The Comfort of Lies explores the fraught connection created between three very different women when Juliette intercepts a letter addressed to her husb...moreThe Comfort of Lies explores the fraught connection created between three very different women when Juliette intercepts a letter addressed to her husband and discovers that the affair he disclosed five years ago resulted in a child. Stunned, she confronts his ex-mistress Tia who confesses she placed her daughter for adoption which leads Juliette to Caroline and a confrontation that has the potential to destroy them all.
Meyers examines the complexities of relationships and the consequences of infidelity in this thoughtful family drama. I have a little time for stories that try to justify marital betrayal so I was glad to discover that the author decided to show how destructive an affair can be and the way in which repercussions often extend beyond both those directly involved and the immediate disclosure.
I felt for Juliette whose lingering feelings of hurt and betrayal over her husband's affair flare uncontrollably when she learns of the child. Even though her subsequent behaviours was a little over the top I also thought her driving need to know was a realistic reaction to her discovery. Unfortunately I struggled to find any sympathy for Tia, her vulnerabilities did not offset her poor decisions for me. I found her obsessive love for Nathan tiresome and I thought her self pitying and narcissistic. Caroline is intriguing, her ambiguity about motherhood and the pressure she feels she is under to get it right is a dilemma thoughtfully examined.
I thought the exploration of motherhood from varied perspectives within the novel most interesting theme. With Tia's character Meyers poses a question about her decision to relinquish her child for adoption, was it a selfless or selfish choice? Is Caroline a bad mother for not wanting to spend 24/7 in her adopted daughter's company? Is there any legitimacy to Juliette's connection to Savannah?
The questions in The Comfort of Lies are thought provoking, though the answers are mired in ambiguity. This is a well written novel and had I not found Tia so unappealing, I expect I would have found The Comfort of Lies more engaging. (less)
A coming of age story set in the suburbs of Australia's capital during the 1990's, Snake Bite is a story of adolescent rebellion and disovery.
It's th...more A coming of age story set in the suburbs of Australia's capital during the 1990's, Snake Bite is a story of adolescent rebellion and disovery.
It's the summer before her final year of school and seventeen year old Jez spends most of her time with her best friend Lukey, contemplating new piercings, playing X-box and popping pills... until new girl Laura lures Luke away. While her single mother works nights and spends her days sleeping off a hangover, Jez seeks the company of her neighbour, Casey, who has no qualms about exposing Jez to the excesses of her lifestyle.
The themes of the novel are universal amongst adolescents, despite being couched in local colour. For Jez, all the angst, fear and boredom involved in growing up is complicated by poverty, family dysfunction and addiction. The summer challenges her ideas about love, sex and friendship when she confronts betrayal and exploitation. Thompson deftly evokes the intensity of emotion and drama teenagers struggle with as they learn about who they are, and who they want to be.
The story also explores the fragile relationship between Jez and her mother. Like most teens Jez considers her mother an embarrassment but the issues between them are compounded by Jez's mothers alcoholism and lack of responsibility.
Change happens slowly, and often painfully, but eventually Jez discovers hope for a future that won't necessarily include dealing drugs, stripping or repeating her mother's mistakes.
Perhaps because I have a 17 year old daughter, the slang used doesn't bother me the way in which it seems to irritate others. The few terms I was unfamiliar with could be understood by context, and neither do I have any problem with the casual use of explicit language, though some might find it confronting.
Snake Bite is a gritty, poignant and authentic novel, a raw slice of contemporary Australian life exposed for its uncomfortable truths. I enjoyed it and I'd recommend it particularly to YA readers, and adults who experienced adolescence in the 1990's. (less)
Crime fiction is one of my favourite genres and I am not too choosy about the type - police procedurals, cozies, detective fiction, psychological thri...more Crime fiction is one of my favourite genres and I am not too choosy about the type - police procedurals, cozies, detective fiction, psychological thrillers - as long as there is a crime involved, I am willing to pick it up. My bookshelves were once dominated by authors such as Ed McBain, Jonathon Kellerman, Patricia Cornwall, Janet Evanovich and Sue Grafton but slowly they are being edged out by the homegrown talent it has taken me a shamefully long time to discover.
