Thursday, 30 July 2015

Aussie Book Review: Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp

“A taut, emotional thriller about biology, ownership and love.

Catriona and James are desperate for children, and embark on an IVF program. After a gruelling round of treatments, Catriona finally falls pregnant, and they donate their remaining embryo anonymously.

Diana and Liam are on a waiting list to receive an embryo. Sooner than expected, they are thrilled to discover one is available.

After a difficult pregnancy, Catriona gives birth to Sebastian. But severe postnatal depression affects her badly, and quickly turns into deadly psychosis. For her protection and her baby’s, she’s admitted into psychiatric care. When she comes home, she again struggles to bond with her baby, but gradually life finds its own rhythm.

Meanwhile, Diana has given birth to a beautiful little boy, Noah. But when he is two months old Noah is abducted … and Diana and Liam’s nightmare begins.

Where is Noah?”

What would you do if your last attempt at IVF was successful but you still had a frozen embryo or two? Would you dispose of them? Would you keep them frozen indefinitely? Or would you donate them to someone who is unable to conceive naturally, knowing that somewhere out there, your own child could have siblings? An easy decision? Or one that will be the toughest you’ve ever made?

This is the minefield that Amanda Ortlepp traverses in Claiming Noah, her debut novel, as she brings us a story about Assisted Reproductive Technology in which a couple Catriona and James, after successfully falling pregnant on their third attempt, anonymously donate their last remaining embryo.

The lucky couple is Diana and Liam who have been placed on a waiting list.

When I first read the blurb of this novel, I was intrigued because I had previously read a novel by Kylie Ladd with a similar subject at its core. Like Kylie, Amanda doesn’t approach this novel from a medical perspective but rather humanises it by telling it from the alternating perspectives of Catriona and Diana giving us a compelling and emotional story spotlighting the range of issues these two women are faced with when Catriona, suffering with post-puerperal psychosis, is admitted to a clinic; the kidnapping of Noah whilst Diana is out shopping; and the ensuing fallout that occurs in both their lives and relationships.

Although I felt slightly adrift from these characters in the first part of the book where I found Amanda’s writing to be almost “matter-of-fact” and slightly clunky, once I hit the halfway mark something changed and I started to fall into a highly emotional world where my allegiances swung first from one character to the other and back again.

I experienced not only their internal conflict but also the unbearable emotional responses of these two distinctly dissimilar women who, by the end of the novel, had become two somewhat different people to those we meet at the beginning. They are complex, flawed and conflicted while, on the other hand I struggled to have even one iota of empathy for the situations that James and Liam found themselves in because of the things they did (or didn’t do). Liam was the worst, coming across as cold and superficial in his treatment of Diana as he showed no emotional support, consideration or sympathy for her feelings. But then again, we don’t get a glimpse into their viewpoints so, as the reader, I was unable to understand their thought processes and motives.

Even as it raises awareness of mental illness and the importance of taking action before losing control, Claiming Noah is an insightful look at two couples struggling with the challenges that IVF has brought them and I admire Amanda for invoking such strong feelings within me as I was taken on a trip into the turmoil that must confront any mother who finds themselves in this position.

Sad but ultimately hopeful, this is a story about guilt, courage and compassion with an unforgettable and thought-provoking evocation of family and genetics that will tug at your heartstrings as you contemplate what it really means to be a mother.

As well as being an excellent selection for book clubs, whose members will have a field day dissecting each aspect, fans of both Dawn Barker and Kylie Ladd will thoroughly enjoy it.

I wish to thank Simon & Schuster Australia for providing me with an eGalley proof for review.

About the Author

Amanda Ortlepp always wanted to be a writer, but it took thirty years and a decade of working in marketing and communication roles before she started writing her first book. That story was abandoned after a few months because Amanda stumbled across the topic of embryo donation and quickly became fascinated by it. She started writing a new book, which eventually became Claiming Noah. It is set in the inner west of Sydney, where Amanda lives and works. 

Amanda is currently working on her second novel, set on the remote Eyre Peninsula in South Australia where her father grew up and where many other members of her family have lived.

Guest Post: Capturing the Past by Joanna Courtney

I am delighted to have been chosen to participate in this exciting opportunity to host debut author Joanna Courtney on my Blog today. Joanna's historical novel, The Chosen Queen (the first in her Trilogy titled Queens of the Conquest) was released by Pan MacMillan Australia in May this year and has been well received by both Australian and international bloggers alike.

Joanna has wanted to be a writer ever since she could read. As a child she was rarely to be seen without her head in a book and she was also quick to pick up a pen.

After spending endless hours entertaining her siblings with made up stories, it was no surprise when she pursued her passion for books during her time at Cambridge University - where she combined her love of English and History by specialising in Medieval Literature.

Joanna has won several writing competitions, had short stories broadcast on BBC radio, and written and directed several award-winning plays. For the last 6 years she has taught the excellent creative writing courses for the Open University as well as teaching privately around the country and doing a lot of work with schools. She also offers a critiquing service, helping others to hone their short stories and discover the undoubted joys of seeing their work in print.

She says that "being a writer is a tough job but a hugely rewarding one. Stories are in my blood and, however painful it may be at times, I love the process of mining them out and onto paper and hope to be doing it for many, many years to come."

Joanna lives in Derbyshire in the East Midlands of England.

The Chosen Queen is available for purchase from the following links:


I’ve always been fascinated by the past. I remember, as a child, visiting Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh and standing over the (presumably re-touched) bloodstain where David Rizzio was murdered by Lord Darnley on suspicion of having an affair with his wife, Mary Queen of Scots. I was forcibly struck by the reality of standing on the same spot – the very same boards – where the killing had taken place and that sense of the layers of human experience through time has remained with me always and is something I strive to capture in my fiction.

I love the tension of a modern woman sitting, say, on a high-speed train on her way to work in her heels and smart suit, reading a kindle and, through the alchemy of fiction, being lost back in the woollen gown and wooden palaces of the eleventh century. Obviously a reader can lose themselves in any fictional world but the added frisson with a historical one is the access to a time/place that no longer exists and that you cannot really visit any other way.

