The Australian Women Writer’s Challenge as we know it is coming to an end so I write this wrap up with mixed feelings. It has been a decade of highlighting Australian women writers and I am proud to have been a part of that for the last few years. This is my 26th round up post, and I was going to say the last…. but I think I’ll come back next month and do my 2021 wrap-up, send off my genre in style. I think most other genres have done posts wrapping up already so I’ve been able to read the way everyone has handled their farewells, I like so many of them I might need to take elements from everywhere and go out with a bang – Next Month.
Today I am going to look at October and November the way I always do, as soon as I’ve done a little bit about the changes to this site in the new year.
The AWW reading and reviewing challenge lasted for 10 years and and helped to bring attention to works by Australian women in all genres. The challenge was initially coordinated by Elizabeth Lhuede and later by Theresa Smith, and along the way many bloggers, authors and academics have played a part in the project. You can find a list of past AWW team members here.
I came on board at the beginning of 2018, and it has just blown me away that it’s been 4 years of writing Crime Round-Ups. It has been a rewarding and challenging experience to help highlight the work of talented Australian women and help our readers grow their neverending TBR piles.
From 2022, the website will no longer host a challenge for works by contemporary authors, but will instead focus on 19th- and 20th-century authors who may not have achieved prominence in their lifetimes, or whose works have been forgotten and/or overlooked. The reading and reviewing activity initiated by the challenge will continue in our Facebook groups, Love Reading Books by Aussie Women and Australian Women Writers News and Events. If you aren’t a member of these groups, please do head over and join.
For now, I have a little bit of 2021 left and let’s look at what amazing books have been logged in our database over the last couple of months.
There have been a total of 67 reviews logged of 40 books by 38 authors which is on par with last round-up and means there aren’t a lot of authors making it in with multiple books and there’s a much more even spread. No book stood out with an absolute wealth of reviews written about it, but there are a lot of great books featured – some I have read, some I want to read and some have just found a place on my wishlist. Let us see what there is shall we.
The Oldest novel to be reviewed for this round-up is The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, which was published in 2008 and reviewed this round-up by shedgirlsbookshelf on Goodreads. This is the first time I have seen shedgirlsbookshelf so I am not sure if she’s new to the challenge but was excited to see a new name on the page. She says: “An enchanting tale with a gothic feel that weaves its way between fairytale and family secrets. In 1913 a child arrives on a dock in Australia with a suitcase and a book of fairytales by “the Authoress” but no recollection of her name or family.”
A very exciting addition to the database is two titles with 2022 publication dates, reviewed by Cloggie Downunder and Brenda Telford on Goodreads.
Of Poster Girl by Helen Goltz Brenda says: “Poster Girl by Aussie author Helen Goltz is an intense, fast paced and gritty thriller set in a small town not far from Sydney in NSW. The tension which flowed through certain scenes was making my heart race as I hurried through the pages to find out what happened next. I found Jessica and Coen’s characters well written, also Nick, the Detective. A thoroughly enjoyable read by a favourite author which I highly recommend.”
Cloggie Downunder found The Woman In The Library by Sulari Gentill to be “Smart and funny, this is murder mystery at its most entertaining.”
Now on to our popular novels. We have one novel with 6 reviews,1 with 5 and 3 with 4 so let’s take a look at them.
Taking out top spot with 6 reviews is Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie which was loved by all who reviewed.
Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out says: “Unforgiven is a terrific, riveting read, I’m left with the impression that there will be more books featuring Lexi and her role as a police consultant in the future, and I really hope there will be.”
Brenda Telford, on Goodreads, says: “Unforgiven is the latest thriller from the pen of Aussie author Sarah Barrie and it was brilliant! I couldn’t put it down and read until the small hours to finish it last night – how could I sleep without knowing what was about to happen next? Dawny was a wonderful character; Lexi was a tough, resilient, heart-of-gold person, covering it with sarcasm and wit. I laughed out loud many times, especially in her encounters with Finn and Dawny. Ms Barrie’s books are going from strength to strength, and I’ve read every book she’s written. Highly recommended.”
