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September Reading Wrap Up

September Reading Wrap Up

Welcome to my September reading wrap-up:

The total of books I read in September was: 15

Of these: 3 were a Library Books, 8 were E-books and 4 were from my physical TBR pile

Then: Out of these I discovered 8 ‘new for me’ authors (i.e. the first time I have read their work).

And: 10 of the books read were written by Australian authors.

Best Book of the month:

Once again I was lucky enough to read a couple of A books this month, I give As (or 5 stars) to books that are complete page turners, have me reading late into the night and suck me straight into the story. They also have to leave me wanting more at the end, and are all recommended. If I give a high score to a book it means it is a top example of that genre. A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman, UNFORGIVABLE by Sharon Robards, PANDORA JONES: DECEPTION by Barry Jonsberg and OUTBACK GHOST by Rachael Johns were all top reads for me this month and are wonderful examples of their different genres. However my book of the month this month is UNFORGIVABLE by Sharon Robards because of the excellent way she has portrayed a shameful part of our history.

Least Favourite Book(s):

I say ‘least favourite’ because my lowest ‘score’ still means it is very readable, but for one reason or another I found it a bit of struggle to stay focused and finish. This month the two books I really struggled with were Elvis and the Dearly Departed by Peggy Webb and Mothers and Daughters by Kylie Ladd. While they weren’t for me – they may very well be perfect for you.

General Summary:

Being an eclectic reader I read many different genres. This month the genre covered were Young Adult, Romance, paranormal, General Fiction, Mystery, Dystopian and Fantasy. Some of the books were a blend of two or more genre.

My Australian authors for September were 5 of the new-for-me authors Margaret Lynette Sharp, Kylie Ladd, Sharon Robards, Danielle Wood, and S.A. Tawks, along with Fiona McCallum, Barry Jonsberg, Juliet Madison, Fiona Palmer and Rachael Johns. Just to clarify an Australian author is defined by me as either an Australian born author no matter where they live and write in the world now, or an author who currently lives and writes in Australia even though they September have been born elsewhere.

Finally, the 8 ‘new-for-me’ authors this month were my Aussie authors Margaret Lynette Sharp, Kylie Ladd, Sharon Robards, Danielle Wood, and S.A. Tawks, along with Sarah-Kate Lynch, Fredrik Backman and Peggy Webb. Other than Peggy Wood and Kylie Ladd I would happily read all of these new authors again.

Interesting book related links that I’ve come across this month:

Jaime the Perpetual Page Turner is searching for the perfect book:

http://www.perpetualpageturner.com/2014/09/seeking-the-perfect-book.html

Why Dukes are the flavour of the month in Historical Romance: http://www.npr.org/2014/04/27/201184280/put-up-your-dukes-romances-favorite-rank

Kendra Alvey gives us 7 reasons to love our eReaders:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kendra-alvey/7-reasons-its-okay-to-love-your-ereader_b_5592417.html

A library without books? Yep a college library in the USA has opened the first book free library:

http://college.usatoday.com/2014/09/01/a-library-without-books-yep-its-a-thing/

The List

So let’s get onto what this post is about – here is the list of books that I read during September (each group is in the order I read them):

A = Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down

A man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman – General Fiction

Unforgivable by Sharon Robards – Historical

Pandora Jones: Deception by Barry Jonsberg – YA Dystopian

Outback Ghost by Rachael Johns – Romance

B = Really Good Read

The Wedding Bees by Sarah-Kate Lynch – Romance

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith – Mystery

Wattle Creek by Fiona McCallum – Romance

Of Merlot and Murder by Joni Folger – Romance

Love, Desire and Betrayal by Margaret Lynette Sharp – Short Stories/Romance

Haunted Ever After by Juliet Madison – Romance

The Sunnyvale Girls by Fiona Palmer – Romance

C = Above Average – very readable and enjoyable

Mothers Grimm by Danielle Wood – Fantasy

The Spirit of Imagination by S.A. Tawks – YA Fantasy

D = Average – it was OK, a bit of a struggle to finish

Elvis and the Dearly Departed by Peggy Webb – Mystery

Mothers and Daughters by Kylie Ladd – Women’s Fiction

So onward to October –Woo Hoo! I wonder what book goodies I will discover this month?

