Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Aussie Author Round-Up: Margareta Osborn, Rose River

Today it is my pleasure to welcome to my blog our very own “Voice of the Bush”, the lovely Margareta Osborn, as part of the Blog Tour celebrating the release of her latest novel, Rose River. Published on the 2nd March by Random House Australia, the novel has been adapted from her bestselling eBook novella, A Bush Christmas, and is a delightful romantic comedy set in the Australian Outback.

A fifth-generation farmer, Margareta grew up on her family's historic dairy farm in Gippsland, Victoria, the middle child of three. She completed her HSC and left Gippsland for the bright lights of Melbourne only to jump on a home-bound country train three months later muttering, 'You can take the girl from the country, but not the country from this girl.' She didn't return to the city, preferring paddocks, mountains and billy-tea to pavements, tall buildings and lattes.

Her first writing success was with a 'Story in 50 Words' where, in her teens, she won a dictionary and thesaurus. These tools of the trade, preciously stored, were to prove invaluable when she finally sat down twenty or so years later, to pursue a life-long dream of writing a novel. Bella’s Run was the outcome.

Holding a Diploma in Conservation and Land Management, with years of experience in Landcare and agricultural extension, Margareta dismally failed governmental report writing as every screed she wrote read like a chapter book.

Now a full-time farmer and author, over the years she has also worked as, among other things, a farmhand, station cook, governess, farm manager, fire & rescue admin officer, petrol pump attendant, waitress, radiography typist, station gardener, checkout chick, bank officer, vegetable grower and milked the odd cow or two - none of which taught her how to write but gave her plenty of ideas on what to write about.

She lives with her husband and three children on a property in rural Victoria.

Please feel free to grab a pew and get to know her and her world of writing a bit more.

Before I continue though, I’d just like to thank Random House Australia, especially Lucy from their publicity department, without whom this interview would not have been possible.

Margareta, wow, this has been a long-time coming and it’s fabulous to finally have you here. 

Thanks for having me, Marcia. It’s so lovely to be here at Book Muster Down Under!

Please give us some insight into your childhood.

While I was growing up, I spent every bit of time I could on my horse, riding around the farm, through the bush and hills surrounding our family property.  When I wasn’t on a horse, I was helping my dad on the farm, or curled up at the very top of the hayshed surrounded by small bales of hay, reading a book. 

Sounds absolutely idyllic – especially the part about reading amongst the hay bales! You have a vast amount of working experience behind you, in other words you could have been whatever you wanted, so what made you choose writing? Or did it choose you? 

The seed to be an author was sown when I was 12, after reading The Billabong books by Mary Grant Bruce. The idea was always there, playing at the back of my mind. Now, in hindsight, I think everything I‘ve done was leading to this point. Farmer, author, wife and mother.

What is Rose River about?

When city based PR exec Jaime Hanrahan accepts a house-sitting job in Burdekins Gap, high up in the East Gippsland Mountains, all she wants is to escape the pressures of Christmas after her father’s death and her recent retrenchment. But rather than getting the peaceful getaway she expected, Jaime is faced with a whole raft of calamities – stampeding cattle, town ladies wielding clip boards, sheep that think they’re goats, a neurotic cat, nude sportsmen and one very handsome yet infuriating station manager, Stirling McEvoy.

What kind of hero and heroine can we expect in Jaime and Stirling?

City exec, Jaime is a classic ‘fish out of water’. She is completely clueless in this unknown bush environment, but with stubbornness, determination and sheer guts she slowly learns and begins to realise how beautiful life in the country is. 

Stirling, due to the fact he’s expecting a house sitter who can help him around the station rather than a designer-clothes wearing city chick, comes across as silent and brooding type, but soon proves himself to be warm, generous and an inherently good man. He’s also hunky swoon material.

I read Hope’s Road back in 2013 (apologies but for some or other reason I never got to read Mountain Ash) and one of the things that stuck out for me was how you managed to capably transport me into Tammy’s world of farming. In terms of research, do you merely draw on what you know from your own experience or is there another process that you follow?

It depends what story I’m writing. In terms of Hope's Road, my family are dairy farmers, so I’ve spent a lot of time milking cows and working on the farm. As a lot of rural stories are based on beef or sheep properties, I thought it was about time a dairy farmer, particularly a female one, was put into a book. I’ve lived and worked on the land all my life - vegetables, cropping, broad acre cattle stations – so I’ve seen and done a bit. In saying this, I do go to great lengths to research a novel. Whether I’m following a wild dog trapper through the mountains to see how he goes about his job, or running the dog fence out in NW NSW and interviewing the boundary riders there, it’s all research for my books. In the name of authorship I’ve also learnt how to track wild brumbies in the mountains, drive a 550 HP Prime Mover, make a bargello quilt and a sixteen egg pavlova. Don’t try the latter- it makes a huge mess.

Do you, as a writer, have a motto or maxim? What is it?

Just write the damn book. You can’t edit a blank page. 

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Stop writing for the day in the middle of a sentence, paragraph or scene. It doesn’t matter where, stop mid-flow. Scribble down a couple of ideas/words where you think it might be heading as a reference for tomorrow. That way when you return the next day, you aren’t faced with a blank page and the inevitable question, ‘Now, where was I going with that?’

That is a brilliant idea! What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Join the writer’s organisation in your State eg. in Victoria it’s Writers Victoria. If there is an element of romance in your story, join Romance Writers of Australia. These organisations are there to support you and your writing. Research the publishing industry itself as well as you research your novel. With persistence, determination and a teaspoon of good luck, you will get there.

As well as being a writer, you’re a beef farmer in rural Victoria. What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?

I get up at 5am, grab a cup of tea, hide in my office (which looks out across the mountains) and write until 7am. I break and get my children ready for school; put them on the bus. At 8.30 I sit down and write again until 10.30am then the rest of the farm day takes over. But that’s okay because I’ve already got my 2000 words on the page for the day. By writing first thing in the morning, my mind is clear and not cluttered with farm and kid stuff.

And now for some fun:

Pizza or Pasta?

Pizza! Hawaiian preferably with garlic bread

What is your favourite motivational phrase?

Just do it. 

Favourite author?

It’s a toss-up as I read very widely. Geraldine Brooks? Monica McInerney? Susan Duncan? Fiona Palmer? See, I could just go on and on …

If you had a book club what would it be reading and why?

I have a book club and they are reading Rose River at the moment! This is because they are absolutely wonderful friends who support my books. Our next one is Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan because of its superb reviews.

What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?

Question: How does your husband feel about you writing all these sexy men?
Answer: There’s lots of him in every one of them.

Margareta, it’s been really fabulous having you here. Thank you so much for joining me today and once again, a huge congratulations but, before you go, would you mind sharing with us a few passages from Rose River?

