Saturday, 29 December 2012

Book Review: Queen of the Road by Tricia Stringer

Queen Of The Road
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Angela needed a miracle … She didn’t expect it to come in the form of a red 18-wheeler.

The Blurb

"Juggling two jobs, raising her four-year-old daughter alone and drowning in debt, Angela Ranger is struggling to survive. So when Angela’s father offers her a job driving trucks in the tiny rural town of Munirilla, she accepts. After all, it’s only temporary …

Despite taking to the road with ease, Angela finds moving to Munirilla may not be the godsend it seemed. Her accommodation is dingy, her fellow truckies are less than happy to see a woman on the road, and the locals are reluctant to use her services.

There is one local who’s glad to see her, though. Fill-in farm manager and loner, Coop, resists his natural tendency to avoid personal connections when he meets the efficient and gorgeous, Angela. But Coop has problems of his own – sheep are going missing, his neighbours are acting strangely and the demons of his past are urging him to move on again.

In Munirilla, both Angela and Coop will face the ultimate test of character. Will they follow reason and leave? Or follow their hearts and build a home in the small town … together?"


Book Summary
Life hasn’t been smooth sailing for Angela Ranger. We pick up on the story a few years after her boyfriend (and the father of her four-year-old daughter), has abandoned her to follow his own dreams, whilst she has been left devastated and “holding the baby” so to speak. Trying to work two jobs to make ends meet for her and her daughter, as well as pay off the huge debts she has created just to survive, she’s almost at the end of her tether when her father offers her a job as fill-in driver for the Munirilla-Melbourne run for his company, Ranger Transport - having been on trips with her dad as a young girl and learning to drive as soon as she was old enough, she’s perfectly capable but is she willing!

Egged on by her step-mother and after a bit of a wild night at a friend’s wedding, she bravely accepts her father’s offer, albeit with some trepidation. And if she thought life on the road with a four-year-old was tough, then being a woman in a domain which is clearly male dominated, takes a lot more grit. There are times when Angela begins to second-guess her decision, but she soldiers on nonetheless, and whilst there are some in Port Augusta and Munirilla who approve of her bringing some gender balance to the trucking game, there are others who do not. From pranks to plain malice, she manages to handle the situations with true Aussie grit.

The first time Coop meets Angela, she takes him by surprise and he realises that it’s been a long time since a woman stirred any kind of interest in him. Coop’s a drifter, never spending too long in any one place, but he’s been in Munirilla for more than two years now, helping out on Alice Tansell’s farm. During their first real conversation, Angela learns that he himself has a truck licence and has previously driven for a mining company in Queensland, but prefers to work with animals and in open spaces. As their friendship develops and we see them advance from mere friends to something a bit more, we discover that whilst Angela has her own problems, Coop, too, wrestles with demons from his past which continue to haunt him.

Of course, fate has something else in store for both these troubled people, but will they be able to recognise it for what it is, and do something about it?

My Thoughts
I really liked this book and our Aussie authors continually amaze me – we have such talent in this beautiful wide land – and I think I just met another writer who deserves a place on my bookshelves.

Tricia Stringer managed to grab me from the first page and the whole way through I kept checking to see how far away I was from completion - needless to say I didn’t want the story to end.

What I really loved about this book is that it’s not the normal run-of-the-mill romance where “boy meets girl, girl falls in love with boy almost instantly, boy and girl fall into bed, girl and boy have an argument, boy and girl make up and live happily ever after”.

Ms Stringer’s characters are well-developed and human. The storyline is extremely believable with the author touching on real-life social issues such as alcoholism which, as always, resonates strongly with me and always stirs a lot of emotion from personal experience, and single motherhood, another ever-increasing issue in today’s day and age. And, of course, what would an Aussie rural romance be without a certain element of suspense and danger!

All in all, I found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable read with lots of little strands coming together to form a great plot and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to all lovers of rural Australian romance.

I wish to thank the publisher, Harlequin Australia, for providing me with an advance copy of this great read.

A Little About the Author (taken from “The Reading Room”)
Tricia Stringer grew up in South Australia on her family's Eyre Peninsula farm before moving to Adelaide for secondary and tertiary education. Since then she has married, raised three children and continued to live in rural South Australia. She has worked as a teacher/librarian/information technology coordinator for many years and has also run a Post Office and bookshop with her husband. She enjoys travelling to diverse areas of Australia, bush camping and sipping the odd glass of wine when she's not tangling with computers, reading a good book or walking on the beach hatching her next story. “Due Date” is her third novel for adults and the sequel to “Changing Channels”.

