Thursday 28 February 2019

Book Review: The Christmas Card Murders (Murder/Mystery)

The Christmas Card Murders
Anthony Litton

This is my next Christmas read and I'm still on track to get them all read before Easter (that's my plan). 

Publisher: Endeavour Media
Publication Date: 25th December 2017
Series: Beldon Magma Mysteries #4
Format Read: eBook
Source: Courtesy  of the publisher via Netgalley

A generation ago a young woman was knocked off her bicycle in the snow and left to die alone.

Decades later, the murders start. The first victim is a semi-disabled couple who are brutally ambushed and killed in their home. Others follow, each killing more horrendous than the last…

And in all the attacks, a calling card is left, a final indignity that suggests that revenge and retribution are at the heart of the brutal murders.

With The Christmas Card Murders, newly promoted Detective Inspector Bulmer and Chief Inspector Robert Calderwood and their friends, and sometimes colleagues, Desmond Blaine-Appleby and Gwilym Owen, have a particularly chilling mystery on their hands, and it is up to them to find out the link between the deaths and to stop the killer once and for all – before yet more blood is spilt. 


The Christmas card Murders certainly wasn’t my usual Christmas type of read. This gruesome murder, mystery takes place in the lead up to Christmas.

DI Robert Calderwood, on his recent promotion to Chief Inspector, is asked to investigate a recent double murder and on doing some checks finds a similar murder in London. There is an unmistakable connection between the two and he thinks they may be connected to a local fatal hit and run 40 years earlier. Calderwood’s team immediately gets on the case but he feels it will be beneficial to bring local resident Gwilyn Owen to ask questions as he grew up with the victim families.

The character development is good but way too many characters are brought into the story and each one has back-story explained which seemed irrelevant.
The plot was well developed but it was quite obvious we were to feel no sympathy for the victims as they were all slovenly and distasteful people.

The astute reader may pick up on the cleverly dispersed hints throughout the story but I was clueless and certainly didn’t guess the murderer.
The story reads as a stand-alone but I would recommend reading the series from the start to get a solid understanding of the main characters.

My rating   3/5  ⭐⭐⭐

Content: murder scenes.




Monday 25 February 2019

Mailbox Monday - Feb 25th

Mailbox Monday is a meme started by Marcia of To Be Continued. Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week. It now has a permanent home at the Mailbox Monday blog. Head over and check out other books received during the last week. 


My postman was certainly kept busy this week with six books received for review.

Under The Midnight Sky by Anna Romer
Publication Date: 1st may 2019

When an injured teenager goes missing at a remote bushland campground, local journalist Abby Bardot is determined to expose the area’s dark history. The girl bears a striking resemblance to the victims of three brutal murders that occurred twenty years ago and Abby fears the killer is still on the loose.

But the newspaper Abby works for wants to suppress the story for fear it will scare off tourists to the struggling township. Haunted by her own turbulent memories, Abby is desperate to learn the truth and enlists the help of Tom Gabriel, a reclusive crime writer. At first resentful of Abby’s intrusion, Tom’s reluctance vanishes when they discover a hidden attic room in his house that shows evidence of imprisonment from half a century before.

As Abby and Tom sift through the attic room and discover its tragic history, they become convinced it holds the key to solving the bushland murders and finding the missing girl alive.

But their quest has drawn out a killer, someone with a shocking secret who will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.

Beneath the Mother Tree by D.M. Cameron
Publication date: 1st August 2018

On a small island, something sinister is at play. Resident alcoholic Grappa believes it’s the Far Dorocha, dark servant of the Faery queen, whose seductive music lures you into their abyss. His granddaughter Ayla has other ideas, especially once she meets the mysterious flute player she heard on the beach.

Riley and his mother have moved to the island to escape their grief. But when the tight-knit community is beset by a series of strange deaths, the enigmatic newcomers quickly garner the ire of the locals. Can Ayla uncover the mystery at the heart of the island’s darkness before it is too late?

The Woman from Saint Germain by J.R. Lonie
Publication date: 1st march 2019

She is a celebrated writer stranded in Paris after her French lover is killed fighting the German invasion. He is an enigmatic foreigner with a dangerous secret, fleeing Nazi-controlled Austria. Only the war could bring them together. 

Armed with a precious first edition of Finnegans Wake and an even more precious stash of Chesterfield cigarettes to barter with, Eleanor Gorton Clarke joins the sea of refugees escaping the city for the Spanish frontier. But when a stranger kills two German soldiers to save her life, Eleanor is forced on the run with her mysterious rescuer, pursued by a vengeful detective from the Wehrmacht.

Two strangers from vastly different worlds, the unlikely pair despise each other at first. But as the ruthless hunt for the two fugitives escalates and they are forced to become allies to survive, a powerful attraction erupts between them.

As their relentless German pursuer begins to close the net, a heartbreaking discovery forces the great romantic novelist to experience something she was supposed to know all about – the true nature of love.

