All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2)
Victoria Aveyard
Orion Books
2016, 440p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.

I don’t know about this series.

I read the first book last year for a challenge and I liked it enough to buy books 2&3. After I did that though, a few people told me that the story went in a pretty weird direction in book 3. I decided that seeing as I owned them, I might as well read them and see how I felt myself about the way things went. I have to say though, this book didn’t exactly fill me with enthusiasm.

Mare is….a bit difficult to connect with in this one. I like some things about her but she is so very stubborn and she doesn’t trust anyone, even her own family. She’s got this one mantra stuck in her head and it makes her look foolish every single time she refuses to let someone else in. This is not something she can do on her own, even she seems to know that. She thinks that the resistance is made up of just a few people but when she discovers the truth even that’s not enough to have her be serious about it as a whole. She has some reason not to trust some but there’s being wary and then there’s being Mare.

In this book, Mare is armed with the information that there are others like her – Reds, but with Silver powers. She knows that Maven has the same list and it becomes a race, who can get to each one first. This is helped along by very convenient plot devices, such as stealing a plane that Cal can conveniently fly and one of the Reds they rescue who can learn anything in like a day – including piloting a plane. So they end up with two pilots, a stolen plane and the ability to skip around attempting to round up as many of these Reds as they can. The abilities are wide and varied and some of them are pretty interesting. But there are so many of them that the book just becomes basically the same thing over and over again and they all blurred together after the first half dozen or so. I never got to know anything about any of them really – most of the time it was all I could do to keep their names and abilities straight. They never really felt like people, just a list of names that Mare felt compelled to round up. She was so single minded and focused on it that to be honest, I’m not sure Mare really saw them as people either.

I like Mare and Cal – I didn’t really have an interest in Maven, even in the first book. And I’m even less interested in him now. He reminds me of Warner in the Shatter Me series and I couldn’t stand Warner. I never even finished that series. I don’t care how much his Mummy issues affected him. I found him boring and uninspiring and in this book he’s just annoying. My end game preference for Maven is for Mare to fry him until he’s see through. But I am absolutely renowned for picking the wrong sides in bizarre triangles so probably they’ll end up King and Queen and it’ll be so romantic. Because nothing says romantic like having a machine that causes excruciating pain and using it on the object of your desire. Awww. For me, Cal is often Mare’s voice of reason, although he could’ve honestly dialled it up a notch here. Mare desperately needed a voice of reason. She ends up in danger of becoming the very thing she’s fighting against – a killing machine who doesn’t discriminate and who wants to punish everyone for the actions of some. I want more Jon – he was probably the most interesting character in this book and he only appears very briefly. Hopefully he’s in King’s Cage, the third book. And I’d like a whole lot less Kilorn. I can’t stand him.

I am going to read the 3rd one, even though I didn’t super love this. I didn’t dislike it – it just felt too long and too repetitive. All these characters were introduced but not in a meaningful way. I want to see where it goes, even though I’m so wary because of all the people that said they threw #3 at the wall. But I kind of want to see what happens next after the way this ended.


Book #15 of 2018

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Review: Stella And Margie by Glenna Thomson

Stella And Margie
Glenna Thomson
Penguin Random House AUS
2017, 292p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

A beautiful novel about two women – a generation apart – thrown together by circumstance, who slowly come to love and understand one another.

Stella and her mother-in-law Margie are two very different women.

Stella is kind, compassionate and just a little chaotic. Margie is prickly, demanding and a stickler for convention. Stella has exciting dreams for the future. Margie has only bitter memories of the past. 

When Margie needs help recovering from a major operation, Stella offers her a place to stay. With no other options, Margie returns to the family farm where for decades, until Stella’s arrival, she was the one in charge. 

Margie has never made life easy for her daughter-in-law, and that’s not going to change now she’s been made a guest in her former home. 

But as the dry summer turns to a beautiful autumn, the two women gradually form an unlikely bond, as the ambitions, secrets, and tragedies that have shaped their lives are slowly uncovered…

This book was the most delightful surprise. I ended up liking it so much.

Margie is 80 and is recovering from a hip operation. Whilst awaiting a bed in a rehab facility, her rooming situation in hospital becomes unbearable and she is forced to accept her daughter in law Stella’s offer for her to come and stay on the family farm. The home that was Margie’s for many, many years. The one she vacated when her son Ross married Stella, who was from the city. Not a farming wife and everything that Margie didn’t understand. She is incredibly reluctant to return to the farm, for many reasons. It’s not what it was when Margie ran the household. Stella seems lazy, failing at housework, at cooking proper meals, failing at the upkeep on the precious garden that Margie cultivated so carefully. Her son Ross is distant and uninterested and Margie struggles to remember much about her two grandchildren. Despite the fact that she’s lived relatively close nearby in town since Ross married Stella, it doesn’t appear as though she’s spent a lot of time with them at all.

The book alternates between Stella and Margie and at first Margie sounds like the grumpiest of old ladies, bitter about her daughter-in-law not being what she would’ve chosen and the ways in which modern women don’t hold up to their historical counterparts. But Margie’s story is a very complex one and is revealed in the most delicate of layers and all of a sudden you begin to understand her abruptness, her inability to be seen as needing help, or even weak. Stella is kind and also businesslike – she doesn’t see Margie as this heavy burden of responsibility as I think Margie feels. I think that in the beginning Stella does regard it as their obligation because Margie is family but she’s not reluctant (unlike Ross). And as she actually gets to know a little bit about Margie and realises how much more there is to this woman that she doesn’t really know despite being part of her family.

