All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Missing You by Kylie Kaden

Missing YouMissing You
Kylie Kaden
Random House AUS
2015, 352p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

For Aisha and Ryan, it was love at first sight after a chance meeting when Aisha was leaving a university party. Ryan was older, already well into his first job and Aisha was still finishing her bachelor’s degree. Despite the fact that they always knew that they wanted different things, they settled into a strong relationship and eventually married. Ryan had never wanted children but he wanted Aisha and soon they welcomed their son Eli.

It wasn’t long before they realised that Eli’s needs were a little different to those of most other children. He needed routine and order and the smallest deviation from this could bring about extreme difficulty. All of sudden Aisha’s world revolves around Eli and Ryan is left feeling overwhelmed and on the outer. The stress builds, fracturing Ryan and Aisha’s once strong relationship until Ryan can’t take it anymore.

Then Aisha receives a phone call late at night whilst at her father’s house. She takes off to meet a friend, assuring her father and sister she’ll be back soon. But morning comes and Aisha hasn’t returned…nor does she all that day. The police are called and when they find Aisha’s car abandoned with blood on the seat, everyone begins to fear the worst. Ryan has disappeared. Aisha is missing, possibly injured or worse. Aisha’s family don’t believe she’s voluntarily run off, even to chase Ryan. She’d never leave her son. But the alternatives may be too hard to contemplate.

Missing You is Australian author Kylie Kaden’s second novel and delivers an intriguing mystery as well as exploring family dynamics, the difficulties in parenting a special needs child and how quickly things can change when you go from childless to being responsible for someone 24/7. With a brief snippet to open the book, readers are aware that something has happened to Aisha…but what? Where is she? The book alternates between the point of view of Aisha’s father Patrick in the present, who is left to care for Eli when Ryan and Aisha both vanish and glimpses into Ryan and Aisha’s relationship, marriage and the arrival of Eli.

To be honest, for me where this book truly shines is the narration by Patrick as he slowly puzzles out his grandson. Patrick hasn’t spent a lot of time with Eli before – visits probably, he certainly doesn’t seem to have had him overnight or for a few days. Eli is a bit high maintenance – the smallest thing can make him extremely upset and given Aisha has taken off unexpectedly she obviously hasn’t left Patrick with many instructions. Aisha’s sister is a small help but mostly it’s up to Patrick to figure out precisely what upsets Eli and how to fix it. Patrick is from a different time, where parenting was done differently and this does show in his early narration as he watches Eli melt down inexplicably with a tantrum. But he quickly comes to realise that there are reasons for his behaviour and the more he watches, the more he learns. Patrick muddles through the days and nights with Eli, building a relationship with him. The poor boy has had both his parents disappear in a short time and being autistic quite possibly doesn’t have the ways to express how off kilter this must make him feel. All his safety and security has vanished and Patrick has to establish some new safety and security for Eli – he has to be that for him. Watching Patrick care for Eli in his own way, gently encouraging him to try new things and push his boundaries but as well as keeping things at a level Eli can cope with, was a fantastic part of this book.

I think I found myself less interested in the story of Ryan and Aisha over time. There was a lot of secrets and half truths and I don’t know, I felt like the ‘villain’, for want of a better term, was broadcasting red flag signals loud and clear but Aisha either could not or would not see it. The ending disappointed me a bit – more secrets, more half truths and I really expected more fallout. The information given didn’t really seem to satisfy me in terms of what I really wanted to know, what I think I would want to know in that situation. It was really quite offhand, not befitting of the seriousness of the situation for me. I didn’t really understand the motivation and I felt as though there were many more issues that would probably need to be worked through. I couldn’t get a very clear picture of the future.  It just didn’t satisfy me at all after the whole book spent its entire time building up to it. I was far more interested in Patrick and the relationship he was forging with his grandson and the progress he was making in helping Eli adjust to so many different things. Patrick was a total gem.

This was a good story and it did keep me intrigued, just not sure the ending worked for me.

7/10

Book #76 of 2015

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Missing You is the 30th book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015

 

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Review: Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat

Captive PrinceCaptive Prince (Captive Prince #1)
C.S. Pacat
Penguin Books AUS
2015, 268p
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher

Damen, short for Damianos is the heir to the throne of Akielos. In a move of savage betrayal, Damen’s half-brother, the illegitimate Kastor betrays both Damen and the King. Damen is captured while Kastor seizes the throne for himself, publicly claiming that Damen is dead. However rather than kill Damen, his half brother sells him into slavery anonymously.

Stripped of his identity and control, Damen is ‘gifted’ to the crown prince of neighbouring Vere. Laurent has not yet reached the age by which he can ascend the throne and so his uncle rules in his place until Laurent comes of age. Akielos and Vere were once at war and now a fragile peace exists.