War Doctor - Surgery on the front line by David Nott
Publication date: 21st February 2019

For more than twenty-five years, David Nott has taken unpaid leave from his job as a general and vascular surgeon with the NHS to volunteer in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones. From Sarajevo under siege in 1993, to clandestine hospitals in rebel-held eastern Aleppo, he has carried out life-saving operations and field surgery in the most challenging conditions, and with none of the resources of a major London teaching hospital.

The conflicts he has worked in form a chronology of twenty-first-century combat: Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Darfur, Congo, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Gaza and Syria. But he has also volunteered in areas blighted by natural disasters, such as the earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal.

Driven both by compassion and passion, the desire to help others and the thrill of extreme personal danger, he is now widely acknowledged to be the most experienced trauma surgeon in the world. But as time went on, David Nott began to realize that flying into a catastrophe – whether war or natural disaster – was not enough. Doctors on the ground needed to learn how to treat the appalling injuries that war inflicts upon its victims. Since 2015, the foundation he set up with his wife, Elly, has disseminated the knowledge he has gained, training other doctors in the art of saving lives threatened by bombs and bullets.

I Thought I Knew You by Penny Hancock
Publication date: 7th March 2019

Jules and Holly have been best friends since university. They tell each other everything, trading revelations and confessions, and sharing both the big moments and the small details of their lives: Holly is the only person who knows about Jules’s affair; Jules was there for Holly when her husband died. And their two children – just three years apart – have grown up together.
So when Jules’s daughter Saffie makes a serious allegation against Holly’s son Saul, neither woman is prepared for the devastating impact this will have on their friendship or their families.
Especially as Holly, in spite of her principles, refuses to believe her son is guilty.

The Go-Away Bird by Julia Donaldson
Publication date: 7th March 2019

A gorgeous story about friendship and working together from a star picture-book partnership, the inimitable Julia Donaldson and award-winning Catherine Rayner.

‘The Go-Away bird sat up in her nest, With her fine grey wings and her fine grey crest.’ One by one, the other birds fly into her tree, wanting to talk or to play, but the Go-Away bird just shakes her head and sends them all away. But then the dangerous Get-You bird comes along, and she soon realizes that she might need some friends after all . . .

I also attended an author signing day in Sydney and came home with another 10 books which I won't list here or this post will be much too long. You can read all about the Books By The Bridge author signing event in my post here
What am I looking forward to reading?
This week I am going to choose War Doctor. I have recently read two Historical Fiction books set during WWII where the main character was a doctor so I'm very interested to read a non fiction account of a doctor operating on the front line and seeing just how true to real life the fiction accounts were.

What Books did your postman deliver this week?
Have you attended an author signing event? What did you think? Would you attend again?
Post a link to your Mailbox Monday or simply list your books in the comments below.


Saturday 23 February 2019

Books by the Bridge Sydney - Author event recap

Today I attended my first Books by the Bridge author signing event #BBTB2019 

Over 70 romance authors under the big top at Lunar Park Sydney which is located right next to Australia’s iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.

To get the BBTB full experience we need to rewind to April 2018. This is when the coveted entry tickets went on sale. The limited number VIP entry is the ticket to get and I was literally sitting at my computer the minute they went on sale. I was super excited to get 2 VIP tickets (for my sister-in-law and myself). The VIP tickets sold out in 10 minutes. Morning, afternoon and all-day tickets were still available so nobody missed out. 
VIP meant we were allowed entry 1 hour earlier plus received a swag bag of books and a light lunch.

So now the waiting began but to while away the months we had a very chatty and enthusiastic Facebook group were we could chat to authors get to know other members and pre order books to pick up on the day.

The day has arrived!!!

We arrived bright and early at 9:30am and armed with our first coffee of the day we didn’t let the wet weather dampen our enthusiasm.

Free books were immediately thrust into our hands (it’s already looking like a great day) and one publisher’s display even had a lolly bar. I purchased a BBTB signing sheet and we were ready to go.

What a marvellous, busy, full on day we had! Authors to chat to, books to be signed and swag to collect. Wow, was there plenty of swag! Keychains, pens, bookmarks, lip balm, chocolates, the most amazing cookies, lollypops and free eBook downloads. I was in bibliophile heaven.

We lunched, we coffeed, went for some more signings, purchased books and mugs and then dragged our weary but contended bodies home.
We decided we will definitely do this again and we also learnt a couple of things (this being our first time).
1.       When you say you are only going to buy a couple of books; just laugh at yourself and say ‘sure’.
2.      Take a suitcase with wheels because not only will you buy books, there is loads of free stuff and heaps of book raffles which we couldn’t enter because we just couldn’t carry any more.
I would like to thank Kat T Masen and Jodi L Perry and all the attending authors who travelled from afar to make this the most amazing day.

We will see you all at the next one!!


Monday 18 February 2019

Author Interview: Fiona Lowe

Today I would like to welcome author Fiona Lowe to The Burgeoning Bookshelf.

