Sunday, January 28, 2018

Review: The Space Between Us: a Boxer Romance

Title: The Space Between Us: a Boxer Romance
Author: Alyne Hart
Publisher: 31 January 2018 by Amazon Digital Services LLC
Pages: 320 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: FictionContemporary Romance
My Rating: 4 cups

Love isn’t always simple. And it’s definitely not as predictable as aspiring ballet dancer Emma Winchester’s life. Or at least the way her life used to be until Dean King forced his way into her world and heart – now there’s no turning back.

Emma returned to her hometown of Evansdale after leaving for college when tragedy struck. She and her brother Forrest are now the sole owners of Winchester Estate Orchards – but the apple business has never been Emma’s passion. Dancing is. Until she bumps into Dean King, her older brother’s ex-best friend and the object of her teenage crush and her whole world changes. She knows she’ll hurt her brother if she keeps seeing Dean, but she can’t stay away. He took her virginity, and how he's taken her heart.

Tall, handsome and tattooed boxer Dean King is nothing out of a fairy tale. He’s brooding and moody, and he doesn’t believe in love. But when he runs into Emma at the diner she works at, something ignites inside of him. A fire. A desire that’s all but consuming in a way he doesn’t understand.

Dean’s life has never been simple, and it’s never been predictable. Coming from a poor family and having an alcoholic and neglectful mother left him with scars he’d just as soon forget. He left Evansdale to get away from the memories and reputation that have haunted him – until his grandmother Rose, the only person who’s ever told him they loved him is dying. Dean will do whatever it takes to take care of his Mama Rose. Even if it means selling his soul.

Fate brings them together. Burning passion binds them. When the fires get too hot, can love save them? 

This novel is a standalone in the Men of Evansdale County series. No cheating. No cliffhangers and a guaranteed HEA. Contains adult material including, but not limited to: scenes of violence (boxing matches) sex and language.

My Thoughts

There is nothing more satisfying than a second chance romance, unless, it is a second chance romance between a rough around the edges, bad boy boxer and a dainty and loving aspiring ballerina. Dean struggles to keep the demons of his past under control with his fists and by keeping everyone at a distance with his less than charming personality. Returning to take care of one of the few people he cares about, his grandmother Mama Rose, he wants nothing more than to train at his mentor Tony's Gym and fight, hard and bloody .  Then he sees Emma Winchester again and instead of the scrawny 14 year old with braces and frizzy hair that he grew up with, she is all grown up, beautiful, dainty and sweet. The sister of his ex-best friend, innocent and in love with him since she was a child, Emma is everything that Dean shouldn't want, but he does want her, bad. Forbidden fruit has never been so tempting and Dean gives in to the allure of her love even knowing he is selfish to do so.  But of course the road to true love never runs smoothly and they will have a fight on their hands, both in the ring and out of it. 

Alyne Hart's The Space Between us, is a well written contemporary romance that explores the emotional turmoil that results when two very different people are drawn to each other, in spite of their perceived differences.  They have so little in common. Dean is fire and Emma is rain.

He is an emotionally damaged, live in the moment, tattooed boxer from the wrong side of town,  with a bad attitude, lots of anger, and some seriously well developed distancing skills, while Emma is the much loved second child of orchard owners, who is driven to succeed as a dancer, a perfectionist, a life planner, and an innocent in every sense of the word.   I found this story to be an honest and gritty portrayal of a couple who want so much to be everything to each other but who struggle to overcome all the things that are infesting the space between them.

"Maybe I did grown up a little ... privileged or whatever it is that you think puts a space between us. But why does it even matter? Because you know that when we're together, nothing else matters. I've seen your soul, Dean. .....It just made me love you more".

The support characters of Dean and Emma's best friends Vin and Siobhan, Dean's brother, restaurateur Flinn, and Emma's brother (and Dean's ex-best friend) Forrest are engaging and well developed and I am looking forward to finding out more about them and reading their stories. 

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

Friday, January 26, 2018

Review: Heart on Fire

Title: Heart on Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #3)
Author: Amanda Bouchet
Publisher: 2 January 2018 by Hachette Australia/Piatkus
Pages: 448 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: fantasy, romance, mythology, magic
My Rating: 4 cups


The riveting conclusion to the Kingmaker Chronicles!

