Thursday, 12 January 2017

What's Your Story? | Aussie Author Round-Up | Georgina Penney

It’s lovely to have the wonderfully witty Georgina Penney with me on the blog today to celebrate the recent release of her third novel, The Barbershop Girl, which was published on the 3rd January.

Georgina first discovered romance novels when she was eleven and has been a fan of the genre ever since. It took her another eighteen years to finally sit in front of a keyboard and get something down on the page but that's alright, she was busy doing other things until then.

Some of those things included living in a ridiculous number of towns and cities in Australia before relocating overseas to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Brunei Darussalam and currently, Scotland.

In between all these travels, Georgina managed to learn to paint, get herself a Communication and Cultural Studies degree, study Psychotherapy and learn all about Hypnotherapy. In the early days she even managed to get on the IT roller coaster during the early noughties boom, inexplicably ending the ride by becoming the registrar of a massage and naturopathy college. There was also a PhD in the mix there somewhere but moving to Saudi Arabia and rediscovering the bodice ripper fixed all that.
Today she lives with her wonderful husband, Tony in a cosy steading in the Scottish countryside.

When she's not swearing at her characters and trying to cram them into her plot, she can be found traipsing over fields, gazing at hairy coos and imagining buff medieval Scotsmen in kilts (who have access to shower facilities and deodorant) living behind every bramble hedge.

Please feel free to pull up a stump and get to know Georgina a bit more.

Before I continue though, I’d just like to thank Jacinta at Penguin Books Australia, for making this interview possible.

Georgina, it’s awesome to have you here on my blog. Welcome.

Thanks so much for having me drop by!

Please share a bit about yourself and your journey to becoming an author.

I’m someone who is absolutely fascinated by everything. A complete omnivore. I love travelling (but hate airports and the flying involved), and am always planning the next trip. I’ve always got at least four different books on the go, minimum. I love talking to strangers and hearing their stories, the weirder the better. And I have what is verging on a serious caffeine addiction!

As far as becoming an author, I’ve always wanted to be one but it wasn’t until my husband and I moved to Saudi Arabia that I had the time to put that first hundred words on the page. I haven’t stopped since!

Could you tell us in your own words what The Barbershop Girl is about?

To me, The Barbershop Girl is all about the image we present to the world versus who we are inside. My heroine, Amy goes through life with a sunny smile—even when she’s not feeling it—while my hero, Ben, goes through life steeped in sarcasm and humor. The fun of the story is how the two of them come together with bumps along the way!

What are the major themes in The Barbershop Girl?

There are a few. Self image is a big one. Sacrificing yourself to protect other’s feelings is another. I guess the main one for my hero Ben, is the peril of making assumptions. In his case, it’s assuming Amy will adore anything he writes about her without first asking if she’s fine with it.

What makes The Barbershop Girl stand out from the crowd?

Is it too big headed to say my characters are awesome? Ben and Amy turned up one day, jumped onto the page and I kind of can’t take credit for them because they pretty much wrote themselves.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Self doubt! But we all have that, don’t we? The first draft is always hard because I spend a lot of time forcing myself not to second guess the process.
When you begin a new novel, do you already know how it’s going to end? Or do your stories unfold organically as you write?

I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen past the page I’m writing! It’s wonderful but scary at the same time.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Your first draft is just you telling yourself the story. It’s not meant to be pretty.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Do it. Have a base 100 word a day goal and stick to it and in a year you’ll have your novel. If you don’t start now, you won’t have that novel in a year and you’ll still be in the same place. 

If I think I’m a writer, how would I know for sure?

If you write, you’re a writer. It’s just the noun attached to the verb. I don’t go in for all the ‘am I a writer?’ kerfuffle 😊

What’s the best thing about being an author?

Getting lost in different worlds and other people’s lives!

So now that we have the official part of the interview out of the way and, before we close, I thought we’d have a bit of fun!

What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer it?

What would you like to see changed in the interaction between readers and writers today?

I’d love to see both readers and writers remembering that everyone’s human and treating each other with respect and consideration. Readers need to remember that writers will read the reviews they post and writers need to remember that readers are entitled to their opinions. (It’s not such a fun Q&A but it’s something I think is so needed nowadays with so much meanness online.)

Beer, Wine or Cocktail?

Beer or red wine.

Do you have a favourite motivational phrase?

Do the f*cking work.

If you had a book club, what would it be reading and why?

This is such a hard one! I’m hopeless at bookclubs because I think books are so personal. At the moment I’m obsessed with The Mitford Sisters. Particularly the collection of letters they wrote each over their lives. So that would probably be the thing I’d suggest. I love reading letters, they give such brilliant insight into character. 

Give us three good to know facts about you – be as creative as you want!

I’ll talk your ear off and probably be the loudest person in the room but I’m a complete introvert. So if anyone meets me at a function and I’m a bit crazy-eye or abrupt, it’s in no way personal. I’ve just hit my social saturation point and need a sit down in a corner with a cup of tea.

I have a thing for leopard print. It’s wonderful and tacky and makes everything look awesome as far as I’m concerned. I picked up this little fancy in Saudi Arabia and ever since my friends buy me leopard print things as a joke. I’ve got candles, slippers, rugs, jeans… okay you get the idea.

If I find a book I love, I’m like a two year old. I’ll re-read it five million times and never get tired.

If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?

How Did I Get Here Again? 

Georgina, it’s been an absolute delight having you here today and I so look forward to reading more of your novels. Before you go though, would you mind sharing with us an excerpt from The Barbershop Girl?

