Review: The Accusation – Wendy James

The Accusation

Wendy James

Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9781460752388

 

Description:

A bizarre abduction. A body of damning evidence. A world of betrayal.

 

Eighteen-year-old Ellie Canning is found shivering and barely conscious on a country road, clad only in ill-fitting pyjamas. Her story of kidnap and escape quickly enthrals the nation: a middle-aged woman with a crazy old mother has held Ellie in a basement, chained her to a bed and given her drinks from an old baby’s sippy cup. But who was this woman and what did she want with Ellie? And what other secrets might she hide?

When the accusation is levelled at local teacher Suzannah Wells, no one seems more bewildered than Suzannah herself … to start with. The preposterous charge becomes manifestly more real as she loses her job and her friends. And the evidence is strong: a dementia-affected mother, a house with a basement, a sippy cup that belonged to her long-dead daughter. And Ellie Canning’s DNA everywhere. As stories about Susannah’s past emerge, even those closest to her begin to doubt she’s innocent.

And Ellie? The media can’t get enough of her. She’s a girl-power icon, a social-media star. But is she telling the truth?

 

A powerful exploration of the fragility of trust, and the power of suggestion, from the author of The Golden Child and The Mistake.

 

Praise for the Golden Child:

‘The novel is cleverly constructed, the characters are extremely well-drawn, the use of social media as a plot device is very sophisticated, and the resolution is a genuine surprise’ Judges’ report, Ned Kelly Crime Awards, 2017.

 

 

My View:

Credible!  Readable!  Powerful!

What a fantastic read!!!

 

This is a fabulous read that kept me up till the early hours trying to work out the knots and twists in this plot. Like a skillful magician, Wendy James directs our attention to view the scenarios in a particular way, provides glimpses, hints, clues then redirects our attention to other possibilities.

I do love an unreliable narrator.  A fast paced read with some surprising reveals, I predict an award or two for this novel.

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Their Little Secret – Mark Billingham

Their Little Secret

Tom Thorne #16

Mark Billingham

Little Brown

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780751566987

 

Description:

When DI Tom Thorne is called to conduct a routine assessment at the site of a suicide, he expects to be in and out in no time. But when he arrives at the metro station, where a woman named Philippa Goodwin threw herself in front of an underground train, Thorne inexplicably senses something awry and feels compelled to dig deeper. He soon discovers that she was the victim of a callous con-man whose deception plunged Philippa to her end. Enraged that one man’s trickery caused an innocent death, Thorne enlists DI Nicola Tanner to help him track down the swindler and bring him to justice. But the detective duo gets more than they bargained for when a young man’s lifeless, bludgeoned body turns up on the shore of a nearby seaside town: it appears that very con artist they’re searching for is connected to the murder. Brilliantly plotted with a shocking psychological bent, Their Little Secret is another masterful thriller from one of Britain’s most beloved crime writers. With twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the final page, this is Mark Billingham’s most chilling novel yet.

 

My View:

Brilliant!

 

If you love a good police procedural with empathetic protagonists, twists and more twists and crime that will shock with its audacity, then this book is for you!  So many secrets, so many lies…

 

I think what I loved most about this book (and there is a lot to love) is the reveal that I did not see coming, the secrets that are being kept on both sides of the law, the reference to Elvis Costello’s lyrics for “I Want You”:

I want you,

The truth can’t hurt you, it’s just like the dark,

It scares you witless,

But in time you see thing clear and stark.

I want you,

Go on and hurt me, then we’ll let it drop,

I want you,

I’m afraid I won’t know where to stop….

Perfect pairing for this read!

 

And then there is Jamie… (You will have to read to learn about Jamie) this character adds a real psychological punch to the narrative and almost has you feeling sorry for his mother, almost.

 

And the perpetrators – just like the crimes, not what you expect, surprise and after surprise.

 

And if you scan the code on the inside cover flap you can hear Mark Billingham reading chapter one of “Their Little secret” audio book.

 

So much to love!

 

 

Review: Allegra in Three Parts – Suzanne Daniel

Allegra in Three Parts

Suzanne Daniel

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781760781712

RRP$29.99

 

Description:

From Suzanne Daniel comes an outstanding debut novel, capturing 1970s Australia with warmth, humour and a distinctive voice. I can split myself in two . . . something I have to do because of Joy and Matilde. They are my grandmothers and I love them both and they totally love me but they can’t stand each other. Eleven-year-old Allegra shuttles between her grandmothers who live next door to one another but couldn’t be more different. Matilde works all hours and instils discipline, duty and restraint. She insists that Allegra focus on her studies to become a doctor. Meanwhile free-spirited Joy is full of colour, possibility and emotion, storing all her tears in little glass bottles. She is riding the second wave of the women’s movement in the company of her penny tortoise, Simone de Beauvoir, encouraging Ally to explore broad horizons and live her ‘true essence’.

