I've always enjoyed Liane Moriarty's books, but I think this one is my new favourite. I don't think it was so much the subject matter of the book, but...moreI've always enjoyed Liane Moriarty's books, but I think this one is my new favourite. I don't think it was so much the subject matter of the book, but just the entertainment value of a well told story that I liked so much.
Ellen is a 35 year old hypnotherapist with her own practice. Successful in her chosen field and living in her grandparents old house on Avalon Beach in Sydney, the only thing missing from her life is a relationship. Turning to the internet, she thinks she has hit the jackpot when she meets Patrick. A handsome, seemingly stable man with a decent job, he is also a widower with a young son. It is only a few dates in that he reveals his secret - he has a stalker named Saskia. In a relationship with her for three years, Patrick has moved on but she refuses to let go.
As a professional Ellen cannot help but be fascinated by Saskia's behaviour and a little taken aback at Patrick's seemingly brutal attitude towards the woman he once shared his life with. As the story moves on and Ellen and Patrick's relationship intensifies, so does Saskia's interference in their life.
There are several other themes interwoven into the storyline, including the issues of grief and loss from many angles, the complications and joys of dating in your thirties and forties and the usual dramas involving family dynamics, female friendships and the fascinating field of hypnotherapy.I loved the way you got a real sense of how it works through the story, without feeling like you were getting heaps of technical info about it.
I really liked the fact that Ellen was a woman in her thirties, rather than in her mid twenties. The reality is that there are a lot of "normal" accomplished woman in that age group still searching for "the one". Although she has helped many of her clients overcome their relationship issues, she hasn't quite sorted out her own. I also liked the way she highlighted the positives of meeting someone at that age - like the fact you actually know what you want and who you are - rather than portraying Ellen as someone who is desperate for a man and willing to compromise who she is just to get one.
It was great to read a book by an author and get just what you have come to expect from them and more. All in all this was a really entertaining book and ultimately a sweet love story that I just couldn't put down.(less)
Having just picked this book up at the library, it took me a while to realise that the main character Lola was the grandmother from Monica's previous...moreHaving just picked this book up at the library, it took me a while to realise that the main character Lola was the grandmother from Monica's previous book The Alphabet Sister's. It was a nice surprise as I always enjoy follow on books.
Lola is still enjoying life in the Clare Valley, helping her son and his wife run their motel. But it's Christmas and instead of going away with her family, Lola decides to stay home and run a Christmas special and see who will turn up for a quiet, bush Christmas. Amidst all this Lola is still very involved in the lives of her granddaughters Bette and Carrie (who have their own dramas to contend with) as well as her great-granddaughter Ellen, who is living far away in Hong Kong.
Lola is not the kind of woman to retire, so her life is still full, working at the op shop and getting invovled in community projects. She is also still up to her usual mischief - playing matchmaker and dispensing advice where she feels it's needed (and sometimes where it's not).
Told in McInerney's usual engaging prose, Lola's secret is an enjoyable read. It is not as long as Monica's usual novels, so that is reflected in the depth of the storyline. There are quite a few strands running, that all connect for a feel good conclusion - but not without some drama along the way.
An easy, comforting read that will either make you grateful for your own grandmother or wish that you had one like Lola.(less)
The Templeton family live in a stately home near the Victorian city of Castlemaine. While the other kids get to have fun on the weekends, the Templeto...moreThe Templeton family live in a stately home near the Victorian city of Castlemaine. While the other kids get to have fun on the weekends, the Templetons have to dress up in period costume and run tours of their home (Templeton Hall) - which prove to be a surprise hit with tourists. Having only recently arrived from England, they keep very much to themselves. At first their neighbour Nina is happy to maintain a distance. But then, their lives become interlinked and she finds herself drawn into their family and all its dramas, not entirely willingly.
The story is told in Monica McInerney's usual warm and engaging prose and you find yourself immediately involved with the characters and their individual struggles. You can't help but like Grace, the youngest daughter and the only child who is really committed to the whole business of running Templeton Hall. I also really liked the character of Spencer (as a child), as there was a real devil-may-care attitude about him that was quite amusing.
The first part of the story is quite detailed and covers a relativly short space of time, while the later chapters are spread over a bigger span of years. While the earlier part was slower moving, I enjoyed it more as I felt the later part skipped over details a bit, in the interests of moving the story to its conclusion.
