New Realease Book Review: The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman

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Wow, this book was not what I was expecting, but it was a really great read, one that had me hooked from the start to the finish.

The Premise, 5 strangers trapped in a cafe with a crazy gunman, this sounded a lot like a real-life siege in Sydney a few years ago.

These strangers have nothing apparent in common, but as we slowly get to meet each of the hostages, as well as the gunman, we learn their stories and they learn about each other. They all have secrets and demons that are uncovered as the story and the siege progresses and they will all make decisions that may change their lives. I was completely invested in the lives of all the characters and their plight to get out of a desperate situation with their lives. This was an emotional read for me and the situation changed from minute to minute.

I really don’t want to give anything away about this book other than to say it was a fabulous read and I highly recommend it. As other reviewers have said, to say too much would be giving things away and would spoil it for you all.

Thanks to Allen & Unwin Australia for a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

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#20Backlistin2020: Book Review: Beyond Identity by Karrie Roman

Beyond IdentityI read a previous novel by Karrie Roman and thought it was a fabulous read, so I was keen to read Beyond Identity, but for some reason it has been on my shelf since the end of August, I’m not sure what was happening around that time but I seem to have a fair few backlist books from this period. This is my fourth #20Backlistin2020 review and it does feel so good to be getting some of these great books read.

This was one book I was loath to put down in order to go to work, I was hooked from the beginning and despite some of it feeling a little bit hard to believe, I really enjoyed it.

I really liked both of the main characters, Noah, who is currently homeless, is bashed on the streets one night ending up in hospital. Harry is a financial reporter trying to become an investigative journalist, he is doing a story on the homeless community and when he hears of the assault on Noah, he turns up at the hospital to see if he can interview him.

Noah was a great character, at first unwilling to ask for help, but slowly letting his guard down as his relationship with Harry progressed. As I found out about Noah’s situation, it seemed it was another all too familiar case of a child getting lost in the system, just like real life. I really liked Noah and I liked seeing how he was tough but vulnerable.

I liked Harry, I liked how his compassion and empathy wouldn’t allow him to turn away from Noah, a complete stranger when he was in need of someone to help him, and that he was willing to follow Noah and help him to uncover the truth about his past.

There was plenty of chemistry between Noah and Harry, as well as genuine affection, and I loved how this relationship bloomed.

The truth about Noah’s past and his parents went in several directions I wasn’t expecting and one I was. It will never cease to amaze me the lengths some people will go to to be top dog. There were a few moments when I didn’t know if all was going to end well or not and I had to keep reading despite the need to sleep.

I look forward to reading more books by this author.

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

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New Release Book Review: Spring at Lake Grange by Eliza Bennetts

Spring at Lake Grange

I have thoroughly enjoyed this series, I love the fact that the women are over 40, are strong women and are still able to find their happily ever after.

This one especially ticked all my boxes due to its abundance of inclusion from so many aspects of our society.

I really loved our main female character Maria, we were introduced to her in book 3, Winter in Mason Valley and it was lovely to see her get her own story. She’s such a positive, sassy, sexy lady and I loved that she really seemed to know who she was.

Ethan was a different kind of character altogether, described as socially inept and he certainly was that, part of it came from his upbringing, and lack of positive role models and lack of relationships formed when he was young, but part of me continued to feel that he seemed to be on the autism spectrum, whether this is because I work in this industry or not, I don’t know, but I liked that this man, who had so many social issues, was still able to find ‘the one’ and form a meaningful relationship. I did find myself rolling my eyes many many times at Ethan’s complete inability to understand feelings and felt sad that he thought feelings were to be avoided at all costs.

I liked Maria’s whole family, her brothers were both good characters and I especially loved her brother Steven and I thought it was very brave and right of him to decide it was time for him to be happy and to be truthful to his family no matter the fallout, in order to be true to himself. I loved how wonderful Maria’s relationship was with Steven and how she had his back completely.

There was so much to like about this novel, it was a story of family, of inclusiveness, of figuring out who you really were and what you really wanted, a story of coming to terms with what life has dealt you and loving those around you for who they are no matter what. I definitely ended this novel feeling good for all the characters involved and knowing that they would all be travelling happily ever after.

