Renee Conoulty: February 2015


Saturday, 28 February 2015

Lock In by John Scalzi

A novel of our near future, from one of the most popular authors in modern SF

Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four percent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselves “locked in”—fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.

One per cent doesn't seem like a lot. But in the United States, that's 1.7 million people “locked in”...including the President's wife and daughter.

Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can restore the ability to control their own bodies to the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora,” in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, meaning that from time to time, those who are locked in can “ride” these people and use their bodies as if they were their own.

This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse....

Hey! Here's my review.

This is the first book I have read by the author, but not the last.

I went into the book expecting purely science fiction, but found a crime novel in a science fiction setting. The title Lock In refers to a disease that occurs in the not too distant future, where some people end up fully conscious but unable to move - locked inside their own bodies. I found the science that is developed to help these people interact in a meaningful way in the world fascinating. The book starts with a brief overview of this disease and how it is being managed, then throws you into the story. It took me a little while to figure out what is going on. I liked the main character. The whole situation reminded me a little of a game I used to play on my phone - Plague Inc.

When I came to write my review, I noticed other people had mentioned there is a free prequel called Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome. Off to read it now.... 

  • Where: Local library
  • Format: paperback
Purchase links  
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Thursday, 26 February 2015

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.

Hey! Here's my review.

A beautifully heartbreaking story. I loved all of the quirky characters. I could understand their motivations of love and jealously.

The book is set in 1987, when AIDS was still misunderstood and people were worried they could catch it from touching a newspaper. It is a coming of age story for fourteen year old June, who loses her beloved uncle from the disease then develops a friendship with his boyfriend. Some people have found it a depressing story but I could see the streaks of golden love shining through. I laughed, I cried, I couldn't put it down.

Purchase links
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Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she knows it isn’t love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her.

Never ask about the past.
Don’t expect a future.

They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it at all.

Hearts get infiltrated.
Promises get broken.
Rules get shattered.
Love gets ugly.

Hey! Here's my review.

A new adult romance told from alternating POV. The story is mostly set in current day from Tate's POV, with snippets from Miles 6 years ago. We also get some POV from another character and Miles in the current day. The chapters are well identified, so it's easy to follow. 

I found Miles and Tate likable and I became more empathetic as I got to know them better. One of my favourite characters would be Cap, the man who worked in the building that Miles lived in.

I was emotionally caught up in the story, but not to the point of tears. This is the second book I've read by this author. I plan to read more.
  • Where: Local library
  • Format: paperback
Purchase links  
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Sunday, 22 February 2015

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

William Golding's compelling story about a group of very ordinary small boys marooned on a coral island has become a modern classic. At first, it seems as though it's all going to be great fun; but the fun before long becomes furious & life on the island turns into a nightmare of panic & death. As ordinary standards of behavior collapse, the whole world the boys know collapses with them—the world of cricket & homework & adventure stories—& another world is revealed beneath, primitive & terrible. Lord of the Flies remains as provocative today as when it was 1st published in 1954, igniting passionate debate with its startling, brutal portrait of human nature. Though critically acclaimed, it was largely ignored upon its initial publication. Yet soon it became a cult favorite among both students and literary critics who compared it to J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye in its influence on modern thought & literature. Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies has established itself as a classic. 

Hey! Here's my review.

This book wasn't one that I had to read at school, so this was the first time I've read it. I knew it was about a bunch of kids stranded on an island, but I hadn't realised how dark it would get. 

I could relate to the civilised group of kids but I couldn't understand the motivations of the kids who turned savage. I wonder how things would have turned out if there were some girls in the mix? 

I found the writing simple and poetic. There is symbolism throughout the book, though I didn't take the time to delve into this. It is not a long book, but I took longer than I expected to finish it. I kept getting distracted by other books.

