Renee Conoulty: January 2017


Saturday, 28 January 2017

Plan Bea by Hilary Grossman

We live our entire lives thinking we know those closest to us. But do we ever really?

On the outside, Annabel O'Conner has it all - the perfect husband, two adorable children, an amazing job, and a mother from hell! Just when she gives up trying to regain her overbearing mother's love, an unexpected call turns her world around and makes Annabel question everything she believes about her life. 

Could falling in love give a cold, stubborn, and selfish woman a second chance to open her heart back up to her family?

Beatrice Buchanan has spent more years than she can remember distancing herself from everyone close to her. She barely has a relationship with her grandchildren. The only time she manages to have a one way conversation with her daughter is during her weekly fifteen-minute commute to the nail salon. When Bea meets Walter on a cruise she realizes there may be more to life than designer clothes, killer handbags, and impressing the ladies at her posh country club. 

As the mother and daughter duo team up to plan "Long Island's wedding of the year" they confront the secrets and lies that have defined them. This humorous emotionally honest women's contemporary fiction novel will tug at your heartstrings and the twist ending will shock you.

Hey! Here's my review.

I first read Plan Bea back in September 2015 and loved it. You can read my original review and an interview with Hilary HERE

Plan Bea has a new cover and is now available as an audiobook. I jumped at the chance to listen to the audio in preparation for the sequel (which will be available soon) and I loved the story just as much this time around, even knowing the twists in advance. The narrator is brilliant - capturing the characters perfectly, from a small innocent boy to the snobby grandmother Bea. I don't often reread books these days so that in itself tells you how much I liked it. 

  • Where: Author Invitation
  • Format: Audiobook

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Lost Cause by J.L. Simpson

Daisy Dunlop loves a challenge but heir hunting is supposed to be easy. She can deal with anything her new job throws at her, except the bullets, bombs and working with P.I. Solomon Liffey. Her husband's best friend is supposed to be looking out for her, but when she uncovers Solomon’s biggest secret he's the one who needs protection.

Hey! Here's my review.

The audiobook narrator was a perfect fit for this story. I enjoyed the cosy mystery/amateur detective/light and fun feel. It was refreshing to read a story that focussed on the mystery and didn't get complicated by a romance thread. I kept expecting it to turn romantic, which would have disappointed me as the heroine claimed to be happily married. Thankfully, she remained happily married to the end, though got herself caught up in all manner of problems on the way.


  • Where: Author Invitation
  • Format: audiobook

Friday, 20 January 2017

The Adventure Of The Backyard Sleep Out by Nancy McArthur

As the boys and the girls plan two separate outdoors sleepover, complete with tents and flashlights and attacking mosquitoes, they wager on who will last outside the longest.

Hey! Here's my review.

Interview with my 7-year-old.

Me: What did you think of this book?
7: Grrrrreat.

Me: What was your favourite bit?
7: My favourite bit was when they went out to camp and they thought there was termites or something in in their blankets.

Me: Why?
7: Because there were actually just biscuits in there.

  • Where: Own copy
  • Format: paperback

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel *Guest Post & Review*

Hey Everyone!

I'd like to introduce you to Helene Leuschel, who released her collection of stories last year.

Helene Andrea Leuschel was born and raised in Belgium to German parents. She gained a Licentiate in Journalism, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. Helene moved to the Algarve in 2009 with her husband and two children, working as a freelance TV producer and teaching yoga. She recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. Manipulated Lives is Helene’s first work of fiction.

Connect with Helene via

Understanding a toxic relationship

Emily is confused. She wakes up after a fitful night, tossing and turning in her bed. She remembers the exhaustion of crying herself to sleep, the anxiety of listening for his footsteps outside her room. She gets up and prepares breakfast like she does every morning. Her three children wake up one by one, each oblivious of what their mother has been through. She has decided a long time ago that under no circumstances would her problems with their dad be theirs. They must be allowed the space for happiness, fulfilment and joy. Then comes the encounter with him. He ignores her and his jokes and hugs with the children make it blatantly clear that he is unaffected by last night’s row, that he will get away with his violent behaviour and make her believe that he was justified to do so, worse that she is hysterical.
The children see a dad who looks calm and rested compared to their ever-tired bleary-eyed mum. Using her exhaustion, he will later say that her foot got trapped accidentally between the door and the frame. After all, she didn’t want to listen nor respect his opinion and he’ll pretend that she is exaggerating the severity of the incident.

