Review: The Secret Years

the secret yearsThe Secret Years by Barbara Hannay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

I find that I’m fascinated by love story in war time… The preciousness of life, of happiness, are just so keenly felt that finding love is such a bittersweet experience. This is what drew me to The Secret Years… asides from my penchant for rural romance, of course ;)

The novel tells of a love story which spans three generations though the middle one is somewhat neglected. It tells of the glorious once-in-a-lifetime love of Harry and Georgina who found each other in the midst of great uncertainty but the fates were quite generous to them as proven by the existence of the next generations.

In the present times, we follow Lucy, Harry and Georgina’s granddaughter, as she returned home from being deployed in Afghanistan. Home, however, didn’t quite turn out the way she dreamed of. Being at loose ends and burdened by a great curiosity of her family’s mysterious past, she goes to England in order to unveil some of her family’s secrets.

Lucy and Georgina are two loveable characters. They are both courageous women; strong, intelligent, grounded, and just so easy to be with. Rosie, on the other hand, was a bit of a mess. Unfortunately, her perspectives is very limited in this novel. I found it a little strange that the “secret” weren’t more fleshed out the novel. The secret was revealed in an almost-dry voice and it was over very quickly. I am comparing it to Kate Morton’s works where the dirty secret hung over you right from the very first word and when it was all revealed, you’d have this stab-in-the-heart sort of pain. There’s no such pain in The Secret Years.

If you adjust your expectation to a good rural romantic novel, I think you will really enjoyed this book. It was so easy to get into and proved to be a delightful relaxation companion. This was my first Barbara Hannay though I just found out that she’s really a prolific writer so can’t you just see my tbr becoming ever more insurmountable?

Thanks to Penguin Australia for paperback copy in exchange of honest review

Pssst, there’s an excerpt that you can check out.

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Review: Did Your Mother Never Teach You How To Catch A Man?

Did  Your Mother Never Teach You How To Catch A Man? by Ruby Mayer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: complete digital copy courtesy of publisher

Book blurb

“A Good man can break your heart but a bad man should never have the right.”

When Jasmine’s crappy relationship with a crappy man falls apart, she goes on an adventure.  An adventure to Tel Aviv.  What follows is a passionate and wonderful journey, filled with food, love, bombs, and Shula.

Ruby Mayer moved to London from the Middle East at six, but returned to Israel in her twenties.  There she worked in a war survivors’ charity while learning the 1950s feminist approach to life from her indomitable grandmother.  These experiences form the basis of her first book.

My blurb

This is the second book I’m reviewing for thepigeonhole and I am ever so grateful for being given this second chance.  Did Your Mother Never Teach You How To Catch A Man? was an absolute delight to read.  It was funny.  It was sad.  It was light-hearted.  It was serious.  I’ve had a most wonderful journey, thanks to Ruby Mayer & thepigeonhole.

If you’re not familiar with thepigeonhole, they publish books online but in parts (‘staves’).  The first stave of this particular read was set in London and described the emptiness of Jasmine’s life.  Whilst the reader can sympathise with Jasmine’s frustration, there were many moments of hilarity especially in relation to her parents and two colleagues.  I just love her colleagues!  They were not what you’d call BFF but they should be, seeing the things they get away with!  I truly adore these two and was sorry that they weren’t anywhere else in the book.

As the book’s blurb mentioned, Jasmine went off to Tel Aviv… Stave II.  She’s staying with her adorable grandmother, Shulla, who is determined that she should be married as soon as possible.  Henceforth, Shulla’s lessons…

‘Number one,’ she says, ‘be beautiful from your insides to your outsides.’ …

‘You need all your fingers to catch a man – it helps.’ …

‘Number two,’ she says with renewed vigour. ‘Write this down! The most important person to be beautiful for is you.’

Jasmine proceeded to discover herself and Tel Aviv in Staves III & IV.  There were many laughter and just as much tears were shed.

Did Your Mother Never Teach You How To Catch A Man? was a well balanced read.  It was brilliantly written to continually engage in the reader in a variety of ways: humour, heartbreak, grief, love, etc.  It felt like a light and fun sort of read but at the same time, I also felt I have learnt so much!  I’d highly recommend this to everyone to read!

PS: Shulla is based on author’s real grandmother, check out Q+A with Ruby Mayer for more on Shulla

You can also stalk follow Ruby Mayer on twitter

Thanks to The Pigeonhole for copy of book in exchange of honest review

Push Me, Pull Me by Vanessa Garden ~ Excerpt + Giveaway

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PMPM

Push Me, Pull Me by Vanessa Garden
Published by: Limitless Publishing
Publication date: August 25th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

Since Ruby Milton’s mother committed suicide, she’s forgotten what it’s like to be seventeen.

