Friday, 24 May 2013

Aussie Book Review: The Yearning by Kate Belle

The Yearning

My Rating:              5 / 5
Format:                   Paperback courtesy of
                               Simon & Schuster & The Reading Room
Publication Date:    May 2013
Category:               Erotic Fiction
ISBN:                      9781922052643
Extent:                    336 pages
RRP:                      AU$17.99




The Blurb

“First Love Forbidden Love

It’s 1978 in an Australian country town and a dreamy teenaged girl’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of the substitute English teacher.  Solomon Andrews is beautiful, inspiring and she wants him like nothing else she’s wanted in her short life.

Charismatic and unconventional, Solomon easily wins the hearts and minds of his third form English class.  He notices the attention of one girl, his new neighbour, who has taken to watching him from her upstairs window.  He assumes it a harmless teenage crush, until the erotic love notes begin to arrive.

Solomon knows he must resist, but her sensual words stir him.  He has longings of his own, although they have nothing to do with love, or so he believes.  One afternoon, as he stands reading her latest offering in his driveway, she turns up unannounced.  And what happens next will torment them forever – in ways neither can imagine.”

Thoughts and Summary

A young girl’s life is irrevocably changed when the new English high school teacher moves in next door to her.

As she sits in her bedroom, not far from the window overlooking the new teacher’s house, her longings for real, timeless love are evident from the perfect prose that this emerging sexual being writes in her diary along with the secret love letters she slips between the pages, and her clandestine, or so she thinks, almost voyeuristic observations of the “God” who lives next door, begin.

Twenty-something years old, Solomon Andrews is spiritual, charismatic and beautiful.  A man who grew up in the immoral clutches of his mother where his first sexual encounter was downright sinful, he has a questionable past which threatens to catch up to him and has moved to this new town seeking a new life, perhaps some new conquests, “a field of skin yet to be tasted”.  He soon realises that he is being observed but, used to the wide attention he generally receives from his female students, he tries to ignore the girl’s attentions knowing that if he acts on his impulses there will, yet again, be dire consequences.

Not long after a confrontation takes place in his driveaway between the girl and another female student from school, the perfumed love letters begin to arrive in his mail box.  He knows he should resist, but the girl’s passionate declarations of love stir something deep inside him causing a yearning for something real and tangible.  When she finally presents herself to him, he is unable to resist the allure of teaching this naive young girl all he knows.

Their illicit affair begins and the sexual awakening she has yearned for is made all the more beautiful as we see her become enraptured by his kind and gentle sexual teachings, yet he knows what they are doing is wrong, but he just can’t see his way out.

Unfortunately, and as they say, all good things must come to an end and, as a result of their affair being discovered, Solomon says goodbye to a town that held so many possibilities and leaves behind a broken-hearted young girl.

As the emotional consequences of the heartfelt but forbidden union reverberate through the decades, we meet the young girl again, but this time as a thirty-something year old woman who has never quite been able to move past her memories of Solomon, remaining ever-hopeful that she will find “the one”, constantly comparing every man who comes into her life with him.  On meeting Max, their attraction is almost instant and they begin a relationship, but still, she remains disillusioned about her sexual encounters and is unable to move past what her and Solomon shared.  When fate sees her and Solomon’s paths crossing once again, we wonder who, at the end of the day, will have the power to sever a connection steeped in yearning.

Having read a lot of erotica in the past and coming close to throwing most of them against the wall due to the bad writing and constant replay of the same old salacious smut, I was a bit hesitant to pick this novel up due to its genre labelling, in case I was disappointed.  I can excitedly say that while it has been classed as erotica, it is so much more than that and I was  hooked from the very first page.

There is a love story of deep, emotional meaning contained within the covers of this book along with a well-rounded story and, while most of us are brought up to understand that any kind of sexual relationship between a teacher and student is taboo and we ultimately end up not transcending those moral and ethical boundaries, Kate Belle has not written about a teacher’s debauched unions with under-age girls, but rather has created something beautiful and intensely intimate.

