Devoted | Book Review

9781489245632Some choices are easy. Some choices are hard. And some choices will break our hearts…

When jaded movie director, Tyler Wentworth meets Mallory Hughes on the set of his latest movie, he immediately notices two things: she’s too sweet and she’s somehow familiar. But he has no time for mysteries – as long as she can do her job and continue to keep her notorious starlet out of trouble, she can keep her secrets.

Mallory knows exactly who Tyler is, the young man she had a huge crush on has grown to a Hollywood heavy-weight. But the last thing she wants is to be associated with the shy, awkward girl she was then. She’s here professionally, managing her troubled sister who has the talent to be the biggest star on screen, but a turbulent past. This is Bobbie’s last and best shot, and Mallory will do nothing to jeopardise it.

But as the filming begins, Mallory not only finds herself drawn more deeply to this grown-up Tyler, but that her attraction is more than reciprocated and she can’t help herself from indulging in all of her girlish fantasies. However, when their pasts catch up, she is going to have to choose between the sister she’s devoted her life to and the man who’s won her heart.

 +++ Image and blurb from JC Harroway website+++

Net Galley ARC received from Escape Publishing for an honest review

 4 Talk to Me Stars

I am sure you know the feeling where you start a book with very little expectations or assumptions and find a diamond in the rough.

It is a lovely feeling, isn’t it?

Well, I had that exact experience when reading Devoted, and what gave it those sparkly diamond qualities was the original characters, plot tension and steamy sex scenes.

Tyler Wentworth is a career-driven Hollywood director and is about the venture on his most personal project yet – depicting the demise of a young drug addicted women, based on his sister’s final days. Not happy with the unpredictable starlet, Bobbie Lawrence, the studio executives have thrust upon him to play the leading role, he is even more unimpressed that she fails to appear at the first location read through. Bobbie’s young and awkwardly shy manager is sent in her stead, Mallory Hughes, sparks not only his memory but his desire.

Mallory is Bobbie’s older sister, guardian, manager and assistant, after the death of their parents two years before. Working with Tyler is reigniting her old teenage crush, as his sister was her babysitter when she was thirteen. But never in a million years did shy, mousy, vintage-loving Mallory expect to arouse interest in the famous director. As one brief glimmer of courage had her kissing him, she discovered that he was kissing her back and wanting more than just a fling. But blurring the lines between the professional and personal is always fraught with danger, as they quickly discover.

I honestly loved Mallory, as she was a clever woman, whilst awkward at times did not shy away from her true emotions and desires when coaxed. I also loved that Tyler did the coaxing, as his director role made me expect an ‘alpha male’ dominant relationship but I was surprised as he recognised Mallory’s limitations and gently guided her out of her shell. This coaxing was also great in the sex scenes as he always wanted Mallory to voice her desires, wants and to take control of the sexual encounters. It was so refreshing to have the woman taking her pleasure, and the man encouraging her power – as the ‘alpha male’ trope wears thin after a few romances.

However, even with the empowering sex scenes, interesting characters and relationship tension, the novel felt lacking in some way. As I finished the book, I felt that the character development was not greatly present, as change comes late for both Tyler and Mallory. So, by the end of the novel, I was a little disappointed that the moments of change were glossed over, even if the shorter time frame held a lot more dramatic tension.

All in all, a wonderfully engaging romance to read at the beach, by the poolside, in front of an open fire – anywhere really.

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Fierce Obsessions | Book Review

fierce-obsessionsWhen raven shifter Riley Porter was given sanctuary by the Phoenix Pack, she let them believe she had left her flock. Reluctant to divulge the secrets of her past, she was still embraced as family. Only Tao Lukas, the protective and passionate Head Enforcer of the pack, was resistant to the enigmatic shifter. Until Riley started to arouse in him something other than suspicion. Tao doesn’t trust lone shifters, especially ones so guarded—and tempting. But the sexual tension between them is making them both come undone, and vulnerable to more than desire. All Tao wants is for Riley to stay with him and to trust him with the truth of her past. As Riley’s mysteries come to light, so does a danger that threatens not only her life but the safety of the entire pack. For Tao, keeping Riley safe means keeping her close—forever—as his mate.

