Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Audiobook Review: The Escape Artist by Diane Chamberlain

Title: The Escape Artist
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: 15th July 2013 (1st published 1997)
Time: 10hrs 52mins 
Narrator: Coleen Marlo
Book Source: own audio

Synopsis: Susanna Miller loses custody of her eleven-month-old son, Tyler, but rather than turning the little boy over to her ex-husband and his new wife, she goes on the run. She dyes her hair, changes her name, and escapes from Boulder, Colorado, leaving behind everyone she knows, including Linc Sebastian, the man who has been her best friend since childhood and who knows her better than anyone. Susanna lands in Annapolis, Maryland, alone, frightened, and always looking over her shoulder for someone who might recognize her. Just as she's beginning to feel safe in her new surroundings, she stumbles across information that could save the lives of many people . . . if she's willing to take it to the police. But going to the authorities means revealing her identity, admitting her guilt, and worst of all, losing her son.

Equal parts family drama, love story, and thriller, The Escape Artist is the poignant story of a mother's unbreakable bond with her child and the resiliency of a love that transcends distance and time.

My Thoughts:
The Escape Artist is an entertaining story, relatable if a little dated but that's to be expected considering it was first published in 1997. Coleen Marlo is a narrator I haven't tried before; smooth voice, an easy listen, a narrator I'd be happy to listen to again. 

The Escape Artist held my interest and pulled at my heart strings, I was rooting for Susanna from the get go, understanding the lengths she went to to keep her son. Well paced, the plot is a little transparent, somewhat predictable and one of the sub plots a bit left field but overall it's an enjoyable, worthwhile listen. 

I'm a fan of Diane Chamberlain's work ... I've read 5 or 6 and have been slowly working my way through her backlist. My favourite is still The Midwife's Confession but I have her new book, The Silent Sister coming up soon. 

Connect with Diane Chamberlain

Monday, August 25, 2014

Review: Shatter by Erin McCarthy

Title: Shatter
Author: Erin McCarthy
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Series: True Believers #4
Publication Date: 2nd September 2014
Pages: 304
Book Source: Penguin Group & NetGalley

Synopsis: Kylie Warner prides herself on being optimistic, but after finding her best friend in bed with her boyfriend and flunking chemistry, her upbeat attitude has taken a dive. Even an impromptu hook-up with her sexy new chemistry tutor only brightens her mood slightly. After all, it’s not like she’ll ever see the tattooed scholar again…

While he’s a whiz at complex equations, Jonathon Kadisch has trouble when it comes to figuring out women. So when Kylie tells him that she’s pregnant after their night of passion, he’s at a complete loss. He’s prepared to be a good father—unlike his own deadbeat dad—but he’s less prepared to fall for the genuine and alluring blonde bearing his child.

With emotions running high, Kylie wonders if Jonathon’s devotion is out of growing love or looming obligation. And when heartbreak threatens to tear them apart, Jonathon will have to fight for the only girl who’s ever made him feel whole ...

Karen's Thoughts: 
This series has had many and varied reviews, some good and some not so good. It’s a series I have particularly enjoyed and would recommend reading it for yourself.

I really like how the author touches upon issues that are aimed at the College age group. Whilst the issues are not entirely pleasant to read about, I feel they have been quite realistic. In this book Ms McCarthy touches on Kylie’s ex having certain expectations in their physical relationship due to the amount of porn he watches online. Whilst Kylie was trying to be a ‘good girlfriend’ and please Nathan, it wasn’t making her feel particularly good about herself. Finding out that he had slept with one of her best friends has absolutely crushed her confidence. It was refreshing that she was sensible when it came to Nathan and didn’t believe his promises of better things.

Kylie is failing chemistry and here is where we get introduced to the geeky and extremely lovely Jonathon Kadisch, her new chemistry tutor. Fitting that not only is there chemistry on the pages they are studying, but also between themselves. On a whim they share a night together. Their attraction to each was just heart warming. I loved that Jonathon got to show Kylie just how a guy should treat a girl and that she was able to experience that it is about her just as much as it is him. Kylie then discovers she is pregnant yet they barely know each other and have a lot they need to work out.

I loved the geeky Jonathon and the chemistry jokes he shares with Kylie created some lightheartedness in their journey to being together. 

I have really enjoyed Erin McCarthy’s True Believers series and Shatter is most definitely my favourite.  I hope Ms McCarthy has more in store for us in this series.

Guest review by Karen

Connect with Erin McCarthy

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

A weekly event hosted by Sheila from Book Journey to discuss your reading week ~ the books you've read and those you plan on reading in the coming week. I love this meme, it helps me stay on track ... well, most of the time. Thanks Sheila! 

