Thursday, 24 July 2014

Book Giveaway: Safe Harbour by Helene Young

Thank you to all my wonderful fans, both old and new, who helped me to reach my target of 200 “Likes” on Facebook recently.

In celebration of that milestone, I did promise you all a fabulous giveaway – one that is sure to get your blood pumping on a cold winter’s day.

The novel I have chosen to giveaway is a paperback copy of Helene Young’s latest, Safe Harbour.

Here’s the blurb from the back cover:

“When Darcy Fletcher drags a handsome sailor from a stricken yacht, she finds herself drawn into his mysterious world.  Having saved his life, can she now rescue him from his dark past? Or will that endanger all she holds most dear?

Noah, keeper of the peace and guardian of the Banksia Cove secrets, can't tell Darcy the real reason this man has washed up on their shores. If she understood the links between him and her own dysfunctional family, he'd lose her love for good.

As they take refuge in an old whaling station, only one thing is certain – by morning, no one will be the same again. Lies will surface. Hearts will break, and not all will find safe harbour.

A gripping novel of high drama and desire by Australia's award-winning master of romantic suspense.”

I love Helene's novels because she always gives them a fresh and distinctly Aussie feel (my review here). This one will certainly not disappoint when her heroine uncovers unsavoury truths, familial lies and deception, which ultimately threaten everyone’s safe harbour.

Here's a peek of the video clip Helene has had made:

So, here's the deal:

+1 entry: In the comments below, tell me the name of Helene’s idyllic floating home?

+1 entry: Like Book Muster Down Under on Facebook

+1 entry: Follow Book Muster Down Under's Blog

+1 entry: Tweet with me on Twitter

Remember, the more entries you have the greater your chances of winning.

Entries close midnight on Friday, 25th July (Qld time).  Winners will once again be drawn by one of my gorgeous little munchkins via my stylish “Jillaroo” hat and will be announced on my Blog, Facebook Page and Twitter on Saturday, 26th July.

I wish you all much luck.

*Please note that due to high postage costs this giveaway is unfortunately only open to Australian residents.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Aussie Book Review: A Fatal Tide by Steve Sailah

In association with Random House Australia, I am delighted to form part of the A Fatal Tide Blog Tour and, in particular, wish to thank their publicity department for the invitation to participate.

Please be sure to visit An Adventure in Words where Susan kicked off the Blog Tour on 21 July by asking Steve Sailah a few questions about his work.  Once you've had your fill of my review, don't forget to hop on over to Sam Still Reading who will continue the tour on 4 August.

My Rating:              4 / 5
Format:                   eGalley proof courtesy of Random House
Publication Date:    1 August 2014
Category:               Crime & Mystery
ISBN:                      9780857984500
Publisher:               Random House Books Australia
Imprint:                   Bantam Australia
RRP:                      AU$32.99
Extent:                    336 pages

From the Cover

“A powerful novel set in Gallipoli, that's part war-story and part mystery. 'Amid Gallipoli's slaughter he hunted a murderer . . .'

It is 1915 and Thomas Clare rues the day he and his best friend Snow went to war to solve the murder of his father.

The only clues – a hidden wartime document and the imprint of an army boot on the victim's face – have led the pair from the safety of Queensland to the blood-soaked hills of Gallipoli.

Now not only are Thomas's enemies on every side – from the Turkish troops bearing down on the Anzac lines, to the cold-blooded killer in his own trench – but as far away as London and Berlin.

For, unbeknown to Thomas, the path to murder began thirteen years earlier in Africa with the execution of Breaker Morant - and a secret that could change the course of history . . .“

Summary and Thoughts
"It's the small, everyday details that are perhaps the most poignant - the men's wonder at seeing snow fall for the first time, sneaking down to the sea to bathe and get rid of the body lice, the stench and flies near the rudimentary toilet pits, and the hated bully beef, onion and biscuit diet" – Stories from Gallipoli, Radio National, Anzac Day 2003
A former ABC foreign correspondent in New Delhi and Washington, Steve Sailah was also friend to several Gallipoli veterans.  In this, his debut adult historical fiction novel, Sailah draws on the multitude of emotional stories from those aging veterans he returned with to the old battlefields for the 75th Anniversary of the first ANZAC landing, bringing to life the vivid reality of time spent in the trenches, putting them into sharp perspective.

Queensland, 1915, we are introduced to Thomas Clare (Tom to his friends), son of Jack Clare, the strong and honest local policeman, along with Tom’s best friend “Snow” after a day out hunting.  As he and Snow make their way home, Tom’s thoughts venture to what is going on behind the closed doors of their neighbourhood.  He doesn’t have a mother, as Rose died four years back, when he was twelve but, from his thoughts, his pain is evident - “Thomas imagined a mother sewing, a father reading to a child in his lap, together around the hearth.  Once, he’d had something like that, when his ma was alive.”

It’s not long after we are into the novel, and have encountered that painful thought, that Tom discovers his father’s body and, needless to say, he is devastated.  First his mother, now his father!

