Category Archives: Favourite Reads

My Favourite Reads of December 2019

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Welcome to the latest instalment of My Favourite Reads.

Somehow, despite December being more than a little crazy, I managed to read quite a few books. They were a bit of a mixed bag genre-wise and all were fab reads, but there were two standouts. I would love to give both the title of favourite, except I’m a romance writer and my loyalty must lie with that genre. So here we go with my favourite read

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

The Flatshare by Beth OLearyI can’t express what a delight The Flatshare was. Everything about it was wonderful and I finished it wearing the biggest smile. I might even have shed a soppy tear or two. There was also definitely a whole lot of envy that I didn’t think of this premise. It is so cool!

Tiffy and Leon were adorable, as were their friends, and their jobs made entertaining fodder too. The Flatshare isn’t all fluff either. It covers some serious relationship ground, especially with Tiffy.

An absolutely gorgeous must-read romance, that will tickle your heart in multiple ways and charm your socks off.

Go get it. Go on. You’ll have a ball, I promise.

Circe by Madeline MillerCirce by Madeline Miller

My second favourite read.

I adored Miller’s Song of Achilles. That was a stunning book and when I heard Circe was coming out I was super excited. Despite that, I left it unread on my Kindle for aaaages. I think my expectations were so high I was worried Circe wouldn’t live up to them.

I needn’t have worried. Circe was as brilliant as Song of Achilles. Maybe even more so and it’s not wonder it’s earned so many book of the year accolades. Miller’s writing is magic. Her word choices, phrasings and metaphors gave me great pleasure, and I loved Circe’s story and how it ended.

Beautiful.

The Girl With All The Gifts by MR CareyThe Girl With All The Gifts by MR Carey

I nearly put this book down after a hundred pages or so, but I am so glad I persevered because it turned out a cracking read.

I had no idea when I bought The Girl With All The Gifts that it was a zombie story. I mean, I luuuuuurve horror novels but zombies generally don’t float my boat (the exception being James Scott Bell’s Mallory Caine series, which I talk about here, here and here). This is not your ordinary zombie book though. This is more like a literary apocalyptic thriller.

Excellent writing, a clever premise and fantastic characters, The Girl With All The Gifts slowly sucks you in until you just have to know what happens to Melanie and the others. Another close contender for favourite read.

Scavenger Hunt by Michaelbrent CollingsScavenger Hunt by Michaelbrent Collings

I seriously can’t get enough of Collings horrors. They’re pacey, have great concepts and I really, really enjoy his characters.

Okay, so Scavenger Hunt has a completely over-the-top bonkers premise but what fun! Five strangers wake up in a white room and the game is on. They must follow the enigmatic Mr Do-Good’s instructions and rules or die in horrible ways. Naturally everyone has secrets which influences how they play the game.

Loved it.

In the Heart of the Fire by Dean KoontzThe Nameless series by Dean Koontz

In the Heart of the Fire, Photographing the Dead, The Praying Mantis Bride, Red Rain, The Mercy of Snakes and Memories of Tomorrow.

This was an interesting series with an intriguing premise – a nameless vigilante is commissioned to hunt down serial killers but doesn’t know who he is himself. I’ve been a long-time Koontz fan and was curious when I spotted these titles. Initially I wasn’t going to buy them, but when I saw they were included as part of my Amazon Prime membership I figured I’d give them a go.

The books – short stories, really – were so easy to read and page-turnery I gobbled up all six in a day. Not my favourite Koontz (Watchers is the winner there) but cool enough.

The Sheikh’s Royal Baby Revelation by Annie WestThe Sheikh’s Royal Baby Revelation by Annie West

I think The Sheikh’s Royal Baby Revelation rates as having the best opening of an Annie West book I’ve read. Ashraf and Tori are in terrible danger and, thinking they’re not going to survive, succumb to passion. Fantastic!

Being a romance, of course they both survive. What follows is a deeply emotional journey as these two find their way to trust and love.

Loved these two characters and I’m so glad Annie wrote Ashraf’s story. I was intrigued by his situation in his brother Karim’s story Demanding His Desert Queen (I talk about that here) and wanted to know what happened. Now I do!

A Thousand Fiendish Angels by JF PennA Thousand Fiendish Angels by JF Penn

This was a series of three short stories inspired by Dante’s Inferno that I scored from JF Penn as a subscriber to her newsletter. We had a 2000km road trip to Townsville over Christmas and A Thousand Fiendish Angels proved perfect car reading. Short, entertaining and an easy way to pass the time. (For some reason I can read on my Kobo or Kindle easy-peasy in the car but a book makes me carsick. No idea why there’s a difference!)

I have another couple of JF Penn books that I need to get to. I’m particularly keen to read Map of Shadows, book one in her Mapwalker series. A project for this year.

https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B07Z9MQ48D/ref=as_li_qf_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=mywebsiteaus1-22&creative=1211&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07Z9MQ48D&linkId=4f9fd3c6c0c0bd331047c8e6b4c4d6bbThe Highlander’s Christmas Quest by Anna Campbell

I do love an Anna Campbell season story and she didn’t disappoint this year with The Highlander’s Christmas Quest.

Dougal was absolutely gorgeous and made me laugh. He was so earnest about his quest! I was with Kirsty in that half the time I was lusting and the other half wanting to push him in the sea to see if the arctic water would knock some sense into him. Lovely characters, wonderful setting and a fabulous romance.

