All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: High Country Hero by Holly Ford

High Country Hero
Holly Ford
Allen & Unwin
2018, 327p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Having brokered a fragile peace with his demons at last, ex-Afghan War pilot Mitch Stuart isn’t in the market for redemption. But when he steps outside his comfort zone to help a stranger in a country pub, he inadvertently opens the door to the ghosts of a woman and a white dog he thought he’d left behind him long ago.

Veterinary specialist Lennie O’Donnell and her beloved dog, Pesh, are taking a break from big-city life to help Lennie’s grandfather sell his old-fashioned rural clinic. Lennie has dedicated her career to healing those unable to tell her what’s wrong, but Mitch is a puzzle even she struggles to solve – or completely let go.

Meanwhile, back in Lennie’s old home town, another man of mixed messages, her high school crush Benji Cooper, is all grown up and looking at Lennie the way she always dreamed he would.

Can Mitch find the courage to let Lennie into his life? And with gorgeous, sunny, funny Benji waiting in the wings, is it a threshold Lennie wants to cross?

There’s also the matter of her grandparents’ unexpectedly fractured marriage to mend, and Lennie’s growing suspicion there might be more to the sale of her grandfather’s clinic than meets the eye.

I absolutely loved this book.

I liked the character of Mitch Stuart in Holly Ford’s previous book The Last McAdam and I mentioned in my review of that one that I hoped that Mitch would get his own story one day and I don’t think I was the only one. Holly Ford has answered those wishes and Mitch moves to front and centre.

Lennie O’Donnell is a veterinary specialist living and working in Sydney although she has answered a call from her grandfather in rural New Zealand to come and help him in his veterinary practice while he decides if he should accept a buy out offer from a big company so that he can retire. Lennie is willing to help her grandfather although she suspects he’s luring her back for other reasons and she’s not sure that’s where she wants to be in her life. She hasn’t done a lot of this sort of veterinary work in many years and she knows the facilities will not be what she has become accustomed to.

She meets Mitch after her grandmother’s car breaks down and she is forced to spend a night in a hotel. Mitch is in the bar and comes to her aid against some persistent locals and although there’s an immediate attraction, Lennie doesn’t ever expect to see him again. However when she moves to help in her grandfather’s practice, she discovers that Mitch works on a property around an hour and a half away, a property that her grandfather’s practice does work on. It means the two see each other relatively regularly and although that attraction is still there, Mitch still has some inner struggles.

I loved all the interactions between Lennie and Mitch. I really felt like Holly Ford did a great job showcasing Mitch’s struggle. He’s still on his journey of healing – he may never be “fully” healed from the things he has seen and experienced, the people he has lost.  He definitely has good reason for questioning whether or not he is at the stage in his life where he can be in a committed relationship and give that person what they deserve. I liked the fact that this took some deliberation on Mitch’s part, he was very self-aware and wasn’t just willing to dive in and perhaps deal with consequences later. He also confides in Lennie about his past and what he has experienced and I think he’s trying to be as honest as he can with her. There’s also the question of whether or not Lennie will stick around – she’s only supposed to be in the area temporarily.

The setting was also really lovely – I’ve read a few New Zealand rurals now and I really like them. I loved the country vet practice as the base and some of the animals in the story were large as life. Lennie’s Maremma Pesh is adorable and Alice the deer has her own charms as well. There’s a scene in this book that had me reaching for the tissues and it’s so well told that you feel like you’re there, urging them on. The local community is wonderful – a place that you’d really want to live. And there always seemed a bit of an ulterior motive from Lennie’s grandfather…..I thought their relationship was fantastic but I liked that that portion of the story was still full of surprises. He’s sort of exactly what I picture when I think of “rural vet” and it feels like the sort of practice you’d be ecstatic to take your own animals to. But it’s also sort of outdated as well, lagging behind in terms of technology and facilities and although the offer would help fix that, giving access to the company’s assets, it would also change the practice. But I think the outcome is so satisfying….and very well orchestrated.

I just loved this from start to finish, it’s such a good story and so well written. Lennie and Mitch are perfect and I’m thrilled to see him get his own story and the life that he deserves to lead. Highly recommend this – you probably don’t have to read the other book first as Mitch does explain his backstory but it’d be helpful for the Mitch of the before. They’re a good pair.


Book #46 of 2018


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Review: The Popeye Murder by Sandra Winter-Dewhirst

The Popeye Murder
Sandra Winter-Dewhirst
Wakefield Press
2018 (originally 2015), 211p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Rebecca wondered if she was looking at an elaborate hoax. She wasn’t.

Along with a dozen other journalists and food-industry celebrities, she had just witnessed the unveiling of the baked head of one of Adelaide’s most celebrated chefs. The head of Leong Chew sat on a pewter platter. The cloche had just been removed, revealing Leong Chew, clearly not at his best.

