Recommended Olympic-themed read.

I was going through my “favourites’ shelf on Goodreads the other day, in search of a book recommendation for someone, and came across a book I read years ago that I remember I enjoyed.

Set in New Zealand, and with a winter sport theme, this is a good one if you’re in the Winter Olympic spirit (go Korea! I used to live there, and am dying to go back for a visit soon).

Natalie Anderson is an author I binged on a while ago. She has such a great tone when she writes, and always feels really contemporary and easy to relate to.

Walk on the Wild Side (One Hot Fling #2) by Natalie Anderson

Walk on the Wild Side (One Hot Fling #2) by Natalie Anderson

A fling with sinfully hot champion snowboarder Jack Greene isn’t Kelsi Reid’s normal behaviour…but one glimpse of his wicked eyes has Kelsi throwing caution to the deep blue sea (along with her clothes!). After all, who better to go crazy with than a man who deserves a gold medal for his prowess on the slopes and in the bedroom…?
Then Kelsi crashes down with a terrifying bump—of the baby kind. They couldn’t be worse matched—Jack is Mr. Right-Now, while Kelsi craves stability. But it’s hard to keep your feet on the ground once you’ve met the man who turns your world upside down….

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Medal Up: A Winter Games Duology by Nicole Flockton and Fiona Marsden

Medal Up A Winter Games Duology by Nicole Flockton and Fiona M Marsden

Two couples tread on thin ice at the Pyeongchang Winter Games in this captivating duology—but love has Olympic-sized impact on their dreams.

Fighting Their Attraction: Snowboarder Brady Thompson landed in Seoul favored to win elusive gold. But instead of fresh powder, he finds that a past he can’t escape is twisting his half-pipe into knots. Figure skater Arielle Baldwin is determined to win a medal so she can walk away from her coach mom’s stranglehold on her life. Can a good girl and a bad boy reaching for their dreams make for a dynamic duo?

Man of Ice: How can the Games go so wrong for friendly, upbeat Maybelle Li? Her ex-skating partner is raining on her parade with memories of the past, and her current partner, Bohdan Dovzhenko, is the hottest thing to hit the ice this decade—and the coldest companion. He’s all work and no conversation beyond grunts and commands. But as their medal hopes rise, so does Bohdan’s word count. He’s not made of stone, and being locked outside of Belle’s sunshine is simply no fun. Now their growing closeness may be too hot to dismiss—but will it burn down their chance to forge a new future as well?

Medal Up: A Winter Games Duology by Nicole Flockton and Fiona Marsden

Tara Lipinski Nagano Winter Olympic Games 1998 Triple Toe Half Loop Triple Salchow

Gratuitous Tara Lipinski winning 1998 Olympic gold GIF!

I went into Medal Up with some apprehension, as I am hugely familiar with the main themes of the book, which meant I was going to be hyperaware of any errors. I did get distracted by those aspects in the end, though I have enjoyed both these authors before.

Medal Up is actually two connected stories set at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Each one could be a standalone, but they’re quick reads with characters making appearances in both.

The reasons I was apprehensive:

#1 All the main characters are either figure skaters, or former figure skaters, and I have followed the sport closely for decades.

#2 One of the male leads has a full-on Ukrainian name. My family is from Ukraine, and with the ongoing war and the barrage of Russian anti-Ukrainian propaganda still permeating the world’s media, it is SO important to me that authors write the truth.

#3 Most of the main characters are Australian – as am I.

#4 The book is – duh! – set in Korea, where I used to live. I think that in the second story Fiona Marsden made a decent effort to fit a little bit of general information about Korea in, but otherwise there’s a tight focus on the main (non-Korean) characters. Nobody’s eating kimchi or watching K-Pop, for example!

My first big issue comes up on the very first page of the book:

Ukrainian and Russian are NOT interchangeable. They’re different ethnic groups, and have different cultures, different languages, and – most importantly – Ukraine and Russia are different countries. This is the heart of the – ongoing – Russian invasion that began four years ago.

When it comes to the sporting aspects of the plot, I have no idea what the authors did or didn’t know before writing this book, but some artistic leeway has to be given.

You will have to suspend your disbelief to accept that so many Australian figure skaters in the story are world champions and Olympic medal contenders (because, yeah… we’ve never been very good at that sport!). I did love the casual references to the AIS and Canberra and all of that, however.

On the other hand, these skaters were crap! Nobody makes it to the Olympics with a basic double Lutz as the feature jump in their program. You’ll only see a skater at this level do it as a mistake. Whenever the double Lutz was referred to I got the voice of Lexie from 1978’s Ice Castles in my head, laughing as she says ‘She can’t do a triple!’.

Here is Tara Lipinski doing the first of her two *triple* Lutz jumps in her free skate twenty years ago, at the Nagano Games:

Tara Lipinski Nagano Winter Olympic Games 1998 Triple Lutz Double-Toe

In order for this to be a book for adults, the skaters are a little older than many who win medals at this level (e.g. Lipinski was fifteen in 1998, and the silver medallist that year was seventeen, and Ukraine’s Oksana Baiul was sixteen when she became Olympic Champion). I can understand this, though: otherwise it would be young adult fiction!

And, in order for the romances to happen, the characters don’t know each other before the Games. This isn’t possible. Every skater would know the name, age, and accomplishments of every other skater for the last thirty years. It would be impossible not to know everything about each other in advance.

As you can see, I got very distracted by facts and technicalities. It’s the reason I’m also extremely apprehensive about reading ballet-themed books – I know too much about the subject.

Medal Up is an easy, fast read that will satisfy people inspired by the Olympic season. Just try to not be as picky as I was!

