All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Apology by Ross Watkins

The Apology
Ross Watkins
University of Queensland Press
2018, 248p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Adrian Pomeroy teaches English at an all-boys school ‘full of bullshit artists in blazers’. When he finds himself at the centre of an allegation that might end his career, his life starts to unravel in spectacular fashion. With a police investigation underway, Adrian turns to his detective brother for help, but Noel is battling crippling demons of his own.

As the repercussions of this one accusation lead to the implosion of Adrian’s family, he can no longer ignore the secrets buried in his own past. The Apology is an explosive and shocking portrait of the lies we tell ourselves and each other in order to survive.

This book packs a punch.

Adrian is a high school English teacher somewhere in western Sydney at an all-boys school. For the most part, the students seem apathetic but every now and then you get one that you think you might be able to make a difference with. After almost a decade in the job, Adrian is called into the principal’s office and told that there’s an allegation against him. It’s the sort of allegation that ends careers, means jail time and destroys lives. He’s placed on leave effective immediately and then has to deal with a police investigation and the fallout with his wife and family.

The narrative is split between quite a few characters – Adrian, Adrian’s brother Noel, Noel’s wife Wendy, the person who makes the allegations, Adrian and Noel’s mother Glenda, one of Noel and Wendy’s children, and Adrian’s wife. Noel is a police officer and he and his family live in Perth but they travel to Sydney to be there during Adrian’s time of trouble, which brings an awful lot of unresolved issues and childhood incidents bubbling to the surface.

There’s so much this book is addressing – adolescence and the struggle of identity and sexuality, family relationships and dynamics, childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence, gender identity, it’s quite a list. But the way in which it is written makes each issue feel thoughtfully explored and even though this isn’t a long book, it doesn’t feel rushed or crammed full. Each of the characters are given ample time for the reader to gain insight into them, their thoughts and feelings, actions and their relationships to other characters. It’s messy and complicated at times, but what family isn’t?

The book seems deliberately ambiguous in the beginning as to whether or not Adrian might be guilty of what he’s accused of, like it’s encouraging the reader to make a snap decision based on what they know of Adrian so far (which actually isn’t much – and there are a couple of scenes that are enough to ask the question) but it is almost like it’s not about that. The allegations are simply a means to an end, a catalyst that brings Noel and his family back over the east coast and the issues between him and Adrian rising to the surface. I didn’t expect a lot of what unfolded over the course of the novel – there were definitely some surprise and it kept me guessing how things were going to pan out. Adrian has cause to feel very wronged by Noel from their childhood and it’s clear that there’s never been a discussion or conversation about what happened when they were both children.

I was in two minds about a lot of what happened in this book – and I liked that. It made me really think about a lot of things, such as the young teen that makes the accusation towards Adrian at the beginning of the book. It’s easy to go one way in your thoughts but then there’s more of a background and I think that there was a real struggle going on in that boy’s mind and the lines just got very blurred. It was almost like a cry for attention, to be noticed in some ways – that’s not okay and it’s not the right way to go about it and strict boundaries have to be in place for many reasons. But I still couldn’t help feeling for him and the mess of negotiating high school in that situation. I’m reluctant to say too much because it’d be really easy to spoil things about this book!

Forgiveness is a funny thing – sometimes you give it without even thinking about it. And other times it can be the hardest thing in the world to truly forgive someone for something that they’ve done. This book poses the question that how much is too much to forgive and I feel that there were truly some forgiving people in this story. It’s interesting that the person who often struggled in this story, was the one seeking or needing the forgiveness, not necessarily the person who had been wronged. Or maybe their struggle was just less obvious, something that they’d learned to deal with in a more effective way. Guilt can be a very powerful thing as well. The longer things are left, the more invasive they can become.

This book builds slowly but expertly, ramping up the tension with each new chapter and each new reveal and development. It’s a total page turner – there were so many things I wanted to know, so many things I wanted to see resolved. And like I mentioned, it went places I really didn’t expect. The ending isn’t perfect, but it’s an ending that the story seems to warrant. Not everyone is destined to come out unscathed.

I really enjoyed this and I’ll definitely be looking out for Ross Watkins’ next book.

8/10

Book #127 of 2018

 

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July Reading Wrap Up

Total Books Read: 17
Fiction: 14
Non-Fiction: 3
Library Books: 2
Books On My TBR List: 3
Books in a Series: 7
Authors I’d Never Read Before: 12
Male/Female Authors: 1/16
Kindle Books: 5
Books I Owned or Bought: 6
Favourite Book(s): I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara, Fortune’s Son by Jennifer Scoullar, What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton, Pieces Of Her by Karin Slaughter, The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart.
Least Favourite Books: Nothing. I didn’t rate anything below a 3/5 on goodreads this month.
Books That Qualify For Challenges: 0 – because this is the year of no challenges!

Hey July – you were pretty great in terms of reading! I got quite a bit of reading done during the month. Some things helped with that. It was school holidays for the first two weeks here and the weather was a bit grim for probably half of that and quite often I just got up, got my kids breakfast, made myself a cup of tea and went back to bed with a book while it poured with rain outside. Also my husband couldn’t drive or really go anywhere as he recovered from his operation and so we spent a lot of time during the month just at home and that meant reading time.

It gave me the chance to tackle a couple of non-fiction titles that have been on my TBR for a while – I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara and What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Both were really intriguing reads and I’m glad that I was finally able to make some time for them. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction but when I read a good one it always makes me want to put a little more on my reading piles.

But that will probably not be happening this month – as you can see, the August pile is well, massive! The bottom one is also 4 books in 1 so that makes quite a lot of books to get through for this month, but they all look really good. I’m doing a blog tour for The Botanist’s Daughter by Kayte Nunn, my review will be up on the 10th. I’ve been a big fan of Caroline Overington’s previous novels, so I’m looking forward to this one. I’ve also read the first book in the 4-in-1, which all central around a small town and the closure of a cotton mill and really enjoyed it so I’m looking forward to the next three.

