All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Lone Child by Anna George

The Lone Child
Anna George
Penguin Books AUS
2017, 265p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Neve Ayres has always been so careful. Since her mother’s death when Neve was seven, she’s learned to look after herself and to keep her cards close. But now her deliberately constructed world has collapsed: her partner’s left her when she was eight months pregnant. And so, alone with her newborn son, she’s retreated to her cliff-top holiday house in coastal Flinders.

There, another child comes into her life. 

The first time Neve sees Jessie, the small girl is playing on an empty stretch of beach. On the cold autumn day, she is bare-legged and alone, while her mother is distracted by her own troubles. At once, almost despite herself, Neve is intrigued and concerned, and Jessie is drawn to Neve’s kindness – and to her home. 

To Neve’s surprise, Jessie becomes an unlikely source of much needed care for her and her baby. Having been lost in the sleepless haze of new motherhood, Neve is touched, and finds herself grappling with how to best help the forgotten girl. She has the spacious house, the full pantry, the resources . . . But how much can you – should you – do for a stranger’s child?

Hmmm.

This is an interesting book but I have mixed feelings about it.

Neve is a new mother. Her baby son Cliff is only nine weeks old and things have not been easy. Her former partner left her in the last month of her pregnancy, her family are distant and her friends are mostly without children. Neve is using her father’s coastal house to try and establish herself at this parenting thing and hopefully come to terms with how she feels about being a mother.

Parenting any newborn is hard, doing it on your own with zero support is even harder. Cliff is not sleeping well and Neve’s hopes of feeding for an hour and then sleeping for three are fast becoming dashed. Instead she finds herself feeding constantly and struggling to piece together more than a few moments of sleep. She is also struggling emotionally, not really feeling connected to her baby or with being a parent at all. A lot of people speak of the instant bond they have with their baby, the immediate rush of overwhelming love but it isn’t like that for everyone. It’s not uncommon for some people to feel detachment or even resentment, for the small being that has interrupted their lives so thoroughly and is either permanently attached to some part of your anatomy or screaming to be.  Neve at times does seem to be blindly going through the motions – she doesn’t even refer to the baby by his name in the narrative until a scene in the book where someone asks her what the baby’s name is. In fact Neve shows more interest in the young girl she sees on the beach, perhaps because she’s alone and then Neve ends up having to save her but it’s something that she feels more connected to than her own son. Later on, when she discovers the child near her home and invites her in, she’s incensed at the child being neglected.

Neve snaps to judge “Jessie’s” mother (Leah) from their first interaction and it’s admittedly true that their first two encounters aren’t positive. However the narrative unfolds to share Leah’s story as well and reads as almost a gentle warning against those immediate judgements based perhaps on someone’s appearance and possessions (or lack thereof). I actually found Leah’s story far more engaging than Neve’s struggles to bond with her son in her immaculate piece of modern real estate overlooking the beach and I wanted to know more about Leah’s life. It had come to such a desperate point and she needed support and praise because she was doing the best she could in an utterly bleak situation and still it was not enough, for her or her kids. With threats of services hanging over her head, Leah is in a panic and makes several quite terrible mistakes.

Neve’s state of mind is questionable at the time – she’s sleep deprived and possibly depressed, struggling to cope. She doesn’t seem particularly attached to anything or anyone. Even talking about the ex who left her she seems more annoyed that now she’s on her own rather than grieving a loss of a relationship. She does seem to latch on to “Jessie” quite quickly and there’s a bit of almost woo-woo about Jessie being almost some sort of baby whisperer that magically calms Cliff. Neve is so uneven in her behaviour that it even causes people to question whether or not Jessie even exists, after she confides in someone – almost to the point where Neve herself begins to question it. I think this could’ve been a really good thread if it had been run with a little longer, to the point where everyone was questioning it but it’s over and done with very quickly and the reader knows Jessie is real because they also read the point of view of her mother searching for her. So it serves little point in the narrative other than for someone to interfere by bringing in someone else and for the both of them to begin making decisions for Neve, which I found a bit arrogant.

If this is to be psychological suspense I can honestly say that I found the suspense part lacking and therefore it left me with a bit of “is that it?” at the end of the book. I was expecting a more dramatic conclusion I think, perhaps a longer and more drawn out type of suspense. However it just seemed to be over quite quickly and left me feeling a bit like I was missing a final chapter. But then again, that’s my personal preferences coming in to play perhaps. I’m not a big fan of abrupt endings which don’t address certain things or give you answers you’ve been looking for for the past 200 pages.

However I liked the exploration of motherhood and the ways in which women can be judged on their mothering skills, even by other women. Other mothers.

7/10

Book #126 of 2017

The Lone Child is book #41 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

1 Comment »

Review: Daintree by Annie Seaton

Daintree (The Porter Sisters #2)
Annie Seaton
Pan Macmillan AUS
2016, 326p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The Daintree breeds survivors, those who can weather the storms, heat and floods that come hand-in-hand with its beauty. Doctor Emma Porter is one such survivor, dedicated to her patients and to preserving this precious land where she has made a home.

