All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Missing Sister by Lucinda Riley

The Missing Sister (The Seven Sisters #7)
Pan Macmillan AUS
2021, 804p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: They’ll search the world to find her.

The six D’Aplièse sisters have each been on their own incredible journey to discover their heritage, but they still have one question left unanswered: who and where is the seventh sister?

They only have one clue – an image of a star-shaped emerald ring. The search to find the missing sister will take them across the globe – from New Zealand to Canada, England, France and Ireland – uniting them all in their mission to complete their family at last.

In doing so, they will slowly unearth a story of love, strength and sacrifice that began almost one hundred years ago, as other brave young women risk everything to change the world around them.

Until recently, we thought this book would give us all the answers to the questions that the previous six books have raised. But then the author, just before this book was released, announced that the story had become too big to be wrapped up in this final volume and that there would be an 8th book, about Pa Salt, the man of mystery himself. Since then, Lucinda Riley has tragically passed away after a battle with cancer which is a terrible loss, that many in the literary world will feel.

The six D’Apliese sisters have always known that they were supposed to have a seventh sister and that for some reason, their ‘Pa Salt’ could never find her. I’ve never quite understood how he chose the girls he did or how one was ‘lost’ to him – but don’t actually expect this book to give you any answers. Because it doesn’t clear anything up and actually, after the missing sister is identified, it really only raises more questions.

This is unfortunately, not one of my favourite books in this series. I found a large portion of the first part of the book quite uncomfortable – the sisters are given some information which give them a lead and they send the closest sister to meet with the person they think is their “missing sister”. That person needs information from her mother, who is travelling overseas – and from then on the sisters just keep sending whoever is closest (because they are living all around the world) to the woman’s next hotel, even well after it’s quite obvious she’s freaked out by these strangers turning up and trying to talk to her. The sisters cannot understand why she might not want a total strange family following her around the globe and they honestly show such a lack of awareness. I’m not sure if it’s their insulated privilege or their single-mindedness in finding the sister now that their father is gone but….they didn’t show a lot of empathy, putting themselves in the person’s shoes. And their father means nothing to this person – they didn’t even know he existed. Expecting her to join them for a flower-laying ceremony out of nowhere, was honestly, very weird. Especially as all the sisters essentially know nothing about their father, not even his name, and cannot impart any information on him at all.

I always enjoy the historical portion of these novels and this one was actually no exception – I enjoyed a glimpse of rural Ireland during some troubled times (although I cannot speak to the accuracy of the portrayal). It was definitely a look at poverty, a country that had been ravaged by famine and was still very poor in some parts with a huge divide between the capital in Dublin and the rural areas. It’s also a time of great upheaval, with Ireland fighting for its independence from Britain and Britain looking to quash that. We meet a young woman who struggles between her desperate desire for Ireland to have its freedom and the unlikely friendship she finds with an English man she is employed to take care of – and two generations later, a young poor girl in an overly large family who sees firsthand the devastation that has on her mother’s health. When she’s given a way out of that life, she grabs it with both hands. There are a lot of mysteries between these two different historical timelines and it takes a while before all the connections are established – and only at the very end are they connected back to the current timeline, albeit only partially.

I honestly feel like a lot of the first portion of the story – the various sisters chasing this person around the world – could’ve been condensed a bit, in favour of advancing the plot a bit more. Riley tries to give each of the sisters we’ve already met some page time, which might’ve made sense when this was the last book but considering there’s a whole other book coming out, ended up being mostly unnecessary, especially as some of the scenes bordered a bit on the ridiculous side. And there are things in here that huge portions of the plot are devoted to but then wrapped up in a mere sentence. A lot of things are repeated, particularly scenes between Ally, Maia and Ma and the care of Bear and everyone drinks whiskey for breakfast in Ireland. Is that a thing? Seems concerning. Also I feel like in the other books, the sisters are given the time and space to learn their journey in their own time but in this one, the sisters force it upon their seventh sister, basically not taking no for an answer, setting in motion the events that do lead to her learning of her past. They want her there for this deadline of the flower-wreath laying and I feel like they’re so pushy about it that it’s very disrespectful (especially as there ends up being some errors – like Georg, what are you doing? And why were you so mysteriously out of contact at the precise moment everyone needed you to confirm information that you should have just given them anyway).

I’ve always thought from the beginning that Pa Salt probably wasn’t dead – too many things just didn’t seem to add up about it. Even though this book did frustrate me (the last 2 pages particularly) I’m in it for the long haul now. I’ve read 7 books about this and gotten almost no answers about anything, I need to know – who was/is Pa Salt really? Why did he adopt these specific children? Why was the 7th sister missing? Why do they not even know his name or what he does for a living? Why/how is he so rich? I need the answers to these questions and probably many more so yes, I’ll be reading the 8th book when it’s released next year…..might’ve been cool if they’d released these as a double release, rather than make everyone wait even longer. I really do hope however, that it does clear up all the points that have been raised throughout the series. I need closure.

