life can often feel like we're falling down a rabbit hole, into the unknown. it's a curious feeling. my name is annabel. i'm trying to navigate that rabbit hole, with the help of alice, who came before me.
Secrets in the Sky
How far should you go to keep a secret?
No-one ever accused Sophie Campbell of being a coward. From caving trips to rooftop pranks, it appeared nothing could hold her back, especially once she landed a dream job promising travel all over the world.
But Sophie’s jet-setting lifestyle is not what it seems and she’s been spending more time in the quiet English village of Saffron Sweeting than she cares to admit. When her beloved Great Aunt Wol dies suddenly, Sophie loses one of the few people who truly know her. As friends, family and an old flame gather for the funeral, questions soon follow. Worse, Sophie finds herself increasingly attracted to the man most likely to expose her secrets. Can she manage to guard her past, yet finally follow her long-held dream?
Featuring both new and familiar characters, this stand-alone romantic comedy is set two years before Saving Saffron Sweeting. With side helpings of British tea, cake and wit, Secrets in the Sky explores how finding the courage to be yourself can be the toughest challenge of all.
Secrets in the Sky had a lot going on. Family death, unexpected inheritance, at least two family secrets, some blackmail, old friends, a phobia, romantic misunderstandings and gossipy neighbours. That said, Wiles combined all of these elements to make a great chick lit read.
Sophie was a layered, complex character who’s life was really in a bit of a mess. Thanks to reconnecting with Bella, an old friend, she starts getting help with her crippling fear of flying – a great idea, seeing as everyone in Saffron Sweeting thinks that she is a flight attendant! Slowly, as Sophie’s well-meaning lies begin to unravel, she starts to find her way back to who she really wanted to be.
Saffron Sweeting was filled with quirky characters that helped flesh out the story, but didn’t overwhelm it. Some secrets lasted until the last pages, others came out along the way, with the help of an old flame and a helpful pilot.
I really enjoyed this book, and would love to read more about what happens to them next. I know Wiles has written another book, Saving Saffron Sweeting, which is set in the same town but features different main characters… but I want to know more about what happens to Sophie, Tom, and Bella!
Always the wedding planner, never a bride, Elliot Lynch is famous for orchestrating the splashiest weddings in Charleston, South Carolina. When her father’s sloppy management practices leave them on the brink of bankruptcy, Elliot will do whatever it takes to save the family business. When asked to appear on “The Marrying Type,” a reality TV show about the people behind the scenes as couples exchange I dos, she says yes to the invasion of privacy (and the hefty paycheck that comes with it).
With a camera crew capturing every detail of her life, Elliot faces her most challenging contract yet: planning a wedding where her ex is involved in every part of the process. Add in a lazy assistant, liquor-loving bridesmaid, and rival planner encroaching on her turf, and Elliot’s wedding season goes from high-end to high-stress.
Forced to confront her past, Elliot must live out her troubled present on national TV if she has any hope of saving her future.
My test of whether an e-book I read is truly good or not is whether or not I pop over to Book Depository and put it on my (rather long) wishlist, so that I can add a hard copy to my library. Guess what? I just added The Marrying Type by Laura Chapman to my wishlist.
Straight off the bat, I loved Elliot, the main character. She sees a problem and sets her mind to fixing it, showing a strength of character that I really appreciated. My heart ached for her losses and the crap her family pulls on her, and sang when things went her way.
As much as I loved Elliot, she was by no means the only great character in this book. Handsome, philanthropic, successful and kind Eric was a dream (it’s so unfortunate that fictional men aren’t on the market in reality), crazy Heloise would remind any girl of someone she knows, and beautiful bride-to-be Sadie was a darling, and gay bestie Smyth was a hoot. With such a great cast of characters, it would’ve been hard for Chapman to go wrong.
Luckily, the plot was also strong. Not everything was about romance romance romance. Elliot was a business woman, and it was interesting to read about how she pulled weddings together. Plus, the added element of being on a reality TV show at the same time gave another dimension and was quite interesting.
