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Title: A Year of Extraordinary Moments

Author: Bette Lee Crosby

Genre: Contemporary

Opens: I’m an old woman now and not long for this world, but I’m not afraid of dying.

Blurb: Tracy Briggs has finally gotten her act together. She’s focusing on her own life and helping her hearing-impaired son learn to talk. With her sister married and exploring a new career, Tracy has begun to run the family’s magazine business and feels her life is pretty much perfect. That is, until her son’s deadbeat dad shows up in Magnolia Grove asking for a second chance.

Now that her son is getting the help he needs and a promising new romance with his teacher is in bloom, Tracy wants to keep her life just as it is. But her ex isn’t taking no for an answer. And when a spirited elderly woman enters Tracy’s life in an unexpected way, she’ll have to work harder than ever to keep her new life on track.

Torn between the past she knows and the uncertain future, Tracy must decide what is best for both her and her son, learning along the way that ordinary choices can bring extraordinary possibilities.

My thoughts: I love, love, loved this book – second in a series it picks up after The Summer of New Beginnings left off. The story centres on Tracy who has put her past behind her and settled into life as editor for a local paper, her son Lucas attends a nearby school and she has a new admirer. But the past is not finished with her – an old lady knocks on the door and announces she is the great grandmother of Lucas and wants to spend time getting to know him. Then Lucas’s father arrives in town demanding access to the son he has rejected for years.

From this point the story takes off and tackles important topics such as disabilities, single mother hood, abusive partners, cancer and love. Bette brings her characters alive with love and compassion – even her baddies are brought alive by being assigned motivation for their actions. This is a book that deserves your undivided attention, a glass of wine, some cheese and biscuits, and your phone disconnected.

Can’t wait for the next book to come out.

Rating: 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 Lake Union Publishing and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review

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Blog update

Hi all

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.

This is because I have been taking a break from my blog as I relocated from one side of Australia to another.

Packing up, decorating the house, selling the house, finding a new place to live, leaving work and then traveling and unpacking have all taken their toll on my reading commitments.

All up, the upheaval has taken has taken just over 6 months!

I do still owe a few reviews – and will be catching up on these over the next few days – then will be back on track.

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Title: The Secret life of Sarah Meads

Author: V.K. Tritschler

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Opens:

Sarah had managed to survive two whole weeks of hectic working motherhood. Not one sickness, injury or serious incident that entire time. It had to be a record.

Blurb:

What do you get when you mix a frustrated working mother, an absentee husband, a handsome stranger and a psychotic work colleague? Sarah Meads was about to find out. The hardest part was going to be keeping it quiet. Well that…and keeping her sanity.

My thoughts:

Sarah Meads is a working mum with three children and a husband, Richard. Richard does nothing around the house to help and is working late at night and weekends, he treats Sarah nicely enough, just expects her to wait on him, pick up after him, and provide her body when he needs it, life is good for him – not stressed at all. At the opposite end of the emotional scale is Sarah, she is stressed beyond measure trying to juggle all the normal day to day activities and life is not much better at work. She enjoys her work, but one of her co-workers, Lynley, is a bully, and makes Sarah’s work life hell. There is a scene that involves the radio that made me want to ring up the office of Anti-Discrimination and report a bully!!!

THE SECRET LIFE OF SARAH MEADS opens at the school fete, Richard has had a prior appointment so Sarah has taken her sister Jazz along to help her with the three kids. Her sister talks her into going into a Gypsy tent to have her future read. Instead of the gypsy she meets her grandson Antonio who reads her palm in his grandmother’s absence. Sarah is stunned at how her body reacts to Antonio – and he seems equally smitten. Flustered she leaves the tent and goes back to her life. However some of the things Antonio said stuck with her and in an effort to get out of the stressed rut she is living in Sarah decides to learn how to be a witch. With only google to guide her along this path her exploration leads to some really funny scenes which include the arrival of a mangy cat, and the police. However life cannot continue like this for Sarah and things escalate until finally a revelation causes her world to turn upside down and she has to learn how to get her life back on track.

I really, really enjoyed THE SECRET LIFE OF SARAH MEADS. It is a debut novel for V.K. Tritschler and I can’t wait until she writes another one – well she has – it is being edited now. I related, to a certain extent, with Sarah. Her mother and father is my mother and father to a T. Sadly my father is no longer with us – but mum? Yep just like Sarah’s. Balancing work and motherhood – also struck a chord. Luckily my children are now all grown up with children of their own – but gee it was hard for a while. AND, unlike Sarah my hubby played a huge part with the parenting roles. So didn’t relate to a Richard character in my life – although my sister certainly could with her husband!!! I love it when I connect with the characters in a book. The storyline covers some pretty heavy stuff; bullying, mental health, family relationships to name but a few. But the way it is written allows you to understand what is happening without descending into the pits of despair. I was particularly taken by the following quote:

There are four things I need you to always remember alright?"