For all intents and purposes, Jack Clare’s death is ruled a suicide but, when a Sergeant Griffin arrives to accompany Tom to the formal identification of Jack’s body, whilst not only being questioned on things he knows nothing about, he learns that Griffin also investigated the circumstances surrounding Rose’s death. But, he is also, later, alerted by the doctor, Ellen Wood, that perhaps Jack’s death was no suicide.

When Snow’s father Tubbie, a tracker, and whose friendship with Jack dates back to the war against the Boers, investigates the scene, not long afterwards handing Tom an old war time document that he had been asked to keep safe, it serves to raise further doubts as to the circumstances of Jack’s death, resulting in the two boys deciding that they’re going to enlist in the war in the hopes of catching a killer.

Lying about their ages and, naïve in their anticipation of getting the answers they need, they eventually ship out for Turkey with no idea of the atrocities they will encounter and the abominable conditions they are about to endure.  Thomas especially will need to overcome his demons when he realises that he treads a tenuous line between love and hate, fighting for the Mother Country and cold-blooded murder!

As we approach the centenary of the war in Gallipoli, Steve Sailah has given us a timely novel set within the trenches of Gallipoli, with fictional characters based on factual evidence.

One of the things I most liked about this novel was his depiction of the camaraderie amongst the diggers.  In what can only be described as the grimmest of conditions, they always managed to find humour to lighten the mood and, in a scene in which Tom goes looking for Snow and finds him halfway down a latrine, the exchange of banter which followed had me in a fit of giggles as, too, did Kingy’s good sense of humour whilst having been caught in a barrage of gunfire – “As I always say, there’s nuffin’ like a bog in a barrage … nearly fell in, I was havin’ so much fun”.

Even though our school history classes didn’t expand on the more gruesome aspects of war, as adults we have become well aware that life on the frontline isn’t a bed of roses so, you may wonder why I have focused more on the humour when this is in fact a war novel?

Sailah expertly weaves scenes of utter desolation, such as the gruesome remains of the Dardanelles battlefields and the stench of rotting corpses into the narrative and, although the narrative is not overburdened with these scenes, I so keenly felt like I was bearing witness to these events that if I didn’t focus on those moments of humour, I wouldn’t have gotten through the novel.

Another aspect that drew me in was the solid meaning of mateship that Sailah conveys to his readers, more especially between Snow and Tom, the bonds between one white boy and one black boy having been built whilst accompanying their fathers who worked and hunted together in the bush, as well as on their love of the adventures of Holmes and Watson.  Their humorous para-phrasing of these characters throughout the novel, along with all of Tom’s precious memories surely lend a sense of light-heartedness and hope to what could otherwise have been a dismal story. While it is indeed the mystery that drives the narrative as the reader ventures into those blood-soaked trenches with Tom and Snow as they come to realise that not everyone is on their side, it is their memories and humour that carry them through.

From Queensland to the Gallipoli Peninsula, Quinn’s Post, Pope’s Hill and beyond, Sailah’s use of third person narration has allowed him to give the reader an opportunity to be placed in the story as an investigator alongside Tom and Snow as he creates the immediacy of their time in the trenches and their search for a killer.  

Extremely insightful and well-written, with themes of mateship, patriotism, family, loss and ultimately hope, this is a well-researched story about Gallipoli that is not often heard from the point of view of a digger and Sailah’s keen eye for detail is so perfectly construed to the reader, that it leaves us in no doubt as to the reasons why our diggers arrived back disillusioned and suffering with PTSD.  Lest we forget.

I wish to thank Random House Books for providing me with an electronic galley proof of this novel.

A Little About the Author

Steve Sailah grew up in Melbourne where he was a newspaper reporter, before working in radio in Sydney and London. He worked for the ABC for 26 years, during which time he was an ABC foreign correspondent based in New Delhi and Washington.

He has won several journalism awards and has a Master of Arts from Macquarie University.

Steve loves motorcycling, sailing, writing and being a dad to three daughters in Sydney.

Don't forget to go on over to Sam Still Reading on the 4th August for the next part of the tour.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Saturday Sneak-Peek: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

One of the books in my mailbox (or rather front doorstep) this week was a signed book proof of The Queen of the Tearling by debut author Erika Johansen, the first book in "an astonishingly imagined trilogy".

Due for release in Australia in August by Random House, Erika has this to say about her debut novel:

"The Queen of the Tearling is a book about one possible future for humanity, in which we are handed a clean slate: an uninhabited land and an opportunity to leave the old world behind. I wanted to write about not only the inevitable failure of a socialist experiment with our current mentality, but also the fact that the failure doesn't preclude a certain amount of hope ... So I decided to write about an idealistic monarch trying to do good in that land I saw over the horizon: a lawless land that never was, but was still tormented by most of the problems of our current society ... I wanted to contribute a tough-but-smart girl to the pantheon. Too often fantasy books are either geared toward men, or (if geared toward women) feature a stunningly beautiful and amazingly self-assured heroine with whom no one could possibly compete. I wrote my heroine to appeal to any woman who knows what it's like to feel less-than-beautiful or out of her depth."

