Post Script: The Right Side – Spencer Quinn

This is an outstanding read – it goes straight onto my “Best Reads of 2017 “list.

The Right Side

The Right Side

Spencer Quinn

Atria Books

ISBN: 9781501118401

 

Description:

 In this riveting new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of the Chet and Bernie mystery series, a deeply damaged female soldier home from the war in Afghanistan becomes obsessed with finding a missing girl, gains an unlikely ally in a stray dog, and encounters new perils beyond the combat zone.

 

LeAnne Hogan went to Afghanistan as a rising star in the military, and came back a much lesser person, mentally and physically. Now missing an eye and with half her face badly scarred, she can barely remember the disastrous desert operation that almost killed her. She is confused, angry, and suspects the fault is hers, even though nobody will come out and say it.

 

Shattered by one last blow—the sudden death of her hospital roommate, Marci—LeAnne finds herself on a fateful drive across the country, reflecting on her past and seeing no future. Her native land is now unfamiliar, recast in shadow by her one good eye, her damaged psyche, her weakened body. Arriving in the rain-soaked small town in Washington State that Marci had called home, she makes a troubling discovery: Marci’s eight-year-old daughter has vanished. When a stray dog—a powerful, dark, unreadable creature, no one’s idea of a pet—seems to adopt LeAnne, a surprising connection is formed and something shifts inside her. As she becomes obsessed with finding Marci’s daughter, LeAnne and her inscrutable canine companion are drawn into danger as dark and menacing as her last Afghan mission. This time she has a strange but loyal fellow traveler protecting her blind side.

 

Enthralling, suspenseful, and psychologically nuanced, The Right Side introduces one of the most unforgettable protagonists in modern fiction: isolated, broken, disillusioned—yet still seeking redemption and purpose—LeAnne takes hold of the reader and never lets go.

 

 

My View:

This is an outstanding read – it goes straight onto my “Best Reads of 2017 “list.

 

If you are expecting another narrative in the style of the Chet and Bernie series – think again. I strongly suggest that you begin this book as if you have just discovered a new to you author – just expect this to be a brilliant read – and then you will not be disappointed.

 

For me this is a book that demands to be read in one sitting. The characters are complex – the psychological revelations are insightful and useful.  You will navigate heartbreaking traumas to reveal the small ray of sunshine, of optimism that prevents this book from being morose and sullen.  The mysteries here will keep the pages turning and you will gain a few perspectives that might surprise you and make you think.

 

This is an outstanding read and I imagine one that will soon be transformed onto the big screen – I wish I had the $$ to produce this one. It will be a winner – guaranteed.

 

 

 

 

Post Script: Frame – AK Alliss

Amor Vincit Omnia!

frame

 

Frame

AK Alliss

Atlas Productions Pty Ltd

ISBN: 9780995377615

 

Description:

How far would you go to save someone who was already dead?

 

Hidden in the frame of a single photo, a content producer for social media sensation, Mathew Albrecht, discovers his possible ties to a global terrorist organisation. Could her client’s involvement also be linked to the death of her husband years earlier or is it something entirely more sinister in nature?

 

What is revealed may eclipse everything that she thought she knew, forcing her to confront the ghosts of her past in her pursuit of the truth.

 

Frame is a genre-bending thriller, set in a world poised on the brink of insanity.

 

 

My View:

I first read this remarkable narrative as a manuscript – I knew nothing of the author, or his style of writing or his track record but I was hooked from the moment I read these couple of sentences in synopsis; “Hidden in the frame of a single photo, a content producer for social media sensation, Mathew Albrecht, discovers his possible ties to a global terrorist organisation. Could her client’s involvement also be linked to the death of her husband years earlier or is it something entirely more sinister in nature?

 

Synchronicity was at work! In a previous life (as most of you will already know) I worked in the film and television industry, looking at images frame by frame…content producing… these terms/actions immediately connected and intrigued me. I had to read this and find out more.

 

And am I glad I took this opportunity? YES! This is an amazing read.  A thriller that is set in the future – but not too far in the future, in the foreseeable future – I can “see” the landscapes, the settings and the technology.

 

And technology is power – holders of this power can influence, control; domestically the power of social media dictates trends, projects individuals to celebrity status and a culture of hero worship by keyboard is encouraged. Politically, wars are won or lost based on control of information and technical fighting power. The landscapes created here are so real they make you feel uncomfortable.

 

The characters are vivid and realistic – I feel for the protagonist, Hannah – melancholy, trapped by a web of grief wound so tight she can hardly breathe…yet strong and resourceful and smart – a great female protagonist.