Ben jolted awake at the sound of a door opening at the back of the barbershop. He stifled a yawn. He had no idea how long he’d been sleeping. All he knew was that he now had company. Chatty company. 
A slightly breathless, melodic female voice pervaded Ben’s consciousness. ‘Good morning. Sorry to keep you waiting, Ben. It was Ben, right? I was just finishing up with a customer next door. I’ve brought you some homemade chocolate cake to make up for being late. Are we having coffee this morning?’ 
‘I just woke up. What do you think?’ Ben grumbled, rubbing his hands over his eyes. 
‘I think you’re one of those.’ 
The blonde, Amy if he remembered correctly, approached and placed a tray bearing a steaming mug of black coffee, a small jug of cream and a pot of sugar cubes along with a generous slice of chocolate cake on a small inbuilt ledge in front of his chair. 
‘Thank you.’ Ben looked up into a pair of china-doll blue eyes that were watching him warily, despite the smile stretching her fuchsia-painted lips. He paused momentarily to collect his thoughts. The woman was truly a polished piece of work, spectacular in fact. 
The fifties pin-up thing was obviously an ongoing theme. Today, her platinum hair was styled in a high, soft ponytail with loose C-shaped curls framing her features. The rest of her wasn’t so much cute as ridiculously sexy: a frilly, long-sleeved white blouse tucked into a navy below-the-knee pencil skirt that cupped her curvy little rump lovingly. Ben couldn’t help but notice what her impossibly high red heels did for her calves as she walked away from him to collect a small trolley. 
‘You’re welcome,’ she said over her shoulder.
‘What do you mean, I’m one of those?’ Ben demanded.

‘A grumpy bear in the morning. I’m used to your type.’
‘You’re not one of those disgusting morning people by any chance, are you? I heard you were a dying breed.’ Ben reached for the coffee, added a dash of cream and took an experimental sip. It was good. Very good. Much better than Alex’s dismal efforts, to say the least. 
‘Better?’ she asked, draping an olive-green cape around his shoulders and tying it behind his neck.

‘Marginally. This is good coffee.’ Ben took a larger sip, feeling the caffeine zapping his neurons to life and kickstarting his cha- risma. He risked cracking his first smile of the day and was rewarded with one in return. No dimples though. It was obvious he’d have to try harder for those after his behaviour the other night. 
‘I know. It’s fantastic, isn’t it? It comes from a little place down south in Margaret River. I order it especially.’ She smiled again, this time bringing out one dimple. For some inexplicable reason, the sight brought Ben out of his early-morning malaise like no coffee ever could. He couldn’t quite fathom the why of it, but he was experiencing the first rush of purely physical attraction he’d felt in years. 
Sex and relationships had come so easily to him for the past decade that he thought he’d long since graduated from the rampaging hormone-driven lust of his teens. Obviously he’d been wrong. That he felt it with this woman was perplexing and somewhat alarming in light of his recent disastrous, highly publicised affair. Been there done that, wanted a refund. But still . . . he hadn’t managed to earn both dimples yet. 
He broke off a chunk of cake and took a bite, moaning in pleasure the minute it hit his taste buds. ‘I take back the dying breed comment. There needs to be more of you. This is amazing.’ He reached for another piece, resisting the urge to lick his fingers. 
Her eyes twinkled. ‘Thanks.’ 
‘Is this for a special occasion or just because you knew I was coming?’ 
She laughed and the sound coursed through Ben’s system like quicksilver. 
‘No special occasion, but if it helps we can pretend. Is your birthday any time soon?’ 
‘Birthday. No, that was a few months back. I don’t celebrate those anyway.’ 
That earned him a shocked look. ‘Never?’ 
Ben shrugged, running his finger across the plate to pick up the last of the crumbs. ‘Never have. Not my thing.’ 
‘What about when you were a kid?’ 
‘Cake didn’t feature high on my parents’ list of priorities. Is this the scene of an inquisition specialising in torture through cake and coffee, or a barbershop?’ His words came out sharper than he intended and he covered his gaffe up with a grin, running his hand over his jaw. ‘Because as you can see, I currently resemble an extra in a low-budget detective flick.’ 
Other than an almost imperceptible pause, Amy didn’t seem affected by his bad manners. ‘Yeah, you do. What can I do for you today? I’m guessing just a shave since you keep this so short.’ She ran her hand over the top of his head, regarding him in the mirror, her head cocked to one side. 
Inexplicably, Ben fought the urge to purr. ‘A shave please. As long as you can assure me I’m safe.’ 
‘You ever hear the one about the fool who made fun of his barber?’ She arched a blonde eyebrow. 
‘No, is it funny?’ 
‘You’ll laugh your head off,’ she retorted. ‘Now finish your coffee while I get the torture implements ready.’ She met his eyes briefly in the mirror and he was struck once again by how blue hers were. They had to be contact lenses, surely. 
‘Order received and understood,’ he said dryly, draining his cup while surreptitiously watching her work. 

Friday, 6 January 2017

Book Review | The Drifter | Anthea Hodgson

Cate Christie can barely remember a time when she wasn’t a disappointment to her parents. Known as a party girl with no ambition and recently stricken with grief after her best friend, Brigit, died in a car accident, Cate is left feeling bereft and, in a hopeless effort to try and outrun the pain, goes to stay with her aging Great-Aunt Ida who is in desperate need of assistance around her large remote property.

It is here that she meets a drifter whose name may or may not be Henry.

Unbeknownst to Aunt Ida, Henry has been staying in one of the dilapidated sheds on the property but when Cate brings it to her attention, Ida is more than happy for him to stay and help out on the farm - and, so is Mac, Ida’s dog who has taken quite a shine to him.

Between sorting through Ida’s house which has become a hoarder’s paradise, odd jobs around the farm, helping Ida with her community obligations and trying to come to terms with the issues plaguing her, Cate forms a bond with Ida as time spent at the farm and in the little town begins to offer answers to her most troubling questions, pushing her to re-examine her own thoughts on life, death and everything in between.

I’ve been a fan of rural Australian fiction for some time now and one of the reasons is because the authors who pen these novels are so diverse in what they have to bring to their stories – Anthea Hodgson is no different.

