All The Books I Can Read

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Review: Dangerous Minds by Janet Evanovich

Dangerous Minds (Knight & Moon #2)
Janet Evanovich
Headline Review
2017, 336p
Copy courtesy of Hachette AUS via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

DANGEROUS MINDS is a thrilling, adrenaline-fuelled adventure featuring unlikely sleuths Knight & Moon from Janet Evanovich, author of the New York Times bestseller CURIOUS MINDS, which introduced Knight and Moon, and beloved author of the No. 1 bestsellers in the Stephanie Plum series. A must-read for fans of Sue Grafton and J D Robb.

Buddhist monk Wayan Bagus has lost his island of solitude and wants it back. The Pacific island had a mountain, beaches, a rainforest, and a volcano. And now it’s gone. Poof! Vanished without a trace.

Boyishly charming Emerson Knight likes nothing better than solving an unsolvable mystery. Finding a missing island is better than Christmas morning in the Knight household. When clues start leading to a dark and sinister secret, Emerson will need to assemble a crack team for help. Since a crack team isn’t available, he enlists his cousin Vernon and Riley Moon. Riley Moon has a Harvard business degree and can shoot the eyes out of a grasshopper at fifty feet, but she can’t figure out how to escape Emerson Knight’s odd world. Vernon has been Emerson’s loyal and enthusiastic partner in crime since childhood.

Together, this mismatched trio will embark on a world-wide investigation that will expose a conspiracy one hundred years in the making. 

I’m a bit confused about the writing of this series. I thought the entire thing was a collaboration with Phoef Sutton but this book bills only Janet Evanovich and to be honest, it feels different from the first one. Particularly the character of Emerson Knight. And although Curious Minds, the first book in this series is listed on Phoef Sutton’s website, this one is not. So I’m not sure if it’s still a collaboration? I thought it was for 4 books but honestly, who knows.

This book is ridiculous. But I think that people who pick up books with Janet Evanovich’s name on the front cover probably expect ridiculous by now. The first one was kind of ridiculous too but tempered ridiculous, if that makes sense. I get the feeling that the tempered may be going by the wayside from now on though.

Riley is now working for Emerson, I’m not even sure what she does, he has some ridiculous name for it but basically she’s some sort of assistant. I guess he felt bad for her considering he basically cost her her job and he has buckets of money so he can afford to employ her. I guess she’s getting used to Knight because she doesn’t really seem to bat an eye when a Monk turns up and tells Knight that the island he was living on in the South Pacific is just….gone.

I’m not American so I don’t know anything about Teddy Roosevelt or the Rough Riders but plugging it into google tells me that they were an actual thing and Janet Evanovich turns them into a modern day group of villains here doing all sorts of stuff that I can’t really explain but it involves Yellowstone National Park, lava/magma and the potential to make the entire world go BOOM.

There were some things I did like – I love an adventure so part of this book did feel like one big adventure with camping and chasing bad guys and all that sort of thing. And because Emerson is stinking rich, and I do mean utterly stinking rich, they can do a lot of it in style with new cars, private planes, etc. I’m a girl who likes my creature comforts so I’m totally on board with that sort of thing. They are unusual characters so a lot of the time they go about things in unusual ways. Sometimes that pays off, sometimes it doesn’t.

What I didn’t like? The extras, including the monk guy and Emerson’s creepy cousin, both of whom smacked of Janet Evanovich’s patented “comedy sidekicks for the LOLs”. I just don’t think that they’re entirely necessary on board for the whole thing and didn’t really add anything to the plot or provide any pivotal moments. Emerson’s character was inconsistent throughout this book and in comparison to the last book (the comment about he might be a horn dog, for instance, read very strange). Perhaps this is a result of the fact that this one doesn’t seem to have been co-written, perhaps it’s being chalked up to “character evolution”, I don’t know. It just read quite jarring. I also really disliked the way the book ended, which was quite abruptly and on a snappy one-liner which gave no resolution to something promised earlier on in the story and just felt really unexpected, like I was left annoyingly hanging. And I just know the next book will pick up some time in the future and either never mention what should’ve happened, or gloss over it.

This one was middle of the road for me. A quick read that was entertaining in parts but it had a few things that I struggled with.

