Playing the Part by Darcy Daniel

Why I read it:  I was provided with a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.
What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Anthea Cane is a successful actress—well, action star. Her films are mostly about how hot she looks silhouetted by fiery explosions. But Anthea is determined to prove she’s more than just a body. With the role of a lifetime up for grabs—a serious adaptation of her favorite novel—Anthea sets off to her small hometown in the name of research.Cole Daniel is a blind farmer with no patience for divas, especially one who mercilessly teased him as a young boy. When Anthea shows up using a fake name and pestering him into letting her stay, he can’t pass up the opportunity to torment her just a little.But Anthea won’t let the stubborn farmer deter her from her goal, even if he is hotter than any man she’s ever met. Cole finds his form of payback less than satisfying when Anthea keeps turning the tables on him, proving her mettle and gaining his respect. Will Anthea’s research land her a man, as well as the part?

Warning:  This review may be mildly spoilerish.  It is also a bit on the ranty side.
What worked for me (and what didn’t):  Anthea Cole is an action movie star who wants to be taken seriously as an actress.  When she receives notice that her favourite book, The Farmer’s Wife, is being made into a movie, she begs the producer for an audition.  She has 3 weeks to prepare and convince him she’s perfect for the part.  She returns to her hometown of Mayfield in New South Wales, determined to find a farmer to help her win the role by letting her work on the farm.  Cole Daniel is a blind farmer who was teased mercilessly as a child by Anthea.  Even though Anthea uses a fake name, Cole isn’t fooled.  He agrees to ‘help’ her, intent on exacting some revenge for her past treatment of him and teach her a lesson.

Short Soup by Coleen Kwan

Why I read it:  I received a review copy from the author.
What it’s about:  (from Goodreads)  A story about best friends, childhood dreams, and the healing power of Chinese food…Toni Lau and Dion Chan were connected from birth — first via their parents’ jointly-owned restaurant, then via their bone-deep friendship. But children grow up, and Toni leaves their sleepy hometown looking for more than it can offer.Now Toni is back, raw with the knowledge that not all childhood dreams come true. Dion is on the brink of realising that both his own ambitions and his childhood friend have the power to derail all of his hard work. But loving Toni — and winning her love in return — has always been on his wish list. Can Dion really put her on the back burner while frying up his chef dreams? Or is it possible that together they can come up with a recipe for happiness?

What worked for me (and what didn’t): I liked this little book.  The style was engaging and fun and, at just over 100 pages, it was an easy evening’s read.  Toni and Dion are both Australians of Asian descent and the mix of Australian culture and Chinese culture was a bonus in the book.
I really enjoyed that no attempt was made to “Americanise” the text – I don’t think US readers would have a problem with understanding it and it made me feel more at home.  It was after all, an Australian romance, set in Australia.  It should sound Australian don’t you think?

Captive Prince Vol 1&2 by CS Pacat

Why I read it:  I read a post by the author on Anna Cowan’s blog a while back and that put the book on my radar.  More recently, my tweetstream has been going wild for it so I had to read it.
ETA April 2015:  I’ve updated the author’s name to her current penname: CS Pacat.
Note: Even though  this is two books, I’m reviewing them together.  Volume 1 isn’t a complete story and Volume 2 can’t be read as a stand alone.  Volume 3 isn’t out yet (sadly) or I’d probably be reviewing that at the same time too.
What it’s about:  (from Goodreads)  This was Vere, voluptuous and decadent, country of honeyed poison.”Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos, but when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.Beautiful, manipulative and deadly, his new master Prince Laurent epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is at it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reasons to hate him than anyone else…
 “This was Vere’s most powerful lords unfurling their banners for war.”With their countries on the brink of war, Damen and his new master Prince Laurent must exchange the intrigues of the palace for the sweeping might of the battlefield as they travel to the border to avert a lethal plot.Forced to hide his identity, Damen finds himself drawn to the dangerous, charismatic Laurent. But as the fledgling trust between the two men deepens, the truth of secrets from both their pasts is poised to deal them the crowning death blow…
What worked for me (and what didn’t): I don’t suppose the basis of this story is terribly original.  A stranger in a strange land learns to appreciate another society and experiences changes in himself from his exposure to difference.  The concept is not new.  But in romance, that is very common.  There are only so many tropes after all.  It is all in the delivery.  And, here, we have a gem.

