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Review: Bloodtree River by Sarah Barrie

Bloodtree River
Sarah Barrie
Harlequin AUS
2018, 352p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

From the author of the bestselling Hunters Ridge series comes this stand-alone twisty rural suspense, this time set against the dark backdrop of Tasmanian mountains. Indiana O’Meara is no stranger to the forces of evil.

Her own past is full of violence. Now a policewoman, Indy is always fighting to redeem herself and defeat the dark. So when girls begin to go missing at a remote cattle station in Tasmania, she is quick to agree to go undercover to investigate chief suspect, the owner of Calico Mountain Lodge, Logan Atherton, even though last time she went undercover it came to a bloody end. But her early encounter with Logan Atherton reveals a man full of contradictions. His deep empathy for horses and those he cares for is obvious but he is also taciturn to the point of rudeness, and there is a strange atmosphere at the lodge. It doesn’t add up. As Indy begins to dig deeper into the secrets at the Lodge, she finds herself embroiled in a murderous web more complex and terrifying than she could ever have imagined…

I’m a huge fan of Sarah Barrie’s romantic suspense novels. Her Hunter’s Ridge trilogy are probably three of my favourites in the genre. Although readers of that book will pick this one up and find a couple of familiar faces, it’s not strictly necessary to have read those before beginning this. It helps a bit for some basic background and it’s good to see Indy get her story but if you haven’t read any of the others (which I suggest you do!) you won’t be left behind.

Detective Indy O’Meara is gathering information to bring down a drug kingpin in Sydney when an undercover opportunity in Tasmania comes her way. Girls keep going missing, all seemingly having worked at the same cattle property although only one body has been found. Grave fears are held for the wellbeing of several others and Indy is to go in looking for a job, hoping to gather information and perhaps even tempt the suspect. Most eyes seem to be on Logan Atherton but despite extensive questioning and searches, nothing concrete has been found.

It’s decided that as a part of Indy’s cover she should appear meek, submissive, give off the impression of being alone. But Indy is anything but meek and submissive and she immediately draws attention to herself the moment she arrives looking for a job. Some of that attention comes from Logan Atherton himself and Indy is immediately conflicted. She definitely needs to be wary of him – in most cases he’s the last person to see these women alive and he’s the chief suspect. But even though he can be decidedly difficult, there’s something about him. He’s hiding things and he can be bluntly rude but she’s not convinced he’s some kind of violent murderer. She knows that she can uncover what is going on but if Indy’s wrong….the price could be her life.

This was such a rollercoaster of a ride! I absolutely loved the setting – good to see Indy heading out of the city of Sydney and to Tasmania. I don’t read a lot of books set in Tassie and the landscape is just perfect for this type of story. Thick bushland, remote properties, it lends itself well to the sort of undercover type of work that Indy was doing. Armed with a good resume, she gets herself a job where she needs to and sets about observing the goings on and trying to figure out whether or not someone really is either kidnapping these women and keeping them somewhere, possibly torturing them, or murdering them. In such terrain, bodies could go unfound for decades.

Indy has seen and experienced a lot in her life and she brings that with her, in some ways. She’s supposed to be a bit pliable, perhaps easily charmed or persuaded but instead she finds herself unable check her nature, engaging in arguments, standing up for herself and not exactly blending in. The place is so desperate for help though (unsurprising, considering most of them keep vanishing) and although they are also suspicious about newcomers, especially with the rumours swirling around since the discovery of a woman’s body, Indy is capable enough that she is able to slot in quite easily, working in the stables with Logan.

Ah, Logan. Look, I’m going to be honest, I spent an awful lot of this book not really liking Logan. He seems deliberately antagonistic just for the sheer pleasure of it, he’s a bit too much of a smart-arse who seems unconcerned about the women that have disappeared and the fact that he’s in the gun for it. And also he manhandles Indy in a scene that really annoyed me. It’s not a particularly great picture to paint and although it was meant in kind of tongue in cheek play or comeuppance for Indy, I didn’t really feel as though she warranted it. Actually, no one really warrants that. Indy is for all intents and purposes, an employee and should be treated respectfully. Not tossed around like a child’s toy.

