All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Between The Lines – Tammara Webber

Between The LinesBetween The Lines (Between The Lines #1)
Tammara Webber
Self-published
2011, eBook
Copy bought for my Kindle

Emma Pierce is a 17 year old actress who has mostly made commercials and filmed smaller parts in Lifetime movies. Now she’s up for her first leading role in a wide-release film, even though it’s not really how she wants to go with her acting. Placed under pressure by her manager-father and stepmother, Emma auditions for the role of Lizbeth Bennet in a modern day remake of Pride & Prejudice set in an American high school. It’s one of Emma’s favourite books and closely tied to the memory she has of her mother, who died when Emma was 6. When Emma is awarded the role, mostly due to the chemistry she has with the actor playing Will Darcy, she packs her bags for a shoot in Austin, Texas.

Reid Alexander is the current “It boy” of movies. He’s determined to make this film, School Pride another roaring success and help raise his celebrity profile even more. When Reid does read-throughs with the potential Lizbeths, he knows that there’s only one choice – Emma Pierce. She’s perfect for the role and she interests Reid on many levels outside of filming as well. He begins putting in all effort to win Emma, who isn’t like the other starlets and hangers-on that he’s used to scoring with. Emma is different and although she isn’t immune to the Reid charm, she doesn’t give in all the way either. And Reid faces some competition from Graham, another actor on set who seems to be spending an awful lot of time with Emma.

Torn between two very different males, Emma isn’t sure what she wants. On one hand, Reid is handsome, charming, a superstar and seems to be playing the perfect boyfriend, even if he is beginning to push that little bit further than she’s willing to go. Emma feels that she can really talk to Graham – she’s comfortable around him. But Graham also seems to be involved with Brooke, another cast member who also has a history with Reid. This world is very new to Emma and she’s struggling to negotiate it all.

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Tammara Webber, particularly about her book Easy. I picked up this very cheap on Kindle months ago and filed it away in my YA folder, ready for…one day. That day came when I received the second novel for review. Once self-published, this series (and Easy) have been picked up for publication in the UK and Australia by Penguin Books. Given what I’d heard, I expected to love this one, but unfortunately, I did not.

The narrative is split 50-50 between Reid and Emma and although this juxtaposes Emma’s naive, new-star view with Reid’s spoiled, jaded one, it also means that I spent a lot of time in Reid’s selfish mind, which I did not particularly enjoy. That’s kind of an understatement – I actually came to dislike Reid quite a lot. I didn’t feel sorry for him, with his ‘little rich boy with the distant father and descending-into-alcoholism mother’. His very attitude towards women, towards life, towards everything, rubbed me the wrong way. Reid is such a cliché, in the very worst sense of the word. He’s two dimensional, he’s utterly, utterly boring. And later in the book he goes from behaving like a brat to behaving like a total douchebag. You want to be an adult, Reid? You want to be independent and prove how much of a man you are? Maybe start acting like one.

The following paragraph is mildly **spoilerish**

Emma on the other hand, is relatively inoffensive although she seems to possess very little willpower and strength of character. She doesn’t even seem to know why she likes Reid, other than he’s rich, he’s famous, he’s Reid. They don’t talk, they don’t connect on any level other than a semi-physical one but even that seems very forced. The amazing chemistry that they were supposed to have from Emma’s first audition was totally missing for me. I didn’t see it, I was only told about it. And when they connected as a couple, it was severely lacking. Emma spends most of the time wondering how she can get out of having to have sex with him and Reid spends most of the time wondering how he can finally get her to have sex with him. If you have to think about how to break it that you’re not ready (all of this takes place over the course of like, a week or two) then you need a new boyfriend. Reid is so used to girls just giving him everything because he’s a movie star that he doesn’t know how to have an actual relationship – in fact it takes him a long time to even figure out if that’s what they’re having and if that’s what he wants. He’s also annoyingly jealous of Emma’s morning runs with co-star Graham but seems to conveniently forget that he’s out there getting his “needs met” when Emma isn’t ready. Ugh. Also? Reid and Graham have something in common that just seems so unbelievable. The fact that they deal with it in totally different ways is supposed to show the reader how fundamentally different they are as characters.

