Palace of Tears, by Julian Leatherdale

Palace of TearsAngie loved Mr Fox’s magnificent, absurd hotel. In fact, it was her one true great love. But…today Angie was so cross, so fed up with everybody and everything, she would probably cheer if a wave of fire swept over the cliff and engulfed the Palace and all its guests.

When Adam Fox throws a lavish party for his son, Robbie,at his grand hotel, the Palace, everyone is invited. Everyone except the girl next door, Angie, who has been Robbie’s childhood friend but who, it seems, is not deemed suitable for such an event. Her mother Freya is an artist and her father a groundsman at the hotel. This slight has sent Freya into a rage, and Angie is determined that somebody must pay, but nothing prepares her for what happens – when her game with Robbie ends in a terrible tragedy.

In 2013, as the Palace is restored to its former glory and her mother Monika gradually drifts away in the fog of Alzheimers, Adam Fox’s granddaughter Lisa decides it is time to uncover her family’s history. She wants to know why the hotel is known by locals as the ‘palace of tears’ and why her mother is so emotionally distant. As she digs into the past, though, she finds more mysteries.

Palace of Tears is an absorbing novel filled with stroies of love, betrayal and secrets. Though the Fox family is fictional, the hotel is inspired by the Hydro Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains, and many real historical figures and events are used in the story, most notably the homefront events of the two world wars and the treatment of German-Australians during World War 1. The stories of Lisa, Monika and Angie are alternated throughout the book, meaning that the reader uncovers the truth along with Lisa as well as coming to understand the motivations and personalties of the characters.

This debut novel is a captivating mix of family saga, romance and historical fiction.

Palace of Tears, by Julian Leatherdale
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781760111601

Available from good bookstores and online.

Pieces of Sky, by Trinity Doyle

Pieces of SkyGripping the straps of my backpack, I stare up into the sky, willing the world to stop. I wipe my nose on my sleeve and walk until I’m out of sight of the centre. My legs won’t stop shaking. I sit in the gutter, then stand back up and pace in a circle, raking my hands through my hair…
My hands shake and I tuck them into my armpits. I swallow tears. It’s still happening.
I need to swim. I need something to be the same. No home, no Cam, no pool.
No me.

Lucy’s life used to be almost perfect. Living in a small coastal town with her much loved brother, Cam, and her parents, she had good friends and a passion for swimming which had taken to her state championship level. Now, though, all that has changed. Cam has died, and Cam can’t go back in the water. In spite of not swimming, she feels like she’s drowning almost as surely as Cam did. Her friends are still swimming, and now she’s on the outside, starting back for a new school year with no idea how she’s going to get through.

At school there’s a new boy, Evan, and her ex-best friend, Steffi, and Lucy finds herself drawn into their circle as she tries to figure out what went wrong with Cam, and what is going wrong with herself and her parents, too.

Pieces of Sky is a tale of love and loss, but it also a story of friendship and survival, offering hope without saccharine. There is an element of mystery, as Lucy tries to figure out who is sending messages to Cam’s phone, as well as romance and drama.

There is a lot to like about this debut novel.

Pieces of Sky, by Trinity Doyle
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781760112486

Emerald Springs, by Fleur McDonald

She hoped that the vehicle would pass her and race off into the darkness. Just some idiot anxious to get home. She saw a flash of orange and realised it was an indicator. The vehicle – it was a ute. she thought, a big one, highset, a dark colour, with tinted windows – was pulling out to overtake. She started to breathe a little easier, her shoulders relaxing…
…until the other ute veered straight in front of her, cutting her off and hitting the brakes.

When she asked to take on the role of treasurer for the local rodeo, Amelia Bennett is flattered. She is a qualified accountant, and knows she can do the job well, but she is surprised people trust her, having been regarded as flighty in her teenage years. Throwing herself into the role, she is determined to di it well. But on rodeo night, as she transfers the takings to the bank, she finds herself in more trouble than she could have imagined.

Meanwhile,Detective Dave Burrows has been sent to Torrica to investigate a string of crimes in the area – thefts of fuel and equipment have escalated into bigger robberies. He doesn’t mind being there. It’s a chance to look up his old flame, Amelia’s Aunt Kim. But once he’s there, he’s thrown into investigating Amelia’s hold-up and more.

