Saturday, 31 January 2015

Winner Announcement: Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop 2015


Thank you to all of those who entered my AU$20 Amazon Gift Voucher giveaway as part of the 2015 Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop. I was overwhelmed at the record response which I received for this giveaway.

Thanks must of course go to Shelleyrae over at Book'd Out too for hosting this fabulous initiative and I look forward to taking part in many more.

But, without further ado, it's time to announce the winner, who was drawn by Random.Org this morning:


CONGRATULATIONS to Val Tilney
You have been chosen as the Winner of the AU$20 Amazon Gift Voucher.


Val, please contact me at bookmusterdownunder@gmail.com so that I can get your voucher organised. This post will also feed through to my Facebook Page as well as Twitter.

Once again, I thank each and every one of you and hope you had as much fun as me hopping between all the wonderful blogs.

Until next year!

Blog Tour - Saturday Sneak-Peek: Avery by Charlotte McConaghy


I'm thrilled to be taking part in the Avery Blog Tour being hosted by Random House Books Australia amongst a heap of other great Aussie book bloggers. For a list of all the blogs taking part in this tour, please go to Avery's blog tour page at the Random House website here.

The tour was kicked off yesterday by Booklover Book Reviews who asked Charlotte McConaghy a few questions and is also hosting a giveaway here. Head on over to see what Charlotte had to say about her writing, her characters and the inspiration behind Avery.

Avery is Charlotte McConaghy's first adult fantasy novel, due to be released in February this year and, while I don't read very many fantasy novels at all (I always have a little trouble suspending my disbelief), one thing that has always caught my eye are some of the magnificent covers designed for this genre. Avery's cover, of course, is no exception, so when it arrived on my doorstep, its stunning cover literally took my breath away and the blurb has left me hankering for more. I'm definitely going to give it a go and for all you romance buffs out there, I think you should too!

Here's the blurb:

"The people of Kaya die in pairs. When one lover dies, the other does too. So it has been for thousands of years – until Ava.

For although her bondmate, Avery, has been murdered and Ava’s soul has been torn in two, she is the only one who has ever been strong enough to cling to life. Vowing revenge upon the barbarian queen of Pirenti, Ava’s plan is interrupted when she is captured by the deadly prince of her enemies.

Prince Ambrose has been brought up to kill and hate. But when he takes charge of a strangely captivating Kayan prisoner and is forced to survive with her on a dangerous island, he must reconsider all he holds true . . .

In a violent country like Pirenti, where emotion is scorned as a weakness, can he find the strength to fight for the person he loves . . . even when she’s his vengeful enemy?

The first book in The Chronicles of Kaya series, Avery is perfect for fans of romance and fantasy alike."

About the Author

Charlotte McConaghy grew up with her nose in a book and her head in the clouds. Her first novel, Arrival, was published at age seventeen, followed by Descent when she was twenty, launching The Strangers of Paragor series. Soon she started her first adult fantasy novel, Avery, the prologue of which came to her in a very vivid dream. Avery is the first book in The Chronicles of Kaya series.

Charlotte currently lives in Sydney, studying a Masters in Screenwriting at the Australian Film, Television & Radio School, which allows her to explore different aspects of her writing and indulge in her passion for film and television. She will, however, always be a novelist at heart, still unable to get her nose out of the books.

To whet your appetite even more, here's the Prologue of this soon to be released novel:

"The people of Kaya die in pairs. So it is and will always be.
Which is how I know, as I seep onto the cool stone flaggings, that she too will die tonight.
*
The weight of the blade at my waist was comforting as we made our way through the dense forest. Our group was small, led by Gidion himself. The Royal Captain’s brutally scarred face was tight with readiness as we approached the fortress wall. Six of us, only six, and we were attempting to infiltrate the stronghold of the Barbarian Queen of Pirenti. A fool’s mission, based on a fool’s hope.
But we had three weapons no Pirenti could deny. Three warders. I felt my lips curl as I watched their eyes shift to the colour of falling snow. These men were nigh on impossible to kill, and they terrified the fierce northern soldiers  as nothing else did. In a warder’s blood was an ancient, dark power, and it was only with this power that we’d have a chance.
Ava fell into step beside me. I cast her a quick glance; her violet eyes were bright with eagerness. I winked and saw her grin flash in response. We needed no words – our orders had been given – so into the enemy stronghold we swept, invisible beneath the shield- ing wards.
The front hall was alive with a ferocious energy. Sitting at row after row of long tables were the eating, drinking, laughing barbarian soldiers. Beasts of men they were, larger by far than any Kayan would ever be and bristling with a brutality unique to their kind. Ava’s heart quickened as she watched them – I could feel it in my own chest. I silently willed her to curb her recklessness.
Our group moved quickly through the chaos. Though we could not be spotted under the wards, we could be felt or worse – scented, as was the Pirenti method of hunting.
As we reached the end of the hall a fight broke out and a heavy man was thrown backwards through the air. He crashed into the edge of our ward, sending Ava sprawling on the cold floor. Perfectly visible to the soldiers.
I didn’t think, only moved. Hurling myself forward, I covered her in the shaggy fur pelt I was wearing and dragged her bodily through the western door. This wasn’t the plan, and it separated us from the rest of our force, but at least for the moment we found ourselves in an empty corridor.
Breathing quickly, we looked at each other.
‘This just got a lot more interesting,’ she said, and there was an undeniably wicked glint in her eyes.
‘Too dangerous without the warders, petal,’ I shook my head.
‘We get out now.’
Her eyebrows arched. Up this close I could see the smattering of freckles over her sun-drenched nose and cheeks. ‘Please don’t tell me I’ve fallen in love with a coward.’
The familiar scent of her lavender soap reached me and for a moment the bond that tied us together flared and changed our eyes to a shining gold.
‘Ava, I really don’t want you hurt. Understood? ’ Even though we both knew the mission came first.
 ‘Whatever, Ave,’ she muttered impatiently. ‘Let’s move.’"
This tour continues on Thursday, 5 February over at Speculating on SpecFic and it would be fabulous if you could hop on over to their website here, where they will be posting their review of Avery.