5/10

Book #123 of 2017

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Review: The Law Of Attraction by Roxie Cooper

The Law Of Attraction
Roxie Cooper
HQ Digital
2017, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

“Well, it’s fair to say your background isn’t conventional in terms of the average barrister…” Dolus points out. “Well that depends on your definition of conventional and who wants to be average anyway?”

Northern girl Amanda Bentley isn’t your average lawyer.

She spent her teenage years in the Working Men’s club and hanging out in the park to avoid going home. Fresh out of law school she lands pupillage at a top set of Chambers and is catapulted into a world completely alien to her own, fighting prejudice and snobbery at every turn.

Piling on the pressure, this year it is announced two candidates have been accepted but there’s only one job at the end of it. And her competition? Marty, her smarmy law school nemesis.

Throw into the mix an ill-advised romance with the staggeringly sexy Sid Ryder and Amanda quickly realises winning pupillage isn’t just about how good a lawyer you are.

But even if she does come out on top, all of it could be for nothing if her colleagues ever discover who she really is and one very dark secret.

I struggled with this book. It sounded fun and feisty but I had a really hard time getting into it. Amanda is obviously very smart but I got bored of hearing about her platinum blonde hair and how people would judge her on her looks and not realise how good a lawyer she was. She has recently graduated and the book opens with her interview to gain pupillage (this book is set in London, I’m not British so I don’t really know what that is so I had to google it. It’s like being an apprentice with the end goal practicing independently at the Bar) at a prestigious firm. There are so many candidates and in the end they can’t decide between two so they award it to two people on a sort of probation for twelve months where there’s only one job at the end. So basically they make it a big competition and of course the other person that gets the probation apart from Amanda is her university nemesis!

I did admire a lot about Amanda, she had obviously worked very hard to get where she was and she was very ambitious. She didn’t have the most supportive or privileged background and there’s something in her past that haunts her but I honestly didn’t feel like it was as big a deal as she made it out to be, when it was finally revealed. It seemed like a lot of angst over nothing really, something that she was worried about being held against her but really, why on earth would anyone? It was just ammunition for Marty and his accomplice to wield but it read quite weak, in terms of what a deep dark secret could be.

I expected more romance in this – I’m not sure why, it just gave me more of a romance vibe from the blurb and cover but I definitely thought it would be a bigger part of the story. I was quite disappointed with the fact that there’s really not much (if any?) romance at all. What there was I didn’t really find all that great and I couldn’t decide if it was inappropriate or not. There seemed to be some comments that it might be but no one really cared anyway? I found it quite lacklustre and the story of the jilted uhinged ex a bit overdone. Sid was kind of boring and I didn’t really feel as though there was any chemistry between him and Amanda and there’s a few attempts at drama but it felt a bit high school. I couldn’t get into that aspect of the story line and really didn’t care if they ended up together or not.

Definitely struggled to maintain interest in this one unfortunately.

4/10

Book #102 of 2017

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Review: The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

The Marsh King’s Daughter
Karen Dionne
Hachette AUS
2017, 320p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

‘I was born two years into my mother’s captivity. She was three weeks shy of seventeen. If I had known then what I do now, things would have been a lot different. I wouldn’t have adored my father.’

When notorious child abductor – known as the Marsh King – escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.

No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena’s past: they don’t know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve – or that her father raised her to be a killer.

And they don’t know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone… except, perhaps his own daughter.

Seriously, with a blurb like that who could not read this book? There’s been so many accounts of real life kidnappings, where teenage girls or young women are taken and either don’t escape or aren’t discovered for years. I’ve read Jaycee Dugard’s novel as well as accounts about Natascha Kampusch and Elisabeth Fritzl. However I’ve read few fiction books tackling it – Room being the only other one that comes to mind right now, although this is quite a different story to that.

Helena didn’t even know that her life was unusual for the first decade or more. She was born 2 years after her father, a man in his 30s, kidnapped her 16 year old schoolgirl mother. They lived in a very remote cabin in an area in the far north of America, close to the border with Canada. Until she was 12, Helena had no idea that her father was a criminal. She idolised him growing up, admiring him for his knowledge and desperately seeking his approval. Her father taught her to hunt and fish, often by using cruel games, although Helena didn’t recognise them as such. She believed that he was making her strong, like him and that her mother was weak. Helena could see all too clearly the contempt her father had for her mother and it was soon a view she developed too.

