All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Top 10 Tuesday 25th June

Welcome back to another instalment of Top 10 Tuesday! Originally created and hosted by The Broke & the Bookish, it now has a new home with Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl. This is one of my fave topics and I really enjoy getting to do them every quarter. I also like going back and checking previous ones to hold myself accountable. So……this week it is:

Top Books On My Summer Winter Reading List

(Australian, so yes it is winter here, which means there’s probably a distinct lack of summery, beachy themed reads here!)

1. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. Okay I’m not sure how, but I literally only just discovered this book when I sat down to write this post. I don’t tend to place too much stock in Goodreads ratings but the fact that this one has a 4.05 rating from about 77k is impressive. And the blurb…….

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

That’s just the first paragraph and honestly, how good does that sound? I need to get a copy of this ASAP.

2. The Bride Test by Helen Hoang. I already have a copy of this and I’m really looking forward to it. The Kiss Quotient was so fun and I’m really hoping that I get the same vibes from this one, because that’s the sort of thing that I’m interested in reading atm. I’ve been reading quite a bit of suspense and thriller-type books and I’m going away for 2 weeks in July so I’d like a few light-hearted books that give me summer feels, even if it’s not actually summer here, if you know what I mean.

3. Brazen And The Beast by Sarah MacLean. The second in the Bareknuckle Bastards series. I really enjoyed the first one and I’m keen to see where it goes and as I was saying to a blogging/reading friend of mine the other night, it’s been forever since I read a historical romance. I picked up a few others on iBooks the other day too, so hopefully I’ll find time for more than just this one.

4. Shot Down by Marianne Van Velzen. Something a little different now. I’m really interested in airline disasters and how they happen. Every time you step aboard a plane, you put yourself into someone else’s hands and you never know if the pilots are well rested, has the plane been appropriately serviced, will someone be bearing a grudge……or will the plane be mistaken for something else and shot down. There were quite a few Australian fatalities in this incident and I’m interested to read the story behind it and the investigation, etc.

5. Field Notes On Love by Jennifer E. Smith. I have a bit of a hit/miss record with Jennifer E. Smith’s books…..there’s some I’ve seriously loved and others have just been meh. This sounds really cute though and I love a road trip type story – this has a train journey, so that sounds really fun.

6. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang. I’ve had a copy of this on my iPad for ages now, I picked it up cheap in a sale and I figure that while I’m on holidays is the perfect time to read it as I’m not going to have any actual books with me, just what’s on my iPad. This is something I’ve been wanting to read for a long time now, it has a lot of love and the second book is probably coming out soon, so seems like this will be a good time.

7. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. I’ve also had this one on my iPad for quite a while and it’s one I’ve earmarked for my Reading Women Challenge for this year, which I have fallen woefully behind on. I haven’t read a book that’s counted towards it for a couple of months, so I really need to lift my game. I absolutely loved Little Fires Everywhere so I’m hoping that I enjoy this one just as much!

8. The Chain by Adrian McKinty. Adrian McKinty is an author I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. I have seen a lot of good things about his Sean Duffy series but I’ve never actually gotten around to picking them up. This is a stand alone and it sounds really good:

You just dropped off your child at the bus stop.
A panicked stranger calls your phone.
Your child has been kidnapped.
The stranger then explains that their child has also been kidnapped, by a completely different stranger.
The only way to get your child back is to kidnap another child – within 24 hours.
Your child will be released only when the next victim’s parents kidnap yet another child.
And most importantly, the stranger explains, if you don’t kidnap a child, or if the next parents don’t kidnap a child, your child will be murdered.
You are now part of The Chain.

This taps into all those parental fears about my kids and their safety and that whole ‘what would you do if’? type thing. Would I kidnap another child and put another set of parents through hell, if my child had been kidnapped and was threatened with death? It gives me the shivers just thinking about it.

9. Playing House by Ruby Lang. I nabbed this off NetGalley for my holiday because it just seems like a lot of fun and has some things I really enjoy – especially people pretending they’re in a relationship. That’s like crack for me. I am hoping this might give me similar vibes to The Flatshare and The Hating Game.

10. Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal. I also nabbed a copy of this from NetGalley – it came out a while ago, so I’m not sure why it was still on there and it was the American publisher I think, and they never approve me anymore. I requested it positive I’d get rejected and was so surprised to get a copy! It’s a modern day P&P adaptation but set in Pakistan and I have read almost nothing set in Pakistan so I’m super excited for this! It’ll probably be one of the first books I read on my holiday.

So here are the top 10 books on my TBR for the foreseeable future…..I honestly expect to get quite a few of these read in the first couple weeks of July when I’m on holidays and I don’t have any of my print books with me but others will have to wait until I return home. I’m super excited for all of these……some of them aren’t new releases at all, so if you’ve read any, definitely let me know your thoughts on them.

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Blog Tour Review: All That Impossible Space by Anna Morgan

All That Impossible Space 
Anna Morgan
Hachette AUS
2019, 276p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Amelia Westlake meets My Favorite Murder in this debut from a terrific new voice in Australian YA. Combines a realistic story about high school drama and toxic friendship with true crime – the endlessly fascinating Somerton Man or Taman Shud mystery. 

15-year-old Lara Laylor feels like supporting character in her own life. She’s Ashley’s best friend, she’s Hannah’s sister-she’s never just Lara.

When new history teacher Mr. Grant gives her an unusual assignment: investigating the mystery of the Somerton Man. Found dead in on an Adelaide beach in 1948, a half-smoked cigarette still in his mouth and the labels cut out of his clothes, the Somerton Man has intrigued people for years. Was he a spy? A criminal? Year 10 has plenty of mysteries of its own: boys, drama queen friends, and enigmatic new students. When they seem just as unsolvable as a 60-year-old cold case, Lara finds herself spending more and more time on the assignment. But Mr Grant himself may be the biggest mystery of all…

Interspersed with fictionalised snapshots of the Somerton Man investigation, ALL THAT IMPOSSIBLE SPACE is a coming of age novel exploring toxic friendships and the balance of power between teacher and student, perfect for fans of Cath Crowley and Fiona Wood.

This book took me back!

