Heartbreaker (#2) by Belinda Williams

Published: 10th November 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 BWrite
Pages: 346
Format: ebook
Genre: Contemporary Romance
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

WHEN LOVE IS AN ACT, WILL HER HEART BE FOOLED?

Lena Lyons, one of Hollywood’s hottest female stars, has a celebrity problem: she’s too famous.

Lena’s had stalkers before and figures the crazies come with the territory, but when things start going dangerously wrong on the set of her latest movie, her production company aren’t taking any risks. They hire Marc Romero, Hollywood security expert. And Lena thought stalkers were bad—Marc appears to hate his job and anything celebrity, including Lena.

Still reeling from her divorce, the last thing Lena needs is a brooding investigator who won’t let her out of his sight. Worse still, his plan to protect her involves him going undercover as an up-and-coming actor and pretending they’re a couple.

Lena has no choice but to get close to the mysterious man who won’t share anything about himself. With her life depending on her acting skills, she must convince everyone Marc’s the man for her. But will she be able to convince her heart it’s all an act?

I found it so hard to articulate my feelings about this book. I enjoyed some parts and while I didn’t dislike others but I couldn’t find the words to explain why I didn’t love it. A lot I think had to do with the expression of Lena as a character and perhaps the story requiring a more refined plot and romantic entanglement.

This is part of a series and I think while you can read it on its own, the characters are across multiple books and you have a better understanding of them as background characters as well as on their own. I think you need to have seen Lena in a different situation to see she isn’t completely what she comes across here.

Ally is the voice that makes you realise why Lena is being so obstinate and a bit unreasonable, something which can frustrate the reader until you try and read it from that angle, especially when she tends to contradict herself. I didn’t warm to her and while I felt bad for her, she never tries to help herself and fighting those trying to help her so much made her appear foolish. That isn’t entirely bad but something didn’t click for me and while I enjoyed the story, I wasn’t totally drawn into it.

William’s writing feels natural when she write about friendships and romance, a few times around the movie production felt clunky where it felt we needed a full explanation process or history. I know it needed to be in there, but I could see the writing style change when different scenes were happening.

I enjoyed the characters and how they were different, only revealing to us what we needed to know. One thing I disliked was that Marc kept calling Lena Princess, and I hated that Lena seemed ok with it. It seemed unprofessional and while she was often rude to him, he tries to stay on task and do his job but that term felt disrespectful and due to their relationship never became a term of endearment in my eyes.

Lena plays up the “not like other Hollywood types” and that’s a character choice from Williams, it makes Lena look like sweet and good natured but she is also unreasonable, disrespectful and a bit up herself. Which is fine once you realise that is who she is, something that is beneficial from seeing her through Ally’s eyes as well as her own and Marc’s. It also helps show how she develops as a character and her own desire to find herself.

Between Lena and Marc, their love/hate relationship worked well and you could see it coming but I never reached that adorableness between them. I think this is because Williams gave Marc such a strong emotional backstory that it worked for character development and added more intensity to the relationship. I may not have felt the real chemistry between Lena and Marc but I did like the direction William’s took their story. There are complications and a business relationship to work around but it gave it intrigue that there might not have been if it were simpler.

I enjoyed the slow reveal about who Marc was. It was the connection to the in-depth and emotional backstory I was missing from Jacob in the first book. The secrecy about his past and his work gives him an air of mystery and you see how separately he keeps his personal life and work. One thing I loved was when Williams let down the barriers and I loved her explanations why. It was a great shift in the character and allowed a bit of light and humour into the story.

Overall I enjoyed the story. I think a few plot points could have been woven into the story better but it tells Lena’s story and no doubt we’ll see more of her story and character develop through future books and through other character’s points of view.

You can purchase Heartbreaker via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Heartthrob (#1) by Belinda Williams

Published: 10th November 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 BWrite
Pages: 346
Format: ebook
Genre: Contemporary Romance
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

Can an average girl survive Hollywood? 

Ally Valenti doesn’t belong in Hollywood. Not like her friend and actress, Lena Lyons. Lena’s convinced Ally to pursue her dreams of fashion design, starting with some gowns for the awards season. 

Which Ally will get around to creating as soon as she can stop looking at Jacob Swan, Lena’s latest co-star. Not that she’s staring. Ally’s skeptical of anything celebrity and it’s not like she’d be pathetic enough to fall for a Hollywood heartthrob. 

Then Ally learns there’s more to Jacob than his good guy, all-American persona. She finds herself torn between the desire to get to know him better and her determination to stay out of the limelight. 

Of course the media has other ideas—and someone doesn’t like all the attention Ally’s getting. When threats aimed at destroying her fashion career go too far, Ally’s convinced she’s living in crazy town. 

The sensible thing would be to retreat home before it all ends in spectacular fashion. But will Ally be leaving more than her dreams behind if she says goodbye to Hollywood? 

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author for review via Netgalley

When I saw Belinda Williams had a new series I was so excited. I loved her City Love series and the chance to fall in love with four more wonderful ladies was too good too pass up.

Not that I went in to compare, but one thing that I noticed immediately was that the writing seemed slightly more stilted than I was used to. I wasn’t caught up in the flow of Ally and her Hollywood life. It was something I don’t remember noticing in Williams’ other work. Thankfully it settles into a natural rhythm about a third of the way through and a more natural flow of writing style comes through.

I love William’s series which follow the same group of friends through their lives. The story is filled with regular drama, Hollywood drama and of course, romance. It is a tight story but manages to achieve conflict, mystery and a decent exploration of who the characters are. Being the first we are only seeing things from Ally’s point of view but William’s does a good job in establishing the players without having to wait for their own narratives. You get to see who they are as people through the eyes of the main character. Knowing more books will come though, your interest is piqued about the secondary characters and what secrets of their own they may be hiding.

Characters with insecurities, doubt, fabulous friendships, and big dreams shine through as we get to know who Ally is and what she is trying to gain from her life and her career. Ally’s innocent “Bambi” trait rings true early on as she struggles with being start struck and being teased by celebrities. Her big brown eyes widen at the media coverage, the attitude of those around her, and the general environment of Hollywood. Williams does well to show Ally out of her depth but also with the ability to achieve.

Once you get passed Ally’s knee-jerk reactions anytime someone mentions a woman’s name in relation to Jacob and constant worry and doubt over hearsay you realise it’s a reflection of her own insecurities. She is a down to earth person, feisty, honest but insecure. I would have loved more about Jacob, you get a lot of his backstory but I still felt like he was a closed book, I knew the facts of his life but felt like he needed more depth. But he remains a warm, cheeky character who had a lot of charm in other areas.

In true Williams’ style she had me gushing and gasping and grinning by the end with her romance and genuine moments that while fit a certain mould, are wonderfully sweet.

From a clunky first third the writing settled into a good rhythm and Williams’ takes us on a journey of emotional growth, doubt, romance, and family. A great read.

You can purchase Heartthrob via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Jacob’s Toys by Claudia Woods

Published: 1st May 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harbour Publishing House
Illustrator: Claudia Woods
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Jacob tells his mother that he is too old for soft toys and he wants to give them away. His mother washes them and hangs them on the line to dry. But wild weather sets the toys free and sends them on an exciting adventure across the garden.

What will become of the toys? Will they make it to their new home safely?

Note: I received a copy of this book from the author

Woods has written a great story not only about the adventure of lost toys, but also one about maybe not being quite as ready to grow up as you might think you are. When Jacob decides to get rid of his toys he doesn’t realise it is about to send them on a dangerous journey through the wilds of the backyard.

It is a story about the various perils the toys face and what they must endure to get back home. The story is told with repetition and rhyme, the toys names being repeated over and over with a few variations as their adventure dictates. This creates a wonderful melody and rhythm as you read that flows from start to finish. The toys are often at the mercy of the weather or their circumstance but there is still a great adventure to be had.

It is not only the narrative that tells the story, the text and font is designed to add emphasis and intent to the words. With colours, drawn out words and various formatting styles it makes reading engaging and fun.

I liked that the toys accepted their move, there wasn’t a deep personification of the toys, but they still were self-aware enough to know what was happening. I can certainly see kids having favourites out of the toys, though they are all given the same standing, described in a collective bunch rather than separating them.

One of the most notable things about this story is the illustrations. They are a creative combination of different materials; Woods uses pencils, paint and a wonderful mix of natural and recycled components to show off the toys’ adventures. The colours are also bright and pop off the page and when you take the time to study each page you realise how detailed and clever they are. The combination of materials is a unique change from typical illustrations and the addition of a “look and find” feature also provides a fun element while you read.

Overall it was an enjoyable story enhanced by the fabulous illustrations and the creative formatting. One that will be fun to read time and time again.

You can purchase Jacob’s Toys via the following

QBDDymocksAngus and Robinson | Fishpond

The One by Kaneana May

Published: 17th June 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins
Pages: 352
Format: ebook
Genre: Romance
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Fall in love like nobody’s watching…

On the wrong side of thirty, Bonnie Yates wants a happily ever after. Problem is, she keeps choosing the wrong guys. When an ex returns to town with a fiancée in tow, history and temptation collide. Unable to shake her inappropriate feelings Bonnie flees, becoming an unlikely contestant on popular dating show The One. Will she find what she’s looking for?