Escaping at 12 with her 28 year old mother, Helena had a lot of adjustment to do and she details this quite openly. Now an adult, married with two children of her own, Helena hears on the radio that her father, who was captured two years after she and her mother escaped the cabin, has killed two prison guards and gone on the run. She knows that he won’t be found unless he wants to be and that she’s probably the only one who can track him. She makes arrangements to hopefully keep her children and husband safe and then she sets off in search of her father.

Helena’s narrative is a torn one – even as an adult, who is now able to recognise the heinous crimes her father committed and realise that his treatment of her and her mother growing up was abusive and terrible, she is still conflicted by her love for him. He is her father, he shaped her in many ways. Her formative years were completely dominated by him.

Helena’s struggle was really interesting because a lot of the focus during events like this in the past in real life, are on the girl/woman who was kidnapped and the ordeal she went through. But this book is different – Helena’s mother’s experiences are related only through the eyes of Helena with what she witnessed as a child and later what she speculates as she grows older and begins to understand a little of the what her mother must have experienced. Helena’s mother isn’t a part of the book really, it’s all about Helena herself and how as an adult, she struggles to come to terms with how wrong aspects of her childhood were because at the time, she embraced the learning experiences and the chance to be more like her father, to know the land, to provide for herself. They lived without electricity, without running water, in total isolation. She didn’t even see other people apart from her father and her mother for years and years. She thought that everybody lived the way they did. It would’ve taken a lot of courage to finally do what she did in order to help her and her mother escape because if she failed, her father would probably have killed her mother and also, she had to overcome the way she’d been raised – conditioned. To obey her father above all else, to respect his word/direction as law, to realise that he wasn’t all she had believed him to be. It’s something that Helena struggles with even as an adult – she thinks she can track him but she also has to be strong enough to stand against him…and it’s possible that a confrontation with him could end the death of one of them.

Helena is a fascinating character, completely honest in her thoughts and revelations, even when they’re not exactly palatable. She has lived a life different to everyone she knows and she takes great pains these days to hide who she is – even her own husband isn’t aware of who her father is. But despite the fact that she never talks about it, she clearly thinks about it a lot. She has not visited her father, despite the fact that he’s incarcerated not far from the house she lives in, but he seems to be on the periphery of her mind. When she hears of his escape, she seems to feel that she has to be the one to go after him, to perhaps confront him, maybe even get some answers for why he did what he did to her and her mother. He’s an expert at mind games though, and as much as Helena knows this, it was obvious she would truly struggle to assert herself against him, even now. She needed sufficient motivation.

I really enjoyed this. Loved Helena’s frank narration and the intricacies of the story, the way in which Helena was raised was rendered so well. The suspense built really nicely as well, as Helena tracked her father and attempted to be one step ahead of his every move but I do feel that it was Helena’s internal struggle that was the star of the story. Her back and forth over her father’s character, his actions, how it has shaped her even as an adult. It was a really well done portrayal of what it might be like for someone who had grown up in such a way and then been thrust into ‘regular’ life at 12 years of age.

I’ll definitely look for more of Karen Dionne’s books in the future. This is the first one I’ve read but I’d be keen to read more.

8/10

Book #101 of 2017

 

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Review: Black Tie Optional by Ann Marie Walker

Black Tie Optional (Wild Wedding #1)
Ann Marie Walker
St Martin’s Press
2017, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Everything about Coleman Grant III oozes power and sex. And not the perfunctory kind either, but the sheet clawing, heart stopping, gasping for air after you’ve screamed so loud you can’t breathe kind. From his dark wavy hair that stands in an artfully rumpled mess, to the blue eyes that sear your skin, to his full, sensual lips – on the surface he’s pure perfection.

Too bad he’s an asshole. An arrogant, uptight corporate raider hell bent on destroying the environment one species at a time.

Everything about Olivia Ramsey screams hippie humanitarian. From her blond hair tied in a sloppy bun, to her faded jeans with the Bonnaroo patch sewn on the thigh, to her combat boots still splattered with mud from the previous day’s site visit.

So it makes perfect sense that they would get married. In Vegas. Stone-cold sober.

Cole needs a wife. Olivia needs to save an endangered species. But what starts as a marriage of convenience soon turns into a battle of wills and sexual tension. Love is a game, and Olivia and Cole are ready to win.

I’m a big fan of the arranged or forced married or marriage of convenience trope and so when I read the description for this, I definitely had to read it.

