The Week: 18th – 24th February

Australian Grey Butcher Bird Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 16th February 2019 Bird Birds Nature Cute 1

Steve, our little resident grey butcherbird, hanging out on the back deck.

This week saw the fifth anniversary of the massacre in Kyiv, Ukraine, and revealed a massive plagiarism scandal affecting dozens of authors. A strange week all around.

Summer is nearly over here. As usual, the year is moving too fast!

Out Now: Devil’s Daughter

My review of Devil’s Daughter (Ravenels #5) by Lisa Kleypas

Devil's Daughter (Ravenels #5) by Lisa Kleypas

Courtney Milan Plagiarised

Plagiarism Update

Here's an updated list of the authors who've reported being plagiarised by Cristiane Serruya or had recipes stolen from their books.

Coming Up for Mary Balogh

A Title to Make You Groan

it's getting scot in here (wild wicked highlanders, #1) by suzanne enoch

No, it’s not Christmastime yet!

Ukrainian Christmas Eve 6th January 2018 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney Canberra Australia Silver Christmas Tree Silver Blue Gold Decorations

A Title to Make You Groan

`it's getting scot in here (wild wicked highlanders, #1) by suzanne enoch

Ignore He-Man for a moment and take a look at the title. Puns are (in my view!) unfortunately popular in historical romance – e.g. Earls Just Want to Have Fun and Cloudy With A Chance Of Marriage – but I think this one has to go on the shortlist for most cringeworthy!

It’s Getting Scot in Here, the first book in Suzanne Enoch’s Wild Wicked Highlanders series is due out on the 26th of this month.

It’s Getting Scot in Here (Wild Wicked Highlanders, #1) by Suzanne Enoch

Marry or lose their estate; that’s the devil’s bargain he and his brothers must follow. But wild Highlander Niall MacTaggert’s stubborn oldest brother wants nothing to do with marrying the sophisticated, pinky-out Lady Amelia-Rose his mother has chosen for him, even to save their land. Niall’s only goal is to soften up the London socialite, and show his brother the warm beauty behind the shiny, polished front. But what Niall doesn’t expect to find is the woman of his dreams…

The Week: 15th – 21st May

Such a spectacular week in Canberra! Well, we won’t mention Friday (but there is something nice about a rainy autumn day, as long as you can spend it somewhere like a pub – as I did!), but the rest of the week was gorgeous.

I always say summer is my favourite season, but this autumn has been incredible. I might have to change my mind.

This week was the anniversary of Stalin’s ethnic cleansing (some call it genocide) of the Crimean Tatars. It’s yet another Kremlin atrocity nobody ever mentions.

Massive Harlequin News

Born Sexy Yesterday

Catching Up

My review of The Disappearance of Lady Edith (The Undaunted Debutantes #1) by Christina McKnight

My review of No Other Highlander (The McKennas #2) by Adrienne Basso

My review of Claiming His Highland Bride (A Highland Feuding #4) by Terri Brisbin

Claiming His Highland Bride (A Highland Feuding #4) by Terri Brisbin

Claiming His Highland Bride (A Highland Feuding #4) by Terri Brisbin

This book regularly mentions the huge size difference between hero and heroine. Uh, cover folks…??

After discovering her role in her father’s plot to destroy another clan, Sorcha MacMillan risks her life to go into hiding. Her safety relies on her disguise, but she is drawn to a man who could see through her… 

Unknown to Sorcha, Alan Cameron has been sent to track her down. He’s attracted to the woman in disguise. Even after learning her true identity, he can’t overcome his instinct to protect her. No matter the danger, he will keep Sorcha safe…and claim her as his bride!

Claiming His Highland Bride (A Highland Feuding #4) by Terri Brisbin

I binge-read a huge chunk of Terri Brisbin’s backlist last year, and really enjoyed the escapism of these Highland stories set in the Middle Ages. Brisbin is a favourite “guilty pleasure” author. She uses all the tropes that hook readers, and uses a time and place that allows for “larger than life” stories.

