Heartstrings by Belinda Williams

Published: 29th October 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
BWrite
Pages: 119
Format: ebook
Genre: Romance Novella
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

A CHRISTMAS PARTY TO REMEMBER…

Arabella ‘Bella’ Valenti has big dreams for the future. Thanks to her fashion designer cousin, Ally, Bella has the right connections to become an event planner to the stars. She’s just secured her first job—planning a Christmas party for an actor notorious for playing the villain.

Bennett Moss is nothing like Bella expects. For a start, he’s super nice and the last thing she wants to do is crush on her first client. Not to mention his party isn’t exactly the dream job she’d hoped for…

Then Bella lands another event that is a dream job, but it also puts her in a very awkward position. If she holds both parties, there will be a conflict of interest and Bella could make or break her career before it’s even begun. Will she organize the event Bennett’s asked for or will she take a risk and throw a party to remember?

Heartstrings is technically a standalone novella but is also in part connected through the characters to Williams’ Hollywood Hearts series. The story follows Bella and her dreams of launching an event planning business. We’ve seen Bella pop up in Heartthrob as she supported Ally’s story and seeing her with her own story is a nice circle back to the first story.

This is a charming Christmas novella that captures the holiday spirit with a touch of romance and a gradual friendship turn romance. There are bristles and confrontations but there is heart and like all Williams’ romance novels there is a happily ever after but not before there are some feathers ruffled and a genuine possibility that they destined couple may not end up together.

Bella is a sweet character, her chance at her dream job drives her decisions and her naivety is evident but so too is her passion. The characters aren’t overly complicated but they show enough substance for this kind of story and certainly for one this length. I enjoyed seeing Bella interact with Bennett and while I might have been more enamoured by him rather than her, I enjoyed seeing her adjust her viewpoint based on her discoveries.

There is a lot of family love through this story which brings out the wonderful emotional soft side of Bennett which is one thing I love about Williams’ men; they have complicated emotions that we get to explore and even in this simple novella there is old love and new love which is wonderfully endearing.

You can purchase Heartstrings via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Long Lost Review: Also Known As Lard Butt by Ann Herrick

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 4th June 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Books We Love, Ltd
Pages: 80
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

Laura finds out that, Ricky, the boy who created her horrible nickname, “Lard Butt,” has moved back into town—and immediately schemes to keep him quiet. After all, she can’t let her new swim teammates, especially drool-worthy Noah, hear the horrible name! No way! 

She’s determined to put a million years between grade school and junior high—even in the face of a father who drives an éclair, a would-be-movie-star mother who suddenly moves back home, and a past that comes back to haunt her with the dreaded nickname.

Although Laura’s embarrassed about how she looks in a swimsuit, she tries to stay true to her vow to take risks. She even lets Maria talk her into going to the school dance, where she braves negotiating a truce for a quarreling couple.

New friendships form, Laura’s mother starts getting too domesticated for Laura’s comfort, and hints of romance start to develop—or do they?

Another review I could have sworn I posted ages ago and yet here we are, unable to find it and therefore posting it. This was a decent story, short and sweet. The idea of this ‘Lard Butt’ is a bit strange, Laura isn’t overweight, she just has a large bottom. The way she talks about it is like it’s an abnormal growth but it seems to just be a bit bigger than most. Her thoughts about it switch from acceptance to being self conscious, her mother calls it a problem which wouldn’t help, and she was teased as a kid (hence the nickname), but she has learnt to try and deal with it.

Laura is shy and not confident, she has one friend she has known since primary school, and she is starting at a new school with apprehension. But at the same time she is determined to make changes in her life and leave the old her behind. It’s sweet in a way, Laura doesn’t try and do a complete remodelling of herself or her personality, she just decides to take risks and do things that may be out of her comfort zone.

The ‘Lard Butt’ aspect isn’t a major focus, it plays a role but it acts more of a starting point to what else happens in the book. Laura’s history and own feelings about it are understandable, especially memories of being teased, but the constant references she makes to it can become tiring, especially when it isn’t really a crucial plot point.

