Saturday, 20 February 2021

Book Review: Snowy Mountains Daughter by Alissa Callen

Snowy Mountains Daughter
by
Alissa Callen 
 
The road home isn't for the faint-hearted... 



Imprint: Mira
Publication date: 3rd February 2021 
Genre: Small town fiction / Rural romance
Pages: 352
RRP: $29.99AUD
Format read: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher
 
About the book
 
Peony flower farmer Clancy Parker was born and bred in the Australian high country. Small-town Bundilla is the only place she will ever truly belong, even if staying means remaining alone. The man she'd loved is long gone and single men are as rare as a summer snowfall.

As soon as he could, street artist Heath MacBride escaped his complicated family and traded mountain peaks for city concrete. Now a commission to paint a mural on Bundilla's water tower brings him home. It doesn't matter how long he's been away, the animosity of his cattleman father hasn't waned. As soon as the water tower is painted, he will be gone.

But between steadfast Clancy, who'd once been his muse, a free-spirited kelpie who becomes his shadow and a corrosive family secret, his best laid plans disintegrate. When life again backs him into a corner, will he have no choice but to leave or will he and Clancy have the second chance they'd each thought would forever remain out of reach?
  

My review

Alissa Callen has delivered again with her latest novel featuring the resilience of bush communities, the volatility of Mother Nature and the healing power of animals.

Bundy, companion, matchmaker and social media sensation, is the town's resident kelpie. Loved by everyone but owned by no-one. Like The Littlest Hobo on the much loved T.V. series Bundy has a sixth sense for who needs his company most and roams from person to person.

Clancy Parker was born and raised in the country town of Bundilla in The Brindabellas. This was her life and unlike many young people, who couldn't wait to leave, she loved everything about the town.

Heath McBride left the town as soon as he could and has made a name for himself as a mural painter. Now back in town to paint the town's water tower he must also face Clancy, the love of his life.

Wow! Alissa Callen has packed so much into this story. There's good friends Clancy and Heath who secretly have a crush on each other but both are reluctant to take the plunge and open up and risk destroying their friendship. We see, through Clancy, that farming is all about cattle and sheep. She has a flower farm which is definitely a time consuming occupation also entirely at the mercy of Mather Nature. One bad storm at the wrong time and it's all destroyed.
Heath is home to paint a mural on the town's water tower which is a fascinating story on its own. Tie into that his estrangement from his father and it makes Heath an interesting and complex character to explore.

If you haven't seen the wonderful murals going up on water towers and silos all over Australia have a look at the website that captures them in all their glory.


Callen doesn't just give a brief obligatory mention of the Aussie countryside, fauna and flora she makes them a part of the overall story giving you the feel and sense of actually being there amongst it all.

A wonderful community of characters were included and I wanted to hear all their stories. Ned, Cynthia and her daughters dropping off sweet offerings, twins Millicent & Beatrice, Mabel the journalist, Clancy's best friend Brenna, Taite, Trent the Vet and Rebecca the florist were all important threads in the story. I'm hoping we will visit them again in future books.

Snowy Mountains Daughter is vividly described from the snow capped mountains to the gum trees and wooden bridges the setting comes alive on the page. A free-roaming kelpie, a second chance at love and a dying mans confession make Snowy Mountains Daughter a story that will have your emotions reeling.

5/5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Photo credit Goodreads
When USA Today bestselling author Alissa Callen isn’t writing she plays traffic controller to four children, three dogs, two horses and one renegade cow who really does believe the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. After a childhood spent chasing sheep on the family farm, Alissa has always been drawn to remote areas and small towns, even when residing overseas. Once a teacher and a counsellor, she remains interested in the life journeys that people take. She also is partial to historic homesteads and country gardens and has been known to drive hours to see an open-garden. She currently lives on a small slice of rural Australia in central western New South Wales. 
 
 
                                 Aussie Author Challenge

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Thursday, 18 February 2021

Winners of a copy of The Schoolboy Sherlock Holmes announced!

Once again I would like to thank everyone who entered my giveaway for a copy of The Schoolboy Sherlock Holmes Box set. The giveaway closed on the 16th February and the winners were randomly selected (using Random org) from all correct entries. 
 
 Congratulations to........   Liz Dorrington & Heather
 
The winners have been notified and have seven days to to provide a mailing address.
Please see my Giveaway tab for more chances to win great books. 