This prelude could equally have portrayed a man being abused by a woman, a sister bullying her younger sibling or an employee mistreating his colleague because toxic manipulation does not only happen behind closed doors but in any context where human beings interact with each other.
The introduction may ring true to some ears, others may suggest that never would they allow someone to treat them the way this man is treating his wife. Still others may comment that there is never just one side to consider and even though generally it can be said that a disagreement requires at least two opposing parties, when a toxic manipulative person is at work, things are different. Little do we know about the ease a narcissistic manipulator slips his poisonous behaviour into people’s minds. Little do we know that a friend, sibling, parent or neighbour is the victim of verbal abuse that has stripped them from seeing the bigger picture. We may even shake our heads in disbelief and conclude that it is their own fault. Yet, the abuser will have captured their prey through a gradual breakdown. It is as if the personal identity of someone we used to laugh and spend time with has been replaced with someone who will defend an arrogant dominant partner with teeth and claws or has become a mere shadow of their former self.
Further, despite existing research and data about abuse, statistics cannot reflect the sad fact that too few victims report to the police, seek help or treatment, therefore remain unaccounted for. Toxic manipulation can be found anywhere, at any age and in many guises.
What is the manipulator’s greatest weapon? Diversion!
There is always something or someone else a manipulator can blame. It can be a tearful tale of having been unloved as a child, worse abused and misunderstood by people at home and school. Strategically employed these personal stories will be effective in getting what the manipulative person wants: appear special and fulfil their need for domination.  The day that their deceit is discovered, it is often too late for the victim to backtrack. Their very emotions and beliefs are in pieces if they admit to themselves that the person who has been telling them to understand their outbursts and frustrations has actually used them purely to achieve their selfish goals.
So, after successfully using the tool of diversion will come the threats because the moment a manipulator realizes that you doubt their integrity and that you could topple their precious fabrication of a magnified ego, they will turn to intimidation.
Following the diversion and intimidation, come the appearance of excuse and remorse (after all they do not want to lose out on your steadfast support), and then the perversion of the truth. If you have landed in that spiral, you are the victim of a narcissistic pervert. They may tell you one thing one day, the next day claim to have never said it, belittle or even laugh about the suggestion that their behaviour is abusive. You will start doubting your own words, your world, your capacity for rational thought unless you are lucky enough to understand the deceit or a bystander unveils the toxic manipulator by coincidence.
The first painful step is recognizing that you are the victim of manipulation and that it is not your fault. The next is to realize that the only way out of the vicious circle is to plan your way out – completely – and know that you are not alone and that there are helplines you can reach 24/7.
Helene Leuschel

Manipulated Lives by H.A.Leuschel

Five stories – Five Lives. 
Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance? 
Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim. 
In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Next, there is Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself and finally Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth. 

Hey! Here's my review.

This was an amazing read. Manipulated Lives tells five different stories of people affected by manipulation. They were each fascinating and insightful - showing how easily someone can be caught up into a manipulative relationship and how easy it is to miss the signs and make excuses for what you don't want to see. I enjoyed seeing the different characters perspectives within each story. Each story is the perfect length to read in one sitting.

  • Where: Author Invitation
  • Format: ebook
Book link

Monday, 16 January 2017

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

Hey! Heres' my review.

A down to earth and realistic exploration into living with a physical disability told from multiple perspectives. I loved how this book made me feel empathetic rather than sympathetic towards each of the characters. Life can be tough for a kid who has a physical deformity, but it can also be tough for their friends and family. Each of the perspectives had a distinctly different voice, which was enhanced by the audiobook narrator. I'd been planning to read this for ages and I'm glad I finally made the time.

