Feeds:
Posts
Comments

October Reading Wrap Up

October Reading Wrap Up

Welcome to my October reading wrap-up:

The total of books I read in October was: 10

Of these: 1 was a Library Book, 7 were E-books and 2 were from my physical TBR pile

Then: Out of the books I read I discovered 7 ‘new for me’ authors (i.e. the first time I have read their work).

And: 8 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 ‘A’s (or 5 stars) to books that are complete page turners for me, that have me reading late into the night, suck me straight into the story and leaves me wanting more at the end; and I utterly recommend it. If I give a high score to a book it means it is a top example of whatever genre it belongs to. FRONTIER RESISTANCE by Leonie Rogers (YA Science Fiction) along with FORBIDDEN FRUIT by Ilsa Evans (Cosy Mystery) were both top reads for me this month and are wonderful examples of their different genres. However my book of the month this month is FRONTIER RESISTANCE by Leonie Rogers for a few reasons firstly the edge of the seat adventure she takes you on, secondly the excellent world she has created and finally the Star Cats who have wormed their way into my heart.

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 The Brewer’s Tale by Karen Brooks and After the Armistice Ball by Catriona McPherson. While they have received glowing reviews elsewhere, they just weren’t for me at this time – however, this is just my personal opinion and you may find that they may very well be right for you.

General Summary:

Being an eclectic reader I read many different genres. This month the different genres covered were Young Adult, Romance, Science Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy, Women’s Fiction, Historical and General Fiction. Some of the books were a blend of two or more genre and amazingly none of the books this month had a paranormal element!

My 8 Australian authors for October were 5 of the new-for-me authors Sandra Antonelli, Ellie O’Neill, Karen Brooks, Jenni Boyd and Madeleine St John; along with Leonie Rogers, Ilsa Evans and Helen Brown. 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 October have been born elsewhere.

Finally, the 7 ‘new-for-me’ authors this month were my Aussie authors Sandra Antonelli, Ellie O’Neill, Karen Brooks, Jenni Boyd and Madeleine St John; along with Kristine Scarrow and Catriona McPherson. Other than Catriona McPherson and Karen Brooks I would happily read all of these new authors again.

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

I have only got two links this month and they both refer to a subject that had the online blogging/reviewing world all atwitter. In an article published by The Guardian newspaper an author proudly wrote that she was so upset over a negative review she received for an upcoming book that she actually traced the reviewer to her home address and visited it along with phoning her on her personal phone number. That the author crossed over a line from being upset to being a stalker is patently obvious, but was she a victim to the reviewer, and if so did this justify her behaviour? Well no I don’t think she was a ‘victim’ and her behaviour and the extremes she went to in order to track down the reviewer sent shivers down my spine and the spines of every reviewer that read the article. When an author publishes a book I understand they have put their heart and soul into it, many describe it as giving birth to a child – and is certainly loved as much as one, but when it is released into the public arena they cannot make people like it, any more than a mother can make people love your child – you just assume everyone will. But every author is going to have someone who doesn’t like their precious baby. If you go to any online review site and look at any book and there will be reviews that range from ‘why did this person bother’ to ‘this is the greatest book ever’ accept the good reviews as your right – and ignore the bad ones – unless there is constructive criticism that you can take note of. That this author did what she did – and then shouted it joyously from the roof tops put a lot of fear into book reviewer hearts – some even did a total ban on writing reviews last weekend. Reviewers can be your friends – they promote your books, even a bad review would encourage some people read it just to see if it is all true As a reviewer I try to be totally fair in my reviews, but in the end it is only my opinion, and it is about the book not the author – and even if I think the book is only average, in my review I always try to have a positive point somewhere. If I can’t find that positive – and there have been a few – then there will be no review, and because anything less than an average (my D or two stars) usually hasn’t been finished neither I do I post reviews on books not finished.

Anyhow here are the two blog links which explain what happened – both of which give a link to the original article that started the brouhaha – make up your own mind:

http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/blog/the-choices-of-kathleen-hale

http://www.jimchines.com/2014/10/victim-or-perpetrator/

I have made many wonderful online friends with authors I have read and reviewed, and I have never ever been threatened by an author, neither have any of my wonderful author friends pressed me to give them a favourable review because I’m their friend – Nice ones won’t. I find the delete button for unsavoury responses to be the ultimate weapon – this gives me power.

