Books set in Australia

Wow, I hadn’t realized until recently just how many books I’ve read that are set in Australia! Here’s what I’ve read. Can you add to this list?

Alone – Lost Overboard in the Indian Ocean – Brett Archibald

The Dry by Jane Harper

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty


Check out these lists for additional books set in Australia:

Goodreads – Best Books Set in Australia

Tale_Away – Books Set In Australia: Australian Novels

Crime Reads – 10 Essential Australian Novels


For even more, visit my post More books set in Australia here.

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Book Review: The Lost Man by Jane Harper

The Lost Man
by
Jane Harper

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Nathan and Bub Bright were shocked when their middle brother, Cameron died in the outback’s unrelenting heat. It didn’t make sense that he’d had gone out on foot to the legendary Stockman’s Grave, miles from his truck and the family’s cattle ranch. At forty, Cam was a successful and capable rancher and ran the family’s business. And he knew the dangers of the desert heat. Despite signs that Cam was desperate to find shade, investigators suggest that Cam took his own life.

In the following days, more questions arise as the Bright family grieves and the reader gets a closer look at the family’s dynamics. There is obvious tension between Nathan and Bub. Nathan, forty-two, is divorced and runs a small strip of sub-par land adjacent to the Bright ranch. He’s also a smaller stake-holder in the family’s business. Bub, who is twelve years younger, tends to live up to his reputation as a screw-up and he nurses an unspoken bitterness. Another issue is the transfer of ranch shares from Cam to his wife, Ilse, giving her fifty percent ownership. If Nathan sides with Ilse, Bub will not have a voice.

At the house, Cam’s wife, Ilse and their two young daughters must now begin a new life. And Liz, the family matriarch seems to decline by the minute. Also there are Nathan’s teenage son, a long-time ranch hand and a couple transient backpackers.

Written from Nathan’s point of view, readers learn the long history of the boys’ childhoods and difficulties with their father, now dead, and between the brothers as adults. At the center of Nathan’s problems are events involving his ex-wife’s family and the people of Balamara, as well as a missed potential romance from years ago.

A key part of the story is the isolated setting and its dangers. The Brights and the people from Balamara know how to survive the intense desert heat, dangerous wind storms and seasonal flooding that cuts them off from their not-so-close neighbors. But these conditions generate lonely and helpless feelings, particularly for some of the women. Interestingly, Nathan seems to prefer being on his own, deliberately cutting off connections, but could he be the one who needs them most?

Even after Cameron is laid to rest, Nathan continues to dig for answers, but he may not be ready for what he finds. Will he continue to protect the family’s dark secrets?

I liked this atmospheric mystery, although I would describe it more as a family drama, with interesting character studies. I was surprised by the ending, which made the book even more enjoyable. I’m looking forward to reading Jane Harper’s newest book, The Survivors, published in February 2021.

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Other books by Jane Harper

The Dry
Force of Nature

Book Review: The Bone Hunger by Carrie Rubin

The Bone Hunger
by
Carrie Rubin

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

If you’re looking for a great medical thriller, check out The Bone Hunger by Carrie Rubin, the second in the Ben Oris series. Set in Philadelphia at the fictional Montgomery Hospital, it picks up after the first book, The Bone Curse. (Read my review here.) The Bone Hunger can be easily read as a standalone novel and follows the personal and professional life of Ben Oris. Ben was a medical student in the first book and now he’s a resident at Montgomery. Here’s a rundown of the story’s opening:

Dr. Ben Oris is not looking for trouble. After what he’s been through, he likes the ordinary. Three years earlier, he was cut by an ancient bone and became involved in a strange incident involving a mysterious disease and a Haitian Vodou priestess. Now Ben’s life is busy, but normal. A second-year orthopedic surgery resident, he’s under the tutelage of Dr. Kent Lock, one of the best reconstructive surgeons in the country. He’s also a single dad to three-year-old Maxwell. Nothing but work, family, and a hopeful romance on the horizon, just the way he wants it.

On a wintry walk through the Wissahickon Valley Park, Ben and Maxwell’s mother, Sophie, discover the severed limb of a recent knee surgery patient. Police and hospital seniors think it may be a sick prank, but later, when more orthopedic surgery patients go missing and their hacked-off limbs turn up, bearing alarming bite marks, Ben finds himself at the center of a murder investigation. In a rush against time, he must balance his demanding job and parenting responsibilities, follow hunches and most important, protect the people he loves.

