New Release Book Review: Our Own Private Fig Tree by Rania Battany

IMG_20210930_173447After reading Rania Battany’s Fleeting Moments two years ago, and her subsequent novels, I knew this book would pull at the heartstrings. As well, it encouraged me to look both inside and outside of myself and think about the different cultures and rules we live by in our society.

This was a brilliantly written novel that explored the importance of culture, and the expectations that families can put on their children to conform to that culture, even if they now live in a different country.

It also celebrated differences in culture. The music, the food, the big family celebrations, the support from large families when tragedy happens, and the way it can give us our identity.

It is a story of two teenagers, Caleb, ‘white boy’, an Australian and Samira, a Lebanese girl, who live across the road from each other, fall in love and have to hide this from everyone because it wouldn’t be acceptable, especially from Samira’s families perspective.

But it is more than a story of forbidden love, it’s a story of true love and how to be true to that love if society’s rules and cultural rules say it’s wrong.

There is a tragedy that nearly destroys a family and separates these two for nearly a decade. When they meet again, nothing has changed, both between them and with Samira’s family expectations. There are secrets that have been kept for decades that come out that cause Caleb to take a look at who he is and his identity, it also helps him see that if he wants a life with Samira, he must fight to gain acceptance in her world, and convince her he is worth the risk. History could be repeated or they could forge a new path, one that combines their cultures and their families.

I really did love this novel, it had everything in it I needed to make it a wonderful read. I loved all of the characters and their differences, I especially loved Jim who was such a special person in the lives of so many and in the choices he made for love.

I went to school with a fair few Greeks, Italians, Malays and various other cultures, but I never really thought about how different their home lives, or their parents’ backgrounds might be. I wonder now, did they feel some of the same expectations on them that Samira did in this novel. Were there expectations that they would choose a partner from the same cultural background, work in a certain job, marry and have children? Did they fight against those cultural expectations or roll with them so as not to upset their families? So many things to consider that I wasn’t even aware of 20+ years ago.

This is a story full of warmth, heartache, acceptance and love. It is about learning about our identities, respecting our cultures, but learning to combine those cultures to take what works from each one and make it something even better.

In this multicultural world, we live in, this is important because there are many more cultures sharing this land we call home, cultures will become blended, but we still need to be able to hold on to the heart of that culture while finding the path that works towards a future for all.

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

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New Release Book Review: Starlit Skies by Suzanne Cass

This was a fast-paced read with plenty of danger, suspense, chemistry and the issue of domestic violence.

Skylar has suffered at the hands of her ex and when she hears what sounds like a woman being abused, she intervenes and this sets off a series of events that will lead to Skylar and the local police officer Senior Constable Nash ending up on a crashed helicopter running for their lives through the remote national park in north Qld.

I really enjoyed this novel, the attraction between Skylar and Nash is one they’ve been fighting for a while, well Skylar has been fighting it, Nash has been hoping. When they are thrown together they can’t ignore it any longer, but it will take a lot for Skylar to get past her past.

There were times Skylar annoyed me so much, when a police officer says “stay hidden ‘ or asks you to do something, you don’t do the exact opposite. Other times I really loved Skylar and hoped she would be able to get through everything and make a go of a life that wasn’t all about work.

Nash was just lovely, and I hoped he would be able to get past Skylar’s defences. He was much more understanding about some of her behaviours than I would have been.

The bad guys are not nice at all, when you are a gun for hire, I guess you wouldn’t be. The domestic violence case was a tough one, and shows how hard it can be for people to leave their abuser or press charges against them. We all need to stand up to abusers like Skylar did and not close our eyes to those around us.

A great second book in this series, I can’t wait for the next one.

New Release Book Review: Playing it Safe by Amy Andrews

Playing it safeI read a lot of MM romances, so was interested to see Amy Andrews was writing one. Overall I really enjoyed this novel, I liked both of the main characters, Donovan Bane the professional rugby player hiding his sexuality and Beckett Stanton who is newly employed by the team in the finance department, I even really liked their instant connection.

