Guest Review: Lioness – Katherine Scholes


Katherine Scholes

Penguin Australia

ISBN: 9781921518768



Young Angel Kelly and her mother are travelling by camel across the dusty plains of northern Tanzania when disaster strikes and they face a struggle between life and death.

Australian medical researcher Emma Lindberg arrives at a nearby field station, hoping to lay to rest a grief she’s carried since childhood.

Their worlds collide when human footprints are found in the desert, among those of a lioness and her cubs.

Caught up in a desperate search for a missing person, Emma makes an extraordinary journey deep into the African wilderness. When she finds there is more at stake than she first thought, she has to look inside herself for strength, courage and faith. Only then can she discover the fierce love of the lioness.

A moving and heart-warming novel that asks what it really means to be a family – and what it takes to be a mother.


Brenda’s View:

When Australian medical researcher Emma Lindberg went to Tanzania on a pilgrimage to the field research station that her mother had worked and died at twenty five years previously, she had vague ideas of spending a few hours there, then continuing on to participate in a Safari Tour. But she had only been at the station a short time and a mother camel and her calf arrived in a distressed state. The larger camel carried a saddle pack and was injured – but there was no sign of the owner. Daniel, the veterinary surgeon at the station and Emma decided to follow the trail the camels had left, but had no idea the terrible disaster they would discover…

The footprints of a lioness and her three cubs mingled with human footprints and the worst was deemed. But although the police air search had been exhaustive, Emma and Daniel refused to give up hope. They headed into the desert on a search that would take them far into the African wilderness. But would they locate what they were desperate to discover? And would Emma be able to find the inner peace she had been unknowingly searching for? It seemed to Emma that by going to Tanzania she had set in motion an upheaval over which she had no control…

Lioness by Aussie author Katherine Scholes is a heart-warming story of love and loss; of courage and tenacity – and of the amazing resilience of children. The lioness in this story – Moyo – was very special. The vast ruggedness of the African desert was brought to life in this novel, along with the sheer beauty of the area. Lioness is my first by this author and it definitely won’t be my last. 5 highly recommended stars!


Guest Review – Her Mother’s Secret – Natasha Lester

Her Mother’s Secret

Natasha Lester

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733634659



1918, England. Armistice Day should bring peace into Leonora’s life. Rather than secretly making cosmetics in her father’s chemist shop to sell to army nurses such as Joan, her adventurous Australian friend, Leo hopes to now display her wares openly. Instead, Spanish flu arrives in the village, claiming her father’s life. Determined to start over, she boards a ship to New York City. On the way she meets debonair department store heir Everett Forsyth . . . In Manhattan, Leo works hard to make her cosmetics dream come true, but she’s a woman alone with a small salary and a society that deems make-up scandalous.

1939, New York City. Everett’s daughter, Alice, a promising ballerina, receives a mysterious letter inviting her to star in a series of advertisements for a cosmetics line. If she accepts she will be immortalized like dancers such as Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Ginger Rogers. Why, then, are her parents so quick to forbid it?

HER MOTHER’S SECRET is the story of a brave young woman chasing a dream in the face of society’s disapproval.


Brenda’s Review:

The elation of everyone around in Leonora East’s small village of Sutton Veny was high – the war was over; it was Armistice Day 1918 in England and the celebrations continued long into the afternoon. But joy soon turned to despair as Spanish Flu struck viciously – Leo spent her time dispensing medicine from her father’s chemist shop, praying that it would help. Late in the night, as she wearily entered the home where her father was waiting, she was devastated to find him struggling to breathe.

After his death, a grieving Leo decided she could no longer remain in the country. Her desire to create cosmetics that women the world over would want to wear had her sailing to New York City with her best friend Joan. Leo had made herself a deep rich red lipstick in her father’s chemist shop – but the shock from the self-righteous at the scandal she was causing by wearing it only caused Leo’s determination to strengthen. Meeting up with Everett Forsyth on the journey was fortuitous; he was one of the department store Forsyths from London and he was going to build another in Manhattan. His interest in Leo’s cosmetics gave her some confidence…

1939, twenty years later, Leo had been through much – a widow and continuing to work hard, she always looked to the future. Meantime, Everett’s nineteen year old daughter Alice was a devoted and extremely promising ballerina. But the letter Alice received one day at the dance studio was to change her life in a most unexpected way. Why though were her parents so angry? Confusion filled her mind – what could she do?

Her Mother’s Secret by Aussie author Natasha Lester is brilliant! The strength of character of Leo is phenomenal – the way women were treated in the early part of the century; the heartache and loneliness as she was ostracised by the elite of society – and she still held her head high! The author has historical fiction down to a fine art; her meticulous research is obvious. I thoroughly enjoyed Her Mother’s Secret, reading it in a matter of hours. A highly recommended 5 star read.