Here's the blurb:

"Kelsea Glynn is the sole heir to the throne of Tearling but has been raised in secret by foster parents after her mother – Queen Elyssa, as vain as she was stupid – was murdered for ruining her kingdom. For 18 years, the Tearling has been ruled by Kelsea's uncle in the role of Regent however he is but the debauched puppet of the Red Queen, the sorceress-tyrant of neighbouring realm of Mortmesme. On Kelsea's 19th birthday, the tattered remnants of her mother's guard - each pledged to defend the queen to the death - arrive to bring this most un-regal young woman out of hiding... 

And so begins her journey back to her kingdom's heart, to claim the throne, earn the loyalty of her people, overturn her mother's legacy and redeem the Tearling from the forces of corruption and dark magic that are threatening to destroy it. But Kelsea's story is not just about her learning the true nature of her inheritance - it's about a heroine who must learn to acknowledge and live with the realities of coming of age in all its insecurities and attractions, alongside the ethical dilemmas of ruling justly and fairly while simply trying to stay alive..."

Erika Johansen was educated at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania before attending the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop, where she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree. She later became an attorney. Erika divides her time between her home in the San Francisco bay area and London.

While the fantasy genre is one that has never really appealed to me, from the moment I set my eyes on the strong book cover and read the blurb, it hasn't stopped beckoning for me to pick it up and read. Who knows, perhaps this will be my turning-point!

Film rights for the trilogy have been bought by Warner Bros., reuniting the producer of Harry Potter and one of its stars. The novel which was released in the UK and the US during July is already garnering a lot of attention. Here's what some of those high profile fans are saying:

"I didn't sleep for about a week because I couldn't put the bloody thing down. It would be fair to say I became obsessed with it." - Emma Watson

"The Queen of the Tearling is a gripping read with an enchanting heroine. Erika Johansen has created a wonderful world and I can't wait to read more" - Bernard Cornwell

"The Queen of the Tearling is destined to be a fantasy classic. Johansen's writing is assured, confident and thrilling. I can't wait for the next book." - Amy McCulloch, Author of The Pathbreaker's Shadow

"This book worked on me with all the subtle power of an addiction: by the time I realized I was hooked, it was far too late to stop." - Lauren Oliver, Bestselling author of Panic

Kirsty from Random House publicity says it's "a fantastic read for fans of George R R Martin, J K Rowling and Suzanne Collins" so, for a free sample, head over to it's page at Random House and click on the book cover.

If you'd like to keep up with news about the novel, you can also "Like" its dedicated page on Facebook or follow the conversation on Twitter.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Guest Post: From Wannabe Fantasy Writer to Published Chicklit Author by Lisa Joy

I'm really thrilled to share today's Guest Post by Australian author, Lisa Joy whose debut novel, Yes, Chef!, was released by Destiny Romance (an imprint of Penguin Books Australia) on 14 July.

First up though, I'd like to thank Lisa for contributing this post about her journey to publication and wish her all the very best for her future endeavours within the writing world.

Lisa began writing stories in her teenage years but decided she needed to get her heart broken and live in another country before pursuing a career as a novelist.

Born in Sydney, she spent most of her childhood wearing pink tights and leotards at ballet class.  At age 21, deciding she wasn't cut out for the famished life of a ballerina, she left her safe and somewhat predictable existence behind and travelled to London, where she worked as a television producer's PA, in fashion retail and the restaurant business.

Having fallen head over heels in love with London, travelling Europe, eating amazing food and the occasional stint on stage and screen, Lisa stayed put for about 7 years, until finally, family called and she returned to Australia. Her writing took a dramatic turn for the better after she attended a commercial fiction masterclass with author Fiona McIntosh.

She now lives in the picturesque Dandenong ranges outside Melbourne on a vegetable farm with her fiancé and four chooks. And yes, she is PA to a celebrated chef.


I often marvel at the many different directions my life has gone in and the number of things that had to happen to get me to where I am today. My debut novel Yes, Chef! has just been released, but I never made a conscious decision to become a writer.  About five years ago the idea for a series of fantasy novels came to me and from the moment I began writing I knew it was what I wanted to do with my life. I had never experienced the same amount of satisfaction in any other job as I did when I wrote one good sentence. It was a relief. The media often tells us to ‘follow our bliss’ or to ‘focus on our passion.’ But what if you don’t know what your passion is? And even once you discover your dream it doesn’t mean it will be easy to achieve.

I had been dragging my heels trying to write this fantasy story. I was a meticulous plotter and felt I needed to know everything that was going to happen in the last book before I could even finish the first. Four years later, it disturbed me to realise I was going out of my way to avoid doing something that gave me so much enjoyment. I began to wonder if I was an eternal dreamer. Was it better to constantly work towards a dream, even if you never reach it, than put yourself out there only to possibly fail? While I was writing there was still a chance but if I finished and was rejected, it was over, wasn’t it?