Margie is clearly struggling with the modern changes of the farm and their lifestyle. She laments the time the children spend glued to their iPads without understanding what they’re doing, which can be a common complaint. But to be honest, they’re a crucial part of learning these days – my kids’ school does a BYOD from Grade 3 and they use them every day. Margie notices the dust, the slapped together meals as Stella works on something incredibly important to her and the way Stella is always rushing around but without so many things getting done the way Margie would’ve had them done. Margie also refuses Stella’s help on the principle that it’s Stella offering it and often rudely rejects suggestions for the same reason. She knows that she’s doing it simply because it’s Stella doing the asking but yet she can’t seem to stop herself, even when what Stella wants to help with or do is something that Margie wants or needs. I think Margie has a huge amount of pride and due to circumstances in her life, has held herself very aloof from others and it’s something that has become automatic to her, even when that’s not the way she wants to be. It’s a slow process for Margie to let down her guard even just a tiny bit.

Stella ends up becoming such an advocate for Margie – it’s her choice to have her at the farm and she does the bulk (well okay, actually all) of Margie’s care. Helping her shower and dress, washing her clothes, preparing her meals and bringing them to her on a tray. She takes her to her appointments, all whilst juggling many other different time consuming things. In fact she’s so much more supportive of Margie’s presence in their lives than her own husband that it begins to cause friction in their marriage as Stella struggles to get Ross to reconnect with his mother and at least make her feel as though he welcomes her stay. Ross has many unresolved issues over his childhood and his relationship with his mother and some of those seem to manifest into his dislike of Margie’s disrespect for Stella. I thought that it was great he stood up for Stella and didn’t want Margie to disrespect her (isn’t that the wish of many women, that their husbands would call out rudeness and nastiness directed at them from their mothers-in-law) but Stella is actually perfectly capable of taking care of herself and she looks beyond Margie’s dismissal of her as not worthy of much, in a generous way that I suspect I could not. Stella seems to see through Margie’s abrupt attitude or lets it wash over her but she has her times when she feels as though she’s not getting anywhere and why is she making all this effort for someone who doesn’t seem to appreciate it at all?

I read this in a single afternoon – it’s a quiet sort of exploration of families and the secrets some people keep, often for years. The connections and relationships were very well done. I enjoyed the setting and the look at farm lifestyle over the years and how things had changed during Stella and Ross’ era. Both Stella and Margie are wonderful characters in very different ways – I ended up having quite a lot of fondness for Margie. This is a touching look at what it means to be getting older and realising that you are going to have to accept help in humiliating and demeaning ways, but sometimes the people who you feel the most distant from can be the ones that offer so much.


Book #211 of 2017

Stella And Margie is book #62 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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Review: The Secret Vineyard by Loretta Hill

The Secret Vineyard
Loretta Hill
Penguin Random House AUS
2018, 362p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

When you’re stumbling through life, try falling head over heels …

Grace Middleton knew that her ex-husband Jake was a lying, cheating, wife-abandoning bastard.

What she didn’t know – until his untimely death – was that he was also the owner of a secret vineyard in the heart of the Margaret River Wine Region. And, much to the chagrin of his new wife, he’s left the property to Grace’s three young sons.

With the intention of putting it up for sale, Grace takes the boys to view Gum Leaf Grove. And immediately finds herself embroiled in mysteries from Jake’s past – and becomes the accidental target of the resident ‘ghost’.

Nowadays Grace believes in love even less than she believes in ghosts. So no one is more surprised than her when she’s caught between two very different men – with secrets of their own . . .

A sparkling romantic comedy about trust after betrayal, hope after regret, and falling in love after vowing never ever to do it again . . . 

I love all of Loretta Hill’s books and I definitely noticed when she didn’t release something in 2017. However we are kicking off 2018 in the right way with a new book from her.

Grace Middleton is struggling at the beginning of the book. She’s a single mother of three, her former husband having left her for her former best friend. He seems to have little interest in their young boys and almost zero interest in contributing to their upbringing, despite his high-paying job. Grace is tired, lonely, frustrated and her life seems in desperate need of a shake up. It’s kind of ironic that the man responsible for the predicament she’s in now is also the one to provide an out. When Jake, her ex passes away Grace is informed by a lawyer that he’s left their three children a property, acquired before he even met Grace and therefore able to be kept out of the grasping hands of his second wife. Grace decides to visit the property in order to decide what to do with it.

I really enjoyed this. Grace is an easy character to sympathise with. Raising kids on your own is hard, especially when you have a disinterested former partner who only does the bare minimum. Having to explain to three young ones that their father is dead is something no one should ever have to do, no matter the circumstances. Grace originally intends to sell the property in order to fund schooling for the boys or something like that but when they camp out with the intention of getting a house that hasn’t been lived in for 20 years ready for sale, something happens. The boys are thriving, Grace is finding the local community idyllic and even the rumours of the house’s resident ghost isn’t enough to put her off.

