Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Book Review: Redemption

RedemptionRedemption by Tracie Griffith
Publisher: self published
Publication Date: 9th July 2017
Source: paperback from the Author


 'There were no waves; just a gentle lapping at the shoreline. He stared at the inert body of water curiously. The stillness and silence were eerie, as though this was somehow the calm before the storm - a warning, rather than a respite.'

After nearly two decades in prison, Mark Wilson is given a second chance when his estranged aunt offers him a home in the coastal township of Port Fairy and a job on a dairy farm. While the close-knit rural community struggles to accept the presence of a convicted killer, Mark discovers friendship, warmth and an unexpected feeling of belonging. When love strikes from out of nowhere, he can't believe his good fortune. Has he escaped both his reputation and his crimes? Or is he really a man that no one should love?

As Mark finally allows himself to believe in his capacity for renewal, he discovers the awful truth...

In a small town there's nowhere to hide

                                                  My Thoughts:

Redemption is the debut novel of Australian author Tracie Griffith.

Redemption centres on the life of Mark Wilson recently released from prison after 18 years. With the help of his elderly aunt, Margaret, he starts a new life in the quiet Victorian coastal town of Port Fairy.
Mark tries to build a new life as he fights against distractions and prejudice, occasionally going off the rails but always in the back of his mind is the hope that he will find love.

I love books with a distinct Australian feel and the setting of the small town of Port Fairy was perfectly painted by Griffith’s descriptions. The day to day life on a dairy farm and it’s demanding lifestyle was interesting reading and well depicted.

The pace of the story is slow and none of the characters are particularly endearing, besides Aunt Margaret, however Griffith does an excellent job of conveying her character’s introspection through much soul searching and angst which gives the reader real empathy for Mark.

As mark comes to grips with his freedom he is befriended by his new boss and his wife although nothing comes easily to an ex con as friendships are abused and the local police try every trick to run him out of town.

Mark finds he cannot escape his past and the road to redemption is never easy.

Some readers may not like the ending but I felt it was very realistic.

I received a copy from the author through Goodreads giveaways.

 My rating: 4 of 5 stars

                                            About the author:

Tracie GriffithDebut author with a paperback and ebook to sell. Etc, etc, etc.

Paperback available from my website within Australia (price includes GST and postage).
Ebook currently available from Amazon/Kindle.


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Saturday, 11 November 2017

Product Review: Vatea Skin Care Range

We as consumers are becoming to understand that the chemicals and additives in beauty products that claim to make us more beautiful and youthful are in fact destroying our skin.
A new age has dawned where we, and beauty companies, have come to learn that we need to care for our skin and our planet in a natural way leaving our bodies with a natural healthy glow and importantly leaving our planet unscarred by chemical waste.

Over the years I have tried every new product claiming to reverse the signs of aging, repair years of damage caused by sun exposure and make me look ten years younger. All this exposure to different additives has resulted in my skin becoming extremely sensitive and developing dermatitis. So it was back to basics; soap free cleansers and QV moisturisers.

Vatea have produced an all natural sulphate and paraben free, vegan friendly product with no animal testing. But do these products deliver the goods?
I was very happy to receive a small range of products to review.

Vatea kind shampoo – firstly the product had a beautiful tee tree smell. I poured a 20 cent piece size into my palm (this is how much I use with my normal shampoo). The lather was very good and had me thinking I could have used less product for the same result.

Vatea nurturing conditioner – my hair is very dry so I use a lot of conditioner. Two 20 cent piece size in my palm. This amount worked well. The real test is the next morning. My hair is dry and I wake up with it sticking out everywhere and then apply masses of leave-in conditioner. I was pretty impressed with the next morning look and still used a small amount of leave-in conditioner.

Vatea nourishing body wash – this product also smelt great and after using a soap free wash for months it was heaven to have a product that lathers.

Vatea pure body oil – this is by far my favourite product. A soft luxuriant oil that soaks into the skin but leaves a lovely sheen. I could dress straight after using it and it didn’t leave any greasy residue on my hands. A real winner!!!!

I would like to thank Vatea and Beauty and Lace for the products to sample.

