Anzac Day – Recommended Reads

Vietnam War Memorial Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 30th May 2015

Me on Anzac Parade, the huge, memorial-lined road that leads up to the museum.

Today is Anzac Day, Australia and new Zealand’s biggest day for our war veterans. The national ceremony at the Australian War Memorial here in Canberra is televised, and before that there’s a dawn service (which I have never been to, despite coming from a family of veterans, but I always hear the neighbours getting up at about 4am!).

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We usually drop by the War Memorial a little later in the day and spend some time at the Vietnam War section.

I was trying to think of romance and suspense reads that involve Australian military or veterans, and came up with a few authors.

Hélène Young writes suspense books with some romance, and featuring Australian military characters.

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Barbara Hannay’s The Secret Years is set half in the Second World War and half in the present, and I really enjoyed it. The woman in the WW2 part is posted to the consulate in Canberra.

The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

Sarah Mayberry has a really good book about a female veteran.

More Than One Night by Sarah Mayberry

Joan Kilby’s Protecting her Son involves an Australian Special Forces veteran, and has a scene at the end set at the War Memorial above!

Protecting Her Son

Fiona Greene’s Home For Christmas – well, the cover and title tell you what you need to know!

Home For Christmas by Fiona Greene

Karly Lane writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction, with some themes involving veterans.

tallowood-bound-by-karly-lane

And, for Kiwi veteran heroes, there is Karina Bliss’ New Zealand Special Forces series, beginning with Here Comes the Groom.

here-comes-the-groom-by-karina-bliss

Best of 2015

2015 was a mixed bag. I read some really great books, and got excited about quite a few things.

However there were also lengthy periods of time where I was either feeling a little blah about my books or I was downright fed up with reading in general, and with the repetition brought on by genre fads.

I saved myself from my reading slumps both by rereading, and also by buying books instead of accepting as many review books as I might have other years.

Every year I post my best reads of the year. Many are 2015 releases, but some are not. Not all of them are the Greatest Read Ever, but every one of these stuck with me in some way, and that’s what counts the most when it comes to a book.

The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

Ross Poldark (Poldark #1) by Winston Graham

Poldark_-_Ross_Poldark

His Wicked Reputation (Wicked Trilogy #1) by Madeline Hunter

His Wicked Reputation (Wicked Trilogy #1) by Madeline Hunter

Brown-Eyed Girl (Travis Family #4) by Lisa Kleypas

Brown-Eyed Girl (2015) (The fourth book in the Travis series) by Lisa Kleypas

Collateral Damage (Bagram Special Ops #5) by Kaylea Cross

Collateral Damage by Kaylea Cross

His Christmas Countess by Louise Allen

His Christmas Countess (Lords of Disgrace #2) by Louise Allen

Josette (When Hearts Dare #3) by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Josette (When Hearts Dare #3) by Kathleen Bittner Roth

Tall, Dark and Wicked (Wicked Trilogy #2) by Madeline Hunter

Tall, Dark, & Wicked by Madeline Hunter

This Book Will Change Your Life by Amanda Weaver

This Book Will Change Your Life by Amanda Weaver

Demelza (Poldark #2) by Winston Graham

Demelza (The Poldark Saga #2) by Winston Graham

Bitten (Women of the Otherworld #1) by Kelley Armstrong

Bitten (Women of the Otherworld #1) by Kelley Armstrong

Bared to You (Crossfire #1) by Sylvia Day

Bared to You by Sylvia Day

Danger Wears White (The Emperors of London #3) by Lynne Connolly

Danger Wears White (The Emperors of London #3) by Lynne Connolly

Reflected in You (Crossfire #2) by Sylvia Day

Reflected in You by Sylvia Day

To Love a Cop by Janice Kay Johnson

To Love a Cop by Janice Kay Johnson

Dead by Midnight (I-Team 7.5 An I-Team Christmas) by Pamela Clare

Dead by Midnight (I-Team 7.5 An I-Team Christmas) by Pamela Clare

The Spring Bride (Chance Sisters #3) by Anne Gracie

The Spring Bride (Chance Sisters #3) by Anne Gracie

Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas

Cold-Hearted Rake (2015) by Lisa Kleypas

His Housekeeper’s Christmas wish by Louise Allen

His Housekeeper's Christmas Wish by Louise Allen

In Debt to the Earl by Elizabeth Rolls

In Debt to the Earl by Elizabeth Rolls

The Lady Meets Her Match (Midnight Meetings #2) by Gina Conkle

The Lady Meets Her Match (Midnight Meetings #2) by Gina Conkle

The Week: 28th September – 4th October

SonyaHeaneySophia25thSeptember2015

Me with Sophia the Thursday before she went. She is the most cuddly cat!

