Monday 4/4/16: In the Mailbox & What I’m Reading

Wow, Mondays roll around quickly when you’re on holidays! Surprisingly, I haven’t been doing a lot of reading – my time has been mainly spent cooking and eating. (You only have to look at my Instagram for proof of that!) Oh, and buying music. So it was lovely to come home to some great books. I’ll probably be shopping a little more this week, time to pick up some new April releases methinks…

The Other Side of the Season by Jenn J McLeod was a surprise from Simon & Schuster. In this book, Sidney returns to Watercolour Cove. But 35 years earlier, it was a different place and home to a banana plantation. But when Sidney comes back to town, it’s discovered that there are two sides to every story.

The Secret Recipes for Second Chances by J.D. Barrett was a prize from Hachette Australia. It combines cooking, passion and a friendship spanning a little more than usual. It sounds delicious!

If you want to check out more exciting bookshelves, do drop by the Mailbox Monday blog for links to everyone’s mailbox goodies. Overseen by Vicki (I’d Rather Be at the Beach), Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) and Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit), I’m sure you’ll find many books for the wish list!

It’s Monday! What are you reading? hosted by Book Date and formerly by Book Journey and J Kaye. Click on the pictures to read more about the books.

What I Read Last Week:

What I’m Reading at the Moment:

Audio:

Nothing at the moment…having some music time!

Print:

Up Next:

I think I’ll be reading these all week!

Season of Shadow and Light by Jenn J McLeod

In brief: Paige needs to escape the city and come to terms with the major changes in her life – the loss of her job, a marriage falling apart and a daughter asking questions about a grandmother even Paige doesn’t know the truth about. A chance stop in a small country town will unravel everything Paige thought she knew…

The good: The mystery was interesting and sense of community in the in country was palpable.

The not-so-good: A little slow to warm up for me.

Why I chose it: Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the ARC, this review is part of a blog tour for Season of Shadow and Light.i

Year: 2015

Pages: 469 (ARC)

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Setting: New South Wales, Australia

My rating: 8 out of 10

Even though I have Jenn J McLeod’s debut novel on my shelves, I still haven’t read it! (So many good books, so little time). I’m ashamed to say this is my first taste of Jenn’s writing, her third novel to date. Season of Shadow and Light is right up my alley, combining my loves of Australian rural fiction with a family mystery. It does have romantic elements too, but they are quite minor. The book celebrates the community spirit that is felt in small towns and the power and love of family.

As the book opens, Paige Turner (yes, that’s her name) and her life in heading a downward spiral. Some time ago, she lost a son and had a post-partum stroke, robbing her of her sense of smell and taste. To top it off, she’s a food reviewer, which meant her career was effectively ended. She’s having problems in her marriage after she found out her husband had an affair and when daughter Mati wants to do a Pinterest page on Paige’s deceased mother, it’s the last straw. There’s so much Paige doesn’t know about her mum, particularly about her youth. So Paige, Mati and Alice (Paige’s mother’s partner) decide to get out of the city and head to the country with a nice stay at an old boatshed in the town that happens to be a link to Paige’s mother. But fate intervenes in the form of a summer flood and the trio find themselves marooned in Coolabah Tree Gully. The locals take them in with open arms and Paige is beginning to feel alive again as she makes friends with locals Aiden and Sharni. But Alice is worried – there are far too many coincidences here about Nancy (Paige’s mother) and her life as a young woman. Will Alice break her promise to Nancy and tell Paige the truth, or should some secrets stay buried?

I must admit that when I read the blurb I thought this book was more about Paige’s life immediately post-stroke. But it’s something that’s more in the background and pops up every now and again. Paige’s main concern is trying to work out where she is in the world – should she leave her marriage? What job can she do now? In Coolabah Creek, she finds herself relaxing and becoming more accepting. The family ties were a bit of a puzzle at first – I thought there might be something more between Paige and Aiden, but once another character appears, you’ll understand what the hints meant from earlier in the book.

