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Saturday, August 29, 2015

'Day Shift' Midnight, Texas #2 by Charlaine Harris

From the BLURB:

There is no such thing as bad publicity, except in Midnight, Texas, where the residents like to keep to themselves. Even in a town full of secretive people, Olivia Charity is an enigma. She lives with the vampire Lemuel, but no one knows what she does; they only know that she’s beautiful and dangerous.

Psychic Manfred Bernardo finds out just how dangerous when he goes on a working weekend to Dallas and sees Olivia there with a couple who are both found dead the next day. To make matters worse, one of Manfred’s regular—and very wealthy—clients dies during a reading.

Manfred returns from Dallas embroiled in scandal and hounded by the press. He turns to Olivia for help; somehow he knows that the mysterious Olivia can get things back to normal. As normal as things get in Midnight…

‘Day Shift’ is the second book in Charlaine Harris’s new urban fantasy series, ‘Midnight, Texas’ … which happens to be a sort of amalgamation of all her other series, featuring various secondary characters from those books.

Last year I was so thrilled with Harris’s new series, and counted ‘Midnight, Crossroad’ as one of my favourite books of 2014. This new series features Manfred Bernardo from Harris’s ‘Harper Connelly’ series, Bobo Winthrop from ‘Lily Bard’, a character called Fiji Cavanaugh has a relative who is a Bon Temps sheriff, the detective Arthur from ‘Aurora Teagarden’ pops up … and in ‘Day Shift’ we catch up with a few more minor and secondary characters from Sookie Stackhouse’s world.

Basically, Midnight is a one traffic light town with a whole lot of weird and wonderful residents who all apparently occupy Charlaine Harris’s one-in-the-same universe for all her series. I loved the concept, and adored ‘Midnight Crossroad’, particularly because Bobo from ‘Lily Bard’ was perhaps the one character of Harris’s that I most wanted a happy ending for, and in this new series we get to see what became of him and a few other wayward folk from her various series.

Yes, there’s mystery and murder – what Charlaine Harris writes best – but this series felt very much character driven, since the author has collected the most beloved and missed folk from her various series. So I was really disheartened to get to the end of ‘Day Shift’ feeling like I’d been short-changed on the character side of things with this second book.

What I loved most from ‘Midnight Crossroad’ was the unrequited love affair between across-the-road neighbours Fiji and Bobo, and the way Harris was teasing out Fiji’s crush on her best friend. I also liked the hint of romance between Manfred and a young woman called Creek, whose family was in turmoil by the end of ‘Crossroad’. Unfortunately in ‘Day Shift’ Fiji and Bobo are the two characters with the least amount of page-time, and Creek isn’t mentioned once in the whole book. This second instalment is concentrated on a murder-mystery with Manfred at the centre, and providing backstory for Midnight resident Olivia and her vampire lover, Lemuel. Character Joe and Chuy also get plenty of baffling page-time, as does the Rev and a new young resident (with links to Bon Temps).

She opened the basket and, and out jumped Mr. Snuggly. Mr. Snuggly immediately went to the boy and stood at his feet, looking up. The boy had dark brown hair, long and tangled. He wore denim shorts and a Walking Dead T-shirt, which was an unusual choice for a child his apparent age. But what was that? 
“Hail, little brother,” said Mr. Snuggly in his small shrill voice. 
With a movement too quick to track, the boy was on his knees in front of the cat, peering into his face. Suddenly, the boy smiled. It was bewitching. He looked up at Fiji, and Olivia could see that his eyes were pansy purple. 
“Okay, I’m in love,” Fiji said cheerfully.

I just couldn’t believe that after setting up Fiji and Bobo with such interesting characterisation in ‘Midnight Crossroad’, Harris would just erase them from this second instalment … I’m really quite gobsmacked, to be honest. I know Harris has set a hard task for herself by making this a multiple-character focused story, as opposed to a Sookie Stakchouse/Aurora Teagarden/Lily Bard/Harper Connelly single-focus hero series. But she balanced the focus between Fiji, Bobo and Manfred really well against the mystery of other Midnight characters like Lemuel, Olivia and Rev. In ‘Day Shift’ all that built-up intrigue surrounding Olivia especially is just thrown out the window, and characters like Fiji and Bobo really do suffer.

