Blog Tour: Season of Shadow and Light ~Guest Post

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It is my pleasure to welcome Jenn J. McLeod to my blog and share a little about herself.  Noting her novels, I assumed that Jenn would have seen many places around Australia as she research them for her novels.  So, I asked her to share her ‘4 top spots’.  Here’s her response…

Jenn’s Writing On The Road

 

Writing on the road sounds kind of illegal, like graffiti. I mean, of course, I’m writing my novels (on a laptop) while travelling the country in a caravan.

Tien, you asked me about my “4 top spots on any road trip & why.”

Well, I bet you weren’t expecting this reply, but here we go:

My 4 top spots as I trip around the country are:

  1. a small town library
  2. a small town bookshop (especially if it has a coffee machine!)
  3. a small town book club (especially if it’s held in a café)
  4. a small town pub

 

Now for the ‘Why’.

I joke that my #WriteRoundOz odyssey is because I’ve run out of family and friends to fictionalise, but what I’m really doing (it’s early days) is incorporating small towns and regions that don’t see a lot of author activity.

Take Casino in the north (and a little west) of NSW, for example, where I spent six weeks over Christmas. What a friendly town and such a great experience when I dropped by the local library to say “Hi.”

Here’s how that went:

I walked up to the desk and asked the librarian, “Do you have any Jenn J McLeod books?”

“Let me check for you,” she replied with a smile. Then, her smile fading, promptly added. “We do. We have both House for all Seasons and Simmering Season, but I’m afraid they are all out on loan.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful news!” I said, beaming. “Because I’m Jenn J McLeod.”Casino-Library-staff-3

She greeted me so warmly and introduced the Assistant Manager and other staff, who agreed the locals might enjoy an in-person author event.

Fast forward to the end of January . . .

I spent THE best two hours talking to book loving locals about writing and publishing. I met a couple of budding authors and those present were delighted when I shared Casino-treatsthings about Season of Shadow and Light with them all.

Locals and librarians said my being there made them feel very special, and yet I was the one feeling special, especially when I saw the amazing display on the day of my chat. (Closest I’ve come to having my name up in lights!)

 

The reason for this travel tale is . . .

It’s that wonderful, warm, country welcome and connection I am hoping to experience in libraries, bookshops and book clubs around the country. I already have a couple of book clubs in QLD and WA keen for me to “let them know when I’m passing through town.”

I am slowly settling into this gypsy life—of having no home, no destination and no deadlines (other than writing ones, so I can get my next book written on time). This is my life now so I’ll take my time and savour every wonderful season this country has to offer.

Maybe in the comments you can tell me the best season to visit YOUR town/city. Maybe you can tell me why . . . and also tell me if you have a library . . . a book club . . . a pub! ;)

IMG_0067 P1000216I know, as I go, I’m going to find amazing characters. (Some people have already been written into the next book.) Authenticity is something publishers look for from their authors and readers demand it. I can’t think of a better way to maintain author authenticity than to become part of a community.

That’s where #4 on my list comes in, of course.

All work and no play would make Jenn’s characters far too cliché. (I also like the occasional rhyme.) So, going to the pub is now official research.

Maybe pub research should be higher on that list.  Here I am hangin’ at Port Broughton (SA) and reading at Ulmarra country pub in Northern NSW.  Life doesn’t get much better than beer and books!

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Please join me as I #WriteRoundOz.

­­­­­­­­­You can connect with Jenn on:

Website:        www.jennjmcleod.com

Twitter:          @jennjmcleod

Facebook:      Jenn J.McLeod -Author  &/or Readers of Jenn J McLeod Group

three books quartet

 

 

SofLS tour banner

Review: Season of Shadow and Light

seasonSeason of Shadow and Light by Jenn J. McLeod
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: Uncorrected Proof courtesy of publisher (in conjunction with blog tour ~check out my stop tomorrow with author’s guest post)

This is my first Jenn J. McLeod and I was a little intimidated with the size (almost 500 pages!) after finishing 2 books which were slow to pick up. However, I was hooked by Season of Shadow and Light by page 3 and I, seriously, said out loud, “thank God!” I don’t know if anyone else found this but I was intrigue by the randomly-kinda-creepy incident; it probably had something to do with the reference to ‘long lost love’. Yep, I’m another sappy reader ;)

Season of Shadow and Light is more than just romantic love. It is also a tale of familial love; of loving someone so much that you would do everything to protect them. But what does protecting them mean? Is it best to keep a secret as such? Is it best to manoeuver for a ‘normal’ family life to ensure the least disruption all around?

