Book Review: “Cupid’s Match” by Lauren Palphreyman

Title: Cupid’s Match
Author: Lauren Palphreyman
Genre: Urban fantasy/romance
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 07/07/19 – 15/07/19
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I am a fan of ancient-gods-in-modern-times type stories, so I was definitely interested when I saw this one available on Netgalley. Is one of those books where I really enjoyed parts of it, but there were other aspects I had qualms about, enough to affect my enjoyment.

The romance is where I felt the book’s main strength lay. While I did actually spend a fair chunk thinking/hoping it was going to take a different direction, it built the relationship between Lila and Cupid quite well. They had a decent amount of chemistry and there was certainly some entertaining banter between them.

I did feel some of the plotting was a bit weak. For example, after a character jumps off a building in the height of passion (don’t worry, he survives), rather than being completely horrified and upset, his classmates all decide they should still go to a house party that night as planned, because… it’s whathe would have wanted or something? (Or, because the author needed the characters to be at that party, because it was plot relevant, regardless of whether it made sense.)

The policy documents for the Cupid Matchmaking Agency, supposedly written two or three millenia ago, were written in modern-day corporate speak, which was amusing, but didn’t make much sense. And in her nightmare world, Pandora faces off with physical manifestations of the Seven Deadly Sins, a Christian construct.

The book does rely on the main character being kept in the dark about certain things until the other characters are ready for her to know and that got a bit tedious at times. Once that reveal came about, did enjoy the build up to the climax, even if the day seemed a little too easily won in the end.

Look, basically, this is one of those books that’s fine and entertaining for a while but ultimately not that memorable.


(Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

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“If you were lucky in love, you sure as hell were lucky in life.” // Review of “Beau and Bett” by Kathryn Berla

Title: Beau and Bett
Author: Kathryn Berla
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 27/06/19 – 29/06/19
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

This was a really hard book to rate and review. I found it readable enough. I liked some of the characters. But I just couldn’t work out what the book was trying to do. I had no particular investment in any of the characters and I wasn’t particularly concerned about the outcome.

Now that I’ve lambasted the book with that opening paragraph, I should say that there were certain things I liked. I liked Beau’s part-Cajun family and their dynamics. I liked that Beau was kind of the oddball in the family. I really liked the descriptions of the Diaz ranch. That is something I haven’t really come across in a YA book before, and i liked that Bettina wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She wasn’t going to leave the ranch either – she saw herself staying there and running it eventually. But all the characters ever did was build a fence. Like, every time Beau went over there. Sometimes Bettina would make them a beautiful lunch in the middle of the day, then they’d go back to the fence.

I guess part of my issue was that the links to Beauty and the Beast were pretty tenuous.. I didn’t really buy the romance at all. I think part of the reason for that is that Beau is interested in another girl for at least the first half. And the lie that Beau catches Bett in, according to the blurb… I mean, I got why it bothered him. But I was expecting something a bit bigger.

Additionally, the reasons for Bett being called Bett the Beast at school were kind of flat, and everything around that suddenly seemed resolved at the end. It felt like perhaps the author was trying to do something with the whole #metoo movement and make a comment on rape culture, but it just wasn’t explored enough.

It’s possible that without the claim that it was a retelling, I could have enjoyed this a bit more. As it was, I really looking for parallels with the fairytale, and not really finding them, so ultimately I was disappointed.


(Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for a free copy of this book  in exchange for an honest review)

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Book Review: “A Summer Escape and Strawberry Cake at the Cosy Kettle” by Liz Eeles

Title: A Summer Escape and Strawberry Cake at the Cosy Kettle
Author: Liz Eeles
Genre: Contemporary romance
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 14/06/19 – 16/06/19
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

This book was sweet and cosy, just like the title suggests. This was exactly what

When Flora discovers her restauranteur husband in a passionate embrace with one of his waitresses, her world starts to fall apart. She turns to the bookshop and cafe she manages in the village of Honeyford, including a New Age eccentric called Luna, and Luna’s son Daniel and grandson, Caleb. At first, things seem to be getting off on the wrong foot, but soon Flora finds that she is discovering sides to herself that she never knew existed.

This did take a little while to get going. For the first third of the book, the conflict was all a bit superficial. Malcolm, Flora’s husband, showed up a few times and made things awkward or difficult, and quite a lot of the conflict in the book was “Oh, I don’t know whether to leave Malcolm for good or not!” which became a bit repetitive after a while.