Monday, 24 December 2012


Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Me Before You
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.”


I received this book through NetGalley and I wish to thank the publisher, Penguin Group Viking, for allowing me the opportunity of reading it.

Summary

Utterly unputdownable, this is a story of epic proportions.

26 year old Louise “Lou” Clark is an ordinary girl, leading an ordinary life which suits her just fine. Still living at home and recently retrenched from her job at The Buttered Bun, a local café, amidst the GFC, she is desperate to find alternative employment in order to continue to assist her parents in a time of dire financial crisis for a lot of families. Sitting in the office of her Job Center representative, Syed, after having looked at, and rejected, various other positions, a job comes through to care for an invalid man.

Lou accepts an interview for the position, albeit with some trepidation, and we finally see her meeting Will Traynor.

Much to her surprise, Lou soon realises that not all invalids are geriatric or require their bottoms to be wiped, although she is placed in a position where she is required to be a “friend” to an extremely unhappy and rude young man – he has, after all, lost almost everything. After a few weeks though, Lou and Will manage to find some common ground and she manages to tiptoe less and less around him as their friendship takes on a more jocular (albeit with some sarcasm) tempo. However, overhearing a private conversation between Will’s mother and his sister, Georgina, leaves Lou devastated and we finally learn the real reason why she has been called in to be his carer for six months.

My Thoughts
Having never read a book by Jojo Moyes before, let me just say that I was astounded – completely. She is truly a gifted writer and I am so thankful that I have discovered her.

Being subjected to a life in a wheelchair as an adult, after having had the freedom of activity for so many years, cannot be easy and the author has quite capably taken us on a journey into the psyche of an invalid, showing us how it may affect some as well as the people close to them.

To me, this was an extremely emotional novel and Ms Moyes has captured all the emotions of her characters in vivid detail. Her characters are extremely well developed and I felt, by the end of the book, that I had lost a friend.

As a person who loves life, I felt a bit cheated that Will had decided to go through with his decision, even though a very rare, all-consuming love had blossomed between him and Lou, as I do believe that there are many Quadriplegics out there who have adapted well to their new lives in their “new” bodies.

Filled with humour, sadness, love and just about every other emotion you can think of, this is yet another great book that I can highly recommend.

The extremely emotional climax saw me sobbing right through to the revelation of the plot.

About the Author (Taken from the Author’s website)
Jojo Moyes was born in 1969 and grew up in London. After a varied career including stints as a minicab controller, typer of braille statements for blind people for NatWest, and brochure writer for Club 18-30 she did a degree at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London University.

In 1992 she won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to attend the postgraduate newspaper journalism course at City University, and apart from 1994 when she worked in Hong Kong for the Sunday Morning Post, she worked at The Independent for ten years, including stints as Assistant news editor and Arts and Media Correspondent.

She has been a full time novelist since 2002, when her first book, Sheltering Rain was published. She lives on a farm in Essex with her husband, journalist Charles Arthur, and their three children.

View all my reviews

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Book Review : Home by Dark by Marta Perry

Home by Dark
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Synopsis
“Rachel Weaver Mason is finally going home to Deer Run, the Amish community she left behind so many years ago. Recently widowed, she wants desperately to create a haven for herself and her young daughter. But the community, including Rachel's family, is anything but welcoming. The only person happy to see her is her teenage brother, Benjamin, and he's protecting a dark secret that endangers them all.

Determined to keep Benjamin safe from a suspected killer, Rachel has no choice but to turn to the one man she wanted to get as far away from as possible. Colin McDonald was her late husband's friend, and the man who came between them. He's never forgotten her and would do anything to keep her and her family safe.

Rachel doesn't know if she can trust Colin, or her growing feelings for him. But as they hunt for the killer, the tension between them builds and soon both their lives, and their hearts, are on the line.”

Summary

Rachel Mason, recently widowed, has returned home to Deer Run with her young daughter Mandy and taken up residence in the house inherited from her mother-in-law.

