Guest Review – The Choke – Sofie Laguna

The Choke

The Choke

Sofie Laguna

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760297244

 

Description:

A mesmerising, harrowing and ultimately uplifting novel from the 2015 Miles Franklin winner.

Abandoned by her mother as a toddler and only occasionally visited by her volatile father who keeps dangerous secrets, Justine is raised solely by her Pop, an old man tormented by visions of the Burma Railway. Justine finds sanctuary in Pop’s chooks and The Choke, where the banks of the Murray River are so narrow they can almost touch—a place of staggering natural beauty that is both a source of peace and danger. Although Justine doesn’t know it, her father is a menacing criminal and the world she is exposed to is one of great peril to her. She has to make sense of it on her own—and when she eventually does, she knows what she has to do.

A brilliant, haunting novel about a child navigating an often dark and uncaring world of male power, guns and violence, in which grown-ups can’t be trusted and comfort can only be found in nature, The Choke is a compassionate and claustrophobic vision of a child in danger and a society in deep trouble. It once again showcases the Miles Franklin Award-winning author as a writer of rare empathy, originality and blazing talent.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Justine lived with her Pop as her father, Ray, was rarely around. Her mother had left when she was three years old having never recovered, both physically and mentally, from Justine’s birth. Pop’s shack near the banks of the Murray River where he and Justine spent their days was barely liveable – Pop had survived the war, but his memories of the Burma Railway and his part in the building of it, were forever in his mind.

Justine had two half-brothers – Steve and Kirk – and while they were young, they spent their days together, doing what kids all over did. The Choke where the Murray’s banks were closest was a site of great entertainment; Pop’s girls, the chooks, took Justine’s attention as she collected the eggs. But as she grew up, things changed. And at thirteen, Justine’s gentle, quiet and unassuming life would change forever…

The Choke by Aussie author Sofie Laguna is an emotional, dark and unsettling novel which will break your heart and give you hope all at the same time. Justine is a naïve young girl, with no-one around her but men, both old and young – no-one to explain about life to her. She can’t verbalise the questions; therefore, she doesn’t have the answers. “I never had words to ask anybody the questions, so I never had the answers.” P233.

I’m finding it difficult to review The Choke as I feel I’m unable to do the author justice. Her writing is unique; her descriptions, both of the area Justine lives, and Justine’s life and her internal traumas is outstanding. I could see the danger coming for Justine, but it was like watching a train wreck and not being able to do anything about it.

I loved The Eye of the Sheep and Sofie Laguna has another 5 star winner with The Choke in my opinion. Very highly recommended.

 

Guest Review: The Way Back – Kylie Ladd

 

The Way Back

The Way Back

Kylie Ladd

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760297138

 

 

Description:

All she wanted was to escape. But why does she still feel trapped. A gripping psychological drama by the author of Mothers and Daughters and Into My Arms.

Charlie Johnson is 13 and in her first year of high school. She loves her family, netball and Liam, the cute guy who sits next to her in Science – but most of all she loves horses and horse-riding. Charlie’s parents have leased her a horse, Tic Tac, from the local pony club, but one day they go out for a ride in the national park and only Tic Tac returns…

Four months later, long after the police and the SES have called off the search, Charlie is found wandering injured and filthy, miles from where she was last seen. Her family rejoice in her return, but can anyone truly recover from what Charlie’s been through? When a life has been shattered, how do you put the pieces back together?

 

 

Brenda’s Review:

Thirteen year old Charlie Johnson had a happy and contented life – her mum Rachael worked full-time in a job she loved; dad Matt was a fireman and her older brother Dan was in high school and loved music. Charlie loved her horse Tic Tac – though technically he wasn’t her horse, having been leased from the pony club where Charlie spent a lot of her time, but Ticcy was hers. The Saturday that Charlie and her friend Ivy went for their usual ride through the National Park after pony club was the day everything changed.

When Ivy returned to say Tic Tac was lame and Charlie was walking him back, Hannah immediately mounted her horse and set out to meet Charlie. But neither of them could be found – and when Tic Tac returned days later, limping and dishevelled but without Charlie, they knew something was dreadfully wrong.

Matt and Dan searched with the SES and police for days and weeks on end – everything that could be done was done. But it was like Charlie had vanished off the face of the earth. The National Park near Melbourne was dense and vast – the search covered a huge area, but Charlie had disappeared. Rachael was beside herself, imagining the worst…

The day Charlie staggered from the bush, filthy, injured and incoherent, everyone was ecstatic – her family was over the moon, the police thrilled with the outcome. But could Charlie be the same girl she was four months prior? Would anything ever be the same again? And what had happened to Charlie in the time she was missing?

What a brilliant, breathtaking psychological thriller Aussie author Kylie Ladd has produced with her latest, The Way Back! Emotional, heartbreaking, tear-jerking and above all, outstanding, this novel ticks all the boxes. I have no hesitation in recommending The Way Back extremely highly! 5 stars!

With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my ARC to read and review.

Guest Review : Her – Garry Disher

Her

Her

Garry Disher

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733638541

 

Description:

Out in that country the sun smeared the sky and nothing ever altered, except that one day a scrap man came by . . .

Her name is scarcely known or remembered. All in all, she is worth less than the nine shillings and sixpence counted into her father’s hand. She bides her time. She does her work.

Way back in the corner of her mind is a thought she is almost too frightened to shine a light on: one day she will run away.

A dark and unsettling tale from the turn of the twentieth century by a master of Australian literature.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Three years old she was when the scrap man came and paid her father nine shillings and sixpence. She was chosen over the rest of her siblings; suddenly she belonged to the scrap man while memories of her family faded. Living in a dilapidated jumble of belongings, her name was You; there was Wife and Big Girl – all cowered when the scrap man was angry.

