her other experiences but she keeps picking herself back up and getting back into it. I find dedication like that admirable – and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I also find it a tad bit crazy!

Even though I’m sure Lexie could be revisited in the future if desired, things at the end of this book felt quite final – well wrapped up so it’s possible that this is the last Lexie Rogers novel and the author may move on to something else. If that’s the case then I think this has been a very well executed trilogy and I’ve loved each of the books for the insight into police procedure, a glimpse at a seedy underworld I’ll hopefully never be acquainted with in reality and a protagonist that was entertaining and gutsy. My personal favourite character has always been Rex Donaldson, for many reasons, I just think he felt so unique and layered from the very beginning and I’ve really been invested in his story arc.

I’d happily recommend this book (and the entire series) to anyone who enjoys a good gritty crime novel.

8/10

Book #121 of 2017

Fatal Mistake is book #39 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

 

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Review: Secrets Of The Springs by Kerry McGinnis

Secrets Of The Springs
Kerry McGinnis
Penguin Random House AUS
2017, 353p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

When Orla Macrae receives a letter asking her to return to the family cattle property where she grew up, she does so grudgingly. Her estranged uncle Palmer may be dying, but he is the last person she wants to see, not when she’s made a new life far away from where she lost so much. But on his deathbed he utters a few enigmatic words about a secret locked away and a clue as to its whereabouts. 

Intrigued, Orla decides to stay, reconnecting with old friends and taking a chance on a long-time dream of opening the homestead to tourists. Continuing the search for her uncle’s elusive secret, she discovers far more than she bargained for – a shocking truth about her parents’ marriage, and the confession of a chilling murder. 

Set in the stunning countryside north of the Barrier Ranges near Broken Hill, this is an authentic tale of life on the land and a gripping mystery about old family secrets and finding love in the harsh Australian bush.

This is the third Kerry McGinnis book that I’ve read and I’ve really enjoyed them all. They all have quite remote, very unusual settings. This one takes place near Broken Hill in very outback New South Wales and revolves around an old farming family. When she was still just a teenager, Orla left the home she was raised in after the death of her parents but a letter has summoned her back. Her former guardian, her uncle Palmer is dying and he has expressed a wish to see her before he dies. Although reluctant, Orla travels back from where she’s been living, mostly to put affairs in order. But a few muttered words from her uncle about an old secret have Orla rethinking her plans to leave as quickly as possible. Instead she finds more reasons than she could’ve imagined to stay.

Interestingly this book is set some time ago – around the late 1970s, so it takes some time for Orla to be found as she’s living on an island off the coast of South Australia. No one has cell/mobile phones and travel and communication is slower and more laborious. Technically it’s not that long ago but technology has come so far that it feels a very different time, in terms of communicating with people and also advertising and marketing a business.

After the death of her parents in a car accident, Orla went to live with her uncle Palmer, her father’s brother. He was not a demonstrative person and although he fed and clothed her, he didn’t show her affection or love and she got the feeling she was an inconvenience he couldn’t escape due to familial duty. Instead Orla found comfort and affection from her uncle’s cook/housekeeper who is still in residence when she arrives back when her uncle is dying. Also still working on the family farm is a man Orla once loved, a man she also left but it’s a love that’s so tied up in pain that she’s not even sure how to act around him.

This book was really way more than I expected in terms of mystery and intrigue. Orla had always thought the death of her parents was a tragic accident, until her dying uncle muttered a few words and then all of a sudden she found herself investigating what turned out to be a murder. I really enjoyed Orla returning to the town she grew up in, reconnecting with some of the locals, shunning some others and struggling with the desire to tidy things up and go versus the idea that maybe she could actually make her home here again. For financial reasons it makes no sense to sell the family farm and so she must come up with a way to make it profitable and her ideas are very good.

The romance in this is unusual but I found that it really worked for me. The beginning of it, before Orla fled, was certainly different and in the time that Orla has been gone, both her and Mark have known terrible grief and loss. They have something of a second chance, once Orla stops allowing her pain to hold him at arms length, almost like she’s punishing him. Orla, whether she likes it or not at the beginning, fits into this community. I felt that it really showed that she still belonged there, even after the time she’d spent away. Circumstances forced her back, forced her to address the aspects of her past that were so difficult for her and it just felt like she should always stay. Her ideas for how she can support herself are innovative and clever, making the most of herself and people she knows. She begins building relationships and friendships, links with people. I loved the setting as well. I’ve never been to Broken Hill or the surrounding area, it’s an interesting in town in that it is located in one state but actually shares more with another, including taking on the timezone of its neighbouring state. I haven’t read too many books set there or near there either so I really enjoyed being able to ‘visit’ somewhere new and learn a bit about what living there would be like.

