Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Book Review | The Barbershop Girl | Georgina Penney


Originally published in February 2014 in ebook form as Irrepressible You, The Barbershop Girl is the re-launch of Georgina Penney’s debut novel, and is Amy Blaine’s story.

Successful comedian and writer, Ben Martindale, has been living in Perth for a few years thanks to a scandal involving his ex-girlfriend that’s recently blown out of control.

His ties to the UK are strong and he still writes a weekly column that is published there once a week, so when he meets the beautiful and sassy Amy, he soon finds himself making her the object of his irreverent humour.

Amy has made a place for herself in her small town running a barbershop and a hairdressing salon. Not too long ago she got herself out of a relationship that didn’t end well but when she meets Ben, and although she is wary, she thinks she may just have found "the one"!

I really enjoyed Georgina Penney’s two previous novels, Fly In Fly Out (my review here) and Summer Harvest (my review here) so I was quite eager to pick up this latest by her. Needless to say I was equally chuffed to see that I’d been quoted in the forepages.

Georgina is a writer that knows how to appeal to her reader’s emotions but you can also always depend on her to give you a story penned with plenty of sharp humour and quick wit, resulting in a book that is difficult to put down.

All her female characters are well drawn - strong but flawed women who have survived some of life’s lowest blows - and, Amy is no different. She has a really big heart, is sincere and genuine but her scars run far deeper than the one on her face.

Both Amy and Ben are vulnerable, just in different ways. While she hides her true self behind her make-up and clothing, Ben hides behind his words but the problem is that he doesn’t take the time to consider that other people are affected by what he says and does, even if it is only done in jest!

Initially, he comes across as a bit of a chauvinist and, although it would be really easy to dislike him, I could see where this stemmed from and how he used his words as armour, and Georgina is to be commended for portraying him like this and still being able to make him into a sympathetic character.

As always, there are darker undertones to the story in the form of a troublesome ex-boyfriend as well as a traumatic childhood that Amy and Jo hold close to their chests but in true Georgina style, she warms it up with a sexy romance that flings those bedroom doors wide open.

Quirky, original and funny, The Barbershop Girl is classic Georgina Penney, so if you enjoy stories with well-developed characters and good plot development served with a healthy dose of “saucy”, then this one is sure to entertain and add value to your reading list.

I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a hard copy for review.

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, Brunei Darussalam and currently, Scotland.

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 a 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 cosy 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.

About the Book

You don't become a notorious British celebrity without rubbing a few people the wrong way, so writer and comedian Ben Martindale has decamped to Australia until the media frenzy surrounding his latest scandal dies down. When he meets Amy Blaine, a perky blonde barber who dresses like a 1950s pin-up girl, he knows he's hit the comedy jackpot.

He begins to fill his weekly London column with snarky observations about her house, style, troubled family members and dramatic employees. It doesn't occur to him that Amy, who is slowly letting her guard down for the first time in her adult life, might be just a little bit upset when she finds out ...


ISBN:  9780143797333
Publisher:  Penguin Australia
Pub Date:  January 2017
RRP: $32.99

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

What's Your Story? | Aussie Author Round-Up | Penelope Janu


I’m delighted to welcome Australian author Penelope Janu to my blog today to celebrate the upcoming release of her debut novel, In At the Deep End which was published by Harlequin Mira on the 23rd January.

A few years ago, after a fulfilling career as a lawyer and legal academic, Penelope thought it was time to start writing the kinds of stories she’d always thought up but never written down. Not coincidentally, they were also the stories that she loved to read – stories that had little to do with corporations law or conveyancing contracts, and more to do with adventure, romance and happily ever afters.

On the pretext of improving her editing skills Penelope enrolled in a one year course … which ended up being a master’s degree in creative writing. Being surrounded by others who were passionate about writing was just the boost she needed to start her second career as an author.

Penelope is currently working on her second novel and has a third in the pipeline.

She has a wonderful husband and six fantastic children who, to varying degrees, are happy to proofread her scenes ... And when she’s not writing (or thinking about writing), she happily embraces (most of the time) the chaos of a busy household, work, a large garden, travel, and walking her dogs - Bella and Daphne.

Please feel free to pull up a stump and get to know Penelope.

Before I continue though, I’d just like to thank Anna from Alphabet Communications, for making this interview possible.