As usual Monica McInerney really gets the settings right, you can feel yourself in the Victorian countryside and later in London and Paris, when the story moves there. She also covers the theme of family relationships and all their complexities that begin in childhood and carry through until adulthood - sometimes never being resolved fully.
An enjoyable, engaging read that kept me involved right until the end.(less)
When they meet at a Sydney boarding school as twelve year olds, Eve, Meg and Sarah have no idea that their lives will remain linked by a nasty secret...moreWhen they meet at a Sydney boarding school as twelve year olds, Eve, Meg and Sarah have no idea that their lives will remain linked by a nasty secret they all share. Now in their early thirties and separated by geography and vastly different lifestyles, the story begins when Eve (who is living in London) hears the news of Meg’s death. Travelling back to outback New South Wales for the funeral and meeting up with Sarah again, the women soon realise their past can no longer be banished to the further recesses of their minds, but must be dealt with before they can move on with their lives.
I really liked the way the story wove easily between present and past, illustrating clearly the background of the three friends and what has driven them to become the women they are. The depiction of a girls’ boarding school in Sydney comes across very accurately as does the incessant bullying that Eve suffers at the hands of “it” girl Rebecca Thornton. Tied in with this is the theme of consensus by silence – if you stand by and watch someone be bullied are you just as guilty? Yet it also acknowledges how powerless teenagers can feel when confronted by it – at that age your own survival and acceptance can sometimes mean putting aside personal ethics just to fit in.
As well as getting the feel of Sydney spot on, the author also portrays country New South Wales fantastically, with the mention of several regional towns throughout the story, and the setting of Tallow, where Meg’s funeral is held. You can picture the small community easily – from the shops, to the pub to the town “doer”, who has her finger on the pulse of all that is happening in the community.
The pace of the story was good, with the suspense building towards the end and relatively short chapters keeping all the elements fresh in your mind. Each snippet of the past provides a further piece of the puzzle, which keeps you guessing right until the secret is revealed. As Eve is the main protagonist, you really come to understand her character more as the whole story unfolds but all the minor characters are well drawn also.
Overall a fantastic story, with fairly deep underlying themes that really made you think. I really enjoyed it and as the story built up momentum I couldn’t put it down. I look forward to Jacqueline Lunn’s next novel. (less)
Told from the points of view of both Belinda and Evelyn, Free-Falling is a story about grief, loss and finding meaning in life when your whole world h...moreTold from the points of view of both Belinda and Evelyn, Free-Falling is a story about grief, loss and finding meaning in life when your whole world has imploded. The dual voice works really well – with alternating chapters further exploring each woman’s personal reaction to the death of a person they both adored. While Belinda is initially the more likable character and the one I felt more sympathetic towards, I was also drawn to Evelyn and increasingly curious to know what made her tick and why she hated a (seemingly) nice person so much. Other characters in the novel – Andy’s twin James and Evelyn’s skydiving instructor Bazza also round out the story, with each injecting further intrigue as to what actually happened to Andy and how their involvement was all part of the series of interlinking events that have led Belinda and Evelyn to where they are. Even though the character of Andy is only explored through flashbacks, you also get a very strong sense of who he was and why those left behind are so devastated. I thought the author illustrated the horrific (and varied) experience of raw grief really well, without being overly melodramatic or making the story too sad to read (and enjoy). I also liked the way she explored the guilt of those left behind, who grapple with the thought that ‘if only’ they had done something different the tragedy may not have occurred. Sad but uplifting, bittersweet yet humorous, Free-Falling is a fantastic debut novel that kept me hooked right until the end. The pace is good, the writing concise and the overall feel is a positive one, that makes you realise life can move on in the most unexpected ways. (less)
