All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Best Of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

The Best Of Adam Sharp
Graeme Simsion
Text Publishing
2016, 372p
Read from my local libary

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

A novel about love, music and coming to terms with the past, from the author of the international bestseller The Rosie Project.

On the cusp of fifty, Adam Sharp has a loyal partner, earns a good income as an IT contractor and is the music-trivia expert at quiz nights. It’s the lifestyle he wanted, but something’s missing.

Two decades ago, on the other side of the world, his part-time piano playing led him into a passionate relationship with Angelina Brown, who’d abandoned law studies to pursue her acting dream. She gave Adam a chance to make it something more than an affair—but he didn’t take it. And now he can’t shake off his nostalgia for what might have been.

Then, out of nowhere, Angelina gets in touch. What does she want? Does Adam dare to live dangerously? How far will he go for a second chance?

I found this book quite weird.

And not in a good, quirky way.

I loved Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project and were that the only book of his I’d ever read, my expectations going into this would’ve been astronomical. But I also read The Rosie Effect and that definitely took quite a lot of the shine off for me. So it was with interest that I picked this up from a display shelf at my local library. I was curious if I would find it as engaging as the first Rosie book or as disappointing as the second. Unfortunately for me, it has more in common with the latter.

Adam is a 50-ish IT worker and pianist from London, who out of the blue, gets an email from a woman he had a relationship with 25 years ago when he was working in Melbourne. He soon finds himself reliving their short but intense relationship and he’s unable to really focus on anything else but Angelina. When he breaks up with his partner, Angelina invites him to come and stay with her and her husband in their holiday house in France. And he actually goes. Seriously, as soon as I hit this point in the book, I remember thinking ‘no good can come of this and why would anyone do it?’. But Adam seems to deliberate not at all about this, about why Angelina might be getting in contact with him now, why she’s inviting him based on a handful of emails and one skype conversation to stay with her and her husband.

It gets way more bizarre once Adam is actually in France but it’s impossible to discuss the WTF-ery that occurs without spoiling the heck out of the book. To me this read as some sort of middle-aged fantasy about ‘the one that got away’ where a bunch of dream-like things happen but there are no actual real repercussions. It made so little sense and some of it was actually decidedly creepy. There’s a whole bunch of stuff going on that Adam is kept deliberately ignorant about and it made me quite stabby. But then he was ridiculously naive for going there anyway, so perhaps he deserved to be the pawn in an incredibly childish game.

I didn’t really like Angelina all that much when Adam met her in the 1980s in Melbourne. She was married (although sort of separated) and I found her manipulative but ultimately, so incredibly boring in her perfectness. It seemed she was merely practicing for middle age because Angelina 25 years later is quite frankly, even worse. I really disliked her and I disliked the person Adam was around her too. I had some liking for Charlie for a while but at the same time he’s weirdly okay with what’s going on and just wants to keep cooking and talking about alcohol all the time and why are you like this Charlie, because it makes no sense. Then when I realised what was happening, to be honest, his behaviour still made no sense.

There’s a lot of music in this book – Adam plays the piano in bars outside of his day job and he has a deep connection to the songs he plays. Some remind him of his father, others of Angelina and the time in Melbourne and music buffs who enjoys 60s, 70s etc may really appreciate those parts of the story. The music is a little before my time (child of the 80s, not a Dylan fan, etc) so it added little to the story for me personally.

I found myself baffled by this book and although I at first thought that the early part (the section of the book that takes place in Melbourne) had promise and perhaps it did for those that enjoyed the character of Angelina. And the idea of completely changing your life a quarter of a century later because of an email – and Adam can argue all he likes that it wasn’t because of that, but to be honest, it clearly read to me that it utterly was because of that – is just so bizarre and pointless. I felt profoundly sorry for Claire, Adam’s present day partner, who was treated in such an offhand manner, like she wasn’t even anyone important. Adam gave her as much consideration and information as he would a flatmate he never saw and then has the nerve to check her emails while he’s in France to see what she’s up to without him.

I was quite disappointed in this…..not just for the infidelity story line but also in the execution. So many implausible seeming things in one book.

4/10

Book #59 of 2017

 

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Review: Sam Junior’s Day by Adam Crettenden

Sam Junior’s Day
Adam Crettenden
Self-published
2017, 25p
Copy courtesy of the author

Inspired by a true story, ‘Sam Junior’s Day’ shows a typical day in the life of the ultimate routine dog.

Sam’s busy and energetic day is fun, exciting and rewarding. He is a much-loved family member who is determined to please all who meet him.

Guaranteed to make you smile.

This is a bit of a first to me – I haven’t ever reviewed a children’s book before. Plenty of YA and even the odd MG title but not a children’s book. My kids are 8 and 5 and reading is something that I’m super vigilant about. Each of them are required to read each night for school – about 20 minutes for the oldest and maybe 10 for the youngest. My oldest child has gone far beyond the levels of readers that the school sends home and is now allowed to choose his own books. Mine and his teacher’s thoughts are that we don’t really mind what he’s reading, so long as it engages him and he is reading. He has an iPad and an app on it that enables him to read eBooks and he’s also figured out that when we go to the shops, he can ask for a book and his father and I will never say no. The purchasing of books is much encouraged in this house!

My youngest, Rory started school this year and has taken to reading with gusto. He loves it. He’s reward-oriented and I think he finds it very satisfying to learn new words and accomplish something by reading. He loves bringing home readers and library books and we’ve started visiting our local community library as well and he’s become very into the whole process.