 

Love, grief, the importance of family, of emotional connections, ties that bind, are themes that are explored in depth in the novel. The words  love and family usually connatates positive emotions and responses but loss of love or the void death creates can also restrict, hold our emotional health to ransom and have the potential to destroy. Hope can empower and create change.  Ultimately  (no spoilers here) the lesson here is: Love Conquers All.

 

A meaningful and captivating read!

 

 

Post Script: Songs Of A War Boy – Deng Thiak Adut with Ben Mckelvey

Such self awareness and an inspirational life story!

songs-of-a-war-boy

Songs Of A War Boy

Deng Thiak Adut with

 Ben Mckelvey

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733636523

 

Description:

The true story of Deng Adut – Sudanese child soldier, refugee, man of hope.

 

Deng Adut’s family were farmers in South Sudan when a brutal civil war altered his life forever. At six years old, his mother was told she had to give him up to fight. At the age most Australian children are starting school, Deng was conscripted into the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. He began a harsh, relentless military training that saw this young boy trained to use an AK-47 and sent into battle. He lost the right to be a child. He lost the right to learn.

 

The things Deng saw over those years will stay with him forever. He suffered from cholera, malaria and numerous other debilitating illnesses but still he had to fight. A child soldier is expected to kill or be killed and Deng almost died a number of times. He survived being shot in the back. The desperation and loneliness was overwhelming. He thought he was all alone.

 

But Deng was rescued from war by his brother John. Hidden in the back of a truck, he was smuggled out of Sudan and into Kenya. Here he lived in refugee camps until he was befriended by an Australian couple. With their help and the support of the UN, Deng Adut came to Australia as a refugee.

 

Despite physical injuries and mental trauma he grabbed the chance to make a new life. He worked in a local service station and learnt English watching The Wiggles. He taught himself to read and started studying at TAFE.  In 2005 he enrolled in a Bachelor of Law at Western Sydney University. He became the first person in his family to graduate from university.

 

This is an inspiring story of a man who has overcome deadly adversity to become a lawyer and committed worker for the disenfranchised, helping refugees in Western Sydney. It is an important reminder of the power of compassion and the benefit to us all when we open our doors and our hearts to fleeing war, persecution and trauma.

 

 

My View:

An incredible poignant and inspirational story – how this boy soldier survived and then went on to do great things (**more on this later) is nothing short of amazing and inspiring.

 

This narrative begins by stating the importance of Songs to the Dinka people; “They’re our avatars, and our biographies. They precede us, introduce us and live on after we die. They are also how our deeds escape our villages, and they pass on our code of morality, culture and law.

 

When I was a boy I dreamed of having my own songs, but now I am a man, I have no songs. It’s likely I never will, in the traditional sense. For the Dinka, these songs are only for men. In the eyes of my culture, I am still a boy.

 

When I should have been going through the rituals of manhood, I was caught in a vicious war. By the time I was returned to my people I was very much a westerner.”  (Prologue – Deng Adut)

 

And so begins the poignant and remarkable story of a childhood interrupted by adults’ politics and greed. Somehow this child soldier survived. Read this story and you will be amazed how anyone, let alone a child could endure such trauma – and endure Deng Adut has – Deng Adut’s adult life is testimony to how one man can make a difference (his brother John Mac in the first instance)  and many other’s later in his life’s journey.  This is Deng Adut’s story but it is many peoples story – listen and feel.

 

This personal narrative has much to offer; hope, inspiration, an honest cultural exchange…proof that education changes lives.

What I find remarkable about this man can be summed up in his own words; “I know I am whole, though. Yes, I have had a difficult life. I’m proud pf some things I have done, and ashamed of others, but I own all of it, and I’ve reconciled with all of it. That’s why I am whole.”

(Deng Adut -Prologue)

 

Wise and humble, inspiring and honest, this life, this book asks just one thing of you – open your heart and see the world with compassion.

An outstanding read! An inspiration to all.

 

 

**DENG ADUT – 2017 NSW AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR

 

At an awards ceremony last night (Monday 7th November 2016) Deng Adut, Sudanese child soldier, refugee, man of hope, was announced as the 2017 NSW Australian of the Year. Deng’s incredible story is told in his book with Ben Mckelvey, Songs of a War Boy, which was released last week and is already captivating readers across Australia.

