All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

February Reading Wrap Up

Total Books Read: 17
Fiction: 16
Non-Fiction: 1
Library Books: 2
Books On My TBR List: 3
Books in a Series: 4
Authors I’d Never Read Before: 10
Male/Female Authors: 2/15*
Kindle Books: 6
Books I Owned or Bought: 1
Favourite Book(s): Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly Macmillan and The Road To Hope by Rachael Johns
Least Favourite Book(s):  Wish You Were Here by Catherine Alliott
Books That Qualify For Challenges: 8

*I’m not 100% sure about this – one of the authors I read for February is Sylvain Reynard and there’s very little about them on the internet and the name they use is a pen name. Apparently they identify as male. Last year I do believe I classified the books I read by them as by a female author mistakenly assuming they were by a woman.

February was a pretty quiet reading month for me, mostly due to some upheaval in our personal lives. I haven’t really felt like sitting down with a book and my son also started back at school which means school pick ups and supervising reading and homework. I’m getting a bit behind so I need to make sure I find more time to fit in some relaxation time in March!

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Review: The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead

Ruby CircleThe Ruby Circle (Bloodlines #6)
Richelle Mead
Penguin Books AUS
2015, 348p
Purchased personal copy

Their romance has been exposed and everyone knows now that former Alchemist Sydney Sage and Moroi vampire Adrian Ivashkov are married. They’re hiding out at court under the protection of the Queen Lissa but it’s an existence that’s beginning to take it’s toll on Sydney. She misses the sun and fresh air. She tends to keep to their suite, aware that most around her regard her with suspicion….or hunger.

The vampire princess and Lissa’s half sister Jill Dragomir was kidnapped and so far their investigations have turned up nothing. They don’t know who has Jill or why. When Sydney’s old magic instructor turns up with information, Sydney knows she has to escape the royal compound and do everything she can to find Jill, even if it means leaving Adrian behind. Adrian it seems, is busy with his own puzzle about spirit magic which leads him on a quest to find someone who could change everything they’ve ever known about Moroi and dhampir and change their entire future.

I know that you can be overwhelemed. And you can be underwhelmed. But can you ever be just….whelmed?

And so I am conflicted. I’ll be honest. It took the Bloodlines a long time to convince me. I think it was well into the third book before I began to feel that the series may have some sort of merit and the fourth and fifth were enjoyable (but I still had issues). This is the final book in this series and I was expecting explosion. Awesome reveals. This does not feel in the same vein as Last Sacrifice. This reads almost like fan fiction.

I’ll start with Jill, considering her disappearance was apparently the thing this entire book was constructed around. Jill was always a secondary character with basically no development whatsoever between Bloodlines and Silver Shadows when Sydney and Adrian learn she’s been taken. Therefore, I don’t really care about her and who has her because I never got any of the Jill stuff I wanted to see and that was her relationship with Lissa. She was banished from Court and all we got each book was a few vague lines about Lissa changing the rule that said a reining monarch must have a living relative. This book doesn’t give us much either. We are still yet to get an actual scene between Lissa and Jill. I don’t know if Mead plans to return to this world later and use Jill as her next protagonist but a scene between the two sisters was, I believe, a necessary part of being able to connect with this story line at all.  Also in the end who had Jill was kind of boring and made little sense because we pretty much did this plot already about four books ago, with someone else.

Secondly. Adrian and Sydney. I took a long time to get on board here too and although I ended up being okay with them, I felt as though this book they took a few steps backward. They slide into keeping secrets, Adrian in particular and the spirit returns to drive a wedge between them. Adrian has never been my favourite character and I’ve never swooned over him but in this book he turns into a petulant child character who has an inner voice telling him (literally by the end) that he’s an actual God. I found myself predicting the ending long before it came about and being utterly disappointed with it for reasons that I cannot really go into because, spoilers. For me they never really address some of their key issues and Adrian makes a snap decision at the end of the book with little consideration and discussion. But why couldn’t Adrian and Sydney have a chance to live, first? They’re still so young. Travel. Explore. And I’m just going to pretend the Epilogue never existed at all, especially the revelation about Rose and Dimitri because I feel as though that is everything their characters would not do.

Speaking of Dimitri we finally found out who his father is, in another revelation that just felt dropped into the plot, like Mead remembered people would be curious and she couldn’t be bothered introducing another character. Instead Dimitri gets a random encounter with the man who fathered him who also turns out to be connected (related) to another character so now they are cousins. It’s like every fan fic come to life and could’ve only been worse if Dimitri had turned out to be half brothers with this person, not a cousin. Actually Rose kind of sums it up best:

Rose finally found her voice and turned on Dimitri. “Really? This guy? Are you sure?” (p151)

I hear you Rose.

Also everyone is far nicer to this ridiculous character than they should be (except for Dimitri, who ice-coolly punches him in the face but only once and really, it should’ve been many more times). I feel like Mead forgot a lot of the stuff she already established in Vampire Academy and in the end I was forgetting what was established and what wasn’t. For some reason I thought Rose claimed they relied on the Moroi for their existence and didn’t procreate with humans but apparently they can (thanks to Renee who clarified that for me). It was only a matter of time until it changed who a Dhampir could procreate with.