Also on Goodreads, Helen Sibbritt says: “I don’t know where to start, this is an amazing, brilliant story written with heart and caring and lots of suspense as Sarah Barrie knows how to do, she has taken us on a dark journey into child abuse but given us the fabulous Lexi Winter, once a victim herself now she does everything she can to save children, she has become a vigilante and nothing will stop her from saving the children even breaking the law.”
Jennifer Cameron-Smith says: “I really enjoyed this novel. Lexi is a terrific character as is Rachael. And Lexi’s neighbour Dawny is, well, a very rough (and helpful) diamond. There’s a twist near the end that didn’t quite work for me, but the story held my attention from beginning to end. There are some terrific secondary characters as well, and I would really love to read another novel (or more) featuring Lexi and Rachael.”
Brenda reviewed on Goodreads and says: “Deception Creek is another outstanding, tense suspense novel from Aussie author Fleur McDonald which I absolutely loved. The author is up there on my favourites list – I always look forward to her next book! Well crafted characters, and of course my favourites – Dave Burrows and Jack Higgins – lead the way in this phenomenal read which I highly recommend.”
Veronica @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf says: “McDonald includes themes of white collar crime, online blackmail and long held secrets, mixing these with everyday farming techniques to give her books a true Australian flavour.
Fleur McDonald knows how to add mystery into every element of the story leaving her readers eagerly turning the pages.”
At Goodreads Helen closed her review with: “This one had me turning the pages it was basically a one sitting read with a bit of sleep over night, I could barely put it down, Fleur McDonald has again put together a brilliant story with twists and turns that kept me enthralled and turning the pages, and explosive end had everything uncovered, so many different crimes linked in a way that had me shaking my head all set in a small farming community, this is a book that I would highly recommend, a brilliant read, one not to be missed and as ever I am looking forward to the next Fleur McDonald book.”
Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out is one of my favourite reviewers to read and her review states: “I’ve grown familiar with the core characters, who share a strong sense of community and justice, over previous instalments and find them to be an appealing foursome. I liked Emma, an independent, capable farmer, and Joel who, despite the accusations levelled against him, is sympathetic. Interestingly, both these characters give McDonald another opportunity to explore facets of PTSD, as she has done in several previous novels.
Though it can be read as a stand alone, Deception Creek is another great read is what is an engaging series that combines suspense and romance in an authentic rural Australian setting.”
I reviewed over at Mic Loves Books but I can never pick a quote from my reviews these days, if you’re interested in my thoughts you can find my review at Virtual Tour Review: Deception Creek – Mic Loves Books (home.blog)
The latest release by Wendy James is A Little Bird and it was reviewed four times, by Brenda, Carolyn, Cloggie Downunder and Jennifer Cameron-Smith on Goodreads.
Cloggie Downunder says: “Jo and Merry narrate this dual-timeline mystery. It is a novel in which the plot, replete with twists and red herrings, keeps the pages turning and even the most astute reader guessing about quite what happened to Merry Sharpe, until the pieces of the puzzle fall, chillingly, into place. James effortlessly evokes the Australian country town vibe and her characters are easily recognisable to anyone who has lived in one.”
The Hush by Sara Foster is another book that gained four reviews, and I’m not surprised because I love all that I have read of hers. The reviews were from some of our prolific crime reviewers, and a new name I’m not sure I’ve seen before.
Jackie reviewed on Goodreads and says: “The Hush is fast-paced, well-written and very much set in the here-and-now of this unprecedented time period. It gets additional kudos for me never imagining reading the line: “Inserting the vial of her mother’s urine inside her like a tampon, just as they’d discussed” in a book. I found this book hard to put down.”
Still on Goodreads Cloggie Downunder says: “Her characters are believable, the reader is quickly invested in their fate, and it is heartening to see these women support each other in their fight for basic human rights. The story is fast-paced, taking place over a mere eight days, leading up to a nail-biting climax.