Logan did grow on me, the further into the book I got but the strength was the suspense portion of this book and the way in which Sarah Barrie wove that together. The more Indy uncovered, the more complicated everything became and the more intrigued I got. There were so many things that I didn’t suspect – and people that I didn’t suspect of being involved. When things were revealed though, I could see how there had been a throwaway line here or there or something that made sense in hindsight. I had no idea things were going to escalate to such a degree and it was so clever. I really enjoyed that aspect of the story and how Indy managed to put things together. She was figuring things out on the fly, including some pretty insane plans once things hit the fan and there was just so much she managed to cover. Her and Ben are a great team and even though he’s managing from Sydney, you get to see them as a cohesive unit who back each other. An awesome example of a platonic partnership.

This is a really well paced, clever story that had me unable to put it down. Already I cannot wait for Sarah Barrie’s next book.

9/10

Book #78 of 2018

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Review: The Love Coupon by Ainslie Paton

The Love Coupon (Stubborn Hearts #2)
Ainslie Paton
Carina Press
2018, eBook
Copy courtesy of the author/publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

How many coupons does it take to fall in love?

Flick Dalgetty knows what she wants and how to get it, which is why she’s about to start her dream job in Washington. Until then, she needs somewhere to crash, and Tom O’Connell’s place is her sole option. He’s a repressed, antisocial ogre…but man can he kiss.

For Tom, being around Flick is like being too close to the sun. Her untamed energy is overwhelming, and he’d spontaneously combust if he had to live with her long-term. Housemates with benefits—and an expiration date—suits him just fine.

Then Flick gives Tom thirty coupons, each entitling him to one obligation-free activity, from bowling and bubble-bathing to morning delight, removing all the guesswork from being incompatible partners and shifting their fling into high gear.

Now the problem is their arrangement is drawing to a close, and they might be falling in love—and there wasn’t a coupon for that.

I was a pretty big fan of the first novel in this series, The Love Experiment so I was pretty keen to read this, especially because the blurb contains two of my favourite words in a hero: repressed, antisocial. I don’t know what it is but sign me up for an uptight type, especially when the female love interest is a more forward personality. I just really enjoy reading that dynamic. It’s much more interesting to me than the manwhore/virginal female pairing.

Tom’s room mate moved out when he took a job overseas and although Tom knows he needs a new one in order to have the level of financial comfort he prefers, he definitely does not want Felicity ‘Flick’ Dalgetty as his room mate. She’s chaos and Tom is organised, clean and tidy. He doesn’t like mess and Flick is sure to be a whirlwind tearing through his apartment. But she does only need a room for three months before she takes a job interstate and eventually she wears him down.

At first their interactions are minimal – Flick leaves early and is generally in her room when Tom returns from work. But eventually their paths start crossing a little more often. Tom offers to share his cooked meals with her and they share conversations which lead to a kiss. I really liked the chemistry between the two of them. Flick has a great, refreshing attitude towards a fling and she’s very confident in herself, which was fantastic. Tom often has doubts (although I think his reasons are fine) and he at times attempts to retreat a bit, perhaps a bit afraid of truly being able to let go. This book takes time to explore both Tom and Flick’s backgrounds in a really in depth manner and you can see how where they’ve come from has shaped their interactions with others. Flick’s relationship with her family I found really interesting – and also a bit puzzling. In some ways I understand why she continues to do what she does but to be honest the majority of my thoughts were wondering why she even bothered. There’s only so much someone should be expected to endure before making decisions for their own good.

Tom and Flick bounce off each other really well and although they both sometimes touch a nerve with their frank questions, they’re very equal. I really liked the idea of the coupons and how fun Flick made some of them, as well as sexy. I got the feeling Tom lived a very ordered life, did the same things every day and Flick was definitely more about having fun, being spontaneous and even though the coupons mean things are decided in advance, Tom can redeem any one he chooses and a lot of them are fun and sort of casual so it pushes him to do things he wouldn’t normally do and open himself up to new experiences, both in bed and out. The coupons were such a cool idea and added so much to the story, I only wish they’d been introduced a little earlier as it’s quite far into the book when they appear. Most of them do get described but I do wish it could’ve been in greater detail and time spent on all of them as they are quite an important part of Flick and Tom’s growing relationship.

