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Title: How (Not) to Kiss a Toad

Author: Elizabeth A. Reeves

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Opens: Closing the door of the house behind me, I tossed my purse on the couch and threw myself after it.

Blurb: Life isn’t always sweet for magical baker, Cindy Eller. All her life she’s been cursed – every man she’s ever kissed has turned into a toad. Love isn’t likely to come her way. If that weren’t a big enough problem, her ‘curse’ has come to the attention of the Council of Magic and she may never be able to use her powers. Enter the perfect man – handsome, sweet, and loves food just as much as Cindy does. It would seem to be a match made in Heaven, or is it? Cindy isn’t the only one keeping secrets. With toads, cupcakes, romance, magic and ice cream, life never has time to get dull!

My Thoughts: HOW (NOT) TO KISS A TOAD is a wonderful example of a fluffy paranormal romance, and was just what I was looking for. Cindy is a witch, although her mother prefers the term Magical Being. While her sisters all did well with their magical studies, Cindy flunked out big time – and the only magic she’s aware of is when she kisses a man he turns into a toad – and the uglier his inner personality the uglier the toad. She firmly believes when Mr Right comes along he won’t turn, but so far she has been out of luck. The book opens with her bringing home a particularly repulsive toad called Nathan, but unlike the other toads before him he doesn’t revert back to human a short time later – he just sits around and annoys her with his toad slime.

What Cindy does do right though is bake – it almost seems as though her latent magic is pouring itself into her cakes and the bakery she works at reaps the rewards of her beautiful creations. Enter one drop-dead gorgeous guy – Timothy – the sort of male who makes your ovaries sit up and sing! He even loves toads!!! He has no idea she is magical – which is just as well because the Witches Council are not happy with Cindy’s ability to turn her boyfriends into toads so are going to remove her powers. Her latest step-father thinks he can help Cindy and agrees to train her. Which could be a good thing; because she’s losing her job, trying to hide the repulsive toad from his girlfriend (looks like he deserved to be a toad for being a two-timing creep) and trying not to kiss the hubba bubba Timothy. To help Cindy not lose her magic, her mother, sister and step-father all try to weld their magic to change Nathan back but he is a particularly stubborn toad!

Cindy is a very likeable character and I loved her two roommates – the three women are a great support team for each other – true friendship!! I was sucked in from the very first page and spent a wonderful Sunday afternoon reading it with a glass of wine in hand.

It was a fun read that had me laughing out loud on quite a few occasions and the second in the series safely downloaded as soon as I had finished.

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.

October Reading Wrap Up

October Reading Wrap Up

Haven’t done one of these for ages – so, without further ado, welcome to my October 2016 reading wrap-up

Total Books Read: 15

Physical books: 5

E-books: 10

New for me Authors: 7

Australian Authors: 5

Best Book of the month:

I read three ‘A’ books this month. I give ‘A’s to books that, regardless of genre, 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 of course, it should go without saying that I utterly recommend that you read it. If I give a high score to a book it means that it is a top example of whatever genre it belongs to. Someone else may turn their nose up at giving an ‘A’ to a light and fluffy romance, but if it is the best example of a light and fluffy romance then it is just as worthy of an ‘A’ than a dreary angst ridden book that wins some great literary award. If I give a high score to a book it means it is a top example of whatever genre it belongs to. So this month I had 3 top reads. These were – The Fairytale Curse by Marina Finlayson (YA Fantasy), The Art of Keeping Secrets by Rachael Johns (Women’s Fiction) and Spell Booked by Joyce & Jim Lavene (Cosy Mystery). However, I can only have one ‘Best’ book and this month it goes to THE ART OF KEEPING SECRETS by Rachael Johns – see review here.

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, there were two that fitted this description, so Longbourn by Jo Baker and The Fairy Wren by Ashley Capes are going to share the dubious honour of being my least favourite books this month. Please remember that this is just my personal opinion and you may find that they may very well be perfect for you.

General Summary:

Because I am an eclectic reader I read many different genres, sometimes at the same time! This month the different genres covered were Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, Mystery, Paranormal, Historical (set over 50 years ago), Science Fiction, Dystopian, and General Fiction (not sure where to put it). Many of the books were a blend of two or more genre.

