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

Escape Publishing

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Review: The Exit by Helen Fitzgerald

 

Title: The Exit

Author: Helen Fitzgerald

Published: Faber and Faber UK February 2015

Status: Read from February 01 to 02, 2015 — I own a copy   (Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A disturbing novel of psychological suspense, The Exit is Helen Fitzgerald’s eleventh book.

The narrative alternates between the perspectives of 23-year-old Catherine, an unemployed, arrogant party girl, and Rose, an 82-year-old children’s book author and illustrator suffering from dementia, whose hold on the present is tenuous. Rose is a resident of Dear Green, a small private care home in Glasgow, Scotland, and the two meet when Catherine, at her mother’s insistence, reluctantly accepts a job in the private facility as an aide.

Of the handful of residents, Catherine is least repulsed by Rose, and when the old woman offers her £1000 to deliver a message she is happy to humour Rose’s ravings about ‘truth’ and ‘Room 7′. Catherine is thinking only of escaping to Ibiza to work on her tan when she discovers some creepy entries in the care log and she begins to suspect that Rose might be right, something is very wrong at Dear Green.

There are several unexpected twists and turns in The Exit which eventually exposes a dark and perverted secret but not before Catherine and Rose almost become victims of their suspicions. I was slow to warm to Catherine, who seems determined to live up to the stereotype of Gen Y, while Rose’s dementia, and tragic past, inspires a mix of pity and admiration, but I found myself anxious for the welfare of both women as the story unfolded.

There was a major element of the story, involving Catherine’s mother, that didn’t really work for me. I can’t reveal too much without risking spoilers but I felt it was an odd addition to the plot. In addition the conclusion was more ambiguous than I would prefer.

The story feels a little slow to start as Fitzgerald establishes character but the pace picks up, and The Exit is a quick read. What I didn’t really expect was the vein of humour that occasionally leavens the horror.

The Exit is an unsettling thriller, though I didn’t grip me the way The Cry did, I did enjoy it.

 

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Review: Useful by Debra Oswald

 

Title: Useful

Author: Debra Oswald

Published: Viking: Penguin Jan 2015

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

My Thoughts:

Sullivan stepped up onto the low wall and peered over the edge. The job of obliterating himself shouldn’t be a huge effort, considering he’d made so little meaningful impact on the world.”

Sullivan Moss is useless, once a handsome and charming young man with the world at his feet he is now a puffy faced, unemployed, near forty year old, divorced alcoholic. Wracked with guilt and regret after the death of one of his best friends, he decides to commit suicide by jumping from a building only to fall the wrong way. Waking up in hospital with bruises and concussion, a casual comment from a nurse gives Sully an idea, he can do one useful thing before his next suicide attempt, he can donate a kidney to a stranger.

To everyone’s surprise, including his own, Sully begins to turn his life around, determined to honour his commitment. He sobers up and gets a job removing hazardous asbestos. He makes an attempt to repair some of the bridges he burned and makes a friend of his reluctant landlady Natalie, and her son Louis. Redemption isn’t going to be easy though.

With a blend of black humour and soap opera like drama, Oswald explores the regrets for the life not lived. It’s not just Sully who is struggling with the disappointments of middle age, his best mate Tim is bewildered by his unhappy marriage, and Natalie is beginning to wonder if she will spend the rest of her life alone, living in her mother’s spare bedroom.

The narrative is sharp, funny and insightful. I enjoyed the writing though some may be offended by instances of crude language. The mix of slightly surreal and familiar scenario’s works well and the story is well paced.

A story about finding meaning and purpose in life, about changing the things you can, and accepting those you can’t, Useful is an entertaining read from Australian playwright, author and television scriptwriter (most notably for Offspring), Debra Oswald.

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Review: Secrets of Whitewater Creek by Sarah Barrie

 

Title: Secrets of Whitewater Creek

Author: Sarah Barrie

Published: Harlequin MIRA January 2014

Status: Read from January 20 to 22, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Intrigue, action and romance blend to create an engaging read in Secrets of Whitewater Creek by Sarah Barrie.

Set in rural Australia, Secrets of Whitewater Creek introduces Jordan Windcroft, who has been running the family farm on her own since the tragic death of her parents. Independent, feisty and a hard worker, she is the town’s favourite daughter despite being on probation for the manslaughter, after claiming responsibility for a car accident to protect a friend from a corrupt judge.
Reid Tallon comes to Whitewater Creek posing as a probation officer, chasing a lead on a drug case he has been involved in for three years. He is hoping Jordan, who was also charged with possession when she was arrested, will be able to give him some insight into the local drug trade.
The attraction between the two is immediate, but Reid is undercover, and won’t let anyone jeopardise his case, and Jordan, whose focus is on saving her farm, has a secret she can’t risk him discovering.

