Friday, May 26, 2017

Review: The Romance Reader's Guide to Life

Title: The Romance Reader’s Guide to Life
Author: Sharon Pywell
Publisher: 1 May 2017 Simon & Schuster
Pages: 304 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre:  fiction
My Rating: 2.5 cups

Synopsis:
As a young girl, Neave was often stuck in a world that didn’t know what to do with her. As her mother not unkindly told her, she was never going to grow up to be a great beauty. Her glamorous sister, Lilly, moved easily through the world, a parade of handsome men in pursuit. Her brother didn’t want a girl joining his group of friends. And their small town of Lynn, Massachusetts, didn’t have a place for a girl whose feelings often put her at war with the world -- often this meant her mother, her brother, and the town librarian who wanted to keep her away from the Dangerous Books she really wanted to read.
But through an unexpected friendship, Neave finds herself with a forbidden copy of The Pirate Lover, a steamy romance, and Neave discovers a world of passion, love, and betrayal. And it is to this world that as a grown up she retreats to again and again when real life becomes too much.
Neave finds herself rereading The Pirate Lover more than she ever would have expected because as she gets older, life does not follow the romances she gobbled up as a child. When Neave and Lilly are about to realize their professional dream, Lilly suddenly disappears. Neave must put her beloved books down and take center stage, something she has been running from her entire life. And she must figure out what happened to Lilly – and if she’s next.
Who Neave turns to help her makes Sharon Pywell's The Romance Reader's Guide to Life one of the most original, entertaining, exciting, and chilling novels you will read this year.

My Thoughts

‘They think that women who read romances are idiots. I assure you, they are not.” “No?”
“No. They are people who trust that love exists and that it is more powerful than bad logic or bad writing.’

This book turned out to be very different from what I was expecting. It is a romance and it is historical fiction, but it’s a lot more complicated than that! The concept is quite clever, but I have to admit to being confused and not engaged by unlikeable characters. It’s not a straightforward story with two narrators and inserted throughout, a historical romance. Confused? I was. Throw into that mix some ‘left of centre’ aspects such as a talking cross-dressing dog and this was not really the book for me.
The book alternates between the sisters - Lilly from "where she is now" with Mr. Boppit (above mentioned dog) and Neave, to portray what their lives had been like. Although presented from a unique perspective, it’s surrealism stretches credibility. The pirate romance, that is interspersed with the main story, is most definitely a separate story until the parallels come together towards the end.
This book was meant as a commentary on romance, with regards to those who read it compared to real life. It is most definitely original and well written. So if you are up for a dark read, that incorporates a little of everything from historical fiction to paranormal, then this quirky little read is for you.

‘She’s not ugly but she’s bookish, which is not a real enchanting characteristic in the world I lived in.’


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, May 19, 2017

Review: The Summer House

Title: The Summer House
Author: Jenny Hale
Publisher: 9 June 2017 Bookouture
Pages: 269 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women's fiction, romance
My Rating: 4.0 cups

Synopsis:
Some summers will stay with you forever...
Callie Weaver and best friend Olivia Dixon have finally done it: put their life savings into the beach house they admired through childhood summers, on the dazzling white sand of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. They’re going to buff the salt from its windows, paint its sun-bleached sidings, and open it as a bed and breakfast.
Callie’s too busy to think about her love life, but when she catches the attention of local heartthrob Luke Sullivan, his blue eyes and easy smile make it hard to say no. He’s heir to his father’s property empire, and the papers say he’s just another playboy, but as they laugh in the ocean waves, Callie realizes there’s more to this man than money and good looks.

Just when true happiness seems within reach, Callie and Olivia find a diary full of secrets... secrets that stretch across the island, and have the power to turn lives upside down. As Callie reads, she unravels a mystery that makes her heart drop through the floor. 

Will Callie and Luke be pulled apart by the storm it unleashes, or can true love save them?

The Summer House is an absolutely gorgeous, heart-warming summer romance, about the importance of family, not keeping secrets, and learning how to open your heart.

My Thoughts:

"The cottage was something out of Callie's dreams - dark wood shingled siding with white trim; the whole thing was on stilts to keep it safe from the rising tide in storms.... she could just imagine the cottage as a bed and breakfast once it was finished, with weary travelers resting on rockers or on the upper deck, taking in the view of the island, the sounds of the Atlantic lulling them from behind."

Callie and her best friend Olivia have moved to the Outer Banks, Carolina to follow their childhood dream of buying the cottage across from Olivia's grandmother Gladys and restoring it to its former glory as a bed and breakfast. The women have their work cut out for them as they hurry to get the cottage renovated and ready for a late Summer opening.  Too busy for romance and other complications, and burdened by past issues, the women are both solely focused on achieving their dreams but fate, love, and a little stardust have other ideas.  When Callie meets Luke she sees more than the playboy millionaire facade he shows to the world and he sees in Callie someone who he can truly be himself with. But as the hot Summer days morph into intense Summer storms, secrets are uncovered that could shatter not only their budding relationship but an entire family. 

