Giveaway: Heart of the Country by Tricia Stringer

I’m delighted to have 2 copies of Tricia Stringer‘s latest novel, Heart of the Country, to giveaway today, courtesy of Harlequin Australia. I met Tricia last month when she visited my local library with the Australian Voices in Print Tour and spoke about Heart of the Country, the first novel in an epic historical saga of three Australian families.

Spanning several generations, this epic tells the story of the Baker, Smith and Wiltshire families forging their paths in a land both beautiful and unforgiving.
Lives are intertwined by love and community then ripped apart by hate and greed but remain always bound to the land they love…
1846. Newly arrived from England, Thomas Baker is young, penniless and alone. Eager to make his mark on this strange new place called South Australia, he accepts work as an overseer on a distant sheep property, believing this will be the opportunity he seeks. But when Thomas’s path crosses that of ex-convict, Septimus Wiltshire — a grasping con man hell bent on making a new life for himself and his family at any price — trouble is on the horizon.
But Thomas is made of stern stuff and his fortunes take a turn for the better when he meets spirited farmer’s daughter Lizzie Smith, and soon he envisages their future together.
But this land is like no other he has encountered: both harsh and lovely, it breaks all but the strongest. When his nemesis intervenes once more and drought comes, Thomas finds himself tested almost beyond endurance with the risk of losing everything he and Lizzie have worked for… even their lives.

Read an Extract

GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of Harlequin, I have

2 print editions of

 Heart of the Country by Tricia Stringer 

to giveaway to two lucky Australian residents.

Leave a comment on this post and then

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Review: The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham

 

Title: The Night Ferry

Author: Michael Robotham

Published: Mulholland Books July 2015

Status: Read from July 18-19 – I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Review to come

“Struggling detective Alisha Barba is trying to get her life back on track after almost being crippled by a murder suspect. Now on her feet again she receives a desperate plea from an old school friend, who is eight months pregnant and in trouble. On the night they arrange to meet, her friend is run down and killed by a car and Alisha discovers the first in a series of haunting and tragic deceptions.
Determined to uncover the truth, she embarks upon a dangerous journey that will take her from the East End of London’s to Amsterdam’s murky red light district and into a violent underworld of sex trafficking, slavery and exploitation.”

Available to purchase from

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Blog Tour: A Time To Run by J.M. Peace

 

jm-peace-c-sheree-tomlinson-webI’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for debut novelist J.M. Peace today, introducing A Time To Run. 

An avid reader and writer from an early age, JM Peace wanted to be a writer. So she studied journalism figuring this would be a way of turning a passion into a job. Her career as a print journalist failed after a single year, and the experience completely sucked the joy out of writing for her. So she took a complete change of direction and became a police officer. Over the past 15 years, she has served throughout south-east Queensland in a variety of different capacities, including Intelligence and CIB. After her children were born, the dangers and stresses of the job made it unappealing. In the search for a new career path, she returned to her childhood dream. Carving a spare hour out of every day, she wrote the manuscript for A Time To Run whilst juggling her family commitments, police work and running a household. Jay currently lives on the Sunshine Coast with her partner, wrangling her two cheeky children, a badly behaved dog and an anti-social cockatiel.

Set in the Queensland bush, A Time to Run is a tense, gritty crime thriller featuring a cop-turned-victim and a chilling serial killer.

A GRUESOME GAME
A madman is kidnapping women to hunt them for sport.
A FRANTIC SEARCH
Detective Janine Postlewaite leads the investigation into the disappearance of Samantha Willis, determined not to let another innocent die on her watch.
A SHOCKING TWIST
The killer’s newest prey isn’t like the others. Sammi is a cop. And she refuses to be his victim.
A RUN FOR YOUR LIFE”

Please read on to learn more about J.M Peace and A Time to Run

*****

Why a Serial Killer?

My book involves a serial killer. I feel somehow inadequate by saying this. It seems like a bit of a cliché – that one murder is not enough these days, that you have to raise the body count. But it was the way the story unfolded and I’d like to explain why.

