Guest Review: Lioness – Katherine Scholes

Lioness

Katherine Scholes

Penguin Australia

ISBN: 9781921518768

 

Description:

Young Angel Kelly and her mother are travelling by camel across the dusty plains of northern Tanzania when disaster strikes and they face a struggle between life and death.

Australian medical researcher Emma Lindberg arrives at a nearby field station, hoping to lay to rest a grief she’s carried since childhood.

Their worlds collide when human footprints are found in the desert, among those of a lioness and her cubs.

Caught up in a desperate search for a missing person, Emma makes an extraordinary journey deep into the African wilderness. When she finds there is more at stake than she first thought, she has to look inside herself for strength, courage and faith. Only then can she discover the fierce love of the lioness.

A moving and heart-warming novel that asks what it really means to be a family – and what it takes to be a mother.

 

Brenda’s View:

When Australian medical researcher Emma Lindberg went to Tanzania on a pilgrimage to the field research station that her mother had worked and died at twenty five years previously, she had vague ideas of spending a few hours there, then continuing on to participate in a Safari Tour. But she had only been at the station a short time and a mother camel and her calf arrived in a distressed state. The larger camel carried a saddle pack and was injured – but there was no sign of the owner. Daniel, the veterinary surgeon at the station and Emma decided to follow the trail the camels had left, but had no idea the terrible disaster they would discover…

The footprints of a lioness and her three cubs mingled with human footprints and the worst was deemed. But although the police air search had been exhaustive, Emma and Daniel refused to give up hope. They headed into the desert on a search that would take them far into the African wilderness. But would they locate what they were desperate to discover? And would Emma be able to find the inner peace she had been unknowingly searching for? It seemed to Emma that by going to Tanzania she had set in motion an upheaval over which she had no control…

Lioness by Aussie author Katherine Scholes is a heart-warming story of love and loss; of courage and tenacity – and of the amazing resilience of children. The lioness in this story – Moyo – was very special. The vast ruggedness of the African desert was brought to life in this novel, along with the sheer beauty of the area. Lioness is my first by this author and it definitely won’t be my last. 5 highly recommended stars!

 

Post Script: Vicious Circle – C J Box

Vicious Circle

Vicious Circle

Joe Pickett #17

CJ Box

Harper Collins Publishers Australia

Head of Zeus

ISBN: 9781784973148

 

Description:

The past comes back to haunt game warden Joe Pickett and his family with devastating effect.

 

One man hell-bent on avenging his family, the other dead-set on protecting his… Joe Pickett always knew there’d be a day of reckoning. And now that day has come. Two years ago, his daughter was beaten and dumped by the side of a country road. Joe’s determination to avenge her forced him into a catastrophic confrontation with the Cates clan that left three of their number dead and put the two survivors behind bars. Now the youngest son, Dallas, is out of prison and back in town. Joe knows exactly why he’s returned – an eye for an eye. All Joe can do is wait for Dallas to make the first move…

 

My View:

I’ll keep this review brief as you all know how much I love this author and in particular this series. This is another outstanding episode in the life of game warden Joe Pickett, the narrative just keeps setting darker and more intense as the series goes on.  This is a clear your diary, order dinner to be delivered, read in one night kind of book…you will not be disappointed!

 

I’ll add one additional thought – the Wanda Stacy event raised my blood pressure several notches…very, very, dark AND I loved that Nate Romanowski was called on to help Joe out. Nate is a character that forces you to ask yourself “what would you do in his situation?” Decisions are not always easy or clear cut…

 

I am ready for the next episode CJ.

 

Post Script: In Two Minds – Gordon Parker

In Two Minds

In Two Minds

A Novel

Professor Gordon Parker

Ventura Press

ISBN: 9781925384192

 

Description:

I can more or less guarantee that you know someone for whom this book will be important and inspiring. There’s a very strong chance that person will be you.Stephen Fry

 

Dr Martin Homer is a GP with a naturally sunny disposition. Honourable, attentive and trusted by all of his patients, Martin has only ever loved one woman – his wife, Sarah.

 

When his mother dies suddenly, Martin’s comfortable life is thrown into complete disarray. After sinking into the black dog of grief and depression, he ascends to new heights in a frenzied, manic high. Now, he’s never felt better!

 

In between riding his new skateboard around the streets at night and self-medicating from his stash at work, the artificially elated and self-entitled Martin crosses paths with Bella, a beautiful and sexual young woman profoundly damaged by trauma of her own.

 

In Two Minds takes you on a quirky, rollicking journey that unveils the complexities of mental illness with wit and warmth. Gordon Parker’s impressive career in psychiatry reveals itself through extremely rich descriptions of depression, bipolar and borderline personality characteristics.

 

My View:

 

This is an excellent portrait of mental illness wrapped in a personal narrative that is highly relatable and so engaging you will not be able to put this book down!

