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Title: Forbidden Fruit

Author: Ilsa Evans

Genre: Mystery

Opening line: “…The skull sat snugly in the earth, partly uncovered, its dome curiously flat across the top and then sloping towards the indentation of one eye socket …”

Blurb: The last thing Nell Forrest expected when she tried to plant a tree was to unearth the skeletal remains of a former resident. Now her new backyard is swarming with police, there’s a television news crew camped next door, and once again she is smack in the middle of a murder investigation. And the timing is dreadful. Two of Nell’s daughters are about to give birth and she is surrounded by new in-laws with agendas of their own. But it soon becomes clear that this time the investigation is personal – so personal that enquiries bring her long-estranged father back into the family fold, and the answers shed some very uncomfortable light about the proclivities of her parents when they were young. Who would have thought that the little country town of Majic had ever been such a swinging place to live?

My thoughts: I hadn’t even got to the end of the first sentence before I know that Nell had another murder mystery on her hands – or in this case the back garden of her new home. Mind you it took Nell a couple more pages to come to the same realisation. FORBIDDEN FRUIT is the third in a series of cosy mysteries set in a small fictional country town a few hours out of Melbourne in Australia. I have read both of the previous books in this series Nefarious Doings and Ill-Gotten Gains and I can guarantee they are fabulous.

Nell has this habit of getting involved with murder investigations, then feeling compelled to investigate them herself as she is sure the police aren’t doing their job properly. In the first book a body is found at her mother’s house, in the second she finds the victim after being the last to talk to him and in this one she digs the victim up while planting an apple tree. Nell is a wonderful character who has the best of intentions but keeps getting into trouble. Her relationship with her quirky family is the centre of the story and the murder investigation is built on that. In FORBIDDEN FRUIT Nell not only has to deal with what all mothers dread – the fact that some of her innocent daughters have a sex life, evidenced by the fact that two of them are very pregnant and about to give birth any day. But she also has to deal with the fact that her parents also had sex – and were actually swingers in their day – dabbled in wife swapping – with many other members of the town, Nell is not able to look some of the elderly ladies in the eye again!!! Yep it certainly made inviting the neighbours over for a BBQ very interesting; even more so when the murder victim is identified as one of the other swingers and Nell’s father is the main suspect! Along with trying to be a good mother and exonerate her father, Nell has to deal with the wacky in-laws of her two pregnant daughters; her own eccentric mother and sister; an ex-husband who wants to be friends and show off his new baby, and an absent lover who wants commitment. Majic is a very typical country community which I could really relate to because I recognised many local characters that can be found in country towns across Australia. The sort of place where you can sneeze in the morning and the whole place has you dead and buried by lunch time – because everyone knows everyone else’s business – and what they don’t know they make up. FORBIDDEN FRUIT has humour, suspense, danger and lots of potential murderers and red herrings. I really like the time I spend in Majic and hope there will be more stories further down the track.

For more about the author – Click Here

A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.

With thanks to Momentum Books and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

Title: Throwaway Girl

Author: Kristine Scarrow

Genre: Contemporary Young Adult

Opening line: “…I haven’t always been called Andy …”

Blurb: Andy Burton knows a thing or two about survival. Since she was removed from her mother’s home and placed in foster care when she was nine, she’s had to deal with abuse, hunger, and homelessness. But now that she’s eighteen, she’s about to leave Haywood House, the group home for girls where she’s lived for the past four years, and the closest thing to a real home she’s ever known. Will Andy be able to carve out a better life for herself and find the happiness she is searching for?.

My thoughts: Throwaway Girl was a very thought provoking read, covering some heart wrenching issues in such a way that while I certainly connected to Andy emotionally and my heart went out to her, it didn’t leave wanting to curl up into a foetal ball of misery and hopelessness in the corner. Andy called herself a throwaway girl:

“…We are ‘Throwaway girls,’ kids that are too old to be cute and cuddled, too set in our ways, and too old to be saved because the damage has already been done…”