This is a powerfully seductive, sensually evocative and tastefully written tale in which Kate Belle explores forbidden love and sexual desire with a narrative that is lyrical and filled with substance, and I wish to thank Simon & Schuster and The Reading Room for providing me with a paperback copy of this delicious, darkly threaded love story.

A Little About the Author (taken from her website)

Kate Belle is a passionate author, adequate wife and devoted mum/step-mum.

Kate has long been a collector of erotic literature and believes a randy read can be almost as satisfying as good sex.  Her unique brand of erotic fiction with a difference aims to entertain, arouse and give you something to think about. You might not get a boy-gets-girl traditional happy ending, but her heroines always find healing and resolution (and often a yummy man to love).

Kate has many strings to her bow. She holds a tertiary qualification in applied chemistry, half a diploma in naturopathy and a diploma in psychological astrology. Her employment includes a video library, a travel agent, cleaning campervans for hire, the Victorian public service, a disability organisation and a university sports centre. She has ridden a camel through the Australian desert, fraternised with hippies in Nimbin, had a near birth experience and lived on nothing but porridge and a carrot for 3 days.

Kate also believes the world would be a better place if human beings could learn to appreciate the smallest pleasures of life.


Aussie Book Review: Into My Arms by Kylie Ladd

Into My Arms
My Rating:               4 / 5
Format:                   Uncorrected Bound Proof courtesy of
                               Allen & Unwin & The Reading Room
Publication Date:    May 2013
Category:               Literary Fiction
ISBN:                      9781743314586
Imprint:                   Allen & Unwin
Extent:                    352 pages
RRP:                      AU$29.99



The Blurb

“The kiss ignited something, blew it into being, and afterwards, all Skye could think about was Ben.

One day a woman meets a man and falls instantly and irrevocably in love with him.  It hits her like a thunderbolt, and she has to have him, has to be with him, regardless of the cost, of the pain of breaking up her existing relationship.  She has never felt more in synch – or in love – with anyone in her whole life.  So this is how it feels, she thinks to herself, this is what real love feels like.

It’s like that for him too; he wants her in a way he’s never wanted anything or anyone before:  obsessively, passionately, all-consumingly.

She has found her one true love, her soulmate, and he has found his.

What happens next will tear them apart and unleash havoc onto their worlds.

This brave, brilliant, electrifying novel from the acclaimed author of After the Fall and Last Summer will move you deeply and shock you to your core.  Love, lust and longing have rarely wielded such power, nor family secrets triggered such devastation.”

Summary and Thoughts

*Please note that this review is based on the uncorrected proof provided to me by the Publisher and that it may differ slightly to the final published version*

I am not a fan of book reviews that end up spoiling a story for another reader and, while Kylie Ladd doesn’t hesitate to give us some teasers in the first few chapters, and the plot is revealed fairly quickly, I have still been faced with the challenge of writing this review without spoilers which, to say the least, has been difficult because Kylie Ladd has indeed created much food for thought, and conversation.

Skye and Hamish have been together for quite a while and although their relationship appears to be set in stone and the path to their future inevitable, everything is threatened when Skye, assisting two Grade Five classes one day a week to create a wall mosaic for their school tuckshop area, meets Ben, a teacher at the same school.

Their first meeting, following a small medical emergency in class, has her feeling sure that she has met him before, but on asking the question, it becomes clear from his reaction that they have not.

Two weeks later, the concern for a young Iranian boy, whom they both teach, brings Skye and Ben together to discuss him, then, after yet another encounter when “the kiss ignited something, blew it into being”, Skye finds her thoughts becoming totally consumed by Ben.  Breaking off her relationship with Hamish, Skye and Ben enter into a relationship which smoulders from the pages of this novel.  They are totally in-sync with one another and the attraction is like nothing either of them has ever felt before.

