The Safest Place in London by Maggie Joel

I received a copy from the publisher for review

 

safest place

Title: The Safest Place in London

Author: Maggie Joel

Genre: Fiction/Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Published: 24th August 2016/September 2016 release

Format: Paperback, also available in eBook

Pages: 352

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Two frightened children, two very different mothers, and one night of terrifying Blitz bombing during World War Two. And when the bombs stop falling, which families’ lives will be changed forever?

On a frozen January evening in 1944, Nancy Levin, and her three-year-old daughter, Emily, flee their impoverished East London home as an air raid siren sounds. Not far away, 39- year-old Diana Meadows and her own child, three-year-old Abigail, are lost in the black-out as the air raid begins. Finding their way in the jostling crowd to the mouth of the shelter they hurry to the safety of the underground tube station. Mrs Meadows, who has so far sat out the war in the safety of London’s outer suburbs, is terrified – as much by the prospect of sheltering in an East End tube station as of experiencing a bombing raid first hand.

Far away Diana’s husband, Gerald Meadows finds himself in a tank regiment in North Africa while Nancy’s husband, Joe Levin has narrowly survived a torpedo in the Atlantic and is about to re-join his ship. Both men have their own wars to fight but take comfort in the knowledge that their wives and children, at least, remain safe.

But in wartime, ordinary people can find themselves taking extreme action – risking everything to secure their own and their family’s survival, even at the expense of others.

~*~

The Safest Place in London is beautifully written, evocative and yet another wonderful look at the home front of World War Two, and what ordinary people did just to survive. Part one of the book is title “Underground”, and explores the night two mothers and their children from vastly separate parts of London, seek refuge in an air raid shelter in the East End. As the night wears on, the chapters flick seamlessly back and forth between each mother and how they are experiencing the night. For Nancy, this has happened before and has been a part of her life for much of her daughter’s life. For Diana, lost with her child and away from the safety of Buckinghamshire, this is the first time they have been in this situation. As the night unfolds, each woman flashes back to the days, weeks and months that have led them to this situation, and they reflect on what they have had to do to ensure the survival of their respective children whilst their husbands are away fighting the war. As the night wears on, fear grows and unexpected guests appear, resulting in an unforeseen disaster the changes the course of the novel.

In the second part, titled “Overground”, the journeys of the Levin and Meadows husbands – Joe and Gerald – are related, and take the reader up to the tragic ending to part one, and the ensuing consequences of the choices made by one mother in light of what had happened that night in London.

Maggie Joel’s novel shows that sometimes home is not the safe haven it usually is in times of war, and that the home front of a nation at war can sometimes be just as dangerous, deadly and fraught with trouble as the battlefields in far off countries that have been pulled into the ravages of war. The title made me both hopeful and wary – it made me hope for the safety of the innocent people hiding from the bombs, but filled me with trepidation and the possibility that something awful could happen at any moment. A remarkable novel that deals with the human condition in time of war, it allows the reader to experience this and had me reading late into the night to find out the motivations of each character, and if this would ever come out.

The Safest Place in London evokes a wide range of emotions, showing the flaws of the characters and what they feel they must do to survive the war. Exploring this side of the home front, where the bulk of the novel takes place on one night, Maggie Joel’s novel shows the reality of war from both sides – the home front and the battlefields, soldiers and mothers and children caught up in an air raid. It is a novel that evokes a wide range of emotions for the flawed characters who must make decisions to help their families and make a decision in the heat of the moment – a moment that can allow someone to act in a way they may never have acted before this night that was supposed to take place in the safest place in London.

Wild One by Jessica Whitman

I received a copy from the publisher for review

wildone.jpg

 

Title: Wild One

Author: Jessica Whitman

Genre: Popular Fiction

Publisher: Allen & Unwin Arena

Published: 24th August 2016/September 2016

RRP: $29.99

Format: Trade Paperback edition

Pages: 320

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Love, scandal and seduction in the glamorous world of polo

 

When Katherine ‘Kat’ Parker wrote and directed a blockbuster movie she became Hollywood’s ‘It Girl’ overnight – until with one flop she wasn’t. Now Kat is back living in Florida trying to find the inspiration to write what she hopes will be her comeback screenplay.

 

Despite being an exceptionally talented polo player, Sebastian Del Campo has never shared his famous family’s intense passion for the sport. He has, however, excelled at other polo-related activities – like partying hard and having liaisons with beautiful women.