Claiming His Highland Bride continues on with some of the characters from past books, but I have to admit that I was having a bit of trouble keeping them all straight in my mind. We do spend a lot of time with a lot of people who aren’t the book’s hero or heroine.

Brisbin uses a lot of appealing tropes for people who want pure escapism, and this book is no different. The young runaway noblewoman, fleeing an abusive future. The secret identity. The hunter who turns out to be hunting HER.

These Brisbin books have some similarities between them, and one I seem to mention in every review is the heroine who trips and stumbles all the time. I admit: I really don’t like this. This book’s leading lady had four scenes where she stumbled for no reason whatsoever and had to be held upright by someone (usually the hero), as well as what I saw as a totally unnecessary fainting scene, and a hopelessness with directions that means she gets lost in the village every single day. She also cries quite a bit, which is understandable, but still added to her weak damsel persona and made her a little bit annoying.

I do usually cut 14th century(ish) heroines a bit of slack (more than heroines in other eras), but I have to admit to finding the heroine’s uselessness a bit too much in this book.

One thing I appreciate – but am surprised the publishers let the author get away with as often as she does – is that the books don’t shy away from some of the realities of the era. E.g. the endless pregnancies, and the bad things that can happen in relation to them.

I don’t know… This has all the tropes that make Brisbin’s books so much fun, but it’s far from my favourite from her. I like that the author doesn’t go crazy with the Girl Power clichés, but being incapable of walking without falling, or of following directions the toddlers of the story understand are troubling, not endearing, as far as I’m concerned.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

No Other Highlander (The McKennas #2) by Adrienne Basso

No Other Highlander (The McKennas #2) by Adrienne Basso

Scottish Highlands, 1334: The McKenna clan flourishes under a family of warriors, fierce and righteous, faithful to their own until the last. But to produce an heir, the widowed eldest son must risk his heart again . . .

Lady Joan Armstrong Fraser was once the indulged and pampered daughter of a laird. But marriage to a brute changed her. When he sets her aside, she has only her wits and her beauty to protect herself and her child from the chaos of her former home. She will have to find another husband-a man whose strength is more than a weapon against the weak. A man she can trust . . if such a man even breathes.

Sir Malcolm McKenna has known Lady Joan since her childhood, a spoiled princess as dangerous as she is lovely. But when she steps forward to protect him against a false accusation, he discovers a character stronger than he guessed-and an attraction he yearns to explore . . .

No Other Highlander (The McKennas #2) by Adrienne Basso

This was such an entertaining book – with one big flaw.

Highland romance is the “larger than life” subgenre of romance, probably even more than paranormal books a lot of the time. It’s the one type of book that retains some of the stereotypical “bodice ripper” elements, but without the really terrible things that characterised stories of the 70s and 80s.

That is part of its appeal; the huge stakes, the danger, the big drama. People are always being attacked, hurt (in this case, the characters’ major injuries seem to disappear overnight, but anyway…), are at war, are the victim of men who want to rape them (okay, I could do without quite as much of that).

As this series is set in the 14th century, I do give the characters a bit of leeway when it comes to some of the more unsavoury elements of the stories.

Adrienne Basso writes really well. She is one of those authors who can really write; she keeps you turning the pages. If things aren’t all historically accurate, I’m fine with it. In this case, I can even overlook yet another historical romance set in Britain where autumn is called “the fall”.

There was adventure from start to finish that keeps you interested, as well as some more serious themes dealing with overcoming abuse.

However, I cannot overlook cruel stereotyping of “other woman” characters, in this case a woman who disappears halfway through the book and seemed to be there for no reason other than to make women look bad.

I have no idea why so many Highlander romances have one EEEVIL woman pitted against the heroine. It’s such an old bodice ripper trope, and we should be beyond that sort of misogynistic stereotyping by now. I’m tired of women in this subgenre always being angels or devils.