Even increased focus on Manfred felt hollow when there’s absolutely no mention of young woman Creek, who was set up as a sort of romantic mystery for him in ‘Crossroad’. In fact, the whole of ‘Day Shift’ felt like it lacked heart – though Lemuel and Olivia have a tender if bizarre romance, they lack the heart and heat of Fiji’s unrequited love for Bobo or Manfred’s forbidden lusting after Creek. It’s a sad fact but in this series that’s meant to be very character-driven, without those deeper relationships and feelings between the characters it feels very much like something is hollow and missing.

To be honest, I was so frustrated with the lack of tangible connection in this book that the mystery also held less interest and gravitas as a result. The only thing I liked in this book were the two Bon Temps characters – one of whom I’ve always loved and wanted some reassurance that good things happened to them after the conclusion of ‘Sookie Stackhouse’.

Al in all this was a really disappointing second instalment after the pure enjoyment that was first book ‘Midnight Crossroad’. I hope in the third book ‘Night Shift’, coming 2016, Fiji and Bobo return for more page-time and there can be some acknowledgment of the romantic relationships that Harris did such a good job of establishing in the first book.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

'One True Thing' by Nicole Hayes

From the BLURB:

When is a secret not a secret? When your whole life is public.

Frankie is used to being a politician's daughter, but with her mum now running for Premier, life's a whole lot crazier than usual. All Frankie wants is to lose herself in her music. So when her best friend, Kessie, invites a student journo to interview the band, Frankie is less than thrilled.

But Jake's easy to talk to, and he seems to really like Frankie. That doesn't stop her from wondering if he's just after the ultimate scoop, especially when photos surface of Frankie's mum having a secret rendezvous with a younger man. With her family falling apart around her, Frankie is determined to find out the truth – even if it means losing Jake.

‘One True Thing’ is the second novel from Australian young adult author Nicole Hayes.

I actually finished reading this book two months or so ago, but I’ve been so far behind in my review-writing that I’m only now getting round to it … moved to sing this book’s praises both because it’s great, and because an event helped me form my opinions about Hayes’ novel.

Victoria’s first (and to date, only) female Premier died this year. Joan Kirner wasn’t politically perfect – among her hindsight mistakes was the roll out of pokie machines in Victoria – but she was a kind and gutsy leader who kept giving back to the community long after she left politics behind. She was also a formidable female leader who faced a merciless and misogynistic media that often portrayed her as a polka dot-obsessed housewife … sadly, I can imagine that Kirner wasn’t the least bit surprised when her mentee Julia Gillard faced even more abhorrent treatment from the still misogynistic media decades later, as our first female Prime Minister.

With that in mind – I gift you ‘One True Thing’ – a young adult novel in which Hayes imagines another female politician running for Premier of Victoria, and the repercussions on her family when “the personal is political” and smartphones can help to capture all manner of scandal.

I actually started reading this book shortly after I binge-watched a brilliant Australian TV show called ‘Party Tricks’ – featuring beloved actress Asher Keddie as Premier who finds herself going head-to-head for re-election against the man she had an affair with years ago. The show also featured a small storyline about the male candidate’s teenage daughter getting caught in the middle when political scandal breaks – and I found myself wishing we could stay with that story for a little longer, so imagine my glee when I picked up Nichole Hayes’ book to discover this was the very basis of her new novel!

Our protagonist is Frankie – a teenager who often feels like ‘window dressing’ to her parent’s career ambitions – her mother the politician, her father the author. And while Frankie may think she’s an old pro at navigating the craziness of her mother’s career, things kick into a whole other gear with her running for Premier – particularly when some photos surface that throw shade on her mother’s campaign, and even her parent’s marriage.

I know it’s only partly true. But truth, I’m quickly learning, is a slippery thing. What’s true one second isn’t even close to true the next. Sometimes it feels like there is no one true thing. 
When a student journalist called Jake takes an interest in Frankie’s band, she sees appeal in him immediately but is wary of anyone who has ambitions of joining the vultures who are currently picking her family apart.

I really did love this novel, and I loved Frankie as a fairly prickly protagonist. Look, I think when you grow up in politics and with two fairly egocentric parents you’re bound to be affected – and I especially loved how Hayes let a little of Frankie working through her issues come out in the music she loves (appropriately, 1990s grunge – “I feel stupid and contagious/Here we are now, entertain us!”). And I loved her complicated attraction to Jake – who I envision is working for The Underage. There’s a bit of a fantasy-noir element to their relationship – politician’s daughter falling for student journo – but I really loved it, particularly for the issues it throws up about the personal as political and journalism ethics in general.