This is book 5 in Anna’s Lairds Most Likely series but you don’t have to have read the others. The Highlander’s Christmas Quest works perfectly on its own. Just kick back and enjoy!

For the writerly among you, here are the writing craft titles I read in December.

Writing Active Hooks Book 1 by Mary BuckhamWriting Active Hooks Book 1: Action, Emotion, Surprise and More by Mary Buckham

Now this is a handy craft book. Buckham discusses the five different types of hooks, and how and why they work. This is straightforward and focused – no waffle, rah! – and there are plenty of examples so you can see the different hooks in action.

There’s a sequel too which covers evocative description, character, dialogue, foreshadowing and where to use hooks. I was about to buy it when I discovered Buckham has combined books one and two into a full book with new examples. Even better, Writing Active Hooks: The Complete How-to Guide is available in paperback, which is my preferred format for craft books. Yay!

Strangers to Superfans by David GaughranStrangers to Superfans: A Marketing Guide to the Reader Journey by David Gaughran

David Gaughran produces an excellent newsletter for writers, loaded with great tips on everything from how to do ads to newsletters to keywords, and a bunch of other stuff authors need to know these days. I always enjoy reading them and figured I’d enjoy Strangers to Superfans too.

There are millions and millions of ebooks now on Amazon and sometimes my books seem like dustmotes, floating around aimslessly and looking like every other dustmote. Strangers to Superfans contains a lot of stuff I’ve read before but there were still gems to be found. Now all I have to do is implement said gems – always a weakness.

An easy to read book about book marketing and a good companion to Amazon Decoded which you can pick up as an exclusive goodie when you sign up for Gaughran’s newsletter.

Write Your Novel From the Middle by James Scott BellWrite Your Novel From the Middle by James Scott Bell

A re-read in the car. I’m glad I did re-read this because in between staring at the countryside I was also mulling over Serenity’s Song (working title) and this was a great refresher. Both this and the Mary Buckham book triggered a lot of ideas and note-taking and gave me a handy start when I began writing it at the start of January.

Write Your Novel From The Middle is one of my favourite craft books. I like the way Scott Bell writes, he’s very motivational, and this technique resonates strongly for me.

Highly recommended.

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What books floated your boat in December?

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My Favourite Reads of November 2019

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Welcome to another scintillating edition of My Favourite Reads.

I had a record reading month in November, with TEN books to tell you about (long airport stopovers are excellent for ploughing through your to-be-read pile).

There were some beauties too and it was hard to choose a favourite, but I’m going to give that title the first book I finished and that was

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine ArdenThe entire Winternight trilogy was brilliant (I talk about book one, The Bear and the Nightingale, here) but The Winter of the Witch? Woah! That took the biscuit, with one scene leaving me so heartbroken I bawled, while the ending providing lots of smiles and sniffles.

This had everything – drama, magic, romance, battles and stunning world-building. I adored the way Russian folklore was brought to life. Our heroine Vasya is so cool. She’s brave and smart and fallible and I loved her, and it was such fun to cheer her on. Morozko was sigh-worthy too, and don’t get me started on Solovey and the Firebird. I even thought the Bear was fun.

Historical fantasy at its finest. LOVED.

When It All Went to Custard by Danielle HawkinsWhen It All Went to Custard by Danielle Hawkins

Since her first book Dinner at Rose’s, Hawkins has been an auto-buy author for me. I’ve loved every one of her books – think New Zealand-set rural romance – and When It All Went to Custard is no exception.

This was different in that the story centres around a marriage breakdown, which sounds a bit ick but Hawkins treats even horrible situations with gentle humour.

When It All Went to Custard has laugh-out-loud moments and teary moments and was simply lovely. Highly recommended.

The Institute by Stephen KingThe Institute by Stephen King

I was very unsure about this when I started reading it. The first quarter of The Institute wasn’t terribly compelling and it had me wondering whether I’d even go on. Except… a did-not-finish Stephen King? Unimaginable!

Which is why I persevered and I’m glad I did because I enjoyed this a lot in the end. I guess you’d call The Institute a thriller more than a horror, although it did have some nice squirmy moments. I think for me it was mostly it was a story about courage.

Sword and Pen by Rachel CaineSword and Pen by Rachel Caine

Sword and Pen is the final book in the Great Library series and a cracking tale, wonderfully told. But that’s hardly a surprise. All the Great Library instalments have been excellent.

Honestly, this series has been so cool. A story where the Great Library of Alexandria not only survives but is powerful? A story about saving books, with a gorgeous and brave hero and a team of talented and selfless characters all fighting for a just cause? With subtle romances for extra spice? Gimme, baby!

Wonderful finish. Wonderful series.

The Stranger Diaries by Elly GriffithsThe Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

Author friends have been urging me to read Elly Griffiths for ages, so when The Stranger Diaries came on sale I snapped it up. I also grabbed The Stone Circle, book one in Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series while I was at it and look forward to reading that over summer.

The Stranger Diaries is a stand-alone crime novel and an enjoyable one. I adore Gothic reads, and this had plenty of atmosphere and intrigue.

Good stuff.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine AddisonThe Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Okay, so a goblin-elf fantasy novel would not normally be my thing, but after reading so many fab reviews for The Goblin Emperor it was hard to ignore. Then author buddy Anna Campbell read it and loved it, and I figured I’d better give it a go too.

This book was so charming!

I don’t know what else to say about it. Maia was the loveliest company and while it took a while to get used to the imperial plural language, even that became charming too.

