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Review: The Attraction Equation by Kadie Scott

The Attraction Equation (Love Undercover #2)
Kadie Scott
Entangled Publishing
2017, 197p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

FBI agent Max Carter lives his life by a strict set of rules—rules that don’t allow for distraction, deviation…or a relationship. But tell that to his matchmaking mama. To avoid yet another set-up, he announces he has a girlfriend. And now has to produce said girlfriend at Christmas dinner. Maybe Santa has a suitable actress in that red bag of his…

Gina Castillo is about to break her building’s iron-clad “no pets” policy to give her little brother the perfect Christmas gift—a dog. Too bad Max, the most inconveniently sexy tenant in the building, catches her red handed. Gina expects to be evicted, but instead finds herself blackmailed into playing the role of his girlfriend.

Two lies plus one dog should equal a hot mess of a holiday, but attraction and Christmas magic might just defy the rules…

As seems to be my way, I didn’t realise that this was part of a series when I requested it but it was perfectly fine as a stand alone. The previous couple do appear but you don’t really need to know their entire background story. My Kryptonite is an opposites attract story between a free spirit type of woman and an uptight or repressed type of man so this one sounded right up my alley.

Max is an FBI agent specialising in finance analysis and he definitely prefers things to be done a certain way. He lives his life by a very strict routine and he tends to restrict his romantic interactions to very brief encounters. He never tells women what he does or invites them to his apartment. Max thinks that people will only want to change him.

In contrast, Gina is a very creative type working multiple casual jobs to supplement her income. She’s subletting an apartment on the same floor as Max and her first interaction with him is when he catches her attempting to take the dog she’s purchased as a present for her younger brother out for a toilet break. The building forbids pets and Max is very much a rules person but there’s something about Gina’s manner that leads him to assist her, rather than dobbing her in.

The two of them are clearly very different and their interactions are quite humorous. Gina is pretty laid back and she enjoys trying new things. In meeting Gina, Max sees an opportunity. He won’t tell anyone about her having the dog if she will pretend to be the girlfriend he lied to his mother about having in an attempt to stop them from constantly trying to fix him up with people. It’ll be Christmas dinner, then after that he can tell his family that they’ve broken up and it’ll all be quick and painless.

Famous last words. There’s an attraction between them as well, which definitely complicates Max’s simple idea. Gina is such a personality that he enjoys spending time with her, even when she wants him to do things like try a new coffee place or put up Christmas decorations in his apartment. He finds himself doing things with her that he’s never done before and wanting her around for much more than just a one night stand. But at the same time he still believes that because of the ‘way he is’, it would only end badly – either she’ll try to change him or she won’t be able to accept him for what and who he is.

I’m not sure if Max is specifically OCD, he’s undiagnosed and at the beginning of the novel shows no interest in seeking help for his rigidity and the discomfort he feels if this is disrupted. He’s content with his life, even though he doesn’t share it with anyone. It isn’t until he meets Gina and begins spending time with her and realises that she is someone he’d like to be around in a permanent way, that he realises he may need to do a few things in order to compromise and be in a meaningful and long term relationship.

I did enjoy this but I also found parts of it significantly frustrating. Both Max and Gina get mad at the other for basically doing the same thing  and also for things that are a fundamental part of them. Gina is impulsive and a bit crazy, she’s always going to want to do those out there things and Max is a neat freak who is probably always going to want to tidy up and have things in their place etc. At times Max was a bit of a struggle for me because he does these impulsive things that kind don’t marry up with his personality (such as tell his family he has a girlfriend and then blackmail a stranger into portraying her) and then he self-sabotages what he has with Gina in the most bonehead of ways. Gina in many ways, has the patience of a saint.

This was cute but I didn’t love it. It was entertaining though and I’d probably check out another book in the series.