 

Martin’s Early Story (yes that is the chapter heading) was so sad – a child who tries to please everyone, a peacekeeper, a child carrying a burden of guilt…most who read this introduction to Martin’s life will feel compassion, sadness and perhaps a little anger directed at the adults in his life. Some will anticipate that the roads Martin will travel in the future will be potholed with mental health issues, and they will be right.

 

 

Bella’s introduction – such a revelation – her personality is uncanny in its familiarity, I recognise the “Bella” in so many women I have worked with/for – such damaged souls are everywhere! The author does not provide the same amount of personal history and  information about Bella or her early life or the events that shaped her thought processes, we don’t hear Bella’s story or her voice, so much as see her reactions to the world around her and the damage she inflicts on herself and to those close by.  We see Bella via her actions, her behaviours, her reactions, her manipulations… the author has created an excellent device to show how mental illness, (including depression) can affect individuals in different ways.

 

The two protagonists however are equal in the amount of pain they feel.

 

What happens when these two damaged individuals meet is devastating, yet like the drivers on a road compelled to watch the scene of an accident, we are compelled to read on, to watch this crash as it happens; brutal, destructive and bloody.

 

This is an excellent, thought provoking read! The author has created a captivating narrative written with a touch of dark humour and wit that will influence the way you perceive/judge the people around you. Gordon Parker has taken a socially taboo illness, shone a light on it, personalised it and thereby provided opportunities for further discussion.   Well done Gordon Parker.

 

 

PS

 

A question for the author – did you deliberately create one empathetic protagonist (Martin) and one not so for a reason? Perhaps to highlight the many faces of depression/mental illness and the way society responds?

 

Guest Review – Her Mother’s Secret – Natasha Lester

Her Mother’s Secret

Natasha Lester

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733634659

 

Description:

1918, England. Armistice Day should bring peace into Leonora’s life. Rather than secretly making cosmetics in her father’s chemist shop to sell to army nurses such as Joan, her adventurous Australian friend, Leo hopes to now display her wares openly. Instead, Spanish flu arrives in the village, claiming her father’s life. Determined to start over, she boards a ship to New York City. On the way she meets debonair department store heir Everett Forsyth . . . In Manhattan, Leo works hard to make her cosmetics dream come true, but she’s a woman alone with a small salary and a society that deems make-up scandalous.

1939, New York City. Everett’s daughter, Alice, a promising ballerina, receives a mysterious letter inviting her to star in a series of advertisements for a cosmetics line. If she accepts she will be immortalized like dancers such as Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Ginger Rogers. Why, then, are her parents so quick to forbid it?

HER MOTHER’S SECRET is the story of a brave young woman chasing a dream in the face of society’s disapproval.

 

Brenda’s Review:

The elation of everyone around in Leonora East’s small village of Sutton Veny was high – the war was over; it was Armistice Day 1918 in England and the celebrations continued long into the afternoon. But joy soon turned to despair as Spanish Flu struck viciously – Leo spent her time dispensing medicine from her father’s chemist shop, praying that it would help. Late in the night, as she wearily entered the home where her father was waiting, she was devastated to find him struggling to breathe.

After his death, a grieving Leo decided she could no longer remain in the country. Her desire to create cosmetics that women the world over would want to wear had her sailing to New York City with her best friend Joan. Leo had made herself a deep rich red lipstick in her father’s chemist shop – but the shock from the self-righteous at the scandal she was causing by wearing it only caused Leo’s determination to strengthen. Meeting up with Everett Forsyth on the journey was fortuitous; he was one of the department store Forsyths from London and he was going to build another in Manhattan. His interest in Leo’s cosmetics gave her some confidence…

1939, twenty years later, Leo had been through much – a widow and continuing to work hard, she always looked to the future. Meantime, Everett’s nineteen year old daughter Alice was a devoted and extremely promising ballerina. But the letter Alice received one day at the dance studio was to change her life in a most unexpected way. Why though were her parents so angry? Confusion filled her mind – what could she do?

Her Mother’s Secret by Aussie author Natasha Lester is brilliant! The strength of character of Leo is phenomenal – the way women were treated in the early part of the century; the heartache and loneliness as she was ostracised by the elite of society – and she still held her head high! The author has historical fiction down to a fine art; her meticulous research is obvious. I thoroughly enjoyed Her Mother’s Secret, reading it in a matter of hours. A highly recommended 5 star read.

 

Post Script: The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman ( aka Everything You Want Me to Be ) Mindy Mejia

The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman

The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman (aka Everything You Want Me to Be)

Mindy Mejia

Hachette Australia

Quercus

ISBN: 9781784295936

 

Description:

Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to her death.

 

High school senior Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good citizen. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of her small town community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a family friend of the Hoffmans, vows to find her killer, but trying to solve her murder yields more questions than answers. It seems that Hattie’s acting talents ran far beyond the stage. Told from three points of view—Del, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is crumbling—Everything You Want Me to Be weaves the story of Hattie’s last school year and the events that drew her ever closer to her death.