Skye’s mother Nell, having lost her husband (Skye’s father) six months prior, only wants happiness for her daughter but, when she meets Ben for the first time, she can’t help the disturbing unease which plagues her.  Ignoring her instincts until she can no longer, she begins to make enquiries of her own which lead to a shocking discovery that will have you reeling in both disbelief and sorrow as the strong bond which has developed between Ben and Skye shatters and a family is torn apart by a secret they felt was theirs to keep.

Unable to comprehend how this has happened, Ben quits his job and disappears from Skye’s life and, just as she helped her class build a mosaic from fragmented pieces, she attempts to rebuild her dismantled life with what remains of her, until disaster strikes in another form, ultimately bringing them together again, in more ways than one.

There is a sub-plot to which the blurb gives no allusion, and that is the plight of Zia, a young Iranian refugee boy, who has come to live in Australia with his parents and youngest brother.  Living in a commission housing complex and going out of his way to please his father at the expense of his education, while his mother suffers from crippling depression, he is connected to both Ben and Skye through their teaching, as well as Skye’s twin brother, Arran, through his work in social services.  While I did feel that Zia’s story was a bit out of place on the whole, there is no doubt that the feelings and emotions he and his family experience on their journey add cohesion to the strong themes of loss, grief, depression and familial ties that bind, which weave their way throughout the narrative.


In the same vein as Jodi Picoult, albeit less formulaic, Kylie Ladd has framed her novel around a morally complex issue which, in today’s world, could quite possibly be a time bomb waiting to go off.  With great insight and empathy, Ms Ladd has touched on a subject that some could find confronting, but for this reviewer, the desperation and emotions of her well fleshed out characters touched me to the core and I couldn’t help but feel the deepest sadness for everyone involved.

This deftly woven literary exploration of love in all its forms, longing for the impossible and family secrets long held, is a haunting reminder that seemingly innocent decisions in the past can all too easily shape our futures.

I wish to thank both Allen & Unwin and The Reading Room for providing me with an Uncorrected Bound Proof of this novel.

A Little About the Author (take from her website)

Kylie Ladd holds a PhD in neuropsychology and is a novelist and freelance writer.  Her essays and articles have appeared in The Age, Griffith Review, O Magazine, The Sydney Morning Herald, Good Medicine, Kill Your Darlings, The Hoopla and MamaMia, among others.

Kylie's first novel, After the Fall, was published in Australia, the US and Turkey, while her second, Last Summer, was highly commended in the 2011 Federation of Australian Writers Christine Stead Award for fiction.

Her two previous books are Naked: Confessions of Adultery and Infidelity and Living with Alzheimer's and Other Dementias.

Into My Arms, her third novel, has been selected as one of Get Reading's Fifty Books You Can't Put Down for 2013.

Kylie lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two children.


Friday, 17 May 2013

Aussie Book Review: The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay

The Railwayman's Wife
My Rating:              4 / 5
Format:                  Uncorrected Bound Proof
                              courtesy of Allen & Unwin and
                              The Reading Room
Publication Date:   April 2013
Category:               Popular Fiction
ISBN:                      9781743314449
Imprint:                   Allen & Unwin
Extent:                    248 pages
RRP:                      AU$29.99                 

The Blurb


"...her characters are illuminated by an incandescent intelligence and rare sensibility – Don Anderson, Australian Book Review.

In a small town on the land’s edge, in the strange space at war’s end, a widow, a poet and a doctor each try to find their own peace, and their own new story.

In Thirroul, in 1948, people chase their dreams through the books in the railway’s library.  Anikka Lachlan searches for solace after her life is destroyed by a single random act.  Roy McKinnon, who found poetry in the mess of war, has lost his words and his hope.  Frank Draper is trapped by the guilt of those his treatment and care failed on their first day of freedom.  All three struggle with the same question:  how now to be alive.

