Australian rural romance author Rachael Johns begins a new trilogy with her latest release, Outback Dreams. This novel, and the two to follow, will be...more Australian rural romance author Rachael Johns begins a new trilogy with her latest release, Outback Dreams. This novel, and the two to follow, will be linked by location, set in the small Western Australian town of Bunyip Bay, and will each feature two people finding love.
In Outback Dreams, Johns introduces Faith Forester and Daniel 'Monty' Montgomery. Best friends since childhood, neither is prepared when their feelings for each other begin to change. Faith is suddenly achingly aware of Daniel's rippling six pack and Monty, despite being distracted by a new face in town, finds himself admiring the lean length of Faith's tanned legs. Unwilling to risk their friendship both Faith and Monty ignore the growing heat between them, until they are faced with losing one another.
Faith's and Monty's journey from friends to lovers is the focal point of this novel offering a good balance of conflict, passion and sweet romance. John's easily convinced me that I wanted to see this couple give in to their simmering mutual attraction and to realise that what they each wanted had been right in front of them all along.
Outback Dreams is about more than a simple romance though. In terms of character, Johns' protagonists face personal challenges that they must work through, and have dreams they are working towards. This ensures they are well rounded, believable and easy to relate to. In terms of the plot, Johns brings attention to issues such as grief, depression and most notably, Autism. I really liked that the author chose to explore the effect of the diagnosis of Monty's younger brother, acknowledging the strain Will's needs placed on Monty in particular. I have to mention though, that I thought Faith's judgement of Monty's resentments a little harsh.
An engaging and charming story of romance, family and community, Outback Dreams is a lovely read and sure to be another winner with her fans.
She was what the old-timers called a storycatcher. Her job was to set life stories straight"
The Storycatcher is a haunting gothic tale set in the Sou...more She was what the old-timers called a storycatcher. Her job was to set life stories straight"
The Storycatcher is a haunting gothic tale set in the South during the depression era. Shelly, a young coloured girl finds herself at the center of someone else's story, a story of secrets, betrayal, murder and revenge.
Though a little scattered to start, Hite weaves together the stories of her characters to reveal connections between the past and the present, between the living and the dead. Prominent themes in the story include the abuse of power, spiritual belief and the bonds of family. Secrets and lies hide a seething undercurrent of violence, lust and vengeance.
Filled with gothic folklore and superstition - haints (ghosts), hoodoo and death charms - the paranormal aspects of the novel work well. Shelly, her brother Will and their mother Amanda are all touched with variations of the 'sight', and deal with it in different ways. It is largely the ghosts' stories, Arlene's and Armetta's, that Shelly needs to tell if she is to find peace.
Hite's descriptions are lush and vivid, I can envision the broken marble angel resting in the deserted cemetery on Black Mountain and smell the salt winds of the Georgia marshes. The eerie atmosphere of the novel is enriched by the rhythms of speech and lyrical prose.
The Storycatcher is a gripping, layered gothic mystery, beautifully written and highly recommended. (less)
Peter Goldsworthy can boast of many accomplishments. Not only is he a doctor, currently working as a GP, he has won major literary awards across a ran...more Peter Goldsworthy can boast of many accomplishments. Not only is he a doctor, currently working as a GP, he has won major literary awards across a range of genres including poetry, short story, the novel, in opera, and most recently in theatre, earning him the Medal of Australia for services to literature in 2010. But from his behaviour and attitude as a young boy and adolescent, few would have believed him capable of such meritorious achievements.
In this frank, often charming, sometimes unseemly, memoir, Goldsworthy reveals an early sexual fetish for car cranks, a middle childhood marked by mayhem and mischief, and an early adolescence of obsessive interests including geology, chemistry, pulp science fiction, and a complete lack of self awareness. And through it all, books were his most constant companions, "The most constant furnishings in the ever-changing homes of my childhood were those books. The most lasting friends I made...were the authors of those books."