Whilst a few members of the community are unhappy to see this former Amish girl back in their midst, there are those who have no qualms.

Colin McDonald, an Englischer, is one of those who is not unhappy to see her. The former best friend of her deceased husband, Colin can be quite cynical of the inhabitants of Deer Run, except when it comes to Rachel. Along with Benjamin, Rachel’s little brother and Meredith, a very good friend of Rachel’s, these three sub-characters form the backbone of this novel of suspense.

Rachel soon discovers that something is troubling young fourteen-year old Benj and he’s not telling! When his fear begins to get out of hand and he arrives on Rachel’s doorstep one evening scared out of his wits she asks herself whether perhaps his friend, Joseph Stoltz, is telling him tall tales and thereby feeding an already over-active imagination - or is there something more sinister at play!

Rachel soon realises that her fears have some basis in fact and as her and Colin fight to uncover the mystery surrounding Benj’s fear, the barriers she has erected against Colin begin to crumble.

My Thoughts

Although I am not a huge fan of Amish stories, I do read them from time to time, so it’s no wonder I chose this one for review as I am a sucker for suspense!

Even though I found the build-up of the suspense to be a bit slow, Marta Perry has managed to produce a very well written book with all the elements of romantic suspense firmly in place. Her knowledge of the Amish culture, based on her own experiences, is very good and with the two main sub-plots of family issues and romance underlying the suspense, this was an enjoyable read.

I would, of course, like to take this opportunity to thank both NetGalley and Harlequin for making the title available to me.

About the Author (Excerpt taken from Marta Perry’s website)

A lifetime spent in rural Pennsylvania and her own Pennsylvania Dutch roots led Marta to the books she writes now about the Amish. The Pleasant Valley Amish series from Berkley Books are longer, more complex emotional stories with Amish main characters, while the Amish Suspense series from HQN Books are more adventure-filled books set in Pennsylvania Amish country. She also continues to write for Love Inspired Books.

Marta lives with her husband in a century-old farmhouse in the Pennsylvania countryside, but spends winters at their vacation home in South Carolina. When she’s not writing, she’s active in the life of her church and enjoys traveling and spending time with her three children and six beautiful grandchildren.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Book Review: A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn

A Beautiful Place To Die (Detective Emmanuel Cooper, #1)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Blurb
“In her “stellar” (Publishers Weekly) debut, Nunn takes readers to Jacob’s Rest, a tiny town on the border between South Africa and Mozambique. It is 1952, and new apartheid laws have recently gone into effect. When an Afrikaner police officer is murdered, the powerful police Security Branch, dedicated to flushing out black communist radicals, pre-empts Detective Emmanuel Cooper’s investigation. But Cooper isn’t interested in political expediency and has never been one for making friends. Instead, he strikes out on his own, following a trail of clues that lead him to uncover a shocking forbidden love and the imperfect life of a man whose relationships with the residents of the town he ruled were more complicated and more human than anyone could have imagined.

A talented writer who reads like a brilliant combination of Raymond Chandler and Graham Greene, Nunn has crated a morally complex and richly authentic tale of murder, passion, corruption, and the corrosive double standard that defined an apartheid nation.”


Please accept my apologies in advance for the length of this review – being an ex-South African there was a lot of ground to cover, my thoughts were profound and I really wanted to include a bit of history about the Apartheid Regime at the end.


Summary
A white Police Captain is murdered and Emmanuel Cooper, a white Detective, is called in to investigate.


As we accompany Emmanuel on both his investigative journey and the “kaffir paths” winding through the veldt in the small town of Jacobs Rest, and meeting a lot of the town’s residents, we see the Security Branch (a separate division of the police force assigned to investigate the “communist” aspect of the murder case) continuously attempting to deter his investigation, which ultimately leads to Emmanuel being shut out of their investigation totally. So, it is no wonder that Emmanuel covertly continues his own investigation with the assistance of Constable Shabalala, a black Zulu-Shangaan, into the “personal” aspect of the case.


Emmanuel desires justice and his refusal to dabble in unethical behaviour creates a character with strong moral fibre. In his pursuit of this result, he discovers that many people in the town are keeping their own secrets – Who is the “old Jew” really? What role does Louis Pretorius (one of the deceased Captain’s six sons) have to play in all this? Why is Davida Ellis such a “timid little mouse”? But, perhaps the most important one of all – Was the white Captain a “staunch” follower of the Apartheid Laws such as the “Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act” and the “Immorality Act” or was he living a secret life?


