Reading Rewards - reviews

The Science of Appearances

The Science of Appearances by Jacinta Halloran

In the years after World War 2, in a country town outside Melbourne, an Irish Catholic family is hit hard by the sudden death of their schoolteacher father. Twins Dominic and Mary Quinn react differently to the death, according to their distinct personalities – ‘like chalk and cheese’ says their mother. Dominic is dutiful and resilient while Mary rebels against the restraints placed on her by their emotionally reticent mother.

It’s a time when a widow’s pension can barely keep them and they’re forced to vacate their home, a house that was owned by their father’s school. While the clever Dominic stays on at school, Mary, the arty one, must supplement the family’s tight income with cleaning jobs. A stint cleaning the sexually predatory priest’s house is the last straw. When her mother punishes Mary for refusing to return there, she runs off to Melbourne. Without the extra income, Dominic, despite his gifts, must leave school and take a menial job at the post office.

Once in Melbourne Mary navigates her way out of poverty and miserable drudgery at a hostel and soon finds herself in the Bohemian world of St Kilda, while Dominic finds some luck in the form of a benefactor and makes it to Melbourne University where he studies botany and genetics. Each of the twins feels the pull towards a new horizon and a keen longing for each other. But there lurks a secret from their family history that will soon be brought to the surface.

Jacinta Halloran skillfully evokes 1950s Melbourne and the intersection of two eras. Mary is absorbed by the heady world of jazz and art in St Kilda, while Dominic finds excitement in science, especially the groundbreaking study of eugenics, and his dawning sex life. Through his German-Jewish girlfriend, he too gains access to a more liberal world than he’s previously known. His further attraction to the field of genetics is ironic given his family history and the dreadful secret that awaits him. 

Why we love it: 
Jacinta Halloran’s The Science of Appearances is an exquisitely drawn and emotionally powerful novel about a pair of twins in 1950s Melbourne. It is a thought-provoking and original coming-of-age novel.

~ from The Team at Better Reading

Southern Ruby

Southern Ruby by Belinda Alexandra

When Amanda, who was orphaned as a child, loses her dear grandmother she finds a letter from her unknown family in New Orleans – a family her grandmother refused to talk about. Amanda had always felt that a part of her was missing so, desperate to learn her father’s heritage, she leaves Sydney in search of this mysterious family from the other side of the world.

In New Orleans, Amanda’s grandmother Ruby is hiding the family secrets and living a life constrained by social mores and class boundaries, but when the granddaughter she lost in a custody battle arrives in New Orleans, she begins to slowly reveal the tightly secreted truth that she has kept buried for so long...

Why we love it: 
Belinda Alexandra transports us from Sydney to the seductive world of New Orleans. In her signature style, she teases out the long-held secrets of one family’s dark past.

~ from The Team at Better Reading

Cat 'o nine tales

Cat 'o nine tales by Jeffrey Archer.

Cat O' Nine Tales is the sixth collection of irresistible short stories from the master storyteller , illustrated by the internationally acclaimed artist, Ronald Searle, creator of Molesworth.These twelve yarns are satisfying and ingeniously plotted, featuring richly drawn characters and Jeffrey Archer's trademark deliciously unexpected conclusions. They feature the mad, the bad and the dangerous to know , as well as more poignant and telling characters.   

This is one of those books I couldn’t put down once I started reading. I have read the book at least a few times and enjoy it every time due to the author’s superb writing style.  There are a total of twelve tales. Nine were gathered from stories of inmates during Archer’s two years imprisonment (2001 -2003) and three after his release.  According to Archer’s Foreword all tales are based on true life stories and have been masterfully elaborated by him.

Discover how a man robbed his own post office, how an inspector working with the Inland Revenue Office uncovered an Italian chef’s scheme for evading taxes,  how the wisdom of a judge prevented a man from losing his inheritance  or ponder how beauty resides in the eye of the beholder.

The book is wittily illustrated by Ronald Searle and was published in 2006.

