Book Review: Making Her Mark by Renee Dahlia

making her markI read Merindah Park (Book 1 Merindah Park) back in April and really enjoyed it, so I was keen to revisit the Bassett family and the world of horseracing. Book 2 Making Her Mark is Rachel’s story, Rachel is a female jockey who has to fight for every ride due to ongoing sexism within the racing industry. This is an industry where things are improving and as Renee explains, one of the few where male and female riders are considered equal on the field, just not always with owners and trainers.

Rachel has many emotional issues to deal with throughout this novel, some present issues and some from when she was 16 back in her hometown that she’s never really dealt with, but to move forward, she will have to do just that. Rachel’s sexuality is part of the issue she has never dealt with, and while she completely accepts who she is now, there’s part of her that can’t get over the way she was treated as a teenager by small-town minds.

Rachel reconnects with an old school friend Allira and her brother Jacob, and the sparks fly between Rachel and Jacob immediately. Jacob is an AFL player who is hot, strong and stubborn. Both fight the connection they feel towards each other until they can’t fight it anymore. It is definitely not a smooth journey to happiness for these two and there are plenty of ups, downs, misunderstandings, and changing of minds (especially on Rachel’s part). The journey may not be smooth, but it is most definitely hot and steamy.

There is an element of intrigue in this storyline with a potential punting scheme that Jacob asks Rachel to look into on behalf of his teammates. Once again Renee Dahlia does a great job of educating me about the ins and outs of the horse racing industry and I have great respect for the work that jockey’s put into their career.

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

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Book Review: The Blue Mile by Kim Kelly

When I first read this novel two years ago, it was not my normal choice of reading, but after reading Black Diamonds by Kim Kelly and loving it, I just had to read another Kim Kelly book. This had me up until 2 am 3 nights in a row, just one more chapter and 4 hours later with the words blurring I was reluctantly putting it down.

The Blue MileAs part of my driving ritual, I decided to try the audio version of The Blue Mile after enjoying the audio version of This Red Earth, I was keen to hear this story. The narrators were good, Eoghan’s narrator was perfect, while Olivia’s not so perfect, for me anyway, because having already read it, I had a certain voice for her in my head; I grew used to the narrator though and enjoyed the reading of this novel.

Olivia, Eoghan (Yo), and Agnes were such wonderful characters. I loved little Agnes’ ability to see magic all around her. I love the descriptive way that Kim uses to describe the people and the places in her novels. The use of clothing and clothing design was a new take on things for me and I really enjoyed it, they were like a character all by themselves. The secondary characters were also wonderfully portrayed, some were wonderful people, some not so wonderful, all necessary to the telling of this tale. 

Set in 1929 in Sydney during the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Great Depression. I learnt much about the history of the building of The Sydney Harbour Bridge (I’m glad I didn’t have to work up there, I’d have been terrified, mind you Eoghan wasn’t exactly thrilled either) and the politics at that time were also very interesting, I learnt a lot about the labour laws of the time. I love learning about the history of our country and getting an insight into how people got by. The unemployment situation then was just terrible and the violence that occurred would have been extremely terrifying to have been witness to. 

This second ‘reading’ of The Blue Mile was just as enjoyable as the first and I loved meeting these characters for a second time.

A fabulous story I can’t wait to read or listen to another Kim Kelly novel

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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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Book Review: Dear Banjo by Sasha Wasley

I absolutely loved this novel, this was my second time reading it and it was just as enjoyable as the first time I read it just over 2 years ago. The first in the Daughters of the Outback series, this is a fabulous introduction to the Paterson family, Willow, Free, and Beth, along with their dad Barry. We are also introduced to Tom Forrest and his family along with the farming properties they live for in the heart of the Kimberley.

IMG_20191004_191752My second read of this novel was fraught with stress. You’d think the fact I’ve already read it and know how it all ends, that it would have been an easy read. But no! Because I knew how absolutely awful one character was, it caused me no end of anxiety. I wanted to yell at Banjo (Willow) and say ‘beware, don’t trust him one little teeny tiny bit!’ Alas, she just wouldn’t listen and I just had to keep reading.

