Renee Conoulty: September 2016


Friday, 30 September 2016

Leave Me by Gayle Forman

International bestselling author Gayle Forman's trademark humor and insight abound in this masterful adult debut, showing us that sometimes you have to leave home in order to find it again.

For every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, for every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention--meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who's so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn't even realize she's had a heart attack.

Afterward, surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: She packs a bag and leaves. But, as is so often the case, once we get to where we're going, we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is finally able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from those she loves and from herself.

With big-hearted characters who stumble and trip, grow and forgive, Leave Me is about facing our fears. Gayle Forman, a dazzling observer of human nature, has written an irresistible novel that confronts the ambivalence of modern motherhood head-on.

Hey! Here's my review.

As a busy mum, I sometimes crave some alone time where the only person I have to worry about is me. This year I took my first weekend away without my hubby or kids and it was divine. A few more days would have ben great, but a few months would be too much for me. I'd miss everyone too much. 

Maribeth reached her breaking point and ran away from her problems. I could empathise with her and understand why she did it, even though I didn't agree with her choice. I didn't find Maribeth particularly likeable, but I was fascinated by her story and wanted to find out what she would do.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


  • Where: NetGalley
  • Format: ebook

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Stories for Five Year Olds by Linsay Knight

Top stories specially chosen for 5 year olds! Authors include Janeen Brian, Ursula Dubosarksy, Victor Kelleher and lots more!

Two toy gorillas, twelve princesses with a secret, a problem with bubblegum, a very hungry boy, a girl who likes exploring, a very popular dog, a class visiting ducklings, a postman with a problem, mysterious bush creatures and a gorilla adventure . . . you'll find all these in Stories for 5 Year Olds. And you'll find some of your favourite Australian authors too.

Once you start reading, you won't want to stop!

Hey! Here's my review.

**Interview with my 5 & 7-year-olds**

Me: What did you think of this book?
7: Bim bim bim bim OW! (with two thumbs up and a little dance)
5: (as above)

Me: Which one was your favourite story?
5: When Jack didn't see all the amimals but the others did.
7: The two gorillas.

Me: Why?
5: Because he sawed all of the amimals when the part was finished and he sawed the - you know what - amimals like the wombat.
7: (five minute rehash of everything that happened)
Me: But what did you like it?
7: It was just really funny.


  • Where: The Darwin Bookshop
  • Format: paperback

Monday, 26 September 2016

Carter and the Curious Maze by Philippa Dowding

The fair is dull, dull, dull, and nothing interesting will ever happen to Carter again …
… that is, until he discovers the curious maze. Nothing has ever happened here in the history of the world, he thinks. But the maze has some strange secrets, and the spot Carter stands upon has seen some very exciting events over the centuries.
Once Carter enters the maze, odd people begin to appear. First he meets Mr. Green, the mysterious, creepy maze-keeper, then a leaf-covered girl, a lost little boy in old-fashioned clothes, a wounded British soldier, and finally an eighteenth-century native boy who seems very authentic, indeed.
When Carter eventually escapes the curious maze, the fair is all wrong. There are too many horses, ladies in bonnets, and what’s a freak show doing there? Carter begins his travels through time, and his dull afternoon is about to get very, very interesting.

Hey! Here's my review.

You should know, before you even start this book, that it's a little scary.

I'd planned to read this book with my children, but after reading that first line, I decided to read the rest by myself. My two get upset about a lost dog or a homeless kitten, I didn't think they'd cope with "a little scary". Maybe in another couple of years.

The book is aimed at middle-grade readers, and if your kids are more resilient than mine, then they'd love it. It's a great way to learn a little about American history through the eyes of a young boy who time travels via a magical maze. I would have loved this story when I was ten, and I still enjoyed it three decades later.


  • Where: NetGalley
  • Format: ebook

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Critical Condition by Nicki Edwards

sweet medical rural romance Australian author
Liam O'Connor wants a wife. Problem is, the type of woman he's looking for doesn't exist.

