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.

 

Post Script: And Fire Came Down – Emma Viskic

And Fire Came Down

And Fire Came Down

Emma Viskic

Echo Publishing

Bonnier

ISBN: 9781760402945

 

Description:

Deaf since early childhood, Caleb Zelic is used to meeting life head-on. Now, he’s struggling just to get through the day. His best mate is dead, his ex-wife, Kat, is avoiding him, and nightmares haunt his waking hours.

 

But when a young woman is killed, after pleading for his help in sign language, Caleb is determined to find out who she was. The trail leads Caleb back to his hometown, Resurrection Bay. The town is on bushfire alert, and simmering with racial tensions. As Caleb delves deeper, he uncovers secrets that could ruin any chance of reuniting with Kat, and even threaten his life. Driven by his own demons, he pushes on. But who is he willing to sacrifice along the way?

 

‘I love the world that Emma Viskic has created, in all its complexity and in all its truth’ – Christos Tsiolkas

 

‘Emma Viskic is a terrific, gutsy writer with great insight into the murkiness of both criminal and heroic motivations’ – Emily Maguire

 

The second Caleb Zelic thriller from the author of Resurrection Bay – Winner of the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction, and Davitt Awards for Best Novel, Best Debut and Reader’s Choice.

 

 

My View:

The continuing narrative of the chaotic life of Caleb Zelic, private investigator, is filled with suspense, mystery, anger, social commentary wit, humour and many exquisite moments. This is a portrait of a fractured love, a fractured life with many references to Picasso’s Guernica; violence, chaos, war, flames…the suffering of innocents.

 

The writing is evocative and fast paced. Themes of family, drug reliance, race and identity intersect and explode in small town contemporary Australia. This narrative is fraught with regrets and what ifs, there are many stories left unfinished, many moments of heartache and pain yet there is a glimpse of potential, of a brighter future, of redemption (for some)…book three will be amazing!

 

“Not together, not apart, still caught between breaths.” P.151 Exquisite and powerful writing.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Post Script: The Student – Iain Ryan

It must be the great writing!  

The Student

The Student

Iain Ryan

Bonnier Publishing Australia

Echo

ISBN: 9781760406370

 

Description:

Do bad people look like good people, like friends and brothers and boyfriends and students, until they have their hands around your throat?

 

Gatton, Queensland. 1994. Nate is a student, dealing weed on the side. A girl called Maya Kibby is dead. No one knows who killed her. Nate needs to refresh his supply, but Jesse, his friend and dealer, is missing. Nate is high. He is alone. Being hunted for the suitcase he’s found and haunted by its contents. And as things turn from bad to worse, Nate uncovers far more than he bargained for.

 

The Student is high-paced, hardboiled regional noir: fresh, gritty, unnerving, with a stark and lonely beauty.

 

‘A terrific neo-noir from an exciting new voice in Australian crime fiction’ – Adrian McKinty

 

‘The Student takes the campus novel and mines within it a dark seam of violence, deception and suspense in prose that burns with a fierce propulsion’ – David Whish-Wilson

 

 

Description:

It must be the great writing!  

 

My expectations of this book were not met. I did not like any of the characters – not one. I did not like the settings or the behaviours;   so much impulsive, self-gratifying, drug fuelled behaviour – and when I say drug fuelled, read that as over the top liberal drug use (and I do hope this is not a realistic portraying of University life in the 1990’s) and did I say drug use and then there was the sex scenes and the violence – sometimes simultaneously … this is a very dark, gritty narrative and not for me, and I usually love dark and gritty. Yet contrarily there was something about this writing that kept me turning pages!

 

Am I in the wrong demographic for reading this – maybe, probably? Yet I still turned the pages – it was a compulsive and compelling read. Hats off to the author for such engaging writing. This is irresistible dark prose.

 

 

 

The Student

Post Script: Life, Law and Not Enough Shoes

PLife Law and Not Enough Shoes

Life, Law and Not Enough Shoes: Life As A Criminal Lawyer

Judith Fordham

New Holland

ISBN: 9781741105391

 

Description:

Judith Fordham has worn zebra –print shoes into a courtroom, represented transsexuals, bikies, alleged murderers and rapists, and raised four children on her own…this is her story, from early life struggling on welfare to becoming a barrister and Associate Professor of Forensics.

Her bold approach to life and law is inspiring, and her stories about the world of crime and justice are fascinating. From a well-known baby-shaking case to the forensic science of decomposing flesh, this is a no holds-barred account of crime and the law.

And then there’s the shoes. In lighter moments, she tells of suing a pink shoe phone in her early career (much to the annoyance of her then boss). Now she has the State Director of Public prosecutions sipping champagne out of her designer shoe.

Judith Fordham has managed to find fun outside the dark world of forensics and crime.

 

 

My View:

Reading an honest and open creative memoir is a joy, a little like sitting with an old friend, enjoying afternoon tea and reminiscing. Life, Law and Not Enough Shoes is one such read – some laugh out loud moments, a peak at the judiciary system from within, some heartrending moments and a quick look at an inspiring life – I almost want to go back to university to learn forensics, almost 🙂  Thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining reading.