Born Bernice, Andy did not have an easy start to life. She never knew who her father was and her drug addled mother took no care of her; Andy was beaten often, left alone in the flat most of the time and being hungry was part of daily life. Bewildered by her mother and never sure if the nice mother or the bad mother was going to come home Andy finally told a trusted teacher which resulted in her being taken into welfare. She started out in foster homes, then events led her to the streets until finally she was placed in a home. As the story opens Andy is about to leave the home and continue with her life now she has been deemed able to look after herself. Andy relates the story and each chapter alternates between her present and the back story of how she got to the present. She did not have an excellent childhood except for one brief glorious period when she first went into care. Drugs, alcohol, self-harm, suicide, loss and rape all impacted on Andy’s life. Yet despite this she found anchors to keep her head above water and keep on going. She does have a talent – and she does have a dream and it is this which gets her through to the end. She fights for life, she recognises when she is in trouble and takes steps to get out of it – didn’t always happen straight away but she was eventually able to turn around and say no.

I liked Kristine Scarrow’s writing style – she gets the message across without frightening you to death. The book is obviously aimed at a younger market than myself and I think she has done it well keeping the chapters short and resisting the temptation to delve too deeply into the dark moments. By getting Andy to tell her story some of the information can be glossed over to a certain extent as she only shared what she could cope with – almost as if the eighteen year old Andy was detached from her younger self. I liked how despite her hard life and all the terrible things that happened to her Andy had the strength and focus to rise above it and get on with her life instead of blaming it and giving up trying to live decently. There is a happy ending – or should I say a hopeful ending because after so many bad highlights in her life where I just wanted to give her a hug and tell her to hang in there it was so good to leave the book with a future that had so many bright possibilities than the alternative which she could so easily have allowed herself to slide into.

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

With thanks to the Dundurn Group and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

Title: Reluctantly Charmed

Author: Ellie O’Neill

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Opening line: “…A year ago no one had heard of me…”

Blurb: Kate McDaid is listing her new-year’s resolutions hoping to kick-start her rather stagnant love life and career when she gets some very strange news. She is told that she is the sole benefactor of a great great-great-great aunt (and self-proclaimed witch) who is also called Kate McDaid, but this Kate died over 130 years ago. As if that isn’t strange enough, the will instructs that, in order to receive the inheritance, Kate must publish seven letters, one by one, week by week. Burning with curiosity, Kate agrees and opens the first letter – and finds that it’s a passionate plea to reconnect with the long-forgotten fairies of Irish folklore. When the letter is published on an unused website Kate’s life is almost instantaneously turned upside down. As the subsequent letters are published events become stranger and stranger and she starts to discover things about herself she’s never known before.

My thoughts: RELUCTANTLY CHARMED is not just contemporary fiction, it has history, drama, laughter, tears, romance and a little bit of magic. The story starts off with just a tiny hint of the mayhem that is about to start “…A year ago no one had heard of me…” This opening line just begged for the question – why has everyone heard of you now? Kate has a dead-end job in an advertising company, with clients that are too hard to please so have been handed to Kate. Her love life is non-existent and her general life is going nowhere, which is why she decides to publish the letters – for a break in the monotony. It doesn’t take long for Kate’s life to be anything but boring, in fact her parents are being interviewed on TV, the paparazzi are chasing Kate and she has a pack of weird anorak-wearing groupies camped out in her front garden. Suddenly everyone is fairy obsessed and researching their fairy name, talking to nature and hugging trees – including Kate. Well it can’t hurt can it? Soon Kate’s life is out of control and she finds she’s doing spells to help her friends, and discovering that unbelievers are being cursed through the letters. Welcome to the dark side of magic, Kate decides to find out more about her ancestor and what is happening to her and heads off to the small Irish village where it all began. RELUCTANTLY CHARMED gets serious and part of the ending is quite tragic in one sense, not quite the completely happy ending I was expecting, more bitter-sweet with a final twist really surprised me. A belief in fairies is not required to enjoy RELUCTANTLY CHARMED, and rest assured that while there is a lot of humour, it is not all fluff and there is a very dark undertone as fairies are not nice creatures when they don’t get their own way. Kate is a very believable character who certainly grows in character as the story progresses. She starts off as doing it for a bit of a laugh and then has to grapple with a very serious choice by week seven. The tension as she made her choice and mulled the pros and cons kept me on edge and certainly rescued the book for me as it took me a while to settle into the story. I will certainly look out for future books from Ellie O’Neill.

For more about the author – Click Here

C – Above average. Was very readable and I really liked it but was easily able to put it down and walk away for a while.

With thanks to Simon and Schuster and the author for my copy to read and review.