About the author: 

Fiona Lowe has been a midwife, a sexual health counsellor and a family support worker - an ideal career path for an author who writes novels about family and relationships. A recipient of the prestigious USA RITA award and the Australian RUBY award, Fiona's books are set in small country towns, feature real people facing difficult choices and explore how family ties and relationships impact our decisions. Fiona spent her early years in Papua New Guinea where, without television, reading was her best form of entertainment - inevitably leading to a livelong love of books. Fiona lives in Geelong, Victoria.

So let's get started and find out a little more about Fiona and her writing.

Hello Fiona, thank you for joining us. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how many books you have had published?

Thanks for having me.  I’ve changed writing directions three times over a decade. I have written 23 short medical romances, 6 full length romances and three big, juicy Australian-set sagas. HOME FIRES is my 32nd novel. Hmm, thanks for making me count. I’ve been telling people it’s my 31st!

What inspires you to write?

People and places. I love the Australian bush and I’m an inveterate people watcher so I enjoy combining the two. I like exploring what makes people tick and why they react the way they do in different situations. As an author, I tend to put my characters through the wringer to squeeze out as much emotion as I can and I force people to make decisions when there is no clear moral choice and then deal with the fall out.

What is a typical writing day for you?

I tend to structure my week more than my day. Basically, I write every day but I also get out of the house a couple of times in the week, into the real world, where I talk to people. So, Tuesdays after tennis and Wednesdays after delivering meals on wheels, I start work around noon. Those are not great concentration writing days but without them, I’d be a hermit and that’s not healthy. Mondays, Thursday and Friday, I go to the gym and start writing around 8.30 and finish at 6pm and there’s a bit of admin in there like writing interviews like this and a little bit of playing on social media. Okay, sometimes there is far too much playing on social media and researching. I’m now writing with a timer! The last couple of months before deadline, I also work Saturday and Sunday mornings until 1pm. Then I pretend the afternoon is a full day. Of course, I do have holidays and when a book comes out, I’m on the road promoting it, but I find I can’t go and play in the morning and have a good writing day. I am my most creative first thing in the morning and strangely between 4-6pm.

Where is your favourite place to write?

I need silence to write so I write in my office wearing noise cancelling head phones.

Do you have any writing rituals or good luck charms?

Hmm, is checking Goodreads and Amazon rankings a ritual? They are definitely not good luck charms ;-)

What are you currently reading?

Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales

You are well known for your Contemporary Romance novels. What inspired your move to the General Fiction genre?

A few things happened at once. I had a book come out in the USA during a major publishing house reshuffle where my editor left and my book really didn’t get out of the warehouse. The whys and wherefores don’t count, it’s just numbers, so when I didn’t sell many books, they were not interested in me writing another one for them. Although I’d lived in the US and enjoyed setting books there, I had an overwhelming desire to write a book not only set in Australia, but in my own back yard. I also had an itch to break away from the absolute happy ending, which is a must in a romance and I wanted to write a bigger novel with more characters and explore human nature—the good, the bad and the ugly. So, I wrote Daughter of Mine, then Birthright and now Home Fires.

Your latest book Home Fires is released today, 18th February. How did you come up with the idea for Home Fires?

I think it’s been brewing all my life. Bush fires are such an integral part of life as a Victorian and I have had a few pivotal moments where fire has impacted on me. First as a student nurse where I was in the field on Ash Wednesday, followed by working on the burns unit nursing victims. Those experiences never leave you. Years later, as a mother on Black Saturday, I experienced different sort of stress. But the final push to write Home Fires was Christmas Day 2015, when just down the road from me, friends and acquaintances had to stand up and walk away from Christmas lunch to save their lives.

What would you like readers to get out of Home Fires?

I’d like readers to reflect on the long-term damaging effects of trauma after natural disasters and how it isn’t so much a community rebuilding, but finding a whole new way to live. It takes years, far more years then we imagine, for communities to regain their health. The communities also need income to grow so visit and holiday in the area as soon as possible and spend some money there. Every cent counts. And don’t worry, I promise Home Fires has a hopeful ending.

What's next for Fiona Lowe? Do you have a new WIP?

I’m currently working on my 2020 release. The working title is NOT THAT KIND OF WOMAN and it’s shaping up to be another large novel about women, friendship and living with the choices we make.

Thank you for stopping by and spending some time with us on The Burgeoning Bookshelf.

It’s been great. Thanks for having me!

Home Fires is out today and should be hitting bookshops shelves all of the country.

 About the book:

From the bestselling Australian author of Daughter of Mine and Birthright. When a lethal bushfire tore through Myrtle, nestled in Victoria's breathtaking Otway Ranges, the town's buildings - and the lives of its residents - were left as smouldering ash. For three women in particular, the fire fractured their lives and their relationships.

Eighteen months later, with the flurry of national attention long past, Myrtle stands restored, shiny and new. But is the outside polish just a veneer? Community stalwart Julie thinks tourism could bring back some financial stability to their little corner of the world and soon prods Claire, Bec and Sophie into joining her group. But the scar tissue of trauma runs deep, and as each woman exposes her secrets and faces the damage that day wrought, a shocking truth will emerge that will shake the town to its newly rebuilt foundations...