Renee Conoulty: 2016

Books

Saturday, 31 December 2016

My year in books - 2016

Hey Everyone!

Goodreads was kind enough to put together a summary of my reading in 2016.


I read less than in 2014 or 2015, but that was my plan. I set my goal at 200 books for the year, but that was my cap limit - I needed to make sure I spent time doing other things too, like writing a book for you to read. I managed to stay comfortably under the 200 limit and still averaged reading between 2 and 3 books per week. The average length of books I read was 250 pages and my average rating was 4.5 out of 5 (it would possibly have been higher if the kids had been able to rate the books I read them at 100 out of 5 as they requested). 

Here are my top twenty stand-out reads from 2016 - in no particular order. (Titles link to Goodreads)

The Fence by Meredith Jaffe - neighbourhood drama from both sides of the fence.

The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress by Tam Francis - dual timeline romance with lots of dancing.

A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester - New York 1920s historical with a strong heroine.

GMC by Debra Dixon - nuts and bolts of writing craft.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty - neighbourhood drama with suspense.

Never Say Die by Stevie Kopas - horror short story collection.

The War Bride by Pamela Hart - Australian historical fiction 1920s.

Dating for Decades by Tracy Krimmer - fun & relatable chick lit/women's fiction.

The Art of Keeping Secrets by Rachael Johns - Aussie life lit.

The Peppercorn Project by Nicki Edwards - rural romance.

Things We Cannot See by Dianne Maguire - domestic suspense.

Shtum by Jem Lester - family drama about men and autism.

The Florentine Bridge by Vanessa Carnevale - beautiful contemporary romance.

Under the Spanish Stars by Alli Sinclair - dual timeline dancing and romancing in Spain.

The Widow by Fiona Barton - psychological thriller.

Novelista Girl by Meredith Schorr - fun chick lit.

Kakadu Sunset by Annie Seaton - Aussie romantic suspense.

Home to Bindarra Creek by Juanita Kees - rural romance.

My Silly Mum by Monique Mulligan - funny kids picture book.

The Magic Molly series by Holly Webb - middle-grade fiction / early readers.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Stuff your ereader for 2017

Hey Everyone!
Did you get a new ereader for Christmas? E-reader a little skinny after the holidays?
Stuff it with 75+ Free and $0.99 romances from best-selling Australian and New Zealand authors. From sexy or sweet contemporaries to romantic comedy, historical, paranormal, romantic suspense, erotica, women’s fiction and Urban fantasy/Sci-fi/fantasy – we’ve got you covered.
If you haven't got yourself a copy of Don't Mean a Thing yet, grab it now while it's on sale - it goes back to full price in the New Year.

Go here before the sale ends: http://bit.ly/2gZUCg4
Happy Reading!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Whispers at Wongan Creek by Juanita Kees

Wongan Creek has a second chance at life, but new possibilities unearth long-buried secrets...

Travis Bailey may as well be Wongan Creek. His family has farmed canola for generations, and he sometimes feels like he holds the community together with his bare, dirt-stained hands. Between caring for the farm, his orphaned niece and his elderly, ailing neighbour, he doesn't have time for himself. He doesn’t have time to fall in love. 

Social worker Heather Penney is living on borrowed time. When her mother died of Motor Neurone Disease, she took the initial blood tests and now nothing is guaranteed, let alone a future with a family and a home and a child. Wongan Creek, and its resident protector, might be getting under her skin, but she can't afford to get attached. 

But even as a new mine revitalises the small town, old secrets threaten resurface, and Travis and Heather find themselves fighting to save the farms and the futures of Wongan Creek's long-time residents—and possibly their own lives.


Hey! Here's my review.

A fantastic rural romance with depth and an underlying mystery. 

I had a particular soft spot for Harry - the tough old farmer who lived on the adjoining property and who was slipping into dementia. I loved the romance that developed between Travis and Heather and the lighthearted humour that wove through the story.  Deeper issues such as sexual harassment and how mining affects a farming town were also explored.

★★★★★

  • Where: NetGalley
  • Format: ebook

Monday, 26 December 2016

Things We Cannot See by Dianne Maguire

Set on the magical coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula and inspired by true events, Things We Cannot See is Dianne Maguire's second domestic suspense novel - a compelling story of children and families, love and betrayal.

Laura Nesci has found her forever partner - until he leaves her for no apparent reason. It is only in the wake of a family tragedy and the unearthing of her husband's secret life that things fall into place, including Laura's burgeoning attraction for local artist Flynn. Fighting against the temptation of another possibly disastrous relationship, Laura channels her energies into her work as a victim support officer with the police.