When I received this book, I immediately knew that I would read it with Rory – it’s perfect for him. The sentences are short and simple but with just enough words he didn’t already know to make him feel challenged. He needs that fine line of being able to construct the sentences himself but also learning and exploring new words.

In short, this book is about a border collie named Sam Junior who does the same things every day at pretty much the same time. He’s a little dog of routine and I think it’s something that kids can easily relate to because they tend to do a lot of things at the same time each day as well – get up, eat breakfast, get dressed for school, brush teeth, hop in the car etc. We were able to go through all of the things that Sam Junior does in his day and apply them to our day and in some cases, to the day of our cat Loki. We don’t have a dog anymore (up until the past year we had 2 stunningly tempered greyhounds) but I think a lot of animals are, to some extent, creatures of habit. Many thrive on routine and expect the same things at each time of the day. To be honest, Rory is a creature of habit himself and this book is kind of relateable for kids in many ways, even if they don’t have a dog or any sort of pet. He was able to connect the different things he does at certain times of the day with what Sam was probably doing at the same time.

I really enjoyed the illustrations in this book and Rory did too! We each have our favourites – mine is the one where Sam chases bunnies, Rory’s is the one where he receives his late night snack. The colours are bold and eye catching and border collies are beautiful dogs. But the illustrator has also captured a mischievous, people-pleasing personality too which is easy to see.

It’d be remiss of me to review a picture book without including a few thoughts from someone who fits the target audience, so I asked Rory after we’d read through it a couple times over the past few weeks, what he thought and this was what he had to say:

“I like Sam because he does funny things. My favourite part is when he gets his bone and when he says he might eat the horse’s food. I also like when he goes in the car because he sits in the front seat like a person.”

Thumbs up from both of us!

8/10

Book #41 of 2017

Check out my Author Q&A with Adam Crettenden here

Buy Sam Junior’s Day on Kindle & iBooks

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Author Q&A With…….Adam Crettenden

Today I am happy to have Adam Crettenden here for a chat. Adam is the author of two books and recently took the time to answer some of my questions on reading, writing, his career and life. Thanks Adam!

Q1. Hi Adam and welcome to my blog. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for me. To get us started….tell us a little about yourself.

Thank you Bree. I work full-time in the racing industry and have been a commentator for almost 25 years. I’ve done plenty of other things aside from my full-time work to make the most out of life, and writing a book seems to have been that ‘next thing’ to do.

Q2. Your first book is a non-fiction about the famous racehorse Subzero, winner of the 1992 Melbourne Cup. How exactly did that come about and what was the research and writing process like?

Subzero’s Melbourne Cup win was a turning point of my life. 1992 was the year I did a school project on the racing industry and it was the first Melbourne Cup I went to. I vividly remember the events of that day and have fortuitously encountered Subzero many times in his promotional duties in the years since. His owner, Graham Salisbury has always been keen for a book to be written and I decided to catalogue some photographs which led to some further research and from there I just carried on writing a manuscript. I loved the research and discovering the stories (many previously untold) but initially found the writing quite cumbersome because of my naivety to writing. I employed a freelance editor to work with me and I completely wrote the book three times over before I had a manuscript worth taking to a publisher.

Q3. From there you’ve expanded to writing a children’s book, Sam Junior’s Day. What gave you the idea to focus on something completely different?

A lot of Sam Junior’s Day was done before Subzero. My illustrator, Caitlin Tolsma did her work in 2015 on the project but then Subzero came along and demanded my complete attention which put the children’s book on the backburner. Sam Junior is our family border collie who is quite habitual, but a kind and playful dog who just wants to please everybody he meets. He is part of our family and it is a joy to have this book completed for him.

Q4. You’ve chosen to publish Sam Junior’s Day yourself. How have you found the process in comparison to publishing Subzero which was published traditionally with one of the “big 5 publishers”?

Completely different. Obviously, to have Penguin Random House guide me through the production of my first book was a massive help. It took away the need for me to think of printing, distributing and marketing. I could solely focus on the editing of the manuscript. Part of the Sam Junior’s Day journey was to experience the self-publishing world and I’m so glad I’ve done that because there were a number of challenges along the way and I learnt a lot about things such as formatting which is critical, depending on the platform you list on.

Q5. Having seen some different sides of publishing, what do you think is the biggest challenge as an author?

It will always be surrounding the story you are portraying. I believe Subzero was a strong enough story that it could have been written and commercially published by anyone who had the dedication and passion to write an accurate account of his life. Subzero was a strong topic, and that’s what attracted the eyes of a major publisher. As the author, I then had to produce the writing to reflect that strong topic, which was greatly enhanced by the staff at Penguin.

Q6. Are you a reader yourself? If so, what do you like to read?

I have a chuckle to myself regarding my reading habits. As a kid, I generally hated it. I was a kid who played sport and that’s all that interested me. The only book I enjoyed through my entire school life was Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell. It left such an impression on me that wrote every essay I could in Year 12 on it and making English my best subject – the one subject I never really cared about! I still have that book on my shelf today. However, as I’ve grown older, I have become a reader, particularly sports biographies. I’ve collected many Dick Francis novels over the years and since many of his stories are based on horse racing, I find them quite easy to follow his fictional plots.

Q7. What does the future hold for you, writing wise?

Not entirely sure. After Subzero was released, I thought that would allow me to move on to the ‘next thing’, but I am currently considering writing something else – can’t say too much just yet though.

