Review: Fortune’s Son {Tasmanian Tales #1} by Jennifer Scoullar

Title: Fortune’s Son {The Tasmanian Tales #1}

Author: Jennifer Scoullar

Published: June 7th 2018, Pilyara Press

Status: Read April 2019- courtesy the author



My Thoughts:

Moving from the wilderness of Tasmania, to the Mainland, to the diamond fields of South Africa, and back again, Fortune’s Son is the first book in Jennifer Scoullar’s sweeping historical saga, The Tasmanian Tales.

After defending his sisters honour from her lecherous and powerful employer, Sir Henry Abbott, Lucas Tyler is unjustly sentenced to 15 years hard labour in the remote highlands of Tasmania. Forced to leave his family, his mentor -Damian Campbell, and his dreams of a future with Belle Campbell behind, Lucas endures four years of deprivation before escaping, along with a Newfoundland he names Bear. With a bounty on his head, Lucas must reinvent himself, not once but twice, in his quest to have his revenge on the Abbott family, and seek redemption from the love of his life.

Luke is an appealing and well crafted character. It is his misfortunes, challenges, and successes, that drive the story. While he is generally an admirable man, resourceful, with a genuine love for animals, Luke also has his flaws, which serve to make him a more believable character.

The enduring romance between Damian and Belle perhaps lacks originality. It’s a fairly standard trope where the lovers are unequal in status, and therefore, in Victorian society, doomed from the start. That said, it is a love story on an epic scale which Scoullar portrays well. With the idealism of youth, Belle and Lucas ignore the realities, and are faced with a number of obstacles and decades apart before there is any chance of a reunion.

Jennifer Scoullar, herself an environmental advocate, wonderfully evokes the historic wilds of nineteenth century Tasmania. Damien Campbell’s role as a conservationist allows the author to inform us about the harm early pastoralists and miners caused to the land, and their role in the extinction of the Tasmanian Tiger. I found this fascinating and really enjoyed this aspect of the novel. Similarly I liked the author’s descriptions of South Africa, and Luke’s efforts to protect the native wildlife.

A compelling tale of love, betrayal, revenge and redemption The Fortune’s Son is a heartfelt, engaging novel of historical fiction, that reminds me of the epic scope of the Australian classic, The Man From Snowy River.

I’ll be sure to follow it up with The Lost Valley.



Available to Purchase via

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Review: The Cottage at Rosella Cove by Sandie Docker

Title: The Cottage at Rosella Cove

Author: Sandie Docker

Publisher: Michael Joseph January 2019

Status: Read March 2019



My Thoughts:

The Cottage at Rosella Cove is the second novel by Australian author, Sandie Docker.

Themes explored through the novel Include friendship, love, loss, grief, betrayal and hope. The story involves three timelines, which Docker handles remarkably well.

In the present, Nicole Miller arrives at Rosella Cove. In exchange for renovating a cottage on the bluff, she has a rent free six month lease during which she hopes to heal her wounds, and reimagine a new future. Despite planning on spending her time in the Cove alone, Nicole is quickly befriended by the community, particularly local family Mandy, Trevor, Jack, and family friend, Danny Temple, who cheerfully offer to help with the renovations. Nicole also strikes up a friendship of sorts with Charlie, widely considered to be a curmudgeonly old hermit, who has his own story to tell.

The near past timeline explains why Nicole felt compelled to flee to Rosella Cove. Docker explores Nicoles experiences thoughtfully, slowly revealing the reason for Nicole’s fragile emotional state.

The distant past, is revealed through a series of letters Nicole discovers hidden behind the fireplace. The letters are all written by the former owner of the cottage, Ivy Wilson, to her husband beginning in 1941, and continue until her death in 1976. These letters reveal the joys and heartbreak of Ivy’s life, and in part, help Nicole come to terms with the direction her own life has taken.

Docker’s Rosella Cove is a small coastal community, not dissimilar from those a stones throw from me. I can easily visualise the cottage, boathouse, and the towns general environs based on the authors descriptions. The inhabitants of the Cove, both in the past and present, are fairly typical of the genre.