5/10

Book #111 of 2021

The Missing Sister is book #23 of the 2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

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Review: The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan

The Intimacy Experiment (The Roommate #2)
Rosie Danan
Piatkus
2021, 336p
Personal purchased copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: Naomi and Ethan will test the boundaries of love in this provocative romance from the author of the ground-breaking debut, The Roommate.

Naomi Grant has built her life around going against the grain. After the sex-positive start-up she cofounded becomes an international sensation, she wants to extend her educational platform to live lecturing. Unfortunately, despite her long list of qualifications, higher ed won’t hire her.

Ethan Cohen has recently received two honors: LA Mag named him one of the city’s hottest bachelors and he became rabbi of his own synagogue. Taking a gamble in an effort to attract more millennials to the faith, the executive board hired Ethan because of his nontraditional background. Unfortunately, his shul is low on both funds and congregants. The board gives him three months to turn things around or else they’ll close the doors of his synagogue for good.

Naomi and Ethan join forces to host a buzzy seminar series on Modern Intimacy, the perfect solution to their problems–until they discover a new one–their growing attraction to each other. They’ve built the syllabus for love’s latest experiment, but neither of them expected they’d be the ones putting it to the test.

I’m not sure where I first heard about this – I think on a Goodreads list of romance books out this year. It immediately sounded like my thing, so much so that I bought it almost immediately, even though I hadn’t read the first book, which I pretty much never do. I definitely love a good opposites attract and can you get much more opposite than a sex-worker who now runs a sex-positive website and a Jewish Rabbi? I especially love opposites attract when the woman is the more sexually dominant or experienced partner and the male character is referred to as “buttoned up” or conservative or repressed. It’s just a dynamic that I really enjoy reading as a lot of romance often tends to feature quite dominant Alpha males, so books that flip that are interesting to me.

This started off really well – Naomi is a former sex-worker who has made porn films and who has now moved into starting a website which features a lot of content about pleasure and getting what people want out of intimacy, particularly through the female gaze and experience. Parts of it are subscription only and Naomi is now looking to move into a lecturing or academic role but her previous employment means she keeps getting knocked back from roles she applies for. She meets Ethan at a national teaching conference and he offers her a platform – but it’s at his synagogue. A series on Modern Intimacy, which he thinks might bring in a new, younger crowd to his dwindling-in-popularity place of worship. Ethan is only in his thirties, he was a physics teacher before he got the calling to study to become a Rabbi. Both Naomi and Ethan find the other immensely not and although Naomi at first rejects Ethan’s offer, for several reasons, she ends up changing her mind.

My issue is, it felt like this book promised one thing but very much delivered something else. I wanted some scintillating chemistry, some real opposites attract, maybe even some angst about whether or not a former sex-worker and a Rabbi could make it work, and the prejudice such a pairing might bring. And I did get one of those things…..there was quite a bit about the last part of that but I feel like the ball was definitely dropped on the others. For the most part, Ethan and Naomi did not have chemistry. They spent a lot of time thinking about how hot the other one was but there was very little in the way of moments to show their attraction to each other, to ramp up that sexual tension. Although I appreciate the time the author took to show Ethan and Naomi connecting as friends and building something, honestly, the physical side in this book was sorely lacking. They don’t kiss until after the halfway point and there’s one (quite lacklustre) sex scene. For all Naomi’s sexual and pleasure positivity, we don’t get to see it in action. In fact, she kind of gets cold feet about being intimate with Ethan, because for her, I think this is different and there are some feelings involved – and she can’t see a future with his job, I don’t think.

I really liked Ethan and I liked the idea of Naomi – I liked her attitude about a lot of things, although there were times when I did find her a bit of a contradiction. Not that that’s a bad thing at all, it was just sometimes she didn’t seem to react in ways that I would expect someone of her described personality to react. But there was something about this that just didn’t translate to a fun read for me. It was interesting to read about the Jewish religion and even though I’m not Jewish, or at all religious, I liked Ethan and the way he went about his job. It didn’t feel particularly preachy, even though Ethan often delivers what might be called sermons, just in casual conversation! And it was great to read about modern Jewish relationships and the idea of modern intimacy (mostly if I come across Jewish characters in fiction, it’s WWII historical fiction) but so often I wanted more from the scenes between Ethan and Naomi. It felt like they should’ve shimmered with tension and that push-pull factor but they were so lacklustre. It was like they were just two friends chatting most of the time, and if each of them didn’t keep musing in their heads how hot the other one was and how they wanted this or that, honestly, you’d not know. There was nothing in their interactions. And the one sex scene felt very disappointing, paint-by-numbers writing and just….boring. And it felt like it was such a long time coming in the book and was such a letdown. Also this just felt like it really dragged in places, and nothing could move along at an organic pace because it was like Ethan and Naomi only moved along to coincide with the lectures in modern intimacy that she was presenting, so things just had to stagnate until the next lecture, which meant that a lot of the time, the book felt like it was spinning in circles.

Loved the idea, just did not at all enjoy the execution.

