NOT BAD PEOPLE, a contemporary Australian drama by debut author Brandy Scott @HeyBrandyScott

My first completed book of February is the slow-burning contemporary drama NOT BAD PEOPLE by debut author, Brandy Scott. The novel is set in the fictional country Victorian town of Hensley. My own hometown, the Mornington Peninsula, gets a brief mention, so I thought it was fitting to take my copy on a trip to my local beach. It was a lovely beach read!

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NOT BAD PEOPLE by Brandy Scott

“Three Friends. Too many secrets. Honesty is the best policy. Usually.”

Paperback, 464 pages

Published: January 29th 2019 by HarperCollins – AU

ISBN: 1460756177 (ISBN13: 9781460756171)

Source: HarperCollins – AU

 

“A clever, compelling debut novel with a unique premise of what happens when three best friends engage in what seems to be a harmless act, but instead results in tragedy, leading the women to confront buried resentments, shattering secrets, dark lies, and the moral consequences that could alter their lives forever.

Three friends, thirty years of shared secrets, one impulsive gesture…and a terrible accident.  

It’s New Year’s Eve, in a small town in the rich wine country outside Sydney. Thirty-something Aimee, Melinda, and Lou are best friends reveling in the end-of-year celebrations. And what better way to look ahead to the coming year than to let off Chinese lanterns filled with resolutions: for meaning, for freedom, for money? The fact that it’s illegal to use these lanterns is far in the back of their minds. After the glowing paper bags float away and are lost to sight in the night sky, there’s a bright flare in the distance. It could be a sign of luck—or the start of a complete nightmare that will upend the women’s friendships, families, and careers.

Aimee is convinced their little ceremony caused a major accident. The next day, the newspapers report a small plane crashed, and two victims—one a young boy—were pulled from the wreckage. Were they responsible? Aimee thinks they are, Melinda won’t accept it, and Lou has problems of her own. It’s a toxic recipe for guilt trips, shame, obsession, blackmail and power games.
They’re not bad people. But desperate times call for desperate measures.”

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There are three main characters in NOT BAD PEOPLE. Lou is a feisty single mum whose teenage daughter is causing almost as much trouble as she did when she was a teenager. Aimee has a seemingly perfect husband, children, winery, and life. Melinda is successful single businesswoman who has recently moved back to small-town Hensley from the big city.

The three thirty-something woman have been best friends since childhood, mostly because they are related to each other and their parents were friends with each other, just like most small town friendships are formed. Their lives begin to fall apart when an innocent incident on New Years Eve appears to cause an accident and now they are forced to deal with the consequences.

This is made far more complicated by living in small country town where no secret is ever truly safe and resentments have been left to fester for years, generations in some cases.

I really enjoyed NOT BAD PEOPLE and I felt that Brandy Scott set the scene of a small country town – quite similar to the one I grew up in –  perfectly. The characters were extremely well-developed and I found myself able to relate to all of the three main characters at different times.

I did find some of the longer chapters would have flowed better for me if they had just focused on one characters at a time rather than going back and forth between all three main characters, but that’s probably just a personal preference of mine.

NOT BAD PEOPLE is a delightful novel, perfectly encapsulating the way small towns react to drama, and hold onto their secrets and resents. I especially loved the dynamics between the three friends and the slow-burning pace of the action.

Perfect for fans of the Moriarty sisters and for relaxing with a nice glass of wine. 4 stars!

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NOT BAD PEOPLE by Brandy Scott and a lovely bottle of wine 

 

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Book Review: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen

I’ve been hoarding my beautiful Vintage Classic edition of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY for some time, so I was excited to make the time to revisit an old favourite during my month of selfish reading.

I was giving the gentlest of nudges to hurry up and get reading by the brilliant author of THE GIRL ON THE PAGE, John Purcell, who reminded me of the universality of Jane Austen’s novels in his bestselling debut. We have since bonded on Twitter over our mutual agreement that there is no problem in the world that can’t be made better by curling up my favourite classic author.

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SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen

“I do not attempt to deny,” said she, “that I think very highly of him – that I greatly esteem, that I like him.”