The majority of authors read were female – however three males do feature and they are Ashley Capes, Scott Cramer and Jim Lavene. I don’t deliberately set out to not read male authors – in fact male authors are in my top 10 of the year reading list every year.

The Australian authors I read this month were Marina Finlayson, Ashley Capes and Racheal Treasure (they are all new authors for me as well) along with Rachael Johns, Ilsa Evans and Sharon Robards. 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 have been born elsewhere.

Finally, the 12 ‘new-for-me’ authors this month were three of my Australians Marina Finlayson, Ashley Capes and Racheal Treasure, along with husband and wife team Joyce & Jim Lavene, Nancy Volkers, Scott Cramer, Jill Thames and Jo Baker. I would happily read most of these new authors again – not sure about Ashley Capes and Jo Baker – but never say never.

The Reading List:

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

A (5 stars) = Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down

The Fairytale Curse by Marina Finlayson – YA Fantasy

The Art of Keeping Secrets by Rachael Johns – Women’s Fiction

Spell Booked by Joyce & Jim Lavene – Cosy Paranormal Mystery

B (4 stars) = Really Good Read

The Scottish Ferry Tale by Nancy Volkers – Romance

Night of the Purple Moon by Scott Cramer – YA Dystopian Science Fiction

Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister – Women’s Fiction

C (3 stars) = Above Average – very readable and enjoyable

The Rouseabout by Racheal Treasure – Romance

September by Rosamunde Pilcher – General Fiction

Agatha Raisin and the Deadly Dance by MC Beaton – Cosy Mystery

Each Way Bet by Ilsa Evans – Women’s Fiction

Murder in Half Moon Bay by Nancy Jill Thames – Cosy Mystery

Playing with Fire by Sharon Robards – Historical

Raindrops on Roses by Millenia Black – Romance

D (2 stars) = Average – it was OK, a bit of a struggle to finish

Longbourn by Jo Baker – Historical

The Fairy Wren by Ashley Capes – General Fiction

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

Title: The Art of Keeping Secrets

Author: Rachael Johns

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Opens: Felicity Bell could think of a number of places she’d rather be on a Friday night than in the pretentiously decorated living room of a house owned by her friend’s no-good ex-husband.

Blurb: They’ve been best friends since their sons started high school together and Felicity, Emma and Neve have shared everything … or so they each thought. But they all have a secret they’ve been keeping – Flick’s has to do with her perfect marriage, while divorcee Emma’s is denial about why she is always tired, finally single mum Neve has kept her secret so tight that even her son doesn’t know. One by one the secrets come out into the open and the women have to publically face the truth. Even if that truth has the power to hurt the ones they love, and each other.

My Thoughts: I have to say that I have never, ever, read a bad Rachael Johns book. Each time I finish reading one I think wow she can’t get any better – but then I pick up the next one – and she does. THE ART OF KEEPING SECRETS is so fabulous that I read until the wee small hours to finish it, and my husband had to heat us up leftovers for dinner for two nights as I wanted to read rather than cook!!!

I loved learning the secrets of the three women and then following them as they faced the consequences of the secrets being revealed – first alone, then among themselves and then family and friends as the revelations widened. Neve’s revelation comes first when her 17-year-old son says he wants to find his father. Her revelation results in her going to New York, but as the story twists and turns it ends up with all three women heading for the Big Apple for various reasons. While in New York Emma’s secret explodes into being, and Flick finally share’s her earth shattering secret with her friends. Not content with dealing with these events – Johns decides to throw yet another twist out for the reader after the women return to Australia.

It was amazing the way the storylines went, twisting and turning and leaving me breathless one minute, crying the next and then laughing my head off. Johns does not spare her main characters (or her readers) and they are pushed to their very limits of emotions. Each of the women have to make huge decisions, battle temptations, break down and cry then sometimes hurt people they love. Flick, Neve and Emma each take turn to tell their story – moving the overall plot ever forward. Often I was privy to their thoughts before their friends were which drew me deeper into the story. Together the three friends fight each other, say mean things, drink too much, support each other, cry together and have fun together. The three secrets are very realistic and all the characters are very multi-layered and, dare I say, real. Even Emma’s sleazy and horrible ex-husband shows surprising support when he learns what is happening, this act made me look at him quite differently.