Emerald Springs is an absorbing rural story – part romance and part mystery, with plenty of both, and lots of action to keep the pages turning. Set in rural South Australia and featuring a strong female lead in Amelia, the story also touches on many issues facing rural communities – debt, drought, family stresses and more.

A cracking read.
Emerald Springs, by Fleur McDonald
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781743315323

Available from good bookstores and online.

A Time of Secrets, by Deborah Burrows

There was a fierce, well-controlled energy about Eric Lund, and I couldn’t help wondering what he’d be like if he became angry. I suspected that he didn’t give in to anger lightly, though. He was holding me close and his hand was firm on the small of my back. I was very concious of the feel of his left hand, holding my right in a secure grip. I looked up, into his eyes. For a moment we just stared at each other, watching each other’s faces as our bodies moved together in time to the music.

When Australian Women’s Army sergeant Stella Aldridge meets Eric Lund, he reminds her of her dead husband, in disturbing ways, and yet she cant’ stop thinking about him, even after he is sent off a mission soon after they meet. Her mind should be elsewhere. She has overhead a threat to kill someone, a threat which links Eric and her new boss, the very attractive Lieutenant Nick Ross. While Eric is away, Stella must work with Nick to try to uncover a traitor who is putting surveillance missions, and lives, at risk.

A Time of Secrets, set in Melbourne during World War II, is an absorbing blend of romance, action and mystery.Readers are given an inside look at part of Australian war history they may not know about, with the fictional characters and relationships set amongst the real events of the time. Stella, previously an artist, and a war widow, has enlisted in the Women’s Army and her flair with languages has seen her deployed to Melbourne to work in Intelligence. Her determination not be hurt does not stop her from taking risks or from looking after herself and those around her. Readers will enjoy watching her development, as well as seeing that of the men in her life.

Excellent historical fiction.

A Time of Secrets, by Deborah Burrows
Macmillan, 2015
ISBN 9781743532997

Available from good bookstores and online.

Intruder, by Christine Bongers

Maybe it was the creak of a worn floorboard that woke me. Or the subtle shift in air pressure as another body invaded my space. I struggled up out of a dream, confused and disoriented, squinting into the darkness.
‘Dad?’ The shadows coalesced into a human form, close enough to touch. ‘Is that you?’
‘Is he here?’ the strange voice – a man’s voice – struck my heart like a hammer.

When Kat awakes to an intruder in her bedroom, she screams, and her neighbour comes running to her aid. But Edwina, the neighbour, is almost as unwelcome in Kat’s life as the prowler, having betrayed Kat’s dying mother in the last days of her life. Now it seems Edwina is going to become a part of her life again, whether Kat likes it or not.

And there’s another unwanted guest in her house – a dog called Hercules, who is supposed to guard her in future. Kat is terrified of dogs, but given the choice between Hercules or sleeping at Edwina’s when her dad is out working, she accepts the dog as the lesser of two evils. When walking Hercules leads to her meeting Al at the dog park, Kat realises he’s not all bad, and when the prowler reveals he isn’t done with her, Kat comes to realise she might need Hercules AND Edwina on her side.

Intruder is a gripping story that takes the reader on a journey from fear, to laughter, to confusion, to angst and well beyond. There are lots of light moments, as well as feel-good ones, but the threat of a stalker-intruder hangs over the book, as do the back story of Kat’s mother’s death and the events for which Kat blames Edwina. The reader wants to know what happened and what will happen in equal measure.

Teen readers will lap this up, with the blend of mystery, suspense, angst, romance and humour satisfyingly executed.



Intruder, by Chris Bongers
Woolshed Press, 2014
ISBN 9780857983763

Available from good bookstores or online.

Almost Dead, by Kaz Delaney

What I learned today:
1. It’s never wise to run in ten-centimetre platforms, no matter how well you think you can handle them.
2. My knowledge of the great outdoors is sadly lacking. Tents, for example, have ropes and things that can trip you up. Very easily.
3. My image of psychics wearing too much cheap jewellery and draped in floaty scarves may be way off but, like, since when did psychics look like surfer gods?