Thanks for having me, Marcia. I’ll catch you next time. 
There were three things in life Jaime Josephina Hanrahan couldn’t stand. Her name, public transport and musclebound men riding Harley-Davidsons. She couldn’t do much about the first, unfortunately. And the last two were currently within her field of vision. 
The bus that had brought her to Lake Grace was now wheeling around the corner out of town, after its driver had broken every rule in the book on the four-hour drive up here. The Harley was parked in front of the Lake Grace Hotel.
Not for the first time in the last little while Jaime cursed her former employers … Gone was her six-figure salary, and with it her to-die-for South Bank rented flat, her car-that-came-with-the-job, her iPhone and iPad. And if that wasn’t enough, it was her first Christmas without her father, Jack, who’d succumbed to a heart attack last Boxing Day. Her mother, Blanche not one to let the grass grow under her feet, had already remarried. Jaime’s new stepdad was called Dave and he was a redneck bushman, not unlike Marble Man standing beside her.
‘Have you any idea how I’m to get to Burdekins Gap?’ she said to Marble Man. ‘And I don’t do horses or bicycles.’

Take one city girl - and drop her into the back of beyond ...

Housesitting in rural Burdekin's Gap, high up in the East Gippsland mountains, is not an obvious career move for a PR executive like Jaime Hanrahan. But, hey, retrenchment is a kicker. 

Plus she's determined not to spend Christmas in Melbourne with her friends, who still have company cars and six-figure salaries, or with her mother, Blanche, who has remarried too soon after her father's death.

However, it turns out that Burdekin's Gap is a little more remote than Jaime had anticipated, the house is in the middle of a cattle station, and the handsome manager, Stirling McEvoy, doesn't appreciate a new farmhand in Jimmy Choos and Sass & Bide cut-offs. 

Soon Jaime is fending off stampeding cows, town ladies wielding clipboards, sheep who think they are goats, nude sportsmen and one very neurotic cat. So why does she feel like she's falling in love ... with the life, with the breathtaking landscape, and with one infuriating cowboy …?

Rose River can be purchased from the following links:

Monday, 30 March 2015

Aussie Book Review: Runaway Lies by Shannon Curtis

“Their relationship is built on a bed of lies – but can he trust his heart in order to save her life?

Darcy Montgomery is on the run. She must hide until she can testify in a shocking court case involving her former employer, but so far the witness protection program has only brought more danger. Any hopes of keeping a low profile are dashed when she saves the two children of wealthy property developer, Dominic St. James, from a sinking car driven by his ex-wife.

Dominic St. James learns the car crash was no accident and his ex-wife is still missing, presumed dead. He is determined to keep his children, as well as their mysterious rescuer, safe until the threat is neutralised. Fighting his enemies and a growing attraction, he discovers that Darcy is much more than she seems.

The danger to Darcy, Dominic and his family grows as their security is eroded and they face not one but two adversaries who have deadly intent. Who ultimately can trust who?”

Darcy Montgomery is a woman on the run - from her ex-boss who’s really got it in for her. When she finds herself in a near-miss accident with the other vehicle landing up in a river and she fights with pure determination to save the two young passengers, she has no idea of the danger ahead when her identity and whereabouts are exposed in the media.

Suffering with injuries from her heroic rescue effort and, after a well-placed bomb gets her questioning her logic, she acquiesces (somewhat reluctantly) to Dominic St. James (the children’s father) “taking her under his wing” and into his home, where she is offered the chance to recuperate.

She soon starts to feel safer and more secure than she has for a while but, for how long, she has no idea. As she grows closer to Dominic and his little extended family, the fact that she hasn’t been totally honest with him begins to weigh on her conscience when the enemy gets too close for comfort and the safety of his children is compromised. It’s hard to know who to trust when both the hero and heroine have enemies, but even harder to let go of a passion built on a bed of lies.

It’s no secret that I’m a lover of romantic suspense and it usually doesn’t take me too long to connect with the protagonist, but in this case, Darcy was a bit of an enigma to me because Shannon Curtis doesn’t let on too early exactly what it is she is running from and why, so this made it a bit difficult for me to experience that connection with her. While it took me a couple of chapters to get into the novel, her writing managed to hold my attention enough for me to gather pace with Darcy’s journey, whereafter I was plummeted headlong into a race against time with her. Once I was over that first hurdle, I became very sympathetic to the position Darcy had found herself in and immediately began slipping into the world  of this strong, resourceful woman who had been let down by a system that was meant to protect her.

I warmed to Dominic almost immediately because of the absolute gratitude he felt towards Darcy for saving his children. Whilst he is a very rich man, he came across as sincere and honourable and thankfully, not at all like the playboy that Darcy had read about in the tabloids. He is a warm and understanding character who’s never quite gotten over the fact that he lost his whole family when he was younger and this made me empathise with him as well as admire his efforts as a father to his twins, who grabbed me by the heartstrings with the vulnerabilities they displayed throughout the story.

The romance is believable and balanced very well by the suspense element, with a slow build of sensual passion that finally bursts into flame but at no time did I lose sight of the fact that all of these characters were in grave danger.

If you fancy edge of your seat suspenseful reading flavoured with some great spice and a truly shocking twist (one that I didn’t see coming) with characters that have substance, I don’t hesitate to recommend this novel to you.

I wish to thank Harlequin Australia for providing me with a hard copy ARC.

About the Author

Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Shannon Curtis has worked as a copywriter, business consultant, admin manager, customer service rep, logistics co-ordinator, dangerous goods handler, event planner, switch bitch and betting agent, and decided to try writing a story like those she loved to read when she found herself at home after the birth of her first child.

Her books have been nominated finalists for Favourite Romantic Suspense for 2011 and 2012, as well as Favourite Continuing Romance Series by the Australian Romance Readers Association.

Now she spends entirely too much time daydreaming about hunky heroes and malicious murders — for her books, of course! She loves reading, loves writing, and loves hearing from her readers, so visit her at www.shannoncurtis.com and say hi!

Shannon is married to a wonderful man and they have three fantastic children who think she's awesome and continue to show her how patient her own parents were, and still are, with her.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Aussie Author Round-Up: Bronwyn Parry, Storm Clouds

Today I’m delighted to welcome Australian rural romantic suspense novelist, Bronwyn Parry to my blog, to celebrate the January release of her fifth full-length novel, Storm Clouds.

Bronwyn grew up surrounded by books and has a love of reading and stories. Commercial fiction, literary fiction, children’s literature, history – her bookshelves are forever overflowing. Academically, she’s particularly interested in story-telling and readership in popular fiction, and the research for her (very) part-time PhD is exploring the contemporary publishing environment and the impact of online communities of readers and digital technologies on authors and their publishing decisions.

Her eclectic background includes an Honours degree in social history and English, and a range of work experiences – HR in a hospital, youth worker, dance teacher, organisational development manager, educational designer, and now occasional academic.

She is a member of the Romance Writers of Australia and the Romance Writers of America, and in July 2007 was honoured to win the prestigious Golden Heart Award for the romantic suspense manuscript which became As Darkness Falls, her first novel published in 2008. Her second novel, Dark Country, and third, Dead Heat, both won an Australian Romance Readers’ award for best Australian romantic suspense novel. They were also both shortlisted for the Romance Writers of America RITA awards – the ‘Oscars’ of romance writing – and for the Daphne du Maurier award for romantic suspense.

Bronwyn lives on 100 acres of beautiful bushland in the New England tablelands, with her husband and three energetic border collies. While she’s lived in cities and enjoys the cafes and bookshops, she loves the naturalness and the rich complexity of the bush.