Her main characters are unfalteringly real and are supported by a host of colourful secondary characters who drive the novel. Ida, in particular, is a hopelessly endearing character as is Mac, the dog. Henry, too, is flawed and the additional layers of intrigue relating to his reasons for drifting add both depth and complexity to the plot.

Anthea’s love for the country, landscape and community permeates the novel while the many snort-out-loud moments and stomach-clenching tenderness balance out the tragedy and loss that surrounds these characters.

The charm and heart of this novel is Cate’s great-aunt Ida who gives her something to look forward to but it’s the mental anguish that we see Cate going through and the mystery surrounding Henry’s presence that drive the story forward.

Told with emotional tenderness and filled with our trademark Aussie humour, wit and charm, Anthea’s writing is wholly readable, totally absorbing and thoroughly enjoyable, making The Drifter an engaging and uplifting read that captures the rural life and communities through the eyes of someone who has lived it.

With an intriguing plot and a great mixture of sexy and heartfelt romance, The Drifter heralds the arrival of a strong and fresh new voice in Australian rural literature. If you enjoy books by Karly Lane, you’ll definitely need to pick this one up!

I wish to thank the publisher, Penguin Australia, for providing me with a hard copy for review.

About the Author

Anthea Hodgson is a country girl from the WA wheatbelt. She likes all the usual stuff, from chocolate to puppies, and she loves a coffee, which probably played a large part in her move from the farm to Perth - although she thinks boarding school may have had something to do with it, too.

In her previous life she was child free and working as a radio producer, where the coffee was terrible but the people were great, and now she has three brilliant kids, including her husband, a job she loves even more than radio, and a two book deal with Penguin Random House.

Because, a few years ago Anthea found herself with nothing to do at three am, so she climbed out of bed and wrote her debut novel, The Drifter, in five weeks. Told you she likes coffee!

About the Book

‘Life isn’t just the breathing part, dear. It’s being here, with you.’

Cate Christie is a drifter, moving restlessly through her carefree youth until tragedy strikes, and her life is changed forever. She flees the city, seeking refuge at her great-aunt Ida’s farm in the wheatfields of Western Australia.

There she finds Henry, a swagman whose dark eyes and heavy heart hold secrets he’s not willing to share.

When Ida is no longer able to go on, Cate and Henry are put to the ultimate test. Together they must embrace the true meaning of family, community and love so they can put their own ghosts to rest.

The Drifter is a moving and highly original story from an exciting new voice in rural writing, about what it takes to make a good life, a good death – and how to capture the magic in-between.

ISBN:  9780143797241
Publisher:  Penguin Australia
Pub Date:  September 2016
RRP: $32.99

With a Swoosh and Flutter of Pages, 2016 is Out - My Top Ten Reads

Well, 2016 sure went out with a bang (or was that with a "swoosh and flutter of pages")!

It really was a great reading year and even though I'm still trying to catch up on outstanding 2016 reviews, I didn't read as much as in previous years. That being so, there were definitely some memorables as well as a few hot new favourites that popped up on my reading list and ... I also made my debut as a beta-reader.

In terms of lists, a Top Ten has to be one of the hardest for any book blogger to make but without any further rambling, here's my official list of  top ten reads in no particular order (click on the book title which will take you to the novel's Goodreads page):

The Drifter by Anthea Hodgson (review coming soon)

Told with emotional tenderness and filled with our trademark Aussie humour, wit and charm, Anthea's writing is wholly readable, totally absorbing and thoroughly enjoyable, making The Drifter an engaging and uplifting read that captures the rural life and communities through the eyes of someone who has lived it.

Third Time Lucky by Karly Lane (full review here)

With her vivid characterisation, magical sense of place, heartfelt emotion and a dash of hope where hope has been lost, Rural Fiction's Favourite Daughter gives us a moving story about family, betrayal, love and the power that the past can hold over our lives. You will laugh, you will cry but most of all, you won’t want to put this heart-warming Aussie Christmas tale down.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (full review here)

As usual, the intensity of Jodi’s storytelling is convincing and she never pulls any punches in the aspects it traverses, and I had real trouble putting this one down, even though there were times in Turk’s narrative where I found the story to be somewhat confronting, especially in relation to his and his wife’s prejudice against people who were “different” to them. ... Everyone has a story to tell and Jodi Picoult isn't afraid to tell it for them!

The Better Son by Katherine Johnson (full review here)

Katherine’s storytelling is breathtaking and you will find yourself immersed in the bold and majestic landscape as she takes the time to note the world and all its lush details around her characters, making it a fully formed character in its own right.

The Art of Keeping Secrets by Rachael Johns (full review here)

With all the messiness of real life, the intricacies and limits of marriage and the depth of love and friendship, The Art of Keeping Secrets is a complex and tumultuous story with moments of tear-jerking catharsis, for both the reader and the characters, as emotions and years of hidden feelings bubble to the surface.

Blame by Nicole Trope (full review here)

A compelling psychological drama about best friends caught between family and friendship, envy, truth and lies and what happens when the lies begin to unravel, Blame shifts between sheer anguish and an uneasy mystery, is brutally honest, thought-provoking and somewhat disquieting. Do yourself a favour and put it on your reading list.

The Other Side of the Season by Jenn J McLeod (full review here)

Well-paced and, with its fictional seaside setting of Watercolour Cove creating more than just mere ripples in the water and distorted reflections for everyone involved, this novel is ideal for those blustery wintry days when you want to curl up in a quiet sunny corner and let the queen of small-town stories leave her own memorable imprint on you.

A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester (full review here)

Touching on the jazz age, prohibition and the many economic and social changes taking place during the period, Natasha’s third novel is historically detailed and nuanced, capturing the world of speakeasies, glamour, exuberance and glitz of the 1920’s with beauty and elegance.

The Recipient by Dean Mayes (full review here)

As Dean takes you on an adrenaline-fuelled ride that twists to a kicker of a climax, ultimately uncovering a tale of human horror that is all too real, he will keep you guessing throughout as you try and figure out just who the good guys and the bad guys are. A word of warning – trust no-one as you race towards the very satisfying conclusion of this gripping psychological thriller!

