Friday, 31 December 2021

Book Review: The Fossil Hunter by Tea Cooper

 The Fossil Hunter
by
Tea Cooper
 
A rare fossil, an unsolved mystery, a trail into the past....
 
 
Imprint: HQ Fiction
 
Publication date: 27th October 2021
 
Genre: Historical Fiction
 
Pages: 384
 
RRP: $32.99 AUD
 
Format read: Paperback
 
Source: Courtesy of the publisher
 
About the book
 
Wollombi, The Hunter Valley 1847

The last thing Mellie Vale remembers before the fever takes her is running through the bush as a monster chases her - but no one believes her story. In a bid to curb Mellie's overactive imagination, her benefactors send her to visit a family friend, Anthea Winstanley. Anthea is an amateur paleontologist with a dream. She is convinced she will one day find proof the great sea dragons - the ichthyosaur and the plesiosaur - swam in the vast inland sea that millions of years ago covered her property at Bow Wow Gorge, and soon Mellie shares that dream for she loves fossil hunting too...

1919
When Penelope Jane Martindale arrives home from the battlefields of World War 1 with the intention of making her peace with her father and commemorating the death of her two younger brothers in the trenches, her reception is not as she had hoped. Looking for distraction, she finds a connection between a fossil at London's Natural History museum and her brothers which leads her to Bow Wow Gorge. But the gorge has a sinister reputation - 70 years ago people disappeared. So when PJ uncovers some unexpected remains, it seems as if the past is reaching into the present and she becomes determined to discover what really happened all that time ago...
 
My review
 
It was such a lovely coincidence that I picked up The Fossil Hunter to read after I had just returned from a weekend in Wollombi. This made the setting so easy to picture even though i had seen it over 100 years after the book is set I feel nothing much has really changed in this small town.
 
The Fossil Hunter is a dual time-line narrative with both time-lines (1847 &  1919) set in the past.
Tea Cooper's main characters are women interested in paleontology which was regarded as a strange pastime and was even cause for many rumours to morph and grow as the years passed.
 
I enjoyed how Cooper made paleontology interesting and even a little exciting. It is something I had never really thought about before.
What starts as an intriguing story of paleontology and finding fossils and possibly dinosaur bones soon turns to a compelling mystery.
 
There are times when we find questions in the second timeline which are yet to be played out in the first. I found myself eagerly reading not willing to put the book down until the final twist as Cooper adds elements of mystery and intrigue to the story. 
 
The Fossil Hunter is another fabulous read from Tea Cooper. Compelling, interesting and wonderfully immersive.
 
My rating 4.5 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

 

 
 
About the author
 

Tea Cooper writes Australian contemporary and historical fiction. In a past life she was a teacher, a journalist and a farmer. These days she haunts museums and indulges her passion for storytelling.
 
 
 
 

Challenges Entered: Australian Women Writers Challenge AWW2021

 
                                   Aussie Author Challenge #Aussieauthor21
                                   
                                   Historical Fiction Challenge 
 
 

Book Review: The Lolly Shop by L, B & E Hackney

The Lolly Shop
by
L, B & E Hackney 
 
Publisher: Self-published

Publication date: 6th July 2021
 
Genre: Children's chapter book
 
Pages: 142
 
Format read: paperback
 
Source: Courtesy of the author
 
About the book
 
Join in the magic with Bax and Ethan as they make sweetness and mayhem in their lolly shop.
These lovable characters solve many problems with their special magic, loving and caring, working hard and having fun. Unfortunately they also create unexpected problems when their sweets have real magic added. Follow their triumphs and despair as they help their family through rough times.
 
My review
 
The Lolly Shop is a cute story about two boys who, wanting to help their parents out financially, make their own lollies and sell them in their lolly shop. 
The boys accidentally mix magic powder into a batch of lollies and when they taste the lollies they start to float. Thinking what great fun this is they start to mix the powder with different lollies and get different powers, such as speed, invisibility and super jumping.
 
The lolly shop was popular before but now everyone wants to try the magic lollies.
Much fun and mayhem ensues with the children playing tricks with their magic abilities. However the magic also helps some children overcome their fears.
Parents and teachers start to complain. What will the boys do to keep the children and the adults happy?
 
The Lolly Shop is fun, crazy and magical. Dot loved every minute of the story and it elicited many giggles as i was reading. I loved the interaction between the two brothers.
The two boys prove that they can work hard and keep up with their school work whilst they have a bit of fun with the magic lollies.
 
The story promotes imagination, teamwork and community spirit.
 
Recommended for 4 - 8 years
 
Dot's rating 4 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 
 
 
About the author
 
Lauren lives in a seaside suburb of Brisbane. She lives with her beautiful man, Geoffrey and their two boys Baxter and Ethan.
Together they love exploring, trying new things, laughing and being amongst nature.
 
Another pastime of theirs is story telling. Whether it be a bedtime story, a campfire story or a road trip story - they love each taking a turn and seeing where the story takes them.
They love their animals at home. They have chickens, fish, cockatiels and a recently adopted dog.
 
For many years Lauren worked in aviation however the pandemic put a stop to that so together they decided to put pen to paper and wrote this story. 

Challenges Entered: Australian Women Writers Challenge AWW2021

 
                                   Aussie Author Challenge #Aussieauthor21
 
 

Thursday, 30 December 2021

Book Review & Giveaway: What LaVonda Robinette Did Next by Kirsten Maron

 What LaVonda Robinette Did Next
by
Kirsten Maron
 
Can she still get away with murder?
 
Publisher: Self Published

Publication date: 30th May 2021 
 
Genre: Cosy Crime / Humour
 
Pages: 470
 
RRP: $21.34 AUD (AmazonAU)
 
Format read: Paperback 
 
Source: Courtesy of the author
 
About the book
 
Three years have passed since the events that led LaVonda Robinette to murder. And yes, there are still plenty of people in her life giving her grief, including her ex-husband, her new neighbour, and a rather unwelcome character from her past.

But surely there are better ways, more creative outlets, for LaVonda to manage her frustrations than by committing murder?

Well, perhaps.

When she is faced with an unusual proposal, LaVonda must make one of the most difficult decisions in her life. A decision that has serious consequences and will force her to decide just how far she is willing to go to protect herself and her family.

Can she bring herself to kill someone in cold blood? Does she still have what it takes? Can LaVonda Robinette really go through with committing another murder?

Perhaps she already has.
 
My review:
 
In What LaVonda Robinette Did Next, LaVonda is back with her murderous thoughts in the sequel to What Would LaVonda Robinette Do

Kirsten Maron has delivered another outrageously funny story starring the morally skewed LaVonda Robinette. I think this second book is even better than the first book!!
Can LaVonda's family get any more crazy? Oh yes they can!

LaVonda has started her own cleaning business and as she gets to know some of her clients she comes to think there are some people who don't deserve to be on this earth.
LaVonda takes it upon herself to put the wrongs of the world right. A one woman vigilante and fabulous anti-hero.

A chance encounter with a former workmate leaves LaVonda with a moral dilemma and every situation she tries to sort out leaves her further in trouble.

"..there was a reason she hadn't bothered to keep in touch with any of her old workmates; they were all a little boring and annoying. And heaven knows, LaVonda had enough annoying people in her life without cultivating more."

LaVonda is menopausal, cranky and intolerant and can't understand why people have to be so irritating.
Maron has a witty and sharp sense of humour and clever observance of people's foibles and pet hates. I found myself agreeing with LaVonda more than once.
LaVonda's wild imagination and internal monologue had me laughing out loud.

I found myself eagerly reading to find out what LaVonda would do next and I had to force myself not to skip a few pages and read forward as the suspense built.

Kirsten Maron includes a host of diverse characters and I liked that their diversity wasn't the main focus. They are portrayed as any other character, their sexuality or disability does not override the plot.

With What LaVonda Robinette Did Next Kirsten Maron has proven herself in the cosy crime / humour genre. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next!

