Sunday 29 October 2023

Book Review: The Sunday Story Club by Doris Brett & Kerry Cue

 The Sunday Story Club


Doris Brett & Kerry Cue

An anthology of stories from the heart
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publication date: 25th June 2019
Genre: Non-Fiction / Anthology
Pages: 272
RRP: $32.99 (trade paperback)
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

Review: The Sunday Story Club

The Sunday Story Club is a collection of stories that have evolved from a real life face-to-face gathering of women where through contemplative questions the group have deep and structured conversations about things that really matter.
Doris, a psychologist, author, poet and psychotherapist and Kerry, an author, journalist and mathematician came together to organise a salon at which people could engage in meaningful, in-depth conversations but instead of discussing weighty topics of the day they would discuss their own inner worlds.

The Sunday Story Club is a collection of fifteen questions and ensuing short stories that have been explored at some of their meetings.
I didn't expect to be quite so moved by the stories shared in this book. Each story was unique showing vastly different circumstances but all highlighting resilience, bravery and hard-won wisdom. There are stories included with themes of bullying, dysfunctional families, anorexia, cancer, infertility, depression and self-image; each woman speaks from the heart about her life experiences.

In this busy technical age of emails and texts The Story Book Club is a book to remind us of the power behind real face-to-face conversations to enlighten and heal.

Brett and Cue have also included notes on starting your own story salon and sample questions to steer the conversations.

My rating 4 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the authors

Doris Brett is a clinical psychologist as well as multi-award winning author. She his published books in a variety of genres ranging from novels to poetry to memoir, to narrative therapy for children and even a book on bread-baking. She lives in Melbourne with her husband.
Kerry Cue is a humourist, mathematician and journalist who has written for every major newspaper in Australia. Kerry is also the maths blogger, Mathspig. She studied Science/Engineering at Melbourne University and taught maths and science for ten years before becoming a bestselling author of twenty humorous and education books.

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Book Review: The Last Line by Stephen Ronson

 The Last Line


Stephen Ronson

Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Publication date: 16th November 2023
Genre: Historical Fiction / Crime
Pages: 341
Price: $16.99AU (kindle edition)
Will be out in paperback in Australia on 13/2/2024
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Netgalley

Review: The Last Line

I have to say I love to read any stories set during WWII. I have read many and they have all been diverse in the area of the war the stories are centred on.
The Last Line is set in country England on the outskirts of the war zone but the citizens are still very much aware that the Germans could arrive at any minute.
The protagonist John Cook is a farmer but he has fought in WWI and Afghanistan. He is a trained killer.
When a young woman is found murdered on his land he is the prime suspect to a lazy police force. Knowing the murder won't be investigated further, John turns vigilante and starts his own reconnaissance work, never expecting the level of corruption he will become embroiled in.

The Last Line is a fast-paced mystery thriller written in a crime noir style narration. It is hard not to barrack for John, he is a marvelous anti-hero. There is a lot of violence throughout the novel and the main subject is quite confronting. However, I loved all the intrigue and the character of John was very believable. He made mistakes and took them badly.

The setting is fabulous - distanced from the war yet right there amongst it with children being evacuated from London and billeted to country families, whilst underground groups are setting up defence tactics if the Germans reach them.

The Last Line is a great read! I'm looking forward to another John Cook novel and wondering where he will go from here.

My rating 4 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Stephen Ronson grew up in Sussex, and spent a large part of his childhood exploring the woods and fields around Uckfield, many of which were still dotted with reminders of WW2 - pill boxes, tank traps, nissen huts, and graffiti left by soldiers awaiting D-Day.

He is a passionate student of local history, and when he learnt about Auxiliary Units - groups of men who were instructed to lay low during the predicted nazi invasion and lead the fight back, he knew he had to write about a Sussex farmer, one with a love of the land, and a natural desire and ability to get the job done.

Many of the locations and characters in the John Cook series are inspired by real places and real people. In particular, Stephen was inspired by his grandparents, Eric, Bessie, Peter and Vera, each of whom did their bit on the home front.

