Thursday, 9 June 2022

Here for the Right Reasons by Jodi McAlister

I don’t watch reality TV, but I have seen enough to be familiar with the format. It has also been years since I have read a romance novel. I accepted this book for review, hoping it would be a light read and an interesting insight into how reality shows are presented.

Here for the Right Reasons is a contemporary romance about a dating show set during the Covid pandemic.

The main character, Cece, shares a home with her two best friends. They are all huge fans of the reality show Marry Me, Juliet. One evening, a little drunk on vodka pineapples, they decide to submit entries for the show. She is the only one of the three selected to be one of the Juliets hoping to win the heart of Romeo.


Like most of the Juliets selected she is not there for the right reasons, that is to find love.


In Cece’s case, she has lost her job due to Covid and is unable to pay her share of the rent. She is now 26, a maters student and, not having family, only has herself to rely on. Merry Me, Juliet, and the pay given to the competitor as well as social media fame after the show is her only hope. 

Romeo for the show is Dylan. He’s good-looking, intelligent and sensitive. He is also the first coloured Romeo. 
Cece is eliminated in the first episode but because of the pandemic, all the eliminated girls must stay in lock-down together. The producers agree to introduce a new aspect to the show where Cece and Dylan are to demonstrate men and women can be friends without romantic notions. As the segments are filmed they discover there is an attraction more than just friendship. 
Meanwhile, we get the action behind the scenes with the other girls and the production crew. 
I felt most of the characters lacked depth and Dylan a little too perfect. Cece was a strong character and the character I did like was Lily, the usual nasty girl of reality shows. She turned out to be nice but with her own agenda for the future. 

Themes of racism, mental health, and social media influences were well handled. 

Some twists keep you turning the pages but overall, it is predictable. The dialogue was uninspiring and repetitive. 
Overall, this book wasn’t for me, but I am sure fans of romance will love it. 
Thank you, NetGalley, Simon & Schuster (Australia), and Jodi McAlister for the ARC. All thoughts are my own. 

My rating 3* but this is a personal viewpoint and I am sure fictional romance lovers will enjoy it.

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Thursday, 12 May 2022

Out of Breath by Anna Snoekstra

Jo keeps running away. In a small town in England she runs from her family then from art college in London. Arriving in Australia she must work on farm to meet the requirements of her visa. She finds herself in a remote area near coastal Broome in north west Australia picking mangoes but finds herself running again. She thought she had found paradise in an isolated off the grid community. But was there something sinister underneath the happy smiles and idyllic life?


Jo is a complicated character haunted by her past. She is both likeable and frustrating as times. It is interesting how, with each escape, her name gets shortened– Josephine, Josie, Jo, J All the other characters are realistic and clearly depicted.


I enjoyed reading this thriller although even with its mystery and intrigue, it took me a while to get into the story. I kept pushing through waiting for something more dramatic to happen. When it did (about a third of the way through) it became more exciting and the final chapters were particularly hard to put down.


I commend Anna Snoekstra on her descriptive writing making it easy to get to know, and understand the characters and to see, hear and feel the Australian outback – the heat, colours and dangers.


Overall, it was an enjoyable read. The plot and storyline were unique and I loved the ending.


Thanks to Anna Snoekstra, NetGalley, and HarperCollins for providing an ARC.


My rating 4*

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Tuesday, 3 May 2022

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

The Woman in the Library is a story in a story making it difficult to describe but I’ll give it a go.

Hannah is an Australian writer. She is writing a mystery story based in Boston. We learn very little about Hannah herself.

We read the story as Hannah writes it. 

The main character in Hannah’s story is an Australian writer Winifred Kincaid (Freddie). She is in Boston after receiving a Marriott Scholarship. While visiting the library for inspiration three people share her table. She begins to write a story about them in her mind. They are:


Marigold, a psychology student with tattoos who Freddie nicknames Freud Girl.

Cain McLeod who is also an author with a secretive past. She refers to him as Handsome Man

Whit Metters a law student and handsome sone of a powerful lawyer who she calls Heroic Chin.

 A scream pierces the silence in the room. The security people quickly lock down the library pending an investigation. While unable to leave the four of them begin to chat to each other and discuss what has just happened. When no body is found they move onto a coffee shop and begin to get to know each other, forming a friendship that leads into their own investigation.

Each has their own story gradually revealed as the story progresses. Freddie falls in love with the mysterious Cain. As their stories are revealed another murder occurs. There is another murder, a mysterious disappearance and strange phone messages. It becomes apparent one of the four is a stalker and one is a murderer.

As the main story unfolds Hannah sends each chapter to a fan, Leo, in Boston. This is the second story within the main story. We get to read Leo’s emails with his comments on the storyline and correction of Australian idioms not used in the US. Gradually his emails become stranger as he suggests major changes to the manuscript including sending photos of actual crimes. The author becomes concerned and contacts the authorities.

It is complicated but very clever, well plotted, and easily followed.

Thank you to Netgalley, Sourcebooks, Poisoned Pen Press, and Sulari Gentill for the opportunity to read this book.

Thursday, 21 April 2022

The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan

Questions in the reader's mind start in the first chapter – why is Hannah creeping out of home in the early hours of the morning?

Hannah is a university student studying law. The story starts with her sneaking out of the house she shares with her alcoholic mother for unclear reasons. She transfers to another university and, by deceitful means, manages to get herself onto the Innocence Program run by Professor Rob Parekh and supported by a team of students. The program is dedicated to revisiting cases involving convicted prisoners.


Hannah particularly wants to be on the team of a specific case, that of Michael Danridge. Michael has been in prison for 11 years for the rape and murder of a young mother. He swears he is innocent and was only found guilty on flimsy evidence. Hannah uses devious ways to secure her place. 

Unlike the rest of the team, she intends to work to keep Michael in gaol. Her reason gradually comes to light through her mother’s diaries from 1994, in alternating chapters of the book.


Time is short for both the team to prove his innocence and for Hannah to succeed in her goal.


But doubt starts to enter Hannah’s thinking. It began when she went to the prison with Sean to interview Michael. Her investigations bring to light a crooked cop and cover ups. She begins to realise everything is not as it seems or as it has been portrayed but who is lying and who is telling the truth?


The characters are well developed. Hannah is not particularly likeable but interesting. She is smart, and conniving and will do whatever she needs to achieve her aim. The other two students are great characters although we see more of Sean who is very likeable.


I have purposely not said too much about the story, so I don’t spoil the mystery and suspense.


The story is slow at the beginning but still interesting. Stick with it. The gradual build-up with its many twists and turns makes for a gripping story filled with tension, corruption, and secrets.


As the mystery unravels, we read of intrigue, violence, and deception all making for a suspenseful and exciting read.


Warning: story contains sexual assault and violence but does not dominate the story.


Thank you to Netgalley, Harper Collins Australia, and the author McTiernan for an ARC in return for an honest review. Due publication date May 2022

My rating 4*

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