Emma’s quiet life is disrupted when Doctor Jeremy Langford starts working at the hospital, bringing back painful memories: Jeremy was her first love and embodies all that she left behind in Sydney. Jeremy has demons of his own, however, and the tight-knit community of Dalrymple seems to promise the peace he has been looking for.

But while some come to the Daintree to find shelter, others are here to exploit the rainforest’s riches. And they will stop at nothing to get their hands on its bounty.

For the middle book in this trilogy, we move away from the Northern Territory to north Queensland and the tropical rainforest setting of the Daintree. Emma works as an emergency doctor and also has a practice in town where she focuses on her passion of a holistic approach. The local area has been understaffed for some time but it appears that finally they are getting someone to help share the load. It’s hard to say who is more surprised at seeing the other – Emma or Dr Jeremy Langford.

Years ago at university in Sydney the two were in an intense relationship which ended abruptly with the death of Emma’s father when she had to go back to the Northern Territory. A series of {deliberate} misunderstandings lead them both to think that the other has ended things suddenly. The two were very different – Jeremy comes from a very prominent and wealthy Sydney family of private practitioners with a private school upbringing and Emma’s family always struggled to make the mango farm profitable. She had plenty of insecurity about whether or not she would fit in in Jeremy’s world. After a long period of no contact, the two will be working closely together and living in close proximity.

As well as dealing with the reappearance of Jeremy in her life and what that might mean for her both professionally and personally, Emma has noticed that there’s something weird going on in the forest. There are definitely people up to something in there and when she stumbles across something that gives her a clue, it could threaten her life.

This was another really solid story with a combination of romance and suspense that blended together really well in an exotic location. Emma is a very solitary person at the book’s opening – she lives in an isolated cottage accessed by a punt across a river with temperamental amenities. Although she works with people and occasionally socialises with a group, she seems to shun close relationships and seems to enjoy keeping her distance. I enjoyed her approach to medicine and the way in which she looks to traditional methods to supplement her modern knowledge.

Jeremy was an okay character, I didn’t really love him. I felt his assumption that Emma had dropped out because she couldn’t cope in Sydney quite arrogant and also unfounded. She got excellent marks – in fact Emma remembers to herself how Jeremy used to sulk if she got a better mark than he did. Jeremy’s background was a bit of a cliche – rich doctor dad, socialite mother, over-achieving brothers. Jeremy wants something different for himself and after a really traumatic event that he witnessed that touched him personally, he wants to approach his career in medicine quite differently. That was interesting although I do feel that he overcame his obstacles about practicing in an emergency department sort of magically, merely by telling Emma about it. That felt a bit of an easy way out for me and I’ve liked to see him do a bit more work to overcome this almost a form of PTSD. There was also little resolution with the actions of one of his family members that I felt could’ve been addressed for the sake of closure.

The mystery of what was going on in the forest was a really strong part of the story. At first I definitely thought the culprits were up to something else and I didn’t even consider the possibility of what they were actually doing. It’s plausible and I have to admit that although I was right in my suspicions about a couple of people that were involved, I was definitely surprised by the identity of the final person. It felt like the suspense built really nicely and there were a couple of really dangerous events that raised the tension level a few notches.

Although this is the second book in the series, for me it’s the final one as I read the third one first. All together they are a really nice trilogy. I thought all the sisters were great, they were all strong, independent women with interesting careers (chopper pilot, doctor, engineer) and the romances weren’t super strong parts of the plots, more like a complimentary piece of the overall picture. I’d love to read more romantic suspense novels set in rural Australia – we have such a broad array of settings that are ripe for this sort of genre and Annie Seaton has utilised some of them really cleverly in this trilogy.

8/10

Book #124 of 2017

Daintree is book #40 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

 

1 Comment »

Review: Dangerous Minds by Janet Evanovich

Dangerous Minds (Knight & Moon #2)
Janet Evanovich
Headline Review
2017, 336p
Copy courtesy of Hachette AUS via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

DANGEROUS MINDS is a thrilling, adrenaline-fuelled adventure featuring unlikely sleuths Knight & Moon from Janet Evanovich, author of the New York Times bestseller CURIOUS MINDS, which introduced Knight and Moon, and beloved author of the No. 1 bestsellers in the Stephanie Plum series. A must-read for fans of Sue Grafton and J D Robb.

Buddhist monk Wayan Bagus has lost his island of solitude and wants it back. The Pacific island had a mountain, beaches, a rainforest, and a volcano. And now it’s gone. Poof! Vanished without a trace.

Boyishly charming Emerson Knight likes nothing better than solving an unsolvable mystery. Finding a missing island is better than Christmas morning in the Knight household. When clues start leading to a dark and sinister secret, Emerson will need to assemble a crack team for help. Since a crack team isn’t available, he enlists his cousin Vernon and Riley Moon. Riley Moon has a Harvard business degree and can shoot the eyes out of a grasshopper at fifty feet, but she can’t figure out how to escape Emerson Knight’s odd world. Vernon has been Emerson’s loyal and enthusiastic partner in crime since childhood.

Together, this mismatched trio will embark on a world-wide investigation that will expose a conspiracy one hundred years in the making. 

