Review

A Family of Strangers. Fiona Lowe

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Published:  Harlequin Australia
Date: 2nd March 2022
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

With a coveted promotion dangling within reach, the last thing Addy Topic needs to do is waste precious time singing in Rookery Cove’s choir. But when she’s reminded how much music meant to her late mother, she can’t say no. The building pressure raises the ghosts that sent her running from Rookery Cove years earlier – memories she’s spent decades hiding from, silencing them with work, alcohol and sex.

For Stephanie Gallagher, Rookery Cove was meant to be a new beginning in the slow lane. A place where she and her husband can embrace community, parenthood and evenly share the load. But the sea-change is changing everything. How much longer can they survive as a family?

Brenda Lambeck is finding her feet after the death of her husband when her best friend convinces her to join the choir. Beloved as a grandmother, Brenda is determined to mend the fraught relationship she has with her daughter, Courtney. But is that even possible when she continues to lie?

In the wake of a spectacular betrayal, three women are forced to face the uncompromising truths about the choices that have shaped their relationships with those they love most. The consequences will shatter their lives and all they hold dear. After such a disaster is rebuilding even possible?

Australian author Fiona Lowe has done it again. She has totally reeled me in and made me feel so fully involved in the lives of her characters. At first I found all the characters and situations a little overwhelming, but once I was in – I was in! A little bit of reader concentration and work never hurts us!

The story is told from three women’s point of view. They all live in a small town in Tasmania and while they start out not very linked, its not long before they are all interacting and enabling each other to work through the challenges facing each of them.

Addy has returned to the Rookery Cove to take up a teaching job and refurbish the house where she lived with her parents. It soon becomes apparent that she drinks heavily and that her life is not going well. She overworks and quite frankly her school situation stinks.

Brenda is in her late fifties and has just started living with her lover Miriam. But her family think Miriam is just a lodger. Miriam wants to share with others who they are, but Brenda is nervous and holding back. Plus she just doesn’t seem to get along with her uptight daughter Courtney. Her lovely grand daughter Livvy is however nothing short of a blessing.

Stephanie and her husband Henry have moved to the Cove to get more of a work/life balance. Only trouble is that just isn’t working out from Stephanie’s way of seeing it. Add to that now Zoe, Henry’s daughter has been foisted upon them by Zoe’s mother. Baby Monty is a charm but he is in constant need of care of course.

So many issues in this book that the characters are dealing with. It soon becomes obvious what the three main characters are coping with or in fact not coping with. However as a reader I wonder as I read why Zoe is acting out?

Tying all this together is the Rookery Choir, resurrected by Miriam and Brenda. It brings people together, and eventually helps bring about wondrous things. I can’t sing and would never join a choir but I can really see the benefits.

As each of the three women face into how they need to move forward, I was returning to the book every minute I had. Wanting to move through it, yet aware I was moving to the end. I loved the ending but am already missing these characters.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a place to meet up and share what you have been, and are about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organise yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment and er… add to your groaning TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started on J Kaye’s blog and then was hosted by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn here at The Book Date.
Jen Vincent, Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee of Unleashing Readers decided to give It’s Monday! a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels or anything in those genres – join them.

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A really good reading and quilting week! My firewood arrived on Saturday and we wheeled it around near the wood shed but left it out as its not that dried out, needs some more sun and wind!

What I read last week:

What I am reading now:

I am joining in with an informal reading challenge on Emilie Richards Readers Page and this month the label is – A book that somehow deals with race relations. I’ve chosen a middle grade book. “Julie Kim just wants to fit in. So, she tries not to draw attention to herself. But when racist graffiti appears at her middle school, Julie must decide between staying silent or speaking out.”. I chose this because I had seen a good review for this book on the Nerdy Book Club blog and plus Colby Sharp, a teacher and someone I follow gave it five stars.

Finding Junie Kim

And about to start listening to this one. A YA book, one I bought in an Audible sale. Reading off my audio shelf as well so not always buying a new audiobook!

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Up next:

A Kindle book I pre-ordered last year. A spin off from one of her series I love – First Family.

Someone Like You 

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Month in Review

January 2022 Reading Round UP

 Total books read this month: 13

New to me authors:

Nancy Naigle

Ratings.  Which are totally arbitrary, depending on enjoyment.

Most books were four stars and Goodbye Again by Mariah Stewart and The Moon over Kilmore Quay by Carmel Harrington three stars. Top book was five stars!

Top Book for January

Nostalgic reread of older book by Nora Roberts. I listened to it and really enjoyed that. David Stuart narrated and he was very good. It is about found family and three older men taking in ten year old Seth. Plus a romance between Cam the oldest and Seth’s social worker – Anna. It retained the five stars I had given to it previously many years ago when I read the print version. A feel good story!