 

Evocative and razor-sharp, Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?

 

My View:

This narrative is so much more than a whodunit, it has so much more to offer than a psychological thriller, indeed it offers the reader so much more of life you will be rendered emotionally spent at the end of this work of crime fiction/ life lit/YA/murder mash up. WOW!

Powerful, credible and engaging…this is a fabulous read that will have you staying up late to finish the last page. And then you will be bereft!

 

I was astounded by the amazing insight that teen Hattie has about her life and the meaning of her existence and how she was able to verbalise her identity crisis – we all at some stage of our life ponder who we are and what we are doing with our life, what a great basis for a crime novel, what a way to connect with an audience.  Hattie ponders her existence, her role, her identity, the big WHY’s and the honest answer she eventually provides herself is life changing or more accurately life ending.   So much irony here.

 

Credit must be given to this author for creating such a loathsome manipulative character who somehow we cannot help but empathise with, as we do with all the main characters. The three, first person perspectives work effectively to flesh out the story and to bring out the honesty, humanness and great sadness that completes this narrative.  This is the thinking person’s murder mystery.   WOW WOW WOW- this is a great read.

 

PS I prefer the Australian tittle i.e The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman – says it all really  🙂

Post Script: The Animators – Kayla Rae Whitaker

The Animators

The Animators

Kayla Rae Whitaker

Scribe Publications

ISBN: 9781925321920

 

Description:

She was the first person to see me as I had always wanted to be seen. It was enough to indebt me to her forever.

 

At a private East Coast college, two young women meet in art class. Sharon Kisses, quietly ambitious but self-doubting, arrives from rural Kentucky. Mel Vaught, brash, unapologetic, wildly gifted, brings her own brand of hellfire from the backwaters of Florida. Both outsiders, Sharon and Mel become fervent friends, bonding over underground comics and dysfunctional families. Working, absorbing, drinking. Drawing: Mel, to understand her own tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether.

A decade later, Sharon and Mel are an award-winning animation duo, and with the release of their first full-length feature, a fearless look at Mel’s childhood, they stand at the cusp of success. But while on tour to promote the film, cracks in their relationship start to form: Sharon begins to feel like a tag-along and suspects that raucous Mel is the real artist. When unexpected tragedy strikes, long-buried resentments rise to the surface, threatening their partnership—and hastening a reckoning no one sees coming.

 

“An engrossing, exuberant ride through all the territories of love—familial, romantic, sexual, love of friends, and, perhaps above all, white-hot passion for the art you were born to make . . . I wish I’d written The Animators.”—Emma Donoghue, author of Room and The Wonder.

 

 

 

My View:

It has been few weeks since I read this wonderful novel and I still cannot verbalise or adequately describe the greatness of this read.

 

This is a book that ….. This book…  This is a fantastic read! Start reading, be prepared to be addicted to the writing, enjoy the journey this book leads you on, empathise with the protagonists, and share with them their pain and their joy.  Just read this book!

This book is…destined to be one of the best you will read this year.

This book… will stay with you for a long time.

 

Post Script: Close Enough to Touch – Colleen Oakley

Close Enough to Touch

Close Enough to Touch

Colleen Oakley

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760294007

Description:

From the author of Before I Go comes an evocative, poignant, and heartrending exploration of the power and possibilities of the human heart, perfect for fans of the emotional novels of Jojo Moyes and Jodi Picoult.

 

Love has no boundaries…

 

Jubilee Jenkins has a rare condition: she’s allergic to human touch. After a nearly fatal accident, she became reclusive, living in the confines of her home for nine years. But after her mother dies, Jubilee is forced to face the world—and the people in it—that she’s been hiding from.

 

Jubilee finds safe haven at her local library where she gets a job. It’s there she meets Eric Keegan, a divorced man who recently moved to town with his brilliant, troubled, adopted son. Eric is struggling to figure out how to be the dad—and man—he wants so desperately to be. Jubilee is unlike anyone he has ever met, yet he can’t understand why she keeps him at arm’s length. So Eric sets out to convince Jubilee to open herself and her heart to everything life can offer, setting into motion the most unlikely love story of the year.

 

My View:

What a reading week I have had!  A week full of un- putdown able reads, of 5 star after 5 star narratives that will stay with me for a long time and this book belongs on that list of outstanding writing that forms the “Best of 2017” list in my reading diary. This one really surprised me – it was not what I was expecting!

 

What can I say to convince you to pick up this book because I know that if you start reading it by the end of the first few pages you will be hooked?  This is a unique coming of age narrative, (yes I think it can be classified thus), a very unique journey where the flawed, complex, engaging and heart-warming protagonists share their growth and humanness in a sometimes humourous, often poignant and evocative way that will have you cheering for team Eric and Jubilee.

 

My only complaint…the book wasn’t long enough.  I wanted to know more, what had been happening in their lives (no spoilers – this will make sense when you read the book), why did it take so long? What happens next?  I predict this to be another book to film in the near future.