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April 17, 2012

Humour, tragedy, realism and, of course, a happy beginning—this memoir has it all. I don’t know why I didn’t read this sooner.

Anh Do is a comedian who travelled to Australia at the age of two via a refugee boat from Vietnam. This memoir tells the story of his family and his experiences growing up as an Asian-Australian.

This book came highly recommended by so many people. It has earned multiple awards and accolades and has consistently been on the bestseller list since it was first released. I decided to find out for myself what the hype was all about.

Do’s family escaped Vietnam on a tiny boat in the 70s during the war. They went through all sorts of hardships—running out of food and water, running into pirates—before they made it to Malaysia and then finally Australia. When they arrived here, they didn’t have much and Do was pretty much raised by a single mum from the time he entered high school. The Happiest Refugee charts Do’s growing up, his beginnings as a comedian, and how he finally finds success, all with the support of his loving family.

I managed to read most of the book during my lunch hour. It is so easy to read, and Do’s narrative captured me from the first page…and I kept going and going.

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April 12, 2012
One Good Reason by Sarah Mayberry & Feels Like Home by Beth Andrews

One Good Reason by Sarah Mayberry & Feels Like Home by Beth Andrews

A dramatic story with moments that will break your heart. Unfortunately, the hero’s emotional catharsis is rushed and the the resolution doesn’t match the story’s earlier promise.

This review is part of the AWW2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge. Click here for a list of books I’ve read so far.

Gabby Wade has held a torch for her boss and best friend Tyler Adamson for four years. Unfortunately, Tyler is now very happily married—and we know it’s for read and for good because Australian author Sarah Mayberry wrote his story in The Last Goodbye (Mills & Boon Super Romance). When Tyler’s elder brother, temporarily home for reasons unknown, mistakes her for a lesbian it’s the last straw. Gabby gets spectacularly drunk…and realises that she’s been going through a long period of heartbreak and grief.

Jon Adamson is helping Tyler out with his furniture business while coming to grips with their father’s death. They come from an abusive family and Jon is wracked with grief that he didn’t do enough to protect Tyler from their violent father.

Gabby and Jon immediately feel a connection when they meet, but it’s a slow burn and they both need to face some truths before they can even acknowledge the possibility of accepting a new relationship, no matter how temporary.

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April 7, 2012
Lover Reborn by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 10) - Australian/UK edition

Lover Reborn by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 10)

Tohr’s book hearkens back to the earlier books in the BDB series. It’s not without its faults, but in true J. R. Ward fashion, when she pulls out the angst, it’s very, very good.

Click here for a round-up of all BDB-related posts on Book Thingo.

I thought I had weaned myself off the crack, cold turkey, after I managed to resist the call of Lover Unleashed. But as a former Cellie, I was interested to see how Tohr gets his happy ending. Plus a review copy of Lover Reborn turned up in the mail. How could I resist?

Warning: This will be a long post. I’m using subheadings so you can skip to the bits that matter to you. There are spoilers, although I’ve tried not to give away major plot points.

The good stuff

I wasn’t expecting much from this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. For the most part, J. R. Ward restrains herself from going overly over the top and delivers a story that is more layered and coherent—if not always believable—than the BDB has delivered for some time.

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April 5, 2012
Heart Of The Desert by Carol Marinelli

Heart Of The Desert by Carol Marinelli

A beautifully written story—the sheikh romance for readers who hate sheikh romances. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read in the Mills & Boon Sexy line.

This review is part of the AWW2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge. Click here for a list of books I’ve read so far.

I’ve never reviewed a Carol Marinelli book, but I’ve tried the author’s work twice; both times were DNF, and I didn’t pick up another one of hers again until I started reading Heart Of The Desert, a sequel to her 2009 M&B Medical, Secret Sheikh, Secret Baby. It’s an absolute keeper.

Georgie Anderson almost had a one-night stand with her brother-in-law, Prince Ibrahim Zaraq, but she turned him down at the last minute and harsh words were exchanged. So when they end up back at Zaraq at the same time, it’s all they can do to be civil to each other.

A series of events finds them stranded in the desert—the desert that haunts Ibrahim and seduces Georgie. But Ibrahim is the third prince of Zaraq, and he’s bound by rules and customs that will never accept Georgie in his life even though each of them knows they may never find anyone else who will understand and accept them so completely.

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April 3, 2012

When this book gets good, it’s, oh, so very good. Alexei and Maisy may reflect the traditional alpha male and ingénue pairing in category romance, but they don’t always behave as expected. And that’s a good thing.

This review is part of the AWW2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge. Click here for a list of books I’ve read so far.

This book is the reason I try to read past a bad beginning to get to the meat of a story. Maisy Edmonds has been left caring for her best friend’s baby, Kostya, when she and her husband die in an accident. When the house suddenly explodes with strange men, it’s all she can do to convince Alexei Ranaevsky that Kostya needs her.

Alexei is Kostya’s godfather and he takes his role seriously. So much so that without any warning whatsoever, he storms the house where the baby is living, agrees to bring Maisy with him to provide some constancy in the baby’s life…and proceeds to pash her when he accidentally but conveniently walks in while she’s clad in nothing but a towel.

First of all…WTF?

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March 28, 2012
A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant (Blackshear Family, Book 1)

A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant (Blackshear Family, Book 1)

Sweet and well written, but requires a lot of patience.