Surprising and absolutely gorgeous.

Emily Chambers Spirit Medium series by CJ ArcherPossession by CJ Archer and Evermore by CJ Archer

I read the first book in the Emily Chambers Spirit Medium series (my thoughts on The Medium here) a few years ago and have been meaning to finish it but for some reason never got there. Probably because I became so distracted by Archer’s Ministry of Curiosities, Glass and Steel and After the Rift series (all of which are fab).

Possession and Evermore were terrific reads, with lots of plot twists and worry over whether Emily and Jacob would get their happy ever after, and some nice side characters too.

The Wrong Callahan by Karly LaneThe Wrong Callahan by Karly Lane

Karly is one of my favourite rural romance authors. Her books are always happy reads and so easy to relax with.

The Wrong Callahan starts off Karly’s The Callahan’s of Stringybark Creek series and I foresee lots of fun with future books. The Callahan in this case is Linc, a former soldier who now runs a security company and who has returned home to the family farm for Christmas and a wedding. He’s deliciously sexy and it’s no wonder Cash can’t help herself with him. Sounds fine but this is a romance, and nothing is meant to be easy for our hero and heroine, which means lots of emotional adventure for us.

Covers some serious territory with the PTSD issue. Great setting too.

A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi MatthewsA Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews

LOVED this! A Holiday by Gaslight is a sweet Christmas historical romance novella guaranteed to put you in a romantic festive mood.

Aristocratic Sophie is being courted by dour but rich merchant Edward Sharpe and it’s no fun at all. But with a profligate father sending the family broke, someone must take one for the team. Except Sophie can’t do it and she breaks off the relationship. That’s when the trouble really starts.

I adored this so much I immediately bought Matthews’ book The Work of Art.

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What did you enjoy reading in November?

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My Favourite Reads of October 2019

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Welcome to another My Favourite Reads.

What an excellent reading month! I enjoyed every book (except for the DNF – did not finish – but I don’t talk about those), with the majority falling into the thriller/mystery/suspense category. Not sure why that was, it just turned out that way.

It was a close-run thing but in the end I my favourite read was…

The Taking of Annie Thorne by CJ Tudor

The Taking of Annie Thorne by CJ TudorI adored The Chalk Man, Tudor’s debut novel. It was brilliantly written, creepy, compelling and fun (my thoughts on it here).

The Taking of Annie Thorne is just as good, possibly even better. I think, perhaps, it’s a bit darker than The Chalk Man. It has more horror-y bits, which I loved (beetles: they do it to me every time), and it also has that same theme of adults returning to the scenes of their childhoods to solve a mystery. I like that. It’s very Stephen King.

I loved the writing, I loved the characters, I loved the brilliantly developed setting and I loved how flawed Joe was. This is a haunted man who’s done himself some serious damage over the years. He’s also a terrible smartarse and driven by revenge. All of which should make him unlikeable, yet I was happy to spend hours with him because he was also clever and witty, and determined to solve the mystery of his sister even though the risks were enormous.

I couldn’t put this book down. And don’t get me started on the twists, some of which were absolute doozies. I figured CJ Tudor would become an auto-buy author from The Chalk Man. The Taking of Annie Thorne has cemented it.

Bone White by Ronald MalfiBone White by Ronald Malfi

I’ve been a Ronald Malfi fan since reading The Night Parade (my thoughts on that here), which I thought was brilliant. Then came December Park which was even better (I chat about that here). And now there’s Bone White. While still a thriller, this had some juicy horror elements, which puts it smack in my zone. I am BIG into horror right now, as you’ve probably guessed from past My Favourite Reads posts.

Bone White is set in Alaska, in an isolated timber village at the edge of winter. The shortening days, incoming weather and suspicious locals only adds to the creepy, threatening atmosphere. Malfi is so good at producing anxiety in his reader. I felt on edge the entire time I was reading and loved every minute.

Another highly recommended read from an auto-buy author and my second favourite read of the month.

Strangers by Michaelbrent CollingsStrangers by Michaelbrent Collings

After a bit of a binge, I promised myself I wasn’t going to read a Collings book this month. I was going attack my enormous to-be-read pile from the top and work my way down. Which I did, for a while. Then I hit a book that wasn’t doing it for me – the DNF I mentioned in the intro – and didn’t know what to read next, and then it was oooooooh, looksie, another Michaelbrent Collings. I’ll just take a peek…

Best laid plans and all that, eh?

Anyway, Strangers was fab and fast, and so hard to put down that I read it in a day. It’s thriller-horror, if you’re wondering, and an excellent one. Great premise and loved the twists. Very clever.

I bought his new one, Scavenger Hunt, on its release day. It sounds like a cracker too. I wonder how long I can go before I read it? My to-be-read pile is at its biggest ever and I really want to get it under control. Alas, I fear the lure of another Collings page-turner may prove too strong!

Demanding His Desert Queen by Annie WestDemanding His Desert Queen by Annie West

Another fabulous, passionate and emotional romance from the Queen of Sheiks. Demanding His Desert Queen is a lovers reunited, marriage of convenience story, where the marriage is not very convenient at all.

There’s a great deal of tension in this romance, which makes for fast page-turning and Annie has created an interesting world, especially for Karim, but it holds dangers for both lead characters. The politics of the country that Karim has been asked to rule added a lot of depth to the conflict.

Demanding His Desert Queen will make your heart tumble about as you share in Safiyah and Karim’s fears, passion and elation. Go grab a copy today. You’ll love it.