Paperback, 444 pages

Published: June 26th 2014 by Vintage Classics (first published October 30th 1811)

Original Title: Sense and Sensibility

ISBN: 0099589346 (ISBN13: 9780099589341)

Goodreads

“Elinor is as prudent as her sister Marianne is impetuous. Each must learn from the other after they are they are forced by their father’s death to leave their home and enter into the contests of polite society. The charms of unsuitable men and the schemes of rival ladies mean that their paths to success are thwart with disappointment but together they attempt to find a way to happiness.”

 

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It’s been years since I read SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, or any of Jane Austen’s novels, and it felt just like catching up with a good friend. Austen’s debut novel tells the story of two sisters, Marianne and Elinor Dashwood, who are about as  different as two sisters can be.

Marianne is the youngest and has the very strong opinions commonly found in teenagers. She is convinced that her future husband will love all the same things as she does, will sweep her off her feet in a whirlwind romance, and that it is only possible to truly love one person.

Elinor is far more sensible and spends a great deal of her time making excuses for Marianne’s rudeness to potential beaux and well-meaning neighbours alike.

The novel begins when Mr Dashwood’s death means that the girls and their mother are forced to leave their home to allow their elder half brother and his greedy wife to move in. This reflects Austen’s own life, as she was also forced to move due to unfavourable inheritances.

Marianne finds romance with the charming Willoughby, while scorning the elder and far more steady Colonel Brandon. Elinor is left wondering if her romance with her sister in law’s brother, Edward Ferrars, was all she thought it was when she encounters a rival she never knew existed.

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed reading SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. Even though this was Austen’s very first novel, it is a delightful read. I couldn’t help but think on this reading that a lot of the problems he characters went through were very British and could have been solved with a little bit of straight talking, but their polite inability to say what they really think is one of the reasons the rest of the world loves the British so much.

5 stars!

 

HOW TO BE SECOND BEST by Jessica Dettmann. A lighthearted romantic comedy highlighting the ups and downs of modern parenthood. #BookReview

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HOW TO BE SECOND BEST by Jessica Dettmann

Goodreads Description

A hilarious and heart-warming debut that captures the dramas, delights and delirium of modern parenting. This is Marian Keyes meets Allison Pearson, with a dash of Caitlin Moran.

Going from one child to two is never all that easy for a family, but when Emma’s husband simultaneously fathers a third child three doors up the street, things get very tricky, very fast.

No longer is it enough for Emma to be the best wife and mother – now she’s trying to be the best ex-wife, and the best part-time parent to her ex’s love child, and that’s before she even thinks about adding a new bloke to the mix.

Set in an upwardly mobile, ultra-competitive suburb, this is a funny, biting, heartwarming modern comedy that looks at the roles we play, how we compete, and what happens when we dare to strive for second-best.

‘Jessica Dettmann is a fine comic writer. She has an eye for the small details, irritations and inspirations of life which coupled with a truly original turn of phrase and great way with a gag makes for sparkling and heart-warming reading.’ Ben Elton

‘Sharp and crisp and funny. I was dazzled.’ Mia Freedman

Paperback, 368 pages
Published December 17th 2018 by HarperCollins – AU
ISBN 1460755960 (ISBN13: 9781460755969

My Review

A  lighthearted romantic comedy  highlighting the ups and downs of modern parenthood.

HOW TO BE SECOND BEST by Jessica Dettmann examines what happens when  Emma decides to be second best for a change.

She has been so busy trying to be the best at everything ever since her husband left her to start a family with another woman that she hasn’t realised just how much of a pushover she has become. By taking a step back from the competitiveness of modern parenting Emma’s life begins to fall into place, including in the romance department!

HOW TO BE SECOND BEST is a great beach read. Dettmann has hilariously captured the craziness and competitiveness of modern suburban parenthood, which is often made more difficult with mixed families.  I particularly enjoyed the swimming pool scene!

The characters were incredibly well-written and I love the concept of teaching yourself how to be second best in a world where everything seems to be a competition.

5 stars!

About the Author

 

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Jessica Dettmann

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HOW TO STOP TIME by Matt Haig @matthaig1 #BookReview

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HOW TO STOP TIME by Matt Haig

Goodreads Description

“The first rule is that you don’t fall in love, ‘ he said… ‘There are other rules too, but that is the main one. No falling in love. No staying in love. No daydreaming of love. If you stick to this you will just about be okay.'” 

A love story across the ages – and for the ages – about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history–performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.

