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Review: The Art Of Keeping Secrets by Rachael Johns

art-of-keeping-secretsThe Art Of Keeping Secrets
Rachael Johns
Harlequin MIRA AUS
2016, 464p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Little secrets grow up to be big lies…

They’ve been best friends since their sons started high school together, and Felicity, Emma and Neve share everything … or so they thought.

But Flick’s seemingly perfect marriage hides a shocking secret which, with one word, threatens to destroy her and her family’s happiness. Emma is in denial about a potential custody battle, her financial constraints, the exhaustion she can’t seem to shake off and the inappropriate feelings she has for her boss. And single mum Neve is harbouring a secret of her own; a secret that might forever damage her close-knit relationship with her son.

When the tight hold they have each kept on their secrets for years begins to slip, they must face the truth. Even if that truth has the power to hurt the ones they love, and each other.

Perhaps some secrets weren’t made to be kept.

Popular rural romance author Rachael Johns takes a couple more very brave steps outside of her familiar comfort zone with her second ‘life lit’ offering, The Art of Keeping Secrets. Focusing on a trio of women brought together by their sons starting a prestigious high school together some 5-6 years ago, Flick, Emma and Neve have developed a tight knit friendship where they probably thought they knew all of each others secrets. But as their sons get ready to graduate, each woman faces the possibility of secrets that they’ve kept from each other and perhaps even themselves coming out and their lives as they know it drastically changing.

Flick has two children, a daughter about to be married and the son about to graduate. Both Emma and Neve are single mothers – Emma for only a short amount of time and Neve has raised her son entirely on her own. Both are envious of Flick’s seemingly perfect marriage to the wonderful Seb but if only they knew….. Although Seb is a fantastic husband and father, their marriage hides a secret that Flick has been prepared to cope with for the past twenty years. When she discovers (is blindsided) by the fact that Seb wants to take this secret much further, Flick is thrown savagely into a cesspit of horror, uncertainty and confusion. She knows she needs to make a decision about what she wants to do with her marriage and it’s not going to be easy. She fluctuates, because she loves Seb but she’s not sure she can get on board with what he needs to do. Flick’s through processes are brutally honest in the book – it’s confronting and ugly and uncomfortable but quite realistic as well. She has had her status quo rocked and her mind goes to some pretty dark places, even if it’s only briefly.

Neve’s son has expressed a desire to meet his father, who has never been in his life. Although Neve expected this day to come at some stage, for Neve it means admitting to her son that she lied to him. The two of them have always been close as it’s been just the two of them and Neve fears that what she has to confess will destroy their relationship, perhaps irreparably. Not only does Neve have to confess something to her son but she also needs to track down the former love of her life and admit something to him too, the thought of which makes her feel ill. Neve’s journey takes her to New York, with Flick and Emma tagging along for moral support and the chance to escape from their own situations.

Emma is now a struggling single mother of three as her former husband left her for a much younger woman and has somehow managed to manipulate the financial situation so that Emma is left without much support. He then lavishes expensive holidays and gifts on their children that Emma cannot compete with, leaving her fearing that the children will eventually prefer to live with their father in his McMansion. She’s also harbouring some crush-type feelings on her lovely, handsome boss that everyone thinks might possibly be gay as well as experiencing some crushing headaches that just don’t seem to go away. Emma is also reevaluating her friendship with Neve after some of Neve’s secrets were spilled and although Neve is trying to make things right, Emma’s situation means that it takes some time for her to be able to to accept that.

These three women are written with such honestly. I had a range of emotions whilst reading this book from cheering for them, wanting them to be my friends to disbelief, irritation and even horror at some of their thoughts and actions. It was impressively real and made their secrets all the more believable because their reactions to theirs and to their friends were so realistic. They had ugly moments, beautiful moments, strong moments, weak moments. All throughout however, that strong friendship was underpinning everything, holding the three of them together both individually and as a group, even when there was some discord. The friendship is written as the core of the book, the secrets are in a way, what serves to strengthen and showcase that friendship as each of them face something in their lives and move through it with the help, support and understanding of their friends. Even though there are some times where things don’t always go smoothly, the three women are always able to move on and be almost better for it. This is why I love Rachael Johns’ books so much, be they her rurals or her women’s/life lit because she captures emotion and human nature so well. I enjoyed the fact that at times I viewed their actions or thoughts negatively because it was brutally honest and reflected the sort of thoughts or reactions I myself might have had in the same situation……they were things that it would be hard to react positively or thoughtfully to straight off the bat and it’s human nature at times to react first and think later. I think we also all harbour those secret thoughts, ones that we might not admit to or be ashamed to admit to but they’re there nonetheless and so I can find them quite understandable given the situations!

This is the sort of book that I think it’s best to set aside a couple of hours/a whole afternoon or evening before you start it because once you do start, it’s hard to find a break in the story to put it down. Don’t start it late at night or you could end up being up all night! It’s not just a compelling story, it’s several compelling stories woven together into one big one. I do have to admit, it did leave me with a few curiosities at the end of the story, things I was pondering over and wondering about. I’m annoyingly addicted to closure though and knowing everything, so sometimes my nosiness backfires on me when it comes to reading!

