Monday, December 17, 2018

Title: The Little Book Cafe: Tash’s Story
Author: Georgia Hill
Publisher: Harper Impulse and Killer Reads, August 17th
Pages: 141 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
My Rating: 4.5 cups

Escape to the seaside for a new three-part series for fans of The Canal Boat Cafe and Willow Cottage
Local estate agent Tash isn’t convinced about joining the new book club at Berecombe’s beautiful new bookshop and café. Dragged there by her friend Emma, she knows she needs a night out. Her boyfriend Adrian is wonderful, and adores her, but has become a bit clingy of late. So when she is introduced to new local farmer Kit, with his scruffy beard and low-key look, it’s a breath of fresh air to chat to someone so un-Adrian. Maybe this book club idea could be fun after all!
But when Tash starts forgetting things and behaving oddly, over-protective Adrian is determined to keep her from her new interest. But if book club has taught Tash anything, she should know not to judge a book by its cover…

My Thoughts

After reading my first Georgia Hill novel, I went on the hunt for more from this series and I found this gem! It is the first in the three part series.  I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the series and it was a very interesting read. It dealt with a serious issue, which Georgia Hill portrayed extremely well.

“Everyone told her she had the perfect life. How could she admit it was anything but?”

I loved meeting all the characters again and it answered some of my questions about them. The protagonist, Tash, had a difficult childhood which gave her a low self-esteem, which led her to Adrian.

“Adrian Williams was older than her, an established property developer, obviously monied and the most sophisticated man who had ever taken an interest.”

Tash didn’t have many close friends and she was a workaholic so her only socialising was with Adrian, who even pulled her away from her family with his domineering ways. When she joined the book club she realised how unhappy she really was. With the encouragement and support of her new friends, she was able to break away and start to  focus on herself.

“She missed the simpler pleasures she’d enjoyed before him...she used to love walking her parents’ dog. She hadn’t seen them for she decided - once Adrian left for work, she’d go and have a coffee with her mother and borrow the dog for a few hours.”

This book was a very enjoyable one and I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a short, light hearted read, but still has substance with a happy ending.

“She was so tired and dreamy from the champagne that she felt she was floating. Or maybe it was the beginnings of happiness?”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Review: Home to Turtle Bay

Title:  Home to Turtle Bay
Author: Marion Lennox
Publisher: 19th November 2018 by Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA
Pages: 416 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: contemporary romance, womens fiction
My Rating: 5 cups

A warm and witty multi-generational romantic comedy, set in a coastal Australian farming community, from international bestselling romance author Marion Lennox. Dr Jennifer Kelly has reached the pinnacle of her career as a successful Manhattan obstetrician, complete with ambitious, blue-blooded fiance. After a desolate childhood with a distant grandmother, life seems everything she's ever wanted.
When a grandfather she's never heard of leaves her a dairy farm on an isolated Australian island - plus one depressed dog, thirty geriatric cows and a bunch of ancient surfboards - she plans a quick trip to put the farm up for sale. Her aloof, socialite grandmother Muriel is appalled, yet insists on accompanying her.
Once there, Jenny finds herself caught, by cows, by turtles - and by Jack McLachlan, the overworked island doctor who desperately needs her help. Muriel's caught too, with ghosts of her wartime past threatening to crack the shell she's built with such dedication and care.
But isn't Manhattan their home? How can two women give up the perfect world they've worked so hard for by taking a chance

My Thoughts

‘Joy was a strange concept—something I’d barely considered. Life until now had been about survival and ambition. Joy came somewhere far down the list.’

I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved this book - such a great read. Everything just came together - the writing, the characters, the plot - every opportunity I could, I sat down to escape to Turtle Bay.

Firstly, the characters were fabulous and such a range of stories to tell. Jenny and Jack were, of course, front and centre. However, there were other, just as pertinent stories to be regaled - from Muriel, to Bridget, right down to Drifter the dog. Then there is the island, almost a character in itself, from the aptly named cows to the glorious surf and undulating hills.

Interwoven throughout is a range of engaging tales from both past and present. You will second guess Muriel’s frostiness, your heart will break for Bridget and Jack, with Jenny you will be cheering her right along to be brave and true to herself. There will be everything from babies born, to cows queuing, to yachts cruising to medical dramas that will have you on the edge of your seat.