Don't forget that you can also join the conversation on Twitter using #Avery and tag @CharMcConaghy in your tweet.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Aussie Author Round-Up: Nicki Edwards, Intensive Care


Today it is my pleasure to welcome Australian debut Author Nicki Edwards to my blog, to celebrate the release of her novel, Intensive Care.

25 years ago Nicki dreamed of becoming a nurse but got busy travelling overseas, getting married and starting a family. After her youngest child started school she returned to full-time study as a mature aged student where she successfully juggled study, part time work and being a busy wife and Mum. In 2011 she achieved her dream and has since been working in a number of areas including intensive care. She has recently started her latest challenge – working in the Emergency Department, which she loves.

When Nicki is not nursing, reading or forcing herself to go running, she’s busy with her latest project. Writing.

In January 2014 Nicki woke up and decided life wasn’t busy enough so she set out to fulfil another lifelong dream – to write a novel.

Her debut novel is a Medical Rural Romance set in an Intensive Care Unit in a fictional town in country New South Wales, Australia. Signed with Momentum Books, the digital imprint of Pan Macmillan Australia, Intensive Care was released on the 22nd January 2015.

She is currently working on a follow up to Intensive Care, called Emergency Response, and another book, The Peppercorn Lease, set in South Australia.

Nicki is a city girl with a country heart and if she could spend her days dressed in jeans and boots out on the farm surrounded by horses, she’d be in her element.

Unfortunately, Nicki doesn’t get to live her country dream. She resides in Geelong, Victoria with her husband Tim, their four teenage/young adult children, a spoiled burmese cat called Roxy, and Molly, the best Border Collie in the world!

Nicki would be the first to tell you that her life is amazingly crazy, full, challenging, fun, exhausting and busy, but she wouldn’t change it for anything!

Right now, she’s living the dream.

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

Before I continue though, I’d just like to thank Momentum Books Australia, especially Patrick from their publicity department, without whom this interview would not have been possible.

Nicki, it’s great to have you here to celebrate the release of your debut novel Intensive Care.

I’m rapt to be invited! Thanks for having me here.

Tell us a bit about your childhood.

My parents, younger brother and I lived in a semi-rural area between Geelong and Torquay (now completely residential) on 5 acres. I was lucky enough to have 2 horses, 2 pet sheep (Kermit and Miss Piggy), 2 Labradors and 3 cats. I used to pretend I lived on a farm because the neighbours had everything from sheep and cows to goats, chickens and even peacocks and I spent lots of time helping fix fences, ride tractors, chase sheep and generally get in the way of real farm work! I grew up riding and spent every available minute after school outside with my horses and every weekend either at pony club or gymkhanas. When I turned 16, two things happened. We moved house, and I discovered boys! My riding and ‘farm’ days were sadly over.

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

I’ve always wanted to write a book. As a child when I wasn’t riding, I was reading – usually about horses! I was a voracious reader and my parents were constantly telling me off for always having my nose in a book. In high school I had a fantastic English teacher who encouraged me to consider a career in journalism. While I contemplated it for a while, even doing work experience with Channel 7, I knew I didn’t have what it would take to be a journalist. Becoming an actual writer never entered my mind – after all, no-one could possibly make a living being an author!

That said, I always used to tell people “One day I’m going to write a book”! I had no idea what, when or how. When the kids were young I thought about writing youth fiction (remembering how much I enjoyed reading all those horsey books as a kid) but I was never that serious about it and I’d write a chapter or two and promptly forget about it for another year or more and I’d stumble across the file on my computer.

All those years I had a friend who was writing, publishing a book every year, and I remember being incredibly jealous of her. One day I had enough and thought ‘if she can do it, why can’t I?’ We caught up for a coffee and she just encouraged me with two words: just start. So, with her ongoing encouragement, I did just that, and here I am! I started writing Intensive Care in January 2014 with the dream of being published within a year. I’m thrilled to say that dream has come true!

You started writing after twenty-five years of marriage, travelling, children, studying and working – what brought you to this decision?

I guess I’ve sort of answered this question already, but the actual decision came after studying for almost 7 years full-time. I was considering doing more study - either a Diploma of Education or a Masters of Nursing. My husband, very sweetly, asked me to have a year off and not do any further study. I’m not sure whether he wanted me to take a break for myself, or whether it was because he needed me to take a break for our family’s sake! Anyway, three weeks into the new year I was looking for something to do and that’s when I realised I had the perfect opportunity to write the novel I’d always promised I’d write.

What is Intensive Care about?

I heard someone once say “write what you know”. The idea for Intensive Care came because I was working as a critical care nurse in an intensive care unit. I used to come home and think to myself, if only I could share some of these amazing stories. As soon as I started writing, I realised I could share the stories – in a fictional sense. Mind you, if I had a dollar for every person who had asked if Intensive Care is a biography I’d be very wealthy! No, Kate Kennedy is NOT me! It’s a pure work of fiction! (Although some of my colleagues might recognise themselves as some of the minor characters!)

