#AWW2016 Bingo Card COMPLETE

Back in early April, The Australian Women Writers Challenge (AWW) set up an optional mini challenge-within-a-challenge to try and combat midyear reading slumps and they developed the #2016AWW Bingo Cards.

Because I like to challenge myself, I decided to do both cars and while I hit a couple of lines on both cards, I didn’t finish the full card and am thus a little disappointed in myself. In hindsight I didn’t read any of my favourite authors backlist or any non-fiction written by Australian woman. Truth be told I’m horrible with ages and I think some of the authors on my list are under 30 but I’m not game to call them on it, so I’m leaving that bit blank. This challenge did call me on some of my reading habits though, so next year I’m going to make sure I read a wider range of books again!

For a full list of the books I’d read for this challenge in 2016 visit here.

 

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A book with a mystery – Treasured Secrets by Kendall Talbot

A book by someone under 30

A book that’s more than 10 years oldDoes My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah (REVIEWED)

A book by an Indigenous author

FREE SQUAREPlaying It Cool by Amy Andrews (REVIEWED)

A BestsellerThe Art Of Keeping Secrets by Rachael Johns (REVIEWED)

A book set in the outbackThe Reluctant Jillaroo by Kaz Delaney (REVIEWED)

A short story collectionFine by Michelle Wright

A book published this year – Escaping Mr Right by Avril Tremayne (REVIEWED)

 

 

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A book set in your favourite town or cityDarkest Place by Jaye Ford (REVIEWED)

A forgotten Classic

A book you heard about onlineLosing Faith by Jennifer Ryder (REVIEWED)

A funny bookThe Gobbledygook And The Scribbledynoodle by Justine Clarke, Arthur Baysting and Illustrated by Tom Jellet (REVIEWED)

FREE squareThe Story Of A Little Goat by Jacque Duffy (REVIEWED)

A book by someone of a different ethnicity to youDoes My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah (REVIEWED)

A book of non-fiction

A book with poems

The first book by a favourite author

 

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Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016 (AWW2016): Update 12 (December) Complete!

This year I challenged myself to read 50 books written by Australian Women Writers and review at least 40 of them and I’m ecstatic to say that I made it!

While I personally would have preferred to have reviewed more of the books I’ve read this year, I am happy with the result and will still aim to review every single one I read this year. The most common reason a book didn’t get reviewed was time constraints (and leaving too long in between the book and the review) and a big reason this year was that I read some extremely astounding books that I simply couldn’t review without giving away the plot or writing a 4000 word essay on why I loved it so much (I’m thinking specifically but not solely at C.S.Pacat here).

*Click on the book’s title to be taken to its Goodreads entry or on reviewed to see my review.

Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016 (AWW2016):

Read 50. Review: 40.

