Birds of a Feather by Tricia Stringer

EXCERPT: ‘It’s good you’re here for a while, Julia. She needs someone. She’s changed. I guess we all have, but she’s . . . she won’t bend.’

‘I am a bit concerned she’s avoiding anything much to do with the town. She used to be involved with half the things that went on there. Is this self-imposed exile something to do with Audrey?’ Julia had tried to bring up the topic of Audrey before Eve left for Adelaide but the conversation had been diverted.

‘Pretty much the whole thing is to do with Audrey. Has Eve talked to you about it?’

Julia shook her head.

‘It’s a bit of a story . . .’

ABOUT ‘BIRDS OF A FEATHER’: Eve has been a partner in a Wallaby Bay fishing fleet as long as she can remember. Now they want her to sell – but what would her life be without work? She lives alone, her role on the town committee has been spiked by malicious gossip and she is incapacitated after surgery. For the first time in her life she feels weak, vulnerable – old.

When her troubled god-daughter Julia arrives at Wallaby Bay, she seems to offer Eve a reprieve from her own concerns. But there is no such thing as plain sailing. Eve has another house guest, the abrasive Lucy, who is helping her recuperate and does not look kindly on Julia’s desire for Eve’s attention.

But Lucy, too, has demons to battle and as each woman struggles to overcome their loss of place in the world, they start to realise that there may be more that holds them together, than keeps them apart.

But will these birds of feather truly be able to reinvent what family means? Or will the secrets and hurts of the past shatter their precarious hold on their new lives … and each other?

MY THOUGHTS: The story focuses on three women of different ages who are thrown together by circumstance. Eve, Julia and Lucy, although of different generations, are decidedly similar – they are all strong, independent women used to making their own decisions and who resent being told what they should do and how to do it, and none of them are comfortable with accepting help, no matter how badly it is needed.

Birds of a Feather is about female friendship, the unlikely places it can be found and the strength in letting go – of secrets, of resentments, of fear.

It’s a quick and enjoyable read, heartwarming, and I loved the small town setting of Wallaby Bay, South Australia.

⭐⭐⭐.7

#BirdsofaFeather #NetGalley

I: @triciastringerauthor @hqstories

T: @tricia_stringer @HQstories

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #sliceoflife #smalltownfiction

THE AUTHOR: Tricia lives in the beautiful Copper Coast region of South Australia, often exploring Australia’s diverse communities and landscapes, and shares this passion for the country and its people through her authentic stories and their vivid characters.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Australia via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Birds of a Feather by Tricia Stringer for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Stepchild by Nicole Trope

EXCERPT: I left the house, I followed him, studied him. He used to be the cat, tormenting little mouse me. I had to be watchful and wary whenever I left my safe space, in case he was waiting to pounce. But now this little mouse has not returned to her safe house, although perhaps I should have. Perhaps then I wouldn’t be avoiding the news right now for fear of seeing his wife’s distress, knowing what I know. She has no idea how much worse things could get.

ABOUT ‘THE STEPCHILD’: Three-year-old Millie Everleigh disappears on a crisp winter’s day, and nothing is as it seems…

It’s the phone call every mother dreads.

I’m climbing into the car after a trip to the grocery store. As the engine starts, my phone rings. It’s my stepdaughter, Shelby, who is babysitting my three-year-old little girl Millie.

‘I only went upstairs for a second,’ she says through her sobs. ‘She’s gone.’

I race home to find my blue-eyed baby girl missing, and my heart ripped out of my chest.

When the police turn up, Shelby’s story starts to unravel. What is she hiding?

Then I get a message saying, ‘Your husband is not who you think he is.’ Could he be lying?

Suddenly, my family feel like strangers. Everyone has a secret – even me.

No one knows why I was late coming back from the store, and the guilt I’ve been feeling ever since…

Once the truth comes out, all of our lies exposed, will it be too late to save my precious child?

MY THOUGHTS: The Stepchild takes a turn in a most unexpected direction – certainly not what I was expecting, but it’s very relevant and timely. What started out as a fairly prosaic and predictable story soon took a welcome turn to the darker as Trope explored the subject of teenage grooming.

None of my predictions held any water as secret after secret was revealed. You may think Trope gives you the whole story in the beginning but, believe me, she doesn’t.

The story is told from the points of view of three women: Leslie, Millie’s mother; Shelby, Leslie’s stepdaughter; and Ruth, whose connection to the story I am not going to reveal.