Title: Frontier Resistance

Author: Leonie Rogers

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Opening line: “…Shanna ran. Insectoid limbs scythed through the vegetation behind her, and red beams slashed past on either side, scorching as they grazed her skin…”

Blurb: The Garsal have landed and Frontier has changed forever. Even as Shanna and her friends struggle to master their new gifts before the Garsal enslave them all, Council infighting threatens the new alliance. But only by uniting do the Scouts, their starcats, and the Starlyne have any chance of surviving, and time is running out for the people of Frontier.

My thoughts: FRONTIER RESISTANCE is the second book in the Frontier Trilogy and I really recommend you read the brilliant first book Frontier Incursion before you read this. If for no other reason than you shouldn’t miss out on the excellent introduction to this remote world, but also to give you better understanding of the events in FRONTIER RESISTANCE. In the first book Shanna joins the Scout Corps – a highly trained group who do all the exploration on the planet. As she starts her training a spaceship arrives unnoticed by the humans; inside the spaceship is a horrible alien insect-like species called Garsal – their whole focus is to enslave the universe and build more hives. As the Scout Corp recruits head off the plateau that the human settlements are located on, down to ‘below’ which is the unconquered wilds of the planet, and the Garsal started to explore out from their landing area, the reader knows there is going to be a showdown when the two species eventually meet.

FRONTIER RESISTANCE takes up just after the first explosive skirmish where there are many casualties on both sides. An alliance has been made between humans and another species that has also made its home on Frontier, the Starlyne. The Starlyne are huge furry mystical creatures who have had a run in with the Garsal before and fled to frontier to hide. The Garsal are highly dependent on technology and the Starlyne believe that non-technical methods will be the way to overcome the buggy enemy. The new recruits all have non-technical gifts that the Starlyne believe will be undetected by the Garsal. Now Shanna and the other cadets, including Taya who now has revealed why she was so resistant to everything in the first book – along with their beautifulsStarcats – are undergoing intensive training. Starcats? Large black panther like cats who glow different colours and can communicate (to a certain extent) with their owners via hums and flashes; author Leonie Rogers say they are imaginary, but I am sure she is just hiding them! The starcats have many of the gifts naturally that the young humans need to develop. Still undergoing their training the cadets move off to locate the Garsal ship and destroy its communication capacity before the Commander broadcasts their existence to the rest of the Garsal race. At the same time the Garsal Commander has revenge on his mind and plots to find the human settlements and destroy them and harvest more slaves and win glory and acclaim. Travelling through the uncharted wilderness of Frontier is not easy for either insect or human, there are creatures and plants that will kill you in a heartbeat; and if you dodge these then there is the enemy to face.

As with Frontier Incursion the pacing of the story was perfect. The humans are split into two locations – the preparation of war on the plateau, and then the search for the Garsal ship ‘below’ – the tension in each location gradually built as both groups faced different set of problems and both reached an explosive climax. The main characters, especially Shanna and Taya, continued to grow as personalities; but sadly there are some more deaths. Leonie Rogers is very good at relationships between her characters – with just a few words we know if there is friction, anger, concern, humour and attraction. As you would expect with groups of people, and other entities, there are conflicts and misunderstanding and on Frontier it is no different. These little interactions all add to the richness of the story. In Frontier Incursion the Garsal’s point of view was through the Commander only, this time a couple of others have their point of view heard, all point to the fact that the Garsal motivation is to be allowed to start their own hive and breed. Their frustrations and plans are all told to the reader so the reader ends up knowing exactly what each group plans to do. The point of view we don’t get to hear from is that of the Starlyne; the reader only hears what a Starlyne tells humans, we don’t go inside any of the Starlyne’s heads, maybe we aren’t supposed to find out stuff yet. The scene is now set for the final showdown. I cannot recommend this series enough and looking forwards to the final book in the trilogy in the, hopefully, not too distant future.

For more about the author – Click Here

A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.

