Review: Janet Evanovich – Stephanie Plum series

Stephanie Plum series
Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum is a terrible daughter, neighbour and employee. Most of these qualities are due to the fact that she’s employed as a bounty hunter for bail jumpers – but leaves her cell phone flat and her gun in the cookie jar. This lovable/hateable unlikely heroine regularly finds herself being shot at but with the help of her love interests Morelli the cop and Ranger the sexy beast, and her ex-ho friend Lula she’ll live to fight another day.

You don’t need to have read the first novel in the series. You don’t need to have read any of the series in the middle to the novel you’ve gotten your hands on! Evanovich sets the scene of Stephanie very simply at the beginning of every novel. In the past, I read Turbo Twenty-Three without having touched the novels before! I read 5 or so of these in a row before I couldn’t take anymore.

Steph is so clueless, and the jokes so stupid and the badguys so unbelievable it just makes you laugh the whole way through. The novels are set up in such a way that the reader can predict the ending but Steph is left wandering around in the dark (literally, half the time). When she got the dog, Bob, the funniest moments were when he ate too much and she took him to poop on her arch-nemesis’ front lawn. So I’m not immune to toilet humour, sue me. I can’t believe they made this into a movie! I fear for my eyeballs.

This is just like the Mercedes Thompson novels I just read! A cruisy light read that encourages your brain to switch off for vacation time. However, the plot and execution of the Mercedes Thompson series is more my style in the end (also, there is 25+ novels in that series!).

I’ll be giving three stars to this harmless crime-romance series. Just don’t read too many in a row or your brain may fall out from Steph’s sheer stupidity.

Review: Beth Harbison – When in Doubt, Add Butter

When in Doubt, Add Butter
Beth Harbinson

Gemma Craig (no relative of Jenny Craig) is a private chef to a different household each night of the week. She’s sick of romance and has been warned off getting married by a teacher fortune teller in her childhood. When her jobs suddenly start falling out from under her and a one-night-stand has unexpected complications, Gemma is going to have to grow up.

This was a lighthearted romance that didn’t even vaguely begin to address the deep-seated problems that Gemma professed not to have. But! If you are just looking for a casual read that will carry your tired brain through two spare hours this novel is going to tick boxes for you. It didn’t ask me to think and it didn’t teach me anything either – sometimes that’s just what you need.

What upset/irritated me about this novel was the inclusion of the fortune teller. Honestly I wasn’t sure why the element was there, and it didn’t add any depth to the novel. I have not read any of the other novels by this author and perhaps the use of a mystic is a common theme. For me though, I would have rather heard more about the ingredients going into cooking.

I did enjoy the way that Gemma talked about her cooking. Who knew that you could have a egg/bee/”moo”-free Parmesan substitute? I could have heard more about the steps and how it would take a whole afternoon to cook in Mr. Tuesday’s apartment. Also, I’d love to know what she was spending her profits on since she didn’t have any money in the bank but it seemed like she had no time to do anything outside her cooking!

This blurb wasn’t accurate! When the weekday members are introduced in the text of the novel, I kept flipping to the back cover to see which one was Willa. But none of them were – the blurb actually depicted the action half-way through the novel. Never mind. Pick up this novel for a lighthearted read that actually reminded me of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake or Caramel Hearts just for the title, not the actual storyline!

I picked up this cheeky cheapie from GoodWill while on vacation for the princely sum of 50c. It was well worth it, even if it’s not going to follow me home. 3 stars from me for giving me a pleasant way to pass time sitting in a lovely park outside. I will now release it on Book Crossing.

Review: Helen Hoang – The Kiss Quotient

The Kiss Quotient
Helen Hoang

Stella Lane can come up with a formula to unite very disparate data points and predict customer purchases. However, her mathematics skills have not equipped her for when one person becomes a relationship of two. Her critical analysis of the situation has only one answer – pay someone to train her in the language of love.

This was a HOT romance novel filled with unexpected touching moments of both kinds! I devoured it in one afternoon, eagerly voyeuring into Stella and Michael’s burgeoning relationship. Stella is developed as a fantastic non-typical character that is full of life and her own strong personality. Michael is not quite as well explored, but the author exposes enough of him (pun intended!) for the reader to properly appreciate him.

I can fully understand Stella’s point of view. Being touched by people (even your family) can be very intimate, and at times it can feel like there is an invisible, painful friction when you are interacting with them when you feel vulnerable or perhaps don’t like them.

I’m not normally a F/M romance reader as I’m more interested in F/F ones such as Something True (did I mention there is a new Karelia Stetz-Waters novel coming out????). But this novel was an excellent exception – I really enjoyed it and I think it deserves 4 stars. May everyone find their Michael who respects them and treats them like a God(dess).