Needless to say my writing needed a proverbial kick up the backside, so when I heard the inspirational and ‘no-nonsense’ author Fiona McIntosh was hosting a commercial fiction masterclass I snapped up a place.

From day one Fiona’s love was tough, but I put my head down and really tried to put into practice all the teachings that had lead to her success. She told me I had to stop all the angst because nobody cares. Now, that might sound harsh but it was exactly the reality check I needed. I was writing stories not saving lives! My competition is not just other popular fiction books but magazines and social media and games like Candy Crush and Hay Day. From that moment my writing freed up. I stopped writing for publication and began writing for enjoyment.

On the last night of the masterclass I was telling stories around the dinner table about my days in the restaurant business and being the PA to a television producer. It occurred to me that my life, something I had always regarded as ordinary, was interesting to others. And while Yes, Chef! is a fictional tale, my experience working in positions that I thought were far from my passion actually gave me the material I needed to achieve my dream.

One year after the masterclass had finished I had shelved my fantasy series, changed genres to chick-lit, completed a manuscript and gained a publishing contract from a major global publishing house.

Most importantly, I had a lot of fun writing Yes, Chef! and the biggest reward is hearing how much enjoyment others get from reading it.

Lisa would love to hear from you, so if you'd like to connect with her, you can do so via the following links:

Website    Facebook    Twitter    Instagram    Pinterest

About the Book

Sassy foodie Becca Stone is over her job taking reservations in one of London's most successful restaurant empires. So when she is unexpectedly catapulted into working as PA to celebrity chef, Damien Malone, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime.

Becca is quickly caught up in an exciting whirlwind of travel, reality TV and opening nights, and even her usually abysmal love life takes a turn for the better. But as Becca is slowly consumed by the chaos of life in the spotlight, she begins to lose touch with her friends, her heart and even with reality. Working with Damien has its challenges and she is soon struggling with his increasingly outrageous demands and sleazy advances, all while managing the ridiculous requests of his self-centered wife.  It takes a disastrous trip to Italy for Becca to realize that she may have thrown away exactly what she's been looking for all along.

Inspired by real-life adventures, this deliciously funny and romantic story reveals a tantalizing glimpse of the trendy restaurant scene: a world where chefs are treated like rock stars, and cooking isn't all that goes on in the kitchen.


Yes, Chef! is available for purchase at the following links:

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Aussie Book Review: Billabong Bend by Jennifer Scoullar

My Rating:              5 / 5
Format:                   ARC courtesy of Penguin Books Australia
Publication Date:    28 May 2014
Category:               Modern and Contemporary
ISBN:                      9781921901935
Publisher:               Penguin Australia
Imprint:                   Michael Joseph
RRP:                      AU$29.99
Extent:                    304 pages

From the Cover

"From the author of Brumby's Run and Currawong Creek comes an evocative story of love and loyalty, set in the heart of Australia's riverlands.

For Nina Moore, the rare marshland flanking the beautiful Bunyip River is the most precious place on earth. Her dream is to buy Billabong Bend and protect it forever, but she's not the only one with designs on the land. When her childhood sweetheart Ric returns home, old feelings are rekindled, and Nina dares to dream of a future for both of them on the river. But a tragic death divides loyalties and threatens to tear apart their fledgling romance.

This star-crossed rural romance sets Nina, a floodplains grazier, and Ric, a traditional cotton farmer, on a heart-rending collision course, amid the beauty of northern New South Wales."

Summary and Thoughts

Nina Moore’s life and passion belongs to farming and conserving the rare and beautiful marshland of Billabong Bend which feeds off the Murray-Darling river system and neighbours her property, Red Gums.  With the owner of the property, Eva, a close friend of hers now being confined to an old-age home, it is Nina’s biggest dream to own Billabong Bend in order to make it into a sanctuary and keep at bay the hunters who are intent on destroying it along with the magnificent wetland birdlife.  Although Eva has continually turned down her offers to purchase Billabong, this hasn’t deterred Nina from taking Billabong under her wing, so to speak, by unassumingly becoming the fierce guardian of the natural life there, frequently rehabilitating the injured wildlife she comes across and assisting in their reintroduction to their natural environment.

In an effort to give back to the land, Nina’s use of sustainable farm practices has enabled her to address issues and significant threats to both natural resources and the environment.  The drought hasn’t helped much, but she’s doing well.  Her neighbour, however, Max Bonelli, continues to farm cotton at Donnalee, draining the Bunyip River of its precious water so that he can harvest bonus crops.  This has always been a source of discontent between him and a large number of town residents, including her father but Max has always seen farming as a contest with this being the major reason why his wife left him fifteen years before, whisking her son Ric back to her homeland of Italy to escape the constant feuding.

Now, Ric Bonelli is back with his daughter, Sophie, to build a relationship with the father who thought that his son had deserted him in favour of his mother in a bid to give her some familial stability – something she has never had.  Having only recently learnt of Sophie’s existence after receiving a telephone call from the hospital where her mother has been admitted, it’s hard enough for him to come to terms with the fact that he has a daughter let alone deal with his father’s farming and hunting ways.