"Sure," she said.

"One, always breathe," he said "It sounds simple but breathing is sometimes the hardest thing in the world. If you’re ever struggling, stop, and take a couple of deep, slow breaths. Count them out loud if you need to. Two, always have dreams and ideals and never let anyone tell you it’s impossible. Something impossible is only something possible that hasn’t yet been done. Three, get out of bed every single day. Especially if you don’t want to. Because yes, even without you the world keeps turning, it’s simply a little more interesting with you in it. Four, never give up. That means on life and yourself.

I think we can all take this advice on board. There is a happy ending – but it is more the start of the road to a happy ending rather than the actual happy ending. And I liked that. The ending was perfect for the story.

Rating: Excellent Stuffa 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.

Want to know more about author V.K. Tritschler? Click Here

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

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Title: Rosemary’s Retribution

Author: Nandita Chakraborty

Genre: Fiction

Opens: I was running today. I couldn’t look back; it would only make me weak. Tears of shame rolled out of my eyes.

Blurb: Shabana and Ted meet in India: Shabana is a maid in the foreign office, while Ted is a young diplomat from Melbourne. The two form an unconventional relationship that grows into love under the shadow of Urdu poetry and Western literature. They find themselves caught in a web of family secrets and betrayal, all to be re-introduced forty years later when we meet Rosemary.

My thoughts: There is a lot of information about packed into this novella. The story starts against the background of the most controversial period of independent India’s history – simply named the Emergency. This is when the, on the advice of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, declared a state of emergency under Article 352 of the Constitution of India, effectively bestowing on her the power to rule by decree, suspending elections other civil liberties.

I confess that I was not aware of all of this – I was in my final year at High School in Australia and my focus, ashamedly, was on passing my exams rather than the upheavals in other countries. I was aware of the assassination of Indira in the 1980s – but to be honest I always thought of her as a well-loved leader – not this person who introduced some terrible laws. But I digress. This political upheaval is only the background of the story – although every so often there was a fair bit of info-bombing about the politics when the author, Melbourne based Nandita Chakraborty, explained why things were the way they were in Shabana and Ted’s story.

The story jumps about in time a bit as well. We start with Rosemary in Melbourne – then jump back to Rosemary’s life in an Indian orphanage, just awful, then jump back further to 1975 and the meeting of Ted and Shabana before returning to the present.

Starting in the orphanage, we read how Rosemary was found abandoned on the doorstep of the orphanage and for her first 12 years is treated as money-spinning ‘sideshow’ due to the fact she is blue-eyed and fair skinned. She is quite cruelly treated by the Matron/owner. Rosemary is eventually adopted by a rich white woman from Australia and as she goes off with her new mother, the story switches to Ted Smith and Shabana. Shabana is Muslim, promised in marriage to a much older man and works as a maid in the Australian Embassy. Ted treats her kindly and eventually love grows between them. A forbidden love due to their mixed race and different religions. Their respective parents step in to end the liaison and that is the end of that.

Or is it? The couple are betrayed but there are secrets piled upon secrets and it is not until the very end that all of the secrets are unravelled at a death bed confession.

At less than 200 pages ROSEMARY’S RETRIBUTION is a quick and very interesting read. The author, who was born in India in 1975 when the Emergency was declared, certainly knows her history. And despite, as I mentioned earlier, her tendency to info bomb the information she gives is very easy to understand and explains events very clearly. I really connected to Shabana, she was a wonderful character, not so much to ted – he really came over as an innocent. However, he was young and growing into his character. He had a very strong family behind him – with expectations that brooked no dissention. Going to India was his first step to independence, but his family machinations even reached him there. I would certainly recommend ROSEMARY’S RETRIBUTION and would not hesitate to read more work by Nandita Chakraborty.

For more about author Nandita Chakraborty – 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 Aisling Gilhooly from Aisling Enterprises and the author my copy to read and review.

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Title: Eventually Julie

Author: Anthea Syrokou

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Opens: “We’ll definitely need to make some cutbacks.”

Blurb: Julie has had enough! At 27, she feels overwhelmed with the "shoulds" her family pile on her, and an office job that she detests. It doesn’t help that she’s carrying her "baggage of unfinished business" with her, weighing her down even more… making it impossible to see clearly and dig herself out of the rut her life has become.

