A thought about: The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

 

Title: The Natural Way of Things

Author: Charlotte Wood

Published: Allen & Unwin October 2015

Status: Read from October 26 to 27, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in an abandoned property in the middle of a desert in a story of two friends, sisterly love and courage – a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted.

She hears her own thick voice deep inside her ears when she says, ‘I need to know where I am.’ The man stands there, tall and narrow, hand still on the doorknob, surprised. He says, almost in sympathy, ‘Oh, sweetie. You need to know what you are.’

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken-down property in the middle of nowhere. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a ‘nurse’. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl’s past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue — but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.

My Thoughts:

A thought provoking, provocative novel that explores a chilling near-future dystopia drawn from the realities of contemporary society for women. Beautifully written but deeply disquieting.

 

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About: Buying Thyme by TJ Hamilton

 

Title: Buying Thyme {Thyme Trilogy #1}

Author: TJ Hamilton

Published: Harlequin AU October 2015

Status: Read from October 27 to 30, 2015 — I own a copy

What else comes at a price?
Miranda is a high-class escort at an infamous agency in Sydney, and always in demand from their top clients. Although it’s a life she never imagined for herself, Miranda has mastered the art of seducing men and makes a good living from it.
Joe Tench, rich, powerful and alluring, owns the majority of the nightlife in Sydney and is a regular client of Miranda’s. He’s demanding, dominating and dangerous, but Miranda finds herself falling for his unexpected, yet enticing charm.
That is, until she meets the mysterious Tom Smythe, heir to a wealthy mining company, and becomes caught between her feelings for these two very different men.
But neither is what they seem, and when tragedy forces Miranda to embark on a journey of discovery she will find it difficult to escape from. What price will she pay for freedom?

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Review & Giveaway: Long Bay by Eleanor Limprecht

 

Title: Long Bay

Author: Eleanor Limprecht

Published: Sleepers Publishing August 2015

Status: Read from August 15 to 16, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Drawing on official documents and extensive general research into the period, author Eleanor Limprecht blends fact and imagination to create a convincing narrative that tells the story of a woman forgotten by history in her novel, ‘Long Bay’.

Born in Paddington, New South Wales in 1885, Rebecca Sinclair was the fourth of six children, raised by her mother who was widowed when Rebecca was two. She married at nineteen, birthed a daughter, and four years later, alongside her husband, was convicted of manslaughter for the death of a mother of three who died after an abortion procedure performed by Rebecca went wrong. Rebecca was sentenced to three years hard labour in Long Bay and while imprisoned, Rebecca birthed her second daughter.

Limprecht builds on these known details of Rebecca’s life with her imagination, informed by research, creating a story that depicts a childhood of poverty, a marriage marred by bigamy and violence and the events that led up to the tragic event that resulted in her being jailed. Long Bay illustrates an era where women had limited control over their lives and often struggled under the weight of deprivation and hardship.

There is no doubt that Rebecca’s story is fascinating and I was intrigued by the details of her life, but the writing is often quite dry and unsentimental, lacking the emotion that could have breathed more vitality into the narrative. Yet the story is rich in period detail, evoking the city landscape and era well.

A thoughtful and readable novel, I did enjoy Long Bay. I feel it is a story that will interest readers of both historical fiction and non fiction, especially those curious about women’s lives and issues at the turn of the century.

GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of the author, I have 1 print edition of Long Bay to giveaway to an Australian resident

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Review: What My Daughters Taught Me by Joseph Wakim

Title: What My Daughters Taught Me

Author: Joseph Wakim

Published: Allen & Unwin August 2015

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

My Thoughts:

What My Daughters Taught Me is a heart warming memoir by Joseph Wakim who found himself the sole parent of his three young daughters when his beloved wife, Nadia, passed away after a short battle with cancer.

‘Amazing’ Grace, ‘Ma Belle’ Michelle and Joy ‘to the World’, each named after song’s favoured by Joseph and his wife were just eleven, nine and four when they lost their mother. Despite his overwhelming grief at losing his soul mate, Joseph vowed to be both father and mother to their girls.