Read: 62/50

Review: 41/40

  1. The Grass is Greener by Loretta Hill (REVIEWED)
  2. Seducing His Enemy’s Daughter by Annie West (REVIEWED)
  3. The Reluctant Jillaroo by Kaz Delaney
  4. Darkest Place by Jaye Ford (REVIEWED)
  5. Thorne by Charlotte McConaghy (REVIEWED)
  6. Escaping Mr Right by Avril Tremayne (REVIEWED)
  7. Captive Prince by C.S Pacat
  8. Prince’s Gambit by C.S Pacat
  9. King’s Rising by C.S. Pacat
  10. A Vow To Secure His Legacy by Annie West (REVIEWED)
  11. My Friend Ernest by Emma Allen and Illustrated by Hannah Sommerville (REVIEWED)
  12. Cyclone by Jackie French & Illustrated by Bruce Whatley (REVIEWED)
  13. Something Wonderful by Raewyn Caisley and illustrated by Karen Blair (REVIEWED)
  14. Moon Dance by Jess Black
  15. Frankie by Shivaun Plozza (REVIEWED)
  16. Yellow by Megan Johnson (REVIEWED)
  17. Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie Forstier (REVIEWED)
  18. Blow Me A Kiss by Karen Collum & Illustrated by Serena Geddes (REVIEWED)
  19. Dandelions by Katrina McKelvey & illustrated by Kirrili Longergan (REVIEWED)
  20. Don’t Think About Purple Elephants by Susan Whelan & Gwynneth Jones (REVIEWED)
  21. Desert Lake: The Story of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre by Pamela Freeman & Illustrated by Liz Anelli
  22. A Soldier, A Dog and a Boy by Libby Hathorn & Illustrated by Phil Lesnie (REVIEWD)
  23. Outside by Libby Hathorn & Ritva Voutila
  24. Crown Prince’s Chosen Bride by Kandy Sheperd
  25. Rose’s Vintage by Katye Nunn
  26. Treasured Secrets by Kendall Talbot
  27. Forward March by Christobel Mattingley (REVIEWED)
  28. The Story Of A Little Goat by Jacque Duffy (REVIEWED)
  29. The Beach They Called Gallipoli by Jackie French & Illustrated by Bruce Whatley (REVIEWED)
  30. Dirty by Kylie Scott (REVIEWED)
  31. Wicked Heart by Leisa Rayven
  32. Treasured Lies by Kendall Talbot
  33. Treasured Dreams by Kendall Talbot
  34. Reflection – Remembering Those Who Serve In War by Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg and illustrated by Robin Cowcher (REVIEWED)
  35. Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah (REVIEWED)
  36. Losing Faith by Jennifer Ryder (REVIEWED)
  37. Seeking Faith by Lauren K McKellar (REVIEWED)
  38. Hooker by J.L. Perry (REVIEWED)
  39. Why My Mummy? Kai Shares His Mother’s Experience Of Cancer by Donna & Kai (REVIEWED)
  40. Ruin & Rule – Peppa Winters
  41. Mad Men, Bad Girls  The Guerilla Knitters Institute – Maggie Groff (REVIEWED)
  42. Sin & Suffer – Peppa Winters
  43. Shadow Lily by G.J. Walker-Smith (REVIEWED)
  44. The Flaw In Raffaele’s Revenge by Annie West
  45. OH, ALBERT! by Davina Bell and Illustrated by Sara Acton (REVIEWED)
  46. Black by Fleur Ferris (REVIEWED)
  47. Fine by Michelle Wright
  48. Elegy by Jane Abbott (REVIEWED)
  49. Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil by Melina Marchetta
  50. The Gobbledygook And The Scribbledynoodle by Justine Clarke, Arthur Baysting and Illustrated by Tom Jellet (REVIEWED)
  51. Nitro’s Torment by Nina Levine
  52. Playing It Cool by Amy Andrews (REVIEWED)
  53. The Vineyard in the Hills by Lily Malone (REVIEWED)
  54. Isadora by Charlotte
  55. Red Dust Dancer by Eva Scott (REVIEWED)
  56. The Art Of Keeping Secrets by Rachael Johns (REVIEWED)
  57. A Taste For Kandy by Rhian Cahill (REVIEWED)
  58. Craving Justice by Fiona Archer (REVIEWED)
  59. Suddenly Together by JA Low (REVIEWED)
  60. The North Wind by Bronwyn Parry (REVIEWED)
  61. Santa & The Saddler by Cathryn Hein (REVIEWED)
  62. His Christmas Cowgirl by Alissa Callen

REVIEW: Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah & Narrated by Rebecca McCauley

Published: 1st January 2005

Publisher: Bolinda Audio/Publishing

Format: Audio book – Hired from the Library

RRP: $29.95 ( for audio book on cd)/ $16.95 (Paperback)

4.5/5 Stars

The slide opened and I heard a gentle, kind voice: What is your confession, my child? I was stuffed. The Priest would declare me a heretic; my parents would call me a traitor …The Priest asked me again: What is your confession, my child? I’m Muslim. I whispered. Welcome to my world. I’m Amal Abdel-Hakim, a seventeen year-old Australian-Palestinian-Muslim still trying to come to grips with my various identity hyphens. It’s hard enough being cool as a teenager when being one issue behind the latest Cosmo is enough to disqualify you from the in-group. Try wearing a veil on your head and practising the bum’s up position at lunchtime and you know you’re in for a tough time at school. Luckily my friends support me, although they’ve got a few troubles of their own. Simone, blonde, gorgeous and overweight – she’s got serious image issues, and Leila’s really intelligent but her parents are more interested in her getting a marriage certificate than her high school certificate! And I thought I had problems.

I read this book earlier this year now (back in late April/Early May to be exact) and it tackles some major and rather topical issues that the world was facing then, and still is today, despite having been published in 2005.

Does My Head Look Big In This? Was Randa Abdel-Fattah’s début novel back published in 2005. More than ten years on this book is still not only astoundingly perfect, but it’s extremely relevant and topical and I honestly urge everyone to pick it up and read the book. We always talk about the books that changed your life, but I seriously believe this one not only holds the power to change your mind, but your heart, as it tackles the heavy topics of racism, culture, religion and teenage expectations and life in current society. It’s a book that made me understand a culture and religion that is so pushed down and harshly judged for the actions of a few radicals who are so far off book.

