Friday, February 17, 2017

Review: The Keeper of Lost Things

Title: The Keeper of Lost Things
Author: Ruth Hogan
Publisher: 31 January 2017 by Hachette Australia - Two Roads
Pages: 320 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: fiction, contemporary, adult
My Rating: 5 cups


Synopsis:


A charming, clever, and quietly moving debut novel of of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that explores the promises we make and break, losing and finding ourselves, the objects that hold magic and meaning for our lives, and the surprising connections that bind us.


Lime green plastic flower-shaped hair bobbles—Found, on the playing field, Derrywood Park, 2nd September.


Bone china cup and saucer-Found, on a bench in Riveria Public Gardens, 31st October.


Anthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Forty years ago, he carelessly lost a keepsake from his beloved fiancĂ©e, Therese. That very same day, she died unexpectedly. Brokenhearted, Anthony sought consolation in rescuing lost objects—the things others have dropped, misplaced, or accidentally left behind—and writing stories about them. Now, in the twilight of his life, Anthony worries that he has not fully discharged his duty to reconcile all the lost things with their owners. As the end nears, he bequeaths his secret life’s mission to his unsuspecting assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.


Recovering from a bad divorce, Laura, in some ways, is one of Anthony’s lost things. But when the lonely woman moves into his mansion, her life begins to change. She finds a new friend in the neighbor’s quirky daughter, Sunshine, and a welcome distraction in Freddy, the rugged gardener. As the dark cloud engulfing her lifts, Laura, accompanied by her new companions, sets out to realize Anthony’s last wish: reuniting his cherished lost objects with their owners.


Long ago, Eunice found a trinket on the London pavement and kept it through the years. Now, with her own end drawing near, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made.


As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest?


Full of character, wit, and wisdom, The Keeper of Lost Things is a heartwarming tale that will enchant fans of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Garden Spells, Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, and The Silver Linings Playbook.

My Thoughts


When he had started gathering lost things all those years ago, he hadn’t really had a plan. He just wanted to keep them safe in case one day they could be reunited with the people who had lost them.


Sometimes a rare book comes along that moves you in so many ways. This is one such book - it is absolutely delightful. The imagination and creativity that, right from the outset, lures you in and will not let you go until you turn the final page. You will laugh, you will cry, you will pause and ponder and you will walk away richer from reading this book. I adored it.


Laura could see that these were so much more than things; much more than random artefacts arranged on shelves for decoration. They were important. They really mattered.


This is a book with many tales (something I usually don’t go for) but Hogan does it so well. The expertise with which she weaves not only the two stories running parallel to each other (you will impatiently await for when the paths will cross), but also interweaves the most amazing array  of back stories to the ‘lost things’, is awe inspiring. Gosh this book has it all! Romance, magic, ghosts, family, relationships, heartbreak, illness and loss. That’s quite a lineup, yet the respect with which each is given, creates such a genuine understanding for just about every character presented.


A hush is a dangerous thing. Silence is solid and dependable, but a hush is expectant, like a pregnant pause; it invites mischief, like a loose thread begging to be pulled.


This book is full of charm and spilling over with wisdom. It is beautifully written and I cannot recommend it highly enough.


I know it is likely that most of the things are worthless, and no one will want them back. But if you can make just one person happy, mend one broken heart by restoring to them what they have lost, then it will have all been worthwhile.



This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Review: Summer Hearts and Paper Kisses

Title: Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses
Author: Carole Matthews
Publisher: 22 December 2016 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 432 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, chick lit
My Rating: 4 cups

Synopsis:

I keep my eyes closed in the shower so that I can hold onto the pretence of sleep for just a little while longer.”

Christie Chapman is a single working mother who spends her days commuting to her secretarial job and looking after her teenage son, Finn. It can be tough just getting through the day but Christie has always found comfort in her love of crafting and any spare time she has is spent working on her beautiful creations. From intricately designed birthday cards to personalised gifts, Christie's flair for the handmade knows no bounds and it's not long before opportunity comes knocking. All of a sudden Christie sees a different future for her and Finn - one full of hope and possibility, and if the handsome Max Alexander is to be believed, one full of love too. It's all there for the taking.

And then, all of a sudden, Christie's world is turned upside down.

Christie knows something has to give, but what will she choose? Will she give up her dreams and the chance of real love? What price will she pay for doing the right thing? Can Christie find her happy ending in Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses?

