Book Reviews Adults

Unknown Sender by Ryan Lanz reviewed by Jill Smith©Aug15

If you’re looking for something different, a quick read try out this novelette by Ryan Lanz.

unknown sender coverJessica was swatting for her next exam and she was feeling the pressure.

Her dorm roommate Aubrey, a pretty blonde who barely studied but still passed with A’s and B’s, was getting ready for a party. Her boyfriend Ricky was having the party at his rental house and had invited a friend Chad to be Jessica’s blind date.

After Kevin had disappeared when Jessica had mentioned marriage, she wasn’t sure if she really wanted to meet anyone.

While Aubrey was in the shower Jessica got a weird text from an unknown sender.

[Do you lock your doors at night?]

That was the first of several texts that began to unsettle Jessica. They weren’t coming from Aubrey’s phone, she checked. Besides, Aubrey was in the shower.

They were ready for the party and heading to the car. Jessica knew she would end up being the designated driver as she hardly drank while Aubrey could keep up with the best of them.

Ricky’s rental was luxurious. He pointed out the features of the main bedroom, a fireplace, a balcony and a hot tub. Although embarrassed and objecting to going in the hot tub with strangers, in a borrowed unflattering bikini, Jessica sat there with Aubrey, Ricky and Chad. After an awkward few minutes while Aubrey had gone to the toilet, when she returned, Jessica got out to check her phone.

[Are you having fun?]

[You talk as if you know me.] Jessica messaged.

[How do you know I don’t? Things aren’t always as they seem. You look nice tonight. Purple is a lovely colour on you.]

The unknown sender knew where she was, who she was with, and what she was wearing.Ryan Lanz bio pic

Ricky had left the hot tub so Jessica decided to confront him, sure that it must be him because of the crazy way he looked at her. People were standing around chatting when she shoved Ricky and began shouting. Aubrey came out to see what was happening. They left the party because she was so upset. Jessica explained about the texts in the car on the way home.

The texts kept coming.

[It’s too bad you had to leave early. Were you not having a good time?]

[No, I wasn’t. Not with you harassing me like this.] Jessica replied.

Now at this point as a reader and reviewer I expected the story to be along the lines of cyber bullying. I’ve read several coming of age stories on this theme. As a mother and Grandmother I find cyber stalking and bullying pretty confronting.

However, this is a novelette and as Ryan did tell me a horror. So this is where the story took a twisting turn.

Aubrey suggested she and Jessica go away for the weekend to a lake house out of mobile range. So that Jessica could get away from her unknown sender, but could she?

I’ve been a judge of several short story competitions and one criteria I look for is a twist that leaves a mark, a lingering memory or haunting thought that makes the story unique. This story does have that twist. Well done Ryan. The cover gives the reader a clue to the tale of Jessica in water, lake water, where she can really be herself.


Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World (Dewey Readmore)

dewey coverReviewed by Jill Smith © 24/07/2015

This is a heart-warming book about love triumphing over adversity.

About a cat whose charm, playfulness, fussy food fetishes, and public life gave the small town of Spencer, Iowa an enduring identity.

He also gave Vicki Myron (his mum) unconditional love and strength to continue through ill health, loss of loved ones and estrangement from her daughter.

How could any reader not fall in love with Dewey Readmore Books?

Thank you Vicki Myron for sharing Dewey with the world. He naturally would have approved of being the centre of attention.

I have two cats of my own and I laughed at Dewey’s antics, and shed many tears for his tough journey.

To say I felt a connection is an understatement, this is a memorable book.


Book Review by Jill Smith©Nov14

Title: Word Power Poetry & Poetics visual, digital and concrete

Author: Jennifer Kathleen Phillipsjennifer kathleen phillips bio pic

Publisher: J K Phillips

This book is amazing. The images are emotive, the words evocative and the combination delightful and inspiring.

The full title of this book is: Word Power Poetry& Poetic& visual digital & concrete.

It’s difficult for me to explain how the words become the image, how the image is created by the words, and how the pictures enhance the poetry while being poetry making new images.

Jennifer begins the book by asking ‘What is poetry?’ Starting by saying; ‘Words are symbols and there is a gap between the symbol and the reality. The gap is bridged by the imagination which opens the door to playful creating.’

I really enjoyed Jennifer’s playful creating. It is clever; thought provoking, awe inspiring allowing the imagination to run wild.

israel photographedBook Review by Jill Smith©Nov14

Title: Israel Photographed

Author: Jennifer Kathleen Phillips

Publisher: J K Phillips

The tips on photography in the first part of this book are practical and Jennifer shows the reader how to improve the compositions.