This book is also a big hit for its feminist element. Hayes asks young readers to confront the misogyny in modern-day politics, and she does so in this compulsively readable book that blends teen romance and family drama. There’s a lot here that adults will also enjoy (and, honestly, if you liked ‘Party Tricks’ – read this book!) but Hayes is a great writer for making these big, no-straight-answers ideas so palatable and accessible for younger readers.


FYI - 

if you're in Victoria and live down Frankston way, you'll have a chance to meet Nicole Hayes (!) at Robinsons Bookshop

Details in this post, but definitely keep September 2 & 3 free for some #LoveOzYA celebrations! 

Monday, August 24, 2015

'If You Only Knew' by Kristan Higgins

Received from NetGalley 

From the BLURB:

Wedding-dress designer Jenny Tate understands the happily-ever-after business, yet somehow she's still involved in her ex-husband's life. In fact, Owen's new wife may—inexplicably—be Jenny's new best friend. Sensing this, well, relationship isn't helping her move on, Jenny trades the Manhattan skyline for her hometown up the Hudson, where she'll be able to bask in her sister Rachel's picture-perfect family life…and hopefully make one of her own. 

Her timing couldn't be more perfect, since Rachel will need her younger sister. Her idyllic marriage has just fallen to pieces in spectacular fashion after she discovers her husband sexting with one of his colleagues. Second chances aren't in Rachel's nature, but the desire for an intact family has her rethinking her stance on adultery, much to Jenny's surprise. Rachel points to their parents' "perfect" marriage as a shining example, but to protect her sister Jenny may have to tarnish that memory—and their relationship­—and reveal a secret about their family she's been keeping since childhood.

During this summer of secrets and lies, temptation and revelation, Jenny and Rachel will rely on each other to find the humor in their personal catastrophes, the joy in their triumphs…and the strength to keep hanging on.

‘If You Only Knew’ is the latest novel from Kristan Higgins – but let me just be clear and say I wouldn’t call this a romance. This is much more women’s fiction, closely aligned with the likes of Liane Moriarty or Jojo Moyes.

I’m still quite new to the Kristan Higgins fandom, considering she’s been steadily releasing books since 2006 and I only read my first one in 2013. But I already have my favourites of her backlist (‘Just One of the Guys’) and find myself eagerly anticipating each new yearly romance release. I’ve come to love Higgin’s masterful balance of heartbreak and humour in her romances, the way she can start a protagonist at the lowest point and build them up from within so that when a fella does comes along, he tends to feel more like the cherry-on-top rather than the whole shebang-sundae. Higgins is such a fine romance writer for paying equal attention to her heroine’s deeper purpose and life ambitions. So, truth be told, I wasn’t all that surprised when I started reading ‘If You Only Knew’ and discovered Higgins’ ventured more to the women’s fiction end of things, with the romance taking more of a backseat to marital crises, family secrets and suburban facades. But in losing the romantic element, Higgins seemed to lose a little spark in her writing, and the seemingly crucial humour element that really makes her work leap off the page and into reader’s hearts.

This is the story of two sisters. Younger sister Jenny is a wedding-dress designer and amicably-awkward friends with her perfect ex-husband and his equally perfect new wife, Ana-Sofia. Jenny thought she and Owen were happy and in love, even if she wanted a family and he didn’t, she was willing to wait for him to be ready … then he dropped the bombshell that he’d fallen out of love with her, and shortly after their divorce he remarried the perfect woman and started a family with her. The thing is, Owen still wants to be friends with Jenny and Jenny, being that she’s still in love with him, is happy to martyr herself;

Owen still asks about my work. He loves my sister and nieces and mother. He thinks I’m pretty and funny and smart. He admires my creativity. We have a similar sense of humour. Conversation comes easily, and since the day I met him, and even through out quickie divorce and his marriage, I have yet to go three days without hearing from him. Even when he’s been in a third-world country with Doctors Without Borders. Even now. 
So. Being Owen’s ex-wife is still better than any relationship I’ve ever had, except for one – when I was his actual wife.

Older sister Rachel is the happy stay-at-home mom of triplet girls, married to her still handsome husband, Adam. Or so she thinks. A sexting scandal erupts in their happy home-life, and Rachel is forced to confront the prospect of being single at forty versus staying in a marriage that has more than a few cracks starting to show.

Meanwhile, a family secret that only Jenny knows could be the secret to her sister’s perspective on what’s really behind the “perfect” marriage.

