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Title: Out of Mind

Author: Kendall Talbot

Genre: Romantic suspense

Opens:

From the moment Holly climbed into the helicopter, a sense of foreboding plagued every thought.

Blurb: Holly knew the romantic helicopter ride up to the remote peak of Whisky Mountain was a bad idea. But she never expected it to snatch her fiancé from her—or destroy her life. A few fiery seconds turn a postcard-perfect morning in the Canadian Rockies into a snowy hell, thirteen thousand feet above sea level. And in the midst of grief and agony, Holly catches sight of a scene in the ice that will haunt her until she can return and discover the truth. Oliver Nelson could see the stranger had a mystery inside her. The scars on her face, the pain in her eyes, the insistence that he teach her completely alone—no one needs to learn rock climbing, or so he thought. But the more he gets to know her, the more he admires her drive, her ingenuity, and that little edge of recklessness. If she can trust him with her story, he’s ready to follow her wherever her heart takes her. But nature’s deadly beauty isn’t the only danger waiting for them on Whisky Mountain. To survive, Oliver and Holly will have to move fast—and think faster . . .

My thoughts: Kendall Talbot is one of my must read authors, OUT OF MIND is the second book in the Maximum Exposure series, a sequel to OUT OF REACH which I reviewed here; and it is just as good. In fact pick a book she has written, any book, and you will not be let down.

When Holly’s multi-millionaire fiancé and his son die in a chopper crash he leaves her, the sole survivor, his fortune. Her fiancé’s ex-wife, left nothing, accuses Holly of being a gold-digger and the media frenzy picks up on this and hounds Holly. So with disfiguring scars, and broken in both body and spirit she hides away in a small town where no one can find her. While Holly was waiting on the mountain for rescue she saw a couple frozen in an ice cave next to where she was lying. Watching a documentary about cold cases one evening she sees the couple she decides to go back to Whisky Mountain and find the couple to give their next-of-kin peace of mind. With this plan she starts to put her life back together.

Holly meets Oliver when she demands that he teaches her to climb – private lessons so she doesn’t have to appear in public with the scars on her face. She also goes to a nearby ski field to learn how to ski. These two skills will be needed when she returns to the mountain.

Gradually Holly learns to trust and love again and tells Oliver about her past – and what she wants to do. She isn’t instantly cured – but now she has someone to help her continue on the recovery road. They head off to the Canadian Rockies to carry out her mission. A simple matter you would think – but there has been a seemingly unconnected story bubbling along in the background about a young teen called Regi; he gets caught up with a Crime Boss because of one stupid mistake, and now his life consists of heavy beatings as he is forced to work for to pay off that mistake.

When Holly and Oliver arrive on Whisky Mountain to carry out their mission the pace suddenly cranks up to full ‘edge of the seat,’ ‘can’t put down’ and ‘cook your own tea’ pace!!! The two stories finally make the connection and Holly and Oliver need to fight hard to get off the mountain alive. The build up to, and the actual, climax will leave you breathless and is written beautifully. There is a lot going on in the story, but author Kendall Talbot never drops a thread and cleans all the loose ends (even ones you didn’t know where loose) by the last page.

OUT OF MIND and OUT OF REACH can each be read separately, and there is a third as yet untitled book coming out in the not too distant future.

Rating:

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 Kensington Books and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review

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Winter Signs by Sarah Gai

Title: Winter Signs

Author: Sarah Gai

Genre: Romance

Opens:

There’s always that belief in life, even from a young age, that as you grow up you will always have a “forever” friend. Whether it’s someone from school or the kid down the street, somehow, someway, you will remain by one another’s side and take on the world together. Nothing, nor no one, can break the bond you have; throughout life you will always remain close—forever and ever.

Blurb: Winter Harris had everything she ever thought she needed – a soulmate, a best friend, and the one person in this entire world who made life worth living. He was her everything – until he was ripped from her life.

Nolan Reed never thought he would lose his heart the first day at his new school, but he had no choice the moment he laid eyes on Winter Harris. The only problem was, she wasn’t his to love.

When a tragedy occurs, lives are changed in ways they can never come back from. Will the years gone by be enough to fix the shattered pieces of Winter’s heart? Can Nolan ever be enough to help heal it?