At Montgomery, Lock and his surgical team continue their surgery schedule, replacing knees and hips, on the heels of a near-death plane crash in Alaska while on a humanitarian mission. Psychological stress and fears about who the next victim will be may be too much for the team. In addition, new developments make Ben question his professional loyalties. Are the surgical implants somehow connected to these grisly crimes? Should Ben investigate or leave it to the police?

Rubin provides readers with a great look at what it’s like to work in the medical world, with a big dose of grueling schedules, hospital hierarchies, politics, feuds and power plays. She also offers a realistic commentary about life situations, specifically related to diversity, treatment of the elderly, religion and respecting differing beliefs. She does all this with compassion and humor and expertly builds these details into the story.

Rubin also includes chapters about the mysterious “monster” responsible, but not its identity. Written in first-person, these chapters offer insight and suspenseful details as the story develops.

The plot moves at a steady pace and then, bam! Readers get what they’ve been waiting for: a thrilling confrontation between good and evil, with all sorts of unexpected twists. Even the final pages reveal additional developments, setting Ben and the rest of the characters up for the future.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Bone Hunger and recommend it to readers who like medical thrillers, suspenseful stories and mysteries. I look forward to the next in the series.

I received a copy of The Bone Hunger from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Check out my reviews of Rubin’s other books below:

The Seneca Scourge
Eating Bull
The Bone Curse

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Book Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Hound of the Baskervilles
by
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I’m probably one of the last people to read or know the story of The Hound of the Baskervilles, which has also been adapted for film and television many times. It’s also the only Sherlock Holmes novel or short story I’ve read and I enjoyed it very much.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote four crime novels and many short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles is the most famous and widely considered his best. The novel first appeared in 1901 in The Strand Magazine in serialized format and was printed as a novel in 1902.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is a story of murder, greed and deception. Set on Dartmoor in Devon, England, it’s centered on the legend of a fierce and supernatural hound that preys on members of the Baskerville family and caused the death of Hugo Baskerville. The story begins years later, when Sir Charles Baskerville dies outside his mansion with an expression of grotesque terror on his face. Nearby otherworldly footprints suggest the hound was in the vicinity.

Sir Henry Baskerville, the next of kin, is called to take over the estate. Sir Charles’s friend, Dr. James Mortimer, notifies Holmes and soon the detective and his assistant, Watson begin to investigate Charles’s death. Meanwhile Sir Henry receives a mysterious letter warning him to stay away and it seems that someone is following Sir Henry. For Sir Henry’s protection and to keep attention away from the investigation, Holmes decides that only Watson should go to Baskerville Hall and report to Holmes by letter everything he sees. On arrival, they learn that a convicted murderer has escaped the nearby prison and is on the loose on the moor.

The story is narrated by Watson and includes letters to Holmes, journal entries as well as the original manuscript explaining the legend and how Hugo met his death. Watson details his impression of the Barrymores, the butler and housekeeper at Baskerville Hall, as well as the Stapletons, Mr. Frankland and other neighbors on the moor. He also tells of strange moans and cries coming from the moor and details the moor’s intimidating landscape.

More than one of these characters has something to hide and Watson soon eyes a second figure on the moor. He’s close to uncovering important details but will need Holmes’s expertise to solve the mystery. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll leave the rest of the plot out, in case you also have never read this story.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the story is the actual setting on Dartmoor, which dates back to the Bronze Age and retains many of the stone structures built during prehistoric times. This area is now a national park. You can learn more about it here.

I’m likely to read more Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Do you have a favorite?

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Book Club Mom’s Author Update: Tammie Painter

Author name: Tammie Painter

Book to feature: The Undead Mr. Tenpenny, The Cassie Black Trilogy Book One

News to share: I’m thrilled to announce the launch of The Undead Mr. Tenpenny, the first book in my new series, The Cassie Black Trilogy. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but the novel — which is full of dark humor — first came to mind while I was waiting for my grandmother’s funeral to start.

The book begins when Cassie Black, who works at a funeral home, finds her “clients” waking up.