Bad Blood by John CarreyouBad Blood by John Carreyou

I’m not a big non-fiction reader but like many others I was fascinated by the scandal surrounding medical tech company Theranos when it hit in 2017. There were so many serious names involved, from Henry Kissinger to Rupert Murdoch and distinguished others, and then there were the gobsmacking dollars involved. Dollars that were, ultimately, lost.

Theranos’s founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was a Stanford dropout with plenty of smarts and major ambitions. Her hero was Steve Jobs, whom she modelled herself on, sometimes comically if you count the wardrobe full of black turtleneck sweaters. Bad Blood documents her, and Theranos’s, rise and fall, the personalities involved, and the damage it caused, some of it tragic.

As with the The Woman Who Fooled the World: Belle Gibson’s cancer con, and the darkness at the heart of the wellness industry (which I talk about here) I’m once again amazed at how easily clever people can be suckered in by charisma. Oh, I’m sure I could be just as vulnerable – I’m as human and as fallible as the next person – but when you’re investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a company, surely you’d want a little more than verbal assurances that the technology works?

Incredibly interesting.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne JonesHowl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film of Howl’s Moving Castle is a household favourite, so when the book came up as an Amazon Daily Deal I snapped it up. For some reason, I thought it was a short story but it’s a full-length novel.

And a wonderful one. It was fun, moving, rich and very satisfying and gave me a different insight into the film too. There’s quite a lot added and quite a lot left out, but wonderful characters are a feature of both book and film.

Loved it.

The Accusation by Wendy JamesThe Accusation by Wendy James

I’ve read two? Three? of James’s books. The Mistake was brilliant, as was The Lost Girls and I have The Golden Child on my want-to-read list. I hadn’t planned on picking up The Accusation until I’d read The Golden Child but then I heard James speak at Newcastle Library with Sarah Barrie, Anna Snoekstra, and Nicola Moriarty and her discussion about The Accusation had me intrigued.

I love it when a book leaves me anxious and guessing. Being a little bit familiar with James’ work, I’d expected this and The Accusation brought on those feelings well. This was a very modern story too. A cautionary tale for our times but with age-old motivations.

Good stuff. Highly recommended.

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What did you enjoy reading in October?

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My Favourite Reads of September 2019

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Welcome to My Favourite Reads for September 2019.

September was a month of fat books, with one over 800 pages, one at 500 and another at 450, I felt like I read seven books instead of five.

My favourite read of the month was beautiful, moving, and a wonderful, wonderful book. Stand by for some serious fangirling.

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

The Glittering Hour by Iona GreyI couldn’t rave enough about Grey’s debut novel Letters to the Lost (my thoughts on that here). I adored that book and wondered how Grey could possibly top it, but she has.

The Glittering Hour is stunning. STUNNING!

Gorgeously written, it’s an early 20th century historical that brings to life the intervening war years, with all its social and political upheaval. Selina Lennox, the heroine, is a “Bright young thing” – basically an “it” girl. But her life changes when she meets artist and photographer Lawrence Weston, a man not of her class. What follows is a breathtaking, emotional journey that left me sobbing and wrung out and wanting to go back to the start and do it all again.

A must-read. No, seriously, get reading The Glittering Hour now. NOW.

Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz ZafonLabyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

This is the final instalment in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series and ties together many of the mysteries of the first three novels.

At 800 pages it’s a monster, and I admit to having moments of wanting to put it down but I so adored the first two books in the series (The Shadow of the Wind was an incredible read as was The Angel’s Game) and the third book had so many loose ends that I had to see them tied up.

There are some deliciously creepy characters in Labyrinth of the Spirits and I love Ruiz Zafon’s gothic Barcelona. As with all his books, he really brings the city and era to life. It’s fascinating.

I look forward to seeing what he writes next. I hope it’s something like Marina (I talk about that here). That book is amazing.

The Ridealong by Michaelbrent CollingsThe Ridealong by Michaelbrent Collings

I am such a Michealbrent fan. His writing, storytelling and characters capture me every time. I keep wanting to pull apart his books to work out how he’s done things, but I’m always too caught up in the story to stop.

Like Terminal, my last Michaelbrent read (I rave about that here), The Ridealong was a cracking read. It’s a fast-past thriller featuring a teenage girl who goes for a ride-along with her cop dad. All pretty straightforward, except you know from the start that something is very wrong, and as the day progresses it just gets worse and worse.

So, so clever with its concluding twist. Highly recommended.

The Honourable Thief by Meaghan Wilson AnastasiosThe Honourable Thief by Meaghan Wilson Anastasios

Now, this was an interesting read. I thought The Honourable Thief was a stand-alone but it looks like it’s as series now, with another Benedict Hitchens story having just been released.

Another 20th century historical, The Honourable Thief follows the adventures of brilliant archaeologist Benedict Hitchens, a man once feted but who falls from grace in quite a spectacular way.

I enjoyed this a lot. It had some seriously cool moments, but I did find the hero difficult to like. I wonder if that’s me though, comparing Ben to Indiana Jones too much. Like Jones, Ben Hitchens is charming, sexy, brave and clever, and both have their flaws. Ben’s are a bit harder to forgive, though. For me, anyway. I’ve passed The Honourable Thief on to Jim to read and it’ll be interesting to hear his opinion.

