About: Wolf, Wolf by Eben Venter

Title: Wolf, Wolf

Author: Eben Venter

Published: Scribe Publishing February 2015

Status: Read from February 20 to 24, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

How should a man be? Mattie Duiker is trying very hard to live up to his dying father’s wishes. He is putting aside childish things, starting his first business serving healthy take-away food to the workers in his district of Cape Town. His Pa is proud.

At the same time, Mattie is pulled toward an altogether different version of masculinity, in which oiled and toned bodies cavort for him at the click of a mouse. His porn addiction both threatens his relationship with his boyfriend, Jack, and imperils his inheritance.

Pa’s peacocking days as a swaggering businessman are done, but even as the cancer shrivels and crisps him, the old man’s ancient authority intensifies as it shrinks, like Mattie’s own signature sauce. Pa haltingly prepares his son for life without him, and himself for life without a male heir. And, while the family wrestles with matters of entitlement and inheritance, around them a new South Africa is quietly but persistently nudging its way forwards.

Wolf, Wolf is a novel of old rigid states and new unfinished forms, of stiff tolerance and mournful nostalgia. With uncommon sensitivity to place, time, and sex, Eben Venter reveals himself to the world outside his homeland as one of its most astute and acute observers, giving shape in story to some of the sea-changes of our time, in the manner of Coetzee and Roth.“

My Thoughts:

I selected Wolf, Wolf by Eben Venter to read in order to satisfy a reading challenge requirement, but my curiosity was piqued by the premise and some flattering reviews – Cape Times named it one of the 10 best books of 2013 and it was shortlisted for the 2014 Sunday Times (South Africa) prize.

The narrative of Wolf, Wolf shifts between the perspectives of Benjamin, Mattie and Mattie’s boyfriend Jack, a school teacher at a private school. It a story about manhood, love, family and legacy – not only that which a father passes on to a son, but also in relation to South Africa’s struggles with a post-apartheid society.

The translation by Michiel Heyns from Eben Venter’s Afrikaans has received much praise but unfortunately I struggled with the dense prose from the first pages and couldn’t seem to find a rhythm in the narrative to suit me. I persevered until the end, but with little enjoyment.

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Review: Snowy River Man by Lizzy Chandler

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Title: Snowy River Man

Author: Lizzy Chandler

Published: Escape Publishing February 2015

Status: Read on February 24, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Lizzy Chandler’s debut novel, Snowy River Man, is an engaging contemporary romance, with an edge of suspense, set in rural Australia.

Katrina Delaney is stunned when she learns that the lost and frightened child she has seen in her dream is Jack Fairley’s son. Seven years ago she and Jack spent a single passionate night together, only for everything to fall apart the morning after.
Jack Fairley is frantic when his young son disappears while at a rodeo, seemingly without a trace, and he is willing to do anything to ensure his safe return, even if that means accepting the help of Katrina Delaney.
Though wary of their history, Katrina and Jack are determined to put aside their differences in order to ensure Nick’s safe recovery but in saving the lost boy, they just may lose their hearts.

I really like the bones of the story, for such a short novel (just 165 pages) the author has developed a well layered plot, even if several elements seem somewhat truncated. The main conflicts expose personal and professional betrayal and shocking family secrets providing plenty of dramatic tension. The suspense is well crafted and nicely paced.

Katrina is an interesting character, only recently having found some sense of equilibrium after enduring several difficult years related to a tragic loss and the intrusiveness of her psychic gift, it’s brave of her to offer Jack her help, knowing she could be opening herself up to more pain.
Jack is a fairly typical leading man for the genre, he has made mistakes but in general is kind and honourable. He is a loving father and a savvy businessman though it’s his rugged farming persona that I found most appealing.(I have to mention too, I am a fan of the cover model representing him – yum!)
The chemistry between Katrina and Jack is portrayed well, their simmering attraction, complicated by the past, eventually boils over in a sensual scene.

I must admit I wish the author had chosen to exploit the story’s potential and developed Snowy River Man into a full length novel but it is a quick, engaging read offering an appealing tale of love, betrayal, forgiveness and family.

You can learn more about Snowy River Man in the guest post shared by Lizzy Chandler here at Book’d Out earlier today.

Win a copy of Snowy River Man by visiting http://lizzychandler.com/snowy-river-man-giveaway/. Entries close March 1st, 2015.

 

Snow River Man is available to purchase from

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AWW Feature: Lizzy Chandler and the Snowy River Man

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I am thrilled to welcome Lizzy Chandler to Book’d Out today to introduce her debut short novel, Snowy River Man.