All of this comes together so seamlessly because of the captivating writing Marion delivers. You too will be wishing for a sea change to Nautilus island, to be part of an amazing community and experience a different kind of life.

‘For part of me was being abandoned right there. It was my disciplined self. It was the part of me that had held me in control for all these years, and it was dissolving into the night air as if it had never existed.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Monday, December 10, 2018

Review: The Widow of Ballarat

Title: The Widow of Ballarat
Author: Darry Fraser
Publisher: 19th November 2018 by Harlequin Australia, HQ
Pages: 318 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 4.5 cups

A compulsively readable story of passion, adventure and a woman's quest for independence set against the colorful backdrop of 19th century Bendigo and the goldfields of Ballarat.
1854, Ballarat, Victoria When Nell Amberton's husband is shot dead by a bushranger, there are few who grieve his passing, and Nell least of all. How could she miss the monster who had abused her from the day they wed - the man who had already killed his innocent first wife? But his death triggers a chain of events that seem to revolve around the handsome bushranger who murdered him - a man to whom Nell, against her better judgment, is drawn.
But Nell has far more than a mysterious stranger to worry about. With a mess of complications around her late husband's will, a vicious scoundrel of a father trying to sell her off in matrimony, and angry relatives pursuing her for her husband's gold, she is more concerned with trying to ensure her safety and that of her friend, goldfields laundry woman Flora, than dealing with the kind of feelings that led her astray so catastrophically before.
After the violence on the goldfields, Nell's fate also hangs in the balance. It seems that, after all, she might need to do the one thing she has avoided at all costs...ask for the help of a man.
My Thoughts

‘She would venture onto the digging fields for one last time, to take a walk over the damaged, sad hills filled with empty holes and dashed dreams.’

Set in the goldfields of Ballarat in the aftermath of the Eureka Stockade, Darry Fraser takes you on a fabulous journey of what it would have been like for women during this transitional phase in history. Whilst certainly interesting to read key events from this period, this is not the main focus of the book. The main focus is in fact the role of women and one in particular, Nell Amberton.  Here is a women (in a time when marriage was the only accepted form of legitimacy) who endures an abusive relationship, tries to realise life as a widow, attempts to become independent and build a new life for herself, all whilst dealing with some shady characters. Nell and her friend Flora, provide a fabulous insight into the life for a woman in extreme circumstances of living on the goldfields.

Darry provides you with a strong historical setting of the day to day living and often tenuous prospects of life on the Ballarat goldfields in Australia of the 1850s. Seeing it through their eyes, you will feel yourself transported back trying valiantly to eke out an existence. How wonderful to view it from a female perspective, the silent partners in this often futile escapade to make a fortune.

The characters are rich and engaging. Nell and Flora representative of female tenacity, the father and nephew the ugly domineering male, that was thankfully, balanced against the gallant Finn - what a fabulous ‘bushranger’ he made! Fear not the obvious cliches, as issues of independence after marriage and the wearing of pants give a little taste of the momentous changes that would ultimately unfold for women. In a time when Aussie authors are making their mark in rich historical fiction, Darry has done a fabulous job with some wonderful storytelling and puts herself right up there with the best.

So if you like a good story, women attempting to exert independence, throw in a dashing hero to assist, then this will be the book for you. Life was hard, especially so for women who were often regarded as male property; this tale saw me eagerly awaiting what would unfold next for the harsh circumstances of being, ‘The Widow of Ballarat’.

‘Nell looked about her, at the rough and tumble of the camp, at the dust and the dirt, the hard, worn-down faces of men and women alike. The white people, the black people, the yellow people, myriad languages, the bellowing, the brawling, the children of all races on the diggings, scampering about, their dirty faces and patched clothes evidence of the fickle luck on the fields.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Buddy reads

The girls and I are getting ready for a buddy read. Involved books like this require either a great memory from previous tales or a handy reference book, pen ready for note taking and a cosy corner at Goodreads to discuss. 

Do you participate in buddy reads?