Jenny Hale does a wonderful job describing the beauty of the Outer Banks area and clearly has a deep love for the beach, at one point you can almost smell the crisp salty air and feel the zap of electricity as the afternoon storms rumble in. I delighted in the synchronicity of the unravelling family drama with the increasingly dangerous weather.

With well-developed characters, family intrigue, secrets, and lies, a realistically paced love story that doesn't rely on the insta-love trope, and a tropical storm that leaves mayhem and destruction in its wake, The Summer House is undoubtedly a satisfying and heart-warming story. I can thoroughly recommend it as a perfect  Summery beach read!

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, May 14, 2017

Review: Talk of the Town

Title: Talk of the Town
Author: Rachael Johns
Publisher: 24 April 2017 Harlequin (Australia) TEEN/MIRA
Pages: 416 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, contemporary, romance
My Rating: 4.5 cups

Synopsis:
Lawson Cooper-Jones has two priorities in life – his son, Ned, and the survival of the dairy farm that has been in his family for generations. Despite the best efforts of the town matchmakers and the determined pursuit of local girl Adeline Walsh, Lawson’s heart belongs still, and only, to his late wife.
But when a flat tyre strands Lawson and Ned in nearby Rose Hill, he’s surprised to find a woman living alone in the old general store of the deserted town. Ned immediately forms a bond with the beautiful stranger called Meg, and Lawson is surprised to find himself captivated by her too.
Although shy at first, Meg starts to open up to him about the haunting secrets of her new home and, with Lawson unable to get her out of his head, they agree to investigate the history of the old building together. Soon they find their friendship has bloomed into something more.
But when meddling Adeline makes it her mission to uncover the truth about the newcomer and her real identity is revealed, Lawson and Meg’s budding romance comes crashing down. Can they both learn to forgive in order to claim a future for their damaged hearts?
A moving story of secrets, love and new beginnings from bestselling author Rachael Johns.


My Thoughts


‘Oh!’ The woman’s face exploded in recognition and her smile grew. ‘I’ve heard about you. You’re the talk of the town.’


If you have loved Rachael’s books in the past, and her focus on writing about small town rural romances, then you are on another winner here. I do enjoy the Aussie settings and especially the focus on this Western Australian agricultural community. Rachael is adept at making the characters come to life as you get to know them really well.  Then, of course,  there is nothing like a slow build up romance to keep the pages turning.


That being said, you sign up for books like this as you know you will get your ‘happily ever after’, therefore it is up to the author to make the journey worth the while. This book is filled with the typical ups and downs of small town drama, but it’s not over the top and the cast of characters provide something for everyone (I loved Crazy Archie). This tale is about relationships. I empathised with the characters, and their emotions, and struggles to rebuild their lives after tragedy had struck.


Rachael cleverly leaves you teasers in the beginning, as you attempt to guess what is the background story for some of these people. For example: why would someone buy a house in a deserted town? What is the mystery surrounding Meg? What did happen to Lawson’s wife? (by the way, Lawson is a dreamboat leading man - strong and compassionate). What did happen to his sister Tabitha?


My only hesitation and withdrawal of half a star, concerned the inclusion of the paranormal - you have to be open to ghostly encounters. Also, at times, Lawson’s angst got a bit repetitive and therefore unnecessary.  However, I did not let that detract me from overall thoroughly enjoying this book with great characters, interesting plot and a wonderful romance.


'Move over Romeo and Juliet, step aside Scarlett and Rhett: their passions had nothing on the sensations currently racing through her body.'


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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: These Dividing Walls

Title: These Dividing Walls
Author: Fran Cooper
Publisher: 16 May 2017 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 256 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: fiction, cultural France, contemporary
My Rating: 3.5 cups

Synopsis:

One Parisian summer

A building of separate lives

All that divides them will soon collapse...

In a forgotten corner of Paris stands a building.

Within its walls, people talk and kiss, laugh and cry; some are glad to sit alone, while others wish they did not. A woman with silver-blonde hair opens her bookshop downstairs, an old man feeds the sparrows on his windowsill, and a young mother wills the morning to hold itself at bay. Though each of their walls touches someone else's, the neighbours they pass in the courtyard remain strangers.

Into this courtyard arrives Edward. Still bearing the sweat of a channel crossing, he takes his place in an attic room to wait out his grief.

But in distant corners of the city, as Paris is pulled taut with summer heat, there are those who meet with a darker purpose. As the feverish metropolis is brought to boiling point, secrets will rise and walls will crumble both within and without Number 37...