Fifteen-year-old Alex is a girl with secrets. Her best friend Maddi believes it's wrong, but Alex knows that what she has with their science teacher is special. When Alex is attacked, Maddi and Laura become locked in a silent battle of wills: Laura suspects that Maddi is keeping secrets for her friend, and Maddi must decide whether to speak up or remain silent. But the final telling of Alex's deepest secret is met with shock and disbelief from everyone, including Laura, who thinks she has seen it all - until now.
 




Hey! Here's my review.



I loved Dianne's debut novel so grabbed a copy of this without even reading the blurb. I was totally absorbed in the suspenseful drama and devoured the book over a couple of days. Family drama, crime, suspense with a splash of romance - there's something for everyone to enjoy.

This story opened my eyes to the reality of grooming and sexual abuse. Dianne was able to capture the voice of a sixty-year-old woman as well as the inner thoughts of a fifteen-year-old girl.

★★★★★
  • Where: NetGalley
  • Format: ebook

Saturday, 24 December 2016

#ChristmasBaubleSelfie

Hey Everyone!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas. Here's my Christmas bauble selfie for 2016. I gritted my teeth and let the kids decorate the tree this year so the purple baubles hang beside the red ones with all manner of decorations around them. It's not colour coordinated this year, but it's covered with happiness. 

Like my son said the other day, after we baked some gingerbread men together - 

"This one tastes the best because I made it with happiness."

Do you let the kids decorate the tree? Do you go and move the decorations when they're asleep? (I resisted this year)



Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Caged by Onaiza Khan

"Keep your mind right, put your body in action and let your spirit guide you.”

These are the words keeping her sane after her husband takes her into isolation in northern Canada. But after three months with only a servant, a television and the screams of another captive keeping her company, she begins to lose touch with reality - even forgetting her own name.

With the help of an unexpected ally, she discovers an inner strength and powers previously unknown; changing her perspective and realigning her past, present and future.



Hey! Here's my review.


The writing felt a little as though English wasn't the author's first language but since the main character was from India, it felt authentic. The plot caught my interest and kept me turning pages to see how it all ended. It was a quick, easy read that dealt with a difficult topic. I loved the reference to another book about the same topic.

I reviewed a complimentary copy.

★★★ 
  • Where: Author Invitation
  • Format: ebook

Sunday, 18 December 2016

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Chick Lit: A Holiday Anthology

Eleven short and funny holiday stories of women going home for Christmas, stirring up old flames (& finding new ones), baking grandma’s cookies, planning revenge pranks on high school duds, opening Pandora’s Box, racing across the country for love, & kissing cute hunks under the mistletoe. Grab your copy while this limited time collection is still available!


Hey! Here's my review.

In the spirit of Christmas giving, the authors of this fabulous collection gave their stories away for free. Looking for something light and fun to relax with these holidays? Then grab this collection, a cuppa and put your feet up. I enjoyed each of the short stories so much that I can't choose a favourite.

★★★★

Friday, 16 December 2016

The Florentine Bridge by Vanessa Carnevale

Young Australian artist Mia Moretti has been cancer free for nine months. But her battle with the illness has taken its toll, leaving her depressed and tormented by overwhelming fears. What’s more, she can’t seem to paint anymore. Mia needs a fresh start so when a surprise opportunity to travel to Tuscany presents itself, she takes it. With any luck, this trip will help her find whatever it is she needs to open her heart and start painting again.

What she doesn’t count on is meeting Luca, a handsome Italian mechanic. With his smile, his warmth and his inspirational outlook on all the good things life has to offer, he sweeps her off her feet. As Mia slowly lets down her walls and allows Luca in, her passion for life is reignited and her new perspective begins to inspire her art. But just when she’s ready to let go of her past, will a tragedy threaten her new life with Luca?

Full of heart and hope, a love story about la dolce vita in Tuscany.



Hey! Here's my review.

Now I want to learn to paint and travel to Italy! 

Vanessa has written an emotionally engaging and evocative tale of romance and self-discovery. The vivid descriptions of Italy and painting drew me in and the slow burn romance kept me turning pages. I really connected with Mia - I felt like I got right inside her head. And Luca **swoon** I could listen to him talk all day long. 

A fabulous debut from Vanessa - I'm looking forward to reading more of her work.


★★★★★

  • Where: NetGalley
  • Format: ebook

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Lipstick & Lattes by Tracy Krimmer

Whitney only needs two things to survive -- a steaming cup of coffee and the opportunity to create art with makeup. But until her big break comes along, she's stuck selling makeup at the mall.

