Review: How To Be a Grown-Up by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

 

Title: How To Be a Grown-Up

Author: Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Published: Atria July 2015

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Status: Read from July 30 to August 01, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Rory McGovern is a part time freelance stylist, who lives in New York with her actor husband and two young children, but with her husband’s star fading and residuals dwindling, Rory is forced to find full time work. Just as she lands a position with a start up webzine run by Millennials, her husband announces he needs some space, and Rory is suddenly the only grown-up at work and home.

Rory often made me shake my head, both in empathy and disbelief. I could relate to the chaos of parenting, less so to the doormat aspects of her personality. Sadly most of the other characters were little more than stereotypes, from Rory’s man child husband, and loopy mother in law, to bitchy colleague, and the hunky man about town love interest. I did like Claire though, and Josh of course, as I was meant to.

Rory’s experiences in the workplace are highly exaggerated, or at least I hope so. I certainly wouldn’t stand for Taylor’s snotty attitude, life is too short and I’m far too old (just a year older that Rory) to put up with that sort of crap. The highstrung, self absorbed Millennial staff are ripe targets for mocking however and McLaughlin and Kraus delight in poking fun at them, as well as the inane ‘jargon’ favoured by youth that actually have nothing to say.

How To Be a Grown-Up was entertaining, but only mildly so. A quick read that demands little on a lazy summer’s afternoon.

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Review: The Hand That Feeds You by AJ Rich

 

Title: The Hand That Feeds You

Author: AJ Rich

Published: Simon & Schuster July 2015

Status: Read from July 23rd-24th, 2015 – I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:
The Hand That Feeds You by A.J. Rich {a pseudonym for the partnership of authors Amy Hempel and Jill Ciment) offers an interesting premise.

Psychology student Morgan Prager is devastated when she returns home one evening to find her fiance, Bennett, mauled to death by her beloved pets, a Great Pyrenees and two fostered pit bulls. But when attempts to notify Bennett’s family of his death reveal he was not the man she thought he was, for Morgan, a psychologist writing a thesis about victimology, the betrayal is stunning and she is determined to unravel the truth.

While I found The Hand That Feeds You to be a quick and largely enjoyable read, unfortunately I felt the execution didn’t quite work on a number of levels.

Morgan is an inconsistent character, whose potential is undeveloped. I really loved the idea of a psychologist studying victimology becoming a victim, but was disappointed that Morgan was revealed to lack even a modicum of self awareness, especially for a thirty year old woman with years of psychology study. While I could just about believe she could be romantically duped by Bennett, and her stubborn denial of some truths was frustrating.

I felt uneven pacing resulted in diluted tension, some plot elements were heavily foreshadowed while others seemingly came out of nowhere. There were some odd scenes that seemed out of place and the ending was ultimately anti-climatic.

The writing didn’t quite gel either, cold and occasionally awkward.

Overall I thought The Hand That Feeds You lacked the depth and subtlety that could have made this story a great psychological thriller.

 

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Review: The Other Side of The World by Stephanie Bishop

 

Title: The Other Side of the World

Author: Stephanie Bishop

Published: Hachette June  2015

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Status: Read from July 01 to 02, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Stephanie Bishop’s novel, The Other Side of the World, is garnering much praise amongst critics and readers alike.

Exploring the themes of home, longing, identity and love Bishop presents the story of a Charlotte, a wife and new mother who reluctantly agrees to emigrate from England with her husband, Henry, a British Indian, in search of a fresh start in the sunny promise of Australia.

I admired Bishop’s poetic descriptions of both the physical and emotional landscape experienced by her characters. The writing is lyrical and evocative creating a close atmosphere that envelops the reader.

But this is a character driven novel and I failed to connect with Charlotte in particular. Rather than developing empathy for her longing for England, or more honestly for the life she had before children, I was irritated by her self absorption, horrified by her behaviour towards her daughters, impatient with her self pity.

“But that is all she has; there is the brightness of the outside world and then the starved, dark space of her own consciousness”

I found Henry to be a more likeable and interesting character, his struggle with his identity, of his yearning to belong, well articulated.

