Book Review: Sunset Shadows by Bronwyn Parry

Sunset Shadows (Goodabri #3)Sunset Shadows (Goodabri #3) by Bronwyn Parry

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Hachette, August 2016

Synopsis- For police officers Steve Fraser and Tess Ballard, a split-second decision saves the lives of fifty members of a cult ­- but also puts their careers on the line. Tess’s work is everything to her; she’s forged a new life through sheer determination, so when her past returns to haunt her, Steve must race through wild country if he is to save the people he most cares about.

In SUNSET SHADOWS, the thrilling new novel by multi-award-winning author Bronwyn Parry, you will feel immersed in the dramatic beauty, isolation, wind and the sun of the deep Australian bush – and its sinister shadows…

Review- Another great book in the Goodabri series, Bronwyn Parry has done it again with Sunset Shadows. One of my favourite authors and favourite romantic thriller series, I was very excited to receive a copy of this novel to review. I know when I pick up a Parry thriller I’ll get a setting that comes to life, characters that are emotionally troubled but very resilient, romance that is slow-building and ignites in the face of danger, intrigue and mystery, and a plot that leaves you guessing the outcome until the very end. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Thanks Bronwyn! I read it in about two days and found myself thinking about the characters in those moments when I reluctantly had to put the book down.

Sunset Shadows follows on (and overlaps) where Storm Clouds (book #2 in Goodabri sereis) left off. I think it’s great that Bronwyn continues to showcase the characters from former books without interfering with the development of the characters Tess and Steve who are the focus of this novel. They are both police officers, but the plot crosses back into the territory of the National Park that was introduced in the former two books in the series. A great read, highly recommend it!

Overall Rating

4.5/5

“Fantastic!”

Sunset Shadows can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

 

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Book Review: Love Elimination by Sarah Gates

Love EliminationLove Elimination by Sarah Gates

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Harlequin Mira, July 2016

Synopsis- Love Elimination might be a hit new reality dating show, but Anna Hobbs isn’t in it for love. Coerced onto the show by her sister, a producer, Anna is a reluctant fill in. Anna dreams of owning her own dessert café; a dream that has taken years of hard work and strict saving. She knows reality TV is a big, manipulated lie — and gorgeous leading man Luke Westwood can’t possibly be for real. Can he?

Olympian snowboarder Luke Westwood thought he had retired from competition. Now he’s starring in the cutthroat world of Love Elimination, with twelve beautiful women vying for his attention against the backdrop of a tropical paradise.  With cameras in every corner, why is it only Anna — careful Anna with her bills and budgets — who Luke feels he can be himself with, at long last?

All Anna wants is a quick elimination, but with each date she is more reluctant to relinquish Luke to the conniving contestants — or even to the women who are starting to become friends. It doesn’t help when Luke insists on using the limitless television budget to indulge her heart’s desires. Or that the moments they’ve stolen, alone and away from the cameras, have sizzled with passion. As the dates wear on the evictions become more brutal and the contestants’ secrets are exposed. Will the pressure get too much? Or will love close in on Luke and Anna?

Review- Due to other review commitments I hadn’t planned to read this book, but when it turned up on my doorstep and I read the synopsis it interested me enough to put it in my TBR pile. I mean, how was I suppose to turn down a novel inspired by reality dating shows like the Bachelor? Especially when I’m a trashy Bachelor addict! So I picked up the book and told myself I’d just read 50 pages and if it didn’t grab me I’d move on. Well, it did grab me and I finished the book within a day or 2. It’s an easy, fun read about the behind the scenes of reality TV and that it is possible for love to develop in such an impossible situation.

Anna signs onto the show at the last minute as a favour to the show’s producer, her sister. She plans to get eliminated immediately and use the the huge cash bonus to set up her dream dessert cafe. She doesn’t count on Luke’s attraction to her and his reluctance to boot her from the show, and as the show goes on Anna begins to question whether she could actually have a future with the dream bachelor after all. Anna and Luke are likeable characters, they aren’t perfect and there were a lot of moments where they annoyed me but for the most part I liked how their relationship developed and the challenges they had to overcome. A pleasant, fun read!

