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.

Guest Review: Without A Doubt – Fleur McDonald

Without A Doubt

Without a Doubt

Fleur McDonald

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760633158

 

Description:

‘The entrance to Nundrew was like any country town Dave had ever been to. He revved the engine of the bike and upped his speed. That should get the attention of a few people as he flew down the main street.’

Detective Dave Burrows had never even heard of Nundrew in Queensland before. He’d certainly never have guessed that this was where he’d be risking his life.

In Barrabine, as Dave’s workload skyrockets, Melinda, Dave’s wife, is unhappy about being left alone so much to raise their eighteen-month-old daughter. It’s not how Dave wants it either, but crimes still have to be investigated – it’s what he joined the force for – and he’s the only one able to do it.

Melinda’s interfering father isn’t helping. He’s never thought that Dave is right for his daughter and he’s not shy about telling Dave what he’s doing wrong. When things come to a head at home, Dave’s policing mate, Spencer, comes up with a plan.

In the most dangerous mission of his life, Dave knows what he’s risking. If he’s found out, he’ll never see Melinda or Bec again. Of that he’s sure.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Detective Dave Burrows was settled into his life in Barrabine in Western Australia with his offsider Spencer having shown him the ropes. He loved the rural lifestyle, helping the locals and keeping law and order. The trouble was, his young wife was unhappy. Melinda hadn’t long had their daughter Bec, and although she was now eighteen months old, Melinda continued to be unsettled and restless about her life. Making it worse was the fact that her family lived in Perth and her father continued to put Dave down, insisting Melinda return to Perth with Bec to live with them. She was torn.

The day Spencer devised a way for Dave to get into the harsh realities of police work – even though it meant a move to Queensland – Dave knew it was the answer; temporarily at least. What he didn’t know was the very real danger he would put himself in. Nundrew was a small rural town in the Queensland outback. The force there was having some trouble – Dave was their answer. But could he find the trouble makers? Or would it be the last – and most dangerous – case he ever worked on?

Without a Doubt is another fabulous romantic suspense – high on the suspense – novel by Aussie author Fleur McDonald. I really enjoy Dave’s character; he’s a normal, down to earth guy, strong, tough and caring. He’s not shy in showing his love for his wife and little daughter, and prepared to do what it takes to fix his family problem. I hope the author doesn’t stop writing Detective Dave Burrows’ story any time soon! Highly recommended. 5 stars.

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

Guest Review: The House of Second Chances – Esther Campion

The House of Second Chances

Esther Campion

Hachette AU

ISBN: 9780733636172

 

Description:

Can a house heal heartache? From coastal Australia to the rugged beauty of Ireland, an enchanting novel of starting over, in the tradition of Maeve Binchy and Monica McInerney.

Their grandmother’s stone cottage was always a welcome retreat in the childhood summers of Ellen and Aidan O’Shea. After a trip home from Australia, Ellen is keen to bring the neglected home back to its former glory and enlists the help of her dear friend and one of Ireland’s top interior designers, Colette Barry.

Aidan is already begrudging the work on the house he has avoided for nearly twenty years. The last thing the builder needs is an interior designer who seems to do nothing but complicate his life. With their own personal heartaches to overcome, will Aidan and Colette find the courage to give the house and themselves a second chance?

 

Brenda’s Review:

Even though Ellen O’Shea had returned to South Australia after her visit to her home in Ireland, she knew her brother Aidan who was a builder, would continue the renovation of their grandmother’s stone cottage in West Cork. Ellen had taken her good friend, interior designer Colette Barry on board, and knew she would do an excellent job with the cottage. But Aidan didn’t want the added cost that came with Colette’s grandiose ideas.

While good friend Gerry Clancy was trying to obtain the visa he needed to join Ellen in Australia, Colette was busy at her interior designer company, Fabulous Four Walls, along with good friend and partner John. When Colette and Gerry joined Aidan at the West Cork cottage, she could see the potential and knew the house would have a second chance with all they could do. But she also wondered how she could work with the perpetually grumpy owner of the cottage. How could he be the brother of her best friend?