While out at a nightclub dancing her cares away, Whitney catches a fleeting glance of a man she's convinced is Prince Charming himself, but she misses her chance to talk to him. How will she find him now? Taking a wild chance, she places an online ad and her dreams come true when he appears.

Only fairy tales aren't what they seem. As Whitney struggles to deal with the vast amount of changes in her life, her Prince is up against some losses in his, widening the gap between them. The only answer to their problems lies right in front of their faces. Can they figure it out before it's too late?



Hey! Here's my review.


Another fabulous chick lit read from Tracy. Light and fun, it kept me turning pages.

I really liked Whitney, she was someone I'd love to have a latte with and let her give me a makeover - I have no idea when it comes to makeup. It wasn't all frothy milk and frosted lipstick (no, not frosted lipstick - even I know that's so 1980s) there was a deeper layer to the story too around family relationships and career goals.

Great chemistry between Whitney and Ed - refreshing to see a bearded hero.

★★★★★
  • Where: Author Invitation
  • Format: ebook

Monday, 12 December 2016

Sunshine, Libraries and Reviews

Botanic GardensHey Everyone!

I've been a bit quiet over here lately. The joys of moving house - still so much to do. Most of the boxes have been dealt with, but there are still a few looming at me from the corner of the study. Tomorrow... Yeah, I don't believe me either.

The days might seem longer with daylight savings, but I keep running late for dinner, thinking that there's still plenty of time. I haven't run on daylight savings time for years. Do you have daylight savings? 

I found my local library today and signed up for a shiny new library card. Very excited to see that they have Borrowbox - so I can continue to feed my need to read at any time of the night or day. 

Looks like lots of you guys have been busy too - reading Don't Mean a Thing. Here are some of the reviews that have been posted on Goodreads. 

If you haven't grabbed your copy yet, the ebook is on sale until the end of the year for 99 cents - then next year it will go back to $3.99. Links are HERE or just search for "Conoulty" at your favourite ebook store.

I'd love it if you posted a review when you're finished - on Goodreads or wherever you bought your copy.

Monday, 5 December 2016

On Tour

Hey Everyone!

As well as the Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop kicking off today, I'm also going on tour. You'd think I was sick of driving after that massive road trip - and I am, so I'm going on a virtual tour over the next two weeks. I might get a bit jetlagged with all the different time zones I'll be travelling through, so if I'm not at the blog when you check, just grab yourself a copy of Don't Mean a Thing to read while you wait. The ebook will be going on sale for 99 cents until the end of the tour. That's 75% off! 



Here are all the awesome bloggers who will be hosting me over the next couple of weeks.


5 December 2016 - Books,Dreams,Life (Excerpt)
5 December 2016 - Linda's Book Bag (Excerpt, Guest Post)

6 December 2016 - Chick Lit Central (Q&A w/Renee)
6 December 2016 - Between the Pages (Excerpt)

7 December 2016 - K. J. Farnham (Promo)

8 December 2016 - My Wonder Emporium (Excerpt)

9 December 2016 - Rae reads (Excerpt)

10 December 2016 - AusRom Today (Excerpt, Guest Post)
10 December 2016 - Brew and Books Review (Review)

11 December 2016 - Book Lover in Florida (Excerpt)

12 December 2016 - Kindred Ink Press (Playlist)
12 December 2016 - Monique McDonell (Promo)

13 December 2016 - Rebecca Raisin (Excerpt)

14 December 2016 - Hello Chick Lit (Excerpt)

15 December 2016 - Karan Eleni (Q&A w/Renee)

16 December 2016 - Grass Monster (Review)

17 December 2016 - Book Lover in Florida (Review)

18 December 2016 - Girl in the Jitterbug Dress (Guest Post)


I'm giving away a signed paperback mystery prize bag to one lucky reader who comes to visit me on tour and a couple of ebooks as runner-up prizes. 



Saturday, 3 December 2016

Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop

Hey Everyone!

I'm still wallowing in boxes, but I wanted to escape the unpacking for a moment to let you all know about the Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop. Make sure you join the Facebook event HERE to get reminders each day about where to go to win bookish prizes. Don't forget to stop by my Facebook page on Wednesday for your chance to win a paperback copy of Don't Mean a Thing and a gorgeous soap from Viva La Body (where I had my book launch party). To enter my giveaway, you'll need to sign up for my newsletter and leave a comment on my Facebook post, so sign up now HERE to save time on Wednesday. Good luck!