Lizzy Chandler is the pen-name of Elizabeth Lhuede, a writer, book blogger and creative writing tutor who founded the Australian Women Writers Challenge. She reviews books under her own name at Devoted Eclectic.

Lizzy has written a number of novels in a variety of genres, including romance, romantic suspense, fantasy and psychological suspense. Her unpublished manuscripts have earned recognition in a number of competitions, including New Zealand’s Clendon Award and Australia’s Emma Darcy Award (now “Emerald”). Lizzy is a founding member of the RWA Turramurra group in Sydney. She is a trained counsellor and also teaches creative writing by distance through TAFE (NSW) Oten. She spends most of her time in the Blue Mountains.

coverSnowy River Man, published by Escape Publishing, Harlequin’s digital imprint, is an engaging contemporary romance with a hint of suspense.

The last time Katrina Delaney saw Jack Fairley was the morning after a one-night stand, when she discovered he was engaged to be married. Seven years later, she dreams of a missing boy – Jack’s son. Katrina has worked with police to find missing children before, and she knows she must help. But seeing Jack again comes with its own set of dangers, and Katrina fears the risks she is taking with her heart.

Jack Fairley’s standing in the community can’t keep his son from wandering off during a country rodeo. Frantic with worry, Jack is willing to do anything to find him, even put aside his scepticism and accept the help of a woman who sees his son in a dream. But when that woman turns out to be Katrina Delaney, he’s immediately suspicious. Neither Katrina nor Jack have any reason to trust each other, or the attraction that flares between them again. But trust they will have to, if they want any chance at love.”

My review of Snowy River Man can be read HERE, but first, please read on to learn more about Snowy River Man in this guest post from Lizzy Chandler.

‘The Lost Child’

Snowy River Man opens at a country rodeo, with mountains grazier Jack Fairley riding a brumby stallion. When he finishes his ride, he looks around and discovers his six-year-old son Nick has disappeared. Jack lost his wife when Nick was still a baby and he’s terrified the boy has wandered off into the Snowy Mountains wilderness.

The story of the “lost child” is an enduring motif in Australian culture, but it also has a special meaning for me. When I was three and my mother was in hospital with her tenth child (yes, we’re a big family!), my aunt took me and my older brothers and sisters down to a harbourside netted pool to swim. While my aunt was minding the 18-month-old, I paddled on the shore. As the late afternoon shadows crept, I looked back at the beach and I couldn’t see my family. I thought they’d gone home without me. So I walked. I walked up the hill for a couple of kilometres till I arrived back out our old Federation bungalow and found no one there. After that, I had a terror of getting lost. I remember the horror of looking around and not finding the person you want to see. I’ve used those emotions in this story.

The motif also has a deeper resonance. While I was writing Snowy River Man, there was a lot in the press about the stolen generations, and the anguish of mothers losing their children. It’s a national shame and the injustice of it still impacts on current generations of Aboriginal people. When I chose to hint that my heroine, Katrina, was part-indigenous, I wanted to gesture in some way towards the stolen generations, but also to make it personal. I’ve never lost a child, but I did lose the opportunity to have one, and have endured that grief. I know what it’s like to yearn for a baby in my arms, to look at the children of my ex-boyfriend and current partner and wonder what might have been.

In Snowy River Man, I take “what might have been” and give it a happy ending.

Win a copy of Snowy River Man by visiting http://lizzychandler.com/snowy-river-man-giveaway/. Entries close March 1st, 2015.

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Snow River Man is available to purchase from

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About: Losing It by Helen Lederer

 

Title: Losing It

Author: Helen Lederer

Published: Pan February 2015

Status: Read from February 18 to 20, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

Millie was at one time quite well known for various TV and radio appearances. However, she now has no money, a best friend with a better sex life than her, a daughter in Papua New Guinea and too much weight in places she really doesn’t want it.
When she’s asked to be the front woman for a new diet pill, she naively believes that all her troubles will be solved. She will have money, the weight will be gone, and maybe she’ll get more sex.
If only life was really that easy. It doesn’t take her long to realize it’s going to take more than a diet pill to solve her never-ending woes…”

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Review: My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

 

Title: My Sunshine Away

Author: M.O Walsh

Published: GP Putnam & Sons: Penguin USA February 2015

Status: Read on February 15, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:
My Sunshine Away is a moving and poignant coming of age narrative from debut author M.O. Walsh.

The unnamed narrator of My Sunshine Away is fourteen during the summer of 1989. He lives with his mother in middle class Baton Rouge, where he rakes leaves, plays baseball in the streets, chases the ice cream van and spies on the object of his obsessive crush, fifteen year old Lindy Simpson. One late summer evening his suburban idyll is disrupted when Lindy is is attacked on their street on her way home from a track practice.