Paige has had a pretty tough time in the last 2 years; recovering from a stroke and a miscarriage which basically terminated her career, she’s no longer sure of her identity. There seems to be a conspiracy that drove Paige to go on a holiday in a small-in-the-middle-of-nowhere town but which found her in woop woop town instead. The most unlikely circumstance found Paige with her daughter, Matilda, and Nana Alice living at a place where the long-kept secret is threatened to unravel. You really can’t keep much of a secret in a small town.

Aiden was firstly introduced as a grump but surely, everybody’s entitled to a bad mood now and again. After receiving the biggest blow of betrayal, Aiden had no other choice but to return home. As Paige and Aiden are thrown in together more and more, it was patently clear that they found in each other a best friend. I’ve really enjoyed the easy interaction between Paige and Aiden.

Nana Alice was not enjoying this trip at all. She didn’t want to go but neither could she let Paige go without her. She was tense pretty much the whole time and her attitude with Paige was hot and cold. Alice always thought honesty is the best policy so this secret is weighing her down but yet she’s promised to keep it. I found Alice to be the most interesting character in this book; a very tightly-held together lady but this lady’s got some pluck!

There were a number of perspectives in Season of Shadow and Light, Paige’s primarily but there were snippets of Aiden, Alice, and another’s in the last part of the story. It was pretty easy to distinguish the perspectives by the feelings they exude –each of their voices were unique and their feelings real. I was quickly drawn into the story (page 3, remember) and it was told a good even pace until nearly the end. I found the ending a bit rushed but I guess after 450 pages, you need to wrap it up.

Season of Shadow and Light is a cleverly woven tale with each thread being laced tightly together, some with fancy knots, with no loose thread left behind (even the ‘random incident’ had a resolution!). If enjoy a story of self-discovery, of betrayal and healing, of lies and trust, I’d recommend Season of Shadow and Light.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Review: Turtle Reef

turtle reefTurtle Reef by Jennifer Scoullar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

Jennifer Scoullar’s Currawong Creek was the first Aussie rural romance I’ve ever read –it was sweet, it was heart-warming. It won me over and made me want to read lots more of the genre. Hence, my interest in Turtle Creek. Scoullar’s love for nature truly comes alive in these pages and is beautifully highlighted in this tale of romance.

It was a bit of a tough first half to read. It was slow to engage and there were a few roll-the-eyes moments for me. I just couldn’t connect with Zoe who at first, swore off men and in the next chapter, found herself pretty much fallen for Quinn. Yes, it was repeated that she’s sworn off men and had to work hard to resist Quinn but still she let herself daydream about being with Quinn. I found this whole business frustrating and unbelievable. On top of that, I also found Quinn to be quite aggravating (most especially when he decided what Zoe should drink, TWICE!). I just couldn’t get into this romance story.

The mystery part of the story was quite enjoyable. I liked the way clues were dropped and Zoe’s spunk in taking on the investigation. The resolution, however, deflated me. I think, being a mystery buff, I expected some sort of twist or at least, something a little more convoluted. This might have to do with having just finished a mystery/thriller novel prior to reading this book.

The best bits about this book, however, was the prose on nature. Scoullar trotted out one after another amazing pieces of this world (eg. dolphins, octopus, dugongs, etc) in such a skilful way of weaving into the story without it all being too much. Turtle Reef is basically an invitation to the readers to enjoy and protect this beautiful world we have been blessed with.