If I Tell You...I'll Have To Kill You is a fabulous collection of essays from some of Australia's best crime writers. I was pleased discover I was unfamiliar with only one of the contributors and thrilled to learn more about some of my favourite authors like Malla Nunn, Adrian Hyland, Katherine Howell, Leigh Redhead and of course, editor Michael Robotham.
If I tell You... is undoubtedly a valuable resource for aspiring crime authors, offering a plethora of advice about plotting, character and more, followed by the author's own list of self imposed 'Rules'. Shane Maloney's rules are pretty simple and includes 'Read some f**ing books', Lenny Bartulin recommends you 'Do not drink more than one bottle of red wine per day - Unless you Can', Angela Savage, more sensibly suggests, 'Carry something to write on at all times...' and Gabrielle Lord bluntly advises 'Make writing your first priority. It comes before everything else.'
Even if you are simply a fan of crime fiction, like me, you will find these author's stories fascinating. I was surprised to discover Peter Corris has never accepted an advance for any of his 30+ Hardy novels because he dislikes the pressure of deadlines, and I was also amused by Leigh Redhead's account of her first foray into the seedy world of peepshows and strip clubs.
Each author has also been asked to nominate five Must-Reads which will grow your wishlist exponentially. The book mentioned most often is Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, though surprisingly The Lord of the Rings is also listed more than once.
If I Tell You...I'll Have To Kill You is a great collection, both informative and entertaining and I think it is a must have for Australian crime fiction fans. In addition, the royalties from the sale of this book are going towards the Australian Crime Writers Association which runs the annual Ned Kelly Awards. Show your support for our talented Aussie crime writers and purchase a copy today. (less)
The Dying Beach is the third crime fiction novel by Angela Savage to feature PI Jayne Keeney. I haven't read the first two, something I am now plannin...more The Dying Beach is the third crime fiction novel by Angela Savage to feature PI Jayne Keeney. I haven't read the first two, something I am now planning to rectify as I was really impressed with this novel.
Thirty something year old Jayne is an Australian expat who has been living in Thailand for some time. Her career as an unofficial private investigator began when she did a favour for one of her students and discovered it was far more exciting and lucrative than teaching English to middle class Thai children. Word of mouth and Jayne's ability to speak fluent Thai, French and English has seen her business thrive, and now in partnership with Rajiv Patel, she is on the brink of formalising the agency.
As a farang (foreigner) Jayne enjoys the freedom of not having to fit in. She cares little for what people think of her but respects the culture of the Thai people. She drinks, smokes and is outspoken. She doesn't mind bending a few rules and though at times she is impulsive, her heart is always in the right place. Jayne can't let injustice slide.
The intrigue in Dying Beach is prompted by the death of a young tour guide, Pla, while Jayne and Rajiv are holidaying in Krabi on the Thai coast. To Jayne the circumstances seem extraordinary and she is determined to do a some digging despite Rajiv's reluctance. It seems Jayne's suspicions are founded when first Pla's roommate is brutally slain and then an Australian tourist resembling Jayne is also murdered. Jayne discovers Pla was involved in some local environmental projects and the killer seems intent on retrieving the Thai girl's notebook, which Jayne is now in possession of. The story is well paced, with steady tension and bursts of action. There are also some clever twists to the case.
I know very little about Thailand so for me the setting was particularly exotic. A prevalent theme in the story is the environment and, in particular, the damage being caused to Thailand's coast and mangroves due to commercial shrimping operations. I also really liked the way Savage illustrates the Thai culture, both the good and the bad, without stepping outside of the story.
I really enjoyed The Dying Beach, it is a stylish, intriguing and entertaining novel featuring an appealing protagonist and makes the most of its exotic setting. I'd happily recommend The Dying Beach, which works well as a standalone. I am not only looking forward to the next book but I intend to hunt down and read the first two books in the series.(less)
Inspired by the case of Debra Lafave, with whom Alissa Nutting attended high school, Tampa exposes the secret sexual obsession of twenty eight year ol...more Inspired by the case of Debra Lafave, with whom Alissa Nutting attended high school, Tampa exposes the secret sexual obsession of twenty eight year old high school English teacher, Celeste Price.
