Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Book Review | The House of Lies | Renee McBryde

"Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life" - JK Rowling

Since I started my blog, the doors on my world of reading have been cast wide open and I’ve found myself being drawn more and more towards memoirs – particularly those about people who have something important to share with the world.

I have come to believe that memoirs allow their authors to turn lives into stories that we can relate to as we explore another person’s life, giving us an in-depth understanding and insightfulness on issues that we may, or may not, have been subjected to ourselves. Perhaps it is my love of all things psychological, but memoirs satisfy my craving to understand the diversity of human experience.

So, needless to say, never has a book held me as absorbed as The House of Lies by Renee McBryde, not because I was “enjoying” it as such, but because I needed to find out what was going to happen and whether Renee was going to be ok!

In this affecting memoir, Renee, the daughter of a murderer, tells of her tumultuous childhood and her perilous journey towards self-acceptance as she searches through a past to discover where she came from and what her less than perfect beginnings meant to her own identity.

From the distraught little girl with adult burdens who didn’t know how she was going to survive without her Nanna, a bullied teenager hiding behind the persona of Ruby, to a disillusioned eighteen year old with a strong moral compass doing intro’s and cleaning part-time in a brothel in Canberra to finance her uni studies, Renee keeps the secrets of her past buried deep and fermenting away as she conceals her shattered innocence, unconventional childhood, judgments, beliefs, disgust and fear on a journey paved with guilt, self-loathing, shame and regret, eventually finding herself caught up in the cycle of both abuse and self-abuse.

Fuelled by her fear of loneliness, Renee is completely oblivious to the cycle of violence that eventually enters her life, and unknowingly sets the stage for it to flourish as she begins to believe the perpetrator’s lies, thinking that she deserves the treatment he metes out because of her past.

Loaded with powerful and shocking moments, along with some graphic scenes, this is a well-written albeit difficult and deeply personal coming-of-age story in which Renee unpacks her life and spreads it out on the pages before us, intimately entangling the reader in her struggles to look back and understand it all.

Her willingness to publicise her secrets is indeed a courageous act and one that should be commended, because at the heart of it all resides the resilience of the human spirit and a journey that I am hopeful will connect, heal and inspire others on their own journeys towards salvation.

I wish to thank the publisher, Hachette Australia, for providing me with an ARC copy for review purposes.

About the Author

Majoring in Community Welfare at university, Renee McBryde has worked in the community services sector for the last fifteen years, primarily working with disadvantaged children.

She currently works in Child Protection for the Northern Territory government. She also teaches various Community Welfare courses in Alice Springs to upskill other professionals within the sector.

About the Book

This compelling memoir of family secrets, murder, sexual assault and domestic violence is also the gripping story of Renee's constant struggle to accept the truth and her true identity, and, ultimately, to forge a life on her own terms.

From the outside, Renee McBryde had a fairly typical childhood - school, working mum, swimming lessons with loving grandparents. But waiting for her was a secret so awful that it would rock her to the core.

Renee's mother was a teenage runaway who found herself pregnant and alone when Renee's father was jailed for killing two men. When Renee discovered the truth, she knew her life would never be the same again. She was a murderer's daughter - but that made her determined to escape the past.

This is her sometimes shocking, often moving, inspirational true story of terrible secrets and tragic lies, and a life of abuse, suffering and survival.

ISBN:  9780733637216
Publisher:  Hachette Australia
Pub Date:  31 January 2017
RRP: $32.99

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Blog Tour | Guest Post & Giveaway | Sandy Vaile

Today on the blog, it's an absolute pleasure to welcome Sandy Vaile, to celebrate the release of her latest novel, Combatting Fear.

Instead of the usual format I have for guest posts, I'm going to hand over to Sandy right now so that she can introduce herself.

Thank you Sandy for providing this insightful post. Take it away!

For a full list of tour participants, take a look at the banner at the end of this post. And don't forget to leave a comment for Sandy so that you can be entered into the Giveaway.

Hi, I’m Sandy Vaile, a motorbike-riding daredevil who isn’t content with a story unless there’s a courageous heroine and a dead body. When I’m not devising horrible things to do to fictional characters, I write procedures for high-risk industrial activities, mentor new writers through the Novelist’s Circle critiquing group, judge romance writing competitions, present literary craft workshops, and write the odd articles and blog.