You could really see the life that Grace and her children could have at Gum Leaf Grove. The boys are able to get outside and play and explore and there’s a small local school. Grace is intrigued by the background of the house, how it fits into her ex-husband’s life and she discovers that it holds a lot of secrets. She finds herself wanting to get to the bottom of them.

Whilst visiting Gum Leaf Grove, Grace also meets two very different men – one a confident, suave type who wants to sweep her off her feet…..and the other quieter, reclusive and a bit mysterious. Grace will have to decide where her heart lies and what will fulfill her the most but both men have secrets. I liked the way this played out a lot. Grace has been out of the game for a long time – she and her ex-husband were together for a number of years and she hasn’t dated anyone since their separation. I can’t say too much without giving key things away but this worked really well and I think it nailed Grace’s excitement but also her nervousness at stepping back into the dating scene.

Loretta Hill writes with such genuine warmth. I loved the connections between the characters and it’s rare for me to find young children so believable, but Grace’s three boys were a delight but also energetic, busy kids that argue and get into mischief. I really loved the stuff about their interactions with the “ghost” before Grace realises what/who they are talking about. This is a really wonderful feel good type of story. I also really enjoyed the way in which Grace and her mother’s relationship was explored in depth as well as the issues that had led to their estrangement. I got really invested in Gum Leaf Grove as well and the mystery of what had happened there that resulted in the house being abandoned. I love a bit of a renovation story – I think I watch too many shows on the Lifestyle Channel! But you could just see that there was so much potential in the house and for Grace’s life if she were to make it her home rather than selling it and investing the money. The kids were young enough to embrace the “tree change” and a more outdoor, rural lifestyle where they could roam and play.

A Loretta Hill book is perfect for any occasion but there’s something about this one that makes me think warm summer nights with a glass of wine! Highly enjoyable and full of some heart warming surprises.


Book #209 of 2017

The Secret Vineyard is book #61 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017


Review: Rules Of Engagement by Camilla Chafer

Rules Of Engagement (Lexi Graves Mysteries #1)
Camilla Chafer
2017, eBook
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from}:

When her fiancé is shot in an apparent assassination attempt, private investigator Lexi Graves’ world is thrown into chaos and turmoil. With the list of suspects growing by the minute, and the hit man still on the loose, there’s no way Lexi can sit idly by Solomon’s bedside and hope he survives when she could be out hunting for the person or persons responsible. 

After taking charge of Solomon’s private detective agency, Lexi enlists the help of her friends and family in her effort to bring the perpetrator to justice. Investigating, however, will lead Lexi into some areas of Solomon’s life that he purposefully left behind and unveil some startling revelations about the man she loves. With the situation becoming increasingly dangerous, Lexi has no choice but to unravel his past and ask a surprising source for help in her quest to discover why Solomon was targeted. Yet with her successive questions come some shocking answers and a conspiracy far bigger than Lexi could have ever anticipated. 

When Lexi knows everything, and the mysterious details of Solomon’s past become clear, she can only wonder if anything in her life will ever be the same again. 

Woo, finally!

This series has been one of my favourite discoveries. About two years ago, I went through a bit of a rough stage where a friend of mine was diagnosed with terminal cancer. We were about the same age, with kids the same age and it was just really one of those things that reinforces how fragile and unfair life can truly be. I spent a lot of that time trawling through iBooks and Amazon downloading every free cozy kind of read I could find. Usually a first in a series and I stumbled across this one around that time. I think there were maybe 7 or 8 released when I first started reading them and I’ve kept up with each new release, pre-ordering them. I didn’t find out about this one until about 2-3 days before it was released, which was good.

In my review of the previous Lexi Graves novel, I expressed a bit of frustration about how Lexi allowed Soloman, her fiance, to brush off her questions about his past etc and had revealed almost nothing about himself to her as their relationship deepened. Yes she knows what kind of man he is, she’s had ample time to observe him in many different situations and there’s no doubt that Soloman loves Lexi and makes her a high priority in his life. But he has a mysterious past with a lot of potentially dubious employment. He came by his mad skills somehow and Lexi has never really pressed too much for answers.

All that changes when Solomon is shot twice at close range whilst answering their door. Although doctors were successfully able to remove both bullets, Soloman remains in a coma to allow his body to heal and Lexi is desperate for answers. She wants to know how everyone met Soloman and what sort of things he may have been involved with in the past that could be coming back to bite him now. She takes over the private detective agency and grills everyone that knows Soloman on what they know about him. Even the smallest bit of information could be the break they need in order to find out who did this and remove the threat.

So Lexi and the reader finally get the answer to a lot of Soloman questions. And awkwardly, when the team are trying to come up with people or past scenarios that may have had an impact on this shooting they end up with something like 97 names in about an hour. Which gives Lexi a cold introduction to the sort of work Soloman has done in his past. He has background in both the Army and the CIA as well as loans to the FBI and quite possibly some other more shady less documented lines of work. Lexi has to process this as the trusted crew from the agency run their own investigation and her brother oversees the official police investigation. Soloman remains in danger – another attempt is made to harm him whilst he is still in ICU so they need to work even faster before someone succeeds.

