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Safe Harbour

Safe Harbour - Helene Young She's done it again.

Helene Young's Safe Harbour is the latest from the Australian romantic suspense author.

Young's novels have been consistent in their balance of heart-stopping tension and heart-wrenching emotions.

Safe Harbour is no exception.

From the storm-ravaged waters of the opening scene, through to the pursuit of Darcy and the mysterious man she's rescued from the sea near her home town, the conflict never wavers.

There are some truly heartbreaking moments along the way, and I don't mind admitting I read some parts of this novel with tears in my eyes - it's truly evocative.

Five stars once more to an author at the top of her game.

Ryders Ridge

Ryders Ridge - Charlotte Nash When tragedy shakes Dr Daniella Bell’s well-ordered career in a busy city hospital, she beats a hasty retreat to the sleepy Queensland town of Ryders Ridge, determined to try to put her past behind her.

What she doesn’t count on is the effect the charming cattle station heir, Mark Walker, will have on her – or the impact of their affection on others’ plans for the cattle property which has been in the family for three generations.

With “Ryders Ridge”, author Charlotte Nash has created a story which, although encompassing Daniella and Mark’s growing relationship, also includes a strong supporting cast and a plot line which weaves cleverly through underlying issues around Daniella’s patients’ lives.

It’s not all smooth sailing for Daniella and Mark – with the cattle station struggling to make a profit and Daniella’s past playing havoc with her emotions and professional demeanour, it takes a near tragedy for her to put her life into perspective and make a decision which will change her life forever.

This is an easy read, with enough tension to keep you turning the pages to find out what happens next.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Nash returns to Ryders Ridge in future endeavours – there’s something about the place which is truly special.

House for All Seasons

Becoming a True Spiritual Community: A Profound Vision of What the Church Can Be - Larry Crabb With Jenn J. McLeod’s “Shimmering Season” only just released, I’d read some comments on other blogs that although "Simmering Season" was a standalone novel, it would be worth my while reading “House for all Seasons” first. I’m so glad I did.

The introduction of the fictional setting of Calingary Crossing in this first novel by Jenn J. McLeod is charming, insightful, and addictive reading.

When four estranged friends find out they’ve inherited a house back in their home town, their emotions range from frustration, fear, resolution and wonder. Being thrust back into the painful memories of their teenage years, the four women are forced to stand back and take a long hard look at where their lives have taken them – and the choices they’ve made.

This is so much more than a story of four friends though – it’s about how secrets are misinterpreted, misunderstood and hidden under masks of normality.

“House for all Seasons” doesn’t try to offer comfort to its four protagonists either. This is a story about facing up to the past, gaining understanding and then accepting what has happened, before moving on – and often in a way which is least expected.

A very enjoyable read – for any season.
I'll say this up front: I don't read sci-fi. I love sci-fi films, but it's my husband who's the science fiction fan in the household. I picked this up because I've taken on an Aussie author reading challenge through Goodreads this year.

And boy, am I glad I selected Aurora:Darwin.

The set-up is brilliant - right from the start, you've got one up on the crew of the Aurora - you know what they're walking into. They don't. And you wonder how the heck they're going to cope with three new recruits - all female - up against an experienced all-male crew who resent their presence on their well-ordered ship.

Sent on a classified mission to the other side of Mars, Captain Harris and his crew are on their way to fix what they think is a simple communications problem. The only bit that slowed the story for me was the journey there - the training and how the new recruits began to be sized up by their superiors. However, the way in which the characters interact and the description of their arrival at the eerily silent Darwin is such that you just have to keep reading.

When they reach the Darwin, the build-up to the action is measured and intense.

And once you're there, you can't stop reading.

Parts of this book left me reminiscing about the movie "Event Horizon" - not because it's similar in story line (it isn't), but because there is always that sense of menace, especially once the body count starts building.

This is a brilliant debut novel and the author gets 5 stars from me because she wrestled me out of my reading comfort zone - and won.
Every now and again, I take a breather from the high-octane thrillers I read and write and look for something that takes me out of my genre comfort zone.

"Outback Dreams" was my book of choice this time around, and I'm really glad I've discovered yet another Australian author who writes so convincingly about rural communities.

In Monty and Faith, Johns has created two very likeable characters, whose romance comes as a shock to both of them after being friends since childhood, especially when all too soon into the relationship, they are both confronted with choices which could tear them apart.