As editor of Taste, the food and wine liftout of Adelaide’s daily newspaper, Rebecca Keith has a life of long lunches and social engagements. That is, until one of the city’s most respected chefs is found murdered.

Caught up in a criminal investigation, and having to report on it as well, Rebecca comes face-to-face with a host of suspects – and the charming Detective Inspector Gary Jarvie. The murderer is on the loose, though, and Rebecca doesn’t realise how much danger she’s in.

This sounded very promising and it opens in fantastic fashion. Rebecca has a pretty sweet job, editing a food and wine supplement and is probably on the guest list at every prestigious Adelaide food event. I’ve never been to Adelaide before but it’s reputation for things food and wine is steadily escalating. The Barossa has long been the producers of some very good wines but the food is starting to gain traction too (who hasn’t watched Maggie Beer wax lyrical about the produce?).

I thought the mystery in this book was really good – the head of a very well known chef served up on a (literal) platter at an event. I was a bit less into the descriptions of said head. The word succulent should probably never be used to describe someone’s severed head, I don’t care how well it’s been roasted. But it’s a clever drawn in and I was interested from the very start. A dramatic opening is always a good way to start a crime novel and this seemed, at first glance, to tick all the boxes.

But there’s no denying that there were some negatives. Firstly, I like cooking shows and I like foodie books but the descriptions of food and meals got to drag a bit, even for me. There’s a lot of drinking, too. This is not a long book, only just over 200p and a lot of it seems bogged down with superfluous detail, such as every outfit Rebecca (and all of the other characters) wear throughout the entire story. There’s also the beginnings of a romance but it feels really awkward and a bit forced at this stage. Both Rebecca and Gary, her cop love interest need to get a grip. The section that delves into greyhound racing is so riddled with inaccuracies and a complete lack of understanding of what actually happens at a greyhound meeting and so much else, I could barely read it. It’s also relatively offensive (ableist slurs) and the bikie connection wasn’t exactly imaginative. I actually found that section really random, like the author just dislikes it and decided to include it via a very tenuous connection to the murder of Leong Chow. It really added nothing to the story.

Because of Rebecca’s proximity to what’s going on (she is there when the head is unveiled and also is involved in the discovery of a second body) her editor has her write some colour pieces for the paper, such as what it’s like to be in the middle of a murder investigation, to be a sort-of suspect, etc. I like that Rebecca had such an interesting job and her editor had faith in her to move to a completely different sort of journalism. She seems very capable, quite no nonsense. She isn’t freaked out by the severed head really, nor other things that occur. You get the feeling that Rebecca gets things done – she still takes care to check on her supplement, even when she’s working on writing other articles, making sure that it’s being presented the way that she wants it to be.

I felt as though this story had a lot of promise – it was better when it kept to focusing on the mystery and wasn’t going off on the odd tangent. It felt a bit like there was a red herring or two inserted but both were not really the sort that made you actually take them seriously. I have the second book in the series as well and I’ll be reading it so I’ll see how that is. The second book is always an important one I think, it lets you know whether or not some of the little kinks in the first have been ironed out or whether or not they are going to be a part of each book going forward. This was a quick read with a main character that could carry a series easily. For me, there just needs to be less…..stuff. Less padding, more actual story.


Book #47 of 2018


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Thoughts On: Hero At The Fall by Alwyn Hamilton

Hero At The Fall (Rebel of the Sands #3)
Alwyn Hamilton
Faber & Faber
2018, 506p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Once, in the desert country of Miraji, there was a Sultan without an heir.

The heir had been killed by his own brother, the treacherous Rebel Prince, who was consumed by jealousy and sought the throne for himself.

Or so it was said by some. There were others who said that the Rebel Prince was not a traitor but a hero…

In the final battle for the throne, Amani must fight for everything she believes in, but with the rebellion in pieces, and the Sultan’s armies advancing across the desert plains, who will lead, who will triumph, who will live and who will die?

This is kind of not really a review, more just a bunch of thoughts. I bought the first book in this series on a whim because I thought the cover was awesome. All 3 books have beautiful covers and they look amazing together on the shelf. This was one of my most anticipated 2018 releases.

I haven’t reviewed the other books in this series and I have to admit that when I picked this up, I had to take a few moments to skim the previous book just so I could remember where the story left off and what had happened. I had actually forgotten the dramatic moment that ended book #2 so I was glad I took that time to refresh my memory and get up to speed before I started this one.

I love the way these books are written – throughout this one there are chapters that deviate from the main story to flesh out stories from the past, myths, moments, etc. There is even a chapter towards the end that details the future (which I loved, because I am that person that always wants to know what happens in the -after-). The world is so vivid as well. The heat is almost constant, the sun casting its shadow over the book’s desert setting. I like Amani’s connection to the environment, the way she feels so out of her comfort zone when she’s near water and how she and the sand are often as one. Her gift (actually all the gifts of the Demdji) is so interesting and I always loved seeing what they could do.

