All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Mini Reviews: Truly & Madly by Ruthie Knox

Truly (New York #1)
Ruthie Knox
Loveswept
2014, eBook
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

May Fredericks hates New York. Which is fair enough, since New York seems to hate her back. After relocating to Manhattan from the Midwest to be with her long-distance boyfriend, NFL quarterback Thor Einarsson, May receives the world’s worst marriage proposal, stabs the jerk with a shrimp fork, and storms off alone—only to get mugged. Now she’s got no phone, no cash, and no friends. How’s a nice girl supposed to get back to safe, sensible Wisconsin?

Frankly, Ben Hausman couldn’t care less. Sure, it’s not every day he meets a genuine, down-to-earth woman like May—especially in a dive in the Village—but he’s recovering from an ugly divorce that cost him his restaurant. He wants to be left alone to start over and become a better man. Then again, playing the white knight to May’s sexy damsel in distress would be an excellent place to start—if only he can give her one very good reason to love New York.

So it seems that lately, a lot of the books in my TBR pile have been a bit depressing. Cancer, death, etc. When this happens I tend to go on a romance binge, both contemporary and historical, almost to balance it out. I came across the second book in this series and it sounded awesome but figured I might as well get the first one too. So, so glad I did!

May moved to New York when her NFL-playing boyfriend went from the Packers to the Jets. She never really embraced the city and was ready to flee, especially after receiving a humiliating proposal. Mugged on her way out of the building, she’s left with no money, no ID and no desire to return to her now former boyfriend’s apartment. She heads to a comforting bar, a Packers haven and meets Ben Hausman. Who does not exactly fill the slot of ‘kind stranger’.

This book is adorable. I loved May and Ben is absolutely my favourite type of hero – bit gruff and grumpy (ok, he’s quite a lot grumpy) and broody. May at first just wants to use a phone to call a friend, maybe borrow a credit card number to get a hotel room and book a flight back home but eventually her lack of ID seems a problem and it’s a long weekend. So Ben offers her a place to crash and ends up deciding to show her New York – the real New York.

There’s super good chemistry here and lots of realistic-feeling angst as well. May and Ben don’t know each other but I adored the fact that what Ben loves/is attracted to about May are the things she feels uncomfortable about. She’s not exactly the “WAG” type – she’s statuesque. Curvy. Ben is a chef and he adores watching her eat and the fact that they both love food. The food portion of this book was amazing too – not only what Ben cooks but the different places they eat around the city. Ben also has a really interesting (and quite random) profession (he isn’t allowed to run a restaurant for a while, for reasons explained in the story) and it’s definitely not something you’d think someone in New York City would be doing.

What I enjoyed about this story is that it felt like Ben and May had to work at this relationship. They met in a very adorable way and there was sexual chemistry in spades but both had baggage and there was also the fact that they didn’t really know each other very well. They had to get to know each other properly and it was only natural that they’d stuff up, make mistakes. But the way in which they both worked to fix things, to be together was a really powerful part of the story.

8/10

Book #53 of 2017

Madly (New York #2)
Ruthie Knox
Loveswept
2017, 283p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Allie Fredericks isn’t supposed to be in Manhattan, hiding in the darkest corner of a hip bar, spying on her own mother—who’s flirting with a man who’s definitely not Allie’s father. Allie’s supposed to be in Wisconsin, planning her parents’ milestone anniversary party. Then Winston Chamberlain walks through the door, with his tailored suit, British accent, and gorgeous eyes, and Allie’s strange mission goes truly sideways.

Winston doesn’t do messy. But after a pretty stranger ropes him into her ridiculous family drama with a fake kiss that gets a little too real, he finds out that messy can be fun. Maybe even a little addicting. And as the night grows longer, Allie and Winston make a list of other wild things they could do together—and what seems like a mismatch leads to a genuine connection. But can their relationship survive as their real lives implode just outside the bedroom door?

The blurb of this one was the reason I purchased both these books. A British hero with a fancy suit who is probably going to be quite, well, British and I’m sold. I didn’t even realise for the longest time that Winston, our hero in this book, is Nev’s douchey brother from About Last Night, who has Cath investigated and tries to ruin their relationship. A few years have passed since that book and Winston is now divorced and living in New York City working for one of the branches of the family company. He’s in New York to keep an eye on his daughter Bea who is a student at university but Bea is proving to be quite independent really.

It was weird for me then that I didn’t quite enjoy this one as much as I’d hoped I would. I really loved About Last Night and I love a bit of an uptight hero and Winston had oodles of uptight about his personality in that novel but he did seem less so in this one. The fallout with Nev and his divorce seemed to have changed him significantly and he was quite sweet really. I find it quite amusing that he had such objections to Cath and then ended up in America, falling in love with an American woman who was definitely not the ‘right’ sort of wife for a wealthy British banker who will be a Baron or whatever it is one day…. probably all of the objections he had about Cath when Nev met her.

Allie is an interesting character but I’m not sure if I liked her as much as May. She’s emotionally manipulative  and although I think she has good intentions, her choices aren’t always wise ones. She’s carried a secret for a while now, thinking she needed to protect people but in finally revealing it, only hurts them because of her secrecy. I also really didn’t like the character of May and Allie’s mother (in May’s book, she’s pretty awful to May, always on at her about her weight, etc) and this book revolves quite a lot around her and it sets up something that you think is very messy and dramatic but in the end is quite boring and disappointing, almost like the author changed their mind part way through on what the mother was really up to.

