Saturday, September 29, 2018

Review: A Brazen Curiosity

Title: A Brazen Curiosity: A Regency Cozy (Beatrice Hyde-Clare Mysteries Book 1)
Author: Lynn Messina
Publisher: 15 September 2018 by Potatoworks Press
Pages: 176 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, mystery, romance
My Rating: 5 cups

Twenty-six-year-old Beatrice Hyde-Clare is far too shy to investigate the suspicious death of a fellow guest in the Lake District. A spinster who lives on the sufferance of her relatives, she would certainly not presume to search the rooms of her host's son and his friend looking for evidence. Reared in the twin virtues of deference and docility, she would absolutely never think to question the imperious Duke of Kesgrave about anything, let alone how he chose to represent the incident to the local constable.
And yet when she stumbles upon the bludgeoned corpse of poor Mr. Otley in the deserted library of the Skeffingtons' country house, that's exactly what she does.
My Thoughts

Lynn Messina! Sign me up! You are becoming my ‘go to’ for a fun getaway. Light and easy reads is what you deliver time and again. I adored this book! Lynn has proven herself to be a truly witty and very clever author of Regency genre. I mean a ‘posthaste’ nap sounds inviting to me!

“Aunt Vera, having decided it was her niece who had ruined the mood, rather than Mr. Otley’s corpse, reiterated her demand that Bea take a nap posthaste.”

This book is indeed a lot of fun and ticks so many boxes - historic details, an escape to the country, a murder to be solved, a little romance and all tied together with humour. You will love Beatrice, our main heroine and an old maid at 26! The way she does a character analysis on those gathered at this country retreat is wonderful, with her desire to throw food at them in abomination truly hysterical. However, there is also that touch of sadness about her situation and she recognises that which makes the reader truly feel for her.

“The difference between who she perceived herself to be and who she actually was was vast, and if she had any fight left in her, she would resent how easily she’d succumbed to everyone’s low expectations, including her own.”

Bea found herself wanting to hurl a dinner roll at him just to elicit a lecture on the throwing arch of flour-based projectiles.”

So when a murder occurs in the library late one night, Bea sees this as her opportunity. This has a good ol’ game of ‘Cluedo’ written all over it - Mr So and So, in the library with the .... what is there not to appreciate? As Beatrice and the Duke put their heads together in an attempt to reveal the murderer, the complexity of the clues is such, that you will not see the culprit until the final reveal.

“Beatrice couldn’t believe they were debating decorum while the dead body of Mr. Otley cooled before their eyes.”

I cannot recommend this book highly enough (and I am off to search up the remaining two in the series) for an all round entertaining read. It is a fun mystery, filled with an array of stereotypical, yet enticing, characters from that era with many a laugh out loud moment.

“I had quite a lot of tea.”
“Bea!” her aunt exclaimed, appalled at this display of outrageous behavior. “We just talked about this. Ladies do not admit to any biological functions.”
“Yes, Bea,” Flora said, smirking. “Weren’t you listening? It was in the section on hygiene.”
“Of course, I remember,” Bea lied smoothly. “The hygiene section was a favorite. I do particularly love disavowing my own physiological processes.”

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, September 28, 2018

The Sunday Girl

Title: The Sunday Girl
Author: Pip Drysdale
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Australia), 23rd August 2018
Pages: 400 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers
My Rating: 4.5 Cups


The Girl on the Train meets Before I Go to Sleep with a dash of Bridget Jones in this chilling tale of love gone horribly wrong …

Some love affairs change you forever. Someone comes into your orbit and swivels you on your axis, like the wind working on a rooftop weather vane. And when they leave, as the wind always does, you are different; you have a new direction. And it’s not always north.

Any woman who’s ever been involved with a bad, bad man and been dumped will understand what it feels like to be broken, broken-hearted and bent on revenge. Taylor Bishop is hurt, angry and wants to destroy Angus Hollingsworth in the way he destroyed her: Insidiously. Irreparably. Like a puzzle, he’d slowly dissembled … stolen a couple of pieces from, and then discarded, knowing that nobody would ever be able to put it back together ever again. So Taylor consulted The Art of War and made a plan. Then she took the next step – one that would change her life forever.

Then things get really out of control – and The Sunday Girl becomes impossible to put down.

My Thoughts

It certainly was impossible to put down! I read this book in 3 days and it had me on the edge of my seat the whole time! I have read many thrillers before, but this would have to be in my top 10.

I really enjoyed the way every chapter started with an excerpt from The Art of War, this was the book that the protagonist, Taylor, was using as a guide to ruin her ex-boyfriend, Angus.

“But everybody has their limit, a boundary you just can’t cross, and Angus eventually found mine...that amicable, pliable, understanding girl finally snapped.”

