Review & Giveaway: The Chocolate Promise by Josephine Moon

 

Title: The Chocolate Promise

Author: Josephine Moon

Published: Allen & Unwin April 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read on April 09, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A sweet tale about love, friendship, family and chocolate, The Chocolate Promise is Josephine Moon’s second novel.

Christmas Livingstone is doing what she loves, making and selling gourmet chocolate treats in her very own store, The Chocolate Apothecary, and spreading joy, helping those in need in her community. She has ten simple rules for happiness, all of which have helped her rebuild her life after fleeing heartbreak three years previously and she is determined to stick with them, even when Lincoln van Luc, a botanist, wanders into her shop and threatens the most important rule of all… ‘Absolutely no romantic relationships’.

“The rules, she reminded herself. The rules were there for her protection. The rules had served her well and kept her steady for the past three years. Now was not the time to abandon the rules.”

Christmas is happy with the life she has made for herself and the plans she has for the future but the rules that have allowed her to rebuild her life begin to chafe when first wins a place on a week-long course with a world-renowned French chocolatier, and then she meets Lincoln. Christmas (a ridiculous name btw) is creative, intelligent and kind but she is also emotionally closed off due to a dysfunctional childhood and a recent trauma. Moon gently guides her character into dealing with her past and opening up her heart as the story unfolds.

The romantic relationship between Christmas and Lincoln is complicated by Christmas’s ‘rules’ and Lincoln’s wunderlust. Lincoln, a botanist, has spent most of his life traveling the world and doesn’t plan to stay in Tasmania long. He has returned to help his Nan, a wonderful character, and work on his book, but falling in love with Christmas forces him to reassess his future.

I delighted in the settings, a small town in Tasmania with ‘period’ tourist appeal, the Chocolate Apothecary sounds like a pretty store and I could easily imagine the tempting treats gracing the shelves and the rich smell of molten chocolate. Francophiles will enjoy Christmas’s sojourn in France touring the countryside exploring lavender farms in Provence, and whipping up treats like a champagne and vodka chocolate ganache to coat fresh rasberries in Aix.

This novel, with its appealing characters and feel good storyline, is a lovely way to treat yourself on a lazy afternoon, but be warned, you will be craving chocolate before you are through, so make sure you have your favourite on hand.

The Chocolate Promise is available to purchase from

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GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of Allen & Unwin, I have

5 print editions of

The Chocolate Promise by Josephine Moon

to giveaway

to five lucky Australian residents.

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Entries close May 3rd,  2015

 

Weekend Cooking: Season of Salt and Honey by Hannah Tunnicliffe

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I’ve decided to make the Weekend Cooking meme, hosted by Beth Fish Reads a semi-regular post at Book’d Out.

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Title: Season of Salt and Honey

Author: Hannah Tunnicliffe

Published: Pan Macmillan April 2015

Status: Read from April 19 to 20, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Season of Salt and Honey is a bittersweet story of grief, love, family and food from forkandfiction.com blogger and author, Hannah Tunnicliffe.

Overwhelmed by grief after the death of her fiance, Francesca Caputo flees the sympathies of her well meaning family, seeking refuge in an abandoned cabin owned by Alex’s parents in a forested area of Washington. All Frankie wants is time alone to mourn the loss of forever, but her solitude is repeatedly interrupted, forcing her to reassess everything she thought she knew about her relationship, her family and herself.

“We were high-school sweethearts, just like everyone dreams about but no one actually has, because that kind of thing only happens in the movies. I knew right in my bones just how lucky I was. I knew everything was perfect, and did all the right things to keep it that way. Until now.”

Frankie’s grief at the loss of Alex is raw and biting, I felt for her and could understand her wish to be alone. She is craving peace and quiet, and the time to wallow in her happiest memories, but eventually Frankie is forced to confront some painful truths about her relationship with Alex when an offhand comment shakes her to the core.

“A loss that had started long before the ocean took him for good.”

