Thursday 30 March 2023

Book Review: The Way from Here by Jane Cockram

The Way from Here


Jane Cockram

Publisher: Harlequin Australia
Publication date: 2nd March 2022
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 320
RRP: $29.99AU (Paperback)
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

My review of The Way from Here

The Way from Here is a twisty family saga that had me captivated from start to finish.
When Susie dies suddenly from a fall from a ladder her older sister Mills is grief-stricken. Then Mills receives a bundle of letters written by Susie to be opened after her death. Each states a place she would like Mills to spread her ashes.
I've read a few books with posthumous letters and I like that they have all had a different style to them and different connections between the letter writer and the recipient
The Way from Here is narrated through a dual time-line with present day Mills on her quest to retrace Susie's holiday and sprinkle her ashes in the places that somehow changed Susie's life forever and 1998 with 19 year old Susie on her summer holiday.
Jane Cockram's writing flows well and the story is easy to read I enjoyed both timelines with the evocative descriptions of the French coastal town of Ile de Clair and the mystery of Mills revisiting these areas and slowly uncovering deep and heart-breaking secrets. 

There were lots of red herrings which sent me running off at tangents and never guessing the real story until the very end.

If you enjoy twisty family sagas you will love The Way from Here.

My rating 4 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Jane Cockram studied journalism at RMIT, majoring in Literature. After completing post-graduate studies in Publishing and Communication at Melbourne University, she worked in sales for Pan Macmillan Publishers and then as fiction buyer at Borders, fulfilling a childhood dream of reading for a living. Cockram spent a year living in the West Country of England, where the House of Brides is set, and still daydreams about returning. In the meantime, she resides in Melbourne with her husband and two children.

Monday 27 March 2023

Book Review: The Tea Ladies of St Jude's Hospital by Joanna Nell

 The Tea Ladies of St Jude's Hospital


Joanna Nell

Publisher: Hachette Australia
Publication date: 29th September 2021
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 352 (paperback)
Source: Own purchase

My review of The Tea Ladies of St Jude's Hospital

The Tea Ladies of St Jude's Hospital is the perfect read if you want something light and uplifting that also contains a bit of substance. 

Inevitably at some stage in your life, whether as visitor or patient, you will come across the wonderful women who volunteer their services at local hospitals, serving tea and providing a listening ear for patients and their families.

Hilary is the militant manageress of The Marjorie Marshall Memorial cafeteria situated in St Jude's Hospital. Hilary, now separated from her husband Jim and his lucrative income, is living in her sister's spare room. With Hilary it is all about keeping up appearances and she battles on with no idea how she will manage her future.
New recruit Joy is vivacious, colourful and full of life. She was encouraged by husband Len to take up some volunteer work outside the home.
Chloe is an anxious seventeen-year-old volunteering at the cafe to complete her Duke of Edinburgh Award. Chloe neglects her own wants in the aim to please her hard-working and ambitious parents.

I loved Joanna Nell's eclectic group of characters. I like the way Joanna uses older characters that are vibrant and break the stereo-typical role of older people. They all had problems they kept to themselves whilst putting on a brave front. When the very existence of the cafe is jeopardised in the name of progress the three unlikely friends band together to try and save the little cafe.

The Tea Ladies of St Jude's Hospital is a heart-warming story, filled with humour and pathos, that celebrates unlikely friendships and standing up for yourself.

my rating 5 /5   ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Joanna Nell was born in the UK and studied medicine at Cambridge and Oxford universities. Her essays and short fiction have won multiple awards and been published in medical journals and literary anthologies. A former ship's doctor and now working as a GP, Joanna writes character-driven stories, creating young-at-heart characters who are not afraid to break rules and defy society's expectations of ageing.  Her first three novels were national bestsellers. Joanna lives on Sydney's Northern Beaches.

Other books I've read by Joanna Nell:

Tuesday 21 March 2023

Book Review: The Sun Walks Down by Fiona McFarlane

 The Sun Walks Down


Fiona McFarlane

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication date: 5th October 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction 
Pages: 416 (Paperback)
RRP: $32.99AU
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

My review of The Sun Walks Down

The Sun Walks Down is an evocative story of unsettledness, dispossession and survival in a harsh, arid land, all centred around the search for a six-year-old boy lost in the desert.
McFarlane is a skilled writer who has penned a powerful period story set over one week during September 1883. The author keenly depicts the impact the ruthlessness the desert region of Australia has on individuals and families. 