This review first appeared on the Beauty and lace website here 

You can find the entire Vatea range here

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Book Review: The Dark Lake

The Dark Lake (Gemma Woodstock, #1)The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: 1st June 2017
Pages: 440
Source: paperback from the publisher

 In a suspense thriller to rival Paula Hawkins and Tana French, a detective with secrets of her own hunts the killer of a woman who was the glamorous star of their high school.

Rose was lit by the sun, her beautiful face giving nothing away. Even back then, she was a mystery that I wanted to solve.

The lead homicide investigator in a rural town, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is deeply unnerved when a high school classmate is found strangled, her body floating in a lake. And not just any classmate, but Rosalind Ryan, whose beauty and inscrutability exerted a magnetic pull on Smithson High School, first during Rosalind's student years and then again when she returned to teach drama.

As much as Rosalind's life was a mystery to Gemma when they were students together, her death presents even more of a puzzle. What made Rosalind quit her teaching job in Sydney and return to her hometown? Why did she live in a small, run-down apartment when her father was one of the town's richest men? And despite her many admirers, did anyone in the town truly know her?

Rosalind's enigmas frustrate and obsess Gemma, who has her own dangerous secrets—an affair with her colleague and past tragedies that may not stay in the past.

                                                 My Thoughts:

The Dark Lake is the debut novel of Australian author Sarah Bailey.

Gemma Woodstock is a Detective Sergeant in the small rural town of Smithson. One of the local teachers, who also happens to be an old classmate of Gemma’s, is murdered and the ensuing investigation causes Gemma’s past to come crashing back to haunt her.

I can’t say I liked Gemma and some may question her morals but I didn’t dislike her. I was certainly intrigued to find out what made her tick. She was complex, complicated, obsessive and slightly off kilter. It was very risky having such a flawed protagonist however Bailey has pulled it off with ease. Gemma is basically a good person but sometimes good people can do bad things and unintentionally hurt others.

Bailey weaves the themes of Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed lovers, deception, lies and tragedy throughout the story.

The story moved at a slow pace. There is a lot of moving back and forward in time with back-story filling in the gaps and building on the mystery.
I was captivated by the prose. Bailey has a way with words that had me mesmerized. It is easy to lose yourself in the writing alone.

I pretty much guessed the murderer but I couldn’t work out the motivation and it didn’t spoil the story or the tornado like ending.

Another Gemma Woodstock novel is in the works and I’m looking forward to seeing how Gemma moves on with her life and to immerse myself in some more captivating writing.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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                                               About the author:  

 Sarah Bailey is a Melbourne based writer with a background in advertising and communications. She has two young children and currently works as a director of creative projects company Mr Smith. Over the past five years she has written a number of short stories and opinion pieces. The Dark Lake is her first novel.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Book Review: Dunkirk

DunkirkDunkirk by Lieutenant Colonel Ewan Butler
Publisher: Sapere Books
Publication date: 9th July 2017
Pages: 211
Source: ERC from publisher


 “We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender” – Winston Churchill

In the last days of May and early June 1940 the British Expeditionary Force was saved from annihilation on the beaches of Dunkirk and brought home to fight another day.

The victories won by British arms in the years which followed that great deliverance have made men forget those soldiers – the first of the many – upon whom it fell to withstand the shock of Hitler’s great attack.

It is now fitting that these men and their Commander-in-Chief, Lord Gort, should be worthily remembered, and their story fully told, from those first landings in France, in the autumn of 1939, until the climax of Dunkirk.

The authors, both professional writers, themselves served as officers with the B.E.F., and have recaptured the gallantry and comradeship of that little force. The result is a moving story of courage and devotion in the face of odds which no other British Force has ever been called upon to face.

It is chivalrous to admire a gallant enemy, and of that chivalry we have lately seen much. Justice demands that the courage and devotion of our own fighting men be no less clearly recognised. There were no medals for the B.E.F., hardly even today the laurels of memory. They were soldiers, doing a soldier’s job against odds which no British Force had ever been called upon to face, and which, it is to be hoped, no British Force will ever face again.