I hope July was just as good a reading month for you as it was for me. If you’ve read anything on my August pile feel free to let me know, or share your favourite read from July. Wish me luck as I dive into this huge pile and hopefully I find just as many 5-star reads this month as I did in July. Or maybe even more.

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Top 10 Tuesday 31st July

Welcome back to another Top 10 Tuesday. Originally created and hosted by The Broke & the Bookish, Top 10 Tuesday now has a new home with Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl. It features a different bookish related topic each week and this week we are talking……

Top 10 Popular Books That Lived Up To The Hype

  1. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. This book had heaps of buzz around it before I picked it up and I’ve already probably included it in numerous lists this year. And for the first part of it, I was kind of wondering what the big deal was. But when this book steps up, it steps up. And by the end, it’d fully lived up to the huge level of hype for me.
  2. Illuminae and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I had heard so much praise for this series but I’d never really thought it’d be my thing – but then I took part in a reading challenge designed to push me out of my comfort zone and Illuminae was one of the books I ended up choosing for one of the categories. And it was absolutely amazing. I had to go out and buy Gemina right away and it was just as good. And that reminds me, I still have not read Obsidio. Perhaps it’s a reluctance to let this trilogy go?
  3. The Lost Flowers Of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland. This was super hyped by the publisher before its release earlier this year and I thought I’d like it but it turned out to be one of the most beautiful books I’d ever read. I could well understand the love for it, the push to see it in many people’s hands. I’m often way of publisher hype but this is one case where I felt it was definitely justified.
  4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I was quite late reading this one, I probably didn’t read it until 7 or 8 months after it was released. You can imagine how many amazing reviews I’d seen in that time and when I finally got a copy I remember thinking I hope this lives up to everything I’ve heard about it…… Well no worries about that. It was one of the most thought provoking books I’d read in a long time.
  5. Anything by Melina Marchetta. I started with Marchetta’s contemporary YA – Looking For Alibrandi, Saving Francesca, On The Jellicoe Road. I didn’t read her fantasy series until just before the 3rd book was released because I wasn’t sure it was really something I’d love as much as her other novels. But this is Melina Marchetta, she could wring feelings out of stone. And when she released an adult novel, Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil I devoured that and loved it just as much as everything else she’s written. She can do no wrong, the woman is a Queen.
  6. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. This was the last book I read in 2017 after seeing pretty much everyone I knew talk about how much they’d loved it. I was the same – couldn’t put it down and felt that it was really well written. Since then I’ve picked up Everything I Never Told You but it’s still on my TBR pile.
  7. The Captive Prince trilogy by C.S. Pacat. This is an example of a really good pitch by the publicist. I probably wouldn’t have picked this up on my own but the email made it sound like something so amazing and I just had to read it. It definitely lived up to my expectations – I adore the entire trilogy and I am so glad I read it! It could’ve very easily passed me by although to be honest, after I read the first two books it generated so much buzz online I’d have probably gotten around to it. But I was definitely an early adopter thanks to that publicist email!
  8. The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead. Okay it’s been a while since I read these now so honestly I’m not sure how I’d feel about them. But I remember avoiding them when they first came out, when Bloodlines was annoyingly everywhere, because the covers were so atrocious and the series name was so stupid. And I was done with vampires. But…..so many people said to me, just ignore that and read them. You have to read them, they really are amazing. So I thought okay, I will read the first one just to shush these people…. And I think I read the entire 6 books in like 5 days. I just got hooked on all this drama and the relationships and the struggle. So very readable. They definitely lived up what I was promised.
  9. Simon vs the Homo-Sapiens Agenda (aka Love, Simon) by Becky Albertalli. I loooooved this and it was worthy of every single piece of praise and hype it earned.
  10. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I’m not sure I’ve ever cried so much reading a book in my entire life. I was told – you’ll love it but you must have tissues. And yes, both of those were true!

To be honest, I’ve probably read lots of books that live up to the hype that surrounds them – it’s only natural when you read so many books a year! But I think these are the ones that really come to mind as having quite a lot of press or talk and really being praised and sometimes you wonder if a book can live up to all that expectation that is created before you open the cover. But these ones definitely did!

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Mini Reviews {4}: What I’ve Been Reading Lately

The library is a godsend when you’re on a book-buying ban. I have to admit, I haven’t utilised mine much lately – I’ve had more than enough books to keep me occupied, between ones I receive for review and ones I’ve bought. After all I do still have basically 2 entire bookcases that are my unread pile – and god knows how many on my iPad from various Amazon and iBooks sales! But I’ve been wanting to read a few specific books lately and so I decided to head back to the library.

The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke #1)
Tessa Dare
Avon
2017, 370p
Read from my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules…

Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:
– They will be husband and wife by night only.
– No lights, no kissing.
– No questions about his battle scars.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.

But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
– They will have dinner together every evening.
– With conversation.
– And unlimited teasing.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…

I really love Tessa Dare’s books! They’re the perfect blend of fun, lighthearted historical romance but also that angstyness that gives you the feels! And this one is so ‘me’ – a grumpy, reclusive, scarred hero! This is like a take on Beauty and the Beast – the Duke of Ashbury was severely wounded in the war and he knows that the delicate little misses of the Ton won’t be able to stomach him as a husband. When Emma Gladstone, a seamstress, demands payment for a wedding dress she made (and walks into his library wearing it), Ashbury thinks that he has a solution to all of his problems. As a Duke, he needs an heir. And Emma, well he has privilege and money to offer her, a comfortable life where she need not work her hands to the bone to survive.