I did really like the list that Allie and Winston made and the reasons behind the making of it. And like Ben and May, I also liked that sometimes, things didn’t really pan out perfectly. Some things were awkward, or didn’t really work. It felt real, natural. I always enjoy that about Ruthie Knox’s books. So whilst I didn’t love this one like I loved the first one, I still enjoyed it. And I’m definitely buying the 3rd book when it gets released later this year.

6/10

Book #55 of 2017

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Review: Promise Of Hunters Ridge by Sarah Barrie

Promise Of Hunters Ridge (Hunters Ridge #3)
Sarah Barrie
Harlequin AUS
2017, 432p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

By the time this is all over, she’ll know what it’s like to kill, or what it’s like to die.

Mia Morgan doesn’t let anything get to her. After freeing herself from an obsessive boss and saving loved ones from a serial killer, she feels like she can handle anything life throws at her. But now that killer – a deranged hunter who preys on women for sport – is coming for her. And if she runs, others will pay the price. As if that’s not enough, Ben Bowden, the brilliant detective who has made her life hell for the past four years, has some insane plan to protect her. If she collaborates with him, Mia might just have to acknowledge her true feelings. But if she keeps him out, will she let the hunter win?

Ben Bowden is sick of finding dead bodies. If being the lead detective on the biggest case in the country didn’t come with enough pressure, now the psychopath Ben is chasing has Mia Morgan in his sights. And Mia doesn’t want his help. She hasn’t forgiven him for the past, and is being less than cooperative with his investigation. Protecting her is a challenge, and the sparks that fly whenever they’re together aren’t helping. But he has to make her trust him – somehow – because she has a plan that terrifies him to the bone.

Can he convince her to work with him? Or will she risk everything to single-handedly turn the hunter into the hunted?

Oh my God. I have waited what feels like soooo long for this book! It hasn’t really been that long, maybe 2 years since I read the first one. After reading (and loving!) that one, it was Mia and Ben that I always wanted to read about. There was always so much more to their interactions – Mia’s resentment and grudge holding, Ben’s protective streak. They always had an interesting chemistry and I wanted to know more about them.

Finally, this is their story. I made myself wait to read this until closer to the release date and I also picked a time when I could read the entire thing from start to finish with no interruptions and I’m so glad I did. We pick up quite a few months after the end of book 2 and things have kind of stalled. The psychopath that has terrified Ally, Ebony and Mia remains at large. Detective Ben Bowden is still working the case, still trying to find the break he needs in order to finish things for good, make sure that no one need ever suffer again. It’s not going to be that easy though and when bodies start turning up, this time there’s something a little different about them….

Mia has been keeping a few secrets since her rescue and to be honest, quite a bit of this book is structured around Mia doing well, kind of stupid things. I understand why she does them and I think that the author takes care to give Mia some rationale, a reason why she takes these risks, keeps these secrets but at the end of it, they are dangerous, really dangerous things to do that could not only endanger her life even more (and others) but could also affect an ongoing investigation. Ben is understandably frustrated when he finds out about what Mia has been doing but at the same time he also needs some more information and so he runs with it, hoping the fact that he knows about it and can keep an eye on it will help.

But what Ben really wants is for Mia to trust him – trust him completely, with everything. He knows that he’s messed up in the past, put Mia offside when he made a mistake. But everything he’s done since then has been in an attempt to right his wrong, to make it up to them. Ally has long forgiven him and now trusts him and even counts him as a friend…but Mia is still holding back and the scene where he practically begs her…… it’s what good romantic tension is made of.  Ben and Mia are exactly what I expected – hoped, they would be. Chemistry and angst and a clashing of wills and stubbornness and flaws and misconceptions but underneath all of that, such possibility. If only the threat could be neutralised once and for all.

I’ve enjoyed the way that this story has continued to build and evolve over the three installments. The author managed to keep it fresh despite it being the same real culprit that continued to elude capture for what did seem like quite a long time. The creep factor is pretty high and there was a lot added to the story in the last book to really give Mia those reasons to take the risks and attempt to put herself in the line of fire. I spent a lot of the book getting a bit frustrated with Mia as she continued to seemingly make things more difficult than they needed to be, but as her motivations and secrets slowly unfolded, it all made sense and painted her in an entirely new light.

The road to true love never did run smooth and for Ben and Mia it was probably rougher than most. Particularly when Ben is forced to do something that he really doesn’t want to that causes Mia to turn on him yet again, to think that he’s betrayed her. It just added another twist in the story, although I have to admit I did expect a few people to be a bit smarter about the whole process considering it made little sense. But throw in emotions and protectiveness and the situation and it’s probably easy for people to judge Ben. And Mia is so stubborn, so damaged from a previous relationship that she was all too ready to believe it too.

Every element of this series has had me hooked from the first page of the first book. I’ve enjoyed the entire ride, the romantic ups and downs, the way in which the suspense element has kept me on the edge of my seat during each book, wondering how it was finally going to end…and then the kind of foreshadowing in this book, that tells you there’s really only two ways it can end. The ending was awesome and lived up to every expectation I had…..which were pretty high, given the past 2 books!

