Review: Starting From Now – Fleur MacDonald

Starting From Now

Fleur McDonald

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760529284

 

Description:

A suspenseful novel of rural life and real country issues from our genuine Voice of the Outback, author of the bestselling Where the River Runs

 

When twenty-five-year-old journalist, Zara Ellison receives her mother’s ominous text message, Call me when you can, Zara knows it’s not good news.

 

Two weeks later, Zara has left her much-loved city life to relocate to Barker, the sleepy country town in which she grew up. For Zara, family comes first.

 

But she needs to work too, and the town’s police force is a rural journalist’s best source of information. Meeting Detective Dave Burrows and Dave’s second-in-charge, Senior Constable Jack Higgins, is a priority.

 

Amid her family’s troubles, and reporting on farming accidents and violently clashing activists, Zara is shocked to witness Jack Higgins in a role she’d never have believed. How could he possibly justify this? And what was she going to do about it?

 

Wrapped in the love of family, friendship, crime and mystery, Starting From Now is another compelling novel from the authentic voice of Fleur McDonald.

 

 

My View:

Fleur McDonald has an authentic country voice that she uses to share her experiences and knowledge of life in small country towns, farming and life in general. This narrative had a couple of standout plot threads – activism and social media – looking deeper, reflecting on “snapshots” on social media and media manipulation and the family in crisis.

 

I was particularly touched by the family scenes that dealt with family crisis (no spoilers here); the scenes were realistic, emotive and evocated memoires that transported me to a difficult period in our lives. This was unexpected but very well written. I felt part of this family, dealing with their issues.

 

 

This book packs a mighty punch, cleverly weaving many plot threads together to bring about an informative, insightful and satisfying read.

 

 

 

Review: Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing

Delia Owens

Hachette Australia

Little Brown Books

ISBN: 9781472154651

 

Description:

A novel about a young woman determined to make her way in the wilds of North Carolina, and the two men that will break her isolation open.

 

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She’s barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.

 

But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world–until the unthinkable happens.

 

 

My View:

This narrative is gently, softly spoken, yet powerful, immersive and surprising. Themes of Domestic Violence, resilience, prejudice, love and murder float softly across the page bumping chaotically against one another, leaving no marks.

 

This is the debut fictional novel for Delia Owens who has previously co-authored three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as wildlife scientist in Africa. I bet she can draw too – she writes like an artist – I imagine her work in watercolours and pastels – gentle, floaty, soft and vibrant.

 

Despite the violence that punctures this novel I am overwhelmed by the protagonist’s sense of curiosity and resilience. Her studies of nature are sublime…I can imagine the books she wrote. I can picture the illustrations. I feel her loneliness, I applaud her ingenuity and strong survival instincts.

 

This book is so many things – it is a haunting portrayal of domestic violence, guilt, prejudice and entitlement yet is equally a study in resilience, of nature, of environment and enduring love. And it has a wonderfully surprising ending – what a fantastic twist! For reasons I cannot identify it left me feeling light, weightless… happy…and surprised. I look forward to reading more from this author.

 

Review: Dinner at Rose’s – Danielle Hawkins

Diner at Rose’s

Danielle Hawkins

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781742379395

 

Description:

After Jo Donnelly finds her best friend having sex with her boyfriend in a chair, she flees city life to take up a temporary job at the physiotherapy clinic in her small home town. Honorary Aunty Rose takes it upon herself to act as cupid.

 

My View:

Do not be put off by the brief description that reads as chick lit/romance – Danielle Hawkins writes fiction with humour and depth and portrays rural life in a vibrant reality. There is always a very human, poignant narrative thread in Danielle’s books – and Aunt Rose is the pivotal poignant character in this read.  We all need an Aunt Rose in our life.

 

I very much enjoyed this early read from this author – I have read several of her books including Chocolate Cake for Breakfast, The Pretty Delicious Café, When it All Went to Custard;  her reflections of rural life are always interesting, engaging, poignant and satisfying. Such enjoyable writing!

 

Review: The Cottage at Rosella Cove – Sandie Docker

The Cottage at Rosella Cove

Sandie Docker

Penguin

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143789215

 

Description:

Why had the house stayed empty so long? Why had it never been sold?

 

LOST

Nicole has left her city life for the sleepy town of Rosella Cove, renting the old cottage by the water. She plans to keep to herself – but when she uncovers a hidden box of wartime love letters, she realises she’s not the

first person living in this cottage to hide secrets and pain.

