Book Review: Heart of the Cross by Emily Madden

This was such an enjoyable novel. Set through the years from the 1950s where we meet Rosie, then in 1984 when we meet Rosie again along with her daughter Maggie, then to Brie’s journey in 2017. We slowly uncover the life of Rosie, who immigrated from Ireland hoping for a good life with her husband, and who ends up in King’s Cross with a small child and a man she no longer recognises.

Heart of the CrossThe three timelines were all very different, and I loved the way Emily Madden was able to weave them all together to create a story full of emotion and intrigue, right up to the very last page.

I think Rosie’s life in the 1950s was my favourite, living the trials that Rosie faced in a new country where nothing turned out the way she expected, was at times heartbreaking and hard to read, but there was a strength in Rosie that was awoken due to her circumstances and showed just what the human spirit is capable of. The friendships Rosie cultivated in Kings Cross were ones that had an impact on the rest of her life, as she had impacted those in return.

Brie’s life as a photographer, travelling the globe chasing disasters was very different from Rosie’s life, where Rosie drew people to her, Brie pushed people away, never wanting to get close. When Rosie passes and Brie returns to Australia there are many surprises in store for her as she uncovers some incredible secrets that Rosie has kept from her her whole life, including that of her mother, Maggie, and her unknown father. I thought the way Brie changed after coming home, how she made new friendships and reignited old ones was affirming in that we are never too old or too set in our ways to not be able to make connections.

As the secrets were uncovered, and the book neared the end, I began to wonder how on earth it was all going to end, there were a fair few times I had to put the book down and take some breaths (I drove my mother insane with my comments of “oh my god” every 5 minutes, as she was reading this at the same time and didn’t appreciate my dramatics, making her wonder what on earth was happening, lol). I was kept guessing right to the end just how it was all going to come together and how it was all going to turn out, I do admit to wanting just a fraction more at the end, I really wanted to know what happened next, and sat there in stunned silence when the story ended.

A fabulous read that I highly recommend.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Mira Australia for providing me with a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

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New Release Book Review: Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer

IMG_20190824_150130A true Aussie rural retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I have to admit to having never read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I vaguely recall watching an adaptation years ago, but can’t honestly recall the story, though I have a vague gist of how it goes, along with the many Mr Darcy memes that are floating around.

I absolutely loved this novel, it was witty and fun, full of family and friendship and rural life. It’s been a long while since I picked up a book in the afternoon and refused to do anything other than read until I finished it, this book broke that drought.

The majority of characters in this book were so likeable and easy to relate to, it felt like I’d known them all for ages. I loved the Bennett family, especially Lizzie, our main character. She was headstrong and determined, she loved her family and her family farm and didn’t like being underestimated. Lizzie’s dad John was another favourite from the Bennett family, a wonderfully supportive dad, who had total faith in Lizzie and her ability as a farmer. I enjoyed the way he was portrayed and his reactions to his often overbearing wife brought a smile to my face.

Lizzie’s sisters and her friend Lottie were great support characters, especially Jane whose relationship with Charlie brings Will Darcy into Lizzie’s radar. These two clash completely, but maybe if they both keep an open mind, they might not have to be enemies. I really liked Will, a lot, I could just tell that underneath his snobbish exterior, there had to be more than met the eye.

There are of course the unlikeable characters, there were two of these, one very nasty female who thought she was all that when she really wasn’t and one slimy cowboy, who thought the same about himself. These two characters separately cause plenty of anxiety and issues between our characters.

This was a really heartwarming tale about being true to who you are and taking a risk on love.

Thanks to Hachette Australia and the author for providing me with a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

Released 27/8/19

Buy Links

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Release Day Book Review: Fatal Break by Beth Prentice

Screenshot_20190820_002850I absolutely loved this third murder mystery adventure featuring Samantha Reynolds in Beth Prentice’s new book in the Aloha Lagoon series. #3 in the Samantha Reynolds Mysteries and book #15 in the Aloha Lagoon series, Fatal Break is my favourite read so far. Samantha does a wonderful job of playing at amateur detective and getting herself into all sorts of trouble, this time she’s out to clear her BFF who has been accused of murdering her ex-boyfriend and she is very determined.

Samantha and Casey’s relationship has grown even stronger after the events that occurred in Lethal Tide and it was so lovely to experience this couple all loved up.

Once again poor Detective Ray has to deal with Samantha and her friends as they go about trying to clear Alani’s name. These are some of my giggle moments.

There are some seriously funny moments throughout this novel and I got a great giggle from Samantha’s exploits as well as her internal dialogue. She’s great fun.

There’s plenty of conclusion jumping and her usual ability to make 2+2=7, there are some red herrings and shifty behaviour (thankfully not Casey this time), but ultimately Samantha does a great job of being a magnet for trouble.

