Tuesday 29 November 2022

Book Review: Dark Deeds Down Under - A Crime & Thriller Anthology

Title: Dark Deeds Down Under
Author: Various 
Editor: Craig Sisterson
Publication date: 1st July 2022
Genre: Crime / Anthology
Pages: 340
RRP: $11.99AU (eBook)
Format: eBook
Source: Courtesy of the publisher
My review of Dark Deeds Down Under
Dark Deeds Down Under is an anthology of fictional titles of mystery, murder and mayhem. Twenty-one short stories from some of the top names in Australian and New Zealand crime fiction.

"a stunning smorgasbord of stories, styles and settings" - Craig Sisterson editor
Many of the authors I had read before and I enjoyed their familiar writing style and the use of characters from well known series.
I love that anthologies have something for everyone and Dark Deeds Down Under is no exception, there is mystery, suspense, edge of your seat drama, humour and unexpected twists. Twenty-one short stories that can be enjoyed at your leisure - perfect holiday reading.

I was amazed how, even in these short stories, some authors managed remarkable characterisation. I had a few favourites and among them were Fiona Sussman's Hiding Something; where a grieving dad picks up a hitchhiker, a chance meeting that will change both their lives and Mr Pig by Stephen Ross; narrated by a friendless thirteen-year-old girl left with her curmudgeon father after her mother goes missing. The twists in these two stories really appealed to my sense of humour.

Dark Deeds Down Under is a superb showcase of Australian & New Zealand crime fiction with something for every taste.
My rating 4.3 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⅓ (averaged over 21 stories) 

Authors included in this anthology

Alan Carter ~ Nikki Crutchley ~ Aoife Clifford ~ Garry Disher ~ Helen Vivienne Fletcher ~ 
Lisa Fuller ~ Sulari Gentil ~ Kerry Greenwood ~ Narrelle M Harris ~ Katherine Kovacic ~ 
Shane Maloney ~ RWR McDonald ~ Dinuka McKenzie ~ Lee Murray & Dan Rabarts ~ 
Renee ~ Stephen Ross ~ Fiona Sussman ~ Vanda Symon ~ David Whish-Wilson

Monday 28 November 2022

Book Review: The Butterfly Collector by Tea Cooper

Title: the Butterfly Collector
Author: Tea Cooper
Publication date: 3rd November 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 400
RRP: $32.99AU
Format: paperback
Source: Better Reading Preview 

My review of The Butterfly Collector

1868 – Theodora is more interested in her art than finding a husband and when her three sisters go to Sydney she stays behind on the family property in Morpeth. A chance sighting of a new species of butterfly starts Theodora on a quest to find its nesting place.
1922 - Verity is from a long line of journalists and when an anonymous invitation to a socialite ball arrives she sees this as an opportunity to write an article for the local newspaper. Connections she makes at the ball lead back to her grandfather's home of Morpeth and a fifty-year-old mystery.

Tea Cooper blends fact and fiction to deliver a story that is rich in intrigue and wonderfully immersive.
The Butterfly Collector is a dual timeline Historical Fiction set in1868 Morpeth in country NSW and 1922 Sydney, NSW. I enjoyed all the mentions of Sydney landmarks that still stand to this day. As the story evolves connections are made between the characters from each timeline.
Tea keeps the pages turning with a layering of mysteries. The mysteries hold you for a few chapters then once they are revealed a new mystery is created causing a continuous aura of mystery throughout the book. There is also an underlying sense of foreboding and I always had this feeling that something terrible was going to happen.
Centred around the first sighting of the Wanderer butterfly in Australia, the newspaper industry and baby farms, Tea Cooper has seamlessly delivered a story that is diverse in its content and impossible to put down.
Tea Cooper’s trademark strong female characters take centre stage in this multi-layered tale of friendship and tenacity.
My rating 5 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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.


Saturday 26 November 2022

Book Review: Keeping Up Appearances by Tricia Stringer

 In a small country town, better bury your secrets deep....

Title: Keeping Up Appearances
Author: Tricia Stringer
Publication date: 5th October 2022
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 464
RRP: $32.99AUD
Format: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher
My review of Keeping Up Appearances 
Single mother of three, Paige, is hiding from extended family and is hoping to fly under the radar in the small town of Badara.
Marion has been busy trying to build community spirit with exercise classes and a Celebrate Badara festival but the planned opening of a time capsule could destroy everything when long buried secrets work their way to the top.

Briony Hensley's grown children all have their lives together and Briony is smug with her perfect family. There would be no gossip around town about the Hensleys! Small towns do tend to gossip and for many keeping up appearances is imperative.

