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The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. - Jane Austen

Kathy Cooperman – Crimes Against a Book Club

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So apparently as an Amazon Prime member, you get a chance once a month to get a newly released book for free, and this was my choice for this month. I don’t read many crime books, but I was drawn in by the ‘book club’ in the title.

As it turns out, the book club was a very small part of the actual plot, and while I don’t usually ready crime books, this was a typical crime book as they usually focus on the people solving the crime, not the ones actually doing it.

I was drawn immediately to the main characters Sarah and Annie. Sarah, a drop dead gorgeous lawyer who is working herself into the ground, may look like she has a perfect life, but she can’t have children and it’s killing her. And Annie, who has a beautiful family at home and a loving husband, is going through problems too. Her son Oscar has been diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum, which is going to need a lot of expensive treatments and therapies.

So when Sarah and Annie come up with a quick way to make some money, it seems like life will be rosy for them. But Sarah, as the glamorous face of the business, doesn’t know the secret ingredient that Chemist Annie has added to the $2000 per jar face cream that they’re going to peddle to the wealthy members of La Jolla, starting with the book club.

Whatever the secret ingredient is, it’s having a dramatic effect on the lives of those people who start to use it, as we see through Sarah’s interactions with these people. But when Annie runs out of the secret ingredient, it looks like it’s all going to come crashing down, and she can’t exactly ask Sarah for help.

I found the book such an original idea and I loved both Sarah and Annie, two very different women going through their own struggles in the best way they can. I also liked the other cast of rich characters we are introduced to (although I think there could have been less of them), proving that money doesn’t give you happiness.

I would have liked more of a personal connection with Sarah and Annie and their families, in order to feel truly invested in their business, but when it all starts unravelling, I just didn’t feel like I was going through it with them. I also thought that after all the build up, the ending felt a little rushed.

I think this was a good choice from the list that Amazon was offering though, and I’d definitely recommend it, despite the little things I didn’t enjoy.

Bella Forrest – The Gender Game

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I thought the concept of this book was a very intriguing one. Two societies separated by a river: one ruled by women, one ruled by men. To be a man in Matrus is to have no rights or responsibilities, and to be a woman in Patrus is possibly worse. You are the property of your husband and cannot go anywhere without him. If he beats you and no-one else sees it, your word is not enough to prosecute him.

Our story begins with Violet trying to smuggle her younger brother from Matrus to Patrus, as he has not passed the test that all Matrus-born males have to undergo to prove that they aren’t too masculine to fit into society. But things go wrong and Violet is caught, and we next catch up with her during her imprisonment for that crime. But Violet is not good at abiding by rules, and she soon finds herself sentenced to death for killing a fellow prisoner.

But maybe that’s not the end for Violet. She’s offered the chance of a lifetime (literally). All she has to do is cross over to Patrus undercover, marry a man she’s never met and take part in a top secret plot. And here lies my first problem with this book. Why give such a seemingly important task to an orphan prisoner who has shown she has a violent and unpredictable personality?!

Nevertheless, of course Violet agrees to this task (it’s either that or the death penalty), and we see Violet plunged into more danger than she’s ever faced.

We then end up in a fairly stereotypical love triangle between Violet, her new husband (who seems nice but boring), and Viggo, the handsome enigmatic fighter that Violet is supposed to be tailing so they can frame him for the crime they are about to commit. But of course Violet falls in love with Viggo and the whole mission is in danger.

I really wanted to love this book as I thought the idea was such a good one, challenging the stereotypical notions of male and female characters and putting them out on display like that, but there was just too much predictability about it, and I would have preferred it without such an obvious love triangle. When you’re trying to expose gender imbalance like that, I think the story would have been just as good without the doey-eyed young girl part.

I did, however, enjoy the shock ending. I won’t go into too much detail, but it did redeem the book enough for me to want to read the next book in the series to see where it goes.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 1: Cosmic Avengers

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I wasn’t sure if I could include this on my 2017 reading challenge, but it appears on Goodreads, so I’m going to say yes. It was my first ever comic book (at the grand old age of 27), and I had a lot of fun reading it.

I just saw it on my kindle available for free, so I thought I’d give it a try, and since I’ve seen the Guardians of the Galaxy films, I thought it would be a good place to start as I would know kind of what would happen.

The quality of the drawing was superb, I felt so absorbed in the story. My only sad point was that Groot in the comic books was definitely not as cute as Groot in the films!