From the very beginning it’s clear that this is just supposed to be a fling, because Flick is leaving in three months to go to a new job interstate and Tom has a plan, which results in him being promoted sooner rather than later. This is a romance novel so you know it’s going to end differently to that but I loved the fact that I couldn’t pick how it was going to go. Both Tom and Flick had careers that were very important to them and Tom was on the property ladder and was very focused on his future and how he wanted things to go. The chemistry between them was so strong both sexually and emotionally that I was incredibly invested in the outcome. Both of them compliment the other in lots of ways – Tom takes care of Flick in a way that she hasn’t really experienced. Not a “boyfriend protecting the little woman way” but in a more nurturing, feeding her and providing stability sort of way. And Flick encourages Tom to live a little, explore his feelings, indulge. Relax the rules, enjoy things. There’s a balance there and it works, although small things can tip that balance out and result in struggle.

I loved this….perfect blend of characters that for me were both likeable and interesting. Their journey was a fun one to go on and I’m looking forward to the next in this series.

8/10

Book #61 of 2018

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Review: Inked by Anne Marsh

Inked (Hard Riders MC#2)
Anne Marsh
Harlequin DARE
2018, 168p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Bankers and bad boys don’t mix

So why is she getting under his skin?

Harper, a buttoned-up banker, is a tattoo virgin before Vik draws her first ink. And once the bad-boy biker lays his hands on the beautiful canvas of her body, he’s addicted! Harper says the two of them could never mix outside of the bedroom—but she’s finding that she wants the feeling of Vik’s touch to last forever.

I read this on a whim and didn’t realise it was the second in a series until after I finished it but it didn’t matter. The books will all centre around different characters in the same motorcycle club and although the hero from the first book does appear a couple times in this one, it doesn’t talk much around his story and you can easily read this first without spoiling anything.

Harper is a banker who caught her boyfriend cheating and has now decided on a whim to get a tattoo and so she strolls into the shop where Vik works. They’ve actually met before…..but Vik doesn’t remember her however he’s pretty interested in her now. Harper doesn’t know what she wants to get tattooed on her so she lets Vik choose and so he designs something that he thinks fits her and where she’s at in her life.

From there they segue into a sort of friends with benefits arrangement (read: booty calls) where they talk about a lot how neither of them want commitment. Harper just wants to live a little after the souring of her previous relationship and although Vik’s father wants him to find a good woman and settle down, Vik’s motto seems to be ‘here for a good time, not a long time’ and he’ll just take as many women as he can find, thanks. Although once he meets Harper, that kind of dries up.

This was….okay I guess? Nothing ground breaking. Vik is annoyingly smirky and cocky and he’s more playboy than aloof biker. It annoys me when people go and get tattoos without even knowing what they want though. You’re inking something permanently onto your skin and you can’t even be bothered to choose what it is? Also this tattoo seems elaborate but is completed in one session and there’s no aftercare and the next time Harper even looks at it , it’s perfectly healed. Magic.

I wanted to explore the fact that they’d already ‘known’ each other (and I do meant that in every sense) but it’s kind of glossed over? Harper remembers it quite well but Vik has zero memory of it whatsoever and she makes no real attempt to enlighten him as to when/where it was and it’s basically never mentioned again. She doesn’t seem particularly insulted that he doesn’t even remember her and Vik is keen to make amends by making it up to her. It’s fine, pretty standard, I never really felt like they had much chemistry though. Vik doesn’t really come across as very deep – I think the relationship with his father and the way his father was urging him to settle down was an attempt to show the man behind the MC but it didn’t really do much. I did like that he took care of his father but I was a little confused about whether their lifestyle was 100% legit these days.

Harper was fine, a bit bland. She’s some sort of investment banker or something who manages other people’s money (and does it very well, which was good to see). Her break up happens before the book starts and there’s no real interaction with her ex – I thought there might be something for closure but it doesn’t happen. Just a scene where she tries to steal her cat back which goes a bit awry.

Harper and Vik spend most of the book assuring themselves that they’re not in a relationship and it’s just this or that with no strings attached but it’s pretty obvious that it’s not just this or that and that there are some strings attached. It takes Vik a ridiculously long amount of time to figure out what’s going on and he was just so annoyingly stubborn about it for no good reason that it got a bit tedious towards the end. Perhaps because this is really short and although they do spend time together out of bed, it’s not much so it did feel a bit of a stretch that there were these powerful feelings already. Especially for two people who hadn’t wanted anything more and in Vik’s case, didn’t really seem to have had many, if any, proper relationships. Could’ve probably done with a bit more fleshing out.