The first thing I was struck by when I read this book was the striking similarity to the Kelli Lane case (involving a water polo player who was charge...moreThe first thing I was struck by when I read this book was the striking similarity to the Kelli Lane case (involving a water polo player who was charged with the murder of her baby when she couldn’t prove it had been “unofficially” adopted out). I’m not sure if this novel is loosely based on that or whether it’s just an eerie coincidence – in any case, whatever the inspiration for the plot, this book is an absolutely compelling read. One of the first things I really liked about this story was how quickly it got to the point, without any drawn out lead up. Jodie Garrow has been harbouring a secret for almost twenty five years and, as often happens, it is revealed in the most unlikely way – through a series of unusual events that all thread together to create a personal disaster. The impact on Jodie’s family is enormous. Suddenly the woman they have always known as a wife and mother is under huge public scrutiny and a vicious hate campaign. The kids are targeted at school and her husband, an aspiring mayoral candidate in their small community, has to put his political aspirations aside. While they publicly stand behind her, each struggles to deal with the bombshell and act out in their own way. Her husband struggles with panic attacks, her teenage daughter dabbles in drugs and alcohol and her son withdraws into himself. The story is told both in present time and flashback to the 1980s, when the lead up to Jodie’s unplanned pregnancy and subsequent birth occurred. This is done seamlessly, without creating any confusion in the plot. Newspaper articles and TV interviews are also weaved neatly into the storyline and are absolutely spot on in their depiction of how media speculation and public opinion converge to create a juggernaut that is almost impossible to control. The author captures a small community perfectly – the class structure, the weight of public expectation, the teenage ambition to escape and be anonymous. I had mixed feelings about Jodie. On the one hand I could sympathise with her appalling upbringing and could understand her desire to move up and better herself. On the other, I found her passivity disconcerting, especially when she just continued to go through the motions of her life without seeming to have any real emotional breakthrough. She was a fascinating character, though, and one I came to understand more as the novel built to its stunning conclusion. Overall The Mistake is an amazing book that had me hooked from start to finish and provided a huge amount of food for thought. From the precise writing style, to the realistic dialogue and the steady yet gripping pace of the storyline it is a real winner. (less)
Mark and Chloe are solicitors working for a London firm. They've shared a past, but Chloe is now happily married to Alex and life is good. But then, o...moreMark and Chloe are solicitors working for a London firm. They've shared a past, but Chloe is now happily married to Alex and life is good. But then, one night at dinner in a restaurant, Mark introduces his date Julia to Chloe and Alex and everything suddenly changes. Although they deny knowing each other, it's obvious that Alex and Julia have some kind of connection. Eventually it is revealed that they did know each other many years before and now have to face up to something that happened that has haunted both of them since.
This story drew me in right from the start. Chloe's life is going well, too well as it turns out, and now she is thrust in the middle of something she had no part in. It is obvious that whatever happened to Julia and Alex has scarred them both, but Julia much more so. But as the story moves on you learn of Alex's guilt over not being able to stop the event or protect Julia from harm.
Just to complicate things Chloe has a secret of her own - a secret she is unable to share with Alex once Julia re-enters his life. Although she does her best to hold it together at work and in dealing with her dramatic mother and Alex's brother (who suffers from a mental illness), you can literally feel Chloe beginning to crumble.
The suspense is great as the story slowly unravels, moving between present and the 1990s in Australia. As you come to know just what did happen, you can understand why Julia has become the person she is and while you know Alex is the only person who can help her heal, you begin to wonder if he actually can.
The main themes of this story are love and the difficult choices that can be associated with it - especially young love. It also touches on mental illness and post traumatic stress and the lengths people go to in the search for coming to terms with tragedy.(less)
Captain Morgan Pentland hasn’t had an easy life, but she has worked hard to create a great career for herself as a pilot patrolling the vast Queenslan...moreCaptain Morgan Pentland hasn’t had an easy life, but she has worked hard to create a great career for herself as a pilot patrolling the vast Queensland coastline. Immediately curious when customs agent Rafe Daniels joins her crew, she soon realises there is more to him than meets the eye. What Morgan doesn’t realise is that Rafe has her under surveillance as a suspected leak in a terrorist plot. It’s only when their plane is shot down that they realise they have limited time to prevent an attack that could devastate Sydney.
What first drew me to this book was the Queensland setting, but I soon realised there was much more to be enjoyed about this novel. As well as portraying the amazing beauty of North Queensland brilliantly, the author has also created a strong female character that most of us would be able to relate to. The authors love for North QLD and flying shines through the character of Morgan, as she faces and deals with danger while also realising that despite her tragic past, she is worthy of being loved.
The pace of the story is great, with many action packed scenes interspersed with the suspense of who is ultimately behind the terrorist plot. The vastness of North Queensland is the perfect setting for a giant game of cat and mouse, where help may not be forthcoming until it’s too late.