Seasonally the horse was harnessed to the cart and they ventured out to sell, buy, steal and trick – meandering across the countryside, remembering where not to go if they’d been shunted away last time. Whenever there was a pub nearby the scrap man drank their measly pennies until there wasn’t enough for food. Then he would fly into a rage and beat Wife.

Back at home Wife, Big Girl and You spent their time making things from scrap metal for their next trip through the countryside; while the scrap man drank and womanised. What would happen to the little family? Would You be able to escape? He’d always threatened to kill her if she tried…

Her by Aussie author Garry Disher is set in the bush near Bendigo in Victoria at the turn of the century and is a tale of utter despair, bitterness and how the nameless young women coped at the hands of one unscrupulous and evil man. This is completely different to anything the author has written before, and in my opinion he’s nailed it. A master at his craft, Garry Disher certainly knows how to weave a tale, and Her will stay with me for a long time. A highly recommended 5 star read.

 

Guest Review:The Six – Anni Taylor

The SixThe Six

Anni Taylor

Self published through Amazon

ASIN: B0744BM54M

 

Description:

“A dark, slow-burn serial killer story that dazzles, with an explosive ending.”

In the grip of a crushing gambling habit, young mother Evie is desperate for a way out. She’s stunned when she’s offered a lifeline: A place on a unique, addiction-healing program that includes a six-day stay, six challenges and a chance at sixty thousand dollars.

From all over the world, twenty-eight people travel to a monastery on a remote island in Greece to begin the program. There is just one clause – they must keep it secret.

The monastery holds secrets, too. There are those who peer through the walls and wait: people with the darkest of desires.

Far too late, Evie discovers the chilling truth. And the closer she gets to finding an escape, the closer the horror lurking in the depths of the monastery gets to her.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Evie’s life had spiralled out of control. Her husband Gray and two beautiful daughters, Willow and Lilly meant everything to her – but the gambling addiction had taken over and she had no idea what to do next. She was at the bottom…

When Evie arrived on the tiny Greek island where she had been accepted into a special program which would cure her addiction, she was bemused. The monastery was old; she was met by Brother Vito who explained about the six challenges – the end result (should she reach it) would give her $60,000 ($10,000 per challenge) and she would also have all her debts paid off.

As Evie met the other contestants, she realised there would be no friendships made – everyone wanted to win. But then she saw someone she knew from her “previous life”…

Gray was shattered to realise Evie had left him, and their daughters. He had no idea where she was; none of her friends knew either. Evie’s note which said she would be back in a week gave Gray a small kernel of hope. But as Gray searched for his wife, his journey put him in the path of Constance who was the mother of a young teenager also missing; together the two of them joined forces in their search for loved ones they had become increasingly concerned about. Would Evie and Kara be found – alive? Or were the police right?

Wow! Deep, incredibly dark and disturbing, The Six by Aussie author Anni Taylor (author of The Game You Played) is another intense psychological thriller that pounded through the pages. The main characters are resilient, tough but scarily vulnerable; the bad guys are horribly bad!! A fast-paced and thrilling plot, The Six is a breathtaking and intense ride, and is filled with twists and turns which kept my heart in my mouth! A highly recommended 5 stars.

With thanks to the author for my digital copy which I beta read, for my honest review.

Guest Review: Forgotten – Nicole Trope

Forgotten

Forgotten

Nicole Trope

Allen & Unwin AU

ISBN: 9781760296773

 

Description:

A gripping domestic noir thriller from the author of Blame

In a single day, a simple mistake will have life-altering consequences for everyone involved.

A moment of distraction, an unlocked car and a missing baby. How on earth could this happen?

All Malia needed was a single litre of milk and now she’s surrounded by police and Zach has disappeared.

Detective Ali Greenberg knows that this is not the best case for her, not with her history – but she of all people knows what Malia is going through and what is at stake.

Edna is worried about the new residents at the boarding house. She knows Mary would turn in her grave if she knew the kinds of people her son was letting in.

And then there is someone else. Someone whose heart is broken. Someone who feels she has been unfairly punished for her mistakes. Someone who wants what she can’t have.

What follows is a heart-stopping game of cat-and-mouse and a race against the clock. As the hours pass and the day heats up, all hope begins to fade.

A gripping, haunting family drama shot through with emotion and suspense.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Malia was completely stressed but trying not to show it – Aaron, her five year old son was demanding milk with his cereal, but they didn’t have any. Her three year old daughter, Rhiannon was echoing her brother. Finally in despair she bundled the children – five month old Zach still sleeping –into her car for the quick trip to the service station for the litre of milk. She was going to be late to work, the kids to childcare and school – but what could she do? And when she arrived, Zach was still sleeping; she knew she’d be quick – that decision was to change everything…

Detective Ali Greenberg had only been back at work a month, but she wanted this case. She and her partner Mike were at the service station, along with what seemed like every police team in Sydney. A missing child, especially a baby, tugged on the heartstrings of everyone and brought the police out in full force every time. Ali and Mike needed to move the investigation forward quickly – the weather was scorching; Zach had to be found soon.

With Malia’s parents rushing from Melbourne to be by her side, and everyone trying to help find Zach, Malia wondered if she’d ever feel “normal” again. She was desperately missing her little boy – he was overdue for a feed; was he hungry and thirsty? Was he crying for her? Would someone please just FIND HIM!

Forgotten by Aussie author Nicole Trope is an explosive, fast-paced and emotional race against time. The suspense is breathtaking, the narration is extremely well done – I needed to race through the pages to find out what happened. The author has written another dramatic psychological thriller which shows how one small mistake can have devastating consequences. I loved Hush, Little Bird and Forgotten is up there with it. Another 5 star read which I highly recommend.

 

 

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!

 

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.