This series is why I love romantic suspense.

9/10

Book #47 of 2017

Promise of Hunters Ridge is the 16th book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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Review: Daughter Of Mine by Fiona Lowe

daughter-of-mineDaughter Of Mine
Fiona Lowe
Harlequin MIRA AUS
2017, 512p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

When your world falls apart the only person you can depend on is your sister.

The three Chirnwell sisters are descended from the privileged squattocracy in Victoria’s Western District — but could a long-held secret threaten their family?

Harriett Chirnwell has a perfect life — a husband who loves her, a successful career and a daughter who is destined to become a doctor just like her.

Xara has always lived in Harriet’s shadow; her chaotic life with her family on their sheep farm falls far short of her older sister’s standards of perfection and prestige.

Georgie, the youngest sister and a passionate teacher, is the only one of the three to have left Billawarre. But is her life in Melbourne happy?

Despite all three sisters having a different and sometimes strained bond with their mother, Edwina, they come together to organise a party for her milestone birthday — the first since their father’s death. But when Edwina arrives at her party on the arm of another man, the tumult is like a dam finally breaking. Suddenly the lives of the Chirnwell sisters are flooded by scandal. Criminal accusations, a daughter in crisis, and a secret over fifty years in the making start to crack the perfect façade of the prominent pastoral family.

A thought provoking novel about family expectations, secrets and lies.

I’ve never read Fiona Lowe before but she is the winner of multiple awards (including a RITA) so I was pretty intrigued by this one. It’s quite a complex story line featuring several generations of the same family who hail from wealthy, privileged and respected landowners – the “squattocracy”.

Harriett, Xara and Georgie couldn’t really be more different. Harriett has always been the rigid one, very driven and dedicated. Not only does she push herself hard to always be successful and almost perfect in a way, but she also pushes her daughter hard as well.  Xara has had to learn to be adaptable – as the mother of a child with a lifelong debilitating disability and also twin boys, her life is total chaos where they’re always just scraping buy compared to Harriett’s organised life and quiet wealth. Georgie is a primary school teacher (seemingly stuck with a “difficult” sort of class) and the only one to have made her home away from the local area where they all grew up and their names are an integral part of the history and make up of the town. Who they are and where they came from is of varying importance to them – unsurprisingly Harriet is the most attached the family name and reputation and it is her that reacts in the worst way when she is first betrayed and then confronted with some unexpected news.

In a way I felt for Harriett because the more rigid someone is, the harder it is for them when terrible things happen. And there’s no doubt that Harriett’s life implodes. Someone she loves, someone she respected, does something utterly horrible and she is blindsided by it and then the response to her hurt is perhaps even worse. She is also ostracised, shunned, labelled as a co-conspirator by the locals and her practice suffers greatly as a result. But it was hard to completely sympathise with Harriett because so much of what happens after that first betrayal is of her own making. She’s so rigid and so demanding on what must be done that she overlooks so many important things. She’s concerned with image and how things look and the fact that things like this just don’t happen in their family. Because they are better than that and that was an attitude that I couldn’t sympathise with at all. Despite people attempting to reason with her, she really did stay frustratingly stubborn and judgemental for the longest time. Harriett for me felt like a very interesting study for “nature vs nurture” – there’s no doubt her fractured relationship with Edwina was a product of the distance between them when Harriett was very young and also Edwina’s illnesses. However Harriett also aspired to be very much like her father, wanted to emulate him in every way. She adored him clearly and it’s very difficult for her when she’s forced to confront some of his faults, long after his death. It did make me wonder how much of her nature was because she wanted to be that way, that she thought being that way was more superior than being more like Edwina.

I don’t have a sister but everyone I know with one says that it’s a very complex relationship and these three definitely have that. Georgie and Xara are more mellow personalities, more alike probably and more able to sit and just chat. Harriett is always doing something or going somewhere and she doesn’t seem like she’s as close to the other two as they are to each other. They do rally around in times of crisis, but it’s a lot of things that pile on top of one another – Edwina’s new man friend, the betrayal Harriett experiences and resulting fall out (it also affects Xara and her husband Steve quite personally as well) as well as what happens after that and it isn’t long before fractures in the relationships Harriett has with everyone are showing.

I really loved Edwina’s story, which is told in bits and pieces throughout and I actually think that could’ve made a great book on it’s own – following her from a teenager up until the age she is at the beginning of this novel. She’s experienced a lot of heartache juxtaposed with a lot of privilege and the Edwina that is presented to the world is different from the Edwina that lies beneath the surface. Loved the character of Doug and I loved the fact that they were able to reconnect after so many years and still find something there. There were many surprises that came out of that which made for very interesting reading and added many layers to the complexity of the story.

For the most part, this is a really engaging multi-generational family story with plenty of drama, intricate relationships (some connections are very intricate!) and intriguing reveals. However there were times when for me, it felt a little bit long and Harriett’s hysteria and stubbornness over something was quite irritating. I don’t really know much about the whole squattocracy thing but sometimes the family reputation thing felt a little outdated, something that people would’ve focused on earlier but shouldn’t really seem as relevant now.

Those are little things though and this is still an excellent read.

