The Naturalist’s Daughter by Tea Cooper

Book blurb…

1808 Agnes Banks, NSW

Rose Winton wants nothing more than to work with her father, eminent naturalist Charles Winton, on his groundbreaking study of the platypus. Not only does she love him with all her heart, but the discoveries they have made could turn the scientific world on its head. When Charles is unable to make the long sea journey to present his findings to the prestigious Royal Society in England, Rose must venture forth in his stead. What she discovers there will change the lives of future generations.

1908 Sydney, NSW

Tamsin Alleyn has been given a mission: travel to the Hunter Valley and retrieve an old sketchbook of debatable value, gifted to the Public Library by a recluse. But when she gets there, she finds there is more to the book than meets the eye, and more than one interested party. Shaw Everdene, a young antiquarian bookseller and lawyer seems to have his own agenda when it comes to the book – and Tamsin. In an attempt to discover the book’s true provenance Tamsin decides to work with him.

The deeper they delve, the more intricate the mystery becomes. As the lives of two women a century apart converge, discoveries rise up from the past and reach into the future, with irrevocable consequences…

My thoughts…

The Naturalist’s Daughter captivated me. It’s a fabulous as the cover – and the cover is divine.

After reading this beautifully told story I want to sit on a shady bank, by a river, where Platypus live and watch them while imagining earlier time in Australia when Charles Winton and his daughter, Rose, lived.

The lives of both Rose and Tamsin, although characters living 100 years apart, are so wonderfully drawn I want more! I want to keep reading and discover other family members. (There’s a whole generation that can have its own story, so come on Tea!) I’m dying to know more about Rose’s mother and Charles during their time in Agnes Bank.

If you like historical fiction and Australian authors, put this book on your TBR pile.

This review is also published on Goodreads and linked to Australian Women Writers Challenge

Published by Harlequin (Australia)

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Where the Murray River Runs by Darry Fraser

Book blurb…

A nineteenth-century story of greed, honour and an overwhelming love

Bendigo 1890

Ard O’Rourke is Linley Seymour’s perfect man. They’ve known each other since they were children and she has never wanted anyone else. But when she discovers Ard has fathered a child with another woman, her dreams turn to dust.

Then fate takes a hand. Linley and her Aunt Cee Cee run a women’s refuge and Linley finds herself unexpectedly and painfully the guardian of Ard’s baby: a child that needs her protection from the greed-filled schemes of a violent man.

Ard knows he has no hope with Linley and decides to follow his own path: one that brings him close to redemption. But when he learns Linley and the child are in danger, his own child at that, he cannot stop himself speeding to their aid.

Will he prevail? Can Linley find it in her heart to forgive him? Or will their love come to nothing at the hands of a violent man?

A compulsively readable historical adventure, set on the banks of the mighty Murray River.

My thoughts…

Once again with Darry Fraser, I was transported back in time and to life on the Murray River in the late 1800s.  Having recently traced The Mighty Murray River all the way from South Australia, and spent time in Echuca, I was strolling the streets and the steamer decks as the story progressed.

The author has created characters that you cannot help but love.  Ard is a great character, regardless of his indiscretion with Linley’s friend. I longed for him to win over Linley’s heart.

This book also made me think. It tackles the subject of domestic violence in the 1890’s — an issue I had only thought about as a modern-day scourge. I did find myself hoping for a particular character to get what he deserved.  Darry, your creation of this character (you know who he is) was brilliant, I could just about smell his presence when as I turned the pages.

I also fell in love with James.

What else can I say? I was actually on each page with all of these characters and I love a book that gets under my skin.  Thank you.

I am sad to leave Where the Murray River Runs.

This review is also published on Goodreads and linked to Australian Women Writers Challenge

Published by Harlequin (Australia)

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Deep Freeze by John Sandford

Book blurb…

Class reunions: a time for memories – good, bad, and, as Virgil Flowers is about to find out, deadly – in the thrilling new novel in the number one New York Times-bestselling series 

Virgil knows the town of Trippton, Minnesota, a little too well. A few years back, he investigated the corrupt – and as it turned out, homicidal – local school board, and now the town’s back in view with more alarming news: A woman’s been found dead, frozen in a block of ice. There’s a possibility that it might be connected to a high school class of twenty years ago that has a mid-winter reunion coming up, and so, wrapping his coat a little tighter, Virgil begins to dig into twenty years’ worth of traumas, feuds, and bad blood. In the process, one thing becomes increasingly clear to him. It’s true what they say: High school is murder.

My thoughts…

I enjoyed reading Deep Freeze. The writing transported me to the small town of Trippton, a rather ‘interesting’ town and, ah, entrepreneurial population. I must say, I enjoyed the curious plot line and found myself having a giggle every now and then. Not something you’d expect in a murder mystery So 5 stars for originality!

