Review: Making It Up As I Go Along by Marian Keyes

 

Title: Making It Up As I Go Along

Author: Marian Keyes

Published: 11th February 2016, Michael Joseph

Status: Read March 2016, courtesy Penguin

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

I’ve long enjoyed the works of Irish author Marian Keyes, including her Walsh Family series. Making It Up As I Go Along is a collection of essays, blog posts and articles, it’s the type of book you can dip in and out of.

Covering musings and anecdotes on diverse topics, from eyelash extensions to Christmas to Yoga there is something for everyone. Mostly amusing, though sometimes poignant and insightful, this is an easy, entertaining read.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase from

Penguin AU I Booktopia I Amazon AU I Book Depository

or your preferred retailer

Review: Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies by Kitty Flanaganh

 

Title: Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies

Author: Kitty Flanagan

Published: March 2018, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read April 2019

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

“Had I told my mother I was writing an autobiography, she’d quite rightly have asked, ‘Why?’ Instead, this is a book of true stories and ill-informed opinions. And I believe it was Paul Simon who once said, ‘Your opinion is not important, it is merely of interest.’ So, while this book is not important, I do hope you will find it of interest. Most of all, I hope you will find it funny because that really is my favourite thing.”

I did find it mildly interesting, Kitty, but mostly I found it funny. I smiled a lot, laughed out loud a few times, and spat out my drink at least once.

Kitty and I are of the same generation, so we share similar childhood experiences and attitudes. I enjoy her self deprecating humour, and her witty observations.

The only thing I thought the book lacked was a handful of photos from Kitty’s childhood.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase from

Allen & Unwin I Booktopia I Amazon Au I Book Depository

or your preferred retailer

Also coming soon by Kitty Flanagan

Review: The Book of Dreams by Nina George

Title: The Book of Dreams

Author: Nina George

Published: April 2019, Simon & Schuster

Status: Read April 2019, courtesy Simon & Schuster

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

Henri Malo Skinner is on his way to meet his son for the first time when he dives from a bridge to save a life, and nearly loses his own. Now he lies in a coma, caught in the Between, as his son, Sam, and the estranged love of his life, Eddie, will him to return to them.

Told from the perspectives of Henri, Samuel, and Eddie, The Book of Dreams is a study of lost chances, grief, love and letting go. It’s a heartfelt novel, in the Postscript the author explains it’s connection to the death of her father.

Samuel Noam Valentiner , a precocious 13 year old, waits for the father he desperately wants to know, to wake. Wandering the corridors, he stumbles across twelve year old Madelyn, a similarly vegetative patient, whose entire family was killed in the accident that injured her. Sam soon becomes a regular visitor, forming an inexplicable bond with the unresponsive girl. It is a poignant and moving connection, enhanced by Sam’s synesthesia, that is beautifully rendered by George.

“I can hear her breath and then, with my soul snuggling against her heart, I hear her breath become a note. The note becomes a tune, a breeze, but it’s not like Madelyn’s piano music. This wind has been scouring the earth for a long time and is now slowly rising, growing brighter, as it continues its quest over the cool, silvery, frost-rimmed, icy coating of a long, broad, frozen river. It is changing into a warming ray of sunlight, which captures the sparkling silence and then alights on a motionless ice sculpture, inside which a heart is beating. My heart.”

Eddie last saw Henri two years ago, when he cruelly broke her heart by disregarding her declaration of love and devotion. Nevertheless she is devastated by his current circumstances, and having been named as his Power of Attorney, she finds she can’t shirk the responsibility for his care. She is stunned to learn of Sam’s existence, but takes it her stride, I loved the relationship she developed with him, but mostly I admired her strength and heart.

“I sit on the floor and don my courage like a mask. I dissect my competing, struggling, mutually obstructive instincts until only three essential ones remain. I focus entirely on keeping them in my mind and preventing any other emotions from approaching them…..I breathe in and out and think: Affection. I take a deeper breathe and pray: Courage. I breathe in and beg: Be like Sam.”

As Henri lies in his coma, fighting hard to return to the world of the living, he experiences alternate versions of his past and future.

“I have searched and searched for the right life – and never found it. None of the lives was perfect, no matter what I did, or didn’t do.”

While the poetic prose and evocative imagery is often beautiful, it can also become somewhat tiring. I struggled too, with the pace of the novel, it drags in parts, particularly through the middle. However I liked The Book of Dreams for it’s powerful characterisations, and the thoughtful exploration of life, death, and what may lie Between.

And while it’s something I rarely comment on, I think the (Australian) cover of The Book of Dreams is gorgeous.