7/10

Book #38 of 2017

aww2017-badge

Daughter Of Mine is book #12 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

 

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Review: How To Tame A Beast In Seven Days by Kerrelyn Sparks

how-to-tame-a-beastHow To Tame A Beast In Seven Days (The Embraced #1)
Kerrelyn Sparks
St Martin’s Press
2017, 416p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Luciana grew up on the Isle of Moon, hidden away because of her magical powers. But when her father arrives, he offers her a choice: remain on the island or return with him and marry the Beast of Benwick in order to save their legacy—and her father’s life.

Lord Leofric, the Beast of Benwick, has not been touched since he was a child. Born with the power to harness lightning, he is a danger to everyone he touches. When he meets his betrothed, he expects a loveless, lonely marriage…until he discovers she’s vastly more powerful than he realized. But is she strong enough to withstand his touch?

If they can survive, their love will alter the future of the kingdom. But will their extraordinary powers cost them everything?

I’ve never read Kerrelyn Sparks before but she certainly has a very strong reputation in this fantasy romance genre and she has quite a lot of books to her name as well. This is the first in a brand new series set in another world and I love a good series. I have to say, I enjoyed this one a lot.

Luciana was born on a night that the twin moons of the world embrace, leading her to be termed an “Embraced” baby. All of the Embraced are blessed with a particular gift and those gifts can be wide and varied. They’re also reviled in the place she was born so for her safety, her father hid her away on the Isle of Moon, where she could be raised without fear. Along with four other girls, also all Embraced, Luciana grew up to be well educated but also sheltered. She hasn’t even left the small island, or the company of nuns so she isn’t even aware of her privileged background until her father arrives to whisk her back to where she was born. He needs her as his daughter has been promised to the King’s nephew, Lord Leofric, a man known as the Beast of Benwick.

Like Luciana, Leo is Embraced as well and his gift is the power of harnessing lightning. It will seek him out in a storm and there is nothing he can do to prevent it or avoid it. It’s best if he goes somewhere where he can be alone so that the lightning can find him. Then he can store it in his body – and his touch is deadly. He must wear protective gloves when around people and even then, he can give someone a nasty shock. The King has been trying to kill him for years as Leo is both Embraced and a threat and the King also wants the land that Luciana’s father possesses as the Duke. To kill both of them would be the ultimate triumph but no doubt the King is also hoping that Leo will be tempted beyond belief by his beautiful bride and kill her accidentally.

Luciana is taken from a small, peaceful existence and thrust into not only an arranged marriage but also having to be presented at court. Her entire upbringing would’ve been geared towards this moment, had she been raised in her place of birth but because she wasn’t she has to endure quite a steep learning curve. She’s going to be married to a man that not only has she never even seen, but one that is called the Beast. There are all sorts of horrible rumours that fly around about Leo but Luciana is actually pretty stoic in having to face someone who could murder her with a touch. She has a strong sense of right and wrong – she didn’t have to go with her father back to his stronghold but once she heard that he would be executed if he didn’t present a daughter to wed Leo, she immediately decided that she would go. Even though she believes this man just abandoned her and she has no relationship with him she does what she believes is the “right thing” even though it could get her killed.

Luciana and Leo have a really great dynamic and it helps that although Luciana fears her fate, she doesn’t once she meets Leo and she even defends him, which is a very powerful moment for Leo, who is so used to being feared and reviled and certainly not defended. The two of them are definitely attracted to each other from the very beginning, which makes it even harder for Leo, who must not allow himself to touch her. However, a surprising twist means that Luciana just might be the one person that can withstand the touch of the Beast, confirming that this was a match that was intended to happen. They have a lot to negotiate, as Luciana is hiding something very important from Leo as well and he wants her to feel as though she can trust him with anything. They both want a real relationship with each other, especially Leo, who hasn’t really felt any human touch for years.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Luciana and her “sisters”, those girls raised on the Isle with her. Each of them will be the protagonist in a future book and their fates are all somewhat sealed from a game they played on the Isle using coloured stones and having Luciana read their futures. It’s a really interesting set up. As Embraced, the girls all have different gifts and I look forward to having each of those unfold. This was a great start.

8/10

Book #35 of 2017

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Review: The Summer Seaside Kitchen by Jenny Colgan

summer-seaside-kitchenThe Summer Seaside Kitchen
Jenny Colgan
Sphere
2017, 384p
Copy courtesy Hachette AUS via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Flora is definitely, absolutely sure that escaping from the quiet Scottish island where she grew up to the noise and hustle of the big city was the right choice. What was there for her on Mure? It’s a place where everyone has known her all her life, and no one will let her forget the past. In the city, she can be anonymous, ambitious and indulge herself in her hopeless crush on her gorgeous boss, Joel.

When a new client demands Flora’s presence back on Mure, she’s suddenly swept back into life with her brothers (all strapping, loud and seemingly incapable of basic housework) and her father. As Flora indulges her new-found love of cooking and breathes life into the dusty little pink-fronted shop on the harbour, she’s also going to have to come to terms with past mistakes – and work out exactly where her future lies… fate worse than death .