I enjoyed The Cottage at Rosella Cove, the story was both sweet and poignant, and has a warm, genuine feel.



Available to Purchase from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

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Review: Encore by Margaret Lynette Sharp


Title: Encore

Author: Margaret Lynette Sharp

Published:  CreateSpace February 2013

Status: Read on May 26, 2014

My Thoughts:

Encore is a lovely book of 25 short stories by Margaret Lynn Sharp, her sixth self published collection.

Sharp’s characters are a mix of ages and genders, whose stories are told in the first and third person. This results in an interesting variety of perspectives on humanity, relationships and romance.

I particularly liked Dear David, written in an epistolary format, about a rekindled romance, Just the Shot, about a grandfathers gift to his grandson, and The Locket, the story of a secret love.

Despite the brevity of each contribution, Sharp is able to inspire emotion in the reader and communicate the action succinctly. More often than not, the stories hold a twist that veers away from the expected. The prose and dialogue is well-crafted, if sometimes a touch too formal.

Like Sharp’s previous collections, Encore is a pleasant and easy read.

Encore is available to purchase at

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Review: Shopping at the Sony Reader™ Store


I had always assumed that the Sony Reader™ Store was exclusively linked to the Sony brand readers, much like Kindle is to Amazon, so I was surprised when  a publicist approached me wondering if I would be interested in shopping at their store and sharing my thoughts about it. Who knew that Sony also offers Apple and Android apps plus PC/MAC software as their ebooks are provided in DRM E-Pub format? I sure didn’t and I was eager to explore another option for e-book purchases.

With a twenty dollar voucher kindly provided by Sony I headed for the Australian Sony Reader™ Store and was greeted by a visually attractive  homepage, with a category list and book covers sorted under headings such as New and Noteworthy, Popular Biographies and Australian Books.  Though not necessary, before I started browsing I created an account, a simple process requiring an email address and password, opting in for the newsletter and briefly perusing the boring legal stuff.

Back on the home page I picked the New and Noteworthy category and started scrolling, the featured categories include a list of about thirty books. Clicking on the book cover bought up an individual page for the book with publication details, the blurb and the option to Buy or Add To My Wishlist. I browsed from the categories on the homepage quite happily for a while and after scrolling to the end of the page discovered more to browse including “Books Under $6.99”,  “First Books in a Series” and “Free E-books” (mostly comprised of novellas and short stories)

Browsing the general categories like Crime, Mystery and Thrillers is daunting though. You can sort the category by Relevance, Date and Price but browsing such a general field can be a time consuming process.  While you can search for books by author, title or keyword, there is no easy way to browse amongst sub genres if , for example, you were just interested in browsing thrillers. I also found it tedious that I couldn’t jump ahead in browsing the larger category any more than one page at a time because of the current restrictive navigation options. These are issues I believe Sony really needs to reexamine.

Prices seem competitive for the Australian market and I even spotted some bargains – though there was no easy way to actually find them. I didn’t hesitate when I stumbled across a copy of Tony Cavanaugh’s Promise, the first book in his Darien Richards series, that included a bonus of the second book, Dead Girl Sing, in full. Two for the price of one at $11.99! I dithered for a while before choosing  The Donor by Helen Fitzgerald as my second book ($8.99). It was another book that had been on my wishlist for ages.


I spent a little more than the value of the voucher I had been provided with and I was a somewhat disappointed to discover credit cards are the only accepted payment option. I personally prefer to use Paypal for online transactions. There is the option of purchasing a gift voucher but it seems only through a physical store, in this case Myer.

After my purchase was complete, I grabbed my iPad and downloaded the Sony Reader app from the Apple store. Once I had signed in my library was visible but I had an issue with accessing them. Though the app accepted my Adobe ID details without any issues I kept running into an associated error when I tried to actually open the files. I have sent an email to Sony customer service but they are only available Mon-Fri so I wont have a reply until after the weekend. I’ll have to update you.

Overall my experience shopping for ebooks at the Sony Reader Store was a little mixed, though I am likely to visit again for a browse, assuming the app issue is cleared up.