If you want a fun read, I recommend you pick up the Samantha Reynolds Mysteries, you’ll want to read them in order to get the whole feel for Samantha and her friends and family. As well as to enjoy life at Aloha Lagoon 😊. I’d still like to visit one day, despite the seemingly high murder rate.

Thanks to Beth Prentice for providing me with a digital copy of this book in return for an honest review.

My reviews for

#1 (#3) Deadly Wipeout

#2 (#10) Lethal Tide

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Vietnam Veteran’s Day

Today is the 54th Anniversy of Vietnam Veteran’s Day.

As a teenager I remember watching Tour of Duty on TV, but it wasn’t until recently that I really gained an understanding of what the show was actually about. As a teenager we weren’t taught anything about the Vietnam War which seems incredible considering the long term repercussions for the soldiers who fought in it. I still feel ignorant about this time in history, but thanks to some great novels now being written about it I am beginning to gain some understanding and knowledge.

The song ‘I was only 19’ by Redgum, was always an emotional song, but through my reading over the past 12 months, it has gained new meaning.

Now I feel I understand it so much more.

I’d like to share a couple of the novels that have made an impact on me and given me a small education about this terrible war.

First up is New Zealand author Carole Brungar, she has written 2 incredible novels around the Vietnam War and the young men and women who served their country. Carole says “I set out with the aim to make readers stop and think about what our veterans experienced and in many cases still are experiencing.” These two novels certainly do that and I highly recommend them both.

Screenshot_20190817_231641The Nam Legacy: The Nam Legacy is an epic love story set during the 60’s and 70’s. When the Rolling Stones and Jefferson Airplane drove parents crazy, teenagers found sexual freedom and peace slogans covered placards. When the Vietnam War abducted the nation’s young men and sent them to fight in New Zealand’s most controversial campaign.

After eighteen months in Vietnam, New Zealand soldier Jack Coles thought killing others to stay alive would be the hardest thing he would ever have to live with. He was wrong. Although the nightmare of what he saw and did haunt him constantly, what tortures him the most, is what he has left behind.

Not everyone who lost his life in Vietnam died there, not everyone who came home from Vietnam ever left there.

The Nam Legacy is Jack’s story

My Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

New Zealand author Carole Brungar has written a powerful story, starting just before the Vietnam war and continuing through the war; we see the impact the war has on everyday people and their loved ones. The people in this story had hopes and dreams, some they were able to follow and some got derailed. Evie and Jack were a great couple and Terry was the sort of friend anyone could ask for. The scenes in Vietnam were incredibly realistic and I could see myself there in the midst of things with Jack and Terry. The trials these characters went through, the growth and change, made for an emotional story which at time required tissues. It looks at PTSD which nothing was really known about back then, certainly not how to deal with it and help people. I look forward to Carole’s next book.

Screenshot_20190817_231621The Nam Shadow: From the author of the bestselling novel The Nam Legacy comes The Nam Shadow.

To carefree, naive, young soldier Terry Edwards, life’s an adventure. But how easy is it to cope with the extreme fear and intense emotions that come with the war in Vietnam, when you know life balances on the accuracy of a bullet in meeting its target? Sometimes, taking chances is the only way to stay alive.

For combat photographer Frankie Proctor, every young soldier in Vietnam has a story to tell. The problem is, can she tell it before the war claims them? Or her? Her days are filled with bloodshed and death. Sometimes, the only way to cope is to grab any opportunity you can to celebrate that you’re still alive.

Destined to belong to a brotherhood of men who live in the shadow of Nam, Terry finds himself fighting a war he never saw coming. As Vietnam eats away at him from the inside, can he outrun the shadow? Can Frankie?

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” – Norman Cousins

The Nam Shadow is Terry’s story.

My Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

I have just finished The Nam Shadow and I have to say I was have blown away. I loved The Nam Legacy, but this was just wow, what an amazing story. I absolutely loved reading Terry’s story, I thought he was the best friend a person could have in the first book, but he was so much more. And Frankie, she was awesome, what a character. The relationship between Terry and Frankie was so powerful and important, especially during those times in Vietnam and I was kept hoping until the end that they would both get a happy ending. Carole Brungar took me back into that war zone, back into everything those boys and Frankie went through and ripped my heart out several times.
This story covers some important issues such as PTSD and the medical issues that the majority of Vietnam Vets and their children have suffered from due to Agent Orange issues that were denied for many years.
An incredible and moving story that I highly recommend.

Screenshot_20190817_232914In The Valley of Blue Gums by J.H. Fletcher: Journalist Thea Anderson’s adventurous life has been one of endless danger. Even her childhood, where she and her mother were forced to flee Malaya in the fish–stinking hold of a junk in the dying days of colonialism, was fraught with peril.