Q8. And lastly for a bit of fun…..if you were stranded on a desert island, what 3 things would you consider essential?

I’m a practical man so I’ll say a hammock, a pair of sunnies and a satellite telephone to call for the fully-fuelled speedboat whenever I’m ready to leave.

****

Buy Subzero from Booktopia (also available in print from good bookstores) as well as Amazon & iBooks
Buy Sam Junior’s Day from Amazon & iBooks

Check back tomorrow for my review of Sam Junior’s Day featuring a very special little guest reviewer!

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Mini Reviews: Truly & Madly by Ruthie Knox

Truly (New York #1)
Ruthie Knox
Loveswept
2014, eBook
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

May Fredericks hates New York. Which is fair enough, since New York seems to hate her back. After relocating to Manhattan from the Midwest to be with her long-distance boyfriend, NFL quarterback Thor Einarsson, May receives the world’s worst marriage proposal, stabs the jerk with a shrimp fork, and storms off alone—only to get mugged. Now she’s got no phone, no cash, and no friends. How’s a nice girl supposed to get back to safe, sensible Wisconsin?

Frankly, Ben Hausman couldn’t care less. Sure, it’s not every day he meets a genuine, down-to-earth woman like May—especially in a dive in the Village—but he’s recovering from an ugly divorce that cost him his restaurant. He wants to be left alone to start over and become a better man. Then again, playing the white knight to May’s sexy damsel in distress would be an excellent place to start—if only he can give her one very good reason to love New York.

So it seems that lately, a lot of the books in my TBR pile have been a bit depressing. Cancer, death, etc. When this happens I tend to go on a romance binge, both contemporary and historical, almost to balance it out. I came across the second book in this series and it sounded awesome but figured I might as well get the first one too. So, so glad I did!

May moved to New York when her NFL-playing boyfriend went from the Packers to the Jets. She never really embraced the city and was ready to flee, especially after receiving a humiliating proposal. Mugged on her way out of the building, she’s left with no money, no ID and no desire to return to her now former boyfriend’s apartment. She heads to a comforting bar, a Packers haven and meets Ben Hausman. Who does not exactly fill the slot of ‘kind stranger’.

This book is adorable. I loved May and Ben is absolutely my favourite type of hero – bit gruff and grumpy (ok, he’s quite a lot grumpy) and broody. May at first just wants to use a phone to call a friend, maybe borrow a credit card number to get a hotel room and book a flight back home but eventually her lack of ID seems a problem and it’s a long weekend. So Ben offers her a place to crash and ends up deciding to show her New York – the real New York.

There’s super good chemistry here and lots of realistic-feeling angst as well. May and Ben don’t know each other but I adored the fact that what Ben loves/is attracted to about May are the things she feels uncomfortable about. She’s not exactly the “WAG” type – she’s statuesque. Curvy. Ben is a chef and he adores watching her eat and the fact that they both love food. The food portion of this book was amazing too – not only what Ben cooks but the different places they eat around the city. Ben also has a really interesting (and quite random) profession (he isn’t allowed to run a restaurant for a while, for reasons explained in the story) and it’s definitely not something you’d think someone in New York City would be doing.

What I enjoyed about this story is that it felt like Ben and May had to work at this relationship. They met in a very adorable way and there was sexual chemistry in spades but both had baggage and there was also the fact that they didn’t really know each other very well. They had to get to know each other properly and it was only natural that they’d stuff up, make mistakes. But the way in which they both worked to fix things, to be together was a really powerful part of the story.

8/10

Book #53 of 2017

Madly (New York #2)
Ruthie Knox
Loveswept
2017, 283p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Allie Fredericks isn’t supposed to be in Manhattan, hiding in the darkest corner of a hip bar, spying on her own mother—who’s flirting with a man who’s definitely not Allie’s father. Allie’s supposed to be in Wisconsin, planning her parents’ milestone anniversary party. Then Winston Chamberlain walks through the door, with his tailored suit, British accent, and gorgeous eyes, and Allie’s strange mission goes truly sideways.

Winston doesn’t do messy. But after a pretty stranger ropes him into her ridiculous family drama with a fake kiss that gets a little too real, he finds out that messy can be fun. Maybe even a little addicting. And as the night grows longer, Allie and Winston make a list of other wild things they could do together—and what seems like a mismatch leads to a genuine connection. But can their relationship survive as their real lives implode just outside the bedroom door?

The blurb of this one was the reason I purchased both these books. A British hero with a fancy suit who is probably going to be quite, well, British and I’m sold. I didn’t even realise for the longest time that Winston, our hero in this book, is Nev’s douchey brother from About Last Night, who has Cath investigated and tries to ruin their relationship. A few years have passed since that book and Winston is now divorced and living in New York City working for one of the branches of the family company. He’s in New York to keep an eye on his daughter Bea who is a student at university but Bea is proving to be quite independent really.

It was weird for me then that I didn’t quite enjoy this one as much as I’d hoped I would. I really loved About Last Night and I love a bit of an uptight hero and Winston had oodles of uptight about his personality in that novel but he did seem less so in this one. The fallout with Nev and his divorce seemed to have changed him significantly and he was quite sweet really. I find it quite amusing that he had such objections to Cath and then ended up in America, falling in love with an American woman who was definitely not the ‘right’ sort of wife for a wealthy British banker who will be a Baron or whatever it is one day…. probably all of the objections he had about Cath when Nev met her.

