Saturday 22 October 2016

Book Review: Blame by Nicole Trope


Blame by Nicole Trope

'I am here because they suspect me of something. I am here because I am a suspect. I know that, she knows that. Everyone knows that.' Anna

'It wasn't my fault. None of this is my fault!' Caro

Caro and Anna are best friends... they were best friends. Over a decade, Caro and Anna have bonded while raising their daughters, two little girls the same age but living two very different lives. The women have supported each other as they have shared the joys and trials of motherhood, but now everything has changed.

There's been a terrible car accident, an unimaginable tragedy that leaves both families devastated. Over two days as Caro and Anna each detail their own versions of events, they are forced to reveal hidden truths and closely guarded secrets.

The complicated lives of wives and mothers are laid bare as both women come to realise that even best friends don't tell each other everything. And when hearts are broken, even best friends need someone to blame.

A hard- hitting, provocative and gripping read from the queen of white-knuckle suspense and searing family drama.

My thoughts

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blame centres on how a moment in time can change our life forever. We don’t see that moment coming but we can never undo it.

There has been a tragic accident that involves best friends, Anna and Caro.

They both tell their stories in separate police interviews – not just the night of the accident but their own personal stories. The two stories are very different and have inconsistencies but who is telling the truth?

”I know that what I’m saying is strange, that you can’t understand it, but let me explain, let me keep explaining, and then it will be your job to figure out who is telling the truth – me or Anna.”

So we get two heart-wrenching stories, one from a mother at breaking point the other from an alcoholic. I know that one of them is lying as I pick up inconsistencies in her interview. But is it only her or are they both lying and the other is just better at it?

Both characters are unlikeable to begin with but one I came to warm to as the story evolved.

Although there were no ‘shocking’ surprises this was a great contemporary drama, easy reading and had me glued to the pages until the very end.

With my thanks to Allen & Unwin via Netgalley for my copy to read.

About the author

Nicole Trope went to university to study Law but realised the error of her ways when she did very badly on her first law essay because-as her professor pointed out- ‘It’s not meant to be a story.’ She studied teaching instead and used her holidays to work on her writing career and complete a Masters’ degree in Children’s Literature. After the birth of her first child she stayed home full time to write and raise children, renovate houses and build a business with her husband.
The idea for her first published novel, The Boy under the Table, was so scary that it took a year for her to find the courage to write the emotional story. Her second novel, Three Hours Late, was voted one of Fifty Books you can’t put down in 2013 and her third novel, The Secrets in Silence, was The Australian Woman’s Weekly Book of the month for June 2014.
She lives in Sydney with her husband and three children

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Book Review: The Cleanskin by Laura Bloom

The Cleanskin 

The Cleanskin by Laura Bloom


 I needed someone I could trust. Someone others would trust. Someone with no criminal record. With no previous involvement. A cleanskin. Someone to come over, do the job, and go home …

Some days, even Halley can’t find the person she once was. She’s changed her name and no one – least of all her husband and son – knows of her past. No one except Aidan, who turns up one day in her small Australian town and shatters the fa├žade she’s built so carefully.

Aidan is on a mission. But why is he still taking orders from his brother in an English jail – at the cost of his own happiness?

When Aidan forces Halley to face what she’s done, what they discover not only changes their understanding of what happened back then, it changes everything now.

Laura Bloom deftly goes to the dark heart of The Troubles to explore the lingering damage wrought by sectarian conflict on communities, families and individuals. Based on real events, The Cleanskin is a story of intense human relationships with a cast of flawed and entirely believable characters.

My Thoughts

4.5 stars

Halley has moved to the quiet country town of Mullumbimby to forget her past and start a new life. She now has a loving husband and a teenage son, who know nothing of her previous life. But in the back of her mind is always the worry that her past will catch up with her because she knows “they will never let you go”.

Cleanskin contains a complex mix of characters that will have your emotions whirling. I loved them, disliked them, worried about them, couldn’t quite understand them and then perfectly understood where they were coming from. Each character was complex, flawed, real but they were never in your face. It was all very subtle.

The main plot focuses on the actions of the IRA and the troubles in Northern Ireland. However Bloom doesn’t push any agendas as the characters take centre stage and what a truly colourful and frustrating, although understandable, lot of characters Bloom created.

The story jumps around between time frames and we are left with a lot of mysteries at the start which frustrated me a little but as the story unfolds I came to not only understand the story but also understand Halley’s frame of mind.

Neither plot driven nor character driven Bloom has written a unique and complex story of family, love, religion, relationships, manipulation and discontent.

I love a good twist and this one I didn’t see coming. I was absolutely gobsmacked and had to read the page twice to make sure I had it right.

About the author:

It’s the people traditionally left out of the frame who interest Laura the most, as well as what happens after what would be the climax in many stories. A couple reuniting after the war, in IN THE MOOD; a woman who has changed her name and started a new life, only to find her old life catching up with her, in THE CLEANSKIN; what happens when you break up with the perfect person, in CHOOSING ZOE.

