Review: Bad Cree – Jessica Johns

Bad Cree

Jessica Johns

Scribe

ISBN:9781922585653

RRP $29.99

Description:

In this gripping debut, a young Cree woman’s dreams lead her on a perilous journey of self-discovery that ultimately forces her to confront the toll of a legacy of violence on her family, her community, and the land they call home.

When Mackenzie wakes up with a severed crow’s head in her hands, she panics. Only moments earlier she had been fending off masses of birds in a snow-covered forest. In bed, when she blinks, the head disappears.

Night after night, Mackenzie’s dreams return her to a memory from before her sister Sabrina’s untimely death: a weekend at the family’s lakefront campsite, long obscured by a fog of guilt. But when the waking world starts closing in, too — crows stalk her every move around the city; she gets threatening text messages from someone claiming to be Sabrina — Mackenzie knows this is more than she can handle alone.

Travelling north to her rural hometown in Alberta, she finds her family still steeped in the same grief that she ran away to Vancouver to escape. They welcome her back, but their shaky reunion only seems to intensify her dreams — and make them more dangerous.

What really happened that night at the lake, and what did it have to do with Sabrina’s death? Only a bad Cree would put their family at risk, but what if whatever has been calling Mackenzie home was already inside her?

My View:

Exceptional! Gripping! Compelling.

I was fascinated, entranced, wanted to learn more…this mystery was compelling.

I have seen reviews that describe this as horror – that made me rethink the read…whilst I was reading I was only thinking, mystery. It has some supernatural elements – which maybe could be considered more part of a cultural specific storytelling, mmm….”horror” didnt come to mind….but I guess some my read it as such.

For me this was a story about family, about culture, about progress, about greed, about grief, about coming home. However you describe this read it is compelling. This is an author to look out for.

My Most Anticipated Read of 2023 has Arrived

On the Savage Side

Tiffany McDaniel

W & N

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9781399606080

RRP $32.99

Publishing 14th February 2023

Description:

Six women – mothers, daughters, sisters – gone missing. When the first is found floating dead in the river, it reveals the disturbing truth of a small Ohio town. Inspired by the unsolved murders of the Chillicothe Six, this harrowing and haunting novel tells the story of two sisters, both of whom could be the next victims. From the internationally-bestselling author of Betty.

Arcade and Daffodil are twin sisters born one minute apart. With their fiery red hair and thirst for an escape, they forge an unbreakable bond nurtured by both their grandmother’s stories and their imaginations. Together, they create a world where a patch of grass reveals an archaeologist’s dig, the smoke emerging from the local paper mill becomes the dust rising from wild horses galloping in the ground, and an abandoned 1950s convertible transforms into a time machine that can take them anywhere.

But the two sisters can’t escape the generational chaos that grips their family. Growing up in the shadow of the town, the sisters cling tight to one another. As an adult, Arcade wrestles with these memories of her life, just as a local woman is discovered drowned in the river. Soon, more bodies are found. While her friends disappear around her, Arcade is forced to reckon with the past while the killer circles ever closer. Arcade’s promise to keep herself and her sister safe becomes increasingly desperate while the powerful riptide of the savage side becomes more difficult to resist.

Drawing from the true story of women killed in her native Ohio, acclaimed novelist and poet Tiffany McDaniel has written a powerful literary testament and fearless elegy for missing women everywhere.

I cannot wait to start this! Tiffany McDaniel has written some amazing books; Betty, and The Summer that Melted Everything are my all time favourites. I cannot wait to read this new one.

Review: The Next Girl – Pip Drysdale

The Next Girl

Pip Drysdale

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781761106644

Description;

Promising Young Woman meets High Fidelity in the dark and twisty new thriller from the bestselling author of The Sunday Girl, The Strangers We Know and The Paris Affair.

A bad day at work. A drunken night. A rogue Instagram follow. That’s all it takes to ruin a life …

The question is, whose life will be ruined? When Billie wakes up in a strange guy’s bed, her first thought is: what happened last night? She can’t even remember meeting him. And how the hell did she get to Coney Island?

Then reality bites and the memories flood in – the reason she was in that bar, drinking to start with: today she’s going to get fired. Because yesterday her law firm lost a big case: Samuel Grange v Jane Delaney. And it looked like it was her fault.

It wasn’t. Yet now Samuel Grange is free to drive off into the sunset in his stupid Porsche and do it all again to another woman. And all Billie can think is: What about the next girl? And the one after that? But there is nothing she can do to stop him.