High school is far behind me now but it’s amazing how things can transport you back in time and everything feels as though it is still happening. When I was in high school, I had a friend very much like Lara’s friend Ashley. A girl who, when she was happy, was the best sort of friend to have around. We had a huge amount of fun, we were super close and spent all our time together. But she was also the sort of friend that would, on occasion, build herself up by tearing others down. By making people feel awkward or inferior. There could be silent treatment as well, for slights or even perceived slights. It was a volatile friendship, finally dying a death in grade 12 when I removed myself voluntarily from her circle. I learned a lot from that friendship because it was full of ups and downs. Sometimes I still look back on it as some of the better times in my teen years but it was also responsible for some of my most miserable times in my teen years as well. It was by forming other close friendships and nurturing those that I was able to recognise that it was time to move on and this is something that I think Lara experiences here too.

Lara and Ashley have always been a pair, with Ashley the more dominant friend. The arrival of Kate, who befriends Lara, upsets the delicate balance. With Kate, it seems as though Lara can more be herself, rather than reshaping herself the way she does around Ashley. Lara is a bit of a follower – Ashley wants to do the school musical with the local boys school and so Lara must try out as well, even though the rehearsals clash with Lara’s preferred activity of running/cross country. Lara has a few things in her life putting her off balance I think – the disappearance of her older sister Hannah overseas on a gap year, who keeps contact determinedly one sided, the arrival of a new history teacher, Mr Grant and the assignment he gives Lara investigating the death of the Somerton Man, one of Australia’s greatest unsolved mysteries. And then there’s Jos, from the boys school who is also taking part in the play their two schools are putting on together.

Going to out myself here and say I didn’t know much about the Somerton Man case before this, I’m not really sure how. I didn’t do much history at school and every now and then I’m really reminded of that when I come across something that I should know about, but don’t. I did a bit of reading whilst completing this book and after as well. The Somerton Man was found dead on a South Australian beach and his identity or what happened to him, has never been truly answered. There are some theories, revolving around the possibility of spies and the Cold War but the fact that he had no identification, the labels were removed from his clothing, there was a likelihood that he was perhaps poisoned, all served up a big mystery that has never come to a satisfying conclusion. Lara is given the task of investigating it, to come up with theories and possibilities for the Somerton Man, which leads to some extra attention from her teacher.

I really enjoyed a lot about this, the portrayal of high school and the navigation of friendships, particularly a toxic one and those early overtures into a relationship were spot on for me. I really liked Lara as a character and thought she was well written. Her relationship with her absent sister forms a big part of the novel – Lara is very much in Hannah’s shadow, always feels like she’s just “Hannah’s sister” rather than her own person, her teachers and school authority figures don’t seem to see her as a separate person, rather just comparing her to her sister and the behaviour she would or wouldn’t display. Lara seems to be almost an invisible member in her own family, her parents seemingly concerned about Hannah and what she is or isn’t doing. Lara seems to be the child that always does as is expected and doesn’t demand that extra mental energy. I found her interactions with Jos really cute and liked the two of them….and the remarks of Ashley also felt familiar, trying to downplay someone else’s happenings because it isn’t happening to them, stamping out any happiness they might be feeling. Where I felt I wanted a bit more, was the story that developed with Lara’s history teacher. I’m not sure that for me, there was enough there for Lara to act in the way that she did and the ending was a bit unsatisfactory. I know there’s not going to be an answer for Lara’s project but I think there were a few other aspects of the story that I would’ve liked dealt with a little more, to really round out Lara’s character development and her actions.

A really solid debut and I’ll be definitely adding Anna Morgan to my watch list to keep an eye out for her future releases.

7/10

Book #93 of 2019

All That Impossible Space is book #42 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019

This review is part of a blog tour for this book presented by Hachette Australia and Aus YA Bloggers. Make sure you check out the rest of the spots, posting every day this week!

Author Links
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/amorgs/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/annalauramorgan
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18991287.Anna_Morgan
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Review: Recursion by Blake Crouch

Recursion 
Blake Crouch
Pan Macmillan AUS
2019, 326p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Barry Sutton is driving home from another long shift as an NYPD detective when the call comes in. A woman is threatening to commit suicide, and someone’s got to try to talk her down. Only as he stands on the rooftop, mere inches away from her, does he realize that the woman is infected with False Memory Syndrome, a mysterious disease that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived. When Barry is unable to save her, he’s rocked to his core–not only by her death but the fear that he’s been exposed to this devastating illness.

Helena Smith is a brilliant but frustrated neuroscientist. If she could only get the funding, she’s sure she could build the ambitious device she’s long imagined–one that would allow people to preserve their most intense memories and relive them whenever they want. So when a billionaire entrepreneur offers to bankroll her project, she jumps at the opportunity–even if there are some strange conditions attached.

As Helena’s efforts yield stunning results, Barry investigates the mystery behind the woman he failed to save. He finds himself on a journey as astonishing as it is terrifying, ultimately revealing the true danger posed by Helena’s invention–and a plot that could bring about the end of reality as we know it.

Weaving together Barry’s story and Helena’s in ways even the savviest reader will never guess, Recurson is a brilliant science fiction thriller about time, memory, and the illusion of the present, built on our inability to escape the flashbulb moments that define us.

This book was a wild ride!

I picked it up because it was the ‘odd one out’ on my monthly TBR pile. I had a lot of quite similar looking books left, mostly romantic suspense or thriller types and this looked different and just something that I don’t read very often. So I decided to give it a go and it was a really nice surprise how much I enjoyed it.

Barry is a NYPD officer who tries to stop a woman jumping off a building in Manhattan. She suffers from False Memory Syndrome a condition that started striking people who suddenly wake up with two sets of memories – the life they’ve lived until that moment and also, an entirely different life. It’s assumed that only one life is ‘real’ but they have memories of two lives, vivid memories which are difficult to distinguish between. The woman on top of the building has a son in her alternative life….a son who doesn’t exist in her real life, which is more than she can bear. She tells Barry that her son has been erased. Which leads Barry to start investigating FMS and suddenly he’s given an opportunity to right an injustice….. His journey leads him to Helen, a gifted neuroscientist who just wants to map and record memories so that people can relive them whenever they want. Her motivation is her mother, who has Alzheimers disease and will soon no longer remember Helen or her father. She wants to make it so that her mother can ‘store’ and access her memories, thereby preserving her relationships with them. But the best laid plans often go awry and an offer of funding from an eccentric billionaire turns into Helen’s worst nightmare and a disaster of worldwide proportions.

It’s really difficult to explain this story – at times it was difficult for me to even fully grasp what Helen was doing, science wise and the far reaching implications of doing it over and over again. My brain doesn’t really process science or maths things and this is a deeply complex story revolving around an ability to not just map and return to memories, but taking that even further.