With humour, honesty and faith derived from his Maronite church (he is a Maronite Catholic), Joseph learnt to cook, use conditioner on tangles, braid hair, referee bathroom wars, peg out laundry at the speed of light, and gracefully submit to his daughters fashion stylings. He nurtured his daughters’ love of dance and music (starting a band called Heartbeats), helped them study, and taught them to drive.

Sharing the details of his courtship with his wife, and her painful demise, as well as providing a glimpse into his past as part of a large Lebanese immigrant family, Joseph writes of grief, love, family and life’s roller-coaster.

To ensure financial stability for his family, Joseph moved from social work, having been responsible for the Streetwork project in Adelaide and having been awarded an Order of Australia medal in 2001, into business. He founded the Australian Arabic Council, was once the former Victorian Multicultural Affairs Commissioner, but now writes regular opinion pieces about human rights issues. He authored Sorry We Have No Space, a finalist for the Australian Christian Book of the Year, in 2013 about racism experienced by Arabs in Australian.

However this book is not about his professional achievements but about his greatest personal accomplishment – raising his daughters with love, wisdom and faith. It has been twelve years since Joseph lost his wife, and their family is thriving. His daughters are beginning to establish their independence, and Joseph is proud of the role he played in shaping the women they have become.

*please note I choose not to rate memoirs*

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Review: The Unbroken Line by Alex Hammond

 

 

Title: The Unbroken Line {Will Harris #2}

Author: Alex Hammond

Published: Viking Penguin Au June 2015

Read an Excerpt on Book’d Out

Status: Read from June 21 to 24, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Unbroken Line is Alex Hammond’s second legal thriller featuring defence lawyer Will Harris, following on from his Ned Kelly Award nominated debut, Blood Witness.

Will is still dealing with both the personal and professional consequences of the events in Blood Witness, when he and girlfriend Eva are brutally attacked by two masked men. They have a message for Will from their anonymous employer – back off. Angry and confused, Will has no idea what the men are referring to, but now he is determined to find out, and unwittingly becomes the target of a deadly conspiracy, headed by Melbourne’s elite.

With a well crafted and complex plot, The Unbroken Line is a fast paced story of corruption, violence, conspiracy and vengeance. As Will searches for answers to the attack on he and Eva, he must also defend his new law firm partner, barrister Chris Miller, when he is arrested for negligent homicide, prevent a judge’s teenage son from being charged with manslaughter, and repay his debt to the Ivanics family, all whilst under investigation by the Legal Commissioner for ethics breaches related to his actions in Blood Witness. With some surprising twists, Hammond reveals the links between these seemingly unrelated threads developing an exciting multi-layered storyline.

Will is an appealing protagoinist, flawed but intelligent, with a strong sense of justice. Under siege professionally, Will is faring no better in his personal life. He is still struggling to recover from the debilitating physical effects of the vicious stabbing that left him near dead in Blood Witness, and Eva, traumatised and scarred by the masked men’s attack, flee’s to New York. Though The Unbroken Line could be read as a stand alone, I’d recommend readers begin with Blood Witness, which establishes his relationships with Eva, Chris and several of the other other characters that appear in both novels.

I enjoyed The Unbroken Line, it is a well crafted and gripping legal thriller. Perfect for fans of John Grisham and Michael Connelly.

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Feature Excerpt: The Unbroken Line by Alex Hammond

Alex Hammond was born in South Africa and emigrated to Australia with his family as a child. He graduated in Law/Arts from Melbourne University in 2001 and worked for several leading law firms. Although, ultimately, the law didn’t take, he was exposed to many of the superstitions and sects of the profession and found himself fascinated by the culture, passion and grey moral world that lawyers inhabit.

The Unbroken Line is Alex Hammond’s second stand alone novel legal thriller featuring Melbourne lawyer Will Harris, following on from his Ned Kelly Award nominated debut, Blood Witness.