I really liked Jordan who proves to be a practical, smart and strong woman, I enjoyed her quick witted banter, she isn’t afraid to say what she thinks and means what she says. She is loyal almost to a fault, and in her determination to protect her friends, she makes herself vulnerable to a dangerous stalker.
Reid is a smart and capable detective, determined to destroy the drug syndicate he holds accountable for his sister’s death.
Both Jordan and Reid try to deny their mutual attraction but it doesn’t last long. The development of the relationship is compressed due to the time frame of the novel but nevertheless believable and enjoyed the way they sparked off one another.

The story offers two main arcs, the first involving Reid’s investigation of the drug syndicate, the second sees Jordan’s life threatened by a crazed stalker. In the main, Secrets of Whitewater Creek is well paced, with a good amount of action balancing out the romance, though I thought that the stalker situation dragged on a little too long.

One aspect of the story that did bother me was the way that Jordan’s friends turn on her, suddenly suspecting her of being a drug abuser. I could understand why Reid would jump to the wrong conclusion but I didn’t believe that her close friends would do the same.

Still, overall I found Secrets of Whitewater Creek, (previously published as Deadly Secrets) to be a page turning Australian romantic suspense novel with appealing characters, an interesting story and well crafted setting. Perhaps Barrie will allow us to revisit Whitewater Creek again.

 Available to purchase from

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Review: Mobile Library by David Whitehouse

 

Title: Mobile Library

Author: David Whitehouse

Published: Picador: Pan Macmillan  Jan 2015

Status: Read from January 08 to 10, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Mobile Library by David Whitehouse is the big hearted, quirky story of twelve year old, Bobby Nusku, abused by his drunken father and bullied by his schoolmates. His only friend’s attempts to defend him end in disaster and Bobby is alone again, pining for his missing mother, until he meets Rosa, and her mother, Val. Val, the cleaner of a mobile library, shows Bobby how books can help him to escape the miserable confines of his world, and when everything goes wrong, only the mobile library can save them all.

I’ve mentioned before that I dislike prologue’s. Whitehouse starts Mobile Library with ‘The End’ and it wasn’t until at least halfway through the book that I forgave him. Though it took a while, I eventually got caught up in Bobby’s story as the author brought it to life with good humour, warmth and poignancy.

A charming, but offbeat, story, Mobile Library is a novel about friendship, family, love and stories, a tale of adventure and danger, heroes and villains, not-so-happy and happy endings.

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Review: The List by Joanna Bolouri

 

Title: The List

Author: Joanna Bolouri

Published: Quercus US January 2015

Status: Read from January 02 to 03, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss)

My Thoughts:

The List is the debut novel from Scottish freelance writer, Joanna Bolouri and was long listed for the 2014 Guardian’s Not the Booker prize.

Though it’s been a year since Phoebe Henderson found her boyfriend in their bed with another woman, she is still an emotional wreck. Desperate for something to change, on New Years Eve she decides to make a list designed to add excitement to her life – and comes up with ten sexual experiences she wants to try, from watching another couple have sex to mastering the art of dirty talk. All Phoebe needs is a willing partner to agree to a ‘no strings attached’ year of sexual experimentation, and luckily her best friend, Oliver, is willing to oblige.

Told in the first person, in a diary-like format, The List has a story that follows the classic arc of modern chick lit, but with a heroine that channels her angst into her sex life instead of finding romance. At thirty two, Phoebe is working in a job she hates selling advertising, living in a tiny flat, is still in love with her cheating ex-boyfriend and hopes completing The List will both re-energize her and exorcise the ghost of Alex. It all seems like a lot of fun at first but it quickly grows complicated when both hearts and minds become involved.

The List isn’t a story for anyone who blushes easily, the language is often lewd and the sexual interactions are described with candour. These things I don’t mind, but I have to admit I am a little uncomfortable with the idea that sex is the answer to Phoebe’s emotional issues. Personally I find it difficult to divorce sex from intimacy so I found her adventures to be a little sad and tawdry, even though I also admired her willingness to put herself out there.

A fast paced, witty and raunchy novel, The List is a feel-good read, in every sense of the phrase.

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Review: Daughter by Jane Shemilt

Title: Daughter

Author: Jane Shemilt

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin Au January 2015

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Status: Read on January 02, 2015   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

When her young teenage daughter fails to come home one night after a school play performance, Jenny is frantic, Naomi is an innocent, her disappearance out of character and Jenny wants nothing more than to find her. As the police investigate, Jenny is stunned by what they discover, Naomi has been leading a life she knew nothing about.

The first person narrative shifts between the past – the days and weeks just before and after Naomi’s disappearance – and the present, nearly a year later. Surprisingly, this doesn’t really dampen the suspense as the drama unfolds in both timelines, slowly revealing shocking betrayals, truths and lies.

Jenny’s life falls apart in the wake of Naomi’s disappearance as the secrets her family have kept from her are revealed. I was disturbed to find myself judging Jenny, a busy GP, condemning her for being so oblivious to the reality of her husband’s and children’s lives. It’s not entirely unjustified and Shemilt seems to encourage that response, but it isn’t particularly fair. As a teenager I kept many secrets from my (working) parents, and now, even as a stay at home mother, I know my four children keep secrets from me, though nothing (I hope) as earth shattering as the ones Jenny’s children keep.