Net Galley ARC received from Montlake Romance for an honest review

 +++ Image and blurb from Montlake Romance+++

4 ‘Borrowed not Stolen’ Stars

Let’s be honest here. I am a fan of the Phoenix and Mercury Pack, as I have read every title in the series and I am always in a state of anxious anticipation for the next release. Needless to say, I gracelessly leapt on the opportunity to read the advanced copy of Fierce Obsessions from Net Galley. And this book did not disappoint, filled with sassy characters, interesting shifter dynamics and – of course – hot sex.

Riley Porter is a raven shifter and protector of the adorable shifter children, Savannah and Dexter. She was first introduced in Savages Urges as Makenna’s fellow worker at the lone shifter shelter, and circumstances lead her to seek refuge for the children at Phoenix pack territory. The only problem she faced from being fully accepted by the pack was Tao Lukas, head enforcer and incredibly suspicious of outsiders. He wanted her gone. So not the best start but interesting enough to find her waking up after a tequila-drenched party to have Tao naked in her bed. The two move quickly from fling to ‘something more’ as Tao is not one to avoid a problem and Riley appreciates upfront behaviour.

The romance was refreshing after so many of the other couples had a long, slow road to romance – often hindered by their own omissions and hesitancy to bonding. This couple pulled no punches, their blunt natures fuelled their passion which sped into a devoted relationship. Riley and Tao natures perfectly suited, as Tao would bluster and Riley would just roll her eyes and ignore the ranting. Another refreshing development was their pasts were not something hidden or not spoken of, as they maintained an open channel of communication and respect. So, I was not surprised when the mating bond snapped into place fully formed, it was great to have a couple already so in tune with each other that they didn’t have to prove anything more.

I thoroughly enjoyed exploring deeper into the shifter world, as the raven shifter mentality and customs differ to the wolves. Riley’s past, which shaped her approach to relationships, was curious as she was affected by two tragic events but was still surrounded by loving friends and family. I like that true mates can be found across species as it opens the field for so many other shifter species to be introduced into both packs.

Another excellent addition to the Phoenix pack series to be released June 13th and the perfect romance to spice up your summer/winter reading. (Or indulge your sultry senses upon the entire series)

 

She’s The One | Book Review

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In the game of love — and TV — you play to win or you lose your heart.

Millionaire Banjo Grahams originally signed up for She’s The One drunk as a skunk and willing to do anything to bed Australia’s most beautiful women, but when he sobers up he realises he could lose much more than his reputation if he goes through with it. Unable to back out of an ironclad contract, he makes a deal with the network boss to rig the show, picking the lucky bachelorette ahead of time and guiding the season to meet his own ends and keep the board happy.

When her father tells Eliza Peterson she isn’t going to produce She’s The One, but appear as a one of the contestants, she is livid. Competing for some guy on reality TV is no way to earn his — and the network’s — respect and show them she is capable of producing shows of her own.

But for all the planning and staging, somehow the show takes on a reality of its own, and the goals of Eliza and Banjo fall away from something neither of them expected — love.

+++ Image and blurb from Escape Publishing +++

Net Galley ARC received from Escape Publishing Australia for an honest review

4 Reality Rose Stars

February being the month of love and romance, I could not resist diving into a short romantic fling (aka. novella) to honour the week.  She’s The One is a reality show based on the ever popular Bachelor and Bachelorette, and the reader is introduced to – bad boy, man-whore, millionaire, winter gold medallist – Banjo Grahams as the lucky Bachelor. Before filming begins, Banjo develops cold feet and show producer, Eliza Peterson, is forced to step into the contest and Banjo’s life by her father- to save the company. As the show plays out they begin to discover the person behind the fake persona and their own dreams for a future with someone they love.