Unless … She could expose the truth about him on her own. Then everyone would see what he was really like. And he wouldn’t be able to do it again.

The problem is, the only way to protect the next girl is to become the next girl. And, well, that could be a little risky … even deadly.

Praise for The Next Girl

‘Original. Breathtaking. Dangerous. The Next Girl is compulsory reading from an author at the top of her game.’ Loraine Peck, author of The Second Son

‘It hooked me in and left me breathless. Set aside your weekend because you won’t be able to put it down.’ Petronella McGovern, author of The Liars

‘Fierce, smart and packed with tension, The Next Girl grabbed me from the first page.’ Ashley Kalagian Blunt, author of Dark Mode

‘Pip Drysdale is one of the brightest new stars in the realm of first-person psychological suspense … Romantic suspense for the Netflix generation.’ Canberra Times

‘A twisty, suspenseful thriller with a heroine who makes doing bad things seem right.’ Tim Ayliffe, author of The Enemy Within

368 pages, Paperback

Published November 30, 2022

Dear Pip

Yesterday I had a massage – I had kinks and knots and aches and pains. The remedial massage was an hour of bliss (mostly ) Last night I continued to read your book, The Next Girl. I was reading curled up on the lounge, I could feel the tension in my neck budling…being “posture aware” I moved my reading to the kitchen table, I sat straight for all of 2 minutes and then the tension, almost like panic, fear, anticipation…came back. I was “in that room” with your protagonist. I tore through the final chapters, finished the book and exhaled. My muscles relaxed.

You owe me, one remedial massage 🙂

Review: A Brief Affair – Alex Miller

A Brief Affair

Alex Miller

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781761066573

Description:

A moving novel about storytelling, about truths, and love, from twice Miles Franklin Award winner Alex Miller.

From the bustling streets of China, to the ominous Cell 16 in an old asylum building, to the familiar sounds and sight of galahs flying over a Victorian farm, A Brief Affair is a tender love story.

On the face of it, Dr Frances Egan is a woman who has it all – a loving family and a fine career – until a brief, perfect affair reveals to her an imaginative dimension to her life that is wholly her own.

Fran finds the courage and the inspiration to risk everything and change her direction at the age of forty-two. This newfound understanding of herself is fortified by the discovery of a long-forgotten diary from the asylum and the story it reveals.

Written with humour, sensitivity and the wisdom for which Miller’s work is famous, this exquisitely compassionate novel explores the interior life and the dangerous navigation of love in all its forms.

My View:

This author has such a powerful yet subtle touch – his words to be savoured, his books to be treasured.

5 Stars *****

Review: Tiny Uncertain Miracles – Michelle Johnston

Tiny Uncertain Miracles: the most uplifting gift of a novel you’ll read this Christmas 2022

Michelle Johnston

4th Estate AU

Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9781460762714

RRP $32.99

Description:

Miracles are notoriously unreliable. But sometimes, just when they’re needed, they turn up – although not always in the form that we expect…

‘A novel luminous with love and hope that will change the way you see the world.’ Kathryn Heyman

Awkward, hapless Marick is still struggling with the loss of his wife, his child and his faith when he is reluctantly thrust into the position of chaplain at a large public hospital. Shortly after arriving, he meets Hugo, a hospital scientist and a man almost as lost as Marick himself, who is working in a forgotten lab, deep in the subterranean realms of the hospital. Hugo is convinced that the bacteria he uses for protein production have – unbelievably – begun to produce gold. Is it alchemy, evolution, a hoax or even … possibly … a miracle?

In the meantime, Christmas is approaching, the number of homeless outside the hospital is increasing, the Director of Operational Services is pressing Marick about his weekly KPIs, you can’t buy chocolate in the hospital shop anymore, and Marick keeps waking with nightmares at 4 am every night. If ever a miracle was needed, it’s now.

A tender, sweet, sad, gritty, slyly funny and unexpectedly uplifting novel about family, friendship, faith, love – and alchemy – Tiny Uncertain Miracles is a hopeful and luminous gift to all readers.

