Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Announcement | Winner | Fearless by Fiona Higgins

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

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



You have been selected as the winner.

Please could you contact me at marcia@bookmusterdownunder.com.au with your postal address details.

To everyone else who entered, a big THANK YOU.

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

Until next time!

Friday, 11 November 2016

Blog Tour | Guest Post | Fleur McDonald

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Today, this (mostly) isn’t the case.

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

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

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

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

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

About the Book

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

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

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

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

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

Booktopia    iBooks    Kindle

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

Twitter    Facebook    Instagram

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Book Review | The Better Son | Katherine Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Book

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Book Review & Giveaway | Fearless | Fiona Higgins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

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

About the Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of Luck!!!

Monday, 7 November 2016

Blog Tour | Guest Post | Anna Romer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's a full list of blog tour participants:

Enjoy and happy hopping!


"Writing is the Painting of the Voice" - Voltaire

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

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

                               Bottle by Anna Romer

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

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

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

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

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

About the Book

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

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

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

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

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

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