After years working as a paramedic in Sydney and living the bachelor life, Liam has had enough. He's convinced himself, and everyone else, that he's moved home to Birrangulla for a slower pace of life, but what he's really looking for is the woman of his dreams.

From the outside, emergency nurse Poppy McDonald lives a charmed life. Unfortunately, when she moved to the other side of the world to escape her family, all she did was swap one controlling environment for another. After Poppy's father dies, she returns to Australia to face her past. And her mother. But she has no intention of staying, and definitely not in Birrangulla.

When Liam and Poppy meet, there's an instant spark. Liam knows Poppy is the one even though she's carrying more than her share of baggage. But can he gain her trust and get her to look beyond her past? Or will the man Poppy left in the US return and ruin everything?

A sweet medical rural-romance for fans of Fiona McArthur, Melanie Milburne, Candace Calvert.

Hey! Here's my review.

An engaging, sweet medical rural romance.

I loved the latest installment of the Escape to the Country series. I enjoyed catching up with some of my friends from the earlier books and getting to know Poppy, the new girl in town. 

It was refreshing to see a man on the cover and to have the hero looking for love. I've devoured everything Nicki's written and I'm looking forward to the next one.

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for and honest review.


  • Where: NetGalley
  • Format: ebook

Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Art of Keeping Secrets by Rachael Johns

#lifelit contemporary women's fiction Australian author
Little secrets grow up to be big lies…

They’ve been best friends since their sons started high school together, and Felicity, Emma and Neve share everything … or so they thought.

But Flick’s seemingly perfect marriage hides a shocking secret which, with one word, threatens to destroy her and her family’s happiness. Emma is in denial about a potential custody battle, her financial constraints, the exhaustion she can’t seem to shake off and the inappropriate feelings she has for her boss. And single mum Neve is harbouring a secret of her own; a secret that might forever damage her close-knit relationship with her son.

When the tight hold they have each kept on their secrets for years begins to slip, they must face the truth. Even if that truth has the power to hurt the ones they love, and each other.

Perhaps some secrets weren’t made to be kept.

Hey! Here's my review.

The Art of Keeping Secrets has now overtaken The Patterson Girls as my new favourite Rachael Johns book. This fabulous contemporary fiction novel follows the lives of three women, who have been friends for years but are each keeping secrets.

I giggled, I teared up, I kept turning the pages. The only reason I didn't finish it sooner was that I put all my books down for a few days so that I could flit around the Romance Writer's of Australia conference, soaking up the love, and get to meet Rachael Johns in person (*waves* hi, Rach). 

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


  • Where: NetGalley
  • Format: ebook

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Use Your Words: A Myth-Busting, No-Fear Approach to Writing by Catherine Deveny

writing tips advice guideWant to write? Got a memoir, novel, blog idea or screenplay in your back drawer? Need to get ‘unstuck’? This is the magic pill you’ve been looking for.

In Use Your Words writer and comedian Catherine Deveny reveals the secrets that have made her ‘Gunnas’ writing masterclasses sell-out successes around the country. With humour and passion, she explains the struggles all writers face and reveals how to overcome them.

Whether you’re already published or just starting out, writing for others or purely for self-expression, Use Your Words has the tips, tricks, techniques and honest truths to get you writing. You’ll learn how creativity is a like a vending machine, how writing is like a magnet and how not to die with your light inside you.

Wait no longer – smash through procrastination and fear and get those words on the page.

Hey! Here's my review.

Honest truths with a side of humour.

A motivational book for writers to help battle the writing blocks of fear and procrastination. Whether you're an established or aspiring author, fear of failure, fear of judgment and procrastination can hold you back. Catherine takes a blunt and humorous approach to help guide you through these obstacles. This guide has a "this is what worked for me" attitude rather than "my way is the only way that works". I found this refreshing and will happily cherry-pick the advice that suits me best.