A long time ago, and I do mean a long time ago, my grandfather’s family came from the Orkney Islands in Scotland. For some reason, many generations later I am blessed with the Scots colouring – red hair, pale skin. Probably great for a location where the average temperature for the year is in single digits. However when you’re in Australia it really just means an awful lot of freckles and painful, painful sunburn. Thanks, distant ancestors. Although the setting of this book is a construct of the author, it’s very much based on those northern islands of Scotland – the Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, etc. So I really wanted to read it to get a bit of an idea what life is like in those places.

And I think for that, it was really good. I loved learning about the lifestyles and traditions of Mure, the small island where Flora is from. There’s a large farming community and they face the same problems as farmers everywhere and considering Flora hasn’t been back for three years, left under difficult circumstances and is working for the rich American who is building a big resort but not using one scrap of local materials, labour or produce, she has her work cut out for her. Flora moved to London to become a lawyer and now she’s a small cog in a big wheel, crushing helplessly on a man who doesn’t even know she’s alive.

Back in Mure, it takes her a little while to find her feet. Her brothers are more reminiscent of teenagers, teasing her (occasionally it spills over into outright resentment) and letting the house go to ruin since she left, not bothering to cook proper meals or even tidy up. For something to do, Flora begins trying to prepare meals – at first she struggles, not finding the ingredients she requires at the local store to make the food she likes. But then she finds her mother’s recipe book and all of a sudden, Flora is in her element.

For the most part, I found Flora easy to relate to. The (very) country girl who moves to the big city, chasing a dream, something that is completely different to the life she left behind. And who hasn’t crushed on someone who doesn’t even know you exist, that person that is so unattainable? When she arrives back in Mure, Flora is so resentful even having to be there but slowly, slowly, her heritage starts creeping in. She becomes invested, reconnects with her mother through cooking her dishes and slowly begins to reconnect with her family as well. And even Mure itself. She keeps telling herself that it’s only temporary and that she’ll be going back to London as soon as she can but everyone soon wants her to stay and you can tell that she belongs on the island. I really enjoyed this journey of Flora’s, of finding herself….of finding her home.

There was one aspect of the story that didn’t work for me at all and that was the romance. There were two….options, for lack of a better word although I wouldn’t say it was a love triangle. I thought I had it pegged which way it was going to go (which for me, would’ve been the better way) but in the end the author went the other way and I just really couldn’t buy it. It just didn’t seem at all realistic and it felt very rushed and not something that unfolded naturally. I couldn’t see them as a couple and I really couldn’t see them lasting as a couple, building a life together. With the other option, I felt that I could see into the future, the kind of life they would have. It just felt quite at odds with the rest of the story.

6/10

Book #34 of 2017

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Review: Steam And Sensibility by Kirsten Weiss

steam-and-sensibilitySteam And Sensibility (Sensibility Grey #1)
Kirsten Weiss
Misterio Press
2017 (originally 2014), 168p
Copy courtesy of Red Coat PR via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Steam rising. California Territory, 1848. Gold has been discovered, emptying the village of San Francisco of its male population. Steam-powered technology is still in its infancy.

At 19, Englishwoman Sensibility Grey has spent her life tinkering in her father’s laboratory and missing the finer points of proper British life. But when her father dies in penury, she’s shipped to San Francisco and to the protection of an uncle she’s never met.

The California Territory may hold more dangers than even the indomitable Miss Grey can manage. Pursued by government agents, a secret society, and the enigmatic Mr. Krieg Night, Sensibility must decipher the clockwork secrets in her father’s final journal, unaware she’ll change the world forever.

Magic, mayhem, and mechanicals. Steam and Sensibility is a pre-Steampunk novel of paranormal suspense set in the wild west of the California gold rush.

I don’t read enough steampunk. I say that about things a lot….I don’t read enough mystery or crime or fantasy…..and now steampunk. But it’s true. I really don’t read enough steampunk. What I read, I always end up really enjoying and it always makes me make a note to find more books like it. But then that somehow gets lost in a pile of other books. I see a lot less steampunk novels, so I need to make more of an effort to seek them out.

Sensibility Grey is 19 and has recently just lost her father. She’s being sent to San Francisco, to her uncle only when she arrives and disembarks from her ship, he isn’t there. Several other people are though – a mysterious woman who claims to be a government agent, a dandy who claims to have her uncle and seems to want something he’s convinced Sensibility has in return, and a mysterious man. Sensibility needs to decide quite quickly what she’s going to do in this strange place where there are hardly any men. The men are all off making their fortune on the goldfields leaving behind a town of mostly women and a state not too far from anarchy.

From the moment Sensibility touches her feet on land, the book is fast-paced with plenty of action as one thing after the other seems to happen. It’s a game of cat and mouse between Sensibility and the government agent against the dandy, who wants the papers Sensibility rescued from her father’s things before the creditors took everything. Her father was a brilliant scientist who seems to have discovered something very important and a secret society will stop at nothing to have the notes on his work. They are heavily encrypted but no one knew her father and his work better than Sensibility herself, who grew up tinkering in his workshops. She’s actually very talented although she doesn’t yet see what she is capable of. Sensibility believes she can decrypt the papers although she’ll need some time, which they might not have as the dandy keeps threatening her uncle’s life.

I really liked Sensibility. She’s very young and she’s also very out of her comfort zone and she’s also grieving the loss of her only parent. I’m not sure what happened to her mother but it’s quite clear that it was the two of them for a very long time and his loss has definitely devastated her but in that sort of English young lady “well we must go on” sort of way. She is also learning that there was a whole side of her father that she never knew, that he was connected to this secret society, who are most decidedly nefarious. Sensibility is never quite sure who she can trust as it seems that there are plenty of games being played and some bluffing back and forth but I think she knows who she wants to trust.

