THE LEGACY OF OLD GRAN PARKS – Isobel Blackthorn

Delighted to share this thoughtful review of The Legacy of Old Gran Parks from book critic, Ann Creber.

a good book, a good life

THE LEGACY OF OLD GRAN PARKS by ISOBEL BLACKTHORN- PUBLISHER:HELLBOUND BOOKS GENRE: CRIME WITH BLACK HUMOUR

WARNING: Don’t read this book if you are planning a trip to Cann River or if you are about to tuck into a pie!! (Oh, and maybe you’d better give it a miss if you are an admirer of Joan Baez!)

If none of these constraints apply, then you can settle to an entertaining, startling, violent and amusing (YES!) book, filled with the black humour Isobel Blackthorn enjoys sharing with her readers.

Its main characters are four very different women and the men and the situations they feel obliged ‘to deal with’.  We meet these women chapter by chapter and share their thoughts and actions intimately, while the ghost of Gran Parks hovers in the background!

Frankie is a large tough deer hunter (with a mullet haircut!) who ‘lives rough’ in the forest and…

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Book review: Wanderers No More by Michelle Saftich

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Port of No Return by Michelle Saftich, I am delighted to share my review of its sequel, Wanderers No More.

“The war may be over, but the fight to belong is just beginning.

Left homeless, starving, and almost killed by the Second World War, the Saforo family are refugees fleeing Italy for a better life. The shores of Australia are calling to them and they head off, packing dreams of jobs, a home and … soccer.

But from the moment they get off the boat, adapting to the Australian way of life is harder than

it seems. Their family doesn’t speak right, eat right or even look right. As they struggle to build a simple life against the backdrop of 1950s racism, they start to wonder if they will be outsiders forever.

A true family affair, Wanderers No More will make you laugh, remind you of your family, and warm your heart.”

My thoughts:

Stories of migrant refugees form an important part of the fabric of Australian, and indeed global society, as many many millions of us have been or are refugees, refugees of war, oppression, famine or environmental catastrophe. Port of No Return describes how a small group of families from northern Italy become refugees in World War II, and in Wanderers No More, Saftich portrays the everyday life for these families from the moment they set foot in Australia. The novels fall into the genre of family history memoir, as they are based on true events and real people.

Wanderers No More is an endearing coming of age story sure to put a smile on every reader’s face. Told mostly through the eyes of young Martino Saforo, who arrives with his family in Newcastle after spending four years in various refugee camps in Europe, the novel engages from the first page. The early part of the novel describes the harsh life for European migrants sent to government-run labour camps where they are bonded for two years, the men working on infrastructure projects, including the Snowy River hydro-electricity scheme, mining and roadbuilding. Or on farms slashing sugar cane and the lucky ones in factories. Accommodation was Nissan hut style.

Wanderers No More centres on the trials and tribulations of Martino, his brothers and their friends. The women in the story, the sisters and the mothers, have lesser roles which are not developed but provide texture nevertheless. The cameo role of Martino’s ever-present Nonna represents not only the female element, but Italy itself, with all of its traditions. Through Nonna and Martino, Saftich depicts the homesickness, the coping skills, the resilience and the determination to learn Australian ways and language with enormous sensitivity and insight. Simple acts of kindness are juxtaposed with relentless ethnocentric bullying, mostly in the schoolyard. For Martino, Australia seems a harsh and unforgiving land filled with harsh and unforgiving people. Yet hope is ever present, as is Martino’s passion for soccer, which consumes much of the narrative as the novel progresses. Tragedy is ever present, a ghost at first haunting between the lines, and when it finally manifests, it strikes hard.

Throughout the novel which spans two decades, Saftich deploys emotional restraint, the narrative voice commensurate with the heart and mind of a young boy finding his way, a boy who grows up lost, confused, alienated and hurting in so many ways. Anyone familiar with This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff will understand the narrative approach. With its easy, engaging style, and themes of migration, alienation and belonging, this novel belongs on the set text lists in Australian schools.