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

I think everyone should know…

…that this book exists!

Diaper Duty Vampire (Vampires of Amber Heights Book 1) by R E Mullins

Diaper Duty Vampire (Vampires of Amber Heights Book 1) by R E Mullins

During the Civil War, Union soldier, John Alden took a musket ball to the gut. As he gasped his final breath, he was turned into a vampire and started life anew in Amber Heights, Missouri. For over one hundred and fifty years, he’s lived a rather solitary life as a vampire Enforcer.

Young single mother, Joann Clarkson, needs a job and fast. Hoping to be rehired, she returns to Dr. Michaela Blautsauger’s lab prepared to eat a hefty helping of humble pie. She comes to regret that decision when she’s taken hostage. Things look grim but she’ll never stop fighting to escape. Her son needs his mama.

As an Enforcer, John must hunt down the vampire who kidnapped Joann. In his search, John winds up babysitting her toddler Cody. Changing diapers might be worse than getting staked, but nothing compares to how he feels when both mother and child fall into danger again.

The Week: 5th – 11th February

Friday sunset in Canberra

Australian Parliament all wrapped up in scaffolding for refurbishment yesterday afternoon.

2018 Winter Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

2018 Winter Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

Kim Yuna lighting the Olympic torch.

Misty – and the end she didn’t deserve

Blind Calico Cat Canberra Australia 26th May 2017 Sonya Heaney Cute 1

We’re not a country??

Flags across the country have been lowered to honour one of Australia's former governors-general, Sir Ninian Stephen, who died on October 29. Parliament House Canberra 8th November 2017

My review of The Marquess Tames His Bride by Annie Burrows

The Marquess Tames His Bride (Brides for Bachelors) by Annie Burrows

My review of Shakespeare for Children: Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare for Children Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Must monsters always be male?

Cinderella Disney.

Cover Love

Carrying the Gentleman's Secret by Helen Dickson

Cover Love

Harlequin does a better job than most with their historical fiction covers. What I love about this one is the obviously Victorian gown (so I’m hoping the book *is* set in the Victorian era!), and the background which could only be England.

Yes, there are issues – WHY is she wearing an evening gown with a daytime hat – during the day? However, it’s so rare to see proper historical costuming on a book cover, I am willing to overlook it.

Carrying the Gentleman’s Secret by Helen Dickson is out now.

Carrying the Gentleman's Secret by Helen Dickson

The Marquess Tames His Bride by Annie Burrows

The Marquess Tames His Bride (Brides for Bachelors) by Annie Burrows

‘I have just announced our betrothal.’

The Marquess of Rawcliffe has always found his feisty childhood friend Clare Cottam enthralling. Forbidden by her strict father to pursue a relationship, he’s kept his distance. But the couple is embroiled in a heated argument that puts Clare’s reputation in danger, and Rawcliffe is forced to declare her his fiancée! It will be his pleasure to tame his independent, innocent bride…

The Marquess Tames His Bride (Brides for Bachelors) by Annie Burrows

I need to begin by saying this: don’t let the title put you off. I hate any romance title where the word “tamed” is used – it’s so bodice ripper era!

I enjoyed The Marquess Tames His Bride for a number of reasons. There were quite a few plot points that would have turned me off in the hands of a different author, but somehow Annie Burrows turned things around.

The hero has been in love with the heroine for years, but when he proposed she thought he was mocking her and was joking. She is ranked far below him, and has been emotionally abused by the men in her family her whole life.

Since then, he has disguised his hurt feelings by being indifferent and sometimes even unkind to her, so when they find themselves stuck in a socially disastrous situation and he announces they’re engaged, she thinks he’s mocking her all over again.

Now, I do NOT enjoy scenes where the heroine hits the hero. It’s a terrible double-standard. However, this is the only book I can think of where it seemed *almost* justified. I was not okay with it at first, but as we learnt more about the situation I softened a bit.

I am also not always okay with a hero who is unkind to the heroine for no good reason, but I think the author did a pretty good job of showing how mixed up both characters were. Both thought the other was repulsed by them. Sometimes a scenario like this can drag out for too long, but I think it was pulled off nicely here.

I also enjoyed the change of pace of the characters visiting a few out of the way places that took them away from other aristocrats.

Overall, this was not a story without its issues, but I really, really liked reading it, and found the author’s ability to create two flawed characters fascinating.

I think the hero redeemed himself at the end.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Shakespeare for Children: Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare for Children Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet needs no introduction. Younger readers with be suitably introduced to one the greatest love stories ever to be written. Romeo and Juliet is the tragic love story of the “star-crossed lovers,” Romeo and Juliet. Set in the city of Verona, Italy, the play revolves around the feud between two affluent families, the Montagues and the Capulets. Despite the enmity, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet fall passionately in love and wed in secret. However, the enmity between both disapproving families overpowers and leads everything to go terribly wrong.

Shakespeare for Children: Romeo and Juliet

I was interested to see how someone could possibly tackle Romeo and Juliet to make it into something palatable for readers even younger than Juliet herself.

This highly condensed version of Shakespeare’s dramatic play focuses mostly on the title characters and devotes more time to the developing relationship than the death-fest that comes afterwards. There are some illustrations throughout.

In order to simplify things, some characters are changed a little. Paris is no longer some titled guy looking for a well-bred baby-maker, but is now a man who comes to the Capulet ball already knowing Juliet and in love with her. The nurse becomes some random servant in the background of the story.

I think the violent aspects of the story were explained as briefly and best as they could be for the target readers.

Still, it’s an extraordinary choice of story for a middle grade book!

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.