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.

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Post Script: Dear Banjo – Sasha Wasley

Dear Banjo

Dear Banjo

Sasha Wasley

Penguin Random House Au

ISBN: 9780143784524

 

Description:

They were best friends who were never meant to fall in love – but for one of them, it was already way too late.

 

Willow ‘Banjo’ Paterson and Tom Forrest were raised on neighbouring cattle stations in the heart of the Kimberley. As young adults, sharing the same life dreams, something came between them that Willow cannot forget, and now ten years have passed. When her father falls ill, Willow is called home to take over the running of the family property, Patterson Downs. Her vision for a sustainable, organic cattle station is proving hard to achieve. She needs Tom’s help, but is it all too late, and too difficult, to make amends?

 

A pile of Tom’s heartfelt letters has remained unopened and unspoken between them. Willow must find the courage to finally bring them out. Their tattered pages reveal a love story like no other – and one you’ll never forget. Dear Banjo is a wildly romantic and utterly captivating story about first love and second chances, from an exciting new Australian author.

 

 

My View:

A few months ago now, author Sasha Wasley contacted me regarding the release of her new book Dear Banjo and asked if I would be interested in reading and reviewing. We struck up a “on line” friendship – based on our mutual love of our journeys to the north of Western Australia (the cover of her book had evoked many memories of camping/caravanning/working in that region) – based on that red pindan infused cover, I decided to give this book a chance.  And what a fabulous read I discovered!

 

This book is so much more than an Australian rural romance – in fact I would describe it as a coming of age or contemporary fiction, life literature with a dash of humanism. In this read there are three main characters – Willow “Banjo’ Paterson, Tom Forrest and the rugged Kimberly outback. Whilst Patterson Downs is a fictional town, the settings and the local community come to life on the page.

 

The protagonists aspire to sustainable farming practices – a unique perspective in rural writing and hopefully one that is becoming more popular with actual graziers. This aspect of the novel was fascinating, the hero of the book.

 

Engaging, well developed characters, realistic settings and a narrative that enchants this is a must read!

 

 

 

 

I Just Have to Share

I have just finished reading a remarkable book –  I am in awe of the power of the writing here and I am having trouble doing justice to  my review of this author’s poignant work.  So until I work out how I can say what I feel about this book – believe me when I say – “You must read this.”

Between A Wolf and a Dog

Between a Wolf and a Dog

 Georgia Blain

Scribe Publications

ISBN: 9781925321111

Post Script: Don’t You Cry – Mary Kubica

Dont You Cry

Don’t You Cry

Mary Kubica

Harlequin (US & Canada)

MIRA

ISBN: 9780778319054

 

Description:

New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl, Mary Kubica returns with an electrifying and addictive tale of deceit and obsession.

 

In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she’s the person Quinn thought she knew.

 

Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbor town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where eighteen-year-old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister than he ever expected.

 

As Quinn searches for answers about Esther, and Alex is drawn further under Pearl’s spell, master of suspense Mary Kubica takes readers on a taut and twisted thrill ride that builds to a stunning conclusion and shows that no matter how fast and far we run, the past always

catches up with us in the end.

 

 

My View:

A well-drawn, detailed exposé of small town lives. The characters in this book are so well defined and written you could almost walk up to one of them in the street ( you would also recognise their street, their homes, their family, their work place… their idiosyncrasies …) and say hello as if greeting an old friend.

 

Be warned though this is a very slow burn. Yes there is a disappearance early in the piece but life goes on. Esther might have just popped out for a while…a day…a few days…the pressure slowly builds.  And the ending…well… powerful, emotional, and surprising. Did I mention surprising? You won’t see this ending coming.

 

This novel discusses relationships – between mothers and their children, between sisters, between friends…looks at identity, isolation in the community, obligation and more…ordinary yet flawed, potent individuals and a crescendo of an ending!  And did I mention a little bit of hope for some? Loved it!

 

 

 

 

Post Script: Precious Things – Kelly Doust

Precious Things

Kelly Doust

Precious Things

Harper Collins

ISBN: 9781460750971

 

Description:

In the tradition of gloriously absorbing, lush and moving women’s fiction by authors such as Kate Morton, Lucinda Riley and Joanne Harris comes PRECIOUS THINGS.