Incredible writing and a great story. A must for old fans and should definitely attract some new ones.


Book #175 of 2016


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Review: Lethal Lifestyles by LynDee Walker

lethal-lifestylesLethal Lifestyles (Headlines In High Heels #6)
LynDee Walker
Henery Press
2016, 288p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Wedding bells are ringing at the Richmond Telegraph, and maid of honor Nichelle Clarke is determined to give her friends the perfect fairytale beginning to their happily ever after. So when a corpse crashes rehearsal weekend, Nichelle ditches her wedding coordinator shoes for her crime reporter ones, and a little poking around turns up a big problem: the victim and the groom have a history, and it’s not a pretty one.

Evidence against groom Grant Parker piles up, leaving Nichelle wishing a hostile bridesmaid was still her biggest worry as she tries to fend off Richmond’s favorite TV reporter—and her own scheming publisher. At odds with the cops, her beloved editor, and the ticking clock, Nichelle races to uncover the truth and save the day before this perfect wedding turns into a funeral.

I love this series. I consider it one of my favourite discoveries this year and I was lucky as 5 had already been released when I came across it. I binged on them all during my cozy mystery stage and I’ve been anxiously awaiting this book and the next books in several other series’ as well.

I think the thing I really like about these books is that Nichelle is so damn good at her job. She’s not a bumbling heroine, stumbling from one disaster to the next or unemployed and constantly unable to make her rent or buy food. She is a crime reporter for a newspaper in Richmond, Virginia and she works long hours covering terrible incidents and quite often becomes invested in what she’s reporting. And involved. Nichelle does have a bit of a tendency to find herself in the firing line but it kind of works, the way that the books play out. She’s strong and dedicated with some interesting quirks.

In this installment, sports reporter Grant Parker, a regular in previous books, is marrying his girlfriend. Nichelle set them up in a previous book so the reader is more than familiar with them and due to her orchestration of their relationship, Nichelle is a bridesmaid who is going above and beyond the call of duty with wedding organisation and is determined that everything be perfect. The first spanner in the works there is the discovery of a dead body in a wine barrel at the wedding location and really, it all just kind of snowballs from there.

I always find the mysteries really interesting in these books and they do end up being quite intricate but without being confusing. Nichelle really does have a wealth of fabulous contacts and she is well versed in the politics of what she can and cannot use in her pieces so she manages to get the story without treading on toes or offending people. Nicey (what her friends call her) is involved in a friendly rivalry with the crime reporter for a local TV station with the two of them going head to head in the fight for exclusives. Nichelle and her boss Bob, an old-school reporter are constantly in the firing line from someone higher up who’d love nothing more than to be rid of both of them. Only Nichelle’s track record in getting the story keeps her employed and speaks of just how clever she is. She is passionate about her work and wanting to give victims a voice as well as get the facts across.

There’s some romance running through this series too. Nichelle meets the enigmatic “call me Joey” in book 1, an obvious mafioso who trades information in bits and pieces to further the agendas of his connections. However there are times when Nichelle’s quests put her in direct conflict with what Joey and his cohorts might consider a desirable outcome and as the chemistry and affection between Nichelle and Joey grows, so does Joey’s struggle with his two worlds. Given that he appears to be in the business of furthering crime in some way or another (his exact role has never been made clear and Nichelle has a strict policy of not asking) and Nichelle is in the business of uncovering and exposing it, it seems likely that eventually this will cause some sort of catastrophic explosion. Add in the fact that Nichelle’s former boyfriend is a hotshot ATF agent who wouldn’t mind a) removing the “former” from that description and b) uncovering Joey’s secrets and bringing down the entire hierarchy of the organisation he works for, there’s a lot of tension that simmers in these books nicely. For now Nichelle and Joey are moving forward (and I looove this because I really like Joey and especially Joey with Nichelle).

This was one of my faves of the series so far – they’re all good, continuing to get better as we get to know Nichelle more and her relationship with Joey develops and Kyle, the ATF agent continues to complicate matters. Now the only problem is waiting for the next one.


Book #169 of 2016

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Review: Breaking Him by Sherilee Gray

breaking-himBreaking Him
Sherilee Gray
Entangled Publishing LLC
2016, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Folks in town call him a monster—say he’s dangerous. But I know him simply as Elijah Hays, the quiet, gentle giant who works with the horses on my ranch. I can feel him watching me, that steady intense gaze making me crave things I don’t quite understand, burn in a way that frightens me. He’s always kept his distance…until that night.

I remember him coming to my rescue, me following him into the barn, giving him his first taste of a woman, and his inexperienced yet barely reined touch turning me to ash.

Now all I can think about is exposing the dark desire I see deep inside him—having him turn those dark desires on me. That low, gritty voice rasping orders in my ear. Those huge, rough hands holding me down when a storm blows in.