Penelope, it’s really lovely to welcome you to my blog.

It’s great to be here. Thank you for having me.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I think you’ve set everything out in your introduction! I have a background in law, I have a lovely family, and I’m very lucky to be starting out in a new career as an author.

Could you tell us in your own words what In At the Deep End is all about?

It’s the story of Harriet Scott, a well known Australian environmentalist, and Per Amundsen, a Norwegian naval commander and scientist. They meet in Antarctica when Per rescues Harriet from her sinking ship. They end up working together to a common end—to replace the ship. Harriet is a passionate and persuasive risk taker. Per is unfailingly competent and conventional—he likes to think things through. They think they have nothing in common but … actually they do!

What are the major themes in In At the Deep End?

Fear is one theme. Harriet has aquaphobia, a fear of the water, as the result of a trauma she has suffered. Per is afraid because, beneath his action hero persona, he’s as vulnerable as anybody else.

The environment and how issues like climate change affect it is another theme. I wanted to explore this in a factual rather than purely emotive way. As Harriet says at one stage, rising sea levels have devastating consequences for many nations, and humankind, no matter what the cause is.

In your opinion, what makes In At the Deep End stand out from the crowd?

The climate change aspect of the novel, and the historical aspect (Harriet and Per share the same surnames as Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott, the men leading the first and second teams that trekked to the South Pole) are fresh, and interesting. The fact the novel explores serious issues like loss and fear, yet is essentially light-hearted, will also, I hope, make it stand out.

Is there anything you’ve found particularly challenging in your writing?

In respect to the book, yes! It was challenging to present some of the content in an engaging way. As I got to know Harriet as a character, this aspect became easier. How would she get her message across as an environmentalist? I tried to tap into that. And challenges in writing? Finding the time to sit down and write—a common problem for writers, and trying to be positive about what I am writing (otherwise I’d never make enough time to finish the book).

When you began In At the Deep End, did you already know how it was going to end? Or did it unfold organically as you wrote?

I knew Harriet and Per would get together, but I wasn’t sure how that would be achieved. It was definitely an organic process, and the characters took control of their destinies on many occasions!

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

Oh my goodness! I have to limit this to one?

When I started writing creatively, one of my lecturers once said to me, ‘But why do I need to know that?’ I quite liked the chapter I’d laboured over for weeks, but she was entirely right, it wasn’t necessary to tell the story (or could be condensed into a paragraph or two).  After I’ve completed the first draft of a book, I apply this question. It doesn’t always result in me deleting what I’ve written—sometimes it leads to other scenes that clarify what I’ve written.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

That no matter how experienced or inexperienced a writer you are, you have a voice that is all your own. We all strive to be the best writers we can be through learning our craft, but what is likely to excite the interest of a publisher or reader is the writer’s unique voice. Have faith in your voice, and the stories you write.

If I think I’m a writer, how would I know for sure?

Last year I visited one of my daughters, who lived for two years in remote NT with an indigenous community. The artists in that community told beautiful and complex stories though their artwork. They were storytellers, which I think makes them writers. Telling your children imaginary stories at bedtime can make you a writer. ‘Writers’ are people who create characters, and build made-up worlds around them. Some of us write them down and some of us don’t (though sometimes it’s nice to write them down so others can enjoy them!).

What’s the best thing about being an author?

Spending time with my characters. And, as a new author, getting to know a warm, generous, insightful and talented community of readers and writers.

So now that we have the official part of the interview out of the way and, before we close, I thought we’d have a bit of fun!

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

Hmmm …  Question: I understand there’s going to be a movie of In at the Deep End, and that you’ve been invited to go to Antarctica, where the early scenes will be filmed. Will you go?’ Answer: Yes!!!!!!!

Beer, Wine or Cocktail?

Wine. Though I confess I can’t differentiate between cheap and expensive wines, so the house white wine will be fine, thanks.

Do you have a favourite motivational phrase?

I don’t. Maybe I should!

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

If my book club is anything like my writing group we’d be reading crime, literary fiction, children’s fiction, romance and contemporary fiction (our writing preferences). We are a diverse bunch of writers but happy to read anything, which is probably why we get on so well.

Give us three good to know facts about you – be as creative as you want!

I can’t watch violence on screen (it gives me nightmares) so I shut my eyes and put my hands over my ears (then I annoy my family by asking what happened).