 

When Sebastian meets Kat he finds her down-to-earth attitude refreshing. Keen to get to know her better, he regales Kat with stories of his trailblazing grandmother, Victoria, who was a pioneering polo player.

 

Kat’s imagination is fired by Victoria’s story and she realises she’d make a great subject for a screenplay. Seb agrees and the pair head to Hollywood to seek out funding for a film that could make or break both their careers – and their growing feelings for each other . . .

 

Fun, sexy and entertaining, this novel is about taking a risk to follow your passions in life – and love.

 

~*~

 

Usually, I am not a big reader of romance, at least when it is the main plot. Kat’s story opens with a meeting with someone in the movie business as she is trying to re-establish her name in Hollywood after a flop at the box office. She returns home to help her parents, where she meets the Del Campos, a wealthy family in Florida involved in the polo circuit. Kat’s first encounter with the talented Sebastian Del Campo comes rather quickly, and a relationship begins to build, with Kat trying to focus on writing a new screenplay that will hopefully get her back into the good graces of the film-making industry. This is the plot point that appealed to me, and that I really enjoyed reading and wanted more of. It had a lot of promise and potential to create a great story and evolution of the characters. I also wanted more of the story behind Kat’s story – the story of Sebastian’s grandmother and her time as a polo player. I wanted to see this in action, maybe through flashbacks.

This is the perfect novel if you enjoy romance novels or if you just want a quick read. The length of the chapters had me reading so fast, I didn’t realise it, but the pacing felt right for the novel and its style and genre. It may not have suited my tastes, however, but this is a personal decision. What was refreshing was that the initial description of Sebastian sets him up to be the bad boy trope. He isn’t really a bad boy, however. He doesn’t want to hurt Kat once he has met her, and perhaps this is one redeeming feature – that the heroine doesn’t feel the need to chase him or fix him.

There are other aspects that are good: the characters want things to work out for the best; they don’t want to hinder anyone, or ruin things. As a romance novel, it was refreshing to see that some tropes and stereotypes were avoided, but not all. It would still fit comfortably on a shelf of romance novels, though, and has been properly geared towards the intended audience of the novel.

I would recommend it for avid romance fans, or people just looking for a few hours of escapism – it fits into both of these categories nicely.

 

 

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

I received a copy from the publisher for review

 

Title: The Hating Game

Author: Sally Thorne

the hating gameGenre: Fiction

Publisher: Piatkus/Hachette

Published: 9th August 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: Nemesis (n.)

1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.

2) A person’s undoing

3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual.

 

Trapped in a shared office together forty (ok, fifty or sixty) hours a week, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, ridiculous never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game. The Mirror Game. The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything-especially when a huge new promotion goes up for the taking.

 

If Lucy wins this game, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she suddenly having steamy dreams about Joshua, and dressing for work like she’s got a hot date? After a perfectly innocent elevator ride ends with an earth-shattering kiss, Lucy starts to wonder whether she’s got Joshua Templeman all wrong.

 

Maybe Lucy Hutton doesn’t hate Joshua Templeman. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

 

~*~

A refreshing take on what happens when two people who start out hating each other and competing, fall in love, and the journey they take towards their happily ever after, or at least, a happily ever after that could have a few curve balls thrown in. Sally Thorne’s debut takes the reader on a fun journey, where the relationship unfolds as Lucy and Joshua work together, and compete against each other for an upcoming position at their recently merged publishing companies, Bexley and Gamin.

 

As the romance evolves as a result of the events of the storyline, as a reader, I found that this made the characters more relatable. In allowing her characters to be more than just eye candy and in a will, they, won’t they get together in the end, and in allowing them to teeter on that fine line of hate and love, and compete with each other as colleagues, Sally Thorne has written a realistic story about relationships. Lucy and Joshua’s relationship is not purely built on physical attraction, though that does come into play. Instead, it explores the intellectual games they play at work and out of work – the games that build their relationship, and that start to give the other insight, albeit slowly, into whom the other person is.

 

Writing in first person from Lucy’s point of view allows the reader to experience it first hand, and paves the way for information to be revealed when the reader and Lucy needs to know. Even though I had an idea of where the story was headed, it was still enjoyable because it avoided the use of clichés such as the perfect main characters or the bad boy, and instant love. Instead, the love evolved from hate to respect and friendship. Joshua wasn’t the typical bad boy. And both characters had depth and complexity that made them who they were and made them relatable.