Despite her desire for solitude, Frankie is befriended by caretaker, Jack, and his impish daughter, Huia, as well as the generous spirited Merriem, who all provide unexpected comfort as Frankie struggles to comes to terms with the changes Alex’s death has wrought. I liked these charming, enigmatic characters who offer kindness without expectation.

Frankie’s family is delightful, stereotypically Italian there is no escaping their loving, if somewhat suffocating, concern. While her Papa is a solid, comforting presence, Frankie’s aunts, Zia Rosa and Zia Connie, fuss and worry, cousin Vinnie makes mischief, and her estranged sister, Isabella, camps on her doorstep, reminding her of things she would rather forget.

Frankie’s family equates food with love, and Season of Salt and Honey includes the recipes for a handful of Italian dishes served and shared within its pages, including Pitta Mpigliata (Sweetbread rosettes with fruit and nuts); Lingua de Suocera (Marmalade filled pastries); Spring Risotto; and Pasta alla Norma (Pasta with eggplant, tomato and salted ricotta).

“The smells of the forest — the damp dark of the soil, the bleeding sap of the trees, the lemony cedar smell — all vanish in the company of the Sicilian food: the pungent garlic in Zio Mario’s salami, the vinegar pickling the vegetables, olives bobbing in brine, roasted peppers, the ubiquitous, sunshine-coloured olive oil.”

With lovely writing and a measured, almost lyrical, tempo, Season of Salt and Honey is a poignant novel embracing both the sourness and sweetness of love.

Available to purchase from

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and all good bookstores.

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Review: Love at First Flight by Tess Woods

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Title: Love at First Flight

Author: Tess Woods

Published: HarperCollins Au April 2015

Status: Read from April 15 to 16, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Told from the first person perspectives of Mel and Matt, Love at First Flight is an unconventional love story which explores the motives for an illicit affair, and the damage left in its wake.

When Mel meets Matt during an interstate flight they recognise each other as soul mates. The problem is Mel is a married mother of two who lives in Perth, and Matt, who lives in Melbourne, is engaged to be married. Despite saying goodbye at the airport, they are both unable to forget their brief time together, and embark on a passionate affair that threatens to destroy them both.

Relationships are complicated things and Woods intelligently and compassionately explores the evolution of Matt and Mel’s affair from their first meeting, through their consuming affair, and to the messy, bitter end. It’s an emotional journey that draws the reader in with complex characterisation and a compelling narrative.

I was surprised to find I could relate to Mel in some ways, I found it difficult to blame her for reveling in the attention Matt gave her during the flight, but she definitely crossed the line for me when she chose to meet with him later. Her spiral into obsession was unsettling but I believed in it, as I did in her growing self awareness.

I particularly admired the way Mel eventually took responsibility for her failings with her husband. Mel’s shame and guilt, and Adam’s hurt and anger, in the aftermath is visceral. I’ve witnessed a similar situation among friends and feel that Woods portrayal of their struggle towards forgiveness and redemption is very well drawn.

Woods convinced me of the overwhelming chemistry between Mel and Matt, no mean feat considering I’m not sure I really believe in the idea of love at first sight. I wasn’t a fan of Matt, despite his sympathetic background he struck me as a weak man, but I thought he was a well rounded character.

Love at First Flight is a surprisingly thought provoking story about love, marriage, intimacy and honesty. An impressive debut from a new Australian author.

 

Learn more about Love at First Flight, Tess Woods and her road to publication in her guest post published earlier today

Love at First Flight is available to purchase from

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Review: The Nutters by Kate Starmer

 

Title: The Nutters

Author: Kate Starmer

Published: Austin-Macauley Jan 2015

Status: Read from April 07 to 08, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Nutters introduces Albert, a former policeman medically retired from the force after being stabbed by a clown, and his wife, Rose, private investigators in the small English village of Little Wobble. Albert, missing the excitement of his days on the force, hoped to catch criminals but instead spends his days looking for missing garden gnomes, cats, and neighbours who aren’t really missing at all.
So the Nutters are eager when they are asked to investigate a case in Upper Wobble where the vicar’s wife is receiving hate mail, threatening to expose her secret, sordid past, and suddenly they have almost more excitement than they can handle.

