Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Book Review: Redemption

RedemptionRedemption by Tracie Griffith
Publisher: self published
Publication Date: 9th July 2017
Pages:307
Source: paperback from the Author



                                                   Blurb:

 '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



                                                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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Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Review: Saigon Dark by Elka Ray

Saigon DarkSaigon Dark by Elka Ray
Publisher: Crime Wave Press

Blurb: 
 Good and bad. Life and death. Some choices aren't black and white

A grief-stricken young mother switches her dead baby for an abused child, then spends the next decade living a lie. She remarries and starts to feel safe when she gets a note: 'I know what you did'. Can she save her family from her dark secret?


My Thoughts:
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On the same night her young daughter dies Lily finds a beaten neglected child, around the same age as her daughter, on her doorstep. Citing ‘fate’ as her motivation she decides to keep the child.
The story follows Lily’s life over the next 11 years as she walks a fine line between right and wrong, good and bad. She is always trying to justify her actions while hiding a terrible secret that leaves a heavy burden on her life.

The story is full of raw emotion and tension. Lily runs from her old life and starts over where no-one knows her but there is always that foreboding feeling that her past will one day catch up with her.

The narration is mainly in short, sharp sentences which perfectly portrays the way Lily’s mind is thinking; fast, sharp and erratic. She is always despairing about life and thinking worse case scenarios.

When the note appears that someone knows what she did there are already a few likely suspects that kept me guessing and changing my mind constantly. I never did actually guess right!

I couldn’t read this book fast enough. I was anxious to see what Lily would do next and if she would ever get out of her dilemma.

A tension filled story of lies, betrayal and blackmail. A real sense of foreboding is felt throughout.
Highly recommended!

I received an ERC from the publisher.

About the Author; (courtesy of Goodreads)

 Born in the UK and raised in Canada and Africa, Elka writes for children and adults. Elka divides her time between Central Vietnam and Canada's Vancouver Island - with both regions featured in her fiction.

When she's not writing, drawing, traveling or reading Elka is in - or near - the ocean.



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Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Review:Weave a Murderous Web - A Jane Larson Mystery

Weave a Murderous WebWeave a Murderous Web by Anne Rothman-Hicks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jane Larson, an up and coming Lawyer, takes on a domestic, unpaid child support, case on the request of a friend. As she looks further into the finances of the defendant she finds there is more to him than meets the eye. And it’s not all legal! Jane soon finds herself embroiled in a web of drugs, lies and murder.

It does take a few chapters for the writing to settle but from then on the story is absorbing with plenty of twists, turns and witty dialogue.

Jane is a great protagonist, sharp-witted, sarcastic and cynical. She doesn’t take crap from anyone. She zeroes in on the problem at hand and nothing will get in her way until she has answers.

There are plenty of characters introduced and they each have their own distinct personalities. There is lots of suspicious activity, where everyone seems to have something to hide. Add to this a few red herrings and it will keep you guessing until the action packed finale.

The epilogue ties the story up nicely.

I received on ERC to read and review.


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Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Review: The Little Girl Who Lost Her Name

The Little Girl Who Lost Her NameThe Little Girl Who Lost Her Name by David Cadji-Newby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First I would have to say I was very impressed with the quality of the book. Printed on high quality thick carded paper these books will take years of page turning by hands both small and large.

My granddaughter received two of these personalised books for her second birthday. I think this was the result of a wide and highly successful marketing campaign as other guests (at her birthday celebration) also remarked that they had looked at buying this particular book.

Both books were exactly the same unfortunately. However, I have noticed on the website that there are options, although very limited, to change some of the characters. Although in this case the buyer would have to pre-empt that the recipient may already have a copy. There are also options for the child’s hair and skin colour.

The story is about a little girl who goes on an adventure to find her lost name. As she meets different characters along the way they each give her the first letter of their name.

I loved that there were some unusual characters, such as a Narwhal, Aardvark and Nabarlek, rather than the typical farm and zoo animals. Each animal tells a little about themselves eg: Aardvark eats ants; Narwhal is called the sea unicorn.

