Post Script: Liar’s Candle – August Thomas

Liar's Candle by August Thomas cover art

Liar’s Candle

August Thomas

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 978 1 4711 6703 4

 

Description:

In this brilliant debut thriller, set in the US embassy in Turkey, one young woman finds herself at the centre of a deadly plot and marked for death … An intelligent, fast-paced spy novel for fans of Olen Steinhauser and Joseph Kanon.

 

SHE IS THE WOMAN WHO KNOWS TOO MUCH …

 

Penny Kessler, a young intern at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, wakes up in a hospital on the morning of July 5th to find herself at the centre of an international crisis. The day before, the Embassy had been the target of a devastating terrorist attack that killed hundreds of Penny’s friends and colleagues. Not only has a photograph of Penny emerging from the rubble become the defining image of the event (#TheGirlwiththeFlag), but for reasons she doesn’tunderstand, her bosses believe she’s a crucial witness.

 

Suddenly, everyone is desperately interested in what Penny knows. But what does she know? And who can she trust? As she struggles to piece together her memories of the event, she discovers that Zach Robson, the young diplomat she’s been falling for all summer, went missing during the attack. Now his boss at the CIA, Christina Ekdahl, wants people to believe that Zach was a traitor. Only one person stands in her way: Penny. And Christina will do anything to silence her.

 

In a race to keep from being killed and to uncover the truth, Penny reluctantly partners with Connor Beauregard, a rookie CIA officer on his first overseas assignment. But the two won’t survive unless they can outwit – and outmaneuver – everyone from the Turkish president and his daughter to Islamic extremists, to the US State Department, to the CIA itself.

 

Praise for Liar’s Candle

 

“Stunning…a novel that brings the le Carré and Follett traditions into the 21st century.  Breakneck pacing, sharply observed detail, an all-too-plausible plot, and a protagonist to cheer for’ Joseph Finder

 

‘A high-energy thriller…The tension and relentless action ratchet higher from the very first chapter to the climatic ending as one terrifying escape follows the next and everywhere friends and foes change places. Thomas has eerily evoked not only the intrigue and brutality of terrorism in Turkey, but the country itself’ Paul Vidich

 

‘Tightly-plotted, well-written, and astute, Liar’s Candle is a remarkable debut’ Lisa Unger

 

‘August Thomas is a fresh, exciting new voice in international thrillers’ Chris Pavone

 

‘A propulsive, heart-in-your-throat thriller that’s loaded with unexpected twists and turns…. LIAR’S CANDLE is a shockingly good debut novel’ Daniel Kalla

 

My View:

What more can I say that hasn’t already been said? Only that the accolades are well deserved: this book is an outstanding read and if you love a fast paced, action packed, trust no one type of intelligent thriller – well then this book is for you.  So credible, such an authentic voice, I loved every word on every page.

 

 

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Guest Review – A Month of Sundays – Liz Byrski

A Month of Sundays Liz Byrski cover art

 

A Month of Sundays

Liz Byrski

Pan Macmillan AU

ISBN: 9781743534946

Description:

For over ten years, Ros, Adele, Judy and Simone have been in an online book club, but they have never met face to face. Until now…

Determined to enjoy her imminent retirement, Adele invites her fellow bibliophiles to help her house-sit in the Blue Mountains. It’s a tantalising opportunity to spend a month walking in the fresh air, napping by the fire and, of course, reading and talking about books.

But these aren’t just any books: each member has been asked to choose a book which will teach the others more about her. And with each woman facing a crossroads in her life, it turns out there’s a lot for them to learn, not just about their fellow book-clubbers, but also about themselves.

Liz Byrski has written a beautiful novel about the joy and comfort reading a good book can bring to us all.

 

Brenda’s Review:

The four women; Ros from Sydney, Adele from Adelaide, Judy from Mandurah near Perth, and Simone from Tasmania have had their weekly book club meetings via Skype, always online, never having met one another. The group had been larger but had dwindled over the years; the four were friends but in saying that, hardly knew one another. When a friend of Adele’s asked her to house-sit in the Blue Mountains – take some friends if she wanted – Adele immediately thought of the book club ladies. Her trepidation at sending the email to them all was unwarranted, as all three gave a resoundingly positive yes!