I’m honoured to drop in today to chat about my passion for courageous heroines in fiction. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I feel a responsibility to portray women who are at least as resilient, intelligent, passionate and loyal as those I meet every day.

There has been a lot of debate about whether feminism can exist alongside romance in fiction, and for me the answer is a resounding “Yes”. All of the women I know wear many lifestyle hats, and I’m no different. I’m proud to be a woman, a wife, a mother, a business woman, and a friend. 

Where do I draw inspiration from?
Inspiration for courageous heroines comes from the amazing women I have met over the years, like the first woman to kayak the length of the Murray River, an army sergeant, a parachuting enthusiast, a lawyer, a psychiatrist, a commercial pilot, and one-time team leader of Mawson Station in the Antarctic.

With real life stories like these, how could I not be inspired to write equally remarkable fictional characters?

So, what makes a courageous heroine?
Too often heroines are built up to be skillful, tough women, and then don’t warrant a proactive part in the plot, particularly in movies. I prefer to see heroines who break from stereotypes and have meaningful goals and motivations, like Lizbeth Salander in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

When the shit hits the fan, this woman isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, or to stand up and fight for the truth.

Courageous heroines have a lot to live up to, and these are the things I feel are important. She must:

Be believable (within the context of a make-believe story, of course!).
Drive the story by making decisions and taking action, not relying on the hero to lead the way.
Face her worst fears. 
Be on the front line fighting for what she believes in.
Display any number of personal traits, from damaged, vulnerable, and stubborn, to mysterious,
        formidable, and knowledgeable. 
Be interesting!

These are the things that make us cheer her on, cry for her losses and feel all warm and gooey when she finds happiness.

When it comes to finding love, a courageous heroine doesn’t need a handsome prince to ride in and swoop her off her feet; she needs someone who is strong and respectful to fight alongside her. In other words, the hero isn’t essential to her future happiness, but must prove himself worthy of the challenge of equal partnership.

She’d never wanted a man who could buy her the world. Only someone who would look at plain old Neve and see the world. 

What can readers expect from my heroines?
Now, all of this strength doesn’t mean that courageous heroines can’t be nurturing, loving or want to help others. Take a look at Mya in Inheriting Fear; she’s a recluse and a tad anti-social, but she’ll fight to the death to save a teenage girl she barely knows. 

And Neve in Combatting Fear is a mild-mannered kindergarten teacher who will do anything to protect one of her students from an outlaw gang.

Neve has become socially isolated, because she cares for her war-traumatised father. It’s a sacrifice she’s willing to make, because he’s all the family she has left. But she didn’t expect some like Micah — who stands for everything she despises — to get so far under her skin. It turns out that there are far more attractive qualities to the man than self-made billionaire.

Both Mya and Neve have skills that make them stand out, like kick-boxing and handling weapons. Years of crawling around the Australian bushland, training for a doomsday event, has left Neve with fast reflexes, quick thinking, and determination that some men might find intimidating.

Not your everyday gals perhaps, but not unrealistic either. They make intelligent decisions based on the information they have, and aren’t afraid to step outside of their comfort zones to see results.

You can read about some of my personal courageous adventures on my website.

I’d love to hear about your adventurous side, and what qualities you admire in heroines.

Leave a comment on this blog and get 1 entry to win the Combatting Fear eBook.

Subscribe to my newsletter and get 3 more entries.

About the Book

How far would you go to save a child that wasn’t yours?
Mild-mannered kindergarten teacher, Neve Botticelli, leads a double life. At home with her paranoid father, she is a combat trained survivalist who lives off-the-grid.

When self-made billionaire, Micah Kincaid, storms into town in search of his four-year-old son, Rowan, he’s pushy, entitled, and stands for everything Neve despises. 

But something far more sinister than a cheating estranged wife, is lurking in rural Turners Gully, and it has its sights set on little Rowan’s inheritance. It turns out there is one thing Micah and Neve can agree on, and that’s keeping Rowan safe.

As they work together to free Rowan, they glimpse beneath one another’s guises, and realise that falling in love could be even more dangerous than hunting deadly criminals.

Both Inheriting Fear and Combatting Fear are published by Simon & Schuster and can be bought at the following links:

If you'd like to connect with Sandy, you can do so via her website or social media using the following links: