Bookshelf Bounty


Every third Sunday of the month I share my Bookshelf Bounty – what’s been added to my TBR tile recently for review from publishers, purchases or gifts.

This month I’m linking up with Mailbox Monday

Click on the cover images to view at Goodreads

For Review (print)

(My thanks to the respective publishers)




Ebook



Review: Crackenback by Lee Christine

Title: Crackenback

Author: Lee Christine

Published: 1st February 2021, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read February 2021 courtesy Allen & Unwin

+++++++

My Thoughts:

Crakenback follows Lee Christine’s bestselling debut, Charlotte’s Pass, featuring NSW Homicide Squad Detective Sergeant Pierce Ryder. It’s not necessary to have read the former however, as I found this story works very well as a stand-alone.

With the start of the ski season still a few weeks away, Golden Wattle Lodge proprietor Eva Bell is alone with her three year old, Poppy, when Jack Walker, bruised and bleeding, bursts through the door. Eva is terrified as he strips her of her phone and keys, irrationally convinced he has come for his daughter. Learning that Jack has instead come to protect them from a killer bent on revenge gives her only the smallest sense of relief.

Meanwhile DS Ryder and his small task force are searching for a new lead in the hunt for Gavin Hutton who is suspected of beating two men to death. Joined by Detective ‘Daisy’ Flowers, and new team member, Nerida Sterling, the investigation takes them from Sydney, south to Jervis Bay, north to the Central Coast and west to the Snowy Mountains, where their quarry is finally in sight.

Christine immediately captures the reader’s attention in Crackenback with a dramatic prologue, the relevance of which is revealed later in the story, but there’s plenty of action and tension to follow in this tightly plotted, exciting story.

I was as interested in the progress Ryder and his team were making in the search for their fugitive, as I was in Jack and Eva’s nervous wait for their attacker, though it quickly becomes clear they are one and the same. Both perspectives advance the plot and are neatly complimentary while building suspense. I thought the pacing of the story was very good, and I read it easily in one sitting.

Both Eva and Jack were appealing characters. I admired Eva’s determination to protect her daughter and her practical, sensible way of coping with the frightening situation she was thrust into. Jack has an interesting background, and he is obviously capable and resourceful. Though their relationship, which resulted in Poppy, was not much more than a one night stand, it’s obvious the pair are still attracted to each other, though Christine plays down the romance angle in favour of the action.

Unfortunately I hadn’t the opportunity to read Charlotte’s Pass so I’m not terribly familiar with Ryder, but I liked what I saw of him. It was his girlfriend Vanessa, who is also Eva’s sister, who had a larger role in that story. It seems likely to me that the third book will feature one of Ryder’s team.

While the main action takes place at the Lodge in Thredbo, and the deepening snow plays beautifully into the action, one of things I liked was the way in which Christine’s characters moved within the state of NSW. I was particularly delighted that my town of Taree even got a mention (though it wasn’t very flattering and, as far as I know, not true, given the Officer in Charge of our station is a woman).

With an intriguing storyline, fast paced action, and strong characterisation, I thought Crackenback was a great book, and I’ll definitely be reading Christine Lee’s next.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

Review: Before I Saw You by Emily Houghton

Title: Before I Saw You

Author: Emily Houghton

Published: 4th February 2021, Bantam Press

Status: Read February 2021 courtesy Bantam Press/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

Before I Saw You is a winsome contemporary novel from debut author Emily Houghton

Badly burned in a fire and deeply traumatised, Alice Gunnersley, can’t even bear to look at herself, and has refused to speak since she woke. Moved into a rehabilitation ward, she insists the curtain around her bed remain closed at all times, but that wont stop Alfie Mack from getting to know the girl in the bed next door. Alfie has been in St Francis’s Hospital for months, recuperating after his leg was amputated due to a car accident. He rarely stops talking, determined to keep both his own, and his fellow ward mates spirits high, and he’s sure if he asks enough questions, Alice will eventually answer.