Jennifer begins her book by explaining; ‘I like my photos to be more than just ‘pretty pictures’. I like them to speak, to say something significant about the subject.’ And speak she does with breathtaking images, cleaver and stylish portrayal of a country of diverse landscapes, cultures and settings.

Her ‘can you see the mistakes’ page had me saying, I think she meant to center that more and the like. To an amateur such as me they were still good, but I could see what she meant from her previous suggestions.

When people are the topic as in ‘Nazareth Village’ P43 you can see the woman concentrating on spinning the thread, she could have been there in any age.

The scale of the landscape is accentuated by the stairs climbing up to the flag as in Masada P59.

The poetry beside the modern whale statue ‘A Whale of a Truth’ on P67 Jaffa, enhanced the old and new in the same area combination.

Views through windows, a flower growing on a rock, then the light coming in from the roof of temple both majestic and awe inspiring.

Soldiers; with raised guns, standing side by side, is dramatic.

The busy markets and stalls, tourists at the Mt of Olives, the view from the Women’s Prayer house with barbed wire intruding on the historical land below.

This coffee table book is one to be appreciated by anyone ready for a journey that touches the soul.


 There was a three page spread in the Gold Coast Bulletin about this book early December 2014. Terry Spring was mentioned a couple of times. Well done Terry!

Jim Curson Lucky Me!Book Review by Jill Smith©May14

Title: Lucky Me

Author: Jim Curson – shadow writer Terry Spring

Publisher: self published through Publicious Pty Ltd

Jim Curson at 93 is sharing the story of his life, his loves and surviving the ‘Burma Railway’.

The story begins with Jim’s humble beginnings as a farm boy. He met and married Dorothy, the love of his life and went off to war in 1940. Sapper Curson set sail with his British Unit 251 Field Company, Royal Engineers and joined the fleet to India. Tragedy hit when his ship The Empress of Asia was bombed and sank off the coast of Singapore. Rescued, he found he’d been reported missing, and his wife told he’d been killed in action.

When Singapore fell to the Japanese Jim became a prisoner of war, toiling in the jungle in the slave labour camps to build the infamous Burma Railway. The facts are that the line was completed in a year, but it cost the lives of more than 22,600 POWs and 100,000 native labourers. Many were buried there. Jim is one of the few survivors who came home.

Upon his return to England Jim had to restart life as a civilian with no one wanting to hear his story of the brutality he and his fellow POWs suffered. He and Dorothy picked up their marriage, with Jim having recurring bouts of illness due to the tropical diseases he’d endured. They rebuilt their lives and moved to Australia for a better life when the farm they were running became too much to work.

Jim describes graphically the horrendous conditions he faced daily under the fanatical Japanese oppression even explaining the list of simple rules that kept them all going.

* Never fall back – hang on to others’ belts so the strong helped the weak. (some must have been unable to keep up)

*Avoid the outside of the column as the Japanese soldiers will whack you. (many must have been whacked)

The list goes on and the courage of the men in the face of such brutal treatment, starvation, searing heat and tropical illness, all makes the reader cringe. How could they have survived? Not only did Jim survive but he looks at life as blessed because of his endurance. He and Dorothy shared 70 years together before she passed. He still considers himself a lucky man.

Oral history is a vital component of keeping history alive. Fortunately Terry Spring was able to pass on this man’s story for the generations to come to know the real horror of war.

The Help Cover

Book Review by Jill Smith©Dec13

Title: The Help

Author:   Kathryn Stockett    

Publisher:  Penguin Books

 Set in the 60’s when civil unrest was at its height, Martin Luther King was making his famous speech, and black Americans began to make a stand, even at great personal risk. Jackson, Mississippi is a seat of KKK power, and working coloured people feared for their lives.Aibileen Clark baby girl affirmation

This is the town Miss Skeeter returns to, after gaining a degree. Her parents’ cotton plantation and lives seem stuck in a time. The home she lives in has Confederate memorabilia everywhere. Skeeter wants to be a writer, while her mother constantly reminds her that getting married is her immediate goal.

Her circle of friends is dominated by the very controlling Miss Hilly, who has considerable influence in the town, people get fired on her say so, some loose much more, respect and friendships as Skeeter was to discover. Skeeter feels tall and ungainly around her friends and is always trying to please them, until she starts her own little project, her whole outlook on the world changes. When Hilly sets Skeeter up on a blind date with her cousin Stuart, it seems that her mother’s prayers have been answered.

