Steadfast by Sarina Bowen

Steadfast (True North, #2)Steadfast by Sarina Bowen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second instalment of the True North Series, and it was a lot meatier than the first one!

Jude is one of the best anti-heroes I’ve read in a romance. The chemistry between him and Sophie is all the right levels of complicated, steamy, hot, and sad.

I’m used to a series like this staying in one place, so it was awesome to find that we move away from Shipley Farm, and end up following Jude to Colebury – which is representative of a lot of small towns, and I feel that drugs is an issue that certainly pervades many rural small towns here in Australia, so it was gratifying to see that issue was front and centre.

Jude is a recovering addict, and his temptations are well-written. His history in prison is one that is heard of everywhere, and shows the author is well-read on issues around drugs and prisons. The church dinner’s is the perfect setting for him and Sophie to have space to connect without the town noticing.

Sophie is Jude’s high school sweetheart, and it was her brother that Jude killed in a car accident while he was high, and that sent him to prison. She is also the police chief’s daughter – cue the plot thickens, as he isn’t a nice man at all.

The story itself sets a sweet pace, as we are treated to glimpses of their relationship when they were at high school, then we are moved back to the bleakness of both of their lives without each other after the tragic car accident. The mystery that Sophie discovers adds another layer, and yet I never felt it was too much or that it was over-written. I also like that we do get to go back to the characters of the last book at the Shipley’s, and that they act as Jude’s safe-haven and are ultimately his new family.

The ending was satisfying, and well-earned, but I won’t spoil it!
The author did well writing a second instalment to a series that I think I may love more than the first – and managed to write such a different story, I’m impressed with her writing skills and style!

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Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Him (Him, #1)Him by Sarina Bowen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jamie and Wes are my favourite couple after reading this.

I found Sarina Bowen through the True North series, and Elle Kennedy has been on my radar through recommendations for awhile. I thought that this would be a good introduction to her too.

I was not disappointed.

The writing is fantastic, and usually I’m quite critical of collaborative writing. For some reason, I find collaborations have areas where you can see one influence, and then another – but I couldn’t find that in ‘Him’.

The characters are brilliant, I love each of them and what they bring individually to the story. Their differences and own stories are put together in a way that feels real enough that I could happily move with the plot.

At first, there is some dialogue that is a little bit unrealistic. I found the character Holly to be a little too over-done, and I found even throughout the book that her dialogue was lacking, and not true to the rest of the story. She is a needed character, but I wasn’t a fan. She is in the first part, and this bit I found a little boring.

The dialogue between Wes and Jamie was well-written, and I enjoyed that part of their interactions a lot. The camp was a great backdrop as it gave a location where they could have all that time together without it being weird.

I liked how the backstory was revealed to us, and that there was overlap of the backstory between the characters, and of the characters themselves. It set the scene nicely for the rest of the book, but didn’t feel like a huge amount of information piled on you at once – which is impressive considering their history.

I will definitely be reading the next instalment, and I can’t wait to see where they end up.

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Bittersweet by Sarina Bowen

Bittersweet (True North, #1)Bittersweet by Sarina Bowen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bittersweet is the first instalment of the True North series by Sarina Bowen. I actually read this a long time ago, but recently re-read and thought I’d review it.

I’m a little new to the romance genre, and I have to admit that I was a bit of a snob towards romance before giving it a real go. However, once I found some great authors who allowed me to see some of the amazing ways the genre can be used – I’m a bit of a fan now.

I love Griff and Audrey, I like them because they are well-constructed characters, with motivations that are real and well-explained. Their story is one that I became really invested in, and I was in love with the Shipley Farm from almost the first chapter.

The author creates excellent dialogue, and I love that – I like the interactions between the characters because of their conversations, it made me feel like I was part of the group standing around and chatting. Their ‘voice’ is how I think, and that made me enjoy the story a lot more.

There was just the right amount of backstory given, and just the right amount of characters to know. I really liked Zara, I thought she was really well-written, and I liked that most of the female characters were strong in who they are and how they live (being a romance snob, I assumed that female romance leads would be flaky women who need a man… I’m sorry romance writers! I swear I’ve seen the error of my ways!).