6/10

Book #185 of 2017

 

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Review: Her Outback Surprise by Annie Seaton

Her Outback Surprise (Pickle Creek #2)
Annie Seaton
Entangled Publishing
2017, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Angie Edmonds is content with life in her small town. Being alone doesn’t bother her. Really. Until Liam Smythe, the man who broke her heart, shows up at her vet clinic with an injured puppy. Unfortunately, he’s just as irresistible as she remembers. In an attempt to prove to him that she’s moved on, somehow a little white lie begins…

When Liam returns to help run the family farm, his enjoyment of the slow life in Spring Downs surprises him. After all, he’s used to the thrill of chasing the next big story. Running into the girl he’s never been able to forget is unexpected, and he’s shocked to learn she’s getting married–to someone who’s not him. She’s off-limits, but Liam can’t stop thinking about the gorgeous vet and what could have been. But convincing her he’s changed will be harder than finding a needle in a haystack.

Recently I read and really enjoyed Annie Seaton’s Porter Sisters trilogy so I jumped at the chance to read this one when it was offered to me. I didn’t realise at the time but it’s actually the second of a quartet revolving around four cousins who are “called home” by their grandparents to help take care of the family farm. In the first book, which I haven’t read, the cousins come to an agreement that Liam will stay on and take care of the farm whilst their grandparents enjoy a well deserved holiday. This book begins in London where Angie is leaving to come back to Australia after her visa has run out. She and Liam have been in a relationship for about two years and she wants him to come with her but Liam is far too busy with his job to consider such a thing. Then we skip to recap Liam being called home and cover the decision to stay on, which is probably done more in depth in the first book but was definitely more than enough for me to catch up on what is happening. Fast forward to Liam having been on the farm for a while and he discovers a puppy on his farm. It doesn’t belong to him and appears to have an injured leg, so he takes the dog to a vet in town. Expecting the same vet he’s always known as having the practice, Liam is surprised when he realises that the vet is Angie. And Angie is equally stunned when she realises that her former partner has returned to Australia, something that he wouldn’t do with her.

I found this a really relaxing and enjoyable read. I liked the setting although I did find that Liam seemed to have a lot of free time on his hands for someone who seemed to be almost singlehandedly running a farm! But the small town community feel was definitely there and I found the vet practice to be a fun and interesting setting too. A large portion of the conflict in the book revolves around the fact that Liam believes that Angie is dating someone and in order to protect her heart, it’s a misconception that she doesn’t correct. However the two of them have a very difficult time staying away from each other. They seem to be attempting to do the just friends things but both of them are still very invested. Angie doesn’t want to get involved again because she feels this is a stop gap for Liam, a brief period before he chases his career again and heads for a big city. Angie doesn’t want to be left behind – breaking up with Liam the first time was very painful for her and very difficult and she doesn’t want to have to go through that all over again. And so for a while she allows Liam to continue thinking that she has some vague boyfriend living somewhere else. She knows that she does need to tell him the truth eventually but I sort of didn’t blame Angie for not bothering to correct Liam in a way. She wanted him to return to Australia with her but Liam was too caught up in his career however he did drop that when his grandparents recalled him to the family farm. But to Angie, some year later finds Liam back in Australia – he’d been back for quite a while and hadn’t let her know (presumably because he believed her with someone else).

Liam is a bit pushy for someone who believes that Angie is dating someone else, probably seriously. He’s always trying something – definitely the sort of guy who doesn’t let a chance go by! If Angie had of actually been dating someone I would’ve found it off-putting but she knows she isn’t. Liam does come across as quite torn, despite his taking chances. He frequently muses to himself about her boyfriend but he can’t seem to help himself when it comes to her. Their coming back together is sweet and low key, rather than sizzling hot romance. They do fit well together though and both of them have moved on and changed from what they were in London. For Angie, who doesn’t have a family, she’s come to realise that she could be an accepted part of a big and loving one as Liam’s cousin has definitely taken her under her wing and wants to include her in events and celebrations. And Liam makes a change from big shot city career guy to a slower pace and a reorder of his priorities and what he wants out of his life. When he realises that he could lose Angie all over again, he’s spurred into action.

I liked this – a very nice rural read to escape into for an afternoon. I’ll be looking to finish the series for sure.

7/10

Book #169 of 2017

Her Outback Surprise is book #52 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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Review: Cover Up by L.A. Witt

Cover Up (Skin Deep Inc #3)
L.A. Witt
Swerve
2017, 251p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

After ten years of blissful marriage, Navy Pilot Nate Chandler is divorcing his cheating husband. Single for the first time in years, Nate is numb to all emotion and kisses any chance of another relationship goodbye.