Who is Catalia Fisa?
With the help of pivotal figures from her past, Cat begins to understand the root of her exceptional magic, her fated union with Griffin Sinta, and Griffin's role in shaping her destiny.

Only Cat holds the key to unlocking her own power, and that means finally accepting herself, her past, and her future in order to protect her loved ones, confront her murderous mother, and taking a final, terrifying step--reuniting all three realms and taking her place as the Queen of Thalyria.

What doesn't kill her will only make her stronger...we hope.

My Thoughts

I was very satisfied with the ending to this series - I really enjoyed it. My review of A Promise of Fire here and my review of Breath of Fire here will help get you up to speed with the series so far. I loved the first book in the series, was a little disappointed in the second book but found the third left me very satisfied. If you are a lover of fantasy and magic, romance and mythology - then this is the series for you. The author has created an amazing world with super strong characters and action aplenty.

‘Oh Gods. I don’t just represent Elpis. I am Elpis—the personification and spirit of hope.’

In this third installment, many loose threads and questions are addressed and tied up - I don’t want to reveal any of the plot, but suffice to say there is still the recipe of betrayal and friendship, love, trust and hope. It really is an all round series with solid storylines and compelling action. Heart on Fire sees Cat mature and take the journey towards learning how to wield the power and magic she has. This is a new and mature Cat who is growing and learning with the ever reliable Griffin by her side.

‘I had all the pieces. I just didn’t know how to put them together before now.’

This is a most worthy conclusion to the Kingmaker Chronicles as the final confrontation with Cat’s mother is looming and the realms attempt to unite as one. The aspect I found appealing about this book was the inner growth, not just of Cat, but all your favourite and well loved characters. I am sure the author will in time, venture back into this amazing world she has created.

‘I know there are things I’ll do, things I won’t, and things I’ll always struggle with. And in the perpetual gray of Tartarus, I take a deep breath and finally decide that that’s okay.’

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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Review: Million Love songs

Title: Million Love Songs
Author: Carole Matthews
Publisher: 4th January 2018 by Hachette (Australia), Sphere
Pages: 400 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, chick lit
My Rating: 4.5 cups

After splitting up with her cheating ex-husband, Ruby Brown is ready for a change. She's single again for the first time in years and she's going to dive into this brave new world with a smile on her face and a spring in her step. The last thing she's looking for is another serious relationship.
Mason Soames represents everything Ruby wants right now: he's charming, handsome, and perfect for some no-strings-attached fun, and yet Ruby can't help feel that something is missing. Joe Edwards on the other hand is also lovely and handsome but he comes with the sort of baggage Ruby wants to avoid: an annoyingly attractive ex-wife and two teenage children.
Ruby soon has some very tough decisions to make. Is she ready for a relationship of any kind, and what type of life does she really want? Because while Ruby may think she knows what she wants, is that what she needs to be truly happy?
My Thoughts

‘Life should get easier once you leave the playground, but it doesn’t. Then you think you’ll have it sorted in your teens and you don’t. So you hurtle into your twenties when you’re sure you’ll crack the meaning of life. Yet here I am in my late thirties and I’m still all at sea.’

When you are looking for a solid, reliable read with some quality escapism, then Carole Matthews will always provide. This is a highly entertaining read with many a humorous moment. As Matthews says, it’s just about an ordinary woman trying to discover what is right for herself with lots of bumps along the way. You have to admire the lead character Ruby as she tries to work through things:

‘I was a little bit frightened of change. That’s no reason to stay anywhere, is it?’

I always enjoy Mathews humour, there is much to smile about whilst reading - everything from Ruby’s friend pursuit of the boy band, to her search for potential hobbies, their ‘muffin top’ laments and just some great one liners that really resonated with me, thus making the characters and story relatable:

‘I’m fretting about catching pneumonia or pleurisy by going out with damp hair –the things that your mother tells you leave scars for life .’

‘I try to pull it down at the sides. ‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it,’ Charlie instructs.
‘I don’t think I have got it. I’m pretty sure it went a long time ago.’

The two love interests for Ruby could not be more different - but I guess that was the point. Whilst I appreciated her indecision, sometimes her decisions were perplexing. But again, standing at the side, it’s easy for me to draw rational conclusions - this was Ruby’s journey I guess and she had to go through all the highs and lows. I also loved the whole 80s boy band saga but at times this too was drawn out just a tad too much for my liking.

