Tag Archives: debut novel

Driving Miss Crazy, by D.J. Van Oss

22 Feb

30224056Format: e-ARC, 292 pages

Publisher: Blue Penny Press

Published: 16 May, 2016

ISBN: 9780692685730

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Back cover blurb: He’s got a car. She’s got places to be. If only things were that simple.

Maggie MacNally always falls short, no matter what she does. Whether it’s her career or her love life, nothing ever ends up right, and even as she tries to put her work mishaps and dating missteps behind her to forge a new life in Washington DC, she wonders: is she really heading where she wants to go, or simply following in the family footsteps?

But just as she’s considering packing it all in, an out-of-the-blue proposal from her influential grandmother offers her one last chance at success — a chance which puts her in the path of beguiling and mysterious French diplomat, Valery.

Meanwhile, diplomatic driver and widowed father Adrian Adams isn’t looking to change anything about his life, he just wants to keep his seven-year-old daughter Charlie safe and happy. The last thing on his mind is finding love again – and the last thing he expects is to suddenly lose his job. Luckily, he’s soon got a new assignment, one which brings him face to face with an overworked, stressed-out, but oddly charming Irish girl with a penchant for talking to squirrels: Maggie. It’s not long before Adrian finds himself, unwittingly, falling in love again.

Will Maggie seize the life she’s always yearned for, or be left with the pieces of yet another broken dream? And will Adrian take a second, crazy chance at love, or just play it safe? And what’s with all the squirrels?

My review: I picked this up from Netgalley because of the cute graphics on the cover and the pun in the name, and then was intrigued to find it was a sweet romance debut by a male author. However, I wasn’t really bowled over by the plot. My favourite character was Adrian’s daughter, rather than the couple themselves, and the “intrigue” at the embassy was signposted so far out that nothing came as a surprise in the end. There was a love triangle, of course, and lots of people telling Maggie what to do so she came across as a bit of a child. So overall it was just okay.

Since it was first published the cover has been redone to show a photo of a couple, and I’d have to say that I wouldn’t have picked it up at all had that been the original cover. I much prefer the cute pink and blue graphics.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 2.5/5

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Seven Ways We Lie, by Riley Redgate

21 Jan

26240663Format: e-ARC, 343 pages

Publisher: Abrams Kids/Amulet Books

Published: 8 March, 2016

ISBN: 9781419719448

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Teens & YA

Back cover blurb: Seven students. Seven (deadly) sins. One secret.

Paloma High School is ordinary by anyone’s standards. It’s got the same cliques, the same prejudices, the same suspect cafeteria food. And like every high school, every student has something to hide—from Kat, the thespian who conceals her trust issues onstage, to Valentine, the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal.

When that scandal bubbles over, and rumors of a teacher-student affair surface, everyone starts hunting for someone to blame. For the seven unlikely allies at the heart of it all, the collision of their seven ordinary-seeming lives results in extraordinary change.

My review: This took me ages to get around to, but once I started I wondered why I had been putting it off. It seems quite fitting that a high school should be the setting for a book about the seven deadly sins, and although you could assign one sin to each of the seven main characters, in fact they were not so one-dimensional. I have totally known a few envious Claires in my time (and been her), so even though she was the worst-behaved character she rang very true. Matt, allegedly the sloth, was actually lovely, and his scenes with his little brother were the best. Olivia was more misunderstood than the “lust” label would indicate, and I loved the way she owned her sexuality.

The parents in this are generally absent, which annoys me as a parent myself. I expected Juniper’s to put their foot down, but what happened with them surprised me. I must add that a teacher at my high school married a senior after she graduated, not long before I started there, so I can understand how a young teacher must find it difficult when they are not much older than their students. The way the teacher and student met in this story made it not seem creepy, which I appreciated.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and found it hard to put down once I’d started. I’m looking forward to reading Redgate’s subsequent work.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 4/5

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Inherit the Stars, by Tessa Elwood

9 Nov

25463009Format: e-ARC, 304 pages

Publisher: Running Press

Published: December 8, 2015

ISBN: 9780762458400

Genre: Teens & YA

Back cover blurb: Three royal houses ruling three interplanetary systems are on the brink of collapse, and they must either ally together or tear each other apart in order for their people to survive.