I’m a bit confused about the writing of this series. I thought the entire thing was a collaboration with Phoef Sutton but this book bills only Janet Evanovich and to be honest, it feels different from the first one. Particularly the character of Emerson Knight. And although Curious Minds, the first book in this series is listed on Phoef Sutton’s website, this one is not. So I’m not sure if it’s still a collaboration? I thought it was for 4 books but honestly, who knows.

This book is ridiculous. But I think that people who pick up books with Janet Evanovich’s name on the front cover probably expect ridiculous by now. The first one was kind of ridiculous too but tempered ridiculous, if that makes sense. I get the feeling that the tempered may be going by the wayside from now on though.

Riley is now working for Emerson, I’m not even sure what she does, he has some ridiculous name for it but basically she’s some sort of assistant. I guess he felt bad for her considering he basically cost her her job and he has buckets of money so he can afford to employ her. I guess she’s getting used to Knight because she doesn’t really seem to bat an eye when a Monk turns up and tells Knight that the island he was living on in the South Pacific is just….gone.

I’m not American so I don’t know anything about Teddy Roosevelt or the Rough Riders but plugging it into google tells me that they were an actual thing and Janet Evanovich turns them into a modern day group of villains here doing all sorts of stuff that I can’t really explain but it involves Yellowstone National Park, lava/magma and the potential to make the entire world go BOOM.

There were some things I did like – I love an adventure so part of this book did feel like one big adventure with camping and chasing bad guys and all that sort of thing. And because Emerson is stinking rich, and I do mean utterly stinking rich, they can do a lot of it in style with new cars, private planes, etc. I’m a girl who likes my creature comforts so I’m totally on board with that sort of thing. They are unusual characters so a lot of the time they go about things in unusual ways. Sometimes that pays off, sometimes it doesn’t.

What I didn’t like? The extras, including the monk guy and Emerson’s creepy cousin, both of whom smacked of Janet Evanovich’s patented “comedy sidekicks for the LOLs”. I just don’t think that they’re entirely necessary on board for the whole thing and didn’t really add anything to the plot or provide any pivotal moments. Emerson’s character was inconsistent throughout this book and in comparison to the last book (the comment about he might be a horn dog, for instance, read very strange). Perhaps this is a result of the fact that this one doesn’t seem to have been co-written, perhaps it’s being chalked up to “character evolution”, I don’t know. It just read quite jarring. I also really disliked the way the book ended, which was quite abruptly and on a snappy one-liner which gave no resolution to something promised earlier on in the story and just felt really unexpected, like I was left annoyingly hanging. And I just know the next book will pick up some time in the future and either never mention what should’ve happened, or gloss over it.

This one was middle of the road for me. A quick read that was entertaining in parts but it had a few things that I struggled with.

5/10

Book #123 of 2017

1 Comment »

Review: Fatal Mistake by Karen M. Davis

Fatal Mistake (Lexie Rogers #3)
Karen M. Davis
Simon & Schuster AUS
2017, 342p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Detective Lexie Rogers is tough, smart and at the top of her game. She’s seen it all, from bikies, blood and betrayal to drugs, deviants and deception … and the violent knife attack that almost killed her as a young cop on the beat.

Lexie’s sent on the job of a lifetime — to go deep undercover, as beautiful Lara Wild, a drug distributor, to expose a huge dealing ring among Sydney’s most treacherous criminals. What she discovers is that being undercover is the safest place to be, especially when you’re a cop with target on your head, but one false move means she’ll die. And creeping from the shadows is the darkness of her past, something she can never outrun.

Lexie knows she can’t trust anyone — but the trouble is, she’s not even sure if she can trust herself.

This is the third book in the Detective Lexie Rogers series and it’s been one of my most anticipated books for a couple of years now. In fact I’ve just looked and realised that the second book came out in 2014. I hadn’t realised it had been that long.

Lexie is about to start her first undercover operation, working with a familiar face in Rex Donaldson. Lexie is posing as Rex’s niece to get close to a drug supplier and she’s playing the role of a beautiful, confident but unattainable woman in order to get their target’s attention. While she’s working this job her boyfriend Josh is in northern NSW working another job looking for drug plantations. Soon not only do both of them discover far more than what they bargained for but also threats to their relationship from different directions. Then Rex faces a challenge of a different sort leaving Lexie without his protection and backup in meetings. This forces her to take a more confident role and places her even closer to the target.

I have really enjoyed this series. This one gave a really interesting glimpse into what it might be like to be an undercover operative and I liked reading about the tactics and how everything came together, especially when several separate operations begin to blend into one large one. The book starts with a big bang and to be honest that kind of sets the tone for the whole book. Between Josh, Lexie, her colleagues at her station and also Rex, there’s so much going on here that it feels fast paced, even when Lexie is only laying the groundwork and gathering information. The action revolves between 5-6 or so key players, including a couple of new characters. As well as her undercover operation, Lexie also has an up and coming court case hanging over her where she will have to give evidence against the man that tried to kill her. Her life is pretty stressful at the moment, she has to make sure she plays her role to perfection. One slip and she will be dead. And if someone else has their way, she’ll be dead anyway, blown or not.