Friday 20 October 2023

Book Review: Loving Lizzie March by Susannah Hardy

 Loving Lizzie March


Susannah Hardy

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publication date: 29th June 2021
Genre: Rom-Com
Pages: 368
RRP: $32.99AU (trade paperback)
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

Review: Loving Lizzie March

I absolutely loved Lizzie March! She was such a ditz and a lot crazy.
Lizzie is desperate to find 'the one' but she always focuses on the wrong guys and rushes in to one night stands then goes all stalkerish calling them and following them.
Lizzie is all brazen and out-going on the outside but underneath she lacks self-confidence.
Her life goes from bad to worse before she gets a wake-up call from best friend Clem. Lizzie did make a terrible best friend, everything was always about her, and I was so glad when Clem finally stood up to her.

It was easy to feel empathy for Lizzie. She followed the old adage - know your dream and go for it - instead of just letting life happen she kept pushing for that perfect relationship.

Loving Lizzie March is a lighthearted rom-com that had me laughing quite often throughout the novel. I was glued to the pages wanting to know how Lizzie would turn her life around.
I enjoyed the character development of Lizzie and Clem's dedication to their friendship. It was clearly hard work for her but she was a true friend.

If you are after a story with a great balance of laughs, heartache and romance grab a copy of Loving Lizzie March and settle in for an entertaining read.

My rating 5 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Trigger warning (spoiler ahead)

About the author

Originally an actor, Susannah Hardy completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of NSW before running away to study acting in Paris. Back in Australia, her work has involved anything from film and television roles to being one of two singing/rollerblading Carmen Mirandas, Tutti & Frutti, and creating sketch comedy for Foxtel. During this time, Susannah discovered a passion for writing, and fourteen years ago, started working freelance, creating feature articles and copy for print and online publications. However, in between writing on parenting and home interiors, Susannah pursued her love of women's contemporary fiction, and now enjoys creating stories about the more comic side of life and love.

Susannah lives in Sydney's inner west with her husband, two young daughters and recently acquired puppy.

Thursday 19 October 2023

Book Review: A Country Vet Christmas by Alissa Callen

A Country Vet Christmas


Alissa Callen 

Pamela Cook   Penelope Janu

Lily Malone     Stella Quinn

Publisher: Harlequin Australia
Publication date: 4th October 2023
Genre: Rural Romance
Pages: 640
RRP: $32.99AU (trade paperback)
Source: Courtesy of Alissa Callen & the publisher

Review: A Country Vet Christmas

Five fabulous country Christmas stories written by five of my most loved Aussie authors.
Each story features a country vet and has an element of romance. I loved that the stories were light on the romance and big on community and rural charm.
All the stories have the main themes of vets, romance and Christmas however each author brings their own style of writing to the mix making each story unique.
I loved revisiting characters from previous books I have read by the authors, especially Trent and Aubrey from Alissa Callen's Snowy Mountains Series and Isabella from Lily Malone's A Country Vet's Holiday.

Snowy Mountains Mistletoe - Alissa Callen
City girl Aubrey is in Bundilla to visit her friend Grace and have some much needed timeout. She's not interested in a relationship and neither is local vet Trent but the ladies of the local quilting club have other ideas. 

A Countdown to Christmas - Penelope Janu
Small town Vet Amber meets big city blow in Jasper he vows to prove to her that he can embrace Christmas in a non commercial way. I loved this countdown to Christmas with gifts from the heart with no commercial value.

A Cattle Dog for Christmas - Stella Quinn
Traveling vet Elliot comes to town as a locum for the Christmas period. Single mum Sandy doesn't have time for any man and she certainly wouldn't pick a man that wasn't sticking around. As Elliot and his cattle dog capture the hearts of her children she worries that they may all be heading for heartache. 

A Country Music Christmas - Lily Malone
No one in the small town of Chalk Hill would know that the new vet in town is actually a famous country music star. Jolene has spent most of her life trying to outrun scandal but can Reuben get Jo to open up, stand up for herself and leave her past behind.