Asa is the youngest daughter of the house of Fane, which has been fighting a devastating food and energy crisis for far too long. She thinks she can save her family’s livelihood by posing as her oldest sister in an arranged marriage with Eagle, the heir to the throne of the house of Westlet. The appearance of her mother, a traitor who defected to the house of Galton, adds fuel to the fire, while Asa also tries to save her sister Wren’s life . . . possibly from the hands of their own father.

But as Asa and Eagle forge a genuine bond, will secrets from the past and the urgent needs of their people in the present keep them divided?

Author Tessa Elwood’s debut series is an epic romance at heart, set against a mine field of political machinations, space adventure, and deep-seeded family loyalties.

My review: The premise was good but there just wasn’t enough world-building or characterization to flesh everything out enough. Because I didn’t feel invested in the setting, I found I didn’t really care about the characters. Asa’s dialogue was hard to read because she was always being interrupted, and I didn’t really get a sense of the depth of feeling she and Eagle professed to each other at the end. Also, may I say that cover makes me think of a school trip to a planetarium. She looks like she has a backpack on, but I think it’s just a stripe on her dress. Anyway, this was just okay. I don’t feel a great need to read the sequel.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 3/5

 

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Ragdoll, by Daniel Cole

30 Jun

31673769Format: e-ARC, 378 pages

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 28 February, 2017

ISBN: 9781409168751

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thrillers

Back cover blurb: A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet, nicknamed by the press as the ‘ragdoll’.
Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.
The ‘Ragdoll Killer’ taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.
With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?

My review: I was reminded a lot of the Luther TV series while reading this. Will Fawkes, aka Wolf, is the kind of detective who takes crimes personally, isn’t above bending the rules to get his man, and who often finds himself embroiled with his witnesses and colleagues. The case was gory and intriguing, full of sudden twists, and based on the blurb, I should have enjoyed this more than I did. But the fact was I didn’t get much sense of Wolf until very late in the story. I wasn’t invested in him, or even any of his colleagues. Only Edmunds seemed to stand out, and it doesn’t look like he will be staying on for the second book. I can see how Cole wrote this initially as a screenplay, but feel like the characterization would have been all down to the actors cast. I doubt I’ll be reading the sequel.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 3.5/5

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Frostblood, by Elly Blake

22 Feb

31134210Format: e-ARC, 304 pages

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Hodder & Stoughton

Published: January 10, 2017

ISBN: 9781473635173

Genre: Teens & YA

Back cover blurb: The first in a page-turning young adult fantasy series perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard’s RED QUEEN and Sarah J. Maas’s THRONE OF GLASS series.

In a land governed by the cruel Frostblood ruling class, seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has spent most of her life hiding her ability to manipulate heat and light – until the day the soldiers come to raid her village and kill her mother. Ruby vows revenge on the tyrannous Frost King responsible for the massacre of her people.

But Ruby’s powers are unpredictable…and so are the feelings she has for Arcus, the scarred, mysterious Frostblood warrior who shares her goal to kill the Frost King, albeit for his own reasons. When Ruby is captured by the Frost King’s men, she’s taken right into the heart of the enemy. Now she only has one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who took everything from her – and in doing so, she must unleash the powers she’s spent her whole life withholding.

FROSTBLOOD is set in world where flame and ice are mortal enemies – but together create a power that could change everything.

My review: That beautiful cover was the first thing that made me want to read this book, and coupled with the blurb I knew it would be right up my alley. I wasn’t disappointed, and couldn’t put it down once I started reading. Ruby is a wonderful heroine, the only Fireblood left in a world of ice manipulators. She is imprisoned more than once, but fights on until it almost appears all is lost.

