Category: Books

Book Review #16: By The Currawong’s Call by Welton B. Marsland

Posted 22nd November 2017 by Wattle in Books, Reviews / 6 Comments

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review #16: By The Currawong’s Call by Welton B. MarslandBy The Currawong's Call by Welton B. Marsland
Published by Escape Publishing on November 20th 2017
Genres: Australian, Historical, M/M Romance
Pages: 352
Format: E-Book
Source: NetGalley
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: four-stars
Heat Level: 2.5 Flames

A small town, a new arrival, and a love that is as undeniable as it is unlawful...

Victoria, Australia, 1891

Anglican priest Matthew Ottenshaw receives his first posting in tiny Dinbratten, two days’ ride from his Melbourne home. Determined to honour his calling as best he can, he throws himself into the footy mad, two-pub town, navigating the dusty streets, learning the gossip, and striking up a friendship with Jonah Parks, the resident police sergeant and local bona fide hero.

A police officer and a priest often find themselves needed at the same place, and Jonah and Matthew’s friendship deepens quickly, as they set about their business of protecting the bodies and souls of Dinbratten’s residents. When a bushfire threatens the town, and Matthew’s inexperience with fire endangers the church buildings, Jonah comes to the rescue, and a reckless kiss in the midst of the chaos takes their friendship to forbidden.

Neither Matthew nor Jonah can go back to the way things were before, but continuing their relationship puts everything at risk: their jobs, their friends, even their lives. In the outback town of Dinbratten where everyone knows everything about everyone else, how can they ever expect to keep a secret this explosive?

In 1891 homosexuality was illegal, and for much of this story it was a cloud hanging over Matthew and Jonah. Something that could destroy both of their careers and send them to jail. Victoria, where this is set, didn’t legalise it until December 1980 – they were the second state to do so; the last did in 1997…the treatment of men convicted of sodomy is still being dealt with today. Legislation was introduced to parliament just a few weeks ago in my state to expunge historical convictions.

I would just like to remind everyone it’s 2017, and politicians in my country are currently arguing about how discriminatory people are allowed to be to gay people if they choose to get married when it is (finally) legalised, hopefully before Christmas (not holding my breath).

Oops. Tangent. Let me get back on topic.

By The Currawong’s Call is…not something I would have picked to read myself, but I was in such a mood for m/m romance and nothing else jumped out at me. I picked it up on NetGalley a while back thinking ‘I’ll totally read this within the next few months!’ and to my surprise, I actually did!

My favourite thing is probably the setting. I spent the first part of my life in bush suburbia in Victoria, I’ve driven through many a country town in various states. Victoria will always feel like home, I could see it all in my mind. Simple buildings, unsealed roads, dust, trees, kangaroos. Perfect.

For the first half of the book though, I was a wee bit bored. Matthew was fine, Jonah was fine. But I didn’t get their chemistry at ALL. I would have liked to have seen more of what Matthew did as the new local priest, instead we were just told ‘he did X, Y and Z’. The background characters were just that, background and barely rated a mention. I didn’t really feel much life in it.

But as soon as they went to Melbourne? It became so much more interesting! I’m not sure if it was the change of scenery, or the fact they were doing more than hanging out together (though they were still sneaking around), but it’s like everything just jumped off the page and came to life. And I ended up adoring them together ♥

Because of how mixed I felt about it, I had a difficult time rating everything. The pacing was a bit shit at first, but then it just fell into place. Everyone was 2 dimensional, until they weren’t. Hmmm. I gave it 4 stars simply because it left me grinning like an idiot when I finished; and I reckon if I read it again it’d feel like a different book.

And as much as I enjoyed the second half, the epilogue was my favourite bit. I don’t think it’s a spoiler, but I’ll put it behind a spoiler cut anyway: View Spoiler » I do wish we had a bit more of them afterwards though, I would have liked to know what happened.

All in all this was a satisfying read once it got going. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for more by Welton B. Marsland.

Fact of the day: the currawong is an Australian bird that looks like a raven/crow (but a bit smaller, and doesn’t sound like them) and has yellow eyes. I’ve never seen one to my knowledge, but I live out west and they are on the east coast. When I’m over there next I shall keep my eyes peeled!

