Guest Review- The Orchardist’s Daughter – Karen Viggers

the orchardist's daughterThe Orchardist’s Daughter

Karen Viggers

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760630584

 

Description:

A story of freedom, forgiveness and finding the strength to break free. International bestselling writer Karen Viggers returns to remote Tasmania, the setting of her most popular novel The Lightkeeper’s Wife.

Sixteen-year-old Mikaela has grown up isolated and home-schooled on an apple orchard in southeastern Tasmania, until an unexpected event shatters her family. Eighteen months later, she and her older brother Kurt are running a small business in a timber town. Miki longs to make connections and spend more time in her beloved forest, but she is kept a virtual prisoner by Kurt, who leads a secret life of his own.

When Miki meets Leon, another outsider, things slowly begin to change. But the power to stand up for yourself must come from within. And Miki has to fight to uncover the truth of her past and discover her strength and spirit.

Set in the old-growth eucalypt forests and vast rugged mountains of southern Tasmania, The Orchardist’s Daughter is an uplifting story about friendship, resilience and finding the courage to break free.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Sixteen-year-old Mikaela moved to the small timber town with her older brother Kurt after their parents were lost in a house fire. Miki grieved for her parents, but Kurt made a home for them behind the fish’n’chip shop which they ran. Being the only takeaway shop in town they were reasonably busy – but Miki didn’t get out except with Kurt when they went to the forest on a Monday. He kept her closeted inside – for her safety he said. Miki didn’t argue; she didn’t want to make him angry.

When Leon arrived to start his position as a Parks Ranger, he knew he wanted to make this place his home. His Grandpa was in a nursing home nearby, but he knew no one else. He’d left his parents at their property on Bruny Island where he’d lived most of his life – he knew it was time to get away as he and his father didn’t see eye to eye. Leon’s run-down old home was next door to young ten-year-old Max and his family. He soon found himself kicking the footy around with Max, who needed to work on his confidence. And Leon joined the local football team to meet some of the locals. He wasn’t sure how long it would take to be accepted though…

Miki was lonely, especially when Kurt was away in Hobart. She had her beloved books which had belonged to her mother, but she wanted more. Could she find a way to leave the shop, even just for a walk? Her feelings about her brother were changing; his anger and aggression were mounting – she didn’t know what to do. But trouble was coming, and Miki needed to find strength and resilience. Could she?

The Orchardist’s Daughter by Aussie author Karen Viggers is a beautifully written story of dominance, a need for freedom other than in the pages of a book, determination and a deep love of nature. Set among the eucalypts of southern Tasmania, Miki’s affinity to the forest, the Tasmanian devils, the majestic soaring eagles who nested in the forest – plus Leon’s love of those same forests which were in his blood – then the tense, gritty and breathtaking finish – all made for an excellent novel which I highly recommend. 5 stars.

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

Guest Review – Saving You – Charlotte Nash

saving you

Saving You

Charlotte Nash

Hachette AU

ISBN: 9780733636479

 

Description:

One single mother. Three escaped pensioners. A road trip across the United States.

The new emotionally compelling page-turner by Australia’s Charlotte Nash.

In their tiny pale green cottage under the trees, Mallory Cook and her five-year-old son, Harry, are a little family unit who weather the storms of life together. Money is tight after Harry’s father, Duncan, abandoned them to expand his business in New York. So when Duncan fails to return Harry after a visit, Mallory boards a plane to bring her son home any way she can.

During the journey, a chance encounter with three retirees on the run from their care home leads Mallory on an unlikely group road trip across the United States. Zadie, Ernie, and Jock each have their own reasons for making the journey and along the way the four of them will learn the lengths they will travel to save each other – and themselves.

Saving You is the beautiful, emotionally compelling page-turner by Charlotte Nash, bestselling Australian author of The Horseman and The Paris Wedding.

Brenda’s Review:

Absolutely brilliant! This will be one of my top reads for 2019!

Mallory Cook’s work at Silky Oaks with the elderly residents was rewarding, and she loved her job. Her greatest achievement though was her five-year-old son Harry. She was excited for his return from New York where he’d been for two weeks with his father for the Easter break. But the non-appearance of both Duncan, Mallory’s husband, and Harry at the Brisbane Airport was the beginning of a journey that would test everything Mallory had ever known about herself.