  • Where: Borrowbox
  • Format: ebook

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Alice-Miranda at School by Jacqueline Harvey

Alice-Miranda Highton-Smith-Kennigton-Jones can't wait to start boarding school. When she arrives at Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale Academy for Proper Young Ladies, the adventure begins . . . only not quite as Alice-Miranda expects. The minute she sets foot on the school's manicured grounds, she senses that something is wrong: Miss Grimm, the headmistress, is nowhere to be seen, the gardens have no flowers, and a mysterious stranger seems to be hiding out on the premises. 
But that's not all. Some girls are mean and spoiled, like Alethea Goldsworthy. Can Alice-Miranda defeat Alethea in one of three difficult tests she must pass to remain at school? Will she discover Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale's big secret--and make things right? Well, if anyone can, it's spunky Alice-Miranda! 

Hey! Here's my review.

**Interview with my 5 & 7 year olds** (spoilers)

Me: What did you think of this book?
5: *Two thumbs up action*
7: *Ten fingers action - repeated*
Me: Twenty what?
7: Twenty Awesomes

Me: What was your favourite bit?
5: Everything
7: When Alice-Remander jumped to the inclusion the er ... something-a-bob about ... I forget ... Having the idea of talking to Miss Something-a-bob about something ...

Me: Why was that your favourite?
5: I need to think about ... Just because.
7: Because I thought it was really cool that the principal got reunited with her husband after they had a big fight or something.

Me: Would you like to go to a boarding school?
5: *nods*
7: *crosses arms in front of body* says "dum dum" forebodingly
5: I really want Tommy to go to the same boarding school as me so I can say hi to him.
7: But then Mummy won't pick us up and we'll have to stay there.
5: Maybe I decide I didn't want to go to boarding school.


  • Where: Local Library
  • Format: paperback

Friday, 16 September 2016

Fast Forward by Juliet Madison

time travel chick lit
Aspiring supermodel Kelli Crawford seems destined to marry her hotshot boyfriend, but on her 25th birthday she wakes in the future as a fifty-year-old suburban housewife married to the now middle-aged high school nerd.

Trapped in the opposite life of the one she wanted, Kelli is forced to re-evaluate her life and discover what is really important to her. Will she overcome the hilarious and heartbreaking challenges presented to her and get back to the body of her younger self? Or will she be stuck in the nightmare of hot flushes, demanding children, raunchy advances from her husband, and hideous support underwear forever?

Hey! Here's my review.

A fun chick lit story with a time travel twist.

I related more to the 50-year-old future life of Kelli than I did to her immature self-centred 25-year-old life and hoped that she would realise its value and make the right choices to take her there. I found Kelli immature and annoying at the beginning of the novel, which gave her great scope for character development. 

A fun, quick read. I'm looking forward to reading more of Juliet's books.


  • Where: Borrowbox
  • Format: ebook

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Flexible Wings by Veda Stamps

middle grade fiction coming of age military family army brat
Summer Stevenson is an eleven-year-old military kid who dreams of having a permanent home and swimming in the Olympics one day, just like her idol Olympian Lia Neal. But those things seem out of reach as her parents “the heroes” continually move the family from house to house like boxed-up toys. 

After their last move, she thought her life would never change, but now the moving truck is idling in front of her house again, this time taking the family to Valencia, a small town in southern California known for its bike trails, roller coasters and great schools. But things aren't so great for Summer. She worries constantly that her fighter-pilot mom could be redeployed at any moment, and she struggles to make new friends, finding herself in humiliating circumstances with her neighbors. 

Summer sees a glimmer of hope when her parents sign her up for competitive swimming, but she turns out to be the worst swimmer on the team! Inspired by nature and drawing support from friendships both old and new, including those with Grandma "Bachaan," her coaches, and other kids on the swim team, Summer seeks the courage she'll need to tackle life's challenges. It isn't until her little sister is in an accident that Summer truly finds the source of her inner strength and uses it to face her greatest fears head-on. 

Hey! Here's my review.

I read this middle grade fiction novel with the eyes of a mother, so found much of it touching, heart-wrenching and insightful. The issues of military children moving frequently has been on my mind a lot recently as I am a military spouse and our family is due to move at the end of the year, so this was a perfect time for me to pick this book up. 

