Monday 31 August 2020

Mailbox Monday & Life This Week - August 31st


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.

Life This Week is a meme created by Denyse Whelan Blogs where bloggers share snaps of what is currently happening in their lives.

Happy Monday!

🎕 🎕🎕🎕🎕🎕🎕

I'm so excited that it is officially the last day of winter today. We have been having some beautiful days but the nights have still been a little cold. I am not a lover of the cold weather and I'm happy to be looking forward to warm, even hot, days ahead.


Ditto was again rushed to emergency last week with severe asthma and a double chest infection. His mother stayed with him and had to carry the burden of worry alone as due to covid-19 restrictions no one was allowed to visit, not even his father and sister. The doctors were amazing, so I've been told, and Ditto was a little trooper through-out the whole ordeal. He is home again now and running riot.


Our garden is beginning to bloom and we spent the last weekend gardening and planting new plants in the garden beds. We are also having a go at beans and tomatoes. We have had a little success with them before. 

We saw a very cute family of ducks on our walk during the week.

Books received over the last two weeks:
The mail has finally come through. Books received this week.


I am looking forward to bringing you my reviews of the children's picture books from Empowering Resources. They are a publisher of high-quality children's picture books and junior novels that nurture, educate and empower children. Their aim is to encourage meaningful conversations in homes and in classrooms.


Sunday 30 August 2020

Book Review: The Night Whistler by Greg Woodland

The Night Whistler
Greg Woodland

Publisher: Text Publishing
Publication date: 4th August 2020
Genre: Crime / Thriller
Pages: 400
Format read: uncorrected eBook
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Netgalley
About the book
It’s 1966. Hal and his little brother, newly arrived in Moorabool with their parents, are exploring the creek near their new home when they find the body of a dog.

Not just dead, but recently killed.
Not just killed, but mutilated.
Constable Mick Goodenough, recently demoted from his city job as a detective, is also new in town—and one of his dogs has gone missing. He’s experienced enough to know what it means when someone tortures an animal to death: it means they’re practising. So when Hal’s mother starts getting anonymous calls—a man whistling, then hanging up—Goodenough, alone among the Moorabool cops, takes her seriously.

The question is: will that be enough to keep her safe?
Nostalgic yet clear-eyed, simmering with small-town menace, Greg Woodland’s wildly impressive debut populates the rural Australia of the 1960s with memorable characters and almost unbearable tension. 

My review

Greg Woodland has delivered a gritty, dark and nostalgic, small-town crime thriller in his debut, The Night Whistler.

Set in country Australia during the summer of 1966. Twelve year old Hal and his family have recently moved to Moorabool for his father's job as Sales Rep for Prime Foods. 

At a time when kids jumped on their bikes and spent their days looking for adventure, Hal and his brother come across the body of a mutilated dog. 

Mick Goodenough has also recently arrived in Moorabool. Mick is on probabtion, demoted and sent to this small backwater town as punishment. After finding his pet dog mutilated and then being brushed off by his superior Mick decides to do some investigating of his own. He knows animal mutilation is a predecessor to murdering people. As Mick tries to investigate the killing he is stopped at every turn by his superior.

 Hal's mother starts to receive anonymous phone calls from a man whistling a tune. As Hal's father is away with work Hal assumes the role of head of the family and to protect his mother and brother he is determined to expose The Whistler.

The Night Whistler is filled with police cover-ups, bullying, racism, shonky council dealings, lazy policing and red-herrings making this small-town crime thriller a compelling read that is at times nostalgic and at other times spine-chilling.

NOTE: I do believe there is a much anticipated sequel in the offing.  

5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author 

Photo: Goodreads
Greg Woodland is a writer, director, script developer and consultant working in Australian film and TV. He fronts an alt-country band called The Cheating Hearts and lives in Sydney with his wife and son. The Night Whistler is his debut novel.

