Review: Kate Emery – The Not So Chosen One

The Not So Chosen One
Kate Emery

Lucy’s keeping her cool – she’s got homework, friends and needs to be at home on time. She just won’t think about the fact that she’s pregnant. To top it off, she’s suddenly been offered entry into the prestigious Drake’s College – but she doesn’t seem to have any magical abilities?

This book was fantastic… right until the last 10 pages or so. How can this book not have a sequel? Then I thought back along the book and went.. uh, enough plot holes, anyone? I received an ARC of this novel, but the ending made me so disappointed I couldn’t bring myself to review it. Maybe it was improved further before going to publication?

I liked Lucy, even if she was really quite an idiot at times. Seriously girl, get yo’sef together! She definitely could have done a better job at paying attention and putting clues together. Maybe she has baby brain? I could have done with a bit more in terms of context and some of the plot twists just seemed to be twists for the hell of it rather than actual useful storyline. That said, I was really realy invested in the ending!

I’m giving it 2 stars, although I considered giving it only 1 star. The ending is so terrible that you shouldn’t let yourself read this book unless a second is published. And I’d want that sequel to be published, not just ‘in writing’ before committing. I’m still sad about the ending…

Text Publishing | 5 July 2022 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Seth Godin – Purple Cow (S)

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable
Seth Godin

“You’re either a Purple Cow or you’re not. You’re either remarkable or invisible. Make your choice. What do Starbucks and JetBlue and KrispyKreme and Apple and DutchBoy and Kensington and Zespri and Hard Candy have that you don’t? How do they continue to confound critics and achieve spectacular growth, leaving behind former tried-and true brands to gasp their last? … In Purple Cow, Seth Godin urges you to put a Purple Cow into everything you build, and everything you do, to create something truly noticeable. It’s a manifesto for marketers who want to help create products that are worth marketing in the first place.”

I can’t believe it has such good reviews and ratings on GoodReads! Honestly, it’s not that bad of a book – my issue with it is that it was written 20 years ago (first published in 2003). As such, it’s very outdated. The companies and examples it uses are very outdated and not relevant anymore. A lot of the companies I think must be in America only and are therefore not relatable to other people in the rest of the world. The style that it’s written in is also very Americanised.

There are some good things. The author has a short but sweet point, and sticks to this same topic throughout which is great. I hate it when an author is trying to say too much and everything gets lost in the end. It’s a nice quick short book and everything is related. It’s not really in chapters, just all mini case studies and topics about the same thing. I just felt a bit lost at some points and not interested and not wanting to keep reading.

I was really looking forward to reading this book, but it didn’t live up to expectations. I also expected the updated version to be a little more updated, but it was pretty much the same with some extra bonus bits at the end. A quick read, but I don’t feel like I came away from this book with anything new. Nonetheless, it’s still a good point to be reminded of, to be a Purple Cow! 2 stars.

Review: Fiona McCallum – Her Time to Shine

Her Time to Shine
Fiona

Erica is traumatised and ready for a change of scene. Little does she know that her new job in the funeral home is going to bring back other repressed memories – including her brother’s death. Intertwined with her varied grief, Erica must find her new place in the world.

The novel alludes to the financial ‘disaster’ that Stuart has left Erica in, but don’t really discuss it. I honestly couldn’t understand why she didn’t just sell the Adelaide house where she had been so traumatised. She wouldn’t even need to set foot in it again! That’s what real estate agents are for! There’s a lot of ‘woe is me’ and ‘belt-tightening’ which I didn’t understand. Get it together woman! You’re still well-off if you can survive picking up and going to a new place.

It was also unclear to me how the two girls had any income, and how they managed to not get a lodger if it was such a big deal that they were short on funds. Had they not heard of Gumtree? Or FB Marketplace? It’s not THAT hard to find a tenant if you genuinely need one. Or maybe it is in Adelaide? But of course they keep saying it’s such a tightknit community in SA that it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t already have a place?