End spoilers

I’ve read the blurb of the second book and to be honest, I don’t even know why it exists. This book had a perfectly adequate ending and I see no reason to revisit Reid at all and have another character from this novel do a total 180 in order to cause conflict in the next. Trilogies these days are really beginning to make me question why there’s a need for a 3 book arc when so many can really be done in 1.

4/10

Book #67 of 2013

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Unforgettable – Elise K. Ackers

UnforgettableUnforgettable
Elise K. Ackers
Harlequin Escape
2013, eBook
Copy courtesy of the author

When Connor awakes from a coma after an accident that nearly claims his life, the last three years are a blank slate. Suffering from post-retrograde amnesia, everything that has happened in the past three years is as if it never took place at all. Connor has a new job, new friends, a girlfriend he doesn’t remember. And a friend that hangs back looking haunted and who promises to tell him everything, but that he’ll have to trust her.

Emma and Connor were best friends – they were more than best friends. But then Connor discovered a secret she’d been keeping from him and the bond between them was ruthlessly severed. Emma blames herself, not only for their estrangement but also for Connor’s accident. She wants to help him remember but there are things she won’t tell him – what ended their relationship for starters.

Connor may not remember everything that happened with Emma but the feelings are still there and the more time he spends with her, the more he wants to rekindle whatever it was they had, no matter what she says about him not being able to cope with her secret. He’s sure that this time around it will be different and that whatever it was, they can overcome it.

Unforgettable is a sweet contemporary romance about love that has gone horribly wrong and getting a second chance. In the case of Connor and Emma, their second chance comes after Connor is involved in an accident and has his memory of the last three years of his life wiped. He doesn’t remember Emma, their friendship or their brief relationship but something that has overcome the memory loss is his reaction to her. There’s something still there, there are feelings still there and even more feelings are developing as Connor is getting to know Emma again and putting back together the pieces of his fractured life.

I love amnesia stories, I do. I’m a deadset sucker for them actually, although a lot of people will say that they’re a very tired plot device. But when done right I think they’re so fabulous and they give so much chance for beautiful romantic and sexual tension. They’re almost an automatic buy for me so I was really looking forward to this novel. And while I enjoyed parts of it, there were some elements that did not particularly work for me.

Firstly, the reason for which Emma and Connor broke up was….a bit weak, to be honest. It’s billed as this extremely huge secret that Emma has and I have to say, my mind was working overtime trying to figure out what it could possibly be that would result in such a catastrophic meltdown. And when it is revealed and Connor reacts exactly the same way the second time as he did the first time, I felt a bit let down, both by the actual fact and by Connor’s behaviour. Up until that moment, I had really liked him but the way in which he reacted again made me dislike him.

I tried to puzzle this out a little bit – Unforgettable is quite a short novel, around 177p. It begins when Connor wakes from his coma and goes forward from there with only a few flashbacks to happier times for him and Emma. I think that this was a problem for me because it didn’t give me a clear enough picture of their relationship before her secret was revealed (the first time). I was told a lot of times that they were perfect for each other and that everything had been fantastic before the big reveal but I don’t think enough time was taken to show me this. I wanted some more flashbacks to really flesh out the relationship that they’d had and why Connor had reacted the way he did. I can see on the surface, why he may have but I think it would’ve been better once again, fleshed out. Everyone has things in their past that they haven’t confessed and Emma’s secret was not actually that terrible. It would’ve been a blow to Connor’s ego but the fact that he reacted so severely not once, but twice kind of irritated me a little bit. Having broken her heart twice he then thinks he should get a third chance and it just wasn’t enough for me to believe in it.

However what I did really enjoy was the setting. It’s set in Melbourne and I live here so I always really like finding books with familiar landmarks and I appreciated the unusual world of construction. I found a lot of the details and intricacies of the project Emma and Connor’s company were working on quite fascinating and although I’ve no idea if they’re plausible or not, they certainly seemed that way!

I think for me, this book would’ve benefited from another 100-130 pages and I do not say that very often! I would’ve loved a lot more exploration into the dynamics between Emma and Connor, them getting together, the comfortable style of their relationship and I’d definitely have liked some more time devoted to the situation behind the secret. I think the framework was there and it’s still a good read but it’s just missing that something more, those finer details and character developments that would have made it truly awesome.