My thoughts: WINTER SIGNS by Sarah Gai is the second book in the ‘Season Names’ series. We first meet Winter at the age of seven when she meets her brother’s best friend Connor, this is when he learns she is deaf, and this is when their perfect love starts. Winter may have been deaf but she was certainly not helpless. Connor learned sign language so he could communicate with her and they went from being ‘insta’ friends to being an inseparable couple and planning their future together by the end of High School. Winter’s father dies just before she goes to High School and this hits her for six, especially as her mother starts to reject Winter. All she has left for support is Connor, and her brother Charlie.

Then Nolan arrives in town he is instantly attracted to Winter, but when he learns she is Connor’s he makes no move towards her. Interestingly, although her heart and soul belongs to Connor, Winter is not indifferent to Nolan and she has feelings for him which puzzle her. When Winter loses Connor she is inconsolable; her sorrow is so overwhelming that she feels that she had nothing to live for and retreats within herself. With no support from her mother, Winter decides that the only way she will be able to get out of the dark hole she is in was to go away from everyone she knew and start over. She leaves town and moves in with her aunt and eventually learns to live again. A few years later, at Christmas, her brother gets engaged and asks her to return for the wedding and me the Maid of Honour. Nolan is the best man, he is still single, and still attracted to Winter hoping that time has healed the wounds that she carries.

I have had dealings with deaf children in only a periphery way – part of my English studies at University was to design and present a picture book for deaf children. It is so hard to comprehend how not being able to hear affects the lives of the deaf. At the school it was jaw-dropping to see these kids signing away to each other as a group. They taught me how to sign a few swear words too! But at school with a deaf unit they are among their peers – when they leave school and go out into the world and are a sole deaf person in a group and people around them talk so fast that they cannot read their lips – then they become isolated and frustrated. This happened to Winter on more than one occasion when people forgot in the excitement of the conversation.

SIGNS OF WINTER was full with emotion – loss of loved ones. rejection and mental abuse from a parent, sadness and sorrow. But is in no way a depressing story because after a loss comes recovery. After the tears Winter healed, and learned to move on with living and to reach out for happiness. And her friends are all there to help her. The story is beautifully written and had me hooked from the very first page.

Rating:

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

I wish to thank the author Sarah Gai for my copy to read and review.

Jinxed by Amy McCulloch

Title: Jinxed

Author: Amy McCulloch

Genre: Young Adult/Science Fiction

Opens:

She burst through the trees, cradling the monster in her arms.

Blurb: Lacey Chu has big dreams of becoming a companioneer for MONCHA, the largest tech firm in North America and the company behind the "Baku" – a customisable smart pet that functions as a phone but makes the perfect companion too. When Lacey finds out she hasn’t been accepted into Profectus – the elite academy for cutting edge tech – it seems her dreams are over. Worst of all, rather than getting to choose one of the advanced Bakus, she’s stuck with a rubbish insect one.

Then, one night, Lacey comes across the remains of an advanced Baku. Once it might’ve been in the shape of a cat but it’s now mangled and broken, no sign of electronic life behind its eyes. Days of work later and the Baku opens its eyes. Lacey calls him Jinx – and Jinx opens up a world for her that she never even knew existed, including entry to the hallowed halls of Profectus. Slowly but surely, Jinx becomes more than just a Baku to Lacey – he becomes her perfect companion. But what is Jinx, really? His abilities far surpass anything written into his code or built into his motherboard. He seems to be more than just a robotic pet. He seems … real.

My thoughts: I like YA books, Science Fiction and cats and JINXED has all these elements rolled into one story. I loved, at first, the idea of having a Baku – but these gorgeous little critters go above and beyond being a communications device and companion. Baku are increasingly social status markers, the higher you rise within the company, or society, the more complex in both design and size your Baku gets to be. This works the other way too the lower you are the less impressive is your Baku.

Lacey Chu’s one dream is to join the biggest tech company Moncha, the creators of the Baku – part smartphone part animal companion to do this she needs to be accepted into the elite academy once she finishes school – instead it looks like she hasn’t made the grade and instead of getting the expected level 3 Baku (a furry critter like a dog or a cat) she’s stuck with a level one (a bug)

Despondent she comes across the thrown away wreckage of a cat like Baku. It is very badly damaged but she decides to fix it and soon Jinx comes alive. Jinx is not at all like other Bakus he is able to think and act independently, and go where he wants rather than where he is instructed to go. As soon as Lacey has got Jinx up and running she finds that she has been accepted into the elite collage and her future in robotics seems assured.