The violence of the past casts a long shadow – a dark legacy with lethal consequences.
When defence lawyer Will Harris is attacked by masked men with a clear message to back off, he has no choice but to listen. If only he knew what they were talking about.
Under siege as his fledgling law firm struggles to get off the ground, Will agrees to defend the troubled son of a family friend. But the case is far from clear-cut, and the ethical boundaries murky. Instead of clawing his way out of trouble, Will finds he’s sinking ever deeper.
At the same time, his search for his attackers unearths an unexpected source that points him towards Melbourne’s corridors of power. But motives, let alone proofs, are hard to find. It is only when those close to him are threatened that Will realises how near he is to the deadly truth.”

 My review of The Unbroken Line can be seen HERE, but first please read on for an excerpt of this exciting new thriller.

The Unbroken Line – Excerpt

 © published with permission from Penguin Australia

One

It had been six weeks, almost to the day, since he’d had a drink. Remembering the last glass summoned images of that desperate night – the blade glinting under streetlights before it rose again, steaming with his blood in the winter air.
Will Harris took another sip from the champagne Eva had ordered for them.
‘It must feel good to be out of that wheelchair,’ Eva said, no doubt seeing the veil of memory descend across his face.
The restaurant had been Eva’s idea – a date to reboot the fraught circumstances of their meeting; a balance against her holding his wounds closed until the ambulance had arrived.
‘Adversity may have a way of bringing people together,’ she said, ‘but more often it fucks them up.’
Will nodded. ‘It does. No changing the way we met,’ he said. ‘Just what we do from here.’
Earlier they had watched as the setting sun bathed orange light over the pale gums that grew along the banks of the Yarra. From their place above the canopy they could see the turgid water as it traced its way through the wealthy suburbs towards the darkening city and on, again, into the black inevitability of the ocean.
With the arrival of dusk a low line of bats had emerged into the air and even now, as they waited for dessert, the procession continued.
Around Will, the other diners were talking and eating artfully arranged meals on oversized plates lying on bright, starched tablecloths. He drained the glass in his hand and focused his attention on the woman sitting in front of him. Her dark hair was lifted up off her shoulders while her fringe was swept into a wave. Her olive skin contrasted with her yellow silk dress. Its low neckline suggested something of the tone she’d set for the evening.
She smiled at him. He could bask in her warm gaze forever. To simply sit here, with her – that would be reward enough, for everything he had overcome. And yet he couldn’t help himself from speculating, from fantasising: the two of them carrying her boxes into his apartment; her hand clutching his at her first major exhibition; drunk nights and late mornings as the world was reduced to the circumference of their arms.
‘So let’s cut to the chase, champ,’ Eva said, clearing the glassware in front of her so she could reach a hand out to his. As she leant for- wards the light from the candles glowed in her eyes. Her lips parted, revealing the gentle upward curve at the edges of her mouth.
‘Now that you’re out of that wheelchair and able to drive a girl to a fancy dinner, is it safe to say you’re officially ‘able-bodied’?’ she whispered.
He leant in towards her, tensing his stomach muscles to ease the pain where the scars were still healing.
‘Oh, absolutely. I would say that I’m well on my way to a full recovery.’
‘Because I wouldn’t want to set you back. Given how fragile you are.’
Will felt something touch the inside of his thigh. Her foot. Freed from its stiletto it was sliding up the inside of his leg.
‘It’s been a long time, Will Harris. And it’s a terrible thing when a woman has to wait. Injured or not, there are repercussions.’
‘That’s completely understandable, of course. A man would have to make amends to a woman in this situation.’
‘Oh, you don’t know the half of it. Amends are barely the beginning.’ Her foot tapped on him as though she were distracted by some other thought. ‘Glad to see that I have your full attention.’ Eva winked.
‘Hey, Eva?’
‘Yes?’
‘Why are we whispering?’
‘I don’t know. Because it’s seductive?’ She broke into laughter.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ He grinned back at her.
‘You should have worked that out long before now.’
A waiter arrived beside their table with the dessert. ‘Coconut sago with caramelised mango and salted caramel semifreddo.’
‘Thanks,’ said Will, trying not to blush as Eva’s toes drummed across his erection.
‘One other thing, sir,’ the waiter said. ‘The chef was wondering if he could get a photo with you both? He’s thrilled to have you here.’
‘Sure,’ Will said. ‘On our way out?’
‘If that’s convenient?’
‘No problem,’ Will replied. ‘Could I grab an espresso? Sorry, two,’ he corrected, as Eva held up two fingers.
‘Of course, sir.’
Will paused until the waiter was out of earshot. ‘Those things still make me feel uncomfortable.’
‘The photos? You’ll be fine,’ Eva said between spoonfuls. ‘People will forget soon enough. Or you could just say no.’
‘But that feels rude.’
‘Then enjoy it. You deserve it. You brought justice to a murdered girl, caught her killer, gave her family peace.’
‘That’s not how I remember it. You’re leaving yourself out of that story.’
‘Meh. I was just along for the ride.’
‘Well, I hope they bring me my jacket first. I don’t really need to be standing there with a hard-on immortalised on their Facebook page.’
‘What a terrible dilemma,’ Eva said, smiling.