I really enjoyed this (except for one small thing, but that’s kind of a spoiler). I liked the fact that Lexi really stepped up. She’s very upset about Soloman but she’s also very determined. She takes over the agency, begins making the decisions but she brings in the ones that she knows Soloman really trusts and together they all make quite a good team. Of course Maddox is brought in as well and he’s really the only thing that bothered me in this book. I just wish he’d kind of go away and stop hanging around. At least in this book he stops pretending and Lexi ends up realising the extent of the feelings he still has for her but the two of them do kind of cross a line here and I’m trying to ignore it because there are extenuating circumstances but both of them should’ve never placed themselves in this position anyway. Lexi you don’t need comfort from your ex-boyfriend. You have literally a cast of thousands in these books that you could seek out.

I think the author does take the ‘easy way out’ here and have Lexi discover this information about Soloman while he’s in a coma, rather than having him actually confide details of his life to her and make them participate in an open and honest conversation. But I’m happy Lexi does have more information about Soloman and his previous life before starting the detective agency. I think she will understand him better and it should help strengthen their relationship now that a lot of who/what Soloman is, is not so much of a shadowy mystery. Hopefully there’s a lot of resolution now – Lexi was kind of panicking about the wedding but now she’s ready to do it. I hope the next book gives us that!


Book #210 of 2017

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Review: The Upside Of Falling Down by Rebekah Crane

The Upside Of Falling Down
Rebekah Crane
2017, 252p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

For Clementine Haas, finding herself is more than a nice idea. Ever since she woke up in an Irish hospital with complete amnesia, self-discovery has become her mission.

They tell her she’s the lone survivor of a plane crash. They tell her she’s lucky to be alive. But she doesn’t feel lucky. She feels…lost.

With the relentless Irish press bearing down on her, and a father she may not even recognize on his way from America to take her home, Clementine assumes a new identity and enlists a blue-eyed Irish stranger, Kieran O’Connell, to help her escape her forgotten life…and start a new one.

Hiding out in the sleepy town of Waterville, Ireland, Clementine discovers there’s an upside to a life that’s fallen apart. But as her lies grow, so does her affection for Kieran, and the truth about her identity becomes harder and harder to reveal, forcing Clementine to decide: Can she leave her past behind for a new love she’ll never forget? 

I love love love amnesia books, they’re one of my favourite things. I also love books set in Ireland so this sounded absolutely amazing. The premise seems really interesting – I’m also an avid watcher of MayDay or Air Crash Investigations as it’s known here and I find plane crashes in terms of who survives and who doesn’t sometimes really fascinating. Clementine is the sole survivor of a plane crash near Shannon Airport in County Limerick and she wakes in hospital with no recollection of the plane crash or why she was even travelling to Ireland in the first place as she’s from Ohio. When her friendly nurse tells her that her father has arrived to see her, Clementine panics because she doesn’t want to hurt a man she can’t even remember with that fact and so she bails, convincing a stranger to take her away from the hospital.

And this is around the time I began to sort of struggle with this and considering that’s quite early in the story, I figured I was not going to love this. Clementine is a young woman in a vulnerable position, I get that. She’s supposed to be disoriented and terrified but she should’ve been seeking answers, not running from those who could provide them. Her reasons for leaving the hospital are pretty weak and the young man that takes her away, Keiran, probably has an even worse reason for doing what she requests are even worse. She’s the sole survivor of a plane crash, you’d think there’d be quite a lot of people wanting to speak to her, the NTSB first on the list but forget about that because the plane crash isn’t actually important and is rarely mentioned again and no one cares about why it crashed or anything else.

The romance would’ve had to have been pretty good to make me forget the practicalities of being the only survivor in a plane crash not that far from a major airport in a country that has a good aviation safety record and was carrying passengers from America, a country that has probably the best aviation investigation squad. Keiran is a reluctant rich kid, who finds that the perks of Daddy’s money don’t pay off when it means that you have to live your life as Daddy wishes. He’s staying in a country house with his sister and although he regularly disappears in the morning, he leaves Clementine (calling herself Jane, as she can’t identify with Clementine) money in order to purchase necessities as Clementine has spun some story about why she doesn’t have any belongings or money.

Holes, holes everywhere I’m afraid. Jane’s story is not remotely convincing and whilst I’m aware that everyone is a stranger to Clementine, running off from the hospital days after you survived a plane crash (with apparently no injuries other than the amnesia…) is really not the wisest decision to make. Also she didn’t want to hurt her father by not recognising him or not feeling any love for him or anything like that but she completely ignores what disappearing might do to her father, who almost lost his only child once. Surely actually having Clementine’s physical presence, even if mentally she is absent, would be much more comforting than having her vanish from the hospital with a potentially serious medical condition, no money, no knowledge of the country, nothing. I’m honestly not sure what Clementine hoped to accomplish from her flight. She says something about waiting ‘two weeks’ but this seemed some sort of ridiculously random attempt to pacify herself that what she’d done was okay.

I didn’t like Keiran much in the beginning and I’m afraid my dislike for him only grew as I got deeper into the story and more and more about him was revealed, which explains why he buys “Jane’s” dodgy story. He didn’t seem charming and although he seems oddly kind at first, I ended up feeling quite uncomfortable about his actions by the end of the book. They were really controlling, even though it’s wrapped up in his laid back, nice guy persona there’s no doubt that he knew exactly the sorts of things he was doing and it could’ve gone very, very wrong. In fact I think it’s poor writing that one part of what Keiran does is glossed over like it’s no big deal when it’s actually a huge deal. I was lukewarm on him before that but I really ended up disliking him. Actually I didn’t like Clementine that much either. The best characters were the minor characters of Clive and Keiran’s prickly sister Siobahn.