The List

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

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

Frontier Resistance by Leonie Rogers – YA Science Fiction

Forbidden Fruit by Ilsa Evans – Mystery

B = Really Good Read

Throwaway Girl by Kristine Scarrow – YA General Fiction

Tumbledown Manor by Helen Brown – Women’s Fiction

C = Above Average – very readable and enjoyable

Driving in Neutral by Sandra Antonelli – Romance

Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Neill – Fantasy

Natalia by Jenni Boyd – Historical

The Essence of the Thing by Madeleine St John – Women’s Fiction

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

The Brewer’s Tale by Karen Brooks – Historical

After the Armistice Ball by Catriona McPherson – Historical Mystery

So onward to November –Woo Hoo! I wonder what book goodies I will discover this month? Possibly one or two Christmas themed books will start to sneak in!!

Title: The Essence of the Thing

Author: Madeleine St John

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Opening line: “…Nicola was still standing in the doorway when Jonathan began to speak: she hadn’t even had time to take off her coat…”

Nicola only popped out to buy a packet of cigarettes at the local shop but when she gets back she finds a stranger in her apartment instead of her live-in boyfriend. Oh he looks like Jonathan but he doesn’t act like the man that she knows and loves. This Jonathan tells her that he no longer wants to be with her and that the relationship must come to an end and that it would be best if she moved out straight away.

“…Then he looked up at her again. ‘There’s no nice way to say this,’ he said. ‘But I’ve decided – that is, I’ve come to the conclusion – that we should part.’…”

THE ESSENCE OF THE THING is the tale of a breakup of a relationship, but it has a very humorous edge to all the drama. Nicola’s first reaction is disbelief, followed by utter devastation as her world just falls apart. She turns to her friends for advice and support, thay all seem to think she is better off without Jonathon, in fact the consensus of opinion is that he’s a bit of a cold fish and she can do better, but Nicola is not ready to see this herself quite yet.

"…‘Let’s say he’s a prat. But he’s the prat I love.’ She paused. ‘Actually, I’ve never been absolutely sure what prat means, exactly…"

There are a lot of characters in the book, mostly couples who are either her friends or his, along with both sets of parents. All terribly middle to upper class and willing to give their point of view which gives author Madeleine St John the opportunity to show that the breakup of a relationship just doesn’t affect the couple, it also affects the other people in their lives. THE ESSENCE OF THE THING is not a lengthy book and the chapters are very short with a lot of conversation rather than lengthy scene settings. Each chapter had a different point of view, whether it was Nicola or Jonathon, their parents or friends. Yet with minimum fuss St John explores the human emotion that is wrapped up in a separation, the various mood swings that occur as the relationship is split from one entity to two, the realisation of how irrevocable the decision is. There was also the truism that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. As I mentioned before, despite the terrible bleakness of the breakup, THE ESSENCE OF THE THING is actually full of hope, warmth and humour and there comes the point in the story where Nicola found herself laughing at something and forgetting about Jonathon for a moment and that was the point where her life moved on, she had turned the corner and is no longer crippled by misery, she has hope for the future. In contrast though it is about this time that Jonathon realised what he had done and he finds himself unable to move on, and wanting to turn around and make things return to the way they were. For Jonathon the table has turned.

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.

Title: Tumbledown Manor

Author: Helen Brown

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Opening line: “…A birthday ending in a zero was nothing to make a fuss about …”

Blurb: Life’s going down the gurgler for romance writer Lisa Trumperton. The deadline for her next novel is looming, her daughter won’t eat but has a new tattoo each week, and now her Wall Street trader husband has run off with a woman at work. Lisa makes a quick escape, home to Australia, where at least her girl-magnet son seems to be making hay. Determined to grow older disgracefully, she turns her back on a trim and tidy townhouse that is close to shops, aged-care providers and her bossy older sister, instead buying a grand old house in the country that once belonged to her great-grandfather. But like its new owner, Trumperton Manor has seen better days. Crumbling, filthy and possibly haunted, the old house defies Lisa’s attempts to restore it. Add flood, fire and family secrets, plus a stray cat with attitude and an overly familiar handyman, and the cracks begin to show.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this light-hearted look at family relationships. Lisa undergoes a far-reaching life change when at her 40th birthday celebration she discovers her husband of over twenty years is having an affair, she finds out when a huge bunch of roses is delivered to her but with another woman’s name on it. Once caught out he announces that he no longer loves Lisa – and her marriage is over – just like that. Lisa is alone in her New York apartment – both children have left home – so on impulse she decides to pack up and fly back to her homeland of Australia. Her son and sister live in Melbourne, but she soon realises that while she would like to be near her son, staying near her bossy sister is not a good plan. So she surrenders to yet another impulse and buys a crumbling old house in the country that used to belong to her family – Trumperton Manor. Lisa gets her first inkling that there are some quirky characters in the country when she meets the real estate agent:

