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Review: Turtle Reef by Jennifer Scoullar

Turtle ReefTurtle Reef
Jennifer Scoullar
Penguin Books AUS
2015, 301p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

For zoologist Zoe King, it’s her dream job. Working at a Reef Centre in Kiawa near Bundaberg in Queensland Zoe not only gets to rehabilitate animals and return them to their natural habitat but she will also get to conduct exciting research and maybe even help implement changes to protect the reef. Zoe is a passionate conservationist and at first, everything about her job seems perfect. Her boss Bridget is friendly and capable, welcoming Zoe and seemingly enthusiastic about the same things as Zoe. Zoe is also given the guest quarters on the large cane farm of Bridget’s fiance Quinn Cooper and she begins to embrace a more outdoor life, learning to ride and working with horses.

But there are some complications. Zoe didn’t count on feeling an immediate and powerful attraction to Quinn, despite the fact that she knows he’s off limits. He belongs to Bridget and although she makes the decision to ignore her feelings, she can’t ignore when things begin to not add up at the Reef Centre. Conflicting stories and some strange behaviour make her begin to question exactly what the goal of the centre is. And when Zoe’s research shows that animals on the reef are dying in numbers, she finds herself faced with an answer that could possibly drive a wedge between her and the man she has come to love. Zoe will have to decide if the future and health of the reef are more important than her own future happiness.

Jennifer Scoullar’s fourth novel takes readers to the ‘Gateway to the Barrier Reef’ in a small town close to Bundaberg in Queensland. Zoologist Zoe King has moved from Sydney to Kiawa to take up her dream job working at the local Reef Centre, a place that rehabilitates marine life and also houses those that are not fit to be returned to their native habitat. There are dolphins, turtles, sharks and an array of others such as fish, octopus. The centre also operates as a tourist attraction with the resident dolphins performing in shows, which helps keep the bills paid. For Zoe, it is a quick immersion from the theory of her recently completed degree to a much more practical aspect as she will be feeding and working with a variety of different animals as well as being able to map the reef and conduct extensive research.

Zoe is a wonderfully passionate conservationist who has some really strong ideas about her career and what she wants to be able to achieve. Her focus is on rehabilitating the sick and injured animals that come in and getting them returned to the ocean as soon as possible. Early on she notices several dolphins that look good candidates for a release only to be quickly informed that they are ‘lifers’ who won’t be able to be released. Zoe faces the challenge of being new and therefore not really having much say and she’s also inexperienced in the field, intimidated by Bridget’s qualifications. I liked and admired Zoe as a character, her enthusiasm and her determination is wonderful to read and I enjoyed learning about her job a lot. I wanted to study marine biology briefly as a teen until I realised that well, science and I were not entirely friends. Also I can’t really swim. But anyway, reading this book reminded me of that and how beautiful these creatures are and how important it is to do everything possible to protect them and their habitats. I found myself moved by the most unlikeliest of things – I must congratulate Jen Scoullar because I’m pretty sure I would’ve thought before reading this book it would be impossible to cry over an octopus!

I have to admit, I didn’t particularly find the romance aspect of this book much to my liking. Part of that perhaps had something to do with the fact that Quinn was engaged to Bridget but mostly I think it was just Quinn himself. He was far too arrogant and bossy for me – “sit here, do that, get in, don’t drink Coke it’s bad for you, here’s an iced tea instead”. If a man asked me what I’d like at a pub/cafe and I ordered a Coke and he came back with an iced tea, I’d dump it on his head. I loathe iced tea. I don’t like people that feel as though they have the right to make decisions for others. Zoe is a big girl, if she wants a diet Coke, get her a darn diet Coke! This was something that tended to carry through the book and most of the time I found him overly defensive and aggressive. At times he’s pretty horrible to Zoe, even though she came off a bit nosy when she was trying to do the right thing. I liked Quinn a little more right at the end of the book, perhaps Zoe will be a good influence on him – well I’m sure she will be actually because his attitudes really do change. Quinn learns to stand on his own two feet and have his own opinions and not just do things because that’s the way his father did them. I did like Quinn’s relationship with his brother Josh (who is a wonderful character and a huge part of this book). Even though it’s laced with mistakes and frustration you can tell that he loves Josh and he really does want the best for him and to keep him safe. And when Quinn realises that he is making mistakes, he does do his utmost best to fix them. It’s a slowish sort of process but I can understand his fear in letting the reins go a little and letting Josh begin to make decisions again for himself and do things which might potentially put him in danger again. But they’re things Josh not only loves but also needs in order to live his life.

I really enjoyed this – I love how Jennifer Scoullar manages to incorporate strong themes of conservation and protection into her stories without making it seem like a lecture. Bundaberg is further north than I’ve ever been and I have to admit it and its surrounds haven’t really come up on my radar as places to visit before. But I feel as though up there might be a part of the world I need to see.