 

Normandy, France, 1891: a young woman painstakingly sews an intricate beaded collar to her wedding dress, the night before her marriage to someone she barely knows. Yet Aimee longs for so much more …

 

Shanghai, 1926: dancing sensation and wild child Zephyr spies what looks like a beaded headpiece lying carelessly discarded on a ballroom floor. She takes it with her to Malaya where she sets her sights on a prize so out of reach that, in striving for it, she will jeopardise everything she holds dear …

 

PRECIOUS THINGS tells the story of a collar – a wonderful, glittering beaded piece – and its journey through the decades. It’s also the story of Maggie, an auctioneer living in modern-day London, who comes across the crumpled, neglected collar in a box of old junk, and sets out on an unexpected mission to discover more about its secret and elusive past.

 

Maggie has a journey of her own too. Juggling a demanding job, a clingy young child and a rebellious stepdaughter, and with her once-solid marriage foundering under the pressure of a busy life, Maggie has to find out the hard way that you can’t always get what you want… but sometimes, you’re lucky enough to get precisely what you need.

 

This is a wonderful, absorbing and moving novel about desire, marriage and family, telling the story about how we so often reach out for the sparkly, shiny things (and people) we desire, only to realise – in the nick of time – that the most precious things are the ones we’ve had with us all along.

 

My View:

This is a rather remarkable read.  It is subtle; the individual sub stories/chapters are personal and intimate and slowly draw you into to the overarching story – of Maggie’s life and her daily struggles juggling paid work, motherhood and relationships. I found Kelly Doust’s writing to be intelligent and her observations of relationships and family to be insightful and honest. The more I read of this novel the more invested I was in Maggie’s life, the more I found myself agreeing with her observations.

 

This was not the story I thought I would be reading – I admit to assuming that this would be a light and unassuming read – it was the opposite; intelligent, engaging, and brilliantly observational of women’s lives and rights at various points in history; all individual stories connected by their relationship to one piece of extraordinary cloth – very well plotted and visually stunning, intelligently written, 5 stars from me!

 

Sneak Peek – Sugar and Snails – Anne Goodwin

This is the book I am currently reading and will finish reading tonight –  I just had to share this with you now – the themes in this book are about identity and conforming to expectations, female sexuality, adolescence…and more (no spoilers here). I have not read anything like this before: powerful, engaging, intelligent, well written, with a mystery that is gradually revealed.

More soon.

Sugar And Snails

Sugar and Snails

Anne Goodwin    

 Inspired Quill
ISBN: 9781908600479

 

Post Script: We All Looked Up – Tommy Wallach

“Epicurus tells us that there’s no reason to fear death, because we don’t get to meet it. While we exist there is no death. And when death comes, we’re not there anymore.” p122.

We All Looked Up

We All Looked Up

Tommy Wallach

Simon and Schuster (Australia)

ISBN: 9781471124563

 

Description:

They always say that high school is the best time of your life . . .

Peter, the star basketball player at his school, is worried ‘they’ might actually be right. Eliza wholeheartedly disagrees; she can’t wait to graduate and get far away from Seattle, if only to escape her reputation. Anita has done everything perfectly in high school, and she has the grades to prove it. But then, she can’t help wondering what is it all worth since she’s never done what she truly loves. Andy, for his part, doesn’t understand all the fuss about college and career – the future can wait.

But what if the future was hurtling through space with the potential to wipe out life on Earth?

As these four seniors – along with the rest of the planet – wait to see what damage an asteroid will cause, they must abandon all thoughts of the future and decide how they’re going to spend what remains of the present.

 

My View:

What would you do if you were alerted to the fact that the world may not exist in a few weeks’ time? This YA book uses the distinct possibility of the world ending as a device to open up the discussion on so many contemporary youth issues – they are thinly disguised as circumstances in individuals’ lives or as part of the narrative that I felt a little like I was being preached to. I think I am a little too experienced and worldly for this particular book. I didn’t like the main characters, so shallow and selfish and with no redeeming features to speak of. I thought the plot was too busy – a bit like Lord of The Flies – on drugs and with a meteor about to obliterate the world.

I did so want to like this book but it didn’t work for me. I love the cover art, and some of the writing and philosophical quotes/arguments presented are very intelligent but I could not suspend my belief and roll with the flow on this one.