Review & Giveaway: Sweet Wattle Creek by Kaye Dobbie

Sweet Wattle Creek high res.


Title: Sweet Wattle Creek

Author: Kaye Dobbie

Published: Harlequin AU October 2015

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Status: Read from September 30 to October 01, 2015   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

With a narrative alternating between the past and the present, Sweet Wattle Creek by Kaye Dobbie, also known as Sara Bennett and Lilly Sommers, tells the story of Belle Bartholomew and Sophie Matheson, two women haunted by the secrets of their pasts.

When her father commits suicide after losing his wealth during the post war depression, Belle Bartholomew is stunned to learn of the secrets he had been keeping. Eager to know more, she travels to Sweet Wattle Creek to claim her inheritance, a rundown hotel bequeathed to her by Martha Ambrose, and though Belle’s questions put the locals offside, she is determined to solve the mystery of her birth.

Nearly sixty years later, reporter Sophie Matheson is enchanted by a vintage wedding dress donated to the Sweet Wattle Creek centenary celebrations. Intrigued by its mysterious provenance, Sophie begins to piece together the story of Belle and Charlie, and their connection to the old burnt out hotel on the town’s fringe, unaware that her own past is catching up to her.

Both Belle and Sophie are appealing and sympathetic characters. Though their situations are very different they share a similar spirit, facing adversity with courage and determination.

Dobbie’s portrayal of small town Australia during the 1930’s is very well done. The community of Sweet Wattle Creek is still struggling with grief for their loved ones lost and injured in the Great War, and are worried about the impact of the post war depression, particularly as ‘travellers’ pass through their town. Dobbie skilfully communicates this tense atmosphere, and Belle’s status as an outsider.

The mid 1980’s is a fairly bland era by comparison but Dobbie is careful to ensure the period is reflected in the storyline. The local paper where Sophie works still uses a mechanical press to publish, archives are stored in the basement, and the single computer that saves data to floppy discs is still a novelty.

Most importantly, I thought the story was very well structured, both the historical and contemporary timelines complement each other well, and advance the plot as a whole. The pacing is good and the suspense builds nicely. There are some neat turns to the plot and I thought the conclusion was satisfying.

Sweet Wattle Creek is a well crafted and engaging tale combining mystery, drama and romance, and I’m happy to recommend it.

To learn more , CLICK HERE for a guest post from the author published earlier today

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Courtesy of Kaye Dobbie I have

1 Kindle edition of

Sweet Wattle Creek

Sweet Wattle Creek high res.

to giveaway to one lucky Australian resident.

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Review: Swimming Home by Mary-Rose MacColl


Title: Swimming Home

Author: Mary-Rose MacColl

Published: Allen & Unwin September 2015

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Status: Read from September 27 to 30, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Swimming Home is the sixth novel by Mary-Rose MacColl, her previous book In Falling Snow was a favourite read of mine in 2012.

Exploring the themes of family, belonging, regret, and redemption, Swimming Home is a gracious and engaging novel.

When fifteen year old Catherine is orphaned, her aunt, Dr Louisa Quick, insists she abandons her idyllic island home in the Torres Strait and move with her to London. An independent and busy surgeon, Louisa is determined to provide her niece with the opportunity to become a well educated and successful young lady, but Catherine is miserable in her exclusive day school, missing the warmth of her Islander family, and the ocean. It’s not until Catherine swims the width of the Thames on a dare and Louisa is approached by the enigmatic banker Manfred Lear Black, that she reconsiders her plans for her niece.

As a doctor, Louisa is intelligent and confident, but she struggles to relate to her niece and, uncomfortable with emotion, she makes some poor decisions when it comes to seeing to Catherine’s well being. Though there is no malice intended, Louisa’s actions have far reaching consequences and she suffers a crisis of conscience as the novel progresses. Louisa is not a particularly likeable character at times but I think MacColl portrays her well, and I was sympathetic to her flaws.

