Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Book Review | Small Great Things | Jodi Picoult


“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way” – Martin Luther King Jr

In this bold new novel by Jodi Picoult, racial discrimination and white supremacy form part of a gripping story of social injustice issues that brim with truth even within our educated global village of today.

Widowed, single mother Ruth Jefferson is thirty-nine and has worked as a labour ward nurse for the last twenty years at the same hospital. She is passionate about her job and has a perfect work record – until the day the father of a newborn, Turk Bauer, requests that a note be put on his son’s file, forbidding any African-American nurse to tend to him.

What ensues is a chain of events that sees Ruth being dismissed from her job, charged with negligent homicide and a lawyer by the name of Kennedy McQuarrie stepping up to the challenge of defending her.

Telling the story from Ruth’s, Turk’s and Kennedy’s perspectives, Jodi gives us an in-depth and fully rounded look at all sides of the story and the feelings involved. As she dares to ask bigger questions than possibly any author ever has, it is with sensitivity and respect that she successfully navigates the different POVs in this heart-rending story that brings some harsh realities to life.

Ever since Jodi Picoult first burst onto the literary scene during the early 1990’s, I’ve been an avid fan of hers because I identified her as a writer who recognises the impact her stories have on people, thus giving her writing a powerful purpose – by putting her readers at the heart of her stories, she raises awareness of relevant issues while also giving them emotional and thought-provoking themes to ponder, hopefully inspiring us to create change where we can.

I’ve also noticed that there seems to have been a bit of a trend in my reading fodder of late, in that most of these novels have been along the themes of human interest – addressing injustice, racism, religious extremism, attitudes to same-sex relationships, etc. – and, in view of the recent US election result, same may say that this is a timely novel.

Jodi’s subject matter is almost always contemporary, complex and challenging with everyday people like you and I at its heart, and Small Great Things is no different. In a world where rifts appear more frequently between people who classify themselves as “normal” and those that are “different”, Jodi brings us a story where she presents the diverse backgrounds of her characters in fairly black and white terms!

As usual, the intensity of Jodi’s storytelling is convincing and she never pulls any punches in the aspects it traverses, and I had real trouble putting this one down, even though there were times in Turk’s narrative where I found the story to be somewhat confronting, especially in relation to his and his wife’s prejudice against people who were “different” to them.

With well-drawn characters, real life situations and themes of white privilege, prejudice and acceptance, amongst others, the American justice system also comes into sharp focus as Jodi showcases the best and worst of humanity. Presenting all sides of the story with honesty, insight and compassion, Jodi gives us yet another story that will appeal to the reader’s sub-conscience and stay with you long after the last page has been turned.

Everyone has a story to tell and Jodi Picoult isn’t afraid to tell it for them!

I wish to thank Allen and Unwin for my hard copy ARC.

About the Author

Jodi Picoult is the bestselling author of twenty-three novels.

Her last eight novels have debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list and her highly anticipated novel, Small Great Things was released in October 2016 in Australia.

Jodi studied creative writing with Mary Morris at Princeton, and had two short stories published in Seventeen magazine while still a student. Realism - and a profound desire to be able to pay the rent - led Picoult to a series of different jobs following her graduation: as a technical writer for a Wall Street brokerage firm, as a copywriter at an ad agency, as an editor at a textbook publisher, and as an 8th grade English teacher - before entering Harvard to pursue a master’s in education.

She married Tim Van Leer, whom she had known at Princeton, and it was while she was pregnant with her first child that she wrote her first novel, Songs of the Humpback Whale.

Her books are translated into thirty four languages in thirty five countries and four of them (The Pact, Plain Truth, The Tenth Circle and Salem Falls) have been made into television movies with My Sister's Keeper being released by New Line Cinema on the big screen.

She lives with her husband and their three children in Hanover, New Hampshire with two Springer spaniels, two rescue puppies, two donkeys, two geese, ten chickens, a smattering of ducks, and the occasional Holstein.

Jodi also now has an Australian website which you can visit at: http://jodipicoult.com.au.

About the Book

'I don't want that nurse touching my baby.' Those are the instructions from the newborn child's parents. However, when the baby goes into cardiac arrest, Ruth, a nurse of twenty years' experience, sees no option but to assist. But the baby dies. And Ruth is charged with negligent homicide.


Ruth is shattered and bewildered as she tries to come to terms with her situation. She finds different kinds of support from her sister, a fiery radical, and her teenage son, but it is to Kennedy McQuarrie, a white middle-class lawyer, to whom she entrusts her case, and her future.

As the two come to develop a truer understanding of each other's lives, they begin to doubt the beliefs they each hold most dear. In order for the privileged to prosper, they come to realise, others have to suffer. Racism takes many forms, and is reinforced and underpinned by the structures of our society.

In gripping dramas like Nineteen Minutes, My Sister's Keeper and The Pact, Jodi Picoult has explored the big issues of our time through characters whose lives resonate with us. Here we see once again her unrivalled ability to immerse us in a story whose issues will linger with us long after the final page has been finished.