As he and Nina rediscover their secret friendship from all those years before, her and Sophie also forge a bond borne out of their love for the natural world, from the horses at Red Gums to the amazing birdlife that surrounds them.  Soon enough though, Ric becomes caught between a rock and a hard place when he finds himself being drawn more and more into Nina’s world and dreams with seemingly insurmountable odds getting in the way of the two star-struck lovers.

When tragedy strikes the Bonnelli family, triggering the appearance of an ancient giant trout who leaves a storm of epic proportions in his wake, Ric, scrambles to do the right thing while Nina is left both angry and shattered, wondering whether they will ever be able to find their way back to what they had before.

Ms Scoullar writes Australian rural and environmental fiction and, as with her previous novel, Currawong Creek (my review here), she gives us a fresh take on the rural fiction sub-genre transporting us to a fully developed setting with a visceral sense of place. From the dedication at the beginning of this novel as well as various interviews and posts around the web, it is evident that Ms Scoullar is an enthusiastic conservationist who makes the landscape and rare beauty of the endangered marshland habitat the heart and soul of Billabong Bend, as her passion for conservation shines through the eyes of her characters.

Set against the backdrop of the beautiful riverlands of Northern NSW, the landscape and its fauna and flora play a pivotal role in the mounting tension as Ms Scoullar makes good use of her location by bringing the river into her story, interweaving it through her characters’ lives.  She deftly creates believable conflict and escalates the rising tension and suspense by adding the dramatic appearance of the Aboriginal dreamtime legend, Guddhu, the Murray Cod, thereby enhancing the tone and atmosphere of the novel.

A committed conservationist, Ms Scoullar believes that “we fix the world one day at a time, one person at a time, one action at a time” and this is evident as her characters are challenged and shaped by the complex environment in which they find themselves.  Quite clearly she has put a lot of time, effort and research into the writing of this novel, giving us a truly informative read with a strong conservation message in a world which becomes intimately known by the reader because it is intimately known by the writer.  The lush wetlands and birdlife drew me in as I, like Sophie, discovered a whole new world.

There are some truly beautiful moments in this novel, specifically in regard to Sophie and the geese she so stoically assumes single parenthood over, and I found the scenes where she nurtures and teaches them to fly, particularly touching.

In this story about determination, forgiveness and that powerful feeling we get when we give back to nature, I felt that Ms Scoullar’s writing was a call to celebrate and protect the diversity and delicacy of our beautiful Australian heritage.

I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a hard copy of this great novel.

A Little About the Author

Jennifer has always harboured a deep appreciation and respect for the natural world. Her house, which was left to her by her father, is on a hilltop overlooking valleys of messmate and mountain ash. She lives there with her family. A pair of old eagles live there too. Black-tailed wallabies graze by the creek. Eastern spinebills hover among the callistemon. Horses have always been her passion. She grew up on the books of Elyne Mitchell, and all her life she's ridden and bred horses, in particular Australian stock horses.

Visit Jennifer online at and on Facebook.

Billabong Bend can be purchased at the following links:

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Saturday Sneak-Peek: A Fatal Tide by Steve Sailah

I've recently started reading A Fatal Tide by Steve Sailah, due for release on the 1st August by Penguin Random House Australia.

Here's the blurb:

"A powerful novel set in Gallipoli, that's part war-story and part mystery. 'Amid Gallipoli's slaughter he hunted a murderer . . .'

It is 1915 and Thomas Clare rues the day he and his best friend Snow went to war to solve the murder of his father. 

The only clues – a hidden wartime document and the imprint of an army boot on the victim's face – have led the pair from the safety of Queensland to the blood-soaked hills of Gallipoli. 

Now not only are Thomas's enemies on every side – from the Turkish troops bearing down on the Anzac lines, to the cold-blooded killer in his own trench – but as far away as London and Berlin.

For, unbeknown to Thomas, the path to murder began thirteen years earlier in Africa with the execution of Breaker Morant - and a secret that could change the course of history . . ."

Steve is a former ABC foreign correspondent in New Delhi and Washington and the recipient of two prestigious Walkley Awards. He was a friend to several Gallipoli veterans, and returned to the battlefields with a number of them on the 75th anniversary of the first ANZAC landing.

His ABC documentary, Stories from Gallipoli, was republished in April 2013.

For me, it's already proving to be just a little emotional, especially in relation to his main character, Thomas' thoughts!

Here are excerpts from two of my favourite scenes so far:
"Thomas imagined a mother sewing, a father reading to a child in his lap, together around the hearth.  Once, he'd had something like that, when his ma was alive."
"The moon, pale and huge, had picked out the silvery bones of the big ghost gum." 
If you'd like to learn more about this novel, look out for my book review on the 22nd July which forms part of the Blog Tour being put together by Penguin Random House, with a review per day from the 21st July.