Intensive Care is about a young, city nurse who escapes from Sydney to regional NSW after a relationship breakdown. She hopes the country move will heal her broken heart. She quickly falls in love with life in Birrangulla, enjoys her job working in the intensive care unit and then meets and falls in love with cute Irish barista Joel O’Connor. Unfortunately, adjusting to country life and fitting into the community isn’t as easy as Kate expected. The book is about the healing of Kate’s broken heart, and of finding love again.

What or who inspired it?

There are a number of incredible intensive care nurses and patients who have inspired the writing of this story. Nursing is such a privilege and an honour and I hope that I have been able to portray the incredible work that intensive care nurses do every single day. I’m now working in the Emergency Department so it’s pretty easy to guess where my next stories are coming from!

Tell us about the biggest challenge you faced in writing this debut?

The biggest challenge for me is time. I work full-time and have four kids. Life is busy and writing has to fit in when I can make it happen.

Why did you choose the romance genre? Or, did it choose you?

Ah, well that’s an easy question to answer! I partly blame Rural Romance author Rachael Johns for this! I was given a gift card for Christmas 2013 and wandered into a book store and stumbled across Rachael’s book Jilted. I then discovered a whole new genre called Australian Rural Romance that up until then I’d never heard of. (This year I’m trying to work my way through all the Aussie RuRo authors’ books!) When I read these books I was struck with the stories of real life Australians in real life Australia - they reminded me of the farm girl dreams of my childhood. As for choosing romance, my hubby would say I’m the most unromantic person ever! I’m too pragmatic for flowers and love letters! But I love reading romance – it’s pretty much the only genre I read. There’s something delicious about getting caught up into a wonderful love story between two characters who are just meant to be together. I love a happy ever after ending!

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

The same advice I was given. Just start writing. And then don’t stop until you finish! Also, it’s important to believe in yourself and remember that not everyone will love your book baby – you just have to wait to find your ‘tribe’ of people who do. At least that’s what I’ll be reminding myself when the reviews start to come in!

What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?

As a nurse working shift work with a rotating roster there is no such thing as routine! Some days I start work at 7am, other days I don’t finish until 10pm. Then there’s night duty. Groan. I hate night duty! I feel like I have jetlag and the flu both at the same time. I tend to write on my days off, unfortunately sometimes it takes me a full day to get back into the swing of writing – it can take hours to get the words to flow. Therefore I don’t set goals or pressure myself with deadlines. I just write when I can and celebrate whether I write 5,000 words in one day or 5.

And now for some fun:

Pizza or Pasta?
Pizza

What is your favourite motivational phrase?
Those who say it can’t be done shouldn’t interrupt the person doing it.

Favourite author?
I don’t want to have to choose just one of the Aussie RuRo girls and offend all the others because there are so many awesome authors to choose from, so I’m going to say my favourite author is Jodi Picoult. I love the depth of her stories.

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

If I had time for a book club, which I certainly don’t, I’d be reading Australian Rural Romance because there are so many awesome stories from the sweet to the very sexy – there’s something that suits everyone. 

Nicki, thank you so much for joining me today and once again, a huge congratulations, but before you go, would you mind giving us a sneak peek of Intensive Care?

I’d love to!  This excerpt is taken from the beginning of Chapter 6. Kate Kennedy’s relationship has just ended and she’s been offered a job interview for the position of nurse unit manager at the Birrangulla Base Hospital.

“You’re going where?” Kate’s dad asked incredulously the next morning as Kate was finishing her porridge and preparing to leave the house.
He had clearly just woken up, his salt and pepper hair flat on one side of his head. He was wrapping the cord of his dressing gown around his portly stomach as he spoke.
She glanced quickly out the window. It was still dark outside and she wanted to leave before the sun rose. Kate had decided not to tell her parents about the job interview, planning instead on leaving the house before they woke. She was going to leave them a note to say she would be gone all day.
“Oh Dad, come on,” Kate replied, drawing breath before speaking again. “I’ve been living away from home for almost ten years. I think by now I’m probably old enough to make my own decisions.”
“But Kathryn”—it was Elizabeth’s turn to try to reason with her only daughter—“do you think you should be making rash decisions right now? It’s only been a month and it’s still such an emotional time for you. Perhaps it would be better to just have a little break and recover from this. Go away and have a holiday or something. Planning a move to the country isn’t something you should just do on a whim.”
“I agree with your mum, Kate. I know you love watching all those British Escape to the Country type shows on TV, but actually doing it is another thing entirely.”
“Dad, I’m so tired of living in Sydney. I need to get away. I don’t know, maybe a change of scenery and a change of pace is what I need.”
“But why so far away?” Elizabeth complained. “Surely you could have found a job on the outskirts of the city. Why do you have to move to the country? I don’t even know where this Birrangulla place is.” Kate heard the beginning of a whine in her mum’s voice.
Her dad let out a sigh and Kate saw the look her parents exchanged.
“A tree change is something I’ve always dreamed of,” Kate said.
“Well it’s the first I’ve heard of it,” Elizabeth huffed.
“I think you’re romanticizing the whole thing, Katie darling,” Michael said. “I think you’ll find it’s not all acres of rolling green hills and paddocks full of horses. This is Australia remember, not England. Moving to the middle of woop woop where you don’t know anyone won’t be as easy as you seem to think. It’s hard for an outsider to fit in, especially when you’re an outsider from the city.”
Kate knew her dad had her best interests at heart but she didn’t want to listen to his negativity. She tried to reason with them. “It’s not like I’ve even been offered the job! This is only a first interview. I just want to go and check it out, that’s all. You both know it’s not like me to be spontaneous. I’ve spent the last three years just doing whatever Marcus needed me to do while he established his career and look where it got me.” Kate lifted her hands and shrugged her shoulders for emphasis. “Maybe it’s time for me to take a chance and do something for me for once.”
“How about I come with you?” Michael suggested, standing up. “It won’t take me long to get dressed and ready.”
“Oh Dad.” Kate reached up and gave him a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. “I need to do this on my own.”
She placed her empty bowl in the sink, rinsed it and placed it on the rack to dry, ignoring the looks she knew her parents were giving her behind her back. She grabbed her car keys and bag and headed for the door.
As she sat behind the wheel of her car she took a deep breath. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. She entered the address of the hospital into her GPS, chose her favorite playlist and settled back into the comfortable leather seat, prepared for the long drive ahead of her. Remembering her promise to her dad to stop every two hours for a break, she pulled away from the curb and waved out the open window at her parents who were standing side by side on the front porch watching her leave. The first rays of sunlight were just appearing on the eastern horizon as she headed west.

