Mailbox Monday and What I’m Reading 20/2/17

Mondays are coming around quickly this year! I had a busy week, followed by a jam packed weekend. What was great though was that I got a parcel delivered on a Sunday! (Australia Post generally don’t deliver on weekends, unless it’s nearly Christmas). I had planned to get to a bookshop, but it was so hot and I was so tired that it didn’t happen. Maybe next weekend…

Here’s what arrived in my letterbox over the last week:

The Last McAdam by Holly Ford (out Wednesday) was from Allen and Unwin. It’s a rural novel set on the sheep and cattle station of Broken Creek. Like its name, the station is fading fast and Tess is sent in to fix it after the sale of the property to a global company. But Tess finds out she knows the head stockman who was meant to inherit the property, which makes things awkward… Do look out too for a guest post from Holly on the blog soon.

Daughter of Mine by Fiona Lowe (released today!) arrived from Harlequin. This book is also set on a large rural property, but in the west of Victoria. The three Chirnwell sisters are very different – one successful, one chaotic and one away from home but when a party brings a shock, the dam wall breaks. Accusations fly, secrets come to the fore and one of them hits crisis point. Can the sisters depend on each other?

The Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth (out March) came from Pan Macmillan. It’s about Alice, who has a close relationship with daughter Zoe. In fact, they’ve never needed anyone but each other. But Alice gets sick and reaches out to members of the oncology team – nurse Zoe and Sonja, her social worker to try to find stability for Zoe. The lives of the three women become entangled, forcing them to face their fears and secrets.

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:

The House of New Beginnings by Lucy Diamond

In brief: In a group of flats in Brighton, a number of women are looking for a new beginning. Will they find it in Brighton with the courage to strike on their own?

The good: All the characters are delightful and interesting and I wanted to read more about them all!

The not-so-good: I feel a bit lonely now I’m away from the house at 11 Dukes Square.

Why I chose it: Always meaning to read a Lucy Diamond book but never quite getting there until now, thank you Pan Macmillan.

Year: 2017

Pages: 470

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Setting: Brighton, England

My rating: 8.5 out of 10

Lucy Diamond’s books have always sounded like something I’d like to read but I’ve never gotten around to it. Until now. (I seem to be doing well in 2017 in reading authors I’d always meant to!) Perfect for fans of Cathy Kelly and Jill Mansell (two authors I enjoy), The House of New Beginnings is a story full of warmth, heartache and ultimately joy. It’s a fantastic beach read or one to cosy up on the couch with as it’s not a demanding read, but one that will envelope you in the world of 11 Dukes Square. I finished this book several days ago and I’ve missed the characters since then!

There are several main characters in the story, all residents of the same building near the seafront in Brighton. All are fairly recent arrivals to Brighton from different parts of England and all are coping with a great deal of change in their lives. Georgie was my favourite character (she’s young but a determined optimist) who has moved to Brighton with her boyfriend for his new job. She has a plan to get a job as a journalist and she won’t take no for an answer, even if it means going to a roller disco 80s evening! Rosa had a high flying job but left London after a breakup of epic proportions. She’s turned her hand to working as a chef (cooking is her passion) but cutting up pumpkin isn’t that thrilling. Will she branch out to achieve her dream? And finally, Charlotte has gone through heartbreak and is just trying to fill her days to get through them. Can elderly resident Margot help her to see the sunshine as Charlotte does weekly chores for her?

The journey of these women from heartbreak to happiness was heart-warmingly lovely. Yes, there are sadder parts of the narrative but they are balanced out nicely with the hilarious and cringe worthy but funny. (Let’s just say that I wouldn’t mind doing a few chores for Margot!) Lucy Diamond handles each woman’s loss sensitively and compassionately, so much so that I really felt for Charlotte. For Rosa, I just wanted to give Max a piece of my mind! (Although the revenge in the book is 100% brilliant, it nails what we know of Max’s foibles). The characters are also incredibly realistic, they could in fact be your neighbours, mates or colleagues. I think that’s what made The House of New Beginnings stick with me, what did happen to the characters could happen to anybody. They didn’t have any extraordinary powers, money or fame – they were everyday people, dealing with everyday things. But don’t think that the story is boring, because it isn’t. The writing sparkles and the characters make their life interesting (with a little bit of help from the town of Brighton, which seems to have some nice cafes and quirky nightlife). The minor characters, such as Gareth, Paul and the women at the refuge are also every day people, but with a unique or memorable trait. (Particularly Paul. His big reveal as the landlady’s son at the end is hysterically funny).