The character from the story before this piqued my interest and I thought about going to check that book out and I might do that but it’s only a novella like this one and from the same category. I’ve read two DARE novels now and I don’t think they’re for me. Whilst it’s a very quick and easy read, it’s a bit bland and for me there was nothing that stood out about it character or story wise unfortunately.

4/10

Book #60 of 2018

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Review: Eight Simple Rules For Dating A Dragon by Kerrelyn Sparks

Eight Simple Rules For Dating A Dragon (The Embraced #3)
Kerrelyn Sparks
St Martins Press
2018, 448p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Gwennore has a talent. An Elf able to track down the cause of an illness and heal it, she’s a valuable asset to her people. When the kidnapping of a young girl thrusts Gwennore into the very heart of the realm of the dragons, she discovers not only a place of power and magic, but also a haunted land, plagued by an ancient curse that all but ensures extinction to the royal family. But when she meets the smoldering General Silas Dravenko, they strike a bargain—save the country from its cursed illness, and he will return the kidnapped girl. She’s been raised never to trust a dragon, but never did making a deal with the devil feel so good…

Silas has no way of curing the family he’s loyally served for years. But when a beautiful elf, long considered the enemy of the dragons, comes bursting into his world, Silas is awakened to passion and desire in a way he’s never felt before. But can he trust a sworn enemy to save the very existence he holds dear? And can their love survive those that threaten to tear them apart?

I really love this series. Five women, all born during the night the twin moons of this world ’embrace’. All children born on this nights are gifted with special talents but for a long time those children were also outcasts so the women were sent as young girls to an island to be raised in secret. They’re as close as sisters and Gwennore is kidnapped protecting one of the children of one of her sisters, willing to do anything in order to keep that little girl safe.

Gwennore is taken to the land of the dragons (Norveshka) and although they’ve kidnapped a princess, their motives are confusing. Gwennore realises that the country is hiding many secrets, including the truth about their powerful dragons and also stories of an ancient curse which has driven the ruling family mad for generations. General Silas Dravenko vows to return the young kidnapped princess to her parents but because of Gwennore’s gift he begs her to stay and help break the ‘curse’ and solve the terrible effects of the plague that regularly sweeps the land. Gwennore is reluctant…..but the General is pretty persuasive.

Silas appeared in the previous book assisting the pirate Rupert and the first Queen’s gift with the stones already predicted Gwennore’s destiny lay in the land of the dragons. As an Elf, this was surprising. Due to her isolation on the Isle of Moon for her protection, Gwennore has never even met another of her kind, although their reputation in the land of the dragons are of a savage killing race, regularly raiding across the shared border. The Norveshkans have been at war with the elves for years, so long that no one even know really knows why. Gwennore is surprised by how at home she feels in Norveshka, how beautiful she finds it, especially the forests. But she still wants to return to her sisters, despite the best efforts of the General.

Norveshka have closely guarded their secrets and because of this, Silas spends a lot of time either lying to Gwennore or not telling her key things or pretending he doesn’t know other things. It’s not really a deliberate attempt to be manipulative, but it sort of comes off that way because she keeps asking him to be honest with her and he keeps not being able to because of who he is and the Norveshkan history. Gwennore is achingly slow to connect the dots at some stages – she’s rescued during the kidnap by a dragon, who she can communicate with directly by hearing his thoughts and answering him. This is curious because as an Elf, Gwennore shouldn’t be able to hear the dragons. It takes her an astonishingly long time to figure out why the dragon keeps coming when she asks it to. But it makes things an awful lot easier when she does.

I liked the way that this book both had a mystery that was contained to the local area (the curse, the plague and the effects on the population) as well as continuing the mystery that has run through the previous two books with the Chameleon attempting to manipulate the monarchy in yet another nation. The new rulers are working together to learn more about him but so much is still unknown – his true form, for a start. Which makes it incredibly difficult to know when he’s around. Usually it’s not until his plans are well underway and someone recognises the pattern and by then it’s hard to know what form he’s taking. As a shifter, he can basically be anyone or anything and they really need Brody, a shifter himself, around who can smell his ‘signature’. With each instalment it gets more interesting and I can’t wait for the endgame.