Trope examines the dynamics of the blended family, and the pressure on the child who now finds herself having to negotiate living with two separate families; of having to watch what she says to her mother who is resentful and jealous, and try to deflect her inquisitions. She is also having to cope with getting to know her mother’s new husband, and a very demanding friend who doesn’t want Shelby to have any other friends.

The more you read, the more chilling and complex the story becomes. Secrets are slowly picked apart, but it is not initially evident just who is the bad guy in all of this. Trope is a master of misdirection!

The Stepchild quickly became hard to put down. Despite there being no graphic descriptions of anything, there were several places in the book where I found myself holding my breath, or crossing my fingers. Definitely a read that will have you experiencing all the emotions.

⭐⭐⭐.9

#TheStepchild #NetGalley

I: @nicoletropeauthor @bookouture

T: @nicoletrope @Bookouture

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #mentalhealth #mystery

THE AUTHOR: Nicole Trope went to university to study Law but realised the error of her ways when she did very badly on her first law essay because-as her professor pointed out- ‘It’s not meant to be a story.’ She studied teaching instead and used her holidays to work on her writing career and complete a Masters’ degree in Children’s Literature. After the birth of her first child she stayed home full time to write and raise children, renovate houses and build a business with her husband.
The idea for her first published novel, The Boy under the Table, was so scary that it took a year for her to find the courage to write the emotional story.
She lives in Sydney with her husband and three children.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Stepchild by Nicole Trope for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Tea Ladies of St. Jude’s Hospital by Joanna Nell

EXCERPT: This wasn’t how she’d pictured her life ending. With the red light looming ahead and the car showing no signs of slowing, she prayed it would be a swift and painless exit. Hilary had contemplated death as often as any woman of her age, she imagined, but she’d always envisaged slipping away peacefully in her sleep. In the event of an accident she would have preferred something more glamorous and befitting a woman of her worldliness, say negotiating a hairpin bend in the mountains above Monaco, being eaten by a lion on a private safari or mauled by a polar bear on an arctic cruise. Not in the passenger seat of a thirty-year-old Ford at the hands of her own sister.

ABOUT ‘THE TEA LADIES OF ST. JUDE’S HOSPITAL’: The Marjorie Marshall Memorial Cafeteria has been serving refreshments and raising money at the hospital for over fifty years, long after anybody can remember who Marjorie Marshall actually was. Staffed by successive generations of dedicated volunteers, the beloved cafeteria is known as much for offering a kind word and sympathetic ear (and often unsolicited life advice) as for its tea and buns.

Stalwart Hilary has worked her way up through the ranks to Manageress; Joy has been late every day since she started as the cafeteria’s newest recruit. She doesn’t take her role as ‘the intern’ quite as seriously as Hilary would like but there’s no doubt she brings a welcome pop of personality. Seventeen-year-old Chloe, the daughter of two successful surgeons, is volunteering during the school holidays because her mother thinks it will look good on her CV.

Chloe is at first bewildered by the two older women but soon realises they have a lot in common, not least that each bears a secret pain. When they discover the cafeteria is under threat of closure, this unlikely trio must band together to save it.

MY THOUGHTS: What wonderful characters! But then that’s Joanna Nell’s forte – engaging, endearing, relatable characters enmeshed in everyday situations which are dealt with with empathy and humour.

Hilary is Manageress of the hospital cafeteria, staffed by volunteers, which raises money for various projects around the hospital. Once ‘a lady who lunches’, she has fallen on harder times but is determined not to let standards slip. She micromanages, certain that no one knows better than her. But she may just have met her match in Joy, who lives up to her name and who knows that there’s more than one way to skin a cat or, in this case, make changes for the better in a cafeteria that’s stuck in a time warp. They’re assisted by student Chloe, volunteering as part of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, a girl with little self confidence but a range of talents that will come to the fore in the battle to save their workplace.

These three very different women, who all have their own problems, unite to preserve a piece of the hospital’s history when firstly it’s threatened by the opening of a cafè chain against whom they must complete, and then by total closure. While the fate of the cafeteria may seem inevitable, it is not something that these three are willing to accept so they muster their meagre resources to take on the hospital hierarchy, making startling discoveries about themselves and their loved ones in the process.

The Tea Ladies of St. Jude’s is a heartwarming story about human resilience and determination served with lashings of humour and plenty of Joy’s light fluffy scones. I loved it. In between bouts of laughter, my heart bled for each of these women, I cheered on each of these women, and when I finished this book I did so with a tear in my eye, a smile on my face, and wondering if we will get to read about Joy’s adventures in the future.

