Thursday 22 September 2022

Book Review: Buried Deception by Amanda McKinney

Buried Deception
Amanda McKinney
Publisher: Montlake
Publication date: 20th September 2022
Series: On the Edge #1
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 344
Format read: eBook
Source: Courtesy of Smith Publicity
My review of Buried Deception
I found the content matter of this story quite disturbing. Cue, graphic sexual assault scenes.
Narrated through the first person dual narrative of Mia, a psychologist, and Easton, owner of LYNX a tactical response company that trains soldiers in combat tracking and search & rescue.
Easton and his team are called in when a teenage girl goes missing on the infamous Black Cat Trail, a trail where women have previously been attacked by a person labelled as the Black Cat Stalker. He crosses paths with Mia Frost when she is called in to help police with criminal profiling.
There is a lot to unpack in this story. I was intrigued with the process of criminal profiling and also the search and rescue headed by Easton was interesting and seemed to be well researched.
What I couldn't come to grips with was the graphic sexual assault scenes and Easton's creepy stalking of Mia. (That's not love, that's just disturbing).
McKinney's themes of mental illness, PTSD and disassociate amnesia were interesting and well delivered.  
I loved that I couldn't figure out who the Black Cat Stalker was. I changed my suspect three times during the book but never guessing right.
I didn't get into the story until abut the 60% mark but I feel it was wrapped up well with a satisfying ending.
My rating 3 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐

About the author
Photo credit: Goodreads
Amanda McKinney is the author of more than twenty romantic-suspense, mystery, and action-and-adventure novels. Her books have received over fifteen literary awards and nominations. She lives in Arkansas with her handsome husband, two beautiful boys, and three obnoxious dogs and enjoys hiking, daydreaming, and very dirty martinis ( on occasion, all three at the same time).


Monday 19 September 2022

Book Review: The River Gum Cottage by Leonie Kelsall

 The River Gum Cottage
Leonie Kelsall
Bestselling author of The Farm at Peppertree Crossing
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication date: 5th July 2022
Genre: Rural Romance
Pages: 448
RRP: $29.99AUD
Format read: Paperback
Source: Beauty and Lace Book Club
My review of The River Gum Cottage
Lucie returns home after a four year estrangement, devastated that her father's sudden death means the rift between them will now, never be healed. But on returning she may also lose the thing she holds most dear; her daughter.
Jack is concerned that he will lose all he has worked for now his business partner has died.
I've thoroughly enjoyed Leonie's previous books and The River Gum Cottage was no exception. It reads well as a standalone but I loved that familiar characters from previous books came in and out of the story.
The story kept me fully immersed with jaw-dropping twists that had me turning the pages eagerly hoping that Jack and Lucie would be able to forget the past and look to the future.

The characters were all endearing and their problems realistic. The story put a permanent smile on my face. Kelsall's writing is engaging with vivid descriptions of the scenery, the plants and the animals.
Leonie Kelsall, through The River Gum Cottage, reminds us just how beautiful the Australian environment is. I loved Lucie's use of natural therapies and crystals and Jack's sustainable, eco-friendly farming methods that were also environmentally conscious.
Leonie has delivered another book that was an absolute pleasure to read.
My rating 5 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author
Raised initially in a tiny, no-horse town on South Australia's Fleurieu coast, then in the slightly more populated wheat and sheep farming land at Pallamana,
Léonie is a country girl through and through. Growing up without a television, she developed a love of reading before she reached primary school, swiftly followed by a desire to write. Pity the poor teachers who received chapters of creative writing instead of a single page!
Léonie entertained a brief fantasy of moving to the big city (well, Adelaide), but within months the lure of the open spaces and big sky country summoned her home. Now she splits her time between the stark, arid beauty of the family farm at Pallamana and her home and counselling practice in the lush Adelaide Hills.

Sunday 18 September 2022

Book Review: Gone to Ground by Bronwyn Hall

Gone to Ground
Bronwyn Hall 

Hunted. Alone. Afraid....

Imprint: HQ FictionAU
Publication date: 3rd August 2022
Genre: Thriller / Suspense
Pages: 288  
RRP: $29.99AUD 
Format read: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher
My review of Gone to Ground
Set amidst the political unrest of The Democratic Republic of Congo Gone to Ground is an adrenaline fuelled race through the jungle.
Australian doctor Rachel Forester has been sent to a remote jungle post on the whim of a scorned ex-boyfriend. As a dedicated surgeon she is happy to be saving lives. When the post is evacuated she puts her patients' lives ahead of hers and stays behind to evacuate on foot with three UN soldiers.
Bronwyn Hall brings the jungle to life; the heat, insects, spiders and snakes all had me holding my breath. Throw in some close encounters with rebel militias and there was always this ominous 'what will happen next' feeling keeping me glued to the book.
Rachel was tough but believable as a civilian trekking through the jungle and I loved the addition of the romance element, it was a nice aside to the danger.
With themes of forced child labour, violence towards women, rebel militia activity and political unrest the narrative has a foreboding sense of unease that simmers throughout the novel. 
The story moves along at a steady pace with the plot keeping me totally intrigued and turning the pages. Gone to Ground is a book I truly didn't want to put down.
Bravo, Bronwyn Hall, on this remarkable debut!
My rating 5 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author
Photo credit: Harper Collins
Bronwyn Hall didn't intend on being a writer. Her career has been spent working in health and community services, spanning aged care, disability and mental health. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature (and Psychology - for the day job) and she comes from a family of passionate readers. Born and bred in Australia, Bronwyn has a love for new cultures and environments, having lived for several years in both Papua New Guinea and Brazil. She is deeply intrigued by the extraordinary breadth of qualities that make up the complex creatures called humans - not least, their quiet conquering of adversity. Bronwyn lives and writes on Wurundjeri land in Melbourne, Australia.

Wednesday 14 September 2022

Winner of a copy of The Accident announced!!


A huge thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway for a paperback copy of The Accident by Katie McMahon.   The giveaway closed on the 13th September 2022 and the winner was randomly selected (using Random org) from all correct entries. 

Congratulations to........  Betty Connery
The winner has been notified and has seven days to provide a mailing address.
Thank you to Echo Publishing and DMCPRMedia for sponsoring this giveaway. 
Please check under the Giveaway tab for more great giveaways!  

Tuesday 13 September 2022

Book Review: The Last Summer by Karen Swan

 The Last Summer
Karen Swan

An island full of secrets. An irresistible love story....

Publisher: Macmillan Australia 
Publication date: 26th April 2022
Series: The Wild Isle #1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 496
RRP: $32.99AUD
Format read: Paperback 
Source: Courtesy of the publisher
My review of The Last Summer
I loved this book and I need the next one now!!
I never read the back cover blurb before I start a book, always preferring to go in blind. So I was thinking this was a dual time line, as some of Karen Swan's previous books, but I was delighted to find that The Last Summer is purely historical fiction and also the first in a new five book series.
Set on the remote island of Hirta in the St Kilda archipelago in the months leading up to the 1930 evacuation of the villagers to the mainland of Scotland. Swan uses real events to weave a fictitious tale of resilience.
Life is hard for the villagers on the island but it's the only life 18 year old Effie Gillies has known. Effie is wild and determined she has  had to work as hard as the men to help support her ailing father.
Lord Sholto has lead a privileged life but when he and his father visit the island they do not show airs and graces as Effie acts as tour guide to the visitors. Sholto falls for Effie the minute he sees her and Effie dreams there may be a life for her off the island.
I loved all the descriptions of the wild beauty of the island, Effie's skill at cragging (abseiling) on the sheer cliffs and how the villagers lived in harmony like one large family. The continuous effort of getting a meal on the table as well as work to pay taxes to the landlord was extremely interesting.
Karen Swan has delivered the perfect forbidden love story with the two protagonists separated by powerful class boundaries that seemed insurmountable.
I was totally immersed in this story from beginning to end and I flew through the pages eager for Effie to find acceptance as her wild, free self.
The Last Summer is a love story that defies distance, standing and a dangerously jealous man.
Be warned, the story ends on a cliffhanger that will have you eager for the next installment.
My rating 5 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
 About the author

Karen Swan is the Sunday Times top three bestselling author of twenty-one 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 summer titles include The Spanish Promise, The Hidden Beach and The Secret Path and, for winter, The Christmas Secret, Together by Christmas and Midnight in the Snow.
Previously a fashion editor, she lives in Sussex with her husband, three children and two dogs. 


Monday 12 September 2022

Book Review: The School by Brendan James Murray

 The School: The ups and downs of one year in the classroom
Brendan James Murray

One teacher. One school. One year.

Imprint: Picador Australia
Publication date: 25th May 2021
Genre: Non-Fiction / Biography 
Pages: 416
RRP: $ 34.99AUD
Format read: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher
My review of The School
Brendan James Murray has been a high school teacher for over a decade. In The School he combines students and events from his vast teaching career into one year at a Government high school situated on the Victorian coast.
Murray includes moments from his own life as a student filled with self doubt and bullying as the story moves from present day to his own days at school. His obvious affection for his students shines through as he talks about a myriad of students that come and go through his teaching life and the ones that made a lasting impression. 
I didn't agree with all of Murray's thoughts on the education system but I must admit I was nodding along to many of his words.
Highly recommended reading for all teachers and parents of teenagers. Adolescence is a hard road and for some teens their teachers are the only positive role models they have. It was encouraging to read about a teacher who is so passionate about his role, not only as a teacher but also as a mentor to these children.
The School is an insightful and, at times, heart-wrenching account of life in a secondary school. 
My rating 4 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author
Photo credit: Yanni
Brendan James Murray is an award-winning author and teacher. He has twice received National Literary Awards from the Fellowship of Australian Writers for his short stories, and his first book The Drowned Man, was joint winner of the Ned Kelly Award for Best True Crime in 2017. His second book, the critically acclaimed Venom, was featured in the ABC's Conversations program as part of the 'Best of 2018' series. He lives in the Mornington Peninsula with his wife, who is also a teacher.

