Review: Gallipoli Street by Mary-Anne O’Connor

Today is ANZAC Day in Australia, a time to remember and honour those who have served in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations in defense of Australia and New Zealand. The date, April 25th, specifically  references the anniversary of the landing on Gallipoli in 1915, a doomed campaign that nevertheless birthed the legend of the ANZAC spirit.

My daughter has been accorded the honour of leading today’s ANZAC march in my country town, on the 100th anniversary of the landings, bearing the Australian flag. My oldest son will wear his grandfather’s service medals as he and his brother march with their cub troop. We will remember them. Lest we forget.

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Title: Gallipoli Street

Author: Mary-Anne O’Connor

Published: MIRA: Harlequin AU March 2015

Status: Read from April 23 to 24, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A sweeping saga of romance, friendship, family and war, Gallipoli Street is Mary-Anne O’Connor’s debut novel.

Its 1913 and the declaration of war is about to shatter the rural idyll of Beecroft, home to the close knit O’Shay, Murphy and Dwyer families, who will discover their fates are intertwined by tragedy and love.

The romance of Gallipoli Street begins with the passionate love story between childhood friends, Veronica O’Shay and Jack Murphy. It is an epic tale that sees the couple overcome a scheming femme fatale, the perils of their service in the Great War, and Jack’s struggle to reconcile his experiences on his return home.
Twenty years later their son finds love in a New Guinea field hospital ward with orphaned nurse Theresa, but their relationship is shattered when shocking secrets from her past are exposed.

The story takes us from the trenches of Gallipoli, to the deserts of Egypt, from the muddy battlefield of The Somme, to the dense jungle of the Kokoda Trail. No matter the period or arena, war proves to be a universally horrifying and heartbreaking experience which the author relates with truth and compassion.

An appealing and poignant tale, O’Connor has drawn inspiration for both the story of Gallipoli Street and its characters from the lives of her maternal grandparents lending it authenticity and heart.

Gallipoli Street is available to purchase from

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Review & Giveaway: Confessions of a Once Fashionable Mum by Georgia Madden

Title: Confessions of a Once Fashionable Mum

Author: Georgia Madden

Published: Nero April 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from April 21 to 22, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Confessions of a Once Fashionable Mum by Georgia Madden is an entertaining, lighthearted tale about modern motherhood, marriage and fashion.

“I would be the type of yummy mummy real mothers could relate to, and had even coined the perfect hashtag for my instagram feed – #FashMum.”

Being a SAHM is not quite working out the way Ally Bloom hoped. She adores her baby daughter but she has no interest in sitting cross-legged in a dirty school hall singing The Wiggles greatest hits with the ‘Happy Mummies’ and their snotty-nosed offspring. Now that her mother-in-law has come to stay it seems the perfect time to cut her maternity leave short and return to work as a PR executive for the prestigious fashion label Moda, but when Ally learns she has been replaced by a 22-year-old bimbo, she resigns and develops a master plan to become the perfect mother.

“3. Embrace inner earth mama: Weave, bake, plant fragrant herb path or veggie patch, and insta everything as I go along. Use tag #soblessed at least once per day.”

Armed with Nigella Lawson’s How To be a Domestic Goddess, a new wardrobe of cardigans and flats, and her master plan, Ally makes a sincere attempt to get it together and impress her husband, Matt, mother-in-law Judy and the mummy mafia. Her failures are amusing as Madden underscores the competitive edge of motherhood and the pressure of aiming for social media perfection.

“Safe to say, it was, quite possibly, the worst coffee morning in the history of coffee mornings. To top it all off, not one single moment of it had been worthy of my Instagram feed.”

While Ally struggles to adjust to life as a permanent SAHM, she is also struggling with the changes parenthood has wrought in her marriage to Matt and Madden identifies the distance that can sometimes creep between couples with the shift in lifestyle and priorities. Cameron (aka #HotDaddy) provides a distraction for Ally who is flattered by his flirtation.

Madden pokes gentle fun at the members of ‘Happy Mummies’ who are reluctant to admit their lives before children had any value and whose toddlers have Mandarin tutors, wear only natural fibers and eat only organic, gluten free homemade foods. These women are alien to Ally who is quick to dismiss them as ‘saddo losers’ but slowly she discovers she has more in common with them than she thought, and when the group is threatened with closure, Ally is determine to save the day.

“Look, you might think Happy Mummies is just a bunch of mums singing stupid songs and making a mess of your school hall floor every Tuesday morning, but it’s so much more than that…These women, the friendships you make, they have the power to save you, to keep you afloat, at a time in your life when you’re not even sure how you are going to make it through the next day. I know because they saved me.”

