Monday 31 October 2022

Book Review: The Castaways of Harewood Hall by Karen Herbert

The Castaways of Harewood Hall
Karen Herbert
a devilish dog, a curious cat and skulduggery in the basement...
Publisher: Fremantle Press
Publication date: 1st September 2022
Genre: Crime / Mystery
Pages: 216
RRP: $32.99AU
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

My review of The Castaways of Harewood Hall

Harewood Hall is a retirement village home to an eclectic group of residents who believe retirement from paid work doesn't mean retirement from life.

The narrative switches between some of the residents of the village, the manager, staff member Josh and even the resident cat, Harley, gets his point of view in this humorous and quirky tale.

Kind-hearted Josh rescues some research mice and hides them in Harewood Hall basement. Manager Fiona diligently deals with residents concerns about tree trimming, a spike in water usage and an unsafe retaining wall. Drama abounds when some residents decide to fix things themselves. Paul is the mediator, Martin the fixer and Joyce the organiser.

The Castaways of Harewood Hall is a delightful, light read bursting with a whole cast of likeable characters all with their own quirks and pet projects.
The mystery tends to take second stage to the goings on of the characters, human and non human.

I loved Harley's (the cat) point of view as he wandered from resident to resident, aloof but also a huge part of the village.
Missing money, mysterious deliveries  and a couple of red herrings make this novel an entertaining read. In Harewood Hall nothing goes unnoticed.

I've read a couple of retirement village novels that were hugely entertaining but unbelievable with the over-the-top high-jinks. Harewood Hall is tremendously engaging and believable.

My rating 4 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Karen Herbert has worked in age care, disability services, higher education, Indigenous land management, social housing and the public sector, and is a board member of The Intelife Group, Advocare Inc., and President of the fellowship of Australian Writers WA. Born in Geraldton, Karen now lives in Perth with her husband.

Friday 28 October 2022

Book Review: The Proxy Bride by Zoë Boccabella

 The Proxy Bride
Zoë Boccabella 
Imagine marrying someone you've never met.....
Publication date: 7th September 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 432
RRP: $32.99AUD
Format read: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher
My review of The Proxy Bride
The Proxy Bride is a dual timeline narrative with the present day set in 1984 and the historical side starting from 1939 and continuing through the second world war.
Many men who immigrated from Italy to Australia and started farming in country towns had no chance of meeting a prospective wife so arrangements were made with their family back home to send a bride. It wasn't proper for unmarried women to travel alone so the women were married by proxy and then sent by ship to a man and a land they had never seen. This is how Gia and Taddeo became husband and wife.

Sixteen-year-old Sofie spends the school holidays at her grandmother nonna's house in rural southern Queensland. Sofie was sullen and reticent, taken from all her friends in Brisbane, and she wasn't going to go easy on Gia, her nonna. Sofie's characterization was perfect and I could easily imagine a 16 year old sulking over having to spend the holidays with her grandmother. As the two spend time together cooking (all the recipes are in the back of the book) they start to talk and Sofie learns Gia's story. Her life, her loves and her tragedies.

This story was quite emotional as Gia describes her arrival in Australia, how the Italian community were spurned by locals, the atrocities that happened during WWII, the men interned and women left to fend for themselves.
There is also a mystery surrounding Sofie's father, a secret that has followed Sofie all her life and a topic her mother refuses to talk about.

The Proxy Bride is brimming with family and love and the food that ties it all together. Boccabella highlights the volatility of the fruit growing industry, raging prejudices during the 1940's, forbidden love and the strength and perseverance of the women who came to call Australia home.
There is much to love in Zoë Boccabella's latest novel.
My rating 5 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author
Zoë Boccabella is an Australian author who writes fiction and non-fiction and whose books have been much-acclaimed, shortlisted for both popular and literary awards and sold internationally. Her writing is influenced by her migrant ancestry, spoken histories and recipes handed-down, alongside travels in Europe and Australia. She lives in Brisbane, Australia.