I felt saddened for Donovan, being worried about ‘coming out’, wanting to be known for his rugby skills and not for being a gay player, and also for feeling he would have to live without love for the rest of his career. The fact his ex knew about it and wanted him to delay coming out until their daughter was out of school, made me more than a bit mad at her.

Beck was lovely, he’d been hurt before by being with someone who wanted to keep him a secret and was determined that he would never allow that to happen again.

But the chemistry between them was too hard for either of them to resist for long. I could really feel the chemistry between them, it is something Amy is good at portraying in her MF novels too. While the sex scenes were hot, I felt let down with the lack of foreplay and prep that went into the ‘full’ sex scene, it just didn’t work for me that there would be none of that, especially the prep for someone experiencing it for the first time, even as the top.

I felt for both of them as they struggled with figuring out where their relationship could go and what they were willing to give up to be together. I thought Donovan came to his decision very fast after all his angst but loved the way he did what he did to show Beck he wanted to be with him.

Overall a really enjoyable read with a happy ending.

Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Brazen Publishing for a digital copy of this book in return for an honest review.

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New Release Book Review: A Kiss For Carter by Davina Stone

A kiss for CarterI loved A Kiss for Carter, it had all the feels needed to make it a wonderfully enjoyable read.

Carter is adorable, shy and insecure about himself, he struggles with his attraction to Judith because he is afraid of embarrassing himself with his attraction to her. I felt for Carter, he wasn;t sure how to broach his feelings or his ‘problem’ with Judith and gives off mixed signals to her because of this.

I liked Judith a lot and loved how much she liked Carter. Her ex was a waste of space and I’m glad she stood up to him.

Once both of these characters start communicating, it becomes a really wonderful romance and their feelings blossom quickly when you know you know.

They both have some family issues to sort through and these highlighted some relevant social issues, LGBTQI+ and the issue of teens feeling the need to fit in and behave in ways that go against who they are. I really liked the ways things around these issues were handled, and I loved the ending that highlighted these issues for good.

A really lovely and enjoyable romance, I hope there is more to come in this series.

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New Release Book Review: The Farmer’s Friend by Fiona McArthur

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This was a fabulous read full of complicated and wonderful characters trying to make the best of their lives in the small town of Featherwood.

Gracie and Jed are taking a massive chance and moving to the small town for a fresh start, buying a dilapidated store and house, pregnant with their first child, I really took my hat off to them for making such a big decision. Gracie and Jed were such wonderful characters, they both had a way about them that made everyone feel important. Opening the store gives the people of Featherwood renewed hope and somewhere to hang out. Jed isn’t good with money though and through wanting to help everyone, finds himself in trouble.

Nell is starting a new chapter of her life, a former midwife who dealt with a terrible situation and no longer practices, starts off in the little town by trying to keep herself to herself, but Gracie and the other town members won’t allow this to happen and she is slowly drawn into being part of the community, joining the volunteer fire brigade and making friends.

Liam, who has fought in Afghanistan, is struggling with his own demons, but the town of Featherstone, along with a connection with Nell, will hopefully lead to his healing.

There are some wonderful characters in this novel, Mavis and her grandson, Molly, Blue, all of them make up the sort of community I would love to live in.

The townspeople of Featherstone are in the midst of a drought, people are walking off their farms, and those that don’t are struggling to stay afloat, but the community spirit is strong which is what will be needed when a terrible bush-fire threatens everything they own as well as the lives of those they love.

I think this has to be my favourite Fiona McArthur novel yet, the characters and the setting were so wonderfully written and I struggled along with them in their lives hoping everything would turn out ok.

Thanks to the author and Penguin Australia for a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

New Release Book Review: Til Daph Do Us Part by Phillipa Nefri Clark

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Caravaning around the country with her husband, taking jobs as a marriage celebrant along the way sounds like a lovely way to live, I know part of me would love to be able to do that. But for Daphne and her husband John, their current stop is not looking like a very relaxing stay.

When Daph meets the bride and groom and their family, she is not too excited about working with them, but she will do her very best to give them a wedding they will remember. And it certainly is that, when not minutes after the ceremony, the new husband is found murdered in the pool.

From here on Daph and her husband become embroiled in finding out who killed the groom and why, as they uncover secrets from the families past, they find themselves in danger too. But nothing will stop Daph from finding out the truth. There were plenty of twists and turns along the way to discovering the culprit.

This was a fun read, I think if I were getting married, I’d want Daph to be my celebrant as she puts a lot of work into finding the perfect thing to say. And if anything were to go wrong, Daph would be sure to sniff out the mystery. I hope their next stop is less exciting. This is the first book in the Daphne Jones Mysteries, so I imagine Daph will have plenty of more crimes to solve.

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Blog Tour: Review and Excerpt: High Alert by Becca Seymour

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Excerpt

“Hey, Ross.” Pretty light-brown orbs peered back at me, wide and just as mesmerising as I remembered. “Bloody hell, you’re a sight for sore eyes.”

I grinned, uncertain of the words that might fall out of my mouth.

I didn’t need to worry. In Dan’s next breath, he said, “Get your arse over here already and give me a hug.”

I ignored my brother’s snort as he snagged the beer from Dan and walked on past us.

A deep exhale escaped my lungs as I stepped forwards and pulled him into my arms. I wrapped myself around him, holding him tight. The feel of his large limbs, strong and firm, wrapped around my own frame made my heart sing.

“Good to see you too, mate. About time you made the move back to civilisation.” My grin remained wide when I eased away, his snort making me chuckle.

“Civilisation, huh?”

“Yep. You better believe it. You know, a Subway opened in town, and Bunnings got an extension. Civilisation at its best.”

Dan’s laugh washed over me like a familiar hug, the sensation warming me, much like the log fire already built in my sitting room did.

Review

High AlertI thoroughly enjoyed this slow-burn best friends to lovers romance. I really liked the Australian setting, I do enjoy a book set in my home country. Ross has been in love with his brother Craig’s best friend Dan for years but didn’t want to ruin a friendship by saying anything, especially when he thought Dan was only into women. When Dan returns to their small country town to make a new beginning, the two find every reason to spend time together, while both trying to hide their feelings towards the other. I really loved the dynamics between Ross and Dan and was hoping they would both wake up and tell each other what they were feeling. I liked Craig, he was a good brother and a good mate and I loved how he tried to push them together knowing how they both felt.

There are a few serious issues covered in this novel, bullying, homophobia, past emotional child abuse, these are tackled well and my heart went out to Ross for what he’d been through. He was a better man than me when confronted with his past.

The land and environment also play an important role, from drought to bush fires, these are major issues that farmers and many people in Australia face every year. I loved the way the town’s people pulled together when disaster strikes.

A really enjoyable read

Small-Town Australia | Friends to Lovers | Brother’s Best Friend | Rural Firefighter Hotness | Koala Rescue | Weather-Related Drama | A Not-So-Pleasant Blast From the Past | Hurt/Comfort |

 

BLURB

It’s a tale as old as time.

I’ve crushed on my brother’s best friend since I sprouted hairs on the unmentionables. Once upon a time, he was straight, until he wasn’t… and talk about bad timing.

And when we’re finally at a place for me to make my move, sexy rural firefighter Dan clams up and acts weird and I’m left with pants that are too tight and my heart feeling bruised… but he’s a good friend and I’m grateful he’s in my life.

Because of course Dan is a good guy.

Though him being “good” and ridiculously easy on the eyes and possibly the best man I know only makes me want him more.

When we’re thrust into a situation that brings both of us close to danger, it’s hardly the time to be chasing first kisses or finally acting on my crush. But Dan doesn’t seem to mind.

I just know that when the stakes are high and emotions are running wild, sometimes you have to show your hand and go all in.

And that’s exactly what I plan to do.