PRAISE FOR TINY UNCERTAIN MIRACLES

‘Johnston captures the brutal reality of life with a lyricism and gentleness that will touch many. Readers of Elizabeth Strout, Mitch Albom and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine will find similarities and enjoyment in Tiny Uncertain Miracles.’ Books+Publishing

‘Johnston articulates the biggest questions and the smallest human moments with rare beauty and precision. A stunning act of imagination and storytelling’ – Robert Lukins, Loveland

‘Emotionally rich, profoundly absorbing and entrancingly unique, this is a book you won’t be able to put down. Johnston’s sentences dance, her wit sparkles and her power arises from her authority and audacity. Intellectually rigorous and achingly poignant; Tiny Uncertain Miracles is a virtuoso performance by a writer at the height of her powers. I have not read anything as satisfying and stimulating for a very long time.’ Alice Nelson, The Children’s House

Tiny Uncertain Miracles is witty, profound and a joy to read. Johnston posits that believing in something is better than nothing, and that redemption can come from the least likely places. Invisible gods, alchemy, medical science – all have their place but none tops the marvel of people, in their own weird ways and often despite themselves, being pretty bloody marvellous’ – Paul Dalgarno, A Country of Eternal Light

‘Original, enchanting and ultimately hopeful – Tiny Uncertain Miracles is a dazzling tale that will get under your skin and into your heart, in the best way possible’ – Ewa Ramsey, The Morbid

My View:

Let me start with the cover – I love this cover, the tiny gold dots, it is perfect for this read, perfect.

This is a tender, sublime, character driven story, ultimately of hope. Until I read this I have never really considered what the “first responders”, our ambulance officers, fireman. women, priests, chaplains, emergency room doctors and nurses “do” with all the pain, grief and despair that encounter on a day to day basis. It must be heavy, it must be hard. Thank you all for what you selflessly do for humanity.

The narrative – is a slow and deliberate expose of the lives of a few who inhabit the space of the hospital – whether they be the cleaner, the volunteers in the kiosk, the food attendants, the chaplain, the homeless who seek shelter in the hospital grounds, the medical and allied staff and last but not least, the patients and their families. Johnston gently, subtly reveals their inner thinking’s, their personalities, their aspirations and sometimes their failures. The characters are all very credible.

The ending is one of hope and cant we all use a little of that these days?

Read, enjoy, reflect.

PS Did the author make a cameo appearance in this read? If you have read this book let me know if you considered that possibility?

Review: The Pachinko Parlour – Elisa Shua Dusapin, translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins

The Pachinko Parlour

Elisa Shua Dusapin

Translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins

Scribe

ISBN: 9781922585172

Description:

From the author of Winter in Sokcho, which won the 2021 National Book Award for Translated Literature.

The days are beginning to draw in. The sky is dark by seven in the evening. I lie on the floor and gaze out of the window. Women’s calves, men’s shoes, heels trodden down by the weight of bodies borne for too long.

It is summer in Tokyo. Claire finds herself dividing her time between tutoring twelve-year-old Mieko in an apartment in an abandoned hotel and lying on the floor at her grandparents: daydreaming, playing Tetris, and listening to the sounds from the street above. The heat rises; the days slip by.

The plan is for Claire to visit Korea with her grandparents. They fled the civil war there over fifty years ago, along with thousands of others, and haven’t been back since. When they first arrived in Japan, they opened Shiny, a pachinko parlour. Shiny is still open, drawing people in with its bright, flashing lights and promises of good fortune. And as Mieko and Claire gradually bond, their tender relationship growing, Mieko’s determination to visit the pachinko parlour builds.

The Pachinko Parlour is a nuanced and beguiling exploration of identity and otherness, unspoken histories, and the loneliness you can feel within a family. Crisp and enigmatic, Shua Dusapin’s writing glows with intelligence.

My View:

Another beautifully written book which has been excellently translated, a joy to read.

Shua Dusapin writes with intelligence and with a deep understanding of what it is to be human. Her writing evocatively reflects on aging, culture, belonging … The writing has a sense of innocence that is peaceful yet confident; vignettes of the ordinary that are so revealing.

Review – Daisy Darker – Alice Feeney

Daisy Darker

Alice Feeney

Macmillan

ISBN:9781529089813

Description:

The New York Times bestselling Queen of Twists returns…with a family reunion that leads to murder.

After years of avoiding each other, Daisy Darker’s entire family is assembling for Nana’s 80th birthday party in Nana’s crumbling gothic house on a tiny tidal island. Finally back together one last time, when the tide comes in, they will be cut off from the rest of the world for eight hours.

