Guest Review: Coming Home to Island House – Erica James

Coming Home to Island House

 

Coming Home to Island House

Erica James

Orion

ISBN: 9781409159605

Description:

The captivating new novel from Sunday Times bestselling author Erica James.

It’s the summer of 1939, and after touring an unsettled Europe to promote her latest book, Romily Temple returns home to Island House and the love of her life, the charismatic Jack Devereux.

But when Jack falls ill, his estranged family are called home and given seven days to find a way to bury their resentments and come together.

With war now declared, each member of the family is reluctantly forced to accept their new stepmother and confront their own shortcomings. But can the habits of a lifetime be changed in one week? And can Romily, a woman who thrives on adventure, cope with the life that has been so unexpectedly thrust upon her?

 

Brenda’s Review:

Romily Temple returned home to Island House after her tour of Europe, where she was promoting her latest crime novel, to discover her new husband and greatest love, Jack Devereux, gravely ill. Jack’s best friend, lawyer Roddy Fitzwilliam was tasked with sending messages to Jack’s estranged family, calling them home, where Jack hoped to make amends for his mistakes of the past.

The necessity was that siblings Hope, Kit and Arthur, plus their cousin Allegra, were to spend a week together at Island House, getting to know one another once again, and to forgive the issues that had driven them all apart those many years ago. Could they do it? There would be a lot of adjusting to be done, and with war imminent, change was happening…

Romily was an adventurous spirit; probably one of the reasons Jack had fallen in love with her – but was she up to the sudden change in her life?

Beautifully written historical drama, Coming Home to Island House is my first by author Erica James, and won’t be my last! Set between August 1939 and December 1940, WWII impacted heavily on the characters, as well as past grievances, forgiveness and love. I was completely enthralled by this novel, which was both heartbreaking and heartwarming and I have no hesitation in recommending this 5 star read highly. I’d like to thank Maggie for the recommendation as well 🙂

With thanks to Hachette AU for my ARC to read and review.

Best Romance/Life Lit/Womens Lit/Rural Fiction of 2016

This is genre that I don’t not read a huge amount of – as readers of my blog my have gathered I am not fond of the bodice ripper style of romance – where the  passive woman must be rescued by arrogant rich and possessive “lord” or the like.  I prefer my romance to be more realistic, to have some social commentary, to have strong women and certainly not gratuitous sex scenes.

 

So it may surprise you ( it did me) that I am one of the top four reviewers of romance in the Australian Women Writers Challenge (Brenda is by far the biggest reviewer). Here are my top six romance/life lit/rural romance/women’s literature reads of 2016. All  are so different in style and narrative, all are equally as good to read and will resonate with many women’s life experiences.

 

Journey's End

Journey’s End

Jennifer Scoullar

I adore Jennifer Scoullar’s writing – she expertly  weaves contemporary issues into her narratives-  the natural environment, conservation and re -wilding among her themes ( and a little romance).

 

Other Side of the SeasonThe Other Side of the Season

Jenn J McLeod

Jenn J McLeod weaves wonderful tales that are set in regional Australia. Jenn’s latest book is complex with sensitively written contemporary issues regarding identity, family, truth and abuse of children in care, gently woven into the multi layered narrative. Jenn’s gentle approach lets readers enjoy the narrative and mysteries absorbing the issues without schoolmarmish lessons being given.

 

the-drifter

The Drifter

Anthea Hodgson

Anthea Hodgson struck gold with her first release: The Drifter.  Anthea reflects on survivors guilt in a moving, fast paced most enjoyable coming of age read that ticks all the boxes. The big questions are asked here – what makes a good life, a good death?

 

love-at-first-flight

Love at First Flight

Tess Woods

Tess Woods has written an evocative narrative that will resonate with many  –   a story of spousal love, family, wistfulness, lust, consequences and redemption.   A very contemporary story full of realistic characters and hard decisions.

Precious Things

Precious Things

Kelly Doust

Intelligent, engaging, and brilliantly observational of women’s lives and rights at various points in history; all individual stories connected by their relationship to one piece of extraordinary cloth – very well plotted and visually stunning, intelligently written – excellent. Not the light fluffy read I thought I was getting 🙂

the-rarest-thing

The Rarest Thing

Deborah O’Brien

And last but by no means least – For me the overarching theme in this narrative is one of the feminists’ struggle for equal opportunities in education, the workplace and …life and relationships in 1960’s and beyond. O’Brien exposes some heartbreaking criminal behaviour in this novel (no spoilers here)…sadly behaviours like this have not been eliminated in our so called enlightened age. A multilayered drama – with romance.