My rating 5 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐



You can purchase the book from Amazon Australia
 
About the author

Kirsten Maron writes fictional stories and What Would LaVonda Robinette Do? is her second completed book. Don't bother looking for her first book; she decided she hated the ending and scrapped the whole thing.

Kirsten has been creating stories since she first learned to write and at the age of six won her first literary and only award with a cunning retelling of Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are.

The frustrations of middle-age provided Kirsten with the authorial fuel for writing her second book, but of course, unlike LaVonda, she would never actually murder anyone.

Kirsten lives in rural NSW with her husband and several bossy kangaroos. She is currently working on her third novel; a sequel called What LaVonda Robinette Did Next.
 

Challenges Entered: Australian Women Writers Challenge AWW2021

 
                                   Aussie Author Challenge #Aussieauthor21
 
 
Thanks to the outstanding generosity of the author I have 4 double sets of the books to give away. 
 
GIVEAWAY 
This giveaway is now closed and the winners were announced HERE

Book Review: Happy Hour by Jacquie Byron

Happy Hour
by
Jacquie Byron 
 
Franny loves her dogs, her cocktails and her solitude. But life has other plans...
 
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
 
Publication date: 31st August 2021
 
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
 
Pages: 352
 
RRP: $32.99 AUD
 
Format read: Uncorrected proof paperback

Source: Courtesy of the publisher
 
About the book
 
Gin in one hand, paintbrush in the other, Franny Calderwood has turned her back on the world, or at least the world she used to love. Having lost her husband, Frank, in tragic circumstances three years earlier, 65-year-old Franny copes the only way she knows how: by removing herself completely from the life she had before. Franny lives a life of decadent seclusion, with only her two dogs, Whisky and Soda, a stuffed cat, cocktails and the memory of Frank for company.

Then the Salernos move in next door. The troubled but charming trio - beleaguered mother Sallyanne, angry teenager Dee and eccentric eight-year-old Josh - cannot help but pull Franny into the drama of their lives. But despite her fixation with independence, Franny's wisecracks and culinary experiments hide considerable trauma and pain, and when her eccentric behaviour has life-threatening consequences she faces a reckoning of sorts. Yes, Frank is dead, but did the woman he loved have to perish with him?

A story about one woman, two dogs and the family next door, Happy Hour is a hilarious and uplifting insight into grief, loss, true love and friendship.
 
My review:
 
Happy Hour is a thought provoking story of love, loss, friendship and forgiveness.
 
People often ask 'what book changed your life' and I can never really think of a book that was so profound it literally changed my life. However, I think Happy Hour has come close by changing my attitude towards friends I may have given up on a little too easily.

Franny is wallowing in self pity. For the last three years, since the death of her beloved husband, Franny has spent her days with her dogs and her memories, clock watching until she can have that first drink of the day. She has pushed everyone out of her life.

I loved Franny's family and friends who consistently rang her and asked her over, never giving up after three long years of excuses.
At times her self pity became too much for me and I did feel annoyed with her. And then Jacquie Byron gives us this quote....

"No one can criticise the way someone else handles grief." (so true)

Many part of Happy Hour are heart-breaking but there are also many heartwarming situations surrounding the blossoming inter-generational friendship between Franny and her young neighbours.

Byron puts her characters in difficult situations that make the reader stop and think about their own reaction to these situations.
Humour offers lightness in a book heavy with themes of loss, grief and alcohol abuse.
 
Happy Hour is a story that will make you stop and think. A fabulous debut! Funny, engaging and heartwarming. 

My rating 5 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐




About the author

Jacquie Byron grew up with wishing-chairs and Trixie Belden. Her love of reading morphed into a love of writing, leading her to study journalism while waitressing her way around various bars and tables in Melbourne and, for a short stint, the UK. Collecting and sharing stories has kept her busy professionally for more than twenty-five years, taking her from the Ogden Museum in New Orleans to an IDP camp in Uganda. Shocking herself as much as those around her, Jacquie has been a motoring writer, a jewellery editor, a fashion publicist and more. Today she writes for business and for pleasure. Happy Hour is her first novel. Whisky is her first cairn.
 