In Summary:


* Visually attractive and clean site *Competitive pricing *Simple browsing options for popular/new release titles *Access for non-Sony devices *Able to Wishlist items


*Search options need refining *Credit card only payment method *Possible issues with IOS app

Have you visited the Sony Reader Store? What do you think of it?

* UPDATE Jan 2014: My issue with the Sony App on my iPad has still not been resolved though the customer service rep has maintained good communication in their attempts to identify the problem. It is definitely an issue with the app and to bypass it I have downloaded the ADE files to my PC (via Adobe Digital Editions) and transferred them into a third party app (Bluefire Reader) to access them. Not a huge issue but a small inconvenience*

Review: A Wicked Kind of Dark by Jonathan K. Benton

Title: A Wicked Kind of Dark{The Minaea Chronicles #1}

Author: Jonathan K. Benton

Published: Odyssey Books September 2013

Status: Read from September 12 to 13, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A Wicked Kind of Dark is a debut urban fantasy novel and the first in a planned series named The Minaea Chronicles. Author Jonathan K. Benton introduces eighteen year old Robert Duncan, who as a child was badly hurt in a fall and lost six months of his memory, a period he calls the Winter of No Content. Robert has always wondered about the mysterious gap, then a static filled phone call, a portrait of a somehow familiar flame haired woman and graffiti appearing all over London referring to the coming ‘blood moon’ triggers the unraveling of his childhood secrets and reveals the kingdom of Minaea.

The real world setting is divided between modern day London, where Robert currently lives, and rural Scotland where he spent his childhood. It was in Scotland that Robert met Luthien, a young girl who became his best friend as they played in nearby castle ruins imagining a fantastic world they named Minaea. Luthien was presumed to have died in the same accident that injured Robert but the recent events in London seem to suggest otherwise.

Benton’s fantasy world, Minaea, is heavily influenced by Tolkien, and I wonder if A Wicked Kind of Dark began as some kind of fan fiction. There are several direct references to the novel but also evident parallels combined with the author’s own touches. One of these is the concept of ‘twin souls’, Robert and Luthien are paired with Minaea’s Lord and Lady of the Light – Rafael Lae (The Sparkling Man) and Tala Lae, and they need each other to fight the demon Jakal’s evil plan to destroy Minaea and invade Earth.

A strength of the story is its social conscience element regarding homelessness. Robert, in his quest for answers, becomes involved in a London Soup Kitchen with people whose lives have been changed by an encounter with The Sparkling Man.

Primarily where the novel doesn’t quite work for me is that I felt A Wicked Kind of Dark seemed more like a MG (middle grade) fantasy later edited in an attempt to expand its appeal to a more mature young adult audience and I think the story is weakened as a result. It was just an okay read for me.

Available to Purchase From

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AWW Feature & Review: Posioned Waters Blog Tour

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I am welcoming Ermisenda Alvarez to Book’d Out today to share an excerpt of her self published novel Poisoned Waters.

Along with numerous solo works, Ermisenda began writing on role play sites at fourteen and completed her first crime novel at fifteen. Driven by the desire to evoke the kaleidoscope of emotions her favorite authors are able to, she kept writing. Growing up bilingual amongst her Spanish family in Australia, she found a love and deep appreciation for language and the power it wielded.

Poisoned Waters is set in the 1950s on a trans-Atlantic cruise from Southampton to New York. Helen Gardener is murdered during the voyage. The novel follows the stories of seven unfortunate characters and how they are affected by the death of Helen Gardener. Was it merely an accident? Mr Phillips, the owner of the ship, and sponsor of the cruise, rules with an iron fist, in search of something or someone.

Lies spiral out of control as the suspects try to survive the final days on board. Conflicted by their sense of morals, greed, and lust, they realise what kind of people they really are. Who will rise? Who will fall? Who was Helen’s murderer?

Bloody mistakes, ugly scars, and beautiful lies. A tale of corruption.

This is the first chapter of, Poisoned Waters.