ISBN:  9781760110499
Publisher:  Allen & Unwin
Pub Date:  October 2016
Page Extent: 480
RRP: $32.99

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Announcement | Winner | Fearless by Fiona Higgins



Sincere apologies for dropping the ball a bit on this one but the last few days have been hectic.

My trusty competition friend, random.org has, however, now generated a winner!

Congratulations

HeidiF

You have been selected as the winner.

Please could you contact me at marcia@bookmusterdownunder.com.au with your postal address details.

To everyone else who entered, a big THANK YOU.

Keep your eyes peeled for more giveaways that may come up in the next few months.

Until next time!

Friday, 11 November 2016

Blog Tour | Guest Post | Fleur McDonald


It's lovely to finally welcome our very own Voice of the Outback, Fleur McDonald, to the blog today to give us some insight into how the status of women in agriculture has changed over the decades.

Fleur has lived and worked on farms for much of her life. After growing up in the small town of Orroroo in South Australia, she went jillarooing, and co-owned an 8000-acre property in regional Western Australia. 

She likes to write about strong women overcoming adversity, drawing inspiration from her own experiences in rural Australia and is the best-selling author of Red Dust, Blue Skies, Purple Roads, Silver Clouds, Crimson Dawn, Emerald Springs and Indigo Storm.

Credit: Chelsea, Proof of Life
Fleur lives in Esperance, WA with her partner, two children and two dogs who keep her company while she writes.

For a full list of tour participants, take a look at the awesome interactive banner at the end of this post. To visit each blog, simply click on the links.

_________________________________________________________

When I started farming twenty plus years ago, the industry was still very male dominated. In fact, the first job I applied for, stated JACKAROOS only apply. Being a bit of a rule breaker, I didn’t take any notice and applied anyway. I didn’t get it. 

Since the beginning of time, women have been involved in agriculture, but more as ‘farmers wives’ not jillaroos, farm-hands or managers working for farm businesses. ‘Farmer’s Wives’ have worked alongside their husbands, sharing the day to day management of the farm or station, office work, plus other workloads, such as raising children and caring for families, their community and homes. More often that not, they’ve been hidden and unacknowledged. 

Wanting a job as a jillaroo in the early 1990s, found me well and truly in the minority.

Luckily, I found a forward thinking manager by the name of Tim Lewis, who ran a large property in Meningie SA, for Perry Gunner. I remember he said to me: ‘Is this all the experience you have?’ I nodded, then he continued on: ‘Well, it’s the old adage isn’t it? If you can’t get experience, then you can’t get a job. And how are you supposed to get the experience if you can’t find a job?’ he paused for a bit before adding: ‘Well, you’d better start Monday.’ I was the first woman who ever worked for Perry Gunner under Tim, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity Tim gave me.

Even with a bona fide job, going to field and information days was intimidating, finding myself too scared to ask questions in case I sounded stupid or uninformed. I felt I was constantly having to prove myself as a woman within the industry.

Today, this (mostly) isn’t the case.

More and more, women are becoming visible in our industry.

We contribute equally on farms, farmer representation organisations, in agribusiness, R&D, banking, animal health. The list goes on. 

Women are choosing to work in all parts of our industry and are being elected on their merits and skills.

A mixture of voices – men and women is a necessity. We don’t think alike; can see different sides. I liken it to a mixed farm – sheep are needed in a cropping operation; they compliment each other. A combination of laudatory voices within our industry, will help it grow and go forward.

It’s an exciting time to be a woman in agriculture and agriculture is a strong, vibrant and exhilarating industry. 

About the Book

While mystery surrounds the accidental shooting of a her husband, Fiona Forrest struggles to preserve the family farm in a suspenseful, pacy and action packed novel from the author of Crimson Dawn and Indigo Storm.

Fiona Forrest is devastated when her husband Charlie commits suicide after the accidental shooting of his mate Eddie. Though Fiona decides to keep farming their successful property, rumours that she intends to sell keep circulating.

When Detective Dave Burrows arrives to sign off on the investigation into Eddie's death, his suspicions are aroused by some strange anomalies at the scene. As Dave becomes increasingly convinced that something sinister is going on, Fiona finds herself dealing with a series of disasters on the farm . . .

By the bestselling author of Crimson Dawn, this suspenseful novel about a woman fighting to preserve her husband's dream, and a detective determined to uncover the truth will keep you guessing till the very last page.

Sapphire Falls by Fleur McDonald is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99, available now at the following links:

Booktopia    iBooks    Kindle

If you'd like to connect with Fiona, you can do so via social media on the following links:

Twitter    Facebook    Instagram


Thursday, 10 November 2016

Book Review | The Better Son | Katherine Johnson


Drawing inspiration from the beautiful but sometimes dark and frightening landscape of Northern Tasmania, and inspired by the true story of James and Harry Byard, who are believed to have found and entered Marakoopa Cave in 1906 and kept their discovery a secret for four years, Katherine Johnson in this, her second novel, takes us on a tour through the picturesque Mole Creek district and its incredible caves, exploring the events that have impacted one man’s life since he was nine years old.