They sound like this (yes, I got that curious lol)

Rating Report
Plot
four-stars
Characters
four-stars
Writing
four-stars
Pacing
three-stars
Overall: 3.8

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Book Review #15: A Fatal Collection by Mary Ellen Hughes

Posted 8th November 2017 by Wattle in Books, Reviews / 19 Comments

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review #15: A Fatal Collection by Mary Ellen HughesA Fatal Collection by Mary Ellen Hughes
Series: Keepsake Cove Mystery #1
Published by Midnight Ink on November 8th 2017
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 264
Format: E-Book
Source: NetGalley
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Callie Reed makes a long overdue visit to her aunt Melodie, who lives in a fairy-tale cottage in quaint Keepsake Cove, home to a bevy of souvenir and collectible shops on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Just as they’re beginning to reconnect, Callie discovers her aunt’s body on the floor of her music box shop. Grief-stricken, Callie finds she can’t accept Melodie’s death being called accidental. How could her strong and healthy aunt take such a fatal fall? And why was she there in the middle of the night?

As Callie searches for the truth, signs seem to come from her late aunt through a favorite music box, urging Callie on. Or are they warnings? If Callie isn’t careful, she could meet a similar deadly fate amid Melodie’s collection.

A Fatal Collection is my first experience of Mary Ellen Hughes and it certainly won’t be my last! I was a bit worried because this started at breakneck speed, and I thought it would continue that way and be a nightmare pacing wise; but it was really enjoyable.

The mystery starts almost straight away. Callie is visiting her Aunt Melodie for the first time in years, they spend an evening catching up; but the next morning Callie awakes to find her Aunt dead in her own store. Her death is quickly ruled an accident, and as Callie is preparing to return home she’s told that she has inherited everything.

She sees this as an opportunity for a fresh start and to leave her deadbeat boyfriend (I’m so glad he only featured in phone calls!) But she’s unsettled by how quickly everything was resolved, and wonders if there’s more to her Aunt’s death.

Keepsake Cove is a community of people with stores that sell collectibles (I found that a bit ridiculous, but I guess perhaps somewhere it could be a thing). Melodie’s store sells music boxes, and Callie takes her time to learn all the stock in the shop and goes on a mission to meet the other shop owners in the area.

There’s some interesting small community dynamics going on here, with some bickering between parties and some suspicious folk around. I enjoyed the secondary characters and I hope we see more of them in the future. There’s also a slight hint at a potential romance that was pretty cute, but in no way impacted on the main plot.

I liked that Callie wasn’t chummy with the police, and indeed, they barely featured at all. I did peg the murderer soon after meeting them, they just didn’t seem right to me. And I do enjoy being right haha

After the initial ‘whoa this is happening really quickly!’ moment at the start, the pacing turned out to be great. It flowed at a steady pace and the writing certainly kept me engaged.

This was a really enjoyable cozy mystery, though a bit predictable. I’m definitely looking forward to continuing the series!

Rating Report
Plot
four-stars
Characters
four-stars
Writing
four-stars
Pacing
three-half-stars
Cover
four-stars
Overall: 3.9

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Book Review #14: The Best Little Christmas Shop by Maxine Morrey

Posted 1st November 2017 by Wattle in Books, Reviews / 14 Comments

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review #14: The Best Little Christmas Shop by Maxine MorreyThe Best Little Christmas Shop by Maxine Morrey
Published by HQ Digital on November 3rd 2017
Genres: Chick Lit, Christmas, Holiday, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: E-Book
Source: NetGalley
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: two-stars

Come home for Christmas to the Best Little Christmas Shop – the snowiest, cosiest place you can be!

Home for the holidays…

Icing gingerbread men, arranging handmade toys and making up countless Christmas wreaths in her family’s cosy little Christmas shop isn’t usually globe-trotter Lexi’s idea of fun. But it’s all that’s keeping her mind off romance. And, with a broken engagement under her belt, she’s planning to stay well clear of that for the foreseeable future…until gorgeous single dad Cal Martin walks through the door!