Title: Outback Ghost

Author: Rachael Johns

Genre: Romance

Opening line: “…Twenty years ago Adam Burton had been playing in this very spot with not a care in the world on his shoulders…”

Blurb: Third-generation farmer Adam Burton has always tried to keep his family together, but twenty years after his little sister went missing from the family farm he’s losing hope. His dad has walked out, his mum is as reclusive as ever and he still blames himself for his sister’s disappearance. When Stella Reynolds and her young daughter arrive from the big smoke to stay at the holiday cottage on their farm for the summer, Adam is immediately attracted to the beautiful single mum. Although he’s always steered clear of children and doesn’t believe he deserves love or a family of his own, he finds himself spending time with Stella and her young daughter, Heidi, and enjoying it. As the twenty-year old mystery begins to unravel, Stella wonders if she should take her daughter and run. But doing so is easier said than done, because Stella just might be falling in love with Bunyip Bay and a gorgeous, but hurting, farmer.

My thoughts: I literally burnt the midnight oil to finish OUTBACK GHOST, I just could not close the pages until I know what had happened. I have met the character Adam Burton before; he appeared as a support person last year in Outback Dreams and earlier this year in Outback Blaze. The first two in in the Bunyip Bay series of connected, but standalone novels. Along with Adam’s presence in the stories there was also foreshadowing of the role that his holiday cottage was going to play in OUTBACK GHOST with a few peculiar events occurring while people were in and around the cottage as it was being renovated and then opened for guests. Doors closing, floorboards creaking, porch chair swaying when there is no wind – all perfectly explainable in an old cottage – maybe? But since it has been in operation it has not been the success Adam hoped as customers have not been staying for the full length of time.

When Adam was ten he was playing near a damn with his younger sister Lily when she disappeared. Despite a huge search that even impacted on harvest time no sign of her was found – either dead or alive.

“…There weren’t many things that could drag a farmer from his harvest but the disappearance of your seven-year-old daughter was one of them…”

It is now twenty years to the day and Stella and her seven-year-old daughter Heidi arrive at the holiday cottage for the summer break. Stella is a single mum to Heidi; she fell pregnant in her teens but was deserted by Heidi’s father when he found out she was going to be born with Down syndrome. Stella’s parents also rejected Heidi and so Stella left her home and headed for Perth to raise her child alone. Heidi is a wonderful little girl, she is happy, friendly, trusting, loves animals and has empathy when people are hurting. She also has had a string of imaginary friends that Stella has had to avoid sitting on, closing the door on and forgetting to pack a picnic lunch for. As soon as they arrive at the cottage Heidi finds a new friend – Lily Blue. This imaginary friend is a bit different to the previous ones, a little more real, a little bit scary even, and Stella soon starts to think there may be a link between Heidi’s imaginary friend and Adam’s missing sister. There is an immediate attraction between Adam and Stella and it was funny to see how dating with a young child in the house makes a difference, it was very well portrayed as Stella balances her emotions between responsibly mum and a woman in love. When Stella first arrives she is also worried how people would react to her little girl – mamma bear ready to bite – but everyone in Bunyip Bay is very welcoming to the little girl and Stella finally starts to relax and dream about staying there forever. Even Adam’s mother who is now never leaves her home starts to come alive again with a little girl in her life once more. However it is not all smooth sailing and there are a few major hurdles to overcome before Adam and Stella can have their happy ever after.

OUTBACK GHOST will have you smiling; it will have you laughing and my goodness it will have you reaching for tissues at the same time that it gets you get angry at one part of the scenario; such an emotional journey but one that I am so glad Rachael Johns shared with me. I was sad to finish the last book – but luckily Rachael Johns has announced that Bunyip Bay hasn’t finished with her and there will be at least one more book to come at some stage.

For more about the author – Click Here

A – Excellent Stuff

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With thanks to Harlequin Mira and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

Title: The Sunnyvale Girls

Author: Fiona Palmer

Genre: Romance

Opening line: “…The screeching of galahs in the early morning sounded like church hymns…”

Blurb: Three generations of Stewart women share a deep connection to their family farm, but a secret from the past threatens to tear them apart. Widowed matriarch Maggie remembers a time when the Italian prisoners of war came to work on their land, changing her heart and her home forever. Single mum Toni has been tied to the place for as long as she can recall, although farming was never her dream. And Flick is as passionate about the farm as a young girl could be, despite the limited opportunities for love. When a letter from 1946 is unearthed in an old cottage on the property, the Sunnyvale girls find themselves on a journey deep into their own hearts and all the way across the world to Italy. Their quest to solve a mystery leads to incredible discoveries about each other, and about themselves.