Kathryn StockettAibileen works for Miss Leefolt, she moves from one family to another, specializing in caring for the young babies and children. Mae Mobley is her 17th white baby, and Aibileen loves her deeply, always sharing stories to give the child a sense of herself. This is something she only started doing after her world turned upside down, Aibileen had lost her own dearly loved son.

Minny is a great cook, everyone in Jackson knows it, she’s also has trouble holding her tongue, like other help in the town. She’d lost many jobs because of it and starts out working for Miss Celia, that doesn’t last. When Minny was just starting out to work, her mother gave her a lecture about how she should speak to white folk, and even though she knew how she should act, she found it poster the help

This is a great book, getting to the heart of racial tension in Jackson, Mississippi when the world began to change. I can see why it is an international best seller and how the world would change by people reading how The Help really were treated, and that they had feelings and desires, something that was clearly not even thought about by many white Americans at the time.

Now that I’ve read the book I’ll get the movie, which I’ve been told is even better.

the colour of greed coverBook Review by Jill Smith ©Aug13

Title: Colour of Greed

Author: Gavin Fisher

Publisher: Publicious

This is a great book. I certainly got carried away with the plight of David Burrows, a conscientious Director and Board member, trying to solve a mystery about the collapse of a building following an earthquake. The building should have been sound. Little did he know that his investigations would put his life and his daughter Stacy’s at risk.

The background of David and his daughter’s difficult relationship following his wife’s untimely death, and his relationship with other Board members of his company builds the drama. The flight from Adelaide to Alice Springs that David has done so often becomes a pivotal journey. His plane had been sabotaged. 

David had been unaware of the plot to remove incriminating evidence, including people. I loved the outback connection and the satisfying way David reconnects with his daughter after they both suffer at the hands of the mercenary. The cold steel eyes of the killer, his evil nature, the delight in the chase, made the climactic scene all the more realistic and terrifying.

This book should be made into a film. As it has all the elements of suspense, drama, personal tragedy and survival against the odds that would make a great movie, a meaty plot and cultural connections with real outback community make it a real page turner.

Brief review of Rowena Cory Daniells  Series ‘The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin’

The King’s Bastard

The Kings Bastard coverTotally enthralling, so easy to get involved with the characters, laughing at their happy banter, feeling heart achingly sick when they seemed to face impossible odds. There is so much depth in the story that begins with a hunting party out in the snow coming across an affinity seep. Immediately Byren and his friend Orrie become characters you care about. The journey over these three books draws the reader deeply into a world of mysterious magical abilities and a royal family with it’s fragile political standing in the wonderfully created kingdom of Rolencia. This was the first book in the trilogy I read all three in one week, this first volume being 640 pages.

The Uncrowned King

This book continues the mesmerising magical journey that The Uncrowned King coverenthralls the reader in the wonderfully crafted world of Rolencia. The plight of a slave and her rescue could be the salvation of the Kings kin. We are drawn into the world of a family who struggle individually to battle evil around them. I loved how Piro and Fyn the youngest of the Kings children battled their way through a journey to recognition of who they were. Not easy being the siblings of Byren Kingson and his twin Lence. They did not know throughout this book if any of the family remained alive. This was the second book in the trilogy I read all three in one week, this second volume being 396 pages.

The Usurper

The journey continues for the Kings children. In the Merofynia The Usurper coverenemy territory,   Piro treads dangerous ground for being discovered would mean certain death, the Kings daughter must be a servant to those around her, hiding not only her identity but her ability as well.  Fyn continues to look for his family and once finding Byren discovers the desperate measures he must take to ensure the release of his older brother and rescue the woman he has given his heart to. There just has to be more and I can’t wait to read on! This was the third book in the trilogy I read all three in one week, this third volume being 489 pages.

The Kings Man coverI’m delighted to say there is more and I hope to get a copy of this next chapter in the journey, The Kings Man.

Stay tuned for further reviews.

zig zag street coverBook Review by Jill Smith©April2013

Title: Zig Zag Street Author: Nick Earls

Publisher: Bantam

Everything Richard Derrington does is a disaster. He just can’t get his had together since Anna left. His work is a computer game filled blur, and his attempts to renovate his Grandmother’s home are entirely unproductive. His mother only lets him live there so that he can do up the place the colours she’s chosen. Somehow Richard likes the place in its original style and when he finds a letter from his Grandfather to his Grandmother, written when he was about the same age as him at twenty eight, he begins to wonder if the crossroads his grandfather faced are like the ones he’s facing now.nick earls 1

