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!).

hall-of-remembrance-australian-war-memorial-canberra-australia-anzac-day-25th-april-2015-sonya-heaney-oksana-heaney

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

The Week: 15th – 21st June

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos Tuggeranong Canberra Australia Winter  Sonya Heaney 16th June 2015.

The garden full of cockatoos on Tuesday afternoon.

AidanTurnerPoldark

Despite saying I wouldn’t, I read – and enjoyed – the first two Poldark books this week. Very satisfying, addictive, if imperfect reads, set in Cornwall in the second half of the Georgian era. I’m not sure how far into the series I’ll go, because some not so nice things happen, and series that run too long tend to lose their way a bit.

Is it just me, or has everyone been incredibly rude this week? I’ve had Russian spammers leaving nasty comments on my Pinterest account. I’ve got rude comments on my blog. People type first and think later (or in the case of the spammers, they just never think!).

I’ll be in Sydney (unless something goes wrong!) when this post goes up. We are going to see Les Misérables. We were supposed to go up on Friday and lodge court documents for my grandmother’s estate – can you believe we have to travel 3-4 hours to do that in person! Australia needs to change a few things when the states are so big! – but the papers didn’t arrive in time.

Which means another huge, long interstate trip for us and the expense of a hotel room, which is incredibly unfair. New South Wales is bigger than Texas, and it’s nowhere near our biggest state!

My review of His Wicked Reputation (Wicked Trilogy #1) by Madeline Hunter

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

My review of Burnt by Karly Lane

Burnt by Karly Lane

My review of  Captivated by You (Crossfire #4) by Sylvia Day

Captivated by You by Sylvia Day

Hmm…

12th November 2013 Canberra Sunset Australia Sonya Heaney

Erm…

See how Fifty Shades would look if Christian Grey was made from CAKE

Poldark Earrings

Poldark Earrings

Burnt by Karly Lane

Burnt by Karly Lane

Sebastian (Seb) Taylor and Rebecca Whiteman were high school sweethearts dreaming of a future together, when one terrible night forever changed their destiny.

Eighteen years after the tragedy Rebecca has brought her children back to the town she left behind to start a new life.

Seb, an elite SAS soldier in the Australian Army, has returned home injured, angry and grieving to face a town that hasn’t forgotten and a father who has never understood him.

Rebecca has enough problems of her own without adding Seb Taylor to the mix; a failed marriage, two children to support and an annoying heavy breather who refuses to stop calling. The last thing she needed was her first love to make a sudden reappearance in her life…

From bestselling author of Morgan’s Law and Bridie’s Choice comes a story of love, forgiveness and bravery that will touch your heart.

Burnt by Karly Lane

There are only a few authors who I’ve been following from their first book through their development as an author. Karly Lane (as Karlene Blakemore-Mowle) sent me her early ebooks for review years ago, and I liked her work then.

Now, years later, it’s incredible to see how far she has come. I think this is far and away her best book, and apart from her excellent development as an author, I think it helped that her love of her hometown – the setting of this book – shone through from start to finish.

I absolutely love suspense books and books involving the military. However, for the past few years I’ve been mostly reading historical fiction and other similar genres because my favourites have become mockeries of themselves. The term “Navy SEAL” has become a joke. Suspense has become clichéd.

So it was really nice to see an author who created a Special Forces (Australia’s SAS) soldier who actually qualified for his job, and an author willing to incorporate the realities of that job.

This is not the main focus of the story, however. But I enjoyed the other well-researched aspects of the story and the realistic characters, actions and behaviours. For example, the heartbreaking flashback to the car crash.

Australian small town romances have become a bit tiresome, predictable (and offensive to people in cities!) and downright boring for me recently, and I’ve turned down a number of review books in the genre.

If more authors wrote books like this I’d definitely be more interested!

But sorry, I definitely cannot agree. Lee Kernaghan is a total bogan, not sexy!! I actually worked in one of his dressing rooms a few years ago and ripped his name off the wall with a lot of satisfaction!

