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: 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 – Silkworm Secrets: Lea Davey

silkworm-secrets

Silkworm Secrets

Lea Davey

Valeena Press

ISBN: 9780994535627

 

Description:

A treehouse perched high in a giant mulberry tree provides a safe place for Bobby, and gives him solace from a disintegrating home life. His best friend Ruby considers it only as a place to play, to raise silkworms and to innocently view the events that take place in the yards nearby.

Ruby’s simple, family life however, is a far cry from what Bobby endures in the house next door and the secrets they share and events that they witness will not only impact their lives as children but also re-connect them as adults.

Silkworm Secrets exposes the secrets that children keep, the consequences of a troubled family life, but more importantly the endurance of beautiful family relationships and the power of friendship and love to overcome the past.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Ruby Rose had a wonderful childhood – she loved her Mum and Dad dearly and they loved her. They were a poor but happy little family. Ruby’s best friend was Bobby who lived next door to her. They would spend their time up in the treehouse at the back of Ruby’s yard which was housed in a gigantic mulberry tree. The silkworms they raised were a source of pleasure and fascination every season. Ruby was nine; Bobby was twelve – she couldn’t imagine ever not being friends with Bobby.

It was fun to watch the yards of the houses around them from the treehouse – Bobby would often catch sight of what was happening in his yard and hurry home to care for his little sister Sally. He shared her care with his big sister Theresa. On those occasions Bobby would grow quiet and Ruby didn’t know why…

Gradually the torment that was Bobby’s life in the house next door came to light – only to Ruby though. Bobby swore her to secrecy; their little club had silkworm secrets which no one must know. The day that Ruby arrived home to discover Bobby had disappeared shattered her young life. She had no idea why he’d left; why he hadn’t even said goodbye.

Would Ruby Rose ever see Bobby again? She missed her best friend – but life moved forward as it invariably does – until the day Ruby was contacted about the long ago past…

Silkworm Secrets by Aussie author Lea Davey absolutely blew me away! It was beautifully written – filled with deep emotion and heartache, love and an abiding friendship, it also covered a range of sensitive topics, from child abuse, mental health and domestic violence. The author had me in tears on a number of occasions. I thoroughly enjoyed her debut, The Shack by the Bay and Silkworm Secrets definitely didn’t disappoint. A well-deserved 5 stars! Highly recommended.

Post Script: Th Falls – B Michael Radburn

The tension is cranked up another notch in this instalment of Taylor Bridges’ story.

the-falls

 

The Falls

Taylor Bridges #2

B Michael Radburn

Pantera Press

ISBN: 9781921997426

 

Description:

A week of despair… a century of evil

 

Damaged but not yet broken, park ranger Taylor Bridges believes his ghosts are in the past – until a raging forest fire in an isolated canyon of The Falls lays bare the remains of a young woman… and a decade-old killing ground.

 

After the police enlist Taylor in their investigation, the evidence bizarrely points to a deranged preacher who reigned over The Falls a century ago.

 

But when a crucial witness and a policewoman disappear, it’s clear that a disciple of The Falls’ dark history is on the loose.

 

 

My View:

The tension is cranked up another notch in this instalment of Taylor Bridges’ story.

 

In this, the second in the Taylor Bridge series, the tension is palpable from the onset.  The book opens with a great hook; “When the flicker of life left their eyes, the pupils dilated and oil-black, the surface marble dry, he knew they were dead. Yet, against all rationale, he sensed they could still see, judging him, as he prepared the grave. That’s why he closed their eyes. That’s why he turned their faces away.” Chapter one, p3.

 

The line was baited with my favourite cravings – a murder, some mystery and a good dose of psychological thriller.  Add to that delicious combination a protagonist whom I enjoy traveling with and realistic settings; Australian – small rural town and bush settings. Evocative, taught and so so credible.   What more could I ask for? I took the bait – hook line and sinker!

 

Loved this read…more please.

 

 

 

 

 

Post Script: The Summer That Melted Everything – Tiffany McDaniel

the summer that melted everything Scribe

The Summer That Melted Everything

Tiffany McDaniel

Scribe Publications  (Paperback)

9781925321302

Description:

Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave scorched Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil.