6/10

Book #9 of 2013

AWW2013

This is the 5th novel read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

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The Girl In The Hard Hat – Loretta Hill

Girl In Hard HatThe Girl In The Hard Hat
Loretta Hill
Random House AU
2013, 368p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Wendy Hopkins has arrived in the Pilbarra on a secret mission. She’s searching for her real father after a simple query into obtaining a copy of her birth certificate led her to discover that she possessed two – the first one which listed her father as unknown and the second one after the man she always believed was her father adopted her when she was just a toddler. Wendy has always wondered why her father had looked at her in that broken-hearted way, almost like he couldn’t bear to, from the time she was around six years old. She was shunted off to boarding school not long after and her relationship with both of her parents has never been tight. Her mother was reluctant to give her any information when Wendy confronted her about the birth certificates but finally she admitted several things: her father’s name was Hector, he worked in mining/engineering and had been in the Pilbarra. So Wendy decided that she would track him down. She had to know who she really was.

Things do not get off to a good start when it’s revealed that her Uncle Mike, a bit of the family black sheep, blackmailed Dan Hullog into giving her a job. Dan no longer has the job for her because the person he was protecting doesn’t need it anymore but he has arranged for Wendy to work for Barnes Inc, the company constructing the iron ore wharf. As the new Safety Manager, Wendy isn’t exactly the most popular person in the company, especially as she arrives wearing an enemy uniform. No one is particularly open to her suggestions either, especially the man she’s working with who is clearly not up to coping with the rigorous demands of enforcing safety on such a big site. Wendy, as one of only five women and some 350 men in the camp is subjected to a gentle hazing from most of the men and made the butt of most of their jokes. Notorious womaniser Gavin Jones is one of the main culprits but there are times that Wendy catches a glimpse of a very different Gavin before he slams the door.

Gavin can’t afford to get involved with anyone, tempting as Wendy herself may be. He’s a casual kind of guy, a love them and leave them type. He’s been moving around for far too long now, looking over his shoulder and always wondering. To get close to someone would be to put them in danger so Gavin keeps it casual. Wendy doesn’t do casual though. She wants to know what Gavin is hiding. Danger is coming to the Pilbarra and it’s going to take all of Wendy’s planning and execution of safety plans to keep the entire camp safe. And she might just get the answers she’s been so desperately seeking as well.

The Girl In The Hard Hat is the follow up book to The Girl In Steel-Capped Boots which was probably one of my Top 10 reads of 2012. I was delighted when I found out Loretta Hill was writing another book set around the construction of the Iron Ore wharf in the Pilbarra, focusing on a new couple but still including all of the well-known characters from the first book. They’re all back – Carl, who still cannot stop swearing, Sharon the bus driver, the boys down at the wharf. And if you’re curious about Lena and Dan then be happy because they’re here too and their story continues along with this one in a very satisfactory sort of way. But the spotlight is on Wendy Hopkins and Gavin Jones and it’s quite the ride.

It’s hard not to feel for Wendy right away as she recounts her relatively lonely childhood, discovery that the man she thought was her father isn’t and her mother’s reluctance to even give her the answers she needs. Armed with what little information she did have, she trekked all the way to the Pilbarra only to be told that the job wasn’t actually a real one but Dan had set her up in another one. She faces hostility and ribbing that ranges from the gentle, good-natured type to the more serious. Her accommodations are less than satisfactory but Wendy doesn’t let this get her down. She has a goal and it seems like nothing the Pilbarra can throw at her will dissuade her from that goal. Even Gavin Jones. Gavin is handsome, charming, flirtatious and with the reputation of being quite the womaniser. Wendy knows she should stay away from him but she can’t help but be drawn to the deeper side of Gavin

This book is rife with the same humour and charm that made me fall in love with the first one and it easily leapfrogs sophomore book syndrome. Despite the fact that Lena and Wendy might seem similar at first glance, Hill keeps them starkly very different and the same with the two male love interests. Gavin Jones is very different and the way in which the attraction between him and Wendy unfolds is different as well. The chemistry between them was electric but it was also a bit of a slow burn – there were so many obstacles getting in the way of them, especially Gavin’s reluctance to attach himself to anyone and potentially put them in danger. His protectiveness of Wendy was sweet, at odds with most of the way he behaved. His life had been spent looking over his shoulder for a few years and it had taken a bit of a toll on him. He hated seeing people waste their lives and opportunities.

