Review: The Swap – Robyn Harding

The Swap

Robyn Harding

Simon & Schuster Australia

ISBN: 9781760854232

 

Description:

Low Morrison is not your average teen. You could blame her hippie parents or her dreary, isolated island hometown. Whatever the reason, Low just doesn’t fit in – and neither does newcomer Freya, an ethereal beauty and once-famous social media influencer.

 

After signing up for Freya’s pottery class, Low quickly falls under her spell. Buoyed by Low’s adoration, Freya is compelled to share her darkest secrets and deepest desires. Finally, Low feels a sense of belonging … until Jamie walks through the studio door. Freya, Jamie and their husbands become fast friends, leaving Low alone once again.

 

Then one night, after a boozy dinner party, Freya suggests swapping partners. It should have been a harmless fling between consenting adults, but instead, it upends their lives.

 

And provides Low with the perfect opportunity to unleash her growing resentment.

 

My View:

Where to start? This is a read that is nuanced with so many interesting moral dilemmas, current issues (the impact of fertility/low fertility will break your heart and the big one; bullying, domestic abuse that is surprising yet somehow not…fits this character perfectly) and a cold-blooded murder that is chilling in its ease of enactment.

I guarantee this book will intrigue and give you many thoughts to consider.

 

 

 

Guest Review: Colombiano – Rusty Young

Colombiano

Rusty Young

Havelock & Baker Publishing

ISBN: 9780143781530

 

Description:

In Colombia you have to pick a side. Or one will be picked for you . . .

All Pedro Gutiérrez cares about is fishing, playing pool and his girlfriend Camila’s promise to sleep with him on his sixteenth birthday. But his life is ripped apart when Guerrilla soldiers callously execute his father in front of him, and he and his mother are banished from their farm.

Swearing vengeance against the five men responsible, Pedro, with his best friend Palillo, joins an illegal Paramilitary group, where he is trained to fight, kill and crush any sign of weakness.

But as he descends into a world of unspeakable violence, Pedro must decide how far he is willing to go. Can he stop himself before he becomes just as ruthless as those he is hunting? Or will his dark obsession cost him all he loves?

Colombiano is an epic tale of rural villages held to ransom, of jungle drug labs, cocaine supermarkets, witch doctors and buried millions, of innocent teenage love, barbaric torture and meticulously planned revenge.

Superbly told and by turns gripping, poignant and darkly comic, Colombiano is the remarkable story of a boy whose moral descent becomes a metaphor for the corruption of an entire nation. Both blockbuster thriller and electrifying coming-of-age story, Rusty Young’s powerful novel is also a meditation on the redeeming power of love.

Brenda’s Review:

As fifteen-year-old Pedro Gutierrez was forced to watch his father being murdered, he vowed he would do everything in his power to get vengeance against the men responsible. Grieving, angry and determined, Pedro and his best friend Palillo joined the Autodefensas – opposition to the powerful and brutal Guerrilla, the group that the men he would kill belonged to. Pedro had been a naïve teenager whose love for his girlfriend Camila, his mother and father, as well as fishing with his Papa had kept him innocent. His life would change dramatically in the two and a half years he was with the Autodefensas.

Pedro’s obsession with finding his father’s killers overrode any common sense he might have and Palillo did all he could to keep Pedro from doing crazy things. But would the world of violence he had descended into turn him into a killer as well? Would he turn into one of the monsters he was pursuing?

What an incredible tale, told by Aussie author Rusty Young after his seven years in Colombia where he interviewed special forces soldiers, snipers, undercover intelligence agents and members of the brutal gangs which were at war in the country. The child soldiers were the ones who tore his heart apart, and so, in telling their story, Colombiano was born. Blending fact with fiction, this story – at 820 pages – is a long one, but one well worth reading. Pedro was an excellent character as was Palillo and I was captivated by the story; by the heartache and poignancy which saw a coming of age story along with a thriller like none I’ve ever read before. A superbly told story, Colombiano is one I highly recommend. 5 stars

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Museum Of Desire

The Museum of Desire

(Alex Delaware #35)

Century

Penguin Random House

ISBN: 9781780899046)

 

Description:

ONE NIGHT OF HEDONISM. FOUR MURDER VICTIMS.

 

A run-down mansion nestled between Beverley Hills and the San Fernando Valley is leased out for one night to house a party big enough to herald the end of days.

 

When a limo is discovered in the grounds of the house the morning after with four dead bodies inside, a mind-bending case begins.

 

With no link between the four people in the car, and each of the victims murdered in a different way, psychologist Alex Delaware and LAPD Lieutenant Milo Sturgis are about to begin their grisliest and most baffling case yet.

