Kick the Dust – Rhonda Forrest


‘If I close my eyes, it’s easier to hold onto a memory. When I open them, I think it might really be there in front of me.’

After three tours of duty in Afghanistan, Liam Andrews is home safe in Queensland. His weekly life drawing class, full of colourful local artists, helps him manage his post-traumatic stress disorder. But he’s struggling to open up about a past that still haunts him.

Belourine ‘Billy’ is an Afghan refugee who lost everything before arriving in Australia as a child. She finds joy in her daily swims in the lake. After years of upheaval, she’s still searching for a place to call home. But her past makes it hard to trust people.

When Liam and Billy meet, they form an instant connection. But will they ever overcome the past? And will it be together?

A moving story of love, loss and resilience from the author of Two Heartbeats.

My review

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Kick the Dust, by author Rhonda Forrest, is the fourth book I have had the privilege of reading, written by this talented Australian author. Kick the Dust is a heartwarming contemporary novel of loss, trauma, gratitude, love and courage.

Rhonda gently discusses issues with care and understanding, including her comment on loss and feeling that ‘gaping hole’ upon losing one’s mother. The romance within this novel is subtle and sweet, which makes the love all the more genuine and beautiful.

Liam, an artist who spent three tours in Afghanistan lives on a peaceful property in Queensland. He spends every spare moment in his studio or at the local art class, painting the human figure. Billy is a refugee from Afghanistan who has experienced tremendous tragedy and loss in her life. These two characters cross paths, as they take time to swim in the lake each day, in their own designated areas of the same lake. Much like their backgrounds, although distant, there are significant connections.

Painting is an emotive craft. It’s like music or poetry, it’s a way to express feelings, to interpret and portray the feelings of others.’ Art is everything and more in this novel. Painting is explored as an outlet for Liam’s grief, loss and pain, yet is also a way in which connects him and Billy with their past. Billy, who has no family, begins to remember images, smells and significant memories of her childhood and family. Painting is the gateway to healing for both characters.

I particularly enjoyed reading the descriptions of Liam, as he paints. Understanding his passion and thoughts, via his talent, allowed me to feel as if I were sitting in the studio or art class too.

The members of the art class all have their own stories and it is beautiful to see the transformation of thoughts as they get to know one another. Racist and thoughtless comments that we often hear in Australia are challenged and the characters gain a sense of the individual.

This novel challenges people who do not consider others as individuals, rather as one and the same. In Australia there are often opinions circulating that do not consider the horrors experienced by refugees. I hope that we see a positive shift towards acceptance in all communities, as is seen in this novel. I hope that more people provide refugees with opportunities, as Liam attempts to do. I cannot imagine losing my entire family. It is with kindness and love for others that we can help those who have experienced unimaginable devastation and loss.

Those who look deeper than the surface and take their time to look into the work will hopefully see the story.’ This is one of my favourite quotes in the novel. Rhonda’s reference to painting is a metaphor for the way in which we can take the time to get to know someone, rather than simply taking note of appearance.

The title of this novel is truly meaningful and I love where the inspiration for it came from; two young students from Afghanistan who recently arrived in Australia. Without divulging too much in my review, I will say the title is perfect. As a teacher, Rhonda has no doubt had a positive impact on young minds, as she does with her readers. Each novel challenges the reader to think about society as a whole and appreciate what they have in their own lives. Rhonda’s novels all have the ability to encourage the reader to engage with what is truly important in life.

Rhonda has such a unique style and yet again, I found myself in the depths of the world of the characters so much so that I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to be a part of the art class and community, so that I could have a chat with them. I would highly recommend Kick the Dust and hope that many Australians will read this novel that has such relevance in our country.

Thank you Rhonda for sending me a copy of Kick the Dust. I feel honoured to have had the opportunity to read your fourth novel and to have two quotes of mine placed in this beautiful book too. Another thought provoking novel from a talented author. Much love.


1 Year Giveaway



On 14 November 2018 I started my #bookstagram account and blog. I am very glad that I did. This is the best community to be a part of. I love interacting with friends on my blog and bookstagram. Thank you. ❤️❤️

When I read B.Jeanne Shibahara’s novel Kaerou – Time to Go Home I couldn’t put it down. B.Jeanne and I would like to offer two signed copies of ‘Kaerou – Time to Go Home’ to two lucky winners (one international and one Australian winner).

