Kaz Elmore has lost her five year old daughter in a car crash. She's still struggling to accept that she will never see Jamie again when a witness rev...moreKaz Elmore has lost her five year old daughter in a car crash. She's still struggling to accept that she will never see Jamie again when a witness reveals to her that the child in the car may not have been her daughter. Security consultant Devlin saw the accident and has his suspicions about what really happened.
As the police won't investigate further, Devlin and Kaz take on the job themselves. The search leads them into danger, not only because of what happened to Jamie, but also because of a threat from Devlin's shadowy past.
I enjoyed this romantic thriller even though I guessed various plot developments pretty early. It is well-paced, the characters are engaging and the ending is suitably dramatic. If you like your thrillers with a generous dose of romance, you should enjoy Never Coming Home. (less)
I wish I'd read The Cuckoo's Calling before I knew Robert Galbraith was a pseudonym for J K Rowling, because I'd like to have assessed the book withou...moreI wish I'd read The Cuckoo's Calling before I knew Robert Galbraith was a pseudonym for J K Rowling, because I'd like to have assessed the book without the possibility that my dislike of Rowling's previous novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy, might cloud my judgement. On the other hand, if I hadn't seen all the publicity when Rowling was revealed to be the author, possibly I wouldn't have picked this novel up. And that would have been a shame, as I really enjoyed it.
The Cuckoo's Calling is a solidly written murder mystery with an intriguing central character in Cormoran Strike, wounded war veteran turned private detective. Not only is Strike too proud to reveal publicly that he has a disability, he's broke, depressed and short on social skills. His offsider, Robin, is a likeable young woman with a secret hankering for a more exciting career than secretarial work. Robin takes a temp job working for Strike and finds herself assisting him with a case involving the death of a troubled London model who may or may not have killed herself by jumping off a balcony. The investigation involves high fashion, the paparazzi and dysfunctional families.
I was sufficiently engaged by the story to read this fairly quickly. I liked the two central characters and will be looking out for the next book in the series. The author does engage in some stylistic habits I dislike (as in The Casual Vacancy), the most annoying being her choice of an omniscient viewpoint which allows her to hop from one character's thoughts to another's whenever she likes, often within a scene. This makes the storytelling feel a bit dated. I also could have done with a bit more fleshing out of the process by which Strike reached his conclusion about whodunit. Overall, though, a good solid read, very entertaining. 3.5 stars(less)
Just occasionally I'll stumble on a book that ends up on my shelf of special keepers, the ones I know I'll end up reading over and over. Funnily enoug...moreJust occasionally I'll stumble on a book that ends up on my shelf of special keepers, the ones I know I'll end up reading over and over. Funnily enough, several of those are stories about the power of books and reading: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows, Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, and now Among Others by Jo Walton.
Among Others is dedicated by the author to libraries and librarians. It's hard to give you much of the story without including spoilers, but I will say that Among Others won the Hugo and Nebula Awards, that it is not like any other novel you've read, that it's deeply magical and highly original, that it celebrates books and reading, and that the narrator/diarist, teenage booklover Morwenna, will resonate with every geek-girl reader young and old. I had not read any of Jo Walton's books before but I will now be running out to try some of her others. A real gift. Read it!
White Tiger is the first novel in the Dark Heavens fantasy sequence by Kylie Chan. It starts as an engaging story set in contemporary Hong Kong and be...moreWhite Tiger is the first novel in the Dark Heavens fantasy sequence by Kylie Chan. It starts as an engaging story set in contemporary Hong Kong and becomes an epic adventure in a world where gods and demons exist alongside humankind.
Protagonist Emma takes a job as nanny to Simone, the daughter of a wealthy Hong Kong businessman, John Chen. Emma's position in the household gradually becomes more as she grows to love Simone and, piece by piece, learns the mind-boggling truth about the nature of John and his unusual circle of friends.
I loved the way this story grew and continued to surprise. The characters are well-drawn, the love story is convincing and the author really knows her stuff, creating the contemporary setting and the magical, mythological elements with equal assurance. It's worth noting that Kylie Chan lived in Hong Kong for a considerable period and has studied both martial arts and Chinese history. And she knows how to tell a great story. Highly recommended. (less)
I was lucky enough to be given an advance reading copy of Therese Walsh's new novel, The Moon Sisters. I loved her first book, The Last Will of Moira...moreI was lucky enough to be given an advance reading copy of Therese Walsh's new novel, The Moon Sisters. I loved her first book, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, so I was eagerly awaiting this one.
The Moon Sisters follows two sisters, Olivia and Jazz, after the death of their mother in what might or not have been suicide. The sisters alternate chapters, each in first person, as they negotiate their own difficult relationship and make a journey, both physical and emotional, to lay their mother's spirit to rest in a remote place that was the setting of her unfinished novel.
Along the way there are many secrets to be revealed, and the process is painful for both the logical, straightforward Jazz and the headstrong, elusive Olivia, who has a condition called synaesthesia (she can see sounds, taste words and smell sights.) Some readers will warm more to one sister and some to the other - I identified easily with pragmatic Jazz, far less so with fey Olivia.
Therese Walsh's use of language is beautiful, every word just right, and the sisters are truly memorable. The novel is full of great secondary characters, notably the tattooed drifter Hobbs and enigmatic Red Grass.
As with The Last Will of Moira Leahy, it's hard to categorise The Moon Sisters. It sits on the edge of magic realism, but is at heart a story about real people, relationships and the hard learning of tolerance and trust. Highly recommended. (less)
I enjoyed this historical mystery, first in a series based on Dr Dody McCleland, an autopsy surgeon at a time in history when women are still struggli...moreI enjoyed this historical mystery, first in a series based on Dr Dody McCleland, an autopsy surgeon at a time in history when women are still struggling to be given the vote. Dody's opposite number is Chief Detective Inspector Matthew Pike, a man with issues of his own.