Catherine is resigned to her new life in London and wants to please her aunt, but she is lonely and homesick. Having spent almost everyday of her life swimming in the ocean, she jumps at the chance to swim to under Manfred Lear Black’s patronage in New York. I felt for Catherine, whose loving and idyllic childhood came to such an abrupt end. She is remarkably stoic, but her longing is palpable and she obviously feels out of place, London contrasts sharply with her island home, as does the New York ‘tanks’ to her beloved ocean.

There are two subtle threads of mystery that run through the story, and a few surprises in the plot though Swimming Home progresses at a measured pace. What action there is stems largely from the Black’s determination that Catherine will be the first woman to swim the breadth of the English Channel. MacColl weaves fiction with fact as she writes of Catherine’s competitors, including Gertrude Ederle who was the first woman to swim the channel in 1926 and I enjoyed learning something about the birth of competitive swimming for women.

Set in an interesting period, with complex characters and a thoughtful story, Swimming Home is a finely written, poignant and pensive, but ultimately uplifting novel.


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Review: Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library by Wayne A. Wiegand


Title: Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library

Author: Wayne A. Wiegand

Published: Oxford University Press September 2015

Status: Read on September 25, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Part of Our Lives is a fascinating and passionate treatise on the history, culture and contribution of American public libraries by Wayne A. Wiegand.

With a focus on the perspective of ‘library in the life of a user’ Wiegand explores the important role libraries play in the life of individuals: as distributors of information and education, as a source of fiction that entertains and enlightens, and as social community spaces, debunking the notion that libraries are, or have ever been, simply ‘warehouses for books’.

Tracing the evolution of public library services, from Benjamin Franklin’s Library Company of Philadelphia established in 1732, through to the 17,219 modern public library systems more than 93 million Americans utilised in 2012, Wiegand draws on official and anecdotal sources to illustrate the value of libraries that statistics don’t always reflect.

In addition Wiegand examines issues such as access, censorship, and technology and the sway of factors such as gender, race, class, politics, and religion, that have have shaped, and continue to affect modern library services.

Though primarily a professional text, Part of Our Lives is an accessible read, I’d recommend it to bibliophiles, social historians and anyone who treasures their library card.

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Review: The Saddler Boys by Fiona Palmer


Title: The Saddler Boys

Author: Fiona Palmer

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin Au September 2015

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Status: Read from September 22 to 24, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Saddler Boys is another delightfully engaging rural romance from Australian author Fiona Palmer.

Natalie Wright is excited about taking up her first teaching position in the remote farming community of Lake Biddy, and is determined to make the most of a years freedom from her parent’s expectations. Welcomed by the locals despite her city ways Nat quickly falls in love with Lake Biddy and her adorable young charges, particularly shy and sweet Billy Saddler.

The development of the relationship between Natalie and single dad Drew Saddler is charming. It begins as a friendship sparked by Billy’s admiration for Nat, and her interest in understanding what farming entails but the attraction between the two is quickly evident, even as they both try to deny it. The relationship is of course complicated by Natalie’s engagement to Gary, whose character contrasts sharply with Drew’s.

Additional drama develops as the government announces its intention to shut down Lake Biddy primary school, Billy’s mother, who abandoned him as a newborn reappears demanding contact with her son, and Gary grows increasingly impatient with Natalie’s desire for independence. These subplots all add a frisson of tension to the story, and depth by touching on topical issues such as regional school closures, drug abuse, and domestic violence.

While I really liked the wonderful characterisations of Natalie, Drew and Billy, I also loved the authentic feeling of community Palmer evokes in The Saddler Boys as the residents rally against the school closure and attend the raucous P&C fundraisers. She captures the generosity of country neighbours as Doris drops off Tupperware containers full of food, and friends trade babysitting duties during harvest and seeding.

Written with warmth, humour and spirit, The Saddler Boys is an lovely read about belonging, family, and love.

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Also by Fiona Palmer at Book’d Out


Review: The Patterson Girls by Rachael Johns


Title: The Patterson Girls

Author: Rachael Johns

Published: Harlequin MIRA September 2015

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Status: Read from September 16 to 17, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Patterson Girls is Rachael Johns first foray into general contemporary fiction, though she doesn’t stray far from her literary roots in rural romance.

