Goodreads Reading Challenge 2015

completed challenge

 

Congrats! You have read 200 books of a goal of 200!

Now that wasn’t so hard was it? It is the reviewing 200 books that is the hard work.

 

More Definitions Of Domestic Noir

I am pleased to see this sub genre is getting a bit of press recently.  Hachette Australia recently added this qualifier to their f/b site about the genre;

 ” ‘Domestic Noir takes place primarily in homes and workplaces, concerns itself largely (but not exclusively) with the female experience, is based around relationships and takes as its base a broadly feminist view that the domestic sphere is a challenging and sometimes dangerous prospect for its inhabitants’ – Julia Crouch.”

Maybe it is the feminist aspect that is calling to me? An interesting thought.

Domestic Noir Reads

Have you read any of these? So far What Came Before by Anna George remains one of my all time favourite reads.

The Hard Question…

This past month or two has seen me particularly busy – the Writers Festival took up an entire weekend plus the time I invested before hand trying to read something by each of the participants ( I didn’t succeed in this challenge but I did read a few of the participants books – which did make the sessions I attended more enjoyable) and then throw in  some house sitting and just general busyness,  I managed to get a little behind in my reading, the TBR resembles a certain leaning tower 🙂  And four authors or their agents contacted me personally to review books and I was approached to join in a couple of blog tours, I made the mistake of agreeing to all requests.

Thankfully nearly all of the books I was requested to read were excellent and I got to stretch my reading habits – I read some horror, some great debut novels, a hard core thriller, a mash up of crime/lite paranormal/romance – which I thoroughly enjoyed, and some contemporary reads. Last night however I read a book I actually didn’t like, I didn’t like the characters – I think that was the main issue for me- and then I couldn’t suspend my disbelief – and so now I am stuck – what do I do about this one? I know what I should have done – before agreeing to review I should have mentioned if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t participate in this blog tour. What to do?

The more I think about it the more I think I will just say the book is not for me and bow out- what would you do?

 

PS

I am the only voice not giving this 5 stars on GoodReads – the writing is technically fine – I just didn’t connect or like the protagonists or their dilemmas.  Are you a fan of the adage  “any review a good review”?

Post Script: The Sense Of An Elephant – Marco Missiroli

This is writing with heart and soul filled with quirky characters, secrets and brilliant observations of life.

The Sense of An Elephant

The Sense of an Elephant

Marco Missiroli

Picador

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781447241935

 

 

Description:

Pietro arrives in Milan with an old bicycle and a battered suitcase full of tokens of the past. He takes up a post as concierge in a small apartment building, where it soon becomes apparent he has a deep-seated reason to be there. Living in the palazzo is Luca, a doctor, whose wife Viola carries a secret that could destroy their marriage; the bereaved lawyer Poppi, kind and desperately lonely; and elderly Paola and her damaged son, both looking for impossible love. Right from the start Pietro has a special interest in Luca and his family, and soon he’s using the concierge spare keys to let himself into his apartment while the family is out. Pietro’s story is told in snatches and flashbacks, each prompted by one of the objects and notes he keeps in his suitcase, and gradually we find out what has brought him to be guardian of these lost souls, so late in his life . . .

 

My View:

A memorable narrative filled with what at first appears to be quirky individuals but as you read further you begin to know these characters as individuals with a past that has shaped their present in unique ways; as individuals that are flawed, that are real, lives where love or loneliness has shaped and determined their paths.

The biggest theme and the most moving is the evocative sense of an elephant… elephants ”… take care of the herd without regard to kinship.” (p.65 ) The protagonist Pietro, the keeper of secrets, is charged with taking care of those around him, his community, but he is also determined to protect his own kin; a difficult act to balance.

But this is more than a story about love, themes of death and assisted dying are also woven into this intricate plot; death of a child, death of a lover, a partner…death of aspirations and plans for the future. The sub story of the old man who cares for his son who needs the assistance of tubes and machines to live is heartbreaking. What a wonderful example of love this is.

There are so many memorable moments and observations in this novel but one that will stay with me is this, Luca says to Pietro (p.193) “When my mother was dying she told me she had one single passion in her life. “Papa,” I said to her. ”No,” she said….”It was someone I knew before I was married,” my mother said. “The only good secret in my life.”… ‘I asked my mother how she came to marry my father. She said, “Papa was the love for a lifetime.” So what was the other? “The other was the love of a lifetime.”

Great characters, brilliant observations of love and life and death and an ending that will bring a tear to your eye. Memorable reading.

