New Release Book Review: The Octopus and I by Erin Hortle

IMG_20200616_120841I’ve had a lot of trouble reading recently due to some stressful things going on, but on Monday it was all over, and although there are other stresses now to deal with, the big one which has been taking all my energy and brainpower is now finished and I was hopeful I might be able to pick up a book and also catch up on some reviews. I have been going for light romances to try and keep my mind off of everything, but on Tuesday I thought I’d try something different. Thanks to Allen & Unwin, I had a copy of The Octopus and I waiting to be read and I think its serious nature and beautiful language and metaphors, was just what I needed.

I became totally absorbed in this novel, I could feel and empathise with all the tumultuous feelings that Lucy, the main character was feeling and dealing with. Lucy has survived breast cancer, with her ‘fake’ new breasts, she feels she has lost who she is and what her body means to her now. While I thankfully haven’t had to deal with this myself, I could still understand and empathise with Lucy and her struggle to love her body again. 

I really slowed down to read this novel, it was beautifully written and the octopuses and the other sea life that play a part in telling the story were at times touching and beautiful and at other times quite violent and disturbing. There was one chapter about a seal that I found particularly hard to read.

I have a friend who had her breasts removed due to breast cancer and went down the same road is Lucy in choosing to cover the scars and skin with tattoos, I could imagine how Lucy felt as the tattoo emerged and she dealt with the changes that were going on both on the outside and on the inside as she allowed herself to heal.

There is a small cast of characters, Flo, Harry and Jeb, who play important roles in Lucy’s life after her breast cancer and then after an accident she has whilst trying to save a pregnant octopus. Flo, an older lady who she connects with initially over catching octopuses, becomes such an important support system for Lucy and she learns many lessons through the interactions she has with her. Life can be confusing and people can be enigmas and difficult to understand. Lucy’s relationship with Jeb is like this and as Lucy struggles to understand herself, her relationship with Jeb suffers and she has to take a good look at the both of them. Harry, Flo’s son is a quiet character who really ‘gets’ Lucy, he really sees who she is and seems to understand the journey she is on. I really liked Harry and the part he played in Lucy’s journey of self discovery.

A heartfelt and emotional read, it was exactly what I was looking for.

 

New Release Book Review: The Scottish Boy by Alex de Campi

The Scottish BoyI truly loved this novel, it had intrigue, romance, and sex galore as well as fighting and dirty politics as was consistent with the time of 1333.

This was another Pigeonhole read, one stave a day, and I so wanted to be able to read the whole thing in one hit, I woke each morning hoping that today’s stave had been delivered early and I could read it before work. There was a lot of discussion during the read, which I quite enjoy and the majority of us really enjoyed it. There were however a few who were not at all happy with the sex scenes, they felt they were far too graphic, and I wonder if this was just because they were between two males and if it had been a heterosexual couple whether they would have had the same complaint or not. I had no issue with the sex scenes and I thought they built the relationship between the two main characters perfectly, showing what an intense relationship they had in every aspect. But I will say that yes, the sex scenes are quite graphic, so if you don’t like this, then maybe this won’t be the book for you.

An LGBT historical novel set in the 1300s, a time I knew nothing about, and a time I am glad I didn’t live in. It was certainly a violent time with wars going on for land and titles continuously, as well as plots to take France or Scotland or for France to take England, so much scheming going on I don’t know how anyone, especially Edward III slept at night.

Harry is young and eager to become a knight, he has very little idea of what this truly entails only having fought and trained in tournaments. Turning up just after a fight he was hoping to be in, he is pulled into a scheme he has no understanding of, but which will change his life completely.

The first fight scenes were gruesome and disturbing, just as fighting would have been in that time, Harry is completely disturbed by this and I stood with him, watching the massacre that was going on with disbelief and horror. There was really no such thing as honour, especially among the men that Harry found himself teamed with. These men scheme throughout the novel, using their love of England as their reason, when really it is their love of power that drives them.

After this first Massacre, a prisoner is taken, Harry has no idea who this Scottish Boy is, but when he is given to him to be his squire, he finds his life entwined with Iain’s and both of their lives will eventually depend upon the other. Iain is a tortured soul who with the help of Harry learns who he wants to be and what truly matters. As much as he wants to be left alone, the secret of who he is won’t allow this to happen.

The book spans many years, many plots, and intrigues and Harry has to learn who he wants to be and who he can truly trust. There are some surprising alliances formed and I really enjoyed the way I was at times not sure where everything was leading and how it was going to end up. 