I want his surrender. His control. I want to break him…and have him break me…

I like trying to find romance books that are kind of outside the box – different types of heroes, heroines or a twist on classic tropes. I requested this book because it has a virgin hero, which is not something I come across a lot of in reading. They’re out there, if you look for them but when one crosses my path I find it intriguing. Romance has traditionally revolved around many a “manwhore or rogue/sexually inexperienced female” pairing so something that throws that upside down is fun.

The thing is, I think it’s only fun in idea. Because there’s not a lot about Elijah here that actually really fits him being not just a virgin but a man who has had basically no sexual experience with a woman ever. There’s a kissing scene where it’s quite obvious for a few moments that it’s his first kiss, where Abigail is leading and coaxing him into it but then basically Elijah becomes……every other hero, ever. I’m not even sure there was a point to making him so inexperienced because he morphs into a bossypants with stamina up the wazoo and dominant tendencies in about three and a half minutes. I’d have liked that to play out a little slower, because Abigail in the beginning was a great sexually confident character who does initiate their first encounters but then it becomes about him “punishing” her, spanking her etc and omg haven’t I read this two thousand times already? I’d have found it more interesting and more fitting if Abigail had continued a more dominant role for longer.

I did find Elijah’s background very interesting but it wasn’t really explored enough to make it anything other than a vague part of the book. It could’ve been something that was really expanded upon, both his experiences and other people’s reactions to it as well as what it was like for him to be given a chance on Abigail’s ranch. Super hot sex is all well and good (and there is a lot of sex) but it’s also about creating an emotional connection between the characters, a deep sharing of thoughts, history and feelings and I just didn’t feel like the story did enough for me there. It merely skimmed over things and parts of the word count seemed a bit wasted on weird things like the scenario with the bank manager and Abigail’s less-than-supportive friend. Also there were things that were wrapped up rather quickly, such as Elijah’s road to acceptance within the community.

This one was just okay for me.


Book #166 of 2016


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Blog Tour Review: Words In Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

words-in-deep-blueWords In Deep Blue
Cath Crowley
PanMacmillan AUS
2016, 352p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

This is a love story.
It’s the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets.
It’s the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea.
Now, she’s back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal and looking for the future in the books people love, and the words they leave behind.

This is my first Cath Crowley book although bloggers I know have sung the praises of her Graffiti Moon for a long time. It’s one of those books that speaks to a reader in so many ways, an interwoven tale of love, grief, friendship and books. What more could a reader want?

Rachel is 18 and has just failed year 12 after a devastating personal loss ten months ago. She’s moving back to Gracetown, a fictional suburb in north Melbourne where she lived up until three years ago, when she moved close to the sea. She was to start a job at a cafe in a hospital but after it falls through her aunt gets her a job at the second hand bookstore owned by the parents of a boy who was once her closest friend. She will be cataloguing all the books but it will mean working with Henry, who Rachel stopped writing to after she moved away.

For Henry, there is so much confusion. Rachel, his best friend, stopped talking to him. Amy, the girl he loves won’t stop messing with his head. She’s broken up with him again but she always comes back. And now Rachel is back too, working at the bookstore. She is suffering but whatever is causing her pain, she keeps silent on it. And now Henry’s mother wishes to sell the bookstore, which is barely breaking even and he has to decide which way his vote should go.

This is a book that will stay with you. The characters of Rachel and Henry are superb. They share the narrative and each is clearly defined. Rachel’s grief is palpable, almost leaping off the page to punch you in the face. Her loss is substantial and it’s coloured with a ‘what if’ guilt that haunts her. She loved Henry when she lived in Gracetown previously but he chose red-haired, manipulative Amy. Despite his desperation over Amy, an unlikable character in the extreme, Henry is still lovable and his dedication to the bookshop is….incredible.

Which brings me to the setting. Oh, the setting of this book. It’s like my spirit animal. I love all bookstores, they’ve been my happy place for as long as I can remember – from a 7/8yo going to Bookworld before it was bought by Angus & Robertson, picking up the next Baby Sitters Club or Thoroughbred series book to now. Second hand bookstores are just as good, the potential in there is unlimited. You never know what sort of gem you might find in there. Living in a town without a real bookstore is a struggle these days – if I want something I have to order online and wait or travel 40min in either direction to find a proper bookstore. The setting of Howling Books is such a beautiful place – this novel is littered with literary references, classical and contemporary. In the bookstore is a section called the Letter Library where patrons can read a book from the shelves there and leave notes, etc in the margins, or letters to other readers, but they cannot buy those books or remove them from that part of the store. It forms such an incredible part of the novel, which includes letters exchanged between the characters. Not just Rachel and Harry but also between Harry’s sister George and several others as well as letters and comments from Harry’s parents to each other which gives the reader such insight into their personalities and also their predicament with selling the store. It’s a good location on a big block and it will fetch such a price that all of them will financially comfortable. However for that they will trade away the bookstore and for Harry, George and their father, this is indeed a heavy price to pay.