I studied English Literature at university but found myself gravitating towards Medieval and Arthurian Studies because I was fascinated by the idea of historical context – of the cultural lives that surrounded these stories. A story told out-loud to a post-feast crowd of Vikings would have been aimed at creating drama to rouse a live audience who might well have been about to try and emulate their heroes in battle so needed courage as well as entertainment. In comparison, a nineteenth-century novel, designed to be read in private, would seek to provoke quieter emotion and thoughts for serious discussion later. I wanted to understand more about those differences and that led me into learning more about the way lives were lived in the past.

The more I learned, the more I was gripped and I wanted to explore the people who might have lived in those past times in my fiction. This desire eventually led me to the queens of 1066, three fascinating women whose lives have, to date, gone almost entirely unexplored. For women are something of a rarity in history – shy, domestic creatures who peep out between the cracks of their husband’s ‘greater’ deeds.

If we believe the historians of their day, they were there to look pretty and to provide care and admiration and, of course, heirs. This, however, cannot be the whole story and that is why I chose to write my trilogy, The Queens of the Conquest, about Edyth of Mercia, Elizaveta of Kiev and Matilda of Flanders, the women fighting to be Queen of England in 1066.  Not that I don’t like the men – I’m a little bit in love with all my heroes – but theirs are the grand stories everyone knows and I was more interested in capturing what happened behind the scenes of the battles. Exploring the female side of a previous era allows access to those more intimate stories, but it is not without problems.

The first is the paucity of information about women in times past, especially further back. This can be a huge frustration for the historian but it is something of a gift for the novelist as it allows scope to create a character. That, however, leads to the second and crucial problem with attempting to capture the past – how to create a heroine who is believably of her time but to whom modern readers can still relate.

There is no way that women in the past could approach the world with the liberated, equal-opportunities attitude that we take today, yet throughout history there have been plenty of women with strong characters – Boadicea, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Elizabeth I to name just a few – who hopefully allow us to believe that it was possible to operate as an individual and not just as a secondary figure. So I see my challenge as establishing the differences in the world in which my characters lived, whilst at the same time drawing out the similarities between us all as human beings.

Next year - 2016 - will be the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. In some ways 950 years is a long time, but in terms of the evolution of humanity, it’s nothing and it is surely arrogant to assume that emotions are a modern invention? Saxons, Vikings and Normans would have loved their children, fought with their siblings, made and lost friends, laughed and cried, hurt and grieved, and fallen in love and these are all fertile ground for the novelist.

People back then would have certainly accepted different rules about who they could marry, especially higher up the social tree, but the heady thrill of love is not new and there are plenty of unusual matches and illicit babies documented to attest to that.  Without getting too graphic, two people in bed together aren’t going to be much different be they under Saxon furs or a 21st-century duvet. And I don’t suppose ‘50-shades’ could teach your average Viking much either!

I firmly believe that the men and women of the eleventh century were similar to us in all the essentials of what it is to be human and it is also important to remember that pre-conquest Europeans didn’t live from headline to headline. Battles, even in those times, were few and far between and in the intervening days people didn’t just sit around waiting to be ‘history’. They’d get on with the business of life – getting up, getting dressed, envying other people’s dresses, working, socialising, eating, drinking, drinking more, getting up with a hangover…

There are many gaps in our knowledge of the Saxon period. This can be a huge frustration as a researcher but it is a gift as a writer. I love the process of sifting through facts and gradually creating a historical picture into which I can insert my own interpretation, not just of how things might have happened, but why and, perhaps most importantly of all, what impact that had on the people they happened to. I very much hope that as a novelist I can use that wonderful gift of hindsight to impose some emotional shape on the events I write about so that they become not just history but story.

In the end, as with all fiction, I believe it comes down to knowing my heroine inside out. It’s my duty to research all I can about what makes her different from modern women - what she would have worn, how she would have washed, arranged her hair, cooked, or instructed others to cook. But then it is also vital that I explore all the things that make her the same - how she feels about her life, what scares her, what thrills her, who she loves. Only once I know all this can I inhabit her world and create her story and, in so doing, hopefully capture just a little of the past for my readers.

About the Book

As a young woman in England's royal court, Edyth, granddaughter of Lady Godiva, dreams of marrying for love. But political matches are rife while King Edward is still without an heir and the future of England is uncertain.

When Edyth's family are exiled to the wild Welsh court, she falls in love with the charismatic King of Wales - but their romance comes at a price and she is catapulted onto the opposing side of a bitter feud with England. Edyth's only allies are Earl Harold Godwinson and his handfasted wife, Lady Svana.

As the years pass, Edyth finds herself elevated to a position beyond even her greatest expectations. She enjoys both power and wealth but as her star rises the lines of love and duty become more blurred than she could ever have imagined. As 1066 dawns, Edyth is asked to make an impossible choice. 
Her decision is one that has the power to change the future of England forever . . .

The Chosen Queen is the perfect blend of history, fast-paced plot and sweeping romance with a cast of strong female characters - an unforgettable read.

Joanna enjoys connecting with her fans so if you'd like to do so, you can find her at the following links:

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Book Review: Ruin & Rule by Pepper Winters (Pure Corruption MC #1)

"'We met in a nightmare. The in-between world where time had no power over reason. We fell in love. We fell hard. But then we woke up. And it was over . . .'

She is a woman divided. Her past, present, and future are as twisted as the lies she's lived for the past eight years. Desperate to get the truth, she must turn to the one man who may also be her greatest enemy . . . 

He is the president of Pure Corruption MC. A heartless biker and retribution-deliverer. He accepts no rules, obeys no one, and lives only to reap revenge on those who wronged him. And now he has stolen her, body and soul.

Can a woman plagued by mystery fall in love with the man who refuses to face the truth? And can a man drenched in darkness forgo his quest for vengeance-and finally find redemption?"

The story opens with a scene from possibly my worst nightmare – six women have been kidnapped and are being transported to who knows where! Bound and blindfolded, our female protagonist, who at this stage is unnamed, is terrified. Having reached their destination, the girls are ushered out of their mode of transport and then lead through what appears to be bushland when suddenly, out of nowhere, there is an exchange of fists, knives, gunfire and shouting men. When our protagonist is finally unbound and unveiled, she finds herself at a motorcycle club where a transaction is about to go down but it’s the sexy President and his emerald green eyes that she can’t stop thinking about.

