Guest Review: One More Song – Nicki Edwards

One More Song

One More Song

Nicki Edwards

Pan Macmillan

ISBN: 9781760551407

 

Description:

Harrison Baxter and Edwina Campbell lead completely different lives.

Much has changed for Harry since he escaped his home town of Yallambah ten years ago, headed for the bright lights of the big city. Now he’s the star of Melbourne’s hottest musical, chasing only the next standing ovation. Why bother going back to Yallambah to visit his parents when his father couldn’t care less about his success?

Meanwhile, nothing much has changed for Edwina in the last decade, which is exactly how she likes it. Eddie adores her career as a nurse and loves the Yallambah community – she can’t imagine living anywhere else. And even if she wanted to, she could never leave her beloved grandparents, who raised her and love her like their own daughter. She’s not going to abandon them in their old age. Not for anything.

So when Harry and Eddie bump into each other on one of Harry’s flying visits home, their instant mutual attraction seems as pointless as it is intense. There’s no way they could ever make it work.

Or is there?

 

Brenda’s Review:

Harrison Baxter revelled in his life – musical theatre meant everything to him and his lead role in Les Mis was a dream come true. The Sydney season was coming to an end and he and the crew would begin in Melbourne in the New Year. In the meantime, Harry was heading home to Yallamba for Christmas. His mother, father, sister Claire and husband Simon, plus their two children had always lived in his old home town, but the bitterness between Harry and his dad was what had kept him away for so long. He wasn’t looking forward to the week-long stay…

Edwina Campbell – nurse; volunteer with the SES – had offered to take over the organising of the children’s Christmas party which her Nan had always done, as she was in hospital following a hip replacement. Her grandad was with her Nan, so Eddie was alone at the farm. As things started to go wrong – one after another – Eddie didn’t know how she would manage. But the arrival on the scene of Harry, with his offer of help, was a lifesaver for Eddie. Maybe their Christmas party would be a success after all?

But would the flush of attraction between Eddie and Harry ever come to anything? When tragedy and heartache loomed, it seemed to be over before it began. As the town of Yallamba rallied, uncertainty was high. What would be the future for these caring, special people in the small town of Yallamba?

One More Song by Aussie author Nicki Edwards was absolutely superb! Filled with heartache, hope, happiness and sadness; of loss, the loyalty of family and most of all, of life, One More Song ticks all the boxes. Wonderfully rounded characters, I especially enjoyed Eddie – written with compassion, caring and sensitivity, the author has written her best yet in my opinion. A highly recommended 5 stars.

With thanks to Pan Macmillan for my uncorrected proof to read and review.

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Guest Review – Suddenly One Summer – Fleur McDonald

Suddenly One Summer

Suddenly One Summer

Fleur McDonald

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760293956

Description:

When Brianna Donahue was three years old, her mother mysteriously disappeared while farming in Merriwell Bay, Western Australia. Committed to the family’s farm, Brianna works the same land with her father, while raising her two children as her husband works as a fly-in fly-out lawyer in Perth. One scorching summer’s morning, her son Trent goes missing and, while frantically searching for him, Brianna must come to terms with the fact that her marriage has large cracks in it.

Over two thousand kilometres away in South Australia, Detective Burrows receives a phone call reporting stolen sheep from an elderly farmer. It becomes clear that Guy has early signs of dementia and Dave becomes intrigued with his family history. Was there a child, or was there not? No one seems to know.

While trying to save her marriage and battling the threat of bushfires back in Merriwell Bay, Brianna is faced with challenges: her father’s new girlfriend, who on the surface seems pleasant, seems to have a hidden agenda; Trent is having nightmares, triggered by his accident; and Beau, her youngest, is afraid to let her out of his sight.

So how will Dave’s investigation impact Brianna’s world?

Suspenseful and incendiary, Suddenly One Summer is an intriguing and heartfelt story of the unlikely connections of life on the land.