The titular Patterson girls, obstetrician Madeleine, wife and teacher Lucy, professional violinist Abigail, and Charlotte, the self described under achiever, have come home to spend Christmas with their recently widowed father. Keenly feeling their mothers absence, none of them are surprised when he announces his plan to sell the family motel and willingly agree to help clear out their mothers things. As the sisters rummage through their mother’s keepsakes, reminiscing over old photos, fashion and jewelry, their curiosity is piqued when they discover a reference to a Patterson curse. Wheedling the details from the reluctant Aunt Mags, the particulars of the curse stuns all four sisters, and becomes a catalyst that turns the Patterson’s sisters lives upside down.

Told from the shifting third person perspectives of Madeleine, Lucy, Abigail and Charlotte, The Patterson Girls is a story of sisters, secrets, loss and love.

Vivid characterisation brings the personalities of the sisters to life. Each has distinct strengths and flaws, and are beset by their own personal challenges, from unrequited love to infertility. While I identified most closely with Charlotte, I also found Madeleine, Lucy and Abigail to be interesting and well rounded characters and I really enjoyed Johns skillful portrayal of their sisterly dynamic.

The plot blends domestic drama, romance and a hint of mystery. While it’s clear from the outset that all of the sisters are struggling in one way or another, the revelation about the Patterson curse piles on the pressure, and provokes much of the drama that follows, particularly for Madeleine, Lucy and Abigail. Charlie is finally finding her feet when a twist in the tale threatens to shatter the happiness she has forged for herself. Meanwhile, romance proves to be troublesome for all of them. While Charlie’s feelings grow for an old friend and Abigail meets the man of her dreams, Lucy’s marriage is floundering, and Madeleine’s love life grows increasingly complicated.

A well crafted, entertaining, contemporary novel with strong characters and an engaging story, The Patterson Girls should appeal to fans of Monica McIerney and Marian Keys.

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Review: The Insanity of Murder by Felicity Young


Title: The Insanity of Murder { Dr Dody McCleland #4}

Author: Felicity Young

Published: HarperCollins August 2015

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Status: Read from August 06 to 09, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

I look forward to each new installment of Felicity Young’s historical mystery series featuring Dr Dody McCleland, autopsy surgeon. The Insanity of Murder is the fourth book in the series which continues to impress me with its rich period detail, strong characterisation and interesting plots.

The Insanity of Murder begins with an explosion set by the suffragette’s at London’s ‘Necropolis Railway’. With a watchman badly injured, Dody is horrified when Florence is arrested for the crime, afraid that a regime of force feeding in prison will destroy her sister. While Dodie and Pike do their best to protect Florence from the worst consequences of her behaviour, it’s the witness to the bombing that captures their attention. Initially mistaken for a vagrant, they discover the elderly woman is Lady Mary Heathridge, who has escaped from the ladies ‘rest’ home where she is confined, in search of a missing friend.

The main plot then involves Dody and Pike’s ensuing discrete investigation into The Elysium Rest Home for Gentlewomen where they suspect the attending doctor is performing illegal and possibly experimental treatments on the women entrusted to their care. Florence, benefiting from new laws regarding the incarceration of suffragettes, decides to help by getting herself sent to the home, but instead finds herself in grave danger. The plight of these women, several of whom have simply been discarded by husbands and families, is chilling, treated in horrific ways for their ‘hysterical’ behaviour.

I did feel the story was a little diluted however. Pike is distracted by his daughter, Violet, who is trying to convince her father to let her study nursing, his secret involvement in shaping a new law, and politics at play in Scotland Yard. Naturally Dodie’s main worry is for her sister, concerned by the suffragette movements increasingly violent and dangerous protests, but her relationship with Pike is also on her mind.

Still, the writing is of its usual high standard, and the pace is good. The historical detail is fascinating, of note here is the death of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison at the 1913 Epsom Derby.

As with the previous books in the series, The Insanity of Murder is an interesting and engaging read. And I will be looking forward to the next.