“I trust everyone. I just don’t trust the devil inside them.”
Troy Kennedy Martin

Chapter 1
Pearl Moon

26th August 1955
Friday Evening

The crystal chandelier of the Diamond Royale’s Grand Hall glistened, showering raindrops of light all over the room. American swing, fast gaining popularity in post-war Europe, filled the air with a festive atmosphere. Passengers aboard the luxury ship bound for New York swayed to the beat of a live band, as they sipped blood-red wine, and savoured the taste of lust on another’s fleshy lips. While most clustered together in fits of giggles and chuckles, Sylvia strayed to the side, with a cigarette between her fingers.

The smoke danced up towards the ceiling as if trying to escape from her crimson lips. The smell of nicotine was pungent and it seeped through the black satin gloves she wore. Sylvia didn’t know why she had bothered to come aboard this cruise; it was full of hot air and nothing more.

The Grand Hall was littered with generals, lords, ladies and other members of the elite. The men whose eyes danced in her direction blubbered with loose and deeply intoxicated smirks. The desire to butt out her cigarette against their pupils grew.

Out from the crowd, a robust man caught her eye. Within seconds, he advanced towards her. Sylvia averted her eyes and took a long drag on the cigarette.

“My sweet pearl, Sylvia,” The man leaned in towards her; his cheek felt like sandpaper and she could smell his abhorrent breath. “Dance with me.”

“Markus, liebling, I still need a drink.”

Sylvia excused herself, hoping her husband would stop bothering her. His thin lips caressed her neck and his thick fingers found her buttocks. She resisted the urge to burn him with the cigarette.

After he pawed her with squeezes, sloppy kisses and German pet names, Markus agreed to fetch drinks. Without avail, Sylvia walked in the opposite direction. She just wanted to escape from her demanding husband for a few minutes. Crossing to the other side of the ship, she flicked the butt away and pulled another out of the case she had nuzzled between her breasts. On edge, Sylvia’s fingertips trembled, struggling with the lighter as the brisk wind made it difficult to light her third cigarette of the night.

“Need help?” A hazy voice with a heavy accent asked from just over her shoulder. His accent was strikingly familiar.

“Ja, alstublieft.” Yes, please. Sylvia responded in Dutch.

The young man’s eyes lit up. He couldn’t have been older than twenty five, nearly two decades younger than her husband. She quickly scanned his fitted suit and steely grey eyes. Taking her cigarette and lighter, he lit her cigarette before handing it back to her.

Extending a hand in thanks, she was taken off guard when he raised her hand to his lips. He held her gaze for longer than necessary as he brushed his lips across the top of her hand.

“Can I help you?” she asked, unnerved.

“May I have this dance?” Before he waited for her reply, he had already pulled her close.

“I am a married woman,” Sylvia pulled her hand away, unsure about his intentions.

“Sylvia!” She barely heard Markus over the music. She twisted out of the young man’s touch to see Markus shoving his way through the crowd towards them, a glass of wine in each hand. The flash of anger she saw upon his face dissolved the moment he turned to the man before her.

“Ah, you have met my beautiful wife, Sylvia Wrinkler. Liebling, this is the new accountant I was telling you about, Mr Jacobus van Tiel.”

Sylvia stared at Jacobus under heavy black lashes. There was something in that man she didn’t like. Everything about his appearance was sharp, rigid and stern, similar to Markus but without the sagging stomach and jowls.

Markus handed her one of the glasses as he sipped from his own. When he lowered the glass, the wine left a dark red sheen on his top lip. Sylvia tried again to excuse herself, feeling uncomfortable. But her husband gripped her wrist and the diamond bracelet she wore bit into her skin like a row of teeth. Her escape thwarted, Sylvia stood still and forced a dazzling smile.


Benjamin held open the galley doors as he slid inside with an empty platter. Working as a waiter for the Phillips family, the sinfully wealthy hosts of the cruise, was less than an enjoyable experience. He needed money and this was the first job he was able to achieve that paid him a reasonable salary for the week the cruise lasted. The heat of the kitchen swept over him and he frowned.

“Those honkies don’t stop eating. They’re like pigs,” Mary growled underneath her breath as she passed him by.

