Review: Eka Kurniawan – Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash

Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash
Eka Kurniawan

After witnessing a violent rape, Ajo Kawir loses his ability to have sexual intercourse – even with the woman he wins for himself. His dingwallace just won’t come to the party, despite the efforts of his best friend. Will his bird ever wake up?

I can’t believe I read a novel all about one man’s inability to raise his dong. At the beginning I almost stopped reading, in fact I moved the novel into the ‘will not finish’ pile. But for some reason I then came back and finished it off. Maybe my curiosity about how Ajo Kawir was possibly going to get his pecker working again did me in.

Maybe the title lost something in translation. Yes, it’s the name of his truck, but uh, in the end, he doesn’t actually reach vengeance. And uh, most of the time no-one pays cash? Anyway, the rest of the prose was still pithy, and I commend the translator on a fantastic job.

I could have done without the ‘short cinematic bursts’. I much would have preferred if there was a nice linear story line. I expected that I would not enjoy a novel tagged pulp fiction, but it wasn’t too bad.

If you like novels where the main character is basically a Lollypop (if you know what I mean), this could be a novel for you. In hindsight, I think I shouldn’t have started reading it at all, but I did, and I finished it, so I’ll give it 3 stars.

Text Publishing | 31st July 2017 | AU$29.99 | paperback

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Review: Scot Gardner – SPARROW

SPARROW
Scot Gardner

Sparrow has been consigned to prison, sent out on boot camp with a bunch of crazies. When the boat just happens to explode, Sparrow makes his break for shore and freedom. But is freedom and isolation what he wants?

Flicking back and forth between Sparrow’s present and past, this novel had the potential to endlessly entertain a reader. Not me though. I couldn’t finish reading it. Sparrow’s constant internal monologue that was supposed to take the place of a spoken voice set me on edge.

It reminds me of Lord of the Flies, except it is just a wordless boy who has escaped into the forest with basically no survival skills. Sorry Sparrow, but I don’t feel sorry for you. I don’t empathize with you as a character. I much preferred Thirst, although it also lacked reality.

You want a nice novel with selective mutism? Perhaps the infamous So Much to Tell You, or the more recent A Quiet Kind of Thunder will take your fancy. Don’t bother with this novel. 1 star.

Allen & Unwin | 26th July 2017 | AU$19.99 | paperback

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Review: Anne Cassidy – NO VIRGIN

NO VIRGIN
Anne Cassidy

Stacey Woods has been emotionally raped by someone she trusted. She has also been physically raped by his brother. After the perpetrators try to write it off as ‘adult fun’ she knows that she needs to do something to prevent others being hurt. This novel is her story.

Most people will know Anne Cassidy from Looking for JJ, which I gave 4 stars. The second in the series, Finding Jennifer Jones, I gave 3 stars to. I feel like such a betrayer for not really loving all of the writing, and not loving NO VIRGIN either. I can’t believe that this has a second novel. Perhaps the fact is that Anne Cassidy’s writing style doesn’t agree with me, no matter how compelling a circumstance she puts her characters in.

Shouldn’t I have more respect and love for a character who decides to get off her butt (eventually) and do something about having been raped? Rape is still something where the statistics are woefully under-reported. What I hate is that it’s almost always men raping women, and very few cases of same sex, or female perpetrator abuse. This novel doesn’t fail there for me, it fails because I never connected with Stacey or her best friend and I always felt distanced from the situation. Distancing yourself from reality is often a response to rape, and this could have been a deliberate choice by the author, but for me, it just didn’t work.

I am sure this is the third time I have reviewed NO VIRGIN (WordPress seemed to eat the other two?!?). I now can’t remember nearly enough details to properly review the novel. However, what I do remember is that it felt unsatisfying and upsetting, but not in a redeeming manner. 3 stars because I finished it, but it will be leaving the house ASAP.