Being young and a bit naive Laura has a good voice and story to tell. Seeing things from her perspective provides us with her thoughts and opinions, and it also shows us how clueless she can be as well. Understanding people and situations when Laura does not makes you read a lot more into the story than the one she gives, which makes it more rounded, but there remains a focus on Laura and her growing confidence than really delving into multiple character backgrounds.

The characters are quirky and sweet and varying versions of interesting and they are as deep as they need to be for the story. Some certainly more than others, but because we see things through Laura’s eyes many references or details are briefly addressed or skipped entirely. There are many secondary characters you grow attached to like Ricky, and even a teacher at times, sweet people around Laura that help fill her world and help change her way of thinking. Her relationship with her friends and family is strong and Herrick explores these different connections with varying degrees which work quite well meaning you get a great understanding of her relationship to each person.

There are both happily ever afters and not so happily ever afters which is a great balance, it reflects reality quite well, varying degrees of good and bad things happen, nothing too life changing or exciting, just daily life. The story is quite short which I think works to its advantage, there isn’t enough to sustain a longer story and I think Herrick has balanced everything out nicely, providing conclusions, hope and resigned you to the fact that life isn’t always perfect but you can make the best of what you’ve got.

December’s Wish by Karly Lane

Published: 7th November 2013
Publisher:
Createspace
Pages: 182
Format: Paperback
Genre: Romance Novella
★   ★ – 2 Stars

Christmas Creek is a small town struggling to stay alive but December Doyle has a plan that will breathe life back into the rural community once more.

Seth Hunter holds nothing but contempt for Christmas Creek.

After being framed and sent to jail in his youth, he returns to town a wealthy businessman with plans of his own for the town… he plans to destroy it along with everyone that ever looked down on him, including, December’s father, Jack Doyle.

Revenge brought him back, but he soon discovers that old insecurities die hard in a place that holds so many painful memories, and all the years he’d spent orchestrating his big plan hadn’t taken into account that December still owned his heart.

A story of lies, betrayal and revenge in the Australian high country. 

This is an easy read, not quite the tale of lies and revenge I was expecting and my second try at a Karly Lane story. I picked this up because I needed a Christmas story for bookclub and it was short. It wasn’t a terrible read, it is idealistic and what these novellas are: quick stories about why two people can’t be together overcoming those reasons and being together.

With novellas there is always a lot to cram in if you want to fully understand the characters involved but there was a balance between understanding who these people are and what their stories were. The Christmas theme was curious. December’s idea to make the town a tourist Christmas spot was on point for the story and very wholesome, even if it’s a little cheesy.

There is a mixture of flashbacks and present day story to show various points in the main two character’s lives. One thing that was frustrating was there was no distinction between these flashbacks and the present day. It is only there a few times but it was quite confusing for a moment thinking some things were happening in the present day. Even a page break or some formatting to clear up the confusion would be helpful.

Lane has done a decent job in giving a well-rounded understanding of these characters, even in such a short story. I liked Seth’s character even though I was perplexed by his reasons for being there. His own bitterness and spite towards the town is a fun thing to watch as he annoys everyone with his charm. His own pettiness is partly justified but also obviously deeply engrained if he is going to put this much effort into his “revenge”. December is a hard working woman who loves her town and doesn’t want to see it die. She is strong-willed and passionate and while she comes off a little innocent she is also a believer in doing the right thing.

If you are looking for an easy read with a nice happily ever after then this is a good place to start. There is charm and a slight naivety in December’s character but nothing overly off-putting. The Christmas theme was a bit cheesy but it has a small town charm as well.

December’s Wish is no longer in print but it was re-released as a full length novel re-titled Third Time Lucky

You can purchase Third Time Lucky via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Once Upon A Time in the North (#0.5) by Philip Pullman

Published: 8th April 2008Goodreads badge
Publisher: 
Knopf Books
Pages: 104
Format: Hardback
Genre: Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

2225238In this prequel episode from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials universe, Lee Scoresby — Texan aeronaut and future friend to Lyra Belacqua — is 24 years old. The story reveals the origins of Scoresby’s friendship with Iorek Byrnison as well as Scoresby’s aeronautical career.