Saddled with taking care of her toddler brother and alcoholic father, Ruby has no time for fun. She also can’t shake the growing resentment she feels for her mother’s decision, which left her unable to grieve without anger and regret.

Then she meets blue-eyed musician Byron Black, who challenges everything she believes.

Byron refuses to let anyone control his life—or his death. When he left the city behind, he was in search of somewhere where nobody knew his secret. What he didn’t expect was to meet a beautiful redhead whose views conflict so completely with his own. But as their romance deepens, he begins to doubt his choices and decides to return to the city…for one last chance.

When Byron disappears, Ruby will stop at nothing to track him down.

Upon finding Byron, Ruby discovers his devastating secret, and a battle of wills begins. Byron doesn’t want her to know this part of him. He has to deal with it by himself, even though the idea of losing her tears him apart.

Will they be able to see each other through the darkness?

Or should they save their hearts and just let go?

Buy: Amazon  |  B&N  |  booktopia

VanessaA bookseller and Young Adult author, Vanessa loves nothing more than immersing herself in the exciting world of books. When she is not gushing about her favourite reads with customers, or mentally casting actors to play the characters in her books, Vanessa enjoys hanging out with those she loves most.

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Excerpt

“Are you in a lot of pain?” It was a stupid question. My eyes travelled to the front of his shirt.

He pulled back a little, as if to protect his wound from my intrusive gaze.

“I’m fine, Ruby,” he said, but kept his eyes trained on the ceiling, his expression unreadable.

“How long have you had this one for?” I reached out and gently traced my trembling finger along the thin silvery line on his face and neck, moving from his jaw down to his collarbone.

Byron closed his eyes and exhaled raggedly. “A long time. Don’t look at it,” he rasped. “It’s ugly.”

I swallowed thickly and gazed at the fine structure of his face, at the thick lashes resting against his cheekbones and the sensual swell of his lips. “Nothing about you could ever be ugly.”

At my words, Byron opened his eyes and fixed them on me. He gently tugged my arm and waist, rolling me on top of him. He breathed hard from the exertion.

I blushed from being so close to his face and sat up, straddling him, my thighs on either side of his waist.

“You’re so beautiful, Ruby,” Byron whispered, his hands finding my hips.

I shifted slightly, conscious of the growing hardness I could feel beneath me.

Outside, the sky was darkening, but there was just enough light coming in through the window for me to see the look on Byron’s face. I’d never been looked at like this before.

“Come here,” he whispered, sliding his hands from my hips up my lower back, gently pressing me down.

I bent and hovered over him, careful not to apply any pressure to his chest, but Byron wrapped an arm around my waist and slid a hand behind my neck and gently pressed me down so that I could feel every inch of his firm body beneath me. The sensation made my pulse quicken and my heart stutter. A flush, hotter than the recent weather, burned through my veins and heated my body.

Against my neck, Byron’s breath came faster.

Our lips came together, soft and chaste at first, but as soon as our tongues touched the kiss grew deeper and harder. Byron’s hands slid up my back to tangle in my hair while I ran my hand through his.

He moaned softly and suddenly the kiss kicked up a gear. Our hands crossed paths and we entwined our fingers together, briefly, before moving on to touch each other’s bodies, wherever our hands could reach. Every inch of Byron felt hard, whereas, beneath his careful touch, he made me feel soft like I was something delicate and precious. It was exquisite.

I couldn’t get enough of him. I wanted to somehow meld us into one person.

I drew him tight against me and he groaned against my mouth, the sound sending a jolt of excitement to my lower belly, that is, until he stiffened beneath me and pushed me off.

I hadn’t pleasured him, I’d hurt him.

“Are you okay?” I knelt beside him, horrified at what I’d done, my hands hovering over his chest.

Byron remained on his back, his chest rising and falling in short, sharp rasps, his jaw tense, his hands twisting at my bed cover.

“I’m so sorry. Is it bad? What should I do?”

“It’s okay. Don’t be sorry,” he whispered hoarsely, looking away. “It’s not your fault, Ruby. It’s me.”

“I’m the one who crushed you,” I said softly.

He sighed and steadied his breath.

“No. I mean, I shouldn’t be here, doing this…starting something with you…” he met my eyes, “…something that can never really go anywhere.” He exhaled, it sounded harsh and angry. “Remember, I’m leaving soon, Ruby.”