I really liked Ashbury and Emma – especially Emma. She’s so clever and quick and she’s perfect in the way that she handles Ashbury, cutting him down from that stuffy distancing he does, believing himself to be too hideous for words since his wounding. She teases him mercilessly, using funny little pet names for him. I thought the stuff with the servants was hilarious as well. I like sassy servants and the way that they intervene and plot felt so interesting, just a little twist on being discreetly in the background. I liked that Ashbury wasn’t intimidating – not really. There were times when he sort of tried to be but Emma never really took any notice of him. She was uninterested in the fact that he was a Duke, making her a Duchess other than it would mean security. She actually looks at Ashbury and sees what’s underneath, beyond the scars, beyond his somewhat brusque and difficult manner.

I read this in an afternoon – it’s the sort of book that I could see myself rereading, becoming a comfort read. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series now. The group of friends Emma finds are so interesting and I’m sure they’ll make for great books when they each meet their own Duke.

8/10

Book #124 of 2018

Wicked And The Wallflower (The Bareknuckle Bastards #1)
Sarah MacLean
Avon
2018, 396p
Read from my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

When Wicked Comes Calling…

When a mysterious stranger finds his way into her bedchamber and offers his help in landing a duke, Lady Felicity Faircloth agrees—on one condition. She’s seen enough of the world to believe in passion, and won’t accept a marriage without it.

The Wallflower Makes a Dangerous Bargain…

Bastard son of a duke and king of London’s dark streets, Devil has spent a lifetime wielding power and seizing opportunity, and the spinster wallflower is everything he needs to exact a revenge years in the making. All he must do is turn the plain little mouse into an irresistible temptress, set his trap, and destroy his enemy.

For the Promise of Passion…

But there’s nothing plain about Felicity Faircloth, who quickly decides she’d rather have Devil than another. Soon, Devil’s carefully laid plans are in chaos, and he must choose between everything he’s ever wanted…and the only thing he’s ever desired.

So if you’ve read Sarah MacLean’s The Day of The Duchess then you know who Felicity Faircloth is. Once a glittering debutante, a few scandals and the like mean that she’s cut by her former friends and known as ‘Finished Felicity’. With the arrival in society of a mysterious Duke, Felicity’s mother is desperate to try and make a match. Felicity however, is more interested in the stranger that appears and tells her how he will help her win the Duke. For the man known as Devil, Felicity is supposed to be a means to an end, a way to destroy someone who tried to destroy him….but for Devil, Felicity is also nothing but temptation, a reminder of everything he wants and cannot have.

The bastard son of a Duke and the daughter of a Marquess, sister of an Earl, don’t belong together. But when Felicity decides she’d rather have Devil than the Duke he’s pushing her towards, things get….complicated. There’s an awful lot more going on than Felicity understands in this game between the man called Devil, King of Covent Garden and the mysterious and reclusive Duke. The tangled relationships are fascinating and I have a feeling that the third book in this series is going to be devastating (in a good way). This sows the seeds and it’s incredibly interesting. Redemption is something that MacLean does ridiculously well.

But back to this one. I thought there was some really great witty dialogue between Felicity and Devil (Devon). Felicity is not a shrinking violet – she’s a bit older (27), she’s been around a while, she’s not really intimidated by much and perhaps because of her age, her parents don’t really seem to keep an eye on her all that much. She’s able to make her way around to most places unchaperoned. She’s not afraid to admit that she wants more – not just to be a pretty asset to a titled, wealthy man. She wants passion, she wants to be wanted. And while it seems that Devil can promise her the Duke’s offer, he himself is the one that wants her the way she desires.

Devil was a nice change as a hero – he’s rough, he’s definitely involved in questionable activities and he has a formidable reputation. He and his brother Whit are so interesting (and so is their sister, definitely dying to know more about her backstory) and this was just delightfully escapist fun. I enjoyed the ending, which is a bit of a turning upside down of a damsel in need of rescue trope and it goes to show that Felicity can fit into the life she wants to choose, despite Devil’s reservations. He has some good inner angst about not being good enough for her (perhaps not being good enough for anyone). Despite the fact that his father was a Duke, his illegitimacy is all people will see, no matter how rich and well turned out he is. Felicity comes from a good family, an excellent family (albeit one that has made some stupid decisions) and he thinks she deserves a better life than the one he could give her. I would’ve liked to see Felicity’s family’s reactions to a match with Devil. They were willing to sacrifice her for their own gains, relying on her to make a ‘good’ match to fix their mistakes. How far would that desire go? Would her Marquess father be okay with her marrying someone incredibly rich, but not from society? Would there be any angst or would the fact that Felicity was happy be enough? I would’ve liked to see this properly addressed.

But I still really enjoyed this -it was a great story on its own and it also did an amazing job of setting up future stories. I’m keen to learn more about Whit and then of course there’s the third book. If that’s done right, it’ll be phenomenal.

8/10

Book #125 of 2018

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Blog Tour Review: The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart

The Desert Nurse 
Pamela Hart
Hachette AUS
2018, 407p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Amid the Australian Army hospitals of World War I Egypt, two deeply determined individuals find the resilience of their love tested to its limits

It’s 1911, and 21-year-old Evelyn Northey desperately wants to become a doctor. Her father forbids it, withholding the inheritance that would allow her to attend university. At the outbreak of World War I, Evelyn disobeys her father, enlisting as an army nurse bound for Egypt and the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.

Under the blazing desert sun, Evelyn develops feelings for polio survivor Dr William Brent, who believes his disability makes him unfit to marry. For Evelyn, still pursuing her goal of studying medicine, a man has no place in her future. For two such self-reliant people, relying on someone else for happiness may be the hardest challenge of all.

From the casualty tents, the fever wards and the operating theatres of the palace; through the streets of Cairo during Ramadan, to the parched desert and the grim realities of war, Pamela Hart, beloved bestselling Australian author of THE WAR BRIDE, tells the heart-wrenching story of four years that changed the world forever.

This was such a delightful, thought provoking story.