When she finally decides to take action, a chance encounter presents her with an opportunity to deal with her messy past, so she sets off to Paris to find the answers that can set her free, and live a life full of meaning and passion. Julie loses herself in the sights and smells, and in the beauty of travelling in one of the most romantic cities in the world. She opens her heart to love, and begins to be true to herself… until she discovers a secret that sets her right back to where she began; uncertain about life — about love!

Join Julie and her delightful and witty friends on a journey of fun, adventure, and passion. Set in and around Sydney, as well as London and Paris, EVENTUALLY JULIE is a “finding yourself” romance that deals with being stuck in a rut and eventually finding the right ingredients to live a life that is true..

My Thoughts: I related to so much in EVENTUALLY JULIE – well except the romance crisis bit, I was lucky and found the right man very quickly and never wavered from him and after 41 years I’m pretty certain I made the right choice!!! BUT the relationship between Julie and her sister – is me and mine to a T!!! And the dissatisfaction with work and being too scared to make a leap of faith is also me. So the story struck a lot of chords.

And that is why this book worked for me – yes there is romance, and while it does play a part, the main thrust of the story is Julie getting in touch with her own desires, finding out what she wants to do with her life and actually making things happen instead of just going along with the expectations of family and friends. She had to change her mindset, stop being a people pleaser and start being a Julie pleaser, and then work out how to do it. She does get help and advice along the way.

Finding out she has lost her job at the start of the book is the trigger she needs to maybe change direction – and when her sister drags her off kicking and screaming to the Hunter Valley for a family weekend Julie bumps into her first love Scott. So much unfinished business with this relationship, and the spark is still there, which quickly leads to Julie flying to London and Paris with him and another couple. While in Paris another piece of the ‘what to do with herself’ puzzle falls into place. On her return to Australia the story then follows how she makes things happen. Of course not as easy as it sounds – there is still a lot of book to go before the ending is reached – and a lot of misunderstandings to overcome.

The characters are all very well fleshed out – and I loved the relationships between Julie and her two flatmates Maria and Cass, these two gave perfect support to Julie; while Julie’s story was the focus – we were also given back stories of the two flatmates. As EVENTUALLY JULIE is the first in a series called ‘Julie and friends’ I hoped that this meant that each of the flatmates would get her story told, and was pleased to see that her next book The Greek Tapestry is about Maria – I will certainly be grabbing myself a copy of this!

Overall the story wasn’t predictable as a lot of these romance type books are, there was a lot of depth to it and were a few twists that added to the story. I loved the descriptions of the different settings which each gave a perfect sense of place; on top of this there was humour, pathos and drama all in balance with each other. I laughed, I nodded and I shed a tear as I worried about the direction I thought the story was sometimes going with the different characters.

I utterly recommend the EVENTUALLY JULIE.

For more about author Anthea Syrokou – 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 the author for my copy to read and review.

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Title: Three Gold Coins

Author: Josephine Moon

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Opens: Lara Foxleigh felt the slight tremor in her legs with every step through the narrow cobblestoned street and knew it wasn’t just from jet-lag.

Blurb: One coin for love, one for marriage, one to return to Rome. Two days ago, Lara Foxleigh tossed three gold euros into the Trevi Fountain. Now, she is caring for a cranky old man and living in a picturesque villa half a world away from her home and the concerns of her loving family. Soon, it seems as if those wishes she made in Rome just might be coming true, and she may even be able to help heal a fifteen-year-old tragedy. Until Lara’s past threatens to destroy everything she loves.

My Thoughts: The subjects that Josephine Moon has previously based her story around have all been food related – first tea, then chocolate, next we learned about bees (honey) and now it is time for cheese to shine. Before we get to cheese though, the story opens in Rome – more specifically beside the famous Trevi Fountain. Lara has just arrived in Italy from Australia and elbows her way to the edge of the fountain to throw her three coins over her left shoulder to ensure, as the tradition goes, a return to Rome, to find true love and to get married. She spots an elderly man who seems to be in a bit of a bother as he has been abandoned by his carer, and Lara ends up assisting him to throw his single gold ring into the fountain then drive him home – to Tuscany – to a goat farm!