A Christmas to Remember - Pamela Cook
Darcy is back in her hometown to help her aging parents but she has no intention of staying long. She prefers to travel the world working in wildlife refuges. But when a fire threatens the town and the local wildlife could the charismatic Chad entice her to stay and use her expertise to help local wildlife.

A Country Vet Christmas is such a treat and at just over 100 pages each story they are all quick, feel good reads with mandatory happy endings that will have you smiling. A must read this Christmas and perfect for giving!

My rating 5 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Wednesday 11 October 2023

Book Review: Grandparents by Michael Carr-Gregg



Michael Carr-Gregg 

A practical guide to navigating grandparenting today
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication date: 3rd October 2023
Genre:  Non-Fiction 
Pages: 305
RRP: $29.99AU (C format paperback)
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

Review: Grandparents

When my children were young I found Michael Carr-Gegg's advice was always quite reassuring and grounding.
I found Grandparents was a book full of sound advice. Some areas weren't relevant to me at this stage however Grandparents is a book you can go back to and read relevant chapters when needed.
I think the book would be particularly beneficial to those who haven't had a baby in the house for decades. Having worked in childcare I don't have that feeling of starting anew.
I loved the following quote and I think it is very apt.
  "Grandkids above all will remember your sense of fun."
This is a book to read before the baby is born as it has sections on communication, preparing for the grandchild, the birth and the first few weeks. There is also a section on how you should react to the news of a pregnancy (okay, I thought that was a bit strange).
I do think the expectant parents could benefit from reading the book before handing it to the grandparents.
Take from the book areas that relate to you and your family dynamics - don't expect the entire book to resonate. 
Just as many of today's grandparents attended playgroups as young mums to connect and chat to other mums, playgroups are still a vital area for connection. As more and more grandparents are minding their preschool aged grandchildren the opportunity to discuss concerns and swap ideas with other grandparents is vital. I run a grandparents' playgroup in my local area where we support each other, talk about local facilities for children and connect in a relaxed atmosphere.
My rating 3 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐
About the author
Dr Michael Carr-Gegg is an adolescent psychologist, a well-respected speaker and one of Australia's leading authorities on teenage behaviour. In 1985, he founded CanTeen, the acclaimed cancer patients' support group for teenagers in New Zealand and Australia.
He has written several bestselling books on parenting. he has also worked with organisations including Reach Out and Beyondblue and was the resident parenting expert on Sunrise. He has won many awards for his work. 

Book Review: Girl in the Rearview Mirror by Kelsey Rae Dimberg

 Girl in the Rearview Mirror


Kelsey Rae Dimberg

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publication date: 25th June 2019
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Pages: 384
RRP: $29.99AU (trade paperback)
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

Review: Girl in the Rearview Mirror

I wasn't sure how I would enjoy this when I first started reading, as it had a political lean, but I surprised myself and raced through it in a day!
Finn Hunt moves to Arizona to invent a new life and leave her past behind. After a chance meeting with Philip Martin, the son of a US Senator, she is offered a position as nanny to Amabel, Philip and Marina's 4 year old daughter. Ensconcing herself into their luxury lifestyle Finn is besotted with the charismatic Philip and would do anything to protect him.

There was a lot going on in this story; media hype, stalkers, parties and plenty of lies and secrets.

I did find Finn to be extremely annoying, she made lots of bad decisions. However I did feel sorry for her as she thought she was part of the family, not simply an employee. I do think if her character had been a bit better fleshed out this would have been a five star read.

Dimberg slowly feeds the reader snippets of Finn's past which builds on the mystery whilst at the same time Finn's obsession with Philip has her digging into his past bringing up information that the family would rather leave buried.

The Girl in the Rearview Mirror has a twisty plot where the lines of what is truth and what is false blur into each other. A totally addictive story that kept me reading until the final dramatic ending. 

The Girl in the Rearview Mirror is a fabulous debut. I'm looking forward to Kelsey's next novel.