High Alert was originally a 7,000-word short story in the March 2020 charity anthology “When the Smoke Clears.” It is now a 64,000-word full-length novel, complete with smouldering low-angst loveliness and a group of Aussie men who will capture your hearts.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Becca SeymourBecca Seymour lives and breathes all things book related. Usually with at least three books being read and two WiPs being written at the same time, life is merrily hectic. She tends to do nothing by halves so happily seeks the craziness and busyness life offers.

Living on her small property in Queensland with her human family as well as her animal family of cows, chooks, and dogs, Becca appreciates the beauty of the world around her and is a believer that love truly is love.

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New Release Book Review: The Forever Place by Michelle Montebello

The Forever PlaceThis was a really great read, a compassionate look at a woman struggling with alcohol addiction and the havoc it plays with her life and those around her.

I was completely engaged in this story from start to finish, I felt so much compassion for Marley and her struggle with alcohol addiction and the choices she makes and the impact this has on her relationships and her professional life.

Sometimes it really does take hitting rock bottom to make you take a look at what is going on, and for Marley it took hitting rock bottom and an ultimatum from her sister before she is willing (albeit under duress), to make a change.

Marley is a criminal defence attorney whose life was badly affected by the repercussions of a case she worked on a couple of years before. Without being aware of it, alcohol has become more than just a fun time. I could relate to this myself and really felt for her when she became aware just how much she was relying on alcohol to function and also how much certain relationships relied on that alcohol consumption.

Michelle Montebello introduces us to ‘Blue Zones’ which are some of the healthiest places on earth to live, (there is a link in the back of the book if you want to know more), White Cedar Island is off the coast of Nova Scotia (this is actually a made-up blue zone based on the real blue zones, which is a shame because I could have lived there myself for half a year (the summer half) if it had been real). Cedar Island is a small community with healthy eating, mostly a vegan diet, self-sustainable for the most part and very little alcohol available.

Marley originally goes there for two weeks to dry out after her sister’s ultimatum, this is extended when she makes friends with her landlady Noelle, who plays a big part in Marley’s recovery, and with Lachlan, a lovely guy who befriends her, along with his gorgeous dog, and realises if she returns to her life at this point she will go back to drinking and nothing will change. I admired Marley’s determination, once she admitted she had a problem, to make changes in her life.

She has some hard decisions to make during her time on the island and she also makes some bad decisions too, I wanted to pull her aside and say nooo don’t do it, but she had to make her own mistakes in order to learn and move forward.

I think that Marley and Lachlan both had very real flaws, ones that made them both easy to relate to. There were a couple of not so nice characters who played quite important roles in Marley’s life and the outcomes that occurred, both on the island and back in Australia.

This really was a wonderful read, an emotional one, highlighting the very real struggle of addiction that so many people deal with every day.

Thank you to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Michelle Montebello for a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

AWW 2021

New Release Book Review: Rewind by Tania Joyce

rewindRewind is book #5 in the Everhide Rockstar Romance series and follows the couple we met in Ruined #2, Kara and Hunter which I thoroughly enjoyed.

This was another emotional read, (you may need tissues), Kara and Hunter have now been together for a year and things are going well until Kara decides she wants to try for a baby using a surrogate. Kara and Hunter’s journey to becoming parents and at the same time following their dreams is full of ups and downs and plenty of struggles and drama.

I have to say, I found Kara slightly selfish and single-minded in Ruined, but she takes it up another level in Rewind and I found it hard to deal with. Yes, she wants a baby desperately, but she didn’t take Hunter’s thoughts or career into account at all instead she just didn’t let up at him until he changed his mind and went the way she wanted to. Saying that I still very much enjoyed Rewind, and about halfway through Kara becomes a nicer person to deal with. 

Hunter and his friends from Everhide are reaching new heights and they have the next two years of their career planned out, a new album and touring. I found Gemma seemed to flip-flop in her feelings about Hunter and the baby issue and seeing as Kara was one of her best friends I found her slightly lacking in support. Kyle, I loved, he was a good friend and supportive all the way through. 