Opening in present day, we are introduced to Kip, almost sixty, who has made his way back to his hometown - a place he swore he’d never return to.

You see, in 1952, he and his older brother, Tom, discovered a cave not far from their dairy farm and, against their mother’s wishes, had taken to exploring the labyrinthine subterranean world that allowed them to be young, wild and free of the responsibilities and work that faced them at the farm.

For Kip, especially, it was an escape from a father who had returned from the war a violent, moody and abusive man and, even though his brother, Tommy, was loved and treated better, it didn't affect the siblings' relationship, with Kip looking up to Tommy as his hero. Then, one day, something went terribly wrong and Kip had to return to the farm on his own!

The lie and tragedy surrounding that fateful day has coloured Kip's life so drastically that he has no choice but to make a journey of atonement in order to exorcise the grief and guilt he still feels so that he can mend his broken marriage and be a better father to his own son.

If I could give this novel 6 stars instead of the usual 5, I would, so it comes as no surprise to me that it has won a number of prizes including The Varuna HarperCollins Manuscript Development Award 2013 and has also been praised by Michelle de Kretser, winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award 2013.

With its dark past and vast amount of unsolved mysteries, Tasmania is the perfect place for Katherine Johnson to have set this story, with the caves in Mole Creek lending the tale a dark and unsettling atmosphere as she explores the emotions of her characters.

Although keenly felt by the reader, but not particularly graphic, Katherine perfectly captures the rejection, cruelty and abuse that is laid on young Kip by his father and I really empathised with his yearning for fatherly love which was palpably heart-breaking.

We are also treated to the perspective of Squid, the gentle farm worker, who remains behind long after Kip has fled, keeping an eye on his mother who we come to know through her dialogue with both her young sons and Squid, and who is kindness and tolerance personified. 

Katherine’s storytelling is breathtaking and you will find yourself immersed in the bold and majestic landscape as she takes the time to note the world and all its lush details around her characters, making it a fully formed character in its own right. 

Filled with sadness and despair, yet full of beauty and hope, this is a quietly told novel with muted colours, deeply sympathetic characterisation, a captivating plot, an evocative setting, and an emotional tone that had me reaching for the Kleenex a few times.

All in all, Katherine Johnson has given us a story about how secrets and undealt with grief and guilt can silently torment and pervade our lives. She is most definitely an author I’ll be keeping my eye on.

I wish to thank the publisher, Ventura Press, for providing me with a hard copy ARC for review.

About the Author

Katherine Johnson was born in Queensland and grew up alongside the fig-tree lined Brisbane River.


At university she combined her two loves ― writing and biology ― graduating with both Arts and Science degrees, with honours in marine biology.

Katherine then moved to Tasmania where, after more than a decade working as a science journalist for the CSIRO and other organisations, she began writing fiction: stories of love, loss and resilience set against wild landscapes.

Her first novel, Pescador’s Wake (Fourth Estate) is set on the Southern Ocean, in South America and Tasmania.

Katherine has travelled in Africa, Indonesia, Europe and Alaska.

She is now completing a PhD in creative writing at the University of Tasmania and lives on a cliff top overlooking the sea with her husband and two children

Her latest adventure was to wild south-western Tasmania by yacht.

About the Book

1952. Tasmania. The green, rolling hills of the dairy town Mole Creek have a dark underside — a labyrinthine underworld of tunnels that stretch for countless miles, caverns the size of cathedrals and underground rivers that flood after heavy rain. The caves are dangerous places, forbidden to children. But this is Tasmania — an island at the end of the earth. Here, rules are made to be broken.

For two young brothers, a hidden cave a short walk from the family farm seems the perfect escape from their abusive, shell-shocked father — until the older brother goes missing. Fearful of his father, nine-year-old Kip lies about what happened. It is a decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life.

Fifty years later, Kip — now an award-winning scientist — has a young son of his own, but cannot look at him without seeing his lost brother, Tommy. On a mission of atonement, he returns to the cave they called Kubla to discover if it’s ever too late to set things right. To have a second chance. To be the father he never had.

The Better Son is a richly imaginative and universal story about the danger of secrets, the beauty in forgiveness and the enthralling power of Tasmania’s unique natural landscapes.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Book Review & Giveaway | Fearless | Fiona Higgins


In this, her third novel, Fiona Higgins introduces us to a disparate group of six people with one thing in common - they have all booked in to the Fearless Retreat in Ubud, which aims to address and perhaps cure them of the phobias and fears that are holding them captive.

Janelle, an Australian, is afraid of flying and it’s taking her a lot of courage (and vodka) to get through this flight; Henry, our Englishman is a bird-watcher but has a fear of public-speaking; Annie is sixty, overweight and has a fear of snakes (or is it death); Remy, the lovely Frenchman, is afraid of heights; Cara, a twenty-nine year old who escaped from Australia to Bali four years before is still crippled with grief after a tragic accident; and Lorenzo, the Italian, is hoping to have his infertility cured to appease his wife, whilst he struggles to come to terms with a deeper issue that has long plagued him.