As they crossed the car park, Will had to struggle to keep up. Even though he’d performed his exercises daily, moving was still a painful effort. His physiotherapist had reiterated to him the seriousness of the damage – his abdominal wall had been significantly traumatised; with his core injured, he would find even basic movements challenging. Although he was out of the wheelchair it would be months before he could start to think about any strenuous activity. As Eva swayed in front of him, her dress gripping the contours of her body, it occurred to Will that even though he’d spent so many hours with her, grieved with her, almost died beside her, he was deeply nervous about the raw, animal truth of their compatibility.
Eva leant back against Will’s car, yellow outlined against the British racing green of the vintage Jag.
She pulled him forwards by the lapels, her body softening as she kissed him on the lips, her tongue penetrating deep into his mouth. He could taste the ethanol on her breath, smell the heady perfume that rose up from her to envelop him.
‘Fuck,’ she said, eventually pulling away. ‘I’ve been wanting to do that ever since we started dinner.’
‘Does that count for amends?’
‘It’s a start. I need you to take me home and fuck me.’
Will kissed her again as he pulled the car door open. Eva drew herself away from him and slid into the passenger seat. He moved as quickly as he could to the driver’s side and got in.
‘Are you okay to drive?’ she said, fastening her seatbelt.
‘I’m good.’
Will started the engine and Eva tucked her legs under her, turning towards him and placing her arm around his neck. He took them out of the car park and onto the road.
To their left was a steep bank leading down to the Yarra. A lone vessel, a party barge, drifted down the river. Flashing lights silhouetted its revellers and lit up the craft like a garish lantern on the dark water. To their right were old mill stacks, decaying warehouses and other modern ruins. With the streetlights passing overhead and Eva’s head leaning against his shoulder, Will felt at peace. He’d almost forgotten what this satisfied calm felt like. Eva started to hum to herself as he merged into the traffic that led to the Domain Tunnel.
A black SUV crept out from behind Will and accelerated towards the tunnel, trying to overtake him. He slowed the Jag to let it pass.
Eva stroked the side of his face, stopping when he turned his head away from her.
‘What’s up?’ she said, no longer humming.
Will looked into his side mirror at the SUV closing in. Something was off about the driver and the passenger sitting next to him.
They were both wearing black balaclavas.
‘Eva. Sit up.’
‘What is it?’ she asked, straightening in her seat.
‘Something’s wrong,’ he said, pulling the Jag into the passing lane and accelerating.
Eva looked over her shoulder at the SUV.
‘Shit, Will.’
He pushed the accelerator to the floor and swerved the Jag around a slow-moving hatchback.
‘How do you know they have anything to do with us?’
‘I don’t.’
But it’s the only possible explanation, he thought.
The SUV returned to their rear-view mirror, keeping pace with the old Jag. The tunnel entrance was drawing closer.
No turn-offs.
‘Jesus, Will, they’re still there.’
His hands were shaking. ‘Hold on.’
Will weaved around another car as the tunnel enveloped them. The bright strip lights raced overhead as the car started to shudder, mirroring the shaking of Will’s hands on the steering wheel.
The SUV was closer now, despite his best efforts. With a pounding inevitability it was closing in.
Will looked up ahead. Traffic was thin in the tunnel. He pushed the Jag to its limit, cresting 140 kilometres an hour. All he could hear was the noise from the engine and Eva as she shouted, ‘On the right!’