I found the story a bit slow to start, as I didn’t really understand which direction the book was heading in but once Alice appeared, describing more of her and Nancy’s history, I was engrossed. (Each chapter is told from a different point of view – mainly Paige and Alice, but with inputs from Aiden and a couple of others). I loved the way Jenn entwined the past and present into the mystery of Nancy’s youth. Once the secret was revealed, the story didn’t lose momentum – if anything it cranked it up a few notches! The hurt and anguish turns into a race against time as Paige must work out where and with whom her loyalty lies. There are a few co-incidences that are very timely, but hey, that’s the magic of fiction.

I raced through the last 150 pages of this book – the story is that compelling. Persevere with the first 50 pages and you’ll find you are reading a winner that is not only well-written but captures the heart of family and friendship.

Guest post: Jenn J McLeod, author of Season of Shadow and Light

Today I’d like to welcome Jenn J McLeod, author of the new novel Season of Shadow and Light (it’s her third novel but shamefully for me, the first I’ve read!) Jenn is currently touring around Australia, so I thought I’d ask her about her life on the road and the best parts! Thanks for answering all my nosy questions Jenn!

Well, my gypsy life is both in its early days and thirty years late!

Let me explain . . .

Thirty years ago was the first time I ‘took off’ around Australia in a converted Ford F100 with a tent. And when I say I took off, I mean I ran away in search of . . . something. And as Banjo says in Season of Shadow and Light: ‘We’re all lookin’ for somethin’, girlie, but as I always say it’s what we do when we find it that’s most important.’ I was searching for something—not sure what—but at that time I was young, confused. (My mother would say ‘complicated’!)


I’m not sure I found anything on that trip at all, except that living in a tent can be really cold in the desert. After two years touring family illness forced a premature return home. I never did get back on the road.


The real life Banjo’s pub in Boonah (note the closed in balcony, Season of Shadow and Light readers!)

Fast forward thirty years . . .

I am back on the road now; no longer running away, but running to all the places I missed on that first trip, starting in Queensland.

 

Although I wrote the early draft of this book while still in a house, Paige’s road trip in Season of Shadow and Light could be interpreted as slightly reminiscent—although I was much younger than Paige when I ran away, my husband was not cheating on me at the time, and I didn’t have a daughter! (Hmm, as you can see it doesn’t take much for a writer to take one or two elements from their life experiences to get the storytelling started!)

 

Paige’s road trip scenes in the opening chapters of the book (and Banjo’s pub in Coolabah Tree Gully) did come from a more recent trip I did to attend a fellow author’s book launch in Boonah. The quaint country atmosphere of Boonah, and neighbouring Kalbar, belies the towns’ closeness to Brisbane. Both these towns are at the heart of what’s called The Scenic Rim—a spectacular volcanic escarpment located in Queensland’s south-east region. (No one told me at the time there was a Scenic Rim historic pub trail!) And a big book lover bonus . . . The Story Tree, in Boonah, is a beaut little bookshop. Why? Because it has books AND serves coffee!

 

The road from NSW is over the ranges and steep and winding, so leave the caravan behind and do what I did; stay in a quintessential country pub, complete with crooked floors, then use it as a setting in a novel. Yes, it is the pub from Season of Shadow and Light. Best, most authentic country pub experience so far.

 

Speaking of country pubs . . .

 

For some reason, maybe because I have lived in the town of the Big Banana—Coffs Harbour, NSW—for the last ten years, I am inexplicably drawn to places that claim to have “The biggest this” or “The smallest that” or those that are “The closest to” something-or-other. If you are like-wise compelled to experience such claims, you’ll have to try Toompine (70kms south of Quilpie, in QLD), which claims to be the only “pub without a town”. With a population of only two I’m guessing the Toompine Hotel (circa 1893) would make Friday night drinks a lot less crowded than what I’ve been used to.

 

Even less overwhelming, and up the road a bit, is Cheepie – Population: 1

At its peak, as a Cobb & Co change station, Cheepie had a police station, blacksmith, railway station, tent boarding houses, butcher shop, bakery and two organic vegetable gardens. All that remains in the township today is a private residence and one long-time resident. I reckon he’d have some stories to tell.