Her initial rescuers, an elderly monk and a mysterious soldier with a covered face, train her to fight and use her powers to destroy the evil Frostblood throne, and although they start out full of animosity for each other, I loved the way Arcus and Ruby came to love each other. His secret was fairly obvious for me early on, but that never detracted from the story or the big reveal at the end. I only wish we had seen Brother Thistle again to make sure he was okay. The second book can’t some soon enough for me.

This is a fantastic debut and I look forward to reading more from Elly Blake.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 5/5

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The Hating Game, by Sally Thorne

14 Jan

Format: e-ARC, 363 pages

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: August 9, 2016

ISBN: 9780349414256

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

Back cover blurb: NEMESIS (n)

1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome
2) A person’s undoing
3) Joshua Templeman
Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She prides herself on being loved by everyone at work – except for imposing, impeccably attired Joshua Templeman.
Trapped in a shared office, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game, The Mirror Game, The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything – especially when a huge promotion is on offer.
If Lucy wins, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she questioning herself? Maybe she doesn’t hate him. And just maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game . . .

My review: The Hating Game is one of those books from which you resent real life taking you away. Many times I had to put it down to go and do RL stuff, only to find myself muttering “Joshua Templeman…” I loved the snarky banter, and the swoons were many. Nothing came as a surprise, as I was paying attention and could see where things were going, but I loved it all nonetheless. I think Sally Thorne is about to become my latest auto-buy author. When I started this I was unaware she was someone who had been recommended to me often by friends in an online writing community, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that it was fantastic. I highly recommend, and will be keeping a keen eye out for Thorne’s next project.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 5/5

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The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss, by Max Wirestone

31 Aug

25700251Format: e-ARC, 313 pages

Publisher: Redhook Books

Published: October 20, 2015

ISBN: 9780316385978

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

Back cover blurb: For anyone who has ever geeked out about something and for fans of The Guild, New Girl, Scott Pilgrim, Big Bang Theory, Veronica Mars.

Meet Dahlia Moss, the reigning queen of unfortunate decision-making in the St. Louis area. She is unemployed, broke, and on her last bowl of ramen. But that’s all about to change. Before Dahlia can make her life any messier on her own she’s offered a job. A job that she’s woefully under-qualified for. A job that will lead her to a murder, an MMORPG, and possibly a fella (or two?).

My review: It has taken me forever to finish this, even though it was laugh-out-loud funny. I loved the wit and pop culture references, but about a third of the way through I suspected I wasn’t a big enough geek to actually get a lot of the in-jokes. I don’t game online or do cosplay or LARPing, and so the intricacies of Zoth had me a bit befuddled. However, after putting it down for a while, I decided to not get so bogged down in the lore and instead treat this as a snarky detective story, and then I just raced through it. Dahlia is a heroine you can’t help rooting for , and I’m so glad there’s going to be a sequel so I can see more of Nate and Detective Shuler.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 4/5

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The Restaurant Critic’s Wife, by Elizabeth LaBan

22 May

26065581Format: e-ARC, 316 pages

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Published: January 5, 2016

ISBN: 9781477817766

Genre: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

Back cover blurb: Lila Soto has a master’s degree that’s gathering dust, a work-obsessed husband, two kids, and lots of questions about how exactly she ended up here.

In their new city of Philadelphia, Lila’s husband, Sam, takes his job as a restaurant critic a little too seriously. To protect his professional credibility, he’s determined to remain anonymous. Soon his preoccupation with anonymity takes over their lives as he tries to limit the family’s contact with anyone who might have ties to the foodie world. Meanwhile, Lila craves adult conversation and some relief from the constraints of her homemaker role. With her patience wearing thin, she begins to question everything: her decision to get pregnant again, her break from her career, her marriage—even if leaving her ex-boyfriend was the right thing to do. As Sam becomes more and more fixated on keeping his identity secret, Lila begins to wonder if her own identity has completely disappeared—and what it will take to get it back.

