Review: Shadow Study by Maria V Snyder

Title: Shadow Study {Soulfinders #1; Study#4; The Chronicles of Ixia #7}

Author: Maria V Snyder

Published: HarlequinTeen Au March 2015

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Status: Read from February 26 to 28, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Shadow Study launches an exciting new fantasy adventure trilogy by Maria V Snyder featuring characters familiar from her Study and Glass series.

It opens as Yelena, on her way to meet Valek for a brief reunion, is attacked by a hidden assailant who shoots her with a poisoned arrow. Able to heal herself, Yelena enjoys a passionate reunion with Valek before he returns to Ixia, but twenty four hours later she realises her magic has disappeared. Returning to Sitia, Yelena is desperate to find out how she has been stripped of her powers, and how to get them back. Without them she is vulnerable, especially since an old enemy is bent on revenge, and a new one is determined to destroy her.

While Yelena sets out to find the answers she needs, Valek is busy in his role as the Commander’s second after being gone for almost a year. His point of view details life at the keep, as well as Valek’s recall of his past as a student of the The School of Night and Shadows, desperate to avenge the murders of his family, and sets up what I assume will be the main thrust of the plot for this trilogy – a brewing war between Sitia and Ixia.

I don’t think it is strictly necessary to have read the previous books set in this world to enjoy Shadow Study, but those that have will have the slight advantage of being privy to both the history of Snyder’s world, and the development of the characters and their relationships. Snyder does introduce a few new characters in Shadow Study, most notably Onora, a talented assassin with her eye on Valek’s job, and Gerik, a soldier, who are partnered with Janco and Ari.

For established and new fans alike, Shadow Study should prove to be a fast paced and entertaining fantasy adventure. Fair warning though, the book ends on a cliffhanger and the second book, Night Study, won’t be published until 2016.

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YA Adventure

About: Wolf, Wolf by Eben Venter

Title: Wolf, Wolf

Author: Eben Venter

Published: Scribe Publishing February 2015

Status: Read from February 20 to 24, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

How should a man be? Mattie Duiker is trying very hard to live up to his dying father’s wishes. He is putting aside childish things, starting his first business serving healthy take-away food to the workers in his district of Cape Town. His Pa is proud.

At the same time, Mattie is pulled toward an altogether different version of masculinity, in which oiled and toned bodies cavort for him at the click of a mouse. His porn addiction both threatens his relationship with his boyfriend, Jack, and imperils his inheritance.

Pa’s peacocking days as a swaggering businessman are done, but even as the cancer shrivels and crisps him, the old man’s ancient authority intensifies as it shrinks, like Mattie’s own signature sauce. Pa haltingly prepares his son for life without him, and himself for life without a male heir. And, while the family wrestles with matters of entitlement and inheritance, around them a new South Africa is quietly but persistently nudging its way forwards.

Wolf, Wolf is a novel of old rigid states and new unfinished forms, of stiff tolerance and mournful nostalgia. With uncommon sensitivity to place, time, and sex, Eben Venter reveals himself to the world outside his homeland as one of its most astute and acute observers, giving shape in story to some of the sea-changes of our time, in the manner of Coetzee and Roth.“

My Thoughts:

I selected Wolf, Wolf by Eben Venter to read in order to satisfy a reading challenge requirement, but my curiosity was piqued by the premise and some flattering reviews – Cape Times named it one of the 10 best books of 2013 and it was shortlisted for the 2014 Sunday Times (South Africa) prize.

The narrative of Wolf, Wolf shifts between the perspectives of Benjamin, Mattie and Mattie’s boyfriend Jack, a school teacher at a private school. It a story about manhood, love, family and legacy – not only that which a father passes on to a son, but also in relation to South Africa’s struggles with a post-apartheid society.

The translation by Michiel Heyns from Eben Venter’s Afrikaans has received much praise but unfortunately I struggled with the dense prose from the first pages and couldn’t seem to find a rhythm in the narrative to suit me. I persevered until the end, but with little enjoyment.