My Thoughts


I’m always up for a Carole Matthews tale, you can rest assured you are in for a satisfying read. For anyone interested in crafting/scrapbooking, there is an added bonus here.  The main character Christie, is a mad paper crafter and that is a nice added dimension for us ‘crafty scrappers’ out there. This is a definite appealing aspect because this could (in some respects) be a tale about anyone from the suburbs who finds themselves in the humdrum of life and looking for a creative outlet.  A forty something heroine also makes a nice change:

‘My forty-odd-year-old face takes quite a lot of time to reassemble itself into the right symmetry after being reshaped by the pillow all night. Seriously, it’s a good half-hour these days before the creases go.’


A single parent, Christie spends her evenings, weekends and any spare moment she finds crafting and watching the Crafting Channel - ordinary and relatable.  A challenge to always make ends meet is proven that more difficult when a couple of dramatic bombshells push Christie to her limits - but she shows great strength and resolve when dealing with them. In fact, these circumstances force Christie into making some radical and life changing decisions. There is also a good cast of supporting characters I especially loved Christie’s devoted parents.

‘I’d always dabbled with crafts, but I guess I started doing it in earnest when Liam first left. What can you do at night on your own when you’ve got a child upstairs in bed?’

My only criticisms were that it was a tad long and could have done with some good editing. At times it got somewhat repetitive and that led to it getting bogged down and a bit dull. I also found the ending to be a bit too neat, that took it from being relatable to unrealistic. However, if you love crafting, family and happy endings with a splash of forty something realism then Carole Matthews new book is for you.

‘And I’m still not interested. Besides, I like crafting. You can rely on paper hearts much more than love-struck ones.’



This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Review: New York Nights

Title: New York Nights (Heart of the City #2)
Author: C.J. Duggan
Publisher: 1 February 2017 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 320 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, contemporary romance
My Rating: 4 cups

Synopsis:

Sarah Williams is a spirited, independent Aussie who has always dreamed of New York City. So when a job opportunity arises to become an au pair for a successful businessman in the heart of Manhattan, Sarah jumps at the chance to follow her dream.

What she didn't bet on was a beautiful newborn and a distant, abrasive man whose eyes hold a million anguished secrets. Determined to care for his daughter and face the challenges of the impossible Ben Worthington, Sarah was always prepared to follow her heart; she just wasn't prepared to lose it to a complicated man like Ben.

My Thoughts

I’m really happy that I took the plunge to read a  C.J. Duggan novel.  New York Nights is the second book in the Heart of the City series, but each are most certainly standalone stories. What they have in common is the theme of love in a big city with young women who are chasing their dreams. C.J. Duggan’s writing is bold, lively and really quite funny at times.
“Holy shit, did I really just say that? Did I just question his parenting skills? Someone hand me the hammer and nails for my coffin.”
I really liked the leads in this story. Finding herself in a foreign country and most certainly out of her comfort zone, Sarah exhibits real strength, persistence and dedication. The family she works for  has many hidden secrets, yet she remained true to herself and confidently spoke out.

“I could just imagine the eye roll that would result from saying I was heading to Tiffany’s. Screw it. The Worthingtons’ secrecy made me want to be nothing but an open book.”
Ben exudes all that is dark and mysterious - handsome yet broody at finding himself a single father. Just like Sarah, one is not sure of the reason - but slowly the plot is revealed and the causes become devastatingly clear.  There is definite chemistry between Sarah and Ben right from the start, yet they each try not to cross that professional working line.

“All that was missing were some candles and some Barry White crooning in the background. Was this crossing the line?”
Although it would have been nice to see things develop at a slower, deeper level, I have no complaints as  New York Nights is light and a quick read that I demolished in a weekend. There is romance, there are secrets, scandals and there is New York!

“There was no mistaking I was in New York in this park –there was a certain vibe here. The arch, the fountains, the artists, the performers, the students, the lovers, the loners and me.”
If a quick, light and entertaining read is what you are after, then this is the book for you. Remember it is a standalone and I definitely recommend it for some light escapism.


This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Review: Victoria

Title:Victoria
Author: Daisy Goodwin
Publisher: 22 November 2016 by St Martin’s Press
Pages: 450 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, British literature, romance
My Rating: 5 cups

Synopsis:

Early one morning, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria is roused from bed with the news that her uncle William IV has died and she is now Queen of England. The men who run the country have doubts about whether this sheltered young woman, who stands less than five feet tall, can rule the greatest nation in the world. Surely she must rely on her mother and her venal advisor, Sir John Conroy, or her uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, who are all too eager to relieve her of the burdens of power.