If I had one complaint then it was that Flick’s secret was still only partially revealed and the journey was still ahead of her – she had made a decision as to how she was going to handle things, but how that decision was going to pan out was unknown.

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.

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It is October; so that means that in some parts of the world it is autumn, full of red leaves and orange pumpkins. It also means that All Hollow’s Eve, more commonly known as Halloween, is fast approaching. And you know what that means? Ghosts, skeletons, witches, zombies and other assorted monsters will start to roam the streets, and houses, of the world. It’s time to scare yourself silly – join in the monster fun, or at the very least curl up with a book guaranteed to give you the heebie-jeebies. A book that forces you to check the outside doors and windows are all securely locked. Then close all the internal doors, turn on your bedside lamp and cover yourself in blankets.

Because everyone knows that a blanket is going to stop Freddie Kruger from slaughtering you – won’t it?

 

I fully believe that horror books are worse than horror movies! Why? Because you can walk out of a movie theatre, or turn the TV off – but even when you close a horror book it sits there on the shelf shifting, creaking while it growls threateningly at you. It watches you. It sneers at your fear.

A well written horror story starts off by curdling the contents of your stomach, then you break out in a fearful cold sweat and your limbs to start trembling; as the fear builds up – because you just won’t stop turning those pages – you start to cry, funny little gaspy noises and then in sheer desperation and armed with the book you walk through the house turning on every light you can find.

Because everyone knows a fully lit up house is going to stop Freddie Kruger from slaughtering you – doesn’t it.

 

Why is reading horror so popular? Why do people get a pleasurable thrill out of reading it? Well there has been research – yes all those taxpayers dollars at work! Apparently thrill can produce dopamine and dopamine is a chemical that is released when we anticipate rewards. Dopamine is also released during sex and other pleasurable activities – personally sex is way more appealing than being scared to death – but that’s story!!! So people read scary books for the thrill – the adrenaline rush – for the dopamine to kick in! Just as an aside dopamine deficiency results in Parkinson’s disease, and people with low dopamine activity may be more prone to addiction. Maybe the drug rehabilitation centres should stock their libraries with horror stories!!!

Because everyone knows that getting a thrill from a scary book is going to stop Freddie Kruger from slaughtering you – unless it’s his book and you haven’t asked permission to read it!

Of course fans of the Horror genre will scoff and tell you that scary books can’t hurt you because you are not in them, you are nothing other than a passive onlooker to horrifying events. It is not you waking up to see a shadowy figure with a machete raised above her head standing beside your bed, it’s just a make believe character. The mass murders, vampires, zombies, demons, and other horrifying characters are not real. The screaming women being dragged off down a dark hallway, the child being sucked into a TV and the teens in the forest in the middle of the night being dismembered one by one – none of it real.

Because everyone knows that just knowing he’s not real isn’t going to stop Freddie Kruger from slaughtering you.

Horror stories have been around for thousands of years, fear is one of our primal emotions it is inbuilt from prehistoric times to keep humans alive; fear of what the outcome could be keeps us away from animals with sharp teeth and dangerous places. Around the campfire the stone age elders would tell stories to the little ones to keep them scared witless and safe. Word of mouth progressed to written stories and now there are many books designed to scare us silly. Horror stories reflect their time in history. Prehistoric man, without the scientific knowledge we have today, would have made up stories to explain what they couldn’t understand would invent monsters in the woods and caves that explained disappearing tribe members or unexplained deaths. The middle ages brought out ghosts and vampires, while modern times lean towards technology with scenarios such as alien invasions, zombie plagues, dystopia and psychological terrors such as chain saw massacres. Then there was revenge – killed people coming back as monsters to wipe out all those involved in their death.

Because everyone knows being dead is not going to stop Freddie Kruger from slaughtering you – again.