Placed together and working through various exercises either in groups or on their own, with the input of their mentor, Pak Tony, they slowly begin to form tentative friendships with one another as they revisit their pain in an attempt to cleanse and heal themselves.

On day four, however, it all comes to a head when they are faced with a situation that no class (or even Fear Factor for that matter) could ever have prepared them for.

Using a very real contemporary fear, Fiona goes for the jugular and gives us a twist that nobody is expecting, so don't let the innocent looking cover fool you because, beneath the façade lurks a crisis that is going to teach these characters the true meaning of living, loving and letting go.

All of her characters are interesting with amazingly distinct voices and, although having six narrators could easily cause confusion, I really enjoyed the structure of Fiona alternating between them.

Her setting of Bali is well evoked and, having never travelled there before, one of my favourite aspects was the vivid imagery that Fiona paints of the scenery and the people, giving me a real feel for the Balinese culture and customs.

Whilst Fearless is a tense, suspenseful read that is smart and original and doesn’t fail to entertain with a number of light-hearted moments (such as the “vagina cleansing ritual”) which had me snorting with laughter, the story covers some serious issues from thoughts about paedophilia to religious extremism.

With a plot that can be translated into plausible reality, well-rounded characters who are relatable and complex, Fearless is a thought-provoking, riveting and emotionally powerful story about self-discovery, courage, transformation, resilience, survival and the pain that can be hidden in private while people try to find themselves amidst the circumstances that have shaped them.

Fiona captivates with this one and I have no doubt that you'll have a dose of agoraphobia to deal with as you struggle to put it down.

I wish to thank the publisher, Allen & Unwin, for providing me with a hard copy ARC for review.

About the Author


Fiona Higgins is the author of a memoir and three novels, the latest being Fearless, published by Allen & Unwin.

Her debut novel, The Mothers’ Group (2012) was described by The Weekend Australian as ‘a top-shelf novel about contemporary Australian life’. Wife on the Run (2014) was reviewed in The Sydney Morning Herald as ‘a page-turning domestic melodrama for the social media age.’ Both novels were published in Europe. Her memoir, Love in the Age of Drought (2009), was published by Pan Macmillan in Australia.

When she isn’t writing, Fiona is active in the Australian for-purpose sector. She holds tertiary qualifications in the humanities and social sciences.

Fiona is married with three children, and recently returned to Australia after a three-year sojourn in Indonesia.

About the Book

A breathtaking new novel from the bestselling author of The Mother’s Group and Wife on the Run.

Six strangers from across the world converge on the tropical island of Bali to attend a course designed to help them face their fears. Their backgrounds are as diverse as their fears – which range from flying, public speaking and heights, through to intimacy, failure and death.

Friendships and even romance blossoms as the participants are put through a series of challenges, which are unusual, confronting and sometimes hilarious. A week of fun in the sun suddenly transforms into something far more serious, however, when the unthinkable happens – a tragic disaster that puts the group in deadly danger and tests the individual courage of every member.

Shocking, powerful and utterly gripping, Fearless takes you to the edge and makes you look down.

ISBN:  9781760294229
Publisher:  Allen & Unwin
Pub Date:  November 2016
Page Extent: 392
RRP: $29.99



I'm offering ONE lucky reader the chance to win a brand new paperback copy of Fearless.

In order to enter, all you need to do is leave a comment below.

The giveaway closes at midnight (Australian Eastern Standard Time)
on Wednesday, 16th November and one winner will be selected at random (using random.org) and announced here on the blog within 48 hours.

Please note that you will be required to email me at marcia@bookmusterdownunder.com.au in order to provide your name and mailing address.

Apologies, but due to high international postage costs, this giveaway is open to Australian residents ONLY 

Disclaimer: I reserve the right to re-draw if the winner doesn't contact me within 24 hours of them being notified.

Best of Luck!!!

Monday, 7 November 2016

Blog Tour | Guest Post | Anna Romer


I do love this quote by Voltaire and, after reading Anna Romer's latest, Beyond the Orchard, thought it rather appropriate, because she really does paint with her words.

For me, Anna's name has become synonymous with mysteries set against our many varied, beautiful and sometimes desolate Australian landscapes, giving her readers a real treat in the gothic atmosphere within which she entwines her stories.

It is with great pleasure then that I welcome Anna to the blog today to speak about her art - both in the visual and written form. But first, a bit about her.

Anna grew up in a family of book-lovers and yarn-tellers, which inspired her lifelong love affair with stories.

A graphic artist by trade, she also spent many years travelling the globe stockpiling story material from the Australian outback, and Asia, New Zealand, Europe and America.

Both her first and second novels, Thornwood House and Lyrebird Hill, reflect her fascination with forgotten diaries and letters, dark family secrets, rambling old houses, and love in its many guises—as well as her passion for the uniquely beautiful Australian landscape.

