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Title: When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

Author: Judith Kerr

Genre: Historical/ Children’s/Semi-autobiographical

Opening line: ‘…Anna was walking home from school with Elsbeth, a girl in her class …’

Blurb: Anna is not sure who Hitler is, but she sees his face on posters all over Berlin. Then one morning, Anna and her brother awake to find her father gone! Her mother explains that their father has had to leave and soon they will secretly join him. Anna just doesn’t understand. Why do their parents keep insisting that Germany is no longer safe for Jews like them? Because of Hitler, Anna must leave everything behind.

My Thoughts: WHEN HITLER STOLE PINK RABBIT is semi-autobiographical as it is based on the true life story of author Judith Kerr. Her family fled Germany just before Hitler came to power because her father was a well-known writer, and had been openly criticizing the Nazis. Anna is 9 when the story opens and she first learns she is a Jew. She hadn’t realised she was one as her family didn’t follow any of the customs or worship as Jews. One day her father disappears he has been told he is a wanted man by the Nazi’s and if they come to power he will be in big trouble. Not long after the family also sneak out of Germany as they are worried their passports will be taken. Not wishing to arouse suspicion all they can take is one small bag each – Pink Rabbit is left behind as Anna thinks they are coming back. Just after they arrive in Switzerland to join Anna’s father Hitler wins the election and now has supreme power in Germany.

WHEN HITLER STOLE PINK RABBIT is written from a child’s point of view, so innocently we see how a once well-off family finds themselves to be now poor and struggling to make ends meet. This loss of income results in Anna’s practical mother learning to cook and sew, which is contrasted by her impractical father who didn’t understand that his children were growing and needed new clothes. Downsizing their rent and increasing her father’s employment prospects by moving from Switzerland to Paris and then on to London was another adjustment the family needed to do. As an adult reading between the lines I could see how the rise to power of one small angry man could affect millions of lives across Europe, and the impact on the family of being in extreme danger from the Nazi’s and then having no money for food or heating would really have been – rather than the adventure that Anna thought she was on. Overall it is very well written, the right voice for the age of the narrator, funny even in parts with some bad events alluded to rather than in your face.

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

Title: Her Mistletoe Cowboy

Author: Allissa Callen

Genre: Christmas Romance

Opening line: ‘…He had Company …’

My Thoughts: Ivy Bishop is a successful corporate analyst based in Atlanta, orphaned as a child and brought up by her grandparents; she arranges to buy her grandfather’s childhood home as a surprise. Sadly her grandparents pass away before she can reveal what she has done; When her engagement to her two-timing fiancé breaks down she decides to go to the property and spend Christmas alone baking her grandmother’s recipes as she works out what her next move is going to be. As you would expect things don’t go according to plan, starting with adopting an abandoned puppy and meeting her hunky next door neighbour. Rhett Dixon is also trying to start his life anew after straying onto the wrong side of the tracks for a while and he is not looking for a relationship any more than Ivy is – so of course you just know it is going to happen. What I enjoy is watching how all the hurdles are overcome for them to maybe get to a happily ever after.

HER MISTLETOE COWBOY is a wonderful feel good Christmas novella; it is a quick read but author Allissa Callen manages to bring the main characters alive on the pages, set up the relationships with the support cast quite vividly, oh and the descriptions of the town and Christmas celebrations are wonderful.

I certainly recommend this book.

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

With thanks to Tule Publishing and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

Title: Wife on the run

Author: Fiona Higgins

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Opening line: ‘…Blow Queens…’

My Thoughts: Author Fiona Higgins says on her webpage that she like to write about the stuff no-one wants to talk about – what lies beneath the surface of apparently happy families. She has certainly achieved that in WIFE ON THE RUN. Paula McInnes is reasonably content organising the lives of her family, she has been married to her husband Hamish for 17 years and is the mother of two teenage children, fourteen year old Caitlin and thirteen year old, Lachie. As the story opens Paula is in the School Principal’s Office staring at a Facebook post accusing Caitlin of committing lewd sexual acts; the post has gone viral around Caitlin’s school. Later that evening, Paula’s husband is seriously injured and is in hospital unconscious and she finds evidence of him having had phone and online sex with a 17 year old girl. This has not been a good day. Paula’s elderly father, Sid, has been living in a caravan in their back yard, and Paula reminisces that when her and Hamish were first in love they had a dream to drive around Australia. Impulsively Paula decides to leave Hamish in hospital, take the two kids out of school and then spend 3 months driving around Australia with Sid and get away from technology completely – no phones, no Facebook, no Instagram, no tablets, games or computers. Slowly the children learn to control technology rather than be controlled by it, and Paula starts to find a new lease to life mostly due to the attentions of a sexy young Brazilian backpacker they pick up.

Meanwhile Hamish decides he can’t live without Paula and sets off in hot pursuit of his family. The settings in the book as they drive around the coast from Melbourne to Darwin via Adelaide and Perth are described beautifully – and thrilled to bits to have my hometown of Darwin mentioned – and even the restaurant I like to go to. So pretty much set the scene for me and made me think that if the author got this Darwin setting right – then the others must be too. I also loved how the characters interacted with each other, for example how sometimes the teens were so wise beyond their years, teaching their parents a thing or two, and at other times they were squabbling over whose music was to be played. Once or twice I felt a couple of the scenes seemed to want me to stretch my imagination just a bit far – I am talking Hamish in Perth and then Paula in Darwin here. I did make the comment in my notebook at that stage “…I don’t know which person is the most stupid – Hamish or Paula. The story certainly has me engrossed as I try and figure out who I sympathize with…”

All the characters are all people we meet every day – the self-sacrificing housewife, workaholic husband, bureaucratic school principle, the typical Aussie mate, salt of the earth pensioner and self-absorbed teens but all of the characters undergo growth, Paula from being a control freak and Hamish from being a total sleaze. Both learn that there are consequences for their actions and there is a lot of laughter as they launch into different adventures and misunderstandings. I loved the settings, the people they met, the drinkypoos at sunset, and Sid’s alternative technique of teaching his grandchildren about life. I loved the multiple stories told from two main viewpoints – Hamish and Paula – all based around the central plot – and anyone who has read Fiona Higgins earlier novel, The Mothers Group, will understand what I mean. If you haven’t read ‘The Mothers Group’ then I suggest you go and grab it at the same time you buy WIFE ON THE RUN – you won’t be disappointed.

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin and the author for this copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $29.99

Title: Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse: And Other Lessons from Modern Life

Author: David Mitchell

Genre: Non-Fiction

Blurb: What’s wrong with calling a burglar brave? Why are people so **** hung up about swearing? Why does putting asterisks in that sentence make it okay? Why do so many people want to stop other people doing things, and how can they be stopped from stopping them? Why is every film and TV program a sequel or a remake? Why are we so reliant on perpetual diversion that someone has created chocolate toothpaste? Is there anything to be done about the Internet? These and many other questions trouble David Mitchell as he delights us with a tour of the absurdities of modern life – from Ryanair to Downton Abbey, sports day to smoking, nuclear weapons to phone etiquette, UKIP to hotdogs made of cats. Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse celebrates and commiserates on the state of things in our not entirely glorious nation.

My Thoughts: I have long been a fan of David Mitchell – his dry laconic wit has me in stitches when I watch him on TV in ‘Would I lie to you’ and his frequent appearances on ‘QI,’ so I jumped at the opportunity to read his latest release. THINKING ABOUT IT ONLY MAKES IT WORSE is a collection of his columns that have previously been published in The Observer, now linked into rough chapters, or themes if you will, with headings such as:

· Just turn on your television set and stay in and do something more boring instead, and

· Some things change and some things stay the same – and that’s one of the things that stays the same.

Of course with such wide ranging chapter headings that each contain a plethora of loosely linked articles and the topics make it nigh on impossible to review. There is always going to be some topic that annoys people and other people love, and this is how I found it to be, some left me yawning – others didn’t. I don’t live in the UK – so ALL of these articles are new to me as I don’t read The Observer – however a friend of mine who lives in London complained as he said there was nothing new in the book for him as he avidly reads the columns, so keep that in mind. However, what I DID pick up was that some of the pieces he wrote may have been a bit old, like events happened years ago – and the information no longer as current – so I wasn’t quite as enthralled as I could have been as he didn’t change the tense when he added the pertinent column piece. He could have said that this happened back then, and this is what I thought and then either tells us if there have been any changes and what he thinks now and it would have added a deeper insight. I feel like a traitor for saying I thought just regurgitating his articles was a little bit lazy – he is normally so funny I think he could have pulled a whole new list of the absurdities of modern living to have a go at. I know too that in his introduction Mitchell mentioned that he was going to be complaining about the modern life, but I expected it to be, well, amusing complaining. If not all the time, at the very least some of the time, David Mitchel is a comedian after all – he kept telling us he was a comedian on more than one occasion. But he did do a lot of whinging and I didn’t actually laugh out loud once – whereas I am always cracking up at the things he says on TV – I did smile quite often – and even related to his parents and their Christmas cards. That was me he was writing about too – no card for two years and off the list you go!! But for the most part it just wasn’t as entertaining as I thought it would be. Maybe it was because it is not a book you should really start at the beginning and read through to the end – which I tried not to do – I was happier when I just dipped in and out of it which is maybe what he intended his readers to do. So if you are a fan of David Mitchell by all means pick up THINKING ABOUT IT ONLY MAKES IT WORSE but dabble with it, treat it like a box of chocolates – read a bit here and a bit there rather than inhale the whole lot – your enjoyment will be better. His voice comes through in his writing and I could almost hear him speaking as I read. I love that in a book.