My rating 4 / 5   ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author

Kelsey Rae Dimberg received an MFA from the university of San Francisco and studied at the Barrett Honors College of Arizona Sate University, where she was editor-in-chief of the literary magazine Lux, and received the Swarthout Award in Fiction. Girl in The Rearview Mirror is her first novel. Kelsey has lives in eight states and currently resides in Milwaukee.

Monday 9 October 2023

Book Review: Back on Track by Tricia Stringer

Back on Track 


Tricia Stringer

Publisher: Harlequin Australia
Publication date: 4th October 2023
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 454
RRP:$32.99AU (trade paperback)
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

Review: Back on Track

I always get excited when there is a new Tricia Stringer novel in the offing and Back on Track is every bit as enticing as Tricia's previous contemporary fiction novels.
Ketty Clift, owner of Ketty Clift Couture, an upmarket clothing shop in Sydney, is back. If you have read Table for Eight you will know Ketty and her penchant for cruises and helping people.
Ketty has decided to try a different style of holiday this year and is treating her whole team to a trip on The Ghan. Things are falling apart at work and she wants her employees to bond both in and out of work.
I loved the trip on The Ghan, armchair travel at its finest. And if you've already taken the trip it will bring back many memories.
Each of the co-workers have minor life problems to sort through and I enjoyed the way Stringer brought such diverse personalities into the mix and gave them differences to work through. We get to know a few other passengers on the train and a multitude of mysteries run through the plot making it engaging and page-turning worthy.
There is, for me, a standout theme of ageism and Ketty addresses this in her usual straightforward style with advice about not taking derogatory remarks from others that diminish your self esteem and also not bringing this on yourself with comments like; 'I'm too old for that' and 'I'm having a seniors moment.'
There are also themes of judging people, trust, friendship and how the seeds of doubt can grow quickly once planted.
Hop aboard The Ghan and join Ketty and her crew for a trip through Australia, beautiful scenery and a bit of side drama. There is never a dull moment when Ketty is in charge!
My rating 5 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
About the author
Tricia Stringer is a bestselling and multiple award-winning author. Her books include Keeping Up Appearances, Birds of a Feather, The Family Inheritance, The Model Wife, Table for Eight, seven rural romances and a historical saga. 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 bookshop, as a teacher and librarian, and now as a full-time writer. 

Other reviews:


Wednesday 4 October 2023

Book Review: Undefendable by Sulari Gentill & Sarah Kynaston


Edited by

Sulari Gentill & Sarah Kynaston

The story of a town under fire
Publisher: Clan Destine Press
Publication date: 26th November 2022
Genre: Non Fiction
Pages: 178
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

Review: Undefendable: The Story of a Town Under Fire 

As we approach another dry, hot summer who can forget the summer Australia burned.
In the summer of 2019/2020 the township of Batlow in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains was declared ‘undefendable’ from the fire megafront. While most evacuated, many stayed to fight. In the end, the undefendable town was saved by volunteers by farmers, teachers, electricians, retirees, and boys barely out of high school.

Sulari Gentill and Sarah Kynaston have delivered a heart-warming collection of poems, recollections and photographs from the very people who were on the ground during the fires of the summer of 2019/2020.

Sulari Gentill is herself a resident of the small close-knit community of Batlow - the town that was declared undefendable against the fires.

With a united front the residents, the Bush Fire Brigade and the Town Brigade banded together to do everything possible to save their town. They took on the fire and they won!

Everyone tells the story of their own personal experiences during that time. Most of the stories are in a conversational tone and told almost two years after the fires the awe and pride the story tellers feel comes through in the prose.
I really enjoyed Edmund Gentill's recollections. His writing is eloquent and with the resilience of youth his words are laced with humour.

Undefendable is a heart-felt anthology that showcases a town united, coming together and surviving when all odds were against them.

My rating 5/ 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the editors
Sarah Kyneston is a berry grower, beekeeper and (as Sulari says) the person in Batlow who knows everyone.
Sulari Gentill is also the author of the 10-book Rowland Sinclair mysteries series, The Hero Trilogy (YA); and two standalone crime novels, Crossing the Lines, and The Woman in the Library.