Despite his crabby exterior Samuel needs help, and Lara finds herself offering to be his carer until a fulltime replacement can be found. Part of the chores are to keep house for him, milk his goats, Meg and Willow, and make the cheese, not something that Lara has ever experienced – well the keep house bit she’s ok with – the goat and cheese part? Well not so much. Enter the handsome, but not perfect, hero, Samuel’s great-nephew Matteo. Matteo helps out where he can, although he can’t spend a lot of time training Lara in goat husbandry as he works on a different goat farm and has his own cheese-making to attend to. Lara soon realises that Matteo is the only family member who visits the lonely and crabby old Samuel. What on earth can cause a whole family to turn their backs on one man?

It has been a while where I fell so instantly in love with all the main characters in a book – because as well as Samuel and Matteo in Italy, back home in Australia, Lara has her mother, Eliza, her sister Sunny and Sunny’s young twins, Daisy and Hudson. Not is all roses in paradise though, back home there is also some big threat to the family unit. The three women are afraid, very afraid. Whatever this threat is, it is the reason why Lara is alone in Italy. Very slowly, with the story switching back and forth between the voices of Sunny and Lara and the present and the past, the reader get to learn all the horror that is being inflicted on Lara and her family. Eventually what is happening in Australia impacts on Lara in Italy – she has to make a decision to save both herself and her family. She also needs to sort out Samuel’s problems – is the world going to come crashing down around her?

THREE GOLD COINS is not all sightseeing, cheese making, cooking and romance – there is suspense as the back story of Lara and her family unfolds. Some gritty subjects such as domestic abuse and mental illness that are very well handled – along with a realistic look at the legal system in Australia that seems to protect the right of the abuser rather than the victim. The message that comes from THREE GOLD COINS is that it is possible to make a stand – but do it smartly. There is always hope.

Overall, the plot is believable, the characters are all believable, there is love and loyalty, humour and terror, danger and happiness, mad cow disease and goats – and food! I was googling recipes right left and centre as I read the book. There is a whole lot more to Italian cooking than Spag Bog and Pizza – like Tuscan White Bean Soup – Mm mm crunchy bread and a glass of wine! Italian wine of course.

Josephine Moon just gets better and better – this is her best book yet – and they’ve all been 5 star reads for me.

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 and Unwin and the author for my copy to read and review.

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Title: How (Not) to Kiss a Toad

Author: Elizabeth A. Reeves

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Opens: Closing the door of the house behind me, I tossed my purse on the couch and threw myself after it.

Blurb: Life isn’t always sweet for magical baker, Cindy Eller. All her life she’s been cursed – every man she’s ever kissed has turned into a toad. Love isn’t likely to come her way. If that weren’t a big enough problem, her ‘curse’ has come to the attention of the Council of Magic and she may never be able to use her powers. Enter the perfect man – handsome, sweet, and loves food just as much as Cindy does. It would seem to be a match made in Heaven, or is it? Cindy isn’t the only one keeping secrets. With toads, cupcakes, romance, magic and ice cream, life never has time to get dull!

My Thoughts: HOW (NOT) TO KISS A TOAD is a wonderful example of a fluffy paranormal romance, and was just what I was looking for. Cindy is a witch, although her mother prefers the term Magical Being. While her sisters all did well with their magical studies, Cindy flunked out big time – and the only magic she’s aware of is when she kisses a man he turns into a toad – and the uglier his inner personality the uglier the toad. She firmly believes when Mr Right comes along he won’t turn, but so far she has been out of luck. The book opens with her bringing home a particularly repulsive toad called Nathan, but unlike the other toads before him he doesn’t revert back to human a short time later – he just sits around and annoys her with his toad slime.

What Cindy does do right though is bake – it almost seems as though her latent magic is pouring itself into her cakes and the bakery she works at reaps the rewards of her beautiful creations. Enter one drop-dead gorgeous guy – Timothy – the sort of male who makes your ovaries sit up and sing! He even loves toads!!! He has no idea she is magical – which is just as well because the Witches Council are not happy with Cindy’s ability to turn her boyfriends into toads so are going to remove her powers. Her latest step-father thinks he can help Cindy and agrees to train her. Which could be a good thing; because she’s losing her job, trying to hide the repulsive toad from his girlfriend (looks like he deserved to be a toad for being a two-timing creep) and trying not to kiss the hubba bubba Timothy. To help Cindy not lose her magic, her mother, sister and step-father all try to weld their magic to change Nathan back but he is a particularly stubborn toad!

Cindy is a very likeable character and I loved her two roommates – the three women are a great support team for each other – true friendship!! I was sucked in from the very first page and spent a wonderful Sunday afternoon reading it with a glass of wine in hand.

It was a fun read that had me laughing out loud on quite a few occasions and the second in the series safely downloaded as soon as I had finished.

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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