Prince Laurent seemingly epitomizes the very worst of the court at Vere and Damen is subjected to beatings and humiliation. Before long however Damen realises that there’s quite a power struggle taking place. Although he was gifted to be a ‘pleasure slave’, Laurent has specifically never used him for that purpose – not has he seemed to ever want to. Others at court aren’t so discerning and Damen finds himself caught up in how to help other slaves that were also gifted by his half-brother to Vere. Surprisingly Laurent assists – leading Damen to discover that there’s much more to this spoiled and unpleasant young man that meets the eye.

No matter what Damen knows that he must never, ever reveal his true identity to Laurent. Despite the fact that the two once warring nations are now establishing an uneasy truce, Laurent perhaps has the most reason of all for wanting Damen dead.

I have to admit, this is perhaps not something I’d probably have chosen to read but enthusiasm and a good pitch will get me every time so I bumped the first in this very popular series up my TBR pile. I received a bind up of the first two books in this series in one volume – the first was published here in Australia this month and the second will be out in July. Although you’ll have to wait until July to read my review of book 2 I can tell you now, I won’t be waiting until July to read it!

This book sucked me in from the very first page, where the Veretian Ambassador to Akielos is being shown the ‘gift’ that the new King is giving to Vere’s heir apparent. Damen is a warrior, he has been trained to fight and defend but he has also been utterly blindsided by treachery, drugged and had his power and authority stripped from him. When he realises where he’s going he knows he has to keep his mouth shut – his half-brother could’ve easily had him killed but instead chose something that would humilate and degrade him much more. While he’s alive, there’s hope he can one day escape, return to Akielos and seize the throne that is rightfully his. And so Damen bides his time. Takes most of the punishment a bored Laurent dishes out. He was ‘gifted’ with a reputation of being wild, the assumption being that Laurent would enjoy breaking his spirit.

The dynamic between Damen and Laurent is the basis of this story and although this first volume is quite short, a lot happens between them. Laurent is extraordinarily handsome but cold and strongly rumoured to be asexual. He takes no pleasure slaves, seems to have had no lovers. I’ve formed my own opinions on why this is and I’m so keen to see if book 2 will confirm my suspicions. Laurent is seemingly not interested in Damen’s body but isn’t above offering it to others in ways to humiliate Damen. Each nation views the other as little more than savages and whilst there might have been a very tentative peace established, there’s still a lot of mistrust and hatred under the thin veneer.

Both Damen and Laurent seem to have early assessments of the other that slowly they begin to question the more time Damen spends as Laurent’s slave. Their interactions are not lengthy and I have to admit, it does seem to progress more slowly than I would have thought, however this isn’t a negative thing at all. This opening volume takes time to establish the intricate characters of both men and the difficult situations in which they find themselves, because despite not being the slave, Laurent is at times, just trapped as Damen is. He is almost, but not quite of the age where he can ascend the throne but until he is, he’s subject to the whims and rules of the Regent, his Uncle. There’s a very subtle power play going on between Laurent and his uncle and Damen swiftly realises that he’ll need to choose a side – and it had better be the right one. Laurent is a mystery to Damen – he’s ice cool and seemingly spoiled but he also has the loyalty of his servants and a razor sharp mind beneath his golden good looks.

I enjoyed the politics in this – both the obvious and the hands being played behind the scenes, especially towards the end of the story when Damen comes to realise precisely why Laurent has avoided the things he has. I can’t say how hard it was to put the book down when I finished the first story and not go immediately on to the second. I knew I had to write this review first so the events of the two stories didn’t blur in my mind later but I’m desperate to know what happens next to Damen and Laurent and what we’re going to learn in the second story. I know there are so many big reveals to come, Damen’s true identity probably just being the tip of the iceberg. I hope their enforced close proximity in book 2 gives progression in other areas too!

8/10 Book

#75 of 2015 aww-badge-2015 Captive Prince is book #29 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015

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Review: Leap Of Faith by Fiona McCallum

Leap Of FaithLeap Of Faith
Fiona McCallum
Harlequin AUS
2015, 323p
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher

Jessica Harrington is a veteran of the horse circuit, having competed since she was a child. Spurred on and trained by her ambitious father, Jessica has traded up for better mounts constantly all in pursuit of one day representing her country. Now her father and instructor is gone and Jessica is left to prepare for events alone. She has talented horses but without his input and mentoring, she finds herself questioning her choices and preparation.

When a fall at the Adelaide International Horse Trials leads to Jessica breaking her ankle, she finds herself facing a crisis of confidence. She makes a snap decision to sell her two mounts, claiming that she is retiring from the sport forever. Without her dad, she just can’t make it.