This had a promising premise but overall I just felt that the execution wasn’t up to what I was expecting. The romance wasn’t anywhere near enough for me – I never really felt a connection between Clementine and Keiran and I feel as though it will only be more problematic when Clementine properly recalls everything. Grief is not something that you can forget or skip, even if things didn’t turn out the way someone planned. I actually feel like a lot of this storyline made things so much worse for Clementine and others. I think I would’ve enjoyed this more if, she had to run away, that she did it on her own, without really needing Keiran around to provide for her and for her to cling to. He’s hiding a lot of secrets and I don’t think he was entirely acting out of kindness in the end. It may have developed into something like that but with all the info, looking back makes his appearance and actions seem a bit creepy.


Book #208 of 2017

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Review: It Started With A Tweet by Anna Bell

It Started With A Tweet
Anna Bell
Bonnier Zaffre Publishing
2017, 416p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Can Daisy Hobson log off for love…?

Could you survive a digital detox? This hilarious new romantic comedy from the author of The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart is perfect for fans of Lucy Diamond and Sophie Kinsella.

Daisy Hobson lives her whole life online. A marketing manager by day, she tweets her friends, instagrams every meal and arranges (frankly, appalling) dates on Tinder. But when her social media obsession causes her to make a catastrophic mistake at work, Daisy finds her life going into free-fall . . . 

Her sister Rosie thinks she has the answer to all of Daisy’s problems – a digital detox in a remote cottage in Cumbria, that she just happens to need help doing up. Soon, too, Daisy finds herself with two welcome distractions: sexy French exchange-help Alexis, and Jack, the brusque and rugged man-next-door, who keeps accidentally rescuing her.

But can Daisy, a London girl, ever really settle into life in a tiny, isolated village? And, more importantly, can she survive without her phone?

I have to admit, I read this about six weeks ago because I was looking for a bit of a light in between two other novels but because I’m hopeless, I didn’t write the review straight away. So now even though I remember that I enjoyed this, I’m struggling to recall much about it….which makes me wonder how much I really liked it if nothing is really sticking in my mind that clearly.

Daisy works as a marketing media manager so she spends her days (and her nights) constantly connected and online. Her job is to be on social media but she is also addicted herself, uploading pictures of her meals or her cocktails to instagram and trawling Tinder searching for the one. When she accidentally tweets something quite risque from her work account, it goes ‘viral’ and Daisy finds her life upside down. Her sister Rosie decides that Daisy needs a break from all her technology and she kind of railroads her into a DIY project, hoping that the two sisters might be able to connect whilst doing it. At first Daisy is angry, resentful and like a junkie craving her fix. She desperately wants her phone (which is somewhere inaccessible thanks to Rosie) and will stop at nothing to try and get online.

I can relate to Daisy actually. I’m pretty attached to my phone and spend a lot of the day checking facebook and instagram, getting angry scrolling through twitter and the idea of a digital detox is kind of refreshing. It’s hard though because a phone can be a lot of things to many people. I live interstate from my family so it’s a way to keep up with their lives. Without my phone I’d miss birth announcements, photos of my growing nieces and god how could I survive without my mother documenting pretty much everything she does on facebook from getting their roof resprayed to what happened at work that day. In an increasingly busy (and shrinking) world, social media gives many people a way to keep in touch with friends and family, converse with like minded strangers, access news and current events easily and generally just locate information. Unfortunately where there’s a positive there’s always a negative and social media can be at times, a very disturbing place. When something picks up traction it can be very difficult to hide from it and it can have severe consequences on the people affected. In this case, Daisy makes a gross error by tweeting something crass from her professional account rather than her personal account and has to suffer the consequences, one of them being the loss of her job.

I really enjoyed when Daisy’s sister dragged her away from the city and technology to detox a bit and learn to prioritise her life and think about what makes her happy. At times Daisy was petulant and annoying and her sister bossy and patronising but the relationship rang very true for bickering sisters. I liked their journey towards understanding each other, confiding in each other and finding out what they truly enjoyed doing together. Both of them put in a lot of hard work as well and it was probably quite satisfying for them to achieve the things they did.

Whilst in the wilderness, Daisy meets one of her neighbours, Jack and although they start doing a few cute things like leaving each other letters and meeting up for walks, it didn’t really have enough for me. I like the romance thread to be a bit stronger and even though this is Daisy’s journey of self discovery, Jack is a part of her journey and I wanted a bit more detail of what was happening between them, especially towards the end. Lots more detail, actually! Jack was an interesting character and I liked him and enjoyed his and Daisy’s interactions with each other. Several other locals added some colour as well and it was surprising just how Daisy’s wants changed the more time she spent in a place that she hadn’t even wanted to go and when she went back to London, the way in which she viewed social interactions was very different.

All in all I did enjoy this – it was fun and full of humour, just wish there was a little more meat to the romance.


