Saturday, March 24, 2018

RELEASE DAY! Hollywood Heartbreak by C.J. Duggan

Title: Hollywood Heartbreak
Author: C.J. Duggan
Publisher: 25 March 2018 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 320 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women's fiction, contemporary, new adult romance
My Rating: 4 cups

Abby Taylor is heading for the hills - the Hollywood hills. All she has to do first is exorcise some old demons, namely Cassie Carmichael, the character she has been playing on Australia's number one television drama for the past three years.
Wanting to escape the fear of typecasting and malicious magazine covers, Abby is in desperate need of a change. With a new city, new friends and a sweet new condo in West Hollywood, it's time to take her career to the next level. But with disastrous auditions and countless rejections, Abby is going to need to numb the pain in the hope that her next big break comes along, and it does. She just never dreamed that it would be in the form of waiting tables and splitting tips at one of the hottest night spots on the strip.
Action-packed late nights and VIP parties are a sure distraction, but nothing distracts her quite like her new boss, the infuriating Jay Davis. Suddenly living the dream takes on a whole new meaning, but when something in Jay's past is revealed, Abby has to question, who is the greatest actor of them all?
In the land of broken dreams, all Abby can do is hope that hers is not going to be one of them.
My Thoughts

‘Hollywood Heartbreak’ is the fifth standalone book in CJ Duggan's sassy, sexy new adult series, Heart of the City. I can say I have thoroughly enjoyed each of these stories with the common theme of an Aussie girl overseas in a big city coming across local suave guy, it never fails to provide entertainment. Each book is unique and definitely a standalone. My reviews for the books in this series thus far, can be found HERE. Each of Duggan's stories has a different setting, but the theme of trying to start afresh and find yourself, is always a consistent. This of course makes it so relatable to many, assisted by seeing it through the eyes of a character who is always so very down to earth.

‘We really just need to surround ourselves with the right people and focus on the things that are real.’

One of the most appealing aspects about this book is, as the author herself states, “wanting to read Australian voices, no matter what city they may stand in.” So here we have Abby Taylor local Aussie TV star, trying to make it big in the States. Once again, I love how Duggan maintains everything so ‘Aussie’ about these girls but I think this one has a deeper, underlying message. Many a would-be star is often reported as making the trek overseas in an attempt to make it into the big time, and more often than not, losing out and returning home with proverbial tail between their legs. So for all the fun and laughter, I appreciated Duggan’s reflections:

‘Maybe that’s what the Hollywood sign symbolised: the ultimate, unattainable pinnacle of success, up above the smog, looking down on all the dreamers stuck here, choking.’

Another fresh insight in this instalment was the social commentary. For all the glitz and glamour, Duggan also gives us a female lead that goes in with her eyes wide open - with everything from social media to the infamous lifestyle of the rich and famous:

Abby, you know that privacy is just for people with low self-esteem –what you’re doing is social suicide.’

‘Pretending to be heroes and doctors and heartthrobs on a screen. None of it’s real! We all just take ourselves so seriously. We think that we’re something special, that our ridiculous stories of who’s dating who is somehow worthy of a three-page spread.’

Once again Duggan delivers with witty banter, burning chemistry and sexy encounters. If a quick, light and entertaining read is what you are after, then this is the book for you, as you are always guaranteed a smile. I can now tick another location off my ‘Heart of the City’ bucket list and can’t wait to see where CJ Duggan takes us next.

‘(Abby) had learned her American accent from watching hours of 90210.’

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.

