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Archive for the ‘Women’s Fiction’ Category

Title: The Maxwell Sisters

Author: Loretta Hill

Genre: Romance

Opening line: Most recipients of the gold-gilded invitation were pleased and excited to receive it.

Blurb: All families have their problems and none more so than the Maxwells of Tawny Brooks Winery. Situated in the heart of the Margaret River wine region, this world-renowned winery was the childhood home to three sisters, Natasha, Eve and Phoebe. Today all three women are caught up in their city lives and eager to forget their past and try and ignore their broken sibling relationships. That is until Phoebe decides to get married at home, so now each of the sisters along with their emotional baggage must all return to face a host of family obligations, a vintage in full swing and interfering in-laws who just can’t take a hint. Somehow, the Maxwell sisters must find a way back to one another – or risk losing each other forever.

My Thoughts: On her web page, author Loretta Hill writes “…I write stories favouring strong, capable women and the men who love them in rich Australian settings. I love a good laugh so also be prepared to find plenty of Aussie humour in my novels…” and that would sum up all her books precisely.

In THE MAXWELL SISTERS everyone seems to have secrets, the trouble is, keeping those secrets is causing heartache and misinterpretations amongst the other family members. On the bright side though readers’ gets to know enough of the secrets to be able to follow the different plot lines – but not all, so there can be some misunderstandings of our own. Each sister has her own story. Phoebe (Phee) is marrying Spider, a celebrity TV chef and her sister Eve’s former restaurant partner; the restaurant, located at the winery, burned down and was abandoned. Phee, the peacemaking sister, has decided that her wedding will be just the event to pull her family back together again and she requests family members to gather a month before the wedding to repair the burnt restaurant so it can be the venue for her reception. Eve, the shy and non-confrontational sister, is suffering from the loss of her business, unrequited love, and a current work place that is sapping her happiness. Finally there is Tasha, the perfect sister, who has been hiding from her family just how imperfect she actually is. One of her secrets is that she and her husband Heath have been living in separate States for a few months after a devastating event (also a secret), so imagine her surprise when she arrives and finds Heath there ready to lend a hand to prepare for the wedding. Tasha and Heath have to act like everything is wonderful as she is not ready to share with her family. Tasha also has issues with Eve as they had a huge fight just after the restaurant burned down and have not spoken to each other since. Everyone arrives, including Spider’s mum and dad, and the scene is set. My favourite thread was that of the mother of the bride and mother of the groom being locked in a battle to try and outdo each other from the very start. Beginning with whose name appears first on the invitation, through the flowers, finger food and onto the actual celebrant – these two ladies don’t let up for a minute. I loved them. I have found that Loretta Hill is very good at relationships – especially angst ridden ones – and there is a lot of angst and hurt within the family. Before we get to the wedding there is a mystery to solve (which I cottoned on to about 3/4s of the way through); growing current, past and new loves to be sorted; false acquisitions honestly discussed and lessons learned. THE MAXWELL SISTERS was a wonderful read and I quickly found myself wishing I could be a friend and join in their world. Even their leading men were great and I am sure my husband would fit in nicely – especially at a Margaret River Winery!

For more about the author – Click Here

5 Stars – 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 Random House and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

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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

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Title: Tumbledown Manor

Author: Helen Brown

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Opening line: “…A birthday ending in a zero was nothing to make a fuss about …”