I tied my hair up with the band I kept around my wrist and tried to keep my face neutral so that he couldn’t see how I really felt about him leaving. We’d only just gotten to know each other. I liked the guy. I didn’t want him to leave.

“Is this to do with your music? Because you want to tour? Or because of this…this thing with your parents?”

Byron smiled down at the bedcover, but it was a bittersweet smile. “I wish this was about something as simple as music.”

“Are you in a lot of pain?” It was a stupid question. My eyes travelled to the front of his shirt.

He pulled back a little, as if to protect his wound from my intrusive gaze.

“I’m fine, Ruby,” he said, but kept his eyes trained on the ceiling, his expression unreadable.

“How long have you had this one for?” I reached out and gently traced my trembling finger along the thin silvery line on his face and neck, moving from his jaw down to his collarbone.

Byron closed his eyes and exhaled raggedly. “A long time. Don’t look at it,” he rasped. “It’s ugly.”

I swallowed thickly and gazed at the fine structure of his face, at the thick lashes resting against his cheekbones and the sensual swell of his lips. “Nothing about you could ever be ugly.”

At my words, Byron opened his eyes and fixed them on me. He gently tugged my arm and waist, rolling me on top of him. He breathed hard from the exertion.

I blushed from being so close to his face and sat up, straddling him, my thighs on either side of his waist.

“You’re so beautiful, Ruby,” Byron whispered, his hands finding my hips.

I shifted slightly, conscious of the growing hardness I could feel beneath me.

Outside, the sky was darkening, but there was just enough light coming in through the window for me to see the look on Byron’s face. I’d never been looked at like this before.

“Come here,” he whispered, sliding his hands from my hips up my lower back, gently pressing me down.

I bent and hovered over him, careful not to apply any pressure to his chest, but Byron wrapped an arm around my waist and slid a hand behind my neck and gently pressed me down so that I could feel every inch of his firm body beneath me. The sensation made my pulse quicken and my heart stutter. A flush, hotter than the recent weather, burned through my veins and heated my body.

Against my neck, Byron’s breath came faster.

Our lips came together, soft and chaste at first, but as soon as our tongues touched the kiss grew deeper and harder. Byron’s hands slid up my back to tangle in my hair while I ran my hand through his.

He moaned softly and suddenly the kiss kicked up a gear. Our hands crossed paths and we entwined our fingers together, briefly, before moving on to touch each other’s bodies, wherever our hands could reach. Every inch of Byron felt hard, whereas, beneath his careful touch, he made me feel soft like I was something delicate and precious. It was exquisite.

I couldn’t get enough of him. I wanted to somehow meld us into one person.

I drew him tight against me and he groaned against my mouth, the sound sending a jolt of excitement to my lower belly, that is, until he stiffened beneath me and pushed me off.

I hadn’t pleasured him, I’d hurt him.

“Are you okay?” I knelt beside him, horrified at what I’d done, my hands hovering over his chest.

Byron remained on his back, his chest rising and falling in short, sharp rasps, his jaw tense, his hands twisting at my bed cover.

“I’m so sorry. Is it bad? What should I do?”

“It’s okay. Don’t be sorry,” he whispered hoarsely, looking away. “It’s not your fault, Ruby. It’s me.”

“I’m the one who crushed you,” I said softly.

He sighed and steadied his breath.

“No. I mean, I shouldn’t be here, doing this…starting something with you…” he met my eyes, “…something that can never really go anywhere.” He exhaled, it sounded harsh and angry. “Remember, I’m leaving soon, Ruby.”

I tied my hair up with the band I kept around my wrist and tried to keep my face neutral so that he couldn’t see how I really felt about him leaving. We’d only just gotten to know each other. I liked the guy. I didn’t want him to leave.

“Is this to do with your music? Because you want to tour? Or because of this…this thing with your parents?”

Byron smiled down at the bedcover, but it was a bittersweet smile. “I wish this was about something as simple as music.”

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Click on image (left) to enter the giveaway (INTL) of:

  • Push Me, Pull Me coffee mug filled with heart shaped chocolate and a $10 Amazon gift card.

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Review: A Curious Beginning

a curious beginningA Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

Historical mysteries featuring unconventional heroines are one of my favourites. On the top of my favourites are Phryne Fisher, Maisie Dobbs and Adelia Aguilar. Each of these series were unique in their own rights: Phryne Fisher’s mysteries are set in the 1920s and are such good fun to read, Maisie Dobbs are set in the same era but carry a more serious undertone with a rather Hercule Poirot sort of approach to the mysteries, and Adelia Aguilar is set in medieval England but with such a peculiar character, she appeals to you just as much as Phryne Fisher.