My review: This is a very hard book to rate. I enjoyed the writing style – and absolutely love the cover – but the characters were very unlikeable, especially the husband. Sam was just odious, dictating that his wife couldn’t have a life, couldn’t make friends without checking if they owned a restaurant first, couldn’t even leave the house when she was going stir-crazy at home with a toddler and newborn. Lila wasn’t much better, though, biting her tongue instead of speaking up, and making some pretty irresponsible choices regarding friends and her secret job. Hazel, the three-year-old, was very obnoxious – but dare I say realistic? – as well. I found I had to keep reading to see if the whole family imploded.

It worried me that Elizabeth LaBan’s real husband was like Sam, so was glad to read in the acknowledgements that he is not. I would pity her greatly if he was, but I suspect there is a ring of truth about some of what she wrote, given the consequences some restaurants suffer from a bad review.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 3.5/5

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This Raging Light, by Estelle Laure

12 Jan

25787863Format: e-ARC, 288 pages

Publisher: Hachette Children’s Books, Australia

Published: January 12, 2016

ISBN: 9781408340264

Genre: Teens and YA

Back cover blurb: How is it that you suddenly notice a person? How is it that one day Digby was my best friend’s admittedly cute twin brother, and then the next he stole air, gave jitters, twisted my insides up?

Lucille has bigger problems than falling for her best friend’s unavailable brother. Her mom has gone, leaving her to look after her sister, Wren. With bills mounting up and appearances to keep, Lucille is raging against her life but holding it together – just.

A stunning debut to devour in one sitting, Laure captures completely the agony and ecstasy of first love.

My review: There is a lot of selfishness in this book, and a lot of people will not like that there is cheating, but I found it an interesting, quick read that quite enjoyed. Lucille frustrated me in that she didn’t seek more help, but maybe that’s the mother in me coming out. Digby was, as Elaine said, a typical boy, wanting it all and to be the hero, but despite his flaws I did find him pretty swoony. I feel really sorry for Elaine in all that business.

The cast of extras was great, particularly the characters at the restaurant and the girls’ “fairy godmothers.” I really wanted to slap the parents, though, and was left wondering whether they would ever find their way back.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 4/5

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Nirvana, by J.R. Stewart

23 Nov

26164334Format: e-ARC, 186 pages

Publisher: Blue Moon Publishers

Published: November 10, 2015

ISBN: 9780993639777

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Teens & YA

Back cover blurb: When the real world is emptied of all that you love, how can you keep yourself from dependence on the virtual?

Animal activist and punk rock star Larissa Kenders lives in a dystopian world where the real and the virtual intermingle. After the disappearance of her soulmate, Andrew, Kenders finds solace by escaping to Nirvana, a virtual world controlled by Hexagon. In Nirvana, anyone’s deepest desires may be realized – even visits with Andrew.

Although Kenders knows that this version of Andrew is virtual, when he asks for her assistance revealing Hexagon’s dark secret, she cannot help but comply. Soon after, Kenders and her closest allies find themselves in a battle with Hexagon, the very institution they have been taught to trust. After uncovering much more than she expected, Kenders’ biggest challenge is determining what is real – and what is virtual.

Nirvana is a fast-paced, page-turning young adult novel combining elements of science fiction, mystery, and romance. Part of a trilogy, this book introduces readers to a young woman who refuses to give up on the man she loves, even if it means taking on an entire government to do so.

My review: A very interesting concept, combining virtual reality and a dystopian future caused by the extinction of bees, but some of it is quite confusing and I never really cared for the main character. She seemed much older than just 17 and I never got much of an impression of her partner, Andrew, before his disappearance, so wasn’t really invested in her search for him. The science of it was intriguing, but I’m not sure I’m interested enough to continue with the series.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 3/5

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