I really enjoyed this and found it a refreshing take on the rural genre. The choice to set it in the past but not back in the early 1900s set it apart for me and I found the story riveting. I was invested in Orla’s attempts to unravel the mystery her uncle left as well as find her place. It reminded me that I have still a half dozen or so of Kerry McGinnis’ back catalogue to read and I really need to get around to fitting them in because I like her books so much.

8/10

Book #104 of 2017

Secrets Of The Springs is book #34 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

 

 

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Review: Queen Of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Queen Of Shadows (Throne Of Glass #4)
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury ANZ
2015, 645p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

***Be warned, general SPOILERS for the previous books***

For me, the previous books were like, building books. And then this one and the next, are like Books Where Shit Actually Happens.

Calaena (now Aelin I suppose?) has left Rowan behind and returned to Adarlan with some plans. It’s time to get revenge on someone, time to rescue someone (or two someones really), time to destroy someone. After the holy wow ending of the third book, Dorien remains trapped inside himself, struggling against what is essentially a demon being. Aelin’s cousin is in the dungeons, to be publicly executed as a way of drawing her out. It’s time to put some plans into motion and for a while she’s going to have to wear her assassin’s face until the time is right.

It’s now been a while since I’ve read this book so some of the finer details will probably escape me or blur into one with my memories of other books but this one was definitely one of my favourites of the series. It’s the one where Celaena finally kind of stops talking about things and starts actually doing things and it’s where you get to see some of her carefully constructed plans actually come to fruition. There’s quite a lot going on with quite a few narrators as well, some of whom have very different agendas.

I’ve no doubt that pretty much everyone who read this series waited for the day that Calaena would get her revenge on Arobynn Hamel, the ‘King of the Assassins’ as it were who found her as a child on a riverbank and turned her into a ruthless killing machine by way of training and ‘lessons’. I know I certainly was waiting for it. The downfall of Arobynn and the King were probably two of the things I looked forward to in this series from the first book. As much of a shit as I thought Arobynn was before this book, it was honestly nothing compared to what he attempts to do (believes he has done) to Celaena in this book. So I was super invested in what was going to happen to Arobynn.

And to be honest, it’s pretty much one of the only things in this entire series that has disappointed me. It felt so lacklustre, after such a massive build up. Like why did I even read all about this guy’s heinous deeds to people for the last four books? It’s one of the few complaints that I’ve had in a series that doesn’t mind a confrontation, a gruesome execution, a fight, etc that this felt so boring and shunted aside like the author thought eh, I’ve written myself into a corner in that this guy has to die but I sort of like him because he’s got hidden depths and he really cares about Celaena so we’ll palm it off and have it happen in the most boring way possible. I have not read the Assassin short stories so it was also palmed off to a character I had only met in this book. I found the whole thing pretty meh.

But luckily for me, that was the only thing I found meh because the rest of this book is freaking awesome. I’m not a big fan of the way characters get split up in books (generally right as they come to some sort of realisation about their feelings) so I was pleased when Rowan appeared maybe a third of the way in to this book with a message for Celaena that someone wanted her dead. He arrives to watch her back, knowing the threat all too well and it’s an opportunity for their bond to grow, both of them allowing an intimacy with each other that they don’t with anyone else.

The little group feels like it has almost insurmountable odds….there’s really only Celaena, Rowan, Aedion, Chaol (sort of reluctantly, he has some issues with Celaena and definitely some issues with her feelings for what poor Dorien is now) and Nesryn, a city guard Chaol trusts as well as Lysandra. The downfall of the King has been a long time coming too and there was some really interesting stuff revealed in this book centering around the King and what he had done over the years. Sometimes there are bits and pieces in these novels that seem like a throwaway line, something that doesn’t really mean much but then it crops back up in the story later on and gets expanded upon until it forms something really important. It’s sort of the same for characters – lesser ones slink into the narrative in ways where you don’t really notice them too much until all of a sudden it’s like they’ve always been there.

The layers continue in this novel, woven in are plans and plans and more plans among the action as all of the different threads look like they are moving towards the same location. I am so admiring of the way everything is building in this story. It’s quite complex and the further I get into it the more impressed I am. This book is pretty damn close to being the most perfect of reads.