Cole and Olivia are total opposites – he’s the CEO of a family corporation who is driven to work in his ginormous car every day, lives in a glass and chrome castle in the sky and stops and picks up his take away coffee. Olivia is a conservationist, fundraising for various causes and every day she attempts to talk to Cole and convince him to move a site he’s going to develop in order for her to save some sort of endangered species of bat.

It’s a game they play every morning but when they run into each other in Las Vegas, the game changes slightly. Cole has just discovered that he’s been unsuccessful in his latest attempt to extricate himself from a clause in his father’s will that says he must marry or he loses his company and the incentive of saving her latest cause is enough for Olivia to agree to temporarily marry him. They might be total opposites but they discover that they get along just fine in bed. Maybe even better than fine.

This started off really promising – I loved the opening scene of Olivia waiting for Cole where he stops and gets coffee on his way to the office. We get both their points of view which is good as well – some people don’t really like being in the head of the male character, preferring the mystery but I’m the opposite. I like knowing what they’re thinking. Their banter was amusing, Cole was dismissive of Olivia and her causes, typical of a corporate jerk.

I’m not sure how believable it is that someone’s will could force someone to be married but I’ll let that go for the sake of the story as I think there was an attempt to give some reasoning behind it, even if the reasoning was a bit flawed. So I didn’t mind the set up but I think Olivia agreed to it remarkably quickly, without even really knowing a lot of the details and what being married to someone like Cole would involve.

And I think things like that ended up being a downside to this book – it was too light, it just glossed over a lot of things, rather than delve a bit deeper to better flesh out the story. It happened in many aspects of it but particularly in the interactions between Cole and Olivia and the way in which they realise that they’ve come to feel much more than dislike for each other. I’m not sure they have enough really meaningful interactions that show how this really occurred. The time spent in Olivia’s hometown tries to I think, but I wanted a bit more. I wanted more from Cole. If I’m honest, I didn’t really like him that much. Lines like “you talked less when my cock was in your mouth” don’t really endear a character to me.

I liked Olivia and I loved her family. But I was confused about the character of Cole’s grandmother, who seemed vindictive for little reason but yet stayed on the periphery – I wasn’t sure if she was supposed to be misguided or truly evil. She wasn’t enough of a presence in the story to be sure although some of her actions were quite underhanded, it was more in a laughable sort of way. Either way, once again, that wasn’t a discussion that Cole and Olivia had, about how to handle her, what she might do, how to present a united front. Olivia kind of had to figure it out on her own and she did really well and I can only assume the united front came later, after they both had confessed their feelings to each other.

This was okay, I found it an easy, pleasant read without really falling in love with it.

6/10

Book #97 of 2017

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Review: The One by John Marrs

The One
John Marrs
Ebury Publishing
2017, 416p
Copy courtesy Random House UK via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

How far would you go to find THE ONE?

One simple mouth swab is all it takes.

One tiny DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for.

A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love.

Now, five more people take the test. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others…

A psychological thriller with a difference, this is a truly unique novel which is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.

I’ve read several YA books that tackle something similar to this so the idea was really intriguing – that we could give a simple DNA sample and be matched up with a soul mate, someone perfect for us. The thing is, the matching program doesn’t discriminate. Someone’s perfect match could be halfway around the world. They could be of a different religion or background. They could even be of a different sex to the one that the person believes they are attracted to.

The book revolves around five people finding their “match” – Ellie, a businesswoman who is incredibly wealthy but often the target of public hatred, Mandy, a divorcee whose marriage ended when her husband was matched with someone other than her, Jade who received a match on the other side of the world, Nick who is pressured into taking the test by his fiance to see if they are truly compatible and Christopher,  a psychopath who realises that he’s different from other people but takes the test anyway, to see what sort of match it might give someone like him.

The narrative revolves around the five characters as they meet their matches – and overcome surprises for some, get to know them, decide if they want to disrupt their lives in order to be with these people that have been termed their soul mates. Some of the stories are more interesting than others – I think it was Ellie, Nick and Christopher’s that really kept me interested. Ellie’s match was always a little too good to be true, a bit too perfect, almost rehearsed and I was pretty sure there was a big twist coming but I definitely didn’t expect it to go the way that it did! Nick’s match was one of the more interesting ones and I think that both of them handled it in quite a mature and respectful manner, because they were both surprised to be matched up for quite a few reasons. Nick was also engaged and his match had a partner as well, so they had to deal with the feelings that come from making contact, which is something that apparently happens to all matches. Quite often it’s immediate but it generally happens with 48 hours of meeting. I also really liked Christopher’s story because he was completely different from most of the others. He wasn’t really interested in meeting a soul mate exactly, but he was interested in what it might be like for someone like him, who doesn’t really have the same thoughts and feelings as most other people. He’s a serial killer – he’s already killed numerous women and has plans to continue killing quite a few more. His match is somewhat interesting and Christopher seems to have little regard for her at first except as in terms of curiosity. However he’s intrigued to find that he is capable of feeling things and that perhaps he could have a life with his match.