Meanwhile he craves human contact of the intimate kind and daydreams constantly about it. His friends are full of advice that he mostly ignores. He’s hot for his boss Hilary, who has just had a baby and is feeling depressed. When they go on a work trip he makes a catastrophic mistake, they sleep together. That would be bad enough, but, when they return, Richard is fired up to work and goes into the office when the air conditioning is off on the weekend. Naturally he takes his clothes off and starts dancing around the office after cranking the music up high. No one would see him, so why not? The elevator opens and in walks Hilary, followed shortly after by their overall boss who enters and then diplomatically retreats.nick earls 2

This book is one of those ‘Laugh out Loud’ books, causing the reader to wonder if Richard can go from one calamity to another and recover, let alone find a new person to share his life with. This is what he craves most, co-habitation. The conclusion is satisfying as Richards daily bedlam is rescued by a chance meeting, the chance being, him throwing a shoe at this babe and knocking her out. It is clearly a book for the mature adolescent in us all.

Peter-Watt.-The-Pacific coverBook Review By Jill Smith©April2013

Title: The Pacific Author: Peter Watt

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia

Jack Kelly has two children, a son Lukas, adored as a friend and fellow combatant in their adopted country’s struggle for freedom. Papua New Guinea is the place Jack calls home and WWII sees him retired from active fighting, but, in a position to ensure volunteers like Lukas can be kept out of harm’s way. His daughter was estranged from him at an early age when his first wife left him.

Ilsa Stahl was raised in Germany by her mother and step father, until they moved to America. Her step father had been a high-ranking Nazi who defected to the US before the war. Educated in America, Ilsa became a journalist, taking on correspondence work in dangerous war zones. She had fallen in love with a fellow American and did not expect to meet her paternal father again. Their one reunion was awkward.peterwatt

While the war rages Lukas volunteer work in his small boat the ‘Riverside’, takes him into dangerous waters. He intends to ask his long time girlfriend to marry him when the battle with the Japanese is over. He and Jack could then return to their plantation home and live settled lives.

As with all Peters’ books, the characters carry you along with the battle. There is subterfuge behind enemy lines, desperation among prisoners of war and a battle that Jack once again goes into against the odds. The heartache is undeniable when Jack finds a member of his own family has made the ultimate sacrifice.

Peter Watt is a master story teller describing the scenery in PNG with the clarity of a man who lived and worked there. His background in the army and police-force create battle scenes that literally had me holding my breath. For anyone who has not yet shared in the wonderful exploits Peter’s books offer, this would be an excellent place to start.

Glitter Rose coverBook Review By Jill Smith©Feb13

Title: Glitter Rose

Author: Marianne de Pierres

Publisher: Twelfth Planet Press

I read this book in one sitting, and will happily read it again many times. This is a small exquisite hard cover book of only four, but wonderfully crafted stories based on Carmine Island, in a future where the sands of the island can glitter and change the lives of those they touch.Marianne de pieres

The Collection Notes explains when these stories were written and the awards they were given. In addition Marianne has treats her readers to an extra story with a chilling twist, ‘In The Bookshadow’. This is a real bonus.

There is a beautiful painting in the centre of the book, a solitary woman on a beach dune, with windblown dress and scarf. She is in the grass looking out over a bay and a dark and turbulent sky. I can only say that this encapsulates the melancholy our lady arrives on the island feeling, trying to shut out the past, and isolate her fragile form from the world. Somehow, the island dwellers as a community draw her into their circle and invite her to become something more.Glitter Rose pic insert

Beach Gazing by Dion Hammill

In Goodreads I gave this book Five Stars, something I have never done before. Every word is in place, every ounce of evocative emotion relayed. This is a book that will not just disappear onto the bookcase or cabinet. This is one I will keep nearby to visit whenever I want to be inspired. The pictures and the story go hand in hand. It is truly a delight for all the senses.


Book ReviewKarenTyrrell-Me-And-Him-Cover-WebUse-3DIPAD-Lge-238x300

By Jill Smith©March2013

Title: Me & Him – A Guide to Recovery

Author: Karen Tyrrell

Publisher: Digital Future Press


This book shares skin peeling insights into how to recover from mental illness, keeping tabs on the triggers, employing calming techniques to overcome potential regression, the daily battle to keep on track of mental well being.

Karen Tyrrell book launch.Me & HimI found many of the self help suggestions, first outlined by explaining Karen’s own journey, then bullet point summaries, closing the chapters with My message: tips, helpful for any reader willing to undertake self examination of their own thoughts.

I particularly found the revelations of Karen’s Him Steve own journey into depression and recovery enlightening. I felt that in, Me & Her A Memoir of Madness, mostly from Karen’s point of view, I found myself thinking, poor Steve, I wonder how he coped. In fact he didn’t cope all that well, he still soldiered on though, as most people do in impossible situations, because they have no option.