I have read comments that some of the histories in this novel are not totally accurate, but for me, not knowing the history anyway, it certainly didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this novel. 

New Release Book Review: The Cake Maker’s Wish by Josephine Moon

IMG_20200531_120111I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump recently, flitting from one book to another without really being pulled into any of them. The Cake Maker’s Wish however ended that slump, hopefully for good. I had two extremely late nights reading this novel, I did not want to put it down, but sleep was calling at 2am.

Though I have a few Josephine Moon books on my bookshelves, I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet, but after this one, I’ll be making time to catch up on them.

I was pulled into Olivia and her son Darcy’s life as they arrive in the small village of Stoneden in the Cotswolds after leaving Tasmania for a new start as part of a Renaissance Project to bring life back to the dying village. What a massive step for her to have taken, to move to the other side of the world with her young son, knowing no one and not knowing if the project will work out, I thought Olivia was very brave to do this. But after her grandmother’s death, she needs a fresh start and an extra incentive is her son’s father, who lives in Norway. These two have never met and their whole relationship is based around skype videos, this is the chance for them to hopefully forge some kind of real relationship.

There are quite a few wonderful characters who have also moved to Stoneden for this project, all for different reasons and most having a past link to the village. For Olivia it is her grandmother who grew up there and then moved to Australia. Olivia would love to find out more about her life, but there are plenty of secrets in Stoneden and they won’t be shared easily.

Not everyone is happy about the newcomers to the village, for various reasons, and some make this felt more than others. There are some very underhanded events that occur to the newcomers’ businesses, making them feel unwelcome and even scared. I really felt for these people who are only trying to make a new start and help the village become alive again.

Olivia and Darcy make some wonderful friends, as well as there being a potential love interest in a dairy farmer. There’s also complications that arise with Darcy’s dad.

There’s so much to love about this novel, from misunderstandings about cake ownership, to stolen apples, friendship and secrets, hope for the future, and holding on to the past, this novel has it all.

Thanks to Better Reading Preview and Penguin Michael Joseph for my cpy of this book in return for an honest review.

#AWW2020

 

 

New Release Book Review: Bound by the Stars by Suzanne Cass

Bound by starsThis is the third book in the Island Bound series, and we finally get to meet Logan who has been off the grid for a couple of years, his sisters and their partners make it their mission to go and find him, and find him they do, and he’s in a whole world of trouble.

Logan is hiding from some pretty bad guys, he’s been flying under the radar for a while, he’s currently living on his boat in the Caribbean and working with a turtle rescue group. But his peaceful life has just gotten complicated.

Mia is a dancer and is paying off a debt to a particularly nasty businessman.

The chemistry between these two is immediate, but both are hiding so much and trouble has found them in a big way. This novel is action-packed from the start and as Logan and Mia try to find a way to escape the people who are after them, the hits just keep coming and they find themselves getting pulled deeper and deeper into trouble.

It’s a good thing Logan’s sisters and their partners turn up because after what they have been through themselves, they definitely aren’t going to let their brother fight this fight on his own.

I thoroughly enjoyed the third book in this series, this family sure does seem to be a magnet for trouble, but by the end, they are all closer than ever and there’s happy ever afters for them all.

Thanks to the author for a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

Amazon AU

FB_IMG_1577105032228#AWW2020   35/50

New Release Book Review: Montana Son by Juanita Kees

Montana SonMontana Son is book #3 in the Calhouns of Montana series, #1 Montana Baby (Overdrive), and #2 Montana Daughter (Fast Lane) were really great reads about the first two of four siblings. In book #3 we get Mason’s story and his chance for redemption.

Mason has always been the bad boy who has struggled with his part in the death of his brother. He has never been able to forgive himself and his girlfriend, Paige, for the accident which took his life.

Paige left their hometown of Bigfork after the accident, running away, unable to cope with the guilt. Now she is back and Mason and Paige must work through their respective guilt and forgive themselves and each other in order to move on.

Paige has to deal with more than just Mason though, her mother and father are more than a little unsupportive and essentially have disowned her for her part in the accident as well as for her relationship with Mason. The Calhoun’s have always had problems with Paige’s dad, the Sheriff of Bigfork, and he continues to make their lives difficult.

Paige and Mason have great chemistry between them, even after their time apart and the guilt they both feel, and I enjoyed the struggle they both undertook to move on. I also enjoyed the way they stuck together to uncover what was going on with the sheriff’s grudge against the Calhoun’s and his determination to close the drag strip they had opened in the previous book.