This is the sort of book that I would recommend to everyone I know, especially if they liked The Girl In Steel-Capped Boots. And if you haven’t read that one then… you definitely need to!

9/10

Book #258 of 2012

This review is part of The Girl In The Hard Hat blog tour. Please check out MrsMichelleS’s review before me and don’t forget to head over to Marg at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader tomorrow to see what she thought!

AUTHOR+PHOTO

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The Danger Game – Caitlyn Nicholas

Danger Game2The Danger Game
Caitlyn Nicholas
Harlequin Escape
2012, eBook
Bought for my Kindle

Flick has always been good with computers. She knows how to make them work and they respond to her commands and she has made this her work, employed by the University of Sydney. She has won the university prestigious grants, recognition and admiration with the development of a certain program named ……?

Then the program, which could be extremely dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands, is stolen and her mentor is brutally murdered. Flick suddenly knows why the program she created had code she didn’t understand when she last opened it. Her mentor suspected that something like this might happen and he could be double crossed. He’s placed a ‘time bomb’ within the program and only Flick can defuse it and also, stop the program from doing the sinister things it’s capable of if instructed.

But Flick’s life is also in danger, in more ways than one. The police think she might have had something to do with her mentor’s murderer and they’re looking for her. It won’t be too long before the thief discovers the altering in the program and then they’ll come looking for her too. It seems that the only person Flick might be able to trust is Ben, a security guard on campus who isn’t exactly what he seems.

Flick knows it’s going to be up to her – she created the program and she’s the one who needs to do what has to be done. She bribes her way in to the headquarters of the mogul responsible for its theft and scores herself a job, presumably working with the program to do what her boss wants. What he doesn’t know is that Flick is working for herself to destroy what she created, no matter what it costs her, even if the price is her life.

The Danger Game is one of the December titles from Australian digital first imprint Harlequin Escape. The titles this month sound very promising – I’ve already downloaded three to my kindle and I enjoyed this one enormously. Technical espionage is so fun!

Flick is a computer geek, a programmer who has been plastered in front of a computer since she was 10. Although she could’ve travelled far and wide to work, going into the private sector or staying working for universities, she’s stayed close to home due to the fact that her mother suffers from a debilitating and incurable illness. She’s only quite young and has created a program mostly for fun but one that could be very dangerous if it fell into the wrong hands and was put to use in government or military circles. Unfortunately for Flick, the program has fallen into the wrong hands with a billionaire man of dubious means and activities the short odds for being behind the theft of the program and also the murder of Flick’s mentor. The billionaire recently offered Flick a job which she declined due to her suspicions of his activities but when it seems most likely like he is the one in possession of her program, she begins to reconsider.

At Flick’s side is Ben, who is a spy posing as a campus security guard. Part of the reason he was even on the university campus was Flick’s program and what they suspected its creation would bring out of the woodwork. He sticks to Flick like glue right away, making sure that she knows that he can keep her safe but without locking her up and throwing away the key. As a ‘spook’, Ben is used to being in the field and he sees the validity in Flick’s plan that she infiltrate the thief’s workplace and use her position to destroy the program. The danger of this is extreme, because this person has already proved that they are willing to kill for the program and what it can do and it’s obvious that someone destroying it will infuriate.

This story was expertly paced and full of action. A lot of the technical stuff went over my head, although there isn’t a huge amount of jargon and information, it isn’t overwhelming. I do love this sort of story, there’s something so exciting about espionage and high technology and clever programming. I wish I understood computers better, it always seems such an interesting thing to be involved in. Flick was so clever and brave putting herself in the firing line. Even though she’s petrified, she tries to keep a cool head and her wits about her when she ends up in a bad situation.

This novel was a great read – there’s only one thing I wish and that was the chemistry between Ben and Flick was a little more explored. I love a good spicy scene to really drive the relationship along and although this one was fun, I’d have liked a little more exploration of their attraction and a love scene that was part of the story and not left up to the reader in a fade-to-black scene!

