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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.

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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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Waiting on WWW Wednesday

The good thing about living in Australia is that we are ahead of the rest of the world by a big margin (apart from New Zealanders who are ahead of us by a couple of hours)! So this means we get to celebrate Christmas and New Year first each year but it also means that when I post day specific stuff, such as today’s Wednesday post – it is MY Wednesday – but some of you haven’t even gone to bed on your Tuesday yet so think I am mad!!! Well on second thoughts, I am probably mad – but that is not what this post is about!

This post is a combination of two memes, which are WWW Wednesdays which is hosted by Taking on a World of Words and Waiting on Wednesdays which is hosted by Breaking the Spine, so the name has been changed to waiting on WWW Wednesday to reflect this combination.

The Three Ws of WWW Wednesdays are: What are you currently reading? What did you recently finish reading? What do you think you’ll read next?

While “Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly event, which spotlights upcoming releases that people are eagerly anticipating.

What am I currently reading?

I am currently reading Skin by Ilka Tampke, who is an Australian writer and this is her debut novel. Set in Iron Age Britain around AD 43. Britain is poised on the brink of Roman invasion and in the village of Caer Cad the locals look to their ancient rituals in order to guide them through the expected invasion. Ailia a fourteen-year-old girl who is on the brink of womanhood. Abandoned at birth, parents unknown, Ailia has no skin, or totem, as she had no known mother to pass one down to her. She is lucky though, taken in by the Cookmother who found the baby on her freezing doorstep, so now Ailia is working in the kitchens of the Tribequeen. I am only a little way into the story, but Ailia is now fourteen and she is preparing to join her first Beltane festival. Her lack of skin dictates she can’t be part of the rituals, and she is not allowed to learn – but for some reason she can join the Beltane ritual, and she is being taught about healing herbs by Cookmother. I am reading on to find out why.

What did I recently finish?

I have just finished The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki. It is the story of Elizabeth – mostly known as Sisi – Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary in the late 1800s. I am going to be visiting her palaces in Vienna and Budapest very soon so was very curious as to her history. Sisi was the daughter of a Bavarian duke, who allowed his daughters to roam around outside, ride horses, and partake in other "un-lady" like activities. The story opens as her older sister, Helene, is summoned by their Aunt Sophia to the Hapsburg Court in Vienna to marry her son the Emperor Franz Joseph. But Helene is not interested in becoming an Empress. She is shy, a bookworm, and wants to be a nun. Against her will Helene is taken to Vienna along with Sisi and their mother. The girls soon find out that Aunt Sophie is the power behind the throne and is overbearing, opinionated and controlling. Uncharacteristically Franz temporarily emerges from his mother’s control and falls in love with the vivacious, unconventional and charismatic Sisi, and insists on making her his bride, much to his mother’s dismay.

Once the wedding takes place though, Sisi is gradually suffocated by the rigid unyielding protocols of the imperial Hapsburg court. She realizes that the rebellion of marrying her is the only rebellion Franz is going to be allowed to get away with. He is firmly controlled by his mother. Her children are taken away from her at birth by Sophia, and Sisi is thwarted at every step to access them on a permanent basis. Franz takes on mistresses and one of them passes on a disease to Sisi and she almost dies, once she recovers she is never the same health wise and becomes obsessed with being thin. Gradually Sisi takes control of her own life – but it is one away from the court. Strangely once she takes this step of independence Franz learns to appreciate, and listen to, her political strategies and the story ends as he gives her permission to remain in Hungary while he returns to Vienna. There is a second book about Sisi and the second half of her life. But for now I am content with what I have read and will visit these palaces with interest seeing where she lived, and suffered.

What will I read next?

I have a few lined up to read, all needed for various reading challenges I am on:

The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare – the second in the Magisterium series

Sweet Inspiration by Penny Watson – It has elves in it – I need elves!!!

Winter in Full Bloom by Anita Higman

What am I waiting on?