Angus seemed like a dream come true at first and Taylor was swept off her feet,

“With Angus, life was like a movie: a dozen red roses at work for no reason, phone calls from the restaurant bathroom in the middle of a business lunch just to say that he missed me…”
She soon noticed little things about him that made him not so perfect and to keep him interested, she did things she wouldn’t normally do.

“But then, after a few months, the night set in. A tapestry of darkness began to weave itself around us...I knew how wonderful Angus could be if he was happy…”

Taylor was very lucky to have such a supportive best friend, in Charlotte, who helped her get through the break-up, but even she didn’t know how far Taylor was planning to go.
She set about destroying him one step at a time, she made a list:
“Reputation. Work. Money. Family. Health. Home. Sanity. Sex. Other.”

I really liked how calculating and clever Taylor was in her plan for revenge and it made for some really interesting reading that made you want to keep turning the pages and reading more and more. The chapters were quite short so that also made it an easy and quick read.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves a good psychological thriller with a very unexpected twist at the end.

“And I know that one day I will stop thinking of Angus...I know that one day he will become just another thing that changed me, that made me who I am. Because that’s how life works: Some love affairs change you forever.”

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

Monday, September 24, 2018

Review: Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating

Title: Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating
Author: Christina Lauren
Publisher: 30 August 2018 by Hachette Australia/Piatkus
Pages: 320 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: romance, contemporary, romantic comedy
My Rating: 2.5 cups

Most men can’t handle Hazel. With the energy of a toddler and the mouth of a sailor, they’re often too timid to recognize her heart of gold. New York Times and #1 international bestselling author Christina Lauren (Roomies, Beautiful Bastard) tells the story of two people who are definitely not dating, no matter how often they end up in bed together.
Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.
Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.
Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them...right?
My Thoughts

When I read Christina Lauren’s ‘Love and Other Words’, I was hooked! There was just so much to love about that book. So therefore I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to read this current release, described as a romantic comedy. Well .... sadly, I seem to be in the minority (at Goodreads especially) with my opinion, which I can only deduce is on account of my prudishness (which I would beg to differ). I just found this story was not in the same league as ‘Love and Other Words’, which was disappointing.

“She thinks you’re a pretty funny girl.” Pretty funny? Or pretty, funny? Is that a half compliment, or two solid ones? Either way, my eyes widen and I grin. “Your mom is pretty comma smart.”

Firstly to the positives. I like the family and friendship themes that run throughout the book, supportive and encouraging. I totally loved the way Hazel embraced her eccentricities and was determined to remain true to herself. Also, how true friends supported that (friendship theme) and highlighted how people or society in general often frown on those who think outside the box as being too kooky. There are some fun moments here and memorable moments to make the reader smile.

“You know how many guys like to date the cute wild girl for a few weeks before expecting me to chill a little and become more Regular Girlfriend ....  but at the end of the day ... being myself is enough. I’m enough.”

The problems I have occur when the funny blind dates stop becoming so funny. You know where this story is going and frustrating as it might be, it just didn’t continue to appeal to me stretched out over time. The ending itself was disappointing from the perspective of the easy way out was taken, or even the HEA inspite/despite it all. I also quickly got over the many steamy scenes and the lewd language; for me, they were detrimental to the overall package.

“A pipe burst, and normally I’d be making lots of terrible sex jokes about that but really, it just sucks.”

All up this is a funny romance read. You know the formula and where it’s going, Hazel makes an interesting, if somewhat over the top lead and Josh makes a great leading man. As I stated at the outset, I am in the minority, so if you are a Christina Lauren fan, you are sure to love this venture into romantic comedy.

“One more check of my outfit. I swear it’s not a vanity thing; more often than not, something is unbuttoned, a hem is tucked into underwear, or I’ve got an important garment on inside out.”

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, September 22, 2018

Review: The Secrets We Keep

Title:  The Secrets We Keep
Author: Kate Hewitt
Publisher: 6th September 2018 by Bookouture
Pages: 336 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, contemporary
My Rating: 4 cups

‘Is her life as easy and effortless as it seems from the outside? Or is she feeling lonely, all by herself in that big house, an evening stretching out in front of her just as it is for me?’
When Tessa arrives at the little house by the lake with her two children Ben and Katherine, it is an escape. For all of them. Never mind that the rental house is a bit small – it’s theirs for the summer. A place to hide…
Their isolation is disrupted when they meet the family from the big house next door. Three children Charlotte, Zoe and Max and their glamorous mother Rebecca – who seems absolutely determined to invite Tessa in to their lives.
But Rebecca is harbouring a dark secret of her own. One that will put not only her family at risk, but Tessa’s too. And when she discovers she has no option but to leave her children for several weeks, Tessa feels like the only person she can trust.
Suddenly Tessa finds herself living a life she could only have dreamed of. Wealth, a large brood of children, and Rebecca’s handsome husband Josh visiting at weekends.
But even as powerful bonds are forming between them, secrets have a way of catching up with people. And as the summer comes to an end, who will learn to love again and who will risk losing everything?
A gripping, twisty emotional page turner with a heartbreaking twist, for fans of Jodi Picoult, Emily Bleeker and Diane Chamberlain.
My Thoughts

“What kind of mother am I? That’s a question I try not to ask these days, much less answer”.