It seems like half way through the novel, the author realised that there was such a thing as a rescue animal that also worked as a service animal. Let’s have a random dog that is magically able to cure everyone’s PTSD. I think it’s unfair and unclear what Bruce’s future is. A life as a star isn’t easy for anyone!

The dialogue was often cringe-worthy and didn’t flow well. I felt like the plot stuttered also, and made huge issues of minor things. It also seemed to try to fit too much in, and so then failed to grab my attention with any of the ‘problem’s the main characters faced. Honestly, Erica’s best friends sounded like they were going to get a spin-off novel for themselves in future – and they weren’t that unique.

This novel is likely not aimed at me – instead it’s a living vicariously novel that people with a mid-life crisis are going to enjoy. I did find it refreshing that menopause was openly talked about by all the characters (male and female) but that was about it. I was hoping for a few more career details about the funeral home, but I also missed out on that. If I had my reading time again I wouldn’t have bothered reading it. I know there’s an audience for this sort of novel, so I won’t demote it to 2 stars.

Harper Collins | 30 March 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Michael Robert – The New Strategic Thinking: Pure and Simple (S)

The New Strategic Thinking: Pure and Simple
Michael Robert

“Management expert Michel Robert unveils his practical and proven methodology for you to plan and implement effective corporate strategies. Featuring a detailed explanation of how Robert used his approach to turn around Caterpillar as well as case studies of leading companies that utilize Robert’s method, The New Strategic Thinking shows you how to assemble a strategy team, identify your company’s driving force, determine the focus of the strategy (product, customer, or market), and launch initiatives company wide.”

This book was just average and just another strategy management book. The author says they are bringing something different to the business world but it still came across as the same as other similar books on the topic.

On the first page the author mentions the “Decision Processes International” which is from then on referred to as “the DPI process”. DPI is the company the author is from, but he doesn’t actually explain what this “DPI strategy process” is. I guess it’s a secret only for those hiring their company and not to be exploited in a book.

There is then a little more on little tips, but nothing substantial. For the whole second half of the book you get case studies of real examples. Now normally I like the case studies, but this was the worst part of the book. They all started with how they needed help, then they found the DPI company and used DPI strategy and then bam everything was great again. It was in depth in the before and after but only 1 line saying they used DPI strategy and then the switch to it that saved the business. There was no actual explanation of the DPI strategy, what it is, how etc.

There were some tips at the start that I remember thinking at the time were great and I should review them at a later stage, but by the end I couldn’t remember these at all. The book gets too caught up in how awesome the creator is, and forgets that not everyone has the time or inclination to hire DPI. Overall it felt like the author was just promoting their company and not actually having any knowledge explained. 2 stars.

Review: Hilde Hinton – A Solitary Walk on the Moon

A Solitary Walk on the Moon by Hilde Hinton

“Evelyn went to the third drawer down in her dresser. It was her drawer of things past … she had an item from each of her previous lives. Evelyn was good at reinventing herself, becoming who she was going to be next, but she still kept one thing from each life. Never two.”

I usually write my own little blurb about a novel, but this one was so bland and boring I struggled to review it. While I connected a little with the main character, ultimately I didn’t enjoy the book. I kept reading because I thought that things would get better! But they didn’t.

This is truly one of those novels that needs the label on the front cover that says “a novel” because that’s all it was. I never really understood Evelyn, or her impetuous need to do some things that were ‘wrong’. I couldn’t work out what was consistent in her life, apart from a drawer of objects we hardly learnt about. I never really understood her quirks so I was frustrated by this whole novel.

I think it’s cute that she set them up with the family but I don’t understand why she left. Does this not happen every time? She was disgustingly sneaky at times, and it’s a bit creepy the way she followed people home. The novel left me asking ‘why’ to anything and everything in it.

I finished this novel out of a sense of duty. I’m not even sure who the target market is. It’s not particularly offensive, but it’s not remarkable either. I finished it, but I much would have rather used my time on something more compelling and more educational.