With Does My Head Look Big In This?, Randa Abdel-Fattah has crafted the most wonderful and moving story that will not only entertain you, but it will capture your heart and mind, allowing you to glimpse a very misunderstood culture and it’s people in the most relaxed way all within the safety of your lounge room.

Amal is just a typical Australian teenage who has a love/hate relationship with school, loves her best friends, loves fashion and shopping and has a crush on the guy in year 11. But she is also Muslim, and just as she prepares to start her third term of year 11 she makes the personal decision to wear the hijab ‘full-time. Feeling she is ready to take on this role and everything it represents Amal believes she is strong enough to endure everything society can and will throw her way; but her parents feel otherwise and warn her constantly how hard the transition and reality can be. Not one to be persuaded, strong headed Amal powers through misconceptions, mistreatment and plain religious and ethnic prejudices is the most remarkable and uplifting way. No, Does My Head Look Big In This? Is not a story for the faint of heart, or prejudice. But it is a story that is humbling, uplifting, and at times quite confronting. It’s a story that has the power to turn your world on its head and leaves you wanting to know more … to find a person in similar circumstance and hug them and tell them you are on their side.

What’s astounding about this book, is the way that Randa Abdel-Fattah has balanced the light heartedness of every day life with the serious and comical teenage years, as well as dealing with racial difference and prejudice. Does My Head Look Big In This? Could have so easily have been a frustrations rant or dressing down, but Randa Abdel-Fattah was able to take the story and make it so much more.

Simply put this book was inspiring. It opened my eyes to another culture in such a humours but down to earth way, all the while maintaining it’s beliefs, integrity and most importantly respect. I really enjoyed Amal’s insights and loved her gutsy and take no-prisoners approach to life. Amal is a character that demands your acknowledgement, if not your respect and I loved how true and hard she believed in everything. Her conviction and faith made me stop at times and contemplate my own beliefs and perceptions and whether I would be strong enough to endure what Amal does for her hard earned beliefs.

I highly recommend this book to everyone no matter their nationality, ethnicity or religious background. Regardless of whether you are 12, 42 or even 102, Does My Head Look Big In This? Is a universal book that everyone should and needs to read at least once within their lifetime.

 

To learn more about Randa Abdel-Fattah, visit the following social media sites:

 Author Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook |

To purchase a copy of Does My Head Look Big In This? visit the following online retailers:

Print –  Booktopia | Amazon US |

Ebook – Booktopia | Amazon US | Amazon UK |

Audio –  Booktopia | Amazon UK | Amazon US |

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REVIEW: The North Wind By Bronwyn Parry

Published: 13th December 2016

Publisher: Self Published

Pages: 168

Format: Ebook – purchased

RRP: $3.99

5/5 Stars

It’s Christmas in the outback town of Dungirri, and Angie Butler has returned to her old home, perhaps for the last time. Her life is elsewhere, and the ties that have for decades bound her family to the struggling town and its old hotel may soon be broken.
But the arrival of two strangers in town – Owen Caldwell and his grandfather – along with the hot, dry north wind herald a time of challenge and unexpected change.

Owen has no idea why his grandfather has quietly insisted on this Christmas visit to Dungirri, a town he’s never been to. But the old doctor has a final quest, and as long-held secrets come to light and Owen and Angie use their skills to assist those in need, they both must decide where they belong, and where their future is.

If you like your narratives with a bit more of oompf, then I highly encourage you to read Australian romantic Suspense author Bronwyn Parry.

The North Wind, Parry’s second self published novella this year, is a Christmas novella full of heart, good cheer and a whole lot of community spirit and small town Christmas cheer. That said it is a Bronwyn Parry book, so readers can expect a good dash of mystery, intrigue and a hint of romance brewing within the hot wind wafting through it’s pages/e-readers.

I thoroughly enjoyed being back in Dungirri, the fictional town of three of Parry’s previous books –  As Darkness Falls, Dark Country and Darkening Skies – are set. In fact reading The North Wind, felt like coming home, especially with the cameos from many of my favourite characters from previous books.  I loved being able to witness how the town came together once more for those in need, and how they in turn celebrate Christmas in the Aussie bush way.

The characters and their predicaments were engaging, relatable and in all honesty, educating as well. Living in suburban areas, I don’t have the limited access to medical facilities these guys face, nor have I truly comprehends the scale of their impact before. I clicked with our heroine, Angie Butler, straight away and could really identify with some of her problems (and her Mother’s pushing for marriage and babies) and as for Owen, all I can say is where can I find my own Owen Caldwell? Owen’s Grandfather was a touching addition to the story and I’m not ashamed to admit that his story and relationship with Owen had me tearing up at times.