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

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

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?

I don’t know why I was surprised to see Barbara Hannay jumping in on the Rural Lit craze. After all, she was writing shorter rural romances years before the trend took off, and I’ve enjoyed everything of hers I’ve read. I knew she’d deliver a good story, and I knew she’d come up with something original in a completely saturated field.

As I’ve said before, it’s hard to know what to pick from the current sea of book covers featuring twenty-something women in Akubras. I’ve been very successful when following established authors whose work I’ve read in other genres (such as Karly Lane, whose most recent book I thought was really good).

Zoe’s Muster hovers somewhere between Women’s Fiction and Romance, focusing mostly on Zoe, but also giving attention to two other women in Zoe’s life: her mother, who has some big secrets, and the wife of Zoe’s biological father.

I was curious about how Hannay’s writing would transition from the “Sweet” line she has written for in the past to the less-sweet atmosphere of a full-length rural novel. I was pleasantly surprised to find the language appropriately – uh – “rural male” when it needed to be, amongst other things.

I was also thrilled that we were shown a nice view of both city and country lifestyles; in fact a sizeable portion of the book was devoted to time in more developed areas.

I do plan to buy this in paperback soon, but I read the Kindle version this time, and I do have a complaint. This: SeEB03BodyTextINDENTEDte kept appearing in the middle of paragraphs, sometimes eliminating key words in sentences (I gave up trying to figure out what some of them were meant to say!). I am becoming tired of seeing this in Kindle books in general, but especially in books put up for sale by major publishers. Not that I understand much about Kindle formatting, but surely this is an issue that could be taken care of.

Though I’ve struggled through a few Rural Lit books in recent months, I’ve been pretty lucky recently. Zoe’s Muster was definitely a success for me!

Operation Summer Storm and Operation Willow Quest by Karlene Blakemore-Mowle

You can’t really talk about one of these books without talking about the other.

I read Operation Summer Storm well over a year ago now, enjoyed it, and then hoped for a book about main character Summer’s sister, Willow. Only there wasn’t one at the time.

Now there is! These books feature lots of suspense and action, focusing on a group of American Force Recon Marines, and featuring two Australian women who can’t help but go digging where they aren’t wanted. One of the main attractions for me to begin with was the fact the leading women were Australian. It’s a rare thing, especially in this subgenre. Much as I love reading about American characters (and yes, I really, really do like it!), it’s always going to feel closer to home reading about someone with a background similar to my own.

Operation Summer Storm

Tate Maddox is a wanted man, accused of a crime he didn’t commit.Summer Sheldon holds the key to his freedom-for a price. Her demands are simple–rescue her journalist sister from a rebel hostage camp and she’ll hand over the evidence to clear his name. There’s just one small catch. He has to take her with him. From the depths of a Cambodian jungle to the tropical paradise of the Philippines, two unlikely allies are forced to learn how to coexist or lose everything each holds dear. Together they must expose a truth that leaves them both vulnerable to the ruthless killer behind Tate’s nightmare. Murder, blackmail, and injustice brought them together. Will Tate and Summer save Willow and restore Tate’s reputation in time, or will they pay the ultimate price for honour?

This is suspense the way I like it: lots of action, with the characters constantly being pushed on by their pursuers. Karlene Blakemore-Mowle (who also writes as Karly Lane) understands how to write romantic suspense. Too often authors forget to have something driving the characters on, instead devoting huge chunks of the story to sitting around developing relationships.

This one has everything from skydiving to treks through the jungle, to people being taken prisoner.

Great fun!

Operation Willow Quest

Peter Delaware is a man on a mission. His job is to save Willow Sheldon’s delectable, but antagonizing butt, before she gets herself killed. Unfortunately, she has no intension of making his job easy.

Willow Sheldon has a habit of finding trouble. As a photojournalist, her job has often taken her to some dangerous places, but when Peter ‘Del’ Delaware comes to her rescue, suddenly it’s no longer the hostile environment that poses the greatest threat to her safety.