There is a second crime committed in this small town. Is it connected to the original murder?

While I enjoyed the story, it was a little slow. But sometimes that’s okay as well.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Simon and Schuster Australia

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The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge by Kali Napier

Book blurb…

Every family has secrets that bind them together. A heart-rending story of a guesthouse keeper and his wife who attempt to start over, from devastatingly talented debut author Kali Napier.

1932. Ernie and Lily Hass, and their daughter, Girlie, have lost almost everything in the Depression; all they have keeping their small family together are their secrets. Abandoning their failing wheat farm and small-town gossip, they make a new start on the west coast of Australia where they begin to build a summer guesthouse. But forming new alliances with the locals isn’t easy.

Into the Hasses’ new life wanders Lily’s shell-shocked brother, Tommy, after three harrowing years on the road following his incarceration. Tommy is seeking answers that will cut to the heart of who Ernie, Lily and Girlie really are.

Inspired by the author’s own family history, The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge is a haunting, memorable and moving tale of one family’s search for belonging. Kali Napier breathes a fever-pitch intensity into the story of these emotionally fragile characters as their secrets are revealed with tragic consequences. If you loved The Light Between Oceans and The Woolgrower’s Companion you will love this story.

My Thoughts…

I have to agree with other reviewers that this debut novel will garner high praise and no doubt be a contender for a few literary awards. And well deserved, too. 

The story is a journey back in time and told with such authenticity I had to look up the author to see she wasn’t 101 years old! The attention to detail is astounding: the setting, the terminology/language, the various conflicts the Hass family comes up against. As such, it is not the sort of read you will whip through. It took me quite a bit longer to get through this one due to me wanting read every word!! You will love some characters and wonder about others. 

It is a historical novel with a simmering plot line, well foreshadowed and the big secret(s) mostly revealed in the last few (and deliberately short) chapters. 

A real beauty for lovers of historical Australian fiction. 

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Hachette Australia

Review also linked to Australian Women Writers Challenge

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Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra

Book blurb…

What happens when ambition trumps the truth?

A town reeling in the wake of tragedy…

An arsonist is on the loose in Colmstock, Australia, most recently burning down the town’s courthouse and killing a young boy who was trapped inside.

An aspiring journalist desperate for a story…

The clock is ticking for Rose Blakey. With nothing but rejections from newspapers piling up, her job pulling beers for cops at the local tavern isn’t enough to even cover rent. Rose needs a story — a big one.

A bizarre mystery…

In the weeks after the courthouse fire, porcelain replicas of Colmstock’s daughters begin turning up on doorsteps, terrifying parents and testing the limits of the town’s already fractured police force.

Rose may have finally found her story. But as her articles gain traction and the boundaries of her investigation blur, Colmstock is seized by a seething paranoia. Soon, no one is safe from suspicion. And when Rose’s attention turns to the mysterious stranger living in the rooms behind the tavern, neighbour turns on neighbour and the darkest side of self-preservation is revealed.

My thoughts…

There are a number of issues erupting in this really small town and Rose’s job is to solve them, but I was not particularly drawn to her as a character. I could not relate to her at all (she was very selfish) and the local police who spent their time at the tavern were thuggish, their morals questionable.

I might suggest this book is for a younger reader as overall I enjoyed this story. I just can’t be too passionate about the characters and Rose’s manipulation of the townsfolk to achieve her own goals did not leave me feeling good.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Harlequin (Australia)

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White Bodies by Jane Robins

Book blurb…

Callie loves Tilda. She’s her sister, after all. And she’s beautiful and successful.

Tilda loves Felix. He’s her husband. Successful and charismatic, he is also controlling, suspicious and, possibly, dangerous. Still, Tilda loves Felix.

And Callie loves Tilda. Very, very much.

So she’s determined to save her. But the cost could destroy them all…

My thoughts…

The twists and turns throughout White Bodies were chilling and clever.  The author crafted a plot that was full of suspense and had me trying to guess where the story was going.  The relationship between the characters was complex, well portrayed, and totally unpredictable. A captivating story.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Harlequin Australia

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The Good Mother by Karen Osman

Book blurb…

How far would you go to protect your children?

A gripping psychological suspense, with a shocking twist that will leave you reeling…

Catherine is a good mother and a good wife. The family home is immaculate, her husband’s supper is cooked on time, but when she starts writing to Michael, a prisoner convicted of murder, she finds herself obsessing about his crime and whether he can ever truly be forgiven…   Kate has no time for herself. Caught in the maelstrom of bringing up two young children with no money, and an out-of-work husband, she longs to escape the drudgery of being a wife and a mother. And she soon starts taking dangerous risks to feel alive…   Alison has flown the nest. But university life is not what she had hoped for, and she finds herself alone and unhappy. Until the day her professor takes a sudden interest in her. Then everything changes…   Three women – all with secrets. And as the days tick down to Michael’s release, those secrets can no longer be ignored.