Pilgrimage of Death by Sally SpencerPilgrimage of Death by Sally Spencer

I’ve been enjoying Spencer’s Inspector Blackstone series hugely (more on those here) so when Pilgrimage of Death came up on sale I snapped it up.

Pilgrimage of Death is narrated by Geoffrey Chaucer of The Canterbury Tales fame. I studied the tales in year 12 and loved it. Admittedly, it took some serious effort to get the hang of the language, but in the end, I found the Tales bawdy, funny, interesting and clever. Which is exactly how I found Pilgrimage of Death.

Chaucer calls this tale his “who-hath-done-it” and credits himself with creating a new genre. That’s what the book is – a historical whodunnit, featuring the pilgrims from The Canterbury Tales.

Great fun.

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What did you read in September that tickled your fancy?

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My Favourite Reads of August 2019

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Welcome to My Favourite Reads for August 2019.

Between the Romance Writers of Australia conference (check out my piccies here), a road trip to South Australia and Eddie and the Show Queen’s release, I didn’t have a lot of reading time in August.

What I did manage was good though, with my favourite being…

Terminal by Michaelbrent Collings

Terminal by Michaelbrent Collings coverRegular readers know how much I love a good horror story and Michaelbrent Collings produces beauties. I really enjoyed The Deep (my thoughts on that here) and Darkbound (my thoughts here) but Terminal was a ripper.

Fantastically gory, Terminal focuses on a group of strangers who find themselves suddenly (and suspiciously) fog-bound in a bus terminal. Their night goes from average to weird, to downright terrifying in quite innovative ways.

I loved the characterisations in this. They were vivid and compelling, and every single person was carrying a secret that could play a major role in their survival.

Clever, thrilling and icky. What’s not to love?

As an aside, Michaelbrent Collings has a TED talk called Confessions of a Supervillain: The Psychosis of Lies. I found it entertaining, heartfelt and uplifting. Worth a look.

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Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer coverMatters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer

If you love rural romance and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice then Matters of the Heart is is for you!

The Bennets are a hard-working Western Australian farming family. Daughter Lizzie, our heroine, runs the farm with enthusiasm and expertise. When Charles Bingley lands at Netherfield Park, the property next door, the district is abuzz. He and his friend Will Darcy certainly turn heads at the local dance but finding Will particularly unfriendly, Lizzie remains unimpressed.

How these two find their way to happiness is cleverly done. Fiona has reimagined Austen’s plot for a contemporary audience, flavouring it with her own voice and freshening it further with lots of the authentic rural life that her fans love.

Watch this sell its socks off!

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox coverThe Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox

This was an enjoyable American-set historical novel with a nice Gothic atmosphere.

Hammered by scandal, the Montrose family flee their comfortable lives in Boston for their summer mansion. Despite its amenities, Willow hall is a far from happy place. It has secrets, as do the three Montrose girls, Catherine, Lydia and little Emmeline. As time passes, those secrets begin to emerge, threatening them all.

Besides the interesting story and lovely writing, The Witch of Willow Hall also featured a sweet romantic thread for extra goodness.

The Gilded Shroud by Elizabeth Bailey coverThe Gilded Shroud by Elizabeth Bailey

I have author buddy and regular Teaser Tuesday guest Anna Campbell to thank for putting me on to this one, and I’m glad she did because it was an easy, fun book perfect for reading while on the road.

The Gilded Shroud is the first in the Regency-era Lady Fan Mystery series and it’s an entertaining introduction. Ottilia Draycott has just started as companion to Dowager Lady Polbrook when the mistress of the house is found murdered. A strong woman, with excellent observation skills, Ottilia soon makes herself invaluable in the investigation, endearing herself to the family and the rather delicious Lord Francis Fanshawe.

One for cosy mystery fans!

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What have you enjoyed reading lately?

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My Favourite Reads of July 2019

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Welcome to my favourite reads for July 2019.

Not many books this month, mainly because I was busy with the Fictionally Yours, Melbourne booksigning event (check out my post on that here) but also because a couple of the books I read were big fat ones. And big fat ones take time!

Choosing a favourite was very hard – they were all excellent – but the gong goes to

The Wych Elm by Tana French

The Wych Elm by Tana FrenchHooly-dooly, what a read!

The Wych Elm was long – 500+ pages – and rather slow to begin with. There were more than a few moments when I wondered if it was going to be worth it, but it absolutely was. The story is still with me. I can’t seem to shake that climax. It shocked me completely.

The Wych Elm is a thriller/mystery that twists and turns and completely mesmerises. Which is interesting because there aren’t that many likeable characters, really. Even Toby, our narrator, is a bit of a twat. Likeable because he’s good-looking, charming and easy-going but otherwise pretty shallow. Life just seems to fall into place for him. Until it doesn’t.

A slow burn, but one I found worthwhile in the end.

Miss Prims Greek Island Fling by Michelle DouglasMiss Prim’s Greek Island Fling by Michelle Douglas

Oh, this was lovely! Hard to go past Greek island fling at the best of times but this was made extra special by the gorgeous characters.

Audra – the Miss Prim of the title – has suffered a terrible betrayal and retreated to her brother’s home on a Greek Island only to find her brother’s reckless best friend in situ. Much fun ensues as these two lovelies do their best to not act on their sizzling attraction.

Friends-to-lovers awesomeness. Read it.

Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln ChildRelic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

I’ve wanted to read one of these Lincoln and Child novels for aaaages. They sound smack in my happy reading zone. Then Relic, book one in the Special Agent Pendergast series, came on sale and I snapped it straight up.