In this book, Amani is thrust somewhat unexpectedly into a leadership role. She assumes the role willingly but it’s something that she definitely struggles with. Making decisions not just for herself, but for the betterment of the entire rebellion, often in seconds. She comes to appreciate Ahmed’s position, the role that he has undertaken but Amani also proves herself very capable of making those decisions herself, even though she agonises over some and also has nightmares over some of the repercussions. This is the sort of series where not everyone is going to get out alive and sometimes some of those are because of decisions made by either the group as a collective, or by the leader of the group.

This book has a pretty big curve in it – I feel as though it definitely manipulated the reader for most of it. It builds and builds towards this one particular thing and you think that there’s going to be a way out of it but then it happens anyway. I have to admit, even though I knew I was being manipulated I still enjoyed it and I think that’s because the characters went into that situation thinking there was no way out. None of them had some last moment trick up their sleeve – they both went in willingly, knowing the consequences. I think it worked for both the story being told and also the two personalities of the characters involved.

I really fell in love with Amani and Jin over these three books, but I think I loved them the most in this one, even though they’re not always on the same page. In fact that has kind of shaped their relationship, that push-pull sort of feeling. They gave me all the feels and this one is very intense, whether they’re going through a period where they’re not really interacting much or whether or not they’re declaring themselves, talking about the future etc. The two of them fit together so well.

I really loved this whole series – I think this book probably feels a fraction slow at the beginning, as what’s left of the alliance is trapped within a city but once they get out, the pace picks up and it’s non stop action and events until the end. The whole overthrowing an evil leader/rebel prince/etc sort of story isn’t really new but this felt so fresh and different to ones I’d read before. All of the characters are so well drawn, even the antagonists. Even ones we only spend a brief amount of time with. Now that I have all 3 of them, I’d like to sit down one day soon and read them all together, instead of a year apart for each volume! Sigh. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have so many new books to read because I used to reread an awful lot and now it’s not something I do very often.

I actually kind of agonised over what I was going to rate this one….my head said one thing, my heart said another. In the end I went with my heart/gut. So.


Book #45 of 2018


Top 10 Tuesday 13th March

Welcome back to another Top 10 Tuesday post. Originally created and hosted by The Broke & the Bookish and now with a new home with Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl, Top 10 Tuesday focuses on a different book-related topic each week. For today, it’s:

Top 10 Books That Surprised Me

I’ve split my list into 2 parts…..5 books that surprised me in a good way and 5 that surprised me in a more underwhelming sort of way. I’m sticking to relatively recent reads (2017, 2018) otherwise I’d be here all day. First, the good.

  1. The Three Of Us by Kim Lock. Going into this book, based on the blurb, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. But the blurb is a little misleading and it’s actually a really interesting exploration of an unusual relationship. Excellent writing and just a really thoughtful story.
  2. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. I didn’t know much about this going into it but I knew it was hyped and on everyone’s list of anticipated books for 2018. Sometimes a book finds it hard to live up to so much hype and there’s only way to go (down) but this definitely surprised me. I loved it. I can’t wait for book 2.
  3. Alex Approximately by Jenn Bennett. I was sent this for review and was definitely surprised with how much I enjoyed it. I just loved the story and the writing and really found the characters endearing. I can’t wait for Jenn Bennett’s new book, which I think is coming out next month!
  4. The Eye Of The Sheep by Sofie Laguna. This won an award here in Australia – quite a prestigious literary award, the Miles Franklin. I have a very tenuous relationship with award winners and therefore I was really surprised when I found this book beautiful. It’s heart wrenching and so clever. Written from a very unusual perspective and just brilliantly done, Laguna uses much of the ‘show, don’t tell’ because the focus character often doesn’t really see/understand what’s happening. This is a brilliant book.
  5. Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I must’ve owned this book 5 years before I finally read it last year. Actually this is a prizewinner too, one of the very few I’ve really liked. I can’t believe I waited so long to read this – I think I thought it’d be really wordy and hard to read (like Homer or something) but it’s amazing.