My Thoughts

“How many other people have stood here, she asks herself. How many sleepless feet have trodden these boards?”

‘These Dividing Walls’ is an interesting tale as it could be described a social commentary. Very topical (particularly for the French) but really for all of Western society, as this one building is like a  microcosm of society. Played against this is an array of characters that face their own personal struggles and battle their own inner demons. On the whole, there is really not much of an overall plot, but rather, a reflective study on character and society.

The author takes a group of very different people and reflects on the range of their reactions to some of the current upheavals in today’s society. It is well written, with on the whole, believable characters and of course, it is very topical. Personal stories - loneliness, grief, depression, prejudice, loss -  played out against the wider political situation - immigration, unemployment -  in France where tensions are about to boil over. Will the end bring about reconciliation? unification? renewal?

‘These Dividing Walls’ is a clever  literary fictional commentary that can be viewed as either a social dissertation or simply a tale of people living in the same building brought together through a crisis situation.


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, May 7, 2017

Review: Why the River Runs


Title: Why the River Runs
Author: JoAnna Grace
Publisher: Y&R Publishing
Pages: 431
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: General Fiction (Adult) , Romance
My Rating: 3.5 cups

Synopsis:

Some call this river a taker of souls, a reaper. Sanguine is the Spanish word for blood and God knows plenty has been spilled in its murky depths. As Tina floats on her back, she couldn’t help but feel its more of an artery, giving life to its limbs.
Not everyone would agree.


Tough as nails, Tina Foster, doesn’t have time for a relationship. She’s far too busy running her family construction company. Tina’s take charge attitude may intimidate some, but to others, she’s a rock, a woman with a plan. Taming a heart this strong will take a man up for a challenge, and so far, there haven’t been too many contenders worthy of her time.


Bo Galloway is returning to Riverview after a rough few years. He’s home to take care of his grandmother and prays for a chance at redemption and a fresh start. Untrusting of most women, he doesn’t know what to think of his new boss. He definitely didn’t expect to admire Tina Foster. Bo’s only shot at getting Tina to notice him is to be as strong as she is.


Just like the waters of the Sanguine, Bo and Tina must find their flow. Will the waters sweep away their only chance at true love, or nourish a relationship as steady as the river itself?

My Thoughts:

Returning to his childhood home of Riverview after being incarcerated for 4 years, Bo Allen Galloway struggles to find happiness and a place for himself in the outside world. After suffering a bitter betrayal at the hands of his mother Bo is wary of woman and struggles (briefly) with his overwhelming insta-love for his new boss Tina and her take-no-prisoners (hide the nail-gun) personality.

When Tina assumed the role of foreman of her family’s construction company after an accident leaves her father desk bound she was emotionally burned when her long-term boyfriend, unable to deal with her being his boss, broke her heart.  She goes through her days busily “fixing” everyone and everything, being everyone’s rock while drifting along in a lack-lustre, emotionally distant relationship. Tina has steered clear of a deeper relationship, choosing to guard herself from future pain.

As the story progresses Bo must to prove to Tina that he can deal with her strong and dominant personality in the workplace, while Tina must learn to relax and let Bo take care of her in their private life. Their relationship builds smoothly (with a couple of bumps in the road) despite their insecurities and strong personalities culminating in a satisfying epilogue.


The supporting characters have interesting back stories that will no doubt result in future books to be set in the town of Riverview.  Why the river runs is a light and enjoyable dual POV contemporary romance that flows as smoothly as the Sanguine River (when it isn’t killing off the inhabitants of the town). Overall an engaging weekend read.


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

Review: The Hideaway

Title: The Hideaway
Author: Lauren K. Denton
Publisher: 11 April 2017 by Thomas Nelson
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, contemporary
My Rating: 5 cups

Synopsis:

When her grandmother’s will wrenches Sara back home from New Orleans, she learns more about Margaret Van Buren in the wake of her death than she ever did in life.

After her last remaining family member dies, Sara Jenkins goes home to The Hideaway, her grandmother Mags's ramshackle B&B in Sweet Bay, Alabama. She intends to quickly tie up loose ends then return to her busy life and thriving antique shop in New Orleans. Instead, she learns Mags has willed her The Hideaway and charged her with renovating it—no small task considering Mags’s best friends, a motley crew of senior citizens, still live there.

Rather than hurrying back to New Orleans, Sara stays in Sweet Bay and begins the biggest house-rehabbing project of her career. Amid Sheetrock dust, old memories, and a charming contractor, she discovers that slipping back into life at The Hideaway is easier than she expected.

Then she discovers a box Mags left in the attic with clues to a life Sara never imagined for her grandmother. With help from Mags’s friends, Sara begins to piece together the mysterious life of bravery, passion, and choices that changed Mags’s destiny in both marvelous and devastating ways.