8/10

Book #270 of 2012

awwc20121

The Danger Game is book #88 read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012

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A Bush Christmas – Margareta Osborn

Bush XmasA Bush Christmas
Margareta Osborn
Random House AU
2012, eBook
Bought for my Kindle

Jaime Josephine Hanrahan is a city girl through and through. Unfortunately this city girl is a bit down on her luck recently having lost her job, her swanky South Bank flat, her company car and her iPhone and iPad. When her manicurist sets her up with a holiday job housesitting, Jaime visualises sunbaking in a bikini somewhere down on the Mornington Peninsula. What she gets is a little different.

Jaime dislikes her name, public transport and Harley Davidsons. When she arrives in Lake Grace (via public transport), she looks for a taxi to take her to Burdekin’s Gap, where the house that she will be housesitting is located. Unfortunately, no taxis will go to Burdekin’s Gap due to the kangaroos and wombats that pose a danger and Jaime’s only option is throwing her leg over a motorbike behind taciturn local Stirling McEvoy. Reluctantly she accepts the lift, only to find herself the victim of mistaken identity and deposited at the general store-cum-petrol station, as Sterling believes her to be the owner’s latest backpacker worker arrived for a stint.

Instead of sunbaking and relaxation, Jaime gets working with cattle and holding a spotlight so Sterling can shoot the local pest rabbit population. Instead of peace and quiet and forgetting about Christmas and mourning her beloved dad, gone nearly a year, she gets a town that goes all out with lights and social gatherings and community spirit.

It’s a time of year that Jaime doesn’t want to be a part of. She just wants to be left alone to think about her beloved dad. Her mother has moved on and remarried and it feels to Jaime that she is the only one missing him and mourning his passing. She isn’t looking for love either but it seems like the tiny town of Burdekin’s Gap is going to heal her in more than one way.

A Bush Christmas is a holiday novella by rural lit author Margareta Osborn. I’ve been reading quite a lot of novellas while I’ve been on holidays – it’s like my brain isn’t really up to a full length novel! This one is absolutely fabulous – Jaime is a city girl in Sass n Bide cut offs, cute tops and inappropriate shoes when she arrives to ‘the bush’. She’s mistaken as being another backpacker worker for a local playboy due to her appearance. Stirling McEvoy has a distrust of city girls ever since one of them screwed him over some time ago. He’s none too happy to be charged with taking Jaime up to Burdekin’s Gap on the back of his bike, nor is he too pleased when he discovers that she is the man he thought was ‘Jamie’ to help him with the property while the owner Valerie is away.

Jaime and Stirling could not be more different. He’s country to the bone and she’s more at home on St Kilda beach than the back of a quad bike. One thing Jaime isn’t though, is a quitter and she tackles everything Stirling throws at her the best she can, such as separating steers that he wants from the herd and corralling them into a separate pen, going shotting and holding the spottie, even though she believes he’s murdering bunnies in cold blood, attempting to make sponges when bullied into it by the local lady brigade. She has varying levels of success but the point is that Jaime embraces her new life in the country even though it’s foreign to her and she’s far outside of her comfort zone. She uses the memory of her beloved father to get her through each challenge, often talking to him. Although they lived in the city, her father had a love of the outdoors, tending his garden and going fishing and he often took Jaime with him. When he died last Boxing Day, Jaime was left gutted and she feels like everyone else has moved on and left her behind. She has a new stepfather that she doesn’t want and she can’t bear to face him and her mother this Christmas, choosing to hide herself away from the world.

The chemistry between Jaime and Stirling is sizzling and so enjoyable to read. Stirling quite clearly can’t keep his eyes off her, even though he is sometimes embarrassed or reluctant, especially as he seems prejudiced against city girls given what happened to him with a previous romance. Jaime also is attracted to Stirling’s striking good looks and hardworking body although at times she is put off by his brusque manner. They hit several stumbles due to misunderstandings but also share some close moments, fuelling the attraction to scorching levels. Stirling is right into the Christmas spirit and he attempts to fire up Jaime’s.