Christmas takes on a whole new meaning as Lexi begins to see it through Cal’s adorable five-year-old son’s eyes. But, finding herself getting dangerously close to the mistletoe with Cal, Lexi knows she needs to back off. She’s sworn off love, and little George needs a stability she can’t provide. One day she’ll decide whether to settle down again – just not yet.

But the best little Christmas shop in this sleepy, snow-covered village has another surprise in store…

DNF at 42%

*sigh* I don’t normally review books I don’t finish, however I’m making an exception. I’ve found that I like reading other’s reviews of DNF reads (particularly of books I like!) because it’s neat to get a different perspective.

I was drawn to this novel because of the cover – look at it, it’s so cute! And the synopsis sounded promising. I tried really hard to finish The Best Little Christmas Shop, as I didn’t want to give up on it. But I just couldn’t do it.

It started out so well. Lexi had returned home after a period away and some drama in her work and personal life. Her family runs a store that changes with the season, and in the lead up to Christmas there’s some serious wreath making and decorating going on.

I liked Lexi’s family, well, mainly one of her brothers. Their relationship seemed sweet and I was hoping that feel would continue throughout. But then we met the love interest, Cal, and it all fell apart.

Unfortunately there was no chemistry between Cal and Lexi at all. She seemed to misunderstand most of what he said, only for him to have to reassure her that he didn’t mean it like that.

Another thing that annoyed me was her constant comparisons of herself and other women (eg: her best friend), how she’s not feminine and delicate, what does anyone see in her. Gosh. And there was a passing thought of another lady not having pure intentions when it came to interacting with Cal (heaven forbid he possibly has female friends that aren’t her friends too).

The stereotypes of women really grated on my nerves, I can’t stand it when women put themselves, or others, down because they don’t meet the supposed expectations of society and what it is to be female. I just couldn’t enjoy this story at all; though George, Cal’s young son, was adorable.

I did read the end to make sure I didn’t want to continue to see how that played out, and all it did was make me roll my eyes so…nope.

I’m sure plenty out there will enjoy this book as a bit of fun, Christmassy, escapism. But it just wasn’t for me.

Rating Report
Plot
one-star
Characters
one-star
Writing
two-half-stars
Pacing
two-stars
Cover
four-stars
Overall: 2.1

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Book Review #13: A Scone to Die For by H.Y. Hanna

Posted 30th October 2017 by Wattle in Books, Reviews / 12 Comments

Book Review #13: A Scone to Die For by H.Y. HannaA Scone to Die For by H.Y. Hanna
Series: Oxford Tearoom Mysteries #1
Published by Wisheart Press on January 17th 2016
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 335
Format: E-Book
Source: Owned
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

When an American tourist is murdered with a scone in Gemma Rose’s quaint Oxfordshire tearoom, she suddenly finds herself apron-deep in a mystery involving long-buried secrets from Oxford’s past.

Armed with her insider knowledge of the University and with the help of four nosy old ladies from the village (not to mention a cheeky little tabby cat named Muesli), Gemma sets out to solve the mystery—all while dealing with her matchmaking mother and the return of her old college love, Devlin O’Connor, now a dashing CID detective.

But with the body count rising and her business going bust, can Gemma find the killer before things turn to custard?

A Scone to Die For is the first book in a cozy mystery series – Oxford Tearoom Mysteries. I was drawn to it because Lola reviewed it on her blog, and the cover is so cute! I’m a sucker for a cutesy cozy cover.

Cozy mystery staples: Cats? Check. Baking? Check. For some reason the main character finds herself investigating a murder despite police involvement? Check.

This little novel was very easy to read and went along at a good pace, but some things I found weird/annoying. For example:

  • Cassie’s exasperation at Gemma’s simple curiosity about a piece of paper she saw felt too strong and really odd.
  • Gemma missed Jaffa Cakes while in Sydney. If I can go to a supermarket in Perth (and before that, an independent grocery or British food shop) and find them in every international section, I’m SURE you can get them in Sydney! I love Jaffa Cakes, and have been getting them here for 20 years.
  • Am I nitpicking? I feel like I’m nitpicking.
  • Devlin’s need to over-explain things felt like he thought Gemma was stupid, which in turn made me dislike him a bit. And why would he even discuss a case with her in such detail? They’ve not seen each other for 8 years!