9/10

Book #113 of 2017

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Review: An Inconvenient Duchess by Christine Merrill

The Inconvenient Duchess (The Radwells #1)
Christine Merrill
Harlequin M&B Historical
2014, 2014p
Freebie on iBooks

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

“Dear Cici and Father,” “I have come to Devon and married a duke. And I’m more tired and hungry than I have ever been in my life. Please let me come home.”

Compromised and wedded on the same day, Lady Miranda was fast finding married life not to her taste. A decaying manor and a secretive husband were hardly the stuff of girlish dreams. Yet every time she looked at dark, brooding Marcus Radwell, Duke of Haughleigh, she felt inexplicably compelled and determined to make their marriage real…

At the moment I am ‘babysitting’ an 8wk old kitten while his foster carer is away for a few days. He’s the cutest thing on four legs and sooo much fun. At night I’ve got him in the ensuite bathroom and to keep an eye on him, I started reading this book just to make sure he’d settle and not get distressed about being somewhere new. Well, he fell asleep immediately and never made a sound but I ended up so into this book that I read it in one sitting.

I don’t read a lot of M&B any more – I read so many in my teen years as my grandmother had a subscription and when they’re kind of all you’re reading, it’s pretty easy to burn out on them. But now, many years later, I am swayed by the odd blurb and end up reading one. I don’t know why but I’ve never read many from the Historical line so when I saw this one I decided I had to get it.

The Duke of Haughleigh has been once again drawn to his mother’s deathbed only this time it actually appears as though she may be dying. Tricked into a promise he didn’t really understand, he’s surprised when a woman arrives on his doorstep unchaperoned. He knows that in order to preserve her reputation, he’ll have to marry her immediately, getting himself a new Duchess. A widower, the Duke knew that his time had come to marry again and provide the estate with an heir, if only to stop it falling into the hands of his wastrel brother St John.

The girl in question is Lady Miranda, of good birth but fallen on very impoverished times. The Duke is not at all what she expects – she was hoping for someone kind, maybe older, content to leave her be. The Duke is none of those things, although their marriage was made in haste with the two of them virtual strangers, there’s glimmers of possibility that it could actually work.

I really enjoyed this. I like a forced marriage where the couple don’t really know each other but arrangement or circumstance forces their hand. Despite the fact that the Duke is quite gruff and has a temper, Miranda doesn’t cower from him and isn’t afraid of him. Both of them seem to want to make the best of their situation and try and make this marriage work and it perhaps would’ve gone a lot smoother if not for the sneaky villain of the story, the Duke’s younger brother.

And wow, was he.  St John is definitely a jerk of the highest order, basically good for nothing gambler, womaniser, runner up of debts expecting money from the family purse to constantly bail him out. At first Miranda cannot understand why Marcus, the Duke, orders him off the property and her kind nature ends up putting her in a very difficult situation when St John decides that he has misread the situation and can use that to get the ultimate revenge on his brother for a perceived wrong years ago. It becomes quite clear as the story goes on that he’ll stop at nothing to achieve his goal and only the fact that Miranda has been able to break through the shell surrounding the Duke and convince him of her good character, does he not succeed in driving the two apart (well okay the fact that Miranda was still innocent helped too).

There’s another book after this one that features St John as the ‘hero’ and I have to admit I’m kind of curious about it. St John is so horrid in this book. Fair enough if he hates his brother, but the fact that he was willing to do horrible things to Miranda for the sake of revenge….I’m definitely interested to see how such a person could be redeemed.

I liked the way that Marcus and Miranda got to know each other in this though. Miranda was incredibly loyal and steadfast and Marcus was remarkably free of prejudice. The two of them ended up being exactly what the other needed. Miranda is nothing like Marcus’ first Duchess – even though she was married off to a Duke due to someone else’s orchestration, the title itself doesn’t really mean anything to her as such. She’s also excellent at household management and wastes no time bringing the estate up to scratch and taking over the running of the staff. She’s also compassionate and not afraid to get her hands dirty either. She brings out a somewhat softer side in Marcus too, and once he learns that he can trust Miranda, they have a really nice bond that develops and deepens. And when all the truth comes out about Marcus’ first marriage, the reader realises just how much it takes for Marcus to let go of that and completely trust someone, especially around his brother.

I’m in two minds about reading the next book. On one hand, I really want to see how the author redeems St John and turns him into a person you actually want to cheer for and want to get a happy ending but on the other hand I really disliked him and I’m just not sure I want to pay money to read about him. A dilemma.

7/10

Book #120 of 2017

 

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