My Thoughts
This book was originally recommended to me by some Australian friends on Goodreads, but before that, I had never heard of Malla Nunn, even though we were both born on the same Continent, in neighbouring countries.


The tale is morally complex, evocative, as well as provocative, and one with which I can relate to and sympathise with as a “white” person born into so-called “privilege” in that era. Having borne witness to the ravages that Apartheid wrought upon the non-whites in South Africa whilst I grew up, it is a heritage passed on to me by my maternal great-grandparents who immigrated there from Portugal in the early 1900’s – through no fault of my own, but one of which I am not proud.


With Malla Nunn’s obvious first-hand knowledge of Apartheid South Africa, she has developed realistic characters whose voices ring true of that period in the country’s history and, having myself been brought up in a home with an Afrikaans father and an English mother, I was exposed to “both sides of the coin”. Thankfully the good side won out and I was not one of those white children who were brought up to hate the other races.


I really fell in love with Emmanuel’s character. Although white, he doesn’t come across as having a single racist bone in his body and both his respectful treatment of Constable Shabalala and his gentleness with Davida Ellis, one of the “mixed-race” characters, stirred something deep in my heart. The way in which Malla portrays the “coloured” voices is consistent with her heritage, and in quite a few places, I imagined myself in conversation with the character being depicted. So, too, the manner in which she describes the South African veldt – I could almost smell the woodsmoke and feel the dry, dusty air!


For me, this was an emotional but enjoyable story. A fast-paced read with a stirring plot woven together by plenty of twists and turns, should you choose to read it, it is bound to keep you enthralled and offer you a glimpse into the fact that not all white South Africans of the Apartheid era supported their policies. Of course, it raised a deeply personal question in my mind and probably one which will never be answered - “Was Apartheid worth it?”.

About the Author
Malla Nunn was born in Swaziland, Southern Africa, and currently lives in Sydney, Australia. She is a filmmaker with three award-winning films to her credit and
A Beautiful Place To Die is her first novel. The second novel in her Emmanuel Cooper series is Let The Dead Lie.

A Bit of History on the Apartheid Regime
(excerpt taken from www.capetown.at/heritage/history/apar...)

“In 1948 the National Party led by Rev Dr DF Malan came to power with a manifesto of apartheid (separate development). Although discriminatory policies already existed, this was to be a systematic categorisation and segregation of the population, enshrined in law, with the white group accorded privilege and power. His belief in racial superiority is expressed in the following quotation:

'We Afrikaners are not the work of man but the creation of God. It is to us that millions of semi-barbarous blacks look for guidance, justice and the Christian way of life”

Legislation was soon enacted that required all residents to register their race - a particularly significant law given the very mixed heritage of so many Capetonians. The National Party intended to segregate whites and coloureds and expel all Africans from the Western Cape to 'homelands'. Under the 'Group Areas Act' suburbs of the city were zoned according to race; inevitably the privileged and desirable areas were zoned 'white'.

Apartheid entered the Post Office in the form of separate queues in 1949. In the same year the Prohibitions of Mixed Marriages Act was published and in 1950 the Immorality Act. These acts prevented coloureds or Indians having sexual relations with whites, in the same way that Africans were already prohibited. Such rules brought heartbreak - one 20 year old coloured youth who could not legally marry his pregnant white girlfriend committed suicide.

In 1950 the Population Registration Act officially divided South Africa into 'White', 'Coloured', 'Asian' or 'Native' (African). It was mandatory for all Capetonians over 16 years to carry Identity cards specifying their racial group. Those who were previously able to enjoy an ambiguous racial status were assigned a race, and given no choice in this. In a subsequent act 'Chinese' and 'Indians' were declared subgroups of the category 'Coloured', as were some 'Malays' but only if they lived within particular areas (Wynberg, Simon's Town or Bellville).

Later one could appeal against one's racial classification, and if one could not prove one's ancestry then a physical examination of hair, nails and eyelids was undertaken. There were many controversial cases in Cape Town, with some Coloureds seeking to prove they were white. In one absurd case a family was split as one twin was re-classified white while her sister remained coloured.