My thanks goes to the publicity team at Penguin Random House for inviting me to take part in this tour.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Saturday Sneak-Peek: Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O'Neill

I've just started reading Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O'Neill which is due for release in October. Unfortunately, there's not yet a cover image available except for the advance reading copy one, filled with all the Simon & Schuster's in-house endorsements.

"But why?", I hear you say!

Well, along with a number of well-known and much respected book bloggers here in Australia, I have been selected by the wonderful team at Simon & Schuster to help spread the word about the misadventures of Kate McDaid in this very special book, with one of us lucky bloggers being chosen to host the official cover reveal in August.

Here's the blurb:

"Kate McDaid is listing her new-year's resolutions hoping to kickstart her rather stagnant love life and career when she gets some very strange news. To her surprise, she is the sole benefactor of a great-great-great-great aunt and self-proclaimed witch also called Kate McDaid, who died over 130 years ago.  As if that isn't strange enough, the will instructs that, in order to receive the inheritance, Kate must publish seven letters, one by one, week by week.

Burning with curiosity, Kate agrees and opens the first letter - and finds that it's a passionate plea to reconnect with the long-forgotten fairies of Irish folklore.  Almost instantaneously, Kate's life is turned upside down.  Her romantic life takes a surprising turn and she is catapulted into the public eye.

As events become stranger and stranger - and she discovers things about herself she's never known before - Kate must decide whether she can fulfil her great-aunt's final, devastating request ... and whether she can face the consequences if she doesn't."

And, if that's not enough to convince you that this is going to be one of the biggest hits of the year, here's the delightful Irish-Australian Ellie O'Neill, who describes it even better:

Already, this is proving to be a delightfully bubbly, warm and hilarious read, full of good ol' Irish charm, folklore, hopefully some mischievous fairies and perhaps some love.

So, "if you like the warmth of Monica McInerney, laughed at the self-depreciating humour of Bridget Jones, and were charmed by The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, you will fall in love with the story of Kate McDaid".

Please feel free to follow the adventures (or misadventures) of Kate McDaid with me on social media as I Tweet and Facebook some of my favourite quotes.  I promise I won't give too much away!

Here's one of my favourites so far:

"I looked up over the heavy cream paper.  'What? Have I died and nobody told me?'
Matthew looked as baffled as me.
'Is this one of those weird after-death dreams? I don't remember a white light.'"

My thanks of course to the publicity team at Simon & Schuster for inviting me to spread, by word-of-mouth, my thoughts on this charming novel.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Guest Post: Messin' With Your Own Head by Kate Belle

I'm just a little bit excited to share this Guest Post with you today (my first) by Australian Author Kate Belle .

First up though, I'd like to thank Kate for contributing this post about self doubt messing with an author's head.

Kate is a multi-published author of dark, sensual love stories that will mess with your head. Her interests include talking to strangers, collecting unread books, and ranting about the world’s many injustices. She writes regularly about women, relationships, sexuality and books on her blog, The Ecstasy Files. She is also the creator of the Eros in Action writing sex workshop.

Kate lives, writes and loves in Melbourne with her small family and very annoying pets. The Yearning was released in 2013 to rave reviews. Being Jade is her second novel.

One of the biggest challenges a writer has to tackle – at any point in their career – is self doubt.

It’s a nasty little sucker, sneaking in between your ribs, squeezing its way into your brain, boring into your confidence like a torrent of termites, until one day you sit down to write and feel as though the whole story is collapsing around you. It causes you to question everything. Words you thought sang yesterday now sound hollow. Your characters seem weak, tiresome, dull and the plot drags and clings like wet clothes.

Self doubt leads us into the frightening and murky territory of self judgement, self criticism and comparisons with others. It’s hard not to do, given we live in a culture where we are bombarded with images of what we should look like/be/do/feel in order to be acceptable. There are so many others out there who are better looking, better writers, better at self promotion, more visible, more important, more articulate than we are – right? Who are we to think we can participate in that world? Who are we to even think we have something to contribute?

Succumbing to self doubt is as suffocating as drowning in quick sand. The more you struggle with it the deeper you sink, until you realise fighting is fruitless and you give up and slowly descend into despair. Every person who has embarked on pursuing their ‘dream’, has taken a risk and dared to do something they’ve always wanted to do, has been there. But those who have managed to achieve incredible things in spite of it show the rest of us self doubt can be beaten. 

Throughout the writing of Being Jade Self Doubt was a constant companion. Anyone close to me during the last few months of 2013 will tell you what a struggle it was to write. Ten years ago I would have given up, but now I’m a little bit smarter now and have a few tricks up my sleeve I’d like to share. These little gems are old as the philosophers who came up with them. They might not work for everyone, but they certainly helped me achieve something that seemed unachievable twelve months ago, so I hope they will help others.