The young queen is no puppet, however. She has very definite ideas about the kind of queen she wants to be, and the first thing is to choose her name.

Everyone keeps saying she is destined to marry her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but Victoria found him dull and priggish when they met three years ago. She is quite happy being queen with the help of her prime minister, Lord Melbourne, who may be old enough to be her father but is the first person to take her seriously.

Drawing on Victoria s diaries, which she first started reading when she was a student at Cambridge University, as well as her own brilliant gifts for history and drama, Daisy Goodwin, author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter as well as creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria, brings the young queen richly to life in this magnificent novel.

My Thoughts

“One day she would be Queen. Then everything would be different. If only her Uncle King would live until she was eighteen.”

I have eagerly anticipated reading this book and I am happy to say it delivered - I LOVED it! I am a big historical fiction fan and found this a highly enjoyable read. Now be warned, this is not the entire Queen Victoria saga and Albert only appears towards the latter part of the book. But, fingers crossed, it sets up for future penned stories. This book I found to be highly engaging as it tells the coming of age story of the young Victoria and her first two years as Queen. She is youthful, she is compulsive, she is immature and at times she is annoying. But gosh, she’s great!

This is a personal fictional recount, based on Daisy Goodwin’s extensive research, makes these early years well and truly come to life. This is not a boring historical tale but a lively, youthful recount of the moulding of a compulsive teenager into one of the most famous Queens of all time. Real historical characters are brought to life in a most compelling way and I admit I loved learning more about Lord Melbourne especially. The changing point of view for the main characters really assist the reader in developing a true understanding of their thoughts and motivations.

Initially Victoria had to battle against what had been traditionally a very male dominated political and royal arena. It was interesting to witness Victoria’s character develop and her determination form when confronted with many either vying for power or in pursuit of her hand in marriage. This is a book about relationships and whether it be with Victoria and her Prime Minister Lord Melbourne or Victoria with her mother or ladies in waiting or Uncle or prospective suitors - they are all presented in way that will please the reader.

“The only way he could serve his Queen was to find her a husband who would make her happy.”

Victoria and led a sheltered life until her ascension to the throne and, as a consequence with Lord Melbourne’s assistance, had to establish her own regal ways. This bonding, without giving anything away, was wonderful. My heart went out to the dashing Lord Melbourne.

“The silence that followed was thick with the weight of all the unspoken feeling. Melbourne saw that Victoria’s lip was trembling, and had to clasp his hands together so that he would not reach out and take her in his arms.”

I ardently hope that Goodwin will continue beyond these first couple of years and gift us with her literary interpretation of the real and lasting love story Victoria eventually develops with Prince Albert. For now - as one simply must read the book before the movie/TV adaptation - I cannot wait to view the BBC series with relish.




This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Review: From Rome with Love

Title: From Rome with Love
Author: Jules Wake
Publisher: 13 January 2017 by Harper Collins UK, Harper Impulse
Pages: 314 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, contemporary romance, culture Italy
My Rating: 4.5 cups

Synopsis:

If you can’t stand the heat…
Rome is the city of love and seduction, right? Not if you find yourself staying in a beautiful apartment with your childhood-friend-turned-arch-enemy, Will Ryan…no matter how hot he is!
Romance is the last thing on Lisa’s mind. She’s got more important things to focus on, like hunting down her estranged father. Except when her search falls at the first hurdle, Will doesn’t just help her get back on track, he also shares the romantic sights – and exquisite tastes – of the Eternal City, and Lisa starts to wonder if it’s not just Rome seducing her.
Only, as Lisa and Will dig into the past, neither of them is prepared for the long-buried secrets they reveal. Secrets that will turn both their world’s upside down …

My Thoughts

In June I reviewed a Jules Wake book, ‘From Italy With Love’, and  thought it was loads of fun (click on the title to see the review). So when an opportunity came up to read another from the series, I jumped at the chance. What a fun series this is proving to be and although characters do arise from past books, each is very much a standalone read. You do not need to have read any of the other books but if you have, it’s like revisiting old friends and having a catch up which was nice.