Dear Banjo is so much more than a romance, it explores many aspects of friendship and family, grief and how it impacts those affected for way longer than we’d imagine.

It explores many aspects of farming, especially ethical and sustainable farming, delving into the changes needed to take a farm to organic certification and ways to help protect the environment. I found these things most interesting.

I loved the dynamics between all the characters; I loved all of the characters except for Hegney the assistant manager who had no likeable qualities whatsoever after his initial introduction. Hegney is the epitome of all that needs to change in men’s attitudes especially towards women and those they deem less than them. Working on the mines for 13 years I came across many men like Hegney, but luckily there are many more men who aren’t like him.

I really loved how Willow grew throughout the story, both as the boss at Paterson Downs and in her relationships with her family, friends and of course with Tom. I appreciated the intrigue that ran through the story and the many dynamics of relationships throughout the story. I thoroughly enjoyed the relationship between Willow and Tom and though I knew the ending from the first read, I had completely forgotten the details of how they got there, and it was definitely a journey for them both.

I highly recommend this great book and now I’m about to start book 2 True Blue which is Willow’s sister Free’s story.

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Book Bingo Round 20

I’m a bit late with my book Bingo post this fortnight as I was away down at Margaret River from last Wednesday at a creativity retreat and was sick for nearly a week before that so I wasn’t able to plan ahead. Slack I know, but these things happen.

So this fortnight I chose the square Themes of Culture. And I picked the book The Kabul Peace House by Mark Isaacs. This is a story of hope and resilience in Afghanistan, a country constantly under siege from within and without.

This was an eye opening read which caused many emotions from sadness, anger, joy, hope, disbelief and much more. One man trying to make a difference, to bring about peace through drawing together young people from the different Afghan ethnic groups and having them work and live together, to recognise their sameness rather than their differences. It is written wih a mix of observations, dialogues with many of the young people and Insaan, the man making this possible, along with facts and figures that really make you wonder what our world is coming to.

Until next fortnight (I will be on time next time) happy reading.

New Release Book Review: Autumn at Blaxland Falls by Eliza Bennetts

Screenshot_20190904_212659After reading Summer at Urchin’s Bluff and absolutely loving it, I jumped at the chance to read Autumn at Blaxland Falls. And how glad I am that I did, it was another wonderful read. Eliza Bennetts focuses on slightly older characters, women and men in their 40’s, single mums who are making a life for themselves and their child, who are learning who they are, what they want and how strong they can be when they need to be.

I loved meeting Jo and her daughter Sasha who have travelled from Urchin’s Bluff to Jo’s home town Blaxland Falls, a town she never wanted to return to, because of a job offer too good to pass up. Jo is a strong character, she’s completely relatable in that she’s strong because she’s had to be, she’s struggling with some huge traumatic secrets that have driven her for the last 16 years.

We meet Christian, who I initially couldn’t take to, a millionaire property tycoon who owns the lodge Jo is working at. But it wasn’t long before I could see he was just a man struggling with his own issues and dramas and I fell for him as hard as Jo.

Sasha was a great kid, well-grounded with all the normal teenage issues that go with moving to a new place and she is also going to have a lot to deal with throughout this story.

Jo’s mum is quite a character and not at all likeable to me to start with, but she was a character that grew on me and by the end, I thought she was great.

I loved Jo’s best friend Dee who helped Jo get the job and has been Jo’s rock throughout the years. I really related to Dee, 40 and single, with no kids, her job is her big focus, maybe not because she chose it to be that way, but because that’s the way the dice rolled.

Now we have Blake, a highly unlikeable character, Jo’s ex and the reason she left Blaxland Falls years before. Man, this guy should have been thrown off the falls. You can only hope as you read that he gets what he deserves.

This was a great read, I didn’t want to put it down because I became so caught up in the lives of these characters. A story of family, friendship, love and being true to yourself. The next book will be Dee’s story, and I can’t wait.

Thanks to the author for providing me with a digital copy of this book 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

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