When she’s not writing (or falling in love with another book), Anna is an avid gardener, knitter, bushwalker and conservationist. She lives and works in a secluded bush hideaway surrounded by national parks.

Anna, thank you so much for providing this post and a big thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for inviting me to take part in this Blog Tour.

Before we continue to Anna's post though, I'd like to give a shout-out to the blog before me on this tour.

Please do stop by at Debbish where Deborah interviewed Anna on the 4th November.

Here's a full list of blog tour participants:


Enjoy and happy hopping!

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"Writing is the Painting of the Voice" - Voltaire

I've never heard this quote before, and I love it. I'm a big fan of Voltaire; there was a time in my distant past when I knew parts of Candide nearly off by heart. The quote really resonates with me, so I'm going to stick it up on my inspiration wall and see where it takes me.

I didn't start writing until my mid-30s. Before that, I was an artist. I lived in Europe for a few years, painting reproductions of classical artworks for a living. I can draw quite accurately, but for my own work I preferred a more fanciful approach. My images were heavily influenced by folklore and fairytales – whimsical pictures of storm-swept boats, fleeing rabbits, strange flowers, and gnarly old trees, that sort of thing.

                               Bottle by Anna Romer

One quandary I always had with my painting was feeling limited by how much I could express. Of course, this isn't the case with every artist. I've sat in galleries where a beautifully rendered vase of flowers or portrait kept me spellbound for hours, gazing intently as though the entire universe was captured right there on the canvas. Picasso’s Guernica drew me back all day every day for a week, and even then I left feeling that I still hadn't absorbed it all. A picture truly can paint a thousand words – perhaps many more! – but my skills as an artist never seemed to reach quite that far. 

I've always loved reading stories, or listening to them, and so weaving them into my paintings was a natural impulse. Yet I always sensed there was something lacking. It was only when I finally found the courage to put pen to paper that I discovered what it was. 

A single image only seemed to capture a fragment of the story I wanted to tell. My head was full of complicated relationships, powerful passions and obsessions, interesting life stories people had told me, curious artefacts I found, decaying old buildings and abandoned gardens I'd seen in my travels. Not to mention my own life and family history! I also wanted to steep my stories in strong emotions – love, fear, anger, intense joy; emotions that run like an electric current through our lives. 

When I struggled to successfully layer these elements into my paintings, I blamed my lack of skill. But looking back I now realise that I was simply working in the wrong medium.

Writing my stories down, weaving in the intricate details of the things I'd seen and heard – and imagined – opened up a new world for me. My stories were no longer limited to a single image or idea, but had an outlet that allowed them free reign. Maybe that’s why I love the Voltaire quote. For me, writing really did become the painting of my voice. I still get to paint pictures, only now they are pictures created with words – with my ‘voice’ – a voice that only truly seemed to come alive when I laid down my paintbrushes and picked up a pen.

About the Book

A haunting story of yearning, love and betrayal from the bestselling author of Thornwood House

Lucy Briar has arrived home in turmoil after years overseas. She’s met her fiancé in London and has her life mapped out, but something is holding her back.

Hoping to ground herself and find answers, Lucy settles into once familiar routines. But old tortured feelings flood Lucy’s existence when her beloved father, Ron, is hospitalised and Morgan – the man who drove her away all those years ago – seeks her out.

Worse, Ron implores Lucy to visit Bitterwood Estate, the crumbling historic family guesthouse now left to him. He needs Lucy to find something– an old photograph album, the very thing that drove Ron and his father apart.

Lucy has her own painful memories of Bitterwood, darkness that has plagued her dreams since she was young. But as Lucy searches for the album, the house begins to give up its ghosts and she is driven to put them to rest.

And there, held tightly between the house, the orchard and the soaring cliffs, Lucy uncovers a long-hidden secret that shattered a family’s bond and kept a frightened young girl in its thrall ... and Lucy discovers just how fierce the lonely heart can be.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Book Review | Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil | Melina Marchetta


I’ve wanted to read a Melina Marchetta book for a number of years now but time just hasn’t allowed for it. So, it was with anticipation that I opened this latest (her debut novel for adults) as I loved the premise of the novel and the fact that the blurb alluded to “suspense and heart-rending drama” – two of my favourite elements in fiction.

The novel opens with suspended Chief Inspector Bashir “Bish” Ortley receiving a telephone call informing him that his daughter, Bee, has been caught up in the midst of a bus bombing in Calais, France. With his mother, Saffron, accompanying him, they make their way across the channel - thankfully, Bee is unharmed but there are others who haven’t been so lucky.

When he recognises the name of another passenger, Violette LeBrac, his senses go on high alert because he and the LeBracs have a long history of acquaintanceship through the criminal justice system but before he has an opportunity to question her, she, along with one of the other students, Eddie Conlon, disappear.

Left to figure out if the bombing was an act of terror and Violette the perpetrator, Bish is immediately drawn into the investigation, albeit in his personal capacity as a father acting as a liaison between the French police and the children’s parents. He soon finds himself taking instructions from the Home Office and as he tries to find the missing Violette and her companion, he uncovers some discrepancies in the historical case of a supermarketing bombing carried out by Violette’s grandfather, once again coming face-to-face with her imprisoned mother, Noor LeBrac.