  • Where: My bookshelf ( I have had it so long I don't remember where I got it)
  • Format: paperback
Purchase links
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Friday, 20 February 2015

The Grass Is Always Greener On The Other Side by C.J. Hawk

Some suburban moms just can't catch a break. There is humor in raising kids, guinea pigs, soccer moms and Nutella. Toss in two new roommates to make ends meet, crazy daily chaos and a desire to have the green grass she once had, you get a story about a mom that makes it all work out. A light, uplifting read, that any mom could easily relate to. Humor in all the right spots and just a touch of romance to give it all a happy ending.

Hey! Here's my review.

A light fun read full of Nutella! What more could you want? A romantic comedy about a Mum trying to make ends meet after a divorce and coping with menopause. I found the characters likable, especially the handsome love interest, who was a real gentleman. It was great to see the characters grow throughout the book. A dreamy happily ever after.

Purchase links

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Fourth month-a-versary

Hey Everyone!

Starting a blog is a bit like a new relationship or having a baby. In those first few months, you count all the milestones. The first kiss (boyfriend), the first smile (baby), the first 500 views (blog). I remember my first boyfriend and I gave each other cards every month on our month-a-versary. Well today is HeySaidRenee's four-month-a-versay.

In my first four months I have shared my love of freeding with over 2,900 page views from people from all over the world, The ten most popular countries to visit have been:

  • Australia
  • United States
  • France
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • Malaysia
  • Canada
  • India
  • Czech Republic
  • Ireland
My most popular post was Clementine Rose.

I've developed my online rapport with Australian author Carla Caruso, to the point that she acknowledged this blog in her latest book!

Thanks everyone for popping in to hear what I have to say :)

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Fine-Tuning Hanna by Tiina Walsh

Would saying the magic words 'I love you' in time have stopped it all going so wrong for Hanna? Or was some other power at play? Finnish piano-tuner Hanna Suvanto loves her new life and friends in Dublin. And the icing on the cake is meeting Ireland's premium bachelor, the personal development guru, Sebastian O'Reilly. But their whirlwind romance hits a serious obstacle when Hanna's stay is unexpectedly cut short. Sebastian seems strangely unconcerned about her departure - and then Hanna makes a shocking discovery about the man she thought she knew. Heartbroken and disillusioned with love, she returns to Finland, resolving to rebuild her life. Back in Ireland, Sebastian can't get Hanna out of his mind. Surely there is more to her abrupt departure than meets the eye?

Hey! Here's my review.

A lovely little romance set between Ireland and Finland. I enjoyed learning a little about the Finnish and Irish lifestyle and I enjoyed the piano tuning references. The author wrote about what she knew, which came through well. I felt a little bombarded by all the personal development references, but they were relevant to the story. The story focussed on the two main characters, but there was also some character development of the minor characters. It wrapped everything up nicely and there were happily ever afters for everyone.

I entered the Goodreads First Reads competition, and though I was unsuccessful in winning a copy of this book, the author personally contacted me and gave me a code to download a free copy from Smashwords.

Purchase links
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Friday, 13 February 2015

Love and Luck

Hey Everyone!

Today is Friday the thirteenth and tomorrow is Valentine's Day. This has had me thinking about love, luck and a couple of novellas I read last year.

Friday the thirteenth reminded me of a book by Carla Caruso called Unlucky for Some. It is fun read by an Australian author about confronting superstitions with a bit of romance thrown in. Raffy is a reporter who holds a lot of superstitions. She is given an assignment to challenge some of her superstitions in the lead up to Friday the thirteenth.

Purchase links
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Valentine's Day made me think of Operation: Valentine by Loretta Hill. This is another fun read by another Australian author. Sarah has always had bad luck with men on Valentine's Day and sets herself a challenge to find a date for Valentines Day.

Purchase links
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  • Where: NetGalley
  • Format: ebook

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Death Of A Gossip (Hamish Macbeth, #1) by M.C. Beaton

Scottish highland village cop Hamish Macbeth must find which target was provoked enough to strangle and drown nasty fat widowed tabloid reporter Jane Winters, who revealed many others' guilty secrets. Much is from the viewpoint of a naive secretary seduced by a blue-blood playboy. Icy blond beauty, aristocratic Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, lends a hand.