Highly recommended.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#TheTeaLadiesofStJudesHospital #NetGalley

I: @joanna_nell_writer @hodderbooks

T: @jo_nell_writer @HodderBooks

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #sliceoflife

The Tea Ladies of St. Jude’s Hospital by Joanna Nell is available in paperback, Kindle/ebook, and audio formats.

THE AUTHOR: Joanna Nell was born in the Midlands and graduated from Oxford University with a medical degree in 1991.

In 2003 she moved to Australia where she now works as a GP with a passion for women’s health and care of the elderly.

Joanna writes character-driven stories of self-discovery for women of a certain age, creating young-at-heart characters who break the rules and defy society’s expectations.

She lives on Sydney’s Northern Beaches with her husband and two children. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Tea Ladies of St. Jude’s Hospital by Joanna Nell for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Lily Harford’s Last Request by Joanna Buckley

EXCERPT: ‘You won’t need it.’

‘Oh.’

So that’s that then, is it? Each piece, large and small. Pass, fail,this is worthy of transporting, that doesn’t make the grade, space for this, no requirement for that. My coveted Wedgwood serving platter, twin silver candlesticks (a wedding gift from Pa and Ma that they couldn’t afford), my mother’s pale blue napkin rings, two handtowels embroidered with cream ribbon, red high-heeled shoes now too narrow to accommodate the bunions on my feet, silk scarves in colours of the sea, boxes of cut crystal wine glasses, the Victorian oak dining table that has eavesdropped on many a family conversation. My life is being offered up, judged, valued and dispensed.

I tighten my jaw like it’s the weir stopping a brewing fury from escaping. I sit, as straight backed as I can, willing my emotions to follow suit as the animated discussion and pointing and measuring and nodding and stickering happens around me. I’m expecting a rage to rip me apart any minute. I try to tell myself the move will be for the best, that they have my interests at heart. But all I want to do is bellow: ‘Put everything back and get out of my house! I’ve changed my bloody mind – you can take the ‘FOR SALE’ sign down and stick it where the sun don’t shine!’

ABOUT ‘LILY HARFORD’S LAST REQUEST’: Knowing she is sliding into dementia, Lily Harford is ready to give up her life … but can she persuade someone to commit the illegal act of taking it from her?

Lily has lived a joyful, independent life in a seaside town in Queensland, running her own business and raising a daughter as a single mother at a time when few women did so. Now health and circumstance have pushed her into a nursing home, and her memory is failing, although events of the past remain fresh. Like pulling back the layers of a Russian doll, Lily recalls the former selves – mother, professional woman, lover, daughter – who still exist inside her.

Lily’s daughter, Pauline, has been pushed to her limits by her demanding job, as well as the needs of her mother, husband, daughter and grandchildren. And now her mother is begging to die. Nurse aide Donna, still recovering from a dysfunctional childhood and the demise of her marriage, finds comfort in Lily’s kindness and down to earth wisdom. As Lily fades, she asks Donna, too, to help her end her life.

MY THOUGHTS: I wanted to love Lily Harford’s Last Request but, while I mostly liked it, I didn’t love it. I found the characters hard to empathize with, hard to relate to, even Lily, whom I had expected to adore. The only character who I thought was really well portrayed was Donna, the very caring Nursing Assistant in the care home. I liked the way we saw into both her personal and professional lives and are made aware of how often her very important role is belittled and disrespected by others.

Pauline, Lily’s HeadTeacher daughter, overpowered Lily’s story which I thought was a shame. Although I could understand the author’s intent in demonstrating the effects Lily’s declining health has on her, she didn’t come across well. I thought she was controlling and manipulative.

Told from the viewpoints of Lily, Pauline and Donna, the story lost impetus with the inclusion of flashbacks to the characters earlier lives. There needs to be a point to flashbacks – the revelation of an important piece of information, or something relevant to the formation of the person’s character – but mostly these were just fillers and made the story feel disjointed.

I would have enjoyed Lily Harford’s Last Request more had it focused more on Lily and less on Pauline. The ‘surprise’ revelation at the end would have been better built up to, rather than just dumped in there. I think the conversations between Lily and ‘Frank’ would have made for interesting reading – a lot more interesting than Pauline’s constant introspection.

If you are looking for an uplifting read, this isn’t it. But if you are interested in or concerned about the concept of assisted dying, there is definitely food for thought here.