In my early twenties, I went backpacking around the world travelling solo a lot of the time. Yes, I used to hitchhike (shh, don’t tell my mum), and I put myself into some astoundingly stupid situations. If the wrong person had found me at the wrong time, things could have turned out very badly for me. It was before the days of email and global interconnectivity. I don’t know how long it would have been before I would have been reported as ‘missing’.

ivanmilat

Ivan Milat convicted of the Belangalo State Forest Murders

This was around about the same time that backpackers were being dispatched in Belanglo State Forest. When I got home nearly four years later, I read a bit about the Belanglo crimes. This is where the seed of the idea for this story began, with this question – what if it had been me? What if I had naively climbed into the wrong car and been taken out to some secluded forest by a psychopath? What would I have done? Could I have possibly survived it?

The story bounced around in my head for years. I used to dream up all sorts of possibilities. Could I have killed him? How? How could I have escaped? Who could find me? Could I trust them? These musings were still going on when became a police officer. This added a dimension to my ponderings. Would being a police officer give me an edge with my imaginary madman? What sort of advantage? What had I learnt as a cop which could help me?

After a few failed attempts at writing children’s stories, I realised I should be writing crime. And in a bit of a light bulb moment, I realised this story that I had been prodding at for years was the one I should write. It was just a matter of choosing which storyline was most engaging and believable. And so A Time To Run was born. The plot was pretty much in place before I even sat down at a keyboard. As I wrote the dual storylines of the abduction and the investigation, I’d switch between my backpacker experiences and my police officer experiences. But the question I’d ask myself was the same – “what would I do?”

I’ve written the sequel to this book and the plot for a third in the series exists. The body count is steadily dropping with each subsequent book. The serial killer idea has been done now and it’s not one I intend on revisiting. But this was how A Time To Run came into existence.

*****

Want to know more? Follow the tour!

A Time To Run is available to purchase from

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Review: Fast and Loose by Nicholas J Johnson

 

Title: Fast and Loose

Author: Nicholas J Johnson

Published: Simon & Schuster July 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from July 11 to 15, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the author/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Fast and Loose is an entertaining sequel to Nicholas J Johnson’s first novel, Chasing The Ace.

It begins around a year after Joel Fitch, a young, wannabe grifter, and Richard Mordecai, his world-weary con ‘artiste’ mentor, have parted ways. Joel has fled Melbourne and is sharing a flat with his father in Sydney when he is identified by a former mark, tabloid news producer Danny Hemming. Hemming, angling for a promotion, blackmails Joel into starring in a series of on camera exposé’s, showing the public how easily they can be conned by an accomplished swindler. But whom exactly is conning who?

“Victors. Villains. Victims. Once you figure out which one your target is, the rest falls into place.”

As the novel unfolds from the alternating perspectives of Joel and Danny, you can never be sure where the truth really lies in this fast paced story of secrets, betrayal, swindles and surprises.

Joel, who claims to have retired, seems to be floundering, as Hemming, chasing ratings, demands ever increasingly ‘flashy’ stings, progressing from conning university students in a mystery shopper scam, to swindling a bunch of drug dealers and exposing an insider trader scheme, in which Joel’s dad is involved.

There is action, humour, suspense and plenty of twists in the complex plot. The ‘cons’ are clever, and a little scary. The author draws on his own knowledge and experience as an expert on fraud and deception to show just how easily people can be fooled, and how often we deceive ourselves.

Though Fast and Loose can be read as a stand alone, I’d recommend reading Chasing the Ace first. A quick and entertaining novel, I enjoyed Fast and Loose…you believe me, don’t you?

Available to purchase from

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Review: The Trivia Man by Deborah O’Brien

 

Title: The Trivia Man

Author: Deborah O’Brien

Published: Bantam Au June 2015

Status: Read on July 09, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Trivia is a serious business, not a social occasion’

Kevin Dwyer is a socially awkward middle aged forensic accountant whose obsession with collecting information informs his only hobby – trivia. When Kevin, on his own, blitzes the other teams on the first night of competition at the Clifton Heights Sports Club he is feted by his competitors, but Kevin isn’t a team player, until he meets Maggie Taylor.

Deborah O’Brien’s novel unfolds from the perspectives of Kevin, Maggie and Kevin’s sister, Elizabeth, set over the twelve weeks of the trivia competition that brings together Kevin and Maggie.