 

Finally, for a really great time (I’ve always wanted to say that!) you can experience time travel at Cameron’s Corner where you can be in three different time zones all at once— NSW, QLD, SA. That must make for a fun New Year’s Eve, if you are willing to brave the summer temperatures. Locals see in the New Year three times over. Does that mean three kisses at midnight?

 

Of course, before I set off on any of these adventures, I have a book to launch and a book tour to fit into the schedule. Life for me these days certainly reminds me of a favourite saying (one I managed to work into my new release):

Would that life were like the shadow cast by a wall or a tree, but it is like the shadow of a bird in flight.

 

There’ll be no stopping, just new friends. Please join me on my #WriteRoundOz odyssey, come home to the country and connect with me on:

 

Website:        www.jennjmcleod.com

Twitter:          @jennjmcleod

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/JennJMcLeod.Author  &/or the Facebook Readers of Jenn J McLeod Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/jennjmcleod.author/

Thanks again Jenn! Please do drop in again this afternoon to read my review of Season of Shadow and Light. In the meantime, drop by some of my fellow blog tour participants:


Mailbox Monday 23/3/15

A fortuitous mailbox this week for me, as I’ve been hit by the lurgy and really don’t feel like doing much at all (except lying around and reading).

The first parcel was a surprise from a competition I entered back in February. Thanks to The West and Harlequin – a three pack of new releases, none of which I’ve read:

Jilted by Rachael Johns is her first rural romance, set in the small town of Hope Junction and starring soap star Ellie and golden boy Flynn. The Road to Hope is also set in Hope Junction and tells the story of ‘nasty nurse’ Lauren and Dr Tom – is this a fling or something more? The King’s Sister by Anne O’Brien starts in 1380 with a wedding between Elizabeth Plantagenet and the Earl of Pembroke (who just happens to be 8 years old) and continues with rebellion, divided loyalty and scheming.

If She Did It by Jessica Treadway is a thriller, where a mother suspects her child of a horrible crime, if only she could remember the details… Thanks to The Reading Room and Hachette for this book. The Chocolate Promise by Josephine Moon promises to be another delicious tale in the vein of The Tea Chest. It’s set in a chocolate shop in Tasmania and the heroine, Christmas has 10 rules for happiness – number 10 is ‘absolutely no romantic relationships’. Of course, that means no time for the perfect man… Thanks again to The Reading Room and Allen & Unwin for this book that is certain to induce chocolate cravings… Last but not least, Jenn J McLeod’s latest book, Season of Shadow and Light arrived from Simon & Schuster for a blog tour in May. It’s about Paige, who has a stroke shortly after the birth of her baby. Now she’s lost the sense of smell and taste (essential things for a food reviewer) and her marriage is falling apart. Sounds like a road trip is in order…and for me, a date with the couch

Do stop in at the Mailbox Monday blog for links to everyone’s mailbox goodies. Overseen by Vicki (I’d Rather Be at the Beach), Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) and Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit), I’m sure you’ll find something you want to read, as well as more great books!

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Mailbox Monday 8/4/13

As another Monday rolls around, I’m beginning to wonder what is going on – there’s no sign of summer ending down here and it’s still snowing in other places! It’s a crazy world, but at least we have books to escape in!

I gave into temptation and ordered the Penguin Lines of the Underground series after doing a lot of online stalking (they kept running out of stock). It’s a set of 12 books, one for each line of the London Underground to celebrate the Tube’s 150th birthday. Each author has taken a different approach and they look just right for a daily commute. I’ll try them out on my train line soon and report back.

I also received a copy of Jenn J McLeod’s first book, House for All Seasons as part of a giveaway from Simon & Schuster and The Reading Room. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Jenn had signed this copy – thank you!

In April, our host for Mailbox Monday is Mari at MariReads. Mailbox Monday (started by Marcia long ago) is the place to come to share your recent acquisitions or check out what others have had land in their letterbox.

Have you had any exciting books enter your house recently?