Lily Harford’s Last Request is a debut novel, and I applaud the author in her intent, but would like to encourage her not to overcomplicate the plot. Keep it simple and let it flow.

PS: I don’t see why Lily couldn’t have taken her beautiful silk scarves with her!

⭐⭐⭐

#LilyHarfordsLastRequest #NetGalley

I: @joannabuckleyauthor @harlequinaus

T: @HarlequinAUS

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #deathanddying #familydrama #mentalhealth #sliceoflife

THE AUTHOR: Joanna Buckley is an author based in Melbourne. She has a background in creating short stories, poetry, social media content and educational materials, and has also worked as a copywriter and editor. Joanna is a mother of three and a part-time careers counsellor.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Australia, HQ, for providing a digital ARC of Lily Harford’s Last Request by Joanna Buckley for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

I haven’t read much this week – I have one staff member off work after she tripped over in the yard at her home and put a sharp rock through her hand causing nerve and tendon damage. She is off work for at least a month, and I would imagine for much longer. I have had one off sick all week and one on annual leave. Omicron has been popping up all over New Zealand like mushrooms over the past twenty four hours and we head into Red Light restrictions from midnight tonight, so the woman who is doing her first day of orientation into my job tomorrow is going to have an interesting day!

I am currently reading The Maid by Nita Prose. I am not too far into this yet, but so far I like but don’t love it. I am hoping that once Molly decides to find Mr Black’s killer, it will grow on me.

I am almost finished Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty, and I absolutely love this book! This is a purely for pleasure read from the library, and I will finish this tonight, prioritizing it over my read for review (above).

I am listening to The Captain’s Wife by Norma Curtis and really enjoying this. Where has Ellen gone?

This week I plan (yes, I know, the reader plans and God laughs) to read Dead End Street by Trevor Wood, the finale to the Jimmy Mullen trilogy.

A group of vigilantes are carrying out a campaign of harassment against the homeless, hounding them both verbally and physically to get them off the streets. Jimmy Mullen is approached by his friend Gadge, who wants to confront the people behind it but Jimmy has finally got his life back on track. He’s working at a hostel for 18 to 25-year-olds and he’s reluctant to get involved in anything dodgy.

Gadge decides to go it alone but is attacked by two of the vigilantes. The police find him unconscious in an alley, covered in blood. Problem is, there’s a dead body in the alley too and it’s his blood that Gadge is covered in. He’s also got the murder weapon in his hand.

Convinced that Gadge has been set up, and feeling guilty that he didn’t back him up in the first place, Jimmy returns to the streets to try and find out who’s behind his friend’s difficulties. Unfortunately, he’s about to discover that Gadge has a lot of enemies to choose from. 

and The Couple at the Table by Sophie Hannah

You’re on your honeymoon at an exclusive couples-only resort.

You receive a note, warning you to ‘Beware of the couple at the table nearest to yours’. At dinner that night, five other couples are sitting close by, but none of their tables is any nearer or further away than any of the others. It’s almost as if someone has set the scene in order to make the warning note meaningless. Why would anyone do that?

You have no idea.

You also don’t know that you’re about to be murdered, or that once you’re dead, all the evidence will suggest that no one there that night could possibly have committed the crime.

So who might be trying to warn you? And who might be about to kill you, and seems certain to get away with it?

I have three unread books which have been published in the past two weeks, for which I must apologise to the publishers. I will get to them as soon as I can. I am likely to add another two titles to this list this week. I had hoped to do better in 2022!

This week I have received one new audiobook and three new ebooks for review. They are:

Truly, Darkly, Deeply by Victoria Selman 8

Mother of all Secrets by Kathleen M. Willett

and an Australian fiction title, Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor

The audiobook is Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

stay safe, my friends. I have been out and upgraded our masks to the respirator style which are, apparently, far more effective against the Omicron virus.

On a brighter note, it’s Pete’s birthday next weekend, but as we were meant to be going to a memorial service next Saturday for friend who died of cardiac arrest last year, we celebrated today. We went up to Dustin’s then went out for lunch. I was somewhat nervous as we hadn’t made reservations and it’s a very popular restaurant, but we needn’t have worried, it wasn’t even half full. We all had a lovely lunch and I had planned take photos but we were too busy talking, laughing and stealing food from one another’s plates.

Happy reading, and please forgive me if my posting is sporadic this week.

The Family Inheritance by Tricia Stringer

EXCERPT: ‘Hello, Hazel.’

