The Greatest Gift by Rachael Johns Review

The Greatest Gift by Rachael Johns
The Greatest Gift by Rachael Johns, ISBN 9781489241153, 432pp, pub Oct 2017

The Greatest Gift is the latest fiction release from Rachael Johns, an Australian author with a lot of fans in both the rural romance and women’s fiction (a phrase that bugs me, shouldn’t it just be fiction?) category. This book fits into the latter category. I picked this up because I was curious to see if I would like a new author and because the subject matter intrigued me.

The Greatest Gift is set in Sydney and the Hunter Valley in NSW and tells the story of two very different couples. Harper and Samuel Drummond are a career-driven married couple who don’t want children. Harper works as a successful radio host and Samuel is a lawyer who works long hours. Claire and Jasper Lombard are a married couple who run a hot air balloon business and would love a baby  but a bout of cancer as a child has left Claire infertile.

Harper begins to feel like something is missing in her life and when she interviews another couple who got pregnant after years of trying, thanks to an egg donor, she believes she’s found her purpose. She will give someone the greatest gift of all. Continue reading

The Break by Marian Keyes: A Review

The Break cover
The Break by Marian Keyes, Kindle edition, 568 pp

Reading a Marian Keyes novel is like having a cosy chat over a bottle of wine with a girlfriend you only see every few years. There are laughs, the occasional tear, secrets shared, milestones celebrated and losses commiserated. I’ve read every one of Marian’s novels over the years. They have taken me through my twenties and into my thirties and have never disappointed.

The Break is Marian Keyes’s latest novel. Set in Dublin and London, it tells the story of Amy O’Connell, a 44 year old mother of two girls (and carer of a niece) who works in PR and is married to the dependable Hugh. She is part of a large, nosey family, has a ‘portfolio of friends’, and is on her second marriage. Suddenly Hugh decides he needs to take a break by himself in the form of a six month trip to South East Asia. But he doesn’t just want a break from Ireland. He wants a break from his marriage. What follows is the before, during and after effects of this decision on their marriage and family.

Continue reading

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris (ISBN 9780575096622, 352pp, May 2013)
Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris (ISBN 9780575096622, 352pp, May 2013)

It’s all over. OVER! After years of dedicated reading, I’ve just finished the final Sookie Stackhouse book. Thirteen books and it’s finally done. Without wanting to spoil it for others, I know the ending I wanted and it is not the ending I got. But it was the ending that I knew was coming. It’s the ending that makes the most sense, but the ending that seems to have sent people on goodreads into the depths of despair.

I loved this series but only loyalty had me reading the last few books. The story seemed to lose its way in its quest to stretch out to thirteen installments. Still, I will remember all the great writing that had me eagerly anticipating each installment. Who would have thought that a waitress called Sookie Stackhouse with telepathic powers and a love of tanning could make such fantastic reading? Add in vampires, werewolves, fairies, maenads, witches, shapeshifters, werepanthers, weretigers, demons and zealots and it was a recipe for a whole lot of fun.

Thank goodness I still have the TrueBlood HBO series to watch or else I would be distraught about saying good-bye to Sookie.


Me Before You by Jojo Moyes Review

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (Kindle edition, 516 pages, pub Dec 2011)
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (Kindle edition, 516 pages, pub Dec 2011)

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is a very misleading book. The title suggests a light, fluffy romance, which is backed up by a pink cover that gives nothing away. Nor does the book’s blurb. Lou Clark is a twenty-something woman who just lost her job at The Buttered Bun tea shop in a sleepy English town she has lived in all her life. She is about to meet Will Traynor – a man whose motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. Cue a mismatched pair ala Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy and wait for the sparks to fly. Well, that’s what the book’s packaging seemed to indicate.

But what I got instead was very different. Yes, there are still the elements of two very different people meeting and not getting on. There is growing understanding over time. But what you don’t know until you are reading this book is that the character Will Traynor is a quadriplegic. And though you hope for some miracle to occur and for him to get up and walk, this book is far more realistic than that.

Lou Clark gets a job as his carer although she has no qualifications. All she can do for him is make cups of tea and give his flat a clean, whilst trying to stay out of the way of his bad temper. Before becoming a quadriplegic, Will was a lawyer and an adrenalin junkie with a zest for jumping out of planes and climbing mountains. His accident made him lose everything, including his model girlfriend. He sees nothing good about his life.