Again Karen is to be congratulated on achieving so much and being able to do this with her HIM Steve at her side. Firstly getting published, as any aspiring writer is aware is a big step, pursuing her career as a workshop presenter, becoming an accredited speaker with SANE Australia, promoting mental health through social media, radio interviews and public speaking.Karen Tyrrell book launch

I admire Karen and Steve for sharing their lives with the many people who find life’s hectic pace taking a toll on their mental well being.

Book Review

By Jill Smith©April2012

Title: Me & Her – A Memoir of MadnessMe & Her cover

Author: Karen Tyrell

Published: Digital Future Press

This book begins in a motel, with the door being knocked on by police and Karen being very confused about why they are there. They are asking Samantha to come out. That’s not her name. Even more distressing, Karen is taken away and put into a psych ward. What has she done to cause this? She doesn’t understand.

Karen Tyrell head shotThe following chapters explore the process Karen goes through to find herself again. To banish, the other ‘Her’, full of manic behavior which tempts her to become high on being creative. At the time, she sees herself, ’Her’, as enlightened, intuitive, and productive. Karen discovers that the rambling notes, exploration of the bipolar disorder, through interviews with fellow psych ward patients, doctors, her family and friends, is in fact abusive manic behavior. How did it all begin? Karen is a teacher, a good one. She is facing a nightmare family, who create a great deal of anxiety in her life. The child is abusive and uncontrollable. The parents join in the attack verbally and physically presenting them-selves in her classroom, in her rear-vision mirror when leaving school, even popping up at the supermarket and standing uncomfortably close while she makes a purchase at the deli counter. This causes Karen’s already severe insomnia to get worse. This is one of the triggers.

The effect on her family and friends is catastrophic. They stand by her and encourage their Karen to return home. The self-analysis with the help of doctors, relaxation therapy, and the honesty of her husband and children, help her formulate a plan to escape. What triggered these events is the clue to her rehabilitation. Creativity does become her salvation when she addresses the warning signs and keeps the ‘Her’ at bay. Karen should be applauded for writing this book. It shows her darkest days researched by herself. After having had two bipolar attacks, and losing her short-term memory, it must have been confronting and cathartic to complete this project.Karen Tyrrell book launch

This is a must read book, as an insight into how easily life can change from normal to abnormal, and how many people around us, go through these difficulties without the world taking much notice. Karen’s battle against ‘Her’ is a tribute to her recovery.


Title: Transported – A Pioneer’s Storytransported_book_cover Terry Spring

Author:  Terry Spring 

Publisher:  Self Published 

This is a wonderfully presented tale that Terry has skillfully woven together from a brief family history and gritty research.

George Smith in later life known as ‘Dusty Bob’ forged a remarkable life in a fledgling New South Wales colony in the early 1800’s. He hailed from a small rural community in England and suffered the loss of his family to the Pox, so as a lad he set out to London, to make a new life. What he found in the grimy world there was misery, hard work, starvation and desperation. This led to him doing an unthinkable act attempting robbery to survive. The immediate arrest and punishment took him to the other side of the world to a new land with immense opportunities.

The transportation was an ordeal in itself, lightened only by the friendship of a rascal called Matthew, a friend to him in London with whom he shared the prison chains aboard ship. Their arrival in the new colony heralded two very different paths in their life journey. From the outset the naïve George held out hope for a better future. He could see, even as a prisoner, with many years of hard work ahead of him, that he colony offered something he could never have in England – land ownership.

Using the skills he’d gained with animal husbandry and an ability to work in solitude George forged a life in the strange new colony, being accepted as a government man who did their bidding willingly. When he got his Ticket of Leave, after many years work, he continued to contribute to the founding of Dubbo in New South Wales. He lived through drought, seeing the native community decimated, and survived the loss of two wives while raising his family.

A Lecturer at Griffith Uni is also using her book for her Marketing students project. As a Life Time member of the club we should be proud and happy to support Terry in her success.  Transported is available through-Red Hen or go to her website


22_twisted_cover_white_bg Terry SpringTitle: Twenty Two Truly Twisted Tales

Author: Terry Spring

Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (self published)

This is a delightful book of short stories that being light and entertaining are ideal for that short span of concentration read when traveling or in breaks at work.

Terry has masterfully crafted her twisted tales with humor and social commentary as they relate to human relationships and behaviors. It is easy to slip into the world she creates in each tale feeling the rich knowledge of her world travels streaming through each story.