This book was hard to put down, and left me with a smile on my face – albeit a little sad that I don’t have an Eric of my own to live happily ever after with! I’d love to read more about what happens to these characters after this book ends (Laura, that’s a hint to write a sequel!!), and definitely recommend this one to chick lit lovers everywhere.
The Boardwalk Antiques Shop
Julie Wright, Melanie Jacobson, and Heather B. Moore
Welcome to Tangerine Street
Tangerine Street is a must-see tourist stop with a colourful mix of one-of-a-kind boutiques, unique restaurants, eclectic museums, quaint bookstores, and renowned bed-and-breakfasts. The Boardwalk Antiques Shop is an exclusive shop where every antique has a story, and each story possesses the gift to match true love. The customer who buys an antique also buys its story and soon discovers that its story unites the past with the present, creating an unexpected romantic future…
“Where Every Antique has a Story”
MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE: Jennifer is newest owner of The Boardwalk Antiques Shop, inherited from her aunt. When Jennifer arrives in Seashell Beach, her first priority is to meet with a realtor to sell the place. She laughs out loud when she discovers the realtor’s name is Mr. Studly. But the more Jennifer gets to know Paul Studly, the more she finds reasons to stay and run the antiques shop herself.
SOLVING FOR X: Abbie is only a little bit obsessed with antiques, okay, a lot. So when Holden, an out-of-town business executive, tries to purchase the tin soldiers that Abbie’s had her eye on, Abbie refuses to back down. The antiques shop owner issues a challenge: whoever comes up with the best story for wanting the soldiers, will become the new owner. Abbie isn’t about to let some fancy executive beat her out, no matter how charming he is.
A STITCH IN TIME: When Cate learns that antiques dealer Henry Lancaster has purchased the sewing machine left to her by her grandmother, Cate is determined to get it back. What she isn’t counting on is that Henry has just as much claim as Cate. And it doesn’t help that Henry is good-looking and apparently single. Getting to know Henry becomes an unexpected surprise, sending her life into a sudden detour.
The Boardwalk Antiques Shop, by Julie Wright, Melanie Jacobson, and Heather B. Moore, was written in a very unique format. It is made up of three short stories, set in a small town. Each story is written by a different writer, but each story overlaps, and has a connection with the Boardwalk Antique Shop.
I love books about women running creative small businesses, but I’m not always sold on short stories. So, I started this novel with mixed expectations. Pleasantly, I was surprised! Each short story had very different leading women, and I quickly got involved with their stories and decisions. While each story was short, they were self contained and loose ends were nicely tied up. Of course, there’s an element of suspended reality when a couple can meet and fall in love within a hundred pages, but that was helped by the fact that the stories took place over the span of months, not days. We might just have read a snipped of their story, but in their timeline there was more than a few days between first-sigh and love.
Although each story was written by a different writer, their styles were very similar and they flowed together nicely. That said, the main characters were all very unique, which meant that the stories were set apart from one another. In fact, the stories were interesting enough that I would have liked to seem them expanded into full length stories, particularly the story of Jennifer taking over her Aunt’s antiques shop.
For lovers of chick lit and happy endings, I would recommend stepping into the world of Seashell Beach. The Boardwalk Antiques Shop was the centre-point for this novel, but there is another book in the series, featuring the Fortune Cafe, with the same three-part format, aptly named The Fortune Cafe. I’ve already downloaded it, and am looking forward to reading about more of the characters in Seashell Beach!
I received a copy of The Boardwalk Antiques Shop, by Julie Wright, Melanie Jacobson, and Heather B. Moore from Inspired Kathy of Book Blasts and Blog Tours, in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.
Happy Independence Day. You’re all going to die. Life can’t be better for veteran pilot Larry Walder. He has a great job, a terrific kid, a gorgeous wife—and no inkling that tonight will be the end of the world as he knows it. In the early hours before the Fourth of July, three men break into Larry’s home. And as the day lurches on to its terrifying course, a life is taken, and Flight 816 from Atlanta to Cozumel, Mexico, vanishes off the radar. In the air, Larry must find a way to save his family, his crew, and his passengers. On the ground, disgraced FBI agent Xanadu Marx goes rogue, making it her mission to track down the missing flight before the hijackers reach their diabolical endgame. With the casualties racking up and the world’s busiest airport under lockdown, a message arrives: This is no ordinary hijacking, no typical hostage crisis. This ransom is a totally different beast—the first hint of a conspiracy that might bring America to its knees.