What a blast! This galloped along, with loads of thrills, some cool science, adventuring, good guys and bad guys, and a monster running riot in a revered institution. Great fun, great characters and as for Special Agent Pendergast, he was wonderful. Nice twist at the end too. I’m going to have to read more.

The Chain by Adrian McKintyThe Chain by Adrian McKinty

A veeeery close contender for favourite read of the month.

The Chain is generating lots of buzz in the book world at the moment and with good reason – it’s a cracker of a read. What a premise! And the opening… woah. It’s going to be an awesome movie when they make it.

I love books that make me anxious, even though they’re only fiction. It takes a skilled writer to create a physical reaction in a reader and McKinty managed that aplenty with me. I really liked the characters too, they were tough cookies and admirable despite their flaws.

A thrill ride that might make you rethink your social media activities.

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What wonderful books have you read lately?

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My Favourite Reads of June 2019

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Welcome to my favourite reads for June 2019. The past month turned out to a month for series reads. There was only one stand-alone book, and that stand-alone book turned out to be my favourite, although it was a close-run thing.

Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver

Wakenhyrst by Michelle PaverMy favourite of the month.

I’ve been a Michelle Paver fan for a very long time now. Her novel A Place in the Hills is a cherished (albeit rather tattered) book that will never leave my keeper shelf. I’m also pretty sure Paver is the author who introduced me to romance. Until her, I’d only really read chick-lit, then I read A Place in the Hills followed by Without Charity and loved them, but it was the historical “Daughters of Eden” trilogy that truly opened my eyes. Or maybe I should say opened my heart because it had all the feels. Whatever the case, it made me want more.

Paver’s more recent books make me feel too, but in a different way. These stories are Gothic and ghostly and creepy. And if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know how much I adore a good creeping out.

In true Gothic style, Wakenhyrst features a crumbling manor house. Wake’s End is in Devon, near the village of Wakenhyrst and surrounded by the Fens, which add to the atmosphere of isolation and seclusion. There are legends, secrets and madness, Superstition clashes with religion, as does ancient healing with new medicine. Then there’s Maud, a great lead character who’s clever and strong, yet also lonely and secretive, and around whom the story winds.

Wonderful storytelling, vivid characters and spine-tingles galore. Loved.

Defy the Fates by Claudia GrayDefy the Fates by Claudia Gray

This is the final instalment in the Constellation trilogy and a very close second favourite read for the month. I’ve adored this series (my comments on book one, Defy the Stars here and book two, Defy the Worlds here) and never thought I could come to care so much about an android, or “mech” as they’re called in the books. Aiden, though, is very easy to fall in love with. Deep sigh.

Defy the Fates was loaded with surprise twists and many times I worried that Noemi and Aiden were never going to make it. The way their romance was resolved was very satisfying and I feel like I should have seen that coming from the start, but I didn’t.

Loved this book and the series. I can’t wait for more from Gray.

Blackstone and the Burning Secret by Sally SpencerBlackstone and the Burning Secret by Sally Spencer

This is the fourth book in Spencer’s Inspector Blackstone series and it certainly won’t be the last for me. As I’ve mentioned before (my comments on the first three books here), I really enjoy the late Victorian setting. It was period of great change and Blackstone’s investigations tend to have their genesis in the social, political and industrial upheavals of the time.

The books aren’t terribly long but they’re compelling and interesting, and I find them excellent for ‘snacking on’ between fatter books. Next up, Blackstone and the Stage of Death. Rah!

The Cheater's Game by CJ ArcherThe Cheater’s Game by CJ Archer

I can’t believe I’m up to book seven of the Glass and Steele series, but I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been hooked on Archer’s stories since reading The Last Necromancer (book one in the Ministry of Curiosities series and currently free across ebook platforms), and her new After the Rift series has me totally intrigued.

But back to India Steele and Matt Glass and The Cheater’s Game! Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show has arrived in London and Willie, my favourite character in Matt’s crew, can’t stop from hanging with the performers. Naturally, trouble follows. With plenty of danger, mystery, and a secret that could harm Matt and India’s relationship, this was a lot of fun.

Chocolate and Old Lace by Kaz DelaneyChocolate and Old Lace by Kaz Delaney

Kaz Delaney, also known as Kerri Lane, is a prolific writer of children’s and young adult books. She is also a delightful person who’s appeared on this blog’s (now archived) Friday Feast. Kaz has turned to adult fiction and was kind enough to give me a copy of her new cozy mystery series. I’m so glad she did. It was lovely fun!

Chocolate and Old Lace introduces us to the Rosie Hart series – tag line: Murder has never been so delicious. Don’t you just love that? So cool. Anyway, Rosie loves to cook and her skills in the kitchen endear her to the small Texan town she’s moved to, and one sexy cowboy in particular. Oh, and me. Got to love a heroine who cooks.

Quirky characters, lovely baking, murder and mayhem, and there are even recipes at the back of the book. Hugely enjoyable. Next in the series is Preserving the Evidence. loving these titles.

By the way, if you sign up for Kaz’s mailing list you score the Rosie Hart novella, The Funeral Crasher, for free. Enjoy!

What have you been reading lately?

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My Favourite Reads of May 2019

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Welcome to My Favourite Reads for May 2019. May proved to be a good reading month, with seven books read and plenty of enjoyment had.

Here they are.