Friday, November 30, 2018

Review: The Other Wife

Title:  The Other Wife
Author: Juliet Bell
Publisher: 2nd November 2018 by HQ Digital
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: romance, retellings, contemporary
My Rating: 2.5 cups

Outback Australia, 1981
After a terrible childhood, Jane comes to Thornfield as nanny to the adorable Adele, watched over by the handsome and enigmatic Edward. Plain and inexperienced, Jane would never dream of being more than his hired help. But swept up in the dramatic beauty of the Outback, she finds herself drawn to Edward. And, to her surprise, he seems to return her feelings.
But Jane is not the first woman Edward has pledged to make mistress of Thornfield.
As a child, Betty was taken from her English home and sent for adoption in Australia. At first, no-one wanted her, deeming her hair too curly, and her skin too dark. Until the scheming Mr Mason sees a chance to use Betty to cement a relationship with the rich and powerful Rochester dynasty…
When Jane discovers Betty’s fate, will she still want to be the next Mrs Rochester?

My Thoughts

I am a Bronte fan, so this combined modern adaptation/retelling looked inviting. To place a Jane Eyre type character in outback Australia 1980s sounded a clever undertaking. So whilst it is not necessary to have read Bronte’s original, it does make for a more engaging comparison to be made. Despite what would be obvious necessary changes, it would be intriguing to see how this fateful tale would unfold in new contemporary rural circumstances.

Told through the viewpoints of both Jane and Betty (aka Bertha), Bell provides the reader with significant background details of both women. Both stories contain great sadness with childhoods filled with abandonment and therefore, some understanding of the present day woman current in the narrative, becomes clear. My first problem here is that, I never felt I fully understood, or was provided, with the reasons for Betty’s anxiety/madness. Innuendo was insufficient for me to appreciate this crucial factor and combine that with her obvious lucid moments, I often found myself confused.

‘Edward thought she was mad. Grace thought she was mad.’

Then there is Rochester. Never ever could he be viewed as likable from the original, but here he was absolutely despicable. Not much more to say but a really unlikeable character from beginning to end. I liked that ‘Thornfield’ was in remote outback Australia - but was that because it fit nicely as a modern adaptation? I don’t have a problem with adaptations veering from the original and although many of the incidences could be likened, there were just as many that were different. Especially the ending.

What I did struggle with was the overall theme of terrible male characters and the use of sex as power in a wide range of scenarios and rather fanatically. I hated the silly quips such as, ‘Maybe the father will fall in love with me and ask me to marry him, like in The Sound of Music’ - good grief! Finally, to be honest, I did not enjoy the writing style - rather disjointed at times which may be the result of me learning that the author, Juliet Bell, is in fact the collaborative pen name of authors Janet Gover and Alison May.

‘We are of this land. We know how to wait. We should go on strike like the Gurindji.’ ‘How long do we wait? It took ’em ten years at Wave Hill.’

I held such hope for this tale as I truly believed that they had all the components necessary to write a really good adaptation. Sadly, it totally missed the mark for me as key points just did not add up.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Review: Nature of the Lion

Title: Nature of the Lion
Author: T. M. Clark
Publisher: 16th November 2018 by Harlequin Australia, HQ
Pages: 352 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: action, Africa
My Rating: 5 cups

An all-new vivid, action-packed adventure across the African landscape in the tradition of Tony Park and Wilbur Smith, from Australian thriller writer, T.M. Clark. Hiding from the law, they never expected to be caught in the crosshairs of a hunter...
After relocating to South Africa on the heels of scandal five years ago, Chloe and her invalid father, Mike, once wealthy Zimbabwean landowners, now have little. Away at university, Chloe has had to rely on her father's best friend Enoch and his son Xo to watch over Mike.
When a violent confrontation puts Chloe in danger, Enoch steps in to help - with inadvertent fatal results. With increasing pressure from a right-wing group on the police to charge Enoch, this mismatched family have no choice but to flee back to Zimbabwe.
But crossing the border will be dangerous and near impossible with their route taking them amid warring dissident armies and landmines, and their every footstep is stalked by a shadowy ring of hunters - whose trophies are taken from more than animals...
Only with help from Nick, formerly a soldier under Mike's command, now a professional game ranger, will the fugitives have a chance of making it home. But Nick has long struggled to come to terms with his fellow soldiers' choices before their unit was abandoned. Will his past demons put them all at risk?
My Thoughts

‘That is the fire of the Caçador Escuro, the Dark Hunter. We avoid such fires when we see them.’ Julio shook his head and made a cross on his chest as if to ward off evil. Enoch frowned. ‘Why?’ ‘These men are evil. They hunt people.’