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Review: Snowy River Man by Lizzy Chandler

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Title: Snowy River Man

Author: Lizzy Chandler

Published: Escape Publishing February 2015

Status: Read on February 24, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Lizzy Chandler’s debut novel, Snowy River Man, is an engaging contemporary romance, with an edge of suspense, set in rural Australia.

Katrina Delaney is stunned when she learns that the lost and frightened child she has seen in her dream is Jack Fairley’s son. Seven years ago she and Jack spent a single passionate night together, only for everything to fall apart the morning after.
Jack Fairley is frantic when his young son disappears while at a rodeo, seemingly without a trace, and he is willing to do anything to ensure his safe return, even if that means accepting the help of Katrina Delaney.
Though wary of their history, Katrina and Jack are determined to put aside their differences in order to ensure Nick’s safe recovery but in saving the lost boy, they just may lose their hearts.

I really like the bones of the story, for such a short novel (just 165 pages) the author has developed a well layered plot, even if several elements seem somewhat truncated. The main conflicts expose personal and professional betrayal and shocking family secrets providing plenty of dramatic tension. The suspense is well crafted and nicely paced.

Katrina is an interesting character, only recently having found some sense of equilibrium after enduring several difficult years related to a tragic loss and the intrusiveness of her psychic gift, it’s brave of her to offer Jack her help, knowing she could be opening herself up to more pain.
Jack is a fairly typical leading man for the genre, he has made mistakes but in general is kind and honourable. He is a loving father and a savvy businessman though it’s his rugged farming persona that I found most appealing.(I have to mention too, I am a fan of the cover model representing him – yum!)
The chemistry between Katrina and Jack is portrayed well, their simmering attraction, complicated by the past, eventually boils over in a sensual scene.

I must admit I wish the author had chosen to exploit the story’s potential and developed Snowy River Man into a full length novel but it is a quick, engaging read offering an appealing tale of love, betrayal, forgiveness and family.

You can learn more about Snowy River Man in the guest post shared by Lizzy Chandler here at Book’d Out earlier today.

Win a copy of Snowy River Man by visiting http://lizzychandler.com/snowy-river-man-giveaway/. Entries close March 1st, 2015.

 

Snow River Man is available to purchase from

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AWW Feature: Lizzy Chandler and the Snowy River Man

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I am thrilled to welcome Lizzy Chandler to Book’d Out today to introduce her debut short novel, Snowy River Man.

Lizzy Chandler is the pen-name of Elizabeth Lhuede, a writer, book blogger and creative writing tutor who founded the Australian Women Writers Challenge. She reviews books under her own name at Devoted Eclectic.

Lizzy has written a number of novels in a variety of genres, including romance, romantic suspense, fantasy and psychological suspense. Her unpublished manuscripts have earned recognition in a number of competitions, including New Zealand’s Clendon Award and Australia’s Emma Darcy Award (now “Emerald”). Lizzy is a founding member of the RWA Turramurra group in Sydney. She is a trained counsellor and also teaches creative writing by distance through TAFE (NSW) Oten. She spends most of her time in the Blue Mountains.

coverSnowy River Man, published by Escape Publishing, Harlequin’s digital imprint, is an engaging contemporary romance with a hint of suspense.

The last time Katrina Delaney saw Jack Fairley was the morning after a one-night stand, when she discovered he was engaged to be married. Seven years later, she dreams of a missing boy – Jack’s son. Katrina has worked with police to find missing children before, and she knows she must help. But seeing Jack again comes with its own set of dangers, and Katrina fears the risks she is taking with her heart.

Jack Fairley’s standing in the community can’t keep his son from wandering off during a country rodeo. Frantic with worry, Jack is willing to do anything to find him, even put aside his scepticism and accept the help of a woman who sees his son in a dream. But when that woman turns out to be Katrina Delaney, he’s immediately suspicious. Neither Katrina nor Jack have any reason to trust each other, or the attraction that flares between them again. But trust they will have to, if they want any chance at love.”