And now the books that surprised me by being slightly…..underwhelming/less than I thought they’d be…

  1. Turtles All The Way Down by John Green. Some people will probably shoot me for this but I think I’ve decided that John Green just isn’t for me. I found this book a really big struggle to read. The plot was just….well not even really there. And what was there was full of holes. Something about Green’s writing I don’t find appealing.
  2. Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra. Also full of plot holes. Was hyped up a lot on social media here in Australia but it was quite a disappointing read for me.
  3. King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard. I thought the author would actually go in another disappointing manner to the one she actually chose, but this was equally disappointing for me. Not even going to bother with the next one.
  4. The Best Of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion. This was meh for me. Simsion has never really lived up to the standard of The Rosie Project….I even found The Rosie Effect quite a letdown. I gave him another go after that, picking up this one but I really didn’t enjoy it much.
  5. So Over You by Kate Meader. This one was a bit of a letdown. I absolutely loved the first book in this series and it also set up the second book, which I thought was going to be right up my alley. It literally looked like it’d tick every box on my romance Wishlist. But the execution was different to what I was expecting and didn’t really play out like it was suggested it might (probably my fault, expectations etc). It was still a decent book, just didn’t love it as much as I thought I would. Still going to read the rest of the series though.

So a bit of half/half this week! Taking the good with the not-so-good.


Mini Reviews: What I’ve Been Reading Lately

I’ve been reading quite a lot lately but I don’t always get the time to sit down and write full length reviews of everything I’ve read. So I thought I’d do a little wrap up post with a few thoughts on books I didn’t get to recently.

Terra Nullius
Clare G. Coleman
Hachette AUS
2017, 304p
Purchased copy via iBooks

I had heard really amazing things about this book for a few months now so when I saw it on sale for $4.99 on iBooks, I snapped it up. I started reading it one day at school pick up and I knew that there was a bit of a twist but I was still taken aback when I realised precisely what is happening. This book draws amazing parallels from history and applies them to the future. It’s really well written, such a clever idea. It’s long listed for the Stella Prize as well. An 8/10 read for me.

Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1)
Jay Kristoff
Harper Voyager
2016, 463p
Copy won in a giveaway from Kristy @Book Nerd Reviews

This is the first standalone book from Jay Kristoff I’ve ever read and overall, I liked it. It’s clever with a lot of snappy dialogue, bloodshed, and a ‘school’ where everyone is a murderer and very few are going to get out alive. Mia, the protagonist, is bloodthirsty for revenge and she’s willing to do pretty much anything to avenge her family. Also it’s Jay Kristoff, so don’t expect characters to live. The only thing was at times the footnotes got a fraction irritating. Some add a lot to the story, some just served to pull me out of the main part of the story. It was the somewhat ‘clever’ conversational tone that occasionally grated. But this is still a damn good story. Will be picking up Godsgrave soon. 8/10

Valentine and Ironheart  (Valentine #1 & #2)
Jodi McAlister
Penguin Teen AUS
2017 and 2018
Purchased personal copies

I picked up both of these after seeing a little buzz around for the release of the second book on twitter. Ended up reading them both in a day. They’re set in Australia, focusing around a bunch of school friends (well friends is kind of a loose word to describe them all) who were all born on Valentine’s Day. One is a fae changeling and now the fae are looking for the right one. They’ll stop at nothing….and it’s up to Pearl and her school sort-of-nemesis/maybe something else? to figure out what is happening and how to stop it. The second book ends on such a cliffhanger and I want to know what happens next desperately. These are definitely not the fae as you’ve read them in a lot of books but I love the teen interactions, the chemistry between Pearl and Finn as well as the complications that surround them. 8/10 for both.

Love, Hate & Other Filters
Samira Ahmed
Hot Key Books
2018, 255p
Purchased personal copy

A really interesting story about an Asian Muslim teenager born and raised in a small American town and the fallout on her and her family after a terrorist attack in a major American city. I really loved the stuff about the pressure from her family to undertake a certain career and find a good potential husband of the same background as her and I liked the way that the love triangle played out (in that it really wasn’t one). I expected religion to be more present in the book – if not for the joke about one of them drinking wine and hey, it’s not eating pork I wouldn’t have even remembered that they were Muslim. I would’ve liked to see a bit more about that religion and how it was an aspect of every day life and whether or not that was difficult within her upbringing etc. The ending was also partially unsatisfying for me – although I understand that she was young and there would be plenty of time for that to right itself. I still wanted to know though. 7/10

The Diary Of A Bookseller
Shaun Blythell
Profile Books Ltd
2017, 310p
Birthday gift from my family

Shaun Blythell lives the life. Surrounded by thousands of books in a Georgian townhouse in Scotland. He started keeping a diary mostly revolving around customers, books sold, quirks of his staff etc. He’s an interesting man who kind of takes advantage of the fact that he’s his own boss to do and say what he likes to irritating customers. In this book he details the odd things that happen in his store, the pros and cons of the Amazon machine and just the every day ins and outs of owning a second hand bookstore. In this day and age I’m sure it’s a very difficult way to make money and Shaun is always thinking of new ways to try and keep the business going. I love the idea of his book club where they send out a random book each month from their collection. It was also curious to see what always sold (fishing books. Why are so many people buying fishing books? And trains). I enjoyed his sense of humour a lot. 8/10

King’s Cage (Red Queen #3)
Victoria Aveyard
2017, 507p
Purchased personal copy

Nope. I’m done with this series. 3/10

So these are pretty much the books I’ve read so far this year that I haven’t sat down to write proper reviews for. There’s probably a few more but I don’t have much to say about them, some of them were just quick novellas or something that I read before bed. With the exception of King’s Cage, these were all books I really liked and just didn’t have the time to sit down and bang out long reviews, probably because I’ve had a lot of ARCs to write reviews for and I tend to prioritise them over books I’ve bought myself in terms of writing the actual reviews.