 

++++++

 

Available to Purchase from

Simon & Schuster AU I Booktopia I Amazon AU I Book Depository

or your preferred retailer

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: I Can’t Remember the Title but the Cover is Blue

Title: I Can’t Remember the Title But the Cover is Blue

Author: Elias Greig

Published: Allen & Unwin, November 2018

Status: Read December 18th 2019

My Thoughts:

Monday, 2.50pm

Lady in sun visor: Yes, I’m after a book … I can’t remember the title, but it’s quite unique …

Me: Do you remember what it’s about?

Sun Visor: It’s about a French woman, and she finally tells her story. Do you have that one?

——————————

LOL? Any guesses on the title?

Written as a series of vignettes, in the tradition of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell and The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell, I Can’t Remember the Title But the Cover is Blue, Elias Greig shares the best, worst and downright weirdest customer encounters from his years working as a Sydney bookseller.

I Can’t Remember the Title but the Cover is Blue is a quick and easy read that will make you laugh, cringe, and perhaps even shed a tear (because either you will be grateful you don’t work in retail, or because you do).

Review: The Map of Bones by Francesca Haig

 

Title: The Map of Bones {The Fire Sermon #2}

Author: Francesca Haig

Published: Harper Voyager March 2016

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from May 29 to June 01, 2016 — I own a copy courtesy HarperCollins

My Thoughts:

The Map of Bones picks up from where Francesca Haig’s debut novel, The Fire Sermon, left off. Cass, Piper and Zoe are on the run following the deadly confrontation at the Silo between the Confessor and Kip, with the knowledge of the Alpha Council’s horrifying plan for the Omega’s.

Despite the dramatic ending of The Fire Sermon, the narrative in The Map of Bones is slow to start. We’re almost a quarter of the way into the book before Haig introduces a new element to the story that finally prompts the characters to take action. From there the pace begins to pick up as Cass and her allies recognise the need to actively stand against the Council and pursue a new possibility for salvation despite the odds that are stacked again them.

I wasn’t really a fan of Cass in the first novel and I found her to be no less frustrating here. Drowning in guilt and struggling with her visions, her thoughts are often repetitive and circular. Piper and Zoe serve as good companions but I found neither character to be particularly compelling.

What I did admire was Haig’s descriptive writing and continued world building. She provides further detail about the cataclysmic events that destroyed the world and the twinning phenomenon.

Though I found The Map of Bones to be a somewhat dreary read, the story ends on a hopeful note and I am curious to learn how the trilogy will resolve in book three.

Available to purchase from

HarperCollins AU

boomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I via Booko

Amazon US I Amazon UK

Review: The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield

 

Title: The Flood Girls

Author: Richard Fifield

Published: Gallery Books Feb 2016

Read and Extract

Status: Read from February 09 to 11, 2016 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield is an engaging story of regrets and redemption set in small-town America.

After almost a decade’s absence, Rachel Flood is back in Quinn, Montana (Population:956) to make amends for the devastation she wrought as a wild teen to an openly hostile collection of family, (ex) friends and enemies. After a week of scathing silence, pointed glares and outright threats, Rachel is on the verge of admitting defeat when her mother, Laverna Flood, the proprietor of one of Quinn’s two taverns ‘The Dirty Shame’, is targeted in a robbery and her injuries require Rachel to take her mother’s place behind the bar, and on the local women’s softball team.

This is a story full of family dysfunction, addiction, friendship, failure and forgiveness. Rachel’s search for redemption is complicated, and no-one is inclined to make it easy on her, least of all her self.

Fifield has created an eccentric and often outlandish cast, including the uncompromising Laverna, the frightening Red and Black Mabel’s (distinguished by a rotten smile), Rachel’s no nonsense sponsor, Athena, and the members of the softball team. The town’s three rookie firefighter volunteers are all named Jim, the Police Chief runs the local AA meetings, and Reverend Foote is determined to convert the town’s sinners.

Of all the characters however is Rachel’s neighbour, twelve year old Jake, who is the most endearing. A devotee of Madonna and Jackie Collins, with an individual sense of style and fashion, he is mature beyond his years, but his effeminate manner infuriates his brutal stepfather. Jake is one of the few residents of Quinn willing to give Rachel a chance, and a delightful bond develops between them.

Though the humour is a little uneven and the plot not particularly original, The Flood Girls is written with heart and a genuine feel for small town life. A strong debut.

Available to purchase via

Simon & Schuster I BookDepository I Amazon US I Indiebound

Booko

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

Available to purchase via

HarperCollins US I Amazon US I Book Depository I Indie Bound

via Booko

Review: Confucius Jane by Katie Lynch

 

Title: Confucius Jane

Author: Katie Lynch

Published: Forge Books Jan 2016

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from January 22 to 22, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Confucius Jane is an engaging contemporary romance novel from debut author Katie Lynch.

