Guest Review:Deception Creek – Fleur McDonald

Deception Creek

Fleur McDonald

Allen & Unwin

ISBN 9781760878825

Description:
A returned criminal, a cult-like family and cybercrime all clash against the backdrop of the Flinders Ranges in this thrilling new rural suspense novel from the best-selling Voice of the Outback.

Emma Cameron, a recently divorced farmer and a local in Barker, runs Deception Creek, the farm that three generations of her family have owned before her. Every day Emma pushes herself hard on the land, hoping to make ten-year-old memories of a terrible car accident disappear. And now there are more recent nightmares of an ex-husband who refuses to understand how much the farm means to Emma.

When criminal Joel Hammond is released from jail and heads home to Barker, Detective Dave Burrows and his officer Senior Sergeant Jack Higgins are on high alert. Joel has a long and sorry history with many of the townsfolk and they are not keen to see him home to stay.

Not all of the Barker locals want to see Joel run out of town though. Some even harbour doubts about Joel’s conviction. The town finds itself split down the middle, families pitted against each other with devastating outcomes.

Brenda’s View:
When Joel Hammond returned to Barker, to his hometown and the home his parents had left him when they died, he’d known it wouldn’t be easy. But he hadn’t expected the anger and hate directed at him by a prominent family in town. Joel had been convicted of fraud at his job in Adelaide and went to jail for five years, before adding another four years for assault while inside. He was a changed man, but he just wanted the past behind him.

Emma Cameron owned and ran Deception Creek, the property which had been in her family for generations, and she loved her work. She had farm hand Matt working for her and he’d been reliable and a great support with all his farming knowledge over the six years he’d been working on Deception Creek. Emma had been first on scene to a fatal accident nine years prior and still had nightmares from the memories; now with her recent divorce, she wanted to bury herself in her work on the farm and try to forget her worries.

Detective Dave Burrows and Senior Sergeant Jack Higgins both felt there was something dangerous hovering over their town. With Joel back, unhappy residents, strangers in town, Jack and Dave were both on high alert. What would be the outcome of the uneasy atmosphere in Barker? Would Dave and Jack be able to keep the peace?

Deception Creek is another outstanding, tense suspense novel from Aussie author Fleur McDonald which I absolutely loved. The author is up there on my favourites list – I always look forward to her next book! Well crafted characters, and of course my favourites – Dave Burrows and Jack Higgins – lead the way in this phenomenal read which I highly recommend.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin AU for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Review: The Way It is Now – Garry Disher

The Way It Is Now

Garry Disher

Text Publishing

ISBN:9781922458162

Description:

Set in a beach-shack town an hour from Melbourne, The Way It Is Now tells the story of a burnt-out cop named Charlie Deravin.

Charlie is living in his family’s holiday house, on forced leave since he made a mess of things at work.

Things have never been easy for Charlie. Twenty years earlier his mother went missing in the area, believed murdered. His father has always been the main suspect, though her body was never found.

Until now: the foundations are being dug for a new house on a vacant block. The skeletal remains of a child and an adult are found—and Charlie’s past comes crashing in on him.

The Way It Is Now is the enthralling new novel by Garry Disher, one of Australia’s most loved and celebrated crime writers.

Brenda’s View:

Twenty years prior, Charlie Deravin’s mother, Rose, went missing. She and his father were in the middle of a divorce and Charlie and his brother Liam had just evicted a tenant from their mother’s home. But when Rose disappeared, the police blamed Rhys, Charlie’s father. Rhys was an ex-cop and Charlie was a cop on suspension – Charlie had moved back to the little seaside town and was living in the shack his parents had called home before it all went pear-shaped. Charlie had spent a lot of the last twenty years interviewing people and trying to find his mother, ruining his own marriage in the process…

When the news hit the town of the skeletal remains of a child being found on a vacant block, and then underneath the child, the remains of an adult, Charlie was sure it would be his mother. He was positive he knew the identity of the child as well. The police homicide department was soon on the scene, opening the case once again and interviewing all those who were interviewed twenty years prior. Rhys and his second wife, Fay, were overseas cruising and wouldn’t be home any time soon. But still Rhys was a suspect. What would be the outcome for Charlie and his family as this cold case once again came to life?

