Renee Conoulty: November 2016

Books

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.



Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Cave Time

Hey Everyone!

Today was a rest day - no long drives for us. Sleeping in instead and I have to say that caves are awesome for sleeping in. No natural light to wake you up, it's so easy to roll over and go back to sleep in that dark. With free WiFi, old mobile phones and kid-sized headphones, I didn't get up until morning tea time, when the kids poked me to get them some food. They'd slept in too. Ah, cave life.

Cereal, chillin' out, then sandwiches and it was time to venture out from our mini hibernation. The bright sunshine sent us scurrying back underground. We explored the Umoona museum where we saw lots of opals, read about opal mining history in Coober Pedy and learnt about the sea creature fossils found in this desert that used to be an inland sea.





Our next stop was Tom's Working Mine - which my son Tom was excited to see. We took a self guided tour through the tunnels and used the UV torches to find lots of opal in the tunnel walls. We also had a go at "noodling" or fossicking for opal in the mullock heap near the carpark. We found a few little shards of rock with tiny bits of opal in them - enough for a memento but not enough to retire on.




I'll make sure I set an alarm to wake up in the morning or we'll never leave on time. 

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Alice Springs to Coober Pedy

Hey Everyone!

And we're on to day four of our family adventure.  We left the gum tree oasis of Alice Springs and headed back into salt bush city. At least it wasn't nut bush - there's not enough room to kick my legs dancing in the car. We saw more eagles, more cattle and a family of emu huddled under a shady tree. Snuggled between the salt bush were lots of gorgeous wild flowers, just like these ones.



We noticed the signs for a camel farm and a spontaneous stop led to the best part of the day - a camel ride around the yard. Molly was a bit scared to begin with but after lots of coaxing she agreed to get on. Standing up was a bit jerky, but once we go walking she had a ball. So proud of her for being brave and having a go.



We officially said goodbye to the Nothern Territory today as we crossed the border into South Australia. With daylight savings time in effect - the kids had fun standing with their legs an hour apart.




We didn't have time to visit Uluru this trip, but we drove through the red centre of Australia - even the bitumen was red.



We checked into a cave dug into the side of a giant rock hill. Our room is the deepest one in the man made cave where the temperature is a stable 25 degrees celcius all year round. No airconditioning in the rooms (but some in the corridor outside).




We climbed upthe steps and walked along the goat track to the lookout at the top of the hill just in time to watch the sunset over Coober Pedy. Awesome 360 degree view from the top over the mulock heaped opal mining terrain. I celebrated the end of a lond day with a glass of wine (in the only glass I could find - it was almost a mug of wine).





Monday, 14 November 2016

Tennant Creek to Alice Springs

Hey Everyone!

Day three was a smooth run compared to the beginning of the trip. The kids were excited to go to "Ball World" aka the Devil's Marbles. The round granite rock formations were amazing and we spent more time exploring the area than I'd planned. I hadn't realised how many rock formations were in the one area.

The two most famous "marbles"

 More wedge-tailed eagles and stray cattle beside the road, and the red dirt got redder. I was excited to see a willy willy on the side of the road (no - not that, a little whirlwind) I've never seen one before and the red dust made it look awesome.

Wedge-tailed eagle taking off

Just past the Devil's Marbles, we stopped for a coffee at a roadhouse in Wycliff Well and discovered that it was the UFO capital of Australia, with more UFO sitings than anywhere else Down Under. We were able to identify everything we saw there, except, maybe the coffee. At $3 for a make your own instant coffee  - we're pretty sure the aliens weren't coming here for the hot beverages.

Wycliff Well

We made a quick getaway from Wycliff Well and discovered an open speed limit section of highway. The Mazda CX5 handles 180 km per hour remarkably, though that really chewed up the fuel and after yesterday's experience we decided to back it off to 120 km/hr for most of the day.

Going 167 km/hr in the open speed limit section

The climate has changed over the last couple of days. The humidity has practically gone and the temperature dropped to 30 degrees Celcius. Molly even wanted to wear tracksuit pants this morning because she was cold (she's gonna freeze in Wagga Wagga during winter). We saw the palm trees give way to salt bush and were excited to see all the gum trees as we drove into Alice Springs. The riverbed was completely dry but a few good rains will get it flowing. Luke was particularly enthralled with all the gum trees. He has missed them while we were living in Darwin and hated the palm trees everywhere up there - particularly the ones at the neighbour's house that dropped fronds in our yard. I giggled a little as we drove into the resort I booked - The Desert Palms - palm trees as far as the eye can see. 

Quick dip in Alice Springs - a bit cold for us





Sunday, 13 November 2016

Mataranka to Tennant Creek

Hey Everyone!

It's day 2 of our road trip. We left Mataranka on schedule and with all our stuff! We drove for hours down the Stuart Highway, strips of red dirt either side of the bitumen - heading from the Top End towards the Red Centre. We saw a kangaroo, a couple of frilled neck lizards, wedge-tailed eagles and even brolga. I took a few photos, then my three-month-old phone died. I was looking at photos in the gallery when it switched off. It had full battery but won't turn on or even charge anymore. Luckily we saw more brolga and I got an even better photo on Luke's phone.


There were termite mounds of all shapes and sizes, from the tiny ones by the roadside to the larger ones in the scrub. Every few minutes we saw termite mounds wearing t-shirts and other outfits. My 130 kilometre an hour photo is a bit blurry, but you can see some clearer photos HERE.


We pulled over to give our new mate, Tom, a hand. He'd shredded a tyre and someone had stolen his jack. Our jack turned out to be not much use as it couldn't lift his ute up high enough. We flagged sown another 4-wheel-drive, but they didn't have a jack with them. Hopefully, someone with a 4-wheel-drivejack stopped to help him soon after. He was delivering some mineral licks to the cattle on his million hectare station and having a bad run with his farm ute. As well as the shredded tyre, he'd been bogged earlier, and a wild turkey flew into his windscreen. 



We had better luck than Tom, but only just. Note to self - when checking the computer generated range on the dash to see if we need to get fuel at Elliot or Renner Springs - remember that the car uses more fuel at 130 km/hour than at 60 km/hour and we should check that 30 km leeway we thought we had, might actually end up as 2 km. 

Renner Springs Roadhouse - the best sight of our whole trip!
We made it safe and sound to Tennant Creek and had a welcome swim in the salt-water pool.Tomorrow morning we'll make sure we have all our stuff and plenty of fuel.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Darwin to Mataranka

Hey Everyone!

Saturday morning was finally time to say goodbye to Darwin. The past four and a half years have been an adventure and I've made some great friends but the time has come for us to move on. 

The first day of our eight day road trip down the centre of Australia started off about an hour behind schedule (moving day was exhausting and I struggled to get out of bed). All was going well until about an hour down the road when Tom asked for his favourite toy. Hmmm. Turns out Blue Bunny was still in the hotel. Along with all the kids toys. And...all the kids clothes. U-turn and back to Darwin we went. At 130 kilometres an hour, you can cover a fair distance. The Northern Territory is the only place in Australia with 130 limit on a major highway and one of the few places you can see a road train with 4 trailers.

Round two - we left Darwin after lunch instead. We skipped one of our planned rest stops at a road house and didn't spend as long in Katherine so we still made it to Mataranka in time for a quick dip in the Bitter Springs thermal spring. It was much slimier and not as warm as I expected. A cool spring might have been more refreshing considering it was 40 degrees Celsius in the shade but it was something I'd always wanted to do though and we won't be coming past here again so I'm glad we made it in time.  There were lots of bats and wallabies around, and the termite mounds were the darkest red I've seen.