Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review: Beneath a Burning Sky

Title: Beneath a Burning Sky
Author: Jenny Ashcroft
Publisher: 29 June 2017 Little Brown Book Group UK Sphere
Pages: 416 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 5 cups

Synopsis:
When 22-year-old Olivia is coerced into marriage by the cruel Alistair Sheldon, she leaves England for Egypt, his home and the land of her own childhood. Reluctant as she is to go with Alistair, it's in her new home that she finds happiness in surprising places: she is reunited with her long-estranged sister, Clara, and falls - impossibly and illicitly - in love with her husband's boarder, Captain Edward Bertram.

Then Clara is abducted from one of the busiest streets in the city. Olivia is told it's thieves after ransom money, but she's convinced there's more to it. As she sets out to discover what's happened to the sister she's only just begun to know, she falls deeper into the shadowy underworld of Alexandria, putting her own life and her chance at a future with Edward, the only man she's ever loved, at risk. Because, determined as Olivia is to find Clara, there are others who will stop at nothing to conceal what's become of her....

My Thoughts

"Beneath a Burning Sky" is Jenny Ashcroft's debut novel, and what a debut it was! Initially I was interested in this book because it takes place in Egypt and I love to learn about this ancient place - fact or fiction. This story was set mostly in Alexandria during the end of the 19th century, when Egypt was still under British rule. Not really knowing what to expect from a debut, I was transported to another place and time in this beautifully written tale.

Jenny Ashcroft has written a wonderful story, a fabulous historical romance in colonial Egypt, one that is full of intrigue and mystery, love and hate. There is an interwoven plot that will keep you guessing right to the very end. There are wonderful descriptions of Egypt at the turn of the century, but this book is really all about the characters and their relationships. This is most definitely the driving force - the life of an expat during the 1890s.

There are many characters and each have their contributions to make. From the disappearance of the main character’s sister - who did it? How? Why? Where? - to the brutality of a violent marriage (you will really despise Alistair). But at the heart of this tale is a love story and what a classic it is. Edward is the personification of the dashing hero and his relationship with Olivia will most certainly pull at your heartstrings.

‘I’m trying to keep you safe.’ His soft voice was baffled. ‘You cannot know the dangers of this land, the things people do.’

The flip story of Nailah, whilst a little difficult to follow at times, helps provide the voice of the Egyptians, demonstrating the contrast between the ruling British and the downtrodden Egyptians. However, this is such a well crafted mystery that at the end, when all the puzzle pieces start to come together, you will understand more and more her role and those of her family and friends.

Jenny Ashcroft is to be congratulated on how easily, and seemingly effortlessly, she brings to life the tense atmosphere of colonial rule. She evokes such a range of emotions through her characters  that their stories will stay with you long after the final page is turned. It’s fast paced and addictive with characters that will grow on you - you will want to despise Alistair, slap Jeremy, swoon over Edward and rally behind Olivia - just to name a few.

'Life wasn’t long enough to waste with unhappy decisions.'

Am I gushing? Yes I am - it was absolutely brilliant. Whether or not historical fiction is your thing it doesn’t matter for this is so much more than that. The harsh brutality of life at times, the intriguing mystery and the quest for true love will sweep you away to a time and place long gone.

'For lies were all she had to give. The truth, always terrifying, had never felt more impossible than 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

Friday, July 14, 2017

Review: Beneath the Apple Leaves

Title: Beneath the Apple Leaves
Author: Harmony Verna
Publisher: 27 June 2017 Kensington Books
Pages: 516 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 5 cups


Synopsis:


From the author of Daughter of Australia comes a sweeping, heartfelt historical novel that follows a family of German immigrants who trade city living for the harsh realities of Pennsylvania farm life.
In 1914, Andrew Houghton s family is one of hundreds eking out an existence in the coal mines of southwestern Pennsylvania. Though he longs to be a veterinarian, he s fated for a life underground, picking rock alongside his father.

