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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

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Review: The Beast by J.R. Ward

The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood #14)
J.R. Ward
New American Library
2016, 508p
Read from my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Nothing is as it used to be for the Black Dagger Brotherhood. After avoiding war with the Shadows, alliances have shifted and lines have been drawn. The slayers of the Lessening Society are stronger than ever, preying on human weakness to acquire more money, more weapons, more power. But as the Brotherhood readies for an all-out attack on them, one of their own fights a battle within himself…

For Rhage, the Brother with the biggest appetites, but also the biggest heart, life was supposed to be perfect—or at the very least, perfectly enjoyable. Mary, his beloved shellan, is by his side and his King and his brothers are thriving. But Rhage can’t understand—or control—the panic and insecurity that plague him…

And that terrifies him—as well as distances him from his mate. After suffering mortal injury in battle, Rhage must reassess his priorities—and the answer, when it comes to him, rocks his world…and Mary’s. But Mary is on a journey of her own, one that will either bring them closer together or cause a split that neither will recover from… 

To be honest, I mostly just read these here and there for the laughs now. But I do prefer the “original gangster” Brotherhood – Wrath, Rhage, Zsadist, Phury (although not really), Vishous. And those names look even more ridiculous when you type them all out like that. And they’re just the tip of the weird name ice berg.

Rhage found his shellan in Mary in the second book. Mary is a human but the Scribe Virgin kindly fixed it so they can be together forever, although they will never be able to have children (young, as the vampires call them) of their own. A bit of time has passed since their book and both Rhage and Mary feel that there are some troubles in their relationship. They still love each other but they don’t feel as connected, as though they’re on the same page as before. With several young being born into the household in recent times (Wrath and Beth, Zsadist and Bella) and Layla the Chosen pregnant with twins, the issue of them never having their own young has reared its head and Rhage in particular is thinking about it.

I’ve dropped off these in recent years – I read The King which was about Wrath and Beth. That was book 12 and I read it three years ago. The rage around book 13 meant I stayed away but I saw this at my local library the other day when I took my kids to pick out a book each and thought I might as well get it and see what was happening. Rhage and Mary aren’t really one of my favourite couples but I also liked them a lot more than a lot of the others and I’m a sucker for an update. This book though, it’s a bit of a hot mess. Actually this entire series is a hot mess these days.

There’s just so much going on. Apart from Rhage and Mary, there’s also Vishous having some sort of personal crisis and eventually pondering whether he might one day want to be a father himself, a bunch of text devoted to Assail the vampire coke addict and something gruesome he uncovers, Layla trying to gestate her twins and some character I’ve never seen before named Jo who is a real estate agent? receptionist? who investigates reportings of vampires, mostly by drugged out youtubers. And yet this book is 500+ pages and I read it in a couple of hours. I have to admit I skimmed a few pages here and there mostly ones that involved Lassiter because he is really annoying.

Because I didn’t read The Shadows I had no idea who Bitty was but it didn’t really matter, just understand that she is the Perfect Answer to the question posed in this book. She was okay as a character, weirdly precocious in the way of book children, who talk and act way above their years but also possess a childlike innocence, etc. I just feel like this book really scraped the barrel for conflict between the couples. Rhage does something unbelievably stupid, Mary somehow miraculously manages to fix it, they finally have a conversation or two and basically everything is then fine. I’m not even sure how this got a full length book but Zsadist and Bella only got a novella as their “second book/update book”.

God help me though, I remember Layla and Xcor’s story from The King and I didn’t mind it. It continued on in this book although they don’t even have a scene together in the entire thing and….I think I like it? Enough to want to read the next book which is The Chosen about Layla and Xcor and apparently it’s already out. So I guess I’ll be going back to the library at some stage. It’s like there’s always something that keeps me coming back, whether it be an update book or enough of an interest in a part of the story to get the next book. I don’t know why, because I find the writing quite abrasive, the vernacular/slang just hard to read at times.

An average read but somehow I’m still sucked into this series.

5/10

Book #122 of 2017

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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

 

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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

 

 

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Review: Queen Of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Queen Of Shadows (Throne Of Glass #4)
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury ANZ
2015, 645p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

***Be warned, general SPOILERS for the previous books***

For me, the previous books were like, building books. And then this one and the next, are like Books Where Shit Actually Happens.