Cost of Life started with a ‘regular’ plane hijacking. You know, man flies plane off course to save his kidnapped wife and child. Coupled with some pretty flowery descriptions, I wasn’t 100% hooked. However, then things took a very interesting turn.
Picking up the pace, we learn why the Pilot, Larry, was blackmailed into taking the plane off course. In a Hunger Games twist for the modern age, the hijackers pit humanity against itself, in an aim to demonstrate America’s philosophy that money can buy anything – and everything.
As the plot unravelled, the events on the plane were by far more coherent and interesting than the action taking place outside of it; rescue attempts, and bureaucracy. There were some interesting characters, some of whom I can see being in future books and developed further. However, there were a few plot holes, and a slightly strange ending – in that is was very perhaps too neat and tidy, too happy, given the threatened carnage.
Overall, the unique reason for the hijacking was the best part of the book, and I was invested in finding out how it turned out. That said, some of the other story details were a little weak. I’d read more of Corin’s books, but I wouldn’t say that this was a smash-hit. Still, worth reading for the interesting notion raised in the hijacking!
The Kill Shot
A Jamie Sinclair Novel
Jamie Sinclair’s father has never asked her for a favour in her life. The former two-star general turned senator is more in the habit of giving his only child orders. So when he requests Jamie’s expertise as a security specialist, she can’t refuse—even though it means slamming the brakes on her burgeoning relationship with military police officer Adam Barrett. Just like that, Jamie hops aboard a flight to London with a U.S. State Department courier carrying a diplomatic pouch in an iron grip. Jamie doesn’t have to wait long to put her unique skills to good use. When she and the courier are jumped by goons outside the Heathrow terminal, Jamie fights them off—but the incident puts her on high alert. Someone’s willing to kill for the contents of the bag. Then a would-be assassin opens fire in crowded Covent Garden, and Jamie is stunned to spot a familiar face: Adam Barrett, who saves her life with a single shot and calmly slips away. Jamie’s head—and her heart—tell her that something is very wrong. But she’s come way too far to turn back now.
A few months ago, I reviewed The Kill List, the first novel in the Jamie Sinclair series. I liked the feisty female security specialist with a take-no-prisoners attitude. The Kill Shot is the second book in the series, and Jamie returned in full force.
The Kill Shot saw Jamie off-balance from the beginning. When her father, a hard-ass senator whose approval Jamie desperately desires, asks her to do a ‘favour’, she finds herself in London. What was supposed to be a basic security detail job turns into a race against time to keep a Middle Eastern defector safe from the political forces who want to see her dead – or kept alive to be used as a bargaining tool.
I like political thrillers, so was familiar with the shady way that the players were conducting their business throughout this novel. However, there were times when Jamie, a professional, seemed a little behind the eight ball. Perhaps it was all the romance throwing her off balance…
While there were romantic undertones to the first book (the lovely Barrett was quite the charmer), in this book Barrett faced competition in the form of posh, gorgeous, cheeky Philip (who also was quite the charmer). With the two men vying for her attention, Jamie was at best a little distracted during her time in London. Understandable, I would have had trouble choosing between these two guys!! That said, there was a fair bit of focus on the romance in this book, perhaps at the detriment of the thriller aspect. However, it was well written, and kept me hooked… though perhaps a little more invested in the Barrett/Philip storyline than the political aspect!
While I enjoyed this book, I must admit that I preferred the first book in the series. It seemed a little more focused, and the mystery was more developed. That said, I’m partial to a little chick lit, and don’t mind when romance pops up amid gunfire! This book is definitely still worth a read. I’m looking forward to seeing where Christoff takes the character next!
All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes
Betsy St. Amant
Kat inspected rows of the same old cupcakes. They seemed to blink back at her, as if they knew she was capable of so much more.
Kat Varland has had enough of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
At twenty-six years old, Kat is still living in the shadows of her family in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. Still working shifts at her Aunt Maggie s bakery. Still wondering what to do with her passion for baking and her business degree. And still single.
