Guest Review – Suddenly One Summer – Fleur McDonald

Suddenly One Summer

Suddenly One Summer

Fleur McDonald

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760293956

Description:

When Brianna Donahue was three years old, her mother mysteriously disappeared while farming in Merriwell Bay, Western Australia. Committed to the family’s farm, Brianna works the same land with her father, while raising her two children as her husband works as a fly-in fly-out lawyer in Perth. One scorching summer’s morning, her son Trent goes missing and, while frantically searching for him, Brianna must come to terms with the fact that her marriage has large cracks in it.

Over two thousand kilometres away in South Australia, Detective Burrows receives a phone call reporting stolen sheep from an elderly farmer. It becomes clear that Guy has early signs of dementia and Dave becomes intrigued with his family history. Was there a child, or was there not? No one seems to know.

While trying to save her marriage and battling the threat of bushfires back in Merriwell Bay, Brianna is faced with challenges: her father’s new girlfriend, who on the surface seems pleasant, seems to have a hidden agenda; Trent is having nightmares, triggered by his accident; and Beau, her youngest, is afraid to let her out of his sight.

So how will Dave’s investigation impact Brianna’s world?

Suspenseful and incendiary, Suddenly One Summer is an intriguing and heartfelt story of the unlikely connections of life on the land.

 

Brenda’s Review:

The pre-dawn hours were already hot in the Merriwell Bay area of Western Australia when Brianna Donahue rose from her bed. The boys were still asleep – eight-year-old Trent and six-year-old Beau were called The Terrors for obvious reasons, so to have some quiet time was special, especially as it was Brianna’s birthday. Her husband Caleb had already left to head for Perth – he was a lawyer and only managed a couple of days home now and then. And he’d forgotten her birthday as well…

After checking the stock, Brianna was surprised to find Trent’s bed empty – Beau was up but there was no sign of her eldest. On checking the obvious places, Brianna went into panic mode – her father, Russell was on the adjoining farm and he immediately rallied the local farmers to start a search. The day was going to be a scorcher; with the threat of bushfires, the relentless heat and thunderstorms heading their way Trent needed to be found quickly.

Detective Dave Burrows was one of two policemen in charge of the small rural town of Barker in South Australia. Crime wasn’t heavy in the area, though farmers often had tools and other implements stolen, so when an elderly farmer, Guy Wood, called the station to report three hundred head of stock missing, Dave and Jack headed out there straight away. But Dave could see there was something not quite right at the old man’s property. His gut instinct told him there was a mystery to solve and he was going to give it his best shot.

Dave in South Australia; Brianna in Western Australia – they’d never met; didn’t know each other existed. So how were they connected? How would the course of the lives of two complete strangers intercept?

Suddenly One Summer is a fast-paced, intensely gripping romantic suspense novel by Aussie author Fleur McDonald which I flew through and absolutely loved! The tension in two different states, with two completely different situations was done extremely well. I have to say, I think Suddenly One Summer is this author’s best work to date! Highly recommended.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my ARC to read and review – 5 stars.

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Guest Review- Thirst – L A Larkin

Thirst

Thirst

L.A. Larkin

Constable

ISBN: 9781472125897

Description:

Antarctica is the coldest, most isolated place on earth. Luke Searle, maverick glaciologist, has made it his home. But soon his survival skills will be tested to the limit by a ruthless mercenary who must win at any cost. The white continent is under attack. The Australian team is being hunted down. Can Luke stay alive long enough to raise the alarm? Can he avert a global catastrophe?

The countdown has begun. T minus 5 days, 2 hours and 53 minutes …

 

Brenda’s Review:

Mac and Dave were in the throes of packing up at the crevasse where they’d been working – they were looking forward to getting back to Hope Station, the Australian base. Winter was settling in and most of the engineers and scientists had left Antarctica for the season; there would only be eight of them left on base for the duration…

Luke Searle had lived on the base for around seven years, going home to Melbourne only occasionally. He loved the research; as a glaciologist he could appreciate the beauty of the ice and the colours of the glaciers. But he respected the countryside as well – fully aware of how dangerous it could be. Maddie was team leader and though she and Luke clashed at times – usually over his stubborn refusal to obey orders – he respected her ability to lead.

But the suddenness of the attack; the brutality of what happened had him filled with terror. What was happening? As the team tried desperately to escape the looming danger, Luke wondered if any of them would survive.

With full-on intense action from the very first page, Thirst by Aussie author L.A. Larkin is a thoroughly enjoyable thriller. Fast paced, riveting and filled with the evil of man, the setting of Antarctica was unique and interesting, while the two main characters, Luke and Maddie set the tone well. Highly recommended – 5 stars.

Post Script: Pachyderm – Hugh McGinlay

Pachyderm

Pachyderm

Hugh McGinlay

Threekookaburras

ISBN: 9780995369245

 

 

Description:

A night at the Melbourne Zoo drinking champagne seems a fine idea, until an animal’s death throws milliner and sleuth Catherine Kint into another mystery. Before you can say ‘monkey business’ Catherine and her trusted barman Boris are annoying everyone from zoologists to police. The investigation would challenge the best detectives, but this is Catherine and Boris on the case. Secrets, accidents, rivalries, egos and lust all set the dung flying. By the time this is finished, reputations will be tarnished, gin will be drunk and someone’s gonna get fed to the lions … or some other carnivore.

 

Pachyderm is the second Catherine Kint mystery written by Hugh McGinlay.

 

 

My View

I can visualise this book in the show-reel in my mind; such quintessential Australian humour, larger than life charters – Catherine and Boris are fantastic protagonists that you will cheer on as they try and solve this mystery. The settings are pure Australian – from the Melbourne Zoo to the local pubs, taxis and streetscapes.

 

I loved being privy to the protagonists’ thoughts as they navigate their way through their action packed days. Interestingly each chapter starts with a characters witty observation, eg  p. 165 chapter ten – “I’m cheerful, it’s the most subtle form of rebellion can think of,” Boris  Shakhovskoy. There is a lot to love about this clever, addictive read.

 

I predict that this series would make great television viewing with its quirky yet loveable characters, with a narrative that has a wonderful sense of fun and adventure and moments of almost slapstick humour.  I did enjoy this quirky read!

 

 

 

 

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.