 

Book Review: The Devils You Know by Ben Sanders

The Devils You Know
by
Ben Sanders 

 

 
Publication date: 2nd February 2021
Genre: Crime / Mystery
Pages: 328
RRP: $29.99AUD
Format read: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher
 
About the book
 
Vincent needs a change. He's spent the last fifteen years in covert operations for the US government, but after a botched and fatal mission, he decides he's done with pulling triggers.

He lucks into a dream job in Santa Barbara as head of security for supermarket mogul Eugene Lamar: nothing more than driving the boss to and from golf, with ample downtime for surfing, or sitting by the pool contemplating life-and how to live it with a zero body count.

There he meets and is intrigued by Lamar's daughter, the journalist Erin Jones, who's on tour in California to promote her book about the benefits of war. Vincent's seen his share of conflict and is sure he can change her mind - and he'd really like to make his case over drinks.

But there's a problem: if Lamar's business is confined to supermarkets, why does he need a panic room full of assault rifles, and a .357 revolver in his car? It doesn't take long for Vincent to find out that Lamar owes a debt to bad people - and that's only the start of it. He's ensnared in a criminal enterprise, which soon brings costs in lives as well as money.

Erin wants answers, and needs Vincent's help to get them. But how much does she already know? Is his growing attraction to her a liability? And can he keep her safe from the brutal killers who are after her father?

It seems that Santa Barbara is a sunny town full of dark talent, and Vincent will have to revert to dark talents of his own if he's going to survive . . .
 
My review
 
The Devils You Know is my first read by best-selling author Ben Sanders and I can easily see why he has such a huge following. He writes with prose that are sharp and biting. His characters are wonderfully drawn with a protagonist that is rugged and heroic combating antagonists that are dark and ruthless. The perfect mix for a compelling crime mystery.
 
Vincent applies for a position as body guard to supermarket mogul Eugene Lamar. He is expecting an easy ride, a bit of a holiday, a ride around the golf course and then some time for a surf. However, he soon learns there is more to Lamar than meets the eye. Lamar owes somebody some big money and they are out to make him pay.
As the stakes rise so does the body count and Vincent teams up with Lamar's daughter, Erin Jones, to find out who is behind the extortion.
 
I really enjoyed the character of Vincent. He was calm and cool, battle scarred but still competitive.  he wouldn't carry a gun but didn't baulk at busting a few noses.
The multiple points of view narration and short chapters kept the story moving along at a steady pace and held my interest throughout. 
 
Sanders shows through Vincent and Erin you can be on opposite side of a political agenda and still have level headed conversations  about it without getting heated and offensive or offended.
 
The subtle romance thread was well executed and the element of mystery had me guessing and second guessing until it came to a well wrapped up and satisfactory conclusion. 
 
4/5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐
 
About the author
 
Photo Goodreads
Ben Sanders is the author of American Blood, Marshall's Law, The Stakes, The Fallen, By Any Means and Only the Dead. Sanders' first three novels were written while he was studying a Bachelor of Engineering at university, he graduated in 2012 and now writes full-time. To date Sanders has sold over 30,000 copies of his novels collectively across Australia and New Zealand alone and has been praised by the New York Times, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Toronto Star. His work id published in eight languages, and he lives in Auckland, New Zealand. Sony has optioned the rights to The Devils You Know for a Ray Donovan television series.
 
 
Challenges entered: Cloak and Dagger Challenge
 
 
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Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Book Review: Misty by Fiona McArthur

Misty
by
Fiona McArthur 

 

Publisher: Self Published
Publication date: 30th November 2020
Series: Lyrebird Lake #2
Genre: Romance
Pages: 208
Format read: eBook
Source: Courtesy of the author
 
About the book
 
Misty saved the life of Dr Ben Moore but that brief wonderful connection was just a memory. Misty the midwife shuts out her daydreams and sets off for a new life in Lyrebird Lake, where she meets the new locum…and looks into Ben’s sea blue eyes!

Ben moved to Lyrebird Lake for a chance to start again. But he wasn’t doing well in the single parent role. Can Misty and Ben find the connection that saved his life once? Is Misty is the perfect person to make Ben’s family complete?
 
My review
 
As much as I loved Montana's story in Lyrebird Lake #1 I found Misty's story even more heart-warming.
 
