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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HarperCollins Australia

 

Book Review: Edge of the Blue by Darry Fraser

Darry Fraser has written a really enjoyable novella that is the start of a series that highlights the environmental issues that are happening on Kangeroo Island, also known as Australis Island in this book.

For a short story, Darry has managed to fill it with great characters and relationships Edge of the bluewhilst focusing on the danger of so-called progress. In this novel, an oil company is trying to come in and drill and Jed and his team are determined to stop them. We have holidayers Leonie and her children along with her brother who is part of the oil company who are on the island as the fight is happening.

We learn about the plight of the dolphins and other marine life and the damage even the exploration can cause to this fragile ecosystem. I loved the characters in this story and the changes that happened to Leonie and her children as they interact with the dolphins and Jed’s team.

We all need to keep fighting for our environment in any way we can. I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

 

About the Book: Troubled marine biologist Jed Deveraux and his team of citizen scientists, Australis Island Dolphin Watch, are head-to-head with a bunch of mainland researchers who should be on the same side. If they can’t agree on how to protect their precious sea life and ocean, how can they face the real enemy, Pete Balfour from Contour Oil? If his company’s proposal for oil drilling goes ahead, sure destruction of marine life habitat will occur, wiping out the pristine oasis of Australis Island’s waters.

Meanwhile, researcher Roxie is tired of her boss’s wandering hands; Rob wants to hide his face from the world; Leonie wants to protect her traumatised daughter, Angie, from more emotional harm. And desire always plays its part, even when horns are locked in battle.

Will a pod of beached dolphins help Angie find her voice? Can Jed control his temper long enough to make a difference for his island? And is Roxie a traitor to the cause?

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Book Review: The Lost Boy by Rachael Wright

Wow, what an emotional journey I’ve just been on, especially during the second half of the novel. There were many times throughout I had tears threaten, but also moments of joy.

IMG_20190514_200721The story starts with a tragedy and a secret uncovered, both which completely throw Jack’s emotions into chaos. What a journey of growth and learning Jack and myself were taken on, from the moment Jack runs away from home.

Along Jack’s journey to find out who he is and where he fits in in his life, he meets some fabulous supporting characters. Each one has a story to tell and a part to play in helping Jack discover what he is searching for. This is a truly Australian story from the outback countryside to the straight talking characters. This story has a realness, an honesty and a harshness that match the bush, but also a beauty that is sometimes hidden.

This novel covers so many important issues, suicide, bullying, sexuality, alcohol, mental illness, responsibility and more, and to cover these in one novel and to do it so well is impressive.

I completely wasn’t expecting one of the relationships that formed between Jack and one of the characters, but wow it was beautiful in so many ways.

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This is a story that will stay with me for a long time. It is one that I think I will want to pick up and read again.

 

 

Thanks to Rachael Wright for providing me with a digital copy for me to read and review honestly.

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Pre-release Book Review: In a Great Southern Land by Mary-Anne O’Connor

I have just finished reading this wonderful novel, but I’m not sure my heart or my nerves could have taken much more. Mary-Anne O’Connor certainly put all my emotions through the wringer and my stress levels through the roof. Everytime I put the book down saying “Oh my god, I can’t read any more”, my offsider would tell me, “It’s only a story”, “No mate, it’s really not, it is so much more, I’m completely enmeshed in these peoples lives and this author is killing me!”

IMG_20190309_154143When we meet Eve she’s a maid in a rich house, knowing from the blurb that she ends up penniless and sent to Botany Bay, I continued reading with trepidation, not wanting to get to the bad parts about why this happens. This trepidation occured on and off throughout the story, at 70 something % I actually had to do something I rarely do and skim forward to a few pages near the end just so I could see if it was going to turn out OK, even after doing this, my level of angst was high for the rest of the story, until the end, which was a wonderful ending.

Kieran and his family have many trials to work through to achieve their dreams of a new life in Australia. I loved Kieran’s character, he really was a lovely guy who I felt was a little lost until he finds his ‘gold’. Kieran suffers the most out of his family members, he’s the main reason I wanted to put the book down so often.

Eve’s story is one of terrible circumstances, circumstances that back in the 1850s occurred far too often to the lower classes, but hers is also a story of bravery in the face of all that she has to deal with.