What were they then, the men of that small Expeditionary Force, a mere army in one of the groups of French armies? How did they spend the months of what has been called the “twilight war”, and how, when the shock of battle came at last, did they withstand the blow?

Dunkirk tells the true story of those brave men who fought to save the lives of so many. With the 2017 movie release of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk now is the time to remember the real history of the battle in the words of those who experienced it. 

My thoughts:

First published in 1950, only 10 years after the battle of Dunkirk, this story is told through fresh memories unchanged by the passage of time. The authors, Lt. Col. Ewan Butler and Major J. Selby Bradford served in France during late 1939 and early 1940 as junior officers.
This story of Dunkirk was the original motivation behind the epic film of 1958.

The forward by Lord Vansittart is fitting and still relevant today.
“This is not a heartening book, but the gallantry which it portrays is so immensely moving, so well told, as to be almost heartening’ – Lord Vansittart.
“If rulers and ruled alike will not learn from this book the lesson which it implants, we may as will give up teaching history” – Lord Vansittart.

The story of Dunkirk follows the day to day workings of the B.E.F. (British Expeditionary Force). It doesn’t concentrate on certain soldiers or officers but the force as a whole. A factual account that isn’t over dramatised. Stark and concise.
The authors tell of how underequipped the B.E.F. were; the murder of civilians by German soldiers; the harrowing conditions – underfed and underarmed; the acts of heroism by both servicemen and civilians; the discovery of spies amongst the French civilians and also amongst their counterparts in Belgium.

Keep the Memory Green was the original title of Dunkirk. It was retitled after the 1958 film release, Dunkirk, which was based on this book.
Sapere Books has rereleased Dunkirk in digital form.

There are so many quotes which I loved from this book but I will just leave you with a couple of my favourites.

“They were soldiers, doing a soldier’s job against odds which no British Force had ever been called upon to face, and which, it is to be hoped, no British Force will ever face again.’

“The fact remains that the troops who landed in France were but ill-provided with the tools of modern war. Save for a few tanks, most of them already semi-obsolete, we had no armour, nor many guns, with which to stop the sadly-plentiful armour of the enemy.”

I received an ERC from Sapere Books.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

About the authors: 
 Lt. Colonel Ewan Butler and Major J. Selby Bradford M.B.E., M.C. served in France as young officers during the last months of 1939 and the first five of 1940 with that small British Expeditionary force commanded by Lord Gort, which first faced the full might of Nazi Germany.

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Sunday, 30 July 2017

Book Review: Ella's Ice-cream Summer

Ella's Ice-Cream Summer (The Ice-Cream Cafe, #1)Ella's Ice-Cream Summer by Sue Watson
Series: The Ice-cream Cafe #1
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 11th may 2017
Pages: 334
Source: ERC from publisher

 Ella’s life just hit rock-bottom, but can a summer by the sea mend her broken heart? When life gives you lemons… make ice-cream!

Life hasn’t always been easy for single mum Ella, but she has just hit an all-time low; she’s jobless, loveless, very nearly homeless and, to make matters worse, now the owner of a pocket-sized pooch with a better wardrobe than her.

Packing her bags (and a bigger one for the dog), Ella sets off for the seaside town of Appledore in Devon to re-live the magical summers of her youth and claim her portion of the family ice-cream business: a clapped-out ice-cream van and a complicated mess of secrets.

There she meets gorgeous and free-spirited solicitor, Ben, who sees things differently: with a little bit of TLC he has a plan to get the van – and Ella – back up and running in no time.

Ella’s Ice-Cream Summer is a heart-warming and hilarious romance that will scoop you off your feet and prove it’s never too late for a fresh start. The ideal holiday read for fans of Lucy Diamond, Abby Clements and Debbie Johnson. 

My thoughts: 
Warning: To be read with lashings of ice-cream. I read this during an Australian winter and I still craved ice-cream.

Ella is feeling despondent about her life. Her teenage children are ready to leave the nest. Her husband has run off with his younger, perkier, richer boss and all her Facebook friends seem to be having endless holidays and perfect lives. Her mother’s social life is busier than hers.

If you can relate to any of this you will love this RomCom with a hint of mystery, lashings of ice-cream and a touch of romance.

