tam jenkin

Grit and Determination in Crimson Dawn

I think it’s fair to say that Tam Jenkin has become our official Rural Romance expert, she’s read so much Chook Lit now I’m surprised she’s not clucking. She loves it of course, hence her specialisation, and today’s book was no exception. Here’s what Tam thought of Crimson Dawn by Fleur McDonald (Allen and Unwin)…

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Laura Murphy will need to call on all her grit and determination to retain her beloved farm… But will her fierce self reliance close her off to the possibility of love?

crimson dawnSince inheriting Nambina, the property that’s been in her family for generations, Laura Murphy has worked wonders. Rather than just focus on farming she has set up a successful school teaching women the basics of managing a property – from fencing and mustering to handling the financial side of the business.

But the notoriously self-reliant Laura is lonely and still scarred by a tragedy from her past. She’s also grappling with the hostility of her nearest neighbour and former best friend, Meghan Hunter. The fact that Laura’s ex-boyfriend Josh is Meghan’s brother only makes things worse.

When a solicitor contacts Laura saying his clients may have a claim over Nambina, her entire world is turned upside down, and she has to call on all her determination to hold on to the property she’s worked so hard to build. In the process she realises she must reach out to friends and loved ones or risk losing everything.

Crimson Dawn is Fleur McDonald’s fifth novel and once again it reflects her own experiences of living in remote Australian farming area. McDonald’s writing paints a picturesque scene of the Australian outback, and of what it is like to grow up rural and how challenging it can be working on the land.

Laura is a young woman who has had a wonderful upbringing on Nambina, being raised by her dad and grandfather. On the day that her grandfather announces that he is signing over the farm to Laura, all her dreams have come true. Still, in her heart of hearts she is scared that she will not be able to take care of the property – it’s such a huge undertaking on her own. Laura’s father, step-mother and two half sisters all now reside in Adelaide, and she has just discovered that she is pregnant.  Despite these substantial challenges, she is determined that she will succeed.

What she didn’t know was that more than her fair share of heartbreak awaits her.

After her grandfather dies she is left feeling very alone. To make matters worse she breaks up with her boyfriend, falls out with her best friend (her ex-boyfriend’s sister) and subsequently shut herself off in order not to get hurt again.

Laura throws herself into the task of turning the farm into a school, teaching other young girls about farming and managing property. The school is going well until she receives threats from her ex-best friend and a letter from a lawyer advising that someone has reason to believe that they can claim ownership of Nambina. Can Laura keep the farm? Will the help of her family and the handsome vet, Tim be enough? Will she open her heart to Tim, even if it means risking getting hurt again?

I’ll admit that it took me a little while to get into this book. It took a little longer than I like to get to crux of the story, however, I am glad that I persevered as once the story picked up it was full of twists and turns and kept me turning the pages! Laura is a courageous, strong, sometimes pigheaded, but determined leading lady.

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You can find out more about Crimson Dawn by Fleur McDonald here…

Oh Emily: Time Will Tell

TBYL Reviewer Tam Jenkin was very excited when this book came her way…

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This beautiful story, Time Will Tell by Fiona McCallum (Harlequin) is the second instalment in The Button Jar series by Fiona McCallum. I read the first story, Saving Grace last year and loved it and after eagerly awaiting the second book, I was not disappointed.

time will tell

Emily Oliphant has made some drastic changes in her life. She’s ditched her abusive husband and embarked on her own adventure, renovating a dilapidated property and starting up her own business. Against all odds, she’s found a sense of place and purpose, but is still too scarred by her past to form any romantic attachments, regardless of who’s vying for her attention.

Now she’s received an offer from the elderly owners of her beloved rented home to buy the property, land and all. Hopeful and tentative, Emily feels she is taking a step in the right direction, although is unsure how she will raise the money.  Except Emily holds a button jar – a gift from her recently deceased Granny Mayfair – which, unbeknownst to her, could contain the solution to all her problems…

But just when Emily thought things were beginning to go her way, everything takes a turn. Soon, she’s involved in a romance she thought she had no time for and dealing with the shock of two unexpected deaths, forcing her to make some difficult decisions. With her finances, her property, her friendships and her budding relationship now hanging in limbo, Emily is once again drawing on her inner strength to overcome a new set of challenges.