Overall this is a fun book with much to endear itself to the reader. Do yourself a favour, take a break from the craziness of life and spend some time getting to know Ruby and the gang.

‘I’m content for the first time in a long time. Sometimes we hurtle through life, don’t we? I’m rushing off to work or racing round the supermarket, doing a dozen other things that I really don’t want to be doing and it’s easy not to stop and simply take a breath.’

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

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Review: The Alice Network

Title: The Alice Network
Author: Kate Quinn
Publisher: 22 May 2017 by Harper Collins Australia
Pages: 503 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, world war
My Rating: 5 cups


In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth matter where it leads

My Thoughts

“I don’t want to just be pretty when I grow up. I want to do something different. Write a book. Swim the Channel. Go on safari and shoot a lion ....”

I have been eager to sample a Kate Quinn novel and finally I  know why. Wow! Books like this are the reason why I love historical fiction so much. This is one compelling and powerful story that confronts you with war and the role of women in espionage roles based on actual people and events. Quinn effortlessly takes you from 1915 to 1947 as she recounts the story of one of the most successful spy rings called the Alice Network.

“She slipped her hand through Eve’s elbow. “Welcome to the Alice Network”.

Both stories are strongly told through riveting female leads and are shockingly confrontational in both honesty and vigour. The research is faultless as is the backdrop of the French countryside - whether you be in war torn Lille in 1915 or driving across the French countryside in 1947. Incredible female leads in both time periods, supported by an amazing cast of supporting characters. You will be shocked. You will be horrified. And your heart will break with all that unfolds. Given the strong factual base, Quinn is amazing in the life she brings to both fiction and non fictional characters. Seamlessly she takes you from events in 1915 as the suspense builds, to 1947 as you await to see just how this will all be played out. The way the chapters symmetrically reflect time and location is spellbinding.

“I wanted to say to the figure hunched in the backseat, I’m sorry - but words were just air, useless after a tale like that.”

I dare you not to be chained to your chair as your fate seems intrinsically linked to Charlie’s journey and growth in 1947 as she desperately searches for her cousin, to the slow revelations of Eve’s role in the Alice Network in 1915 - how the stories are linked is just too good to be true. Eve, so bitter and damaged, driven by revenge, is truly magnificent. An ‘Author’s Note’ clearly accounts for who and what occurred in real life and you will be truly surprised on just how much truth lay in this incredible tale. The story is fascinating and riveting as you learn of real life heroines who risked it all in a display of true strength and courage, Quinn going to great lengths to ensure their tale would not be forgotten.

“If I were a man you’d be calling me patriotic for wishing to continue in my duty to my country .... a woman wants the same thing and she’s suicidal”.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough and commend Quinn in her thorough and rich portrayal of the sacrifices and injustices that war delivered to these people that were, ‘The Alice Network’.

“War. Such a small, hopeless syllable to cover so much loss”.

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, January 6, 2018

Review: The Naturalist's Daughter

Title: The Naturalist’s Daughter
Author: Tea Cooper
Publisher: 18th December 2017 by Harlequin (Australia), TEEN / MIRA
Pages: 356 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, Australia
My Rating: 5 cups

Two women, a century apart, are drawn into a mystery surrounding the biggest scientific controversy of the nineteenth century, the classification of the platypus.
1808 Agnes Banks, NSW
Rose Winton wants nothing more than to work with her father, eminent naturalist Charles Winton, on his groundbreaking study of the platypus. Not only does she love him with all her heart, but the discoveries they have made could turn the scientific world on its head. When Charles is unable to make the long sea journey to present his findings to the prestigious Royal Society in England, Rose must venture forth in his stead. What she discovers there will change the lives of future generations.
1908 Sydney, NSW
Tamsin Alleyn has been given a mission: travel to the Hunter Valley and retrieve an old sketchbook of debatable value, gifted to the Mitchell Library by a recluse. But when she gets there, she finds there is more to the book than meets the eye, and more than one interested party. Shaw Everdene, a young antiquarian bookseller and lawyer, seems to have his own agenda when it comes to the book but Tamsin decides to work with him to try and discover the book’s true provenance. The deeper they delve, the more intricate the mystery becomes.
As the lives of two women a century apart converge, discoveries rise up from the past and reach into the future, with irrevocable consequences…
My Thoughts

Having been impressed with Tea’s, ‘Currency Lass’, (review HERE) I was happy to see her new tale, ‘The Naturalist’s Daughter’, tackling strong female historical figures once again. This truly is such a heartfelt story and I thoroughly enjoyed both dual time narratives that were so very cleverly linked.