That destiny changes when his aunt, Eveline Kiser, arranges for her husband to secure Andrew an apprenticeship on the railroad. Wilhelm Kiser, a German immigrant, has found his American dream in Pittsburgh, with a well-paying job as a brakeman, and a secure pension. But on Andrew s first week, an incident goes tragically wrong, leaving him severely injured, his dreams shattered. Wracked with guilt, Wilhelm finally agrees to his wife s pleas to leave Pittsburgh s smog behind. With Andrew in tow, they swap their three-story row house for a rough-and-tumble farm.

Life in rural Pennsylvania is not as idyllic as Eveline imagined. The soil is slow to yield and their farmhouse is in disrepair. But there is one piece of beauty in this rugged land. Lily Morton is quick-witted and tough on the outside, but bears her own secret scars inside. Andrew s bond with her will help steer them through all the challenges to come, even as anti-German sentiment spreads across America with the outbreak of World War I.

Beneath the Apple Leaves is a vivid, deeply moving portrait of family its hardships, triumphs, and passions and a powerfully authentic evocation of life on the land and the hearts that sustain it.


My Thoughts


Having read and LOVED Harmony’s debut novel, Daughter of AustraliaI did not hesitate to embark on another journey with her. Would it, however, live up to her first inspiring saga? I can say without the shadow of a doubt, it was right up there beside her first amazing novel. As Harmony states in her acknowledgements,


‘The seeds of this book came from my mother ... who shared the stories - the sorrows and the joys - of growing up on a farm in rural Pennsylvania ... I am humbled and proud of the strength and sacrifices of my German ancestors’.


‘Beneath the Apple Leaves’ is another emotional roller coaster ride, that is the epitome of what good historical drama is all about. This will undoubtedly pull at your heartstrings as Harmony takes you on a journey to another place and time. Yet another powerful drama that incorporates not only the plight of German immigrants during World War I, but topics ranging from the hardships of life on the land, family love and loss, terrible tragedies and great moments of hope and joy.


“It’s too much for any of us. We’re all drowning. Like the whole world is drowning!”


This book is indeed most beautifully scripted from the enduring love story to the emotional heartbreak of unbearable losses. There will be times when you feel, surely fate will cut them some slack for these much deserving characters; but as the war ensues and deliberate harassment and persecution is rife, you begin to wonder if you will get a happy ending. If things could go wrong, invariably they seemed to.


“They’re good people. Love this country as much as the Simpsons. Except they don’t have to attack people to prove it.”


Yet despite, or in fact because of this, these characters will pull at your heartstrings. You just have to read through hoping against hope that life will be kinder to these deserving souls. Will love endure ‘beneath the apple leaves’?


‘With ax in hand, Andrew stared at the enormity of the ancient apple tree. The limbs, old, had witnessed too much suffering. And they seemed to ask to be relieved, to say good-bye. A wind blew and rustled the branches, the leaves waving in surrender.’


This is another amazing journey that Harmony takes you on and you will be swept away as becoming emotionally invested in these characters, especially the stoic Andrew. Such a finely crafted story I cannot recommend highly enough - historical drama of immigrants in early 1900s Pennsylvania.


‘For life began anew, grew again, beneath the apple leaves.’


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, July 10, 2017

Review: Leopard at the Door


Title: Leopard at the Door
Author: Jennifer McVeigh
Publisher: 13 July  2017 Penguin Books (UK) 
Viking
Pages: 400 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre:  historical fiction, cultural Africa
My Rating: 5 cups

Synopsis:
Stepping off the boat in Mombasa, eighteen-year-old Rachel Fullsmith stands on Kenyan soil for the first time in six years. She has come home.

But when Rachel reaches the family farm at the end of the dusty Rift Valley Road, she finds so much has changed. Her beloved father has moved his new partner and her son into the family home. She hears menacing rumours of Mau Mau violence, and witnesses cruel reprisals by British soldiers. Even Michael, the handsome Kikuyu boy from her childhood, has started to look at her differently.

Isolated and conflicted, Rachel fears for her future. But when home is no longer a place of safety and belonging, where do you go, and who do you turn to?