SO, if you insist on scaring yourselves to death this Halloween, or indeed any time, here are some links to some ‘horror-able’ book suggestions

· The 50 Scariest Books of all time

· Best Classic Horror Books

· A website devoted to horror fiction

And if you’re not contented in scaring yourself silly – why don’t we let our children horror – here is a link to an article, and book suggestions, telling you why children should read horror.

You can also find this post over on Book Charmers

Fantasy is a genre that uses magic and paranormal elements to build its story. The story is peopled with such beings as giants and fairies; Ghosts and wraiths; witches and vampires; trolls and elves, talking dogs, cats and mice – anything that is unbelievable. In fact, in a fantasy book most of the main characters do not exist except in the author’s mind, or in mythology, and humans are commonly in the minority.

Fantasy stands hand in hand with horror and science fiction and many stories do overlap these element. As a rule fantasy stands apart as there is no technology as we know it, and the spooky elements are not quite as macabre as full blown horror.

Because of the similarities between these three genres they are usually collectively known as Speculative Fiction. Other people also throw in dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate history into the speculative Fiction umbrella as well. I can’t see the point myself – but this is becoming more

common. I mean to say, yes I suppose you could have a flesh eating monster stalking the corridors of a spaceship eating all the elves – but it is rare – and if you know of such a book then let me know.

Fantasy isn’t bound by convention – it is utterly make believe – so the world and its inhabitants can be anything that enters the author’s mind. A tree gets in the way of a character’s progress? Then being fantasy the character can snap his fingers, or will have a fellow traveller to do it, and poof – the tree disappears. If this happened in the real world there would be so many forms to fill out that the character would just give up and go home. Magic is an extremely useful tool in fantasy.

So why would you read fantasy? Well, so much of reality is uninteresting and unexciting – it is lovely to slip into a fantasy book, where nothing is real, and let your imagination run free? Don’t get me wrong, life can certainly be grim for the fantasy characters – I mean the journey of the hobbit and friends in the Lord of the Rings was no picnic – and those orcs were quite revolting – but in the end and the sun came back and evil was apparently vanquished. In real life this does not always occur.

 

So if it is all made-up why should we read fantasy? Alan Nicholas, self-described Attorney, avid reader, sometime writer thinks he has the answer in this long article: https://www.quora.com/Why-read-fantasy-books

He thinks fantasy readers are solely into escapism, its very reason for being is that nothing is real so it really is another time and another place and can’t possibly happen in our world. With science fiction there is an element of maybe it could happen – aliens could land – humans could go into space and live on other plants – so it is not pure escapism. Even horror can make you the reader stop and think, could this happen – could there be a Freddie Kruger out there coming to get you? When reading fantasy you know it is not true, and have a fair idea that a horrible troll is not going to come marching down the high street. Well I hope one won’t anyway.

Now, if your interest is piqued to try the Fantasy genre – here are some links to some recommended books:

Something for everyone – 100 fantasy books

Ten Must-Read Magical Books That Aren’t Harry Potter (although if you haven’t read the Harry Potter books – you should)

Fantasy books usually come in series – 30 of the best fantasy series  gives a plethora of fantasy reading ideas

 

You can also find this post over on Book Charmers

You can also find this post over on Book Charmers

Title: The Girl who circumnavigated fairyland in a ship of her own making

Author: Catherynne M Valente

Genre: YA Fantasy

Opens: Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parents’ house, where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog.

Blurb: Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went away to fight in a war and her mother started working long hours to support the family. Now September is bored. Until one day as she does the dishes she is visited by The Green Wind and The Leopard Of Little Breezes who asks her to come with him to save Fairyland. The leader of Fairyland – the Marquess – is not a very nice person and there is something she wants but can’t get herself. That’s where September comes in she is ordered to fetch it otherwise Fairyland will become even more impossible to live in – September has a quest.

My Thoughts: THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN is the first book in the fairyland series which is getting rave reviews across the world. However, I just didn’t get it, in fact I found it extremely difficult to get into the imaginative, but very odd, story and, importantly, none of the characters actually drew me in and demanded I stay. The closest character I came to like was the book-loving Wyvern called A-Through-L, and he was loquacious and boring.