So Tom moves back to London, his old home, to become a high school history teacher–the perfect job for someone who has witnessed the city’s history first hand. Better yet, a captivating French teacher at his school seems fascinated by him. But the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society’s watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can’t have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present.

How to Stop Time is a bighearted, wildly original novel about losing and finding yourself, the inevitability of change, and how with enough time to learn, we just might find happiness.

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My Review 

Tom Hazard looks like a normal man in his 40’s but due to a rare and largely unknown medical condition, he is actually more than 400 years old. After surviving his early years in in medieval France and England  – where he worked for a brilliant young playwright called William Shakespeare and tragically fell in love – Tom became part of the Albatross Society.

The first condition of the secretive Albatross Society, made up of people like Tom, is that you can’t fall in love. Members are also forbidden from seeing a doctor, required to move location every eight years and must recruit new members for the Albatross Society in between each move.

After living this nomadic life for 400 or so years – which included sailing the seas with Captain Cook and encounters in jazz bars in Paris with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald – Tom just wants to go back to his old home in London and live an ordinary life as a high school history teacher. Being back home and a forbidden romance bring up painful memories of Tom’s past and he has no choice but to decide between the restrictive, and increasingly dangerous Albatross Society or begin his life again in the present.

I loved HOW TO STOP TIME and I’m already looking forward to re-reading it soon! Matt Haig has an insightful way with words and beautifully conveyed the range of emotions that Tom experienced living for centuries. Long enough to watch everybody he loved and care for die, and then to watch humanity make the same mistakes over and over again throughout history.

I loved the way that real-life historical figures featured throughout the novel through Tom’s memories, particularly the way that Shakespeare was portrayed as an eccentric but kind hearted genius with a keen sense of observation.

5 stars!

About the Author 

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Matt Haig

 

Matt Haig is a British author for children and adults. His memoir Reasons to Stay Alive was a number one bestseller, staying in the British top ten for 46 weeks. His children’s book A Boy Called Christmas was a runaway hit and is translated in over 25 languages. It is being made into a film by Studio Canal and The Guardian called it an ‘instant classic’. His novels for adults include the award-winning The Radleys and The Humans.

He won the TV Book Club ‘book of the series’, and has been shortlisted for a Specsavers National Book Award. The Humans was chosen as a World Book Night title. His children’s novels have won the Smarties Gold Medal, the Blue Peter Book of the Year, been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and nominated for the Carnegie Medal three times

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My #review of the spellbinding thriller “THE NEW GIRL” by debut author Ingrid Alexandra @IngridWrites

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THE NEW GIRL by Ingrid Alexandra

Goodreads Description

You’ve only just met.
But she already knows you so well.
When Rachel moves into the spare room in Mary’s flat, everyone is quick to jump to the conclusion that there’s something strange about her. Everyone apart from Mary.

And when Rachel starts sleepwalking, everyone’s fears grow. But there’s something about the new girl that Mary can’t help but trust, and having recently escaped a toxic relationship, she needs the support.

Rachel becomes a friend and an ally, and Mary soon discovers that they have more in common than she ever could have imagined.

In fact, Rachel seems to know more about Mary than she knows about herself…

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My Review 

Mary shares a flat with her long time best friend, Cat, and likable school teacher, Ben in a Sydney flat right by the beach. The room mates decide to bring in a new girl, Rachael, to help with the rent, but Mary is the only one out of the group who doesn’t think the new girl is a weirdo. As Mary gets to know Rachael she discovers that they have more in common than she first thought. They both have a troubled background full of secrets and betrayals, and Mary begins to grow closer to Rachael than she is with her best friend, Cat.

I don’t want to say any more about the plot of THE NEW GIRL in case I give away any of the crazy plot twists! I read this novel very quickly because I was constantly on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what was really going on. I never would have guessed the ending of this novel in a million years and the final reveal was so well done. 4 stars!

About the Author 

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Ingrid Alexandra, author of THE NEW GIRL 

Ingrid Alexandra was born and raised in Sydney and now lives on the New South Wales central coast.

Her work has previously been long-listed for The Ampersand Prize and while living in London, Ingrid had the privilege of being mentored by the Guardian First Novel Award shortlisted and Nestle Prize winning author Daren King.

THE NEW GIRL is her first psychological thriller novel. She is currently working on her second.