I kind of like this idea and I think I’ll do it semi-frequently if I feel as though there’s been a bit of a build up of books I haven’t really written anything for.

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Review: Surrogate by Tracy Crisp

Tracy Crisp
Wakefield Press
2017, 230p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Rachael Carter, a young nurse, is asked to house-sit by a colleague she barely knows. Dr Cate O’Reilly is travelling to Vietnam with her husband to adopt a baby. Before long the request has changed. The couple need a surrogate.

Rachael sees an opportunity to leave her own troubles behind, but is soon caught up in new struggles, both sexual and psychological. She discovers that this couple will do anything to see their dream of a child fulfilled.

Surrogate is an unflinching depiction of the issues around motherhood, both past and present, by a writer at the peak of her talents.

Surrogacy is a topic I’m really interested in – I always have been, ever since I was at university. I lived on campus with a bunch of other people and one of the girls I became good friends with had been born with massive heart problems. She’d had numerous operations and had been told that she’d never be able to handle the strain of carrying a baby. I told her at the time that when we were both at that stage of our lives, I’d be a surrogate for her. Unfortunately, I never got the chance, because she died of complications from one of her heart issues when we were just 21. I’m in my mid-thirties now and having had two kids of my own, I still feel as though that was something I could’ve done. I was blessed with easy pregnancies, deliveries and recoveries.

The situation in this novel is a little different in that Rachael, a haematology nurse, doesn’t really know Cate. They’re not friends. But Cate asks Rachael to housesit for her and her husband whilst they go to Vietnam to finalise the adoption of a baby. When that doesn’t pan out, Cate and her husband Drum approach Rachael about potentially being a surrogate for them. Despite the fact that Cate and Drum returned from Vietnam, Rachael is still staying with them in their home – something they encourage. And then they move on to the next step of attempting to have the child they desire.

This book is set in Australia, so any surrogacy in Australia must be altruistic. You cannot profit from it, like you can in America where surrogates are paid a fee for their services, as well as having their medical bills covered. Here you can only accept reimbursement for medical bills and because of our public health system, it’s possible to have a baby and only be out of pocket for an ultrasound and that’s it. I think both my pregnancies cost me around $200 for the nuchal scan and whatever the price of my pregnancy vitamins was. That’s about it. However that doesn’t mean that there aren’t deals to be done….privately.

This isn’t a long book so I have to say, the development of what goes on between Rachael, Cate and Drum felt….rapid. Even from the very first approach to her, requesting that she think about being a surrogate, and it only kind of escalates from there. I think that Rachael is in a very emotionally vulnerable place when she’s approached. Around the time the book begins she has just experienced a broken engagement for quite complicated reasons. She lives close to her parents – she seems to have a somewhat difficult relationship with her mother and quite a distant one with her father. She doesn’t seem to have any friends. Cate and Drum are quite obviously wealthy, attractive and charismatic. I don’t get the feeling that Rachael was at all a strong or forceful personality. Rarely are we treated to much of her internal thoughts. She seems to make decisions quite rapidly and is motivated by something Drum offers her and the chance I think, to change her life and get out of the rut she seems stuck in.

This is a novel told in two parts – Rachael is present day (present day is 1998) but various flashbacks littered throughout the novel take us back to Rachael’s mother’s past, starting from a young girl farewelling her boyfriend, who is conscripted to Vietnam. They showcase the ups and downs of Mary’s life and there are quite a few of them. What Mary goes through probably wasn’t uncommon at the time and it has such a strong impact on her, right up until the present day portion of the novel. She also keeps these things to herself, which means that Rachael never really gets a chance to understand her mother either, which perhaps shapes their relationship. Mary doesn’t really understand Rachael’s decisions either. I found the flashbacks about Mary very powerful and they were a really interesting set up for the position that Rachael ended up finding herself in.

I really enjoyed this – Tracy Crisp packs an awful lot into this book for the page count and the writing is stunning. I definitely hope to read more from her in the future.


