New Release Book Review – Last Bridge Before Home by Lily Malone

Last BridgeI loved the first two books in the Chalk Hill series, Water Under the Bridge and The Cafe by the Bridge and have been looking forward to Last Bridge Before Home. It certainly didn’t disappoint. Where The Cafe by the Bridge highlighted male depression and the need to ask for help, Last Bridge Before Home deals with another topical issue, domestic abuse.

Jaydah for all she comes across as a strong young woman is also an insecure young woman who has been physically and mentally abused for most of her life by her father who is an absolute bastard. It’s not just Jaydah who has been a victim to this vile excuse of a man, but also her mother and her sister Jasmine. Much of Jaydah’s life has been spent protecting them from her father and taking on responsibility for keeping them all safe. I can’t imagine living like Jaydah, being so afraid to tell anyone what is going on, keeping so many secrets all to herself, huge secrets that no one in the town of Chalk Hill has any idea about.

But is that really true? Well, one secret yes, but most people in Chalk Hill had an inkling that things weren’t exactly right with Jaydah’s father, but no one wanted to step up and ask questions, then afterwards they say ‘why didn’t you say something, why didn’t you tell us?’ way to pass the blame to the victim. This happens in real life all too often, no one wants to take responsibility for what might be going on behind closed doors, maybe we should start looking out for each other and asking the hard questions ‘Do you need help? Can I do anything? Is everything all right?’. Be there and let the people/person in question know that when they are ready, you are there, no judgement, just support.

Brix, what a lovely, loyal guy he was, and no pun intended, but what a ‘brick’ of a character he was. Jaydah has always been the love of his life and he has never given up hope that one day she will be his. Jaydah has kept her secrets even from Brix who thought he knew everything about her. I’m not sure how I would have coped if I found out all of my partners secrets and had to deal with all the issues that Brix does, but the way he took it all in his stride despite his worries about how he would deal with everything was fabulous and truly showed his love for Jaydah.

Another issue that Lily Malone deals with in this novel is the aspect of caring for someone with an intellectual disability and all it entails. She also delves into the dreams of people with a disability and what they can realistically expect when it comes to freedom of choice and their future. This is a hard topic as anyone who cares for or works with a person with disabilities can attest to. I work with people with disabilities and I can’t imagine what it would be like to have the responsibility for a person day in, day out, to make the hard choices, to explain why they can’t have everything they see others around them having. Dealing with the behaviours of people with intellectual disabilities is challenging and Lily Malone has done a great job with both her character portrayal and showing the good and the bad of living with such a challenge.

There were many tense moments in this novel, there were heartbreaking moments, moments of joy, moments I wanted to take one of Jaydah’s kali sticks and whack her father across the head for her, there were ups and downs and many wonderful moments threaded through this novel making it an absolute joy to read despite its darkness.

I hope we get to visit Chalk Hill again and see how the three brothers and their partners are going, along with their extended families.

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

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New Release book Review: The Good Woman of Renmark by Darry Fraser

IMG_20191113_183424Within the first couple of pages, Darry Fraser managed to transport me, once again, to another time and place, and there I stayed for the whole novel. It is 1895 in Renmark, South Australia, and a tough young woman has just defended herself and her friend from a rapist. Fearing repercussion she is now on the run for her life and her freedom.

What a time to live in, where women have a lot fewer rights than men and a man’s word will always mean more than that of a woman’s. Maggie doesn’t think this is fair at all and refuses to live her life being a slave to a man and popping out babies (I so agree with her!).

I really liked Maggie, she was stubborn, tough, opinionated and determined, all things women in that time, and this need to get by (though at times she was too stubborn). I loved Sam, talk about loyal, what a fabulous friend to have in times like this. Sam was so in love with Maggie, throughout I just kept hoping Maggie would see that Sam wasn’t the kind of guy to make her give up her independence and give in to her feelings for him.

This was a great journey down the Murray River, seeing how others in that time lived and struggled to make ends meet. The horrible characters from Renmark, it turns out there is one more than we originally think, are not nice people at all, not in behaviour or morally and there were moments I wished that Maggie had truly finished the job she started when she defended herself and her friend.

This was another great read by Darry Fraser and I truly love being transported to the late 1800s in her writing, I also am truly glad I don’t live in those times.

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

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New Release Book Review: Up On Horseshoe Hill by Penelope Janu

IMG_20191105_105502Oh, how I do love reading a novel by Penelope Janu, it’s always an absolute pleasure and I find them hard to put down. Up On Horseshoe Hill is no exception, I read until the early hours of the morning and picked it up again as soon as I was awake.