On the plus side, I liked much of it:

  • The old ladies were a delight; sticking their noses in and doing a bit of sleuthing.
  • I twigged who the killer was right before Gemma did, talk about stressful! This one had a pretty good mystery, and it kept me guessing. I had conversations with myself that went: “No…wait…could it be? Too obvious. Or is it? Maybe the author is trying to psych me out…” and so on.
  • Gemma herself is a good main character, she’s believable and likeable; even if she does make some questionable decisions.
  • Cats! Recipes! Is it a true cozy without at least one of these things? Bonus points for both haha. I love that Muesli is based on the author’s cat (who is adorable) look at that face!

Overall this was a good cozy mystery, but had a few flaws with characterisation in my opinion; not everyone seemed natural. But I’m sure as the series goes on and I get to know everyone better, it will all gel together (having now read a few of these books, I am correct. This seems to be the case with a lot of cozy series!)

It did make me realise that I prefer my cozies set in the UK. I’m not entirely sure why, it’s probably all the BBC tv shows I watch starring amateur detectives (or maybe it’s just Midsomer Murders, which seems to always be on, and I always watch it!) I’ve read a number of American ones, but quaint and English is definitely my preferred setting.

If you like cozy mysteries (and sweet foods) I would definitely recommend this for a lazy day of reading! It’s a good start to a series that just gets better as it goes along.

Also, the first book is currently free on Amazon (kindle) 🙂

Rating Report
Plot
four-stars
Characters
four-stars
Writing
four-half-stars
Pacing
four-stars
Overall: 4.1

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Book Review #12: Taken by Jennifer Dawson

Posted 23rd October 2017 by Wattle in Books, Reviews / 12 Comments

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review #12: Taken by Jennifer DawsonTaken by Jennifer Dawson
Series: Undone #4
Published by Jennifer Dawson Publishing on October 24th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica, Romance
Pages: 407
Format: E-Book
Source: Author
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: four-stars
Series Rating: five-stars
Heat Level: 4 Flames

Brandon Townsend III

Rich, beautiful and entitled, once upon a time he was king of the trust fund babies. He took anything and anyone he wanted, until one day, he walked away without explanation. Now, he’s an untouchable mystery, one I’m determined to crack. And I’m not talking about anything mundane like his bed. No, I want something far more valuable.

I want into his head.

*

Veronica Westwood has blown into my life creating chaos in her wake, and I don’t know quite what to do with her. Rich, beautiful and entitled, she represents everything I’ve sworn off in life, and her being unexpectedly clever doesn’t change that. Instincts warn me to stay away, and that’s just what I intend to do, no matter her attempts to wear me down. I’m good at saying no, or at least I was until I met her. I don’t understand it, but she’s like a weakness, and a man like me can’t have weakness.

I simply won’t allow it.

Taken is the fourth book in the Undone series by Jennifer Dawson. You can find my reviews for the previous novels here:

1) Crave   2) Sinful   2.5) Unraveled   3) Debauched

I think…though I could be wrong, that this is also the last book of the series 😮 *sobs*

Brandon has always intrigued me, he’s the most detached of all of our dominant men, but perhaps the most interesting. I was excited to see that we were going to get his story, and jumped at the chance to read an ARC copy when it was offered.

Taken is dual POV, both Brandon and Veronica give us insight into the story. Brandon was born into a rich family; but opted to shun his status as the #1 trust fund kid and hit out on his own. He still appears at events every so often to appease his parents, and it’s at one of these events that he runs into Veronica. Or rather, she tracks him down.

Veronica, like Brandon, wants out of her privileged life. She’s determined to venture out into the world on her own, but to do that she needs a job. And that’s where Brandon comes in. Veronica is relentless in challenging him to hire her for a management position he’s had open for almost a year. And while he puts up a fight, Brandon loses and against his better instincts caves and gives Veronica what she wants. But it turns out they want so much more from each other. Try as Brandon might, they just can’t resist and it’s explosive (in more ways than one!)