There was always a lot happening in this book and it was all very fascinating as people struggled with these new feelings – some of the stories were a bit less interesting but probably the one that I didn’t really get into was divorcee Mandy who gets her match only to discover something quite shocking about him. Mandy probably has some reasons for acting the way she did but she made some really frustrating choices and it seemed like every time we got back to her narration, she’d made an even worse choice than the one before until it was all just snowballing into crazy. It did build quite well though and it was clear that it was going to end quite badly.

Most of the stories have some element of psychological suspense running through them and pretty much all of the matches are not without drama, heartache and turmoil. It seems like it doesn’t matter how you find your match, it still contains a huge element of risk. Perhaps even more so because although your DNA might be perfectly compatible, it might change everything that you once thought or believed about yourself.

I definitely enjoyed this and I felt like it was really quite a clever take on a matched story line. The suspense is built really nicely where relevant and I really liked the ending and thought that it worked well.

7/10

Book #94 of 2017

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Review: Sweet Tea And Spirits by Angie Fox

Sweet Tea And Spirits (Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries #5)
Angie Fox
Season Publishing
2017, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Southern girl Verity Long is about as high society as her pet skunk. Which is why she’s surprised as anyone when the new head of the Sugarland social set invites her to join the “it” girls. But this is no social call. Verity’s new client needs her to go in undercover and investigate strange happenings at the group’s historic headquarters.

But while spirits are whispering hints of murder, the socialites are more focused on Verity’s 1978, avocado-green Cadillac. And when Verity stumbles upon a fresh body, she’s going to need the long-dead citizens of Sugarland to help her solve the crime. Good thing she has the handsome deputy sheriff Ellis Wydell on hand, as well as her ghostly sidekick Frankie. The bad thing is, the ghosts are now whispering about the end of a certain ghost hunter.

One of my favourite recent discoveries, this series is funny and feel-good and the perfect thing after a few books that I just haven’t clicked with. Verity is really starting to settle into her role conversing with spirits and she’s gaining confidence in dealing with them and also I think, in the direction she wants to take this. She’s really interested in getting closure and finding out what happens, especially when someone who hired her ends up dead. She’s also getting better at dealing with Frankie, the somewhat temperamental gangster ghost tethered to her property who allows her to access the ghostly plane with his powers.

Likewise Verity is also settled in her relationship with deputy sheriff Ellis Wydell, the brother of her former fiance. Ellis’ mother continues to be a thorn in Verity’s side but in this book she’s an inconsistent thorn, suggesting the two women can occasionally find common ground. I love Ellis and Verity together and I think the author does a good job attempting to portray Ellis’ struggle to balance his desire to be with Verity versus the loyalty he feels towards his family. His family have never been particularly good to him, since he decided not to become a lawyer and instead became a sheriff. His mother clearly sees his profession as beneath him and the family name and she’s incensed that he’s also begun dating Verity, who left his brother Beau at the altar after discovering he was unfaithful. Verity was stuck with the bill and Ellis’ mother would’ve been happy to see her bankrupted paying for it. She has a lot of antagonism toward Verity for not “toeing the Southern line” – marrying him without fuss and then maybe quietly separating at a later date. Instead she caused a scandal, humiliated the Wydell’s.

I always enjoy the mysteries in these books, getting to know the different ghosts and hearing their stories. I like Frankie too although there are times his heartless attitude gets a bit on my nerves, especially toward Verity. I know he is a gangster and is probably relative for his time but sometimes it just gets a bit irritating, especially when he and Verity have the same argument several times in every book. He’s always all about the money and Verity is always all about the story, she wants to know what happened and she doesn’t care if she doesn’t get paid sometimes, as long as she gets the answers/justice/closure/etc. However we did see a different side to Frankie in this book which was really good and definitely about time. He’s certainly still a man of mystery in many ways and I look forward to finding out more about him over time.