Sometimes novellas/short stories don’t work for me because they feel rushed or unfinished – I’m used to time spent building an attraction or tension/conflict. However this one really does work on all levels – it’s quick and fun and filled with fully realised characters and a great story that is easily told in the time allocated. Jaime needs to be able to embrace Christmas again, not hide from it and her time spent in the most unlikely of places, Burdekin’s Gap, enables her to do that. I loved the growing relationship between her and Stirling – it wasn’t too swift and it didn’t come from nowhere and it felt very natural from their time spent together.

A great Christmas read to relax with.

9/10

Book #275 of 2012

awwc20121

A Bush Christmas is the 91st novel read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012

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Chains Of Revenge – Keziah Hill

Chains 2Chains Of Revenge
Keziah Hill
Harlequin Escape
2012, eBook
Free as promotion on Amazon for Kindle

Devadas, Prince of Catiscal is captured and treated as a slave by Horvald. Instead of the sweet death he craves, he is sent to The Pit where he must put his body on the line day after day to train the future warriors of Horvald. In order to survive, he must be better than all of the warriors his very captivity is helping to train.

Then he is given a new duty. The people of Horvald are a more open people than those of Catiscal and Devadas is given to the Princess Lissa. It will be his job to take her virginity and teacher her about the ways of love so that she may please her husband when they wed. Devadas is stunned by this arrangement. In Catiscal, sexual intercourse is mostly for recreational purposes but in Horvald it is very much a pleasure pursuit.

Devadas is surprised by the explosive passion that springs up between them. It becomes much more than just a job, pleasuring the Princess of Horvald. They talk to each other, they connect, mentally as well as in earth-shatteringly physical ways. When her father, the King, takes her with him on a campaign to conquer some other land, Devadas and Lissa are torn apart.

Lissa has always believed her warrior in chains died 10 years ago after her father took him away. When her father is killed and Horvald falls at the hands of the feared Warlord Death, Lissa prepares for death. Instead she finds herself looking into the eyes of Devadas and he makes it quite clear that he intends to humiliate her and use her, the way he believes she used him all of those years ago.

Chains Of Love is one of the very first books being offered by Harlequin’s new digital-first imprint, Escape. There were five titles released in November and this one was offered free on Amazon as a promotion and I grabbed it for my Kindle when I saw it posted on twitter. I plan on reading the rest of the titles soon.

Devadas is a proud warrior, the Prince of Catiscal who would prefer a noble death to being kept as a slave by the nation of Horvald. Catiscal are not a slave-keeping nation so it doesn’t sit well with him to be ordered about or used. When he is chosen to be the one to instruct the Princess Lissa in the ways of the marital bed, he is resentful but also unable to prevent the way in which he responds to her. To his surprise, he comes to enjoy his time with the Princess as the bond between them deepens to be something much more than just a slave and mistress. But Lissa is a Princess and Devadas is still just someone captive and he must do whatever those in charge wish.

When the tables turn and he finds himself in a position of power over Lissa, some 10 years later, he sees the perfect opportunity to extract some revenge. He binds her in chains that she must wear publicly so that the people can see that their Princess is now the whore to the Warlord Death and bound to do whatever he wishes. Although Lissa begs not to wear them when she is out in the fields, helping, Devadas is unmoving. It seems that the old passion between them hasn’t gone anywhere and even though Devadas seeks to bed her only as a way to humiliate her, it soon becomes clear that there is more to it, especially when Devadas’ elder brother, now the King of Catiscal turns up and demands his bride – Lissa.

Lissa is a spoiled Princess when she uses Devadas but he is a grown adult when he comes back and begins to take his so-called revenge upon her. He is mostly kidding himself that all he is after is the chance to humiliate her before he resumes being the Warlord Death but both of them are hopelessly clueless about the way the other truly feels and Devadas has no idea that all these years, Lissa has believed him dead because that’s what her father told her. It isn’t until Devadas learns that his elder brother, with whom he has never gotten along, intends to claim Lissa that he begins to accept the fact that his feelings for her are not so hostile.

