99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

x99-percent-mine.jpg.pagespeed.ic.EFt0ZzX-3G.jpgTitle: 99 Percent Mine

Author: Sally Thorne

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Piatkus

Published: 29th January 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 372

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Readers and critics alike raved over USA Today bestselling author Sally Thorne’s smash hit debut, The Hating Game , which has sold in over 20 countries. Now she’s back with an unforgettable romantic comedy about a woman who finally has a shot at her long time crush if she dares.

Crush (n.): a strong and often short-lived infatuation, particularly for someone beyond your reach… 

Darcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend. Despite Darcy’s best efforts, Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. That’s the problem with finding her dream man at age eight and peaking in her photography career at age twenty ever since, she’s had to learn to settle for good enough.

When Darcy and Jamie inherit a tumble-down cottage from their grandmother, they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy plans to be in an aisle seat halfway across the ocean as soon as the renovations start, but before she can cut and run, she finds a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire Tom’s arrived, he’s bearing power tools, and he’s single for the first time in almost a decade.

Suddenly Darcy’s considering sticking around to make sure her twin doesn’t ruin the cottage’s inherent magic with his penchant for grey and chrome. She’s definitely not staying because of her new business partner’s tight t-shirts, or that perfect face that’s inspiring her to pick up her camera again. Soon sparks are flying and it’s not the faulty wiring. It turns out one percent of Tom’s heart might not be enough for Darcy anymore. This time around, she’s switching things up. She’s going to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers.

This next hilarious romance includes a special PS section with two Happily Ever Afters one for this novel featuring Darcy and Tom and the other, an epilogue featuring fan favourites Lucy Hutton and Josh Templeman from The Hating Game! 

~*~

I was attracted to Sally Thorne’s first novel The Hating Game because it was a cleverly written romance, where the characters were three dimensional, had lives beyond wanting to date, and many things happened that led to them to grow from hatred, to respect. And then from respect to friendship, and finally to love. Not only that, the characters were allowed to be who they were as individuals, and the story was filled with so many aspects that allowed the characters to grow as they explored more than just their relationship.

And, in 99% Mine, we have a couple in a similar situation – where being together has been fraught with issues and obstacles – Darcy couldn’t say i love you as a teen, Tom is engaged, and to top it all off, Tom, and Darcy’s twin brother, Jamie, are constantly worrying about Darcy and her heart condition: has she taken her medication, Darcy, you can’t over exert yourself. In these moments, I felt Darcy was at her strongest, showing her conviction of character, and her refusal to let her disability define her, though it has restricted her in the past, as she recounts throughout the novel, which is told from her point of view.

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Darcy has been in love with Tom for years, but both seem to have avoided the issue since they were eighteen, and Darcy has spent time jetting off around the world, working as a photographer and in a bar to make ends meet. When Tom is set to start work on her grandmother’s old cottage to sell, Darcy finds her feelings are bubbling again. Whilst Loretta, Darcy and Jamie’s gran has instructed them to sell, Darcy wants to keep the house and live there. This adds another layer of tension as Darcy becomes involved in the renovations, putting her health at risk.

The romance in this novel is more overt – because the characters are more obvious about where they want it to go, but much like The Hating Game, they take their time to fall into it. Here, they need to navigate the complexities of prior friendship, and a fiancé and Darcy feeling like Tom is overprotective or hiding something from her – or both – that need to be worked through before the inevitable can happen. When couples get together towards the end, it feels more satisfying, because as a reader, I get to go on the journey with them, and see what led to them wanting to be together. It is also refreshing to see characters who have things of their own that they might share with the other. One final thing I liked was that it was lots of tiny things that made Darcy, Tom and Jamie work as characters and friends, and family, not just one – they were who they were individually and together, giving each reader something different to connect to.

An enjoyable second novel from Sally Thorne.

Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Australia's Sweetheart.jpgTitle: Australia’s Sweetheart

Author: Michael Adams

Genre: Biography

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 29th January 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 404

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: This is the fascinating story of Mary Maguire, a 1930s Australian ingenue who sailed for Hollywood and a fabulous life, only to have her career cut short by scandal and tragedy. Packed with celebrity, history and gossip, AUSTRALIA’S SWEETHEART is perfect for readers of SHEILA and THE RIVIERA SET.

Mary Maguire was Australia’s first teenage movie star and she captivated Hollywood in the mid 1930s. Mary lived on three continents and was celebrated in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Los Angeles and London. Her life was lived in parallel with seminal incidents of the twentieth century: the Spanish Flu; the Great Depression; the Bodyline series; Australia’s early radio, talkies and aviation; Hollywood’s Golden Era; the British aristocracy’s embrace of European fascism; London’s Blitz; and post-war American culture and politics. Mary knew everyone, from Douglas Jardine, Don Bradman, Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan, to William Randolph Hearst, Maureen O’Sullivan and Judy Garland.

AUSTRALIA’S SWEETHEART in an irresistible never-before-told story that captures the glamour of Hollywood and the turbulent times of the twentieth century, with a young woman at its centre.

~*~

These days, it’s very hard to imagine Hollywood not being infiltrated by Australians. Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Heath Ledger, Margot Robbie and many more these days. But where did it all start? Who were the Australians who led the way, and paved the now well-trodden path that many Australian actors and actresses walk to Hollywood? The book I am about to review from Hachette is about Australia’s first teenage movie star – and her journey from small, local films in Australia, to captivating Hollywood in the 1930s, in a time of growing uncertainty in Europe. Throughout her life, Mary would live across three continents, and would be celebrated in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Los Angeles and London. She lived through events such as The Spanish Flu, The Great Depression and The Bodyline series. she saw the development of radio in Australia, talkies (films with sound) and aviation. She starred in films during Hollywood’s Golden Era and saw the British aristocracy – including her own husband – embrace European fascism and lived through London’s Blitz and post-war American culture and politics. She knew so many people that today, we know by name from film and history, but these times were also turbulent and uncertain for Mary, and Michael Adams carefully explores these in this biography.

When Mary Maguire’s stardom began, the world was falling at her feet, and her journey to America would be the beginning of many more Australians flocking to Hollywood to make their fortunes. Perhaps her influence also had an influence on the film industry at home, which over the past decades has produced memorable films such as Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Moulin Rouge, The Dish and many more, and renowned directors such as Baz Luhrmann. These are stories we know about, and figures and movies that are always in our consciousness as Australians these days. But where did all this come from? From many places, but Mary Maguire was one of those people, and her story has been one that has been widely unknown until now.

This was a fascinating story to read, because it reveals an unknown story, of a woman who might be known to older generations, but has possibly been hidden from history, or simply ignored or forgotten until recently. A story that contributes in many ways to our entertainment history, but also a sense of what people went through during the 1930s and 1940s and the cut-throat world of Hollywood: how short careers could be, and the lengths people went to remain in films and maintain their career – keeping to a specific look and weight were important, and it seemed that whilst male actors maintained lengthy careers, female actors like Mary and Judy Garland might have had shorter ones – with factors like age, marriage and motherhood hinting at why they might not have the same success at thirty as they might at twenty. Nevertheless, it seems after suffering tuberculosis, her first husband being sent to jail, and losing her son, Mary attempted a comeback, but then decided to live a quieter life, though she still spent some time in the papers, with major events in her life being reported when they happened.