~ Lilia (Placement student with Casey Cardinia Libraries)

Missing Pieces

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

From the back cover: Sarah Quinlan’s husband, Jack, has been haunted for decades by the untimely death of his mother when he was just a teenager, her body found in the cellar of their family farm, the circumstances a mystery. The case rocked the small farm town of Penny Gate, Iowa, where Jack was raised, and for years Jack avoided returning home. But when his beloved aunt Julia is in an accident, hospitalised in a coma, Jack and Sarah are forced to confront the past that they have long evaded.

Upon arriving in Penny Gate, Sarah and Jack are welcomed by the family Jack left behind all those years ago – barely a trace of the wounds that had once devastated them all. But as facts about Julia’s accident begin to surface, Sarah realizes that nothing about the Quinlans is what it seems. Caught in a flurry of unanswered questions, Sarah dives deep into the puzzling rabbit hole of Jack’s past. But the farther in she climbs, the harder it is for her to get out. And soon she is faced with a deadly truth she may not be prepared for.

This was a thrilling and intriguing tale. Sarah and Jack Quinlan have been married twenty years but Sarah is soon to discover many secrets about her husband and his family that he has kept hidden their whole married life! What unfolds turns from a family drama into a murder investigation. Lots of family members are questioning allegiances and trust is at times lost.

Heather Gudenkauf has succeeded in providing a family drama with murderous consequences - a real page-turner! I listened to this great audiobook in the car. It was performed by Christina Traister who masterly narrated this enthralling tale. Missing Pieces is also available in large print format.

~ Narelle

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I want my epidural back : adventures in mediocre parenting by Karen Alpert

Now that I’m a mom, I know the most painful part isn’t getting something giant through your hooha. It’s having a real live child. 

If you are the kind of mom who shapes your kiddo’s organic quinoa into reproductions of the Mona Lisa, do not read this book. If you stayed up past midnight to create posters for your PTO presidential campaign, do not read this book. If you look down your nose at parents who have Domino’s pizza on speed dial, do not read this book. 

But if you are the kind of parent who accidentally goes ballistic on your rugrats every morning because they won’t put their shoes on and then you feel super guilty about it all day so you take them to McDonald’s for a special treat but really it’s because you opened up your freezer and panicked because you forgot to buy more frozen pizzas, then absolutely read this book.

I Want My Epidural Back is a celebration of mediocre parents and how awesome they are and how their kids love them just as much as children with perfect parents. Karen Alpert’s honest but hilarious observations, stories, quips and pictures will have you nodding your head and peeing in your pants. Or on the toilet if you’re smart and read it there."

As a parent myself, I enjoy reading about other people’s parenting strategies; so when I saw “I want my epidural back : adventures in mediocre parenting” I grabbed it! The word “mediocre” in the title describes me perfectly and made me laugh, as did the rest of the book.

To any other mediocre parents out there who want to feel they’re not alone in the strategies they use to get through the day (or night), and could use a good laugh, this is the perfect book for you.

~ Leanne

Precious Things

Precious Things by Kelly Doust

Normandy, France, 1891: a young woman painstakingly sews an intricate beaded collar to her wedding dress, the night before her marriage to someone she barely knows. Yet Aimee longs for so much more.

Shanghai, 1926: dancing sensation and wild child Zephyr spies what looks like a beaded headpiece lying carelessly discarded on a ballroom floor. She takes it with her to Malaya where she sets her sights on a prize so out of reach that, in striving for it, she will jeopardise everything she holds dear.

PRECIOUS THINGS tells the story of a collar - a wonderful, glittering beaded piece - and its journey through the decades. It's also the story of Maggie, an auctioneer living in modern-day London, who comes across the crumpled, neglected collar in a box of old junk, and sets out on an unexpected mission to discover more about its secret and elusive past. 

Maggie has a journey of her own too. Juggling a demanding job, a clingy young child and a rebellious stepdaughter, and with her once-solid marriage foundering under the pressure of a busy life, Maggie has to find out the hard way that you can't always get what you want...but sometimes, you're lucky enough to get precisely what you need.