The Way it is Now is a standalone novel by Australia’s master crime writer Garry Disher, and it was outstanding. A relaxed but twisty, tension filled story of a family and their ongoing grief, the divisions throughout the family and the grievances which were the result of what happened, made for an excellent crime novel which I highly recommend.

With thanks to Text Publishing for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Wattle Island Book Club

The Wattle Island Book Club
Sandie Docker
Penguin Random House

My View:

Outstanding!!!

Add this author to your must read list. Do it.

Written with finesse, with gentle words, with kindness, gratitude and positivity, this book brought a few tears to my eye – and that was a good thing.

From the outset I knew this was going to be a read that would take me to uncomfortable places, I was expecting some of the scenarios presented here – but not all of them. Although tinged with sadness, a bitter sweet ending, I am so pleased the author wasn’t tempted to make this a (unrealistic) happy ever after.

It was indeed sad. It was indeed thought provoking. I did shed a (few) tears. But it was a stronger read for the realistic, poignant, ending. Bravo!!

Synopsis:

Review: The Other Side of Beautiful – Kim Lock

The Other Side of Beautiful

Kim Lock

HQ Fiction

ISBN: 9781867214915

Description:

Lost & Found meets The Rosie Project in a stunning break-out novel where a vulnerable misfit is forced to re-engage with the world, despite her best efforts.

Meet Mercy Blain, whose house has just burnt down. Unfortunately for Mercy, this goes beyond the disaster it would be for most people: she hasn’t been outside that house for two years now.

Flung out into the world she’s been studiously ignoring, Mercy goes to the only place she can. Her not-quite-ex-husband Eugene’s house. But it turns out she can’t stay there, either.

And so begins Mercy’s unwilling journey. After the chance purchase of a cult classic campervan (read tiny, old and smelly), with the company of her sausage dog, Wasabi, and a mysterious box of cremated remains, Mercy heads north from Adelaide to Darwin.

On the road, through badly timed breakdowns, gregarious troupes of grey nomads, and run-ins with a rogue adversary, Mercy’s carefully constructed walls start crumbling. But what was Mercy hiding from in her house? And why is Eugene desperate to have her back in the city? They say you can’t run forever…

Exquisite, tender and wry, this is a break-out novel about facing anxiety and embracing life from an extraordinary new talent.

My View:

This is a fabulous read- moving, engaging, authentic in setting and characters (particularly the caravanning community) and written with a vulnerability that is captivating. This book is such a delight to read.

Do you read a book and go – yes so and so will enjoy this? Or my sister-in-law/daughter /family/friend will love this? This is one such book. I loved it, and have recommended to so many. Now I am recommending it to you.

Review: Tipping – Anna George

Tipping

Anna George

Viking

Penguin Books

ISBN: 9781760897789

Description:

An Instagram scandal at a grammar school sparks outrage in an exclusive bayside suburb and upends the lives of the families involved. However, it might also prove to be the tipping point required to change the school, and the wider community, for the better.

 

Liv Winsome, working mother of three sons, wife to decent if distracted Duncan, is overwhelmed. And losing her hair. Her doctor has told her she needs to slow down, do less. Focus on what’s important.

 

After Jai, one of her fourteen-year-old twins, is involved in a sexting scandal, Liv realises things need to change, and fast. Inspired by the pop-psychology books she devours, she writes a nine-page list of everything she does to keep the family afloat, and she delegates. She lets her boys’ conservative school know it has some work to do, too – partly, Liv suspects, because its leadership has a ‘woman problem’ (or, rather, a too-many-men problem).

 

Jai’s girlfriend, Grace, is at the heart of the sexting scandal and her mum, Jess Charters, up in arms as well, goes to the media. The women’s combined focus forces Carmichael Grammar to take action. To everyone’s surprise, and Liv’s delight, things actually start to improve.