My review of Snowy River Man can be read HERE, but first, please read on to learn more about Snowy River Man in this guest post from Lizzy Chandler.

‘The Lost Child’

Snowy River Man opens at a country rodeo, with mountains grazier Jack Fairley riding a brumby stallion. When he finishes his ride, he looks around and discovers his six-year-old son Nick has disappeared. Jack lost his wife when Nick was still a baby and he’s terrified the boy has wandered off into the Snowy Mountains wilderness.

The story of the “lost child” is an enduring motif in Australian culture, but it also has a special meaning for me. When I was three and my mother was in hospital with her tenth child (yes, we’re a big family!), my aunt took me and my older brothers and sisters down to a harbourside netted pool to swim. While my aunt was minding the 18-month-old, I paddled on the shore. As the late afternoon shadows crept, I looked back at the beach and I couldn’t see my family. I thought they’d gone home without me. So I walked. I walked up the hill for a couple of kilometres till I arrived back out our old Federation bungalow and found no one there. After that, I had a terror of getting lost. I remember the horror of looking around and not finding the person you want to see. I’ve used those emotions in this story.

The motif also has a deeper resonance. While I was writing Snowy River Man, there was a lot in the press about the stolen generations, and the anguish of mothers losing their children. It’s a national shame and the injustice of it still impacts on current generations of Aboriginal people. When I chose to hint that my heroine, Katrina, was part-indigenous, I wanted to gesture in some way towards the stolen generations, but also to make it personal. I’ve never lost a child, but I did lose the opportunity to have one, and have endured that grief. I know what it’s like to yearn for a baby in my arms, to look at the children of my ex-boyfriend and current partner and wonder what might have been.

In Snowy River Man, I take “what might have been” and give it a happy ending.

Win a copy of Snowy River Man by visiting http://lizzychandler.com/snowy-river-man-giveaway/. Entries close March 1st, 2015.

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Snow River Man is available to purchase from

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Review: Blue Stars by Emily Gray Tedrowe

 

Title: Blue Stars

Author: Emily Gray Tedrowe

Published: St Martin’s Press February 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from February 16 to 17, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Inspired in part by the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center scandal that exposed a shocking litany of bureaucratic neglect in the care and housing of injured returned soldiers and their families in 2007, Blue Stars, by Emily Gray Tedrowe, is a story about the realities of the modern day home front for two women.

Ellen is a Midwestern literature professor, who is drawn into the war when her legal ward, Michael, enlists as a Marine. She struggles to reconcile her objections, and her fears for Michael’s safety, with her desire to support him.

Lacey is a loyal ‘Army Wife’, enormously proud that her husband, Eddie, serves his country, but she struggles with the realities of marriage to a career Army man, money is tight and she is often lonely.

Though a little slow to start, as Tedrowe establishes the personal histories and circumstances of her lead characters, I quickly found myself absorbed in the lives of Ellen and Lacey. The two women are very different, representing almost opposite lifestyles and viewpoints, who cope with their loved one’s deployment in contrasting ways.

The two women don’t meet until Michael and Eddie, in separate incidents, are badly injured in Iraq and housed at the Walter Reed. As their loved ones battle to recover from their injuries, Ellen and Lacey forge a friendship as they struggle to cope with the responsibilities, stresses, uncertainties and unending bureaucracy of their situation.

A frank and affecting portrayal of the challenges faced by the families of serving soldiers, and the shame of the Walter Reed Hospital scandal, Blue Stars is a moving and thought-provoking novel.

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Review: Harm’s Reach by Alex Barclay

 

Title: Harm’s Reach {Ren Bryce #4}

Author: Alex Barclay

Published: HarperCollins February 2015

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Status: Read from February 24 to 26, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

Harm’s Reach is the fourth book in Alex Barclay’s crime fiction series featuring FBI Agent Ren Bryce.