From 1951 a permit system was established that controlled property transfers and changes of occupancy from members of one 'race' to another. This had serious effects on the businesses of many African and coloured shop-owners and artisans, who were suddenly prevented from operating in 'white' areas. In the early 1950s there was increasing pressure on Capetonians to move voluntarily into areas designated to their racial classification, as the authorities tried to avoid having to use force.”


Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Book Review: The Beach House by Helen McKenna

The Beach HouseMy rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Blurb
“Nothing much happens in the small Queensland town of Sunset Point, which is just the way the locals like it. So, when an outsider with grand plans threatens to demolish an iconic local landmark and build a huge resort, the battle lines are drawn.

Young journalist Jessica hopes to make it big with her coverage of the course case, but first she has to appease her editor and put a human interest spin on the situation. At first glance the five people she chooses to background have little in common; but it soon becomes apparent that staying at The Beach House has changed all of them in some way.

In telling the stories of Kate, Simone, Tom, Clare and Jack, Jessica too learns some important life lessons.”


Summary
The Beach House is a poignant tale of a holiday rental in the little town of Sunset Point, Queensland, and the lessons learned by some of its vacationing visitors which allow their lives to change in a significant manner.


Jessica, a young journalist with aspirations of fame, is excited when she is assigned the story of the legal tussle between the small Queensland Town of Sunset Point and a developer with visions of building a resort which will include the demolition of The Beach House to accommodate his plans. Unfortunately, her editor is interested in her pursuing the human interest aspect by finding people who had once vacationed in The Beach House and learning what the house meant to them.


In so doing, Jessica meets Kate, Simone, Tom, Clare and Jack, along with some other lesser characters, who all stayed at the house between 1991 and 2003.


Kate, having trouble deciding what she’d like to study at Uni, takes some time out before exams and shares the house with her taciturn cousin Jane. The relationship between the two cousins has always been a troubled one to say the least, but after Jane skilfully attends to a friend’s medical emergency, Kate comes to realise that her cousin isn’t as bad as she seems and the mending of their relationship begins. Some shocking revelations by Jane about her childhood floor Kate in the process, and by the end of their stay, they have managed to find some common ground and help one other.


For Simone, mother of 3 teenaged children and widowed a year before their vacation, The Beach House and her son Matt’s Uni friend, Liam, become beacons in her dark world and she begins the healing process.


Tom, a school teacher in country Queensland, is tasked by the principal to take three rebellious students on a school camp with a difference in the hope that the time away will allow the three misfits to reflect on their socially unacceptable behaviour. Unfortunately, unruly behaviour often covers up more serious problems and Tom is stunned to learn that one of these boys is living with a terrible secret that will tear your heart out.


Clare’s story is actually quite a few stories in itself. When the accommodation organisers manage to erroneously book the house out as “shared” accommodation, they have no idea that they have deftly set in motion a series of events that will change the lives of not one person, but seven, including two small children who will finally be able to get to know the meaning of family.


Jack is the last to tell his story and we come to learn that he is the lawyer who takes on the case against the developers. He, too, does not escape a lesson which only a vacation at The Beach House can deliver.


There is also Jim, one of the lifeguards at Sunset Point who, like a lighthouse beacon guiding ships safely away from danger, makes short appearances in most of the stories but who we soon realise has an uncanny underlying perceptiveness. Thanks to Jack’s story, we finally learn a lot more about him and the lesson he needs to learn. If Jack is the backbone, then Jim is the thread who sews it all together.


My Thoughts
To get to the end of the book and discover an Epilogue absolutely delighted me. It’s something we don’t see very often anymore and I was extremely excited to continue getting to know the characters I had come to love, whilst at the same time giving the story a finality which so many modern stories lack.


I really loved The Beach House, hence the reason it has earned 5 Stars from me. Helen McKenna has created well-defined, human characters in whom she has skilfully captured the essence and depth of human emotion in tales of discovery, healing, hope, compassion and forgiveness and, even at my tender age of just under 40, I find it most invigorating to come away from a book that has taught me something.


A well-structured novel with nice short paragraphs, and an easy, flowing prose, these almost 5 novellas within this book are truly inspirational and I highly recommend it as a book everyone should read.


About the Author
Helen McKenna lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Queensland and has worked in banking, local government, learning support and as a biographer. The Beach House is Helen’s first novel.