A Dissection of Murder begins with the death of a suffragette during a women's rights rally. Dody is pretty sure the obvious explanation is not the true one, and sets about assembling a case while also attempting to gain Pike's trust.
This was overall a good read, but was weighed down here and there by blocks of historical information that could have been better integrated into the story. Young has certainly done her research. I was not sufficiently captured by the novel to rush out and buy the next in the series, but I think lovers of historical mysteries will enjoy this.(less)
I read The Twins on a flight between Sydney and Perth, and the book allowed the hours to pass almost unnoticed. Two threads are interwoven in this tal...moreI read The Twins on a flight between Sydney and Perth, and the book allowed the hours to pass almost unnoticed. Two threads are interwoven in this tale of Isolte and Viola, twin sisters who were inseparable as children but who have grown to live very different lives. Isolte has a successful career working for a fashion magazine; Viola has struggled for years with an eating disorder.
The novel combines the story of the twins as adults with the story of their highly unusual childhood, and a particular event that cast a long shadow over their futures. The structure of the book is highly effective, with each twin having the point of view in alternate chapters. Isolte's chapters are the present-day story and are in third person; Viola's chapters, in first person and told from the depths of her illness, reveal the story of the past. Top marks for the subtly developed love story in this book.
Recommended to readers who enjoy books by Therese Walsh, Barbara O'Neal, Kate Morton and other writers of well-crafted women's fiction.(less)
Joe Coutts is thirteen when his mother is attacked and raped, and his world changes. Joe and his parents live on a North Dakota reservation; his fathe...moreJoe Coutts is thirteen when his mother is attacked and raped, and his world changes. Joe and his parents live on a North Dakota reservation; his father is a tribal judge. Joe's mother retreats into herself after the attack, and his father struggles to cope not only with his traumatised wife but with conflicting laws applicable on the reservation, laws that seem destined to let the unknown perpetrator of the crime escape. Meanwhile Joe and his best friends set out to solve the problem themselves.
The Round House is a wonderfully written book, in which Louise Erdrich captures convincingly the voice of the young narrator. There is tenderness and humour in the book alongside the grimness of the central story, and the rich picture of reservation life is beautifully observed.
The Round House was the winner of the US National Book Award in 2012. (less)
Chris Masters is Australia's best-known investigative journalist. Uncommon Soldier is an study of the modern Australian soldier. The book is as thorou...moreChris Masters is Australia's best-known investigative journalist. Uncommon Soldier is an study of the modern Australian soldier. The book is as thoroughly researched as one would expect from a journalist of Masters' calibre, and reflects the fact that Masters spent various periods embedded with Australian forces on overseas deployment. There are chapters on the issues facing women in the military, the stages of army training, the often difficult juggling of family life and army life, and a significant and fascinating section on the deployment to Afghanistan.
As a journalist, Chris Masters handles his subject matter in a rather detached way. Uncommon Soldier is a well-constructed and thorough study of the modern soldier, but for me, the book that really brought that soldier to life was John Cantwell's Exit Wounds, which I have also reviewed for Goodreads. Cantwell's experience as a serving soldier and leader of soldiers gave his account a whole other dimension. However, it may be unfair to compare a documentary-style study with a memoir - both books are well written and interesting, and each will have its devoted readers.
Uncommon Soldier won the 2013 Prime Minister's Book Award in the non-fiction category.
Theo Knell served for twenty-two years in the British Army, most of that time with Special Forces. A Hell for Heroes developed from a shorter book he...moreTheo Knell served for twenty-two years in the British Army, most of that time with Special Forces. A Hell for Heroes developed from a shorter book he wrote while coming to terms with the aftermath of his experiences, including PTSD (Post Traumatic Streess Disorder.)
The book is made up of short pieces covering Knell's childhood, his years in the army and his return to civilian life, which was often shadowed by the trauma of the past. Some of Knell's poetry is included. As he says in his introduction, 'poetry is the natural voice of both the warror and the oppressed.'
One of the most compelling elements of the book, for me, was the down-to-earth, unemotional recounting of a horrendously difficult childhood. It comes through strongly, though Knell never states this in so many words, that the hard man he became as a soldier was forged by the deprivation and cruelty he endured as a child.
A Hell for Heroes is plainly told - straightforward and workmanlike in its execution. Theo Knell states at the end that he hopes the story will give people more understanding of those who have seen active service in the armed forces, and that for soldiers and ex-soldiers the book will capture 'something of their own joy, pain, fears, sorrows and stories of personal survival.' (less)
This is a brutally honest, highly readable memoir of John Cantwell's time in the Australian Army, focusing on his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan...moreThis is a brutally honest, highly readable memoir of John Cantwell's time in the Australian Army, focusing on his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that eventually spelled the end of a distinguished military career. Written with Greg Bearup, Exit Wounds makes compelling reading. I remember Major General Cantwell speaking out on Australian television a couple of years ago about the severe depression that had caused him to withdraw his name for consideration for the job of Chief of Army, and subsequently to retire from the military at the height of his career. In Exit Wounds he shows us in stark detail the havoc deployment to a war zone can wreak on a soldier's mind and emotions. In particular, the deaths of several Australian soldiers during John Cantwell's period as commander of Australian forces in Afghanistan in 2010 had a devastating impact on him, resulting in a period in a psychiatric hospital.
I heard John Cantwell speak about his book and his experiences at the last Perth Writers' Festival. He has done a great service in being so ready to speak out about his PTSD and the risk to other serving soldiers - his example will make it easier for others to speak up about their condition, and has already helped draw the Army's attention to the need to provide better services for their returning personnel.(less)