Review: The Reunion – Polly Phillips

The Reunion

Polly Phillips

Simon & Schuster

ISBN:9781398513600

RRP$29.99

Description:

An utterly addictive, deliciously dark look at the underside of glamorous university life . . . An absolute five star read’ GYTHA LODGE

‘I was completely hooked. Reminiscent of Big Little Lies‘ VICTORIA SELMAN

A chance to reconnect.
A chance to get revenge . . .

Emily Toller has tried to forget her time at university and the events that led to her suddenly leaving under a cloud. She has done everything she can to forget the shame and the trauma – and the people involved. She has tried to focus on the life she has built with her children and husband, Nick.

But events like that can’t just be forgotten. Not without someone answering for what they’ve done. 

When an invitation arrives to a University reunion, everything clicks into place. Emily has a plan.

Because if you can’t forget – why not get revenge?

My View:
Picture this…… a long fuse….you hear a match strike, you see a flicker of light, and the flame “catches” and the fuse ignites, a gentle trail of red/orange/gold fizzes slowly along the fuse…you are mesmerized by the flame. BOOM!!! The dynamite explodes – as does this read!

A powerful read with a conclusion that will knock your socks off.

Guest Review: The Woman in the Library – Sulari Gentill

The Woman in the Library

Sulari Gentill

Ultimo Press

ISBN: 9881761151033

Description:
In every person’s story, there is something to hide…

The ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library is quiet, until the tranquility is shattered by a woman’s terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who’d happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck. Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning—it just happens that one is a murderer.

Award-winning author Sulari Gentill delivers a sharply thrilling read with The Woman in the Library, an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship and shows us that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all.

Brenda’s View:
This is spectacular! Literary genius!
The best-selling author within our book, Hannah Tigone, is writing her book from her home in Australia, set in Boston in the US. The only time Hannah is mentioned is at the end of each chapter when she is emailed by her beta reader, Leo, who lives in the US. The beginning of the book is set in the Boston Public Library, where four strangers are brought together by a piercing scream. While security searched for the origin of the scream, but initially found nothing, the four strangers became acquaintances and then friends.

Freddie (Winifred) is the narrator of the story, and also a writer. She won an award in Australia which brought her to Boston to write her crime novel. Her meeting in the library with Cain (another author), Whit (a student trying to fail law) and Marigold (fixated on Whit) felt right. Freddie couldn’t believe how quickly the four became friends. When the body of a young woman was found in the library, it was just the start of their nightmare.

With the police focusing on the four friends, Freddie and Cain did their best to follow leads to find the killer. When another murder occurred, one of the four was in the frame. Strange text messages were sent to Freddie, odd happenings which were freaking her out – was the killer amongst them? Could Freddie identify the deranged murderer before anyone else died?

The Woman in the Library by Aussie author Sulari Gentill is so incredibly clever – I’ve never read anything like it! I loved the way it was done, loved the intricate juggling the characters perfected, and found the twists delicious! Ms Gentill has always had my admiration for her historical mystery series – Rowland Sinclair – and The Woman in the Library has cemented her place at the top of my favourite authors. Highly recommended.

With thanks to NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review. Also Ultimo Press AU for my ARC which I devoured!! 

Review – When Only One – Meg Gatland-Veness

When Only One

Meg Gatland- Veness

Panterra Press

ISBN:9780648987666

Description:

‘There’s someone in the school. Someone who’s not supposed to be there. This person is walking towards the classroom. They’re holding something in their hands. Something terrifying.’

Sam lives with his mum, dad and four brothers in a small farming town. At his school, there are three main factions: the rich kids, the mid-grounders and the farm kids who live on the outskirts. Sam is a comfortable mid-grounder and life is pretty good. He works as a lifeguard at the local surf club, is saving to buy his first car, he’s training with his friends for the Ironman challenge, and on Sunday afternoons he and his family take care packages to their less fortunate neighbours. Then, five years since they last spoke, Emily Burrow climbs back into Sam’s life and everything changes.