Sunday 11 September 2022

Book Review: The Brightest Star by Emma Harcourt

The Brightest Star
Emma Harcourt 
It's a dangerous time to be a clever woman.
Imprint: HQ Fiction
Publication date: 6th July 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages:  386

RRP: $32.99AUD
Format read: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher
My review of The Brightest Star
I was expecting this story to be about Luna's battle to be accepted as a woman of knowledge, and this was partly the story, but it was more about the politics of Venice in the 15th Century and the suppression of women. 
Set in Renaissance Florence, a time when the judgement of others ruled everyday moments, The Brightest Star is rich in political intrigue as the governance of Florence comes under question.
Emma Harcourt's writing is beautiful to read and I had so many magnificent quotes highlighted throughout the book, however the subject matter didn't hold my interest. I found myself more invested in the lives of the country folk, and their preparations for the coming winter, than the politics of the time.
Harcourt's writing evokes a powerful sense of time and place and I am certain The Brightest Star will be enjoyed by many Historical Fiction fans.
My rating 3 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐
 About the author

Emma Harcourt has worked as a journalist for over 25 years, in Australia, the UK and Hong Kong. In 2011, she completed the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course and The Shanghai Wife was borne. The Brightest Star is her second novel. Emma lives in Sydney with her two daughters.


Tuesday 6 September 2022

Book Review & Giveaway: The Accident by Katie McMahon

 The Accident 
Katie McMahon
Can we really let go of the past?
Publisher: Echo Publishing

Publication date: 30th August 2022
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 360
RRP: $32.99AUD
Format read: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via DMCPRMedia
My review of The Accident
I loved Katie McMahon's debut novel The Mistake so I was eager to read her next offering and I wasn't disappointed. Katie's second book is even better than her first.
The book opens with an unidentified accident not far from the local high school. This mystery immediately hooked me in as the story then goes back to the nine months leading up to the accident and the question of what happened was always in the back of my mind.
Grace is the mother of teenaged Emma who is struggling with an eating disorder and is also being bullied by the girls in her class at school.
Zoe is a teacher at the local high school.
Imogen is an intern in the local hospital's A & E department. 
The three women are linked by friends, family and lovers. I found the connection to Zoe and Imogen stronger with their first person narration rather than the third person narrative of Grace.
There is a very strong theme of rejection as each of the women feel they have lost their soulmate to someone else and deal with this lose in different ways.
There are a few emotive themes running through the novel, such as; overworked emergency doctors, eating disorders, stalking, infidelity, mental illness, bullying, infertility and moral dilemmas. McMahon explores how life experiences shape us and have far reaching affects on those around us.
I enjoyed the mixed media style with coronial inquest notes and emails adding to the story and building the suspense.
Katie McMahon's writing is rich in suspense, mystery and humour. Her characters are funny, flawed and real. I loved them all!
5 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author
Katie McMahon is a medical doctor and writer. Her first novel, The Mistake, was written after attending a masterclass run by the internationally bestselling author Fiona McIntosh and was published internationally in 2021. Katie has also written articles for The Age and The Quarry. She has lived in London and Melbourne and is now based with her family in Hobart, Tasmania. She works as a doctor and teaches communication skills to medical students. The Accident is her second novel. 


With thanks to Echo Publishing and DMCPRMedia I have one paperback copy of The Accident to give away.

 Enter via the form below. (Open to Australian addresses only). Entries close at 6pm (AEST) on Tuesday 13th September 2022.
 This giveaway is now closed and the winner was announced HERE

Saturday 3 September 2022

Book Review: Blue Wren by Bron Bateman

 Blue Wren
Bron Bateman

Publisher: Fremantle Press

Publication date: 2nd August 2022
Genre: Poetry
Pages: 96
RRP: $29.99AUD
Format read: paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher
My review of Blue Wren
Blue Wren is structured around poems inspired by paintings by artist Frida Kahlo. I did google Frida Kahlo's art after reading the poems and seeing the paintings gives a further insight into many of the poems featured.
Bron Bateman's poems are raw and emotional. Confronting and in turns contemplative. Her words flow beautifully from the page to sink deep into your heart.
The poems reflect on still birth, miscarriage, pain and loss, the passing of life, an unburdening of life's memories.
This is not the style of poetry I would normally read however I feel it would make a good study piece alongside Frida Kahlo's paintings. There is much that can be taken from Bron's poems on her perceptive memories of life.
My rating 3.5 / 5   ⭐⭐⭐½  
About the author
Bron Bateman is a poet, academic and mother of nine. She is a researcher in Crip and Disability Studies at the University of Newcastle and her research interests include Crip and Disability Studies, Queer and Gender Theory, cultural studies, creative writing, Feminisms, and the body. She has her work published in collections and journals in Australia, the UK and the US. 
Praise for the poet
'Erotic feminist sensitive and skilled Bateman is a poet who wants and deserves to be widely read.' - Saturday Age