Hey! Here's my review

This is the first book I've read by the author and it is first in this series.
It is an old fashioned mystery set in the scottish highlands. A small group of people on a fishing holiday all take a dislike to one of the members. She turns up dead and Hamish McBeth, the local policeman, helps work out "who done it". A simple, predictable plot with enough red herrings (and salmon and trout) that I didn't work out who the killer was until the big reveal.

I listened to the audiobook that I won through a promotion from Bolinda Audio on their Facebook page. Thanks Bolinda!
  • Where: Bolinda Audio
  • Format: audiobook
Purchase links
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Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Confetti Confidential: They Do, I Don't by Susan Murphy

How can you be a part of a couple's big day when your own love life is crumbling? Her once happy life in tatters thanks to a cheating husband, lacklustre career and a wrinkling face, Viv no longer believes in love and happiness. In fact, she hates them both. The problem is that as a marriage celebrant, gleeful love is what she has to deal with every day. With 10 hilarious and tragic weddings (and a funeral) to get through before she can give up being a celebrant, can she prove that love and happiness are the pathetic hopes of the naive, or will fate intervene and show her that what she secretly craves could be right in front of her? 

Hey! Here's my review.

Ten weddings and a funeral. 

Viv is a marriage celebrant and after her own marriage falls apart, becomes disillusioned with the idea of marriage. She honors the weddings she has already committed to and we get to meet a variety of interesting characters. 

Is it too late for Viv to work things out with her husband or is there a new love on her horizon? 

I liked Viv and her sisters. The romance plot was balanced out with other deeper issues so wasn't too light and fluffy. A debut novel by an Australian author. It was not full of Australian references, which may help it feel more universally relatable.
  • Where: NetGalley
  • Format: ebook
Purchase links 
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Monday, 9 February 2015

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble;it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn't expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Hey! Here's my review.

This was the third book I've read by this author. I found it a fast, fun, easy read. A magical realism romance about Georgie and Neal, a couple whose marriage is going stale. The story takes place over the week leading up to Christmas and it told from the POV of Georgie, with some flashbacks to the couple in 1998. I could relate well to both Georgie and Neal and found them both likable. I got caught right up in the story and found it hard to put down. I was happy with how it played out.

  • Where: local library
  • Format: paperback
Purchase links 
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Sunday, 8 February 2015

An Awkward Truth: The Bombing of Darwin, February 1942 by Peter Grose

Darwin was a battle Australia would rather forget. Yet the Japanese attack on 19 February 1942 was the first wartime assault on Australian soil. The Japanese struck with the same carrier-borne force that devastated Pearl Harbor only ten weeks earlier. There was a difference. More bombs fell on Darwin, more civilians were killed, and more ships were sunk. 

The raid led to the worst death toll from any event in Australia. The attackers bombed and strafed three hospitals, flattened shops, offices and the police barracks, shattered the Post Office and communications centre, wrecked Government House, and left the harbour and airfields burning and ruined. 

The people of Darwin abandoned their town, leaving it to looters, a few anti-aircraft batteries and a handful of dogged defenders with single-shot .303 rifles. Yet the story has remained in the shadows. 

Drawing on long-hidden documents and first-person accounts, Peter Grose tells what really happened and takes us into the lives of the people who were there. There was much to be proud of in Darwin that day: courage, mateship, determination and improvisation. But the dark side of the story involves looting, desertion and a calamitous failure of leadership. Australians ran away because they did not know what else to do. 

Absorbing, spirited and fast-paced, An Awkward Truth is a compelling and revealing story of the day war really came to Australia, and the motley bunch of soldiers and civilians who were left to defend the nation.

Hey! Here's my review.

I don't often read non fiction, but I decided to give this a go for several reasons. The main reason was that it was chosen this month in my real life book club. This month will be the 73rd anniversary of the bombing of Darwin. I'm currently living in Darwin and I have seen damage on a building in the RAAF base caused by machine guns during the second raid. I was never interested in learning about history at school, so I thought I should educate myself about some relevant Australian history.