Not only is Nate struggling to get through this divorce, but his body is branded with a permanent reminder of his failed marriage: a matching tattoo with his ex. Searching for a place to cover up his old tattoo, Nate finds himself at the Skin Deep, Inc., where he meets the young and charming cover-up tattoo apprentice, Lucas Brandt.

From just flirty glances to steamy hot encounters, Nate and Lucas dive headfirst into a fling of hookups. But worried that he’ll forever be Nate’s “cover up” rebound relationship, Lucas fears that their love won’t be anything more than just skin deep. What was once just a casual attraction, Lucas now hopes to turn into a real relationship. But will he be able to convince the still tender-hearted Nate to fall in love again?

I don’t read a lot of m/m romance but every now and then I’ll spy one where the blurb really catches my eye and this one was definitely one of those. I really liked the idea and given the state of my country at the moment it was nice to read a book where gay marriage was so normal and an accepted part of society (mostly) rather than something that needs to be endlessly debated and the subject of a postal vote. This sounded interesting and pretty hot and I didn’t mind that I hadn’t read the previous two books. Even after reading it, I know the two couples that featured in the books preceding this one but I didn’t feel as though I’d missed anything, nor did I really feel that anything would’ve been spoiled for me if I wanted to go back and read those first two books.

There were things I liked about this but there were also some things that didn’t really work for me. Firstly, Nate is still super raw when he goes to see Lucas about getting the matching tattoo he got with his estranged husband covered up. It’s a very recent break up and he’s heartbroken. So even though it’s originally supposed to start out as just a fling, something to get him back out there, it still feels very soon for someone as upset as Nate. He kind of seems like he should still be wallowing. He was betrayed by his husband, catching him in their bed with another man (bit of a cliche, that, it amazes me how many people in fiction bring their lovers into their marital or relationship bed!) and now they’re going through what seems like a very traumatic and painful divorce for Nate. He definitely married thinking it would be for life and his hurt and level of emotional instability comes across very well, even when he’s trying to conceal the fact that he has a boner for his young-looking tattoo artist.

There’s lots of sex in here and it’s very detailed so if that’s your thing that part of the book should make readers pretty happy. I was hoping the relationship aspect would get the same attention but I really didn’t feel like it did. Everything felt very fast, like these two guys barely even knew each other. It is supposed to be a once off, then a fling but then it seems like they’re spending a lot of time together, when their various jobs allow and it’s clear it’s more than just sex but we just don’t get a lot of the emotional investment, such as them really talking about their feelings etc. Lucas was having a bad spell before Nate and he’s also clear at the beginning that he doesn’t want a relationship. Randomly he’s already been divorced twice despite the fact that he’s in his late twenties and even though he kind of talks about both his marriages it’s in passing and quite brief and just didn’t really add a lot of the narrative. Both of Lucas’ marriages were to women and although he readily admits to being bi I’m not sure if Nate is his first actual relationship with a man versus just hooking up with them or including them in threesomes with one of his former wives.

At some stage in the book it becomes very clear to Nate that he still is yet to really deal with his divorce and his feelings for his estranged husband and that he should probably get around to doing that if he wants a real future with Lucas and so off he goes to do that and it basically takes one phone call, a meeting in a cafe and feels done with. That aspect felt quite rushed and also unrealistic because even if you find yourself moving on, I’m sure that a 10 year partnership and marriage that ended in cheating and divorce isn’t quite so easy to just get over. Given this is obviously a huge part of Nate’s life, it felt like it should’ve been a more dominant part of the story. Much more, given it’s really only just happened before this book begins. It felt like Nate should’ve had quite a bit more to work through before he could really take that genuine next step with Lucas from “fwb” to in an actual committed relationship for the long haul. I wouldn’t have minded examining Lucas’ past a bit more either, that felt glossed over as well. A lot of this felt packed with filler sex scenes and because of that, the rest of the story did suffer. I’m all for lots of spice but I do also like it to be balanced out.

All in all it was a quick and entertaining read but did leave me wanting more from it.

7/10

Book #166 of 2017

 

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Review: The Love Experiment by Ainslie Paton

The Love Experiment (Stubborn Hearts #1)
Ainslie Paton
Carina Press
2017, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Can you fall in love in thirty-six questions?