Arthur “Kill” Killian has only ever let retribution, hate and pain overtake his life. He’s never gotten over the young girl that he fell in love with and then lost in the most callous way possible and since then has punished himself no end – for him, there is nobody that can take his lost love’s place, ever!

What follows is a story of how this woman attempts to uncover her past and her lost memories while Kill will find himself facing a number of truths that threaten to crush him.

As most of you know, I don’t often review Erotica, the reason being that it so often leaves me frustrated because of its lack of depth and characterisation. Dark Erotica is one sub-genre I’ve also never enjoyed because of the dominance aspect so, when I received the request to review this one, I was almost hesitant to accept although the blurb got my attention because of the fact that not much is alluded to and I was told by the publicist that she had no doubt I would enjoy it.

Due to the fact that the female protagonist remains unnamed for the majority of the novel and the reasons for her being kidnapped is part of the plot, it’s somewhat of a difficult book for me to review for fear of giving away spoilers and taking the joy of discovery away from other readers.

I will say though that she suffers from psychogenic amnesia and, for most of the way through, because of her condition, so much of the story is only revealed through her memories and flashbacks which are both poignant and nostalgic.

Although there isn’t much in the form of biker club activities, Pepper Winters has captured the essence of a "bikie" along with Kill's all-consuming grief for a woman that he lost eight years before. Even though Ms Winters has chosen to narrate the story from the POV of our female protagonist only, she nonetheless draws Kill as a complex character with a genius IQ by allowing him to open each chapter with a few thoughts of his own while his dialogue assists in revealing his motives and anguish, thus allowing the reader to make a connection with him.

And then there’s the sex! While it is scorching hot, I was so thankful that it didn't take over the plot, but instead added to the emotional depth and growth of her characters.

Quite obviously, Ms Winters has meant for this book to be the prelude for everything else that is to come in this new series, setting the scene for what happens to these characters next and leaving the reader questioning many things but, in doing so, she has created a dark, intense, raw and vengeance-filled world taking us on a deep and murky journey into another – one where we can only hope there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

I wish to thank Hachette Australia for providing me with a hard copy of this novel for review.

About the Author

Pepper Winters is a NYT and USA Today International Bestseller. She wears many roles. Some of them include writer, reader, sometimes wife. She loves dark, taboo stories that twist with your head. The more tortured the hero, the better, and she constantly thinks up ways to break and fix her characters. Oh, and sex... her books have sex.

After chasing her dreams to become a full-time writer, Pepper has earned recognition with awards for best Dark Romance, best BDSM Series, and best Dark Hero. She’s an #1 iBooks bestseller, along with #1 in Erotic Romance, Romantic Suspense, Contemporary, and Erotica Thriller. She’s also honoured to wear the IndieReader Badge for being a Top 10 Indie Bestseller, and recently signed a two book deal with Hachette. Represented by Trident Media, her books have garnered foreign and audio interest and are currently being translated into numerous languages. They will be in available in bookstores worldwide.

She loves to travel and has an amazing, fabulous hubby who puts up with her love affair with her book boyfriends.

Book Review: All The Little Pieces by Jilliane Hoffman

"She could have stopped an awful crime. She could have saved a life. She tried to forget about it. But now, the truth is out.

The terrifying new psychological thriller from the bestselling author of Retribution and Pretty Little Things.

Faith Saunders is the perfect wife, mother and sister – loved and admired by all who know her. One night will change everything.

As she drives home in the pouring rain, a dishevelled young woman appears out of nowhere, pleading for help. The isolated stretch of road is dark, and with her four-year-old daughter Maggie asleep in the backseat, Faith refuses to let the stranger in. What she sees next will haunt her forever.

When the missing-person posters go up, Faith's guilt consumes her. Then the girl's body turns up, and her perfect life begins to unravel. Because it turns out Maggie wasn't asleep that night and – unlike her mother – she's not afraid to speak up.

Maggie's testimony leads to an arrest, but Faith is the only one who can identify a second man who was at the scene of the crime. She has one chance to convince a jury of what happened. If she fails, two murderers will go free – two men who have killed before and who will undoubtedly kill again. And they know exactly where to find Faith and her family…"

Distraught after a fight at her sister’s house which concluded in Charity kicking her and Maggie out, Faith takes her four-year-old daughter and begins the almost two hour drive home until a storm of epic proportions causes her to pull over to sit out the unrelenting rain. Having somehow become lost, Faith finds herself in what looks like a ghost town amongst the sugar cane fields!

Exhausted and a little under the influence, she nods off in the driver’s seat. When she is woken by tapping on her window she is confronted by a bedraggled young woman begging for help. As Faith struggles with her conscience, a man appears and leads the woman away from her car. Unable to make an emergency call because in her haste to leave she had forgotten her handbag and phone at Charity’s house, the fear for her and Maggie’s safety wins out and she drives off.

Once home, she doesn’t tell her husband Derrick what has happened and neither does she call the police to report it but a few days later when Maggie sees the face of the woman on a television news broadcast, she informs her father that it’s the lady her mother wouldn’t let in the car.

Meanwhile, Detective Bryan Nill, a divorced homicide detective has a few dead bodies on his hands and is trying his utmost to solve the crimes with no leads, no witnesses, nada, nothing! Until he discovers that Faith and her daughter were out there that night and saw the killer.

As his investigation continues, Faith is drawn in with the hope that she will be able to assist in identifying this inhuman monster. Instead, she impedes it by not quite revealing everything to the police - until Detective Nill makes a macabre discovery.

With her life continuing to spiral out of control and the constant conflict between her and Derrick causing even more tension, I found myself asking whether she’d ever find her way out of the dark abyss of secrets and lies that were threatening to swallow her or, if eventually, she would just become another victim!

This is the first time I have had the pleasure of reading a Jilliane Hoffman novel but it won’t be my last. One of the things I especially appreciated was that Ms Hoffman expands on the acronyms she uses throughout the novel which, for me, went a long way in helping this international reader to gain more insight into the departments who assist in the investigation side of things.