Ever since they had met, she had stuck to him like a fly. They shared the same dark chocolate skin and childhood discrimination, but he didn’t share her fierce hatred for the people they were serving. Growing up in London during the 40s meant that he did bear the scars of racism. Many people of both colours had provided him good experiences and subsequently snatched him away from the all-consuming hatred. Colour didn’t matter to him but it did to Mary who spat on their food. That young woman who had barely reached twenty knew a lifetime of obscenities.

Benjamin followed what his mother had told him. He had to keep his head low and try to not attract attention. He had to be grateful for what others gave him and he was trying his best to keep his job, earning his pounds. While at times he felt like reporting Mary, he couldn’t. They were connected whether it be by colour or age or something greater.

Hurriedly arranging more servings of caviar, Benjamin heard someone calling his name. The barmen needed an extra and Benjamin begrudgingly agreed, hoping he wouldn’t lose his break. While he was serving wine, spirits, and beer he noticed the mass of people congealing together. Several men were gobbling their appetisers, licking their thick fingers, and grinning with oily lips.

Benjamin tried to stay as invisible as possible. He served the customers with a soft voice and shy nods. A man in his forties arrived at the bar demanding two glasses of their finest wine.

Without hesitation, Benjamin prepared the drinks, but as he put away the wine bottle it knocked over one of the glasses. The sound of smashing glass pierced Benjamin’s ears and he cringed with the expectation of a beating. The flustered barman came over, prepared the second glass, and took it over to the middle-aged man, who, in the midst of the loud band, hadn’t heard the accident.

“How long can it take?” the man groaned, his German accent clouded his words. “You’re all pathetic. I don’t know why they bothered hiring you people.”

The German man walked off, leaving no tip, but instead a twisted smirk. Benjamin’s heart fluttered. It wasn’t the middle-aged man who had caught his attention, but the woman he was advancing towards. His eyes lit up, the weight on his heart lessened and fleetingly he smiled. She was beautiful, her snow white skin glistened and honey-gold hair cascaded down her back. He wondered how sweet she would taste.


Harold massaged his aching fingers. His British companions shared clever puns over their glasses, chuckling. The occasional spray of saliva was also shared. Harold sipped from his own drink but had not achieved the level of drunkenness his colleagues were currently at. On top of having a high tolerance for alcohol, Harold always seemed to either give up paying for expensive drinks or was unable to stomach much more than a few glasses.

The friends spoke in barely coherent babbles of what was once the reputable English language. He had studied with them at the same stuffy university; business had been their chosen area before they all diverged into specific streams. Their current usage of language suggested they hadn’t even completed their high school education. The stench of cigarettes and alcohol was suffocating him.

Taking his turn to leave, Harold moved off into a different direction. His old colleagues had barely noticed him leave. The moment he had detached himself from them he felt much more relieved. The loud noise was deafening and rather than degrade his senses he drifted to the doors that would lead him outside. A young waitress with a stony expression took his glass.

The doors were opened for him by the young boys who stood by. Harold gave them respectful nods which they returned. The wind bit at his neck and shaven face while tousling his dark blonde hair. His emerald eyes were squinted in protection against the wind. Harold moved out onto the deck of the cruise ship and touched the railing. It was so cold that he retracted as if he had touched something hot. The chilling weather outside was causing him to shiver and shake. Was there a storm coming?

He was still young, merely thirty, and yet he was acting and feeling like he was eighty. Wasn’t that the age when you left parties early, lost interest in getting intoxicated, and your muscles ached? Wasn’t eighty the age when you were meant to be widowed?

Trying to restrain the burning tears streaking his eyes he looked over the side of the ship. It was difficult to do so, the floor was slippery. He caught a glimpse of the heaving black waters that the boat sailed upon. Harold turned around, resting his sore back against the railing, catching his breath. It was hard to breathe out in this weather and the penetrating winds were only growing stronger.

A shadow scattered across his vision. As soon as he raised his gaze, tears leaked from the red rims of his eyes. “Harold,” her familiar voice cooed.