I think everyone has probably had a moment or more in their lives where they’ve thought ‘what would’ve happened if I’d made this choice instead of that one? If I’d done this instead of that’ and this book is like having the opportunity to go back and make that choice. I know there are things I would do differently, if returned to a certain point in time and given the option, with hindsight and clarity, to make a different choice. But sometimes, you can go back and make a choice….and it’s the wrong one. And all of a sudden there are huge consequences, butterflies flapping their wings etc. For Helen, what starts with the most honourable of intentions, the chance to give people losing their memories piece by piece the opportunity to preserve and experience precious memories, it is like many great discoveries or inventions. What Helen wants is to give people a gift but others see the potential to go further, to really push this technology to its limits and it takes on a life of its own. And for Helen, it’s a life’s work corrupted and now she and Barry have to try and come up with the answer to fix it….without making things worse. And things? They get a lot worse.

This was really enjoyable. It was complex and I know there were things I didn’t quite grasp the specifics of but it wasn’t in a ‘I don’t understand this, it’s all going over my head’ sort of thing, it was more the mechanics of the situation rather than the actual story itself. I actually kind of feel that I shouldn’t understand these sorts of stories, that the technology should be far beyond my grasp as a non-scientist person who knows zip about the brain. But I got right into this and the horror of it as well as diving into Helen and Barry as characters and how these two people came together in incredible circumstances in order to try and fix something that had gone so very wrong.

This is why I love to dive into things that are a bit different from my reading norm sometimes, because I discover things that I am really into and this was one of them. I’ve not really explored books with scientific elements too often but I’d love to read a bit more along this line of thinking with similar saving the world sort of motivation.

8/10

Book #92 of 2019

 

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Review: A Mother’s Story by Rosie Batty & Bryce Corbett

A Mother’s Story
Rosie Batty with Bryce Corbett
Harper Collins AUS
2015, 324p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

At the start of 2014, Rosie Batty was an ordinary single mum doing everything in her power to give her son, Luke, the very best life she could. But her world changed forever when her troubled ex-partner, Greg Anderson, killed Luke in an horrendous attack at the local cricket ground in February that year.

Rosie had suffered years of family violence, and had intervention orders in place in an effort to protect herself and her son. She believes the killing was Greg’s final act of power and control over her. But Rosie would not be silenced. Since the events of last February, she has become an outspoken crusader against family violence, winning hearts and minds all over Australia with her compassion and her courage. In January 2015, she was named Australian of the Year.

So I can remember buying this book in 2016 after seeing Rosie Batty at a session at the Melbourne Writers Fest. I remember being so overwhelmed by how composed she was, how well she spoke when talking of her son and the events that led to his tragic murder at the hands of his own father just a couple of years previous. She was for me, someone to be admired for her strength and determination, someone who was doing whatever she could to shine a light on domestic and family violence and just how inadequate the services are at managing it. Rosie’s story is one failure after another to see that her former partner Greg Anderson was implementing an escalation of intimidation, threats and violence designed to control Rosie and when that control was slipping, with their son Luke getting older and more able to express his own thoughts and opinions and live his own life without being subject to custody orders, it seemed that there was really only one thing left for Greg to do to make Rosie suffer. And so he murdered their son, during one of the small windows of opportunity he had to see the boy, at cricket training on an afternoon in broad daylight. Greg was then fatally shot by police after he charged at them with a knife during their attempts to apprehend him.

I’ve always known that this would be a really difficult read and that I’d need to be in the right frame of mind when I read it. Preferably alone, so that I could cry (which I was bound to do) without awkward questions from my kids about why a book is making me cry. And it’s sat on my ‘priority TBR shelf’ ever since. Often I’d look at it, because I want to read it but I’d know that I wasn’t ready yet. But the other day I was reading about someone who was alleged to have made disparaging remarks about Rosie Batty and on a snap decision I decided to read the book. And perhaps that was the best way to do it. Just diving in without over thinking it, picking it up and just reading it in pretty much one sitting.

Was it difficult? Absolutely. Did it end up making me cry? Yes. But as much as I was incredibly sad on finishing this, sad for the loss of Luke, sad for Rosie and what she had experienced, I was also incredibly angry. Angry that for so long this man had made her life a misery with threats, intimidation, physical violence and that every time Rosie went somewhere for help, she was stymied by the fact that because he was also the father of her child, there was very little she could do to protect herself. He was violent and abusive to her, but not Luke so she still had to uphold custody orders giving him access to Luke. Because she had no family in Australia, he had to pick Luke up and drop him off to her which meant he always knew her address and had access to her property, regardless of whether or not she had AVO’s out on him at the time. As things escalated and she sought to include Luke in the protective orders, it was judged that he only have supervised access to Luke – however the only person they deemed suitable to supervise was Rosie herself, the person whom he was violent towards and who lived in fear of him. How would he react having to be supervised during visits with his child by Rosie? So many times she should’ve been referred to this organisation or that support group but it failed to happen. Greg learned if he didn’t show up for court, it just got adjourned and so he habitually refused to show which meant that Rosie’s attempts to protect herself and her son were drawn out and protracted, going no where. Because she owned a home (with a mortgage) she wasn’t eligible for legal aid so she had to pay for a lawyer. Greg, who was often homeless and sleeping in his car or temporary accomodation, was always afforded representation.

There’s no denying that Greg was obviously mentally ill in some ways. He showed signs of instability well before Luke was born and that seemingly without diagnosis and treatment, his condition escalated alarmingly. He saw Rosie as both someone he wanted to continue having children with, someone whom he was in a relationship with, entitled to use her home as his own, but also someone who rejected him and controlled his access to Luke. The only way Greg could seek to reassert some of that control was to make things as difficult as he could, such as not turning up when he was supposed to, reappearing early, etc. He would have an episode of violence but then in the next interaction, ask Rosie if she wanted to get back together as a couple. A lot of people would flip the blame back onto Rosie for not setting stronger boundaries, for always allowing him back into her life but I think it’s difficult to maintain strong boundaries with someone like Greg, who was an expert manipulator and expert at getting people to do what he wanted. He could always find somewhere to live or a job, even though he could never keep either. For Rosie, it was often easier to just ‘go along with it’ because he could be so difficult when she didn’t. She was groomed almost, in a way. Greg was a gaslighter who preyed on women like Rosie – no family, no strong community around them to provide support and basically, be a wall in between him and her. She was always so determined to give him access to Luke, no matter his behaviour, because he loved Luke and Luke loved him. And then even when things got so bad that she tried to get his access revoked, it was almost impossible to do so, despite the fact that there was even a warrant out for his arrest in relation to child pornography (which for privacy reasons, Rosie wasn’t entitled to know and she only found out by accident when Greg’s lawyer made a mistake). There are many legal loopholes and I understand how difficult an issue it is. A father’s rights to access their children do have to be protected and should not be revoked for anything less than serious reasons. But I think towards the end, Greg showed erratic behaviour, including to and around Luke that should’ve raised more concerns. And given he murdered him in broad daylight with other people around, including other children, it’s entirely possible that no matter what the courts did, he’d have found a way.

So yeah. I just feel really sad and really angry for everyone involved here. For Rosie Batty, for the years she spent being abused and living in fear, for the loss of her son and her grief. For the judgement and derision of people who don’t know her because she didn’t grieve the way they thought was appropriate or because she speaks about things that people would prefer not to have a light shined on. For Luke, who had to balance his mother and father at a young age, who learned that the man he loved was capable of horrible things. And even for Greg, who obviously needed some form of help, maybe many forms of help and didn’t seem to be able to get that help in order to perhaps be a calmer and more moderate person. Who could’ve just loved his son and left Rosie in peace. Maybe nothing would’ve helped Greg, I don’t know, and that’s sad too. And anger at how many times these situations fall through the cracks, the police officers that thought Rosie was hysterical when she tried to get help, the magistrate that revoked the stricter access. There were opportunities to arrest Greg before the day he killed his son and they fell through – the paperwork didn’t come through in time, he left before the cops got there, the police didn’t turn up when Rosie called them to tell them where he was. So many opportunities. It makes you wonder what might’ve happened if just one thing had gone Rosie’s way in that scenario.

And having read this, I admire Rosie Batty even more. Because it’s hard to bare your soul like this, hard to lay every ugly thing in your life for people to read and pick over and judge. But it’s obvious how much she loved Luke and how by telling this story, she’s trying to prevent it from happening to others. In life, everything she did was for Luke and it seems that after his death, she carries on doing everything she can, for Luke.

9/10

Book #91 of 2019

A Mother’s Story is book #41 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2019. I know it was written with a male writer but it’s Rosie’s story, in her own words as such, so I’m going to include it.

 

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Review: Messy, Wonderful Us by Catherine Isaac

Messy, Wonderful Us
Catherine Isaac
Simon & Schuster
2019, 400p
Copy courtesy Simon & Schuster AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

One morning in early summer, a man and woman wait to board a flight to Italy. 

Allie has lived a careful, focused existence. But now she has unexpectedly taken leave from her job as an academic research scientist to fly to a place she only recently heard about in a letter. Her father, Joe, doesn’t know the reason for her trip, and Allie can’t bring herself to tell him that she’s flying to Italy to unpick the truth about what her mother did all those years ago.

Beside her is her best friend since schooldays, Ed. He has just shocked everyone with a sudden separation from his wife, Julia. Allie hopes that a break will help him open up.

But the secrets that emerge as the sun beats down on Lake Garda and Liguria don’t merely concern her family’s tangled past. And the two friends are forced to confront questions about their own life-long relationship that are impossible to resolve.

Allie is celebrating a family dinner with her father and her deceased mother’s parents when a quick sneak into her grandmother’s bedroom to check something ends with her finding a letter and photo that shakes Allie’s whole world. It seems to suggest a possibility that her father, the man who has loved and raised her almost single handedly since her mother died when she was 6, may not be her biological father. Allie finds that this new information eats away at her – she confronts her grandmother who denies her claims and forbids Allie to speak of it again, particularly to her father or grandfather. Allie can’t let it go and so she tells her family she’s going on a holiday but really she’s going to track down the man that she feels may have the answers for her – and who may be her biological father.

With her is Ed, her best friend since school. Ed rode the Dotcom bubble but avoided the burst and is a successful and wealthy man who has been married to the beautiful Julia for a few years. Ed and Allie have managed to maintain their friendship throughout university years and various relationships and although she and Julia aren’t close they manage to get on quite well. When Ed leaves Julia with no warning, no reasoning, Julia turns to Allie to get to the bottom of the situation and see if she can, well, talk some sense into Ed and see what’s going on. To everyone else, their marriage seems perfect. Even Allie doesn’t know precisely what’s really going on in Ed’s life.

In Italy, it’s a chasing game. The information they have is minimal but luckily, Ed speaks Italian which makes their research a lot easier than if it were just Allie on her own. Ed is not his usual self – he’s distant, a bit off, unwilling to talk about what’s going on with him in his life, despite Allie’s gentle prodding. They end up on a bit of a trip down the rabbit hole, hopping from person to location based on flimsy bits of information and half directions. They face people who are suspicious of their motives in wanting to find this person but eventually they are able to track him down and Allie is able to ask questions and get the answers she seeks and learn the truth.

I enjoyed many aspects of this – I thought that the reveal that Allie’s father was potentially not was done well and her confused feelings after the fact. I liked her friendship with Ed, although it wasn’t shown in its best light in the current time because Ed was in such a strange place. And I liked what was going on with Ed, when it was revealed. I thought it was surprising and unexpected and handled very well, with sensitivity and also believability. For me, the best part of the book was the bit that was written in italics, which was an unnamed character not revealed for most of the story. I thought that was excellently done and although I ended up guessing it (I think you’re supposed to) it didn’t detract at all from the power of the execution and the impact of the choices (or lack thereof) women had during that time.

The trip to Italy I didn’t enjoy as much. It just felt a bit exhausting and like this wild goose chase trying to track down this person with not much information but enough to just be able to go on to the next person to ask or the next location only to be kind of stonewalled again. The dynamic between Ed and Allie in Italy is a bit weird too. They’re best friends – former school friends who have maintained that closeness. But Ed is also recently separated and it soon comes up that there’s a few complications in their past as well and it just felt a bit…..rushed and too much crammed in there. Too many complications going on between those two people without some being resolved. It left me with a bit of an uncomfortable feeling too, at how things developed. Also the overly dramatic ending felt out of place with the rest of the story and seemed to serve as a way for the author to sever a connection quickly and without having to actually detail it out.