I really enjoyed the story of George, Harry’s sister and her evolving relationship with Martin, a guy her age who is also hired to catalog the store contents. George is a prickly sort, ostracised and bullied at school and Martin, who used to date her nemesis, faces a hard road in winning her over. The character of Martin was adorable and some of his letters and moments with George were a real highlight.

Words In Deep Blue is really beautiful coming of age story, thoughtfully exploring love and grief in some of their purest forms. It’s not just about romantic love either, it’s deeper than that with homage to friendship, literature and home. I enjoyed every second of it and am putting Graffiti Moon on my ‘must acquire’ list straight away.


Book #172 of 2016

This review is part of the Words In Deep Blue blog tour. Please make sure you check out the rest of the stops listed below for some awesome reviews and author interviews.



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August Reading Wrap Up

Total Books Read: 18
Fiction: 18
Non-Fiction: 0
Library Books: 0
Books On My TBR List: 5
Books in a Series: 8
Authors I’d Never Read Before: 9
Male/Female Authors: 0/18
Kindle Books: 13
Books I Owned or Bought: 12
Favourite Book(s): An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire and Lethal Lifestyles by LynDee Walker
Least Favourite Books: Happy Pants Café by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
Books That Qualify For Challenges: 4

All in all August wasn’t too bad a month for reading. Read a few books that I really liked and quite a few that were pretty good. I also acquired a few new books as well that I’m pretty excited to get to. I attended the first 2 days of the Melbourne Writers Fest (still have 3 more to go, Fri/Sat/Sun) and I’m sure that I’ll pick up another book or two while I’m there. I’ll do a little wrap up post of my MWF sessions soon, they’ve all been excellent so far.

I’m going to try something a little different this month and single out 5 or so books that I want to read in September. The first 3 are books I purchased last week at MWF:

  • A Mother’s Story by Rosie Batty with Bryce Corbett
  • Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil by Melina Marchetta
  • Black Rock City by A.S. Patric

A couple of books for review that I didn’t get to in August:

  • Nerve by Jeanne Ryan
  • Barbed Wire & Cherry Blossoms by Anita Heiss

And one that’s been on my shelf a while:

  • The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth

Let’s see how I go! Sometimes I feel like I spend so long trying to decide what book to read that it all becomes too hopeless and I just give up and go and do something else. Hopefully by having a few that I want to get through this month it will eliminate some of that indecisiveness and give me something to pick up without staring at my shelves or the books on my iPad for ages. Obviously there are other books that I’ll be reading too, but I’ve singled these ones out specifically as ones I want to read to give me some direction at times when I’m being ridiculously indecisive.

Which kind of brings me to something else I intend to do this month and that is a book cull. Those words frighten me but it’s getting to the stage where I cannot physically fit any more bookshelves into my house and the way in which they are precariously and haphazardly crammed with books is beginning to bother me. I look at them and I feel stressed and annoyed because I know that if I want to find a certain book, it’s going to take a long time and an annoying amount of shuffling books around to do it. I know there are books that are on my shelves that I didn’t care for, or will never read again. Some I never read in the first place because they just weren’t my thing. They deserve to go on to better homes where they’ll be appreciated and I need some space so that I can arrange things to be more tidy and less chaotic. So sometime in September I am going to pull every book out of my 6 bookshelves double and triple stacked and look at it with an attempt at impartiality. Did I love it? Will I read it again one day? Do I really want to keep it? If I can’t answer yes to those 3 questions, it has to go. If I haven’t read it (and believe me, there are hundreds of those) then I have to do my best to decide if I will read it one day or if it’s just a “maybe”. Then I also have to take into consideration my husband’s thoughts on lots of books too. It’s going to be a fun* project!

*= may not actually be fun


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Review: Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

Hidden BodiesHidden Bodies (You #2)
Caroline Kepnes
Simon & Schuster AUS
2016, 400p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Joe Goldberg is no stranger to hiding bodies. In the past ten years, this thirty-something has buried four of them, collateral damage in his quest for love. Now he’s heading west to Los Angeles, the city of second chances, determined to put his past behind him.

In Hollywood, Joe blends in effortlessly with the other young upstarts. He eats guac, works in a bookstore, and flirts with a journalist neighbor. But while others seem fixated on their own reflections, Joe can’t stop looking over his shoulder. The problem with hidden bodies is that they don’t always stay that way. They re-emerge, like dark thoughts, multiplying and threatening to destroy what Joe wants most: true love. And when he finds it in a darkened room in Soho House, he’s more desperate than ever to keep his secrets buried. He doesn’t want to hurt his new girlfriend—he wants to be with her forever. But if she ever finds out what he’s done, he may not have a choice…

A couple of years ago, I read You by Caroline Kepnes, a novel told from the point of view of Joe, a young man who fell in love, stalked his prey obsessively, using her very visual presence on social media to track her movements and also to woo her. Things went bad by the end of that novel….very bad. But even though Joe is a psychopath, I couldn’t help but sympathise with him at times, which was a weird feeling. There was something about Joe in You, a kind of sad vulnerability of a man who just wanted to be loved, but kept picking the wrong sort of people to love him.