Calaena (now Aelin I suppose?) has left Rowan behind and returned to Adarlan with some plans. It’s time to get revenge on someone, time to rescue someone (or two someones really), time to destroy someone. After the holy wow ending of the third book, Dorien remains trapped inside himself, struggling against what is essentially a demon being. Aelin’s cousin is in the dungeons, to be publicly executed as a way of drawing her out. It’s time to put some plans into motion and for a while she’s going to have to wear her assassin’s face until the time is right.

It’s now been a while since I’ve read this book so some of the finer details will probably escape me or blur into one with my memories of other books but this one was definitely one of my favourites of the series. It’s the one where Celaena finally kind of stops talking about things and starts actually doing things and it’s where you get to see some of her carefully constructed plans actually come to fruition. There’s quite a lot going on with quite a few narrators as well, some of whom have very different agendas.

I’ve no doubt that pretty much everyone who read this series waited for the day that Calaena would get her revenge on Arobynn Hamel, the ‘King of the Assassins’ as it were who found her as a child on a riverbank and turned her into a ruthless killing machine by way of training and ‘lessons’. I know I certainly was waiting for it. The downfall of Arobynn and the King were probably two of the things I looked forward to in this series from the first book. As much of a shit as I thought Arobynn was before this book, it was honestly nothing compared to what he attempts to do (believes he has done) to Celaena in this book. So I was super invested in what was going to happen to Arobynn.

And to be honest, it’s pretty much one of the only things in this entire series that has disappointed me. It felt so lacklustre, after such a massive build up. Like why did I even read all about this guy’s heinous deeds to people for the last four books? It’s one of the few complaints that I’ve had in a series that doesn’t mind a confrontation, a gruesome execution, a fight, etc that this felt so boring and shunted aside like the author thought eh, I’ve written myself into a corner in that this guy has to die but I sort of like him because he’s got hidden depths and he really cares about Celaena so we’ll palm it off and have it happen in the most boring way possible. I have not read the Assassin short stories so it was also palmed off to a character I had only met in this book. I found the whole thing pretty meh.

But luckily for me, that was the only thing I found meh because the rest of this book is freaking awesome. I’m not a big fan of the way characters get split up in books (generally right as they come to some sort of realisation about their feelings) so I was pleased when Rowan appeared maybe a third of the way in to this book with a message for Celaena that someone wanted her dead. He arrives to watch her back, knowing the threat all too well and it’s an opportunity for their bond to grow, both of them allowing an intimacy with each other that they don’t with anyone else.

The little group feels like it has almost insurmountable odds….there’s really only Celaena, Rowan, Aedion, Chaol (sort of reluctantly, he has some issues with Celaena and definitely some issues with her feelings for what poor Dorien is now) and Nesryn, a city guard Chaol trusts as well as Lysandra. The downfall of the King has been a long time coming too and there was some really interesting stuff revealed in this book centering around the King and what he had done over the years. Sometimes there are bits and pieces in these novels that seem like a throwaway line, something that doesn’t really mean much but then it crops back up in the story later on and gets expanded upon until it forms something really important. It’s sort of the same for characters – lesser ones slink into the narrative in ways where you don’t really notice them too much until all of a sudden it’s like they’ve always been there.

The layers continue in this novel, woven in are plans and plans and more plans among the action as all of the different threads look like they are moving towards the same location. I am so admiring of the way everything is building in this story. It’s quite complex and the further I get into it the more impressed I am. This book is pretty damn close to being the most perfect of reads.

9/10

Book #113 of 2017

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Review: An Inconvenient Duchess by Christine Merrill

The Inconvenient Duchess (The Radwells #1)
Christine Merrill
Harlequin M&B Historical
2014, 2014p
Freebie on iBooks

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

“Dear Cici and Father,” “I have come to Devon and married a duke. And I’m more tired and hungry than I have ever been in my life. Please let me come home.”

Compromised and wedded on the same day, Lady Miranda was fast finding married life not to her taste. A decaying manor and a secretive husband were hardly the stuff of girlish dreams. Yet every time she looked at dark, brooding Marcus Radwell, Duke of Haughleigh, she felt inexplicably compelled and determined to make their marriage real…

At the moment I am ‘babysitting’ an 8wk old kitten while his foster carer is away for a few days. He’s the cutest thing on four legs and sooo much fun. At night I’ve got him in the ensuite bathroom and to keep an eye on him, I started reading this book just to make sure he’d settle and not get distressed about being somewhere new. Well, he fell asleep immediately and never made a sound but I ended up so into this book that I read it in one sitting.