Overall Rating

3.5/5

“I really liked this”

Love Elimination can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

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Book Review: Devour by L.A. Larkin

DevourDevour by L.A. Larkin

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Hachette, July 2016

Synopsis- Their greatest fear was contaminating an ancient Antarctic lake, buried beneath the ice for millions of years. They little knew about the catastrophe they were about to unleash.
Welcome to the high octane world of Olivia Wolfe,
As an investigative journalist, Wolfe lives her life in constant peril. Hunted by numerous enemies who are seldom what they first seem, she must unravel a complex web of lies to uncover an even more terrifying truth.
From the poppy palaces of Afghanistan and Antarctica’s forbidding wind-swept ice sheets, to a top secret military base in the Nevada desert, Wolfe’s journey will ultimately lead her to a man who would obliterate civilisation. She must make an impossible choice: save a life – or prevent the death of millions.

Review- Devour is the third crime thriller novel written by Australian author LA Larkin and the first in her new Olivia Wolfe series. I enjoyed her last novel, Thirst which was set in Antartica and centred around Australian scientists and a murder mystery. But I absolutely loved Devour. LA Larkin has definitely stepped up the plotting, characterisation and suspense in her latest novel and I found it really hard to put down.

Olivia is an investigative journalist who escapes a near death experience in Afghanistan and returns to London with the creeping sensation that she has a stalker. She jumps at the chance to investigate a suspected murder in Antarctica and leaves right away, on request from her boss. Once again, Wolfe’s curiosity places her life at risk and it’s not long before the small team of scientists she has infiltrated start to point the finger at her when crucial assets go astray. Olivia discovers there’s a potential ‘mole’ in the team who is feeding information to a rival team of Russian scientists which places the English scientists’ discoveries at significant risk. She is drawn to an English scientist of Russian heritage and strives to uncover which side exactly he works for… before it’s too late.

Olivia is a likeable, tough and intelligent protagonist with enough emotional damage and mystery to make for an interesting series. Larkin has also set up an arc for the series with a number of plot elements that will likely carry through into later novels. I thought the romantic plot line also added an interesting dynamic to the story… It’s exactly the kind of crime series that I really enjoy!

From murders to biological warfare, Devour has plenty of action-packed drama, suspense and intrigue to keep a crime fiction fan turning the pages until the very end. Highly enjoyable read and I look forward to reading the next book in the Wolfe series!

Overall Rating

4.5/5

“Fantastic!”

Devour can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

 

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Aussie Book Review: The Horseman by Charlotte Nash

The HorsemanThe Horseman by Charlotte Nash

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Hachette, July 2016

Synopsis- Craig Munroe is the kind of man legends are written about. Escape to the high country in this passionate love story of a young doctor and a legendary horseman whose lives become inextricably linked, by the bestselling author of RYDERS RIDGE, Charlotte Nash

It’s been fifteen years since Dr Peta Woodward, born into a horse-breeding dynasty, fled the family stud in the wake of a deadly tragedy that split her family apart. Carrying wounds that have never truly healed, Peta has focused on helping others. But when an injury during a solo trip through the Australian high country leaves her stranded, the man who comes to her rescue is Craig Munroe, a born and bred high-country horseman ,and the kind of man legends are written about.

Stuck in the tiny town of Yarraman Falls while she recovers, Peta is surrounded by prying eyes and heartbreaking reminders of all she has lost. But while she resolves to leave as soon as she can, fate has other ideas . . .
Review- The Horseman is another great medical-rural romance novel by Aussie author Charlotte Nash. Her latest heroine, Dr Peta Woodward is determined to complete a hiking trail for personal and emotional reasons; but when she becomes injured and stranded in the bush her plans quickly take a turn to the small country town of Yarraman Falls. It’s the infamous horse trainer Craig Munroe who stumbles across Peta who is muddy, bitter and bossy; not that any of that turns him off. In fact, as she starts to mend, they develop a close friendship that quickly blossoms into something much more serious and Peta has to decide whether she is willing to take a permanent detour on her plans or if she turns her back on the the town that has started to feel like home.

Peta is a feisty and determined character that’s a little prickly in the beginning but I soon warmed to her as her backstory unfolded and the chemistry with Craig heightened. Craig is a very likeable guy, on the one hand he’s a reserved and strong male figure; but when it comes to his horses he’s soft and compassionate. Peta and Craig have plenty of challenges to face both individually and as a couple and I enjoyed seeing them find their way and overcome these barriers. I read this book very quickly as it was hard to put down and an easy, enjoyable read. Definitely recommend it!