 

Sal seems to appear out of nowhere – a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy claiming to be the devil himself answering an invitation. Fielding Bliss, the son of a local prosecutor, brings him home where he’s welcomed into the Bliss family, assuming he’s a runaway from a nearby farm town.

 

When word spreads that the devil has come to Breathed, not everyone is happy to welcome this self-proclaimed fallen angel. Murmurs follow him and tensions rise, along with the temperatures as an unbearable heat wave rolls into town right along with him. As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish heat, some in the town start to believe that Sal is exactly who he claims to be. While the Bliss family wrestles with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.

 

 

My View:

Sublime, poignant, lyrical, touching…

 

This book will quickly draw you in and mesmerise you with its beautiful prose. It will enchant, it will enthral, it will make you shake your head in disbelief and then you will reflect a little and sadly  have to agree…this could happen, this or something like it has already  happened…. somewhere, to someone…be careful what you say, words once spoken cannot be unheard.

 

This is a book that will have a profound effect on the reader (aside from the awe you will feel for the delicious prose). There are words, there are sentences, there are paragraphs and pages you will just want to highlight or underline and shout YES!!!  When you read this book there are two particular passages that stand out in my mind, analogies with leaves and another with roses, let me know if these spark brilliant illuminations in your mind, they did for me; beautiful descriptions, searing moments of brutal honesty and perfect understanding.

 

The writing here is remarkable…I predict…awards, awards and more awards for this incredibly wonderful and talented author. And did I mention that this is Tiffany McDaniel’s debut work? Seriously amazing!!!

 

 

Post Script: St Kilda Blues A Charlie Berlin Novel – Geoffrey McGeachin

 

St Kilda Blues

A Charlie Berlin Novel

Geoffrey McGeachin

Penguin Books Australia

 Viking

ISBN: 9780670075898

 

Description:

A serial killer’s work goes unnoticed until Detective Berlin is on the case in this third spine-tingling Charlie Berlin novel.

 

It’s 1967, the summer of love, and in swinging Melbourne Detective Sergeant Charlie Berlin has been hauled out of exile in the Fraud Squad to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl, the daughter of a powerful and politically connected property developer. As Berlin’s inquiries uncover more missing girls he gets an uneasy feeling he may be dealing with the city’s first serial killer.

 

Berlin’s investigation leads him through inner-city discothèques, hip photographic studios, the emerging drug culture and into the seedy back streets of St Kilda. The investigation also brings up ghosts of Berlin’s past as a bomber pilot and POW in Europe and disturbing memories of the casual murder of a young woman he witnessed on a snow-covered road in Poland in the war’s dying days. As in war, some victories come at a terrible cost and Berlin will have to face an awful truth and endure an unimaginable loss before his investigation is over.

 

St Kilda Blues is Geoffrey McGeachin’s seventh book and third in the Charlie Berlin series. The first Berlin novel, The Diggers Rest Hotel, won the 2011 Australian Crime Writers Association’s Ned Kelly Award for Best Fiction with the follow up book, Blackwattle Creek, also winning the Ned Kelly Award for Best Fiction in 2013.

 

My View:

This is my first foray into the work of Geoffrey McGeachin and now have dipped my toes into the work of this 5 star crime writer I am ready to plunge in and read his other works!

 

This narrative has superb settings; the late 60’s early 70’s vibe and voice is authentic with meaningful references to the popular culture and social movements of the era. Scarily frightening is the almost low key, matter of fact presentation of life post war London and the life and times of child migrants heading to Australia and the unfortunate experience so many encountered at the hands of religious institutions – abuses that are just seeing the light of public reaction now. McGeachin’s low key descriptions and statements somehow conjure up images of depravation without being sensational and this gives the reader powerful insights without personal emotions tangling the view; very well presented.

 

Then there is the chilling depiction of evil that is the antagonist in this narrative – this voice scared me; a true sociopath and monster. The dual perspectives, that of Charlie Berlin, our protagonist, alternating against the view point and story of the antagonist was a brilliant move. There was some light relief to be had in reading the alternate voice of humanity – with all its foibles, in the character of Charlie Berlin; a perfect foil to our villain.

 

The back story was interesting, absorbing and presented many moral and ethical dilemmas and is left unfinished which leads me to hope that another episode of the Charlie Berlin narrative is planned.

 

This is a 5 star read.