 

Challenges Entered: Australian Women Writers Challenge AWW2021

 
                                   Aussie Author Challenge #Aussieauthor21


Wednesday, 29 December 2021

Book Review: Crocodile Tears by Alan Carter

Crocodile Tears
by
Alan Carter
 
from the winner of the Ngaio Marsh Awards 
 
Publisher: Fremantle Press
 
Publication date: December 2021
 
Series: Cato Kwong #5
 
Genre: Crime / Mystery
 
Pages: 336
 
RRP: $ 32.99 AUD
 
Format read: paperback
 
Source: Beauty and Lace Book Club
 
About the book
 
 Detective Philip ‘Cato’ Kwong is investigating the death of a retiree found hacked to pieces in his suburban home. The trail leads to Timor-Leste, with its recent blood-soaked history. There, he reunites with an old frenemy, the spook Rory Driscoll who, in Cato’s experience, has always occupied a hazy moral terrain.
Resourceful, multilingual, and hard as nails, Rory has been the government's go-to guy when things get sticky in the Asia-Pacific. Now Rory wants out. But first he’s needed to chaperone a motley group of whistleblowers with a price on their heads. And there’s one on his, too.
 
My review: 
 
My first introduction to Cato Kwong was with Getting Warmer which is book #2. I thoroughly enjoyed it and didn’t feel it imperative to read book #1. However with Crocodile Tears book #5 I did feel like I had missed something. I do have books #3 & #4 on my shelf. I just haven’t found that every elusive time to read them.
 
I loved the Australianisms in Crocodile Tears, shown through the language, scenery and general laid back attitude of the characters.
 
Alan Carter has given his readers a twisty political thriller that has multiple plot lines running through it. I was intrigued to see how the different plots would come together and Carter managed to tie them all in nicely, pulling out surprise after surprise.
 
Returning nightmares and a reliance on anxiety medication see Cato in a bad way. However he still gives the case his all. He likes to get to the real answers and won’t let go of a case until he is totally satisfied, often putting his own life in danger. I didn’t see the humour of his previous book with the jams that Cato found himself in. He was more broken in this book and I assume this was Carter’s way of ending the series although I did find it a sad ending to Cato’s illustrious career.
 
The plot moves from Perth to Tasmania, Darwin and Timor-Leste. A fast paced police procedural that involves murder, greed, ambition, hatred and spies. No one can be trusted and strings are being pulled by Government authorities to suit their own agenda.
 
Crocodile Tears was my first introduction to Rory Driscoll; a likeable anti-hero who came across as a good bloke. He professes that he is retired, happy to spend his days fishing, but I would love to see him have his own series.
 
Although I am sad to see him go, I found Crocodile Tears an acceptable end to the Cato Kwong series.
 
See my original review at Beauty and Lace Book Club
 
My rating 4 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 
 
 
About the author 

Alan Carter is an award-winning crime author and sometimes television documentary director. His Cato Kwong series – Prime Cut, Getting Warmer and Bad Seed – has been published in the UK, France, Germany and Spain. His latest novel, Marlborough Man, is set in New Zealand. Alan was born in Sunderland, UK and immigrated to Australia in 1991. These days he divides his time between his house near the beach in Fremantle and a hobby farm up a remote valley in New Zealand. In his spare time he follows a black line up and down the local swimming pool. Alan Carter has won the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel (2018) and the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction (2011).
 
Challenges entered: Aussie Author Challenge
                                 Cloak and Dagger Challenge

 
 
 

Book Review: Christians by Greg Sheridan

 Christians
by
Greg Sheridan
 
The urgent case for Jesus in our world
 
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
 
Publication date: August 2021
 
Genre: Non Fiction / Religion
 
Pages: 384
 
RRP: $32.95 AUD
 
Format read: paperback
 
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via DMCPRMedia
 
About the book
 
From the historical Jesus and his disciples through to the present day, Greg Sheridan has written an impassioned, informed and utterly compelling case for the truth and importance of Christianity in our lives. He presents a strong argument for the historical reliability of the New Testament, meets the living Jesus there, explores the extraordinary personality of Paul, celebrates Mary's activism and examines the magnificent richness of John.

