Tag Archives: aww2014

Review: Betrayal

betrayalBetrayal by Lara Morgan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

Note: this review is in relation to book 2 of The Twins of Saranthium and may contain spoilers to book 1, Awakening (my review of Awakening)

I picked up Betrayal because I remembered the promise of Awakening. I wanted to find out the answers to some of the questions from Awakening. Plus the lure of an adventure in a world of Serpents and old gods was too exciting to ignore.

Betrayal was an exciting read: magical powers are unfurled, secrets revealed, more interesting characters, etc. A fast-paced read with suspense built up right to the end. I also like my fantasy to be imbued with some romance and Betrayal really just hit that sweet spot. All in all, a very comfortable read for me.

I have enjoyed Betrayal more than Awakening because as the world is firmly set-up in Awakening, there is plenty of development in terms of characters and plot. It was an easy and enjoyable read that I read in pretty much a single sitting. I cannot wait for the next book! Please hurry, Ms Morgan!

Thanks, Escape Publishing, for copy or eARC via NetGalley

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Review: Outback Ghost

outback ghost
Outback Ghost by Rachael Johns

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

My first ever Rachael Johns and yes, I realised it’s the third instalment but as is the norm with rural romance, it really doesn’t signify too much if I don’t read the earlier books noting different characters. The series rather refer to the rural area in terms of setting. The reason that I picked this one up is because I can’t resist ghostly romances –so yes, totally judging the book by its title 😉

Stella is a very strong female character. She’s a single working mum to a Down Syndrome child who is continually feeling blessed with her beautiful little girl, Heidi. She’s looking forward to spoiling all her attention to Heidi this holiday but what she didn’t know was that none of the previous guests of the cottage had stayed for a full length of time. Each of them complained of inexplicable strange noises in the night. Stella grew up in rural setting herself and is made of sterner stuff until she heard the name of her daughter’s newest invisible friend…

Adam’s little sister went missing 20 years ago and he has never forgiven himself. This unsolved mystery has driven his family to the breaking point and there doesn’t seem to be a way back. It appears, however, that she insisted on being heard…

The romance was very very sweet and I love that. The one thing that I wasn’t keen on was what actually happened to Adam’s sister. It really wasn’t a great mystery if you’re a crime buff like me but I took objection to coming across this type of sad thing in a romance novel where I look for a light read. Despite this, I have enjoyed my first Rachael Johns’ and look forward to another!

Thanks, Harlequin Books Australia for copy of eARC via NetGalley

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Review: The French Prize

french prizeThe French Prize by Cathryn Hein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publishers

The French Prize was a fun light-hearted romance that I really enjoyed. What I really liked was the collision of history and present time. And ‘knights’! I think that says it all…

Dr Olivia Walker is an intelligent woman chasing her dreams… her dreams, though, were about to come through yet they just might undermine her future happiness. She’s a woman who knows herself and is spunky enough to stand for herself –an easily likeable heroine.

Raimund Blancard is the last of his line and determined to destroy the fabled item that had so far taken apart his family. He’s one of those macho alpha male –a bit overbearing & overprotective but as always, with a soft core.

This wasn’t in any way a hard read –a bit of history, some mystery, bit of action, and tons of attraction thrown together for an enjoyable lazy afternoon read. There were a bit of kissing and sexual references but there was nothing graphic so it’s a fairly clean read. All in all, The French Prize was easy on the eyes and easy on the brain.

Thank you, Harlequin MIRA, for copy of eARC via NetGalley

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Review: Dancing on Knives

dancing on knivesDancing on Knives by Kate Forsyth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

Dancing on Knives is rather atypical of Kate Forsyth’s books. Its contemporary setting in Australia and lack of the magical element may disappoint her fans of fantasy works. Fortunately, as a fan of Forsyth, my reading appetite is quite eclectic and I could appreciate the amazing effort she’s put into this baby. Whilst it was first birthed over 30 years ago, this novel has gone through a number of revisions (and was also previously published under different title) until the form it has achieved today.

