Guest Review: The Reluctant Jillaroo – Kaz Delaney

 

The Reluctant Jillaroo

The Reluctant Jillaroo

Kaz Delaney

Allen & Unwin AU

ISBN: 9781925266061

Description:

Surf-loving Heidi impersonates her horse-mad twin to help Harper get a scholarship to attend the much sought-after agricultural school in this rural romance from Australia’s queen of teen, Kaz Delaney. Suitable for teen readers of Rachael Treasure.

Harper Gage has won the opportunity of a lifetime – ten days at Winmaroo Jillaroo and Jackaroo school. The camp could give her the recommendation she needs to go to the exclusive Agricoll for years 11 and 12. But when an accident leaves Harper hospitalised, her twin sister, Heidi, goes in her place. The only problem is that Heidi is not much of a country girl – not like her sister. And to make life even more complicated, her sister’s biggest rival Trent is going to be there. Will she be able to fool him?

And then the reality of the school hits Heidi hard. It’s all dust, snakes and heat – a million miles away from the surf she loves. When she meets the fun and handsome Chaz, life at the school suddenly doesn’t seem so bad, although with Trent acting up and trouble brewing with the other students, Heidi’s not sure how long she can keep her identity secret. And if her secret is revealed, will Chaz ever be able to trust her again

Brenda’s Review:

When Harper Gage injured herself the night before she was to leave for the ten day agricultural school course, which would hopefully set her up for a scholarship at Agricoll in Tamworth, identical twin sister Heidi didn’t think twice. Heidi would be Harper for the duration, and she hoped she could pull it off. Harper loved horses; anything country – while Heidi was a lover of the surf and city. But she had to try – it was her fault Harper was injured after all.

Winmaroo Jillaroo and Jackaroo school was amazing. But Heidi was terrified. When she met Poppy, her horse for the time she’d be there, she fell in love. Poppy was a delightful girl, quiet and secure; Heidi felt Poppy was the only one who understood her. With Trent at the camp – someone Harper went to school with – and the kind hearted and fun Chaz, Heidi’s stress levels climbed. But it was when things started to go wrong that Heidi was sure her secret would be exposed. What would she do if that happened? Would Harper lose everything she’d worked for?

The Reluctant Jillaroo is my first by Aussie author Kaz Delaney and I loved it! Laugh out loud entertainment, as well as some teary moments, plus the usual teenage angst – all set in the rural countryside of NSW around Scone, horse capital of Australia. And I had no idea who the culprit was until the reveal! A really enjoyable read, The Reluctant Jillaroo is one I highly recommend. 5 stars.

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.

Guest Review: Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty

Nine Perfect Strangers

Nine Perfect Strangers

Liane Moriarty

Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781743534922

Description:

The ten-day retreat at boutique health-and-wellness resort Tranquillum House promises healing and transformation. Nine stressed city dwellers are keen to drop their literal and mental baggage and absorb the blissful meditative ambience while enjoying their hot stone massages. They are all on a path to a better way of living. Or at least a better waistline . . .

Watching over them is the resort’s director, a woman on a mission to reinvigorate these tired bodies and minds. But to what lengths will she go to achieve her goal?

These nine perfect strangers have no idea what’s about to hit them.

Brenda’s Review:

Frances Welty, popular romance writer who’d just felt her first rejection, had thought her career and future were assured at fifty-five years of age. The impulsive booking at Tranquillum House, a health and wellness resort (which was expensive), had her questioning her own decisions on the long and tiring drive from Sydney. Her arrival showed her a beautiful old home built in the 1800s, renovated to within an inch of its life, with a staircase reminiscent of the Titanic (in the film with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet; which made Frances smile) – perhaps she might enjoy it after all.

Meeting the other eight guests – Carmel, Tony, Lars, Napolean and his wife Heather and daughter Zoe, Jessica and her husband Ben – felt strange. But even stranger was the fact the course started with five days of silence. Not a word to be spoken; no eye contact – five days! Frances knew that would be difficult. Within that period, there were meditation classes, walking, massage therapy, smoothies and meals, plus free time to swim in the luxurious pool. All to be done in silence.