It was great seeing all the characters from previous novels again, and to have a little more continuation to their stories and where they’ve all ended up.

I think Taken was a wee bit more kinky than the other instalments, but I didn’t find it as hot? Which probably makes no sense; I think the last one, Debauched, was a bit steamier. But it might just be how my brain works.

While Brandon and Veronica aren’t my favourite couple of the series, they were sure fun to read about! There’s a bit of drama toward the end that sort of threw me off the pace a bit. I could understand Brandon’s reaction, but it also perplexed me. I wanted to reach into the pages and give him a shake; he drove me (and Veronica) crazy for a short amount of time.

Dawson’s writing is addictive as usual, and I was up until just before 2:30am to finish this novel. I could not put it down! And then I woke up thinking about it, and then I just kept thinking about it.

At some point in the near future, I’m going to give this entire series a re-read. It’s worth it!

If you like your romance on the kinky side, I cannot recommend this series enough!

Rating Report
Plot
three-half-stars
Characters
four-stars
Writing
five-stars
Pacing
four-stars
Overall: 4.1

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Book Review #11: Christmas at the Gin Shack by Catherine Miller

Posted 18th October 2017 by Wattle in Books, Reviews / 12 Comments

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review #11: Christmas at the Gin Shack by Catherine MillerChristmas at the Gin Shack by Catherine Miller
Published by HQ Digital on October 13th 2017
Genres: Adult, Christmas, Holiday
Pages: 384
Format: E-Book
Source: NetGalley
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: two-half-stars

Welcome in the festive season with love, laughter and the perfect G&T in Christmas at the Gin Shack – the most uplifting holiday read of 2017!

Gingle bells, gingle bells, gingle all the way…

Olive Turner might have lived through eighty-four Christmases, but she’ll never get bored of her favourite time of year. And this one’s set to be extra-special. It’s the Gin Shack’s first Christmas – and there’s a gin-themed weekend and a cocktail competition on the cards!

But, beneath the dazzle of fairy lights and the delicious scent of mince-pies, Olive smells a rat. From trespassers in her beloved beach hut to a very unfunny joke played on her friends, it seems that someone is missing a dose of good cheer.

Olive knows she’s getting on a bit – but is she really imagining that someone in the little seaside town is out to steal Christmas? More importantly, can she create the perfect gin cocktail before Christmas Eve – in time to save the day?

I wasn’t aware at the time of requesting this book, but it’s a sequel to The Gin Shack on the Beach, which I have not read. And I think my experience suffered because of this.

After reading a couple of chapters I figured out something must have come before, so ended up googling and getting a brief rundown of the first book. Because we dived right into Olive’s life, without any recap at all, I had no idea who was who, who I was meant to like or who was relevant to the plot. There were so many side-plots and so many characters I really strugged to connect with anyone, and therefore didn’t really care about the distracting drama.

This would have been a cute, Christmassy read; but there was apparently evil forces at work, trying to take down the Gin Shack. A health scare for another character. A blossoming romance between another pair. A family drama. And uncertainty about a couple of characters motives.

It was just too much! The first 40% of the book I was mostly bored as it was all plodding along, then the next 20% was pretty good, and then everything just became so dramatic and a bit silly.

There were some humerous moments scattered throughout, Olive’s idea of a mobility scooter really made me laugh. But it just wasn’t enough to keep me interested for the whole novel.

If this had just focused on Christmas at the Gin Shack, with the Christmassy cocktail competition (which sounded fun!) and the sub-plot of someone trying to undo all their hard work with their bar; this would have been great. Alas, everything but the kitchen sink was thrown in, so it came across as rushed and it didn’t really feel like things were resolved properly at all.

The writing was okay, but the pacing was all over the place (due to everything that was going on), and it did get a little repetitive at times; though I assume that is just the nature of it being an ARC.