Challenges entered: Book Lover Book Review Aussie author challenge  #AussieAuthor20

Saturday 29 August 2020

Book Review: Finding Eadie by Caroline Beecham

Finding Eadie 
Caroline Beecham

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication date: 2nd July 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 368
RRP: $29.99AUD
Format read: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

About the book

London 1943: War and dwindling resources are taking their toll on the staff of Partridge Press. The pressure is on to create new books to distract readers from the grim realities of the war, but Partridge's rising star, Alice Cotton, leaves abruptly and cannot be found.

Alice's secret absence is to birth her child, and although her baby's father remains unnamed, Alice's mother promises to help her raise her tiny granddaughter, Eadie. Instead, she takes a shocking action.

Theo Bloom is employed by the American office of Partridge. When he is tasked with helping the British publisher overcome their challenges, Theo has his own trials to face before he can return to New York to marry his fiancee.

Inspired by real events during the Second World War, Finding Eadie is a story about the triumph of three friendships bound by hope, love, secrets and the belief that books have the power to change lives.

My review

Finding Eadie, set during WWII, highlights the importance of books and reading especially during times of hardship.

“It’s important to carry on giving people some much-needed escape from the cruel realities of war.”
“They are bound to one another and their country and the only freedom they still have is in the landscape of their minds”
Centred around Alice Cotton and the publishing company she worked for in London, Caroline Beecham brings to the fore the plight of women at a time when outward appearance was very important and unmarried mothers were scorned and vilified. A time when women went away, and lied about nonexistent husbands, to have their babies where no one knew them.

The men in the story were supportive but I noticed their surprise when they realised that Alice was intelligent and could give useful effective input into the publishing business. I found this aspect very real and it’s good to see how far we have come from the archaic outlook of the 1940’s.

Two plot lines run through Finding Eadie. Firstly the hardship suffered by businesses, especially publishing houses with rationing of paper meant a reduction in books being published and the London fires having destroyed almost all their printing equipment. The second storyline is the ostracization of unmarried mothers, baby farms, illegal adoptions and the women working to have laws changed to protect these babies.

The story travels from London to New York where we see the American side of Partridge Publishing. Leo Bloom is sent from New York to the London office to check through their accounts with a view to selling the London office. I loved the nostalgic mentions of blocks of book shops and how important books were for people’s mental health and it was sad to learn about the demise of a lot of these shops. These things are still extremely relevant, especially this year when books are being used to entertain and distract as we are isolating.

I was immediately invested in the characters and fascinated by the working of the book industry. This is the kind of story I want! A book I’m so engrossed in that the pages turn effortlessly. A story of true friendship as Alice’s friends support her at a time when lesser friends would have shunned her.

Finding Eadie is a feel good read, all nicely wrapped up at the end leaving a permanent smile on my face.

5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Photo: Goodreads
Caroline Beecham is a novelist, writer and producer. She is the author of three books: the bestselling novel Maggie's Kitchen, Eleanor's Secret and Finding Eadie. Her debut novel was shortlisted for Booktopia's Best Historical Fiction in 2016 and nominated for Book of the Year and Caroline herself was named Best New Authro by AusRom Today.
She has worked in documentary, film and drama and discovered that she loves to write fiction and to share lesser known histories: in particular, those of pioneering women whose lives transport us back to the past, yet speak to us now.

This review is part of the Book Lover Book Review Aussie author challenge
and the Australian Women Writers challenge 
and the Passages to the Past Historical Fiction Challenge

Friday 28 August 2020

Book Review: Rico Stays by Ed Duncan

Rico Stays 
Ed Duncan

Publisher: Terminal Velocity
Publication date: May 2020
Series: Pigeon-Blood Red #3
Genre: Crime / Thriller
Pages: 184
Format read: paperback
Source: Courtesy of the author via Book Publicity Services

About the book

After enforcer Richard “Rico” Sanders stepped in to protect his girlfriend from a local mob boss’s hot-headed nephew, all hell broke loose.