The gentle voice startled her. She spun and the room seemed to spin with her as if everything was suddenly slightly off kilter. She stuck out a hand and gripped the back of a chair. The woman before her had been the one she’d noticed talking to Father Donnelly earlier. Hazel hadn’t recognized her from the distance but now, here, right in front of her . . . those eyes . . .

‘Are you all right?’ The woman gripped her arm and edged her to the chair.

‘What are you doing here?’ Hazel’s words came out in a croak.

‘I’ve come to see you and . . .’ The woman stood back a little and glanced around. ‘Your family.’

Hazel looked around too but everyone was busy packing up and taking no notice. She got back to her feet, pushed away the hand that still rested on her arm. She had to end this before her daughters came back.

‘You keep away from my family. They’ve had enough for one day.’

The woman hesitated, looked at her pityingly. ‘He’s gone now, Hazel.’

‘I know that,’ Hazel hissed, her heart beating faster. ‘But they don’t know about you.’ She could hear footsteps coming closer across the wooden floor. She didn’t dare look around. It was bound to be one of her daughters.

‘We can start afresh.’

‘We cannot.’

‘Hello?’ It was Felicity who’d stepped up beside her mother.

‘Who are you?’ June asked.

‘My name is Alice Pollard.’ The woman smiled at each of them.

Hazel’s heart beat so fast and her head pounded so hard she thought herself in danger of having a stroke like the one that had killed her husband.

‘I’ve just farewelled my husband . . . this is not the time.’

‘For what, Mum?’ It was June’s sharp voice again. ‘What’s going on?’

Alice fixed her gaze on Hazel. ‘I’m Alice Pollard nee Jones . . . your mother’s sister.’

ABOUT ‘THE FAMILY INHERITANCE’: Felicity Lewis’s fiftieth birthday party in her newly renovated home, loving husband and daughter Greta by her side, is going off with a bang when disaster strikes. Her father, Franklyn, with his usual impeccable timing, has keeled over and died.

For some members of the family, his wife Hazel for example, Franklyn’s death is not the great loss it first appears to be. But when his toxic and inexplicable will is read out, it becomes clear that long-buried secrets are about to surface, starting with the astonishing reappearance of Hazel’s long-lost sister.

Indeed, Franklyn’s death sets in motion a chain of events that will cause three generations of Gifford family women to question everything they hold dear – their relationships, their loyalties, even their identities. Until, that is, they choose to fight back against their dark inheritance …

MY THOUGHTS: An absolutely delicious family saga full of decades old secrets and the lies that are perpetuated to keep those secrets.

I loved this story of four women whose lives are turned upside down when the family patriarch dies and his will is read. Believe me, you will love to hate Franklyn Gifford, a miserable old git who has found a way to maintain control over his family even after his death.

His widow Hazel is secretly relieved by his death, believing herself to be free for the first time since she married him. But Franklyn has other plans for her, his will leaving Hazel almost destitute, and her family ripped apart.

The story is told from the points of view of four women: Hazel, the widow; her estranged sister Alice; Hazel’s younger daughter, Felicity; and Felicity’s daughter, Greta, all of whom are facing a watershed moment in their lives.

The characters are totally relatable with a good mix of traits. There are characters that you will root for, characters that you will worry about, and one or two that are eminently dislikeable. Stringer makes good use of the weapon of inherited money, the rifts it causes, and the greed that becomes evident at times like these.

I would have liked for the furore that I imagine would have occurred when Hazel contests the will to have been included as I can’t see June and her husband meekly accepting Hazel’s decision, but the whole situation is skipped, which is my only, and minor, criticism.

The Family Inheritance is a well written, moving family saga with a tightly woven plot that kept me absorbed from start to finish.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#TheFamilyInheritance

I: @triciastringerauthor @hqstories

T: @tricia_stringer @HQstories

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #familydrama #sliceoflife #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: Tricia lives in the beautiful Copper Coast region of South Australia, often exploring Australia’s diverse communities and landscapes, and shares this passion for the country and its people through her authentic stories and their vivid characters.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed a copy of The Family Inheritance by Tricia Stringer published by HQ Fiction from the Waitomo District Library. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Well here we are, the first Sunday of 2022. I am still very much in holiday mode and not looking forward to going back to work tomorrow, although it is only for the one day and then I have the remainder of the week off. I’m not sure that I can drag myself out of bed in time!

Currently I am reading The Woman Who Came Back to Life by Beth Miller. What characters!

And The Family Inheritance by Tricia Stringer, a library book. This is my first book by this Australian author and I am loving it.