There was a time when I was actually enjoying this book – when Sydney snuck out of court and was chasing down clues on who had Jill I thought okay, this is going somewhere. But then about five minutes later Adrian shows up and it gets derailed with the whole Olive story (which I found relatively pointless and only served to undo things already established and give Rose and Dimitri and a few others a different future). The rescue-Jill operation seemed to go off effortlessly as they infiltrated a group with ridiculous ease and did other things with ridiculous ease and yeah, that was all over very quickly.

It probably sounds like I hated this. I didn’t but I have to admit, I was disappointed. And the the more time that passes since I finished it, the more disappointed I become. When I was reading it, there were bits that I liked a lot, bits that were okay and bits that I raised my eyebrows at but when I finished it and got out of the book I thought well, there were a lot of things I never got to see in that series that I wanted to. There were things left unsaid, scenes left out. So much became about Sydney and Adrian and their love that is more than any love anyone else has ever experienced ever and that….wasn’t strong enough to carry the six books. Not for me. With the VA books I can look back and think of so many ‘moments’ that defined each one. With this series…. I’m hard pressed to come up with many apart from Sydney being kidnapped.

So yep. I am just whelmed.

6/10

Book #42 of 2015

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Review: The Road To Hope by Rachael Johns

Road To HopeThe Road To Hope
Rachael Johns
Harlequin MIRA AUS
2015, 352p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Nurse Lauren Simpson has just watched the man she loves marry someone else. She’d wanted Flynn ever since high school but after the arrival of Ellie she never stood a chance – not then and not when Ellie came back to Hope Junction. Now Lauren has decided that she’s tired of being notorious around town for all the wrong reasons. She grew up in Hope Junction and then came back after university and has worked at the local hospital ever since. It’s time to move on.

But just as she’s ready to do so it seems that fate throws the perfect man onto her doorstep – literally. Dr Tom Lewis is a locum filling in for a local doctor who has gone on a holiday. Friends with Lauren’s older bother who is overseas, Tom was told he could stay with Lauren in the family home. But Lauren’s brother forgot to inform Lauren she’d be getting a new housemate until Lauren came home and found Tom making himself comfortable.

The attraction is immediate but Lauren is turning over a new leaf. No more sleeping with the wrong men. From now on she’s looking for the one, the one that loves and cherishes her as much as she’s seen that Flynn loves and cherishes Ellie. Lauren might want to jump into bed with the hot new doctor and the whole town might think she has already done so but she’s holding out. This time she wants a future. But Tom is dealing with a secret, something that makes him utterly convinced a long term relationship isn’t for him. He’s here in Hope Junction for a good time, not a long time as he’ll be moving on soon. He has a lot of chemistry with Lauren and he’d love to take things a step further but ultimately, Tom is convinced he cannot give her what she wants…..even though Lauren is pretty sure that he could, if only he’d just let himself and believe in her as well as the future they could have.

In her latest release, Rachael Johns takes readers back to Hope Junction, the setting for her first novel Jilted. Many will remember Lauren as the woman Flynn tried to use as a bit of a distraction really, when his teenage love Ellie returned after jilting him at the altar and leaving 10 years previous. In some ways Lauren was the antagonist but she was almost more a victim really, because although she had feelings for Flynn, he didn’t really return them and was really only attempting a relationship with Lauren to avoid the feelings he still had for Ellie. If anything I more felt sorry for Lauren than disliked her and it appears I’m not the only one because there were plenty of requests for Lauren to receive her happy ever after as well.

The book opens with Lauren as a guest at Flynn and Ellie’s wedding, watching the man she has always wanted marry someone else. She’s feeling more than a little sorry for herself and it’s sort of the catalyst for her to decide that it’s time for her to leave town. Lauren had a bit of a reputation in the way that can happen in small towns and Johns takes time to establish her background and childhood and how so much of Lauren’s worth was tied up in her looks and her attractiveness to the opposite sex. I think both that and her devotion to her job really establish Lauren as a character, especially what goes on beneath the rather brittle exterior she tends to project. I really enjoyed seeing Lauren in her professional environment and her dedication to her patients. It was quite clear that many of them were more than that to her, as her weekly manicures with the elderly hospital/nursing home residents proved. In some ways Lauren seemed to lack for female company. Her best friend Whitney is a newlywed and also fully focused on attempting to conceive. Whitney also wants her to make an effort to befriend Ellie, which isn’t very easy for Lauren although she does attempt to do her best. The arrival of Tom and her attraction to him definitely helps with her feelings for Flynn and give her a way to move on but it’s still awkward for her.

I loved Tom. A hot, surfing doctor who takes the time to get to know his patients and plays monopoly with the elderly residents – what’s not to love there? Tom has jacked in a permanent job in Adelaide, where his family are and is travelling Australia, taking casual positions here and there so he can see as much as the country and experience as much as he can. His family has been rocked by some tragic news, something that affects Tom perhaps a bit more than the rest and I think I could understand his motivation in distancing himself from his family and hitting the road. He has something potentially hanging over him and he wants to live as much of his life as he can in a short amount of time. However there was definitely the feeling that he was also cutting himself off from experiences (and potential experiences) too, just not a possible relationship with Lauren. They both were very attracted to each other but Lauren wanted to feel like it could go somewhere, like they had a future. Tom, in trying to protect Lauren (and perhaps himself) was closing himself off from a huge part of life and he definitely needed to be shown that he could enjoy life and share it with someone as well, regardless of what may happen in the future.