Guest Review: A Gem Of A Problem – Irene Sauman

Brenda says this is a wonderful historical mystery.


A Gem of a Problem

Irene Sauman

Jakada Books

ISBN: 9780994503114



It is the 1870s in Australia, at the height of the Murray River paddle steamer trade. Emma Berry is back at her family’s pastoral property, Wirramilla, recovering from the accidental sinking of the paddle steamer Mary B, in which her husband, Sam drowned.

Major Barnaby of Honey Hills is demanding the return of a mysterious package he claims Sam was carrying for him, and which was apparently lost in the accident. What was the Major’s agenda that he is now threatening false charges of theft and smuggling if the item is not returned? Her brother-in-law, Daniel, co-owner with Emma of the Mary B, is blaming her for everything.

She must find the package before the Major’s wife returns from London. Her search leads her up and down the river and across country. Not everyone she encounters is welcoming, while some pay her more attention than she cares for. She must apply the sleuthing techniques gleaned from her readings of fictional detective Mrs Paschal, and insights into human nature from Anthony Trollope to aid her search.

And then there’s the matter of getting the Mary B back on the river. The solution she comes up with gives Daniel something else to hold over her.


Brenda’s Review:

With the sudden death of her husband Sam Berry when their paddle steamer, the Mary B, foundered and sank in April 1875, and the subsequent loss of her unborn child, Emma was now living back at home with her parents on the family property of Wirramilla in Victoria while she recuperated and came to terms with her loss. The day Major Barnaby arrived at the property, accusing Emma of deception and theft, was the day her life changed irrevocably.

Daniel, Emma’s brother in law and co-owner of the Mary B, blamed Emma for the trouble that Major Barnaby was accusing her of – it seemed it was up to Emma to find this mysterious package before the Major caused the family to lose everything. His threats were terrifyingly real – could Emma find the answers she desperately needed?

As Emma travelled to Echuca via steamer, she realised in her musings that the Murray River was the busiest she had ever seen it. The paddle steamer trade in 1870s Australia was a flourishing business – all the more reason for them to have the repairs to the Mary B completed so it could earn its keep once again. But as Emma travelled up and down the river, then across the country by train, she encountered some strange and not so welcoming people. Was she in danger? She knew she had to find the package; it was vital…

A Gem of a Problem by Aussie author Irene Sauman is a wonderful historical mystery which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was also delighted to find it’s the first in the Emma Berry series; I’m keen to read the second when it is published. I loved the quiet and sometimes dangerous travel on the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers, surrounded by the birds and bush. The non-stop vigilance of the steamer crew as they searched for the many submerged sandbanks and tree stumps along the way. Emma is a strong young woman trying to find her way in a man’s world – her ongoing story will be a good one. I have no hesitation in recommending A Gem of a Problem highly. A well-deserved 5 stars.


Guest Review: Bay Of Shadows – Samantha Wood

Brenda is very impressed with this debut novel.


The Bay of Shadows

Samantha Wood


ISBN: 9780995442108/ASIN: B01NCI60OZ



How far would you go for love?

In a rambling house in a small Australian beach town, Elena Jameson is recovering from her recent divorce. To her delight, she is given the opportunity to foster a little boy, Daniel, whose mother is dead and whose violent father is in rehab. As Elena and Daniel explore the beautiful bay and wild bushland, they form a profound bond that will change their lives forever.

Then Daniel’s father discovers his whereabouts and begins a campaign of terror – not to get his son back, but to prevent Elena giving Daniel a new life.

As the violence escalates, Elena finds that she’s willing to do whatever it takes to protect Daniel from the brutality of his past and an uncertain future. Sometimes the only way to get what you want is to pay the price in blood.

A gothic tale of love and loss, bravery and hope.


Brenda’s Review:

When Elena Jameson was granted the opportunity to foster six year old Tyson, she was thrilled. Her recent divorce had left her fragile – caring for this little boy would be therapy for them both. Learning that the name Tyson made the boy shudder with apprehension, Elena started calling him Daniel – his second name – which suited them both. Daniel had lost his mother to death and his father was a cruel, vindictive and abusive man, currently locked away. Elena chose not to think about the future and what would happen when he was released…

Living a quiet and secluded life in the small bay not far from Melbourne in Victoria, just Daniel, Rafi (their little dog) and Elena, she knew this was the life she wanted. Daniel was a different child, and Elena loved him in the devoted manner of any mother anywhere. Daniel was doing well at school – they explored the beautiful surrounding bush in their leisure time; and soccer brought Daniel joy. But with a terrifying suddenness, everything changed. Violence erupted around Elena and Daniel – the danger was crippling. What would Elena do? She knew she needed to do everything in her power to keep her son safe; but what…?