Book #44 of 2018

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Top 10 Tuesday 6th March

Welcome back to Top 10 Tuesday, originally created and hosted by The Broke & the Bookish and now in its new home with Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week the topic is:

Top 10 Favourite Book Quotes

  1. “I want to know what’s going on inside your brain. I want to juice your head like a lemon.” – The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. Honestly, I love this entire book, there’s probably 500 quotes I could’ve chosen. I just really like the whole visual this gives me…..actually juicing someone’s brain to squeeze all the thoughts out.
  2. “Do you think people have noticed I’m around?” / “I notice when you’re not. Does that count?” – Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta. Will Trombal!
  3. “I understand I can’t have you. But I want to know you’re in the world with me.” – Forget You by Jennifer Echols. Man do I love this line soooo much.
  4. “It is better to pursue a hopeless hope than to give in to black despair.” – The Sending by Isabelle Carmody.
  5. “It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.” – The Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy.
  6. “You have to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against.” – Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.
  7. “People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.” – To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
  8. “You don’t have to pretend with me, you know.’ He reaches out and tucks a strand of my hair behind my ear. His expression is so open and honest I feel it like a sucker punch. ‘I used to pretend, all the time, so I can spot it a mile away. If you’re feeling shit, then just say so. I don’t need to know the reason, it might be none of my business—’
    ‘I’m feeling shit.” – 
    Every Breath by Ellie Marney.
  9. “I wanted you to go away, because it hurts to be with you when I can’t see you.” – Graceling by Kristin Cashore.
  10. “If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.” – The Cruel Prince by Holly Black.

I find that mostly of my favourite quotes from books are pretty fluid – some stick in my mind for a long time. I’ve actually never read the Leo Tolstoy book that my #5 quote comes from but I love it anyway. Other quotes are from books I’ve read recently, because they’re just really fresh in my mind. Ones that stick the most are from books I re-read a lot. Quotes aren’t often something I really think about much, I had to look for a few of these, knowing I had favourite lines from books but wanting to get them accurate.


Review: The Cowgirl by Anthea Hodgson

The Cowgirl
Anthea Hodgson
Penguin Random House AUS
2018, 358p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Teddy Broderick has lived on her farm almost all her life, committed to the rhythms of the country – seeding, harvest, shearing and the twice daily milking of the cow her grandmother has looked after for years, but she dreams of another life, in the wide world away from the confines of her property.

She thinks she knows her home and its community inside out, until her grandmother Deirdre announces there is a house buried on the property, and Will Hastings, an archaeologist, is coming to dig it up again.

As they work together to expose Deirdre’s past to the light, the stories they tell bring them together and pull Teddy further away from her home.

But what is hidden in Deirdre’s childhood house that she needs to see again before she dies – and why? What is it that stops Teddy from living the life she truly wants? And will she ever find her freedom?

I read The Drifter, Anthea Hodgson’s first novel late last year and absolutely loved it so this was one of my highly anticipated 2018 releases. It’s loosely linked to that first novel, set in the same area with a few crossover characters. Teddy’s grandmother Deirdre is a larger than life character in The Drifter and fans of her will be happy to see her background explored in this novel.

Teddy grew up on the family farm and returned after a year at university. With the death of her father, Teddy helps keep the family farm ticking over, especially now that her brother is dividing his time between farming the family land and also the farm belonging to his wife’s family. There’s always fencing, shearing, milking to be done and Teddy’s quiet, somewhat reclusive existence is disturbed only when her grandmother hires one of her friend’s relatives, archeologist Will, to dig up her childhood home which is buried on the farm. Teddy didn’t even know of this house’s existence until Will arrived and she doesn’t know why Deirdre is so interested in unearthing it now.

I love the relationship between Teddy and Deirdre in this book, even though it’s not really a sort of typical grandmother – granddaughter relationship. Deirdre is a very brusque, almost sour sort of woman, very no-nonsense and not given to flights of fancy or whims generally, which makes her sudden desire to dig up the old house even more unusual. She and Teddy maintain separate residences, but close by and as the book moves on, you can see that in her own way, Deirdre is very much protecting Teddy from something – that the farm itself and Teddy’s continued residence there is doing the same sort of thing.

Will disturbs this dynamic with his fresh attitude, his exciting career and the potential to travel around the globe. He also seems to see Teddy astonishingly clearly very quickly but their ‘friendship’ is quite an up and down one. They have moments of bonding but also moments where Will appears to push Teddy’s buttons, to push her. Will makes Teddy think about things she’d rather not think about, like the life she’d rather be living, the hopes and dreams she had for herself. It’s a slow reveal for why Teddy has almost exiled herself to the family farm, why she hides herself away and it was quite a powerful but also a very relatable story. Teddy has become comfortable in this existence but now that longing has been awakened inside of her for something more than just the family farm. It’ll take courage and strength to make the choice to step outside of those boundaries again.