For a time it seemed she would find safe harbour in Tasmania in the arms of winemaker Peter Torrance, but her restless spirit cannot be contained. Thea’s ambition is to travel the world as a foreign correspondent but Peter is dedicated to his family vineyard in a blue gum valley: it seems their love must fail.

Thea makes her name internationally with her coverage of the assassination of President Kennedy then the escalating war in Vietnam, one of the only women in the field. Her job leads her further into peril and death stalks her all the way, until a return to Tasmania opens the door to a new and exciting career.

Will this opportunity allow her to become reunited with the man she used to love? Or has that dream vanished, like mist in the valley of blue gums?

My Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

This book was so good, I loved the dual timelines, I probably enjoyed the Vietnam storyline the best, but it was all great. This is the first book by J.H Fletcher I’ve read and I must remedy that, I really enjoyed the writing and the way he is able to describe things and make me feel like I am completely there and experiencing life along with the characters. It also shows that the media and the way it continually distorts the truth is not a new thing, the way Thea’s company tries to manipulate the story she wants to tell about Vietnam to suit the story the government wants told is so spot on for the way things are today also. I enjoyed all the relationships throughout the story, and the way love can be with different people. Though I haven’t been to Tasmania, after reading this I kind of feel I’ve been there, and I would definitely like to visit. I recommend this for lovers of historical fiction. 

And lastly, but definitely not least is

davLove and Other Battles by Tess Woods:

Free-spirited hippie Jess James has no intention of falling for a soldier … but perhaps some things are not in our power to stop.

1989: Jess’s daughter, Jamie, dreams of a simple life – marriage, children, stability – then she meets a struggling musician and suddenly the future becomes wilder and complex.

2017: When Jamie’s daughter, CJ, brings home trouble in the form of the coolest boy at school, the worlds of these three women turn upside down … and the past returns to haunt them.

Spanning the trauma of the Vietnam War to the bright lights of Nashville, the epidemic of teenage self-harm to the tragedy of incurable illness, Love and Other Battles is the heart-wrenching story of three generations of Australian women, who learn that true love is not always where you seek it.

My Review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

There are three time lines threaded through this novel and three generations, all connected in the present 2017 timeline.

CJ, a Seventeen year old high-school student is dealing with and going through so many things, my heart was in my throat for the first half of this novel whenever I came to her chapters. This novel took me a lot longer to read than it normally would, not because it wasn’t good, it was fabulous, but because CJ’s plight triggered my anxiety and I had to put the book down everytime I read her part of the story. This says much about Tess’s ability to write characters that are completely relatable. The fact I could put myself in CJ’s story so completely despite having passed that point over 20 years ago is impressive. I was also able to completely relate to CJ’s mum Jamie and her struggle despite not having children of my own and Jamie’s mum, Jess’s dilemmas also, despite never having had a love like hers or never having had to deal with the turmoil and decisions she is being forced to deal with. Three generations and I could put myself in each of their shoes.

Today’s youth have an even tougher time than when I went through school. I dealt with much of what CJ deals with, but at least I didn’t have to deal with the added threat and fallout of social media and smart phones. They may have their benefits, but they most certainly have their downfalls, and the issues our children deal with need to be bought into the forefront of society’s minds and youth of both sexes need to be educated in how to behave, how to treat people and how to deal with these issues when they do arise.

Jess’s timeline starts in the time of the Vietnam War, I’ve recently read a couple of novels set during this time, which I think added an extra layer to this timeline for me. Reading about Jess and Frank and their dreams, beliefs and differences and the reality of the Vietnam war, was one of my favourite dynamics in this novel.

Jamie’s story, starting in 2000 wasn’t as involved as the other two time lines, but had a huge bearing on CJ’s story and on who Jamie is in 2017.

I loved this novel, once I passed the worst of what CJ was going through, I couldn’t put the book down until I’d finished. I thoroughly enjoyed all three timeline stories and loved the way they entwined together to form the bigger picture. This is a heartwarming and thought-provoking novel, that will take you on a journey of emotions, it’s a story of love, family, secrets and so much more, dealing with many issues that need to have people thinking and talking.

 

 

Out this month is the movie Danger Close – The Battle of Long Tan which I think is going to be a hard movie to watch, but one with a story that needs to be told.

 

I pay my respects to those who fought in this war, those who lost their lives and those who live with the devastating fallout of this war.

Book Review: Lethal Tide by Beth Prentice

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I’ve just finished book #2 in the Samantha Reynolds Mysteries which is book #10 in the Aloha Lagoon series. Samantha decides once again to do some amateur sleuthing to clear her boyfriend’s name this time and ends up putting herself and her friends in danger.

I was determined to read this before book #3 (#15) comes out on the 20/8/19.

Samantha is good fun, she has a tendency to jump to conclusions and 2+2 often equals 7, but her heart is definitely in the right place and she’s extremely passionate. In this case though, I thought some of Samantha’s conclusions were fair enough and I was right there with her jumping to conclusions of my own.