I loved the world building, and the fact that no matter how far in the future you go there will still be teen angst. Lacey’s best friend through High School is following a different career path – and so their friendship is hard to maintain – however making new friends is hard too. Author, Amy McCulloch, has this torn loyalties bit down pat. The story focusses on Jinx – who made it and why. There is an unresolved back story of Lacey’s father – he disappeared when she was young and her mother won’t talk about it. I suspect that this story will be expanded on as JINXED is the first of a series.

For the most part I really enjoyed the story – although I have to confess my eyes glazed over at the Baku battles that started midway through the story – they just went on and one and on without very much progression in the story, well other than it becomes very obvious to other people that Jinx is different. Fortunately the battles came to an end and Lacey discovered something not quite right was going on at the academy and a cliff hanger ending is the result, so we are now set up nicely for the next book in the series.

Overall JINXED is a light-hearted and action filled book. There is plenty of humour, danger, friendship, a smidge of romance and plenty of intrigue. Oh, and did I say I loved Jinx? He certainly had a mind of his own, and his own agenda, he is cheeky, unruly, sarcastic and certainly intrigued by real cats.

Rating:

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 Simon & Schuster – Australia and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

Title: Whitsunday Dawn

Author: Annie Seaton

Genre: Romantic Suspense/Historic

Opens:

The Front Street shopping precinct adjacent to the Marina was abuzz with activity and noise.

Blurb:

When Olivia Sheridan arrives in the Whitsundays as spokesperson for big mining company Sheridan Corp, it should be a straightforward presentation to the town about their proposed project. But when a handsome local fisherman shows her what ecological impact the proposal will have, Olivia is forced to question her father’s motives for the project. Struggling with newly divided loyalties, Olivia is thrown further into turmoil when she is mistaken for a woman who disappeared more than sixty years before. When it becomes clear that Captain Jay (aka Fynn) is also keeping secrets, Olivia realises that there is more to these sunshine–soaked islands than she ever expected. Seeking to uncover the truth, Olivia is drawn into a dangerous game where powerful businessmen will stop at nothing to ensure their plan goes ahead, even if that means eliminating her.

My thoughts: Oh my goodness! I just loved this book! AND, I just loved the cover!! This was the second book I read with a dual timeline narrative, seemingly with no connection between the two women other than both falling in love and both being in danger. Olivia Sheridan is one of the women, the other was Aunt Tat’s sister, Lili, who disappeared during WWII and was never been heard of again. Aunt Tat is very frail and her mind is not quite all there anymore – but she is positive that Olivia is her sister returned. Olivia plays along to keep Aunt Tat calm.

As stated in the blurb, Olivia works for her father’s company and has arrived to present the proposal for the company’s plans for coal mining in the area. She meets fisherman Fynn James who, like most of the people in the area, dead against the construction of a coal loader in the pristine waters of the Whitsunday’s. While Olivia is aware that her father is ruthless she had no idea he would throw her to the sharks, and when she is sent a file with true details on the proposed complex she realises how ruthless she is – especially as he will not hesitate to kill her to protect the truth. But Fynn is there to help, and her mother and grandmother give her the emotional support to deal with her father’s betrayal – corruption is only the tip of the iceberg – and the files will reveal all – if she can stay alive.

At the same time we read about Lili and Jack and their blooming love in the Whitsundays during WWII – I learned so much about the Japanese threat to Australia. I know they bombed Darwin – and I know that mini subs were found in Sydney harbour and amazingly down in Hobart as well. But was unaware of their Whitsunday activity. Life for Lily and her family on this Whitsunday Island was not easy – but so tranquil, a slow pace of life. Until danger threatens. And now danger threatens again – but this time it is not an invading army – it is greed and corruption and the pursuit reaping as much money now as they can with no thought of future consequences.

It took me a while to realise how the two stories were going to join into the modern day – as other that being Aunt Tat’s sister there were no connections, but author Annie Seaton does it brilliantly. Overall Whitsunday Dawn has it all – History, conservation, romance, suspense, pathos and drama. An interesting look at family dynamics – those who do anything to destroy and those who do anything to preserve.

Rating:

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 Harper Collins Publishers and the author for my copy to read and review.

Title: The Lost Pearl

Author: Emily Madden

Genre: Historical/Women’s Fiction

Opens:

If Charlie Florio could relive one moment over and over again, it would be the instant he laid eyes on Kitty McGarrie.