“Be gone!” he yelled, shutting his lids tightly. These phantoms that haunted him showed no mercy. They sunk their teeth into his fleshy mind when Harold least expected it. The tender caresses of his wife brushed past his cheek. Harold’s hands aggressively pushed it away, only to encounter nothing but air.

Slam! He felt the cool floor smack hard against his tailbone. The floor polished with an icy sheet had been pulled out from under him. The pain that shot through his body expressed itself through miserable groans from his chattering lips. Harold let his body lull; the back of his head hit the ground. His eyes drifted to the brightly spotted sky.

The sound of pleasurable sighs and sloppy kisses broke the silent night. A couple who thought they were alone found somewhere to hide on the abandoned deck of the cruise ship. Giggles erupted from the woman. Husky groans echoed from the man. Rather than torturing himself further, Harold closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see their sublime experience. He wallowed in his own self-pity.­­

Heat from the love made by the couple did little to extinguish the cold that was penetrating Harold’s suit. When Harold raised his hand to the back of his head he felt something warm and sticky. Hushed moans continued to be heard, not far from him. It was hard to see in the darkness. Darkness was encroaching on his vision.

Before he had another moment to consider his actions, a shriek pierced the night air. The scream was not one heard in the middle of making love but one that burst through a woman’s lungs in fear and pain. Harold scrambled to his feet, trying to place the location of the scream. He knew it wasn’t from the couple he had been eavesdropping on. The sound came from a different direction.

The dark, gloomy deck of the ship tilted dangerously. Harold grasped onto the railing but felt his feet gave way. Harold stumbled toward the location of the scream that had sliced his mind like a knife. The back of his head throbbed. Why couldn’t he hear the sound of footsteps? Why weren’t there lights on?

“Help! She needs help!” Harold tried to yell but only managed to whisper. His vision blurred before everything went black.

– end excerpt –

preview on Amazongoodreadsmark copy

My Thoughts:

The strength of Poisoned Waters lies in its plot, which is complex yet easily navigated. The mystery surrounding Helen Gardener’s death twists and turns forging a complicated path though a melange of deceit, greed and blackmail. As the wealthy and enigmatic cruise host, Mr Phillips, pushes his own agenda, Helen is not the only passenger to meet an untimely end aboard the Diamond Royale, and the identity of her killer not the only secret revealed.

The author’s enthusiasm for writing is evident but not yet polished.  This shows in Alvarez’s overgenerous use of adjectives and the uneven rhythm of the narrative. Overall Poisoned Waters would benefit from a professional edit to reign in some of its excesses, though I think Alvarez does demonstrate talent, which still has plenty of time to mature.

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Review: Held For Ransom by Russell Atkinson


Title: Held For Ransom {Cliff Knowles Mystery #1}

Author: Russell Atkinson

Published: October 2011

Status: Read from June 28 to 29, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

I accepted Held For Ransom for review largely based on the author’s twenty five year career as a FBI Special Agent. Atkinson claims to have specialized in high-technology crimes in Silicon Valley, and Held for Ransom is based on a real life kidnapping case he worked on.

FBI Special Agent Cliff Knowles is the first to respond when the kidnapping of a wealthy software company president is reported. His wife claims to have received a ransom call demanding $650,000 for his safe return but her odd behaviour means that initially the Bureau fails to take the case seriously. Despite his superiors concerns, Knowles is almost certain that the woman is telling the truth, no one has seen or heard from the victim for more than six hours and his car has been discovered abandoned in the company parking lot. As Knowles tries to kick start an investigation the victim waits, bound and blindfolded, praying for rescue.

Held For Ransom is a detailed police procedural that follows the kidnapping case from first report through to its resolution. The reader is witness to the grind of bureaucracy as the FBI consider and disregard theories, gather information, follow clues, interview witnesses and tries to make sense of the crime. Atkinson reveals the achievements and the challenges of the investigation as they hunt for the perpetrators in a time before the ubiquity of cell phones and personal computers. Slowly suspects are identified and rescue plans are made, but not everything goes to plan.