It’s hard to reconcile the Sydney I know with the one Mary-Anne O’Connor describes. “Rows of buildings painstakingly constructed from the local limestone relieved their heated skin as they passed through The Rocks but it did little to relieve the stench of humanity living in squalor. Refuse lined the steep, narrow streets and the faces that passed by were streaked with dirt, mostly workmen such as themselves… this was the convict side of town.” I can’t even begin to imagine having to face the kind of hardships and treatment convicts had to deal with back then, many just for stealing an apple. As with everything in this story, the depiction of the crossing in the convict ship had me completely there, on that ship with Eve and her fellow passengers, the experience was not a pleasant one, the ones who survived and were able to make a life in Australia were extremely lucky.

I’ve read a few books set in the gold fields and around The Eureka Stockade now, and each time I learn a little more about the history of this country, the atrocities that were carried out by order of the government and the people killed trying to defend their rights, and how the people of that time helped form the democracy we have today. “And all because men had united under the Southern Cross, that sky-flung symbol of freedom, and the Australian public and her juries had refused to allow them to be punished for doing so. For ultimately all they wanted was fairness and equality, two things they would now hopefully build this land on, giving future generations a parliament where all classes could be represented  from all nations of this earth.” I think it’s important we are reminded of the sacrifices our forebearers made to give us these rights and freedoms that we now take for granted.

Mary-Anne O’Connor has done an incredibly good job of bringing to life the time and the places in which this novel is set. The characters are a miriad of different people from all walks of life, some are nicer than others, but all are needed to tell this story. There are heartbreaking moments in this story, but also moments full of joy. Life in the 1850s was certainly not the easiest of times and I’m not sure I’d have survived. Though I guess just like the characters in this story, none of us know how strong we are and what we are capable of until we are put in situations that require us to be, “This great southern land was wild and unpredictable, sometimes savage, sometimes beautiful  but like anywhere there was opportunity, if you sought to find it.” 

This is the second book by Mary-Anne O’Connor I’ve read, War Flower was also a heartbreaking but fabulous read, I have Gallipoli Street sitting on my shelf and once I get over the emotional experience of In a Great Southern Land, I will be making time to read it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for providing me a digital copy to review. 

Available 18th March 2019

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Harlequin Australia

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Book Review: Heart of the Grass Tree by Molly Murn

I bought this book, firstly because of the gorgeous cover and then because I loved the sound of the story. After I bought it a friend gave it a bad review and I so hoped that we just had a differing of opinions on this book. I’m happy to say we did!

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This is a beautifully written book, the writing is almost poetic and I found myself reading slower than normal to absorb it. It took a while to get used to the writing and the way the author has decided to forgo using speech marks around the dialogue. By the end of the book though, I barely noticed.

This story consists of three timelines, three very different times, all connected through generations. I knew nothing of Kangaroo Island before reading this book, and certainly nothing of the sealers and the way they stole aboriginal women from their families. Interestingly one of the next books to read on my pile is also about the sealers.

It’s not a book in which a great deal of action happens, but a book about feeling, belonging and emotions, about loss and life and death, about family. Its a beautiful but sad story, leaving us with hope and greater understanding at the end.

I had so much empathy for Nell, my heart broke as I read her story, the secrets she’s held close all her life, finally being freed through her writing. Through Nell we learn of the people generations before who have formed the foundation of the island and are part of the land and Nell’s past. Decisions made outside of Nell’s control many years before have had a waterfall effect on her daughter and her granddaughters.

Pearl, one of her granddaughters, I also felt a connection to, she was the closest person to to Nell and when we meet her she is struggling to deal with Nell’s passing as well as inner struggles of her own. So much inner turmoil is conveyed I could physically feel her heart breaking.

Such descriptive language is used throughout this story, that I could see myself there on Kangaroo Island through the ages, I could smell the air and feel the wind and see the plants. I was the women, all the women of the different times.

I am glad I took a chance on this unknown book and debut author and will be looking for Molly Murn’s next book.

About the book: Pearl remembers Nell’s feet stretched towards the campfires on the beach, her fourth toe curled in and nestled against the middle toe like a small prawn. They all have a curled fourth toe – Diana, Lucy, Pearl.

When Pearl’s grandmother Nell dies unexpectedly, Pearl and her family – mother Diana, sister Lucy – return to Kangaroo Island to mourn and farewell her. Each of them knew Nell intimately but differently, and each woman must reckon with Nell’s passing in her own way. But Nell had secrets, too, and as Pearl, Diana and Lucy interrogate their feelings about the island, Pearl starts to pull together the scraps Nell left behind – her stories, poems, paintings – and unearths a connection to the island’s early history, of the early European sealers and their first contact with the Ngarrindjeri people.
As the three women are in grief pulled apart from each other, Pearl’s deepening connection to their history, the island’s history, grounds her, and will ultimately bring the women back to each other.
Heart of the Grass Tree is an exquisite, searing and hope-filled debut about mothers and daughters and family stories, about country and its living history.