Emily’s life is very different to Sam’s – her absent father has returned and her mum struggles with her mental health. Sam does his best to be there for Emily when he wasn’t for so long, but there seems to be no right way to help her.

When Rei starts at school, Sam is smitten. Rei’s parents are social workers, she’s from the rich side of town, and her life seems a thousand miles away from how the kids on the outskirts live. In a world that’s ill-equipped to support kids struggling with unseen burdens, is there a way to help Emily before the worst happens?

From the bestselling author of I Had Such Friends comes a novel that’s gritty, full of heart and shines a light on kids who are doing it tough in a rural Australian town.

My View:
Where can I start? I was so impressed with this read! It’s gently written despite the emotive, evocative and difficult material it discusses. And for some readers, some of the issues raised here could trigger memories of events or actions that are distressing, Panterra Press hope those so affected will connect with https://au.reachout.com/

The book – the prologue sets a disturbing scene; a shooting in a school, who is involved, why? A grim but intriguing introduction to the narrative.

Each chapter begins with brief recollections of the incident by various people at the scene. These recollections juxtaposed against the chapter contents that recount events before and leading up to the shooting create tension and is a powerful and seductive device to engage the reader in this story of moral dilemmas, of life in a small rural town, of domestic violence, of poverty, of loss, of grief, of addictions, of mental health issues…this gently spoken book touches on so many contemporary issues. It doesn’t preach, it allows the reader to think, to assimilate all the background information and to ask their own questions.

A powerful and emotional read. 5 stars.

Review: Our Members Be Unlimited – Sam Wallman

Our Members be Unlimited

A Comic About Workers and Their Unions

Sam Wallman

Scribe Publications

ISBN: 9781925713053

Description:

An original and visually powerful exploration of unionism.

In our current political climate, people are looking for answers — and alternatives. The promise of unions is that their ‘members be unlimited’: that they don’t belong to the rich, the powerful, or special interests, but to all workers.

How did the idea of unionism arise? Where has it flourished? And what are its challenges in the 21st century? From Britain to Bangladesh, from the first union of the 18th century to today, from solidarity in Walmart China to his own experiences in an Amazon warehouse in Melbourne, comics journalist Sam Wallman explores the urge to come together and cooperate that arises again and again in workers and workplaces everywhere.

With a dynamic and distinctive art style, and writing that’s both thoughtful and down to earth, Our Members Be Unlimited serves as an entry point for young people or those new to these notions of collective action, but also as an invigorating read to those already engaged in the struggle for better working conditions — and a better world.

My View:
This book is so relevant! I hope you get a chance to read this; it is well written, the illustrations are excellent and really help to get the messages across. There is so much detail here…I can appreciate all the work that went into creating this epic, illustrated, narrative.

This book reminds us (workers worldwide) of the progress made in ensuring better pay and conditions over the years and yet illuminates that there are still much more we can aspire to change if we unite. The Amazon case cited here has surprised and disappointed me, I thought “we” were better than this, better than the practices here.

This narrative is honest – unions are made up of people and people are not always perfect, but the majority are working towards a common goal – of making work conditions fair, safe and beneficial to all involved, making “work” equitable and “seen” and hopefully at some point “work need not necessarily be awful.” Collective action rules the world.

This is a great read!

#FridayFreebie The Widow of Walcha – Emma Partridge

The Widow of Walcha

Thanks to the publisher and DMCPRMedia I have one copy of the tantalising and intriguing book The Widow of Walcha to give away. In the comments let me know who publishes this book. It’s that easy.

**Open to residents of Australia only. Winner will be randomly selected on the 3rd of June 2022. **

Review: When A Soul Mate Says No- A Memoir – Amanda Trenfield

When A Soul Mate Says No -A Memoir

Amanda Trenfield

Pepper Press

ISBN: 9781925914436

Description:

Amanda never imagined that after uprooting her comfortable, stable life to make room for her soulmate that he would decide to go his own way. They agreed that their connection was unbelievably cosmic. So why did he say no?