Make the holiday season even merrier by discovering new reads from some of today's best chick lit and romantic comedy authors during the Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop on Facebook.

Here's how it works: every day from Monday, December 5 through Friday, December 16, readers are invited to hop around to more than 60 authors' Facebook pages (with about five stops each day) to receive gifts and enter to win prizes.

Here is the schedule, which includes the list of authors posting each day and links to their Facebook pages in case you'd like to give them a "like" and follow along:

MONDAY, DECEMBER 5

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 6

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 7

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 9

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 10

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 11

MONDAY, DECEMBER 12

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 14

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 15

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16

We will also give away several Amazon gift cards as bonus prizes on the event page. Every day that you participate and leave a comment on the main post for the day, you will be entered into the drawing to receive the prizes. Be sure to check back every day to maximize your chances!

Happy Holidays to all and to all some fabulous reading!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Box city

Hey Everyone,

I'm still here, I've just been a bit lost in box city for the last week.


I've unpacked my computer but there's still so much to do I haven't had the chance to catch up on my reviews. I'd better get sorted soon because I've started reading again and I don't want my reviews to get away from me.

Writing reviews feels even more special now that my own book is out in the world. I told myself that I wouldn't stalk my reviews but who am I kidding? I can't help myself.

I found this sweet review from Jovita via Twitter *SPOILER ALERT*
(Yay! I'm in India!)

There are some great reviews on Goodreads, Amazon US and Amazon AU too. Do you write reviews? Where do you post them?

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Pee Wee The Christmas Tree by George Wells

Hey Everyone! 

I'd like to introduce you to George Wells, who is on tour with his Christmas picture book.


George Wells has been a songwriter for over fifty years with over 100 of his songs having been recorded. He has worked with artists including Charlie Walker, Neil Bonnett and Patsy Trigg and has had a song featured in the 1969 film, From Nashville With Music, as well as numerous television and radio programs over the course of his career. Wells currently resides in Huntsville, Alabama. Pee Wee the Christmas Tree is his second book.

Pee Wee The Christmas Tree by George Wells


Heartwarming illustrated story about a Christmas tree overlooked for his small size who refuses to give up on finding a family to spend the holidays with.

For years, Pee Wee has lived in the shadow of the bigger trees on the Christmas farm. Without enough sunlight to grow tall and strong, he has been forced to watch helplessly as the other bigger and more attractive trees are picked every year, going home with a happy family. Just as Pee Wee is about to give up hope that he will ever get the chance to bring joy to a family during the holiday season, he is finally cut down to be sold!

After years of waiting, Pee Wee is disappointed to find that he is still overlooked by customers wanting fuller trees to  decorate. With his dream of celebrating Christmas with a family of his own fading fast, he is at last discovered by two children who tell their father that they found one that is the perfect size. Driven back to their home and adorned with lights and decorations, Pee Wee is finally able to accomplish his life’s big dream: to make children happy at Christmas!

Pee Wee the Christmas Tree by George Wells is the perfect story for young kids this holiday season, encouraging them to never give up on their own dreams and proving that - large or small - there is room for us all.



Hey! Here's my review.

A sweet little story about a too-small tree with a too-big heart. The text was easy to read and the illustrations colourful and engaging.

Purchase link
  • Where: Blog Tour
  • Format: ebook

Snowbound by Monique McDonnell *Release Blitz*


Hey Everyone!


My friend, Monique McDonnell is on tour with her latest release - Snowbound - A Chick Lit Christmas Novella.

I am an Australian author who writes contemporary women's fiction, including chick lit and romance. When I began to write again, I noticed a trend - writing dark unhappy stories made me unhappy. So I made a decision to write a novel with a happy ending and I have been writing happy stories ever since.
I am the author of five standalone novels, including Mr. Right and Other Mongrels and Hearts Afire and the Upper Crust Series. Many of my novels focus on Australian characters meeting and visiting US characters.
I have been a member of the writing group The Writer’s Dozen for ten years. Our anthology Better Than Chocolate raised over $10,000 for the charity Room to Read and helped build a library in South East Asia. I am also a member of the Romance Writers of Australia. In 2015, I had a piece on writing chick lit featured in the successful Australian non-fiction book Copyfight.
To learn more about my books, my writing, my caffeine obsession and my upcoming books please visit www.moniquemcdonell.com.au.