It would be better if the “evil” “other woman” occasionally had a decent motivation for her actions (how about political beliefs and loyalty to a different clan?), instead of her just being a spiteful monster?

In this book, the “other woman’s” voice is referred to as tittering and nasal and snide and using a syrupy tone – as well as possessing a natural shrillness that grated.

At one stage she is all of these just in the space of two pages:

Agnes said shrilly.

Agnes said in an irritating, nasal voice.

Agnes declared snidely.

Snickering Agnes.

And then she sends the heroine off to the stables for her former husband to beat and attempt to rape her.

The thing is, if this character had been eliminated entirely, it wouldn’t have ruined the book. The plot could have unfolded exactly the same way without her in it.

Aside from this, (and the endless use of ye and yer – I’m NOT a fan of alleged phonetic accents in writing!), this was an entertaining read.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 8th – 14th August

Monday Winter Sunset Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 8th August 2016 Sky Garden Clouds Nature

Winter Sunset

And another one:

Winter Sunset Canberra Australia. 12th August 2016. Sonya Heaney. Sky Clouds Nature.

King Parrot Canberra Australia Sonya Oksana Heaney 9th August 2016 Winter Flowers Garden Nature 2

King Parrot Canberra Australia Sonya Oksana Heaney 9th August 2016 Winter Flowers Garden Nature 3

This week we discovered why all of the flowers out the back keep getting demolished! We’ve had petals everywhere for a few weeks!

And all our other birds have started turning up – it’s nearly spring, and they come to the door for snacks. On Wednesday we had magpie visitors for the first time this season.

It is very sunny here every day, and I’m starting to feel the allergies coming, but I can’t wait! 🙂

Because I’m often up really late at night, and because we are nearly a full day ahead of the Americas, I have been watching some of the Olympics live in the middle of the night. I can’t believe how many drug cheats there still are. While the US is at (verbal) war with Russia in the pool, we are being attacked by China (and hacked, and abused in their media) because one of our swimmers called a drug cheat… a drug cheat. Who says sport isn’t political!

“Medals over Morals” was what an official said about the Russian doping program. I like it. 🙂

Russian military convoy in Kerch yesterday evening http-liveuamap.com-en-2016-7-august-russian-military-convoy-in-kerch-yesterday-evening … via @HromadskeRadio

What has been happening while the world has been watching Rio. X

While everyone is watching the sport, and obsessing over Trump (WHAT a guy), Putin has been moving MASSIVE conveys of tanks and missiles to the Ukrainian border. He invaded Georgia after the Beijing Olympics. He first invaded Ukraine immediately after the Sochi Olympics. And he is about to invade other parts of Ukraine as soon as the Rio Olympics finish.

But – hey – sport!

World Cat Day

Jemima Cat

Rio’s most amazing athlete.

Oksana_Chusovitina_(vault)_04-2011

Unleashing Mr Darcy

Unleashing Mr Darcy by Teri Wilson

My review of Wolf Creek Wife (Wolf Creek #5) by Penny Richards

Wolf Creek Wife (Wolf Creek #5) by Penny Richards

My review of Marriage Made in Hope (The Penniless Lords #4) by Sophia James

Marriage Made in Hope (The Penniless Lords #4) by Sophia James

 My review of The Inscription (The MacAlpins #1) by Pam Binder

The Inscription (The MacAlpins #1) by Pam Binder

The Inscription (The MacAlpins #1) by Pam Binder

The Inscription (The MacAlpins #1) by Pam Binder

An immortal warrior has conquered death. Now he must conquer living. When immortal warrior Lachlan MacAlpin rescues a woman from the depths of Loch Ness, he knows she is his one true love foretold by an ancient prophecy. But imagine American Amber McPhee’s surprise when she awakens in Urquhart Castle to discover that she has fallen more than four hundred years into the past – and into a love that will shatter the barriers of time.

