Monday 31 March 2014

Review: Winning Over Skylar by Julianna Morris

This was a quick, easy read, but it left me with an overwhelming feeling of "meh". It wasn't terrible, but it certainly wasn't great. It focuses on Skylar, a recently widowed young mum whose ex-fling - and the biological father of her kid - suddenly comes back into town. He doesn't know that he's a father and Skylar wants to keep it that way. But things get awkward when his little sister, who he is looking after, starts buddying up with Skylar's daughter. You can see where this is going...

Yes, it was predictable. There were some nice moments but not enough to pull it above ordinary. It didn't help that I felt absolutely no connection to any of these characters. They were all two-dimensional and unrealistic. Their reactions to each other were particularly unbelievable - especially the way Aaron acts as though Skylar must be some kind of horrible influence on his sister just because she was a "wild teenager". Like, do people actually think like that, as though people can't change, and that being a rebellious teenager makes you a horrible adult? Ugh.

The teenagers were also really poorly written. They talked in the "by golly" manner of six-year-olds in the 1950s. No teenager talks like this in the world, I guarantee you. I didn't think there was enough exploration of their emotions - of anyone's emotions, for that matter. There's a lot happening that could have a profound emotional impact but the story never really does more than skim the surface.

To be honest, writing this review, I can't really think of anything I particularly liked about this book. Yes, some scenes were sweet but the rest of the book was OK at best. Frankly I'd rather have read something else.

Rating: 3/5

Fine Print
Published: April 2014, Harlequin
Source: Netgalley

Sunday 30 March 2014

GIF Reviews: Quick Catch Up On Some Terrible Books And Some Good Books I've Read Lately

Every time I get caught up on reviews, I feel all smug and then get distracted/busy for a few weeks and find myself more behind than ever. Like now. When I am 15 reviews behind. Which I'm pretty sure is the most behind I've ever been. I blame it on all the novellas I've been reading lately. Same amount of pages, but more actual books. So to smash a bunch out right now so it's not weighing so heavily on my mind, and get back to regular reviewing (I know I've said it before, but I can only keep trying), I'm going where I've never gone before: GIF reviews! One-GIF reviews, to be specific. My feelings about a book, summed up in a GIF. Because mini reviews are just too long. Here we go...

Fury of Fire (Dragonfury book 1) by Coreene Callahan, audio read by Benjamin L. Darcie
In a sentence: Dragon shifter leader meets special snowflake nurse, falls in love instantly which leads to kidnapping, sexy sexy sex times, a surprise pregnancy which said dragon dude knew would happen but didn't bother to warn special snowflake nurse about, fights, battle, HEA.
In a GIF:
Rating: 2/5

Fury of Ice (Dragonfury book 2) by Coreene Callahan, audio read by Benjamin L. Darcie
In a sentence: Dragon shifter second-in-command meets special snowflake police detective, falls in love instantly, stuff happens, sexy sexy sex times, more stuff happens, meh I can't even really remember the rest.
In a GIF:
Rating: 2/5

Too Busy for Love by Tamsin Baker, via Netgalley
In a sentence: Busy hot businessman has fling with younger hot virgin gardener, falls in love, HEA, way too predictable and rushed.
In a GIF:
Rating: 2/5

Impossible Desires by Tamsin Baker, via Netgalley
In a sentence: Historical romance that is completely historically inaccurate - widow who is at last free from an abusive marriage wants to remarry, as long as she can be in control of ALL aspects of the relationship. Good thing she meets a kinky nobleman who has no personality but wants to fulfill her every desire.
In a GIF:
Rating: 1/5

Crazy, Stupid Sex by Maisey Yates, via Netgalley
In a sentence: After breaking up with her bland boyfriend, a smart but clueless-in-a-cute-way redhead meets smoking hot, rich player she wants to bang. They bang and fall in love yada yada yada. Basically Crazy, Stupid, Love fanfiction.
In a GIF:
Rating: 2/5

Indecent... Exposure (Indecent book 1) by Jane O'Reilly
In a sentence: Quiet, conservative photographer has a sexy photo business on the side, and things get personal and complicated (not to mention fun) when her quiet, conservative accountant/crush comes in for a photo shoot.
In a GIF:
Rating: 3.5/5

Crashing Into You by B.D. Rowe, via Netgalley
In a sentence: Idiotic girl moons over roommate's boyfriend, roommate dies, idiotic girl hooks up with roommate's boyfriend, roommate's little sister shows up, idiotic girl gets jealous, does something really horrible, gets HEA anyway.
In a GIF:
Rating: 1/5

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, audio read by Emilia Fox
In a sentence: You know the drill. Great reading by Emilia Fox (though Juliet Stevenson is still my fave Austen narrator).
In a GIF:
Rating: 5/5

Indecent... Proposal (Indecent book 2) by Jane O'Reilly
In a sentence: Adventurous woman realises her best friend's hot brother is not as conservative as he seems... and apparently he wants her - cue tension, sexy sexy sex times, drama, HEA.
In a GIF:
Rating: 3/5

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
In a sentence: Girl with cancer meets boy in remission, they fall in love, everyone's hearts get broken.
In a GIF:
Rating: 3/5

Colters' Woman (Colters' Legacy book 1) by Maya Banks, audio read by Freddie Bates
In a sentence: Three brothers live together, work together, and want to be in a relationship together - but not with each other, coz that would be GROSS, ew, no they want to be in a relationship with a WOMAN, just all at once which is not gross AT ALL, ahem - luckily for them they find a special snowflake damsel in distress, cue sexy sexy sex times, drama, yada yada yada.
In a GIF:
Rating: 2/5

In a sentence: Basically an extended epilogue to Colters' Woman, about the birth of the brothers' first child with their collective wife.
In a GIF:
Rating: 2/5

Colters' Lady (Colters' Legacy book 2) by Maya Banks, audio read by Freddie Bates
In a sentence: The three sons of the characters in book 1 don't want an unconventional relationship like their parents, until they all fall in insta-love with the same special snowflake damsel in distress and decide sexy sexy sex times all together isn't so weird after all.
In a GIF:
Rating: 2/5

Indecent... Desires (Indecent book 3) by Jane O'Reilly
In a sentence: Meredith is in her 30s and recently divorced, trying to get her bossy side under control and find someone she can settle down with, but everything changes when she meets a hot 20-something who likes to be told what to do.
In a GIF:
Rating: 4/5

Jane Austen Miscellany by Lesley Bolton
In a sentence: Bits and pieces from Austen's letters and biographies, quotes from her books, adaptations to check out and further reading to try, all wrapped up in a really pretty book.
In a GIF:
Rating: 3/5

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Top Ten Books On My Autumn TBR List

It's that time again - time to make a list of books I want to read in the coming months that I will probably actually get to in about two years.

1. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Soo many people have absolutely loved this book, so I have high hopes I'll enjoy it.

2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I adore this book, and I haven't read it in years, so getting the audiobook recently I'm keen to revisit it.

3. Take Me On by Katie McGarry. This is the latest in the Pushing the Limits series and it comes out in May, I'm really looking forward to it.

4. Bird by Crystal Chan. This book sounds so great, and Mands from The Bookish Manicurist was kind enough to lend me her copy, so I'll definitely be reading it soon.

5. The Maze Runner by James Dashner. The movie trailer was released today and it looks great, which makes me really want to read the book.

6. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs. I loved the first book and was so annoyed to wait so long for the second, yet I still haven't read it.

7. The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas. I am completely addicted to Veronica Mars right now.

8. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. I started listening to this on audio, but I just wasn't getting into it, despite it being really good. So I put it on hold until I'm in the right mood.

9. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. I have been wanting to read Rainbow Rowell FOREVER. Well, at least since I first heard about her and her fantastic writing.

10. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. I'd really like to reread this series just to make sure it's as good as I remember (after watching the awfulness that is the movie). Hopefully it lives up to the memory!

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Top Ten Popular Authors I've Never Read

This list is kinda embarrassing. These are all authors I keep MEANING to read, but haven't quite got around to yet. Terrible, I KNOW.

1. John Green.

2. Sarah Dessen.

3. Jaclyn Moriarty.

4. J.R.R. Tolkien.

5. Rainbow Rowell.

6. Diana Wynne Jones.

7. Patrick Ness.

8. Philip Pullman.

9. Haruki Murakami.

10. Philippa Gregory.

Hopefully I will read at least one book from each of these by the end of the year!

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.

Sunday 2 March 2014

Series Review: Playing by the Rules and Rules are for Breaking by Imelda Evans

Playing by the Rules by Imelda Evans (Source: Netgalley)
This is the second book in this series but I didn't realise when I read it, and it actually made sense anyway because chronologically it comes first. Kate lives in Paris and has an amazing job with an amazing boyfriend, until he dumps her when she expects him to propose. She has to return to Australia for her 10 year high school reunion sans the fiance she RSVPed for. Her best friend Jo has the perfect solution: Jo's brother Josh is in town and can pretend to be her fiance for one night. Throw in the fact Kate was in love with Josh in high school and it turns out to be one very interesting night...

This book is completely adorable. The plot is full of ridiculous hijinks that are just so fun. The chemistry between Josh and Kate is great and Josh is totally swoon-worthy. Things progress very quickly but the fact that they had known each other years earlier prevented it from being unbelievable insta-love. There are so many cute and really funny moments, and I had a big goofy grin on my face for most of the book. I loved it.
Rating: 4.5/5

Rules are for Breaking by Imelda Evans
So yes, this book came out first but the events take place after Playing by the Rules, so I'm kinda glad I read it second. It's a few years later and the focus is on Jo, Josh's sister and Kate's best friend. She doesn't really believe in love and is always seeing guys but never has a relationship last longer than three weeks. As  a joke Kate bets Jo she can't go six weeks without hooking up with a guy, but her strength is soon tested when Declan, Jo's house guest, decides he's going to make Jo fall in love with him. He has a crush on her and also sees her as a challenge.