Chains Of Love is quite a spicy but short read but there were two thing that tempered my enjoyment of it (and these are purely personal, but that’s what reading is, a personal experience). The first was overly-excessive usage of a particular word during intimate scenes. I loathe this word (it begins with ‘C’ so you fill in the blanks yourselves). I hate it in every day conversation, which seems to be popular now among high school and twenties-aged males, I hate it used as an insult and I hate it used as a descriptive term. And this book is absolutely littered with this word. In every scene in which Lissa and Devadas are intimate, it must be used at least four times. It pulls me out of the story because it’s such an ugly word and I really, really dislike “cunny” even more, which is used once in this book. If you don’t mind this word then you’ll no doubt enjoy the erotic scenes more than I did but if you share my sensitivity to it (and I’m no prude, I read plenty of hot stuff, it’s just this particular word that I do not enjoy) then you may have the same issue I did in that it pulled me out of the scenes.

The second thing is that the relationship the second time around develops extremely rapidly, perhaps too rapidly for my liking given they haven’t seen each other in over 10 years and they are both very different people. Devadas seeks to humiliate Lissa despite the fact that they’d been on good terms when he left and had to go and fight a war for her father. She didn’t humiliate him for her amusement when she was a teenager, it was part of the cultural custom for a virgin to be taught the ways of the bedroom prior to marriage. She was haughty and often a bit condescending but she was also a Princess. Devadas is a grown man both times and his revenge is a bit childish and makes it even more difficult to believe that he still has actual feelings for her. I’d have liked a little more character exploration and depth to the arrangement between them the second time around in order for me to get more satisfaction out of this one.

6/10

Book #242 of 2012

Chains Of Revenge is the 77th novel read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012

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A Little Bush Maid – Mary Grant Bruce

Last year I didn’t review re-reads as my reason for starting the blog was to read and review books I hadn’t read before. This year I have a different challenge, so I will be reviewing anything I’m re-reading that I haven’t already talked about here.

Not so long ago, Marg from Adventures of an Intrepid Reader mentioned an eBook site on Twitter which I didn’t know about so I had a little bit of a look. They upload free copies of novels out of copyright (in a variety of formats) and skimming through I found and downloaded about 8 or so for my Kindle – some older Victorian classics that I haven’t read and also some former childhood favourites such as two of the Anne novels by L.M Montgomery, and this novel, A Little Bush Maid, by Mary Grant Bruce.

A Little Bush Maid is the first novel of the Billabong series, which spans 15 novels published between 1910 and 1942. I was first introduced to them by a friend of mine (the same friend responsible for introducing me to the Obernewtyn Chronicles) when I was about 10 or 11 and when we moved to a new city in 1993, I discovered that the library there possessed all of the series. I read through them swiftly and re-borrowed them a lot over the next couple of years. As with a lot of things though, I eventually moved on – began reading more adult novels and left ones like these behind. When I saw it on this site, I estimated that it had probably been a good 16 years since I’d read a Billabong novel. So I immediately opened it up on the Kindle to see how I felt about it as a 29yo, having such fond childhood memories of it.

A Little Bush Maid introduces us to 12 year old Norah Linton, who lives on a cattle and sheep farm in northern Victoria with her father, the widowed David Linton and a horde of staff. During school holidays, her 15yo brother Jim joins them from boarding school in Melbourne and in this novel he brings two friends with him, Harry and Wally. I know that Wally becomes a regular fixture around Billabong, visiting every holidays and actually living there upon finishing high school, but I don’t recall how many more times Harry appears in other novels. Although Norah is 12, she’s had no formal schooling and spends most of her days riding her horse around the farm, helping her father and the stockmen. She’s an accomplished horsewoman, riding astride rather than sidesaddle, which is uncommon of the day. She has been taught how to cook and sew and run a household by the Billabong cook and sees no need to be educated in things such as Math, Latin and History. All she cares about is Billabong and her family.

Thankfully it’s school holidays so Jim arrives back, his friends in tow. Norah frets about them leaving her out but the boys take to Norah and she to them and the four of them spend their days having adventures around the huge property including meeting a hermit while on a fishing expedition and some drama about a murderer believed to be hiding out in the district. Billabong is very remote, it’s 16 miles to the nearest town and travel is done on horseback, or by horse and cart unless you’re the local doctor who is the only one mentioned to own a motor car. The book comes to a climax when Norah and her dad discover the gentle hermit gravely ill in the bush – Norah has been hiding his existence from her father in case people think he’s the murderer believed to be loose in the district and when David Linton recognises him, Norah fears the worst.