Summer Harvest by Georgina Penney (full review here)

If you’re in the mood for a great rom-com with an issue at its heart that this accomplished author has delicately and sensitively dealt with, then Georgina Penney is definitely an author you need to seek out. Her books are guaranteed to give you lots of reading fun and leave you with hope in your heart and a smile on your face.

Here's to another fabulous year of reading!

Friday, 9 December 2016

Blog Tour | Book Review | Third Time Lucky | Karly Lane

December Doyle returned home to Christmas Creek two years ago to try and pick up the pieces of a life that turned out to be a lie. Unable to move on, she hasn’t really been living but merely surviving, after giving up her little Melbourne cafĂ© to work two jobs and live in the granny flat on her parents’ property while she pays off the huge debt that her husband left hanging over her head.

The only daughter to be born within three generations of the Doyle family, Em has always loved Christmas Creek and living there again has started her thinking of ways to revive the little regional town that is barely just surviving.

When Seth Hunter left Christmas Creek more than a decade before, he swore he’d never return to the town that refused to accept him because of his misfortune at being born into the wrong family but, after a newspaper article piqued his interest, the pull suddenly became too strong for him to ignore.

Now a successful businessman, he’s come a long way from the boy who lived on the wrong side of the tracks and, whilst small towns have long memories, he’s also never forgotten the only girl who ever made him feel like he could be someone more than a no-hoper.

“When everyone thinks you’re nothing, you start to believe it” – Seth

It's when Seth finds out that the town committee have vetoed December’s ideas to boost tourism that he approaches her with an offer too good to refuse.

For December, accepting the offer is the easy part. It’s realising that the man he has become is very different to the teenage boy she once knew and that, even while the magnetism that played havoc with her heart all those years before is still present, there is far more to Seth’s return than he is letting on.

“Once I put my mind to something I very rarely let anything stop me” – Seth

Well, you’re going to need to push aside the laundry and the housekeeping for a few hours this weekend!

Because that’s exactly what I did last weekend when Queensland found itself in the midst of a disgusting heatwave that had us all rushing for either the pool or the air-conditioning. Of course, I chose the air-con and, with great gusto, settled in to read this latest by Karly Lane. I’m a sucker for a “bad-boy”, “second-chance” romance and I immediately knew that I’d made the right choice when Karly’s characters’ emotions started making my stomach do fluttery flip-flops.

Karly is extremely adept at bringing the heartache and conflict of a realistic situation to the fore, allowing the reader to empathise with her characters and I found myself warming to Seth (don’t you just love that name?) and December very quickly. They are strong, independent and thoroughly likable and I couldn’t help but fall for Seth with his battered heart and tortured soul.

Whilst December loves the town, Seth is the opposite because it brings back so many painful memories and it is the contempt from the townsfolk along with his feelings of inadequacy that drive the hate, bitterness and anger he feels towards those that shattered the dreams of a boy who only ever wanted to belong.

On the opposite end of the scale, the chemistry between these two sizzles right from the start and, as memories of their youth intrude seamlessly into the narrative, pulling us into their world of teenage emotion and angst, there is a warmth and intensity that offers the reader a glimpse at the torch they once carried for each other.

Karly not only gives us rural romance but her stories always tackle real issues that plague small Australian towns and this one is no exception as she highlights the fact that big business is slowly choking off their sources of revenue, thus making us completely aware of how, without important injections of capital, their landscape and livelihoods is rapidly changing.

Did I mention that Granny Doyle is an absolute hoot!!

With her vivid characterisation, magical sense of place, heartfelt emotion and a dash of hope where hope has been lost, Rural Fiction's Favourite Daughter gives us a moving story about family, betrayal, love and the power that the past can hold over our lives. You will laugh, you will cry but most of all, you won’t want to put this heart-warming Aussie Christmas tale down until you are satisfied that things are going to work out.

I wish to thank Allen and Unwin for inviting me to take part in this Blog Tour and for providing me with a hard copy ARC for review.

About the Author

Karly Lane happily lives with her husband and four children on the mid-north coast of New South Wales in the same small town where her parents, grandparents and great grandparents all lived. She has a strong love of rural towns and is passionate about writing stories that embrace rural Australia and the vast communities within it

She is the best-selling author of nine novels including Second Chance Town, Gemma’s Bluff, and Bridie’s Choice and her novels range from romantic suspense to family saga.

Karly is a huge supporter of social media and loves to meet her readers.  If you'd like to connect with her, you can do so at the following links:

About the Book

When her marriage ends, December Doyle returns home to Christmas Creek. Will she conquer her fear of heartbreak? A heart-warming novel about betrayal, ambition and the power of love.

After a disastrous marriage, December Doyle has returned to her home town to try to pick up the pieces of her life and start again. She’s also intent on helping breathe new life into the Christmas Creek township, so the last thing she needs is trouble.

Bad boy Seth Hunter has also returned to Christmas Creek, and trouble is his middle name. Wrongly convicted of a serious crime in his youth, Seth is now a successful businessman, but he’s intent on settling some old scores.

As teenagers, December and Seth were madly in love, and seeing each other again reawakens past feelings. But will Seth be able to overcome his destructive anger about the past, and can December conquer her fear of heartbreak to make their relationship third time lucky?

By the bestselling author of Second Chance Town, this compelling novel is about betrayal, ambition and the power of forgiveness - and love.

ISBN:  9781760291822
Publisher:  Allen & Unwin
Pub Date:  December 2016
Page Extent: 352
RRP: $29.99

Third Time Lucky is available now from the following eStores:

It would be lovely if you could show some blog love by clicking on the links on the gorgeous interactive tour poster below so that you can visit all the wonderful blogs that have taken part in this tour.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Book Review | Small Great Things | Jodi Picoult

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way” – Martin Luther King Jr

In this bold new novel by Jodi Picoult, racial discrimination and white supremacy form part of a gripping story of social injustice issues that brim with truth even within our educated global village of today.