As always a fun time at our scrapbook retreat, lots of laughs and creativity and wonderful catching up with friends but we missed Karen this time around (Karen also guest reviews on my blog.) I made 2 of each layout, one for myself and one for Mia's album :)

Kit by Jodie King


#bookblogwalkers update #30: Felicia's Book Blog Walkers: August is being hosted by Jen @ That's What I'm Talking About. Only 3 days of walking and the weekend was spent scrapbooking, not that I would have walked, we had 2 days of torrential rain lol. My mission this week is to get back on track. If you have a fitbit and want to add me, let me know :) 

Mon: no walk (5100 steps)
Tue: 45 min walk with Bella (14,400 steps)
Wed: 45 min walk with Bella (8000 steps)
Thurs: 20 min walk with Bella (8,700 steps)
Fri: raining and scrapbook retreat (4360 steps)
Sat: raining and scrapbook retreat (2300 steps big oops)
Sun: scrapbook retreat (5750 steps)


Reviews & Posts: (click on title)

DETAINED by Ainslie Paton ~ not what I expected but HOT and I liked :)

A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman ~ unexpectedly delightful, 4.5 stars


Finished last week:

THE GLASS KITCHEN  by Linda Francis Lee ~ squeee in love with this book, adored the magical realism. 5 star fave!! 


This Week's Reading List: 

LYREBIRD HILL by Anna Romer ~ new release from the author of Thornwood House. Really good so far.

THE DARKEST HOUR by Barbara Erskine (audiobook) ~ great, love Barbara Erskine



Reviews Coming: 

SHATTER by Erin McCarthy (True Believers #4) ~ guest review by Karen tonight

THE ESCAPE ARTIST by Diane Chamberlain (audiobook) ~ good, 4 stars

MAYBE SOMEDAY by Colleen Hoover ~ loved it!!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review: Detained by Ainslie Paton

Title: Detained
Author: Ainslie Paton
Genre: Romantic Suspense/Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: 1st September 2013
Pages: 250
Book Source: own purchase

Synopsis: Confined in a cold, dull room in the depths of a Shanghai airport, a journalist chasing a career break and a businessman with a shadowy past play a game of truth or dare — deliberately not exchanging names.

They tell each other their most painful secrets and burning desires. One dare leads to a kiss and a wild night of illicit passion, setting off a dangerous sequence of events, bringing exposure and disgrace.

Only the brutal truth can save them. But it will also rip them apart. And it will take more than daring before they can build a new truth together.

My Thoughts:
I'm blaming Kathryn @ Book Date for this one HA, Ainslie Paton is an Australian author I hadn't read or even heard of until I read Kathryn's review of Detained. This is story that benefits from going in 'blind' so I'm not going to give much away. Let me just say I was expecting one thing and got a whole lot more.

Journalist Darcy Campbell has just snagged a career making interview with the reclusive Will Parker, Australian billionaire entrepreneur living in Shanghai. I loved both characters, far from cookie cutter perfect, fascinating back-stories, believable. 

Detained has quite an erotic start, I'm actually surprised I wasn't rolling my eyes muttering *unbelievable* ... far from it. I was sucked in ... hooked on the danger and hotness. And if that isn't enough to get your heart racing, top notch character development is backed up by a story with depth and bucket loads of emotion. Detained has it all ... in spades, making this no garden-variety romance. It's intense and edgy and sexy as all hell. 

I'll definitely be reading more from Ainslie Paton :)

Connect with Ainslie Paton

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Title: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: 3rd July 2014 (1st published 2012)
Pages: 304
Book Source: Hatchette Australia & NetGalley

Synopsis: There is something about Ove.

At first sight, he is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet. He thinks himself surrounded by idiots - neighbours who can't reverse a trailer properly, joggers, shop assistants who talk in code, and the perpetrators of the vicious coup d'etat that ousted him as Chairman of the Residents' Association. He will persist in making his daily inspection rounds of the local streets.

But isn't it rare, these days, to find such old-fashioned clarity of belief and deed? Such unswerving conviction about what the world should be, and a lifelong dedication to making it just so?

In the end, you will see, there is something about Ove that is quite irresistible...

My Thoughts:
Hard to believe this is Swedish author Fredrik Backman's debut novel ... what an unexpected delight! Can't believe I've used delight ... for a story in which the protagonist, 59 year old Ove wants nothing more than to end his life and join Sonja, his wife of 40 years who has recently passed. 

Ove is a grump, a die-hard Saab owner, a man who lives by the rules, cynical, ornery, taciturn but underneath all that bluster is a marshmallow heart. According to Sonja, Ove can be 'unforgiving' ...  Ove calls it having 'firm principles'

As we get Ove's backstory, we see him through Sonja's eyes, we share their sweet love story, and we feel Ove's heartache after Sonja dies and the colour leaves his world. 