Please feel free to pull up a stump and get to know her and her world of writing a bit more.

Before I continue though, I’d just like to thank Hachette Australia, especially Anna from their publicity department, without whom this interview would not have been possible.

Bronwyn, it’s really fabulous to have you here to celebrate the recent release of Storm Clouds.

Marcia, I’m thrilled to be here. I’m excited about the release of Storm Clouds and it’s wonderful to celebrate with you and with readers.

Tell us a bit about your childhood.

I spent the first years of my life on the eastern edges of Melbourne, at the base of Mount Dandenong. We moved up to Canberra when I was six. I’m the middle one of three girls - sometimes referred to as the muddle one. Dreamy head-in-a-book, that was me. (My husband would say it still is!) Our family wasn’t wealthy, but there was enough for books and encyclopedias, for camping trips in the bush and holidays at the coast, for theatre and dance and music. (The budget would have managed sport, too, but other than dancing the whole moving-energetically thing never appealed to me.) Mum took us regularly to the local library, and  as well as fiction I often browsed the non-fiction shelves and brought home books on eclectic topics. In 6th grade, when we had to write an essay each week on any topic we chose, I borrowed a book from the library and wrote an essay on Child Psychology. At age 12. I often wonder whether Mrs Crimmins and the other teachers discussed it in the staff room!

My very first fiction writing was Lost in Space fan fiction. Oops, did I just say that in public?

You have a very diverse background ranging from community services to management and beyond. In saying that, you appear to be quite academically orientated and could have become almost anything you wanted to be. What made you want to become an author? Could you tell us about that journey?

I’m interested in many things but other than short-lived dreams of being a theatrical costume designer (I realised that while I can make things, I don’t have a flair for design), I didn’t have a burning desire for any particular career. I thought about becoming an English/History teacher, but at the time I left school it was said there was a glut of teachers and they wouldn’t be hiring more for ten years . . . so I joined the Public Service in Canberra instead. I eventually did the English and History degree, and an Honours thesis on the incredibly useful topic of 18th century British worsted textiles, while working in university management. Writing had always been part of the plan, but I’d only played at it while I was doing the Proper Career thing. Then I realised I didn’t want to work in management and bury half of myself for the next 25 years - and if I ever wanted to write a book, I had to actually, you know, Write. A. Book. So I started writing, and developing my skills, and experimenting with different the types of stories and writing styles. Six years later, I won the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart award for best romantic suspense manuscript, and the following year it was published as my first novel, As Darkness Falls.

I’m sure you’ve been asked this question many times before, but why rural romantic suspense? What is it about the genre that you most enjoy writing about?

Weaving together a love story and a crime story allows an exploration of both physical and emotional courage, and justice and emotional justice for my characters. The dangers they face are heightened in the isolation of the bush landscape - often there is no help nearby, so they have to rely on themselves and each other. I love the Australian bush and outback landscapes, and the strength and resilience of the people and communities, so it was a natural setting for me to write about.

I recently finished reading my ARC of Storm Clouds and, like Dead Heat, I thoroughly enjoyed it but, for those who haven’t yet heard about it, would you mind sharing with us your version of the story they can expect?

In Storm Clouds, two National Park rangers, Simon and Erin, must confront the secrets in their own pasts when a woman is murdered, and they discover her links to a reclusive community in wild country on the edge of the national park. With the police investigation stymied by dead ends and procedural constraints, Simon and Erin begin their own search for answers, and find that the seemingly benign, caring group has dark undercurrents, a history of lies and deception, and a charismatic, manipulative and dangerous leader who won’t let anyone stand in the way of his plans.

Could you give us a bit of insight into the research you had to do for Storm Clouds?

Cults, con artists, commandos and cops! Seriously though, the research into cults in particular was thought-provoking, if somewhat unsettling. I’ve always been interested in why sane, sensible and intelligent people are attracted to cults, and to why they stay in them, often for many years. So I read a lot about different cults, and studies of cult influence, leadership and mind control. There was a particular documentary I saw, about an Australian cult in a rural area, and the leader of that cult fascinated me - my gut instinct was that despite the persona projected, he knows exactly what he is doing, and does it very deliberately. Although the cult in Storm Clouds is not that cult, and the leader isn’t him, I did draw on some of that in writing the story.

What challenges did you have to overcome in getting your first novel published? 

Finishing the book! I’d started a lot of stories in my phase of exploring what I wanted to write and how I wanted to write it. (My family will tell you that I’m really good at beginning things, and not so good at finishing them . . .) But once I started As Darkness Falls, the story came strongly and I knew I wanted to finish it. It was rejected by a US publisher, but a little later it won the Golden Heart, and I was very lucky that there were some Australian media reports about the award (it was a quiet news week) and that Bernadette Foley from Hachette Australia read them. She was on the lookout for an Australian romance, and she invited me to send the manuscript to her. It doesn’t usually happen like that, but I was fortunate that when circumstances aligned, I had a polished manuscript and a second novel underway.

Thank goodness for Bernadette! What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

BICHOK - Butt In Chair, Hands on Keyboard. It’s the only way a book gets written. There’s also Nora Roberts’ classic, ‘You can’t edit a blank page'. Dreaming about a story doesn’t get a book written. I do have to remind myself of this, often!

What advice would you give to aspiring romantic suspense writers?

To weave the romance and the crime closely together so that each impacts on and is integral to the other. Know what your characters are most afraid of, and then make it happen to them. And then twist the proverbial knife even further. Keep the pace tight, the stakes high, the emotions honest and the complications coming so that the reader is there with your characters on the page and holding their breath, hoping but not certain whether your protagonists will succeed or fail. Oh, and that bit about keeping the emotions honest? Don’t be pressured to put a sex scene in the middle just because you think a romantic suspense needs it. You can work in sexual and emotional tension in many different ways, but a love scene has to be emotionally honest and be logical for your particular characters in the specific circumstances of your plot structure and setting.

What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?

It really depends on where I am in a novel, and what else is happening. Ideally, after the morning dog walking and breakfast, I do ‘business’ things - social media, admin etc - and then some writing. In the middle of the afternoon when restlessness strikes, I’ll often do something else creative, like sewing or reading. Or napping. Late afternoon is dog walking and playing, cooking and having dinner, talking with my husband, and then it’s back to writing. I do write best at night - I love it when it’s dark and still outside, and the house is quiet. If I could write until midnight or later every night, I would . . . but then there’s the seven am dog walks. Hence my afternoons often including a nap!

Now for some fun:

What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?

People have asked me how I’ve researched the love scenes, but no-one’s asked me how I research the murders. Maybe because I might ask them to volunteer to help.

Pizza or Pasta?


Favourite author?

Lots - but recently I’ve particularly enjoyed re-reading Joanna Bourne’s historical romances, set in the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars. I love her writing, the way she uses language and deep point of view, and the way she’s woven the various plot elements of her books and her characters’ stories through her inter-connected series.

If you had a book club, what would it be reading and why?

Books they want to read, not books they feel they ‘should’ read. ‘Should’ is not a good word when it relates to reading. (Although chocolate is an entirely different matter.)