Hachette | 30 March 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Daisy Buchanan – Careering

Careering
Daisy Buchanan

Harri has dreamed of taking the helm of Panache and has hustled hard to get there. The problem is that she’s been passed over, and now is expected to run a new magazine that seems likely to fail. Imogen has finally moved from unpaid intern to writer thanks to her sexually explicit blog. But can the two women make it work? Or are things careering off the rails…

I like the play-on-words in the title, very smick!  Unfortunately, that was where my enjoyment ended. I don’t understand this novel. It’s going to appeal to a super specific audience, one that feels like the fashion industry is where they should be. Specifically, the magazine/printed word fashion scene. If you enjoyed The Devil Wears Prada or Ugly Betty, it’s a fair bet (haha) you’ll enjoy this novel more than me.

The blurb made it seem like we were going to get equal knowledge about both women, and be able to draw parallels. Unfortunately, the only one I picked up (besides that they both had to work really hard for their jobs) as that they had sex with Sam Strong.

The text at times seems quite ‘dirty’ and sex-ridden. I didn’t actually see where it added anything to the plot. I felt like Imogen (apart from the walrus confrontation) was benefitting somewhat equally with the ‘relationship’ with Sam. Come on! She got food more regularly! But is it abuse? I’m not sure.

I really don’t consider this book is doing justice to “stage a rebellion the only way they know how”. I didn’t really see any rebellion – they just seem to keep going where they are. Also, even if they do exit the rest of the fashion rat race, do they know how many startups are doomed, and how few get through the first two years?

This gets two stars since I finished it, but it left me feeling wrung-out and not very satisfied by the characters or the plot. If you like fashion, give it a go. If you don’t, maybe give it a miss.

Hachette | 8th March 2022| AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Astrid Scholte – League of Liars

League of Liars
Astrid Scholte

Cayder Broduck’s goal is to punish illegal users of magic. Anyone using extradimensional magic (edem) for their own self-interest should be stuck in Vardean for life. Cayder is determined to ruin as many lives as he can in retribution for his mother’s death. Unfortunately, the three criminals he’s supposed to defend seem to be more important and more interconnected than he knows what to do  with…

Another reviewer has put this really well – ‘all the characters are morons’! Oh! It’s so true! They could all go die, I couldn’t have cared less about the outcome.

League of Liars was a confusing novel because – of course – everyone is lying. However, the rate at which the lies are exposed is quite slow. Thus due to this slow pacing I could easily put this book down in the middle of reading it.

I wasn’t that invested in any of the characters – it’s not like any of them are actually actively dying. They just happened to get stuck in this prison together! Even what seems like a betrayal is pathetic and transparent. Perhaps it would have worked for me better if I hadn’t had all the different perspectives and I did only see things through the eyes of what I would consider the main character (Cayder).

Ok, now, the ending. It wasn’t really an ending. There’s got to be a second book for this because the ending, although it might clear up the current set of lies, doesn’t actually meet and complete most of the storyline criteria. I found it really quite disappointing and I’d only give it three stars. I was just so disappointed in the ending and novel in general. Even if there ends up being a sequel, I wouldn’t recommend it. Don’t waste your time.

Allen & Unwin | 1 March 2022 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Lucinda Riley – The Seven Sisters: Maya’s Story

The Seven Sisters: Maya’s Story
Lucinda Riley

Maya’s Pa Salt has passed away unexpectedly, and Maya finds herself lost without him and his solidity in their Genevan home. Not even her five sisters can console her – Maya was the first and most beautiful of them all. Challenged to find out her true history, Maya embarks to Rio where her story somehow began.

I slogged through this one for you all – it was an almost 20 hours behemoth of a talking book, and I only got through it because I couldn’t be bothered finding a different audiobook to listen to while painting. It was that bad that I sometimes considered silence a better option. It was repetitive in parts, and it was obvious what the ending/outcome of Maya’s search would be.

The level of detail is stifling – we know exactly what they eat, but it’s lacking the visceral responses that must be there. Wooh! We are in France, we must once again eat olives, cheese and bread. Oh no, she’s sad she doesn’t have her one-true-love.