This has an original publication date of 2014 and there are actually two further books in this series already published. I enjoyed this enough to definitely pick those up and see what is next for Sensibility and the friends she made.

7/10

Book #30 of 2017

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Review: Close To Home by Lily Everett

close-to-homeClose To Home (Sanctuary Island #5)
Lily Everett
St Martin’s Paperbacks
2017, 304p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The best journeys take us home….

When Tessa Alexander came to Sanctuary Island, she left behind a marriage to a man who didn’t love her the way she loved him. When she finally found the strength to set them both free, she discovered friendship and self-acceptance in her adopted hometown. Now she’s settled into a quiet life on her own—never expecting to see her husband again.

Johnny spent almost two years deep undercover, unable to let his wife into his cold, dangerous world. He’s shaken to the core when he comes home to find her gone. It’s painfully clear that Tessa is no longer the timid young woman he married—she’s become a force of nature, a brave and determined beauty. Johnny can’t let her go without a fight so he sets out to seduce his own wife. But will passion alone be enough to convince Tessa that her new life should include a second chance at happiness with a man who must learn to believe in love?

Whoops, I did it again – picked a book that I didn’t know was part of a series. However this one stands up perfectly well on its own and I don’t feel that I lost anything for not having read the previous books in this series.

Johnny works for the ATF and has just returned from two years deep undercover to find out that his wife of eight years has left him a “Dear Johnny” letter. Despite the fact that their marriage was unconventional, Johnny isn’t willing to let it go like that so he tracks her down. He finds that Terri, his shy and timid wife has morphed into Tessa, a woman with a different haircut, a big laugh and a confidence that was missing before. She seems determined that although she’s grateful to Johnny for helping her years ago when she desperately needed it, she’s okay now. And that they should go their separate ways. But Johnny asks for a month while he attends a therapy program designed to help him transition from undercover back into reality.

Johnny had one of those massive hero/saviour complexes. He rescued Tessa, then known as Terri as a terrified teen and even married her to help her before shipping out with the army. After several deployments he joined the ATF, working undercover operations and pretty much everything he does revolves around helping and protecting people. I know he’s just come back from a very long and dangerous mission but Johnny sees danger everywhere even in the tiniest town in the world. He meets a new person in town (Johnny himself is new in town) and immediately assumes the guy is some kind of criminal because he has watchful body language and a military demeanour. Instead of assuming that maybe he’s burned out or has retired, he wonders if he’s used his military skills to segue into crime but he bases this on nothing just his instinct. If this is Johnny’s instinct at work, it makes me worry for the skills of the ATF division, frankly.

Despite the fact that Johnny and Tessa were married for eight years, he spent most of those away either on deployment or undercover so their marriage, which began as one of convenience and help for Tessa, wasn’t even a real marriage, something that I found a little hard to believe. I couldn’t really see the point of having it unconsummated for so long other than to exacerbate Johnny’s hero complex. He has this view of Terri (as she was back then) of being this precious, fragile flower and perhaps she might’ve been when they first met. But she began to put herself back together but his view of her really didn’t change until after she left him and he was confronted with the new Tessa who wasn’t afraid to state her opinions and was willing to go out there and find happiness. I think Tessa felt that Johnny would stay with her forever in the platonic marriage they had for all time out of loyalty, obligation and a need to protect her, so she chose to leave him so that they both might find something truly deeper than that. Whilst Johnny might’ve wanted Tessa (even when he didn’t touch her) he had said he wasn’t open to the whole love thing and Tessa wanted that. Johnny had to learn the hard way that his feelings for Tessa ran deeper than what he was willing to acknowledge.

I think this story was okay – I would’ve liked more background to their marriage and I’m glad Tessa took it upon herself to carve out a life without relying on Johnny. But I think that ultimately Johnny’s obsessive need to protect and save really got on my nerves. There was an attempt to give it a good background but it came too late in the story and was brushed over too quickly, as was how he was going to move on from it. I think I was more interested in the secondary story which sets up the couple in the sixth book, I kept waiting for them to reappear.

6/10

Book #24 of 2017

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Review: Wicked In His Arms by Stacy Reid

wicked-in-his-armsWicked In His Arms (Wedded By Scandal #2)
Stacy Reid
Entangled: Scandalous
2017, 300p
Copy courtesy the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Tobias Walcott, the Earl of Blade, has learned it is best to exercise rigid control over his passions and emotions in all that he does. Uncaring that it makes him seem cool and aloof to most in the ton, he is content with his desire to only woo agreeable and demur females. Then unforeseen circumstances see him trapped in a closet at a house party with the last woman he would ever make his countess.

Lady Olivia Sherwood is everything he should not desire in a female—unconventional, too decisive, and utterly without decorum. But passion ignites between them and they are discovered. Honor demands they wed, and while Tobias finds himself unwillingly drawn to the bewitching beauty, he must do everything not to tempt the passion that burns in him for her, lest it leads to disastrous consequences.

