Review of Dead Heat by Bronwyn Parry.

 

Dead Heat is a fast paced and exciting romantic suspense novel, with rather more dead Heatsuspense than romance. I found this book hard to put down.

Jo Lockwood loves her job as a National Parks ranger in the north west of New South Wales. She loves the country side, the wildlife, and she enjoys being on her own for much of the time.
That all changes the day she finds a park site has been vandalised. As she sets about clearing up and repairing as much damage as possible, a dingo emerges from the bush. In its mouth it carries bloodied human hand. Full of horror she searches the nearby bush and discovers the body of a young man who has been tortured and murdered.

Detective Nick Matheson is assigned to the case. He has recently been posted to this normally peaceful, low crime area, in order to resume an uneventful life after ten years as an undercover cop. He finds Jo a reliable and observant witness, outwardly calm, although in a state of shocked by the grisly discovery.

As the investigation proceeds it is discovered that this quiet area has become a site for organised crime, with drugs, police corruption, gang activity, illegal weapons, and more murders piling up.

Jo is the only person who has seen the face of the killer, a ruthless man without respect for human life, and she becomes a target for his assassination. Each with their own painful histories, Jo and Nick must work together if she is to survive.

Nick vows that he will do anything to keep Jo safe, and the tension mounts as they become targets for a sniper, while trying to evade gang members chasing them through dense countryside and outrun a bushfire.

Along the way they both discover that their feelings have become much more than the admiration they initially felt for each other.

Bronwyn Parry has penned a story with many twists that will keep you turning the pages to the end.

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Review of Paper Daisies by Kim Kelly

This book is set in 1900, a time of Federation in Australia, and a time when women had few rights or choices in their lives, although they were agitating for the vote.

Berylda Jones has just come home to Bathurst from university in Sydney. She is thrilled that she has been accepted into the course for Medicine next year, and is looking forward to seeing her sister Greta after her absence. However, she  is dreading being back under the domination of their sadistic and brutal Uncle Alec, a surgeon and prominent figure in the town. Berylda is a strong character, and when she realises how bad things are for her sister at home she determines to take action to free them both from their uncle’s control.

Ben Wilberry is a gentle botanist who is grieving deeply over the loss of his mother. His promise to her that he will search for a particular flower brings him to Bathurst, and into Berylda’s life. He falls in love with Berylda, but in his unassuming way he is unsure if she is interested in him.

The story is told in alternating chapters from these two character’s points of view, and there is a great deal of introspection from both Berylda and Ben.

I found the continuing story compulsive reading as Berylda dragged me into her story, and into her deliberations over whether or not she can carry out her desperate plan to save Greta from further harm.

The themes of the story are misogyny, and the moral dilemma of whether two wrongs can make a right. I found it a book to make you look at your own moral values and wonder what you would do in Berylda’s situation.

The author’s note at the end of the story is interesting.

Review of Congo Dawn by Katherine Scholes

Congo Dawn is a Big Book, in size as well as scope. It is set in 1964, a time of unrest in the Congo in the aftermath of throwing off Belgian rule, when the country teetered on the brink of civil war, with fears that communism was gaining support against a Western style democracy.

Anna Emerson is a secretary in Melbourne, where she has lived with her mother since her parent’s divorce when she was seven years old. Her world is turned upside down when she receives a plane ticket to the Congo from a stranger, with the message that her barely-remembered father is dying and wishes to see her.

Against her mother’s wishes she decides to go, harbouring the desire that her father must love her if he wishes to see her again. Sadly it turns out Karl Emerson has his own reasons for wanting to see her, and it has nothing to do with love or family ties.

When she discovers he is not her father but her step-father she sets out on search to find her real father, knowing only the town of her birth, Banya, which is in an area near where the Simba rebels are fighting.

Dan Miller, a no-longer-young former safari leader, is approached to sign up as a mercenary fighter, leading a force of men to help keep the communists from gaining control of the country. Although hesitant at first he agrees, and he and his chosen men head into the area of fighting against the Simba rebels.

This story is not a romance, but another look at love, with the main characters on a search through a war-torn land.

Well researched, and inspired by real events, this book is totally absorbing, as Katherine Scholes gives us another glimpse into Africa in all its diversity, in a time of trouble, where there is both heroism and brutality. My only complaint is that the ending seemed a bit abrupt to me. I would like to know what happened to all the characters further on.