The story has a great pace to it, such that I was quite resentful about having to put the book down for any length of time and Johns also manages to ensure that her supporting cast add colour and nuance to the storyline.

If "Outback Dreams" is the start of a new trilogy about this fictional community, then I'm signing up for the next two books without hesitation.

Deadly Trust

Deadly Trust - J.J. Cooper 3.5 stars

I loved JJ Cooper's first book "The Interrogator" when it was released a few years back, which introduced his protagonist Jay Ryan.

Locally set in Queensland and just over the NSW border in Byron Bay, "Deadly Trust" picks up about a year later from those escapades. Jay has healed and is enjoying a quiet life of surfing the northern NSW beaches when he is thrust back into the world of espionage and terrorism.

The opening chapter is a corker and the pace doesn't let up from there, with some of the characters from "The Interrogator" making a come-back appearance. However, that doesn't mean you have to read these books in order; "Deadly Trust" is a great standalone novel.

The only reason I've not given this four stars is because I found some of the plot explanations a little confusing and Jay seemed to take the harder route to solving the mystery on a couple of occasions. It is an action-packed thriller though, and one which leaves the door open to a US-based story in future.

Hopefully there's a third Jay Ryan thriller in the works.

Dead Heat

Dead Heat - Bronwyn Parry This is the first book by Bronwyn Parry that I've read, and it certainly won't be the last. I picked this up as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2014 that I'm taking part in (which is a great way to discover new authors).

When national parks ranger Jo discovers a dead body on a routine patrol, it's the start of a nightmare. The only witness to the murder suspect, she is drawn into the shady world of drugs and illegal weapons, with only ex-undercover policeman Nick having a remote chance of protecting her. Each with their own painful histories, Jo and Nick must work together if she is to survive the ordeal

I've marked it down to four stars because part of me couldn't quite believe that Jo would be so in control after seeing one of the dead bodies (I'm not going to give anything away here), but she is a strong, capable and likeable character for the most part, so as a reader, you're definitely in her corner all the way.

I've already picked up another of Bronwyn Parry's books to read off the strength of this one, and look forward to reading more by the author over the coming years.

Predator Strike

Predator Strike - Liam Saville Short, sharp and meticulously researched, this debut novella by Liam Saville has been on my hit list for a while now so it's been good to make time to sit down quietly and devour it over a few hours.

In Sam Ryan, Saville has created a character who is at once tough, methodical in his investigation, and likeable - you're immediately drawn into his world and share his frustrations when things don't go according to plan.

With Saville's military background, the scenes are well described without losing the reader in over-the-top detail but instead lends itself well to the overall story.

It's not often I read novellas and I did find the story a little on the short side, but that's only because I was enjoying reading it so much, I didn't want it to end! I'm really looking forward to reading the next in the Sam Ryan series - this is high octane action at its best.

Recipe for Love

Recipe for Love - Katie Fforde Katie Fforde's books are my guilty pleasure away from my usual "go-to" reading fodder of thrillers and suspense.

They're light, funny, easy to read and pure escapism. I'm amazed I hadn't thought to add them to my lists here before, so I'm off to rectify that right now.


Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay - Helen Young Ellie Wilding thinks she's escaping a traumatic past when she arrives back in Half Moon Bay, but that history quickly catches up with her when she begins to uncover corruption and crime. Nick Lawson has a past too - one he doesn't want Ellie to find out about, because if she does, he isn't sure he's going to be able to protect her. Meanwhile, her uni friend Alex, is trying to steer her away from trouble too, but in doing so, he's putting his own life in danger to save her.

"Half Moon Bay" is the third of Helene Young's books that I've read and it doesn't disappoint. The opening sequence where Ellie lands in Afghanistan in her role as a photo journalist is described in incredible detail, without affecting the pace of the story, and sets up the rest of the novel really well.

Once again, Ms Young has developed a strong character in Ellie - sometimes with a romantic suspense novel, you're left with an overwhelming urge to slap the main character so she sees sense, but Ellie is likeable, clever and determined so you're really in the same corner as her. I wouldn't be surprised if she makes an appearance one day in another novel - she's that good.

I'm not going to say any more about the plot here as I don't want to give anything away, but I am very much looking forward to reading Helene Young's next offering due out later this year, "Safe Harbour".

Rotten Gods

Rotten Gods - Greg Barron I'd been meaning to read this book for a while but knew that I'd need time set aside to devour it having read other reviews here.

It's rare that I read a work of fiction that has me snapping the pages shut, stamping around the floor mentally in frustration at the facts between the fiction, then delving straight back in to find out what happens next.