This was another really fun installment to this series, I really like the way it’s going and I always can’t wait for the next one. I also really appreciate just how quickly the next one does seem to appear! I think I read the first book about two years ago so the gaps between books aren’t long.

8/10

Book #77 of 2017

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Review: Lord Of Chance by Erica Ridley

Lord Of Chance (Rags To Riches #1)
Erica Ridley
Self-published
2017, 300p
Copy courtesy of the author via NetGalley

Blurb {from Goodreads.com}:

Disguised as a country miss, Charlotte Devon flees London, desperate to leave her tattered reputation behind. In Scotland, her estranged father’s noble blood will finally make her a respectable debutante. Except she finds herself accidentally wed to a devil-may-care rogue with a sinful smile. He’s the last thing she needs…and everything her traitorous heart desires.

Charming rake Anthony Fairfax is on holiday to seek his fortune…and escape his creditors. When an irresistible Lady Luck wins him in a game of chance—and a slight mishap has them leg-shackled by dawn—the tables have finally turned in his favor. But when past demons catch up to them, holding on to new love will mean destroying their dreams forever.

I’ve read a few of Erica Ridley’s Dukes of War series and this book, the first in a new series, is very loosely connected to that in that the hero Anthony is the brother of one of the heroines from that series. This was a little different to what I expected….some of that was in a good way but some of it was also in not so good a way.

Anthony Fairfax needs to earn himself an obscene amount of money to pay back the creditor who purchased his debts. If he doesn’t, he risks going to jail. He finds himself in an inn in Scotland playing cards – hopefully the distance will help him evade his creditors until he has the means to repay them. What Anthony doesn’t bargain on is Charlotte Devon, whom he invites into the game. She promptly wins his entire pot and then to make matters worse when he tries to play the gentleman, an obscure Scottish law means they’re married….for real.

This is awkward for many reasons – they don’t even know each other. One night playing a couple of hands of cards is the extend of their interaction. Also Anthony’s precarious financial position could have negative repercussions for Charlotte – as his wife, her property is considered his. She could also become a target if Anthony cannot repay his creditors within the deadline. And for Charlotte, there’s plenty she hasn’t told Anthony about her background, which for many people would definitely be reason for rejection.

What I liked was that both Anthony and Charlotte are quite different to a lot of characters in historical romances. Anthony, although apparently referred to as rakish, didn’t really display much rake behaviour and he’s not rich. Not at all. He’s very kind and considerate, not at all arrogant or lordly, he doesn’t try to boss Charlotte around or tell her that she can’t do this or that. He’s also very adamant about nothing she owns being used to pay his debt or taken from her and when he hears of her background, he’s incredibly judgement-free. Probably few people in his circumstances would’ve been and I’m not entirely sure how realistic his attitude was but it was refreshing nonetheless. His family is quite unconventional (his sister was almost nine months pregnant when she married in her book) so perhaps it wasn’t that unlikely.

Charlotte was in Scotland on her own searching for her father, whom she’s never met. I think this could’ve been explored a bit more – she had very little information, what was she going to do, attempt to search every tavern in Scotland? I also would’ve liked more about her card playing, which is a rather big part of the beginning of the book as it serves to bring them together and then just basically disappears. Despite the fact that Anthony and Charlotte are both kind of down on their luck when they meet – Anthony owes an astronomical amount of money he doesn’t really have much chance of being able to repay, Charlotte wants to meet the father she’s never known despite really possessing no knowledge of him, there are a lot of things that kind of fall into their laps in order to wrap up the novel and it felt unbelievably convenient, especially as they happened pretty much simultaneously.

This was a pleasant read but I didn’t love it. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters and the pacing felt a bit off, especially towards the end. I didn’t really feel any chemistry between Anthony and Charlotte (it’s a very chaste romance, the sexual chemistry felt like it was at 0 and even the romantic chemistry was lukewarm at best) and there were a few loose plot threads. Just okay for me. Not quite as enjoyable as the other books I’ve read by this author.

5/10

Book #71 of 2017

 

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Review: Letters To The Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Letters To The Lost
Brigid Kemmerer
Bloomsbury ANZ
2017, 400p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Juliet Young has always written letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither of them knows that they’re not actually strangers. When real life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart. This emotional, compulsively-readable romance will sweep everyone off their feet.