Mary Maguire’s life is fascinating and complex, from performing in her home town to starring in movies and being suspected of pro-fascist sentiments by MI5 during World War Two, and her struggles with illness and her marriage, to a second, more peaceful marriage in her later years. The whole time she was supported by her parents and sisters, who would eventually join her in London and America. It is a fascinatingly complex story, with too many layers to go into here. Each layer added something to who Mary would become, from a carefree young girl taking dance classes, to one with stars in her eyes and finally, to a woman who led a quiet, if troubled life until she died. She had suspicions follow her during the war years. In these days, she would be misquoted by the media – something not uncommon today either. She is an important figure because it shows how Australians were treated and seen in Hollywood, and perhaps the novelty that young Mary was at first. At the same time, the political dealings of her first husband darkened her later life, and knowing how she pulled through shows the strength of her character as a woman and an Australian.

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Saving You by Charlotte Nash

saving you.jpgTitle: Saving You

Author: Charlotte Nash

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 29th January 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 370

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Three escaped pensioners. One single mother. A road trip to rescue her son. The new emotionally compelling page-turner by Australia’s Charlotte Nash

In their tiny pale green cottage under the trees, Mallory Cook and her five-year-old son, Harry, are a little family unit who weather the storms of life together. Money is tight after Harry’s father, Duncan, abandoned them to expand his business in New York. So when Duncan fails to return Harry after a visit, Mallory boards a plane to bring her son home any way she can.

During the journey, a chance encounter with three retirees on the run from their care home leads Mallory on an unlikely group road trip across the United States. Zadie, Ernie and Jock each have their own reasons for making the journey and along the way the four of them will learn the lengths they will travel to save each other – and themselves.

Saving You is the beautiful, emotionally compelling page-turner by Charlotte Nash, bestselling Australian author of The Horseman and The Paris Wedding. If you love the stories of Jojo Moyes and Fiona McCallum you will devour this book.

~*~

Saving You is the first Charlotte Nash book I have read – I had heard of her before, but her books had never really crossed my path until this one. Saving You is the story of Mallory Cook, a single mother living in a small Queensland town in Australia, by the coast, and her son, Harry. Mallory has been waiting for her son to return from a visit to America to see his estranged father, who left them a year ago to start his company in New York. When Harry’s father refuses to bring Harry home, Mallory sets off to America, and a long road trip across America to find her son and take him home. What she doesn’t expect is to take this trip with three escaped pensioners from the care facility she works at, each with their own goals and desires.

They are on a journey for themselves, each other and those that they love – so the romance in this story is more about family than anything, and in particular, a mother’s love for her son. Desperate to get him back, Mallory embarks on the journey, with unforeseen endings and events that reveal more about the lives of her residents than she previously knew. In writing this review, I did some research on Charlotte Nash, and found this story appeared to be quite different from her rural romances I haven’t read before, and I think it was the basic premise of a mother fighting for her son and a road trip that sparked my interest in this story, because it was so different from what my research suggested Charlotte wrote.

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I enjoyed that the love story that predominated this novel was familial love and struggles, as well as support from friends and support that comes from the most unlikely places and the journey that is taken to do whatever it takes to get there.  Even so, there is still a little romantic subplot with AJ, an ex-Marine on a road trip, who pops up every now and then when Mallory needs him, and slowly, they get to know each other. Because this wasn’t an insta-love was why I enjoyed it – it allowed them to grow and get to know each other. This was a very effective way to tell the story.

It was a quick read for me – let’s face it, many things are. It can be devoured or savoured, depending on how you read and want to experience this book, and I hope Charlotte’s fans enjoy this new book.

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All the Tears in China (Rowland Sinclair #9) by Sulari Gentill

3D-Cover_C-format_ATTIC.pngTitle: All the Tears in China

Author: Sulari Gentill

Genre: Historical Crime

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 21st January 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 375

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Shanghai in 1935 is a twentieth-century Babylon, an expatriate playground where fortunes are made and lost, where East and West collide, and the stakes include life itself.

Into this, Rowland Sinclair arrives from Sydney to represent his brother at international wool negotiations. Rowland is under strict instructions to commit to nothing… but a brutal murder makes that impossible.

As suspicion falls on him, Rowland enters a desperate bid to find answers in a city as glitzy as it is dangerous, where tai-pans and tycoons rule, and politics and vice are entwined with commerce.

