Renee Conoulty: December 2015


Thursday, 31 December 2015

Goodbye 2015

Hey Everyone!

Here we are on the last day of 2015, and what a year it's been! So many things have happened this year. Here are the highlights, in no particular order.

I started a newsletter, sharing the highlights from four different parts of my world: blogging, reading, writing and family. If you want to see my previous highlights of the month, check out my newsletter archive. To keep up with future updates, subscribe here.

I joined Camp NaNoWriMo and began writing my first novel. I got a big chunk written in July and I've been plodding away at it since then. I hope to finish the first draft early next year.

I read..... lots! I track all my reading on Goodreads, so if you can find all the books I read in 2015 here.  I read a total of:

  • 284 books
  • 70,584 pages
And blew my Goodreads reading challenge out of the water!

Asking me to choose my favourite book is like asking me to choose my favourite child, so here's a whole bunch of books that stood out this year. Links lead to my reviews.

Chick Lit

Women's Fiction



Romantic Suspense

Rural Romance


Science Fiction


Short Stories

New Adult

Young Adult

Middle Grade

Non Fiction

Free Verse

My most popular blog post of all time is How to ask a blogger to review your book, with three times the views as the next most popular post.

People must be reading it, because I haven't received a carbon copy review request in ages.

How was your 2015? 
What were your highlights? 
Do any of my stand out books match up with yours?

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Rainbow Street Pets by Wendy Orr

Rainbow Street Shelter
What would you do if you lost a pet? 
Where would you go if you found one?

At the Rainbow Street Shelter a cockatoo will greet you and a little round dog will make you welcome. All the animals there need children to be their friends. Meet Bear the border collie, Buster the marmalade cat, and Bessy the goat, as well as rabbits and guinea pigs and mice. There's even a pony called Pebbles, but where does a lion cub fit in?

Hey! Here's my review

**Interview with my 5 & 6 year olds**

Me: What did you think of this book?
Him: I liked the animals that are in it.
Her: Awesome!

Me: Which story was your favourite?
Him: The one about the tiger.
Her: The right, right first one 'for all of the others.

Me: Which animal was your favourite?
Him: The lion.
Her: The parrot and the lion.

Me: Which animal would you like to have as a pet? (Silently praying "not the lion")
Him: The bunny.
Her: A bunny rabbit 
Me: (Silent phew!)

  • Where: Borrowbox
  • Format: ebook
Purchase link

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

I'm Still Here by Kathryn R. Biel

It started out as an ordinary day for Esther Comely-Cox, if you consider simultaneously totaling your car, smashing a Ho Ho in your face and meeting a handsome doctor ordinary. 

Estranged from her family over her sister's mental illness and death, Esther can't help but feel alone. And when Esther hears the voice of her twin sister who committed suicide seven years ago, she begins to question her own sanity, leading her to wonder if anything is what it seems. Searching for answers, Esther must confront her past while looking towards a new future—one in which she is finally accepted. 

Through humor and heartbreak, Esther learns that blood does not mean family, that absence does not make the heart grow fonder and that silence can speak volumes.

Hey! Here's my review.

Dysfunctional family, mental illness, romance, humour, suspense, hot doctors and creamy cakes. A fantastic chick lit novel, a little on the darker side, that kept me guessing the whole way through with the twists and turns it took. I found Esther likable and relatable. I enjoyed Kathryn's writing style and have another of hers lined up to read already.

I listened to the audiobook edition, which I received free in exchange for an honest review. The narrator was fantastic, adding to the story.


  • Where: Author Invitation
  • Format: audiobook

Purchase link

Monday, 28 December 2015

Blood Safari by Deon Meyer

When the rich and famous visit South Africa, their first port of call is often Body Armor, the personal security company offering two types of protection: the big and intimidating muscle men called Gorillas or the lean and hungry former government body guards, referred to as Invisibles. 

Lemmer is a freelance Invisible. The tiny and beautiful Emma le Roux, a brand consultant from Cape Town, wants to hire him. He needs the money, so he listens to her story. Lemmer’s First General Law is: Don’t get involved. But he has never failed as a body guard and he’s also grown a little too fond of Emma. He uncovers simmering racial and political tensions, greed, corruption, and a network of eco-terrorists. He follows the leads until he finds what he’s after: The people who attacked Emma. Getting to them will be extremely dangerous, and exposing them could have international political implications. If he fails, both he and Emma will end up dead. But Lemmer is sick and tired of being invisible. He goes after them, against all odds.