Allen & Unwin | 3rd January 2017 | AU$16.99 | paperback

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Release Day Blitz of A Way with You by Lane Hayes

Title:  A Way with You

Series: A Way With, Book 2

Author: Lane Hayes

Publisher: Amazon

Release Date: January 18, 2018

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 30K

Genre: Romance, Bisexual, Humor, Office Romance, New York City

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Synopsis

Reeve Nelson is determined to make it in Manhattan. He’s hardworking, dedicated and willing to put in the extra hours required to be successful at his new job at a prestigious real estate firm in the city. There’s no way he’s going back to small-town living and an ex-girlfriend who won’t let go. But his boss isn’t making it easy. 
Leo Rodriguez enjoys his reputation as a ruthless businessman. He’s a lone wolf who’s scraped his way from the gutter to rebuild his life and launch a distinguished career on his terms. When an opportunity to expand in the market comes up, Leo wants the eager new agent with a sense of wonder on the project. But nothing goes quite as planned. Reeve expected to be intimidated and overwhelmed by Leo, however, the explosive mutual attraction and fierce desire between them is a big surprise. Neither man is looking for love and yet, something special just might happen if they can find their way…together.

Excerpt

Yeah, this was my idea but I wasn’t prepared to be this close to Leo again. His mere presence overwhelmed me. He smelled so good. I wanted to bury my nose in the collar of his button-down shirt and just…breathe. I told myself Leo was a regular guy like every other guy here, but truthfully, he wasn’t the least bit ordinary. Even in executive chic, Leo turned more heads than the shirtless bartenders. And when he smiled at the young man next to me who offered him his stool, he added another admirer to his list.

I’d never been around anyone who changed the temperature in a room simply by entering it the way he did. It wasn’t his appearance either. His height and sharp sense of style might garner a second glance, but his true appeal was innate. It was in the way he spoke and moved. He didn’t mince words or waste time. He was concise and direct and acted with purpose. I got the impression Leo Rodriguez had a reason for everything he did, including wanting to meet with me.

Leo perched on the vacated stool and then hooked his thumb at me when I didn’t reply. “He’ll have a martini too.”

“No. I mean, yes. But with olives, please. No onions.” I thanked the bartender then swiveled to face Leo, accidentally bumping his knee.

I muttered a quick apology and cautioned myself to pull it together. Leo wasn’t my boss anymore, for fuck’s sake. I just wished he didn’t make me so anxious.

Commence the nervous chatter.

“Onions? No one orders onions,” I snorted. “And vodka-soaked onions are especially gross.”

Leo’s lip curled on one side like a pirate. “When was the last time you had a vodka-soaked onion?”

“Uh…well, never,” I admitted with a frown. “But it sounds gross.”

“Chocolate covered scorpions and braised frog legs are gross. Onions aren’t in the same zip code.”

I made a face and shivered. “Have you actually eaten those things?”

“Yeah, and actually, they’re not so bad. Chocolate hides the taste of anything, even insects, and frog legs taste like chicken. But you never know unless you try.”

“No thanks.”

Leo tsked playfully. “You have big opinions, a big mouth, and a hot temper, Nelson. No wonder I like you.” He nodded his thanks when the bartender delivered our cocktails then raised his glass in a mock toast. “To onions.”

“Onions?”

“We sure as fuck ain’t drinkin’ to olives,” he quipped.

I chuckled at his comedic expression then sipped my martini while I wracked my brain for a non-confrontational topic of conversation to stall the inevitable one.

“What do you have against olives?” Weak. But it was better than nothing, and Leo seemed willing to play along.

“Nothing. It’s a texture thing. I don’t eat them if I can help it but I love olive oil. And tapenade is cool as long as those little suckers are chopped really fine. Otherwise, olives are a hard pass for me. Everyone has a food like that. What’s yours?”

“Kidney beans,” I replied quickly. “I like them in chili but not in salad. I have a great recipe for spicy chili that requires multiple glasses of water on standby. My grandmother made it when we were kids and”—I stopped to take a gulp of my drink before braving a look his way—“I’m sorry. You make me nervous.”

“Why, Reeve?” he purred, leaning into his elbow on the bar next to mine. “Is it because of last night?”

Purchase at Amazon

Meet the Author

Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and won first prize in the 2016 and 2017 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a newly empty nest.