The closest rookie lifestyle writer Derelie Honeywell gets to megastar reporter Jackson Haley is an accidental shoulder brush in The Courier’s elevator. That is, until the love experiment: a study designed to accelerate intimacy using thirty-six questions and four minutes of sustained eye contact.

As far as Derelie is concerned, Jack Haley has always been a man best imagined in his underwear. He’s too intimidating otherwise. But participating in the love experiment is her make-or-break chance. With another round of layoffs looming, Derelie knows holding on to her job means getting the story no matter what. Even when the what is kissing Jack like a maniac.

Jack Haley has zero interest in participating in a clickbait story. He didn’t plan on finding Derelie smart and feisty and being mesmerized by her eyes. He certainly had no intention at all of actually falling in love with her.

The conclusion to this experiment? Thirty-six questions might lead to love, but finding the answer to happily-ever-after is a lot more complicated.

As soon as I read the synopsis for this, I had to request it. I absolutely loved the premise and thought it sounded like such a fun idea. It encompasses a lot of the things that I really enjoy in terms of romance books and I thought the idea of the 36 questions was really interesting. I’ve actually come across a few people/books that have mentioned that lately but this is the first book I’ve read that actively includes it.

Derelie (rhymes with merrily) is a small-town girl who moved to Chicago not that long ago and works writing for the online site for a newspaper. Mostly what they term as “clickbait” articles – top 10 things you didn’t know were hot this summer, etc that get people clicking on them and helping keeping the site views ticking over. She’s quite desperate to prove herself so when the paper looks like it might be laying more people off there’s nothing she won’t do to keep her job – even participate in a fluff story to see if any two people thrown together can build something using the 36 questions. The fact that her partner is set to be Jackson Haley is equal parts exciting and intimidating. He’s the paper’s hot shot who brings down corrupt companies and champions the wronged. He doesn’t even know that Derelie exists and he’s definitely not keen to do this piece. In fact he actively tries to get out of it.

I really loved the set up and the early dynamic between Jackson and Derelie. Jackson is kind of a legend in the city, he’s uncovered numerous stories that have put people in jail or seen them removed from their jobs and that comes with positives and negatives. He’s a pretty stand offish sort of person, very businesslike and tends not to get involved with people. With Derelie at first he’s quite brisk and often uses her to do things revolving around his story and tends to dodge answering the questions seriously. He reads like he has quite a few intimacy issues but…..the questions start to work and there’s an attraction between Jackson and Derelie that builds. Jackson can be quite cynical and he clearly had a less-than-ideal upbringing which still impacts on him in the present day. Derelie doesn’t seem to be cynical and had an entirely different upbringing so sometimes they’re like total opposites but they do really work together.

Jackson works for the print aspect of the paper and Derelie primarily for the online blog version and there was some interesting stuff about the current state of journalism in the age of the 24hr news cycle and everyone possessing a smart phone to upload things to various places on the internet as they happen. Journalism is definitely evolving rather fast and I know that most people now (myself included) tend to get their news online. I can’t remember the last time I bought a newspaper – occasionally I might read one when we are at a cafe and they’re sitting there but not often. In among the fun of the experiment and Derelie and Jackson answering the questions and getting to know each other there was also a pretty serious look at the state of uncertain employment when it comes to journalism. Which kind of led to the final conflict between Jackson and Derelie and I have to admit, I didn’t love it. It felt a little out of place with the rest of the book and changed the focus. I loved reading about them answering the questions and getting into discussions where little pieces of themselves would slip out, almost with them being unaware of it.

Overall I really enjoyed this – it was a super fun story. I liked both Derelie and Jackson and I think they were awesome together. They had a lot of chemistry, even when Derelie was intimidated by him and Jackson was trying to do anything to get out of the assignment. I loved Derelie’s determination – she really would not take no for an answer and did not accept Jackson trying to weasel his way out of it. Also the questions are listed at the end of the book, which is nice – should you want to find someone and try the experiment with them!

7/10

Book #165 of 2017

 

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Review: Secrets Between Friends by Fiona Palmer

Secrets Between Friends
Fiona Palmer
Hachette Books AUS
2017, 368p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Best friends Abbie, Jess and Ricki are setting sail on a cruise ship, rekindling the excitement of a school excursion they took ten years earlier to the historic port town of Albany, the oldest city on the stunning turquoise coastline of Western Australia. But are they truly prepared for what this voyage will reveal?