It is during the investigation that the conflict in his personal life comes into sharp focus and he begins to realise that he’s only half the man he used to be – still grieving the loss of his son, angry at the loss of his ex-wife to another man and seeking solace in the bottle, Bish also needs to put to bed the issues he has with his mother’s indifference towards him as a child as well as try and figure out his daughter’s distant behaviour towards him.

As mentioned at the beginning of this review, I loved the premise of this novel, so I was somewhat disappointed when I got off to a bit of a slow start. Something just hooked me though so I persisted and I’m so glad that I did because at about 25% of the way in I got the connection with the characters that I was looking for!

In addition to the main plot regarding the investigation, Melina Marchetta has layered her story with some great side plots that explore the complex relationships between her characters - those between fathers and daughters, ex-husbands and wives and mothers and sons - making it more than just another crime novel.

Whilst Bish may sound like a stereotype – divorced, still grieving the loss of his son, drowning his sorrows in a bottle and recently suspended from his job at the London Met (for reasons which become clearer along the way) – he is far from that and by the end of the book, he has come almost full circle.

The things that struck me most are Melina's unfailing ear for dialogue – especially with regard to her teenage characters – and her wry wit had me snorting with laughter a number of times.

At the heart of the story though is a feeling of general resentment towards the Muslim culture that has become all too familiar since the terror attacks of 11 September 2001 and Melina paints an unflinchingly honest picture of the times that we live in, where we have all possibly been guilty of stigmatising people based on colour and religion.

A morally complex tale that is rich with authenticity, this is, on the one hand a crime novel, but on the other, it’s about the relationships and the lives of those involved with Melina exploring family, marriage and repressed grief as well as the symptoms of racial prejudice such as fear, intolerance, segregation, racial profiling, displacement and discrimination.

Despite my slow start, Melina Marchetta is a great storyteller and this novel is very definitely worth a read. I look forward to reading more from her.

I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with an eARC galley proof of this novel.

About the Author

Melina Marchetta’s writing career took off in 1992 when she published her first novel Looking For Alibrandi. She later turned the story into a film script and the movie Looking for Alibrandi screened in theatres around Australia and the world from 2000.


Melina managed to combine writing with teaching English and History in secondary school for ten years up to 2006, when she committed to writing full-time. During that period, she released two novels, Saving Francesca and On the Jellicoe Road.

Her first fantasy novel, Finnikin of the Rock, was published in 2008.

The Piper’s Son (a companion novel to Saving Francesca) was released in 2010 and she has also written a children’s book, The Gorgon in the Gully, as part of the Puffin Pocket Money series.

Her novels have been published in 17 languages in at least 18 countries.

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil is her first adult crime novel.

Melina lives in Sydney where she writes full time.

About the Book

Melina Marchetta's gripping new novel Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil is a cracking fusion of suspense and heart-rending drama.

Chief Inspector Bish Ortley of the London Met, divorced and still grieving the death of his son, has been drowning his anger in Scotch. Something has to give, and he’s no sooner suspended from the force than a busload of British students is subject to a deadly bomb attack across the Channel. Bish’s daughter is one of those on board.

Also on the bus is Violette LeBrac. Raised in Australia, Violette has a troubled background. Thirteen years ago her grandfather bombed a London supermarket, killing dozens of people. Her mother, Noor, is serving a life sentence in connection with the incident. But before Violette’s part in the French tragedy can be established she disappears.

Bish, who was involved in Noor LeBrac’s arrest, is now compelled to question everything that happened back then. And the more he delves into the lives of the family he helped put away, the more he realises that truth wears many colours.

ISBN: 9780670079100
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Pub date: 29/08/2016
RRP: AU$32.99

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Book Review | Watching Edie | Camilla Way


Sixteen years ago, Edie and Heather were best friends but then something happened that drove each of them away from each other and their home town.

Now, all these years later, Edie, a waitress, lives in a tiny little apartment, on her own, pregnant and estranged from her mother.

But the past has a way of catching up and, when her doorbell rings one afternoon, she is more than shocked to see Heather standing there. Reluctantly, she invites her in but soon realises that she’ll need to get rid of her before she begins to dredge up the past she has tried so hard to forget.

Unfortunately, Heather is persistent and not that easy to dismiss so when Edie finally brings baby Maya home, Heather reappears and cleverly insinuates herself in their lives when she realises that Edie is unable to cope with her new baby while the effects of post-natal depression drag her under.

Told from Edie’s perspective in the present (after) and Heather’s in the past (before), their history begins to unfold and we start to wonder what happened all those years ago to bring these two women so far from who they had aspired to be.

You’ve just got to love it when a psychological thriller makes you feel really uncomfortable and this one has discomfort written all over it.

With an almost gothic style of writing, Camilla Way knows how to keep her readers in suspense. Set against the bleakness of London and mainly in Edie’s apartment, Camilla uses her almost claustrophobic setting to great effect, creating an atmosphere edged in creepiness as she gets to the hard-hitting crux of the story.