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Looking towards reading in February

The only review book I intend reading. As I love Fiona Lowe as an author I am anticipating a good read.

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I will want to read at least five books from my actual print shelf as well.

Main Reading Goals for February

I am doing a slow read of Pride and Prejudice. I reached Chapter 22 by the end of January. I aim for a chapter most days. It has the notes that go with it so that takes a bit of glancing at as well.

Keep an eye on my five main reading goals for 2022. I have started well on reading from my own shelf. It has been a bit of a challenge to stop myself from buying new books before I have read the three off my shelf first. However in January I read six off my shelf, which entitled me to two new books. As I am reading Go Tell the Bees that I am Gone with its almost 900 pages that may put a damper on buying for awhile! It could take most of February to read!

Thank you

To Nicole for a book that I won a couple of months ago from her monthly wrap up. It arrived in January.

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Linking up with Nicole from FeedYourFiction Addiction.

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Book Connections

Loved Characters of 2021

Often what leads me to love a book are the memorable characters. The ones my heart warms up to when I look back at the cover of the book and think… ” I really loved that character”. I am sure there are more than five but these five are enough to make me put the books on my keeper shelf.

In no particular order!

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Sunshine Victram. She is a mother, with such a great relationship with her teen daughter. And she is a sheriff of the local town. She is very tough with a huge soft centre. She  does not hold back from a challenge and in spite of some bad things in the past she is a wonderful human being. I liked her so much I’ve read the second book with her in it as well this year.

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Helen Demetriou.

Helen is in her mid fifties. She has seen life and experienced homelessness. But she has not stopped there. She runs a community garden and reaches out in the community to those who need it. She is tough, spiky and is a no nonsense communicator. She stands for justice against injustice.

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Letty.  A young woman who when she discovers her sister dead, flees with her young niece looking for safety. She is feisty and caring and doesn’t give up. She finds her way into a small community of people who care for her and are willing to stand by her as danger circles.

book coverDaunis  A young woman – a teen who lives in two worlds. Her father was Ojibwe and her mother white. Her father is dead and she lives with her mother. However she has strong links to her Objiwe relatives. I loved her beautiful caring of the elderly. Her sense of community is strong, she is brave and daring. Faced with a challenge she heads into it.

book coverMegs.  A bright young woman who revels in Mathematics, Science and facts. She has a younger brother who is very ill. I loved how Megs went out of her way to bring about her beloved brothers dream. The way she read The Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis to him, and then even tracked this man down, all for her brother.  She was so warm hearted and loving.

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Five Characters I Love

Five book characters I’d love to actually meet up with!

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from The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg.

Arthur an elderly man and a great appreciator. He loved his wife Nola and goes to visit her grave each day and remembers the wonderful loving life they had together.  He is open to eighteen year old Maddy, who wears a ring in her nose, lost her mother at a very early age and has a father who is rather poor at being a father. But he looks with eyes of acceptance at Maddy and is willing to step up for her. He is caring for his elderly neighbour Lucille, especially in her time of great need. Arthur has a lot to teach me about life.

book coverSunshine. – from A Bad Day for Sunshine and a Good Day for Chardonnay. I’ve had two book dates with Sunshine in 2020, I can’t wait to make one in 2021. Sunshine is the sheriff of a small town, she has a delightful daughter and two supportive parents. A great love in her life although that’s complicated but developing. Sunshine is the best of mothers, a fair boss with an eye for great additions to the police force in town. She really goes the extra mile, she really cares. And she solves crimes!

book coverSophy from the Grand Sophy. Most likely Sophy is like many of Heyer’s heroines, but she sure is something. Things happen when she is around. She goes places women don’t, she drives and rides horses as well as any man. She is outspoken and speaks up and out. Vibrant and irrepressible. She is very caring and will risk herself for others when they need it. She can spot someone who is insincere. She mightn’t look perfect to the hoity toy, but I just thought she was a total delight.

book coverLt Sam Holland from Marie Forces series First Family a spin off from Fatal Affairs. Sam is a detective in charge of a homicide team. She is good at what she does, she follows up, goes the extra mile to solve the case. And… she supports her husband who has just landed the biggest job in the land. She is a great Mom to her found family, and very supportive of her friends.

book coverHelen from a Home Like Ours. She is in her mid fifties and is now in charge of a community garden. At one point she was homeless in spite of being well educated. She is spiky, tough talking and a no nonsense kind of person. Most of all I really like her for the way she invites a group of refugee women to take part in the garden and learn how to feed their families. Most of all I really was impressed by how she stood up for what was right and was ready to fight injustice.