This book took me a bit by surprise - it turned out to be more engaging than first thought. Some of these "let's go back in time" storylines can be quite clumsy and/or boring, but this one is handled well with unique characters and stories.  There is also a subplot of Maggie's family and though that's got nothing to do with beaded piece, it does round out the character and why she works with beautiful old things that encompass a family history.

I borrowed this title on e-audiobook and it is perfectly narrated by Mel Hudson, but we have it in e-book and print formats.  Book Discussion Groups should love this one!

~ Deb

Just as an aside, this is a debut novel by Australian Kelly Doust, the bestselling author of a number of books on craft and fashion, including Minxy Vintage and A Life in Frocks. She's written for Vogue and Sunday Life magazine, and worked in the UK and Hong Kong. She now lives in Sydney.

Hidden bodies

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

From back cover: For Joe Goldberg, the line between love and murder, desire and obsession, is a narrow one… Joe came to Los Angeles to start over, to forget what happened in New York. But in a darkened room in Soho House everything suddenly changed. She is like no one he has ever met. But she doesn’t know about Joe’s past and never can. The problem is, hidden bodies don’t always stay that way.

This is the sequel to You by Caroline Kepnes. It follows the same dark, creepy, scary and sinister plot as her highly successful debut novel.

Its point of difference to other psychological thrillers is that it is told from the perspective of the murderer, kidnapper and stalker, Joe Goldberg. The reader hears how he justifies his actions with no remorse. So many dead bodies and so cleverly masterminded in order to hide his crimes.

This book is not for the faint-hearted, and indeed a very chilling read. It has an ending that will make you wonder, “what next?” It definitely lent itself to another book in this Joe Goldberg tale where further restitution and revenge could be revealed.

Make sure you read You first, before reading this sequel.


The Killings at Badger's Drift

The Killings at Badger's Drift by Caroline Graham

Badger's Drift - a tranquil English village, home to Miss Emily Simpson, a kindly, well-liked spinster. But a gentle stroll in the woods near her home one day brings an abrupt end to her peaceful existence, for Miss Simpson sees something among the trees that she was never meant to see, and someone makes sure she will never reveal what it was.  To the village doctor, Miss Simpson's death look natural enough, but her old friend Miss Lucy Bellringer is unconvinced and eventually drags the unwilling Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby into the case.

For a fan of the excellent TV series starring John Nettlefold from the very beginning, this was typical of the 'book to screen' dilemma we all face from time to time. Yes, it followed the usual plot - three murders thank you very much before a nice cup of tea. Despite being very well narrated by Hugh Ross, Barnaby the character was fine but his voice and intonation was all wrong; Sergeant Troy was nowhere near as likeable and nothing at all like the on-screen Troy; and daughter Cully seems to have undergone a complete personality transplant!  All rather disquieting.  As is the storyline. Very much not in good taste, leaving one with a rather grubby sensation and dismay/disappointment with the ending. Maybe that's why I can't recall ever seeing this particular tale on TV. I know others are much better!

~ Deb

Love at first flight

Love at first flight by Tess Woods.

"What if you met the love of your life and he wasn't your husband? Mel is living the dream. She's a successful GP, married to a charming anaesthetist and raising a beautiful family in their plush home in Perth. But when she boards a flight to Melbourne, her picture-perfect life unravels. Seated on the plane she meets Matt, and for the first time ever she falls in love. What begins as a flirty conversation quickly develops into a hot and obsessive affair with consequences that neither Mel nor Matt seems capable of facing. As the fallout touches friends and family, Mel's dream romance turns into a nightmare. She learns that there are some wounds that never heal and some scars that you wouldn't do without. LOVE AT FIRST FLIGHT will take everything you believe about what true love is and spin it on its head."

Tess Woods is a Perth based physiotherapist and this is her first novel.

Wow, what a great book this is, a perfect example of "Life Lit". One can relate so much to this storyline between Mel and Matt and shows how easy one glance can lead to love, lust and obsession. The writing in this book is spot-on and its hard to believe it is Tess's first novel.