With troubled pasts and dark secrets, plus events with family and friends of an upsetting nature, was there a possibility of second chances and starting over? Would Aidan find happiness? Would Colette?

The House of Second Chances by Aussie author Esther Campion is the sequel to Leaving Ocean Road, and it was wonderful to catch up with Ellen, Aidan and Gerry once again. The story continues on from the ending of Leaving Ocean Road and was exceptionally well done, with the blending of known characters with new ones. The parts of Australia in the novel – Port Lincoln, Millicent, Mount Gambier, the Coorong – are places I know (I lived in Mount Gambier as a child); while Ireland is a place I haven’t been, but the descriptions of the countryside were delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and whipped through it in a matter of hours (who needs sleep?!) Highly recommended. 5 stars!

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

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: The Peacock Summer – Hannah Richell

The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell cover art

The Peacock Summer

Hannah Richell

Hachette AU

ISBN: 9780733640438

Description:

Two summers, decades apart. Two women whose lives are forever entwined. And a house that holds the secrets that could free them both.

At twenty-six, Lillian feels ancient and exhausted. Her marriage to Charles Oberon has not turned out the way she thought it would. To her it seems she is just another beautiful object captured within the walls of Cloudesley, her husband’s Chilterns manor house. But, with a young stepson and a sister to care for, Lillian accepts there is no way out for her. Then Charles makes an arrangement with an enigmatic artist visiting their home and her world is turned on its head.

Maggie Oberon ran from the hurt and resentment she caused. Half a world away, in Australia, it was easier to forget, to pretend she didn’t care. But when her grandmother, Lillian, falls ill Maggie must head back to Cloudesley. Forced to face her past, she will learn that all she thought was real, all that she held so close, was never as it seemed.

Brenda’s Review:

Lillian was a naïve young woman of twenty-one when the wealthy and aristocratic Charles Oberon asked for her hand in marriage. She only had her beloved sister Helene to care for, and Charles assured her he would take care of her needs. Lillian loved Charles’ six-year-old son, Albie and in her innocence, thought she could make a difference to the man who had lost so much. Living in the Chilterns manor house, Cloudesley, Lillian began to feel trapped and caged – but she had no choice. This was her life and her future with a damaged and volatile husband.

The summer that Charles hired a young artist to do a commission for him in one of the rooms of the manor became a changing point in Lillian’s life. Lillian was twenty-six, exhausted and robotic in her endeavours to keep her husband happy. The constant parties where she needed to impress drained the life from her – it was only Albie who kept her sane. But then Jack arrived…

Almost sixty years later, Maggie Oberon, Lillian’s granddaughter, was in Australia when she received the phone call to say her beloved grandmother had taken ill. Immediately rushing to be by her side, Maggie knew she would face aggression and censure over the events of her leaving twelve months prior. But her priority was Lillian. She had raised Maggie – and Maggie owed her everything. But Cloudesley was falling into ruin – the repairs the old manor needed were too many to be attempted; the debts insurmountable. What would Maggie do?

As the past slowly came to light, Maggie found it only created more questions. Would she be able to decipher the secrets of Cloudesley, or would the manor keep them hidden for all time?

The long awaited new novel from Aussie author Hannah Richell does not disappoint. The Peacock Summer, apart from having a divine cover, is a heartbreaking and heartfelt story of love, loss and dark secrets. The answer to one of the questions when it came, was a shock – I didn’t see it coming! Poignant, intriguing and utterly captivating, The Peacock Summer is one I have no hesitation in highly recommending – 5 stars.

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

Guest Review – A Month of Sundays – Liz Byrski

A Month of Sundays Liz Byrski cover art

 

A Month of Sundays

Liz Byrski

Pan Macmillan AU

ISBN: 9781743534946

Description:

For over ten years, Ros, Adele, Judy and Simone have been in an online book club, but they have never met face to face. Until now…

Determined to enjoy her imminent retirement, Adele invites her fellow bibliophiles to help her house-sit in the Blue Mountains. It’s a tantalising opportunity to spend a month walking in the fresh air, napping by the fire and, of course, reading and talking about books.