My thoughts: I first met author Fiona Palmer back in March 2014 when I read her short story THE EMPTY NEST, it was fabulous. So I was chuffed to receive an advanced copy of her latest release THE SUNNYVALE GIRLS, a delightful and absorbing story about relationships, cover-ups and self-discovery. Back in WWII, when the family matriarch, Maggie, was in her teens, her father took on two Italian prisoners of war to help out on Sunnyvale farm – a sheep and wheat property located in Western Australia. Despite Maggie’s mother hating the men and doing everything in her power to keep Maggie away from them – Maggie fell in love with Rocco, and he with her. He was deported when the war ended but he promised to return so they can marry. She never hears from him and now almost 70 years Maggie works the farm with her daughter Toni and granddaughter Flick. It is Flick who finds a stash of letters hidden under the floorboards of the old cottage that she is renovating and Maggie now has to tell her daughter the truth about the past.

Maggie, Toni and Flick are all very strong characters. All three of them have spent all their life on the farm; Maggie and her husband taking over from her father when her brother moved to the city. Maggie’s husband has now died, but before his death Toni took on the responsibility of the farm when her father became ill. Toni is a single mother and her life is the farm as she doesn’t have time for men. She regrets not travelling; not seeing what is out there in the big world. Toni wants her daughter Flick to travel even though Flick wants nothing more than to work the farm. So three ladies all disappointed, all looking for change – whether they realised it or not. The discovery of the letters brings change and adventure into the lives and Toni and Flick very quickly find themselves in Italy looking for answers. They do find what they are looking for, but they also make important self-discoveries about what they really want from life.

I had no idea that Australia brought Italian POWs back here from Europe to be held while war raged. I did know that Australian Italians were interned in camps here, so while some of the POWs joined them in camps – others were sent out to properties as cheap labour, helping local farmers, whose boys were fighting over in Europe, work the land. I loved reading about Toni and Flick’s travels through Italy Fiona Palmer’s descriptions were so evocative as too her descriptions of outback WA. I really got a strong sense of place. The three women took turns in telling the story – Maggie’s telling about life back in the 1940s while Flick and Toni brought the story to the present day. And I know you shouldn’t have favourites but I really did relate to Toni – she has had it tough and she had to the greatest adjustment to reach her happy ever after moment.

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 Penguin Books and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

Title: Mothers Grimm

Author: Danielle Wood

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Opening line: “…Now that you think about it, you realise you have known her your whole life …”

Blurb: A sly, cheeky and blackly comic novel about mothering, heartache, heartbreak, desire, love and death. Danielle Wood has turned four well-known fairy tales inside out and upside down, shaking out their secrets in order to illuminate the hidden fears and desires of four very modern women. In a fairytale, the only good mother is six feet under. All the others are bad news. A fairytale mother will exchange her first-born child for a handful of leafy greens. And if times get tough, she’ll walk her babes into the woods and leave them there. But mothers of today do no such things. Do they?.

My thoughts: I have to say the book wasn’t quite what I expected. I assumed that each of the four stories that appear in MOTHERS GRIMM would be a recognisable retelling of some well-loved Grimm brother’s fairy tale. However what I felt I actually got were contemporary stories that were so twisted from the original tale that the connection was at best very tenuous, and in the case of at least one of them I just didn’t get it at all. The prologue set the stage and I absolutely loved it. It described the ‘good mother’ the one we all strive to be, but no real mother can ever achieve the goal, and concludes that”…why it is, in fairy tales, that the Good Mother is always dead.” Once the prologue was completed the stories commenced – Lettuce, inspired by Rapunzel; Cottage by Hansel and Gretel; Sleep, naturally by Sleeping Beauty; and, finally, Nag inspired by The Goose Girl. Set in Australia the main characters are all mothers who are each more familiar to me than the mythical perfect mother. Mothers-to-be taking yoga classes to ensure a stress free, pain free birth all obsessing over one of the other women; a working mother who is traumatised at having to leave her precious (dare I say spoiled) son at a day-care centre, a teen suddenly rebelling and falling pregnant and desperately needing sleep, and the final one was about an overworked housewife and mother. In all of the tales the reader is told of the fairy tale link, although except for the last one I am sure most readers will pick up on it themselves. I really enjoyed the first two stories, however, the last two stories were not really my cup of tea and the last one, Nag, didn’t draw me in at all. Each of the stories are very well written and many of the fictional mothers shared thoughts with the reader that seemed hauntingly familiar to some of my own thoughts as a first time mother – their insecurities, fears and mind-numbing tiredness. I didn’t find it funny – well there was humour in the prologue, but the stories that followed steadily seem to increase in bleakness. As it says on the cover ‘Happy endings not guaranteed.’

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 $27.99.

