Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Review: Haven

Title: Haven
Author: Lindsay J. Pryor
Publisher: 31st  October 2017 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 288 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: fantasy, paranormal, dystopian, science fiction
My Rating: 4 cups

A spin-off from the bestselling Blackthorn series by Lindsay J. Pryor, set in Lowtown, the neighbouring district to Blackthorn. The product of a brutal class system, the dark, gritty world of Lowtown will grip you and never let you go.
Every few days the handsome stranger comes into the café in Lowtown for an hour a time. Most of the time he keeps himself to himself - one drink and he leaves. Sometimes people meet with him but about what remains elusive, the edge of mystery and danger adding to his allure.
Not that Ember is allowed to think about him. She's finally on the cusp of gaining her citizenship and escaping Lowtown for good, so she can't be seen to be involved with a vampire - evidence of one single bite would be the end of her prospects. But when those prospects are rocked by her links to the district's dark underbelly, the stranger she must avoid could be her absolution - and she could be his . . .
My Thoughts

‘Haven’, Lindsay J. Pryor’s first standalone Lowtown novel is a worthwhile read. The best way I can sum it up is to say it is a mix of ‘Insurgent’ meets ‘Discovery of Witches’. This is best described as an urban fantasy novel with a bit of paranormal and romantic elements thrown into the mix - and the end result is interesting.

‘But she had no initiated powers anyway. She wouldn’t know what to do with them even if she did have. She didn’t even know what kind of witch she was’.

The author takes you to another world she has created (I have read no other Pryor books and this was never an issue) and most certainly she drops you slap bang right into the middle of all the action. The writing is engaging as you feel for the residents of Lowtown, their fear and desperation are palpable. At a deeper level, ‘Haven’ is about the dark and cruel side of humanity, rather than the focus being purely on the paranormal and the likes of witches or vampires etc. I liked that -  corruption and control is at the heart of this novel.

‘Does the morality behind killing someone vary according to the reason?’

The plot,the characters and the engaging writing make ‘Haven’ a worthwhile read. The new angle concerning the political and whole social injustice theme was interesting. Forgotten races, extortion and crime and the golden ticket chance to escape it. Yet amongst all this permeates integrity and hope, loyalty and love - a good balance of evil versus good. You will find yourself drawn into this world of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ - a simple oft repeated theme but one that is well executed.

‘And without doing what you do, what do you have left? Because you don’t have anything else, do you? Even this haven that you claim gives you freedom stops you from being a part of things.’

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, November 25, 2017

Release Blitz!! 'When in Rome' by C.J. Duggan

Title: When in Rome
Author: C.J. Duggan
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: November 26, 2017


The fourth standalone novel in CJ Duggan's Heart of the City series from the internationally bestselling author of the Summer and Paradise series.

What's the saying again . . . when in Rome, do a Roman?

How did a self-orchestrated gap year turn into a less-than enthralling lifestyle as a couch potato at her parents' house? Determined to get motivated and join life again, Sammi Shorten books a budget Bellissimo Tour to Rome, the Eternal City. What she hadn't signed up for was being stuck with an eclectic group of binge-drinking foreigners in a bed-bug-infested hostel from hell. Things in Rome really couldn't get much worse . . . could they?

When plans go completely awry Sammi's left with only one place to turn, and it's the one place Sammi really doesn't want to turn – to the man who might very well get her into the worst trouble of all: the gorgeous local tour guide, Marcello Bambozzi.

When in Rome is the fourth standalone book in CJ Duggan's sassy, sexy new adult series, Heart of the City.

My Thoughts

‘I kind of enjoyed their ulterior version of me: the lone-wolf Aussie that rocks up late to gatherings and woos sexy local men in the dead of night, instead of the girl who couldn’t handle her vino and needed the gallant Marcello to put her to bed.’

When I came across the first of C.J. Duggan’s ‘Heart of the City’ series, I did not realise the fun reads I would be in for. With a common theme of an Aussie girl overseas in a big city coming across local suave guy, it was bound to be amusing. Each book is unique and definitely a standalone (although this time round it was good to catch up with Sammi’s sister, Claire and Louis from Paris Lights briefly) with Duggan providing you with many laugh out loud moments - C.J. Duggan’s writing is bold, lively and really quite funny at times.

When in Rome continues on with the romantic comedy of previous instalments. Here we have a heroine on her “trip of a lifetime”, only to land smack-bang in the middle of a disaster - everything from the tour group to the very sad bed bug infested hotel. Some scenes and situations are sure to resonate on some level with those having travelled on a budget at any time of their life. It was another fun journey of discovery, as C.J. Duggan takes you not only around all the tourist traps of Rome but also a journey of self discovery for the lead character Sammi.  The imagery is most definitely engaging as it feels like you are wandering the ancient laneways of Rome, taking in everything from the Spanish Steps, to throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain.