There is a bookish mystery going on through a lot of the book as well (again, this got a little repetitive, particularly as I had predicted the outcome pretty early on). I have to say I did find this whole plotline a little unlikely – the idea that a self-published book that seemingly was just thrown onto the Internet in its first draft form could be so perfect and universally adored by every woman in town… hmm.

Some of the characters did seem a bit over-the-top, such as Stanely, who at 80 has decided to live life to the fullest, and embrace extreme sports. But I did like some of the other characters, such as Luna. Yes, she aws a bit of a hippy, but she meant well and really looked after Flora.

I enjoyed how Flora came to care for Caleb, despite not being a kids person. I thought the misunderstandings between her and Daniel, particularly when it came to Caleb, were quite well done. She didn’t know what she was doing and made some mistakes, but Daniel was able to see that Caleb did care for Flora as well. I have to admit I didn’t really feel like there were ever sparks flying between Flora and Daniel. Obviously, I could see the direction the book was going to take, but their feelings developed maybe a little too slowly/subtly.

Still, this story of finding love and finding yourself in a small town community was a fun read, and sometimes that’s just what you need.


(Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for a free copy of this book  in exchange for an honest review)

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“Fate doesn’t guarantee us a happy ending … but fate gives a chance.” // Review of “A Million Worlds With You” by Claudia Gray

Title: A Million  Worlds With You (Firebird #3)
Author:
 Claudia Gray
Genre: Sci-fi/romance
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 08/03/2019 – 14/03/2019
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Please note: as this review is for a third book in a series, there may be mild spoilers for the first, A Thousand Pieces of You, and second, Ten Thousand Skies Above You.

I honestly wasn’t sure how Claudia Gray was going to tie everything up in this last book of the series. There seemed to be so much goinig on and so many variables. But she managed it and she  managed it well.

What I’ve really admired about this series is the way in which little hints dropped early on become so much more important later on. This continued in this book, right down to things that were mentioned as a possibility in the second book becoming important here. It’s clear that Gray had this whole series set out before she delved into writing it.

In this book, several of the universes where Firebird technology has developed are in communication with each other, and sometimes it got a bit confusing trying to remember who was who. Especially in one pivotal scene that I don’t want to spoil, but you’ll definitely know it when you get to it. Once again, some of the sciencey stuff did seem to be resolved a little too easily, but the woorld-building remained internally consistent so I didn’t mind too much.

As I’ve said in my previous reviews of this series, the romance is just as important, if not more important, than the science. THis one is no different. I understand that the splintering in book two is what has affected Paul, but I did just find him a bit mopey at times… and Marguerite thus had to spend a lot of time trying to convince him that their relationship was still something worth pursuing. I don’t know, this just got a bit old after a while. But there was a really lovely moment between Paul and one of the other Marguerites that made me grin stupidly. Again, you’ll know it when you get to it.

Theo was still Theo and I think overall, he actually turned out to be my favourite of the two guys. He just didn’t have as much to do in Book 1, which is why I didn’t realise earlier. 😂 I also want to note how much I loved the different versions of Henry and Sophia, Marguerite’s parents. they are delightful. It has been nice to read a YA series where the protagonist’s parents are not only both alive but actively involved in the events of the story.

I’m really glad I picked up the first book of this series on a whim. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know these characters and I’m definitely going to keep an eye on Claudia Gray’s other series.


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“Ten thousand skies, and a million worlds, and it still wouldn’t be enough for me to share with you” // Review of “Ten Thousand Skies Above You” by Claudia Gray

Title: Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird #2)
Author:
 Claudia Gray
Audio book narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Genre: Sci-fi/romance
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 31/03/2019 – 08/03/2019
Rating: ★★★☆

Review:

Please note: as this review is for a second book in a series, there may be mild spoilers for the first, A Thousand Pieces of You.

This book was not as good as the first one in the series, and I got frustrated quite a bit! However, it did address some things that had bothered me in the first book, and some of the things that bothered me early in this book were actually addressed and questioned later on, so that was good. 

In the aftermath of the events in the first book, Paul and Marguerite are convinced that destiny brings them together in every universe, which is a bit… *gag*. But as she travels to various universes, this is actually questioned. Theo plays a much larger role in this book than Paul, who is often barely there at all. And after Paul being all Book Boyfriend Material-like in the first book, I have to say, Theo stepped up to the plate here. XD

On that subject, I want to make two notes about the love triangle in this series. The first is that this when you’re dealing with multiple universes and infinitie possibilities, it actually makes sense that a person would have more than one love interest. So I didn’t mind the love triangle aspect so much.