Once again, the only people Rowland can truly trust are an artist, a poet and a free-spirited sculptress.

“A sparkling crime series… Evelyn Waugh meets Agatha Christie…” – THE AGE

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In the ninth outing with Rowland Sinclair, and his three friends – Jew, Communist and poet – Elias Isaacs, known as Milton Isaacs, the sculptress, Edna Higgins and landscape artist – Clyde Watson-Jones – find themselves in China, on a wool trading expedition for Rowly’s older brother, Wilfred. Instead, Rowly is first attacked in light of the events of the previous book, where Rowly helped out Egon Kisch – twice – and then, meets a young woman who says her name is Alexandra Romanova – a taxi girl who is supposedly rumoured to be the lost princess Anastasia – in 1935, almost twenty years after the Russian Revolution, rumours still abound about one Romanov royal escaping the death squad, but there are also those who believe the truth – is found dead in Rowly’s suite. He is then suspected by the local inspector of murdering Alexandra, as does her brother, Sergei. It is the presence of this Russian family in Shanghai illustrates the rise of Communism and the dangers in Germany, and threats from Japan to China build the backbone to this story.

Inspector Randolph, and several others behind the scenes, are convinced, based on circumstances, that Rowly is guilty. With very little evidence, Rowly is sent to the Ward Road Gaol, where the treatment of prisoners is awful, and where he is mistreated, and where the warden is determined to make his time there terrible – and those who are involved in trying to destroy the Sinclair name, and the lengths they will go to.

Rowly and his friends find themselves in an ever-changing world of politics – fascists, Communists, Nazis, and the rise of Hitler, and the clashes of the New and Old Guard back home in Australia, and conservative brother, Wilfred, trying to pull Rowly to his side of politics and away from his friends, yet Rowly is still wary of becoming involved in either side of politics and the extremes of both sides that bubbled and brewed over decades and culminated in World War Two – events that seem to be mirrored in events today, with the rise of similar groups on either side, with some more prominent than others, and leaders with certain attitudes that Rowly would find absolutely abhorrent. The books are eerily starting to mirror what is happening today – or maybe today’s events are starting to mirror the times Rowly is living through. Or it could be a combination of both.

With each Rowland Sinclair mystery, we move closer to the darker days of the Third Reich, Kristallnacht, and World War Two, and everything that came with those years in Europe, and within the tumultuous 1930s and 1940s, and the inevitability of war, and the question of what Rowland will do – the choices he will eventually have to make.

I started reading the Rowland Sinclair series with book two, when the New South Wales Writer’s Centre sent me a copy to review. Since then, I have read and reviewed every book in the series. It is one pf my favourites – trouble seems to find Rowly all the time whether he goes looking for it or not. A reluctant player in political circles and at times, crime solving – though with the latter, his gentlemanly sense of justice and finding out the truth often wins out – Rowly certainly has managed over nine books to endear himself to readers and fans, has been injured many times across the series in his quest to uncover the truth and solve crimes that he more often than not stumbles into, such as finding a body in his suite, and has frequently frustrated his older brother, Wilfred. In this ninth outing, Wilfred is not physically present throughout much of the book, less so than in others, yet the sense that he is watching somehow is still felt. The Rowland Sinclair series is a charming, historical crime fiction series, peppered with historical figures in each book that are relevant to the plot and the political happenings at the time – events that have an uncertainty about them, and confirm Rowly’s suspicion of politics and his genuine desire to simply help people – though he draws the line at Nazis.

The Rowland Sinclair mysteries are a wonderfully unique and Australian series that incorporates diversity throughout in the characters that Rowland and his friends encounter, and that infuses Australian and world history into a story where a crime takes place, and that makes it accessible and understandable to readers who may not have encountered some of these events in history – and delves into them in a way that is interesting and informative. Most people will be familiar with the 1930s events in Europe and Australia but might not be familiar with China of the 1930s – this novel will introduce them to it.