– Follow me and @b.jeanneshibahara on Instagram or here.
– Like this post
– Tag three friends in one comment below. You may do this as many times as you wish. One comment is one entry.
– Be willing to provide your address to myself and B.Jeanne for postage.

I love this novel. It means so much to me. Kaerou – Time to Go Home is unlike any other novel I have ever read. As a kimono, this story is beautiful, delicate, complex and one to be treasured. The descriptions were vivid and I was immediately transported to Japan. This is great timing to gain a sense of Japan before the 2020 Olympics too.

To read my review please go to or a bit about B.Jeanne in an interview I conducted with her

“In Japan…everywhere…red strings tie all people we meet together. Some strings are weak. Some have tangles. Some strong.”

Meryl—Vietnam War widow—misses her grown son, feels left out after her father’s recent marriage. A WWII Japanese flag falls into her hands. The gentle push of a love-struck professor starts her adventure—take the flag home. From the neon of Osaka, to the ancient capital Nara, to the forests of Akita, the trail follows a newspaper reporter, factory manager, ikebana teacher, a Matagi hunter and winds through Japanese culture, past and present. A story of shared humanity and love “in the simplest things.”

– Must be over 18 to enter
– not affiliated with Instagram
– no giveaway accounts
– Competition closes AEDST 8pm 20 November 2019

#bookgiveaway #giveaway #bookstagrammer #bookstagramcommunity #kaerou #bjeanneshibahara #japan #japanolympics2020 #japanfan #historicalfiction #chapterichi

Riverstone Ridge – Mandy Magro

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Thank you @harlequinaus @romanceanz for sending me a copy of Riverstone Ridge in exchange for an honest review.


An authentic and heartfelt story about uncovering who you truly are and where you belong from bestselling Australian author Mandy Magro.

After making a mistake that felt like the end of the world to her teenage self, Nina Jones fled the small town of Huntingvale. Now sixteen years later her beloved adoptive mother, Bea, has passed away, forcing Nina to return and decide whether to sell her family home, Riverstone Ridge. But even though Bea can’t be there to help her through it all, she’s left Nina five letters, one sent a week, to finally share the secrets she’d been unable to reveal in life.

For Logan Steele, Nina’s return is the catalyst he’s needed to finally move beyond his tragic past and start living again. But only if she stays. When mysterious and increasingly worrisome accidents start happening around the homestead, both Logan’s cop instincts and his protective feelings toward Nina spur him to investigate. Will he be able to piece together the puzzle of the past in time?

And with dark family secrets emerging from Bea’s last words rippling into the present day, how will Nina find the courage to be truthful to the one man who has always held her heart?

My review

Riverstone Ridge follows the life of Nina, a woman who loses her much loved adoptive mother, Bea. When Bea passes Nina returns to the small town she grew up in and must face her fears, the tragedies of the past and uncover family secrets. Her world is turned upside down.

Nina is a beautiful protagonist. I really enjoyed her character; her strength and determination. Whilst dealing with grief, Nina finds romance from her past. Logan, local police officer knows grief all too well and provides comfort to his friend. Magro writes with sincerity and allows the reader to feel the characters’ pain. Their grief is not brushed over and the characters connect due to their past, present and pain.

I love that Bea left letters for Nina to read. Due to her awareness of her illness she was able to do this, which is lovely.

I did feel the amount of drama in one story was a little too much for me, most likely due to focusing on my own grief lately. I could have read about Bea and Logan and feel it would have been an enjoyable novel without the additional mystery. The characters were well developed and the small town vibe had a lovely feel.

I would recommend reading this romance novel, as the writing is enjoyable.


The Girl in the Painting – Tea Cooper

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Thank you @harlequinaus for sending me a proof copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.


For readers of the The True Story of Maddie Bright, The Woman in the Green Dress and The Birdman’s Wife comes this atmospheric and richly detailed Australian historical mystery from a bestselling Australian author.

Maitland 1913. Miss Elizabeth Quinn is something of an institution in Maitland Town. For longer than anyone could remember she and her brother, businessman Michael, have lived in the impressive two-storey stone house next to the church. When she is discovered cowering in the corner of the exhibition gallery at the Technical College the entire town knows something strange has come to pass.

