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Friday, September 8, 2017

Secrets Between Friends by Fiona Palmer

Title: Secrets Between Friends
Author: Fiona Palmer
Publisher: 12 September 2017 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 368 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: fiction, contemporary romance
My Rating: 3.5 crowns

Synopsis:

Friendship is a million little moments, but can it survive this one? Three friends embark on a luxury cruise to celebrate their ten-year reunion in this heartfelt story of how long-held secrets can catch up with even the best of friends

Life was about living, experiencing and emotions. The good and the bad. You had to laugh to cry. You had to love to hurt. You had to jump to fall or fly.

Best friends Abbie, Jess and Ricki are set to recreate a school trip they took ten years earlier to the historic port town of Albany, the oldest city on the stunning turquoise coastline of Western Australia.

Ricki, a dedicated nurse, harbours a dream she hasn't chased. Is she actually happy or stuck in a rut?

Jess, a school teacher and single mother to little Ollie, had a tough upbringing but found her way through with the help of her closest male friend, Peter. But Peter has bought an engagement ring and is ready to propose to Ricki . . .

Abbie had it all: a career, a loving boyfriend and a future, but a visit to the doctor bears scary news. Her world is tumbling down and she feels adrift at sea.

SECRETS BETWEEN FRIENDS is a poignant novel of romance, family dynamics and friendship. Through her highly relatable, sympathetic characters, beloved Australian storyteller Fiona Palmer writes about issues, experiences and emotions we have all faced while posing the ultimate question: What is really important in this life?

My Thoughts

I was keen to sample Fiona Palmer’s first time dalliance out of her ‘rural romance’ genre. Here is a tale of best friends, Jess, Abbie and Ricki (and Ricki's boyfriend, Peter) who decide to take a three-day cruise down the coast of Western Australia. As the title of the book indicates, there most definitely are some very serious ‘secrets between friends’ that all come to a head during this short cruise. Will their long term friendship be able to withstand the revelations and confrontations that, in the confines of ship life, there will be no escape from?

Once again I reveled in the setting - Australia - and this time, sailing on a familiar cruise line. As the girls and Peter make the most of life onboard the ship and the trip to Albany and back, there was much to enjoy. Being a ‘cruiser’ myself, I found the descriptions realistic and accurate. For those of you in any way interested in cruising, this gives a lovely little insight into life onboard.

‘Gee, they really pack a lot of events into a day aboard the ship don’t they?’

‘... that was life on the ship. You could partake in all the activities, some or none.’

The concept of secrets amongst friends is not a new one, however, I just found their tiffs and selfishness difficult to swallow at times. Sadly, I didn’t really enjoy the characters that much because of it.

‘Problems going on with my friends. Secrets and indiscretions, surprises.’ She shrugged.
‘We came here to celebrate, but today all we’ve done is yell at each other.’

Each of the girls have personal issues to contend with from the desire to follow a dream, to single motherhood, to health concerns. So there is much to relate to and it was interesting to see how events played out. I appreciated the realism and how confrontational certain aspects were presented and handled. I am sure that many of Fiona Palmer's fans will enjoy taking a trip alongside the three friends and appreciate that life is not always smooth with bonds often being stretched to breaking point.

‘Life can seem great one minute and then a shit-hole mess the next. What do we do, Abbie?’
‘We do the only thing we can do. Live each day as it comes, try to be good people while pursuing happiness.’
It sounded easy. But it wasn’t.




This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club

Title: The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club
Author: Sophie Green
Publisher: 8 August  2017 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary, outback Australia
My Rating: 4.5 crowns

Synopsis:
Books bring them together - but friendship will transform all of their lives. Five very different women come together in the Northern Territory of the 1970s by an exceptional new Australian author.
In 1978 the Northern Territory has begun to self-govern. Cyclone Tracy is a recent memory and telephones not yet a fixture on the cattle stations dominating the rugged outback. Life is hard and people are isolated. But they find ways to connect.
Sybil is the matriarch of Fairvale Station, run by her husband, Joe. Their eldest son, Lachlan, was Joe's designated successor but he has left the Territory - for good. It is up to their second son, Ben, to take his brother's place. But that doesn't stop Sybil grieving the absence of her child. With her oldest friend, Rita, now living in Alice Springs and working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and Ben's English wife, Kate, finding it difficult to adjust to life at Fairvale, Sybil comes up with a way to give them all companionship and purpose: they all love to read, and she forms a book club.
Mother-of-three Sallyanne is invited to join them. Sallyanne dreams of a life far removed from the dusty town of Katherine where she lives with her difficult husband, Mick. Completing the group is Della, who left Texas for Australia looking for adventure and work on the land.
If you loved The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, The Little Coffee Shop Of Kabul and The Thorn Birds you will devour this story of five different women united by one need: to overcome the vast distances of Australia's Top End with friendship, tears, laughter, books and love.
My Thoughts

‘I’m starting a book club –well, that’s obvious.’ She gestured to the paper. ‘We’re all a bit isolated out here, aren’t we? It’s good to have some other people to talk to.’

The blurb had me with ‘book club’ and ‘Thorn Birds’, however, there is so much more to this little gem of a read. Set in the unique time and place - Northern Territory, Australia 1978 - it provides the reader with a realistic portrayal of life on the land in one of the most remote locations of a vast continent; and, how five women form a friendship that began with a love of books but evolved to so much more that saw them bond through good and bad times.

‘You like to read?’ Sybil said, stopping before they reached the table. Sallyanne nodded vigorously. ‘I love it,’ she said. ‘It’s my escape.

Yes, there are some fabulous reads made mention of here and the women’s discussion of the books (not too detailed) evolves into a wider conversation of events that arise in their own lives. Books from ‘The Thorn Birds’ to ‘We of the Never Never’ to ‘Harp in the South’ bring back memories of some classic Australian literature. Add to that the list of real life dates and events that occurred at various stages throughout the telling of this tale - for example: ‘The compact disc is demonstrated in public for the first time, by Phillips’ - will bring a smile to your face as you recall what age you were at these selected occasions.

Next thing to mention is the ‘Outback’ itself - the Northern Territory. The huge distances, the overpowering sense of isolation, the impact of climate and weather, concerning life on a station (ranch). Sophie Green brings all of this to life, as you can clearly envisage the array of practicalities to living so remotely, whether it concern supplies or medical emergencies.

The five female leads are true and strong, each bringing their own unique story to this tale. This is a story of friendship and learning to trust over some truly difficult and challenging circumstances - accidents, illnesses, wet season inaccessibility, domestic violence, isolation - all credible and realistic situations. It’s through the bond they form that makes life that little bit easier.

‘Books give us the benefit of a lot of people’s experiences,’ she said slowly. ‘They give us more options to choose from –more ways to live –than we could ever find on our own.’

Overall this was a joy to read. You become really invested in the characters, appreciating each of the generational challenges and how together, at a time of no internet and difficult communication, they were able to create true and lasting friendships.  I encourage you to ....

“put the kettle on to boil and to hold the inaugural meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club.”




This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release