 

Inspired by his wife’s efforts, Duncan rethinks the way he lives and works, too, despite the workaholic culture of his law firm and its scary managing partner, who’s also Duncan’s older brother. In unexpected ways, Liv and Duncan’s marriage and family life undergo their own transformations. Some new developments, though, aren’t entirely welcome.

 

Light-hearted and optimistic, Tipping is a novel for our times. It’s a story of domestic activism. Mum and dad activism. Because real change is possible. Sometimes all it takes is a tweak. And the will. And a bit of fun.

 

My View:

I did so want to love this. I have mixed feelings about this read. The premise is interesting but…I did not connect with any of the characters, I actually didn’t like most of them. I liked the ideas on how to make academic learning inclusive, on how to remove gender bias, on how to “fix” the broken school but it all seemed a little too simple to me, a little unrealistic in its execution. I did get some great ideas here that made me wonder if our local schools use any of these techniques?

 

However the read felt a little like a parable…a lesson being given wrapped up in contemporary narrative.

 

I think you will find this a great read for the train or the beach.

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing: As Swallow’s Fly- L P McMahon

As Swallows Fly

L P McMahon

Ventura Press

ISBN: 9781920727574

 

Description:

When Malika, a young orphan in rural Pakistan, is savagely attacked, her face is left disfigured and her self-esteem destroyed. Haunted by the assault, she hides from the world, finding solace in her mathematical theories. A few years later, her intellectual brilliance is discovered and she leaves conflict-stricken Pakistan for a better education in Melbourne, where she finds herself placed with Kate—a successful plastic surgeon facing emotional insecurities of her own.

Malika and Kate’s lives slowly intertwine as they find within each other what each has lacked alone. At first, Kate’s skills appear to offer a simple solution to Malika’s anguish, but when tragedy strikes, the price of beauty is found to be much higher than either of them could have known.

As Swallows Fly is a poignant portrayal of survival, identity and empowerment in a culture dominated by the pursuit of perfection. In a captivating and unforgettable debut, McMahon asks what might be possible if we have the courage to be flawed.

 

My View:

This is an amazing 5 star read! This character driven narrative will win your heart and have you staying up way too late to discover how the protagonists, Kate and Malika, resolve their dilemmas and continue their respective lives.

This is a spellbinding read.  Captivating and compelling; the story arcs deftly woven together taking the reader to unfamiliar places and at times harrowing events.  I found it unusual and refreshing that a work of contemporary fiction could be so compelling.

I highly recommend this read.

*****

Let me introduce you to Lawrie McMahon as he discusses A Doctor and writer, a disfigured girl from Pakistan. What’s the story?

My work in Pakistan was in a voluntary capacity, helping out in a small mission hospital in a small town north of Lahore (Gujrat). People of all faiths were always welcome and it was chastening to see the way the villagers lived, what mattered to them, how they dealt with loss (often of their children), and the strictness of the culture. I saw their lives devastated by loss but, in a way beyond my capacity, they were able to continue and even rebuild.  These experiences were all key aspects influencing Malika’s character development. I realise now how the experience and memories have influenced my life too. The memories of that time remain crystal clear. I still find myself wondering what happened to the people I met there – young and old – and how life has changed for them. It remains an ambition to return.”

 

The progression from short stories to this debut….

The difference between short story writing and writing the novel could not have been more different.  I expect it to be the same for most writers. Complexity in both characters and plot were the main practical differences. My short stories focus on defined situations and experiences—the character is etched clearly and quickly, and the narrative progresses in its limited arc to the finish. It must be contained. The novel depends on the characters changing as the novel progresses. We see a much richer version of the humanity and flaws within the person. As a writer, I hope the difference is clear. In addition, the novel raised a whole series of challenges: subplots, subtleties of character and motive as they developed and were given their due. It remains a continued learning experience. A journey, as they say.

 

Thanks so much to Dr Lawrie McMahon and Ventura Press for these insights.