But each and every guest had a secret – and who were the people in charge of the resort? Were the guests comfortable with all that was happening to them? Some were – some most definitely weren’t…

Nine Perfect Strangers is the latest by Aussie author Liane Moriarty and wow! How different, how intriguing, how bizarre – how fabulous! I thoroughly enjoyed it, and even with it being almost 500 pages, I flew through it. I can see this one being made into a movie – it would be fantastic on the big screen. I have no hesitation in recommending Nine Perfect Strangers highly, and wish to thank Pan Macmillan Australia for my uncorrected proof ARC to read in exchange for my honest review. 4 stars

Review: Sisters and Brothers – Fiona Palmer

Sisters and Brothers by Fiona Palmer

Sisters and Brothers by Fiona Palmer is published by Hachette Australia. $29.99. Out now.

 

Description:

A poignant novel of heartbreak, adoption and a father’s love by beloved bestselling Australian author, Fiona Palmer.

 

Bill, 72, feels left behind after the death of his adored wife. He relies heavily on his only daughter, Sarah.

 

Sarah, career woman and perfectionist homemaker, struggles to keep up with the Joneses. As her husband grows distant, she has no support network.

 

Emma, a down-to-earth nurse and busy mother of three, always dreamed of having a sister . . . But nothing prepares her for the shock results of a routine blood test.

 

Adam, a successful florist, was raised by his mother. As his dreams start to fall into place, he can’t stop thinking about the father he never had.

 

Finally, Michelle is trying to build cake-making into a career. But at 46, has she left her run too late to fall in love, have children and find her birth parents?

 

These five very different people – all connected but separated by secrets from the past – could be facing their futures together. After all, friends will come and go but sisters and brothers are forever . . . The new novel of heartbreak, adoption, family and a father’s love by the Top Ten bestselling author of Secrets Between Friends, Fiona Palmer

 

 

My View:

For me this was a very nostalgic readI loved reading about this era (70’s- 80’s), clichéd as it may be – life was so different then and Fiona Palmer captures the innocence of youth (distilled into the character of the protagonist, Bill) juxtaposed against rapid changes in communications, music, health care, technology, the developing women’s’ rights movement…this is a sociology lesson without the homework 🙂

 

This is a narrative that is built on a foundation of secrets. It is poignant, reflective and ultimately healing. This is a most enjoyable read but don’t be surprised if you shed a tear or two as you join Bill on his life’s journey.  Heart-warming, nostalgic, romantic, love affirming…this book has it all.

PS whilst reading this I was inspired to paint this – don’t you think it shouts 70’s to you?

 

carol's art

 

 

Guest Review: The Artisan Heart – Dean Mayes

The Artisan Heart

 

The Artisan Heart

Dean Mayes

Central Avenue Publishing

ISBN: 9781771681421

Description:

Hayden Luschcombe is a brilliant paediatrician living in Adelaide with his wife Bernadette, an ambitious event planner. His life consists of soul-wrenching days at the hospital and tedious evenings attending the lavish parties organized by Bernadette.

When an act of betrayal coincides with a traumatic confrontation, Hayden flees Adelaide, his life in ruins. His destination is Walhalla, nestled in Australia’s southern mountains, where he finds his childhood home falling apart. With nothing to return to, he stays, and begins to pick up the pieces of his life by fixing up the house his parents left behind.

A chance encounter with a precocious and deaf young girl introduces Hayden to Isabelle Sampi, a struggling artisan baker. While single-handedly raising her daughter, and trying to resurrect a bakery, Isabelle has no time for matters of the heart. Yet the presence of the handsome doctor challenges her resolve. Likewise, Hayden, protective of his own fractured heart, finds something in Isabelle that awakens dormant feelings of his own.

As their attraction grows, and the past threatens their chance at happiness, both Hayden and Isabelle will have to confront long-buried truths if they are ever to embrace a future.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Another soul-destroying event beckoned – paediatrician Hayden Luschcombe was exhausted from his relentless shift but knew his wife would expect him to be there on time. Well, THAT wasn’t going to happen. The look on Bernadette’s face when he finally arrived was not a surprise to Hayden – rather it was the norm. But it was the shocking discovery after another shattering day that spurred Hayden into action. His life wasn’t his own anymore; there was nothing in Adelaide to keep him there and the home he’d known all his life in the little Victorian town of Walhalla felt like a sanctuary.