I Ate the Sheriff by James Scott BellI Ate the Sheriff by James Scott Bell

This series was a hoot. Not to everyone’s taste I admit, but I thought it was cool. I Ate the Sheriff follows on from Pay Me in Flesh (which I talk about here) and The Year of Eating Dangerously (I talk about this one here), and concludes Mallory Caine, Zombie At Law’s story. It went out with suitable apocalyptic mayhem.

If you like fast-paced, action-packed wittily written stories with funny dialogue, and don’t mind a bit of ickiness, then this series might float your boat. It did mine!

Fair Game by Amy AndrewsFair Game by Amy Andrews

This is book 3 in the Women of W.A.R. series, a continuity that features an Australian Women’s Australian Rules Football team. Such an excellent idea.

And this is a fab book, but that’s no surprise. Amy Andrews writes fantastic romances. Fair Game is a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Rita awards with good reason. It has lovely characters (the hero is a total babe), a great friends-to-lovers premise, and is a joy to read.

Grab a copy.

The Hunting Party by Lucy FoleyThe Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Even though I pegged the killer early on, I enjoyed The Hunting Party a lot. Loved the isolated Highlands setting, which added much to the atmosphere and tension, and I loved all the characters. I especially liked how we got to live in each of their heads and experience their inner selves, which was often veeeeery different to their outer selves.

Good fun. Well, for me. Not so much for the characters!

The Crucifix Killer by Chris CarterThe Crucifix Killer by Chris Carter

I’ve been meaning to read this a few years now. I read a brief review in a newspaper aaaaages ago and it sounded up my alley. I bought it and then promptly forgot I had (a sign that maybe I buy too many books? … Nah!). Then last month I noticed The Crucifix Killer heavily discounted in one of the ebook stores and I thought, oooh, I’ll have that, only to discover it was already in my library.

Anyway, The Crucifix Killer is book one in Carter’s Robert Hunter crime/thriller series. Expect lots of plot, plenty of action and some clever, if rather horrible, deviousness by the murderer.

They Call Me the Cat Lady by Amy MillerThey Call Me the Cat Lady by Amy Miller

We are NOT cat people in the Hein house. So why did I pick up They Call Me the Cat Lady, clearly a book involving cats? Because the premise sounded intriguing, sort of along the lines of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and a few others where the hero/heroine is an outcast, and because the reviews were so good.

Nancy Jones is indeed a cat lady. She’s also lonely, secretive, reclusive and big-hearted once you know her. She’d love to keep the secretive and reclusive part of her life but when a person from her past enters it, she’s forced to change. A sweet book about second chances.

Girl in the Bedouin Tent by Annie WestGirl in the Bedouin Tent by Annie West

Annie sure knows how to write a sheikh romance! Girl in the Bedouin Tent is one of her older books (from 2011, I think) but it’s a beauty. I read it because it’s a forced proximity romance and I have plans to write one of those myself, and it’s always handy to study what an expert author can do with a trope.

Prince Amir was gorgeous, super masculine and kind, Cassie was feisty, clever and fun, and the sexual attraction sizzling. A wonderful, passionate read.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa AlbertThe Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

I’ve had my eye on The Hazel Wood since its release and when it went on sale I snapped it up. The premise is very intriguing. Alice’s grandmother is the famous, reclusive author of a book of (nasty) fairy tales, all set in the fantasy world of Hinterland. When Alice’s mother is stolen away by someone from the Hinterland, Alice must enter that world to save her.

Yep, The Hazel Wood is a retelling of Alice in Wonderland, complete with bonkers creatures and dark happenings. Definitely not for kids!

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What have you read lately that you’ve loved?

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My Favourite Reads of April 2019

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Welcome to My Favourite Reads for April 2019. Coming a tad late to you this month. Sorry! My excuse is that I’m desperately trying to finish edits for Eddie and the Show Queen and that’s meant blogging must play second fiddle.

I’m fence-sitting and bowing out from choosing a favourite this month. With such a diverse range of stories it’s hard to single one out and even harder when I enjoyed them all.

So here they are…

Blackstone and the Rendezvous with Death, Blackstone and the Great Game, Blackstone and the House of Secrets by Sally Spencer

Blackstone and the Rendezvous with Death by Sally SpencerOoh, I like this series, as you can probably tell from my 3-book mini-binge. I’m a sucker for Victorian-era set books, especially crime and mystery, and the Blackstone stories are a pleasure to read and well done. Late-Victorian and a bit different from the gaslight gloominess of earlier period stories, they still contain plenty of atmosphere and quite a large dollop of social commentary.

Blackstone is an intriguing character. A war veteran who’s been clearly changed by his experiences, Blackstone can be borderline disrespectful to his ‘superiors’ but is tolerated because he’s so good at his job.

Interesting mysteries set in even more interesting times. I’ll be reading more.

PS. If you want to give the series a try, Book 1, Blackstone and the Rendezvous with Death, is currently only 99c on Amazon.

The Undying by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

The Undying by Amie Kaufman and Meagan SpoonerThe Undying is the concluding story of the Unearthed Duology. I really enjoyed the first book, Unearthed (which I talk about here), and have been hanging out for this one. It didn’t let me down.

Lots of action, a lovely splash of romance, and plenty of tension as Mia and Jules try to save the world from alien invasion. Honestly, after reading the Starbound Trilogy (find my thoughts on that here) and this duology, I think I’d read anything by Kaufman and Spooner.