Sweet and artless, Kevin lives alone, his only friend his eight-year-old nephew Patrick. Kevin knows he is different, never having understood the social ease of others but he is largely content with the status quo. O’Brien paints a sympathetic picture of a good man who slowly blossoms as the story unfolds.

Maggie, a teacher of high school French and Latin in her early fifties, is single after a decade pining over a lost love. She’s a lovely character, who befriends Kevin almost by accident, but is preoccupied with the reappearance of the aforementioned ‘one who got away’.

Kevin’s sister Elizabeth has always been embarrassed by her brother and she is horrified when the similarities between Kevin and Patrick behaviour are pointed out. I didn’t care for Elizabeth at all but Kevin is determined to show Elizabeth he can be ‘normal’, especially when she stops him from seeing Patrick, believing him a ‘bad influence’.

Smaller subplots play out amongst the members of ‘Teddy and the Dreamers’, filling out the story. Trivia buffs should enjoy answering the questions posed by the MC, and recognise the dynamics of the teams.

Comparisons to Graeme Stimson’s The Rosie Project are inevitable given the behavourial similarities between Don Tillman and Kevin, though O’Brien approaches both her characters and the story with a more serious and realistic tone. The humour is subtler, and Kevin’s quirks are not the focus of the novel.

I did enjoy The Trivia Man, it’s a sweet, uplifting read about friendship, acceptance and love.

Available to purchase from

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Review: Set in Stone by Ros Baxter

 

Title: Set in Stone

Author: Ros Baxter

Published: Harlequin MIRA June 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read on July 07, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“Lou was being brought home, finally, to face the music”

Louise Samuels swore she would never to return to Stone Mountain, but twenty years later she’s tossing back Tequila, dancing to Acca Dacca, and kissing the one man she hoped to avoid, Gage Westin, at her high school reunion. And despite her plan to return to the city with her best friend Sharni within twenty four hours, Lou is nursing a hangover when she learns her estranged mother is in the midst of a crisis and she feels compelled to stay.

Ros Baxter’s newest novel, Set in Stone combines romance with a touch of suspense in a rural setting.

The suspense is derived from two plotlines. The first involves a mining company which seems determined to exploit Stone Mountain vulnerable because of drought, perhaps by any means. It’s a topical issue of interest in regional areas that Baxter integrates well.
The second is the painful secret that has haunted Louise for twenty years, which continues to affect her relationship with her mother, Skye, and Gage. The eventual reveal is a surprise, but explains Lou’s wariness with both of them well.

Louise’s romance with Gage has been simmering for twenty years and their reunion is passionate, but complicated in a believable way. Baxter develops their relationship nicely and I enjoyed the tension between them.

“Because it was the kind of kiss that you get lost in – not just lost in time and place, but lost in another person. It was a kiss that took all the pieces of your identity and common sense, and scattered them like petals on the breeze, right at the same time that it anchored you in the brutal, beautiful moment.”

The writing is accomplished, with genuine dialogue and good pacing. I loved that Baxter headed each chapter with a song title, though I was stuck with the resulting earworms for a while.

I really enjoyed Set in Stone, the characterisation is genuine, the plot, and subplots, well thought out and the distinctly Australian setting is appealing. A great read, recommended for fans of contemporary and rural romance.

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Review: The Other Side of The World by Stephanie Bishop

 

Title: The Other Side of the World

Author: Stephanie Bishop

Published: Hachette June  2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read from July 01 to 02, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Stephanie Bishop’s novel, The Other Side of the World, is garnering much praise amongst critics and readers alike.

Exploring the themes of home, longing, identity and love Bishop presents the story of a Charlotte, a wife and new mother who reluctantly agrees to emigrate from England with her husband, Henry, a British Indian, in search of a fresh start in the sunny promise of Australia.

I admired Bishop’s poetic descriptions of both the physical and emotional landscape experienced by her characters. The writing is lyrical and evocative creating a close atmosphere that envelops the reader.

But this is a character driven novel and I failed to connect with Charlotte in particular. Rather than developing empathy for her longing for England, or more honestly for the life she had before children, I was irritated by her self absorption, horrified by her behaviour towards her daughters, impatient with her self pity.

“But that is all she has; there is the brightness of the outside world and then the starved, dark space of her own consciousness”

I found Henry to be a more likeable and interesting character, his struggle with his identity, of his yearning to belong, well articulated.

“Once more no one knows quite who, or what he is meant to be. He experienced this in England, but it was worse here – with his Queen’s English and his strange-coloured skin….his voice and appearance do not fit. Not here. Perhaps not anywhere.”

Though I appreciate the elegance of Bishop’s writing, the insightful exploration of themes, and finely wrought characterisation, I have to admit I didn’t really enjoy The Other Side of The World.

Available to purchase from

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Review: Hush, Little Bird by Nicole Trope

Title: Hush, Little Bird

Author: Nicole Trope

Published: Allen & Unwin June 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read from July 02 to 05, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Nicole Trope’s fourth novel, Hush, Little Bird is a thought provoking and heartbreaking story.

Hush, Little Bird is told from the alternative first person perspectives of two very different women, both serving sentences in a minimum security prison, linked by the actions of one man, Simon, a former television celebrity, Birdy’s childhood abuser and Rose’s late husband.

It is a harrowing tale that details the suffering of a young, vulnerable girl at the hands of her abuser and the lasting consequences of his actions; and the implosion of a dutiful wife’s life when her husband’s shocking secrets are revealed. Trope gives each woman, both victims, a voice that ultimately shatters the silence
they have taken refuge in to protect themselves.

A story of innocence betrayed, regret, forgiveness and revenge, Hush, Little Bird is told with keen insight and compassion for the victims of abusers. Though this may be a confronting read for some, it is a story that needs to be told.

” I do not want them silenced. I want them to know that they have been heard.”

Available to purchase from

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Also by Nicole Trope (click cover to read my reviews)

Review: The Homestead Girls by Fiona McArthur

9780143799825

 

 

Title: The Homestead Girls

Author: Fiona McArthur

Published: Penguin June 2015

Status: Read from June 24 to 27, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Fiona McArthur’s, The Homestead Girls, is a heartwarming story of friendship, courage and compassion set in the outback of NSW.

In The Homestead Girls, Soretta Byrnes is struggling to keep her grandparent’s farm solvent in the drought, especially after her grandfather is badly injured in an accident, so when it’s suggested that she accept some boarders as a way to earn extra income, she agrees, determined to save Blue Hills Station.
Soretta is quickly joined by Daphne Prince, a flight nurse with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, eager to help the battling farmer; Dr Billie Green, with her rebellious teenage daughter in tow, who has returned to her hometown of Mica Ridge to fulfill a childhood dream by taking up a position with the RFDS; and eighty year old widow Lorna Lamerton, looking for company.
Despite their differences, the unlikely housemates soon become close friends, finding strength, support and happiness in their relationships with one another as they face a myriad of challenges.

I liked all the women in The Homestead Girls and delighted in their growing friendship. They all benefit from their living arrangements in both practical and emotional ways.

With such a large primary cast I did find some elements of the story a little underdeveloped. I’m not sure, for example, that the subplot involving Billie and her ex husband added anything to the story overall, the confrontation between the pair was anti-climatic and quickly overshadowed by following events.
Though there is romance in The Homestead Girls, for both Billie and Daphne, it doesn’t overwhelm the story. With both Billie and Daphne having been deeply hurt in past relationships they are wary of involvement and their romances with their respective partners, Morgan and Rex, develop slowly, though Daphne’s has been a long time coming.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service is an invaluable resource in regional Australia and McArthur highlights their stellar work in The Homestead Girls. The RFDS provides numerous services to outback communities from running immunisation and antenatal clinics in remote areas, to dealing with emergencies such as snakebites, heart attacks and vehicular accidents. I really enjoyed learning more about what it’s like to work for the service and reading about the team’s varied medical experiences.

An uplifting story of friendship and romance, The Homestead Girls is a lovely read I’d be happy to recommend.

CLICK HERE to read more about the inspiration for the setting of The Homestead Girls in Fiona’s guest post published earlier today.

The Homestead Girls is available to purchase from

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AWW Feature: The Outback, The Homestead Girls, and Fiona McArthur

fiona

I’m delighted to welcome Fiona McArthur to Book’d Out today to celebrate the release of The Homestead Girls.

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 nonfiction 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. Her first rural fiction novel with Penguin Australia, Red Sand Sunrise, was published in 2014.

Fiona McArthur’s second novel, The Homestead Girls is a heartwarming story of friendship, courage and compassion in the outback.

9780143799825

“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…”

My review can be seen HERE, but first, please read on to learn more about Fiona McArthur’s inspiration for the setting of The Homestead Girls.

****

Outback Inspiration

by Fiona McArthur

Hello and thanks so much for asking me back as I launch my new novel, The Homestead Girls. And speaking of being back, I’d like to chat about background setting and how it’s such an integral part of a book. People have asked why I set a book ‘inspired by’ Broken Hill so I thought I’d mull over some of the ways I used our visits to Broken Hill and why I loved it?

I read an article once where Broken Hill was called ‘The boldest of the outback towns… pressure-cooked through the mining years.’ I wish I’d written that – but I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment. It’s a unique and layered township and surrounds and my husband loved it so much he wondered if we could retire there after just two visits.

Here’s 10 things I used from Broken Hill and Outback NSW for the Homestead Girls.

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Mt Gipps Station mailbox

1/The Sky – Bluer than any you see in the city – in fact all of the colours are so vibrant it’s one of the main reasons so many artists live there. Think Pro Hart. Jack Absolom.

2/The Landscape from the air – imagine the vista the flight nurses and pilots see every day when they go to work. That great expanse of browns and golds and orange, with ribbons of empty creek beds, and then a station or tiny township coming up on the horizon. I took a fabulous one and a half hour flight with Silver City Scenic Flights and lots of notes – though notes were when I wasn’t hanging on – it was little bit bumpy!

The Landscape from the ground – the lookout at Mundi Mundi – what a view! The view from the ridge on Mt Gipps. What a place for a sunset drink! And a seduction scene.

3/The Racecourse. The Silver City Cup was first held in 1899, and is the oldest horse race in the region, and held towards the end of October every year. Unfortunately it was the wrong time of year for us but we walked outside the racecourse, peered at the stands and took photos for a scene I knew I would write there. I looked up all the photos of the racegoers after the event and they all had smiles on their faces. So did my characters when they went.

FullSizeRender

Murals Palace Hotel

4/The Palace Hotel main street Broken Hill – had to go and visit and sit on the stairs and just look. Wow! Inside is decorated with fabulous oil-painted murals up and down the stair walls and ceiling, including a magnificently flamboyant depiction of Botticelli’s Venus above the staircase. These are the paintings famously featured in the movie Priscilla Queen Of The Desert.

5/Walking down the main street beautifully restored buildings were exactly like the apartment one of my characters would live in Mica Ridge and then there are the roses. Love the roses outside all the town buildings. ‘Billy had forgotten about the roses until she saw them again on the day she arrived back to her home town.’

6/The huge airport and the RFDS Base – all those trees surrounding the tarmac, the heat that belts off it on hot days. Rental cars parked under the trees. Though, just stating, the flying doctor base scenes are set in Mica Ridge Base, which is smaller than Broken Hill. 

7/Silverton – two of my characters visited the pub, as did my husband and I, funny that, which is stocked with memorabilia from movies made in the area such as Mad Max, A Town Like Alice, it’s a must visit place with history around every corner. A really fun atmosphere, but so spread out it reminds you how much is gone, and gives the impression of being deserted.

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Desert Sculptures

8/The Desert Sculptures – loved this hilltop, in the middle of the outback, art gallery – arranged with huge, truly inspiring sculptures. The paths, bushes, trees, and native flowers all complimented the different-themed stone carvings (stone sourced from Wilcannia) on the skyline. Loved that the artist’s interpretation was explained on discreet signage beside each artist’s work.

9/Mt Gipps Station and the Sturt’s Desert Pea – inspiration for Blue Hills Station in the book – and the best farm stay ever.

10/And of course the people. The wonderful, laconic, incredibly tough people in town and on the land. Then there are the flight nurses, doctors, pilots and everyone else who makes saving lives in the outback, happen with a minimum of fuss.

I really hope everyone enjoys The Homestead Girls and… so my answer is why wouldn’t I draw inspiration from Broken Hill?

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Highway Signs

 *****

9780143799825

The Homestead Girls is available to purchase from

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