I would’ve liked a little more romance in this one – it’s there but Gwennore stands quite firm against Silas for the longest time, because she believes she’ll never be accepted in his land (especially because of who Silas is) due to the long and bloody history they have with the elves. He’s pretty open about what he wants and I did like the ‘rules for dating a dragon’ that he invents as a bit of fun. Gwennore has been very sheltered in her upbringing so she’s pretty (ok very) inexperienced and she’s horrified when people assume that they are lovers. I loved the revelations about her background though and I’m pretty curious to see the land of the elves….hopefully that happens in the next book (the stones! the stones!).

These are good fun and I’m always excited to see a new one and satisfied when I finish one.

8/10

Book #58 of 2018

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Review: The Afterlife Of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

The Afterlife Of Holly Chase
Cynthia Hand
Harper Collins AUS
2017, 390p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Holly Chase has the job of saving souls, but it is her own that she realizes needs examining.
On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn’t.

And then she died.

Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge-as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change…

Confession: I’ve never read A Christmas Carol. In fact I’ve never read a Dickens novel. However it’s ingrained enough in popular culture that I know the basics of the story but I’m afraid that some of the references etc in this book might be lost on me.

Holly Chase was a rich, privileged, selfish and unlikable teenager when she was visited by three ghosts – that of Past, Present and Future. They beseeched her to change her ways, or she would die. She dismissed it, she died and now five years later she works as the Ghost of Christmas Past, helping to save others. The company she works for picks one person each year – they spend months watching them, researching their lives, picking through their memories to isolate key moments, things that changed them and made them into what they are today. They identify important people (who are given names for specific reasons that relate to the original story) and have one chance to try to convince them to mend their ways and embrace a new future.

Five years has passed since Holly ‘died’ and started working for Project Scrooge. She still appears as she did the day she died, so as a 16yo girl (with great hair, thanks to a blow out). I get the feeling Holly continues to work for Project Scrooge because she fears the alternative and she doesn’t seem to be that reformed. She has an inner voice she attributes to her stepmother, a judgemental fashion director who was Holly’s own Jacob Marley. She’s not exactly friendly to someone that is introduced as her new assistant but her biggest issue is that she’s drawn to this year’s Scrooge, a teenager named Ethan. All of a sudden Holly is breaking a lot of rules.

I was rather surprised how much I enjoyed this. One morning I woke up just after 5 and couldn’t get back to sleep so I decided to read and picked this on a whim on my iPad. I ended up reading it all in one sitting until 8am when I had to get up and get my kids their breakfast. I enjoy Christmas but I’m not what you’d call a big Christmas person. I don’t care about decorating everything and Christmas activities. I’m more just about spending the day with family but in a casual way, rather than the whole ‘Christmas spirit’ type thing so I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a bit hard hitting for me on the morals and spirit and all that sort of stuff. But I think telling it from Holly’s point of view, a 16yo self-absorbed girl, helps soften that. And yet despite that, there were plenty of really quite emotional moments in this book. Holly’s father is a movie producer and although they’d drifted apart in the years before Holly’s visit from the spirits, there are some touching moments in this book where Holly goes to see his movies, often many times and understands the significance of the plot. But it’s not something she can discuss with anyone.

I liked the various characters that work at Project Scrooge and their quirks and the jobs that they do and the way they feel about their Scrooges. Generally the people are older so Holly has never really had an issue before but when they choose a young, hot, rich teenager, Holly starts wanting to know more. When she’s sifting through his memories she’s looking for things she wants to know, rather than things she should be looking for as ammunition. I liked the way this played out – I especially like that it was surprising for me and that the whole thing didn’t end in the way in which I thought it would. It was well played.

This was a fun read. I really should read more of Cynthia Hand’s books. And actually, I should probably get around to reading A Christmas Carol too.

7/10

Book #16 of 2018

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Review: The Wolves Of Winter by Tyrell Johnson

The Wolves Of Winter
Tyrell Johnson
Harlequin AUS
2018, 320p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

A captivating tale of humanity pushed beyond its breaking point, of family and bonds of love forged when everything is lost, and of a heroic young woman who crosses a frozen landscape to find her destiny. This debut novel is written in a post-apocalyptic tradition that spans The Hunger Games and Station Eleven but blazes its own distinctive path.

Forget the old days. Forget summer. Forget warmth. Forget anything that doesn’t help you survive in the endless white wilderness beyond the edges of a fallen world.

