Fools Rush In, by Janice Thompson

Fools Rush In is a light-hearted romance novel, and not something I would normally pick up. But, since I'm trying to "diversify" my reading tastes, I thought I'd give it a go.

Blurb from Goodreads: Ever wonder how Italian sounds with a Southern drawl?
Bella Rossi's life is just starting to get interesting. When her Italian-turned-Texan parents hand over the family wedding-planning business, Bella quickly books a Boot-Scootin' wedding that would make any Texan proud. There's only one catch--she doesn't know a thing about country music. Where will she find a deejay on such short notice who knows his Alan Jackson from his George Strait? And will Bella ever get to plan her own wedding?

Fun, fresh, and full of surprises, this flavorful combination of Italian and Tex-Mex highlights the hilarity that ensues when cultures clash.

I'm the first to admit that when it comes to romance novels I'm not the biggest fan. But I am a sucker for a chick-flick, and I must admit that this novel had that feel to it. Fools Rush In was funny in enough places to make me keep reading, but it was the voice and the contrast between the main characters that made it a worthwhile read for me:

He extended his right hand. I took it, but found it difficult to focus, because, now that we were within hand-shaking distance, something else stood out, something that totally threw me. His clothes were, well, dirty. And he had that same wet puppy smell Nick's boys always got when they'd been playing in the summer sun too long. And I was pretty sure he had--what was that, sawdust?--in his hair.

If you're looking for something meaningful, or a novel with surprise twists, this probably isn't the book for you however. It was easy to anticipate the plot twists, and its predictable ending just reinforced my view of romance novels. But if you read it to be taken along on a cute tale of romance, then it doesn't really matter.

Seven out of ten from me!

WritersBlockNZ's verdict: 7/10

Matched by Ally Condie

Another book read for a book reading club online. It's one of the few books I have in hardback since I am fonder of paperback when it comes to books. However, I had to buy this book twice because my first copy had a major printing error. Chapters were missing and instead other chapters were repeated. It was weird but the second copy meant I could actually read it.

About the book from Goodreads:

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

This book had a lot of potential for it was a book I'd heard about for months and so wanted to read. However, the book didn't quite reach that for me. Especially in the beginning. The end finally brought me on board but it took till the last 6 chapters or so for me to really be involved in the main character's story.

Love triangle: Okay. This is part of what didn't do it for me and that's because I'm very picky about love triangles. This has the same type that I've read in other books, including a book I haven't reviewed here to avoid going on a love triangle rant. It's a girl who loves two boys. One boy is the dedicated friend who takes risks for her and/or others despite what that could do to him. The other boy is more of a mystery. He is darker and has a surprising connection to the main character that she can't shake off. Always the nice guy loses or it seems he is losing if the triangle isn't resolved in the first book. But the nice guy losing bugs me to no end. Sure, I liked Ky, and he becomes a well developed character by the end, but it's the same old thing. And the friend relationship comes off more as a given which makes it less developed. Xander shows up at random but he isn't involved much in the actual story.

The world: I give the author great credit for the world she has created. As someone who hasn't even built the world for her epic fantasy series that she has had for almost 10 years, I can't even imagine the work Condie put in creating the Society. The details were well done and I enjoyed discovering when we were given the chance to see what the main character notices since it's done in first person narrative. I look forward to seeing the rest of the world outside the one province as the sequel promises to show. There is more going on in the world than the main character first realized and it will be interesting to learn even more in the future.

Overall: The beginning was a little rough and unfortunately it made the book a little too easy for me to put down most of the time. By the end, I started to get into the story but it took a bit too long for that to happen. I'm hoping the sequel is even better but I'm going to wait for the paperback version.

Dawn's Verdict : 6.5/10

Silver Wattle, by Belinda Alexandra

I've just finished reading Belinda Alexandra's Silver Wattle. It didn't take me long as I was rivited! I love her emotive style of writing. She leads me right into the story through her wonderful settings and characters. I loved her two previous novels - White Gardenia and Wild Lavender and have had Silver Wattle sitting on my bookshelf for months.