Filled with insights, intelligence, warmth and humor, Greg also introduces us to a range of fascinating Christians today, among them political leaders, and young activists offering the radical Christian interpretation of love to their generation. His book explores the journey of those who have been guided by faith, such as Gemma Sisia, whose school in Tanzania has transformed the lives of thousands of children, and the dynamic Chinese Christians pursuing their beliefs under harsh restrictions. He examines where Jesus can be found in popular culture and talks to Christian leaders - Pentecostal, Catholic, Evangelical and others - in Australia, the US and Britain.
 
My review
 
From the media release: At a time when the chasm of understanding between secularism and faith has never seemed wider, Christians is timely, relevant and convincing. Bill Hayden tells the moving story of his long journey to belief and Peter Cosgrove recounts the experience of prayer and religious belief in the midst of deadly combat.
Christians is a new take on Christianity in popular culture, revealing how people and the New Testament work to powerfully affect lives today. 
 
Christians is a book to learn about the living Jesus. An awe-inspiring look inside the New Testament. Sheridan is not so much trying to convert people but give Christians a fresh look at Christianity and re-invigorate their faith.
Filled with indisputable facts. It does help to know some basics of the bible to understand what Sheridan is explaining about history.
 
Written in a conversational tone Sheridan explores the gospels and uses historical fact to back up his musings. I did find the book hard to read as a novel. It was more a case of picking it up and reading parts of the book to suit my mood.
 
 "Much of the New Testament is sublimely beautiful as literature. Apart from it's religious significance, it justifies reading for aesthetic pleasure as well as literary appreciation and scholarship."
 
Christians was highly entertaining, fascinating reading and thought provoking.
 
My rating 4 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
 
About the author
 
Greg Sheridan is foreign editor of The Australian and a hugely respected journalist for over 40 years. Greg is fascinated by intellectual, spiritual and human aspects of Christianity, and his previous books include God is Good For You and When We Were Young and Foolish.

Challenges entered: Non Fiction Reading Challenge

                                  Aussie Author Challenge

 

 


 

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Book Review: The Hush by Sara Foster

 The Hush
by
Sara Foster
 
Everything can change in a heartbeat
 
Publisher: Harper Collins
 
Publication date: 27th October 2021
 
Genre: Thriller / Dystopian
 
Pages: 359
 
Format read: Paperback
 
Source: Courtesy Better Reading Preview 

About the book
 
Six months ago, in an English hospital, a healthy baby wouldn’t take a breath at birth. Since then there have been more tragedies, and now the country is in turmoil. The government is clamping down on people’s freedoms. The prime minister has passed new laws granting authorities sweeping powers to monitor all citizens. And young pregnant women have started going missing.

As a midwife, Emma is determined to be there for those who need her. But when her seventeen-year-old daughter Lainey finds herself in trouble, this dangerous new world becomes very real, and both women face impossible choices. The one person who might help is Emma’s estranged mother Geraldine, but reaching out to her will put them all in jeopardy …

The Hush is a new breed of near-future thriller, an unflinching look at a society close to tipping point and a story for our times, highlighting the power of female friendship through a dynamic group of women determined to triumph against the odds
 
My review
  
Keep them meek and keep them scared.

Sara Foster’s The Hush, set seven years post Covid, is a dystopian novel that is highly believable in many aspects.
Smart watches are used to monitor a person’s health, every movement and purchase. Okay not so unlike present day Australia so far. It’s all for the citizens safety. So that’s okay?

When the still birth rate begins to dramatically rise new laws are introduced to monitor all pregnancies. Then pregnant teenaged girls start to go missing.
Anyone who posts or protests about these missing girls is dealt with severely and shut down immediately. The only right people have is ‘to obey’.

The Hush is so scarily real I raced through it. I was devastated at how helpless the people were and eager to see where Sara Foster was going with the plot.