Buy this book

Catch up with the author here

Book review: Return to Tamarlin by K. M. Steele

It is rare that I read a general fiction novel set in rural Australia. I thought I better spread my wings a little, so here’s my review of Return to Tamarlin by K. M. Steele.

“When Tamara Slender disappears from an isolated property in Western NSW in 1975, gossip runs wild with rumours she has run off with a local man, Roger Bryte.

Months later, Tamara’s teenage daughters, Nancy and Mary, realise they encountered Bryte in caves on their property the day before their mother disappeared. Despite their suspicions, their father refuses to involve the police, and the girl’s grief, fuelled by the town gossips and their father’s inaction, drives them apart.

In 2007 a stranger arrives at the farm seeking information about Roger Bryte. His questions give Nancy a reason to contact her estranged sister. The sisters are reunited, and their mother’s disappearance is finally solved when Mary returns to Tamarlin.”

My thoughts:

K. M. Steele has penned an intriguing novel of two sisters and the dark mystery that separates them. Return to Tamarlin is well-written, slow-paced and rich in sense of place. Steele’s rendering of a sheep farm in crisis as its owners battle drought and plague, along with the prejudices and gossip of a small country town are spot on. This social realism provides the perfect back drop for a story involving the disappearance of Nancy and Mary’s mother on the very day they decide to try to re-enact the disappearance of the schoolgirls in Picnic at Hanging Rock, at some caves on their property called the Limeholes. Two weeks earlier, another local disappears, a local the girls encounter when they visit the caves. Are the two disappearances connected? What is it about their mother and her past that troubles both her daughters, and causes one to fiercely defend their father, and the other to flee the farm for larger horizons?

Good characterisation and a well-crafted plot hold the story together and the various tensions within the family and in the local community are convincingly portrayed. Tragedy, loss, grief and belonging are the emotional themes underpinning Return to Tamarlin, themes many a reader will relate to. This novel will appeal to those who want to lose themselves in an Australian rural setting and re-visit Australia in the 1970s, with all of its social prejudices intact.

You can buy a copy here.

 

 

My #GranParks author interview on Jera’s Jamboree

Big thanks to Shaz of Jera’s Jamboree for inviting me to answer her interesting questions! Here I reveal the inside story of The Legacy of Old Gran Parks.

“Please summarise The Legacy of Gran Parks in 20 words or less.

In a lawless town in a coastal wilderness, four women encounter four deviant men. Gran Parks stands at the crossroads.

 

What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?

I started with the setting. A friend and former neighbour had relocated to a remote town deep in the forest on Australia’s south-eastern corner. I know the town as I have passed through it many times on my way up the coast from Melbourne. Cann River is a coach stop; it’s where tourists pull in for a rest after driving through the forest for about a hundred miles, before they tackle the next hundred. For years, I thought the town would make a terrific setting for a thriller. When my friend urged me on and I committed to the project, fresh ideas flooded in. I was after a unique tale, something that would speak to the heart of what Cann River feels like from an outsider’s point of view, while capturing some of the essence of the surrounds, for the area, known as Croajingolong National Park, is part of the Wilderness Coast and is a UNESCO-declared biosphere reserve.  The area is special for another reason, one I discovered when I started researching the story. On the coast nearby is Point Hicks lighthouse, where Captain James Cook first sighted land on the eastern coast of Australia in April 1770. Unable to pull in there or anywhere else for hundreds of kilometres, Cook kept heading north and arrived at Botany Bay and Australia was claimed by the British. My book is as far from historical fiction as can be, but there is truth in there regarding the local area, including Point Hicks….”

Read the full story here. 

Book review: Them by James Watts

Continuing my run of horror novel reviews, I am delighted to share my review of Them by James Watts.

“Ray Sanders returns home from Florida to bury his mother.
Soon, the supernatural evidence behind his mother’s demise begins to surface in the form of dreams and mysterious happenings.

