BOOK REVIEW: The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (Review from Hayley Shephard)

Simply put, The Invasion of the Tearling was an awesome read.

the-invasion-of-the-tearlingThe book is one giant social commentary and while Erika Johansen’s world is dystopian, it doesn’t follow the standard model. It’s also a must-read novel for all the feminists out there.

Following the standard dystopian model I truly believed the following: this world either exists on an uncharted island or this “better world” is actually a government experiment, and the inhabitants have been made to think otherwise. It never once occurred to me when reading the first book that Kelsea’s sapphires made the journey to this world, which is referred to as ‘the Crossing’, possible. Cheers to Erika Johnson for thinking of something like this. No matter how unusual, I just need something new from time to time.

the-queen-of-the-tearlingI loved how Erika Johansen used the connection between the sapphires and ‘the Crossing’ to convey the importance of our current fight against issues such as like violence against women, equal rights, the power of the privileged and the right not to be persecuted because of who you are and what you believe in. If we don’t look at what is bad in our world now, it continues until it becomes nearly impossible to fix.

And let’s face it, if we could alter time, we would fix parts of the past that still have a destructive presence. No matter how much you try and escape it, time has a way on creeping up on us, even if you have the ability to cross through into a more primitive era. If you’ve read the first book, you know the Tearling isn’t exactly all that crash-hot.

There are a lot of double meanings and hidden messages in The Invasion of the Tearling. But I’ve come to enjoy trying to find out what Erika’s trying to hide. I’ve already come up with theories of my own. I really need the 3rd book to confirm my theories and finally discover who Kelsea’s father is (yes, we still don’t know).

But then again, maybe I am not the only reader who needs answers…

Grab your copy of The Invasion of the Tearling here

the-invasion-of-the-tearlingThe Invasion of the Tearling

The Tearling Trilogy : Book 2

The breathtaking sequel to the international bestseller The Queen Of The Tearling – that was hailed by the Daily Mail as ‘like Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games meets Pulp Fiction’ . . .

With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighbouring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.

But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling – and that of Kelsea’s own soul – may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out.

In this dazzling sequel to her bestselling debut The Queen Of The Tearling, Erika Johansen brings back favourite characters, including the Mace and the Red Queen, and introduces unforgettable new players, adding exciting layers to her multidimensional tale of magic, mystery and a fierce young heroine.

Grab your copy of The Invasion of the Tearling here

BOOK REVIEW: The Bit in Between by Claire Varley (Review by Andrew Cattanach)

Andrew Cattanach finds plenty beneath the surface of local author Claire Varley’s debut The Bit in Between

the-bit-in-betweenIn The Bit in Between, Claire Varley explores the trials and tribulations of the talented and tortured young writer Oliver, as his ambitious prospective writing retreat is turned upside down by the enigmatic Alison, who enters his world in the most spectacular, stomach churning of ways.

It’s always a treat when a book surprises you, but rarely are you surprised by what you’re surprised by in a book that surprises you. Surprising way to start a review?

Well, blame Claire Varley’s The Bit in Between. It’s not your average book.

You see, I knew it was going to be well written, even before I’d read Varley’s recent answers to our Ten Terrifying Questions (they’re pretty amazing). I had heard from some astute folks within the book industry that this was something special, and sure enough it was.

I also knew what to expect, with early noise about it being the Australian equivalent David Nicholl’s One Day being dead on. The writing is sharp, the characters witty and the story is alive in an assured, pacey manner that belies the author’s relative inexperience in long form fiction.

What surprised me about what surprised me about The Bit in Between was the changing trajectory of the novel, what it strode for, what story it told. Rarely do you finish a relatively mainstream novel, love it, yet still turn to someone and say, can you read this and tell me what you think? Is it a love story? Is it a story of loss? Is it cutting travel writing? Is it a meditation on self discovery? Is it a love letter to the writing life?

The truth is that it’s all these things and more. This is the first glimpse of an exciting new local talent, equal parts accessible, ambitious, fun and challenging.

One Day was good, and had its moments, although it never resonated with me like The Bit in Between did. Perhaps it’s the local flavour, perhaps it’s the nods to the art of writing, but I’ll take The Bit in Between every day.

Grab your copy of Claire Varley’s The Bit in Between here

the-bit-in-betweenThe Bit in Between

by Claire Varley

Writing a love story is a lot easier than living one.