So if you’re looking for a book that will effortlessly engage you, do give The House of New Beginnings a go. It’s fun and uplifting, a treat of a story.

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:

City of Friends by Joanna Trollope

In brief: Stacey, Gaby, Melissa and Beth have been friends since their first economics class. On the day Stacey loses her job, the secrets and lies between the four begin to unravel.

The good: Each character is unique with a completely different set of problems.

The not-so-good: Stacey, you need to talk more!

Why I chose it: Have never read any of Joanna Trollope’s books before, so it’s high time I started. Many thanks to Pan Macmillan for the copy.

Year: 2017

Pages: 329

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Setting: London

My rating: 8.5 out of 10

Confession time: I’ve never read a Joanna Trollope book before City of Friends. Why? I don’t know really. I could make a lot of excuses but the truth is I’ve never really gotten around to it – it’s too hard to go to the library, the local bookshop closed down…then it’s all too late. In a way, City of Friends explores that notion – letting something slide until it’s too difficult, then nearly impossible. But the stakes are much higher here as it’s about secrets within friendships and family.

The story opens dramatically with Stacey losing her job, very suspiciously after she’s asked to work from home some days to look after her mum who has dementia. After her boss says no, he then casually mentions that she’s superfluous to the team and he was going to make her redundant anyway. This really got me simmering, the casual sexism and the fact that it’s pretty much against equal opportunity laws. The explosive start develops into a theme – can women have it all (family and work life)? What are the barriers that women face when they try to do that? Is it so wrong for a woman to say she loves her work before her family? These ideas are what hooked me into City of Friends. It’s a bold investigation into the life of a career woman.

All four women studied economics and now have high flying jobs in the corporate and academic sectors. Except for Stacey, who is a lost end with caring for her mum. It’s a different structure that lacks routine, socialisation and her mum barely notices if she’s there or not. Melissa started her own company and now tells boards of directors what to do. She excels that that but when her son says he wants to spend time with his father, she’s at a loss what to do. Gaby has the family and the high powered job that she openly admits she loves more than her family. Now if she could tell Melissa that she hired her ex-lover’s wife and that she can’t give Stacey a job…but it’s too late. Beth went into academia, becoming an in demand guru of organisation psychology but her relationship is on the rocks. Can she handle a vindictive breakup and change her future?

What was pleasantly refreshing about City of Friends is that it didn’t shy away from the characters’ flaws and mistakes. They were tackled openly once they were brought to the fore. The flaws in each character didn’t make me like them less as a reader, rather I appreciated the honesty and I could see myself being friends with them. They are not superhero workers, lovers and mothers – they all juggle everything and sometimes it fails, occasionally in cringe worthy fashion. Yet the story is not preachy or bogged down in drama – it’s a pleasant read that moves quickly. The only thing I would have liked to have seen more of is the economics as I’m interested in that area, but I really I’m in a tiny minority here (and to be honest, I don’t think it would have fit with the lighter tone of the book). I’ll certainly be seeking out more of Joanna Trollope’s novels as I thought the strong female characters and open exploration of their faults was refreshing.

True Colours by Kristin Hannah

In brief: The Grey sisters have always been a team, until a stranger comes to Oyster Shores. Can the sisters forgive or forget, or will it take a lot more?

The good: There are hidden depths in this book that made the latter half speed by.

The not-so-good: Start is a little slow, I wasn’t too sure where it was going.

Why I chose it: I’ve always meant to read a Kristin Hannah book but never got there – thanks Pan Macmillan for helping me out.

Year: 2017 (originally published 2009)

Pages: 393

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Setting: Oyster Shores, Washington, USA

My rating: 9 out of 10

Kristin Hannah is one of the (too many) authors on my to-read pile. I have a copy of a couple of her books, but fate has always intervened to prevent me from getting the book off the shelf. I was determined for this not to be third time unlucky when I was offered True Colours to read and review. Now of course, I am annoyed at myself for not reading Kristin Hannah sooner! This novel combined family relationships, love, suspense and some crime into an unexpected, riveting read. I think 2017 is going to be my year of the ‘new to me and absolutely fantastic’ author.