Jessica is irritated when her farmer husband, who has never been into the horses brings home a malnourished and forlorn looking mare from a clearing sale. At first she wants nothing to do with the horse, who is named Faith but yet she doesn’t see the point of her just being a paddock ornament. For Jessica, horses have a purpose and that purpose is to get you higher up the grades of competition. When she is able to ride again, Jessica is tempted into working with Faith and now that she’s stronger, finds a well trained horse with lovely gaits. But it isn’t until a terrible thunderstorm threatens the stock on the farm that Jessica comes to truly appreciate how brave and special Faith really is, if Jessica can trust herself and Faith together as a team.

I’m not a competitive rider but I like horses and my high school years were spent being friends with horsey and pony clubber types and going to watch their various T-shirt days, gymkhanas, local shows, etc. I always enjoyed watching the events and I also really like watching the equestrian at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games. A couple of years ago I discovered quite a few European circuit events are televised on ESPN and I watch them when I remember they’re on. To be honest, girls like Jessica were always kind of the worst.

Jessica is a product of what seems like an overly ambitious parent who didn’t realise his own potential due to circumstances outside of his control and has now taken that and shaped his daughter to be an efficiently obedient competitive machine. Jessica seems to hold little to no opinions that aren’t a reflection of her father’s and most of those tend to be pretty elitist. She’s derisive about her friend, who competes purely in dressage, mentally berating her for being gutless and a wimp, not having the get up and go to do cross country although she tries to temper it by claiming that she knows dressage has a point and is much more than making your horse go forward and backward. Jessica doesn’t have much respect for someone who is supposed to be her best friend, someone who competes for fun, who loves her horses and more importantly, someone who would do anything for her. In being an eventer, you’d think Jessica would be quite used to tumbles and falls – they happen at every level, the Olympics included. Instead she falls off after mistiming/judging a jump at the Horse Trials and lands in the water at the water jump. She breaks her ankle but her horse is fine. However within days she’s made the decision to sell both her horses and quit the sport forever. That seemed the reaction of a young girl having her first fall than a mature, experienced competitor. Yes her father is no longer around but if she hasn’t learned enough to make some of her own judgement and acknowledge and learn from the wrong ones then her father wasn’t all that good of a mentor. She’s so negative and down on everything, even when her husband Steve brings home a horse badly in need of TLC. She’s resentful of it – even though it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with her. He’s never been interested in her competition horses but he’s quite happy for Faith to recuperate on their farm and spend her days in leisure. Jessica doesn’t see the point of horses as pets, you buy them to get the best out of them and trade up to better ones when you’re ready.

The story does improve when Jessica begins to work with Faith and kind of pulls her head in and begins to realise that some things might be different to the way she’s always believed them to be but even her judgement about Faith after she learns a piece of information about her past does tend to read like she’s very inexperienced with horses. No one else is particularly bothered by it (most people are already aware of it) and it’s really only Jessica that freaks out about it although thankfully it’s rather short lived. I think it takes too long for Faith to arrive into the story and I would’ve liked more scenes with Jessica and her once Jessica begins to decide working with her. Instead everything almost pretty much falls into place with one lunging session and riding session even though Faith would probably have needed more work to build up her fitness again after being so emaciated when she arrived.

I think I’d have enjoyed this more if Jessica were less negative and there had been more of an emphasis on spending time establishing a bond between her and Faith, rehabilitating them both.

6/10

Book #74 of 2015

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Leap Of Faith is the 28th book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015

 

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Review: Love At First Flight by Tess Woods

Love At First FlightLove At First Flight
Tess Woods
Harper Collins AU
2015, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Mel is a GP, living in a beautiful new house in Perth, Australia. For fifteen years she’s been married Adam, an anesthetist and they have two children. Each year Mel heads to Melbourne to meet her friend Sarah for a girl’s weekend. This year, getting on that plane changes her life.

Mel meets Matt, a younger physiotherapist who had been in Perth interviewing for a job and is now returning home to Melbourne. Matt had spotted Mel in the airport and experienced an instant attraction to her. Sitting next to her on the plane, he can’t believe his luck.

They get chatting and Mel finds that Matt is everything she finds attractive – he’s passionate and holds strong opinions, opinions that she shares. With Matt Mel is able to get the deep and satisfying conversation that she craves, something that her husband has never been able to give her. What begins as a flirty conversation, a way to pass the hours in the air quickly develops into something more and neither of them can get the other out of their head.

Weeks later and Matt tracks Mel down in Perth and the two tumble quickly into an intense affair that borders on an obsession. Mel is torn – she can’t see herself giving up this passion and intensity with Matt but neither can she see herself leaving Adam and tearing their two children’s lives apart. For a while, Mel thinks she can have it all but Matt makes it clear that he has all of her or it’s nothing.

Tackling infidelity in such a manner is always I think, a brave move. Quite often in books, infidelity is used as a way to announce a character who has usually wronged a protagonist. This book alternates between Mel and Matt as they both narrate their interactions and the spiraling into their heady and damaging affair. To be honest, I find infidelity selfish and inexcusable at the best of times. But I’m interested in the motivations and circumstances behind it – I like to explore human nature and let’s face it, it’s a very prevalent part of that.

However I’m not really sure this story gave me any real deep insights into it. It’s portrayed for Matt as an instant sexual attraction from the moment he spots Mel in the airport and he makes a bit of a fool of himself fumbling through their first conversation in several ways, making her uncomfortable but also a bit intrigued. Even though she finds Matt attractive, I’m not sure that was the basis for Mel as it was for Matt originally. It was Matt’s passion for politics and humanitarian issues that really seemed to be the thing that drew her in. Mel doesn’t really seem to embrace the life of money and privilege that Adam seems so set on – she doesn’t love their big fancy new house or care about the status symbols like Adam does. Although they’ve been happy, it seems there are things that Mel is missing – and Matt can provide those for her.

Ultimately though, I found myself really actively disliking Mel. She attempts to justify her behaviour to herself with increasing ridiculousness and she becomes just…really hard to read. Her voice is shrill and self-entitled as she tries to figure out how she can deceive her family and continue to keep Matt in her life and at the same time it’s full of self-pity that she’s being made to feel this guilt. However she doesn’t attempt to turn her back on the temptation and once Matt shows up in Perth she really just goes for it. She lies to her husband in order to spend full nights with Matt and I think the moment that showcased Mel in the worst light was when she assumed Matt wouldn’t mind just being her lover when she could manage it and he’d be cool with understanding that she had to stay married to Adam. That was at best, naive and at worst, utterly delusional.

I felt sorry for both Adam, Mel’s suffering husband and also Lydia, Matt’s fiancee even though I think it was attempted to paint Lydia as someone not to feel all that sorry for. She was obsessed with the wedding, shallow and silly but Matt knew all of those things long before he asked her to marry him. I feel as though Matt was in utterly the wrong frame of mind to commit to making life changing decisions after he returned from Perth the second time and the fact that he made these decisions only served to prolong the misery.

I know a lot of people say you don’t have to love the characters to love a book and I think in some cases that’s very true. But if I’m not invested in characters, if I can’t bring myself to care about them and what happens to them then I find it very hard to connect with a story. I really, really disliked Mel the more the book went on. I think I found Matt a little more likable and I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it was the fact that he didn’t have kids, so he didn’t have the endless cycle of guilt and attempting to justify his behaviour. He had less baggage, less people that stood to get really hurt and have their lives impacted by his decisions.

This one really didn’t change my mind how I feel about cheating and those that do it. I’m skeptical at the best of times about the ‘grand love you can’t deny’ and I think that when you’re married, you’ve made a choice and if you want to step away from that, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. If you don’t want to step away from it, then don’t do things that jeopardise it. Everyone has a choice and the ones you make affect not just you, but others too. So I can’t really say that I enjoyed this as such – but I found it incredibly interesting in a portrayal of human nature and an exploration of marriage and relationships.

5/10

Book #71 of 2015

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Love At First Flight is book #25 of AWW2015

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Blog Tour Review: Wild Wood by Posie Graeme-Evans

Wild WoodWild Wood
Posie Graeme-Evans
Simon & Schuster AUS
2015, 454p
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher

Jesse Marley has just discovered that her whole childhood was a lie. When getting a passport to surprise her parents, she hit a roadblock which led to her parents confessing that in fact, she was adopted. Jesse was born in Scotland, adopted as a baby and then her parents emigrated to Australia. Absolutely stunned by this revelation she packs her bags and leaves for England, determined to travel to the place of her birth in Scotland and find her mother and find out what she can about the circumstances of her birth and adoption. She arrives just prior to the wedding of the Prince of Wales to Diana Spencer in 1981 and all of England is in a jubilant mood. Except Jesse.

When she is knocked down in the street by a motorbike, she displays some unusual behaviour whilst recuperating, drawing pictures of places she’s never been and people from a time long ago. Her neurologist, Dr Rory Brandon is fascinated, not just because he knows the place that Jesse has been drawing. He convinces her to travel north with him, to stay at Hundredfield, a Scottish stronghold built a thousand years ago by the Normans. There he will treat Jesse and perhaps unlock the mystery behind her new and unusual abilities. What Rory and Jesse will unlock whilst working together will shock them both, solve the problems of the upkeep of the thousand year old stronghold and help Jesse find where she belongs and who she is once and for all.