I fell in love with Finn our leading man straight away (I seem to fall in love with all the leading men in Penelope Janu’s novels), he was lovely.

Tasked with investigating the deaths of several horses a few years before, Finn is determined to do his job, in doing so, he brings up memories better forgotten by Jet/Jemima, as well as a few other people who would like the investigation dropped. It becomes obvious that a potential crime may have been committed and this leads to danger for Jet.

Finn and Jet had a connection straight up, but the relationship that develops took its time as Jet has to learn to trust as well as realise Finn isn’t going to let his investigation go.

I really enjoyed the aspect of Jet’s job that allowed her to take her horses for children with disabilities to ride, working with people with disabilities and also being an art therapist, I know how wonderfully beneficial these beautiful animals are to healing and confidence.

I learnt a lot about what being a farrier involves and loved the zoo aspect of this story, I never realised how much you would need to know about various animals behaviour to work in this field. I also love the fact that Penelope Janu shows that despite the fact Jet has a learning disability, she is successful in her career choice, that there are always ways to work around things that could hold us back.

There was plenty to enjoy in this novel, family relationships, or lack thereof, friendship, romance, danger and mystery, small-town community and so much more. I also liked the way Ms Janu brings a much-loved character of mine from her previous novels into this story, Nate is an absolute honey that I have been hoping will find his own love of his life, alas I’ve been informed it won’t be happening just yet, but he will make more appearances in future books.

Up On Horseshoe Hill is out on the 18th November 2019, preorder your copy now, or rush out and buy it in 4 days time, it would make a great Christmas present.

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

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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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New Release Book Review: Undara by Annie Seaton

Screenshot_20190815_194529Undara by Annie Seaton was something different from this author and a really great read. A dual timeline read based around a phenomenon called the Undara Lava Tubes which are in Queensland and which I had never heard of before this novel. They are fascinating and I have added these to my list of places I want to see.

This novel is full of mystery, friendship, grief, healing, misunderstandings, crime, family drama and the land. The tubes are as much a character as the people. One of the main mysteries which will be solved dates back 100 years and involves the disappearance of 2 children. This is a rather heartbreaking mystery.

Emlyn arrives at Hidden Valley to set up for her team to research and explore the Undara Lava Tubes, she is struggling with grief and guilt and the breakdown of her marriage. Travis who owns the land, is a struggling farmer with family dramas of his own and has only allowed the research team on his land because of the money they are willing to pay, he is not happy about them being there.

These two characters go through a lot of emotional changes through working with each other, they form a friendship that will help them both to heal. They will also set in motion events that are totally unexpected and that will lead to danger for Emlyn and big repercussions for everyone.

The exploration of the lava tubes in search of insect life was fascinating, Annie Seaton has done some incredible research into this phenomenon and it shows in the details that she includes in the story.

The land of Hidden Valley is in itself a character, the descriptions of this often barren landscape due to lack of rain were so well written, I could easily see the place as if I were there. Annie delves into the struggles farmers are facing in these uncertain times as well as the greed of mining companies just out to make a dollar.

There is a lot going on in this novel and it all ties together extremely well, leading to a book that was hard to put down.

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

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Book Bingo Round 13 and New Release Book Review: The Postmistress by Alison Stuart

IMG_20190606_200715This week I mark off another square on my Bingo sheet. I’ve picked Historical for this fortnight’s square and chose new release novel  The Postmistress by Alison Stuart for this square.

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A historical fiction novel set in the harsh Australian outback and gold mining town in 1871.

In a small struggling mining town we meet Adelaide 10 years on from the Prologue where she is making a life for herself and her son. For me, Adelaide came across as older than she was, this would be because she’d had to eke out a living for her and her son and her friend Betty, who I loved. She portrayed herself as a widow so as to be socially acceptable for the times, a single, unwed mother would not be at all respectable.

I loved the character of Caleb, an American who comes to town to look at a mining claim. Caleb has some traumatic history he is running from and secrets, just like Adelaide.

I enjoyed the relationship between Adelaide and Caleb, and Adelaide’s son Danny. Caleb’s arrival is the catalyst for much change in the small town.

We have a completely unlikeable character enter the picture at one point and I seriously questioned Adelaide’s judgement with her decision making. But in those times, women would’ve felt they had less choices than they do now. 

The small town characters and problems were depicted so well, I could see them all clearly in my head. I really enjoy this novel, which at its heart was a love story, with hardships and suspense thrown in to the mix.

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

 

 

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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