Give us three good to know facts about you – be creative.

I flunked maths and physics in secondary college. However, since I have never yet had to use calculus to deal with life’s challenges, this has not proved very much of a handicap.

I know what calamanco is, and how to spin and weave it. However, given that being a semi-expert in obscure eighteenth century wool textiles would lead to even less income production in Australia than being an author does, I decided to write books instead. One day I may even slip in a reference to calamanco.

I knit plain socks while I’m staring at the screen, trying to write. The gentle rhythm is meditative and helps my brain get into a creative mode and focus on the words. It also keeps my fingers from clicking all over the internet. However, after 5 books I now have enough hand-knit socks, so I am currently hand-sewing a pure linen Regency-style chemise. As you do. Every woman should have at least one. 

Bronwyn, it has been an absolute delight to have you visit the blog, thank you so much for joining me today. Before you go though, would you mind giving us a sneak peek of Storm Clouds?

Marcia, thank you so much for inviting me! It’s been a pleasure, and I’m very happy to share a peek of Storm Clouds. In this scene from chapter one, National Park Ranger Erin has just seen her colleague, Simon, drive back into town after a two-month absence - a sudden army reserve deployment, when she hadn’t known he was still in the army:

He stood at the back of his LandCruiser in the driveway, a kit bag resting on the tray. Old Snowy McDermott, his neighbour, leaned on the fence post between them, settling in for a good long yarn. Snowy could talk the hind leg off a horse and usually missed most social cues, but Simon saw Erin and excused himself to Snowy as she got out of the ute.
As they walked the fifteen paces towards each other, the light cheeky comments she might normally have made turned to dust on her tongue. For months they’d worked side by side in the relaxed way of equals, trusting and relying on each other in their physically demanding duties for both their National Parks jobs and volunteer SES service.
He wasn’t in uniform now. Not the army uniform she’d never seen him wear. Not the National Parks uniform, nor the SES uniform they both wore often enough outside work. Just faded jeans and a white t-shirt that stretched over his fine physique and highlighted the deep hazel of his eyes. Eyes that reflected the warmth of his easy grin and gave little hint that he’d been anywhere but a relaxed holiday away.
The early autumn sun had started to set, casting a golden outline around him, almost as if nature wanted to make a gilded statue of the soldier hero. Whereas she . . . she was no hero.
They stopped half a metre from each other, within touching distance, but neither of them made a move to touch. He was out of her reach in too many other ways. Maybe the caution that had stopped her making a fool of herself in the months before he’d left had been good sense, rather than cowardice.
She resisted wiping suddenly sweaty hands on her uniform trousers and summoned up a grin, aware of Snowy watering his garden close by. Keep it simple, keep it light. Just the warm, familiar teasing she’d missed in his absence.
‘If I’d known you were coming back today, I would have volunteered you for the regional planning meeting in Moree tomorrow.’
His eyes sparkled. ‘Phew. I’ve had a lucky escape then. Who drew the short straw?’
‘Well, since Jo’s on light duties and not allowed to drive, I got the long straw, the middle straw and the short straw.’
‘Jo’s back at work?’
‘Yes, working half-days. But it’s not quite three months since her craniotomy so she’s not allowed to drive yet.’
‘So you’ve been doing all three of our jobs, all this time.’
‘Yeah. You owe me. Although I suppose if you’ve been off saving the world, that might cancel the debt, soldier.’
His cheerful, relaxed expression slipped and the light in his eyes dimmed for a moment before he gestured with a jerk of his thumb towards the house. ‘Come on in and tell me the news while I dump my gear, and then I’ll shout you dinner at the pub.’
Back at his LandCruiser, he grabbed his kit bag with one hand and then slid a metal case out. His rifle. Invaluable in feral animal campaigns. She’d usually managed to put out of her mind that in the army, his targets didn’t have four legs. His past army service had been abstract in her head, something she rarely considered in detail, because on the few occasions he’d spoken of his experiences he’d sounded carefree, as if his deployments, even in Iraq and Afghanistan, were barely more adventurous than an outback camping trip. But then he’d gone again, between one shift and the next, with scarcely a word of explanation to her. Nods and murmurs from senior National Parks staff who’d known him longer suggested there was more to his role than he’d ever let on, leaving her with the distinct impression that he’d been – was still – a commando with significant experience in covert operations.
No wonder he was such a valuable member of the volunteer SES squad and a capable National Parks ranger, especially in dealing with the law-enforcement aspect of their roles. Maybe the signs had always been there, and she just hadn’t recognised them.
But the fact that he was still in the army – that changed things, changed how she felt, although she’d spent the past few weeks trying fruitlessly to put a finger on how and why. Not that there was any point in trying to understand it, since she mattered so little to him that he’d not contacted her once since his abrupt departure. They were friendly colleagues in a small community, nothing more. So she’d keep things at that level.
She grinned with a good imitation of her usual cheekiness. ‘Well, since you apparently couldn’t remember my email address all this time, I’ll let you shout me dinner.’
She’d not often seen him discomfited, but now he grimaced. ‘Sorry. Not much internet access where I’ve been.’
Obviously not a local army base, then. But he headed towards the house without any further explanation. He set down his bag and the rifle case to unlock the front door and from behind she saw the sudden wariness tensing his spine as he pushed it open.
The odour hit her. Pungent, nauseating, dead. ‘Sheesh, Simon, did you leave dead fish in your —’
‘No.’ His hand moved towards his hip, reaching instinctively for a sidearm that wasn’t there. ‘Keep back, Erin.’

Deep in the Australian countryside, a reclusive community hides a deadly secret.
Life is falling into place for National Parks ranger Erin Taylor. She has a job she loves, she's falling for her colleague, Simon - and she is finally leaving the past behind. Until a woman is murdered.

But the victim is not just any woman - she's Simon's wife, Hayley. The wife he's not mentioned to Erin. The wife he's not seen in fourteen years. On the edge of the national park, the alternative lifestyle community of 'Simple Bliss' denies knowing Hayley, but Simon and Erin suspect otherwise.

As Simon uncovers shocking details about the group, Erin is drawn further into their midst and finds a web of lies, decades old - and a charismatic, manipulative, dangerous cult leader who will let nothing and no-one stand in his way. On the wrong side of a river in flood that has become a lethal torrent, Erin and Simon must race to expose the truth and prevent a tragedy.

Storm Clouds can be purchased from the following links:

Aussie Book Review: Lost & Found by Brooke Davis

“At seven years old, Millie Bird realises that everything is dying around her. She wasn't to know that after she had recorded twenty-seven assorted creatures in her Book of Dead Things her dad would be a Dead Thing, too.

Agatha Pantha is eighty-two and has not left her house since her husband died. She sits behind her front window, hidden by the curtains and ivy, and shouts at passers-by, roaring her anger at complete strangers. Until the day Agatha spies a young girl across the street.

Karl the Touch Typist is eighty-seven when his son kisses him on the cheek before leaving him at the nursing home. As he watches his son leave, Karl has a moment of clarity. He escapes the home and takes off in search of something different.

Three lost people needing to be found. But they don't know it yet. Millie, Agatha and Karl are about to break the rules and discover what living is all about.”