Initially, I wasn’t sure where this novel was going to head. It opens with the aftermath of the death of the Grey girls’ mother and then moves forward into the early 1990s where the girls are grown up. Aurora married a nice but boring doctor, Winona became a lawyer and Vivi Ann continues to work on the family ranch, Water’s Edge. (That really threw me having a farm so close to the beach – I’m more used to farms being inland and the ocean being a day trip away). Vivi Ann rides horses in barrel races to try and earn money for the struggling farm, but she seems to be fighting a losing battle. I began to wonder at this point if the story would be all about horses (people who know me would know that I like my horsepower wrapped in an engine). Luckily, for me, it wasn’t. It’s not a spoiler to say that the ranch begins to see better times, although both Vivi Ann and Winona are struggling. Winona is desperate for her father’s approval, which Vivi Ann seems to receive casually. To top it off, Vivi Ann is now dating Winona’s high school crush. How can sisters be so lucky and unlucky?

Unfortunately this is only the start of the Grey girls’ troubles. Winona hires an outsider, Dallas, to work on the farm and Vivi Ann sees far more in him than the others, despite being engaged to someone else. But it’s going to be a long hard road to happiness for the girls, if it comes at all…

One of the major plot points is unexpected and carries strongly through the latter half of the book, so I won’t be discussing it here. I felt that this lifted the book from a nice story about sisters and their lives to a gripping read that takes the story outside of the small town. It was very well done emotionally, tugging at the heartstrings of the reader, yet I was never entirely sure who was guilty… The whole story is very well written, right down to the mentions of the 1990s fashion (hairspray, shoulder pads and the like). I quite enjoyed this, and it was nice to not have the characters connected to their phones for the entire novel. It forced them to talk things out or on the other side, go to extraordinary lengths to avoid each other.

Each of the sisters goes through her own personal turmoil in various degrees of detail in True Colours and it’s interesting to compare them. Winona feels left out for many reasons – she’s not married, she thinks she’s fat and ugly and her career away from the ranch makes her feel alone and estranged from the rest of the family. She tries to cover it by being superior, but it often flies back in her face. Vivi Ann knows she has the love of her family, but is determined to stay independent and go through with life choices others don’t agree with. Aurora is much more of a background character – she’s sweet and dependable but the big events of her life don’t get much page time compared with the demands of her sisters. I wondered sometimes when she would get her chance to shine away from holding up Vivi Ann emotionally and doing Winona’s make up!

Overall, I really enjoyed this introduction to Kristin Hannah’s work. She can plot exceptionally well and bring her characters into the reader’s heart easily. Next stop, my bookshelf for more!

Mailbox Monday and What I’m Reading 23/1/17

So this week I celebrated summer by getting a shocker of a cold…but it did mean that I could huddle under blankets and read. Lucky that this week I have to share with you my birthday books as well as some that the postie kindly brought to the door. The top row are arrivals via the letterbox and the second row books I bought with my birthday vouchers.

I’m really excited about Pamela Hart’s A Letter From Italy as she’s one of my favourite writers for relatable Australian historical fiction. This book is inspired by the true story of Louise Mack, Australia’s first female war correspondent during World War I. Rebecca has followed her husband to the battlefields in Europe as a war correspondent in Italy. She’s working with Alessandro Panucci, and soon she has a battlefield of her own – the human heart. The book is released on March 14, thanks to Hachette for the ARC.

I read an article about Penelope Janu recently and immediately added her romantic comedy debut, In at the Deep End to my wish list. The book has it all – a female explorer in Harriet, whose ship sinks in Antarctica. Unfortunately, she’s rescued by Commander Per Amundsen, real life action hero and part of the Norwegian navy. It’s not love, nor like at first sight but the pair have to cooperate and face their fears in order to get what they want. Many thanks to Harlequin for reading my mind and sending the ARC! The book will be out in February.