Overall Rating

4/5

“I loved this book!”

The Horseman can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

 

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Book Review: In the Month of the Midnight Sun by Cecilia Ekback

In the Month of the Midnight SunIn the Month of the Midnight Sun by Cecilia Ekback

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Hachette, June 2016

Synopsis- An orphaned boy brought up to serve the state as a man. A rich young woman incapable of living by the conventions of society. Neither is prepared for the journey into the heat, mystery, violence and disorienting perpetual daylight of the far North.

Stockholm 1856.

Magnus is a geologist. When the Minister sends him to survey the distant but strategically vital Lapland region around Blackasen Mountain, it is a perfect cover for another mission: Magnus must investigate why one of the nomadic Sami people, native to the region, has apparently slaughtered in cold blood a priest, a law officer and a settler in their rectory.

Is there some bigger threat afoot? Blackasen seems to be a place of many secrets.
But the Minister has more than a professional tie to Magnus, and at the last moment, he adds another responsibility. Disgusted by the wayward behaviour of his daughter Lovisa – Magnus’s sister-in law – the Minister demands that Magnus take her with him on his arduous journey.

Thus the two unlikely companions must venture out of the sophisticated city, up the coast and across country, to the rough-hewn religion and politics of the settler communities, the mystical, pre-Christian ways of the people who have always lived on this land, and the strange, compelling light of the midnight sun.
For Lovisa and Magnus, nothing can ever be the same again.

Review- In the Month of the Midnight Sun is the second historical Nordic Noir thriller by Swedish author Cecilia Ekback. Her debut novel, Wolf Winter was one of my favourite reads of 2015, so when I had the opportunity to read her new release (set 150 years later in the same setting) I was very excited! She’s a brilliant writer and creates a character-driven and intricate plotted murder mystery that keeps you guessing until the very end.

It’s 1855 in the Swedish Lapland’s Mountains and three men have been massacred. An indigenous man is in custody but refuses to talk. The Minister of Justice in Stockholm sends his son-in law Magnus, a geologist along with his exiled daughter Lovisa (and Magnus’s sister in law) to investigate and check on the Mountain resources. Once again, the Mountain is the star of the novel, it takes on a character in itself and creates an eerie backdrop to the intrigue of the murder mystery. Unlike Wolf Winter, this book is set during summer; known as the month of the midnight sun and so the heat creates an atmosphere amongst the people where frustrations simmer just below the surface.

Magnus is an interesting character whose past begins to emerge as he finds himself feeling at home in the mountains, while Lovisa redefines her identity without the disapproving observations of her father. Their meeting with settler and older Lapp woman Ester, initially fraught with distrust draws them together to uncover the mystery of the murder and the horrific tragedies that have been buried in the Laplands.

I won’t go too much into the plot; it’s really one of those stories you just have to read and experience for yourself. And in many ways when describing the plot it doesn’t seem like much really happens, but Ekback manages to make a lot happen without having to say much. I like that she allows the reader to read between the lines and discover things rather than being spoon-fed the clues.

Fans of Burial Rites will enjoy this one. Another great thriller and this author is definitely one I will seek out again in the future.

Read my review of Wolf Winter here

 

Overall Rating

4.5/5

“Fantastic!”

In the Month of the Midnight Sun can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

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Book Review: A French Wedding by Hannah Tunnicliffe

A French WeddingA French Wedding by Hannah Tunnicliffe

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Pan Macmillan, April 2016

Synopsis- Max is turning forty. All he wants for his birthday is for his six oldest friends to come to France to eat, dance, drink and laugh for one weekend. And to finally declare his secret, undying love for his best friend, Helen.

Juliette gave up her dream of owning an acclaimed Parisian restaurant to return to her tiny coastal village and nurse her aging parents. But she finds her home much changed, even the boulangerie where she first learned to love baking has fallen upon hard times. Now, as she tries to find her way to a new future, Max’s birthday weekend may just provide the new beginning Juliette is wishing for… but at whose cost?
Review- New Zealand born Hannah Tunnicliffe has once again created a character-driven story centered around delicious food and a wonderful exotic location. When I pick up a Tunnicliffe novel I know i’m going to get a novel with deeply flawed and strong characters, scrumptious food influences and a beautiful setting.