Allie is an interesting character but I’m not sure if I liked her as much as May. She’s emotionally manipulative  and although I think she has good intentions, her choices aren’t always wise ones. She’s carried a secret for a while now, thinking she needed to protect people but in finally revealing it, only hurts them because of her secrecy. I also really didn’t like the character of May and Allie’s mother (in May’s book, she’s pretty awful to May, always on at her about her weight, etc) and this book revolves quite a lot around her and it sets up something that you think is very messy and dramatic but in the end is quite boring and disappointing, almost like the author changed their mind part way through on what the mother was really up to.

I did really like the list that Allie and Winston made and the reasons behind the making of it. And like Ben and May, I also liked that sometimes, things didn’t really pan out perfectly. Some things were awkward, or didn’t really work. It felt real, natural. I always enjoy that about Ruthie Knox’s books. So whilst I didn’t love this one like I loved the first one, I still enjoyed it. And I’m definitely buying the 3rd book when it gets released later this year.

6/10

Book #55 of 2017

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Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

The Dry (Aaron Falk #1)
Jane Harper
Pan Macmillan AUS
2016, 342p
Read via my local libary

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well…

When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.

And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds start bleeding into fresh ones. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret… A secret Falk thought long-buried… A secret which Luke’s death starts to bring to the surface…

I’ve been hearing amazing things about this book since it was released close to a year ago now. When I finally got access restored to my local library, it was the first book I requested and I was surprised when it came in for pick up within the week.

Aaron Falk works for the Federal police, in the fraud squad. He hasn’t been back to the country town he grew up in since he and his father were forced out, many years ago. But a letter from the father of his childhood best friend demands his presence for the triple funeral of Luke, his wife Karen and their young son. It seems obvious that Luke, perhaps deeply depressed with the drought, has murdered his wife and child and then turned the gun on himself. But Luke’s mother can’t believe that – although times were tough, she doesn’t believe they were that bad. She begs Aaron to just have a look, just try and find something to suggest that her son couldn’t do this terrible thing. So that one day she doesn’t have to tell her surviving tiny granddaughter that her own father murdered her family.

It’s loyalty that has Aaron agreeing to look into it…..loyalty to a woman who played an important role in his life and perhaps a bit of desperation too. I think that Aaron wants to know for sure whether Luke was truly guilty of this horrible act and if there’s any, any chance at all that he wasn’t, he wants that opportunity to find out. There’s also the secret that Aaron is carrying, a secret that Luke was in on and perhaps several others in the small town. So maybe there’s guilt as well.

Aaron is an interesting character – he works in fraud now so although he’s probably seen some terrible things, he doesn’t seem to have that weariness that say a homicide cop might have. Being back in Kiewarra is definitely not easy for him and there are a few people who are quite vocal that he’s not welcome there and that they haven’t forgotten why he and his father left. There are some painful memories rooted in Kiewarra for Aaron but he makes the decision to stay and dig deeper, despite the clear messages that he perhaps shouldn’t.

The mystery here is soooo good – I found myself really wanting to know just what had happened. Was Luke really guilty? Harper takes care to orchestrate the fact that he definitely had a bit of a darker side but then again….lots of people do. It’s one thing to be a bit of a dodgy teenager, quite another to blow your wife and child away with a shotgun at close range. It’s such a horrific thing that you don’t want to believe anyone could be capable of doing this to the person they were married to, to the child they had produced. But people do, for a myriad of ‘reasons’ and I was curious how this would play out. If it wasn’t Luke, what was the motivation?

There was something about Aaron’s quiet but persistent manner that I really found appealing. He’s very thorough and the professional relationship he develops with the local police officer, who is also looking for clues, turned out to be a highlight of the novel for me. I enjoyed their discussions, the ways in which they approached things and perhaps also the way in which they were willing to consider anything. Both of them went about their investigation, which was kind of informal, and dug up small tidbits of information that they painstakingly began to stitch together.

The town itself provides a great atmospheric backdrop for the story. They’re experiencing the most awful drought and it’s made plenty of people anxious, nervous, stressed and even angry and bitter. Aaron is surprised when the river/creek he remembers from his youth, which you used to be able to hear rushing through, is little more than a dry jagged carving in the landscape. It made me remember the drought that Victoria was in the grips of when I moved here in 2006. The drought permeates the town and the story so much that it’s almost a living, breathing character.

I really enjoyed this – I read it in one sitting and it had me engrossed from start to finish and definitely kept me guessing. I like that it was able to really surprise me in some ways and in others, I felt comfortable in the familiarity of guessing what was coming. I’m also really glad to see that it’s the first in the series and that we can expect another book featuring Aaron Falk. I’d love to see him in different scenarios and his career gives many options. This is an extraordinarily well written, tightly paced crime novel that more than lives up to the hype surrounding it.

8/10

Book #57 of 2017

 

The Dry is book #17 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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Review: Promise Of Hunters Ridge by Sarah Barrie

Promise Of Hunters Ridge (Hunters Ridge #3)
Sarah Barrie
Harlequin AUS
2017, 432p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

By the time this is all over, she’ll know what it’s like to kill, or what it’s like to die.

Mia Morgan doesn’t let anything get to her. After freeing herself from an obsessive boss and saving loved ones from a serial killer, she feels like she can handle anything life throws at her. But now that killer – a deranged hunter who preys on women for sport – is coming for her. And if she runs, others will pay the price. As if that’s not enough, Ben Bowden, the brilliant detective who has made her life hell for the past four years, has some insane plan to protect her. If she collaborates with him, Mia might just have to acknowledge her true feelings. But if she keeps him out, will she let the hunter win?