‘Although it was never really possible to be alone in a city where people flocked for the history, culture and romance, there was something rather spectacular about plunging into the essence of Rome with only myself for company.’

So whilst I thought Paris Lights was hysterical, New York Nights great - this book was on a par with London Bound - good but not quite up to the first two. This one seemed to venture a little more into the definite ‘young adult’ audience with its backpacking, bed-hopping, budget-holiday experiences.

‘It was like a love triangle from a seriously fucked-up YA novel. ‘Should I ask? No, actually, don’t worry—I’ve had my fill of teen angst for one night. Goodnight, Sammi.’

Setting aside these issues,  I am still a fan of this series with witty banter, burning chemistry, hilarious and sexy encounters. If a quick, light and entertaining read is what you are after, then this is the book for you.

‘Being the youngest meant I always drew the short straw, and now, even on my independent, finally-becoming-an-adult holiday, here I was on the top bloody bunk again.’

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

Purchase Links


Author Bio

CJ DUGGAN is the internationally bestselling author of over ten books. She lives with her husband in a rural border town of New South Wales. When she isn't writing books about swoony boys and 90s pop culture you will find her renovating her hundred-year-old Victorian homestead or annoying her local travel agent for a quote to escape the chaos.

Author Links

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Review: The Betrayal

Title: The Betrayal
Author: Kate Furnivall
Publisher: 1 November 2017 by Simon & Schuster
Pages: 400 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, war, WWII
My Rating: 5 cups


Could you kill someone? Someone you love?

Paris, 1938. This is the story of twin sisters divided by fierce loyalties and by a terrible secret. The drums of war are beating and France is poised, ready to fall. One sister is an aviatrix, the other is a socialite and they both have something to prove and something to hide. Discover a brilliant story of love, danger, courage ... and betrayal.

My Thoughts

When I saw a new Kate Furnivall book, the rush was on ... where do I sign up? This author is a certain ‘go to’ as she just never fails to deliver. In this particular story, Kate has created an entertaining, intriguing and gripping story that I enjoyed from beginning to end. Packed full of details about the time preceding World War 2 and the rise of fascism in Europe, made this a gripping and intelligent read.

We begin in 1930, Paris, where a traumatic incident occurs, involving the twins, which has tragic consequences. Fast forward to 1938 just before WWII when Adolf Hitler and his party are on the the road to war.  Here unfolds a time of tumultuous confusion as events from the past keep coming back to haunt the sisters. This book will keep you guessing until the very end - so much intrigue, romance and ,yes betrayal, will see you furiously racing through pages to see how it all unfolds.

Furnivall is a master story teller. This is a book full of action with just enough romantic suspense thrown into the mix. You will love the dual narrative between the sisters, particularly Romy and her attempts to make good over perceived actions from eight years ago that she cannot fully remember. Furnivall’s descriptions of pre war Paris were real and insightful. Her research into aircraft and assistance to Spain, flawless - it reads as if you were on a mission with Romy.

The characters here - both primary and secondary - are brilliant! The twin sisters demonstrate such strength and resilience. The array of secondary characters exhibit a real depth of realism from those you cheer for, to those you are afraid of. This is a book about secrets and their impact in the form of lies and treachery. Yet through it all, there is this sense of strength and love - for sibling, for partners, for cause.

“The strong black lines of truth stand out. The lines are the scaffolding of life. They are made up of love. And hate. Love of someone. Of a cause. Of justice. Of self. Hate of someone. Of a cause. Of justice. Of self.”

From the very beginning, Furnivall will hit you with the impact of a certain event, and until the very end you will be engaged. Unusual for the heart of the story to be revealed in a prologue, but oh so clever, as the story then gradually unfolds of how this event affects the sister’s - love, guilt, intrigue, loyalty, murder.....

“I am afraid. Afraid of myself. Afraid of what is inside me. I am alone in a closed room with my dead father and I know I have murdered him.”

I cannot praise this book highly enough - a brilliant read, detailing the uncertainty of what lay ahead with the onset of WWII. ‘The Betrayal’  had me turning the pages so eager to find out what lay in store, especially for these sisters who shared such secrets and such love. Here is escapism at it’s finest - riveting storyline with plenty of punch in the plots. Please do yourself a favour and spend some time in pre-war France with these unforgettable characters.

‘I know you are a pain in the arse, hell bent on destroying yourself. The best damn flier I know, with enough courage for a whole squadron of fliers. With a generous heart and a frantic determination to drown yourself in a bottle. I don’t know what the hell happened to you in the past, Romaine, or what makes you push people away to stop anyone getting close.’