There are seven billion people in the world. This is the story of two of them.

After an unfortunate incident in an airport lounge involving an immovable customs officer, a full jar of sun-dried tomatoes, quite a lot of vomit, and the capricious hand of fate, Oliver meets Alison. In spite of this less than romantic start, Oliver falls in love with her.

Immediately. Inexplicably. Irrevocably.

With no other place to be, Alison follows Oliver to the Solomon Islands where he is planning to write his much-anticipated second novel. But as Oliver’s story begins to take shape, odd things start to happen and he senses there may be more hinging on his novel than the burden of expectation. As he gets deeper into the manuscript and Alison moves further away from him, Oliver finds himself clinging to a narrative that may not end with; happily ever after.

Grab your copy of Claire Varley’s The Bit in Between here

BOOK REVIEW: Hot Point by M.L. Buchman (Reviewed by Kat Mayo)

Firehawk helicopter pilot Vern Taylor can’t help but be distracted by gorgeous mechanic Denise Conroy. Fighting forest fires with Mount Hood Aviation is a far cry from some of the violence Vern has seen…until they find out that MHA isn’t all that it seems.

I love heroines who have non-traditional careers, and helicopter mechanic fits that bill. I particularly love Denise’s camaraderie with the other women of MHA, and I love that she’s a bit of a contradiction – mostly shy around other people, but with a sharp mind and a weakness for fast cars. Vern is an absolute sweetheart and pure romantic fantasy. But hey, a hero who is as comfortable with just snuggling as he is at awesome helicopter sex ticks the box for me!

Grab a copy of Hot Point here


hot-pointHot Point

The Firehawks Series : Book 10

by M.L. Buchman

The elite heli-aviation firefighters at Mount Hood Aviation depend on sexy Denise Conroy, master mechanic, to keep them flying smoothly through the air.

Airplane expert that she is, Denise has never found an aircraft that she can’t fix. Her floundering love life, however, is a puzzle that she hasn’t been able to put together. Mount Hood Firehawk pilot Vern Taylor can’t repair a plane to save his life, but he was born to fly. Vern’s take-charge attitude toward every situation combined with his irresistible artistic side make him an accident waiting to happen.

But when Denise and Vern crash together in the Central American jungle with wildfire on one side and a full-fledged military coup on the other, they’ll have to work together to get out alive. It will take all their skills combined to keep passion from igniting a dangerous new flame.

Grab a copy of Hot Point here

BOOK REVIEW: Lady Emily’s Exotic Journey by Lillian Marek (Reviewed by Kat Mayo)

I love a good Regency as much as any romance reader, but I’m so glad that we’re continuing to see authors exploring different setting and time periods in historical romance.

Lady Emily’s Exotic Journey is set in Constantinople. Forget ballrooms and tea – Lady Emily Tremaine explores the ruins of Nineveh and experiences the wonders of travelling on an ‘odiferous donkey’. And of course, there’s French adventurer Lucien Chambertin to make this the most thrilling adventure – if he can just learn to let go of his past and embrace the call of true love.

For me, I really love odiferous donkeys! True love is a bonus. :)

Grab a copy of Lady Emily’s Exotic Journey here


lady-emily-s-exotic-journeyLady Emily’s Exotic Journey

The Victorian Adventures Series : Book 2

by Lillian Marek

From sensible, sheltered girl
Safe in the embrace of her loving family, Lady EmilyTremaine longs to feel more intensely alive. Surely the magic and mystery of Assyria and the fabled ruins of Nineveh will bring about the transformation she seeks.

To the woman his heart desires
Scarred by his past and estranged from his noble grandfather, French adventurer Lucien Chambertin desires neither a home nor the chains of emotional attachment. He seeks only to explore the far reaches of the world. But he did not know the world contained the likes of Lady Emily—whose curiosity and sense of wonder match his own.

Grab a copy of Lady Emily’s Exotic Journey here

BOOK REVIEW: When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare (Reviewed by Kat Mayo)

‘…he was…an impoverished, unloved orphan with a passion for books. Her every feminine impulse jumped into attention.’

An introvert, Maddie Gracechurch invented a fiancé – conveniently abroad, fighting in the war – to avoid ballrooms and the pressure of having to find a suitable match. But when said fiancé turns up at her doorstep years later, marries her without so much as kiss (okay, one kiss), Maddie knows she’s in Very Big Trouble.