 

Brenda’s Review:

The pre-dawn hours were already hot in the Merriwell Bay area of Western Australia when Brianna Donahue rose from her bed. The boys were still asleep – eight-year-old Trent and six-year-old Beau were called The Terrors for obvious reasons, so to have some quiet time was special, especially as it was Brianna’s birthday. Her husband Caleb had already left to head for Perth – he was a lawyer and only managed a couple of days home now and then. And he’d forgotten her birthday as well…

After checking the stock, Brianna was surprised to find Trent’s bed empty – Beau was up but there was no sign of her eldest. On checking the obvious places, Brianna went into panic mode – her father, Russell was on the adjoining farm and he immediately rallied the local farmers to start a search. The day was going to be a scorcher; with the threat of bushfires, the relentless heat and thunderstorms heading their way Trent needed to be found quickly.

Detective Dave Burrows was one of two policemen in charge of the small rural town of Barker in South Australia. Crime wasn’t heavy in the area, though farmers often had tools and other implements stolen, so when an elderly farmer, Guy Wood, called the station to report three hundred head of stock missing, Dave and Jack headed out there straight away. But Dave could see there was something not quite right at the old man’s property. His gut instinct told him there was a mystery to solve and he was going to give it his best shot.

Dave in South Australia; Brianna in Western Australia – they’d never met; didn’t know each other existed. So how were they connected? How would the course of the lives of two complete strangers intercept?

Suddenly One Summer is a fast-paced, intensely gripping romantic suspense novel by Aussie author Fleur McDonald which I flew through and absolutely loved! The tension in two different states, with two completely different situations was done extremely well. I have to say, I think Suddenly One Summer is this author’s best work to date! Highly recommended.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my ARC to read and review – 5 stars.

Guest Review- Thirst – L A Larkin

Thirst

Thirst

L.A. Larkin

Constable

ISBN: 9781472125897

Description:

Antarctica is the coldest, most isolated place on earth. Luke Searle, maverick glaciologist, has made it his home. But soon his survival skills will be tested to the limit by a ruthless mercenary who must win at any cost. The white continent is under attack. The Australian team is being hunted down. Can Luke stay alive long enough to raise the alarm? Can he avert a global catastrophe?

The countdown has begun. T minus 5 days, 2 hours and 53 minutes …

 

Brenda’s Review:

Mac and Dave were in the throes of packing up at the crevasse where they’d been working – they were looking forward to getting back to Hope Station, the Australian base. Winter was settling in and most of the engineers and scientists had left Antarctica for the season; there would only be eight of them left on base for the duration…

Luke Searle had lived on the base for around seven years, going home to Melbourne only occasionally. He loved the research; as a glaciologist he could appreciate the beauty of the ice and the colours of the glaciers. But he respected the countryside as well – fully aware of how dangerous it could be. Maddie was team leader and though she and Luke clashed at times – usually over his stubborn refusal to obey orders – he respected her ability to lead.

But the suddenness of the attack; the brutality of what happened had him filled with terror. What was happening? As the team tried desperately to escape the looming danger, Luke wondered if any of them would survive.

With full-on intense action from the very first page, Thirst by Aussie author L.A. Larkin is a thoroughly enjoyable thriller. Fast paced, riveting and filled with the evil of man, the setting of Antarctica was unique and interesting, while the two main characters, Luke and Maddie set the tone well. Highly recommended – 5 stars.

Guest Review: Under the Same Sky – Mojgan Shamsalipoor, Milad Jafari, James Knight

Under the Same Sky

Under the Same Sky

Mojgan Shamsalipoor, Milad Jafari, James Knight

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733637827

 

Description:

An unforgettable story of love, hope and a fight for freedom.

At seventeen, Mojgan Shamsalipoor wanted to be safe from abuse, go to school and eventually marry for love. In Iran, she was denied all of this..

Milad Jafari was a shy teenage by who found his voice as a musician. But the music he loved was illegal in his country. Milad’s father – a key-maker, builder and shopkeeper – wanted his family to live free from the fear of arrest,imprisonment or execution. To do that, they all had to flee Iran.

Mojgan and Milad met in Australia. But in the months between their separate sea voyages, the Australian government changed the way asylum seekers were treated. Though Milad is recognised as a refugee and will soon become a proud Australian citizen, Mojgan has been told she cannot stay here even though the threat of imprisonment and further abuse, or worse, means she can’t return to Iran. This is their story.