The characters are well written, in particular the emotions which drive each and every one of them.

As a reader, you're left wondering how much prescience is contained in this story. There's certainly enough research mixed in with the fiction to keep you thinking long after you've put the book down.

Somehow I think if something like this happened in real life, Barron wouldn't be the only one on the sidelines nodding and saying "See? I told you so."

In a word, superb.

Almost Demon

Almost Demon - AJ Salem 3.5 stars

The cover artwork for this book caught my eye first, which is what made me want to read it. Paranormal/YA isn’t a genre I normally read (Jim Butcher’s “Harry Dresden” series being the exception) and I must be one of the few who hasn’t either read the “Twilight” series or watched the movies – so I admit, I did start “Almost Demon” with a bit of trepidation.

I shouldn’t have worried.

There were a couple of sequences where I lost the thread, but it was quickly explained within a few more pages. The interplay between Gemma and the people around her involved very natural dialogue and the descriptions of the malevolent spirits which appear in Gemma’s home town is truly creepy.

It's a quick read, and that's simply because I didn't want to put it down - the last third of the book is excellent.

I’d happily read the next in the series and look forward to its release.

The Book of Souls (Inspector McLean, #2)

The Book of Souls (Inspector McLean, #2) - James  Oswald I reviewed the first in the Inspector McLean series (“Natural Causes”) a few months ago and am happy to say that with “The Book of Souls” the pace, setting and detail in these novels remains a constant.

Although at the surface a crime novel, James Oswald weaves a touch of the paranormal into his Inspector McLean novels, without it taking over the whole story, or being too over the top. It’s a very subtle touch and one which I hope the author maintains as the series progresses.

The storyline is strong, with the twist unexpected – I for one had my money on someone else entirely being the culprit in this tale! I did find it distracting how the opening of the novel jumped between time periods, but once I’d settled into the story this became much less of an issue, and didn’t deter from the enjoyment of reading.

Oswald achieves a good balance using the supporting characters too, not letting McLean overshadow them and letting them loose when necessary.

An added bonus (I read the paperback version), is the inclusion at the end of a short story entitled “The Final Reel” – having read this, I’ll be visiting the author’s website to read more.

I genuinely look forward to reading the next offering in the Inspector McLean series. Happily, it’s scheduled for release in 2014 so there’s not too long to wait.

Cocoa and Chanel (Chanel, #1)

Cocoa and Chanel - Donna Joy Usher I was looking forward to reading this, the current offering from "Seven Steps to Closure" author Donna Joy Usher, and I wasn’t disappointed.

In Chanel Smith, the author has created a character who is hapless yet beguiling, managing to both pursue a serial killer whilst wearing tottering heels, cope with her mother’s metamorphosis from small-town wife to chic pole dancing instructor, and avoid the wrath of her new boss.

The opening scenes following Chanel through police training will resurrect memories of both the "Police Academy" and "Private Benjamin" films in readers' minds, which is made all the more entertaining with a dog involved.

The book obviously isn’t meant to take on the hard-line crime novels found elsewhere on this site, being more akin to Janet Evanovich’s sharp observations and witticisms. Instead, Cocoa and Chanel is an easy read: a fun crime caper with some great one-liners, a storyline which powers along without being too taxing, and a perfect escape for those days when you want to relax, laugh out loud and not take life too seriously.

I’m now looking forward to the next in the series. Five stars all the way.

Dean Koontz Untitled 4

Deeply Odd - Dean Koontz Although I enjoyed this latest instalment in the Odd Thomas series, I couldn't help thinking there was an awful lot of 'filler' used between sequences.

Part of the charm of these books is Odd's tendency to ruminate (often with humour) on the horrors that he faces but in this instance I found myself skipping whole paragraphs of text just to get on with the story.

That said, the book introduces some lively characters and enough intrigue about Odd's future to have me ready to read the next one, albeit with fingers crossed that the writing meanders less than it did here.

Never Go Back: A Jack Reacher Novel

Never Go Back - Lee Child The pacing of this, the 18th of the Jack Reacher novels, is probably the strongest for a while but the ending is a strange one.

After crafting a story with multiple players which are set up to converge in one place at the pinnacle of the final act, all the tension which has been building up over the course of a cross-country chase simply fizzles out.

Will read other reviews with interest, but I'll be giving this four out of five stars - a great story, but I wouldn't be surprised if the film version has a different ending.