Edie and Heather are both sympathetic characters and it’s obvious that their actions and the consequences of that fateful night have continued to gnaw away at them as they refuse to confront the horror of what happened. Keeping their secret close to their chests and focusing on their emotional states, it is this that Camilla uses to create suspense and drive her narrative forward, as she vividly captures the shifting dynamics between them.

Weaving the elements of her plot tightly, the explosive revelation of what really happened is well hidden until the denouement and goes to show how extremely talented Camilla Way is.

Complex, challenging and darkly fascinating, Watching Edie is a novel that brims with tension and a growing sense of unease as Camilla delves into toxic friendships, dysfunctional relationships, emotional parental neglect, obsession, guilt and mental health issues.

This one will pull you headlong into the dark secret that controls these characters’ lives and is a must-read for all fans of a good psychological thriller.

I wish to thank HarperCollins Australia for providing me with an egalley proof for review.

About the Author

Camilla Way was born in Greenwich, south-east London in 1973. Her father was the poet and author Peter Way.

After attending Woolwich College she studied modern English and French literature at the University of Glamorgan.

Formerly Associate Editor of the teenage girls' magazine Bliss, she is currently an editor and writer on the men's style magazine Arena.

Having lived in Cardiff, Bristol, Bath and Clerkenwell, she now lives in south-east London.

About the Book

THERE ARE SOME FRIENDS YOU’LL NEVER FORGET…
NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY

BEFORE
Edie is the friend that Heather has always craved. But one night, it goes terrifyingly wrong. And what started as an innocent friendship ends in two lives being destroyed.

AFTER
Sixteen years later, Edie is still rebuilding her life. But Heather isn’t ready to let her forget so easily. It’s no coincidence that she shows up when Edie needs her most.

NOW
Edie or Heather?
Heather or Edie?

Someone has to pay for what happened, but who will it be?

ISBN: 9780008159016
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Pub date: 01/08/2016
RRP: AU$34.99

Friday, 7 October 2016

Book Review | Labour of Love | Shannon Garner


While I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, I do enjoy a good memoir so when I was contacted by Shannon Garner and asked to review the account of her journey through surrogacy, I couldn’t resist.

Altruistic Surrogacy is a subject that has always fascinated me and, while books like Dawn Barker’s Let Her Go (which I loved), shed some light on it, Shannon Garner has been through it.

Happily married with two beautiful children of her own, Shannon’s determination to pursue her desire to be a surrogate drove her to carry out meticulous research for a complex and emotional process that remains, even in today’s day and age, a controversial subject.

With honesty and insight, she explores the highs and lows of being an altruistic surrogate in Australia and, in the process, gives the reader a glimpse into an oft misrepresented process with all its legal, clinical and ethical complexities along with the (not always positive) perceptions of friends, family and strangers.

Her joys, struggles and fears are all here and I take my hat off to Shannon because it’s not only a difficult decision – one that affects not just the surrogate but her wider family – but it’s also a journey that only a very special few are able to make and her dedication, commitment and self-sacrifice is to be commended.

With the flair of a natural storyteller, Shannon has lovingly documented her (and her family’s) profoundly personal journey, answering a lot of questions while writing with heart, humour and a light and friendly tone that sets a warm and intimate atmosphere - which leaves me in no doubt that this is who she is in real life.

An absorbing, insightful and inspiring memoir with contemporary relevance, Labour of Love is a story of love, family, hope, pure selflessness and the joy of giving that I highly recommend to anyone who is thinking of heading down the surrogacy path as well as those who, like me, just find the surrogacy world to be so fascinating.

Thanks goes to Shannon Garner for providing me with a hard copy for review.

About the Author

Shannon Garner is first and foremost a mother to two beautiful children, a wife, surrogate and then a writer, passionate about the craft of storytelling. She lives in a seaside town on the New South Wales north coast in a timber cottage complete with the white picket fence!

Shannon started concentrating on her writing in 2009 when her first child was born and hasn’t looked back. Her writer’s group encouraged her to delve into non-fiction after the birth of a surrogate child she carried for a gay male couple from Sydney and with that… her first memoir “Labour of Love” was born.

She is delighted that her memoir about her altruistic surrogacy journey was released on the 1st July 2016 and hopes you will enjoy her journey as much as she did.

Shannon has started writing her first fiction novel which is a family saga spanning many decades set in rural England and Australia, two places held close to her heart.

About the Book

A story of generosity, hope and surrogacy

Shannon Garner met and married the man of her dreams, had two gorgeous children and lived an idyllic life on the New South Wales coast. So why did she decide one day to pursue altruistic surrogacy? And what made her choose a gay male couple from Sydney?

Labour of Love is Shannon’s honest and engaging story – a rollercoaster of emotion set against the backdrop of a highly regulated ‘industry’. This is no account of heartache and conflict but an uplifting story of ‘a collective love’ – one that involves a handful of people from very different walks of life who end up being so much more than family.