I definitely would read more comic books in the future, but I think I’d rather read them as a physical book rather than on Kindle, as I think it lost a little bit of something when swiping through the pages on screen.

Ken Costa – Know Your Why

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I don’t really know how to go about reviewing this book. As I was reading, I started making a list of my favourite quotes so that I could use them in my review, but I quickly realised that I was writing down a significant portion of the book, so I had to give that up.

Each chapter focuses on different areas of your calling, for example focus, and patience and courage etc, and everything that Ken says is backed up with biblical facts. He also uses his significant business experience to back up the things he says. The book is mostly focused on how to find your calling within the world of work, especially when your field of work is not something that you would usually consider to be ‘God-centered’. Ken himself was an investment banker so he knows all about this.

The book was just filled with such fantastic knowledge and insight, that I would recommend it to everyone considering what their calling is within the Church. I picked this book as I’ve been doing a leadership course at Church and I thought it would help with my focus, and it was such a good decision. Highly highly recommended.

Milly Johnson – The Queen of Wishful Thinking

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Oh Milly Johnson, how I love you. I went to get this book signed at Waterstones in Leeds, and Milly was as lovely as always, a proper Yorkshire lass! The young ladies in front of me were very clear that they were getting the book for their mums, I was like ‘Nope, this is all for me!!!’.

As always, the thing I loved most about this book was the relate-able characters who I fell in love with immediately, especially Bonnie. You can tell she’s been worn down by a loveless (to say the least) marriage, but she’s such a kind lady and deserves much better, just like her new boss Lewis. And I also loved that this book was set in the same area as The Teashop on the Corner, a lovely touch that made everything feel very familiar.

As with other books like this, it’s pretty obvious where the plot is heading, but Milly did a great job of keeping me hooked to the very end. The drama between Bonnie and Stephen is brilliantly written, as is the unfolding of events between Lewis and Charlotte and their group of friends. I won’t say too much to give away any spoilers!

This book is honestly Milly at her finest, I was just sad the book was over so soon!!

Giovanna Fletcher – You’re the One That I Want

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I’m in two minds about how to review this book. On the plus side, I thought the writing was great and I was hooked by the style. I especially loved the chapters switching between characters and telling you the ages instead of the years (less thinking on my part)!

And to start with, I loved the characters, three childhood friends who are inseparable from the moment they meet. But as the love triangle began, I became more and more annoyed with the characters, who were all incredibly selfish. I felt like I was supposed to feel sorry for each of the characters in turn, but all I could think about was how much I’d like to have given them a bit of a slap.

I know they didn’t get their own way and not everyone could have their happy ending, but the way they acted was just so childish and selfish and infuriating. By the end of the book, I felt so estranged from the characters that I couldn’t really feign an interest in how the story ended and who got their ‘happy ending’, and it was such a shame!

I’ve really loved the other books I’ve read by Giovanna Fletcher so I will definitely read more of her. As I said I really like her writing style, it’s just that the plot wasn’t for me.

Lara Avery – The Memory Book

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I’m not going to lie, I bought this book purely based on the cover, and only because Waterstones was ‘buy one get one half price’ and I’d already picked up the book I wanted. But boy am I glad that this cover leapt off the shelves at me.

As the title of the book suggests, this is a book of memories. Samantha has just been diagnosed with a disease called NPC, which will have dementia-like symptoms and she wants to write a book for Future-Sam to remember who she was and what her dreams for the future were.

I guess you could kind of compare this book to something like The Fault In Our Stars, where the main character has a disease and you live it through their eyes, but this somehow seemed way more gut-wrenching. As the effects of the book were not just physical but intellectual, you could see Sammie starting to fall apart through her own words and it broke my heart.

I’m not ashamed to say that by the end, big fat ugly tears were leaking out of my eyes and falling silently onto the pages of the book. As I got to the last few pages, it was pretty obvious what was happening, even though I hoped against hope it wasn’t true. But for all the ugly tears, it was a happy ending too, the pieces of Sammie’s life had pulled together into a perfect place for her and that made me happier than anything.

I’ll definitely remember this book, it wasn’t an easy read, but it has left its mark on me. Find happiness in all moments, because you never know when you won’t be able to do that anymore. And remember that your happiness might not be what you expected, or what you had planned all along. And that’s okay too.