The story is set in both Melbourne and Perth and I love how you can visualise the streets and locations depicted within.

I enjoyed it so much that I broke my golden rule of not re-reading books. I read it as an e-book in January this year and it has only just been released as a paperback, so I decided to read it again!

~ Janine

Missing Pieces

Missing Piecesby Heather Gudenkauf.

From the back cover: Sarah Quinlan’s husband, Jack, has been haunted for decades by the untimely death of his mother when he was just a teenager, her body found in the cellar of their family farm, the circumstances a mystery. The case rocked the small farm town of Penny Gate, Iowa, where Jack was raised, and for years Jack avoided returning home. But when his beloved aunt Julia is in an accident, hospitalised in a coma, Jack and Sarah are forced to confront the past that they have long evaded. Upon arriving in Penny Gate, Sarah and Jack are welcomed by the family Jack left behind all those years ago – barely a trace of the wounds that had once devastated them all. But as facts about Julia’s accident begin to surface, Sarah realizes that nothing about the Quinlans is what it seems. Caught in a flurry of unanswered questions, Sarah dives deep into the puzzling rabbit hole of Jack’s past. But the farther in she climbs, the harder it is for her to get out. And soon she is faced with a deadly truth she may not be prepared for. 

This was a thrilling and intriguing tale. Sarah and Jack Quinlan return to Penny Gate to support a family member after an accident. They have been married twenty years. But Sarah is soon to discover many secrets about her husband and his family that he has kept hidden their whole married life! What unfolds turns from a family drama into a murder investigation. Lots of family members are questioning allegiances and trust is at times lost.

Heather Gudenkauf has succeeded in providing a family drama with murderous consequences. A real page-turner! Or if you don’t mind an audio book, this was a great one to listen to in the car. It was performed by Christina Traister who masterly narrated this enthralling tale. Missing Pieces is also available in large print format. ~Narelle

Six Under Eight

Six Under Eight by Madeleine West

The mother of all parenting diaries. You've read parenting stories before but most parents are only managing a small brood; with six children, all under eight years old, actor Madeleine West (Neighbours, Satisfaction, Underbelly) can justifiably lay claim to having seen it all. In this hilarious and moving book, Madeleine takes us through a year of her life as a mother and shows us that it is possible to have a large family and keep your sanity, wisdom and sense of humour intact.

Madeleine West is a well known Australian actress who's partner is restauranteur and chef extrordinaire Shannon Bennett. This memoir chronicles a year in her hectic life, with 4 kids, then finding she is pregnant with twins.

'My son shoved an unpopped popcorn up his nose . . . what do I do?'
'My daughter was drinking from the dog's bowl with a curly straw . . . is that a problem?'
'There is something in my baby's nappy resembling a creature from the Alien franchise . . . should I be concerned?'

Ahhhh, Parenthood. So much joy, so many stains. So many rewards, so many unfinished lattes. So many questions, so many people pretending they have the answers. Madeleine West is an actor, a writer and sometimes a comedian, but most importantly, she is a mother, and even though she has a perfectly functional television, she has six of the crazed critters to prove it. Madeleine is no expert, but if she hasn't seen it, wiped it up, medicated it, rushed to the emergency ward with it, raised bail for it, or given birth to it, it isn't worth knowing. In this hilarious, moving, brutally honest tale, Madeleine takes you through the ups and downs of the rollercoaster called Parenthood.  You will laugh, you may cry, and you might just learn something along the way.

I found this to be quite a laugh out loud book at times that all mums out there will be able to relate to. I take my hat off to her, as The Chef (her nickname for Shannon Bennett) seems to be generally absent around 200 out of 365 days per year, and when he is home is busy in his study checking emails. She does offer some parenting advice which is interspersed throughout the book and based on her experience as mum of six under eight. A most enjoyable read!

~ Janine

Calendar Girl: Volume One

Calendar Girl: Volume One by Audrey Carlan

Mia Saunders needs money. A lot of money. She has one year to pay off the loan shark who has threatened her father’s life and is coming after his unpaid gambling debts. One million dollars to be exact. 