So, after reading Deadly Wipeout, I thought Samantha’s boyfriend Casey was pretty wonderful. I started to have my doubts during this latest adventure; I thought maybe I’d been mistaken. He did some pretty questionable things, and his behaviour with the Lori was disheartening, I felt he should have put her in her place straight away, even though I knew nothing was happening. I have to say, I completely detested Lori from the start and that only got more intense as the story progressed. I have issues with women who make moves on another person’s partner.

This cosy murder mystery sees one of Casey friends from the past turn up at Aloha Lagoon and then subsequently is found murdered by Samantha, her brother Luke and BFF Alani. Soon after, a couple of Casey’s other past friends show up at Aloha Lagoon, this is when the questionable behaviour, secrets and conclusions (2+2=7) start to happen.

This was a great read though and a mystery that had some red herrings. I’ve often wondered if I’d chose to play amateur detective if the opportunity arose, but I think, probably not. I love how Samantha doesn’t have much of a filter and I like how she describes the people she sees; I feel for poor Detective Ray when he is questioning Samantha in his investigations.

I do worry about the number of murders that seem to happen in this small place. I’m not sure I’d want to holiday or live there after all.

Another fun read, I’m looking forward to picking up Beth’s new book Fatal Break tomorrow night since I’m lucky enough to have gotten my hands on an early copy.

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Aloha Lagoon Boxset #6-10

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Book Bingo round 17 and New Release Book Review: Singapore Sapphire by A.M. Stuart

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This fortnight I am crossing off the square Book with a place in the title, author Alison Stuart pointed out that this would be the perfect book for that square.The choices are getting smaller. If you have any suggestions for the remaining squares, I’d love to hear them.

Early twentieth-century Singapore is a place where a person can disappear, and Harriet Gordon hopes to make a new life for herself there, leaving her tragic memories behind her–but murder gets in the way.

Singapore Sapphire (Harriet Gordon Mystery #1)Singapore Sapphire is book #1 in the Harriet Gordon Mystery series and was a great introduction to this new character and setting of 1910 Singapore. I enjoyed this novel a great deal and thought Harriet was a great character, she was a contradiction of the times and definitely not one to be kept in a box. Harriet takes things into her own hands doing some investigating of her own to try and figure out who the murderer is.

My favourite character after Harriet was Inspector Robert Curran who is in charge of the murder investigation. He was another character who was ahead of the times and didn’t always toe the line. I really enjoyed his interactions with Harriet and how he realised it would be helpful to have her on his side rather than trying to make her stand on the sidelines.

This isn’t a simple murder though and there are many twists and turns, people who aren’t who they seem to be and mysteries that arise from the past.

The imagery that Ms Stuart manages to portray through her words was wonderful and I could absolutely see Singapore as it was in 1910. The characters of the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’ were well written, I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to be on the bad guys hit list.

I look forward to the next Harriet Gordon Mystery.

Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me with a digital copy in return for an honest review.

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Book Review: Deadly Wipeout by Beth Prentice

Screenshot_20190815_194425Deadly wipeout is part of the Aloha Lagoon series, a series of books written by different authors but set on the same island. Beth currently has two books in this series, book 3 Deadly Wipeout and book 10 Lethal Tide and book 15 Fatal Break, which will be out next week.

Beth’s Aloha Lagoon stories are focused around the quirky character of Samantha Reynolds who has a tendency for getting herself into trouble. This was a fun read, with some good laughs and a dose of intrigue.

I had to laugh straight up when Samantha goes to a job interview as a surf instructor and has absolutely no idea what she is doing, lol, it’s something like I might do myself, in at the deep end and all that jazz.

On Samantha’s first day, a body washes up in the surf and she is drawn into a murder mystery that sees her putting herself in danger while uncovering secrets and trying to clear the names of those closest to her.

I loved the cast of characters who are part of Aloha Lagoon and who welcome Samantha to the island. There’s hunky British bartender Casey, who I’m totally in love with, what a hunny he is. Then there’s fabulous new best friend Alani who owns the surf shop. Samantha’s brother Luke is a great brother even if he can be moody at times. Alani’s grandmother is good fun and I enjoy the scenes she is in while the girls are gathering information (or is that gossip).

The bad guys are not very nice at all, and really, they aren’t overly smart either. But they can be dangerous. There is plenty of intrigue as the murder is uncovered.

I really enjoyed my first visit to Aloha Lagoon Resort and am going back to visit Samantha and co tonight with Lethal Tide. If I could I’d consider moving there for the perfect weather alone. I am concerned about the murder rate however.

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Aloha Lagoon Boxset books 1-5 Amazon AU

Aloha Lagoon Boxset books 1-3 Amazon US

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