 

Deng’s is an inspiring story of a man who has overcome deadly adversity to become a lawyer and committed worker for the disenfranchised, helping refugees in Western Sydney, where he now has his own law practice with legal partner Joe Correy, the AC Law Group. His story is an important reminder of the power of compassion and the benefit to us all when we open our doors and our hearts to those fleeing war, persecution and trauma. Media Release Hachette Australia.

 

 

 

 

Guest Post – Bram Connolly Talks About Experiences and Influences on His Writing

Please welcome Aussie author Bram Connolly to my blog. Bram talks books, reading and reading influences.

bram-connolly

“As a Special Forces officer, Bram Connolly served several tours in Afghanistan and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for leadership in combat. He takes you deep into the world of high-intensity combat few have experienced.”https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/fiction/crime-mystery/The-Fighting-Season-Bram-Connolly-9781760290382

 

When I joined the Army there was a period of a few years where I didn’t read very much. The weekly training was intense and the sudden existence of a fortnightly wage saw me pursue other less wholesome pursuits on the weekends (drinking with my mates and chasing girls mostly). Don’t get me wrong; there were certainly lots of opportunities to read. One constant of being in the Army is that there is much sitting around and waiting involved: waiting for work to start, waiting for the next lesson, waiting for your turn at something, waiting for lunch, waiting for knock off – the list goes on. Soldiers are good at amusing each other. Dark humor and situational comedies are the main narratives of their tales; and we are colourful liars when it’s required to “sell” the story. I love this about us.

I fell into reading again by necessity when I was sent off on a six-week exercise to Weipa in Far North Queensland with a section of nine men. I remember we all took books to pass the time, knowing that sitting around an airfield in Northern Australia, as static defence, was going to be a boring undertaking. I discovered Robert G. Barrett’s books about Les Norton. In later years I also found these were the easiest to wrap in a small sandwich bag, secured by rubber bands, and thrown in the bottom of a military rucksack. Barrett’s books seemed to be impervious to the Tully monsoon rain that could seep into everything. I would sit under my individual shelter out in the middle of the jungle, as the rain pounded down, and immerse myself in Les Norton’s world of Sydney nightclubs and summer beaches. Easy reading and with strong Australian characters, the books reignited my passion for storytelling. With Barrett’s books complete, I graduated myself onto Jack Higgins, The Eagle has Landed and then every other book he ever wrote.

In the late 1990s, I was influenced in what I read by some of the older members of the battalion. The following books were considered required reading:

1 – Devil’s Guard by George Robert Elford. The story of a German SS officer who, with the rest of his Battalion, was seconded into the Foreign Legion at the completion of WWII, this book begins on the eastern front and continues into the First Indochina War. I remember it mostly because of the detail the author went into regarding the German operations. It was initially published as non-fiction but I understand that over time it was suggested this was a work of fiction. Either way, The Devils Guard is a riveting read and worth having on the bookshelf.

2 – As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me. Written by Bavarian novelist Josef Martin Bauer, this is the story of a German World War II prisoner of war Clemens Forell (Cornelius Rost changed his name to avoid detection by the KGB) and his escape from a Siberian Gulag in the Soviet Union back to Germany. Rich in its description of the landscapes, Bauer does a great job of making the reader anxious for Clemens the whole way through.

3 – Chickenhawk by Robert Mason. The story of Mason’s experiences as a ‘Huey’ UH-1 Iroquois helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, this is full of detail required to operate the aircraft. The book chronicles Mason’s entire career from his enlistment to his experiences in Vietnam, and his experiences after returning from the war. I think a generation of us who read this book believed we could jump straight in and fly a helicopter. I wouldn’t like to test that theory though.

4 – Marine Sniper. With 93 confirmed enemy kills, Carlos Hathcock was the most lethal sniper to emerge from the Vietnam War. This book describes his career and outlines the art of sniping in its purest form. I particularly like the details of the difficulties faced by those conducting operations in the jungles of Vietnam, something I could relate to at the time because of the intensive training we had also undertaken in jungle operations.

5 – Bravo two Zero by Steven Mitchell (writing under the pseudonym Andy McNab). This was the must have book of the 1990s. It was the first time a member of the British SAS had broke ranks completely to tell his story and give an account of what it was really  like for the men on the ground. The book inspired a generation of soldiers in the UK and Australia to attempt Special Forces selection.