 

As a reader who prefers romance as a subplot, I found this story that gave the romance and the other aspects of plot, the office story, refreshing. It allowed me to engage with the characters in a way I could identify with, rather than reading a story about two people who are too perfect for flaws. Here were characters with flaws, with interests beyond each other and with ambitions. It is a well-rounded story, and one I did enjoy reading.

The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders (Laetitia Rodd #1)

The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders (Laetitia Rodd #1)

wishtide cover

 

I received a copy from the publisher for review

Title: A Laetitia Rodd Mystery: The Secrets of Wishtide

Author: Kate Saunders

Genre: Fiction/Crime Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 1st August 2016

RRP: $29.99

Format: Trade Paperback edition

Pages: 335

Price: $27.99

Synopsis: Mrs Laetitia Rodd, aged fifty-two, is the impoverished widow of an Archdeacon. Living in Well Walk, Hampstead, with her confidante and landlady, Mrs Benson (who once let rooms to John Keats), Mrs Rodd makes her living as a highly discreet private investigator.

 

Her brother, Frederick Tyson, is a criminal barrister living in the neighbouring village of Highgate with his wife and ten children. Fred finds the cases, and Mrs Rodd solves them, using her arch-intelligence, her iron discretion and her immaculate cover as an unsuspecting widow.

 

When Frederick brings to her attention a case involving the son of the well-respected, highly-connected Sir James Calderstone, Mrs Rodd sets off for Lincolnshire, to take up a position as the family’s new governess – quickly making herself indispensable.

 

But the seemingly simple case – looking into young Charles Calderstone’s ‘inappropriate’ love interest – soon takes a rather unpleasant turn. And as the family’s secrets begin to unfold, Mrs Rodd discovers the Calderstone’s have more to hide than most.

 

~*~

 

The Secrets of Wishtide introduces readers to Mrs Laetitia Rodd, an amateur private detective in the Victorian era. Mrs Rodd uses her discretion and mannerisms as a lady of the times to her advantage to gain access to people and information that might otherwise be hidden away. When she is asked to investigate the female companion of a wealthy family, Mrs Rodd soon finds that some families have deeper secrets than others, and the Calderstones are no exception. The unpleasant turn in the case leads Mrs Rodd into a world of secrets that she never anticipated.

Amateur detective stories seem to be quite popular these days, much like Miss Marple and Poirot were and still are. From Mma Ramotswe, to Rowland Sinclair, Taylor Bridges, Cass Lehmann and now, Laetitia Rodd, I am enjoying investigating cases with these detectives, whether they stumble across them or are purposely engaged to investigate, as Mrs Rodd is. Perhaps the appeal of these amateur detectives is that they are relatable. They are not constrained by the rules that a police force might be, and though a character like Mrs Rodd might be accused of being a busybody, it is this characteristic that makes her appealing and a joy to read.

Kate Saunders has captured the essence of Victorian England and Victorian fiction. The Secrets of Wishtide does not read like a modern author trying to place the story within the 1850s – it has the tone of a Dickens novel, and the feel of Victorian London – something any good novel that has an historical setting or aspect should strive to do. I was immediately transported to 1850 and the Victorian world. As the first book in a series, it did it’s job wonderfully – introducing the main character, and what she does, who she is and where she lives, as well as setting the scene nicely. I look forward to reading more in this series.

A Good Yarn: Australian Stories, Australian Voices

bookscreate

Imagine you have written and published a book, and you are starting to make a living from the royalties from this book, a goal you have been working towards for years. Now, imagine you’ve been told that not only will books published overseas take priority over Australian content, but that in fifteen years, you and all other Australian authors will lose not only their copyright, but right to royalties because the government deems fifteen years enough to make a living from your hard work, and that fair use, that is, someone’s right to use your words, your work in any way that they see fit – is more important than you and your family being able to live.

This is the reality that will face any Australian author if the government decides to repeal Parallel Import Restrictions, (PIRs) as recommended by the Productivity Commission. It would mean greater risk to Australian publishers, and greater risk at taking on Australian voices and authors – there would be no incentive for Australian authors to be promoted because the claims are, imported, foreign stories would make books cheaper and more accessible; when in fact, books in Australia are cheaper already.