I’m a fan of the slow-burn romance, the couple that takes time to get to know each other and I think this one is a great example of that. Because of Lauren’s turning over a new leaf, she refuses to jump into bed with Tom (although she wants to!) and because of that they do friends first. They watch movies, they talk, they learn things about each other. And even though there are still some secrets, it’s obvious that they do come to trust each other with a lot of personal information. I think Lauren probably wasn’t going to be an easy character to tackle but she was made someone the reader could identify with and even sympathise with as she struggled to find her place and happiness.

9/10

Book #41 of 2015

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The Road To Hope is book #16 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015

 

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Review: The Secrets Of Midwives by Sally Hepworth

Secrets Of MidwivesThe Secrets Of Midwives
Sally Hepworth
St Martin’s Press
2015, 320p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Three generations of midwives, each generation with their own secrets. Neva Bradley is the youngest, a third generation midwife who works in a birthing centre. She’s been keeping a secret from everyone, including her mother and grandmother. She’s pregnant herself and she’s determined that the truth surrounding the baby’s conception be kept secret. But her mother Grace is equally determined to find out exactly who the baby’s father is and what has been going on in Neva’s life. She’s desperate for Neva to let her in, so that they can have the mother-daughter relationship that she’s always craved.

Grace works as a home birthing midwife and she’s passionate about her job. She has always promoted the power of a woman making her own choices in her own environment but that doesn’t mean she’s irresponsible. She might not like medical intervention but she’s willing to admit that it’s sometimes necessary. When Grace finds herself on the end of an investigation for a homebirth she attended, she’s suspended until the inquiry is resolved. However that leaves her loyal clients without a homebirthing option and with financial pressures at home, Grace finds herself torn.

Grace’s mother Floss is keeping perhaps the biggest secret of all – it’s definitely the longest. Neva’s condition forces Floss back some 60 years into her past as a young, just qualified midwife in England and the sacrifices she made. She’s thought that keeping the secret all these years was the best thing to do but as the stress begins to mount and she watches Grace’s desperation to connect and her issues with not having had a father, she wonders if she did the right thing at all.

Before I had my own children, nothing about nursing interested me at all. Especially not delivering babies. But having had two now and been through the births, I actually think it’s a wonderful process and it must be most days, quite a wonderful career. Sometimes I think it’s what I should do, if I ignore the fact that I’d be well into my late thirties by the time I was even qualified. I’ve read a couple of books featuring midwives recently and I have really enjoyed them. This one is no exception.

The book kicks off with Neva who is about 30 give or take and going to dinner with her mother and grandmother. At the dinner it’s finally revealed (inadvertently, not by Neva’s choice) that she’s pregnant. Decidedly pregnant with only just over two months to go. Grace is stunned, shocked that Neva has chosen to keep it a secret and also a bit incensed that she won’t really volunteer any information. She wants to know who the baby’s father is but Neva is adamant that the baby won’t have one. She’ll be raising it on her own. Immediately then I had a fair idea what the reason would be for Neva to decide this but it seems that Grace is bringing her own issues being raised without a father into this new situation. She doesn’t seem to realise that this is how she alienates Neva, by being so needy.

When I was pregnant with my youngest I was a member of a birthing and parenting forum and quite a few of them had homebirths and I felt that they were always interesting experiences to read. I think it’s a good idea in theory and I would probably be a candidate having had 2 complication free (quick) births. But I have to admit, there’s just a part of me that isn’t comfortable with it. I’ve never had a problem with anyone pressuring me into things I didn’t want in either of my births but that’s not to say it doesn’t happen. Both times I had my babies with midwives through the public system. The first time I saw an OB at 36wks for about 10 minutes and one popped their head into my delivery room when I was in labour and basically said “call me if you need me”. The second pregnancy I didn’t see a single OB at all. I had all my appointments with the local community midwife, who happened to be on duty at the hospital when I presented in labour. However she had a woman ahead of me who was delivering so she left for about 15-20m. When she came back, Rory had already been born and we were discharged from the hospital 4 hours later into outpatient care. I can imagine however, that for women who have not had the birthing experience that they desired, the idea of being able to take back control in their own homes would be very empowering and a choice that would seem very positive and ideal to them.  Grace is very passionate about her job, very good at it too but I have to admit, I was uncomfortable with the choices she made during her suspension, even though she might’ve felt like she didn’t have much of a choice. I think I would’ve also liked a deeper exploration of her issues with her husband because they’re at odds or distance from each other for much of the book but then it seems to be resolved far too easily.

Floss’s secret was also rather easy for the reader to guess but that didn’t really detract from how interesting I found her story. It had shaped Grace’s life in the deepest of ways and had impacted on her and her relationship with her own child and I understood Floss’s reluctance, after all these years, to finally set the story straight. She had done what she believed was the right thing but secrets often have a way of festering. With Grace’s personality I think that Floss was probably right to feel the fears that she did and the narrative did a good job of expressing her motivations and also the own emotions and feelings she would’ve been experiencing as a young girl who gave up everything to raise a baby on her own. That part of the story was really quite beautifully done and I enjoyed all of their interactions with each other.

I did find some parts a little far fetched – given Neva’s medical issue I could maybe believe that she had her dates mixed up but not that she wouldn’t realise she was in labour. That was all a bit convenient, given the circumstances that Neva believed surrounded her child’s conception and I think the romance with Patrick could’ve been developed a little more, particularly their feelings prior to Neva finding out she was pregnant. The story needed to give the reader a little more there, to really get behind them and want them to be able to work through the conflict that Patrick believed they had. I really enjoyed the story though and the ideas of the three midwives of the different generations and how their careers were shaped by their personalities as well.

