Review: This Was Not The Plan by Cristina Alger

 

Title: This Was Not The Plan

Author: Cristina Alger

Published: Touchstone Feb 2016

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Status: Read from February 06 to 07, 2016 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

I’ve delayed writing this review because I don’t really have a lot to say about This Was Not The Plan by Cristina Alger.

It’s a quick, light read populated by charming characters (especially young Caleb), but there isn’t anything particularly unique or memorable about it. Perhaps it is because it features a single father in a role more often relegated to a single mother, struggling with the work/life balance and difficult relationships, that it is receiving rave reviews online, or perhaps I have missed some profundity.

Not a bad read, just not a particularly special one.

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Review: Slim Pickins’ in Fat Chance, Texas by Celia Bonaduce

Title: Slim Pickins’ in Fat Chance, Texas

Author: Celia Bonaduce

Published: Lyrical Press January 2016

Status: Read from January 08 to 10, 2016 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Slim Pickins’ in Fat Chance, Texas is the sequel to Celia Bonaduce’s Welcome To Fat Chance, Texas which saw a disparate group of people each forced to make something of a sun-blasted ghost town in the Texas hill country within six months to earn a cash bequest.

By the time pastry chef Fernando Cruz arrives a year later looking for a new challenge, only a handful of the group, those with no where else to go, remain in the broken down town. Despite the improbability of success, Fernando decides to open a BBQ restaurant to cater for nearby ranchers and the residents hope it will mean a second chance for their town.

Romance, drama and a touch of suspense combine to create an enjoyable novel.

Fat Chance is full of quirky characters including the grizzled Pappy, carpenter Powderkeg and farmer Dymphna as well as a menagerie of animals, including a bloodhound named Thud, a mule called Elvis and a buzzard named Fancy.

Each resident contributes to the town and the mission to revive it in unique ways, occasionally sidetracked by their own romantic mini dramas, disasters and a wayward prize longhorn named Rocket.

Slim Pickins’ in Fat Chance offers southern charm and an eccentric Texan flavour. A quick, fun read.

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Review: Things We Won’t Say by Sarah Pekkanen

 

Title: Things We Won’t Say

Author: Sarah Pekkanen

Published: Simon & Schuster AU December 2015

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Status: Read from January 12 to 13, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

As the wife of a police officer, Jamie Anderson uncomfortably lives with the risk that Mike may be hurt or killed while performing his duty and isn’t sure how to best comfort her husband after his partner, and best friend, is shot and badly wounded. Just a few short weeks later Mike, stoic but still obviously distressed, is paired with a new hire, and finds himself in a situation that results in him shooting and killing a gun-wielding teenage boy. When the boy’s weapon is not found at the scene, Mike’s mental fitness given recent events is questioned, leading to an indictment for manslaughter, and sending Jamie into a panic as her cherished family unravels under the strain.

Pekkanen begins with a strong and provocative premise in The Things You Won’t Say, exploring the personal consequences for Jamie and her family in the wake of the shootings. In particular she focuses on the breakdown of communication between Jamie and Mike, both of whom are under enormous stress, and afraid to open up to one another about their fears for the future.

I felt badly for both Jamie and Mike who are quickly overwhelmed by circumstances that can’t control, and I was sympathetic to the issues that arose between them. I think the author captured the high emotions involved in the situation, however I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of nuanced characterisation, Jamie is hysterical much of the time, while Mike is withdrawn.

I also thought the core of the story was weakened by the addition of the perspectives of Christie, Mike’s self absorbed ex girlfriend, and mother to their son Henry; and Lou, Jamie’s younger sister, a zookeeper. While I liked both characters, who are very different, they are merely distractions, offering little support to the main plot.

Things You Can’t Say isn’t a bad read, but I felt it never really lived up to its potential. For me it lacked depth and focus.

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Review: The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien

 

Title: The Little Red Chairs

Author: Edna O’Brien

Published: Faber & Faber December 2015

Status: Read from December 22 to 26, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

A woman discovers that the foreigner she thinks will redeem her life is a notorious war criminal.
Vlad, a stranger from Eastern Europe masquerading as a healer, settles in a small Irish village where the locals fall under his spell. One woman, Fidelma McBride, becomes so enamored that she begs him for a child. All that world is shattered when Vlad is arrested, and his identity as a war criminal is revealed.
Fidelma, disgraced, flees to England and seeks work among the other migrants displaced by wars and persecution. But it is not until she confronts him-her nemesis-at the tribunal in The Hague, that her physical and emotional journey reaches its breathtaking climax.
THE LITTLE RED CHAIRS is a book about love, and the endless search for it. It is also a book about mankind’s fascination with evil, and how long, how crooked, is the road towards Home.”