Blurb: Life’s going down the gurgler for romance writer Lisa Trumperton. The deadline for her next novel is looming, her daughter won’t eat but has a new tattoo each week, and now her Wall Street trader husband has run off with a woman at work. Lisa makes a quick escape, home to Australia, where at least her girl-magnet son seems to be making hay. Determined to grow older disgracefully, she turns her back on a trim and tidy townhouse that is close to shops, aged-care providers and her bossy older sister, instead buying a grand old house in the country that once belonged to her great-grandfather. But like its new owner, Trumperton Manor has seen better days. Crumbling, filthy and possibly haunted, the old house defies Lisa’s attempts to restore it. Add flood, fire and family secrets, plus a stray cat with attitude and an overly familiar handyman, and the cracks begin to show.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this light-hearted look at family relationships. Lisa undergoes a far-reaching life change when at her 40th birthday celebration she discovers her husband of over twenty years is having an affair, she finds out when a huge bunch of roses is delivered to her but with another woman’s name on it. Once caught out he announces that he no longer loves Lisa – and her marriage is over – just like that. Lisa is alone in her New York apartment – both children have left home – so on impulse she decides to pack up and fly back to her homeland of Australia. Her son and sister live in Melbourne, but she soon realises that while she would like to be near her son, staying near her bossy sister is not a good plan. So she surrenders to yet another impulse and buys a crumbling old house in the country that used to belong to her family – Trumperton Manor. Lisa gets her first inkling that there are some quirky characters in the country when she meets the real estate agent:

“…The agent – if that was what she was – wore a Barbie-pink jacket squeezed over a sequined top. It was difficult to tell if the strip of fabric over her thighs was a skirt or a belt. Her cleavage was deep enough to be seen from Google Earth. The heels of her matching pink boots were so high she was practically standing on tiptoe…”

Lisa is an author and has two more books to write and the deadline for the first one is looming, expecting to be inspired in the peace and quiet of the country she instead finds herself in the middle of a construction site with members of Grey Army expecting a substantial home-made morning and afternoon tea to sustain them. Then she finds herself fighting bushfires, floods along with protecting her property from wildlife. And don’t even mention the alleged ghost in the derelict old stables!!! Lisa finds herself busier in the country than she ever was in New York; along with trying to write her book, and supervise the renovations, she also has to deal with family dilemma’s, a landscaper called Scott, then host a wedding – which means catching up with her ex-husband and his new love, finally she also wants to try and figure out just what the big mystery is about her ancestors that no-one in town will talk about.

The best characters (and really I loved all of them) were Mojo (the rescued feral cat) and Kiwi (the rescued cockatoo) who steal the limelight in every scene they appear in. I would love to have both of them in my life. Really I shouldn’t have been surprised because author Helen Brown is the author of the non-fiction book Cleo: How an Uppity Cat helped heal a family which was fabulous and starred the most wonderful cat. I am sure Mojo has read that book! I would have liked the back story of her daughter Portia to have developed more, but loved her relationship with her son Ted and his flatmate James who both rolled up their sleeves and helped bring her tumbledown manor back to life. Tumbledown Manor is a fun read that brings up serious and controversial issues in a non-confrontational manner. There is humour on nearly every page and some wonderful bush characters that prove when the things get tough, and your neighbours need help, you roll up your sleeves and lend a hand.

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

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Title: The Recipe Box

Author: Sandra Lee

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Opening lines: ‘…As soon as she heard the ring Grace knew there would be no answer …’

Blurb: Grace Holm-D’Angelo struggles to juggle her role as a single mother to a rebellious teenage daughter, Emma, and her career as a stylist for a popular television show. After her best friend succumbs to breast cancer, Grace returns to her Wisconsin hometown, where she must confront the demons of her past in order to mend her relationship with her own mother, and rediscovers her passion for cooking.

My thoughts: Sandra Lee is an American TV chef and this is her debut novel – so it is not surprising that cooking plays an integral part of the story. To be perfectly honest I had never heard of this TV chef – and I have seen a few shows on the cooking channel. The main character is Grace. Grace is newly divorced and living life at a very hectic pace when THE RECIPE BOX opens. She has relocated to Los Angeles, got custody of her teenage daughter who is acting up, a high pressure job behind the scenes of a hit TV show, and is flying back and forth between LA and her home town to support her best friend through cancer treatment.