The Inscription (The MacAlpins #1) by Pam Binder

I can think of very few time travel book I’ve read that didn’t involve a woman from recent times going back to centuries ago in Scotland. In this one, the time travel itself isn’t the only paranormal aspect to it; there’re also immortal characters involved, which leads to an unconventional ending.

As a concept for romance, the focus on the wilds of Scotland makes sense: it’s far easier to go a bit grubby and gallivant about the Highlands than it is to learn to dance and play the piano and fit into a Regency ballroom. And as Scottish romances in general tend to not be as interested in historical details and rules as some other settings, it makes the time travel aspect easier to buy into.

Your first hurdle will be being able to accept that a twenty-first century American could communicate AT ALL in 1566 Scotland. If you can deal with that, then this can be an enjoyable read.

Sometimes the time travel theme fascinates me, and I hadn’t read one for a while, so I thought I’d give The Inscription a go. It was written well enough, but I do still struggle with suspending my disbelief – particularly with so many centuries between the characters.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The week: 25th – 31st July

Winter Sunset Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 30th July 2016 Sky Clouds Nature 1IMG_0518

Saturday sunset in Canberra.

Winter Lake Burley griffin Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney Seagulls Telstra Tower Black Mountain Sun Nature 30th July 2016

On Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra yesterday afternoon.

Friday Winter Sunset Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 29th July 2016 Sky Clouds Nature

Friday’s sunset in Canberra – taken on my blurry old camera.

Queanbeyan to Canberra Australia Winter Sky Clouds Driving Sonya Heaney 29th July 2016 Nature

The sky two hours before the sunset above!

Flags fly at half-mast at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics after two were killed and 111 injured in a bombing for an anti-abortion and anti-gay agenda.

This week marked the twentieth anniversary of the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics – when a man went and blew up Olympic Park because he didn’t want women to have abortions. Seriously. Ugh.

Cat missing for eight years found 280 miles away in Paris Cat missing for eight years found 280 miles away in Paris Moon Uint

My favourite story of the week. This cat went missing in London eight years ago, and turned up as a stray in PARIS.

Now Google is on Putin's payroll. They have redone Google Maps to change Ukrainian place names into the Russian names. Crimea.

Now Google is on Putin’s payroll. They have redone Google Maps to change Ukrainian place names into Soviet Russian names. This is just… sickening. Is there anyone Moscow isn’t capable of buying? If it was anywhere other than Ukraine, the world would care.

Ukrainian GYmnast Lilia Podkopayeva 1995 World Champion 1996 Olympic Champion

Back when gymnastics was gorgeous! Actual artistic gymnastics. That’s the 1996 Olympic champion.

I am not at all excited about the upcoming Olympics. So many drug cheats. So many other issues with the venue. The Australian part of the athletes’ village just caught on fire, and then they were robbed while they were being “saved”!

The maintenance staff were smoking (the village is allegedly a non-smoking location). The Brazilian officials turned off the fire alarms, so…

And the sport I have been following (and was for a while, very closely involved with) my whole life – gymnastics – I am not that interested in anymore. The sport is supposed to be artistic gymnastics, but now it’s just not. This former ballet dancer thinks gymnastics is an ugly, messy sport these days (thank you, new scoring system that pushes big, poorly executed tricks over technique or finesse!).

Anyway, I thought I’d get my Olympics-related rant out now, before the competition begins! 🙂

The anniversary of Pride and Prejudice

PrideundprejudicePoster for the 1940 film Pride and Prejudice.

So – how did they go?

Taking Fire (One-Eyed Jacks #4) by Cindy Gerard

My review of Willow Springs (Destiny Series #5) by Toni Blake

Willow Springs (Destiny Series #5) by Toni Blake

My review of Good For You by Tammara Webber

good-for-you-by-tammara-webber

My review of Taming the Highland Rogue (The MacLerie Clan #4.6) by Terri Brisbin

Taming the Highland Rogue (The MacLerie Clan #4.6) by Terri Brisbin