My Thoughts

Having spent time living in Africa, I am always on the lookout for any books that capture the real essence of this amazing continent. Jennifer McVeighs first book, ‘The Fever Tree’ was very good, so I was open to trying her new novel. WOW! What an amazing read, she has really lifted the bar on this one. So much happens (and I don’t want to spoil a thing for those of you going to read it) that you will be left speechless. This is a truly riveting read through a complex time in Kenyan history. There will be love and loss, hero’s and villains to capture even the most determined reader. 

I was captivated from the moment I opened ‘Leopard at the Door’ with McVeigh’s lyrical prose detailing the harsh yet beautiful reality of this story and landscape. It clearly played out in my mind’s eye. The amount of research undertaken here is truly commendable - 1950s British Mau Mau Rebellion - and McVeigh leaves no stone unturned in her, at times graphic portrayal, of this period in history. In fact, you cannot help but commend her for the enlightening and thought provoking story that I felt was handled in a truly realistic and mature fashion. 

‘there are still men who look at the fight against injustice and call it savagery.’

Yes, the book includes violence but you cannot sugarcoat what went on here - it was indeed horrific and a truly ugly period in British Africa. But it was real and seen through the eyes of a vast array of characters and sides that leave the reader seriously contemplating many of the actions undertaken. Isn’t that what good historical fiction is all about? Complex characterisation that truly capture and reflect both time and place - some you will love and some you will hate. So in many ways, it is not an easy read, but expertly handled to give the reader a realistic snapshot of what it might have been like for those who witnessed so much. 

‘I have been hoping all this time that the farm would be the same, but no gentle fairy has built a forest of thorns around my home; or made sure that those I love would be waiting for me, unchanged, just as they were when I left them. I have come home to find the farm ransacked by a future I don’t yet understand.’

Seen through the eyes of Rachel, she discovers that nothing is ever simple, whether it be politics of a country seeking to free itself from colonial shackles, to confronting a home that will never return to the days of her childhood. It’s a tense situation for her, from dealing with her father and his new lover, to Kikuyu friends of times past and present - she will be tested and her loyalties called into question. I think McVeigh did a fabulous job at presenting both sides of this conflict, especially the stereotypical ‘evil’ stepmother. She was the necessary epitome of all the ‘old rule’ stood for and believed. She was truly horrible but there for a purpose. 

‘the things which were so important to me as a child, the memories which are seared into my mind, out of which I am assembled, might be meaningless to him. The platform on which my childhood was built has dissolved over time.’

‘Leopard at the Door’ is an extraordinary read for history buffs and I highly recommend this absorbing tale. It will shed light on a dark time and shock you. But for those in any way familiar with this continent, you will understand and appreciate a truthful and realistic portrayal during a momentous time in Kenyan history. 

‘I have forgotten this other side of Kenya: a raw physicality that has no shame in the inevitability of pain.’



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, July 7, 2017

Review: Beneath the Parisian Skies


Title: Beneath the Parisian Skies
Author: Alli Sinclair
Publisher: 19 June 2017 Harlequin (Australia), TEEN / MIRA
Pages: 306 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: contemporary, womens fiction, romance, ballet
My Rating: 4 cups

Synopsis:

Lily Johansson returns to Paris, the city that broke her heart and destroyed her ballet career, hoping to ease the guilt over her fiance's death and to make amends with her estranged sister Natalie, a ballerina with the Boheme Ballet.

Terrified of loving again, Lily nevertheless finds herself becoming entangled with the driven composer Yves Rousseau. Lily has many reasons for keeping Yves at arm's length but as he recounts the colour, drama and intensity of the Ballets Russes in 1917, the magic of this Bohemian era ignites a spark within her.

Meanwhile, cast in the role of honouring Ballet Russes dancer Viktoriya Budian, Lily's sister Natalie develops an unhealthy obsession. Natalie's behaviour becomes increasingly erratic as elements of Viktoriya's tragic life resonate in her own. Lily fears for her sister's safety and sanity so when Natalie goes missing, she and Yves set out on a desperate quest across France to find her and, along the way, battle their own demons.

Could the search for her sister, lead Lily to realise that ballet -- like love and life -- should not be abandoned so easily?