The North Wind, is a quick and satisfying read that is sure to bring a smile to your face and wet your appetite for some more juicy romantic suspense books. I for one can not wait to read Bronwyn Parry’s next book and truly hope there’s another Dunigirri book on the horizon.

To purchase a copy of The North Wind, visit the following retailers:

Amazon AU | Amazon Us | Ibooks

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To learn more about Bronwyn Parry, visit the following social media sites: Author Website | SUNSET SHADOW’S PAGE | Facebook | TWITTER

 

 

REVIEW: Santa & The Saddler By Cathryn Hein

Published: 18th October 2016

Publisher: Self Published

Pages:178

Format: Ebook – purchased

RRP: $3.99 (ebook)/ $14.99 (print)

5/5 Stars

He’s found the girl of his dreams, but she’s just passing through. Can he turn fleeting Christmas magic into forever?

Windmill fabricator Danny Burroughs doesn’t have time to wait in line at the local saddler—no matter how pretty the girl behind the counter—he’s juggling two jobs as it is. But his little sister has her heart set on a unique piece of saddlery for Christmas and he can’t let her down.

Expert saddler Beth Wells has no idea that when she comes to small town Levenham to look after her grandfather’s shop she’ll be swamped with customers. Overrun by day, Beth is forced to work late into the night on Christmas orders. The last thing she needs is another.

When super-cute Danny arrives at the saddlery after midnight wearing a Santa suit, a broad grin and pleading she make his sister’s present, Beth makes a deal—she will take the order in exchange for Danny’s help. Except this flirty Santa’s idea of helping involves more than stacking shelves, and in the confines of the saddlery their smouldering attraction soon becomes a blaze. But no matter how hopelessly drawn she is, Beth has a job interstate and a mum who needs her. Anything more than friendship is pointless.

Will these two chance-met strangers find the courage to gamble on their love? Or will the girl Danny’s been looking for all his life leave nothing behind but a sweet Christmas memory?

I read a number of Christmas themed novellas this year, but Santa And The Saddler was my favourite so far.

Santa And The Saddler is a timely reminder of the importance of family and love during the chaotic Christmas time. It’s a story about going after your dreams, no matter how big or small and uncompromising they may appear; about doing what is best for yourself and your loved ones. It is a little bit magical and a super cute festive read with a satisfying dash of romance too boot – what more could you want from a festive novella really?

The first thing that struck me about this brilliant festive read was the opening male voice. While it’s not unusual in romances these day to have narratives told from alternating perspectives of the hero and heroine, it’s been a long time since I encountered a book that opened with a bewildered male perspective; and I loved it because of that. Right from the first glimpse we get of Danny, he sets the tone and voice of the book. The characters are tired, bewildered and overwhelmed but they are also funny, family loving and ideal for each other. From the very first line we know that Danny is a family man with a big heart who will stop at nothing to make the impossible become a reality and Beth is a woman all too willing to work herself into the ground for her family, that in itself makes this book, and the characters so much more magical and special.

With a rather cute and uncommon first meet and some of the most adorable and well suited characters around, Santa And The Saddler is the kind of story that is going to stay in your mind for long after you’ve closed the book for the last time. It’s the kind of book that will leave a smile on your face and a spring in your step and reinvigorate any lost Christmas cheer (thank you so much for that Cathryn!) you may have misplaced in the chaos that is the weeks prior to Christmas.

I highly recommend this novella to anyone looking for a bit of Christmas fun and all hopeless romantics.

 

To purchase a copy of Santa And the Saddler, visit the following online retailers:

Booktopia | Kobo | Amazon AUS | Amazon US | Amazon UK | ibooks | Barnes & Noble

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To learn more about Cathryn Hein, visit the following social media sites:

Cathryn Hein’s Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads  | Instagram | Google +

 

REVIEW: A Vow To Secure His Legacy by Annie West

Published: 23rd February 2016

Published: Mills & Boon

Pages: 188

Format: Print Book (purchased)

RRP: $9.99

5/5 Stars

“Marry me. This week.” 

After losing her mother, Imogen Holgate believes she’s living on borrowed time with the same terminal illness. So the cautious accountant blows all her savings on a once-in-a-lifetime trip around the world, where she meets sexy Parisian Thierry Girard. 

But after two steamy weeks there are permanent consequences to their temporary affair… 

Now with more than herself to think about, Imogen turns to Thierry to help, but the last thing she expected was for him to imprison her with a gold ring!

It’s no secret that I absolutely adore everything Annie West writes – seriously I think even her grocery list could be considered riveting! – and yet there was something about this novel that exceed even my expectations and has made it one of my books for 2016.