This cozy mystery offers a cast of lively characters, featuring the Nutter family which includes Albert, Rose, also an agony aunt for the village newspaper, their three almost adult children and a lazy oversize mutt.

There is more than one mystery playing out in The Nutters. The vicar’s wife is being blackmailed, the publican seems to be cheating on his wife, a young woman is assaulted and another is being stalked. The mysteries are solidly plotted, and though the culprits are fairly easily guessed, I was surprised by at least one of the revelations.

Unfortunately my experience of reading The Nutters was marred by several issues with the writing. The sentence structure is often clumsy, tenses are muddled and the grammar is inconsistent. There is far too much ‘tell’ rather than ‘show’ and there are instances of repetition in the narrative.

It’s a shame, because I enjoyed the humour of The Nutters and think the story is genuinely entertaining, but the editing lets it down.

Available to purchase from

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Review: Jinn and Juice by Nicole Peeler

 

Title: Jinn and Juice {The Jinni #1}

Author: Nicole Peeler

Published: Orbit April 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read on April 03, 2015  – I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:
Jinn and Juice introduces a new paranormal romance/urban fantasy series from Nicole Peeler.

It’s less than a week until Lyla will finally be free of the curse that condemned her to a thousand years of servitude when Ozan, a Magi needing her help to find a missing girl, binds her to his will. A Jinn, Lyla has little choice but to obey her new Master and can only hope he will stick to their agreement to release her when their mission is complete, but Lyla will have face to her worst nightmare before her most heartfelt wish cam be granted.

Lyla was the teenage daughter of a an ancient Persian king, desperate to avoid being married off, when she was cursed by the genie she sought help from. Now she is a Jinn and a belly dancer/burlesque performer at a Pittsburgh club, biding her time until the curse expires.

Lyla’s inner circle have her back and are a fun and interesting group, including a gay Delphi Oracle, a Will-o-the-Wisp, a half troll and a psychic drag queen.

The romance between Lyla and Oz doesn’t offer any real surprises but it is enjoyable. Lyla resents Oz at first and certainly doesn’t trust him, but eventually comes to realise he is a genuine and honourable guy.

There is plenty of humour, some of it a little crude and obvious but fun and snarky nevertheless. The action is fast paced as Lyla hunts for her new Master’s missing friend, which leads to a deadly confrontation with an age old enemy.

Set in modern day Pittsburgh, I liked the way in which Peeler uses the landscape and ‘stains’ the magic with steel. ‘Sideways’ is the magical world that overlaps our own and embraces a variety of creatures and beasties.

I enjoyed Jinn and Juice, it was a quick, escapist read for a lazy afternoon.

 

Available to Purchase From

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Via Booko

 

Review: After Birth by Elisa Albert

 

Title: After Birth

Author: Elisa Albert

Published: Vintage Digital UK April 2015

Status: Read from April 02 to 03, 2015  – I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

After Birth is a provocative story of new motherhood.

The narrative is almost a stream of consciousness with Ari’s unfiltered thoughts raging across each page. Ari is brutally honest about her experience, but abrasively so. She is angry, bitter and self pitying, however it’s fair to say that she is also lost, lonely and deeply conflicted.

” Sometimes I’m with the baby and I think: you’re my heart and my soul, and I would die for you. Other times I think: tiny moron, leave me the f**k alone…”

It seems likely Ari is experiencing some level of post natal depression, exacerbated by a birth she viewed as traumatic and her difficult relationship with her deceased mother. Motherhood is undoubtedly a huge period of change and adjustment.

“There’s before and there’s after. To live in your body before is one thing. To live in your body after is another. Some deal by attempting to micromanage; some go crazy; some zone right the hell on out. Or all of the above. A blessed few resist any of these…”

There were parts of the novel I connected with, I have four children (three of whom were born in three years) so I can relate somewhat to Ari’s experience. New motherhood can be a frustrating, exhausting, frightening and isolating period.

