New Release Book Review: Digging Up Dirt by Pamela Hart

IMG_20210606_201243.jpgI thoroughly enjoyed this cosy mystery type novel, not a genre I read a lot of, I have a few favourite authors in this genre, so it was nice to add a new one to that list.

I enjoyed Poppy McGowan’s character, I liked that she didn’t have it all together and wasn’t perfect, I loved that she felt strongly about different topics and wasn’t afraid to stand up for those beliefs.

Poppy was a fun character who most people liked, but she wasn’t bothered if they didn’t, she was who she was even when being investigated for murder by the police.

There was a full cast of characters in this novel, Poppy and her crew from the ABC, her friend Annie and her ex-coworkers from the museum, including Julieanne who is found dead in her house, the members of the Australian Family Party (a party I wouldn’t vote for if you paid me, and I’m glad Poppy felt the same way), and the members of the Radiant Joy Church, (another group of people I’d have no time for), who overlap with those from the political party, (I think religion should never play a part in politics, but that will never happen).

There was plenty of humour, a dash of romance and plenty of mystery once Julieanne’s body is found in Poppy’s house. I felt for Poppy when first some old bones put her renovation of hold and then Julieanne’s death compounds that, but I liked how even though she was unhappy, she took it pretty much in her stride while doing her best to help track down the murderer and managing to get some insider scoops for the ABC on her way.

This was a fun read, which kept me completely engaged, I had my suspicions about who the murderer was, but I wasn’t 100% correct. There are a few topical issues raised along the way and I appreciated Poppy’s thought’s on these. I look forward to more Poppy McGowan mysteries in the future.

Thanks to Harlequin Australia for a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

New Release Book Review: The Polly Principle by Davina Stone

The Polly PrincipleIn the second book in this series by Davina Stone, we get to meet Polly properly and learn all her quirks and hangups about life and love. Love it seems is only for other people, not for her, definitely not for her, of this, she makes it abundantly clear.

When Polly meets Solo at a wedding, a quick one night is all she is wanting, but things don’t go to plan and Polly’s world begins to be turned upside down, forcing her to feel things she doesn’t want to feel, and Polly is awfully good at denial.

I really liked Solo, and I actually felt very sorry for him when it came to his relationship, or lack thereof with Polly, due to her hangups about love, she really treats him quite badly and I don’t know that I’d have stuck around the way he did if someone blew that hot and cold with me. Obviously, he saw deep inside just what Polly was trying to hide and his feelings towards her were very strong.

Solo comes with his own issues and a past that he too needs to deal with, oh this story is a complicated web of feelings for our main characters.

Polly’s family, especially her father, plays a big part in what has shaped Polly into being who she is and how she is and with her dad’s 70th birthday coming up, we get to find out more about her past.

Polly also has a complicated relationship with her body, and on this, I can completely empathise with her. Polly has beautiful curves, but she doesn’t see them, and constantly wants to change how she looks, while self-sabotaging that at the same time. Oh, Polly, my heart was with you on this one.

This was a novel of self-discovery, for both Polly and Solo, a story of healing for them also, and for Polly’s dad Ted. A really enjoyable novel, I’m looking forward to book 3 where we get to see if Carts, Polly’s friend and Solo’s housemate finds true love.

AWW 2021

New Release Book Review: Second Chance Lane by Nicola Marsh

Second Chance LaneA story of mistakes, secrets and second chances in a small town.

When is it right to make a life-changing decision for another person? This is the situation that Tash finds herself in when she discovers herself pregnant by her up-and-coming successful musician boyfriend Kody. It is a decision that has consequences years down the track not only for herself but her daughter Isla and her ex Kody when their lives are thrown back together 13 years later.

Secrets and lies, once unearthed can cause a myriad of pain and problems. I felt that Isla handled the whole finding out who her dad was remarkably well, I certainly don’t think many 13 year-olds would take it in their stride as she did. Kody on the other hand, whilst thrilled at finding out he has a daughter is furious at not knowing and missing out on 13 years of his daughter’s life but also wracked with guilt about the fact he may well never have had his career if he had known.

Kody has come to town to hide and is dealing with his own trauma before this secret is thrown on him. This was a story of healing, of coming to terms with unexpected situations and of forgiveness, for self and for others.