 

FOUND

Ivy’s quiet life in Rosella Cove is tainted by the events of World War II, with ramifications felt for many years to come. But one night a drifter appears and changes everything. Perhaps his is the soul she’s meant to save.

 

FORGOTTEN

Charlie is too afraid of his past to form any lasting ties in the cove. He knows he must make amends for his tragic deeds long ago, but he can’t do it alone. Maybe the new tenant in the cottage will help him fulfil a promise and find the redemption he isn’t sure he deserves.

 

Welcome to the cottage at Rosella Cove, where three damaged souls meet and have the chance to rewrite their futures.

 

 

My View:

Isn’t it great when you discover a new author to add to your “authors you must read” list?

 

Sandie Docker writes with a subtleness that is poignant and encompasses many contemporary social issues without shouting her message loudly in your face.  There are many threads to this narrative – domestic violence – DV does not always include physical violence; it can be a deliberate isolation from friends and family, a slow erosion of self and self-confidence, financial dependence/control…the psychological assault is oh so manipulative and dire…Docker weaves this thread into the narrative with a deceptive charm – blink and you will miss the signs – just as the victim does. But this is more than a narrative of DV, it is a charming story of friendships, new and old, about redemption, rebuilding  –  I liked the analogy for rebuilding life/rebuilding cottage – by allowing friendship in and opening  up your heart to possibilities and hope.

 

I loved the device – the reading of old letters – to fill in gaps, to tell a personal history and a world history, to add depth to characters, and to provide optimism and resolution.

 

This is a deceptively simple narrative that encompasses so much life. A great read.

 

 

 

Review: Love Song – Sasha Wasley

Love Song

Daughters of the Outback #3

Sasha Wasley

Penguin Random House Australia

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143784562

 

Description:

There was something about Charlie. Something about the way he questioned and teased her, brought her outside of herself … the way he’d made her crash headlong into love just by singing to her.

 

At age seventeen, Beth Paterson was determined to study medicine at university, despite the heartache of losing her mother. Tutoring Charlie Campbell worked well with her plan – but falling in love with him sure didn’t, and neither did getting her heart broken when he abruptly left town.

 

Now Charlie is a big star on the alternative rock scene, while Beth is a respected doctor in her hometown. When Charlie comes back to fight for the tiny community where he was raised, neither one of them can ignore the resurgence of wild attraction they once shared.

 

Beth swore no man would ever hurt her again – least of all this man. But some love songs can never be forgotten, especially when they were written for you …

 

From the author of Dear Banjo comes a book to make your heart sing and your spirits soar.

 

 

My View:

A poignant work of rural fiction, I can feel the author’s passion for her craft, her characters and this series on the pages as I read.

 

This is a fast paced read with complex social issues, engaging characters, passion, romance and optimism.

 

It was fitting that I read this on the remote, dusty land of Hutt River Province, Western Australia, (we are on holidays).

 

A great read that nicely connects the other books and characters of the series and ends with an abundance of optimism and good will.

 

 

 

 

 

Review: When it all Went to Custard – Danielle Hawkins

When it All Went to Custard

Danielle Hawkins

HarperCollins

ISBN: 9781775541417

 

Description:

Odds of saving marriage – slim. Farming expertise – patchy. Chances that it’ll all be okay in the end – actually pretty good …

 

 

I wasn’t enjoying the afternoon of 23 February even before I learnt that my husband was having an affair …

 

The news of her husband’s infidelity comes as a nasty shock to Jenny Reynolds, part-time building control officer and full-time mother – even though, to her surprise and embarrassment, her first reaction is relief, not anguish. What really hurts is her children’s unhappiness at the break-up, and the growing realisation that, alone, she may lose the family farm.

 

This is the story of the year after Jenny’s old life falls apart; of family and farming, pet lambs and geriatric dogs, choko-bearing tenants and Springsteen-esque neighbours. And of just perhaps a second chance at happiness.

 

 

My View:

I cannot get enough of this authors writing! (I am still looking for a copy of Dinner at Rosie’s if anyone has a copy on their shelf somewhere).

 

Danielle Hawkins writes rural fiction with charm, wit, humour and engaging contemporary issues. Take a peek at the lives reflected here and you will see situations, landscapes (albeit New Zealand landscapes but they do translate well to Australian settings), and characters that remind you of places and people you know.

 

Danielle’s books always light up my day. More please.