5/10

Book #110 of 2021

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June Reading Wrap Up

Total Books Read: 20
Fiction: 19
Non-Fiction: 1
Library Books: 9
Books On My TBR List: 6
Books in a Series: 5
Authors I’d Never Read Before: 12
Male/Female Authors: 3/16 (plus one m/f anthology)
Kindle Books: 9
Audiobooks: 1
Books I Owned or Bought: 3
Favourite Book(s): The Last Reunion by Kayte Nunn, Someone I Used To Know by Paige Toon, The House In The Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune, You And Me On Vacation by Emily Henry.
Least Favourite Books: Talk Bookish To Me by Kate Bromley
Books That Qualify For Challenges: 9

Very happy with the reading stats for June – it felt like a very well rounded month. After reading 0 eBooks last month, I read a whopping 9 this month, almost 50% of my monthly total. I also listened to one audiobook, so ended up reading 10 books in print.

We came out of our 14 day lockdown but now quite a lot of the rest of the country are currently experiencing their own lockdowns after various outbreaks, so it feels quite unusual for us to have quite a bit of freedom whilst many others are undergoing restrictions. It’s currently school holidays, we are almost through the first week. Later after this post goes up, I’m taking my kids for a walk along the beach and through some Botanical Gardens because there’s supposed to be some pretty gross weather coming over the weekend – plenty of rain and about 11 degrees so we’re going to get some sun while we still can! We have plans for some other days next week as well and my husband is having a week off work. We also have quite a large amount of television to catch up on (we record a lot of things and watch later, as my husband works several nights a week) so I guess this coming weekend will give us plenty of opportunity to do that!

Challenge check in!

Australian Women Writers Challenge: 45/50

Read Non Fiction Challenge: 4/6

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge: 23/25

I made quite a lot of progress on my Historical Fiction Reading Challenge this month – 7 of the books I read contributed towards the challenge! I also read 5 that count towards my Australian Women Writers Challenge and for both of those I’m 2 books and 5 books off my goal respectively and probably should reach both in July. I also still only have 1 book to read for my Read Non Fiction challenge to achieve my goal there – I actually thought I’d read one that would fit in July but it was published last year, not this year, so I’m on the hunt for something else!

Onto the July TBR pile!

I’m taking part in three publisher blog tours this month, for The Missing Girl by Kerry McGinnis, The Eighth Wonder by Tania Farrelly and Catch Us The Foxes by Nicola West. I’m also really keen for The Wattle Seed Inn by Leonie Kelsall because I loved her first novel. There’s a few on this pile that were surprise arrivals which is always fun. And I’ve heard some amazing things about Felix Ever After so that’s definitely one I’m really excited to read.

I also have some library books to get through – The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni (I loved her Medoran Chronicles), Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah so hopefully I can find some time for those this month as well.

If you’ve read anything on my pile be sure to let me know so I can prioritise! Happy reading.

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Review: Love In English by Maria E. Andreu

Love In English
Maria E. Andreu
Balzer + Bray
2021, 336p
Read via my local library/Borrow Box

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: Sixteen-year-old Ana has just moved to New Jersey from Argentina for her Junior year of high school. She’s a poet and a lover of language—except that now, she can barely understand what’s going on around her, let alone find the words to express how she feels in the language she’s expected to speak.

All Ana wants to do is go home—until she meets Harrison, the very cute, very American boy in her math class. And then there’s her new friend Neo, the Greek boy she’s partnered up with in ESL class, who she bonds with over the 80s teen movies they are assigned to watch for class (but later keep watching together for fun), and Altagracia, her artistic and Instagram-fabulous friend, who thankfully is fluent in Spanish and able to help her settle into American high school. 

But is it possible that she’s becoming too American—as her father accuses—and what does it mean when her feelings for Harrison and Neo start to change? Ana will spend her year learning that the rules of English may be confounding, but there are no rules when it comes to love.

With playful and poetic breakouts exploring the idiosyncrasies of the English language, Love in English tells a story that is simultaneously charming and romantic, while articulating a deeper story about what it means to become “American.”

I thought this was a cute read.

I think since I read a particular book this month, I’ve just been craving contemporary romance of any type – YA, adult, doesn’t matter. I’ve just been in the mood for that sort of read and I don’t really have much on my shelves that fit that bill (because I’ve read them all) so I went looking on my library’s app for a few to read in between review books and help feed the craving!

Ana has just moved from Argentina to the US – she’s 16 and her dad has been in the US for 3 years getting ready for the arrival of her and her mother. Now that she’s here, she’s trying to get used to how different everything is. She’s been taking English classes but that’s not the same as being around native English speakers and trying to decipher everything they say as well as their meaning. She’s enrolled in an ESL class at school and naively assumes that everyone else in that class will speak Spanish but in fact, I think she’s the only one. The others come from a variety of backgrounds and speak many different languages. Ana becomes friends with Neo, from Greece and they use translation apps to communicate when their English doesn’t always give them the words they need. Their fun teacher assigns them some classic 80s American movies as “homework” and Ana and Neo end up watching these together. Ana likes Neo but she also is drawn to a boy in her maths class who embodies everything that is American and seems to personify the sort of life she should be aiming for, now that she lives in the US.