Written in clear, shining prose and with an eloquent understanding of the human heart, The Railwayman’s Wife explores the power of beginnings and endings, and how hard it can be sometimes to tell them apart.  It’s a story of life, loss and what comes after; of connection and separation, longing and acceptance.  Most of all, it celebrates love in all its forms, and the beauty of discovering that loving someone can be as extraordinary as being loved yourself.

A story that will break your heart with hope.”

Summary and Thoughts


*Please note that this review is based on the uncorrected proof provided to me by the Publisher and that it may differ slightly to the final published version*

From the very first page of this novel, you are aware that something awful is going to happen.  Set in the “escarpment landscape that once enchanted DH Lawrence” the story and relationships unfold against the backdrop of the Thirroul railway station with its ever-present rumbles, growls and whistles as the trains make their way along the tracks.

Anikka (Ani) and Mac have lived in Thirroul for the last twelve years and have a ten-year-old daughter Isabel (Bella), whom they absolutely adore.  They’re a sweet family and their love for one another is clearly evident in the way it gleams off the pages.  Like most women of that era, Ani stays at home during the day, carrying out all the necessary duties involved in nurturing her family, while Mac, a railwayman, leaves home every day to earn a living for the family he loves.  Then tragedy strikes and Ani is overwhelmed with feelings of desolation as she tries to come to terms with the news that has just been delivered in the form of the Minister, Luddy the Stationmaster and the Railways man.

With an impressionable young daughter to raise, Ani is unable to outwardly indulge her sorrow for fear of tainting Bella’s young mind and she takes the reader on her inner journey of loss and pain, trying to comprehend how it is that Mac was kept so well-cocooned during war time (“I did not keep him alive through six years of the war for this”), yet one random act in peace time has now removed him from their lives.  Concerned for her future, the Railways man on behalf of the Railway Institute offers Ani a job at the station’s library and she accepts, as a means of sustaining her and Bella, even though this means yet more changes to come with the juggling of Bella’s care and dinner times.  As she tries to find solace in the cornucopia of books which surround her as well as through conversations with the patrons who visit the library, she continues to grasp at her memories of Mac while attempting to reconcile herself to a life without him and the reader lives in hope that Ani will find someone with whom to share the rest of her life.

Roy MacKinnon, once a school teacher, now insomniacal, unable to eat properly and just a shadow of his former self, has been back in Australia for three years but in that time, became somewhat of a recluse, preferring to stay away from the people he once knew as well as his sister, Iris.  Now, back in Thirroul and residing with Iris, we see a man damaged by the ravages of war and haunted by what he saw and did on those bloodied battlefields of death and destruction.  Once a poet, he continues to search for the words he found in the midst of that war, but doesn’t know how to get them back.  Unlike Bella’s colourful world as seen through her “dull cylinder with an eyehole at one end and a round dome of glass at the other”, Roy’s world is no longer, but while visiting Ani at the library, exchanging thoughts about their shared love of the written word and, through some conversations with Isabel, he begins to feel that perhaps he has once again found the colours leeched out by the dark world that imprisons him, and the reader hopes that this will be the last step in the restoration he so fervently seeks.

Frank Draper, a doctor and once very good friends with Roy, has also returned from the war in which he was confronted by the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps.  Initially coming across as unapproachable and a bit arrogant, his life too is clouded with visions of those he couldn’t save.  Suffering with what we now know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as we travel along with Frank, there is the underlying hope that when the dense clouds of warfare and the ghosts of those he couldn’t save dissolve from his memory he will finally remember the love he once felt for Iris.

Hope springs eternal in The Railwayman’s Wife as it explores the relationships between these three characters, their interactions with one another as well as the townspeople and, through Ashley Hay’s narrative mode, the reader closely experiences the psychology of their minds with the final chapters of the book delivering a sucker-punch which had this reviewer asking “why?”!

I will be the first to admit that I have quite capably put off writing this review for a number of weeks now, due to the difficulties I have encountered in trying to express myself in its construction without giving too much of the story away, and I hope I have succeeded.