Hey! Here's my review

The sole reason I picked up this book was because I wanted to read a book set in Africa for a reading challenge. I found the audiobook edition of this via the Oneclick Digital app, downloaded the book and pressed play. I adored the narrator, Saul Reichlin. His South African accent was perfectly suited to the novel and did a fantastic job of differentiating the characters using tone and dialect. There is a bit of something for everyone: politics, action, romance, mystery.

Purchase link

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Snowflakes on Silver Cove by Holly Martin

Libby Joseph is famous for her romantic Christmas stories. Every December, readers devour her books of falling in love against the magical backdrop of the Christmas season. If only Libby believed in the magic herself… 

Struggling to finish her current novel, Libby turns to her best friend and neighbour George Donaldson to cheer her up. But George also needs a bit of support himself. Nervous about getting back into the dating saddle after splitting from his wife, he and Libby strike a deal. She will teach George how to win over the ladies, and Libby will in turn be inspired to inject her novel with a good dose of romance. 

As Libby and George explore the beautiful White Cliff Bay on a series of romantic Christmas-themed dates, Libby finds herself having more fun than she’s had in ages and…discovers feelings that she never knew she had for George. 

But is it too late? Will George win someone else’s heart or can Libby act like the heroine in one of her stories and reach for her own love under the mistletoe this Christmas? 

Snuggle up with a piece of Christmas cake and mulled wine, and spend the festive season at White Cliff Bay. You won’t want to leave! Christmas at Lilac Cottage also out now.

Hey! Here's my review.

I started reading this as soon as I put down Christmas at Lilac Cottage, and finished reading it on Christmas Eve. Living in the tropical north of Australia, I didn't read this while snuggled in front of a hot fire (though it would be perfect for that), but imagining all that snow did help me to cool down while sprawled out under the airconditioner in the midst of a tropical storm.

I love Holly's writing style and I'm working my way through her novels. I enjoyed seeing glimpses of the characters from Lilac Cottage in this novel. I particularly enjoyed the main romance plot between Libby and George, the best friend to boyfriend. The side story of Amy and Seb was great too. I loved seeing each of these characters grow throughout the novel and gain the strength to overcome their insecurities. And of course, I loved the giant willy reference ;) Who doesn't giggle at the thought of a seven foot willy chasing you down the street for a hug!

I received this book free from netGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  • Where: NetGalley
  • Format: ebook
Purchase link

Friday, 25 December 2015


christmas bauble selfie
Hey Everyone!

Whether there is sun or snow
Something I'd like for you to know

I'm so glad that you came to see
My selfie on this Christmas tree

While sitting by the yuletide log
You popped in here to read my blog

I may not have a lot to say
On this December Christmas Day

So I won't take much of your time
To share the things I find sublime

I love your comments, views and shares
They show me someone out there cares

I'd like to send a Seasons greet
And hope one day you all I meet

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin

Welcome to the charming seaside town of White Cliff Bay, where Christmas is magical and love is in the air…

Penny Meadows loves her home – a cosy cottage decorated with pretty twinkling fairy lights and stunning views over the town of White Cliff Bay. She also loves her job as an ice-carver, creating breathtaking sculptures. Yet her personal life seems frozen. 

When Henry and daughter Daisy arrive at the cottage to rent the annex, Penny is determined to make them feel welcome. But while Daisy is friendly, Henry seems guarded. 

As Penny gets to know Henry, she realises there is more to him than meets the eye. And the connection between them is too strong to ignore… 

While the spirit of the season sprinkles its magic over the seaside town and preparations for the ice sculpting competition and Christmas eve ball are in full swing, can Penny melt the ice and allow love in her heart? And will this finally be the perfect Christmas she’s been dreaming of? 

Like a creamy hot chocolate with marshmallows, you won’t want to put this deliciously heartwarming novel down. 

Spend the perfect Christmas in White Cliff Bay this year. Snowflakes on Silver Cove coming very soon.

Hey! Here's my review.

A fun chick lit Christmas tale set in a gorgeous little town by the sea. I love Holly's writing style and devoured this novel in a couple of days. So often in a romance, the "drama" is caused by poor communication. I loved the fact that the couple in this story actually talked to each other and resolved their issues. They still had misunderstandings and complications, but they acted like the adults they are, and that helped me like and relate to them even more. 