Quite different from her previous two novels The Colour of Tea and Season of Salt and Honey; A French Wedding brings together a group of college friends who reunite for Max’s 40th birthday. While it is Juliette whose POV we delve into first, Max really steals the show in the novel as his past and present collide. They meet up in his country house in France where Juliette is the interim cook. He’s well and truly in the midst of adulthood and yet he can’t seem to let go of all the habits that has kept him feeling young; alcohol, drugs, women and non-commitment. His friends are facing very real issues; marital problems, identity issues and health problems.

This is a very character-driven novel and I feel the author really succeeded in stripping away the layers of the underlying issues Max faces, but I was a little disappointed in the role played by Juliette. She’s painted as a very driven and focused woman who is determined to put her career above else and yet she’s very much invisible in this story. She’s in the background, watching everything unfold before her and I’d have liked to see her really take charge of her life. Her character could have been fleshed out further and pulled her to the forefront of the story to really give it a big impact.

Otherwise, I really enjoyed this story and I look forward to reading more by this author in the future.

Overall Rating

3.5/5

“I really liked this”

A French Wedding can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

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Book Review: Under Italian Skies by Nicky Pellegrino

Under Italian SkiesUnder Italian Skies by Nicky Pellegrino

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Hachette, April 2016

Synopsis- Stella has life under control – and that’s the way she likes it. For twenty-five years, she’s been trusted assistant to a legendary fashion designer, but after her boss dies suddenly, she’s left with nothing to do apart from clear the studio.

It seems as though the life she wanted has vanished. She is lost – until one day she finds a house swap website and sees a beautiful old villa in a southern Italian village. Could she really exchange her poky London flat for that?

But what was intended as just a break becomes much more, as Stella finds herself trying on a stranger’s life. As the villa begins to get under her skin, she can’t help but imagine the owner from the clues around her. She meets his friends, cooks the local food he recommends and follows suggestions to go to his favourite places. But can an idea of someone ever match up to the reality?

As Stella wonders if she can let go of the safety of her past, perhaps there’s a chance for her to find a way into her future…

Review- This novel was such a pleasant surprise. I was initially attracted to the setting (Italy) and the premise (house swap) but was a little wary after a few pages in when I realised the protaganist was in her late 40’s; almost two decades older than me. I wasn’t sure I could relate, but this was such a lovely, well written book with a fantastic cast of characters, that I was very quickly swept away and found it difficult to put the book down.

In Under Italian Skies, Stella is stuck in a rut. Her long-term employer has died as has her assistant job in fashion design. Stella hadn’t ever considered doing anything else, she was happy and content; comfortable. When her best friend Birdie suggests she place her little flat in Camden, London on a house swap website and take an ‘adult gap year’, Stella is hesitant but goes along with the plan. It’s not long before she’s swapping keys with the mysterious Leo, a landscape designer from Southern Italy and is packing up her life to venture into the unknown. She stays in Leo’s summer holiday home, Villa Rosa in Triento. It’s outside of tourist season in this small town and it’s not long before Stella befriends Francesca the local linen store assistant, Rafaella a widow who runs a restaurant in summer and the local celebrity Tosca; three women who, like Stella, are trying to redefine their identity and find their place in the world.

Though Stella’s character doesn’t jump out of the pages, I did feel connected to her. As the reader I wasn’t sure where the story would lead me, just as Stella was stepping into murky waters, unsure where her journey would lead her. The women in the story are all strong, opinionated and sometimes Stella became swept up in their dramas, but after some time it was clear that Stella was also the catalyst for each of the women to change their lives.

One of my favourite elements of the story, was the sub-plot friendship that develops between Stella and Leo via emails. We never see Leo’s POV but he is so alive from the emails and this is a great credit to the author for developing his character so well that the development of their relationships felt completely natural and realistic. I finished this book with a big smile on my face and even said aloud “that’s nice” because I just loved how some of the plot was left open-ended while others were tied up neatly. Highly recommend this book!

Overall Rating

“I loved this book!”

4.5/5

Under Italian Skies can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

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