I have a few books on pre-order at the moment that I am on the edge of my seat waiting to come out, all by authors who… well let’s just say that I’d buy their shopping list if it was published:

2 Australian Authors:

Outback Sisters by Rachael Johns – release date 01/03/16

Dastardly Deeds by Ilsa Evans – release date 10/03/16

2 non-Australian Authors:

Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs – release date 08/03/16

Britt-Marie was Here by Fredrik Backman – release date 05/05/16

(also posted over at Book Charmers)

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2015 End of year survey

Back in 2010 Jamie from The Perpetual Page Turner posted a survey of her reads that year. This seemed to have morphed into a yearly event that is growing in size as many bloggers from around the world are joining in to record their reading year; I am using the format but tweaking it a little here and there to suit my own purposes.

End of year stats

Number of Books I Read: 172

Genre I read the most from: I am an eclectic reader and the genre I read this year were Historical, Paranormal, Mystery, Romance, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Women’s Fiction, General Fiction, Non-Fiction, Dystopian, Chick Lit, Horror, Adventure, Young Adult (over 12), and Children’s (under 12). The top genre was Mystery (21%); this was closely followed by Romance (19%) and Young Adult (18%)

How many new authors I read: I read 95 new authors this year – and 54 of the authors were Australian

How many eBooks I read: 101 books where in the electronic format

How many pages turned: 48,887

Best in Books

1. Best book I read in 2015?

Best overall book of 2015: Has to be a tie between Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale and A Small Madness by Dianne Touchell

Best Mystery: Tell the Truth by Katherine Howell

Best Romance: Is a tie between Only We Know by Victoria Purman and The Patterson Girls by Rachael Johns – I love the work of both these ladies.

Best Young Adult: The Last Place by Michael Adams

2. Book I was excited about & thought I was going to love more but didn’t?

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – I was so excited when I heard about this one and while I enjoyed the plot I was not fond of the style it was written in. Having said this, I can SO see this on the big screen. It would make a fantastic Sci-Fi action movie.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book I read?

Popeye Never Told You: Childhood Memories of the War by Rodney Hall – I was expecting a memoir, which it was, but what took me by surprise is the way it was written – the author wrote as he was still a 4 or 5 year old and the novelty of him using little punctuation and childlike phrasing quickly wore off and became irritating. This is a shame because I was interested in what he had to say but the whole experience was spoiled for me by him using this technique.

4. Book I “pushed” the most people to read (and they did)?

I am not sure I ‘pushed’ anyone to read a particular book. I know that during the year a few books I raved over in my Goodreads discussion groups I had a few people commented that they’ll push one or other up in their TBR piles.

5. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015?

Best New Series: The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare – 1st in the ‘Magisterium’ series.

When he turns twelve, Callum is summoned to attend the entrance exams, or Iron Trials, to study magic at The Magisterium – a school for mages. The one thing I have learnt from this book – expect the unexpected! Thoroughly recommend it was unputdownable. I have the second book ready to go!

Best Sequel: No Ghouls Allowed by Victoria Laurie – 9th in ‘the ghost hunter’ series.

I love this paranormal cosy mystery series – sadly the last one has just been released.

Best Series ender: The Last Place by Michael Adams – the 3rd and final book in the ‘Last’ trilogy

It is an edge of your seat series set in Australia after the end of the world as we know it. The main character, Danby, after the events in the first two books, has finally turned feral – kill or be killed is how she is living – and there is a lot of killing. There is absolutely no hope – the cavalry is not going to arrive!

6. Favourite new author I discovered in 2015?

I read 95 new authors this year, and out of these the top new favourite is Julian Leatherdale.

However the following authors I will certainly read more of their work – Deborah O’Brien, Jonas Karlsson, Christina Jones, Jandy Nelson, Sarah Gai, Jessica Brockmole, Kristen Painter, Nikki Edwards and Dinah Jefferies

7. Best book from a genre I don’t typically read/was out of my comfort zone?

Anything with even a hint of horror takes me out of my comfort zone – fortunately nothing I read this year came close to horror!!!