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Review: Jennifer E. Smith – Windfall

Windfall
Jennifer E. Smith

Alice buys Teddy a lottery ticket that ends up being worth $140 million!! Surely it is just that Teddy’s luck has finally come through? But Alice loves Teddy, and its likely that they will stick together forever… Or will their trio of friends break apart under the strain of all those credit cards?

This novel has a nice range of character situations, but ultimately all of the characters end up blurring into one. Leo is gay, has relationship problems & isn’t sure about college. Alice is straight, can’t get the relationship she wants & ends up being unsure about college. Teddy is just off the rails and an idiot. Can’t you listen to the adults around you? Your friends? He just made me angry, and I only kept reading for Alice (who ended up being useless anyway).

1: I have to say, I kept putting off reading this novel because the cover just didn’t appeal to me. If you check out the alternative cover on Goodreads, it is much more inviting, not to mention its hint of symbolism. 2: The blurb lied. Teddy doesn’t go on an adventure with Alice. They’re really parallel adventures. Why? Because Teddy is a selfish [redacted], and he doesn’t actually care about anything other than himself unless he wants something. And he wonders why everyone else wants something from him.

Note: Please tell people you love them! Why is it such a big deal? You can love someone, and then fall out of love and its perfectly ok. I knew Alice’s feelings would eventually come out anyway. How could she ever move on otherwise?

Alice, you stupid girl. I know your ‘heart can’t help it’, but why couldn’t you end up with the other boy? He was so much more decent a person, and honestly, better suited for your personality. 3 stars because I felt betrayed and the storyline was ultimately transperent.

Pan Macmillan | 26th April 2017 | AU$14.99 | paperback

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Review: Jenn Bennett – Alex, Approximately

Alex, Approximately
Jenn Bennett

Bailey has just moved in with her dad, in the town that her online heartthrob just happens to live in. After she gets a job at the only local job place, she instead finds herself trying to deal with the most irritating boy alive, with no time to stalk down the enigmatic Alex.

This novel just wasn’t breathtaking. It’s a typical love story where the girl moves cities to near her online boyfriend… without telling him. Then she wants to stalk him to find him in real life. Instead, she happens to meet the most annoying boy in the world. Then of course, it all turns out exactly as you would expect with no cliffhangers or doubt.

I like this novel because it covered some important topics as well as just fulfilling a typical teenage romance. It touched on cyber safety and not giving away your private details online. It also covered sexual activity safety, and the proper (although awkward) interactions to make sure that each partners is ready for sex. That really made up a lot of the humour of the novel since Bailey blushed so easily!

This is firmly in the YA category thanks to its frank discussion of drugs and sex. What I wasn’t sure about was how accurate the depiction of Alex and her father was. I get that he’s not a very strict parent but it seems like she really could get away with murder. Likewise, he’s not very observant. Drug use in this novel has an impact on the two main characters, but it had a satisfactory outcome. A very sad satisfactory outcome, but that was just the way it ended up.

I don’t know anything about California but seems like the weather is awesome and the beaches sound at least a bit like Australian breaches, where there is real sand. However, the West Coast versus the East Coast thing leaves me a bit confused. Anyway for a person who isn’t a beach person, the relevant interactions were great.

Guys, I failed miserably at reviewing this novel in a timely manner. I had jotted down some rough notes for myself, but saved them under the title ‘Alex, Absolutely’! So of course, when I went looking for the novel on GoodReads without my hard copy in front of me… well, I couldn’t find it until now. Past me had given it 3 stars, so I’ll stick with that rating.

Simon & Schuster | 1st April 2017 | AU$17.99 | paperback

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Interview with Danielle Ellison

Danielle Ellison is a nomad, a lover of make-believe, and a bit of coffee snob. Always on the lookout for an adventure and the next story, she has had more zip codes and jobs than she can count.

In addition to writing, she’s the founder of the NoVa TEEN Book Festival in Virginia and a teen librarian. When she’s not busy with books, she’s probably watching her favorite shows, drinking coffee, or fighting her nomadic urges.