My Granddaughters name has 7 letters and the book had 36 pages which I feel is great value for money. But what if your name is Zoe or Sam? They’ve thought of that too and added in 4 extra pages of story for short names.

Most importantly my Granddaughter absolutely loves this book!

And of course there is also “The Little Boy Who Lost His Name


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Monday, 5 June 2017

Review: Flames over Norway by Robert Jackson

Flames Over NorwayFlames Over Norway by Robert Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Flames of Norway is set during the lead up to WWII and follows the POV of three main characters, Kalinski – a Pole, Armstrong – a Britain and Lehmann – a German.

Jackson tells the facts without prejudice and gives the reader a blow by blow description of the battle for Norway. He knows his subject and the reader is taken right to the heart of the action with vivid imagery.

Although written with great detail of the military planning and reconnaissance missions the story never gets bogged down and it kept me enthralled until the fiery end.

Highly recommended for any readers interested in the planes and the missions of pilots during WWII.

I received an ERC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.


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Thursday, 1 June 2017

Simple knitted bed sock pattern worked on 2 needles




My mother-in-law came to visit recently and asked my to knit her a new pair of bed socks.
The pair she had had been knitted for her over twenty years ago. The pattern seemed straight forward but I couldn't find anything online that was knitted with only two needles.
She was only staying three days and I have limited spare time, so no time to dig through boxes to find my round needles.

I had plenty of 8 ply wool and to make a thicker sock I used double strands.

Here is my very simple pattern which I'm hoping has no mistakes in it. Great for beginners. Experienced knitters can play around with the stitches and band. The original had a cable pattern up the front of the foot but no time to dig in those boxes for a cable needle.

Bed Socks
Material: Any 8 ply approx 120grams
Needles: 5.5mm

This sock fits a woman's size 10Aus. The bed sock was a loose fit.
It would be easy to decrease cast on stitches or needle size to make a smaller tighter fit.

8 ply wool is used double strand

Cast on 90 stitches
Work 10 rows in garter stitch
Work 4 rows stocking stitch starting with a knit row.
Row 15: K41 K2tog K4 K2tog K41
Row 16: P40 P2tog P4 P2tog P40
Row 17: K39 K2tog K4 K2tog K39
Row 18: P38 P2tog P4 P2tog P38

Continue decreasing as above until 48 stitches remain.
Purl next row
Knit next row
Purl next row

Work 8 rows in K1 P1 rib
Ribbing can be increased for a longer sock
Cast off and sew seams

.

I didn't manage to get a completed photo before she delightedly whisked them away.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Review: Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett

Scared to Death (Detective Kay Hunter #1)Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Scared to Death is the first book in the Detective Kay Hunter series. The story pulled me in from the very beginning. The suspense is gripping and each scene is vividly described making the events spine-chillingly real.

DS Kay Hunter is dedicated. She doesn’t dwell on the problems in her life and the backstory tells us she has plenty of personal problems she could be dwelling on.
It’s a nice change to have a detective that’s not a divorced alcoholic. The reader is not heaped with Hunter’s personal life. We are just given a few snippets here and there to let you know a bit about her, she was bullied at school, gets annoyed by her mother and sister and has a loving supportive partner. The story focuses mainly on the case at hand.

The pace is fast. The chapters are short and precise which makes this book an easy, quick read but not easy to read as there are quite a few skin crawling adrenaline pumping moments.

The killer has a troubled background but the reader is never urged to feel sorry for him. The victims are kept slightly detached although they are not completely innocent themselves.

If you enjoy adrenaline pumping action and suspense I highly recommend “Scared to Death.”

I was provided with an ERC from the author to read and review.


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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Review: Knife & Fork by Gita V Reddy

Knife and ForkKnife and Fork by Gita V. Reddy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bholu, an inquisitive monkey, decides to leave the forest to seek adventure in the city. He sees many wondrous things and, after watching a little girl eating in her garden, he learns to eat with a knife and fork. He returns to the forest and brags about what he has seen and his new manners. He is now arrogant and thinks he is superior to the other monkeys. His friends soon tire of his bragging and he finds eating with a knife and fork in the forest very difficult. Bholu is now very lonely, sad and hungry. A wise old monkey tells him it is better to be as a monkey should be. Don’t try to be what you are not, just be yourself.