Perfect for fans of the reality TV shows, She’s The One is well paced, developing a believable connection between Banjo and Eliza. Both characters have familial and relationship complications that play into their romance, but they are not acknowledged only to be brushed off but are considered and cause emotional obstacles to hurdle. The sterile and controlled reality TV environment is another hurdle that they are forced to tackle, but time alone and stolen moments allow their relationship to flourish away from the cameras. The writing is strong and wonderfully visual, allowing me to bask in the humidity of a Port Douglas summer.

If you want a fun, quick romance with plenty of heart to win over your weekend, then definitely pick up She’s The One.

 

Hooker by J.L. Perry | Book Review

If you are expecting a modern twist on the classic Pretty Woman film where a wealthy man meets a pretty hooker, then be prepared because this book is so much more.

Hooker, Ebook

Hooker opens with the story of Jade, a high-end escort, who has endured a harsh orphaned childhood only to be adopted by M – the Madame who primps and primes Jade throughout her teens to become a hooker in her employ. From this devastating home life Jade emerges strong, independent, resilient and determined to escape M and the profession she despises. Since she cannot escape her contract to M she escapes on holiday to New York, but the fun begins in Sydney Airport when she collides into Mr Delicious – enter Brock Weston.

Move over Richard Gere, Brock exudes charm, wealth, privilege and a tendency of getting exactly what he wants – and after the first brief encounter with Jade, he wants more. A chance encounter in New York has the sexual tension crackling, reaching fever pitch in one night of wild abandon. Brock is charmed by the combination of her sweet, down-to-earth nature and incredible sexual prowess, but he is left with desire and memories. As Jade hastily returns to Sydney with her heart aching from the knowledge that the cherished care Brock showed her could never continue while she remains locked in contract to M. However, Brock is a man who rises to a challenge, and Jade is a woman who deserves the love he can provide – if he can find her again and look beyond her past she wants to hide.

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The character of Jade is charming, with her strength and determination to survive her contract and plans for a free and independent future. Throughout the trials of the book, she remains true to her strong and sweet nature – with the occasional but well deserved tirade at Brock. Brock’s character also remains true throughout the novel, he is charming, possessive and stubborn but if often overwhelmed with responsibility and guilt.

The relationship is based on mutual attraction, and does not have any elements of love at first sight, rather their love develops over months of conversation and hot sex (of course). Even with all the steamy sex and sinister plot, there is sweetness to Brock and Jade’s relationship which is endearing and ever-present throughout the book. Also, the importance of family and love (not just desire) is explored through both characters with not only loss, but support, discovery and growth of family bonds.

The writing style in first person was occasionally jarring and took a long time to become accustomed to, but the dual perspectives was wonderful to experience the relationship from both Jade and Brock. Additionally, the sinister elements of the plot were too quickly resolved and removed the element of suspense, leaving the rest of the novel slowly resolve personal plots. Whilst I did appreciate J.L. Perry’s attention to detail in thoroughly tying up loose ends to leave the reader happy with Jade and Brock’s future, the loss of intensity and suspense made the ending anti-climactic.

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Hooker is an addictive read, with delicious characters, sizzling sex and an enduring romance that will warm your heart.

Released on 31st May 2016 by Hachette Australia
ARC received from Hachette Australia for honest review

Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood

Australia is undoubtedly a ‘new’ country in the terms of recorded history, and it makes research hard for any contemporary author. Do not mistake me, there is a lot of good Australian historical fiction that has been wonderfully researched, but many lack the glamour and style that Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series has in spades. I first experienced Miss Fisher as the television adaption created by the ABC, which enchanted me with the decadent costumes, Australian sets, and the vivacious characters. Even with an entertaining two seasons of Miss Fisher, I wanted more, so I turned to reading the original novels.

blood-and-circuses

The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher is a modern woman for 1928; sporting a black bob cut, luxurious clothes, a wealth of money, and an abiding desire for handsome young men. Phryne left her family behind in England and returned to her birth place, Melbourne, where she soon discovered that she had an aptitude for work as a ‘lady detective’. This novel is the sixth in the series and had a very different approach, and I am divided on whether I liked it or not. The previous five novels had Phryne working her way through the various levels of Melbourne society, conducting her investigations with an air of confidence and a degree of stylish sleuthing. However, in Blood and Circuses, Phryne is bored with her comfortable life, and is persuaded to help her carnival friends to help the ill-fated Farrell’s Circus.