I was extremely impressed that this book picked up at exactly the place that Saving Grace finished, meaning that I didn’t feel that I had missed out on any of the journey, and I was quickly drawn back into the story. Again, Emily is our leading lady and her story is filled with tragedy, tough decisions, and a further journey of self discovery.

Emily has to decide whether she should take up the offer to buy the old house she is living in and possibly make her dreams of running a Bed & Breakfast a reality. She just can’t work out how she will afford it. Emily’s mother is still making her undermine her own abilities, but with the help of her Dad, her best friend Barbara and the handsome Jake who comes visiting again from Melbourne, she begins to learn how to stand up to her mother and stop listening so closely to all whispering voices of self-doubt.

Just as she thinks decisions have been made tragedy strikes, leaving Emily in shock and also with the possibility of a farm to care for. Emily finds she is a topic of town gossip again and this has her making some decisions which leave her lonely and questioning everything all over again!

While reading, I did feel that sometimes Emily needed a good shake to get her to see clearly – I really didn’t want to mess up her budding new relationship with Jake. I felt slightly anxious about all the issues that Emily had to deal with and wanted to tell her ‘just one thing at a time, Em’. Fiona McCallum writes beautifully and again she swept me away with her descriptions of country living. I wanted to take early morning walks on the farm with Emily, and I wanted to sit down and have a cuppa with her and Barbara. This book very nearly had me packing my bags to make the country move myself!

We get answers about Emily’s Gran’s button jar and the mystery of “seven of Golconda’s finest”. Jake continues to take a stronger role in Emily’s life and in the story. I enjoyed watching this character develop. I also enjoyed the way Fiona McCallum tells a love story without it all being pages of description about what happens in the bedroom. A beautiful novel filled with romance, inner strength and above all, friendship.

Meant To Be is the third instalment of The Button Jar series, and is due for release in November 2014…and I can’t wait!!!

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If you’d like to find out more about Time Will Tell by Fiona McCallum check it out at Harlequin Books today.

 

Lockdown: Always Watching

I would have liked to sneak up behind Tam J while she was reading today’s book – I think I would have been able to give her a good fright! I think it’s fair to say that Tam was more than a little spooked, and completely gripped by Chevy Steven’s Always Watching (Allen and Unwin)…

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 Well, in short, Always Watching is fast moving, suspenseful, chilling and I loved it!

Nadine is a psychiatrist who suffers from claustrophobia but has never been able to work out why. That is, until she meets with a patient, Heather, who starts to trigger flash-backs, memories that may hold the answer to her panic. At the same time, as you might expect, that are also memories that Nadine is not sure she wants to relive.

always watchingShe helps people put their demons to rest, but she has a few of her own…

In the lockdown ward of a psychiatric hospital, Dr. Nadine Lavoie is in her element. She has the tools to help people, and she has the desire—healing broken families is what she lives for. But Nadine doesn’t want to look too closely at her own past because there are whole chunks of her life that are black holes. It takes all her willpower to tamp down her recurrent claustrophobia, and her daughter, Lisa, is a runaway who has been on the streets for seven years.

When a distraught woman, Heather Simeon, is brought into the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit after a suicide attempt, Nadine gently coaxes her story out of her—and learns of some troubling parallels with her own life. Digging deeper, Nadine is forced to confront her traumatic childhood, and the damage that began when she and her brother were brought by their mother to a remote commune on Vancouver Island. What happened to Nadine? Why was their family destroyed? And why does the name Aaron Quinn, the group’s leader, bring complex feelings of terror to Nadine even today?

And then, the unthinkable happens, and Nadine realizes that danger is closer to home than she ever imagined. She has no choice but to face what terrifies her the most…and fight back.

I have spent most nights this past week reading way later into the night than I should, unable to put the book down. Each chapter seemed to end in a cliffhanger and I couldn’t help but read on. Nadine is a courageous character. She lives on her own, and seems to have no-one that would notice if she went missing. Despite this she searches the streets and dangerous houses full of squatters in search of her drug addicted daughter who left her home seven years ago. Chevy Steven’s skilful writing ensured that, as the reader, I was able to feel the threat, I was practically able to smell the stench that was described by the author, and I felt like I was walking with Nadine past each shadow.

