My Reading Challenges for 2016

2016 has been a fantastic year for reading – for discovering new authors and  for making some great reading and writing friends.  I have achieved a few of my reading goals: The Aussie Author Challenge,  Goodreads Challenge   – so far ( and there is 24 hours left to add in another book, maybe) I have read 178 books – 28 more than my original expectation. My goal for the Australian Women Writers Challenge  was 50 and I manged to read and review 47 book – almost but not quite there- maybe next year?

 

good-reads 2016

 

All going to plan – I  hope to publish at least one of my Best of 2016 reads lists soon. Stay tuned.

Post Script: Love at First Flight – Tess Woods

love-at-first-flight

Love at First Flight

Tess Woods

HarperCollins Publishers Australia

ISBN: 9781460752647

 

Description:

What if the love of your life is not your husband? A compelling novel that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty, viewers of Offspring, The Good Wife and movies like Up in the Air.

 

‘Looking back on it now, I can see it was instant. The second we locked eyes. Boom. Just like that. The me I had spent a lifetime perfecting began its disintegration from that moment. And despite the carnage it brought to all our lives, I still don’t regret it.’

 

Mel is living the dream. She’s a successful GP, married to a charming anaesthetist and raising a beautiful family in their plush home in Perth. But when she boards a flight to Melbourne, her picture-perfect life unravels. Seated on the plane she meets Matt, and for the first time ever she falls in love.

 

What begins as a flirty conversation quickly develops into a hot and obsessive affair with consequences that neither Mel nor Matt seems capable of avoiding. As the repercussions hit friends and family, Mel’s dream romance turns into nightmare. She learns that there are some wounds that never heal and some scars that you wouldn’t do without.

 

LOVE AT FIRST FLIGHT will take everything you believe about what true love is and spin it on its head.

 

PRAISE FOR LOVE AT FIRST FLIGHT:

 

‘Love at First Flight is no light romp in the hay. It’s a mature, finely drawn effort that examines the emotions and motives behind an affair – and, ultimately, its ramifications. I dare you to resist’ – Jennifer Ammoscato, author of Dear Internet: It’s Me Avery

 

 

My View:

More than chick lit – perhaps this fits best in the new sub-genre “life lit”?

 

A very impressive debut that will connect on so many levels – this is life – real, honest, ugly at times. Steamy, personal, HONEST. (Tess Woods where did you get you get the idea for this one?)  I don’t think I have read anything that tackles a woman’s personal life crisis/ her emotional dilemmas quite like this.

 

The dual perspectives – Mel’s and Matt’s provide great insight. The characters are credible if not a bit uncomfortable to read at times.

 

Despite this definitely not being a genre I usually favour – this had me staying up late to finish – read in one sitting.

 

“The verb love is what counts, not the feeling of love. When you feel love, it’s selfish, it’s just for you and it affects nobody but you. But when you act love, you committing the act of loving somebody. Do you understand the concept?” p 290.

 

Do you?

 

Read the book and discover the depth of real meaning, real feeling and real life… in these words.

Post Script: Scared To Death – Rachel Amphlett

scared-to-death

Scared to Death

Detective Kay Hunter #1

Rachel Amphlett

Saxon Publishing

ISBN: 9780994433756

 

Description:

A serial killer murdering for kicks.

A detective seeking revenge.

When the body of a snatched schoolgirl is found in an abandoned biosciences building, the case is first treated as a kidnapping gone wrong.

But Detective Kay Hunter isn’t convinced, especially when a man is found dead with the ransom money still in his possession.

When a second schoolgirl is taken, Kay’s worst fears are realised.

With her career in jeopardy and desperate to conceal a disturbing secret, Kay’s hunt for the killer becomes a race against time before he claims another life.

For the killer, the game has only just begun…

Scared to Death is a gripping fast paced crime thriller from author Rachel Amphlett, in a new series introducing Kay Hunter – a detective with a hidden past and an uncertain future…

 

My View:

Once you have been introduced to Detective Kay Hunter you will be firm friends. She is conscientious, driven, intelligent and hardworking and the author has generously provided a home life and a relationship that is strong and credible. Kay Hunter may have some personal and work issues that she is dealing with but these add to her credibility and make her a very well developed and realistic character. There is none of the desolate, drug addled or alcoholic traits that are so prevalent in the protagonists of so many contemporary crime fiction reads –   this three dimensional female protagonist is such a pleasant change to read.

 

And the realism doesn’t end there! Whilst not writing sensationalist, violent prose, the action and the crimes portrayed here is realistic, disturbing and very imaginable (emphasis on the imaginable). The behaviours and personality types of the victims – also very credible.