My Thoughts

‘Ballet is medicine in its own way. Think of this—with the world falling apart, isn’t it good to escape reality and go to the theatre?‘

I was happy to read another Alli Sinclair book with her strong focus on dance - I was not disappointed. In fact, I found this one to probably be her best so far. I do however feel, that the synopsis does not do justice in inviting people to this read. Very little is made of the 1917 plot, and to my mind, that was by far the strongest and most compelling story.

This tale is indeed set over two time periods - Lily in the modern day and Viktoriya in 1917. I do love a good dual time narrative and whilst this one was good, as mentioned, the 1917 storyline was by far the stronger. Yes, Lily and her sister had many trials and tribulations to endure (at times getting a little bogged down) and obstacles to overcome. Unfortunately I found both sisters to be petulant and shockingly moody and indecisive. At times I couldn’t wait to return to 1917, it became that uncomfortable. Yves was an absolute saint to put up with Lily as her behaviour was so frustrating.

‘Thankfully, he had the good sense not to question her change in mood.’

Do not let that distract you, however, from the superb story of the ballet world of Paris, 1917. Through a great grandmother and long lost diaries, the link is made between the modern and historical story. Here I was fully engaged with the struggles many of the characters went through. Viktoriya Budian was dedicated and found solace in her ballet. 

‘The only time you fully come to life is when pointes are on your feet and the stage light is shining in your eyes.’

Escaping from Russia and it’s revolutionary period, Viktoriya arrives in Paris to start anew with the famed Ballets Russes. The amount of research Alli has done here, detailing fascinating facts from this time period, is most noteworthy. With World War I still ongoing, ballet did indeed provide a much needed escape and Alli brings many famous faces back to life:

‘Despite the war raging across Europe, Parisians sought solace by immersing themselves in the arts, especially with Picasso, Satie, Matisse and Proust.’

Against this backdrop, Alli brings a story of this Russian girl and all she has worked so hard for, threatening to collapse around her. You will be on the edge of your seat as you witness her life spiral out of control through no fault of her own. There is such sadness and yet moments of pure exhilaration. Overall, I recommend this book, especially so if you are at all interested in ballet. 

‘The storm clouds that had permanently hung over the Paris of her mind had drifted away and were replaced by a magnificent blue now that she had found her home beneath the Parisian skies.’



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, July 4, 2017

Review: Eleventh Hour


Title: Eleventh Hour (Kit Marlowe #8)
Author: M.J. Trow
Publisher: 1 July  2017 Severn House Digital 
Pages: 336 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre:  historical fiction, mystery, Tudor
My Rating: 3.5 cups

Synopsis:
1590. The queen's spymaster is dead. Nicholas Faunt, believes he was poisoned and has ordered Kit Marlowe to discover who killed him. Marlowe consults the leading scientists and thinkers in the country, but is convinced that someone is hiding a deadly secret. To outwit the killer, Marlowe must devise an impossibly ingenious plan.

My Thoughts

Sir Francis Walsingham is dead.’ There was no point in trying to break it any other way than directly. Dee had to swallow his cry of surprise. ‘What?’ he mouthed. ‘When? How?’ Marlowe shrugged. ‘When? Two days ago at the eleventh hour. As to how, it depends on whom you ask,’

I was attracted to this book on a number of bases - Tudor, playwrights and mystery! What a great idea to make a twist and propose Walsingham died perchance from sinister means rather than of natural causes! Sign me up!

What I failed to note, however, was that this was book eight in a series. Luckily they are indeed standalone and Trow’s writing of both person and place was well done. I found Kit Marlowe to be a fabulous lead character, such charisma and delightful in his detective role. Assigned the job of hunting for the truth, an array of famous characters cross his path in his search to unveil the villain. I loved Trow’s portrayal of many of these notable Tudor characters; of particular note is the fun way he presented William Shakespeare. So many famous characters Trow brings vividly to life in this classic whodunit.              
         
You are the School of Night,’ Marlowe began.
One of you in this room killed the Queen’s Spymaster. I intend to find out who.’