On the trail of an elusive weapons dealer, Willow is determined to bring the man responsible for the nightmare of her past, to justice. If in doing so she also gets the scoop of the decade, then all the better.
From the tropics of the south pacific, to the jungles of South America, these two unlikely allies must learn to let down their defenses in order to make it out alive.

Picking up a little while after the first book, our two previous leads are now married and reproducing, while Willow – rescued in Summer Storm – is still coping with the trauma of her capture, and the death of her husband. She has unfinished business, and it determined to deal with it, no matter what anyone else thinks. Poor Del gets all beaten up in this one; I was wincing at his injuries!

I’d definitely recommend reading these two close together to get the most out of them. (I regret not giving the first book a reread before diving into this one.) They could practically be one big, evolving story. Like watching an action film, but with characters you actually care for!

Morgan’s Law by Karly Lane

I’m pretty sure this is the best book I’ve read from Karly Lane – either under this name, or her other one.

“Rural Lit” is the thing in the Australian publishing industry at the moment. Because of McLeod’s Daughters? If you go into any bookshop in Australia (if you can find one – they’ve all been closing since we discovered The Book Depository and realised Australian publishers had been overcharging us by about 1000000%!), and you’ll be engulfed in a sea of farm-themed, women-themed books. They’re often told entirely from the woman’s perspective – but don’t worry first-person haters, it’s not in that style!

You can spot these books from a mile off: there’s always a woman on the cover, and she is almost always wearing an Akubra.

(Of course, the same could be said for most other book genres – exactly how many topless waxed-chested, muscular male models are gracing Romance covers these days?! Or teenage girls in massive dresses for Young Adult Fiction?)

Certainly, every country has a “thing” at any given moment, be it Regency Romance, sparkly vampires who stalk the most pathetic girl in the class, or bad fanfiction about the stalker and the pathetic girl!

The problem with a “thing” is that it leads to saturation. In the past week I’ve started – and stopped – two other Rural Lit books. After all, there’re only so many times you can read, “Young woman wants to be a farmer, but her father doesn’t think it’s a career for girls” books! There was nothing wrong with the books, but I guess I was looking for something fresh.

Then I remembered I’d been saving Morgan’s Law for a special day (as you do!). If there was one author in the genre who was guaranteed to deliver a good read, it was Karly Lane.

I powered on through this one. The mystery is upfront and solid from the start, and there’s a very clear, very Australian image of the town painted from the first page. I liked the characters, and they had that something to them that you need to make a book a memorable read. I especially liked Adam Buchanan. He was my favourite person in the book, and I always sat up a bit straighter when he came onto the page. A lot of female authors write unconvincing male characters (just as a lot of men can’t write women!), but I think Lane did an excellent job.

This wasn’t just another story about a determined girl and her hulking farmer guy.

The other thing that sets Morgan’s Law apart from similarly-themed books is that the rural setting surrounds the story instead of being the story. The environment is worked into the surroundings, rather than the plot grinding to a halt for a two-chapter exposé on sheep-shearing!

A popular theme in rural books involves a character coming from the city and being blown away by the country. If you grew up in Canberra – as I did – you’re surrounded by more bushland than many rural folks (something another author a couple of years ago annoyed me by ignoring, while throwing insults our way!), so you can sit back and appreciate the best of both worlds. Often, rural writers paint the city – and people from it – in a very negative light. Lane refrains from doing that – not even a hint of it! She illustrates that they’re different rather than superior or inferior. I am so grateful for that, as it’s something that has seriously irked me about other books.

So, if you’re looking for a rural-themed read, and are swimming through mountains of books with Akubra-clad girls on the covers, keep an eye out for this title.

It’s one of the best of the bunch.

Blurb:

When Sarah Murphy returns to Australia she desperately needs a break from her high-powered London life. And though mystified by her grandmother’s dying wish for her ashes to be scattered under ‘the wishing tree’ on the banks of the Negallan River, she sets out to do just that. While searching for the wishing tree, Sarah stays in the small township of Negallan. It’s there that she finally has some time to relax and unwind, there that she finds herself drawn to a handsome local farmer, and there that she discovers her enquiries about her grandmother are causing disquiet within the powerful local Morgan family. Will the Morgans prevent Sarah from discovering the truth about her grandmother? And should she risk her glittering career in the UK for a simpler existence in the country, and the possibility of true love?