Evelyn Northey is intelligent and driven and desperate to become a doctor. She has the means to do so, having an inheritance from her mother but the terms of her mother’s will mean that Evelyn does not come into her money until she either marries (and then it goes to her husband) or she reaches her majority. Until then it is controlled by her father and he is adamant that medicine is no place for a woman. They can make competent nurses and assistants when trained correctly but they are far too emotional to make the sort of decisions that medicine requires and he completely refuses permission for Evelyn to become a doctor and also to even get any formal nursing qualifications. She can assist him in his practice and that’s it. Unbeknownst to him, Evelyn is assisted by a doctor at the local hospital to get the qualifications she needs. Upon learning that her majority is 30 and not 21 as she first thought, Evelyn cannot face more years ahead working with her domineering father and so when war breaks out, she enlists in the army as a nurse.

World War 1 in terms of history, is not that long ago. Yes it’s 100 years and progress in many areas has been incredibly rapid since then – and this book showcases that one of those areas is women’s rights. Evelyn, as an unmarried woman, is forced to suffer under the authority of her father. He is against her fulfilling her dream to study medicine and become a doctor and no amount of attempting to reason has any impact on him. Evelyn makes up her mind quite early that she wishes to never marry – that will just give another man authority over her and he’ll also be given control of her inheritance from her mother. Having been completely ignored in her wishes, Evelyn has no desire to ever subject herself to that for a second time. Enlisting in the army as a nurse and being sent to Cairo to tend the wounded from places like Gallipoli gives her the first sort of freedom, even though she’s under army regulations. It’s a mix of foreign adventure but also terrible tragedy as they see young man after young man through terrible injuries and worse.

When she enlists, Evelyn meets Dr William Brent. Despite the obvious and immediate attraction between them that continues as they work together in Cairo, both firmly believe there’s no future in marriage for either of them. William is a polio survivor who walks with a limp and has an injured hip. He knows that quite often, polio survivors go downhill with age and he doesn’t want to subject himself onto a wife who may end up with a severely disabled husband. William is kind and supportive of Evelyn in all ways – he offers to help her with her Latin in order to her to fulfil her dream of studying medicine on her own and he seems exactly the sort of man who would not exert authority over his wife in the way that Evelyn’s father did over the women in his life. Evelyn and William are both so tempted but their insecurities, determination and fears hold them back. Evelyn can’t be sure that William wouldn’t change after marriage, want her to have babies and stay home, give up her medicine dream and William doesn’t want to take the risk of giving Evelyn someone to care for in a nurse/patient role rather than being husband/wife.

I absolutely loved this book, it was such a multi-layered read. On one hand, it’s showcasing the fight for equality and women’s rights and the struggle of being in a time where you’re beholden to the men in your life. Evelyn is lucky to have a brother that supports her and the two of them have a great relationship (he also enlists to fight) but her relationship with her father is damaged and broken by his inability to understand her. And even worse, he doesn’t want to understand her or even believe that he should try. I don’t read a lot of books that center around WWI but whenever I do, I always enjoy them so much. This is brutal in terms of showcasing nursing in a place that’s removed from fighting but inundated with serious casualties in a foreign and often challenging location. The pace is relentless but Evelyn thrives -it does amazing things for her confidence and self-belief. I loved her bond with William, how they could talk about anything and the support they each found. I understood Evelyn’s decision not to marry – it made sense for her at the time, given what she wanted out of her life. And I also understood William’s need not to be a burden in the future for someone but at the same time, these are both obstacles that can be overcome, for the right relationship!

This is the second Pamela Hart book I’ve read now (and the characters from the first one that I read, appear very briefly in this book) and there’s also a character in this that has her own book – so that’s now top of my wishlist! This was such a riveting read, I became really invested in Evelyn and her journey towards becoming a doctor – I kept hoping that she wouldn’t let go of her dream and would find a way to make it work, even without her father’s financial and emotional support. The struggle for equality really resonated with me too, made me think about how far things have come in the time since WWI (and how far there is still to go, in many ways). The characters in Hart’s stories are women doing their best to live their dreams, to break through constraints of society and become valuable contributors in the ways that they want to be.

Absolutely fabulous and highly recommended! Especially for anyone who has an interest in WWI, women’s history and feminism as well as a little romance.

9/10

Book #123 of 2018

AUTHOR BIO
Pamela is an award-winning author for adults and children. She has a Doctorate of Creative Arts from the University of Technology, Sydney. Under the name Pamela Freeman she wrote the historical novel THE BLACK DRESS, which won the NSW Premier’s History Prize for 2006. Pamela is also well known for her fantasy novels for adults, published by Orbit worldwide, the Castings Trilogy, and her Aurealis Award-winning novel EMBER AND ASH. Pamela lives in Sydney with her husband and their son, and teaches at the Australian Writers’ Centre. THE DESERT NURSE follows her bestselling novels THE SOLDIER’S WIFE, THE WAR BRIDE and A LETTER FROM ITALY.

AUTHOR LINKS
Website: http://www.pamela-hart.com/.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pamelahartbooks
Twitter: https://twitter.com/pamelahartbooks
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3064198.Pamela_Hart
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com.au/hart0760/

PURCHASE LINKS
AU
https://www.booktopia.com.au/the-desert-nurse-pamela-hart/prod9780733637568.html

https://www.dymocks.com.au/book/the-desert-nurse-by-pamela-hart-9780733637568/#.WxTikkiFOUk

Kobo
https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/the-desert-nurse

iBooks
https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/the-desert-nurse/id1345331000?mt=11

Google Play
https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Pamela_Hart_The_Desert_Nurse?id=mcJKDwAAQBAJ

 

 

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Review: Second Sight by Aiofe Clifford

Second Sight 
Aiofe Clifford
Simon & Schuster AUS
2018, 344p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

A fugitive in the present. A runaway in the past.

Eliza Carmody returns home to the country to work on the biggest law case of her career. The only problem is this time she’s on the ‘wrong side’ – defending a large corporation against a bushfire class action by her hometown of Kinsale.

On her first day back Eliza witnesses an old friend, Luke Tyrell, commit an act of lethal violence. As the police investigate that crime and hunt for Luke they uncover bones at The Castle, a historic homestead in the district. Eliza is convinced that they belong to someone from her past. 

