Monday, 14 December 2020

Mailbox Monday & Life This Week - December 14th


Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week. It now has a permanent home at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Life This Week is a meme created by Denyse Whelan Blogs where bloggers share snaps of what is currently happening in their lives.

Happy Monday!

It was recently brought to my attention that I hadn't posted a Monday Mailbox for quite some time. I didn't realise just how long it had been since my last Life This Week catch-up. Life has become very busy lately while I try to focus on my scoliosis exercises, increasing from one day a week to four and also walking three days a week. I run a playgroup once a week and I love taking my grandchildren there to socialise with the other children.
The local teens had built a bike track in the bush just off the walking path and I was quite astounded to see the the council had closed it down. It really seemed like a harmless bit of fun. The next week fences went up and trucks moved in, and my faith in our local council was restored as the built the most amazing bike track for everyone to enjoy.

The almost finished track. It's about twice this size as I couldn't get it all in my photo.

Some of the Christmas lights outside a local church.

I bought these cute cupcakes to celebrate my mum's 83rd Birthday.

My daughter got engaged in January and we were finally able to bring the two families together to celebrate.
 Some of the books I've received recently

Hideout by Jack Heath
The Last Truehart by Darry Fraser
Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory

I would love to hear what books you received in the mail recently! 

Saturday, 12 December 2020

Book Bingo - Round 11 & 12: Themes of Inequality & Classic read

The time just seemed to get away and I missed round eleven in November and here it is now time for round twelve so I will be combining the both in this final post for the year.
The Women's Pages by Victoria Purman 


For round 11 I have chosen the category 'Themes of Inequality'

The book I have chosen for this category is: The Women's Pages.

Set in Australia during WWII Purman shows how many women had to step into roles usually held by men. One role was that of journalism however female war correspondents were still not treated equally as it was thought as too dangerous to actually send them to areas that were in engaged combat. Once the war ended all women were expected to leave their jobs and return to home duties.

You can read my full review HERE


 Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner

For round 12 I have chosen the category 'A Classic You've Never Read Before'

The book I have chosen for this category is: Seven Little Australians.

There were a multitude of classics I could have picked from because I've never been much of a classic reader. I picked Seven Little Australians because it was short and even then it took me two attempts to finish it. I did enjoy the story and I'm interested in watching the series now to see how it compares.

You can read my full, but short, review HERE


Book Bingo is a reading challenge hosted by Theresa Smith Writes , Mrs B’s Book Reviews and The Book Muse. The second Saturday of each month book bingo participants reveal which bingo category they have read and what book they chose.




Thursday, 10 December 2020

Book Review: Montana by Fiona McArthur

Fiona McArthur 


Publisher: Self published
Publication day: 30th October 2020
Series: Lyrebird Lake #1
Genre: Romance
Pages: 213
Format read: eBook
Source: courtesy of the author
About the book
For midwife Montana, finding out she was pregnant was the best moment of her life. But days later she was widowed.
Nine months have passed, her daughter is born, and Montana knows she needs a fresh start.
Dr Andy Buchanan is building services at Lyrebird Lake Hospital and he wants Montana for the new maternity unit. He can’t get the beautiful new mum out of his mind.

Lyrebird Lake is the perfect place for Montana to build a new life – with Andy?
And then there’s the magical myth of the lyrebirds…
My review
Fiona McArthur has given her readers a wonderful start to the Lyrebird Lake series, featuring midwife Montana Browne and doctor Andy Buchanan.
The story opens on New Years Day and it is the first year Montana will start without her husband Duncan, who had died unexpectedly nine months ago.
Montana is a midwife so it's only natural that pregnancy and birth feature largely in the Lyrebird Series. Fiona McArthur's birth scenes are calm, magical and beautiful.
Montana meets Dr Andy Buchanan and finds herself instantly attracted. However she feels deep guilt over this attraction and the fact that Andy makes her laugh. Isn't it too early in her bereavement to be having any happy thoughts?
McArthur includes many themes that encapsulate hospitals and childbirth, such as, lack of hospital staff in small country areas, teenage pregnancy, genetic diseases and adequate birthing units in hospitals. There are also emotional themes explored throughout the book such as, feelings of guilt when a partner has died, moving on in life and looking to the future.
Montana is a beautiful, gentle read. A feel-good story with depth. Just what I needed this week! Andy and Montana's slowly evolving relationship came across as very real and I love that the story wasn't all about the romance and Montana's angst.
Lyrebird Lake is full of lovely welcoming residents and I am eager to read the next book in the series and hopefully revisit a few of these wonderful characters.
4.5 / 5   ⭐⭐⭐⭐½
Meet the author 
Photo Goodreads
Fiona McArthur has worked as a midwife for thirty years. She is the clinical midwifery educator inner rural maternity unit and teaches emergency obstetric strategies while working with midwives and doctors from remote and isolated areas.