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" – Lao-tzu

How old were you when you experienced your first “dead thing”? Well, while Millie Bird may have experienced it several times over (twenty-seven times in fact) in her short life of seven years, it is the twenty-eighth entry in her Book of Dead Things that has her questioning everything in her young life – the death of her father.

After his death, life just seems to go downhill for her – her mother isn’t providing answers to the questions that she asks (actually she’s hardly conversing with Millie at all) and then one day she suddenly packs Millie up, takes her to a local department store, orders her to stay put and disappears, leaving poor Millie to fend for herself. Not to be deterred and insistent that her mother will eventually find her, she leaves handwritten notes laying around telling her mother were she is – “in here mum”; “be right back mum”!

Enter Karl The Touch Typist.  Still grieving the loss of his wife Evie and, having recently escaped the confines of the old-age home where his son had placed him so that he can live the life he wants, eighty-seven year old Karl meets “Just Millie” in the café of the department store on her “second day of waiting”. Unfortunately, an old man befriending a young girl with a mannequin in tow is cause for serious concern amongst the patrons and security of the store and he soon finds himself in a dire situation.

With Karl having promised to find her when he was being carted off, Millie heads back to her house only to come to the notice of her neighbour, Agatha Pantha. It’s been seven years since the temperamental eighty-two year old Agatha left her home, preferring her own company and sitting in her various “chairs” at her window yelling at inanimate objects and shouting vile insults at anyone that walks past. She’s therefore not happy when she sees Millie making her way over with a piece of paper in her hand but, when the girl asks her to tell her what it says, she does so and then asks her to leave her alone. By the next afternoon, the fact that the child hasn’t eaten and that her situation has begun to trouble Agatha very much, sees her gathering up her courage to head over to Millie’s empty house to see if she can help.

From here the two strike up a tentative friendship based on the fact that Agatha is unhappy that Millie has been abandoned. Karl, of course, finally manages to find them, after his own wacky experience with two teenagers who offer him a lift, and the three embark on a madcap adventure in search of Millie’s mum.

Whatever I was expecting when I picked up this book, it wasn’t what I got – it was even better!

Brooke Davis has given us a thought-provoking story on life, death, being young, growing old, loneliness, sadness, grief, loss and hope, all through the eyes of three quirky characters with whom I immediately empathised – with Millie for being abandoned so ungraciously at her young age and for all the answers she is searching for; Karl for his gentle, loving nature and beautiful memories of the wife he loved so dearly; and Agatha who has become so embittered by life itself that she can see no good in it.

The chance meetings with other side characters along the way add a dose of whimsy as well as humour to the already humorous dialogue between our three main characters and I couldn’t help but reflect on all the aspects that Brooke is trying to get across to her audience such as: the different levels of loneliness we experience through all life’s phases; how difficult it must be for the older generation to try and understand the younger generation; but, mostly, how their journey allows them to channel their emotions and experiences into making a difference to the life of one little girl.

If you’re looking for a story that will make you fall in love with life again and can find it in yourself to  look past the smattering of black humour within the narrative, you will find a “happy-sad” story with endearing characters who, while searching for answers to the lives they have lost will ultimately be led to finding themselves again.

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

About the Author

Brooke Davis grew up in Bellbrae, Victoria, and attempted to write her first novel when she was ten years old. It was a genre-busting foray into the inner-workings of a young teenage girl’s mind – Anne of Green Gables meets The Baby-sitters Club meets Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” – titled Summer Sadness. Fortunately it remains unfinished, as she quickly realised she didn’t know the first thing about sadness, or being a teenager.

Once she left those teenage years behind, she completed her Honours degree in writing at the University of Canberra, winning the Allen & Unwin Prize for Prose Fiction, the Verandah Prose Prize, and the University Medal.

Brooke recently completed her PhD in creative writing at Curtin University in Western Australia and, while there, she was awarded the 2009 Bobbie Cullen Memorial Award for Women Writers, the 2009 AAWP Prize for Best Postgraduate Paper, and the 2011 Postgraduate Queensland Writing Prize.

She loves to sell other people’s books, and is sometimes allowed to do that at two very nice bookshops: one in Perth and one in Torquay.

Lost & Found is her first proper novel.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Aussie Book Review: Akarnae (The Medoran Chronicles #1) by Lynette Noni

“With just one step, sixteen-year-old Alexandra Jennings’ world changes—literally.

Dreading her first day at a new school, Alex is stunned when she walks through a doorway and finds herself stranded in Medora, a fantasy world full of impossibilities. Desperate to return home, she learns that only a man named Professor Marselle can help her… but he’s missing.

While waiting for him to reappear, Alex attends Akarnae Academy, Medora’s boarding school for teenagers with extraordinary gifts. She soon starts to enjoy her bizarre new world and the friends who embrace her as one of their own, but strange things are happening at Akarnae, and Alex can’t ignore her fear that something unexpected… something sinister… is looming.

An unwilling pawn in a deadly game, Alex’s shoulders bear the crushing weight of an entire race’s survival. Only she can save the Medorans, but what if doing so prevents her from ever returning home?

Will Alex risk her entire world—and maybe even her life—to save Medora?”

When Alex arrives at her new boarding school, one where she will be spending the next nine months whilst her parents are working overseas, she’s not quite sure it’s a place she wants to be. With feelings of dread at the thought of trying to make friends with the students who appear to be anything but friendly, she takes her enrolment papers to the principal’s office but when she knocks on his door and opens it, she is tumbled headlong into the parallel world of Medora where she instead becomes enrolled at the Akarnae Academy – a school for the gifted.

Almost immediately she makes friends with two of Akarnae's students, Jordan and Bear, with whom she shares some great adventures all the while learning about her new world and the gift that she is yet to discover. But, it’s not long before she realises that there is a dangerous enemy lurking in the shadows of Akarnae waiting for her to let down her guard and, together with Jordan, Bear and the Library, Alex must find it in herself to repel the enemy’s advances in her somewhat unpredictable environment as she searches for the elusive headmaster who is the only one able to help her find her way back to Freya.

From instant food, bubble doors, virtual reality movies, Shadow Walkers, colour-changing tiles, a fall from the clouds and a sentient library, Medora will suck you into its world of wonder and secrets as Alex fights against a bitter enemy to save the people she has come to love.

The first in the five-part Medoran Chronicles series, Akarnae is a magical fantasy that introduces us to Alexandra (Alex) Jennings and her adventures in Medora. I have no doubt that there will be many comparisons to Harry Potter (perhaps even to certain elements of those ever-loved children’s classics Through the Looking Glass and Chronicles of Narnia) but, this aside, I feel that it has its own fantasy appeal in a fantastic new world with lots of mystery, intrigue and a few teachings of its own.

Lynette Noni’s debut novel invites us to take part in this thrilling new fantasy series focusing on Alex’s physical, emotional and moral growth as she is thrust into a new world with unknown dangers, thereby presenting its own challenges and the endless possibilities of further growth for her character.