From Goodreads: Silver Wattle confirms Belinda Alexandra as one of our foremost storytellers. Weaving fact into inspiring fiction with great flair and imagination‚ this is a novel as full of hope‚ glamour and heartbreak as the film industry itself.Belinda brings her love of other cultures to her books, and Silver Wattle begins in glorious Prague. It’s the story of two Czech sisters, Adela and Klara, whose nefarious stepfather murders their mother – and plans to murder them too so that he and his fancy woman can have their inheritance.

The girls flee to Sydney, Australia to live in safety with their uncle and his wife, an Indian who had been saved from committing sete. Indian culture and early Australian bigotry is explored through Ranjana. Things go smoothly enough for awhile. Klara is a talented but highly strung pianist, while Adela turns out to be a gifted photographer who eventually makes a career in film. There is an interesting sub theme about the early days of the film industry in Australia and how American distributers sabotaged the development of Australian cinema which was flourishin. Adela marries one of these distributers (a) because he clandestinely supports her career and (b) because Beastly Beatrice cons Adela’s beloved Dr Philip into marriage and Adela is on the rebound. Unrequited love is a powerful theme throughout the novel.

Adela's character is the most interesting I think. Belinda Alexandra draws on her own love of wildlife to paint a picture of a character deeply moved by native animals (she raises a pet possum that she plucked from a dead mother's pouch) and wildlife is the major recurring theme in her photography. I found it interesting that In real life, the author is a volunteer rescuer and carer for the New South Wales Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES.)

Alexandra keeps the tension going throughout the novel and I couldn't put it down. There were so many mysteries to be solved...

This is a novel with complex plots and themes, but still remains easy to read. I highly recommend it to all.


L'Aussie's Verdict: 8/10

Halo, by Alexandra Adornetto

Halo had been on my to-read list for some time, so when I finally snatched up a copy, I was very happy to get the chance to read it.

Blurb from Goodreads: Three angels- Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, the youngest and most human- are sent by Heaven to bring good to a world falling under the influence of darkness. They must work hard to conceal their luminous glow, superhuman powers, and, most dangerous of all, their wings, all the while avoiding all human attachments.

Then Bethany meets Xavier Woods, and neither of them is able to resist the attraction between them. Gabriel and Ivy do everything in their power to intervene, but the bond between Xavier and Bethany seems too strong.

The angel’s mission is urgent, and dark forces are threatening. Will love ruin Bethany or save her?

The good: Halo is beautifully written, and the Romeo and Juliet style story (which is perhaps a little obvious in it's allusions), is alluring and left me with a gooey feeling. I love a good romance, and while the angel/demon paranormal aspect of Halo is important, it really feels like a romance at heart. The characters' relationships form slowly, creating a sense of believability that a lot of YA romance lacks. Bethany is an appealing protagonist, especially as her naivety puts her in some interesting situations. As for Xavier... other than being perhaps a little too perfect, he's very likable, and I couldn't help rooting for him the whole way through.

The not-so-good: This is a long novel. Not necessarily in word count, although it is 484 pages, but in terms of actual story. The real conflict in the story doesn't actually start until over half way through the novel, when another character is introduced. I feel like the novel could have been a third shorter at least, even though the slow start does play on the relationship of Bethany and Xavier. The fact that the novel ends on a cliffhanger only compounded my feelings on this, because I was left wondering if the next novel could have been combined with this one in order to provide a more conclusive ending.

Overall: Halo may not be the best novel for anyone who wants an action driven, fast paced plot, but it is a great read and the characters and their relationships make it worthwhile. 7 out of 10 from me.

WritersBlockNZ's verdict: 7/10

A Modern Witch by Debora Geary

This is an ebook I read on my netbook. I was given a copy for the purpose of reviewing the story, though it did take a little while for me to actually read it. Hard to keep up at times when reading 3-5 books at a time.

From Goodreads: 
Can you live 28 years without discovering you're a witch?

Lauren is downtown Chicago's youngest elite realtor. She's also a witch. She must be - the fetching spell for Witches' Chat isn't supposed to make mistakes. So says the woman who coded the spell, at least.

The tall, dark, and handsome guy sent to assess her is a witch too (and no, that doesn't end the way you might think). What he finds in Lauren will change lives, mess with a perfectly good career, and require lots of ice cream therapy.

An interesting story overall and I'm always a fan of witches.