Her mission is simple - serve as a high-priced escort for her aunt’s Los Angeles-based company and pay monthly against the debt. Spend a month with a rich man whom she doesn’t have to sleep with if she doesn’t want to? Easy money. 

Unlucky in love with a spirit that never gives up, this curvy motorcycle-riding vixen plans to get in, make her money, and get out. Part of that goal is keeping her heart locked up tight and her eye on the prize. At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to go.

I grabbed Calendar Girl thinking it was going to be an easy read, with little substance and lightweight shallow characters. I was wrong.  The characters are exceptionally attractive, the men incredibly rich, and the main character Mia is anything but shallow. 

Exploring issues such as self-worth, responsibility, family duty, sexual orientation and more, Calendar Girl is a surprisingly deep book that had me welling up with tears a time or two.  I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to get my hands on volumes two, three and four. Each installment in the Calendar Girl series will feature Mia, told from her perspective, as she continues her journey as an escort to twelve clients in twelve different locations.

~ Leanne

Three Sisters, Three Queens

Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory

United in sisterhood by birth and marriage, Katherine of Aragon, Queen of England, Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots, and Mary Tudor, Queen of France immediately recognize each other as both allies and rivals in the treacherous world of court and national politics. Their bonds extend beyond natural and expeditious loyalties, as romance, scandal, war, and religion inextricably unite these three for better or for worse.

Back in 1501 – Katherine of Aragon is brought to the Tudor court as a young bride. Margaret, a Tudor princess with the pride of a king, immediately measures her up. With one look, each girl knows the other for a rival, an ally and a pawn. Caught in the crossfire is Mary, Margaret’s youngest sister, who grows to love Katherine as her own blood. They will become the queens of England, Scotland and France, who, united by family loyalties and affections, find themselves set against each other. As sisters, they share an everlasting bond. As queens, they break each other’s hearts.

Why we love it: Philippa Gregory encapsulates the strength, beauty and determination behind the women in the Tudor Court in a mesmerising historical fiction that takes you on an emotional rollercoaster.

~ from The Team at Better Reading

Sleeper's Castle

Sleeper's Castle by Barbara Erskine.

Hay-On-Wye, 1400 - War is brewing in the Welsh borders, Catrin is on the brink of womanhood and falling in love for the first time. Her father is a soothsayer, playing a dangerous game playing on the mixed loyalties and furious rivalries between welsh princes and English lords. For two hundred years, the Welsh people have lain under the English yoke, dreaming of independence. And finally it looks as though the charismatic Owain Glyndwr may be the man legend tralks of. 

In the walls of Sleeper's Castle, Catrin finds herself caught in the middle of a doomed war as she is called upon to foretell Wales's destiny...And what she sees, is blood and war coming closer...

Hay, 2015. Miranda has moved to Sleeper's Castle to escape and grieve. Slowly she feels herself coming to life in the solitude of the mountains. But every time she closes her eyes her dreams become more vivid. And she makes a connection with a young girl, who's screaming, who's reaching out...who only Miranda can help. Is she losing herself to time?

Sleeper's Castle sees Barbara Erskine on top form. The story is set in the present and in medieval Wales. At the start the two periods are easily differentiated, but as Andy, the main character, becomes more and more embroiled with the past, so too the reader finds it more and more difficult to distinguish between the two periods. This device heightens the tension and ensures that the reader remains involved. 

The characters are fully believable and engage one's interest from the start. Great care has been taken to be historically correct, even when fictionalising event of "real" people, giving the story a depth not always found in historical fiction. This tension lasts until the very end, with various unforeseen twists, and the conclusion is satisfying, if not wholly expected. All in all, an excellent read.

from readers David & Hillary

Sisters and Lies

Sisters and Lies by Bernice Barrington
Narrated by Caroline Lennon and Marcella Riordan

One hot August night, Rachel Darcy gets the call everyone fears. It's the police. Her younger sister Evie's had a car crash, she's in a coma. Can Rachel fly to London right away? 