During all of the madness, Sanders must face his destiny and vanquish the generations-old evil that has plagued his family since the 1800’s…

In 1854, Louis Sanders, with the help of Elias Atkins, dug a well to provide water to the family farm. What they did not anticipate was the water to be infested with Odomulites – ancient sins. These malevolent beings – were trapped in our world on their way to the spirit world – formed a pact of protection with both Sanders and Atkins; the families would serve as guardians of the Odomulite nests and in return, a blind eye would be cast when the Odomulites took host bodies to inhabit and feed upon.

It was this pact, which in 2016 would propel Sanders and Julie Fontaine – a young woman with a special connection to the Spirit World – into the heart of the last active nest to rid the town of its insidious Odomulite population.”

My thoughts:

It is impossible not to be hooked by this story; dread underscores every page, thanks to a gripping prologue. Watts has penned what I would describe a straight-ahead horror novel reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Stand. Fast paced, emotionally real and raw at times, at others almost wistful, Watts fills his pages with close observances and small details that bring his cast of characters alive and builds a warm, down-home wholesome feel that is juxtaposed with the menace lurking all around.

The prose is vernacular and pleasant to read with satisfying descriptions of a grotesque evil that haunts and taunts those dwelling in Maple Grove, Alabama. Watts’ characters are gritty, many have attitude and the setting of Maple Grove is vividly portrayed. I could smell the air and hear the characters speak.

Watts gives his readers what they want, solid, four to the floor horror that never misses the mark. Told from multiple points of view, the plot is peppered with little twists and turns, the pace kept fast as the story flits from character to character. Adding texture to the narrative, Them brims with 1970s popular cultural references, which I found charming.

As for the menace that pervades Maple Grove, I thought the way ‘they’ invade the characters’ dreams was clever.  Them contains an interesting mix of supernatural possession and creature horror, which I found Watts handled well, especially when he offers the reader a full explanation.

Gruesome and terrifying, Them is not a book to read in a basement.

The Legacy of Old Gran Parks’ Book Tour wrap up

First, I would like to thank Faye Rogers for her efforts in organising this book tour and all those book bloggers who read my book and wrote some fabulous reviews. The tour has had its highs and lows. Here are my reflections:

When a new book comes out, it is the job of authors and publishers to go on the hunt for reviews. The more the better and the one place we want them all to end up is on Amazon, because Amazon counts reviews and based on the number (not the quality) it will activate its own internal promotion of your book. We need 20-25, or better still 50, to be taken seriously. Less than 10 looks sad. To make matters even harder, Amazon splits the reviews up, so a review posted on the UK site or the AU site does not appear on the US site. Dedicated book reviewers will take the trouble to post on all three Amazon sites, cos that’s what it takes these days, and every book blogger worth their salt knows this.

In the past, when I’ve had a new book coming out, I have written hundreds of individual emails to book bloggers soliciting reviews. I’ve trawled the internet on the hunt for reviewers, joined Facebook groups and kept my eye on Twitter. It’s exhausting and the average take up rate is about 5-10%. On the blogging side, book bloggers are swamped, the good ones especially.

To take the pressure off authors and publicists, some bloggers have set themselves up as book tour organisers and for a fee they will organise a tour. When I started to investigate these service providers I was hesitant, but I began to see it as the only way forward. I would still solicit reviews, but at least some of the strain would be off my shoulders.

I had no idea what to expect when I hired a book tour organiser to set up a 14-stop review-only tour. I wasn’t prepared for the disappointment. Despite the organiser’s best efforts, out of 14 bloggers, 2 chose to post an extract and 4 chose to do nothing at all. That has left me with 8 reviews and out of that 8, only 6 have so far shared their review on one of the Amazon sites.