8/10

Book #40 of 2015

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The Secrets Of Midwives is book #15 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015

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Review: Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly Macmillan

Burnt Paper SkyBurnt Paper Sky
Gilly Macmillan
Hachette AUS
2015, 464p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Rachel Jenner is now a single mother, divorced from her husband who has now married someone else. She’s preoccupied with this, it’s been a hard year for both her and her 8 year old son Ben since the separation.

Whilst out on a walk through the woods one weekend, Rachel allows Ben to run ahead, along a path to a swing. She follows along at a slower pace but when she reaches the clearing where the swing is, Ben is no where to be seen nor is their family pet whom he had on a lead with him. She searches everywhere, raising the alarm with others who are using other parts of the wood but they don’t find a single trace and the police are alerted.

For DI James Clemo, this case is opportunity. To prove himself. To take that next step. He’s been chosen to lead the investigation but it doesn’t take long before it’s taking its toll on him too. A disastrous press conference leads the nation, led by the press to turn on Rachel and soon the case is complicated by secrets and lies.

There’s a bit of a twist in me that makes me really excited to read books that focus on missing children. I think at some stage, we all imagine that worst case scenario. I’m a mother of two boys, 6 and 3 and I’m by no means a helicopter parent. When Rachel allows Ben to run ahead of her on the path I found myself thinking yeah, I’d probably do that too. And at the same time, if I read about a disappearance like Ben’s in the paper, I’d wonder to myself why she allowed him to run ahead. The information we’re given tends to inform our reactions to it.

This book sets the scene perfectly and watching Rachel come apart was like a work of art. She’s so real – she actually acted like I would imagine a grieving, desperate mother to act. She screws up the press conference, playing out something in her head that looks totally different for those watching and recording. But I found it believable that she’d lose control of herself and her emotions. I’ve seen people read out very carefully worded statements and sound like robots even as they’re desperately pleading for the return of a loved one. Rachel took that and set it on fire and in doing so, she turned almost the entire nation against her starting with the tabloid media. They camp outside her door, write accusing articles about her and stir up public opinion. The book includes articles from a website and comments posted on it and Rachel breaks the cardinal rule of the internet when it comes to a news article –  you never read the comments. She can’t help herself, sneaking onto her sister’s laptop at night to read what people are saying about her, about Ben’s disappearance.

Rachel’s narrative is broken up by the story of DI Clemo. Part of the book deals with the ‘after’ (although you’re not really aware of after what exactly until the book deals with that part of it as a natural progression of the investigation) and Clemo’s life has been profoundly affected not only by the way in which the investigation impacted on his professional life but also the way in which it changed his personal life as well. He’s been ordered to see a department psychologist who will determine whether or not he is still fit to do his job. It shows how missing child cases affect those assigned to work on them – when a child disappears, there’s a timeline. The longer they are missing, the more the days tick by the less likely they are to be found safe and well. As they chase leads and look into all the connections Ben had with various people it becomes more complicated because there doesn’t seem to be anyone with a clear motive for taking him and yet it feels far too unlikely to be a crime of opportunity. And then there are the secrets in Rachel’s family which are definitely getting under Clemo’s skin. The police bring their own insecurities and issues into the investigation, no matter how much they might attempt to present an impartial front and Rachel’s countenance casts suspicion on her from many corners.

This book had me totally hooked from start to finish. I was really interested in the way Rachel was portrayed, especially given she admits that she was preoccupied for a while before Ben’s disappearance, thinking of her ex-husband and his new wife. Because we only have Rachel’s point of view, apart from the time DI Clemo is interviewing her ex-husband, we don’t get as much of his side of the story as I would’ve liked but Rachel’s does show their evolving relationship after Ben disappears. The way in which Rachel is targeted by the public is scary and yet believable. Statistics are against her, because often children are taken or harmed by a family member. Prior cases hurt her cause, because the public have seen people tearfully plead for the return of someone, a partner or a child, only for that person to later be arrested for the terrible crime. Many people assume Rachel is guilty until proved innocent and I actually think she copes remarkably well under some of this pressure. She never, ever stops searching for Ben, trying to find out what has happened to him.

Really enjoyed this debut and I can’t wait for Gilly Macmillan’s next book.

9/10

Book #39 of 2015

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Review: You’re Just Too Good To Be True by Sofija Stefanovic

Too Good To Be TrueYou’re Just Too Good To Be True
Sofija Stefanovic
Penguin Specials (Penguin Books AUS)
2015, 93p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Sofija Stefanovic pays a visit to her friend Bill, an eighty year old man who fell victim to a Nigerian love scam, fleecing him of over $80,000. Although the police eventually found Bill and informed him that he was being scammed and that he should change all of his email addresses and passwords, Sofija suspects that Bill hasn’t done that. It’s gone on too long and now he’s sucked into the story he’s being fed, he’s invested in the scam.

Through Bill and his story, Sofija investigates further, talking to the Queensland police who did the hard work tracking people down who were being scammed. They had no reports of a crime being committed, either because people were too embarrassed to admit they’d been scammed or because they were still in the grasp of the scammers. Instead the police did the hard yards themselves, watching the flow of cash from Queensland to Nigeria via Western Union.