Book #65 of 2015


Turtle Reef is book #23 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015

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Read In 2015

  1. The Maxwell Sistersby Loretta Hill (Book #1 of AWW2015)
  2. Whiskey Sourby Liliana Hart
  3. Whiskey For Breakfastby Liliana Hart
  4. Whiskey You’re the Devilby Liliana Hart
  5. No Test For The Wickedby Julie Moffett
  6. Dirty Little Secrets, by Liliana Hart
  7. A Cutthroat Business, by Jenna Bennett
  8. The Other Dukeby Jess Michaels
  9. Flirting With Disaster, by Victoria Dahl
  10. Endless Knightby Kresley Cole
  11. The Girl On The Train, by Paula Hawkins
  12. Faking Itby Gabrielle Tozer (Book #2 of AWW2015)
  13. First Frostby Sarah Addison-Allen
  14. Season Of Shadow & Lightby Jenn J. McLeod (Book #3 of AWW2015)
  15. Head Of The Riverby Pip Harry (Book #4 of AWW2015)
  16. Love And Other Liesby Madeline Ash (Book #5 of AWW2015)
  17. After Darknessby Christine Piper (Book #6 of AWW2015)
  18. All The Bright Placesby Jennifer Niven
  19. Southern Spirits, by Angie Fox
  20. The Accidental Demon Slayer, by Angie Fox
  21. All Fall Downby Ally Carter
  22. To Defy A Sheikh, by Maisey Yates
  23. The Girl In The Photographby Kate Riordan
  24. For The Forest Of A Birdby Sue Saliba (Book #7 of AWW2015)
  25. Paper Planesby Steve Worland
  26. The Devil Takes A Brideby Julia London
  27. Arkie’s Pilgrimage To The Next Big Thingby Lisa Walker (Book #8 of AWW2015)
  28. Shopping For A Billionaire, by Julia Kent
  29. Game Dayby Miriam Sved (Book #9 of AWW2015)
  30. Unwanted, by Amanda Holohan (Book #10 of AWW2015)
  31. Crazy Love Youby Lisa Unger
  32. Second Lifeby SJ Watson
  33. The Ravenby Sylvain Reynard
  34. Burnedby Karen Marie Moning
  35. Roses For Sophieby Alyssa J. Montgomery (Book #11 of AWW2015)
  36. You’re Just Too Good To Be Trueby Sofija Stefanovic (Book #12 of AWW2015)
  37. Snowy River Manby Lizzy Chandler (Book #13 of AWW2015)
  38. Empty Heartby Elizabeth Rose (Book #14 of AWW2015)
  39. Burnt Paper Skyby Gilly Macmillan
  40. The Secrets Of Midwivesby Sally Hepworth (Book #15 of AWW2015)
  41. The Road To Hopeby Rachael Johns (Book #16 of AWW2015)
  42. The Ruby Circleby Richelle Mead
  43. Seasons Of Warby Christopher Lee
  44. Wish You Were Here, by Catherine Alliott
  45. Rose Riverby Margareta Osborn (Book #17 of AWW2015)
  46. Shoulda Been A Cowboyby Maisey Yates
  47. Pomegranate Soupby Marsha Mehran (Book #2 of the Eclectic Reader Challenge)
  48. Once Burned, by Jeaniene Frost
  49. The Secret Life Of Luke Livingstoneby Charity Norman
  50. The Wednesday Groupby Sylvia True
  51. Fashionably Dead, by Robyn Peterman
  52. The Martianby Andy Weir (Book #3 of the Eclectic Reader Challenge)
  53. Love Handles, by Gretchen Galway
  54. The Monkey’s Mask, by Dorothy Porter (Book #18 of AWW2015)
  55. Wildby Cheryl Strayed
  56. Claiming Noahby Amanda Ortlepp (Book #19 of AWW2015)
  57. Season Of Salt & Honey, by Hannah Tunnicliffe
  58. The Faithful Coupleby A.D. Miller
  59. Hot Little Hands, by Abigail Ulman (Book #20 of AWW2015)
  60. Emerald Springsby Fleur McDonald (Book #21 of AWW2015)
  61. Simon vs The Homo-Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli
  62. Rachael’s Gift, by Alexandra Cameron (Book #22 of AWW2015)
  63. No Name Laneby Howard Linskey
  64. Part Time Cowboyby Maisey Yates
  65. Turtle Reefby Jennifer Scoullar (Book #23 of AWW2015)
  66. Brokedown Cowboyby Maisey Yates
  67. Animal Magnetismby Jill Shalvis
  68. Animal Attractionby Jill Shalvis
  69. No Woman Left Behindby Julie Moffett
  70. Runaway Lies, by Shannon Curtis (Book #24 of AWW2015)