It is the beginning of the school year and as each class files in, Celeste studies the male students carefully, looking for a boy, 'undeniably male but not man'. It is fourteen year old Jack Patrick, with "[s]omething in his chin-length blond hair, in the diminutive leanness of his chest' that captures her attention and whom she sets out to seduce.
Written in the first person, Nutting exposes Celeste as a narcissistic sociopath, with a sexual preference for young teenage boys. Driven by her insatiable desire she pursues Jack not for their mutual enjoyment, nor to forge an emotional connection, but to satisfy her all consuming lust. As a sociopath Celeste cares for no-one "Why did anyone pretend human relationships have value?" but is aware her proclivities would invite censure and so is careful to manage situations in order to allow herself some freedom. She drugs her husband, a police officer, to avoid his suspicion and his libido, drives Jack hours out of town for sex in her car, remains in an isolated classroom because it has a lock on the door.
Tampa is explicit, shockingly so, but not erotic from my perspective. If anything I felt slightly ill and my mind shied from any attempt to visualise the interactions between Celeste and Jack. It helps that Celeste is so emotionally detached, while Jack is lamenting it will be four years before he can marry Celeste, she is already, in part, considering her exit options for when his attractiveness to her wanes.
Nutting has said she wrote Tampa in part to expose the double standard society applies to the sexual proclivities of gender. Women responsible for the seduction of teenage boys consistently receive lighter sentences, and less censure, than men who prey on girls. Similarly girls are treated as vulnerable victims, cruelly exploited, while boys are generally viewed as less so.
"I was bikini clad, lounging on the hood of a spots car, my blond hair fanned back in the wind. "If you were a teenage male", the commentator began, pointing a leering finger back at the photo [of Celeste], "would you call a sexual experience with her abuse?"
Though the issue is raised directly only briefly during Celeste's trial, the story itself addresses the ideas in subtle ways. Buck, for example, doesn't find anything remiss with Celeste giving his son personal attention outside of school hours, whereas a male teacher paying the same attention to a female student would immediately raise suspicion.
Tampa is described as satirical but I think this is where the novel falls down for me. I think there is too much truth in Celeste's warped perceptions, though many readers may choose to comfort themselves with the idea that women like Celeste do not exist, even though we would all agree men like her do. In the same way the purported humourous elements escape me.
Tampa is a confronting read but also absorbing in its raw and unflinching portrayal of a disturbed mind. I admire Nutting for her bravery in stimulating discussion about the way in which we view female sexual predators, and their victims and I hope that message is not lost on readers, and the media, in amongst the sensationalism. (less)
Though the trope is hardly original, think 'rise of the machines', the pace of this thriller, which covers a single day as a sentient super computer s...more Though the trope is hardly original, think 'rise of the machines', the pace of this thriller, which covers a single day as a sentient super computer seizes control of New York, provides an entertaining read.
Day One begins for journalist and former computer hacker John Hawke as it does most days, with a kiss goodbye from his three year old son and a look of reproach from his pregnant wife. Just hours later he is being hunted by every law enforcement agency in the city at the direction of a computer determined to eliminate any threats to 'her' existence.
Fast paced and action packed it reads like a blockbuster film, in fact promotional material describes it as a mix between Cloverfield and The Terminator. With plenty of violence and spectacular explosions any adrenaline junkie will find satisfaction within the pages of this novel, though it was the scene within the hospital which I found most chilling.
If you aren't at all tech-y some of the details of how 'Jane Doe' evolved might pass you by but it isn't of any real concern. It's a little scary how plausible the whole idea is though. It is easy to forget just how deeply technology is entrenched in our lives and how vulnerable we would be in the face of its demise... or its rebellion.