Title: Haunted Ever After

Author: Juliet Madison

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Opening line: “…‘Hello, is anybody there?’ My voice quivered as I pulled open the bedroom door and stepped into the dark embrace of the hallway …”

Blurb: When bride-to-be Sally Marsh attends a weekend away with her bridesmaids, the last thing she expects is an uninvited guest: the ghost of her fiancé’s ex-girlfriend. Red is quirky, loud and distracting, and Sally is soon desperate to find the reason behind her presence, so she can rid herself of her embarrassing shadow before the wedding day. Unfortunately, the ghost is reluctant to share the reason for her existence, but very enthusiastic about Ty, the surprise hen’s night stripper who keeps showing up at awkward moments. Time is running out for Sally, but it’s also running out for Red. By the time all is revealed, Sally will be tested to the limits, and go above and beyond everything she’s ever believed in order to ensure not only her own happy-ever-after – but Red’s as well.

My thoughts: HAUNTED EVER AFTER is just the book to sink into after you have spent a few hours babysitting your gangbusters 13-month-old granddaughter. You just want to put your feet up and be coddled for a while. The fast paced story starts from the very first page when Sally meets the ghost. The ghost won’t tell Sally her name, so Sally names her Red because of her red hair; and what a fun ex-person is Red. Sally heads off on her hen’s weekend and to her horror Red follows. It is very hard to carry on conversations with your closest friends without letting them know there is a ghost around – they would lock her up! Finally after doing her best to ignore Red, she finally starts to listen and her whole life turns around. There are so many laugh out moments – such as when Ty the stripper arrives to do his stuff and Red is dirty dancing with him; only Sally can see her and Sally has to try and not let anyone notice her reactions. There is also a poignant scene later on the book when more about why Red is still on earth is revealed – brought a tear to my eye. Sally and Red need each other although it takes Sally a day or so to actually stop and listen to what Red has to say – as hard as it is; then Sally has to help Red with her unfinished business so she can move on.

I have read a few of Juliet Madison’s books and she has such a talent when it comes to completely plausible settings, characters and events – even with a ghost in the mix. If ghosts are real – and I am not dissing anyone who believes – then this is how I would like them to be. Along with Sally and Red there are three best girlfriends with their own issues – a fiancé who is off on his bucks weekend and a very sexy neighbour, Ty, who is stripping to pay for medical school. It turns out that Ty is a wonderfully caring guy who is sole carer for his younger disabled brother – not at all the stereotype people immediately thing of. HAUNTED EVER AFTER has friendship, romance, laughter and pathos and I really recommend it.

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 Escape Publishing and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

Title: Pandora Jones – Deception

Author: Barry Jonsberg

Genre: YA Dystopian

Opening line: “…It was difficult to know when the nightmares ended and the waking world began.…”

Blurb: Pandora and her team are already two members down. The survival of humanity in the post-plague world depends on them. But who can she trust? Pan is still struggling to distinguish between her dreams and reality. But her memories hold more questions than answers and she doesn’t know who to trust. When she forms an unlikely alliance with Jen to try to make sense of everyone’s haunting similar memories and the conflicting information about The School, she finds herself with unexpected enemies. Pan and Jen are determined to seek the truth – no matter what rules they must break or how terrible the danger they face. But can they even trust each other?

My thoughts: I read the first in the series, ‘Pandora Jones: Admission’, earlier this year and it was fabulous. So it was with a sense of trepidation that I pounced on DECEPTION as soon as it arrived in the mail; would it be as good as I expected/wanted it to be? Well that would be an unequivocal yes! In ‘Admission’ Pandora Jones woke in a hospital and discovers that her family, along with most of the rest of the world, has succumbed to a mutant flu pandemic. She and the other teens with her are some lucky survivors that have been rescued and relocated to this walled off and isolated school and quarantined for their safety. The teachers at the school start training the kids to learn some intensive survival techniques ready for when they leave the complex. What is clear in the second book is that like the first nothing is clear. They still don’t know what have they have actually survived, and why have they have been rescued and not others; although they all seem to have special abilities. Just what is the school hiding from them? Why would you save a teen who has been arrested for blowing things up? For breaking and entering? For guessing what is written on a piece of paper? The first part of DECEPTION recaps a little of what happened in ‘Admission’ and why the events in that story have left Pandora trying to find out what is true and, more importantly, what isn’t. Is there a deception, and if so what is it and why? Now Nate is not in the picture Pandora buddies up with Jem who is seriously questioning the truth behind the school herself. The two of them plan a massive exposé and plunge into one edge of the seat adventure after another until their biggest one ever leads to a surprising cliff-hanger. As far as Pandora and Jem’s characters go – they continue to grow, they are not perfect by any means, but they are very brave and strong. In short two girls you want on your side if the crunch ever comes.