I can walk on stilts.

I can’t help feeling like Mrs Bennet from Pride and Prejudice in wanting to see my two sons and four daughters happily settled. 

If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?

Happy!

Penelope, it’s been an absolute delight having you here today and I so look forward to reading your next novel. Before you go though, would you mind sharing with us an excerpt from In At the Deep End?

Chapter 1 of the book was published in on-line media all around Australia on Christmas Day as part of a ‘books to look out for in 2017’.


I'll also leave you with a bit more! Here is the start of Chapter 4—it’s the first time Harriet has seen Per since the Chapter 1 rescue. 

Excerpt:

The legal firm’s conference room is on the twelfth floor of a Macquarie Street building, and overlooks the Botanical Gardens and harbour. Even though I’m on time, the men are there already. 
When I was six years old, with no front teeth, we were in Venezuela. Mum was rowing across a piranha-infested river in a hollowed-out tree trunk to pick Dad up; he was abseiling sixty metres down a waterfall. I was photographed frowning. My lips were tight. The shot was used for publicity for years after that. I suspect I have the same expression now. 
Per gets to his feet first. He’s strongly built yet slender, with broad shoulders and narrow hips. His suit fits him well. When he shakes my hand he looks at my mouth, and then he stares into my eyes. My recollection of the night he treated me for hypothermia on the Torrens is hazy, but I remember the rescue vividly, and his gaze is just as intense today as it was in the storm. His eyes beneath his straight black brows are dark like charcoal. And he’s tanned, which accentuates the narrow white scar on his cheekbone.
I shake hands with the lawyer, James Talbot, and mediator, Neil Reid, and then we sit at the circular table. It has an aged oak grain and is at least two metres across. Per’s legs are long, but even stretched out they’re still quite a distance from mine. He’s opposite me. His lawyer is on my right. The mediator is on my left. 
I’m well prepared for this meeting because the legal studies teacher at school gave me a thorough briefing—on the mediation process, and the principles of negligence. I often sketch when I concentrate, so I pull out a small notebook and reach for my pen¬cil. I attempt to draw Per as the scowling Scar from The Lion King. When the good lion Simba takes shape I have to turn over the page.
‘Miss Scott, I’m concerned that you don’t have a lawyer with you,’ the mediator says. ‘Have you understood everything so far?’ 
‘Mediation enables the parties to a dispute to formulate solutions that have a greater likelihood of satisfying both parties,’ I say. ‘As opposed to litigation, in which the judge imposes a decision that may satisfy neither party.’
The mediator nods. 
‘Which is not to say that Commander Amundsen doesn’t have an excellent case in negligence, should the mediation not result in a satisfactory outcome,’ the lawyer says. 
My hair is in a ponytail. I tighten the band. Then I address the lawyer. ‘The inquiry’s findings into the sinking of The Watch were inconclusive. There was no clear case of negligence. And even if you proved it, I’d hardly be worth suing. All I own that has any value is my house, which is heavily mortgaged. Any money raised from its sale would disappear in legal costs. So why are we really here?’
Per sits back in his chair. He links his fingers together and puts his hands behind his head. He’s taken his suit jacket off, and the fabric of his white shirt stretches tightly across his chest. He has enough confidence for ten alpha males put together.
Introducing the Book

A quick-witted, contemporary romance about losing your cool.

What woman doesn’t love a real-life hero? Harriet Scott, for one. The fiercely independent daughter of famous adventurers, she grew up travelling the world on the environmental flagship The Watch. So when Harriet’s ship sinks in Antarctica and she has to be rescued by Commander Per Amundsen, an infuriatingly capable Norwegian naval officer and living breathing action hero, her world is turned upside down.

Like their namesakes, the original Scott and Amundsen who competed to reach the South Pole first, Per and Harriet have different ways of doing things. Per thinks Harriet is an accident waiting to happen; Harriet thinks Per is a control freak. But when Harriet realises that Per is the only one who can help her fund the new ship she desperately wants, she is forced to cooperate with him.

Per refuses to assist unless Harriet allows him to teach her to swim. But there is more to Harriet’s terrible fear of water than meets the eye. Can Harriet face her fears and come to terms with the trauma and loss of her past?  And will she begin to appreciate that some risks are well worth taking—and that polar opposites can, in fact, attract?