6 – The Feather Men by Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Based on the story of four British soldiers targeted by a hit squad known as ‘The Clinic’ on the orders of a Sheik whose own sons were killed in Oman by British forces, this book created real controversy in the UK when it was released. Sir Ranulph added much fuel to the speculation at the time about whether or not it was a disguised factual account by branding it fictional and contesting that elements were true, a great marketing plan. He also wrote Where Soldiers Fear to Tread, a brilliant book full of romantic images of the Middle East and well worth a read.

The books on this list are rich in characterisation and landscape description, skills I take great pride in developing as a writer. The books I read as a young adult demonstrated to me that fiction can be written within an historical context. It’s a complex balancing act to not let one aspect overshadow the other, but if you get it right then the story really sings.”

 

 

Bram has a new book out – see how his personal experiences and reading have influenced his written work.

 

the-fighting-season

Introducing Matt Rix… Australian commando. An explosive thriller from the heart of Afghanistan.

The Fighting Season is military fiction of the first order: as tough as nails and packed with the insider knowledge of someone who has done it for real.’ – Matthew Reilly

‘Action packed, gritty and authentic to the core.’ – Merrick Watts

An explosive thriller from the heart of Afghanistan

Outside the wire, Uruzghan Province, Afghanistan, 2010…

In the badlands of central Afghanistan an Australian Special Forces platoon is fatally hit by a roadside bomb.

A shadowy Taliban commander, codenamed ‘Rapier’, is identified as responsible for the deadly attack. Matt Rix, the ultra tough commando who led the ambushed platoon, swears vengeance. Rix is one of Special Forces’ most lethal operators. He’ll neutralise Rapier – whatever it takes.

But in Afghanistan’s brutal war, not all things are as they seem.

 

Post Script: Journeys End – Jennifer Scoullar

Journey's End

Journey’s End

Jennifer Scoullar

Penguin Books Australia

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143797005

 

Description:

From the author of Currawong Creek and Turtle Reef comes a beautiful story of family, friendship and the healing power of love.

When Sydney botanist Kim Sullivan and her husband inherit Journey’s End, a rundown farm high on the Great Eastern Escarpment, they dream of one day restoring it to its natural state. Ten years later, however, Kim is tragically widowed. Selling up is the only practical option, so she and her children head to the mountains to organise the sale. The last thing Kim expects is for Journey’s End to cast its wild spell on them all.

The family decide to stay, and Kim forges on with plans to rewild the property, propagating plants and acquiring a menagerie of native animals. But wayward wildlife, hostile farmers and her own lingering grief make the task seem hopeless. That is, until she meets the mysterious Taj, a man who has a way with animals. Kim begins to feel that she might find love again. But Taj has his own tragic past – one that could drive a wedge between them that can not be overcome . . .

 

My View:

If you are a fan of crime fiction (as I am) then this read will convert you to the genre of Australian Rural Fiction! Or maybe just to Jennifer Scoullar’s work 🙂

I loved this read – for so many reasons:

This is a well written narrative of rewilding/restoration – and the simile is not reserved just for the flora and fauna in the narrative, it also reflects the emotional restorations happening in so many of the characters’ lives in the book.

It made me reflect on another perspective on the war in Afghanistan that I hadn’t really given much thought to, (that of the innocent victims of the war) and I saw Afghanistan, the country as a more diverse  landscape than that often cited in media grabs ; more than  a flat, dusty, almost people less,  barren land of a remote villages.

It made me consider and reflect on more natural ways of conserving /preserving nature than baiting and trapping. I looked at dingoes and their role in the environment in a new light. Thanks for opening my eyes Jennifer.

Jennifer Scoullar’s writing has a rich complexity  – it can be read as simply a story of renewal from a place of grief,  a story of friendships, a romance, or you can absorb the depth of issues gently  raised here – of racism, environmental management, wild life rescue, the effects of dwindling numbers in small towns on education etc. the illegal logging of protected stands of trees etc. etc.

However you read this you will enjoy it!

 

 

Post Script: Sweet Wattle Creek – Kaye Dobbie

History has never been so important.

Sweet Wattle Creek Kaye Dobbie Cover

Sweet Wattle Creek

Kaye Dobbie

Harlequin Australia

ISBN: 9781743693087

 Description:

A vintage wedding dress reveals family secrets she never knew…

 

The chance discovery of a vintage wedding dress weaves together the fascinating stories of three women from different eras: Sophie, in hiding from a troubled past; Belle, who must lose everything to learn what really matters; and Martha, forced to give up those she loves in order to avoid exposure.