Having watched her mother suffer for a long nine months at the hands of a fatal (and brutal) tumour, Imogen is emotionally, mentally and physically drained. So when she receives some less than ideal medical news of her own, it’s no wonder she packs her bag and jet sets overseas to experience life with out baggage and worry. Before long she is travelling Europe and has found herself the perfect man in Thierry.

A Vow To Secure His Legacy is a sweet and sexy, and utterly divine romance novel that is sure to sweep you off your feet. Imogen might be bruised and batter physically and emotionally, but she is so much fun to read and experience life with.  She is strong and independent and she knows what she wants – and how to go about getting it! Thierry on the other hand is the perfect man. Equal parts loyal, charming, sexy, caring and romantic he too know what he wants and how to get it, but he is also waylaid by societies and his own families expectations.

When Imogen finds out she is pregnant after their passionate encounter, her first thought it not of her own ailing health, but that of her child’s future. Rushing back to France to find Thierry and to secure her child’s future, she doesn’t expect or predict the ring that Thierry insists she wears and so their life together becomes instantly more complicated and real.

What I adored about this book was that both Imogen and Thierry’s initial relationship was inspired by the most raw and overwhelming desires – for passion, for a partner, for life – and that neither of them expected it to go anywhere. When they are thrown unexpectedly back together the pair reach a mutual agreement and yet what they get is so much more than just a relationship in name. Together they teach each other about life, love and loss and what it truly means to be alive. Their love is pure and honest and rarely glimpsed in fiction. I loved it.

Part marriage of convenience, part secret/surprise baby, part pure amazing, A Vow To Secure His Legacy is a narrative no self-confessed hopeless romantic can afford to miss!

 

To learn more about Annie West, visit the following social media sites:

Annie’s website | Facebook | Goodreads

 

To purchase a copy of the book, visit the following online retailers:

AUSTRALIA: Booktopia | Mills & Boon Au | ibooks | Google Play |

America: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books A Million |

 

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REVIEW: Red Dust Dancer by Eva Scott

Published: 25th September 2016

Publisher: Escape Publishing

Pages: 310

Format: Ebook

RRP: $4.99

4/5 Stars 

Everyone deserves a second chance—and another dance.

Tamsin Cooper’s career as a Parisian showgirl is coming to an end. Nearly thirty, with no boyfriend and no prospects of a family of her own, she decides to take up her inheritance—her Uncle Ted’s cattle farm in Queensland.

Farm life seems to be suiting her until Tamsin discovers that Uncle Ted had a secret—and her sexy neighbour Angus Walker helped him keep it.

Faced with losing her farm and her heart, Tamsin returns to what she knows best, dancing, and starts teaching the residents of Elliott’s Crossing how to get in touch with their inner showgirl.

She may have the dance moves, but can she shimmy past a forty-year-old lie and a betrayal of lost love to find her place—and rediscover love—in this country town?

As a dancer, Red Dust Dancer had all the makings of a perfect book for me: dancing, a good dash of romance, an Australian setting, mystery and intrigue.

Red Dust Dancer was the first of Eva Scott’s books that I’ve read and on the whole I really enjoyed it. Scott’s writing is full of beautiful description and vivid imagery that If I stopped for a second and closed my eyes, the story could literally dance its way across my eyelids. Her characters were honest and easy to relate too. The chemistry between the two leads – Tasmin and Angus – was sizzling and their romance combustible.

Scott has effortlessly contrasted and balanced the glitzy high life of Paris and the Moulin Rouge with a small country town in Red Dust Dancer, something I’ve seen few (if any) do well. The difference between Tasmin’s two lifestyles made excellent fodder for the narrative and made sure she butted heads with Angus Walker, her neighbour and on-and-off-again lover.

Personally I loved Tasmin’s stubbornness and her kind hearted nature (and the naming and protection of her animals) and I really admired her strength and go-get-them attitude that meant she never gave up, no matter how high the mountain she was facing seemed.

Likewise I loved the mystery and intrigue element of the story and kind of wished this was developed a bit more especially towards the end of the novel where it seemed slightly rushed and easily wrapped up.

All in all Red Dust Dancer was an exciting read about big personalities in small towns and learning to find your place in a world you are unfamiliar with.

 

To purchase a copy of Red Dust Dancer, visit the following online retailers:

Escape Publishing |  iBooks AUS | Amazon AUS | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Booktopia | Google Play |

To learn more about Eva Scott, visit the following social media websites:

Eva Scott’s Website |  Goodreads | Twitter | Escape Publishing |

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