Tense, dramatic and lively, I found Day One to be a quick and exciting read. (less)
In Under A Spell, Hannah Jayne's fifth book in the Underworld Detection Agency series, Sophie Lawson faces her greatest fear - high school. Ordered to...more In Under A Spell, Hannah Jayne's fifth book in the Underworld Detection Agency series, Sophie Lawson faces her greatest fear - high school. Ordered to go undercover as a substitute teacher at her alma mater to investigate rumours of a coven on campus. Sophie would rather walk through hell fire than the halls of the all girl school but with one girl dead and another girl missing, Sophie is determined to make the grade.
Set in San Francisco in a world where vampires, trolls and pixies etc live alongside the ignorant human populace, Under A Spell is a light, fast paced read combining action, humour romance and mystery.
Oddly Sophie's one ability, an immunity to magic, doesn't seem to hold here, making her vulnerable to a witch who is able to project realistic illusions. I had expected this storyline would have given Sophie the chance to have the upper hand for once, instead she is as vulnerable and clueless as ever. Though Sophie's investigative skills are amateurish at best, her motivations can't be faulted. She is sincere in her determination to find the missing girl alive, even at the risk of her own life.
Those familiar with the series might be disappointed to find Alex, the fallen angel/cop that Sophie pines after, is giving her the cold shoulder in Under A Spell. Luckily Will - Sophie's guardian, due to her being the host of the Vessel of Souls - joins her during the investigation providing plenty of romantic tension as Sophie's attention wavers between the two men.
In amongst the drama, Sophie's teenage vampire roommate, Vlad, is having more than a little trouble with the woman in his life, and BFF Nina has hit on the bright idea of filming an ad for the UDA, in which she wants Sophie to star. I really like Vlad and Nina whose blunt manners and vampiric confidence(as long as there are no birds nearby) contrasts nicely with Sophie's attraction to chaos.
Under A Spell is a quick, entertaining read. If you haven't read a previous installment of this series (I have read only the fourth book, Under the Gun), the story works as a stand alone but the relationship dynamics may seem lacking. (less)
Combustion is the perfect read for big budget, action film fans. The explosions come thick and fast, planes fall from the sky and buildings come tumbl...more Combustion is the perfect read for big budget, action film fans. The explosions come thick and fast, planes fall from the sky and buildings come tumbling down as a madman's twisted environmental crusade wreaks havoc across LA, and NASA astronaut Judd Bell and Australian chopper pilot Corey Purchase are reunited in an effort to save the world - again!
In the first book, Velocity, the pair were forced to work together in an effort to recover a hijacked space shuttle, and Judd's girlfriend Rhonda, from a group of mercenaries who planned to detonate a dirty nuke. Combustion opens around nine months after those events as Judd, Corey, Rhonda and Steverson are meeting in LA for talks with the company making a movie about their heroic exploits. While Rhonda and Steverson are still enroute, Bunsen initiates the first phase of his plan to force the world to reconsider their reliance on fossil fuels - releasing a controlled amount of the airborne nanotech virus he spent 20 million dollars developing, which targets combustion engines and detonates their fuel supply. As vehicles begin to explode all over LA, a chance encounter reveals to Judd and Corey the existence of an antidote, and with emergency services crippled it is up to the pair to retrieve it and then stop Bunsen's plans for global destruction.
Combustion is all about the action that unfolds at a breakneck pace. From a foot chase of a packed school bus, to cycling stunts on the Hollywood Freeway, explosions galore and daring aerial feats as Corey attempts to outrun a surface to air missile (or two). This is cinematic action, unsurprising since Worland has a background in screen writing. I compared Velocity to a Nicholas Cage movie but I think Combustion reminds me most of Die Hard 4 (Live Free, Die Hard).
That makes Judd John McClane (Bruce Willis), I guess and there are some similarities, for example Judd is equally as uncomfortable with the hero tag, though for different reasons than McClane, and it is something Judd has to work through as he and Corey careen around LA. In general though Judd's motives in Combustion are more altruistic and he curses a lot less (actually I don't think he curses at all!). I love the humour of the banter between Judd and Corey and between Corey and Spike (yes his dog). Corey is more of an equal partner in Combustion than the sidekick he was relegated to in Velocity. He brings specific skills to the adventure and with Judd doubting himself, he steps up to take the lead when needed in his own way. There is also romance for Corey in this novel with film agent Lola whom he rescues from a burning building.