7/10

Book #90 of 2019

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Review: A Good Enough Mother by Bev Thomas

A Good Enough Mother
Bev Thomas
Faber & Faber
2019, 336p
Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Ruth Hartland is the director of a trauma therapy unit in London. A psychotherapist with years of experience, she is highly respected in her field and in her office. But her family life tells another story: her marriage has fractured; her daughter has moved far, far away to Australia; and Tom, her teenage son, after years of struggling with being a child who never fit in, has disappeared and has had no contact with anyone for two years. Ruth’s fragile son has always been sensitive and anxious, the opposite of his cheerful and resilient sister. Is he hiding? Is he dead? How did she fail him, and how can she find him after all this time?

Then Ruth is assigned a new patient, a young man who bears a striking resemblance to her own son. Ruth is determined to help Dan, but her own complicated feelings and family history cloud her judgement–and professional boundaries, once inviolable, are crossed. When events spiral out of control, Ruth will have to accept the unacceptable, and reckon with those who truly matter in her life. A brilliant, beautiful story of mothering, and how to let go of the ones we love when we must.

I was really excited for this just from reading the blurb. However, upon actually reading it, I did struggle with it a bit, pretty much because of Ruth, the main character. She’s the director of a trauma therapy unit, she seems very high profile working with difficult cases and with a lot of experience. When she receives a new patient, she should relinquish him to another therapist immediately. He reminds her of her son, who vanished over two years ago without a trace. He hasn’t been in contact, there has been no information, no sightings, nothing. It’s entirely possible that if he didn’t vanish to end his life, he’s dead now by some other way, something that Ruth refuses to think about. However instead of doing the professional thing and giving up this patient, which is also the right thing to do, not just for the patient but for herself as well, she doesn’t. Whether it’s because by helping him when she couldn’t help her son, she feels as though she’s….saving him anyway? I’m not sure. The motivation is murky. Sometimes it just seems like she just wants to be with him, to spend time with him because she cannot spend time with her son. It seemed both dangerous and a bit creepy, from a professional therapist, who shouldn’t be making their patients all about themselves.

As the story progresses, Ruth spins more and more out of control, crossing more boundaries, acting in a more unprofessional manner. Interwoven with this story of her patient Dan is also the story of Ruth’s son Tom and the way in which he is different to her other child, her daughter Carolyn. Tom struggled very much from an early age, not adapting to child care like his sister and so it’s the story of Ruth adapting her life in order to suit Tom. She spends a lot of time and effort trying to help him and then if that doesn’t work, rearranging everything so that Tom is prioritised. Tom definitely has some social difficulties and some anxieties or issues with depression as he gets older. He struggles with a lot of things, particularly things that his sister finds easy. She sails through school work, gets accepted to do a degree but then disappears to the other side of the world in Australia.

I have two really different kids – my oldest is super confident, will never die wondering, is very popular at school and very smart. He makes friends very easily and is friends with everyone. Even when I was picking him up when he was in his first year of school, kids in grades 5 and 6, teachers that teach high school, were saying hi to him as we walked across the school yard. My younger child is also smart but lacks self confidence. He’s very shy, very unsure of himself, crippled with social anxiety at times. He doesn’t make friends easily and at his age, the confidence to befriend people is really important in constructing those early social groups. He freezes when put on the spot and I was told every week in his first year of school he needed to work on his resilience, work on his resilience, work on his resilience. I grew to loathe the word resilience! A lot of parents have two really different kids. Sometimes there’s one that simply demands more time and mental energy than another. And it must be a million times harder when one of your children has troubles that are probably mental illness. But this shouldn’t lead to a repeated sacrifice of one child’s needs to benefit another, which is what Ruth seems to do. She seems to adopt the philosophy that her daughter will be fine, because she’s more resilient (there’s that word again), more self-confident, more socially comfortable. At times, she almost seems to resent her daughter for being able to do things that Tom cannot do and make friends, have a social life, get excellent marks, get out and about, etc. I actually felt deeply sorry for Carolyn, because it’s so obvious in so many ways all of the concessions her mother makes for her brother, concessions that she expects others to make. And yet it’s interesting that it doesn’t particularly affect the sibling relationship too much, instead the impact is all on Ruth’s relationship with her daughter. Ruth is so one-eyed she doesn’t see how this continued behaviour affects her marriage, her relationship with her other child…..or she does and she doesn’t care. Tom it seems, is always her priority. And it is this determined devotion and desperation to ‘fix it’ that seems to lead to her making these disastrous decisions when it comes to Dan and his treatment. Dan is deeply, deeply disturbed, he’s clever and very manipulative and even though there are red flags, warning sirens and flashing lights everywhere, Ruth cannot or will not see them. She keeps blundering on, making mistake after mistake, crossing boundaries, compromising her professional ethics until it culminates in the most violent of tragedies. There were ample opportunities to possess the information needed to perhaps stop this from happening and it’s Ruth’s lack of professionalism and basically doing her job that means these opportunities go begging. And I never really got the feeling of that much remorse or reflection from her either, toward the end.

I found Ruth such a frustrating character with such biased motives that she really messed things up for a lot of people. The idea that someone of her professional experience and position would act in this manner was really quite disturbing. Not just in taking the patient but the lying, omitting facts and continued crossing of professional boundaries that she did in order to try and juggle him, the clear ignoring of indicators of severe disturbance and the fact that his resemblance to her son meant that she wasn’t able to view him objectively and was in way over her head. So many ways in which she could have redeemed herself and…..just didn’t do any of them.

6/10

Book #82 of 2019

 

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Review: The Forgotten Letters Of Esther Durrant by Kayte Nunn

The Forgotten Letters Of Esther Durrant
Kayte Nunn
Hachette AUS
2019, 384p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

A cache of unsent love letters from the 1950s is found in a suitcase on a remote island in this mysterious love story by top ten bestselling author, Kayte Nunn.

1951. Esther Durrant, a young mother, is committed to an isolated mental asylum by her husband. Run by a pioneering psychiatrist, the hospital is at first Esther’s prison but soon becomes her refuge.

2017. Free-spirited marine scientist Rachel Parker embarks on a research posting in the Isles of Scilly, off the Cornish coast. When a violent storm forces her to take shelter on a far-flung island, she discovers a collection of hidden love letters. Captivated by their passion and tenderness, Rachel determines to track down the intended recipient.

Meanwhile, in London, Eve is helping her grandmother, a renowned mountaineer, write her memoirs. When she is contacted by Rachel, it sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to reveal secrets kept buried for more than sixty years.

The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant is a deeply atmospheric, resonant novel that charts the heart’s wild places, choices and consequences. If you love Elizabeth Gilbert and Kate Morton you will devour this book.