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#AWW2020 19/50

Book Review: Into the Fog by Sandi Wallace

IMG_20200302_182746I loved Dead Again, book 2 in the Georgie Harvey and John Franklin series so I was straight down the library to order book 3, Into the Fog. I think this series just gets better and better and I found myself not wanting to put this novel down despite having to work the following day.

I was totally absorbed in the disappearance of three children whilst on a camp in Mount Dandenong which has been organised by Franklin and his colleagues from the Dalesford Police Department. Looking after the group of children are his colleagues, Sam and Lunny are Georgie, his daughter Kat and Josh a teenager who Franklin has worked with at the boxing centre. They are all in total panic when the kids go missing, the terrible icy weather makes things harder for the people searching and more dangerous for the kids.

Franklin heads straight up to his group after hearing the news, despite it possibly affecting his chance at making detective, these kids are his local kids and Franklin is all about his community. There is a fight for Franklin’s team to stay involved in the hunt for the kids and the possible perpetrators after the local police are called in, a conflict of interest is cited, but there are plenty of allowances made to start with and between them, they do some good working into finding out who is behind the disappearance.

In today’s society, we are constantly reminded to be aware when on social media, especially in regards to our children who are easily influenced and where criminals can pretend to be whoever they want to be in order to lure them in. Sandi Wallace has done a thorough job of showing us how easily this can be done and the terrible outcomes that could occur because of this medium of communication.

The story is told from multiple viewpoints, including one of the missing children and the story progresses both fast and slow, but at the same time, it felt like nonstop action in the desperate hunt to find these children.

The chapters are mostly quite short, and this is an easy way to trick me into reading far more than I planned before going to bed, just one more chapter, was I’ll just read one more because they are short, which lead to me turning page after page in the need to know what was going to happen.

I really hope there are more Georgie Harvey and John Franklin novels to come. This series is being rereleased, so preorder this book now ready for June 2020.

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New Release Book Review: Going Home by Carole Brungar

New Zealand author Carole Brungar is able to write of an incredibly terrible time, the Vietnam War, in a very emotive and realistic way. I can always see myself there during those terrible times, whether in the jungle with the soldiers, in the helicopter flying into dangerous situations or at the hospital tending the children with horrific injuries. I can smell the smell and hear the sounds of everything that is going on during these chaotic and dangerous times.

Screenshot_20200305_102306This book, the third in the Return to Nam series, stories about the Vietnam War and the NZ soldiers, nurses, photographers and entertainers, who went there without knowing what the were flying into, takes us out of the jungle and into the town, where Ronnie has signed up to do a stint (12 months) as a nurse.

When New Zealander Ronnie arrives she has a naivety about her, but she is a strong and determined young woman, whose strength and determination get her through everything that happens during her time there. She works tirelessly for these children and instigates many changes to the ward to help with the healing of these children who have been caught up in the middle of this war.

Ronnie meets American pilot Joseph who is on his second tour of duty, they hit it off straight away despite Ronnie believing that nothing can come from having a relationship during a war. Joseph is a strong and happy character who lives for the thrill of going into dangerous situations.

I really enjoyed the relationship these two built between them and I loved Joe’s perseverance when chasing Ronnie and trying to get her to want more.  I could see things from both characters POV, it isn’t really a great time or place to fall in love, but at the same time, what if this is their only time and place in which it can happen, the future certainly was not guaranteed for anyone.

There were several very tense times throughout this novel when danger showed it’s head and not always from where you were expecting it. There were a few tears and some moments of joy and many many times where I thought, there is no way I would have survived what these guys have been through.

The cast of supporting characters was great to meet and I really enjoyed the small appearances from characters from the previous two novels The Nam Legacy and The Nam Shadow. I really look forward to whatever Carole Brungar brings us next. If you are interested in a novel about relationships and the Vietnam War, then I highly recommend this novel and the previous two novels in the series.

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New Release Book Review: Walking by Kim Kelly

WalkingAnyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of Kim Kelly’s writing, I would read just about anything she wrote. She has an amazing gift for drawing me completely into her stories , the places and the times, and I live through everything the characters do. All of her novels are written so differently, from the tone to the point of view, they are all completely individual.