Thanks to Penguin Books Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Review: No Name Lane

no name laneNo Name Lane by Howard Linskey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: uncorrected proof courtesy of publisher

I have read my share of mysteries / thrillers / crime novels. I’ve read a wide range of them from police procedurals to the amateur sleuths (including those called ‘cozy mysteries’). From the blurb, I expected No Name Lane to be a police procedurals kind of mystery but it didn’t quite fit the bill as the journalist seems to be the one doing the detecting. In effect, the book sent me slightly off kilter since the police appear to be quite incompetent in solving mysteries.

”You’re more of a copper than a reporter,” [said the Detective Constable to the journalist]

There were 2 main perspectives: Tom Carney (journalist) and Detective Constable Ian Bradshaw. With Tom, we probed the mysteries from angles which would best present the stories to sell to newspapers. Tom was one of the local boys and as he’s not with the police, he has a better chance to speak with the villagers to dig into their stories. He might’ve been down on his luck but he is an intelligent man intent on solving mysteries. Tom’s perspective is the more interesting of the two as clues were dropped and secrets unfurled.

Detective Constable Ian Bradshaw hasn’t been doing too well either. He is a flop in his chosen career and he continues to blunder his way on the job. With Ian, we witnessed the highly political situation within the ranks and just how clicky his colleagues are; these are probably the reason for their ineffectualness. I found this to be peculiar in that whilst their investigations eliminate suspects etc., there doesn’t seem to be many clues uncovered to lead them to successful investigations.

There wasn’t an established firm relationship between Tom and Ian to begin with, so they weren’t quite working together. If this is supposed to be a first book of series, then it’s a fairly promising start. If not, it is interesting choices of POVs. In addition to these two, there were also Helen’s (a local journalist), the killer’s, and also a few visitations to the 1930s. This last was an absolute shock to my system as the chapters were told in 1930s whilst the rest of the novel is set in current times.

There were a number of things in this book which I thought were a bit of an odd fish. They’re not necessarily bad but they really threw me off. On another note, though, I really enjoyed the mysteries and I really liked Tom Carney. Despite the slow beginning, the pace of the story picked up quite well as soon as all characters introduced and was actually a captivating read. No Name Lane was a surprising read but with an engaging plot, I was caught in the thrill of the chase and enjoyed the twisting ride.

Thanks to Penguin Books Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Review: In the Shadow of Winter

In the Shadow of WinterIn the Shadow of Winter by Lorna Gray
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

For some reason, I had a different impression of the blurb. I’m blaming it on my currently permanent status of babybrain. Somehow, I thought the stranger rescued had amnesia… I love this type of stories! He didn’t have amnesia at all so I was a little disappointed but I did quite enjoy the book anyway. I’ve just read A Time of Secrets which is also set in 1940s in Australia which I loved (my blurb). These readings weren’t planned to be back to back but as it happened, of course, I’d automatically compare these 2 historical fiction works… I think I might like this book better if I didn’t read it right after A Time of Secrets.

I loved the descriptive narrative employed by Lorna Gray in In the Shadow of Winter. She’s made nature come alive and I could feel the crispness of the snow, see the cold puffs of horses’ breaths, and oh… those hot cups of tea just sound so divine. I’ve never been to England though I’d like to one day visit nor am I someone who would live on a farm but I do really want to now. Despite the hardship felt by Eleanor (shortage & rations due to WW2), everything sounds beautiful & appealing. This, I believe, is contributed by Eleanor’s love of her surrounding area, her horses, and her highly sympathetic nature. She is an easily likeable character; generous, loving, courageous, funny, and at times, clumsy –in other words, human… a woman who is just like your best friend.