Foster gives us a society where the very existence of human beings is threatened and a Government that is consumed with control and hidden agendas.

Friendship is an over-arching theme throughout the book, along with mother / daughter relationships. Women band together to help each other putting their own lives in danger.
I enjoyed the inclusion of the teenagers and how they united and were ready to protest about the way people were being treating. The way some of the teenagers got around the constant surveillance with the watches gave me a laugh. It was so believable.

I know the media had been shut down and threatened as well but I would have liked to have seen more of the spin the media put on the events.

I liked how the parts of the book were divided into the different stages of labour, very cute.
 
My rating 4 / 5

 


Challenges Entered: Australian Women Writers Challenge AWW2021

 
                                   Aussie Author Challenge #Aussieauthor21
 
About the author

Sara Foster is the author of six previous bestselling psychological suspense novels: You Don't Know Me, The Hidden Hours, All That Is Lost Between Us, Shallow Breath, Beneath the Shadows and Come Back to Me. Sara lives in Western Australia with her husband and two daughters, and is a doctoral candidate at Curtin University.

 
 
 
 
 
 
My reviews for other Sara Foster books can be read on Goodreads.
 

 
 
 

Book Review: The Heron's Cry by Ann Cleeves

 The Heron's Cry
by
Ann Cleeves
 
 
Publication date: 2nd September 2021
 
Series: Two Rivers #2
 
Genre: Crime / Mystery
 
Pages: 382
 
Format read: Paperback
 
Source: Courtesy of the publisher
 
About the book
 
North Devon is enjoying a rare hot summer with tourists flocking to its coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder--Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed with a shard of one of his glassblower daughter's broken vases.

Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He's a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved, though, to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband.

Then another body is found--killed in a similar way. Matthew soon finds himself treading carefully through the lies that fester at the heart of his community and a case that is dangerously close to home.
 
My review
 
I loved Ann Cleeves' Shetland and Vera series. She has proven time and time again that she can write compelling stories. I think that is why I was so disappointed in The Heron's Cry.
 
I haven't read The Long Call so I can't say how this compares to the first in this new series.
The Heron's Cry is narrated through multiple points of view. I found the content repetitive with the three main detectives questioning the same witnesses, at different times, and getting the same answers then meeting back at the station and going over it all again.
 
I found the characters one dimensional (maybe I missed something by not reading the first book). I'm fine with flawed characters however to be reminded that Venn had a strict childhood and traumatic exit from The Bretheren every few chapters was overkill. Jen continually apologised over get drunk at a party and angst over being a bad mother. Stop  apologising!!  You're a strong woman, be you!
 
The plot was boring and slow, even my 7 year old granddaughter was saying, 'give it up nan.' She was tired of my moaning.
I hadn't intended to be so scathing in my review but I wanted to convey everything.
 
What did I like? Jonathan, sweet gorgeous Jonathan, Matthew Venn's husband who was always thinking of Matthew and how he could make Matthew's life more pleasant. I also liked Detective Ross May and the little glimpse into his private life and his love for his wife.
Cleeves touches on the difficulty families face with a family member with mental health issues and the enormous burden it places on families when there is little to no support from hospitals.
 
I don't think I will continue with this series however I will be on the lookout for other books by Ann Cleeves. 
 
My rating 2 / 5  ⭐⭐

 
 
 
About the author
 
Ann Cleeves is the author of over thirty critically acclaimed novels, and in 2017 was awarded the highest accolade in crime writing, the CWA Diamond Dagger. She is the creator of popular detectives Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez, who can now be found on television in ITV's Vera and BBC One's Shetland. The TV series and the books they are based on have become international sensations, capturing the minds of millions worldwide.
Ann worked as a probation officer, bird observatory cook and auxiliary coastguard before she started writing. She is a member of 'Murder Squad', working with other British northern writers to promote crime fiction. Ann is also a passionate champion for libraries and was a National Libraries Day Ambassador in 2016. Ann lives in North Tyneside near where the Vera books are set.