 

And as they struggle to make sense of the vicious mass slaying, they will be forced to confront a level of lust and evil for which their combined wisdom can provide no preparation.

 

 

My View:

This was an engaging, weird, quirky, dark murder mystery but the strangest things about this read are; it is the 35th book in the series and I have never read anything by the author before (my bad) he is a talented writer who writes with sharpness, intention and skill. This is the 35th book in the Alex Delaware series yet I easily read it as a standalone – more kudos to the writer. The protagonists – quirky, likable, authentic.  The crimes – gruesome, diabolical and twisted.

A great read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Strangers – C.L. Taylor

Strangers

CL Taylor

Avon:

Harper Collins Publishers

ISBN: 9780008222468

 

Description:

Ursula, Gareth and Alice have never met before.

 

Ursula thinks she killed the love of her life.

 

Gareth’s been receiving strange postcards.

 

And Alice is being stalked.

 

None of them are used to relying on others – but when the three strangers’ lives unexpectedly collide, there’s only one thing for it: they have to stick together. Otherwise, one of them will die.

 

Three strangers, two secrets, one terrifying evening.

 

The million-copy bestseller returns with a gripping new novel that will keep you guessing until the end.

 

 

My View:

With multiple story lines, I love how all the different characters and their worlds collide in one tense standoff. This is a mystery that will keep you guessing whilst simultaneously reminding you that what you “see” on the outside often does not reflect the inner,  the real person – their turmoils and challenges.

This quietly written book is disturbing, a great character driven mystery.

 

 

Review: The Gilded Cage – Camilla Läckberg

The Gilded Cage

Camilla Läckberg

Harper Collins Publishers

ISBN: 9780008283735

 

Description:

All that glitters…

 

People would kill to have Faye von Essen’s life. She lives in an ultra-swanky apartment in the most exclusive area of Stockholm, she has a gorgeous husband who gives her everything she’s ever wanted, and she has an adorable daughter who lights up her world. Faye’s life is perfect.

 

So how is it, then, that she now finds herself in a police station?

 

The truth is that Faye’s life is far from what it seems. The truth is that Faye isn’t even her real name. And now she’s been caught out. There’s no way she’s going to go down without a fight. The only question is – who will escape with their life?

 

 

My View:

I found it took me a little while to get “into” this novel. I think the translation was part of that reason – the style a little formal, a little clunky in places.

 

This is a narrative that illuminates the issues many women still face in life today – as being seen a possession, as having a “use by date”, of being “invisible” in the workplace, of not being given credit for ideas/work done. For highlighting and discussing those issues I applaud this read.

 

It is also a very cleverly constructed story of survival and revenge. At times you will find yourself silently applauding the protagonist, its that kind of read. The downfall for me however was that I generally did not like the main characters. I did not like their seeming obsessions with meaningless sex – although I thought just occurred to me – was this the authors deliberate intention – to demonstrate how a set of behaviours – sexual conquests – is mostly accepted in male characters but frowned on in women’s behaviour?  Interesting…clever.

 

An interesting read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Seven Lies – Elizabeth Kay

Seven Lies

Elizabeth Kay

Hachette Australia

Sphere

ISBN:9780751578126

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

Jane and Marnie have been inseparable since they were eleven years old. They have a lot in common. In their early twenties they fell in love with and married handsome young men. But Jane never liked Marnie’s husband. He was always so loud and obnoxious, so much larger than life. Which is rather ironic now, of course.

 

Because if Jane had been honest – if she hadn’t told those lies – then perhaps her best friend’s husband might still be alive . . .

 

This is Jane’s opportunity to tell the truth and, as she narrates their shared history and unpicks each of her seven lies, she reveals the pockets of darkness that have infiltrated their friendship and the toxic secrets still bubbling beneath. It’s a novel about obsession, grief, the dark corners of even the closest friendships and what it means to tell your version of the truth.

 

 

My View:

This is a very disconcerting yet mesmerising read.  The friendships and various relationships depicted in this narrative feel real and everyday yet the behaviour of the protagonist, who slowly morphs into the antihero, (an unusual development in itself) starts out as benign (who wouldn’t tell a little white lie to protect a friend/friendship?) and ends up scarily obsessive and destructive.   The author takes us on a strangely unique journey – from best friend to toxic friend…from the point to f view of the toxic partner.

 

This is a very engaging read and one where a simply depicted act of revenge is disconcerting and horrifying. Snap – a life is over.  This is a very unsettling read.