Nicki would love to hear from her readers, so you’re most welcome to connect with her via the following web links:

Email address - nicki.edwards@iinet.net.au
Website - http://nickiedwards.net/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/authornickiedwards?fref=ts
Twitter - https://twitter.com/nicki_edwards
Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9811008.Nicki_Edwards

Escaping to the country was meant to be easy …

On the surface it looks like busy intensive care nurse Kate Kennedy has it all: a long-term relationship, a great career and a sleek inner city apartment. But appearances are deceiving, and in one fell swoop everything comes crashing down around her. In a moment of spontaneity, Kate leaves her city life and takes a new role as Nurse Unit Manager at Birrangulla Base Hospital, but her dream move proves harder than expected.

Local cafe owner Joel O’Connor finds himself increasingly drawn to the gorgeous new nurse, but like Kate, he’s been scarred by love and isn’t looking to jump into anything. Yet their chemistry is hard to deny and after a near fatal incident, Joel and Kate find themselves opening up to one another.

Just when Kate thinks she’s found love again, their fragile relationship is thwarted by their pasts. Can they both let go of their guilt and grief to move on to a bright new future?

Intensive Care can be purchased from the following links:

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop 2015


G'day and welcome to my blog.

First up, I wish to thank Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out for organising and hosting this great event which is now in its third year. This time around, there are 41 blogs giving away wonderful Australian novels and other prizes. You can hop on over to Book'd Out here to check out all the other fabulous bloggers and authors taking part in this great annual initiative. Please do show them your support - you never know how many prizes you'll win.

Before I get on to the nitty-gritty details though, I just wanted to share with you one of my favourite poems, My Country, by Dorothy Mackellar - after all, Australia Day is all about celebrating this wonderful country of ours. Being an immigrant, this poem resonates very deeply with me as I do believe that "all you who have not loved her, you will not understand". I am proud to have been embraced by the Lucky Country:

The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes.
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins,
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft dim skies
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!

A stark white ring-barked forest
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes,
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die -
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold -
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land -
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand -
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

Now, onto the reason why you are here.

I'm giving away an AU$20 Amazon gift voucher to one lucky reader of my blog. All you have to do is answer this easy question:

What is the name of the above poem and who wrote it?
(Please leave a comment in the comments section below with your answer!)

Seeing as I have opened this competition up Internationally, if the winner happens to be an international visitor, it would be remiss of me if I didn't ask you to consider purchasing a book written by an Australian author and show your support of our astounding talent.

So, you've never read an Aussie novel before? Believe me, you will be spoiled for choice, no matter what your favourite genre is. Here's a sample of just some of your options:


Entries close at midnight on Tuesday, 27th January 2015 and the winners will be drawn via Random.org, announced here on the blog (which feeds through to both my Facebook Page and Twitter handle) and then contacted via email within 7 days of the competition being closed.

Disclaimer: I reserve the right to re-draw if the winner does not contact me within 72 hours of them being notified.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!!! Oi, Oi, Oi!!!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Book Review: Unsuitable by Ainslie Paton


"Can they make trailblazing and homemaking fit, or is love just another gender stereotype?

Audrey broke the glass ceiling.

Reece swapped a blue collar for a pink collar job. 

She’s a single mum by design. He’s a nanny by choice.

She gets passed over for promotion. He struggles to find a job.

She takes a chance on him. He’s worth more than he knows.

There’s an imbalance of power. There’s an age difference.

There’s a child whose favourite word is no.

Everything about them being together is unsuitable.

Except for love.”

Working in a male-dominated corporate environment, single mother Audrey already has her hands full trying to find a balance between work and home, so when her nanny, Cameron, resigns, she’s faced with the uncertainty of finding a suitable replacement. When, Reece, arrives for an interview, Audrey is shocked to realise that her final applicant is very much male – even if he does has the same first name as Rees Witherspoon although spelled differently!

To cut a long story short, Rees has all the qualifications as well as good references (his sisters) but Audrey finds herself in a dilemma due to the fact that he is a man. Unfortunately for her, three-year old Mia hits it off immediately with Rees. Going against everyone else’s advice (and because she feels a bit sorry for him), she decides to offer him the job, not realising that this gentle giant is going to change her life, in ways she never expected, forever. While she is strong and has chosen her own path in life, will her independence and stubborn pride allow her to forgive Reece for not being totally honest with her?