Macey sees dead people. This would be disturbing enough, but when she realises the ghost-boy who’s visiting her isn’t actually dead yet, she has no idea what she’s supposed to do. If she doesn’t figure out how to help Nick she’s going to go crazy.

Soon though, she realises that Nick isn’t her only problem. Her mother has walked out and her dad has come home with a whole other family for her to adapt to. The surfer god who’s masquerading as a psychic keeps popping up in her world. Oh, and maybe, just maybe, somebody is trying to kill her.

Almost Dead is a wonderful mix of so many things: romance, humour, mystery, teenage angst, the supernatural, and more. So many elements could be overwhelming, but instead it is delightful. Macey is an engaging, quirky character who is likeable, strong and, at times, frustratingly independent. What happens t her is pretty scary but it’s also told with humour, in a satisfying mix.

Suitable for teen readers, Almost Dead can be read as a sequel to Dead, Actually, but equally well stands alone.


Almost Dead, by Kaz Delaney
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781743313268

Available from good bookstores and online.

You can see an interview with Kaz Delaney here.

The Love Oracles: Nymph, by Tonya Alexandra

Prometheus’s mouth stretch into a long frown. “I do not seek your permission, niece. I promised your father I would watch over you in his absence and I’m afraid I haven’t done a good job of it so far. It is both my formal duty and my personal desire to see to this matter.” His eyes were soft. “If, that is, you trust me enough to represent you…”
“Uncle, of course!” Merope cried. “I only worry Zeus will punish you as a result.”
“Zeus we can manage, love,” Prometheus replied. “I can’t promise the same with Orion though. That half-god is unpredictable.” He took her by the shoulders. “I’m afraid, Merope, you’ve made yourself a very dangerous foe.”

As a nymph, it is unthought of that Merope would reject an approach from Orion, but that is exactly what she has done, though she knows there will be consequences. Banished to earth under the guardianship of her uncle, Prometheus, Merope must learn to live amongst humans. This is hard – humans have funny ways – but she must try to fit in. When she meets Lukas, a human teen, she starts to feel like she’s never felt before. But love between a goddess and a mortal is forbidden, and Merope soon realises she has attracted the wrath of the gods.

Nymph is an intriguing young adult read, set chiefly on an idyllic Greek island, as well as within the heavens. Drawing on Greek mythology, blended with contemporary romance, the story will intrigue those with an interest in mythology, or serve to entice the reader to learn more.

The first in The Love Oracles series, Nymph is suitable for teen readers as well as adults.


Nymph (Love Oracles)

Nymph, by Tonya Alexandra
Walker Books, 2014
ISBN 9781922077240

Available from good bookstores and online.

Meet My Book: Portraits of Celina, by Sue Whiting

I’m always happy to have visitors, and, today’s visitor is my lovely friend and clever writer Sue whiting, here to take part in the Meet My Book feature. Over to you, Sue.

1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

Portraits of Celina, Walker Books Australia, April 2013


2. Why did you write the book?

To be perfectly honest – I don’t know! I started out writing a very different book for a much younger audience about a genie, but it wasn’t working. My daughter suggested I ditch the genie, but keep the setting, characters and backstory. I took her advice (there’s a first time for everything) and started exploring the characters and ended up writing a YA suspense novel about a vengeful ghost and a family dealing with grief!

3. How long from idea to publication?

As with many of my books, it was several years from idea to publication. I am not fast. I first started working on the novel in 2008, though the half-finished manuscript lingered in my bottom drawer for a year or more (probably more like two).

4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?

Finding the time. I work full time, and for a while I was using that as an excuse for not writing, until I gave myself a stern talking to and made myself find the time. Consequently, I wrote most of the book on the train during my morning commute to the office.

5. Coolest thing about your book?

The creepy, ghostly bits – they were so much fun to write! As one reviewer put it I “went head to head with a ghost”. Also, hidden in the scenes with Bayley and Oliver, I share an intimate moment from my own life – the moment I fell in love with my husband (when I was just sixteen also). And that is pretty cool.