Each member was to choose a book that had meaning to them; to bring four copies and when it was that person’s turn, hand out the copy leaving a week to read it. Then come Sunday, it was discussion time. As the days moved forward, in among the brisk walks in the sunshine; the sharing of the beauty of the area; and of course, the joy of having Ros’ dog Clooney to fuss over – everyone realized that these women in their sixties and seventies, had a past which had affected their current lives, and themselves. They were at the stage of needing to learn why they were as they were, and whether it was possible to let the past remain in the past – to make peace with it.

Would those very special books, chosen with love by the four book club women, help in defining them? And would four women, previously unknown to each other, other than an online presence, manage to get on for four weeks in the same house?

A Month of Sundays by Aussie author Liz Byrski is an exceptional, emotional and brilliant read! I can’t fault the writing, the story, the fabulous women – and of course being about books, I’m going to look up each and every book they read for their book club get together each Sunday (and I won’t say what they are here as it’ll spoil the element of surprise for a new reader). I want to be taught yoga by Simone – I identified so much with Adele – I felt a deep empathy for Ros; and loved Clooney – and wanted to give Judy a big hug. Such an excellent read – Ms Byrski doesn’t disappoint. Highly recommended – 5 stars.

With thanks to Pan Macmillan AU for my uncorrected proof ARC to read and review.

Post Script: The Escape Room – Megan Goldin

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin cover art

The Escape Room

Megan Goldin

Penguin

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143785477

 

Description:

‘Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.’

 

In the lucrative world of Wall Street finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie and Sam are the ultimate high-flyers. Ruthlessly ambitious, they make billion-dollar deals and live lives of outrageous luxury. Getting rich is all that matters, and they’ll do anything to get ahead.

 

When the four of them become trapped in an elevator escape room, things start to go horribly wrong. They have to put aside their fierce office rivalries and work together to solve the clues that will release them. But in the confines of the elevator the dark secrets of their team are laid bare. They are made to answer for profiting from a workplace where deception, intimidation and sexual harassment thrive.

 

Tempers fray and the escape room’s clues turn more and more ominous, leaving the four of them dangling on the precipice of disaster. If they want to survive, they’ll have to solve one final puzzle: which one of them is a killer?

 

‘Fantastic – one of my favorite books of the year.’ Lee Child

 

 

My View:

With a terrific opening hook – the prologue reveals gun shots and a river of blood as the elevator opens its doors – now to find out how/who did it and why because this is a book where the why is so very important and the who will surprise you.

 

Megan Goldin excels once again with her second novel, The Escape Room, a psychological mystery told in alternating chapters; the elevator with the unravelling psyches of those who are trapped, and the protagonist, Sara Hall’s story. An engaging and disturbing read.

 

**And look what popped up in my news feed today in https://www.perthnow.com.au 

The best tricks for surviving in a falling elevator:

 

CUSHION THE IMPACT

If you’re travelling with luggage (or anything big and bulky) the best thing to do is lay or stand on top of it.

Whether it’s a suitcase, handbag or briefcase, make sure you get on top of it to cushion the blow.

That’s because it’s possible that the items you’re on top of can break the force of impact and act like a crumple zone in a car.

 

LAY FLAT ON FLOOR

The best way to survive a falling lift is to lie flat on the elevator floor with your arms and legs spread out in a starfish shape.

This means you distribute the force of impact across your entire body and there is less chance of serious injury to one area.

You need to use the part of your body with the most fat on to cushion the blow, and try to protect your head and neck.

However, experts warn that it’s important to be aware of any shrapnel or debris which may come loose and hit you as you land.

Don’t panic — the fatality rate of using a lift is only 0.00000015 per cent or one in 650,000,000 rides, so you’d be really unlucky to find yourself in that position.

But, in the very unlikely event that you do, your best bet is to lay flat.

This story first appeared in The Sun

Love Between the Pages WA – Sasha Wasley and Anthea Hodgson

As part of Penguin Random House’s new Love Between the Pages event series, WA authors Anthea Hodgson and Sasha Wasley will be embarking on a tour from 19 – 27 June.

Anthea and Sasha will be chatting about their brilliant new books, The Cowgirl and True Blue, writing romance, and why a love story may be more than it seems, at events in Woodvale, Boyanup, Bunbury, Busselton, Capel, Mandurah and Victoria Park. Full details here.

