Favourite Reads December 2021 - Author Special

Our favourite reads look a little different this month as we head into the festive season with some of our beloved author’s giving us their reviews and recommendations!

The Shadow House by Anna Downes

Chosen by Ber Carroll

Ber is the author of ten novels, including Just Business, High Potential, The Better Woman, Less Than Perfect, Worlds Apart and Once Lost. Her most recent novels The Missing Pieces of Sophie McCarthy, Who We Were, and You Had It Coming (May/June 2021) are published under B.M. Carroll.

Single mother Alex flees an abusive relationship and moves to a rural (seemingly idyllic) eco-village with her children. Strange things begin to happen from the moment she arrives. ‘The bones come first. A gift but nothing wanted. Next a doll; a likeness, a promise. And the blood marks the choice.’ With each ‘gift’ that is left at Alex’s new house, it becomes more evident that the village is neither as idyllic nor welcoming as she had assumed. It’s also becomes evident that what’s happening to her family is a pattern of old, and the farmhouse on the hill holds some of the answers. The last thing Alex wants is for her teenage son to go missing, like the boy at the farmhouse all those years ago. She should really pack up and go, but her son is refusing to leave, and she is sick of running away … This is a novel that stayed with me long after I finished it. The setting is incredibly vivid, as are the characters, and I particularly enjoyed how ordinary everyday family life is juxtaposed with the creepy/gothic-style atmosphere.

The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s Hospital by Joanna Nell

Chosen by Jodi Gibson

Jodi Gibson is an Australian author of contemporary fiction, or as she likes to call it: fiction with all the feels. Her debut novel The Memories We Hide was published in 2019, and her latest novel, The Five Year Plan was published by Brio Books in September 2021. Jodi is also a freelance writer and real estate copywriter.

Joanna Nell again delivers an entertaining and heartwarming story about ladies of a certain age. This time with the wonderful inclusion of a much younger character in Chloe. I loved the dynamics of Hillary, Joy, and Chloe as they navigate their own issues and the delightful cafeteria that brings them together. Warm, poignant, and thoroughly entertaining. Five wonderful stars!

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth

Chosen by Louise Guy

Louise Guy, writes women’s fiction, domestic suspense and domestic thrillers. She also writes for children.

Expectations are always high when a favourite author releases a book, and what I love about Sally Hepworth is she doesn’t disappoint. The Younger Wife has all the ingredients that make up a brilliant Hepworth read. Fantastic storyline, lots of twists to keep you guessing, and most importantly, characters that you fall in love with regardless of their flaws. For me, it is Sally’s characters that set her books apart from those of other authors. While reading, I find my emotions mirroring those of the characters to the point that I am hugely invested in the outcome of their stories. The main characters in The Younger Wife are real and relatable, and while at times they made choices I hope I’d never make, I wanted them to get away with everything! The characters will stay with you long after you finish reading—a five-star read for me. Highly recommend.

To Italy With Love by Nicky Pellegrino

Chosen by Maya Linnell

Bestselling rural fiction author, Maya Linnell, gathers inspiration from her rural upbringing and the small communities she has always lived in and loved. Magpie’s Bend is her third novel, following Bottlebrush Creek and Wildflower Ridge.

To Italy, With Love was one of my favourite romance novels for the year. There was so much that made me smile, from the dazzling Italian setting and plethora of food to the charming characters and the subplot to rejuvenate a dying town. Readers will fall in love with hardworking and loyal, Sarah-Jane, who plans a trip around Italy to mend her broken heart. Unlike Sarah-Jane, local lady, Assunta, has her feet and her family firmly rooted in the small village of Montenello. At least she thinks so…

I liked how these two sharply contrasting characters forged a firm friendship. Nicky Pellegrino’s descriptions made me feel like I was walking on the cobblestone streets, inhaling the aromas in the rustic kitchen, and warmly nestled in the heart of the community. Perfect for armchair travelling, and regular readers will delight in the appearance of familiar faces from previous stories! It was my first novel from this Kiwi author, but it won’t be my last!

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

Chosen by Rachael Johns

Rachael Johns is an English teacher by trade, a mum 24/7, a Diet Coke addict, a cat lover and chronic arachnophobe. She rarely sleeps and never irons. She is also the bestselling, ABIA-winning author of The Patterson Girls and a number of other romance and women’s fiction books, including her recent bestseller, Something to Talk About.

I listened to The Paper Palace on audio and loved it so much I immediately bought the hardcover for my collection. I don’t normally notice beautiful writing – I’m far more invested in character and story – but The Paper Palace has it ALL. The novel is about Elle Bishop a middle-class mother-of-free with a husband she loves dearly and he loves her right back. However, she’s also got a childhood friend whom she’s been denying her feelings for since something tragic happened to them both in their teens on Cape Cod. Now back, decades later, she’s forced to make a choice between the two men she loves. The novel takes place over 24 hours with flashbacks almost 50 years to show exactly what circumstances have shaped Elle into the women she is and how she came to be in his heartbreaking moral dilemma. This book is SO good, it’s hard to believe it is a debut!