The fantasy world that Lynette has built is, despite its magical elements, not all that different to Alex’s real world of Freya and the narrative is laden with some great positive themes likes teamwork, perseverance, respect, gaining self-confidence, relationships and building friendships. CEO of Pantera Press, Alison Green had this to say about it:

“With the current YA focus on brutal dystopias, we were thrilled to find a new narrative, full of youthful surprise yet offering difficult physical challenges, emotional consequences and magical foundations … young readers embarking on their own overwhelming transitions – starting high school, completing studies or entering the work force – will easily relate to Alex and the tough decisions she has to make.”

I can’t help but agree with her!

This is a great coming-of age story and Lynette has created very relatable characters in both her protagonist and the secondary characters of Jordan and Bear – characters who I have no doubt many young adults (and even adults) will connect with. Alex is intelligent but adventurous and her and her friends have some great fun doing some seriously silly stuff, testing their limits and using their skills and reasoning to get out of the situations they find themselves in as she tries to find her latent gift ... and her way back to Freya.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Alex’s story and her first encounters with Medora and can’t wait to see where the series will take me next. So, if you've been longing for more adventure of a magical kind, one that is a quick and easy read and able to keep you engaged and entertained, then I highly recommend you go ahead and "embrace the wonder".

I wish to thank Pantera Press for providing me with a hard copy of this novel.

About the Author

Lynette Noni grew up on a farm in outback Australia until she moved to the beautiful Sunshine Coast and swapped her mud-stained boots for sand-splashed flip-flops. She has always been an avid reader and most of her childhood was spent lost in daydreams of far-off places and magical worlds. She was devastated when her Hogwarts letter didn't arrive, but she consoled herself by looking inside every wardrobe she could find, and she's still determined to find her way to Narnia one day. While waiting for that to happen, she creates her own fantasy worlds and enjoys spending time with characters she meets along the way.

She  loves to chat with her readers so feel free to connect with her online at:

- her website
- Facebook
- Twitter

Monday, 23 March 2015

Monday Exposé: Noise by Brett Garcia Rose

For all you Thriller/Mystery aficionado's out there, today on Monday Exposé I'm featuring Noise by author, Brett Garcia Rose.

Before I go ahead though, I'd just like to thank Book Publicity Services for providing me with all the relevant information on this novel.

Noise is a thriller/mystery centering on a deaf character's search for his missing sister. It's short, violent, but ultimately it's about love.

Here's the blurb:

"The world is an ugly place, and I can tell you now, I fit in just fine.

Lily is the only person Leon ever loved. When she left a suicide note and disappeared into a murky lake ten years ago, she left him alone, drifting through a silent landscape.

Or did she?

A postcard in her handwriting pulls Leon to the winter-cold concrete heart of New York City. What he discovers unleashes a deadly rage that has no sound.

A grisly trail of clues leads to The Bear, the sadistic Russian crime lord who traffics in human flesh. The police - some corrupt, some merely compromised - are of little help. They don't like Leon's methods, or the mess he leaves in his wake.

Leon is deaf, but no sane person would ever call him disabled. He survived as a child on the merciless streets of Nigeria. He misses nothing. He feels no remorse. The only direction he's every know is forward.

He will not stop until he knows.

Where is Lily?"

Brett Garcia Rose is a writer, software entrepreneur and former animal rights soldier and stutterer. He is the author of two books, Noise and Losing Found Things and his work has been published in Sunday Newsday MagazineThe Barcelona ReviewOpiumRose and ThornThe Battered SuitcaseFiction AtticParaphilia and other literary magazines and anthologies. His short stories have won the Fiction Attic's Short Memoir Award (Second Place), Opium's Bookmark CompetitionThe Lascaux Prize for Short Fiction and have been nominated for the Million Writer's AwardBest of the Net and The Pushcart Prize.

He travels extensively, but calls New York City home.

Published in June 2014, Noise is available for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Here's an excerpt:

The sounds I cannot hear: The whistle of the hammer as it arcs through the air. The wailing of pain and the begging of The Bear.The dripping of blood from thawing meat onto the wet concrete floor. The beautifully crude threats.
My own hideous voice.
I drag The Bear into a walk-in-freezer by the hook sunk through his shoulder and toss him into a corner on the floor. When I reenter the freezer, dragging the oak table behind me, The Bear is hard at work on the hook, trying to muscle it out, but it’s sunk deep, through the tendons. Hope is adrenaline, fear masks pain, begging helps no one.
I yank him up by the hook and then hold his hands outstretched, one at a time, as I nail his wrists to the table with railroad spikes. I put all of my 240 pounds behind the hammer, but even so, it takes several swings. His body shakes, the nails sink further into the wood, his face is pain. He screams, but I cannot hear.
The building above burns a deep blue hue with my smuggled-in accelerants.The sound of the hammer into The Bear. The pain in his eyes. I have never seen so much hatred. It is beautiful to me, to reach this center, this uncomplicated base, to disassemble the past and honor a new history. It is another film, also homemade and rough, an overlay, an epilogue. The Bear is broken but I have spared his face, and to see those eyes, that is what I needed; to see his hatred flow into me, my own eyes sucking down the scum like bathtub drains. His life whirls into me and I taste the fear, the hope, the sharp sting of adrenaline pumping and the reeking muck of despair. His pain soothes me, a slow, thick poison. We will all die.
I know it now; I am a broken man. I always was. I imagine Lily watching me, Lily eeping score, making lists, balancing all. As a child from far away, she was the queen, even more so than her mother. But she didn’t survive. The world was not as we had imagined, not even close. The world is a cruel, bastard place, Lily cold and lost somewhere, me hot and bleeding and swinging my hammer. Life as it is, not as we wish it to be.
The sounds I cannot hear: The laughter of the watchers. The groan of my sister as The Bear cums inside of her, pulling her hair until the roots bleed. The Bear screams and shits himself inside the dark freezer. Lily’s wailing and cursing and crying. I scream at The Bear with all my mighty, damaged voice, swinging the hammer at his ruined hands, hands that will never again touch anyone. Lily at the end, beaten and pissed on and begging to die.
Lily is dead. I am dead. It will never be enough.
I remove the stack of photos from my wallet that I’d printed at the Internet café a lifetime ago and place them face down on the table in front of The Bear. I draw an X on the back of the first photo and turn it over, laying it close to the pulp of his ruined hands.
The Bear offers me anything I want. An animal can feel pain but cannot describe or transmit it adequately. The Bear both is and is not an animal. I lack hearing, so the Bear cannot transmit his experience to me unless I choose to see it. His pain is not my pain, but mine is very much his. I swing the hammer into his unhooked shoulder, and then I draw another X and flip another photo.
His lips move, and I understand what he wants to know. Five photos.
In my notepad, I write: you are a rapist fucking pig. I put the paper into the gristle of his hands and swing the hammer against the metal hook again. It’s a sound I can feel.
Anything, The Bear mouths. He is sweating in the cold air of the freezer. Crying. Bleeding.
In my pad, I write: I want my sister back. I swing the hammer claw-side first into his mouth and leave it there. His body shakes and twitches.
I turn over his photo and write one last note, tearing it off slowly and holding it in front of his face, the handle of the hammer protruding from his jaw like a tusk. You are number four. There are a few seconds of space as the information stirs into him and I watch as he deflates, the skin on his face sagging like a used condom. He knows what I know.
I turn over the last photo for him. I turn it slowly and carefully, sliding it toward him. Victor, his one good son, his outside accomplishment, his college boy, the one who tried to fuck him and they fucked my sister instead.
I remove another mason jar from my bag, unscrewing the metal top and letting the thick fluid flow onto his lap. I wipe my hands carefully and light a kitchen match, holding it in front of his face for a few seconds as it catches fully. He doesn’t try to blow it out. He doesn’t beg me to stop. He just stares at the match as the flame catches, and I drop it onto his lap.
The Bear shakes so hard from the pain that one of his arms rips from the table, leaving a skewer of meat and tendon on the metal spike. I lean into his ear, taking in his sweet reek and the rot of his bowels and, in my own hideous voice, I say:
"Wait for me."