The family arrives, each of them harboring secrets. Then at the stroke of midnight, as a storm rages, Nana is found dead. And an hour later, the next family member follows…

Trapped on an island where someone is killing them one by one, the Darkers must reckon with their present mystery as well as their past secrets, before the tide comes in and all is revealed.

My View:

Love the cover art. Love the writing; evocative, some really beautiful prose, full of surprising revelations.

This is a very cleverly plotted and written book; there are plenty of surprises, some reflections on the meaning of “family” and lots of exploration of family dynamics in general.

Daisy Darker pays homage to 2 well known narratives ( no spoilers see if you can pick them) this was a clever device, but for me it took a little of the gloss of the reveal away. If you like a “locked in” mystery, like a twisty plot, then this book is for you.

If you have read this what did you think?

I think its time I read her previous acclaimed book, Rock Paper Scissors.

Guest Review: The Brink – Holden Sheppard

The Brink

Holden Sheppard

Text Publishing

ISBN: 9781922458643

Description:

A group of school-leavers: free at last, ready to party, expectations high.

A remote island on the Western Australian coast wasn’t exactly the plan, but they’re not going to let that hold them back.

Leonardo, geeky, asthmatic, shy and prone to anxiety, has landed with them. He’s terrified—he’s definitely not part of this cool gang. Super high-achiever Kaiya is trying to forget her frustration with her drug-addicted sister as well as dealing with pressure from the popular girls to lose her virginity. Mason, footy jock with the physique to match, is coming to terms with his secret desire for his best mate, Jared. And Jared wants a week off from his relationship with Val so he can have sex with as many girls as possible.

But the party takes a dangerous turn when Val is drugged and a man is later found dead on the beach. Blame, fear, mistrust, coverups, power plays and dark secrets tear the group apart and expose the deadly tensions beneath the surface. And each teen is forced to confront demons that will lead them either to devastating tragedy or transformative triumph.

Whoever survives the week will never be the same again.

The Brink is a raw, powerful novel that pulls no punches in its authentic exploration of masculinity, sexuality, mental health, drug and alcohol use, relationships and sex. Holden Sheppard takes the teenage experience to the next level

Rachel’s View:

Holden Sheppard’s second novel, The Brink, perfectly captures the feelings of excitement, uncertainty and expectation that come with the end of high school. Mix these swirling teenage emotions with the euphoria of leavers, a remote and menacing location, and a splattering of secrets and it would be enough for a thrilling read – throw in a body on the beach, and things get explosive.

One thing is for sure, no one in this group will be the same again – that is, if they even make it home.

Holden Sheppard is a unique voice in the WA literary scene, creating in vivid detail the recognisable locations that local readers will really connect with. In the follow up to his award-winning debut, masculinity and sexuality are again key themes but this time explored through the heady mix of alcohol, drugs, and wild nights of leavers chaos, and the deadly tensions and power plays that lurk beneath the surface in a group of friends.

A raw and powerful read that really cuts deep, the tense mystery kept me turning the pages late into the night.

Review- Marlo – Jay Carmichael

Marlo

Jay Carmichael

Scribe

ISBN: 9781925713695

RRP$24.99

Description:

A novel of two men, love, and aching loneliness.

It’s the 1950s in conservative Australia, and Christopher, a young gay man, moves to ‘the City’ to escape the repressive atmosphere of his tiny hometown. Once there, however, he finds that it is just as censorial and punitive, in its own way.

Then Christopher meets Morgan, an Aboriginal man, and the two fall in love — a love that breathes truth back into Christopher’s stifled life. But the society around them remains rigid and unchanging, and what begins as a refuge for both men inevitably buckles under the intensity of navigating a world that wants them to refuse what they are.

In reviving a time that is still so recent yet so vastly different from now, Jay Carmichael has drawn on archival material, snippets of newspaper articles, and photos to create the claustrophobic environment in which these two men lived and tried to love. Told with Carmichael’s ear for sparse, poetic beauty, Marlo takes us into the heartbreaking landscape of a relationship defined as much by what is said and shared as by what has to remain unsaid, and unlived.

My View:

I have mixed feelings about this book. I guess my biggest issue was inconsistency. Some of the writing is absolutely beautiful. But somewhere along the way it got a little lost, disjointed ( I got lost) the narrative was evocative, reads like a creative memoir – a “diary” of a time in the recent past that is largely missing from our (Australian) history books and for that point alone is worth reading.

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.