Under the Same Sky is a powerful insight into the human face of asylum seekers and the way history has shaped the lives of these two young people. It also shows the compassion found in our suburbs. For Mojgan and Milad, love keeps their hopes alive.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Mojgan Shamsalipoor grew up in Iran with her mother and siblings. She was a happy child, full of fun and laughter, but as she grew to teenage years, things changed for her and the family. When her mother re-married, ostensibly to give Mojgan a better life, things became much worse. Mojgan and her brother Hossein eventually fled to Australia, with the blessing of their mother, in the hopes of a better life.

Milad Jafari was painfully shy until he found music through a friend. But music was illegal in Iran and could even result in the perpetrator being put to death. Milad’s father was a hard-working man who adored his wife and children. He wanted the best for them; their happiness and safety was paramount – they couldn’t have that in Iran; the plan to flee their home country happened quickly.

When Milad and Mojgan eventually met, Milad had been in Australia for some time. He and his family had been granted refugee status and could work and live peacefully. But Mojgan and Hossein weren’t so lucky. Time and time again, their applications were denied until Hossein was re-detained, and then Mojgan – but they were not together. Hossein was in Darwin and Mojgan was in Brisbane. The constant threat of being unable to stay in Australia – of having to return to Iran where they would be punished, more than likely executed, was too much for the siblings to bear.

Milad and Mojgan’s love for each other, and Milad’s determination to do everything he could for her kept their hopes alive. But against the immigration laws and the government’s decisions, their worries were many. What will be the final decision for Mojgan and Hossein?

Under the Same Sky is a traumatic, emotional and heartbreaking look at the fight for freedom by the Shamsalipoor siblings; also, the compassion and kindness of strangers who found themselves in the paths of these two young people. Milad’s kind and caring nature toward the woman he loves; his parents’ acceptance of Mojgan and their desire to help; even the teachers at Mojgan’s school, in particular Miss Jessica – but would it be enough? Under the Same Sky is written by Mojgan and Milad, with the assistance of James Knight who has done an exceptional job. I have no hesitation in highly recommending Under the Same Sky which I think is a very important, even critical read. 5 stars!

 

Guest Review – The Choke – Sofie Laguna

The Choke

The Choke

Sofie Laguna

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760297244

 

Description:

A mesmerising, harrowing and ultimately uplifting novel from the 2015 Miles Franklin winner.

Abandoned by her mother as a toddler and only occasionally visited by her volatile father who keeps dangerous secrets, Justine is raised solely by her Pop, an old man tormented by visions of the Burma Railway. Justine finds sanctuary in Pop’s chooks and The Choke, where the banks of the Murray River are so narrow they can almost touch—a place of staggering natural beauty that is both a source of peace and danger. Although Justine doesn’t know it, her father is a menacing criminal and the world she is exposed to is one of great peril to her. She has to make sense of it on her own—and when she eventually does, she knows what she has to do.

A brilliant, haunting novel about a child navigating an often dark and uncaring world of male power, guns and violence, in which grown-ups can’t be trusted and comfort can only be found in nature, The Choke is a compassionate and claustrophobic vision of a child in danger and a society in deep trouble. It once again showcases the Miles Franklin Award-winning author as a writer of rare empathy, originality and blazing talent.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Justine lived with her Pop as her father, Ray, was rarely around. Her mother had left when she was three years old having never recovered, both physically and mentally, from Justine’s birth. Pop’s shack near the banks of the Murray River where he and Justine spent their days was barely liveable – Pop had survived the war, but his memories of the Burma Railway and his part in the building of it, were forever in his mind.

Justine had two half-brothers – Steve and Kirk – and while they were young, they spent their days together, doing what kids all over did. The Choke where the Murray’s banks were closest was a site of great entertainment; Pop’s girls, the chooks, took Justine’s attention as she collected the eggs. But as she grew up, things changed. And at thirteen, Justine’s gentle, quiet and unassuming life would change forever…

The Choke by Aussie author Sofie Laguna is an emotional, dark and unsettling novel which will break your heart and give you hope all at the same time. Justine is a naïve young girl, with no-one around her but men, both old and young – no-one to explain about life to her. She can’t verbalise the questions; therefore, she doesn’t have the answers. “I never had words to ask anybody the questions, so I never had the answers.” P233.

I’m finding it difficult to review The Choke as I feel I’m unable to do the author justice. Her writing is unique; her descriptions, both of the area Justine lives, and Justine’s life and her internal traumas is outstanding. I could see the danger coming for Justine, but it was like watching a train wreck and not being able to do anything about it.