 

 

Pre-release Book Review: Shadows Over Wongan Creek by Juanita Kees

This is the newest book in the Wongan Creek series by Juanita Kees and I have to say it was fabulous, this is definitely my favourite of the series, and I’ve enjoyed them all.

IMG_20190227_181354Back in Wongan Creek we meet Fenella, or Fen as she’s better known. Fen was such a great character, flawed but an amazingly strong person with a huge heart despite the trauma she’s endured in her past. Fen is definitely my favourite female character from this series. After an error in judgement about a guy she let into her life and her families business, Fen is being threatened and told to keep quiet. Showing her strength, Fen works with the police to try to catch the bad guys.

Kieran was Fen’s best friend, with a soul connection between them that has never been broken, only stretched. Arriving back in Wongan Creek and taking a job at Fen’s vineyard, their emotional connection is like a magnet drawing them together. Both have issues to deal with, pretty difficult ones, especially since Kieran now has a 4 year old son, Liam to think of. Liam is a gorgeous little character, recovering from his own trauma, your heart will go out to this broken little boy, who Kieran hopes will heal in the only place he’s ever really called home, surrounded by friends and a community that had his back when he was younger.

Lucky the bearded dragon, a rescue pet of Fen’s plays an important role in this story too, another interesting character.

This is a story about second chances, but also a story about love, forgiveness and trust.

Juanita has written a story that highlights and deals with past traumas and memories, ones remembered and ones repressed and how they can follow us through our lives, affecting the things that are most important to us. Fen has some serious trauma and repressed memories that she is going to have to face if she wants to be free and whole. She is lucky, she has an amazing support system in her adopted mother Liv, a beautiful person, and in Kieran who won’t let her deal with things by herself. Many people dealing with things like Fen is dealing with, don’t have that support network available to them.

There is plenty of suspense, criminal activity and threats happening in this story and plenty of twists, something Juanita is very good at putting into her stories. There is also plenty of heart, from the community who are there to support each other, and Harry who pops in with his little pearls of knowing, and Riggs, the town policeman does another great job of trying to get to the bottom of things, as well as keep Fen and her family safe.

I found it hard to put this book down and if it hadn’t been for having to sleep before work, I’d have read to whole thing in one sitting. I loved the characters in this story and I know Fen and Kieran will get their HEA.

Thanks to NetGalley and Escape Publishing for a digital copy in return for an honest review. 

Releases 4th March

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HarperCollins

Release Day Book Review: Sunshine by Kim Kelly

Those of you who know me know that I’m a pretty fast reader, but this was one book that made me slow down so that I could savour every line. Kim Kelly always manages to write in such a beautiful way so as to touch you deep inside. I have just finished reading Sunshine for the second time in a month, as I felt I needed to absorb the writing and the story again, I know it will be one of those rare books I come back to over and over. I highlighted so many passages throughout this short novel because Kim Kelly’s words conveyed so much.

img_20190121_065430We meet Jack, Snow and Grace along with Art, these four damaged and lost souls all trying  to rediscover life after physically surviving the war. Sunshine is the place they choose to make their new start, it is the place that draws them together, though Sunshine itself is as much a character in the story as it is a place.

The earth deepened all its colours, all its own pleasure, the reds of the earth redder, the greens of the scrabbly grass greener and spreading across the land like hands seeking hands, and in every puddle stood flowers of a kind she’d never seen before: white globes atop tall, slender stems, their petals unfurling like feathery suns. 

It’s not just Sunshine itself that binds these four people it is their ability to see into each other and realise that they are each connected by the war, by the atrocities they have seen and experienced, by the damage that has been done to them deep inside.

Yes, horror was everywhere, injustice was everywhere, the whole globe over, but, thought Grace, new life is here. New life in this most ancient of lands.

Sunshine has been divided up into lots for the Soldiers Settlement Plan, for returned men. Except for Jack, Jack’s story is one that many aboriginal people suffered through, he returned from fighting a war in the Light Horse in Palestine, but on return that sacrifice is not acknowledged, nor is he entitled to any of the opportunities given white returning soldiers. The unfairness and discriminatory nature of the way Aboriginal people were (and are) treated makes me so angry and heartbroken.

‘Aborigines are controlled by the state,’ her husband explained further and more dreadfully. ‘They don’t get a say in these sorts of things. Or anything, really. They’re told where to live, where to go, what to do.’

Snow is a broken man, he’s barely surviving and is hopeful that Sunshine and his plan to grow citrus trees will help him live again. He’s a loner who doesn’t have much to say to anyone and doesn’t want to be close to anyone again, including his horse, because with relationships comes loss.