Cassie thinks she has the problem under control, until her latest client (Mr. Tenpenny) insists he’s been murdered and claims Cassie’s responsible thanks to a wicked brand of magic she’s  been exposed to. The only way for Cassie to get her life back to normal is to tame her magic and uncover Mr. Tenpenny’s true killer.

Simple right? Of course not. Because while Cassie works on getting her newly-acquired magic sorted, she’s blowing up kitchens, angering an entire magical community, and discovering her past is more closely tied to Busby Tenpenny than she could have ever imagined.

The novel earned some happy kudos from a branch of the American PEN Women when it won first place in their novel excerpt contest, and again from Apple who selected it as one of their Most Anticipated Books of 2021.

But what’s truly brought a smile to my face are the responses from my early reviewers who have loved the characters, the humor, and the overall premise of the book.

Anyway, If you like contemporary fantasy with snarky humor, unforgettable characters, piles of pastries, and a little paranormal mystery, you’ll love the Cassie Black Trilogy…a fish-out-of-water tale that takes you from the streets of Portland to the Tower of London.

Brief bio and other books: I’m an award-winning author who turns wickedly strong tea into imaginative fiction. With a creative and curious mind, my stories run the gamut from historical fantasy to modern-day paranormal, and magical realism to humor-laced dark tales.

Besides the new trilogy, I’ve got two, complete historical fantasy series under my belt: The Osteria Chronicles and Domna, plus a fair number of short stories.

Website and social media links:
Web: tammiepainter.com
Podcast: thebookowlpodcast.com
BookBub: @TammiePainter
Instagram: tammiepainter
Twitter: @tammie_painter


Are you working on a new book? Have you won an award or a writing contest? Did you just update your website? Maybe you just want to tell readers about an experience you’ve had. Book Club Mom’s Author Update is a great way to share news and information about you and your books.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for more information.

Open to all authors – self-published, indie, big-time and anything in between. Author submissions are limited to one per author in a six-month period.

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Book Review: A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders

A Murder of Magpies
by
Judith Flanders

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Samantha Clair, an editor at Timmons and Ross, has a hot manuscript in her hands. The author is fashion journalist Kit Lovell and he’s about to expose the French couture house of Vernet in his new book, The Gilded Life and Tarnished Death of Rodrigo Alemán. Alemán is the company’s former CEO, now deceased under questionable circumstances. In the manuscript, Lovell claims Vernet has been involved in money laundering and worse.

The story begins when the bicycle courier delivering the manuscript to Timmons and Ross is killed in a hit and run. When Lovell is robbed and disappears and Samantha’s London apartment is mysteriously searched, Sam finds herself in the middle of an investigation. She teams up with Inspector Jacob Field and calls upon her mother, Helena, a powerful solicitor, to solve the hit and run and find Lovell.

Though not a detective, Sam plunges into the sometimes-dangerous investigation, often without Jake’s knowledge. And once they start digging, they discover a much more involved system of crimes with many players. Flanders introduces several mysterious characters, including Sam’s upstairs neighbor, the retired Pavel Rudiger, who never leaves his apartment, and an unnamed lurker who seems to be following Sam. Sam also meets more than a dozen others, including professors, editors, and a crew of solicitors from various firms.

Sam must also tend to problems at the office. Most important is figuring out what to do with one of her authors, the possibly over-the-hill chick-lit writer Breda McManus, whose new manuscript reads like a clunker. Flanders gives readers an amusing look into the publishing business and its politics, one of the stronger parts of the story.

After a complicated middle, Flanders introduces additional characters who quickly push the story to a neatly tied-up finish, solving both the mystery of Lovell’s disappearance and the crimes associated with Vernet.

I thought this story was okay, but felt the crime plot was unnecessarily complicated and a little hard to follow. There’s also an awkwardness between characters and maybe that’s because A Murder of Magpies is the first in the mystery series and readers don’t know them yet. That said, I liked several of the side characters and would like to see them in future stories. In addition, the suggestion of a future romance in Helena’s life would make for some interesting subplots.

So just an average mystery, but with the promise of better stories and characters as they develop. There are three more books in the Sam Clair series. You can learn more about them here.