As Eliza becomes more and more entangled in the investigation, she is pulled back into her memories of youthful friendships and begins to question everyone she knows … and everything she once thought was true.

This is Aoife Clifford’s second novel – I haven’t read her first but I remember that it generated a lot of good feedback so I was keen to try this one. In the opening scene, main character Eliza could be driving into the town I grew up in or one of the many that surround it. It has that real Australian summer country tourist trap feel and although Eliza doesn’t live there anymore, she has the feel of a weary local who knows to avoid the main street. Eliza is back in town to meet with an expert witness for a corporation she is representing who is being sued by basically her entire home town after a devastating bushfire. It’s not known she’s representing them yet but when it gets out Eliza can assume she won’t be high on anyone’s list of favourite people. The town collectively is mentioned to be suffering like a PTSD….very few were untouched by the fire and many are still feeling its devastating effects.

During that drive, Eliza witnesses someone she knew at school in a violent act and becomes the primary eyewitness. It seems that what she saw is very straightforward and now a man is terribly injured because he was a Good Samaritan. But it seems that nothing is ever simple and the more Eliza delves, the more she finds things that make her question not only what she saw, but also what happened to her teenage friend over a decade ago. Something is definitely going on in this town and Eliza could end up dying before she finds the answers.

So I enjoyed quite a bit about this book. I found Eliza a very interesting character and could well relate to her conflicting feelings about being back in her home town. She had quite complicated relationships with her father, formerly a police officer, and her sister. Eliza and her sister seem to have a lot of resentment between them and on Eliza’s part, it definitely goes back towards feelings of inadequacy and that her sister received more preferential treatment as young teenagers. I found all of that really quite heartbreaking. I also found the trips into the past, to learn more about Eliza and her friends when they were younger, to be quite well done. Reminded me of my own teenage years, sneaking out to parties or away from parents at the local town events.

I also liked the way the mystery developed and how certain things that seemed so straightforward became more complex and developed a few more layers over time. Eliza has maintained a strong friendship with one of her high school friends over the years but doesn’t seem particularly connected to the town and doesn’t even seem to have a lot of the details about the bushfire which meant that I felt like I didn’t know as much about the fire as I should. I wanted more information, some of it felt a bit vague, even in terms of Eliza representing the corporation. She doesn’t particularly seem to be doing a lot, so that portion felt a little underrepresented. The pacing was a little off for me too – the first half of the book felt quite slow and then the last probably quarter feels very fast and like everything happens all at once in a very short amount of pages.

The relationships were very strong in this and they were really what provoked a lot of my strong reactions reading this, particularly Eliza’s relationship with her father and the way that plays out with what her sister finally tells her. It made me think a lot about regrets and words unsaid and how sometimes it can be too late before you know it. I ended up getting really invested in the mystery of what had happened to Eliza’s teenage friend as well, and why. I wanted so many things to work out for Eliza – she was facing so many struggles throughout this book, both personal and professional. And I loved the portrayal of that town and Eliza returning to it. I can relate so much to that.

A few quibbles but I ended up really enjoying this and I will have to go dig up Aoife Clifford’s first book, All These Perfect Strangers so that I can read it.

7/10

Book #122 of 2018

 

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Review: Something In The Water by Catherine Steadman

Something In The Water 
Catherine Steadman
Simon & Schuster UK
2018, 339p
Copy courtesy Simon & Schuster AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

A shocking discovery on a honeymoon in paradise changes the lives of a picture-perfect couple in this taut psychological thriller debut–for readers of Ruth Ware, Paula Hawkins, and Shari Lapena.

If you could make one simple choice that would change your life forever, would you?

Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough, Mark a handsome investment banker with big plans. Passionately in love, they embark on a dream honeymoon to the tropical island of Bora Bora, where they enjoy the sun, the sand, and each other. Then, while scuba diving in the crystal blue sea, they find something in the water. . . .

Could the life of your dreams be the stuff of nightmares?

Suddenly the newlyweds must make a dangerous choice: to speak out or to protect their secret. After all, if no one else knows, who would be hurt? Their decision will trigger a devastating chain of events. . . .

Have you ever wondered how long it takes to dig a grave?

Wonder no longer. Catherine Steadman’s enthralling voice shines throughout this spellbinding debut novel. With piercing insight and fascinating twists, Something in the Water challenges the reader to confront the hopes we desperately cling to, the ideals we’re tempted to abandon, and the perfect lies we tell ourselves.

Three things caught my attention about this book: the awesome cover, the fact that Reese Witherspoon has chosen it as one of her book club picks and Bora Bora. All of those really made me want to read it and because it wasn’t that long I found the time to slot it in almost right away.

Erin makes documentaries and has gotten permission to film the release of three very different people who are being released from jail. The man she’s about to marry, Mark, works in finance in London although just before the wedding, he loses his job in some rather suspicious circumstances. They dial the wedding back a bit but keep their luxurious honeymoon to Bora Bora (which is my dream destination!) and it’s a blur of first class travel, a fancy over the water villa and days of swimming, sun, food and drinks until a random encounter has the potential to change their lives forever.

Would you, or wouldn’t you? is the question this book seems to pose and after some deliberation and a mistake, Erin and Mark decide that they very much would. But oh man do they do some stupid things as well, having made this particular choice. In some ways they’re clever, trying to hide their tracks from ever having been there but they seem to balance that out with the stupidity of reading the messages on the phone that’s part of what they find, which sends read receipts to whoever the ominous party is on the other end.

Reese Witherspoon has had some success with buying film or tv rights to a book she’s enjoyed and it seems that she’s bought the rights to this one too. I actually think that this book will work really well as a TV mini series or movie. In fact it might work better than it does as a book. The scenery of Bora Bora, the agonising decision, the back and forth, the sneakiness, the suspense and feeling of are they being watched, does someone know what they’ve done? Will they be found? I can see all of that working really, really well on a screen, especially as I feel it will better showcase the dynamic between Mark and Erin, which is actually quite interesting. The opening scene is a direct contrast with what follows and you wonder how it got to that stage.