Told from the alternating points of view of Alice and Alfie, this is very much a character driven story primarily taking place in the one location. It’s focus is on the connection that slowly forms between the two protagonists, both of whom have experienced life changing events but are very different personalities, and therefore have very different approaches to coping. Alice, a workaholic with no family to speak of and only one close friend who has relocated to Australia, used to being alone, has withdrawn further into herself. Alfie, a passionate teacher with loving parents and a large group of friends tries to remain positive by using humour and focusing on the needs of others, despite his private grief and pain.

As their first tentative conversation progresses to a late night sharing of secrets, It’s no surprise that deeper feelings develops between them. That neither know what the other looks like adds a layer of interest to the attraction, particularly since they are both physically scarred, and worried about the reaction of others to their injuries.

I thought Houghton was sensitive to the trauma her protagonists have, and continue to experience. She doesn’t minimise their darker emotions, but neither does she dwell in them, at least until the last 20% or so where the story gets quite bogged down in the self pity of both characters – honest perhaps, but dull reading particularly when whatever sense of anticipation you may have is poorly rewarded if you are expecting a traditional romantic HEA ending.

Though I thought there was a misstep or two with regards to the plot, Houghton’s skilful portrayal of character and emotions in particular meant I found Before I Saw You to be a moving and engaging read.

+++++++

Available from Penguin UK

Or from your preferred retailer via HiveUK I Book Depository I Booko I Indiebound

Review: Adult Virgins Anonymous by Amber Crewe

Title: Adult Virgins Anonymous

Author: Amber Crewe

Published: 21st January 2021, Coronet

Status: Read January 2021 courtesy Hodder & StaughtonUK/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

In looking for a light read for the month of January, Adult Virgins Anonymous by Amber Crewe garnered my attention because of its eye catching title and unusual premise. Billed as a romantic comedy, Kate and Freddie, both in their late twenties, meet at a support group for adult virgins.

This wasn’t quite the light hearted romp I was expecting though. When the book opens, Kate is on the verge of a depressive episode. Her career has stalled, her friends seem to have moved on and left her behind, and she has no choice other than to move back in with her parents. Meanwhile Freddie, who has a clinical history of anxiety and OCD, is tired of feeling misunderstood and alone. Both are virgins not through choice per se, but because of a lack of opportunity, and both feel it is a burden that contributes to their single status.

Cue the fortuitous discovery of a support group, where they learn they aren’t the only adult virgins in London. Hosted by a person who identifies as nonbinary, the group includes a diverse range of members who for varying reasons are also virgins. They are an appealing bunch, and Crewe takes care to flesh these characters out, even though they play a reasonably minor role in the story as individuals. The group though is the stage that allows for thoughtful discussion about the nature of desire, sex, sexuality, love, insecurity, loneliness and personal happiness.

Inevitably Kate and Freddie decide that having sex with each other is a good idea, an opportunity to get ‘it’ over with, with no strings, but predictably the pair catch feelings for each other they are too afraid to admit to. It’s a cute take on the friends to lovers trope though the repetitive cycle of angst before they confess does get a little tiring.

Crewe’s characterisation is impressive, and I thought she wrote sensitively in regards to the various issues explored in the novel, including on the subjects of adult virginity, OCD and self esteem. What I thought was uneven with regards to the story was the balance between the comic and serious elements, and the pacing.

While Adult Virgins Anonymous wasn’t quite the romantic comedy I was anticipating I thought it offered some unique detail, and enjoyed reading it.

+++++++

Available from Hodder & Staughton

Or from your preferred retailer via HiveUK I Book Depository I Booko

Review: Something Like This by Karly Lane


Title: Something Like This

Author: Karly Lane

Published: 1st December 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read December 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

Despite the devastating loss of her husband, with hard work and the fortuitous inheritance of her grandparents farm, Tilly Hollis is now on the verge of fulfilling their shared dream to launch an equine therapy program for troubled teens. With just a few more weeks of work at a local cafe, she will finally have the funds to build the last of the infrastructure that will allow her to launch Healing Hooves Horse Therapy.

In need of solitude and a fresh start, retired army soldier and handyman Jason Weaver plans to renovate the old farmhouse he just purchased on the outskirts of Ben Tirran, and then move on. He is not expecting to have his head turned by a waitress in a small country town, and it surprises them both when a mutual attraction develops.