Characters: While Lauren is listed as the main character, the novel is written in multiple point of views. There are some chapters that have different character viewpoints but it's all in third person. The main story is about Lauren, who suddenly finds out at age 28 that she is a witch. Another story, and one I wish there had been more shown of, is her friend Nat and the male witch who shows up to assess Lauren as a witch. It does get a little confusing at first with the different characters the story is told through and that there are many character names near the beginning. But there are some fun characters. Nat and Jamie are developed and interesting to read about. Plus, who can't fall in love with a mischievous little boy with major witch skills. Impossible I say.

Story: Wasn't too bad. It doesn't have the exact drama of most fantasy stories that have witches. There isn't some villain to defeat. Instead the story focuses on how the development of Lauren's skills changes her lives and the ones around her as they train her to be a witch. The modern part of the witchcraft was really cool. Witches that code and own an online gaming community with a chat room that uses spells to bring witches in to the online room. An awesome idea. I love how she developed the modern world to add the elements of witchcraft that makes total sense.

For Me: This is an interesting read for me as someone who identifies as pagan. Granted I'm not a good one. I haven't even used my tarot cards in at least 3 years. I have only been part of one circle in my life, during Samhain one year and I don't remember which element/direction I was in charge of calling. But I do have small experiences, which made this book a good book for me.

Dawn's Verdict: 7/10

A Silent Land, by Graham Joyce

"I won't bother saying that Graham Joyce deserves to find a wide audience in America; rather I think the American audience deserves to discover him." —Jonathan Lethem - Goodreads.

The story begins on a slope in the French Alps, when the whisper of skis on snow is suddenly “displaced by a rumble”. The only two people inhabiting this snowy world are an English couple, Zoe and Jake. They of course have no hope of outracing the avalanche heading their way. They're both quick thinkers and they take cover, clutching desperately for something to hang onto as they’re engulfed.

“Total silence, total darkness.”

The terror does not end there. This is dark and fascinating fiction. What happens next is even more frightening. They manage to claw themselves out of the snow, find the lift operator's post, munch on some chocolate and wait to be rescued. They soon realise no one is coming, so they struggle back to their resort, Saint-Bernard-en-Haut. It is completely deserted. What? Has the village been evacuated? Or has something else, something even more sinister happened? Has the resort been evacuated? Is everyone dead? Jake himself suspects that they’ve both died—but then Zoe begins seeing furtive figures and hearing snatches of speech that suggest this likely explanation is more complex than it seems.But could anyone really have survived the avalanche Zoe and Jake have just endured?

British author Graham Joyce’s latest novel rests upon a familiar horror premise: the idea of being caught in an eerie place where the everyday and the eldritch co-exist. The Silent Land is a most delicate literary balancing act. To make the story work, Joyce has to bring something new to the party to act as a counterpoint. Joyce’s necessary solution, which works at both an emotional and technical level, is to focus on his protagonists, Zoe and Jake, a DINKY (double-income-no-kids-yet) couple who find themselves in an extraordinary situation. They'd planned a luxurious holiday but all is not going to plan, far from it. Luckily, they have each other.

As the full focus is on only two characters, Joyce has made them well rounded, using their present dilemmas and interspersing the odd flashback into their previous lives. Jake is full of himself while Zoe has at times a fragile vulnerability, yet shows an inner strength. The couple bicker playfully, with the usual gender difference jokes. (Zoe to Jake when he plays a tasteless joke: “‘You know what?’ she said. ‘Even as a dead person you can be such an arsehole.’”)

Joyce sketches out the emotional landscape of their marriage as their ordeal runs into days that begin to blur into each other with the strangeness growing exponentially. There are shared memories,there’s a revelation of infidelity, there are secrets they've not shared. Within the constraints of this small, icy world where they only have each other, the microscope is applied to their relationship.

The Silent Land is a short novel. Joyce does not waste words or linger on detail. His prose is spare and to the point, which really works for this storyline. The book is as crisp as new snow, even to the point where you sometimes long for more detail, but that is not the way of this much-awarded fantasy writer.

The book is so compelling. Partnership, the hard slog and joy of marriage, is one of the book’s major themes, and another is death and loss – in particular, how do we carry on when faced with these? Without giving too much away, Joyce’s answer seems to suggest that humans have an innate ability to cling to life, enjoy every last moment, until there’s really just no point in holding on any longer. But what lies ahead?