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Fabulous multi-generational fashion themed family saga DRESSING THE DEARLOVES by Kelly Doust (@KellyDoust) #BookReview

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DRESSING THE DEARLOVES by Kelly Doust

Goodreads Description

One crumbling grand manor house, a family in decline, five generations of women, and an attic full of beautiful clothes with secrets and lies hidden in their folds. Kelly Doust, author of Precious Things, spins another warm, glamorous and romantic mystery of secrets, love, fashion, families – and how we have to trust in ourselves, even in our darkest of days. One for lovers of Kate Morton, Belinda Alexandra, Fiona McIntosh and Lucy Foley. Failed fashion designer Sylvie Dearlove is coming home to England – broke, ashamed and in disgrace – only to be told her parents are finally selling their once-grand, now crumbling country house, Bledesford, the ancestral home of the Dearlove family for countless generations. Sylvie has spent her whole life trying to escape being a Dearlove, and the pressure of belonging to a family of such headstrong, charismatic and successful women. Beset by self-doubt, she starts helping her parents prepare Bledesford for sale, when she finds in a forgotten attic a thrilling cache of old steamer trunks and tea chests full of elaborate dresses and accessories acquired from across the globe by five generations of fashionable Dearlove women. Sifting through the past, she also stumbles across a secret which has been hidden – in plain sight – for decades, a secret that will change the way she thinks about herself, her family, and her future.Romantic, warm, and glamorous, moving from Edwardian England to the London Blitz to present day London, Dressing the Dearloves is a story of corrosiveness of family secrets, the insecurities that can sabotage our best efforts, and the seductive power of dressing up. 

400 pages
Published August 20th 2018 by HarperCollins
ISBN 1460705645 (ISBN13: 9781460705643)
RRP $16.99 AU (Kindle) $26.99 AU (paperback)

My Review 

Fabulous multi-generational fashion themed family saga! DRESSING THE DEARLOVES the second fashion themed novel by Australian author Kelly Doust, and you can really tell that she has a great love for vintage fashion and the stories they hold.

Sylvie Dearlove failed spectacularly in the cut-throat New York fashion design world. With her company bankrupt and her reputation in tatters she has no choice but to return to her family’s upper crust ancestral home in the English countryside. She is shocked to discover that Bledesford is even more run down than she remembered, her grandmother and family matriarch, Lizzie, is terribly ill and her parents seem to have no choice but to sell up and make way for boring and generic sub-divisions.

While helping her parents clean out the overflowing attic with the help of her best uni girlfriends Sylvie discovers more than just the high fashion of  five generations of her enigmatic and successful female ancestors. She also stumbles across a shocking family secret that  changes the way she feels about her family, what it means to be a Dearlove, and will alter her future plans irrevocably.

I loved the way that Doust tied the stories of the Dearlove ladies in with their clothing. I think it’s so true that the clothes we wear for special occasions do hold onto our stories and the way Doust writes about vintage fashion with such love is a wonderful reminder of the power of dressing up. 5 stars!

About the Author 

 

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Kelly Doust, author of DRESSING THE DEARLOVES

 

Kelly Doust is author of the novels Dressing the Dearloves (September 2018) and Precious Things, both published by HarperCollinsAlso A Life in Frocks, vintage fashion bible Minxy Vintage: how to customise & wear vintage clothing and The Crafty Minx series of craft books.

With a background in book publishing and publicity, Kelly has worked in the UK, Hong Kong and Australia, and has freelanced for Vogue, Australian Women’s Weekly and Sunday Life Magazine. She lives in Sydney with her husband and daughter, and works as a Lifestyle Publisher for Murdoch Books.

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Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring! A look back on the books I read in August and September bookish news.

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The Books I read in August: RESTITUTION by Rose Edmunds, BURNING FIELDS by Alli Sinclair, THE BOY AT THE DOOR by Alex Dahl and BOOK OF COLOURS by Robyn Cadwallader

August was a very intense month for me on a personal level. Full of contradictions, a few sad endings, and one very exciting new beginning. The most exciting August news for me is that I have began a new learning journey, studying a Master of Information Management, which I’ll be focusing on library studies. Of course!