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Book review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Jar of Hearts
by
Jennifer Hillier

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Geo Shaw, Angela Wong and Kaiser Brody are inseparable high school friends until Calvin James approaches them at the 7-Eleven near school. Calvin is older and a little bit dangerous and what’s better is that he’s chosen Geo over Angela. Tired of playing second to her friend, she’s not about to let him go. Meanwhile, all Kaiser can do is watch as the girl he loves falls for the wrong guy.

But Calvin is more than a little bit dangerous. He’s controlling and abusive and Geo falls blindly into the dynamic. And when Angela confronts her friend, Geo denies the abuse. After a drunken high school party, Geo tries to keep everyone friendly, but Calvin’s darker side emerges. And the next morning, Angela goes missing. Calvin and Geo keep quiet because they know the terrible truth about what happened. Calvin quickly disappears. Geo goes to college, gets and MBA and redefines herself as a corporate executive. Fourteen years later, she’s a vice president at Shipp Pharmaceuticals and engaged to the CEO.

Then Angela’s remains are uncovered. Detective Kaiser Brody links Calvin and Geo to Angela’s death and breaks the Sweetbay Strangler case wide open, identifying Calvin as the serial killer who has terrorized Seattle. Calvin is sentenced to life in prison and Geo gets five years for her role in Angela’s death. Kaiser’s feelings for Geo are just as strong and he’s determined to keep an eye on her while she’s in prison, especially after Calvin slips Geo a mysterious note in the courtroom.

The rest of the story covers Geo’s prison term, the time after her release and character backstories. In addition, readers learn important details about the night Angela died. A wild and surprising conclusion explains why Geo and Calvin acted the way they did.

Jar of Hearts really grew on me after I finished reading it and especially after my mystery book club Zoom yesterday. Afterwards, I started to think more about the characters and their motivations. Geo, Calvin and Kaiser all crave love and this story is about their quests to obtain it. I like how they all have that in common to different degrees, but you may be shocked when you learn more about them. In addition, Geo and Calvin are survivors and will do whatever it takes. Kaiser is willing to overlook Geo’s past if it gives him a chance with her. And a surprise character makes the relationships even more complicated, giving readers a lot to think about.

Jar of Hearts was published in 2018 and won the 2019 International Thriller Writers Award for Best Hardcover Novel. The title refers to Christina Peri’s debut single of the same name in 2010. In it, Peri sings angrily about a love interest who wants to get back together. You can watch the video here.

I recommend Jar of Hearts to readers who like psychological thrillers and suspense novels.

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Audiobook review: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty narrated by Caroline Lee

Nine Perfect Strangers
by
Liane Moriarty

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Here’s a very different story about nine people who sign up for a ten-day cleanse at Tranquillum House, a pricey boutique health and wellness resort in Australia. Its guests expect mindful eating, meditation and a break from their bad habits, unhealthy lifestyles and failures. Some of the guests just want to lose weight or cut back on alcohol, one couple wants to work on their marriage, and others have more specific issues. The director promises a complete transformation.

“Right now you’re at the foot of a mountain and the summit seems impossibly far away, but I am here to help you reach that summit. In ten days, you will not be the person you are now,” promises Masha, Tranquillum House’s director.

“You will leave Tranquillum House feeling happier, healthier, lighter, freer,” she continues.

The attendees are indeed strangers, but as expected, they will soon learn a great deal about each other. Frances Welty is a successful romance novelist, but she’s been burned in a relationship and she may be losing her touch as a writer. Ben and Jessica are a young couple whose lives should be great after winning the lottery, but their marriage is in big trouble. Napoleon, Heather and Zoe Marconi are there to brace the third anniversary of Zoe’s brother’s death. Tony Hogburn, a former football star, is divorced and out of shape. Carmel Schneider is a single mother of four young girls, whose husband left her for someone new. And Lars Lee is a handsome divorce lawyer struggling with relationship problems.

The cleanse includes the expected smoothies, fasting, massages and meditation. Masha and her assistants Yao and Delilah also impose an unexpected “noble silence” which forbids talking and eye contact with each other. And there’s more to come.

Frances knows that some of the practices at Tranquillum House are unconventional. Her massage therapist warned her and said, “Just don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with.” But other than fasting and silence, which is pretty uncomfortable, Frances feels pretty good. And so do others. They have all put their trust in Masha, mostly.