I really enjoyed the time the book spent exploring Deirdre’s youth – actually, I could’ve read an entire book centred on Deirdre. Her troubled childhood with an alcoholic and abusive father, the pain over her mother, her closeness with her sister and then ultimately what happened between her and Vivian as well as the decisions Deirdre made as a young adult. Her life was as fascinating as it was sad, although Deirdre’s stoic personality shone through in every sense. She kept getting up even after things happened to knock her back down, she persevered and she survived. Her often abrupt personality became so much more understandable the more I came to know of her. She reminds me a lot of my own Nan in a way – a woman who can also be quite abrupt and who has probably made herself that way because of things that have happened in her own past.

I started this quite late in the day yesterday – I’d read about 3 pages at school pick up (and giggled my way through them. I do like a meet-cute and the way that Will and Teddy meet is really amusing) before one of the other parents parked next to me for a chat and then I didn’t come back to it until after dinner. I ended up racing through it so quickly, finishing it up in one sitting whilst my husband took the kids out for a bike ride and the house was lovely and quiet. It’s a very engaging story from start to finish, full of mysteries (Teddy’s self-imposed isolation, Deirdre’s past, the secrets the buried house is keeping, even Will’s background) and amazing characters that you find yourself becoming very attached to almost like they’re a part of your own family. The small community feel is very strong in this book with afternoon teas, knitting circles and friends who would do anything for each other and that have supported each other for years. It’s also nice to get a sneaky glimpse of Cate (from The Drifter) and in a few sentences you get a full picture of how her life is these days. As that reader who always wants a little more, that’s something I always appreciate.

With two books, Anthea Hodgson has cemented herself as an auto buy author for me and a really strong new voice in rural fiction. I love her intricate family relationships, her building of community and the way in which her characters are beautifully complex.


Book #43 of 2018

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February Reading Wrap up

Total Books Read: 18
Fiction: 17
Non-Fiction: 1
Library Books: 0
Books On My TBR List: 7
Books in a Series: 8
Authors I’d Never Read Before: 10
Male/Female Authors: 2/16
Kindle Books: 3
Books I Owned or Bought: 8
Favourite Book(s): Graevale by Lynette Noni, The Three Of Us by Kim Lock, White Night by Ellie Marney, The Break by Katherena Vermette and The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth.
Least Favourite Books: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard and Off Limits by Clare Connelly.
Books That Qualify For Challenges: 0 – because this is the year of no challenges!

Begin as you mean to go on and all that. February was another awesome reading month – 18 titles read, 5 of which earned a 5-star rating and 10 of which were 4-stars. I read so many good books, including two sort of read-a-longs with Tien’s Blurb (Graevale and Nevernight), which was super fun.

February continued my vow to mix review books with books of my own although I have to admit, the books of my own that I read were mostly ones I’d bought that month – I didn’t really make any inroads into my enormous TBR pile…, whoops. I also found a few new good series’ to get into and for most of them, the wait now commences for the next book.

Here’s a look at my pre-March, March TBR pile. It’s mostly the review books I plan to read for the month because I haven’t decided what books of my own I’ll be mixing into that yet. Although I have started reading my first book for March and that’s one that I bought myself but it’s on my iPad so I can’t actually include it. It’s Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman and it is amazing.

The March-TBR so far…..

To be honest I’m pretty excited about all of these. Mrs has a bit of a buzz around it and I’ve heard some really good things about Let Me Lie which makes it pretty intriguing. Likewise Before I Let You Go. The top 3 titles are from Wakefield Press, a small independent book publisher in Adelaide, South Australia who recently got in touch with me. I am very keen for Surrogate because I’m pretty fascinated with that topic. The other 2 are a series and they sound fun. I don’t know much about Kill The Angel but apparently it’s #2 in a series so might have to track down #1 before I tackle this one. And High Country Hero is loosely linked to another Holly Ford novel I read about a character I’m already familiar with and I’m very keen to see him get his story.

How was your February? Any standout reads that you can recommend? And if you’ve already tackled something on my TBR pile, be sure to let me know!


Blog Tour Review: The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

The Family Next Door
Sally Hepworth
Pan Macmillan AUS
2018, 328p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

The safest suburbs often hold the deepest secrets. Such is the case for Essie, a mother of two. In a moment of maternal despair she once made a terrible mistake, one she will always regret. Essie has since recovered, but she fears what may still lurk inside her.

Her neighbours in Pleasant Court have their own issues. Driven and organised, Ange appears to have everything under control, except perhaps her husband. Practical, intelligent Fran can’t stop running. For exercise, or something else?

One day in February, during an unprecedented Melbourne heatwave, someone new arrives. Isabelle is single and childless when everyone else is married with kids. She is renting when everyone else owns. Her job is mysteriously vague. Strangest of all, Isabelle is very curious about her neighbours. Too curious, some might say. 