Logan Mackenzie needs a place for his men, coming home from the war. Marriage to Maddie is the quickest and surest way to ensure that they have a home. But as it becomes increasingly clear that there’s more to their marriage than convenience, how can they be sure that what they have is love and not just a way to avoid their deepest fears?

I might be biased because I’m an unashamed Tessa Dare fan girl, but when I learned that Tessa is releasing a Scottish romance (they seem to be making a resurgence!), I knew I had to feature it in the Romance Buzz. Her writing is always rich with nuance. We don’t get many truly introverted heroines in romance, and Maddie is charming and so very worthy of a happy ending!

Grab a copy of When a Scot Ties the Knot here


when-a-scot-ties-the-knotWhen a Scot Ties the Knot

The Castles Ever After Series : Book 3

by Tessa Dare

On the cusp of her first London season, Miss Madeline Gracechurch was shyly pretty and talented with a drawing pencil, but hopelessly awkward with gentlemen. She was certain to be a dismal failure on the London marriage mart. So Maddie did what generations of shy, awkward young ladies have done: she invented a sweetheart.

A Scottish sweetheart. One who was handsome and honorable and devoted to her, but conveniently never around. Maddie poured her heart into writing the imaginary Captain MacKenzie letter after letter … and by pretending to be devastated when he was (not really) killed in battle, she managed to avoid the pressures of London society entirely.

Until years later, when more…

About the Author

Tessa Dare is the New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of more than a dozen historical romances. A librarian by training and a book-lover at heart, Tessa makes her home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband, their two children, and a pair of cosmic kitties.

Grab a copy of When a Scot Ties the Knot here

Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar is Caroline Baum’s Book of the Month

salt-creekBooktopia’s Editorial Director, Caroline Baum reviews Lucy Treloar’s Salt Creek which features in The Buzz as Caroline’s Book of the Month.

If, like me, you thought you did not need another story about hardship in colonial Australia, with the TV adaptation of The Secret River fresh in your mind, think again: Lucy Treloar’s intensely dramatic saga of the downfall of a family settled on the edge of the Coorong is a welcome and fresh take on the well-trodden territory of narratives of colonial hardship.

First of all, she captures the little known beauty of that remote watery place perfectly. Her ability to conjure up its landscape, once shared with the local Ngarrindjeri Aborigines, is a reminder that it is a hard place to farm now, just as it was then. Secondly, the story she tells is utterly compelling and almost mythic, such are the powerful forces unleashed on the family of misguided pastor Finch as told by his endlessly forbearing daughter Hester.

When light skinned Aboriginal boy Tull befriends the Finch family, he is welcomed into their home to share their meals and conversations. But while curious about white culture, Tull remains proud of his own. ‘Don’t you have any stories?’ he asks pointedly. (They direct him to the Bible) On another, he remarks that he considers all white people ugly. When the Pastor muddies his tribe’s waterholes, there is consternation. When he chops down a venerable tree, the question of who owns the land is a source of more discord, a rumbling thunder that must eventually break into a storm.

Treloar calibrates these little moments of tension with impeccable judgment, never overplaying them, though she signposts a grim outcome early on, warning the reader to brace themselves for disaster. We navigate the unconventional relationship between the Finches and Tull, balancing trust and mistrust, with mounting apprehension.

The Pastor is not as principled and high minded as he might wish and has no head for business: all his ventures end in debt, with increasingly terrible consequences. When Tull forms a close bond with Hester’s youngest sister Addie, Hester refuses to see what is under her nose. As the family fractures, torn apart by the pastor’s blind unbending values and his hypocrisy, Hester tries to hold everything together.

She is a fascinating creation: full of contradictions, overwhelmed by an eldest daughter’s sense of duty following her mother’s early death while longing to be free and independent. Seemingly uninterested in personal attachment, she fights her own nature and impulses when drawn to a visiting artist explorer. Their moment of romantic intimacy on a shell beach is again understated and restrained, sensual but unsentimental.

The novel builds to a climax that avoids melodrama, but is charged with high emotion and tension to the very last chapter.