A Curious Beginning began well enough as we are introduced to Veronica Speedwell’s awry thoughts as she buried her aunt. It wasn’t long, however, before I found that she tries too hard to shock people and this really annoys me. I like shocking, unusual / unconventional heroines but in Veronica Speedwell’s case, it didn’t seem natural… it felt like a put-on act. There were also too many repetitions about her sexual adventures and her rule of keeping clear of British men… Say it once or twice but no more, please. I am sad to say that I do not like Veronica Speedwell.

On the other hand, I do love Stoker! I love his physique. I love his rudeness (you all know he’s hiding something, right?). I love the mystery of his past! I enjoyed most of the interaction between Veronica and Stoker and since I have a predilection for “circus” in fiction, I love that part of the story. The big twist or the reason Veronica is on the run, unfortunately, wasn’t a surprise to me. I was disappointed that the story was not more unpredictable.

The cover and the author were the first things to draw my interest. I’ve enjoyed Deanna Raybourn’s historical romance and really thought A Curious Beginning has good potential. It was a fairly easy read and I still enjoyed Raybourn’s prose; I’ve loved the world building in this novel. So, casting annoying main protagonist aside, A Curious Beginning was an entertaining read.

Thanks to NAL via Edelweiss for eARC in exchange of honest review

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Review: Evergreen Falls: A Novel

evergreen fallsEvergreen Falls: A Novel by Kimberley Freeman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

The Blue Mountains hold a special place in my heart. Asides for having been there numerous times in my teens for youth Christian camps, it is also where I met my husband (during one of these camps). No, it wasn’t insta love… in fact, we barely spoke and only really got to know each other afterwards. Nevertheless, this is one reason why I was drawn to this novel: the setting.

There were a few things which fascinated me in the novel: the era (the 1920s always drew me in), the area (I have visions of going on a bushwalk and seeing the falls), and the image of exploring an old ruin of a hotel. Evergreen Falls was a fairly easygoing read –an easy slow dip into another world for a leisurely stroll through other lives and to emerge, contented with life.

Neither of the two main protagonists really drew me, unfortunately, I was actually more drawn to (& very curious) about other minor characters (Lauren’s brother, Adam, and Flora, Violet’s love-interest’s sister). Violet I found to be to be frustratingly blind, sometimes due to naivety but sometimes, stubbornly and foolishly so! I also found that I just can’t make myself believe the insta-love moment she had with Sam. There were other insta-love moments I believe in but for some reason, this moment between Violet and Sam just didn’t register in the ‘believable’ spectrum. It may be that I’ve already guessed what Sam’s issue is right from the very beginning so everything he did / said is coloured by doubt on my part. Plus, reading it from Violet’s perspective (see blindness above), I was distrustful of her truth.

Lauren posed an interesting character at the beginning because of her background / family. And due to this background, she’s a bit hot and cold for me. Sometimes, she just plunges into a situation while other times, she’s so timid, you just wonder at it. Overall, Lauren is an average likeable character who sometimes amuses the reader by her actions.

Evergreen Falls is a story of courage –of braving oneself in stepping out of the mould as made by your family. There wasn’t much in the way of twists and the ‘tragic’ circumstance wasn’t really that bad but I was happy that the ending was not depressing.

Thanks to Touchstone via NetGalley for eARC in exchange of honest review

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Review: A Different Reflection

a different reflectionA Different Reflection by Jane L. Gibson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

This was a total cover crush for me. It’s such a beautiful pink and sparkly cover! It appeals to my very girly side. Plus this is a fairy tale told in modern times… SOLD!

The story is quite beautiful and romantic. It is a very sweet fairy tale that I’m sure all girls would have daydreamed of. It has all the tropes of a love-story x fairy-tales: a bad guy, a curse, a good girl, love, etc. All the characters, especially main protagonists, were easily likeable. All in all, a terrific fluffy-good-feels type of read but unfortunately, not what I was looking for, at the time of my reading it.

It was slow to start though it was fairly easy to get into in terms of language and with easily likeable characters, it wasn’t hard to keep reading. Despite my romantic side, I can’t but help feeling a bit cynical about some things… I couldn’t believe that someone can be as ‘good’ as Kat (yes, okay, she seems to have some issues but is very sensible, wise, and overall, very balanced person; she was too good to be believable –the very epitome of Miss Goody Two-Shoes). The way she speaks also seems a little wrong –I’m really not sure that a ‘normal-modern’ person will speak the way she does. This grated on me a little.