My Thoughts:

Review to come

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Review: The Golem of Paris by Jonathon and Jesse Kellerman

 

Title: The Golem of Paris {The Golem #2}

Authors: Jonathon Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman

Published: GP Putnam November 2015

Status: Read from November 08 to 09, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Perhaps if I had read The Golem of Hollywood I would have found The Golem of Paris a more interesting read. As it happened I found it difficult to connect with the characters and a little lost at times when it came to the story.

The Kellerman’s (father and son) combine mystery and Jewish mysticism in this novel that sees LAPD detective Jacob Levy intrigued by a cold case double murder of a young mother and her son. And when Jacob’s catatonic mother reacts violently to a glimpse of his case file, he is determined to investigate further, leading him to Paris, where his present and past collide.

Dark and twisty, The Golem of Paris is a complex read, and at over 500 pages I found it a little long, but there were times when I was caught up in the mystery.

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Review: Starcrossed by Carla Caruso

Starcrossed

 

 

Title: Starcrossed

Author: Carla Caruso

Published: HarperCollins August 2015

Status: Read from September 14 to 15, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Starcrossed, by Carlo Caruso, is a contemporary romance novel mixed with suspense and magical realism.

Newly divorced and struggling with writer’s block, romance author Simona Gemella agrees to accompany her best friend, Nessie, to an astrological health and wellness retreat on Kangaroo Island. Simona is hoping to relax and find inspiration for her next book, but she is unsettled by the presence of handsome marine biologist Denham Cobalt, and a series of odd, and increasingly sinister, events that begin to plague the guests at the Sea Star Manor.

Written in the third person, most of the story is related through Simona, however the narrative is also shared by fellow guests at the Manor; Nessie, Raquel and Jordana, and a fifth perspective identified only as ‘Him’.

Caruso gradually introduces the idea something is not quite right at the Manor, building the suspense slowly, advancing towards the showdown on the night of the ‘Blood Moon’. But while the author neatly links the fantastical elements to the retreat’s focus on astrology, I thought each of the women had a little too much going on externally, which is a distraction to the main thrust of the plot.

Nessie is hiding a secret while flirting with the Yoga instructor, heavily pregnant Raquel is worried about her partner’s fidelity, and Jordana, accompanied by her husband, with his own drama, is struggling with infertility. Simona, on top of being newly divorced, suffering from writers block, and stressing over the release of her debut novel, also has to contend with the anticipation of meeting her writing ‘idol’, Astrid’s revelations, and of course, her attraction to Denham.

Overall I thought Starcrossed was a quick and engaging read, but needed a little more focus.

Click HERE to learn more about Carla Caruso and Starcrossed

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Review: The Replacement Wife by Rowena Wiseman

 

Title: The Replacement Wife

Author: Rowena Wiseman

Published: HarperCollins AU September 2015

Status: Read from September 09 to 10, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

The Replacement Wife by Rowena Wiseman has an unusual premise. When Luisa rekindles an old romance after a family BBQ she becomes determined to escape her lacklustre marriage of twelve years. Desperate not to be branded as a homewrecker, Luisa concocts a plan to find her husband a replacement wife, allowing her to exit the marriage blamelessly. While fantasising about the new life she will build with Jarvis, Luisa pushes a procession of single women at her husband but when it seems she has finally found him the one, she’s no longer sure she wants to be replaced after all.

Though I didn’t like Luisa at all, I thought Wiseman’s characterisation was very interesting. Luisa has a delusional self narrative, she believes herself unselfish for wanting to secure her husband’s happiness before she leaves him, compassionate for selecting women who will a good mother to her son, moral because she refuses a physical relationship with Jarvis while still married. Luisa’s skewed perspective is obvious to the reader, who can see exactly how flawed her thinking is, and the looming pitfall’s of Luisa’s grand plan.

‘Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it’ is the overriding theme of The Replacement Wife, however I struggled with the inconsistent tone of the novel. The first three quarters of the book or so reads mostly like a screwy romcom as Luisa attempts to fix up her husband with a handful of single women while swooning over the ridiculously effusive texts and emails from Jarvis, but then the tone shifts abruptly and The Replacement Wife becomes a serious morality tale, and though Luisa’s fate is deserved, the overall imbalance is awkward.

I didn’t dislike The Replacement Wife, I thought the unique premise was quite clever, and the writing of a good standard, but unfortunately the execution didn’t quite work for me.

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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.

 

Available to purchase from

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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

Read an Extract

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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