I adored the first book in this series, Accidentally Compromising The Duke and was super excited for this one because I thought it would be about the Marquis of Westfall. However it’s not – looks like he’s going to be book 3. Instead we got a friend of both the Duke of Wolverton (from book 1) and Westfall, Tobias Walcott, the Earl of Blade. Tobias is a ruthlessly controlled sort, firmly holding all emotions in check and never allowing a breath of scandal to touch him. Enter Lady Olivia Sherwood, with the taint of scandal still firmly upon her thanks to her father’s actions. Her stepfather has sent Lady Olivia to his cousin, the Earl’s mother for some “social polish”.

Lady Olivia rides like a hoyden raised by her now deceased father to do a lot of things young ladies shouldn’t know how to do. She’s not like other ladies in society and she is the very thing Tobias does not want in a wife. She’s the sort who would court a scandal, not do her best to avoid one and Tobias has had enough of scandals in his family. He wants a calm wife, someone who will always do and say the right thing. It’s important that he not have any real feelings toward his wife either. Those lead to yet more scandals.

I didn’t really care much for Tobias in the beginning. I found him insufferably antagonistic toward Lady Olivia. Half the time he seemed to go out of his way to bait her and then they bickered like children – it’s suggested in the book they fought like an old married couple but for me it was more like hideously annoying siblings. Tobias makes it very clear he doesn’t want this or that for a bride, doesn’t want to court scandal…etc etc and then ends up in a closet with Lady Olivia in about three minutes. Okay. Good plan.

At least he does insist on doing the ‘right thing’ but Lady Olivia wants him to love her. And Tobias believes that love is some sort of weakness that will lead to you doing ridiculous things in public. Have a guess where someone who spurns all of this is going…..yes, pride goeth before a very large fall and I have to say, the end of this novel redeemed for me. Tobias, once he does figure out how he feels about Lady Oliva, does become rather awesome. This was something the previous book excelled at too – once the hero pulls his head out of his backside and realises what he has, there are so many feels. Stacy Reid does tortured hero and angst super well…..which is I think why I am sooo looking forward to the book with the Marquis of Westfall because that one is already tortured and angsty and we haven’t even got to the romancey stuff yet!

After a bit of a shaky start, this book definitely redeemed itself for me and I ended up really enjoying it. Tobias ended up really needing someone like Olivia to show him the sort of life he really wanted. Once Tobias let go of that rigid control and fear of weakness leading to scandal, the two of them were perfect together.

7/10

Book #5 of 2017

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Review: The Rule Maker by Jennifer Blackwood

rule-makerThe Rule Maker (The Rule Breakers #2)
Jennifer Blackwood
Entangled Publishing LLC
2016, 280p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Ten Steps to Surviving a New Job:

1. Don’t sleep with the client. It’ll get you fired. (Sounds easy enough.)

2. Don’t blink when new client turns out to be former one-night stand.

3. Don’t call same client a jerk for never texting you back.

4. Don’t believe client when he says he really, really wanted to call.

5. Remember, the client is always right—so you can’t junk punch him when he demands new design after new design.

6. Ignore accelerated heartbeat every time sexy client walks into room.

7. Definitely ignore client’s large hands. They just mean he wears big gloves.

8. Don’t let client’s charm wear you down. Be strong.

9. Whatever you do, don’t fall for the client. You’ll lose more than your job—maybe even your heart.

10. If all else fails, see rule number one again.

I’m forever requesting books without realising they’re part of a series. I’ve done it here again with this one, which is the second in a series. I think you can probably read these stand alone although there might’ve been a bit of background between these two characters that probably would’ve helped if I’d read about it rather than just had it rehashed here.

Some time ago (presumably in the first book) Zoey and Ryder had a one night stand and then he disappeared without calling her. Now Zoey is again working for Ryder’s brother Jason, redesigning the interior of a ski lodge that Jason has purchased. Instead of Jason turning up to help her, to her shock it’s Ryder. The professional snowboarder is currently out injured and is helping out his brother.

As soon as Ryder sees Zoey again, the commitmentphobe realises that he wants more than his usual one night stand. And it appears that Zoey isn’t over Ryder either, despite firmly telling herself to not get involved for a myriad of reasons, two important ones being a) Ryder is her client, working as Jason’s proxy pretty much, and b) she’s already been there, done that and Ryder up and vanished without a trace. But the more time Zoey spends with Ryder, the harder it is to keep resisting him.

I really liked the premise of this but unfortunately I didn’t end up loving the execution and I think it’s solely because of Ryder. I found him very childish and immature, constantly taunting Zoey and smirking at everything and he came off as very smug and unlikable. Zoey is attempting to do a job and Ryder keeps making things difficult for her at first, thinking that Jason has made a mistake purchasing the property. He delays responding to her emails and when they are finally working, he constantly crosses a professional line. I felt like the “set up” was drawn out far too long and Zoe and Ryder had too many frustrating interactions where he pushes her buttons. I didn’t really find their banter funny and most of the time I would’ve felt sorry for Zoey, who had a job to do and who had been told that basically her position within her place of employment hinged on how well she could continue to foster the relationship with Jason’s company. However Zoey was so thick at times that it made it almost impossible to feel sorry for her. She was almost unbearable when Ryder was around, also acting immature and unprofessionally, so maybe they were a perfect match for each other.