 

It’s 1930 and Belle Bartholomew has arrived in rural Sweet Wattle Creek to claim her inheritance – a run-down grand hotel formerly owned by Martha Ambrose. Determined to solve the mystery of her birth and the reason why she was bequeathed the hotel Belle runs into difficulties with the townsfolk and their desire to keep their secrets safe.

 

Sixty years later Sophie Matheson is on a quest to find Belle and her family after discovering the wedding dress. The Sweet Wattle Creek Centenary brings more challenges when her past catches up and she must fight for all that matters to her. Who were Belle and Martha and what links their lives together?

 

 

My View:

Kaye Dobbie has masterfully married two times fames to produce an exciting narrative that is both historical (1930’s) and contemporary (1980’s) fiction and there are aspects of life in both time periods that are relevant to the world we live in today. I found the history and social commentary of Australia between the wars and of the Great Depression illuminating; PTSD, the aftermath of war on families and communities, poverty, the role of women in society, unemployment were and are significant worldwide issues and it was exciting to learn a little more about this period by the device of using Sophie and Ian’s search for the provenance of the wedding dress.

 

Chapters alternate between the two periods and each chapter is clearly marked with the location, the year and whose voice we are listening to– Sophie’s (1980’s) or Belle’s (1930’s) – there is no chance of getting lost in this duality of time that sometimes happens in novels that employ this device – all is very clear and I thank the author for making it so – I never had to go back and re read to work out where I was or who I was listening to.

 

In both time periods we have protagonists that are strong, determined, resourceful and caring women. Dobbie writes her lead characters with poise, grace and humanity. The issue of small town attitudes and prejudices of the 1930’s – in particular the perceived social, economic and moral attitudes towards the “travellers,” the displaced victims of the Depression is comparable to attitudes today to the to the displaced people of Syria – the same fears and misconceptions surrounding their plight leapt out at me as I read this book. I think there is a lesson or two here we can all take from Belle and Michael’s attitudes of social responsibility.

 

Belle lived in a time of great upheaval, upheaval is a theme that is also prevalent in Sophie’s life too. Sophie’s story evokes much empathy and her situation is just as relevant to many women today as it was back in the 1980’s (no spoilers here.) Dobbie successfully reflects upon attitudes of the time as we discover more about the life and history of both female protagonists.

 

A blend of historical and contemporary fiction, with a dash of empathetic characters, drama, suspense and social commentary and Kaye Dobbie has created a recipe for success.

 

 

Post Script: The Secret Years – Barbara Hannay

Australian Contemporary Fiction at its best!

Cover The Secret Years

The Secret Years

Barbara Hannay

Penguin Books

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143799733

 

 

Description:

When Lucy Hunter stumbles upon her grandfather Harry’s World War II memorabilia, she finds a faded photograph of a stunning young woman known simply as ‘George’ and a series of heartfelt letters. They are clues about the secret years, a period of Lucy’s family history that has been kept a mystery . . . until now.

 

How did a cattleman from north Queensland find forbidden love with the Honourable Georgina Lenton of London and persuade her to move to his isolated outback property? And why are the effects of this encounter still reverberating in the lives of Lucy and her mother, Rose, now?

 

As the passions of the past trickle down the years, three generations of one family pull together. Each must learn in their own way how true love can conquer the greatest challenges of all.

 

From the wild beauty of the Australian bush to England’s rugged south coast, this is a deeply moving story of heartbreak, heroism and homecoming by a beloved, multi-award-winning author.

 

 

 

My View:

Barbara Hannay writes beautiful visuals of rural and remote Australia, in particular the thriving military town that is Townsville with its beautiful Strand and bustling city scapes to far north Queensland with its picturesque cattle properties, where “Big mobs of silvery Braham cattle grazed, and telegraph poles tracked the straight line of the Flinders Highway into the shimmering distance till they looked like mere wisps of smoke.”(p.348); such beautiful visuals forever remind me of Queensland.

 

The dual storylines – of George and Harrys’ early life during and after WW11 and Lucy’s current life, add many more destinations to the mix – we have London in the time of air raids and blackouts and the rugged Cornwall coast when Lucy visits England researching her family’s history, we have war zones past and present – Harry fought in many places including Tobruk, Kokoda and New Britain (an island of Papua New Guinea) and we have Lucy and Simon’s service in Afghanistan; so much information, travel and history is packed into this book.

 

Lots of travel, a fast moving and engaging narrative that reflects on times past and present , on families and choices, cultures and wars and the relationships that shape us and bind us to the land and characters you will warm to, this is a remarkable book. And did I mention the romance? Nick Myatt sets new standards for the male love interest in rural romances.