Grab a copy of Salt Creek here
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Caroline Baum has worked as founding editor of Good Reading magazine, features editor for Vogue, presenter of ABC TV’s popular bookshow, Between the Lines, and Foxtel’s Talking Books, and as an executive producer with ABC Radio National. She is currently Booktopia’s Editorial Director. For more reviews by Caroline – click here.


Salt Creek

by Lucy Treloar

Some things collapse slow, and cannot always be rebuilt, and even if a thing can be remade it will never be as it was.

Salt Creek, 1855, lies at the far reaches of the remote, beautiful and inhospitable coastal region, the Coorong, in the new province of South Australia. The area, just opened to graziers willing to chance their luck, becomes home to Stanton Finch and his large family, including fifteen-year-old Hester Finch.

Once wealth political activists, the Finch family has fallen on hard times. Cut adrift from the polite society they were raised to be part of, Hester and her siblings make more…

About the Author

Lucy Treloar was born in Malaysia and educated in Melbourne, England and Sweden. A graduate of the University of Melbourne and RMIT, Lucy is a writer and editor and has plied her trades both in Australia and in Cambodia, where she lived for a number of years. She has an abiding love for Southeast Asia, a region she retains links with through her editing work, which focuses on English language translations of a diverse range of material including folk tales and modern narrative forms.

Lucy is the 2014 Regional Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. In 2012 she won the Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award for her first novel, The Things We Tell Ourselves, and went on to be awarded a Varuna Publisher Fellowship for the same work in 2013. In 2011 Lucy was the recipient of a mentorship through the Australian Society of Authors as well as an Asialink Writer’s Residency to Cambodia.

Her short fiction has appeared in Sleepers, Overland, Seizure, and Best Australian Stories 2013.

Grab a copy of Salt Creek here

The Homestead Girls by Fiona McArthur (Reviewed by Hayley Shephard)

I decided to give Fiona McArthur’s new book, The Homestead Girls, a whirl to challenge myself as I’m currently addicted to non-stop, passionate romance and shirtless men. It’s a departure I’m glad I took. I’ve always loved strong female characters who don’t let their predicaments define them.

The Homestead Girls follows five women who come to live at Blue Hills Station on the outskirts of Mica Ridge, a small country town in the middle of a crippling drought with a trustworthy and life-saving Flying Doctor Service. Two of these women, Daphne and Billie, are part of the medical team, treating injured farmers and the town’s residents. When not working hard, Billie looks after her wayward teenage daughter Mia. We also have Soretta, whose grandfather owns Blue Hills Station, and Lorna, an 80 year-old housemate with the energy of a teenager.

These five women rely on each other to push away from issues in their lives. Some issues lie in the field of romance (the men who also serve with the Mica Ridge FDS have a certain presence), while others are more complicated. As a group, they grow stronger, and give each other support and strength.

Lorna’s companionship with Soretta’s grandfather is beautiful; a lovely side story. They make each other laugh and are observed by the others to be in better spirits. It was one of my favourite things about the book.

Even though it is not all romance, it does have a happy ending – one that feels well deserved for all the characters. But if you want to know exactly how it ends, you’ll have to read it yourself!

This certainly won’t be the last Fiona McArthur I read.

Click here to grab a copy of The Homestead Girls


The Homestead Girls

by Fiona McArthur

After her teenage daughter Mia falls in with the wrong crowd, Dr Billie Green decides it’s time to leave the city and return home to far western NSW. When an opportunity to pursue her childhood dream of joining the Flying Doctor Service comes along, she jumps at the chance. Flight nurse Daphne Prince – who is thrilled to have another woman join the otherwise male crew – and their handsome new boss, Morgan Blake, instantly make her feel welcome.

Just out of town, drought-stricken grazier Soretta Byrnes has been more…

About the Author

Fiona McArthur has worked as a rural midwife for many years. She is a clinical midwifery educator, mentors midwifery students, and is involved with obstetric emergency education for midwives and doctors from all over Australia. Fiona’s love of writing has seen her sell over two million books in twelve languages. She’s been a midwifery expert for Mother&Baby magazine and is the author of the nonfiction works The Don’t Panic Guide to Birth and Breech Baby: A Guide for Parents. She lives on an often swampy farm in northern New South Wales with her husband, some livestock, and a blue heeler named Reg. She’s constantly taking photographs of sunrise and sunset and loves that researching her books allows her to travel to remote places.

Click here to grab a copy of The Homestead Girls

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