Ricki, a dedicated nurse, harbours a dream she hasn’t chased. Is she actually happy or stuck in a rut?

Jess, a school teacher and single mother to little Ollie, had a tough upbringing but found her way through with the help of her closest male friend, Peter. But Peter has bought an engagement ring and is ready to propose to Ricki . . .

Abbie had it all: a career, a loving boyfriend and a future, but a visit to the doctor bears scary news. Her world is tumbling down and she feels adrift at sea.

This is Fiona Palmer’s first foray away from her strong background of rural fiction/romance and more into women’s fiction. Jess, Abbie and Ricki have been best friends since school and Jess and Peter have been best friends since childhood. Peter and Ricki are now dating and the three girls thought it’d be fun to celebrate their ten year anniversary graduating from high school by revisiting Albany, a place they went to for a school trip. They decide to take a cruise – a few days of fun and cocktails. Their girls trip gets derailed slightly when Peter decides to come with them and use the trip as a way to further his romance with Ricki.

Firstly, I loved the setting. Fiona Palmer has been setting her books in rural Western Australia for a long time, which I always enjoy but it was quite fun to board a cruise ship with the characters. I’ve never been on a cruise ship before but the idea of a short cruise is appealing. I’ve never visited WA either so perhaps that is why I always enjoy visiting it so much in fiction. It’s a way to experience it.

Each of the women are hiding secrets – some more serious than others. Abbie is hiding a lot about her life and in particular about something that she’s just discovered which is hanging over her head on the cruise. Ricki is feeling a bit restless, perhaps not even realising what the problem was until someone reignited feelings in her about her job and about her life. And Jess, well Jess is carrying two intertwined secrets which definitely threaten two of the friendships she holds dearest.

Okay so as well as things I did like about the story, there were a few things that I did have trouble with. Some of those revolved around the secrets, which seemed strange. I mean, I understood why some things were kept secret, as difficult as those were but the reasoning behind keeping some of the lesser secrets kind of confused me. Also – there’s some people that behave quite horribly and I didn’t really find it okay because “both of them did it”. That’s not good reasoning to me, especially as they were unaware of each other doing it and it felt quite uncomfortable to read. It’s also a bit of a deal breaker for me generally, depending on the circumstances but I didn’t feel as though these ones felt like enough. One element of the story felt almost too good to be true, like a convenient out for the other to occur in a way. And some of the fallout felt quite one sided, like some of the issues on both sides weren’t really discussed or explored, it was really more focused on one particular side and the people involved in that situation.

I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone but I did have some trouble connecting to or liking some characters because some of their actions were so dramatically unpleasant and unnecessary. But I did admire the friendship between them and the fact that it was built to withstand an awful lot and that they were remarkably understanding about each other’s secrets and indiscretions – but I wasn’t sure if that understanding came from a place of love and friendship or because several of them were doing the same thing and couldn’t really be angry. A lot of drama certainly came out during this brief cruise though, that’s for sure!

All in all this was a bit of a mixed bag for me – loved the setting and some elements of the story. The idea of the four of them going on the cruise was a lot of fun and a perfect place for secrets to come out because they can’t really escape, they have to face each other and sort things out. But some of the secrets made it difficult to really care about the characters, who were being a bit selfish and unfair to those that they cared about. And I wasn’t really expecting a part of the ending, which had some bittersweet elements to it. If you’re looking for a full and total HEA this might not be the sort of story that you’re after.

7/10

Book #155 of 2017

Secrets Between Friends is book #47 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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Review: So I Married A Sorcerer by Kerrelyn Sparks

So I Married A Sorcerer (The Embraced #2)
Kerrelyn Sparks
St Martin’s Press
2017, 496p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Growing up on the Isle of Moon, Brigitta knows nothing of her past, except that she is Embraced: born with powers that forced her into hiding. Everything changes when she learns she’s a princess, hidden away from her villainous half-brother who now rules the kingdom. But he knows about Brigitta, and he’ll do anything to get her back. Unless a certain roguish pirate has anything to say about it…

Rupert is both an infamous pirate and a sorcerer with the power to harness the wind. He’s been waiting nineteen years for revenge—and he needs Brigitta to get it. What begins as a kidnapping of the fiery beauty turns into a fierce attraction. But can he win the captive princess’s heart?