Hunter doesn’t only have to deal with Kara wanting a baby, but also with having problems with his voice, something no lead singer would find easy to deal with. I really felt for him in this, though I did think he should have listened to the experts to start with, everyone has to make their own choices and mistakes and there were possible negative side effects with surgery so I could see where he was coming from.

I really enjoyed getting to know Kara’s sister better and I thought the gift she gave to Kara and Hunter was something very special, and her husband for supporting that choice. Kara’s parents are as toxic as they were previously and I didn’t like them at all and I would have preferred a different ending when it came to their relationship with Kara, but maybe I’m just cynical.

Despite my issues with some of the characters’ behaviours and choices, I really enjoyed reuniting with the Everhide family and enjoyed taking the emotional journey with Hunter and Kara especially after the struggles they had been through and overcome in the past. Theirs is a love that burned strong despite all their differences and they both needed to see what was important if they wanted to be together.

Thank you to Tania Joyce for a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

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New Release Book Review : The Painting by Alison Booth

img_20210606_142209I couldn’t put this book down, it drew me in completely, the descriptive writing was well done, and had me able to imagine the people and places where this story took place, as well as being able to see ‘The Painting’ that Anikar loves and which causes so much drama for her and those around her. 

This novel had two aspects I enjoy, a good mystery and history written in a way I can appreciate, empathise and learn from. I love learning as I read. Set in 1989, in Sydney, Anika, who immigrated from Hungary 5 years previously, during the time of the Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall and all that came with it, has escaped a past she tries to forget, but which is a constant in her life, from tapped telephone calls to her family, memories of being arrested by the secret police and a constant distrust of letting people in. I admit to not knowing as much as I feel I should about this time in history and I appreciate novels that can give me insight into this time and place, I was 14 in 1989 and I new next to nothing about what was going on on the other side of the world, and what people had to endure during this time. 

When Anika left Hungary to live with her aunt Tabilla, who had escaped over the border into Austria many years before, after the death of her husband and immigrated to Australia, she brings with her a painting of an auburn-haired woman in a cobalt blue dress, that was once her uncle’s posession. This painting is the catalyst for everything that happens; secrets, lies, theft and distrust, as Anika’s life is thrown into the centre of a mystery about where the painting came from, who owns it and who is telling the truth. Anika starts to doubt everything her parents and her grandmother have told her about the painting as questions about it’s providence arise, it is stolen, and someone discloses a secret from his past. 

I could really feel Anika’s struggle as she meets the three men that will turn her world around. Daniel, a curator from the art gallery of NSW, who offer’s to help her get the painting valued, but who also seems interested in her as a person, Jonno, who she meets at the art gallery who doesn’t seem trustworthy and turns out to be a jounalist, and Julius, a friend of her aunt’s, an art collector, who is more than a little weirded out when he sees the painting. Anika already struggles to trust people and open up to them and when the painting it stolen, she doesn’t know who to trust, each man seems to have a motive and each one is suspious in his behaviour in some way. I myself wasn’t sure who could be trusted and though I initially liked Daniel, I wasn’t completely sure about him. 

Things that come to light after the painting is stolen,  the history of the Nazi’s and the Russian’s looting and stealing art works, and her own families secretiveness around the painting, cause Anika a great deal of stress and when the Iron Curtain falls and she is able to return safely to Hungary to visit her parents, she goes determined to uncover the mystery and get some answers. 

It is during this trip that she also learns to trust and to heal and right one of the wrongs of the past. 

This paragraph from near the end of the novel really spoke to me:

“Her thoughts floated free. Free of drag, free of resistance, and she felt an expanding sense of detachment. Not only was she seeing the earth from a different vantage point but she was seeing her life in a new way too. Generations of her family had been scarred by upheavals, and their stories where multiplied millions and millions of times all over the globe. Everywhere there were people like them. Damaged people, displaced people. But there were survivors too.”

This was a fabulous read and I will be looking to catch up on this authors backlist if this book is anything to go by, I am sure I will enjoy them.