And second, I love the way Theo’s feelings for Marguerite don’t come between their friendship, that he respects that she didn’t choose him in their universe (even if he is jealous of his counterparts where she did), and it also doesn’t come between Theo’s friendship with Paul. Direct quote: “I love Paul just as much as you do. Anything you want to do to get your boyfriend back, I want to do to get my best friend back.” So often the love triangle comes at the expense of everything else and that didn’t happen here.

The plot did get a bit predictable at times. I called three major revelations well before they happened. But I didn’t expect the major twist towards the end, which sets things up for book three.

Once again, the pacing was sometimes strange. I’ve realised that this is a quirk of these books: start by throwing the reader into an exciting scene. Then have a series of flashbacks to explain how Marguerite reached this moment. Most of the time in each world was focused on Paul and Marguerite’s feelings, and often the science-y bit was wrapped up quite easily in a chapter before they left for the next world. The really important information all came in the final quarter.

One of my frustrations with these books is never knowing how the characters’ other-world counterparts feel about having their bodies taken over for a period. To that end, I did appreciate the return to the Russiaverse of the first book, even if most of the chapters spent there seemed a bit… useless. Again, it was mostly just a way for Marguerite to figure out her feelings, rather than there being much in the way of the plot moving forward. But revisiting a past ‘verse did mean that Marguerite had to recognise that her actions have consequences for her counterparts, and that was important.

In terms of the audio book, Tavia Gilbert is once again a really great narrator. I was a bit disappointed that there were fewer accents, though. In the first book, all the Russian characters had Russian accents. Here, they were American, as though we were hearing their conversation through a Babel Fish (google it if you don’t understand that reference). This one does say that Theo has a slightly Dutch accent in the Russiaverse, so I can understand not using the heavy French accent from the first book, but the Marguerite and Vladimir have grown up in Russia, so there’s no reason for them to have anything else.

… sorry, that last paragraph got a bit long-winded.

The book ends on a cliffhanger, and I was glad I had a copy of the third book to move straight onto. Despite these frustrations, I think it is mostly a case of middle-book-syndrome, and i absolutely want to see how everything pans out.


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“I would love you in any shape, in any world, with any past. Never doubt that.” // Review of “A Thousand Pieces of You” by Claudia Gray

Title: A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird #1)
Author:
 Claudia Gray
Audio book narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Genre: Sci-fi/romance
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 23/03/2019 – 31/03/2019
Rating: ★★★★☆

Review:

Well, this was unexpected. I have been aware of this series for years, but it was never high on my TBR. I chose it as a whim when I was looking for an audio book to start while I was cooking. I had no idea I’d end up loving it and being as invested in it as I was.

While ostensibily a science fiction story (the characters are using a device that allows the user to jump between parallel dimensions), I would say the romance plays a larger part. There were aspects of it that I found annoying, such as Marguerite declaring that she was “in love” with a character she had known for three weeks. It also gets a bit love triangle-y, though it eventually becomes clear that Marguerite favours one guy over the other.

While I like the idea of two people being drawn together in every universe, the idea of this transcendtal love did seem a little bit overblown. But at the same time, this isn’t just accepted by the characters. Marguerite wonders whether  being in love with one version of Paul means she loves every version, since the same traits carry over from dimension to dimension. The complications of this are taken into consideration so I was glad they didn’t just decide it was fate and never question it.

I mean, it probably also helped that I liked Paul. Book boyfriend material right there. Particularly the Imperial Russia version of him. But also the home-universe version of him. He’s awkward but protective but doesn’t smother Marguerite in any way.

Speaking of which, I really enjoyed the different universes. Marguerite, Paul and Theo visit a futuristic version of London, a version of Russia still ruled over by the Romanov family, and a version of the world where climate change is much more drastic and most people live in underwater stations. There’s also a world that’s nearly the same as their home universe. In some ways, that was probably the hardest one to pull off and I think Gray did a good job of conveying seemingly tiny differences that are actually huge.

The pacing is sometimes a bit weird. At least a quarter of the book is set in the Russia universe, and that is mostly comprised of a slowburn romance. There are twists in the last third and most of the action happens in the last quarter. The twists had been hinted at early on in the book and I did have at least one moment of “Ohhhhhhh!” when a seemingly innocuous comment from Paul had momentous implications for Marguerite (and the reader, who knew what it meant).