Book #183 of 2017



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Review: Unsticky by Sarra Manning

Sarra Manning
Headline Review
2009, 576p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:


Money makes the world go round – that’s what twenty-something Grace Reeves is learning. Stuck in a grind where everyone’s ahead apart from her, she’s partied out, disillusioned, and massively in debt. If she’s dumped by another rock-band wannabe, squashed by anyone else at her cut-throat fashion job, or chased by any more bailiffs, Grace suspects she’ll fall apart…


So when older, sexy and above all, wealthy art-dealer Vaughn appears, she’s intrigued against her will. Could she handle being a sugar daddy’s arm-candy?


Soon Grace is thrown into a world of money and privilege, at Vaughn’s beck and call in return for thousands of pounds in luxurious gifts, priceless clothes – and cash. She’s out of her depth. Where’s the line between acting the trophy girlfriend, and selling yourself for money? And, more importantly, whatever happened to love?

This is a very unusual book and I can definitely understand that it’s not for everyone. I first encountered Vaughn in the last book by Sarra Manning that I read, It Felt Like A Kiss. He was Ellie’s boss and a complete and utter dick. I was surprised when, looking at all the other Sarra Manning books that I’m yet to read, he seemed to appear as a main character in one. There were a few mixed reviews from people I know but I decided to give this a go because it seemed so interesting and different. Vaughn is a long way from a typical love interest – he’s older (41) and has a lot of control issues and wants very specific things. Grace is 23 so there’s a significant gap between the two of them that isn’t often genuinely explored in fiction. Mostly my experience with the older man – younger woman trope is in order to establish both as villains. The women are usually gold diggers or evil stepmothers, the men shallow and vain, desirous of a trophy wife.

Grace is dumped on her birthday in public the day she meets Vaughn. She’s definitely in a kind of vulnerable position and I think there are certain factors in her life that lead her to accept Vaughn’s offer, but the offer comes after a couple of key moments where she’s already attracted to him so I think she just considers Vaughn’s offer of financial compensation to be his ‘hostess’ as a kind of extra. Vaughn is very wealthy and Grace works as a struggling assistant at Skirt magazine with a diva boss and a crew who generally make fun of her low budget fashion. Grace is the sort of person who buries her head in the sand about pretty much everything and isn’t sure why her relationships don’t last beyond the three month mark.

Both Grace and Vaughn are well, no getting around it. They’re quite fucked up. Grace definitely has abandonment issues (and to be honest, not without reason) and she’s a doormat as well as chronically unable to face reality. Despite this though, she’s not particularly a romantic which is why I think she’s able to look objectively at Vaughn’s offer after they’ve interacted several times. Vaughn on the other hand…..yeah there’s probably not enough words for the amount of issues he has. He’s a control freak in all aspects of his life, a workaholic, incredibly rude and sarcastic, he is wealthy and in a position of power so he tends to tolerate no fools and gets his own way pretty much all of the time. Vaughn straddles a line but that was what I found interesting about him. I didn’t find him “swoonworthy” nor did I place myself in Grace’s position whilst reading this because I wouldn’t have lasted five minutes in a room with him. But I was really interested in what made him tick, the little glimpses of a different person, a person he doesn’t seem to show to many people. Vaughn reveals things about himself incredibly slowly and resentfully but those small admissions tell an awful lot when you add them up together. Grace doesn’t seem to see some of Vaughn’s vulnerabilities for a while – she’s dazzled by the events, his wealth, perhaps even that brusque and flat persona. Most of what they dig out about the other comes under duress or inebriation and there are regrets and embarrassment at showing these sides of themselves to another person.

I liked the idea that these two flawed people with such deep-seated issues could find each other in the most random of ways and make something work, grow together and become better for it. It wasn’t easy and Vaughn makes a lot of mistakes. Not going to deny that. Like I said, he straddles a line. Probably crosses it a few times. But that’s what people do. They make mistakes, they push each other’s buttons, they mess things up big time in order not to appear vulnerable in front of others. These are people in all their ugliness and pain and sometimes, that’s what I want. And so I continue on with my mission to read all of Sarra Mannings’ backlist as quickly as I possibly can.


Book #206 of 2017


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Review: It’s Not Me, It’s You by Mhairi McFarlane

It’s Not Me, It’s You
Mhairi McFarlane
Harper Collins
2014, 544p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Delia Moss isn’t quite sure where she went wrong.

When she proposed and discovered her boyfriend was sleeping with someone else – she thought it was her fault.

When she realised life would never be the same again – she thought it was her fault.

And when he wanted her back like nothing had changed – Delia started to wonder if perhaps she was not to blame…

From Newcastle to London and back again, with dodgy jobs, eccentric bosses and annoyingly handsome journalists thrown in, Delia must find out where her old self went – and if she can ever get her back.

After listening to You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning recently I wanted to find another audiobook for school pick ups and after a bit of browsing and “people who liked that also liked this” I decided to go with this book. I listened to it for an hour one afternoon before I decided yeah, I’m pretty sure I have a copy of this on my iPad in a 3-in-1 bundle that I bought after reading (and loving) Who’s That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane. As much as I’m enjoying this audiobook, I wanted to consume it faster. So I switched to reading it and got it finished that night!