A very enjoyable, well-paced book that kept me intrigued until the end. (less)
This is more than just a crime novel. While there is a crime at the centre of it, so many other elements are also explored - the city of Sydney, the e...moreThis is more than just a crime novel. While there is a crime at the centre of it, so many other elements are also explored - the city of Sydney, the era of the 1990s, police corruption... as well as the cultural aspects of Aboriginal people and their ongoing fight for justice and the lingering aftereffects of the Vietnam war.
Detective Nhu 'Ned' Kelly works at Bankstown in Sydney's west. When a set of bones are found in concrete (that was poured in the 1970s) she is drawn into the mystery on both a professional and personal level. The mystery is compelling. While not overly suspenseful to begin with, it does build to an edge of your seat read as the story progresses.
As many other reviewers have noted, what the author has done best is capture Sydney perfectly at that moment in time (1992). The way she talks about the landmarks etc shows a deep knowledge of the area and shows just how things have changed in the ensuing 20 years. she has also captured amazingly well the culture of the police force back then, from the reality of entrenched corruption to the issues of racism and sexism that existed in that time. (Of course it hasn't been wiped out completely but it is much less over now).
The dialogue throughout was fantastic, as was the obvious deep knowledge of police procedure. Having served as a police officer herself, the author has managed to portray an extremely authentic view of the job, which leaves no doubt in your mind that you are getting a genuine insight into how police investigation works (or at least how it did back in 1992). Also interesting to note was the way that technology has changed policing, for example their references to the "new" science of DNA. Pagers and two way radio were still king also and there was no internet or on-line research to speak of.
Overall this is a multi-layered book that ticks many boxes - a great crime novel, as well as a cultural and historical snapshot of a Sydney that has since changed and evolved. A great read that would appeal to many who don't necessarily like crime fiction.(less)
It’s a typical Australian summer in 1967. Long hot days, the childhood freedom to roam and explore to your heart’s content (as you could back then), s...moreIt’s a typical Australian summer in 1967. Long hot days, the childhood freedom to roam and explore to your heart’s content (as you could back then), sunburn and bare feet. Four children (three siblings and their cousin) are holidaying at a beach shack in the small town of Bradley’s Head. Amidst their idyllic summer holiday, a baby goes missing and the children tell a lie to keep themselves out of trouble. Of course they have no way of foreseeing what dire consequences their seemingly small fib will have. Fast forward to 2005 and those children are spread around the globe – Hannah is in Sydney, Lizzie in Morocco and Richard in Rome. They haven’t seen their cousin Toby since that summer - then his reappearance in their lives coincides with a series of seemingly unconnected world events that sees each of them struggling with a personal demon of some sort.
The pace of this book is relentless. From the short, choppy chapters to the constant to and fro between past and present, different characters, news articles and commentary on world events you don’t have time to draw a breath. Each time you are fed a tiny piece more of the puzzle and are compelled to keep reading and exploring, hoping to answer at least one of the myriad of questions that keep arising. For me the format was a little bit disjointed at times, as I often felt like I didn't get enough information before moving onwards again.
Of course the seemingly unrelated world events in 2005 are in fact linked to the events of that long ago summer – although this is not revealed until close to the end. This has been done very cleverly and brings to mind the “butterfly effect” theory – that nothing happens in the world without a flow-on effect somewhere and also that secrets can be buried, but never forgotten.
I really loved the way the author captured the era of the 1960s and the ‘typical’ small Australian beach town. From the description of the fibro shack the family holidayed in, to the wooden jetty, the town gossip and the undertones of racism – it is right on the mark. She also nailed the reality of the ‘mob mentality’ when something bad happens and people cluster together and gossip and draw incorrect conclusions and a juggernaut is created that is difficult to stop.
The characters are well drawn (both in childhood and adulthood). There isn’t really a main character, although Toby (the cousin) can be seen as the conduit that both gels and fractures the family. In the 1967 sections, the story is mainly told from his viewpoint, although this changes when it moves to 2005 and each character takes turns in narrating.