 

To mark this occasion I have invited Andrea and Sasha to my blog to talk books, love and life.

Welcome Sasha.

Sasha Wasley         True Blue     Dear Banjo

 

Have you ever had a character who wouldn’t do what they were told?

 Yes, this happens all the time! My characters lead me around by the nose, saying and doing whatever they want. I really love that about writing – when a character gets so real that you can almost hear their voice. Mostly my characters act according to personality but sometimes a character does something and you go “wow, plot twist!” When that happens I need to look hard at the piece of writing and ask myself if they would really do that or am I imposing my own interests on the character? It sure keeps things interesting!

 Can you share anything from one of your novels that was taken from your actual life?

 I take so much from real life – I’m sure I’ll get sued for it one day! While I was working on my current WIP earlier this year, one of my chickens got sick. I’d already decided there was going to be a sick or foundling animal in the book so Trixie got written into the story – the exact same illness, breed, treatment and recovery.

In True Blue, my latest release, my romantic hero is Finn Kelly, who emigrated from Ireland at aged 12. My partner is Irish and emigrated here at the same time, so I used lots of his stories and experiences to help me build the character. I even used the same embarrassing story about his first day at school. So far, my partner has not filed for breech of copyright on his life stories 😊

Which features in a novel do you think make a good romantic read?

A heroine you can sympathise with, a hero who thinks she is the most amazing thing on the planet, and something for them to fight for, side by side. I also like to make sure my main character has her own journey and struggles. I’m not a fan of the swoop-in-and-rescue hero. I like my heroine to rescue herself and the love story is simply a wonderful bonus.

Welcome Anthea.

Anthea      the-drifter    The Cowgirl

Do you have a favourite character?

I have a bunch of favourites, but I must say, grumpy Deirdre Broderick is a particular favourite! She marched into Drifter, demanded a cup of (weak) tea, took the time to disapprove of the one she was given and frowned upon the rest of the locals until they sat up straight and stopped talking. Deirdre was inspired by an old lady I knew as a young girl and although she was absolutely fierce, she was also loyal, kind and hardworking. While Deirdre may have been short on charm, she was big on turning up and getting stuff done. I found that Deirdre stole so many scenes in my debut novel The Drifter that I thought I should give her the lead in Cowgirl – and she stole the show there, too.

I wanted to write an old lady as my heroine – that she was grim as hell only made her even better as far as I was concerned. I think women become invisible as we age – and I often feel that older characters in novels and films are a little clichéd. I’m from a small town in the wheat belt filled with strong women who ran our community, and it was important to me to celebrate them in all their overlooked majesty. I wanted my difficult, crotchety old friend to show her true colours, her past, her heartbreak, her resolute commitment to duty, her kindness, her humour, her sacrifice, her loyalty.

I told my publisher I wanted to take a silly old chook and make her fly – and in the Cowgirl scene in which Deirdre dances, I do hope that I have!

Do you believe the ability to write is something you are born with?

To a degree I do, although of course, like anything, writing can be taught and like anything, hard work and determination will get you further than any basic talent. I never studied writing or joined a writing group because I hate the thought of handing my work in for assessment. I still only show my manuscript to my husband and then to my publisher. I have to assume I was born with some sort of ability, although I think my upbringing in a family passionate about books fostered my interest. I grew up with my parent’s books and as a shy teenager I spent a lot of time reading at boarding school, too. Seven was the maximum number of books you could take out of the library and I did so every weekend, devoured them in my dorm, returned them on Monday for seven more.

I think the words and ideas from books seep into you and they flow out from the same stream – as a way of looking at the world with a brighter, shinier more interesting lens. I remember being teased at school for the way I spoke, I think it was too formal, and often I couldn’t open my mouth without any utterance being parroted back at me by a number of my boarding sisters. It was bracing, but it was also valuable to me, because it made me different. I developed my own style of expression, my own sense of humour – and the day Ali Watts from Penguin signed me because she loved my voice was all the sweeter.

If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?