Charlaine Harris – Night Shift

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I’m so very glad that I decided not to read this series as soon as it came out, because it’s been great being able to read three books back to back and not have to wait a year for each one to be released.

This book definitely ramps up the excitement factor from the first two books, it seems like there’s a lot more going on, and it feels much more tense.

The crossroads which have been mentioned so often throughout the series are suddenly the centrepiece of the story, as people start to turn up at the crossroads and kill themselves. It’s just a tad scary for everyone living in the town, and it seems like it’s down to the vampire Lemuel to discover what’s causing this terrifying turn of events. And when Fiji starts hearing a terrifying voice, it seems like her witchly powers are going to be called into action too.

I definitely enjoyed the more action-packed nature of the book, as well as the fact it kept me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out if they’re going to discover the secret in time and save the town and its residents (new and old).

But the ‘ritual’ that Fiji has to go through in order to stop the menace felt wrong to me. It didn’t feel natural to the story and it felt kind of like Harris had wanted to shove back in some of the more racy scenes that were prevalent throughout the Sookie Stackhouse novels but had been missing from these books so far. But I’d much rather Fiji have got together with her chosen partner in a more natural way, this just made me cringe all over.

It didn’t ruin the whole book for me, but it put a major dampener on how much I enjoyed the finale, and made me less likely to want to read the next book in the series (if there will be one).

Charlaine Harris – Day Shift

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After the end of the first book in this series, I didn’t even wait ten minutes to pick this up as I was desperate to find out more about the other characters in the town of Midnight, Texas.

And I wasn’t disappointed. Although Manfred, Fiji and Bobo still seem to be the main characters in this story, we learn an awful lot more about the secrets that the other characters are hiding. But Bobo manages to stay out of the spotlight in this book and the spotlight is very heavily turned on Manfred and Olivia, after one of Manfred’s clients dies during a consultation and two people that Olivia was seen having dinner with in the same hotel also wind up dead.

It seems like Olivia may be a more dark character than we first imagined, but I won’t go into too much detail and spoil it for you! I will just say that I don’t think we’ve quite learnt all there is to learn about Olivia, and I think there’s probably more to come in subsequent books in this series.

We also meet new characters in this book, including a familiar face from the Sookie Stackhouse novels, Quinn the weretiger. And he brings a young boy with him who he says is his son, but he’s growing at an alarming rate, and pretty soon the residents of Midnight realise that it’s the worst possible moment for the spotlight to be on the town after these murders, the last thing they want is more people hanging around!

As with the first book, the goodreads reviews seem to be overwhelmingly negative, but I’d take them with a pinch of salt. If you like Charlaine Harris, you’re bound to like this book, just don’t expect it to be quite as fast-paced as the Sookie books, it’s a bit more sedate than that (but still keeps you turning page after page).

Charlaine Harris – Midnight Crossroad

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It’s no secret that I love Charlaine Harris, I think I’ve read over 30 of her books now. But this one has been out for a while and I’m not quite sure why I hadn’t bought it yet. Maybe I knew that once I started reading, one book wouldn’t be enough, because I bought the first 3 all at once.

In this book, you can kind of tell that there’s a lot of setup going on for the next books that will be released, as it does take quite a lot of time before any of the ‘action’ starts, but that’s not to say that the setup is uninteresting. We’re introduced to Manfred, who has newly moved into the town of Midnight, a small underpopulated town in Texas, where most people only stop long enough for the traffic lights to change at the crossroads.

But what was lovely was that Manfred comes from the Harper Connelly books of Harris’ that I previously loved, and I really like the fact that this is a bit of a crossover. Lily Bard from the Shakespeare mysteries also gets a mention too.

What was surprising for a Charlaine Harris novel was that the romance was at an absolute minimum. I kept expecting something to happen between Fiji and one of the other characters, but nothing ever did. Very weird, but not entirely unwanted, I sometimes think that the ‘romance’ can get in the way of the rest of the story.

I’ve been reading the reviews on Goodreads and it seems like this book is getting slated pretty heavily, but I definitely don’t agree with that. It doesn’t have the excitement and drama of the True Blood series, but I really like the more laid-back feel of this book, like the Lily Bard or Aurora Teagarden books.

I can’t wait to find out what happens in the next book, and find out more about some of the strange characters that live in Midnight. I’m sure that’s going to unravel very quickly!