Comfort Reads with Sonya Bates: Outlander

Thank you very much to Sonya Bates for this week’s comfort read. I’m a big fan of the Outlander TV series but I haven’t read the books yet … I think I need to do something about that soon!

Comfort Reads with Sonya Bates Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

A comfort read means different things to different people. Nostalgia perhaps, humour or a happy ending. Classics, memoirs, books from your childhood, romance. For me, it means escape.

When I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed (like when a pandemic sweeps the globe), I don’t want to have to work too hard. My brain is already in overdrive, thinking about other things – worrying. It doesn’t need another workout. What I want and need is something soothing, something I don’t have to concentrate on. The book has to pull me in right from the start and hold my attention. I need to be able to gloss over paragraphs if my mind gets distracted and not lose the thread of the story. And I need to be able to put it down and pick it up on a whim, even if days or weeks have passed.

I have several books that fit the bill, so it was hard to choose just one. In the end I chose Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – a book I’ve read several times but never seems to disappoint. On the first read, it might not qualify as there’s a lot going on, but escapism doesn’t come any greater than this. A young woman travelling through time via a stone circle and ending up in the 1700’s? It takes you away from the troubles of the 21st century in a heartbeat. It’s adventure, it’s time travel, it’s a love story. The characters are larger than life and encounter (and survive) almost insurmountable situations – even try to change history. It suspends belief at times, but hey, the premise itself suspends belief. It’s the kind of story that can help you forget about pandemics and isolation and second waves, if only for a little while.

It’s a familiar read for me, so perhaps somewhat nostalgic, and I know the characters and the story well enough that I can put it down and pick it up again without a hiccup. It is one of my go-to comfort reads, the only caveat being that the first in the series is followed by seven very large sequels. It can be hard to stop at just one, so I need to be prepared to be immersed in the land of Outlander for quite some time if I start that first chapter.

outlander

 

About the Author 

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Sonya Spreen Bates  is a writer of adult and children’s fiction living in Adelaide, South Australia. She was shortlisted for the inaugural Banjo Prize in 2018 for the unpublished manuscript for Inheritance of Secrets, and several of her children’s books have been commended by CCBC Best Books, Resource Links, or the Junior Library Guild in the USA.

Born in Iowa City, USA, Sonya grew up in Victoria, Canada. She studied Linguistics at the University of Victoria before moving to Halifax, Nova Scotia to study Speech-Language Pathology at Dalhousie University. She worked in paediatric Speech Pathology for 25 years, first in rural British Columbia, and then in Adelaide, South Australia when she moved there in 1997, and currently works as a casual academic in clinical education.

Sonya’s first children’s book was published in 2003. Her short stories and novels have been published in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and foreign rights to her chapter book, Wildcat Run, were sold to a Chinese publisher. She started writing for adults in 2015 and her debut adult novel Inheritance of Secrets was published by HarperCollins Australia in April 2020.

Read my review of Inheritance of Secrets

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Book Review: The Nancys by R.W.R McDonald

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The Nancys book cover

Blurb

The Nancys is adult crime fiction in the tradition of a whodunit murder mystery, except all the characters are completely out of control and pay no attention to any rules.

TIPPY CHAN is eleven and lives in Riverstone, a two pub town in South Otago, New Zealand. The same town her UNCLE PIKE escaped from when he was a teenager. Tippy loves her uncle’s old Nancy Drew books, especially the early versions where Nancy was sixteen and did whatever she wanted. She wants to be Nancy and is desperate to solve a real mystery.

Tippy’s chance comes when her mum goes on holiday, leaving Uncle Pike and his new boyfriend, DEVON, in charge. When her teacher turns up dead beside the small town’s only traffic light Tippy teams up with her babysitters to form The Nancys, a secret amateur detective club.

But what starts as a bonding and sightseeing adventure quickly morphs in to a risky investigation. A wrongful arrest, a close call with the killer, and an intervention from Tippy’s Mum all conspire against The Nancys. While the town grieves everyone believes the police have caught the killer, including Tippy’s mum. It is up to The Nancys to go against the flow, as well as questionable interior design and fashion choices, to solve the mystery before anyone else dies.

The Nancys is a book for anyone who’s ever felt outside looking in. At its heart it is about the family we make and the courage required to tell the truth, no matter what the cost.

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The Nancys by R.W.R. McDonald

My Review

The Nancys is an adult murder mystery inspired by the classic Nancy Drew books, but it’s so much more than that. It also explores complex themes about outsiders, the family we choose, courage and the importance of telling the truth.

Eleven-year-old Tippy Chan is still grieving for her father when her Uncle Pike and his fashion designer boyfriend Devon arrive from Sydney to care for her while she goes on a cruise. Tippy and her mother still live in the same house in the small two pub town of Riverstone New Zealand that Pike escaped from as a teenager, so his return inevitably brings up ghosts from his past. I grew up in small-town myself, so I could definitely relate to Pike’s uncomfortable experiences bumping into ex-boyfriends and old nemeses and all of the weird feelings that can bring up!

When Tippy’s friend falls off a bridge in mysterious circumstances and then her teacher is gruesomely murdered Pike, Devon and Tippy form a club inspired by Nancy Drew to investigate. Using Pike’s network of old contacts, Tippy’s keen sense of observation, and Devon’s fashion sense, The Nancys seem to be getting close to cracking the case. The only problem is making sure they discover who did it before anybody else gets hurt … or Tippy’s mum puts a stop to their investigation.

I loved this book! It’s in a similar format to a classic Nancy Drew mystery, but it also has so much warmth and heart. I was a huge fan of the Nancy Drew books too when I was around Tippy’s age, and I think The Nancys absolutely did them justice. Nancy Drew really is a bit of style icon and I agree that the older books are the best.

I loved the close relationship between Pike and Tippy and the way he helped her and her mother deal with the death of Tippy’s father. Pike and Devon’s relationship was full of crude humour and in-jokes but I have a good feeling that their relationship will last longer than Pike’s previous relationship record of three months … I will hopefully find out the answer to that in the sequel coming out soon!

About the Author

 

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R.W.R. McDonald author photo

Rob McDonald is a Kiwi living in Melbourne with his two daughters and an extended rainbow family including HarryCat and Stevie Nicks the chicken. Rob realised while studying journalism that writing fiction, rather than reporting facts, was his true bent.

The Nancys is being published by Allen and Unwin with a release date June 2019. This is his first novel.

Rob is a 2016 alumnus of Faber Academy’s Writing a Novel Stage 1 and 2 where he worked on his manuscript The Nancys. In 2017 The Nancys was Highly Commended in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards for an Unpublished Manuscript.

Outside of writing Rob works in international education.

Details

Published:  June 3rd 2019 by Allen & Unwin

Source: Own copy

Read: Kindle Edition, July 2020

Pages: 316

Rating: 5 stars

Goodreads

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2XiwMi4

Apple: https://apple.co/2KMQh0D

Google: http://bit.ly/2GkccXG

Booktopia: http://bit.ly/2PhmuMm