I do love Tricia Stringer's writing style however I felt the subject explored in Keeping Up Appearances was a little outdated. I wondered if people really do think like that in this day and age!
I loved the town of Badara, wonderfully drawn and filled with caring people who looked out for each other. The little spats between the townsfolk came across as real. There are lots of fun moments in Keeping Up Appearances such as the exercise class Marion is trying to promote, the family picnic for the sports club, the Op shop ball organised for the Celebrate Badara Festival and I can't forget the opening of the time capsule which was really quite funny but devastating for poor Marion.

Keeping Up Appearances has strong themes of kindness, forgiveness and acceptance. It is a story that will leave you contented and is garnering a multitude of five star reviews.
Even though I thought all the problems were wrapped up a bit too quickly and nicely at the end it is a feel good story and Tricia Stringer did deliver the feels.

My rating 3 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Tricia Stringer is a bestselling Australian author of contemporary fiction and rural romance.

Tricia grew up on a farm in country South Australia and has spent most of her life in rural communities, as owner of a post office and a book shop, as a teacher and librarian, and now as a full-time writer. She lives in the beautiful Copper Coast region with her husband, Daryl. From there she travels and explores Australia's diverse communities and landscapes, and shares this passion for the country and its people through stories.


Friday 25 November 2022

Winners in my latest Giveaway Announced!!

 A huge thank you to everyone who entered my latest giveaway.   The giveaway closed on the 24th November 2022 and the winners were randomly selected (using Random org) from all entries. 
 And the winners are........

 Congratulations to........ Catherine B

Congratulations to........ Richard H
Congratulations to........ Donna R
Congratulations to........ Sharah Mc
Congratulations to........ Rachael
Congratulations to........ Billyjean 
Congratulations to........ Leanne
 Congratulations to........ Warrick W
The winners have been notified and have seven days to provide a mailing address.

Please check under the Giveaway tab for more great giveaways!  



Wednesday 23 November 2022

Book Review: The Furphy Anthology 2021

 Selected Short stories from 
Title: The Furphy Anthology 2021
Author: Various
Publisher: Heads & Tales
Publication date: 1st December 2021
Genre: Various
RRP: $35.00AU
Pages: 216
Format: Hardcover
Source: Courtesy of DMCPRMedia
My review of The Furphy Anthology 2021
I loved the cover of this anthology; Sixteen jewels from the literary world.
These sixteen quintessentially Australian short stories with coastal, rural, desert and small-town settings are like a snapshot in time; leaving the before and after up to the readers imagination. 

I really enjoy anthologies and find most have a connecting theme that help the stories to  flow into each other. Although I don't think these short stories had a suggested theme they all felt connected in their Austalianness. There is something about each story that screams Australia, whether it be the seclusion of location, the atmosphere, the language, or the characters themselves, it seemed to permeate each story without being openly stated.
There are stories of young people feeling trapped, neglected children, test-tube meat, love, loss and disconnectedness. 
My favourite story was about a teenaged boy wanting to escape a small country town filled with racism, bigotry, dysfunctional families and drugs but family obligations keep holding him back.
"Everyone thinks everyone else is the problem; everyone gives their opinion; and everyone thinks someone else should fix it."
With stories from a wide variety of genres I am certain there will be something in this collection that will resonate with all readers. 
Beautifully presented in hardcover format The Furphy Anthology 2021 would make an excellent gift idea. 
My rating 4.31 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⅓ (averaged over the 16 stories)

About the Furphy Literary Award
The Award is named in honour of Australian writer Joseph Furphy, who wrote under the pen name Tom Collins and published Such is Life in 1903. Originally established in 1992, the Furphy Literary Award was relaunched as a national prize in 2020.

The Open Category is for short stories 5000 words or less with $20,000 prize money up for grabs. There are also four Junior/Youth categories, open to people from the greater Shepparton area in Victoria.

Visit their website to learn more about the awards: https://www.furphystory.com.au/furphy-literary-award/




Sunday 20 November 2022

Book Review: Upriver by Martin Roy HIll

Title: Upriver
Author: Martin Roy Hill
Series: Linus Schag NCIS Thriller #3
Publisher: 32-32 North
Publication date: 1st October 2022 
Genre: Crime / Thriller
Pages: 240
Format: eBook
Source: Courtesy of the author
My review of Upriver
Upriver is book 3 in the Linus Schag, NCIS thriller series.
I think Linus was a little out of his depth in Upriver. He tended to take a back seat and wasn't in charge of the situation as he usually is. In fact he left his rifle unattended on the deck, not once but twice! Scag is sent to bring in two Navy SEALs suspected of murder but when the apprehension goes wrong and the prisoners escape Schag embarks on a long and dangerous pursuit along the Tigris River and straight into ISIS territory.