I don’t read a lot of M&B any more – I read so many in my teen years as my grandmother had a subscription and when they’re kind of all you’re reading, it’s pretty easy to burn out on them. But now, many years later, I am swayed by the odd blurb and end up reading one. I don’t know why but I’ve never read many from the Historical line so when I saw this one I decided I had to get it.

The Duke of Haughleigh has been once again drawn to his mother’s deathbed only this time it actually appears as though she may be dying. Tricked into a promise he didn’t really understand, he’s surprised when a woman arrives on his doorstep unchaperoned. He knows that in order to preserve her reputation, he’ll have to marry her immediately, getting himself a new Duchess. A widower, the Duke knew that his time had come to marry again and provide the estate with an heir, if only to stop it falling into the hands of his wastrel brother St John.

The girl in question is Lady Miranda, of good birth but fallen on very impoverished times. The Duke is not at all what she expects – she was hoping for someone kind, maybe older, content to leave her be. The Duke is none of those things, although their marriage was made in haste with the two of them virtual strangers, there’s glimmers of possibility that it could actually work.

I really enjoyed this. I like a forced marriage where the couple don’t really know each other but arrangement or circumstance forces their hand. Despite the fact that the Duke is quite gruff and has a temper, Miranda doesn’t cower from him and isn’t afraid of him. Both of them seem to want to make the best of their situation and try and make this marriage work and it perhaps would’ve gone a lot smoother if not for the sneaky villain of the story, the Duke’s younger brother.

And wow, was he.  St John is definitely a jerk of the highest order, basically good for nothing gambler, womaniser, runner up of debts expecting money from the family purse to constantly bail him out. At first Miranda cannot understand why Marcus, the Duke, orders him off the property and her kind nature ends up putting her in a very difficult situation when St John decides that he has misread the situation and can use that to get the ultimate revenge on his brother for a perceived wrong years ago. It becomes quite clear as the story goes on that he’ll stop at nothing to achieve his goal and only the fact that Miranda has been able to break through the shell surrounding the Duke and convince him of her good character, does he not succeed in driving the two apart (well okay the fact that Miranda was still innocent helped too).

There’s another book after this one that features St John as the ‘hero’ and I have to admit I’m kind of curious about it. St John is so horrid in this book. Fair enough if he hates his brother, but the fact that he was willing to do horrible things to Miranda for the sake of revenge….I’m definitely interested to see how such a person could be redeemed.

I liked the way that Marcus and Miranda got to know each other in this though. Miranda was incredibly loyal and steadfast and Marcus was remarkably free of prejudice. The two of them ended up being exactly what the other needed. Miranda is nothing like Marcus’ first Duchess – even though she was married off to a Duke due to someone else’s orchestration, the title itself doesn’t really mean anything to her as such. She’s also excellent at household management and wastes no time bringing the estate up to scratch and taking over the running of the staff. She’s also compassionate and not afraid to get her hands dirty either. She brings out a somewhat softer side in Marcus too, and once he learns that he can trust Miranda, they have a really nice bond that develops and deepens. And when all the truth comes out about Marcus’ first marriage, the reader realises just how much it takes for Marcus to let go of that and completely trust someone, especially around his brother.

I’m in two minds about reading the next book. On one hand, I really want to see how the author redeems St John and turns him into a person you actually want to cheer for and want to get a happy ending but on the other hand I really disliked him and I’m just not sure I want to pay money to read about him. A dilemma.

7/10

Book #120 of 2017

 

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Review: Burning Moon by Jo Watson

Burning Moon (Destination Love #1)
Jo Watson
Headline Eternal
2016, 304p
Freebie on iBooks

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Chase your dreams. Dance under the stars. Fall in love at the festival of Burning Moon.

WARNING: Being jilted at the altar in front of 500 wedding guests can lead to irrational behaviour, such as going on your honeymoon to Thailand alone.

On the way to paradise, symptoms may include getting arrested, setting yourself on fire, turning up on a ‘Missing Poster’ and going viral.