Throughout the novel, Nadine starts to remember some terribly troubling memories of her childhood and specifically her time spent with her mother and brother in a commune. The commune was run by Aaron Quinn, and as her treatment of Heather continues Nadine begins to remember why that name sends chills through her. Aaron wields amazing mind-control when it comes to convincing people to join his commune and convincing them that he is the answer to their problems, but Aaron was not what he seemed to be. Nadine becomes determined to make him accountable for his behaviour and protect others from being mistreated at his hand.  Even if this places hers in terrible danger.

When Nadine’s daughter, Lisa becomes involved with the commune, Nadine’s drive to shut down Aaron and his followers becomes more obsessive. But who can Nadine trust? Who can really help her? And who is just posing to help her, but actually putting her in further danger?

Although I did find certain parts of this story a little predictable, I think that might be because I have read quite a few of these kinds of stories. Still, this did not detract from the story or the suspense I felt while reading Always Watching. I was still surprised by the twists, right up to the conclusion of the book.

I felt the eeriness that Nadine must have felt when she thought she was being watched, and I could practically hear the bumps in the dark and I felt her heartbreak too.

Always Watching is an easy read, and an enjoyable one. I would definitely like to read more novels by Chevy Steven, as I really enjoyed her writing style. I might have to have a bit of a dig around her website for my next read.

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You can find out more about Chevy Steven’s Always Watching here

 

Wishing: Chocolate Cake for Breakfast

TBYL Reviewer Tam spent some of her summer holidays with her head in a tale of cake, rugby and animal husbandry. Not exactly what she’d expected from Danielle Hawkin’s Chocolate Cake for Breakfast (Allen and Unwin) but seemingly enjoyable nonetheless…

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Chocolate Cake for Breakfast is set in New Zealand, and interestingly it’s the first book I’ve ever read by a New Zealand author. It made for a new and interesting setting for me, and one that was at times a little surprising. I have to say that although I enjoyed the story, it was a very strange combination of themes…

chocolate cake for breakfast bigHelen McNeil is a vet in a small rural town. She specialises in caring for cows.  Whilst trying to dodge a painful acquaintance at a party she stubbles into Mark Tipene, the extremely famous and handsome lock for the All Blacks. As it happens, Mark is also trying to hide from a fellow party-goer and it only makes sense that they should help each out. Much to Helen’s embarrassment, she doesn’t realise who Mark is at first, but rather than being off-putting, this seems instead to endears her to Mark all the more.

‘…Mark appears the next day at the front counter of the vet clinic to ask her out. A whirlwind romance follows and everything is going swimmingly until one little hiccup changes everything…’

Not being a rugby fan myself, it took me a little while to get into this story – it took me a bit longer to get to know the main characters I suppose – but for a fan of the sport, I’m sure they would love this story from the outset. Danielle Hawkin’s certainly shows an in depth and personal picture of what it is to be a professional sportsman – the travel, the constant risk of injury, the highs and lows of PR, and the pressure sporting fame puts on a sportsperson’s loved ones.

I’ll admit, I did find the novel’s leading lady a little frustrating, she was unsure of herself and continuously doubted that she measured up to the other women that Mark had dated. Throughout the story, she doesn’t allow him to prove to her that he wants her, not a woman who only wants him because he’s an All Black. She guards herself because it all feels too good to be true and she worries that her heart will be broken. When Helen gets a ‘little surprise’ she spends a good portion of the story feeling like her life has gone all the wrong way, but with the help of friends and family she is helped through this misery.

Now, a little warning to readers… this novel has a lot of gory detail!! When it comes to the veterinary storyline, it goes into quite a lot of detail about some of the procedures that Helen is required to perform for her animals. If you’re a little squeamish, be prepared…

Overall, I have to say that I enjoyed Chocolate Cake for Breakfast. It is full of fun characters, drama, romance, sport  animals and grumpy grandmothers…and Mark sounds gorgeous…lol

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If you’d like to find out more about Danielle Hawkin’s Chocolate Cake for Breakfast click here…

The Returned

After reading the blurb of Jason Mott’s The Returned (Harlequin) I felt certain that it would be just the ticket for our reviewer, Tam Jenkin. I told her about the plot, and she agreed… she loves a good ‘undead’ tale as much as I do… and happily took the book off my hands.

It was, nonetheless not at all what she or I expected it would be…

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I have to start by saying I was a little torn by Mott’s novel – it was not at all what I was expecting. I was very excited, being a bit of a fan of zombie stories, the prospect of the dead returning had me intrigued. Interestingly though, The Returned is not a story about the undead at all. Rather it is about segregation, about people fearing the unknown and about how people deal with, and heal after losing a loved one.

the returned‘Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That’s what all the Returned were.’

Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they’ve settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time … Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.

All over the world people’s loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it’s a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he’s their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

Whilst reading this novel, we find that Lucille and Harold have lived long unhappy lives since their eight year old son Jacob died in a tragic accident. Rather than remembering Jacob and leaning on one another as family, they have shut out their memories of him, in the hope that they wont hurt any more. This however changes, one random day, when their son arrives at their door, 50 years later. Only Jacob is still exactly as he was when he died – an eight year old boy.

Interestingly, Jacob’s arrival brings with it a twist to the story. Before his return home, aware of the arrival of these ‘returned’ loved ones, Lucille believes that the people who are coming back are devils, that they aren’t natural. But now that her son has returned she can’t deny that Jacob feels real, that he feels like her son.  It brings the reader to think ‘what would I do? Could I accept the returning of my loved one?’

At this point, the government gets involved and takes over the small town of Arcadia to fence The Returned in. The government don’t know how these people have returned, why they are here or what threat they may pose, and so they gather them together and lock them up.

I felt as though I was reading about a concentration camp. It felt as though it were about race and about civil rights. The Returned were treated poorly, the food was slop, the facilities were blocked and smelly and there were not enough places for them to sleep. They were denied visitors and they were denied their freedom, even though they had done nothing wrong.

Jason Mott tells this story in two perspectives, the “True Living” and “The Returned”. This was a clever way of showing the reader how those who’d lost and regained loved ones reacted and also showing how the ones who had returned felt, about their experiences on their return and also in the camp.

I did find the story flow a little clumsy at times and I was also left disappointed at the conclusion. There was no real resolution as to how the government resolved the situation of The Returned’s containment, and no explanation on how these people came about to return in the first place.

In saying that, the last few chapters of Mott’s novel did focus nicely, really effectively, on how The Returned had helped their loved ones to heal, to have a chance for one last moment together, to say what they had wanted to say since their passing, to amend regrets.  I was left wondering – how would you spend your time over if a loved one returned?

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If you’d like to find out more about Jason Mott’s The Returned visit the Harlequin website here.

 

On the Land: Redstone Station

TBYL Reviewer, Tam J can’t seem to get enough of rural literature. Here’s her thoughts on the latest…

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Redstone Station (Allen and Unwin) is the debut novel by Therese Creed. Originally from Sydney, Therese moved to a farm in rural Queensland for love. She now helps run a 17,000 acre cattle station with her husband, an undertaking which has clearly inspired this novel, offering the reader a glimpse of the real-life dealings on the farm and putting them in a compelling story.

redstone stationAlice is happy to be returning home to Redstone Station after two years at Agriculture College. During various placements at farms and stations during her time at college she was shocked at the second-class status of women workers, whereas her grandfather, Sam, who owns Redstone, has always treated her as an equal.

For his part, Sam is delighted to have his granddaughter back on board. In shaping Alice he tried to avoid the mistakes he’d made with her mother, Lara, and she has lived up to his high expectations, graduating from Ag College with flying colours. He now sees Alice as his last chance to preserve his beloved station and successfully take it into the future.

Exceptionally hard-working, with great horsemanship, an instinctive understanding of animals and a natural aptitude for farming, Alice is determined to justify her grandfather’s faith in her. But will her budding regard for one of the stockmen throw her, and the future of Redstone, off track?

When we first meet Alice, she is an 18 year old girl fresh from Ag College. She is full of ideas as to how t improve the profitability of the now struggling cattle station, but she first has to convince her old-school farming Grandfather, Sam.

Sam is getting older and realises that they need some new help on the farm, and as a result they take a chance with the town clown, Jeremy. Jeremy appears to be the best of a bad bunch, however he fits in beautifully and brings new life to this farming family and Redstone Station. He also turns out to be a wonderful companion for Alice. This was perhaps one of my favourite things about this story, watching the beautiful friendship that these two developed quickly.

I did find it a little hard to see Alice as just a young adult. Her character’s voice seemed older, but perhaps this is just due to the fact that Alice had to grow up fast, when she was abandoned by her unwed mother and left with her grandparents Sam and Olive.

I liked Alice, but larrikin Jeremy was my favourite character by far, and I found myself wanting to be able to take care of him.