Lou finds out that she got the job because Will has scared away all his other carers. And his mother wants him to be watched at all times because he has previously attempted suicide. Then Lou learns by accident that Will has gotten his parents to agree that in six months time they will take him to Switzerland where there is assisted suicide. Though sworn to secrecy by Will’s mother, Lou makes it her personal mission to try to make Will change his mind.

So as you can see, this is not the formula for a typical chick lit book and the publishers of this book may have done it a disservice trying to market it that way. I read this book in a day. I just couldn’t put it down. In the course of reading it, I learnt so much about what people who are quadriplegic go through. They have countless medical problems. Not to mention the mental anguish of going from able-bodied to life in a wheelchair. Even the problems they have going places when in a wheelchair and how they are treated by family, friends and wider society.

But this story is not all about Lou trying to change Will. It’s also about Will trying to encourage a young woman who has no goals, has never gone outside her town, and is with a fitness mad boyfriend who doesn’t get her, to branch out in life – and live.

This book surprised me  greatly. I got so much more than I thought I was going to get. It was not quite the light read I was after, but definitely worth reading. Now to look up some of the other books by Jojo Moyes …

Jane Eyre Laid Bare: A Review

Jane Eyre Laid Bare by Eve SInclair
Jane Eyre Laid Bare by Eve Sinclair (e-book) 336 pages, pub Oct 2012

I don’t really know what made me choose Jane Eyre Laid Bare by Eve Sinclair to read. I saw it when scrolling through a list of e-books on Amazon and bought it on impulse because I love the book Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and wanted to see what the “naughty” version of it was like. I thought it could be interesting. I thought wrong. But I can’t say I wasn’t warned. A quick look at reviews posted on goodreads showed that those who disliked it did so with a passion bordering on venomous. Still, I thought I would give it a go.

Basically, this book is the fantastic classic Jane Eyre with random sex thrown in – and not even good sex. It was cringe-worthy. The parts I liked best were the parts closest to passages from the original book. I flicked quickly through this book just so I could get it over and done with. And don’t even get me started on the terrible ending …

I’ve come to the conclusion that classics are classics for a reason – because they are pretty much the perfect read in their original form. To cut them up, and inject gratuitous raunchiness into them that in no way enhances the original story, could be seen as a form of sacrilege. It just made me appreciate how much more passionate the original Jane Eyre story was because of what it hinted at but didn’t say. Less truly is more and it was more powerful for me when the passion between Mr Rochester and Jane Eyre was implied rather than outlined in kinky detail. Was it really necessary to learn that Jane and the other girls at the orphanage she grew up in were “very close” friends?

If you haven’t read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte then perhaps give this a read – but if you have read the classic then this may really, really annoy you. Its probably best not to bother with this version that adds sex parties, sex toys from Japan and servants going at it like rabbits to a classic. What next Fifty Shades of Darcy? Sensual and Sensuality? Whipping Heights? Alice gets it on in wonderland? Kinkyrella? Pokemehontas? Hmm … on second thought maybe I should jump on the bandwagon and write me an e-book!

Children Of Liberty by Paullina Simons: A Review

Children Of Liberty by Paullina Simons (ISBN: 9780007241576, 544 pages, Published October 2012)

I’ve been a fan of Paullina Simons for years. It started with the book Tully and then continued with The Bronze Horseman trilogy and on to books like The Girl in Times Square and Red Leaves. Children of Liberty is a kind of prequel to The Bronze Horseman in that it tells the story of how the parents of Alexander (the male protagonist in TBH series) met in the early 1900’s in Boston.

What I’ve always liked about Paullina Simons books are the interesting, twisty plots and the angst-ridden romances. They are usually rich in detail and contain flawed female characters who you can’t help but like and cheer for. But this time? Umm…

The book begins with 14-year-old Gina from Italy stepping off a boat at Boston’s Freedom Docks with her mother and brother. They have come to America as it was the dying wish of Gina’s father. At the dock, they meet Harry Barrington and his friend Ben Shaw. The two young men are the sons of prominent Bostonian families and greet families at the dock to house them at the buildings Harry’s father owns around town.