I’m afraid it’s just a 2.5/5 read for me, it had so much potential, but there was simply too much going on and not enough actual plot to sink your teeth into.

Rating Report
Plot
two-stars
Characters
three-stars
Writing
three-stars
Pacing
two-stars
Overall: 2.5

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Book Review #9: Here Comes The Witch by Ani Gonzalez

Posted 11th October 2017 by Wattle in Books, Reviews / 12 Comments

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review #9: Here Comes The Witch by Ani GonzalezHere Comes The Witch by Ani Gonzalez
Series: Main Street Witches #1
Published by FAC Publishing LLC on September 5th 2016
Genres: Cozy Mystery, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 178
Format: E-Book
Source: Lola's Blog Tours
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: three-stars
Series Rating: three-stars
Heat Level: 0.5 Flames

Jewelry designer Kat Ramos has come to Banshee Creek to break the famous Hagen House curse and, in order to do that, she must marry Liam Hagen. A vengeful ghost with a deadly history isn’t part of the deal, and neither is love. Will Kat be able to handle both? Or will the mystery of the cursed Hagen House remain unsolved?

 

This is apparently a cozy mystery (I think?) but it didn’t really read like one, it’s more a lighthearted paranormal. Cozy paranormal? That should be a thing!

It is a spinoff of another series, Banshee Creek, which I haven’t read. I don’t think I missed out on anything though – and indeed, it made me curious about that series itself, which I will have to check out at some point.

Our main character is Kat Ramos, she’s in town for an unusual business arrangement. To marry Liam Hagen, in the hopes of breaking a long held family curse on Hagen House. Then it can be sold and everyone can move on (one of Kat’s ancestors put a curse on the place). She’s doing this to make her dreams of owning a jewellery shop become a reality, as they will split the proceeds when the property sells.

There’s some quirky characters in this. The PRoVE team (Paranormal Research of Virginia Enterprises) were a delight, as was Amy from the Chinese restaurant (I hope there’s more about her in future instalments!) I liked Kat well enough, although her and Liam both made me roll my eyes. For a couple of people who had researched this place very well, they were both pretty dumb about it. Also, it was established that the house only had a grudge against Hagens, but then it seemed like it was against both families. Perhaps I interpreted it incorrectly to begin with?

Anyway. The writing was engaging, but the pacing was a bit slow at first, but then it ramped up and was a bit too fast. Things happened and suddenly it was over! I would have liked to seen the mystery of the house drawn out a bit more. We weren’t privy to Kat’s ‘solving’ of the ghostly mystery, which was disappointing. She was also one of those characters that just gets everything right first go, there wasn’t much tension at the climax. And the romance was…okay. It was just there, I didn’t feel strongly about it either way.

All in all it was a cute, fun read; if a bit short. I am curious enough to read more though!

I read this book thanks to Lola’s Blog Tours 🙂

Rating Report
Plot
three-stars
Characters
three-half-stars
Writing
three-half-stars
Pacing
two-half-stars
Overall: 3.1

About Ani Gonzalez

I write paranormal romantic comedy and cozy mystery (whew, that's a mouthful!) set in Banshee Creek, Virginia, The Most Haunted Town in the USA. My books feature feisty funny heroines dealing with a host of paranormal critters (ghosts, cryptids, pagan gods...the sky's the limit) and mysteries. They find magic, love and laughter and readers get to follow them every step of the way.

I love quirky towns with spooky stories, and, thanks to my books, I get to "live" in one year-around. In real life I live in a Minneapolis suburb (which is sadly lacking in ghosts) with my husband and three children and I'm still trying to adjust to the cold.

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My Favourite Genres

Posted 3rd September 2017 by Wattle in Books, Random Things / 10 Comments

I am struggling with motivation so much lately. Not just blog and reading related, but life related. Study is such a slog right now! I won’t talk about work, because that’s not great either. Roller derby training is good, aside from the fact I injured myself (outside of training) and haven’t been able to skate since my first session – my physiotherapist reckons I will be able to next week though, fingers crossed!