Q&A with C. J. Duggan

Before I was an author I . . . I had a really lovely garden, now – meh not so much. I have always worked full time so now I am perpetually on a book deadline weekends are sacred for writing not gardening.
Describe Hollywood Heartbreak in one sentence: An Aussie girl running from the past chases her dreams all the way to Hollywood where she meets the very charming secretive neighbour.
 My favourite place to write is . . . my home office is my happy place.
When I’m not writing I . . . am spending as much time with my poor neglected friends and family. And I’m not going to lie; there is many a Netflix binge in there too.
My favourite place to curl up with a book is . . . a warm bed by lamp light.
Amazon AU site:
Google Play:

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Review: Monsieur Ka

Title:  Monsieur Ka
Author: Vesna Goldsworthy
Publisher: 22nd February 2018 by Random House UK, Vintage Publishing
Pages: 288 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 3 cups

‘Without quite realising that I would do it until it happened, I raised myself on my toes and kissed his frozen cheek. In Paris, it would have been an unremarkable gesture. In Alexandria, an invitation. I still had no idea about London.'
The London winter of 1947. As cold as St Petersburg during the Revolution. The Karenins keep their vodka under the layers of snow in their suburban garden, in bottles entombed like their Russian past. But when a young Frenchwoman arrives to work as a companion to the aged 'Monsieur Ka' he begins to tell his story...
Albertine is the wife of a British army officer who is often abroad on covert government business. Lonely, yet eager to work, she begins to write Monsieur Ka’s life story a as a secret gift to him, and even learns his mother tongue. To her ear it is like 'the sound of falling snow'. As she is drawn into Ka’s dramatic past, her own life is shaken to its foundations. For in this family of former princes, there are present temptations which could profoundly affect her future.
My Thoughts

This is an interesting little book, seeking to cover quite an array of themes and stories. And, if I am completely honest, a few too many irons were in this fire for me; at times, I am found myself unsure of the essence of this book - what was it really all about? I have walked away from it a little unsure and a feeling like it’s unfinished.

‘Toska is one of those Russian words,’ Monsieur Carr had said, ‘which have no English equivalents. It means “a dull ache of the soul”.’

Firstly, you have Albertine and her story (along with others in the book) which is most likely the strongest theme, that being, one of displacement and the struggles - not only after a war in her case, but generally the upheaval of leaving.  This theme can also be linked to that of her husband and the Russians she encounters throughout. I think the author did a good job of conveying the loneliness and isolation felt, especially considering how frequently Albertine was left alone while her husband traveled throughout postwar Europe.

‘I came to hate her (Anna Karenina) because, when she couldn’t have us both, she wanted that other man, my father’s rival and namesake, more than she wanted me.’

The story I probably enjoyed most was that of Sergei Alexandrovich, whos original surname was Karenin, thus making him the son of Anna from the famous Tolstoy story. The creative inclusion of Anna Karenina's story is truly very clever, helping to interweave the major themes of love and family throughout history - Albertine’s family, her husband Albert’s family and of course, Sergei (Monsieur Ka). I also really appreciated the inclusion of Sergei’s later life - marriage and imprisonment - and the decline of the Old Russian order.

“Prague, Paris, Berlin: they were all full of homeless Russians, once princes and generals, now taxi drivers and doormen in fashionable hotels.”

It was interesting to witness the production of Alexander Korda's film version of the Tolstoy book in which Sergei had a consultation role. Cameo appearances by Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier made it seem that much more real - once again, that clever combination of fact and fiction.

“The fictional lives we read about –your Anna, your Emma Bovary here –are so much more authentic than ours, and not just in the sense that they leave a deeper, more permanent mark on the world, while we, so-called real people, vanish without a trace.”

So you can see, there is quite a deal going on here and I think I would have appreciated a more singular focus on one of the above outlined aspects. All up, it’s about the stories we are told, or tell ourselves, but I just feel the delivery could have been a little smoother. That is not to say that the writing suffers - it is clearly evident that Goldsworthy is a serious writer.

‘We harm no one but ourselves by feeling slighted; we carry acid in our soul even when it eats nothing but the vessel it is stored in.’

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, March 16, 2018

Giveaway Time!

Today I have had the absolute pleasure of chatting with Vanessa Carnevale about her latest book, 'The Memories That Make Us' She has kindly offered to giveaway FIVE signed bookmarks! All you need do is visit us at Facebook (see our link on the side) and be one of the first five people to share our post about Vanessa's new book and you will be sent one of the bookmarks signed by Vanessa!