I grew up on the farm with ABC Regional radio every morning, like an old friend who always slept over – the kettle and the radio were the first two appliances we flicked on every day.  I loved my years working in talk back and current affairs and I like to think I’d go back into radio, which was a lot of work – but also and a lot of fun! I covered most shifts during my radio career, but it was mornings I preferred. The mornings are early starts, around 4am, and they are high pressure and if you’re waiting on an interview confirmation those minutes until the 8.30 start of your programme just fly by. Depending on the day and if the stories are coming together the rising sense of (hopefully) controlled panic keeps you very interested. The start of the show covers the big stories of the day, but there’s still time after 10am for the broader issues, the touring author or celebrity, the quirky ‘a crocodile bit my head’ stories (which I booked once – but should have pre-recorded because Channel 9 called a short time later and I was gazumped).

The people I worked with were a wonderful blend of borderline (and not so borderline) alcoholics, rising stars, falling stars, grumpy old dudes, free spirits making radio magic and weary producers, grinding through story after story, show after show. I spent my days arranging interviews, negotiating ‘phoners’, trying to get some talent to come into the studio because they sounded interesting and trying to keep others out, because they didn’t.

There were shift changes, office politics, junk food and gallons of tea and coffee. There was also a lot of laughter – often crazy panicked laughter – loads of swearing (not just my own) endless jokes, fascinating chats and the odd character assassinations of regulars who had let us down one time too many. It was a brilliant time, but it was exhausting and eventually I was so pregnant I ran the risk of giving birth live on air so I knew it was time to go.

When I left producing, I missed the rushing about and the laughs, but I also felt a sense of relief every evening that I didn’t have to make notes while I watched the news in case something blew up and I didn’t have to go to bed at night wondering what I’d come up with the next day. I woke in the morning to birds carolling in the dawn, I rolled out of bed silently, went to the kitchen, flicked on the kettle for a cup of tea – and flicked on my friend the radio, too.

 

Thanks you both for appearing on my blog and good luck with the Love between the Pages tour. 

 

 

Guest Review: True Blue – Sasha Wasley

When this wonderful Australian author (from Perth Western Australia) called in for a cuppa the other day – we talked books, art and family.  (More on that later today – watch out for my next post.)

Sasha Wasley’s trilogy is based on the lives of three sisters (book 3 to be published in the near future), this series has garnered many great reviews and

I thought I would share another with you – thanks for the contribution Brenda.


True Blue

Brenda’s Review:
When Freya (Free) Paterson was stopped on the way to the hen’s night by the local police, she wasn’t sure what she’d done wrong – as it turned out, it was nothing; but she met Constable Finn Kelly for the first time and she liked what she saw.
Free was an artist and landing a job at the local high school in Mount Clair teaching the year eleven students art was a dream come true. The only unwelcome intrusion at her new workplace was a colleague who gave Free the creeps. Ignoring him was easy. Her students were a wonderful group of dedicated, upcoming artists.
Free and her family had lived on the Paterson property for decades – farming was in her blood. Her two sisters, Beth and Willow, along with her father loved the land and the Herne River which bordered their property. The recent decision to dam the river was something no one wanted – it would cause heartache and havoc for the farms along the river’s edge.

Meanwhile Free couldn’t get the new constable out of her mind. Finn was a kind and gentle Irishman, but the negative vibes he sent toward Free were confusing. Why did he only want to be friends?

Second in the Paterson Sisters trilogy, True Blue by Aussie author Sasha Wasley tells the second sister’s story. The first in the trilogy, Dear Banjo, featured Willow, and the third (when published) will feature Beth. Set in the beautiful Kimberley region of Western Australia, the vast and rugged landscape comes to life under Wasley’s pen. Towards the end of the novel there was a section which made me laugh; made me cry and felt wonderful! I’m not a romance/romance reader – I like some suspense and intrigue mixed in, and True Blue fits the bill, while being an excellent novel; I’m very much looking forward to Beth’s story. Highly recommended – 5 stars.

With thanks to Penguin Random House for my ARC to read and review.

Baked lemon cheesecake with raspberry glaze: Roast – Louise Franc

Roast by Louise Franc_cover_

Edited extract from Roast by Louise Franc, published by Smith Street Books, $39.99. Available now.