UPDATE: Our cat had four gorgeous little black, white and grey kittens! (Well, they’ll be gorgeous soon, because they look a bit like rats at the moment!)

They sneaked an orphan into her litter, so now she a mum of five. 🙂

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The week started in a sad way. Monday was not only the day we took our gorgeous, gorgeous stray cat, Sophia, to foster care (she will be having her kittens soon), but it was also the day we gave up my grandmother’s house to the new owners. It was the centre of our lives for three and a half decades, the place all our Easters, Christmases, birthdays etc. happened.

Australian Parliament Canberra Australia Parliament House Capital Hill Spring Sonya Heaney 28th September 2015

Driving past Australian Parliament on Monday morning – a public holiday in Canberra.

I took the above picture of Parliament House on our way back through Canberra, from dropping off the cat and on our way back to New South Wales to close up the house.

The warm weather has well and truly arrived. Suddenly everyone’s in their little summer dresses!

United Nations 28th September 2015 the tattered Ukrainian flag from the August 2014 Massacre of Ilovaisk, where 366 Ukrainian soldiers were killed after being tricked into surrender by Russian forces.

Ukrainians holding up a bullet-riddled flag at the United Nations on Monday. It is from a battle where the Russians tricked 366 Ukrainians into surrendering and then massacred them. All the while Putin is running around the world, playing friends with all the world leaders.

Imagine how the world would have reacted if it had been 366 Americans massacred!

I have NO idea why, but starting on Wednesday there were so many Christmas episodes on the television. Have the department stores made a deal with the TV networks or something? Is it a not-so-subtle suggestion we rush out and start Christmas shopping in October?

Celebrities who have modelled for book covers

2,_Claudia_and_the_Phantom_Phone_CallsMost interesting to me is the Baby-Sitters Club cover with Kirsten Dunst, because not only are we the same age, but I think I still own a copy of that book.

Sequel Baiting

The Darkest Hour (KGI #1) by Maya Banks

Her Face!

Ravenswood Janet Louise Roberts

My review of This Book Will Change Your Life by Amanda Weaver

This Book Will Change Your Life by Amanda Weaver

My review of The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

When Lucy Hunter stumbles upon her grandfather Harry’s World War Two memorabilia, she finds a faded photograph of a stunning young woman known simply as “George” and a series of heartfelt letters. They are clues about the secret years, a period of Lucy’s family history that has been kept a mystery… until now.

How did a cattleman from north Queensland find forbidden love with the Honourable Georgina Lenton of London, and persuade her to move to his isolated outback property?

As the passions of the past trickle down the years, three generations of one family pull together. Each must learn in their own way how true love can conquer the greatest challenges of all.

From the wild beauty of the Australian bush to England’s rugged south coast, this is a deeply moving story of heartbreak, heroism and homecoming by a beloved, multi-award winning author.

The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

This is a hard book to classify, and I think the blurb barely gives you an idea of what to expect. I think the mark of a good book is if you know you’ll remember it down the track (especially so if you read hundreds of books a year!), and I know there are some aspects of this one that will stay with me. It is an emotional read. I never understand readers who claim to cry buckets of tears for every single silly little book they read, but this actually IS a book I can say has that sort of emotion in it.

The Secret Years might be Barbara Hannay’s most ambitious book, and for me, it really, really worked. It is not romance, though there are some relationships in it. Calling it women’s fiction seems disingenuous, because it doesn’t really give you an idea of the scale and scope of the story. I’m not really sure what it is, but it covers the lives of three generations of women, taking you all over Australia, through war-torn London, to Cornwall, and even to New Guinea.

