All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Spring Clean For The Peach Queen by Sasha Wasley

Spring Clean For The Peach Queen
Sasha Wasley
Pantera Press
2021, 471p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: Twelve years had passed since the last Harvest Ball.

I was just eighteen when my hometown crowned me their Peach Queen with a blossom coronet. And I was eighteen when I left.

One tanked career, one badly timed glamour shoot and one dead boyfriend later, thirty-year-old Lottie Bentz is finally going home.

Back in the orchard town of Bonnievale, Lottie embarks on a radical declutter of her life, Marie Kondo-style. She casts out everything that got her into trouble: her phone, socials, make-up and a tendency to tell little white lies – to herself and others. But home has its own issues, not least Lottie’s staunchly feminist mother, who is furious with her.

When Lottie lands herself a place to stay in exchange for helping kindly Mrs Brooker try out the Kondo method, it seems like the perfect farm escape. That’s until Angus, Lottie’s former Peach King and heir to the Brooker orchards, makes it clear she’s not welcome – especially when Lottie’s declutter begins to stir up long buried memories and half-truths.

As Lottie finds her way back to herself, can she use her talents to coax Bonnievale and the Brookers out of the past? After all, everyone deserves to feel love, hope and the occasional spark of joy.

A deeply moving story about forgiving, finding joy and falling in love with life again. 

I absolutely loved this book.

Recently, just before I read this, Melbourne entered Lockdown 4.0 after a corona outbreak – a 7 day “circuit breaker” to keep people from moving around until everyone who had potentially come into contact with a positive case had been put into isolation and tested. Many people have mixed feelings about lockdown but I arm myself with lots of books and get ready to hole up for the duration. I decided to document my “ISO reads” on instagram and this was the second book I read during the isolation period.

Lottie (known as Charlize in her city acting life) is back in her hometown, reassessing her whole life. She was caught up in a terrible incident and the fallout has been invasive in the press and now Lottie isn’t sure what she wants to do but she thinks she’s done with acting. She was the last Peach Queen in her hometown and she finds herself on the committee to stage the event again, after a 12 year gap.

There’s just so much about this that I loved – Mrs B! The mother of Angus, who was the Peach King to Lottie’s Peach Queen, who opens her home to Lottie when she feels she cannot live at home, due to discord with her staunchly feminist mother, who doesn’t approve of a lot of Lottie’s choices. I loved the way Lottie and Mrs B developed this beautiful rapport, bonding over the art of tidying up. In Mrs B, Lottie finds true acceptance of who she is and the space to work through the ‘list’ she has created of things she wants to change or cut from her life. I saw what was happening to Mrs B before Lottie does but I thought the whole way it played out felt so realistic, especially from the points of view of Angus, her son and Lottie.

Ah Angus. I loved Angus and Lottie too. I felt like they had so much chemistry – it’s a slow burn, both Lottie and Angus have had things happen that make them gun-shy. Angus has some hang ups and has made some vows and Lottie isn’t sure what she really wants or where she’ll be in the future. But they find common ground a lot and I really loved the way Lottie’s presence definitely gives Angus some sleepless nights about his “policy” and the fact that sometimes, he really cannot hide how much he’s into her and how conflicted he is. Angus has buried a lot deep down but he feels he can be himself around Lottie, he likes her “no faking, no lying” vow and I appreciate the things they tell each other, the lack of artifice.

Lottie has a really difficult relationship with her mother, who always tends to be quite judgemental of her choices, especially one posing for a magazine. I really felt for Lottie, every time she felt the brunt of her mother’s snubbing of her after she returned to town. It was so uncomfortable at her family home that she took up an offer to basically stay in a decrepit caravan, because it was more welcoming. I think in the end the two of them did come to an understanding about each other but yeah, I still really felt for Lottie for a lot of the book because it’s obvious she’s quite upset at the broken relationship and that she feels like she can’t really do a lot to repair it and that it has to come from her mother, when her mother is ready.

This one has definitely earned a spot on my favourites shelf and I can see myself re-reading it in the future. I’ve really like Sasha Wasley’s other books too so she’s definitely an autoread author for me.

9/10

Book #90 of 2021

Spring Clean For The Peach Queen is book #38 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2021

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Review: Love Song by Sasha Wasley

Love Song (Paterson Sisters #3)
Sasha Wasley
Michael Joseph
2019, 368p
Copy courtesy of Penguin Random House AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

There was something about Charlie. Something about the way he questioned and teased her, brought her outside of herself … the way he’d made her crash headlong into love just by singing to her.

At age seventeen, Beth Paterson was determined to study medicine at university, despite the heartache of losing her mother. Tutoring Charlie Campbell worked well with her plan – but falling in love with him sure didn’t, and neither did getting her heart broken when he abruptly left town.

Now Charlie is a big star on the alternative rock scene, while Beth is a respected doctor in her hometown. When Charlie comes back to fight for the tiny community where he was raised, neither one of them can ignore the resurgence of wild attraction they once shared.

Beth swore no man would ever hurt her again – least of all this man. But some love songs can never be forgotten, especially when they were written for you …

From the author of Dear Banjo comes a book to make your heart sing and your spirits soar.

Recently I read and loved both Dear Banjo and True Blue, the first two books in this trilogy revolving around the Paterson sisters, who grew up on a farm in remote Western Australia. Which was perfect timing because not long after I’d finished the second, I was delighted to get a copy of the third, Love Song, which would be oldest sister Beth’s story. Beth is a local doctor who lives and works in town, rather than on the farm and she was a prominent character in both previous books so I was really looking forward to her story.

Beth’s high school boyfriend, a boy she was tutoring named Charlie Campbell has returned to the small town to fight on behalf of his local Indigenous community, who live on a remote piece of land a few hours drive away. A local mining company wants to operate nearby, including a wet mess for workers. The Indigenous community is a dry one, no alcohol allowed and the elders are concerned about what that will mean for some of the younger members of the community, including those that will no doubt be employed by the mine. Whilst the employment will be good, the temptation and availability of alcohol will not be, with the community having worked hard to eradicate its presence from their home. Charlie, now a very well known and popular country singer, has returned to lend his public voice to the fight. While he’s in town, he also can make medical decisions for a member of his family who desperately needs extra care and assistance. That family member is a patient of Beth’s and so the two of them come face to face not only to fight for the community but also to decide and provide the best in care. Which means they have to confront the troubles of their past, with both of them believing they were wronged by the other.

Beth and Charlie are both very passionate people, although I think Beth has kind of hidden that passion for a long time under her clinical physician role. But there’s no doubt she’s very dedicated to the community, including spending way more time than what she’s paid for, travelling out to Madjinbarra, the Indigenous community and seeing to all their medical issues each month. She does her very best for everyone and she is also concerned about the mine and the impact that might have, particularly the issue of the wet mess. I really enjoyed the section of the book devoted to the time that Beth spends out at Madjinbarra. She is well liked and respected, often taken into confidence by the people out there and is trusted to do the right thing by them all. Her relationships with Jill and Pearl in particular, are also really well done, the way in which she supports Jill to foster her own dreams and further her education but also recognises her want/need to take care of Pearl, which is important to her. Which I think, is just one of the reasons that Beth is so shocked by Charlie’s display of hostility towards her, when they come face to face after all those years. He makes no secret of the fact that he thinks she’s not a kind person and questions her decisions and suggestions regarding treatment for his young family member. But it soon becomes clear that Charlie is allowing something from when they were teens to cloud his judgement over everything regarding Beth and that it’s obvious the person she is, standing in front of him now, isn’t like that. And wasn’t ever like that, if he’d taken a few moments to calm down and think about what he was being told. Instead he’s allowed himself to believe it and build it up over years until when he is in proximity with Beth again, everything has festered so long that he can’t ignore it and just be polite or distant. The thing that complicates it, is that those feeling that were there when they were teenagers, are still simmering away under the surface of hurt and betrayal.

Lots of my friends know that cancer books are often triggers for me and I find them very difficult to read. This is a cancer book but it wasn’t a surprise cancer book, because I already know well from the first 2 that the Paterson sisters’ mother died of cancer and it’s something the three girls are always kind of peripherally concerned about but perhaps because Beth is a doctor, she’s much more aware of it and the potential issues with genetics, etc. She’s very concerned about the slightest thing being an early sign of cancer and always investigates things very thoroughly when they happen to her. The bits of this story that are about Beth and her mother are incredibly beautiful – each of the girls have had a section of the story that connected them to their mother and Beth’s letter had me practically sobbing. I was so glad I was reading this when I was home alone! They were all so young and vulnerable when they lost their mother. I think Beth was 13 and she went away to board at high school, then to university to do her medical degree and she also had younger sisters to kind of take care of and almost mother in a way. Since I had kids, kids losing their mothers is one of, if not the hardest subject to read about. I can’t help but put my own kids in that position and wonder how they’d cope. Wonder what it’s like to stare down the fact of not knowing what your kids will look like as adults. Not knowing if they’ll get married or have children, not knowing if there’ll be a time when they might not even remember you. I can barely even write this section of the review without wanting to cry about it and yet there’s a strength in Beth, Freya and Willow that makes me feel really happy for the women they’ve turned out to be, doing things they love and spending time with family and those that mean the most to them. I feel as though their mum would be super proud of all of them.

I’ve really loved these three books and I feel so……satisfied, for having finished Beth’s story. Satisfied for all of the sisters and the places they are in their lives. But if Sasha Wasley ever decides to return to this setting, I think I’d love to see a book about Jill in the future. This is just a really, really interesting and lovely world and I’ve very much enjoyed the time I’ve spent getting to know these people.

8/10

Book #83 of 2019

Love Song is book #36 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge of 2019

 

 

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Review: True Blue by Sasha Wasley

True Blue (The Paterson Sisters #2)
Sasha Wasley
Penguin Random House AUS
2018, 384p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Love is random. Accidental. You just live your life and then one day it’ll hit you with the right person.

Wandering soul Freya ‘Free’ Paterson has finally come back home. Idealistic and trusting, she’s landed the job of her dreams working on an art project with the local school, but she hadn’t planned on meeting the man of her dreams as well.

With his irresistible Irish accent, Constable Finn Kelly is everything Free wants – genuine, kind . . . and handsome as hell. He’s also everything Free isn’t – stable and dependable. Yet despite the passion simmering between them, he just wants to be friends. What is he trying to hide?

As Free throws herself into the challenges of her new job, fending off the unwelcome advances of a colleague and helping to save her beloved Herne River, Finn won’t stay out of her way, or out of her heart.

But just when she needs him the most, will Finn reveal his true colours?

This is the 2nd in the Paterson sister trilogy, revolving around a family brought up on a cattle farm in the Kimberley. The first book featured middle sister Willow (aka Banjo) and this is youngest sister Freya’s turn. Freya is an artist who has travelled the world, working odd jobs here and there to fund her travel to the next location.

But for now, Freya is back where she grew up having accepted a position at the local art school as a kind of artist in residence, helping them with a major protect and doing some supervised teaching. It’s something that Freya takes to immediately – she is able to connect with her students and foster their enthusiasm for the subject. They get right into the project with suggestions and ideas and Freya is delighted with them. The only issue is a colleague employed to do the same thing as Freya, who is making advances and also questioning her knowledge. Freya tries to keep the peace, because the last thing she wants is to be on difficult terms with someone she has to work with on a large project but it gets more difficult the further into it they get.