Fiona has written more than thirty romances, which have sold over two million copies in twelve languages. She has been a midwifery expert for Mother and Baby magazine and is the author of Aussie Midwives. She has also written the novels Red Sand Sunrise, The Homestead Girls and Heart of the Sky. She lives on a farm in northern New South Wales.
Challenges entered: Aussie author challenge  #AussieAuthor20
                                 Australian Women Writers Challenge #AWW2020

Monday, 7 December 2020

Book Review: In Search of a Name by Marjolijn van Heemstra

In Search of a Name
Marjolijn van Heemstra
Translated by Jonathan Reeder


Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Imprint: Atria Books
Publication date: 24th November 2020 (first Published 4th may 2017)
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 208
Format read: eBook
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Netgalley
About the book 
Marjolijn van Heemstra has heard about her great-uncle’s heroism for as long as she can remember. As a resistance fighter, he was the mastermind of a bombing operation that killed a Dutch man who collaborated with the Nazis, and later became a hero to everyone in the family.

So, when Marjolijn’s grandmother bestows her with her great-uncle’s signet ring requesting that she name her future son after him, Marjolijn can’t say no. Now pregnant with her firstborn, she embarks on a quest to uncover the true story behind the myth of her late relative. Chasing leads from friends and family, and doing her own local research, Marolijn realizes that the audacious story she always heard is not as clear-cut as it was made out to be. As her belly grows, her doubts grow, too—was her uncle a hero or a criminal?
My review

I'm not sure how much of this story is true and how much is fiction. It definitely reads like a true story and I even found myself googling the Mentos ad when the author says her husband was in the ad. The author calls it a story of a story.
In Search of a Name is such a compelling read I found myself totally invested in Marjolijn's search to uncover the true story of her great-uncle.
At the age of Eighteen Marjolijn had promised her grandmother that she would name her first son after a late relative, the hero of their family. Years later, pregnant with her first child, she starts to investigate this relative. There is a lot of conflicting information from different relatives and friends. Like all family stories, Uncle Frans' (nicknamed Bommenneef) story has changed as it was handed down through the generations and was also different according to what side of the family Marjolijn was talking to. She searches for the true story because this is what she wants her child to know.

Each chapter is headed by the number of weeks left in her pregnancy as the author counts down from 27 weeks to the day her baby is born.
Marjolijn becomes obsessed with finding out the full details behind the bombing he was involved in. She goes through archives of newspapers, court hearings, birth records and witness statements
Themes of bringing unindicted war criminals to justice, vigilantes continuing the cause after the war is over and the idea of a person living up to a name make this a thought provoking read.

In Search of a Name is a fascinating story. The writing is engaging, the translation is impeccable, and I loved the way the author slowly teased out the mystery of her uncle's actions sifting through fact and fiction, leaving me on edge right up until the end.
5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Friday, 4 December 2020

Book Review: Nothing Good Happens After Midnight by Jeffery Deaver

Nothing Good Happens After Midnight 
edited by Jeffery Deaver

Publisher: Suspense Publishing
Publication date: 17th November 2020
Genre: Suspense / Mystery / Thriller
Pages: 338
Format read: eBook
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Netgalley
About the book
The sun sets. The moon takes its place, illuminating the most evil corners of the planet. What twisted fear dwells in that blackness? What legends attach to those of sound mind and make them go crazy in the bright light of day? Only Suspense Magazine knows…

Teaming up with New York Times bestselling author Jeffery Deaver, Suspense Magazine offers up a nail-biting anthology titled: “Nothing Good Happens After Midnight.” This thrilling collection consists of thirteen original short stories representing the genres of suspense/thriller, mystery, sci-fi/fantasy, and more.