I love a good historical/contemporary blend and this book fits that bill perfectly. Not only is there Jesse’s story, set in 1981 in London and then Scotland but there’s also the story of Bayard in 1321. Bayard was the youngest son of the lord who held Hundredfield, a prosperous stronghold. When his father died, Bayard’s oldest brother Godefroi became lord and married the Lady Flore, a woman he found in a forest. When Bayard and his older brother Maugris return to Hundredfield from one of their frequent trips away fighting, they find that their home is much changed. The people are leaving and those that remain are distrustful and wary. Something is not quite right with the Lady Flore and Godefroi is besotted with his new bride. Bayard watches as things begin to fall apart around him and danger lurks around every corner.

Discovering the link between Jesse in 1981 and Bayard in 1321 is the beauty of this book. The setting is incredible, especially in Bayard’s time. Hundredfield is set in the north, not far from the border between Scotland and England, a harsh and unforgiving sort of place during winter and the description of the stronghold and the surrounding scenery is wonderful. Bayard was a fantastic narrator and I found myself really interested in his story – it’s such a different time and I found it all fascinating and each time we went back to Bayard I was utterly engrossed in that part of the story. I’m not entirely sure why this is but I found some of the mystery much easier to immerse myself in when it was taking place in this time rather than in the more modern day one.

Although I liked Jesse, I did find myself often a bit distracted from her part of the story after she came to Hundredfield. Whilst I enjoyed her journey in attempting to find out who she really was, tracking down her mother and the circumstances of her birth, I found some of the interactions between her, Alicia (the current owner of Hundredfield) and Rory a bit repetitive. The interactions between them were a bit odd at times, especially given what is revealed very late in the book. I found Alicia very prickly and prone to a lot of drama, but perhaps she had reason to be suspicious given she was the current owner of a property with such monetary and historical value, even if it was in need of a huge amount of work. I found both Alicia and Rory a bit inconsistent at times and their dynamic with each other was confusing. I would’ve liked Alicia to offer up information in a more positive way and Rory’s motivations for taking a stranger to a remote place weren’t exactly portrayed in the best of ways. I don’t mean that he was sinister or that it was even a possibility, I’m just not sure that he ever explained himself properly to Jesse or Alicia and turning up as a guest at someone else’s house with another person in tow is quite rude. So it’s unsurprising that Alicia is rather stand offish and hostile at first, however this did seem to go on too long. I have to admit I didn’t suspect the twist in its entirety at the end of the book, only part of it and for the most part, I think it worked.

But for me, it was with Bayard where this story shone. He was a man ahead of his time I believe, someone who had compassion and thoughtfulness and an understanding of what it meant to be in the position of lord of such a stronghold. It was a pity he wasn’t the eldest son, I get the feeling that much would’ve been different if he had of been. I really enjoyed his progression with the character of Margaretta and the sympathy he displayed. Like Jesse, Bayern seeks love and a place to belong as well and he has an understanding of his responsibilities concerning both of those things.

I enjoyed this – I think it’d suit those who love a small bit of magic/folklore with their history.

7/10

Book #72 of 2015

Wild-Wood-Blog-Tour-hor-v1

 

This review was a part of the Wild Wood blog tour organised by Simon & Schuster AU. Make sure you check out the rest of the blogs on the tour!

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Wild Wood is book #26 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015

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Blog Tour Author Guest Post: Posie Graeme-Evans

Wild Wood

This post is a part of the Wild Wood blog tour put together by Simon & Schuster AU. For a complete list of the tour spots, see the banner at the bottom of this post and for my review of Wild Wood, check back later today.

Now I’d like to welcome the author of Wild Wood, Posie Graeme-Evans to my blog.

***

Writing is not a process I analyze when I’m doing it, it seems more dreamlike than anything else; as hypnosis is described in “Wild Wood” – mind awake, body asleep – that’s what writing feels like to me sometimes.

And though I distrust the word “organic” – because it comes freighted with so many clichés – perhaps it does best describe how I write. I start with something that won’t go away, and gradually a story appears from the mist at the back of my head. Baggy, shaggy, full of false starts and abandoned tank traps, one day, it will have grown enough bones to stand up on its own (mix those metaphors!)

For instance, with “Wild Wood”, Bayard’s first person voice came first and it was so clear that, through him, I had a way into the past of the Scottish Borderlands; I trusted where he led me from the first time I heard him speak*, though I’d never written from a man’s perspective ever before. (*Who was it said, “Writing is a form of Schizophrenia”?)

Similarly, in the “present” – London, 1981, in the lead-up to the wedding of Charles and Diana – Jesse also arrived in a rush. She was so different and, I think, so brave, that I grew very fond of her. But the unlikely link between the two times turned out to be a legend from the isle of sky, one I’d heard at Dunvegan castle twenty years ago. I re-shaped and re-thought that strand and it became a lens through which I could see both times running together.

But it isn’t only the legend that gave me ground to stand on with two such different story drives; it’s common humanity. Jesse and Bayard, in the end, want the same things – as I think we all do. To love and be loved, to know where where you belong (though Bayard’s ahead of Jesse on that score, he’s just not too happy about it) and to rediscover that it’s possible to hope. There’s also the little matter that surface reality isn’t all there is. I find that rich, and intriguing, and a great, great source of story.