Upriver is as action packed as all Martin Roy Hill's novels whilst also rich in Hill's trademark humour. Told through the dual narrative of Sikes & Rankin (the escapees) and Linus Schag's team, we get to see the action and circumstances from both perspectives.

Hill includes a brief history of the Tigris River, the pressure on defence personnel due to relentless hours worked on tours of duty, mental  breakdown and the dilemma of friendly fire.
"His anger grew from the myriad of lies and deceits he discovered this war bred. Corrupt contractors, war-weary service members, innocent victims."
The trip up the river following the escapees and surrounded by enemy fire in ISIS controlled areas was tension filled and action packed. And it wouldn't be a Schag thriller if there wasn't an explosion or two! 

Hill once again showcases his extensive knowledge with all things afloat and his detailed descriptions were informative whilst still being suitable for a layperson.

If you are after a thriller that is timely, believable and rich in action Upriver is the book for you!!
My rating 4 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author
Martin Roy Hill is the author of two national awarding winning series - the Linus Schag, NCIS, thrillers and the Peter Brandt mysteries, the USCG DSF-Papa sci-fi thrillers, and a collection of short stories. He is a former journalist and national award-winning investagative reporter for newspapers and magazines.
He lives in San Diego, California, with his wife, son and their three feline overlords.




Wednesday 16 November 2022

Mega End of Year - Nine Book Giveaway

As postage prices rise it's getting harder to offer giveaways so I'm doing a massive end of year giveaway. I am hoping to source new giveaways from publishers in 2023 so I won't need to foot the postage bill.

I have some fabulous books on this list. Some are brand new and some lightly read. All would be great holiday reads.

Enter for as many books as you like... and Good Luck. 

The 6:20 Man by David Baldacci

Every day without fail, Travis Devine puts on a cheap suit, grabs his faux-leather briefcase, and boards the 6:20 commuter train to Manhattan, where he works as an entry-level analyst at the city’s most prestigious investment firm. In the mornings, he gazes out the train window at the lavish homes of the uberwealthy, dreaming about joining their ranks. In the evenings, he listens to the fiscal news on his phone, already preparing for the next grueling day in the cutthroat realm of finance.

Then one morning Devine’s tedious routine is shattered by an anonymous email: She is dead.

Sara Ewes, Devine’s coworker and former girlfriend, has been found hanging in a storage room of his office building—presumably a suicide, prompting the NYPD to come calling on him. If that wasn’t enough, Devine receives another ominous visit, a confrontation that threatens to dredge up grim secrets from his past in the Army unless he participates in a clandestine investigation into his firm.

This treacherous role will take Travis from the impossibly glittering lives he once saw only through a train window, to the darkest corners of the country’s economic halls of power…where something rotten lurks. And apart from this high-stakes conspiracy, there’s a killer out there with their own agenda, and Devine is the bullseye

 Bad Habits by Sarah Evans & The Bone Ranger by Louisa Bennet (sent together)


A freezer full of body parts is the tip of the criminal iceberg for Perth cop Eve Rock.

The festive season has spawned a spate of murders, robberies and abductions, which actually reassures Eve that others' bad habits far exceed her own. It also gives her a watertight excuse to avoid hanging out with her dysfunctional family while spending time with her two gorgeous colleagues and would-be lovers, Quinn Fox and his son Adam. A win-win situation.

Butchered bodies used for questionable purposes, a murdered man in a skip, a brazen multi-million dollar haul from a high-end jewellers and posh art gallery are all in a day's work for Eve and her team.

Now usually Eve relishes getting stuck into solving crimes, but she's not so keen when she's the target and the boundaries between work and home become nastily blurred.

But who is trying to kill her this time? And why? And who are the strange people wandering around her temporary digs late at night? And why is her mum the nun acting more weird than usual?

And why is she such a pushover when it comes to the men in her life?

All will be revealed - but only if Eve can survive to work everything out.

Monty, the adorable, food-obsessed Golden Retriever will do anything for his owner, Detective Constable Rose Sidebottom.

Of course, as these things go, Monty is no ordinary dog and Rose is no ordinary hooman.

Monty's super-smart nose and network of unique informers, and Rose's uncanny ability to spot liars make them a funny and formidable team.

When Rose is on sick leave a stranger begs for their help to find a missing person. The case soon becomes a murder investigation, and Rose's boss warns her not to interfere.