In Montana Daughter we met 9-year-old Tyler who through a tragic car accident had lost his legs, we catch up with him again as Mason struggles to build a relationship with him due to his feelings about the accident he was involved in. It was wonderful to see Tyler begin to recover from his accident and the changes he and Mason work upon each other.

I read just yesterday that we might get the 4th sibling Grace’s story sometime in the near future, as well as Carter’s story. I could definitely read more about the Calhoun’s of Montana.

Thanks to the author for a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

Published 2/6/2020

FB_IMG_1577105032228#AWW2020    34/50

New Release Book Review: When Grace Went Away by Meredith Appleyard

IMG_20200420_125856When Grace Went Away by Meredith Appleyard is the second novel I have read by this author, I do have a few more of her novels waiting on my shelf and I do aim to get to those as soon as is possible. This was a very enjoyable read, there was so much in it to explore and uncover. A dysfunctional family and grief being two important themes running through the story. There is also romance and forgiveness, relationships, friendship, and discovering who one truly is and what they want out of life regardless of age.

I found this a hard book to put down and even took it to work with me just in case I got the opportunity to read some, which amazingly I did.

The family members in this novel are all so different and so complicated. Grace, the eldest of the four siblings was sent away to boarding school at a young age and she’s never fit into the family in quite the way she wished because of this. She has a high power job with a financial institution and is off to London to start a new position. This is the catalyst to a load of changes that are about to happen to the Fairley family members.

Grace goes to London, following a dream she thought she wanted, before she left, she met Aaron while she was back in Miners Ridge saying a last goodbye to her family, and Aaron causes her to question some of the things she believed she wanted and didn’t want out of life. I could really feel the struggles that Grace was going through, things she’d always controlled changed once she left Australia, her family seemed to be changing and making decisions without her and she meanwhile was feeling very much out of control and conflicted in the choices she’d made.

Grace’s mother, Sarah, was a complex character, she’d left her husband and children a few years after the death of her youngest son and this caused a lot of strain and severing of ties with her children and the town she had lived in for over 30 years. She has struggled to come to terms with what she has been through and when Grace leaves and her elderly mother passes away, she has to take a look at her life and at nearly 70 years of age, she is determined to make some changes. I really loved the journey that Sarah went through, the growth she found, and the relationships she formed, through taking a chance on changing her circumstances.

Sarah’s decisions also cause a domino of changes to her other two children and her ex-husband who live back in Miners Ridge, the town she left 8 years before. There is plenty of emotion, recriminations, and learning that happens for all the family members who all have some pretty big issues of their own to deal with.

There are so many dynamics in this novel and I was completely absorbed in the lives of this family. I loved all the characters, though the jury is out on Grace’s father Doug.

Thanks to Harlequin Australia for a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

Publication date 18/5/2020

Buy from HarperCollins Australia

#AWW2020    27/50

New Release Book Review: Home From the Hill by Susanne Bellamy

Screenshot_20200513_213801Home From the Hill is book 4 I the Home to Lark Creek series. This was however, my first visit to Lark Creek, but I’ll be going back and revisiting with the first three books.

I liked this romantic suspense novel, about an older couple who have plenty of baggage behind them, but who are now tentatively taking steps to start again.

I thought Susanne Bellamy did a good job of portraying the PTSD and the claustrophobia that Graham was suffering. I felt quite sad that he’d spent so much of his life alone on the hill. Janice was a good character, and I enjoyed how she found her backbone against her ex-husband as the story progressed, though I wish she’d found it a bit earlier.

I enjoyed Jack, the lawyer, Rick, and the other secondary characters that played important roles in this story. There was plenty of tension created surrounding Janice’s ex and also the markers on the hill and I wondered how it was all going to come together. A really enjoyable read.

FB_IMG_1577105032228#AWW2020   33/50

New Release Book Review: The Boundary Fence by Alissa Callen

The Boundary FenceI always like returning to the town of Woodlea and in The Boundary Fence, book #7 in the series, it was wonderful to reconnect with the characters from the previous books as well as experience a new couple falling in love.

I loved meeting Ella again and learning more about her and what she had been through to cause her to swear off relationships. The same goes for Saul, a newcomer who has bought the property next to Ella’s. Both have some serious issues with relationships, but the chemistry between them means that they are both struggling to keep the boundaries they’ve spent so long building, standing.