Sofija decides she wants to tell the story from both points of view and to do that, she needs to be able to talk to a scammer, to find out their motivations and methods. When a point-blank approach doesn’t work, Sofija tries another way…and soon finds herself drawn into the web as her interactions grow and she begins to construct a life and reasons for her would-be scammer and realises she needs to get out before she goes the way of Bill and many like him.

According to the inside of the book, Penguin Specials were created to ‘fill a gap’ – something to read on the train, in your lunch hour, etc and can be either fiction or non-fiction. This is the first one I’ve ever read and I think they’re a marvelous idea. Sometimes you want to read but you don’t have time to fit in a full length book and you want to read something that won’t leave you hanging, trying to choose a place to finish. I actually read most of this one sitting in the car before school pick up.

Last year, someone quite close to me was scammed. Not by a Nigerian love scam, as this book focuses on, but a different sort of scam. They lost close to $5,000 which for some isn’t much but for them is a lot. Because of the way in which the scam was enacted, the bank could trace where their money went (it was still in Australia last I heard) but couldn’t get it back for them. They had to wear it. It was taken not from a savings account but from a overdraft facility so presumably they now wear the interest the amount will accrue as well, until they can pay it back. They went through a gauntlet of emotions: shock, horror, disbelief, anger, grief, humiliation. They reported it to the police and there is a cyber crime unit that looks into these things but it appears there’s very little they can do, because of the way the scam is played. They’ve put it behind them now, but the funny thing is even after they were conned out of money, they’re still being harrassed by the scammers. Whether they’re different scammers or not, they’re still repeatedly targeted. Now they take great delight in attempting to frustrate and humiliate the scammers, just as they were themselves I suppose. At least I am sure of the fact that they will not get fooled again.

The same cannot be said of eighty year old Bill in this book. Sofija suspects that he’s still in contact with the scammers and it proves to be true. The scam has changed, evolved and Bill has been sucked into it so far that he cannot extract himself. It’s something that I think he probably has convinced himself that it must be true, who would go to all this trouble otherwise? And there’s no doubt that Bill’s scam is particularly elaborate and has targeted a lonely and isolated elderly man. Sofija speaks with the leader of a support group in Queensland that has been established for humiliated victims of cyber love scams and many of them are of the baby boomer generation: retired but financially secure – or they were until they gave away most of their life savings. The scammers use dating sites like RSVP to target lonely pensioners and get them off the sites and into private emails as quick as possible, before the sites shut down their profiles. They tailor their stories and lives to revolve around their victims: similar interests, passions and causes.

I found it interesting that Sofija, whilst attempting to research scammers and get their point of view, still found herself being sucked in to the story and relationship that the scammer was trying to cultivate. It is probably very flattering for the victims, to be paid so much attention. I think the police find trying to interact with some of the victims rather frustrating, because even after they explain they’re being scammed and block their Western Union accounts, some of the victims are still finding ways to send their money, not convinced by the flesh and blood police in front of them. Instead they’d rather take the word of people in email, because they’ve already invested so much into the relationship that was being cultivated by the scammer. I think this goes to show how easy it is to become invested in someone, even when you’re aware that you’re being scammed. The mind is always trying to justify people’s actions and reading this gave me a much better understanding of how these people get scammed.

I’m not sure if I can say I enjoyed this, because I found myself wondering about Bill long after I’d finished it but it was definitely really interesting and I think it shows how the victims deserve sympathy. I love the idea of these Penguin specials and I’ll definitely be looking to collect more of them for those times when I’m waiting or only have a little bit of time but still want to read.

8/10

Book #36 of 2015

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Review: Roses For Sophie by Alyssa J. Montgomery

Roses For SophieRoses For Sophie
Alyssa J. Montgomery
Harlequin Escape Publishing
2015, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Australian billionaire and mining magnate Logan Jackson needs a wife. He’s about to be embroiled in a bitter custody battle, trying to win custody of the young daughter of his closest friend. Logan has a bit of a playboy past and he knows that he’s more than able to take care of Charlotte financially. What he needs to prove is that he has a stable and loving home life for her as well, with a woman who can give all the appearance of being a supportive wife and mother figure.

Sophie Hamilton needs a fiance. Her beloved grandfather, who raised her after her own parents were killed in an accident, is about to make a decision on who he will hand control of the family mining company to: her or her cousin Felix. Sophie has been determined that it should be her for years. But her grandfather also wants to see her married and happy, with something else in her life other than work.

Logan and Sophie are both looking for something temporary – an image to project in order to placate or make someone else happy. But when they meet by chance – a case of mistaken identity – the sparks fly between them. Sophie has been married before, to someone she cared about but didn’t love and swore she’d never marry again unless it was for real. Logan doesn’t really believe in love but thinks you can make a marriage work with other things, such as friendship, trust, sexual desire. Logan and Sophie have common goals but the end-game they see is different. After they both get what they want, will they go their separate ways or choose to stay together and build what they have for real?

Roses For Sophie can be read stand alone but also follows on in a way from Montgomery’s previous novel, Echoes of the Heart, which focuses on Sophie’s ex-husband. I haven’t read that but I assume that Sophie features in it in some way, just as her ex-husband appears briefly in this novel. I don’t really think I lacked for not having read it and I think this is more than capable of standing alone.