Her characters are well drawn and the fact that she has written this story from various perspectives, including those of Faith, Bryan and Derrick (amongst others) gives the whole story great depth and understanding about where these characters have been, what has been happening in their lives and what their motives are. In particular, I connected with Faith in terms of her fear and anguish although there were a number of times where I found myself questioning her actions.

Overall, this was a great read which I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a novel with a shrewd and menacing serial killer. The plot is clever with a lot of twists and turns, Ms Hoffman’s pacing is impeccable helping to keep the tension taught and her great balance of drama and suspense will not only have you hooked from the very first page but also asking yourself “What Would I Do?”.

I wish to thank HarperCollins Australia for providing me with a hard copy for review.

About the Author

Jilliane Hoffman began her professional career as an Assistant State Attorney prosecuting felonies in Florida from 1992 to 1996, with special assignments to the Domestic Violence Unit and the Legal Extradition Unit.

Through 2001, she was the Regional Legal Adviser for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), advising more than one hundred special agents on criminal and civil matters in complex investigations involving narcotics, homicide, and organised crime.

Originally from Long Island, New York, she presently resides in South Florida with her husband and two children.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Aussie Book Review: The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop

“Cambridge, 1963.

Charlotte is struggling. With motherhood, with the changes marriage and parenthood bring, with losing the time and the energy to paint. Her husband, Henry, wants things to be as they were and can't face the thought of another English winter.

A brochure slipped through the letterbox slot brings him the answer: 'Australia brings out the best in you'.

Despite wanting to stay in the place that she knows, Charlotte is too worn out to fight. Before she has a chance to realise what it will mean, she is travelling to the other side of the world. Arriving in Perth, the southern sun shines a harsh light on both Henry and Charlotte and slowly reveals that their new life is not the answer either was hoping for. Charlotte is left wondering if there is anywhere she belongs and how far she'll go to find her way home . . .”

It’s been a number of weeks since I finished this novel and I still find myself stumbling over my thoughts and having difficulty formulating a review. It's a book that I thought would be an easy read and I was so looking forward to cracking open the stunning cover, thinking that I had finally found a story that I could relate to on an even more personal level with the subject of being an immigrant at its core.

It’s so much more than that though because I found myself face-to-face with possibly one of the most complex characters I have ever come across and one whom I came to dislike intensely.

As most of you that read my reviews know, character is one of the most important elements of fiction to me and, although I did find common ground between myself and Charlotte in terms of nostalgia, the sheer plethora of emotion that an immigrant experiences as well as the depression from which she quite obviously suffers (particularly in the first half of the book), during the second half I just found her to be rather ungrateful and whiny as she constantly wallowed in self-pity. I also just couldn’t comprehend the way she felt about her children and the manner in which she treated them. Don’t get me wrong, speaking from experience, immigration is by no means a walk in the park and I understand that everyone navigates it in a different manner, with some unable to settle in a new land, but at the end of the day it’s what we make of it.

Perhaps this was Stephanie Bishop's aim all along when she created Charlotte, but it was for these reasons and the fact that the depths of her despair became so loud that I found myself unable to fully connect with her. Despite these misgivings and the fact that Charlotte made me uncomfortable (or perhaps because of it?), I was already hooked by the writing. 

Inspired by her grandparents own story and almost veering into psychological suspense territory as she explores themes of the fragility of relationships, depression, displacement and identity, Stephanie's writing is eloquent, her sense of place very retro and strong, her style evocative and it was these things that drew me into this melancholy novel set in 1960’s England and Australia. I only wish the ending hadn't been so ambiguous!

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

About the Author

A stunning emerging Australian writer, Stephanie Bishop's first novel was The Singing, for which she was named one of the Sydney Morning Herald's Best Young Australian Novelists. The Singing was also highly commended for the Kathleen Mitchell Award. The Other Side of the World, her second novel, was recently shortlisted for the 2014 Australian/Vogel's Literary Award under the title Dream England.

Stephanie's fiction and poetry have appeared in Southerly, Overland and Island and she is a frequent contributor to The Times Literary Supplement, The Australian, The Sydney Review of Books, The Australian Book Review and the Sydney Morning Herald.

She is a recipient of an Australia Council New Work Grant, and Asialink Fellowship, and Australian Society of Authors Mentorship, a Varuna Mentorship Fellowship and Varuna Residency Fellowship.

She holds a PhD from Cambridge and is currently a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of New South Wales.

Stephanie is currently at work on two new projects - a third novel and a collection of essays.

She lives in Sydney.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Aussie Book Review: Blog Tour - A Time to Run by JM Peace

"The hunt is on


A madman is kidnapping women to hunt them for sport.


Detective Janine Postlewaite leads the investigation into the disappearance of Samantha Willis, determined not to let another innocent die on her watch.


The killer's newest prey isn't like the others. Sammi is a cop. And she refuses to be his victim.


A stunning, tautly written thriller from police officer turned writer, J.M. Peace."

From the grim Prologue to the nail-biting conclusion, this novel with take you on a thrill ride as our Protagonist is put through her paces – in more ways than one.

With a looming feeling of inevitability after the opening, we are introduced to Samantha Willis (Sammi). The last thing she is expecting after an argument with her boyfriend, Gavin, sees her slamming out of their house and going to her best friend in Brisbane, is to be deserted by Candy in favour of two good-looking blokes out for a good time - then again, she should have expected it from Candy who is a fun-loving, party animal who loves men and booze.

In the early hours of the morning, after being dragged to another pub and indulging in her own company while Candy rips it up on the dance-floor, she rejects advances made by the over-friendly barman and decides to make her way back to her best friend’s apartment to get some sleep. 

Waiting outside for her taxi to arrive, the barman, taking off after his shift, approaches her and offers a lift. Somewhat reluctantly she accepts.

When she doesn't arrive home the following day to carry out her shift, Gavin raises the alarm after which the reader is thrown into Sammi’s fight for survival and the police attempts to find her.

As Detective Janine Postlethwaite finds herself heading an investigation where similarities between unresolved cases and this one arise, Sammi has already been plunged into a game of life and death with the kidnapper raising the stakes by putting her on the clock!

Wow! That’s all I can say!! A serving member of the Queensland Police Service, JM Peace (simply known as “Jay”) has given us a tense crime novel that is authentic in both its Queensland setting and police work. 