Set one hundred years apart, both Rose in 1808 and Tasmin in 1908 have much to offer the reader with their courage and tenacity. Rose’s story is heart wrenching as she travels to England to represent her father and not only face humiliation but also conflicting familial connections (the secondary story is in itself is quite fascinating - Tea gives us a little gothic mystery on the English moors - I mean truly - this tale has it all!) Tasmin in 1908 and her pursuit of discovering the truth, is both admirable for a woman of that age and the intrigue and mystery will grip you to the very end.

Then there is the historical story behind the platypus - I learnt so much, it was fascinating to read about this unusual Australian mammal. The way Tea interweaved fact and captivating fiction with both the historical debate over its existence right down to its extraordinary habits and characteristics is highly commendable. Rich in both intriguing historical and scientific facts, you will cheer for both the discoveries and lament the setbacks.

This is really a clever story that will have you piecing together all the puzzle pieces that have been masterfully crafted by Tea. I was captivated by not only the strength and determination of the two women, but the cast of secondary characters that range from their respective beau’s, to the parentage and familial relationships - both being deep and meaningfully conveyed.

Congratulations Tea on once again producing such a spellbinding and masterfully crafted tale of mystery and intrigue that will see the reader  journeying side by side with Rose and Tasmin to firstly uncover and then piece together the puzzle that is, ‘The Naturalist’s Daughter’.

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

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Review: Child of Africa

Title: Child of Africa
Author: T.M.Clark
Publisher: 20th November 2017 by Harlequin (Australia), TEEN / MIRA
Pages: 381 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: Africa, fiction
My Rating: 5 cups

After returning from Afghanistan, ex-British marine Joss Brennan embraces living as a double amputee, but he finds life at his safari lodge near Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe, not quite as idyllic as when he left.
Peta de Longe is a big game veterinarian and no stranger to hard decisions. Working in the messy political society of Zimbabwe, she’s engaged in a constant struggle to save the national parks. When she nearly drives over Joss, the reunion isn’t joyous – Joss let down her dying sister eighteen months before, after all. But once she uncovers the terrible ordeal that Joss has gone through, can she learn to forgive and move forward?
When a corrupt and dangerous businessman with close ties to government threatens all he holds dear, Joss realises he doesn’t need to save strangers in a faraway land. But will he fight to save his own country and the people he considers his family?
My Thoughts

‘Today you have proved you are a child of Africa. I will see you now-now.’

Having lived in Africa I have a great affinity for the wondrous continent. However, even if you don’t have personal experience, there is nothing like a well written tale that can truly transport you to far off places. T.M. Clark’s novel is one such tale. This is brilliant! I was fully engaged from beginning to end in this mind riveting story.

This tale has a little of everything, from intrigue and mystery that goes on to build tension and drama. If the individual tales of Joss and Peta (and her father) are not enough, the whole emotion surrounding corruption and poaching is heartfelt and real. The violence is confrontational, but it’s meant to be. On the flip side of this, is the beauty and majesty of the wildlife, especially elephants. The tale of Ndhlovy is truly touching and I just love how Clark followed through with her tale right to the end.

‘Poor guy. We’ll settle him down and get him used to his guards before he’s let out. He’ll never be alone again. Two teams of men will watch him twenty-four hours a day; it’s the only way I can keep them alive.’

I particularly appreciated the ‘Fact vs Fiction’ at the end, that detailed and debunked many of the core issues covered in this book. For example, ‘It is estimated that wild elephants will be extinct within twenty-five years’. A sad fact and this book helps highlight that more action needs to be taken now.

‘This country is so full of corruption, I do not know if we will ever get out from underneath the tyranny that is our leadership.’

I cannot recommend this book highly enough, especially for those of you interested in delving into this exciting genre. The writing is compelling as Clark weaves tales of corruption and traditions, ravages of war, poaching and preservation. Add to that a cast of characters - both human and animal - that demonstrate real depth, whether it be leadership and compassion, to being evil and sadistic - you have a story here that is worthy and totally engaging.

‘He had been so determined to go and fight against the injustice of the world with the commandos that he hadn’t noticed how messed up his own country had become.’

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