The reason You worked for me is because it made me feel that sympathy for Joe. I’d actually kind of forgotten about there being potential for a sequel until Hidden Bodies turned up on my doorstep, quite a few months ago now. Finally I decided to see what Joe was up to, to see if the sequel could reproduce that mixture of emotions in me – horror at what Joe is but also that strange sort of feeling where I want him to win. I want him to triumph, which literally means Joe getting away with murder.

Sadly for me, Hidden Bodies did not give me that same sort of internal conflict that You did. In the sequel, Joe has begun a relationship with the girl who turns up right at the end of You and he’s trying to avoid slipping back into old habits something made easier by the fact that his new love has very little online presence, unlike his old love. But when Joe is viciously betrayed, he makes a decision not to take it lying down. He moves from New York to California in search of revenge and from there, things kind of…..spiral.

I enjoyed the first part of the book, which was Joe in his new relationship, panicking about the one mistake he thinks he made during the events of the previous book. He’s a good narrator, he’s intelligent and insightful and he claims he loves but I don’t really believe that’s the case. Joe is narcissistic – he wants, he obsesses, he needs or desires but I don’t think that he ever really truly loves. In having a relationship, Joe is almost trying to reassure himself that he’s ‘normal’, that he can have these traditional interactions, belong in society. But there are always things simmering under the surface, ways in which he trips up.

When he’s betrayed, I did feel for him but that all began to evaporate the second he moved across the country. I really lost interest in the book when the setting changed and the more Joe immersed himself in the California scene, the less I enjoyed it. Especially as he just seemed to snap in a way, immersing himself in his psychopathic ways with the smallest (most ridiculous) provocations. The addition of the characters of Love and Forty (yes those are actual people, twins nonetheless) just drove the book even further down for me. Everyone Joe meets is conveniently rich and not really needing to work traditional 9-5 jobs. They play around at screenwriting or acting, take drugs and party. To be honest, this section of the book was really boring and I actually abandoned it for 5 or 6 days before finally deciding to finish it. It seems that this book was also left quite open for another installment of Joe and his ‘adventures’ as well as he’s in quite a precarious position.

I think that Joe really got off track after arriving in California. Suddenly it becomes all about Love and Forty and their never ending family dramas and it distracts him from his original purpose. So much so that he eventually just gets over it and can’t even be bothered when an opportunity for revenge pretty much drops into his lap. I didn’t really enjoy ‘new Joe’ who went around willfully murdering whoever annoyed him and attempted to justify it in various stupid ways. It just didn’t seem as believable or intriguingly sympathetic as before….perhaps too much of a good thing? Or maybe California just warped Joe into an even more disturbing version of himself, it’s hard to say. I just felt he had less in the way of awkward vulnerability in this book and was more cold blooded and ruthless.

The writing is good and Joe is an interesting character but his complexity in this novel seemed less developed and explored. In the end it seemed that Joe functioned on autopilot, dispatching those that were a bother or threat and his bond with Love never really convinced me. I found them quite boring together and because that looks quite cemented, I don’t think I’d rush out to read a third book in this series.


Book #161 of 2016

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Review: Curious Minds by Janet Evanovich & Phoef Sutton

Curious MindsCurious Minds (Knight & Moon #1)
Janet Evanovich & Phoef Sutton
Headline Review
2016, 336p
Copy courtesy of Hachette AUS via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

They couldn’t be less compatible, but they make a great team…

Emerson Knight is introverted, eccentric, and has little-to-no sense of social etiquette. Good thing he’s also brilliant, rich and (some people might say) handsome.

Riley Moon has just graduated from Harvard. Her assertive (some people might say aggressive) spitfire attitude has helped land a dream job at Blane-Grunwald bank. At least, Riley Moon thinks it’s her dream job until she is given her first assignment: babysitting Emerson Knight.

An inquiry about missing Knight money leads to a missing man, missing gold and a life-and-death race across the country. Through the streets of Washington D.C., and down into the underground vault of the Federal Reserve in New York City, an evil plan is exposed. A plan so sinister that only a megalomaniac could think it up, and only the unlikely duo of the irrepressibly charming Emerson Knight and the tenacious Riley Moon could hope to stop it…

Oh Janet Evanovich. I have such mixed feelings about you. Fond nostalgia mixed with disappointment. If anyone had asked me between the years 2000-2006 what my favourite author was, I would’ve said Janet Evanovich with absolutely zero hesitation. I loved the Stephanie Plum books until probably number eleven but I hung in there, buying them until I think, 16 or 17. And then I read them from my local library until 21 and then I just gave up completely. I got sick of rating them 1 star and being disappointed with pretty much each installment. It was time to cut my losses.

But apparently I can’t fully quit Evanovich because the promise of a new series has me clicking the request button on NetGalley to see what is being offered up. Perhaps the fact that it’s….co-written? (I don’t even know how this works) with someone else, will mean that the crazy Evanovich things that bug me (old people, fat jokes, animal moments) will be missing from this new offering.

I’ve read a slew of books recently with characters that are brilliant but “eccentric”. Emerson Knight is one of these – he’s inherited a ginormous amount of money which is held in the form of gold bars. He wants to view these gold bars and his bank sends a junior representative in Riley Moon to tell him that nope, you can’t just go and look at them but sure, they’re totally safe. Emerson isn’t the sort of person who just accepts being told these things, he is determined to go and see them for himself. He suspects shenanigans are afoot and it turns out the bank seems to have misplaced a few other things, like employees. Emerson is determined to track down his missing money manager and his gold and he decides that seeing as Riley is there, she’s going to help him.

This was okay. I didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. It was just….alright.  I think it had some potential, had they decided to make the mystery really meaty and interesting but in the end, it didn’t play out that way and I guess of course it didn’t play out that way because this is a ‘funny’ book, not a serious book. A lot of the focus is on how mismatched Emerson and Riley are. Emerson is good looking but socially awkward and a bit odd. Riley is super focused and determined to work her way up the ladder. She has two degrees and is amazingly grateful to have landed a position at the bank. She doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardise her future there but unfortunately for her Emerson doesn’t care too much about that and just merrily barrels along, thinking up crazy plots and schemes. He has a lot of random contacts in a lot of places which enables him to pull many things off with barely a hitch. Reading this book requires you let a lot go and don’t worry about why they weren’t arrested seven million times.

Riley and Emerson do have an interesting dynamic and I did like a few of their scenes together. This is the first in a series, so I’m unsure of exactly how it will progress but there’s a very slight undercurrent of possible romantic tension. It’s not very well developed yet, more like the hint that it might be. I hope however, if that’s the direction they choose to go in, that a third person isn’t introduced to make it a triangle. I really don’t think anyone wants Stephanie-Morelli-Ranger Mk II to spin out for another infinity number of books. The two of them being so different could make for very interesting times ahead if that’s the direction they choose. If not – I’m happy for it to be a friendship dynamic.

I have to say, I was interested enough in this to read the next one, just to see how it goes. So I guess Janet Evanovich’s name still has some sort of power over me because I probably wouldn’t have even glanced at it without it. The second I don’t enjoy one, that’s it though. I’m not hanging in hoping for it to get better for a half dozen books like I did when the Stephanie Plum novels went haywire!


Book #143 of 2016

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Review: Shadow Falling by Rebecca Zanetti

Shadow FallingShadow Falling (The Scorpius Syndrome #2)
Rebecca Zanetti
Zebra (Kensington Books)
2016, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Before the Scorpius Syndrome tore through North America and nearly wiped out the population, Vivienne Kennedy was the FBI’s best profiler. The bacteria got her anyway. But she survived. She recovered. And when she woke up from a drug-nightmare of captivity, her skills as a hunter of men had gone from merely brilliant to full-on uncanny. Her mysterious rescuer wants her to put them to the test. But no matter how tempting he is, with his angel’s eyes and devil’s tongue, Vinnie knows she shouldn’t trust him.

If the FBI were still around they would rate Raze Shadow as one of the bad guys. His military training can’t wipe out his association with the Mercenaries, the most feared gang in a thousand miles. His loyalties are compromised. He won’t even tell Vinnie his real name. But there’s no FBI in the new America of fear and firepower, only instinct and risk.

And the way his arms wrap around Vinnie tells its own story. Whatever else Raze is concealing, he can’t hide his desire . . .

I enjoyed the set up of these two characters in the first book of this series, Mercury Striking. It’s a new world, somewhere around 90% of the population has been wiped out by the mysterious virus and what’s left is barely controlled chaos. Jax Mercury runs a tight ship in Los Angeles, ruling a compound of survivors with military precision but there are external threats everywhere.

And possibly an internal threat in the form of Raze Shadow, a former military man who offered his services as an officer in Jax’s army. Raze rescued Dr Vivienne Kennedy at the close of the last book from a truly terrifying situation and now seems personally responsible for her….but it becomes quite clear early on that Raze has an ulterior motive. He’s motivated by external forces and he’s going to have to choose what (or who) is most important to him.

I really liked Raze in the first book – what’s not to like? He’s a mysterious man with skills. I enjoyed his thoughts in this story but I had trouble with the character of Vivienne, who goes by the nickname Vinnie. Due to the drugs she was fed in captivity (and perhaps something else, hard to say) and the captivity itself, she’s a bit unstable, suffering night terrors, hallucinations and an internal monologue that borders on the hysterical. Possibly fair play, given what she’s been through but the internal monologue is mostly comprised of Raze and Vinnie waits all of about a week after being rescued from a terrifying situation as a hostage that was only going to end badly, to start wanting Rafe super bad.