I am also listening to an audiobook from the library, Murder is Easy (Superintendent Battle #4) by Agatha Christie. I haven’t previously read any of this series, but am enjoying this immensely. I have a firm suspect in mind for the murderer, but am I right?

This week I am planning to read The House Fire by Rosie Walker

Play with fire and you’ll get burned . . .

Who can you trust in this brand new edge-of-your-seat thriller.

A tired old seaside town hiding a series of unsolved arson attacks.

A derelict mansion in the woods with a long-buried secret.

A bundle of old love letters that mask a dark story.

When Jamie’s documentary investigation gets too close to uncovering the truth behind a series of deadly arson attacks that tormented Abbeywick in the 1980s, her family might be the ones who pay the price.

But for her younger sister Cleo, the secrets Jamie uncovers have the potential to get exactly what Cleo wants: to remove her mum’s toxic new husband from their lives, forever.

All it takes is one spark to send everything up in smoke . . .

And The Betrayal by Terry Lynn Thomas

Attorney Olivia Sinclair is shocked when she receives an anonymous video showing her husband Richard sleeping with someone else. After years of handling other people’s divorces, she thought she could recognise a marriage in trouble.

She angrily throws Richard out of the home they share. But days later she’s arrested—for the murder of his mistress.

Olivia knows she’s innocent but, with all the evidence pointing at her and an obvious motive, she must find the real killer to clear her name.

She may be used to dealing with messy divorces, but this one will be her most difficult case yet. Olivia’s husband has already betrayed her—but would he set her up for murder?

I received three new ARCs in the past week: The Bluebonnet Battle by Carolyn Brown

Shadow in the Glass by M.E. Hilliard

And, better late than never, The Bells of Christmas II: Eight stories of Christmas hope

What are you reading this New Year?

Happy reading my friends. It’s too hot to be out in the garden so I am going to stretch out on the daybed out on my deck where there is a little breeze and read some more. Enjoy your New Year reads my friends.

Outback Creed by Jonathan MacPherson

EXCERPT: Inside the outback school hall, Tom, Ed and Konnigan sat at a fold-out table, watching as Anthony gave his digital slide presentation to the three Aboriginal Elders. Tracker Jackson, still in his forties, was considerably younger than Abe and William. They listened as Anthony did his very best to convince them that their community would be better off taking QPEC’s money and relocating to the proposed QPEC Community Centre, only a couple of hours away. They watched the computer generated images of the fully-equipped facility and Olympic-sized swimming pool, where they were promised they could live comfortably with financial security for generations to come.

As Anthony wrapped up, Tom noticed Ed looking at Konnigan, trying to reassure her. Tom didn’t feel so optimistic. He activated the video camera on his phone and set it on his desk, aimed at the Elders, who conversed in their own language.

Abe, the most senior of the group, nodded to his companions and turned to the lawyers. ‘It’s all very nice, but no thanks,’ Abe said.

‘But thank you for the picture show,’ William said.

‘Excuse me,’ Anthony interrupted, ‘but the benefits of relocating far outweigh -‘

‘Are you deaf, mate?’ William interrupted. ‘We’re not moving.’

ABOUT ‘OUTBACK CREED’: Tom McLaren is the go-to negotiator for a corporate law firm, and is accustomed to success and all its trappings. His skills are put to the test when he and his colleagues head to the outback, hoping to persuade Aboriginal Elders to give up their land to a powerful mining company. The land is worth billions, but the Elders won’t budge, and Tom faces the rare prospect of failure. Yet there are hidden forces at play that will stop at nothing to make sure a deal is done, even if that means taking the life of an Aboriginal boy. When Tom and his colleagues discover the shocking plot, they also become targets, and the result is murder. In his frantic hunt for answers, Tom realizes his most dangerous enemy may be closer than he feared. With relentless killers closing in fast, Tom must uncover the truth…before it’s too late!

MY THOUGHTS: The pace of Outback Creed is relentless. If you like action thrillers, where people tend to shoot first and ask questions later, you will love this. Personally I was expecting a little more mystery and suspense, and a lot less action. The body count is quite high.

Outback Creed is a story of power, greed and corruption and the lengths that powerful people and corporations are prepared to go to in order to achieve their goals. Not quite what I was expecting and I have the feeling that it would make a far better movie than book.

Outback Creed takes place in the rugged Kimberley region of Australia, where the harsh climate and crocodiles are not the only dangers.