Monday, 10 December 2012

Book Review: Invisible by Carla Buckley

Invisible
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an Uncorrected Proof of this book through NetGalley.

The Blurb:

“Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Carla Buckley's Invisible is a stunning novel of redemption, regret, and the complex ties of familial love.



Growing up, Dana Carlson and her older sister, Julie, are inseparable - Dana the impulsive one, Julie calmer and more nurturing. But then a devastating secret compels Dana to flee from home, not to see or speak to her sister for sixteen years.

When she receives the news that Julie is seriously ill, Dana knows that she must return to their hometown of Black Bear, Minnesota, to try and save her sister. Yet she arrives too late, only to discover that Black Bear has changed, and so have the people in it.

Julie has left behind a shattered teenage daughter, Peyton, and a mystery-what killed Julie may be killing others, too. Why is no one talking about it? Dana struggles to uncover the truth, but no one wants to hear it, including Peyton, who can't forgive her aunt's years-long absence. Dana had left to protect her own secrets, but Black Bear has a secret of its own-one that could tear apart Dana's life, her family, and the whole town.”


Summary:

The story follows Dana, an explosives expert and Peyton, her niece.

Whilst on her work site one day, Dana receives a distressing call from Peyton asking her to come back to Black Bear - the place Dana swore 16 years before that she would never return to.

Peyton informs her that her (Dana’s) sister, Julie, is ill. Unfortunately Dana doesn’t make it in time and instead comes face-to-face with a very angry 16 year old and Julie’s widowed husband, Frank, who has sunk into old habits in the face of losing his wife.

Unbeknownst to Dana, Julie had for many years suffered with kidney disease and, on returning to Black Bear, whilst trying to break down the walls between herself and Peyton, she discovers that Julie was not the only one suffering from the disease and that there are many people, including children, in the town, who are mysteriously affected. Thus, begin her attempts at unraveling the reason why so many are afflicted and she discovers there is more to nano-technology than meets the eye.

Needless to say, there are some residents in the town who become extremely unhappy with her meddling and the revelation of her secret towards the end will have you reeling in shock.

My Thoughts:

A really poignant story of deception and chances lost, one in which you will discover that there may be a time when your deepest darkest secrets will come back to haunt you.

Carla Buckley has touched on a very real disease facing a large number of the world’s population today – that of kidney disease. Needless to say when I saw Ms Buckley being likened to Jodie Picoult (whose writing I absolutely love), I was immediately drawn to Invisible and Ms Buckley certainly did not disappoint. She introduces us to a bit of a contentious subject, that of nano-technology – one of which I had never previously read about. Whilst this is a work of fiction, nano-technology is definitely not and, after doing a little research of my own on the internet, I discovered that Scientists continue to debate its future implications. It is interesting to note from one of the articles I read that our country, Australia, was one of the first to act by regulating the exclusion of engineered nanoparticles from certified organic produce.

I really liked this book and found Ms Buckley to have a real flair with her descriptions. I also enjoyed the way in which she introduced Dana’s story in reverse, so that Dana’s journey ends in the first chapter and begins in the last. The characters are well-developed and I could relate to them.

About the Author:
Carla Buckley was born in Washington DC. She has worked in a variety of jobs, including a stint as an assistant press secretary for a US Senator, an analyst with the Smithsonian Institution and a technical writer for a defense contractor. She currently lives in Ohio with her husband and children. The Things That Keep Us Here is her first novel.

This book earns 3 stars from me and I wish to thank both NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group (Bantam Dell) for granting my request to read and review this book.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Book Review: Rules Are For Breaking by Imelda Evans

Rules Are For Breaking

My rating: 3 of 5 stars







The Blurb

“Jo is a smart and determined young woman with a clear-eyed view of men and what she expects of them. Put simply, she is 'over' finding the right one. She already has a 'three strikes and you're out' policy. When challenged by a friend who thinks she can't do it, Jo goes one step further and vows not to date, sleep with or even kiss a man for six weeks. 

Enter Declan, Jo's gorgeous yet unwelcome houseguest. Convinced he can win her over, Declan views Jo and her vow as an irresistible challenge. 


An infuriated Jo declares that Declan is like all the others - attracted to her for all the wrong reasons. She insists that he devote time to getting to know the real her and to doing the things she loves. Will Declan survive the test? Or will a major misunderstanding spoil everything? 