 ***

Thank you Posie for providing more insight into your wonderful story.

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Don’t forget to check back later today to read my review of Wild Wood! For now I’ll leave you with the book trailer

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Mini Reviews: Animal Magnetism & Animal Attraction by Jill Shalvis

Animal MagnetismAnimal Magnetism (Animal Magnetism #1)
Jill Shalvis
Headline
2014 (originally 2011), 299p
Bought on iBooks

Brady Miller is a pilot-for-hire. He spends his time dropping in and out of dangerous situations and he’s never been the sort who stayed. When his foster brothers convince him they need his help restoring a chopper that they might be able to use to benefit their business, Brady can’t say no. He warns them that it won’t be permanent, despite the fact he knows they’d like him to stay on and be their pilot. He gives them a month to get the chopper ready and to help them find someone to fly it.

Brady’s truck is rear ended by Lilah Young, the co-owner of the small Idaho town’s only kennel – and Lilah appears to have half her inmates in the car with her. Brady offers her and her entourage a ride home and the attraction between them takes them both by surprise. But Brady doesn’t stay – he makes no secret of that. Lilah wants to be okay with having Brady for just a little while but when the time comes to part it’s going to be harder than they think.

Oh this book was so cute! I’ve heard good things about this series. I think Marg sang its praises to me quite a while ago and it’s always kind of been at the back of my mind to try so when I saw it cheap on iBooks, I snatched it up. And I loved it so much I immediately went back and bought books 2&3 so I could read the stories of Adam and Dell, Brady’s former foster brothers and Lilah’s best friends. I really enjoyed the opening of this book, the chemistry between Brady and Lilah is so immediate and it seemed that they brought out the best in each other, in a subtle sort of way. Brady had had the sort of upbringing that meant he didn’t trust or bond easily and even though he’s incredibly close to Adam and Dell, he still prefers a life with no attachments. The more time Brady spends with Lilah though, the less enthusiastic he is to return to his life. The jobs are piling up, his boss is on the phone….but still Brady remains in Idaho, with Lilah.

I loved both Brady and Lilah. Both of them really needed security and stability, even if Brady didn’t really know it. Lilah gave him something that grounded him but yet also gave him the freedom to continue doing what he loved. Lilah had made herself a home back in Idaho after some time away for university and she loved it but she was also lonely. Having someone that would always return was something that would give her strength, especially as Brady was good at taking care of Lilah when she wasn’t too great at taking care of herself. She would burn the candle at both ends and it would be up to him to sneak in and make sure she got to bed so that she could get sleep. I really enjoyed their interactions and I think the various animals added a little cuteness to the story as well.

8/10

Book #67 of 2015

Animal AttractionAnimal Attraction (Animal Magnetism #2)
Jill Shalvis
Headline
2014 (originally 2011), 304p
Bought from iBooks

Jade Bennett isn’t from Sunshine, Idaho. Eighteen months ago she arrived and applied for a job as office manager at Dell Connelly and his brother Adam’s vet practice. She didn’t list any qualifications but there was something incredibly capable about Jade and they hired her. Now she manages the office with ruthless effiency, thriving on planning and order. Dell on the other hand, seems to fly by the seat of his pants and his system frequently evolves into chaos that Jade itches to fix.

Dell has always been a bit of a player – he dates for a good time, not a long time. For a while it seems as though hard-as-nails Jade is the only woman that is immune to his charm until a kiss between them one night throws everything out of whack. Jade has always made it perfectly clear that her position in Sunshine isn’t permanent and that she needs to return home but now that the time has come for Jade to leave, Dell has come to realise that he doesn’t want to let her go.

I pretty much went straight from reading the first book to downloading and reading the second book. Dell and Jade are introduced in the first book and there’s just enough of their interactions to really tease the reader with anticipation for their story and I didn’t want to wait. Jade is a tough woman – in more ways than one. She is very smart and capable and she’s extremely good at her job, wrangling the chaos of the vet surgery into a smooth operation. She runs a super tight ship and she gets on well with Adam, Dell and Lilah but Jade hasn’t formed any attachments. She’s never taken a stray for Lilah or bothered to hunt around and find a place that’s her own rather than the fully furnished place she rents. She’s always made it clear that she was here temporarily. Jade has managed to keep it together very well but when nearby surgeries start experiencing break ins, Dell begins to see the cracks in her facade.