I enjoyed a lot about this but there’s no denying that for me, so much of felt like it relied on some really unbelievable coincidences. For example, when they get back to London after the Bora Bora trip, they need to sell something. It becomes very obvious that they can’t do it legally but luckily one of the people that Erin is filming for her documentary has those contacts and is extremely willing to help this person he just met sort that out. I wondered whether or not he had anything to do with it or was maybe even the mastermind for a while, but it just didn’t seem likely. What would the odds be? It seemed really weird that he was so keen to help this person who was filming his release from jail – it could’ve just as easily been a set up to see if he was really rehabilitated. He had little reason to trust her, especially as he’s supposedly a hardened criminal. Also they take something back to London with them that really…..they just should’ve left behind. If they were going to be smart about it, there’s quite a few things that they take back or look at that they just really should not. If they wanted to cover their tracks, there’s many better ways they could’ve done it.

It was interesting how when presented with an opportunity, it took relatively little time for both Erin and Mark to decide that they would take it, despite the fact that it was obviously illegal and fraught with danger. It seemed that greed was a factor for both of them, although I understood it in Mark’s case, I wondered about it in Erin’s. She seemed largely oblivious to their money issues once Mark lost his job and I wondered if she was so desperate to keep what they found because it would help Mark, because he seemed to be floundering. I wondered how much of her motivation was more about her marriage and wanting to prop him up, rather than her own personal greed. Perhaps I’m attributing more to her than there was, but it definitely seemed like Erin (despite her secret keeping) was more about the marriage than he was. It was around halfway or so in the book when I started to wonder if Mark might be a sociopath.

This was an enjoyable read but with lots of things that I found quite hard to believe. I still think plot-wise, it’ll make an interesting movie or TV series though, with that medium better able to show a broader picture and evoke a more threatening atmosphere.

7/10

Book #121 of 2018

 

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Thoughts On: What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

What Happened 
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Simon & Schuster
2017, 512p
Personal purchased copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

“In the past, for reasons I try to explain, I’ve often felt I had to be careful in public, like I was up on a wire without a net. Now I’m letting my guard down.” —Hillary Rodham Clinton, from the introduction of What Happened.

For the first time, Hillary Rodham Clinton reveals what she was thinking and feeling during one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history. Now free from the constraints of running, Clinton takes you inside the intense personal experience of becoming the first woman nominated for president by a major party in an election marked by rage, sexism, exhilarating highs and infuriating lows, stranger-than-fiction twists, Russian interference, and an opponent who broke all the rules. This is her most personal memoir yet.

In these pages, she describes what it was like to run against Donald Trump, the mistakes she made, how she has coped with a shocking and devastating loss, and how she found the strength to pick herself back up afterward. With humor and candor, she tells readers what it took to get back on her feet—the rituals, relationships, and reading that got her through, and what the experience has taught her about life. She speaks about the challenges of being a strong woman in the public eye, the criticism over her voice, age, and appearance, and the double standard confronting women in politics.

She lays out how the 2016 election was marked by an unprecedented assault on our democracy by a foreign adversary. By analyzing the evidence and connecting the dots, Clinton shows just how dangerous the forces are that shaped the outcome, and why Americans need to understand them to protect American values and democracy in the future.

The election of 2016 was unprecedented and historic. What Happened is the story of that campaign and its aftermath—both a deeply intimate account and a cautionary tale for the nation.

So I’m not American. Obviously. And I don’t claim to know much (if anything) about American politics either. It’s a pretty different system to the one we have (in no way can you elect a random with zero political experience to the highest office in the country here). But let’s face it, everyone has an opinion on the 2016 election whether you’re American or not, an expert or not.

I like Hillary Clinton. I think she’s intelligent, articulate and probably one of the best qualified presidential candidates in a long time. She’s lived and breathed politics for decades and as a former First Lady, is well aware of the commitment and reality of being in that top job. But for some reason or other, it seems that huge groups of people loathe her – and I don’t buy that it’s just over the emails thing. Whether it’s because she’s a woman who assumed her suitability for that job, whether it’s because she stayed with Bill, whether it’s because of some other reason, I don’t know. But you have to look at the fact that there were people who didn’t even like Donald Trump all that much but made the decision to vote for him anyway, rather than Hillary Clinton. She seems to inspire either passionate defence or irrational hatred with very few in the middle ground. Even now, almost two years after the election, Trump still tweets about her incessantly – hashtag Crooked Hillary. The 2016 election was one of the most irrational things I’ve ever seen. I don’t think there were many people out there who truly thought Donald Trump was going to win. I know I didn’t. My American friends didn’t. It seemed like this election was Clinton’s in the bag. She was going up against a dubious billionaire with admitted bad behaviour towards women, with views that seemed decidedly racist and who could barely string a coherent sentence together. Trump was all over the place, rarely did he articulate policy except for “build a wall!” and “make America great again” and “immigrants destroy America” and “but her emails” and “Obama was born in Kenya”. He seemed to spout the most random shit and people just ate it up. A wall would be amazing! Never mind how on earth was that going to be done and who was going to pay for it? Immigrants are taking our jobs! Maybe Obama was born in Kenya! No matter what Trump did or said, he tapped into what so many people seemed to think and want – and that was a scary, scary thing. Trump ran on fear mongering – telling people that they should be afraid of things and that he’d be the one to take that fear away. And people seemed to buy it.