Ben Bowden is sick of finding dead bodies. If being the lead detective on the biggest case in the country didn’t come with enough pressure, now the psychopath Ben is chasing has Mia Morgan in his sights. And Mia doesn’t want his help. She hasn’t forgiven him for the past, and is being less than cooperative with his investigation. Protecting her is a challenge, and the sparks that fly whenever they’re together aren’t helping. But he has to make her trust him – somehow – because she has a plan that terrifies him to the bone.

Can he convince her to work with him? Or will she risk everything to single-handedly turn the hunter into the hunted?

Oh my God. I have waited what feels like soooo long for this book! It hasn’t really been that long, maybe 2 years since I read the first one. After reading (and loving!) that one, it was Mia and Ben that I always wanted to read about. There was always so much more to their interactions – Mia’s resentment and grudge holding, Ben’s protective streak. They always had an interesting chemistry and I wanted to know more about them.

Finally, this is their story. I made myself wait to read this until closer to the release date and I also picked a time when I could read the entire thing from start to finish with no interruptions and I’m so glad I did. We pick up quite a few months after the end of book 2 and things have kind of stalled. The psychopath that has terrified Ally, Ebony and Mia remains at large. Detective Ben Bowden is still working the case, still trying to find the break he needs in order to finish things for good, make sure that no one need ever suffer again. It’s not going to be that easy though and when bodies start turning up, this time there’s something a little different about them….

Mia has been keeping a few secrets since her rescue and to be honest, quite a bit of this book is structured around Mia doing well, kind of stupid things. I understand why she does them and I think that the author takes care to give Mia some rationale, a reason why she takes these risks, keeps these secrets but at the end of it, they are dangerous, really dangerous things to do that could not only endanger her life even more (and others) but could also affect an ongoing investigation. Ben is understandably frustrated when he finds out about what Mia has been doing but at the same time he also needs some more information and so he runs with it, hoping the fact that he knows about it and can keep an eye on it will help.

But what Ben really wants is for Mia to trust him – trust him completely, with everything. He knows that he’s messed up in the past, put Mia offside when he made a mistake. But everything he’s done since then has been in an attempt to right his wrong, to make it up to them. Ally has long forgiven him and now trusts him and even counts him as a friend…but Mia is still holding back and the scene where he practically begs her…… it’s what good romantic tension is made of.  Ben and Mia are exactly what I expected – hoped, they would be. Chemistry and angst and a clashing of wills and stubbornness and flaws and misconceptions but underneath all of that, such possibility. If only the threat could be neutralised once and for all.

I’ve enjoyed the way that this story has continued to build and evolve over the three installments. The author managed to keep it fresh despite it being the same real culprit that continued to elude capture for what did seem like quite a long time. The creep factor is pretty high and there was a lot added to the story in the last book to really give Mia those reasons to take the risks and attempt to put herself in the line of fire. I spent a lot of the book getting a bit frustrated with Mia as she continued to seemingly make things more difficult than they needed to be, but as her motivations and secrets slowly unfolded, it all made sense and painted her in an entirely new light.

The road to true love never did run smooth and for Ben and Mia it was probably rougher than most. Particularly when Ben is forced to do something that he really doesn’t want to that causes Mia to turn on him yet again, to think that he’s betrayed her. It just added another twist in the story, although I have to admit I did expect a few people to be a bit smarter about the whole process considering it made little sense. But throw in emotions and protectiveness and the situation and it’s probably easy for people to judge Ben. And Mia is so stubborn, so damaged from a previous relationship that she was all too ready to believe it too.

Every element of this series has had me hooked from the first page of the first book. I’ve enjoyed the entire ride, the romantic ups and downs, the way in which the suspense element has kept me on the edge of my seat during each book, wondering how it was finally going to end…and then the kind of foreshadowing in this book, that tells you there’s really only two ways it can end. The ending was awesome and lived up to every expectation I had…..which were pretty high, given the past 2 books!

This series is why I love romantic suspense.

9/10

Book #47 of 2017

Promise of Hunters Ridge is the 16th book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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Review: Romancing The Duke by Tessa Dare

Romancing The Duke (Castles Ever After #1)
Tessa Dare
Avon
2014, 370p
Freebie via ibooks

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

In the first in Tessa Dare’s captivating Castles Ever After series, a mysterious fortress is the setting for an unlikely love . . .

As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens. She never doubted romance would be in her future, too. The storybooks offered endless possibilities.

And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off. One by one by one.

Ugly duckling turned swan?
Abducted by handsome highwayman?
Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?

No, no, and… Heh.

Now Izzy’s given up yearning for romance. She’ll settle for a roof over her head. What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who’s never even been kissed?

This one.

This was my sort of romance from pretty much the first page.

The death of Izzy’s father has left her in quite a dire situation so when she is left a bequest in a will she doesn’t hesitate to turn up at the meeting point. Rather than a small sum, which was all she was hoping for, Izzy has been left a castle. There’s just one problem – the castle is the current home of the Duke of Rothbury and he didn’t sell it to Izzy’s benefactor. He insists he still owns the home and that he isn’t leaving. Izzy is willing to work with him – she’d be happy to be his landlord but then he tries to make her flee and all of a sudden Izzy decides that maybe it’s time she made a proper home for herself.