Wednesday 26 October 2022

Book Review: The Tilt by Chris Hammer

The Tilt 
Chris Hammer 
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication date: 5th October 2022
Series: Ivan Lucic & Nell Buchanan #2
Genre: Crime Fiction
Pages: 488
Format read: Uncorrected Paperback
Source: Courtesy of Better Reading Preview
My review of The Tilt
The Tilt is another atmospheric and well crafted novel by bestselling Australian author Chris Hammer.  
Set on the NSW/Victorian border Hammer’s descriptions of the area, the forests, creeks, isolation and tranquillity are beautifully written, immersing the reader in the setting.
Tulong may be a small town where everyone knows each other but small town secrets can be buried for decades.

The story takes off at a fast pace as a man is being pursued through the forest and a woman plans to sabotage a dam. These two mysteries are at the back of your mind throughout the book.
Recently promoted to Homicide, Nell Buchanan is given a cold case when a skeleton is unearthed near her old home town. With long held feuds and family secrets this case could be closer to home than Nell could ever have imagined!
The story is told through multiple narrative styles; Jimmy Waters statement running from his childhood in the 40’s to the 70’s, Tess Waters in 1973 and the present day investigation by Nell. I enjoyed each era of the story; Jimmy’s childhood attending the cattle and supporting his family while his father was at war and Tessa’s story in 1973 was so quintessentially 70’s, the cars, the music, the language. It was all so spot on!
The mysteries build throughout with a few unexpected twists to round off an excellent read. The Tilt is the second Nell Buchanan novel however reads well as a standalone.  

My rating 4 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author
Chris Hammer is a leading Australian author of crime fiction. His first book, Scrublands, was an instant bestseller when it was published in mid-2018. It won the prestigious UK Crime Writers Association John Creasy Award for a debut crime novel in 2019 and was shortlisted for various awards in Australia and the United States.

has been sold into translation in several foreign languages and is being developed for television. His follow up books - Silver (2019), Trust (2020) and Treasure & Dirt (2021) - are also bestsellers and all have been shortlisted for major literary prizes.

Before turning to fiction, Chris was a journalist for more than thirty years, dividing his career between covering Australian federal politics and international affairs. He reported from more than 30 countries on six continents with SBS TV, while in Canberra, roles included chief political correspondent for The Bulletin, senior writer for The Age and Online Political Editor for Fairfax.

Chris has also written two non-fiction books The River (2010) and The Coast (2012). He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Charles Sturt University and a master's degree in international relations from the Australian National University.

Saturday 22 October 2022

Book Review: The 6:20 Man by David Baldacci

 The 6:20 Man
David Baldacci
Publication date: 28th June 2022
Genre: Crime / Mystery 
Pages: 432
RRP: $34.99AUD
Format read: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

My review of The 6:20 Man
I'm a late comer to David Baldacci's novels. My first reads being the Atlee Pine series. This series was full of hard hitting action and compelling plots. A hard act to follow!
Subsequently I was a little disappointed in The 6:20 Man.
Travis Devine is an ex-Army Ranger now working a dead-end finance job at a top investment bank; a self imposed punishment for past sins. 
When a close friend and fellow employee dies mysteriously Devine starts to investigate and becomes embroiled in a world of greed, power and murder.
I found none of the finance and technical talk interested me but I really enjoyed the descriptions of Manhattan and the diverse characters, especially German born white-hat hacker Will Valentine, these were probably the highlights of the book for me.
The plot starts off slow but does escalate in pace as the murders increase, the mystery intensifies and the twists keep coming.
You will need to suspend your disbelief to truly appreciate this action packed thriller set in the high finance world of Manhattan.
Now that Travis Devine has found a new calling I am keen to see where this will take him.
Going by other reviews, dedicated fans of Baldacci are loving The 6:20 Man. Are you a Baldacci fan? Did you love this book? Let me know what you thought? Maybe I was just expecting too much. 🤷
My rating 3 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐
 About the author
David Baldacci is one of the world's bestselling and favourite thriller writers. A former trial lawyer with a keen interest in world politics, he has specialist knowledge in the Us political system and intelligence service, and his first book, Absolute Power, became an instant international bestseller, with the movie starring Clint Eastwood a major box office hit. He has since written more than forty bestsellers featuring, most recently, Amos Decker, Aloysius Archer, Atlee Pine and John Puller. David is also the co-founder, along with his wife, of the Wish You Well Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting literacy efforts across the US. 

Tuesday 18 October 2022

Book Review: The Night Fisher Elegies

 The Night Fisher Elegies
Dean  Mayes
Stories, Verse and Reflections 
Publisher: Hambeldown Road Imprints
Publication date: 1st September 2022
Genre: Anthology
Pages: 226
Format read: eBook
Source: Courtesy of the author

My review of The Night Fisher Elegies
Dean Mayes' The Night Fisher Elegies is an emotive and candid collection of essays and verse
An elegy: a pensive or reflective poem that is usually nostalgic or melancholy 
Mayes' writing is beautifully descriptive, at times calm and heartfelt whilst at other times emotional, confronting and raw.
Through these short stories and verse Mayes reflects on feelings of disconnection, loss, suffering and grief. There are also nostalgic memories from is childhood filled with love and life changing moments.
Dean Mayes is an extremely talented and diverse writer and I found his latest, The night Fisher Elegies, to be a powerful and reflective read.
content warning: suicide
My rating 4 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author
Dean Mayes is an Intensive Care Nurse who is fascinated by philosophy and paranormal, so his stories weave an element of magical realism with deep humanism. His first novel The Hambeldown Dream was published in 2010 by Central Avenue Publishing and his subsequent novels Gifts of the Peramangk, The Recipient & The Artisan Heart continue his relationship with Central Avenue Publishing.
He grew up in Melbourne, Australia and now lives in Adelaide with his wife, Emily, his children, Xavier & Lucy, and his writing partner - a 10 year old spaniel named, Sam.
Dean loves outdoor cooking, anything to do with Star Wars and (insanely) long-form podcats.


Saturday 1 October 2022

Book Review: Red Dust by Fleur McDonald

 Red Dust
Fleur McDonald

An outback novel of love, intrigue and redemption

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication date: 1st January 2009
Genre: Rural Fiction
Pages: 330
Format read: Paperback
Source: own purchase
My review of Red Dust
I'm a huge fan of Fleur McDonald however I came into her books over halfway through her writing career. So I thought it was way beyond time I started on Fleur's back list.
Red Dust is her debut novel and although not as polished as her later novels it was still a great read. I found some of the conversations a bit stilted and the point of view was all over the place however I was drawn straight into the story from the opening chapter with a dying man's ominous last words. 

McDonald has written a riveting rural crime novel centred around cattle stealing but also featuring the difficulties faced by woman farmers and the isolation of farm life.

After her husband's tragic death Gemma is left with a farm to run and a mountain of rising debts. As she goes through the farm accounts and the town gossip heats up, Gemma starts to wonder if she really knew her husband at all.

I always laugh and comment that Fleur isn't adverse to killing off a much loved character and after reading Red Dust I can say even from her debut novel Fleur liked to kill off characters that I've warmed to. 😂

I loved that this was Dave Burrows first appearance. He is just a side character here so there is nothing of his personal life. He is just there to investigate the cattle stealing and be awesome. 
A small romance thread runs through the story and after all the drama and suspense it's nice to end on a HEA.
 My rating 4 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Photo credit:goodreads
 Fleur McDonald has lived and worked on farms for much of her life. After growing up in the small town of Orroroo in South Australia, she went jillarooing, eventually co-owning an 8000 acre property in regional Western Australia.
Fleur likes to write about strong women overcoming adversity, drawing inspiration from her own experiences in rural Australia. She has two children, an energetic kelpie and a Jack Russell terrier.
Links to my reviews of Fleur's books (not in order).
*I read this book as part of the Mount TBR Challenge (on my shelf 19/4/2017)