But when Lucas Brannen, Kat s best friend, signs her up for a reality TV bake-off on Cupcake Combat, everything Kat ever wanted is suddenly dangled in front of her: creative license as a baker, recognition as a visionary . . . and a job at a famous bakery in New York.
As the competition heats up, Lucas realizes he might have made a huge mistake. As much as he wants the best for Kat, the only thing he wants for himself her is suddenly in danger of slipping away.
The bright lights of reality cooking wars and the chance at a successful career dazzle Kat s senses and Lucas is faced with a difficult choice: help his friend achieve her dreams . . . or sabotage her chances to keep her in Louisiana.
Have you ever seen Cupcake Wars? Loved it? Then this sweet as pie Southern baking adventure will be right up your alley! Basically, this is the story of that baking competition (with a different name…), from the point of view of a contestant.
Kat Varland is a creative baker trapped in a traditional bakery. Her best friend, Lucas, enters her in the bake-off to boost her confidence, and win her love (which, unbeknownst to him, he already has!). However, he didn’t read the fine print – if she wins, she’ll be moving across the country. Without him.
Written from both Kat and Lucas’ points of view, the book is slightly frustrating in that the reader immediately knows that the characters are in love with one another, but the characters themselves are a little slow figuring that out.
That said, the characters are interesting and well-written, and I always like chick lit that explores the narrative from the man’s point of view. The supporting cast could have been more developed, because I actually really liked them and felt they could have been even more involved.
The competition was well described – having watched the TV show (which is never directly referenced as inspiration… but it clearly was), I knew the set up and appreciated reading about how everything unfolded! Plus, cupcakes are my weakness, and there were lots of tantalising cupcakes being baked and eaten throughout!
Definitely another good chick lit read – I’ve been on a roll recently! FYI, this is another ‘clean’ book. Nothing full frontal here! Worth a read, especially for the budding bakers out there.
Under a Georgia Moon
Cindy Roland Anderson
Addie Heywood thought she was doing okay after her fiancé dumped her just weeks before their wedding, claiming he’d found someone else more compatible with his health food tastes. But when he marries the other woman three months later, Addie needs to get away. Leaving her home in Idaho, she escapes to Mitchel Creek, Georgia to visit her Aunt Janie. She just wants to spend the next two weeks enjoying her aunt’s southern cooking, not dodging the guys her aunt is determined to set her up with.
Chase Nichols isn’t looking for love. His dream is to trade his computer mouse for his guitar and make it big in the country music world. If he can land a job in Nashville, he might have a shot at getting discovered. His plans get derailed when he does his neighbor a favor and picks up her niece, Addie, at the airport. Things get even more complicated when his ex-girlfriend comes back into the picture. That’s when he hatches a new plan. Since Addie wants to avoid her aunt’s matchmaking schemes, and he wants to avoid his ex-girlfriend, they’ll fool the world by pretending to date. What neither of them counts on is actually falling in love.
This book was a charming ‘clean’* Southern romance, and I really enjoyed it. The story was simple, and somewhat predictable, but it was a great afternoon chick lit read! Main character Addie was sweet and spunky – I was rooting for her. It was also interesting to read the story from Chase’s perspective as we went along; I suppose it’s not often that you read about Southern courtship from the perspective of a restrained Christian male.
Although it was fairly obvious that Addie and Chase were going to become an ‘item’, that didn’t bother me at all. Let’s be honest, most Chick Lit has an easy-to-spot romance appear in the first chapter or so! When you pick one up, you’re hardly expecting to be surprised by it. Really, it’s all about how the romance UNRAVELS! And this romance is particularly sweet, which seems to be the Southern way.
I liked all of the characters, particularly Aunt Janie and her baked goodies, although there wasn’t a huge focus on anyone other than Addie and Chase. I also liked how gentlemanly Chase was – he was kind-hearted, thoughtful AND cute! It was a nice change of pace from an arrogant or rude male lead, who needs to be ‘changed’. Chase was great as he was, and the focus stayed on their struggle to fit relationships in with their career dreams.