Overall Watch Out For Me is a compelling read that hooks you in and continues to drag you into a massive web – where you are not sure which way is up, but you know you have to keep looking. (less)
Wow, this book really packs a punch! It kept me engrossed from start to finish (and like a couple of the other reviewers I was up until the early hour...moreWow, this book really packs a punch! It kept me engrossed from start to finish (and like a couple of the other reviewers I was up until the early hours because I just couldn't put it down).
Livia Prescott is an average single mother living and working in suburban Newscastle, when one night she is attacked while walking to her car in a dark, multi-storey carpark. Fortunately she has the strength and courage to fight back, and while shaken, she walks away relatively unscathed. Her friends and workmates praise her quick thinking and she vows to get on with her life.
Then the notes start arriving. Short and jarring they taunt her, asking if she is "scared yet?" Now Livia realises that far from being a random, opportunistic attack, she was actually specifically targeted and is now being stalked.
The suspense in this book is amazing, as each chapter builds it further, adding a new dynamic to the web of possibilities. You can literally feel each rattle of the door and jump at each passing shadow, as Livia does her best to keep herself safe as well as her precious son.
Added to these elements, Livia has the added stress of a nasty divorce, a business on the brink of going under and her father is terminally ill in a hospice. She is literally at breaking point and you know that any little thing could tip her over the edge.
I really enjoyed the setting (good to see a book set outside the major cities) and thought that it captured all the Australian elements (dialogue, brands, lifestyle etc) really well. The characters are also really well drawn and you get just enough insight into each one to wonder if they may be capable of the crime.
It definitely kept me guessing right until the end - and had me checking my doors and windows before going to sleep! An amazing book.(less)
Having recently read Wendy's most recent novel The Mistake, I couldn't wait to read another one of her books and Where Have You Been was also a grippi...moreHaving recently read Wendy's most recent novel The Mistake, I couldn't wait to read another one of her books and Where Have You Been was also a gripping read.
Susan Middleton is living a comfortable suburban life in Sydney. Married to the unexciting but stable Ed and with two young children, she has managed to overcome the trauma of seeing her older sister disappear more than twenty years before and watching her mother suffer mental illness until her recent death. Her mother's will, however, has a major twist. Before the estate can be settled, efforts must be made to locate Susan's missing sister Karen, so she can claim her inheritance. Similar to The Mistake, Wendy James has taken a compelling topic and spun it into a mystery that captured my attention from the first page.
Susan doesn't know how to feel when Karen reappears. But they soon forge a close bond, making up for lost time as they reconnect as sisters. And it's not just Susan who loves her - Ed is taken with his new sister-in-law as are the children.
Then fractures start to appear in the new relationship. Karen - who now calls herself Carly - doesn't want to talk about the past and won't answer questions about why she disappeared, much to Susan's frustration. The children reveal some unpleasant news about their Aunt and Ed is grappling with feelings that go beyond brother-in-law affection.
The suspense is pretty constant throughout, as you wonder exactly why Karen did disappear and what she is hiding now. The author has created some interesting characters, especially Ed - who I found to be very much all front and little substance. You are kept guessing right until the end and my only complaint would be that there were a few loose ends that I would have liked tied up a little more.
Overall, though, this is a fantastic read, with many twists and turns that kept me enthralled from start to finish.(less)
Trudy and Bruce Harrison seem to have it all – a happy marriage, three healthy children and a successful business. Then one afternoon as they are retu...moreTrudy and Bruce Harrison seem to have it all – a happy marriage, three healthy children and a successful business. Then one afternoon as they are returning home from a trip away they make the fateful decision to stop at a Gallery on a lonely, country road. What happens there changes their comfortable life in an instant and sends them on a journey that will test everything they thought was safe in their world.
Right from the beginning you get a sense of reality about this novel – that something like this could happen to an average couple who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I liked the way the author explored the different ways that people cope with the same event and how self-preservation is ultimately the most powerful driving force for most human beings when faced with adversity.
I thought both the main characters were well developed and believable. Although you may not entirely agree with their actions, you could understand how fear can drive people to do things they wouldn’t normally consider. You also understand that until you have faced a traumatic experience, you really can’t predict just how you would respond.
Suspenseful right from the beginning, After The Darkness is also a compelling read that twists and turns in many directions before reaching its conclusion. Yet at the same time you also get the sense that something like this is never really over, that Bruce and Trudy will always live with the shadow of that one afternoon and all its aftermaths. (less)