I think this did a great job of showing Ana’s struggle with fitting in – a lot of the time, when people are speaking to her in the book, half of what they say shows up as hashtags, indicating Ana hasn’t understood or heard that portion of the conversation. In reading it, it really gave the reader an idea of what it might be like to only understand a percentage of everything that is said to you. She has to kind of fill in the gaps of what she’s missed herself, just guess what she might’ve not understood. Sometimes this works, other times she misunderstands and doesn’t get it right – some of the time that leads to ridicule from her fellow classmates. Ana wrote poems in her native Spanish and her ESL teacher encourages her to write them in English, telling her she’s a poet in any language and this is something that helps her I think – the ESL students are given a notebook to write down English words and ideas in, things they hear or come across and I really loved that idea!

Ana does make some friends but she also has to deal with the fact that her father last saw her when she was 13 and now she’s 16 and living in an entirely different country (that was his idea) where things are quite different to how they were back home. He cannot expect her to live as she did back in that country when he’s dragged her to a new and different one. He also cannot continue to treat her as someone who isn’t any older than the last time he saw her and the two of them definitely have to navigate this new situation and find a compromise that works for them both.

There’s a bit of a love triangle here and I didn’t love that portion of it as I felt Ana didn’t treat either of the boys particularly well. But it was part of her struggle with what she wanted versus what she thought she should want now that she’s living in America, so I feel like that part was articulated quite well, even if I didn’t agree with the way she went about things. And she’s only 16 and navigating this stuff for the first time, she’s going to make mistakes.

6/10

Book #109 of 2021

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Top 10 Tuesday 29th June

Hello and welcome to another Top 10 Tuesday, hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl! It features a different bookish related theme each week and this week we are talking…

Top 10 Most Anticipated Releases In The Second Half Of 2021!

  1. Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty.

I’m not going to lie, I really didn’t love Moriarty’s last book and I was only so-so on the one before that. But I have loved enough of her books in the past to know that there’s huge potential for something I’m going to find amazing here. And the synopsis sounds really good! This feels like more of a return to the domestic types of drama (with that little bit of thriller in them) that Moriarty does do so well, with excellent family relationships and friendships. Out September.

2. Devotion by Hannah Kent.

Really loved Burial Rites – actually haven’t read The Good People yet, maybe I should get to that before this one is out here in October. This should be excellent I think.

3. Songbirds by Christy Lefteri.

I loved The Beekeeper Of Aleppo so I am so keen to read this – it’s actually out next week I think, so not too long!

4. Any Way The Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell.

I just saw pictures of this on instagram and it is pretty chunky! I’m sort of not surprised because I feel like the second book left a lot to be dealt with so I have really high hopes for this. I’ve preordered it so I hope they ship it quickly because I really want to read this soon.

5. Battle Royal by Lucy Parker.

Okay I am literally obsessed with the idea of this book. I love Lucy Parker for a start, her London Celebrities series is so much fun. And this is set on a Great British Bake Off style show where a former contestant who could never please the grumpy judge is now back on the show as a judge….alongside the grumpy pastry chef she could never please who voted her off. Inject it into my veins and why do I have to wait until August 17 for this? Lucy Parker is the best at grumpy dude vs sunshine girl and I love it.

6. The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves.

I really liked the first in this series, The Long Call. It was the first Ann Cleeves book I’d read as well. I’m really looking forward to seeing what is next for Detective Matthew Venn and all the complications that come with being back where he grew up, his family, etc.

7. The Gilded Cage by Lynette Noni.

I’ll actually probably have just gotten around to reading The Prison Healer by the time this is released but my enjoyment of Lynette Noni’s previous series has this on my list and I want to read the two together. Although I think there’s another one coming so maybe I should’ve waited a bit! I do love the cover for this.

8. The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang.

I am so keen for this! I really liked the other two (especially The Kiss Quotient). And at the moment, I’m just really keen for lots of contemporary romance. Give it all to me!

9. Dark Rise by C.S. Pact.

Yes please! I discovered this when searching for some books to round out this top 10 – I actually hadn’t known it was coming out! But I loved C.S. Pacat’s Captive Prince trilogy and enjoyed her Fence graphic novels also. So I am super keen to read this: magic, Light and Dark, hopefully some sort of romance.

10. Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy.

Last year I read The Last Migration (also published as Migrations) by Charlotte McConaghey and it was my favourite fiction book of 2020. I thought it was incredible. It was just one of those books that I connected with immediately and found the whole thing beautifully written and wonderful. I am so excited for this book – there seems to be some similar-ish themes, in terms of biologists, threatened species, trauma, etc. Very keen for this.

What are you looking forward to in the second half of 2021?