So obviously this book is for those that want the inside thinking on what went wrong in that campaign. It’s for fans of Hillary Clinton who want to know how she coped with that crushing loss and what she think contributed to the way things went. It’s quite brutally honest – Clinton doesn’t shy away from self-reflection or examining of her personality. She’s honest about the way she may come across to people and the choices she made that she feels contributed – and of course about the external forces that definitely damaged her run, the investigations into those emails. I found her analysis of that issue really interesting and frank and honestly, it seems gobsmacking that it became what it did. Her talk about what dominated the news cycle was interesting as well – all about her emails, very little about anything else. No one focused on her policy except to often accuse her of not having one and she doesn’t mind laying out in the book exactly what her ideas were and how she’d already been talking about them. It forced her to focus again on how she struggled to get her message across because everyone was too concerned with everything else, including her looks, dress, etc.

I said to my husband on finishing this, it must have been an absolutely crushing loss. A soul destroying defeat. Clinton sort of makes light of it in the book, because she had to do certain things – concede, appear publicly, etc. She alludes to some dark moments, a lot of thinking and wondering and reliving and rehashing things over and over. But she manages to impart some hope too, that just because she wasn’t successful, that doesn’t mean that the next woman won’t be. That maybe she’s smashed through just enough for the next person to break it. That soon it won’t be such an unusual thing to have a woman as a candidate.

This could have come across as ‘sour grapes’ and I’m sure some people will probably label it that anyway, her putting out a book on her loss so soon after the election. But on reading it, it really doesn’t feel that way. It feels like Clinton genuinely wanted to look back on how she went wrong just as much as how other forces played a role. I mean we all know a huge amount more about those ‘other forces’ now (even though I’m sure there’ll still be deniers) and I think Clinton really wants to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. That it cannot happen again. It doesn’t feel bitter, or nasty. It feels bewildered at times, but mostly Clinton comes across as she always does – a well put together, articulate woman who knows exactly what she’s talking about. Now perhaps that persona doesn’t do her many favours, and she even mentions that she doesn’t seem to connect well with some audiences because of her poise and the fact that she weighs up her words before she speaks them (honestly, compared with what Trump does, which seems to be vomit out whatever half sentence forms in his brain, it seems preferable). She also talks about how women ‘can’t win’ in some ways – if you cry and get upset, you’re emotional and unstable and probably on your period and do you want a woman on her period having access to the red button? Do you? Do you?????? And if you don’t show emotion, you’re cold. Likewise with speaking – women who raise their voice screech or are shrill and demanding attention. Men who raise their voices are powerful, demanding authority. There’s an entirely different portrayal of men and women doing the same things. Men who are tough are respected. Women who are tough are bitches.

Originally I thought I would struggle with what to say here, because it’s a really intense book, quite a lot of policy about things I don’t know much about and I always find it harder to write my thoughts on non-fiction. But it turns out that wasn’t really an issue! I found myself talking about this book a lot. I also own Clinton’s book Hard Choices on her time as Secretary of State and I’m definitely going to have to bump that one right up the TBR pile. And I’m eyeing another of her books, Living History about her time as First Lady and her interest in the policies of Bill Clinton’s Presidency. I know she has speech writers and editors and the like but I really enjoy the way she writes. Despite a lot of the dense topics, it feels very relatable and I never once felt like putting this down and taking a break. If anything, it was the total opposite.

9/10

Book #120 of 2018

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Review: Pieces Of Her by Karin Slaughter

Pieces Of Her 
Karin Slaughter
Harper Collins AUS
2018, 480p
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The electrifying new thriller from international bestseller Karin Slaughter explores the deadly secrets kept between a mother and daughter.

What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all?

Andrea Oliver’s mother, Laura, is the perfect small-town mum. Laura lives a quiet but happy life in sleepy beachside Belle Isle. She’s a pillar of the community: a speech therapist, business owner and everybody’s friend. And she’s never kept a secret from anyone. Or so Andrea thinks.

When Andrea is caught in a random violent attack at a shopping mall, Laura intervenes and acts in a way that is unrecognisable to her daughter. It’s like Laura is a completely different person – and that’s because she was. Thirty years ago. Before Andrea. Before Belle Isle.

Laura is hailed as a hero for her actions at the mall but 24 hours later she is in hospital, shot by an intruder, who’s spent decades trying to track her down.

What is Andrea’s mother trying to hide? As elements of the past return and put them both in danger, Andrea is left to piece together Laura’s former identity and discover the truth – for better or worse – about her mother. Is the gentle, loving woman who raised her also a violent killer?

I’m not sure how this is possible, but this is the first Karin Slaughter book I’ve ever read. She’s been on my radar for ages – possibly years. I own two of her books and one is the first in the Will Trent series, which I’ve heard people absolutely rave about. Apart from having two relatively well known series’, the Will Trent and the Grant County series, Slaughter also writes stand alone novels and this is one of those.

Andrea moved back from New York City to the tiny Belle Isle three years ago, when her mother got sick. Her mother is well again now but Andrea is still there, working a night shift job and going nowhere. She and her mother are having a discussion on how Andrea should find what makes her happy when a young man unleashes a hail of bullets on several of the other people having a meal.

What follows next is a terrifying ordeal for Andrea that becomes shocking in more than one way – not only does the shooter mistake her for a police officer because of her uniform, but Andrea’s calm, quiet, speech therapist mother suddenly morphs into someone else, her takedown of the shooter captured on a phone and broadcast to the entire world. Andrea doesn’t know what to think – everything about what her mother is, who she is, suddenly seems as though it’s one huge lie. And when Laura tells her to flee and gives her directions to a place that gives her the means to do so, Andrea suddenly wants answers about the person who raised her far more than she desires safety.

Pieces Of Her is told in a back and forth kind of way, focusing on the present and then dipping back into the past at intervals to slowly construct Laura’s background and show the events that lead up to how and why she’s where she is in the present. I don’t know what it is, but I just love books where characters are on the run – that isolation, staying low, time spent on the road. I find it really appealing and so when it seems that Laura’s actions being broadcast to the world have brought people to her door looking for her, she sends Andrea away to keep her safe. Andrea has to deal with yet again more secrets that her mother has been keeping and she wants answers. Armed with an overheard clue, she starts tracking down the people she thinks might be able to help her unravel the mystery of her mother’s past.