I read the first book in this series about six months ago and really enjoyed the story and the set up so I was eager to read this one. The title for this one is a bit misleading the cover a bit off putting. I know these are romances with a fantasy/paranormal twist but bleh. Horrid.

Anyway. At first I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first one mostly because I found Rupert (ha, also a really ridiculous name although it’s not his real name. Actually his real name isn’t much better) really annoying for half of the book. He kidnaps Brigitta, one of the women raised on the Isle of Moon because she’s embraced and being embraced is still punishable by death in a lot of places on the ‘mainland’ of kingdoms. Rupert is a notorious pirate who has dedicated his life to getting revenge on Brigitta’s brother and he plans to ransom her to him in order to get even more of his gold. He has a (well placed) hatred of Brigitta’s brother but he spends a large portion of the first part of the book also attempting to hate Brigitta simply by association. He also gets mad at her brother for wanting to hold a tournament for her hand because that’s using her, conveniently forgetting that he’s using her himself for his own gain. Brigitta was sent to the Isle of Moon as a baby for her own protection and has not had anything to do with her family since. She didn’t even know who they were. The idea of Rupert blaming her for their actions is laughable, especially as Rupert is supposedly presented as this incredibly fair and just man with strong morals (even the pirate thing is a bit of a furphy). Some of the stuff he comes out with is so hypocritically laughable that I spent a large portion of the book incredulous at his stupidity.

But if the first half of the book is ordinary, the second half is actually quite good. Brigitta begins to take her destiny into her own hands and learns a lot about herself, her heritage and what she could have. Rupert calms down a bit in wanting to do everything his way and there’s quite an interesting plan concocted to attempt to thwart Brigitta’s brother’s plans for her. There’s a lot of action and sneaky plots and a few interesting minor characters that are definitely more than they appear. A section of this book also works to set up the next book, introducing the reader to the people of a country (Kingdon? Nation?) bordering that of Brigitta’s brother and it looks very interesting. I did feel that there were still things in the second half that felt a bit awkward (like the sudden 180 of Brigitta’s brother’s personality) but for the most part it was very enjoyable and I really liked Brigitta. For me, she was the backbone of the book because her character was so well done that it sort of camouflaged the fact that Rupert’s was a little bit weak. I enjoyed the sideplot of the captain and the nun which added a touch of humour and sweetness but mostly I find myself excited for the next book. There are dragons.

The romance could’ve done with a bit of work, it felt a little forced in places. I’m not sure how I feel about the destiny aspect of these novels. I think that because these meetings are predicted in the games the girls of the Isle play with the stones that there’s less work put into orchestrating that chemistry and making it sizzling. Rupert and Brigitta never really felt like they had much chemistry for me, because the set up was all in that first half where Rupert is being a bit of a giant pill. The second half was a bit better, during the competition where Rupert is no longer concerned with using Brigitta but it’s a bit hard to get behind a character who has kidnapped the woman in order to ransom her to a man generally acknowledged to be a heinous person. If Rupert was smart enough to locate her on a ship as she made her way from the Isle to visit her sister, now Queen of one of the mainland Kingdoms, then surely he’s smart enough to realise she’s been raised in seclusion away from her family and was a tiny baby at the time who literally had no idea what had even happened. I did really like both of their gifts though – Rupert’s controlling the wind certainly gave him an advantage against other ships and he was pretty good at what he did with the pirate thing. And Brigitta’s gift definitely gave her an advantage in that it allowed her to discover things that Rupert didn’t want to tell her. Otherwise she’d have been kept in the dark about a lot of things and she was the one who really had ideas once she did know those things.

This one was a bit of a mixed bag for me – really liked Brigitta and the second part of the story and the way in which they worked together as a team but the first part felt like it needed a little bit of work in terms of making Rupert a credible character. I’m really looking forward to the next one – the bond these girls have from being raised together is amazing and I am enjoying their journeys as they leave the Isle and fulfill their destinies.