Like I said earlier, I know it’s a new world and the rules of civilisation as I know it don’t really apply anymore. I did have trouble believing Vinnie’s recovery – I expected her to be far more of a mess after what she’s experienced and I would’ve liked to hear more about what was actually happening during her capture. I feel as though it was kept deliberately vague, perhaps in order to keep the man who captured her more sinister for not knowing much about him. This book is also a bit repetitive as it again features basically two women needing to be rescued from the same psycho by the same badasses.

What I did enjoy was the power play between Jax and Raze. Jax is unequivocally the leader and it’s not particularly a democracy. He’ll listen to suggestions and plans but ultimately he’s the one that makes the decisions. He gets taken by surprise in an alarming way in this book and I’m not sure that the resulting fallout really painted Jax in the strongest light. He came across as a good leader in the first book (with some flaws) but in this book he seems almost wearily stumped at times in a ‘why is this happening to me?’ kind of way. He does attempt to be a good guy, trying to make sure that no one is being coerced to do anything but at the same time, he seems vague about the overall problem. I think Jax was stretched a bit thin in this book and that he needed to promote a few to generals because he can’t rule over everything with the same eagle eye. His conversations and interactions with Raze regarding Raze’s questionable appearance and loyalty were really good though and the two of them ended up establishing a very good dynamic that would bode well for divvying up responsibilities in the future, were it to ever happen.

We meet a new crew in this book, the leader of which is certain to be featured in probably the 4th or 5th book as the groundwork was laid early here. There’s plenty of opportunity in this new civilisation to continue to draw this series out, flesh out the world more and explore the political ramifications. I’d like to see some more of that in the next book…….plot development is important and these books could end up feeling like you’re just reading the same ones over and over again if things don’t start to move along a little and the romance continues to take over. But I suppose with heroes with names like Jax Mercury, Raze Shadow, Tace Justice and Greyson Storm…..the romance/sex is always going to be strong.


Book #155 of 2016

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Review: The Regulars by Georgia Clark

RegularsThe Regulars
Georgia Clark
Simon & Schuster AUS
2016, 400p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

GIRLS meets BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY (with a magical twist) in this fierce and hilarious women’s fiction debut, as three average girls become extraordinarily beautiful and have all their fantasies come true … or do they?

Best friends Evie, Krista and Willow are just trying to make it through their mid-twenties in New York. They’re regular girls with typical quarter life crises: making it up the corporate ladder, making sense of online dating, and making rent.

Until they come across Pretty, a magic tincture that makes them, well …gorgeous. Like, supermodelgorgeous. With a single drop, each young woman gets the gift of jaw-dropping beauty for one week, presenting them with unimaginable opportunities to make their biggest fantasies come true…

I’m in two minds about this one.

It’s an interesting idea. Three girls living and working (struggling) in New York are good friends. Their lives are no where near perfect: feminist Evie works for a trashy magazine that features articles on boys and make up. Krista is an actress trying to make it. Willow is an artist who feels as though she stands in the shadow of her famous movie director father. Krista runs into an old friend who gives her a vial of “Pretty”, a magical purple elixir that turns whoever drinks a drop of it pretty for seven days. Not just a prettier version of themselves, a stunningly beautiful new version. Krista, who is quite short, grows inches after consuming it. Their features are perfect, luminous. They look so different that they can all choose new names and identities, completely ignoring their real lives and identities for the week.

I kind of feel like if you want me to believe in this sort of thing happening in a “normal” setting then you need to give me something as to what it is and why/how it does it. This book gives nothing about what Pretty is at all. All the reader knows is that you must consume a drop of it every 7 days because the pretty effect will wear off and you’ll go back to being your regular self. The transformation into “Pretty” is kind of hideous – the sort of thing best done in private. Although Evie is somewhat concerned about what it is or what it could do to them long term, the chance to do something that’s like her dream job has her taking it as well, after Willow and Krista have succumbed.

To be honest I didn’t really connect with any of the characters or their struggles much. I didn’t feel as though what they did with their new appearances were all that revolutionary either – Willow begins to test her boyfriend’s fidelity with her new beautiful self, basically serving her prettiness up on a platter and then being upset when he begins to succumb (but it doesn’t stop her). Krista scores a part in a movie and behaves in an embarrassingly rude way. Evie wants to smash the construct of women in media but finds herself stonewalled and overruled. I appreciated that the characters were of diverse backgrounds and sexuality but felt that the book could’ve explored the themes of being prettier doesn’t necessarily make your life better in more ways than sexual gymnastics. The three of them really begin to let their friendship slide after taking pretty, so much so that there is a grave fear for the wellbeing of one of them at the end of the story. The become quite self-involved and some of the antics are actually quite cringeworthy. I almost put the book down a couple of times but a few things kept me going – hoping for more information on Pretty and how Willow’s situation with her boyfriend was going to be resolved.