This book opens in such an intriguing way. Esther Durrant is a young wife and mother who has recently suffered a terrible loss. She’s been struggling to cope and her husband is apparently taking her on a holiday, leaving their young son behind in the care of others, so that Esther can find some sort of enjoyment again. Their destination seems somewhat suspect – a remote island in terrible weather, a huge mansion. Not really the relaxing and indulgent holiday that Esther was expecting. She astounded to wake the next morning, bound, in a strange room. Her husband has committed her here, to an experimental asylum. She will remain there for months, undergoing therapy and hopefully, learning to cope with the tragedy that has befallen her so that she can return to her family and mother her young son once more.

It wasn’t that long ago that men could commit their wives to mental asylums with relatively little difficulty and at first, I thought that this was what Esther’s husband was doing. Out of sight, out of mine. His intentions are ambiguous at first – dragging a grieving woman out in terrible weather to a remote island under the premise of a ‘holiday’. But there’s no denying that Esther is struggling mentally and needs some help in learning to cope with the terrible tragedy she has experienced. On the island, alone and feeling abandoned by those that should love her, Esther is at first somewhat reluctant and combative, preferring to sleep her time away. But eventually the island and its inhabitants intrigue her and she begins playing a part in the relatively experimental form of psychological evaluation.

Many years later Rachel Parker accepts a job researching marine species on islands off the Cornish coast. Rachel has lived a vagabond life, never staying too long in one place, always moving on to the next challenge and exciting location. This location is somewhat different to the tropical ones that she’s been used to – it’s a much more unforgiving environment than she’s used to but after an adjustment period, she finds herself drawn to one of the remote islands with an old gothic mansion, inhabited by a lone woman who shuns modern conveniences. Forced to stay there after losing her boat in a storm, Rachel finds a suitcase of abandoned clothing with love letters tucked inside, which sends her on a mission to reunite the letters with their intended recipient.

This book was amazing. From the first scene, where I was trying to figure out what had happened to Esther to grieve her so and what her husband’s true intentions were in leaving her on the island, to Rachel and her job. Some of Rachel’s earlier postings sounded like heaven on earth – atolls in the Pacific, living an endless life of summer and beaches. But there’s a serious side to her work, mapping the impact climate change is having by using certain species. I related to her initial feelings about the climate of her new home but Rachel adapts well, becoming a part of the local community and befriending a few of the locals. When she’s basically ‘shipwrecked’ and rescued by a woman living on her own, the mystery deepens with the discovery of letters from Esther’s time staying at Little Embers, the large mansion that was originally used as the hospice.

Esther was a woman in pain – all of the patients at Little Embers were experiencing great mental trauma. The others were men who had fought in the war and returned with PTSD and shock type traumas, which back in 1951, wasn’t particularly well understood. Esther slowly overcomes her resentment at being left there and begins to bond with the fellow patients and also their doctor as well, a kind and thoughtful man who just wants to be able to help people with his ideas and remote location, which helps focus the intensive therapy. The patients are encouraged to be out of doors, to walk and tend the garden, to take part in simple tasks that help keep the house running. Slowly she develops a special relationship with someone, the house becoming no longer somewhere she was abandoned, but a refuge, a place she feels safe and has given her happiness.

This book winds through two timelines – Esther’s ‘incarceration’ for want of a better term and Rachel’s discovery of the letters, which lead her to a woman named Eve living in London, helping her grandmother with her memoirs. Both of the timelines were amazing – I didn’t know what one I wanted to stay in more. I was so interested in Esther’s journey and how she would work through her grief but at the same time, Rachel’s job and exploration of the islands and her discovery of the letters as well as her journey to solve the mystery of writer/recipient kept me riveted too. The writing is so descriptive and wonderful that even though I’ve never left Australia, I could picture myself there, I could feel the sting of the salt and the ice of the wind and rain. The remoteness seemed so appealing as well, travelling by boat to these different islands and exploring a geography that’s totally different to what I’m used to. The characters were brilliantly rendered, the relationships and connections laid out with care.

This is two amazing stories wrapped up in one cohesive telling. I’ve really enjoyed Kayte Nunn’s last two books now and eagerly look forward to whatever else she has to offer in the future. Highly recommend it.

9/10

Book #89 of 2019

The Forgotten Letters Of Esther Durrant is book #40 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019

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Review: Wildflower Ridge by Maya Linnell

Wildflower Ridge
Maya Linnell
Allen & Unwin
2019, 384p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Penny McIntyre loves her life as an ambitious city professional, with a marketing team at her fingertips and a promotion just within reach. So when she’s floored by a mystery illness, and ordered back to the family farm for three months’ rest and recuperation, she is horrified to find her perfect life imploding.

Within days, Penny has to leave her much-loved job, her live-in boyfriend, and her beloved city apartment… to return to the small country town in which she grew up. Back to her dad and three sisters, one of whom has never forgiven her for abandoning her family. And to her ex-boyfriend, Tim Patterson, who was the biggest reason she ran in the first place.

When Penny’s father is injured in a farming accident and Tim campaigns to buy the property, she must choose between the city life she loves and the farming dream she buried long ago.

Wildflower Ridge is rural fiction straight from the heart.

Sometimes when you read a book, you know what to expect going in and the book delivers exactly that. Other times though, you think you know what you’re getting but the book ends up surprising you. I think that for me, Wildflower Ridge was both. I in some ways, got exactly what I thought I would, going in. But there was also a part of the book that was definitely unexpected and was really surprising to me…..but definitely in a good way.

Penny left her family’s farm in rural Victoria behind many years ago, moving to the city where she works in marketing. She is very dedicated to her job, working long hours and she’s gunning for a big promotion. She has a boyfriend who like her, is an upwardly mobile professional and she is very satisfied with the direction of her life. Until a sudden illness knocks her flat and she’s packed off to the country to get better, leaving her job and the city behind. Penny is incredibly resentful of being forced to leave and go back to the family farm and it’s clear she doesn’t want to really be there. Although she does return to see her family, her visits seem sporadic and one of her sisters wastes no time in attacking most of her life goals and the fact that she’s left the farm behind. And there’s also the complication of Tim Patterson, Penny’s high-school boyfriend who now works for Penny’s father on the family farm in a managerial capacity.