Also shout-out to Tavia Gilbert, who performed the audio book. Not only did the different characters all have different voices that suited them perfectly, she adapted those for each of the worlds Marguerite visited. I was very impressed.

I tried to talk myself into waiting a week for the second audio book to become available through my library system, but I gave in only a few hours later and used my Audible credit to get the next one. I didn’t want to wait!


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#LoveOzYA #aww2018 “I’m just considering how I can be an evil genius at the same time as being so very stupid.” // Review of “All Aces” by Ellie Marney

Title: All Aces (Circus Hearts #3)
Author:
Ellie Marney
Genre: Contemporary/romance/crime
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 06/11/18 – 09/11/18
Rating:
★★

Review:

I can’t really explain why I wasn’t as into this final installment of Circus Hearts as I was the first two. I think it is partly because I am coming out on the other side of my really enthusiastic desire for circus and carnival books. I crammed a lot of them into the last couple of months and I have may have finally worn myself thin on them.

There is still plenty that I liked in this one. I really enjoyed the descriptions of Zep Deal’s performances. I’ve never seen a cardsharp perform before but I trotted off to YouTube after finishing this to find something akin to what is described in the book because it sounded amazing.

Ren, our narrator, is a bit different to the narrators of the previous two books. She’s more awkward, which I enjoyed, and single-minded, which leads to trouble (of the good variety, of course). I really felt for her in the scenes with her family where she felt torn between family obligation and her love of the circus.

I guess one of the things was I just didn’t get an immediate sense of the chemistry between Ren and Zep the way I did with the couples in the previous two books. But I did love the scene where Zep demonstrates his pickpocket abilities while distracting Ren with his proximity, and also, Ellie Marney continues to be the queen of the steamy make-out scene.

As you can see, there is plenty still to like, and I think it’s more to do with me than the book that I wasn’t more into it. If you are in the mood for YA contemporary, this is definitely a series I recommend. Click to read my reviews of books one and two, which were five and four star reads for me respectively. 


(Thanks to Ellie Marney for including me in her review crew and providing me with a free copy of All Aces in exchange for a review)

#LoveOzYA #AWW2018 // Book Review: “All Fall Down” by Ellie Marney

Title: All Fall Down (Circus Hearts #2)
Author:
Ellie Marney
Genre: Contemporary/romance/crime
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 29/09/18 – 01/10/18
Rating:
★★★

Review:

After reading the first book in this series last month, I was really excited to find out more about the characters in this universe. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the previous book, but it was still a really enjoyable read.

All Fall Down centres on Fleur Klatsch, the daughter of the proprietor  of the Klatsch Karnival. After a streak of accidents, one of which finds her father in hospital, she finds herself trying to run the show and keep it all together. She is reunited with childhood friend Marco, who comes in as a PA to help.

I really loved getting to know Fleur in this installment. I wasa a bit wary of her in the first book because I thought she was just going to be a typical “mean girl” type, but there is much more to her than that. As Sorcha says in this book, she did the wrong thing for the right reasons.

I really loved Marco! I don’t know, he was just caring and sweet and really put together with his paisley waistcoats. And he has a really good job and a good head on his shoulders. I totally undestood his reasons for leaving the circus, but I also appreciated Fleur’s hurt and sense of abandoment. The only thing that bothered me a bit about Marco was that he called Fleur “Petal”, which I got was a reference to her name meaning flower, and in the context it was a childhood nickname. But I associate it with “Settle, petal” and my niece calling my mum “Petal” when she’s being cheeky and other condescending things, so it did jar me a bit when he called her that in the middle of an otherwise serious conversation. But I can let it go.

While the sabotage that begins in the first book continues here and the characters are investigating it, I felt that not a huge amount happened in the first half. But both the romance and the investigation took off about the second half, and the climax had me flying through the pages.

I also really appreciate how much research Ellie Marney puts into her stories. I ended up going and googling another circus after a mention of a disaster that took place there in the 50s. And even just how much detail there is in the general circus atmosphere. It’s pretty great.