A Different Reflection is just like the cover: a bright, sparkly and sweet fairy tale romance. If you need to switch off your brain for a few hours or some cheering up, I’d highly recommend this book. It’s basically your fairy floss (cotton candy) in fiction.

Thanks to Troubador Publishing Ltd via NetGalley for eARC in exchange of honest review

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Blog Tour: The Drowning God ~a Review + Giveaway

The Drowning God

The Drowning God_1The Drowning God by James Kendley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Detective Tohru Takuda faces his own tragic past to uncover modern Japan’s darkest secret–The Drowning God.

Few villagers are happy when Takuda comes home to investigate a foiled abduction, and local police enlist powerful forces to shut him out. Takuda sacrifices his career and family honor to solve the string of disappearances in the dark and backward valley of his youth, but more than a job is at stake. Behind the conspiracy lurks the Kappa, a monstrous living relic of Japan’s pagan prehistory. Protected long ago by a horrible pact with local farmers and now by coldly calculated corporate interests, the Kappa drains the valley’s lifeblood, one villager at a time.

Takuda and his wife, Yumi, are among the few who have escaped the valley, but no one gets away unscarred. When Takuda digs into the valley’s mysteries, Yumi’s heart breaks all over again. She wants justice for her murdered son, but she needs an end to grief. Even if Takuda survives the Kappa, the ordeal may end his marriage.

With Yumi’s tortured blessing, Takuda dedicates his life to ending the Drowning God’s centuries-long reign of terror. He can’t do it alone. A laconic junior officer and a disarmingly cheerful Buddhist priest convince Takuda to let them join in the final battle, where failure means death–or worse. The journey of these three unlikely warriors from uneasy alliance to efficient team turns THE DROWNING GOD’s mystery into an adventure in friendship, sacrifice and courage.

Review (3 stars)

I am always drawn to Japan.  It started with reading mangas in my teens though these days, I’d prefer Japanese literature (translated into English) and whatever other fiction set in Japan.  As I’ve mentioned to a friend, I’ve just finished Colourless Tsukuri Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami before reading The Drowning God and will be picking up The Peony Lantern by Frances Watts for a read along next week.  It is the Japanese culture that I am fascinated with and I can’t get enough.

The Drowning God is a mystery/horror novel in contemporary setting though with a flavour of the supernatural.  Detective Tohru Takuda is no longer young and with his scars (both physical & emotional) he is just about ready to blow this case apart, even if it blew him apart too.   Supported by his protégé, Officer Mori, and an old acquaintance, the monk Suzuki, Tohru forged ahead in vengeance as well as saving his home village.

The story is told from the perspective of Takuda and while, I quite like him, I’m really curious about Mori.  I wished the POVs were alternated between the three protagonists as I think it will boost the dimension of the narrative.  On the other hand, the local superstition / religion ensconced in some sort of conspiracy was quite brilliant.

It is a fairly easygoing read with some sword-swinging actions.  Unfortunately, I didn’t quite find any surprising twists in the story but it seems to be (from the ending) that this book is the first instalment of a series so it could be a huge set up and I’ll be interested in the next book.

Thanks to Harper Voyager Impulse for copy of ebook in exchange of honest review

About Author

James Fendley

James Kendley has written and edited professionally for more than 30 years, first as a newspaper reporter and editor, then as a copy editor and translator in Japan (where he taught for eight years at private colleges and universities), and currently as an educational publishing content wrangler living in northern Virginia. He has a taste for the macabre, and he hopes you do, too!

Connect with James: website  |  facebook  |twitter

Giveaway

The publisher is kindly giving away One ebook per tour host so make sure you visit all the stops below.  For your entry on this blog, please comment below: which countries have you visited, vicariously, in your reading this month.

Winner to be drawn on Sat, 22 Aug 2015.

Tour Schedule

August 3 –3 Partners in Shopping

August 4 –Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents

August 5 –Review From Here

August 6 –Bent Over Bookwords

August 7 –C.A. Milson

August 10 –Around the World in Books

August 11 –Sapphyria’s Book Reviews

August 12 –Voodoo Princess

August 13 –Undercover Book Reviews

August 14 –I’m Shelf-ish

August 17 –Crystal’s Chaotic Confessions

August 18 –Words I Write Crazy & The Dark Phantom

August 19 –Tien’s Blurb & The Literary Nook

August 20 –Chosen By You Book Club

August 21 –Queen of All She Reads