Here for the Right Reasons (#1) by Jodi McAlister

Published: 6 July 2022 (print)/5 July 2022 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Simon Schuster Australia/Simon Schuster Australia
Pages: 352/9 hrs and 45 mins
Narrator: Jaimee Taylor-Nielsen
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

When Cece James agrees to be cast as a ‘Juliet’ on the next season of the hit television show Marry Me, Juliet, it’s certainly not for the right reasons. She’s knee deep in debt and desperate for the associated paycheck. The last thing on her mind is the hunky ‘Romeo’ waiting for her at the end of the gravel driveway.

But Dylan Jayasinghe Mellor isn’t your usual fame-hungry TV star. An Olympic gold medallist with calloused hands, kind eyes and a propensity for panic attacks, it turns out he’s not here for the right reasons either. As spokesperson for a men’s mental health foundation, and the franchise’s first non-white male lead, Dylan’s got a charity to plug and something to prove.

When Cece gets eliminated on the first night, it seems like her and Dylan’s awkward first meeting will be their last conversation. But when the TV set is shut down unexpectedly, Cece and Dylan suddenly get a little more time together than they’d expected.

Will love bloom when the cameras stop rolling?

Reading these out of order was accidental so I knew what to expect but at the same time I was interested to see a whole new storyline because there is definitely two separate love stories happening despite being set during the same experience.

I loved that for the first part on the show we see the same conversations playing out because of course they’re all in the same group. It makes me wonder if I’d done it in another order I’d have the same surprises. The ending of book two was a nice reveal that you had an inkling about, whereas this doesn’t have the same feeling of mystery to it.

Without comparing the two books, I found I wasn’t invested in the Dylan/Cece relationship like I was before with the other story. I don’t know why, Dylan is perfectly nice, a little one dimensional at times, maybe too I couldn’t warm up to Cece as narrator. I found myself tuning out unintentionally which I felt bad about, but I couldn’t stay in the story. The conversations between Dylan and Cece didn’t grab me and it felt flat. It wasn’t that I need drama or anything, but I never became invested in their characters.

You definitely see the two falling in love as they become better friends, a great contrast against the backdrop of reality TV and fabricated relationships for personal gain and fame. You also see Cece’s growth as she builds in confidence and finds out what’s she’s looking for, but she never felt complete. With the knowledge of book two I actually enjoyed their relationship from an outsider’s perspective more fulfilling.

I felt I got more out of the story having read book two. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if I did it the other way but there was something interesting about having extra knowledge that wasn’t being revealed in the story. Knowing the ending doesn’t ruin anything. You know where it’s going to go anyway, this is enjoying the journey and discovering the trials and tribulations on the way to the destination.

McAlister did a great job having two separate locations and so dual storylines could happen. We only see Cece’s side, and this focuses it more on a story with her inner turmoil than being about the dating show aspect alone. Often the television dating part is something happening in the background, something that we pop in and out of and connects to a wider story. That’s not to say we don’t see the drama of reality TV. There are extra characters to clash with but the situation McAlister has put Cece in means a lot of time is spent in her head which often felt repetitive.

I did like that both books give an unconventional conclusion; a romance that comes from unexpected places but still a place of sincerity and honesty. I can definitely sense there is a third book coming. If not there needs to be another story about Lilly, her social media brand and whatever is going on with that producer. I need answers because it’s mentioned often enough, and cryptically enough, in both books that it’s a failing if McAlister doesn’t offer any answers at all.

You can purchase Here for the Right Reasons via the following

QBD | Booktopia

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Audible

Midnight, Repeated by Dani McLean

Published: 1 November 2022 (print)/20 January 2023 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Set the Mood Publishing/Set the Mood Publishing Audio
Pages: 131/3 hrs 26 mins
Narrator: Alexa Elmy
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fiction
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

She’s about to have the night of her life. Over and over again.

At twenty-five, Lauree Miller knows what she should want — a serious job, a serious boyfriend, the ability to cook a meal that doesn’t involve two types of cheese.  

Who cares if it isn’t the future she had in mind for herself? It’s about time she stopped pining over her best friend’s brother, Max, anyway.

New Years Eve is a time for resolutions, and as the clock ticks closer to midnight, Lauree makes a decision – next year, she’s going to let go of the past and finally grow up. 

Except when she wakes, it’s still December 31st. Then it happens again. And again. And again.

What’s a girl trapped in a time loop to do?

Will kissing the right man at midnight set her free?

I have been on a time loop kick lately and finding a time loop set outside of a teen experience was great because it allowed more adult experiences and relationships to be explored. This short story is the perfect length to time loop the same New Years Eve over and over and it was wonderful to see how Lauree can redefine who she is and what she wants with such a short story that never felt rushed.

There is definitely room to expand and give readers more history and backstory, develop the story more but at the same time a short, sharp novella about a time loop and finding the right love is satisfying as well.

McLean address common problems like being in a loop so long you never know who has been told what, or what events happened on your current day they also mix the story up so there’s a combination of repeated moments to satisfy the loop element and you can see the changes, while also including new experiences to shift the story off course into a new line.

I liked that the way Lauree changes herself is inward and she doesn’t need to right too much of the world around her. The steps she takes to improve herself are small but impactful and despite being stuck in the loop for months on end she never falls into too much despair, which, while weird, isn’t always possibly on such a tight turn around.

Getting out of her loop is rewarding for readers, but at the same time I felt it could have ended sooner. This is part of a Movie Magic series so there obviously has to be goals met, but I felt like the real ending was a step too many to break the spell. Personally it could easily have broken sooner but I think that’s easily personal preference.