(I am  grateful to Ellie Marney for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#LoveOzYA #AWW2018 “So in this situation, am I the right hand or the left hand?” “My dear, you are the ball.” // Review of “All the Little Bones” by Ellie Marney

Title: All the Little Bones (Circus Hearts #1)
Author:
Ellie Marney
Genre: Contemporary/romance/crime
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 28/08/18 – 29/08/18
Rating:
★★★★

Review:

I’ve stopped opening reviews with “I don’t read a lot of YA contemporary but…” because I realised that’s not true anymore. What is still true is that I probably lean away from YA contemporaries that are as heavy on the romance as this one, but as you can see from my rating, it didn’t bother me in this case.

Trapeze artist Sorsha and apprentice strongman Colm are on the run from their family-run circus up north after an act of self defence results in a man’s death. Uneasily, they join another circus troupe, where they must navigate the social structures already in place and their growing feelings for each other, all while trying to keep their heads down so the police don’t come knocking.

I loved the performance atmosphere of Klatch’s Karnival, where Sorsha and Colm end up. For a start, the descriptions of the various routines and the costumes, and the set-up were all wonderful. I’m no full-time circus performer but I do perform in amateur musical theatre in my spare time, and there was so much that rang completely true to me. One of my favourite parts was a scene where Sorsha and her roommate Ren have a very philosophical, metaphorical conversation about envelopes, which then turns into a run of bad jokes about envelopes, which then results in laughing fits, and then a second wind of laughing fits over how you’re laughing at such bad jokes. This is me and my theatre friends after a week of dress rehearsals and three opening performances in 36 hours.

Speaking of Ren, I really enjoyed the diverse cast of circus cast and crew, though Ren was a particular favourite. She is Indonesian and there is lots of Indonesian language in the text. I also really liked the way she and Sorsha became fast friends. I was a bit worried because one of the first characters Sorsha meets is Fleur, the daughter of the circus proprietor, and I was getting a Mean Girls vibe from her, which made me a bit wary. Fortunately, though, Fleur is also fleshed out and has her reasons for being the way she is, and we’re getting a whole second book in the series focused on her, which I’m excited for!

Plot-wise, the romance probably happened a bit faster than I would generally like (I am a big fan of the old slow-burn, and when I say slow-burn, I mean, like, five books of will-they-won’t-they :P) but this is not insta-love either because the characters have actually known each other quite some time, and this is where they acknowledge the attraction that has been building. Also, I get super awkward when reading anything romantic that goes beyond a bit of kissing (probably the reason I don’t read a whole lot of romance) but this was just the right amount of sexy and I enjoyed it a lot.

When it comes to the non-romantic aspects, just know that there were certain moments when I was muttering “oh no, oh no!” under my breath on the bus on the way to work. The pace is fast and I was always eager to see what happened next. I can’t wait to see what happens in Book 2!


(I am immensely grateful to Ellie Marney for providing me with a free, early copy of this book via a giveaway. This book releases September 1, 2018.)

This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#AWW2018 Book Review: “A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald” by Natasha Lester

Title: A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald
Author: Natasha Lester
Genre:  historical fiction/romance
Dates read: 11/03/18 – 15/03/18
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This book reminded me how good historical fiction can be. I actually went back and checked how much of it I had read in the past year, and it turned out not much. In 2017, I read four historical fiction books, and I wasn’t really into any of them. I’m glad this one reminded me how good it feels to get sucked into a different time and place.

After witnessing a woman die of childbirth in the woods while the men in her life look on and do nothing, Evie Lockhart wants is to become a obstetrician.  But it’s 1925 and so to pay her way through medical school, Evie becomes a Ziegfeld Girl, starring in the infamous Ziegfeld Follies every night. But with the man she should have married threatening her, and the man she wants to marry away in London for months at a time, how long can she maintain this double life?

The best thing about this book was how easily I got invested  in the characters. Evie was easy to like, and I was rooting for her the whole time, as well as her relationship with Thomas Whitman. Charles Whitman made me go and write angry  GoodReads updates. He was dispicable, and I couldn’t even sympathise with him from the perspective of “younger brother always in the older brother’s shadow”. I also appreciated the support that Evie got from the women in her life, particularly her best friend, Lil, and Mrs Whitman.

The 1920s is of course a very fun era and I really enjoyed the descriptions of the Follies, the speakeasies and the fashions. Lester has payed close attention to detail to ensure that the historical atmosphere of this book is as accurate as possible. It’s not all fun and games, though; the misogyny of the era is also brought to light quite thoroughly and realistically. It made me angry, but it also made Evie’s triumphs throughout the story all the more satisfying.


This review is part of my Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2018. Click here for more information.

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