Review: When It All Went to Custard by Danielle Hawkins

 

Title: When It All Went to Custard

Author: Danielle Hawkins

Published: April 15th 2019, HarperCollins

Status: Read May 2019 courtesy HarperCollins AU

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My Thoughts:

“…what’s yellow and very dangerous?….Shark-infested custard “

Having enjoyed Dinner at Roses and Chocolate Cake for Breakfast, I was delighted to have the opportunity to read Danielle Hawkins fourth novel, When It All Went to Custard.

Learning of her husband’s affair with their neighbours wife, Jenny Reynolds is surprised to realise that the end of her marriage will be a relief. In the wake of the separation her priorities are ensuring the happiness of her two young children, and figuring out how to keep the family farm she loves.

Between her ex-husband’s attempts at emotional blackmail, nonsensical knock knock jokes, a lazy farmhand, a lonely old man plying her with chokos, a demanding sister, a high-strung dog, her part time job as a building control officer, and an attractive, and now single, neighbour, Jenny tries to hold it all together and find her footing.

Hawkins has a talent for creating charming and relatable characters, her personal experience of the joys and hardships of farming provide authenticity to the setting, and her skill with genuine dialogue results in great pacing.

Laden with warmth, honesty and humour, When It All Went to Custard is an engaging contemporary story of family, farming and romance in rural New Zealand.

Read an Excerpt

++++++

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Also by Danielle Hawkins on Book’d Out 

 

Review: Outback Sisters by Rachael Johns

 

Title: Outback Sisters {Bunyip Bay #4}

Author: Rachael Johns

Published: February 2016 , MIRA

Status: Read March 2016, courtesy Harlequin AU

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

This is Rachael Johns fourth book in her rural romance series linked by the fictional community of Bunyip Bay. Readers familiar with the town will recognise Frankie Madden, the owner of a local cafe, and her sister, widowed mother of two, Simone, as the tititular Outback Sisters.

When a tall, ruggedly handsome and desperately sexy stranger strides into Frankie’s cafe and sweeps her into his arms with a bone melting kiss, she is stunned, and then a little disappointed to learn Logan Knight has mistaken her for her sister. Unbeknownst to Simone, her teenage daughters, Harriet and Grace, have been playing online matchmaker.

What follows is a charming, if slightly unconventional, tale of romance when Logan introduces the sisters to his older brother, Angus. Each of the four main characters are wary of love, having experienced hurt and loss in the past, and then there is the complication of their sibling bonds. I really enjoyed the way in which the author developed these relationships, it’s a tricky proposition but one which Johns achieves admirably.

Johns writes with a great ear for dialogue and a wonderful sense of humour. This ensures her characters feel authentic, including the teens. The relatable characters have been one of the strengths of the series.

It is satisfying as always to revisit Bunyip Bay, in this book we learn Faith and Monty (Outback Dreams) are expecting their first child, Ruby and Drew (Outback Blaze) are happily engaged, and we attend Adam and Stella’s (Outback Ghost) wedding.

The Bunyip Bay series has been a delight, I’m sad to see it end with Outback Sisters though it’s a wonderful note to close on.

++++++

 

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Review: The Sparkle Pages by Meg Bignell

 

Title: The Sparkle Pages

Author: Meg Bignell

Published: April 16th Penguin AU

Status: Read April 2019, courtesy Penguin 

++++++

My Thoughts:

Susannah Parks is convinced her marriage of fifteen years has lost it’s spark and, from the comfort of her wardrobe, begins to formulate a New Years Resolution. She will be interested, and be interesting, she will be stylish and have great hair, she will be relevant and useful, and she will have passionate sex with her husband.

“We certainly had passion once. Sometimes I catch a fleeting flash of it again, but for the most part, passion just seems to have fallen by the wayside….(There are lot of good things by the wayside, if only I could find where it is – somewhere near the too-hard basket, probably.)”

It’s been a while since a book has both made laugh out loud, and moved me to tears.

As a wife and mother of four myself, I perhaps related better to Susannah than it is wise to admit. From the barely controlled chaos of Susannah’s days, to the tedium of cleaning, cooking and caretaking for a young family, to the dwindling priority of intimacy (ok..yes, sex) in a marriage. Unlike her though, I have always understood that marriage, and family life, has its ups and downs as it is a constantly changing dynamic.