There is plenty of humour in this sharply amusing, well paced novel. Wry observation is teamed with snappy dialogue and sarcasm, the characters and scenes may be exaggerated for effect but include a kernel of truth and familiarity for any modern day mother.

#FashMum#Witty#Sharp#AGoodRead#NiceworkGeorgiaMadden

Confessions of a Once Fashionable Mum is available to purchase from

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and all good bookstores.

GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of Black Inc Books, I have

5 print editions of

 Confessions of a Once Fashionable Mum by Georgia Madden

to giveaway to five lucky Australian residents.

Leave a comment on this post and then

CLICK HERE TO ENTER

Entries close May 3rd,  2015

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Review: Love at First Flight by Tess Woods

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Title: Love at First Flight

Author: Tess Woods

Published: HarperCollins Au April 2015

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

My Thoughts:

Told from the first person perspectives of Mel and Matt, Love at First Flight is an unconventional love story which explores the motives for an illicit affair, and the damage left in its wake.

When Mel meets Matt during an interstate flight they recognise each other as soul mates. The problem is Mel is a married mother of two who lives in Perth, and Matt, who lives in Melbourne, is engaged to be married. Despite saying goodbye at the airport, they are both unable to forget their brief time together, and embark on a passionate affair that threatens to destroy them both.

Relationships are complicated things and Woods intelligently and compassionately explores the evolution of Matt and Mel’s affair from their first meeting, through their consuming affair, and to the messy, bitter end. It’s an emotional journey that draws the reader in with complex characterisation and a compelling narrative.

I was surprised to find I could relate to Mel in some ways, I found it difficult to blame her for reveling in the attention Matt gave her during the flight, but she definitely crossed the line for me when she chose to meet with him later. Her spiral into obsession was unsettling but I believed in it, as I did in her growing self awareness.

I particularly admired the way Mel eventually took responsibility for her failings with her husband. Mel’s shame and guilt, and Adam’s hurt and anger, in the aftermath is visceral. I’ve witnessed a similar situation among friends and feel that Woods portrayal of their struggle towards forgiveness and redemption is very well drawn.

Woods convinced me of the overwhelming chemistry between Mel and Matt, no mean feat considering I’m not sure I really believe in the idea of love at first sight. I wasn’t a fan of Matt, despite his sympathetic background he struck me as a weak man, but I thought he was a well rounded character.

Love at First Flight is a surprisingly thought provoking story about love, marriage, intimacy and honesty. An impressive debut from a new Australian author.

 

Learn more about Love at First Flight, Tess Woods and her road to publication in her guest post published earlier today

Love at First Flight is available to purchase from

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Review: The Wisdom of Perversity by Rafael Yglesias

 

Title: The Wisdom of Perversity

Author: Rafael Yglesias

Published: Algonquin Books March 2015

Status: Read from March 23 to 25, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

In The Wisdom of Perversity, Rafael Yglesias tells the story of three childhood friends, reluctantly reunited as adults when the man who sexually abused them more than three decades earlier is finally exposed as a predator, yet seems likely to get away with it.

What Yglesias does well in The Wisdom of Perversity is illustrate the lingering feelings of shame and helplessness victims of abuse carry into adulthood. Despite their best efforts to move past the emotional trauma associated with Stein the memory never fades, ambushing them in their weakest moments. Yglesias also challenges the idea that one type of abuse is better or worse than another. Though Brian was ‘only diddled’ and Jeff was anally raped, their suffering all these years later is indistinguishable, it’s clear it is not so much about the physical act but the emotional repercussions.

Steins predatory nature is truly horrifying. He seduces the parents of his victims with bonhomie and largesse, so that the children feel unable to seek their help. The scene in which he abuses Julie while in the midst a roomful of adults, was incredibly distressing to read, and the powerlessness of the children is heartbreaking.

Unfortunately I didn’t relate to any of the characters as adults, though I was sympathetic to them. Brian is a successful screenwriter with intimacy issues, Julie is a unhappily married library archivist with a teenage son, and Jeff, on his third marriage, is a famous film director. Exposing Stein has the potential to devastate their personal and professional lives.

Said to be inspired by the molestation Yglesias suffered at age 8, The Wisdom of Perversity is a challenging read, especially in terms of the subject matter, but ends on a surprisingly hopeful note.

Available to Purchase From

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Via Booko

Review: Turtle Reef by Jennifer Scoullar

 

Title: Turtle Reef

Author: Jennifer Scoullar

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin March 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from March 22 to 23, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Turtle Reef is Jennifer Scoullar’s fifth novel, and her fourth engaging contemporary regional romance.