Ella runs away, “Just for one summer” she says, to sell home-made ice-cream in a van on the beach of the little seaside town that she loved as a child.

Sweet, funny, romantic and heart-warming.

This story is about running away to a fresh start and finding yourself. But it’s also about bringing families together and working for a common goal.

Follow your dreams no matter how crazy they seem!

 My rating: 4 of 5 stars

About the author: (courtesy of Goodreads)

Sue Watson was a TV Producer with the BBC who combined motherhood and family life with a busy career. However, one day it dawned on Sue that Cosmo magazine may have been telling porkies about 'having it all,' and her life had become a slightly crazed juggling act.

So after much soul searching (and comfort eating) Sue abandoned her TV career, bought a pink laptop and wrote a novel. 'Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes,' tells the story of Stella Weston, whose life is a constant struggle with a nasty boss at work, the weighing scales and being a mum, wife and daughter.

Originally from Manchester, Sue now lives with her husband and teenage daughter in Worcestershire. When she's not toiling over her latest novel, Sue bakes (and eats) cake and enjoys very large tubs of Caramel Chew Chew ice cream all to herself while watching 'The Biggest Loser USA.'

Sue's second book, 'Younger, Thinner, Blonder' was released in October (2013) and her third book 'Love, Lies and Lemon Cake' is released on June 27th 2014.

Follow Sue on Twitter @suewatsonwriter

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Monday, 24 July 2017

Book Review: Fortune's Son

Fortune's SonFortune's Son by Jennifer Scoullar
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Publication Date: 29th May 2017
Pages: 432
Source: own copy


 An Australian historical saga that will appeal to readers of Bryce Courtenay and Judy Nunn

Can one man’s revenge become his redemption?

Young Luke Tyler has everything going for him: brains, looks and a larrikin charm that turns heads. The future appears bright, until he defends his sister from the powerful Sir Henry Abbot. His reward is fifteen years hard labour on a prison farm in Tasmania’s remote highlands.

Luke escapes, finding sanctuary with a local philanthropist, Daniel Campbell, and starts a forbidden relationship with Daniel's daughter, Belle. But when Luke is betrayed, he must flee or be hanged.

With all seeming lost, Luke sails to South Africa to start afresh. Yet he remains haunted by the past, and by Belle, the woman he can’t forget. When he returns to seek revenge and reclaim his life, his actions will have shattering consequences – for the innocent as well as the guilty.

Set against a backdrop of wild Tasmania, Australian gold and African diamonds, Fortune’s Son is an epic story of betrayal, love and one man’s struggle to triumph over adversity and find his way home.

My Thoughts:
Set in Tasmania in the late 1800’s the first chapter throws the reader straight into the inequality and injustices of class during that time.

The story follows Luke Tyler from the age of 14 when he is thrown in prison after defending his sister’s honour, then his subsequent escape and, for a time, living off the land until he is taken in by his former teacher, Daniel Campbell.

This story held me captivated as it delivers everything the blurb promises, From the beautiful descriptions of the untamed Tasmanian countryside to the inclusion of the now extinct Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger).

Told in multiple POV’s the reader is given an overall feel for each character in this emotionally charged saga which will take you from the remoteness of Tasmania to the diamond mines of South Africa, highlighting the fact that the fight for conservation of both the land and animals is the same in any country.

A powerful story of prejudice, ambition, duty and undying love.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

About the Author: (courtesy of Goodreads)

Jennifer has always harboured a deep appreciation and respect for the natural world. Her house is on a hill-top, overlooking valleys of messmate and mountain ash. A pair of old eagles live there too. Black-shouldered wallabies graze by the creek. Eastern Spinebills hover among the callistemon. Jennifer lives with her family on a beautiful property in the mountains, that was left to her by her father. Horses have always been her passion. She grew up on the books of Elyne Mitchell, and all her life she’s ridden and bred horses, in particular Australian Stock Horses. She has five published novels. Wasp Season (Sid Harta 2008) Brumby’s Run (Penguin 2012)Currawong Creek (Penguin 2013) Billabong Bend (Penguin 2014)Turtle Reef (Penguin 2015) and Journey's End (Penguin 2016)