Freya is incredibly happy when her neighbour turns out to be handsome Finn Kelly, a local constable with a bit of the Irish lilt still in his voice. The two have hit it off immediately and Freya feels his interest, yet when she pushes things a bit, looking for that next level, Finn keeps retreating and saying it’s good that they’re friends. Freya is very confused by the mixed messages and also, Finn’s lack of understanding about local protests. It’s possible that these two issues could ruin what she’s been slowly working towards.

I really enjoyed the first novel in this trilogy Dear Banjo and I was glad that I had purchased these together because I read them quite close together as well. I found that I liked the family a great deal and the local community. I feel as though this book gives a bit more of a glimpse into that, as Freya lives in town close to the school in government supplied housing that comes with the job, rather than out on the family farm. Freya spends more time in town, socialising with her colleagues at the local pub, visiting local businesses and galleries with her students in a way to improve their learning and so that they can experience art in various forms. Freya is very knowledgable about supplies as well and she is eager to help people access them in a better and cheaper way. It doesn’t even occur to her that she should be taking a small cut for herself, for her time doing the sourcing and ordering etc, until people keep suggesting to her and even then, she’s very reluctant. Freya has lived on a shoestring for probably a long time, just picking up casual jobs here and there to fund the next portion of her trips and she’s not at all motivated by money or making it. I really enjoyed the way Freya threw herself into her job, she made it all about the kids she was working with and teaching. Even though she’s not actually a teacher as such, she puts a lot of time and effort into her lesson prep and ways to make it enjoyable as well as covering the curriculum. She’s a natural at it and she goes above and beyond as well, giving the kids a space to work on weekends and a support system as well as someone to believe in them.

There are two kind of ‘conflicts’ that prevent Freya and Finn from really getting their act together. The first one is pretty amusing – I can see how it happened and I thought that it was actually mapped out very well so that it was believable for how it came about and also maintained that sort of light-hearted amused feel reading it. The second one was for me, more serious and involved Freya being a bit of a pill, but perhaps it was just her very idealistic nature coming into play. There’s an issue that the locals are protesting and as protests go, people often turn up for the simple fact of causing trouble, rather than being into the cause. Freya sort of doesn’t really believe that this is possible and she finds it ridiculous that Finn isn’t “on their side” and that as a police officer, he has to uphold the law, regardless of his personal feelings on the issue. It takes quite a while for Freya to reconcile herself with Finn’s job and what that actually means, in terms of things he has to do that she doesn’t agree with. Freya was definitely hard on poor Finn here and Finn does his best to show her that while he might have to do things she doesn’t like, it doesn’t mean that he can’t still help sometimes too.

I really enjoyed this. Loved the little glimpses into Willow’s life now too, that can be one of my favourite things when reading the next in a series. I am really looking forward to Beth’s book (which is out super soon!).

8/10

Book #63 of 2019

True Blue is book #30 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019

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Review: Dear Banjo by Sasha Wasley

Dear Banjo (The Paterson Sisters, #1)
Sasha Wasley
Penguin Random House AUS
2017, 381p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

They were best friends who were never meant to fall in love – but for one of them, it was already way too late.

Willow ‘Banjo’ Paterson and Tom Forrest were raised on neighboring cattle stations in the heart of the Kimberley. As young adults, sharing the same life dreams, something came between them that Willow cannot forget, and now ten years have passed. When her father falls ill, Willow is called home to take over the running of the family property, Patterson Downs. Her vision for a sustainable, organic cattle station is proving hard to achieve. She needs Tom’s help, but is it all too late, and too difficult, to make amends?

A pile of Tom’s heartfelt letters has remained unopened and unspoken between them. Willow must find the courage to finally bring them out. Their tattered pages reveal a love story like no other – and one you’ll never forget. Dear Banjo is a wildly romantic and utterly captivating story about first love and second chances, from an exciting new Australian author.