“Once more no one knows quite who, or what he is meant to be. He experienced this in England, but it was worse here – with his Queen’s English and his strange-coloured skin….his voice and appearance do not fit. Not here. Perhaps not anywhere.”

Though I appreciate the elegance of Bishop’s writing, the insightful exploration of themes, and finely wrought characterisation, I have to admit I didn’t really enjoy The Other Side of The World.

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Review: And Then Came Paulette by Barbara Constantine

 

Title: And Then Came Paulette

Author: Barbara Constantine

Published: MacLehose Press June 2015

Status: Read from June 06 to 08, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Ferdinand, a widower (whose wife was by all accounts an unpleasant woman) lives alone a rambling French farmhouse, with only a cat for company since his son and his family moved in to town. Bored and lonely, he spends his days at a small cafe, surreptitiously tripping young woman with his cane, while hoping to spend a few minutes with his beloved grandsons on their way home from school.

Ferdinand is on his way home one evening when he discovers his neighbour, Marceline has become overwhelmed by a gas leak. Concerned that she tried to end her life he vows to keep an eye on her and when he discovers her home is barely habitable, he insists she, along with her cheeky donkey Cornelius, cat Mo-je and dog Berthe, stay with him while repairs are carried out. Just a few weeks later the pair is joined by an old friend of Ferdinand’s, followed by a pair of elderly sisters-in-laws, a trainee nurse and an agricultural student. Ferdinand’s farmhouse is suddenly bursting at the seams. And then comes Paulette.

And Then Came Paulette is a charming story about family, friendship and community, wherein a collection of lost and lonely souls in need find refuge with one another. There is humour, tenderness and joy, despite the individual sorrows that unites these characters as together they rediscover a sense of purpose, usefulness and comfort.

The characters have their own stories and quirks, from newly widowed guy to ninety five year old Hortense. Ferdinand also has his family to worry about when it seems likely his son is heading for a divorce. The identity of Paulette comes as quite a surprise, one I’m not willing to spoil.

Translated from the author’s native French, And Then Came Paulette is a quick, uplifting read. I must admit the ending feels very abrupt and the story unfinished as a result, but I did enjoy it.

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Review: Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland

 

Title: Love and Miss Communication

Author: Elyssa Friedland

Published: William Morrow May 2015

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Status: Read on May 14, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Edelwiess}

My Thoughts:

“No more stalking ­people on Google.
No more Facebooking exes.
No more reading twits on Twitter.
No more posting pictures and waiting for “likes.”
No more refreshing Gmail every thirty seconds.
No more hashtagging meaningless combinations of words.
No more Instagramming every instant.
No more Foursquaring her whereabouts.
No more bidding on eBay for the thrill of competition.
No more pretend job hunting on Monster.
No more blogs. (She was slandered on one, for God’s sake!)
No more watching two-­year-­olds boogie to Beyoncé on YouTube.
No more playing Scrabble against house-­bound Aspergians.
No more Candy Crush, that time-­sucking psychedelic mess of sugar balls. And, best of all, no more OkCupid, JDate, eHarmony, and Match.”

A modern story about life and love in the digital age, when Evie Rosen’s addiction to email derails her promising law career and a Facebook post breaks her heart, she impulsively decides to disconnect from the world wide web and reclaim her life.

I didn’t particularly relate to Evie, whose behaviour more closely resembles that of my eighteen year old daughter than a woman, who at nearly thirty five, is closer to my age. She is, for the most part, self involved and superficial, and that is something that is very slow to change over the course of the novel. She’s horribly neglectful of her friendships, complaining because of missed e-vites and texts, but never makes much of an attempt to reach out. She pines over her ex-boyfriend, and whines endlessly about being single, without ever examining her own behaviour or attitude.

I did like the way in which Friedland developed Evie’s relationship with Dr Gold. He proves to be a great guy, though not perfect, and also a really patient man, given Evie’s neuroses.

The most charming aspect of the novel involved Evie’s relationship with her grandmother, a stereotypical Jewish Bubbe desperate to see Evie get married and have children.

Even though this is chick-lit, I thought there were missed opportunities to really explore what its like to be ‘unplugged’ in this day and age. Evie isn’t really challenged to live in the real world while ‘unplugged’, her generous severance payment gives her a lot of freedom, not that she really does much with it.