The Secrets We Keep is a deeply moving tale concerning two women who meet up over one summer but are from very different social circles. Both women have escaped to a summer lake, minus their husband, for a bit of a stocktake of their life. This is an engaging tale about how events evolve and how choices made have a dramatic and life changing impact for both women.

“Why is this world so hard, so brutal and unforgiving, that we can’t navigate it without hurting ourselves?”

I had been eager to try a Kate Hewitt book and did not really know what to expect. The chapters alternate between the two women - Rebecca and Tessa - and it is fascinating to see both perspectives to the same event. This is a slow build tale, thus allowing you to really form an opinion about the character of both these women, or more pointedly, who you find them to be. Of course there is a twist, with things not seemingly as they are and you never really understanding (at times) the reason for a person's actions. I did, however, find it a little slow and frustrating at times - the angst of both main characters and their inner dialogue.

“ I don’t have the energy to perform anymore today. But somehow I plow through the lessons, the meaningless chit chat”.

There are most certainly some serious and heavy issues broached here (not wanting to give anything away) and the title is therefore most apt. Let me state right now, this is not a light, whimsical read. One thing done well here is the prologue - it gives you a small taste of what is to come and not until the novel is done, will you find yourself revisiting it to read once more in an effort to ascertain whom it was referring to. From page one you are hooked.

“It all happened so quickly - a blur, the blood, screams and shock. So much shock. My mind is still spinning”.

This is a story full of emotion and will really capture the attention of readers who like to not only analyse characters but also work out what hidden secrets there may be. Despite being slow in places, it is well worth reaching the heartbreaking conclusion. I challenge anyone to guess the twist as the gripping end is so very tragic.

“I hate the thought that my little girl is hiding anything, that she has something to hide, just like I do. Too many secrets. Far, far too many secrets”.

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, September 21, 2018

Review: The Impertinent Miss Templeton

Title: The Impertinent Miss Templeton: A Regency Romance
Author: Lynn Messina
Publisher: 30 August 2018 by Potatoworks Press
Pages: 276 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: romance, regency
My Rating: 4 crowns

No, no, no! It doesn’t matter how many times the Duchess of Trent (The Harlow Hoyden) requests her help with a delicate matter regarding a patent for her sister’s invention, Tuppence Templeton will not lend a hand. She has a habit, yes, of coming up with ingenious plans to solve other people’s problems, and it is true that she’s clever and daring enough to pull off the proposed scheme. But there’s no way she’s going to confront the arrogant and dismissive Earl of Gage again. She is still shaken—or is it stirred?—from their last encounter when, rather than thank her for saving his sister from ruin, he railed against her for having the temerity to interfere in his family’s business. And yet somehow when the opportunity arises, she finds herself unable to resist issuing the challenge.
Nicholas Perceval, Earl of Gage, cannot believe it when the impertinent upstart who exposed his sister to disaster maneuvers him into escorting her to the Bill Patent Office. What a perfectly ridiculous request! And then to discover that she manipulated him while they were there so that she could “find” a missing application—he has never been so angry in his entire life. And it’s not because he’d unexpectedly enjoyed her charming and irreverent company. No, that has nothing to do with it at all. Although perhaps maybe a little…
My Thoughts

“If I were a better woman, perhaps less of a spinster and a quiz, I would be gracious and let you have your say. But I have far too much respect for you to let you condescend to my feelings.”

Having read Lynn Messina before (HERE), I knew I would be up for a fun and enjoyable romp in Regency England - she did not fail to deliver. This book is a lot of fun. Part of the ‘Love Takes Root’ series, do not fear for this is a standalone read and I had no problems at all with it. Following along classic lines, Messina puts her own spin producing a fun historical romance with intrigue - all very polite of course! It is a refreshing take on strong willed heroines with fabulous dialogue that takes a stand for female characters in an era when it would have been frowned upon. Far from being one dimensional, Messina provides a range of fun and inviting characters that I would be most interested in reading more from the series for light entertainment.

“I would never consider a beau who had made his declaration on the way to claiming a prawn.”