I love Holly's quirky humour (and the fact that she managed to squeeze willy references in). I've already picked up the second book in the White Cliff Bay series and I'm enjoying seeing some scenes from this book referenced there too. 

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


  • Where: NetGalley
  • Format: ebook

Purchase link

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

The Fling Thing by Maggie Le Page

When it comes to love, Becky Jansen’s had some spectacular disasters, but all those Mr Wrongs haven’t put her off. One day she’ll find Mr Right. She just needs to be more . . . selective.

For example, she’d never get involved with Mickey Madden. He’s cute, and funny, and knows how to warm a girl’s . . . ahem. But he’s a workmate, and all their flirty sex-talk is just talk.

So when that talk whoopsies into something rather more active, Becky’s left confused. Is this as real as it feels, or is Mickey just another disaster in disguise?

Warning: contains one sexy Santa suit, one cheeky Rudolph, and plenty of heat in the middle.

(This book is intended for readers aged 18+.)

Hey! Here's my review.

I first met Becky in A Heat of The Moment Thing, and she became one of my book besties. I loved hanging out with her again in this short and steamy prequel. I really connected with Becky. We both get sucked in by the charming flirt, fall for them hard and fast and always see the best in everyone.

This is the perfect read for Christmas afternoon, when you want to escape from all those noisy toys that Santa gave the kids and hide away with a glass of wine by yourself. Or anytime really.

I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

  • Where: Author Invitiation
  • Format: ebook
Purchase link

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Christmas with the Colburns by Keely Brooke Keith

It’s Christmastime in Good Springs, and Lydia Bradshaw is eager for the light at the end of her year—the Colburn family’s big holiday gathering. When she discovers none of her siblings are coming back to the village this year, she believes Christmas will be ruined. As Lydia faces a gloomy holiday in the Colburn house, an unexpected romance brightens her favorite season. Will it be enough to rekindle the light of Christmas?

Spend Christmas with the Colburns in this inspirational holiday novella. If you like the traditional setting and sweet romance of Amish Fiction but are looking for something new, read Christmas with the Colburns today to jump into a fast-paced story of Christmastime in a hidden land.

Holiday recipe included!

Hey! Here's my review

I've really enjoyed the Uncharted series and was excited to find out there was a Christmas themed novella out. I loved reading more from Lydia's perspective. I really liked her character in the first book and was interested to see how things were going for her now. I also enjoyed the flashbacks to Lydia's mother's youth and watching her romance story unfold.

I listened to the audiobook edition which I received free in exchange for an honest review. The narrator was fantastic - the best one so far in the Uncharted series. 


  • Where: Author Invitation
  • Format: audiobook
Purchase link

Monday, 21 December 2015

Almana by Julayn Adams **Cover Reveal**

Hey Everyone!

Throughout my strolls around the blogosphere, I had the pleasure of stumbling across fellow book blogger, Julayn Adams. We both live in Australia, both have eclectic reading tastes (her twitter handle is @eclectic_books), and hit it off immediately. We have both decided to extend our writing from book reviews to books. Julayn is one step ahead of me (ok, so about a gazillion steps ahead of me, I haven't finished my first draft yet) and her debut novel is set to release on January 18, 2016. 

I'm so excited to be able to give you a sneak peek of the cover!

Without further adieu...........

I present...........


In the aftermath of World War III, the world has become a dangerous place. The ruthless dictator, Equis, and his army, Armageddon, are quickly taking over major metropolitan areas on the west coast. The end of humanity is eminent. Their one hope lies in the hands of a 17 year old girl, Alexa. When Almana volunteers to leave Heaven to guide Alexa, she never thought that her own destiny would include falling in love with a human. Now, cursed to remain on Earth forever, Almana finds that her task is much more than she bargained for.

Almana eclectic_booksWith a diverse background ranging from preschool teacher and professional princess to diagnostic sonographer, Julayn Adams has discovered a new passion and talent for writing. Originally from Massachusetts, she now resides in Australia with her husband and four children, three of whom she home-schools. With her first work, a children's book illustrated by her youngest son, already released, she is excited to introduce her Young Adult novel, Almana, in January of 2016. Julayn is currently working on the second of this three part series, Vision (Almana #2).

Author Links:
 photo iconwebsite-32x32_zps1f477f69.png  photo icongoodreads32_zps60f83491.png  photo icontwitter-32x32_zpsae13e2b2.png  photo iconfacebook-32x32_zps64a79d4a.png

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Christmas at Carol's by Nicola Yeager

Carol Gabriel hates Christmas. Not just a little bit, but quite a damn lot. 

