Guest Review: A Single Woman – Maggie Christensen

A Single Woman

Maggie Christensen

Cala Publishing

ASIN: B07PMV51JF

Description:

Isla Cameron. headmistress at an elite girl’s school in Glasgow, is determinedly single, adroitly avoiding all attempts at matchmaking by a close friend.

Widower Alasdair MacLeod is grieving for the wife he lost two years earlier, struggling as the single father of two teenagers, and frustrated by the well-meaning interference of his in-laws.

When a proposed school trip to France brings Isla and Alasdair together, they find a connection in the discovery that each is suffering the loss of a loved one, but neither is interested in forming a relationship,

As their friendship grows, Alasdair struggles with his increasing attraction to the elegant schoolmistress, while Isla harbours concerns about the complications a relationship with him would bring.

Can Alasdair overcome his natural reserve, and can Isla open her heart to love again?

Readers of Christensen’s earlier books, The Good Sister and Isobel’s Promise, will love reconnecting with Bel and Matt while enjoying Isla Cameron’s unique story.

Brenda’s Review:

Alasdair MacLeod’s grief over the death of his wife two years earlier felt all encompassing. His two teenage children, Fiona and Robbie coped with the loss of their mother in their own way, while Alasdair’s father-in-law Matt and his wife Bel helped the best they could. Fi belonged to an all girl’s school in Glasgow and idolized the headmistress, Isla Cameron who’d been in that position for the past ten years. Isla was happily single, living in a small flat with her cat Sooty, catching up with her best friend Shona now and then.

With a school trip to France on the agenda for a select few pupils, Fi was desperate to go along. Alasdair met with Isla to discuss the logistics – Fi was wheelchair bound, but if the French au pair accompanied them, Fi could join the trip. As Isla and Alasdair got to know one another, they both realized they had much in common. They both wanted companionship and friendship – but was Alasdair ready for a relationship? And did Isla want to give up her hard-won independence?

A Single Woman by Aussie author Maggie Christensen is loosely linked to The Good Sister and Isobel’s Promise, and it was wonderful to catch up with Bel and Matt, Alasdair’s children’s grandparents, again. This author’s characters are always so real; people who live next door; people we know and love. I thoroughly enjoyed A Single Woman and love the way Maggie writes about the older generation, with ease and aplomb. I’m already looking forward to this author’s next. Highly recommended. 5 stars

With thanks to the author for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Review: The Land Girls – Victoria Purman

 

The Land Girls

Victoria Purman

Harlequin Enterprises (Australia) Pty Ltd

ISBN: 9781489273970

Description:

A moving story of love, loss and survival against the odds by bestselling author of The Last of the Bonegilla Girls, Victoria Purman.

It was never just a man’s war…

Melbourne,1942

War has engulfed Europe and now the Pacific, and Australia is fighting for its future. For spinster Flora Thomas, however, nothing much has changed. Tending her dull office job and beloved brother and father, as well as knitting socks for the troops, leaves her relatively content. Then one day a stranger gives her brother a white feather and Flora’s anger propels her out of her safe life and into the vineyards of the idyllic Mildura countryside, a member of the Australian Women’s Land Army.

There she meets Betty, a 17-year-old former shopgirl keen to do her bit for the war effort and support her beloved, and the unlikely Lilian, a well-to-do Adelaide girl fleeing her overbearing family and theworld’s expectations for her. As the Land Girls embrace their new world of close-knit community and backbreaking work, they begin to find pride in their roles. More than that, they start to find a kind of liberation. For Flora, new friendships and the singular joy derived from working the land offer new meaning to her life, and even the possibility of love.

But as the clouds of war darken the horizon, and their fears for loved ones – brothers, husbands, lovers – fighting at the front grow, the Land Girls’ hold on their world and their new-found freedoms is fragile. Even if they make it through unscathed, they will not come through unchanged…

Brenda’s Review:

With war across Europe, Australia’s men and women were joining the cause in droves. Flora’s younger brother Frank was fighting overseas and in Melbourne, she, her father and brother Jack worried constantly. Betty from Sydney worked in Woolworths and her next door neighbour and best friend, Michael joined up, heading overseas. And Lily from Adelaide was being courted by David so when he joined the air force to fight overseas, she wanted to do her bit for the war effort.