Phryne doesn’t know how to help her friends but she decides it would be easiest to go undercover, to get close to the circus people by being amongst them. She becomes Fern Williams, an aspiring horseback performer who is eager to ask questions on the questionable future of the circus. As Phyrne busies herself into the circus scene, a valued member of the troupe, Mr Christopher, is brutally murdered in Melbourne. Not to fear as the reliable Detective Inspector Jack Robinson is called onto the cast. A former trapeze circus performer, Miss Parkes, is suspected of the murder but Jack is not convinced. The evidence to convict her was so easily found, and killer needed a more sinister motive than any Miss Parke can hold. Greenwood begins to deepen the mystery by including the unrest stirring between two gang circles of lower Melbourne, and a hushed organisation known as ‘EXIT’ smuggling wanted criminals out of the country.

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Jack suspects the sudden gang violence is not only related to EXIT but remotely linked to the troubles of Farrell’s Circus, which means that Phryne buried herself in very dangerous territory. Whilst the Police deals with the murders and gangs, Phryne was having equally hard time find a place in the circus life. She was being ignored, snubbed, and the victim of vicious circus gossip; the strong and wily Miss Fisher that was established over the last five novels was being stripped away. Phryne found that she missed the distinction of her wealth and position, and she had returned to her impoverished youth (which was a living nightmare for Phryne).  She did find allies, and a new lover, but it is not enough to stop her from falling into the hands of the dangerous Mr Jones, the man expected of bringing misfortune on the circus.

This wild element of fear and loneliness really clashed with my image of Phryne, questioning if I truly liked her. Thinking about her sudden incapability to take control of her situation, Phryne still manages to fight those in control, which I still see as a test of true strength and honest resolve, all admirable. Blood and Circuses is one of the better mysteries so far; as Greenwood takes us beyond the scintillating parties and high fashion of Phryne Fisher’s known element, to a completely different society that lives on the fringes of normal society and operates under its own rules.

 

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Another favourite 2013 Book Club selection.

I was recommended it by a fellow English student, after I confessed that out of all the genres I read crime the least. Strange, when I considered that I really enjoy crime TV shows. Regardless, it seemed to be one of the better introductions to crime as it was not too intense, well how could it be with an eleven-year-old protagonist? But, I soon learnt not to underestimate Flavia de Luce.

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In a traditional crime fiction fashion, the novel opens on a crime, well a sibling crime where Flavia is bound, gagged, and stuffed into the upstairs closet. The act is committed by her two older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne. We soon discover that not only is Flavia used to this treatment, she can quickly free herself from her imprisonment and be the first to arrive for dinner. I really enjoyed Bradley’s style of writing and his introduction of Flavia, as she had a strong voice that demanded my attention. She was also a refreshing protagonist; as she was still affected emotionally but her method of reasoning was methodical often being turned into a scientific experiment that called upon her vast wealth of knowledge. Also her age and the era she was living in made it interesting background to strengthen her character, which also helped her to connect to a modern reader base.

Once you are introduced to the de Luce family, with all the quirks and conflicts, Bradley suddenly inserts the mysterious jack snipe and a man who comes calling for Colonel de Luce (Flavia’s father and only parent). But it is not a crime novel without death, and so the mysterious man was found by Flavia the next morning, half buried in the cucumber patch, issuing his dying words to her. As the police come to suspect her father, Flavia tries to solve the mystery herself by delving into her father’s past to save him frim his present fate. The intricacy of the story between her father’s early experiences with Bonepenny (revealed to be the mystery man) gave Flavia even more mysteries to solve, but I must admit that when the novel slipped into the long back stories I was counting the pages. Yet I cannot fully discredit the back story as it became essential to form a greater narrative in my mind, leading to speculating on many potential suspects. My accusations never rested with one person and flew wildly from one to another, basically anyone who acted in a suspicious manner around Flavia, the Police, and even at the mention of the murder.

