Mailbox Monday and What I’m Reading 13/2/17

Last week was odd in terms of weather! It’s meant to be summer, but we’ve had record rains, flooding and winter temperatures! Meanwhile, the rest of Australia is super-hot and dry. This week it looks like we will return to sunny and warm days. In a way, the unseasonal weather was great for reading.

I received several books in the mail over the last week (all lovely and dry!), many thanks to those who sent them:

The Shape of Us by Lisa Ireland was from Pan Macmillan and the author. I love Lisa Ireland’s books, so I’m excited to get an early copy of her latest (out April). It’s about four women who bond on an online forum weight loss. Each of them has her own problems but are bonded by friendship as they realise that weight loss is not the key to happiness.

The Midsummer Garden by Kirsty Manning was a win from Bookstr and Allen & Unwin. Out April, it’s a novel with a dual timeline (1487 and 2014) across France and Tasmania. Artemisia is in charge of the kitchens at a large chateau, but her dreams are outside its walls. Who can she trust with her secret? Pip is trying to finish her studies and avoid making plans, but the gift of old copper pots joins her story with that of Artemisia’s.

Storm and Grace by Kathryn Heyman was a win from Allen & Unwin. It’s described as a literary thriller as a smitten Grace follows Storm to his Pacific Island. He teaches her to be a diver like him, but as Storm pushes Grace, she resists. What is she hiding?

(Not pictured – a copy of 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster. Thanks Allen & Unwin!)

If you want to look at other books received, do visit the Mailbox Monday blog for links to everyone’s mailbox goodies.

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

What I Read Last Week:

What I’m Reading at the Moment:

Up Next:

Sam Still Reading’s Books of the Year: Part 1 (pre-2015)

I always have a difficult time choosing my favourite books of the year. There are just so many variables in what makes something a favourite for me- is it that I can still remember the plot and characters in detail? Have I recommended the book to all and sundry? Did it make me feel happy or enlightened? Was the prose spectacular?

This year I am taking the lead of book bloggers I respect (such as The Writes of Woman) and dividing my list into 2015 and pre-2015 publication favourites. I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t have many pre-2015 books being the sucker I am for new releases, but the lists ended up nearly even.

I ended up reading 127 books in 2015, much more than I had initially thought I would. (Thanks audiobooks). 121 of those had been reviewed on the blog at the time of writing, you’ll see two more soon. I’ve read books predominantly by women and quite a few Australian books. (My reading thoughts and goals for 2016 will be in a future post).

Here are the books that wowed me in 2015 that were published in 2014 or earlier. They are listed in the order that I read them – if you would like to read my review of a particular book, just click on the cover.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

“I couldn’t help but be captivated by her witty style…”

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran











“Most of all, I loved the tone of this book. It’s refreshingly honest.”

Breaking the Drought by Lisa Ireland










“Great characters, interesting storyline, action, romance and danger – all in one package!”

The Life of a Banana by PP Wong










“A fantastic book that made me both laugh at loud and silently fume at the injustices inflicted on its protagonist.”

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans










“The book is so rich in atmosphere that I really felt that I was inhabiting Noel and Vee’s world.”

After Before by Jemma Wayne










“A powerful, emotional and intense novel that will have the reader questioning their values.”

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler









“Anne Tyler’s prose is wonderful; enveloping and warm.”

Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth









“I wanted to stop and reflect after each sentence to savour this book.”

Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff









“It’s fascinating yet scary, but does offer some hope.”

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante









“The story enchants you to the point where you can’t think about anything else.”

Honourable mentions also go to Underground: How the Tube Shaped London by David Bownes, Oliver Green & Sam Mullins and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

Do you agree with my list? Which are your favourite books of 2015?

Feels Like Home by Lisa Ireland

In brief: Jo is a famous author with an even more famous fiancé. Coming back to Linden Gully was never meant to feel like home, but thanks to a reunion with old friends and her first love, it’s starting to feel that way. (Read more here).

The good: A lovely story, combining both sadness and happiness.

The not-so-good: I didn’t want to stop reading, so spent more time exercising to find out what happens next and kind of overdid it!

Why I chose it: I love Lisa Ireland’s writing, thank you to Harlequin for the eARC.

Year: 2015

Pages: 245 (eARC)

Publisher: Harlequin Mira

Setting: Outback Australia

My rating: 9 out of 10

I have an awesome relationship with Lisa Ireland’s writing. If it were a person, I think we would be really good friends and I’d read anything she wrote (anyone who loves rural fiction with or without romance needs to read Breaking the Drought because it is just fantastic). So naturally I jumped at the chance to read her latest novel, Feels Like Home. The only problem was that as an eARC, I didn’t get the chance to look at this fine young specimen Ryan on the cover. But that’s my only quibble in regards to this story set in rural Australia.

