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!

 

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Post Script: Our Chemical Hearts – Krystal Sutherland

Today we have guest reviewer Rachel sharing her thoughts on:

our-chemical-hearts

Our Chemical Hearts

Krystal Sutherland

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

ISBN: 9780399546563

 

 

Description:

John Green meets Rainbow Rowell in this irresistible story of first love, broken hearts, and the golden seams that put them back together again.

Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love that he’s been hoping for just hasn’t been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he’s been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything’s about to change.

Grace isn’t who Henry pictured as his dream girl—she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys’ clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It’s obvious there’s something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn’t your average story of boy meets girl. Krystal Sutherland’s brilliant debut is equal parts wit and heartbreak, a potent reminder of the bittersweet bliss that is first love.

 

Rachel’s View:

Our Chemical Hearts is a beautifully written, character-driven YA novel about first love and it’s heartbreaking inevitability.

26-yeard old Australian Krystal Sutherland’s debut is utterly heartbreaking yet at times incredibly uplifting. Filled with humour and pop-culture references, it’s the kind of book you stay up all night to read.

Henry Page – self-aware 17 year old, budding author and film buff, has never been in love. But that all changes when Grace Town walks into his life. But don’t for one minute think this is a story about love at first sight, or even a typical boy-meets-girl story. Grace dresses in oversized men’s clothing, looks vaguely unclean and utterly unhappy, walks with a cane and seems pretty disinterested in life, making her as far from a typical love interest as you can get. But on top of all that she is enigmatic, smart, witty, and her way with words soon has Henry hooked. Sure enough he falls in love, but through the soaring highs and deepest lows, Grace has to ask if he really is in love with her – or just the idea of her.

And this is where things become really real. Because love is complicated, life is not straight-forward, and sometimes as much as we want things to work out, they just don’t. As Henry finds out more about Grace’s past, he becomes more determined to love her, purposely ignoring the warning signs and massive ups-and-downs of the relationship because of the way it has changed his world. It’s no doubt they’re both going to be transformed by this ride and it’s inevitable, far from happily-ever-after ending.

But it’s that moment when Henry finally realises how little he actually knows about Grace – this girl he supposedly loves with every fibre of his being – that there will be many a reader shouting ‘preach’, because damn this book is relatable!

One of the things I loved most about this book were the pop-culture references – while many new authors try to avoid mentioning specific technologies, celebrities or other aspects of today’s digitally-driven world in an attempt to be ‘timeless’,  Krystal Sutherland has cemented this novel firmly in the world of today. The snippets of poetry (“I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul”), movie quotes, celebrity name drops and dozens of other offhand pop cultural references pepper this book giving it a relatable, realistic edge that a lot of first novels lack.

My love for this story withstanding, it does struggle in some areas – I hated how Grace was constantly referred to as ‘broken’ because of her mental and physical illnesses and think the book would have gained a lot by sharing some of her perspective so that her history and struggles could have been more than just a plot device.

All in all, Our Chemical Hearts is fast-paced, quick-witted bittersweet story about love, loss, and how these things shape our lives. It is a darkly beautiful, honest love story that you’ll want to come back to again and again.

“Love doesn’t need to last a lifetime for it to be real. You can’t judge the quality of a love by the length of time it lasts. Everything dies, love included. Sometimes it dies with a person, sometimes it dies on its own. The greatest love story ever told doesn’t have to be about two people who spent their whole lives together. It might be about a love that lasted two weeks or two months or two years, but burned brighter and hotter and more brilliantly than any other love before or after. Don’t mourn a failed love; there is no such thing. All love is equal in the brain.”

 

Thanks Rachel

 

Post Script: The Peppercorn Project – Nicki Edwards

The Peppercorn Project

The Peppercorn Project

Nicki Edwards

Pan Macmillan Australia

Momentum

ISBN: 9781760302306

 

 

Description:

One heartbroken woman. One bitter cop. One community to save them.

 

After the tragic death of her husband, single mum Isabelle Cassidy is bereft and broke. When she hears about The Peppercorn Project – a scheme that offers affordable rent in the tiny but vibrant town of Stony Creek – Issie sees it as her family’s best chance at a fresh start.

 

 

Newly single police officer Matt Robertson moved to Stony Creek to lick his wounds after a bitter divorce. Wanting only peace and quiet, Matt is against the Project, seeing it as a threat to the peace he’s found in the country town – until he meets Issie. Despite himself, Matt is drawn to the widow and feels inexplicably protective of her fragile family.

 

 

Just when Issie begins to imagine a future with Matt, an accident proves how far she has to go before she can move beyond her grief. But the citizens of Stony Creek won’t rest until they see these two broken souls find a new beginning, together.

 

 

Can Issie move beyond the pain of her past and entrust Matt with her family, and her heart?

 

 

A gorgeous rural romance for fans of Fiona McArthur, Rachael Johns and Fiona McCallum.

 

 

My View:

Sited in a rural Australian town, I loved the attitude of “paying it forward” with an opportunity for four families to get a second chance to improve their current lifestyle and circumstances and at the same time instil some lifesaving “new blood” into a rural community, there is plenty of scope for action and personal drama here. This the perfect “pick me up” read; when you need something optimistic, positive, charming and with an obligatory happy ending (and one of the most delicious male love interests around), you will not be disappointed in this read.

 

Take note- this is not a book of purely froth and bubble. Nicki Edwards tackles many contemporary social issues within these pages: diminishing populations of small towns and the repercussions for the community – in particular the depletion of services, the process of grief and healing, drug dealing (and in particular the infiltration of “Ice” into communities big and small)…and the importance of “second chances.”

 

An enjoyable contemporary Australian rural read!

 

 

Post Script- The Light On The Water – Olga Lorenzo

Evocative, intense, emotional and at times painful to read. This novel pierces the heart; brilliant.

The Light on the Water

The Light On the Water
Olga Lorenzo
Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 9781925266542

Description:
A little girl disappears in the wilderness. Two years later her mother is arrested for her murder. A provocative and unflinching literary novel of love, guilt and grief set against the wilderness of the Australian coast.

Anne Forster, recently divorced and trying to find her feet, takes her daughter Aida on an overnight bushwalk in the moody wilderness of Wilson’s Promontory. Aida, who is six and autistic, disappears; Anne returns from the walk alone. Some of the emergency trackers searching for Aida already doubt Anne’s story.

Nearly two years later and still tormented by remorse and grief, Anne is charged with her daughter’s murder. Witnesses have come forward, offering evidence which points to her guilt. She is stalked by the media and shunned by friends, former colleagues and neighbours.

On bail and awaiting trial, Anne works to reconstruct her last hours with Aida. She remembers the sun high in the sky, the bush noisy with insects, and her own anxiety, seemingly as oppressive as the heat haze.

A superbly written and conceived literary work about the best and the worst aspects of family life, this story asks difficult questions about society, the media, and our rush to judgment. This is a thoughtful, provocative and unflinching novel in the tradition of Helen Garner, Joan London and Charlotte Wood, from a respected writer and renowned teacher of writing.

 
My View:
Evocative, intense, emotional and at times painful to read. This novel pierces the heart; brilliant.

At first I could hardly bear to continue reading, the pain that Anne feels and the pressure she faces is almost too much to bear. These are powerful pages, tension is high, my empathy freely given. Anne’s story is just so so sad. We can feel her love for her children and the pressure that mothers face when in the public eye, always judged – judged by appearance, behaviour, attitudes, judged by the behaviours of our children, deemed responsible for the behaviours of our children. So much pressure. The media then adds its own high dose of judgment. Too often we forget to ask – what is the point of this article, whose opinion is this and what are they trying to achieve; once words have been printed, read or spoken, they cannot be taken back.

Family and relationships are reflected upon. Motherhood is exposed – the good and the bad. This narrative is not afraid to ask the difficult questions about relationships; to probe and prick our collective and individual consciousness. Family violence is aired, almost normalised – are you upset by this – I hope so, I think that is the authors intent and to show that cycles don’t have to be repeated.

Power/powerlessness is also a theme of this narrative. Institutionalized power, in our courts, policing, schools, legal system, prisons, detention centres; the power imbalance and the dehumanising ways we treat people involved in such systems is shocking as are the judgements we are passively making within these systems. It seems like everyone is considered guilty, of… something, anything, before an individual has even had a fair hearing. Social media and online bullying reflects this attitude; so much anger, so much entitlement to anger is a worrying thing. We are all too quick to judge, to make assumptions, what ever happened to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty? Trial by media, all forms of media, is bought into question here.

This narrative explores so much of the ugly side of society but is not without some redemptive features/characters. Sandra gives us all hope. Sandra is open, loving and accepting. We need more Sandra’s. We need more friends like Linda to support us.

A wonderful exploration of grief, blame, judgements, the meaning of motherhood, of family, identity, marriage, responsibility, relationships, power and survival and love. Such power in the written words – your heart will be pierced by their thorns.

Post Script: Leap – Myfanwy Jones

Cover Leap

Leap

Myfanwy Jones

Samuel Johnson (Narrator)

Audible Studios

Allen & Unwin

ASIN: B010OO7VIK

Description:

A few weeks after finishing their final exams high school sweethearts have an argument at a party. Joe wants to go – Jen begs him to stay. They fight in the corridor, following their usual script, and then he walks out and leaves her. A few hours later she dies.

 

Three years on, after burning up his own dreams for the future, Joe is working in dead-end jobs and mentoring a wayward teenager not dissimilar from his younger self. Driven by the need to make good, he spends all his spare time doing parkour under an inner-city bridge, training his mind and body to conquer the hostile urban environment that took his love and blighted his future.

 

Somewhere else, a middle-aged woman, Elise, is treading water in her life as her marriage breaks up. We watch as she retreats to the only place that holds any meaning for her – the tiger enclosure at Melbourne Zoo, where, for reasons she barely understands, she starts painting the tigers and forms a close connection to them.

 

Joe is broken by grief, but the outside world won’t let him hide forever. A cool and bewitching girl turns up on the doorstep of his share house, somehow painfully familiar to him. Then there is the skateboarding chef at the bar where he works, the girl with the Cossack-blue eyes, who wants to be his friend. And someone going by the Facebook tag Emily Dickinson wants to reminisce about his dead girlfriend and won’t leave him alone.

 

Can Joe staunch the flooding return of desire – or is it time to let go of the past? And will he make the nine-foot leap from girder to pillar or does he want to fall too?

 

While at its heart is a searing absence, Leap is driven by an unstoppable and exhilarating life force, and the eternally hopeful promise of redemptive love. Funny, moving, quirky and original, Leap is an effortlessly enjoyable novel that quietly creeps up on you until its final jaw-dropping pages and a narrative twist that will take your breath away.

 

My View:

Myfanwy Jones writes this narrative with finesse and gentleness, Samuel Johnson narrates this engaging story of love, friendship, loss and grief with aplomb. It was pure pleasure listening to this story; the prose was lyrical, the images of the zoo and the tiger enclosure were mesmerising and the stories in the individual character strands were interesting and worked well together to complete a picture of how we react to loss – of identity, loss of physical capacity, loss of romantic love, loss of a child, loss of a relationship. There was even a hint of mystery thrown in for good measure – and I was surprised when the mystery was revealed – I did not pick up any clues to this reveal.

Buy the book or listen to the audio version – you will slowly and gently be guided into this story that ends with a note of optimism.

 

Post Script: Summer of Ghosts – P.D.Viner

“Human beings can feel haunted by their actions, or their inactions.” (p.28)

Summer of Ghosts

Summer of Ghosts

P. D. Viner

Ebury Press

Random House

ISBN: 9780091953324

 

Description:

‘Beautiful skin…’

 

It begins with a father calling his daughter, but it is not his Pia who answers – it is her killer. He must listen, horrified, to the sounds of his only child being murdered, powerless to intervene, as the killer utters two chilling words.

 

Most men’s thoughts would turn to vengeance, but Pia’s father is far more resourceful than most. He is not the reserved businessman his daughter believed him to be, but Franco, a notorious London drug lord. And he will call in all his debts to find his daughter’s killer, including the one owed to him by Superintendent Tom Bevans.

 

Tom is a man haunted by grief; every unsolved case weighs heavily against his soul. And Tom has heard these two words before…

 

 

My View:

 

A brilliant follow on from The Last Winter of Dani Lancing – one of my favourite books. I love the characters in this series – particularly Tom Bevans – The Sad Man – who shows us a few more sides to his character than previously explored and Franco – a criminal you end up liking. I like that the character Franco allows the reader to consider the many sides to a person; Franco is not just a drug lord. Ultimately it is his role as Pia’s father that allows us to see the human side of Franco, to see that he is more the the sum of his numerous sins, more than the horrible experiences he faced as a child. Viner allows us to think about how we measure a person’s worth and how quick we are to judge, life really isn’t black and white, Viner allows us to see the grey.

 

The half a dozen or so major characters in this book are all haunted…by their actions or their inactions; BRILLIANT!

 

This is an engaging story, with plenty of plot twists and miss-directions to keep you enthralled in this fast paced adventure that weaves a few contemporary social and political issues into the mix for good measure. The ending will astound you…sorry no spoilers here. The question I want answered – is there a next book Phil?

Post Script: All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

Amor Vincit Omnia

All the Bright Places

All the Bright Places

Jennifer Niven

Penguin

ISBN: 9780141357034

 

 

Description:

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

 

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

 

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

 

My View:

The most moving book you will read this year. You will laugh and you most definitely will cry and you will fall in love.

 

Let me start with a confession – I love Theodore Finch – Finch in amazing – he is all the qualities you want to discover in a new relationship –caring, kind, puts you before him, understanding, considerate, romantic, a little outrageous, smart, intuitive, good looking….and there is so much more. Who cannot but help fall in love with someone who writes you notes like this: “You are all the colours in one, at full brightness.” The parts you don’t want to see or don’t discover until too late are tough but not unrepairable…you think…. amor vincit omnia. You have hope.

 

So whilst this is a story of young love, a beautiful, lyrical all-consuming romantic love, this is so much much more than a love story. The prose is beautifully written; poetic, lyrical, magical and at times hilarious, laugh out loud funny or make your eyes swell with tears sad and your throat constrict. The perspectives presented here about life and about coming to terms with grief, domestic violence, depression and loss – will resonate with most of us at some point in our life. The messages are poignant and pack a punch without sounding like a lesson is being delivered. But lessons you will learn whether you realise it or not.

 

I started reading this a month or so ago, I got caught up in story, in the lives of the two protagonists, Finch and Violet, I could picture them both in my head (Finch in particular – just speaks of Heath Ledger to me) I could see their homes, school, friends, classroom, parents … all clearly and I could feel a train wreck approaching. I put the book down (so unlike me) I didn’t want to know what was over that hill they were fast approaching…I had several ideas none of which played out but had the same end result, devastation. No spoilers here – this is a discussion for a book club…

 

Whilst this is distributed as a tens or YA read there is plenty of substance here to make this a novel for all – for there is something in this that will touch and warm everyone’s’ heart, there is something here we can all learn about and take with us on life’s journey. What more can I say – I still tear up thinking about this. Read it. Discover some beauty in this crazy world.