I think that probably the last third of the book was by far the best as things got moving much better in that section after dragging out in the first two thirds. Ryder seemed to finally come to the conclusion that he’d met someone who he could have more than just one night with but he had the difficulties of his career versus his heart to contend with as if he returned to professional snowboarding he would spend large amounts of time away competing. He also began to stand up to himself with his family however I did feel like there were a few confusing moments at the end where things weren’t really explained as well as they could’ve been.

For me, the most interesting thing of this whole book was the story of Ryder’s brother Jason. It’s only mentioned briefly but I found him far more appealing as a character than Ryder and I think if there were a book that featured Jason in the future, I’d be pretty tempted to read it. He seemed like he might have depth to him, whereas I found Ryder quite shallow and uninteresting. He got better by the end of the book but unfortunately by then all his smirking and unpleasantness had made its impression.

5/10

Book #4 of 2017

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Review: The Dangers Of Truffle Hunting by Sunni Overend

dangers-of-truffle-huntingThe Dangers Of Truffle Hunting
Sunni Overend
Harper Collins AUS
2016, 352p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Is life too short to play it safe?

Kit Gossard’s life is neatly mapped out. A secure photographic job. A partner ready to commit. A wedding in the family vineyard for her mother to preside over. So why the apprehension? Why a hunger for something … more?

Then someone new appears. Earthy, reserved, magnetic, this new man brings out feelings she has long suppressed, and suddenly Kit can’t contain her simmering discontent. Black truffle hunting, illicit pastry lessons, vine fruit on flesh – Kit is seduced. It feels right. Before it all goes wrong.

Artful, sexy, sophisticated, The Dangers Of Truffle Hunting explores how a man can be more to a woman than a destination.

I love the food channel and watching people cook and I also love reading books that feature food or revolve around it in some way. In this novel, Kit’s parents own vineyards and her father is planning on purchasing the land next door where he has been cultivating crops for a new venture. Kit is a food photographer but she seems to have been pushed into this sort of work by her fiance Scott, who is seen as very “steady” and “stable”. He designs/creates furniture and doesn’t give Kit the sort of passion or encouragement that she craves anymore. He thinks that she should focus on her food photography despite the fact that it doesn’t fulfill her at all.

What Kit actually wants to photograph are messier, dirtier things. She doesn’t want food sitting looking perfect and fake, she wants to see it enjoyed, crushed, smeared etc. She begins photographing her own things for her own online magazine as part of a creative outlet…..inspired by a worker at her parent’s vineyard, someone who is everything that her staid fiance is not.

Kit is an interesting character but she was also quite a frustrating one although on some levels I can understand it because it seems to many people seem to want to shoehorn her into being something that she isn’t. Scott doesn’t play a particularly large role in this story and although he does seem to care for Kit, it’s in a sort of distracted way, like he cares about how their lives look. The foodie photographer and the hot furniture designer getting married and setting themselves up for a charmed life. Kit is at times, crying out for attention from him, desperately trying to get him to notice her or show her some affection but he’s disinterested and yet Kit keeps persisting with this for far longer than really seems realistic. Even after she meets someone else that challenges her and inspires her. Even after she realises that this buttoned up life is not really what she wants. She does have to deal with the fact that Raph, the person she meets working on her parent’s farm, is not exactly who she thought he was….and that seems to be her motivation for going back to what she knows is safe and secure. But….I’m not sure why she had to keep persevering with Scott when it clearly wasn’t satisfying her. Her mother is overly critical of Kit’s weight and appearance and seems more suited to being some sort of Paris fashionista rather than the wife of a vineyard owner. She’s always questioning her daughter in a manner that borders on cruel and Kit seemed wearily conditioned to accept this judgement of her looks. Her mother also pressures her to set a wedding date to Scott, accompanying her wedding dress shopping, taking over and just being generally horrible about everything. Likewise in her professional life, Kit finds herself so constricted by her uptight food magazine employer and every time she tries to attempt to add some of her own creativity to the brief, she is shot down. Everywhere she turns in her life……..except in one or two directions, there are people and things working against her.

Perhaps that is why I did love the dynamic between Raph and Kit….he had this whole mysterious “slightly assholy but not completely” thing going on and the way in which his story played out was really enjoyable and I actually didn’t see it coming which made the reveal pretty shocking. I really liked the way that he brought out Kit’s personality, made her want things and focus on the sort of photography that she was really interested in. Raph was my sort of character….interesting and hiding quite a large secret. He’s not entirely likable for a large portion of the story because he’s so mysterious and stand offish and clearly there are some possibly nefarious things afoot when his secrets begin to come out but he’s also not unlikable either. He and Kit both heave their flaws but you can see how they would actually work together whereas it was impossible to see Scott as doing anything other than stifling Kit and making her feel as though she needed to act in a completely different way.

I did enjoy this book although it was not without a few issues for me…..I didn’t really see the necessity of the plot featuring Kit’s friend and brother, which seemed random and sloppily constructed with no real sort of direction. Kit’s relationship with Scott also felt drawn out for too long to be believable, especially when people are trying to reason with her and she seems to be deliberately burying her head in the sand and ignoring all of the glaring signs. But ultimately I did very much like the read, especially the settings and the descriptions of food and the workings of the vineyard.

8/10

Book #218 of 2016

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