To return to where I began, Joyce’s novel may start in a familiar territory to readers who may recognise the landscape of skiing, but it’s where it finishes and the emotions that it explores along the way that grab you and won't let you go. This is fantasy fiction at its best.  The whole story is engaging, interesting, haunting, and entertaining.  I predict you’ll laugh nervously; you’ll weep a little, recognising your own humanity, (unless you’re completely heartless); you’ll appreciate your nearest and dearest more than you did before reading this novel. What more could you want from a novel?

L'Aussie's Verdict: 8/10

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

This was a surprise. I really wanted to read this but was stuck waiting or so I thought until I was in my sister's room and noticed she had an advanced reviewer's copy. And she has no idea why she had a copy. Lucky for me because I started reading it right away and only took three days to read the whole thing, which is fast for me right now. This was an advanced copy, so things might be a little different in the one published last month. But either way, the overall reaction is summed in one word. It was... wow.

From Goodreads: "What if you knew exactly when you would die? 

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out. 

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home..."

This book is amazing. Seriously. A-Maze-Ing

Story: The idea of the world is an intriguing one. My only concern was the two males shown as interested in the one female main character, but this is the type that I can handle and even enjoy. It's not the girl/woman is indecisive or trying to even pick. Instead, it's a matter of circumstances. And I ended up liking both males.  I loved the little elements that were shown in the world. The music of the piano, the fish illuminations in the pool and the attempts to recreate existences from the past to make the harsh reality of the truth in their world more bearable.

Characters: All of the characters are well developed. I liked Rhine, the main character. She was interesting and easy enough to feel empathy towards. Linden may have three new wives, but he really isn't a bad guy and his character was well developed. And the servant, Gabriel added dimension to the story. His interactions with Rhine were good to read. The female characters had their own depth and the variety of characters dealing all with the situation made for a great story. Variety in characters was great to read and having them stand out with decent development was a relief to see. I enjoyed this book mostly for the characters.

Overall: I didn't want to stop reading. The only difficult parts I had with the copy I read is sometimes the flashbacks would catch me off guard and I would be confused for the first paragraph. Even with the stranger subjects like polygamy, death happening at ages 20 and 25, and the strangeness of the world, it was easy to visualize the story. I found it to be an amazing read and hope others give it a chance. Read this book.

Dawn's Verdict: 9/10

Fake Boyfriend, by Kate Brian

I'll admit it, it was the cover that hooked me!

Synopsis from Goodreads:

He's absolutely perfect.

If only he were real.

Lane and Vivi have had it with Isabelle Hunter's boyfriend, Shawn Littig (a.k.a. Sluttig). He is the only person who can turn their smart, confident best friend into a complete mess. When Shawn Sluttig cheats on and dumps Izzy just months before the prom she's been planning since the ninth grade, Lane and Vivi decide to take action.

With a few quick keystrokes, they create a MySpace page for "Brandon," the perfect guy to get Izzy out of her revolving-door relationship with Shawn. Too bad he's totally fake. Vivi's younger brother, Marshall, who they hire to be the "man" behind the profile, is way too into being Izzy's fake boyfriend. So they turn to cute, prep-school Jonathan to be the face of Brandon. But when Vivi falls for Jonathan, and Sluttig tries to wedge his way back into Izzy's prom picture, the whole plan starts to go south faster than you can say "fake boyfriend."

I picked Fake Boyfriend up because it looked like it was a fun read, and it didn't disappoint. While it wasn't the most thought provoking or meaningful novel out there, I did enjoy reading it. The characters are likable, and the plot, while predictable, was fast paced enough to keep me reading on. My favourite character by far was Marshall, the mistreated younger brother of Vivi. I wish he had got to play more of a part, and while there his IM conversations with Izzy are mentioned a lot, we don't actually get to read much of it. The book could have done with more on the MArshall/Izzy fake relationship, instead of concentrating on Jonathan, the 'face' or the fake boyfriend.

The 3rd person POV switches from Vivi to Lane throughout the novel, and not having anything from Izzy's POV was actually a refreshing twist. While it would have been fun to see things from her POV, the story wasn't really about her, or her boyfriend problems. It was more about friendship, and how the 'right thing' can really be the wrong thing!

A fun read overall.

WritersBlockNZ's Verdict: 7/10

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