Rules Are For Breaking is a witty, entertaining romance certain to have even the most disenchanted believing in love again.”


Summary and Thoughts

Commitment-phobic Jo has a tendency to eat men and spit them out – they bore her at times and she’s yet to find a man who can keep her interested for more than 3 months. She’s tired of them not seeing beneath her beautiful package.

The book opens with Jo and her sister-in-law Kate having a discussion about Jo’s bad luck with men and the fact that Jo has offered a friend of her brother a room in her apartment whilst the finishing touches are put on his new apartment. By the end of the conversation, she’s made a deal with Kate that she’ll abstain from all things men for the next six weeks.

Unfortunately, Declan O’Leary, her guest, arrives on the scene shortly thereafter and in the ensuing weeks, attempts to back her into a corner and test her “bliss” finding plans.

Determined not to let him get under her skin, Jo strives to get him to dislike her and we see her trying her damndest to shock him. From karaoke-singing songs of lost love to rock-climbing mayhem – will this new Jo show him that she is not the one for him?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book which was a quick read and doesn’t demand very much from the reader, but provides a tummy-tingling escape for a few hours. It is extremely well-written with Imelda Evans certainly knowing how to set a scene. Light-hearted and funny, it had me enchanted from the very first page.

A Little About the Author (Taken from the author's website)
Imelda Evans is an Australian writer who likes books, baths and baking, coffee, cocktails and craft, family, friends and food… and a good lie in the hammock when the alliteration fails her!

She writes contemporary novels about women’s lives – the dramas, the challenges, the joys and the occasional loaded gun – and how they get through them with a sense of humour and a little help from their friends.

Or, put another way, she writes fun fiction about fabulous women (and the men they get mixed up with).

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Book Review: Come Back to Me by Sara Foster

Come Back to Me

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


“Do you have to honour a promise you made in the past if it means losing all that you have now?


When Mark introduces his date, Julia, to Chloe and her husband at a London restaurant, it’s obvious something is very, very wrong. Alex and Julia pretend not to know each other, but the shocked expressions on their faces tell another story.

As the mystery of Julia’s identity unravels, a terrible tragedy from ten years ago gradually comes to light. While Chloe struggles with a secret of her own, Alex has to decide whether he should take Julia back to Australia to try to lay the past to rest, when doing so will risk all he has with the wife he loves.

And Julia must decide whether to finally confront Alex with the whole truth about what happened back then.

Set in London and Perth, Come Back to Me is a taut psychological drama that will keep you enthralled until the very last page.”


Alex and Chloe are happily married, own a lovely home and are both doing well in their chosen careers – her as a family law solicitor, him a designer with his own business run from home.

One fateful introduction by Chloe’s ex-boyfriend and current colleague, Mark, threatens to unravel everything that Alex and Chloe have worked towards in their relationship – her name is Julia.

Immediately on arriving at the restaurant and being introduced to Julia, Chloe realises that something is seriously wrong – the shocked look on Alex and Julia’s faces on seeing each other lead both her and Mark to believe that this is not the first time they have met. Julie hurriedly excuses herself from the table to go to the ladies room and Alex sits in dumbfounded silence.

As the story unravels, taking us from present-day London to 1990’s Australia, we come to learn that Alex has kept a secret from Chloe - him and Julia share a past, one that he has been incapable of speaking about due to the tragic events which took place.

Whilst Chloe keeps a secret of her own close to her heart, she watches as her world appears to crumble around her. Can Julia face the demons of her tragic past thereby enabling her to get on with her life? Is this finally a chance for Mark to win back the woman he gave up years ago? Will Alex lose everything he has with Chloe? Will it be possible for Chloe to finally reveal her secret to Alex?

I found it quite difficult to put this book down. There were so many secrets intermingled in the plot that all I wanted to do was discover every single one of them. Sara Foster has an easy, flowing prose style and has created a tale with likeable, well-formed characters. Whilst injecting a lot of emotion and relationship issues into this book, I found the most prominent to be the importance of communication in a relationship.

If you are looking for a multifaceted psychological thriller and a complicated story of love which combine with multiple twists and turns, then this debut novel by Sara Foster will keep you enthralled right to the last chapter.