I am so excited to get cracking on my way to becoming a librarian and am also over the moon that winter is finally over and the sun has begun to make quite a few appearances already. I’m not a fan of the winter months and am always well and truly sick of cold and dreary Melbourne weather by this stage of the year.

The amount of books I read slowed down over August, but I had some great reads. RESTITUTION by Rose Edmunds was a brilliant continuation of the Crazy Amy series. BOOK OF COLOURS by Robyn Cadwallader and BURNING FIELDS by Alli Sinclair were both the first novels I have read by two fantastic Australian historical fiction authors. THE BOY AT THE DOOR by Alex Dahl was a gripping Nordic suspense novel by a debut author. I love that August was another month full of books by female authors for me!

Books I Read in August

Click on the links below to check out my August book reviews and don’t forget to enter my giveaway for BURNING FIELDS! 

RESTITUTION by Rose Edmunds

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RESTITUTION by Rose Edmunds

 

Reeling from a catalogue of disasters, flaky sleuth Amy travels to Prague to help an old man recover a Picasso painting last seen in 1939. It seems like a mundane assignment, but the stakes are far higher than Amy imagines. Competing forces have vested interests, and are prepared to kill to meet their goals. Caught amid a tangle of lies, with her credibility in question and her life on the line, could Amy’s craziness be her salvation…?

 

BOOK OF COLOURS by Robyn Cadwallader

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BOOK OF COLOURS by Robyn Cadwallader

 

From Robyn Cadwallader, author of the internationally acclaimed novel The Anchoress, comes a deeply profound and moving novel of the importance of creativity and the power of connection, told through the story of the commissioning of a gorgeously decorated medieval manuscript, a Book of Hours.

London, 1321: In a small stationer’s shop in Paternoster Row, three people are drawn together around the creation of a magnificent book, an illuminated manuscript of prayers, a Book of Hours. Even though the commission seems to answer the aspirations of each one of them, their own desires and ambitions threaten its completion. As each struggles to see the book come into being, it will change everything they have understood about their place in the world. In many ways, this is a story about power – it is also a novel about the place of women in the roiling and turbulent world of the early fourteenth century; what power they have, how they wield it, and just how temporary and conditional it is.

Rich, deep, sensuous and full of life, Book of Colours is also, most movingly, a profoundly beautiful story about creativity and connection, and our instinctive need to understand our world and communicate with others through the pages of a book.

 

BURNING FIELDS by Alli Sinclair

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BURNING FIELDS by Alli Sinclair

 

1948. The world is struggling to regain a sense of balance after the devastation of World War II, and the sugar cane-growing community of Piri River in northern Queensland is no exception.

As returned servicemen endeavour to adjust to their pre-war lives, women who had worked for the war effort are expected to embrace traditional roles once more.

Rosie Stanton finds it difficult to return to the family farm after years working for the Australian Women’s Army Service. Reminders are everywhere of the brothers she lost in the war and she is unable to understand her father’s contempt for Italians, especially the Conti family next door. When her father takes ill, Rosie challenges tradition by managing the farm, but outside influences are determined to see her fail.

Desperate to leave his turbulent history behind, Tomas Conti has left Italy to join his family in Piri River. Tomas struggles to adapt in Australia—until he meets Rosie. Her easy-going nature and positive outlook help him forget the life he’s escaped. But as their relationship grows, so do tensions between the two families until the situation becomes explosive.

When a long-hidden family secret is discovered and Tomas’s mysterious past is revealed, everything Rosie believes is shattered. Will she risk all to rebuild her family or will she lose the only man she’s ever loved?

 

THE BOY AT THE DOOR by Alex Dahl

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THE BOY AT THE DOOR by Alex Dahl

This riveting psychological suspense debut by Alex Dahl asks the question, “how far would you go to hold on to what you have?”

Cecilia Wilborg has it all–a loving husband, two beautiful daughters, and a gorgeous home in an affluent Norwegian suburb. And she works hard to keep it all together. Too hard…

There is no room for mistakes in her life. Even taking home a little boy whose parents forgot to pick him up at the pool can put a crimp in Cecilia’s carefully planned schedule. Especially when she arrives at the address she was given
and finds an empty, abandoned house…

There’s nothing for Cecilia to do but to take the boy home with her, never realizing that soon his quiet presence and knowing eyes will trigger unwelcome memories from her past–and unravel her meticulously crafted life…