The compelling and colourful narrative that Sulari creates in All the Tears in China and indeed across the whole series is engaging and delightful. It’s a series that I never tire of reading and talking about, and that is also exciting and engaging. Nine books in, and we are only just in 1935 – but we are inching closer to the events that lead to World War Two, and the eventual war that will divide the world and lead to millions of deaths in concentration camps and on the battlefield. Another great book in a spectacular series that has a very wide fanbase who eagerly await the new book each year.

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Book Bingo Week Two 2019

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Comedy Square

Welcome to week two of 2019’s book bingo with Theresa, Amanda and I, and everyone else using our card as part of their own 2019 reading challenges and goals. I’ve only crossed one square off again this week – as many of the books to come are scheduled reviews, so my bonus squares will come later on in the coming months.

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With Comedy being a fairly subjective genre, I was at first unsure of how to approach this square, as there have been books I have read that have funny stuff in them but might not necessarily qualify as comedy in terms of genre or style. So when I received Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills for Christmas, I knew I could easily check off the comedy square with this wonderful book.

best foot forward

Adam Hills, former host of Spicks and Specks, is one of my favourite comedians. My full review of the book is here – what I loved about this book was that Adam was honest and entertaining – and he never let having a prosthesis hold him back. Though he had some challenges, Adam found he could do most of the things he wanted to do, and I enjoyed reading about his life and how he came to be the host of Spicks and Specks,as well as co-hosting a show at the Paralympics and finding a community of disabled people there.

The second of February will be my next book bingo – keep an eye out for it!

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Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

best foot forward.jpgTitle: Best Foot Forward

Author: Adam Hills

Genre: Non-Fiction/Comedy

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 31st July 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 355

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: One of Australia’s biggest comic personalities, much-loved host of Spicks and Specks and the hit UK TV show The Last Leg, Adam Hills’ charming and witty memoir is a lesson in following your heart, being positive and discovering that what makes you different also makes you unique.

Adam Hills was a quiet primary school kid with a prosthetic foot who did all his homework and only spoke when spoken to. His dad sparked in him a love of comedy, and together they’d spend hours watching and listening to the likes of Peter Sellers and Mel Brooks. So when it was Adam’s turn to speak, he made sure he was funny.

Once he hit high school, comedy was Adam’s obsession (along with a deep love for the South Sydney Rabbitohs). While his mates were listening to Iron Maiden and AC/DC, he was listening to Kenny Everett and Billy Connolly. And when a report card came home with a comment praising his sense of humour, he was far prouder of that than his grades (his mum not so much).

Adam’s shyness and his missing foot never held him back, though wearing thongs was tricky. While other teens snuck off to meet girls and drink cheap booze, Adam snuck off to see a young Jim Carrey perform. After that, a steady diet of Rodney Rude, Vince Sorrenti and Robin Williams led this sheltered, virginal university student from The Shire to his first stand-up open mic night on his 19th birthday.

In Best Foot Forward, Adam describes his early years on the Australian comedy scene sharing gigs with Steady Eddy and Jimeoin, how he coped the first time he died on stage, his early-morning apprenticeship in radio, touring the world’s comedy festivals, the magic of Spicks and Specks and his hosting gig for the 2008 Paralympics that led to his hit UK TV show The Last Leg. Kermit the Frog, Whoopi Goldberg, Barry Humphries, Billy Connolly – Adam’s learned from the best. In this charming and witty memoir Adam Hills shows how hard work, talent and being proudly different can see you find your feet.

~*~

Growing up in the Sutherland Shire, Adam Hills ‘ love of comedy was sparked by his dad – watching and listening to Mel Brooks, and Peter Sellers on family trips to the South Coast for holidays in the car, which led to him listening to Billy Connolly in place of the popular music his high school friends were listening to at the time. And having a prosthetic foot was normal for him – it just was, in the way that many disabled people who have grown up with their disability know it’s part of them and their identity – an everyday, normal part of life that they live with and adapt to.