When the smoke cleared, the nephew had vanished, but three goons who had tried to help him lay dying where they’d stood. Fighting for his life, Rico was alive but gravely wounded.

Out of the hospital but not fully recovered, he needed a place to crash – a place where he wouldn’t be found by men who surely would be looking. A place like the cabin owned by lawyer Paul Elliott, whose life Rico had saved more than once. Trouble was, Paul’s girlfriend hadn’t forgotten Rico’s dark history. Or Paul’s fascination with him.

Using Rico’s girlfriend as bait, vengeful killers soon would be coming for him. The only question was whether he would face them alone or with help from Paul.

My review

Rico, hit-man for hire, is back in full force in the third and final instalment of Ed Duncan's Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy.

Rico finds himself on the wrong side of the local crime boss after a good samaritan act goes terribly wrong. There are three men dead and Rico ends up in hospital. He now has two men looking for him on a path of revenge.

"He was a killer with a conscience...... he only killed people who 'had it coming'."

Rico always gave his adversaries a chance. Whether they took it or not was up to them. 

Rico turns to acquaintance (Rico doesn't have friends) Paul Elliot to help him hide out while he recovers from a gunshot wound.

Rico Stays is another fabulous read in the Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy. There is a lot of character development in this story and we get to know not only Rico's past but also Paul's. The shoot-outs are still there but the characters take centre stage. Paul Elliot features more in this story with a high school reunion and a hook-up with an old flame ending with Paul contemplating what he really wants from life and love.

This can be read as a stand alone with snippets of backstory filling the reader in on previous events. However you will want to read the first two books because Rico is freaking awesome.

The story ramps up to an explosive ending and Rico just may have found his first real friend in Paul. And I could easily see that Paul has a bit of a man crush on Rico.

Rico Stays has everything I have come to expect from Ed Duncan; drama, suspense and a touch of humour.

4/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Photo: Goodreads
Ed is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School. He was a partner at a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio for many years. He is the original author of a highly regarded legal treatise entitled Ohio Insurance Coverage, for which he provided annual editions from 2008 through 2012. Rico Stays is the third novel in the Pigeon-Blood Red Trilogy which began with Pigeon-Blood Red and was followed by The Last Straw.Ed, originally from Gary, Indiana, lives outside Cleveland.


Thursday 20 August 2020

Book Review: The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn

The Girl She Was


Rebecca Freeborn

Publisher: Pantera Press
Publication date: 31st march 2020
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 386
Format read: paperback
Source: Won
About the book
‘She’d long ago stopped wondering whether anyone would find out what she’d done. It was in the past, and Layla didn’t dwell on the past.’

Layla was just like any other teenager in the small town of Glasswater Bay: she studied hard, went out with her friends and worked at the local cafe after school. But when her attractive, married boss turned his attention on her, everything changed.

Twenty years later, Layla's living a quiet life in the suburbs with a loving husband and two children. She's finally left the truth of what happened behind. Until she receives a text message: I know what you did.

For years, she’s outrun her past, turning away from her friends and her home town. Now her past is about to catch up.
 My review

Layla is a 17 year old student. Shy  and awkward, she doesn't have a boyfriend, has never been kissed. Her closest friends, Shona and Renee are growing up much too fast. leaving her behind. When her boss starts to give her extra attention she is flattered and finds it hard to say no.

Layla at 37 lives in the suburbs, has a wonderful husband and two children. On the surface her life looks perfect but a  secret lies hidden deep within her and threatens to destroy the life she has.

The Girl She Was is a story of manipulation and suppression. Layla is seduced by her married boss and begins a life of deep shame, secret meetings and lies. A life that she can't get out of without losing everything.

The Girl She Was is a timely read in the current #MeToo era. Perfect for readers who found My Dark Vanessa a little too disturbing. It's still as equally relevant. However we know that Layla has moved-on on the surface if not deep down emotionally.