  • Where: Audible
  • Format: audiobook

Saturday, 14 January 2017

The Shock of Survival by Nicole Field

In the wake of the final battle against The Oppressor, Benedict, Ophelia and Dylan face their magical community in triumph. But that triumph rapidly loses its shine as they realise the war is not so easily left behind. Returning to, and relearning, the lives they had before proves to be more difficult than even they had anticipated.

Hey! Here's my review.

I enjoyed this exploration of what happens after the big magical war has been won. The reintegration into everyday life and the characters working out where they fit now. Full of magic with a smattering of romance, a unique story in a unique setting.

  • Where: Netgalley
  • Format: ebook

Thursday, 12 January 2017

The Great Chocoplot by Chris Callaghan

Jelly and her family live in Chompton-on-de-Lyte, where everyone loves a Chocablocka bar or two. So when the end of chocolate is announced, she can't believe it. Determined to investigate, Jelly and her gran follow a trail of clues to a posh chocolate shop and its owner, the pompous Garibaldi Chocolati. Gari's suspiciously smug, despite his failing business and yucky chocolate. Is it really the chocopocalypse, or is there a chocoplot afoot?

Hey! Here's my review.

Interview with my 6 & 7 year olds (she just had a birthday).

Me: What did you think of this book?
7: I thought it was awesome.
6: Awesome bawesome.

Me: What was your favourite bit?
7: When they all thought chocolate was going to disappear.
6: Um, did you actually say um? Mum, what are you writing?
Me: Everything you say.
6: Um, when they were eating chocolate. Mum, can you delete the um part?

Me: Why did you like that bit?
7: Because I was like "is chocolate going to disappear or is it not" Dun Dun Duuuuun.
6: Cause it was so delicious and I love chocolate.

  • Where: Own copy
  • Format: paperback

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Rise Of Memphis - March Chronicles by Kitty Kendall

“My life had taken a new and exciting turn. It was almost as if I’d fallen into a dream. A perfect, highly erotic dream.” 

Jane’s new sexual journey has offered more than a few unexpected surprises. She’s quickly learned that a man who appears to be Mr. Average can prove to be anything but. After nine sexual encounters in nine weeks, she’s now looking at the world with her eyes wide open. 

An unexpected disaster in her hotel turns her night upside down and the hunky guy who comes to her rescue is top-model gorgeous. Jane can’t resist introducing him to her naughty twin - Memphis. 

But she wants him so bad she feels reckless, and that scares the hell out of her. 

***The Rise of Memphis books contain adult situations and graphic language. Please do not purchase any book in this series if you find this offensive.*** 

Hey! Here's my review.

Perfect for a quickie read.

Jane continues her journey of sexual self-discovery. I love the balance between the erotic scenes and the deeper character development, all with a healthy dollop of fun. I like living vicariously through Memphis.


  • Where: Author Invitation
  • Format: ebook

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Inkitt - The Hipster's Library

Hey Everyone!

I love reading, I love Android apps and I love bargains. Here's all three.

The Inkitt app launches on Android today. It's been available on iOS since late last year and has been very popular there. The app is free and all the books available on it are free. The idea is that people upload books and an algorithm tracks reader behaviour to see which books are the most popular. The publishing company behind the app, Inkitt, will then publish the most popular books.

Since July, Inkitt has published 7 novels: Catalyst Moon: Incursion by Lauren L. Garcia (Fantasy), Just Juliet by Charlotte Reagan (YA Romance), I Was A Bitch by Emily Ruben (YA Romance Mystery), Esper Files by Egan Brass (SciFi) and Caged by Onaiza Khan (Psychological Thriller),  King’s Lament by Lilia Blanc (Fantasy Romance) and Three Fat Singletons by J.M. Bartholomew (Humor Romance), six of which became bestsellers on Amazon.