For more about the author – Click Here

C – Above average. Was very readable and I really liked it but was easily able to put it down and walk away for a while.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin and the author for this copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $29.99

Title: Resorting to Murder

Author: K.J. Emerick

Genre: Paranormal/Mystery

Opening line: ‘…"You’re the most beautiful girl I know, Darcy Sweet."…’

Blurb: Three days alone in a cabin in the mountains with her boyfriend Jon Tinker should have been perfect for Darcy Sweet. What could possibly go wrong? But as was so often the way with her life things didn’t go exactly according to plan. Their romantic mini vacation was thrown into turmoil when a stranger knocked on the door of their getaway cabin. Darcy was catapulted into a vision that indicated the person may not be quite who they were pretending to be. Once again Darcy found herself caught up in a mystery. Would she be able to solve it before she became the next victim of a serial killer?

My Thoughts: I have to be perfectly honest and say the only reason I came across this book was because I was looking for a mystery title that started with R for a reading challenge – the fact that I really enjoyed the story was an unexpected bonus and the discovery that there are quite a few in this series added to my delight. RESORTING TO MURDER is the 11th book in a series of 13, but I found that there was enough background information for me to work out relationships and paranormal talents without too many spoilers for when I go back and read the earlier ones. Bookshop owner Darcy and police detective Jon are spending the weekend together to sort out the future of their relationship. A knock on the door and they are plunged into a world of murderers, kidnappers and contract killers. With lots of twists and turns and a few red herrings the ‘baddy’ is eventually uncovered and brought to justice. A short book of just 100 pages it is well written with no superfluous waffle. A well-paced adventure that’s lots of fun, has a dash of suspense, and a chance to get to know the characters really well despite the size of the book – in fact the character development was better than some larger books I have read. I enjoyed the neighbour and hope she can return in future stories.

I have got the first book in the series ‘Death comes to town’ safely in my eReader so can go back and start at the beginning.

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

Title: A Sudden Light

Author: Garth Stein

Genre: YA/Paranormal/Family Saga

Opening line: ‘…Growing up in rural Connecticut, I had been told the name Riddell meant something to the people in the Northwest…’

Blurb: In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant, whole trees, and is set on a huge estate overlooking Puget Sound. Trevor’s bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch Grandpa Samuel—who is flickering in and out of dementia—to a graduated living facility, sell off the house and property for development, divide up the profits, and live happily ever after. But Trevor soon discovers there’s someone else living in Riddell House: a ghost with an agenda of his own.

My Thoughts: The writing in A SUDDEN LIGHT was beautiful, almost poetic in its execution. The setting was fabulous with a huge derelict mansion isolated by a forest, located on a high cliff top and complete with secret rooms and secret passages. Also contained within the mansion are family resentments, hidden family history and a couple of ghosts – one who is real. A SUDDEN LIGHT had all the hallmarks of being a wonderful modern gothic tale, and yet it just didn’t follow through for me and I found myself just a little disappointed by the end. The ghost aspect of the story sort of fizzled for me – and I am a person who hates spooky, so for me to complain about its lack is a big thing. This part of the storyline had so much potential to be more, and started off well but just didn’t follow through. I think the story, while not huge in the number of pages, became too wordy, all the basics were there such as lost loves, hidden love, betrayal, illness, madness and ghosts I expected so much more, for me there was no depth no attachments to the characters. Once I got past the beginning and started to think I was on a winner, the whole atmosphere of the story just died for me.