"Sometimes he was a little rough, but it was only because I turned him on so much."

"It wasn't his fault we were in this position."

"You're no good, Layla. You're depraved, like me. That's why we are so good together."

Scott's manipulation and gas-lighting is rife throughout the book and I read this with a rising anger and a heavy heart.

There is an underlying mystery throughout of how the relationship ended and how Layla lost her friends.

With themes of facing your past, manipulation, consent, power abuse, gas-lighting and self hate. There are also uplifting themes of forgiveness, hope, moving forward and female friendships making The Girl She Was a compelling read. 

5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Photo: Goodreads
Rebecca Freeborn lives in the beautiful Adelaide Hills with a husband, three kids, a cat, a horse, more books than she can fit in her bookcase and an ever-diminishing wine collection.

She works as a communications and content editor for the South Australian Government where she screams into the void against passive voice and unnecessary capitalisation.

She writes before the sun comes up and thrives on unrealistic deadlines.

This review is part of the Book Lover Book Review Aussie author challenge
and the Australian Women Writers challenge

Wednesday 19 August 2020

Book Review: Wasp Season by Jennifer Scoullar

Wasp Season
Jennifer Scoullar

Publisher: Pilyara Press
Publication date:  20th July 2020
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 294
Format read: eBook
Source: Courtesy of the publisher
About the book 

When Beth’s marriage ends, she’s determined to build a new life in the country for herself and her children. A quiet life lived closer to nature. She thinks she’s achieved the impossible – a civilised separation, a happy home and a cordial relationship with her estranged husband, Mark. There's even the promise of new love on the horizon. But when Mark tries to change the rules, Beth’s peaceful world is turned upside down.

Disturbingly, she also discovers that European wasps have invaded her garden. Beth’s obsession with them and their queen holds up a distorted mirror to the human drama. As the chaos in Beth’s life gathers momentum, connections between the two worlds come sharply into focus. The lives of Beth and the others are neither separate to, nor safe from, the natural world.
My review

Jennifer Scoullar's love and reverence of the nature that surrounds us shines through in her writing, making the daily lives of the wasps and other insects fascinating and evocative reading.

Wasp Season is narrated in multiple points of view. Scoullar anthropomorphises the wasps and bees thus invoking sympathy. Naming the insects and giving their POV brings the reader right into their lives and thoughts and gives a perspective I'd never contemplated before.
Fairy wrens, potter wasps, paper wasps, assassin flys, black cockatoos, European wasps, platypus, wombats, wallabies, kookaburras, dragonflies, eastern spinebill, hummingbird, cicadas, spiders; all this beautiful and diverse fauna of Australia is seamlessly spread throughout the story without being one bit contrived.

The humans are just as fascinating as the insects. Mark, a delusional narcissist, separated from wife Beth and now living with girlfriend Lena and their baby son, has a life is always greener on the other side attitude. Bored with his young girlfriend he decides he wants his wife back.

Lena feeling alone and worthless turns to the allure and bright lights of poker machines to get her highs. Predators are lurking to pounce on the weak and unwary.
Beth and her two children have settled into a tranquil life on a property in the mountains. However there is a European Wasp colony developing that will threaten them and the whole surrounding ecosystem.

With themes of the natural balance of the ecosystem, introduced pests, regrets, narcissism, gambling addiction and befriending strangers, Wasp Season is fascinating and emotional. As human lives and insect lives cross over and intertwine Scoullar builds the story to a suspense filled conclusion.
4/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
 About the author
Photo: Goodreads
Bestselling Aussie author Jennifer Scoullar writes page-turning fiction about the land, people and wildlife that she loves.
Scoullar is a lapsed lawyer who harbours a deep appreciation and respect for the natural world. She lives on a farm in Australia's southern Victorian ranges, and has ridden and bred horses all her life. Her passion for animals and the bush is the inspiration behind her best-selling books.