Widowed, single mother Ruth Jefferson is thirty-nine and has worked as a labour ward nurse for the last twenty years at the same hospital. She is passionate about her job and has a perfect work record – until the day the father of a newborn, Turk Bauer, requests that a note be put on his son’s file, forbidding any African-American nurse to tend to him.

What ensues is a chain of events that sees Ruth being dismissed from her job, charged with negligent homicide and a lawyer by the name of Kennedy McQuarrie stepping up to the challenge of defending her.

Telling the story from Ruth’s, Turk’s and Kennedy’s perspectives, Jodi gives us an in-depth and fully rounded look at all sides of the story and the feelings involved. As she dares to ask bigger questions than possibly any author ever has, it is with sensitivity and respect that she successfully navigates the different POVs in this heart-rending story that brings some harsh realities to life.

Ever since Jodi Picoult first burst onto the literary scene during the early 1990’s, I’ve been an avid fan of hers because I identified her as a writer who recognises the impact her stories have on people, thus giving her writing a powerful purpose – by putting her readers at the heart of her stories, she raises awareness of relevant issues while also giving them emotional and thought-provoking themes to ponder, hopefully inspiring us to create change where we can.

I’ve also noticed that there seems to have been a bit of a trend in my reading fodder of late, in that most of these novels have been along the themes of human interest – addressing injustice, racism, religious extremism, attitudes to same-sex relationships, etc. – and, in view of the recent US election result, same may say that this is a timely novel.

Jodi’s subject matter is almost always contemporary, complex and challenging with everyday people like you and I at its heart, and Small Great Things is no different. In a world where rifts appear more frequently between people who classify themselves as “normal” and those that are “different”, Jodi brings us a story where she presents the diverse backgrounds of her characters in fairly black and white terms!

As usual, the intensity of Jodi’s storytelling is convincing and she never pulls any punches in the aspects it traverses, and I had real trouble putting this one down, even though there were times in Turk’s narrative where I found the story to be somewhat confronting, especially in relation to his and his wife’s prejudice against people who were “different” to them.

With well-drawn characters, real life situations and themes of white privilege, prejudice and acceptance, amongst others, the American justice system also comes into sharp focus as Jodi showcases the best and worst of humanity. Presenting all sides of the story with honesty, insight and compassion, Jodi gives us yet another story that will appeal to the reader’s sub-conscience and stay with you long after the last page has been turned.

Everyone has a story to tell and Jodi Picoult isn’t afraid to tell it for them!

I wish to thank Allen and Unwin for my hard copy ARC.

About the Author

Jodi Picoult is the bestselling author of twenty-three novels.

Her last eight novels have debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list and her highly anticipated novel, Small Great Things was released in October 2016 in Australia.

Jodi studied creative writing with Mary Morris at Princeton, and had two short stories published in Seventeen magazine while still a student. Realism - and a profound desire to be able to pay the rent - led Picoult to a series of different jobs following her graduation: as a technical writer for a Wall Street brokerage firm, as a copywriter at an ad agency, as an editor at a textbook publisher, and as an 8th grade English teacher - before entering Harvard to pursue a master’s in education.

She married Tim Van Leer, whom she had known at Princeton, and it was while she was pregnant with her first child that she wrote her first novel, Songs of the Humpback Whale.

Her books are translated into thirty four languages in thirty five countries and four of them (The Pact, Plain Truth, The Tenth Circle and Salem Falls) have been made into television movies with My Sister's Keeper being released by New Line Cinema on the big screen.

She lives with her husband and their three children in Hanover, New Hampshire with two Springer spaniels, two rescue puppies, two donkeys, two geese, ten chickens, a smattering of ducks, and the occasional Holstein.

Jodi also now has an Australian website which you can visit at:

About the Book

'I don't want that nurse touching my baby.' Those are the instructions from the newborn child's parents. However, when the baby goes into cardiac arrest, Ruth, a nurse of twenty years' experience, sees no option but to assist. But the baby dies. And Ruth is charged with negligent homicide.

Ruth is shattered and bewildered as she tries to come to terms with her situation. She finds different kinds of support from her sister, a fiery radical, and her teenage son, but it is to Kennedy McQuarrie, a white middle-class lawyer, to whom she entrusts her case, and her future.

As the two come to develop a truer understanding of each other's lives, they begin to doubt the beliefs they each hold most dear. In order for the privileged to prosper, they come to realise, others have to suffer. Racism takes many forms, and is reinforced and underpinned by the structures of our society.

In gripping dramas like Nineteen Minutes, My Sister's Keeper and The Pact, Jodi Picoult has explored the big issues of our time through characters whose lives resonate with us. Here we see once again her unrivalled ability to immerse us in a story whose issues will linger with us long after the final page has been finished.

ISBN:  9781760110499
Publisher:  Allen & Unwin
Pub Date:  October 2016
Page Extent: 480
RRP: $32.99

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Announcement | Winner | Fearless by Fiona Higgins

Sincere apologies for dropping the ball a bit on this one but the last few days have been hectic.

My trusty competition friend, has, however, now generated a winner!



You have been selected as the winner.

Please could you contact me at with your postal address details.

To everyone else who entered, a big THANK YOU.

Keep your eyes peeled for more giveaways that may come up in the next few months.

Until next time!

Friday, 11 November 2016

Blog Tour | Guest Post | Fleur McDonald

It's lovely to finally welcome our very own Voice of the Outback, Fleur McDonald, to the blog today to give us some insight into how the status of women in agriculture has changed over the decades.

Fleur has lived and worked on farms for much of her life. After growing up in the small town of Orroroo in South Australia, she went jillarooing, and co-owned an 8000-acre property in regional Western Australia. 

She likes to write about strong women overcoming adversity, drawing inspiration from her own experiences in rural Australia and is the best-selling author of Red Dust, Blue Skies, Purple Roads, Silver Clouds, Crimson Dawn, Emerald Springs and Indigo Storm.

Credit: Chelsea, Proof of Life
Fleur lives in Esperance, WA with her partner, two children and two dogs who keep her company while she writes.

For a full list of tour participants, take a look at the awesome interactive banner at the end of this post. To visit each blog, simply click on the links.


When I started farming twenty plus years ago, the industry was still very male dominated. In fact, the first job I applied for, stated JACKAROOS only apply. Being a bit of a rule breaker, I didn’t take any notice and applied anyway. I didn’t get it. 

Since the beginning of time, women have been involved in agriculture, but more as ‘farmers wives’ not jillaroos, farm-hands or managers working for farm businesses. ‘Farmer’s Wives’ have worked alongside their husbands, sharing the day to day management of the farm or station, office work, plus other workloads, such as raising children and caring for families, their community and homes. More often that not, they’ve been hidden and unacknowledged. 

Wanting a job as a jillaroo in the early 1990s, found me well and truly in the minority.

Luckily, I found a forward thinking manager by the name of Tim Lewis, who ran a large property in Meningie SA, for Perry Gunner. I remember he said to me: ‘Is this all the experience you have?’ I nodded, then he continued on: ‘Well, it’s the old adage isn’t it? If you can’t get experience, then you can’t get a job. And how are you supposed to get the experience if you can’t find a job?’ he paused for a bit before adding: ‘Well, you’d better start Monday.’ I was the first woman who ever worked for Perry Gunner under Tim, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity Tim gave me.

Even with a bona fide job, going to field and information days was intimidating, finding myself too scared to ask questions in case I sounded stupid or uninformed. I felt I was constantly having to prove myself as a woman within the industry.

Today, this (mostly) isn’t the case.

More and more, women are becoming visible in our industry.

We contribute equally on farms, farmer representation organisations, in agribusiness, R&D, banking, animal health. The list goes on. 

Women are choosing to work in all parts of our industry and are being elected on their merits and skills.

A mixture of voices – men and women is a necessity. We don’t think alike; can see different sides. I liken it to a mixed farm – sheep are needed in a cropping operation; they compliment each other. A combination of laudatory voices within our industry, will help it grow and go forward.

It’s an exciting time to be a woman in agriculture and agriculture is a strong, vibrant and exhilarating industry. 

About the Book

While mystery surrounds the accidental shooting of a her husband, Fiona Forrest struggles to preserve the family farm in a suspenseful, pacy and action packed novel from the author of Crimson Dawn and Indigo Storm.

Fiona Forrest is devastated when her husband Charlie commits suicide after the accidental shooting of his mate Eddie. Though Fiona decides to keep farming their successful property, rumours that she intends to sell keep circulating.

When Detective Dave Burrows arrives to sign off on the investigation into Eddie's death, his suspicions are aroused by some strange anomalies at the scene. As Dave becomes increasingly convinced that something sinister is going on, Fiona finds herself dealing with a series of disasters on the farm . . .

By the bestselling author of Crimson Dawn, this suspenseful novel about a woman fighting to preserve her husband's dream, and a detective determined to uncover the truth will keep you guessing till the very last page.

Sapphire Falls by Fleur McDonald is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99, available now at the following links:

Booktopia    iBooks    Kindle

If you'd like to connect with Fiona, you can do so via social media on the following links:

Twitter    Facebook    Instagram

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Book Review | The Better Son | Katherine Johnson

Drawing inspiration from the beautiful but sometimes dark and frightening landscape of Northern Tasmania, and inspired by the true story of James and Harry Byard, who are believed to have found and entered Marakoopa Cave in 1906 and kept their discovery a secret for four years, Katherine Johnson in this, her second novel, takes us on a tour through the picturesque Mole Creek district and its incredible caves, exploring the events that have impacted one man’s life since he was nine years old.

Opening in present day, we are introduced to Kip, almost sixty, who has made his way back to his hometown - a place he swore he’d never return to.

You see, in 1952, he and his older brother, Tom, discovered a cave not far from their dairy farm and, against their mother’s wishes, had taken to exploring the labyrinthine subterranean world that allowed them to be young, wild and free of the responsibilities and work that faced them at the farm.

For Kip, especially, it was an escape from a father who had returned from the war a violent, moody and abusive man and, even though his brother, Tommy, was loved and treated better, it didn't affect the siblings' relationship, with Kip looking up to Tommy as his hero. Then, one day, something went terribly wrong and Kip had to return to the farm on his own!

The lie and tragedy surrounding that fateful day has coloured Kip's life so drastically that he has no choice but to make a journey of atonement in order to exorcise the grief and guilt he still feels so that he can mend his broken marriage and be a better father to his own son.

If I could give this novel 6 stars instead of the usual 5, I would, so it comes as no surprise to me that it has won a number of prizes including The Varuna HarperCollins Manuscript Development Award 2013 and has also been praised by Michelle de Kretser, winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award 2013.

With its dark past and vast amount of unsolved mysteries, Tasmania is the perfect place for Katherine Johnson to have set this story, with the caves in Mole Creek lending the tale a dark and unsettling atmosphere as she explores the emotions of her characters.

Although keenly felt by the reader, but not particularly graphic, Katherine perfectly captures the rejection, cruelty and abuse that is laid on young Kip by his father and I really empathised with his yearning for fatherly love which was palpably heart-breaking.

We are also treated to the perspective of Squid, the gentle farm worker, who remains behind long after Kip has fled, keeping an eye on his mother who we come to know through her dialogue with both her young sons and Squid, and who is kindness and tolerance personified. 

Katherine’s storytelling is breathtaking and you will find yourself immersed in the bold and majestic landscape as she takes the time to note the world and all its lush details around her characters, making it a fully formed character in its own right. 