Returning to the family farm from a city career is a common trope in rural fiction but I appreciated the depth Maya Linnell gave Penny’s journey here both with her illness and also her motivation many years ago in seeking her new life in Melbourne. I feel as though disdain for those that leave is also a common theme at times but once again, the author breathes new life into this as well. Families are tricky and sometimes those dynamics can be difficult to get right. Penny gets along relatively well with two of her sisters but clashes badly with a third, the two bickering incessantly and sniping at each other. At one stage I remember I started to get really frustrated with the direction of their arguments…..I just wanted to know what the heck Penny’s sister Lara’s problem was. That frustration I was feeling made me really identify with Penny, who is experiencing a lot of frustration of her own towards Lara. After their father is injured in a farming incident, Lara really pushes for something that makes Penny reassess her priorities and what she wants out of life, rethinking those events from her teen years that led to her making the choices she did. Lara’s a prickly character, quite unlikable at first in her relentless jibes at Penny for leaving and her life in the city. But once the reader discovers precisely what Lara’s problem is, you see her in an entirely new light. Her reasoning, her motivation, her desperation all suddenly makes sense and you can see what drove her and why she was just so…..closed off. And remote. Her character was really well done and the depths the book went to in exploring her situation were very thoughtfully done.

This is a very strong debut novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the setting – an area in Victoria that I’m a little familiar with due to regular trips out that way into western Victoria and I liked the farm stuff. There’s situations where Penny really struggles and it felt incredibly realistic. The weather gets in the way too, of course. The strength is in the relationships between family – Penny and her sisters, Penny and her dad and the frustration that results from his accident and Penny taking on a lot of responsibility and commitment as she’s recovering from her illness. I also really liked Tim and the relationships he has with his family – the Nanna who basically raised him and also his brother, who has Down Syndrome. He also has some very complex feelings toward his absent parents as well and a determination to be seen as a separate entity to his father, not a younger version of the same man. Country minds can link families together (funnily enough, a bunch of people from my husband’s hometown generally refer to him as ‘Sam’, which is his Dad’s name. I’ve never known why they do it and neither does my husband other than it’s something they do there) but Tim has his own dreams and wants to achieve them on his own merits. I loved the well-roundedness of the story and all its characters and the believability of their interactions. I’m definitely looking forward to Maya Linnell’s next book!

8/10

Book #87 of 2019

Wildflower Ridge is book #39 for The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019

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Review: The Cinema At Starlight Creek by Alli Sinclair

The Cinema At Starlight Creek 
Alli Sinclair
Harlequin MIRA
2019, 384p
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy Harlequin AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

A heart-stirring novel of loss, love and new hope set against the glamorous backdrop of 1950s Hollywood and a small Australian country town. How far would you go to follow your dream?

Queensland, 1994 When location manager Claire Montgomery arrives in rural Queensland to work on a TV mini-series, she’s captivated by the beauty of Starlight Creek and the surrounding sugarcane fields. Working in a male-dominated industry is challenging, but Claire has never let that stop her pursuing her dreams-until now. She must gain permission to film at Australia’s most historically significant art deco cinema, located at Starlight Creek. But there is trouble ahead. The community is fractured and the cinema’s reclusive owner, Hattie Fitzpatrick, and her enigmatic great nephew, Luke Jackson, stand in her way, putting Claire’s career-launching project-and her heart-at risk.

Hollywood, 1950 Lena Lee has struggled to find the break that will catapult her into a star with influence. She longs for roles about strong, independent women but with Hollywood engulfed in politics and a censorship battle, Lena’s timing is wrong. Forced to keep her love affair with actor Reeves Garrity a secret, Lena puts her career on the line to fight for equality for women in an industry ruled by men. Her generous and caring nature steers her onto a treacherous path, leaving Lena questioning what she is willing to endure to get what she desires.

Can two women-decades apart-uncover lies and secrets to live the life they’ve dared to dream?

I love a dual timeline story. I think ever since I read The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley, they’ve been one of my favourite things to settle in with. I love a historical narrative and appreciate the ways in which authors can blend these stories with those in the present. In this story, the present is not particularly present – northern Queensland, 1994. It’s funny, 1994 isn’t that long ago really, in the grand scheme of things. But reading this book made me realise it’s a lifetime ago in terms of things like technology. Mobile phones are in their fledgling stages and the service is ridiculously patchy, dropping out a lot. There’s little to no internet (I remember we didn’t get the internet until 1998 and it was the slowest dial-up known to man). It means that so much more happens face to face as well, with Claire not able to liase via email or text message etc, the way that perhaps would happen now.

Claire is a film location manager who is down a location after an indiscretion between her lead actor and the daughter of the property owner. There’s only one other historically significant art-deco cinema that suits their purpose and so Claire heads to north QLD to beg permission from the owner, to use it in the film she is working on. The owner is Hattie Fitzpatrick, an elderly lady who is quite reclusive and at first, firm in her refusal to Claire. As a last ditch effort, Claire writes her an impassioned letter which touches Hattie. Intertwined with this is a story of Hollywood in the 1950s, when actors were attached to studios and starred in every picture they made. Lena Lee is a bit older then actresses just breaking into the scene but she’s incredibly talented and with the help of some friends, puts herself out there for recognition and roles.

I really, really enjoyed the 1950s Hollywood setting, which is actually not a time period I’ve visited a lot in fiction and definitely not in Hollywood. I’m not really a movie buff (people ask me have I see X movie, to which I inevitably reply no and they can never believe it) but I found this section really interesting. There was a lot of stuff I sort of knew vaguely but a lot that I didn’t as well. I found the social commentary well worked into the story. The 1950s is Cold War time, paranoia about communism and reds under the bed and who might be hiding what was rampant and there’s a whole government agency that seems dedicated to routing out communism, or what they think might be communism and people who support it. HUAC, aka the House of Un-American Activities committee were firmly convinced communism and propaganda had infiltrated the Hollywood scene and in real life, studios often blacklisted or boycotted artists suspected of sympathies. Homosexuality was also considered a disease and for some reason, linked to communist sympathies as well. There were many actors and artists of this time who were forced to leave America to find work elsewhere – very few people investigated or accused could successfully rebuild a career in America. Studios were also beholden to censors, who could wield power over a film by cutting things they deemed inappropriate or demanding changes.

In the more modern setting, Claire faces the pressure of being a woman in a world that is still quite dominated by men, with someone working alongside her that is desperate to see her fail, so that they might have her job. It seems that no mistakes are tolerated and even though it wasn’t Claire’s fault that the first location didn’t work out and she did manage to secure the second location, it seems all eyes are on her to make sure nothing else goes wrong. The pressure is immense and in the middle of it all, Claire is still trying to figure out what she wants to do in her career that is meaningful to her. Hattie’s great nephew, Luke is a bit of a distraction. At first the two clash over Claire’s desire to use the cinema but when Hattie thaws so does Luke and the two of them find a connection. I really enjoyed the character of Luke and his struggle with his duty versus his dream. It added a nice depth to his character and a layer to the story that I felt could strengthen his connection with Claire.