Where You Can Buy It From



Thursday, 12 January 2017

What's Your Story? | Aussie Author Round-Up | Georgina Penney


It’s lovely to have the wonderfully witty Georgina Penney with me on the blog today to celebrate the recent release of her third novel, The Barbershop Girl, which was published on the 3rd January.

Georgina 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, Brunei Darussalam and currently, Scotland.

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 a 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 cosy 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.

Please feel free to pull up a stump and get to know Georgina a bit more.

Before I continue though, I’d just like to thank Jacinta at Penguin Books Australia, for making this interview possible.

Georgina, it’s awesome to have you here on my blog. Welcome.

Thanks so much for having me drop by!

Please share a bit about yourself and your journey to becoming an author.

I’m someone who is absolutely fascinated by everything. A complete omnivore. I love travelling (but hate airports and the flying involved), and am always planning the next trip. I’ve always got at least four different books on the go, minimum. I love talking to strangers and hearing their stories, the weirder the better. And I have what is verging on a serious caffeine addiction!

As far as becoming an author, I’ve always wanted to be one but it wasn’t until my husband and I moved to Saudi Arabia that I had the time to put that first hundred words on the page. I haven’t stopped since!

Could you tell us in your own words what The Barbershop Girl is about?

To me, The Barbershop Girl is all about the image we present to the world versus who we are inside. My heroine, Amy goes through life with a sunny smile—even when she’s not feeling it—while my hero, Ben, goes through life steeped in sarcasm and humor. The fun of the story is how the two of them come together with bumps along the way!

What are the major themes in The Barbershop Girl?

There are a few. Self image is a big one. Sacrificing yourself to protect other’s feelings is another. I guess the main one for my hero Ben, is the peril of making assumptions. In his case, it’s assuming Amy will adore anything he writes about her without first asking if she’s fine with it.

What makes The Barbershop Girl stand out from the crowd?

Is it too big headed to say my characters are awesome? Ben and Amy turned up one day, jumped onto the page and I kind of can’t take credit for them because they pretty much wrote themselves.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Self doubt! But we all have that, don’t we? The first draft is always hard because I spend a lot of time forcing myself not to second guess the process.
When you begin a new novel, do you already know how it’s going to end? Or do your stories unfold organically as you write?

I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen past the page I’m writing! It’s wonderful but scary at the same time.

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

Your first draft is just you telling yourself the story. It’s not meant to be pretty.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Do it. Have a base 100 word a day goal and stick to it and in a year you’ll have your novel. If you don’t start now, you won’t have that novel in a year and you’ll still be in the same place. 

If I think I’m a writer, how would I know for sure?

If you write, you’re a writer. It’s just the noun attached to the verb. I don’t go in for all the ‘am I a writer?’ kerfuffle 😊

What’s the best thing about being an author?

Getting lost in different worlds and other people’s lives!

So now that we have the official part of the interview out of the way and, before we close, I thought we’d have a bit of fun!

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

What would you like to see changed in the interaction between readers and writers today?

I’d love to see both readers and writers remembering that everyone’s human and treating each other with respect and consideration. Readers need to remember that writers will read the reviews they post and writers need to remember that readers are entitled to their opinions. (It’s not such a fun Q&A but it’s something I think is so needed nowadays with so much meanness online.)

Beer, Wine or Cocktail?

Beer or red wine.

Do you have a favourite motivational phrase?

Do the f*cking work.

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

This is such a hard one! I’m hopeless at bookclubs because I think books are so personal. At the moment I’m obsessed with The Mitford Sisters. Particularly the collection of letters they wrote each over their lives. So that would probably be the thing I’d suggest. I love reading letters, they give such brilliant insight into character. 

Give us three good to know facts about you – be as creative as you want!

I’ll talk your ear off and probably be the loudest person in the room but I’m a complete introvert. So if anyone meets me at a function and I’m a bit crazy-eye or abrupt, it’s in no way personal. I’ve just hit my social saturation point and need a sit down in a corner with a cup of tea.

I have a thing for leopard print. It’s wonderful and tacky and makes everything look awesome as far as I’m concerned. I picked up this little fancy in Saudi Arabia and ever since my friends buy me leopard print things as a joke. I’ve got candles, slippers, rugs, jeans… okay you get the idea.

If I find a book I love, I’m like a two year old. I’ll re-read it five million times and never get tired.

If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?