The author paints a detailed picture of the life and trials of farm life. Fighting fires, drought and other seasonal stresses, the constant job of fixing fences, keeping wild predators at bay, weaning cattle and the ongoing financial battle.  The characters are faced with life changing loss, friendship, racial tension, love and misunderstandings. Despite all these challenges, they are really only looking to be accepted and respected.

I did find this story a little slow in some parts, and felt that the end of the story dragged out a little. I was feeling anxious that there was not going to be a complete conclusion, but in the end Therese’s novel was resolved quite well, even if after a bit of length, it did seem to finish quite quickly.

It was a lovely story and it was refreshing to read a story that was set locally, with a climate and characters that were easy to relate to.

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If you’d like to find out more about Redstone Station by Therese Creed, visit A&U here…

 

The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs

Today’s review of The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs by Nick Trout (Allen and Unwin) has been written for us by TBYL Reviewer, Tam. I sent this book her way as I know she’s a bit of an animal lover, and thought she’d enjoy this tail (see what I did there?).

Indeed, it would seem that she was drawn into the intrigue of The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs…

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The story begins when, after fifteen years, Dr. Cyrus Mills returns to rural Vermont to inherit the Bedside Manor for Sick Animals, the failing veterinary practice of his recently deceased and long-estranged father. Cyrus, a veterinary pathologist far more comfortable with cold clinical facts than living, breathing animals (not to mention their quirky, demanding owners), intends to sell the practice and get out of town as fast as he can.

the patron saint of lost dogsThen his first patient – a down-on-her-luck golden retriever named Frieda Fuzzypaws – wags her way through the door, and suddenly life gets complicated. With the help of a black Labrador gifted in the art of swallowing underwear, a Persian cat determined to expose her owner’s lover as a gold digger, and the allure of a feisty, pretty waitress from the local diner, Cyrus gets caught up in a new community and its endearing residents, both human and animal. Sensing he may have misjudged the past, he begins to realise it’s not just his patients that need healing.

The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs is a winsome tale of new beginnings, forgiveness, and the joy of finding your way home.

As the story began I found it a little hard to tolerate Cyrus. He seemed weak, a character who would do anything to avoid having to feel and own the situation. But, as I read further into the story, I found that the author Nick Trout wrote the voice of our leading man very well. After we got to know Cyrus a little, I found it wonderful how way I could step into his shoes, feel his panic, confusion, hurt and doubt. I liked the internal dialog we were privy to, providing an insight into how Cyrus managed each dilemma and calmed himself down enough to manage each tricky situation.

The story achieves a really nice balance between the technical jargon which transports you to the setting of a veterinary clinic, and the human stories which draw you into the novel. This small town in Vermont is intriguing, despite the fact that at the beginning of the story it appears to be little more than a prison for Cyrus, a sentence that he has to serve after he inherits the clinic (full of hurtful memories and regret) from his father. During his stay, Cyrus discovers that every story does in fact have two sides and finds himself considering the possibility that he may have been mislead in his anger at his father.

Cyrus and, I as the reader, begin to love the residents of this small town and their furry friends. Even though in the past Cyrus has always found it easier to work in the clinical setting of pathology, rather than having to deal with live cases and their associated emotions, throughout The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs he finds his feet and discovers that perhaps the clinic he has inherited is not the burden he first believed.

The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs is a great book for pet lovers! Filled with furry creatures, mysteries to solve, love interests and just a touch of blackmail!!

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You can find out more about The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs by Nick Trout on the Allen and Unwin website…

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Good company: The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society

As I said last week, because Tam is such an avid scrapbooker, I thought it only sensible to have her review The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society by Darien Gee (Allen and Unwin) I figured she’d understand the language, the comradery of this book and of course, she did. By all accounts, Tam really enjoyed this novel and interestingly, it sounds like scrapbooking was simply the catalyst for gathering. It was the woman, and their strengths and struggles that keep bringing them back into each others company.

Here’s what Tam thought of this novel…

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The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society by Darien Gee is an extremely busy book, with loads of characters introduced all at once, all of whom are living their separate lives with their separate dramas and troubles. It’s this large cast of characters that makes this such a clever book, in how it brings all these individuals together, to get to know each other in the small town of Avalon.

the avalon ladies scrapbooking societyAt Madeline’s Tea Salon, the cozy hub of the Avalon community, six women find their memories are shaping their future.

