Sunday 24 November 2019

Book Review: The Great Divide by L.J.M. Owen

The Great Divide
L.J.M. Owen

Twisted secrets, Hidden victims, Monstrous crimes

Publisher: Echo Publishing
Publication date: 4th November 2019
Genre: Crime / Mystery
Pages: 294
RRP: $29.99 AUD
Format read: C-Format Paperback 
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

In the rural Tasmanian town of Dunton, the body of a former headmistress of a children’s home is discovered, revealing a tortured life and death.
Detective Jake Hunter, newly-arrived, searches for her killer among past residents of the home. He unearths pain, secrets and broken adults. Pushing aside memories of his own treacherous past, Jake focuses all his energy on the investigation.
Why are some of the children untraceable? What caused such damage among the survivors?
The identity of the murderer seems hidden from Jake by Dunton’s fog of prejudice and lies, until he is forced to confront not only the town’s history but his own nature…

Detective Jake Hunter has moved from Melbourne to Dunton, a small country town in Tasmania. He wanted an easy country post to sit back and re-evaluate his life. However only a week in and he is on a murder case when an elderly resident is found dead in a vineyard. Ava O’Brien had run a girls home on the property for many years and appeared to be liked by everyone.

As Hunter continues his investigation more questions are raised about the girls home and a pool of potential suspects starts to mount. The more information Hunter gets the more baffling the case becomes. A murder investigation soon escalates to so much more. This small town is harbouring some shocking secrets.

The Great Divide is an atmospheric tale featuring small town mentality where everyone seems to be related in some way and the town has grissly secrets simmering below the surface. With themes of crimes against children, childhood trauma, PTSD, triggers for mental relapse and nepotism the story is hard to read at times.

This is not a thriller; it’s an intricate and cleverly plotted mystery that slowly unfolds, building on the suspense until its chilling ending.


My rating  5/5

This review is part of the Book Lover Book Review Aussie author challenge

and book #34 in the Australian Women Writers challenge

Photo credit: Goodreads
Dr L.J.M. Owen has escaped dark and shadowy days as a public servant to explore the comparatively lighter side of life: murder, mystery and forgotten women's history. An Australian author, archaeologist and librarian with a PhD in palaeogenetics, L.J. speaks five languages and has travelled extensively through Europe and Asia.

L.J. is the Festival Director of the Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival, a celebration of literature and literacy in southern Tasmania.

In addition to writing and festival directing, L.J. is a panellist, interviewer, workshop provider and public speaker. Rare moments of free time are spent experimenting with ancient recipes…under strict feline supervision.

Saturday 23 November 2019

Book Bingo - Round 24 #BookBingo

Book Bingo is a reading challenge hosted by Theresa Smith Writes , Mrs B’s Book Reviews and The Book Muse. Every second Saturday, book bingo participants reveal which bingo category they have read and what book they chose. 

This week I have chosen the category ''Non-Fiction book about an event"

A Non-Fiction book about an event:

For this category I have chosen "Renia's Diary". This is the true diary of a young girl from the the age of 15 to 18 during the German occupation of Poland. What I loved, but was also extremely sad, about this diary was Renia was writing this in the moment, as opposed to after the event as some diaries are written. She was oblivious to how bad things were going to get.
You can read my full review here  


Monday 18 November 2019

Book Review: Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister by Jung Chang #BRPreview

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister
Jung Chang

Three Woman at the heart of Twentieth-Century China

Publisher: Penguin Books Australia 
Imprint: Jonathon Cape
Publication date: 15th October 2019 
Genre: Biography / Historical
Pages: 400
RRP: $35.00 AUD
Format read: Uncorrected proof paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Bettter Reading


The best-known modern Chinese fairy tale is the story of three sisters from Shanghai, who for most of the twentieth century were at the centre of power in China. It was sometimes said that ‘One loved money, one loved power and one loved her country’, but there was far more to the Soong sisters than these caricatures. As China battled through a hundred years of wars, revolutions and seismic transformations, each sister played an important, sometimes critical role, and left an indelible mark on history.

Red Sister, Ching-ling, married Sun Yat-sen, founding father of the Chinese republic, and later became Mao’s vice-chair. Little Sister, May-ling, was Madame Chiang Kai-shek, first lady of the pre-Communist Nationalist China and a major political figure in her own right. Big Sister, Ei-ling, was Chiang’s unofficial main adviser. She made herself one of China’s richest women – and her husband Chiang’s prime minister. All three sisters enjoyed tremendous privilege and glory, but also endured constant attacks and mortal danger. They showed great courage and experienced passionate love, as well as despair and heartbreak. The relationship between them was highly charged emotionally, especially once they had embraced opposing political camps and Ching-ling dedicated herself to destroying her two sisters’ world.


Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister is the biography of the amazing Soong sisters who together made a huge impact on history.
The three sisters became a modern Chinese fairytale. They were much talked about and fanciful gossip about them was often passed around.

“In China there were three sisters. One loved money, one loved power, and one loved her country.”

Charlie Soong being very forward thinking sent each of his daughters to an American boarding school at a young age. He made influential friends who were then introduced to his daughters. The sisters were very intelligent and interested in the politics of their country. They also believed that women should be man’s equal and the three sisters all rose to positions of influence.

Jung Chang divides the book into five parts spanning the years 1866 – 2003. It features the rise of Sun Yat-Sen and the overthrow of the Chinese monarchy to May-Ling’s marriage to Chiang Kai-Shek.