I have to admit, I found Logan really annoying and pushy at first until the circumstances of their meeting became more clear. From then on I actually quite liked him as a character and I appreciated what he was trying to do. His friend and his wife had been killed in an accident and they’d expressed their wishes to Logan that he take custody of their only daughter should something ever happen to them. What little family they do have is untrustworthy and Charlotte is currently in the care of her grandmother, who is fighting Logan for permanent custody, mostly to get at the wealth Charlotte has inherited. Logan knows that not only can he take care of her financial inheritance and grow it, rather than waste it, but he can also provide the little girl with a better home life. His sister has made him see however, that a wife would definitely help his case. Sophie on the other hand, doesn’t need a husband so much as a lover who looks like becoming a husband, in the eyes of her grandfather. He wants to see her settled and happy in her personal life as well as her career and Sophie knows that she doesn’t have time to wait until she meets the elusive one. She needs to make her grandfather think that she’s found that person. Sophie is unprepared for the whirlwind that is her grandfather though and I think the old bloke outsmarts her pretty good.

I liked Logan and Sophie together but somehow this story managed to feel rushed even as their conflict felt a bit drawn out. Sophie wanted proper love, Logan thinks you can have a marriage without it, despite it already being pretty obvious that they are both in love. They also don’t know each other very long either and when Sophie is told some things by her no-good cousin, she jumps to some pretty weird conclusions, assuming Logan was marrying her for her grandfather’s company despite the fact Logan could buy and sell it many times probably with his own wealth. Logan does do a stupid thing which doesn’t really help make him look innocent in his motives either but Sophie’s reaction is a bit overly dramatic. I think a lot of it is supposed to be tied up in a heartbreak she experienced when she was young but that’s only briefly explained and I didn’t really get the feeling it should still play such an important role in her life. It was definitely time to ‘let it go’.

Forced or arranged marriage is actually one of my favourite romantic tropes and I enjoyed this although I think I’d have liked it more if they’d actually had to spend some time being married first. I think that might have taken the edge off the rushed feeling and also given them more time to actually fall in love and so Sophie’s reaction wouldn’t have felt so over the top. I expected Charlotte to actually play a larger role in the story as well, given she was Logan’s primary motivation for finding a wife but instead she really only appears in a scene or two almost at the end of the book, so you don’t really get to see how Logan copes with taking custody of a small child either which was something I thought would’ve been interesting. All in all this was a quick and pleasant read and I think I might go and track down Echoes of the Heart now which, from the glimpse I got of the couple in this book, sounds as though it might be fun.

7/10

Book #35 of 2015

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Roses For Sophie is book #11 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015

 

 

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Review: Burned by Karen Marie Moning

BurnedKMMBurned (Fever #7)
Karen Marie Moning
Delacorte Press
2015, 431p
Read from my local library

When the walls protecting the Earth from Faery came down, it was flooded with immortals and they’ve over taken MacKayla Lane’s new home of Dublin. It’s now a war zone – they’ve defeated the Sinsar Dubh and imprisoned the Unseelie Prince Cruce in a tomb of ice. But there’s always something to be done. The Song of Making could recreate the walls between the Fae and Earth but no one possesses that knowledge now. The book, ever deep and present in MacKayla’s mind croons to her about all they could do if Mac gave up her control. But she continues to resist.

Once Mac’s best friend and almost like a sister to her, Dani “Mega” O’Malley has gone missing. Whilst Mac was attempting to talk to her she jumped into the Silvers, one that went to the Hall of All Days. Mac has no idea how long it’ll take her to get back…or even if she will get back. There’s also the task of rescuing Christian MacKeltar who lies chained on a clifftop being killed over and over again. For that Mac will have to work with not only Jericho Barrons, her enigmatic lover and keeper of secrets but one of his men Ryodan, whom she’s never really seen eye to eye with. And the MacKeltars will want to be along for the ride too as well as the mysterious Jada who has taken over the sidhe seers at the Abbey.

It’s an unholy alliance and you never know who to trust.

Ok well this book was kind of a hot mess.

I love the Fever series, I really do. I binge read them all and I was satisfied when it ended. I would’ve been happy for more but if not, I figured I could rest enough knowing how Mac and Barrons had ended. Then Iced came out and I learned it was going to be narrated by Dani. I’m in the minority because I don’t like Dani as a narrator at all. I used to skim her chapters in the other books because she drives me nuts. I tried to read it but I honestly couldn’t get through it and just ended up skimming it. I wasn’t at all comfortable with a lot of the story line because Dani is fourteen and the vibes I was getting were weird. Clearly I wasn’t the only one – there was a lot of criticism about both Ryodan and Christian’s thoughts and/or feelings towards Dani, both admitted and alluded to. In this book it seems like Karen Marie Moning has gone on the defensive a bit. Mac is back as our main narrator, which actually pleased me when I heard it and she dispatched Dani into Fae through the Silvers presumably to age a few years and come back more adult so that she can set up this triangle she seems to want so desperately.