Was it the prehistoric remains or perhaps the taxidermy exhibition that had reduced the whale-boned encased pillar of society to a quivering mess? Or is there something odd about a striking painting on loan from the National Gallery?

Mathematical savant Jane Piper is determined to find out. Deposited on the doorstep of the local orphanage as a baby, she owes her life and education to the Quinn’s philanthropic ventures and Elizabeth has no one else to turn to.

As the past and the present converge, Elizabeth’s grip on reality loosens. Can Jane, with her logical brain and penchant for puzzles, unravel Elizabeth’s story before it is too late?

Ranging from the gritty reality of the Australian goldfields to the grand institutions of Sydney, the bucolic English countryside to the charm of Maitland Town, this compelling historical mystery in the company of an eccentric and original heroine is rich with atmosphere and detail.

My review

The Girl in the Painting is a mysterious and poignant historical fiction novel.

Tea Cooper is a master of the dual timeline novel. The story follows two strong female protagonists and their intertwined stories. This is another of Tea’s novels in which the female characters show their attempt to defy society’s expectations of what a woman should be and work hard to be true to themselves. Elizabeth’s past, present and future had me guessing throughout the novel… Elizabeth and her brother, in time, make a life for themselves in Maitland, NSW Australia, after travelling from England. Their arrival to Australia is not what they had pictured. The story also follows Jane, gifted mathematician, who was taken in by Elizabeth and Michael. Jane attempts to help Elizabeth, as she is considered mentally unstable due to episodes and flashbacks experienced. The regrets and love stories were a huge part of my hopes for the female characters. I enjoyed the romance in the novel.

I enjoyed Tea’s historical setting, in particular since it is set not far from where I live. Maitland in the early 1900s is not what I envisioned. I found myself researching this time and am grateful to have read a work of fiction that has lead me to realise these events in history, including the racial discrimination and way in which immigrants lived. They were forced to live in such inhumane conditions.

I also enjoyed the way in which Tea describes the artworks and the significance of them in respect to the mystery at hand.

I would highly recommend this novel and find that Tea Cooper’s style of writing is compelling. Her novels that I have read have all been enjoyable reads.


No Death, No Fear – Thich Nhat Hanh

With hard-won wisdom and refreshing insight, Thich Nhat Hanh confronts a subject that has been contemplated by Buddhist monks and nuns for twenty-five-hundred years—and a question that has been pondered by almost anyone who has ever lived: What is death? In No Death, No Fear, the acclaimed teacher and poet examines our concepts of death, fear, and the very nature of existence. Through Zen parables, guided meditations, and personal stories, he explodes traditional myths of how we live and die. Thich Nhat Hanh shows us a way to live a life unfettered by fear.

My thoughts

Thank you Thich Nhat Hanh for your wisdom, clarity and comfort. I wish I had lived my life with this knowledge long ago… but truly lived it, not simply believing what I have read. Now, I need to live life like this.

Grief and loss, in particular, loss of my mum has been the most pain I have ever experienced… Thich Nhat Hahn provides comfort and the knowlege that our loved ones never die. They are always with us and a part of us and everything they have touched. Their spirit is with us. Something can’t come from nothing and something can’t become nothing.

The beautiful stories and parables, including Thich’s own loss of his mother and his poems and images will stay with me. I love his poem The Cloud and how he compares our lives to a cloud. Impermance is such an important teaching and although I have listened to talks on it and meditated on it, I have not felt it to this extent until now. Thich Nhat Hanh’s symbol of the tea leaves helped me to realise that my mum is still here. I need to hold on to these stories. This book will help me in all times of need in the future. I hope to rely on my faith.

I would recommend this book to everyone. It is a lesson on life. It is a lesson on our perception of reality. For anyone who has lost a loved one, I highly recommend this book. I will miss my mum everyday for the rest of my life… With this book and teachings, I hope to find peace and comfort in the everyday and on those days when I miss my mum most.


The Colour of Time – Lynelle Long


This is the sequel to The Colour of Difference: Journeys in Transracial Adoption by Federation Press, 2001 (no longer available in print but can be purchased as an ebook at Google Play).

The Colour of Time follows the journeys of 13 of the original 27 contributors from The Colour of Difference. Reading about their experiences 15 years on, you will gain a greater understanding of how the adoption journey is navigated over time as adoptees mature and age. The book looks at whether things change, and if so, how?