A fearless voyage of self-discovery fueled by stubbornness, tenacity, and an unquenchable thirst for answers to the great mysteries of the soul. Amanda shares the intimate details of her transformation from love-sick hot mess to self-actualised superstar with unapologetic vulnerability and effervescent humour.

Through the exploration of grief, spirituality, energy therapies, self-acceptance, and the undeniable healing power of a good Diana Ross song, Amanda’s story serves as an example of what is possible when we dare to dream of a life that’s nothing short of miraculous. 

My View:

This is a courageous and honest narrative about life transformation through the exploration of grief and relationships.

The author has turned around her negative situation and focused on her own healing and self awareness and shows the reader how you too can evoke change.

A very host and open read.

**PS Love the cover art.

Review: The Widow of Walcha – Emma Partridge

The Widow of Walcha: A True Crime Story of Love, Lies and a Murder In A small Country Town

Emma Partridge

Simon & Schuster Australia

ISBN: 9781760859428

Description:

The Widow of Walcha is a shocking true story about death, love and lies in the small NSW town of Walcha.
 
All farmer Mathew Dunbar ever wanted was to find love and have a family of his own. That’s why, just months after meeting Natasha Darcy, the much-loved grazier didn’t hesitate to sign over his multi-million-dollar estate to her.
 
When Mathew died in an apparent suicide soon afterwards, in a stranger-than-fiction twist, Natasha’s estranged husband – who she was once charged with trying to kill – was the first paramedic on the scene after the murder.
 
Journalist and author Emma Partridge travelled to the cool and misty town of Walcha in the Northern Tablelands of NSW in the months after Mathew Dunbar’s death, drawn by the town’s collective worry that Natasha was going to get away with murder. Partridge spent months researching the case, interviewing Mathew’s friends, family and Natasha herself in an attempt to uncover her sickening web of lies and crimes.
 
The Widow of Walcha is about one of the most extraordinary criminal trials in Australia’s history and reveals Natasha’s sickening crimes against those she claimed to love, fuelled by her obsession with money.
 

My View:

This story is so bizarre it reads like … a black comedy… how incredulous this is, how unbelievable the actions are in this read … I just cannot believe this actually happened, yet it did and one person is dead and a few more escaped by good luck. I shake my head as I read…how did this happen? How did this woman get away with so much before this last terrible act landed her in gaol? How does her husband (at the time the book was written, they were still married, that I do not get at all) whom she attempted to murder (setting the house on fire whilst he was in it) stay shtum? How? I just cant believe it.

Yet this is true. Follow the stories of her previous relationships, the earlier police charges, her first time in gaol, her next targets….read on as the clues are unraveled. Sit in court and hear evidence and then once the verdict has been delivered read on about the information that wasnt allowed to be shared in court, the other stories of “near misses”. I continue to shake my head in disbelief. What an incredible, true story.

I wish we could hear the Widow’s story ( I guess we do through the evidence and transcripts and interviews) but as she has not accepted responsibility I guess we will never know what was going through her mind,.. intriguing.

Big screen here this comes 🙂

Review: A Caravan Like A Canary – Sasha Wasley

A Caravan Like A Canary

Sasha Wasley

Panterra Press

ISBN: 9780648987505

Description:

Two road trips. Twenty years apart. Can the memories of a troubled family past finally be put to rest?

When Tara Button’s mother asks her to drive the bright yellow family caravan from one end of the state to the other, it’s her charming but unreliable brother, Zac, who convinces her it’s a good idea. Besides, the road trip might keep Zac out of trouble – and that’s always been a second job for Tara.

Tara doesn’t expect Zac’s enigmatic friend Danh to come along for the ride. Or the bikies that seem to be following them up the coast .