On the surface, this was a lot of fun – the settings were excellent and I could really picture myself there, be it 1950s Hollywood for 1994 sugarcane fields in Queensland. But there was a lot going on beneath the surface, the struggle of women to have it all, to break through into what was a mostly male dominated world. To hold their own, make their mark and fulfil their dreams, sometimes at personal cost. There’s tragedy here too, star-crossed love and lots more. An iceberg of a book!

8/10

Book #85 of 2019

The Cinema At Starlight Creek is book #37 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019

 

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Review: Love Song by Sasha Wasley

Love Song (Paterson Sisters #3)
Sasha Wasley
Michael Joseph
2019, 368p
Copy courtesy of Penguin Random House AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

There was something about Charlie. Something about the way he questioned and teased her, brought her outside of herself … the way he’d made her crash headlong into love just by singing to her.

At age seventeen, Beth Paterson was determined to study medicine at university, despite the heartache of losing her mother. Tutoring Charlie Campbell worked well with her plan – but falling in love with him sure didn’t, and neither did getting her heart broken when he abruptly left town.

Now Charlie is a big star on the alternative rock scene, while Beth is a respected doctor in her hometown. When Charlie comes back to fight for the tiny community where he was raised, neither one of them can ignore the resurgence of wild attraction they once shared.

Beth swore no man would ever hurt her again – least of all this man. But some love songs can never be forgotten, especially when they were written for you …

From the author of Dear Banjo comes a book to make your heart sing and your spirits soar.

Recently I read and loved both Dear Banjo and True Blue, the first two books in this trilogy revolving around the Paterson sisters, who grew up on a farm in remote Western Australia. Which was perfect timing because not long after I’d finished the second, I was delighted to get a copy of the third, Love Song, which would be oldest sister Beth’s story. Beth is a local doctor who lives and works in town, rather than on the farm and she was a prominent character in both previous books so I was really looking forward to her story.

Beth’s high school boyfriend, a boy she was tutoring named Charlie Campbell has returned to the small town to fight on behalf of his local Indigenous community, who live on a remote piece of land a few hours drive away. A local mining company wants to operate nearby, including a wet mess for workers. The Indigenous community is a dry one, no alcohol allowed and the elders are concerned about what that will mean for some of the younger members of the community, including those that will no doubt be employed by the mine. Whilst the employment will be good, the temptation and availability of alcohol will not be, with the community having worked hard to eradicate its presence from their home. Charlie, now a very well known and popular country singer, has returned to lend his public voice to the fight. While he’s in town, he also can make medical decisions for a member of his family who desperately needs extra care and assistance. That family member is a patient of Beth’s and so the two of them come face to face not only to fight for the community but also to decide and provide the best in care. Which means they have to confront the troubles of their past, with both of them believing they were wronged by the other.

Beth and Charlie are both very passionate people, although I think Beth has kind of hidden that passion for a long time under her clinical physician role. But there’s no doubt she’s very dedicated to the community, including spending way more time than what she’s paid for, travelling out to Madjinbarra, the Indigenous community and seeing to all their medical issues each month. She does her very best for everyone and she is also concerned about the mine and the impact that might have, particularly the issue of the wet mess. I really enjoyed the section of the book devoted to the time that Beth spends out at Madjinbarra. She is well liked and respected, often taken into confidence by the people out there and is trusted to do the right thing by them all. Her relationships with Jill and Pearl in particular, are also really well done, the way in which she supports Jill to foster her own dreams and further her education but also recognises her want/need to take care of Pearl, which is important to her. Which I think, is just one of the reasons that Beth is so shocked by Charlie’s display of hostility towards her, when they come face to face after all those years. He makes no secret of the fact that he thinks she’s not a kind person and questions her decisions and suggestions regarding treatment for his young family member. But it soon becomes clear that Charlie is allowing something from when they were teens to cloud his judgement over everything regarding Beth and that it’s obvious the person she is, standing in front of him now, isn’t like that. And wasn’t ever like that, if he’d taken a few moments to calm down and think about what he was being told. Instead he’s allowed himself to believe it and build it up over years until when he is in proximity with Beth again, everything has festered so long that he can’t ignore it and just be polite or distant. The thing that complicates it, is that those feeling that were there when they were teenagers, are still simmering away under the surface of hurt and betrayal.

Lots of my friends know that cancer books are often triggers for me and I find them very difficult to read. This is a cancer book but it wasn’t a surprise cancer book, because I already know well from the first 2 that the Paterson sisters’ mother died of cancer and it’s something the three girls are always kind of peripherally concerned about but perhaps because Beth is a doctor, she’s much more aware of it and the potential issues with genetics, etc. She’s very concerned about the slightest thing being an early sign of cancer and always investigates things very thoroughly when they happen to her. The bits of this story that are about Beth and her mother are incredibly beautiful – each of the girls have had a section of the story that connected them to their mother and Beth’s letter had me practically sobbing. I was so glad I was reading this when I was home alone! They were all so young and vulnerable when they lost their mother. I think Beth was 13 and she went away to board at high school, then to university to do her medical degree and she also had younger sisters to kind of take care of and almost mother in a way. Since I had kids, kids losing their mothers is one of, if not the hardest subject to read about. I can’t help but put my own kids in that position and wonder how they’d cope. Wonder what it’s like to stare down the fact of not knowing what your kids will look like as adults. Not knowing if they’ll get married or have children, not knowing if there’ll be a time when they might not even remember you. I can barely even write this section of the review without wanting to cry about it and yet there’s a strength in Beth, Freya and Willow that makes me feel really happy for the women they’ve turned out to be, doing things they love and spending time with family and those that mean the most to them. I feel as though their mum would be super proud of all of them.

I’ve really loved these three books and I feel so……satisfied, for having finished Beth’s story. Satisfied for all of the sisters and the places they are in their lives. But if Sasha Wasley ever decides to return to this setting, I think I’d love to see a book about Jill in the future. This is just a really, really interesting and lovely world and I’ve very much enjoyed the time I’ve spent getting to know these people.

8/10

Book #83 of 2019

Love Song is book #36 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge of 2019

 

 

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