I think Held For Ransom is well written, there are a few minor issues but overall the tone and style is consistent. I did find the way in which real life investigation deviates from the simplified version presented in film and blockbuster fiction interesting but it does tend to slow the pace and I found my attention drifting more than once.

The characters are sketches highlighting the varied personalities of the FBI team and how they impact on the investigation. There is the the ego driven boss and his sycophantic assistant, uncooperative secretaries and agents of mixed ability and motivation. Knowles integrity and dedication makes him a stand out in a workplace beset by his colleagues ego’s, career ambitions and petty politics. I have to admit I am a little disheartened by the cynical portrayal of the FBI, I don’t doubt it’s accuracy but it is a little worrying.

Overall I enjoyed Held For Ransom, it is an interesting, insiders perspective of of the FBI and their investigative methods in the mid – late 1980’s. I think this book would particularly appeal to fans of the police procedural and true crime genres.

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Review & Giveaway: The Grand Adventures of Madeleine Cain: Photographer Extraordinaire by Emily Craven


Title: The Grand Adventures of Madeleine Cain: Photographer Extraordinaire {#1}

Author: Emily Craven

Published: September 2012

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Status: Read on April 20, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

“Just wanted to say, this wasn’t how I imagined the start of my grand adventure; a prig for a housemate and some unidentifiable (possibly Mexican) amphibian called Duncan. My vision of studio loft apartments, spacious and bright come nowhere close to describing this disturbing student housing. I mean, I’m paying a fortune, I have to find a job, and all I get is some crummy, two bedroom apartment with paint peeling off the walls, a cupboard for a kitchen and a bathroom that makes a moss infested cave network look like a barren desert plain. Seriously, there is enough mould on those tiles to start producing our own penicillin tablets.”

And so begins The Grand Adventures of Madeleine Cain: Photographer Extraordinaire in New York where Madeleine will be studying photography at a prestigious private arts college. Having left behind her friends and family in Australia she is on her own, adjusting to her new life while lurching from one hilarious encounter to another.

I have to admire Craven’s creative approach to storytelling, and admit to being somewhat surprised it actually works. The Grand Adventures of Madeleine Cain: Photographer Extraordinaire is told entirely in Facebook status updates, notes and private messages as Madeleine communicates with her friends and family. From the descriptions of her first day at college, where her housemate’s stowaway chameleon causes havoc, to her photographic study of cross-dressing little people and her crush on her cute, if self absorbed neighbour, Kevin, Madeleine apprises everyone of every step of her journey. Her family and friends are variously supportive, concerned and disbelieving in their replies, and each update earns Madeleine more ‘Likes’ from an unseen audience.

But it’s not all about Madeleine, from afar she is called upon to defend her wayward genius brother, comfort her hypochondriac best friend and continue to tease Tim about his relationship with his toaster. These ‘conversations’ give the story added depth and develops a uniquely connected cast, especially as her New York friends join her friendship circle.

Despite the unconventional format, The Grand Adventures of Madeleine Cain: Photographer Extraordinaire reads well. Anyone familiar with Facebook will quickly become comfortable with the rhythm of posts and comments. It’s a short read at just about 150 pages yet there is plenty happening to ensure the reader’s interest.

I was disappointed at the rather abrupt ending though, even with the knowledge that Craven expects to continue Madeleine’s adventures. In fact Craven is hoping that readers will become involved in shaping the story by joining the various Facebook pages she has established for her characters. It is an ambitious idea and though one I admire, I’m not sure it’s one readers are ready for quite yet.

The Grand Adventures of Madeleine Cain: Photographer Extraordinaire is a funny, lighthearted story of a twenty something Aussie making her way in the Big Apple. Well written and entertaining it is a unique contemporary read and I hope to be privy to Madeleine’s next adventures.

Join Em Craven and Madeleine on her adventures at: The Grand Adventures Of Madeline Cain Facebook Page


See your favourite characters interacting and join in! Like These Pages and Go For It!