Her newest offering Walking is written in two completely different perspectives. Firstly we have Lucy Brynne who tells us the story from her point of view, later in the story we also have Jim telling the story from his point of view, I really loved these chapters from the get go. The other chapters, Hugo Winter and the god-awful Eliot Slade are told from the point of view of a narator telling us their part of the story. I admit to taking a bit longer to get into this style of writing, but once I got used to it I was hooked.

I have to say, not much housework got done the weekend I read Walking thanks to Lucy, Jim, and Hugo (and the god awful Slade). I couldn’t put Walking down. What fabulous tale Kim Kelly has told.

How angry Eliot Slade and the rest of the medical institution made me whilst reading this novel. How absolutely upset and angry I get when I read about the prejudices of people because of race or religion, especially when I hear about it happening in Australia. Things are obviously better now than they were in Lucy and Hugo’s time, but there’s still so much of it that goes on. I thank her for bringing these things to the forefront of people’s minds, maybe it will make them look at how they behave now and how they allow this behaviour to continue to happen. Hmm slightly off track there, but that’s what happens when I get onto a topic I’m passionate about.

Doctor Hugo Winter is a German sugeon who has immigrated to Australia after falling in love. He is a renowned and respected orthapedic surgeon in Germany and has an abrupt manner when dealing with those he finds stupid, I really enjoyed his quirky character which had so much passion and compassion underneath his abrupt and sometimes oblivious manner. Hugo Winter’s character is fictional, but is based on the real life German-Australian surgeon Max Herz. To read more about Kim Kelly’s inspiration behind Hugo click here.  I really liked Hugo, and once I got used to the style his part of the story was written, I embraced him wholeheartedly. The way Hugo was treated during the war, the way most German-Australian’s were treated, was just awful, as I mentioned above, and I can’t for the life of me understand what makes people so prejudiced against those of a different race, especially those they have lived and worked beside for years.

I loved Lucy so much, I’ve been through the sexism she went through most of my working life, but like her I just kept my head down and kept on, for the most part. Lucy is a physiotheraspist, unusual for the 1940s, and she is not given the respect she deserves from the rest of the medical staff, and especially from the nursing staff. Lucy’s journey from her disadvantaged childhood, her accident that required treatment from Doctor Hugo Winter, something that completely changed both of their lives, through to her life now as a physio, was a story I was completely invested in. Lucy spends a lot of time thinking and telling herself off in her head, and I could so relate to this, and where in some characters it can be annoying, I found this suited Lucy’s character so well.

Jim was a great character too, I loved how Lucy and Jim complimented each other so well. From their first meeting in the hospital bed as Lucy’s patient, you just know the relationship is going to become something more. Jim’s accident turns out to be a blessing for many reasons and not just because of the love story between him and Lucy.

There were a couple of other characters worth mentioning, Anton, a friend and colleague of Hugo’s was a wonderful character, I loved his quirks and his drive as much as I did Hugo’s. Then we have our antagonist, the god-awful Eliot Slade, who had no redeeming features at all. He was a horrible, jealous individual, only out for himself, even his patients didn’t matter, and what he puts Hugo through for decades is more than I would have been able to stand.

This is a story about grief, hope, dreams, love, prejudice, racism, sexism and more and I highly recommend it.

Music plays a part throughout the story and in Kim Kelly’s blog post about Walking (that I have linked above), she lists some of the songs, so I have made a playlist on YouTube for anyone interested.

 

I thank Kim Kelly for providing me a digital copy of Walking in return for an honest review.

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#AWW2020 11/50FB_IMG_1577105032228

Book Review : The Pearl Thief by Fiona McIntosh

IMG_20200206_190147The Pearl Thief by Fiona McIntosh was an absolutely brilliant read!

It was my turn to pick the book for my face-to-face book club this month and this was my pick. I received this for Christmas 2018 and thought it was well past time that I read it, it also marks off another #20backlistin2020 books, that’s 2 down 18 to go. This is also my 10th book in the AWW2020 reading challenge.

This could have been just another holocaust novel, but it was very different from any others I’ve read.

