Guest Review: Khaki Town – Judy Nunn

Khaki Town
Judy Nunn
Penguin Random House AU
ISBN: 9780143795179

Description:
Khaki Town, Judy Nunn’s stunning new novel, is inspired by a wartime true story which the Government kept secret for over seventy years.

‘It seems to have happened overnight,’ Val thought as she pulled the beers. ‘We’ve become a khaki town.’

It’s March 1942. Singapore has fallen. Darwin has been bombed. Australia is on the brink of being invaded by the Imperial Japanese Forces. And Val Callahan, publican of The Brown’s Hotel in Townsville, could not be happier as she contemplates the fortune she’s making from lonely, thirsty soldiers.

Overnight the small Queensland city is transformed into the transport hub for 70,000 American and Australian soldiers destined for combat in the South Pacific. Barbed wire and gun emplacements cover the beaches. Historic buildings have been commandeered. And the dance halls are in full swing with jitterbug and jive.

The Australian troops, short on rations and equipment, begrudge the confident, well-fed ‘Yanks’ who have taken over their town (and women). And there’s growing conflict, too, within the American ranks. Because black GIs are enjoying the absence of segregation and the white GIs do not like it.

Then one night a massive street fight leaves a black soldier lying dead in the street, and the situation explodes into violent confrontation.

Brenda’s Review:
March 1942 in Townsville, North Queensland, and it was about to become inundated by US soldiers. Val Callahan owned The Brown’s Hotel where the soldiers and locals congregated for a drink and some company. The Australian soldiers were jealous of their American counterparts as they had more money and benefits than them; the local girls were more than happy to have the attention of the Yanks and the chocolates, nylons and all that came with it.

Val had no hesitation in allowing black and white soldiers to drink at her bar – men were men after all, no matter the colour of their skin. But the white US soldiers were used to subservience from the blacks and the anger was slowly rising. The black soldiers’ camp was out of town – Kelso – and after a series of fights in town, they were banned from leaving their camp; banned from going into town and having the entertainment and refreshments the men needed after a hard days’ work.

The riot was brutal, violent and deadly – the reason for the riot was a complex one based purely on racism, hatred and anger. But as the story evolved it was obvious to some that it would all be covered up. Would the truth ever be told?

Khaki Town by Aussie author Judy Nunn is another brilliant historical novel which in this case is based on factual events. The author mentions Khaki Town is about racism and she purposely hasn’t softened the talk. The language is true to the times which is needed for authenticity. All characters are fictional, except for the four American historical figures; some of the events mentioned did happen. I was totally engrossed in this novel, both fascinated and repelled at what was happening. The kindness, caring, love and beautiful music was one side of the coin, while the bullying, the brutality, the cruel taunting – the other. Khaki Town is extremely well-written by an author who has obviously done her research. Highly recommended. 5 stars.

With thanks to Penguin Random House AU for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Review: The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle – Sophie Green

The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle

Sophie Green

Hachette AU

ISBN: 9780733641169

 

Description:

It’s the summer of 1982. The Man from Snowy River is a box office hit and Paul Hogan is on the TV.

In a seaside suburb of NSW, housewife Theresa Howard takes up swimming. She wants to get fit; she also wants a few precious minutes to herself. So at sunrise each day she strikes out past the waves.

From the same beach, the widowed Marie swims. With her husband gone, bathing is the one constant in her new life.

After finding herself in a desperate situation, 26-year-old Leanne only has herself to rely on. She became a nurse to help others, even as she resists help herself.

Elaine has recently moved from England. Far from home without her adult sons, her closest friend is a gin bottle.

In the waters of Shelly Bay, these four women find each other. They will survive shark sightings, bluebottle stings and heartbreak; they will laugh so hard they swallow water, and they will plunge their tears into the ocean’s salt. They will find solace and companionship in their friendship circle, and learn that love takes many forms.