Despite not being familiar with the previous novels in this series I didn’t feel at all adrift. Ren, an FBI agent attached to a multi agency task force in Denver, is following up on a bank robbery when she stumbles upon the body of a young pregnant woman, shot to death in a rental car on the side of the road. No one seems to be able to explain what Laura Flynn was doing there or why any one would wish her harm.

The investigation twists in unexpected ways, with Ren’s colleague and friend, cold case investigator Janine Hooks, becoming involved when they theorise that Laura may have uncovered some sensitive information about a fifty year old crime. Even as they explore the possibility, Ren continues to delve into Laura Flynn’s life, and discovers that the wealthy employers that claim Laura as family are hiding secrets from them. I enjoyed the intricacies of the plot and was surprised by the way the threads converged to resolve not one but three very different cases.

I really liked getting to know Ren who is an intelligent and capable investigator with a wicked sense of humour. Ren is also struggling with a recent diagnosis of bi-polar disorder, an unusual trait for a lead character in this genre, and a new long distance relationship with a man who is unaware of her condition.
Ren’s colleagues and friends are appealing, I enjoyed her banter with Janine and her task force mates, and the relationship between Ren and her boss, and with her therapist, offers additional insight into her character.

Offering strong and interesting characterisation, and a well crafted story I really enjoyed Harm’s Reach and I’m eager to read more of this series.

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Diversity

About: Losing It by Helen Lederer

 

Title: Losing It

Author: Helen Lederer

Published: Pan February 2015

Status: Read from February 18 to 20, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

Millie was at one time quite well known for various TV and radio appearances. However, she now has no money, a best friend with a better sex life than her, a daughter in Papua New Guinea and too much weight in places she really doesn’t want it.
When she’s asked to be the front woman for a new diet pill, she naively believes that all her troubles will be solved. She will have money, the weight will be gone, and maybe she’ll get more sex.
If only life was really that easy. It doesn’t take her long to realize it’s going to take more than a diet pill to solve her never-ending woes…”

****

 

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Review: My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

 

Title: My Sunshine Away

Author: M.O Walsh

Published: GP Putnam & Sons: Penguin USA February 2015

Status: Read on February 15, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:
My Sunshine Away is a moving and poignant coming of age narrative from debut author M.O. Walsh.

The unnamed narrator of My Sunshine Away is fourteen during the summer of 1989. He lives with his mother in middle class Baton Rouge, where he rakes leaves, plays baseball in the streets, chases the ice cream van and spies on the object of his obsessive crush, fifteen year old Lindy Simpson. One late summer evening his suburban idyll is disrupted when Lindy is is attacked on their street on her way home from a track practice.

This is a story of memory and hindsight, innocence and heartache, blessings and tragedy. Walsh brilliantly recalls the emotional intensity of adolescence, the confusion, the conviction, the naivete, and the regrets that can linger into adulthood. He highlights the joy and melancholy of first love, the shock of first disappointments, and the way in which these things stay with us.

The intensity of the first person narrative is tempered slightly by the adult perspective as the narrator segues between recall and rumination of Lindy’s rape and the aftermath.

“Every moment is crucial. And if we recognize this and embrace it, we will one day be able to look back and understand and feel and regret and reminisce and, if we are lucky, cherish.”

Referencing defining events such as the Challenger explosion, the capture of Jeffrey Dahmer and Hurricane Katrina, Walsh evokes nostalgia for long summer days on neighborhood streets, before the advent of cell phones and the internet. He explores the way in which the experiences of childhood and adolescence help to shape who we become as adults, but also the ways in which our memories of that time may be deeply flawed.

“But for every adult person you look up to in life there is trailing behind them an invisible chain gang of ghosts, all of which, as a child, you are generously spared from meeting.”

Evocative, tender and sincere My Sunshine Away is an absorbing, beautifully observed tale.