The little cottage had collected dust and started to fall apart in the three years since his father had passed, but Hayden decided to fix the house that he remembered fondly from his childhood. His mother would be sad to see the state of her beloved garden – Hayden had nothing else to do, and the work would keep his mind away from the past…

A little girl began hanging around Hayden’s cottage – it turned out that she was deaf and the daughter of Isabelle Sampi, another memory from Hayden’s past. But Genevieve was a clever, gifted child and adorable as well – Hayden became friendly with both Genevieve and her mother, who was starting up her own bakery. Her bread and other treats were divine; she was popular with the townsfolk.

But there was danger looming. What would be the outcome for the town; for both Isabelle and Hayden who both had secrets in their pasts?

The Artisan Heart by Aussie author Dean Mayes is a gentle and tenuous romance, threaded with suspense, tension and a tumultuous past. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and loved the character of Genevieve; her stubborn and determined interactions by signing with those around her and her devotion and love of her mother. Romantic suspense at its best! A highly recommended 5 star read.

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

Review: Greenlight- Benjamin Stevenson

Greenlight

Greenlight

Benjamin Stevenson

Penguin Books Australia

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143789871

 

Description:

Four years ago Eliza Dacey was brutally murdered.

Within hours, her killer was caught.

Wasn’t he?

 

So reads the opening titles of Jack Quick’s new true-crime documentary.

 

A skilled producer, Jack knows that the bigger the conspiracy, the higher the ratings. Curtis Wade, convicted of Eliza’s murder on circumstantial evidence and victim of a biased police force, is the perfect subject. Millions of viewers agree.

 

Just before the finale, Jack uncovers a minor detail that may prove Curtis guilty after all. Convinced it will ruin his show, Jack disposes of the evidence and delivers the finale unedited: proposing that Curtis is innocent.

 

But when Curtis is released, and a new victim is found bearing horrifying similarities to the original murder, Jack realises that he may have helped a guilty man out of jail. And, as the only one who knows the real evidence of the case, he is the only one who can send him back …

 

 

My View:

About Benjamin Stevenson (https://www.penguin.com.au/authors/benjamin-stevenson):

 

Benjamin Stevenson is an award-winning stand-up comedian and author. He has sold out shows from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has appeared on ABCTV, Channel 10, and The Comedy Channel. Off-stage, Benjamin has worked for publishing houses and literary agencies in Australia and the USA. He currently works with some of Australia’s best-loved authors at Curtis Brown Australia. Greenlight is his first novel.

 

I have just finished reading Greenlight and wanted to know a little bit about the author as I was very impressed with this debut.  What a surprise – a comedian? There is no comedy in Greenlight.  Works in the publishing industry, I was sure I was going to find but didn’t – works in the film industry, specifically on documentaries, his protagonist Jack has an authentic documentary maker voice.  I loved this aspect of the book.

 

Back to the book – this is a brutal, dark and intriguing crime fiction narrative.

 

I like how Stevenson has turned the stereotype regarding eating disorders on its head; a sad yet refreshing and honest approach here.

 

Consequences, guilt, redemption and acceptance are themes that are sited in small town prejudices. Tension, tension, tension. And the ending – no spoilers here. Think you have it worked out? Think again.

 

A great read.

 

Review: Second Sight – Aoife Clifford

Second Site Aoife Clifford

Second Sight

Aoife Clifford

Simon & Schuster Australia

ISBN: 9781925596892

 

Description:

A fugitive in the present. A runaway in the past.

 

Eliza Carmody returns home to the country to work on the biggest law case of her career. The only problem is this time she’s on the ‘wrong side’ – defending a large corporation against a bushfire class action by her hometown of Kinsale.

 

On her first day back Eliza witnesses an old friend, Luke Tyrell, commit an act of lethal violence. As the police investigate that crime and hunt for Luke they uncover bones at The Castle, a historic homestead in the district. Eliza is convinced that they belong to someone from her past.

 

As Eliza becomes more and more entangled in the investigation, she is pulled back into her memories of youthful friendships and begins to question everyone she knows … and everything she once thought was true.

 

My View:

The book is an outstanding read! It goes straight onto my Best of 2018 reads list and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes great crime fiction/mystery.

I predict awards for this book in the near future and I can visualise this novel as a base for a script for a movie. The characters, the tension and the setting as so evocative the words leap off the page and onto that screen.  A fabulous read, if you haven’t already read this then you are really missing out.