Cheating – extramarital, and emotional – is a big theme in this book. Now, I love me a good cheating storyline, which makes me a romance reader anomaly I know! But I love the instant emotional connection and gut-wrench that comes with a cheating storyline, when readers are put into a protagonist’s corner and I eagerly anticipate that Aretha Franklin R-E-S-P-E-C-T moment for the wronged party within a crumbling marriage. And I like reading cheating storylines when they’re doubly complicated by children and the seemingly idyllic white-picket-fence marriage. I like poking at that bruise of suburban rot, because cheating storylines are (and probably only in my opinion) the closest that romance stories often get to noir – with the seedy underbelly of a marriage revealed, a femme fatale and damsel in distress. Corny and reductive (especially to women), I know but it’s my guilty-trope and I can’t help liking it. So believe me when I say I’m surprised at how much I hated the cheating storyline in this book.

I found Jenny’s story and complicated post-divorce friendship with Owen to be interesting, and a new take on cheating. But Rachel’s storyline did nothing for me … it read too simplistic and predictable, there was no new territory trod here. Adam was reduced to a caricature of the cheating husband when what I would have preferred was nuance and grey-areas. A future male love interest is glimpsed for Rachel, but he came so far out of left field as to be a bit ridiculous. And I didn’t like the treatment of the “other woman” – ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ are bandied about because she’s as much a caricature as Adam, and one moment in which Rachel shows a glimmer of sympathy for her felt trite.

‘If You Only Knew’ did remind me a small bit of Liane Moriarty’s ‘The Husband's Secret’ … that book is all about marriages and their myriad twists and turns, surprises even for the parties involved. But where I walked away from Moriarty’s ‘The Husband's Secret’ – which also has a strong through line of extramarital affairs – with a feeling that Moriarty had brought something new to the “wronged woman” and “cheating louse” tropes, I came out of ‘If You Only Knew’ thinking only that Higgins didn’t shine any new lights on the topic, and instead trod a careful and predictable path.

There is a small dose of romance in the book for Jenny – in the form of her super Leo, a mysterious man who claims to only be for “recreational” purposes. This romance is so tonally different from what Higgins normally writes … there’s no lightness or humour really in the whole book, and especially not much around Leo and Jenny. Even Higgin’s trademark – a dog in every book – is depressing, with the dog a literal symbol of sadness and loss.

One thing I really loved was Manhattan as a character. When the book begins, Jenny has moved to back to her hometown an hour out of Manhattan, and the move is a break-up in itself, from the city that never sleeps;

What I didn’t quite expect was that as soon as I left Manhattan behind, the beneficent, regal creature forgot me. It tolerated me when I was a student of eighteen, it gave me my chance, it celebrated me when I made it, and it forgot me the second I drove over the Henry Hudson Bridge. You’re always just a foster child in the city that never sleeps. The second you go, someone else takes your room.
I did like aspects of this book. I think Higgins’ exploring Jenny and Rachel’s sisterly bond was lovely and nuanced – and perhaps that’s the real romance in ‘If You Only Knew’, between two sisters whose friendship starts out strong and just gets stronger by the end. But I think Higgins also missed an opportunity to explore deeper family ramifications of cheating by choosing to keep a few secrets only to Jenny.

I didn’t love ‘If You Only Knew’, certainly not as much as I’ve come to crave Higgins’ romance books. That being said – I think she’s onto something with a foray into women’s fiction and a step back from her usual romance genre. I just wish she’d remember that writing without the intention of a happily-ever-after man on her heroine’s arm doesn’t mean she should lose that sense of humour that readers have come to love.


Friday, August 21, 2015

'Magic Shifts' Kate Daniels #8 by Ilona Andrews

From the BLURB:

After breaking from life with the Pack, mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate—former Beast Lord Curran Lennart—are adjusting to a very different pace. While they’re thrilled to escape all the infighting, Curran misses the constant challenges of leading the shapeshifters.

So when the Pack offers him its stake in the Mercenary Guild, Curran seizes the opportunity—too bad the Guild wants nothing to do with him and Kate. Luckily, as a veteran merc, Kate can take over any of the Guild’s unfinished jobs in order to bring in money and build their reputation. But what Kate and Curran don’t realize is that the odd jobs they’ve been working are all connected.

An ancient enemy has arisen, and Kate and Curran are the only ones who can stop it—before it takes their city apart piece by piece…

‘Magic Shifts’ is the eighth book in Ilona Andrew’s ‘Kate Daniels’ urban fantasy series.