The SUV was just behind them. A truck was looming in front of them. They were about to be boxed in. Will’s foot was on the floor; the accelerator had nothing left to give. The SUV hustled forwards, its black bonnet glistening under the tunnel lights.
Not enough.
Will pulled the Jag around the truck with millimetres to spare.
The SUV hit the back of the Jag. The shuddering movement thrust Will and Eva forwards, seatbelts straining against the collision. Will’s hands tightened around the wheel as he struggled to keep the car on the road.
The truck whipped past them and Will had to swerve hard to avoid hitting a taxi. Its passengers stared dumbstruck as he hurtled past.
The SUV lurched forwards and touched the rear right panel of the Jag.
Eva was staring straight ahead.
The tunnel exit.
Almost there.
The SUV hit the Jag again. The car rocked and Will fought the wheel as it started to oversteer. A second thud as metal now caught on metal. Both cars were jammed together.
He slammed on the brake, hoping to tear them loose. The larger vehicle rammed them sideways, the concrete of the tunnel wall shredding the Jag’s passenger side. Its windows burst, shattering glass throughout the car. The Jag spun free from the SUV and turned side-on to the road, tyres stripping rubber.
They came to a violent, shuddering halt across the lane.
The SUV stopped 30 metres away. Its doors opened and the men stepped out.
‘Eva?’ Will’s voice broke as he spoke. ‘Eva, are you okay?’
She uncurled herself from the passenger seat, shaking shards of safety glass from her hair. She looked back up at him, bleeding from a cut in her forehead.
Will tried to shove the buckled car door. It didn’t budge. Steel locked on steel.
‘Eva, are you okay?’
‘I think so. You?’
‘Hard to tell. But I’m moving.’
The men were jogging now. Closing the distance.
From the road behind them the horns of stationary cars were blaring. The red warning lights of an accident in the tunnel flickered into life.
Eva pushed the door open and got unsteadily to her feet. Will clenched his jaw as he dragged himself through the shattered remnants of his side window. Pain shot through him as his stomach clenched around old wounds. It was as though razor wire had twisted down his torso.
He slipped as he stood. Oil and radiator fluid had flooded over the ground.
Will grabbed Eva by the hand and they started to run.
The men began to sprint.
Will had never seen anyone move so fast. Before they had even taken five steps the men were on them.
It took only seconds and his head smacked on the concrete. With blurred vision came memory loss – adrenaline and pain confusing the exact circumstances of his hitting the ground. All he knew was that dark eyes stared down at him through a black balaclava. The man was kneeling on Will’s chest.
‘Got your attention?’ the man barked.
‘Yes,’ Will spat.
‘Back off. This is your only warning.’
‘Back off what?’
A latex-covered hand hit hard and flat across his face.
‘Back off.’
‘I don’t know —’
The hand again. This time a fist.
Between the concrete and the blow Will didn’t know what had happened. His eyes rolled back into his head. He’d been KO’ed in the boxing ring before but never like this. The back of his head felt as though it had been engulfed by the ground while the warmth of his own blood was now flooding across his face.
Turning his head sideways, Will saw Eva in the arms of the second man. He felt like broken lead.
Slowly and deliberately the other man dragged the blade of a knife down both of Eva’s cheeks. At first it was as though nothing had happened but as the seconds passed, thin lines of deep red began to appear, giving way to a full flow.
Eva didn’t scream. Not at first. Only when she touched her face and her hands came back glistening.
Both men turned and ran. Beneath the warning lights a crowd had gathered. They all watched as Eva’s dress turned from yellow to red.