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Aussie Book Review: Nest by Inga Simpson

"A gripping and thought-provoking novel about finding the lost child in all of us.

Once an artist and teacher, Jen now spends her time watching the birds around her house and tending her lush sub-tropical garden near the small town where she grew up. The only person she sees regularly is Henry, who comes after school for drawing lessons. When a girl in Henry's class goes missing, Jen is pulled back into the depths of her own past. When she was Henry's age she lost her father and her best friend Michael - both within a week. The whole town talked about it then, and now, nearly forty years later, they're talking about it again. Everyone is waiting - for the girl to be found and the summer rain to arrive. At last, when the answers do come, like the wet, it is in a drenching, revitalising downpour..."

Suffering the effects of her broken relationship and the recent death of her mother, Jen Anderson has recently found herself back in the town where she grew up on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Preferring her own company and the beauty of the forest and the bird life that surrounds her dilapidated cottage instead of the gossip-mongering of the townsfolk, her only visitor is a young high school student by the name of Henry to whom she gives art lessons.

When Henry arrives for his lesson one day after school, she notices that he is not his usual self and asks him what is wrong. He tells her that his friend, Caitlin, has disappeared and has been reported missing.

Immediately, thoughts of a twenty-year old mystery are brought to mind – thoughts of her best friend Michael who also disappeared without a trace and her father who abandoned them – and she finds herself examining her own feelings of loss and disenchantment with the life she has lived.

If you’ve ever sat in the midst of a thicket of trees and just given yourself up to the overall beauty and sounds surrounding you, you will love this new novel by Inga Simpson which, I have no doubt, will also inspire you to learn more about our beautiful Australian flora and fauna.

A novel which I considered to be quite timely and like salve for my soul during a time in which I was experiencing a great deal of stress in my life, the themes which wind their way through the narrative such as abandonment, mental illness, loss and regret resonated strongly within me as I found myself immersed in Jen’s gentle soliloquy both to nature and herself.

Inga’s words meander like some of the paths that Jen takes in the novel and, although at times her thoughts can be slightly dark, Inga balances this out with the beautiful birds, scenery and happiness that comes of Jen savouring the sights and sounds that she wakes up to every day, almost like opening a new gift but at the same time building her own nest.

Her skilful use of dialogue as well as Jen’s reflections indirectly offer up details about what has happened in her life so far which is made even more compelling by her use of third person narration.

Long-listed for the 2015 Stella Prize, Nest abounds in vivid description and detail, from Jen’s remembrances to the flora and fauna which surrounds her, whilst Inga’s beautiful prose with poetic nuances, draws you in to the world that she inhabits.

Richly atmospheric and enchanting, Nest is, at its heart, a story about real life – survival, hope, love, disappointment and complex relationships – and how we shuffle the cards that life has dealt us.

I wish to thank Hachette Australia for providing me with a hard copy of this fine novel.

About the Author

Inga has a PhD in Creative Writing from the Queensland University of Technology. She has published academic and non-fiction articles, including in Clues, Writing Queensland, and the Dictionary of Literary Biography.

Her first career was as a professional writer and researcher, including stints for federal Parliament and the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

Mr Wigg, her first novel, was published as a result of participating in the 2011 QWC/Hachette Manuscript Development Program and was short-listed for an Indie Award and long-listed for the Dobbie Award.

She is also the winner of the 2012 Eric Rolls Nature Writing Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2009 Queensland Premier’s Award for best emerging author. Her short story, "In the Wake of the Raftsmen" was published in the Review of Australian Fiction (Vol 5, issue 3).

Inga lives among trees in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. She is currently completing a phD in English Literature through the University of Queensland, looking at Australian nature writing and also leads writing retreats, workshops and offers a handful of mentorships each year through Olvar Wood.

Aussie Book Review: Hindsight by Melanie Casey

"Cass Lehman has a terrifying ‘gift’... She sees what others can’t...

The youngest in a family of extraordinary women with supernatural talents, Cass is cursed with the not-so-sexy gift of seeing the past... but not just any past; she sees death.

Fo years she's hidden herself away in her family home. Now desperate for a better life, she ventures into sleepy Jewel Bay, only to stumble upon murder and mayhem and a killer at large who's been lurking in their midst...

Taking a chance, Cass volunteers to assist Detective Ed Dyson with the investigation. Will Cass be able to save the latest victim... and herself?

Hindsight is the first in a crime thriller series featuring Cass Lehman and Detective Ed Dyson."

The first in a crime series featuring Cass Leham and Detective Ed Dyson, Hindsight introduces us to these two polar opposites.

Twenty-eight year old Cass Lehman is and has been in self-imposed exile at her family home in Adelaide for the majority of her adult life, due to her gift of “retrocognition” which allows her to experience the last moments before death of a victim if she stands on the spot where that person died – not something that any of us would like to experience, I’m sure!

As she's getting older, she's realised that her gift is making her feel shackled, resenting the fact that she has no life, no future prospects and worrying that she will grow old with only her mother and grandmother for company. Although her mother and grandmother have assisted her in mapping out the areas in their town where she is safe, she constantly longs to be a normal contributing member of society (with a life) without having to worry about going into unknown territory in case she steps on a spot which will have her somewhat paralysing gift rise up and leave her weakened.

When the police find a woman’s body in a crate and Cass reads about the case, she decides that this might be the step she needs to take to reclaim her life and approaches the lead detective, Ed Dyson to offer her assistance.

Ed is an extremely troubled detective. Two years before, his wife Susan who was pregnant with their unborn child, disappeared never to be seen again. The only person who seems able to keep him on the straight and narrow is his partner, Phil. When he’s approached by Cass and learns that she is a psychic, he’s skeptical to say the least (and I won't mention his partner's reaction) but, when their only witness is found dead before he can corroborate with the police, Ed decides that perhaps he should give Cass a chance.

It’s only later when Cass discovers the link between all the missing women that Ed and Phil have been missing in their after-hours investigation that he realises they have a serial killer on their hands and it becomes a race against time as they try to catch the killer before they strike again.

When Cass finds herself in the clutches of this methodical sadist, Ed is put on the clock to find her before the unthinkable happens.

I love a good crime thriller but give me one that features a psychic and I'm hooked.The reason for this is that my own mother has psychic tendencies so the subject has always fascinated me. In saying that, I didn't feel that Melanie Casey took this subject-matter over the top and Cass’ gift is portrayed very subtly, never taking over the narrative.