Monday 17 August 2020

Mailbox Monday & Life This Week - August 17th


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.

Life This Week is a meme created by Denyse Whelan Blogs where bloggers share snaps of what is currently happening in their lives.

Happy Monday!

What has been happening over the last few weeks!

It's been a while now since I did a life this week post because we have been pretty much staying at home and reading books or watching TV. 

We had a some beautiful days last week and ventured out into the garden to do some prep for spring planting. But then it was back to winds and rain. The weather can be unpredictable in the change over from winter to spring although the days and nights are getting noticeably warmer.

Our sandwich maker was looking worse for wear and needed replacing. I found one online with interchangeable plates that made both toasted sandwiches and waffles. We love the waffles so much we haven't even made the toasted sandwiches yet. 😃

Son #3 surprised us with the announcement of his engagement. It's so nice to have some positives to look back on for 2020 with two of our children getting engaged this year.

We celebrated my husband's birthday recently and I decided to make a cake rather than buy one. One less trip to the shops.

I spent a day recently organising my kindle books. It's amazing how books can hide on there and multiply. I was amazed that I had 260 books downloaded. And I found some little gems and other books I didn't even know I had. A few of them are short stories under 200 pages and I'm trying to get through those first.

Books received over the last few weeks:

I've only received one new book which is giving me a chance to catch up on some outstanding review reads.

Who is ready for The Grand Tour by Olivia Wearne?
When Ruby and Angela embark on a Grey Nomads road trip, the last thing they expect is a tiny stowaway; one who will turn them from unsuspecting tourists into wanted kidnappers and land them in a world of trouble. As their leisurely retirement plans unravel, Angela's relationship with her brother Bernard goes from bad to worse.

Bernard has his own problems to contend with. Adrift in life, his career as a news presenter has been reduced to opening fetes and reading Voss as an audio book (a seemingly impossible task). His troubles are compounded when his wife starts dating a younger man and a drink-driving incident turns him into a celebrity offender.

As Angela and Ruby set about repairing burnt bridges and helping their unexpected guest, and Bernard attempts to patch together his broken life, they discover that even after a lifetime of experience, you're never too old to know better.

I would love to hear what books you received in the mail lately!

Monday 10 August 2020

Book Review: There's a Zoo in My Poo by Prof. Felice Jacka

There's a Zoo in My Poo


Professor Felice Jacka

Illustrated by Rob Craw
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publication date: 28th July 2020
Genre: Children's / Non Fiction
Pages: 64
RRP: $24.99 AUD
Format read: Hardcover
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

About the book:

There's a Zoo in your Poo!
It needs a Zookeeper
And that Keeper is YOU!
Did you know that trillions of tiny bugs live in and on all of us? And there's a Zoo of bugs in our poo. But which are the good bugs and which are the bad? What should we eat to keep our good bugs happy and our body strong?

Get to the guts of what you need to know about you and your poo.

Professor Felice Jacka is a world expert in the field of Nutritional Psychiatry and gut health. Teacher and musician Rob Craw is a world expert at drawing bugs!

They want kids to know all about the amazing stuff going on in their bodies.

Get ready for a journey inside the most exciting of places ... YOU!

My review: 

It’s no secret that kids love books about bodily functions. There are a plethora of books to choose from about poos and farts. These books tend to be more fun than educational emphasising the fact that poos and farts are a normal part of life.