It is an ideal Christmas gift.  It is, as Gold Coast Writers have discovered over the last two years with her commitment to the Club and dedication to detail, a remarkable achievement that she found time to complete and publish this wonderful volume.


rainbows_end_book_Terry SpringTitle: Rainbows End At Double Bay

Author: Terry Spring

Publisher: Equilibrium Books

This is a delightful soap opera of a story.  Nancy is the central character and has grown up in a tough suburb.  She aims to get what she wants, namely a residence in the prestigious Double Bay area.  Nancy works towards this goal by achieving a solid career then going after her a man with that address.

Richard is rich, has a good career and lives in Double Bay.  Her perfect catch as his marriage is not going well and he allows his vanity to be flattered by Nancy’s charms.  He is not young but still relatively good looking and with a need for sexual stimulus often looking for extra marital affairs.

 His wife Tessa is unsettled in her life.  She is well aware of her husbands’ activities and she is frustrated with her middle-aged frumpiness.  Tessa dotes on her Uncle who is the only person that seems to understand her.  When he dies she is devastated but finds that he leaves her a large amount of money.  She decides to keep this a secret from her family and friends and commences to change her life with her own agenda.  Surgery to remove the unwanted flab and excitement at the attention she receives as a result makes her glow.

Nancy plans to make Richard crave her more with absence over a Christmas break for three weeks.  This backfires when Richard notices his wife Tessa is somewhat appealing.  Tessa has found love with another man and is not feeling guilty about it due to Richards’ years of neglect.

This is where the plot thickens.  I won’t reveal the wonderful twist but suggest you pick up a copy to put on your bookshelf. Read and enjoy.  Terry Spring is a member of Gold Coast Writers and can be contacted through the Club to secure her book, or go to to find out more.


Book Review

By Jill Smith©Dec12Touched by magic aaron pocock cover

Title: Touched by Magic – The Faery Sketchbook

Author/Artist: Aaron Lee Pocock

Aaron was born in the south of England, he now resides in Australia. He draws and paints for a living in both a fine art and illustrative capacity, from children’s books to CD sleeves, rainforest info boards to packaging design, editorial illustrations to art tutorials. His stamps put out by Australia Post were truly works of art in themselves.

aaron lee pocock drawingAaron has also exhibited his work in galleries and in various exhibitions across the country and has buyers and collectors across the globe.Aaron has recently self-published three volumes of sketches and finished drawings and the creation of Touched by Magic has a utube link; thatspaceinbetween

aaron lee pocock sketch in Touched by MagicThis is truly a journey from an artist initial sketch to final drawing. Aaron shares his passion and touches something inside every one of us. Certainly, having seen his daily doodling on Facebook and regularly liking them, I now feel privileged to own this book so that I can delight in his skill and allow my mind to delight in his imaginings.

At the end of the book is AFTERWORD and this poem sums up the feelings the book evokes.

Wheather in my faery woodland,

or a city far away,

I shall reach for Aaron’s book

and travel to the Fae.

For to be touched by faery magic

from the imaginings of art,

it should not only please the eyes,

it should also touch the heart…

Hannah Titania


Bacia_best_kept_secretsBook Review By Jill Smith©Sept1997

Title: Best Kept Secrets Author: Jennifer Bacia

Publisher: Harper Collins


Best Kept Secrets is a delightfully spun tale of the lives of three different women who are close friends. The question raised in the first chapter leaves you guessing constantly as each woman faces her individual drama. When will that question be answered and to which woman will it occur?

With her usual aplomb, Jennifer Bacia gets you deep under the skin of each character. Feel the isolation Cass, the mother of three with successful husband, collides with as her world falls apart. The emptiness of Fran’s lonely world without a husband and children, even though she’s a successful litigation lawyer, gnaws at the very soul. Angela faces her own dilemma as an aging anchor woman on a high-profile television news program which leaves the reader counting her own wrinkles and looking over her shoulder.

Having read and enjoyed many of Jennifer Bacia’s novels, I have to say that her books keep getting better. This book strikes at the heart with an intensity that leaves the reader both grieving and satisfied. All of her books are a pleasant mixture of love, mystery and suspense.

Book Review By Jill Smith©July2012

Title: The Blood Countess Author: Tara Moss

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia

Pandora English leaves her small town life, to break free from her tragic past, when she is invited to live with her aunt in New York City. She knows nothing about her Great Aunt Celia except that she must quite elderly.  Pandora is an aspiring writer and plans to make big changes in her life.

Things are not as Pandora expects when she arrives at her Great-aunt’s gothic mansion. It seems to be in a suburb that doesn’t appear on any maps. She soon learns there are many mysteries behind the almost impossible to open front door.