As they travel along the open road, memories of the Buttons’ last trip in the caravan engulf Tara, while a rediscovered love for the wild, glorious ocean chips away at her reserve. When forced to face her past, will Tara find the courage to let go and discover her dreams?

My View:

Outstanding! The best read of the year!

I loved every moment of this read; the characters – so well developed I can visualise this one the big screen, the settings – some I recognise, some I have been to – in a caravan :), the trauma and PTSD I recognise and empathise with the characters and their situations, the narrative….engaging…just so much to offer the reader in this book!

This is a fabulous read and I think the best of Sasha’s work thus far. I eagerly await the next offering from this amazing author and lovely human.

Review: One of Us-Kylie Kaden

One of Us

Kylie Kaden

Panterra Press Aus

ISBN:9780648677093

Description:

Behind the tall hedges of the affluent, gated community of Apple Tree Creek, not all is as it seems …

Out of the blue, Gertie’s husband decides they need a break and he’s leaving her with their three children. Two streets east and three gardens down, successful businesswoman Rachael discovers her husband has cheated on her – again – even though she’s pregnant with his third child. Thrown together by a chance encounter, the two women bond over the shared disaster that is their marriages.

But did one husband push his wife too far?

When the ambulance sirens cut through the serenity of Apple Tree Creek, the small community is shocked at the violence that’s played out in their midst. CCTV reveals no outsiders visited the estate that night, confirming that the assailant must have been one of their own. Is the culprit still living among them? And why didn’t any of the cameras, designed to keep them all safe, catch anything?

As the web of neighbourly relationships unravels and the workings of their inner lives are exposed, questions will be asked, but not everyone wants to learn the answers.

You can only push people so far.

My View:

A dramatic opening scene – a body…police, traumatised family close by. Who did it? And so the story begins.

We look back to reveal the culprit. We learn about the daily lives and grind of the families living in a gated, secure community. So many secrets. You really cannot judge people by their appearances, who knows what is going on behind the public facade. And can I say upfront – the death- couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person 🙂 I really disliked all the male characters in this book.

For me this had a touch of the Stepford Wives, I dont really know why I felt this commonality, perhaps the neat and tidy outer appearances, the messy reality behind the scenes? Its a “feeling” that has lingered with me long since I read this book.

If you are looking for a character driven mystery with a touch of “fly on the wall” knowledge of the lives behind the gates, then this one if for you. And I bet you wont guess “who dunnit” 🙂 I didn’t.

Review: The Mallee Girl – Jennifer Scoullar

The Mallee Girl

Jennifer Scoullar

Penguin Random House

ISBN: 9781761046650

Description:

A heart-warming new rural romantic suspense set in the Victorian High Country by the bestselling author of Brumby’s Run.

Armed with nothing but some loose change and her beloved dog Duke, Mallee girl Pippa Black has finally found the courage she needs to escape a dangerous relationship. Two cryptic words written on a paper napkin send her in search of the one person who might help her – a long-lost brother she has always dreamed of finding.

Pippa’s quest leads her to the remote town of Currajong, high in the beautiful Victorian alps. As a runaway seeking refuge among strangers, Pippa learns that she’s been mistakenly implicated in a shocking crime. She finds her way to Brumby’s Run, a wild-horse sanctuary, where she begins work assisting the enigmatic farm manager Levi, and becomes entranced by Thowra, a magnificent golden stallion who leads a herd of brumbies in the region. Both man and horse will teach Pippa more about herself than she ever thought possible – including when to run, when to hide, and when to stand up and fight.

Set among the majesty of the High Country snowgums, The Mallee Girl is a moving and heartfelt story about the power of love and the land to heal old wounds, and the freedom that comes in confronting your greatest fears.

My View:

This is Jennifer Scoullar at her very best. I love her settings, the relationships she explores, the relationships with dogs and horses. This one is particularly poignant and answers the question ” why didnt she leave before now?” .

Family violence comes in many forms. This book will illuminate some of those situations.

This book has a dramatic yet eventually, happy ending…phew.

A great read.