“Endless need. I did not understand how there could be no break. No rest. There was just no end to it. It went on and one and on. There was no end. And I couldn’t relinquish him….because he was mine. There was an agony that bordered on physical when he wasn’t in my arms.”

However I had a hard time dredging up a lot of sustained sympathy for Ari who wallows in negativity. She is so angry, and self-righteous and entitled. I found her rants about c-sections and bottle-feeding particularly off putting.

“The baby’s first birthday. Surgery day, I point out, because I have trouble calling it birth. Anniversary of the great failure.”

For all of the rage in After Birth, Albert raises some important issues about the experience of modern motherhood. It can be such an isolating experience for many women, especially for those who lack the close support of family and friends and it is often difficult for new mother’s to admit, and ask, for help.

“Two hundred years ago-hell, one hundred years ago- you’d have a child surrounded by other women: your mother, her mother, sisters, cousins, sisters -in-law, mother-in-law…. They’d help you, keep you company, show you how. Then you’d do the same. Not just people to share in the work of raising children, but people to share in the loving of children.”

Albert also speaks about friendship, and the way women relate to each other in both positive and negative ways. Ari has few female friends, and her closest friends essentially abandon her after her son is born. She latches onto to Mina, the pregnant tenant of friends, who offers her much of the validation she craves.

We set up camp at my house or hers. We listen to music. I like the music she likes….”We say ‘yes’, ‘exactly’, ‘poor thing’ and ‘I know’, ‘I know that’s the whole problem’ and ‘really, well of course!'”

I think the rage in this novel has the potential to both ameliorate and alienate women, I rolled my eyes in derision of what it had to say as often as I nodded my head in agreement. I didn’t enjoy After Birth, nor even really like it, but it is a thought provoking and powerful read.

 

Available to Purchase From

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Review: Whiskey and Charlie by Annabel Smith

 

Title: Whiskey and Charlie

Author: Annabel Smith

Published: Sourcebooks Landmark April 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read on April 02, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley)

My Thoughts:

First published in Australia as ‘Whisky, Charlie, Foxtrot’ in 2012, Whiskey and Charlie is a moving and poignant novel, the story of identical twin brothers, Charlie and William (aka Whiskey) Ferns. Inseparable as children, rivals as teenagers and estranged as adults, their relationship is unresolved when William is badly injured in a freak accident. As Whiskey lies comatose, Charlie struggles to deal with all the things that remain unsaid between them.

“He must not die.He must not die because he, Charlie, needs more time….He had always thought there would be time”

The narrative shifts between present events and Charlie’s memories of the past, gradually unraveling the reasons for the discord between the brothers. Each chapter is headed with a call sign from the International Phonetic Alphabet, with the designation woven cleverly into the story.

WHISKEY5Charlie is both a sympathetic and frustrating character. Having always felt inferior to his much more outgoing and confident twin, Charlie has allowed his envy and resentment to sour many aspects of his life. It isn’t until Whiskey’s accident that Charlie examines his own conscience and is forced to confront the ways in which he has failed not only his brother, but himself.

“Charlie had spent all those months trying to find evidence that Whiskey was to blame for their estrangement, looking for justifications for his refusal to forgive Whiskey, excavating the last twentyfive years of their lives in order to come to some sort of definitive conclusion – which of the them was guilty, which of them was not. At last he saw the truth was somewhere between those things, that it wasn’t all Whiskey’s fault or all his own, that at times they had both done the right thing by each other, and at other times the wrong thing, that they’d both made mistakes and both come come good in their own ways…”

Smith’s observations of the complicated relationships in her novel are astute and honest. her characters are believable, complex and vividly drawn. Emotion runs high as the characters sit vigil by Whiskey’s bedside, with the author capturing the dizzying eddy of hope, grief, guilt and fear.

A heartfelt, compelling story about love, redemption and family, the last pages brought a tear to my eye.