How Did I Get Here Again? 

Georgina, it’s been an absolute delight having you here today and I so look forward to reading more of your novels. Before you go though, would you mind sharing with us an excerpt from The Barbershop Girl?

Ben jolted awake at the sound of a door opening at the back of the barbershop. He stifled a yawn. He had no idea how long he’d been sleeping. All he knew was that he now had company. Chatty company. 
A slightly breathless, melodic female voice pervaded Ben’s consciousness. ‘Good morning. Sorry to keep you waiting, Ben. It was Ben, right? I was just finishing up with a customer next door. I’ve brought you some homemade chocolate cake to make up for being late. Are we having coffee this morning?’ 
‘I just woke up. What do you think?’ Ben grumbled, rubbing his hands over his eyes. 
‘I think you’re one of those.’ 
The blonde, Amy if he remembered correctly, approached and placed a tray bearing a steaming mug of black coffee, a small jug of cream and a pot of sugar cubes along with a generous slice of chocolate cake on a small inbuilt ledge in front of his chair. 
‘Thank you.’ Ben looked up into a pair of china-doll blue eyes that were watching him warily, despite the smile stretching her fuchsia-painted lips. He paused momentarily to collect his thoughts. The woman was truly a polished piece of work, spectacular in fact. 
The fifties pin-up thing was obviously an ongoing theme. Today, her platinum hair was styled in a high, soft ponytail with loose C-shaped curls framing her features. The rest of her wasn’t so much cute as ridiculously sexy: a frilly, long-sleeved white blouse tucked into a navy below-the-knee pencil skirt that cupped her curvy little rump lovingly. Ben couldn’t help but notice what her impossibly high red heels did for her calves as she walked away from him to collect a small trolley. 
‘You’re welcome,’ she said over her shoulder.
‘What do you mean, I’m one of those?’ Ben demanded.

‘A grumpy bear in the morning. I’m used to your type.’
‘You’re not one of those disgusting morning people by any chance, are you? I heard you were a dying breed.’ Ben reached for the coffee, added a dash of cream and took an experimental sip. It was good. Very good. Much better than Alex’s dismal efforts, to say the least. 
‘Better?’ she asked, draping an olive-green cape around his shoulders and tying it behind his neck.

‘Marginally. This is good coffee.’ Ben took a larger sip, feeling the caffeine zapping his neurons to life and kickstarting his cha- risma. He risked cracking his first smile of the day and was rewarded with one in return. No dimples though. It was obvious he’d have to try harder for those after his behaviour the other night. 
‘I know. It’s fantastic, isn’t it? It comes from a little place down south in Margaret River. I order it especially.’ She smiled again, this time bringing out one dimple. For some inexplicable reason, the sight brought Ben out of his early-morning malaise like no coffee ever could. He couldn’t quite fathom the why of it, but he was experiencing the first rush of purely physical attraction he’d felt in years. 
Sex and relationships had come so easily to him for the past decade that he thought he’d long since graduated from the rampaging hormone-driven lust of his teens. Obviously he’d been wrong. That he felt it with this woman was perplexing and somewhat alarming in light of his recent disastrous, highly publicised affair. Been there done that, wanted a refund. But still . . . he hadn’t managed to earn both dimples yet. 
He broke off a chunk of cake and took a bite, moaning in pleasure the minute it hit his taste buds. ‘I take back the dying breed comment. There needs to be more of you. This is amazing.’ He reached for another piece, resisting the urge to lick his fingers. 
Her eyes twinkled. ‘Thanks.’ 
‘Is this for a special occasion or just because you knew I was coming?’ 
She laughed and the sound coursed through Ben’s system like quicksilver. 
‘No special occasion, but if it helps we can pretend. Is your birthday any time soon?’ 
‘Birthday. No, that was a few months back. I don’t celebrate those anyway.’ 
That earned him a shocked look. ‘Never?’ 
Ben shrugged, running his finger across the plate to pick up the last of the crumbs. ‘Never have. Not my thing.’ 
‘What about when you were a kid?’ 
‘Cake didn’t feature high on my parents’ list of priorities. Is this the scene of an inquisition specialising in torture through cake and coffee, or a barbershop?’ His words came out sharper than he intended and he covered his gaffe up with a grin, running his hand over his jaw. ‘Because as you can see, I currently resemble an extra in a low-budget detective flick.’ 
Other than an almost imperceptible pause, Amy didn’t seem affected by his bad manners. ‘Yeah, you do. What can I do for you today? I’m guessing just a shave since you keep this so short.’ She ran her hand over the top of his head, regarding him in the mirror, her head cocked to one side. 
Inexplicably, Ben fought the urge to purr. ‘A shave please. As long as you can assure me I’m safe.’ 
‘You ever hear the one about the fool who made fun of his barber?’ She arched a blonde eyebrow. 
‘No, is it funny?’ 
‘You’ll laugh your head off,’ she retorted. ‘Now finish your coffee while I get the torture implements ready.’ She met his eyes briefly in the mirror and he was struck once again by how blue hers were. They had to be contact lenses, surely. 
‘Order received and understood,’ he said dryly, draining his cup while surreptitiously watching her work. 