I had heard some really excellent things about this book but I’d missed out on reading it when it was published. Not that long ago, someone posted in an online book club that I’m in, that this and the 2nd book were greatly reduced on eBook retailers, presumably because the third is soon to be published. I snapped them both up. I haven’t read a lot of rural novels lately – it’s possible that the trend is easing off, because it’s been very strong for quite a number of years now and there’s probably going to be a natural ebb and flow in that. Books like this though, are why this genre attained such popularity and why it is so beloved by a lot of Australian readers.

Willow ‘Banjo’ Paterson grew up on a family farm with her two sisters, older sister Beth and the younger Freya. They lost their mother when Willow was about 11 and since then, there’s been plenty of challenges. Next door on the neighbouring farm was Tom Forrest and he and Willow were the best of friends, always thinking and planning about how they were going to modernise and change the family farms when they both took over. They were like one voice and whilst Willow was thinking of a business merger for the two properties, as they approached adulthood, Tom was definitely thinking of a more romantic proposal. For Willow, this was not supposed to be the way things went and she fled to university. 10 years later and now she’s back to help out (take over) on the farm after her father falls ill. There’s no way to avoid Tom now and Willow wants them to make their way back to that friendship they had.

I really, really loved this. Willow is such a well constructed character – she’s somewhat emotionally stunted and she hasn’t really developed friendships or had any meaningful relationships since she left the farm. She’s very passionate about the farm and she has a lot of ideas based on her study in the city on how to really change their methods and go for organic certification. It will mean some outlay and a drop in profits at first, but later on they will be rewarded. She has some really fresh and exciting ideas but she also knows she has to tread carefully – her dad has run this farm for a long time and he’s not really going to be knowledgeable about some of her ideas and also, he’s been quite ill so she doesn’t want to worry him or have him stressed out unnecessarily. She also knows she needs to tread carefully with some of the men/staff who probably won’t like the change, especially a woman coming in with all these new ideas and changing everything and all their known methods. Willow is juggling a lot of plates and it’s very precarious for her. Just one mistake and everything will collapse.

And then there’s Tom. Things between them are so awkward at first – but soon the connection that has always been there between them is reestablished and they find much to talk about in terms of improvements to the farms, new methods and directions to go in, troubleshooting problems and the like. Tom is a huge help to Willow, providing advice and a sounding board when she feels that she cannot confide in anyone else – she can’t stress out her father, she’s struggling with the farm manager, her sister Beth doesn’t see things the same way. With Tom, Willow is able to get out all her fears, her frustrations and her hopes and dreams for the future. Willow is sure that Tom understands this time around, that he can’t spoil things with feelings anything other than friendship……right?

This is a book that takes a lot of time to really establish the bond that Tom and Willow have, both as children and then again as adults after Willow moves back to the farm. They have so many similar ideas and dreams for their properties and they work together so well. But Willow has a lot of issues with what she’s allowed herself to feel and the sort of ways that she’s seen people in her life. She realises that she never lets anyone in – and that one of the women she was friends with in Perth is genuinely upset at her moving back, whereas Willow hadn’t thought too much about it at all. I like that Willow develops this self-awareness and she does attempt to make some of those changes. She has a lot to learn about feelings and what she wants in life and what is actually waiting for her. The romance is in both ways strong in this and yet not at all, because Willow has to grow a lot as a person to someone who can actually recognise her own feelings and think about being in a relationship. Tom’s feelings are there the whole time, but Willow spends a huge portion of the book denying the existence of hers, especially to herself.

This story overall was just so…..satisfying. I enjoyed every part of it – Willow’s journey taking over the farm and implementing her changes, dealing with staff issues and potential sabotage, her adjustments being back living there and being around her family, her friendship and connection with Tom. I liked both of her sisters and I can’t wait to read their stories too. Also I really loved the inclusion of the letters, such a great core to build the story around.

9/10

Book #58 of 2019

Dear Banjo is book #28 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019

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