This is an easy read, but one that makes you feel good while you read it. I really liked it, even more as a re-read, and intend to read the rest of the series.

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Tell Nobody by Patricia Gibney

Tell Nobody (Detective Lottie Parker, #5)Tell Nobody by Patricia Gibney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This wasn’t my favourite in the series for a couple of reasons. The first is that the formula is just too tired by the fifth instalment I felt.
Lottie is a well-portrayed single mother, and I like her work ethic and that those around her respect that work ethic. However, she does receive a lot of help from her mother to achieve this, and is so completely ungrateful for that help that it’s a little grating. I understand having issues with you parents (I have many), but when they are the reason you can have the job that you do – and a roof over your head, there’s a little part of me that thinks she could be a little kinder.
I’ve always enjoyed the POV changes in this series, but in this particular story, there were a few too many terrible chapter endings for some characters. I’ve never been a fan of exclamation marks – and there were so many at the ends of chapters. This may have been that she didn’t quite capture the mind of a pre-teen boy very well, and so that was extra-hard to read.
The mystery itself was good, as always. The way she reveals information keeps the story interesting and fast-paced. In this instance, I nearly guessed the ending – which I love as well in a crime novel, I like that the story was told well enough that you could have guessed. It’s satisfying knowing that there is an ending where you could get it right if you follow all the clues, I’m not a big fan of endings that come out of nowhere and there’s no way anyone could have guessed what was coming.
The interactions between the characters is fantastic, and I like the dialogue that is exchanged in the office.
There was a lot to like, but I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the others.

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Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

Us Against You (Beartown, #2)Us Against You by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I’ve come to understand, everything by this author is written incredibly well.
For me, I liked this a little more than Beartown, simply because it wasn’t as repetitive in the points it was getting across. And there were many points to be discussed in this story. It hit on so many issues that are within society in general, in sports culture, in teenagers, in small towns, in individuals. It did all this, and did it so well.
Benji was still one of the best characters I’ve read, and I was very pleased with his development and conclusion. However, all the characters are done well, and each one feels like someone you know – surprisingly, even Maggan Lyt has a positive light by the end.
The brutal story, mixed with the realistic thoughts and actions of those involved make it hard to read at times, but it is worth getting through it.
Backman has such a beautiful way of phrasing things that rings in my mind for a long time after I’ve finished reading. His writing style is something that makes me want to read every single thing he has ever written, and I’m on my way!
Highly recommend, and can be read as a standalone, but works better having read after Beartown.

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The Mister

The MisterThe Mister by E.L. James
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This was as atrociously bad as I thought it would be – but who could stay away after ’50 Shades’?

I don’t know if it was better or worse that E L James had obviously tried to better her writing. In some ways it was like being a high school teacher, being proud that your student has tried new techniques, and is expanding their vocabulary. In other ways it was horrifying that something a high school student could write better, was published at all.

How to describe the terrible characters… they were so poorly written that it was actually funny in some parts. The whole Albania history was absolutely ridiculous, and as is the author’s style, so repetitive. Maxim was possibly the worst male character for this style of book, the author made him sound more like a teenage girl crushing on someone, than an Earl worthy of saving the heroine of the story.

Let’s get to the real reason this got a one-star from me, because it was hilarious, it could have gotten a two-star just because it was at least amusing. The portrayal of Alessia as an abuse survivor, suffering PTSD was appalling. Appalling. It was not written well, the author had obviously not read up on how to write for such a character, and even if it is a fantasy-portrayal, the trauma she goes through is too far away from acceptable for her emotional response at the end.

A terrible, hilarious, and depressing read. The only thing it does is give me hope, because if that can be published, I have a chance!