You can purchase Midnight, Repeated via the following

 Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Beating About the Bush (#30) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 3 October 2019 (print)/ 24 October 2019 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Minotaur Books /Audible
Pages: 236/6 hrs and 22 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

When private detective Agatha Raisin comes across a severed leg in a roadside hedge, it looks like she is about to become involved in a particularly gruesome murder. Looks, however, can be deceiving, as Agatha discovers when she is employed to investigate a case of industrial espionage at a factory where nothing is quite what it seems.

The factory mystery soon turns to murder and a bad-tempered donkey turns Agatha into a national celebrity, before bringing her ridicule and shame. To add to her woes, Agatha finds herself grappling with growing feelings for her friend and occasional lover, Sir Charles Fraith. Then, as a possible solution to the factory murder unfolds, her own life is thrown into deadly peril. Will Agatha get her man at last? Or will the killer get her first?

Thirty books. Have I really suffered through thirty of these books? Though surprisingly I did not suffer that much this time around which came as a shock to no one more than myself. I went in with trepidation given past evidence and while it wasn’t perfect, there was a spark of the old writing style and structured, edited, and coherent storytelling.

The old outlandish plots are back with Agatha falling in love with a donkey whose been accused of murder. It was a strange shift from the Agatha of late, it was a refreshing change and so out of the blue it was easier to go along with it and revel in the absurdity of it all. The humour shown in earlier books is back, this time written well and used by characters in enjoyable ways so you fall comfortably into the story and accept it.

Agatha’s usual jealousy of Toni is there, a new love interest though as unsustainable as the others, and while the key characters get a mention, they are barely featured in the story. An offhanded reference here, one line there, they are hardly main players this time around as the focus is on the bigger plot of Agatha, Toni, and the donkey. Everything isn’t fixed entirely, the predictability remains, the outlandish outbursts and short temper of Agatha rains down on those who cross her, and we can’t have a new book without Agatha getting herself into dire strife. Things are better but there are no miracles.

Beaton passed away while I was reading this book and at the time I did hope someone was going to keep writing them because it looked like Beaton was finally realising that Charles and Agatha should be together. Reading the summary of one of the upcoming books I’m learning this was never going to eventuate. I’ve been burned before and watched good character development be pushed back into the box for worn out tropes and lazy writing so I have little hope on that front. The will they/won’t they is a good tantaliser but there must be a day when you can’t string it along forever. It’s actually annoying Beaton died after this book (if she was actually still writing them) because it’s the closest we’ve come to having Agatha and Charles get together and it’s a shame we didn’t get that as a reward for all the pain and suffering we’ve put up with. If nothing else the only thing I wanted as a reward from enduring thirty of these books was the two of them getting together and this is the closest Beaton has come without actually doing anything about it.

Because it’s taken me two years to write some of these reviews because of *gestures at everything* three more books have been published. Now, I don’t think I have the strength to read those three books but at the time this was the latest publication. This was my goal. This was where I wanted to get to and given the way this whole grand plan of mine worked out I think I’m going to stop. I read the thirty published books through 2020 and while it’s taken me longer to review them than planned I have met that goal and I don’t know if I feel inclined to keep going with the series. I’m calling that a win and while this was the most enjoyable book in a long, long while, I will wait and see if my own curiosity tempts me to see if the writing really does change with this new author and pick it up again. But if I’m honest with myself I really don’t think I’ll be back.

You can purchase Beating About the Bush via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Wordery | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Blob by Anne Appert

Published: 14th September 2021Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins
Illustrator: Anne Appert
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Blob is a creature of indeterminate kind. Blob can be a giraffe, cotton candy, and even an octopus. It’s not until a negligent (albeit well-meaning) narrator continuously calls them “Bob” that Blob starts to question who they really are.

After a series of funny yet enlightening discoveries about all the possible things they can be, Blob realizes that the best thing to be is…

Blob.

(With the L.)

The story is written as a dialogue between Blob and the narrator alongside cute illustrations. The story follows our introduction to Blob as they demonstrate all the wonderful things they can turn into as well as work out who they want to be.

It’s funny be also endearing to watch Blob’s journey of self-discovery and Appert’s illustrations are creative and charming which show off a lot of Blob’s personality. I love Blob’s design and the way the illustrations are laid out on the page adds to the story.

I liked that Blob stands up to the narrator as they keep getting things wrong and presuming things about them. Appert shows that there’s still time to find out what you want to be and to have the courage to go after it. It’s a deceptively simple story but one that shows taking chances and standing up for who you are despite what other people say you are is always worth the risk.

You can purchase Blob via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Pom Pom Gets the Grumps by Sophy Henn

Published: 6 October 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Philomel Books
Illustrator: Sophy Henn
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

When Pom Pom Panda wakes up in a BAD mood one morning, nothing is right. And then things go from bad to worse.

This is a simple story of a panda who gets on the wrong side of the bed and realises if he yells at everyone he’ll have no one to play with. It is a cute story, enjoyable and a quick read. The illustrations are adorable and I loved Pom Pom’s cranky face and the various trials and tribulations he endures through his bad day.

I also loved the animal friends and their designs. Henn uses the layout well to tell the story just as effectively through images and variety of colours throughout add an extra element too.

Overall a basic story but it’s cute and enjoyable which is all you can ask from a book to be fair.

You can purchase Pom Pom Gets the Grumps via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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