Books Create is a driving force in trying to prevent this from happening, and have presented some facts about the book industry in Australia:

  • With 7,000 new titles published annually, this creates $2 billion in revenue;
  • When a publisher invests directly in an Australian author for non-educational purposes, this results in $120 million per annum, including promotion;
  • 1,000 businesses engage in the publishing industry, employing over 4,000 people. These jobs could be at risk if PIRs are introduced, and this should be a concern to those who say we need to create more jobs;
  • Book sellers and printers, and other book-related jobs employ a further 20,000 people;
  • Australia has the 14th largest publishing industry in the world – just because we do not make the top ten should not mean our stories don’t get published;
  • 300,000 Australians visit 100 literary festivals per year – this suggests that the desire for Australian authors and stories is high;
  • Australia has the largest English-language independent bookseller market – again, more jobs that could potentially be lost;
  • Average author income is $13,000 a year – not enough to live on;
  • Unlike other industries, the publishing industry does not use government subsidies, nor is it protected by government tariffs; and
  • EBooks only take up 20% of the market.

The arguments for these measures are purely economic, and based on the benefit of the many – being able to use an author’s work in any way someone desires, rather than someone being able to support themselves and not having to rely on other people or giving up on their dream and taking a job they don’t enjoy, or even taking their chances with an overseas publisher who may strip away the very essence of an Australian voice. It does not take into account the cultural implications either – where Australians – any Australians – white, Indigenous, immigrant or refugee – have their voices silenced in favour of foreign voices. I do not like the idea of not being able to read my favourite Pantera Press authors, or not being able to see if I can find an Indigenous story to read, or even just reading any book by any Australian author, even if it is set in a fantasy world or another time and place. It is still an Australian voice that deserves to be heard.

The fair use issue could be resolved by allowing educational institutions to use books for educational purposes. Fair use should not mean a free for all, where anyone can use and plagiarise an author’s work in any way they see fit. Fair use should mean that people can use the work for educational purposes but that the author must also have a say in any alterations or adaptations, especially if done during their life time. To take advantage of the hard work someone else has put into something and say “Sorry, I get to use your work any way I see fit to make money off and you can’t do anything about it,” is wrong. As an aspiring author, I have spent many years working on my writing. My fear with an open, free-for-all attitude to fair use and undermining copyright is not people studying the texts or wishing to be inspired by them or approaching me to make a film; it is the people who would try and profit off my hard work, or the hard work of any author via plagiarism and the original creator being unable to do anything to defend their work and livelihood.

On the issue of reducing copyright from seventy years after an author’s death to fifteen to twenty five years after publication, would you be happy to go up to someone who has built a house, is taking care of it, raising a family, and say to them: “You have had this house for fifteen years, your time is up. Another family needs this house, you need to move out?” No, because we recognise a house is a necessity. Similarly, the income an author receives from their books and backlists are necessary for them to live their lives without worrying if they can afford to eat that week.

There are many more issues that are involved with this and can be found at the Books Create website, or by doing a Google search of the issues and seeing what comes up from the Australian Society of Authors, or the Australian Publishing Association, or even the following blog posts by Alison Green, CEO of Pantera Press. We need to protect Australian stories and voices, and this cannot be done if we let the government silence us in the name of economics and fair use.

Below are some websites and links that expand on these ideas and help to explain them:

 

http://twibbon.com/embed/books-create-australia

Books Create Australia: http://bookscreateaustralia.com.au #bookscreate

Australian Society of Authors: https://www.asauthors.org

Alison Green: https://www.panterapress.com.au/news-and-events/6071/ and https://www.panterapress.com.au/news-and-events/6081/

The Falls by B Michael Radburn

thefallscover

 

I received a copy from the publisher for review

 

Title: The Falls

Author: B. Michael Radburn

Genre: Fiction/Crime Fiction

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: August, 2016

RRP: $29.99

Format: Paperback

Pages: 364

Synopsis: A week of despair… a century of evil

Damaged but not yet broken, park ranger Taylor Bridges believes his ghosts are in the past – until a raging forest fire in an isolated canyon of The Falls lays bare the remains of a young woman… and a decade-old killing ground.

After the police enlist Taylor in their investigation, the evidence bizarrely points to a deranged preacher who reigned over The Falls a century ago.

But when a crucial witness and a policewoman disappear, it’s clear that a disciple of The Falls’ dark history is on the loose.