I went into this instalment with slightly lower expectations than I usually take into my yearly ‘Kate Daniels’ reading. This was due to the fact that I had some issues with book #7, ‘Magic Breaks’ – though I’m in the minority for that – but I really thought the book was a light-footed affair and for all the build-up in plot, I wanted a little more carnage and casualties. So I went into #8 a little wearier than usual, but came away more in love with this series than ever before …

This book begins where ‘Breaks’ left off, with Curran having stepped down as Beast Lord of Atlanta and he, Kate and Julie moving into a nice suburban setting and three-storey house that Kate is secretly thrilled to discover feels like her first real home. Kate and Curran are not permitted near the Keep as Jim and Dali move to take their place as new Beast Lord and Consort, and meanwhile they’re working away at Cutting Edge which is when they receive word of a missing shifter and packs of ghouls roaming Atlanta … the two unusual events are connected, and it’s up to Kate and Curran to get to the bottom of it.

I loved the early ‘Kate Daniels’ books for tracking Kate and Curran’s relationship from animosity to love – it was a slow, delicious burn and I will admit that I haven’t quite enjoyed their relationship as much since they claimed each other. But in ‘Magic Shifts’ I loved reading Kate and Curran’s changed dynamics in a domestic setting … dealing with uppity neighbours, piling bills and a sometimes-sullen teenager in Julie. There’s just something about them moving to the suburbs that has rejuvenated their romance and made it all the more intriguing to me. I loved their quibbling and compromising, especially because it still has this fantastical/snarky edge to it that is both absurd and lovely;  

“Where were you? What happened?” I carved a chunk out of another lizard’s face.  
“I just took the kids to fight some ghouls,” Curran said.  
Oh, so it was fine, then . . . Wait. “You did what?”  
He kicked a lizard. It flew into the others like a cannonball. “I called Jim before we left the house to talk about ghouls, and he said they found some in the MARTA tunnels. So I grabbed the kids and did a little hunting.”  
I would kill him. “Just so I get it right, Jim calls you and says, ‘Hey, we found a horde of ghouls in the MARTA tunnels,’ and your first thought was, ‘Great, I’ll take the kids’?”  
“They had fun.” A careful note crept into his voice. Curran saw the shark fin in the water but wasn’t sure where the bite would be coming from.  
“You even took the dog.”  
Grendel chose that moment to try to shove past me. I shoved him back into the Guild and he began running back and forth behind us, growling.  
“He had fun, too. Look at him. He’s still excited.” 

The mystery at the heart of this instalment is brilliant – the monsters that spew forth are creepy-fantastic, and with Ilona Andrews skill for description, they made my skin crawl. I also appreciated the heart at the centre of this mystery – I don’t want to say who it concerns, but it does lead to a look at pack politics and one family’s hierarchy in particular that was really fascinating, and added a new dimension to quite a few characters who’ve only ever been on the periphery, as well as Curran.

But the main reason I loved this instalment was for the build-up and stakes that are ratcheted up now. With a degree of domestic bliss for Kate, comes more she could potentially lose to her father. At one point in this book she muses on her very isolated childhood, versus all the people who she now loves and are relying on her … which means she has more to lose. I think that’s been building up for a while now, but in this book Kate actually starts cataloguing all those people and becoming increasingly scared of her father … even as she shares one of the hands-down best scenes Ilona Andrews have ever written, which is daddy/daughter deadly, there’s this strange dynamic of love/hate between them that’s so delicious for all the future possibilities.

My miniscule qualms about this book are the same I’ve had ever since Ilona Andrews presented the fascinating triangle of Julie, Derek, and Ascanio – and that is that I always want MORE! Especially since seeing this Tweet from author Jeaniene Frost, dropping massive hints about a Julie and Derek book that Ilona Andrews discussed with her … I WANT IT!

‘Magic Shifts’ is a brilliant instalment in this phenomenal series. There is an end in sight now, and that’s being wound up tighter and tighter especially in this book … and now I’m at that magical place as a reader, where I both want to know how it’s all going to play out, but I also can’t stand to think of this series coming to a close (… but, y’know, a Julie spin-off would ease that somewhat. HINT. HINT!)


Thursday, August 20, 2015

#LoveOzYA at Robinsons Bookshop, Frankston - Sept 2 and 3!

Hello Darling Readers!

If you're based in Victoria and live down Frankston way (my way!) you'll be thrilled to learn that the wonderful Robinsons Bookshop are hosting a #LoveOzYA event over TWO NIGHTS!