I quite like the romance trope of first love reunited and Ireland nails it in Feels Like Home. Jo left Linden Gully many years ago to pursue a dream to study in New York which lead to a successful career as a writer and a film star fiancé. But when she returns home for her best friend Steph’s wedding, there’s no way she’s going to tell anyone that her American dream has fallen apart. She also didn’t expect to run into her first love Ryan within moments of arriving. Nor did she expect him to be a widower with a child. Seems like coming home is going to be full of surprises for Jo – there’s the town bitches who suddenly now have time for Jo, a mother who doesn’t recognise her own daughter and a little girl that will steal her heart. In this middle of this, there’s a wedding to organise! (Thank goodness Steph is the most chilled out bride in all of fiction).

Of course, you know what will ultimately happen to Jo and Ryan but the path to happily ever after is both twisted and potholed. Despite the heart ache on both sides at times, it’s a wonderful read that only serves to make the main characters stronger as they conquer their demons. Jo isn’t too sure if she can be a good mother, after reflecting on her own upbringing. Ryan is very protective of his daughter, bordering on the overprotective – is there a reason for that? Add to that some social media disasters and missed chances, and it’s a read you will have difficulty putting down.* (*verified by me, who took it on the exercise bike and did double the time without noticing!)

I also loved how Lisa Ireland painted the town and surrounds – there are some great country characters with hearts of gold and there are also those with nothing to do but gossip. The community activities, such as the whole town being at the footy, were also lovingly done. I think Feels Like Home is an excellent depiction of life in an Aussie rural community. This book should be read by all those with an interest in rural fiction – it’s a great read that celebrates the Outback spirit.

Five Female Aussie Authors with New Books in 2015

I’m always excited to hear that some of my favourite Australian female authors have new books coming out later in the year. I thought I’d share with you what I’m looking forward to. Click on the picture to go straight to the blurb (if available). These are Australian release dates, so your country may be different (I envy you if it’s earlier)!

Kate Morton – The Lake House (October 2015)

Rachael Johns – The Patterson Girls (October 2015) – a gorgeous cover and sure to be a wonderful story!

Lisa Ireland – Feels Like Home (July 2015)

Kate Forsyth – The Beast’s Garden (August 2015)

Fiona McArthur – The Homestead Girls (24th June 2015)

What do you think? Are you excited for any of these?

Breaking the Drought by Lisa Ireland

In brief: Jenna is a city girl through and through, but when she’s persuaded to attend a ball in a country town, she realises not everything in the country is bad (especially not Luke Tanner). Read more about the story here.

The good: Great characters, interesting storyline, action, romance and danger – all in one package!

The not-so-good: I need another of Lisa’s books to read…like now!

Why I chose it: Thanks to Escape Publishing; I’ll also be meeting Lisa Ireland at ARRC15.

Year: 2014

Pages: 175 (eBook)

Publisher: Escape Publishing

Setting: Victoria, Australia

My rating: 9.5 out of 10

I think everyone knows by now that rural romance is my favourite subgenre when it comes to romance. This is a bit odd as I’ve spent my adult life in the city and I don’t plan on changing any time soon. But I do love to read fish out of water stories and Breaking the Drought is a brilliant story in this vein. Another one of my favourite fiction tropes is stories set in media. So this book is double crack for me – a magazine editor fish out of water heroine going to a bush ball.

The story opens with an editor’s letter from our heroine, Jenna, describing her marriage list. She openly acknowledges that her friends think she’s crazy and when the man who ticked loads of boxes on it dumps her and gets engaged in quick succe3ssion, Jenna is thinking she may need to revise things. That’s when her friend Brooke decides to book them both in for a weekend of bush fun with eligible country bachelors in the tiny town of Barton. Jenna is firmly a city girl with no interest in the country or country men, but she goes along with Brooke, rather reluctantly. From the moment she puts her Jimmy Choos into the dust, Jenna’s got a chip on her shoulder. Not only are they not staying in the town’s one and only hotel, but they’re staying with the Tanners out on a property with no mobile reception and broken internet connection. How will Princess Jenna cope?

Fortunately, Jenna begins to join in, half-heartedly at first but more so after Luke Tanner catches her eye. When she’s forced to stay in town longer than she expected, she and Luke start up a ‘no strings’ romance but multiple factors have them pulling away. Add in country drama and it seems neither of them will want to realise that they are looking for something more…

This is an incredible debut by Lisa Ireland. It’s warm, funny and assured. Both Jenna and Luke are well drawn characters with an interesting backstory that adds so much to the narrative. Jenna’s princess like antics (how does she not know that red dust and Choos don’t go together – can she not Google?) stopped at just the right moment for me. I realised that it was all just a front to hide her awkwardness and I warmed to her as a character. Luke’s backstory was much more interesting for me as it was revealed in such tiny titbits I just had to keep on reading. The supporting characters were also lovely – Brooke, Jenna’s friend was the voice of reason. Maggie was a font of wisdom and strength and Lottie, the local reporter, should get her own story!

Breaking the Drought also celebrates rural life and the sense of community in small towns in a lovely way. When disaster struck the town, it was inspiring to see the townspeople coming together to help each other out. There were also several nerve-wracking pages where I wasn’t too sure if the characters were all going to make it. The tension got to me and I simply had to stay up to finish the book! There are a lot of events happening in this book and you won’t want to miss a single word.

If you’re looking for a read that draws you into the atmosphere of Australian rural life with genuine characters that will stay with you beyond the last page, Breaking the Drought is your book.