With Evie injured and comatose, Rachel is left to pick up the pieces of her sister's life. But it's hard fitting them together, especially when she really doesn't like what she sees. Why was Evie driving when she doesn't even own a licence? Who is the man living in her flat and claiming Evie is his girlfriend? How come she has never heard of him? The more mysteries Rachel uncovers the more she starts asking herself how well she ever really knew her sister. And then she begins to wonder if the crash was really the accident everybody says it is. 

Back in hospital, Evie, trapped inside an unresponsive body, is desperately trying to wake up. Because she's got an urgent message for Rachel - a warning which could just save both their lives.

Although overly long, this was a good book to listen to – the Irish accents get me in every time!  I don’t know how true it is that someone in a total coma can will themselves into moving, or force themselves to remember what happened prior to whatever put them in a coma in the first place; “it’s a bit of a stretch” I found myself thinking, but who knows? Dubbed a suspense thriller, Sisters and Lies is an interesting story with suspense, yes, but the thriller bit never really came to the fore.  

~ Deb. 

Enter Helen

Enter Helen: the invention of Helen Gurley Brown and the rise of the modern single woman by Brooke Hauser

In 1965, Helen Gurley Brown-best known for her groundbreaking 1962 manifesto Sex and the Single Girl, took over the ailing Cosmopolitan magazine. Under her stewardship, it became one of the most bankable brands on the planet, with 64 editions published in 34 languages and distributed in more than 100 countries, and one of the most revolutionary. At a time when women's magazines were instructing housewives on how to make the perfect casserole, Brown reimagined Cosmo for the single girl next door: a hard-working, sex-loving woman, who didn't need to be married with children to be happy.

Helen wrote for, and about, those thousands of single American girls (her “Cosmo girls") who worked, balanced their finances, worried about landing a future husband, and HAD SEX. Such an approach was not just revolutionary but marked a pivotal change in the way women in the US thought about themselves and were viewed by the rest of society.  Without Helen Gurley Brown, there would be no Sex and the City.

Helen was tough but used her femininity to get what she wanted, shrewd but often kind-hearted, an extremely good businesswoman but astonishingly insecure – in other words she was an amazing mix of contradictions and surprises. She broke barriers and glass ceilings, but was also vilified by the second wave feminists who viewed her as a slave to the reigning patriarchy. 

Her story is intriguing and riveting and, like Helen herself, never ever boring.

~ Teresa

The Memory Stones

The Memory Stones by Caroline Brothers

Buenos Aires. 1976. In the heat of summer, the Ferrero family escapes to the lush expanse of Tigre. Osvaldo, a distinguished doctor, and his wife Yolanda, gather with their daughters, sensible Julieta who lives in Miami, and wilful Graciela - nineteen, and madly in love with her fiance, Jose. Those days will be the last the family ever spends together.

On their return to Buenos Aires, the Argentine military stages a coup. Friends and colleagues disappear overnight, and Osvaldo is forced to flee to Europe. When Jose is abducted, Graciela goes into hiding, then vanishes in turn. Osvaldo can only witness the disintegration of his family from afar, while Yolanda fights on the ground for some trace of their beloved daughter. Soon she realises they may be fighting for an unknown grandchild as well.

Why we love it: 
Caroline Brothers’ second novel, The Memory Stones, is a sublimely told and heartbreaking story. While devastating in its depiction of the depths to which humanity can sink, its evocative language and splendid characters make it a pleasure to read.

~ from The Team at Better Reading

Cold Grave

Cold Grave by Kathryn Fox 

It feels like the safest place on earth. A family-friendly, floating palace. But, as Anya Crichton soon discovers, cruise ships aren't all that they seem...

Statistics tell us that a woman is twice as likely to be sexually assaulted on a cruise ship than on dry land. Customers aren't screened, so the ships are a haven for sex offenders and paedophiles. With no policing, and floating in international waters, sexual assaults and passengers 'disappearing' are uncommonly frequent. So when a teenage girl is discovered, dead on the deck of the ship that she is holidaying on, Anya feels compelled to get involved. 