This is a story of memory and hindsight, innocence and heartache, blessings and tragedy. Walsh brilliantly recalls the emotional intensity of adolescence, the confusion, the conviction, the naivete, and the regrets that can linger into adulthood. He highlights the joy and melancholy of first love, the shock of first disappointments, and the way in which these things stay with us.

The intensity of the first person narrative is tempered slightly by the adult perspective as the narrator segues between recall and rumination of Lindy’s rape and the aftermath.

“Every moment is crucial. And if we recognize this and embrace it, we will one day be able to look back and understand and feel and regret and reminisce and, if we are lucky, cherish.”

Referencing defining events such as the Challenger explosion, the capture of Jeffrey Dahmer and Hurricane Katrina, Walsh evokes nostalgia for long summer days on neighborhood streets, before the advent of cell phones and the internet. He explores the way in which the experiences of childhood and adolescence help to shape who we become as adults, but also the ways in which our memories of that time may be deeply flawed.

“But for every adult person you look up to in life there is trailing behind them an invisible chain gang of ghosts, all of which, as a child, you are generously spared from meeting.”

Evocative, tender and sincere My Sunshine Away is an absorbing, beautifully observed tale.

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Review: Doctor Death by Lene Kaaberbøl

 

Title: Doctor Death {A Madeleine Karno Mystery #1}

Author: Lene Kaaberbøl

Published: Atria Books February 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from February 15 to 16, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Set in provincial France during the late 1800’s, Doctor Death is the first book in a new historical mystery series from Lene Kaaberbøl, featuring Madeleine Karno.

“My father was reluctant to let me assist when he examined the dead. He said it could only hurt my reputation and my future – by which he meant my chances of marriage. For the most part, my father was a man of progress, absorbed by the newest ideas and the latest technology. But he was incomprehensibly old-fashioned on this particular point.”

The daughter of a widowed surgeon/coroner, Madeleine dreams of one day following in his footsteps but for now must be content with those rare times when her father allows her to assist him. Intelligent, rational and ambitious, Madeleine is an admirable character who chafes at the expectations of the era though rarely in an overt way. When her father is injured she seizes the opportunity to become more involved in his current case that begins with a dead girl, scarred with human bites, found on her snow covered doorstep.

Solving the complex mystery involves a combination of common investigation techniques led by Madeleine’s father’s colleague, the Commisioner, and the fledgling science of forensics utilised by Madeleine and her father. It is a strange case that involves an unidentified parasite, a missing boy, a pack of wolves, a murdered priest and it becomes increasingly unsettling as Madeleine gets closer to unmasking a killer. There are red herrings and twists that keep the reader guessing as Kaaberbøl explores the conflicts of human and beast, science and faith.

“Illness is not necessarily a punishment from God…. Sometimes it just comes to us. If we are lucky, it is a trial from which we can learn. Other times, we must just accept that we humans do not understand everything.”

The tone is quite dark overall and there are elements of the story which readers may find disturbing. There is a touch of unconventional romance which will be interesting to see develop in further installments. The pace is good but the narrative does feel a little dry and formal at times, perhaps a consequence of the translation as much as a reflection of the period.

I did enjoy Doctor Death, the mystery was intriguing and Madeleine is an interesting lead but I have to admit I wasn’t as engaged as I hoped to have been. I do hope to continue with the series though to see how it develops.

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Review: Intensive Care by Nicki Edwards

 

Title: Intensive Care

Author: Nicki Edwards

Published: Momentum February 2015

Read  an Excerpt

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

My Thoughts:

Crushed when she discovers her live in boyfriend of three years has been having an affair, ICU nurse Kate Kennedy packs up her belongings and desperate to move on, impulsively accepts a position at a hospital in the small country town of Birrangulla, five hours west of Sydney. Everything seems to be falling into place, she’s found the perfect job, the perfect home, and in search of the the perfect cup of coffee, may just have found the perfect man, but

Intensive Care is a contemporary rural medical romance in which the author, Nicki Edwards, draws on her love of country Australia and her personal nursing experience.

I found Kate to be a bit of a passive-aggressive character. There is a lot of emphasis on her dislike of confrontation but I thought she was often over sensitive, snappish and impatient. I understood her avoidance of her cheating boyfriend Marcus, especially as more details about their relationship were revealed, and sympathised with her feelings of hurt and betrayal. And while I admired Kate’s professional compassion for her patients, her reaction to Joel’s sister’s concerns bothered me, she didn’t demonstrate a lot of understanding for the younger woman’s fears.