This is the sort of book that makes me *happy sigh* and when I go on binges snapping up deals and freebies on iBooks and Amazon, it’s because I hope to find books like this one. Izzy is such a fun protagonist – she’s pragmatic and very sensible but she also has quite a fanciful side as well. Her father is well known as an author of a famous series of stories (of which Izzy is the little girl in the story being told the fantastical tales) and when people meet her they tend to act like they know her. Despite this she has little in the way of actual friends and finds herself quite alone after her father passes which is perhaps why she latches onto the idea of being able to possess a castle. She assumes that the whim of her benefactor is finally being able to give little Izzy Goodnight a castle of her own after hearing so many stories of fair maidens and gallant knights in castles but for Izzy, it’s going to be much more than that….it’s going to be a home.

Ransom, the Duke of Rothbury hasn’t been seen in society for months – the rumours are wild, including that he might even be dead. Instead Ransom suffered an injury and has retreated from society. The decrepit conditions of Gostley Castle suits him perfectly. He doesn’t need something fit for entertaining and has adapted one room for his needs quite satisfactorily. When Izzy doesn’t oblige him by leaving straight away and instead proves to be quite solidly iron willed inside, to break the stalemate of who will leave, it’s agreed that Izzy will act as his secretary, helping Rothbury with the correspondence that has piled up over the past 7 months so that they might untangle the mess that has led to two different people believing they owned the castle.

Beauty and the Beast style adaptations are my absolute favourite and this one works pretty well. Rothbury, with his scar and brusque manner fits the role of the Beast in the castle (albeit one that he’s allowing to fall down around his ears with little care in the world) but he’s also not without being part Prince Charming as well. He’s brooding and mysterious and his opening scene is amazing. I love a meeting between two characters that sticks with me and establishes both their personalities so well straight away. Both of them bring so much to the other – Rothbury can actually see Izzy (ha, the irony of that statement) and isn’t coloured by the small child that appeared in the stories. In fact he actually sees the truth of Izzy, the secret that she has kept for years, seemingly quite easily. He is remarkably astute when it comes to her and the way in which the relationship between them develops is equal parts sizzling sexual chemistry and deepening emotional connection. In return Izzy is no shrinking violet who fears the Duke – in fact she cares little that he even is one, nor is she bothered by his somewhat wild past. I think it was very important to Ransom, whether he knew it or not, to be accepted for all that he was – flaws, scars, reclusive manner etc. Izzy lightens him up but he takes her seriously, believes that she is capable of anything.

I loved this. Already planning to buy the rest in the series – the benefactor who leaves Izzy this castle seems to have also left properties to a few other “goddaughter” types. I’m hoping that those stories are going to be as good as this one.

9/10

Book #51 of 2017

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Review: Close Enough To Touch by Colleen Oakley

Close Enough To Touch
Colleen Oakley
Allen & Unwin
2017, 306p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

One time a boy kissed me and I almost died…..

And so begins the story of Jubilee Jenkins, a young woman with a rare and debilitating medical condition: she’s allergic to other humans. After a humiliating near-death experience in high school, Jubilee has become a recluse, living the past nine years within the confines of the house her unaffectionate mother left her when she ran off to remarry. But now her mother is dead and without her financial support, Jubilee is forced to leave home and face the world -and the people in it- that she’s been hiding from.

One of those people is Eric Keegan, a man who just moved into town for work. With a daughter from his failed marriage who is no longer speaking to him and a brilliant, if psychologically troubled, adopted son, Eric is struggling to figure out how his life got so off-course. Then one day, he meets a mysterious woman named Jubilee, with a unique condition….

I loved the sound of this book when it arrived – the author has given the protagonist, Jubilee, an anaphylactic allergy to humans. It’s fictional, but based very much on the way that people are allergic to say nuts. Even contact with another human can send Jubilee out in huge welts. A kiss can trigger the anaphylaxis and so for the past nine years since her mother married, Jubilee has lived alone in the house. She never leaves – she’s arranged for the garbage to be collected without having to put the bins out, she has her groceries delivered. Her mother sends her money to live on but when her mother passes away, the money dries up. Jubilee must face her agoraphobia and leave the home to find work in order to pay the bills.

I loved Jubilee – there are some days when a quiet existence filled with books and zero human interaction sounds like heaven and that is without someone else potentially killing you. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be so on guard around people so that you don’t even accidentally brush against them. Meeting new people would be terribly awkward, as sometimes people want to kiss you in greeting. She has to wear gloves to prevent accidental touches or be able to shake hands etc but there are so many other brief touches. Sometimes people brush something away from your face etc. It’d be easy to hide yourself away where you didn’t have to worry about that, but I suppose the more you live that life, the more frightening the outside world might seem. Given that Jubilee had not really left her yard in nine years, I expected a bit more of an exploration of how loud or intrusive and scary going out might be. There are a few moments but she does seem to adjust rather well and basically has a job fall into her lap which meant that she didn’t have to really go out and search and interact with different people in an effort to find a job.

I also really liked the character of Eric – he had made some mistakes, including one catastrophic one with his daughter but he was also making great sacrifices too. His adopting of Aja was beautifully selfless and it wasn’t at all a smooth road for either of them. I felt sorry for Eric a lot of the time – he had a lot on and at times it felt like a lot of people were working against him rather than with him. He gets frustrated sure but I felt that he was entitled to. Aja isn’t an easy child and he’s been through a trauma. Both of them have. But Eric keeps trying, he keeps doing his best. When they meet Jubilee, it’s almost like this awkwardly perfect situation. Jubilee is in a position to help both Eric and Aja and because Aja is….slightly unusual, he’s able to embrace and respect her boundaries and difficulties. He is also slightly deluded about them but in a way that makes perfect sense when it all comes out.