This offer is opened worldwide!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Review: The Memories That Make Us

Title: The Memories That Make Us
Author: Vanessa Carnevale
Publisher: 19 February 2018 by Harlequin (Australia), TEEN / MIRA
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women's fiction, contemporary
My Rating: 5 cups


Gracie Ashcroft is supposed to marry Blake Beaumont in three months’ time. The trouble is, she doesn’t know who he is…

After an accident leaves Gracie with severe amnesia, she’s forced to decide: live a life that is made up of other people’s memories of who she was, or start a new life on her own. Leaving her fiancé Blake behind, she moves to the country where she takes on the task of reviving her family’s abandoned flower farm.

While attempting to restart a business with an uncertain future, she tries to come to terms with the grief of losing a mother she can’t remember and a fiancé she so badly wants to fall in love with again. What she doesn’t count on is developing a deep connection with Flynn, a local vet. Worst of all is having to confront the fact that she might lose either chance at love.

Forced to examine the person she has become, Gracie confronts the question: if you had your time over, would you live the same life twice?

My Thoughts

I read Vanessa’s first book, ‘The Florentine Bridge’ (review HERE) and loved it - would her second novel be equally as compelling? Let me just say, I have only now come up for air - finished it in a day - beautifully compelling, I could not put it down. What not to love - the delectable cover, my home state setting (love Daylesford), the storytelling and the twist - yup, this is one special book to lose yourself in for a weekend.

‘Somehow, even if not by choice, you’ve been given a clean slate, a way to create a life you want that’s free from all the baggage and the drama that most people spend their whole lives trying to escape.’

Where to start? Well, how about at the beginning. What’s this book really all about, the blurb states it outright: ‘if you had your time over, would you live the same life twice?’ So very interesting and Gracie’s story here really gets you thinking what would you have done if in her shoes? Written in the first person throughout, you are totally aligned with all Gracie is going through with her amnesia. I love her decision to remove herself to her late mother’s flower farm for perspective and reflection.

‘I don’t want to be told stories about how things were and what I felt. I want to know it and feel it myself. Otherwise, how am I going to know if what I feel is real?’

Secondly, I have to make note of the setting - a small country town, Daylesford, in my home state of Victoria (Australia). This is a beautiful part of the world and Vanessa really captures everything about it - from the main street, to the local pub to the past glory of her mother’s flower farm. An area full of natural beauty and on this occasion, the perfect setting for all the reflection and memories that were to unfold. Next, let’s talk about flowers - my gosh! Has Vanessa done her homework here and how interesting is it! Without being overly burdened with facts, you are provided with an honest introduction to many things involved with not only flower farming but also individual flower meaning and significance (I loved the character of Tilly!)

Finally the characters - both primary and secondary - are so well thought out. You feel for Gracie and what her obvious frustrations must be. You understand her best friend Scarlett trying so hard to help remind her of all she once was. Even the likes of Charlie and his wife Maggie (suffering alzheimer's) have their part to play. Then there is the romance and Flynn ... sigh ... no words - just read the book.

‘But isn’t it our past that shapes our future?’
‘To a degree …’
‘Exactly,’ I say. ‘It’s our memories that make us who we are.’

This is just a really beautifully told story full of heartbreak, fear and ultimately, trying to discover who one really is, especially when all seems lost. I feel like I have been on a real emotional journey and that is just how one wants to walk away from a book of this nature. Considering, just how much does our past shape our future? Or ....

‘Maybe what matters is simply how I feel about you all, now.’

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, March 11, 2018

Review: The Phantom's Apprentice

Title: The Phantom’s Apprentice
Author: Heather Webb
Publisher: 6th February 2018 by Sonnet Press
Pages: 350 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: mystery, retellings, historical fiction
My Rating: 4.5 crowns

In this re-imagining of Phantom of the Opera, meet a Christine Daaé you’ve never seen before…
Christine faces an impossible choice: be a star at the Paris opera as Papa always wanted, or follow her dream—to become a master of illusions. First, she must steal the secrets of the enigmatic master who haunts her, survive a world of treachery and murder, and embrace the uncertain promise of love. To succeed, she will risk her life in the grandest illusion of all.
My Thoughts

Let me start by saying ... I love ALL things Phantom Of The Opera - books, musicals, score, movie - you name it! I feel it in my bones and know every word of every song. So of course I immediately had to read this book and can glady state that Heather Webb has presented a fabulous take on this much loved classic.