So I logged into my WordPress dashboard just now, and I was going to do a review, but I don’t want to do a review. Then I was going to do a general ‘this is what’s going on with me’ post, but I didn’t want to do that either (and I just covered that above, I suppose). And then I thought…I could talk about things I like, things book related…favourite things!

And here we are. A post about my favourite genres, and why they’re my favourite genres. Yay!(?) I’ve decided to do a top 3, to keep it simple.

1. Cozy Mystery

When cozy mystery was first offered to me, I was very, very confused by its existence. Was it mystery? Was it chick lit? Did it always involve baking and/or cats? It seemed a bit silly and I just didn’t want to read it. So I ignored it, and then…I can’t remember how this came about, read one by accident. That was the end of that! I read cozy when I want something light, something fun, and something predictable. There’s going to be a murder, the heroine is going to get in trouble for investigating, 95% of the time there WILL be baked goods. Sometimes I’m disappointed by cozies, but I’ve found a few reliable authors over the past few years (and I’m always willing to try more!) This is the genre I read when I’m in a rut.

Cozy mystery recommendation: You Can’t Get Blood Out of Shag Carpet by Juliette Harper. This book is a gem, I’m so sad there aren’t more in the series 🙁

2. Fantasy

Not high fantasy (well, not very often), but urban fantasy and ‘low’ fantasy (is that what it’s called?) I like it when fantasy is set in the recognisable world, when it seems possible that magic and monsters could exist. I guess it comes down to me feeling more connected when a setting is familiar?

Neil Gaiman is probably my favourite author – I like how absurd everything is, his work is a bit dark and there’s always some humour. Followed by Rick Riordan (I am a sucker for his YA stuff), J.K. Rowling (of course), Ilona Andrews, etc.

Fantasy recommendation: this is where I’d usually recommend Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman buuuuut let me shake things up, Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch, also known as Midnight Riot in the USA which makes zero sense, but whatever (the audiobook is also REALLY GOOD!)

3. Holiday/Christmas

Confession: I don’t really dig Christmas. Sure. I like having time off and eating lots, but it’s summer at Christmastime here and it’s always hot and eating hot food on a hot day? Not pleasant. It’s a holiday I find exhausting and it’s always followed by nothing but cricket being on tv.

Christmas themed books though? Give them to me! I tend to read them during July and then again in December. They’re almost always romance or chick lit, but they also always involve winter and that shiny happy ‘this is what Christmas should feel like!’ feeling (well, mostly) *sigh* I’ve read plenty of duds, but there’s some warm and fuzzy ones out there that I really do enjoy!

Christmassy recommendation: Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles by Eli Easton. Sappy m/m romance is one of my things 🙂 added bonus if it involves Christmas!

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Book Review #7: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Posted 21st June 2017 by Wattle in Books, Reviews / 16 Comments

I’m back! Uni has finished for the semester, and it ended horribly. I’m 99% sure I failed my Chemistry exam, given I only answered half the paper. But that’s okay! I can do it again! I’m not sure what it was about the first half of 2017, but I’ve never been less motivated to study in my life. Onwards and upwards though!

So here goes, a book review *gasp* last time I looked at my Goodreads account I was 4 books ahead of my goal, now I’m 4 behind. Oops!

Book Review #7: Practical Magic by Alice HoffmanPractical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Published by Penguin on August 5th 2003 (first published 1995)
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 286
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: two-stars

The Owens sisters confront the challenges of life and love in this bewitching novel from New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman.

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape.

One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic...

At 85 pages in, I knew how I was going to rate this book. I decided to read Practical Magic as I love the movie (and re-watching it made me go looking for the source material). Usually I prefer to read novels after seeing film adaptations, because they are much richer and add more to the world on the screen. Well. Most of the time.

This is not one of those.

The film is vastly different, the relationships are similar but the setting is not. On paper, those relationships that made the movie for me had absolutely no depth, and there isn’t much in the way of magic (I was really disappointed by this). Alice Hoffman’s writing is beautiful, but the characters felt so lifeless and flat.

I liked Sally until the focus of the story moved elsewhere; when it shifted back, she was lost to me. I didn’t connect with her, Gillian or Sally’s daughters. It was surprising to me how much it focused on the daughters actually, I quite disliked that element.