Problems arise for me because no one was as strong as Marlowe in engaging the reader, and at times I found the plot to be a little confusing. I also found the inclusion of a supernatural element a little out of order. However, if you are a fan of this series, you will undoubtedly be delighted with this latest instalment, embarking with Kit Marlowe on another famous adventure. 

You have a knack for these things,’ he said. ‘A nose for treachery –and I mean that in the nicest possible way. I want to know what was in that cup and who put it there.”




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, July 3, 2017

Review: Not a Sound

Title: Not a Sound
Author: Heather Gudenkauf
Publisher: 1 June 2017 Harlequin (Australia), TEEN / MIRA
Pages: 320 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: contemporary, fiction, mystery, suspense
My Rating: 4.5 cups

Synopsis:

A shocking discovery and chilling secrets converge in this latest novel from New York Times bestselling author HEATHER GUDENKAUF

When a tragic accident leaves nurse Amelia Winn deaf, she spirals into a depression that ultimately causes her to lose everything that matters — her job, her husband, David, and her stepdaughter, Nora. Now, two years later and with the help of her hearing dog, Stitch, she is finally getting back on her feet. But when she discovers the body of a fellow nurse in the dense bush by the river, deep in the woods near her cabin, she is plunged into a disturbing mystery that could shatter the carefully reconstructed pieces of her life all over again.

As clues begin to surface, Amelia finds herself swept into an investigation that hits all too close to home. But how much is she willing to risk in order to uncover the truth and bring a killer to justice?

My Thoughts

‘Not a Sound’ was a superb read with loads of action and a suspenseful ending that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The positives of this book are the many facets it contains. To name a few: suspense, personal growth, relationships, hearing impaired, an investigation into the health industry. The characters are unique and captivating and here, one must include the relationship between Amelia & her service dog, Stitch, who just about stole the show! I later learned that the attention to detail regarding the hearing impaired is because Heather Gudenkauf is deaf herself. She obviously uses this as a platform to relate her own personal experiences and does it so well.

‘It wasn’t just losing my hearing, it was the loneliness that came with it, the sense of always being separate, apart from everyone I loved.’

Throughout most of this book, it felt like a movie playing out in my mind - Heather’s writing was so vivid - it’s a classic mystery.  A fast paced suspenseful read that that will most definitely keep you engaged throughout. The wintry setting is atmospheric and you will develop a great sympathy for the leads, Amelia and Stitch. The hurdles she has to overcome are indeed high, however, her determination to not only rise to the challenge but also learn and grow from it is inspiring.

‘Once in awhile, I’ll sit in my car, turn up the radio as loud as it will go and lay my hands on the dash and feel the throbbing pulse of music against my skin.’

My withdrawal of half at star is only because, at times, Amelia’s thoughts become a bit repetitive. You also feel that she takes on a little too much of the detective work but that was due to her loss of reputation I guess. I also loved the fact that romantic relationships was not a front and centre fact, but just played out in the background so as not to detract from Amelia’s personal journey.

‘I need to focus on the here, the now. I can’t rejoin the living when I’m spending so much time thinking about the dead.’

The climax towards the end, I found riveting You can just see it playing out before your eyes, and as events unfold, you will have to read through to the end! It would be enough on its own, but remember Amelia has no hearing and Heather brings in so many other senses that you can only shake your head in disbelief! Add that to the mix and you can see why it’s captivating.

‘Never have I missed my hearing more than now.’

An easy book to read with so many added dimensions that make it a noteworthy suspenseful tale. I highly recommend this entertaining read for all mystery lovers.


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

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Review: Every Last Lie

Title: Every Last Lie
Author: Mary Kubica
Publisher: 1 June 2017 Harlequin (Australia), TEEN / MIRA HQ Fiction Australis
Pages: 336 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre:  fiction, suspense, adult, contemporary, crime
My Rating: 4.5 cups

Synopsis:
New York Times bestselling author of THE GOOD GIRL, Mary Kubica is back with another exhilarating thriller as a widow's pursuit of the truth leads her to the darkest corners of the psyche.
"The bad man, Daddy. The bad man is after us."
Clara Solberg's world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon.
Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick's death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit.
Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara's investigation and Nick's last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.