I loved The Eye of the Sheep and Sofie Laguna has another 5 star winner with The Choke in my opinion. Very highly recommended.

 

Guest Review: The Way Back – Kylie Ladd

 

The Way Back

The Way Back

Kylie Ladd

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760297138

 

 

Description:

All she wanted was to escape. But why does she still feel trapped. A gripping psychological drama by the author of Mothers and Daughters and Into My Arms.

Charlie Johnson is 13 and in her first year of high school. She loves her family, netball and Liam, the cute guy who sits next to her in Science – but most of all she loves horses and horse-riding. Charlie’s parents have leased her a horse, Tic Tac, from the local pony club, but one day they go out for a ride in the national park and only Tic Tac returns…

Four months later, long after the police and the SES have called off the search, Charlie is found wandering injured and filthy, miles from where she was last seen. Her family rejoice in her return, but can anyone truly recover from what Charlie’s been through? When a life has been shattered, how do you put the pieces back together?

 

 

Brenda’s Review:

Thirteen year old Charlie Johnson had a happy and contented life – her mum Rachael worked full-time in a job she loved; dad Matt was a fireman and her older brother Dan was in high school and loved music. Charlie loved her horse Tic Tac – though technically he wasn’t her horse, having been leased from the pony club where Charlie spent a lot of her time, but Ticcy was hers. The Saturday that Charlie and her friend Ivy went for their usual ride through the National Park after pony club was the day everything changed.

When Ivy returned to say Tic Tac was lame and Charlie was walking him back, Hannah immediately mounted her horse and set out to meet Charlie. But neither of them could be found – and when Tic Tac returned days later, limping and dishevelled but without Charlie, they knew something was dreadfully wrong.

Matt and Dan searched with the SES and police for days and weeks on end – everything that could be done was done. But it was like Charlie had vanished off the face of the earth. The National Park near Melbourne was dense and vast – the search covered a huge area, but Charlie had disappeared. Rachael was beside herself, imagining the worst…

The day Charlie staggered from the bush, filthy, injured and incoherent, everyone was ecstatic – her family was over the moon, the police thrilled with the outcome. But could Charlie be the same girl she was four months prior? Would anything ever be the same again? And what had happened to Charlie in the time she was missing?

What a brilliant, breathtaking psychological thriller Aussie author Kylie Ladd has produced with her latest, The Way Back! Emotional, heartbreaking, tear-jerking and above all, outstanding, this novel ticks all the boxes. I have no hesitation in recommending The Way Back extremely highly! 5 stars!

With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my ARC to read and review.

Guest Review : Her – Garry Disher

Her

Her

Garry Disher

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733638541

 

Description:

Out in that country the sun smeared the sky and nothing ever altered, except that one day a scrap man came by . . .

Her name is scarcely known or remembered. All in all, she is worth less than the nine shillings and sixpence counted into her father’s hand. She bides her time. She does her work.

Way back in the corner of her mind is a thought she is almost too frightened to shine a light on: one day she will run away.

A dark and unsettling tale from the turn of the twentieth century by a master of Australian literature.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Three years old she was when the scrap man came and paid her father nine shillings and sixpence. She was chosen over the rest of her siblings; suddenly she belonged to the scrap man while memories of her family faded. Living in a dilapidated jumble of belongings, her name was You; there was Wife and Big Girl – all cowered when the scrap man was angry.

Seasonally the horse was harnessed to the cart and they ventured out to sell, buy, steal and trick – meandering across the countryside, remembering where not to go if they’d been shunted away last time. Whenever there was a pub nearby the scrap man drank their measly pennies until there wasn’t enough for food. Then he would fly into a rage and beat Wife.

Back at home Wife, Big Girl and You spent their time making things from scrap metal for their next trip through the countryside; while the scrap man drank and womanised. What would happen to the little family? Would You be able to escape? He’d always threatened to kill her if she tried…

Her by Aussie author Garry Disher is set in the bush near Bendigo in Victoria at the turn of the century and is a tale of utter despair, bitterness and how the nameless young women coped at the hands of one unscrupulous and evil man. This is completely different to anything the author has written before, and in my opinion he’s nailed it. A master at his craft, Garry Disher certainly knows how to weave a tale, and Her will stay with me for a long time. A highly recommended 5 star read.