The Year of Eating Dangerously by James Scott Bell

The Year of Eating Dangerously by James Scott BellBook two of the Mallory Caine series, this is total gross-me-out zombie fun with a cleverly bonkers plot and great characters. Mallory is a brilliant heroine. She’s a lawyer who’s also a human brain-craving zombie, which you’d think would make her completely unlikeable but she’s a hoot – courageous and possessing a fantastically  snarky voice.

The first book, Pay Me In Flesh (I chat about that here), was witty and smart and The Year of Eating Dangerously proved no different. Loads of action and rising stakes. I’ve already bought the final book, I Ate The Sheriff, and will be hopping in veeery soon.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia OwensWhere the Crawdads Sing went on my radar after a book blogger whose reviews I respect raved about it and awarded it a rare 10/10 score. On reading the blurb it sounded like something I’d enjoy. And enjoy I did.

It’s no wonder this book has so much buzz; it’s beautifully written and atmospheric. You can really feel the harsh beauty of the marsh, the terrible disadvantage of Kya’s life, and the appalling discrimination of the times. I did find the beginning a bit slow but that didn’t mean I wanted to put the book down. The story, characters and setting were too intriguing for that.

Think coming of age story crossed with a murder mystery.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Once Upon a River by Diane SetterfieldI adored Setterfield’s debut, The Thirteenth Tale, when it came out, which was over ten years ago now. It was a gorgeously written gothic story about an abandoned house, a pair of mysterious sisters and storytelling. The latter also features strongly in Once Upon a River. As a writer, this subject always makes my ears prick.

One winter’s night, a young girl is carried into the Swan Inn (a ‘storytelling’ inn), her saviour almost immediately collapsing from his efforts and injuries. The girl is dead… then she isn’t. Who is the girl? How can she be dead then alive?

Sometimes uplifting, sometimes creepy (I am not good with water and water is a dominant theme in this), sometimes sad, Once Upon a River was a lovely read.

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My Favourite Reads of March 2019

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Welcome to My Favourite Reads for March 2019!

I had an excellent reading month, fitting in more books than normal. Probably because they were all so good. There are even a couple of non-fiction reads this month. Very unusual for me.

But my favourite read has to be…

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

The Lost Man by Jane HarperYep, it lived up to the hype. Bigtime.

As with The Dry (which I talked about here), the setting for The Lost Man was wonderfully drawn. You could feel the isolation and danger of the land. It added an extra dimension to what is already a tension filled story.

Lots of twists, fascinating family situation, the rules of survival in a harsh country, and a truly intriguing mystery. I’ve been reading quite a few Australian thrillers/crime novels recently and this is one of the best.

Highly recommended.

The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart TurtonThe 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

I’ve been wanting to read this award-winning murder mystery since release but it was ridiculously priced in ebook (my reading preference) and I let it slide. Then it appeared on sale and there was much yippee-ing and one-clicking.

Be warned, The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a complicated story (think Groundhog Day) and it took me a while to get my head around how it worked, but it was worth it in the end. Great characters. I enjoyed it a lot.

Hangman by Jack HeathHangman by Jack Heath

Regular readers will know how partial I am to juicy horror and gory crime, and Hangman looked smack in my zone. It certainly has elements of both horror and gory crime but… yikes! Sometimes this was even too much for me.

Fab read though. Great pacing and tantalising mystery and, despite his… um… interesting predilection, I couldn’t help admiring our icky hero.

Hangman is NOT for the fainthearted though. You have been warned.

The Woman Who Fooled the World by Nick Toscano and Beau DonellyThe Woman Who Fooled the World: Belle Gibson’s Cancer Con by Nick Toscano and Beau Donelly

Gawd, this book made me angry. Not because it was bad – it was fascinating, well-researched and well-written – and not all because of Gibson’s con. It was infuriating because of the people who enabled this farce and never questioned her story. Why the hell not? Blind Freddie could see her claims were bullshit.

Oops. I’m getting ranty-ragey so I’ll shut up now.

Then again…

For crying out loud, what the hell happened to our belief in science? Since when did someone with an aptitude for posting pretty, aspirational pictures on social media become more trustworthy than those with education, expertise and experience? Are we seriously that bloody shallow?

Grrrrrrr.

Maybe this is why I don’t read a lot of non-fiction. It triggers too many rages.

Good book though.

The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J Harris

I loved this. A very close second for my favourite read of the month.

The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder has an autistic boy as the narrator and it’s hard not to want to compare the book to Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. There are similarities I think, but I read Haddon’s book so long ago it wouldn’t be fair to compare. All I know is that I loved both stories.

Very highly recommended.

Damn Fine Story by Chuck WendigDamn Fine Story by Chuck Wendig

One for the writers out there.

Like many authors, I have a decent library of writing craft books. Some are stuck at the back of the shelves, others are always within reach. Damn Fine Story will be an in-reach one.

This isn’t strictly a March read. I read it over a long period – months – but that’s not unusual for me with craft books. I find I miss too much of the good stuff if I try to gobble them down all at once. Either that, or I get information overload, develop terrible hang-ups or suffer plain old boredom. Much better to read them bit by bit.

My copy of Damn Fine Story looks a bit messy now that I’ve finished. It’s covered with sticky tags and pen marks where I’ve circled and ticked things, which is a good sign that I found it useful, with advice and tools I want to return to. The chapter on the building blocks of tension was particularly handy.

It also helps that Damn Fine Story is a fun read. Not something that can be said for a lot of craft books.

I found it very good. As with all how-to books, your mileage may vary.

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What were your favourite reads of March?

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