 

Brenda’s Review:

By the ocean in the suburb of Shelly Bay in NSW, four women lived their lives. They didn’t know one another, but soon they would. Theresa, mother of two young children, a husband who never helped around the house and her Nonna all lived in one house; Elaine, originally from England where her two adult sons still resided moved to Shelly Bay with her Australian surgeon husband, James. Marie, widowed for the past five years had a quiet, lonely existence while Leanne kept her past locked away, working as a nurse in the local hospital.

Marie swam every day, whatever the season and when Theresa started her early morning swimming – to have some time for herself – she and Marie soon swam together. Elaine was the third to venture to the ocean and when Leanne, having recently learned to swim in the local pool, braved the water the group became four. Gradually the four different women became friends, shared secrets and heartache, were there for one another. Their friendship was the one constant in their lives; the ocean their solace.

After loving Aussie author Sophie Green’s The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club, I was really looking forward to The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle and it didn’t disappoint. A wonderful, heartfelt, feel-good, wrap-you-in-a-hug story, there is sadness, loss, happiness, love – but most of all friendship. Set in Australia, it begins in the summer of 1982, giving us the insights into four people’s lives over a period of two years. An absolute delight, The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle is one I highly recommend and I’m looking forward to seeing what Ms Green comes up with next. 5 stars.

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

Guest Review – Wolfsangel – Liza Perrat

 

Wolfsangel

Wolfsangel

Liza Perrat

Perrat Publishing

ISBN: 9782954168128

Description:

Seven decades after German troops march into her village, Céleste Roussel is still unable to assuage her guilt.

  1. German soldiers occupy provincial Lucie-sur-Vionne, and as the villagers pursue treacherous schemes to deceive and swindle the enemy, Céleste embarks on her own perilous mission as her passion for a Reich officer flourishes.

When her loved ones are deported to concentration camps, Céleste is drawn into the vortex of this monumental conflict, and the adventure and danger of French Resistance collaboration.

As she confronts the harrowing truths of the Second World War’s darkest years, Céleste is forced to choose: pursue her love for the German officer, or answer General de Gaulle’s call to fight for France.

Her fate suspended on the fraying thread of her will, Celeste gains strength from the angel talisman bequeathed to her through her lineage of healer kinswomen. But the decision she makes will shadow the remainder of her days.

A woman’s unforgettable journey to help liberate Occupied France, Wolfsangel is a stirring portrayal of the courage and resilience of the human mind, body and spirit.

 

Brenda’s Review:

The happiness that Céleste Roussel had taken for granted with her family on their farm had disappeared with the occupation of their small village of Lucie-sur-Vionne by German soldiers. Her father had been taken to a labour camp early in the occupation, so running the farm was left to Céleste, her mother and brother Patrick. He and his best friend Olivier quickly became part of the French Resistance, doing all they could to drive the Boche from their lives.

Céleste soon took the eye of a certain German officer, and found her feelings reciprocated. She knew it was wrong – the hatred felt toward the Boche was in them all. Her determination to assist the Resistance saw her embark on dangerous missions; all the while keeping her secret life hidden from all but a few. But the arrest and deportation of family members was the beginning of the end. Would the angel talisman which had been with generations of her family’s women, and now belonged to Céleste keep her safe? Would she ever see her family again?

Wolfsangel by Aussie author Liza Perrat is absolutely outstanding! The second in the Bone Angel series, nevertheless it can be read as a standalone. The Author’s Note at the end of the book was extremely interesting and shows, though it is complete fiction, Wolfsangel is based on a factual event which occurred on 10th June 1944. I didn’t think I could hear of more shocking atrocities committed by the Germans in WWII, but it seems I now have! Brilliantly written, and highly recommended. A 5 star read which will be in my top reads for 2018.