*Reflecting on my romance reads of 2016 – I surprised myself by just how many I had indeed read! Not one of the above is stylistically or thematically similar – what a great collection!

 

 

Post Script: House of Grief, The Story of A Murder Trial – Helen Garner

 Evidence versus character study – the human element.

House of Grief

This House of Grief

The Story of a Murder Trial

Helen Garner

Text Publishing

ISBN: 9781922079206

 

Description:

On the evening of 4 September 2005, Robert Farquharson, a separated husband, was driving his three sons home to their mother when his car plunged into a dam. The boys, aged ten, seven, and two, drowned. Was this an act of deliberate revenge or a tragic accident? The court case became Helen Garner’s obsession. She was in the courtroom every day of Farquharson’s trial and subsequent retrial, along with countless journalists and the families of both the accused and his former wife.

In this utterly compelling book, Helen Garner tells the story of a man and his broken life. At its core is a search for truth that takes author and reader through complex psychological terrain. Garner exposes, with great compassion, that truth and justice are as complex as human frailty and morality.

 

Part of a nonfiction tradition that began with Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and continues in the works of Janet Malcolm, Erroll Morris, and others.

 

Helen Garner, born in 1942, is the author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction. Her most recent novel The Spare Room was published to critical acclaim in 2010.

 

My View: 

This is an intelligent, unbiased and compelling account of the courtroom trial and proceedings against a father charged with murdering his three sons; the subject matter is heartbreaking, confronting and disturbing. Garner’s account is very readable; without jargon and huge amounts of legalese that allows this courtroom drama to be very accessible and at the same time, mesmerising – who doesn’t want to know what actually happened, why it happened and how? I think are all interested in how other people’s live their lives and cases regarding the death of children, which while particularly harrowing are somehow still appealing in a ghoulish way; the deaths of these children seem to affect us all, we respond emotively to this narrative and the reader is invested in the outcome of the trial and its effects on those involved.

 

Garner supplies intimate portraits of the families; their grief, their backgrounds, support networks and how they appear and respond to questioning in court. Garner interviews some of those concerned. Garner sits through the entire trial and retrial listening to the facts presented, the legal arguments and adds her own interpretation of the events and tries to discover the truth. Garner handles the subject matter and the court procedure with sensitivity and humanity. At no point did I perceive any preconceptions or prejudice in the sharing and retelling of this story – Garner simply has a desire to understand what happened and why. A desire that is left unsated. If you sat in the courtroom during the trials or just read this book you will have an opinion, a reaction to this tragedy but have no explicit definitive understanding of the events of that night that lead to the death of 3 young boys. Garner quotes Janet Malcom (in Malcom’s magisterial work The Journalist and the Murderer) – a quote which precisely sums up this court room experience “Jurors sit there presumably weighing evidence but in actuality they are studying character.” I am so pleased Australia no longer has a death penalty. I am pleased I have not had to sit on a jury, what a huge responsibility.

 

Read and be affected by this intriguing narrative.

Post Script: Monday’s Lie – Jamie Mason

Your cup will be filled to the brim with tension and menacing atmosphere.

Monday's Lie

Monday’s Lie

Jamie Mason

Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books

Gallery Books

ISBN: 9781476774459

 

Description:

From the acclaimed author of the “ripping good” (The New York Times) debut novel Three Graves Full comes a new thriller about a woman who digs into her unconventional past to confirm what she suspects: her husband wants her dead.

 

Dee Aldrich rebelled against her off-center upbringing when she married the most conventional man she could imagine: Patrick, her college sweetheart. But now, years later, her marriage is falling apart and she’s starting to believe that her husband wants her gone…for good.

 

Haunted by memories of her late mother Annette, a former covert operations asset, Dee reaches back into her childhood to resurrect the lessons and “spy games” in which she learned memory tricks and, most importantly, how and when to lie. But just as she begins delving into her past to determine the course of the future, she makes a discovery that will change her life: the money that her mother left behind. Now, Dee must investigate her suspicions before it’s too late and untangle conspiracy from coincidence, using her mother’s advice to steer her through the blind spots. The trick, in the end, will be in discovering if a “normal life” is really what she wanted at all.