Laura’s novels have been shortlisted for the NSW Literary Awards, the ABC Fiction Prize and the Young Australian Readers’ Awards and published in France, the US and the UK.

Laura grew up in Sydney and graduated with a BA, Communications from the University of Technology, Sydney. She has worked in the areas of youth policy, social justice and health promotion, and has travelled widely, including living for spells in Germany, India, the UK, and ­ as a toddler­ in New Guinea, which is where she began her love affair with the sub-tropics.

She now lives in a small town near Byron Bay on the East Coast of Australia with her chosen family, including her godson and her son ­who has autism. For such a word-based person it’s been an extraordinary journey to learn to love and communicate beyond words.

Monday 10 October 2016

Book Review: The Windy Season by Sam Carmody

The Windy Season 

The Windy Season by Sam Carmody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this eerie and confronting coming of age. With a limited plot it was down to the characters to draw you in and be interesting and they certainly were. Every character had their own distinct voice and all were a little withdrawn, sullen and down trodden. Much like the town the novel is centred round.

The main character, Paul, is at a confused time in his life, neither boy nor man. He is an introvert and often finds his own thoughts confronting and alarming.

” There was a weight to those thoughts that he struggled to resist. When they poured in they stayed there, setting hard around his brain like tar, gripping every thought, weighing down each sensation.”

It is easy to empathise with Paul as he struggles with the disappearance of his brother and a need to express his feelings to distant parents.

” At night the three of them would sit around the dinner table in silence, which was not so strange. They had never been big talkers.”

” But even if he had the words he knew his father wouldn’t have wanted to hear them. It was just the way he was. Maybe it was the way he was, too.”

The reader gets a close up look at the characters’ inner thoughts and fears with themes of family, life, love, self doubt and the far reaching effects of drugs.
Carmody’s writing is emotive, sombre and dark and may even be a little depressing to some as the reader watches a town and its people struggle to live each day.

The Windy Season is an amazing debut novel and I’m looking forward to reading more from Sam Carmody.

Sunday 2 October 2016

Book Review: Where Dragonflies Hover by Annemarie Brear

Where Dragonflies Hover 

Where Dragonflies Hover by Annemarie Brear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s 1945 and Alexandria (Allie) Jamieson is enjoying the spring sun at Hollingsworth House. Her body is racked with pain but she vows to herself that she must finish writing her diary so that someday someone will read it and know of the life and the love she had and that true love does exist.

2010 – Alexandria (Lexi) O’Connor’s marriage is failing. Her and Dylan’s love has been buried beneath careers and possessions. Lexi is inexplicably drawn to an old run down mansion currently for sale. While looking around the grounds she finds a diary and finds herself enthralled by the life and love of Allie Jamieson and Daniel Hollingsworth.

I loved this dual time frame romance. The harrowing experiences of the nurses during WWI were moving and their relentless and tireless devotion to the wounded soldiers under impossible conditions was extraordinary.

Allie’s story was the foundation of the novel and on finding the diary and reading Allie’s story Lexi comes to learn that love is sometimes about compromise.

This is a story about relationships and give and take and the changing views of society over time.

I liked that Lexi’s parents were supportive of Lexi but didn’t take sides.

And as it always should be, problems are solved and lives are saved and everyone lives happily ever after.

Recommended to all Historical Fiction Romance readers.

With my thanks to Choc Lit via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

Monday 19 September 2016

Book Review: The War Bride by Pamela Hart

The War Bride 

The War Bride by Pamela Hart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The war has ended and the English brides of Australian soldiers are now arriving in Australia. But what happens if the man you married isn’t waiting when the ship arrives? This is exactly what happens to Margaret Dalton.
Sergeant Tom McBride is in charge of checking everyone off the ship and takes Margaret to a hostel while the Army sorts out the whereabouts of her husband, Frank.
They find Frank is no longer at his stated residence and his papers also mention a wife and child.
Margaret feels like a fool but must now put on a brave face and come to terms with the idea that Frank deceived her.

”She’d been gullible, tricked by a warm smile and nice brown eyes. No. Forget him. She would wear her lovely nighties and use those embroidered tablecloths and be damned with him. But it was a hollow kind of defiance, a thin shell over pain and humiliation.”

I found this not only a captivating read it was also a sentimental journey as it was set in the area and time of my Grandmother’s early twenties and through Hart’s descriptions I could clearly see Sydney as my Grandmother would have seen and lived it.

I loved the Australian colloquialisms in the story. Well researched, the story comes across as real and natural.

The War Bride is a stand alone however I would recommend The Soldier’s Wife is read first. Not only because it is a moving read but it’s where the character of Tom McBride is first introduced. It will give you a whole new perspective on Tom’s heartbreak.