There's no apparent cause of death, but Anya's forensics expertise uncovers more than the ship's doctors can, or want to. With the killer still on board, and subsequently a crew-member found shot, it becomes clear that the safe haven of the cruise-ship is actually anything but. And, as Anya comes under increasing pressure to abandon her investigations, will she continue? Or do whatever it takes to keep her own family safe?

This is book 6 in the Dr Anya Crichton series. I've read quite a few in this series now, totally out of order of course, but that's what happens more often than not.  Some of these forensic pathology novels are absorbing, and a few are really annoying.  Then you get one like this that leaves you thinking why did I bother.  

There was a vested interest in the lead character and her personal life, but this sub-plot is totally overtaken by the author's soapbox stance on issues such as violence against females, drugs and date rape, the dangers of social media, environmental issues like the illegal dumping of rubbish and sewage at sea, working conditions on cruise ships and even death and suicide on the ocean.  I finished the book, well narrated as always by Jennifer Vilutec, but am not in a hurry to continue on with the Doctor.  We have this series in print and all electronic formats. 

~ Deb

It Ends With Us

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

Lily Bloom had a difficult upbringing; an only, lonely child witnessing her parents’ abusive relationship, she finds solace in growing things, the coincidence of her name not escaping her, and in the intimate cry-for-help journals that take the form of personal letters to her heroine Ellen DeGeneres. 

When Lily finds an older boy from her school, Atlas Corrigan, squatting in a nearby empty house, she is moved to pity but that soon turns into something more and Atlas becomes an unforgettable force in her life.

Years later, Lily has matured into an independent woman who fulfills her dream of moving to Boston and starting her own business. As if life couldn’t get any better, she meets a handsome neurosurgeon, Ryle, and falls hard for him. Only thing is, there are issues from his past, he’s absolutely committed to his career, and he’s got a firm no-dating rule. The attraction turns out to be too much for him though and that rule will soon be broken. 

Just as life seems to be too good to be true, Ryle and Lily are forced to confront the skeletons in Ryle’s cupboard that continue to haunt him. At the same time, the mysterious Atlas comes back into Lily's life and things start to get really complicated so that she must make some agonising decisions.

Why we love it: 
Bestselling Young Adult author Colleen Hoover’s has turned her skilled hand to adult fiction with a stunning debut – It Ends With Us is confronting, poignant, and deeply moving.

~ from the Team at Better Reading

Secret Recipe for Second Chances

The Secret Recipe for Second Chances by J.D. Barrett

From the cover:  Lucy Muir is leaving her husband.  It’s complicated. They’re joint owners and chefs at one of the best restaurants in town, so making a clean break is tough.  But, let’s face it, a woman can only take so much cheating, recipe stealing and lack of good grace.

Despondently driving around the back streets of Woolloomooloo, Lucy happens upon an old, empty terrace that was once the city’s hottest restaurant: Fortune. One minute she’s peering through grimy windows into an abandoned space, the next she’s planning a pop-up bistro.

When Lucy fires up Fortune’s old kitchen she discovers a little red recipe book that belonged to the former chef, the infamous Frankie Summers.  As she cries over the ingredients for Frankie’s French Onion Soup, she imagines what Fortune was like in its heyday.  It’s strange, Lucy can sense Frankie beside her; almost see him there …

This fiery chef, who lived with a passion for food and women in almost equal measure, just might help Lucy cook herself up a better life.  But is she brave enough to believe?

That was a long blurb so I’ll keep it brief.  I LOVED this book! Always a sucker for a good ghost story, and of course, cooking, this debut novel is a sweet, funny, delightful tale of crime, love and recipes.  It has some snappy repartee, a great sub-plot, some quirky characters, and bonus, is set in Australia and written by an Australian! It’s the crème de la crème of ROMCOMs and would make a wonderful movie!

~ Deb