Feel the fear and do it anyway

This is the title of a book by Susan Jeffers I read about 15 years ago and the title really stuck with me. The old adage – there is nothing to fear but fear itself – isn’t always true (especially if you find yourself down a dead end dark alley surrounded by rabid rats) but is a useful reminder that we often magnify our fears beyond what the actual risk or threat is. Fear is a natural human emotion. Sometimes its function is to protect us from danger. Often it’s preventing us from taking a perceived risk which really isn’t a risk at all. Fear can create pressure, and under pressure we often discover qualities and capacities we never knew we had.

It’s only pain – let it hurt

This I learned from my Iyengar yoga teacher in the 1990’s. Yoga can be extremely challenging to both body and mind. Part of the practice is to learn to overcome the mind’s tendency to avoid discomfort. Once I got myself into a strong pose the challenge was then to hold it, in spite of my mind saying ‘Let go, this is uncomfortable, this stretch hurts, LET GO!’ The more I practiced the more I understood how my mind controlled me, instead of the other way around. Yoga taught me to have a different relationship to discomfort, to not waste time avoiding it, especially if it was preventing me from doing something new or difficult. I learned that difficult experiences are part of life and that living through them, working with them, can reap enormous rewards.

You’re not on fire

One of the consequences of self doubt can be panic, a debilitating sense of being out of your depth and beyond your skill and comfort levels. Three months after my daughter was born I was consumed by this feeling. Having been a capable employee and person for many years, the chaos of a baby threw me completely. I lost confidence, became anxious and developed post natal depression. At my worst I was ringing a hospital psychologist every day afraid I was going to fall apart completely. After putting up with these calls for a few days she finally said (very firmly I might add) ‘You’re not on fire, Kate. Nothing terrible is happening. There is no disaster. You are safe. Your baby is safe. You can get on top of this. You just have to want to.’

I’m a firm believer in tough love and this was exactly the kind of tough love I needed. ‘You just have to want to’ put me back in charge. Until then I thought the panic and the depression was in control. Realising it was me holding the wheel gave me the sense of power and determination I needed to battle my way out of the depression. Ever since, if I feel panic seeping into my consciousness, I remind myself who’s the boss and take charge.

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About the Book

A tragic death. A family divided. One truth can set them free.

Banjo Murphy is killed on the night he finally musters the courage to walk away from his wife Jade after twenty five years of repeated infidelities. In the aftermath, Banjo is bewildered to discover he still exists, but death has placed an invisible wall between him and his beloved family. In despair he watches Jade collapse into deep depression and his daughters, Lissy and Cassandra, struggle with their unexpected loss. 

Lissy is tortured by guilt and the mysteries surrounding her father’s death. What compelled Banjo to leave the night he died? Why won’t Jade speak about what happened? In spite of their volatile relationship, Lissy believes her parents’ love to be enduring, but sensible Cassandra sees things differently. When Cassy discovers a sketch book chronicling Jade’s extra-marital affairs, the truth of their parents’ relationship begins to unfold and Lissy’s loyalties are divided.

Searching for answers, Lissy contacts Jade’s ex-lovers, unaware her father’s spirit watches as they visit. Unable to let go of his one true love, he aches to know that Jade loved him above all others. Banjo is taken on a journey of discovery through Jade’s memories as the lovers unveil long hidden secrets about her affairs. But the mystery remains, frustrating Banjo and Lissy, until Lissy’s questioning leads her to an explosive truth. One that will finally set her family free.


Being Jade is available for purchase from the following links:

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Aussie Book Review: Losing Kate by Kylie Kaden

My Rating:              5 / 5
Format:                   ARC courtesy of Random House via NetGalley
Publication Date:    1 April 2014
Category:               Contemporary
ISBN:                      9780857983404
Publisher:               Random House
Imprint:                   Bantam Australia
RRP:                      AU$32.99

From the Cover

"This mesmerising debut is part love story, part mystery, telling the captivating story of two lovers torn apart by tragedy and the secrets they kept of one devastating night. 

I'm the most authentic version of myself when I'm around Jack. We've known each other since we were kids, and our relationship was always one of mudpies and mocking. 

Then everything changed.

Beautiful Kate, my best friend, disappeared on a moonlit beach after Jack dumped her for me. Jack was a suspect and, sure of his innocence, I lied to protect him. I know Jack didn't kill her. Our betrayal did.

Thirteen years later, I am thirty, childless and single, attempting to renovate my life rescuing a rundown worker's cottage. All is as it should be in my safe little world – until Jack buys the vacant lot behind my house… and the feelings that we buried all those years ago – the guilt, the love and the pain - resurface.

We can't keep running away from the past - and to move forward we have to know what really happened to Kate."

Summary and Thoughts

Losing Kate gets your attention right from the start and doesn’t relent until the very last page as Francesca (Frankie) Hudson’s story holds you captive.

Frankie and Jack Shaw were friends from infancy until a “schoolies” camping trip in which Kate Shepherd, Frankie’s best friend, and Jack’s girlfriend, disappeared with her body subsequently washing up on the beach.  This culminated in Jack’s family moving away from the town to escape the accusing eyes, and taunts of the neighbourhood, and a lifelong friendship was torn apart, leaving Frankie devastated, and trying to pick up the pieces as she continued through life with only her memories. 