 

 

Review: Please See Us – Caitlin Mullen

Please See Us

Caitlin Mullen

Gallery Books

Simon and Schuster Australia

ISBN: 9781982152581

RRP $29.99

 

Description:

 In this sophisticated, suspenseful debut reminiscent of Laura Lippman and Chloe Benjamin, two young women become unlikely friends during one fateful summer in Atlantic City as mysterious disappearances hit dangerously close to home.

 

Summer has come to Atlantic City but the boardwalk is empty of tourists, the casino lights have dimmed, and two Jane Does are laid out in the marshland behind the Sunset Motel, just west of town. Only one person even knows they’re there.

 

Meanwhile, Clara, a young boardwalk psychic, struggles to attract clients for the tarot readings that pay her rent. When she begins to experience very real and disturbing visions, she suspects they could be related to the recent cases of women gone missing in town. When Clara meets Lily, an ex-Soho art gallery girl who is working at a desolate casino spa and reeling from a personal tragedy, she thinks Lily may be able to help her. But Lily has her own demons to face. If they can put the pieces together in time, they may save another lost girl—so long as their efforts don’t attract perilous attention first. Can they break the ill-fated cycle, or will they join the other victims?

 

Evocative, eerie, and compelling, Please See Us is a fast-paced psychological thriller that explores the intersection of womanhood, power, and violence.

 

My View:

 “I shuffled the deck and the cards stuck together in the humidity…

 The card I drew was the Moon. The card for women. The card meant mystery, confusion, even insanity. But it could also mean knowing, intuition, or a sign that you needed to face what scared you the most…I also needed to believe that magic and meaning sometimes reached into our world. Or else there was just my life – the high school diploma I would never get, the shop, the mangy feral cats, the mother who never wrote anymore, Des coming home from a shift at the club with her pupils huge and glassy, rubbing at her nose.” (p35)

 

This is such a powerful bittersweet read that in its guise of a powerful, suspenseful, murder mystery sheds light on the insidious power of  addiction, of the role of women in society – the  judgement and expectations of “good” women and the “the other kind”,  the business of selling women’s’ bodies…using women bodies for self-gratification, a throw away commodity;

“There’s this flier someone was passing around at the club. One of the other girls gave it to me. A business opportunity.”

   “Okay…”

“Well, it’s this service, right? Where rich men are looking for to…take care of young, attractive women.”

“What do you mean, take care of?”

“Pay you to let them take them out on dates. Buy you nice things, take you out to good dinners”.

“They pay you to let them buy you stuff? Come on Des, that’s not all they’re paying for.” I had lived here my whole life; I’d seen how this kind of thing worked. Young women, in short dresses, getting into the back seats of strangers’ cars, disappearing into the night. In this town of people who wanted to win and drink and take? No way an opportunity for generosity was what they were paying for.” (p30,31)

 

This is such a powerful read and an outstanding murder/mystery.  Aside from the potent discussion about women’s role in society, the male gaze, addiction, women in poverty, mental health and post -natal depression, this is an intoxicating narrative that gives voice to the victims, to the dead. I loved how we got to know the victims before the path they trod led to their death.  The victims were seen for the potential they briefly held, for the innocents they once were, for the daughters, mothers, school kids, friends, family they had been before they became victims.

 

And this is Caitlin Mullen’s debut novel!!! What an exhilarating read. I cannot wait to read more from this author. I predict awards, lots of awards.

 

Review: A Conspiracy of Bones- Kathy Reichs

A Conspiracy of Bones

Temperance Brennan #19

Kathy Reichs

Simon & Schuster Australia

ISBN: 9781760853983

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Kathy Reichs returns with a new riveting novel featuring her vastly popular character forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, who must use all her tradecraft to discover the identity of a faceless corpse, its connection to a decade-old missing child case, and why the dead man had her cell phone number.

 

It’s sweltering in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Temperance Brennan, still recovering from neurosurgery following an aneurysm, is battling nightmares, migraines, and what she thinks might be hallucinations when she receives a series of mysterious text messages, each containing a new picture of a corpse that is missing its face and hands. Immediately, she’s anxious to know who the dead man is, and why the images were sent to her.

 

An identified corpse soon turns up, only partly answering her questions.

 

To win answers to the others, including the man’s identity, she must go rogue, working mostly outside the system. That’s because Tempe’s new boss holds a fierce grudge against her and is determined to keep her out of the case. Tempe bulls forward anyway, even as she begins questioning her instincts. But the clues she discovers are disturbing and confusing. Was the faceless man a spy? A trafficker? A target for assassination by the government? And why was he carrying the name of a child missing for almost a decade?

 

With help from a number of law enforcement associates including her Montreal beau Andrew Ryan and the always-ready-with-a-smart-quip, ex-homicide investigator Skinny Slidell, and utilizing new cutting-edge forensic methods, Tempe draws closer to the astonishing truth.