I am left with mixed feelings about Love and Miss Communication, the premise is great but Evie wasn’t a character I could root for and I felt the story was somewhat underdeveloped.

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Review: Death in the Rainy Season by Anna Jacquiery

 

Title: Death in the Rainy Season {Serge Morel #2}

Author: Anna Jacquiery

Published: Macmillan April 2015

Status: Read from April 11 to 15, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Full review to come

“Phnom Penh, Cambodia; the rainy season. When a French man, Hugo Quercy, is found brutally murdered, Commandant Serge Morel finds his holiday drawn to an abrupt halt. Quercy – dynamic, well-connected – was the magnetic head of a humanitarian organisation which looked after the area’s neglected youth.
Opening his investigation, the Parisian detective soon finds himself buried in one of his most challenging cases yet. Morel must navigate this complex and politically sensitive crime in a country with few forensic resources, and armed with little more than a series of perplexing questions: what was Quercy doing in a hotel room under a false name? What is the significance of his recent investigations into land grabs in the area? And who could have broken into his home the night of the murder?
Becoming increasingly drawn into Quercy’s circle of family and friends – his adoring widow, his devoted friends and bereft colleagues – Commandant Morel will soon discover that in this lush land of great beauty and immense darkness, nothing is quite as it seems . . .
A deeply atmospheric crime novel that bristles with truth and deception, secrets and lies: Death in the Rainy Season is a compelling mystery that unravels an exquisitely wrought human tragedy.”

 

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Seasoned Traveller 2015

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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

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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.

 

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Review: The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman by Mamen Sánchez

Title: The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman

Author: Mamen Sánchez

Published: Doubleday UK March 2015

Status: Read from March 25 to 26, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman is a quirky tale of love, friendship, family and literature.

Heir of the Craftsman & Co publishing company, Atticus Craftsman, is sent by his father to close down their failing Spanish literary magazine. The staff of the ‘Librarte’, five close-knit women, are devastated and devise a plan to distract the Englishman from his mission, luring Atticus to Andalucía with the promise of an extraordinary literary find.

As Solea leads Atticus on a wild goose chase to her family home, Berta, Gabriela, Asuncion and Maria carry on, hoping to redeem the magazine. But when Marlow Craftsman realises his son is missing, and involves local police Inspector Manchego, the women are risking more than just their jobs.

Truthfully, farce is not really my thing so I didn’t really enjoy The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman the way some readers might. I found some parts amusing and I was charmed by several of the characters including Berta, the manager of Librarte, and the bumbling Inspector Manchego, but unfortunately overall I just wasn’t very interested.

Translated from her native Spanish, The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman is Mamen Sanchez’s fifth novel.

 

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Review: Yes, Chef! by Lisa Joy

 

Title: Yes, Chef!

Author: Lisa Joy

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin March 2015

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

My Thoughts:

A lighthearted chick lit novel, Yes, Chef! is Lisa Joy’s debut, inspired by her real-life adventures as a PA to a celebrity chef.

Becca Stone works in a small call centre fielding table bookings for a celebrity chef’s string of popular restaurants in London. She adores her colleagues, with whom she daily raids the chocolate store downstairs and celebrates ‘Sexual Harrassment Thursdays’, but the work is boring and the pay is lousy. Nearing thirty and single Becca knows she needs to make a change, so when she is chosen to fill in for Daniel Malone’s vacationing PA she is determined to prove herself to the celebrity chef.

It took me a little while to warm up to Becca, I thought her to be whiny and self centered to begin with. Eventually she proves she isn’t quite as shallow as she seems, she is smart and feisty just lacking in self awareness. Her love life is also a disaster, she is attracted to men for superficial reasons and ignores genuine interest in favour of men who do something for her ego.

Malone, who reminds me of Gordon Ramsey, is an egotistical boss who demands Becca fulfils his every whim, from sourcing dozens of unique plates from a Turkish bazaar at short notice to lying to his high-strung wife regarding his whereabouts and it’s not long before Becca’s dream job becomes a nightmare. She lets some of Malone’s attitude slide but eventually his sleazy, self-aggrandizing behaviour goes too far and she has to decide if the career she wants is worth the compromises she has to make.