And then there’s Rick who lives in a flat out the back and finds distraction in gambling and solace in surfing. He’s trying to be a good father to Al Pal, while grieving the woman who links them all but whose absence tears them apart. Allegra is left to orbit these three worlds wishing they loved her a little less and liked each other a lot more. Until one day the unspoken tragedy that’s created this division explodes within the person they all cherish most. Suzanne Daniel is a journalist and communications consultant who has also worked for ABC TV, the Sydney Morning Herald, the United Nations, BBC (London) and in crisis management and social services. For the past twenty years she has served on community, philanthropic and public company boards. Suzanne lives in Sydney with her husband and family. Allegra in Three Parts is her first novel.

 

My View:

I am sitting here in my flares, a recent “op shop” purchase, I love flares, I am searching for the musical references mentioned in this novel; I love the music of the seventies.

At the time (the 70’s) I was too young to appreciate that I was growing up female in the middle of the Women’s movement, the liberation. The movement was happening around me and I largely benefited from the struggles of my peers. Helen Reddy’s powerhouse song “I am Woman” was the anthem we all sang. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rptW7zOPX2E

But I digress. I am meant to be reviewing Allegra in Three Parts – and in a     roundabout way I am.

Allegra in Three Parts has many story arcs – the Women’s Liberation movement being one of them; the setting up of women’s safe houses/refuges from family violence, the challenge of attaining equal pay and conditions, education for women, the harnessing of trade unions to improve work conditions…so much more is introduced to us by the characters of grandmothers Joy and Mathilde. Joy is at the forefront of the movement, with her Liberty Club. Mathilde clearly feels that education and a good job are the key to a woman’s success and independence and she is determined that Allegra will have those opportunities. They both want the best life possible for Allegra.

 

Suzanne Daniel also creates a space here to discuss the role of fathers in family and in particular as role models for their daughters when we are introduced to Rick – Allegra’s father. As the narrative progresses his influence on the family and Allegra increases – in a positive way.

 

The characters of Rick and the grandmothers are great devices to open up discussion surrounding grief, loss and resilience.

 

There are so many more social issues subtly probed in this novel – so gently are they introduced that you hardly are aware of the lessons being shared; on racism, multiculturalism, on being different, of bullying, of class and privilege…

 

More than issues this is a book about growth and healing, forgiveness, families and love and the importance of being loved.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omrGB4HgjEg

 

“There’s no formula for happiness that’s guaranteed to work

It all depends on how you treat your friends and how much you’ve been hurt

But it’s a start, when you open up your heart

And try not to hide, what you’re feeling inside

Just open up your heart.”  (p249, ‘Open Up Your Heart’ G W Thomas)

 

I loved this book!

 

 

 

Review: Rough Diamond (Erica Jewell #1) – Kathryn Ledson

Rough Diamond

Erica Jewell #1

Kathryn Ledson

Pilyara Press

ASIN: B07L3Y6XHV

 

Description:

Funny, romantic and action-packed, Rough Diamond introduces Australia’s unforgettable Erica Jewell.

 

The shock ending to Erica Jewell’s marriage has left a huge hole in her bank balance and a bigger one in her heart. So now this office worker’s goals make a very short list: no surprises, no debt and, definitely, no men. That is, until she finds one bleeding to death in her Melbourne garden one stormy night.

Jack Jones is a man whose emotional wounds are more life-threatening than the bullet in his shoulder. When he recruits Erica to his secret team of vigilantes, Erica suspects her safe, predictable world is about to be inverted.

And she’s absolutely right.

 

My View:

Fun, exciting, mysterious and oh so Australian – I love this read!

Kathryn Ledson has created a wonderful female protagonist, Erica Jewell and in this, the first book in the series, we are introduced to a set of main characters that face adversity head on. This is a thrilling, fast paced mystery that is tempered with humour and a hint of romance.

This series would make fantastic TV! The world is ready to meet Erica Jewell.

 

 

 

 

Review: When it all Went to Custard – Danielle Hawkins

When it All Went to Custard

Danielle Hawkins

HarperCollins

ISBN: 9781775541417

 

Description:

Odds of saving marriage – slim. Farming expertise – patchy. Chances that it’ll all be okay in the end – actually pretty good …

 

 

I wasn’t enjoying the afternoon of 23 February even before I learnt that my husband was having an affair …

 

The news of her husband’s infidelity comes as a nasty shock to Jenny Reynolds, part-time building control officer and full-time mother – even though, to her surprise and embarrassment, her first reaction is relief, not anguish. What really hurts is her children’s unhappiness at the break-up, and the growing realisation that, alone, she may lose the family farm.

 

This is the story of the year after Jenny’s old life falls apart; of family and farming, pet lambs and geriatric dogs, choko-bearing tenants and Springsteen-esque neighbours. And of just perhaps a second chance at happiness.

 

 

My View:

I cannot get enough of this authors writing! (I am still looking for a copy of Dinner at Rosie’s if anyone has a copy on their shelf somewhere).

 

Danielle Hawkins writes rural fiction with charm, wit, humour and engaging contemporary issues. Take a peek at the lives reflected here and you will see situations, landscapes (albeit New Zealand landscapes but they do translate well to Australian settings), and characters that remind you of places and people you know.

 

Danielle’s books always light up my day. More please.