Wednesday September 2 and Thursday September 3 from 7PM at the Frankston store, Robinsons have some fabulous author/reader panels organised. 

And since September 3 is also Indigenous Literacy Day, the panel on September 2 will have a diversity-focus in celebration!

Authors confirmed so far include; Amie Kaufman (Starbound Trilogy), Nicole Hayes (One True Thing), Sue Lawson (Freedom Ride), and Fiona Wood (Cloudwish)!

Keep checking the Robinsons Twitter account and Facebook page for more details, it's sure to be a stellar #LoveOzYA event and I, personally, cannot wait! 

Click HERE for more details 

Monday, August 17, 2015

'The Foretelling Of Georgie Spider' The Tribe #3 by Ambelin Kwaymullina

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

The third and final book in the thrilling eco-dystopian series The Tribe.

A storm was stretching out across futures to swallow everything in nothing, and it was growing larger, which meant it was getting nearer...

Georgie Spider has foretold the end of the world, and the only one who can stop it is Ashala Wolf. But Georgie has also foreseen Ashala's death. As the world shifts around the Tribe, Ashala fights to protect those she loves from old enemies and new threats. And Georgie fights to save Ashala. Georgie Spider can see the future. But can she change it?

‘The Foretelling Of Georgie Spider’ is the third and final instalment in Ambelin Kwaymullina epic YA Aussie dystopian series, ‘The Tribe’.

I have been both dreading and anticipating this book, probably since I first read ‘The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf’ way back in 2012 (OMG!). Because I both didn’t want the series to end, and I also needed to know what happens next … this is the conundrum of any series’ conclusion.

And now I’m on the other side, having closed the final chapter on ‘The Tribe’ and I can say I’m both bereaved and satisfied, languishing in that weird fangirl in-between of being both happy for such a grand finale, and sad that a little fictional universe is now finished for me. And now I’m trying to write a review for ‘The Foretelling Of Georgie Spider’ and I’m struggling to say anything that won’t completely spoil it for everyone else.

So instead I’ll talk about what a gift this entire series has been, and how this final book has rounded it out to a truly superb trilogy that I’ll be re-reading for many years to come, and recommending to everyone.

Y’know, there aren’t many Australian YA books in which our heroine’s warrior cry is: “Let’s go free a detention centre!” And that one line should tell you something about how clever and important an author Kwaymullina is, and what a statement this whole series has been. Read this interview I did with Ambelin back in 2013 (seriously, time – it flies!) to get some ideas of how much this series is a layered science fiction, eco-dystopic saga that also draws on Stolen Generation history and Indigenous mythology, that is all so tied to the Australian natural landscape.

It’s amazing that in one series readers can be confronted with ideas and themes around Australia’s dark history – particularly the oppression of our First Peoples and Indigenous history – and then also be able to connect the sci-fi aspects to global warming and current asylum seeker debates. And that it’s all tied up beautifully in this intense story, about a Tribe of kids who reject the way their world currently is, and truly believe they can change it for the better;

Connor came over to me. He circled his arms around my waist and I leaned back against him with a sigh. 
“Fixing the world, Ashala?” he asked. He was watching Em and Jules too. 
“Fixing our world,” I replied. “Our Tribe. With any luck.” 
Em was still talking, although she seemed to be taking longer breaks between sentences. She’d started to run out of words, and Jules still wasn’t speaking at all. She jabbed at his chest, and I didn’t need to be able to hear her to know what she’d said. Aren’t you going to say something? 
Jules caught her hand and finally spoke. Not much, just a couple of words. I knew what he’d said as well. Forgive me. 
For a second longer they stood where they were, Jules clasping Ember’s hand and Ember staring at Jules. Then Em tore her hand from his so she could take hold of the front of his shirt and pull his head down to hers for a long, deep kiss. 
“World fixed,” Connor said, and I could hear the laughter in his voice. And the regret, for what neither of us had been able to fix.

This final book is a gorgeous crescendo to the whole series – there’s suspense and heartbreak to be sure, but there’s also real enjoyment in looking back through ‘Ashala’ and ‘Ember Crow’ and seeing all the groundwork Kwaymullina has been laying from book #1, and appreciating just how complex this series has always been.

The entire ‘Tribe’ series has been a real gift to this reader, and ‘The Foretelling Of Georgie Spider’ was the sometimes heartbreaking, always thrilling finale I knew it would be. I can’t wait to read whatever Ambelin Kwaymullina comes up with next, I just hope I don’t have to wait too long for it!