The author is a former detective and undercover operative herself and I think she takes care to portray the difficulties involved in each role and the danger that officers constantly face in their day to day lives. Lexie over the course of the three books has been attacked in various ways, other officers are killed in explosions or on the job in some way, there are constant threats to their safety. Despite this, they go on doing the job, dedicated to trying to make a safer environment for people. Lexie lost a brother and has suffered from that and her other experiences but she keeps picking herself back up and getting back into it. I find dedication like that admirable – and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I also find it a tad bit crazy!

Even though I’m sure Lexie could be revisited in the future if desired, things at the end of this book felt quite final – well wrapped up so it’s possible that this is the last Lexie Rogers novel and the author may move on to something else. If that’s the case then I think this has been a very well executed trilogy and I’ve loved each of the books for the insight into police procedure, a glimpse at a seedy underworld I’ll hopefully never be acquainted with in reality and a protagonist that was entertaining and gutsy. My personal favourite character has always been Rex Donaldson, for many reasons, I just think he felt so unique and layered from the very beginning and I’ve really been invested in his story arc.

I’d happily recommend this book (and the entire series) to anyone who enjoys a good gritty crime novel.

8/10

Book #121 of 2017

Fatal Mistake is book #39 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

 

1 Comment »

Review: Secrets Of The Springs by Kerry McGinnis

Secrets Of The Springs
Kerry McGinnis
Penguin Random House AUS
2017, 353p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

When Orla Macrae receives a letter asking her to return to the family cattle property where she grew up, she does so grudgingly. Her estranged uncle Palmer may be dying, but he is the last person she wants to see, not when she’s made a new life far away from where she lost so much. But on his deathbed he utters a few enigmatic words about a secret locked away and a clue as to its whereabouts. 

Intrigued, Orla decides to stay, reconnecting with old friends and taking a chance on a long-time dream of opening the homestead to tourists. Continuing the search for her uncle’s elusive secret, she discovers far more than she bargained for – a shocking truth about her parents’ marriage, and the confession of a chilling murder. 

Set in the stunning countryside north of the Barrier Ranges near Broken Hill, this is an authentic tale of life on the land and a gripping mystery about old family secrets and finding love in the harsh Australian bush.

This is the third Kerry McGinnis book that I’ve read and I’ve really enjoyed them all. They all have quite remote, very unusual settings. This one takes place near Broken Hill in very outback New South Wales and revolves around an old farming family. When she was still just a teenager, Orla left the home she was raised in after the death of her parents but a letter has summoned her back. Her former guardian, her uncle Palmer is dying and he has expressed a wish to see her before he dies. Although reluctant, Orla travels back from where she’s been living, mostly to put affairs in order. But a few muttered words from her uncle about an old secret have Orla rethinking her plans to leave as quickly as possible. Instead she finds more reasons than she could’ve imagined to stay.

Interestingly this book is set some time ago – around the late 1970s, so it takes some time for Orla to be found as she’s living on an island off the coast of South Australia. No one has cell/mobile phones and travel and communication is slower and more laborious. Technically it’s not that long ago but technology has come so far that it feels a very different time, in terms of communicating with people and also advertising and marketing a business.

After the death of her parents in a car accident, Orla went to live with her uncle Palmer, her father’s brother. He was not a demonstrative person and although he fed and clothed her, he didn’t show her affection or love and she got the feeling she was an inconvenience he couldn’t escape due to familial duty. Instead Orla found comfort and affection from her uncle’s cook/housekeeper who is still in residence when she arrives back when her uncle is dying. Also still working on the family farm is a man Orla once loved, a man she also left but it’s a love that’s so tied up in pain that she’s not even sure how to act around him.

This book was really way more than I expected in terms of mystery and intrigue. Orla had always thought the death of her parents was a tragic accident, until her dying uncle muttered a few words and then all of a sudden she found herself investigating what turned out to be a murder. I really enjoyed Orla returning to the town she grew up in, reconnecting with some of the locals, shunning some others and struggling with the desire to tidy things up and go versus the idea that maybe she could actually make her home here again. For financial reasons it makes no sense to sell the family farm and so she must come up with a way to make it profitable and her ideas are very good.

The romance in this is unusual but I found that it really worked for me. The beginning of it, before Orla fled, was certainly different and in the time that Orla has been gone, both her and Mark have known terrible grief and loss. They have something of a second chance, once Orla stops allowing her pain to hold him at arms length, almost like she’s punishing him. Orla, whether she likes it or not at the beginning, fits into this community. I felt that it really showed that she still belonged there, even after the time she’d spent away. Circumstances forced her back, forced her to address the aspects of her past that were so difficult for her and it just felt like she should always stay. Her ideas for how she can support herself are innovative and clever, making the most of herself and people she knows. She begins building relationships and friendships, links with people. I loved the setting as well. I’ve never been to Broken Hill or the surrounding area, it’s an interesting in town in that it is located in one state but actually shares more with another, including taking on the timezone of its neighbouring state. I haven’t read too many books set there or near there either so I really enjoyed being able to ‘visit’ somewhere new and learn a bit about what living there would be like.