My Thoughts

“The police decided,” she says, as if the police are some all-knowing deity, as if the police never ever make mistakes. “They said it was an accident.”

It has been a goal of mine to read some Mary Kubica, noted as one of the better suspense writers in publishing. My first dabble into her writing was most rewarding. This mystery is littered with plenty of possibilities that will keep you guessing to the very end. For a tale that does not really go anywhere, Kubica writes in a way that will keep you turning the pages.

‘Everyone is sorry. So very sorry. But they’re also relieved it’s happened to me and not them.’

The story is told in alternating perspectives of Clara’s pursuit and investigation into the death of her husband and, her husband Nick and the last few months leading up to his accident. It’s riveting yet also sad to explore how grief can consume someone and totally mess with perspective to the extent that reality and fiction can become mixed. Being a new mother in itself and facing lack of sleep, unable to properly function, many can relate to alone. Mix into that, loss of a spouse at such a critical time and the ability to function would be almost certainly insurmountable.

‘I wish that they would put a Band-Aid on it so that we could all go home.’

This is an entertaining read that travels along at an easy pace with a somewhat, unexpected ending. This is a tale that needs to be slowly swallowed and savoured as it’s about the characters themselves, rather than the action. Clara is emotionally distraught in trying to ascertain the truth, and that accounts for unexpected questions in her search for answers. The way Kubica delves into her thought processes is uncanny and you are swept along this trail of speculation and supposition. Even with Nick, you will begin to feel disbelief, confusion, sympathy, pity and frustration, just to name a few. The dual narrative most definitely helped to build up the tension and backstory offering  a real sense of suspense.

Kubica builds the tension gradually as Clara slowly unravels the crumbs of clues. Don’t enter into this read expecting high paced action or unreadable plot twists. This is a work of slowly peeling away the ‘onion layers’ to reveal precisely what transpired in the weeks preceding Nick’s death and how circumstances collided together to present an unmitigating fallout.

Who killed Nick, or did Nick kill Nick?



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, June 24, 2017

Review: A Different Blue

Title: A Different Blue
Author: Amy Harmon
Publisher: 30 May 2017 by Spencer Hill Press
Pages: 330 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: young adult, romance contemporary
My Rating: 5 cups

Synopsis:

Blue Echohawk doesn't know who she is. She doesn't know her real name or when she was born. Abandoned at two and raised by a drifter, she didn't attend school until she was ten years old. At nineteen, when most kids her age are attending college or moving on with life, she is just a senior in high school. With no mother, no father, no faith, and no future, Blue Echohawk is a difficult student, to say the least. Tough, hard, and overtly sexy, she is the complete opposite of the young British teacher who decides he is up for the challenge, and takes the troublemaker under his wing.

This is the story of a nobody who becomes somebody. It is the story of an unlikely friendship, where hope fosters healing and redemption becomes love. But falling in love can be hard when you don't know who you are. Falling in love with someone who knows exactly who they are and exactly why they can't love you back might be impossible.

My Thoughts


‘What we believe affects our choices, our actions, and subsequently, our lives.’

Having read Amy’s previous books (though of a different genre - ‘The Bird and the Sword Chronicles’) I was intrigued to try something of hers that was not fantasy.  I went in with no real expectations, except knowing Amy to be a talented author, and in the end, was blown away by, ‘A Different Blue’. Amy Harmon can most certainly write, and this little book is really quite extraordinary in making you a part of Blue’s journey.

‘My life, my history, would be laid out before me like a movie script . . . complete with crime scenes and character descriptions. And like a movie script, none of it seemed real.’

This tale slowly and subtly creeps up on you, until you cannot put it down until complete. The power lies in it’s quiet reflections and intricately weaved sublayers. So many lessons here to learn from and move on from. Blue is a wonderful leading character with so many complexities that you cannot help but feel her hurt and pain. Then there is Wilson, this extraordinary caregiver, putting her first all the way through. The synopsis does not begin to convey the power of this book and I am so glad I went into this trusting the storytelling gifts of Amy.