I had the occasional issue with the writing, mainly because the author tends to repeat words, an example of which is contained in the extract above. ‘Abe said; William said; Anthony interrupted; William interrupted…..’

I listened to the audiobook and have enjoyed this narrator in the past, but with Outback Creed he just didn’t pause. There was no pause at the ends of chapters, or when the narrative changed to a different character’s point of view. It was relentless (the repeated word is intentional). No, he didn’t speak fast, but he just didn’t pause and it got quite confusing. I lost count of the number of times I had to rewind to catch where the narrative changed.

⭐⭐.9

#OutbackCreed #NetGalley

I: @jonathanmacphersonofficial

T: @JonnyMacpherson

#audiobook #australiancrimefiction #contemporaryfiction #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Jonathan MacPherson Jonathan Macpherson is the author of several crime fiction novels. He also writes children’s fiction under the name of J.Macpherson.

Aside from writing novels, Jonathan has produced and directed short films that have played at major festivals. He lives by the beach in Perth, Australia with his family.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to City Beach Books (IBPA) via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of Outback Creed written by Jonathan MacPherson and narrated by Steve Shanahan for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie

EXCERPT: On the edge of oblivion, images drift through the fog of my mind and hold, refusing to let go. Last night. The very dreamy Jonathan Davies of the chiselled features, stunning baby blues and long, dark lashes. A tall, muscular powerhouse, precision toned and sculpted to be appreciated. So commanding, so sure of himself. The images form into a memory and I groan in resignation.

‘Shit’. I have to get up. His body is still in the boot.

ABOUT ‘UNFORGIVEN’: Lexi Winter is tough, street-smart and has stood on her own two feet since childhood, when she was a victim of notorious paedophile the Spider. All she cares about now is a roof over her head and her long-term relationship with Johnny Walker. She isn’t particular about who she sleeps with … as long as they pay before leaving.

Lexi is also an ace hacker, tracking and entrapping local paedophiles and reporting them to the cops. When she finds a particularly dangerous paedophile who the police can’t touch, she decides to gather enough evidence to put him away. Instead, she’s a witness to his death …

Detective Inspector Rachael Langley is the cop who cracked the Spider case, 18 years earlier – but failed to protect Lexi. Now a man claiming to be the real Spider is emulating his murderous acts, and Rachael is under pressure from government, media and her police colleagues. Did she get it wrong all those years ago, or is this killer is a copycat?

Lexi and Rachael cross paths at last, the Spider in their sights … but they may be too late …

MY THOUGHTS: Absolutely brilliant! Unforgiven was an overnight read for me. I just didn’t want to put it down.

Unforgiven is a fast-paced thriller detailing the devious workings of a group of paedophiles (Please note: there are no graphic details) and how difficult the police find it to catch up with those involved when their hands are tied by legal restrictions.

Lexi is a wonderful character. She is a survivor in more ways than one. She is determined that no other child should be subjected to the abuse she suffered as a child. She uses her earnings as an escort to subsidise her under the radar infiltrations into paedophile rings, providing the information to have participants arrested and the rings closed down. But then a man who abused her as a child manages to have his conviction overturned and is freed and her fragile existence is about to be shattered. She also has a talent for sarcastic wit that I envy, and the ability to think on her feet.

There are some wonderful characters in this novel. As well as Lexi, there’s Bailee, Lexi’s sister; Rachel, DI now but also involved in the original Spider case; Finn, and his daughter Ava; ‘Neutron’, police computer whizz; and let’s not forget Lexi’s wonderful and hilarious neighbour Dawny. She was a ray of sunshine in the darkness and provided me with more than a few belly-laughs. There are also a number of absolutely despicable characters who will turn your stomach and have you calling for a mandatory death penalty for these crimes.

Unforgiven is not an easy read, dealing as it does with child abuse and murder. But there is a lot more to this book than just that. As well as the underbelly of human nature, we get to see the inherent goodness of the people who fight for these children, and learn of the extraordinary lengths they will go to in order to catch their prey.

I became very attached to a number of these characters, and I sincerely hope that Sarah Barrie is not yet finished with them.

A ‘must read’.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#Unforgiven #NetGalley

I: @authorsarahbarrie @harlequinaus

T: #AuthorSarahBarrie @HarlequinAUS

#australiancrimefiction #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Sarah Barrie is a bestselling Australian author writing suspense in rural settings, with a generous splash of romance. Her debut bestselling print novel, Secrets of Whitewater Creek, earned her a spot as one of the Top 10 breakthrough authors of 2014, and her next three books, the Hunters Ridge series, also reached best seller status. She has finaled in several major awards, twice in the RUBY, the Romance Writers of Australia’s premier award, and three times in The Australian Romance Readers Award for favourite Romantic Suspense.