***

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Review: Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale

 

 

Title: Palace of Tears

Author: Julian Leatherdale

Published: Allen & Unwin June 2015

Status: Read from June 10 to 12, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Set in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales Palace of Tears is a generational saga of family, passion, secrets and vengeance from debut author Julian Leatherdale.

The shifting third person narrative unfolds from the perspective of several characters, Angie and her mother Freya; Adam’s wives, Adelina and Laura; Laura’s daughter, Monika; and in the present day, Lisa, Monika’s daughter. Only briefly do we hear from Adam Fox, the owner of the Palace and the man who connects these three generations of women.

Lisa’s interest in the past is triggered when, during a visit with her ailing mother, Monika laments the mysterious fate of Angie, the ‘girl who broke Adam Fox’s heart’. The name is unfamiliar to Lisa and curious she decides to investigate, contacting Palace historian Luke Davis. Over the course of the novel, Leatherdale unravels a family history marred by untimely death, adultery, betrayal, heartbreak and revenge. What became of Angie remains a mystery til the very end with a surprising twist.

Leatherdale firmly grounds his fictional characters in time and place. Adam Fox’s Palace is modeled on the Hydro Majestic Hotel, opened in 1904 in the tiny township of Medlow Bath in the upper Blue Mountains and he ably describes the opulence of the hotel and the magnificence of the setting. The author also references several relevant historical events of the first half of the twentieth century from the wartime internment camps, to the deadly influenza outbreak that swept New South Wales, to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Antipodean tour, enriching the story with intriguing detail.

The tale is well structured, despite shifting between multiple perspectives and time periods. The story is well paced, with plenty of twists and turns in the plot to maintain interest. Descriptions, particularly of the setting are vivid, and

Melding history and fiction, Palace of Tears is an entertaining novel and an impressive debut from Julian Leatherdale.

“Nothing was achieved without risk and cost. The allure of the mountains had taught Adam that lesson…. The mountains offered up vistas of inspiration, horizons of wonder where the mind dared to leap and the imagination to soar. It enriched the spirit, breathed hope back in to the wounded heart. Yet there was always that reminder of the fall: vertigo’s strange seduction that dragged you down the bright waterfall into the shadow of the valley below. Mortality, failure, despair – all these must be acknowledged. Adam realised, over time, that his beloved mountains expressed the inner drama of his own soul.”

CLICK HERE to read How the Hydro Majestic inspired the Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale

 

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Guest Feature: How the Hydro Majestic inspired the Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale

I’m happy to introduce Julian Leatherdale to my readers today.  Julian Leatherdale’s first love was theatre. On graduation, he wrote lyrics for four satirical cabarets and a two-act musical. He discovered a passion for popular history as a staff writer, researcher and photo editor for Time-Life’s Australians At War series. He later researched and co-wrote two Film Australia-ABC documentaries Return to Sandakan and The Forgotten Force and was an image researcher at the State Library of New South Wales. He was the public relations manager for a hotel school in the Blue Mountains, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Palace of Tears is Julian Leatherdale’s debut novel. Set in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales it is a generational story of family, passion, secrets and vengeance.

Angie loved Mr Fox’s magnificent, absurd hotel. In fact, it was her one true great love. But … today Angie was so cross, so fed up with everybody and everything, she would probably cheer if a wave of fire swept over the cliff and engulfed the Palace and all its guests.
A sweltering summer’s day, January 1914: the charismatic and ruthless Adam Fox throws a lavish birthday party for his son and heir at his elegant clifftop hotel in the Blue Mountains. Everyone is invited except Angie, the girl from the cottage next door. The day will end in tragedy, a punishment for a family’s secrets and lies.
In 2013, Fox’s granddaughter Lisa, seeks the truth about the past. Who is this Angie her mother speaks of: ‘the girl who broke all our hearts’? Why do locals call Fox’s hotel the ‘palace of tears’? Behind the grandeur and glamour of its famous guests and glittering parties, Lisa discovers a hidden history of passion and revenge, loyalty and love.
A grand piano burns in the night, a seance promises death or forgiveness, a fire rages in a snowstorm, a painter’s final masterpiece inspires betrayal, a child is given away. With twist upon twist, this lush, strange mystery withholds its shocking truth to the very end.

My review is posted HERE, in the meantime, please read on to learn what inspired Palace of Tears.