With thanks to Hague Publishing and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

Title: The Spirit of Imagination

Author: S.A. Tawks

Genre: YA Fantasy

Blurb: What if you could bottle creative juices? Where would you extract these juices from? Books, of course! That is the reason why the pages of books turn a funny yellow colour after time. A reader’s imagination gets instilled within the pages. Not many people know of the secret surrounding imagination, and only a handful knows exactly how to extract the liquid. Join Emily as she is introduced to the secret world of imagination. Meet the men and women who each have different ideas regarding the Spirit of Imagination and how it should be properly used. Has Emily been introduced to a marvellous, magical world or has she entered into something that is beyond her wildest imaginings? Suspend reality and indulge yourself with a taste of The Spirit of Imagination

My thoughts: Emily Rainn was looking for a job and an elderly writer takes her on after interviewing her. Her job description is not all that clear – but she does get to be part of a big adventure that includes a shortage of liquid imagination spirit and huge quantities of the imagination that is left in books being stolen by the evil Spirit Crusher!! JC is Emily’s new employer; his right hand man is Walter who is the butler, come bodyguard, come cook, come spirit maker. Later on we meet a rogue librarian and the head of the librarian council which is a sisterhood – only daughters of librarians can become librarians. Not sure what the two delightful male librarians at my local library will make of this! After Emily finally finds out what her role is, she has to decide if this is what she wants to do. Despite what follows Emily gives it a crack but by the end of the story she is still finding her way and working out who to trust. THE SPIRIT OF IMAGINATION is the first in a series.

Author S.A. Tawks has an amazing imagination; and I really liked the idea of extracting imagination from a book and converting it to liquid form and bottled. Then a whole secret underground cellar filled with the bottled spirit. The whole concept then takes on a faint icky feeling as the liquid becomes a drug to manipulate and even kill to possess. JC is addicted to the liquid spirit and tells Emily that the supplies are running out. Not sure if this would ever happen as there are thousands of books being published every day so imagination will ever run dry. I also couldn’t really understand where the author was going with her story as was a bit of a mishmash, maybe this is because it the first in a series and I am not supposed to find out yet what the point is. Still a good quick read, and I am intrigues enough to follow on with the next copy.

For more about the author – Click Here

C – Above average. Was very readable and I really liked it but was easily able to put it down and walk away for a while.

With thanks to the author for my copy to read and review.

Title: Driving in Neutral

Author: Sandra Antonelli

Genre: Romance

Opening line: “…A purse was a miserable substitute for an umbrella…”

Blurb: A new, quick-witted, quip-heavy romance for grown-ups about facing your fears, because love is the greatest risk of all. Level-headed Olivia Regen walks away from her car-racing career and the wreckage of a bad marriage to take on new work that’s far removed from the twists of racetrack. Her new life is about control, calm and the good friends that she adores. But her first task on her very first day involves getting up close and personal with her claustrophobic boss Emerson, as they are trapped together in a broken elevator. Her unconventional solution for restoring his equilibrium shocks them both and leaves Olivia shaken. Determined to stick to her plan of control and calm, Olivia drives headlong into work and planning her best friend’s wedding, leaving no room for kissing, elevators, or workplace relationships. But Emerson is not one to be out-manoeuvred. Can he convince Olivia that her fear of falling in love again is just another kind of claustrophobia – one that is destined to leave them both lonely?

My thoughts: DRIVING IN NEUTRAL was a great little read and had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion. The bridezilla whose wedding was central to the story was something to behold – although I probably would have walked out and left her rather than pampering to her bad behaviour – Olivia was either demented or a saint for putting up with her! It did take me a while to settle into the stories as there were a few characters that all seemed to be introduced at once after the elevator scene, and it took me a while to work out which characters I should be concentrating on. It also verged onto farcical rather than funny once or twice which again had me wanting to slap the characters concerned (the two bridesmaids come to mind here). The romance between Emerson and Olivia was very gradual and I liked that they weren’t in bed with each other from page one – the kiss in the elevator doesn’t count as that was medicinal!! I also liked the conflict that needed to be overcome, although I felt that what Olivia did to Emerson was very wicked, and was a little mollified to see that she was remorseful for her action; still she should not have done that, it was spiteful and cruel, and actually let the story down for me that she even did it. Of course you’ll have to read the book to find out what I am referring to and judge for yourself; in fact pour yourself a glass of bubbly and settle in for a wonderful wedding weekend with some really quirky characters and some serious life issue lessons learned. Overall I recommend DRIVING IN NEUTRAL as a perfect weekend read.

For more about the author – Click Here

C – Above average. Was very readable and I really liked it but was easily able to put it down and walk away for a while.