I really enjoyed this and found it a refreshing take on the rural genre. The choice to set it in the past but not back in the early 1900s set it apart for me and I found the story riveting. I was invested in Orla’s attempts to unravel the mystery her uncle left as well as find her place. It reminded me that I have still a half dozen or so of Kerry McGinnis’ back catalogue to read and I really need to get around to fitting them in because I like her books so much.

8/10

Book #104 of 2017

Secrets Of The Springs is book #34 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

 

 

Leave a comment »

Review: Kakadu Sunset by Annie Seaton

Kakadu Sunset (Porter Sisters #1)
Annie Seaton
Pan Macmillan AUS
2015, 373p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

In the ancient lands of Kakadu, it’s not just the crocodiles you should be afraid of…

Helicopter pilot Ellie Porter loves her job. Soaring above the glorious Kakadu National Park, she feels freed from the heavy losses of her beloved family farm and the questions around her father’s suicide. But when a search-and-rescue mission on the boundary of the older property reveals unusual excavation works, Ellie vows to investigate.

The last thing she needs is her bad-tempered co-pilot, Kane McClaren, interfering. The son of the current owners of the farm, her attraction to him is a distraction she can’t afford, especially when someone threatens to put a stop to her inquiries – by any means necessary.

Ellie will have to trust Kane if she is to have any hope of uncovering the truth of what is really going on. Between Ellie’s damage and Kane’s secrets, can they find a way to open up to each other before the shadowy forces shut her up…for good?

So recently I read the third book in this loosely linked series where each book features a Porter sister. I enjoyed it but there were definitely aspects of that book that I felt would’ve been more powerful if I’d read the previous books and understood the sisters’ background a little better. Thanks to Pan Macmillan AUS I now have both the previous books and dived into the first one, set near beautiful Kakadu. I’ve read a bunch of books recently with Northern Territory settings and it’s just making me really want to go there.

Ellie works as a private chopper pilot, doing scenic flights for tourists. The second pilot has just disappeared and her employer has hired Kane McClaren although there’s been a bit of miscommunication. Kane is happy to work as an engineer, seeing to the helicopters and making sure they’re in pristine condition but he no longer flies – at all. Ellie will have to take all the flights, something that doesn’t particularly endear Kane to her at the beginning.

Whilst on a flight, Ellie notices something very odd going on at the farm her parents once owned. Now owned by a local politician, Ellie knows what she sees – and not only is it illegal, it will have devastating affects on the local environment. She’s determined to find out what is going on there and why no one knows about it, which sends her into a very dangerous situation that could cost her and others their lives.

Ellie is so awesome. A feisty, confident woman with a really interesting job that she absolutely loves. It’s clear that she has lingering feelings related to her old farm. It was a place of hope and failure, love and terrible loss. What’s going on there now she knows is very wrong, despite some false assurances from the current owner. She isn’t the sort to just sit by and see what happens either, she investigates and noses around a little, questioning people and trying to get to the bottom of it, despite a few subtle warnings.

Kane is new to Ellie’s work, good looking but with a shadow hanging over him. Ellie has always maintained a strict platonic relationship with her colleagues but Kane definitely makes her think twice about that rule. I loved Ellie and Kane together. Ellie seemed quite serious but Kane brought out a more fun, light-hearted side in her and in return she gave him a friendship he so desperately needed as well as support through some difficult times. The two of them really complimented each other and fit seamlessly together as a couple with a strong friendship base. Kane wasn’t disrespectful of Ellie’s job, like some men were when they found out they were being flown by a woman and he knew she was a competent pilot and respected her skills. Kane has some issues from his past prior to arriving in the Northern Territory which are detailed in a very believable and raw sort of way. I really felt for him and you could see how hard he was struggling to control it through sheer willpower alone.

The mystery was really good as well – lots of players and the behind the scenes political stuff was quite interesting too. Bribes and pressure to vote a certain way – I’m sure it probably happens in real life too, to some extent. It kept me on the edge of my seat towards the end, there was lots of action and quite a few of the characters were in precarious situations. I’m really glad I was able to read this as it definitely gave me some good background knowledge on the death of the girls’ father and how it had affected them all. This book gives them the kind of closure that they need in regards to what happened, although the trauma of it still hangs over Dru in the third book. I’m really looking forward to the second book and Emma’s story.

8/10

Book #119 of 2017

Kakadu Sunset is book #38 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

Leave a comment »

Review: Diamond Sky by Annie Seaton

Diamond Sky (Porter Sisters #3)
Annie Seaton
Pan Macmillan AUS
2017, 356
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The Kimberley can be a haven for those who can stand the heat, but its isolated beauty can also be deadly, if you’re not paying attention…

The remote Matsu diamond mine in the Kimberley is the perfect place for engineer Dru Porter to hide. Her insignificance in that vast and rugged landscape helps her feel invisible. And safe. Surely the terror she left behind in Dubai will never find her here.

Security specialist Connor Kirk knows from experience that beautiful women are capable of treachery. When he arrives at Matsu to investigate a diamond theft, he immediately suspects the reclusive but obviously capable Dru Porter. He knows she’s hiding something.