Adam Hills is one of my favourite comedians in Australia – and I adored and still adore watching Spicks and Specks on TV. Best Foot Forward is Adam’s journey from growing up in the Sutherland Shire to entering the comedy scene in various clubs and festivals across Australia and Europe, to the making of Spicks and Specks. In it, Adam talks candidly about family life, his missing foot, and the people he meets and interacts with, all with the uniqueness that makes him wonderful to watch and listen to. From early morning radio to comedy tours, Adam is completely himself in this book, and he seamlessly integrates all his experiences with his sense of humour throughout the book.

What I liked about this book was Adam’s honesty and openness – it was like having an extended chat with a very good friend, and the kind of conversation that engages everyone wholly and takes you along for the ride, laughs and all. Much of the book is focussed on Adam’s journey to comedy, and through radio, though when he was asked to help co-host a show for the Paralympics in 2008, this was where Adam found a community of disabled people. People like him, his age, and younger, who had missing limbs, or no limbs. Adam had previously mentioned that he had never really thought of his prosthetic as a barrier because there were many things he could do that people who had what he saw as more restrictive disabilities couldn’t do – but the Paralympics changed his mind – and this is a very important part of the book. Many disabled people will and might be able to identify with the way Adam felt. The feeling that because you can do many things, you’re not as worse off as some, despite there being some limitations. Adam articulates this really well, and in a really relatable and understandable way for readers. Adam’s eloquence when discussing his disability and the way he dealt with it, the use of humour to cope, and as an ice breaker, and how the Paralympians made him feel was the most powerful aspect of the book for me. Adam is truly one of my favourite people in the entertainment industry.

Fans of Adam Hills will enjoy this candid and entertaining book, and yes, I had a go at his Substitute test in the chapter on Spicks and Specks. Throughout, I heard Adam’s voice clearly – which made it a genuine and exciting experience. I hope others who enjoy Adam’s comedy and Spicks and Specks will enjoy this as much as I did.

Best Foot Forward will be filling next week’s Book Bingo Square for Comedy – thank you Adam!

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Book Bingo One: A Beloved Classic – Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner

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It’s book bingo Saturday today, which means marking off my first square of the year on the new bingo card. This year I am officially on the card with Theresa and Amanda, and our shiny new card is below, as it my progress card – so you can see which categories I have marked off as the year progresses.

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Much like last year, I will be aiming to review the book before each Book Bingo Saturday, and then linking the review into the fortnightly book bingo post. The first square I marked off for 2019 was the beloved classic square – and the book that slotted into this square was Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner.

seven little australians

Published in 1894, Seven Little Australians is an Australian classic, and one of the earliest examples of children’s literature in Australia. Seven Little Australis is the story of the Woolcot children living in the late colonial days of Australia, seven years from the Federation of the nation. Here, we meet Meg, Pip, Judy, Nell, Bunty, Baby and The General – whose mischief making drives their father to his wits end, and results in drastic measures that eventually lead to catastrophic and heartbreaking events that will change the lives of the Woolcot family forever.

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I first read this at school, when searching for something new to read, and enjoyed it then at about nine or ten, and didn’t come across it again until I studied Children’s Literature at university. It was one I remembered but for years, had not come across even though it is one that isn’t often out of print. I have aways enjoyed this book, for various reasons, and one of the main reasons I enjoyed it was because it is so uniquely Australian – it is a story of family and love, and written at a time in history when certain views were held, yet these views were not explicitly stated, there was still the implicit

Another aspect that makes this a beloved classic is the focus on the female characters, in particular Judy, who is spirited and doesn’t fit the mould of what a perfect nineteenth century girl should be. My full review is posted on this blog and I have now kicked off my year for book bingo and reading challenges. More to come in two weeks time!

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