Friday, 6 January 2017

Book Review | The Drifter | Anthea Hodgson


Cate Christie can barely remember a time when she wasn’t a disappointment to her parents. Known as a party girl with no ambition and recently stricken with grief after her best friend, Brigit, died in a car accident, Cate is left feeling bereft and, in a hopeless effort to try and outrun the pain, goes to stay with her aging Great-Aunt Ida who is in desperate need of assistance around her large remote property.

It is here that she meets a drifter whose name may or may not be Henry.

Unbeknownst to Aunt Ida, Henry has been staying in one of the dilapidated sheds on the property but when Cate brings it to her attention, Ida is more than happy for him to stay and help out on the farm - and, so is Mac, Ida’s dog who has taken quite a shine to him.

Between sorting through Ida’s house which has become a hoarder’s paradise, odd jobs around the farm, helping Ida with her community obligations and trying to come to terms with the issues plaguing her, Cate forms a bond with Ida as time spent at the farm and in the little town begins to offer answers to her most troubling questions, pushing her to re-examine her own thoughts on life, death and everything in between.

I’ve been a fan of rural Australian fiction for some time now and one of the reasons is because the authors who pen these novels are so diverse in what they have to bring to their stories – Anthea Hodgson is no different.

Her main characters are unfalteringly real and are supported by a host of colourful secondary characters who drive the novel. Ida, in particular, is a hopelessly endearing character as is Mac, the dog. Henry, too, is flawed and the additional layers of intrigue relating to his reasons for drifting add both depth and complexity to the plot.

Anthea’s love for the country, landscape and community permeates the novel while the many snort-out-loud moments and stomach-clenching tenderness balance out the tragedy and loss that surrounds these characters.

The charm and heart of this novel is Cate’s great-aunt Ida who gives her something to look forward to but it’s the mental anguish that we see Cate going through and the mystery surrounding Henry’s presence that drive the story forward.

Told with emotional tenderness and filled with our trademark Aussie humour, wit and charm, Anthea’s writing is wholly readable, totally absorbing and thoroughly enjoyable, making The Drifter an engaging and uplifting read that captures the rural life and communities through the eyes of someone who has lived it.

With an intriguing plot and a great mixture of sexy and heartfelt romance, The Drifter heralds the arrival of a strong and fresh new voice in Australian rural literature. If you enjoy books by Karly Lane, you’ll definitely need to pick this one up!

I wish to thank the publisher, Penguin Australia, for providing me with a hard copy for review.

About the Author

Anthea Hodgson is a country girl from the WA wheatbelt. She likes all the usual stuff, from chocolate to puppies, and she loves a coffee, which probably played a large part in her move from the farm to Perth - although she thinks boarding school may have had something to do with it, too.

In her previous life she was child free and working as a radio producer, where the coffee was terrible but the people were great, and now she has three brilliant kids, including her husband, a job she loves even more than radio, and a two book deal with Penguin Random House.

Because, a few years ago Anthea found herself with nothing to do at three am, so she climbed out of bed and wrote her debut novel, The Drifter, in five weeks. Told you she likes coffee!

About the Book

‘Life isn’t just the breathing part, dear. It’s being here, with you.’

Cate Christie is a drifter, moving restlessly through her carefree youth until tragedy strikes, and her life is changed forever. She flees the city, seeking refuge at her great-aunt Ida’s farm in the wheatfields of Western Australia.

There she finds Henry, a swagman whose dark eyes and heavy heart hold secrets he’s not willing to share.