Filled with sadness and despair, yet full of beauty and hope, this is a quietly told novel with muted colours, deeply sympathetic characterisation, a captivating plot, an evocative setting, and an emotional tone that had me reaching for the Kleenex a few times.

All in all, Katherine Johnson has given us a story about how secrets and undealt with grief and guilt can silently torment and pervade our lives. She is most definitely an author I’ll be keeping my eye on.

I wish to thank the publisher, Ventura Press, for providing me with a hard copy ARC for review.

About the Author

Katherine Johnson was born in Queensland and grew up alongside the fig-tree lined Brisbane River.

At university she combined her two loves ― writing and biology ― graduating with both Arts and Science degrees, with honours in marine biology.

Katherine then moved to Tasmania where, after more than a decade working as a science journalist for the CSIRO and other organisations, she began writing fiction: stories of love, loss and resilience set against wild landscapes.

Her first novel, Pescador’s Wake (Fourth Estate) is set on the Southern Ocean, in South America and Tasmania.

Katherine has travelled in Africa, Indonesia, Europe and Alaska.

She is now completing a PhD in creative writing at the University of Tasmania and lives on a cliff top overlooking the sea with her husband and two children

Her latest adventure was to wild south-western Tasmania by yacht.

About the Book

1952. Tasmania. The green, rolling hills of the dairy town Mole Creek have a dark underside — a labyrinthine underworld of tunnels that stretch for countless miles, caverns the size of cathedrals and underground rivers that flood after heavy rain. The caves are dangerous places, forbidden to children. But this is Tasmania — an island at the end of the earth. Here, rules are made to be broken.

For two young brothers, a hidden cave a short walk from the family farm seems the perfect escape from their abusive, shell-shocked father — until the older brother goes missing. Fearful of his father, nine-year-old Kip lies about what happened. It is a decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life.

Fifty years later, Kip — now an award-winning scientist — has a young son of his own, but cannot look at him without seeing his lost brother, Tommy. On a mission of atonement, he returns to the cave they called Kubla to discover if it’s ever too late to set things right. To have a second chance. To be the father he never had.

The Better Son is a richly imaginative and universal story about the danger of secrets, the beauty in forgiveness and the enthralling power of Tasmania’s unique natural landscapes.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Book Review & Giveaway | Fearless | Fiona Higgins

In this, her third novel, Fiona Higgins introduces us to a disparate group of six people with one thing in common - they have all booked in to the Fearless Retreat in Ubud, which aims to address and perhaps cure them of the phobias and fears that are holding them captive.

Janelle, an Australian, is afraid of flying and it’s taking her a lot of courage (and vodka) to get through this flight; Henry, our Englishman is a bird-watcher but has a fear of public-speaking; Annie is sixty, overweight and has a fear of snakes (or is it death); Remy, the lovely Frenchman, is afraid of heights; Cara, a twenty-nine year old who escaped from Australia to Bali four years before is still crippled with grief after a tragic accident; and Lorenzo, the Italian, is hoping to have his infertility cured to appease his wife, whilst he struggles to come to terms with a deeper issue that has long plagued him.

Placed together and working through various exercises either in groups or on their own, with the input of their mentor, Pak Tony, they slowly begin to form tentative friendships with one another as they revisit their pain in an attempt to cleanse and heal themselves.

On day four, however, it all comes to a head when they are faced with a situation that no class (or even Fear Factor for that matter) could ever have prepared them for.

Using a very real contemporary fear, Fiona goes for the jugular and gives us a twist that nobody is expecting, so don't let the innocent looking cover fool you because, beneath the façade lurks a crisis that is going to teach these characters the true meaning of living, loving and letting go.

All of her characters are interesting with amazingly distinct voices and, although having six narrators could easily cause confusion, I really enjoyed the structure of Fiona alternating between them.

Her setting of Bali is well evoked and, having never travelled there before, one of my favourite aspects was the vivid imagery that Fiona paints of the scenery and the people, giving me a real feel for the Balinese culture and customs.

Whilst Fearless is a tense, suspenseful read that is smart and original and doesn’t fail to entertain with a number of light-hearted moments (such as the “vagina cleansing ritual”) which had me snorting with laughter, the story covers some serious issues from thoughts about paedophilia to religious extremism.

With a plot that can be translated into plausible reality, well-rounded characters who are relatable and complex, Fearless is a thought-provoking, riveting and emotionally powerful story about self-discovery, courage, transformation, resilience, survival and the pain that can be hidden in private while people try to find themselves amidst the circumstances that have shaped them.

Fiona captivates with this one and I have no doubt that you'll have a dose of agoraphobia to deal with as you struggle to put it down.

I wish to thank the publisher, Allen & Unwin, for providing me with a hard copy ARC for review.

About the Author

Fiona Higgins is the author of a memoir and three novels, the latest being Fearless, published by Allen & Unwin.

Her debut novel, The Mothers’ Group (2012) was described by The Weekend Australian as ‘a top-shelf novel about contemporary Australian life’. Wife on the Run (2014) was reviewed in The Sydney Morning Herald as ‘a page-turning domestic melodrama for the social media age.’ Both novels were published in Europe. Her memoir, Love in the Age of Drought (2009), was published by Pan Macmillan in Australia.

When she isn’t writing, Fiona is active in the Australian for-purpose sector. She holds tertiary qualifications in the humanities and social sciences.

Fiona is married with three children, and recently returned to Australia after a three-year sojourn in Indonesia.

About the Book

A breathtaking new novel from the bestselling author of The Mother’s Group and Wife on the Run.

Six strangers from across the world converge on the tropical island of Bali to attend a course designed to help them face their fears. Their backgrounds are as diverse as their fears – which range from flying, public speaking and heights, through to intimacy, failure and death.

Friendships and even romance blossoms as the participants are put through a series of challenges, which are unusual, confronting and sometimes hilarious. A week of fun in the sun suddenly transforms into something far more serious, however, when the unthinkable happens – a tragic disaster that puts the group in deadly danger and tests the individual courage of every member.

Shocking, powerful and utterly gripping, Fearless takes you to the edge and makes you look down.

ISBN:  9781760294229
Publisher:  Allen & Unwin
Pub Date:  November 2016
Page Extent: 392
RRP: $29.99

I'm offering ONE lucky reader the chance to win a brand new paperback copy of Fearless.

In order to enter, all you need to do is leave a comment below.

The giveaway closes at midnight (Australian Eastern Standard Time)
on Wednesday, 16th November and one winner will be selected at random (using and announced here on the blog within 48 hours.

Please note that you will be required to email me at in order to provide your name and mailing address.

Apologies, but due to high international postage costs, this giveaway is open to Australian residents ONLY 

Disclaimer: I reserve the right to re-draw if the winner doesn't contact me within 24 hours of them being notified.

Best of Luck!!!

Monday, 7 November 2016

Blog Tour | Guest Post | Anna Romer

I do love this quote by Voltaire and, after reading Anna Romer's latest, Beyond the Orchard, thought it rather appropriate, because she really does paint with her words.

For me, Anna's name has become synonymous with mysteries set against our many varied, beautiful and sometimes desolate Australian landscapes, giving her readers a real treat in the gothic atmosphere within which she entwines her stories.

It is with great pleasure then that I welcome Anna to the blog today to speak about her art - both in the visual and written form. But first, a bit about her.

Anna grew up in a family of book-lovers and yarn-tellers, which inspired her lifelong love affair with stories.

A graphic artist by trade, she also spent many years travelling the globe stockpiling story material from the Australian outback, and Asia, New Zealand, Europe and America.

Both her first and second novels, Thornwood House and Lyrebird Hill, reflect her fascination with forgotten diaries and letters, dark family secrets, rambling old houses, and love in its many guises—as well as her passion for the uniquely beautiful Australian landscape.

When she’s not writing (or falling in love with another book), Anna is an avid gardener, knitter, bushwalker and conservationist. She lives and works in a secluded bush hideaway surrounded by national parks.

Anna, thank you so much for providing this post and a big thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for inviting me to take part in this Blog Tour.

Before we continue to Anna's post though, I'd like to give a shout-out to the blog before me on this tour.

Please do stop by at Debbish where Deborah interviewed Anna on the 4th November.

Here's a full list of blog tour participants:

Enjoy and happy hopping!


"Writing is the Painting of the Voice" - Voltaire

I've never heard this quote before, and I love it. I'm a big fan of Voltaire; there was a time in my distant past when I knew parts of Candide nearly off by heart. The quote really resonates with me, so I'm going to stick it up on my inspiration wall and see where it takes me.

I didn't start writing until my mid-30s. Before that, I was an artist. I lived in Europe for a few years, painting reproductions of classical artworks for a living. I can draw quite accurately, but for my own work I preferred a more fanciful approach. My images were heavily influenced by folklore and fairytales – whimsical pictures of storm-swept boats, fleeing rabbits, strange flowers, and gnarly old trees, that sort of thing.

                               Bottle by Anna Romer

One quandary I always had with my painting was feeling limited by how much I could express. Of course, this isn't the case with every artist. I've sat in galleries where a beautifully rendered vase of flowers or portrait kept me spellbound for hours, gazing intently as though the entire universe was captured right there on the canvas. Picasso’s Guernica drew me back all day every day for a week, and even then I left feeling that I still hadn't absorbed it all. A picture truly can paint a thousand words – perhaps many more! – but my skills as an artist never seemed to reach quite that far. 

I've always loved reading stories, or listening to them, and so weaving them into my paintings was a natural impulse. Yet I always sensed there was something lacking. It was only when I finally found the courage to put pen to paper that I discovered what it was. 

A single image only seemed to capture a fragment of the story I wanted to tell. My head was full of complicated relationships, powerful passions and obsessions, interesting life stories people had told me, curious artefacts I found, decaying old buildings and abandoned gardens I'd seen in my travels. Not to mention my own life and family history! I also wanted to steep my stories in strong emotions – love, fear, anger, intense joy; emotions that run like an electric current through our lives. 

When I struggled to successfully layer these elements into my paintings, I blamed my lack of skill. But looking back I now realise that I was simply working in the wrong medium.

Writing my stories down, weaving in the intricate details of the things I'd seen and heard – and imagined – opened up a new world for me. My stories were no longer limited to a single image or idea, but had an outlet that allowed them free reign. Maybe that’s why I love the Voltaire quote. For me, writing really did become the painting of my voice. I still get to paint pictures, only now they are pictures created with words – with my ‘voice’ – a voice that only truly seemed to come alive when I laid down my paintbrushes and picked up a pen.

About the Book

A haunting story of yearning, love and betrayal from the bestselling author of Thornwood House

Lucy Briar has arrived home in turmoil after years overseas. She’s met her fiancĂ© in London and has her life mapped out, but something is holding her back.

Hoping to ground herself and find answers, Lucy settles into once familiar routines. But old tortured feelings flood Lucy’s existence when her beloved father, Ron, is hospitalised and Morgan – the man who drove her away all those years ago – seeks her out.

Worse, Ron implores Lucy to visit Bitterwood Estate, the crumbling historic family guesthouse now left to him. He needs Lucy to find something– an old photograph album, the very thing that drove Ron and his father apart.

Lucy has her own painful memories of Bitterwood, darkness that has plagued her dreams since she was young. But as Lucy searches for the album, the house begins to give up its ghosts and she is driven to put them to rest.

And there, held tightly between the house, the orchard and the soaring cliffs, Lucy uncovers a long-hidden secret that shattered a family’s bond and kept a frightened young girl in its thrall ... and Lucy discovers just how fierce the lonely heart can be.