 

 

Baked lemon cheesecake with raspberry glaze

 Serves 8–10

 

Baked lemon cheesecake

 

250 g (9 oz/ 2 cups) fresh raspberries

 

BASE

180 g (6½ oz) gingernut biscuits

180 g (6½ oz) granita (digestive) biscuits

¼ teaspoon salt

150 g (5½ oz) butter, melted

 

FILLING

250 g (9 oz/1 cup) sour cream

550 g (1 lb 3 oz) cream cheese

115 g (4 oz/½ cup) caster (superfine) sugar

80 ml (2½ fl oz/⅓ cup) lemon juice

grated zest of 1 lemon

3 free-range eggs

 

RASPBERRY GLAZE

250 g (9 oz) frozen raspberries, thawed

1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar

1 teaspoon cornflour (cornstarch)

 

Preheat the oven to 140°C/275°F (fan-forced). Line the base of a 23 cm (9 inch) springform cake tin with baking paper.

 

To make the base, blend all the biscuits with the salt in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the melted butter. Transfer to the cake tin, pressing down so the crumbs are tightly packed over the base.

 

To make the filling, blend the sour cream, cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice and zest in a food processor until well combined, then add all the eggs and blend again until just combined.

 

Pour the filling over the biscuit base. Leave the mixture to sit for 20 minutes to allow any air bubbles to rise to the surface.

 

Gently lift the tin and let it fall on the work surface a few times, to force out any remaining air bubbles.

 

Transfer to the oven and bake for 50–60 minutes, or until the filling in the middle of the cheesecake has set, but still wobbles slightly. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and leave to cool completely.

 

While the cheesecake is in the oven, make the glaze. Purée the frozen raspberries in a blender. Add the puréed raspberries to a small saucepan with the sugar and cornflour, then cook for 4–5 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Set aside to cool.

 

Once the cheesecake has cooled, run the edge of a knife around the outer edge of the cheesecake, just to loosen it from the side of the tin. Pour the raspberry glaze over the top, smoothing it out with a palette knife.

 

Transfer to the fridge and leave to cool for 2–3 hours, or overnight.

 

When ready to serve, remove from the tin and scatter the fresh raspberries over.

Whole Stuffed Pumpkin: Roast – Louise Franc

Roast by Louise Franc_cover_

Edited extract from Roast by Louise Franc, published by Smith Street Books, $39.99. Available now. 

 

 

Whole stuffed pumpkin

Serves 8

60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) olive oil

200 g (7 oz) uncracked freekeh, rinsed

1½ teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed

1½ teaspoons cumin seeds, crushed

1 litre (34 fl oz/4 cups) vegetable stock

40 g (1½ oz/⅓ cup) slivered almonds, toasted

3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

70 g (2½ oz/½ cup) dried cranberries

2 large rosemary sprigs, leaves picked and chopped

large handful parsley, roughly chopped

1 large pumpkin (winter squash), weighing at least 2 kg (4 lb 6 oz)

60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) maple syrup

60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) apple cider vinegar

 

Heat a small splash of the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the freekeh and coriander and cumin seeds and cook until the mixture starts to sizzle and pop. Add the stock and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes, or up to 1 hour, until the freekeh is cooked through. Transfer to a large bowl and add the almonds, garlic, cranberries, rosemary and parsley. Mix well and season to taste.

 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F (fan-forced).

 

Using a large kitchen knife, cut out the top of the pumpkin and set aside as a lid. Scoop out the seeds and fibres with a spoon and discard. If your pumpkin is very thick in places, scoop out a little of the pumpkin until it is even on all sides — this will help the pumpkin to cook evenly.

 

In a small bowl, combine the maple syrup, vinegar and remaining olive oil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then pour over the freekeh. Toss to combine and check the seasoning.

 

Spoon the freekeh into the pumpkin shell. Place the pumpkin lid on top and wrap the whole pumpkin in two layers of foil.

 

Place on a baking tray, transfer to the oven and roast for 1 hour. Remove the foil and roast for at least another 1 hour. The pumpkin may seem soft at this stage when tested with a sharp knife, but it takes a long time to cook all the way through. You can test it’s done by inserting a knife into the middle and scraping off a little of the pumpkin flesh inside. If it is still a little fibrous, cook the pumpkin for longer.

 

Allow the pumpkin to rest for 10 minutes before slicing into large wedges.

 

Whole Stuffed Pumpkin