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The idea that Bonepenny was killed by a super sweet pie, which was considered by the Police and Flavia, was a very disappointing cause of death (even for a diabetic). I was praying it would not be the true cause of death, and I was answered by a clever conclusion that needed all of Flavia’s chemistry skills to deduce and solve. However, in the final pages when she was confronted by the murderer, I truly felt as vulnerable as an eleven-year-old girl but Flavia was resourceful enough to find her way out. Bradley ended the book with a resolution to the murder but a vast array of unanswered questions, which means I will be picking up the next book very soon! Overall, the writing style, the era and the crime complexity were detailed enough to make the book a joy to read. Yet, my main interest lies in the characters and how Bradley invested pages to make them dimensional, flawed, and brilliant in their own way.

And so it begins…

As the sun dawned on the new day and New Year, I was in bed. Asleep. With good intentions to be up at 8:30am, but found myself still napping through my alarm clock snooze system until 10:40am (by that time I was already late for my friend’s farewell beach walk).

Thankfully, I got ready fast enough to make up for the two hours of unplanned, but fully intentional sleep, and see my friend off on her big holiday. Once home I was able to start the two essential New Year’s day tasks:
1. Clean up after the New Year’s Party the previous night, mainly in the washing of dishes as my dogs took care of any crumbs on the floors.
2. Taking down the old calendars and putting up the new ones, which have been awaiting display since September.

With the essentials taken care of, in my mind it was high time for a reading break

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Graeme Simsion’s novel ‘The Rosie Project’ has been gaining a lot of popularity and here in Australia was named in the ‘Top 50 Books You Can’t Put Down’ for 2013. The recommendations were enough to get me interested, but detailed blurb and first page cemented my determination to read it. I am not lying to you when I say they accurately described the book as one you cannot put down, as I started reading it at 1PM and finished it seven and a half hours later. Usually when I feverously devour a book, it is due to the ease of narration or the strong hook of the plot (commonly a romantic thread), yet I was strangely attached to the principal character, Don Tillman.

Don is, to put it mildly, obsessive-compulsive and loves nothing more than to follow his carefully planned schedule that optimizes for efficient use of time and energy. He lacks social skills and has only managed to make a few friends in his life, but he has his work as a genetics professor and that is enough. Until he is told by Daphne, one of his oldest friends, that he would make a great husband for someone, which leaves Don stunned as he had resigned himself to a future without a partner. The new self-confidence results in the creation of the ‘Wife Project’, in which potential future partners have to fill out a carefully constructed questionnaire to be even considered by Don.

The construction and implementation of the project brings more laughs to the readers and frustration to Don, until Rosie enters his office. Rosie is a great character, as not only does she represent someone Don would never consider ‘future partner’ material, he is helpless drawn to her and forces his way to spending time with her. By spending time I mean hatching an elaborate project to discover who her biological father is, you guessed it, dubbing it the ‘father project’. These multiple projects cross-sectioning over Don’s life, and Rosie forcing out of his schedule and into a world he would have never dared to experience, has you frantically turning the pages. Again I was slightly driven by the potential romance between Don and Rosie, I honestly just read for Don and his experiences.

As when I began reading the novel, I read Don as a written form of Sheldon Cooper (from the Big Band Theory) as the narration and observations made by Don kept the novel in a comic frame. Yet Simsion was able to quickly humanize Don, making him not only a source of humour but of empathy. I found him immediately refreshing as a narrator, as his social faults were made immediately aware yet he managed to win me over with constant bravery, openness, and honesty.

On the surface the novel is enchantingly sweet and impressively humorous, but contains deeper truths of reality and social norms that are additionally compelling.