Post Script: The Last Winter of Dani Lancing – P D Viner

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing

A Novel

P. D. Viner

Crown Publishing

Crown

Pub Date   Oct 8 2013

ISBN: 9780804136822

 

Description:

P.D. Viner bursts on to the scene with a gritty and powerful crime thriller that explores the dark, dangerous line that separates grief, violence, loss, and revenge.

Twenty years ago, college student Dani Lancing was kidnapped and brutally murdered. The killer was never found; the case has long-gone cold.

Her parents, Patty and Jim, were utterly devastated, their marriage destroyed. Patty threw away her successful journalism career and developed a violent obsession with the unsolved crime.  She is utterly consumed with every lead and possible suspect no matter how far-fetched.  Jim, however, is now a shell of his former self, broken down and haunted—sometimes literally—by the loss of his daughter.  Tom Bevans, Dani’s childhood sweetheart, has become a detective intent on solving murders of other young women.  He was so scarred by Dani’s death that his colleagues have nicknamed him “The Sad Man.” After twenty years of grief, all of three of them are burnt-out and hopeless.

But when Tom finds an opening on the case, everything changes.  Patty’s obsessions are lit up once again and she will do anything for revenge—even if it means dragging her whole family back into the nightmare, as lies and secrets are unearthed and the truth finally revealed.

Told in fractured time, with a breathless pace and masterful plotting, The Last Winter of Dani Lancing is a superb thriller: swift, edgy, gripping, and unforgettable.

 

My View:

 

A must read mystery/crime novel.

 

This book was by far one of the best mystery/crime novels I have read this year. There were many twists and turns that kept me guessing right up to the last pages. The characters were well drawn, sad, empathetic, desperate and credible. P D Viner is a fantastic story teller, his settings are realistic and he writes with cinematic prowess – I could see the story play out in the big screen of my mind and do not doubt it will be very long before the feature films rights to this story are snapped up! I wish I had the money to produce this novel as a film – it would work so well.

I loved that the reader was able to form a picture of Dani through the recollections and opinions of other characters in the book – she was a daughter, a friend, a sports star, a popular student; slowly the bigger picture emerges, warts and all. It is interesting to see how we mean different things to different people and this book demonstrates that aspect of life and friend/kinship very well.

The plot is complex and full of twists and turns and the narrative highlights that life can be wearisome, sometimes depressing and that ordinary people are capable of extraordinary and sometimes brutal things. No one is quite how they first appear – there are sinister undertones waiting to be revealed.  Perhaps it was the character of Tom Bevans, nicknamed “The Sad Man” that surprised me most of all – his resourcefulness, his ability to react without fear for his own position  in society and his physical wellbeing in order to protect Dani and his powerful devotion to her was incredible. No matter what Dani and her destructive lifestyle threw at him he remained devoted and obsessed, obsessed with the image he had constructed and determined to protect that image.

The bigger picture story looks at love, grief and loss and revenge. It speaks about actions, reactions and the unforeseen consequences of those actions. Despite the sadness and the violence in this story there is a modicum of hope, love and optimism sprinkled throughout the novel that lifts this book above the bleakness of such horrific tragedy; and tragic it was.

I loved the characters; I loved their imperfections (mostly), their guilt and suffering, though intense and often paralysing, was credible and moving. This is a very well written story of modern life that demonstrates how quickly one mistake in judgment can effect so many.

The ending does reconcile some of the issues but leaves so much unsaid, so much to the reader’s imagination. A fantastic read!

The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

Today I decided to take up the Challenge – will you join me?

http://australianwomenwriters.com/2013-challenge/

Australian Women Writers Challenge

After I registered I stared to look at the reading/review lists and found a few book I  have already read – which was interesting and yet somewhat surprising  – I hadn’t realised I had read Australian Women’s voices. Is that a good thing or not? The fact that Australian Women Writers voices were just as good as any other and by and large did not leap out at me as Australian is good, isnt it? I suppose because I read  mostly crime fiction and contemporary fiction maybe place is not such an obvious marker of  writers voice?  And should  we only write/read about the region we live in? I think not – today we are all citizens of a global world.

I do however think that the words we write are shaped by our experience  and where/how we live does have some influence here, but does not necessarily prescribe our words or our stories. We can write about anything, and write well. For example – look at these 2 amazing yet vastly different  books, Questions of Travel  by Michelle de Krester and Bone Ash Sky by Katerina Cosgrove – what brilliant diverse voices!  Or look at the new voices soon to be heard,   Miss Blossom Makes A Mean Red Velvet Cake,  plenty of talent here.