City girl Zoe King is thrilled when she lands her dream job at a marine park and research center in Kiawa, a small town in northern Queensland, looking forward to working with the Reef Center’s impressively credentialed director, Bridget Macalister.
Though the job proves more demanding than she expected, Zoe quickly learns to embrace its challenges, impressed by Bridget’s dedication to the center and delighted by the aquarium’s residents, including their six rescue dolphins.
Its the findings from Zoe’s first research project, monitoring the local dugong population and mapping seagrass meadows, that alerts her to a problem not only with the reef, but also the operation of the marine center.

Conservation management and environmental protection is a major theme of this novel. Set in a small sugar cane community on the Queensland coast, Scoullar writes of the risks outdated cane farming practices poses to the coastal environment, the general threats to our fragile marine ecosystem as well as the desirability of rehabilitating wild creatures for return to their natural environment.

The intrigue in the novel is a touch slow to develop but I enjoyed the measured unraveling of secrets. The suspense is fairly low key for most of the novel but the danger Zoe faces when she comes too close to working out exactly what is going on came as a surprise, raising the tension considerably.

There is an unconventional romance for Zoe in Turtle Reef. Quinn Cooper is a fifth generation local cane farmer and a caring guardian of his brain injured younger brother, Josh. Zoe is attracted to his good looks and down to earth charm from their first meeting, but as Bridget’s long term boyfriend, Quinn is strictly off limits. I have to be honest, I found the relationship a little odd, though the chemistry is there, the circumstances are awkward.

The Reef Center is home to a half dozen rescue dolphins, given delightful personalities by Scoullar. I was charmed by Josh’s interactions with them and saddened by the way in which they were betrayed. I was surprised to learn how intelligent octopuses can be, and fell in love with Einstein.

Scoullar’s descriptions of the beauty of the reef and the ocean are highlights of the novel.
“All around them lay a tapestry….Brightly coloured parrot fish abounded and were utterly fearless. Zoe could hear the soft chomping of their beaks as the grazed on the branching coral gardens. Blue-spotted lagoon rays scooted past,… and a shovelnose shark, with its strange triangular snout.”

Turtle Reef is a lovely novel from a storyteller whose fiction evokes the romance of the Australian landscape, and the heart.

Available to purchase from

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Also by Jennifer Scoullar

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Review: The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah

 

Title: The A to Z of You and Me

Author: James Hannah

Published: Doubleday UK March 2015

Status: Read from March 10 to 11, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah is a story of love, loss, truth, redemption, of life and death.

As forty year old Ivo lays in his hospice bed awaiting the end, his nurse suggests he play a simple game to distract himself. For each letter of the alphabet, he is to name a part of his body and recall a positive memory relating to it. A is for Adam’s apple, and anus and ankle, B is for blood, C is for chesticles… and slowly Ivo’s lifetime of achievements, regrets and failures is revealed.

“‘You find suddenly you’ve done all these terrible things for – for no reason, almost. Things that didn’t seem terrible at the time, you know? And not for a long time. But you find that – you know, your whole world’s changed because of them. Lots of people’s worlds. You’ve made your mark, whether you like it or not.’”

With each letter, Hannah unravels fragments of Ivo’s past as he reminisces about family, friends and the love of his life, Mia. For Ivo the memories are often uncomfortable, there are parts of his life he doesn’t want to think about, but a precious few make him smile.

“You’re everywhere. The memories of you, the shape of you. All the parts of my body seem to come together and remember you.”

Despite Ivo’s encroaching fate, The A to Z of You and Me is not as bleak or as sentimental as may be expected. Hannah’s portrayal of Ivo is raw and honest, but also compassionate. Darker moments are lightened by the humour and kindness of Ivo’s nurse, Sheila, and the regular reminder that life, even in the midst of death, goes on.

The unique structure of the novel is appealing and works well, merging the past with the present. The pacing is good and the details of Ivo’s life are teased out slowly to provide ongoing interest.

The A to Z of You and Me is an emotional and poignant story, a well written novel from a promising debut author.

Available to Purchase From

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Review: Snowy River Man by Lizzy Chandler

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Title: Snowy River Man

Author: Lizzy Chandler

Published: Escape Publishing February 2015

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Snow River Man is available to purchase from

Escape Publishing

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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.

cover

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.

 

Available to Purchase From

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Review: Useful by Debra Oswald

 

Title: Useful

Author: Debra Oswald

Published: Viking: Penguin Jan 2015

Read an Extract

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.

Available to purchase from

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and all good bookstores.

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