I enjoyed this book tremendously - rating it even higher than previous ones. It was coasting along as a solid chick lit read, until about three quarters the way through and BAM! Such an unforeseen plot twist was introduced that elevated it that little bit more for me. For this is where Jules Wake excels, as her tales (like I wrote previously) are not just ‘fluffy’ chick lit, but contain intricate twists that, although you know you will get your happy ending, they keep you very much engaged with the characters.

What I also thoroughly enjoyed about this particular one was the depth and detail Wake provides you with on everything to do with Rome. She provides the almost perfect mix of romance and culture that I feel I have just arrived back from visiting the famous city myself! There are the obvious trips to the likes of the Vatican and Spanish Steps, but thanks to Lisa’s infamous guidebook, I learnt so much.

‘A list? You can’t do Rome by list. You have to live and breathe it.’

Add to that the amazing Italian cuisine with trips to authentic restaurants or wineries and it’s a complete getaway. As Will introduces Lisa to blind tasting tests on everything from olive oil to cheese production to learning the finer skills of wine tasting, you can’t help but literally savour the moment, as indeed the passion for food positively glowed’ off the page.

One final winning aspect for me is the humour. I love both the lead characters and their bantering with each other is phenomenal.

‘Nice. Me? No you’ve definitely got the wrong man.’
‘I said nice. We are talking the dog’s arse end on the scale of compliments.

Not to mention Lisa’s inner dialogue that I could very much relate to at times:

‘He wouldn’t be checking he had his phone or passport with him once, let alone on the half hour, every half hour.’

‘The horrible pull-along case, which had seemed so brilliant earlier, suddenly had a life of its own and did not want to partake in the hurried slalom through other travellers all heading down the same wide corridor.’

From Rome with Love is the perfect mix of all that is Italian especially the food, wine and culture. The friendships, romance and especially the hidden family secrets make this a wonderful read that kept me engaged and smiling all the way through.

‘Give people that feeling of holidays, the taste of Italy and the laid-back sense of having all the time in the world to enjoy the intense flavour of sunshine and tradition.’






This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Friday, January 13, 2017

Review: The Florentine Bridge

Title: The Florentine Bridge
Author: Vanessa Carnevale
Publisher: 19 December 2016 by Harlequin (Australia), TEEN / MIRA
Pages: 352 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: contemporary romance, culture Italy/Tuscany
My Rating: 4.5 cups

Synopsis:

Young Australian artist Mia Moretti has been cancer free for nine months. But her battle with the illness has taken its toll, leaving her depressed and tormented by overwhelming fears. What’s more, she can’t seem to paint anymore. Mia needs a fresh start so when a surprise opportunity to travel to Tuscany presents itself, she takes it. With any luck, this trip will help her find whatever it is she needs to open her heart and start painting again.

What she doesn’t count on is meeting Luca, a handsome Italian mechanic. With his smile, his warmth and his inspirational outlook on all the good things life has to offer, he sweeps her off her feet. As Mia slowly lets down her walls and allows Luca in, her passion for life is reignited and her new perspective begins to inspire her art. But just when she’s ready to let go of her past, will a tragedy threaten her new life with Luca?

Full of heart and hope, a love story about la dolce vita in Tuscany

My Thoughts

The famous Florentine Bridge! Over the Arno River,’ he says. ‘Oh, right … I’ll make sure I look for it.’ ‘It’s only one of the most romantic spots in Florence.’

The Florentine Bridge is the debut novel from Australian author Vanessa Carnevale. Set against a gorgeous Tuscan backdrop, it is truly a captivating love story. If you are in the mood for curling up and being transported to Italy, whilst witnessing a very emotional love story, then this is the book for you. Yet it is so much more than just a love story, being filled with a passion for art, language and indeed, everything Italian, is most engaging.

Carnevale is obviously very familiar with all things Italian and that translates wonderfully well to the page. Her love of the land, and indeed the whole atmosphere, shines through. From Florence to smaller coastal towns, her setting descriptions, references to art, culture and the food are vivid and enticing. Yet she still manages to bring that touch of Australia to her writing which I love.

‘Wish I’d taken the time to at least iron my shirt and make a half-decent effort. I look so … Australian.’

Apart from the two leads, there is a wonderful cast of secondary characters that help meld the setting with the story and bring it altogether, making this a complete read. It is a very emotional read as it involves recovering from cancer treatment which would be daunting. So daunting, Mia had to remove herself from those she loved in her attempts to start over.  I also really appreciated the use of art/painting as a medium for expressing grief, sorrow, healing and love.