This mystery novel is told from the perspective of twenty year old Sara, eldest daughter of the Sanchez family. It’s an interesting perspective noting her limitation / weakness however it was a lifting experience as Sara, in loving her family, slowly found her strength. The Sanchez family has weathered many troubling times and yet, there were love to be found in each other to sustain them through these hard times. With a focus on family and their secrets, this novel could easily have been a family saga (unfortunately, it’s a little short…).

What impressed me of this novel wasn’t the mystery itself but the whole aura of the novel and the number of things packed into 300 odd pages. The research itself must’ve been a colossal undertaking; mostly in reference to the Spanish culture of cookery & art. I must acknowledge my ignorance for both but I can’t help but be awed by the details that were included without being overwhelming.

The novel itself isn’t a ‘retelling’ of the tale in the strict sense as it was rather of Sara who identified herself with the fairytale mermaid her Spanish grandmother used to tell. This tragic tale combined with the stormy weather, the decrepit condition of the house, and the sinister circumstance of Augusto Sanchez’s accident gave the novel a very gothic atmosphere. Whilst the usual ‘magic’ element is missing, there are references to the supernatural which again lent force to the dark & eerie feelings of the story.

Fans of Kate Forsyth may found Dancing on Knives somewhat hard to swallow / enjoy especially for the fantasy-die-hards. I, however, loved the atmosphere, the well developed characters, and the Spanish flavour of this story. If you’re a fan of Kate Morton, I think you should give this particular work of Forsyth a chance.

Thank you, Random House Australia for copy of eARC via NetGalley

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Review: Razorhurst

razorhurstRazorhurst by Justine Larbalestier

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Source: Purchased own paperback copy

It was a last minute’s decision to attend the book launch for Razorhurst though it was such a enjoyable night listening to Justine Larbalestier talk about the inspiration behind this book and the research into the historical background of this novel. Her passion, not only for writing but also for this dark-piece of Aussie history, was easily felt and very contagious. I dived into this brilliant novel with a very high expectation.

I expected ghosts. I expected tough characters. But what I didn’t expect was the complex layering of the book. Whilst we follow 2 main characters (Kelpie and Dymphna), there were several other perspectives injected throughout the novel along with some historical background (fictional and / or real) to either characters or setting. This could easily have been a pretty mess of structure BUT I was amazed that it wasn’t at all. It was done expertly and it worked a treat –a remarkable feat!

The ending saddened me, somewhat. Honestly, I knew not to expect a neat little package tied up with a bow. In all possibility, with the mafia involved, that just wasn’t realistic still… it didn’t stop me being sad although I think, Justine Larbalestier managed to find just the right amount of mess to be realistic and yet, still gave some sense of optimism.

Razorhurst is not your typical paranormal (romantic) novel despite the ghostly encounters. It is rather a novel to be appreciated by point of structure, characters, and historical value (especially if you’re a Sydneysider). It was hard for me to really understand just how hard the life these young girls had in those days. For parents of younger audiences, I’d suggest some parental guidance / discussions. I don’t have girls of my own but if I do, this book is not to be missed as a book to read together as it has the potential of really good discussions.

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Review: Disruption

disruptionDisruption by Jessica Shirvington

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

This read was the fastest 400 pages ever! I have to admit that the print was pretty big but the words finished in no time at all… Disruption was one of those reads where you NEED to keep on reading to find out what happens next and yet, you kept watching on how many pages to go til the end because you never want it to end. But the ending was just… so… evil… I’m breathlessly awaiting the sequel to this duology!!

The world has is now a different place with each individual movements being visible to those in authority. This idea in itself is not original though the Phera-tech spin to assess compatibilities between people is an interesting concept. There is, however, a tragic side of this tech where IN-compatible people are removed from society but as always, nothing is as it seems. Maggie Stevens have seen through some of these deceptions and to save someone she loves, she’s willing to sacrifice all.