Young Connie Colls, fiercly independant and full of promise longs for a past she never had. Isabel Kidd is anxious to move forward but is still paralysed by the consequences of her late husband’s love affair. After spending many years living a life on her own terms, Yvonne Tate finds that she can’t outwit her past. For Ava Catalina, reaching out to hold on to precious memories means rekindling old hurts while Frances Latham sees her dreams for a daughter dashed when tragedy strikes. And then there’s irascible Bettie Shelton, founder and president of the Avalon Scrapbooking Society, who helps others create lasting memories of their past but finds the paes of her own albums empty.

As the women gather to scrapbook the details of their lives, they discover that things are not always as they seem.

This story centres around Bettie, Isabel, Frances, Yvonne, Ava, Connie and Madeline – all very different people who would have little reason to get along in any other context, but come together to scrapbook.  In fact as this novel begins many of the women don’t actually like each other very much. As this story develops we are introduced to their private and mostly complicated histories and women begin to find strength within each other and form beautiful friendships.

Throughout the novel, Bettie Shelton is the one constant. She is the founder and President of the scrapbooking society and it comes to light that she is also enduring her own private tragedy. Bettie loses all her scrapbooks and it is through this sad event that it comes to light just how integral a part of the community Bettie has become, as they rally together to rebuild her memories.

As an avid scrapbooker myself I found comfort and inspiration in this story. Much of the message behind this story is about embracing your past, treasuring your memories and recording these memories in a way for your loved ones to be able to hold on to for many years to come. They may even be able to learn more about your past and indeed their own past than they would have otherwise. I have always found scrapbooking therapeutic, and there is a great emphasis on this in the book. The craft is a great way to reflect, to realise the positives, heal the negatives and to cope through the hard times. It’s not just about photos (as so often thought) but also about documentation, a collection of brochures, menus, journaling, pictures painted with words. Such a beautiful legacy to leave for your family. This theme of legacy runs throughout  The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society sharing with us a story of trouble, healing and friendship.

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Thanks to Allen and Unwin, I’ve had three copies of The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society to give away! Entries closed yesterday at midnight and the three winners (chosen at random) are S. Odongo, A. Lee and F. Garrivan.  Congratulations, and keep an eye on your emails for message from me this evening.

To find out more about Darien Gee’s novel, you can do so here…

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Tam loved it! Saving Grace

I think TBYL Reviewer Tam J might have liked Saving Grace, by Fiona McCallum (Harlequin) just a little bit…

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Well, I have to start by saying I loved this book!! I loved the characters, the friendships and the intrigue, the imagery of the beautiful countryside and of course, the touch of romance.

saving-graceWhen Emily Oliphant married John Stratten, she thought it was the beginning of an exciting new adventure — standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the most eligible farmer in the district and pitching in to build a thriving agricultural business. Three years later, however, Emily sees her marriage for what it is — a loveless tie to a callous man.

When John’s cruelty reaches new heights, Emily is forced to move out, braving both her husband’s wrath and her mother’s glaring disapproval. With the encouragement of her new friend Barbara, Emily moves into an abandoned property and takes on the mammoth task of turning the unloved house into a home. In the process she discovers a new business venture, meets new friends and finds an inner strength she never knew she had.

Emily’s fragile confidence is soon tested, though, when the owners of the property make her a tempting offer. Will she risk everything and invest in the ramshackle house that has finally given her a sense of purpose? Or will Emily listen to the views of the community — and the voice of her mother — and go back to her life with John?

Emily is the leading lady in this beautiful book of great sadness and great courage. After discovering that she has made a terrible mistake marrying John Stratten she endures the abuse for three long years, until one day she can bear no more and raises the courage to finally stand on her own and leave him.

Emily adopts a dog of her own, Grace, who becomes her greatest companion. Grace was Emily’s attempt at comfort, in the hope of helping her cope with the cruelty of John and the long hours that she was forced to spend alone in the house while her husband worked on the land (which he forbid Emily from helping with) or while he drank at the pub and did God knows what else.

It’s through Grace that Emily comes to meet Barbara, a woman who has married a local but who was originally from out of town. Barbara is looking for friendship just as much as Emily, and as such, develop a fast friendship. It’s wonderful to watch the bond between them grow, and see just how must they help each other through life’s challenges.