And Snow could only reply, ‘Yep,’ for that word comprised approximately half of his spoken vocabulary – the other half consisting of its opposite, Nah.

Grace and Art, what a strange but wonderful couple they are, especially Grace, who has so much joy and hope that it seems to spill from her. They are full of dreams and hopes whilst both trying to survive the fallout from the war.

she should have known he wasn’t recovered. He would never recover. And that was all right. They would live life their way, as it came, and in gratitude that they had lives to be getting on with. She’d go anywhere with him or for him. She’d go to the moon.

This cast of four unlikely people come together and form friendships of different sorts in an unlikely place that might help them find themselves and start them on their journey towards the future.

Perhaps it wasn’t the most ideal time to bring a child into the world– a world too wounded in every way. A crippled world, a mangled world, a world that would never, ever be the same. But looking out across this bloom-strewn field towards the river, this world seemed nothing less than perfect.

I loved this novel, I highly recommend it and wish I could do it justice in my review. These four characters and Sunshine will stay with me for a long time.

 

About the book: A tale of longing, loss and growing love under the bright Australian sun.

It’s 1921 and the Great War has left in its wake untold tragedy, not only in lives lost, but in the guilt of survivors, the deep-set scars of old wounds and the sting of redoubled bigotries.

In the tiny hamlet of Sunshine, on the far-flung desert’s edge, three very different ex-servicemen – Jack Bell, an Aboriginal horseman; Snow McGlynn, a laconic, curmudgeonly farmer; and Art Lovelee, an eccentric engineer – find themselves sharing a finger of farmland along the Darling River, and not much else. That is, until Art’s wife Grace, a battle-hardened nurse, gets to work on them all with her no-nonsense wisdom.

Told with Kim Kelly’s inimitable wit and warmth, Sunshine is a very Australian tale of home, hope and healing, of the power of growing life and love, and discovering that we are each other’s greatest gifts.

 

 

Book Review: The Secrets Mothers Keep by Jacquie Underdown

I have read Jacquie’s Brothers of the Vine series, a rural romance series that I thoroughly enjoyed. When I heard she was branching out into something different, I preordered it straight away.

IMG_20190208_193045Each chapter is focused on one of the 5 main female characters, all family members, all drawn together to renovate the family Manor in Tasmania and turn it into a B&B. Each returns to undertake this endeavour for their own reasons, and each has secrets, some more life changing than others.

These characters were all so different, Mary the matriarch of the family has a closed off manner. June, Mary and Grace’s sister has to be my favourite of the sisters. When we meet her, she’s a little bit magical and has a hippie like way about her that completely resonated with me, I hope I’m just like her when I’m older. Grace has recently lost her husband and has discovered a secret he’d been keeping, when we first meet her, she’s a little lost and feels like her life has been a lie. Lily-Rose, Mary’s daughter is an actress and has split from her husband due to an affair and also feels completely lost. Pia, Lily-Rose’s daughter finds out her boyfriend is an asshole and leaves the US to be back with her family.

As you can imagine, once these family members converge on the manor and begin living with each other, secrets are bound to become a little less secret. I did figure out one of the secrets, but there were a couple that completely blindsighted me and one left my jaw hanging open in disbelief.

You get little snippets of Mary and June’s past now and again as chapters throughout the book, and this is how a couple of the secrets are slowly revealed.

Luca, ahhh lovely Luca, what I wouldn’t give for a Luca hmmm. OK, enough of that, you get the idea, he’s gorgeous, both to look at according to Pia and June especially, and as a person. Luca is the builder employed to renovate the manor and turn it into a B&B. The chemistry between Luca and Pia is immediate, though Pia is keeping a secret of her own that may or may not ruin her chances with Luca. Luca provides another plot twist I didn’t see coming.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book of Secrets which was full of turbulent relationships and interesting characters and dilemmas.

4.5⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the book: One Family. Three generations. A common goal to unite them. A lifetime of secrets to divide them. But could uncovering the truth be the only way that this family can finally heal?

Three generations of women find their way back home to Tasmania. They embark on a project together to renovate the family manor and convert it into a bed and breakfast.

After a tumultuous life of pain and betrayal, Mary swore she’d never let anyone hurt her or her family again. But in order to keep her word, she has to guard a secret she swore to keep fifty years earlier.

But with the family now under the one roof, and the past tampered with, the foundations of this secret are shaken.

Mary always believed that hiding the truth was protecting the family, but when all is exposed, she finds that by keeping her secret, she was the one hurting them all.