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Review: Well Played (Audiobook) by Jen DeLuca

Well Played (Well Met #2)
Jen DeLuca
Narrated by Brittany Pressley
Penguin Audio
2020, 8hrs 20min
Purchased personal copy via Audible.com

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: Another laugh-out-loud romantic comedy featuring kilted musicians, Renaissance Faire tavern wenches, and an unlikely love story.

Stacey is jolted when her friends Simon and Emily get engaged. She knew she was putting her life on hold when she stayed in Willow Creek to care for her sick mother, but it’s been years now, and even though Stacey loves spending her summers pouring drinks and flirting with patrons at the local Renaissance Faire, she wants more out of life. Stacey vows to have her life figured out by the time her friends get hitched at Faire next summer. Maybe she’ll even find The One.

When Stacey imagined “The One,” it never occurred to her that her summertime Faire fling, Dex MacLean, might fit the bill. While Dex is easy on the eyes onstage with his band The Dueling Kilts, Stacey has never felt an emotional connection with him. So when she receives a tender email from the typically monosyllabic hunk, she’s not sure what to make of it.

Faire returns to Willow Creek, and Stacey comes face-to-face with the man with whom she’s exchanged hundreds of online messages over the past nine months. To Stacey’s shock, it isn’t Dex—she’s been falling in love with a man she barely knows.

I really enjoyed Well Met, the first book in this series which dealt with Emily joining the local renaissance faire when she was new in town, because her niece wanted to and each minor sign up had to be accompanied by an adult one. There she met Simon, the control freak in charge of the faire and I thought that Simon and Emily had great chemistry. Stacey befriends Emily when she’s new and shows her the ropes and the two become close. So I was pretty excited when I realised book 2 would centre around Stacey.

Unfortunately, I didn’t love this as much as I loved the first one. Stacey is 27, still lives in an apartment above her parent’s garage and her life is stagnant. About six years ago, she gave up a dream opportunity because her mother had a medical episode and she stayed behind in her hometown to care for her. Her mother is fine now but Stacey is still stuck in this mindset that something will happen if she leaves – just like last time. It doesn’t really make any sense and she is stuck in a job that doesn’t excite her, watching people she went to high school or college with, celebrate milestones on Facebook. When Simon and Emily get engaged, it jolts Stacey and she realises she wants to find The One. A drunken message to her faire hook up for the past two summers generates a surprising response – who knew Dex was so deep?

But it isn’t Dex messaging her, it’s Daniel, his cousin and manager. Which the reader knows immediately but for some reason, it takes Stacey about a year to realise. The thing is, when she realises she’s mad for about five minutes that he allowed her to think she was messaging Dex but then she decides oh well, it doesn’t matter which McLean she was messaging, she really likes whichever one it was so it’s fine and she wants to work things out with him. Daniel sort of apologises for this thing that he does, pretending to be someone else but it’s really not that much of an apology. And then Stacey just kind of hurtles herself into this relationship even though it doesn’t feel like they ever really discussed the whole cat fishing thing properly. And then there are just moments in this where I think because of this lack of clearing the air, there are misunderstandings and then Stacey overhears something pretty upsetting and instead of actually being a grown up about it, Daniel basically was like oh well oops, you found that out, I’ll just be leaving now. And it’s up to Stacey to chase him down and sort of beg him to take her back even though he was the one that lied to her and misled her (again).

I didn’t really like Stacey that much as a character, her obsession with social media, her complaining about her stagnant life – it got a bit much. She made no attempt to change anything though, not even a little bit. Not even her renaissance outfit, until Emily changes hers and Stacey gets upset because she thought they were “doing it together” even though Stacey made no actual moves to change anything. Daniel had promise as a character but his apologies were weak and his running away was stupid and he just seems so passive about everything. I think too much of the book was their texts and emails but that didn’t showcase enough of the foundations of a relationship and it felt like they didn’t have any chemistry. And then renn faire only goes for like, four weekends, so there’s all this drama and talk of love and it just feels like it wasn’t long enough in person for them to build something really lasting.

This was pretty short for an audio, so it was easy enough to get through and I enjoyed the little appearances by Simon and Emily, although I missed them as main characters. I’m still curious about the third book but I’m not sure I want to invest another 8 hours of my time – it’ll be much quicker if I read it.

Unfortunately, this was just okay for me, neither character excited me and some of the conflict felt very weakly resolved.

5/10

Book #106 of 2021


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Blog Tour Post: ***DOUBLE GIVEAWAY***: The Nancys & Nancy Business by R.W.R McDonald

This post is part of the blog tour – please see the bottom of the post for more details and other stops on the tour.

Thanks to the wonderful people at Allen & Unwin Australia, to celebrate the release of Nancy Business, the second novel featuring intrepid young investigator Tippy and her uncles, I have one copy of each of the two books to give away to an Australian resident.

About the books!

Blurb: Tippy Chan is eleven and lives in a small town in a very quiet part of the world – the place her Uncle Pike escaped from the first chance he got as a teenager. Now Pike is back with his new boyfriend Devon to look after Tippy while her mum’s on a cruise.