Sunday, August 16, 2015

News and Appearances

Hello Darling Readers,

I have some news to announce, and some upcoming appearances to list (I know, what is this life?), so here it goes;

I am both thrilled and a wee bit nervous to be appearing at Melbourne Writers Festival this coming weekend, in two panels:

Girls Books vs Boys Books • Sat 22nd Aug 1.00pm

In the past I've written a very little bit about changing gendered reading habits, so I'm really looking forward to getting stuck into this topic along with authors Myke Bartlett and Sally Rippin, to be chaired by Bec Kavanagh from the Stella Schools Program (because this event is supported by the wonderful Stella Prize!) 

Fan Fictions • Sun 23rd Aug 1.00pm

Seeing as I used to write FanFiction (*ahem* between 2002 and 2009 the sum total of my 23 long-form pieces came to a whopping 442, 884 words!) I am so excited to be discussing all things Fandom and FanFiction in this event, along with authors Melissa Keil and Justine Larbalestier, to be chaired by equally fabulous author Amie Kaufman. 

Wednesday 9 September—Sunday 13 September

I'll be popping up to Albury to take part in the wonderful Write Around the Murray Festival! I'll be appearing in a whole heap of events, including chairing an 'in conversation' with authors Isobelle Carmody, Richard Harland and Andrew McGahan, plus I'll be conducting 30-minute Mentoring Sessions as part of the School's Program and SO MUCH MORE! 

For details about all my WAM events, check out my profile page (and if you see me round MWF or WAM, do come and say hey!

Australian Romance Readers Convention 2017 

Finally; some extra special joint-news that Adele Walsh and I are finally allowed to share ... we have volunteered to be co-coordinators of the Australian Romance Readers Convention (ARRC) for 2017! AHHHHHH!!!!!

Adele and I attended our first ARRC in Canberra this year, and if you want to know how much I loved it I actually wrote an article all about our experience: Things no one tells you about romance readers. ARRC2017 will be happening in Melbourne, and we are currently looking for Melbourne-based individuals to join the Organising Committee. We have a number of positions to fill and if you've got the skillz and enthusiasm, we'd love for you to be involved! There will be an announcement about this is the near future but in the meantime why not consider becoming a member of the ARRA?

Adele wrote about how excited we are to undertake this task on her own Persnickety Snark blog, so a lot of this is going to be "what she said!" ... but we are best friends and I love her to bits, and I absolutely cannot wait to go on this bookish adventure with her! We did become acquainted via our book blogs, and then we met IRL and became friendly, but I really do think it was discovering our mutual love of both Kelly Clarkson and reading romance that cemented our friendship. 

The moment went something like; 

It is true - books bring people together, and the romance reading community in Australia is a particularly fantastic one that I'm so proud to be apart of ... and I thank all of you who have shown such enthusiasm for Adele and I as 2017 co-coordinators, it means a lot to both of us! 

But if you don't know me or Adele, please feel free to drop us a line over Twitter - I'm @danielle_binks she's @snarkywench - we'd love to hear from you. Or you can trawl through our Instagram accounts (check out just how much fun we had at #ARRC2015!), I'm dbinks and she's snarkywench. OR (and this one really is the greatest) if you see us around town, COME AND SAY HEY! We'll most definitely be at MWF, soaking up some of the romance-y goodness (look at them all! LOOK!) plus the ARRA book-signing event on August 22 ... please do come and say hello :)


That's it. 
That's all the news for now. 
Take it away, Penny Lane ... 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

'Brown-Eyed Girl' Travis Family #4 by Lisa Kleypas

Received via NetGalley

From the BLURB:

This is the fourth and final installment of the Travis series, following on from Sugar Daddy, Blue Eyed Devil and Smooth Talking Stranger.

Avery Crosslin is a talented young fashion designer with a bright future ahead of her. But when the company goes into liquidation, Avery finds herself without a job and a boyfriend who decides to leave her.

When her father falls ill, Avery is by his side day and night. But one evening she notices a young man, Joe, in distress and offers to help. Their instant attraction to one another is magnetic but even though she is unexpectedly charmed by the good-looking stranger, Avery tells him that she has to leave. He asks for her name and number, but she lies and tells him she has a boyfriend. At this point in Avery's life, the last thing she wants or needs is more complications.

The next day, as Avery returns to the hospital to thank the nurses for taking such good care of her father at the end of his life, one of them gives her an envelope from Joe. It is addressed to "Brown-Eyed Girl."