Something Like This from bestselling Australian author, Karly Lane, is a heartwarming rural romance set in the the New England highlands.

Tilly and Jason are well-realised, appealing characters. Tilly is a strong and resilient woman, particularly for having endured more than her share of tragedy including the loss of her father and brother in separate incidences as a teen, her husband’s untimely death, and most recently her mother’s slow demise from breast cancer. Jason is also no stranger to death, having served in the army he has lost several friends, and is especially haunted by the incident that cost him his lower leg. Still struggling with his past, falling for Tilly encourages him to look to the future.

I thought the relationship between the two characters was very well-handled, Lane allows them both time to adjust to their attraction to one another, and doesn’t rush the inevitable. I appreciated the lack of dramatic obstacles usually employed to keep a couple apart, which served to make this romance more realistic and relatable.

They say some people are horsey people, while others are not, but even non-horsey people will be moved by the touching goals of Tilly’s equine therapy program, and the history of the Guy Fawkes Heritage Horses Tilly uses at her farm. Guy Fawkes Heritage horses (previously referred to as wild Brumbies), found in the Guy Fawkes River National Park in north eastern NSW, were once subject to regular culls to protect the environment, but are now considered to be of significant historical, military and cultural value. The population of this spirited breed is now managed with a rehoming project, and in Something Like This, Tilly combines her therapy program with the need to acclimatise these horses to humans.

An engaging story, set at a gentle pace, told with genuine warmth for her characters and setting, Something Like This is a lovely and eminently satisfying read.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia

Also by Karly Lane reviewed at Book’d Out

Review: Love In Lockdown by Chloe James

Title: Love in Lockdown

Author: Chloe James (a pseudonym for Fiona Woodifield)

Published: 23rd November 2020, Avon Books UK

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy AvonUK/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

I selected Love In Lockdown by Chloe James on a whim, in part because I thought I’d probably be in the mood for a light romance by the end of Nonfiction November, and also because I was curious about how an author might integrate the lockdown into a novel.

Set in the UK, Love In Lockdown begins in March 2020, shortly after the British government mandates a stay at home order, where all but ‘essential’ workers are required to remain at home, except to participate in a limited period of socially distanced exercise, or purchase groceries in an effort to slow the spread of the pandemic.

As the cheers and applause for the weekly ‘Clap for NHS’, honouring the sacrifices of the doctors and nurses dealing with the pandemic, die down, Jack hears the sobs of a woman on the balcony beneath him. Sophia, moved by the chorus, and emotional thinking about the risks coronavirus poses to her loved ones, is startled by a stranger’s inquiry about her well-being from the flat above her, but enjoys the ensuing chat. Told in chapters that alternate between the first person perspectives of Sophia and Jack, thus begins a slow, sweet development of a friendship leading to a romantic relationship, despite the two being unable to meet face to face.

Sophia, a teacher, is required to continue working, as is her roommate, a NHS midwife, while Jack, a bartender, is confined to his flat 24/7 due to a kidney condition which places him in a high risk category. Their evening chats, sharing snacks and drink via an improvised dumbwaiter, quickly become a regular highlight of their day, and their discussions prompt them to reach out to others in their immediate area who may be lonely, or in need of help.

The romance between Sophia and Jack is the driving element of the novel, but Love In Lockdown is also a story about family and community. James features the ways people find to connect despite the necessity of physical distance during the lockdown, shown by the regular FaceTime calls between Jack and his brother, Sophia’s sister’s Zoom wedding, and the use of WhatsApp to link the people in Sophia and Jack’s neighbourhood and set up an informal care network.

The author also explores the impact of the lockdown on diverse groups of people outside the immediate locale, like Sophia’s students and their parents, the autistic residents of a nearby boarding home, and members of Jack and Sophia’s extended family.

While the story isn’t without its flaws, Love In Lockdown is a light, escapist read that as the author hoped, reflects the positive spirit, courage, hope and love that also came out of the lockdown, despite its dire circumstances.