I really got into Laura’s story! It starts with such a huge event where you think this horrible thing has happened and how will she cope but then you realise that there’s so much more going on and not everything is what it seems. The way in which this built was really interesting and it made Laura this really complex character. Did I feel sorry for her? Did she deserve my sympathy? Was she a victim as well, or was she a perpetrator who didn’t deserve her second chance? It raised so many questions for me and I really enjoyed examining them and trying to decide how I felt. It’s one of those things where I think everyone will feel a little differently, the sort of book where it’d be good to read it with a book club or something because there’s so much that could be up for debate.

There are a lot of ‘shades of grey’ in this book, which I liked. The tension was nicely built as well with plenty of heart stopping moments. I did pick a few things before they were revealed but I don’t think that was a negative – it allowed the focus to be so much on the psychological as well, the mind games that were being played and how that impacted. This is a decent sized book but it seemed to fly by……I was very reluctant to put it down once I’d started and the more I read, the more I wanted to know. I’m so keen to read more Karin Slaughter books, because it seems as though a lot of people regard her other books really highly. This being my first one, I have nothing to compare it to but I absolutely loved this! For me it was just the right mix of past and present, ambiguous characters, suspense and gore and mind games. Highly, highly enjoyable.

9/10

Book #119 of 2018

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Review: Fortune’s Son by Jennifer Scoullar

Fortune’s Son (The Tasmanian Tales #1)
Jennifer Scoullar
Pilyara Press
2018, 412p
Copy courtesy of the author

Blurb {from Goodreads.com}:

Heads you win. Tales you die …
Can one man’s revenge become his redemption? 

Young Luke Tyler has everything going for him: brains, looks and a larrikin charm that turns heads. The future appears bright, until he defends his sister from the powerful Sir Henry Abbott. His reward is fifteen years hard labour on a prison farm in Tasmania’s remote highlands.

Luke escapes, finding sanctuary with a local philanthropist, Daniel Campbell, and starting a forbidden love affair with Daniel’s daughter, Belle. But when Luke is betrayed, he must flee or be hanged. 
With all seeming lost, Luke sails to South Africa to start afresh. Yet he remains haunted by the past, and by Belle, the woman he can’t forget. When he returns to seek revenge and reclaim his life, his actions will have shattering consequences – for the innocent as well as the guilty.

Set against a backdrop of wild Tasmania, Australian Gold and African diamonds, Fortune’s Son is an epic saga of betrayal, undying love and one man’s struggle to triumph over adversity and find his way home.

This was a wonderful, multi-layered story that was engrossing from the very first page.

Luke Tyler is a teenage boy, coming to get his sister from her place of work, at the mansion of a local rich man. When he sees her being horribly mistreated, he comes to her aid, passionately defending her in a situation where he and his family can never be the winners. Sentenced to hard labour, he is taken to a prison farm in a remote and cold part of Tasmania. There’s not enough food, the labour is backbreaking. But Luke is smart and able to use his intelligence to get ahead, until a bizarre incident leads to his escape deep into the wilderness.

Luke is resourceful, determined and clever. He’s able to survive in situations not many could, using the knowledge imparted to him by Daniel Campbell, a man he had spent time with as a boy and the father of Belle, a girl that means the world to him. When he gets the chance to work with Daniel again, albeit under a different persona to avoid detection as a wanted man, he takes it to improve his knowledge and work to protect the beautiful Tasmanian wilderness.

Australia has a very unique flora and fauna but when Europeans ‘arrived’ in this country, they logged huge amounts of old growth forests for farmland and various other reasons and attempted to replicate their regimented English rose gardens. For a lot of the part, the climate is highly unsuitable to their preferences and a lot of our native species were decimated during this time of happily chopping anything down that stood in the way. This book is almost like a love letter to the Tasmanian wilderness and the character of Daniel Campbell is a man well ahead of his time, buying his property for the sole purpose of preserving the wildlife corridor. He enjoys cataloguing the local species and studying them but only to gain information and understanding and Luke is a willing pupil. A strong presence in this book is that of the Tasmanian tiger, a species now believed to be extinct (that’s the official classification, although there are occasionally claims of {unproven} sightings). The Tasmanian tiger was largely believed to be responsible for the loss of large amounts of sheep, being referred to as a vicious wolf that hunted in packs. There were bounties for tiger pelts and the combination of encouraged hunting, the introduction of dogs and destruction of their habitat all contributed to their disappearance. It’s become almost like a mythical creature to modern day Australians, I remember studying them in school and becoming fascinated by them. It was really interesting to read about them in this book, to get a little glimpse of them as wild creatures and how they fit into their environment.

This is also a story of enduring love between two people of unequal status and class and the complications of such a love. Belle and Luke were childhood friends, the innocence of youth chaperone enough as Belle also loved nature and learned from her father, Daniel Campbell. The Campbells were also somewhat progressive parents, raising Belle to be independent, to experience nature and make her own decisions but when she got older, that freedom only went so far and her mother took some drastic actions to protect Belle and make sure that her future would be secure. Despite the many troubles that befall them, both Luke and Belle’s love for each other isn’t diminished by distance or separation. You couldn’t help but want for them to find each other again, to be able to be together and just…..live.

I found myself hooked by Luke’s story from the very beginning. Watching him grow from a brash but honourable teenager determined to protect his sister to a grown man who makes the most of himself in a far away land was a really enjoyable journey. I loved the devotion to the land in the Tasmanian setting and that continued when the book focused on South Africa. There’s also a strong focus on workers and their rights as well, and the differences between the haves and the have nots. I haven’t read a huge amount of books set in Tasmania, especially during this time period as well, and it’s also not a place I’ve ever been to (although I really want to go) so I loved how strongly the setting presented. This was the sort of story which has so many different elements that it should appeal to a really broad audience. I can’t wait to read the next book, The Lost Valley. 

9/10

Book #118 of 2018

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