It soon becomes clear that Isabelle’s choice of neighbourhood was no accident. And her presence might bring even more secrets to light…

This book was incredible. I thought I’d cut it a bit fine when I only picked it up on Monday to read it, but turns out I had nothing to worry about. I started it at 10am and when I finished, I realised it was 11.30. I’d powered through it in 90 minutes – it’s this incredibly, intensely readable story that sucks you in right from the beginning.

The Family Next Door is set in the Bayside area of Melbourne, around Brighton and Sandringham. It’s a quiet street with homes that have appreciated nicely in value. It’s populated mostly by younger families and a couple of retired residents. Essie is a young mother of two girls and the opening of the book is Essie struggling to cope after the birth of her first child, who isn’t much of a sleeper. Everyone else seems to be able to get babies to sleep but Essie is really struggling with Mia and overwhelmed by some of her feelings. Sleep deprived, her terrible mistake is an act of desperation and a cry for help.

Fast forward a few years and Essie is now a mother of two, that one mistake from years ago hanging over her head as her new daughter Polly enters a sleep regression stage. When Isabelle moves into the street her presence is a form of fresh air for Essie, even a chance to escape the existence of rocking a child to sleep and praying they stay asleep. Isabelle is attractive and also delightfully unencumbered – apparently single, childless, glamorous. Essie is soon abandoning her boring responsibilities to get to know Isabelle better and it becomes almost a bit of an obsession. Meanwhile other women of the street Ange and Fran have their own secrets. What is Ange’s ridiculously good looking husband hiding? And why does Fran feel the need to run herself ragged (literally) day after day?

This book was so addictive. Essie, Ange and Fran are all actually relatable women. Both Essie and Fran have toddlers around 3 and new babies. Ange has older boys both well at school and is balancing her busy real estate career with her family life. Her husband is a photographer, almost so good looking it hurts and Ange is constantly feeling like she has to not only ‘keep up’ looks wise but also keep tabs on him because he has a habit of disappearing. And Fran has her own marriage woes and a guilt churning in her that only seems to go away when she runs. The three women are acquaintances more than friends before Isabelle moves in, but the arrival of a stranger and the eventual uncovering of why Isabelle is there seems to band them all closer together.

There are a few clues littered throughout of Isabelle’s reasoning behind moving into Pleasant Court, scattered through the narrative in italics but I have to admit, my thoughts went along a slightly different direction so there were enough clever twists to keep me guessing. I didn’t really take to the character of Isabelle so much in the beginning but her driving dedication became something to admire the further I got into the story and the deeper her pain seemed to become. The way that Essie latches onto her is truly concerning, especially to Essie’s mother, who watches her like a hawk for the same struggles that she experienced with Mia. Essie’s husband works long hours and although he seems concerned about her as well, the bulk of picking up the slack with childcare etc, definitely falls to Essie’s mother, who even moved in next door to help.

Not only is this book quite a mystery (why is Isabelle there, who is she really searching for, how did it happen, etc), Sally Hepworth uses this frame to also explore motherhood in its different stages and the attempt at balance or at least looking like you have the balance. Ange posts a glamorous life on instagram with relevant hashtags but at home, she’s constantly watching, knowing something deep inside and wondering what to do about it. Should she put up with it, for the sake of her life? For what she has built? I actually found Ange’s story really interesting because quite often those scenarios seem so black and white but Sally Hepworth does a great job making the shades of grey appear. I felt as though Ange evolved a lot as a character as she began to realise what she really wanted. I also appreciated the similarities in Ange and Fran’s situations, even though they played out in very different ways. It’s also interesting that the novel’s tagline is…. do you ever really know your neighbours? When I was a child, we knew all our neighbours. We weren’t the street party type, but we knew each other, interacted. Now? I know my next door neighbours and that’s it. No one else. I wouldn’t know anything about them. In fact, I don’t even know what they look like. It definitely seems like in a lot of places, many neighbourhoods have evolved to be this way. Renting is more common as house prices rise and people move in and out. Sometimes it just takes something extra to make that connection and although all these women knew each other, it’s Isabelle’s arrival that is the catalyst for an elevated level of interaction.

This was probably one of my most anticipated releases for 2018 and it definitely delivered. Sally Hepworth weaves such an intriguing tale with believable characters with these little flaws, hurts in a suburbia that’s familiar but could also be anywhere. There’s a bit of good-natured fun poked at Melbourne culture and even if you’re not from Melbourne, you’ll be able to relate in ways that make your own place that little bit different from others. Sally Hepworth is quickly carving a very good niche for herself as a master of these family mysteries and it’s not hard to see this as a smart miniseries either. Each of the women are given clear identities and personalities with their own stories, but those stories are also woven together really well. This is a brilliant book – I’m a fast reader but it’s rare even for me that I read a book in 90 minutes! Definitely highly recommend this one.


Book #39 of 2018