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, November 10, 2017

Review: The Austen Escape

Title: The Austen Escape
Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher: 7th November 2017 by Thomas Nelson
Pages: 336 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women's fiction, romance, chick lit, contemporary
My Rating: 4 cups

After years of following her best friend’s lead, Mary Davies finds a whimsical trip back to Austen’s Regency England paves the way towards a new future.
Mary Davies lives and works in Austin, Texas, as an industrial engineer. She has an orderly and productive life, a job and colleagues that she enjoys—particularly a certain adorable, intelligent, and hilarious consultant. But something is missing for Mary. When her estranged and emotionally fragile childhood friend Isabel Dwyer offers Mary a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in Bath, Mary reluctantly agrees to come along, in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways. But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes that she lives in Regency England. Mary becomes dependent on a household of strangers to take care of Isabel until she wakes up.
With Mary in charge and surrounded by new friends, Isabel rests and enjoys the leisure of a Regency lady. But life gets even more complicated when Mary makes the discovery that her life and Isabel’s have intersected in more ways that she knew, and she finds herself caught between who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who stands between them. Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this triangle works out their lives and hearts among a company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.
My Thoughts

I was excited to read this book, thinking it to be fun escapism. However, it proved to be so much more than that! Yes there was a romance and period dressing up, even the selection of characters revealed a subtle insight into their persona - but it is not just a simple retelling of a Jane Austen tale through modern eyes. The beauty and cleverness (if truth be told) of this story was placing someone from the present day into an Austen story and recounting it through their eyes and experiences. Combine that with homage paid to the great Jane Austen (‘Persuasion’ is here in all it’s glory with the misunderstandings and second chances) that one cannot help but be impressed.

“He twisted the book to see the spine. “Of course. Pride and Prejudice.” “I think they have one in every room.” “And why not? It’s a manual for life—setting right pride, prejudice, misconceptions, and self-illusions. Also some good fun.”

Oh! How I would love to go on such an ‘Austen Escape’ and lose myself in Regency England -  that alone would have been a fun tale. Yet that was a mere backdrop, in some ways, to the true message behind this tale. This is a book about friendships, forgiveness, growth and having the strength to be yourself. Each of the characters here have a checkered past, things they struggled to move on from and it’s good to take the journey into a fresh start with them.

“simply enjoy the costumes, the carriage rides, and the long walks, then sit here and check e-mail, work, or watch television.”

Then, of course, there is the insurmountable Jane Austen. You will relish the tributes to her books, the clever insights into the characters and plot with the inclusion of many a good quote. Fans of Austen will appreciate the many references, yet anyone would enjoy this character driven tale whether you were an Austen addict or not. Having read Katherine Reay's books before, I knew that she draws you into both place and person. This book demonstrates her ability to seamlessly switch between an escape to Regency England combined with the high tech of our modern world - ipads included! She will engage you with relatable characters and instill a sense of hope in you with a touch of realism.

“I mustered up a smile and looped my arm through hers. “We shall walk. When there are serious matters to discuss, Austen women walk.”

Take a break - though phones are allowed - and step inside an Austen character, not to discover who they are, but who you are! It’s witty, it’s fun and I highly recommend it to Austen fans for a sprinkling of all the famous and well loved characters she created, plus a whole lot more.

“She wrote with such precision that a single phrase evoked an emotional response. She elicited laughter, warmth, and even a sense of awe. Across two hundred years, I recognized her characters in the here and now. She wrote about people I knew.”

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

Monday, November 6, 2017

Review: Snowdrift and Other Stories

Title: Snowdrift and Other Stories
Author: Georgette Heyer
Publisher: 3 October 2017 by Sourcebooks Casablanca (first published 1960)
Pages: 368 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, short stories, romance
My Rating: 4 cups


The Queen of Regency Romance, Georgette Heyer, shines in this sparkling collection of fourteen short stories brimming with romance, intrigue, villainy, gallant heroes, compelling heroines, and, of course, the dazzling world of the Regency period.

Additional content in this re-issue of the Pistols for Two collection includes three of Heyer's earliest short stories, rarely seen since their original publication in the 1930s, as well as a Foreword by Heyer's official biographer, Jennifer Kloester.

Revel in a Regency world so intricately researched and charmingly realized, you'll want to escape there again and again in Heyer stories new and old.

My Thoughts

“Heyer delighted in writing sparkling comedies of manners, clever mysteries and incomparable Regency romances.”

For some time now, Georgette Heyer has been on my reading radar - I know! How can a historical fiction connoisseur such as myself, never have read Heyer! So here I go, and I thought these short stories for lovers of traditional Regency romances would provide a wonderful introduction.

‘Snowdrift and Other Stories’ anthology contains fourteen short stories, inclusive of three newer stories that have not been published, I am informed, for many years. What you have here is a taste test that provide lovely, entertaining escapist moments, filled with all that is good and fluffy - young women meeting (or thrown in the path) of wealthy men, in all sorts of variations; rich in period detail and filled with some of the wittiest dialogue I have come across.

“Only two things belied the air of primness she seemed so carefully to cultivate: the jaunty bow which tied her bonnet under one ear, and the twinkle in her eye, which was as sudden as it was refreshing.”

When you sign up for this, you know for certain what you are in for - and in this instance - that is a good thing. Almost every story revolves around travel or runaways, elopement, an Earl, Duke or some entitled male (always handsome of course) and a young innocent, trusting female. These are light-hearted and loads of fun, packed to the hilt with romance and intrigue. Allow yourself to get carried away with young heroines and dashing heroes. There is loads of humour, all providing for some great escapism.

On the whole, I am not a fan of short stories - with little time to develop plot or character affiliation. The few ‘insta-love’ tales may push your acceptance to the limits with their predictability; and, plot lines in some instances are quite similar and repetitive. Overall, however,  it really is an enjoyable collection on the whole.

These are tales that are best taken in bite sized pieces whilst sipping that therapeutic cup of tea. If this is to your taste, you will thoroughly enjoy Heyer’s early works - an expert storyteller who can succinctly entice you with a lavish plot and engaging characters in the minimal amount of pages. Truly, take the journey to Regency England with these charming and romantic tales.  

Author of over fifty books, Georgette Heyer is one of the best-known and best-loved of all historical novelists, making the Regency period her own.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Review: Kiss Carlo

Title: Kiss Carlo
Author: Adriana Trigiani
Publisher: 10 August 2017 by Simon & Schuster UK
Pages: 540 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, romance
My Rating: 3.5 cups

From the beloved bestselling author of The Shoemaker’s Wife comes an exhilarating novel of friendship, family, love and loyalty.
It’s 1949 and South Philadelphia is bursting with possibility. The arrival of an urgent telegram from Italy upends the life of Nicky Castone,a young man who, orphaned as a child, now lives with his Uncle Dom and his large and boisterous family in the city. Surely there is more to life than this, despite a steady job in the family business and a sweet-natured fiancee?
In secret, Nicky begins moonlighting at the local Shakespeare theatre company and is quickly drawn to the stage, its colourful players… and to feisty Calla Borelli, who runs the show. Before long he finds himself on the horns of a dilemma: can he return to the conventional life his family expects of him? Or does he have what it takes to chart a new course and risk losing everything he cherishes?
Told against the backdrop of some of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies, this epic novel brims with romance as long-buried secrets are revealed, mistaken identities are unmasked, scores are settled, broken hearts are mended and true love reigns. Kiss Carlo is a jubilee, resplendent with hope, love and the abiding power of la famiglia.
My Thoughts

I am such a fan of Adriana Trigiani’s writing, so it’s hard to turn down a new read from her. And whilst this read contained all her usual flair, it proved just a little too long to be truly compelling. At over 500 pages this is an epic family drama of Italian-American families in post war USA. Inspired by her own family experiences, Adriana details tales of love, loyalty, adventure and hope in this post war society.

“He leaned over the sink, looked in the mirror, and thought, Everything must change.

There are many tales to enjoy from this book from the feuding brothers to taxi dispatcher, Hortense, to the variety of comic daughter-in-laws.  However, the bulk of the story revolves around Nicky and Calla and their respective journeys: Nicky’s search for a life with meaning and Calla’s quest to save the family owned theatre. The problem is in fact, there are just too many stories all loosely based around family, and it’s difficult to keep track of.
“Nicky Castone decided he must not die until he had lived.”

If some of the plots could have been trimmed or even excluded, it would have made a world of difference, as this book seemed to stretch on for far too long. I struggled to appreciate the whole ambassador’s role and the mistaken identity seemed a little far fetched. And with SO many characters to keep track of, it took some of the enjoyment out of it - many storylines and dilemma’s to resolve, it detracted from getting deeper into the true search for meaning for the main characters.

“Why are you so determined? Who put you in charge of the happy ending of my life story?”

Adriana Trigiani could never really write a ‘bad’ book and this simple tale, with no great highs or lows,  has much to offer. You respect Nicky’s desire for more from life, you rally behind Calla’s efforts to save her livelihood and passion; but the book needed to be shorter and more interactive to score higher from me.

“What did you mean by that? If something doesn’t happen to you —”
“You heard right. If something doesn’t happen to me, this life is all for nothing.”

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