++++++

Available from Avon Books UK

Or from your local Amazon retailer

Blog Tour Review: The Bush Telegraph by Fiona McArthur

Title: The Bush Telegraph

Author: Fiona McArthur

Published: 1st September 2020, Michael Joseph

Status: Read September 2920, courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

 

Reader’s familiar with The Baby Doctor, will be delighted to discover Fiona McArthur’s The Bush Telegraph features Maddy Locke, the young woman who gave birth in an abandoned storefront while hiding from her abusive boyfriend, in this lively, heartwarming and absorbing rural romance novel.

Set eleven years later, Maddy and her daughter, Bridget, have returned to the small outback town of Spinifex where Maddy, who has since earned a host of nursing qualifications, is to manage the local medical centre. Hoping to banish the ghosts of her past, and make a life for herself and Bridget among the wide open spaces, Maddy is determined to rise to the challenge of providing quality health care to the region and support the revitalisation of the struggling remote community in the memory of her late adopted mother, and former town publican, Alma.

Romance is the last thing on Maddy’s mind, her trust in men having been eroded by her disastrous relationship with Bridget’s father, but meeting attractive station owner Connor Fairhall challenges that. Though wary of the single father who seems to be the subject of disturbing rumours, and whose son, Jayden, appears set on causing trouble, Connor proves to be an unexpected temptation for Maddy. I really liked the way in which McArthur developed the relationship between the two protagonists, particularly with respect to their backgrounds, and I thought their friendship blossomed into romance, with convincing chemistry, nicely.

While the romance is integral to the plot of The Bush Telegraph, McArthur explores several important themes and issues within the story. There are characters facing various problems including alcohol addiction, financial pressures, abandonment, domestic abuse, betrayal and grief. The community itself is showing signs of neglect, with struggling businesses, vacant storefronts, and a dwindling population.

The challenges of providing medical care in a remote location like Spinifex are made clear by McArthur as she details Maddy’s varied nursing tasks in the clinic, which include providing emergency treatment to a walk-in heart attack patient and a child in diabetic crisis, setting broken bones and stitching cuts, and caring for a woman in pre-term labour. Drawing on her own experience working in remote regions as a midwife, McArthur highlights the need for remote health workers to be well resourced and capable of handling a range of situations, the importance of back-up being available in an emergency, and most dramatically, what it means when the life in your hands is your own child’s. I was so affected by one incident involving Maddy providing life-saving treatment, I found myself wiping away a tear or two.

With its engaging characters, captivating drama, and heartfelt emotion, The Bush Telegraph is a wonderful read, sure to appeal to fans of the contemporary rural genre. I think it’s her best yet.

++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

 

Also by Fiona McArthur reviewed at Book’d Out

 

 

Review: The McCalister Legacy by Nicole Hurley-Moore

Title: The McCalister Legacy

Author: Nicole Hurley-Moore

Published: August 4th 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read August 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

+++++++

My Thoughts:

The McCalister Legacy is an engaging novel of rural romantic suspense from Nicole Hurley-Moore.

Eleven years after the tragic loss of her parents and grandparents on the evening of her tenth birthday, Berry McCalister returns to their family farm in the small town of Harlington to decide the property’s fate. Her instinct is to remodel the house and then get rid of Stone Gully Farm, and reminders of the tragedy along with it, but as the renovations progress she’s surprised by how at home she is beginning to feel. The community of Harlington is warm and welcoming, particularly Nate Tarant from the neighbouring horse stud, but when she decides not to sell she is subjected to anonymous threats. Berry is puzzled given the land has no particular value, until she discovers some old paperwork of her father’s tied to an area legend, and a deadly secret is finally brought to light.

Set in rural Victoria, the story unfolds over three timelines. The earliest reveals a story that has become a legend in the town of Harlington of a young boy who got lost and stumbled upon a seam of gold, but was too young to reveal its exact location in 1902. The second timeline takes place in 2007 and explores the circumstances surrounding the murder-suicide that deprived Berry and her siblings of their parents and grandparents, while the third timeline is set in the present day.

The plot offers a good mix of drama, mystery and romance, and though it’s fairly predictable, it’s satisfying in that everything is quite cleanly resolved. While The McCalister Legacy is centered on a disturbing event, the villain is eventually exposed and punished, and there is a happy, albeit not perfect, ending for the remaining characters.

