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



                                                Blurb: 
 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

Blurb:

 “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

Blurb:
 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.

https://www.facebook.com/suewatsonbooks

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

Blurb:

 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

Blurb:
 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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Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Julie Goodwin's Essential Cookbook

Julie Goodwin's Essential CookbookJulie Goodwin's Essential Cookbook by Julie Goodwin
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Publication Date: April 2017
Pages: 310

Blurb:
 Australia's best-loved home cook and original MASTERCHEF, Julie Goodwin is back with the accessible and practical cookbook every family needs.
Looking for the perfect meal for your family?
All you need to make delicious food to feed your hungry loved ones is contained here in one place. Collected here for the first time you can find Julie's essential go-to recipes: from making a great omelette, to roasting the perfect chicken, preparing simple and satisfying soups and salads and baking classic cakes, muffins and desserts that will become family favourites. Whatever ingredients you have in the house, no matter the season or occasion, you can put together a tasty feast that will please everyone, every time.


My Thoughts:
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Julie Goodwin first came to the attention of the Australian public as the winner of MasterChef Australia in 2009. I have followed Julie’s career ever since and confess to owning every one of her cookbooks.
I love the covers of Julie's books. The matt finish is easy to wipe clean and the pastel coloured spine looks great on my bookshelf. I like that this new edition matches in perfectly with Julie's previous books.

Dedicated to her sons, Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook is all about cooking with love, from the heart and cooking with fresh ingredients, in season and locally sourced.

The book is filled with easy to cook recipes that don’t have an extensive list of ingredients that you’ll never use again. I just hate when I buy a gorgeous cookbook only to find each recipe has about 20 ingredients and I feel so overwhelmed with the array of herbs and spices that I don't bother with the book again. You wont find this problem in Julie's book.
The recipes are simple, tasty and nutritious. Julie’s rissoles have already become a firm family favourite.

Over 300 recipes, many with a photo of the finished dish, are divided into eight sections for easy reference.

Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook is a beautifully presented book well worthy of gift giving.

310 pages of wholesome family goodness!




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Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Review: Memories of May

Memories of MayMemories of May by Juliet Madison
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Publication Date: May 5th 2017

Blurb: 
They say that truth is stranger than fiction, but in Tarrin’s Bay, she’s about to find that love is stronger than time...

By day, single mother Olivia Chevalier runs the family’s bookstore and raises her nine-year-old daughter. By night, she escapes into a world of fiction where there is excitement, romance, and happy endings.

Both of her roles are endlessly rewarding, but Olivia’s life has not been without challenges, hard work, and disappointment. So when enigmatic travel writer Joel Foster walks into her bookstore – and her life – with his mantras of trying new things and taking risks, Olivia knows that nothing will change.

But when a family dilemma surfaces, Olivia is compelled to enroll in Joel’s writing course to tell the story of her grandmother’s life. With each new day and each new page, Olivia discovers secrets about her family and truths about herself, and finds herself yearning to rewrite the story she has planned and seek a life as intriguing as fiction.


My thoughts:
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Memories of May is book 5 in Juliet Madison’s Tarrin’s Bay series.

Olivia Chevalier is a single mother to 9 year old Mia. She owns the local bookshop and is pretty happy with her simple, some may say boring, life. That is until adventurer and author Joel Foster comes into town to teach a writing course and turns Olivia’s life upside down.
Olivia decides to attend Joel’s writing course and write her Grandmother’s life story.

I loved the blending of story’s; Olivia’s story, Joel’s story and Olivia’s Grandmother May’s story. They all held my interest and were relevant to the theme of the overall story.

”Life is merely a collection of moments, of memories. Every life matters. It is up to you to take risks, live your life fully, and follow your heart. Don’t settle for a life half lived. Make amazing memories. Make memories matter.”

Memories of May is a heart-warming story of new beginnings and the urging to create your own life, not just the one that is expected of you.


Nine year old Mia was a lovely addition to the story. She was fun and outspoken but not too precocious. It was a good way of introducing a child’s view of aging and death.

Even though this is part of a series each book can be read on it’s own but it’s always nice when familiar characters, from previous books, make an appearance through the story.

I finished this book with that warm feeling that life and love really are good.

Looking forward to the next book in the series.

I received an ERC from the publisher via Netgalley.

About the Author: (courtesy of Goodreads)

 Juliet Madison is a naturopath-turned-author with a background in dance, art, internet marketing, and perfume sales (yes, she was one of those annoying people in department stores who spray you with perfume). Nowadays she prefers to indulge her propensity for multiple careers by living vicariously through her characters. She likes to put those characters into extraordinary situations and take them on a challenging journey to discover their true passion and inner strength, weaving in some laughs, tears, romance, and sometimes a touch of magic along the way.
Living near the beach on the beautiful south coast of New South Wales, Australia, Juliet spends as much time as possible writing and coming up with new ideas, while doing her best to avoid housework.
Juliet is a proud member and volunteer with The Romance Writers of Australia and she loves to interact online with readers and writers via twitter (@Juliet_Madison), and facebook (www.facebook.com/JulietMadisonAuthor). She can be contacted through her website at www.julietmadison.com where readers can also download some free short stories.




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