We meet Severine/Katerina when she is in London working on secondment at a museum in 1963 and is asked to identify some pearls, this is the start of her journey into remembering the past and seeking revenge and peace in the now. 

There are several stories/timelines happening throughout this novel, we have the 1939-1941 timeline, the beginning of the end for Katerina and her family, the start of the war and the murder of thousands of Jewish people. I had never heard of the kindertransport, trains that were to take Jewish children and babies from Germany and the greater Europe to the safety of Britain, being put up in homes until their parents could once again be reunited with them. For the majority, they never saw their families again. How brave and terrified must those families and children have been, saying goodbye to loved ones, knowing it was unlikely they’d never see them again.

At times I found some of the story very hard to read, especially when Severine/Katerina is telling Daniel about what happened to her and her family due to Ruda Mayek, a man she has spent 20 years trying to forget. Ruda Mayek is an evil man, there were so many of them during the war, I guess, there still are, but it seems like Hitler brought out the very worst in people, especially those who weren’t nice to begin with. As Katerina tells Daniel her story, I was transported to the places she remembers, perhaps too clearly at times due to Fiona McIntosh’s ability to describe things in such detail.

The lawyer, Edward Summerbee, who is in charge of the pearls becomes an important character in the novel and whilst not being willing to break his oath to keep his client’s identity a secret, he is able to help Katerina in other ways. I really liked Edward and his determination to keep to his morals as a lawyer, but his determination to also help where he could, even if he took some persuading.

There was plenty of suspense in the hunt for Ruda Mayek and plenty of secrets to uncover throughout the story. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and must get onto this last year’s Christmas present by the same author, The Diamond Hunter.

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#AWW2020  10/50

New Release Book Review: Hard Ride by A.M. Arthur

Hard RideHard Ride: A Gay Cowboy Romance (Book 5 Clean Slate Ranch series) by A.M. Arthur had me up all night reading to see if our two main characters, Slate and Derrick could go from fake boyfriends to something real. I have enjoyed this whole series so far and this newest book was no exception.

This one takes us away from Clean Slate Ranch, though all the previous characters I’ve come to know and love, regularly make appearances. After Slate has an accident he makes a deal with Derrick, they will be fake boyfriends for the summer, so Derrick has a date for 5 family weddings he has to attend, and in return Slate can recuperate at his place in the city where he has access to medical facilities.

The fake boyfriend/girlfriend trope is not a new one, but I personally haven’t read many of them, and I really enjoyed this one, watching them fall for each other, they already knew they had the chemistry, but watching that chemistry turn to something more was really enjoyable even if they were both too stubborn to say anything to each other. Cue best friends who can help out.

I loved the new cast of supporting characters who live in Derrick’s house and who Slate also becomes good friends with. I especially liked Dez who’s sweet, quirky and an individual and made Slate’s time recovering more enjoyable and set him on a new and completely different path from his former interests.

Slate has kept a secret from everyone, a teenage daughter who he is desperate to form a proper relationship with. I liked the way this played out and I liked how open she was to Slate and Derrick’s relationship and how that made her look at her dad in a new and better way.

A really enjoyable romance and I’ll be cheering this couple on, as I have for all the couples so far. I hope there is another book in this series to look forward to.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin – Carina Press for a digital copy in return for an honest review.

 

New Release Book Review: Bound by Silence by Suzanne Cass

Bound by SilenceBound by Silence by Suzanne Cass is book #2 in the Island Bound series and while it can be read as a standalone, the two main characters, Sierra and Reed, from book #1 Bound by Truth, play a pretty big role in this novel and they will continue into the next, so I’d advise you to read book #1 first, saying that, you won’t be lost if you don’t but the first book was really good and lays some of the backgrounds for our characters.

In Bound by Silence, we meet Keira, who is living in Hawaii and who witnesses a crime, watches her house be consumed by lava and is now on the run from some seriously bad guys. I kept changing my opinion of Keira, I liked her, then I thought she was a spoiled brat, followed by feeling terribly sorry for what she’d been through with her husband and being able to understand where some of her behaviours and thoughts come from, then liking her again. I wanted her to show some of the mettle she’d shown at the beginning of the story when she starts out on the run, but now and again she slipped into complete victim mode, which annoyed me. But at the same time, she’d lived through a lot and now her life was in danger, she was allowed to act like a victim for a while.