  71. Love At First Flightby Tess Woods (Book #25 of AWW2015)
  72. Wild Woodby Posie Graeme-Evans (Book #26 of AWW2015)
  73. The Fallsby Cathryn Hein (Book #27 of AWW2015)
  74. Leap Of Faithby Fiona McCallum (Book #28 of AWW2015)
  75. Captive Princeby C.S. Pacat (Book #29 of AWW2015)
  76. Missing Youby Kylie Kaden (Book #30 of AWW2015)
  77. Omegaby S.M. Reine
  78. Prince’s Gambit, by C.S. Pacat (Book #31 of AWW2015)
  79. What She Left, by T.R. Richmond
  80. Viscount Vagabond, by Loretta Chase
  81. Gallipoli Streetby Mary-Anne O’Connor (Book #32 of AWW2015)
  82. In Wildernessby Diane Thomas
  83. Northern Heatby Helene Young (Book #33 of AWW2015)
  84. The Mountain Storyby Lori Lansens
  85. At The Water’s Edgeby Sara Gruen
  86. The Soldier’s Wifeby Pamela Hart (Book #34 of AWW2015)
  87. Airmail: Women Of Letters, by Marieke Hardy (Book #35 of AWW2015)
  88. My Sunshine Away, by M.O. Walsh
  89. When There’s No Where Else To Run, by Murray Middleton
  90. Satisfaction, by Sarah Mayberry (Book #36 of AWW2015)
  91. What Matters Mostby Dianne Maguire (Book #37 of AWW2015)
  92. The World Of Ice & Fire, by George R.R. Martin
  93. The Incredible Adventures Of Cinnamon Girlby Melissa Keil (Book #38 of AWW2015)
  94. Always The Bridesmaidby Lindsey Kelk
  95. Unmarked, by Kami Garcia
  96. Normalby Graeme Cameron
  97. One True Thingby Nicole Hayes (Book #39 of AWW2015)
  98. The Infidelity Diariesby Anonymous
  99. My Reckless Surrender, by Anna Campbell (Book #40 of AWW2015)
  100. The Lost Swimmerby Ann Turner (Book #41 of Aww2015)
  101. Charlie, Presumed Deadby Anne Heltzel
  102. A Dangerous Arrangementby Lee Christine (Book #42 of AWW2015)
  103. The Boyfriend Sessions, by Belinda Williams (Book #43 of AWW2015)
  104. The Pitch, by Belinda Williams (Book #44 of AWW2015)
  105. The Spring Brideby Anne Gracie (Book #45 of AWW2015)
  106. The Book Of Lost & Foundby Lucy Foley
  107. Bad News Cowboy, by Maisey Yates
  108. Love May Failby Matthew Quick
  109. The Sunlit Nightby Rebecca Dinerstein
  110. The Blue Between Sky & Waterby Susan Abulhawa
  111. Harry Mac, by Russell Eldridge
  112. The Homestead Girlsby Fiona McArthur (book #46 of AWW2015)
  113. Hush, Little Bird by Nicole Trope (Book #47 of AWW2015)
  114. Friday On My Mind, by Nicci French
  115. The Unbroken Line, by Alex Hammond
  116. A Time To Runby J.M. Peace (Book #48 of AWW2015)
  117. Green Valentine, by Lili Wilkinson (Book #49 of AWW2015)
  118. Six Degrees, by Honey Brown (Book #50 of AWW2015)
  119. Black Rabbit Hall, by Eve Chase
  120. A Small Madness, by Dianne Touchell (Book #51 of AWW2015)
  121. Cloudwish, by Fiona Wood (Book #52 of AWW2015)
  122. Leaving Time, by Jodi Picoult
  123. The Secret Years, by Barbara Hannay (Book #53 of AWW2015)
  124. Dumplin’, by Julie Murphy
  125. A Summer Fling, by Millie Johnson
  126. Only To Die Again, by Patrick Lee
  127. This Calder Range, by Janet Dailey
  128. Bargaining With A Rake, by Julie Johnstone
  129. As Darkness Falls, by Bronwyn Parry (Book #54 of AWW2015)
  130. The Skeleton In The Closet, by Angie Fox
  131. Who Glares Wins, by Camilla Chafer
  132. Command Indecision, by Camilla Chafer
  133. Shock & Awesome, by Camilla Chafer
  134. Weapon of Mass Distraction, by Camilla Chafer
  135. Laugh Or Death, by Camilla Chafer
  136. Kissing In Action, by Camilla Chafer
  137. Trigger Snappy, by Camilla Chafer
  138. Wolf At The Door, by Sofia Grey
  139. To Kill A Warlock, by H.P. Mallory
  140. The Seduction Of Lord Stone, by Anna Campbell (Book #55 of AWW2015)
  141. The Patterson Girlsby Rachael Johns (Book #56 of AWW2015)