Now a case worker at the hospital, and having recently dumped her boyfriend Seamus, after a “skank incident”, her life is on track.  She’s got her job, her little worker’s cottage which she is slowly starting to renovate and her dog Bear.  That is, until Jack walks back into her life.

It’s been thirteen years, but as she sits on her dilapidated verandah with her friend Meg, watching the unfolding scene of the auction of the property behind, she is shocked and disbelieving but yes, it’s definitely him.  She'd know that neck anywhere!

Despite the fact that he walks over and speaks to her, and hesitant introductions are made with his partner Sara and toddler son Oli, she becomes disillusioned when he later reveals that Sara knows nothing of his past and, in Sara’s company, begins to treat her “like somebody that he used to know”.

Downplaying their past for the benefit of the superficial Sara has its drawbacks, but as they resume their friendship beyond her prying eyes, all the old memories about their childhood and how they thought they would become more than friends, come flooding back to the present.  And the one they thought most deeply buried?  It’s dredged up all over again – the lies, the pain, the hurt, the guilt!

If that’s not bad enough, when Frankie’s brother Ben makes an unannounced entrance at possibly the worst moment, innocently letting the cat out of the bag, Sara finally learns the truth about their  past relationship, and also Kate’s fate.

When things deteriorate even further after this pivotal event, Frankie begins to feel that she can no longer pretend that there is nothing between her and Jack and resolves to try and find out the truth by visiting Kate’s mother, which only raises further questions than answers when Jess hands her the shell necklace that Kate had made on that fateful night so long ago.

Could the necklace be a silent whisper to the living?  If so, will Frankie and Jack finally find some closure on a chapter of their lives that has haunted them all these years thus gaining the unconditional love and happiness they so deserve?

Told in first-person POV, seguing between the past and the present, Frankie gives us the story with the dialogue between the characters expanding on what has brought them to this point in their lives.  While I personally don’t find it easy to fully connect with characters in a novel that is written in first person because there can be a distinct lack of information regarding the secondary characters, Kylie (like a few other Australian authors I have recently read) has outdone herself and got one of the cardinal rules of fiction down to a tee – that of showing and not telling.

This well-known writing rule can be seen throughout the novel as she incorporates some great dialogue between her characters, using it to create personality, emotion, mood as well as a sense of place, whether it be Jack and Frankie in her little run-down cottage having their first real conversation, to the tragic scene on the beach of teenagers torn apart when they can’t find their friend or the scene in which Jack tries to placate Frankie’s embarrassment as an eleven year old who has just become a woman, thereby fully developing them and the psychological baggage they carry around, through Frankie’s eyes. 

In a recent Author Round-Up held with Kylie on my blog (you can read it here) I asked her to share a bit about her journey to becoming an author.  She stated that “I never set out to be an author” but remembers making up stories during “journal time” after year two little lunch.  She went on to say that “As a grown up, writing started as a housework avoidance strategy” (well, who of us likes housework) but, after attending a few day courses at the Queensland Writers’ Centre, she sent sample chapters to the “slush pile” at Random House.

Thankfully someone recognised Kylie’s talent and gave her a contract because Losing Kate is a brilliant debut that had me literally holding my breath throughout as Kylie ratcheted up the tension (both sexual and conflicting) between Jack and Frankie as well as the suspense surrounding the disappearance of Kate, not once giving us any hint as to the circumstances of Kate’s demise until the final chapters.

Kylie Kaden is yet another Aussie author who has rightfully gained a place on my bookshelf with this knock-out debut interweaving love and jealousy, loss and redemption, while also exploring those carefree, hazy, lazy summer days of our childhood.

I wish to thank Random House for providing me with an eGalley proof.

A Little About the Author

Brisbane writer Kylie Kaden is a self-diagnosed bookworm and recovering chocoholic. Raised in Queensland, she spent holidays camping with her parents and two brothers at the Sunshine Coast, where much of Losing Kate was set. She now lives in Brisbane with her husband and three young sons. As the only female in a house of males, Kylie tops up her sanity by writing whilst her youngest naps (and the washing mounts). She is adamant the next addition to the Kaden household will be female…and canine.

Kylie graduated with an honours degree in psychology from Queensland University of Technology in 2000, but cites it helps little with meeting the challenges of parenting in the real world. She shares her frazzled parenting experiences in her regular column in My Child magazine, and is a strong advocate for telling it like it is when it comes to the struggles (and joys) of raising kids.

Kylie knew writing was in her blood from a young age, using her brother’s Commodore 64 to invent stories as a child. Her current novel took shape as she drank tea at the kitchen bench, often with a toddler on her lap and ABC Kids chirping in the background.  

Kylie considers being a novelist the best job in the world – what other occupation lets you wear Ugg boots to work and make things up for a living?

If you would like to read a sample chapter of Losing Kate, please click here, then click on the cover image on the website.

Losing Kate can be purchased at the following links: