Review: The Mallee Girl – Jennifer Scoullar

The Mallee Girl

Jennifer Scoullar

Penguin Random House

ISBN: 9781761046650

Description:

A heart-warming new rural romantic suspense set in the Victorian High Country by the bestselling author of Brumby’s Run.

Armed with nothing but some loose change and her beloved dog Duke, Mallee girl Pippa Black has finally found the courage she needs to escape a dangerous relationship. Two cryptic words written on a paper napkin send her in search of the one person who might help her – a long-lost brother she has always dreamed of finding.

Pippa’s quest leads her to the remote town of Currajong, high in the beautiful Victorian alps. As a runaway seeking refuge among strangers, Pippa learns that she’s been mistakenly implicated in a shocking crime. She finds her way to Brumby’s Run, a wild-horse sanctuary, where she begins work assisting the enigmatic farm manager Levi, and becomes entranced by Thowra, a magnificent golden stallion who leads a herd of brumbies in the region. Both man and horse will teach Pippa more about herself than she ever thought possible – including when to run, when to hide, and when to stand up and fight.

Set among the majesty of the High Country snowgums, The Mallee Girl is a moving and heartfelt story about the power of love and the land to heal old wounds, and the freedom that comes in confronting your greatest fears.

My View:

This is Jennifer Scoullar at her very best. I love her settings, the relationships she explores, the relationships with dogs and horses. This one is particularly poignant and answers the question ” why didnt she leave before now?” .

Family violence comes in many forms. This book will illuminate some of those situations.

This book has a dramatic yet eventually, happy ending…phew.

A great read.

Review: The Torrent – Dinuka McKenzie

The Torrent

Dinuka McKenzie

Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9781460760192

RRP $32.99

Description:

A loving husband lost to devastating summer floods. A teenage girl injured during a robbery. Two seemingly unconnected cases that will push a detective to the brink.


An atmospheric, compelling new voice in Australian crime fiction.


In Northern New South Wales, heavily pregnant and a week away from maternity leave, Detective Sergeant Kate Miles is exhausted and counting down the days. But a violent hold-up at a local fast-food restaurant with unsettling connections to her own past, means that her final days will be anything but straightforward.

When a second case is dumped on her lap, the closed case of man drowned in recent summer floods, what begins as a simple informal review quickly grows into something more complicated. Kate can either write the report that’s expected of her or investigate the case the way she wants to.

As secrets and betrayals pile up, and the needs of her own family intervene, how far is Kate prepared to push to discover the truth? 

My View:

Dinuka McKenzie is the 2020 winner of the Banjo Prize for fiction. This debut work introduces us to the main characters, the locations, the culture, and nuances of daily life for the protagonist and her family. This is a very “human” look at policing in regional areas, of women’s lives ( it was pertinent that I read this around the marking of International Women’s Day) for I believe this is also a feminist novel. If I was still in uni I would say this could easily be a required read – looking at the intersection of gender, culture and power in Australia but I am not, I have my degree, so I will just say this; this is a book that has worked hard to get the reader to “know” the characters and the landscape of this book of crime fiction. Once we have fully immersed ourselves in this “space”, the pace picks up and the intrigue deepens. What once once a slow burn hisses and spits, the temperature hot hot hot!

A very satisfying read, a very human perspective of life , of crimes committed and their consequences, of looking deeper at situations, of what if’s and what now? I cannot wait to read the next book in this series. I do love a character lead book of crime fiction.

Review: Wild Dogs – Michael Trant

Wild Dogs

Michael Trant

Bantam Australia

ISBN:9781761046773

RRP $32.99

Description:

Wild Dogs is a page-turning action thriller set in the WA outback, introducing Australia’s answer to Jack Reacher

‘Tough, fast and hard – my kind of book.’ -Lee Child

In the drought-ridden rangelands of Western Australia, Gabe Ahern makes his living trapping wild dogs for local station owners.

Still coming to terms with his wife’s death – and the part he played in it – the old bushman leads a solitary life. Until one morning, when he rescues a young Afghan man, Amin, from certain execution.

Now, with a gang of people smugglers on his tail and the lives of Amin’s family on the line, Gabe is drawn into a ruthless game of cat and mouse. His main opponent is Chase Fowler, a kangaroo hunter with bush skills as wily and sharp as his own.

As the old dogger and roo-shooter go head to head, Gabe will need all his cunning to come out of this alive…


Wild Dogs is a just-one-more-chapter thriller that kept me up long after lights out.’ -Jack Heath 

My View:

Firstly I would like to disagree with the statement” ….introducing Australia’s answer to Jack Reacher“. This book is so much more interesting, complex, taut, gutsy, and raw; so much better than any Jack Reacher (apologies Lee Child, nothing personal).

WOW!!! That about sums up my reaction to this book. Read it, I think you will agree with me. 🙂

Guest Review:Deception Creek – Fleur McDonald

Deception Creek

Fleur McDonald

Allen & Unwin

ISBN 9781760878825

Description:
A returned criminal, a cult-like family and cybercrime all clash against the backdrop of the Flinders Ranges in this thrilling new rural suspense novel from the best-selling Voice of the Outback.

Emma Cameron, a recently divorced farmer and a local in Barker, runs Deception Creek, the farm that three generations of her family have owned before her. Every day Emma pushes herself hard on the land, hoping to make ten-year-old memories of a terrible car accident disappear. And now there are more recent nightmares of an ex-husband who refuses to understand how much the farm means to Emma.

When criminal Joel Hammond is released from jail and heads home to Barker, Detective Dave Burrows and his officer Senior Sergeant Jack Higgins are on high alert. Joel has a long and sorry history with many of the townsfolk and they are not keen to see him home to stay.

Not all of the Barker locals want to see Joel run out of town though. Some even harbour doubts about Joel’s conviction. The town finds itself split down the middle, families pitted against each other with devastating outcomes.

Brenda’s View:
When Joel Hammond returned to Barker, to his hometown and the home his parents had left him when they died, he’d known it wouldn’t be easy. But he hadn’t expected the anger and hate directed at him by a prominent family in town. Joel had been convicted of fraud at his job in Adelaide and went to jail for five years, before adding another four years for assault while inside. He was a changed man, but he just wanted the past behind him.

Emma Cameron owned and ran Deception Creek, the property which had been in her family for generations, and she loved her work. She had farm hand Matt working for her and he’d been reliable and a great support with all his farming knowledge over the six years he’d been working on Deception Creek. Emma had been first on scene to a fatal accident nine years prior and still had nightmares from the memories; now with her recent divorce, she wanted to bury herself in her work on the farm and try to forget her worries.

Detective Dave Burrows and Senior Sergeant Jack Higgins both felt there was something dangerous hovering over their town. With Joel back, unhappy residents, strangers in town, Jack and Dave were both on high alert. What would be the outcome of the uneasy atmosphere in Barker? Would Dave and Jack be able to keep the peace?

Deception Creek is another outstanding, tense suspense novel from Aussie author Fleur McDonald which I absolutely loved. The author is up there on my favourites list – I always look forward to her next book! Well crafted characters, and of course my favourites – Dave Burrows and Jack Higgins – lead the way in this phenomenal read which I highly recommend.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin AU for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Something Like This – Karly Lane

Something Like This

Karly Lane

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760529253

RRP $29.99

 

Description:

A spellbinding new rural romance from the bestselling author of the Callahans of Stringybark Creek trilogy and Fool Me Once.

 

 

Jason Weaver just wants to be left alone. It was a tough transition from his army days to civilian life, and he’s looking forward to settling into a solitary life.

 

Tilly Hollis is working two jobs to save for her dream career: running an equine therapy program. Tilly loves her horses more than anything, and after losing her husband and business partner just a few years earlier, she’s determined to make it work on her own.

 

When Jason walks into the cafe where Tilly works, they’re immediately drawn to one another. But can they overcome their pasts to find a future together?

 

 

My View:

I have had a few very restless/sleepless nights recently and so the last time I found myself still awake past midnight a pick up my copy of Something Like This and settled in to read for an hour or so before I went back to bed and sleep, I hoped. This was a major mistake. 173 pages later I did not want to put this book down!  I looked at the clock – gone 3 (well to be honest – it was a bit later than that but I am not admitting to that) 😊  I sighed and decided I really had to try and get some sleep, so reluctantly I left the book on the table and went back to bed, yes I did get a few hours sleep.

 

I loved this read!  The main characters were so engaging, their back stories poignant and heartbreaking yet not melodramatic, their everyday life relatable with an appeal that connects to the reader – this is a fabulous character driven narrative. There is more to this narrative than rural romance; this is a multi-faceted exploration of loss, grief, families, second chances and courage, the everyday courage of getting up and facing each new day when you least feel like it. It’s about cancer, about the aftermath of war, about hope, faith and building trust…and therapy horses, set in the back drop of small rural town life.

 

 

PS – I am even quoted on the back of this book 🙂

 

Review: The Shearer’s Wife – Fleur McDonald

The Shearer’s Wife

Fleur McDonald

Allen & Unwin Australia

ISBN: 9781760876814

RRP$29.99

 

Description:

2020: When the Australian Federal Police swoop unheralded into Barker and make a shocking arrest for possession of narcotics, Detective Dave Burrows is certain there is more to the story than meets the eye. But the Feds insist that Dave is too invested in the town and its people to see the truth of what is happening there.