I’ve never read Lucy Diamond, so when I was offered the chance to read and review her latest book, The House of New Beginnings, I thought I should seize the opportunity (thanks Pan Macmillan!). Out at the end of the month, the story revolves around the occupants of 11 Dukes Square, Brighton. Rosa has fled from London to a menial job, but will others challenge her to spread her wings? Georgie has a new career after following her childhood sweetheart to town, but it doesn’t take long for her to get into trouble. Charlotte is plodding along after a loss, but Margot is determined for her to return to the outside world. They say new house, new beginnings and it’s certainly true for these ladies.

I decided to give Nell Zink another go after the intriguing strangeness that was Nicotine. The Wallcreeper comes highly recommended, a novella of the highs and lows of marriage (with some birds involved it seems).

Food Whore by Jessica Tom sounded intriguing, not least because Jessica is a food blogger and writer herself. It’s the story of Tia, who ghost-writes restaurant reviews for a legendary food critic. But he gets the glory and she gets the food – is this what she truly wants?

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub has been on my wish list for some time, so I decided a birthday is a good time to indulge. It’s about three college friends, now grown up and living in the same neighbourhood. But now their children are teenagers and with all those troubles, their adult lives seem to unravel as the truth comes out.

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:

To the Sea by Christine Dibley

In brief: Just after Christmas, a girl is reported missing, presumed drowned. But this case is nothing like anything DI Tony Vincent has seen before…

The good: This book really pulls the reader in to its world – it’s not what you think.

The not-so-good: It’s hard to explain without spoiling big secrets!

Why I chose it: I like to support Australian writers, many thanks to Pan Macmillan for the copy.

Year: 2016

Pages: 451

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Setting: Tasmania, Australia

My rating: 10 out of 10

To the Sea is a book I would have likely missed had the published not introduced me to it. I am so thankful that I read it though – this novel is so powerful and all-consuming that I think it will be one of my top reads for the year. Don’t be put off by the quiet, moody cover – To the Sea is an incredibly assured debut novel that blends crime, history and literary fiction with a secret ingredient. I can’t spill what that secret ingredient is because it may act as a spoiler, but for me it was beautifully, sensitively done.

To the Sea starts off as a pretty straightforward novel – a teenage girl has gone missing, presumed drowned off the Tasmanian coast. For DI Tony Vincent, it should be fairly straightforward. But when the detectives arrive at the family holiday home, things get stranger. Zoe had been missing for nearly 24 hours before her family reported her disappearance and why can’t they agree as to what she was wearing, or doing? For Tony, he becomes involved in the world of the Kennetts as he tries to piece together who Zoe was in this large family. Her much older brothers and sisters barely knew her and even her parents didn’t know all her secrets. Only Zoe’s mum, Eva, has an idea of where Zoe might be. She’s pretty sure that Zoe will be back. But on questioning, Eva’s reasoning doesn’t match logic. Her ex-boyfriend also tells some tales of Zoe’s unusual feats. Who, if anybody, is telling the truth and why is the family so bound by the past?

The story is told from multiple points of view, so the reader can see the viewpoint of detective Tony in addition to some of Zoe’s family including her mother, father and sister. Each of them bring a different aspect of what they thought had happened to Zoe, as well as their own stories. But who is the voice of reason? Eva is known for being a bit odd, sister Sadie has her own disappointments entwined with her thoughts and father John wants to protect Eva. It’s up to Tony, purveyor of facts, to bring it all together despite pressure from his boss and the police divers.

As the novel progresses, there is a swell of tension that rises through the Kennett family, breaking once Eva reveals her thoughts. It was at this point that the novel turned from a strong police procedural into a unique, powerful story. The change in storyline really sucked me in to its depths with the story within a story. I couldn’t help but drink it all in, thoroughly accepting of Eva’s suggestions. This part of the novel is beautiful in its strong emotions and descriptions of the landscape and history. You could say I was entranced even more than Tony was. The writing is beautiful, lyrical but most of all it was the ability of Christine Dibley to make me believe that I found awe inspiring. It’s difficult to believe that this is her first novel as it is so polished, multi layered and thoroughly tugs at the reader’s emotions. This is a novel that you shouldn’t pass by as it marks the introduction of a new Australian talent.