‘Nature of the Lion’ is another compelling read from Zimbabwean born T.M. Clark. As I wrote about her previous book, ‘Child of Africa’ (HERE), I love reading about this compelling continent where I once lived. Clark brings to life the modern day hurdles that many there  face and you will find yourself fully engaged throughout this riveting story.

Yet again Clark provides us with another gripping and action packed thriller that not only transports you to the heart of Africa but presents  a side of life that not many are witness to - everything from illegal hunting to racism and corruption. So much beauty to be found in the wilds of Africa, yet it goes hand in hand with  so much horror - it’s a tale of conflict for all the wrong reasons. Clark is so understanding of this imbalance and presents the compelling contradictions to perfection.

Containing a little of everything, the tension will build and the drama continue to unfold right up until the very end. The violence will confront you, the rugged beauty impress you. Clark again provides a  ‘Fact vs Fiction’ at the end that proves most helpful in sorting through the details - real and fictionalised - from the book.

I highly recommend ‘Nature of the Lion’  with Clark becoming a firm favourite for her compelling writing in providing real and gripping dramas that will see you fully engaged throughout the novel. The characters are honest, the story they have to tell, whilst sad and frightening at times, proves very, very enthralling.

‘They do not think like you and me. They see the colour of skin as a measure of character and a means to judge who a person is.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Review: One Way Ticket to Paris

Title:  One Way Ticket to Paris
Author: Emma Robinson
Publisher: 31st October 2018 by Bookouture
Pages: 274 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women's fiction, romance
My Rating: 4 cups


When I was a kid and I’d lost something, my dad always said ‘Go back to the place you last had it’. The problem is that what I’ve lost is… me.

Kate loves her family more than anything, but recently she has started to feel invisible. Lying awake at three a.m. as her husband snores, panicking about shopping lists, birthday parties, and the school bake sale…

She finds herself in the kitchen, gulping water, staring at a postcard of the Eiffel Tower from Shannon, her best friend.

Paris, with its red wine, slippery cobbles and curly lampposts. Where the scent of freshly-baked croissants hangs in the air, and Kate last remembers feeling like herself.

The postcard is a year old. It has just one line on it: When are you coming?

An inspiring, feel-good tale of friendship, love, and what happens when running away is the only way you can find your way home. Perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella, Jane Green and Marian Keyes.

My Thoughts

“Going to another country on a whim –without booking a return ticket –was the kind of thing the old Kate would have done. The single Kate. The reckless Kate. The fun Kate. The new Kate didn’t do things like that. The mother Kate. The sensible Kate. The bloody boring Kate.”

What a great read, I really enjoyed the escape to Paris! This is the story of three women and how their lives all converge with each other for a few days in Paris; and through supporting each other, they set themselves on a new course in life. Two of them are friends, another a work colleague and the chapters alternate through the events that have brought their individual lives to crossroads.

There is, of course, tears and upsets, but overall this is a real ‘feel good’ story where one woman, or aspects from all three, the reader is bound to find relatable. The writing is engaging where you wished that you could be sitting around the table with them at the cafe or hotel, taking part in their sharing and decision making. I found all three women to be likable and could relate to various aspects from each of their stories - these are situations that many could identify with - you are bound to recognise either a circumstance or trait that rings familiar.  So congratulations to the author for providing ‘real’ people and relevant problems that the reader or readers friends may find relatable.

The satisfying aspect of this story is how the three women come together to support each other, provide advice and encouragement. When you are faced with circumstances in life that make you unhappy, what can you do about it? The answer is not ‘fly to Paris’ (although many of us would be satisfied with that) but it is about communication and staying true to self. A very poignant message to be found at the heart of this novel.

I recommend taking the time to read of Kate, Shannon and Laura’s time in Paris. Great characters and story to be had. You are sure to appreciate being part of their journey of self ‘re’ discovery.

“What was she going to say? That she felt… lost? Finding yourself was something that happened on a gap-year break in Asia at eighteen. It was more than a little careless to be forty-one, married with kids and a mortgage, and realise you’d lost yourself again.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release