I thought I had previously read one of this series, and found it to be The Storm Sister. It looks like I didn’t really enjoy that one either. The only reason I borrowed this was because I recently saw some hype about ‘The Missing Sister’, which will be the concluding novel of the sequence. I shouldn’t have bothered. I’m giving it three stars because I finished it, but honestly you shouldn’t waste your time on it. Tighter editing and word-count limits could have massively improved this novel.

Review: Peter Sheahan – Flip (S)

Flip
How to Turn Everything You Know on Its Head and Succeed Beyond Your Wildest Imaginings
Peter Sheahan

“Emphasizing flexible, counterintuitive decision making, Flip calls for a new way of doing business in an economy where conventional wisdom won’t get you anywhere.”

Let me set you straight from the beginning. I read this as an audiobook and it was pretty average. There is nothing new on offer in this book. I had to force myself to keep listening – I didn’t even really want to finish it because then I would have to review it.

I believe the whole point of the book was that in business you need: fast, good, or cheap – pick 3. The idea was that it’s not good enough to have only 2 of these in your business, you need all 3 and then even a 4th which sets you apart from your competition. Besides that, the rest of the points are examples of businesses that have done things differently.

Unfortunately it doesn’t actually give you any insight to take away with you. It had a few good stories that you listen and tune into, but others I found myself no longer paying attention to them. The stories didn’t seem to link back to any points, sometimes the main point, but usually didn’t link it to anything. The difference between the start, middle and end of the book is absolutely nothing. It’s all just one big blob on the same thing. Throughout, it gives a lot of stats and I mean A LOT, but they are not meaningful. They are not put in a way that makes that statistic seem astonishing. I particularly found myself tuning out at these times.

It might have been better for the time that it was released but now the book is getting outdated as it was released in 2008 – over 10 years ago now! I know the author makes a point that the overall theme of the book is still true and relevant. But when the author goes into so much detail explaining MySpace, it’s hard to make this connection.

The author also jumps around a lot with the stories, they really just seem randomly thrown in. He mentions Toyota at least 6 times, so you would think I would come away knowing a bit about Toyota. But instead the message is lost and it’s hard to make sense of it. The Toyota examples could have been all together in a Toyota case study style not scattered throughout.

I wouldn’t recommend this book. 2 stars
.

Review: Lyndall Clipstone – Lakesedge

Lakesedge
Lyndall Clipstone

Violetta holds a lot of secrets, ones that might be important for her survival. Violetta doesn’t care much about herself though – she only cares for her brother and protecting him from his dark shadows. She is limited though – the Lord of Lake’s Edge gets what he wants – and he wants her brother. Violetta tags along to see if she too can fight the Corruption.

Oh no! He’s feeding the Lake Monster! Oh no, he is the Monster. Oh well, we all know that the main characters in books like these will fall in love. In fact, we can predict pretty much the whole storyline despite them pretending that everything is a huge secret.

Isn’t the cover gorgeous? Ultimately it’s not the forest that is even relevant, or the lake. The interior of the house and the garden get the most attention, but maybe Violetta’s mind is the main attraction? I had such high hopes when I requested it, but it was hopeless. I felt like I’d wasted my time reading in.

Look, I’ve categorized it as teen fiction, only because there are some racy scenes there. My hunch is that the Lord of Under is going to be nursing a baby in 9 months time! Unfortunately the storyline is too simple and there isn’t enough character growth to truly belong to the teenage category – I think it could even be an advanced middle grade fiction except for the sexual elements. There’s also a hint of LGTBIQA* relationships, but these aren’t convincing or deep.

I got to the end of this novel, and I discovered that it’s only the first in a series! Honestly, it felt like half a book. There was a whole lot of telling rather than showing going on, and the ending wasn’t complete. I tried retelling this as a oral story at bedtime, and my audience was very unimpressed with the ending. I personally felt that I hated the characters enough that I would have been perfectly happy (even overjoyed!) that one or more of them died. 3 begrudging stars from me.

Pan Macmillan | 31 August 2021| AU$24.99 | paperback