Moving frequently at the whim of his father's employer, the Department of Education, Goldsworthy cycles through the regional areas of Adelaide, and then up to Darwin. While his mother hopes desperately for an electric oven and air conditioning with each move, Peter mostly relishes new territory to explore. Steeped in self absorption he makes friends and enemies in equal measure, indulges in petty theft and makes youthful boasts of prowess, all the while risking life and limb by experimenting with chemistry supplies bought in bulk from local hardware stores.
Eventually his teenage eccentricities, including his affectation for wearing a cravat and smoking a pipe, are exchanged for long hair and a pair of high-heeled, elastic-sided brown suede boots worn to poetry readings and Vietnam protests at university, where he studied medicine. If not for collapsed lungs and an extended hospital stay at eighteen, Goldsworthy's childhood may have never ended, but forced for the first time to confront his fallibility Goldsworthy makes the shift into adulthood.
Interspersed with poetry, photographs and sketches of a Molotov cocktail cleverly disguised as a rocket, His Stupid Boyhood reveals 'the naivety and the precocity, the stupidity and the ingenuity, the rationality and the magical thinking' p244 of a boy, now a man known as Peter Goldsworthy. (less)
No Place Like Home is the fifth novel by award winning Australian journalist Caroline Overington. On an ordinary weekday morning, a young man walks in...more No Place Like Home is the fifth novel by award winning Australian journalist Caroline Overington. On an ordinary weekday morning, a young man walks into a shopping centre in the heart of Bondi. No one takes much notice of him, until he begins to run. Months later, former priest and police chaplain, Paul Doherty reflects on the events of that day and all that he has learned since.
The compelling narrative reveals the story of Ali Khan and how he came to be locked in a lingerie store with a bomb chained around his neck. Overington skilfully weaves the stories of those whose lives were touched by Ali Khan into the narrative revealing tales of courage, kindness, cowardice and selfishness, including the aid worker who took pity on the young Tanzanian shunned and mistreated in a refugee camp and Ali's Australian 'hostess' who favoured righteous cause over care. But it is the lives of the four people that shared three hours in the store that Paul unravels more completely, ordinary people caught up in an extraordinary event.
Caroline Overington's fiction often reflects topical socio-political issues and No Place Like Home is a novel with a strong emphasis on the status of refugee and asylum seekers in Australia. The failure of successive governments to find a balance between ensuring Australia's national security and the humane processing of 'boat' people has created an untenable situation which contributes to the circumstances of the siege and Ali Khan's fate.
Tragedy seems inevitable but how the events of that day play out is something few will expect and where the responsibility lies will shock you.
No Place Like Home is a poignant and gripping story crafted with skill and compassion. This is a novel that will challenge your prejudice, your knowledge and perhaps even your faith.
I enjoyed the debut of Suzanne Johnson's Sentinels of New Orleans series, Royal Street and made sure I picked up the second book, River Road shortly a...more I enjoyed the debut of Suzanne Johnson's Sentinels of New Orleans series, Royal Street and made sure I picked up the second book, River Road shortly after it was released. Unfortunately I didn't have the opportunity to read it before the review for this third installment, Elysian Fields was due, luckily though the gap didn't seem to matter much.
Elysian Fields opens with DJ and Jake attending a bloody crime scene, the most recent of a string of homicides linked by an axe left at the scene. The police think the murders are being committed by a copycat but DJ suspects they are dealing with a Historical Undead, an axe wielding serial killer who has crossed over from the Beyond. Tracking down the Axeman becomes easier when he turns his murderous attention to DJ but capturing the Undead figure becomes far more complicated when she learns he is being controlled by a Necromancer. Trying to figure out who wants her dead, while under the threat of turning furry at the next full moon and being forced to take lessons in elven magic from the wizard she holds responsible for Tish's death has DJ reeling.
It's a busy plot combining preternatural political intrigue, murder, betrayal, strained friendships and romance, but Johnson handles it well.
I really like DJ, despite her propensity for chaos. Mostly she isn't at fault, as a New Orleans Sentinel, and a Green Wizard with Elven ancestry, trouble seems determined to find her. DJ is smart, resourceful and willing to throw herself into the breach to protect those she cares about.