As well as the relationship between Saul and Ella, there is a mystery involving Violet who used to own Ella’s house. Her daughter went missing many years ago and Violet has always wondered what happened to make her disappear and what happened to keep her from coming back. Violet has always left the porch light on for her daughter in the hopes that one day she will return. Ella and Saul get drawn into helping Violet try and uncover what really happened all those years ago, working together on this doesn’t help the growing attraction each of them feels.

I really enjoyed this story, and I hope to return to Woodlea again and catch up with the characters, old and new.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for a digital copy in return for an honest review.

#AWW2020   32/50

 

New Release Book Review: Racetrack Royalty by Renee Dahlia

Racetrack RoyaltyI have really enjoyed this series, Racetrack Royalty is book #4 in the Merindah Park series, Merindah Park (#1)Making Her Mark (#2), and Two Hearts Healing (#3) are all worth taking the time to read.

In Racetrack Royalty, the family has flown to the UK for the Royal Ascot races due to their horse Biographical being in two of the races and Shannon, our leading man has been asked to stay on board as his trainer. Shannon has always been a bit different from his siblings and the way he interacts with people is a little different too. His family has always said ‘he likes horses better than people’. It isn’t until he meets Ananya on the train to the racecourse one morning, that he starts to look at this quirk of his in a different way. Ananya has an uncanny ability to really ‘get’ him, something no one else has ever done, and Shannon and his family want her to stay around.

Shannon and Ananya’s ‘relationship’ begins very suddenly when they start chatting on the train and it goes full speed ahead after he asks her to stay around in the members’ area with him and his family. While the relationship did move super fast, and Ananya made decisions that were completely out of character for her, I really enjoyed the way these two interacted and I loved that Shannon had finally found someone he felt comfortable with and who understood him. Shannon has always been there for his siblings so it was extra nice to see him find some happiness.

Ananya has a young nephew on the autism spectrum and she tentatively broaches this with Shannon. His reaction is exactly what you would expect at first, but after he starts doing some research, he starts to feel like maybe he isn’t that strange after all. This is one of the benefits of having a label for a disability or a behaviour quirk. I know when I was diagnosed with ADD as an adult, it made me feel like I wasn’t stupid or lazy after all and I really wished it had been picked up as I was going through school. While I don’t let it define me, it was great to have an understanding of the way I was. Shannon is the same, this knowledge doesn’t define him, but it does give him some peace and understanding and will hopefully allow his family to better understand him too.

Ananya and Shannon have to overcome many challenges if they want this fledgling relationship to go somewhere. Ananya is from a very different background, both financially and culturally, with her family coming from Bangledesh, on top of that, they both live in different countries and have different things that make them happy. There was a lot going on here and there were plenty of things to deal with and misunderstandings to get through, but I enjoyed every bit of it leading up to Shannon getting his happy ever after.

Thanks to NetGalley and Escape Publishing for a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

 

#AWW2020   33/50

 

New Release Book Review: Asking For Trouble by Amy Andrews

Nothing but troubleThis is the third book in the Credence, Colorado series, I read Nothing But Trouble (#1) this time last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, so it came as no surprise that this was just as enjoyable.

Asking For Trouble deals with the repercussions of domestic abuse, by a parent and by a husband.

Della has lived in Credence for the past 3 years, ever since her brother Wade, the local cop rescued her. She’s spent her time getting her life together and sitting at Tucker’s bar learning to feel safe and learning about friends.

Tucker is Wade’s best mate and as such feels obligated to protect Della and help her in any way he can. Being her wingman as she learns to date probably wasn’t what he had in mind.

I really loved these two, their friendship which starts with Tucker giving Della and then getting roped into being her wingman as she goes on Tinder dates, slowly grows into something more.

Della tasks Tucker with teaching her about her sexuality, and she couldn’t have asked for a better teacher. Tucker is the kind of guy every girl dreams of. He’s gorgeous, attentive, and protective, but he has hangups about how he feels about Della, his age, his friendship with her brother and her past. Watching these two explore each other and their feelings was all kinds of fun. And hoping they can both get their acts together and decide how they truly feel about each other was fun too.

Della certainly comes into her own as the story progresses and that’s no small thanks to Tucker. But also to her friends and Rosemary, one of the residents the old people’s home she works at. Rosemary is just an absolute hoot and she certainly teaches Della a thing or two, probably more than Della wished to know.

A great read with a happy ending.

Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for a digital copy of this book in return for an honest review.

 

#AWW2020    30/50