****

HOW THE HYDRO MAJESTIC INSPIRED THE PALACE OF TEARS – JULIAN LEATHERDALE

Three years ago, I decided I wanted to write a family saga set in the Blue Mountains. I have lived here for over twenty-five years and never tired of its sublime and savage beauty. But I soon realised that my family saga needed something else besides poetic landscape and atmosphere. It needed a building at its heart that would be the family’s inheritance and keeper of all its memories.
Like many locals, I have long been fascinated by the Hydro Majestic, one of our best-known landmarks apart from the Three Sisters. As drivers head west through the tiny township of Medlow Bath in the upper Mountains, they still do a double-take at the sight of this grand Edwardian-era hotel that stretches for over a kilometre along the escarpment.

With its distinctive dome and crenellated wings, the Hydro has always struck me as a kind of madman’s castle. Perched on the cliffs high above the Kanimbla valley, wrapped in fog and snow in winter and blue haze in summer, what could be a more perfect setting for a tale of family secrets and Gothic mystery?

Mark Foy is probably best known for his luxury department store in Sydney but he had already taken a huge gamble back in 1904 with his Hydro Majestic, the first health retreat of its kind in Australia, modelled on the spa hotels of Europe. He spared no expense on lavish décor, a gallery of expensive artworks, a hydropathy clinic with a German doctor, and luxuries and mod cons such as Turkish coffee and a telephone in every room. The clinic was short-lived but the hotel itself thrived as a mecca for the rich and famous well into the 1920s and 1930s. Guests included the Russian Ballet and one of the world’s richest women, German armaments heiress Baroness Bertha Krupp.

The more I researched the Hydro’s past the more its imaginative appeal deepened. I did not want to write a fictionalised history of the hotel itself. Instead I wanted to use elements of its history to create my own opulent hotel in the bush, the Palace at Meadow Springs, and the story of its visionary owner Adam Fox and his wives, lovers, daughters and grand-daughter.

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In October 2014, the Hydro Majestic was reopened, restored to its former glory under new owners and inspiring wonder in me all over again. While still writing my first draft, I was lucky enough to have a behind-the-scenes tour of the hotel still under refurbishment. Standing under the dome, it was easy to imagine the swank Edwardian balls and raucous jazz-age fancy dress parties held here, the society ladies gossiping on their lounges in Cat’s Alley while their husbands played billiards or retired to the smoking lounge.

Photos, memoirs, interviews and newspaper stories filled my imagination, suggesting fertile details or incidents for my own story. A visit by Sherlock Holmes creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in 1921 inspired a confronting séance scene that reveals a dreadful truth for Adam Fox and his wife Adelina.
The filming of a silent movie (now lost) at the hotel with its erotic Spider Web dance made the perfect backdrop for Adam Fox to meet his young lover Laura.

In 1942, the Hydro became a US military hospital for wounded soldiers; it is where Adam’s daughter Monika sneaks in to meet ‘Yanks.’

With its own dramatic past, the Hydro was a gift for a writer but one that had to be handled with care, resisting the temptation to overwhelm my readers with wonderful oddities from my research. History always had to serve story-telling, not the other way round. As the story developed, the Palace, my fictional half-sister of the Hydro Majestic, became a character in her own right.
Writing is always a journey full of surprises. For me, one of the greatest joys of writing Palace of Tears was to rediscover the place where I live through the eyes of the past.

Every morning, as I drop my daughter off at her primary school, I drive past the ruins of a grand guest house on the corner of the highway. As part of my research, I now know the story of the fire that destroyed my daughter’s school and this guest house on one fateful day in December 1957.
I look at them both quite differently now and think of the people in my village who lived through that day. It is a humbling experience but also an uplifting one, a tribute to the power of stories.

Palace of Tears is available to purchase from

Allen & Unwin Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AUvia Booko

Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

Review: How To Write Your Blockbuster by Fiona McIntosh

 

Title: How to Write Your Blockbuster: All I’ve learned about writing commercial fiction

Author: Fiona McIntosh

Published: Penguin May 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read on May 30, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Even though I am one of the very few book bloggers with no real ambition to write, I can appreciate the wisdom Fiona McIntosh imparts in ‘How To Write Your Blockbuster’, offering practical, no nonsense advice for aspiring writers.