In other incarnations, Sarah has worked as a teacher, a vet nurse, a horse trainer and a magazine editor. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her ferrying children to soccer or gymnastics, or trudging through paddocks chasing cattle, sheep, chickens or the Houdini pig that never stays put very long. Occasionally, she’ll attempt to ride her favourite horse who’s quite a bit smarter than she is, and not always cooperative.

Her favourite place in the world is the family property, where she writes her stories overlooking mountains crisscrossed with farmland, bordered by the beauty of the Australian bush, and where, at the end of the day, she can spend time with family, friends, a good Irish whiskey and a copy of her next favourite book. (Australianfictionauthors.com)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Australia, HQ, for providing a digital ARC of Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

A Little Bird by Wendy James

EXCERPT: She hadn’t thought, hadn’t worried. That had always been her major failing, this failure to see into the future, this ability to shrug off the consequences, to wait until it was too late to remedy. That was how she’d ended up pregnant and married in the first place. It was how she’d ended up pregnant to a man she’d known for only a few days.

It was how she ended up dead.

ABOUT ‘A LITTLE BIRD’: Running from a bad relationship, journalist Jo Sharpe heads home to Arthurville, the drought-stricken town she turned her back on years earlier. While some things have changed—her relationship with her ailing, crotchety father, her new job at the community newspaper—Jo finds that her return has rekindled the grief and uncertainty she experienced during her childhood following the inexplicable disappearance of her mother and baby sister.

Returning to Arthurville has its unexpected pleasures, though, as Jo happily reconnects with old friends and makes a few new ones. But she can’t let go of her search for answers to that long-ago mystery. And as she keeps investigating, the splash she’s making begins to ripple outward—far beyond the disappearance of her mother and sister.

Jo is determined to dig as deep as it takes to get answers. But it’s not long before she realises that someone among the familiar faces doesn’t want her picking through the debris of the past. And they’ll go to any lengths to silence the little bird before she sings the truth.

MY THOUGHTS: Wendy James has been called ‘Queen of Australia’s domestic thriller’ and ‘master of suburban suspense’. I would have to agree. I read A Little Bird in one sitting, it’s characters and setting enchanting me, the plot captivating me.

Set in a small town on the Western Plains of NSW, Australia, Arthurville was a once thriving community. Now, in the grip of a relentless drought and as a result of young people moving to the cities for work, it’s once bustling main street is mostly boarded up, and the young who have remained in town are mostly unemployed and addicted to drink and or drugs. But it is also a town stuck in some kind of time warp. One where relationships and family breeding are still important; where old social traditions still matter; where a hierarchy is still in place and where some people will kill rather than have their secrets revealed.

A Little Bird is quietly brilliant, very much a character based mystery set over two timelines: the 1990’s through Miranda’s (Merry’s) eyes; and 2018 when Jo, Merry’s daughter, having lost both her relationship and her job in Sydney, returns home to be with her father while he receives treatment for cancer – not that he’s grateful – and as the only paid employee of the local paper, where she is only allowed to write ‘good news’.

The characterisation is strong with much of the story resting firmly on Jo’s shoulders. It’s a story that examines the bonds of family and friendship and long term relationships; the fact that they are not always as they seem; that our memories can deceive us.

These are characters that I could see and hear; I could feel that infernal red dust that leaves a fine layer over everything; and enjoyed the atmosphere of the pub where the locals go to escape the relentless heat.

James writing is vivid, the plot compelling, the outcome shocking.

She has previously written a novel called Where Have You Been, which is a good question. Where have I been that I have never before read this author?

⭐⭐⭐⭐.6

#ALittleBird #NetGalley

I: @wendyjamesbooks @amazonpublishing

T: #wendyjamesbooks @AmazonPub

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #mystery #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Wendy James is the celebrated author of eight novels, including the bestselling The Mistake and the compelling The Golden Child, which was shortlisted for the 2017 Ned Kelly Award for crime. Her debut novel, Out of the Silence, won the 2006 Ned Kelly Award for first crime novel, and was shortlisted for the Nita May Dobbie award for women’s writing. Wendy works as an editor at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation and writes some of the sharpest and most topical domestic noir novels in the country.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Little Bird by Wendy James for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com