I thought this was an enjoyable rural romance and I loved the characters in this novel, I must go back and read book one Long Way Home so as I can read Ruby and Connor’s story. The supporting cast were really great friends to Tash and she was lucky to have had their support for the past 13 years.

It is not only Tash, Kody and Isla’s story though, it is also Jane’s story and hers is a sadder story. One of the popular girls in high school, she made a name for herself as selfish and nasty in many people’s eyes, she has a truly horrible mother, who even after finding out why she was as she was, didn’t make me like her anymore. Jane is realising that the life she has led since high school is not one conducive to happiness and she decides it’s time to make some changes. At the same time, she bumps into a guy she was at odds with back in high school and they now need to work together and navigate a potential attraction. I grew to like Jane more as the story progressed as she tried to make up for the things she had done in the past.

I liked both of the story arcs in this novel they are tackle everyday issues and realities that many face and I enjoyed seeing them all grow and change and learn from past mistakes.

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

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New Release Book Review: An Unusual Boy by Fiona Higgins

An unusual boy

I went into this novel not knowing much about it and found that it was a fabulous read, I do like it when you stumble upon a great and original read. It was a novel full of heart, of differences, of family and friends, a story with a warning about online gaming and lack of supervision of our children.

This is a novel about an atypical ‘neurodiverse’ 11-year old boy, Jackson, and his atypical family and an incident that turns their lives upside down. I found it hard to put this down. My heart was in my throat several times throughout when the incidents with his ‘friend’ Digby occurred and when he has to deal with the policewoman. Fiona has done a wonderful job of portraying these characters, especially Jackson, who I fell in love with from the start. What a wonderful young boy, but I could see and understand the toll it took on his parents at times, trying to understand his differences. I loved learning about the way Jackson’s mind worked and how this leads to some of the traumatic things that happened to him in this novel. I work with people with special needs and it is always good to get an insight into some of the issues they may have.

Jackson’s sisters, Milla and Ruby, were both amazing the way they were with him and I loved his younger sister who came out with some great comments. His dad Andy, didn’t know how to deal with him, which I found sad, but understandable, while his mum Julia, did everything she could to try and understand and work with his behaviours. I thought the way the relationship with Nana Pam changed between herself and Julia was really lovely and just shows you that when your chips are down, it can often be the people you least expect who have your back. There are a couple of secondary characters who were a wonderful support to Jackson and his family, but there were also characters in the background who because of Jackson’s differences, jumped to conclusions and made things worse for them.

This was an emotional read and a powerful one. I highly recommend this novel if you are looking for a heartwarming read dealing with some important issues.

Thanks to NetGalley and Boldwood Books for providing me with a digital copy in return for an honest review.

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New Release Book Review: Keeper of the Light by Leanne Lovegrove

Isn’t it funny, that even when you know a novel is going to have a happy ending, you can get to parts in the story that make you scared to read any further in case something bad happens and things don’t work out.

There were several moments during this novel where I held my breath and didn’t want to read any further, there was even one part where I had to skip ahead to make sure things would be OK, something I very very rarely do. But Leanne Lovegrove certainly had me on edge for quite a bit of this story.

I just loved Luca, the young Italian man who gets washed up on Bruny Island and awakens young and naive Esther to what love is. From the moment they meet, their lives are bound forever, but oh my God, what a journey they had, Esther especially, making it to forever.

I detested Esther’s mother and my feelings for her sister Margaret were nearly as strong. Both were horrible characters who had no redeeming features at all and I was disappointed that they didn’t get what they deserved. They disappointed Esther as well, but she was better off with them out of her life.

There were some great supporting cast members in this novel, especially the friends that Luca made in Hobart. There were also some not so likeable supporting cast members and I just can’t fathom how people can become as nasty as they do.

Racism is one theme that runs through this novel, from the outright blatant kind to the more subtle but just as insidious kind. In this case, it was racism against the Italian people who came over to forge a new life for themselves. It seems like racism is one thing that will never die, it will just shift from race to religion to anything else that makes people uncomfortable, some people will always find reasons to hate people who are different to them.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read, despite the fact I couldn’t relax for half the novel because I was so worried Luca and Esther wouldn’t get their happy ever after.

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

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New Release Book Review: A Letter for Rosie by Kelly Cameron

A Letter for RosieThis three-generational tale crossing three timelines and coming together beautifully is a story of family and survival on the land.