Readers’ favorites come together to explore the mystery of midnight. The ‘best of the best’ presenting these memorable tales, include: Joseph Badal, Linwood Barclay, Rhys Bowen, Jeffery Deaver, Heather Graham, Alan Jacobson, Paul Kemprecos, Shannon Kirk, Jon Land, John Lescroart, D. P. Lyle, Kevin O’Brien, and Hank Phillippi Ryan.
My Review
I love anthologies! You get a quick short burst of whatever the theme is, be romance, fantasy, thriller or suspense. My love started with Kiss Kiss by Roald Dahl which has since become my benchmark for anthologies.
Nothing Good Happens After Midnight as the title suggests has a common theme of grisly events happening just after midnight. As with any anthology some stories will be liked more than others. I rated each story to my enjoyment. Some were three star, some four and some five star reads. I averaged the book out to four stars overall.
I did initially worry that these might be horror stories but they were mostly entertaining tales, some with a chilling twist and some I found quite amusing.
My favourite five star stories were Linwood Barclay's Night Shift and Shannon Kirk's Tonight is the Night, both authors used revenge as a plot line. Jon Land writes an eerie but uplifting tale using magical realism in ATM. Whilst Kevin O'Brien's Cell Phone Intolerant is a humorous and cautionary tale starring a curmudgeonly vigilante. Jeffery Deaver's A Creative Defense was another five star read.
Nothing Good Happens After Midnight is an anthology of thirteen short stories, from the masters of suspense, that will have you glued to the pages until well after midnight. 
4/5 stars  ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Meet the authors
Joseph Badal - Joe is a #1 bestselling author, with 16 published suspense novels. He has been recognised as "One of The 50 Best Writers You Should Be Reading."
Linwood Barclay - A New York Times bestselling author with nearly 20 novels to his credit. His books have been translated into more than two dozen languages.
Rhys Bowen - is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of two historical mystery series, as well as three internationally bestselling standalone novels. Her books have won multiple awards. 
Jeffery Deaver - is an international number-one bestselling author. His novels have appeared on bestseller lists around the world. His books are sold in 150 countries and translated into twenty-five languages.
Heather Graham - New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She has written over two hundred novels and novellas. She has been published in twenty-five languages.
Alan Jacobson - is the award-winning USA Today bestselling author of fourteen thrillers. His books have been translated internationally and several have been optioned by Hollywood. 
Paul Kemprecos - is the author of eight novels in the Aristotle Socarides private detective series. Paul became the first fiction co-author to work  with Clive Cussler. He has received many awards for his writing.
Shannon Kirk - is a contributor to the International Thriller Writer's Murderers' Row. She is a practicing litigation attorney and former adjunct law professor.
Jon Land - is the USA Today bestselling author of more than 50 books, including the award-winning, critically acclaimed Caitlin Strong series. He has also penned six novels in the Murder, She Wrote series.
John Lescroart - is the author of twenty-nine novels, nineteen of which have been New York Times bestsellers. Libraries Unlimited places him among "The 100 Most Popular Thriller ans Suspense Authors." With sales of over twelve million copies, his books have been translated into twenty-two languages.
D.P. Lyle - is the Amazon #1 bestselling and award-nominated author of 18 books. both non-fiction and fiction. He was co-host of Crime and Science Radio and hosts the podcast series Criminal Mischief.
Kevin O'Brien - Is the author of twenty-one internationally-published thrillers, he won the Spotted Owl Award for Best Pacific Northwest Mystery.
Hank Phillippi Ryan -  is on-air investigative reporter for Boston's WHDH_TV, winning 37 EMMYs and dozens more journalism honours. She is a USA Today bestselling author of twelve thrillers. Critics call her "a master of suspense."

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Book Review: The Grand Tour by Olivia Wearne

 The Grand Tour
Olivia Wearne


Publisher: Harper Collins
Imprint: HQ Fiction AU
Publication date: 2nd December 2020
Genre: Contemporary Fiction 
Pages: 400
RRP: $29.99AUD
Format read: Uncorrected paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Better Reading
About the book
When Ruby and Angela embark on a Grey Nomads road trip, the last thing they expect is a tiny stowaway; one who will turn them from unsuspecting tourists into wanted kidnappers and land them in a world of trouble. As their leisurely retirement plans unravel, Angela's relationship with her brother Bernard goes from bad to worse.

Bernard has his own problems to contend with. Adrift in life, his career as a news presenter has been reduced to opening fetes and reading Voss as an audio book (a seemingly impossible task). His troubles are compounded when his wife starts dating a younger man and a drink-driving incident turns him into a celebrity offender.

As Angela and Ruby set about repairing burnt bridges and helping their unexpected guest, and Bernard attempts to patch together his broken life, they discover that even after a lifetime of experience, you're never too old to know better.
My review
The Grand Tour, although I did enjoy the story, wasn’t what I was expecting. The blurb tells me Ruby and Angela embark on a grey nomads road trip and I expected lots of funny on the road disasters whilst reading about amazing places around Australia.