While I initially struggled with the way in which Ms Hay shifts between past and present as well as the slow (albeit consistent) pace, but which admittedly lends itself to the atmosphere surrounding the characters and the town of Thirroul, this entire novel conveys so much more than words.  Her multi-faceted prose and complex sentence constructions are lyrical and the wistfulness of the novel flows off the page, evoking a shifting surface of emotion through the layering of the characters’ memories and remembered conversations in a beautifully rendered world reminiscent of an old movie.

Introspective, reflective and invoking rhythms of sympathy as we experience the pain of loss, feel the suffering that silence can bring and we travel on the unsettling journeys each character must make, this is a novel which could quite easily transcend the boundaries between popular and literary fiction.

I wish to thank both Allen & Unwin and The Reading Room for providing me with an Uncorrected Proof of this hauntingly beautiful novel.

A Little About the Author (taken from the Publisher's website)

Ashley Hay is the author of five previous books including Gum, Museum (with visual artist Robyn Stacey), and TheBody in the Clouds, her first novel, which was shortlisted for a number of prizes including categories in the Commonwealth Writers’ prize and the New South Wales and West Australian Premier’s Awards, and long-listed for the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

A former literary editor of The Bulletin, she contributes to a number of publications including The Monthly, Australian Geographic, and The Australian, and her essays and short stories have appeared in volumes including Brothers and Sisters (2009), various issues of the Griffith Review, Best Australian Essays (2003), Best Australian Short Stories (2012) and Best Australian Science Writing (2012).

Ashley lives in Brisbane, Queensland.


Announcement: Winners of the Destiny Road Giveaway

A huge big congratulations goes out to the following winners:

Bec, you have won the signed hard copy edition of Destiny Road - well done.

Jennie - Daystarz Books and Heidi F - But Books Are Better you have each won an e-Book copy.  Please send your e-mail addresses to me bookmusterdownunder@gmail.com so I can get those copies off to you.

Once again, a huge congratulations and a big thanks for visiting my Blog and entering this giveaway.  Happy Reading!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Melissa Wray - Author Q and A & Giveaway

Today I wish to extend a very warm welcome to emerging author, Melissa Wray, and congratulate her on the publication of Destiny Road, her debut YA novel.




Please feel free to tag along and, at the end of the Q & A, three lucky entrants will stand a chance to win either a signed hard copy or two e-Book versions of Destiny Road, with the  winners being drawn via random.org.

This competition is open Worldwide, but unfortunately, due to high postage costs, only entries from Australian residents will be considered for the signed hard copy.

First things first though, I wish to thank Melissa, without whom this giveaway would not have been possible and offer you, the reader, a bit of insight into Destiny Road with this official trailer:




To read my review which was published on the 8th May 2013, feel free to read it here.

So, without further ado, let us indulge in getting to know Melissa (and Destiny Road) a little better:

Melissa, as a brief introduction, would you mind sharing a bit about yourself and how you came to write (and publish) Destiny Road?

I live in Leopold, Victoria, Australia.  It is halfway between town and the beach which is perfect for me.  I am the proud mum of two beautiful children who make me smile every day.

Destiny Road came about as almost as a therapy session late one night.  I couldn’t sleep, thinking about the choices in our life that have a huge impact on us, so I got up and wrote all the jumbled thoughts floating around inside my head.  A few days later I re-read it and thought it could be a good starting point for a story. The rest evolved from there.

I actually won my publishing contract through a writing competition with Morris Publishing Australia.  My maiden name is Morris and I though the coincidence too strong to ignore.  So I sent the first 4 chapters off and was thrilled when it was short-listed.  It was such an unbelievable moment when I found out I had won a contract.

You can read the 1st chapter for free on the publisher's website:


Where did your character inspiration come from?

Bill is based loosely on my dad.  He was very relaxed and liked to think he was "cool", which my friends thought he was, much to his delight.  I suppose I tried to let that jovial essence come through when writing Bill.  Luke was the biggest surprise character.  I had not envisioned him in the story, but once I started writing, he seemed to demand more attention during the story and became a big part of it.