Addition by Toni Jordan

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Why I read it: I picked this one up from the library after seeing the author’s post on Anna Cowan’s blog.  Happily it also qualifies for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2013.
What it’s about:  (from Goodreads)  Grace Vandenburg orders her world with numbers: how many bananas she buys, how many steps to the café, how many poppy seeds on her daily piece of orange cake.She always sits at the first available table, starting from the top left-hand corner and proceeding around the room and inwards in a clockwise direction.

Every morning she brushes her hair 100 times, brushes her teeth with 160 strokes of her toothbrush. She can remember the day she started to count, how she used numbers to organise her adolescence, her career, even the men she went out with.

But something has gone wrong. Grace used to be a teacher, but now she is living on sickness benefits; as the parent of one of her students put it, ‘she’s mad’. Her father is dead, her mother a mystery to her, her sister sympathetic but not finally able to understand.

Only her niece Hilly can connect with her. And Grace can only connect with Nikola—Nikola Tesla, the turn-of-the-century inventor whose portrait sits on her bedside table and who rescues her in her dreams. Then one day all the tables at the café are full. As she hesitates in the doorway a stranger invites her to sit with him.

What worked for me (and what didn’t): You might want to get a cup of tea because this is going to be long.  Don’t say you weren’t warned!Usually when I struggle to finish a book, it is because the book isn’t very good.  But that wasn’t the case here.  I struggled because I found Grace’s situation so sad.  The author did such a good job of setting up her character that I felt increasingly pessimistic that there could be an HEA.   I took a break about half way through and read some other books – light sexy contemporaries as a bit of a palate cleanser.  I picked the book up last night, thinking that I’d sneak in a couple of chapters and then take another break, but I found myself powering through to the end.

The One That Got Away by Kelly Hunter

Why I read it: I picked this up from NetGalley.  I’m fast becoming a major fan of Kelly Hunter.
What it’s about:  (from Goodreads) Good job? Tick. Newly purchased apartment? Tick. Evie’s life is on a pretty even keel at the moment. The only thing missing? A man with an edge to keep things interesting. Enter Logan Black. Tortured, distant and sexy, Logan has edge written all over him. He’s also the man who tipped Evie over the edge a few years back – she gave him everything, but he didn’t know when to stop taking. Leaving Logan was the hardest thing Evie’s ever done. Until now. Because Logan’s back, the chemistry is as blistering as ever, and this time he’s not going anywhere…
What worked for me (and what didn’t): Really, she had me at “tortured”.  I have a weakness for a tortured hero and the reason for his distance was so damn honorable too!  In a nutshell, Logan’s father was an abusive, controlling, violent piece of work and Logan is terrified that he’s just like him.  So he doesn’t like to feel too much or get too close.  He doesn’t – won’t –  trust himself. But Evie makes him feel.  Makes him want to get close.  The tension is delicious.

Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2013

I met Marg from Adventures of an Intrepid Reader in December and we were talking about all the lovely books we’d read in the past year or so and what we were excited about coming up in 2013.  She mentioned the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge to me and got me interested in trying it this year.  I have discovered some wonderful Australian writers and I’d like to find more.  So, I’ve signed up for the “Franklin” level – I promise to read at least 10 books by Australian women writer’s this year and review at least 6 (but, I’ll be reviewing all 10, because that’s what I do).  If I’m lucky, not only will I discover some amazing books and authors, but I might also connect with some local bloggers and book lovers and that can’t be a bad thing!
Happy New Year everyone!
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