In the first couple of chapters the friend dies and this is the catalyst for Grace to start taking control of her life. The first thing she has to do is rebuild the relationships with both her daughter and her estranged mother. Grace moves back to her hometown and moves in with her mother. The cause of her estrangement was the discovery that her mother had kept a secret from her. What annoyed me a bit plot wise is that Grace was withholding a secret from her daughter and didn’t see at first that she was not being fair blaming her mother for the very same thing that she was doing. But it does all get sorted out in the end. Grace also has to deal with her ex-husband, an ex-lover and a new flame to add other threads into the plot.

THE RECIPE BOX is a sweet, if fairly predictable, read. Nice for a lazy afternoon along with a cup of tea and a cupcake.

Rating: 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.

For more about the author – Click Here

With thanks to The Reading Room for my copy

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Title: The Husband’s Secret

Author: Liane Moriarty

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Opening lines: ‘…It was all because of the Berlin Wall…’

There is a picture floating around the Internet of a little cat with a look of absolute horror on his face as he looks at something off camera, and the words at the bottom are “What has been seen cannot be unseen”. And it is this little cat who came into my mind when Cecilia Fitzpatrick opened a letter her husband Jon-Paul wrote to her fifteen years ago with the words “For my wife, Cecilia Fitzpatrick to be opened only in the event of my death” written across the front of the envelope. You see Jon-Paul wasn’t dead and the envelope was hidden in a box of papers and only found by accident while Cecelia was searching for her tiny piece of stone from the Berlin Wall for her daughter. But once she had read what he had written there, she couldn’t ’unread’ them any more than the little cat could ‘unsee’ whatever it was he had seen.

Set in Sydney THE HUSBAND’S SECRET is told from the perspective of three seemingly unconnected women. Gradually the threads of the story interconnect then bind the three of them closer and closer. Cecilia is a Stepford Wife looked at in awe by other women as she is seemingly ‘perfect,’ absolutely super organised and never in a flap. She has been happily married for fifteen years, has 3 children, is the P&C president of her children’s school (St. Angela’s), and is a very successful Tupperware dealer. Her household is run with total precision which is why it is so noticeable to everyone when her life starts to fall apart.

Then there is Tess, she starts off in Melbourne where she runs an IT business with her husband Will and cousin/best friend Felicity. Her world gets turned upside-down when Felicity and Will announce that they have fallen in love and want Felicity to move in so the child, Liam doesn’t realise what is going on. Tess is shocked at the total betrayal that she leaves with Liam and flies home to her mother in Sydney to think about her next move. As she doesn’t know how long she’ll be away she enrols Liam at her old school St Angela’s and immediately bumps into an old boyfriend who is now the PE teacher.

The last lady, and lynchpin of the story, is Rachel. She is an older woman and the school secretary at St Angela’s. She is deeply sad as she has never stopped mourning after the murder of her daughter 20 years ago. The only bright part of her life is when her toddler grandson comes to visit. Her story opens when her son and daughter-in-law announce they are taking the grandson and moving to New York for a couple of years. Rachel descends into utter despair. She has long been convinced that the St Angela’s PE teacher murdered her daughter as he was the last person to see her alive and so in her despair over the soon to be loss of her grandson she sets the cold case detectives onto the PE teacher.

The ‘what if’ questions started very quickly – what if this person hadn’t done that – then this, that or the other event wouldn’t have happened or may not have occurred. And what if this event did happen, then maybe things would have been different. All three of the women have secrets; they each make decisions to do things that are morally ambiguous in their execution but make totally rational sense to them at the time. Without ever having more than a fleeting physical contact with each other the three women pull the story along with lots of twists and turns to bring it to its ultimate surprise climax. After the climax there is a ‘wait there’s more’ epilogue where author Liane Moriarty anticipates the ‘what if’ questions that her readers may have about the ending and sets about answering them, well sort of, she doesn’t change anything she just reveals secrets to the reader that the main characters will never know, or give potential events that will happen but they don’t know it yet but throws doubt in with the revelations and then finishes with the closing line: ‘…Some secrets are meant to stay secret forever. Just ask Pandora…’

I loved the story, the clever intricacies of the plot, the drama, the humour and the way it got you thinking.