Included in The Colour of Time is a new younger generation of 15 intercountry adoptees, some as young as 18 through to others in their early 30s. They shed light on whether the issues they’ve experienced mirror the complexities raised by the older generation in The Colour of Difference. Has the mandatory education for prospective parents made a difference? Has racism been an issue compared to those raised in the 70s and 80s, post White Australia Policy era? Has greater awareness of the complexities highlighted in The Colour of Difference made any impact?

Overall, the book The Colour of Time includes 28 intercountry adoptees raised in Australia and adopted from 13 birth countries. The book provides a snapshot of some issues faced over the life long journey of being adopted, specific to intercountry adoption. These range from being young adults finishing high school wrestling with identity issues, searching and reuniting, navigating dating relationships, becoming parents, chosing to remain single, navigating post reunion relationships, losing adoptive or biological parents through age, resolving or learning to manage traumas and mental health issues long term, and much, much more …

The Colour of Time is a must read for those interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the life long journey of intercountry adoption, whether an adoptive parent, an adoptee, an adoption professional, or anyone interested in adoption.

My thoughts

This is not a review, as I cannot review this heartfelt book and analyse it. Every story is unique, every voice needs to be heard.

This book has many different perspectives on adoption and in particular, intercountry adoption in Australia. As a prospective adoptive parent going through assessment at the moment, I learnt a lot. Every prospective adoptive parent should read this story to learn about the challenges our children may face, how they will best be supported, the connection to their heritage and birth country, the importance of learning their birth language and most of all to be brought up in a loving home that will support them along the path they take to find themselves.

I feel fortunate to read personal stories such as these. Each story is short, yet filled with emotion. To share such personal accounts of one’s life and their perspective on adoption is very brave.

After reading this book, I am just as excited to be growing our family through adoption (if we pass to the next stage 😊). I look forward to supporting my children as they grow and hope they will always feel loved and supported. All children should have an opportunity to feel love and to feel safe in their own home with their family.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for GoodReads purposes.

Up on Horseshoe Hill – Penelope Janu


A kiss can change your life …

Jemima Kincaid loves her home, her horses and her job as a farrier. Life has not been kind to her, but Jemima is happy in the close-knit rural community of Horseshoe Hill, which rallied around in her hour of need. Even so, she is fiercely independent and will never rely on anyone again.

Particularly a man like Finn Blackwood.

An infuriatingly attractive geneticist and wild animal vet, Finn threatens not only the serenity of Jemima’s present, but that of the future she has so carefully mapped out. But as their paths continue to cross, she finds her attraction to Finn impossible to counter, even as the trauma of her past threatens to undo her. Finn is fascinated by Jemima’s solitary nature and unique vulnerabilities but Jemima knows all about loss and how to avoid it. Don’t let anyone get close in the first place …

As the past begins to cast long shadows, Jemima and Finn discover that a kiss can bring worlds together-or tear them apart. Will they finally face their fears and find love on Horseshoe Hill?

My review

#book-review #book-reviewer

Thank you to @hqstories and @harpercollinsaustralia for sending me a proof copy of Up on Horseshoe Hill in exchange for my honest review.

This is a story of loss and finding out how to live life whilst being mindful, rather than fearful, of the unexpected.

Jemima, a Farrier, who lives in a small rural town meets Finn, wild animal vet and geneticist. Finn upsets the balance that Jemima believes she has in her life. Will his presence create disturbance or will he truly provide balance and insight in her life?

Finn’s employment to investigate a horrific incident is one which Jemima has tried to put behind her. Their relationship is realistic and their romance is turbulent, yet considerate, and also steamy in sections of the novel.

I particularly connected with the author’s understanding of grief and loss. It was refreshing to read a novel in which a character has had challenges in life and yet, those challenges are still a part of her, rather than being something she must overcome. Grief isn’t anything to overcome, rather to learn how to live each day in a way that we honour our loved ones. Penelope Janu does this beautifully.

Another aspect that I enjoyed was the small town feel. I wanted to be a part of this town that gives support and love to its community members.

The romance in the novel is realistic. I did become impatient with Finn and Jemima at times. This is true to life in respect to human characteristics and their ability and inability to act on their feelings.

Up on Horseshoe Hill is a novel that I would recommend and one that as I think about and review my thoughts on, I realise that I like it more and more based on numerous areas of the novel.