Because Eric and Jubilee can’t really touch or kiss, even when they are both attracted to each other, their relationship must evolve in a very different way. It’s not all smooth sailing, there are plenty of awkward and ugly moments but also a lot of beautiful ones too. I think that’s why I felt so disappointed in the ending of this one…. I sort of understand why it had to go to the way it did but it made me feel very unsatisfied to turn the page and realise that the story had skipped ahead. There were a lot of things that felt very rushed and “magic cure!” and not having been there for the process made it seem a bit fanciful. It was very anti-climactic in a way and the interaction at the end wasn’t really the satisfying moment I was after.

This was an enjoyable novel but I just felt like it got a bit sloppy right at the end, like there was a word count that the author had reached and she had to wrap everything up in a really short amount of time – a few pages. For some the mystery of it might work but I just wanted more.

7/10

Book #44 of 2017

 

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Review: Tarin Of The Mammoths: The Exile by Jo Sandhu

Tarin Of The Mammoths: The Exile
Jo Sandhu
Puffin Books
2017, 288p
Copy courtesy of Penguin Random House AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Tarin longs to be a hunter, but his twisted leg means he is feared and bullied. After a disastrous mishap, Tarin is forced to leave his family and travel alone across wild, unknown land to save the Mammoth Clan. Battling the hostile and savage Boar Clan, a deadly illness and treacherous terrain with twins Kaija and Luuka and their wolf cubs, Tarin realises that if they are all to survive he must conquer his greatest fear – his true self – and embrace the magic that is hiding within him.

I have to admit, I have never read a lot of middle grade fiction. I skipped a lot of it growing up, moving on to Sweet Valley High and Sweet Dreams romances when I was probably about 7 or 8. However now that I have kids and that both of them are strong readers for their age, it’s something I want to encourage and I want to have a bit of an idea of what they might be reading, or what books might be good for them. My 8yo well exceeds the maximum level of readers they can bring home so he is given free rein to choose his own books and books like this would probably be about his level.

This is the first in a series and introduces the reader to Tarin, a young boy born with a twisted leg that means that he cannot do what the others of his clan do. Men are supposed to grow up to be strong hunters, to provide meat for the clan but Tarin’s leg means that he cannot be fast, or stealthy as he is often clumsy. He is mostly made tend gardens with the women or left to his own devices. His clan tend to fear what is different and when a hunt goes wrong because of Tarin, they declare him bad luck and want him banished. Tarin sees a chance to redeem himself by taking a gift from the various families in his clan to the Earth Mother, in order to appease her and hopefully change the clan’s luck. The journey will be very difficult and it’s quite likely that Tarin will never see his family again – indeed most in the clan expect him to fail and perish.

To me, Tarin is still very young but to his clan he’s on the cusp of manhood and about the age where boys should be joining their first hunt and making their first important kill to provide food. Tarin, with his disability, has always struggled to fit in, to really discover his place within the clan and he cannot really see a role for him. The ways seem to be quite clearly defined and as a young male and the son of the leader of the clan, Tarin’s place should be secure with a bright future ahead of him. But anyone who cannot play a role is a liability, a weakness that the clan can ill afford during a tough winter. A mouth to feed that doesn’t contribute in return is one more mouth than they need.

And so Tarin, desperate to prove himself as useful in some way, any way, volunteers to carry a gift to the Earth Mother. I think he perhaps fears that he has brought shame on his family, that they are embarrassed and he’s desperate to do something to make them proud, even if it might take his life. On his journey he meets a girl named Kaija, who has fled her clan with her brother Luuka and they are forced to make alliances and rely upon each other for survival and it is with them that Tarin perhaps discovers what his true path will be in life.

I enjoyed the setting and the characters – Tarin is smart and thoughtful and has many abilities that could be appreciated but the conditions under which the clan live mean that had he stayed with them, he might never have been able to explore them. I liked the resourcefulness of Kaija as well, she’s a girl who can take care of herself but she also values the importance of family and was willing to put herself in danger in order to save her brother. The three of them make up a very interesting trio and I think this had the beginnings of a fun series. I do have admit a lot of the spirit stuff wasn’t my sort of thing but seems consistent with the setting and the beliefs of the clans.

I’ve passed this onto my oldest son and I’m really curious to see what he thinks of it.

6/10

Book #46 of 2017

Tarin of the Mammoths: The Exile is book #15 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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On Having Good Intentions…..

These are things I have about lots of things. I have good intentions about housework….I’ll devise a schedule and stick to it. My house will be super spotless. I love how it looks when it’s clean, when I’ve just finished making a huge effort but it lasts so little time I get disheartened and think why exhaust myself when cyclone children sweep through and turn it upside down? On eating – less carbs, chocolate and coke. More vegetables and lean proteins. On exercise – I will get out and go for that walk/run/etc today and not just laze on the couch eating the aforementioned carbs and chocolate.

And about reading. There are so many books I want to read, for many different reasons. Obviously there are books that I want to read because I like the way the blurb sounds, because I’ve heard good things about them. But often there are books that I feel that I should read, also for many different reasons. Because they’ve been deemed to be historically important, because they examine important themes, because they address diversity, equality, etc. There’s only so much time we have to do things and so I can’t really read every single book that I want to, it’s just not possible.