Mallory’s arrival at the Los Angeles airport was joined by a nearby volcano pouring its ash over the airways. Flights were cancelled, hire cars were fully booked, trains were booked out – Mallory was stranded with little money. But her meeting with three elderly people, Ernie, Zadie and Jock seemed like the answer to her prayers. They needed to get to Nashville and had a hire car, their driver had vanished, and Mallory needed to get to New York. As long as she could drive them, all would be fine.

The trip across the country was fraught with problems – but the determination of all four was that they would do what they set out to do. Mallory ached to see Harry – what would be the outcome of this seemingly crazy dash from Australia to the US?

Saving You by Aussie author Charlotte Nash is an emotional, heart warming and heart breaking novel which I absolutely loved. I devoured it, laughing out loud in places, needing the tissues in others. A wonderful novel that I have no hesitation in recommending highly – in my opinion this is the author’s best yet! A credit to you Ms Nash! 5 stars!

With thanks to Hachette AU for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Review: Suitcase of Dreams – Tanya Blanchard

 

Suitcase of Dreams

Suitcase of Dreams

Tanya Blanchard

Simon & Schuster AU

ISBN: 9781925596168

Description:

From the bestselling author of The Girl from Munich, a sweeping, dramatic tale of love and identity, inspired by a true story.

After enduring the horror of Nazi Germany and the chaos of postwar occupation, Lotte Drescher and her family arrive in Australia in 1956 full of hope for a new life. It’s a land of opportunity, where Lotte and her husband Erich dream of giving their children the future they have always wanted.

After years of struggling to find their feet as New Australians, Erich turns his skill as a wood carver into a successful business and Lotte makes a career out of her lifelong passion, photography. The sacrifices they have made finally seem worth it until Erich’s role in the trade union movement threatens to have him branded a communist and endanger their family. Then darker shadows of the past reach out to them from Germany, a world and a lifetime away.

As the Vietnam War looms, an unexpected visitor forces Lotte to a turning point. Her decision will change her life forever . . . and will finally show her the true meaning of home.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Arriving at Bonegilla, the migrant camp in rural Victoria near the NSW border, after the long sea voyage from Germany on the Skaubryn, Lotte Drescher and her husband Erich, plus daughters Greta and Johanna, were excited but nervous about their future in Australia. Their life was beginning anew; it was 1956 and they were filled with hope.

But life wasn’t easy – Erich struggled to find a job after their arrival in Sydney. His qualifications as an engineer weren’t recognized in Australia and he had to re-study if he wanted to follow that course. The family’s lack of funds made that option unavailable, at least for the time being. But eventually, after much struggle, trauma and heartache, Erich was working from home as a wood carver – following in his father’s footsteps. And Lotte was fulfilling her heart’s desire of being a photographer. They were happy.

Until subtle – and not so subtle – innuendos began to corrupt their lives. Erich’s position in the trade union movement and his determination to help other migrants was beginning to endanger his family. And with the Vietnam War about to draw Australia in, Erich and Lotte’s challenges were great. What would be the outcome in a future that was uncertain?

Book #2 in The Girl From Munich series by Aussie author Tania Blanchard was exceptional in my opinion. I loved the first, The Girl From Munich and Suitcase of Dreams didn’t disappoint. Based on the true story of the author’s grandparents, their arrival from Germany in 1956 to Bonegilla, and their stay in the Villawood hostel in Sydney, before their own living quarters and a job were found, I was fascinated but saddened at the hardships the family suffered. An excellent rendition of fact to fiction, I highly recommend Ms Blanchard’s follow up, Suitcase of Dreams but advise reading them in order of publication. 5 stars.

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

Review: All the Hidden Truths- Claire Askew

All The Hidden Truths

All the Hidden Truths

Claire Askew

Hachette Australia

Hodder & & Stoughton

ISBN: 9781473673038

 

Description:

A wrenching, gripping, unforgettable debut crime novel for fans of Susie Steiner and Kate Atkinson.

 

This is a fact: Ryan Summers walked into Three Rivers College and killed thirteen women, then himself.

 

But no one can say why.

 

The question is one that cries out to be answered – by Ryan’s mother, Moira; by Ishbel, the mother of Abigail, the first victim; and by DI Helen Birch, put in charge of the case on her first day at her new job. But as the tabloids and the media swarm, as the families’ secrets come out, as the world searches for someone to blame… the truth seems to vanish.

 

A stunningly moving novel from an exciting new voice in crime, ALL THE HIDDEN TRUTHS will cause you to question your assumptions about the people you love, and reconsider how the world reacts to tragedy.