Pandora is increasingly convinced that there was no end of the world and that somewhere out beyond school walls nothing has changed. The suspense that started in ‘Admission’ continues in DECEPTION – just what on earth is going on? I was sure that I had it all sussed at the end of ‘Admission’ and that DECEPTION would just confirm my beliefs. But, in a shocking twist at the end of DECEPTION my theory has been turned on its head and I am left gulping like a fish out of water wondering how I can possibly survive until the final instalment is released next year. What a cliff-hanger! DECEPTION is not a huge book but it packs a whole lot of story into the time frame. The main characters don’t have all the answers, in fact sometimes they don’t even have the right questions! Pandora and Jem work hard to make sense of the known to give them an insight into the unknown and when the unknown finally becomes the known – is it the truth? The reader still doesn’t know why everyone in the dormitories have nightmares that keeps them moaning and screaming in their sleep – and why they appear to be having the same nightmares? All will be revealed, I hope, in May 2015 when Pandora Jones: Reckoning’ is released, so there is plenty of time to do yourself a favour and grab copies of both Admission and Deception and catch up on this thrilling story.

For more about the author – Click Here

A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin and the author for this copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $17.99

Title: Unforgivable

Author: Sharon Robards

Genre: Historical

Opening line: “…Well, Well, life can change in an instant in the most unexpected manner…”

Blurb: Set in the 1960s UNFORGIVABLE is the story of a teenage girl and a young nun caught up in the great religious and social upheaval brought on by the Vatican, and a thriving adoption industry driven by society’s fierce disapproval of unmarried mothers. Seventeen-year-old Sylvia, like many unmarried teenage mothers across Australia in 1966, is forced to wait for the birth of her child in one of the homes and hospitals run by the Catholic Church. St Joseph’s Hospital, is managed by the Sisters of St Anthony, and has never had a girl walk out the front gate without first leaving behind her baby. But the sisters had never met Sylvia, defiant and headstrong and determined to keep her child.

My thoughts: In the 1960s it was considered to be a real shame job to be an unmarried mother, and society was unflinchingly cruel towards an unwed woman with a child. The best a pregnant girl could hope for was to hide away in a nursing home, have her child, give it up for adoption, and return home without anyone learning about this shameful period of her history. This is all very good if that is what the young teen wanted to do, but many of them were forced into this decision.

Sylvia is pregnant, a teen and unmarried. She dearly loves the father of her child, Tommy, and he loves her but her mother tricks Sylvia and drags her off to a nursing home for unmarried mothers where no outside contact can be made. Sylvia determines that no-one is going to be allowed to take her child, and besides surely Tommy has the right to decide the child’s fate? She refuses to sign the relinquishing papers and fights the nuns every step of the way. Kim is also in the nursing home, her fiancé dumped her when he found out she was pregnant even though he was the father. She feels there is no alternative but to give her child up for adoption and is more or less resigned to her fate even though she passionately wishes she can keep the baby. Sister Gregory is given the job of instructing Sylvia and Kim and she feels sympathy for the girls in her care; so much so she is facing a crisis of faith. As the two girls approach their respective births the emotions are running high and the actions of the nuns seem little less than cruel. I was in turns horrified, devastated, and angry at some of the things that were done to the girls, windows nailed closed, forced to use different names; and I was very proud of Sylvia’s resistance. Author Sharon Robards managed to arouse huge depths of feelings in me as her story unfolded. I became so involved with the characters – even being compelled to hurl verbal abuse at the various ‘nasty’ characters and cry with the ‘innocent’ characters. In the home when the girls have given birth their babies are whisked away before they can even see them. To my horror the girls were then put into the general ward where the married mums are nursing and cuddling their babies. I was utterly filled with rage! I was also angry that it took Sister Gregory so long to speak up and that her superiors were convinced that the girls were being treated was perfectly ok. How these women of God could act so callously blew me away. Sylvia was a very courageous young woman and I was cheering her every step of the way. My only complaint, and it is a very minor one, I would have liked to know more of what happened to Sylvia after the story finished. We saw what happened with Kim 26 years later, but not Sylvia. The same with Sister Gregory where was she many years later, was there a good life in a convent for a nun with deep faith but who didn’t always agree with Catholic doctrine? Having had my grumble the story as it stands was totally completed for me; just lingering wonderings about these last two characters.

UNFORGIVABLE is a powerful story about unforgivable decisions and acts applied to the innocent. Mothers being forced to give up their babies and go back to the real world and pretend nothing had happened while their hearts bled for the child they would never hold. They may have gone out into the world, but they never forgot.

For more about the author – Click Here

A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.

With thanks to the author for my copy to read and review

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