Both Addie and Chase were reluctant to give up their dreams to pursue a romance, and it was interesting to see how they worked through their priorities. I felt it was a realistic dilemma (even if their solution may have been an uncommon one!).
Overall, for a quick, feel-good romance, I’d definitely recommend this book. It may not have been ground-breaking, but when I put it down I was more than satisfied, and it stuck in my head for several days. There was even a little mystery and danger thrown in! What more could I ask for?!
Klara Walldeen, orphaned as a child and brought up by her grandparents on a remote Swedish archipelago, is now a political aide in Brussels. And she has just seen something she shouldn’t: something people will kill to keep hidden.
On the other side of the world, an old spy hides from his past. Once, he was a man of action: so dedicated to the cause that he abandoned his baby daughter to keep his cover. Now the only thing he lives for is swimming in the local pool.
Then, on Christmas eve, Klara is thrown into a terrifying chase through Europe. Only the Swimmer can save her. But time is running out...
If I could sum up The Swimmer by Joakim Zander in a single word, it would be ‘intriguing’. For starters, the book was fast paced and dramatic, with mysterious phone calls and bodies piling up, but it wasn’t until three quarters of the way through the book that the reader really knows what the bad guys so desperately want. Then, there was a protagonist who’s name is never revealed, who is nothing if not mysterious. Plus, with several main characters, the book is written as though one is going to be the central character, only for there to be a sudden about-face midway through the novel.
While such a slow reveal of crucial details can be incredibly frustrating in a book, in this instance it worked. Zander’s narrative was so well written that it didn’t matter. In fact, it added to the story. The characters themselves had no idea what they had stumbled into, and rather than the reader having all of the facts while the characters struggled to catch up, I felt like I was uncovering the information with them, and was very invested in the journey.
I also appreciated the ‘real-life’ aspects of the story, that tied into the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the role of government organisations like the CIA. With a portion of the book written from the perspective of a disillusioned career spy, the insights offered into the ‘grey areas’ of espionage were rather fascinating. The unusual setting, in Sweden and Brussels, was an additional bonus – the Swedish archipelagos were a unique and fascinating backdrop.
This book was an interesting look at how the actions of one person can create ripples that span not only distance, but time. One split second can change everything. Zander did a great job of describing the effects of those ripples and tying together the strands of the characters’ lives. I’d definitely recommend this book to lovers of political thrillers.
I received a copy of The Swimmer by Joakim Zander from the lovely Trish at TLC Tours, in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.
Kate Fullerton, talented tea designer and now co-owner of The Tea Chest, could never have imagined that she'd be flying from Brisbane to London, risking her young family's future, to save the business she loves from the woman who wants to shut it down.
Meanwhile, Leila Morton has just lost her job; and if Elizabeth Clancy had known today was the day she would appear on the nightly news, she might at least have put on some clothes. Both need to start again.
When the three women's paths unexpectedly cross, they throw themselves into realising Kate's magical vision for London's branch of The Tea Chest. But every time success is within their grasp, increasing tensions damage their trust in each other.
With the very real possibility that The Tea Chest will fail, Kate, Leila and Elizabeth must decide what's important to each of them. Are they willing to walk away or can they learn to believe in themselves?
An enchanting, witty novel about the unexpected situations life throws at us, and how love and friendship help us through. Written with heart and infused with the seductive scents of bergamot, Indian spices, lemon, rose and caramel, it's a world you won't want to leave.
I absolutely devoured The Tea Chest by Josephine Moon. Of all the chick lit in the world, I love the stories where people build something out of nothing (think following a cupcake dream, opening a vintage store, creating a dream…). This book was just right!
First, the characters were great. Particularly Kate, completely out of her depth while taking over the business after the death of her partner, was well-written. I really felt her dilemma; she was used to being the artist, not a boss, and everything was a little overwhelming! With Kate as the Leading Lady, I felt like the other ladies were a perfect complement to her personality – Leila was business like and optimistic, while Elizabeth was no-nonsense and ready for a change. Together, they counter-balanced Kate’s dreaminess and her fears of failure.