So who will join me in this Challenge? Readers from any region welcome to join.  I dare you!

Post Script: All the Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld

All the Birds, Singing

Evie Wyld

Random House Australia Pty Ltd

Vintage Australia

ISBN: 9781742757308

Description:

The eerie, compelling second novel from award-winning writer Evie Wyld. That morning, before the light came through, I found another sheep, mangled and bled out, her innards not yet crusting and the vapours rising from her like a steamed pudding. I had to shove my foot in Dogs face to stop him from taking a string of her away as a souvenir. At first the crows had been excited by the body, stalking around it, strutting and rasping, their beaks shining, but now they sat in the trees, flaring out their wings, drunk and singing together. Something is killing Jake Whyte’s sheep. She’s not sure if it’s an animal, or the local kids, or something worse. But there’s something making noises at night and making her deal with things she’d hoped were long buried. When a man arrives in the darkness, asking for shelter, against her instincts she lets him stay… Set between Australia and a remote English island, All the Birds, Singing is the story of one how one woman’s present comes from a terrible past. It is the second novel from the award-winning author of After the Fire, A Still Small Voice. ‘Wyld has a feel both for beauty and for the ugliness of inherited pain’ — New Yorker

My View:

A bleak, grim and unrelenting tale of hardship, pain and guilt that is a compelling read. A very disturbing yet enchanting book that has you devouring page after page trying to discover the ugly secrets that the reader knows are haunting Jake Whyte. Wyld writes an intriguing story, peppered with mystery, doubts, suspicion and self loathing.  Jake punishes herself on a daily level; she treats herself and her body with distain and distance. Over the chapters Jake’s story is slowly revealed by the writer’s trips into Jake’s past, piece by piece we slowly begin to put the puzzle pieces together and a patchwork history is revealed. Slowly we start to feel empathy and sympathy for this lonely and surprisingly naive young woman. We also feel fear…so much is hinted at, the single ear ring found in the shed…the sheep mauled and killed by something almost paranormal…

I read and read and read wanting all to be revealed and put right. Unfortunately I felt the story ended too soon – I felt cheated – I checked and rechecked and reloaded the ebook thinking I had somehow missed the final chapters. For me a great chunk of the story was missing; yes we do discover how Jake ended up alone and why she was punishing herself for a tragic mistake she made as a mere child.  We leap frog our way through her life after she leaves her rural home in Australia; hurt, tortured with guilt and struggling to survive on the streets. We follow her journey of exploitation and self harm (the life choices she makes are about self punishment) but we learn nothing of how she arrives in England and her time there – aside from her self imposed isolation, and we learn very little about Lloyd.

I really enjoyed this grim and revealing story of naivety, of a young woman on the cusp of woman hood haunted by a simple, tragic unintentional mistake but for me there were too many gaps. I think that Evie Wyld is an author who has much to offer and look forward to reading her next foray into the world of writing.

 

Post Script: Close My Eyes – Sophie McKenzie

A brilliant fast paced read!Close My Eyes

Close My Eyes

Sophie McKenzie

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781471111730

Description:

It’s been eight years since Gen Loxley lost her daughter, Beth: eight years of grief in which nothing’s really moved forward, for all that her husband, Art, wills it to. Gen, once a writer of novels, has settled in to a life of half-hearted teaching, while Art makes his name and their fortune – and pressures her into trying IVF once again. For Gen, it seems a cruel act of replacement; life without Beth is unthinkable, unbearable – but still it goes on. And then a woman arrives on Gen’s doorstep, saying the very thing she longs to hear: that her daughter was not stillborn, but was spirited away as a healthy child, and is out there, waiting to be found…So why is Art reluctant to get involved? To save his wife from further hurt? Or something much more sinister? What is the truth about Beth Loxley?

My View:

A stunning read – once I started reading I did not put down till I finished! I had to know what going on, was Gen unstable, trapped in a spiralling web of grief or was there something more sinister and incredible happening? And what was the relevance of the seemingly random addition of the child like voice that punctuated the narrative so disturbingly?

McKenzie writes a great psychological thriller, plenty of twists and turns, a few red herrings thrown in just to keep you guessing, and a topic that is so sensitive and emotive to so many; the death of child and IVF. Add to this a disturbing child like second voice that is somewhat innocent yet menacing at the same time- creepy!