 

The strength of this novel is in Rachel Amphlett’s ability to succinctly create empathetic realistic characters and situations which allow readers to fully engage with many of the situations/issues presented here. Who hasn’t had some experience of bullying – in the workplace, in the home, at school, of being the target or the bully…of harassment, prejudice, discrimination? Parents will be able to identify with the fears and terrors the missing girls’ families feel.  And the young girls? You will recognise teenagers who fit this bill too.  And on a personal level – Kay’s “secret” is one that will resonate with many.  Dysfunctional families, family violence, divorce, co-parenting…work pressures, the pressures of the everyday…all is covered here and in doing so the author has very subtly and successfully  bonded you to the characters and the situations in this book. You will want to follow Kay Hunter on her journey to discover the truth.

 

Well done Rachel Amphlett.

 

More praise for Rachel Amphlett here:

 

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Post Script: Face Value – A Wright & Tran Novel – Ian Andrew

face-valueFace Value

A Wright & Tran Novel

Ian Andrew

ISBN: 9780992464127

 

Description:

Kara Wright and Tien Tran, former members of an elite intelligence gathering team active in Afghanistan, Iraq, and places still classified, now make their living through Wright & Tran, a PI service that tracks errant spouses, identifies dishonest employees and, just occasionally, takes on more significant cases that allow them to use all their skills.

 

When siblings Zoe and Michael Sterling insist that their middle-aged parents have gone missing, Kara and Tien are at first sceptical and then quickly intrigued; the father, ex-intelligence analyst Chris Sterling, appears to be involved with an enigmatic Russian thug.

 

Using less than orthodox methods and the services of ex-colleagues with highly specialised talents, Wright & Tran take on the case. But the truth they uncover is far from simple and will shake Zoe and Michael as much as it will challenge Tien and anger Kara – anger she can ill afford for she is being hunted by others for the killing of a street predator who chose the wrong prey.

 

The only constant in this darkening world is that nothing and no one can be taken at face value.

 

My View:

Australian authors are awesome!

 

What a fantastic discovery!  This book easily scores a place in my “Top Reads of 2016”! Fast paced, action packed, explosive, compulsive writing and with not one but two particularly interesting and empathetic female protagonists!

 

The introduction provides a very tasty and appetising bait – you won’t feel that hook until it is too late and it is after midnight and you are reading “just one more page”… until you have finished! You can catch up on sleep another night.

 

It wasn’t the prettiest place to die. But then again, where is? She was taking a short cut through unfamiliar territory. He was running an illegal errand on ground he called his own. Neither would have wanted the street with its vandalised lights and graffiti-covered hoardings, to be their final view of life. But we don’t often get what we want.”   (p.1)

 

Bad things are going to happen, you can feel it, sense it, taste it. But you might just get a surprise or two here. And then there is the rest of the narrative! I was thoroughly hooked, engaged, enthralled.

 

I cannot wait to read the second in this series “Flight Path.” Thanks Ian Andrew for a consuming read!

 

 

Post Script: Writing The Dream – A Serenity Press Anthology

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Writing the Dream

24 Authors One Dream 24 Inspiring Stories

A Serenity Press Anthology

Serenity Press

ISBN: 9780994633736

 

Description:

A collection of 25 stories written by talented authors. No two writers are the same, but they have one thing in common: they are storytellers at heart and their deepest desire is to be heard. Writing the Dream shares the stories of twenty-five Australian writers, from emerging to established authors. Some are traditionally published, while others have taken the self-publishing route. Some have faced rejection after rejection, while others have had a dream path.

 

But, while their writing journeys are different, all of them strive to create, entertain, inspire and inform. And all of them have unique and creative voices that deserve to be heard.

 

With contributors including Anna Jacobs, Juliet Marillier, Natasha Lester, Jenn J McLeod, and a host of other talented writers, the stories in Writing the Dream are set to strike an inspirational chord in every hopeful writer’s heart.

 

 

My View:

Australian authors share their personal stories of process, inspiration, writing experiences and publishing in a very personal and honest collection of short stories. So many of the names here are familiar to me; some are authors I have already had the pleasure of reading their work, or I may have seen them talk at a festival or “know” via social media, regardless of how I have “met” this diverse group of writers, it felt like these authors were reaching out and speaking directly to me – such an intimate and inspirational approach; I highly value the advice given so generously here.

 

If you aspire to write, or dabble, or dream or perhaps know someone who does then this little book will brighten their day and get the words flowing on the pages.

 

As a bonus you get an extra chapter free, twenty five individual stories and each author provides a set of tips at the end of their chapter. One of the best hints/tips I think is from Melinda Tognini:

“Just start.” (p.233, emphasis added)

 

 

 

 

 

Post Script: The Drifter – Anthea Hodgson

the-drifter

The Drifter

Anthea Hodgson

Penguin Books Australia

ISBN: 9780143797241

 

Description:

Cate Christie is a party girl, unable to commit to anything, until she is involved in a tragic accident that changes everything. To escape her guilt and her parents’ bitter disapproval, Cate leaves Perth for her Aunt Ida’s isolated farm in country Western Australia.