Tippy is in love with her uncle’s old Nancy Drew books, especially the early ones where Nancy was sixteen and did whatever she wanted. She wants to be Nancy and is desperate to solve a real mystery. When her teacher’s body is found beside Riverstone’s only traffic light, Tippy’s moment has arrived. She and her minders form The Nancys, a secret amateur detective club. 

But what starts as a bonding and sightseeing adventure quickly morphs into something far more dangerous. A wrongful arrest, a close call with the murderer, and an intervention from Tippy’s mum all conspire against The Nancys. But regardless of their own safety, and despite the constant distraction of questionable fashion choices in the town that style forgot, The Nancys know only they can stop the killer from striking again.

The Nancys is gripping and glorious, a heart-warming novel for anyone who’s ever felt they were on the outside looking in. At its heart it is about the family we make and how we must summon the courage to face the truth, no matter what the cost may be. 

Blurb: Tippy, Uncle Pike and Devon are back for another camp cozy crime mystery from the award-winning author of The Nancys.

It’s been four months since Tippy, Uncle Pike and Devon were together for Christmas. Now back for the first anniversary of Tippy’s father’s death, the Nancys are reformed when Riverstone is rocked by an early morning explosion that kills three people and destroys the town hall.

A new case is born and the Nancys re-form. Is the accused bomber really guilty? Is there a second bomber? And if so, does that mean a threat to destroy Riverstone Bridge is real? And is asparagus a colour? Once again, it is up to the Nancys to go against the flow and ignore police advice to get to the truth.

It’s great to be back in Nancy business again, but this time it’s all different. Uncle Pike and Devon can’t agree on anything and Tippy is learning hard truths about the world and the people she loves the most. Can the Nancys stay together to do their best work and save the town? Or will the killer strike again? When everyone is right, does that make you wrong? And can Tippy ever trust anyone again?

***************************************************************************************************************

Simply CLICK HERE to enter

Thank you to Allen & Unwin! Good luck! Entries will close July 10, 2021 – winners will be emailed within the next 48 hours and you’ll have 48 hours to respond before I draw another winner! Thank you to everyone who enters and good luck!

Make sure you check out some of the other blogs and profiles featured on the tour!

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Review: The Long Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper

The Long Long Afternoon
Inga Vesper
Manilla Press
2021, 400p
Read via my local library/Borrow Box

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: It’s the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes wilt under the California sun.

At some point during the long, long afternoon Joyce Haney, a seemingly happy housewife and mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind only two terrified young children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor.

With the stifling heat of Tangerine and the gripping pace of Little Deaths, The Long, Long Afternoon is at once a page-turning mystery and an intoxicating vision of the ways in which women everywhere are diminished, silenced and, ultimately, underestimated.

I saw this book highlighted in the newsletter of a local bookstore and it sounded really interesting. I was surprised to see it available on Borrow Box, the app my local library uses for eBook borrowing. It was during the most recent Melbourne lockdown and although my library was open for pick up, I definitely used the app more than I had in recent times to borrow some eBooks.

Ruby, hired help of Joyce Haney arrives one afternoon to work and finds Joyce’s young daughter outside, on her own. When she goes inside, the baby is crying in her crib and needs changing. Joyce is no where to be seen – and when Ruby enters the kitchen she finds only blood. She calls the police and is immediately arrested because she’s a black woman, despite the fact that she was working at another home in the neighbourhood just prior to arriving at the Haneys house and the fact that she alerted the authorities.

Mick is a detective new in this town in California, after a bit of a problem in Brooklyn. The Chief makes it clear that he’s not particularly happy with Mick’s appearance and he’s given the case of the disappearance of Joyce and told that if he messes up, that’ll be it. Mick has to deal with the fact that the first on scene have clearly arrested the wrong person. Ruby has no reason to trust police anyway and she’s even less likely to be forthcoming now that she’s been arrested for reporting her employer as missing.

What happened to Joyce Haney? A seemingly perfect life with a beautiful home, two adorable children and a successful husband. How did she disappear and why? The more Mick investigates, the more he finds strange things that don’t add up….and evidence that this perfect life, was anything but.

I enjoyed this. It’s told from differing points of view: Joyce, Ruby and Mick, the detective, the three perspectives helping to flesh out the story and provide information from different angles and perspectives. It’s a very traditional neighbourhood in many ways – mum, dad, children. Dad works, mum stays at home and looks after the little ones, does the shopping and cooks and cleans – unless they can afford some help, like the Haneys can. Ruby comes to clean – not just Joyce’s house but she also works at a home nearby, lived in by a friend of Joyce’s, who is perhaps a widow or a divorcee, I’m not entirely sure. The day in question, Ruby is just a little late, kept back by Laura, her other employer, who definitely doesn’t treat her the way Joyce does.

There’s a real juxtaposition between Joyce and Ruby. Joyce is a housewife, married to Frank, who has a successful job and they have a lovely home and can afford the help. Joyce is given an allowance for the groceries and other bits and pieces she needs. Ruby works for 40 cents an hour cleaning for people like Joyce, catching the bus from her neighbourhood. She desperately wants to go to college and become a teacher but needs a huge amount of money. In her neighbourhood, things are simmering – racial tensions and rights and Ruby’s boyfriend makes it clear that when Joyce vanishes, she should stay out. No good can come of her giving a cop any information, especially after she was already arrested without reason and held in jail simply for being the one who discovered Joyce was missing. If it wasn’t for Mick and his diffusing of the situation, Ruby could well have found herself charged and convicted for something she didn’t do.

I enjoyed each of the points of view – Joyce as we negotiate her life and the trapped way it’s making her feel, Ruby and her dreams and the complications in working for people who either do not see her at all or see her as someone to be wary of, even as she’s cleaning their home. Only Joyce seemed to treat her with any respect, which is why Ruby desperately does want to help Mick find out what happened to her, even though she’s warned against being involved. And Mick has something to prove and the deeper he digs into Joyce’s life, the more complex things become and the more that doesn’t add up. But it isn’t Mick who ends up putting the pieces together – he just has to make sure he figures it out before someone loses their life.

This simmers really well with undercurrents – marital discord, toxic friendships, struggling relationships, racial tensions and police bias. It was very enjoyable and I found myself coming really invested with what had happened to Joyce and the why and the how. The story got more complex with some unexpected players but I think when you got to a certain point, it fell into place and the reader could see what had happened.

Well paced and enjoyable with enough suspense to keep me hooked.

7/10

Book #105 of 2021

The Long Long Afternoon is book #22 of the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge for 2021

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Review: One Hundred Days by Alice Pung

One Hundred Days
Alice Pung
Black Inc. Books
2021, 288p
Read via my local library/Borrow Box

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: One day, a boy in a nice silver car gives sixteen-year-old Karuna a ride. So Karuna returns the favour. 

Eventually, Karuna can’t ignore the reality: she is pregnant. Incensed, her mother, already over-protective, confines her to their fourteenth-storey housing-commission flat for one hundred days, to protect her from the outside world – and make sure she can’t get into any more trouble. Stuck inside for endless hours, Karuna battles her mother and herself for a sense of power in her own life, as a new life forms and grows within her. 

One Hundred Days is a fractured fairytale exploring the fault lines between love and control. At times tense and claustrophobic, it also brims with humour, warmth and character. It is a magnificent new work from one of Australia’s most celebrated writers.

This book gave me claustrophobia.

And I mean that in the best possible way that someone could mean that.

Karuna is a teenager, living with her mother, after her parents separate, in a block of housing flats. Her mother is from the Phillipines, very strict and determined that Karuna live her life a certain way, adhering to her suffocating rules. Karuna cannot help but act out and when her mother sends her along to some sort of tutoring group in the school holidays, she meets a boy on his way to university and one thing leads to another in the back of his car. By the time her mother discovers that she’s pregnant, Karuna is pretty far along.

This was so frustrating to read sometimes. Karuna is so dominated by her forceful mother, always has been. Her mother has a lot of traditional ideas from her own country that don’t translate so well for a teen growing up in Australia and ever since she can remember, Karuna has been subject to her mother’s views on beauty and what she should do in order to preserve it. Her mother’s disappointment and shame about the pregnancy is palpable and she immediately takes over, ordering Karuna to do this or that, locking her in the apartment and saying that once it’s born, she will assume the role of the baby’s mother and Karuna its sister, so that she can go back to school and get the education her mother so wants her to have.

Karuna’s mother is a very controlling person and some of her treatment borders on abuse – well actually, I think crosses the line into abuse. Not just her words, but some of her actions, especially later on after the baby is born. Her determination that Karuna do everything as she wants it done, not listening to anything Karuna has to say, assuming that she cannot take care of this baby, using the argument that she was careless enough to get pregnant, she could not possibly be responsible enough for another human. Karuna’s frustration and feeling of being trapped is so well constructed on the page that reading this gave me a sort of anxiety, like I was experiencing what she was. Like I was feeling trapped, just as Karuna was in a small apartment, subject to her mother’s commands and whims. Some of the things she wants Karuna to do in terms of traditional things that must be observed either during pregnancy or after the birth for some reason or other due to her traditions, are very difficult for Karuna to accept because they are very different to the way things are done here in Australia, where she’s been raised. Karuna wants the chance to take care of this baby but in order to do so, she’s going to have to find the courage to stand up to her mother – and overcome a lifetime of domination.

The thing that makes this book so well done is that yes, you can’t help but feel for Karuna and want her to triumph, to find her voice. But it’s not just as simple as the fact that her mother is controlling or abusive because she wants to hurt Karuna. She doesn’t. I think she’s really trying the best she can to protect her or to make things easier for her in life, in the ways that she thinks will work. She is well-meaning, even when she’s saying things that sound horrible or trying to restrict Karuna in different ways. But she doesn’t explain things so for Karuna, it’s difficult to see anything other than just rules for the sake of rules and criticism for the sake of criticism. She demands unquestioning obedience and even though there are things that come to light late in the book, it’s after a lot of stuff that really makes the reader want to help Karuna. To protect her. To give her the chance to live her own life, whatever choices she may make, be it going back to school voluntarily or taking some time to spend with her newborn child, to establish that bonding and enjoy those early, special moments.