I’m not normally a great fan of non-fiction, especially political tales, however this riveting biography is so well written it at no time becomes weighed down. The three sisters, their lives and loves, make for some fascinating reading. Moving from grand parties in Shanghai to penthouses in New York, from exiles’ quarters in Japan and Berlin to secret meetings in Moscow we read about power struggles, godfather style assassinations, secret talks and bribes making this a book that is compulsive reading.

Jung Chang is the internationally bestselling author of Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China; Mao: The Unknown Story (with Jon Halliday); and Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine who Launched Modern China. Her books have been translated into over 40 languages and sold more than 15 million copies outside Mainland China where they are banned. She was born in China in 1952, and came to Britain in 1978. She lives in London.

Sunday 10 November 2019

Book Review: The Christmas Party by Karen Swan

The Christmas Party
Karen Swan

The Christmas Party is a delicious, page-turning story of romance, family and secrets.

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia 
Imprint: Macmillan
Publication date: 29th October 2019
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Romance
Pages: 400
RRP: $29.99 AUD
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher 


When Declan Lorne, the last remaining knight in Ireland, dies suddenly, an ancient title passes with him. But his estate on Ireland’s rugged south-west coast is left to his three daughters. The two eldest, Ottie and Pip, inherit in line with expectations, but to everyone’s surprise – and dismay – it is the errant baby of the family, Willow, who gets the castle.

Why her? Something unknown – something terrible - made her turn her back on her family three years earlier, escaping to Dublin and vowing never to return. So when Willow quickly announces she is selling up, her revenge seems sweet and the once-close sisters are pushed to breaking point: in desperation, Pip risks everything to secure her own future, and Ottie makes a decision that will ruin lives. It’s each woman for herself.

Before moving in, Connor Shaye, the prospective new owner, negotiates throwing a lavish party at the castle just days before Christmas – his hello, their goodbye. But as their secrets begin to catch up with them, Ottie, Willow and Pip are forced to ask themselves which is harder: stepping into the future, or letting go of the past?

The Christmas Party, set in south-west Ireland, tells the story of the Lorne family living in the 700 year old Lorne Castle. Declan Lorne, the last living knight in Ireland, his wife Serena and their three grown daughters Ottie, Pip and Willow may be the end of the Lorne legacy. With no male heir and an ever mounting amount of costly repairs required on the ageing castle it looks like Lorne Castle will need to be sold.

The Christmas Party is a story of family, heritage and the massive financial burden of keeping an ageing castle intact. Swan also highlights the guilt felt when a century old family legacy can no longer be upheld.
This is a character driven novel told through the eyes of the three strong but very different Lorne sisters. Ottie loved Lorne Castle and spent her days helping her father run the estate. She also held a secret that caused her to become withdrawn. Pip is stubborn, a tom-boy and nuts about her horses but a long held grudge could cost her her life. Willow, the youngest Lorne, had fled to Dublin three years earlier with a devastating secret of her own.
Now all back together, after their father’s sudden death, the girls must work out their differences, trust each other, and decide how to move forward.

Each year I eagerly look forward to Karen Swan’s new Christmas title and The Christmas Party didn’t disappoint.
The story was totally engrossing with just the right amount of mystery running through the plot. The three Lorne sisters were strong women but they each made mistakes in life and had feelings of failure they needed to overcome.

Karen Swan has written another unforgettable novel with enough tension, mystery, romance and heart-break to keep you turning the pages.

This is one book that needs to be on your Christmas list. 


My rating 5/5

Click on the book covers to read my reviews of other Karen Swan titles. 

Karen Swan is the Sunday Times top three bestselling author of sixteen books and her novels sell all over the world. She writes two books each year - one for the summer period and one for the Christmas season. Previous winter titles include Christmas at Tiffanys, The Christmas Secret, The Christmas Lights, and for summer, The Rome Affair, The Greek Escape and The Spanish Promise.

Her books are known for their evocative locations and Karen sees travel as vital research for each story. She loves to set deep, complicated love stories within twisty plots, sometimes telling two stories in the same book.


Saturday 9 November 2019

Book Bingo - Round 23 #BookBingo

Book Bingo is a reading challenge hosted by Theresa Smith Writes , Mrs B’s Book Reviews and The Book Muse. Every second Saturday, book bingo participants reveal which bingo category they have read and what book they chose. 

This week I have chosen the category ''Book by an author with the same initials as you"
and as we have had to do a few double up weeks to fit all the categories in I am also doing "A book set in the Australian mountains".

A book by an author with the same initials as you:

For this category I did a quick search on Amazon to find an eBook I could read and came across Victoria James. What a great find! She has a whole swag of novels in the romance genre and I picked Christmas with the Sheriff the first book in her Shadow Creek, Montana series. 
I absolutely loved this best friends to lovers story. It's such a well worn trope but who doesn't love a happily ever after ending.
Julia is shattered after the death of her husband and son and flees her home town to live in the city. She returns five years later to spend Christmas with her in-laws. When she runs into best friend, now town sheriff, Chase, sparks begin to fly. But Julia is not ready to open her heart to loss again.
Victoria James knows how to bring out the emotion with themes of child neglect, loss and deep seated wounds but the story also has uplifting themes of family, community and second chances. 

My second category is:

A book set in the Australian Mountains:

I searched my shelves for a book to fit this category and came across this cute chapter book I purchased through Big Sky Publishing.
The Pink Snowman by Alan Horsfield is set in the Blue Mountains. 

It's snowing in the Blue Mountains and Krystal is bored...but not for long.
After a disasterous attempt to build a snowman, Krystal and her friend Jasper find themselves with a puzzling problem.
Not only has their snowman come alive, now he's turning pink, and he's not happy about it! 

This was a fun little chapter book with a couple of facts about snow and a few dad jokes thrown in and a touch of magical realism.