I loved that Summer was a mature 11-year-old, not a whiny brat or a kid that kept making bad choices. I enjoyed reading about the unique parts of her life - a garden full of hummingbirds (I've never seen a hummingbird) and her African-American/Japanese heritage. The desire to fit in is universal though, and I particularly related to that - as much now as well as when I was a child.

I listened to the audiobook, which I received free in exchange for an honest review. The narrator was a perfect match for this book, easy to listen to and a good match for a mature 11-year-old protagonist.


  • Where: Author Invitation
  • Format: audiobook

Monday, 12 September 2016


Hey Everyone,
I was playing Pokemon Go with my kids today and began channeling my inner Dolly Parton ...
Take it away Dolly!

Goldeen, Goldeen, Goldeen, Goldeen
I'm begging of you, sit still Pokemon
Goldeen, Goldeen, Goldeen, Goldeen
I wanna catch you just before you're gone

Your beauty is beyond compare
The golden scales that you wear
With ivory horn and eyes of blue, not green

You spurt water like a fresh spring
If you were mine then I would sing
But I cannot capture you, Goldeen

I talk about you in my sleep
I need to catch ten more to keep
Then I'll evolve a Seaking from Goldeen

And I can easily understand
You'd prefer freedom in the land
Than being traded for candy of Goldeen

Goldeen, Goldeen, Goldeen, Goldeen
I'm begging of you, sit still Pokemon
Goldeen, Goldeen, Goldeen, Goldeen
I wanna catch you just before you're gone

If you puff away again
I will hunt you down and then
Add you to my Poke deck, Goldeen

If I give you a raspberry
And flick a great ball, stay with me
Then please do not escape again, Goldeen

Goldeen, Goldeen, Goldeen, Goldeen
I'm begging of you, sit still Pokemon
Goldeen, Goldeen, Goldeen, Goldeen
I wanna catch you just before you're gone

Does anyone else break into random song and change the lyrics?
Does anyone else play Pokemon Go more than their kids?

Saturday, 10 September 2016

The Fence by Meredith Jaffe

Australian satire suburbs
"I promise you one thing, young lady. Building a fence is not going to keep the world out and won't keep your children in. Life's not that simple."

Gwen Hill has lived on Green Valley Avenue all her adult life. Here she brought her babies home, nurtured her garden and shared life's ups and downs with her best friend and neighbour, Babs. So when Babs dies and the house next door is sold, Gwen wonders how the new family will fit settle into the quiet life of this cosy community.

Francesca Desmarchelliers has high hopes for the house on Green Valley Avenue. More than just a new home, it's a clean slate for Frankie, who has moved her brood from Sydney's inner city to the leafy north shore street in a bid to save her marriage and keep her rambunctious family together.
To maintain her privacy and corral her wandering children, Frankie proposes a fence between their properties, destroying Gwen's lovingly cultivated front garden.

To Gwen, this as an act of war.

Soon the neighbours are in an escalating battle that becomes about more than just council approvals, and boundaries aren't the only things at stake.

Hey! Here's my review.

A fantastic Australian suburban drama that made me smile.

It was the cover that drew me to this book. The image of a little girl climbing the fence took me back to my childhood days of climbing a similar wooden back fence to play with the kids next door. I could relate to Frankie wanting privacy - all our fencing is open wire, so I can see into the neighbour's backyard two doors up and everyone walking their dog along the path behind our house can watch me hang the washing out in my pyjamas. I could relate to Gwen's community spirit too- all the neighbour kids play in our unfenced front yard and climb our tree. 

As Meredith took us back and forth, from one side of the fence to the other, I got to know and care about both sets of neighbours. Just when I thought someone was being unreasonable, another layer of the character was revealed. 

My mum came to visit just after I finished reading The Fence, and I think I recommended it to her three times in one day, it was on my mind a lot. I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


  • Where: Netgalley
  • Format: ebook

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.

Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations of our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship. She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm.

Hey! Here's my review.