This book wasn’t about romance (of course, there was a teeny bit included for good measure), instead focusing more on these women’s business journey and their personal development throughout. Kate, Leila and Elizabeth grew in confidence and it was a very uplifting read.
I also loved all of the tea-talk. As a tea lover myself, I loved the descriptions about how Kate created and blended new flavours of tea, and sourced the products for her new store. It was really interesting, and beautifully written.
Plus, the fact that the book was split between Australia (woo for home!) and London (who doesn’t love London!?) was an added bonus. Not only do I love a glimpse of home when I’m reading, but the contrast between laid-back Brisbane and high-street London made for a great story.
I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of The Tea Chest. Perhaps save it for a rainy day, brew a cup of fragrant tea, and put aside an afternoon – I guarantee you won’t want to put this one down!
It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years.
They have found a species of animal no one believed even existed. It will amaze the world.
Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing discovery within the greatest zoo ever constructed.
A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see its fabulous creatures for the first time.
Among them is Dr. Cassandra Jane ‘CJ’ Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles.
The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that they are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong.
Of course it can’t…
GET READY FOR ACTION ON A GIGANTIC SCALE.
As a pretty die-hard Matthew Reilly fan, I was pretty keen to read his latest action novel. I loved his earlier work, like Ice Station and Contest, and have been to see him speak and have him sign my books – I was impressed! However, I’ll admit that his more recent work has leant a little more towards gratuitous action and violence than actual plot or character development. Perhaps due to upheaval in his personal life (which I won’t go into detail about), he seems to have been off form for a few years. So, I was a little apprehensive picking up Great Zoo.
Things got off to a great start; I loved Reilly’s concept. To sum things up, the Chinese have come up with a grand scheme to put them on par with the cultural titan that is America. They’ve invited politicians, environmentalists, and journalists to have a sneak peak of their pride and joy, and are determined that reviews will be positive, no matter what. However, Jurassic Park style, the best laid plans are destined to end in disaster when you put ancient, intelligent creatures in a zoo and expect them to behave. The main character, CJ was a woman (a first for Reilly), which was a nice change of pace, and her partner in crime is her brother, which rules out any lame love-at-first-sight-amongst-carnage rubbish. I thought that the reasoning behind the existence of the animals was plausible (and believable!), and I liked the political spin on the project – though I’m not sure Chinese readers would be so keen to hear about their amazing working capabilities but lack of imagination…
As the story rapidly developed, I was hooked. I raced through the book alongside the characters as they fought to escape the hellhole they’d landed themselves in. The action was intense, the animals interesting, the mythology fascinating – I couldn’t put it down, and am keen for a sequel (here that Matthew? I’ve already figured out how it could work, call me!).
Has Reilly returned to form? Yes and no. This was an epic action book, definitely in the vein of Jurassic Park (which I also love). I was hooked, and I liked the premise a lot. I felt the book had a little more soul than, for example, the last Jack West book, which was more action for the sake of action than anything else. However, there could have been more development as far as characters and creatures go, and there was probably still some gratuitous violence that I could have done without (although I appreciate the imagination behind someone’s lungs being sucked out of their body…).
Let’s be frank. This book was never written to be a literary masterpiece. Reilly also never claims that it was meant to be! He likes to write books that read like action movies, and he achieved exactly that. I struggled to ‘rate’ this book. If you’re looking for a book that immerses you in the action and as you hooked, then this is great. However, if you’re looking for great character development, then this probably isn’t the book for you. It’s fast paced and explosive, with no time for soliloquies to get to know people. Really, if you know Reilly at all, you know the kind of book you’re getting into – and if you’ve loved his early work, then you’ll probably love Great Zoo. Definitely worth a read, as far as I’m concerned! I’ll remain a loyal fan, and keep hoping that his books only get better from here.
It may seem like I'm a strange mix of creative and straight-laced. I'd probably have to agree with you. Not knowing quite who I am, or what I'm doing, makes me feel like I'm stumbling headfirst into the unknown.
It reminds me of a girl named Alice, tripping down the rabbit hole. So, I'm taking inspiration from her: keep moving, keep dreaming, and always take advice from giant caterpillars smoking shisha.