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Book Connections

Book Family Complications.

Family is a rather ubiquitous theme in books, as a reader you meet it whether its in the title or not! However I find it is endlessly interesting.

Family Reunion I’ve just  read Family Reunion  It’s set in Nantucket. There is Eleanor who is the grandmother and lives in a wonderful old house on the island.

Her grand daughter Ari is with her spending the summer after study. She has just broken up her engagement. She loves her grandmother and they have a great relationship.Then there is Ari’s parents and uncle. They live off island but visit. They provide quite a bit of the conflict.

I liked the two main characters, and the plot moved along at a nice pace, there was always something happening – mostly in a quiet kind of way, but still eventful. Plus most of the characters grow as the book develops.   4 stars.

book cover I  just finished reading this backlist book by Emilie Richards – Rising Tides. It follows on from Iron Lace which I read back in 2017 but never moved on to this one. It was first published in 1997. Aurore has died and all relevant people have been called to the cottage to listen to the will in Louisiana.

Complicated family totally, with racism, tension violence and huge secrets. I don’t know that I like this family that much! But they do get surprises and that’s for sure and maybe some answers.

It isn’t a favourite by ER for me, but I am still finding myself wanting to find out all the sordid family details and what each will do with them. It is a 4 star rating for me.

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One I read way back in 2016. Echoes of Family. This is a story of family, of the burdens some carry from their past, of living with a mental illness. And that from the point of view of the person with the mental illness and those who love and support them and angst for them. It gave me insight and enabled me understand and open my heart to those who have the burden of such illness.

I like anything this author writes but she hasn’t published anything recently.

This was a  five star read. Keeper shelf.

book cover A 2020 read – Just An Ordinary Family. I always love to showcase this Australian Author. She writes a fine story.

Any book that makes me want to keep coming back to pick it up and read is a winner in my view. It is complicated family relationships at its best. It made me waver back and forth about all the characters – did I like them, did I agree with them, could I accept them for all their flaws? Final verdict is that I did hold them in my heart – wept at times and smiled at times. Cheered them on.

4.5 stars. Keeper Shelf.

And one from my TBR shelf! Hana Khan Carries On. Surprising to me on my actual TBR print books I could only pick out one book that seems to be family complications oriented.

It centers on Hana but involves her mother and a mysterious aunt and teenage cousin which draws Hana into a long-buried family secret. Published 2021.

Looking forward to reading this one soon.

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Five Five Star Reads.

We are at the end of June, the first six months of the year completed. I decided to look back at the books that just struck a chord with me. I will have had more than five five star books, but out of those what just made my heart so happy.  I am a contemporary fiction reader mainly, so those kind of books are more likely to make this list.

Next week I’ll choose five 4 star reads from my list of the 67 books I have completed so far. That will be way more difficult as I have a lot of them!  Audiobooks will be another week, although they are included in the 67!

book coverI read this back in February. It is by Australian author Fiona Lowe. I thought the issues she explored, and the eclectic cast of characters and the challenges they faced were very relevant. One I will most certainly reread. When I can still remember a book I read back in February its a good sign!!

book coverDifferent but so entertaining. I thought ‘really weird’ as I began but soon I was really cheering for all the wacky characters. Plenty of family drama and little surprises. Sunshine and her daughter Auri are just beautiful. Quincy and Levi giving them a shout out too. The whole town actually and the mystery of the missing deputy – priceless. Really looking forward to reading the next one which publishes soon.

book coverWell this is a new tack in a series I’ve loved and I love the new adventures. It’s full of great characters, political shenanigans, (notice the cover – The White House) police procedural and family love. Look I’ll say it simply – I am addicted. I wanted to avoid putting in my top five because I am so addicted, but … it has to go in!

book coverAnd my top historical read of the last six months. It is a beautifully written story of wartime London and the people who faced such hard times during all the bombing that went on. And a bookshop – don’t forget a bookshop!

bookcoverI tossed up between this book The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews and The House Guests by Emilie Richards. But because I have just reviewed the latter five star read I choose The Newcomer. I like most books when someone is on the run with a child in tow. ( I was going to write toe but didn’t seem right until I got the visual). Anyway there is mystery and suspense, eclectic characters and just a good read.

Okay, would love to hear from you of one five star read from the first six months! I might add to my groaning TBR pile!

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Review

A Home Like Ours. Fiona Lowe

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Published: Harlequin – Australia

Date: March 3rd 2021.

Source: Publisher via NetGalley

A Home Like Ours is set in a small fictional town in Victoria, Australia. It’s what I’d call an issues driven book. It’s full of them! It is also filled with a wonderfully  eclectic range of characters. Many of them I fell for, and of course some of them are just not ready for redemption yet. We can always hope change one day might be possible! I mention a few of the central characters below who experience displacement of one kind or another and do grow through it, largely because of the support of others in the town and their own resilience.