Prize longlists make up rather a large portion of books that I have good intentions about. Every time a list gets announced, I think yes I am going to read this longlist this year for sure. And then, time. Time is a problem so I think ok, I’ll just read the shortlist then. And so often my good intentions come to nothing. Last year I think was probably the best I managed in terms of lists, I read almost all of the Stella Prize shortlist. I participated in a few discussions on twitter on several of the books and found them very interesting. I figure if I managed that last year when I was barely blogging and all that, surely I can do a bit this year too?

Wednesday was International Women’s Day and the Bailey Prize announced it’s longlist. Every year I curiously read the longlists to see how many books I’ve already read (generally I’m rather astonished if I find one). Here’s this year’s list:

Stay With Me, Ayobami Adebayo
The Power, Naomi Alderman
Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood
Little Deaths, Emma Flint
The Mare, Mary Gaitskill
The Dark Circle, Linda Grant
The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride
Midwinter, Fiona Melrose
The Sport of Kings, C.E. Morgan
The Woman Next Door, Yewande Omotoso
The Lonely Hearts Hotel, Heather O’Neill
The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry
Barkskins, Annie Proulx
First Love, Gwendoline Riley
Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien
The Gustav Sonata, Rose Tremain

Unsurprisingly this year it’s a 0 on books I’ve read. I actually am unfamiliar with quite a few of them but I’ve had intentions to read several others. I’ve read three authors listed in the past – Margaret Atwood, Annie Proulx and Rose Tremain and if I were to attack this longlist, I’d probably start with the books by those three authors.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the entire longlist in my local library’s catalogue. They’re a pretty good library, four branches and offer a good selection but obviously it’s not inexhaustive. I wanted to see how much of an issue it would be to source the 16 books here. The first one, a search of the author returned zero results so I struck out there. The second search returned a book for Naomi Alderman but not the one listed here, a previous book published several years ago. As I expected, Hag-Seed returned a result but it was currently checked out. When I searched for Little Death I got a hit on the eBook and also the audiobook but the library didn’t have a hard copy. There was one copy of The Mare by Mary Gaitskill but it was checked out and not due back for a month. A search for Linda Grant revealed a few of her earlier books but not The Dark Circle. I finally hit paydirt with The Lesser Bohemians by Eimer McBride which the library has and it was checked in. It was also located at my closest branch – I was about to place a hold so I could go and pick it up when I realised it was an audiobook and that wasn’t a format I wanted. There was no hard copy for that one either. Midwinter by Fiona Melrose also only returned an audiobook option. Nothing for The Sport Of Kings, nothing for The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso, nothing for The Essex Serpent, but surely there’d be a hard copy of Barkskins? Yes! There was. But it was checked out. Nothing for Gwendoline Riley, Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien exists but was also checked out. On the last book…..I finally found not only a hard copy in the system but that it was also available at a local branch.

The Stella Prize also announced their shortlist, which consists of:

Between A Wolf And A Dog by Georgia Blain
The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke
Poum And Alexandre by Catherine de Saint Phalle
An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire
The Museum Of Modern Love by Heather Rose
Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor

I’ve actually read one of these! An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire, which I thought was amazing. I’ve read quite a few of Emily’s books now and loved them all. I’ve also read Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke just this week actually and I really want to read The Hate Race. I’m familiar with Between A Wolf And A Dog and I know the author passed away quite recently, as has Cory Taylor. The other two I’m not familiar with other than having heard them announced as part of the longlist but I looked them up and I really want to read Poum and Alexandre. My local library had copies of 3 books from this list on their catalogue, two of which were available to be borrowed and one that was checked out with a few holds placed on it as well. Unfortunately for me, Poum and Alexandre was not one of the books they had.

So sometimes the best of intentions go astray because of availability. I can’t really afford to buy entire longlists or shortlists – or if I can, it’s hard to do knowing that by the time some of them arrive the winner will be announced anyway and maybe I should just read that? Sometimes I choose a few books that interested me – last year I bought half of the Stella shortlist (I’d already read one other and I skipped a book that wasn’t really my sort of thing) but it’s a big undertaking to attempt to read an entire longlist of 16 or so books, as is the case with the Baileys Prize. It’s a goal I’d like to achieve one day though.

Classics are another area where I also have good intentions that sometimes (ok, often) fail to pan out. In fact I just recently noticed that the Classics Challenge I joined five years ago  now wraps up this year. I committed myself to read 50 classics in five years and I have…….not done that. In fact, the challenge ends today. This challenge seemed doable when I started it but five years are up now and I’ve read 10 books off the list and reviewed 7 of them.

That’s pretty poor. I chose the list! I picked books I really want to read, plenty of which I own, sitting on my shelves, waiting to be picked up. They’re there. Accessible. I have no excuse really other than the fact that I’m distracted by new, shiny books. I think I also forgot this challenge even existed for about three years of it. I’m just going to leave it there as an open-ended challenge and hope that I knock a couple off each year. As poor as my progress was in this challenge, it was still progress and those 10 books are probably 10 more than I would’ve read had I not signed up for this.

This year the Australian Women Writers Challenge, which I have participated in every year of its being, has a strong focus on classics and I challenged myself to read 3. I didn’t want to go too crazy, knowing my average track record with classics. I have yet to really decide what those classics are going to be, although I did pick myself up a copy of The Thorn Birds with the intention of counting it. Is it old enough? It’s certainly iconic. I also have My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin and The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower on my shelves so it would make sense to finally tackle those.

Let’s hope that my good intentions pan out – perhaps small goals are the answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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