Allen & Unwin | 13th June 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Robin Storey – An Affair with Danger

An Affair with Danger
Robin Storey

Will is held up in an armed robbery, and can no longer think straight. His life as a lawyer should have prepared for the court to stand witness, but instead he finds himself falling for the perp’s girlfriend, Frankie. What follows is an affair that is perhaps a little dangerous.

The author gets points for making the novel potentially race along, skipping years where necessary to make the plot move. What redeemed this novel a little was the writing style, and the gentle nature of the male protagonist. He wasn’t all macho, which made it a refreshing change from other romance novels. Not to mention it was a MALE protagonist, which is rare in this genre.

This was a throwaway novel. It’s nothing special, I’m sorry to say. Where it fails is that it didn’t leave me with a sense of having gained anything in reading it. I didn’t get attached enough to the characters, I didn’t learn anything particularly pertinent about being a lawyer. It left me feeling lukewarm, with the romance/affair not being ‘throbbing’ enough to keep my attention.

This author did send me this novel off her own bat, and has spent a very unfair amount of time waiting for this review. I also interviewed her back in 2016. It makes me wish I could have gotten more out of the novel and given it a more positive review. I’m going to give it a lower end of a 3 star review, because I did finish reading it.

Review: Liz Kessler – Haunt Me

Haunt Me
Liz Kessler

Erin has just moved house to get away from a horrific high school bullying situation which got out of control. When she goes into her bedroom, she is surprised to find it already occupied – by a ghost. Joe doesn’t remember how he died, or how he lived, but he knows that he wishes he was alive to be with Erin.

Ollie isn’t introduced until mid-way through the novel, and by then I was already too attached to the Erin-Joe relationship to give him any time. Ollie, you are boring and you can’t redeem yourself in my eyes. Self-centred bastard who can’t see past his own guilt.

I’m giving this novel points for dealing with difficult themes, including suicide as a product of bullying. However, I’m taking away points for the ending. Yay! A hopeful ending. Not. This is not what the rest of the novel was leading up to. I was very disappointed.

This captured the recovering depressed mind of a teenager beautifully. Erin’s ritual with the bottle, the cloud she refers to, and even the rushed moments at the end of the novel – everything is as it should be. Which is why, again, I have such an issue with the ending.

Inconsistencies with the character development and the stupidity of Erin were the death knells of this novel for me. For being an “intensely romantic” novel, Erin’s love for Joe felt cliched, while her feelings for Ollie were just as transperant. Another reviewer calls it “insta-love”, and that’s exactly how I felt about it too. I wanted more reality.

I enjoyed Read Me Like A Book and suspended disbelief for it. I was so excited for this novel, but it simply failed to deliver. I’ll be giving it 3 stars, but recommending that you go for perhaps By The Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead or Burn Journal if you are looking for some YA depression fiction.

Hachette | 13th December 2016 | AU $16.99 | Paperback

Review: Karelia Stetz-Waters – For Good

For Good
Karelia Stetz-Waters

Marydale and Kristen have very little in common. One is a convicted murderer, the other a straight up defense attorney. One is a committed lesbian, the other has only dated men of various standards. When their lives collide in a tiny country town ruled by homophobes, it seems like love will never succeed.

for-good-cover-smallStetz-Waters creates characters that are compliments of each other, particularly in these romances of hers (Something True, Forgive Me if I’ve Told You This Before). I worry that this could become formulaic for her work, but I am reassured by her thrillers (The Admirer, The Purveyor) that she can write in more than one area.

I read this novel while there was a tornado warning for the area I was staying in overseas. Nothing like a storm outside to provide a perfect reading atmosphere. I couldn’t tell you why exactly I kept reading, only that I did and that I couldn’t put it down. Love, love, love.

Lesbian sex scenes written by a lesbian? Yes please for realism and a drive to include value in what could just be lumped into ‘eroticism’. As with other Stetz-Waters novels, sex is for controlling or for submission, not just a titillating inclusion for the reader. I’m not reading the novel for the sex scenes, but I love it all the same.

Money where my mouth is on this one. I received an ebook copy well before it was ‘properly’ released (I can’t even find it on GoodReads), but I’ll be purchasing a paperback copy as soon as one is available. 5 stars from me for another valuable contribution to adult queer novels.


Review: Judy Bruce – Voices in the Wind

Voices in the Wind
Judy Bruce

Megan has returned home for a funeral, and ends up facing more than she bargained for. She’s just finished the Bar exams that mean she’s a full-fledged lawyer. She comes to a practice that is being embezzled and a stage set for death.

25041953This book was such a disappointment. All the exciting things promised in the blurb turned out to be completely predictable. The grand secret? Meh. I wasn’t that convinced that her dad had done anything wrong. It’s hard to cope with children, of any kind!