Another fabulous read from Liane Moriarty.

I loved the Aussie setting, those little familiar details that made me feel at home. Set in and around a backyard barbeque, with a scenario that was believable (once Liane finally stopped teasing me and told me what happened). Told from different character points of view and alternating in time, before and after the incident, we are kept in suspense for quite a while about what actually happened, then bear witness to the full extent of the fallout.

The characters were well developed with distinct voices, enhanced by the narrator. The writing was emotionally engaging (yes, I got all teary).

I listened to the audiobook, which was fabulously narrated by Caroline Lee. She brought the characters to life, especially Vid who was such a fun character. I loved the interview between Liane and Caroline at the end - lots of insight into each of them.


  • Where: Audible
  • Format: audiobook

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

My Silly Mum by Monique Mulligan

Veronica Rooke illustrator picture book serenity press
Dancing with the vacuum cleaner … making my dinner into funny faces. My mum is so silly she drives me nuts! Sometimes I wish my mum wasn’t so silly … or do I?

With delightful illustrations and a hearty sprinkling of humour, My Silly Mum captures the eye-rolling, face-palming moments of growing up with a mother who still remembers what it’s like to be a child.

Illustrations: Veronica Rooke

Hey! Here's my review.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this picture book to my kids. The quality of print and binding is high and the illustrations beautiful and engaging. There were many parts of the book I related too, being a silly mum myself, and I had a giggle as I read. 

**Interview with my 5 & 7 year olds**

Me: What did you think of this book?
7: It's very silly.
5: Awesome.

Me: What was your favourite bit?
7: When she sung weird songs in the car.
5:The funny faces and the clothes inside out 
Me:Why did you like that bit?
5: 'Cause you put my clothes on inside out sometimes.
Can you read it again? 

I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review.


  • Where: Author Invitation
  • Format: hardback

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Coached by Holly Tierney-Bedord

Coached, called "Fizzy and fun" by best selling author Jacquelyn Mitchard, is the story of twenty-five year old Rowen's quest for self-improvement. From her frumpy wardrobe and dead end job to her boring social life, Rowen's twenties are turning out to be quite the letdown. When her boyfriend Sherman abruptly moves away, Rowen decides it's time to take action and turn her life around. She responds to an advertisement in her local newspaper for some tough-love life-coaching by the sophisticated and stylish Ms. Crystal Class. It could prove to be exactly what Rowen needs to get out of her rut.

Hey! Here's my review.

A diary style chick lit story about how (or how not) to better yourself.

RoRo isn't someone I would probably hang out with, but I enjoyed peeking inside her mind to see how it ticks. I thought I was a better life coach than Crystal, but RoRo couldn't hear me. (No RoRo, just because the pop tarts have "fruit" in them, doesn't mean they're healthy.)

I listened to the audiobook. The narrator captured the essence of RoRo perfectly and really brought her to life for me. I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.


  • Where: Author Invitation
  • Format: audiobook

Friday, 2 September 2016

The Devil's Wire by Deborah Rogers

Jennifer's new neighbor, Lenise Jameson, is a liar. Lenise claims to have witnessed a disturbing incident involving Jennifer's husband, Hank, but as far as Jennifer is concerned, the forty-something single mother is a vindictive backstabber out to make trouble.

But Jennifer soon discovers this is no sick joke. Hank has a dark side she knew nothing about.

As Jennifer's life spirals out of control she has no one to turn to, apart from Lenise, who appears only too willing to help. But who is Lenise? What does she want from Jennifer? And just how far is she willing to go to get it?

A tale about secrets and obsession, and what can happen when you forget to keep your friends close and your enemies closer..

Hey! Here's my review

Dark, twisty psychological thriller that kept me turning pages.

I didn't find Jennifer particularly likable and I didn't trust Lenise as far as I could kick her, but I couldn't look away. Things kept getting deeper and more involved and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to find out. When Lenise explained the meaning of the title, I knew things would get worse from there, but I hadn't guessed to what extent.

I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.


  • Where: Author Invitation
  • Format: ebook