As for Gillian, she’s the beautiful one; but she’s so weak and spineless! Running away, getting into one relationship after another until she ends up with an abuser she knows she should leave, but won’t. Then he dies and she runs to Sally for help. She’s irresponsible, supposedly a ‘free spirit’, but she just came across as sad and pathetic (whereas in the film, she was rather charming).

And Sally always helps. ALWAYS. Ugh.

The point of view seemed to change from one character to another halfway through a paragraph, which was super disorienting. Unless I read it wrong (which is possible) but it was bizarre, I never usually have a problem with POV changes.

I almost DNF at 206 pages, and then thought that would be a waste, so finished it ASAP just to move on.

I simply cannot recommend this novel, it was lifeless and bland. The movie on the other hand, A+.

Rating Report
Plot
one-star
Characters
one-star
Writing
four-stars
Pacing
one-star
Overall: 1.8

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Book Review #6: Size Matters by Alison Bliss

Posted 12th February 2017 by Wattle in Books, Reviews / 12 Comments

Book Review #6: Size Matters by Alison BlissSize Matters by Alison Bliss
Series: A Perfect Fit #1
Published by Forever on November 29th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 337
Format: E-Book
Source: Owned
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: two-stars
Series Rating: two-stars
Heat Level: 2.5 Flames

The rules of (fake) engagement . . .
Leah Martin has spent her life trying to avoid temptation. But she's sick of low-fat snacks, counting calories, and her hyper-critical mom. Fortunately, her popular new bakery keeps her good and distracted. But there aren't enough éclairs in the world to distract Leah from the hotness that is Sam Cooper - or the fact that he just told her mother that they're engaged . . . which is a big, fat lie.

Sam sometime speaks before he thinks. So what started out as defending Leah's date-ability to her judgmental mother soon turned into having a fiancee! Now the plan is to keep up the fake engagement, stay "just friends," and make Leah's family loathe him enough to just call the whole thing off . But Sam has an insatiable sweet tooth, not only for Leah's decadent desserts but her decadent curves. Her full lips. Her bright green eyes. Yep, things aren't going quite according to plan. Now Sam has to convince Leah that he's for real . . . before their little lie turns into one big, sweet disaster.

I’m not entirely sure how to review this book. I absolutely hated parts of it, and other parts were really funny? And it was a bit…frustrating. There’s a few spoiler cuts in this review:

Let’s start at the beginning. Size Matters starts out badly – Leah is so focused on her size it made me uncomfortable, and her drowning her self pity in alcohol made me angry. I know it happens, we all have our insecurities, but her self esteem issues are very triggery and generally unpleasant to read.

My main issue with the book were the characters (ALL OF THEM). Sam’s inner monologue (where every sentence starts with “Hell…” I don’t care about the word itself, but it was so repetitive! “Damn” was used a lot too) did not help, going on about how he liked a woman with something to hang on to – I became worried this would slide into the ‘fetish’ zone (it didn’t, thankfully).

And then there was the fact that View Spoiler »

Leah’s mother View Spoiler » *shudders* if my mother was like that, I would disown her or at the very least spend as little time in her presence as possible. Leah herself just sucks it up and goes along with it (self esteem issues) which was endlessly frustrating. View Spoiler »

There were some laugh out loud funny moments, and then the negativity ramps up all over again. Sam is such a dick (and in a weird type of denial) and Leah isn’t any better. All this really boils down to is that neither of them can communicate, they are both stubborn and they’re not really likeable apart or together.

Leah needs to grow a backbone, and Sam needs to use his words. And her mother needs to butt out. The plot was completely ridiculous, I feel like it could have been executed much better (a fake fiancé story could be so fun!) but the mass of misunderstandings that took place just drew it out to the point of disbelief.

The one upside of this book is that it was written really, really well, and some of it was hilarious, but overall it just wasn’t for me because of the characters and their choices.

Rating Report
Plot
two-stars
Characters
half-star
Writing
four-stars
Pacing
two-stars
Overall: 2.1

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