Avery knows she wants to see Joe again but she faces a dilemma. When she learns that Joe is the man responsible for her father's death she is troubled.

Is there any hope of a future for them both?

‘Brown-Eyed Girl’ is the fourth book in Lisa Kleypas’ ‘Travis’ contemporary romance series. It comes some six years after third book ‘Smooth Talking Stranger’ was released, after which Lisa Kleypas maintained she had no story lined up for third brother Joe Travis … which is why fans are so delightedly surprised and excited by the release of ‘Brown-Eyed Girl’.

I have a particular love for Lisa Kleypas’ contemporary romance series. The first Kleypas book I ever read was ‘Sugar Daddy’ and after that I was hooked, and mowed through her historical ‘Hathaways’,  ‘Wallflowers’, and ‘Gamblers’, and her second contemporary series, ‘Friday Harbor’. I love her, unabashedly. She’s one of the first authors I’d recommend to anyone reading romance for the first time – because I truly believe that a good Lisa Kleyas book can hook anyone.

But I do love her ‘Travis’ series; in particular ‘Smooth Talking Stranger’ is one of my favourite contemporary romance books. But I was like every other fan, desperately curious about Joe Travis who’d had a near-death experience in ‘Stranger’ and remained for me a somewhat tragic hero for Kleypas not giving him a HEA … now that I’ve read ‘Brown-Eyed Girl’ I can say I’m a little bit torn on Joe’s long-overdue tale.

Joe’s love-interest is wedding planner Avery Crosslin. Jaded by a womanising, absent father and a horrendous love-gone-wrong story of her own, Avery still believes in happily-ever-after, just for other people. When she meets Joe at a Texas upper-crust wedding, they both seem to fall hard … but while Joe’s keen to get something started with the curvy redhead, gun’s blazing, Avery is a hold-out to her own heart;
 I had been an entirely different person with Joe. But I wasn’t ready to be someone new – I’d grown too accustomed to being the woman Brian Palomer had jilted at the altar. If I let go of that identity, I wasn’t sure what would happen. I was afraid to imagine the possibilities. All I knew was that no man would ever hurt me the way Brian had, and I was the only one who could protect myself from that.

Their story is a delicious back-and-forth, thrust-and-parry as Joe patiently waits out Avery’s fears and burgeoning career demands. But for all that I did like Joe and Avery as a couple, they seemed to be missing that distinctive Kleypas *something* to make them as memorable as Gage and Liberty, Jack and Ella before them (I’m actually in the minority and don’t rate ‘Blue-Eyed Devil’, or the coupling of Hardy and Haven).

I think it’s partly because Joe and Avery didn’t seem to get enough page-time together. Maybe it’s just me, but I missed getting to settle into their romance a little more … and I possibly also feel that way because it felt like Avery should have had a confrontation with her ex, Brian, for how much time she spent using him as an excuse to avoid Joe.

It’s also that ‘Brown-Eyed Girl’ includes some of Lisa Kleypas’s best secondary character storylines that threaten to overshadow the main romance. One concerns Avery’s Hispanic half-sister and partner in her wedding planning business, Sofia. She has a nemesis in their colleague, Steven, whom the women assumed was gay for his impeccable style, taste and that he works in wedding planning … but after discovering that he’s heterosexual (and happily sat in a dressing room with Sofia to choose outfits once) the two have been at each other’s throats ever since – in a heady mix of sexual tension and romantic impasse.

The other secondary story concerns a Travis cousin, Ryan Chase, who finds himself in unhappy need of Avery and Sofia’s wedding planning expertise. I was really, really intrigued by Ryan, even more so by book’s end when his story finished up on a bit of a romantic challenge. Now, I know that Lisa Kleypas has said Joe’s story concludes the ‘Travis’ series … but I hope that means Ryan Chase’s will be the first book in a new contemporary series spin-off. Please? Please! I can’t go another six years like I did for Joe, hoping that Ryan gets his HEA!  

I really did enjoy ‘Brown-Eyed Girl’, especially to catch up with the entire Travis clan again. It’s another one of the reasons I love Kleypas’ family romance sagas; that we get to check back in with the happily-ever-afters of past books, and all the characters we love and miss.

If I were just basing my score on Avery and Joe, ‘Brown-Eyed Girl’ would probably get a 3/5 … but because of the stellar secondary story of Sofia and Steven, not to mention the tantalizing possibilities of Ryan Chase, I’m giving it a –


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