The plot centres around a community garden, a group of women who want to keep it going and to admit those who others don’t “approve”. And there are some dastardly councillors who want to sell a plot of land adjacent to the garden to big developers. Of course lining their own pockets in doing so.

Helen is the caretaker of the garden – she has had a tough life, she is in her mid-fifties and while educated has found it difficult to find a job in the past. She also knows first hand what homelessness is all about. I loved spiky, tough talking, take no nonsense Helen. And its a matter of can she have her heart opened again and embrace  a second and better life.

Tara is a younger person with two children and a family owned business in town. She is about to find out what its like to deal with a big challenge and who her friends really are. I really felt for Tara and her husband Jon. I liked how their story develops.

Jade is a young single mother – to Milo. She lives on a benefit and if I thought Helen was spiky well Jade can give her a run for her money. Jade has had a tough life, however she is about to find out what trusting and opening up to new possibilities are all about.

Oh, I forgot to mention all of the above are white! Because in town there are also a number of refugees with pasts that none of us have ever had to live through and when they come to their new country everything is not as rosy as promised. 

You can’t read this book and remain detached from all the issues presented. Mainly I think because they are so universal and we know them in our own towns. The book asks us to examine our own hearts. To name a few – homelessness, white privilege, prejudice towards those who are different, struggling single mothers, abusive partners, ageism, the sudden onset of a challenging disease.

Coupled with all that is true love and trust, hope, belief in what can be changed and how we can build a better place by being open to and learning about differences. And what true friendship looks like.

Fiona Lowe has written a rich, thought provoking book that will long remain with me.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Book Connections

Garden Books.

I am not a gardener although there are plenty in my family who are and my forebears were gardeners too. Most of my garden is very dry at present, and I do have a small veggie garden. Love picking from that.

There have been quite a few books I’ve read that have almost at centre stage – a garden.

book cover The Unfinished Garden is the author’s debut novel and the only one I hadn’t read of hers until now. Tilly the main woman character is into gardens and garden and loves it. Both in North Carolina where she has a business and in her home in England where she spends some time as well. Then there is James who wants Tilly’s help with a garden for his place. He has OCD and can’t put his hands near the earth. This book I think is titled The Unfinished Garden because a garden is never finished. How true!  Barbara Claypole White always presents a very compassionate stance towards her characters with mental illness and I always love her knowledge and the help she provides her readers to take these people into their hearts.

book coverA Home Like Ours also has a special Australian garden at its centre. It’s very important and brings a community together. My review for this one will be up soon. It was a 5 star read for me.

book coverThis was an engrossing tale, told from a few different viewpoints and times. The story and mystery unfold – the reader has enough clues to see what has happened before the characters. Its both sad and and uplifting. What a complicated family! It involves a kind of secret garden.

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The Garden of Happy Endings  involves sisters and a community garden in a poor part of town. I loved this story, so thoughtful and enjoyable. Loved the  women and each of their stories. Their search and exploration of what makes them happy was important. I especially appreciated Elsa’s journey – her spiritual one and her search for her partner in life. Felt very real and authentic.

book coverThe Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman. Witty and insightful. Wonderful group of characters. Two sisters, well two sets of sisters who made me laugh and at times sad. A group of people who come together around a gardening project and form what I think will be lasting friendships. Tons of good hints about gardening.

There is another book I’ll be wanting to read… The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly which comes well recommended.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a place to meet up and share what you have been, and are about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organise yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment and er… add to your groaning TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started on J Kaye’s blog and then was hosted by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn here at The Book Date.
Jen Vincent, Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee of Unleashing Readers decided to give It’s Monday! a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels or anything in those genres – join them.

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Hope you are all doing well. We have had some great summer days and nice and hot. I heard February is Ice Cream month in NZ. I can go with that for sure. We eat an enormous amount per person evidently!

It is also a long weekend as it is our national holiday, Waitangi Day. The day our founding document was signed between the government and the local Maori people in 1841.  I am just quietly enjoying it, I think the main celebrations at Waitangi ( way up north) took place on Saturday, as that was the actual day, but all our holidays are being Mondayised! So that workers have a long weekend.

What I read last week:

Both books I very much enjoyed.

What I am reading now:

A spin off from P&P. What happened to Charlotte?

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Up next:

This is a possibility. I have it on my Kindle and got free last year. Has some very mixed reviews so it may be a take a look and delete, but in the aim of reading more on my Kindle TBR I am trying it out. The cover works though!

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