Look, there was SO much going on in the story, often all at once, with lots of mentions of other past and future adventures being thrown into the mix every few paragraphs, making story was hard to track. Then on top of that there were lots of characters being thrown at me one after the other without me being given the chance to bond with any of them. But wait there’s more! The main problem was I didn’t even bond with the strange child who is the centre of the story, September. For me to really enjoy a story I need to have feelings about, or be able to relate to, the main character – even if it is a severe dislike – the character needs to evoke some sort of emotion from me. But author Catherynne M Valente aroused no emotions from me for September; in fact even September didn’t seem to care about what happened to September. So if the main character is apathetic to her own fate – why should I care whether she gets eaten by river monsters, or killed by a witch? Don’t get me wrong Valente obviously has superb mastery of the English language – but it was if she put so much effort into her words, and waxed lyrical about every little thing, that the story got lost amongst the descriptions. The world building was absolutely amazing – but then it was peopled with characters that remained as flat as the pages I was reading.

As I said, THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN has got rave reviews, so I am clearly in the minority here. It is listed for readers aged 10+, this stuns me as it would have to be a very advanced 10 year old who could read this. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under the age of 15. A lot of this is to do with the style in which it is written, not the concept of adventures in fairyland.

I kept think of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz – all bizarre stories if you think about them logically, but full of wonderful characters and words which pull you in – not leave you leaping for the dictionary every few minutes. In fact there is even mention made of a wardrobe that connects you to other worlds, so the author must be familiar with these works. Her version of a magical adventure just didn’t work for me – but as I have already mentioned it as lots of good reviews from other readers – so just but not my cup of tea

For more about the author – Click Here

D – Average – it was OK, but for one reason or another I found it a bit of struggle to stay focused and finish.

Title: April’s Glow

Author: Juliet Madison

Genre: Romance

Opens: If there was anything worse for April Vedora than being stood up, it was being stood up on April Fools’ Day

Blurb: Distracting herself from a string of bad luck and a disastrous love life, bubbly April Vedora throws herself into her new business – April’s Glow, a candle store in seaside Tarrin’s Bay. The enchanting scents and colourful atmosphere provide a safe haven, but outside business hours she’s clueless about her personal life.

When a mysterious loner moves in next door, she can’t help but become intrigued, and ex-soldier Zac Masterson is equally fascinated by April. But both have sworn off relationships, and while April avoids her emotions by keeping busy and sociable, Zac hides away from the world – and his past.

My Thoughts: APRIL’S GLOW is the 4th book in the Tarrin’s Bay series and as you would expect for a book set in April – Anzac day and a returned service man are woven into the story.

Both April and Zac are wounded spiritually – they need time to heal their hurts, but they also need to learn that they can move on with their lives – that it is alright to move on. When Zac moved next door, they both started to bounce off each other as they each recognised hurt in the other. The story is told from both perspectives – so the reader learns what issues each of the two neighbours are struggling with before they do. They firstly connect by talking – at all hours of the day and night:

You’re up, I’m up. Might as well talk.

April wrote: Why not just talk over the fence?

Zac replied: Because I’m naked."

Gradually, even though their initial impressions of each other are less than favourable, comes the realisation that maybe they do have things in common after all, followed by attraction so strong that the two of them are both terrified of allowing themselves to become vulnerable. Can a candle maker and an ex-service man make it as a couple? What do they need to do to make it happen?

I loved April, in one sense she is very like me in that she sometimes says what’s on her mind not realising she’s said it aloud. Her relationships with her parents, however, are not like mine – especially the one with her father. Sometimes your personal experience can affect your outlook on life, and her relationship with Zac was certainly influenced by her relationship with her father. I loved how this thread played out, and the message that it gave – was very well done. I couldn’t imagine myself dealing with some of the issues that these two faced – but deal they did – and being a romance the reader knows that (well hopes they know that) a happy ending will eventually arrive. What kept me riveted to the pages was to find out if they would make it, and how on earth they surmounted their challenges to get there.

APRIL’S GLOW is a 5 star read – I loved the story, I loved the characters and I loved the two furry minor characters, Romeo and Juliet :)"

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.

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