6/10

Book #145 of 2017

 

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Review: If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer L. Armentrout

If There’s No Tomorrow
Jennifer L. Armentrout
Harlequin Teen AUS
2017, 250p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Lena Wise is always looking forward to tomorrow, especially at the start of her senior year. She’s ready to pack in as much friend time as possible, to finish college applications and to maybe let her childhood best friend, Sebastian, know how she really feels about him. For Lena, the upcoming year is going to be one of opportunities and chances.

Until one choice, one moment, destroys everything.

Now Lena isn’t looking forward to tomorrow. Not when friend time may never be the same. Not when college applications feel all but impossible. Not when Sebastian could never forgive her for what happened.

For what she let happen. 

With the guilt growing each day, Lena knows that her only hope is to move on. But how can she move on when tomorrow isn’t even guaranteed?

I love the cover of this book. I think it’s very eye catching and immediately made me want to read it. Love the colours and the title is intriguing enough. I’ve read Jennifer L. Armentrout before – I think I started one of her paranormal series but like many, never got around to locating all of the books to complete it. This is a straight up contemporary focusing on Lena, her neighbour Sebastian and their group of friends in the summer leading up to their final year of school. They are preoccupied with things like college choices, potential sporting scholarships etc but are still finding time to hang out and go to parties.

At first this is kind of a bit of a bland story about Lena and her mad crush on Sebastian, whom she has known since she was around seven or eight. She believes this crush is unrequited, something that’s heightened when she does something and Sebastian doesn’t really respond in the way she’d hoped, despite the clues she’d been given. But then at some point into the book it takes a pretty serious and devastating turn and all of a sudden, the romance (or potential romance) takes a serious backseat and the book focuses on Lena’s inability to really deal with what happened, process it and begin to move on as well as her crippling guilt of the circumstances surrounding what has happened.

I enjoyed Lena as a character and thought she was quite well developed. She’s quite damaged by what happened with her parents and even though it’s been a few years, it seems as though it really still impacts on her and her life quite a lot. Although she’s been crushing on Sebastian for years, she seems reluctant to really talk about it or even acknowledge it properly to her close friends (perhaps because until recently, Sebastian has had a girlfriend). She has a good relationship with her mother, actively participates at school (she plays volleyball, which she loves although she hates the training drills), works a part time job and finds time to socialise. In this book, Lena makes a mistake. It’s possibly a mistake that anyone could make – I thought back and there were times in my life where I could’ve made this same mistake. It could’ve had absolutely no bearing on her life but unfortunately the mistake Lena makes ends up resulting in an horrific tragedy. In the ‘after’, Lena is a different person – overwhelmed by guilt, she withdraws from those she has been closest to, including Sebastian and her friends. She isn’t able to express to them how she feels and what truly happened, for fear that they will blame her as she blames herself. I loved her book obsession as well – could definitely relate to that!

I think the way in which the author explored this was both realistic and also positive but without ever seeking to exonerate Lena from the choice that she made. It’s true that she does make a bad choice but she isn’t the only one that makes bad choices. Quite a few people made bad choices and they are all reasons why what happened, happened. It’s a good look at how a seemingly harmless choice to go along with the crowd can have some really devastating consequences and how it can be hard to speak up in these circumstances. It’s really hard to explore this without giving away precisely what happens to Lena and the result of all those choices but I liked the way the author tackled this. There was a bluntness to it, no attempt to really soften it and it shouldn’t be softened I don’t think. I think the attitude of “it’ll be okay” can be really harmful with this particular issue and the more it’s called out as completely unacceptable, the better.

I didn’t really like Sebastian as a character and a large portion of the book revolved around him. He gave off a lot of really confusing mixed messages and acted like a bit of a brat in the first part of the book and I couldn’t really understand what had Lena so enthralled with him. But he did step up quite a bit in the second part of the book and he was very good to Lena after what happened, even when she’s withdrawn from everyone and pushes everyone away. Ultimately though, I just didn’t have that investment in their romance and it does make up such a huge part of the book. I liked most of the other things though – Lena’s relationship with her friends, their dynamic, her family stuff. So I guess this one was a little bit mixed – things I enjoyed, other things just didn’t really work for me so much.

6/10

Book #143 of 2017

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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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