The mystery element was interesting enough. The ending was hardly surprising but I do love following Eleanor and Matthew sleuthing around. There were that combination of tension (of discovery and of romance) that was just lovely. The one surprising thing with this novel is just how clean the romance is! There is barely a kiss and even then, so very circumspect. I’m not complaining as the romance is still quite sweet especially when you consider the world these characters are inhabiting. I’d describe is as just a tad more racy than Jane Austen’s ;)

I could just imagine myself reading this in the middle of winter curled up in a very comfy armchair by a roaring fire with a rug over my lap and a very hot cuppa nearby. It would’ve been just the perfect setting to read In the Shadow of Winter. As it is (we’re in Autumn in Australia), I really had to depend on the author’s words to bring me her world and she truly had me ensconced in British winter. It was a lovely & easy-going read for my busy mummy days.

Thanks to HarperImpulse for copy of eARC via NetGalley in exchange of honest review

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Review: A Time of Secrets

a time of secretsA Time of Secrets by Deborah Burrows
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

A Time of Secrets was an absolute joy to read. It is an engaging tale of wartime in Australia, combining mystery and romance with a distinctive Aussie touch.

I was drawn into this world immediately from the beginning of the book and was completely immersed in this era for the next few days as I read this book. I find this era quite romantic possibly because of the desperation because the insecurity of the future just makes the passion you feel that much more intense. And there was so much passion in this book and I don’t mean just the romantic kind. There was passion for live, for joyful living, for art and buildings, etc. This has definitely brought the book alive to me –I basically had a film reel going on in my head as I read.

There are quite a number of interesting characters from the very capable Stella Aldridge who kept her past close to her heart, the lively Dolly –Stella’s flatmate, the troubled Nick –Stella’s superior, the reserved Eric –Stella’s romantic interest, to the voluble old Mrs Campbell who lived in the apartment downstairs from Stella and who is actually very sharp. Never have I been so torn about a love triangle! There isn’t actually a love triangle in this book as Stella is very certain on who she’s attracted to but… I can’t help but feel for the other guy. I am very happy that Stella isn’t one of those characters who can’t make up her mind and I am satisfied with the ending of the story. And yet… I am also just a tad devastated.

In a way, A Time of Secrets reminds me of the Wonder Woman -tv series but without the super power thing, of course. Diana Prince (aka Wonder Woman) worked in the army’s intelligence services with Captain Steve Trevor as her superior and they caught spies, solved mysteries, and basically saved the day. I just adore this tv series, and I supposed it’s one of the reason why I connected so well with this book as it just so similar in setting. My one petty complaint though was that each time Stella complained about having to wear her khaki uniform all the time, I kept thinking of the green uniformed girl on the cover. I just can’t reconcile this though I still love the cover, it is gorgeous, but green is not khaki.

Whilst there was no surprises in terms of the resolution of the mystery, the plot itself was fine woven and a delight to read. I would unreservedly recommend this to historical fiction / mystery lovers. This was my first Burrows’ but I am keen to hunt down the rest of her works.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Review: Paper Planes

paper planesPaper Planes by Steve Worland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

Most readers would be keen to read a book before seeing the movie and usually, I’m quite particular about it too. However, seeing that this is rather movie to book, I’d opted to watch it first before reading. I really enjoyed the movie (especially, at the end, when I caught hubby trying to hide a tear or two he is not going to live this one down, lol). It was a fun movie with excellent casting.

As the book is adapted from the movie, it’s no surprise that it’s faithful to the movie. All through the reading, I have a vivid memory of the scenes from the movie. I really can’t complain having David Wenham & Sam Worthington in my head ;) Reading it as adult though, you really need to suspend your scepticism and just allow yourself to dream the impossible. Let yourself to be beguiled by Dylan’s hopes and follow his journey to get his father back.

The language is quite simple and definitely aimed at children. I would recommend readers from year 3 onwards though only if your child is an advanced reader in year 3. There were a lot of Aussie slang noting that this was mostly set in a small Aussie town. If you could read together with your child then I’d suggest you do so as there can be quite a number of good discussions ranging from bereavement, grief, bullying, etc. Unfortunately, the issues aren’t dealt in depth or at least, not as in-depth as I’d like it to be. Therefore, it is mostly a fun read but your discussions could be as deep as you like by your guidance as parents / teachers.

Thanks to Penguin Books Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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