Misty had always had premonitions and it was one of her premonitions that led her to save the life of Ben Moore. There was an instant and unexplainable connection between them but  Misty had no time for romance, she was moving the next day to Lyrebird Lake to work with best friend Montana.
Montana (from book1) is now married to Misty's brother Andy and they have set up the new birthing centre at Lyrebird Lake. 
 
Misty is another wonderful, realistic romance read from Fiona McArthur. The main themes of natural birth, postnatal depression, postnatal  psychosis and related suicide are sensitively explored giving reference to the mental and lasting strain on the attending doctor. 
McArthur explores these themes within a close-knit small-town environment where everyone pitches in and helps out when needed. Minor characters from book 1 also feature in book 2 and we get snippets of information on these characters' lives that I can see making a return in future books.
 
As much as I loved Misty's cautiousness when it came to a new relationship I also loved how Ben never gave up when Misty tried to push him away.
 
Misty is a feel-good romance with the expected happy ending. I'm looking forward to the next book in the Lyrebird Lake Series.
 
5/5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
 
About the author
 
Credit: Goodreads
Fiona McArthur has worked as a midwife for thirty years. She is the clinical midwifery educator inner rural maternity unit and teaches emergency obstetric strategies while working with midwives and doctors from remote and isolated areas.

Fiona has written more than thirty romances, which have sold over two million copies in twelve languages. She has been a midwifery expert for Mother and Baby magazine and is the author of Aussie Midwives. She has also written the novels Red Sand Sunrise, The Homestead Girls and Heart of the Sky. She lives on a farm in northern New South Wales.
 
 
 
Challenges entered: Aussie author challenge #AussieAuthor21
                                 Australian Women Writers Challenge  #AWW2021

 Read my review of Montana:
 
                                       

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Book Review: My Best Friend's Murder by Polly Phillips

 My Best Friend's Murder
by
Polly Phillips




Publication date: 6th January 2021 
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Pages: 355
RRP: $29.99AUD
Format read: paperback
Source: courtesy of the publisher

About the book

Bec and Izzy have been best friends their whole lives. They’ve been through a lot together –  from the death of Bec’s mother, the birth of Izzy’s daughter, they've been side by side for all the highs and lows life has thrown at them.

But there’s a darker side to their friendship, too – and Bec is about to reach breaking point.

Then Izzy is found broken and bloodied at the bottom of the stairs.
It could have been an accident – perhaps she fell – but if the police decide to look for a killer, then Bec is sure to be their prime suspect.
 
My review
 
Bec and Izzy have been friends since high school. They'd always been there for each other. Or had they?
 
Now in their 30's Bec is starting to realise that Izzy hasn't always been supportive of her and often she has been downright manipulative. When they were younger Bec was happy to let Izzy have the limelight. She was the beautiful one, everyone loved Izzy and she chose Bec to be her friend. However now she sees the friendship for what it is, one sided and toxic. But Izzy is her best friend and she can't let go. She needs Izzy's approval for everything.
"I'm like one of those old dogs that pine for the owner that beat them."

My Best Friend's Murder is a captivating story of toxic friendships, narcissism and gaslighting. Izzy is a master manipulator she has Bec second guessing everything she sees and hears. I  think we have all seen, or even been in, a toxic friendship at some time however these usually end with some sort of blow-up during the teen years or early twenties. Bec and Izzy were in their thirties and I was astounded they were still going on with all this game-play. However, I did find it quite entertaining!

The story is narrated in the first person by Bec and as with any first person narration we are only getting one side of the story.

The story starts with the friendship and the back and forward maliciousness with lots of background on both Bec and Izzy and I found this all quite fascinating reading. When Izzy is found near death at the bottom of the stairs the story turns to a mystery. Was she pushed or did she fall? The conclusion to this well-paced mystery took me by surprise.

My Best Friend's Murder is a cleverly-plotted narrative that astutely explores the complexity of toxic friendships, manipulation and revenge.

4/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Credit: Polly Phillips
Polly Phillips currently lives in Australia, although she is originally from the UK. My Best Friend’s Murder won the Montegrappa Writing Prize at the Emirates Literature Festival in 2019. Polly has worked as a journalist in Australia, Dubai, Denmark and the UK. This is her debut novel.  