Available to Purchase From

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Review: Normal by Graeme Cameron

Title: Normal

Author: Graeme Cameron

Published: Harlequin MIRA March 2015

Status: Read from March 31 to April 01, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Normal by Graeme Cameron is told in the first person, by an unnamed man who lives in a lovely English farmhouse with a separate garage, drives a white Transit van, and enjoys cooking.

The novel opens as our mystery man is cleaning up after the murder and dismemberment of his latest victim, and is interrupted by an unsuspecting young woman whom he abducts. With Erica safely caged in his purpose built, underground games room our protagonist goes grocery shopping.

“I know exactly when it all started to go wrong for me. It was April 5 at 19:23:17, and it started with a pair of eyes.”

It is there that he meets Rachel and his life begins to unravel.

Cameron has created a rather startling antihero, a serial killer who falls in love with a checkout girl. For years he has happily stalked, kidnapped, murdered and even eaten young women, but meeting Rachel throws him off his game.

“I stared down at my feeble prey lying cock-eagled on the floor, and I felt all of the craving, all of the desperate, clawing need simply evaporate. Abruptly, everything in my head was Rachael, everything in my gust was regret and everything at my feet was a ridiculous, unfathomable error of judgement.”

The question is what to do with his most recent captive, who turns out to be quite an unusual young woman, and the police detectives who are persistently curious about his house guest. The killer is clever and resourceful but slowly he begins to lose control of his carefully constructed, ‘normal’ life, and shockingly elicits some sympathy for his predicament.

The best surprise is in the black humour, which is often sly and offbeat. Ordinary scenes are injected with a dark twist that provoke a startled snicker.

“In Fruit & Veg I selected a peach. Small, rosy and perfectly rounded, she set my mouth watering the moment she caught my eye. Her burly, bruised companion, however, swiftly killed my appetite.”

Disturbing and whimsical in equal measure, Normal has its flaws, but overall is an entertaining, provocative and sharply written novel.

Available to Purchase From

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normal

Available in Australia  July 2015

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Review: The Road To Hope by Rachael Johns

 

Title: The Road to Hope

Author: Rachael Johns

Published: Harlequin MIRA AU March 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read on March 31, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

In The Road to Hope, Rachael Johns revisits the small Western Australian town of Hope Springs featured in her debut novel, Jilted.

The Road to Hope opens at Flynn and Ellie’s marriage ceremony with Lauren Simpson watching jealously from the pews. Still bitter about losing the love of her life, and tired of being fodder for the town gossips, Lauren decides it’s time to start afresh, but the temptation of the locum doctor, Dr Tom Lewis, may be just too good for a bad girl to resist.

Lauren was cast as somewhat of a villain in Jilted, painted as petty and promiscuous, but Johns does an admirable job of redeeming her in The Road To Hope. We learn that Lauren’s behaviour in large part stemmed from her unrequited crush on Flynn, and her promiscuity has been driven by a real desire for true love. As a nurse, Lauren proves she is also kind, capable and dedicated and it’s these qualities that Johns draws out so that we find Lauren both a sympathetic and likeable heroine.

Tom Lewis is easy to like – a hot, surfing doctor traveling Australia in a vintage ute as a locum – but he has a devastating secret that complicates his life. He’s attracted to Lauren, but he feels he can’t consider anything more serious than a fling given his situation. Johns handles Lewis’s dilemma well without minimising the reality of the situation.

I really enjoyed the chemistry and slow burn romance between Lauren and Tom. Despite their immediate sexual attraction, both have good reasons for refusing to acknowledge it. They develop a friendship which is really sweet, even with the undercurrent of heat and I was delighted by the way their relationship worked itself out.

It’s not necessary to have read Jilted to read The Road to Hope but I enjoyed revisiting the town and people of Hope Springs. I read this in a matter of hours, enjoying the warmth, humour and romance of a this well written story.

Available to purchase from

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and all good bookstores.

 

Also by Rachael Johns

@ Goodreads

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Review: Pretty Ugly by Kirker Butler

Title: Pretty Ugly

Author: Kirker Butler

Published: Thomas Dunne March 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from March 27 to 29, 2015  – I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Review to come

Available to Purchase From

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