Side-effects may include desert island stranding, star gazing and jungle trekking.

Recovery will lead to partying the night away at Burning Moon festival – and falling in love with the person you least expect…

Hmmm.

I read this because I actually spotted the second one while browsing iBooks and when I went to have a look at the first I discovered that I already had it. I download stacks of free books every week and then generally pick through when I’m looking for something and choose ones to read at random. I was looking for something to read before bed and this isn’t too long so I ended up finishing it in one night.

Lily is humiliatingly dumped by her fiance just before she’s about to walk down the aisle to marry him, leaving her a simple note and disappearing off the face of the earth. Lily wallows for a while before she makes a snap decision to fly to Thailand on her own and go on the honeymoon they were supposed to have. On the plane she makes eye contact with a man and he pops up several times both on the flight and after. Damien shows Lily a completely different holiday to the one she was expecting and along the way she completely realigns what it is she wants out of life and especially love.

I love the idea of this. I really do. Just the execution didn’t work for me personally.

One of the things I really don’t like is that sort of wacky, crazy comedy where everything is exaggerated for ridiculous effect and this book contains a lot of that. Lily is basically a walking disaster in the way that makes you wonder how she’s even made it to mid-20s without suddenly becoming a headline in the Darwin Awards. There were a few things I just had trouble buying, even given Lily’s disturbed state of mind.

The other thing is the speed. I’m all for getting over the douchebag that dumped you five minutes before you were due to walk down the aisle but everything happens so quickly. She invites Damien to stay with her in her luxurious honeymoon suite when they get off the plane, she’s having a bath (which is in the main part of the suite) trusting him to just keep his back turned, then she’s following him to some party. The whole thing takes place over a few days and then she loves him so much by the end of that that it overshadows her life for the entire next year. It just felt so rushed and even though there were some times where the chemistry showed flickers of promise, everything was happening so fast that I didn’t really have time to sit back and enjoy it developing.

I liked Damien, although the fact that he was super rich felt superfluous to the plot really, I wasn’t even sure why it was there given he was basically backpacking his way around the world without a $ to his name. When Lily invites him to stay with her it’s because he hasn’t got any money yet to pay for accommodation and needs to go and sort that out somehow, obviously working odd jobs to scrape together enough cash to tide him over until his next flight. All the flights are prebooked in advance but he seems to wing it in between which just made me feel anxious because I’m old now and the time where I find it romantic to just drift around the world without money or plans is now long gone. Actually to be honest, I’m not sure there was ever a time in my life when I would’ve been on board with that sort of lifestyle. I’m not as organised and uptight as Lily but I’d certainly like to arrive in a foreign country and know that I had enough money to pay for somewhere to sleep that night. Damien was interesting though in that he wasn’t quite a typical love interest character – bit gothy, the complete opposite of what Lily thought she really wanted in life. He was nothing like her former fiance, nothing like what she’d pictured for herself and it made her think about why she had such definite ideas about what she’d wanted and how set the plan had been for her life. Damien was like the opposite of a plan. He seemed pretty together and knew what he wanted to do. The conflict felt a bit contrived but mostly what I didn’t like about this book was Lily. She read quite immature and I think she needed that year to really grow up and figure out what would make her truly happy, not what she thought she should do with her life.

This was okay, it was different reading a book mostly set in Thailand. I’ve never been there but despite the hoards of Aussies that go every year I’ve never really read anything that takes place there. However, it could’ve been anywhere with a beach really. But I didn’t love it. Too much just didn’t really work for me or required too much suspension of disbelief.

4/10

Book #118 of 2017

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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

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Review: Wicked Designs by Lauren Smith

Wicked Designs (The League Of Rogues #1)
Lauren Smith
Samhain Publishing Ltd
2014, 407p
Freebie on iBooks

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The League of Rogues takes what they want—but have they taken on too much?

For too long Miss Emily Parr has been subject to the whims of her indebted uncle and the lecherous advances of his repulsive business partner. Her plan to be done with dominating men forever is simple—find herself a kind husband who will leave her to her books. 

It seems an easy enough plan, until she is unexpectedly abducted by an incorrigible duke who hides a wounded spirit behind flashing green eyes.