She is settled in Georgia (for now) with her cat, Simon, but you can always find her on twitter @DanielleEWrites.

I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

Honestly, they each have a special place in my heart. Besides the newest one, which is probably my favorite – I’d say Days Like This. I worked really hard on that one. Or Salt because it was the first one I published.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

Oh goodness, my first book is in the proverbial closet forever and it will remain there. I learned a lot from that book. Parts of it have been reshaped into other stories that I’ve written, but I’ve never really gone back to it. I don’t think I would now either. While that was a fun story, I’ve grown as a writer and I’d rather move forward instead of going back. Sorry, first book.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

It varies. Some stories take longer than others. The Sweetheart Sham was started two years ago, then shelved, then taken out and written with my editor. Other books, some published and not, have moved much, much faster and some longer. Unless I’m on a deadline, I try not to stress myself with writing in a certain timeframe. I don’t go seeking inspiration or any of that because I write characters, so as long as they are there, I’m writing them.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I write on the computer. It’s just easier for me. Sometimes I will venture into a notebook, but then it’s always typed up. I’m not really sure on the one place thing. I can write anywhere, I think. I do like having a go-to place, and when I lived in Georgia I had that. But here in Oklahoma, I don’t have that yet, but I only moved recently so I’m hoping to find it with my new routine.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

My beta readers are always my agent and typically a friend or two, depending on the story and the kind of feedback I need. I have a beta reader, Traci, who reads EVERY book as I write it. We started that a couple years ago and now she can’t get away from me. She used to be a book blogger, and then when I was an editor at a small press, she was one of my editing interns. One day I asked her for an opinion on one of my stories, and ever since then she’s been one of my first sets of eyes. It’s great to have someone to talk to while drafting. I am very lucky.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I love bookstores. I was a bookseller for years and years, so bookstores hold a special place in my heart. I think indie stores, especially, are filled with passionate staffers and readers. My favorite bookshop is One More Page Books in Arlington, VA: great selection, atmosphere, awesome staff. (But I’m biased.)

That said, I love e-books too. I think there’s enough room in the world for both!

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind from:

  1. childhood? 

Goosebumps. Hands down. Those were my jam.

  1. adolescence? 

VC Andrews – I read the first one  in 5th grade (the Orphan girls/Runaways series)—and Lurlene McDaniel. I thought all books ended sadly.

  1. young adult? 

Harry Potter. I was a teen in love.

  1. adult?

YA books, the whole genre really.

 Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. If you manage your own profile, please tell me as much as you are comfortable with in regards to your preferred platform and an estimate of time you spend doing it [and whether you like doing it!]

I use twitter and instagram, and I have an author facebook, but I’m not as good about it as I want to be. I love using it because it’s an instant connection with readers and other writers. That’s the best part for me. I get why people don’t like it. Sometimes, it can feel like you’re shouting into the void, but if you shout enough then someone will hear you. It’s changed a lot the last two years, so I’m still figuring it all out for the current climate of things. As far as how much time I spend, probably not enough.

About The Sweetheart Sham:

In a small town like Culler, South Carolina, you guard your secrets like you guard your cobbler recipe: with your life. Georgia Ann Monroe knows a thing or two about secrets: she’s been guarding the truth that her best friend Will is gay for years now. But what happens when a little white lie to protect him gets her into a fake relationship…and then the boy of her dreams shows up?

Enter Beau Montgomery: Georgie’s first love, hotter than ever, and much too much of a southern gentleman to ever pursue someone else’s girl. There’s no way to come clean to Beau while still protecting Will. But bless their hearts, they live in Culler—where secrets always have a way of revealing themselves.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a hilarious “fakeship,” a scorching-hot impossible relationship, and a heartwarming best-friendship that will make you want to call your best friend right here, right now.

Buy link: https://entangledpublishing.com/the-sweetheart-sham.html

 

Author Links:

Website, Twitter, FacebookInstagram and Newsletter.