It’s not often that we catch a glimpse into the lives of our Australian cops as they go about their work and Jay’s years of experience in the service have gained her an advantage as she portrays the detail surrounding their investigative processes and procedures. Her attention to detail, rather than simply adding arduous padding to the narrative, adds an educational element as she puts her cop background to good use but, it was the terrifying situation that Sammi found herself in, along with her compelling voice, that drew me in.

I really liked that Jay has structured the novel with chapters and scenes broken down into time-frames. Signalling changes in point of view and time shifts, these chapter and scene breaks make the story flow seamlessly, keeping it going at a steady pace and increasing the tension as the clock counts down.

Sammi is a sharp-witted and resourceful protagonist; our villain is smart and cunning as he engages her in the ultimate game of cat and mouse but Detective Janine Postlethwaite is a force to be reckoned with.

An absorbing plot filled with tension, this is a cross-country race of a debut that is sure to thrill you making it quite obvious that Jay has not only written what she knows but about a job that she is passionate about.

I wish to thank Pan MacMillan Australia for providing me with a hard copy of the novel for review and inviting me to be a part of this Blog Tour.

About the Author

J.M. Peace is a serving police officer who would rather be writing about policing.

Over the past 15 years, she has served throughout south-east Queensland in a variety of different capacities. 

Her voice of authority shines through in her debut crime thriller, A Time To Run.

Jay has also written various short stories, blogs regularly about policing and writing and is currently working on her second novel.

She lives on the Sunshine Coast, juggling writing and police work with raising two kids along with her partner.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Aussie Book Review: The Homestead Girls by Fiona McArthur

“Moving to the outback to join the Flying Doctors will change Billie's life forever.

After her teenage daughter Mia falls in with the wrong crowd, Dr Billie Green decides it's time to leave the city and return home to far western NSW. When an opportunity to pursue her childhood dream of joining the Flying Doctor Service comes along, she  jumps at the chance. Flight nurse Daphne Prince – who is thrilled to have another woman join the otherwise male crew – and their handsome new boss, Morgan Blake, instantly make her feel welcome.

Just out of town, drought-stricken grazier Soretta Byrnes has been struggling to make ends meet and has opened her homestead to boarders. Tempted by its faded splendour and beautiful outback setting, Billie, Mia and Daphne decide to move in and the four of them are soon joined by eccentric eighty-year-old Lorna Lamerton.

The unlikely housemates are cautious at first, but soon they are offering each other frank advice and staunch support as they tackle medical emergencies, romantic adventures and the challenges of growing up and getting older. But when one of their lives is threatened, the strong friendship they have forged will face the ultimate test . . .

A heartwarming story of friendship, courage and compassion in the outback from internationally bestselling author Fiona McArthur.”

Fiona McArthur first appeared on my radar with the publication in 2014 of her first contemporary fiction novel , Red Sand Sunrise (my review here). Now, whenever I feel like journeying to the ochre and brown glory of the outback with its special brand of people, I know she’ll take me there.

Told mainly through the eyes of her characters, Billie, a doctor, looking for somewhere that she can raise Mia (her teenaged daughter) without the dangers of city living and one that she can at last call home; Daphne, a nurse who has had her own fair share of life’s hard knocks; and Soretta who is battling to keep her grandfather’s station afloat in the wake of a farm accident, Fiona gives us five strong women who bring to life the remote areas of Australia and its people, showing us how they go out of their way to help one another even when they themselves are facing hardship.

Drawing on her extensive medical experience, Fiona also highlights the importance of the RFDS (Royal Flying Doctor Service) and the significant part they play in servicing those areas where our remote counterparts’ very lives depend on them.

Whilst balancing the story with the private lives of her characters who seek so much more than merely existing and the drought which has stricken so many of our farmers, The Homestead Girls provides a rare look into the everyday lives of our RFDS doctors, nurses and pilots and I particularly enjoyed the insight she gives into the tasks that these Angels of the sky carry out on a daily basis.

Ultimately two sweet love stories with a hint of suspense set against the backdrop of Broken Hill and its surrounds, Fiona weaves the colours of the outback into an inspirational and tender-hearted story about life-affirming friendship, outback community life and love in the open skies of Australia.

I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a hard copy for review.

About the Author

Fiona McArthur has worked as a rural midwife for many years. She is a clinical midwifery educator, mentors midwifery students, and is involved with obstetric emergency education for midwives and doctors from all over Australia.

Fiona's love of writing has seen her sell over two million books in twelve languages. She's been a midwifery expert for Mother & Baby magazine and is the author of the non-fiction works The Don't Panic Guide to Birth and Breech Baby: A Guide for Parents.

She lives on an often swampy farm in northern New South Wales with her husband, some livestock, and a blue heeler named Reg. She's constantly taking photographs of sunrise and sunset and loves that researching her books allows her to travel to remote places.

A Little About the RFDS

The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (RFDS) is one of the largest and most comprehensive aeromedical organisations in the world. Using the latest in aviation, medical and communications technology, it delivers extensive primary health care and 24-hour emergency service to those who live, work and travel throughout Australia.

The RFDS is a not-for-profit organisation. While supported by the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, the RFDS relies heavily on fundraising and donations from the community to purchase and medically-equip its aircraft, and to finance other major capital initiatives. Today, the RFDS has a fleet of 63 aircraft operating from 21 bases located across the nation and provides medical assistance to over 290,000 people every year – that’s one every two minutes.

If you would like to know more about supporting this much-needed organisation, please go here.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Aussie Book Review: Six Degrees by Honey Brown

“Weaving an intricate web of interconnected characters and their six stories, Six Degrees explores the powerful role sexual attraction plays in everyday life.

Written by Honey Brown, best selling author of several critically acclaimed novels, Six Degrees is Honey’s first exploit into rural romance.

Strong female protagonists lead a cast of characters with lives we recognize and know, crossing paths in intimate, surprising and erotic ways. The ripple effect of one tragic event shapes each character’s experiences, but in the end it is their individual need for connection that truly binds them.

Six Degrees uses the allure, the action or the absence of physical connection to explore these everyday character’s flaws, quirks and strengths. For the first time, Honey has made sexual attraction the intriguing hero of each story.”