A wide and varying cast of nuanced characters are introduced in this predominantly character driven novel. The reader is given a thorough insight into their feelings for the land and each other. I found it hard to develop a connection to any of the characters, even the lost boy, as the story flits back and forth with no real focus on any one family or character. I did however feel a connection to the land through McFarlane's descriptions of the remoteness and bleakness of the setting. I liked the inclusion of the strange blood red sunsets and how the characters frequently mentioned its ominous feel which is such a comparison to today where catastrophic events of nature are immediately communicated around the world through electronic means. We no longer have that awe or confusion over unusual solar activity.

The story was a touch slow for me but if you are a lover of beautiful writing and literary fiction I am sure The Sun Walks Down will be a book you will enjoy.

My rating 3 / 5   ⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Fiona McFarlane is the author of the novel The Night Guest, which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, and a collection of short stories, The High Places, which won the International Dylan Thomas Prize. Her short fiction has been published in the New Yorker, Best Australian Stories and Zoetrope: All-Story. Born in Sydney, Fiona teaches creative writing at the University of California, Berkeley.

Book Review: Second Fleet Baby by Nadia Rhook

 Second Fleet Baby


Nadia Rhook

Publisher: Fremantle Press
Publication date: 2nd August 2022
Genre: Poetry 
Pages: 104 (Paperback)
RRP: $29.99AU
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

My review of Second Fleet Baby

Second Fleet Baby is a collection of poems that examine birth and motherhood spanning the centuries from 18th Century convict women to women of today,  conceiving and giving birth during a pandemic.
These poems are of a literary nature and I found them hard to understand. It was helpful that some came with a footnote explanation. I feel the poems are something to be read in a group setting, leaving an avenue for discussion which would bring greater understanding.

I am going to just leave it here with the back cover blurb which describes the book much better than I can.

Drawing on the energies of 18th century English convict women, including Rhook's own ancestors, Second Fleet Baby opens raw questions on belonging. In this collection, 'mother' is narrated as a long process of becoming. Through stories of childhood, fertility, and of nurturing new life during a pandemic, Rhook casts off the patriarchal weight of history, pulling origins 'from the seabed to the surface'.

Praise for the book

Extraordinary craftswomanship, tender yet piercing stories of nation-building and child bearing, intricately woven together by hand of an astute and fearless poet. - Elfie Shiosaki

In these wide-ranging, self-questioning, imaginative poems, Rhook tracks how colonisation works against and through the bodies of women. The poems are shaped by a rare combination of judgement and compassion - Lisa Gorton

Friday 17 March 2023

Book Review: Becoming Mrs Mulberry by Jackie French

 Becoming Mrs Mulberry


Jackie French

Publisher: Harlequin Australia
Publication date: 8th March 2023
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 512
RRP: $32.99AU (Paperback)
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

My review of Becoming Mrs Mulberry

Becoming Mrs Mulberry, set in the picturesque Blue Mountains region of NSW post WWI, is a story of compassion and the healing power of nature.

Jackie French, through Agnes, highlights the fight women endured to become doctors. Agnes had to study and qualify in Edinburgh before she could return to Australia and join her father in general practice.

At the plea of her best friend Hortense (Puddin' to her friends), Agnes forgoes her career and marries Puddin's shell shocked brother to save the family fortune from their greedy uncle. Douglas was to be declared insane and committed to an asylum.

Agnes and Douglas move to his property in the secluded Blue Mountains region of Australia. The quiet surroundings and the natural environment, along with Agnes' care, see Douglas slowly heal. Agnes uses her new found wealth to supply a calm and accepting escape for the men and women disfigured by war.

I was totally shocked by the way returned soldiers, greatly disfigured while fighting for their country, were locked away and treated badly, called freaks and misfits, completely disregarding their physical and mental suffering.

Becoming Mrs Mulberry is both heart-wrenching and up-lifting. Agnes' humility and compassion brought tears to my eyes, more than once.
Agnes was taught to look for people who were suffering and try to help them. Money brings power - it's how you use that power that counts.

It's not all heart-wrenching scenes; there are plenty of humorous moments with characters like Private Private, the naturist who discarded society and his clothes, also the appearance of a wombat who has a knicker fetish.