She can’t even stand having a boyfriend over the Christmas period and habitually dumps them just before the season begins. 

Even the restaurant she co-owns, a French bistro called Carol’s, doesn’t do a Christmas menu and it doesn’t do Christmas decoration, either. 

But then she gets some bad news; the bistro is failing. 

There’s too much local competition, they don’t have enough customers and there’s a risk that the business may have to sold. 

For the sake of the restaurant, her glamorous business partner Roksana and all its much-loved employees, Carol takes on her mother’s advice and creates a Christmas menu for the first time. 

She may even tart the place up with some decorations. 

But it’s an uphill struggle. There’s a reason Carol doesn’t like Christmas and it’s one that she keeps to herself… 

As time is running out Carol wonders if she’s left it too late. 

Will her fabulous and charming employees be able to boost the restaurant's popularity? 

Will there be Christmas at Carol’s? 

‘Christmas at Carol’s’ is an incredibly witty culinary romance that will have you laughing out loud and drooling for delicious Christmas fare… 

Hey! Here's my review

I flicked between hot and cold with this novel. Although I didn't really like the writing style, I found myself absorbed in the story. I thought the cooking scenes were overly descriptive, but then found myself salivating over the food. I loved the characters though and I'd love to go to Carol's for a meal one day.

  • Where: Amazon
  • Format: ebook
Purchase link

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Quote - J.D.Salinger

Hey Everyone!

It doesn't happen very much, but it does happen sometimes though! Authors adore hearing how much you loved their book, and with social media it's really easy to get in contact. I've done it lots of times, and have become good friends with some of them. Have you contacted an author to tell them you loved their book? Did they respond? 

Friday, 18 December 2015

Operation White Christmas by Nicki Edwards

Hollie Douglas has dreamed of a White Christmas ever since she was a child, but her dream implodes when her fiancé breaks her heart two months before their big day. Convinced by her best friend to go ahead with her planned honeymoon anyway, Hollie doesn't expect to find herself stuck in a snowstorm in rural Canada two days before Christmas.

Jim Bell has been dreading another Christmas without his wife. When one of his orphaned animals goes missing in the middle of a snowstorm, he didn't expect he'd be rescuing a stranded Australian tourist as well. He quickly realizes Hollie is carrying as much emotional baggage as him, and when she accepts his offer to seek shelter at his farm, he wonders if he's doing the right thing.

As Jim helps Hollie fulfil her White Christmas dreams, the winter wonderland and spirit of Christmas work their healing magic on both of them.

A sweet Christmas romance in the tradition of Melissa McClone and Alissa Callen.

Hey! Here's my review.

A wonderful holiday romance novella. Just like Hollie, I live in Australia and I've also dreamed of a white Christmas. I loved Hollie. She was a likable, relatable character who I could imagine being friends with. I loved the tension and build up to the romance.

This is part of the Escape to the Country series, but will work fine as a stand alone. I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


  • Where: NetGalley
  • Format: ebook

Purchase link

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Cherry Season by Trish Morey

More than five million copies of USA Today bestselling author Trish Morey's novels have been sold around the world. 

"just divine ... 
Cherry Season is gorgeous." Beauty and Lace

Dan Faraday is too busy for love. With the long hours running the family orchard, he doesn't have time to go on dates, and if he did, he would be looking for someone who fits into his ten-year plan. Someone traditional, reliable and dependable - someone just like him.

Someone the total opposite of beautiful drifter Lucy Marino. A free spirit who chases the moment, she's in town for the fruit-picking season. The only certain thing in her life is constant change and while she's tempted to see how cute Dan might be if only he smiled, she's not the type of girl to wait around.

But as the cherry trees blossom, Lucy and Dan are increasingly drawn to one another. In spite of their differences, each begins to wonder if maybe they have a future after all.

With the weight of Dan's family legacy on his shoulders and Lucy afraid of losing the only life she's ever known, can Dan give Lucy a reason to put down roots before the seasons change?

Hey! Here's my review.

I just loved this story. It took me back to the year that I went cherry picking. The descriptions matched perfectly with my memories of working in the sorting shed or twisting the cherries from the tree. The perfect release date had me down to the supermarket to buy a bag of cherries (though it took me years to be able to eat supermarket cherries after being spoilt and eating them right off the tree. Those supermarket ones would have been sorted right into the bin, but I don't have much choice where I live now. No cherries in the tropics.) 

Anyway, enough about me and my cherry experiences. There was so much more than cherries in this novel. There was a spunky American backpacker called Lucy. I loved her. She was a great character with depth. A combination of tough and sweet, with a good heart. Farmer Dan, I mean Orchardist Dan was handsome and hardworking. I loved the chemistry between them, watching them try to fight it off. I enjoyed the familiar Australian setting and the small town dynamics. 

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This is the first book I've read by this author, but won't be the last.

  • Where: NetGalley
  • Format: ebook
Purchase link

Monday, 14 December 2015

Hot Stuff: Surfing Love **Review and Giveaway**

Hot sun, warm bodies, tight skin, electricity on the air ... four top romance authors give you their take on summer. 

From Carla Caruso - A chance meeting with a pro-surfer on an island getaway ...
From Maria Lewis - The world of women's surfing throws two recent bedmates together ... 
From Alli Sinclair - A world-famous performer finds her heart and a way to fight her demons in Rio de Janeiro ...
From Tess Woods - A Cornish beach retreat proves a full reawakening ...

Hey! Here's my review.

A fantastic collection of short stories written by four amazing Aussie authors. Each story featured surfing: the spunky Aussie pro surfer chicks, the sexy South American pro surfer, The surf life saver in Cornwall and hot surfer guy at the ritzy resort. 

Each writer's unique style came through, giving each story a unique voice. Carla's story is light and fun but super sexy, with similes that made me smile. Maria's is is confident and spunky. Alli's has South American accents that make me swoon. Tess drew me into her world and finished with a bang.


  • Where: NetGalley
  • Format: ebook

Purchase links
Amazon US | Amazon Ca | Amazon UK | Amazon Aus | Kobo | Google Books

Win a copy from iTunes
by entering the giveaway below

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Awesome Indies Books

Hey Everyone!

With traditionally published books, you know they have been edited and proofread. That they have professional covers and good layout You know they will be of a certain standard. With independently published books, sometimes they have, but sometimes they haven't. If you've been burnt before by an unprofessional independently published book, don't let that scare you off  trying another. If you want to take some of the risk out of trying something new, check out Awesome Indies Books. They aim to raise the standard of independent publishing by providing an accreditation service, giving their seal of approval to well crafted works.

If you are a reader, you can go to the bookstore section to find your next read, sorted by genre. If you read and review, you can join the read to review program to receive books free in exchange for an honest review. If you are an author, you can submit your book for review.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Father Made Me Do It by Jami Brumfield

Charm Livingston's life is hell, literally. As a vengeance demon, she resides in the underworld until a furious soul calls upon her to exact revenge in exchange for ten years in hell. Being a demon is bad enough, but as the daughter of the devil himself she has very little wiggle room for escape. And escaping is all she's ever dreamed of, leaving the bowels of hell and becoming human is the one dream she knows she cannot have... or can she? 

When a man is murdered by one of her fellow demons, the now grieving fiancĂ© calls upon Charm for help. Charm's psychometric power helps her replay the events leading up to the man's death. In the midst of arranging justice for her client she meets the angel that was the killer’s target. He's injured and she saves his life, despite the repercussions her actions could have on her own soul. Daddy dearest wants the angel dead, and she derails the devil's plans. 

In return, the angel agrees to help Charm with her greatest wish, except that ascension isn't going to be easy. She'll need to pass through the thirteen levels of the underworld by passing thirteen tests in order to overcome the realm of purgatory and reach the Hall of Akashic Records where her soul can be reborn. 

In Father Made Me Do It, she faces her first test and begins her journey from the underworld to mortal life while she continues to carry out her duty as the justice demon. The fine line she treads is fraught with danger, and her naivety in human ways will take readers on an emotional roller coaster of tears and laughter. 

* Book contains content of adult nature and is intended for audiences 18 and older 

Hey! Here's my review.

I quick entertaining read. I was surprised by the fact that I actually liked the vengeance demon character, I never expected to be able to relate to the daughter of Lucifer, perhaps I'm not as good as I thought I was... Great character development and world building.

I listened to the audiobook edition, which I received free in exchange for an honest review. Rebecca Roberts is a fantastic narrator. She speaks clearly, at a good pace and portrays the characters well.

  • Where: Audiobook Blast
  • Format: audiobook
Purchase link