Really, just stop it. Stop trying to make Ryodan and Dani happen. It’s weird. Really, really weird. I didn’t mind Ryodan in earlier books, he was enigmatic like Barrons and the rest of the Nine but in this book KMM basically tries to ram him down the reader’s throat as so deep and having hidden feelings. He waxes lyrical about how he saw Dani as a kid and she amazed him and he knew immediately that she was special and that he’s been keeping an eye on her, protecting her ever since. I found those scenes quite puzzling. If KMM is trying to ram Ryodan down the reader’s throats, she’s also doing the same of Dani and it’s not necessary. Dani has her fans, there are plenty of people out there who were incensed when they found out the narrative was going to be Mac’s again. We don’t need to be told every five pages how special Dani is and how unique. Basically everyone in these books is special or unique for some reason or other. Dani is a tough kid, a gifted fighter, a survivor. What happens to her in this book is not what I expected. The aging, yes. Who/what she came back as, no. It felt like a waste of time, creating Dani 2.0. Is KMM hoping her readers forget that she was a child five minutes ago by having her look and act completely different? To the people in Dublin, Dani was gone a month. For her it was almost five years. She’s kissing Ryodan now, supposedly ok because she now looks 20. Never mind that the last time Ryodan saw her, which was mere weeks ago, she was still only fourteen. I was told I would love Ryodan more than Barrons but nope. Didn’t happen. Ryodan is a bit of an ass. He continually wastes no time telling Mac how stupid/useless/moronic/pointless she is but at the same time, when the Unseelie Princess comes to his club and threatens their perceptions, Mac is the first person he goes running to, begging for help. I found myself saying “Just shut up Ryodan” every time he spoke. Stop being pissy just for the sake of it. Makes you look like an ass, not a being everyone should fear and respect.

Mac was neutered in this novel as well – for about maybe half of it? she’s actually invisible to everyone. She can be heard if she speaks, or if she bumps into something she’ll give her presence away but she cannot be seen. That’s a pretty strong metaphor for Mac’s personality in this book. From pink MacKayla in book 1 to the one that helped defeat Cruce and the Sinsa Dubh in book 5, Mac grew into a pretty kickass character. Barrons and her found a harmonious place, but that was blown apart in this book because things feel strained, awkward and tense between them. There wasn’t a whole lot of chemistry although the scene where Barrons is finally able to avenge her is probably the best in the book, even though it lacks the true raw emotion of some of their earlier interactions. Instead it seems that Mac and Barrons are back to around book 2 or 3, dancing around each other for the most part. Could you not write a story where they continued to be in the place where they were at when book 5 ended, KMM? Regression really annoys me, especially when it’s utterly unnecessary. Still even awkward, stilted Mac and Barons have more chemistry than Dani and Ryodan.

This felt like different characters inhabiting a different universe. I’m disappointed.

4/10

Book #34 of 2015

 

 

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Review: The Raven by Sylvain Reynard

RavenThe Raven (The Florentine #1)
Sylvain Reynard
Penguin Books AUS
2015, 393p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Raven Wood is an American working in Italy, at Florence’s Uffizi art gallery restoring Renaissance art. After a party with friends and work colleagues, Raven is walking home alone one night when she sees several thugs humiliating and attacking an old homeless man. When she intervenes, they turn on her viciously.

When Raven wakes it’s a week later and she’s in her bed. She has absolutely no memory of what occurred after she left the party and when she glances at herself in the mirror, her appearance is different. She’s thinner, her hair lustrous and thick. Her disability, a foot that turned outward after a bad break as a child and which she required a cane for, has healed perfectly. When Raven shows up for work she learns that during her absence the Uffizi suffered a terrible theft, a collection of Botticelli sketches. Raven finds herself under suspicion especially when she cannot clarify her whereabouts for the past week nor explain her altered appearance.

Desperate to clear her name, Raven seeks out a name she has heard, one of Florence’s wealthiest men, William York. But she gets more than she bargained for attempting to track down William and when he finally makes an appearance she realises that they’ve crossed paths before….and that William isn’t entirely who or what he pretends to be in polite society. And her relationship with him will draw her deep in Florence’s dark and disturbing underworld where there’s a power struggle brewing.

The Raven is the first in a new series from Sylvain Reynard, author of the Gabriel’s Inferno series. I’ve read those books and quite enjoyed them so I was a little interested to see how these would fare. This verges strongly into paranormal romance territory, but keeps the same heavy references to artwork, etc. In fact the sketches that are stolen from the Uffizi were loaned to the gallery by Gabriel Emerson and his wife Julia, so fans of that couple may appreciate the glimpses we are given here, some of which are rather mysterious. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I enjoyed the Gabriel books and it’s not because of the paranormal angle. I think the integration of Gabriel and Julia into this world wasn’t necessary and the book at times, focuses a little too much on them, like the author couldn’t let go of their story once it was done.

There’s an unhealthy obsession with Raven’s appearance in this book. At the beginning of the story, she’s (in her opinion) overweight. She also has a disability and requires a cane to walk. She can’t run, even walking fast is out of her reach. After she is attacked, she wakes up beautifully thin with perfect breasts, luminous skin and no disability. She’s thrilled when a neighbour’s grandson, whom she has a crush on, finally notices her and asks her out. Even though she knows it’s only because he didn’t see her before when she was bigger and less attractive she still goes out with him. However the perfect appearance doesn’t last…she begins to revert back to her former self over time and when she shows up for their date, she’s changed already and she can tell in his expression that he’s disappointed, perhaps wondering what he saw when he asked her out when whatever it was, isn’t in front of him now. It goes on and on throughout the book, how unattractive she found herself before, how much she adored her transformation and then how disappointed she was when it began to wear off. William York, the mysterious wealthy man Raven seeks out for answers about the art gallery theft who is not what he seems (oh heck, I’m just going say it, he’s a vampyre, ok?) loves her original body which he puts down to being hundreds of years old when being thin meant being sick. He loves a curvy woman and tells her. A lot. Whilst I appreciate the fact that he prefers Raven as her natural self, not her enhanced self, this took up far too much of the book.