Guest Review: The Last Train – Sue Lawrence

The Last Train

The Last Train

Sue Lawrence

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760630867

 

Description:

At 7 p.m. on 28 December 1879, a violent storm batters the newly built iron rail bridge across the River Tay, close to the city of Dundee. Ann Craig is waiting for her husband, the owner of the largest local mill, to return home. From her window Ann sees a strange and terrible sight as the bridge collapses, and the lights of the train in which he is travelling plough down into the freezing river waters.

As Ann manages the grief and expectations of family and friends, amid a town mourning its loved ones, doubt is cast on whether Robert was on the train, after all. If not, where is he, and who is the mysterious woman who is first to be washed ashore?

In 2015, Fiona Craig wakes to find that her partner Pete, an Australian restaurateur, has cleared the couple’s bank account before abandoning his car at the local airport and disappearing. When the police discover his car is stolen, Fiona conducts her own investigation into Pete’s background, slowly uncovering dark secrets and strange parallels with the events of 1879.

 

Brenda’s Review:

What an outstanding opening! Ann Craig and her two children, Lizzie and James, were watching the storm through the window of their home in Dundee. They were also watching for husband and father, Robert Craig’s train to arrive – due at 7pm it would travel over the River Tay on the newly built rail bridge. The storm was a vicious, violent one – the lights of the train showed its imminent arrival, when suddenly those lights dipped and vanished as the bridge collapsed…

28th December 1879 was the night of the disaster on the River Tay, when many lives were lost. Ann and her children were steeped in grief, along with the whole town – trying to come to terms with the enormity of the catastrophe encompassed them all.

2015 and Fiona Craig was shocked to discover her partner of three years had disappeared; clearing out her savings account and abandoning his car at the airport. Pete was an Australian restaurateur and it seemed the upcoming review of his restaurant had spooked him. But why? Fiona had no idea – and her son Jamie was devastated by Pete’s disappearance.

As Fiona searched for answers about Pete, she also began an investigation into the accident over the River Tay all those years before. Her interest was initially for her job but gradually she was immersed in the past. What was the connection to her family? It seemed there were secrets everywhere…

The Last Train by Sue Lawrence is an excellent read! I thoroughly enjoyed it – set in two-time frames and told by Ann in 1879 and Fiona in 2015, I was totally engrossed. Subterfuge, intrigue, mystery and deceit – all rippled through The Last Train. Ann wasn’t a nice person! But she loved her children 😊 Highly recommended – a 5 star read.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my hardcopy to read and review.

Guest Review- Thirst – L A Larkin

Thirst

Thirst

L.A. Larkin

Constable

ISBN: 9781472125897

Description:

Antarctica is the coldest, most isolated place on earth. Luke Searle, maverick glaciologist, has made it his home. But soon his survival skills will be tested to the limit by a ruthless mercenary who must win at any cost. The white continent is under attack. The Australian team is being hunted down. Can Luke stay alive long enough to raise the alarm? Can he avert a global catastrophe?

The countdown has begun. T minus 5 days, 2 hours and 53 minutes …

 

Brenda’s Review:

Mac and Dave were in the throes of packing up at the crevasse where they’d been working – they were looking forward to getting back to Hope Station, the Australian base. Winter was settling in and most of the engineers and scientists had left Antarctica for the season; there would only be eight of them left on base for the duration…

Luke Searle had lived on the base for around seven years, going home to Melbourne only occasionally. He loved the research; as a glaciologist he could appreciate the beauty of the ice and the colours of the glaciers. But he respected the countryside as well – fully aware of how dangerous it could be. Maddie was team leader and though she and Luke clashed at times – usually over his stubborn refusal to obey orders – he respected her ability to lead.

But the suddenness of the attack; the brutality of what happened had him filled with terror. What was happening? As the team tried desperately to escape the looming danger, Luke wondered if any of them would survive.

With full-on intense action from the very first page, Thirst by Aussie author L.A. Larkin is a thoroughly enjoyable thriller. Fast paced, riveting and filled with the evil of man, the setting of Antarctica was unique and interesting, while the two main characters, Luke and Maddie set the tone well. Highly recommended – 5 stars.