The Australian Women’s Land Army were calling for women to help out with the jobs men had always done. Shearing, picking grapes, apples, working on farms with the animals. All three young women – Flora, Betty and Lily – separately decided to become Land Army girls for the duration of the war. And as they worked their various roles in different parts of Australia, they met other women doing the same thing; making dear friends. Along the way, there was heartache and loss, sadness and tragedy – the relentless arrival of the dreaded telegram – but there was also growing maturity, pride in their work and independence among the women.

When Flora was once again at Two Rivers near Mildura, she learned two other Land Girls were arriving to help this season with the grapes. And so she met Betty and Lily. The three girls worked hard – the work was backbreaking, and the heat was never ending – all the while wondering if the war would ever end. And whether their loved ones would come home…

The Land Girls is a poignant story filled with heartache and hope, love and loss, as well as courage, grit and determination. Aussie author Victoria Purman has once again written a well-researched historical novel which I thoroughly enjoyed. I wasn’t aware of the Australian Women’s Land Army and the role the women played during the war. Many of the farms and properties simply wouldn’t have survived without the help of those wonderful women. Highly recommended. 5 stars

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Boxed – Richard Anderson

Boxed

Richard Anderson

Scribe Publications

ISBN: 9781925713657

 

Description:

When life delivers you gifts you don’t want.

 

Dave Martin is down on his luck: his wife has left him; his farm is a failure; his house is a mess; he has withdrawn from his community and friends; and tragedy has stolen his capacity to care. He passes the time drinking too much and buying cheap tools online, treating the delivered parcels as gifts from people who care about him.

 

And then boxes begin to arrive in the mail: boxes that he didn’t order, but ones that everyone around him seems to want desperately. As he tries to find out the secret of the boxes, Dave is drawn into a crazy world of red herrings and wrong turns, good guys and bad, false friends and true, violence, lust, fear, revenge, and a lot, lot more. It’s not a world he understands, but is it the only one Dave can live in?

 

 

My View:

Last year I read Richard Anderson’s debut Retribution – it was a stunning read – tension filled, evocative…with some thought provoking social commentary set in rural Australia, I loved it. When I was offered an opportunity to read Richard’s latest book “Boxed” I leapt at the chance and I was not disappointed.

 

Boxed is set in another rural small town – mysteries abound and personal tragedies /grief inform the mood of the narrative. (No spoilers here).  I love that contemporary issues are woven into this mystery, that there is hope and a wonderful sense of community, that the characters are richly drawn and empathetic and that the mystery element shines brightly. I thoroughly enjoyed this read.

 

Richard Anderson has a talent for storytelling that is mesmerising. I cannot wait to read what he writes next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#MondayMunchies: Dirty Chocolate Cake – The Dirty Dishes – Isaac Carew


‘The Dirty Dishes: 100 Fast and Delicious Recipes by Isaac Carew, Published by Bluebird, RRP $39.99’ 

 

Dirty chocolate cake
This is one of my signature dishes: a really basic chocolate cake recipe that’s extra indulgent thanks to
all of the chocolate sauce and delicious walnuts. It also looks really elegant with raspberry dust. This is
a special take on a chocolate cake I’ve had on every single birthday since I was born – although this
one hasn’t got Smarties dotted on the top highlighting my age!” p208

serves 8
100g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
2 large eggs
3 tbsp cocoa powder
65g plain flour
seeds of 1 vanilla pod
80g milled walnuts
big handful of fresh raspberries
15g freeze-dried raspberry dust or whole freeze-dried raspberries

For the icing
70g unsalted butter, softened
200g milk chocolate
100g icing sugar
100ml double cream

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT
20cm (8in) cake tin
Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan 160℃/gas mark 4). Grease the cake tin and line with baking
parchment, then grease the parchment on the sides of the tin.

Put a small saucepan of water on to boil. Set a heatproof bowl on top, then add the butter and allow to
melt. Remove from the heat and add the sugar and eggs, then whisk together.

Add the cocoa powder, flour, vanilla and milled walnuts. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into the lined cake tin and bake for 15–20 minutes. Once the cake has baked and
cooled, make the icing.