Gina convinces her family to accept their help. They stay a night and then move to a town called Lawrence outside of Boston. From there Gina starts a number of money making schemes whilst nursing her love for Harry and conspiring ways to bump into him again.

Harry is engaged to a rich young heiress called Alice. He doesn’t do much apart from study at university and quote from a lot of highbrow writers of the day. His friend Ben is a more likeable and interesting character. Ben is also smitten with Gina but she only has eyes for the rather wet Harry. Fast forward and a few plot points happen, but mostly nothing. Then suddenly it is years later and Gina is all grown up. A couple more things happen and then the book limps to a unsatisfactory conclusion.

I think Gina was supposed to be like the tough, enterprising character Tatiana from The Bronze Horseman. But I found her ‘cuteness’ annoying. Whilst there were historical details thrown in here and there – like references to the building of the Panama Canal and quotes from writers and political activists from the time – I felt like this story wasn’t as fully fleshed out as I am used to reading from Paullina Simons.

Maybe because I found most of her other books to be such great reads I am judging this book a bit harshly. I read it, I got to the end, but unlike her other books, which I’ve read numerous times, I won’t be giving this one another read.

Has one of your favourite authors ever disappointed you?

Fifty Shades of Umm … Okay (Or blogging about flogging)

Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James (514 pages, ISBN: 9780099579939, published April 2012, Random House)

I read Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James a few weeks ago and have since then dragged my heels over writing a review. I just don’t know what to say. This is the first book in an erotic trilogy that as an e-book climbed up The New York Times bestseller list. Now it is climbing the bestseller lists again as a published book.

Is it a bad read? Well, no, not really. I read that this story originally started out as Twilight fan fiction and it’s easy to see the similarities. The female protagonist Ana Steele – or Anastasia – is a college student who is annoyingly unaware of her attractiveness to the opposite sex (just like Bella in Twilight). She interviews a very rich CEO called Christian Grey for the student newspaper and experiences instant attraction. He then turns up at her workplace and pursues her further only to warn her away from him (like Edward does with Bella). But they can’t stay away from each other. (Isn’t obsessive love grand?)

And that is pretty much the plot for the first part of the book. Then we learn that Christian has very fixed ideas on how he wants to conduct their relationship. He even has a contract for Ana to sign. The boardroom is not the only place he likes to be in control – in the bedroom he demands total submission! It’s like a twisted version of the Cinderella story with whips, riding crops, cable ties and other ‘romantic’ paraphernalia.

Unfortunately, Ana is not the submissive type. She is attracted to Christian but she just doesn’t understand why a very wealthy, good-looking twenty-seven-year-old is into this sort of thing. (Though the book repeatedly hints at some explanation.) But because he looks so good in jeans and flies a helicopter she is willing to give it a go. He is equably obsessed with her and loses control every time she bites her lip. Seriously, she bites her lip a lot!

I guess the drama of the book comes from the power struggle between the controlling alpha male and the ‘don’t tell me what to do’ younger woman. Will experience corrupt innocence or will innocence purify experience? Will Ana make a proper boyfriend out of her troubled CEO or will Christian turn her into his submissive sex toy? I’m not sure if I cared by the time I got to the end, but it’s the type of book that keeps you reading.

There is a lot of sex in this book and it’s not your average variety. It’s definitely a book that makes you not want the person next to you on public transport reading over your shoulder. I preferred reading the conversations and emails between Ana and Christian. EL James writes quite witty dialogue – even if her plot involving a CEO who never seems to work was preposterous.

Why is this book a bestseller? I think there are several reasons:

  • It’s a naughty read for women with a title that doesn’t hint at its content. Until it became huge, who would know what a book called Fifty Shades of Grey was really about?
  • Word-of-mouth from woman to woman. I first heard about this book from a colleague at work and then told another colleague and pretty soon half of us had read it. Most to see what the fuss was about.
  • It’s not a taxing read. Like the Twilight books you can read it pretty quickly.
  • Maybe it gives women some ideas to introduce into the bedroom????

I don’t feel compelled to rush out and read Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. Maybe I will one day, but right now I have plenty of other books I want to read. Ultimately, I think a book that is being embraced by women everywhere is a good thing – even if the whole submissive/dominant thing didn’t do anything for me.

Phew, that concludes this review …