This too is what Susannah eventually comes to realise, with the help of her best friend, the indomitable Ria, her family, her friends and her neighbour, Valda. It is Susannah who has lost her spark, buried under piles of wet towels, baskets of insecurity, and a load of guilt so heavy, it has all but been extinguished.

Though there is plenty of humour, and moments of sheer absurdity, to be found in this novel, the story also reveals a shocking truth and heartbreaking tragedy. The author’s writing shines as she deftly steers the reader through sadness and joy.

The Sparkle Pages is witty, wise, honest and moving, a glittering debut from Australian author, Karen Bignell, it’s my favourite read so far this year.

“Sparks. Passion and sparks. And when there are no sparks, at least just a little sparkle.”

++++++

#lovebetweenthepages

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Review: I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

Title: I Owe You One

Author: Sophie Kinsella

Published: Bantam Press February 2019

Status: Read April 2019

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

It’s difficult to have to admit disappointment in what was once an author I could reliably expect to find entertaining. Perhaps I’m simply too jaded (ok…old) now to be charmed by Kinsella’s formula, because I’ve increasingly found her heroines insipid, and the romances underwhelming.

I found myself horribly impatient with not only Fixie’s inability to leave things alone, but also her repeated failure to defend herself from her narcissistic siblings. The romance between Seb and Fixie, complicated by the presence of Whiny Briony, is a touch unsavoury, though I did like the meet-cute setup. Ryan is so irredeemably awful from the outset I could never take him seriously.

That said, there were moments that I found entertaining, the shop assistants in Farr’s, the family business, were amusing, and I particularly enjoyed it when the Cake Club crashed the Farr’s store’s ‘relaunch’ party.

I Owe You One is an undemanding romantic comedy, and I expect fans of Kinsella will generally enjoy it, unfortunately I found it just tolerable.

++++++

Read an Excerpt

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#lovebetweenthepages

Review: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

 

 

Title: The Kiss Quotient {The Kiss Quotient #1}

Author: Helen Hoang

Published: Allen & Unwin June 2018

Status: Read March 2019

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I finally picked up The Kiss Quotient from my TBR pile, but it wasn’t the racy, romantic and entertaining novel I discovered.

Thirty year old Stella Lane has everything she needs – a successful and satisfying career as an econometrician, plenty of money, and an orderly daily routine. However her mother wants grandchildren, and Stella wants to oblige, despite a lack of suitors and an aversion to intimacy. Recognising the need to overcome both of these issues, Stella approaches the challenge in her own unique way – she hires an escort to tutor her in the art of lust, and love.

The plot of The Kiss Quotient is, in part, a twist on the classic movie, Pretty Woman (if you aren’t familiar with, watch it asap!),. Though Hoang gives it her own creative flair, the novel offers the same delightful sense of unexpected romance, drama and fun.

Fair warning, there are no fade to black scenes in The Kiss Quotient, there are several explicit sex scenes between Stella and Michael. I was surprised to find such explicit encounters in a mainstream romance novel but I thought they were tastefully written, and sexy, as opposed to tawdry.

I thought Stella was a wonderful character. I’ve read several books lately that feature a neuroatypical character and I felt Stella’s voice was one of the more authentic, something that was less surprising when I learnt the author herself, and her daughter, are on the spectrum.

Michael has an interesting backstory, and though it could be said that he personifies the ‘hooker with a heart of gold’ trope, I thought he was a well rounded character. I had to google Daniel Henney (whom I recognised by sight if not by name), and I certainly can’t fault Stella’s taste in men.

A charming and thoroughly modern romance novel, The Kiss Quotient is an enjoyable and engaging read.

 

++++++

Available to purchase from

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Review: Wickedly Dangerous by Deborah Blake

Title: Wickedly Dangerous {Baba Yaga #1}

Author: Deborah Blake

Published: Berkley, September 2014

Status: Read on May 26, 2018

 

My Thoughts:

Wickedly Dangerous is the first book in Deborah Blake’s urban fantasy romance trilogy drawing on the legend of Baba Yaga, with a unique contemporary twist.

Barbara Yager is only one of several Baba Yaga’s, whose role it is to keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world. Instead of a cabin on chicken legs,as in legend, Barbara travels her territory in an Airstream with a mind of its own, accompanied by a dragon-turned-dog, Chudo-Yudo. When she needs backup she calls on the Riders, a trio of men/dragons who serve her bidding.