OK, the plot in Rules are for Breaking leans even more towards insta-love than Playing by the Rules, but it was so darn cute it didn't even really bother me. Declan and Jo have a kind of love-hate rapport that is really fun to read, and I really liked the exploration of love and relationships that happens through their story. I enjoyed the fact that Declan drove Jo absolutely nuts, and that while he could be really sweet, he also did annoying things like forget to do the dishes. You know, like real life! He was hot but he was no perfect God-like creature that you see way too often in love stories. I especially liked the realistic - and healthy - attitude towards relationships presented: that you don't have to do everything together, or even share all the same interests, to have a strong relationship - it's important to be a whole person and find someone who will support you to be that person, rather than needing someone to "complete" you. While I didn't love Rules are for Breaking quite as much as Playing by the Rules, I really liked it a lot!
Rating: 4/5

Recap: Garden of Shadows by Virginia Andrews, Part 5

Catch up:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Olivia confronts Malcolm about him raping and impregnating Alicia, and he takes the opportunity to tell her how she's failed him as a wife by not providing a big family, including a daughter. He also says he didn't rape Alicia, but she SEDUCED him because of course. He adds that it's partially Olivia's fault too because she's not woman enough for him, and Olivia is all "you mean I don't look enough like your mother for you?!" BURN.

Olivia outlines her conditions for the plan (Malcolm can't go near Alicia, once Alicia has had the baby she's to be sent away WITH all her money, Mal and Joel are to go to school and have one million dollar trust funds to give them independence from Malcolm, oh and Malcolm is going to hell), and she feels powerful over him which you can't help but cheer on.

Olivia tells Mal, Joel and Christopher that Alicia has to go away, and like the emotional manipulator she is, makes sure they know it is Malcolm who is to blame. Alicia pretends to leave, and all of the servants actually leave, having been fired because that doesn't make it seem suspicious AT ALL. When Alicia sneaks back in she accuses Olivia of enjoying the whole situation, and Olivia acts all offended even though it's totally true.

As Olivia helps Alicia settle in to her... confinement... she warns her how vulnerable she'll be in the attic room. Because that's how you help a rape victim. She makes Alicia cut her hair so that she'll be unattractive to Malcolm and therefore safe. Because a woman having long hair causes her to be raped.

The weeks pass and Alicia becomes depressed and ugly and compares herself to a dried up flower. FORESHADOWING. She misses Christopher but Olivia DGAF because he is one of the few people who actually likes her and she's happy to have him all to herself. Alicia basically cracks under the pressure and begins to act out fantasies that she's outside, with Christopher. It creeps Olivia out but she's most freaked out by the fact that all the pretending makes Alicia pretty again. She worries that Malcolm will secretly visit Alicia at night.

Olivia thinks she hears Malcolm sneaking around the corridors, and plans to catch him in Alicia's bed by sneaking through the attic entrance. But when she's in the attic, the light goes out and she thinks she hears rats and then she freaks out when she runs into an old dress form and thinks it's a person, and she bumps into everything as she tries to feel her way out of there. She makes it out and vows never to go in the attic again. Something her grandchildren would come to be grateful for. Like the sane person she is, she also decides that her bad experience in the attic was the "house protecting its own". Uh-huh. The next day she asks Malcolm if he's been creeping about but of course he denies it.

At Thanksgiving Olivia announces to the children that she's having a baby (she's been wearing cushions as a pregnant belly), and Malcolm gets all pissy because it was HIS news to announce, dammit. Christopher gets upset because he doesn't want to lose "another mommy". Awww. Alicia pretends like Olivia really is pregnant when she sees her, and soon Olivia feels as though there is something moving in her, and she thinks maybe it's God or something because she's doing his work. OK crazy.

A few weeks later Olivia is putting up the Christmas tree when she hears a scream from upstairs. She goes to yell at Alicia for making so much noise and discovers her in labour. Malcolm comes in and says HE'S in charge now, and dismisses Olivia to her room to "give birth". Olivia lies in her room for 12 hours screaming in "pain" while Alicia, actually in pain, has to remain silent as she actually gives birth. At dawn Malcolm comes into Olivia's room with the baby, all wrapped in pink, because of course it's a girl. And she is the most beautiful newborn in the history of history. Because looks are the most important thing, Olivia decides she can love this baby as her own. Malcolm gets all creepy (a.k.a. his usual self) and comments that it's how his mother must have looked as a baby, and that he's naming his daughter Corinne after his mum who he has a weird sexual obsession with. Olivia is naturally shocked and Malcolm explains that the name is to remind him that he can't trust this little girl because she will be a beautiful woman with beguiling ways. Poor Corinne never stood a chance.

Next time: Corinne grows up.