But, when dogs start disappearing too, Monty and Rose have no choice but to track down the culprits by doing what they do best - together.

The Tilt by Chris Hammer (ARC)

Newly-minted homicide detective Nell Buchanan returns to her home town, annoyed at being assigned a decades-old murder - a 'file and forget'.

But this is no ordinary cold case, as the discovery of more bodies triggers a chain of escalating events in the present day. As Nell starts to join the pieces together, she begins to question how well she truly knows those closest to her. Could her own family be implicated in the crimes?

The nearer Nell comes to uncovering the secrets of the past, the more dangerous the present becomes for her, as she battles shadowy assailants and sinister forces. Can she survive this harrowing investigation and what price will she have to pay for the truth?

I have two copies of Deception Creek by Fleur McDonald to give away.

Emma Cameron, a recently divorced farmer and a local in Barker, runs Deception Creek, the farm that three generations of her family have owned before her. Every day Emma pushes herself hard on the land, hoping to make ten-year-old memories of a terrible car accident disappear. And now there are more recent nightmares of an ex-husband who refuses to understand how much the farm means to Emma.

When criminal Joel Hammond is released from jail and heads home to Barker, Detective Dave Burrows and his officer Senior Sergeant Jack Higgins are on high alert. Joel has a long and sorry history with many of the townsfolk and they are not keen to see him home to stay.

Not all of the Barker locals want to see Joel run out of town though. Some even harbour doubts about Joel's conviction. The town finds itself split down the middle, families pitted against each other with devastating outcomes

Five Bush Weddings by Clare Fletcher

As a photographer, Stevie’s been to enough bush weddings to last a lifetime. When’s it going to be all about her?

With her ex soon to be married, her mum back on the dating scene, and her best friend threatening to settle down with the Most Boring Man Alive, Stevie is feeling left behind.

To top it off, her old uni mate Johnno West, whom she hasn’t seen for years, keeps turning up as best man at Stevie’s jobs. And he is looking so good.

Perhaps their youthful pact – that if they were both still single in their early thirties they’d get together – is not so crazy after all?

Then the enigmatic Charlie Jones walks into the frame …

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult (ARC)

Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life—living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising a beautiful son, Asher—was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She never imagined she would end up back in her sleepy New Hampshire hometown, living in the house she grew up in, and taking over her father's beekeeping business.

Lily Campanello is familiar with do-overs, too. When she and her mom relocate to Adams, New Hampshire, for her final year of high school, they both hope it will be a fresh start.

And for just a short while, these new beginnings are exactly what Olivia and Lily need. Their paths cross when Asher falls for the new girl in school, and Lily can’t help but fall for him, too. With Ash, she feels happy for the first time. Yet at times, she wonders if she can she trust him completely . . .

Then one day, Olivia receives a phone call: Lily is dead, and Asher is being questioned by the police. Olivia is adamant that her son is innocent. But she would be lying if she didn’t acknowledge the flashes of his father’s temper in him, and as the case against him unfolds, she realizes he’s hidden more than he’s shared with her.

Keeping Up Appearances by Tricia Stringer

As tensions simmer in a small country town, three women are going to need more than CWA sausage rolls and can-do community spirit to put things right. From a bestselling Australian author comes a delightful novel full of practical wisdom and dry humour that examines female friendship, buried secrets and why honesty is (usually) the best policy.

Privacy is hard to maintain in Badara, the kind of small Australian country town where everyone knows everyone else's business. So discovers single mum Paige when she and her three children arrive from the city seeking refuge. Paige's only respite from child care and loneliness is the Tuesday gym club, where she had feared the judgement of the town matriarchs, but she is met only with generosity and a plethora of baked goods. Besides, both the brusque Marion and her polished sister-in-law Briony are too busy dealing with their own dramas to examine hers.

Well-to-do farmer's wife and proud mother Briony is in full denial of her family's troubles. Even with her eldest daughter's marriage in ruins and her son Blake's recent bombshell. Suddenly Briony and husband Vince have a full house again - and the piles of laundry aren't the only dirty linen that's about to be aired.

For Marion, the unearthing of a time capsule - its contents to be read at the Celebrate Badara weekend - is a disaster. She was only a teenager when she wrote down those poisonous words, but that doesn't mean she won't lose friends and family if they hear what she really thinks of them - especially as the letter reveals their darkest secrets to the world.

When the truth comes out for Badara, keeping up appearances may no longer be an option for anyone ...


This giveaway will close at 6pm on 24th November 2022 and the winners will be notified by email. 