 

~*~

 

The Falls by B. Michael Radburn is the second book in the Taylor Bridges series. Still reeling from the death of his daughter Claire five years ago, The Falls follows on from The Crossing, and Taylor’s struggle with the disappearance and death of Claire. When the daughter of an old friend and her partner stumble across a body whilst exploring the Christiana Goldmine in Eldritch Falls, Taylor is called in to assist the police in the national park. Taylor must grapple with his guilt about Claire, and the emotions that this new case brings to the surface. As the case progresses, links to a string of ritualistic murders that span one hundred years. These murders become linked to a family who has lived in the area for generations, a family determined to keep the secrets of the past hidden away from prying eyes, whatever the cost may be.

The daughter of Taylor’s friend, Aroha, becomes involved as a witness and later, is taken. Taylor and the police must find her before it is too late, and before other lives are endangered during the search for truth and its war with keeping secrets and continuing a legacy that has been in place for over one hundred years.

Michael Radburn has created a story using the natural environment and the fear of the unknown, or the fear of what we don’t understand. This gives the characters, both good, bad, and in between, concrete and believable motivations and desires that drive the story towards its relieving conclusion where the reader can finally take a deep breath and relax after the fast paced ride.

This was my first adventure with Taylor Bridges, and I found that I did not need to have read the first book to enjoy this and understand what drove the characters. The mine and the bush of country Victoria was the perfect setting for this mystery, a place where anything could happen. Where shadows dance at the edges of the darkness, and where fear takes over. The novel kept up a good pace and kept me reading as long as possible to find out what happened, and to find out who survived and who didn’t. It is a story where people aren’t always what they seem, and that speaks to the human condition and its various degrees of sanity, desire and wanting to please people, but also, human desire for belief, and legacy. A haunting tale that will keep you up at night, I enjoyed reading this book, and hope that further books are forthcoming and will be just as intriguing as this one.

Maggie’s Kitchen by Caroline Beecham

9781760293048

 

 

I received a copy from the publisher for review

 

Title: Maggie’s Kitchen

Author: Caroline Beecham

Genre: Fiction/Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 27/7/2016

RRP: $29.99

Format: Paperback

Pages: 391

Synopsis: They might all travel the same scarred and shattered streets on their way to work, but once they entered Maggie’s Kitchen, it was somehow as if the rest of the world didn’t exist.

When the Ministry of Food urgently calls for the opening of British Restaurants to feed tired and hungry Londoners during World War II, Maggie Johnson is close to realising a long-held dream.

But after struggling through government red tape and triumphantly opening its doors, Maggie’s Kitchen soon encounters a most unexpected problem. Her restaurant has become so popular with London’s exhausted workers, that Maggie simply can’t get enough supplies to keep up with demand for food, without breaking some of the rules.

With the support of locals, and the help of twelve-year-old Robbie, a street urchin, and Janek, a Polish refugee dreaming of returning to his native land, the resourceful Maggie evades the first threats of closure from the Ministry. As she fights to keep her beloved Kitchen open, Maggie also tries desperately to reunite Robbie with his missing father as well as manage her own family’s expectations. Until she can no longer ignore the unacknowledged hopes of her own heart, and the discovery that some secrets have the power to change everything.

 

~*~

 

Maggie’s Kitchen, another book set during World War Two, but this time in London, during the Blitz, tells the story of Maggie Johnson and her British Restaurant venture. As Maggie struggles with the conflict of following her dreams in the wake of personal devastation, it is following her heart and doing something to help the nation in a time of war. Though she is beset by a magnitude of problems related to getting the supplies she is supposed to receive, Maggie uses her initiative to find a way to boost her supplies, even if it means breaking some rules to do so.

Maggie is joined in her venture by a few friends from her former workplace, Tom, who is now in need of work following a tragic workplace accident, Janek, a Polish refugee who seems to have a secret that causes suspicion amongst some of the girls, and Robbie, a twelve year old boy searching for his father. Together, the manage to bolster the meagre supplies sent from the Ministry of Food and offer people a meal that has them lining up for more, and having to close early.

Through her fight to keep her restaurant open, Maggie strives to reunite Robbie with the family he should be with, and tries to please her family and help them: a situation that could backfire when her attempts to not only please her family but also let them know she cannot control a situation – the combination of all these conflicts against the backdrop of the war illustrates how every day people in London dealt with the war and what they might have gone through. When reading this book, I found I didn’t want to put it down, because it told a story about the home front of the war in London I had not been aware of before. The flow of the story works well, and it draws you in and pulls you along for the ride.

At the end of the book, the recipes Maggie used throughout are included for readers to try, and they would be interesting to compare with what we make today and our modern methods.

Another fantastic read set against the backdrop of war.