Madeline Cain; Kathy Bloomingdale; Tim Gleeve; Cliff Wheeland; Kevin Doherty; Nadine Cain:; Mike Cain; Kim Enuik

The Grand Adventures of Madeleine Cain: Photographer Extraordinaire

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 1 of 2 electronic editions ((epub, mobi or PDF), of

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Review: Long and Short Australian Stories by Margaret Lynette Sharp

Title: Long and Short Australian Stories

Author: Margaret Lynette Sharp

Published: Createspace April 2012

Status: Read on February 22, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

This is the second volume of stories I have read at the request of self published Australian author, Margaret Lynne Sharp. The first, A Taste of Life and Love in Australia contains 28 engaging stories that provide a pleasant afternoon’s reading, and this collection is not dissimilar.

There are 20 vignettes of varying length in Long and Short stories of Australia, though most are less than half a dozen pages long. Primarily they feature relationships – sometimes beginning, occasionally ending. Each story is carefully sculpted to communicate the immediacy of emotion and action as succinctly as possible. Sharp’s storytellers are a mix of ages and genders, though primarily young and female, told in both the first and third person. It’s an interesting variety of perspectives and Sharp inhabits them well.

The writing is well crafted though occasionally a little too stiff and formal, using, for example, ‘mien’ instead of expression, several times. And even though they are used correctly, there is an odd over use of colon’s that I found distracting when they appeared repeatedly through out the text.

Suitable for romantics of a range of ages, Long and Short Australian Stories is a congenial, mellow short story collection and an easy read for a quiet evening.

Margaret Lynette Sharp’s short story volumes are available to purchase


Click here to read Margaret’s guest post, published earlier today

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Review & Giveaway: Escaping the Arroyo by Joyce Nance

Title: Escaping the Arroyo

Author: Joyce Nance

Published: June 2012

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read on February 19, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Drawing on court documents, interviews, five years of research and Colene Bush’s first hand account, Escaping the Arroyo combines fact with considered conjecture to create a compelling account of an unspeakable crime.

Escaping the Arroyo is based on the tragic true story of college coeds, Julie Jackson and Colene Bush who were kidnapped at knife point by Michael Guzman from Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1981. Nineteen year old Julie was raped and murdered while twenty year old Colene was stabbed 33 times and left for dead by her callous attacker. Exhibiting an extraordinary instinct for survival, Colene crawled more than 150ft, negotiating two steep embankments, in search of help and survived to identify the young man who nearly destroyed her.

The book begins with a harrowing account of the moment Colene Bush was discovered, bloody and barely breathing, on the side of the I-40 by two young men who glimpsed her pale, partially nude body in the glare of their headlights.
The story then shifts to illustrate the personal histories of Michael Guzman, Julie Jackson and Colene Bush in short vignettes. I found this a little disorientating initially, often only two or three pages in length and the perspective identified by date and place rather than name, I found the changes abrupt but eventually a rhythm emerged, leading to the moment the lives of Michael, Julie and Colene collide.
The next section of the book covers the trial of Michael Guzman, who was sentenced to death for the murder of Julie and the attempted murder of Colene, despite his attempt at an insanity defense.
But for Colene, and Julie’s fiance, James, Guzman’s conviction was little comfort as they tried to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

The story of Escaping The Arroyo is compelling though the writing could do with a little more polish. I felt instances of awkward syntax and the intrusion of the authorial voice interrupted the flow of the narrative at times.

While I think Nance covers the case well, I would have liked to know a bit more about Colene’s life post attack. It can be inferred that Colene struggled badly after her experience but Nance only relates incidents, such as the inexplicable discrimination against Colene by the police and paramedic training institutions, without sharing any real insight into why they occurred.

A tribute to the victims of a vicious killer, Escaping the Arroyo is a fascinating account of a terrible crime and it’s aftermath, and it is a story I am glad Joyce Nance decided to tell. To Colene Bush, I extend my sympathy and my heartfelt admiration for her incredible bravery.

Available to Purchase


About the Author

Joyce Nance, award winning documentarian, video editor, Albuquerque Sports News publisher, and paralegal at the Public Defenders Office, has written her first book. Although she already has a degree in accounting, she is currently pursuing a second degree in Criminal Justice and working on her next true crime book. Originally from California, she now lives in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area.

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