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

The Last Place by Michael Adams wins this hands down, with honourable mentions to Pandora Jones: Reckoning by Barry Jonesberg and Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall

9. Book that I read in 2015 and I am most likely to re-read in 2016?

I rarely re-read any books, except my collection of children’s classics, all of which I read over and over and over again. This year I re-read The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Gouge – I won’t read it this year, but I will re-read it in a few years.

10. Favourite cover of a book I read in 2015?

The cover of The Room by Jonas Karlsson – as it perfectly sums up the plot just by the simple cover.

11. Most memorable character of 2015?

Again two firstly Harold Fry in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce; and secondly Don Tillman from The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion – each are wonderful men who have the best of intentions and hearts of gold, they just aren’t aware of the nuances of life around them

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?

Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale

13. Most thought-provoking/ life-changing book of 2015?

I can’t say any of them changed my life – some made me cry, some made be angry and lots made me laugh – but none of them changed my life.

14. Book I can’t believe I waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read?

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

15. Favourite passage/quote from a book I read in 2015?

“…When it comes to terror, reality’s got nothing on the power of the imagination…”

From My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

16. Shortest & Longest Book I Read In 2015?

Shortest book – 52 pages – Waking the Dragon by Rinelle Grey

Longest book – 599 pages – Illuminae by Amie Kaufman

17. Book that shocked me the most

A Small Madness by Dianne Touchell – it was fabulous, thought provoking, confronting, heartbreaking, unputdownable, all in all an absolutely amazing story about teen pregnancy, family relationships and mental issues.

18. Favourite book I read in 2015 from an author I’ve read previously

The Lake House by Kate Morton and Tell the Truth by Katherine Howell

19. Best book I read in 2015 that I read based solely on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure:

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce – I read the follow up book as well and it didn’t come close to this one.

20. Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting I read this year?

Across the Universe by Beth Revis – Wonderful world building within a spaceship that is off to build a new world!

21. Book that put a smile on my face/was the most fun to read?

I read books written by Kristen Painter, Gail Carriger, Sarah Gai and Victoria Laurie that were such fun to read – many LOL moments.

22. Book that made me cry, or nearly cry, in 2015?

A Small Madness by Dianne Touchell

(also posted over in Book Charmers)

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Title: In Strange Worlds

Author: Brenda Cheers

Genre: Dystopian/Sci-Fi

Opens: Meg’s consciousness returned slowly…

Blurb: What would you do if you woke up one morning to find that you were the only person left alive? That’s what happens to Meg on the day after she is admitted to hospital for the birth of her child. What follows is a fight for survival in a world where battles between good and evil constantly rage around her. Just as Meg is about to discover the truth about this new world, she finds the rules have changed yet again.

My Thoughts: I was looking for a Science Fiction book by an Australian author and a few friends recommended IN STRANGE WORLDS too me. I am glad I listened to their advice as I really enjoyed the story. Very slightly echoing the opening of another Sci-Fi favourite of mine ‘The Day of the Triffids’ Meg awakens in hospital in a big city (in this case Melbourne rather than London) and is the only one alive. Here the similarity ends – there are no man eating plants and only a few survivors, who don’t appear until later in the book. Meg is a middle-aged mother and ex-wife. She realises very quickly the child she has just given birth to has died, as too her nearest and dearest. She is utterly alone. For now the power is working, but she realises that won’t always be the case, she scans the internet to find any other signs of life. There is none. She decides to head north to south east Queensland to a small community in the hinterland she had heard of. She figured there would be places up there already set up for self-sufficiency, solar power, animals and close to a small community for supplies with a library for information when the Internet shuts down. There is a poignant moment as she leaves Melbourne when she writes about all the animals trapped in homes unable to get out. She hears their howls. Somehow that brought a tear to my eyes rather than the idea of millions of dead humans. Anyhow she makes her way to her new home – finds the perfect house – cleans out the bodies – and learns to be self-sufficient.