 

1980: Rose and Ian Kelly arrive in Barker for supplies before they begin shearing at Jacksonville Station, a couple of hundred kilometres out of town. Rose, heavily pregnant with their first babies, worries that despite Ian’s impending fatherhood he remains a drifter who dreams of the open road.

 

The twins arrive early and while Rose recuperates in town after a complicated birth, Ian stays at the Station to finish the shearing. When Ian turns up at job’s end ready to collect them all and move on, Rose is adamant that she and the twins need the support of the community in Barker. Impatiently, Ian sets off alone, leaving Rose and the children behind.

 

2020: After many months of grief over her brother’s illness and death, journalist Zara Ellison is finally ready to begin a new chapter of her life and make a commitment to her boyfriend, Senior Constable Jack Higgins. But when she’s assigned to investigating the Barker arrest, Jack begins to believe that Zara is working against him.

 

It takes a series of unconnected incidents in Zara’s digging to reveal an almost forgotten thread of mystery as to how these two events, forty years apart, could be connected.

 

 

My View:

I wish I had “discovered” Fleur McDonald’s Detective Dave Burrows series a long time ago -unfortunately I judged the books by its cover and hastily disregarded these as “romance”. How wrong was I? Fleur McDonald writes rural crime fiction with a sensitivity and knowledge that makes her narratives believable and her characters empathetic and credible. Fleur McDonald knows small Australian towns.

 

I particular enjoy reading about her protagonist Detective Dave Burrows. Burrows is a knowledgeable cop who has good instincts about people and their intentions, is community minded and liked by most; I’d like to see him come to life on the small screen – I think he would have a big fan following.

 

The Shearer’s Wife is a poignant read. With a dual story time line and a mystery or two, there are so many moments that will cause you to reflect on how difficult life was/is for women in remote locations, whether they be small towns, farms or businesses. This is another intelligent, poignant, engaging mystery from this great writer of small town Australian mysteries. Detective Dave Burrows is my hero 😊

 

Review: Fool Me Once – Karly Lane

Fool Me Once

Karly Lane

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760529246

RRP $29.99

 

Description:

Karly Lane has a wonderful way of creating a sense of place – These are books I know I can fall into and be transported.’ – Noveltea Corner on Return to Stringybark Creek

 

Farmer, Georgie Henderson manages a cattle farm in the New England region of NSW, but her dream has always been to buy back her family property, Tamban. Her every waking hour for years, has revolved around planning to make this dream become a reality.

 

When an unlikely meeting with Michael Delacourt at a rowdy B&S Ball sends them on a whirlwind romance, Georgie can’t believe it’s possible for life to be this good and her dream of buying back Tamban has, for the first time, taken a backseat to happiness.

 

But her world shatters when she discovers the shocking secret Michael has been trying to keep from her.

 

Can Michael convince her they still have a future? And after having her heart so thoroughly broken, can Georgie ever trust anyone again?

 

 

My View:

If you are looking for a read that will take you away from the everyday, from the covid -19 isolation stress, then this book is for you. This is the perfect escapist read.

 

I was drawn to the small-town settings, the B & S ball (I went to something similar when I was on school holidays staying at a friends in the country), the farm stay tourist venture…it all seemed very credible to me. This is the book that will transport you to outback Australia, the dust and the cattle, the windmills and water pumps…and the dramas that beset this small-town woman.

This is a very easy read and by that, I mean you turn the pages quickly; the characters leap off the page and into your imagination, the settings are vivid, the narrative is fast moving and dramatic, the resolution satisfying. This is armchair travelling at its best.

 

 

 

 

Review: Small Mercies – Richard Anderson

Small Mercies
Richard Anderson
Scribe
ISBN: 9781925849707

Description:
A husband and wife living on a severely drought-afflicted property take a brief break, only to find that their relationship is parched, too.

After enduring months of extreme drought on their modest freehold, farming couple Dimple and Ruthie face uncertain times on more than one front. Ruthie receives the news every woman dreads. Meanwhile, a wealthy landowner, Wally Oliver, appears on the local radio station, warning small farmers like Dimple and Ruthie that they are doomed, that the sooner they leave the land to large operators like him, the better. Bracing for a fight on all fronts, the couple decide to take a road trip to confront Oliver. Along the way, not only is their resolve tested, but their relationship as well.

Desperate not to dwell on the past but to face up to the future, Dimple and Ruthie make a crucial decision they soon regret. And when the storm clouds finally roll in across the land they love, there’s more than the rain to contend with.