She discovers that her aunt is rarely there, when she does meet her, Aunt Celia always wears a veil. When Pandora goes job hunting, very unsuccessfully, in her very country bumpkin suit, Aunt Celia, a former designer to the stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age comes to the rescue. Her wardrobe is very chic and the clothes just happen to fit Pandora perfectly.

Pandora lands a job at a fashion magazine. Her first assignment is covering a launch of the latest miracle cream called ‘BloodofYouth’. All the A-list people are there and she meets an attractive knowledgeable young man who gives her the run down on all the celebs. Pandora senses something is wrong with the product and the model Athanasia, the face of the brand.

The brief to get a sample of the cream is almost impossible, all of the youth seeking guests have left nothing to spare. Almost miraculously Pandora does manage to get some of the cream then she can hardly keep her senses from being repulsed by it. What is the secret ingredient in the ‘BloodofYouth’?  Pandora soon discovers that Athanasia and her blood sucking friends are willing to kill to keep it a secret. 

I couldn’t help but be drawn into the mystery of the mansion, the ghosts that visit Pandora in her dream, or dream boat romantic dalliances. The other tenants of the building that are not really the kind of neighbors you borrow sugar from. Her discovery of talents that are inherited and carry with them an expectation her Aunt Celia seems sure she will take up. How will Pandora overcome the evil of the Blood Countess and save innocent youth seeking cream buyers a fate worse than death?

The Blood Countess was a 16th century noblewoman convicted of murdering hundreds of her servant girls. Did she really bathe in their blood in a bid for immortality?  

What if it worked?

This easy to read book, with twists and turns that leave a reader guessing, is just the kind of book that is great for a long flight or a cold winter night read tucked up by a fire.

Tara Moss is a novelist, TV presenter and journalist. She has written seven bestselling novels, Fetish, Split, Covet, Hit, Siren, The Blood Countess and The Spider Goddess. I intend to read every book she has written, two down so far.


Book Review

By Jill Smith©Feb12

Title:     The Darkest Hour 

Author:     Katherine Howell

Publisher:  Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd

Lauren Yates is a busy paramedic, trying to hang on to her job. Alone in her ambulance she stumbles across a stabbing victim in a lonely back street and calls for back up. What she doesn’t tell the police or her colleagues is that the murderer was there too, he’s her sister’s psychotic ex Thomas Werner, who threatens her life along with her sister and niece.

She goes on with life thinking no one will know and she’s safe, that is, until she’s called to another stabbing, the victim yells out ‘Thomas Werner killed me’ which is heard by Lauren and her driver. Thomas renews his death threats after he discovers through corrupt police that she passed on this news to the police.

Detective Ella Marconi thinks this is her break into her much longed for career in Homicide, until Lauren tries to retract her statement. The investigation runs into dead ends literally, one more body and a disappearing family. Is Thomas Werner a serial killer? Is he even in the country? What is this all really about? Ella realizes that Lauren is the key. When Lauren is attacked in her home they realize just how real the threat is. Ella notices strange things happening at her home, she tries not to believe that the investigation is getting close to finding answers to puzzling questions raised, and the whereabouts of Thomas Werner. Both she and Lauren have their lives on the line.

Katherine has produced another crime thriller that has readers turning the pages quickly to settle the suspense in their hearts. From the start this is a story that can’t be put down.  This was the second book after FRANTIC, and Katherine has four more in her book list now, I’ve already read and reviewed COLD JUSTICE.  I’m looking forward to reading VIOLENT EXPOSURE and soon to be launched SILENT FEAR. For more details go to her website

Book Review

By Jill Smith ©May2011

Title: Fragments from a Life a memoir

Author:  John Litchen

Publisher: Yambu – John Litchen

This is a truly fascinating portrait of the life of Spiros Kiriakou Litsis, through the eyes of his son. The historical recollections of the old man in between the events of his youth, makes the journey all the more interesting.

The history of the little village he grew up in being in the middle of political turmoil throwing a whole area previously in Greece, with the villagers being Greek, into Albania rule. This made what had been a difficult life, working for the new regime, with little or no reward. The already poor community struggled even more. The village had relatives in nearby Greek villages they could no longer visit. Their world changed, the line had been drawn on the map, and it wasn’t changing, the people were still Greek but living in Albania.