Just like Velocity, Combustion is a fun, exciting, fast paced and action packed novel. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see either on the big screen sometime soon. (less)
Kathryn R Lyster's debut novel, The Inevitability of Stars, tells the poignant love story of Sahara and Rip. Inseparable as childhood friends, they la...more Kathryn R Lyster's debut novel, The Inevitability of Stars, tells the poignant love story of Sahara and Rip. Inseparable as childhood friends, they later become lovers, but when Sahara ends their relationship to pursue her love of art, fleeing Byron Bay for Sydney, Rip is devastated, unable to imagine his life without Sahara by his side.
The Inevitability of Stars is a unique re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet's star crossed love story. Exploring the notions of fate, of love and the conflict of want and need, the novel has a strong element of mysticism which doesn't compromise the contemporary issues the protagonists face.
The narrative alternates between the perspectives of Rip, who lies in a hospital bed after a suicide attempt, and Sahara who is ensconced in art school in the city. Slowly Lyster unravels the difficult path they each take away from one another as Rip struggles to come to terms with Sahara's absence and heal his wounded soul, and Sahara, believing Rip is dead, buries herself in the drug fueled, materialistic world of a new lover and begins to fall apart.
The writing is richly descriptive of senses and emotions. I have to admit I found the use of italics for speech disconcerting and never really got used to it, but that is a minor quibble which is easily overlooked.
I liked The Inevitability of Stars, but I think it will resonate most strongly with young adults who will relate best to both the intensity of emotion and the challenges of negotiating the fate that awaits them.
Moving between South East Queensland and the First World War battlefields of France, Sunset Ridge is an epic tale of family, love and war. Nominated a...more Moving between South East Queensland and the First World War battlefields of France, Sunset Ridge is an epic tale of family, love and war. Nominated as one of '50 Book's You Can't Put Down' by Australia's nationwide Get Reading program for 2013, it is a compelling novel, well deserving of the recognition.
At the urging of her mother, Jude, art historian Madeleine Harrow-Boyne has agreed to consider the feasibility of a retrospective art exhibition to feature her grandfather's landscapes, but to tempt a gallery to sponsor the project Madeleine needs to learn more about David Harrow, who died before she was born. Hoping to discover something of interest, Madeleine returns to the family property, Sunset Ridge, in South East Queensland, currently managed by her brother, where her grandfather was born and raised. It is there that Madeleine stumbles upon the remarkable legacy David Harrow left behind, one that extends beyond his art, and the boundary of Sunset Ridge.
I was fortunate to meet Nicole Alexander at an author event recently and learnt that Sunset Creek was inspired by her own grandfather's life. Alexander is a fourth generation grazier in north west NSW where her family farm cattle, sheep and crops. Sunset Creek is, at least in part, modeled on her family property and the author has drawn on her family's stories to lend authenticity to her setting and characters.
David Harrow is the youngest of three brothers, heirs to Sunset Ridge. It is 1916 and Thaddeus and Luther are growing restless under the thumb of their tyrannical father. When G.W. pushes his sons too far they escape, enlist in the army and are sent to France to fight in the Great War.
For details of life at the Front, Alexander had access to wartime correspondence and news clippings kept by her family, supplemented by meticulous research. Alexander's descriptions of life in the trenches in Verdun and Somme are harrowing and vivid. She beautifully captures the experiences of David and his comrades, the poignant mix of heroic spirit and abject terror found on the battlefields, tales of bravery, sacrifice and tragedy.
In France, Alexander forges the link between David and the Chessy family. Madame Marie has reluctantly seen her twin sons, Antoine and Francois, accompanied by their pet dog, Roland, off to fight, having already lost her husband to the war. Her small farm is often used by allied forces to provide respite to its soldiers and it is here, Madeleine will eventually learn, part of David's legacy rests.