Inkitt for Android - 4 key features:
  • Access to thousands of novels from all fiction genres: fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, thriller, horror, romance, drama, action, adventure, YA and more
  • Personalized reading suggestions: hand-picked novels based on a reader’s favorite fiction genres
  • Customizable look to match user preferences (e.g. font size, color combinations)
  • Online/Offline: readers can save novels to their offline library to access them anytime

The app is clean and intuitive. I love the option to save books and read them offline and the fact that all the books there are complete. Have you unearthed any hidden gems?

Friday, 6 January 2017

Bright Side by Kim Holden

Everyone has one. 
Some are bigger than others. 
And when secrets are revealed, 
Some will heal you ... 
And some will end you. 

Kate Sedgwick’s life has been anything but typical. She’s endured hardship and tragedy, but throughout it all she remains happy and optimistic (there’s a reason her best friend Gus calls her Bright Side). Kate is strong-willed, funny, smart, and musically gifted. She’s also never believed in love. So when Kate leaves San Diego to attend college in the small town of Grant, Minnesota, the last thing she expects is to fall in love with Keller Banks. 

They both feel it. 
But they each have a reason to fight it. 
They each have a secret. 

And when secrets are revealed, 
Some will heal you … 
And some will end you. 

Hey! Here's my review.

I've had the audiobook edition of this book sitting on my Audible shelf for absolutely ages and finally got around to listening to it. I'd heard lots of good things and I was braced for an ugly cry - it delivered but I think I'd built it up in my mind too much and it wasn't as good as I was expecting. If you enjoy angsty, tear jerker new adult stories, then give this a go. I have book two on my shelf already and plan to read that soon.


  • Where: Audible
  • Format: audiobook

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

From online entertainment mogul, actress, and “queen of the geeks” Felicia Day, a funny, quirky, and inspiring memoir about her unusual upbringing, her rise to Internet-stardom, and embracing her individuality to find success in Hollywood.

The Internet isn’t all cat videos. There’s also Felicia Day—violinist, filmmaker, Internet entrepreneur, compulsive gamer, hoagie specialist, and former lonely homeschooled girl who overcame her isolated childhood to become the ruler of a new world... or at least semi-influential in the world of Internet Geeks and Goodreads book clubs.

After growing up in the south where she was "home-schooled for hippie reasons", Felicia moved to Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming an actress and was immediately typecast as a crazy cat-lady secretary. But Felicia’s misadventures in Hollywood led her to produce her own web series, own her own production company, and become an Internet star.

Felicia’s short-ish life and her rags-to-riches rise to Internet fame launched her career as one of the most influential creators in new media. Now, Felicia’s strange world is filled with thoughts on creativity, video games, and a dash of mild feminist activism—just like her memoir.

Hilarious and inspirational, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is proof that everyone should embrace what makes them different and be brave enough to share it with the world, because anything is possible now—even for a digital misfit.

Hey! Here's my review.

A friend of mine put me onto The Guild and I devoured the series, so when I saw this, I grabbed a copy. I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated by Felicia. She did a fabulous job, as I expected from her acting background. The autobiography gave great insight into the behind-the-scenes Felicia, her strengths and weaknesses equally explored. It was honest and engaging - particularly relatable to fellow nerds and geeks.

  • Where: Audible
  • Format: audiobook

Monday, 2 January 2017

2017 Aussie Author Challenge

Hey Everyone!

As I scrolled through my twitter feed this morning, I came across the 2017 Aussie Author Challenge and decided to sign up. Here's a bit about it from the Booklover Book Reviews website.

The Aussie Author Challenge 2017, now in its 8th year.

Whether you are a patriotic Australian, an aspiring or armchair tourist or simply an international reader wanting to discover some talented new authors and interact with like-minded readers, the Aussie Author Challenge could be for you!

The objective of this challenge is to showcase the quality and diversity of the books being produced by Australian authors.

This dedicated page here at Booklover Book Reviews will be your one-stop shop for the challenge.

I'm signing up for the Kangaroo level and I'll update this post with links to my reviews.

Read and review 12 titles written by Australian Authors of which at least 4 of those authors are female, at least 4 of those authors are male, and at least 4 of those authors are new to you; Fiction or non-fiction, at least 3 genre.



Are you participating in a reading challenge this year?