Trevor relates the story as an adult looking back and he makes it clear, as only a sulky teen can, that he is not happy at being dragged off to the country, or his parents separating. Almost the moment he arrives at the mansion strange things happen – noises, a voice whispering, things he owns disappearing, music in the attic. His grandfather is losing his grip on reality, his aunt is very odd, and quite psychotic in wanting to reach her goal, Trevor’s father is not much better. Again, this should have all added up to a great story, yet as I read it I couldn’t help but think it may have started as a shorter story and then padded out as occasionally it seemed like the story was going nowhere. I also felt that at times I was being lectured by a fourteen-year-old boy because the technology in my life today and how he had to do everything without use of the internet and mobile phones and their ilk, I felt like telling the fictional lad – so what do you want a medal!? Then often the conversations between characters didn’t seem natural – almost wooden and artificial at times, and again being said for the sake of the plot rather than naturally taking place; except the grandfather, I loved him as a character and I think author Garth Stein portrayed a man slipping in and out of lucidity perfectly.

All up I didn’t dislike A SUDDEN LIGHT at all; I just didn’t like it as much I expected to. I just occasionally struggled to stay focussed on the story and found it easy to put the book down and wander away for a day or so. Read it for yourself and you could be one of the many others who love it unequivocally. What Stein has done, and done very well, is bring the reader’s attention to the loss of nature, how we can address this and the importance of climbing a tree to be at one with nature.

For more about the author – Click Here

D – Average – it was OK, but for one reason or another I found it a bit of struggle to stay focused and finish.

With thanks to Simon & Schuster and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

Title: Man Drought

Author: Rachael Johns

Genre: Romance

Opening line: ‘…”Are you absolutely Insane?”…’

Blurb: Imogen Bates moved to the small rural town of Gibson’s Find to start a new life for herself after the death of her husband. Tired of being haunted by the painful memories of her old life, Imogen set her last remaining hopes on the little town and, in particular, pouring her heart and savings into restoring The Majestic Hotel to its former glory. But while the female-starved town might be glad to see a young woman move in, not everyone is happy about Imogen’s arrival. Sheep and crop farmer Gibson Black once dreamed of having the kind of family his grandfather reminisces about, but he’s learnt not to dream anymore. Living in the mostly male town suits Gibson down to the ground…and he won’t have anyone – least of all a hot redhead from the city – change a thing.

My Thoughts: I first discovered author Rachael Johns last year when I read the first book in her Bunyip Bay series – Outback Dreams. Now she has finished the third one and the next one is not immediately imminent I thought I’d look up some of her earlier books. MAN DROUGHT is the first one I could get my hands on. I was immediately struck by Johns’ recreation of a typical small country town in the Western Australian outback. The isolation, the close knit community fighting to stay alive, quirky characters and the local pub as the central gathering point for the local residents. Rural life is not easy, and the people who live remotely are there at the whim of the elements. In the case of Gibson’s Find it is not only a drought but mining companies pulling out leaving the town behind. Most of the women have left town to for various reasons so the arrival of a gorgeous woman who is aiming to stay around gladdens the hearts of even the oldest inhabitant.

My hands down favourite character was one of the support cast, Charlie, the elderly barman who was ‘sold’ along with the hotel and was Gibson’s uncle. I engaged with him from his first appearance and worried about him the whole way through. I remember after one particular scene making a note that I really hoped he was going to get his happily ever after because things weren’t looking too good for him. It is always a joy when you can connect to a character so emotionally. This is not to say I didn’t like Imogen or Gibson. Their romance was very believable because despite the fact neither of them was looking for a relationship as far as their heads were concerned – their bodies had a different idea and hormones raced when they were near each other. Johns resisted getting the two of them together straight away – she allowed Imogen to get her head space right as she moved from grieving widow to woman with a hope for a future. And Gibson? Well Johns let him just grow up – it took a while for me to warm to him but once I ‘got’ him all was good. There was lots of fun in the book, and a lot more depth to the story than just a light and fluffy romance. Subplots such as a dance organised for city girls that didn’t quite run according to plan, an unexpected second romance (and the hint of a third), a baby born unexpectedly, and a rain drenched drama as a person goes missing; each one demonstrated how when things go bad it’s all hands on deck helping out.

MAN DROUGHT is romantic, funny and a wonderful way to unwind at the end of a busy day.

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

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