Taking place over the period of about a year the romance between Kate and Joel develops slowly. Though they both have good reasons to be wary of beginning a new relationship, I found their chemistry a bit lacking. Joel in particularly seems disinterested much of the time while Kate tries to force the issue, which was slightly discomfiting.

Joel, with his Irish accent, coffee making genius, and handyman skills, is an appealing hero, made more so by his tragic past. Though perhaps a little passive for my taste, I found him sweet and charming.

A blend of medical drama, and rural romance, Intensive Care is a pleasant novel which should appeal to fans of both genres.

 

Please click here to learn more about Nicki Edwards and her writing journey.

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AWW Feature: My Writing Journey by Nicki Edwards

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I’m happy to introduce you to Nicki Edwards today.

After twenty-five years of marriage, travel, children, study and work, Nicki decided she wasn’t busy enough. In January of 2014 she woke up and decided to fulfill a lifelong dream to write a novel. Nicki calls herself a city girl with a country heart. Unfortunately the only way she can escape to the countryside of her dreams is by living vicariously through the lives of the characters in the rural romance novels she loves to read. If she could spend her days dressed in jeans and boots out on the farm surrounded by horses, dogs, cows and sheep, she’d be in her element. When Nicki isn’t dreaming, reading or writing about rural life, she can be found in her scrubs in the emergency department where she works fulltime as a nurse.

Intensive Care is her debut novel, a medical romance, drawing on her love for all things country and her nursing experience.

“Escaping to the country was meant to be easy …
On the surface it looks like busy intensive care nurse Kate Kennedy has it all: a long-term relationship, a great career and a sleek inner city apartment. But appearances are deceiving, and in one fell swoop everything comes crashing down around her. In a moment of spontaneity, Kate leaves her city life and takes a new role as Nurse Unit Manager at Birrangulla Base Hospital, but her dream move proves harder than expected.
Local cafe owner Joel O’Connor finds himself increasingly drawn to the gorgeous new nurse, but like Kate, he’s been scarred by love and isn’t looking to jump into anything. Yet their chemistry is hard to deny and after a near fatal incident, Joel and Kate find themselves opening up to one another.
Just when Kate thinks she’s found love again, their fragile relationship is thwarted by their pasts. Can they both let go of their guilt and grief to move on to a bright new future?”

My review of Intensive Care can be read HERE, in the meantime, please read on to learn more about Nicki Edward’s writing journey.

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My Writing Journey

Thanks for having me on Book’d Out.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks since the launch of my “book baby”, Intensive Care – a rural romance full of medical drama and I have to keep pinching myself that it’s all real – I wrote a book!
As a child I always had my nose stuck in a book, and ever since I learned to read I harboured a secret desire to one day write my own. I was encouraged by teachers at school to pursue some sort of career in writing, but I never thought I was good enough. After all the years of reading, I’d put authors on a very high pedestal indeed!
At the start of 2014 I decided enough was enough. If I ever wanted to tick off the next item on my bucket list and write a book, then I had to stop talking about it and actually do it! I started writing at the end of January in 2014 and four months later submitted what I’d written to Momentum. Intensive Care is my debut novel, and I’m currently working on the follow up, titled Emergency Response. I’ve also written another medical rural romance, The Peppercorn Lease, which is yet to be published.
Inspired after reading best-selling rural romance author Rachael Johns’ book Jilted, and then being introduced to the rural romance genre, I decided to write my own rural romance. They say “write what you know”, and “write what you love”. What I know is nursing and what I love is the country: so it was these two things that inspired the writing of Intensive Care.
Everyone knows the saying that truth really is stranger than fiction. As a nurse, I have the incredible honour and privilege of being with people in both their moments of triumph and in their tragedies – often in a single shift – and I wanted to be able to share some of these incredible stories. I hope that I have been able to portray the incredible work that intensive care nurses do every single day. I’m now working in the Emergency Department so it’s pretty easy to guess where my next stories are coming from! While some of my characters and stories are real (names changed of course), some of my colleagues may recognise themselves as minor characters in my books!
The other inspiration for writing rural romance comes after living in regional Australia for three years. Now living back in the city, I still yearn for the simple lifestyle I had back then when I drove past paddocks full of cows and sheep on my way into town. There’s something special about life in the country and one day I plan to return and have my own little “escape to the country” moment, just like Kate. Hopefully it won’t be because I have a broken heart.
One of the most rewarding things about embarking on this writing journey is the new people I have met – many have only been online, but I feel like we’ve been friends for years and I can’t wait for the day that I meet some of these readers and writers in person. Being connected with other writers has been a very important part of this journey. When I’m filled with self-doubt, they’re there to encourage me to keep going. I joined Romance Writer’s Australia and am involved with a number of smaller writer’s groups, both of which provide immense support.
Intensive Care is about a young city nurse who escapes from Sydney to regional NSW after a relationship breakdown. She hopes the country move will heal her broken heart. She quickly falls in love with life in Birrangulla, enjoys her job working in the intensive care unit and then meets and falls in love with cute Irish barista Joel O’Connor. Unfortunately, adjusting to country life and fitting into the community isn’t as easy as Kate expected. This is a story of loss and grief and of finding hope and love again.
I hope readers enjoy the sweet nature of the book as well as the emotional moments that Kate faces with her patients in the intensive care unit in the backdrop of a small Australian community. I think the characters are very ‘real’, and while Kate and Joel’s relationship develops slowly, (they have a long friendship before it finally blossoms into romance), I’m hoping that the readers will enjoy this. I don’t write open door bedroom scenes, so if you’re looking for hot and steamy sex scenes, you might be disappointed by my book.  At the end of the day, I hope readers like the book enough to want to read Emergency Response which is the love story between Kate Kennedy’s brother Nathan and nurse Mackenzie Jones.
Now I just need to find time to finish it!