After 10 years with her boyfriend Paul, Delia decides to throw caution to the wind and propose to him. Paul’s reaction is not what she expects and although he does say yes, it’s not with the enthusiasm that one might anticipate when proposing. Shortly after Delia finds out that Paul has actually been sleeping with someone else and her entire life turns upside down. At her best friend’s urging, Delia goes to stay with her in London to give herself some time to think about what she wants to do. Paul swears it’s over with the other woman, that they’ll get married and everything will be fine….but for Delia, it isn’t that easy.

I knew I was going to love this when it had me laughing out loud in public within the first 10 minutes of starting to listen to it. Delia is down to earth and funny – her boss has given her a job to find out who has been trolling her place of employment (the local council) on social media and Delia knows that it’s going to take an unorthodox approach given that anyone can hide their true identity online. It plays out in an amusing and unexpected sort of way, continuing even after Delia moves to London.

Delia is 33 and has spent the past 10 years with the one person in a relationship that she felt would be her last, that would take her into old age. It’s a cold shock to be potentially starting over again almost in her mid-30s, especially as she wants to have children. With all the talk of declining fertility, not only is Delia heartbroken about Paul’s betrayal but she’s thinking of her future and how difficult it might be for her to accomplish the things she thought that would be a given, such as having a family. She’s spent such a large portion of her life with Paul without ever marrying or getting to that family stage and when she pushes a little to take that next step, she discovers that Paul has not been exactly true. It sets off a lot of questions in her mind as well, especially when she finds out that other people knew about it. Has it happened before? And if not, if it was just a once off, could she possibly forgive him and go back to her old life? I appreciated how much time the author devoted to Delia’s confused thoughts and her struggle about what to do. 10 years is such a long time and it’s hard to decide whether or not to make that fully clean break. I know what would do but at the same time, I don’t think it’s a choice I’d make lightly, given the history. It wouldn’t be easy and the story definitely takes the time to reflect that.

Complicating Delia’s thoughts of what to do is a good-looking journalist in London who attempts to blackmail her and might possibly cost her her new job. But at the same time, he puts thoughts into her head and what if he’s right? Although I didn’t love Adam the first time he appeared, the way that this played out brought so many laughs….and so many tense moments! The ending of this book was really very stressful…..because I was reading it digitally I only had a rough idea of how much I had to go (which was slightly inaccurate as it’s a 3-in-1 with some extras at the end) and I couldn’t tell if I was going to get the ending I really wanted or if it was going to go another way. I spent a lot of the last few chapters with my heart in my mouth frantically scanning and hoping there would be another turn. This book contains once of the most amazing romantic letters I’ve read and it’s all just so perfect. The comics were a really nice touch…..especially the last one.


Book #204 of 2017


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Review: Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra

Little Secrets
Anna Snoekstra
Harlequin AUS
2017, 336p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

What happens when ambition trumps the truth?

A town reeling in the wake of tragedy

An arsonist is on the loose in Colmstock, Australia, most recently burning down the town’s courthouse and killing a young boy who was trapped inside.

An aspiring journalist desperate for a story.

The clock is ticking for Rose Blakey. With nothing but rejections from newspapers piling up, her job pulling beers for cops at the local tavern isn’t nearly enough to cover rent. Rose needs a story — a big one.

Little dolls full of secrets.

In the weeks after the courthouse fire, precise porcelain replicas of Colmstock’s daughters begin turning up on doorsteps, terrifying parents and testing the limits of the town’s already fractured police force.

Rose may have finally found her story. But as her articles gain traction and the boundaries of her investigation blur, Colmstock is seized by a seething paranoia. Soon, no one is safe from suspicion. And when Rose’s attention turns to the mysterious stranger living in the rooms behind the tavern, neighbour turns on neighbour and the darkest side of self-preservation is revealed. 

I found this book very unsatisfying, despite all of the hype around it and the praise I’ve read.

There are several things happening here – firstly there’s an arsonist in the small town of Colmstock and the latest fire claimed the life of a young boy. Then residents start finding small doll’s on their front steps, which look eerily like their young daughters. And Rose Blakey, 25, is desperate for a break that will kickstart the career she so desperately wants – journalist. She sees opportunity when knocked back on yet another application. She’s in a unique position to bring what’s happening in Colmstock to the wider community and there’s not much she wouldn’t do in order to get what she wants. The time is ticking and Rose is on a deadline.

The premise intrigued me and the set up was quite good. Snoekstra does a good job of nailing a dying town. The unemployment is high, there’s a meth problem, the local newspaper has closed and families are struggling to get by. Rose’s own mother works long hours at a chicken production plant and her stepfather is gone days at a time supposedly driving trucks. Rose still lives at home although her stepfather has made it clear that it’s time she moved on. They need the room, he and her mother have three young kids of their own. Rose herself works at the local pub pulling beers for the local police community and anyone else that might wander in to blow the week’s wages.

The arson is very dramatic and the dolls seem very creepy so I think I was probably enjoying this for the first third or so but then….it kind of loses its way for me. Pretty much everyone is horrible in this book and there are some episodes of gross behaviour from so many. Rose is actually a big disappointment as a main character although perhaps she really has picked the most perfect career that she could, given her actions in this novel. I am not sure if what happens with her getting published would be likely but her articles all felt ridiculously Daily Mail-esque with terrible writing. Her friend I had some sympathy for in the beginning as her life seems very difficult and it’s clear she needs some stability. She’s quite willing to throw Rose under the bus in order to get it though. The behaviour of the local police force is abominable in a myriad of ways without even the most basic of understanding about what the difference between homosexuality and pedophilia is. They’re a sad portrayal of a country police force but to be honest, I didn’t have to stretch my imagination too far in order for it to seem credible but I feel as though it went a bit too far after the first incident. The second one was just bizarre.