Blurb:

Honolulu, Hawaii 1941. On the evening of her sixteenth birthday party, Catherine (Kitty) McGarrie wants nothing more than for the night to be over, even though the opulence of the ballroom befits the daughter of a US Navy Rear Admiral. Then she meets Charlie, a navy officer from the other side of the tracks, a man her parents would never approve of. As rumours of war threaten their tropical paradise, Catherine and Charlie fall in love. But the bombing of Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941 changed their lives forever. Seventy–five years later, addled by age and painkillers, Catherine tells her granddaughter Kit her story and reveals the tale of a long–lost treasure. Can Kit uncover the secret and reunite her family? Or will the truth tear them apart?

My thoughts: Living in Darwin where we remember the Bombing of Darwin each year in February, the Pearl Harbour bombing is very familiar. Because each year we are reminded that we were bombed only 10 weeks after Pearl Harbour – and the squadron that bombed us was led by the same Japanese commander who bombed Pearl Harbour. In fact the total number of bombs dropped on Darwin was two-and-a-half times more that dropped at Pearl Harbour. So I was overjoyed to get my grubby little hands on this book as it is a period of history that I can relate to. THE LOST PEARL has, for the most part, a dual timeline with two stories, the war years and modern day. Catherine dies in the first chapter and just before she dies she is speaking to her granddaughter Kit and mentions a lost pearl and the name of someone who is not Kit’s grandfather that she loved – but no further information than that. Kit wonders what, and where, the lost pearl is – her grandmother loved pearls and has given Kit lot as birthday and Christmas gifts. Kit decides to look for the lost pearl. When her grandmother’s will is read – Kit has been bequeathed her grandmother’s house. As Kit cleans the house of her grandmother’s belongings she decides to try and track down her grandmother’s secret. THE LOST PEARL then follows Kit’s journey to discovery. However, at the same time the reader is taken back to the bombing of Pearl Harbour as Catherine tells us her story. So for a while the reader knows more than Kit – but not everything. Some things the reader finds out at the same time as Kit. It is impossible to tell you some of the things that happened to Catherine as to do so would really spoil the storyline. Suffice to say my heart went out to her, and was angered at things that happened to this young girl.

While the story is fictional it is based on a lot of fact – and the customs of the day are recreated perfectly. The settings are brought alive on the pages – both in Hawaii and Australia. Another area well reproduced are the social divisions – class, colour and attitudes to women – which only goes to show that we really haven’t progressed all that much today. A young single woman today does have it so much better than a 1940s young miss, more say in her life than Catherine did. Author, Emily Madden, poignantly described the events which took place in Crown Street Women’s Hospital, Sydney – brought tears to my eye along with a thankfulness that my daughters and granddaughter do not have to worry about this. There is eventually a happy ending – and mysteries revealed. A very satisfactory read.

Rating:

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 Harlequin Mira and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

Title: Double Take

Author: Kendall Talbot

Genre: Mystery

Opens:

Jack Rich glanced down at his watch: 4:32 beamed up at him like a fateful countdown

Blurb:

Jackson Rich is an unlucky man – he’s lost his job, his house and it looks like he’s going to lose the love of his life. To buy his terminally ill wife Candice more time, he’ll try just about anything. Including robbing a bank, on the one day of the year everything shuts down: Melbourne Cup day. To do it, Jack has to call in a promise from his old gang. It’s been a long time since they were all together, but they would do anything for him – at least that’s what he’s banking on. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

My thoughts: Two young boys are playing under a deserted shed when people come into the building above them. They stay quiet so they won’t be discovered and overhear Jack’s plan to rob a bank on Melbourne Cup day – the day where a horse race stops a nation and all eyes are turned to Melbourne. The boys run home and tell their dad who doesn’t believe them – so knowing the gang is going to return to make final plans the two boys sneak back and record the conversation. On hearing the evidence their dad’s girlfriend now enters the story and takes a lot of interest, she makes a decision that starts off the twists and turns of one of the story lines. There are a few story lines – both past and present – and connections between them all – and I did get a little confused at times in the first half of the book until I sorted everything out in my mind – by the second half I was well and truly hooked.

The action is not confined to Australia or one period of time – with flashbacks to when they were teens when after a botched crime Jack went to jail to protect the rest of the gang. Because he was the scape goat then he feels that he has them over a barrel, so to speak, to help him out. And they all want to help his wife. Plans made they were confident in their success – except the police now know that a bank is going to be robbed – just not which one, or where – and limited man power has made their job harder.