Catching up with new Australian Fiction

I used to keep on top of my reading – always aware of when new releases were on their way  – but a few overseas trips over the last twelve months completely messed that up!

So, here are four new or soon to be released Australian books I have my money out for:

Dead Heat by Bronwyn Parry

Blurb:

National Parks Ranger Jo Lockwood is often alone in the wilderness, and she likes it that way – until she discovers the body of a man, brutally murdered.

Detective Nick Matheson’s new posting to the north-west of New South Wales is supposed to be an uneventful return to normal duties and a normal life. He knows organised crime from the inside out and suspects that the victim in the camping ground is not an isolated murder.

Jo is committed to helping the investigation but she has seen the killer’s face and now she’s at risk. Nick’s determined to protect her but as the body count starts mounting, his past and present collide, threatening the people he cares about most.

Trapped in rugged country in scorching summer heat, pursued by  hunters who can’t afford to fail, Nick and Jo will need to trust each other completely, and use all their skills and knowledge in order to survive.

Burning Lies by Hélène Young

Blurb:

Kaitlyn Scott is searching for the truth about her husband’s death, even if that means revisiting the most painful day of her life. But what she uncovers is a criminal willing to stop at nothing to keep his secret.
Ryan O’Donnell, an enigmatic undercover cop, is investigating arson attacks when he is drawn into Kaitlyn’s world. He tries to fight his attraction for her, hoping the case might put his own demons to rest, but it only threatens to push him over the edge.
With Kaitlyn and Ryan on a collision course, the arsonist seizes the chance to settle some old scores. As the Atherton Tableland burns, the three of them are caught in a fiery dance of danger and desire, and not everyone will come out alive.
Set in Australia’s tropical far north, this is an explosive story of peril and passion by the author voted by the Romance Writers of Australia as the most popular novelist of the year.

Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry

Blurb:

She thinks he’s stuffy. He thinks she’s spoilt. Then the gloves come off and so do their clothes!
For six years Violet Sutcliffe has known that Martin St Clair is the wrong man for her best friend. He’s stuffy, old before his time, conservative. He drives Violet nuts – and the feeling is entirely mutual. Then, out of nowhere, her friend walks out just weeks before her wedding to Martin, flying to Australia on a mission of self-discovery. Back in London, Violet finds herself feeling sorry for suddenly-single Martin. At least, she tells herself it’s pity she feels. Then he comes calling one dark, stormy night and they discover that beneath their mutual dislike there lies a fiery sexual chemistry.
It’s crazy and all-consuming – and utterly wrong. Because not only are they chalk and cheese, oil and water, but Martin once belonged to her best friend. A friend Violet is terrified of losing. What future can there be for a relationship with so many strikes against it?
This book is a spin off from Sarah Mayberry’s Blaze novel, Hot Island Nights. Both stories can be read in isolation and still make perfect sense.

Morgan’s Law by Karly Lane

Blurb:

When Sarah Murphy returns to Australia she desperately needs a break from her high-powered London life. And though mystified by her grandmother’s dying wish for her ashes to be scattered under ‘the wishing tree’ on the banks of the Negallan River, she sets out to do just that. While searching for the wishing tree, Sarah stays in the small township of Negallan. It’s there that she finally has some time to relax and unwind, there that she finds herself drawn to a handsome local farmer, and there that she discovers her enquiries about her grandmother are causing disquiet within the powerful local Morgan family. Will the Morgans prevent Sarah from discovering the truth about her grandmother? And should she risk her glittering career in the UK for a simpler existence in the country, and the possibility of true love? By the bestselling author of North Star, Morgan’s Law takes you on a compelling journey into a young woman’s hopes and dreams.