 

Henry is a drifter, a young swagman-like character who wanders onto the Christie family property and takes up residence in a disused shed. With secrets of his own, the last thing he wants is to get tangled up in Cate and Ida’s lives.

 

Against their own better judgement, the fates of Cate and Henry and Ida inexorably intertwine and they learn to face the realities of life, death and letting go.

 

A witty, charming and moving debut rural romance about what makes a good death and, more importantly, what makes a good life.

 

 

My View:

Debut Perth writer reflects on survivors guilt in a moving, fast paced most enjoyable coming of age read that ticks all the boxes.

 

Wonderful realistic characters

Natural and genuine dialogue

Local (Western Australian) settings – rural and city

Discusses many contemporary social issues including redemption and atonement, survivor guilt, end of life choices, the survival of small rural towns …

Has a fast paced narrative

Is mysterious and complex

Has an honest and trustworthy voice

Weaves into the narrative a few twists

And an ending that…will you will have to discover that yourself.

 

What more could you want?

Post Script: The Last Crocodile Hunter – Bob Irwin with Amanda French – Guest Reviewer

“Anyone who has ever heard of Steve Irwin should read (this).”

the-last-crocodile-hunter

The Last Crocodile Hunter: A Father & Son Legacy

Bob Irwin with Amanda French

Allen & Unwin AU

ISBN: 9781760292379

 

Description:

‘When the world lost Steve, the animals lost the best friend they ever had, and so did I. But he’s still here with me and knowing that means that I am able to gain strength from him, and harness the same passion and drive that he and I both had together. There are so many people who have been inspired and are still being inspired by Steve Irwin and that makes me feel really, really proud.’ – Bob Irwin

Bob Irwin grew up in the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria, Australia, where his passion for wildlife and its environment was born. A near-death experience while working as a plumber made Bob realise he needed to follow his dreams, so he and his wife Lyn uprooted their young family and moved to Queensland where they opened a Reptile and Fauna Park on the Sunshine Coast.

Bob’s passion for reptiles grew with his ever expanding collection and he soon became involved with various venom labs, for which he would catch the snakes that were later milked for the production of life-saving anti-venom. Growing up within the Beerwah Reptile & Wildlife Park, and with Lyn caring for orphaned wildlife at home, passion for the environment and all animals was a way of life for the Irwin children. This unique upbringing had a profound impact on his son Steve, who followed in his father’s footsteps and along the way became famous around the world as educator and wildlife warrior, the Crocodile Hunter.

Bob nearly didn’t survive the sudden death of his adored wife Lyn, and could have gone under again when a routine filming session for Steve’s TV show ended in his tragic death in 2006 at the age of 44. In each instance was the natural world and the animals within it which helped Bob to keep going, and since then he has continued to fight for his beloved Steve’s legacy of protecting the wildlife, environment and planet on which our own survival depends.

Entertaining, moving, impassioned and inspiring, The Last Crocodile Hunter goes to the heart and soul of a great Australian character, father and fighter, and raises issues that are crucial to us all.

 

Brenda’s View:

The Dandenong Ranges in Victoria was where Bob Irwin grew up, and his love of the Australian wildlife and surrounding bush was in him from a very young age. As the years passed, Bob became a plumber and worked with his father. But eventually Bob knew he was no longer happy in his job, so after much discussion with his wife Lyn, in late 1972 they headed for Queensland with the children. The Beerwah Reptile and Fauna Park began on just three and a half acres of land; the hard work was done by the family as they slowly built it to where it could be opened to the public. The family survived on the bare minimum as neither Lyn nor Bob had an income, but they had a passionate vision of the future.

Bob and Lyn’s three children, Joy, Steve and Mandy, all shared their parents’ love of wildlife and conservation, but Steve was a sponge, soaking up everything his father taught him and always wanting more. Bob took Steve on his camping trips when they were contracted to remove crocodiles from particular creeks and rivers – Steve loved it. The two of them had a unique relationship; not just father and son, they were best mates as well.

As the Park expanded Australia Zoo was born – Steve’s famous Crocoseum became a world-wide attraction. But all the while, the animals were the top priority – teaching humans about the lives and habitats of the wild animals we live with was Steve and Bob’s ultimate goal. And they made a difference…

The Last Crocodile Hunter is the most comprehensive, interesting and heart wrenching memoir I have ever read. Emotional, profound and deeply moving, Bob Irwin’s words and memories have come to life with the help of Amanda French, who travelled with Bob throughout the outback, visiting old sites he had been to with Steve, chatting and imparting it all around the campfire. A quiet man, never one for the spotlight, son Steve was the complete opposite – they complemented each other well. Now seventy seven years of age, Bob Irwin continues his fight to preserve the legacy left by Steve for the well-being of our planet, the environment but mostly for the animals on it. The Last Crocodile Hunter is a memoir I highly recommend, and one I feel anyone who has ever heard of Steve Irwin should read. I very much enjoyed this 5 star read.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin for this copy to read in exchange for my honest review.