Dell and Jade had some heat. I loved their sparring sessions when Dell teaches Jade some self defense after she is frightened outside the surgery one night. They have some really hot chemistry and some issues to really work through. Like Lilah and Brady in the previous novel, Dell and Jade attempt to portray that they are just fine with this being temporary but they are both of course, extremely wrong. I enjoyed the way this played out, the way they each got to know each other beneath what goes on at work, or at casual poker night games. We learned more of Adam and Dell’s background, in particular more about their native Indian mother and a little of what happened when they were children. But it’s the connection between Dell and Jade that stood out for me in this one, I felt it from their first interaction in the first book and their story did not disappoint.

Onto Adam and Holly now – like Dell and Jade, we’ve already seen them have a couple of interactions and this one looks as though it’s going to be very fun.

8/10

Book #68 of 2015

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March Reading Wrap Up

Total Books Read: 22
Fiction: 21
Non-Fiction: 1
Library Books: 5
Books On My TBR List: 1
Books in a Series: 8
Authors I’d Never Read Before: 17
Male/Female Authors: 3/19
Kindle Books: 7
Books I Owned or Bought: 12
Favourite Book(s): The Secret Life of Luke Livingstone by Charity Norman and Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Least Favourite Book(s):  Love Handles by Gretchen Galway
Books That Qualify For Challenges: 8

March was a month of reading riches. In fact I awarded two 9/10s this month to the books listed above under favourites. Both were utterly amazing and there were quite a lot of 8s as well. I had a large number of library books this month, I’ve been back visiting the library much more often (that reminds me, I have things overdue….eek) and I also read a lot of books on my kindle/iPad. I think I can attribute my larger than expected tally of books to the 24 hours my internet was down due to a major fault that wiped out half the town….I read 4 books during that time and another 1-2 when it was experiencing intermittent drop outs! If I had no internet, I would imagine I could probably just about triple my books read in a month!

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Review: Turtle Reef by Jennifer Scoullar

Turtle ReefTurtle Reef
Jennifer Scoullar
Penguin Books AUS
2015, 301p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

For zoologist Zoe King, it’s her dream job. Working at a Reef Centre in Kiawa near Bundaberg in Queensland Zoe not only gets to rehabilitate animals and return them to their natural habitat but she will also get to conduct exciting research and maybe even help implement changes to protect the reef. Zoe is a passionate conservationist and at first, everything about her job seems perfect. Her boss Bridget is friendly and capable, welcoming Zoe and seemingly enthusiastic about the same things as Zoe. Zoe is also given the guest quarters on the large cane farm of Bridget’s fiance Quinn Cooper and she begins to embrace a more outdoor life, learning to ride and working with horses.

But there are some complications. Zoe didn’t count on feeling an immediate and powerful attraction to Quinn, despite the fact that she knows he’s off limits. He belongs to Bridget and although she makes the decision to ignore her feelings, she can’t ignore when things begin to not add up at the Reef Centre. Conflicting stories and some strange behaviour make her begin to question exactly what the goal of the centre is. And when Zoe’s research shows that animals on the reef are dying in numbers, she finds herself faced with an answer that could possibly drive a wedge between her and the man she has come to love. Zoe will have to decide if the future and health of the reef are more important than her own future happiness.

Jennifer Scoullar’s fourth novel takes readers to the ‘Gateway to the Barrier Reef’ in a small town close to Bundaberg in Queensland. Zoologist Zoe King has moved from Sydney to Kiawa to take up her dream job working at the local Reef Centre, a place that rehabilitates marine life and also houses those that are not fit to be returned to their native habitat. There are dolphins, turtles, sharks and an array of others such as fish, octopus. The centre also operates as a tourist attraction with the resident dolphins performing in shows, which helps keep the bills paid. For Zoe, it is a quick immersion from the theory of her recently completed degree to a much more practical aspect as she will be feeding and working with a variety of different animals as well as being able to map the reef and conduct extensive research.

Zoe is a wonderfully passionate conservationist who has some really strong ideas about her career and what she wants to be able to achieve. Her focus is on rehabilitating the sick and injured animals that come in and getting them returned to the ocean as soon as possible. Early on she notices several dolphins that look good candidates for a release only to be quickly informed that they are ‘lifers’ who won’t be able to be released. Zoe faces the challenge of being new and therefore not really having much say and she’s also inexperienced in the field, intimidated by Bridget’s qualifications. I liked and admired Zoe as a character, her enthusiasm and her determination is wonderful to read and I enjoyed learning about her job a lot. I wanted to study marine biology briefly as a teen until I realised that well, science and I were not entirely friends. Also I can’t really swim. But anyway, reading this book reminded me of that and how beautiful these creatures are and how important it is to do everything possible to protect them and their habitats. I found myself moved by the most unlikeliest of things – I must congratulate Jen Scoullar because I’m pretty sure I would’ve thought before reading this book it would be impossible to cry over an octopus!