Lynn McBride has learned much since society collapsed in the face of nuclear war and the relentless spread of disease. As the memories of her old life continue to haunt, she’s been forced to forge ahead in the snow-drifted Canadian Yukon, learning how to hunt and trap and slaughter.

But her fragile existence is about to be shattered. Shadows of the world before have found her tiny community—most prominently in the enigmatic figure of Jax, who brings with him dark secrets of the past and sets in motion a chain of events that will call Lynn to a role she never imagined.

Simultaneously a heartbreakingly sympathetic portrait of a young woman searching for the answer to who she is meant to be and a frightening vision of a merciless new world in which desperation rules, The Wolves of Winter is enveloping, propulsive, and poignant.

There were a couple of things that made me want to read this book. Firstly, I love a post-apocalyptic story and this sounded surprisingly plausible in the current climate and political situation. Also, the setting. I’m pretty obsessed with areas like Alaska and northern Canada and the way in which people adapt to survive in those environments. I love watching TV shows and reading books that are set in remote and harsh locations. I also am interested in reading anything homesteader or self-sufficient lifestyle.

In The Wolves Of Winter, first the bombs started as the world powers struggled for supremacy. Then a mysterious virus known as the Asian flu wiped out epic numbers of the world’s population. Those that hadn’t died within a few weeks of being exposed to the virus were generally considered to be immune but few had ever recovered. Lynn and her family had retreated to Alaska even before the first signs of trouble, her father’s work having alerted him to problems. Then they retreated further to the Yukon, building cabins and surviving on potatoes, carrots and what they could catch and kill. Their location is isolated, only a neighbour nearby so when Lynn runs into a man whilst out in the woods, it’s unusual. Very unusual. And when more men come looking for him, it ends in an ugly way.

Whilst I could have no trouble imagining the events that led to the way things became in this novel, I can’t really say the same for the events of the actual novel. Lynn lives in like a “family compound” – she shares a cabin with her mother and also part of their group but living in separate cabins are her uncle, her brother and the son of her uncle’s friend. When Lynn comes across the stranger – a man named Jax – in the forest, the plot changes from a basic survival type of story to something that encompasses the fate of humanity, or what is left of it. Jax is different, on the run from a group known as Immunity. And Lynn suddenly realises that her mother has kept secrets – her deceased father was working on something, something important. Why won’t anyone tell her what it is? Why does it seem to involve her? I didn’t really enjoy the Immunity story to be honest and it detracted from the parts of the book I was most interested in. It changed the book for me, from something that was ‘hey this could actually happen right now’ to something different.

For me, the most interesting part of this story takes place before the book actually begins. It’s glossed over mostly – the events that led to countries dropping bombs on each other, the virus that swept the world, killing huge numbers of the population. People doing whatever it took to survive and for Lynn and her family, that meant retreating even further than they had. I’d have liked to read more about that journey and their settling in to their new place of residence, adjusting to the way of life with no electricity and living solely off what they could grow, hunt and catch. That’s the sort of stuff that interests me and I thought there’d be a bit more of it. Instead the book is more focused on the arrival of Jax, the fact that he’s mysterious and being hunted and just precisely what the group hunting him are really up to. I have to admit I struggled to maintain interest the deeper the story delved into Immunity and what they were doing and I honestly didn’t see the point of all the secrecy surrounding Lynn’s father and what he’d been doing and how Lynn, who was a teenager at the time, was so vague on it. Some of it seemed deliberately blocked out, as the death of her father had been very traumatic for her and I guess some is typical teen oblivion. But there were quite important things that Lynn didn’t really seem to remember and when she did/was told, I didn’t really see the need for such furtiveness.

There’s a sort of, well I’m not going to use the word romance, because it doesn’t really come across that way but I’ll say curiosity, between Jax and Lynn. It’s natural really – Lynn has spent her late teen and early adult years living with her mother, her uncle, her brother and another boy who is basically family anyway. Her only other interaction with the opposite sex in years has come in the form of their neighbour, a disgusting man who threatens to rape her. Jax is young, strong, fast and mysterious. However for me a real connection was lacking. It was more like aforementioned curiosity and circumstance, rather than any real bond. However the end of the book seems to suggest that if this one does well, a sequel will probably be forthcoming and perhaps we’ll get more of Lynn and Jax as there seems to be much more to their story and what they’re going to do.

This was an okay read for me but I didn’t love it.