 

But the more she uncovers, the darker and more twisted the picture becomes…

 

 

My View:

Welcome back Kathy Reichs, it has been a while since we last spoke but I do understand the reason why (and so will you after you finished reading this book). Actually, I think I enjoyed this book even more so because of “the break” between reads and because it has been a long time since I watched the Bones Tv series ( we gave away our TV a few years ago now ) and it was good to read the book and not have visions of the characters of Bones in my head.

 

This read was a little different to the previous eighteen books in this series (what an accomplishment), here Tempe is working on her own (with Skinny Sidell – whom is a valuable ally and important character in this book) after being ousted from her role as coroner.  Tenacious and a with her usual desire to give voice to the victims of murder, she sets out on her quest to discover the identity of a mystery corpse.

 

Twisty, engaging and with a surprising revelation (no spoilers here), you will enjoy this read.

 

 

 

Review: The Familiar Dark – Amy Engel

The Familiar Dark

Amy Engel

Hodder & Stoughton

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9781529368086

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

From the bestselling author of The Roanoke Girls comes a new novel with the same incredible atmosphere, strong sense of place and dark heart. The Familiar Dark will blow you away.

 

In a small town beset by poverty in the Missouri Ozarks two 12-year-old girls are found dead in the park. Their throats have been cut.

 

Eve Taggert’s daughter was one of them. Desperate with grief, she takes it upon herself to find out the truth about what happened to her little girl.

 

Eve is no stranger to the dark side of life – having been raised by a hard-edged mother whose parenting lessons she tried hard not to mimic. But with her daughter gone, Eve has no reason to stay soft. And she is going to need her mother’s cruel brand of strength if she’s going to face the truth about her daughter’s death.

 

 

My View:

Dark. Gritty. Poignant. So, so, sad.

2020 has been a fabulous year for all things crime fiction.  Each new read I finish I think “This is the best crime fiction read of the year”, and then I start the next book and I am blown away with how good that next book is. This book is another contender for Crime Fiction Book of the Year.

 

Dark and startling – you will not believe where this book takes you. I think there are a coup0el of points that make this read outstanding; the characters, particularly the protagonist Eve Taggert, is someone you just really want to see come out of this terrible situation well, I have so much empathy for this character and I guess many others will too.  The settings transport to you to small town America where Eve scratches out a living the best she can. And the social commentary, there is much written here about the objectification of women, women as possessions… and a savage a brutal crime with a jaw dropping conclusion.   Read this quick read, only 236 pages, perfect to read in one sitting.

 

I will leave you to contemplate on this quote from the book:

“That mouth one more thing I buried when Junie was born. Wanting to teach her a better way to approach the world.  One that wouldn’t leave her judged as poor white trash and not much else. But now I wonder if maybe a mouth like I used to have might have helped save her. Maybe she’d have been more likely to scream. To tell someone to go fuck themselves. To fight back. Or maybe it would have only have made the knife move faster. Truth is, there is no good way to navigate being female in this world. If you speak out, say no, stand your ground, you’re a bitch and a harpy, and whatever happens to you is your own fault. You had it coming. But if you smile, say yes, survive on politeness, you’re weak and desperate. An easy mark. Prey in a world full of predators. There are no risk-free options for women, no choices that don’t come back to smack us in the face. Junie hadn’t learnt that yet. But she would have, eventually. We all do, one way of the other. “ (pps 142,143 – Eve contemplating if she should have made her daughter tougher, less easy to be murdered… )

 

 

 

 

 

Review: The Recovery of Rose Gold – Stephanie Wrobel

The Recovery of Rose Gold
Stephanie Wrobel
Penguin Random House Australia
Michael Joseph
ISBN: 9780241416082

Description:
Rose Gold Watts believed she was sick for eighteen years.

She thought she needed the feeding tube, the surgeries, the wheelchair . . .

Turns out her mother is a really good liar.

After five years in prison, Patty Watts is finally free. All she wants is to put old grievances behind her, reconcile with the daughter who testified against her – and care for her new infant grandson.

When Rose Gold agrees to have Patty move in, it seems their relationship is truly on the mend. And she has waited such a long time for her mother to come home.
But is she still the pliable young girl she once was? And is Patty still as keen on settling an old score?

Because if mothers never forget then daughters never forgive.

A chilling tale of obsession, reconciliation and revenge from an incredible new talent.

My View:
This one completely baffled me – right up to the last few pages and then it still had a few surprises – a great read!

This is a read that will keep you guessing, will have you shaking your head confoundedly, “how could this happen?”, will continually surprise you and you will gasp at the ending.

This is a great read.