The things that Keira went through with her husband were quite hard to read about, she suffered terrible emotional abuse at his and others’ hands and that made her trust no one, while at the same time feeling that she was worth nothing. It is hard to fathom how people can blame themselves so completely for the way other people treat them when it is those people who are to blame.

I really liked Dalton, a bounty hunter, who inadvertently ends up rescuing Keira and becomes a target for the bad guys too. He struggled with what was right, morally and by the law, but chose to believe Keira and keep her safe while finding a way to prove she is innocent of a crime she’s been set up for in order to flush her out.

Keira’s sister Sierra and her now fiance Reed turn up in Hawaii as all this is going down, and using their skills as journalist and police officer, they go about tracking down evidence to help clear Keira’s name and prove who the bad guys really are.

There are some pretty hairy moments throughout this novel, where things could go either way for all four of our good guys, and there is a surprising twist, proving you don’t always know the people you think you do.

I did enjoy the chemistry between Dalton and Keira and I liked how much restraint and respect Dalton showed towards Keira. Some of the banter was fun too.

An enjoyable sequel in this series, I look forward to book three when Keira and Sierra go looking for their brother who seems to have disappeared.

Thank you to the author for providing me with a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

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#AWW2020 9/50

New Release Book Review: Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry

Echoes between usI’m a big fan of Katie McGarry, her books are always full of emotions and she is never afraid to take you on a rollercoaster of an emotional ride. Echoes Between Us is no exception.

This novel is about two teenagers from different social groups whose surprise friendship through a school project makes them reassess their lives and their beliefs.

When I started this I wasn’t sure what to expect, it had aspects of the supernatural, bullying, a brain tumor, grief, and an alcoholic mother. It took me a little while to get into this story, but once I did, I was invested in the lives of Veronica and Sawyer, our two main characters.

We meet Veronica who is talking to her mother, who it turns out is a ghost only she can see. Veronica is struggling with the loss of her mother to a brain tumor while living with the knowledge and side effects of her own brain tumor. Veronica is a quirky character who I immediately liked, she’s self-assured and different, with three loyal friends. She doesn’t fit in at school, her quirkiness and her often time strange behaviour cause many of the other teenagers to spread nasty rumours about her and treat her like being weird is a bad thing. Veronica thinks she’s ok with her tumor and that she is dealing with things in a positive way, but as the story progresses, she learns that maybe she isn’t living as much as she thought, but rather, just waiting to die.

Then we meet Sawyer, one of the in-crowd, whose mother has just rented the downstairs apartment from Veronica’s dad. These two are not friends by any means, both having a natural disdain for the other. Sawyer has a secret, he chases an adrenaline high to get him through his life, just like an alcoholic or drug addict would. The difference with Sawyer is, he knows it is dangerous and he wants to stop, which leads him to attend an AA meeting and gain a sponsor, Knox, who becomes an important part of Sawyer’s life.

When Veronica needs a partner for an English assignment, she chooses Sawyer to be her partner to the shock/horror of everyone, including Sawyer’s mother, who is a right piece of works. Sawyer’s mother is a drunk, she’s also manipulative and controlling, and I didn’t like her one little bit.

Sawyer and Veronica’s relationship starts off extremely rocky, with only the assignment in common, the assignment being Veronica’s choice, to show that ghosts are real. What starts off as a very rocky truce, soon changes as they both start to realise they actually like who the other person is, especially when they aren’t around their respective friends. I enjoyed these two getting to know each other, and I enjoyed the way they pushed each other outside of their comfort zones in really taking a look at their lives and the people around them.

There were some sad and confronting parts in the story, I admit to getting teary at times. There is also some very interesting knowledge I learned about alcoholics and those who support them. I feel sorry, especially for the teens out there who end up mothering their parents, essentially enabling them in their illness.

Another great read from Katie McGarry that broached many important subjects and poked at many emotions.

Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Tor Teen for providing me with a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.