What do you think was your best experience while writing Destiny Road?

Having a completed product to hold in my hot little hands!  I loved when scenes came together and I especially loved when I broke through the writer's block moments.

And the worst?

There have been no worst moments, more like naive moments.  They say writing the book is the easy part ... It's the launching, marketing, networking, promoting, reviewing, selling, etc., etc., etc. that I wasn't prepared for.  But it's all been a fantastic learning experience.

How much of Destiny Road is based on your life experiences?

When I was 16, I went to live with my dad for the first time.  Unlike Jessica (Destiny Road), I had known him all my life, but my parents divorced when I was very young.  I think this decision to live with him shaped my future in countless ways.  I was never able to say thank you to my dad for saying yes when I asked if I could live with him.  He passed away several years ago and it has always bothered me that I could not get those words out before he died.  Now, with Destiny Road, I feel like I have said them, so hopefully he knows.

Is there a message in your novel that you would like readers to grasp?

Destiny Road is about life, choices, heartbreak, consequences, acceptance.  It is about making a decision, no matter how tough, and sticking with it because you know it is right.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I am a fly by the seat of my "pantser".  I tend to write a scene I know I want in the story.  Then I worry about how it will fit in later.  Then, when I am really confused how it will all work, I do some planning.

Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Bryce Courtenay is my favourite all-time author.  I was so sad when he passed away last year.  He is such a storyteller.  His books are like door stops but you fly right through them and they are finished before you know it.  The thing I love the most is I always feel like I have had a great Australian history lesson.

Are you currently working on your next novel and, if so, would you mind giving us a sneak peek into it?

Summer Change is the next novel I am working on.  I had a hiccup about a month ago where I lost the ENTIRE manuscript with NO backup - aarrgghh!  I am back on track though and here is a sneak peek ...

Extract from Summer Change

"The sound of the lawnmower next door interrupts our bonding session.  Lexi's eyes open wide and she grins.'I wonder if it's the hottie?'She jumps up and creeps across to the fence.  She pushes her face against the planks of wood.  Over time, they have warped and twisted enough to peek through.`It's him!' she hisses, climbing the fence.`Lexi!  What are you doing?' I run across and try to pull her down before he sees.'Let go,' she mouths and continues climbing.She perches herself on the corner of the fences like the other day.  This time I don't think there is much chance of her falling backwards.'Lexi! Get down,' I whisper.She shakes her head at me and adjusts her electric blue bikini top.  It shows off her tan perfectly.  The lawnmower rumbles to a silence.  I crouch trying to peek through the wood.  Tanned legs move towards Lexi.Well hi there neighbour! Lexi sings out.Shouldnt you be wearing that suit in the water?Lexi throws her head back and laughs. It works just as well from up here.I shake my head at her flirting. She is so obvious sometimes!So when you finish mowing all that grass I bet you will be pretty hot.I cringe at her boldness. Theres a chuckle from the neighbour which only encourages her.Well my cousin …’ she looks pointedly at me. And I thought we should be neighbourly and invite you over for a swim.Does your cousin ride like a maniac on a beat up bike?Im not a maniac. Youre the one who cant drive, I yell over the fence.Ahh, is that you princess?I look upwards and find two dark eyes staring over the fence. I stand up, stepping back from the divide.Hang on. Do you two know each other? Lexi looks back and forth.No!Yes, he contradicts me.Well which is it? Lexi asks, crossing her arms.You know I think I just might take you up on your offer for a swim, he says to Lexi.Her face lights up in delight. She pushes her chest out further and grins. He sends a wink my way then disappears from my line of sight. The lawnmower starts up and I know this swim is going to mean trouble.

Thanks so much for sharing that with us Melissa.

And now, it's time for some fun questions:

Pizza or Pasta?

Pasta

Your favourite singer?

Pink (bring on the July concert in Melbourne!)

Your favourite movie, and why?

The Notebook, Ryan Gosling and THAT kiss!

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

They will have already read Destiny Road, sooo, The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons.  It is my favourite story.  Everyone should read it and fall in love with Tatiana and Alexander.

Melissa, it has been an absolute pleasure having you visit, and I wish to thank you for coming along.

Thanks for having me Marcia and keep up your fabulous work!

For further information on Melissa and her writing, you can visit her Blog, "Dream Big ... Read Often".

And now, for that all important giveaway.

Melissa is offering 1 signed hard copy and 2 e-Book copies of Destiny Road.

What do you need to do to have your entries accepted?

Signed Hard Copy - Open to Australian Residents ONLY (due to high postage costs)
e-Book Copies - Open Worldwide

+1 entry:  Leave a comment below

+1 entry:  Like Destiny Road on Facebook 

+1 entry:  Mark Destiny Road as "want to read" on Goodreads


+1 entry:  Follow Book Muster Down Under's Blog

+1 entry:  Tweet with Book Muster Down Under on Twitter

The more entries you have, the greater your chances!

Entries close at midnight on Wednesday, 15th May 2013 (Qld time) with the winners being drawn via random.org and announced on my Blog, Twitter and my Facebook Page on Friday, 17th May 2013.

Best of luck to you all.


Thursday, 9 May 2013

Aussie Book Review: Peace, Love and Khaki Socks by Kim Lock

Peace, Love and Khaki Socks
My Rating:                     5 / 5
Format:                         e-Book courtesy of Kim Lock
Publication:                   1st May 2013
ISBN:                             9780987380913
Publisher:                      MidnightSun Publishing
Extent:                           333 pages
RRP:                              $24.99



The Blurb

“One sultry October morning in Darwin, hemp-wearing army wife Amy Silva grips a trembling fist around two pink lines on a plastic stick. Struggling to come to terms with her rampant fertility, disillusioned with a haughty obstetrician, and infuriated by an inordinate amount of peeing, Amy finds solace in a decision to homebirth. After all, it worked for the cavewomen, right? But as a tropical cyclone threatens to whip down the main street, Amy finds herself facing more than biology.

Peace, Love and Khaki Socks explores what it is to be a woman, an expectant mother, a lover and a friend in a patriarchy. Sometimes horrifying, sometimes hilarious and always honest, this unforgettable story is one woman’s struggle to turn the ordinary into something extraordinary.”

Summary and Thoughts

How can two pink lines on a plastic stick cause so much havoc in your life?

With my focus over the last few months being on a lot of deeper and more emotional reading, it has been a long while since I read a novel that gave me so many laugh-out-loud moments, but Kim Lock, through her protagonist, Amy, certainly provided me with a true sense of escapism, even though the subject matter at hand is not laughable and is a very important one for any woman contemplating motherhood.

Having moved inter-state from Victoria to be with Dylan, her childhood sweetheart, partner and Army soldier, Amy has lived in Darwin for the past four years but is still unable to fit in – I still felt swamped and out of place amongst the air kisses, delighted squeals of recogni­tion and the continuous pomp pomp pomp of the army band on parade” and as with everyone’s life, friendships are a matter of choice and hers is to not bother herself with the “Army Wife Mob” while feeling consistently out of place - after all, she’s a hemp-wearing, meditating, organic food loving “army wife” content with just Dylan and her Darwinian born and bred best friend Hannah and a few other select people in her life.

But things are about to change – if Dylan is her “oasis” then Hannah may well turn out to be her “nemesis”, or is it the other way around!

Amy takes us on a hilarious, albeit candid journey of the trials and tribulations of pregnancy and childbirth.  When she finds herself at twenty-four years of age holding that little plastic stick showing two pink lines, trying to triumph over the rampant emotions she feels over a moment that most women look forward to, for Amy it sounds a death knell and her whole world appears to shatter, even more so when she is left feeling bewildered after her visit to the GP in which hints of dating scans and antenatal blood tests abound and she realises that she knows absolutely nothing about pregnancy.

Seeking out Hannah, Amy is surprised to learn that her best friend knows more about pregnancy and the abundant acronyms than she does, while Dylan, knowing about as much as Amy, tries his best to understand and offer support in an unplanned situation. 
With a signed twelve-month work contract looming over her head and Dylan’s impending departure for a six week exercise in Malaysia, Amy finally plucks up the courage to make an appointment for her confirmation scan followed by a telephone call to her mother to share her news.

A woman on a search for empowerment and confidence along with revelations by another friend Trish with regard to hospital deliveries and induction failures (enough to make any newly pregnant woman run a mile), and with Dylan having already left for Malaysia, Amy continues to feel totally out of her league, even more so by the cold, almost clinical treatment of her condition by Dr Lavina after which, over a cup of coffee, Hannah discloses her own tragic secret.

What follows is Amy’s account of the remainder of her pregnancy, her foray into the technicalities involved in home-birthing, Dylan’s initial dismissal of the whole idea of home-birthing, her feelings of hurt and anger over Hannah’s indifference towards her, the foolishness of a woman (possibly as a result of too many pregnancy hormones raging through her body) as she endangers the life of both herself and her baby in a daring dash through a monstrous Darwin cyclone, and then, a fabulous midwife who takes Amy on a journey to a wonderful birth sequence where we finally get to see her obtaining the fulfilment she has been seeking.

While Amy drew much sympathy from me over her uncertainties, along with the lack of necessary family support required at times like these, due to hers living so far from her and her partner frequently performing patriotic duties for our country, I felt that her lack of interest in learning more and the total shunning of the traditional hospital birthing system was extreme.  But, this is Amy’s journey!

Although I have no knowledge of the procedures involved in pregnancy and childbirth in Australia, I am well aware that home-birthing in South Africa is not too widely embraced - the medical profession preferring to have emergency assistance close at hand - but there are private hospitals that will consider alternative birthing practices in a more relaxed (albeit hospital) environment.  While I may have contemplated home birthing for my own first pregnancy, I soon changed my mind after attending a few antenatal classes and my husband’s subtle reminder that I’m a known sook when it comes to pain and I can say in all honesty that my first experience is one which I would not like to re-live, thanks to the self-inflicted pain caused by my determination to go through it with no pain relief – a situation which, I might add, was short-lived as I admitted defeat and called for an epidural.

In saying this though, I also had the most amazing Obstetrician, who allowed me to explore all my options before making my final decision.  He truly was very patient, most forthcoming and warm, and in no way made me feel like I was just another pregnant woman, so it irked me that Amy’s first obstetric experience was mired by such an arrogant, impersonal woman such as Dr Lavina and it’s no wonder she decided to explore another option.

This is an entertaining debut by author Kim Lock, one with well-developed and personable characters, situations that this reviewer could truly relate along with a well-balanced amount of humour and real-life issues, culminating in a very satisfying and heart-warming conclusion.  Of course, for those of you venturing out on that wonderful path to motherhood, remember that this is a work of fiction and, with birthing options remaining an extremely personal choice (and not to be taken lightly), be prepared to read with an open mind.

My thanks goes to Kim Lock for providing me with an e-Book of this, her first novel, and I look forward to reading more from this author who quite clearly has a great sense of humour.

Here's a sneak peek:




A Little About the Author

After growing up in country South Australia, Kim Lock has lived in Darwin, Melbourne and Canberra, and now resides on home soil in Adelaide with her military husband and their two young children. It was after having her children that Kim found the urge to write in earnest.

Some experience as a breastfeeding counsellor saw her develop an interest in maternal psychology, and Kim is now working towards her degree.

Kim has spent over a decade working in advertising, and although she has been writing her whole life, Peace, Love and Khaki Socks is her first novel.