Enter new neighbours, Parvaneh and her family, a stray cat, a bunch of other interesting characters, a list of demands, and Ove's ordered life goes out the window. Along the way for me were unexpected laughs, tears and joy as Ove found new meaning and purpose in life. Oh that mangy cat and Ove were a match made in heaven :) 

A Man Called Ove is a whole lot of feeling ... deeply touching, warm, sweet, snerk-funny, smart, sad, endearing. I laughed and cried. It really is quite irresistible. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

A weekly event hosted by Sheila from Book Journey to discuss your reading week ~ the books you've read and those you plan on reading in the coming week. I love this meme, it helps me stay on track ... well, most of the time. Thanks Sheila! 

I didn't get much reading done but I made a dent in book reviews (still not caught up though) and I'm not sure how much I'll get done this week as Alaine and I have scrapbook camp this weekend. Can't wait to scrap some photos of my darling granddaughter. They were living 5 mins away but now they're a 4 hour drive, but could be worse ... there's Skype and Christine and Anthony send me a photo or video almost every day. Time for a visit soon :)

We had a day of much needed rain here on Saturday and then Sunday we spent a fun day at the Ekka, (QLD show) ... I hadn't been in over 10 years. I love the animal nursery ... can you tell?

All proceeds from Strawberry Sundaes go to 
Prince Charles Hospital Research so I had two ;)


#bookblogwalkers update #30: Felicia's Book Blog Walkers: August is being hosted by Jen @ That's What I'm Talking About. I hit my target averaging 8000 steps/day. Now to maintain and get a little more daily consistency. 

Mon: no walk (5100 steps)
Tue: 60 min walk with Bella (15,000 + steps for day)
Wed: 45 min walk with Bella (8000 steps for day)
Thurs: 30 min walk with Bella (14,000 steps)
Fri: no walk (5089 steps)
Sat: rained all day, no walking but I did book reviews HA (2700 steps oops)
Sun: couple of hours walking around the Ekka show, to bus etc (12,000 steps)


Reviews & Posts: (click on title)

DANCING ON KNIVES by Kate Forsyth ~ passion & family dynamics in Australian setting, 4 stars. Weekend Cooking post. 

THE HOUSE ON MERMAID POINT by Wendy Wax (Beach Road #3) ~ 4.5 stars 

THE HOMECOMING by Robyn Carr (Thunder Point #6) ~ guest review by Karen, 4 stars


Finished last week:

A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman ~ unexpectedly delightful


This Week's Reading List: 

THE GLASS KITCHEN  by Linda Francis Lee ~ loving and savouring this one 

LYREBIRD HILL by Anna Romer ~ new release from the author of Thornwood House

THE DARKEST HOUR by Barbara Erskine (audiobook) ~ chapter 20. Love Barbara Erskine


Reviews Coming: 

DETAINED by Ainslie Paton ~ not what I expected but HOT and I liked :)

THE ESCAPE ARTIST by Diane Chamberlain (audiobook) ~ good, 4 stars

MAYBE SOMEDAY by Colleen Hoover ~ loved it!!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Review: Dancing on Knives by Kate Forsyth

Title: Dancing on Knives
Author: Kate Forsyth
Genre: Gothic Mystery/Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: 2nd June 2014
Pages: 304
Book Source: Random House Aust & NetGalley

Synopsis: At twenty, Sara is tormented by an inexplicable terror so profound she hasn't left her home in five years. Like the mermaid in the fairytale her Spanish grandmother once told her, Sara imagines she is Dancing on Knives, unable to speak. She feels suffocated by her family, especially her father – the famous artist Augusto Sanchez – whose volcanic passions dominate their lives.

Then one stormy night, her father does not come home. His body is found dangling from a cliff face. Astonishingly, he is still alive, but the mystery of his fall can only be solved by the revelation of long-held family secrets.

At once a suspenseful murder mystery and a lyrical love story, Dancing on Knives is about how family can constrict and liberate us, how art can be both joyous and destructive, and how strength can be found in the unlikeliest places.

My Thoughts:
A slightly different feel to other novels I've read by Kate Forsyth but it's an interesting journey to re-publication for the story first conceived 30 years ago by a then 16 year old Kate. Dancing on Knives is kind of languid and meandering and yet strangely compelling. And a testament to Kate's skill as a writer that I was fascinated whilst in the midst of so many unlikable characters. 

Dancing on Knives is a novel of passion and family dynamics ... the severely dysfunctional Sanchez family. Twenty year old Sara Sanchez, suffocating under the weight of an egotistical, bullying father and loss and longing, so crippled by anxiety and panic attacks she hasn't left the family farm in 5 years. 