However, all is not bad news. Those reviewers who did read my book wrote honest reviews and there are many delightful comments peppered throughout their paragraphs. I’m grateful to each and every one of these bloggers, and to the tour organiser, who cannot be held responsible for the actions of those book bloggers who agreed to be part of the tour and then failed to follow through. Here are some of the highlights:

“This was my first time visiting the mind of Isobel Blackthorn, and it certainly wasn’t boring! The dark humour, gritty scenes and unusual characters all combine to make an entertaining read….Like the recently successful Jane Harper (author of The Dry and Force of Nature), Blackthorn knows how to convey the sinister nature of the Australian setting, making blistering heat tangible, the seaside seem lethal, and the all-encompassing forests claustrophobic….Overall, this is a darkly humorous tale expressed through brilliant prose and intriguing characters!”

Get Litty – https://www.getlitty.co.uk/single-post/2018/04/18/BLOG-TOUR-The-Legacy-of-Old-Gran-Perks

“This is the first book I have read from Isobel Blackthorn and it won’t be my last. It is such a well written book that I was gripped from the first few pages.The strapline of the book is ‘A Dark Comedy to Tickle Your Spine…’ and it lives up to your expectation.”

Helen Loves – http://helenloves.co.uk/blog-tour-review-the-legacy-of-old-gran-parks-by-isobel-blackthorn/

“The Legacy of Old Gran Parks has a wonderfully dark, nasty feel to it…The legacy of Gran Parks is a legacy of fighting back against abuse, and taking responsibility for dealing out your own style of justice.”

Liam of Book-worm-hole – http://book-worm-hole.blogspot.com.au/2018/04/review-legacy-of-old-gran-parks.html

“The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is a very unique, very fascinating but ultimately savage and dark read that I very much enjoyed. If you are a fan of Tarantino movies, you are more than likely going to enjoy this book which starts out a little bit eerie and odd and then turns violent and dark. It was a book unlike any I have read before but I actually really loved it.”

Faye of Big Little Books – http://www.bigbooklittlebook.com/2018/04/legacy-old-gran-parks/

“showed me an insiders view of rural Australia which I easily pictured even though I’ve never been.”

Parchment and Quill – https://parchmentandquillchronicle.wordpress.com/2018/04/12/blog-tour-book-review-the-legacy-of-old-gran-parks-by-isobel-blackthorn/

“The Legacy of Old Gran parks—is one of the rarest piece of story I ever read. It was unique and got an eerie exotic feel. A truly remarkable, and an unforgettable piece. Highly recommended to everyone.”

Bibliophile Angel – https://bibliophileangelblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/15/blog-tour-the-legacy-of-old-gran-parks-by-isobel-blackthorn/

“I really enjoyed the writing and plot ”

Read Between the Scenes – http://www.readbetweenthescenes.com/2018/04/blog-tour-legacy-of-old-gran-parks-by.html

“a marvellous read and I’d recommend it to anyone who asks.”

Infinite Pages – https://infinitepagesbookreviews.wordpress.com/2018/04/19/the-legacy-of-old-gran-parks-blog-tour/

If you want to review any of my books, I will give you a free electronic copy.

If you want to buy any of my books, visit my bookstore for links to external sites. https://isobelblackthorn.com/bookstore/

Blog Tour + Review : The Legacy of Old Gran Parks by Isobel Blackthorn

A fabulous review of The Legacy of Old Gran Parks!

Bibliophile Angel Book Review Blog

SynopsisThe Legacy of Old Gran Parks

Set in Cann River in Australia’s rugged southern wilderness, The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is a tale of a remote town haunted by a legacy, a legacy with ominous consequences.

It’s a warm evening in the autumn of 1983 when Miriam Forster rolls into town in her broken down car.

Frankie the deer hunter, is up in the forested hinterland with her gun. Old Pearl the fisherwoman sits on her front deck down by the lagoon with her whiskey and her dog. And Emily, the English backpacker, scrubs out the pie-encrusted kitchen at the roadhouse.

All is not well. There’s a hoon doing donuts at the crossroads and screaming down the fire trails in the woods; a suspicious-looking city-slicker with two small children, squatting in Fred’s shack down by the lake; a beanie-headed gaunt guy convalescing at the lighthouse; and an acne festooned creature in the hotel room next…

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