McIntosh insists discipline is an essential skill for a writer. She encourages dabblers to set themselves up to succeed by developing good working habits and understanding what it is they want to write.

Whether you are a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’ she has practical advice for getting started. I really like her ‘word count equation’, it seems to me that the idea would make the process of writing a first draft much less intimidating.

McIntosh then goes on to discuss technique in developing character, plot, dialogue, pacing and exposition with reference to what she has learned in her own work. Each chapter is also accompanied by exercises to complete.

For those with a completed manuscript, McIntosh advises writers on the next step, including presentation and submission to Australian commercial fiction publishers, and shares knowledge about what might come next for those lucky enough to see their book in print.

‘How To Write Your Blockbuster’ is a solid resource for a fledgling writer from a talented and accomplished commercial fiction author who writes across several genres. Make sure your browse Fiona McIntosh’s extensive oeuvre – my favourites include The Scrivener’s Tale and The Lavender Keeper.

Available to purchase from

Penguin Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AUvia Booko

Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

 

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Review & Giveaway: She’s Having Her Baby by Lauren Sams

Title: She’s Having Her Baby

Author: Lauren Sams

Published: Nero: Black Inc Books March 2015

Status: Read on March 11, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

She’s Having Her Baby is a funny and bittersweet debut chick lit novel from Lauren Sams.

“This is it. She’s going to ask me to be her surrogate. No, she won’t. Surely she won’t. That only happens in Katherine Heigl movies, Jesus f** Christ, what if she asks? What am I going to say? There’s only one answer, right? Jesus f**”

Thirty something magazine editor, Georgie Henderson, has never wanted kids but her best friend, Nina Doherty, wants nothing more than to be a mother and when her latest IVF attempt fails, she asks Georgie for the ultimate favour. Reluctantly Georgie agrees to become Nina’s surrogate, willing to help Nina’s dream come true, but Georgie is wholly unprepared for what comes next…

Life doesn’t always go to plan and in She’s Having Her Baby the plot doesn’t quite develop as the reader may expect. Sharply observed, the author explores the themes of infertility, surrogacy, motherhood and friendship in a manner that is funny, poignant and compassionate.

I found Georgie to be an interesting character, she definitely has her flaws, being somewhat inflexible and self absorbed, but she is amusing, feisty and loyal in her own way. I admired Georgia for deciding to help Nina, though I think choosing not to have children for whatever reason is a perfectly valid decision, and though Georgia doesn’t cope particularly well when things don’t work out as expected, including with her relationship and career, she eventually pulls it together.

I’ve witnessed the toll infertility can take on the soul, and relationships, and I really felt for Nina, her desperation is authentic and moving. I laughed out loud at the passages describing the parenting styles of Ellie and the mothers at the playground. Those type of ‘helicopter’, holier than thou parents drove me crazy when my children were babies so I agreed . It’s not like I let mine play with knives or fed them a steady diet of McDonalds but they watched ABC Kids, ate jarred baby foods and wore disposable nappies, and let me assure you they are all bright, healthy and happy children.

The writing is of a good standard, the dialogue is natural, and humour is used to good effect, without undermining the more serious issues. The pacing works well with some surprises in the plot and a conclusion that is satisfying but not too neat.

I enjoyed She’s Having Her Baby, I found it to be both an entertaining and touching novel tackling issues relevant to the modern woman. Lauren Sams is a debut author with promise.

Learn more about Lauren Sams and her writing process in he guest post published earlier today at Book’d Out

She’s Having Her Baby is available to purchase from

Nero Books Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I via Booko

 Amazon US I BookDepository

and all good bookstores.

*****

GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of Nero Books

I have 5 print editions of

She’s Having Her Baby by Lauren Sams

to giveaway.

*Sorry,  only Australian residents may enter*

Congratulations to the winners of She’s Having Her Baby:

Linda H; Jan O; Amanda N; Tash B; Kirsty A

Entries close March 22nd 2015

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