There were passages that I found repetitive, especially concerning the inner dialogue of both Tuppence and Gage, and I just wished it were filled more with the witty banter between both the leads and other prominent characters (the sisters were thoroughly entertaining). The plots are clever and really so amusing that is provides a wonderful escape as it is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face (even a chuckle is on the cards).  Traditional regency readers beware! This light and humourous read may not be for you unless you are prepared to suspend your inner critic and just lose yourself in this fun regency romp.

The duchess clutched the side of the window with one hand as she tugged her skirt over the sill with the other. “Actually, she wouldn’t care about the height. A lady being astride anything would be horrifying enough.”

This is a tale with a little bit of everything - mystery, intrigue, action, romance and a barrel of laughs. Spend some time with Tuppence Templeton and you cannot help but smile at her ‘impertinence’!

“...he’d never consider her his equal—no woman was—and she was far better off alone than diminishing herself to fit inside his pocket.”

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.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Review: Dressing the Dearloves

Title: Dressing the Dearloves
Author: Kelly Doust
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Australia, 20 August 2018
Pages: 416
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction
My Rating: 4.5 Cups


“One crumbling grand manor house, a family in decline, five generations of women and an attic full of beautiful clothes with secrets and lies hidden in their folds.”

Fashion designer, Sylvie Dearlove is coming home to England, ashamed and feeling like she has disgraced the family name. When she arrives home, her parents inform her they are finally selling the crumbling, old, and no longer, grand manor, Bledesford, where her family, The Dearloves,  has lived for generations. Sylvie has spent her whole life wanting to escape being a Dearlove and the pressure of belonging to a family of such headstrong, important and successful women.
Tail between her legs, Sylvie begins to help her parents prepare the house for sale and discovers an attic full of old trunks and tea chests filled with elaborate old dresses and accessories from all over the world,  belonging to her female ancestors, five generations of Dearlove women.
Sifting through the past, she also stumbles across a secret, which has been hidden in plain sight for many generations. A secret that will change the way she thinks about herself and her family.

My Thoughts

Even though Dressing The Dearloves is the first book I’ve read by Kelly Doust, I knew straight away, I was really going to enjoy her writing.The book opens with internet search results for Sylvie Dearlove with glowing reviews on her designs and how successful she was and then…

“So there you have it-a star is born. We have every single item on order, and can’t imagine a future now-nay, even a second-without Sylvie Dearlove’s sumptuous designs adorning it. Order *here…[*there appears to be a problem with this link]’

This automatically gives you the impression something is wrong and there is!

“I was devastated to hear the news today that Dearlove-beautiful brainchild of English aristo Sylvie Dearlove-is shutting down!!!”

Kelly writes in a way that makes you feel great empathy for Sylvie and her successful, but fleeting career.

“Either way, this fashionista for one will be sad to see Dearlove go. Sylvie’s pieces always seemed to echo some truth beating strongly in my own heart. She created clothes I didn’t even know I wanted until I saw them, in all their heavenly, must-have glory.”

I really enjoyed Kelly’s descriptions of Sylvie’s designs and I felt sad that she had to close down.
Her trip back to England, feeling so ashamed that she had disgraced the Dearlove name, was also fraught with complications.

“It’s not news that the Dearloves have fallen upon tough times, with the family seat a shadow of its former glory, but the tiny brunette was looking worse for wear in what appeared to be pyjamas and stripped of makeup...She allegedly stole coins belonging to a homeless person.”
It also appears that her fall from stardom could have resulted in a secret liaison, she would rather forget and as she is trying to distract herself, she stumbles upon a photo which causes her great guilt.

“There was one of Gisele...pictured beside Ben and his best friend Josh...She was filled with a fresh wave of shame.”

I loved the descriptions of Edwardian England and the garments and events of those times.
The link between Edwardian England and modern day England was very well constructed and I was looking forward to the connections between these places and the characters. Kelly did not disappoint, the links were very obviously explained and beautifully woven in together.

The character of Lizzie was portrayed extremely well and it soon became evident that, she and not the more famous, Gigi Dearlove was the link between them. I didn’t like some of the things she did, but I certainly understood why she did them. There was one event which I thought was very cruel.

“Victoria had slipped into a deep, dreamless sleep, and when she’d woken, she could have sworn that her baby had been on her chest, suckling at her breast, mewling contentedly...but when she was properly awake and able to focus...she saw Lizzie’s sombre expression...and realised, with horror, that something had gone terribly, horribly wrong.”

Not a spoiler, but I I think Lizzie did the right thing in the end. It did cost her and it eventually explained her relationship with her daughter, Gigi. I enjoyed watching Sylvie’s relationship with her parents change and as she grew to know more about the Dearloves, she appreciated her mother a lot more. As the book progressed to the end, Kelly answered all the questions and all the puzzle pieces were connected nicely together.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book. It was a very entertaining and at times deeply moving read, with lots of twists and turns along the way.

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