The writing is often atmospheric evoking the maelstrom of emotion experienced by Jenny, as well as the setting. The story is well paced, the tension of the plot is well maintained and the conclusion is a shock, one I’m still not sure about though.

Daughter is a haunting tale of guilt, betrayal, truth and family prompting the read to consider how well we really know the ones we love most.

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Review: It Started with a Kiss by Lisa Heidke

 

Title: It Started with a Kiss

Author: Lisa Heidke

Published: Allen & Unwin January 2015

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

My Thoughts:

Friday Jones is stunned when her husband of twenty years announces he needs a break and moves out of the family home. Though Friday readily admits their marriage has been strained for a while, exacerbated by the recent deaths of Liam’s parents and the family dog, Friday never imagined Liam would simply walk away. Heartbroken, Friday struggles through each day while caring for their teenage daughters and continuing to work part time as a naturopath. Liam has been gone for four months when Friday’s boss insists she takes a week R&R at a health spa, where Friday meets a charismatic married man and falls into a wildly passionate but sort lived affair. While Liam pursues his dream to become a stand-up comedian, and tries to keep up with his brother’s bachelor lifestyle, Friday’s best friend, Rosie, encourages her to spread her wings, setting her up with a much younger man and signing her up to KissmeCupid.com, while persuading her to help out with Rosie’s latest business venture hosting divorce parties. Friday is just beginning to pull her self together when everything starts to spiral out of control, her ex lovers won’t take no for an answer, the anonymous gifts on her doorstep suggest someone is stalking her, her daughter ends up in hospital, and then Liam wants to come home…

It Started With a Kiss, Lisa Heidke’s fifth novel, unfolds from the first person perspective of Friday and the third person narrative of Liam, exploring the themes of personal happiness, marriage breakdown, domestic drama and modern relationships. The story is told with plenty of humor and wit but doesn’t dismiss the seriousness of heartbreak and loss. I especially liked the realistic ending, which isn’t as neat as you might expect.

Heidke’s characterisation is always strong, Friday is an emotional mess but that is hardly a surprise given the situation, I imagine I would be too if my husband walked out. I thought Friday was a little too self obsessed at times, even a bit flaky, as evidenced by her failure to do anything about growing her business, but I could understand that Blake’s flattery would be irresistible given the recent blows to her self esteem.
Friday and Liam’s daughters are well portrayed, fifteen year old Olivia is a maelstrom of teenage contempt and self absorption, thirteen year old Evie is sweet and desperate for her parents to reunite.
I wasn’t really expecting to be privy to Liam’s side of things and I didn’t really want to sympathise with him but I did, a little, though I never really liked him much. His behaviour is pretty selfish, especially as he expects Friday to wait in limbo while he indulges in his mid life crisis.

I enjoyed It Started with a Kiss, it’s a quick, engaging read about love and relationships told in a way that is both entertaining and thought provoking. I’m still a fan :)

 

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Review: Riverboat Point by Tricia Stringer

 

Title: Riverboat Point

Author: Tricia Stringer

Published: Harlequin MIRA December 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from December 04 to 07, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Set on the bank of the Murray River, Riverboat Point is the third contemporary Australian rural romance title from author Tricia Stringer.

Savannah Smith is furious when she realises her brother, Jaxon, has lured her to his property in the middle of nowhere and then disappeared, leaving only a note asking her to run his houseboat hire business in his absence. City girl Savannah hasn’t a clue as to what’s involved and hates having to rely on her brother’s tall, dark and handsome neighbour, Ethan, for help, but she is left with little choice. Despite her misgivings, the charm of Riverboat Point slowly wears down Savannah’s defenses, and she considers taking a chance on a building a new life with new friends and new love. But its a risk that will leave more than her heart vulnerable to danger.

There is a thread of suspense introduced into Riverboat Point when, in his letter, Jaxon warns Savannah about his neighbours, the particulars are missing however, so Savannah is not sure exactly who she should be wary of – Ethan, the reclusive Vietnam vet known as Gnasher, or weekenders, Belinda and Ashton. I enjoyed the tension this subplot brought into the story though I think it was perhaps it could have been seeded more fully into the first half of the novel.

Stringer’s main protagonists, Savannah and Ethan, are well developed and likeable characters. They have both weathered tragedy, Savannah still struggles with injuries she suffered in the horrific car accident that killed her parents, Ethan has recently resigned from the military after two tours in Afghanistan and is still vulnerable to nightmares and flashbacks. Though their mutual attraction is fairly instant, their romance develops slowly. I like the way in which Stringer brings the couple together and I think they complement each other well.

An engaging read blending contemporary romance with a frisson of suspense, I enjoyed Riverboat Point. By the way, I have always wanted to holiday on a houseboat and now even more so!

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