When Ida is no longer able to go on, Cate and Henry are put to the ultimate test. Together they must embrace the true meaning of family, community and love so they can put their own ghosts to rest.

The Drifter is a moving and highly original story from an exciting new voice in rural writing, about what it takes to make a good life, a good death – and how to capture the magic in-between.

ISBN:  9780143797241
Publisher:  Penguin Australia
Pub Date:  September 2016
RRP: $32.99

With a Swoosh and Flutter of Pages, 2016 is Out - My Top Ten Reads



Well, 2016 sure went out with a bang (or was that with a "swoosh and flutter of pages")!

It really was a great reading year and even though I'm still trying to catch up on outstanding 2016 reviews, I didn't read as much as in previous years. That being so, there were definitely some memorables as well as a few hot new favourites that popped up on my reading list and ... I also made my debut as a beta-reader.

In terms of lists, a Top Ten has to be one of the hardest for any book blogger to make but without any further rambling, here's my official list of  top ten reads in no particular order (click on the book title which will take you to the novel's Goodreads page):

The Drifter by Anthea Hodgson (review coming soon)

Told with emotional tenderness and filled with our trademark Aussie humour, wit and charm, Anthea's writing is wholly readable, totally absorbing and thoroughly enjoyable, making The Drifter an engaging and uplifting read that captures the rural life and communities through the eyes of someone who has lived it.

Third Time Lucky by Karly Lane (full review here)

With her vivid characterisation, magical sense of place, heartfelt emotion and a dash of hope where hope has been lost, Rural Fiction's Favourite Daughter gives us a moving story about family, betrayal, love and the power that the past can hold over our lives. You will laugh, you will cry but most of all, you won’t want to put this heart-warming Aussie Christmas tale down.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (full review here)

As usual, the intensity of Jodi’s storytelling is convincing and she never pulls any punches in the aspects it traverses, and I had real trouble putting this one down, even though there were times in Turk’s narrative where I found the story to be somewhat confronting, especially in relation to his and his wife’s prejudice against people who were “different” to them. ... Everyone has a story to tell and Jodi Picoult isn't afraid to tell it for them!

The Better Son by Katherine Johnson (full review here)

Katherine’s storytelling is breathtaking and you will find yourself immersed in the bold and majestic landscape as she takes the time to note the world and all its lush details around her characters, making it a fully formed character in its own right.

The Art of Keeping Secrets by Rachael Johns (full review here)

With all the messiness of real life, the intricacies and limits of marriage and the depth of love and friendship, The Art of Keeping Secrets is a complex and tumultuous story with moments of tear-jerking catharsis, for both the reader and the characters, as emotions and years of hidden feelings bubble to the surface.

Blame by Nicole Trope (full review here)

A compelling psychological drama about best friends caught between family and friendship, envy, truth and lies and what happens when the lies begin to unravel, Blame shifts between sheer anguish and an uneasy mystery, is brutally honest, thought-provoking and somewhat disquieting. Do yourself a favour and put it on your reading list.

The Other Side of the Season by Jenn J McLeod (full review here)

Well-paced and, with its fictional seaside setting of Watercolour Cove creating more than just mere ripples in the water and distorted reflections for everyone involved, this novel is ideal for those blustery wintry days when you want to curl up in a quiet sunny corner and let the queen of small-town stories leave her own memorable imprint on you.

A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester (full review here)

Touching on the jazz age, prohibition and the many economic and social changes taking place during the period, Natasha’s third novel is historically detailed and nuanced, capturing the world of speakeasies, glamour, exuberance and glitz of the 1920’s with beauty and elegance.

The Recipient by Dean Mayes (full review here)

As Dean takes you on an adrenaline-fuelled ride that twists to a kicker of a climax, ultimately uncovering a tale of human horror that is all too real, he will keep you guessing throughout as you try and figure out just who the good guys and the bad guys are. A word of warning – trust no-one as you race towards the very satisfying conclusion of this gripping psychological thriller!

Summer Harvest by Georgina Penney (full review here)

If you’re in the mood for a great rom-com with an issue at its heart that this accomplished author has delicately and sensitively dealt with, then Georgina Penney is definitely an author you need to seek out. Her books are guaranteed to give you lots of reading fun and leave you with hope in your heart and a smile on your face.

Here's to another fabulous year of reading!