6/10

Book #11 of 2017

 

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Review: No Regrets by Julie Moffett

No Regrets (Lexi Carmichael Mystery #10)
Julie Moffett
Carina Press
2018, 243p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Geek girl Lexi Carmichael has tackled her share of formidable tasks, but nothing quite as daunting as serving as maid of honor at her best friend’s wedding.

When I agreed to stand by my best friend, Basia, on her big day, I had no idea what I was in for. Bouquets and unflattering evening wear I can handle. But between disgruntled dates, a beach venue and suspicious packages, what else can go wrong? Oh, right—my parents don’t know I’ve moved in with Slash. Oops?

Thankfully, I’ve got everything semi under control, at least as far as Basia and Xavier know. They can leave for their honeymoon happy, knowing Elvis, Slash and I will keep things safe at home.

Meanwhile, Elvis and Xavier’s boss at ComQuest has asked X-Corp—well, me—to take a quick trip to retrieve a sensitive company package from the British Virgin Islands. No hacking involved. Just show up, accept the package and bring it home safely. A cushy assignment, and a safe one. Right? 

Wrong. Things start to unravel the minute I set foot on the boat to the island. Before I know it, I’m up to my neck in thugs, sand and trouble. I’m going to have to work fast to stop the bad guys before the sun sets for good on this unexpected beach vacation…

I enjoy this series but I have to admit, I enjoy parts of it more than others.

In this installment, Lexi is serving as bridesmaid for her best friend Basia, who is finally marrying one of Lexi’s other few close friends, Xavier Zimmerman. The role has brought about many duties and things that are outside of Lexi’s comfort zone but she’s appreciative of Basia and she wants everything to be perfect so she’s getting on with it. She can’t shake the feeling that something will go wrong though – lately Lexi has been compiling the data of what happens to her in a ‘Little Black Cloud’ spreadsheet so that she can analyse it. Lexi is the kind of person that ‘things just happen to’ and she’s determined that nothing ruin this special day.

I think these books are better when they focus on the ‘mystery’ and less on the ‘comic relief’ but that’s just personal opinion because I find that crazy incidents with animals bother the heck out of me and there are two of them in this book. The first one is kind of not so bad but the second one…..ugh, I honestly can’t believe it was even left in the book.

I really did enjoy the mystery – as I said, it’s where I feel the strengths in this series are and I always like to watch Lexi doing her thing, gathering information and sorting out things in her head and coming up with a plan. She’s very smart, she’s confident in her abilities and she definitely shines in this book. I loved her process of investigating and could ignore the distractions and silliness that kind of cut in along the way because they were just small moments and the solving of what was going on took up a far bigger portion of the book. I liked that Lexi didn’t need rescuing in this book but I also appreciated that there were people who came to make sure of it.

Lexi’s developing relationship with Slash has been a big thing for me since the third book – I wasn’t too crazy about him as an option in the first book and maybe the second but since the third I’ve been fully on board. I love that it does actually develop – a lot! They’re not just stuck in a holding pattern, she’s not torn between two guys (thankfully that part was cleared up very early on in the series) and they’ve grown as a couple, shared things about each other and moved forward. And they continue to move forward in this one, which I appreciate although once again, the manner in which it happens was kind of another one of those ‘Lexi’ moments. And I really liked the way this one ended. There’s a bit of a cliffhanger and it revolves around Slash and it looks as though the next book is going to be really interesting and quite personal. I do think that the author has done a great job really developing Lexi and Slash’s story and continuing to have it grow over numerous volumes and there’s still plenty left for them.

But this isn’t my favourite one of the series. I’m probably in the minority but I find a lot of the ‘comic’ moments contrived, like they’ve been really thought out and written purely to invoke amusement rather than unfolding naturally. None of them really felt natural and that pulls me out of the story which lessens my enjoyment of it. Lexi is really funny enough on her own. She doesn’t need ‘crazy’ things happening to her to get a laugh. And I really just appreciate her geeky, funny, intelligent side without disasters. However the way in which this book ended has made me so keen for the next book. I really need to find out what’s going to happen there.

6/10

Book #1 of 2018

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Review: The Upside Of Falling Down by Rebekah Crane

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

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

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.

5/10

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/Goodreads.com}:

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.

7/10

Book #183 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/Goodreads.com}:

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.

4/10

Book #205 of 2017

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

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