Becoming Mrs Mulberry also has an interweaving story about a young child who Agnes saves from a circus freak exhibition. The child is grossly deformed however Agnes feels she can cure her. The circus owners call the child Dingo, saying she was brought up by dingoes.
If you have ever attended a talk by Jackie French you will know she is a passionate person and that passion shines through in her writing.  
I truly think Becoming Mrs Mulberry will be one of my top reads for the year. If you only read one book this year - make it this one!

My rating 5 / 5    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Jackie French AM is an award-winning author, historian and ecologist. She was the 2014-2015 Australian Children's Laureate and the 2015 Senior Australian of the year. In 2016 Jackie became a Member of the Order of Australia for her significant contribution to literature and youth literacy. She is regarded as one of Australia's most popular authors with her vast body of work crossing from fiction, non-fiction, picture books, ecology, fantasy and sci-fi to her much loved historical fiction.

Thursday 16 March 2023

Book Review: Royals by Tegan Bennett Daylight



Tegan Bennett Daylight

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 3rd May 2023
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 280
RRP: $19.99AU (Paperback) 
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Netgalley

My review of Royals

Royals by Tegan Bennett Daylight is probably not a book I would normally pick up, however I was sent a request from the publisher and it sounded a little quirky, and I enjoy books that are a bit different.
A group of teenagers find themselves locked in a shopping centre, all technology frozen. I loved the concept of this story! The teenagers don't know each other and there are no phones, which means no texting, no Snapchat, no Instagram. They are going to have to talk to each other, face to face!! 🤯
Tegan Bennett Daylight has used a group of Western Sydney teenagers as her protagonists. I think the author is showing a side to these teens we don't often hear. They are responsible and basically kindhearted. A  group of kids who wouldn't normally hang-out together were forced to rely on each other. 

The story bogged down a little in the middle and it was a little contrived with its range of diversity but I was happy to let that all slip by because I loved the magical realism element and how the teens opened up to each other and that the whole story was so quirky and we weren't given any reason for the whole thing. The book finishes and the reader is still left with a why. When I finished reading I was like "what just happened"!! 
My rating 4 / 5    ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Recommended age: 12+
Allusion to sex
Underage drinking

About the author

Photograph © Tegan Bennett Daylight
Tegan Bennett Daylight is a writer, teacher and critic. Her books include the Stella Award shortlisted Six Bedrooms and the novels Safety and Bombora.  She lives in the Blue Mountains with her husband and two children.


Wednesday 15 March 2023

Book Review: The Tower by Carol Lefevre

 The Tower


Carol Lefevre

Publisher: Spinifex Press

Publication date: 4th October 2022

Genre: Women's Fiction

Pages: 256 (Paperback)

RRP: $32.95AU

Source: Courtesy of the publisher via RM Marketing 

My review of The Tower

I had previously enjoyed Carol Lefevre's novella Murmurations so was looking forward to reading her latest offering.
The Tower is an eclectic collection of short stories that are connected and bound together by themes of grief, betrayal, ageing and a need to belong. Carol Lefevre writes heartfelt stories about strong women who battle through adversity.
Widowed after a long marriage, Dorelia sells the family home and buys a house with a tower; a place to unwind, find peace and rewrite the stories of older women treated poorly by literature. Her three grown children, although busy with their own lives, feel the need to advise Dorelia on how to live her life.
This collection has stories of love, loss and the highs and lows of motherhood, all wrapped around themes of ageing and finding inner peace.
Every alternate story features Dorelia, her move to the tower, her battles with her well-meaning daughters and reminiscences of her younger years.
When I first started the book I didn't feel the connection between the stories, other than the theme of motherhood and loss, but as I read on and names from one story appeared in another the connections between the characters became clearer and the stories became more cohesive.
The Tower, although a collection of short stories, reads a lot like a novel and even has a few twisty surprises throughout.
Deeply imagined and vividly portrayed The Tower is a book that will speak to your heart.
My rating 4 / 5   ⭐⭐⭐⭐  
About the author
Carol Lefevre holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide, where she is a Visiting Research Fellow. Her novel Nights in the Asylum, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, won the Nita B. Kibble Award for Women Writers, and the People’s Choice Award. If You Were Mine (2008) was published by Vintage. She has published short fiction, essays, and journalism, and a non-fiction book, Quiet City: walking in West Terrace Cemetery (Wakefield Press, 2016). She has written two books with Spinifex Press - The Happiness Glass and Murmurations.