I have to admit, I didn’t particularly find the romance aspect of this book much to my liking. Part of that perhaps had something to do with the fact that Quinn was engaged to Bridget but mostly I think it was just Quinn himself. He was far too arrogant and bossy for me – “sit here, do that, get in, don’t drink Coke it’s bad for you, here’s an iced tea instead”. If a man asked me what I’d like at a pub/cafe and I ordered a Coke and he came back with an iced tea, I’d dump it on his head. I loathe iced tea. I don’t like people that feel as though they have the right to make decisions for others. Zoe is a big girl, if she wants a diet Coke, get her a darn diet Coke! This was something that tended to carry through the book and most of the time I found him overly defensive and aggressive. At times he’s pretty horrible to Zoe, even though she came off a bit nosy when she was trying to do the right thing. I liked Quinn a little more right at the end of the book, perhaps Zoe will be a good influence on him – well I’m sure she will be actually because his attitudes really do change. Quinn learns to stand on his own two feet and have his own opinions and not just do things because that’s the way his father did them. I did like Quinn’s relationship with his brother Josh (who is a wonderful character and a huge part of this book). Even though it’s laced with mistakes and frustration you can tell that he loves Josh and he really does want the best for him and to keep him safe. And when Quinn realises that he is making mistakes, he does do his utmost best to fix them. It’s a slowish sort of process but I can understand his fear in letting the reins go a little and letting Josh begin to make decisions again for himself and do things which might potentially put him in danger again. But they’re things Josh not only loves but also needs in order to live his life.

I really enjoyed this – I love how Jennifer Scoullar manages to incorporate strong themes of conservation and protection into her stories without making it seem like a lecture. Bundaberg is further north than I’ve ever been and I have to admit it and its surrounds haven’t really come up on my radar as places to visit before. But I feel as though up there might be a part of the world I need to see.

7/10

Book #65 of 2015

aww-badge-2015

Turtle Reef is book #23 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015

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Top 10 Tuesday 31st March

TTT

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme created and hosted by The Broke & the Bookish featuring a different theme each week. This week our topic is:

Top 10 Books Recently Added To My TBR

A Small Madness | FRONT COVER (10 September 2014)

1. A Small Madness by Dianne Touchell. I had to buy this due to Danielle’s review at Alpha Reader. Aussie YA that, from all accounts packs an extremely powerful & emotional punch with a relatively short page count. I’m looking forward to this one and I’m waiting until I am just in that moment when I know that I’m ready for it.

What She Left

2. What She Left by T.R. Richmond. This just arrived the other day, it’s set for an April release here in Australia. Seems like a mystery/crime/thriller centering around the death of Alice and an academic who pieces her life together. Sounds really intriguing and I can’t wait to get to this one.

Little Paris Bookshop

3. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. This one arrived this week too and so far the two words Paris and bookshop in the title make this seem like a winner already, before I even read the blurb. Plus I adore this cover.

Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl

4. The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil. A couple years ago I read Melissa Keil’s Life In Outer Space and absolutely loved the heck out of that book. This was released last year but I didn’t pick it up until recently, during the same trip that I bought A Small Madness. More Aussie YA with which you basically cannot go wrong.

Animal Magnetism

5. Animal Magnetism Animal Attraction by Jill Shalvis. These were cheap in iBooks the other day and I have heard good things about Shalvis, this series in particular so I ended up nabbing them for those moments where you’re just after a fun contemporary feel good read. That’s what these covers look like, I’m going to be surprised if they turn out to be emotional rollercoasters that rip my heart out or something.

My Brilliant Friend

6. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. My husband was reading something recently which said ‘if you only read one book this year, make sure it’s by Elena Ferrante’ or something along those lines. We’d never heard of her so a quick google and I decided to start with this, the first in a trilogy which has been translated from the original Italian. I don’t read a lot of translated fiction.

Every Move

7. Every Move by Ellie Marney. The third in the Every series and basically I just need this book in my life yesterday.

Captive Prince

8. Captive Prince Prince’s Gambit by C.S. Pacat. I got a copy of the first 2 volumes of this series recently. It’s perhaps not something I would’ve normally chosen for myself based on the blurb or just the genre but the publicist had a great pitch with lots of interesting information and it really made me pretty curious! The first one is released traditionally in April here and the second follows a couple of months later, so I’ll be reading the first of these pretty soon.

Kissing In America

9. Kissing In America by Margo Rabb. Whenever I get an ARC a couple months out from the release date, I know that the pub is super excited about it which always makes me a bit excited too. This seems made of win – romance novels, a road trip…. YES! Come at me.

Northern Heat

10. Northern Heat by Helene Young. The upcoming release from my favourite romantic suspense author. Can’t wait to read this!

So these are just some of the books I have added to my TBR recently, some of the ones that I am most excited about. My TBR is pretty much permanently out of control and I suspect that reading everyone’s posts this week is only going to make things much worse!

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