As Shannon travels her journey of body, mind and soul, she lays bare the loving reality behind surrogacy, but also the trouble she found along the way.

Finding strength in unexpected places, Shannon pushed past the negativity of others to discover the courage she needed to selflessly carry and birth a baby that will not be her own – and to bring the gift of a precious life and soul into the world, to be loved and cared for by her new adoring parents.

ISBN: 9781925368604
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia
Pub date: 01/07/2016
RRP: AU$29.99

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Book Review | Nothing Short of Dying | Erik Storey


Clyde Barr just wants to disappear into the wilderness. After the last sixteen years, who can blame him - mercenary and hired gun on three different continents, prisoner on one - call him what you want, he's tired and needs to regain some sense of himself. He also doesn't really need the added complications of electronic communication like a mobile phone but, in this day and age, it seems to be a must-have.

Only problem is, the next call he receives is going to shatter his much sought-after solitude with a cry for help from his youngest sister who doesn’t even get a chance to let him know where she is!

In trying to figure out her whereabouts and who may have her, he finds himself teaming up with Allie, a bartender with her own reasons for running, who just might know the answer to that question. Together they begin the search! Travelling through wide open spaces and into the mountains looking for clues, they also find themselves fighting for their lives when they cross the paths of some ruthless drug dealers and are double-crossed by someone Clyde once called a friend!

As the bodies pile up and he and Allie grow closer, vignettes of a fractured family, abusive relationships and an obscure past begin to form the patchwork of history that is Clyde Barr.

This one had been glaring at me from my reading pile for some time and, not having read a “Jack Reacher” novel (to whom Clyde Barr has been compared), I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I picked it up anyway, thinking that I’d “expand my horizons” so to speak – and I’m so glad that I did because Erik Storey is a remarkable storyteller.

Not only does he give us non-stop action right the way through but in Clyde Barr, he introduces us to an extremely complex man, slowly peeling back the layers to reveal an honourable, albeit tough-as-nails hero. He’s rugged, a wanderer with a strong sense of justice, tough but soft when he needs to be and if there’s one thing he loves more than anything else, it’s his sisters – even if they’re not all on speaking terms with him. As a woman, I could just fall in love with Clyde - he's not afraid or ashamed to stand up for what's right, he keeps his word and will always defend the underdog!

There’s a lot to enjoy in this novel which provided me with a few hours of adventurous escapism such as getting to know our hero whilst exploring Erik’s lush setting of Colorado and the Appalachian Mountains that not only gives the reader a strong sense of place which is integral to the events unfolding around Clyde, but also shows that Erik knows it well.

Another big plus for me was that while there are a number of violent scenes (which is to be expected from the genre), Erik doesn’t expose the reader to too much guts and gore. And, once his characters have served their purpose, he has no qualms about expiring them along the way.

Clyde Barr is an appealing lead character and Erik Storey’s skill as a writer shines, making it hard to believe that this is a debut. He also strikes the right emotional balance so if you, like me, prefer your action thriller novels not to forsake depth, then don’t hesitate to get this one on your list so that you too can welcome knight errant, Clyde Barr, to the fold. 

With non-stop action right the way through and a skilfully crafted plot that picks up steadily, this is compulsive reading at its best from an author who is putting true adventure back into the action thriller genre. In saying that, I can confirm that I’m definitely a fan and that nothing short of dying will stop me from reading the next novel in the series!

I wish to thank Simon and Schuster Australia for providing me with a hard copy for review.

About the Author


Erik Storey is a former ranch hand, wilderness guide, dogsled musher, and hunter.

He spent his childhood summers growing up on his great-grandfather’s homestead or in a remote cabin in Colorado’s Flat Tops wilderness.

He has earned a number of sharpshooter and marksman qualifications.

Nothing Short of Dying is his first novel.

He and his family live in Grand Junction, Colorado.

About the Book

Sixteen years. That’s how long Clyde Barr has been away from Colorado’s thick forests, alpine deserts, and craggy peaks, running from a past filled with haunting memories. But now he’s back, having roamed across three continents as a hunter, adventurer, soldier of fortune, and most recently, unjustly imprisoned convict. And once again, his past is reaching out to claim him.

By the light of a flickering campfire, Clyde receives a frantic phone call from his sister Jen. No sooner has she pleaded with him to come rescue her than the line goes dead. Clyde doesn’t know how much time he has, or where Jen is located, or even who has her. All he knows is that nothing short of dying will stop him from saving her.

Joining Clyde in his against-all-odds quest is a young woman named Allie whose motivations for running this gauntlet are fascinatingly complex. As the duo races against the clock, it is Allie who gets Clyde to see what he has become and what he can still be.

Vivid with the hues and scents of Colorado’s backcountry, and thought-provoking in its exploration of how past, present, and future collide to test resolve, Nothing Short of Dying is, above all, a propulsive, action-driven race against the clock.

ISBN: 9781501124143 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pub Date:  August 2016 
Extent: 320
RRP: AU$26.00