I found the beginning just a tad difficult to start with –that might have to do with the time of day that I found it slightly tricky to get on in this new world. However, I did love the prologue as it was really intriguing and set the stage up for Maggie-Quentin combo. Once all, the intro, is done and the action started, there is no stopping me from rushing to the end of the book. Disruption is an intriguing action-packed fast-paced and romantic read.

One of the things I vaguely remembered Jessica Shirvington mentioned at the launch was that her vision is to write female characters that her little girls would be proud of. I think, with Maggie (as I’ve not read her other books yet!), she’s definitely got one. Maggie is one very driven, very focused young lady. She is capable and is mostly on top of things though her goal, sometimes, served as blinders to other things. She is quite awesome to behold; I loved her character development in this book and can’t wait to see where it will go next in Corruption. Can I just say once more how the ending is driving me stir crazy?!

Thank you, HarperCollins Australia, for copy of book

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Review: Luna Tango

luna tangoLuna Tango by Alli Sinclair
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

Judge a book by the cover? Always! Sometimes the cover does tell you quite a bit on what the book is about and Luna Tango definitely falls within this category. Let’s not dismiss the title either though I can tell you that it’s definitely not about (literally) dancing the tango in moonlight 😉 A gorgeous cover with bright colours and a promise of the exotic –what more can you ask for as cover for a romantic novel? And which girl can resist a sexy & broody hero?

Dani McKenna’s love life has just bombed out and she’s now in pursuit of her career –or so she thinks. She has decided to write about Tango, the curse of her family, and her first interviewee is to be Carlos Escuedero; a well-known tango dancer who has had to give up his dancing days due to some scandal. As always, things are not what they seem and Dani & Carlos will have to work out whether they can trust each other with their secrets.

Parallel to Dani’s story is Louisa’s story set in 1950s which had become (by Dani’s time) a somewhat mysterious legend for when the truth is known may rock the Tango world and maybe even the country. I must confess my preference for this past-world as I feel the love story was more heartfelt and rather grand –reaching over the years despite the anguish. With this comparison, I also found that the Dani & Carlos ‘relationship’ seems to be rather easy… ie. ‘stumbling blocks’ seem rather like pebbles and all smoothed out with just a tad of distress. Their attraction and sexual tension was felt but there was a lack of the entertaining playful teasing that I most appreciate in romance novels; I seem to only remember one particular bit of this in this book.

This book is totally rated on the ease of reading and it was so very easy –I inhaled it within a few hours and basically ignored everybody else in the house. It was a precious few peaceful hours well spent in the company of tango (there were bits & pieces about tango including some history that I appreciated). I think all I was missing was the background tango music in an otherwise, perfect evening in Argentina with a bunch of exotic men ❤ ❤ ❤

Thank you, Harlequin Books Australia for copy of eARC via NetGalley.

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Review: The House on Burra Burra Lane

the house on burra burra lane - jennie jonesThe House on Burra Burra Lane by Jennie Jones

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

I was just in the mood for some light reading after some classics & literary works. The House on Burra Burra Lane definitely fits the bill and lightened up my day. An easygoing and entertaining read with (of course) an HEA are requisites for an Aussie outback romance to my mind. I found all these in Jennie Jones’ debut.

I loved the opening of the book –a massive pig, a damsel in distress, a down-to-earth-knight-in-shining-armor… It was funny. It was electric. It sets the tone of the book. Samantha Walker is truly a likeable character; a city chick after a treechange with an all-can-do attitude. Ethan Granger might have chosen a solitary life after some disastrous past; somewhat reserved but still unable to not be around Sammy. This tension and secrets will keep you turning the pages until all is revealed.

The secrets or what I think it supposed to be the twist to the story, unfortunately, didn’t surprise me at all. I was actually a little disappointed to be proven right and wished there was something more unexpected. There was also one particular bit in the book which I thought was off; a particular usage of a word which I thought was out of place in this book though it might work well in a different type of romance novel. I was otherwise kept entertained enough to enjoy a light romantic fling in the outback.

The House on Burra Burra Lane is a light romantic read which will help smooth your day; perfect for the beach / poolside in the summer.