When an opportunistic land developer threatens to seize The Hideaway, Sara is forced to make a choice—stay in Sweet Bay and fight for the house and the people she’s grown to love or leave again and return to her successful but solitary life in New Orleans.


My Thoughts

“The Hideaway was always full of friends and lovers, mothers and daughters, secret keepers and secret spillers, straight talkers and soft shoulders. We had hurt and we had joy, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

What a fantastic and pleasant read this turned out to be! I really loved this book with it’s charm literally oozing off the pages. A tale of  two intertwined stories about life, love and the journey of self discovery in a search for peace. It is a book you will want to get lost in.

“You should let your hair down more often. You’re much more fun to be around when you’re not working so hard to keep all those balls up in the air. Let one fall now and then.”

There is a great cast of characters and you will be transported to the lovely setting of Sweet Bay, Alabama. Lauren Denton’s writing here is wonderful, as you are immersed in both stories revolving around women you really begin to care about. Lauren so easily bridges the gap from past to present, with heartwarming tales centred around family and friendships. Add a little romance, some hidden secrets and some rather compelling senior citizens, and it all melded into a wonderful read. There are no great shocks here, but rather a gentle, warm and highly engaging read that affirms the important things in life.

If you are in the mood for something light and uplifting, then ‘The Hideaway’ will fulfill your need. It is not sickly sweet and at times rather funny. The romance does not dominate which is nice, as Sara is on a quest to unearth old family secrets - just exactly who was her grandmother? The flashbacks to Mag’s perspective in the 1960s, and what initially bought her to The Hideaway and more importantly, what makes her stay, are genuine and real. In the present day, you will find yourself rallying behind Sara as she sets about restoring a house that is rather special.

“The house was warm and comfortable, if not magazine-ready, but no one living there really cared about that anyway. I loved that the place was a little off-kilter, and the quirkiness only solidified its charm.”




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, April 28, 2017

Review: Strange the Dreamer

Title: Strange the Dreamer
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: 28 March 2017 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 432 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: fantasy, paranormal, romance
My Rating: 5 cups

Synopsis:

A new epic fantasy by National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author Laini Taylor of the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy.

‘The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around’ and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he's been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?
The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries--including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo's dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? and if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?
In this sweeping and breathtaking new novel by National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage. Welcome to Weep.


My Thoughts

‘Once upon a time, survival had seemed like an end unto itself. But now . . . it began to feel like an expedient with no object. Survive for what?’

If you are a fan of Laini Taylor, stop reading and go get this book. NOW.

I read Laini’s ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ trilogy and LOVED it. So it was with trepidation that I delved into her latest offering. How could it be as good?

It is.

‘He wasn’t an alchemist, or a hero. He was a librarian, and a dreamer. He was a reader, and the unsung expert on a long-lost city no one cared a thing about.’

If you are familiar with this genre at all, then it is safe to say that Laini Taylor is a master. She could choose any topic I believe and make it iconic. Her style of writing is breathtaking as she makes a world (a mind blowing one by the way) so far removed yet so near to all you know. Her language is so inspiring that it creates an atmosphere of magic, real and inferred. This story is unusual yet beautiful, full of love and hate, hope and fear. Delve into the hidden meaning and you will find it’s a story of those who were underestimated and learnt to forgive and reveal their true potential. The array of emotions you will feel during this read is wide.

‘Vengeance ought to be spoken through gritted teeth, spittle flying, the cords of one’s soul so entangled in it that you can’t let it go, even if you try.’

I don’t want to say too much, as the reader needs to go in unprepared and journey through this very moving tale. You may find the first three quarters of the book steady, but hold on, the end will leave you breathless. Her imagination is ridiculous - a story that is compelling, with characters that are so authentic, as their layers are slowly unfurled - you will find it difficult to put the book down. There will be times when your breath will be taken away (I audibly gasped on several occasions) and you will pause to fully comprehend what just happened and then exclaim at the consequences.

‘Sometimes a moment is so remarkable that it carves out a space in time and spins there, while the world rushes on around it.’

The last quarter of the book is riveting, thrilling, jam packed with action and plot twists you will not believe! On turning the last page you will be frantically searching for when the sequel comes out!

‘A blaze of connection—or collision, as though they had long been wandering in the same labyrinth and had finally rounded the corner that would bring them face-to-face.’

Thank you Laini Taylor for creating this world, for sweeping me away with your lyrical prose on this amazing journey. I loved everything about this book and it still sits so strongly with me, events and people lingering on long in my mind. I can’t wait for the magical and epic conclusion to this marvelous tale.

'He had a trio of fears that sat in his gut like swallowed teeth, and when he was too quiet with his own thoughts, they’d grind together to gnaw at him from within. This was the first: that he would never see further proof of magic. The second: that he would never find out what had happened in Weep. The third: that he would always be as alone as he was now.'


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