Although this is the first book I have read by Ainslie Paton, (sorry Ainslie, Detained and Hooked on a Feeling are still on my list), I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that they will be as good as this one.

Even though I’m a bit of a romance buff I haven’t failed to notice that most of this genre follows the same kind of conventions, although I do believe that Ainslie has broken the mould. Instead of giving us the traditional Hero and Heroine, Ainslie has decided to reverse their roles by giving us a high-flying female executive, who is a single mother by choice, and an all-out gorgeously buff male (think Channing Tatum) who really is a big softie at heart and just wants to work with kids.

There is no fluff in this novel. It is pure real-life and, although the romance is central, Ainslie skilfully weaves in themes of gender equality, older woman/younger man relationships, single motherhood, family dynamics and friendship.

She brings her characters to life by making them face real, everyday situations and fully deals with their very different back stories by offering us the narrative from both their perspectives. For me, this is a sign of great storytelling as it allowed me to get to know the characters intimately thereby enabling me to get a great feel for their emotions and hang-ups.

Her secondary characters of Mia (bless her little heart), Les, Polly and Reece’s mother and four sisters are just as well drawn which adds much depth to their story and allows her hero and heroine to become fabulously three-dimensional.

While the book is long and can slow down at times, it is not without substance and Ainslie keeps the tensions and emotional angst high enough to sustain her reader’s interest. I do believe that she writes straight from the heart and I look forward to reading more from her.

An entertaining story with great sizzle and some poignant moments, I wish to thank Ainslie for providing me with an ARC.

A Little About the Author

Ainslie Paton is a corporate storyteller working in marketing, public relations and advertising. 


She’s written about everything from the African refugee crisis and Toxic Shock Syndrome, to high-speed data networks and hamburgers, and for everyone from George Clooney to Barry Humphries—as Edna.

She writes cracking, hyper-real romances about strong women and the exciting men who love them.


Book Review: The Enemy Inside by Vanessa Skye


“While exploring darkness in others, be careful not to expose your own.

That's what Chicago detective Alicia Raymond discovers when she's assigned to investigate the gruesome torture and murder of a middle-aged trucker with a horrible secret.

Before she can get a lead on one crime, however, the bodies start piling up and Alicia, better known as Berg, finds herself the unexpected target of the very same legal system she has dedicated her life to.

While simultaneously under attack from a formidable past, an enemy that seems to know too much, and a conniving killer, Berg is forced to confront her own darkness: her obsessive need to track down killers at the expense of everything else in her life; her increasing craving for violence just to feel normal; and her potentially devastating feelings for her partner, the charming and handsome Detective Inspector Jay O’Loughlin.

The more Berg works her original case, the more she learns about the sheer viciousness of the trucker’s past, and the more she questions if his murderer should even be punished by a justice system that only seems determined to free the guilty. When she also finds herself sympathizing with a sadistic butcher exacting revenge for a decades-old crime, she realizes the most dangerous secret of all might just be her own state of mind.

While Berg struggles with her morality, a killer is determined to recruit her and use her for a devastating end game.

As Berg’s carefully constructed life falls apart and she struggles to maintain a grip on reality, she faces a choice: surrender to the evil inside or finally acknowledge the brutal past she would rather bury.

The Enemy Inside is the first in the Edge of Darkness series, which challenges the concept of justice, asks if vengeance sometimes justifies murder, and explores whether you can ever heal from a broken past.”

A respected detective with the Chicago Police Department’s Special Crimes Unit, Berg, formally known as Detective Alicia Raymond and partner, the irrepressible womaniser, Jay O’Loughlin, are assigned to investigate the murder of a truck driver. As the gruesome remains of dead truckies begin to mount, the pieces start to fall into place and it becomes clear that the deaths are related to a case they have been working on involving a string of missing women.

Personally though, Berg isn’t doing so well – she often feels as though she is losing control of her life. She is still hurting and vulnerable from a childhood, the likes of which many of us may not know and the only thing that appears to keep her going is her gorgeous canine friend Jesse and the shameful secret she keeps - until Jay accidentally stumbles upon it.

As he tries to break though the walls she has built up around her, she slowly allows them to crumble. It is when he puts his life on the line to try and catch the killer that both these flawed characters will need to finally answer some burning questions held deep within.

I have been reviewing books now for about two years and am still astounded at the amount of talent there is amongst our Australian authors which I always go out of my way to promote. In saying this, Australian crime author, Vanessa Skye, is yet another to add to my growing list of must-read authors as I was blown away by her writing.

Published in August 2013, The Enemy Inside is Vanessa’s debut novel and the first in the promising Edge of Darkness crime series featuring her strong female antihero, Detective Berg (otherwise known as Alicia Raymond) and I was so drawn into the story that, if I didn’t need sleep in order to function properly the next day, I probably would have read straight through the night.

Vanessa’s character development is impeccable and I found myself rooting for the emotionally battered Berg as well as becoming just a little infatuated with the sexy and compassionate character of Jay O’Loughlin as they raced against time to catch a killer. Their characterisation is both deep and rich and their personal lives are balanced perfectly with the demands of the case, introducing many different themes, which I won’t  go into so as not to give anything away.

The atmosphere and emotion add to the richness of the landscape that these characters live in and Vanessa keeps the suspense tight, revealing nothing until she absolutely wants to, so much so that I was left second-guessing myself as to the identity of the killer as Berg struggled to keep her own demons at bay.

It’s also clear that Vanessa has done a lot of research into the workings of crime scenes, forensics, the roles of detectives and the police departments in which they work and I found myself totally absorbed in the world that Berg and Jay inhabit.

This is an entertaining and thrilling work of fiction with Vanessa keeping her storyline original and stitching up her narrative structure perfectly. So, if you enjoy a riveting police investigation with plenty of suspense and a memorable cast of characters to keep the pages turning, whilst on a deeper level giving insight into the many aspects of human nature as well as the world around us, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to you. Ultimately, it’s a story about conquering your own worst enemy – yourself!

I can’t wait to see what Vanessa has in store for Berg and Jay in the second in the series, Broken.

I wish to thank  The Writer’s Coffee Shop as well as Vanessa for providing me with a copy of this debut for review.

A Little About the Author


Vanessa Skye has always had a love of words and spent her school years writing poetry, speeches, and fictional essays.

After completing a Bachelor of Arts in Print Journalism and studying Psychology at Charles Sturt University, Vanessa got a job at Rural Press—Australia's largest publisher of regional and agricultural news and information—where she worked as a journalist in the Central West of NSW for four years.

Thousands of stories later, Vanessa decided to move back to Sydney and try her hand at public relations while studying a Master of Arts in Communication.
Skip forward a few years and Vanessa once again found herself joyfully studying various psychology subjects while managing a Sydney public relations firm. Enthralled with examining the motivations behind people's actions, Vanessa realised what she really wanted to do in life was combine her love of words with her fascination for human behaviour.

So Vanessa quit public relations to begin the significantly more impoverished life of a professional writer.

Inspired by a recurring dream, Vanessa wrote her crime fiction debut, The Enemy Inside, which challenges the concept of justice, asks if the need for vengeance sometimes justifies murder, and explores whether you can ever heal from childhood abuse. The second book in this series, Broken, was released in 2014 and the third, Bloodlines, in January 2015.

In her spare time, Vanessa wrote a short story, The Piece, which was published in February 2012 by Dark Prints Press as a part of the One That Got Away dark fiction anthology.

Vanessa now works as a freelance writer, lives in Sydney’s northern beaches, and tries to immerse herself in salt water at least once a day.


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Book Review: New Year's Promise by Anna Clifton


"They’ve been colleagues, allies and best friends forever, but he wants more — and he’s not above using the magic of the Christmas season to get it.

When Business Development Executive Ellie Halligan is offered the job of a lifetime in Paris, it seems her chance to live a fairytale adventure has finally arrived. Her only hurdle is convincing legal eagle Justin Murphy — her boss and friend since childhood — to wave his boss’s wand and waive her four-week resignation period so that she can start her adventure by Christmas.

But Justin proves to be a demanding fairy godmother. He’ll let her go early, but not unless she spends time with him over the festive season up until New Year.

Ellie doesn’t know what to do. Is Justin finally looking at her romantically after all these years, or are far more threatening dynamics at play? Justin has a secret, and he seems to want to pull her back into a past she’d rather forget. But delving into that old pain might be the only way to move forward — and for Justin to finally be free.

Will doing this for Justin become Ellie’s final gift of love as she loses him forever?"

Childhood friends Ellie and Justin have experienced a lot of pain and loss in their lives – Justin, the loss of his terminally ill brother when they were just teenagers and Ellie, the passing of her beloved mother. It seems as though they’re just getting their lives back on track, bar a few misgivings about recent broken relationships, when Harry, Ellie’s brother, approaches Justin and asks for his help.

He’s about to go into hospital for surgery and needs Justin to turn down Ellie's imminent resignation and delay her departure for two weeks in case something goes wrong during surgery. He knows that if she hears about his operation, her mothering instincts will kick in and she will drop the Paris job that she has accepted.

Justin reluctantly agrees and plucks up the courage to ask Ellie to spend time with him over the following two weeks. As these old friends begin to spend more time together, a photograph dredges up memories for Justin and it's not long before a family secret comes to the fore.

As Ellie and Justin piece together a decades old puzzle, one can only hope that there will be a happy every after.

It seems like I’ve been reading a lot of new-to-me authors lately (which is great because we have so many talented writers here in Australia) so, when Anna emailed me to request a review of her latest novel, I jumped at it because it sounded just like my kind of romance. Yes, she warned me about the emotional angst, but that’s the way I like them and this one certainly satisfied that need! Of course, the other big draw-card for me was the friends to lovers trope which is always (at least for me) far more realistic in terms of a romance novel because the characters already know a lot about each other and it’s not like they just fall into bed together. At least, not in this one!

There are many great moments between Ellie and Justin in this novel such as the beach scene, the “clapping” scene, as well as some particularly poignant ones later on and, in using the issues at the heart of the novel, Anna creates a large amount of emotional conflict (without the melodrama) which clearly shows that she got to know her characters very well, thus enhancing the reader’s enjoyment.

Emotional, uplifting and featuring a cast of down-to-earth characters that you will be able to identify and engage with, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this novel about family, mothering, love and friendship to all those avid romance readers out there. Just one suggestion though – if you are moved as easily as me, keep the tissues handy!

Whilst this is number three in the series, it can well be read as a stand-alone - now I just need to get hold of Anna’s previous two books, Adam’s Boys and Falling for the Lawyer.

My thanks to both Escape Publishing (and Anna) for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel.