Reddy’s short simply written chapter books help encourage the transition from beginner readers to more advanced readers. For reluctant readers the length will make it easier for them to finish a book. Younger readers will also be encouraged to read a page or two with the rest read to them.
The full series has books in different genres to give children a wide taste of stories.

The story was fun and the imagery was vivid. The moral of not being arrogant and just being yourself was easy to understand for small children.

Recommended for: 3 years plus – read to me
5 years plus – read alone



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Monday, 17 April 2017

Review: Yousuf's Everyday Adventures "Beautifully Different"

Beautifully Different (Yousuf's Everyday Adventures, #2)Beautifully Different by Dana Salim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beautifully Different is the second book in Dana Salim’s Yousuf’s Everyday Adventure series.

The story opens with Yousuf playing with blocks on the floor with his father. He asks his father why people are different. He goes on to say that some children at school are picked on because they are different. His dad suggests they play the imagination game. Yousuf closes his eyes and the game begins. Dad directs the game and his part of the story is in rhyme. He adds in little problems that Yousuf must find solutions to, so it’s not only dad’s imagination but also Yousuf’s that’s directing the story.

Yousuf is in a land of beautiful flowers, all different shapes and colours. The weeds come to scare them away. Yousuf needs to help the flowers unite and chase the weeds away.

I read this story to a 3 and 4 year old. They loved the story and the big bright illustrations and asked straight away for the story again.
Me: How did Yousuf get to the Island?
3yo: The birds took him (she took the story literally)
4yo: In a dream

Me: What was your favourite part of the story?
3yo: The flowers
4yo: chasing the yucky weeds away.

Recommended for 4+ preschool, Kindergarten age when they become more aware of the people around them and better understand the concept of imagination.

Beautifully Different is a book we will definitely be reading again and again.

With my thanks to the author for my copy to read to the children.


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Saturday, 4 March 2017

Review: All the Missing Girls

All the Missing GirlsAll the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All the Missing Girls is the first in a new series by Megan Miranda who has written several books for Young Adults. This is her first book for adults.

Nic returns home to Cooley Ridge to help her brother ready the family home for sale. Their father is suffering dementia and now in a nursing home. The sale of the house is required to pay mounting bills. Once Nic arrived home it was like never leaving and the memories came flooding back. She’d left the town 10 years ago after her friend Corrine disappeared without a trace. Two weeks on and Annaleise Carter goes missing, swallowed up by the woods, just like Corrine.

The story is told in the first person by Nic, but we can see she is not telling it all, she is always guarded, holding back. (The unreliable narrator is a tried and true formula and Miranda uses it well in this story).
Written in reverse chronological order from day 15 down to day 1 you really need to be paying attention with this twisty, breath-holding mystery which will have you second guessing all the way through.
As the police start investigating the disappearance of Annaleise, Nic is still haunted by the disappearance of best friend Corrine 10 years earlier and goes over the details leading up to the event where personalities are laid bare and long held secrets divulged.

I love a mystery where you are so sure that you have it all worked out and then BAM, you learn you had it all wrong.

All the Missing Girls is a hauntingly compelling story written around the eerie backdrop of the woods of Cooley Ridge.

This is a story you will want to read over again as soon as you’ve finished the last page.

I received a review copy from the publisher.


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Friday, 3 March 2017

Review: Slow Horses Slough House #1

Slow Horses (Slough House, #1)Slow Horses by Mick Herron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Slow Horses is Herron’s first book in the Slough House series, recently re-released in conjunction with the release of book 4, Spook Street.

After a mission gone terribly wrong River Cartwright is sent to Slough House, a place where tasks that didn’t matter were preformed by people that didn’t care. Where alongside a pre-digital overflow of paperwork, a post-useful crew of misfits can be stored and left to gather dust.

The story is told with a wry wit, in metaphors, retrospect and hypotheticals with plenty of laugh out loud moments and dark humour.