Rating: 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.

For more about the author – Click Here

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty is book # 5 for AWW2014

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Title: Pilgrimage

Author: Jacinta Halloran

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb: At forty-nine, Celeste has long renounced the religion of her childhood. Yet she finds herself reluctantly accompanying her mother and sister to a pilgrimage site in Romania, where her devout mother seeks a miracle — a cure for her terminal illness. As Celeste tries to come to terms with her mother’s impending decline, she realises she has to confront the unspoken conflicts embedded in the foundations of her family. Away from her husband, she must also face her fear of what the future holds for them both.

My Thoughts: PILGRIMAGE is not just a story of a woman dying of motor neurone disease believing she will be cured if she attends a holy grotto in Romania; it is also a close look at the intricacies of mother-daughter and sister-sister relationships. Celeste is a doctor and she does not share the faith that her mother has about a cure. Celeste is annoyed that her mother refuses to start treatment because the mother is so certain of a cure. Celeste dismisses the idea of travelling half way around the world to a remote village in Romania for the miracle to occur as a wild goose chase. Nathalie, however, has greater empathy than her sister and is more laid back and willing to go with the flow. She agrees to take her mother on the trip and Celeste falls into line agrees to go with them just so she can pick up the pieces when it all goes wrong. The trip ultimately becomes more than just accompanying their increasingly debilitated mother across Romania. Each of the sisters has to look inwardly at issues they have been refusing to admit even to themselves. They also have to look as long squashed issues regarding Nathalie’s father. Why did Celeste lose her faith? Why can’t Nathalie commit to one man? Will their mother receive the miracle she expects? Not all answers are immediately found or revealed but the tensions within the story are maintained and kept me engrossed. I didn’t like the character of Celeste, I found her to be bitter, unsympathetic and selfish. I don’t know why I was shocked at what she did at the end of the book because it fitted her whole uncaring personality. Perhaps I am being unfair to her – but it is not something I would have done. Overall PILGRIMAGE was very thought provoking and I will be looking up Jacinta Halloran’s first book Dissection to read.

Rating: B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it.

For more about the author – Click Here

Pilgrimage by Jacinta Halloranis book # 31 for AWW2013

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Title: The Beach House

Author: Mary Alice Monroe

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb: Caretta Rutledge thought she’d left her troubled family behind. But an unusual request from her mother — just as her own life is spinning out of control — has Cara heading back to the scenic island of her childhood. Before long, the rhythm of the island opens her heart, as she repairs the family beach house. But it’s in reconnecting with her mother that she will learn life’s most precious lessons — true love involves sacrifice, family is forever and the mistakes of the past can be forgiven.

My Thoughts: THE BEACH HOUSE is definitely a ‘summer beach read,’ for me that does NOT mean lying on a beach – loathe lying on the beach – instead it means a book that engages me, but is not too heavy in the subject matter but not complete fluff either, and is a quick and entertaining read. Cara left the family home at 18 to escape her abusive father and she has never returned and resented her mother who she always thought cared more about protecting the turtles than on protecting herself and her children from abuse. Now Lovie is dying and wants Cara to help with the Turtles for one last season. Cara has a good life for herself – she put herself through school, has a condo with a lake view and has a high powered job. Well, she HAD a high powered job – she has just lost it and been betrayed by her boyfriend. Cara promises to give her mother one last summer. Throw into the mix a pregnant teen mother called Toy, a brother in denial and a whole heap of friends and you get a rich mix of drama, pathos, comedy and love. There are beautifully written scenery and scene descriptions, and the inevitable end is done very sensitively. Both Cara and Toy have important decisions to make that will affect the rest of their lives, secrets are revealed, ruffled feathers soothed, and there is the start of a new life followed by the end of an old life and there is, of course, love.

Rating: B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it.

For more about the author – Click Here

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