‘It’s like that messy web of my past is still wrapped around me and I can’t — don’t — know how to shake it off.’

My reason for taking away half a star is that a) they were both so young (Mia not yet 20 years old) and b) it all happened so quickly, ‘instalove’. Is this credible? Well, it does happen in the real world and you have to suspend your head thinking for your heart feeling. Also, both Mia and Luca’s actions towards the end of the book were challenging, probably more of a reflection of their young age and I found it a little frustrating.

‘Yet my heart doesn’t care that we’ve known each other for less than forty-eight hours.’

All that said, this really was a lovely bit of escapism about growth and change, love and acceptance. A recommended read from an up and coming Aussie novelist.

‘Today I am a clean sheet of paper, ready for a new picture, for a new story to be brought to life.’


This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Monday, January 9, 2017

Review: Breath of Fire

Title: Breath of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #2)
Author: Amanda Bouchet
Publisher: 3 January 2017 by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Pages: 448 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: fantasy, magic, romance, paranormal, mythology
My Rating: 3.5 cups

Synopsis:

SHE'S DESTINED TO DESTROY THE WORLD...
"Cat" Catalia Fisa has been running from her destiny since she could crawl. But now, her newfound loved ones are caught between the shadow of Cat's tortured past and the threat of her world-shattering future. So what's a girl to do when she knows it's her fate to be the harbinger of doom? Everything in her power.
BUT NOT IF SHE CAN HELP IT
Griffin knows Cat is destined to change the world-for the better. As the realms are descending into all-out war, Cat and Griffin must embrace their fate together. Gods willing, they will emerge side-by-side in the heart of their future kingdom...or not at all.

My Thoughts

Back in September I reviewed book one of this trilogy, ‘A Promise of Fire’ and enjoyed it (click on the title to read that review). So it was with great anticipation that I received a copy of book two. Now admittedly I was a little at odds in reviewing book one, due to the seemingly awkward clash of fantasy and fun. However, I overlooked some things, believing in what I thought would be it’s long term promise. Now I’m not so sure. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy book two, just not quite as much as I loved, ‘A Promise of Fire’. Book one demonstrated real potential, with snappy comebacks and good action scenes. Sadly, it would appear the dreaded second book syndrome reared its ugly head.

“What’s it like being the Lost Princess? The woman everyone is looking for?

To pinpoint where it exactly went off is difficult, as much of the same winning formula is there, but perhaps to excess. Was book two on steroids and became overkill? Maybe. This was narrated at a crazy pace with the formulaic adventure/crusade, leads to near death, leads to magic healing, leads to manic sex, then repeat it all again until the end of the instalment. From start to finish this was just full on action as they brave the Ice Plains, battle innumerable scary creatures and come out with their lives from each encounter time and again. I just wanted more character development and less near death experiences.

Does he think I’m not afraid? I’m terrified. Constantly. I just do things anyway and hope for the best. Admittedly, that’s not always the best strategy, but sometimes there really isn’t much choice.

It’s hard to admit how much I struggled to get through this book. As I said, it’s not bad, it just seemed a rehashed, overpowering imitation of the first book. The sexual tension between the two main leads,  has been replaced with, at times, questionable physical interactions, to put it nicely. The first few passages are confronting and rather topical as many may see it as domestic violence. To even have that question hanging is detrimental to the good of the story. Of course there are the same fights and make-ups throughout, but it all became a bit tedious. However, here is more to the story than their relationship and that sets things up for a dramatic book three.

You are my soul, and yes, I will fight for you and protect you until my dying breath.”

There is still much to appreciate about this fast paced action book. Bouchet’s writing style is highly engaging and her research and twist on Greek mythology amazing. Also the secondary characters really come to the fore in this book and add great depth to the tale. Would I read book three? Most definitely as Bouchet has me invested in the dramatic plot and whether the kingdoms will ever be united and what of Cat’s mother.

We’ll change the world, Cat, and we’ll do it without the war you fear.

So whilst the second book did not live up to my expectations, it still maintains that strong storyline which is sure to please fans - and one must remember, these books MUST be read as one entity, they are not standalones. Here is hoping that this is just a small hiccup and ultimately this series will prove to be a memorable debut.

“You end the scourge. You rebuild the kingdom. You’ve had more than eight years to think about it. Now stop hiding and do something!”



This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release