 

 

My View:

This book has All the Feels!  Intrigue, mystery, loss, grief, despair, resilience…love. This really is an exploration of what it is to be human when faced with a gut wrenching tragedy.  The spotlight is focussed firmly on the reactions and the responses that reflect the best and the worst in those close to the situation.

 

Despite knowing the who done it from the back cover synopsis and the opening chapters, the sense of urgency and the tensions ricochet off the pages.  There are characters you will love and those who you will despise; you will recognise some of the traits of the characters portrayed here in people you know. Your gut will be tied in knots as you react to the tensions and the mystery that is explored on the pages. Tension, tension, tension – what a wonderful wordsmith Claire Askew is to have created such a powerful narrative.

 

A complex situation is explored in great depth from many perspectives except that of the murderer, which allows you to form your own conclusion about the why of this crime. I loved the clever, surprising and heart-warming conclusion.

 

This is an author to watch out for.

 

 

Guest Review: The Heartwood Hotel – Kerry McGinniss

The Heartwood Hotel

The Heartwood Hotel

Kerry McGinnis

Penguin Random House

ISBN: 9780143789048

Description:

‘The Heartwood is the core of this district. It always has been so, but it’s still just a building. It’s your family – you and Adam and old Tiger – who animate it, keep the heart beating, so to speak.’

In the abandoned railhead town of Tewinga, now almost a ghost town, Lyn and Adam Portman struggle to keep the Heartwood Hotel afloat. Lyn loves her husband and longs to be a mother. But she’s kept busy caring for her elderly father, her community, and Max, the young worker who reminds her of the brother she’s lost and dearly misses.

When he fails to return from a day trip, Lyn’s concern deepens as the length of his absence grows, the more so with rumours of criminal activity at a nearby station. Meanwhile, a chance meeting uncovers a family bombshell that leaves Lyn reeling. The community must pull together as never before, proving that sometimes the smallest towns have the biggest hearts – and hide the darkest secrets.

From the bestselling author of Secrets of the Springs, this is the new outback mystery from Australia’s authentic rural writer and beloved voice of the bush.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Lyn Portman and her husband Adam had returned to the small Queensland outback town of Tewinga, where Heartwood Hotel reigned supreme over the area, and where Lyn’s dad, Tiger was still living. He needed care though after his beloved wife, and Lyn’s mother had passed away. Lyn knew she and Adam were needed in the district. The arrival of Max, a backpacker from Adelaide on his gap year before starting uni and his serious law degree was a boon for them, as he was a hard worker and friendly – they would be sorry when he moved on.

The day after the rodeo, Max headed off on his bike for a little R & R – he told Lyn and Tiger he would be back the next day. But Max didn’t return. Lyn’s mild concerns became serious worry although the police weren’t taking her seriously. But with the rumour of drugs and criminals in the area, Lyn called Max’s parents – but would it be too late? Max was nowhere to be found and with the days that had passed, the chance of finding him alive became more remote.

What would happen to Lyn and Adam – to old Tiger, and to Max? And when Lyn discovered something set in her family’s past that could change the future, she was astounded at the family secrets she’d known nothing about…

The Heartwood Hotel is another exceptional contemporary, outback rural mystery novel by Aussie author Kerry McGinnis which I devoured. A mix of intrigue, secrets, heartache, hope and family sweep through the Australian outback country, with the bulldust and flies, the changing seasons and the heart of the community – always there for the neighbours. A fabulous novel, The Heartwood Hotel is one I highly recommend. 5 stars

With thanks to Penguin Random House for my ARC to read and review.

Review: Scrublands – Chris Hammer

 

Scrublands by Chris Hammer

Scrublands

Chris Hammer

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760632984

 

Description:

In an isolated country town brought to its knees by endless drought, a charismatic and dedicated young priest calmly opens fire on his congregation, killing five parishioners before being shot dead himself.

 

A year later, troubled journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a feature on the anniversary of the tragedy. But the stories he hears from the locals about the priest and incidents leading up to the shooting don’t fit with the accepted version of events his own newspaper reported in an award-winning investigation. Martin can’t ignore his doubts, nor the urgings of some locals to unearth the real reason behind the priest’s deadly rampage.

 

Just as Martin believes he is making headway, a shocking new development rocks the town, which becomes the biggest story in Australia. The media descends on Riversend and Martin is now the one in the spotlight. His reasons for investigating the shooting have suddenly become very personal.

 

Wrestling with his own demons, Martin finds himself risking everything to discover a truth that becomes darker and more complex with every twist. But there are powerful forces determined to stop him, and he has no idea how far they will go to make sure the town’s secrets stay buried.