Social Networking Links
Website: http://www.moniquemcdonellauthor.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6154665.Monique_McDonell
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MoniqueMcDonellAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MoniqueMcDonell
Amazon Author: https://www.amazon.com/Monique-McDonell/e/B0086R9S2U/


Snowbound by Monique McDonnell

When Zara’s boyfriend can’t come home to Sydney from New York for Christmas she decides to surprise (go to) him instead. Sure, the ticket costs a bomb and her overbearing family thinks it is a bad idea but that’s what you do for love right? Or so she tells the tall and hunky ex-basketball star, Kyle who is squeezed into the plane seat beside her.
But when a blizzard hits and she finds herself snowed-in/stranded in Denver a few things become clear – her boyfriend isn’t that heartbroken about her absence, the airport doesn’t seem like a very festive place to spend the holiday/be snowed-in and there aren’t enough pumpkin spiced lattes to fix the situation.
So when Kyle offers to take her to stay at his buddy’s empty house she decides to take a chance and make the best of her first white Christmas. What she hadn’t banked on was Kyle’s ex and a reality television crew crashing the Christmas party.
If you like fun and flirty heroes, ugly sweaters, snow covered mountains and sugar cookies, you’ll enjoy reading Snowbound these holidays.



Saturday, 19 November 2016

Euston to Wagga Wagga

Hey Everyone!

After a completely overcast day yesterday, it was nice to see the sun streaming through the clouds and a little bit of blue peeking out. We began our journey on the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory and finished it on the Sturt Highway in New South Wales. Surprisingly, the temperature was even hotter down south than in the Top End, but the lack of humidity makes up for the extra four degrees.



We saw lots of emu and a kangaroo poking their heads up from the long, dry grass. We also saw lots of long, dry grass that had been cut and bundled.

Hey Everyone! Here's some hay!

Hey Everyone! Here's some more hay!


We even had morning tea in a town called Hay.

HeySaidRenee in Hay!


Wagga Wagga got closer and closer until...



We made it!



Friday, 18 November 2016

Port Augusta to Euston

Hey Everyone!

Today is the penultimate day of driving and we're all getting a bit sick of the car. We drove through three states today, starting in South Australia, cutting across the top of Victoria, then into New South Wales. We had lunch with some ducks in Burra, who were delighted to dispose of Molly's crusts for her.


No signs of red dirt anymore and not a salt bush in sight - we're finally in farm country - sheep, grain, wine and wind.  When we stopped for afternon tea, I remembered something else about farm counrty - as I tried to scoop the buzzing insect out from behind my sunglasses as it was attempting to land on my eyeball - fly country. There'd been "no flies on me, mate" in Darwin, but I suspect I've traded in the itchy midges for the bothersome flies.

Wind turbines on the hill

Farm country

There was still evidence of the recent flooding. The Murray River was a lot wider than usual and the gum trees looked more like mangroves. The major roads were open though. The only road I saw that was closed was the one behind the Euston Club where we went for dinner - luckily, we left our car at our cabin and walked there. 


Euston Club 

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Coober Pedy to Port Augusta

Hey Everyone!

Back on the road again today for the second half of our road trip. Day six we accidently slept in and left an hour behind schedule because we forgot to set an alarm and there was no morning sun in our cave room. We got a glimpse of The Big Winch on our way out of town. No Aussie road trip is complete without seeing a "Big" something.



Back on the highway and heading south, we saw more lizards, eagles, emus and willy willy's (dusty whirlwinds). The terrain was mostly flat sparse salt bush and clumps of grass. We passed several dry salt lakes, they looked frozen until you wound down the window for a better photo and the 38 degree dry heat blasted you in the face.



We stopped for lunch in Woomera - a tiny town built for the missile testing area in the 1940s. There is an active Royal Australian Air Force base there too. Luke has been there a couple of times for work and gave us the grand tour. It didn't take very long.



A meat safe - people used to keep their meat in one of these, hung from a tree so the wild animals couldn't get it.
I prefer my fridge.
We saw a freight train on our way - the kids counted 98 carriages, but I'm not quite sure how accurate their counting was - more likely it tookk about 98 seconds to drive past at the croossing. I wonder if our furniture was on it?



We drove on to Port Augusta and officially made it from the North coastine of Australia to the South coastline. The kids had a play on the playground and got out some of their pent up energy while Luke and I sat under the gum trees watching the seagulls.




We went out for dinner to the Commonwealth Hotel for schnitzel night - honestly the best beef schnitzel I've ever had! The pub was in full Christmas spirit and decked their halls with boughs of holly and every other room with everything that glitters, flashes, sparkles or just shouts Christmas. I think I'll unpack my Christmas tree as soon as we move in.