It’s from the office window of her uncle’s fortune cookie factory that aspiring poet Jane first spies the blonde haired woman who regularly lunches at the noodle shop across the street but it’s only at the repeated urging of her 11 year old cousin Minette she finally introduces herself. Sutton St James is just weeks away from finishing her medical studies and is anxious about taking the next step in her career, she doesn’t have time for a new relationship, but is disarmed by Jane’s friendly approach.

The physical attraction between the couple is strong, illustrated by several steamy intimate scenes later on. And though they have very different backgrounds and ambitions, it is obvious as they get to know one another that Jane is the ying to Sutton’s yang.

Issues common to any relationship are explored such as trust, independence and commitment, and as expected in a romance novel, Lynch puts several obstacles in the couples path, the most challenging when Sutton is faced with a devastating family crisis. Lynch also touches on some more serious issues including medical ethics, Multiple Sclerosis and media exploitation. There is also a hint of Chinese mysticism related to the fortunes Jane writes.

Set in New York’s Chinatown, Lynch’s vivid portrayal of its community, from the people to its crowded streets and stores, are charming. Foodies will enjoy the delicious descriptions of fragrant noodles and hot Chinese dumplings, and may even be tempted to try fried chicken feet.

In general the writing is of a good standard, and I enjoyed Jane and Sutton’s flirty banter, though some of the dialogue doesn’t ring quite true, veering into cliched sentimentalism on occasion. The pacing is appropriate and the story concludes with a satisfying HEA.

Confucius Jane is the first commercial romance novel I have read featuring a lesbian relationship, and I found it to be an enjoyable read.

Available via

PanMacmillan AUS I BookDepositoryAmazon US I Indiebound

Amazon AU I Amazon UK I Booko

Review: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

 

Title: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

Author: Katarina Bivald

Published: Sourcebooks Landmark January 2016

Read an Extract

Status: Read from December 21 to 22, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:
The premise of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald is irresistible to any book lover.

When Sara Lindqvist arrives in Broken Wheel, Iowa from Sweden in response to an invitation from her elderly penpal and fellow book lover, Amy, she is upset to learn that her host has passed away. The sensible thing would be to return home, but the townspeople are determined to honour Amy’s commitment and insist that Sara remain.
Looking to repay the towns’ kindness for the remainder of her stay, Sara casts around for an opportunity, eventually settling on the idea of opening a bookstore in one of the many empty Main Street stores using Amy’s extensive personal library. Despite the general scepticism of the townspeople, who aren’t ‘readers’, the residents rally and the bookstore, and Sara, earns a place in their hearts.

Excerpts of the letters exchanged between Amy and Sara provide background information about the town and it’s people. Broken Wheel was once a thriving farming town but in recent years has fallen victim to the economic recession. It’s remaining population is a diverse and quirky group that provides color and charm.

A romance is slowly developed between Sara and a local man, a less traditional relationship also evolves between two supporting characters. A little tension surrounds Sara’s wish to stay longer and the townspeople’s efforts to circumvent her visa conditions. It’s the ‘book talk’ that will appeal to most readers however which includes discussion about titles as diverse as Bridget Jones Diary, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Jane Eyre.

I thought the translation (from the original Swedish to English) read smoothly and the pacing was good.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a light and pleasant read with an uplifting resolution.

To win a copy of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend from Sourcebook CLICK HERE

Available via

Sourcebooks I BookDepositoryAmazon US I Indiebound

Amazon AU I Booko

***

ReadersRecommend_logo

READERS, RECOMMEND YOUR BOOKSTORE!

Independent publisher Sourcebooks announces the “Readers, Recommend Your Bookstore” campaign, which will give grant money to three nominated bookstores. The “Readers, Recommend Your Bookstore Campaign” is inspired by the phenomenal support booksellers have given The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, which was selected as the #1 Indie Next Great Read for January 2016.

Katarina Bivald’s international bestselling debut novel, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, is a charming, big-hearted story about the joy of books and the transformative power of community bookstores.

“Bookstores are the heart and soul of their community and have enormous impact on readers’ lives,” said Dominique Raccah, founder and CEO of Sourcebooks. “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend inspired us to create a campaign that will not only give back to a few deserving bookstores, but hopefully highlight all the many wonderful bookstores that service communities across the country.”

Anyone can nominate their favorite bookstore at http://books.sourcebooks.com/readers-recommend-your-bookstore-sweepstakes/. Sourcebooks will award the winning bookstore with a $3,000 prize; two additional bookstores will each receive a $637 prize (the population of Bivald’s fictional Broken Wheel, Iowa). In addition to bookstores receiving prizes, weekly giveaways for those who nominate will be held throughout the campaign. Voting began January 4, and runs until February 19, when the winning bookstores will be announced.

****

RBW-Blog-Tour-Graphic

 

Previous Older Entries