Topical, relevant and entirely credible: this is the best dystopian fiction you will read this year, so gripping that once you pick this up, you won’t want to put it down until the final page.”
Brenda reviews on Goodreads and closed with: “Wow! Breathtaking and intense – The Hush by Aussie author Sara Foster is a thriller with bite! What an amazing and original storyline, which is focused on the strength of women when they face adversaries trying to hurt their children. Two particular males made the grade in this story – Dylan and Nick – while the rest and main cast were the women, strong, determined and courageous. The Hush is an outstanding read which I recommend highly.”
Theresa Smith, a huge part of the AWW Challenge, reviewed The Hush on her blog and includes the thought:“Sara Foster demonstrated the shocking ease with which a society can strip a woman of all her rights under the guise of ‘keeping her safe and well’. I am aware that there are many countries around the world where this scenario is not dystopian, nor fictious at all, but an all too real and present danger. There is a lot within this novel to unpack and contemplate. I thought it was excellent. A brave and bold narrative that packs a punch in all the right ways.”
I did see The Hush on NetGalley but didn’t request it because I have such a lot of reading to do already but these reviews have most definitely made me rethink that and I will be ordering in from my local library very soon.
The last book with 4 reviews this round-up, and the last I will feature, is The Safe Place by L.A. Larkin, reviewed by people I’ve already mentioned today… Marianne and Brenda reviewed on Goodreads while Shelleyrae and Veronica posted reviews on their blogs.
Cloggie Downunder says: “Larkin gives the reader a fast-paced action-packed thriller set against a background of the escalating threat of forest fires in Washington State. Her depiction of the panic and chaos of the evacuation of a town under threat will resonate with readers in certain Australian towns. Her main characters are believable, although many are nasty and the arsonist is particularly chilling.”
Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out says: “The Safe Place by L.A. Larkin is a fast-paced, action packed thriller that involves domestic violence, PTSD, conspiracy, arson and murder. The author has crafted an intriguing and dramatic plot as Jessie, victimised, threatened and hunted, repeatedly finds herself in incredibly tense confrontations in a desperate effort to clear her name. Jessie is certain she knows who is framing her for the arson, and why, but her ex is not the only person in Eagle Falls with secrets they’d kill to keep, and there are some gripping twists as Larkin reveals hidden motives.”
Brenda says: “The Safe Place by Aussie author L.A. Larkin was a phenomenal, twisty psychological thriller which I couldn’t put down. With full-on action from the very first page, the MC, Jessie, found herself continually in trouble. I couldn’t believe how much the poor woman had thrust at her! Bartie, Jessie’s dog, was a loyal and devoted companion and he was Jessie’s only support and friend. I have to say that this is the author’s best yet and it’ll be in my top reads for the year. Highly recommended.”
Veronica @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf says: “Larkin has created a small-town community filled with domineering, manipulative and misogynistic men. The story includes themes of domestic abuse, victim blaming and gaslighting.
The scenes of the house fires were horrifyingly real and as the story progresses the number of likely suspects mounts.
The suspense was rife, I was on the edge of my seat, it took all of my reserve not to read ahead to see what happened next.
The Safe Place is fast paced, action packed and suspense filled making it a novel not to be missed. I really enjoyed Larkin’s previous novels Devour and Prey but she has outdone herself with The Safe Place!”
I think that’s it from me, and it’s time to lay this head to rest, before I fall asleep at my desk again.
Be Well, Stay Safe and keep in touch with those you love. These times can be very isolating so make the most of the little things with those you love. And have a very Merry Christmas, a safe and heealthy holiday season with a lot of quiet reading time.
There are so many other great crime novels reviewed and if you want to check out all of the crime novels that have been reviewed you can head to the AWW Books Reviewed page and search by Genre. It will put all of the reviews at your fingertips.
We would love to hear about the great crime reads you have enjoyed recently, and those that you are looking forward to. As with every round-up I write I found more to add to my towering pile of books to read, and my even longer wishlist.
Have a great evening and a reading filled weekend.