With thanks to Escape Publishing and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

September Reading Wrap Up

September Reading Wrap Up

Welcome to my September reading wrap-up:

The total of books I read in September was: 15

Of these: 3 were a Library Books, 8 were E-books and 4 were from my physical TBR pile

Then: Out of these I discovered 8 ‘new for me’ authors (i.e. the first time I have read their work).

And: 10 of the books read were written by Australian authors.

Best Book of the month:

Once again I was lucky enough to read a couple of A books this month, I give As (or 5 stars) to books that are complete page turners, have me reading late into the night and suck me straight into the story. They also have to leave me wanting more at the end, and are all recommended. If I give a high score to a book it means it is a top example of that genre. A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman, UNFORGIVABLE by Sharon Robards, PANDORA JONES: DECEPTION by Barry Jonsberg and OUTBACK GHOST by Rachael Johns were all top reads for me this month and are wonderful examples of their different genres. However my book of the month this month is UNFORGIVABLE by Sharon Robards because of the excellent way she has portrayed a shameful part of our history.

Least Favourite Book(s):

I say ‘least favourite’ because my lowest ‘score’ still means it is very readable, but for one reason or another I found it a bit of struggle to stay focused and finish. This month the two books I really struggled with were Elvis and the Dearly Departed by Peggy Webb and Mothers and Daughters by Kylie Ladd. While they weren’t for me – they may very well be perfect for you.

General Summary:

Being an eclectic reader I read many different genres. This month the genre covered were Young Adult, Romance, paranormal, General Fiction, Mystery, Dystopian and Fantasy. Some of the books were a blend of two or more genre.

My Australian authors for September were 5 of the new-for-me authors Margaret Lynette Sharp, Kylie Ladd, Sharon Robards, Danielle Wood, and S.A. Tawks, along with Fiona McCallum, Barry Jonsberg, Juliet Madison, Fiona Palmer and Rachael Johns. Just to clarify an Australian author is defined by me as either an Australian born author no matter where they live and write in the world now, or an author who currently lives and writes in Australia even though they September have been born elsewhere.

Finally, the 8 ‘new-for-me’ authors this month were my Aussie authors Margaret Lynette Sharp, Kylie Ladd, Sharon Robards, Danielle Wood, and S.A. Tawks, along with Sarah-Kate Lynch, Fredrik Backman and Peggy Webb. Other than Peggy Wood and Kylie Ladd I would happily read all of these new authors again.

Interesting book related links that I’ve come across this month:

Jaime the Perpetual Page Turner is searching for the perfect book:

http://www.perpetualpageturner.com/2014/09/seeking-the-perfect-book.html

Why Dukes are the flavour of the month in Historical Romance: http://www.npr.org/2014/04/27/201184280/put-up-your-dukes-romances-favorite-rank

Kendra Alvey gives us 7 reasons to love our eReaders:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kendra-alvey/7-reasons-its-okay-to-love-your-ereader_b_5592417.html

A library without books? Yep a college library in the USA has opened the first book free library:

http://college.usatoday.com/2014/09/01/a-library-without-books-yep-its-a-thing/

The List

So let’s get onto what this post is about – here is the list of books that I read during September (each group is in the order I read them):

A = Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down

A man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman – General Fiction

Unforgivable by Sharon Robards – Historical

Pandora Jones: Deception by Barry Jonsberg – YA Dystopian

Outback Ghost by Rachael Johns – Romance

B = Really Good Read

The Wedding Bees by Sarah-Kate Lynch – Romance

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith – Mystery

Wattle Creek by Fiona McCallum – Romance

Of Merlot and Murder by Joni Folger – Romance

Love, Desire and Betrayal by Margaret Lynette Sharp – Short Stories/Romance

Haunted Ever After by Juliet Madison – Romance

The Sunnyvale Girls by Fiona Palmer – Romance

C = Above Average – very readable and enjoyable

Mothers Grimm by Danielle Wood – Fantasy

The Spirit of Imagination by S.A. Tawks – YA Fantasy

D = Average – it was OK, a bit of a struggle to finish

Elvis and the Dearly Departed by Peggy Webb – Mystery

Mothers and Daughters by Kylie Ladd – Women’s Fiction

So onward to October –Woo Hoo! I wonder what book goodies I will discover this month?

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