The setting of this series, in post-hurricane New Orleans and Johnson's unique mythology is a huge part of the attraction for me. I like the way in which the author mixes wizards, vamps, elves, shifters and the Historical Undead like Louis Armstrong and of course the notorious pirate, Jean Lafitte.
Fast paced and action packed Elysian Fields is an entertaining urban fantasy adventure with great combination of interesting story and appealing characters. I am looking forward to the next one (and promise to get Rive Road read before then!) (less)
I was intrigued by the first book of this series, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, describing it in my review as "...moreAugust 1st release: Australia
I was intrigued by the first book of this series, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, describing it in my review as "a slightly surreal, complex novel that is not just about the mystery of the missing... but also explores life's larger mysteries, those of self, purpose and fate." This novel is no different but I found I was less patient with Claire's idiosyncrasies as she wandered around snorting coke waiting for the answers to the mystery of her ex boyfriends murder to find her as dictated by her 'bible', 'Détection'. The plot wavers in favour of eccentricity and I found my attention waning, with the secondary case - a recall of one of Claire DeWitt's first cases as a teenager- just barely sustaining interest. Though the writing is quite stunning and I admired some of the unique elements of character this literary crime novel was sadly a bit of a slog for me. (less)
So I am not even really sure where to start with A Beautiful Truth. I feel I must have missed something important, something that would have revealed...more So I am not even really sure where to start with A Beautiful Truth. I feel I must have missed something important, something that would have revealed McAdam's novel as a work of brilliance rather than an awkwardly written take on the movie Rise of The Planet of the Apes.
At times I admired a well written phrase or keen observation but mostly I felt the narrative, which is shared between humans and chimps, was cold, distant and arrogant.
I thought the plot disjointed, focusing first on Louee's life with Walter and Judy Ribke, interspersed with the first point of view of a group of chimps housed in a nearby research institute, which then shifts to a biomedical testing facility where Looee is later exiled. McAdams also detours randomly to introduce characters which add little to the story - a politician, a neighbour, a researcher's girlfriend and then drops them unceremoniously.
While I recognise McAdams does make some thoughtful observations about love, communication, and the characteristics of humanity, I feel that substance was sacrificed on the altar of 'literary' style.
A Beautiful Truth didn't work for me but reviews are mixed. I would only recommend it to reader's who have the patience for literary pretension.(less)
Larissa Ione has been my on must read list for entirely too long, but I was unwilling to get entangled in an existing series so when Bound by Night be...more Larissa Ione has been my on must read list for entirely too long, but I was unwilling to get entangled in an existing series so when Bound by Night became available I didn't want to miss out.
Larissa Ione's new MoonBound Clan series doesn't seem to stray far from familiar ground for the author, it is a steamy paranormal romance featuring pairs of star crossed lovers. In Bound by Night Nicole Martin, has recently inherited the role of CEO of her family's corporation, a global company built on the exploitation of vampires, to be used as, amongst other things, house servants and medical test subjects. When her company captures a female vampire with a highly prized talent, the members of the MoonBound Clan are desperate to retrieve her and kidnap Nicole intending to torture her to reveal the location of their missing vamp. Nicole is terrified, recognising MoonBound Clan warrior Riker as one of the vampires that was involved in the slave rebellion that slaughtered her entire family as a child. Riker has been dreaming of revenge on the Martin family for years but Nicole is not what he expected and neither, Nicole learns, is Riker the monster she has feared for years.
I liked the world building by Ione, here vampires have been known to the world for around sixty years and have been enslaved by humans. Largely vampires are viewed by society as murderous animals and afforded very few rights. There are small clans of rebellious vampires doing their best to avoid capture, forced to compete with each for scant resources, it is to one of these - the MoonBound Clan - that Riker belongs. Ione's vampires are not mindless killers though they are more than capable of it. They can be born, or turned - a process not all survive, and have enhanced abilities such as speed and strength and may have a special power. And in an original twist on Vampire myth, they are said to descend from a Native American legend but their true origins, which very few know, can be traced to a curse laid by a demon.
The plot itself is fairly predictable for any romance, distrust and anger slowly give way to mutual understanding and cooperation, with the hum of irresistible attraction ever present. In terms of story this means Nicole and Riker find common ground when they learn more about each other and their prejudices are challenged. There is plenty of action in addition to the romance, kidnappings, battles between vampires and hunters and between vampires from rival clans, putting Nicole and Riker alternately in jeopardy and the tension leads to a fast paced read.
I enjoyed Bound By Night, it is pretty much what I expected from my reading within the genre but also offers its own small unique touches. It's likely I will pick up the next installment to see how Hunter escapes the predicament he finds himself and how Nicole and Riker are faring with their HEA.(less)
"The lies you wanted to hear were the easiest ones to tell" pg384
Lies you Wanted to Hear is a compelling story of love and betrayal, of a marriage des...more "The lies you wanted to hear were the easiest ones to tell" pg384
Lies you Wanted to Hear is a compelling story of love and betrayal, of a marriage destroyed by the secrets we keep from one another and the lies we tell ourselves.
When Matt meets Lucy on a blind date he knows she is the 'one', she is beautiful, bright and sexy, "everything a guy could want", but Lucy is wary, Matt, a strait laced police officer, is completely different from her on again-off again lover Griffin who she can't seem to let go of, no matter who badly he treats her. But Griffin has gone and when Lucy falls pregnant she allows Matt to convince her that she can be what he needs, that he is what she wants.
Told from the alternating first person viewpoints of Matt and Lucy we witness the evolution of their relationship, from their first date, to marriage, to parenthood, and its eventual, inevitable devolution. The relationship is compromised before it even begins, marred by secrets and dishonesty, which only become more divisive as time passes. The Lies You wanted to Hear explores the the ambiguity of guilt, blame, and fault and forces the reader to consider if right and wrong is always easy to determine.
The characterisation in Lies You Wanted To Hear is superb, Lucy and Matt are realistically complex and change through the novel. I found it difficult to like Lucy who is arrogant and self centered and I wasn't able to muster much sympathy for her despite a troubled family background or even the losses she suffers later in the novel. Matt is easier to like, loyal, loving and eager to please, but he has his faults and eventually he loses the moral high ground that seemed his right. Thomson skilfully exposes the choices each character makes and the consequences for their marriage and their family.
An impressive debut I wouldn't hesitate to recommend, Lies You Wanted to Hear is provocative, gritty and poignant. A gripping family drama. (less)
Jane Green has established herself as a best selling author of womens fiction, publishing more than a dozen novels in the last fifteen years or so. He...more Jane Green has established herself as a best selling author of womens fiction, publishing more than a dozen novels in the last fifteen years or so. Her latest release, Tempting Fate, is the story of Gaby Cartwright, a housewife and mother approaching middle age when a mild flirtation over a drink with someone who is not her husband spirals into an obsession which blows her world apart.
Exploring themes such as marriage, motherhood, betrayal and adultery, Tempting Fate is a well crafted story. I felt that Jane Green attempted an honest examination of the consequences for Gabby and her family when her recklessness is exposed. The plot is thought provoking, challenging and engaging and though the ending was just a little too neat and orderly for me, I think it was probably the best choice in order to appeal to Green's target audience.
The characters of Tempting Fate are believably drawn and respond realistically to the issues they face. I was surprised to find Gabby a largely a likeable protagonist given my general distaste for her actions. Green does a credible job of exposing Gaby's vulnerabilities and I feel any woman of a similar age and life stage as Gaby will be able to relate to her many of her thoughts and emotions, even if they find the choices she makes morally repugnant. The author also did well to flesh out the cast and share their reactions to the changes they are forced to accept. I could understand Elliot's anger and sadness, support her daughters outrage and could sympathise with Gaby's best friends quandary.
Tempting Fate is a surprisingly compulsive read, drawing the reader in with genuine emotion and a keen understanding of 'real women, real life and all the things life throws at them'. I found it a quick, entertaining and satisfying read.
In Sinéad Moriarty's ninth novel, Mad About You, she revisits Emma Hamilton and her family. First introduced in The Baby Trail, we followed Emma and h...more In Sinéad Moriarty's ninth novel, Mad About You, she revisits Emma Hamilton and her family. First introduced in The Baby Trail, we followed Emma and her husband James in their quest to become parents in A Perfect Match and then From Here to Maternity. In their ten year marriage, Emma and James have weathered the heart break of infertility, the joy of new parenthood and the stress of unemployment but when the family is forced to move from Ireland to London cracks begin to form. James is working all the time and Emma is lonely, despite finding a job with her sister, so when James begins to receive racy texts, and Emma threatening messages, Emma grows increasingly suspicious of her husband and their marriage begins to buckle under the strain.
The tension in the novel isn't sustained by identifying the stalker but by the question of if the marriage can survive the suspicion and mistrust that eats away at Emma. Who is responsible for the texts, notes and packages is glaringly obvious from the moment the perpetrator is introduced into the storyline. I found that disappointing to be honest since it renders the plot entirely predictable even if it makes sense that she is the one person Emma would overlook.
I liked Emma more in the previous novels than in Mad About You. Here she tends to be a little self righteous, especially when she lectures Lacey and Babs about their choices, and later becomes rather shrill and hysterical in response to the stalker's harassment. I understand her distress but Emma seems determined to believe the worst of James.
The novel also addresses the challenges of motherhood, especially in regards to juggling the needs and demands of children with individual desires and career ambition. The marriage of Emma's best friend Lacey to Donal is disintegrating under Lacey's indifference to motherhood and the satisfaction she gains from her demanding job. Babs, Emma's sister, ends a pregnancy that could derail her career. Emma is slightly horrified by her neighbour's choice to never use babysitters, something that Emma has no qualms about whether it is to provide care for her children while she is at work, give her time alone with James or just a few hours to herself.
I did enjoy Mad About You, it was a pleasant day's distraction and an easy read though ultimately offered nothing particularly memorable.(less)
Part police procedural, part cozy mystery, Deadly Virtues is an engaging crime fiction novel from prolific British author Jo Bannister.
When Jerome Ca...more Part police procedural, part cozy mystery, Deadly Virtues is an engaging crime fiction novel from prolific British author Jo Bannister.
When Jerome Cardy dies in police custody, brutally beaten to death by his cellmate, the incident seems likely to be written up as an unfortunate accident. But the law student's last panicked words referencing Othello, nags at Gabriel Ash with whom the young man briefly shared a cell. Rookie cop Hazel Best is inclined to dismiss the word of the man known as 'Rambles with Dog' but when Ash is the subject of an attempted kidnapping, and then a journalist curious about the case is killed in a fatal hit and run, Hazel is forced to consider that Jerome's death was not an accident at all.
There aren't too many surprises in this tale of murder and corruption but it is an engaging, well plotted mystery. The small English town of Norbold boasts one of the country's lowest crime rates attributed to Chief Superintendent John Fountain's zero tolerance policy but Gabriel Ash and new recruit, Constable Hazel Best soon discover that all is not as it seems.
I particularly liked the well developed main protagonists of Deadly Virtues. Gabriel Ash is considered the town's 'crazy' due to his mumbled conversations with an adopted stray Lurcher, hence the label 'Rambles with Dog'. But four years ago Ash was a government official whose diligent work in counter terrorism resulted in tragedy and subsequently an emotional break down. Ash is a sympathetic and intriguing character and I really enjoyed the way in which he evolved through out the story. Hazel Best is an idealistic new constable who is torn between honour and duty. Doing the right thing is important to her but when the cost may be her career, and even her life, Hazel is faced with some difficult decisions. Though I find it hard to believe Hazel could be quite as naive as she seems to be at times, I felt her internal conflict was believable and admired her strength of character.
I thought the issues that were posed with the denouement of the story were interesting and gave the story additional depth. Nothing is ever as black and white, or as simple as it seems - even the truth.
Deadly Virtues is an entertaining and satisfying mystery with appealing characters and I expect dog lovers will find it hard to resist Ash's faithful hound, Patience. Though written as a stand alone, there is potential for Bannister to revive these characters and I would certainly be interested in seeing Gabriel, with the help of Hazel, find answers regarding the fate of his family.
How To Be A Good Wife is a disquieting novel by debut novelist Emma Chapman. This subtle psychological thriller is an intriguing tale of half truths a...more How To Be A Good Wife is a disquieting novel by debut novelist Emma Chapman. This subtle psychological thriller is an intriguing tale of half truths and lies, madness and mystery.
Make your home a place of peace and order.
Marta Bjornstad has always striven to be a good wife and mother, following the rules in the manual gifted to her on her wedding day, but now that her son has left home to lead his own life, her days seem long and empty. Her husband Hector, more than twenty years her senior, maintains that Marta will be fine as long as she continues to take her pills, but Marta stopped taking her medication months ago. And in the quiet, the house begins to echo with pleading ghosts and visions that flicker in darkened corners.
After a slow start, How To Be a Good Wife rewards the reader with a unnerving mystery. Written in the first person present tense, Marta is a narrator that we are not sure we can trust. Her husband and son would have us believe she is mentally ill and certainly Marta's confused thinking and hallucinations would seem to support their opinion but as the novel unfolds doubt is cast over their simple explanation. Free of daily medication, Marta begins to piece together the story of her past, a tale that conflicts with what Hector has told their son, and one that she can get no one to believe.
Persevere beyond the first quarter or so of the novel and How To Be a Good Wife rewards you with an unexpected twist, though be warned, the unreliability of Marta's narrative will not suit every reader and the truth remains obscured even after the final pages. Personally I was satisfied with the conclusions I drew from my interpretation of the story, I believe I know where the truth lies, even in the absence of Chapman's denouement.
Haunting, poignant and gripping How To Be a Good Wife is an impressive, well crafted novel of suspense. (less)
A story of secrets, lies, ugly truths and the ways in which the past haunts the present, The Vale Girl is a stunning debut by Nelika McDonald. When fo...more A story of secrets, lies, ugly truths and the ways in which the past haunts the present, The Vale Girl is a stunning debut by Nelika McDonald. When fourteen year old Sarah Vale, the illegitimate daughter of an alcoholic prostitute, goes missing, the residents of Banville are indifferent. In the absence of the small town's compassion, teenage Tommy Johns, determined not lose another person whom he loves, pushes Sergent Henson to investigate.
The narrative shifts between the first person voice of Sarah and the third person viewpoints of Tommy, Sergent Henson and Graham Knight. We learn of Sarah's mother's tragic past, Tommy's absent father and Graham's thwarted love. As the days pass with no sighting of Sarah the investigation reveals the secrets of Banville belied by the gaiety of the impending annual Grevillea Festival.
"The main street of Banville was very pretty, and it was easy to see how visitors could be seduced by her. But it still surprised Henson how few people ever drifted off the tourist trail and into the back streets, where the true heart of Banville was....Where the locals actually lived and ate and fought and played and slept, it was just an ordinary town, plain and dull. And in ordinary towns, there were broken things, ugly things, desolate and deserted things, and people who were all those things too." p59
Tension builds as the fate of Sarah remains unclear. While Henson speculates she may be the victim of a local bully who has seemingly fled town, Tommy comes to suspect Graham, with whom Sarah has never felt comfortable. McDonald has us wavering between our suspicions of these men, questioning their motivations and desperate to find the missing girl we have come to care about.
McDonald's observations of the town and its residents are sharp and insightful, burrowing beneath the appearance of respectability and responsibility. The writing is evocative and the atmosphere unsettling, emphasising the intrigue.
The Vale Girl is a thought provoking study of a community and its outsiders, of parents and their children, of ruined dreams and the desperate grasp of hope. A compelling and impressive debut I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.