Oh wow. This book gave me all of the feels!

And it was exactly what I needed. A few books I’d read recently were alright but didn’t really provoke a reaction in me one way or another. I didn’t die hard love them but I didn’t dislike them either. But I was left wanting more and so I decided to try something a bit different to what I’d been reading and I remembered that I had this waiting on my kindle. I really have enjoyed the previous Brigid Kemmerer books that I’d read so I figured it was a good time to crack this one.

Perfect, perfect choice. This book had so much emotion in it and to be honest, mostly what comes up off the page is pain. Both Juliet and Declan are both suffering so much. In many ways what they are grieving is very similar. Juliet’s mother recently (as in a few months ago) was killed in an accident and the way that Juliet connects with her now, is to write her letters. She always did this as her mother was a photographer who travelled the world, only now Juliet leaves the letters on her mothers grave. Declan is also grieving the loss of a parent who is not dead but almost might as well be. Declan isn’t also just grieving, he is furious and guilty and torn up inside. His family is in upheaval and he feels that he no longer has a role, a place there and that tears him up as well.

A little while ago Declan did something stupid that resulted in court-ordered community service and now he works at the graveyard where he finds one of Juliet’s letters to her mother during clean up before mowing. Unthinkingly he writes back and when Juliet discovers that someone has read her private letter, she’s incensed, so she writes back. Despite that, they connect – perhaps through some shared suffering. Soon they have moved on from leaving letters on the grave to creating anonymous emails and chatting and emailing that way. They both go to the same school and could choose to confide their identities but they instead decide to remain anonymous, probably preferring the freedom it gives for them to be completely honest. But being in such close proximity means that they can’t stay anonymous forever – what will happen when Juliet realises that the person she’s been confiding in is Declan Murphy, the guy who is kind of douchey to her at school? In person, Declan’s first response often tends to be anger or aggression – frustration coming out generally about other people’s perceptions of him. I really appreciated the moments with his English teacher who has seen glimpses of something in Declan, something much more than just an angry lack of interest in his school work and she really pushes him to let his natural intelligence come out. She’s not turned away by his tough facade and she’s one of the few people that really seems to see Declan as something more.

Juliet seems to feel that people want her to ‘move on’ now, begin to act ‘normally’ again – but she can’t do that. She’s not sure she’ll ever be able to do that. It felt like it was probably a bit too soon for people to be expecting that of Juliet, but perhaps by trying to immerse her in things, such as her photography, they figure they might help her healing process. Toss her in at the deep end and eventually she’ll learn to swim type of thing. Juliet feels sick at the thought of even picking up a camera but her teacher is able to well, bribe her really and it’s through those small actions such as photographing things for the school year book, going to a school dance, that spark moments and interactions. Some make her furious – but they make her feel things other than grief. She’s been struggling to connect with her father since her mother died and his talk of selling her mother’s cameras has her so incensed that he could even consider it. For Juliet I think her cameras are her mother’s essence, that one thing that she can still tangibly have/hold/etc in her life that represent her.

Both Declan and Juliet’s stories were so tragic and both were full of a few of surprises. Declan’s story had more layers than I imagined and Juliet’s journey of discovery about her mother led to some uncomfortable truths but also gave her the opportunity to finally be able to talk to her father. I loved Declan and Juliet both in their interactions with each other (as themselves and as their alter anonymous egos) and I loved them separately. I felt that this had such a realistic tinge to it – nothing was ‘fixed’ magically – there were small improvements, ways forward but both of them still have a lot to work through. The chemistry between them was powerful in all forms – even in their negative interactions before they figure out who they’re talking to. Declan is the sort of guy I really like reading about, the misunderstood juvie contender. I’m glad he finally got some validation for his feelings and there was an attempt to make him see that he shouldn’t ever have been put in the position that he was.

I loved this book – it kind of put me through the wringer reading it but that was pretty much what I wanted. I thought that both Juliet and Declan were amazing characters, flawed and beautifully believable. I loved their interactions, really enjoyed the way in which they could be brutally honest, brutally themselves without hiding anything in the emails. I adored the supporting characters too – Declan’s teacher, Juliet’s best friend, her photography student rival and most of all, Declan’s best friend Rev who is getting his own book. This excites me so much because much is hinted about Rev but there’s still so much to learn. Bring it on. I can’t wait!

9/10

Book #62 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

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

 

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