To make the icing, set another heatproof bowl over the boiling water in the pan and add the butter
and chocolate. Let them melt together, then add the icing sugar and double cream. Whisk until
smooth.

Spread the icing over the cake and top with the fresh raspberries and raspberry dust or freeze-dried
raspberries.

Review: Machines Like Me – Ian McEwan

Machines Like Me

Ian McEwan

Penguin Random House Australia

Jonathan Cape

ISBN: 9781787331679

Description:

Britain has lost the Falklands war, Margaret Thatcher battles Tony Benn for power and Alan Turing achieves a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. In a world not quite like this one, two lovers will be tested beyond their understanding.

 

Machines Like Me occurs in an alternative 1980s London. Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first batch of synthetic humans. With Miranda’s assistance, he co-designs Adam’s personality. This near-perfect human is beautiful, strong and clever – a love triangle soon forms. These three beings will confront a profound moral dilemma. Ian McEwan’s subversive and entertaining new novel poses fundamental questions: what makes us human? Our outward deeds or our inner lives? Could a machine understand the human heart? This provocative and thrilling tale warns of the power to invent things beyond our control.

 

 

 

 

My View:

A novel set in an alternative 1980’s but not too alternative; Ian McEwan presents a viewpoint that is credible and relatable. I found it particularly interesting that he reminds us of the dialogue that surrounded the introduction of computers in the workplace back in the early 80’s; the question of what will we do with all the spare time computers have freed up for us? Sound familiar? Where is that time?

 

Sci – fi is not a genre that I usually find myself drawn to (unless you count my delight with early Stephen King short stories) however this book reads smoothly, is engaging and presents a few moral dilemmas relating to the meaning of life and leading an life of integrity. I enjoyed looking through a lens of “what ifs” and possibilities that artificial intelligence offers the human race. The big question for the reader, what does it means to be human?

 

An enjoyable and thought provoking read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: 55 – James Delargy

55

James Delargy

Simon and Schuster

ISBN: 9781471184635

 

Description:

*** There were 54 victims before this. Who is number 55? ***

A thriller with a killer hook, and an ending that will make you gasp!

Wilbrook in Western Australia is a sleepy, remote town that sits on the edge of miles and miles of unexplored wilderness. It is home to Police Sergeant Chandler Jenkins, who is proud to run the town’s small police station, a place used to dealing with domestic disputes and noise complaints.

 

All that changes on a scorching day when an injured man stumbles into Chandler’s station. He’s covered in dried blood. His name is Gabriel. He tells Chandler what he remembers.

 

He was drugged and driven to a cabin in the mountains and tied up in iron chains. The man who took him was called Heath. Heath told Gabriel he was going to be number 55. His 55th victim.

 

Heath is a serial killer.

 

As a manhunt is launched, a man who says he is Heath walks into the same station. He tells Chandler he was taken by a man named Gabriel. Gabriel told Heath he was going to be victim 55.

 

Gabriel is the serial killer.

 

Two suspects. Two identical stories. Which one is the truth?

 

James Delargy has written one of the most exciting debuts of 2019. He masterfully paints the picture of a remote Western Australian town and its people, swallowed whole by the hunt for a serial killer. This novel has been sold in 19 countries so far and has just been optioned for film.

 

 

My View:

I don’t think I have come across a book of crime fiction that has such an interesting theme; suspect or victims, two identical stories. Who is telling the truth?

 

This is a story of family, of connections, of missing people, of the past and how it can shape our future and of course, crime. With a dual time line, we follow the fate of two rookie policeman searching the remote countryside for a missing person. We learn of their individual characters, their empathies, their aspirations as we join the search for the missing man.  The terrain, the isolated, hostile, unforgiving countryside is the largest character in this work. It has a huge impact on all that happens in this narrative.  Don’t underestimate its power.

 

In the current time we again follow the two same cops as they again deal with a missing person – the circumstances are so different, foreboding colouring the search, the echoes of the past never far away,  the landscape still just as harsh, still unforgiving and hiding many secrets.

 

This is an intriguing read however the ending did not bring me any satisfaction; ending on a cliff hanger, so much action and tension in the last few chapters, I wanted more.  Perhaps there is a part two to come?