A quick, easy and pleasant novel, I enjoyed The McCalister Legacy and I’m sure fans of the genre, and Hurley-Moore will too.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: Tiny White Lies by Fiona Palmer

Title: Tiny White Lies

Author: Fiona Palmer

Published: August 8th 2020, Hachette Australia

Status: Read August 2020 courtesy Hachette Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

Tiny White Lies is an engaging contemporary tale from best selling Western Australian author Fiona Palmer.

When Ashley discovers her fifteen year old daughter is the subject of bullying both at school and online from her classmates, she is heartbroken. Already struggling to cope in the aftermath of her husband’s recent suicide, she suggests that they escape for the school holidays in the hopes of at least temporarily leaving bad memories behind.

After a difficult year that has left her feeling disconnected from herself, her husband and her device-obsessed teenage children, Nikki, inspired by her best friend’s idea for a vacation, suggests Ash and Emily join them at her husband’s cousins farm near Bremer Bay on the southern coast of W.A.

Ash and Nikki are delighted as their children adjust to a new tech-free routine, enjoying the ocean, bushland and farm activities Luke’s farm provides, but for the adults the lack of distractions becomes uncomfortable as the little white lies they have told one another, and themselves, cast a pall over their vacation.

A story of relationships, secrets, lies and love, there is plenty of high emotion, drama and even romance on offer in Tiny White Lies. Palmer briefly examines a raft of serious issues including mental illness, suicide, bullying, cancer, marriage difficulties, and body-image but its strongest focus is on the theme of disconnection.

I found Ash and Nikki to be likeable and sympathetic characters, though I don’t have much in common with either of them, I still felt they were relatable. As a mother of teenagers their concerns about their children, particularly in relation to electronic media use, are familiar, as are their children’s attitudes.

I loved the setting, having spent plenty of school holidays in southern Western Australia, and in both Albany and Esperance, which are west and east, along the coast, of Bremer Bay respectively. Palmer evokes the wild beauty of the area with its dense bushland and gorgeous white sand beaches, spending a few weeks at Luke’s farm would definitely be no hardship.

Written with warmth and insight into the challenges faced by modern families, I enjoyed reading Tiny Little Lies, as I’m sure all fans of Australian rural contemporary fiction will.

++++++

Available from Hachette Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Also by Fiona Palmer reviewed at Book’d Out

 

 

 

Review: Deadman’s Track by Sarah Barrie

Title: Deadman’s Track

Author: Sarah Barrie

Published: July 8th 2020, HQ Fiction

Status: Read July 2020 courtesy Harlequin Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

Evoking both the beauty and danger of Tasmania’s mountains and rugged coastline, with the capricious winter weather often mirroring the tension of the storyline, Deadman’s Track is a riveting romantic thriller from Sarah Barrie.

The story opens with a breathtaking scene as wilderness guide Tess Atherton clings to the side of Tasmania’s Federation Peak attempting to save the life of a careless client, and it’s not the last time in Deadman’s Track that she will find herself trapped in a precarious position. The nail biting plot offers plenty of fast paced, tense action that sees Tess caught in the middle of a violent robbery, stalked by an ex-boyfriend, and targeted by a psychotic killer as she leads five teenagers through the Tasmanian bush.

The youngest of the Atherton siblings who own and run Calico Lodge, (with her brothers, Logan and Connor, featured in Bloodtree River and Devil’s Lair respectively), I thought Tess was an appealing character, who In the face of both physical and emotional challenges, proved to be courageous and resilient. She is confronted with two notable antagonists in Deadman’s Track, Aaron, who doesn’t it take it well when Tess tries to end their relationship, and ex-con Paxton. The behaviour of both men serves to push her closer to Jared, a local police detective with whom Tess has some history. A likeable character, thoughtful and straightforward both personally and professionally, Jared is a good match for Tess, and I enjoyed the development of their relationship, despite the somewhat awkward timing.

It may be considered ambitious of Barrie to include intrigue, action, romance and some thoughtful social commentary in Deadman’s Track, but she does so effortlessly, creating a credible and compelling story. Exciting, atmospheric and gripping, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

++++++

Available from Harlequin/HarperCollins Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Also by Sarah Barrie reviewed at Book’d Out

 

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