 

With pulse-pounding prose and atmospheric settings, Monday’s Lie is a thriller that delivers more of the “Hitchcockian menace” (Peter Straub) that made Three Graves Full a critical hit. For fans of the Coen brothers or Alexander McCall Smith, this is a book you won’t want to miss.

 

My View:

What a great read! I recommend pencilling an appointment in your diary (give yourself a few hours, you deserve it) and read this fast paced and addictive thriller – you won’t be disappointed. This has all the elements that I love in a thriller – characters that could become your friends (I especially loved the echo of the mother’s voice, instructing her children, showering them with love, teaching them how to be safe…). The prose is engaging and tense, with a hint of mystery and drama that keeps you turning the pages. There is no gratuitous blood shed or forensic analysis here; this narrative relies on its plot, is well developed characters, its fast pace and sense of misgiving and foreboding to engage the reader- perfect! Read and enjoy.

Post Script: The Murder Bag – Tony Parsons

The Murder Bag

Tony Parsons

Random House UK, Cornerstone

ISBN: 9781448185726

 

Description:

The gripping first novel in an explosive new crime series by Tony Parsons, bestselling author of Man and Boy. If you like crime-novels by Ian Rankin and Peter James, you will love this.

 

Twenty years ago seven rich, privileged students became friends at their exclusive private school, Potter’s Field. Now they have started dying in the most violent way imaginable.

 

Detective Max Wolfe has recently arrived in the Homicide division of London’s West End Central, 27 Savile Row.

 

Soon he is following the bloody trail from the backstreets and bright lights of the city, to the darkest corners of the internet and all the way to the corridors of power.

 

As the bodies pile up, Max finds the killer’s reach getting closer to everything – and everyone – he loves.

 

Soon he is fighting not only for justice, but for his own life …

 

My View:

The prologue provided an exciting and suspenseful hook that indicated to the reader the style and pace of things to come- excellent!

This is a ripping reading!

 

It was only extreme discipline that allowed me to read this novel in two sittings – I so wanted to do an “all-nighter” and finish this in one go – but that would not have been fair on my other half who was sleeping whilst I had the light on racing through the pages and the deaths. I think I deserve a medal for being so thoughtful 🙂

 

This is an extraordinary debut work of crime fiction – fast paced, character driven and scenes so well portrayed I had no trouble visualising with my mind’s eyes. And this work of crime fiction had something quite extra ordinary – I wonderful depiction of love and loss and the effect of this loss on a family…I found the new Wolfe family dynamics charming and heart-warming. I loved the simple conversations between father and daughter; what was said out loud and what was thought, and everyday situations that honoured the relationship. And I loved the puppy that connected this family and provided many moments of love and humour.

 

I look forward to the next book in this series and getting to know this family and the protagonist more.

 

 

 

 

 

My View:

 

 

Post Script: Night of Reunion – Michael Allegretto

Night of Reunion

Michael Allegretto

Open Road Integrated Media

MysteriousPress.com/Open Road

ISBN: 9781480462793

 

Description:

At Christmas, a psychotic killer returns to torment a happy family

 

After her release from the hospital, Christine drives straight to Colorado. The heat in her car is busted and her clothes are thin, but Christine doesn’t mind the chill. She is going to find Alex, and when she does, she will have vengeance to keep her warm. Years ago, after giving up her son for adoption, this delicate young beauty flew into a fit of jealous madness, killing her child and his new mother. The boy’s adoptive father, Alex, got away. He did not go far enough.

Living in Denver with his new wife and her six-year-old son, Alex is happy for the first time in years. When he learns of Christine’s release from the hospital, the police assure him that she won’t be allowed to harm his new family. But when strange things start happening around their rambling old house, Alex begins to fear that Christine is closer than he thinks.

 

 

My View:

Allegretto is the master of creating suspense and tension.  This novel starts of slowly, providing plenty of details of a cosy life, a happy family, a peaceful existence, and then it explodes with fear and apprehension. The reader sits in the background screaming – Get out! Get out of the house! What a great device to create tension – the reader is privileged with information about the villain; knows of her existences, her whereabouts, her plans, the cat and mouse games she is playing with the family. The reader knows where she is hiding. The family are oblivious. The tension just keeps ratcheting up. A great psychological drama unfolds.