I loved the strong sense of place (Narooma, a small town on the far south coast of NSW) and the importance of food, recipes passed down through generations ... descriptions literally making my mouth water, adding light and warmth to an otherwise dark tale. And how I adored Sara's grandmother Consuela Sanchez. 

Sara inherited her grandmother's tarot cards, her prophetic 'knowing' and her recipe book. That was one of my favourite parts, I really enjoyed the descriptions and memories of that recipe book and I loved that Sara listened to her grandmother's wisdom, tapped into her inner strength and found a little peace and happiness.

Consuelo's recipes were all kept in a very thick old exercise book, bulging with odd bits of paper - old remedies, directions for making dandelion wine or rosemary shampoo, hand-scrawled notes on the secret properties of fruit and herbs - basil for enticing true love, rosemary for fertility, thyme for courage, apples for love and healing, figs to spell-bind love, sage for wisdom. 

‘Thyme is best for courage,’ Consuelo told her. ‘Make a cup of thyme tea with honey, that’ll help make you brave. Or wear a sprig of it in your hair, so you can smell it."

That was the ghost of her grandmother, Consuelo Sanchez, whose roast goose cooked with pears could make grown men tremble. ‘A stick of cinnamon is the secret,’ Consuelo would tell Sara, standing at the end of the bed, a hunched little figure in black, a shadow among shadows.

Oca Con Peras

Augusto always peppered his speech with Spanish when he cooked, although he had not set foot on Spanish soil since he was born. ‘The secret with zarzuela is the sweetness. Cinnamon, saffron, sweet paprika, bay leaves. Sweet and salty the zarzuela, like the sea, like pasiĆ³n.’"

"... Zarzuela should be an embarrassment of riches. It should be a gift from the cook to those that eat." 

Zarzuela (Traditional Catalan Fish Stew)
Source: Cocina recetas 

I liked the magical feel, references to the macabre Little Mermaid fairytale, the Spanish culture, the segue from present to past and back.

Augusto Sanchez, I loathed ... passionate, egotistical artist, self absorbed, bullying human being, quite frankly I thought he got what he deserved ... oops, I mean I couldn't find it in myself to care about his 'accident'. For that matter, I didn't really care much for the rest of Sara's family either lol. 

Not my favourite of Kate Forsyth's, that honour goes to the The Wild Girl but as always, wonderful storytelling. 

Connect with Kate Forsyth

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review: The House on Mermaid Point by Wendy Wax

Title: The House on Mermaid Point
Author: Wendy Wax
Genre: Women's Fiction
Series: Beach Road #3
Publication Date: 1st July 2014
Pages: 416
Book Source: own purchase

Synopsis: Maddie, Avery, and Nikki first got to know one another—perhaps all too well—while desperately restoring a beachfront mansion to its former grandeur. Now they’re putting that experience to professional use. But their latest project has presented some challenges they couldn’t have dreamed up in their wildest fantasies—although the house does belong to a man who actually was Maddie’s wildest fantasy once . . .

Rock-and-roll legend “William the Wild” Hightower may be past his prime, estranged from his family, and creatively blocked, but he’s still worshiped by fans—which is why he guards his privacy on his own island in the Florida Keys. He’s not thrilled about letting this crew turn his piece of paradise into a bed-and-breakfast for a reality show . . . though he is intrigued by Maddie. Hard as that is for her to believe as a newly single woman who can barely manage a dog paddle in the dating pool.

But whether it’s an unexpected flirtation with a bona fide rock star, a strained mother-daughter relationship, or a sudden tragedy, these women are in it together. The only thing that might drive them apart is being trapped on a houseboat with one bathroom . . .

My Thoughts:
Back in my happy place with Do Over crew Maddie, Avery, Nikki, Kyra and Deidre ... I keep saying these women could renovate a garbage can and I'd be along for the ride. 

I love the reno/rehabbing details, the beautifully described surrounds, sunrises and sunsets. Most of all I love the womens' personal do-overs, their growth individually and in their relationships. Read the books in order and you see that progression, feel their frustration, laugh and cry with them, cheer them on. 

Their latest assignment in Florida Keys is the run down estate of former rocker, William Hightower aka William the Wild. I honestly didn't think the whole aging rock star - ego -rehab - recovering alcoholic 'thing' would do it for me but I'm happy to admit I was sooo wrong, and I loved that the spotlight was on Maddie in this installment.

This series is all about transformations ... The House on Mermaid Point takes an unexpected sad turn, an emotionally real one but through laughs and tears, I'm hooked. I love these women and I love their connection ... can't wait to see what they're up to next. 

PS Booyah! for the *up yours* to bitch production head Lisa Hogan :)

If you need more convincing check out my reviews of the first two books in the series -
Ten Beach Road (and my strawberry daiquiri recipe)

Connect with Wendy Wax