This novel is very relatable and the pictures that Fiona McCallum paints with her words are just stunning. I felt as though I was living right alongside Emily in the old abandoned house which she moves into and does up. I was right alongside her as she picked apricots for her jam, I felt like I was alongside her as she spent dinners with her cold and disapproving mother, and I felt her grief as she mourned her Gran, a much-loved Grandmother who passes away at the beginning of the story.

This was a book I found difficult to put down and as it become obvious toward the end of the novel that this story was far from over, I became even more immersed. As the book draws to a close, Emily is only just starting to develop a new relationship with the handsome Jake from Melbourne, her jam is starting to sell at the markets and perhaps the most intriguing story left unfinished – what is left to find out about Gran and Prince Ali and what happened to the gift of “seven of Golconda’s finest”. Will Emily accept the offer to own the property she has moved into? Will she make her dreams of a B&B come true? Will she see Jake again? And will she solve Gran’s mystery?

I can barely wait for the conclusion of this story as I have been left feeling like Emily was a dear friend and want to see what her next moves will be! Hoping that the sequel to this story is not too long a wait!!

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So I guess if the next instalment comes my way, I’d better send it on to Tam, don’t you think?

If you’d like to find out more about Saving Grace, by Fiona McCallum you can do so here…

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True Adventures: Red Carpet Burns

Today’s book had TBYL Reviewer, Tam Jenkin galavanting around Los Angeles. Red Carpet Burns by Georgia Cassimatis (Harlequin) is Georgia’s memoir, full of famous names and famous faces, complete with ups and downs and beautiful scoundrels. Here’s what Tam thought of the book…

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red carpet burnsRed Carpet Burns is the very busy memoir of Georgia Cassimatis’s seven years in Los Angeles. It’s packed full of stories, many that are fascinating, some that are infuriating and others that are simply mind boggling!

After meeting the gorgeous and charismatic Simon, Georgia Cassimatis swaps her fabulous life in Sydney for Los Angeles, risking it all for a chance at love. Georgia soon finds out, however, that Simon is not the man he seemed to be, and she has left her entire world behind for a loveless marriage with a man who is intent on making her miserable.

LA is a tough town – especially for a girl with no friends, no money and no job – but Georgia finds her way through the liars, fakes and cheats to become a successful celebrity journalist and soon realises she’s fallen in love again – this time with her new home town… LA.

Georgia begins this book by recounting every girl’s nightmare… thinking she had found ‘The One’ she gives up her life in Australia to move to a new country with him, only to find out that Prince Charming is in fact anything but! Much to her dismay, once she moves to Los Angeles to be with him, Simon quickly turns into an extremely mean and abusive man – the promises that he had made to her were very different from reality, leaving her heart-broken and a long way from home.

As it turns out, Georgia seems to have a lot of bad luck with men, always finding herself attracted to the wrong guy. Throughout her book, she actually paints a pretty bleak picture of the guys of Lis Angeles. Men that on the outside appear wonderful, with expensive cars, who are well groomed and have impressive jobs, but all of whom seem to end up so flaky and with far too much baggage. It’s fascinating to read her descriptions of how different the ‘dating’ scene is in LA compared to Australia.

Despite being ‘unlucky in love’, Georgia does have some very impressive stories to tell of the life she begins to live once she’s a little more settled in her new home. Although it takes her a long time to find work, when she does finds her feet, she meets a lot of famous stars and becomes deeply embroiled in a life of freelance interviews, parties and ‘background artists’ (otherwise known as Extras on movies).

hollywood

One aspect that I found the most interesting about Red Carpet Burns were the stories of the friends that she makes during her time in LA. Her ‘Angels’ as she calls them, were quite often fellow Aussies who had set up home in LA. They seemed to find a sense of comfort in each other, they became one another’s family.

Red Carpet Burns is a very well told story. There’s a lot of information and many short stories in this novel, but it is well put together and I found it very easy to follow. I found it quite a fascinating read, but also a frustrating read – I found myself wanting to just shake Georgia and warn her of the next bad decision she was about to make!

At the time of reading this book, I was personally researching a trip to America and found it fascinating to hear an insider’s view on all the glitz and glamour. She on one hand made it sound as though you would be sitting next to someone famous at every cafe you visited, but then on the other hand she also described some places rather bleakly. It did however, only feed my desire to visit the States as it really does sound like a world completely different to the one we reside in.

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You can find out more about Red Carpet Burns here…

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