My thoughts…

I found the structure of The Good Mother intriguing, but I can’t tell you why because this is a story you need to read for yourself to see just how clever the author is.

Catherine, Kate and Alison are all interesting characters who find themselves entangled in their own desires and wondering if there is a way out for them.

A story well worth reading as it touches on some interesting areas of life and love.

This review is also published on Goodreads

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An Uncommon Woman by Nicole Alexander

Book blurb…

Inspired by a real newspaper story from 1930, An Uncommon Woman is an epic tale of duty, ambition, prejudice and love, from the pen of bestselling author Nicole Alexander.

It’s a man’s world – but not for long . . .

It’s 1929, and the world is changing. Cars are no longer the privilege of the rich. Hemlines are rising. Movies are talking. And more and more women are entering the workforce.

For Edwina Baker, however, life on her family’s farm in Western Queensland offers little opportunity to be anything other than daughter, sister and, perhaps soon, wife.

But Edwina wants more. She wants to see the world, meet new people, achieve things. For while she has more business sense than her younger brother, it will be Aiden who one day inherits the farm.

Then the circus comes to town. Banned from attending by her father, Hamilton, Edwina defiantly rides to the showground dressed as a boy. There she encounters two men who will both inadvertently alter the course of her life: pastoralist Mason with his modern city friends; and Will, a labourer who also dreams of escape.

And when the night ends in near-disaster, this one act of rebellion strikes at the heart of the Baker family. Yet it also offers Edwina the rare chance to prove herself in a man’s world. The question is, how far is she prepared to go, and how much is she prepared to risk?

My thoughts…

Every Nicole Alexander novel I’ve had the pleasure of reading has taken me on a journey: to an earlier era, to the country and to the heart of believable and loveable characters. An Uncommon Woman is set in a place and time and provides a journey into the outback of Queensland and into a time period where women were not forthright and were treated more like property than equals.

A great read yet again from Nicole Alexander, you put me so much in the picture that I could almost feel the prickly pear.

Edwina is a great character and I am sure every reader will be wondering throughout the book if she, as an uncommon woman wins in the end.

Nicole Alexander gets to the heart of Australian storytelling with all of her books and this is no exception.

This review is also published on Goodreads and Australian Women writers Challenge

Published by Penguin Books Australia

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Willow Tree Bend by Kaye Dobbie

Book blurb…

An interrupted phone call and a mysterious disappearance bring a family’s secret past crashing into the present…

1969: Small-town girl Faith Taylor leaves her family home in Willow Tree Bend and lands a job at the Angel—Melbourne’s most infamous nightclub. While Faith relishes her new-found freedom, she can’t help noticing that some things about the club don’t add up. So when a policeman reveals that a former waitress was murdered, Faith realises she must help to bring down the shadowy owner behind the club’s activities.

More than thirty years later, what happened at the Angel remains a closely held secret. When Faith disappears, her sister Hope—now a famous movie star—is left with an intriguing, though frustrating, piece

of the puzzle. But with a tell-all documentary film crew constantly by her side, how can she find where Faith is—and what she’s hiding—while making sure her own secrets stay hidden?

Faith’s daughter, Sam, is also concerned by her mother’s uncharacteristic behaviour. When she overhears a clue to Faith’s past, she’s determined to unearth the truth. What is the connection between the Angel and Willow Tree Bend? What does Faith’s disappearance mean? And what will happen when the final secret is revealed?

My thoughts…

Willow Tree Bend is an intriguing plot that took me from the city to the country to discover past secrets.

I do enjoy a sisters story and whilst an easy read I believe it would have benefited from a little more conflict between the characters, given the types of secrets being revealed.

This said, I would recommend it to readers.

This review is also published on Goodreads and Australian Women Writers Challenge

Published by Harlequin Australia

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The Visitors by Catherine Burns

Book blurb…

You can lock them in, but secrets find a way out . . . A deeply unsettling and compulsively readable debut novel.

A chilling debut inspired by high-profile cases of abduction and imprisonment that explores the complex truths we are able to keep hidden from ourselves and the gruesome realities that can lurk beneath the most serene of surfaces.

Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother, John, in a decaying Georgian townhouse on the edge of a bleak English seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to shut out the secret that John keeps locked away in the cellar.

But when questions are asked, and secrets unravel, we realise that John might not be the only one with a dark side . . .

My thoughts…

I was totally drawn into this chilling novel. The story does not allow me to say too much as it might give away the plot and therefore the ending, which was terrific.

I can say that we would not want too many people in this world to have the type of dark side depicted in this story.  The Visitors is an excellent debut novel that delves into our human psyche and is a good one for the to be read list.

This review also published on Goodreads

Published by Hachette Australia

 

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