Told with enormous heart, Small Mercies is a tender love story. It is a story of a couple who feel they must change to endure, and of the land that is as important as their presence on it.

My View:
Richard Anderson does not disappoint! What a versatile writer able to easily cross the divide of mystery /suspense (Retribution, Boxed) to evocative small-town drama set in realistic physical, economical, moral and political landscapes. This was an engaging and thought provoking read, storytelling at its best, nuanced and credible.

Anderson writes Australian outback with a clarity that comes from personal experience. “Richard Anderson is a second-generation farmer from northern New South Wales. He has been running a beef-cattle farm for twenty-five years, but has also worked as a miner and had a stint on the local council.” (GoodReads author page). The narrative feels biographical, I am sure there are elements of Richard’s own experience of life events, big and small, of farming and local politics that inform his writing. It is in the subtleties of these details of everyday life that Anderson’s writing soars. You can easily place yourself in the setting, in the emotions, in the relationships.

Against this backdrop of hardship and drought a finely drawn story of enduing love is exposed. We are privy to the self-talk and the situations, good and difficult, that all relationships face in varying degrees and we hang in there with them as they struggle to move forward in very difficult circumstances. I really like that this narrative is about mature age, long term married, likable characters, complete with wrinkles and a good dose of humanness. Anderson has taken such care in his portrayal of this couple that we feel privileged to know them and want them to thrive.

This is a timely written narrative with many contemporary social, economic, and personal issues that could be playing out live in a country or regional town near you. This is great reading. I loved it.

Some Very Personal Insights – Fleur McDonald

Recently I read the new release from author Fleur McDonald – Red Dirt Country (review to follow soon) – if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading this author before you are in for a real treat. This series is The Voice in Australian Outback Crime Fiction; wonderful characters, settings to transport you to “other” worlds, crimes to be solved, all peppered with a subtle insights of the society her characters live in.

 

Fleur writes with authenticity. After reading this, her third book in the Detective Dave Burrows series I was motivated to look up Fleur’s website https://www.fleurmcdonald.com/  to learn a little more about her motivation for her writing. Her bio states: “Fleur McDonald has lived and worked on farms for much of her life. After growing up in the small town of Orroroo in South Australia, she became a jillaroo before spending twenty years farming 8000 acres, east of Esperance, WA. Fleur likes to write about strong women overcoming adversity, drawing inspiration from her own experiences in rural Australia… Fleur McDonald is a highly sought after guest speaker. Fleur not only is available to present on the topic of writing, but also across areas she is most passionate about. This includes country life, autism, domestic violence and her non for profit organisation “Breaking the Silence” which tailors Domestic Violence services across Australia.”

I reached out to Fleur and asked her about her interest in Domestic Violence ( a theme that recurs in her novels – sometimes subtly, sometimes loudly).

I was surprised by the honesty of Fleur’s response. Speaking up, speaking out is, in my opinion, essential to breaking the silence of Domestic Violence.  Please listen to Fleur’s response and check out her website.

https://www.fleurmcdonald.com/tag/domestic-violence/

Fleur’s Response:

My involvement in domestic violence came from having lived experience. I understand the fear, shame and self-hatred that comes from living in a house where this occurs. As I understand what it does to the children who are under the same roof.

Domestic and Family violence is very different in country areas, which is something I wanted to highlight, along with the fact that all DFV isn’t physical. There are many parts (emotional, financial, mental and so on) which leave bruises on your soul, rather than your body. That’s where Breaking the Silence got its name.

Breaking the Silence is a not for Profit organisation and website which acts as a directory of all DFV services involved in your town. At the moment, we are only in Esperance and Albany, but by June 2020 we will have another eight towns in Western Australia. By October 2020, we will be offering counselling services either online or by phone.

I started this organisation with my own money and later, as I wanted to expand into other towns, lobbied the federal Government for funding. Minister Hunt saw the benefit in Breaking the Silence and gave an grant which will enable us to get all of Western Australia online and start the counselling services. We intend to branch out into other states in during this time.

The current COVIS-19 crisis will see a rise in DFV rates, there can be no doubt. I wish we were further down the track with the counselling services, than we are, but we are working as quickly as we can to get these services up and running.

 

Thank you Fleur. 

 

Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline – Western Australia
The Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline is a state wide 24 hour service. This service provides support and counselling for women experiencing family and domestic violence. This includes phone counselling, information and advice, referral to local advocacy and support services, liaison with police if necessary and support in escaping situations of family and domestic violence. The service can refer women to safe accommodation if required. A telephone based interpreting service is available if required.
Telephone (08) 9223 1188   Free call 1800 007 339
In an emergency – if someone is in immediate danger – call the police on 000 now.