Godric St. Laurent, Duke of Essex, spends countless nights at the club with his four best friends, and relishes the rakish reputation society has branded him with. He has no plans to marry anytime soon—if ever. But when he kidnaps an embezzler’s niece, the difficult debutante’s blend of sweetness and sharp tongue make him desperate for the one thing he swears he never wanted: love. 

Yet as they surrender to passion, danger lurks in Godric’s shadowed past, waiting for him to drop his guard—and rob him of the woman he can’t live without. 

Product Warnings:
This novel includes a lady who refuses to stay kidnapped, a devilish duke with a dark past, and an assortment of charming rogues who have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into.

I actually really love historical romance. They’re a great palate cleanser for me – often after reading something quite harrowing or depressing, I’ll read a couple just to refresh myself. They tend to follow a formula but it can really work with the right balance. This book didn’t even come close to having anything remotely resembling a balance.

Rakes often do rakish things, it’s why they’re called rakes. However I think Godric and his little band of followers definitely overstepped the mark from ‘rakes’ and well into ‘assholes’. He constructs an elaborate plan to kidnap and ruin Emily because her uncle owes him money. Let’s examine that for a moment….

He decides to kidnap and ruin a woman he doesn’t know and doesn’t have anything to do with and hasn’t ever had anything to do with, who has done him no ill, because her uncle, owes him money. In an age where chastity can be all a woman has in order to further herself, to escape a miserable existence (as is Emily’s), making a good marriage can be the difference between happiness and cruelty. Godric plans to take the one thing that might actually benefit Emily in a petty act of revenge. In an added twist, Emily’s uncle doesn’t actually care a single bit for her and is using her only as a bargaining chip to pay off another creditor so technically Godric’s plan isn’t even going to have its intended effect. Emily’s uncle isn’t going to be devastated, cowed and shamed by his niece’s ruin. At best he’s going to be somewhat irritated that he couldn’t pass her off to be married to his odious business partner. In fact the only person who loses is Emily. Big time.

But it’s okay because Godric and his friends are handsome and charming and rich. It doesn’t matter that they manhandled her, drugged her, kidnapped her and plan to ruin her, either by just the aforementioned acts or the actual physical act. Godric finds himself not averse to offering Emily an esteemed position as his mistress and seems quite baffled when she won’t accept. Because he is handsome and charming and rich any girl should be thrilled to be his mistress. Never mind that Emily is sheltered, inexperienced and hoping to use the one thing she had (her virginity) to marry a kind man who would hopefully not squander the inheritance she receives upon marrying. Basically Godric ruins her chances of that ever happening and Emily should be furious. And in the beginning she kind of is and she fights, including punching one of them in the face, trying to escape. But she seems to accept her fate annoyingly easily, somehow finding the whole bunch of them amusing (they aren’t) as well as you know, handsome and charming and rich. Rich they probably all are, they’re all Dukes and Marquesses and Earls and what have you. Handsome they may be too. But honestly? I didn’t find any of them at all charming. Kidnapping a woman and keeping her against her will is heinous. Godric’s reasoning was pathetic and so were his lame attempts at seduction. Emily soon lost all her spark and turned into an annoying boring wet blanket with some simpering version of Stockholm Syndrome.

I think we are supposed to find Godric some sort of saviour because Emily’s uncle has a far worse fate for her in mind and it’s no doubt that the man he wishes to basically sell her to, is the worst but he is the worst in a way where it’s like the author has deliberately thought of the most hideous person she can insert into the narrative in order to distract from the fact that her ‘hero’ is basically no better underneath. In fact the two of them have similar actions and thoughts, it’s just one involves doing it for the enjoyment of violence and the other is doing it to punish someone else and satisfy his curious desire. Neither of them respect Emily as a person and think of only what they themselves can get out of using her. The only thing I can say about Godric is well, at least he didn’t actually physically hurt her? Even though there’s one scene where he nearly rapes her because he doesn’t believe that she’s actually saying no until she starts to cry. And one of his friends intervenes but because Emily lied to him earlier about speaking a foreign language he leaves them to it because he can’t trust she isn’t lying now.