Jack was hard to love – I certainly understood his motivation to commit a crime, but there was no way it could work surely? Yet he went ahead with it with a mish mash of ‘gang members’ who had all changed since their youthful indiscretion. Really, controlling the whole heist was like trying to herd cats. Double Take is a very interesting crime story, fast paced with characters brimming with good intentions, and at least one you would cheerfully throw over a cliff.

Rating:

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

I wish to thank the author Kendall Talbot for my copy to read and review

Title: The Rain Never Came

Author: Lachlan Walter

Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopian

Opens:

The teams started brawling as soon as they stepped onto the oval of dying grass, egged on by a crowd hungry for some rough entertainment and a diversion from the dry grind of life.

Blurb:

In a thirsty, drought-stricken Australia, the country is well and truly sunburnt. As the Eastern states are evacuated to more appealing climates, a stubborn few resist the forced removal. They hide out in small country towns – where no one would ever bother looking.

Bill Cook and Tobe Cousins are united in their disregard of the law. Aussie larrikins, they pass their hot, monotonous existence drinking at the barely standing pub. When strange lights appear across the Western sky, it seems that those embittered by the drought are seeking revenge. And Bill and Tobe are in their path. In the heat of the moment secrets will be revealed, and survival can’t be guaranteed.

My thoughts:

As Australia suffers one of the worst droughts for many a year THE RAIN NEVER CAME is based on a very topical fear. In fact the current weather situation makes the whole scenario to be not so far-fetched – it could become reality. The descriptions are all too familiar with the scenes being played on my TV on the nightly news.

…It was a desiccated void, thousands of acres of desolate pasture, all that remained of a land where cattle and sheep used to roam, where corn and wheat had grown tall and strong, where nature had run rampant and wild, where life had once thrived. All of that was now gone; all that was left was a barren dustbowl…

Set in small Victorian town in the near future, THE RAIN NEVER CAME is fast-paced over a short period of time. It tells the story of two men who have had a longstanding friendship and the people they come across as they try to navigate the dangers of dried new world they live in. When the Australian climate turns irretrievably bad, the government forces people to evacuate north to better living conditions.

Bill, Tobe and many others, have to refuse to leave, and are living hand to mouth, with no assistance, to assert their independence. They all face a daily struggle for survival, and are constantly short of food and water. Friends and family have died – and Tobe disappeared for a long time but as the book opens he has returned.

The government doesn’t like rebellion and armed thugs nicknamed Creepers are rounding up the stragglers and sending them off to concentration camps for an uncertain future – possibly transportation north behind the Brisbane line.

After mysterious explosions and a bright light in the night sky, which everyone thought might have been the first rains for decades, Bill and Tobe fear it might be from some government retaliation somewhere and move out to investigate the event. The land does not improve as their road trip progresses.

I could see to the horizon – a parched land of dying trees, bleached grass, and dead towns. A world of thirst and ruin that sprawled as far as we could see

Bill is the narrator and as the story is from his point of view Tobe’s character always remains elusive, what makes him tick is a bit of a puzzle, this is exaggerated by his mysterious comings and goings, his reluctance to share information. Bill describes Tobe as a little manic. The dramatic events and horrible scenario is balanced by humour. Only Aussies can crack jokes in the most horrendous conditions. And the witty back and forths certainly lightened the emotions so this reader didn’t plunge into the depths of despair with the unrelenting grimness of their life. I would have like to know why people chose to remain behind with no assistance – and why the government is so brutal in relocating them – there are deaths and massacres. None of this was never fully explained – it just was the way it was. In fact at the start there were a lot of unknowns such as what happened to Bill’s family? Who’s in the mystery grave he tends? Why does Tobe feel he owes Bill? Where did Ruby come from? Who are the Creeps, and why are they called that? You find out about the creeps, and the grave but never really the whole story – there are lots of gaps – but this didn’t detract from the story as communication was non-existent as information was just oral rather than by internet or radio. Tobe and Bill knew the background and didn’t need to talk about it other than in a cursory way.

THE RAIN NEVER CAME is not promoted as a series – and this will sound strange but even though the story is completed it feels that overall in the scheme of things that it seems to start after the beginning and finish before the end – so there is room for Lachlan Walter to expand if he wants. As I really enjoyed this book I certainly hope there’s more to come.

Rating:

Excellent Stuffa 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.

I wish to thank the author Lachlan Walter for my copy to read and review

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