I found the ending somewhat unsatisfactory. The lack of information on Pretty and how it came to be, what the person who gave it to Krista does (we get a small glimpse into her life which is awful) and the way in which the three girls clumsily decide they don’t need Pretty, they’re fine just as they are, etc. It could’ve been something gently explored throughout the novel but instead seems to be wrapped up hastily at the end after a chain of disasters.

Unfortunately, this just wasn’t my sort of book. I see the potential in it but the way in which it was executed didn’t really work for me.


Book #154 of 2016

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Review: The Matchmakers Of Minnow Bay by Kelly Harms

Matchmakers Of Minnow BayThe Matchmakers Of Minnow Bay 
Kelly Harms
St Martin’s Press
2016, 288p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

A young painter, Lily has reached a crossroads in her life. Her career hasn’t taken off, her best friend may no longer be the trusted friend she thought, her boyfriend is a disappointment, and now she can’t keep up with the rising cost of living in the city. With no one to turn to, Lily is forced to move from her beloved apartment, but while packing she comes across a piece of mail that had slipped to the back of her junk drawer: a letter detailing further action needed to finalize the annulment of a quickie Vegas wedding. Ten years ago!

Lily decides it’s time to turn over a new leaf and the first item on her list of things to fix is getting the annulment… but you can’t just send a reply ten years later, “Hey by the way we are still married.” This is something that must be addressed in person. Lily takes to the road to track down her husband – the charming, fun, and sexy man she connected with all those years ago – Ben Hutchinson.

Ben Hutchinson left a wealthy dot-com lifestyle behind to return home to his family and the small town he loves, Minnow Bay. He’s been living off the grid and the last thing he expects is a wife he didn’t know he had to show up on his doorstep.

By chance, Lily arrives at the magical Minnow Bay Inn, and there she will discover not just a place to lay her head, but new friends, a thriving art community, and maybe even the love of her life.

Lily’s life is a disaster. She’s still living the same way that she was as a university student over a decade ago, barely making rent. Her friend thinks that if she hasn’t made it by now then perhaps it’s time to give up the art, get a respectable job and grow up a bit. When Lily finds a document she never filed to annul a fun Vegas wedding years ago, she decides that she’s going to track her husband down and sort everything out in person. Maybe a trip to Minnow Bay, Wisconsin where her estranged ‘husband’ now lives, will help her figure out her life.

I found Lily quite a frustrating character at times because she was so content to let others dictate things to her. She has a sort-of boyfriend who is quite clearly screwing her money-wise and who treats her like a dirty secret he’s ashamed of but she continually makes excuses for him and refuses to see what is so obvious. Her best friend Renee is about fed up with her paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle and also clearly harbours some resentment toward Lily, who dated Renee’s husband before she married him. It comes out at the worst moments, such as when Lily needs somewhere to live and is refused – this is her best friend. She’s also critical when Lily decides to go to Minnow Bay and when she seems to be carving out a bit of a niche for herself there as well.

I loved the idea of the whole Vegas wedding on a whim – both Lily and Ben are visiting Vegas, Lily for Renee’s bachelorette party and she decides to kind of beat Renee at something and her and Ben marry for fun, never intending for it to be serious. However Lily forgets to complete the paperwork to annul the marriage and realises that she’s been legally married for 10 years – and so has Ben. The possible ramifications of this could be huge, especially if Ben has married again in the past decade, believing that he’s free to. He’s an intensely private person but Lily does some pretty impressive detective work and manages to track him down so that she can explain everything, get it all sorted and then move on with the next stage of her life.

In arriving in Minnow Bay, Lily meets Colleen, inn keeper and Jenny, her best friend who happens to run a gallery. Jenny is immediately taken with some of Lily’s work and is very sure she can get good prices for them – so good in fact that Lily smells a rat. Either Jenny has no idea what she’s talking about or she’s being ripped off by her boyfriend back home and that’s something that definitely warrants some investigating. Lily finds herself falling into an easy friendship with the women and even more than that, falling into an easy lifestyle in Minnow Bay. She has a place to create and an idea. When they find out the story, it seems like the whole town wants to push Ben and Lily together, not help facilitate the annulment.

I loved the small town of Minnow Bay – it seemed like a beautiful place to live although the Aussie in me definitely struggled with the thought of the snow! I also liked the person Lily evolved into, the more time she spent there. Prior to going there, she was in a rut, surviving by the skin of her teeth, whining about a lot of things and really going nowhere. The trip to Minnow Bay seems to shake her into action and she begins taking control of her life and her career. She doesn’t just coast along anymore.

I’d have liked a bit more romance, Ben is as expected, not entirely thrilled to find out that the annulment never went through all those years ago. He’s become quite reclusive, despite the best efforts of the locals and there are times when he’s abrupt and not really that likable (although I did really like him in the Vegas flashbacks). I think I’d have liked some more scenes between him and Lily, but so much was about Lily’s growth and finding some faith in herself and her abilities, so that I enjoyed. More romance would’ve been a bonus.


Book #134 of 2016


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