Martha Russell is recently widowed. If she is not pregnant with an heir, she loses control of her beloved estate and the accompanying servants to her brother-in-law, who is not known for being kind. She decides to contract her hunky new neighbour, Theopilus Mirkwood, who has been exiled to the country by his father, into being her sperm stud. And this is where our story begins.

I had been looking forward to this book for a long time. Other readers absolutely raved in their reviews—lyrical, romantic, well-written, etc.  Then I got the book and it took me two months to read it.

While I will agree that A Lady Awakened is well written and lyrical and thoughtful and beautifully done, I did not like it. I would, however, give Cecilia Grant a second chance and try her next offering, and hopefully it will not try my patience as much as this book has done.

For starters, while I get that this is the whatever ages (Regency? post? pre?) and that women enjoying sex is not the usual and doesn’t really happen and I understand the lead character’s moral qualms are at the root of her not being able to orgasm, did the author have to make Mary frigid for two-thirds of the book? This is a romance novel, for god’s sake—could Grant not have made her enjoy the sex and end her suffering somewhere along the halfway point? Does it really take that long to get an orgasm in a romance novel? (Note: This is not real life.) There are no sweet scenes to build you up to the sex, either, because I’ve read books where there’s one sex scene in the end and something has usually happened before that.

All they do is talk about crops.

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March 21, 2012
Lead Me On by Victoria Dahl (Tumble Creek, Book 3)

Lead Me On by Victoria Dahl (Tumble Creek, Book 3)

The heroine’s struggle for self-acceptance may get a little dull, but a sexy hero, some hilarious dialogue and the snappy writing make this book a delight to read.

Lead Me On is the third book in a connected series set in Tumble Creek, Colorado, although the plot and characters stand alone and there’s absolutely no reason you couldn’t read them out of order.

Jane Morgan has changed her name and appearance to shed any trace of her troubled childhood, and the last thing she wants is a man like Chase—not only does he blow things up for a living, he’s inked and clearly so far away from the conservative, suited up man she’s looking for that she really should never have called him while tipsy.

Chase agrees to be Jane’s birthday present to herself—despite the prim demeanour, she’s completely uninhibited in the bedroom—he’s outraged when she sneaks off while he’s in the shower.

I love the way Victoria Dahl sets up these two characters. Jane, with her insecurities and snobbiness, could have been irritating if not for the humour and passion that Dahl provides. Chase is a hero to swoon over. He looks like a bad boy and used to be somewhat of a bad boy, but by the time the story starts, he’s in the right place in his life to be the dependable and patient guy that Jane needs.

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March 16, 2012
The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

A well written and somewhat heartbreaking story that explores how we understand our relationships. It’s also a film.

Matt King is descended from Hawaiian royalty and one of Hawaii’s largest land owners. His wife, Joanie, was injured in a sailing accident and will soon be taken off life support. Matt will be left with the care of his two daughters, Alex, 17, and Scottie, 10.

Matt decides to give his wife’s friends and family a chance to say goodbye and in the process finds out that his wife had been having an affair. He decides to find her lover, so that he can let him have a proper goodbye.

Matt is an interesting character. He’s well-meaning, but as his wife has taken care of their kids all his life, he has no idea what to do and is somewhat shocked at how different they are from what he perceives them to be. He has no idea how to be a parent, despite being a parent for almost 18 years. The book, to me, is less about his wife’s affair, but more about Matt’s relationships, especially with his daughters, and how his journey to find his wife’s lover turns into a journey for his own growth.

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March 14, 2012
Broken by Megan Hart

Broken by Megan Hart

A beautifully executed story that challenges the boundaries of the romance genre. This is what erotic romance should be—edgy, deliberate and deeply emotional.

Megan Hart is an author whose work I’ve always been curious about but was afraid to try. Yes, afraid. Hart has a reputation for blurring the lines between erotic fiction and romance, and I generally don’t consider myself a romance genre boundary bender.

When I was asked to curate Raunchy Romance Storytime at Customs House Library last month, I had a feeling I would eventually have to read Hart’s work. After reading Jessica’s list of her top 9 romantic love scenes in romance—and being assured that the book is indeed a romance—I bought a copy of Broken.

Okay, yes. First I read all the smutty bits. Doesn’t everyone?

But then I read Broken the way it’s supposed to be read, and I was absolutely seduced. Not by the sex, mind. Hart uses erotica to invite the reader into Sadie’s story, but by the time you’re in the actual story, you find yourself wishing there were less erotic fantasy and more of the characters’ everyday lives.

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March 7, 2012
One Perfect Night by Rachael Johns

One Perfect Night by Rachael Johns

Gets off to a great start but plateaus when the conflicts are piled on to sustain the tension. It doesn’t always work, but there’s enough here for a quick, enjoyable read.

This review is part of the AWW2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge. Click here for a list of books I’ve read so far.

As many of you know, I’m always a little wary of romances featuring Australian characters because, well, they can be done so, so badly.  Rachael Johns’s debut novel, One Perfect Night, is set in Sydney and features heroine Peppa Grant, who has a one-night stand with the company CEO, Cameron McCormac, after she dings his car and has to pay him back by pretending to be his date.

Oh, it’s a short-length romance. You know how it is.

Despite the far-fetched premise, One Perfect Night starts off at a good pace, with, I was relieved to discover, an unobtrusive Aussie voice.

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