His older brother Christos had left to live in America and Spiros went there too, he learned to speak English and worked hard but, not in his trade as a tailor. Both young men returned to their village, Christos missed the simple life in the hills as a shepherd and on occasions, illegal trader. Spiros bowed to pressure and married a local girl, they had a daughter, although he was never settled in the small village, he had tasted the world outside he needed to leave. He left with his brother George for Australia, as America no longer took immigrants, and they started a whole new adventure. Spiros and George both were welcomed into the Greek community in Melbourne and discovered a country where they could, with hard work, achieve anything. George started a restaurant and Spiros met Mary there. His own marriage to the Greek girl did not stand the separation. Spiros longed to bring his daughter to Australia though and when he married Mary and started his own Dry Cleaning business things looked up. They worked long and hard and had children of their own. Then he did manage to get John’s half sister Verga to come to Australia.

Later in life Spiros and Mary returned to his home village, he saw how small it was and how much had changed.  The whole book is a fitting tribute to this remarkable life, and being published in Greek also would reach many who could learn from the life lessons Spiros endured. I’ve read many memoirs and this is a very masculine account of a very proud man’s life. Spiros had a lot to be proud of. He accomplished a great deal and grew old to see his family grow. I enjoyed this book and suggest you purchase it to gain insight into our history and the plight of people coming here from Northern Greece at that time.

Book Review

By Jill Smith ©April 2011

Title: The Lavender Principal…an outback murder mystery

Author:  Julie Baythorpe

Publisher: Self Published

I found this book wonderfully written, highlighting the uniqueness of Australia. The rugged outback and its equally stoic communities and people spread out in a vast landscape make this murder mystery all the more tantalizing. With the school activities the social focus of the community, the school principal is an important, if transient, community member.

The relationships between families and the local school Principal are unbalanced, when Reid Devron, starts asking questions. The dialogue in the local vernacular really draws the reader into the drama. Who did murder Neil Addison, and why?

At Somerset Literary Festival this year, I was disappointed to hear one prominent international author say she despaired for those who wrote from an Australian view-point. I disagree with this and say that Australia is a setting, a character in itself, so why should we not write about this country and its people, as they are what we know.

I loved this unique Australian story and feel that it has a place in any bookshelf. Like Lillian Beckwith, her stories are based in small communities in the isolated New Hebrides, people around the world may not live in the climate or community described, but, they can read and enjoy the human experience there. Julie Baythorpe, was born in Sydney and grew up in Brisbane, she moved to the Gold Coast in 1985. She has been writing all her life. She has taught creative writing both as a teacher and a principal in classrooms across Queensland. Clearly she draws from her experience in outlining the daily running of a small rural school.

Book Review

By Jill Smith ©March2011

Title: Love, Lies, Laughter And a Few Little Tears Authors: Southern Short Story Group

Publisher: Self published

 This is a delightful compilation of thought provoking, memorable and emotive stories crafted by eight talented authors who are members of the Gold Coast Writers sub group Southern Short Story Group. George Lewis provided a disturbing look at cultural differences and excesses in ‘Photo of Nei-enja’.  Faye O’Neill delivered several heart rending stories, I especially liked ‘Zanthe’.  Julie Baythornpe wove wonderfully entrancing tales of love and loss, my favorites being ‘The Family Tree’ and ‘True Love’.  Doug Fraser offers memorable recollections and life lessons as in ‘The Thimble’. Joan Songaila wrote a tale about fortune teller predications coming true in ‘Gypsy Palm Off,’ and a great story of love in ‘Lucky, Just this Once.’  John Clark has the reader wondering about how a loving family could allow a little boy to walk into a very ‘Scary Story’, his other stories were more witty and social commentaries.  Owen R Clement, added a unique story of true soul mates finding one another, in ‘Serendipity.’ Julie Boyd wrote a wonderful story about living every minute of life to the full in ‘Another Chance.’

This is just as glimpse of the depth and range of stories delivered in this book. The pictures scattered throughout enhance the stories and make the book even more enjoyable. The cover painting by the talented Julie Baythorpe is a wonderful way of wrapping this collection in blue sky, sand and sea views. For anyone looking for a way to escape the daily chores of the world, or, looking for a gift for a friend or family member, this book would be perfect.

7 thoughts on “Book Reviews Adults

  1. Pingback: Karen Tyrrell » Full Review of ME & HER: A Memoir of Madness is OUT

    • Now I have your beautiful book, I will review it and put it on my blog, also send it to GCW, PIO, and maybe a few more. The GCW meeting is next Sat and I’ll take it with me to show other authors your work. Thanks again Betty. I showed a friend from work yesterday and suggested she get a copy for her grandchildren.

  2. Pingback: Karen Tyrrell Announcing #20 Winners - ME & HER: A Memoir of Madness Book Giveaway - Karen Tyrrell

  3. Pingback: And the winners are… | jillwrites

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