This book was well researched and gave a non biased picture of what took place before, during and after the bombing of Darwin. There was explanation into the politics of the time and what led the Japanese to attack Australia, and prior to that Pearl Harbour. Detailed information about the weapons, aircraft and other military aspects. Personal accounts from military and civilian. Photographs and documents. The epilogue wrapped it up with a "where are they now" feel, telling what happened to various people who had been discussed throughout the book.
Purchase links
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Saturday, 7 February 2015

Freeding with Wattpad

Hey Everyone!

+Wattpad is a great place to find new, original books for free. It is a place where anyone can self-publish a book, so can be a bit hit and miss sometimes. Often books are uploaded a chapter at a time, so you may need to go back and sync several times to get the whole book. Some self-published books haven't been edited. If you can look past bad grammar, you may find a great story. I had a few experiences like that, but also found some gems.

When I first started using Wattpad, I enjoyed Glamour (Rae Wilder #1) by Penelope Fletcher, then read the rest of her books. When I read it, it was called Demon Girl. A demon/fairy/vampire/fantasy/ya/romance kind of thing.

Yesterday I spotted Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. I found it via a recommendations email from Wattpad. I recently read his latest book,  Underworlds, and really enjoyed it. After checking Amazon, and seeing it listed for $10.99, I quickly downloaded it from Wattpad! Bargain!

You can now find ME on Wattpad! I'm writing under my name - Renee Conoulty - or you can follow this link.

Friday, 6 February 2015

More Freeding with Goodreads

Hey Everyone!

Yesterday I mentioned the First Reads section in Goodreads where you can enter a draw to win books. If you don't want to gamble and want a book right now, have a look in the eBooks section. From this section there are a variety of options, depending on the book. Some books give you the option to download an excerpt, some  you can download the complete ebook and others you can read the complete book online.

There is a huge variety of books available, ranging from classics such as And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie to City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.  With 2,500 books to choose from, you're sure to find at least one you like. Let me know if you find a good one!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Freeding with Goodreads First Reads

Hey Everyone!

Goodreads has a section called First Reads where publishers and authors giveaway books. There is an easy click to enter process to go in the draw to win a copy of a previously published or pre release book. Winners are drawn at random and it is expected that you would post a review on Goodreads once you have read the book. There are sometimes restrictions on the countries that the giveaway is open to, so check before you click.

Today I clicked through, with 4 hours to spare, to try to win a copy of Fine-Tuning Hanna by Tiina Walsh. Wish me luck!

Although I didn't win a copy from Goodreads First Reads, the author contacted me and gave me a copy anyway. Here is my review of Fine-Tuning Hanna.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Courting Trouble by Kathy Lette

Tilly has the day from hell when she's sacked from her barristers' chambers in the morning, then finds her husband in bed with her former best friend in the afternoon. She escapes to her mother, Roxy - a sassy solicitor whose outrageous take on men, work and family life is the despair of her more conventional daughter. Roxy comes up with a radical plan for their future - they'll set up a new-style, all female law firm which will champion women.

Before long they are rescuing women who have been cheated, put upon, attacked, ripped off or ruined by the men in their lives. When a gun-toting Grandma bursts upon the scene having shot off the testicles of the men who raped her grand daughter, Tilly finds herself at legal logger heads with Jack Cassidy, the smooth-talking, politically incorrect, legal love god who broke her heart at law school. Jack is fluent in three languages – English, sarcasm and flirtation, and his specialist area is emotional break and enter. But if the man is so loathsome, then why is she committing Acute Lust in the 3rd degree?

As Tilly struggles to keep her client out of jail and her own cravings under lock and key, will the rapists walk free? When Tilly's 13-year old daughter goes missing, she faces the biggest moral dilemma of her life. Should she betray her beliefs and take the law into her own hands?

Hey! Here's my review.