Professor Felice Jacka goes a whole lot further with her educational and fun children’s book There’s a Zoo in My Poo to explain gut health with zany illustrations and catchy rhymes. The book tells us all about the bugs that live in our gut, both good and bad, the food that we eat and the effect it has on these bugs, what the good bugs feed on, healthy food for a healthy body and brain.
Six year old Dot really enjoyed the concept of being the zookeeper of her body and once I explained that the bugs inside your body aren’t like insect type bugs but tiny invisible bugs you can’t see, she was much more receptive to the idea of how they lived inside you.
There is quite a lot of information in this 64 page book and I found it better to concentrate on a small area of the book at a time. The catchy rhyming poems were a great feeder into the more in-depth ins and outs of the workings of the gastrointestinal tract.
I knew the book was having some effect when Dot was asking me if the food she was eating was feeding her good bugs or bad bugs. That’s a win!
There’s a Zoo in My Poo focuses on the principles of gut health with colourful microbes and entertaining prose making this complex topic easier for children, and adults, to understand. gut health is an important topic and you can never start too young to teach children about healthy eating. It is great to see a children’s book addressing the ‘why’ of healthy eating. It’s a book that can be pulled out whenever your children’s eating habits go off track.

Read together from 6+
Read alone from 8+
⭐⭐⭐⭐ from Dot
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐from me

About the author: 

Professor Felice Jacka is an international expert in the field of Nutritional Psychiatry and gut health and leads a research field examining how individuals' diets affect mental and brain health.

About the illustrator:
Rob Craw is a teacher, musician, and illustrator, who shares Jacka's passion for educating everyone, especially kids, about the importance of healthy eating.

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

  the Australian Women Writers challenge  and the Non Fiction reader challenge

Sunday 9 August 2020

Book Review: The Long Shadow by Anne Buist

The Long Shadow
Anne Buist

Publisher: Text Publishing
Publication date: 28th April 2020
Genre: Crime / Mystery
Pages: 318
Format read: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

About the Book
Psychologist Isabel Harris has come to the outback town of Riley because her husband Dean is assessing the hospital—the hub of the community—with a view to closing it down. Isabel, mostly occupied with her toddler, will run a mother–baby therapy group. But on the first day she gets an anonymous note from one of the mothers:

The baby killer is going to strike again. Soon.

Then a series of small harassments begins.

Is it an attempt to warn Dean off? Or could the threat be serious? A child was murdered in Riley once before.

As Isabel discovers more about the mothers in her group, she begins to believe the twenty-five-year-old mystery of a baby’s death may be the key to preventing another tragedy.

My Review
Isabel Harris and husband Dean along with their young son Noah have temporarily moved to Riley whilst Dean audits the hospital, with a view to its potential closure. Isabel, a psychologist, is asked to run a mother-baby group. There is some dissension between the mothers in the group and all are harbouring secrets and fears.
A decades old murder rears its head via a threatening message and believing her own child may be in danger, Isabel starts to do some digging of her own. 
Isabel was quite an unlikable character for me. her paranoia was out of proportion to her circumstances. She was a psychologist but had so many issues of her own that needed addressing.
Anne Buist covers topics such as post natal depression, being accepted into a small close-knit community, Government closing a business that provides employment for many choosing profit over people. 
I'm finding it hard to put my thoughts down about this book.
What I didn't like:
Isabel was unlikable, jumping to conclusions and making outlandish accusations
Although a serious condition, I found there was too much talk on postpartum psychosis.
I'm tired of characters with mother issues.

2½ year old Noah felt like a prop, always being pushed in a stroller, or stuck in a playpen, or put to bed. He never felt like a real child. 

I guessed the twist early in the story.
I was left with unanswered questions.
What I liked:  
I loved the small town politics.
Bringing to light companies putting profit before people.
How the people of Riley stuck together when their livelihood was threatened.

The thing that I loved the most in this story were the evocative and beautifully drawn descriptions of the setting and the ambience of the Australian bush.

My rating 3/5   ⭐⭐⭐ 
photo credit Goodreads
Anne Buist is the Chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and has over 25 years clinical and research experience in perinatal psychiatry. She works with Protective Services and the legal system in cases of abuse, kidnapping, infanticide and murder. Her Natalie King series of thrillers is published by Text. 
This review is part of the Book Lover Book Review Aussie author challenge

  and the Australian Women Writers challenge