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Review: Gwyneth Rees – Libby in the Middle

Libby in the Middle
Gwyneth Rees

Libby is the middle. She’s the average sister out of three, doomed to always sit in the middle of the car back seat. When she moves to a new town, Libby just wants to fit in – but will that be possible around her family’s secrets?

From the intermittent parts of this novel that I have read, Libby is a nice enough 8th grader who is just really pliable when it comes to helping her big sister out. After I read the first chapter out loud, I then missed a bunch of chapters up to chapter 8. However, it seemed like nothing had even happened in the novel! This is not a fast-paced enough novel for me.

The 8 year old reader in my household decided that this was a good novel for her to read independently. It does contain some content that I would consider inappropriate for her age group (eg. stealing, lying, getting together with a boyfriend your parents don’t approve of). However, I believe it is the first novel she has ever read that contains NO PICTURES so I’m not going to be picking on her choice too much.

This novel was deemed “My review so far – AWESOME!” by my younger reader, so I’ll be giving it 4 stars. She did say it wouldn’t be a reread, so that takes it out 5 stars. I guess I might have to come up with baby Dragon eggs or something!

Bloomsbury | 1st January 2018 | AU$12.99 | paperback

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Interview with Nicky Blue

An Interview with Nicky Blue, author of Escape from Samsara

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

My first novel is still sitting in my desk drawer. I have so many ideas moving forward, I don’t have the inclination to revisit it yet. I think the book has quite a solid plot and I still stand by a lot of the imagery. It would take a lot more work to get it ready for publication.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

Ideas come easily for me I’m pleased to say. I like to write fast and get things down as quickly as they come to me. I change/ update ideas in my edits. I aim to write 2-3 novellas a year.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I can write anywhere on any medium. My favourite is the local library in town as it is full of students typing away. I join their rhythmical flow.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I have family members to read my stuff work but you don’t get the objectivity. I am lucky to have a team of people on my mailing list that read my work and give me feedback.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I love old musty bookshops, the dustier the better, I source most of my material leafing through bookshops in Brighton my hometown. Ebooks have their place though, especially on trips away.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind?

Tom Holt was my favourite in adolescence, I used to only read comedy. I started reading Dystopian novels in my early twenties. I loved Aldous Huxley. Now I read across all genres. If it comes recommended I will read it. I am currently rereading Dune by Frank Herbert.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

I manage my own social media profiles but hire a virtual assistant for admin related tasks. I only spend 1-2 maximum a day on social media, normally in the evenings.

It is my belief there is a lot of hype around social media. It is wise to have a presence but it won’t make you a better writer. If you are a good writer people will find you.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

It’s tempting but I enjoy the writing!

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Review: Nowhere Near You – Leah Thomas

Nowhere Near You
Leah Thomas

Ollie is out to see the world. Clad in his rock wool beanie to stop himself shorting out every electronic in sight, he’s going to document the stories of every weirdling out there Moritz is getting out to see the world too – and having people accept him, eyeless face and all.

So many lies! So many betrayals! So many twists! So much still unsaid! This novel was filled with excited Ollie chatter, and it filled me with his infectious glee as well. And of course, Moritz’s mainly calming influence. Two boys who grow up (at least a little bit), by facing the world. And just because they are different doesn’t mean that they don’t face the usual teenage problems like falling in love or learning how to deal with school

Oh why didn’t Ollie get to say goodbye? It was already too late after all. Except that ‘Stashe was still trying to hide the truth. Seriously dude, leave it already! The truth always outs, or something like that. That message forum was brilliant. I can’t wait to see what comes out of it. The internet is a wonderful thing.

Why did I wait so long to review this fabulous novel? Well, the problem was that it was the sequel to Because You’ll Never Meet Me, and I didn’t have access to a copy! I had started reading this one, but felt completely confused so I returned it. I got a local library membership recently and actually used it to read the eBook.

I want a sequel. Surely there is something for Ollie! It’s so unfair, but when is life? At least he should be able to keep himself occupied a little better… I’m giving this 5 stars, I was so taken by it. I have a friend I am going to lend it to asap as well.

Bloomsbury | 1st March 2017 | AU$15.99 | paperback

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