‘My heart pounded in my throat and my mind screamed at me, demanding I catalog every detail of the event I had dreamed about but never dared hope for.’

Let me make it very clear, romance is not the sole focus here. This is a story about a girl and her journey of self discovery - literally and figuratively. Yes, Wilson (our leading man) assists with that but he is a guiding hand in what remains a story about Blue. Their relationship is a slow burn so as not to be drawn away from other key elements and the slow and steady evolution of their relationship is all the more rich for the gradual growth and understanding.

‘Why don’t you focus on where you’re going and less on where you come from?’

Then there is the symbolism which is infiltrated throughout, with again subtle ties to Native American legends, woven both perfectly and poignantly. Often reading like a history lesson, there is much to love and appreciate here.

Amy Harmon's writing is beautiful and lyrical and this book holds such depth and soul, sorrow and pain, hope and humour, with moments that will simply steal your heart away. Do yourself a favour and go read some Amy Harmon. You won’t be disappointed.


‘Who we are is made up of the little choices, the little acts, the little moments that comprise our lives, day after day.’


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, June 21, 2017

Review: Along Country Roads

Title: Along Country Roads
Author: Mandy Magro
Publisher: 22 May 2017 by Harlequin (Australia), Teen/Mira
Pages: 320 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, romance
My Rating: 3 cups

Synopsis:

Can love ever be enough to heal two damaged souls?

On the run from her troubled past in a stolen four-wheel drive, Matilda Denver seeks the sanctuary of sleepy Moonstone Valley where she hopes to heal and make a fresh start. But her plans go awry when the vehicle breaks down and she's stranded at the side of a deserted country road.

Ryan Hunter, after working himself into the ground at his interstate truck-driving job since his sister's death, is making his last run before a well-earned month off. On the last stretch home, he happens across a beautiful woman and scraggy dog hitchhiking. It's not long before he connects Matilda's bruises to her past and what she's on the run from. He instinctively wants to protect Matilda and offers her a place to stay at Heartsong Hills.

Although both battling their own demons, they start to discover how much they have in common – and soon they're also battling the strong desire to fall hard for one another. But when Ryan tries to help by organising for the four-wheel drive to be fixed, he unwittingly gives away Matilda's location and her life may be on the line. Can Ryan find her before it's too late?

My Thoughts

Having read Mandy’s previous book, I was looking forward to another escape to the country. All the right ingredients are there for an enjoyable escape as Mandy portrays real characters facing real issues, thus ensuring that the reader is always engaged. There is a bit of background mystery to our two main leads in this tale which helps to build the tension. Add to the mix a sincere and swoon worthy male lead, a female looking to break free and some wonderful secondary characters, even including the stray dog Huckleberry, and what you have here is some great escapism.

‘They were both too broken to be anything other than friends.’

On a serious note, this is a heartbreaking look at the trauma of domestic violence to all of those involved. Nothing is left unturned here as an authentic portrayal of perpetrator, victim and victim’s family are all given credence in this tale. I also appreciated the inclusion of a look at anxiety and how it can inhibit individuals to a staggering degree. I believe Mandy uses this medium to take the opportunity to present serious issues in today’s society and, especially concerning the anxiety attacks some useful strategies, and I applaud her for that.

‘It was a terrible illness and people often shunned those who experienced it because they didn’t understand it. But given the right tools, panic attacks were something to never fear again.’

Unfortunately this one did not quite hit the mark for me, despite the commendable stance taken on some relevant issues. Even though you know what you are getting in for in picking up these lovely rural romances, I found this one to be somewhat cliched. The ‘insta-love’ in the first few hours of meeting was sadly unbelievable for me, as were a few coincidental outcomes.

‘She couldn’t help but admire Ryan’s depth—she’d never met a man quite like him.’
I would still read Mandy again as her detailed Aussie outback locations are always inviting. Combine that with her efforts to always bring a different slant to the usual formulaic approaches on this genre, and one is always assured of some fruitful time spent reading.

‘You read much?’ ‘Whenever I can. It’s my way of shutting off from the world for a while.’


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