The characters are well developed and Gen is particularly empathetic, she is vulnerable, grieving, and slipping further into depression or is she?  That is a question the reader is forced to ask themselves over and over, every time you think there is a logical reason for an event or a disclosure there is an equal illogical but tantalising option – Gen might not be imagining things, Gen isnt dwelling in a morose place, Gen isnt drawing her own conclusions, making the story fit her own desires, or is she? The see saw ride of doubt is persistent and credible and adds to the dramatic tension; Gen even has doubts herself about her conclusions.

McKenzie keeps the tension high, the pages turn fast.  Towards the end I felt the story line became a little complicated and messy however the sign of a great read is the reader’s ability to suspend their disbelief and go along with the story no matter what– and I was hooked and engaged! The last few pages were brilliant! I did not see that coming.

Thank you to The Reading Room and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and review this great book.

Post Script: Unhallowed Ground- Gillian White

Unhallowed Ground

Gillian White

Open Road Integrated Media

ISBN: 9781480402218

Description

Widowed London social worker Georgina “Georgie” Jefferson battles guilt and public disgrace when one of her charges, abused five-year-old Angela Hopkins, is beaten to death. She retreats to Furze Pen, an isolated Devon cottage that once belonged to Stephen, the deceased brother she never knew. In this refuge, she hopes to learn something about Stephen. But the hostility of her neighbours and a series of chilling incidents—including the disappearance of her dog and a stranger lurking around the cottage at night—disturb Georgie’s desperate search for peace. As winter closes in, Georgie must discover who or what threatens her most . . . the tragedies of her past or a new danger from her tormented present.

Once again, master of suspense Gillian White depicts the dreadful, dependent relationship that can sprout between love and violence.

My View:

My initial reaction to this book was one of despair – I despaired of the unsympathetic protagonist, Georgie. I could not stand the pages of wallowing self pity. I almost put the book down – however as I have read several of Gillian White’s previous books, books I enjoyed reading, I persevered.  I was rewarded with a story that from a slow burn ignited a pressure pot of fear, desperation and substance. I did warm to Georgie as she dwelt less on her past and we learned more about her current situation. White is a great observer of people and their idiosyncrasies. She created a tension so real I could feel it- in my shoulders and my neck, a tension akin to mood set by Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”.   This book will not date. It sits as well today as when it was first published in 1999.

Post Script: In the Matter of Michael Vogel – Drew Yanno

In the Matter of Michael Vogel

Drew Yanno

Pellegrino Press

ISBN: 9780615757582

Description:

It’s late summer 1966 in a small town in upstate New York when the body of eight year old Michael Vogel is found at the bottom of the deep end of the municipal swimming pool four hours after closing.

At first, the townspeople believe the initial reports that it was an accidental drowning, despite the fact that the boy’s body wasn’t discovered when the lifeguards searched the pool earlier in the day after his sister reported him missing. However, when an autopsy brings an unexpected result, it sets in motion a search for a killer, in a town unaccustomed to murder.

The story is told from the perspective of three members of the community. One is a twelve year old boy with a future he wants to avoid. Another is a sheriff with a past he wants to forget. The third is a forty year old bachelor with a secret he wants desperately to keep.

Their stories all come together in a startling and thrilling conclusion that leaves nearly as many questions as answers.

My View:

A solidly written and intriguing murder/mystery novel set in a small town upstate New York. Yanno writes a chilling story of conspiracy, murder, secrets and childhood. This book has the voice of innocence, of burgeoning adolescent dreams, of discoveries of self and of life. I loved this voyage into 60’s small town America – a time of innocence, a town where murder is not the norm, where families know their neighbours; kids ride bikes and swim at the local pool, play football, watch fireworks displays. Kids have adventures and everyone knows everyone – or do they?

This story is told from 3 perspectives and the voices tell the story well, give different point of views and provide useful background material. This is a story about murder but it is not about the detail of death, it is not about gore and blood splatter and forensic examination – it is a story about murder and people and the frailty of life.  It is not a story that will keep you awake at night in fear of the unknown, of what maybe be lurking; it is a thought provoking, considered journey into complex lives. It is playfully teasing; Yanno slowly revealing one layer after another of this complex plot in a flawless strip tease that ultimately reveals the truth about the murder of Michael Vogel.

This is a book about secrets and lies. It about masks – about the different faces we show the world; one for our friends and intimate companions, one for the community, one for our family. Which mask are you wearing now?

This was a pleasure to read.