As Connor’s investigation deepens and Dru’s past catches up with her, their instant, mutual dislike threatens to blind them to the true danger lurking in the mine, one which could leave them both at the mercy of the desert…

This is the third in Annie Season’s trilogy of books about the Porter sisters, each set in a quite a glamorous but remote Australian location. This is actually the first I’ve read – I didn’t realise it was linked to other books until I received it and I think it reads well enough alone although there were a few things about the girls’ father that I was curious about that may have been addressed in the previous two books.

Dru Porter works as an environmental engineer at a large diamond mine in remote Northern Territory not far from Lake Argyle. The area is famed for its coloured diamonds, most noticeably pink but also violet, which Dru’s mine produces. Unbeknownst to almost everyone working at the mine, several diamonds were smuggled out and so the company has hired security expert Connor Kirk to go undercover at the mine and find the weaknesses in their security and also, get the evidence required to prosecute the thief and prevent it from ever happening again.

So I really enjoyed the story in this book and I really liked Dru herself but oh wow did I dislike Connor and his attitude. Honestly, the last thing you want is a security expert who cannot be impartial and who comes into a job with hang ups from his past. Connor was once betrayed by a woman and now he knows that women are not to be trusted….. Especially beautiful ones. And beautiful confident ones? They’re obviously hiding something. Probably the fact that they’re a huge diamond thief. At least, this is the way that Connor feels. His internal dialogue about Dru is really unflattering. And it clouds his judgement in almost every way and his incompetence honestly nearly has the most horrid of repercussions for Dru. He doesn’t dig deep enough or conduct a professional/impartial enough investigation – Dru is highlighted by the company as a possible suspect for a location reason before he arrives and it takes Connor no time at all to decide she must be guilty because of stupid reasons, his prejudice and some really half baked circumstantial evidence that he doesn’t actually take the time to follow through on. Some of his methods are also very invasive of someone’s privacy and I thought Dru was entitled to be a lot more angry than she was about his actions.

Connor aside, the book is really enjoyable. Loved a bit of a peek into what it’s like to live/work on a remote mine. Dru works two weeks on followed by two weeks off in a FIFO (fly in fly out) situation and most of the others are similar. The shifts on site are long, it’s a ‘dry’ site (no alcohol, although this is often broken) and the oppressive heat is a burden. I liked Dru’s backstory as well, the real reason she left Dubai as well as the events in her childhood that had shaped her to be the way that she was. I resented a lot of the attitudes toward her though – the whole Ice Queen thing, uptight bitch could do with being taken down a peg or two, doesn’t like men because she hasn’t slept with anyone on site….etc. There’s a bit of a list. I suppose perhaps it’s what you could expect on a mine that’s predominantly staffed by men but it doesn’t make it okay. The conflict between the mine and the local Indigenous population was a good element to the story too, one that I was quite happy to see addressed in significant detail. Part of Dru’s job is liaising with the local Aboriginal community in order to do the best she can at returning the site to how it was before the mine and her connection with Rocky, an Indigenous man who has worked at the mine for many years, was really nice.

Overall I really did enjoy this story and I’d like to read the other two books that came before this one about Dru’s sisters. It’s just a shame that I didn’t really like Connor as a character and never felt felt as though he was redeemed for me, even when he discovered just how colossally he’d gotten things wrong.

7/10

Book #111 of 2017

Diamond Sky is book #36 for the 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge

Leave a comment »

Revisiting: Throne Of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne Of Glass (Throne Of Glass #1)
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury ANZ
2012, 404p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Meet Celaena Sardothien.
Beautiful. Deadly.
Destined for greatness.

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?

So it’s been almost five years since I read Throne Of Glass – my first review is here. I was in a bookshop the other day just browsing and I saw the other books in this series and it reminded me that I only ever read the first book. I don’t know why I didn’t read the next ones, perhaps I missed one coming out, or had too much to read and then once there were a few books I thought it’d take too much time to catch up. But recently reading all three of the A Court Of Thorns & Roses series and loving them, I thought hey, you know, I really should get in and get up to date with the Throne of Glass series. I remembered that I’d pretty much loved this when I read it way back in July of 2012, so I picked up Crown Of Midnight, Heir Of Fire Empire Of Storms. They didn’t have a copy of Queen Of Shadows that matched all the others so I had to order that in. I picked it up last Thursday and so I was ready to go.

I did pick up Crown Of Midnight to try and start it but when I opened it, I realised that I really didn’t remember anything from Throne Of Glass. I’ve probably read over a thousand books since I read Throne Of Glass and even though I read through my review and had the general gist of the storyline, I knew that it’d probably be much better if I dug out my copy of that and re-read it before picking up the rest of the series. So on Saturday, I did just that.

The first thing that struck me was that 5 years ago I loved this enough to rate it a 9/10 on my blog, which isn’t something I do super often. This time around I’d say I liked it – but I didn’t love it. There were certain aspects that I really enjoyed but there were others that I felt were quite weak and/or problematic.