The Grand Tour is about relationships and the changing landscape of these relationships as we age. A satirical look at ageing disgracefully.

Ruby is estranged from her grown daughter who she has never had a solid relationship with. She was always a bit wary of her wild, rambunctious child as she was growing up.

Ruby and Angela become firm friends after the death of Angela’s husband. They are complete opposites but they compliment each other. Ruby who is an introvert loves Angela’s flamboyance. They live in the same complex and whilst their units are being renovated they take to the road in Ruby’s motor-home.

Bernard, Angela’s brother, is a curmudgeonly washed-up news reader trying to restart his career when he is pushed back into the limelight for all the wrong reasons. We are also introduced to his actress wife, Mia and her eclectic friends. An arty group of ageing bohemians.

Eight year old Izzy lives with her mother in a caravan park. Izzy’s mother has trouble coping and Izzy is neglected. Thinking her mother would be glad to be rid of her she stows away in Ruby and Anngela’s motor-home, making them unwary kidnappers.

There are many funny moments as each character navigates the different relationships in their life.

The book was a slow read for me. A character driven story.

Olivia Wearne’s debut novel is witty and observant. She expertly depicts human foibles and slots them into chuckle inducing scenarios. 
3.5 / 5    ⭐⭐⭐ ½
Meet the author 
Olivia Wearne was born in Melbourne in 1977. She is both a novelist and a screenwriter with several film credits to her name and a Masters in creative writing. Olivia now resides in Ballarat, Victoria, where she writes at the kitchen table that she shares with her filmmaker husband and two young sons. The Grand Tour is her first novel.
Challenges entered: Aussie author challenge  #AussieAuthor20
                                 Australian Women Writers Challenge #AWW2020

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Book Review: Together by Christmas by Karen Swan

 Together by Christmas
Karen Swan


Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication date: 27th October 2020
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 448
RRP: $32.99AUD
Format read: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher
About the book
When Lee first came to Amsterdam, it was with a newborn baby and a secret. Five years later, her life is approaching normal: her career as a celebrity photographer is flourishing, her son Jasper is growing up, and they are enjoying the run-up to Christmas with their tight circle of close friends.

But all this changes one morning when Lee finds a book in the basket of her bicycle – and scrawled inside it, a desperate message. Who left it for her, and why? Lee feels compelled to help and tracks down the book’s author, Sam. With an instant, undeniable connection it seems they might have a shot at a real future together.

Until her past comes calling. As the snow falls and ice thickens on the city’s canals, the secret Lee has never told resurfaces. Suddenly everything she holds dear hangs in the balance. Christmas is a time for being together – but what if the truth means she ends up alone?

Escape to the snow-covered streets of Amsterdam in this deeply romantic read, featuring twists, turns and characters you'll fall in love with.
My review
I really enjoy Karen Swan’s books and I especially look forward to her Christmas offering each year. There is always a mix of romance and suspense and I can be assured of being taken away to a beautifully described location.

This year’s novel Together by Christmas was a little different to Swan’s previously Christmas themed novels. The main character is Lee, a former war photojournalist who had been working extensively in Syria and winning awards for her photos. Lee is a little hard to like at first. She now photographs celebrities for publicity shoots and it’s very clear she doesn’t like these people or their lifestyles, but still she takes their money to pay the bills.

I feel this must have been a hard book for Swan to write as it covers some heavy topics. Swan explores themes of PTSD in journalists that have seen the horrors of war, domestic abuse, the exploitation of illegal immigrants and the pressure some parents put on their children to achieve their lost dreams.

Lee’s backstory is slowly revealed through her memories and also through sessions with her psychologist. As the story progressed I could see why she was so closed off, negative and insecure.

Set in Amsterdam, I loved the atmosphere with the whole community out skating. There was a lighter side to the story with Dutch Christmas celebrations and traditions explained. These happy events blended well with the darker themes simmering below the surface.

Together by Christmas is a wonderfully immersive and important story. I just feel it may have been better not released as a Christmas read.

I’ve given this 4 rather than 5 stars only because I want more joy from my Christmas reads.


My rating 4/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Meet the author
Photo: Goodreads
Karen Swan is the Sunday Times top three bestselling author of twenty 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 winter titles include Christmas at Tiffanys, The Christmas Secret, The Christmas Lights, and for summer, The Rome Affair, The Greek Escape and The Spanish Promise.

Her books are known for their evocative locations and Karen sees travel as vital research for each story. She loves to set deep, complicated love stories within twisty plots, sometimes telling two stories in the same book.