Winner of a copy of The Manuscript announced!!


A huge thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway for a paperback copy of The Manuscript by Lucy Bloom.   The giveaway closed on the 15th March 2023 and the winner was randomly selected (using Random org) from all correct entries. 

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

Tuesday 14 March 2023

Book Review: The House of Now and Then by Jo Dixon

 The House of Now and Then


Jo Dixon

A lonely house. A missing boy. A long-held secret.
Publisher: Harlequin Australia

Publication date: 4th January 2023
Genre: Crime / Mystery
Pages: 432
RRP: $29.99AU (Paperback) 
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

My review of The House of Now and Then

The House of Now and Then is a compelling mystery read, with plot twists that had me reeling.
Narrated in dual time-lines; the now being 2017 with Olivia living in Eloise's secluded house in the Tasmanian bush; then, is 30 years earlier in 1985 with friends Jeremy, Pippa and Rebecca house-sitting for Eloise in the same house.

Eloise's architecturally designed house is a central part of the story. For Olivia it is a secluded place to hide from a scandal that has destroyed her life. The three young friends are there to enjoy time together before Jeremy moves to England.

Jo Dixon builds empathy in her readers before disclosing Olivia's scandalous past so you can't help but be on her side. Jeremy, Pippa and Rebecca are fun loving and easy to like but tensions start to build between the three as the story progresses and Pippa meets Leo and brings him into the group.
The two plot-lines play out separately and I was intrigued as to how they would connect.
As Olivia is pulled into the mystery of Leo's disappearance she starts to open up to the people of the small rural town finding friendship and acceptance.

I love it when you open a book that is impossible to put down! The House of Now and Then has a mystery that is so thick there isn't a hint of what's going on. I felt a real compulsion to get to the end and find out the truth behind the disappearance and if Olivia could move on from her past mistakes and reclaim her life.

The House of Now and Then is an intriguing read with decades old secrets, compelling twists and a host of flawed, but real, characters.
This is a powerful debut by Jo Dixon and I'm looking forward to seeing what she delivers next!

My rating 5/5    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Over ten years ago, Jo moved from suburban Brisbane to rural Tasmania. Since then, she's been wrangling an ever-growing collection of animals, bringing up two sons, and attempting to transform blackberry-infested paddocks into beautiful gardens. Now, she also writes full-time, creating twisty, suspenseful stories. The House of Now and Then is her debut novel. She is now working on her second book.

Wednesday 8 March 2023

Book Review & Giveaway: The Manuscript by Lucy Bloom

 The Manuscript


Lucy Bloom

A story of revenge

Publisher: Flamingo Publishing

Publication date: 1st March 2023

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Pages: 368 Paperback

RRP: $32.99AU

Source: Courtesy of the publisher via DMCPR Media

My review of The Manuscript

The Manuscript wasn't at all what I expected, although it was still an entertaining read.

Accomplished author Edith Scott, recently divorced, wishes to shake-up her life. She starts meeting men through dating apps and also decides to switch her writing genre from historical drama to thriller.

She goes on many dates, falling for some and simply befriending others. When some of the men in her life treat her badly she decides to kill them off through her characters, obtaining a literary revenge. Little does she know that karma is dealing with them in real life.

Bloom is an advocate for women and there is quite a feminist lean to the story but not all Edith's male interests are cads. There are those that simply make wrong decisions and one that is totally chivalrous.

Cleverly plotted with interweaving loops and connections that will leave you speechless. No character is safe from Bloom's authorial sword.

The Manuscript is candid, raw and intriguing; filled with laugh-out-loud moments it also has depth, with a lot of fact mixed in with the fiction.
I did however find it hard to connect with Edith, she came across as self-centred. Edith's best friend Rachel was a fabulous supporting character; married with children she lived vicariously through Edith's adventures.

There are some profanities but they are not gratuitous.

My rating 3/5    ⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Lucy Bloom was born in Africa. She is an international keynote speaker and consulting CEO with a background in advertising and international aid. She has three teenage children and is the author of two other books: a childbirth guide for men and her memoir, Get the Girls Out. The Manuscript is her debut novel. 


Thanks to The Publisher and DMCPR Media I have one paperback copy of The Manuscript to give away. Entry is via the form below. Entries closed at 6pm AEDT on 15th March 2023.
This giveaway is now closed and the winner was announced here: