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.

 

 

Post Script – Thornwood House – Anna Romer

Mystery, ghosts, sins of the past…this book has it all.

Thornwood House, Anna Romer

Thornwood House

Anna Romer

Simon & Schuster (Australia) Pty Ltd

A CBS Company

ISBN: 9781922052384

 

Description:

When Audrey Kepler inherits an abandoned homestead in rural Queensland she jumps at the chance to escape her loveless existence in the city and make a fresh start.

In a dim back room of the old house she discovers the crumbling photo of a handsome World War II soldier – Samuel Riordan, the homestead’s former occupant – and soon finds herself becoming obsessed with him.

But as Samuel’s story unravels, Audrey discovers that he was accused of bashing to death a young Aboriginal woman upon his return from war in 1944. When she learns that other unexplained deaths have occurred in recent years – one of them a young woman with injuries echoing those of the 1944 victim – she begins to suspect that the killer is still very much alive.

And now Audrey – thanks to her obsessive need to uncover the past – has provided him with good reason to want to kill again.

My View:

What a fantastic debut novel – this is a great hybrid narrative – a little Gothic, a little Australiana, a little Picnic at Hanging Rock, a little mystery, murder and a little bit of history and then a slice of romance on the side. I loved the story; I loved the use of letters, diaries and old newspaper stories to help tell events of the past.

The writing is superb, there are descriptions in the novel that made my senses come alive; the description of Danny’s handmade chocolates (p 174) “…  I had only meant to pop it in, chew it and quickly swallow, just to be polite. Bu the moment the chocolate touched my tongue I felt my spine unravel, and if my mouth hadn’t been full I’d have uttered a sigh of sheer joy. The chocolate was fine and creamy, vaguely bitter, smooth and as yielding as honey. Then I bit down… it was the singular, most bracing pleasure I’d had in…”  I want to try those chocolates! I craved chocolate liqueurs whilst reading this passage.

Then there was the description of Danny ‘writing’ on Audrey’s hand by the rose arbour- sensual and wicked and delightful.

The sensual elements in this writing are subdued and elegantly written; the mystical occasional wafting of old roses where there should be none is effective in conjuring up the past, the descriptions of the Australian bush captures its uniqueness. The ghostly apparitions are real and scary; the violence of the past imbues the present.  The house holds many secrets and slowly as they are unlocked, the danger increases.

This is a great read. The beautiful language and descriptions will hold you spellbound. The mystery will enthral you and the romance will inspire. The violence and past atrocities will make you cringe in fear for those in the present. This is an impressive novel.

Post Script: Cold Grave – Kathryn Fox

Cold Grave by Kathryn Fox

Kathryn Fox

Cold Grave

Macmillan

Pan Macmillian Aust Pty Ltd

ISBN: 9781742610344

 

Description:

It feels like the safest place on earth. A family-friendly, floating palace. But, as Anya Crichton soon discovers, cruise ships aren’t all that they seem…Statistics tell us that a woman is twice as likely to be sexually assaulted on a cruise ship than on dry land. Customers aren’t screened, so the ships are a haven for sex offenders and paedophiles. With no policing, and floating in international waters, sexual assaults and passengers ‘disappearing’ are uncommonly frequent…So when a teenage girl is discovered, dead on the deck of the ship that she is holidaying on, Anya feels compelled to get involved. There’s no apparent cause of death, but Anya’s forensics expertise uncovers more than the ship’s doctors can…or want to. With the killer still on board, and subsequently a crew-member found shot, it becomes clear that the safe haven of the cruise-ship is actually anything but. And, as Anya comes under increasing pressure to abandon her investigations, will she continue? Or do whatever it takes to keep her own family safe?

  

My View:

I have read the entire Dr Anya Crichton series and feel that this is perhaps the weakest. Whilst the main characters are likable and a known entity that I feel comfortable with, the narrative for me felt a little preachy – and I think this spoilt rather than enhanced the story. I felt we were lectured on a range of issues including but not limited to exploitation of labourers from third world countries, cruise ship ecological damage/pollution, excesses of wealth – in the form of over indulgence in food, alcohol, use of drugs, gambling, and overt the top discretionary spending. Then we explore the issue of recreational drug use, and date rape.   I think the lectures were a little heavy handed; the messages could have been delivered in a more subtle manner that did not detract from the narrative. There was little tension in the narrative, maybe because of the emphasis on “lessons”. All in all an average read, suitable for a light holiday indulgence for the fans of this author. I wish I could have liked this more.

Blog Tour: Poisoned Waters – Ermisenda Alvarez

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About Ermisenda Alvarez:

Along with numerous solo works, Ermisenda began writing on role play sites at fourteen and completed her first crime novel at fifteen. Driven by the desire to evoke the kaleidoscope of emotions her favorite authors are able to, she kept writing. Growing up bilingual amongst her Spanish family in Australia, she found a love and deep appreciation for language and the power it wielded.

Now she’s working on a joint project with coauthor Eliabeth Hawthorne. Ermisenda has written Leocardo’s perspective of Blind Sight #1, the first book in an urban fantasy series that changes depending on whose perspective you’re reading. So the question is, “whose eyes will you read through?”

Description:

Bloody mistakes, ugly scars, and beautiful lies. A tale of corruption.

Helen Gardener is murdered on a trans-Atlantic cruise. The Diamond Royale sails from Southampton to New York with her murderer aboard. Set in the 1950s, Poisoned Waters follows the stories of seven unfortunate characters and how they are affected by her death. Was it merely an accident? Mr Phillips, the owner of the ship, and sponsor of the cruise, rules with an iron fist, in search of something or someone.

Lies spiral out of control as the suspects try to survive the final days on board. Conflicted by their sense of morals, greed, and lust, they realise what kind of people they really are. Who will rise? Who will fall? Who was Helen’s murderer?

My View:
It is not doubt that Ermisenda Alvarez is a passionate writer – the lush descriptions in her work Poisoned Waters  attest to this fact. The premise of a murder on board a cruise ship, locked down, isolated…the killer among them, provides a great story line however I did not feel that the required level of  tension was achieved to fully realise the potential of this narrative.  I think this novel admirably reflects the attitudes towards women at the time –  women as possessions,  as adornments,  with no rights, the receivers of silent, unnoticed domestic abuse… totally dependent on men to meet their needs.

I think that Ms Alvarez shows her potential as an upcoming writer in this book,  however this book was a little too busy and the characters hostile and unpleasant for my liking and thus I did not really connect with or care for any of the characters.  Some beautifully written passages, elements of visual excellence and a plot that has  all the elements for a great mystery. This is a writer who will blossom with expert guidance.

Post Script: Snake Bite – Christie Thompson

Snake Bite

Snake Bite

Christie Thompson

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781743316863

The funny and shocking coming-of-age story of a wild teenager in a Canberra you never dreamed existed!

Description:
Goon of Fortune is one of those games that people cracked out at parties when everyone is already too maggot to realise what a pointless game it is. A bunch of people circle the Hills Hoist and you peg a bladder of cheap wine to the line. People take turns spinning the clothes line and whoever the wine sack lands in front of has to scull for five seconds.

Jez is seventeen and lives with her alcoholic single mum in in a government rental in Canberra’s outer-suburbs, with little money or future prospects. As well as suffering from terminal boredom, Jez has got epic First World Problems: where is her next pill coming from, what will her first tattoo be, and how will she ever lose her virginity?

Recently Jez has been having weird feelings about her best friend, emo kid Lukey – is she just bored or does she really want him? And if she makes a move on him (how to make a move on him?), will that endanger their friendship? So when effervescent hipster Melbournite Laura moves to town and starts macking on with Lukey, what is Jez to do but seek guidance from sexually experienced next-door-neighbour stripper, Casey? At the same time, Jez’s mum hooks up with a local bartender, placing a strain on their already fragile relationship.

Over the course of one blazing summer, Jez runs a gauntlet of new experiences and discovers the real meaning of home. Filled with humour, brilliant observations and raw revelations, Snake Bite is a contemporary Puberty Blues, the coming-of-age story of a wild teenager in a Canberra you never dreamed existed. It will sink its fangs into, inject you with its intoxicating venom, and never let you go

My View:

An engaging read once you have discovered the secret to decoding the teenagers’ language of text shortcuts, abbreviations and contemporary jargon.  This is a fast moving book full of angst, despair, loneliness and the universal themes of all teenagers in the first world  – those of seeking acceptance and love.

The reality is not a lot has changed in the last forty years or so for young people; teenagers are still ‘misunderstood’, still seeking answers to the meaning of life and still searching for acceptance; still trying to define themselves by their clothes, their music, their “style” and their choice of friends. Young women are still confusing sex with love.  Not a lot has changed since I was a teenager.

The language of youth may have changed, the drug of choice may have changed (alcohol is an option where once was the only choice for most, now dope/weed and other chemical highs are more in favour and easy to acquire, apparently). It seems we have still not managed to teach our children how to communicate their feelings and deal with their emotions – young people are still trying to bury their angst and loneliness in the numbness of drug use.  It is a sad indictment of modern life.

An engaging read, sometimes funny, mostly sad. The characters I found were a little stereotyped and for me Jez was the only empathetic voice. I did not understand how with the massive amount of drug and alcohol use and abuse in this narrative that apparently no adult had a single clue what was going on; for me this aspect of the narrative spoilt the credibility of the story, and the fact that all issues were neatly and simply wrapped up in the conclusion – Jez was enlightened to the “ways of the world” and appeared mature beyond her years, and “happy families” prevailed in the end, was a little too convenient.

However, a quick mostly enjoyable if not sometimes confronting read that every parent should read. This book can be used as great conversation starter for adults with teenagers. And I should add – I know that I was not the target audience for this book – I am several generations too old for and most likely was seeking more than what the book was offering as YA reading. 🙂  Young adults will enjoy.

The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

Today I decided to take up the Challenge – will you join me?

http://australianwomenwriters.com/2013-challenge/

Australian Women Writers Challenge

After I registered I stared to look at the reading/review lists and found a few book I  have already read – which was interesting and yet somewhat surprising  – I hadn’t realised I had read Australian Women’s voices. Is that a good thing or not? The fact that Australian Women Writers voices were just as good as any other and by and large did not leap out at me as Australian is good, isnt it? I suppose because I read  mostly crime fiction and contemporary fiction maybe place is not such an obvious marker of  writers voice?  And should  we only write/read about the region we live in? I think not – today we are all citizens of a global world.

I do however think that the words we write are shaped by our experience  and where/how we live does have some influence here, but does not necessarily prescribe our words or our stories. We can write about anything, and write well. For example – look at these 2 amazing yet vastly different  books, Questions of Travel  by Michelle de Krester and Bone Ash Sky by Katerina Cosgrove – what brilliant diverse voices!  Or look at the new voices soon to be heard,   Miss Blossom Makes A Mean Red Velvet Cake,  plenty of talent here.

So who will join me in this Challenge? Readers from any region welcome to join.  I dare you!

Post Script: All the Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld

All the Birds, Singing

Evie Wyld

Random House Australia Pty Ltd

Vintage Australia

ISBN: 9781742757308

Description:

The eerie, compelling second novel from award-winning writer Evie Wyld. That morning, before the light came through, I found another sheep, mangled and bled out, her innards not yet crusting and the vapours rising from her like a steamed pudding. I had to shove my foot in Dogs face to stop him from taking a string of her away as a souvenir. At first the crows had been excited by the body, stalking around it, strutting and rasping, their beaks shining, but now they sat in the trees, flaring out their wings, drunk and singing together. Something is killing Jake Whyte’s sheep. She’s not sure if it’s an animal, or the local kids, or something worse. But there’s something making noises at night and making her deal with things she’d hoped were long buried. When a man arrives in the darkness, asking for shelter, against her instincts she lets him stay… Set between Australia and a remote English island, All the Birds, Singing is the story of one how one woman’s present comes from a terrible past. It is the second novel from the award-winning author of After the Fire, A Still Small Voice. ‘Wyld has a feel both for beauty and for the ugliness of inherited pain’ — New Yorker

My View:

A bleak, grim and unrelenting tale of hardship, pain and guilt that is a compelling read. A very disturbing yet enchanting book that has you devouring page after page trying to discover the ugly secrets that the reader knows are haunting Jake Whyte. Wyld writes an intriguing story, peppered with mystery, doubts, suspicion and self loathing.  Jake punishes herself on a daily level; she treats herself and her body with distain and distance. Over the chapters Jake’s story is slowly revealed by the writer’s trips into Jake’s past, piece by piece we slowly begin to put the puzzle pieces together and a patchwork history is revealed. Slowly we start to feel empathy and sympathy for this lonely and surprisingly naive young woman. We also feel fear…so much is hinted at, the single ear ring found in the shed…the sheep mauled and killed by something almost paranormal…

I read and read and read wanting all to be revealed and put right. Unfortunately I felt the story ended too soon – I felt cheated – I checked and rechecked and reloaded the ebook thinking I had somehow missed the final chapters. For me a great chunk of the story was missing; yes we do discover how Jake ended up alone and why she was punishing herself for a tragic mistake she made as a mere child.  We leap frog our way through her life after she leaves her rural home in Australia; hurt, tortured with guilt and struggling to survive on the streets. We follow her journey of exploitation and self harm (the life choices she makes are about self punishment) but we learn nothing of how she arrives in England and her time there – aside from her self imposed isolation, and we learn very little about Lloyd.

I really enjoyed this grim and revealing story of naivety, of a young woman on the cusp of woman hood haunted by a simple, tragic unintentional mistake but for me there were too many gaps. I think that Evie Wyld is an author who has much to offer and look forward to reading her next foray into the world of writing.