Review of Black Diamonds by Kim Kelly

I loved this book. It starts out in Lithgow and the coal mines in 1914 and covers the war years and beyond. Once I got past the old fashioned dialogue I was swept along with Francine and Daniel every emotional inch of the way. I felt the joy, the uncertainties, the fear and terror as their story unfolded.

It is a love story, but there is so much more to it than that. Kim Kelly has woven the politics, the feel of the times, and how people felt about the leadership during the dark, frightening days of the war, into the story, but there is humour there as well.
The characters are real, and I found it hard to put the book down until I read how the story panned out.
I have also read The Blue Mile by Kim Kelly, which I enjoyed and I will now seek out other books by this talented author.

Review of Daughters of theDragon by William Andrews

 

This was a history lesson for me. I had heard Korean women were taken and used by the Japanese in World War Two as sex slaves, or comfort women as they called them, but I had no idea of the horrific way they were treated., or that they numbered more than 100,000. William Andrews has done his research well and.although fiction, this book is based on reality, and is a heart -rending story. The latter part of the book also looks at the political side of the division between north and south Korea, which I found interesting.

The story is told in flashbacks by Mrs Hong, a former comfort woman, as she tells her story to her granddaughter, Anna.

The story has some flaws. I found the character of Anna, the American/Korean girl on a visit to Korea,  weak and almost superfluous. Also the writing was not always good, mainly in the present day situation with Anna.

But for all of that I found the story riveting. It is a part of history that I believe has not been widely reported. I give it four stars.

 

Review of Vineyard in the Hills by Lily Malone

Lily Malone writes in an easy, free flowing style that that makes this book so easy to read. VineyardHer characters are real, some likeable, others less so.

Remy Hanley is warm hearted, unassuming, and independent. She has cut her viticulture degree short and is working two jobs, one at Lasrey’s Wines, to help her widowed mother, and to pay off her late father’s debts.
Seth Lasrey is every inch the boss when we meet him – all business, the dutiful son who is focused on working hard tomanage and grow Lasrey’s Wines, the winery that has grown from the vineyard planted by his mother, Ailsa, and his deceased father Joe, in Margaret River.
The minute Seth sets eyes on Remy he is bowled over and his stiff demeanour relaxes. Remy is almost afraid to let herself believe he could be interested in her. Their romance has hardly begun before a storm, a mistake, and a plot by mother Ailsa and scheming employee Rina, drives them apart, leaving Seth believing the worst about Remy.

Five years later they meet again when Seth acquires a winery in the Adelaide Hills, and the winery buys grapes from the vineyard that Remy has managed to buy.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, its characters, its storyline, and the descriptions of the Adelaide Hills. Having lived in there, I was able to follow the story to every little town and along every road, which added to my pleasure in reading.

Review of Dear Mrs Bird

This book is a little gem. I picked it up expecting it to be a light, funny, possible witty read. It is all that, but so much more. It is set in London in 1940. Bombs are falling, air raids are almost nightly. People go about their business as usual as is possible when they know they might find their house, or even their whole street, demolished when they leave the air raid shelter.Emmy Lake is a young woman who wants to Do Her Bit. As well as working in a legal office she is a volunteer helping to man the phones in the auxiliary fire service at nights, but she dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent. When she sees an advertisement for a junior position in a London paper she applies and gets the job.

She is dismayed to find that instead of being involved in Important News she is merely typist to the extremely intimidating Henrietta Bird, an advice columnist, or ‘agony aunt’, on the paper. Mrs Bird will not answer any queries that she deems to contain Unpleasantness, which includes any requests for advice on Relationships or, heaven forbid, SEX. It is Emmy’s job to open Mrs Bird’s mail and she is forced to cut up these Unpleasant query letters and dispose of them without even showing them to Henrietta.

When Emmy reads letters from women who are Lonely while their husbands or boy friends are Away Fighting, or who may have Gone Too Far with the wrong men and found themselves in trouble, or who have other intimate problems, she worries about them and decides to reply to them herself, with unexpected results.

Emmy and her friend Bunty are appealing characters that you can’t help loving as they Make The Best of these appalling times.
This story is funny, witty, moving and poignant. I read it over a weekend and loved it.