Told in the first person with very little dialogue (even when other people are introduced to the story – well it wouldn’t be much of a story without other humans now would it?). When she finds the young man she starts to wonder if there are any others alive. He is more a son than a potential lover. But if they’re the only two…? I found the story to be riveting. Just what exactly is happening? Meg certainly grows in strength from the broken woman at the start of the book to the determined woman at the end. How the story twists and turns and leaves you at the end wondering if this is the end and if it is how dare it ends that way. The reader doesn’t get all the answers – well you do get sort of a fair idea what is going on – just not the how, or the why. I am guessing/hoping more will be revealed in the sequel IN A TIME WHERE THEY BELONG.

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.

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On Hiatus

HIATUS means “A Pause From Something” or “A Break From Something”

That something being paused is my blog. I am all blogged out for now – I have fallen so far behind in my book reviews that I fell into a blubbering heap in the corner at the thought of catching up.

So I am not going to even try!

I will be back – just not in the immediate future – at the moment blogging feels like a chore – not the joy it once was. When the urge comes back (and it will) I will be back once more.

So…for now I am resting and reading…just for me

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Title: The Chocolate Promise

Author: Josephine Moon

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Opens: It was Thursday, Holy Thursday to be exact – the day before the four-day Easter weekend, which also included the Evendale garden expo on Saturday – and the Chocolate Apothecary was a bubbling pot of activity…

Blurb: Christmas Livingstone has made up 10 rules for happiness including items such as nurturing her senses every day, doing what she loves, and sharing joy with others. However as the book opens we learn her most important rule for happiness is her number 10 rule – ‘Absolutely no romantic relationships’.

My Thoughts: Last year I read Josephine Moon’s debut novel The Tea Chest and I really, really enjoyed it – THE CHOCOLATE PROMISE is even better – I loved it

Christmas left the hectic life of a PR in Sydney and a broken heart and has moved to Tasmania. What prompted this move is not revealed at the start of the story but the past has been locked away where it can’t hurt anymore and now she has a new life making beautiful gourmet chocolate treats in her old-fashioned shop ‘The Chocolate Apothecary’. In her spare time she acts as a fairy godmother by trying to help people who need it, such as a new washing machine for a stay at home mum with little money – and assist a gentleman to propose to the one he loves.

Life is good for Christmas then a few events shatter her carefully created equilibrium. Firstly her best friend enters her into a competition to win a week-long scholarship course with a world-renowned French chocolatier IN FRANCE!! And she discovers she has won it. Almost the very same day a good-looking botanist, Lincoln, turns up in her shop to buy chocolates for his grandmother and sets Christmas’s heart pounding – as well as his. Turns out he home between jobs and is writing a book on cacao trees. His publisher thinks it may possibly be a bit dry in tone aka boring, and advises him to find a co-writer whose passion is chocolate. Well it just has to be Christmas – her passion for chocolate is extreme – her knowledge of processes not botanical surpasses just peeling off the paper and biting in. Christmas is certain there is healing property in chocolate – especially if it’s mixed with essential oils and herbs. Both Lincoln and Christmas have hurt in their past – neither is looking for a relationship – but the power of chocolate works in mysterious ways and it takes a trip half way around the world before the two realise what’s right in front of them.

I spent the Easter break reading this and munching dark chocolate Easter eggs and a glass, or two, of sweet fortified Tokay. Well written, well researched and with believable characters – although some were certainly oddballs. THE CHOCOLATE PROMISE has humour, sadness, love and misunderstandings. Then there are well-meaning friends and family determined to help the relationship along, there is also an abandoned mutt with an important part to play. I immersed myself in THE CHOCOLATE PROMISE and can’t wait for her next one.

In a recent blog post author Josephine Moon described her books like this:

“…I like to think of my books as being like a good chocolate brownie–rich, comforting, uplifting, but with a few chunky nuts to chew on…”

And that simple statement fits both of her books perfectly.

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

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