There is a lot of angst in this story as the characters rebel, with much soul searching, against the morals of the time.

Hart brings in relevant issues such as divorce, unemployment, religion, fear of being ostracized, dressing and doing what is considered proper. However these are all set around a changing country and Hart integrates the push for acceptance and change on a lot of levels.

My thanks to Hachette Aus via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.
I loved this book so much I have bought myself a paperback copy.

Sunday 18 September 2016

Book Review: Damage Control by Michael Bowen

Damage Control (Josie Kendall Mysteries #1) 

Damage Control by Michael Bowen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5 stars

Josie Kendall, senior development director with political party MVC, almost has the million dollar investment from Jerzy Schroeder wrapped up when he is shot dead right in front of her. She soon learns that the police’s main suspect is her husband, Rafe. Time to go into “damage control”!

Damage Control is a political murder mystery set in Washington.
I enjoyed the overall plot of the story however the delivery just didn’t work for me.

The protagonist and narrator, Josie, is the most annoying 27 year old I have come across. Her voice was all wrong and I had to keep reminding myself that it was a woman narrating and not a male. Josie got the hots for just about every male she spoke to. I couldn’t tell if Josie’s character was real or she was a tongue in cheek version of what men want a woman to be like.

I think that the author was trying too hard to be witty and I became lost as to what they were talking about. Part of this could be that I am Australian and this was American politics.

If you are a follower of politics and the spin that it entails then this book may have more appeal.

With my thanks to Poisoned Pen Press via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

Friday 9 September 2016

Book Review: Devour by L.A. Larkin


Devour by L.A. Larkin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

L.A. Larkin’s Devour is a cleverly plotted and action packed tale of biological warfare mixed with espionage, fear, anger and despair. By page 7 I was totally immersed and didn’t want to leave this book.

Larkin’s protagonist Olivia Wolfe, an investigative journalist, is gutsy and determined. She will stop at nothing to get the truth.

The story runs along two plot lines, both mysteries, with Wolfe at the centre of both. Small offshoot plots leave scope for future novels featuring Olivia Wolfe.

The character of Wolfe was well developed as we get to know what does and doesn’t make her tick.

As Wolfe follows stories on the streets of Afghanistan then the chilly stations of a scientific exploration centre in Antarctica the danger and action never stops.
With just enough romance to show that she is only human after all and an eerie stalker who is seeking their own revenge the Olivia Wolfe series is sure to be devoured by all crime thriller readers.

With my thanks to the author for my copy to read and review.


Devour can be purchased from Hachette Aus

Monday 29 August 2016

Book Review: Monsoon Summer by Julia Gregson

Monsoon Summer 

Monsoon Summer by Julia Gregson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The story starts in post war England impoverished by rationing; the country was cold and miserable. So too were the characters, drab, colourless and unidentifiable. Kit lives in a friend’s boarding house with her mother, Glory. Kit and her mother have a distant relationship and the boarders all come across as a gloomy lot.
As the story moves to post Independence India the colour comes alive, the characters are more real, alive and have a substance about them. This was a clever contrast of the two countries at this time.

I loved the vivid details of India from the ravaged streets to the beautiful landscapes and monsoonal skies.

Monsoon Summer is a character driven story with well developed and sympathetic characters.
Gregson has written an intelligent and emotional story that is both heart breaking and uplifting. This is a story about love, family, culture, class, forgiveness and acceptance. About fighting for what you believe in but most of all fighting for those you love.

Gregson gives the reader a realistic look at relationships and shows us that “home” is a feeling, not a place or country, but a feeling of belonging.

I highly recommend this novel to all readers of Historical Fiction.

I would like to thank the publisher for my proof copy to read and review

Monday 22 August 2016

Book Review: A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester

A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald 

A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a wonderful story! A story I didn’t want to end.
Once you start reading you will not want to put this book down!

From the manors of Concord to the speakeasies of Manhattan, Evie dances her way to a doctor’s degree.

”She was doing what she wanted to do, living the life she chose to live, not the life someone else had chosen for her.”

But could a spurned suitor take everything she had battled for away from her?

This is a story of high society, secrets, lies, blackmail, misunderstandings and deathly tension.
Evie is the main character and Lester has been careful not to overshadow her with the delectable Thomas Whitman or, his mother, the delightful Mrs Whitman. It’s hard not to fall in love with these characters but the supporting characters are just that, coming in and out of the story to support or deter Evie where needed.

”Even if she could do it, did she have the strength to go against everyone’s wishes, to create a life for herself that was so different to what everyone expected of her.”

Not many, even in this day, would have the internal strength to forsake everything to follow their dream.

Evie’s story will lift your heart then send it crashing back down!

If you love to read Historical Fiction I highly recommend “A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald”

With my thanks to Hachette Aust for my copy to read and review.