 

A compulsive thriller that will haunt you long after you have turned the final page.

 

 

My View:

 “The house is yelling now, screaming in its extremity: screeching steel, exploding timber, roaring fire, drowning out the sound of the receding dragon. Martin is soaking inside his overalls but his face feels paper-dry. He looks at the others, their faces red as if sunburnt. He watches as the shutter on the other side of the window begins to smoke and burn, slowly, almost apologetically. Smoke is gushing under the corridor door. Martin begins to cough uncontrollably, his throat raw.” P. 104

 

Can you feel it? Can you see it? Can you smell it? Bush fire engulfing the house… Chris Hammer delivers a crime thriller like no other. The prose is divine, sometimes irreverent which adds a little dose of humour to the read. You will find yourself transported to small rural town Australia, a town fighting to survive, a town and its inhabitants facing pressures from all sides – Mother Nature is not kind, the extreme weather conditions affecting all, the economy is slowly suffocating resilience out of the town.  The misdeeds of the past and the present collide to bring out the best and the worst in people.

 

This is a spectacular whydunnit that asks the big questions re history and the information we assimilate daily. Whose account of history are we hearing? Who benefits from this dialogue?  Whose agenda is behind this? What /where is the gain? Whose truth are we listening to, influenced by?

 

A fabulous 5 star read – a new author to add to your “Must Read” list and one to add to my “Best of 2018” list. I can’t wait to see this on the big screen and to read what is coming next from this author.

 

 

 

Guest Review: The Desert Nurse – Pamela Hart

The Desert Nurse

The Desert Nurse

Pamela Hart

Hachette AU

ISBN: 9780733637568

 

Description:

Amid the Australian Army hospitals of World War I Egypt, two deeply determined individuals find the resilience of their love tested to its limits

It’s 1911, and 21-year-old Evelyn Northey desperately wants to become a doctor. Her father forbids it, withholding the inheritance that would allow her to attend university. At the outbreak of World War I, Evelyn disobeys her father, enlisting as an army nurse bound for Egypt and the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.

Under the blazing desert sun, Evelyn develops feelings for polio survivor Dr William Brent, who believes his disability makes him unfit to marry. For Evelyn, still pursuing her goal of studying medicine, a man has no place in her future. For two such self-reliant people, relying on someone else for happiness may be the hardest challenge of all.

From the casualty tents, the fever wards and the operating theatres of the palace; through the streets of Cairo during Ramadan, to the parched desert and the grim realities of war, Pamela Hart, beloved bestselling Australian author of THE WAR BRIDE, tells the heart-wrenching story of four years that changed the world forever.

Brenda’s Review:

Sublime, captivating, heartbreaking, brilliant! These words and more describe Aussie author Pamela Hart’s latest novel. The Desert Nurse is set in the early 1900s when a young Evelyn Northey had just turned twenty-one and expected to receive her mother’s inheritance so that she could study in Sydney to become a doctor – a dream she’d held since she was thirteen years of age. But her father was a staid, old fashioned man, and although a doctor himself, refused to allow his daughter the same privilege. He would hold her money until she turned thirty, or until she married, in which case the money would become her husband’s…

Training with a friend of her father’s in the Taree Manning Base Hospital as a nurse was the best Evelyn could do. She was grateful beyond words for his help – and when she presented the certificate to her father and he ripped it up, she informed him she had another; she was also heading to Cairo as a nurse and there was nothing he could do to stop her. World War I had begun – doctors and nurses would be needed, and Evelyn was determined to do her bit.

As the Heliopolis Palace was turned into the 1st Australian General Hospital, patients began arriving from the disastrous Dardanelles campaign; some were walking wounded, others had shocking injuries. But Dr William Brent, although struggling with a weak leg from polio as a child, was a hard-working, doggedly determined and compassionate doctor, and with Sister Northey by his side, they often worked twenty hours straight in theatre, with barely a break.

Four years of blood, sweat and tears – of heartache and loss; of hope and fear. And feelings that grew, whether they wanted them to or not. What would be the outcome for Evelyn and William – for the many others affected by a horrific and unnecessary war?

Pamela Hart writes historical fiction with seeming ease. The words flow; the research is obvious; the pages turn themselves. I’ve loved her previous historical fiction novels, and this one didn’t disappoint. The cover is perfect for the story; the red-haired beauty is Evelyn to a tee – the background picture of the hospital tents on the front line as I imagined. I can’t recommend The Desert Nurse highly enough – 5 stars.

With thanks to Hachette AU for my ARC to read and review.