Here’s where the story gets interesting because Masha isn’t an ordinary health resort director. She’s a Russian immigrant who’s undergone her own major transformation. Once an aggressive corporate star, she didn’t take care of herself and nearly died. Her eventual awakening motivated her to reinvent herself and  teach others how to do the same.

What comes next for the guests is indeed unconventional.

I downloaded Nine Perfect Strangers on a whim, looking for something to listen to while I walked. I’d listened to Truly Madly Guilty a couple years ago and liked it. And I read What Alice Forgot in 2014 and enjoyed that story too.

Nine Perfect Strangers is described as a mystery, suspense and thriller and that is basically true. But it’s a bigger story about flawed people who change in some ways, but also embrace who they are. I enjoyed listening to this story and the narrator does a great job with the voices. I think the audio version is all the better because of her portrayal of Masha, who to me is the most interesting character in the story. I recommend Nine Perfect Strangers to readers (and listeners) who like a good, long story about relationships, overcoming grief and personal and family crises.

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Book Club Mom’s October 2020 recap

I had a great October, but it was very busy at work and at home. Despite the busy times, I managed to squeeze in some good books, a movie and some short fiction, as well as keep up with author updates and two new indie author profiles. And I made the leap to Instagram, so far a lot of fun! Click here if you want to connect with me there.

I’ve started using the new block editor, so bear with me as I find my way around.

These are the last of some flowers I grew from seeds over the summer. I forget the name, but aren’t they pretty?

Here’s a rundown of what happened on Book Club Mom this month.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – 5 stars

The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand – 3.5 stars

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely – 4.5 stars

Looker by Laura Sims – 4 stars

From left: Carrie Rubin, Jill Weatherholt and Giselle Roeder

Carrie Rubin

Jill Weatherholt

Giselle Roeder

From left: Jonathan Pongratz and Bill Moseley

Jonathan Pongratz

Bill Moseley

Rebecca (1940)

The Best American Short Stories 2004 – “Intervention” by Jill McCorkle

How was your month? I hope you are staying healthy and finding fun things to do.

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Audiobook Review: The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

The Perfect Couple
by
Elin Hilderbrand

Even though summer is over, I decided to try one of Elin Hilderbrand’s popular beach reads. I listened to the audiobook version of The Perfect Couple. This is the third book of the author’s Nantucket Series and, although I hadn’t read the first two, the story is very easy to follow as a standalone.

Set on Nantucket, Massachusetts, the story begins on the eve of Celeste Otis and Benji Winbury’s wedding and it’s a classic story of the stark contrast between the wealthy and regular folks. Benji’s parents are English and dripping in money. His mother, Greer, is a famous mystery writer and his father, Tag made his money in a vaguely-described investment career. Benji sits on some boards and lives in a penthouse apartment in Manhattan, with a trust fund coming his way. Celeste, however, comes from much more modest beginnings in Easton, Pennsylvania. Now she is the head herpetologist at the Bronx Zoo’s World of Reptiles. Her parents, Bruce and Karen, work every day jobs: Bruce in the men’s department at Nieman Marcus and Karen at the Crayola factory gift shop.

The Winburys are revered and established vacationers on Nantucket and the lavish wedding will take place at their Summerland retreat by the sea. Karen Otis is dying of breast cancer, Greer has taken over the wedding plans, and money is no object.

Guests arrive for the rehearsal dinner and are greeted with plenty of lobster, oysters, fancy hors d’oeuvres and strong drinks, prelude to a fancy dinner. As the alcohol flows, things begin to happen. But despite drama between various characters, all systems are go for the wedding until a shocking death halts the plans.

As details emerge, Chief of Police Ed Kapenash investigates and several guests are under suspicion. Between Kapenash’s investigations and alternating chapters in which the reader learns how Celeste and Benji meet and the back stories of both families, Hilderbrand challenges the reader to come up with a definition of the perfect couple.

The Perfect Couple is a true beach read as well as a light mystery, told in an expected soap opera format. Stereotyped characters and lots of references to brands, fashion, food and local attractions are a given. This story is in the pure entertainment category, with some touching moments and more serious themes, including love, family, and friendship. I enjoyed listening to this story and recommend it when you’re looking for something light and fun.

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