In Wickedly Dangerous, Barbara is summoned when a child goes missing in a small community in Upstate New York. Using her guise as a researcher, herbalist and healer, Barbara investigates, tangling with handsome local Sheriff Liam McClellan, soon divining the disappearance has a mystical cause.

To be honest, the mystery plot is a little uneven, the cause of the disappearance is solved fairly quickly, but it takes some time for Barbara to resolve things. While this gives Blake time to introduce her world, the main plot suffers somewhat for it.

I liked the character growth, which mainly stemmed from Barbara’s relationship with Liam. No longer really human, Barbara has closed herself off to the possibilities of normal friendship and love, but the Sheriff finds a way through her defences. I liked the way in which the romance developed between the two.

I enjoyed Wickedly Dangerous enough, that I followed up with Wickedly Wonderful and Wickedly Powerful, both of which have similar themes, featuring two other North American Baba Yaga’s.

Light and fun, the Baba Yaga series was a pleasant read, combining romance with fantasy, for me over a rainy weekend.

 

 

Review: Good Riddance by Eleanor Lipman

Title: Good Riddance

Author: Eleanor Lipman

Published: Houghton Mifflin February 2019

Status: Read from Feb 6th to Feb 6th 2019

Daphne Maritch doesn’t quite know what to make of the heavily annotated high school yearbook she inherits from her mother, who held this relic dear. Too dear. The late June Winter Maritch was the teacher to whom the class of ’68 had dedicated its yearbook, and in turn she went on to attend every reunion, scribbling notes and observations after each one—not always charitably—and noting who overstepped boundaries of many kinds. 

In a fit of decluttering (the yearbook did not, Daphne concluded, “spark joy”), she discards it when she moves to a small New York City apartment. But when it’s found in the recycling bin by a busybody neighbor/documentary filmmaker, the yearbook’s mysteries—not to mention her own family’s—take on a whole new urgency, and Daphne finds herself entangled in a series of events both poignant and absurd. “

Read an Excerpt

My Thoughts:

Meh.

I was underwhelmed by ‘Good Riddance’. The yearbook, and it’s potential, was a great hook for a story, but I found the plot superficial and banal. So too was Daphne, Lipman’s main protagonist.It was her father, Tom, that I liked most, and who I thought had the most complete character arc.

A quick, easy read, but not one I’d recommend unless you are a particular fan of the author.

—————————————–

Available to Purchase From

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Review: The Big Rewind by Libby Cudmore

 

Title: The Big Rewind

Author: Libby Cudmore

Published: William Morrow Feb 2016

Status: Read from February 02 to 03, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

I couldn’t resist the premise of Libby Cudmore’s debut novel, The Big Rewind. I have a cracked vinyl case full of mix tapes, including the odd one or two given to me by ex-boyfriends that I have never been able to throw away, even though I haven’t had a working cassette player in more than a dozen years.

Wannabe music journalist Jett Bennet is rocked when she discovers the bloodied body of her neighbor and friend KitKat while dropping off a mis-delivered package containing a mix tape full of songs about love and heartbreak. Despite a lack of grounds, police suspicion falls on KitKat’s missing boyfriend Bronco, but Jett, who temps as a proofreader at a private investigation firm, speculates that the mysterious compiler of the mix tape may have motive, and with the help of her best friend, Sid, hunts for the sender.

The Big Rewind is a murder mystery and a love story. As Jett searches for the person responsible for KitKat’s murder, she reminisces about her romantic past, browsing her own collection of mix tapes from former lovers. On her mind is the one that got away -Catch, even as her feelings for best friend Sid begin to change.

“There isn’t a better feeling in the world-not an orgasm, not a first kiss, not even that glorious soaring sensation you get when those first few notes of a new song pierce your chest and fill your whole body with absolute bliss-than acknowledgement that your mix tape was not only received and played but enjoyed. It’s a dance of sorts, balancing songs you think the listener will love while trying to say everything that otherwise dries up in your throat before you can get out the words.”

I liked Jett, though given she is aged only in her mid twenties or so, her sense of nostalgia is a little excessive and her fixation on her lost loves is a little unhealthy. Her motovation for solving the murder is a little flimsy but she unpicks the mystery in a way that makes sense given her lack of experience.

The Big Rewind has a turn of the century hipster vibe what with Jett’s mentions of Trader Joe’s, French Press coffee makers, kale and pot brownies, and visits to vegan bakeries, strip joints, retro vinyl record stores, and basement clubs which is a little painful, but also kinda fun.