A stunning Australian saga told by a consummate storyteller, Sunset Ridge is an absorbing read and one I won't hesitate to recommended. (less)
Apple Tree Yard wasn't anything like what I was expecting from a cursory reading of the blurb and I think that played a part in my mixed feelings abou...more Apple Tree Yard wasn't anything like what I was expecting from a cursory reading of the blurb and I think that played a part in my mixed feelings about this novel. Part psychological suspense, part courtroom drama, Apple Tree Yard explores the consequences of deceiving others, and ourselves.
Yvonne Carmichael, middle aged wife, mother and renowned geneticist, puts her comfortable life in jeopardy when she plunges into an affair with an enigmatic stranger. The relationship with the man she refers to as 'X' begins as a passionate and exciting diversion from respectability but quickly descends into a nightmare of violence and betrayal.
Apple Tree Yard opens with Yvonne being cross examined as she sits in the dock of the Old Bailey. I have never been a fan of prologues and in this instance I think it serves as a spoiler, rather than simply an effective hook.
The narrative is written largely in the first person but moves back and forth through time revealing Yvonne's personal history, the development of the affair and the courtroom drama that follows, examining choice and consequence.
I didn't much like Yvonne though I thought she made for an interesting character. Doughty thoughtfully explores the choices Yvonne makes, the ways in which she interprets and rationalises her behaviour and the behaviour of others, especially that of X. Apple Tree Yard is not only about lust and adultery but also about the way in which we see ourselves.
"Relationships are about stories, not truth. Alone, as individuals, we each have our own personal mythologies, the stories we tell in order to make sense of ourselves to ourselves.... but the minute you enter an intimate relationship with another person there is an automatic dissonance between your story about yourself, and their story about you."p329
I have to admit the first quarter or so of this novel was a bit of a struggle for me, and I thought there was a distinct lack of tension present overall. Yet Apple Tree Yard is an interesting story, offering insightful observations about the complexities of who we believe we are and what we are capable of. (less)
I was surprised to discover The Heaven I Swallowed, a runner up in the 2008 Australian/Vogel awards, to be such a compelling read for me. While the pr...more I was surprised to discover The Heaven I Swallowed, a runner up in the 2008 Australian/Vogel awards, to be such a compelling read for me. While the premise was of interest I had no real expectations of it, yet I found it utterly absorbing within the first few pages.
Set in Australia not long after the end of the second world war, middle age widow Grace Smith takes charge of a half-cast twelve year old orphaned aboriginal girl, named Mary.
"She was just a young child and I had the entire world to give her" p11
While there is some truth in Grace's stated intent to help Mary, though framed in terms of 'rescue' from the heathen and ignorant influence of her nature, Grace's reasons for accepting Mary into her home are far more complex than she will admit to herself and have very little to do with what she can give the child.
In part Grace hoped that she would gain the esteem of her community for her her selfless act of charity. A woman who believes in rules, Grace lives in fear of breaking those she doesn't understand and unfortunately the expected praise is not forthcoming.
"It should have occurred to me...that their idea of the proper way to make a difference was to simply give more, to increase the weekly donation dropped into the padded green velvet of the church collection plate or continue with their afternoons at various charity shops. No one really wanted to see Mary there..." p37
Lonely, the widow also hopes that in some manner Mary will be a substitute for the child she miscarried years before but Grace is flustered by Mary being both older and darker than she expected. Additionally Grace is torn between ensuring Mary learns discipline, manners and a good work ethic and wanting to share affection with the girl. Raised in a strict orphanage by largely punitive nuns Grace has no real idea how to create or nurture an attachment and appearance of kindness is a double edged sword for Mary.
Strangely though, it is difficult to dislike Grace as much as you might expect to. I found her utterly intriguing though I am not so sure she would be so to everyone. In me she inspired pity for her desolate background, her ignorance, her awkwardness and lack of self awareness. Not that it excuses her poor behaviour in any way, nor is it a reason to forgive it. There is no small sense of satisfaction that in the end Mary extracts a kind of noble revenge.
While The Heaven I Swallowed is in part a commentary on the Stolen Generation, it was the complexity of the character of Grace Smith which held me enthralled, I put it down only once, and resented even that.
Regina Victoria LeClaire was twelve when she was kidnapped and held prisoner for nearly four years by a sexual sadist. Her escape was miraculous but at twenty two, Reeve, as she is now known, is still struggling to overcome the horror of her experience. When news breaks that a missing girl has been found after enduring similar circumstances to those Reeve suffered, Reeve's therapist, Dr Lerner, invites her to join him with a view to befriending the young victim and help in her recovery. Reeve is reluctant, worried Tilly's story will endanger her own fragile equilibrium, but she quickly bonds with the young girl whose fear is still strong, despite her captor being jailed. Then Tilly reveals a secret to Reeve that she refuses to share with anyone else, there was not one man involved in her abduction but two, and the one she named Mister Monster is still out there.
We know from the outset who Mister Monster is, he is a local police officer, a surveillance expert, and a cunning predator who has developed an elaborate system to satisfy his sadistic pleasures. An omniscient narrator allows us to witness how this monster is able to evade detection and allows the reader a glimpse into the depravity that drives him.
Reeve is an interesting protagonist, uniquely suited to be the heroine of this story. It is wonderful to see her shed her identity as a victim and begin to view herself as a survivor. It is equally satisfying, if perhaps a little bit of a stretch, to have Reeve be the one to unravel the monster's intricate layers of self protection.
The plot is fairly predictable but the tension is sustained in part by the unknown fate of two other missing girls, Hannah and Abby, and Reeve and Tilly's vulnerability to the monster. The pace is fast, short chapters encourage you to keep turning the pages and the resolution is pleasingly neat.
Norton draws on her knowledge and understanding of similar crimes to deliver a taut thriller in The Edge of Normal. Well written and absorbing, I'm happy to recommend it to fans of author's like Chevy Stevens and heather Gudenkauf. (less)
In Home Before Sundown, Barbara Hannay returns to the Fairburn's cattle station, Mullinjim, in Northern Queensland. Peter Fairburn, whom we met in Zoe...more In Home Before Sundown, Barbara Hannay returns to the Fairburn's cattle station, Mullinjim, in Northern Queensland. Peter Fairburn, whom we met in Zoe's Muster has suffered a heart attack he may not survive, prompting their daughter's, return from Europe where she has been traveling for the last two years. Accompanied by her Aunt Liz, who has been avoiding Mullinjim for almost thirty years, Bella Fairburn arrives home and takes over the running of the family farm while her father recovers. Though it is hard work, Bella is happy to be home except for the presence of her neighbour, Gabe Mitchell, the man who broke her heart.
I was delighted to return with Hannay to the characters I grew familiar with in Zoe's Muster. Zoe, the daughter of Peter Fairburn and half sibling to Bella and Luke, is now happily settled with Mac McKinnon. Home Before Sundown features Bella and her Aunt Liz, Peter's sister, both of whom fled Mullinjim after experiencing heartbreak.
Bella was crushed when Gabe rejected her in the wake of his father's death and took off to Europe but he was never far from her thoughts and now she has returned she has to face him. Gabe had his reasons for pushing Bella away but now that she is back he doesn't want to see her leave again. It's a sweet romance with evident chemistry simmering between the pair. Naturally their reunion is complicated by not only their past but by the cute, French, ski instructor boyfriend Bella left behind and the Bella's indecision regarding what she truly wants.
Liz's story arc gives added depth to this novel about family, love and loss. A renowned concert pianist, Liz also fled Mullinjim nursing heartache and a secret she has never shared but that has haunted her for thirty years. Being home forces Liz to confront her past and re-consider her future.
Home Before Sundown is an engaging story of joy, tragedy, romance and heartache set within the dusty landscape of the Australian outback. I am already looking forward to Hannay's next book which promises to feature Bella and Zoe's brother, Luke Fairburn.