This giveaway is now closed and the winners were:

 Catherine B, Richard H, Donna R, Sharah Mc, Rachael, Billyjean, Leanne, Warrick W

Wednesday 9 November 2022

Book Review: The Vet's Country Holiday by Lily Malone

 Even though The Vet's Country Holiday is book 4 in the Chalk Hill series it reads perfectly as a stand alone. I've been reading the books out of order and have no problem with knowing what's going on. Some characters pop in and out of other books and there may be small spoilers but nothing major.
One by-the-numbers accountant plus one irrepressible city girl equals one tricky equation
Title: The Vet's Country Holiday
Author: Lily Malone
Series: Chalk Hill #4
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Publication date: 30th March 2022
Genre: Contemporary / Rural Romance
Pages: 373
RRP: $29.99AU
Format: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

My review of The Vet's Country Holiday

Lily Malone's The Vet's Country Holiday was just the book I needed to get me out of a reading slump.
I raced through the story and loved everything about it. The small town of Chalk Hill in country Western Australia is instantly appealing with its beautifully described scenery and friendly townsfolk. 

Isabella Passmore is house sitting, and dog sitting, for Taylor and Abe while the have a much deserved holiday.
Isabella (Izzy) would have to be my most favourite character ever. She's a bit awkward and is always getting herself into sticky situations which was quite humorous, but mostly I loved her kind outspokenness. She gently forces people to open up and she's not afraid to speak her feelings.

Accountant Elliot Fields is back in Chalk Hill to help his parents with the financial side of their new cafe and water ski business. A years old tragedy has caused Elliot to close himself off from everyone, including his family but Izzy is not going to let him get away from expressing his most feared thoughts.
Izzy and Elliot were perfect together! Their relationship started out as fun as they were both only in Chalk Hill for a short time and knew they had a life and job to go back to.

The Vet's Country Holiday is a story about openness, forgiveness and moving on. It is full of fun and laugh out loud moments but it also brought a tear to my eye on occasions.

Lily's ability to take a real life event and expand on it with the 'what ifs', to show how different life may have been, highlights her exceptional story telling ability.
The Vet's Country Holiday is funny, engaging and heartwarming. A story bursting with country charm.

If you are after a story to captivate and delight, you can't go past The Vet's Country Holiday.
My rating 5 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Lily Malone is a journalist and freelance writer who discovered after years of writing facts for a living, writing romance was much more fun.

Lily juggles writing with the needs of a young family, and when she isn’t writing, she likes gardening, walking, wine, and walking in gardens (sometimes with wine).


Tuesday 8 November 2022

Book Review: The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford

 One challenge I entered at the beginning of the year, and really wanted to achieve, was the MountTBR challenge hosted by My Reader's Block. The plan was to read 12 books That had been on my bookshelves from 2019 or earlier. The Pocket Wife is book number 6.

Title: The Pocket Wife
Author: Susan Crawford
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication date: 1st April 2015
Genre: Crime / Mystery 
Pages: 304
Format: Uncorrected paperback 
Source: Won

My review of The Pocket Wife 

When Celia Steinhauser is found murdered in her own home it sends friend and neighbour Dana Catrell into a frenzied spiral of paranoia and hallucination. She was the last person to see Celia alive but all she can remember is the few too many drinks they had and then passing out at home...... and the blurry photo Celia showed her of her husband with another woman.
Jack Moss is called out on a murder case, he's due home for his and his wife's anniversary dinner but the murdered woman's name sounds familiar. He is sure it's one of his son's teachers. He can't not take the case.
The story is told through the dual narrative of Dana Catrell and Jack Moss and is a fast paced frenetic read. Dana's thoughts are all over the place. She has flashes here and there, some from the present and some from her past. Everything clashes and swirls around. Her turmoil is so well portrayed!

I don't know anything about mental illness but I felt that Susan Crawford got all the aspects right with Dana's flashes, paranoia, hallucinations, ups and downs. It was crazy just trying to keep up with her!
Jack Moss was an interesting character, his second wife had just left him. He came across as a bit vague and muddled but he could read people well and had an instinct for liars. His thoughts kept wandering off to his wife and his first marriage.

I couldn't get enough of this story as the number of prospective perpetrators rose and Dana's mind reeled out of control. I had no idea if she or even one of the other suspects murdered Celia. Everyone had something to hide and all  were lying or lying by omission.
The mystery component of the story was compelling. I wouldn't say it was a thriller but it was definitely a page-turning mystery.

My rating 4 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Stay tuned, I have a big book giveaway coming soon!!!