Working behind the scenes, Darcy Reed is a driven young producer, dealing with a tyrant of a boss. Despite being surrounded by love at work, her own love-life with long-term boyfriend Drew is floundering. Producing a flawless season is her best chance at a promotion. But with the unrelenting demands of the show, how will she save their relationship while making that shot?

Penelope Baker has relocated to a small seaside town to hide away with her secrets and nurse a broken heart. But with The One beaming across the nation’s televisions, she can’t seem to quite escape the life she left behind…

Before cameras roll on the final ceremony, all three women will discover just what they’re willing to do in pursuit of the one…

Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley

This a wonderful story about the different types of love and the unexpected ways you find someone. I loved the different characters and their journeys. Their voices were honest and while they certainly were foolish at times, there is a great human flaw to them. There’s a strange mix of predictability, but also the uncertainty that the story would go in that direction.

There are multiple character perspectives and May seamlessly transitions between them within the same chapter. I was never confused about who the focus was on and it shifted like a camera focus remarkably well. Bonnie is a great character because while she is hopeful and idealistic in her search for love, she is flawed as a result. I wouldn’t call her naïve, but she is idealistic maybe which then affects her actions.

Darcy was an interesting contrast because while I could see where her story was going, I enjoyed the journey we took to get there. May teases it out so that you have all the information and the history without any of the drama involved. I liked this method because it didn’t rely on the dramatics or the conflict, it made it real based on her story and experiences.

Penelope’s role is slightly smaller but I enjoyed her narrative. She brings a great mystery into this love story and following her secretive life allows for a lot of theories to swirl through your mind. The secondary characters were just as well developed as the key players and May knows when to bring a shift to character personalities which make you see them differently. It was amazing to see my own perspectives of them shift within a few key sentences and how the same actions could be reinterpreted.

There are a lot of different romantic relationships happening through this story and while some are inevitable, others are a nice mixture of complexity and realistic development. I really enjoyed all the different relationships and friendships May explores. I wasn’t expecting this story to have as much depth as it does. It isn’t as light-hearted as one would expected but that also doesn’t mean there isn’t wonderful romantic and heartfelt moments. For a book centred around a reality show about finding the love of your life, there is a great exploration of the different types of love and discovering which one works best for you. Even if you aren’t a fan of The Bachelor or those types of shows you will still love this behind the scenes look about what happens to those looking for love. A great read.

The expected publication for The One is 17th June 2019. You can pre-order via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson |  Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Sorry Day by Coral Vass

Published: 1st May 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
National Library of Australia
Illustrator: Dub Leffler
Pages: 34
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Sorry Day acknowledges the past and shows a willingness to make things right. The story commemorates both the momentous speech made by the Prime Minister of Australia to say sorry to the indigenous people for past abuse and to also recognise the decades of abuse suffered by the Stolen Generation. Told through the eyes of a young girl participating in the ceremony today and, in sepia colours, the eyes of the stolen children in the past.

The anniversary of the apology is actually in February but it is recognised in May as part of National Sorry Day, a day first held on 26 May, 1998. In 2008 then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gave the apology that indigenous people had been rightly asking for for years, the one that apologised to the stolen generation for the way they had been treated by the government for decades.

I remember vividly watching this on TV, I cried then and I cried now. This is a remarkable book as it celebrates the momentous speech by Kevin Rudd but it also shows the past and the horrors indigenous people had to endure. Vass uses Rudd’s real words and she weaves it into this young girl’s story, not quite understanding the impact, but we see it through her mum and the adults around her.

As one story unfolds about that wonderful February day, it is shadowed by the realities of the history those words represent. The contrast from page to page is a stark reminder and a beautifully heartbreaking juxtaposition about the two eras, and what the importance of the speech means. In the present a young girl loses the hand of her mother and is lost momentarily in the crowd, in the past, young children lose their parents forever.

I loved that each page threw up into a different time in history. From the lawns of Canberra, to the creeks where children hide in terror, then back to watching the speech. It is such a powerful move to bring the voices of the past into the present.

Leffler uses colour to show the differences between eras, colours for the present, with sepia depicting the past. The images are vivid and emotive and coupled with Vass’ words and my own understanding of history, it is incredibly clever to see these two moments side by side.

What I found interesting was the information included at the back about the history from the stolen generation to Prime Minster Keating in the 90s to Rudd in 2008. As I said, Sorry Day is recognised every single year and it is important that people acknowledge and understand what it means.

More people need to remember this speech, remember the impact it had, but also remember why it needed to be said in the first place and wonder just why it took so long to be said. This is the ideal book to tell the story in an impactful yet gentle way and it is certainly one that can spark great discussions.

You can purchase Sorry Day via the following

BooktopiaDymocks

 WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon Aust

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