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Review: The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks


Title: The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs

Author: Matthew Dicks

Published: St Martins Press September 2015

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Status: Read from September 06 to 08, 2015 — I own a copy   {courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“It was that moment, that very instant, that Caroline’s idea was born. The boldest, craziest idea of her life. It wasn’t a fully formulated plan. It wasn’t even a fully formulated idea. But it was the beginning of an idea. The spark….Caroline Jacobs knew that if she didn’t act now, she never would.”

Matthew Dick’s novel, The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs, is a charming, thoughtful and funny story about a journey of self discovery as a woman confronts the demons of her past.

“Passive was the word that described Caroline best. It was almost her way of life. Avoid conflict at all costs. Be aggressively agreeable whenever possible. Fly under the radar. Don’t stir the pot. Acquiesce and move on from difficult situations as quickly as possible, preferably with a smile.”

Caroline Jacobs surprises herself, and a crowd of PTA mothers, when she reacts to a hapless mother being bullied by an overbearing PTA mom with an explosive expletive, but it sparks a fire in the usually submissive Caroline that leads her to the doorstep of her former childhood best friend turned high school tormentor. With her recalcitrant teenage daughter in tow, Caroline heads to her hometown, determined to confront Emily Kaplan and say the things she should have said in the moment that changed everything, twenty five years earlier.

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs offers an appealing mix of humour and emotional drama, exploring the themes of self discovery, friendship, bullying and fate.

“All I know is that I’m the same person I was in high school. I know a little more and I’ve done a little more, but I’m essentially the same person. I didn’t suddenly become something different when I became an adult. And part of me is the result of what happened in the cafeteria that day and all those days after. A big part.”

Like Caroline I avoid conflict whenever possible, and similarly I was betrayed by a friend in high school. Nearly thirty years later the memory still stings a little, and while I would never dream of confronting her, I admired and even understood Caroline’s decision to do so. I think the author is right in suggesting that this type of incident can have a lasting effect, and this is especially true for Caroline since the incident is linked to the tragic death of her sister.

“Mom, she was the definition of a bully. Exclusion. Isolation. Behind-the-back bullshit. I should know. My generation is the expert on bullying. It’s all we ever hear about.”

Caroline’s teenage daughter Polly is a wonderful foil to her meek mother. Though I’d personally be appalled if my daughter spoke to me in the same manner, she is wise beyond her years, and her blunt and outspoken nature is something to admire. I really enjoyed the development of the relationship between mother and daughter over the course of the novel.

Throw in a small cast of quirky supporting characters including Caroline’s mother, her blind boyfriend, Spartacus, and a man mourning his pet parrot, a road trip, a runaway and a repentant bully, and The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs is a hugely enjoyable read.

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Review: The Waiting Room by Leah Kaminsky


Title: The Waiting Room

Author: Leah Kaminsky

Published: Vintage: Random House Au September 2015

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Status: Read on September 01, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Waiting Room is the debut fiction novel from Leah Kaminsky, a physician and best selling non fiction author.

Dina is a family doctor living in contemporary Israel with her husband and young son. Haifa is a world away from the Melbourne suburbs where Dina grew up, the only daughter of holocaust survivors. Eight months pregnant with her second child, Dina is exhausted and increasingly anxious. Her marriage is strained, she is tired of her patients needs, and she is terrified by an escalated terrorist threat in the city.

As Dina struggles to simply get through a single day, overwhelmed by traffic, a broken heel, demanding patients, and a promise to procure apples for her son, her behaviour becomes increasingly irrational. She finds no comfort in the casual assurances of her husband, nor the ghostly opinion of her long dead mother, who berates, cajoles and nags her daughter for her failings.

The sentiment of The Waiting Room is haunting and moving, relieved only by a rare glimpse of dark humour. The prose and dialogue is sharp and articulate. The pace builds until Dina’s day reaches an explosive conclusion.

The Waiting Room is a short but powerful novel about survival, terror, love and death.