My biggest problem was that a lot of the resolutions were just…..lackluster. The build up had been good for a while but it was only in the last few pages that one important aspect of the story was resolved and it actually made me laugh when I read it (and not in a good way). It just seemed so silly. Also the book was littered with inconsistent characters (Rose’s stepfather being the primary one) and there were 4 or 5 threads going on that it felt as though none of them could really be done properly.

A disappointing read unfortunately.


Book #205 of 2017

Little Secrets is book #60 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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Review: It Felt Like A Kiss by Sarra Manning

It Felt Like A Kiss
Sarra Manning
Transworld Digital
2014, 480p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Ellie Cohen is living her dream. A great job at an exclusive Mayfair art gallery, loyal mates, loving family, and really, really good hair. Well, there’s the famous rock-star father who refuses to acknowledge her and a succession of ‘challenging’ boyfriends, but nobody’s perfect.

But when a vengeful ex sells Ellie out to the press, she suddenly finds herself fighting to keep her job, her reputation and her sanity. Then David Gold – handsome, charming but ruthlessly ambitious – is sent in to manage the media crisis . . . and Ellie.

David thinks she’s a gold-digger and Ellie thinks he’s a shark in a Savile Row suit, so it’s just as well that falling in love is the last thing on their minds . . .

After listening to You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning and loving it recently, I knew I had to read (or listen to) more of her books. This one totally sounded like my kind of story but I listened to the sample after hearing some negative reviews on it and yeah, unfortunately I found the narrator almost impossible to listen to. Her voice was just….not good. So I bought this on iBooks instead to give it a go that way.

Ellie is in her mid-20s and works for an art acquisitions expert. She’s always known growing up who her father was, although there’s never been any contact and neither has it been leaked to the press – until a vindictive ex-boyfriend does a tell-all for a tabloid and Ellie’s life is turned upside down. She’s besieged by packs of paparazzi who stalk her on the street, congregate outside her place of work and her flat, shouting things at her including lewd offers of money for nudes or partially nude photo shoots. It affects every facet of Ellie’s life – her boss wants to sack her for the disruption, everyone who ever knew her is coming out of the woodwork to give lurid quotes that aren’t even true, the public is judging her and worse, her father’s lawyer is gorgeous but thinks she did this for fame and fortune.

Poor Ellie. This book gives a very frank look at just how intrusive paparazzi can be when they’re after a big story. They harass Ellie constantly, following her, trying to get horrid shots of her all the while making her offers to take her clothes off. They’re so insistent, refusing to take her ‘no comment’ for an answer, telling her that she’ll end up doing what they want sooner or later so she may as well just give in now. There’s something a bit gross about a bunch of middle aged men following a woman around – to her work, to her home and then staying there. Ellie just wants it all to go away…..especially seeing as the only person she wants to hear from about this entire mess is pretty much the one person who has been silent.

Ellie and David were perfect in this book. Ellie is pretty shaken but she also wants to live her life – she doesn’t want to hide but she doesn’t want to be harassed either so she has to keep a low profile until it can blow over. David is uptight, ambitious and at first, forms some first impressions of Ellie that aren’t particularly flattering. When they’re forced into close proximity both are forced to reassess their early views of the other and there’s amazing sexual chemistry as well. I really love when two main characters have to spend time together either living together or on the run or whatever for some reason or other and they are forced to get to know each other on a much deeper level. It brings an entirely different level of intimacy because there are things that are learned and shared perhaps even without realising it. And the tension is great between David and Ellie – there’s something really big that stands in the way of them and it makes for some incredible angst.

There’s just something about Sarra Manning books that make me so happy. It’s like she’s tapped into precisely what I love to read about in terms of interactions between two main characters and writes books to my specifications. I love how all the books inhabit the same world – for example, Ellie’s boss is a main character from a previous novel, a lot of the characters are employed at the same magazine, or the magazine is referenced regularly, characters in different books share the same personal trainer, or visit the same bar etc. There’s not a huge amount of interaction but just enough for you to pick up little things or catch a glimpse into the lives of people previously featured. I love that because I always have a bit of a desire for ‘more’ after I finish a book. I want to see a couple in a few years time living their lives. And now because I know this, I will forensically examine every page of Sarra Manning’s novels in order to analyse every random character in case they pop up elsewhere! I still have quite a few books to read but at the moment it feels not enough! I’ve already read another one between finishing this book and writing this review!

I think what I really like is that the characters are all very flawed. Sometimes in romance novels, the flaws are very minor (more quirks than flaws) or non-existent but all of the characters here do and say very stupid, thoughtless, hurtful things, they make mistakes, they have character flaws that feel real and believable and normal. They are self-obsessed, have eating disorders, emotional intimacy issues, control issues, commitment issues, family issues, former addictions and probably other things that I have forgotten. But mostly I think what I love, is the resolution of the conflict. That always makes my heart happy.


Book #199 of 2017


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