Slow Horses is an introduction to the main characters, the cast outs, at Slough House and their boss Jackson Lamb. The characterization is brilliant as Herron brings together a mismatched bunch of has-beens, loners that haven’t quite given up on the hope of one day returning to Regents Park.

Under all the character development is a great plot with backstabbing, twists, conspiracy theories, double crossing and buck passing. It’s compelling and edgy and pulls the story along with a rush of adrenaline as the pace quickens and events spiral out of control.

Wanting to read more of Jackson Lamb and his Slough House crew will be difficult to resist.


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Sunday, 26 February 2017

Review: Jorie and the Magic Stones

Jorie and the Magic StonesJorie and the Magic Stones by A.H. Richardson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jorie and the Magic Stones is the first in a children’s fantasy series by A H Richardson. Nine year old Jorie comes from boarding school to live with her Great Aunt Letitia (Aunt Letty to Jorie). She is a lovely, bright, talkative girl, confident inquisitive and has a vivid imagination.
Rufus lives with his eccentric Grandfather on the property next door. Being the only children close by Jorie and Rufus soon become firm friends.
After finding a book of dragons and magic hidden under the floorboards Jorie soon learns that she is the “child with the hair of fire” that must find the magic stones and save Cabrynthius.

Perfectly written for the target audience of 6 – 12 years with descriptive, straightforward writing, short chapters and a few unusual words thrown in to extend a child’s vocabulary.
The two children make a great pairing with Jorie as the believer, adventurer and a risk taker. Rufus is the logical one, the sceptic, more cautious but comes through and shows true bravery when needed.
The children will encounter both good and evil in their venture and there is danger aplenty. There is a lot to learn about friendship and loyalty, problem solving and decision making. I loved Jorie’s resilience – Rufus calls her a witch and Jorie just laughs it off saying that’s just silly.

The ending gave me a giggle, wrapping book one up well but also leaving an opening for the next adventure.

A delightful story and highly recommended.


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Friday, 17 February 2017

Review: The Kingdom of Oceana

The Kingdom of OceanaThe Kingdom of Oceana by Mitchell Charles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Kingdom of Oceana is a Young Adult Fantasy set in Hawaii 500 years in the past when the people and the sea-life lived in harmony. Each respecting and protecting the other. A time when myths rule and magic abounds!
When greed and sibling rivalry divide the islands and a dark magic infects the sea they must unite to fight a common enemy. But will it be in detriment of the whole island or will the rulers see the way before it’s too late.

This is an action packed story full of legend, history, myth, magic, danger, jealousy and a touch of romance.
I’ve rated at 11+ as there is a bit of violence involved although it is not too graphic and good does triumph over evil eventually.

Well plotted and beautifully described the scenes come alive as if watching them on the big screen. An immersive story of destiny that will hold the attention of both adult and child alike.

Suitable for 11 years plus.


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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Review: Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold (Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency, #1)Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold by Iain Reading
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Finally a young adult book for girls interested in marine life, geography, history and real life adventures. Not a ghost, angel or vampire in sight. Quite refreshing!

Kitty Hawk is a 19 year old adventurer. She has her pilots licence and wants to study the feeding habits and migration patterns of whales off the coast of Alaska. She receives sponsorship from an adventure clothing company and flies from her home in Tofino, Canada to Juneau, Alaska where she will stay with family friends.
As the story progresses the reader learns a lot about whales and the area of Juneau and the history of the Yukon and the gold rush. Kitty’s inquisitive nature gets her into some life and death scrapes.

I’ll start with a couple of things I didn’t like. The story was told in the first person by Kitty and she was at times very annoying. Also that little voice that kept popping into her head drove me crazy. At the start of the story Kitty kept jumping back and forward in time with her narration which was off putting.

The things I liked were Kitty’s sass and humour. I enjoyed all the historical facts of Juneau and the Yukon gold rush. There was plenty of action, danger and a couple of great twists. The little maps showing where Kitty was flying and the area she trekked through were great for someone who knows nothing about the area.
The author has added references at the end of the book for further reading on some of the animals, places and people mentioned in the story.

A fun way for students 10+ years to learn the history of the gold rush.


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