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Seasoned Traveller 2015



Review: X By Sue Grafton


Title: X

Author: Sue Grafton

Published: Macmillan Au September 2015

Status: Read from August 30 to September 01, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

X is the 24th book in Sue Grafton’s Alphabet series featuring private investigator, Kinsey Millhone. I’ve read all but three, and now there are just two more books remaining.

X begins with Kinsey at a bit of a loose end, business is slow but she nevertheless soon finds herself caught up in three disparate mysteries.

The first involves finding the current address of a young man recently released from prison for his wealthy birth mother. The simple task complete, Kinsey doesn’t give it a second thought until a local police detective alerts her that the hundred dollar notes she was paid with were registered as part of a blackmail case. Annoyed, Kinsey investigates, unraveling her clients lies.

The second relates to a pair of elderly new neighbours that raise Kinsey’s hackles when they start to impose on Henry’s generosity.

Meanwhile, Pete Wolinsky’s widow asks Kinsey for her help in finding old financial documents requested by an IRS auditor. In amongst a box overflowing with paperwork, Kinsey discovers a padded mailer addressed to a priest and a coded list. Curious, Kinsey finds herself following up on the case, unprepared for the horrors she discovers.

W is for Wasted was a bit of a disappointment due to a rather lacklustre and longwinded plot, but X is much improved and more reminiscent of earlier books in the series. While there aren’t any great surprises, the cases are interesting, and well thought out. I found the investigation relating to Pete the most compelling, there is real danger involved for both Kinsey and others.

The pace of X is measured, as all the books tend to be in this series. Set in the 1980’s Kinsey’s investigations are all about legwork in the pre internet, pre mobile phone era. Kinsey spends a lot of time browsing library archives, making phone calls and on stakeout.

Kinsey herself is not an excitable character, but she is a thoughtful and determined investigator that focuses on detail. I’ve always liked her but I was hoping for more personal development as the series approaches the end. Essentially Kinsey is a loner, Vera makes a brief appearance which I enjoyed and former romantic interests Dietz and Chaney rate a mention. But Henry and Rosie are really the only people she interacts with.

As a longtime fan of the series I was mostly satisfied by this installment and I’m eager to see how Grafton brings it to a close.

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Review: The Simple Act of Reading Edited by Debra Adelaide


Title: The Simple Act of Reading

Author: Edited by Debra Adelaide

Published: Random House June 2015

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Status: Read from August 25 to 27, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“The idea for this book was simple, as simple as the act of reading itself: how compelling it is when authors write about books, other authors or just moments in their reading lives that have been significant for them.”

Edited by Debra Adelaide, The Simple Act of Reading is a collection of short personal essays from twenty one of Australia’s celebrated writers.

Luke Davies writes of childhood correspondence with Herge, the author of TinTin. Joan London praises The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower, while David Malouf recalls the first time he read Jane Eyre. Catherine Keenan shares the joy of her young daughter cracking the code of the written word, and Anita Heiss writes of discovering her love for reading when studying for her doctorate in her late twenties.

I recognised myself in several of the essays, I was just like Kate Forsyth describes herself, in ‘Books are Dangerous’;

“When I was a child, I was such a bookworm that I troubled and bewildered even my very bookish parents. I would borrow six books at a time from the local library, and have read them all by the following day. I used to walk home from school reading. I would become so absorbed in the book that I would walk past my turn-off, and some considerable time later look up, finding myself blocks away from home. I’d miss my stop on train journeys. I would not hear my name being called in class. I would read so late at night that I could hear the kookaburras’ weird cackle as I reluctantly turned the last pages.”

In fact little has changed :)

The Simple Act of Reading is an engaging collection that will appeal to book lovers everywhere.

And this, from Sunil Budami in ‘In Your Deams’ is the perfect retort for the question oft asked of bookworms;

” So, if you can recall the question: if we forget most of what we read, then why do we read? You might as well ask why we dream, or live at all, given how much we forget of our dreams and lives. Yet just as I cannot imagine being alive without dreams, I couldn’t dream of living without reading.”

All profits from The Simple Act of Reading will be donated to The Sydney Story Factory

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