Starting in 1902 and ending in 2016, we meet Edward & Irene, Nancy & Frank, Samuel & Laine, and finally Chad & Rose. Four couples and three generations working hard to make a living on Buttai, the family farm.

I have to say I found it a little confusing to start with, keeping all the characters and the years clear in my head, but as I kept reading, I needed to flick back less and less to remember where everyone fit in.

There are a few tragedies a relative you’d rather forget, the struggles of motherhood, the struggle to make ends meet, and the joys of family. I really loved Edward as the spirit only a few could see.  

Kelly Cameron does a good job of weaving together the different threads of this story, she brings in the need for family and community and the necessity of the rural firefighters in this often harsh country of ours. The characters were relatable, though I got a bit annoyed with Rose and her decision to keep the financial struggles to herself and not share the burden with Chad. And then when a threat is made, she keeps that to herself too, I wanted to shake her.

Being able to keep a farm going that has been in the family for generations like Buttai, would be a wonderful thing as well as a burden I imagine, especially in the present day. I take my hat off to all the farmers out there doing it tough for the love of the land.

Thanks to the author and Booksprout for a digital copy in return for an honest review.

 

 

20Backlistin2020: Book Review: Devil’s Lair by Sarah Barrie

Devils LairThis book has been sitting on both my shelf and my kindle for over a year and after reading Sarah Barrie’s newest book Deadman’s Track, I was keen to finally get this one read.

This was an absolutely brilliant romantic suspense novel. Once again set in Tasmania, we get to meet the characters from Bloodtree River and Deadman’s Track again and this time it is Connor’s turn to find happiness. After what he went through in Bloodtree River, he is understandably in two minds about starting anything new. When he meets Callie, who is trying to fly under the radar after her own traumatic experiences, he finds it hard to stay away from her.

This novel had me reading well into the middle of the night, there was plenty of tension, secrets, and ritualistic murders, alongside romance, new friendships, and new beginnings.

There were so many twists and turns in this story that I just did not see coming, every time I thought I had things figured out, I would have that theory pulled out from under me.

Callie was a very strong character, for someone who had been through what she’d been through, losing her husband in a violent incident and a lengthy court case, the fact she came through it as sane as she did amplified that strength.

The cottage and house that Callie stays in thanks to her friend Paisley’s help, is both beautiful and very creepy, I don’t think I could have stayed there.

The character that creeped me out the most was Paisley’s brother Ned, talk about stalkerish and crazy, I’d have had a restraining order out on him from the start no matter how harmless people were telling me he was. There was something seriously wrong with Ned from the beginning and he was just one of the spine-chilling aspects of the story.

I loved the romance that blossomed between Connor and Callie and their relationship made me smile plenty even when they were having their disagreements.

This novel also deals with the important issue of mental health issues and how support or lack of support can affect people who suffer with these illnesses.

I highly recommend this novel and though it can easily be read as a standalone, I recommend reading them in order: Bloodtree River, Devil’s Lair, Deadman’s Track.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

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New Release Book Review: Blazing Fear by Leisl Leighton

Blazing FearThe second book in the CoalCliff Stud series, book #1 Climbing Fear was a great introduction to the CoalCliff Stud and the extended family that live there, I enjoyed returning to CoalCliff Stud and it’s cast of characters along with some new ones including the new doctor in town Prita and her adopted son Carter.

Prita is a tough and capable doctor who is starting a new life in town whilst hiding from some personal issues she doesn’t want to deal with. She is being threatened and she thinks she knows who the culprits are, but when things escalate she has to start taking the threats more seriously.

Flynn from out at CoalCliff Stud lost his wife a few years before in a fire and is determined not to get emotionally entangled again. Unfortunately, his connection with Prita is stronger than his determination to stay away from her. I really liked the connection that was between Prita and Flynn and I liked the fact that when push came to shove they weren’t able to fight it.

As the secrets Prita has been running from catch up with her, they really highlighted the difference in the way people perceive things and how with communication, so many misunderstandings could be avoided. They also showed what a giving person Prita was and the sacrifices she had made for others. I liked that she was realising that it was time to focus on what she needed and wanted.

I really enjoy the friendships and family connections that this series contains and the way everyone is there to help when needed. There is definitely something to be said for small-town communities. There is plenty of suspense in this novel and while I thought I knew who one of the bad guys was, I wasn’t completely sure until the end.