This sort of work is ambitious because it is in danger of being choppy, but I think the changes between past and present were handled well, and the choice to only use the three women’s perspectives meant we weren’t lost in a sea of characters.

The research is excellent, and I think there are plenty of authors around who could learn a thing or two about researching a book from this author! There is so much to cover and yet I felt like each era and location was as real as the one before it.

Another thing that is done really well is the revealing of plot points gradually. It’s hard to know how long to draw out a mystery, and only better authors figure out how to not dump everything on the reader at the start.

I also appreciate that Hannay is one of the few authors who actually knows something about her nation’s capital. Living here, I get VERY tired of the ignorance of the average Australian! Two things: I don’t know why Lucy had to go to England to see bluebells: they’re the ACT’s state flower! And George didn’t need to wait until Queensland to see a kookaburra: we have every native bird you could think of right here!

But really, these are not complaints. I don’t really think I have any negatives with this one.

This is definitely one of my more memorable reads of the year.

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Home Before Sundown by Barbara Hannay

Home Before Sundown by Barbara Hannay

Coming home can break your heart… or change your life

 

For Bella Fairburn, a girl from the bush, her new life in Europe is a dream come true – not least because of her gorgeous French ski-instructor boyfriend. But news of her beloved father’s heart attack brings Bella rushing back to Australia along with her aunt Liz, an acclaimed musician who’s been living in London for the past thirty years. While her father recuperates, Bella seizes the chance to finally prove to him that she’s perfectly capable of taking over until he recovers. 

 

But coming home to Mullinjim is fraught with emotional danger for both Bella and Liz.  While Bella is confident she can deal with drought, the threat of bushfires, and cattle bogged in muddy dams, she fears facing her neighbour Gabe Mitchell. Gabe is the man she once hoped to marry, but he’s also the man who broke her heart. For Liz, Mullinjim holds a painful secret from her past that must never be revealed…

 

 In the rugged beauty of the outback, new futures beckon, but Bella and Liz must first confront the heartaches of the past.

Home Before Sundown by Barbara Hannay

Though I listed Barbara Hannay’s Zoe’s Muster as one of my top reads of 2012, for some reason the penny didn’t drop that this was a connected book until a few chapters in. This is embarrassing!

It seems there’s no end to Australia’s female-centric rural fiction craze, and while the packaging might not vary that much, the quality of the writing does. There is sometimes a dryness, a lack of emotion in rural-themed books, with far too many farming details and not enough heart. With her roots firmly in the romance genre, Hannay is a sure thing as far as rural fiction goes, as she manages to approach the rural theme from a more emotional perspective. The stuff about working on the land is still there, but you don’t feel like you’ve picked up a farmers’ instruction manual!

I like stories that involve a reunion between characters with a messy past. In fact, it’s one of my absolute favourite themes, and it is the main focus of this book. However, as with Zoe’s Muster, in addition to the main romantic theme there’re other storylines playing a large part, with the issues covering a number of generations of characters.

I’ve never had any desire to live or work on a farm – I see kangaroos and bushland here in Canberra every day, and that’s enough for me! – but rural fiction is all about the fantasy romance of the land that even very citified people seem to connect to. If you want a solid country-themed read, Barbara Hannay’s books are worth looking into.

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

More RITA Award news to be excited about

I have already mentioned the exciting list of 2013 Romantic Suspense RITA Awards finalists, but there’re a lot of other books worth noticing nominated in other categories.

This is a pretty good year for Australians, including recognition for Bronwyn Parry’s romantic suspense/murder mystery story Dead Heat.

There is another book set in rural Australia that is a finalist in the Contemporary Single Title Romance category: Zoe’s Muster by Barbara Hannay. I loved this book, added it to my Best of 2012 list, gave it as a Christmas present… I also reviewed it HERE.

Zoe’s Muster by Barbara Hannay

Three women… two families… one secret…

When Zoe, restless black sheep of the Porter family, discovers that her biological father is a North Queensland cattleman, Peter Fairburn, her deep desire to meet him takes her from inner city Brisbane to a job as a stockcamp cook.

Zoe’s mother, Claire, is wrestling with guilt and shock over Zoe’s discovery. She swears Zoe to secrecy, fearing that the truth could ruin the career of her high profile politician husband. When she is forced to confront her past, Claire also reassesses her marriage.