Oh hi, lying about whether or not you can understand men trying to talk about you in a different language in front of you isn’t the same as claiming you are being forced into a situation you are not comfortable with. She’s an 18 year old virgin. Several of the men have younger sisters. I’d like to know what they’d think about someone treating those sisters the appalling way they all treated Emily. Those little band of followers all get their own book and their own chances to be incredibly douchey to women they supposedly have feelings for, I’m sure. And despite the fact that one of the books sounds really good, I’m not going to read it. Because this one is awful. Downright horribly awful in a way that if it was the first historical romance I’d ever read, I might never have picked up another one.

2/10

Book #117 of 2017

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Review: Heir Of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Heir Of Fire (Throne Of Glass #3)
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury ANZ
2014, 562p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Consumed by guilt and rage, Celaena can’t bring herself to spill blood for the King of Adarlan. She must fight back…

The Immortal Queen will help her destroy the king – for a price. But as Celaena battles with her darkest memories and her heart breaks for a love that could never last, can she fulfil the bargain and head the almighty court of Terrasen? And who will stand with her?

What sort of blurb is that? I told myself I should write these reviews as soon as I finished each book but I have to admit I failed after this book. I read 3, 4 and 5 in quick succession and now that I’m sitting down to write each review, of course the events in each one are blurring together. And that blurb isn’t really helping me at all.

At the end of Crown Of Midnight, Chaol had devised a plot to take Celaena far from Adarlan, which seemed to be the right thing to do at the time but that was before Chaol was aware of exactly who Celaena is. She gave him a clue right before she departed on a ship and smart little cookie that he is, Chaol went back and figured it out right away. Supposedly Celaena is departing to assassinate a royal family, helping to kill the King’s enemies and ensure his power and rule is absolute.

Spending her days lazing on rooftops, drinking bad red wine and generally not doing a lot, Celaena finds herself trapped in an alley one day by a powerful Fae fighter. Prince Rowan is blood sworn to Celaena’s Fae great-aunt and it seems that finally, Celaena may get the chance to get some answers. However before she is granted a proper audience with her aunt to ask those questions, it seems that she has a lot of learn about her powers – how to shift on demand for a start, which she cannot do no matter how many times Rowan beats the crap out of her. Rowan is to be her trainer and the two of them spend a rather large chunk of this book beating seven shades of shit out of each other (mostly Rowan to Celaena) and attempting to beat seven shades of shit out of each other (mostly Celaena to Rowan). It’s interesting because Celaena hasn’t really met anyone who is her physical match before but Rowan is far older, far more powerful (at the moment) and doesn’t care that Celaena is blonde and pretty. Their first meeting involves him punching her in the face because she taunts him with her smart mouth.

As soon as he appeared I figured Rowan was our End Game for Celaena. I was in two minds about him at first – I found all the beating her up a bit rough, perhaps because I’m entrenched in modern day values where it’s not particularly cool to beat anyone up relentlessly. But at the same time Celaena makes me want to punch her at times and I’m only reading about her so I can sort of understand what might make Rowan want to wallop her one. He’s attempting to help her unlock her true potential but there are times when I feel that he may sort of go a bit overboard or about it the wrong way (and I’m not the only one, he’s chastised in the book as well by someone, for trying to break her down when she needed to be lifted up). For all that though, I do like Rowan, mostly because he’s not silly and flirtatious like Dorian or…..Chaol like Chaol. He’s older than old, very powerful and with a hint of Tragic Backstory which he will no doubt overcome when he makes like everybody else and falls in love with Celaena.

There’s some new points of view in this book as well and I found myself kind of liking Manon the Blackbeak witch who is taking part along with the other witches in some sort of nefarious army planned by the King. In return they are promised their lands, known as the Wastes. Manon and her wyvern make for a really good story and I find her intriguing with some interesting depth. I like the role the witches are playing – there are three groups of them and although they’re forced to work together, it’s not without its issues as it seems that they naturally loathe each other and are constantly in conflict. Manon is always having to sort out skirmishes between her underling witches and mostly other witches from the Yellowlegs clan, who readers might remember as being the same clan that the witch Celaena managed to kill, was leader of.

Heir Of Fire was a really good installment of this series – introduced a lot of really interesting new characters, really began to show how powerful Celaena is going to be as she discovered her powers and the role that Rowan is going to play in her life. By the end of this book she is ready to shake off the alias of Celaena Sardothien and embrace Aelin Ashryver Galathynius again – and reclaim her throne.

8/10

Book #112 of 2017

 

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