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Review: Doctor Death by Lene Kaaberbøl

 

Title: Doctor Death {A Madeleine Karno Mystery #1}

Author: Lene Kaaberbøl

Published: Atria Books February 2015

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Status: Read from February 15 to 16, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Set in provincial France during the late 1800’s, Doctor Death is the first book in a new historical mystery series from Lene Kaaberbøl, featuring Madeleine Karno.

“My father was reluctant to let me assist when he examined the dead. He said it could only hurt my reputation and my future – by which he meant my chances of marriage. For the most part, my father was a man of progress, absorbed by the newest ideas and the latest technology. But he was incomprehensibly old-fashioned on this particular point.”

The daughter of a widowed surgeon/coroner, Madeleine dreams of one day following in his footsteps but for now must be content with those rare times when her father allows her to assist him. Intelligent, rational and ambitious, Madeleine is an admirable character who chafes at the expectations of the era though rarely in an overt way. When her father is injured she seizes the opportunity to become more involved in his current case that begins with a dead girl, scarred with human bites, found on her snow covered doorstep.

Solving the complex mystery involves a combination of common investigation techniques led by Madeleine’s father’s colleague, the Commisioner, and the fledgling science of forensics utilised by Madeleine and her father. It is a strange case that involves an unidentified parasite, a missing boy, a pack of wolves, a murdered priest and it becomes increasingly unsettling as Madeleine gets closer to unmasking a killer. There are red herrings and twists that keep the reader guessing as Kaaberbøl explores the conflicts of human and beast, science and faith.

“Illness is not necessarily a punishment from God…. Sometimes it just comes to us. If we are lucky, it is a trial from which we can learn. Other times, we must just accept that we humans do not understand everything.”

The tone is quite dark overall and there are elements of the story which readers may find disturbing. There is a touch of unconventional romance which will be interesting to see develop in further installments. The pace is good but the narrative does feel a little dry and formal at times, perhaps a consequence of the translation as much as a reflection of the period.

I did enjoy Doctor Death, the mystery was intriguing and Madeleine is an interesting lead but I have to admit I wasn’t as engaged as I hoped to have been. I do hope to continue with the series though to see how it develops.

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Review: Intensive Care by Nicki Edwards

 

Title: Intensive Care

Author: Nicki Edwards

Published: Momentum February 2015

Read  an Excerpt

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

My Thoughts:

Crushed when she discovers her live in boyfriend of three years has been having an affair, ICU nurse Kate Kennedy packs up her belongings and desperate to move on, impulsively accepts a position at a hospital in the small country town of Birrangulla, five hours west of Sydney. Everything seems to be falling into place, she’s found the perfect job, the perfect home, and in search of the the perfect cup of coffee, may just have found the perfect man, but

Intensive Care is a contemporary rural medical romance in which the author, Nicki Edwards, draws on her love of country Australia and her personal nursing experience.

I found Kate to be a bit of a passive-aggressive character. There is a lot of emphasis on her dislike of confrontation but I thought she was often over sensitive, snappish and impatient. I understood her avoidance of her cheating boyfriend Marcus, especially as more details about their relationship were revealed, and sympathised with her feelings of hurt and betrayal. And while I admired Kate’s professional compassion for her patients, her reaction to Joel’s sister’s concerns bothered me, she didn’t demonstrate a lot of understanding for the younger woman’s fears.

Taking place over the period of about a year the romance between Kate and Joel develops slowly. Though they both have good reasons to be wary of beginning a new relationship, I found their chemistry a bit lacking. Joel in particularly seems disinterested much of the time while Kate tries to force the issue, which was slightly discomfiting.

Joel, with his Irish accent, coffee making genius, and handyman skills, is an appealing hero, made more so by his tragic past. Though perhaps a little passive for my taste, I found him sweet and charming.

A blend of medical drama, and rural romance, Intensive Care is a pleasant novel which should appeal to fans of both genres.

 

Please click here to learn more about Nicki Edwards and her writing journey.

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