The Bay of Shadows is the debut novel by Aussie author Samantha Wood and in my opinion it’s exceptional! A gripping and intense plot with a fast pace and riveting emotions – The Bay of Shadows has everything I love in a psychological thriller (even a touch of the Dreamtime). I have no hesitation in recommending this novel highly, and will be eagerly watching for this author’s next book 🙂  I also love the cover! 5 stars!



Samantha Wood:

Samantha Wood is a fiction author drawn to mysteries, stories of the Dreamtime, and magic realism. Her first book, Culua: My Other Life in Mexico, was a love letter to Mexico, her mother’s country. The Bay of Shadows is her first novel.







Post Script: Pieces of a Lie – Rowena Holloway

Brenda starts the New Year with another great 5 star  read.


Pieces of a Lie

Rowena Holloway

Fractured Press

ISBN: 9780994168818



One dark secret. Two troubled souls. The lie that brings them together could tear them apart.

Mina Everton’s search for the criminal father who deserted her years ago draws her into the sinister underbelly of the Australian suburbs and a lie twelve years in the making. Detective Lincoln Drummond is investigating a series of robberies. Simple. Until he meets Mina, who gets to him in ways he’s never faced before, and it soon becomes clear the truth behind the robberies is far from simple. Despite Mina’s growing feelings for Drummond, she can’t bring herself to trust him. And the closer she gets to her father, the more she looks, and acts, like a suspect. To expose the truth she must choose – destroy herself … or the only man who believes in her.

Sometimes love isn’t enough…


Brenda’s Review:

Detective Lincoln Drummond was transferred from Sydney to Failie in South Australia after issues with a superior – he was told to clean up the ongoing robberies in the town before he could return to Sydney. But Linc had no idea that the small town of Failie and its seedy underbelly of crime would involve him so completely. Or in such a deadly way…

Mina Everton was deeply involved in antiques – her training by Gibson had been ongoing for the past five years, and she was now ready to step out on her own. Though she was mostly ostracised by the townsfolk, she had put what her father, Jacko, had done thirteen years prior behind her – she was looking forward to her future in the business. That was until the day she discovered something which threw her back into the years of her childhood with the parents she had loved; the father she had adored.

Mina’s immediate search for answers found her in the sights of evil – only she had no idea. The danger as Mina drew closer didn’t make itself known; her obsession could well be her downfall. And Linc was sure Mina was mixed up in what he was investigating. Or was she? It seemed like he couldn’t trust his own judgment anymore…

Pieces of a Lie by Aussie author Rowena Holloway was brilliant! Gripping, intense and oh-so-unputdownable! And so refreshing to have Aussie spelling and ‘isms in the book too! I thoroughly enjoyed the story; the plot was intriguing and well written. I have no hesitation in recommending this author’s debut novel to fans of a good crime/murder mystery. A well-deserved 5 stars from me!

The books I read in 2016

The books I read in 2016

Rachel at The Perth Project Shares the Books She Read in 2016

The Perth Project

In case you didn’t know, I am a certified #booknerd. I love to read and have for as long as I can remember; my bookshelves are overflowing, there are piles of books all around my house, I can find a quote from a favourite book for any occasion, and I just can’t stop buying books despite already having  SO MANY that need to be read.

In 2015 I set myself a challenge of reading a certain number of books and failed miserably. In 2016 I set myself a much more realistic goal of reading 25 books, and I’m happy to say I smashed that goal, finishing my 35th book just before New Year’s Eve.

And because I am always curious about what other people are reading, here are the books I read in 2016:

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Brenda’s Top Ten Aussie Author Reads of 2016

It has been a great year for Aussie authors and readers alike. Here is guest reviewer  Brenda’s Top Ten picks of 2016. In no particularly order ( click on links to see Brenda’s reviews on Goodreads.)

fear-is-the-riderFear is the Rider

Kenneth Cook.


scared-to-deathScared to Death

Rachel Amphlett


red-dirt-odysseyRed Dirt Odyssey

Kath Engebretson


The Last Crocodile Hunter

Bob Irwin and Amanda French


Fiona Higgins



The Chocolate Tin

Fiona McIntosh



The Art of Keeping Secrets

Rachael Johns



The Wife’s Tale

Christine Wells



The Game You Played

Anni Taylor


Darkest Place

Darkest Place

Jaye Ford


Thanks Brenda, there have been some awesome books written by Australian authors this year, it must have been a real task to choose just ten.