Mailbox Monday and What I’m Reading 26/12/16

So Christmas is over for another year and next week we will be talking about New Year resolutions! I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season. I was very lucky to receive several books as Christmas present, but as I’m feeling lazy (it’s Christmas Day afternoon) they can wait until next week (postal service is only two days this week). Here’s what I received in the letterbox:

(The air conditioner is blowing these about a bit in the pic).

The Daughters of Henry Wong by Harrison Young was from Ventura Press. I loved Nantucket, so I’m looking forward to see how Jonathan Lee handles things when his easy life goes awry when his father in law goes missing. Can he deal with blackmail, a run on the bank, takeovers and assassins?

I won Hartley’s Grange by Nicole Hurley-Moore in a Goodreads giveaway thanks to Allen & Unwin. It’s set in country Australia, where Lily flees to after her city life ends up in a mess. But it’s not an easy ride, as Lily encounters Flynn Hartley before she even arrives. Flynn wants more, but Lily doesn’t want a bad boy in her life again – can Flynn convince her he’s changed?

True Colours by Kristin Hannah was from Pan Macmillan. The heroines are the three Grey sisters, who have always looked after each other, until Vivi Ann decides to follow her heart. Now, the sisters are against each other and soon the whole community is involved…

Many thanks for these books – with a few days off, I look forward to doing more reading!

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:

Mailbox Monday and What I’m Reading 19/12/16

Busy busy busy! So many things on this week and then I decided to start a baking project on Sunday afternoon, plus there’s a TV show I want to watch on soon…

Two lovely books in the mail this week – I didn’t get to the shops but I’m planning on a bookshop adventure before the new year.

To The Sea by Christine Dibley (out January) was from Pan Macmillan for a blog tour next month. Thanks for the lovely note! It’s set in Tasmania as a girl has vanished. Four people have their version of truth to tell the detective, but he wants facts. But in this area, its myth and history that blend together to give the truth…

The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa (translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor) was a surprise from Simon & Schuster. I’m not sure how I missed this tale of Hannah’s life in Nazi Germany and going to Cuba aboard the SS St. Louis, woven with the present day life in New York City. Armando will be coming to Perth (yay!) and Adelaide Writers’ Festivals, so mark your diary.

If you want to check other 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:

Up Next:

Hopefully a book gift!

Mailbox Monday and What I’m Reading 12/12/16

Festive frenzy has set in fully – the shops are busy and the drinks/dinner parties are in full swing. I don’t think I’ve had so many late nights in the last week since…um, last month! I didn’t get too much reading done but I’m hoping to catch up this week.

I received three surprise books in the mail, plus here’s some of my recent Dymocks haul (because the full one would probably break the internet!)

Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett (released 22nd December) was from Pan Macmillan – thank you. It can be described as a novella or interlinked short stories of a woman living in rural Ireland. It offers insights into domestic life initially and then the narrator segues into deeper meaning. It looks bold and different.

In the Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant (28th Feb 2017) is set in Renaissance Italy, 1502. It follows the Borgia family and introduces the man who shadows Cesare, Niccolo Machiavelli. I don’t know too much about the Renaissance, but I love learning my history through stories, so I’m looking forward to this.

Keep Me Safe by Daniela Sacerdoti (April 2017) promises to be intriguing. After the disappearance of her father, Ava starts asking her mother Anna about her other mother and an island called Seal. Anna decides the only wat to find out more is to go to Seal, and find out what’s in store… Many thanks to Hachette for both these books.

Nicotine by Nell Zink not only has the coolest cover, but the gentleman at Dymocks was very happy when I bought this (he loves Nell Zink)! It’s about Penny, whose father dies and she is left with one of the family house to renovate for sale. But she finds it to be full of squatters promoting smokers’ rights and gets involved with them. It’s unusual and very addictive so far.

The Nix by Nathan Hill is a book I’ve had my eye on for ages. Samuel hasn’t seem his mum since he was a child – not until she appears on the news as a politically motivated criminal. But the media’s portrayal doesn’t match Samuel’s memories and he sets out to discover the true history.

If you want to check other 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:

Up Next:

I think I’ll get stuck into some 2017 reads.