The Cartographer by Peter Twohig

The CartographerThe Cartographer by Peter Twohig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not anything at all like what I was expecting. Really enjoyed the voice of this story – I never felt that it wavered, it was consistent the whole way through which is very impressive. This may however have contributed to my one problem which was that it was a little long and seemed to have too much happening. I liked the tie-ins at the end, but we seemed to have one too many things happen before getting there.
I enjoyed the story itself. Every character was put together so well, and the voice of the narrator was a great mix of fun and funny – with just the right amount of sadness.
Highly recommended!

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Keepsake by Sarina Bowen

Keepsake (True North, #3)Keepsake by Sarina Bowen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Zac and Lark’s instalment is just as delicious as I expected it to be.
I found Zac’s character to be an interesting choice for the author from the start of the series. Being a kicked out of a cult is a pretty out-there backstory. Zac’s emerging story is written so well, and his thoughts and misgivings are sweet and insightful. His lack of knowledge around relationships and love aren’t corny or naive either, it is truthful and a little sad. His life with the Shipley’s is lovely, and I liked that Isaac and Leah have more air-time in this story as well.
Lark’s trauma is also well-written. Bowen puts a lot of effort into her research of subject matter, and it shows in her portrayal of PTSD in Lark’s life since returning from her abduction. I like an author that puts in that type of effort, as the writing reflects real knowledge, and so is that much more readable. Her old and new self war with each other, and as the story progresses we get to see so much of what it’s like to live as two people after a life-changing event.
May’s behaviour was a little radical, and sort of came out of nowhere for me. This was the only jolting part of the book, as it was clear that at some point May will have her own instalment and this was setting up for that. There had been no conversations in the previous two books that would indicate that May’s character was having the issues she was in this book.
Apart from that, I enjoyed it from start to finish.

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My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's SorryMy Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Despite how sad I am at having to write this, I did not finish this book. I love, love, love the author so much – and I tried so hard to enjoy the story and keep going. Unfortunately, there were just too many things I didn’t like, and couldn’t move beyond.
The stuff I did like – our young protagonist, she was written really well. Her understanding of things, and the thought processes were amazing. Her mother, and even step-father, were written well too.
I liked the sense of the housing, where she lived, and where her grandmother lived. It was described so that I knew exactly how everything fit together.
I didn’t like the Britt-Marie of this story, she was grating and annoying, which made me question my like of her own novel (which I did like, but not if she was as annoying as in this story). I didn’t like the constant referral to Miamas, and all the characters in it – a little bit was alright, but after awhile, it was too much and I was too confused.
I also didn’t connect with Granny, who was great in her outrageous qualities, but then too extreme.
I liked a lot about the writing, and I loved the neighbour, but I wasn’t able to get beyond the fantasy-land and real life merging together in a confusing fairy-tale language.
This wasn’t for me, but I would absolutely recommend any of the other books written by Fredrik Backman!

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The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta

The Place on DalhousieThe Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I struggled to rate this book, as it had moments where I found it extremely wonderful and profound. There just weren’t enough of those moments to make me like it, and I had to struggle through to the ending. This was a book club selection, as we had previously read, ‘Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil’ by the same author. It will make for an interesting discussion as I feel that it encompasses different target audiences in different ways, so in that respect it was good.

The premise drew me in straight away. Two women who feel they have a claim to one house, refuse to meet in the middle, and live together without speaking. Loved it, could go so many places – unfortunately, the idea that Rosie had any claim to the house was ridiculous, and the drama around the two women was not as interesting as it could have been.

Really, I just absolutely loathed Rosie. I could not stand her attitude, her failure to take any responsibility for decisions she made that eroded her relationship to her father, and her caustic manner towards every other person, and her idea that she should be able to make Martha’s life hell just because she lived in a house when she was little. What a brat. Unfortunately, by the time Rosie starts to become less frustrating, it’s too late in the novel and I had given up on her and just wanted to see the ending.

The author struck one important issue, that I found interesting, which was that adults even in to their mid-twenties are quite immature, in comparison to previous generations (I am part of Gen Y, so this isn’t meant as an insult, just a general observation).

Jimmy/SES Jesus, was the saving character, he was lovely. A well-rounded and fun character that has a clear development that is realistic and meaningful. Martha and her friends were also great additions – the whole netball team was gold!

However, there were too many characters for me to remember, and how they related to each other. The connected-ness was nice, although perhaps unnecessary in some ways. It created a wonderful sense of community, and I did feel like I was in the room with those friends when they were talking – I just wouldn’t have known who they were, and who was together with who, and why that was relevant.

For me, there was too much going on, too many characters that had focus on them for no real reason, and an incredibly un-likeable main character that had no redeeming qualities for me to latch on to at all. Loved the premise, but I needed more storyline, and less stories that went nowhere that seemed to have no outcome on the story.

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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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