The story is formulaic, not really offering any surprises, but an easy read. The writing isn’t quite as strong as it could be, uneven in places with weak transitions. Personally, I favoured the scenes Becca shared with her friends and colleagues from the call center. They are warm, funny and authentic and their banter is entertaining. The romance is fairly low key but I was happy enough with the way it resolved.

Yes, Chef! is a quick, light read about love, food and finding your path in life.

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Blog Tour Review: Avery by Charlotte McConaghy

Title: Avery {The Chronicles of Kaya #1}

Author: Charlotte McConaghy

Published: Random House Feb 2015

Status: Read from February 03 to 05, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Avery, the first book in Charlotte McConaghy’s romantic fantasy adventure trilogy, The Chronicles of Kaya, introduces a nation divided by war. For centuries the people of Kaya and Pirenti have fought bloody battles for dominance. The Pirenti, ruled by the sadistic Barbarian Queen, have the advantage of size and strength, the Kyan rely on the magic of the Warders and the bravery of their people to fight the tyranny.

During a mission to assassinate the queen in her castle, Avery is caught and savagely murdered much to the horror of his bond-mate, Ava. The people of Kyan die in pairs, and his passing should condemn Ava to death, but instead she is the first of her kind to survive. With her soul ripped in two, and cast out of Kayan society as ‘unnatural’, Ava assumes Avery’s identity and plots her revenge on the Queen but her plans are thwarted when she is captured by Ambrose, the Pirenti Prince.

Ambrose, like his elder brother Thorne, has been raised by his mother to hate the Kyan, scorning their physical weakness and soft emotions. A fierce and merciless warrior he is nevertheless beginning to question his mother’s cruelty and the endless bloodshed. Tasked to transport the Kayan boy he captured to the Pirenti prison isle, and then shipwrecked during the journey, he slowly comes to admire Avery’s courage and tenacity, challenging all he has been taught …and his barren heart.

Unusually, the narrative of Avery is carried by the first person perspectives of Ava and Ambrose, as well as Thorne, Ambrose’s elder brother, and Thorne’s wife, Roselyn. The focus of the tale is on the emotional journey of these four characters, struggling to reconcile their expectations and desires. The characters are quite complex and stir a mixture of admiration, pity, distaste and respect.

It wasn’t until I began to organise my thoughts to write this review that I realised there were elements of the romantic relationships that made me really uncomfortable. There is the idea that a man’s violent nature can be changed by love, that Roselyn’s patience with her abusive husband, and Ava’s endurance of Ambrose’s violence, are eventually rewarded by that change. That the Prince’s are excused because of their twisted upbringing, and eventually redeemed simply because these women love them. There is some attempt to mitigate the dysfunction with apologies, promises and redemption, but it is still a troublesome model of romance.

I did enjoy a number of other elements of the plot, particularly the twist that reveals the Barbarian Queen’s secrets. The action scenes, even those that are quite brutal, are well written, as are the more intimate and emotional scenes. Avery explores a number of facets of love – the love of country, and the bonds between siblings, parents and lovers. The world-building is fairly simplistic, I understood the Pirenti but didn’t feel I learned much about Kaya. I did find I could easily visualize the Pirenti castle, the hazards of the Prison isle and Ava soaring through the sky on the back of her Pegasi.

Avery is a tale of love, hate, revenge and redemption. Though I have my reservations about the romance I did enjoy the story in the moment and found it to be a quick read.

Follow the Avery Blog Tour

29 January 2015 – Booklover Book Reviews 31 January 2015 – Book Muster Down Under 5 February 2015 – Speculating on SpecFic 6 February 2015 – Book’d Out 9 February 2015 – An Adventure in Words 12 February 2015 – Inside my Words 13 February 2015 – Words Read and Written 16 February 2015 – Stephanie Gunn blog 17 February 2015 – A Word Shaker 19 February 2015 – Inside My Words 24 February 2015 – Thoughts by Joy 26 February 2015 – The Rest Is Still Unwritten

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