 

 

Review: The Little Girl on the Ice Floe: Adélaïde Bon

The Little Girl on the Ice Floe

Adélaïde Bon

Maclehose Press

Hachette Australia

RRP $35

 

Description:

“Life itself is in these pages: in this candid, poetic style there is storytelling of real quality” – LEILA SLIMANI, author of Lullaby

 

A powerful and personal account of the devastating consequences of childhood rape: a valuable voice for the #MeToo conversation.

 

Adélaïde Bon grew up in a wealthy neighborhood in Paris, a privileged child with a loving family, lots of friends and seemingly limitless opportunity lying ahead of her. But one sunny afternoon, when she was nine years old, a strange man followed her home and raped her in the stairwell of her building. She told her parents, they took her to the police, the fact of the crime was registered … and then a veil was quietly drawn over that part of her childhood, and life was supposed to go on.

 

Except, of course, it didn’t.

 

Throughout her adolescence and young adulthood, Adélaïde struggles with the aftermath of the horror of that afternoon in 1990. The lingering trauma pervades all aspects of her life: family education, friendships, relationships, even her ability to eat normally. And then one day, many years later, when she is married and has a small son, she receives a call from the police saying that they think they have finally caught the man who raped her, a man who has hidden in plain sight for decades, with many other victims ready to testify against him. The subsequent court case reveals Giovanni Costa, the stuff of nightmares and bogeymen, finally vanquished by the weight of dozens and dozens of emotional and horrifying testimonies from all the women whose lives and childhoods he stole.

 

My View:

I am ready to call this The Best Memoir of 2019!

 

This is an amazing story – Adélaïde Bon’s childhood was stolen from her by a calculating and despicable man, the dark cloud of his actions remained with her for many years, unconsciously influencing her every decision and mood. Adélaïde is a brave and resourceful young woman who has used her personal story to further the #MeToo discussion.

 

Let me share a scene that I found profound. This is a scene from one of Adélaïde’s discussion with her psychiatrist (p179-180):

Psychiatrist: “Her father may have been violent. Your assailant had carefully chosen that girl. It’s quicker, less dangerous and even less tiring to assault someone who has already experienced violence.   A victim who hasn’t had any therapy disassociates herself almost immediately, assailants know how to identify them, know they won’t put up a fight, and that they probably won’t be able to say anything afterwards.   The fact that you were doing fine, that you lived in a close knit, loving family, where there was no domestic violence or corporal punishment, meant that he had to make more of an effort to make you disassociate. That’s certainly why he went so far with you. To guarantee his impunity. “

 

Adélaïde: “So afterwards, I was easier prey than the others? Is that why I attract all the perverts for miles around?”

 

Psychiatrist: “Yes. Unfortunately, the main risk factor in being the victim of violence is to have already experienced it. But you are recovering.”

 

This explains so much of life.

 

Unbelievably brave, I do not know where Adélaïde found the strength to allow love into her life and to recover from the trauma she suffered and then to write her incredibly haunting journey into the book that is “The Little Girl on the Ice Flow”.  This is a powerful and moving read, written by an incredibly talented and strong woman. I salute you Adélaïde Bon.

 

PS the translation is pitch perfect.

Review: The Go-Away Bird – written by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Catherine Rayner

The Go Away Bird

Julia Donaldson illustrated by Catherine Rayner

Macmillan Children’s Books

ISBN: 9781509843589

RRP $24.99

 

Description:

A gorgeous story about friendship and working together from a star picture-book partnership, the inimitable Julia Donaldson and award-winning Catherine Rayner.

 

‘The Go-Away bird sat up in her nest,

With her fine grey wings and her fine grey crest.’

 

One by one, the other birds fly into her tree, wanting to talk or to play, but the Go-Away bird just shakes her head and sends them all away. But then the dangerous Get-You bird comes along, and she soon realizes that she might need some friends after all . . .

 

The Go-Away Bird combines brilliant rhyming verse from much-loved children’s author Julia Donaldson, creator of the bestselling picture books The Gruffalo and What the Ladybird Heard, with stunning illustrations from the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal-winning Catherine Rayner. A charming story about the power of friendship from a thrilling creative partnership, this beautiful book is perfect for reading together.

 

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Julia Donaldson is the author of some of the world’s best-loved children’s books, including the modern classic The Gruffalo, which has sold over 17 million copies worldwide, and the hugely successful What the Ladybird Heard adventures. Julia also writes fiction, including the Princess Mirror-Belle books illustrated by Lydia Monks, as well as poems, plays and songs – and her brilliant live shows are always in demand. Catherine Rayner studied illustration at Edinburgh College of Art. Catherine won the Best New Illustrator Award at the Booktrust Early Years Awards for Augustus and His Smile and has been awarded the prestigious CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal. Catherine’s other titles for Macmillan include the critically acclaimed Solomon Crocodile and the award-winning Smelly Louie.

 

https://www.panmacmillan.com.au/9781509843589/

 

 

My View:

This must be the best rhyming children book I have come across (yes its prose really does rhyme, and rhyme well, not awkwardly as some children’s books do).  The story has a beautiful message; read out loud, enjoy the language, the rhythm and as you turn the pages experience the delightful art. I am in awe of the illustrations.

 

A gorgeous book.