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Review: Before I Go by Colleen Oakley

Title: Before I Go

Author: Colleen Oakley

Published: Allen & Unwin February 2015

Status: Read from February 12 to 13, 2015  – I own a copy { Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Daisy Richmond is twenty seven, happily married, working towards her Master’s degree and about to celebrate three years cancer-free, when her doctor delivers the news that her body is riddled with tumours, and it’s likely she won’t live beyond six months. Daisy is devastated but her overwhelming concern is for her husband, Jack. How will her wonderful but disorganised and absent minded husband cope without her? Who will scratch his back when he can’t reach, make sure he eats regular meals, or save him from drowning in a sea of dirty socks?

Before I Go is a poignant, tender debut novel authored by Colleen Oakley that tugged on my heart strings as I read it. However, on reflection, I don’t have much to say about it.

It doesn’t offer a particularly unique premise though the idea of finding a replacement for yourself is thought provoking. The characters are engaging, evoking an appropriate mixture of sympathy, admiration, and frustration, but none of them surprised me.

I did feel that the book was well written, and I appreciated the way Oakley tempered the inevitable seriousness with flashes of humour. The underlying message, about savouring and living in the present, is sincerely and simply presented.

Before I Go is an emotional, bittersweet story about love, loss, life and death. A lovely read, just not really memorable for me.

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Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

 

Title: Red Queen {Red Queen #1}

Author: Victoria Aveyard

Published: Hachette Au February 2015

Status: Read from February 11 to 12, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

A fast-paced high fantasy adventure, Red Queen introduces Victoria Aveyard’s debut trilogy.

Perhaps the weakest aspect of Red Queen is its fairly formulaic concept. Aveyard pits an elite group – the Silvers – against an oppressed faction – the Reds. The Silvers, so called because of their silver blood, have a range of special abilities and hold all the wealth and power. The Reds, who bleed red blood, have no such gifts and are used as little more than slave labour or as fodder for the war with neighboring factions, subject to the whims of the ruling class. Enter the Scarlet Dawn, a band of Red rebels determined to overthrow the Silver’s.

“We will rise, red as the dawn.”

In terms of plot however, the author ably develops exciting conflict, intrigue, and betrayal. There is plenty of tension, high emotion and drama as Mare struggles to deal with the dangerous situation she finds herself trapped in. The story is fast paced with plenty of action and the obligatory romantic triangle, though with a surprising twist.

“I see a world on the edge of a blade. Without balance, it will fall.”

I liked Mare a lot, she is daring, feisty and loyal to those she loves. She has never simply accepted her lot in life as a Red, rebelling by becoming a petty thief in order to help support her family, and she jumps at the chance to become part of the revolution. Mare’s idealism is tempered with a hard earned streak of pragmatism but it proves to be not quite enough to protect her from intrigue of the Silver Court. She makes mistakes, tending to take things at face value, and as such is vulnerable to placing her trust in the wrong people with dramatic consequences.

“It is impossible. It is foolish. It is our best chance.”

The other main characters introduced in Red Queen also prove to be interesting, particularly the Silver Princes, Cal and Maven. Their complicated dynamic is integral to the plot development and Aveyard uses it well.

“He’s strong, he’s talented, he’s powerful – and I’m his shadow. The shadow of the flame.”

Entertaining and exciting I really enjoyed Red Queen and I am looking forward to the next book.

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