Guest Review: Amber and Alice – Janette Paul

Amber and Alice

Amber and Alice

Janette Paul

Penguin Random House Australia

ISBN: 9780143783084

 

Description:

Take a hilarious road trip into the Australian outback in this witty romantic comedy, with an enticing family mystery thrown in!

When Amber Jones wakes up in her sister Sage’s speeding car, with no idea how she got there (though the hangover is a clue), all she wants to do is go home. But Sage is convinced a road trip to Alice Springs will finally answer the burning question: who is Amber’s father? Because nine months before Amber’s birth, her late mother Goldie made the same trip . . .

Armed with just a name and Goldie’s diaries, Amber agrees to search for a man she’s never met in one of the world’s biggest deserts.

And that means spending two weeks in a convoy of four-wheel-driving tourists and camping in freezing desert nights. To make matters worse, her fellow travellers hate her and the handsome tour leader Tom thinks she’s an alcoholic.

But slowly the desert starts to reveal its secrets – and Amber must decide which horizon to follow . . .

 

Brenda’s View:

The speeding car, the disorientation, the torn stockings and the bird’s-cage in her mouth had Amber completely confused – where was she, why was she here, and most importantly; why was she with her sister?! Sage wasn’t someone Amber spent a lot of time with; she was the complete opposite to Amber’s meticulous, sensible and organised self – but as the memories gradually returned, she was struck with a horrid slide-show of the previous night…

Sage had “kidnapped” Amber, determining she needed a change in her life and the road trip with a tag-along tour group to Alice Springs was just the thing. But Amber was used to hot showers, her morning coffee from a nearby café and shopping. How would she do camping – in a tent; AND with her sister? But when Sage mentioned Amber’s father – the man she had never met – and the fact that their mother had made the same trip where she’d met him twenty eight years previously, Amber finally and grudgingly agreed…

Nothing seemed to go right for Amber right from when they met up with the tag-along group in the little town of Denman in NSW. Each and every member of the group thought Amber was either crazy, or an alcoholic. And the more Amber tried to get it together, the more it all fell apart. Would their long road trip make things better or worse? Would Amber find her father? And was it possible that she and Sage could be close again?

Amber and Alice is a laugh out loud journey through Central Australia from Sydney to Alice Springs, with towns like Dunedoo, Coober Pedy and Uluru along the way. Aussie author Janette Paul has written a wonderful novel about finding your inner self, and the trouble you can get into along the way. I loved it! I found myself having to smother my laughter quite a number of times – it was such fun! 5 stars! Highly recommended.

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

Brenda’s Top Ten Aussie Author Reads of 2016

It has been a great year for Aussie authors and readers alike. Here is guest reviewer  Brenda’s Top Ten picks of 2016. In no particularly order ( click on links to see Brenda’s reviews on Goodreads.)

fear-is-the-riderFear is the Rider

Kenneth Cook.

 https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1506198294?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

 

scared-to-deathScared to Death

Rachel Amphlett

 https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1774526984?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

 

red-dirt-odysseyRed Dirt Odyssey

Kath Engebretson

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1819270982?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

the-last-crocodile-hunter

The Last Crocodile Hunter

Bob Irwin and Amanda French

  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1795309647?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

fearlessFearless

Fiona Higgins

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1696711298?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

 

the-chocolate-tin

The Chocolate Tin

Fiona McIntosh

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1654937999?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

 

the-art-of-keeping-secrets

The Art of Keeping Secrets

Rachael Johns

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1682401798?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

 

the-wifes-tale

The Wife’s Tale

Christine Wells

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1613736070?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

 

the-game-you-played

The Game You Played

Anni Taylor

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1622987075?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

 

Darkest Place

Darkest Place

Jaye Ford

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1476681496?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

 

Thanks Brenda, there have been some awesome books written by Australian authors this year, it must have been a real task to choose just ten.