I received a copy of the audiobook signed by Kathy Lette from Bolinda Audio as part of a Christmas giveaway. The narrator did a great job, changing between various British and an Australian accent for the different characters. This is the fourth book by Kathy Lette I have read and even more packed with one liners than the others. It was my least favourite so far. 

The story focusses around a mother daughter law firm that champions womens cases. I don't know much about the court system, but I have a better understanding of the difference between Barristers and Solicitors now. The main case deals with the gang rape and blackmail of a teenage girl. Serious topics such as rape, assault, blackmail and cyber bullying are interspersed with sarcastic humour and romance. It does end with "to be continued" but it wasn't enough of a cliffhanger to have me chasing the next installment.

  • Where: Bolinda Audio
  • Format: audiobook
Purchase links
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Monday, 2 February 2015

Pretty Famous by Carla Caruso

Celeste Pretty is getting married!

A dark secret from Hollywood's Golden Age. A possible prince-in-hiding. Astonvale's about to implode...
Professional organiser Celeste Pretty swore she'd never work with uber-blonde interior designer Imogen Karmel again, but then she's presented with a project she can't refuse. The prestigious Astonvale College is celebrating its centenary and needs the pair to ensure the festivities go off without a hitch.
As Celeste sets to work in a flurry of activity - in between organising her own engagement party - she finds herself blowing away the cobwebs on a sixty-year-old secret.
Meanwhile, Imogen becomes enamoured with a substitute teacher, Hudson Addison, who may or may not be a royal in hiding. And there's nothing Imogen dreams of more than becoming a princess.
Will all be revealed on party night?

Hey! Here's my review.

A fun light romantic cozy mystery. This is the third book in the Astonvale series. 

Celeste Pretty is back and has another run in with Imogen. This book lets us get to know Imogen better. I didn't like her in the previous books, but there is more to Imogen than blonde hair and money. Celeste and Imogen work together on a big project while each having their own little mysteries to solve and romances. I loved all the little Australian references such as vegemite sandwiches.  

Thank you Carla Caruso for the special mention in the Acknowledgements at the end. I ran around the house with a silly grin on my face after reading that! I look forward to your next book!

  • Where: NetGalley
  • Format: ebook
Follow these links to  find my reviews of  A Pretty Mess (Book 1) and Pretty Shore (Book 2).

Purchase links 

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Sunday, 1 February 2015

50 Shades of Grey

             Logo Design by Sometimes the good guys are all good and the bad guys are all bad, but sometimes it's not as black and white as that.

Duration - 1 to 28 February

Option 1 - Character Read books where a character is "50 shades of grey" (a bit good and a bit bad)

Option 2 - Spell it out Choose one or more of the following words - black, white, grey, good, bad. For each letter in the word read books with titles, series names, authors (first or last name), characters (first or last name), that begin with letters that correspond to letters of the words you chose. You may ignore the indefinite and definite articles (a, an, the, etc).

Option 3 - Word it out Read books with one of the following words in the title of the book or the series - black, white, grey, good, or bad. 

Option 4 - Covers Read books whet the covers are predominantly a combination of black and/or white and/or grey.

Option 5 - Combo Any combination of the above.

             Level -
             ◈ Good guy - 1 to 3 books
             ◈ Undercover cop - 4 to 6 books
             ◈ Double agent - 7 to 9 books
             ◈ Vigilante - 10 to 12 books
             ◈ Bad guy - 13+ books
Option 1 Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James - Character - Christian Grey

Option 2
B - Panic by Lauren Oliver - Character - Bishop
A - A Pretty Mess by Carla Caruso Astonvale #1 - title and series
D - Bared to You by Sylvia Day - Author
 Option 3
Black - Dark Lover by J. R. Ward - Black Dagger Brotherhood #1
Good - The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Option 4

There are a few listopia lists that may help with Option 4 such as:
Books With Black And White Covers Or Something Close
YA Books with Girls in White & Black Dresses
White as the Driven Snow

Hey! Here's a challenge.

The movie of 50 Shades of Grey is being released in February. That inspired me to write another reading challenge for NBRC.