Virginia Fairburn is happily married to Peter, but she’s always lived with the shadow of the other woman her husband loved and lost.

On the muster at Mullinjim, Zoe meets brooding cattleman Mac McKinnon, who knows from painful experience that city girls can’t cope in the bush. Every instinct tells Mac that Zoe is hiding something. As the pressure to reveal her mother’s secret builds, Zoe fears she must confide in him or burst.

The truth has the potential to destroy two families. Or can it clear the way for new beginnings?

Best of 2012

Everyone’s doing their ‘Best Of’ lists, but you know what? In a lot of cases, I can’t remember if I read certain things in 2012 or before that!

Something else that I see happening is that other people forget about their great reads from earlier in the year. So many popular books released earlier in the year don’t seem to be making appearances on many lists.

My list isn’t really ‘the best stuff I read this year’ as much as ‘good stuff I can actually remember reading in 2012’! So most – but not all – of these were published this year.

Last Man Standing by Cindy Gerard

Last Man Standing by Cindy Gerard

The Forbidden Lord by Sabrina Jeffries

The Forbidden Lord by Sabrina Jeffries

Redwood Bend by Robyn Carr

Redwood Bend by Robyn Carr

Promises by Cathryn Hein

Promises by Cathryn Hein

Suddenly You by Sarah Mayberry

Suddenly You by Sarah Mayberry

Willow Springs by Toni Blake

Willow Springs by Toni Blake

Dead Heat by Bronwyn Parry

Dead Heat by Bronwyn Parry

The Cowboy Takes a Bride by Lori Wilde

The Cowboy Takes a Bride by Lori Wilde

Bridie’s Choice by Karly Lane

Bridie’s Choice by Karly Lane

An Infamous Marriage by Susanna Fraser

An Infamous Marriage by Susanna Fraser

Heart of the Valley by Cathryn Hein

Heart of the Valley by Cathryn Hein

More Than One Night by Sarah Mayberry

More Than One Night by Sarah Mayberry

Breaking the Silence by Katie Allen

Breaking the Silence by Katie Allen

Zoe’s Muster by Barbara Hannay

Zoe’s Muster by Barbara Hannay

Within Reach by Sarah Mayberry

Within Reach by Sarah Mayberry

Kiss of Midnight by Lara Adrian

Kiss of Midnight by Lara Adrian

My Kind of Christmas by Robyn Carr

My Kind of Christmas by Robyn Carr

I Love the Earl by Caroline Linden

I Love the Earl by Caroline Linden

Kiss of Crimson by Lara Adrian

Kiss of Crimson by Lara Adrian

A Cowboy for Christmas by Lori Wilde

A Cowboy for Christmas by Lori Wilde

Christmas Deliveries

This time every year I start catching up on books I’ve been meaning to buy, but never got around to. Then I can conveniently wrap them as Christmas presents for me, on behalf of others!

I also have a bunch of books to give as gifts this year.

As my final paperback orders have started turning up on my doorstep, I thought I’d share some of the latest arrivals.

The Witness by Nora Roberts

Cry No More by Linda Howard

Already Home by Susan Mallery

I read this in ebook form as a review copy last year. The cover is gorgeous!

Zoe’s Muster by Barbara Hannay

This one I already have on Kindle, and I reviewed here. It looks like every other Outback-themed book, but I found the story original. A good read.

One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf

Hattie Wilkinson Meets Her Match by Michelle Styles

I’m not sure many men in Regency England looked like that…

Author interviews and gymnastics and Formula One news

An interesting interview with historical author Sophia James.

And an interesting guest blog  by rural Australian writer Barbara Hannay.

* As far as gymnastics goes, two of the five members of the Olympic gold medal-winning US women’s team have begun their 40-stop tour by injuring themselves. Aly Raisman (who won two gold and a bronze in London) and McKayla Maroney (who won gold and silver) fell from the uneven bars while performing show #2 in California, and could not finish.

The craziest thing about it is that the gymnasts perform much easier skills in these shows than they do in competition.

* The Italian Formula One Grand Prix last night was just plain weird. I did love third-placed Fernando Alonso’s reactions on the podium though!

From Zimbio