  142. The Saddler Boysby Fiona Palmer (Book #57 of AWW2015)
  143. No Room For Error, by Julie Moffett
  144. The Sheikh’s Christmas Conquest, by Sharon Kendrick
  145. Swimming Homeby Mary-Rose MacColl (Book #58 of AWW2015)
  146. Resisting The Bad Boy, by Violet Duke
  147. Winter In Sweetwater County, by Ciara Knight
  148. After Youby Jojo Moyes
  149. Wife For A Week, by Kelly Hunter (Book #59 of AWW2015)
  150. A Thousand Nights, by E.K. Johnston
  151. The Natural Way Of Things, by Charlotte Wood (Book #60 of AWW2015)
  152. Bound By Their Loveby Nicole Flockton (Book #61 of AWW2015)
  153. So Far Into Youby Lily Malone (Book #62 of AWW2015)
  154. Every Move, by Ellie Marney (Book #63 of AWW2015)
  155. Summer & the Groomsmanby Cathryn Hein (Book #64 of AWW2015)
  156. Carry Onby Rainbow Rowell
  157. Divorced, Desperate & Delicious, by Christie Craig
  158. Operation Foreplayby Christine Hughes
  159. No Limits, by Lori Foster
  160. The Fertile Vampire, by Karen Ranney
  161. Wrong, by Jana Aston
  162. The Wedding Trap, by Adrienne Bell
  163. The Vampire’s Mail Order Bride, by Kristen Painter
  164. Harlotby Victoria Dahl
  165. If I Kissed Youby Louise Reynolds (Book #65 of AWW2015)
  166. Rain Musicby Di Morrissey (Book #66 of AWW2015)
  167. The Billionaire’s Passionate Revenge, by Jennifer St George (Book #67 of AWW2015)
  168. Signs Point To Yes, by Sandy Hall
  169. Spirits Of The Ghanby Judy Nunn (Book #68 of AWW2015)
  170. Transcendence, by Shay Savage
  171. The Red Queenby Isobelle Carmody (Book #69 of AWW2015)
  172. First Grave On The Right, by Darynda Jones
  173. Second Grave On The Left, by Darynda Jones
  174. Third Grave Dead Ahead, by Darynda Jones
  175. Give It Upby Lori Foster
  176. Tallowood Bound, by Karly Lane (Book #70 of AWW2015)
  177. Kissing My Killer, by Helena Newbury
  178. The CEO’s Pregnant Lover, by Leslie North
  179. Cherry Seasonby Trish Morey (Book #71 of AWW2015)
  180. Murder To Go, by Chloe Kendrick
  181. A Desperate Fortune, by Susanna Kearsley
  182. Between The Vinesby Tricia Stringer (Book #72 of AWW2015)
  183. Outback Promiseby Maggie Bolitho (Book #73 of AWW2015)
  184. Pieces Of Meby Jacquie Underdown (Book #74 of AWW2015)
  185. Modern Heartby Belinda Williams (Book #75 of AWW2015)
  186. Dashing Through The Snowby Debbie Macomber
  187. By Her Side, by Lizzy Chandler (Book #76 of AWW2015)
  188. Intensive Care, by Nicki Edwards (Book #77 of AWW2015)
  189. Casey, by Rachael Johns (Book #78 of AWW2015)
  190. Lucky, by Cate Ellink (Book #79 of AWW2015)
  191. Kelly, by Fiona Lowe (Book #80 of AWW2015)
  192. Brooke, by Eden Summers (Book #81 of AWW2015)
  193. Clarissa, by Mel Teshco (Book #82 of AWW2015)
  194. Skye, by Rhyll Biest (Book #83 of AWW2015)
  195. Maree, by Elizabeth Dunk (Book #84 of AWW2015)
  196. Frankie, by Jackie Ashenden (Book #85 of AWW2015)
  197. The Duke & I, by Julia Quinn
  198. Crystal Creek, by Charlotte Nash (Book #86 of AWW2015)
  199. Stone Castles, by Trish Morey (Book #87 of AWW2015)
  200. Operation White Christmas, by Nicki Edwards (Book #88 of AWW2015)
  201. Four Nights With The Duke, by Eloisa James
  202. Emergency Responseby Nicki Edwards (Book #89 of AWW2015)
  203. The Grass Is Greener, by Loretta Hill (Book #90 of AWW2015)
  204. This Duchess Of Mine, by Eloisa James
  205. Who’s Afraid, by Maria Lewis (Book #91 of AWW2015)
  206. Grand Slam, by Kathryn Ledson (Book #92 of AWW2015)
  207. The Trouble With Being Wicked, by Emma Locke
  208. Headed For Trouble, by Shiloh Walker
  209. Desert Flame, by Janine Grey (Book #93 of AWW2015)