I really enjoyed the setting. The world feels both interesting and sinister at the same time – Celaena’s fellow competitors are all thieves or assassins or men who have been discharged from the King’s Army for probably heinous crimes, considering the kind of acts the King tolerates and probably also endorses. Celaena is malnourished and needs training but her skills, learned over 7 or so years intensive training, haven’t completely deserted her. She’s advised to remain middle of the pack so as not to attract too much attention as she isn’t competing as herself but as some sort of random lady jewel thief, which I’m surprised that anyone buys. Celaena has trouble following instructions though, which probably doesn’t bode well in the future.

The tension built well, especially in the final battle which I actually had zero memory of. Obviously I knew who was going to win (Celaena has a touch of the Special Snowflake about her, it feels like there’s a lot of foreboding about the weird murder of her parents and probably she’s not just some random from some village etc) but if she didn’t then there wouldn’t be a series, because her opponent would certainly have made it a fight to the death. However there were times when I “bought in” and Maas did made me wonder how she could possibly still be victorious in the situation she found herself in. So props for the setting and the build of the tournament and final battle as well as the premise itself.

Things I didn’t like so much: there’s a love triangle and in my second reading I am pretty much team no one. I don’t particularly like either of the suggested possible would-be could-be lovers. One is the Crown Prince, the son of the despot King but he’s not like his father, he’s sensitive with hidden depths. He likes to read books. And is more of a pacifist than the conqueror his father is. But he’s also an annoying vain flirt who is supposed to be charming but I really found him a bit too try hard pretty boy. He’s always sliding into Celaena’s rooms at inappropriate times and I don’t buy into the romanticism of the prince and the assassin at all. The other option is the Captain of the Guard and I haven’t existed in a vacuum the past five years despite not going on with the series. I know Chaol has his fans (sidenote: I keep wanting to pronounce his name as “chole” in my head, which I know it isn’t but it’s a very hard habit to break) but honestly I didn’t like him much either. He was okay – I think if I had to pick one at this stage, it would be him but the fury I’ve seen around at some parts suggests he probably isn’t endgame either, the same way in which the Court of Thorns & Roses series went. There’s far too much smirking and sideways glances happening between these three and Celaena seems to swing hot and cold on how she feels about one or both of them, often on the same page. Some of the dialogue read as a bit awkward at times (painfully so) and I felt as though there wasn’t a lot of real personality in pretty much any of the characters. Hopefully this is something that changes as I get further into the series and the world and the characters flesh out and evolve more. At the moment it just feels like everyone is blandly stoic with the occasional sardonic twist.

This has actually been quite an interesting exercise – I don’t often re-read much these days and I’ve never reviewed something for a second time. I was quite intrigued by my slightly different opinion and how my reading tastes may have grown and changed in the past five years. I think what I expect from a story is different now. It’s a long time and although it probably sounds like I’m more negative than positive on the book (I’m not, I still really liked it, just didn’t glowingly love it like first time around), I am still really keen to get into the rest of the series and see how it goes. The first book felt like a lot of set up for it to go places so I can’t wait to start the second book and see what happens next. We haven’t actually really seen Celaena as an assassin, although she thinks about killing people. But I think about killing people and I don’t actually do it. It’ll be interesting to read a MC who kills people for a living and how she will find working for the repulsive King.

This time around….I’m giving it:

7/10

Book #109 of 2017

2 Comments »

Review: Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

Dead Letters
Caite Dolan-Leach
Corvus (Atlantic Books)
2017, 332p
Copy courtesy Allen & Unwin

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Ava doesn’t believe it when the email arrives to say that her twin sister is dead. It’s not grief or denial that causes her scepticism – it just feels too perfect to be anything other than Zelda’s usual manipulative scheming. And Ava knows her twin.

Two years after she left, vowing never to speak to Zelda again after the ultimate betrayal, Ava must return home to retrace her errant sister’s last steps. She soon finds notes that lead her on a twisted scavenger-hunt of her twin’s making.

Letter by letter, Ava unearths clues to her sister’s disappearance: and unveils harrowing truths of her own. A is for Ava, and Z is for Zelda, but deciphering the letters in-between is not so simple…

This book was…..messed up.

Two years ago Ava fled her home, the family vineyard in the Fingers Lakes region for France and postgraduate study. Her twin, Zelda, had betrayed her, as had someone else. Their family was falling apart – their father gone, their mother a victim of disease that had ravaged her body and mind. Ava couldn’t escape fast enough and she stays away for two years, until she receives the email that her sister and twin is dead. She comes home immediately but she doesn’t believe it to be true. This is exactly the sort of crazy scheme Zelda might do in order to get what she wants. Ava soon finds herself seeking clues, all the letters of the alphabet, from A to Z. And when she gets to the end, she will have the truth.

Ava is even by her own admission (and that of several other characters) a difficult character. She’s somewhat standoffish, quite cold, not affectionate or loving. To be honest when you look at her upbringing and her life it’s not really hard to see why she might be like that. Her mother is a vicious narcissist, perhaps trapped by her own demons and her father traded in one family for several others years ago.

The family own a struggling (very struggling, as Ava finds out) vineyard. The twins’ parents are extraordinarily heavy drinkers and the twins themselves have been steadily drinking since their teenage years. To be honest, the amount of alcohol consumed in this novel was a real struggle for me…..I don’t come from a family that drinks much and I left behind the teen years of drinking long ago. I can take it or leave it now but the bottles religiously consumed day after day became quite exhausting. Life was a neverending circle of  drinking until sick or passing out and getting up the next day and doing it all over again. No wonder everyone was basically a wreck. I’m not sure they’d had a sober thought for years.

The mystery is decent – if Zelda isn’t dead, why has she faked her death and left this elaborate scheme for her sister? And if she is actually dead…why has she left this elaborate scheme for her sister? It’s clear that Ava and Zelda have a lot of unresolved issues from what happened two years ago. Zelda is sorry, but in the way that careless people are sorry. Like she’s saying it because she thinks that’s what she needs to say in order to get Ava to forgive her and restore the status quo. Because we only ever see Zelda through Ava’s eyes and through some letters she writes, most of which revolve around this game, it was difficult to get a true handle on her personality but what I did know made it hard to sympathise with her throughout most of the book. I don’t think it was really until nearly the end of the book that I began to understand Zelda a little. Began to understand them both as a unit.

I enjoyed parts of this – I liked Ava’s analytical mind and the way in which she skipped from clue to clue. The game however, seemed to rely on a lot of things being done at the right times, etc in order to work and at times it was a bit difficult to believe that things would go so smoothly, despite how well the twins knew each other. I did find the alcohol distracting though, the entire story revolves around it and it got a bit tedious if I’m honest. I understand that centering the story around a vineyard means grog is going to be a big part of it. But it was more than that. It was an obsession with pretty much everyone in the book a raging alcoholic, including some being self-aware about it but with kind of a philosophical shrug and a “meh what can you do” type thing. Maybe a lot of the problems in this novel might’ve been reduced greatly if everyone had just sobered the heck up for a bit.

It kept me interested, I will say that. I did greatly want to find out what had happened to Zelda, if she was really dead or if like Ava believed, she had staged this whole thing as some sort of elaborate plot. However there were things that I didn’t enjoy and things that I felt perhaps went a bit too far for plausible believability. It’s certainly an interesting debut though and I did enjoy quite a lot of the writing so I would definitely read something by this author again in the future.

6/10

Book #105 of 2017

Leave a comment »

Review: The Law Of Attraction by Roxie Cooper

The Law Of Attraction
Roxie Cooper
HQ Digital
2017, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

“Well, it’s fair to say your background isn’t conventional in terms of the average barrister…” Dolus points out. “Well that depends on your definition of conventional and who wants to be average anyway?”

Northern girl Amanda Bentley isn’t your average lawyer.

She spent her teenage years in the Working Men’s club and hanging out in the park to avoid going home. Fresh out of law school she lands pupillage at a top set of Chambers and is catapulted into a world completely alien to her own, fighting prejudice and snobbery at every turn.

Piling on the pressure, this year it is announced two candidates have been accepted but there’s only one job at the end of it. And her competition? Marty, her smarmy law school nemesis.

Throw into the mix an ill-advised romance with the staggeringly sexy Sid Ryder and Amanda quickly realises winning pupillage isn’t just about how good a lawyer you are.

But even if she does come out on top, all of it could be for nothing if her colleagues ever discover who she really is and one very dark secret.

I struggled with this book. It sounded fun and feisty but I had a really hard time getting into it. Amanda is obviously very smart but I got bored of hearing about her platinum blonde hair and how people would judge her on her looks and not realise how good a lawyer she was. She has recently graduated and the book opens with her interview to gain pupillage (this book is set in London, I’m not British so I don’t really know what that is so I had to google it. It’s like being an apprentice with the end goal practicing independently at the Bar) at a prestigious firm. There are so many candidates and in the end they can’t decide between two so they award it to two people on a sort of probation for twelve months where there’s only one job at the end. So basically they make it a big competition and of course the other person that gets the probation apart from Amanda is her university nemesis!

I did admire a lot about Amanda, she had obviously worked very hard to get where she was and she was very ambitious. She didn’t have the most supportive or privileged background and there’s something in her past that haunts her but I honestly didn’t feel like it was as big a deal as she made it out to be, when it was finally revealed. It seemed like a lot of angst over nothing really, something that she was worried about being held against her but really, why on earth would anyone? It was just ammunition for Marty and his accomplice to wield but it read quite weak, in terms of what a deep dark secret could be.

I expected more romance in this – I’m not sure why, it just gave me more of a romance vibe from the blurb and cover but I definitely thought it would be a bigger part of the story. I was quite disappointed with the fact that there’s really not much (if any?) romance at all. What there was I didn’t really find all that great and I couldn’t decide if it was inappropriate or not. There seemed to be some comments that it might be but no one really cared anyway? I found it quite lacklustre and the story of the jilted uhinged ex a bit overdone. Sid was kind of boring and I didn’t really feel as though there was any chemistry between him and Amanda and there’s a few attempts at drama but it felt a bit high school. I couldn’t get into that aspect of the story line and really didn’t care if they ended up together or not.

Definitely struggled to maintain interest in this one unfortunately.

4/10

Book #102 of 2017

2 Comments »