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Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Jorie and the Gold key

Jorie and the Gold KeyJorie and the Gold Key by A.H. Richardson
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: November 2015
Pages: 254
Source: received from author

 When Jorie and Rufus planned another summer of adventuring, they didn’t plan on sharing it with a snooty, stuck-up, bossy 10-year-old Nigel. When the Wizard Grootmonya calls on Jorie to remedy another disaster in Cabrynthius — the theft of the Magic Stones, Jorie grabs the Gold Key and the three children descend to the enchanted land beneath the Tarn. There they find more extraordinary adventures that bring them face to face again with the wicked Lord Fodomalk and his evil butterfly. Their troubles grow as the fiendish dragon not only snatches Nigel, but confines him to a cold dank cell with the illusive Professor Schrinch (yes, he’s still alive and as sneaky as ever). Jorie and Rufus — and the persnickety Nigel — are joined by all their old friends in this rollicking tale of magic, strange impersonations, and hair-raising exploits. They help Master Nigel with his confusion of the world beneath the Tarn and discover strengths in their new friend that even he didn’t know he had. Aside from spurts of jealousy from Rufus and impatience from Jorie, Nigel learns about bravery and friendship as he struggles with belief and enchantment. Follow this feisty threesome back to the evil, dark world of Shyloxia and the beautiful, bright world of Cabrynthius, where live all manner of creatures, naughty and nice. Do they recover the Magic Stones? What does that Gold Key open for them? Do they survive the shadowy world of nasty characters? Do Jorie and Rufus accept Nigel into their world? And what about Chook — that beloved baby dragon? And if you want to know how Jorie and Rufus survived their first summer adventures, pick up your copy of Jorie and the Magic Stones.

My thoughts: 
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jorie and the Gold Key is another enchanting tale in the Jorie series by A H Richardson.

The stones have been stolen from Grootmanya, the great wizard, and are now in the hands of the evil Lord Fodomalk who plans to destroy the wizard and take over Cabrynthius. Jorie must now return to Cabrynthius and thwart Fodomalk’s attempt to take over the land.

In this second book Jorie is back with Rufus out smarting and out playing the evil Lord Fodomalk. They are accompanied by Nigel who has come to stay with Rufus for the holidays. Nigel is uppity and condescending but the pair take him along anyway. He soon learns of a whole new world with Beowigs, Arbotigs, Dragons and immense danger at every turn.

The three children show great bravery in the face of danger. They feel fear but push it aside and draw on their remarkable courage and intelligence to out play their enemy. There is problem solving, decision making, danger and suspense a plenty.

The bond of friendship between the children runs through the story and the theme of remorse and forgiveness is strong with the wrong doers.

Written for children aged 6 – 12 years but will have wide appeal to both children and adults alike.

There is a small hint at the end that suggests Jorie and friends may yet again be returning to Cabrynthius, which has me eagerly waiting on book 3.

My review of the first book Jorie and the Magic Stones can be found here

About the author: (courtesy of goodreads)
A. H. Richardson was born in London England and is the daughter of famous pianist and composer Clive Richardson. She studied drama and acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She was an actress, a musician, a painter and sculptor, and now an Author.

She published her debut novel Jorie and the Magic Stones in December 2014. At the request of those who loved the first ‘Jorie’ story, Richardson has written a sequel titled Jorie and the Gold Key, and she is currently working on the third book in the series.

In addition to children’s books, she also enjoys writing murder mysteries. She is the author of Murder in Little Shendon, a thriller murder mystery which takes place in a quaint little village in England after World War Two, and introduces two sleuths, Sir Victor Hazlitt and his sidekick,  Beresford Brandon, a noted Shakespearian actor. And she has more ‘who-dun-its’ with this clever and interesting duo… Act One, Scene One – Murder and Murder at Serenity Farm.

A. H. Richardson lives happily in East Tennessee, her adopted state, and has three sons, three grandchildren, and two pugs. She speaks four languages and loves to do voiceovers. She plans on writing many more books and hopes to delight her readers further with her British twist, which all her books have.

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