A Little About the Author


Anna Clifton is a lawyer by trade and a mother to several children and a couple of cats. Her husband is not quite sure how her compulsive writing squeezes itself into the family schedule, but knows better than to stand in the way of the woman he loves on a mission.


Anna lives in Sydney but escapes with her family as often as possible to Far North Queensland where she loves to sit with a glass of wine and watch her husband do the thing she dreads doing most — cooking!


Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Guest Post: Don't Tell Stories (Badly) by Georgina Penney


Today on the blog we have the delightful and irrepressibly humorous Georgina Penney, two times author, here to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, Fly In Fly Out, which was released on Friday, 2nd January 2015.

She's decided to share a burning issue, something that will most definitely resonate with a number of would-be authors out there, that of practicing your writing craft "until you're good at it"!

Before we get into the nitty-gritty though, I'd just like to thank Penguin Australia for arranging Georgina's contribution, as well as Georgina for this fantastic post. Here's a bit of an introduction to Ms Penney and her writing.

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 cozy 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 and hairy coos and imagining buff medieval Scotsmen in kilts (who have access to shower facilities and deodorant) living behind every bramble hedge.

Her second novel, Fly In Fly Out can be purchased from the following links:

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If you’ve ever met me or heard me on my podcast, The Bookish Tarts, it won’t surprise you to hear that I’m a talker. I always have been and, until my late twenties, I saw this as something to be a little embarrassed about.

It’s not really surprising that my talkativeness wasn’t something I brought out the bells and whistles to celebrate. How many positive words can you think of for a talkative woman? I just opened my Thesaurus and immediately found chattering, gabby, gossipy, long-winded, loose-lipped, loud-mouthed, prattling, rattling and windy. Most of these words could easily be gendered female. I’m relatively sure I’ve never heard a man being accused of prattling, gossiping, gabbing and chattering without some implication that he’s behaving like a woman.

Positive words? They’re there certainly. I came across effusive, glib, loquacious (my favourite) and articulate... but they’re far outnumbered by the negatives, which is rather telling.

Further investigation quickly shows that it’s not just my Thesaurus that’s prejudiced against loquacious women. In writing this article, I did an inventory of my movie collection to see if I could find a talkative heroine. I couldn’t come up with one example. The heroine’s friend is usually the talkative one because it makes for good comic relief but chattiness doesn’t seem to be a quality Hollywood thinks a leading lady should have. There might be the odd exception — maybe in the thirties and forties when a wisecracking broad was a thing of beauty — but for the life of me I can’t think of one and a Google search hasn’t come up with anything just now either. It seems talkative gals don’t get the guy or win the war because while chattiness can be funny, it’s not seen as sexy or smart.

With this kind of message floating around, it’s not surprising in hindsight that I made the New Year Resolution in 2009 to get rid of this seemingly unattractive character trait. My bright idea was to give an aura of quiet introspection a go. It turned out to be as easy as crocheting cobras and lasted all of six months.

During my experiment I remember finding myself listening to a group of people discuss their vegemite sandwiches and suddenly felt all the chatter, all those stories I’d collected over the years bubbling up, wanting to come out. In those moments, I knew that I genuinely had something to contribute that could liven things up. The only problem is that I knew once I started ‘contributing,’ there was a good chance I’d end up taking over a chunk of the conversation. Telling myself that no one wanted to really hear what I had to say, I kept my lips zipped.

But the thing that I was discounting in my quest to keep quiet and not be that woman, was that I’m not only a talkative woman. I’m a listener and an observer as well.

There’s a word that’s used to describe observant, talkative men that I honestly don’t think I’ve ever heard in relation to a woman. It’s raconteur, which is defined by my handy dictionary as ‘a person who tells anecdotes in a skilful and amusing way'. A quick search brought up a whole list of male raconteurs, all lofty people like Mark Twain, Earnest Hemingway, Bill Clinton and more, but no women.

Why do we never hear of lady raconteurs? Why only the guys? Well, one of those reasons may be that when a man is a good story teller, it’s a celebrated trait. When a woman has the ability to tell a tale, it can be easy to label her a gossip. And that’s certainly what I’d labelled myself.

Having given up my failed attempt to badly impersonate a quiet type and not yet having come across the idea of a raconteur, I was left with a conundrum: I had the ability to listen, observe and then share stories and anecdotes about the world around me but I felt as guilty as hell for doing so because I didn’t think anyone wanted a woman who talked like me around. As you can well imagine I was a prime candidate for therapy... or maybe just some fresh air and a good walk outside.

It wasn’t until I moved to Brunei Darussalam that I started to channel all the ideas and tales in my head into writing. (It was either that or keep talking to myself in the supermarket and let’s face it... not really a good way to impress the locals.)

My first optimistic attempt at literary genius didn’t quite work out as planned. I didn’t understand structure. Pacing was something I thought people did with horses and spelling and grammar were distant lands in a galaxy far, far away. But on rereading my first attempt, I can clearly see why I had wanted to keep going with this writing business. I hadn’t written a novel, I’d written hundreds of little stories, all vignettes that I’d collected over the years instead. What I hadn’t done was work out how to glue them all together properly. I was trying to write like I talked but books don’t work like that, they need cohesion. (Most of the time.)

I gave the draft to my husband and while he read it patiently, I didn’t see that expression he wore when I was verbally telling him a story and had nailed it. I got encouragement but I didn’t get a laugh. Given the fact that my first attempt at a novel was comedy suspense, I had a problem!