“…The agent – if that was what she was – wore a Barbie-pink jacket squeezed over a sequined top. It was difficult to tell if the strip of fabric over her thighs was a skirt or a belt. Her cleavage was deep enough to be seen from Google Earth. The heels of her matching pink boots were so high she was practically standing on tiptoe…”

Lisa is an author and has two more books to write and the deadline for the first one is looming, expecting to be inspired in the peace and quiet of the country she instead finds herself in the middle of a construction site with members of Grey Army expecting a substantial home-made morning and afternoon tea to sustain them. Then she finds herself fighting bushfires, floods along with protecting her property from wildlife. And don’t even mention the alleged ghost in the derelict old stables!!! Lisa finds herself busier in the country than she ever was in New York; along with trying to write her book, and supervise the renovations, she also has to deal with family dilemma’s, a landscaper called Scott, then host a wedding – which means catching up with her ex-husband and his new love, finally she also wants to try and figure out just what the big mystery is about her ancestors that no-one in town will talk about.

The best characters (and really I loved all of them) were Mojo (the rescued feral cat) and Kiwi (the rescued cockatoo) who steal the limelight in every scene they appear in. I would love to have both of them in my life. Really I shouldn’t have been surprised because author Helen Brown is the author of the non-fiction book Cleo: How an Uppity Cat helped heal a family which was fabulous and starred the most wonderful cat. I am sure Mojo has read that book! I would have liked the back story of her daughter Portia to have developed more, but loved her relationship with her son Ted and his flatmate James who both rolled up their sleeves and helped bring her tumbledown manor back to life. Tumbledown Manor is a fun read that brings up serious and controversial issues in a non-confrontational manner. There is humour on nearly every page and some wonderful bush characters that prove when the things get tough, and your neighbours need help, you roll up your sleeves and lend a hand.

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 Allen & Unwin and the author for this copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $29.99

Natalia by Jenni Boyd

Title: Natalia

Author: Jenni Boyd

Genre: Historical

Opening line: “…Her hand trembled as she turned the doorknob, her punishment would be severe if discovered in the room, but it was what she came to see which frightened her most…”

Blurb: When a servant girl called Natalia sneaks into a room to find a mirror her whole world changes, in fact her very existence is threatened and her only chance of survival lies in the hands of an old gypsy woman, but to find the woman Natalia must embark on a dangerous journey through the deep woods. Natalia discovers the people of the forest are like no other she has seen before, especially the handsome Besnik. Unfortunately he, as the other gypsies, shows a great hatred towards her at the mere mention of her name; she has been blamed for the terrible curse they live under. Natalia must now set off on another journey to find her true parents and try and free the gypsies from their incarceration in the deep woods. Her only hope of finding her parents is through the aid of a young gypsy boy who possesses a special gift. As the web of deceit gradually unravels, Natalia uncovers a shocking secret, one which was never to be revealed. Can Besnik overcome his hatred of her and come to her rescue?

My thoughts: NATALIA is a sweet story but don’t be misled by the romance tag, this story has an edge, and poor Natalia has to overcome a heap of hurdles to get to her happy ending. The romance is there, but doesn’t get going until the middle of the story, and then is really a support story until almost the very end when it comes into its own. Despite being kidnapped, abused, burned, beaten, drugged and ravished Natalia manages to retain her niceness and innocence. She is kind-hearted and sweet and maybe a little bit too trusting, she does fight for right though and has great tenacity in achieving her goal. I found myself flicking the pages as I was eager to see how it was all going to turn out. Plenty of twists and turns – and working out who was nice and who was nasty. At least one of the nasty ones took me by surprise as they were outwardly nice, and seemingly trying to do their best by Natalia – but in the end did some bad, bad things. My favourite character was Jasper the black stallion – my only criticism to the whole story is that I didn’t find out what happened to Jasper after the stableman took him off to save his life – did he get saved – or not? I cried anyway – just to be on the safe side! Fortunately for the state of my sanity there is definitely a happy ever after for Natalia – which she really deserved after everything she went through. If you like adventure stories with just a light touch of romance then I recommend this story. I would happily read more of Jenni Boyd’s books

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: 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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 238 other followers