There were a few implausible things here….such as Raven going missing for a week and keeping her job. Also everyone seemed to cope remarkably well that she lost however much weight (I’m assuming a significant amount, at least a couple of clothing sizes) and her disability vanished as well as her attractiveness increased and then it all reversed in a frighteningly quick amount of time. The fact that Raven’s blood smells sweet to every vampyre in the vicinity does compare with another book whose name I shall not mention here, but it’s not the only comparison I could make. William stalks Raven, supposedly because he is the only one that can ‘keep her safe’ but he alternatively bullies and attempts to cajole her into sleeping with him, or becoming his….pet? concubine? consort? I don’t even know. It’s only when Raven is willing to comply with his wishes if William will use his considerable powers to fix someone injured that she shames him into realising how wrong his behaviour is. But only a little bit.

William is basically Prince of Florence’s underworld – he’s very old and he’s very powerful but he still loses his head over Raven and begins acting very out of character. Once again, it’s a struggle to express precisely why Raven captivates him so, other than she smells sweet and she would’ve sacrificed herself for someone else, not once but twice. He doesn’t listen to her though, she expressly asks him not to do something, says she isn’t interested in it but he sets the wheels in motion anyway, leading to, I imagine, a big and important conflict for them as a couple in a later book. I think my biggest problem is I can’t really see where this is going, as a series. William isn’t really charismatic or interesting enough to impress me and Raven has to let go of her hang ups if she’s going to be a truly strong heroine and a decent match for anyone, let alone a vampyre prince. So far the first book is just enough to be interesting but not quite enough to be fascinating.

6/10

Book #33 of 2015

*note: I’m using the spelling of “vampyre” because the book does.

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Review: Unwanted by Amanda Holohan

UnwantedUnwanted
Amanda Holohan
Penguin Teen AUS
2015, 318p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Bea Azaeli lives in a walled city, believed to be the world’s last surviving. Inside the city there’s a strict order and everyone has a role to play within it. Some, like Bea, train to be a part of the city’s army, patrolling the walls and playing a role of sniper to keep anything that might want to invade, out. Others like Bea’s sister are Storks, charged with producing the next generation for the city. Bea’s father used to be a sniper but then rumour was, he couldn’t take it anymore and jumped. Because someone has to pay for his crime, Bea’s mother was taken away to work in the Farms. It’s up to Bea, by far the most capable to keep their family together, her and her two sisters. Her youngest sister is mute and requires extra stability and reassurance.

But the Bea’s sister makes a terrible choice and Bea is forced to go after her. And the things that she discovers on her quest has her wondering just what lies outside the walls….and if maybe, the real danger is on the inside.

Unwanted is a new dystopian YA novel set in a could-be-anywhere-city in a ruined world. Some time ago, an invasion came by Erebii who are….aliens? Other life forms?.. that can mimic form. The first Erebii to inhabit Earth was friendly but then the warriors came and possessed humans, taking their bodies. Bea’s city is fortified by a wall and on the wall are snipers who will shoot anything that comes into sight. They cannot take the risk and have their security breached.

Bea is training to be a warrior, a sniper like her father before her. He died in disgrace although Bea has trouble believing that it happened the way that was claimed. Perhaps she feels that she can rectify her father’s disgrace by becoming a valued and formidable sniper although much of her training happens before the book begins. Instead we get her final challenge as our opening scene and the book quickly establishes a friendship between Bea and her neighbour Gus, who is also in training and has passed his final test. Gus seems to also regard Bea as more than a friend (this will be important later) but she doesn’t seem to have ever thought of him that way (this will also be important later).

To be honest, I found parts of this book confusing, especially after Bea meets Red and the rest of the underground crew. Red seems like one of those magic characters who can go anywhere and do anything and convince people that either he has a right to be there or not to see him at all and he came off so bland and two-dimensional. Bea has been indoctrined to believe one thing her entire life and it seems remarkably easy for Red to convince her of something else. If Red is that clever, surely he could just convince everyone else too? The whole underground community with the mad skills thing seems so overdone in dystopian literature, everything they need at their fingertips. I know it’s not that easy and they seem to have been working for a while towards their goal but suddenly there’s this idea that Bea is the one they’ve been searching for, the one that will make all their plans come to fruition.

I couldn’t really warm to Bea as a character, for most of the book she seemed almost robotic, perhaps a product of her upbringing and training but there was little to really show her personality except perhaps the way she went into bat for her sister Jo, who was a Stork. But even that seemed like something she was doing automatically. She was at her most human when interacting with her youngest sister but that didn’t stop her leaving her alone either. I think the main problem is that several elements of this book reminded me of other books – the eye embedding in her palm reminded me of the Juliana Baggott books and the Stork part reminded me of well, many other dystopian books to be honest.

The first part of the book is rather slow but the last third of the book is significantly faster paced and I think that’s the part I enjoyed the most. There were lots of developments, a few surprises and things I wanted to know more about which didn’t really eventuate. It looks set up for a possible sequel as well, so perhaps if that eventuates we’d learn much more about the world in which this story takes place.

6/10

Book #30 of 2015

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Unwanted is book #10 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015

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