Thank you, Harlequin Books Australia, for copy of this book

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Review: The Intern

The InternThe Intern by Gabrielle Tozer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: a self-purchased copy

Aaaah… you know that feeling… that wonderful, warm, cuddly feeling at the end of the novel when you found a big silly smile on your face? Yeah, that’s the one! That’s what The Intern has left me with and I can’t seem to get rid of it.

The story kicks off by talking about boobs and… exposing yourself (accidentally, of course!). What a great start and totally funny. I like the name Josie Browning; it’s just so down to earth and unassuming and that’s just what Josie is. She’s charmingly clumsy, lovable, naïve, considerate and kind. She’s just utterly adorable (despite some moments of frustration although now I’m speaking from an older woman’s perspective! I was probably just as naïve & clumsy as she was, at that age).

The Intern is a very easy read; the everyday English language combined with consistent light humour throughout the book easily makes it to be a read-in-a-single-sitting-book. I love pretty much all the characters here, the nice and the not-so-nice. I can’t say how true a reflection it is of the magazine world although if I have to take a stab, some characters are so stereotypical which is probably part of the humour of this story. The humour really does warm up the heart but the sweet romance will melt it.

There were 2 main instances where Josie frustrated me though that is part of her character which I just can’t understand. One instance was the time she was being so nice and forgiving –maybe this is more of a reflection of my character (rather angry & vengeful in comparison to Josie, I suppose)… Then there are also 2 more serious themes which I wish were explored deeper. These issues affected many teens out there and I believe would make great components to the book.

The Intern is a delightful debut by Gabrielle Tozer and I have really enjoyed this light innocent contemporary read (which is different to my usual reads). I’m looking forward to the sequel!

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Review: The Yearning

yearningThe Yearning by Kate Belle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: print copy courtesy of publisher

More than anything else, this was a cover crush for me. The teacher student encounter turned me off somewhat though I cannot but profess an undying curiosity as to what happened 20 years later. Nothing, I don’t think, can really prepare me for my venture into The Yearning.

The story began in the 70s and I could not help but laugh at the fashionable Solomon Andrews (sorry, 80s kid here – never got to live nor appreciate the 70s in its heyday). I cringed; I rolled my eyes; I snorted at the gushing over Solomon and, especially, his wear…

Darker and less burly than the rest, he was cool in tight flares and a smiley face T-shirt. It was a little too short for his waist and she smiled secretly at the smoothness of his belly…


A man strode in, his ponytail swinging in time with his hips. The clunk of his platform shoes drew all eyes to him. A gold medallion nested in a puff of chest hair rising from the open neck of his paisley body shirt, and his pants hugged his buttocks, leaving nothing to the imagination.

Oh, it was a terrific and promising beginning; I was hooked line and sinker! The first half of the book was practically put me in a daze, a sensual one. This is another thing, I don’t read much erotica so I was feeling a bit unbalanced by this tone. Despite this uncomfortable feeling (I was also reading on the train on the commute to work so imagine me cracking the book open only halfway so no one else can read over me!), I found this young girl’s sensual awakening to be an enjoyable read. Mostly because it made me remember some of the awkwardness of that age.

Then we jump years in time and life was somewhat normal… which was a little disappointing if not realistic. Her struggles are my struggles; struggles all women could identify with. And I wonder, how many of us made the following choice; it sounds really sad, at first, but so very sensible!

’I know what it is to have love, and I know what it is to lose it.’
She lay motionless, listening intently to what sounded like honesty.
‘I also know that not everything is about happy ever after. Sometimes we have to choose what’s best over what we think we want.’

In the end, however, it wasn’t about love. It wasn’t about sex. It wasn’t about relationship. This is about an affirmation of self; affirmation of women’s independence. I’m not talking about not needing men at all but rather the ability to identify oneself without having to refer to a nearby male and to be happy and functional with that identity. To me, The Yearning is an empowering novel which reminds us all that the power to be happy lies within us all and not dependent on anyone else.

Thank you, Simon & Schuster Australia for copy of book via The Reading Room

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