6. Something you learnt through writing the book?

Many things!
One: You can write a YA novel, work full time and keep your sanity (just).
Two: Writing romance scenes is REALLY hard.
Three: Writing darker themes and scary scenes is awesome.

7. What did you do celebrate the release?

On the day the book was released, I went to Kinokuniya Bookshop in Sydney with my daughter (to whom the book is dedicated) and her friend, took a cheesy photo of the girls holding the book in front of the display on the New Releases and then we went to High Tea in the Queen Victoria Building and toasted Celina with chilled glasses of champagne.

8. And how will you promote the book?

I have done a number of promotional activities with The Children’s Bookshop at Beecroft – a teacher/librarian event and some school visits. I also have a few festivals coming up: Sydney Writers’ Festival, Voices on the Coast, Southern Highlands Writers’ Festival, Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature, as well as a couple of days of events with Westbooks in Perth. I also use my blog and Facebook page to publicise reviews and events and look out for opportunities to do interviews etc.

9. What are you working on next?

I am working on a new YA novel. It has the working title of The Awful Truth and is all about lies (and love and crime).

10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?
Facebook: here.
Publisher: Walker Books.
Buy online: here.

Thanks for sharing Sue. You can see my review of Portraits of Celina here.

Portraits of Celina, by Sue Whiting

“What happened to her? I dare to ask. “Really?”
Mu eyes the floor as if the answer is contained in the grains and knots of the floorboards. “No one knows for sure,” she says after a while. “Set off to school one day and was never seen again.” She pushes herself clumsily to her feet, the memory of it seeming to weigh her down. “It’s ancient history, Bails…”

A few months ago, Bayley’s father died suddenly. Now, her mother has moved the shattered family to the country, to live in the house where Celina O’Malley grew up. Moving here is supposed to heal them, but Bayley feels the presence of Celina, her mother’s cousin, who disappeared forty years ago. Bayley is sleeping in Celina’s old room, is the same age Celina was when she disappeared and, she discovers, looks just like Celina. But that’s not the strangest thing. Bayley has memories of things she couldn’t possibly remember – because they happened forty years ago. Celina seems to want Bayley’s help – but giving that help could risk Bayley’s life.

Portraits of Celina is a spooky tale of revenge, love and family. Even without the ghost haunting her, Bayley has a lot to deal with – the loss of her much loved father, a sister who’s off the rails, a barely coping mother, a little brother who won’t change out of his Batman costume, and a boy who calls her Crazyeyes and seems to like her. Mostly she balances all of this, but as the story progresses she finds support not only from within but from those around her.

Whiting balances the supernatural, ghost elements with a story which deals with very real issues of grief, teen rebellion and family, offering a read which teens will love.

Portraits of Celina

Portraits of Celina, by Sue Whiting
Walker Books, 2013
ISBN 9781922077479

Available from good bookstores or online.

Man Drought, by Rachael Johns

The pub had definitely seen better days, and she knew not everyone would see it how she did when she closed her eyes, but just looking at the old place made her heart feel lighter than it had in years. Two years, five months and four days to be precise. But no more counting. No more dwelling on the past.
Her new life started today.

Still hurting from the loss of her husband two years ago, Imogen Bates decides it’s time to make a fresh start far from the city. In the town of Gibson’s Find, three hours East of Perth, she comes across a country pub which is for sale, and sees an opportunity. The pub may be run down, but she has grand plans for getting it up to scratch. Most of the locals are pretty happy to have a new woman in a town which has a serious gender imbalance, but Gibson Black doesn’t seem to share the other men’s enthusiasm.

Gibson used to believe in love, and dreamt of starting a family. Now he’s sure that women – especially city women – are trouble. He has no intention of falling for anyone, even a hot redhead like Imogen.

Man Drought is a warm, endearing rural romance set in Western Australia. The fictional town of Gibson’s Find is set on the border of the farming country and goldfields region on the way to Kalgoorlie. As well as the central romance, there are issues explored including the gender imbalance in regional Australia, family dynamics, ageing and friendship. As a result, the sizzling romantic tension between Imogen and Gibson is set against the backdrop of a sense of community and character development.

Man Drought

Man Drought, by Rachael Johns
Harlequin Mira, 2013

Available from good bookstores or online.