"Stories are all we human beings are... Every time we open our mouths we are telling stories. And in the way we breathe and what we eat and when we ar...more "Stories are all we human beings are... Every time we open our mouths we are telling stories. And in the way we breathe and what we eat and when we are silent and when we find our tongues and how we move and when we pause and when we carry on. In all these ways we are telling our stories." p178
Lightning by debut Australian author Felicity Volk is a compelling, lyrical journey of two strangers as they travel from New South Wales to Alice Springs. It explores identity, loss, grief and the healing that comes from discovering a connection to the past, present and future.
Persia has given birth at home to a stillborn daughter during the devastating Canberra bush fires ignited by lightning in 2003. As emotionally razed as the landscape around her, Persia flees with her nameless child swaddled in a suitcase. Stranded in Grafton with no real destination in mind, she accepts the offer of a ride from Ahmed, a refugee with his own secret baggage, on his way to Alice Springs.
Lightning is not only the story of Persia and Ahmed but also the people they meet, the land they travel, of strangers and ancestors. Through wind, fire, earth and water, stories of life and death are told and shared and lived.
The stories Ahmed tells are inspired by the names of the towns the pair travel through on their journey to Alice Springs. Grafton leads to a tale of a grieving man who sews a patch of his dead lover's skin to his own so that he may always keep some part of her with him, Bald Nob the story of the death and rebirth of love, while Tenterfield inspires a tale of a 'tented field' that absorbs the grief of a young woman. How much truth or fiction each story holds is unknowable, though each holds at least some of both.
It is some time before Persia shares her own stories with Ahmed, of her life, of her family, of her daughter. Her own journey of grief is a private one and for Persia, naming it will mean she has begun to let go when she so desperately wants to hold on.
Lightning is a beautifully crafted novel and an impressive debut from Volk. I would expect that it will be one to receive the attention of the 2013 Miles Franklin or Stella Award committee's. (less)
If I hadn't read Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield late last year, I suspect I would have found A Girl Like You more affecting. Instead, my react...more If I hadn't read Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield late last year, I suspect I would have found A Girl Like You more affecting. Instead, my reaction to this story of loss, prejudice, love and survival is somewhat blunted by the similarities in the plot and characters between the two novels.
In A Girl Like You we are introduced to thirteen year old Satomi Baker and her family who live in a rural town on the coast of California. Satomi's father, Aaron, is a white American who met her Japanese mother, Tamura, in Hawaii. With both families disapproving of their relationship, Aaron and Tamura moved to a farm in Angelina, where Satomi was born. Though Tamura has never been welcomed whole heartedly by the small town community as the threat of WW2 escalates, she and Satomi are ostracised, despite Aaron having volunteered to serve with the US Army and becoming a victim of the attack on Pearl Harbour. Satomi, who considers herself American, is a feisty, precocious teenage who rebels against her father's strict rules. Though she acknowledges she is different to her peers she doesn't want to be and as the town begins to turn on Satomi and her family, she is hurt and angry.
Identity is an important theme explored in A Girl Like You, Satomi struggles with being half Japanese and the ways in which it makes her different from her peers, despite identifying as an American. Satomi is also in the grip of adolescence and trying to decide who she wants to be and what she wants for her future.
Shortly after Pearl Harbour, Tamura and Satomi are forcibly relocated to Manzanar, a government internment camp in Nevada for all those with Japanese ancestry. While the prisoners did their best to create some semblance of a normal life during their interment, Manzanar is characterised by poor sanitation, badly prepared food and substandard housing - little more than stalls, conditions thousands of internee's were forced to endure for years. The Japanese were watched over by armed guards, afforded little health care or educational or employment opportunities. It's a confronting historical circumstance post-WW2 generations are largely ignorant of and one which Lindley illustrates well. Eventually the camps are emptied and the orphaned Satomi, whose family property and possessions have been 'appropriated' in their absence chooses to make a fresh start in New York. It is as Satomi remakes herself in New York that this novel fell apart somewhat for me, the focus switches to romantic developments which I found less compelling and somewhat trivial.
A Girl Like You is an appealing, poignant and fascinating story combining a moving coming of age tale with historical and social commentary. Though I can't help comparing it to Littlefield's Garden of Stones due to the strong similarities, it does so favourably and I'd be happy to recommend it.