‘What had happened to the poor man to make him hate everyone—and himself—so much?’

In this version Christine is an illusionist as well as an opera singer and the Phantom is someone with whom she may have crossed paths in the past (not to give away any spoilers). So be warned - this is not the romantic love story we all know and love - this is a completely new and satisfying approach.

The tale may start out a little slowly but once Christine joins the Paris Opera Company, the pace certainly increases. I also very much appreciated the authentic detail Webb went to in presenting the magic and illusions - it was new and fitted in very well with the theme - I mean the Phantom was the Master of illusions! Learning more about this Phantom’s back story is also new and well presented. I liked it.

I really enjoyed this book! Heather Webb does a fine job of paying respect to the original whilst simultaneously delivering new and creative reimagining on certain plots within the overall tale. It was refreshing to learn of things solely from Christine’s viewpoint and have her character demonstrating so much more strength and independence.

‘This ghost would show himself—now—and explain his motives! If he didn’t, I would expose him to the directors. The charade was over, like it or not.’

Full of magic and atmosphere, rich in historical detail, with a fresh but still reassuringly comforting enough retelling for avid fans, you will quickly turn the pages of this suspense filled tale. Enchanting, delightful and thoroughly engaging for both original devotee’s and newcomers alike.

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, March 8, 2018

Review: That Old Black magic

Title: That Old Black Magic
Author: Cathi Unsworth
Publisher: 8 March 2018 by Serpent’s Tail
Pages: 364 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, mystery
My Rating: 2.5 cups


April 1943: four boys playing in Hagley Woods, Essex make a gruesome discovery. Inside an enormous elm tree, there is the body of a woman, her mouth stuffed with a length of cloth. As the case goes cold, mysterious graffiti starts going up across the Midlands: 'Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?'

To Ross Spooner, a police officer working undercover for spiritualist magazine Two Worlds, the messages hold a sinister meaning. He's been on the track of a German spy ring who have left a trail of black magic and mayhem across England, and this latest murder bears all the hallmarks of an ancient ritual.

At the same time, Spooner is investigating the case of Helen Duncan, a medium whose messages from the spirit world contain highly classified information. As the establishment joins ranks against Duncan, Spooner must face demons from his own past, uncover the spies hiding beneath the fabric of wartime society - and confront those who suspect that he, too, may not be all he seems ...

My Thoughts

I was attracted to this book as it was based around two incidents from history: the Hagley Woods Murder of 1943; and also, the events leading up to the 1944 trial of Helen Duncan, a Scottish medium ( one of the last people convicted under the Witchcraft Act of 1735).  Add into the mixture, World War II and Nazi spies and one would think you were on a winner.

The positives of this book was indeed the concept. A mixture of witchcraft and German spies set during the war is fascinating, especially considering it’s formation from real time events. The attention to detail from the time period was also well presented - a good mixture of fact and fiction that was obviously well researched and informative with the right balance of imagination. I also particularly liked the main lead of Spooner - easy to appreciate and empathise with. Sadly, however, these aspects were not enough to carry the book over the line for me. I struggled to finish it, finding it to be pretty dry and confusing at times.

My first confusion came with the synopsis and what I thought would be the initial catalyst for the story. No - this did not occur until well into the book and I was unsure of how it would all fit together. I felt misled. Some events were built up, but later left out to dry - not as important as I initially anticipated - whilst others led to nowhere. This provided another confusion for me,  as I found the writing rather disjointed regarding who, what or where events were taking place. There are loads of characters that make it difficult to really engage in the plot and sift through who was pertinent and who wasn’t.

So all up I was deflated after what at the outset had appeared a good basis for an engaging story. Perhaps it would have been better served if the stated synopsis and the discovery of 'Bella in the Wych Elm' had indeed been the initial hook and then the author had worked back from that point? Who knows?

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.