The way that Alice Pung writes about new motherhood, especially new teen motherhood, is really something else. It’s so beautifully done – Karuna goes through a lot of emotions, from sort of pretending that her pregnancy isn’t happening, to deciding what she wants to do, to feeling fiercely protective of her child and resentful of her mother for wanting to take that from her. Karuna clings to ideals and her ideas about her father and her mother and she does have her thoughts realigned throughout the course of the novel and it ends in a way that made me somewhat hopeful for her future. And her child’s.

Really well done – but a tough read. Do not read it if you’re in lockdown!

8/10

Book #104 of 2021

One Hundred Days is book #44 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2021

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Review: The Stationery Shop Of Tehran by Marjan Kamali

The Stationery Shop Of Tehran
Marjan Kamali
Simon & Schuster UK
2019, 308p
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: Roya, a dreamy, idealistic teenager living amid the political upheaval of 1953 Tehran, finds a literary oasis in kindly Mr. Fakhri’s neighborhood stationery shop, stocked with books and pens and bottles of jewel-colored ink.

Then Mr. Fakhri, with a keen instinct for a budding romance, introduces Roya to his other favorite customer—handsome Bahman, who has a burning passion for justice and a love for Rumi’s poetry—and she loses her heart at once. Their romance blossoms, and the little stationery shop remains their favorite place in all of Tehran.

A few short months later, on the eve of their marriage, Roya agrees to meet Bahman at the town square when violence erupts—a result of the coup d’etat that forever changes their country’s future. In the chaos, Bahman never shows. For weeks, Roya tries desperately to contact him, but her efforts are fruitless. With a sorrowful heart, she moves on—to college in California, to another man, to a life in New England—until, more than sixty years later, an accident of fate leads her back to Bahman and offers her a chance to ask him the questions that have haunted her for more than half a century: Why did you leave? Where did you go? How is it that you were able to forget me?

I think I first saw this in a YouTube video and whoever I was watching at the time was singing its praises, like it was the greatest love story they’d ever read. It sounded really good and I’m in the mood for love stories, even ones that are full of obstacles and my library had this available and I was able to pick it up whilst we were in lockdown. It’s set in Tehran, in Iran beginning in the 1950s when Iran was right on the precipice of a change. Roya is a young woman who loves literature and she meets Bahman, a young idealist in a book/stationery store. It’s attraction at first sight that blossoms into love and the two become engaged to be married, despite his mother’s clear disapproval. She’s long had someone picked out for Bahman and she doesn’t approve of Roya at all.

As the country becomes more unstable, Bahman vanishes and the two communicate through letters. He asks Roya to meet him in a city square and she becomes caught up in violence – and Bahman never shows. Shortly after, Roya’s father arranges for his daughters to move to America and study at an American university. He dreams of them becoming the next Madame Curie or something similar. Roya moves across the world to a different culture and there, she meets Walter, an all-American boy from Boston and introduces him to her food. But for Roya….Bahman is never forgotten and in her seventies, she gets the chance to get the answers she craves about his not turning up in that city square, all those years ago.

I thought this was quite sweet but I didn’t fall in love with it. I think it needed more in the beginning, more of Roya and Bahman, showing their connection and how they fell in love. I know they’re young and it was a different time but it felt quite fast and in some ways, like they barely knew each other. Bahman was an idealist, a supporter of the Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh but there are those who seek to overthrow him (the book skims over who is really behind that which is probably one of the most interesting things about it). Roya’s father is also a Mosaddegh supporter and this forms a large part of his approval of the marriage, although Bahman’s mother is deeply against and makes that quite known. The reasons for her disapproval are revealed later in the book and she does become a somewhat sympathetic figure for some reasons.

I thought the part in Tehran was rich and painted a fantastic picture of what life was like – the country was teetering on the brink of something. Roya and her sister were somewhat lucky that her father was progressive and wanted to see them be able to study and they were able to leave Iran pretty much at the beginning of the coup that would remove Mosaddegh and escape to America where they both ended up settling permanently. I also thought that the book could’ve delved more deeply into what it was like for the two of them to move to somewhere that was completely different, but the university years are glossed over and more attention is paid to Roya meeting Walter and cooking him some of her food. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy that – I did. Quite a lot. The descriptions are wonderful and for Roya, food is the way she remains connected to her culture. She finds a lot of American food unappetising and very different from what she is familiar with. This isn’t a long book and maybe it’s in what isn’t said or shown but I felt there were opportunities for more and they weren’t taken, which made Roya almost a distant sort of character to read about.

This was a nice read but I expected it to evoke more feelings.

6/10

Book #102 of 2021

This book is the 21st book for the 2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

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