Author Twitter




Challenges entered: Aussie author challenge #AussieAuthor21

                                 Cloak & Dagger challenge 
                                 Australian Women Writers Challenge #AWW2021 


 
 

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Book Review: The Spiral by Iain Ryan

The Spiral
by
Iain Ryan 
 



Publisher:  Echo Publishing
Publication date: 2nd February 2021
Genre: Crime / Thriller
Pages: 336
RRP: $29.99AUD
Format read: Paperback 
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Beauty & Lace Book Club
 
About the book
 
Erma Bridges' life is far from perfect, but entirely ordinary. So when she is shot twice in a targetted attack by a colleague, her quiet existence is shattered in an instant.

With her would-be murderer dead, no one can give Erma the answers she needs to move on from her trauma. Why her? Why now?

So begins Erma's quest for the truth - and a dangerous, spiralling journey into the heart of darkness.
 
My review
 
The story is set around the University of Queensland, Fortitude Valley and the surrounding area. It opens with Erma called for a disciplinary meeting. A lot of names are thrown around but the reader is left in the dark as to what it is all about. Erma is sure her friend and colleague Jenny is behind the complaint. Out of the blue Jenny shoots Erma and then fatally shoots herself leaving Erma with a massive, why.
Erma’s life then spirals into dark dreams and relentlessly pursuing Jenny’s last movements.

Iain Ryan explores the concept of the choose your own adventure and gameplay novels as Erma is doing research to write a book on the history of these books. I remember my sons reading these although they weren’t quite as complex as the books referred to here. You the reader were in charge of the plot. Your decisions had consequences and you never knew ahead what they might be. Ryan draws parallels between these books and Erma’s life decisions, actions and consequences.

The plot is complex, running multiple plot lines, and like a jigsaw puzzle you have to piece together snippets of information each seemingly inconsequential and unrelated until you put them together and reveal the final picture.
When I started the book I was totally confused and I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. Well my fears were soon allayed! The story was tense and gripping and I read the book in one day, on the edge of my seat through the second half as Ryan smashes out the twists one after the other.

In this genre mixing novel a Fantasy thread is introduced with Sero the Barbarian searching to regain his lost memory. This is told through Erma’s nightmares and often linked to Erma’s actual life events and hidden fears.
Erma’s character was hard to connect with. Her penchant for violence brought about by teenage trauma and exacerbated by a case of PSTD seemed more akin to a gangland member than a University supervisor. However, even though she wasn’t totally likeable I still felt I wanted her to come through each situation and hopefully heal herself mentally.

I love noir fiction and I love fantasy so I enjoyed both genres within the book. I think the mixing of genres could have been a risky move but worked well for this reader.

The Spiral will appeal to readers who like dark and gritty Noir Fiction.
 
4/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
This review was originally on the Beauty and Lace website and you can read it here 
 
About the author
 
Credit: Goodreads

Iain Ryan grew up in the outer suburbs of Brisbane, Australia. He predominantly writes in the hardboiled/noir genre and his work has been previously published by Akashic Books (New York), Crime Factory (Melbourne) and Broken River Books (Portland). His most recent novel 'The Student' is available now via Echo Publishing/Bonnier.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Challenges entered: Aussie author challenge #AussieAuthor21
                                 Cloak & Dagger challenge 

 

Monday, 8 February 2021

Mailbox Monday & Life This Week - February 8th

 
 

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!
 
Since my last Life This Week we have celebrated Australia Day which we usually celebrate with a family picnic but it was far too hot this year so we stayed at home close to the pool.
I have been trying to do the photo a day challenge. I did this waaay back in 2011 and I must have been a lot less busy then, or had a much better memory, because this year I've already missed about a third of the days photos but I will persevere. I will be interested to compare the photos and see how life has changed over the ten years.


I've started another afghan throw. This one is for my Grandson
 

We are still pretty much failing at gardening but we keep trying 😀
 

 
I caught this candid photo of our cat recently.  He looks like he is waiting for his dinner.  
 
Books I've received and purchased over the last two weeks 
 

 Covers link to goodreads
 

This book has the most gorgeous cover!
I loved Scrublands when I read it and I was pleased to find Silver, the second book in the series, at my local Op shop.
 
I would love to hear what books you've received in the mail recently! 
 
I have a great giveaway currently running of a set of middle grade books. You can see the details and enter HERE