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” – Anais Nin

Having been a huge fan of Honey Brown’s psychological suspense novels for some time now, I was genuinely intrigued when I was asked to review this latest by her. A bold deviation from her usually dark suspense-filled novels, Honey explains that “After 50 Shades of Grey and the flood of erotic literature, I was frustrated. So few of the characters hit the mark for me. I was craving some relatable sexuality – female characters that brought their own brand of sex to the table and male characters that were more than the suit and tie they wore”.

Told with an engaging and emotive voice in her signature style, Six Degrees by Honey Brown is an exploration of sexuality and how one seemingly unconnected incident brings this normal, everyday cast of relatable characters together. It is a sensual and provocative read that had me feeling slightly voyeuristic as I was given a deeper insight into the most intimate parts of her characters’ lives.

With simply headed introductions, giving the reader an indication as to what to expect, Honey has separated her story into six journeys, allowing her to explore her characters’ feelings and motives. Infused with an atmosphere of erotically-charged tension and the slow burn and release of their deepest desires, she slowly begins to wrap the reader in an intoxicating and sensual bubble, with realistic characters who are each vulnerable in their own way – from unsure to shy, unfulfilled, bold and lost - arousing sexual desire in all of them as they yearn for fulfilment and seek solace in the only way they know how and, sometimes, in ways they didn’t think were possible.

Her aptitude for placing on paper the depth of human emotion and extracting feelings of desire and sensuality from her reader, is exceptional and in the hands of this astute and skilled author, this is erotica at its best – as decadent and indulgent as the softest of chocolate melting in your mouth.

An intimate read, it’s one with characters who are unapologetic about their sexual preferences and should be read with an open mind. The difference between Honey’s version of erotic romance and everyone else’s is that the storyline and the emotions invoked make it so much more than just about the sex.

For those who enjoy well-written erotic fiction and are looking for an intoxicating escape in the wake of your disappointment with Fifty Shades of Grey, give this one a go. It's pure carnal pleasure without the dominance!

I wish to thank Ventura Press (formerly Jane Curry Publishing) for providing me with a hard copy ARC for review.

About the Author

Honey Brown lives in country Victoria, Australia, with her husband and two teenage children. She began writing in 2000 and is the author of five critically acclaimed novels. Before settling down to raise a family she worked and lived in various remote places throughout Australia. She spent her childhood in Campbell Town, Tasmania, growing up in the convict built “Mill House”.

Better suited to the world beyond the classroom, Honey left school in year 11. Some of the more memorable jobs she recalls over the years include her time working as a barmaid at the infamous Kalgoorlie pubs, caretaking an isolated Trout Farm in the Snowy Mountains, and scallop shucking in tropical North Queensland.

Active and a keen bushwalker, a life-changing blow came for Honey in her late-twenties when she was involved in a farm accident. The resulting spinal injury left her confined to a wheelchair. Honey turned to writing as a way back from the trauma and the depression that followed.

Candid about the tough road back from acquiring a disability, Honey now focuses her energy on writing, traveling with her family and engaging in the promotional side of being a popular novelist.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Aussie Book Review: Secrets of Whitewater Creek by Sarah Barrie

“Jordan must save her farm from debt and sabotage – can she place her trust in a man from out of town?

Born and bred on the land, Jordan Windcroft is brave and independent. She's had to be. Her life revolves around running her property almost single-handedly on next to no money, and waiting out her four years of probation — a rap that she took for one of her closest friends for a crime she didn’t commit.

Thankfully there's an end to her problems in sight. Jordan’s probation period is almost up, and if she can just make the cattle sale, there’s a chance she can pull herself out of more than ten years of serious debt and keep her precious farm. The last thing she needs is for Reid Easton to start monitoring her.

Detective Senior Sergeant Reid Easton drives into Whitewater Creek on a mission to wrap up a three-year drug investigation; his only lead, Jordan Windcroft. The attraction between the two is immediate, but Reid is undercover and Jordan has a secret she can’t risk him discovering. Will either jeopardise their cause, for something as transitory as love – or will they keep their secrets to themselves?”

Originally published as Deadly Secrets in 2014, Secrets of Whitewater Creek by Sarah Barrie is an atmospheric romantic suspense centering around Jordan Windcroft, a young woman who, four years ago took the fall for a friend and was convicted for possession of illicit drugs. The little town’s darling, she’s also been struggling to keep her farm afloat since her parents died in a tragic accident and is trying to get enough money together to keep it out of the clutches of the town bully, a corrupt retired judge.

Her probation is about to come to an end when DSS Reid Easton arrives. Reid, a drug squad cop has come to town under cover as her replacement probation officer in the hopes that this is his last stop in wrapping up the investigation he’s been running for the last three years and isn’t interested in the small town politics that keep his suspect protected by its residents. He’s got a job to do and do it he will!

This has been on my TBR for quite some time now but I finally got there. While it’s probably not one of the best romantic suspense novels I’ve had the opportunity to read and review, I still enjoyed the strong characters, the setting and the element of suspense.

Jordan is a soft-hearted, animal-loving protagonist who is also feisty, strong, proud and has attitude - lots of it – which comes through so strongly in both the dialogue and her interactions that I found myself consistently comparing her to Stevie from McLeod’s Daughters.

I enjoyed the character of Reid who is admirable in his battle to bring down anyone who deals in drugs, although the reason behind this incredible desire only becomes clear quite late in the novel.

The villain in this story managed to freak me out because he is given his own viewpoint and isn’t merely a caricature. This, as well as the anonymous messages left for Jordan, serves to heighten the tension in the novel because as the reader we get to see his craftiness, what he wants and why he wants it. For me there was no suspension of disbelief because the situation that Jordan finds herself in could so easily happen. While I give Sarah points for his characterisation, as a reader, I felt that the climax was a tad drawn out and I was left somewhat frustrated.

Despite my misgivings on certain aspects relating to structure, I did enjoy the story and couldn't wait to find out whether the hero and heroine got their happily ever after.

On the whole, Sarah writes well giving us a great sense of place. She has delivered a suspenseful novel that I would certainly recommend and I look forward to reading further contributions from her to the literary world in the future.

I wish to thank Harlequin Australia for providing me with a hard copy for review.

About the Author

Sarah Barrie lives with her husband and children in a rural area on the Central Coast of NSW.

She divides her time between writing, being a mum and her position as editor of an Australian equestrian magazine.

When she finds a spare moment or two, she enjoys spending time with her Arabian horses and the various other  animals that call the farm home.

Though her writing career has traditionally  revolved around producing articles for various publications, her true passion  lies in fiction and she enjoys writing contemporary romance, romantic suspense and paranormal romance.

Aussie Book Review: The Pirate Lord by Vanda Vadas

“Can love for his beautiful, aristocratic captive rescue Miles from his lust for revenge?

A family tragedy steeped in deceit and betrayal saw Lady Eloise Blakely vow never to fall victim to a man's charms, let alone invite him into her bed. Until fate swept her aboard a pirate's ship and into its captain's embrace.

Yet when he reveals a dark secret, her lover becomes her enemy . . .

Ten years ago, Miles Zachary Fenton was framed for murder. For so long he has fought to clear his name and reclaim his dukedom. Now, when both appear to be just within reach, he is forced to abduct a meddling beauty, one who wreaks havoc with his emotions and complicates his plans . . . “

To Zach, life is about hate and revenge – to take ownership of what is rightfully his. Having been exiled after his father died, he comes back to England to exact that revenge but the beautiful emerald-eyed Eloise comes between him and his entitlements, changing his game plan.

Stubborn and fiercely independent, when Eloise loses her sight in a fall after trying to follow the masked man that appeared outside at her birthday celebrations, she is thrust into not only a dark world but one in which she unwillingly becomes a pawn in a game where there can only be one winner.

Little do both of them know that the sparks of smouldering desire are about to be fanned, igniting flames of all-consuming passion that not even the blue waters of the Caribbean will be able to douse! But will the tragedy that connects them bring them together or forever tear them apart?

I’d like to just start out this review by saying that it’s been a while since I read such a deep and absorbing historical romance and I’m so glad that I was given the opportunity to discover this debut Australian author who, on her website, promises “an earnest endeavour to deliver a memorable love story with characters who will remain in your heart long after you’ve read the last word”.

With that in mind, Vanda Vadas has certainly kept to her end of the bargain and burst onto the literary scene with a bang by penning this passionate, adventure-filled and sexy historical romance with well fleshed out characters, a devious villian and adventure both on and off the high seas.

Her main characters are ones you can just fall in love with whilst those secondary to the story are just as well-crafted, specifically Eloise's brother Julian and Zach's right-hand man, Seth.

Zach, our hero, turned out to be a man after my own heart – he is tender, kind-hearted, sympathetic and oh so ruggedly sexy with those obsidian eyes and long raven hair, all traits that his captive will fast come to realise she can't resist.

Eloise, too, is a wonderful character. She is not only beautiful but feisty, strong-willed and passionate, so it’s no wonder Zach has his work cut out for him when he captures her and whisks her away to his ship following her brother’s search for her.

Written in an elegant style, with word choices fitting the era and secondary characters who you will either come to love or hate, Vanda paints such a vivid picture of life in those times, skilfully weaving in intrigue, perfidy and jealousy and lacing it all up with compelling sexual and emotional tension, that it’s hard to believe this is her debut novel.

With its striking cover, it’s a story that is sure to captivate an audience eager to partake in a new historical romance and I wish to thank Penguin Random House Australia for providing me with an eGalley proof of this novel.

About the Author

Before residing in Australia, Vanda's birthplace and early childhood years were spent in Papua New Guinea.

At the age of eleven, a holiday in England sparked an interest in the days of old. Castles, ruins and discovering Jane Austen novels inspired a life-long interest in all things historical, a passion that later kick-started Vanda's desire to write historical romance.

Vanda has studied and worked in the field of Education, teaching Literacy and Numeracy to children and adults. She's also worked as a PA, a recruitment consultant and now in home furnishings.

Her two children, of whom she is immensely proud, have flown the coop and are successfully making their own way in the world.

Vanda and her husband live on the Gold Coast in Queensland where they enjoy walks along world-renowned beaches or a quiet getaway to the lush hills of the Hinterland.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Aussie Book Review: Crystal Creek by Charlotte Nash

“Will a placement at Townsville's army base hold the key to medical student Christina's past - and perhaps her future?

Aspiring medical student Christina Price has worked hard to rise above an upbringing filled with neglect and the assumption that she would never amount to anything. She promised herself she was never going back - could never go back - to Townsville, where she'd been bullied and betrayed as a young teenager. But when a twist of fate lands her on practical placement in a clinic on the Townsville army base, she must confront past hurts if she wants to succeed and, just maybe, find love.

Captain Aiden Bell is used to hard work, and to the life of an army officer: base-hopping and deploying overseas. His career has taken an emotional toll that he hasn't dealt with, until meeting Christina stirs memories, desire - and hope.

At Crystal Creek, can facing your past give love a chance?”

“… people who trust each other and expect there’ll be some hard times seem to do better than the ones with rose-tinted glasses.” – Crystal Creek

When Christina Price’s medical rotation in Brisbane falls through, she finds herself having to take a placement at the Townsville Army Base’s medical clinic. Of all the places she never wanted to go back to, it is Townsville, where the reasons for the breakdown of her relationship with aunt Harriett are still unclear and memories of bullying school children linger around every corner. Christina’s life has always been one of survival and, while trying to do so, on the smell of an oily rag, she is both committed and dedicated to finishing her degree even if a bit conflicted about returning. 

Captain Aiden Bell is posted at the Townsville Army Base – for the time being. Currently doing a stint coordinating a disaster relief exercise, he’s never in one place for too long but this posting has created an opportunity to be closer to his sister, Dani, a doctor at the nearby hospital whose wedding date is looming.

The attraction between them is instant and one kiss at Crystal Creek, a place that has always been just a fantasy to Christina, leaves them unable to stop thinking about one another even with the emotional baggage that has left them with scars both internally and externally. The last thing either of them wants is a relationship.

As Christina battles to study, complete assignments and eek out a living to support herself and Aiden fights his inner hurt, disillusionment and the fact that his deployment overseas is imminent, the attraction between them grows stronger.