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Britt-Marie Was Here

Britt-Marie Was HereBritt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I became hooked on this author after reading ‘A Man Called Ove’, and this was recommended by a fellow fan of his.
I very much enjoyed this story, and I especially liked the ending – despite it being unsatisfactory to me. The reason it was so unsatisfactory is because the author did such a wonderful job at allowing our protagonist a journey where she had so many choices ahead of her, that I couldn’t think of the one I would most prefer her to have.
The story-telling was wonderful, as always. I loved Britt-Marie and the was she grew on everyone, also the way she grew on herself. I understood her character perfectly, and it was due to the author that she was so understandable.
He has a way of showing you people in a new light, and it’s this trait that I love the most about this writing. The compassion, and the value in every person if you look for it.
I found the football part a bit hard because I don’t follow football, and not being a supporter I wasn’t aware of the nuances of each team – despite that being described well enough.
It was a lovely mix of Beartown and A Man Called Ove. Would highly recommend.

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Anatomy of a Scandal

Anatomy of a ScandalAnatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an interesting courtroom drama, and an easy-read.

I admit that I expected more meat to the story, I expected a little more ambiguity, and a little less drama, and a little more intrigue. I expected more twists and turns, and I was waiting for them all to occur.

This played out exactly how I thought it would, down to the predictability of the ending. I anticipated every step, and while I thought that Holly would go somewhere else, it wasn’t at all surprising she didn’t.

Having said that, the writing style was satisfying, if a little dry. The characters and placement were written well, and had just enough to them that I cared about what was happening – unfortunately, that;s about it though.

I would recommend for a travel-read.

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Normal People

Normal PeopleNormal People by Sally Rooney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The writing style of this novel really drew me in, I was unable to put it down and read it in two sittings.
I loved Marianne and Connell, and I loved their journey up to a point.
This felt really reminiscent of One Day by David Nicholls, a book that I really enjoyed (movie not as much). At least the ending of that was somewhat satisfying in its way, unlike the ending of this which was just frustrating instead.
There is a point at which it becomes boring to rehash the same conversations over and over again in a different scenario , even it if is supposed to have a point behind it. There was just one or two conversations too many for me to like the ending or think it was a clever way to leave things.
The writing was so wonderful that I stayed with it, and I’m still so happy to have found the author. It was almost a sensual read, and a romance at its heart, yet it explored so many topics throughout including modern masculinity, femininity, social ideals, relationships in every sphere, and trauma.
I would recommend to anyone, it was a lovely read that leaves you with a lot to think about – because even though I’m dissatisfied with the ending, it means I was invested enough in the characters to feel they were let down.

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Bogan Mondrian

The Bogan MondrianThe Bogan Mondrian by Steven Herrick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A book club pick, the person who recommended was unaware that it was YA – that’s not a problem for me, but will make for an interesting discussion.
I grew up where this book is set, and lived in North Katoomba where our male protagonist is based. This was both a good and bad thing while reading. It was good because it added a level of familiarity and I could see glimpses of little bits of local truths woven throughout – and that was fun. It was bad because I was constantly thinking, wait that’s not there – or, that would take so long to walk to no one in their teens would actually do that. So it pulled me out of the novel a little as the author took some liberties with the landscape. Perhaps if real road names weren’t used I may not have had the same reaction.
It was also hard for me to write a review as I already had the scenery and town landmarks in my memories – so I’m not sure how well they were described for someone who didn’t know those places. I can’t think of anywhere that is easy to get to from Katoomba to see horse racing either.
Also, North Katoomba is really not this poverty stricken landscape compared to South Katoomba, they are about even at this point – that grated on me a little as well. If Charlotte had lived in Leura it would have made more sense, but as in any mountains community, the closer to the bush the more expensive the houses, the closer to the towns the cheaper they are, and North and South Katoomba have their rich areas.
I found Charlotte’s reactions and behaviours a little hard to believe for the age of the characters, that was a bit of a jolt throughout the whole book, the over-reactions of the characters to things that I didn’t quite get. I also found the ending not satisfactory in how it was managed. Having said that, this is YA, and younger YA at that, so in that context I think it was handled well.
Difficult one for me, I liked it and thought it was fun and informative for the age it was aimed at – however, it had the feel of being too informative in some respects. I think it’s a story and writing style caught between being too old for upper-primary, but too information driven for young adults.

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