What I probably enjoyed most was Jett’s eclectic taste in music, dozens of songs mostly from the 1980’s are referenced throughout the novel, playing to mood and emotion.

The Big Rewind is a quick and easy read, quirky and fun.

Want a playlist to listen to while you read? You might like to start with the following songs mentioned:

Keep Me in Your Heart – Warren Zevon
What You Doing in Bombay – Tenpole Tudor
Simply – Sara Hickman
Champagne – July for Kings
Truly Madly Deeply – Savage Garden
Pure – Lightning Seeds
The Book I Read – Talking Heads
2 became 1 – Spice Girls
All for Love – Bryan Adams
She is My Sin – Nightwish
I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) – The Proclaimers
Bury My Lovely – October Projects
Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First) – John Mellencamp
Sunrise – Simply Red
Waiting for the Weekend – The Vapors

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Review: How to be Single by Liz Tuccillo

 

Title: How to be Single

Author: Liz Tucillo

Published: Simon & Schuster AU February 2016

Status: Read from March 28 to 29, 2010  – I own a copy

My Thoughts:

How to be Single has been re published to tie in with the movie release of the same name starring Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie, Leslie Mann, and Damon Wayans Jr.

I read this novel back in 2010 in my pre blogging days but posted some thoughts on Goodreads at the the time which I have shared below.

Maybe because I have never really been single, I just found this trite. From the perspective of being married, I want to tell these thirty something women to grow up and get over the princess in waiting attitude. I feel like most of the women have completely unrealistic expectations of what love and commitment are. Really if the reason Julie can’t get a guy is because she is only a size 6 and has cellulite – then how does that explain the hordes of happily coupled/married size 12 and up women?
Julie in particular is shallow and unlikeable, even before she decides that her true love lies in an already married man (no matter how open his marriage may be). I mean, really? I am wondering why she even bothered leaving her hotel when “researching” – somehow I think speaking to less than a dozen people in an entire country does not count as thorough investigation.
The girls who are left at home are much more interesting – Georgia falling apart in the wake of her husband leaving her, Ruby contemplating single motherhood, Serena acting like a total flake and Alice holding on to an ideal in the face of reality.
There were moments in this book – warm and humorous, but overall I think this book is irritating and I am not the least bit surprised that Julie remains single.

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Watch the official movie trailer

Review: Summer Harvest by Georgina Penney

 

Title: Summer Harvest

Author: Georgina Penney

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin Jan 2016

Read an Extract

Status: Read from January 24 to 25, 2016 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“‘A ticket to Australia,’ she said faintly.’Wonderful Gran, Louis, thank you so much.’ She forced her mouth to curve upwards into something resembling a smile.’This is great. Just great.'”

When Beth Poole’s grandmother gifts her an airline ticket from Yorkshire to Western Australia for her birthday she’s reluctant to vacation in a country in which every living thing seems to be lethal. Nevertheless, Beth books a months stay in a holiday cottage in George Creek looking forward to a few weeks of peace and quiet.

Loosely linked to Georgina Penney’s previous novels, Irrepressible You and Fly In Fly Out, Summer Harvest is a lovely contemporary romance novel set in the the south west winery region of Australia.

The focus of the story is on the relationship that develops between Beth and Clayton Hardy, whose family owns the winery next door to where Beth is staying. They enjoy an intimate holiday fling which becomes complicated when Beth reveals a secret she has been keeping. An additional subplot involves a fractious relationship between Clayton’s father, Rob Hardy and new winery hire, Gwen Stone, who have a history neither are willing to disclose. Both plotlines also explore the themes of loss, grief and moving on.

The characters are well drawn. Beth is a strong character, having survived the loss of her family and the desertion of her husband, as well as breast cancer, and Clayton is an appealing lead. I enjoyed the supporting characters including Beth’s outspoken grandmother Violet and Angie, the matriarch of the Evangaline Rest Winery, chatty Laura and her cheeky brother Jeff. Fred, the perpetually stoned farm hand, is good for a laugh too.

Penney’s writing style is warm, I enjoyed the very Aussie humour and the witty dialogue. The emotions are believable, the intimate scenes between Beth and Clay are well written and the story is well paced.

Summer Harvest is an engaging read and the ending satisfied the romantic in me.

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