The progression was soooo slow. Thing one happened. Then there was a bit of uninspiring soul searching. Then thing 2. Oh wait, she needs to run out into the middle of the woods. And then… Oh no, we’ve been distracted by childhood memories. Oh yes, back to the main storyline. Oh wait, we diverged again.

This was a classic example of telling vs showing storytelling. The fight scenes which could have been exciting were like the boring blow by blows (literally) of a boxer’s match. There was no feeling of character, and honestly I couldn’t tell the difference between the different people – I didn’t even remember their names. Megan… And ah, dad? Uncle Bill? No idea on the rest of them, even the ‘blonde hunk’.

I barely finished this novel. Honestly, I can’t see who it might appeal to. It just didn’t take my fancy. The author very nicely asked me to review it, and kindly sent me the first two novels in the series, but I won’t be even attempting the second one in the hopes it gets better.


Review: Kathleen Duhamel – Deeper

Kathleen Duhamel

Claire Martin has married the lead singer of Deep Blue. There’s things in his past that are yet to be faced though, and it could all come tumbling down even as Claire’s bestie falls for the other man of Deep Blue.

deeper-cover-200x300I really enjoyed the first novel in this series. I don’t think I’m the target audience, but it’s refreshing to see some good new fiction aimed at older women – I don’t think there is enough there. Too much comes under the heading of romance or literature to me – how about a novel with some body to it? This novel is it.

We get to see some more sides to the band, and the lives of the famous! Claire is constantly fighting off groupies, old flames and a complete mess. Not to mention that she wants to maintain her own career, and yet not be absorbed by it.

I couldn’t believe Claire being ordered to turn herself in. Seriously, it was a single allegation, and since there was another person there who would have vouched for Claire, I think she should have and could have gotten away with it.

Sex scenes? Yes. Are they slightly awkward for a queer reader? Yes again. But really, they are well written, add something to the characters and make a difference to how the reader thinks about the characters.

Therapy! Ah, you good thing. Promoting people to go to therapy is one of the more helpful (but annoying) things someone can do.

Now, if I was the true target audience, I’d be a rereader of this one, and the first novel in this trilogy. As it is, I’m giving it a really solid 4 stars – go and hunt this book from Amazon.


Review: bud smith (editor) – First Time

First Time
bud smith (editor)

This novel is a collection of essays, stories and poems about the first time the authors had sex. I only bought this ‘novel’ because one of my favourite authors had written a piece for it. Sadly, it didn’t turn out anything like I hoped, not to mention the humping bunnies on the front cover

18364966By the feel of things, I think the authors had a wide scope of what they could write. For me, I hate poetry. I especially hate random poetry where I can’t work out any of what is going on. Other examples were of not-true stories. What is the point of writing expository fiction if your reader can’t connect in any way with it?

It’s stupid of me, but for some reason I thought this would be a collection of stories about queer people’s first times. I figured this because two of the authors that I knew had works in this book were gay, and I liked their other pieces. So as such, this ‘novel’ wasn’t for me. I’m not interested in the first times of straight people, generally these seem to be boring. Queer people (and I know I am generalising here) have more interesting first times, or first meetings, because half the time they don’t know what they want or if their partner will be willing, available and accepting.

Honestly, I read about half this book, picking and skipping authors that I wasn’t interested in. There is no way I would have read it in its entirety. I will be freeing it into the wild in the hopes that other people might get something out of it. If you’re queer, I’d recommend the Letter Q instead for relatable fiction. Let’s give this one 2-3 stars and call it a day.


Review: Mette Jakobsen – What the Light Hides

What the Light Hides
Mette Jakobsen

Ben has committed suicide, leaving behind his devastated parents. As a boy full of life, his father David is left trying to come to terms to his death, by trying to find out the situations that lead to it. Is it his fault as a parent? Or is it something unique to his son.

28958494At times, I felt exactly as David did about his son. Ben couldn’t be dead. It was painfully clear that David’s self-deception as a character came through as an unreliable narrator. This was such powerful writing, and I could feel all of the characters leaping out of their pages like real people.

This ‘romance’ is all I wanted to refresh me after finishing a dud. It’s not primarily a romance, it is more an in depth look into what happens to a variety of relationships when traumatic life events happen. Suicide, alcoholism, break-ins, dementia; this novel covers the whole spectrum of upsetting events with ease and without feeling like the author is trying to push an agenda down your throat.

What more praise can I have? I felt like I was walking the streets of Sydney and the mountain homes. I could see David’s work taking shape, and imagine previous masterpieces. My only complaint would be that I didn’t get to hear more about Vera’s work. Ah well. I can’t have everything! What I had was satisfyingly enough.

It’s not a reread for me, but I did really enjoy it and had trouble putting it down (I finished it off in basically one sitting). 4 very healthy stars from me.