I’ve wanted to read a Charlotte Nash novel for a long while now, but for some or other reason, I haven’t done so - until Crystal Creek. Wow, what a book – and what a gifted writer.

I was so impressed that I literally inhaled it, thoroughly enjoying the characters of both Aiden and Christina as I found myself connecting with both of them on an emotional level.

Deliciously handsome with a tattoo that stretches from his bicep over his chest (yes, I'm a self-confessed lover of skin art on men), Aiden seems like he is just all hard edges. On the inside though, he is kind, caring, considerate and respectful with the softest of hearts.

While he’s had his fair share of painful experiences, Christina’s story is by no means light. The daughter of an alcoholic mother who bore witness to, and became a victim of Rachael’s dysfunctional life, was also a casualty of bullying at school. Stubborn, proud and determined, she is driven to succeed and prove to all the people who said she would never amount to anything that they were so very wrong about her!

All of this (and more) is revealed as Charlotte skilfully peels back their layers to reveal two human beings who have experienced deep hurt, humiliation and disappointment that makes them feel like they don’t belong anywhere and, as they wade through the quagmire of old grief, letting go of the past and finding something constant to hold onto, it packs a punch in the emotional gut of the reader.

Romantic, heart-warming and engaging, Charlotte’s writing is assured and has a spark that left me wanting more.

I wish to thank Hachette Australia for providing me with a hard copy of this book for review.

About the Author

Charlotte Nash was born in England and grew up in the Redland Shire of Brisbane with a love for horses and heavy machinery, later studying both engineering and medicine (some of which on an army base).

She subsequently worked for the CSIRO and for private industry, which included building rockets and visiting mine sties and ports across Australia.

These days, she is a technical writer and fiction author, and teaches creative writing at the University of Queensland in the community.

Crystal Creek is her third novel.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Aussie Book Review: Northern Heat by Helene Young

“In steamy northern Queensland, Conor is rebuilding his shattered life. Working at Cooktown's youth centre has given him the chance to make a difference again, and the opportunity to flirt with Dr Kristy Dark. The local GP is hiding her own secrets and struggling to raise her feisty teenage daughter alone.

When a severe cyclone menaces the coast, threatening to destroy everything in its path, tensions come to a head – and the weather is not the only danger. Cut off from the world and with her life on the line, Kristy will have to summon her courage and place her trust in Conor, or they'll both lose someone they love.”

When I picked up this latest by award-winning romance writer Helene Young I hadn’t realised that it was very loosely linked to her previous novel Safe Harbour (my review here), so what a delightful surprise it was to discover that the mysterious stranded sailor who had crossed paths with Darcy and Noah was going to get his own story.

Conor isn't known for staying in one place for too long, preferring to drift around on his boat and, whilst grieving the loss of the two most important people in his life, plot his revenge whilst discovering the identity of the perpetrator. It doesn’t help that when he becomes involved in a murder case merely by trying to offer assistance, his suspicions are heightened when attempts to clear his name reveal that there may be links between this murder and that of his loved ones. He just hadn't counted on the complication of intense attraction to Kristy Dark.

Unlike Conor who prefers to drift from place to place, Dr Kristy Dark has sought the solace of the northern heat after the break-up of her abusive marriage, to not only give her daughter the stability that she needs, but to help heal her own wounds. The last thing she wants is for a man to come into her life and unbalance everything she’s worked so hard at. Even though he has been implicated in a murder, Conor threatens to do just that and she can’t help but feel that there is far more to this man than meets the eye.

As the mother of all storms closes in on the small town, the danger intensifies as Conor tries to clear his name, Kristy’s daughter disappears to help a friend in need and a deranged killer sets Kristy in his sights. In the heat of the storm will Conor be able to save both himself and Kristy so that they can let go of their broken pasts and build a future?

It just makes my day when Helene Young releases a new romantic suspense because I can always count on her bringing a sense of reality to her stories, relatable characters in whom I can become emotionally invested, nail-biting suspense, a good dose of romance and social issues prevalent in our society of today.

A pilot by profession, Helene writes with the self-assuredness that goes with “knowing what you write” and has always injected doses of realism into her stories by giving us heroes and heroines with flying as their background. Now, in Northern Heat, that realism turns to her experiences on board her floating home, Roo Bin Esque, helping her add to the story by giving us a hero with a sailing background and I thoroughly enjoyed this deviation.

Helene touches on so many things in this novel such as grief and the way different people deal with it, the raising of teenage girls (and all the “distress” that goes with it), the frighteningly real issue of domestic violence (both psychological and physical) and the way a partner can isolate a victim from all those they hold dear.

In terms of the characters, Abby and Sissy had me thinking of my own thirteen-year old daughter, making her observations spot-on with regard to behaviour, peer-pressure, social media and everything else that goes with the raising of teenage girls.

Both Conor and Kristy are emotionally bruised and battered people who we can only hope will get out of the storm unscathed. They are brilliantly portrayed and I really loved the caring friendship between Kristy and Freya – another woman who has suffered domestic abuse. A subject close to my heart after growing up in a home in which I witnessed the devastating effects of this abuse whereafter a woman very close to me went into a marriage where she unwittingly became isolated from her own family, Helene tackles it with grace and sensitivity.

A fierce storm, societal issues and some heated romance blended with gripping suspense, which saw me flipping pages as fast as I could, make this possibly one of my top ten reads of 2015 with Helene Young fast making her mark on becoming Australia’s romantic suspense queen.

I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a hard copy for review.

About the Author

Helene Young lives aboard a catamaran moored near the Great Barrier Reef in the Coral Sea and shares her sailing adventures with her husband, Capt G.

She recently took a leave of absence from her role as a Regional Flying Manager but her work as a former senior captain with a major regional airline took her all over Australia and she drew inspiration for her stories from the communities she visited.

Helene won the Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Book of the Year Award in 2001 and 2012. She was also voted favourite romantic suspense author by the Australian Romance Readers Association in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 and was shortlisted for the same award in 2012.

In what other spare time she has, she conducts writing workshops with QWC, schools and other writing organisations.

She is also custodian of several million bees, a lover of tropical gardens and an avid reader.