For those who feel they wouldn't enjoy a touch of the paranormal, I can sincerely say that Melanie enhances the story to give her readers a fabulous crime novel with a twisted serial killer at its heart and her writing drew me into the world of Cass and Ed who are well-rounded and relatable characters with whom I felt an immediate connection.

Cass is a beautiful person, loving, caring, but struggling to come to terms with a future that may not be hers for the taking. Her personality shines right through the narrative while her visions, which can be horrendous and take it out of her completely, will have the reader advancing in the story with some truly bone-chilling moments.

Ed is a tortured soul. Struggling to come to terms with the disappearance of his wife and unborn child, he’s just about at the end of his tether and doesn’t need some meddling psychic to come into the mix. His hurt and anguish is portrayed very well in his attempt to discover what happened and I couldn’t help but think about other real-life cases that have featured in the media and the families of those victims who have never been able to get the closure they need.

Melanie offers up only bits and pieces of information about the serial killer right through, thereby cranking up the tension and I found myself turning the pages trying to discover who this killer was. The narrative continued to proceed at a gripping pace, culminating in a spine-tingling climax where I found myself rooting for both her hero and heroine in their race against time

This debut is testament to Melanie’s talent as a writer and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us in the next instalment featuring Cass and Ed, Craven, which was released in June 2014.

If you’re looking for a crime thriller with a gutsy heroine, a tortured hero, grit, intensity, a hint of more to come and just a sprinkling of a believable extra-sensory gift, then I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this novel which is a promising start to a great new series.

I wish to thank Pantera Press for providing me with a hard copy of this novel. 

About the Author

Melanie Casey was born and lives in South Australia with her two young children and her husband (who didn’t know he was marrying a writer when he walked down the aisle).

After studying English Literature and Classical Studies, Melanie shifted to Law, and now works in government.

A chance meeting with a high school English teacher in the supermarket made Melanie realise that she should be doing what she’d always loved, writing! Another period of study, this time at the Professional Writing School of Adelaide’s College of the Arts ensued, helping Melanie acquire the skills she needed to put her plan into action.

Hindsight is her debut novel, the first in a crime series featuring Cass Lehman and Detective Ed Dyson.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Book Review: Fly In Fly Out by Georgina Penney

“After months working on an oil rig in the Atlantic Ocean, engineer Jo Blaine can't wait to get home. Her job is tough, and she is desperate for some long-overdue girl time. When she walks through her front door to find an unexpected man in her house, she's tempted to head straight back out to sea.

Stephen Hardy has always felt guilty for the part he played in ruining Jo's leaving home years earlier and jumps at the chance to make amends.  It takes some fast talking, but he finally convinces Jo to let him look after her apartment and her giant cranky cat while she's away on the rig. And by the time she leaves for her next shift, they're both eagerly anticipating her return.

But balancing family and friends with a new relationship when you're never around is tricky, and Jo is also keeping secrets about her past.  After a lifetime of taking care of herself, Jo isn't used to sharing her problems – especially when they involve her messy family history. Picking up the pieces every time she comes home is getting harder, and Jo begins to wonder if a fly-in fly-out lifestyle is really worth it . . .”

It’s no secret that a lot of Australians have cottoned on to the FIFO way of life. In fact, my husband brought the subject up some time ago but when we actually sat down and thought about it, we realised that it’s not a lifestyle that we wanted to experience. It’s no fun being married with two children while your other half only spends a few weeks of the year at home and neither would it be ideal for those singles out there trying to embark on a new relationship.

And so it is with Jo Blaine. After years of being an engineer on the oil rigs with only a week or two every few months to spend at home, a brush from the past makes her start wondering if it’s all worth it.

Tired and cranky after a fair few flights from Mauritania to WA, she arrives home only to trip over a huge pair of work boots and then find herself face to face (well, almost) with a butt-naked man.

Stephen Hardy is the last man she expected to see in her home but unbeknownst to her, her sister, Jo, and best friend, Scott, had arranged for Stephen to house-sit and look after her cat Boomba (who has no idea where his loyalties should lie) for her whilst she was away. He’s a part of her past that she’d rather forget as it dredges up too many painful memories of her childhood but she allows him the benefit of the doubt and eventually comes to an arrangement for him to continue his house-sitting.

Stephen, on the other hand (now that he’s all grown up), is still quite cut-up by the way he treated her and Amy when they were teenagers and is hell-bent on trying to make amends. He just didn’t expect “Rabies” Blaine to have turned into the woman she is today.

As they rekindle their acquaintance which leads to them striking up a passionate love affair, the fact that she is no longer enamored with her job, the challenges of long-distance love and family issues become all too much for Jo. With a shadow from her past rising up to threaten her existence, she’s got to make a decision about revealing her past to this man she has irrevocably fallen in love with.

Not having read Irrepressible You, Georgina Penney’s first novel, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but now that I’ve read Fly In Fly Out, I can without a doubt say that I’m a fan!

Georgina has created extremely realistic characters in Jo and Stephen who are dealing with contemporary issues that we can probably all relate to and I couldn’t help but root for them as they tried to work through past hurts to make their relationship work. I was extremely sympathetic to Jo’s dilemma regarding whether or not to reveal her past to Stephen, and Georgina has an easy way of bringing Jo’s insecurities across loud and clear. It can’t be easy to speak about such shameful and painful memories but thankfully the secondary characters of Amy and Scott (who is the kind of male friend that every girl needs) go a long way in supporting her both throughout her life and with the situation she has found herself in.

Whilst this is a fantastically humorous story, with plenty of great one-liners, laugh-out-loud moments, and steamy sex scenes (one in particular just about knocked my socks off), there’s a slightly darker thread running through, giving us a story about learning to trust others, forgiving yourself and realising that sometimes, no matter how much you’d like to help a person you love, if that person doesn’t want to help themselves, there’s nothing you can do.

For all you contemporary addicts out there, I wouldn’t knock this one back as being a frivolous romance. It’s an engaging story with a lot of substance, relatable characters and an air of suspense which I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

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

About the Author

Georgina Penney first discovered romance novels when she was eleven and has been a fan of the genre ever since. It took her another eighteen years to finally sit in front of a keyboard and get something down on the page but that's alright, she was busy doing other things until then.

Some of those things included living in a ridiculous number of towns and cities in Australia before relocating overseas to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Brunei Darussalam.

In between all these travels, Georgina managed to learn to paint, get herself a Communication and Cultural Studies degree, study Psychotherapy and learn all about Hypnotherapy. In the early days she even managed to get on the IT roller coaster during the early noughties boom, inexplicably ending the ride by becoming the registrar of a massage and naturopathy college. There was also PhD in the mix there somewhere but moving to Saudi Arabia and rediscovering the bodice ripper fixed all that.

Today she lives with her wonderful husband, Tony, in a cozy steading in the Scottish countryside. When she's not swearing at her characters and trying to cram them into her plot, she can be found traipsing over fields, gazing at hairy coos and imagining buff medieval Scotsmen in kilts (who have access to shower facilities and deodorant) living behind every bramble hedge.