I’m sure many a newby writer goes through a stage of self-doubt where they go to Amazon and decide to buy a bazillion books that tell them how to write because it’s obvious to them they’re doing something wrong but they don’t know what it is. And as I look to my left at my bookcase... sigh... that’s a lot of money I could have spent on a nice holiday.

Because, in the end I didn’t need the ‘how to’ books at all. Not really. (Okay, maybe I did for the grammar.) All I needed was to accept that I was a raconteur and that talking, or rather story-telling was a skill I needed to improve on, not suppress.

The defining light bulb moment came while I was watching a brilliant documentary about female comedians called ‘Girls Who Do Comedy’. Here was a group of ladies that had made it their life’s work to talk a lot and talk well. Seeing these amazing women -- Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Margaret Cho, Joan Rivers and more -- talk about coming to terms with who they were and the fact that they were good at talking, good at telling stories and making people laugh made me realise I was being dishonest with myself. I was trying (without much success) to pretend I was someone I wasn’t and in doing that, I was not only stifling who I was as a person socially, I was potentially stifling any chance I had at a writing career.

Instead of closing myself off, I started to embrace the fact I had stories to tell. I started sharing the anecdotes I’d collected without feeling guilty about talking too much and I started writing a lot, the words coming much more freely now that I wasn’t constantly trying to self-censor.

And along the way I learned to have a whole lot of fun. With fiction, I could switch things around. I could change ages, gender, race, and location. I was unrestrained from the ‘tyranny of fact’ as the 19th century gothic novelist Ann Radcliffe coined it. And boy did it feel good.

I won’t say I don’t have the odd day where I think I’m a gossip, a chatterbox, full of hot air or just a talkative pain in the arse but they’re a lot fewer and far between now. There’s nothing like working out your place in the world and learning who you are to make things alright. I’m a writer, a raconteur and it feels pretty damn good!

I sure hope you find your light-bulb moment, just like Georgina has.

After months working on an oil rig in the Atlantic Ocean, engineer Jo Blaine can't wait to get home. Her job is tough, and she is desperate for some long-overdue girl time. When she walks through her front door to find an unexpected man in her house, she's tempted to head straight back out to sea.

Stephen Hardy has always felt guilty for the part he played in ruining Jo's leaving home years earlier and jumps at the chance to make amends.  It takes some fast talking, but he finally convinces Jo to let him look after her apartment and her giant cranky cat while she's away on the rig. And by the time she leaves for her next shift, they're both eagerly anticipating her return.

But balancing family and friends with a new relationship when you're never around is tricky, and Jo is also keeping secrets about her past.  After a lifetime of taking care of herself, Jo isn't used to sharing her problems – especially when they involve her messy family history. Picking up the pieces every time she comes home is getting harder, and Jo begins to wonder if a fly-in fly-out lifestyle is really worth it . . . 

Monday, 5 January 2015

Aussie Author Challenge 2015 - Sign-up


So, I've really decided to challenge myself again this year!

I will be participating in the Aussie Author Challenge, hosted by Book Lover Book Reviews, now in its Sixth Year!!

The challenge period is set from the 1st January 2015 to the 31st December 2015 and I have selected to take part in the Wallaby Challenge. This challenge requires me to read and review 3 titles written by Australian authors, of which at least 1 of those authors are female, at least 1 of those authors are male, and at least 1 of those authors are new to me. I am also able to pick any genre in either Fiction or Non-Fiction.

Feel free to join me - it's free - and a great way to "interact with like-minded readers" 

Wish me luck!

Australian Women Writer's Challenge 2015 - Sign-up


I’ve participated in the Australian Women Writers Challenge for the last two years, although, last year I did sign up a bit late, but thanks to Elizabeth Lhuede’s encouragement, I still managed to finish my challenge for the Franklin level – read 10 books, review at least 6.

As everyone knows, I am a huge supporter of Australian authors and I am looking forward to reading many fantastic Australian books in 2015, and this is the reason why I have signed up to, once again, complete the Franklin Level.

During 2014 I read more than 26 books written by Australian women writers, although not all of those were reviewed, due to time constraints and the fact that I am a full-time working mother and wife.

The Challenge is already open (running from the 1st January 2015 to 31st December 2015) so go on and join me and many other wonderful reviewers by signing up here.

You don’t need to have a blog to take part – just publish your reviews on Goodreads or at The Reading Room but don’t forget to link your review back to the Australian Women Writer's website here.

For more information on this fantastic initiative, please visit their home page at australianwomenwriters.com/.

You can also follow them on Twitter and use the tag #aww2015 in your Tweets.

Here's to a great year of reading!

Happy New Year!


I know I've been a little quiet on the reviewing front over the festive season but that's because I decided that, seeing as I took four weeks annual leave from my full-time job, I would take some time out to spend with my family, just relaxing!

This doesn't mean that I stopped reading!

In the past few weeks I have once again read so many great books written by both old favourites and new-to-me authors who have now been added to that favourites shelf.

Look out over the next few weeks for my reviews of:

Unsuitable by Ainslie Paton
New Year's Promise by Anna Clifton
The Enemy Inside by Vanessa Skye
Bad Romeo by Leisa Rayven
Shooting Butterflies by Tina Marie Clark
Daughter by Jane Shemilt

Many of you will agree that 2014 (the Year of the Horse) was a busy year which seemed to have us galloping everywhere.

Let's hope that 2015 (the Year of the Wood Sheep) will let us feel a bit more relaxed - after all, I do believe that sheep are far more laid back!