But these aren’t just any books: each member has been asked to choose a book which will teach the others more about her. And with each woman facing a crossroads in her life, it turns out there’s a lot for them to learn, not just about their fellow book-clubbers, but also about themselves.

Liz Byrski has written a beautiful novel about the joy and comfort reading a good book can bring to us all.

 

Brenda’s Review:

The four women; Ros from Sydney, Adele from Adelaide, Judy from Mandurah near Perth, and Simone from Tasmania have had their weekly book club meetings via Skype, always online, never having met one another. The group had been larger but had dwindled over the years; the four were friends but in saying that, hardly knew one another. When a friend of Adele’s asked her to house-sit in the Blue Mountains – take some friends if she wanted – Adele immediately thought of the book club ladies. Her trepidation at sending the email to them all was unwarranted, as all three gave a resoundingly positive yes!

Each member was to choose a book that had meaning to them; to bring four copies and when it was that person’s turn, hand out the copy leaving a week to read it. Then come Sunday, it was discussion time. As the days moved forward, in among the brisk walks in the sunshine; the sharing of the beauty of the area; and of course, the joy of having Ros’ dog Clooney to fuss over – everyone realized that these women in their sixties and seventies, had a past which had affected their current lives, and themselves. They were at the stage of needing to learn why they were as they were, and whether it was possible to let the past remain in the past – to make peace with it.

Would those very special books, chosen with love by the four book club women, help in defining them? And would four women, previously unknown to each other, other than an online presence, manage to get on for four weeks in the same house?

A Month of Sundays by Aussie author Liz Byrski is an exceptional, emotional and brilliant read! I can’t fault the writing, the story, the fabulous women – and of course being about books, I’m going to look up each and every book they read for their book club get together each Sunday (and I won’t say what they are here as it’ll spoil the element of surprise for a new reader). I want to be taught yoga by Simone – I identified so much with Adele – I felt a deep empathy for Ros; and loved Clooney – and wanted to give Judy a big hug. Such an excellent read – Ms Byrski doesn’t disappoint. Highly recommended – 5 stars.

With thanks to Pan Macmillan AU for my uncorrected proof ARC to read and review.

Guest Review: True Blue – Sasha Wasley

When this wonderful Australian author (from Perth Western Australia) called in for a cuppa the other day – we talked books, art and family.  (More on that later today – watch out for my next post.)

Sasha Wasley’s trilogy is based on the lives of three sisters (book 3 to be published in the near future), this series has garnered many great reviews and

I thought I would share another with you – thanks for the contribution Brenda.


True Blue

Brenda’s Review:
When Freya (Free) Paterson was stopped on the way to the hen’s night by the local police, she wasn’t sure what she’d done wrong – as it turned out, it was nothing; but she met Constable Finn Kelly for the first time and she liked what she saw.
Free was an artist and landing a job at the local high school in Mount Clair teaching the year eleven students art was a dream come true. The only unwelcome intrusion at her new workplace was a colleague who gave Free the creeps. Ignoring him was easy. Her students were a wonderful group of dedicated, upcoming artists.
Free and her family had lived on the Paterson property for decades – farming was in her blood. Her two sisters, Beth and Willow, along with her father loved the land and the Herne River which bordered their property. The recent decision to dam the river was something no one wanted – it would cause heartache and havoc for the farms along the river’s edge.

Meanwhile Free couldn’t get the new constable out of her mind. Finn was a kind and gentle Irishman, but the negative vibes he sent toward Free were confusing. Why did he only want to be friends?

Second in the Paterson Sisters trilogy, True Blue by Aussie author Sasha Wasley tells the second sister’s story. The first in the trilogy, Dear Banjo, featured Willow, and the third (when published) will feature Beth. Set in the beautiful Kimberley region of Western Australia, the vast and rugged landscape comes to life under Wasley’s pen. Towards the end of the novel there was a section which made me laugh; made me cry and felt wonderful! I’m not a romance/romance reader – I like some suspense and intrigue mixed in, and True Blue fits the bill, while being an excellent novel; I’m very much looking forward to Beth’s story. Highly recommended – 5 stars.

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