After winning his hot-air balloon in a poker game, Scoresby finds himself floating north. On the Arctic island of Novy Odense, Scoresby and his dæmon Hester become involved in a deadly plot involving an oil magnate, a corrupt mayoral candidate, and a hired killer who is Lee’s longtime nemesis from the Dakota Country. Forming an alliance with one of the island’s reviled armored bears, Scoresby fights to break up the conspiracy.

This novella is a prequel of sorts to His Dark Materials; it is an episode in the past of characters Lee Scoresby and his dæmon Hester. It has little to do with the actual trilogy, it is more an expansion at the characters themselves.

The language is beautiful, it is simple, elegant, clever, humerous and sarcastic. Lee is a true gentleman and an honest fighter which adds a great deal of class to the story. The plot itself is one of corruption and scandal, with the right amount of wit and action to make it engaging.

Pullman hides many clues and hints through this story about the armoured bears, about Lee’s past and future, and those who know the references will delight in discovering them. But these clues are not spoilers, nor do they feel out of place in the story. Pullman connects everything remarkably well, but also makes sure the story stands on its own, a story about an adventure in Lee’s past and not a story that acts as an obvious prequel.

Lee’s character is explored in extra detail but he remains the same person we see later in his life. His sense of justice and doing the right thing, as well as the way he assesses people and discovers true intentions with charm and wit. His strong ethics are on show as well which makes the story even more wonderful to read. A lot of this is evident in the trilogy, Lee’s good character shines through remarkably well, but it is great to see it play out in numerous situations and to see it is just as refined when he is younger. In addition, the relationship between Lee and Hester is as always a delight to read about. Hester looks out for Lee and him her, and she is a great asset in everything he does.

The length may be short, but it has everything you need within it. It is complete, complicated, interesting and engaging. There are conflicts and friendship, and a whole world captured with detail and creativity. The design on the book makes it even more fun, not only the additional extras that come with it but the pocket-sized adventure makes it feel like the mini adventure it is supposed to be.

You can purchase Once Upon A Time in the North via the following

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Depository | Booktopia

Bookworld | QBD

 

 

Lyra’s Oxford (#3.5) by Philip Pullman

Published: 28th October 2003Goodreads badge
Publisher: 
Knopf Books
Pages: 64
Format: Hardback
Genre: Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Lyra’s Oxford begins with Lyra and Pantalaimon spotting a witch’s daemon. Lyra shelters the daemon from the pursuit of a frenzied pack of birds, and then attempts to help by guiding the daemon to the home of an alchemist living in a part of Oxford known as Jericho. The journey through Oxford reveals more dangers than Lyra had anticipated.

This is a great little story and reads just as if it had been plucked from the trilogy itself, Pullman falls back into Lyra’s world wonderfully and from the beginning it’s easy to lose yourself in the world and the characters that are so familiar.

In true Pullman style he holds nothing back and keeps the story as honest and realistic as need be. While it may be a quick story, it is one that is filled with important detail, information, and insight. Lyra is two years older and settling into her life back at Oxford, but Pullman demonstrates that Lyra is still Lyra, while more mature and grown up, wiser and respectful, she is just as curious and just as willing to help.

It’s hard to imagine anything substantial could happen in such a brief snippet of Lyra’s life and yet in a small number of pages, Pullman adds another layer of complexity and mystery to Lyra’s world and her place within it, raising many more questions than answers, making it much more than a short story.

There is a feeling as you read that it’s acting as an introduction into something bigger, whether this will be seen in The Book of Dust is uncertain, but even if it isn’t, the things implied is enough to surprise and mull over, pique interests, and realise that Lyra’s importance and the layers of meaning in the world did not end at the conclusion of The Amber Spyglass.

Pullman manages to provide intrigue and mystery, as well as depth, understanding, and information from the first page to the last. It is a joy to have further closure and new details, no matter how small, and it once again a delight to lose yourself in the world of daemons and Oxford, even if it’s only for 64 pages.

You can purchase Lyra’s Oxford via the following

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Depository | Booktopia

Bookworld | QBD

Dymocks | Kobo

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