Another great read in this series and I really hope there is more to come in this series.

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

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New Release Book Review: The Octopus and I by Erin Hortle

IMG_20200616_120841I’ve had a lot of trouble reading recently due to some stressful things going on, but on Monday it was all over, and although there are other stresses now to deal with, the big one which has been taking all my energy and brainpower is now finished and I was hopeful I might be able to pick up a book and also catch up on some reviews. I have been going for light romances to try and keep my mind off of everything, but on Tuesday I thought I’d try something different. Thanks to Allen & Unwin, I had a copy of The Octopus and I waiting to be read and I think its serious nature and beautiful language and metaphors, was just what I needed.

I became totally absorbed in this novel, I could feel and empathise with all the tumultuous feelings that Lucy, the main character was feeling and dealing with. Lucy has survived breast cancer, with her ‘fake’ new breasts, she feels she has lost who she is and what her body means to her now. While I thankfully haven’t had to deal with this myself, I could still understand and empathise with Lucy and her struggle to love her body again. 

I really slowed down to read this novel, it was beautifully written and the octopuses and the other sea life that play a part in telling the story were at times touching and beautiful and at other times quite violent and disturbing. There was one chapter about a seal that I found particularly hard to read.

I have a friend who had her breasts removed due to breast cancer and went down the same road is Lucy in choosing to cover the scars and skin with tattoos, I could imagine how Lucy felt as the tattoo emerged and she dealt with the changes that were going on both on the outside and on the inside as she allowed herself to heal.

There is a small cast of characters, Flo, Harry and Jeb, who play important roles in Lucy’s life after her breast cancer and then after an accident she has whilst trying to save a pregnant octopus. Flo, an older lady who she connects with initially over catching octopuses, becomes such an important support system for Lucy and she learns many lessons through the interactions she has with her. Life can be confusing and people can be enigmas and difficult to understand. Lucy’s relationship with Jeb is like this and as Lucy struggles to understand herself, her relationship with Jeb suffers and she has to take a good look at the both of them. Harry, Flo’s son is a quiet character who really ‘gets’ Lucy, he really sees who she is and seems to understand the journey she is on. I really liked Harry and the part he played in Lucy’s journey of self discovery.

A heartfelt and emotional read, it was exactly what I was looking for.

 

New Release Book Review: The Cake Maker’s Wish by Josephine Moon

IMG_20200531_120111I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump recently, flitting from one book to another without really being pulled into any of them. The Cake Maker’s Wish however ended that slump, hopefully for good. I had two extremely late nights reading this novel, I did not want to put it down, but sleep was calling at 2am.

Though I have a few Josephine Moon books on my bookshelves, I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet, but after this one, I’ll be making time to catch up on them.

I was pulled into Olivia and her son Darcy’s life as they arrive in the small village of Stoneden in the Cotswolds after leaving Tasmania for a new start as part of a Renaissance Project to bring life back to the dying village. What a massive step for her to have taken, to move to the other side of the world with her young son, knowing no one and not knowing if the project will work out, I thought Olivia was very brave to do this. But after her grandmother’s death, she needs a fresh start and an extra incentive is her son’s father, who lives in Norway. These two have never met and their whole relationship is based around skype videos, this is the chance for them to hopefully forge some kind of real relationship.

There are quite a few wonderful characters who have also moved to Stoneden for this project, all for different reasons and most having a past link to the village. For Olivia it is her grandmother who grew up there and then moved to Australia. Olivia would love to find out more about her life, but there are plenty of secrets in Stoneden and they won’t be shared easily.

Not everyone is happy about the newcomers to the village, for various reasons, and some make this felt more than others. There are some very underhanded events that occur to the newcomers’ businesses, making them feel unwelcome and even scared. I really felt for these people who are only trying to make a new start and help the village become alive again.

Olivia and Darcy make some wonderful friends, as well as there being a potential love interest in a dairy farmer. There’s also complications that arise with Darcy’s dad.

There’s so much to love about this novel, from misunderstandings about cake ownership, to stolen apples, friendship and secrets, hope for the future, and holding on to the past, this novel has it all.

Thanks to Better Reading Preview and Penguin Michael Joseph for my cpy of this book in return for an honest review.

#AWW2020