I think the most important thing when reading these novels is to remember when they were written. A Little Bush Maid was published in 1910, and life in this country has changed a huge amount in the past 100 years. Back then, huge cattle and sheep stations were the norm, with stockmen working the land and families passing down properties for generations. These days such a property would probably be an economic nightmare, given the sheer amount of staff Billabong was supporting and given current climates, which have delivered both crippling droughts and devastating floods in the past three years alone. Before automobile travel was common, parts of even Victoria, the second smallest of our states of Australia, would’ve taken days to reach from the capital and schooling would’ve been very relaxed – probably education for children in bigger towns, but for country kids it would’ve been tutors or small primary schools until the age of 12 and then boarding schools for higher education. These days Norah would have no hope being able to loaf around the family property all day but back then it was probably quite common for wealthier families to employ a tutor/governess – which David Linton does for Norah at the end of this book.

These novels have also been republished, something about which I am not surprised. I was reading an original text and I know that political correctness didn’t exist much back in 1910, especially in Australia towards the native indigenous population and the Asians that emigrated around the gold rush times, but even I was extremely taken aback by the casual usage of racial slurs about the Aboriginal stockman/helper Billy and the Chinese gardener Lee. It was very disconcerting to read a 12yo girl dropping a word I won’t even type in this review!

These novels focus very heavily on the identity of the ‘bush’ and ‘bush people’ which are clearly defined as being very different to city people. The divide is less today, but it’s still there – country folk, especially those that have grown up on the land and worked it for a long time, are very different to their city counterparts and the bush does have an identity and culture all of its own, very much based around helping each other out whenever it is needed and generosity towards anyone and a huge respect for the land which you are farming/working. Even back in the early 1900’s Mary Grant Bruce was pushing responsible farming and giving back to the land. Billabong is well celebrated for its beauty and a lot of the land seems to remain untouched, farming only what is necessary, moving animals and crops in a rotation and resting paddocks. There is great respect for the livestock that work the farms too, with Norah and Jim both reiterating how much their prize horses mean to them and indeed, how much all of the animals on the farm rate in importance, right down to Jim’s guinea pigs.

Another huge theme in these novels is the importance of family. The Linton’s are very close – Jim and Norah don’t argue that I can remember and neither of them argue with their father. Norah and Jim spend as much time together as possible, having a truly unique sibling relationship that you don’t see too often, even in fiction. And although David Linton loves both his children, it’s quite obvious (and even Jim will say) that the relationship between him and Norah is special. The family unit of Billabong extends to more than just the Lintons, with much of the staff being accepted as such and them also pretty much adopting Wally after a while.

I thoroughly enjoyed my little trip down reading memory lane, immersing myself in this world again and only wish the site had the rest of the books uploaded! They’re quite hard to source, with The Book Depository having them out of stock, Booktopia possessing only one on their site (this one, naturally!) and Fishpond seem to want to charge me between $26.95 – $42.95 for the few they can source which doesn’t exactly have me reaching for my credit card.

Thankfully my local library seems to have come partially to the rescue, having 11 titles by Mary Grant Bruce, 10 of which are Billabong novels. Unfortunately they don’t have my favourite one, Billabong’s Daughter and also some of them are apparently not for loan, or you have to inquire about them at the desk, which I find intriguing. I will ask about them the next time I am there.

But I was thankful for the chance to read this one again with such ease. They are a series that has obviously stuck in my mind over many years, even though it’s been quite a while since I visited them. I was surprised by how much I thought I remembered about the series only to find that there was so much I had forgotten. I think I read a few of the later books, when Norah and Jim are older, much more than I did the earlier novels and there’s much that I didn’t recall at all. It was almost like reading an entirely new book, but with characters that I had been introduced to before.

7/10

Book #31 for 2011

**Note – I was put on to Project Gutenburg who have 4 Billabong titles for download: this one, Mates At Billabong (#2), Captain Jim (#6) and Back To Billabong (#7). I downloaded Mates At Billabong but really don’t want to re-read the series out of order so have left the other two for now.

 

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