Review: The Dilemma – B A Paris

The Dilemma
B A Paris
HQ
ISBN: 9780008287047

Description:
It’s Livia’s fortieth birthday and tonight she’s having a party, a party she’s been planning for a long time. The only person missing will be her daughter, Marnie.

But Livia has a secret, a secret she’s been keeping from Adam, her husband, until the party is over. Because how can she tell him that although she loves Marnie, she’s glad their daughter won’t be there to celebrate with her?

Adam is determined everything will be just right for Livia and the party is going to be perfect… until he learns something that will leave him facing an unbearable decision.

My View:
I don’t know why but I was expecting this read to be edgy, perhaps more suspenseful, more of a crime fiction type read. Why? I don’t know, it certainly surprised me – in a good kind of way. What I got was a very nuanced discussion about families, relationships, what ifs and lots of moral dilemmas.

The characters are credible, relatable and interesting. The scenarios will make you think. This read is full of emotions and ultimately, is heartbreaking. I like how the author pushes on and allows the characters to work through some of the most painful experiences that any one could face.

A great read.

Review: Long Bright River – Liz Moore

Long Bright River
Liz Moore
Penguin Random House Australia
Hutchinson London
ISBN:9781786331632

Description:
KENSINGTON AVE, PHILADELPHIA:

THE FIRST PLACE YOU GO FOR DRUGS OR SEX.
THE LAST PLACE YOU WANT TO LOOK FOR YOUR SISTER.

Mickey Fitzpatrick has been patrolling the 24th District for years. She knows most of the working women by name. She knows what desperation looks like and what people will do when they need a fix. She’s become used to finding overdose victims: their numbers are growing every year. But every time she sees someone sprawled out, slumped over, cold to the touch, she has to pray it’s not her sister, Kacey.

When the bodies of murdered sex workers start turning up on the Ave, the Chief of Police is keen to bury the news. They’re not the kind of victims that generate a whole lot of press anyway. But Mickey is obsessed, dangerously so, with finding the perpetrator – before Kacey becomes the next victim.
_____________________________________
‘A remarkable, profoundly moving novel about the ties that bind and the irrevocable wounds of childhood. It’s also a riveting mystery, perfectly paced. I loved every page of it.’ DENNIS LEHANE

My View:
I predict awards, awards, awards for this book! This is an amazing read, this is what you discover when literary fiction collides with crime fiction – a full on, unstoppable narrative that is poignant, simultaneously heartbreaking yet uplifting, engaging; writing that is brilliantly constructed, complex not complicated, AND then there is the slow building tension of the unsolved crimes that escalates into a teeth clenching, heart racing conclusion. What a read!

I have been reviewing books/blogging my reviews since 2013 and I cannot think of any other read that comes close to this. This book is already in my “best of 2020 reads”, possibly my BEST read, ever.

I think you should read this book.

Guest Review: House of Wishes – Jenn J McLeod

The House of Wishes

Jenn J. McLeod

Wild Myrtle Press

ISBN: 9780648570806

 

Description:

A story for mothers, daughters, fathers and sons: about the choices we make, the connections that matter, the secrets we keep, and the power of wishes.

Dandelion House is ready to reveal its secrets.

Dandelion House, 1974

Two teenage girls—strangers—make a pact to never tell their secret.

Calingarry Crossing, 2014

For forty years, Beth and her mum have been everything to each other, but Beth is blind-sided when her mother dies, and her last wish is to have her ashes spread in a small-town cemetery.

On the outskirts of Calingarry Crossing, Beth comes across Dandelion House Retreat. With her stage career waning, and struggling to see a future without her mum, her marriage, and her child, Beth really hopes it’s a place where she can begin to heal.

After her fateful encounter with a local landowner, Tom, Beth is intrigued by his stories of the cursed, century-old river house that was once a swank summer residence for arty eccentrics and a maternity home for unmarried mothers. The more Beth learns about the place and the reclusive owner, Gypsy—whose mother, Maeve was a fortune-teller in a travelling carnival—the more she questions her mother’s wishes.

Tom has the answers, but will the truth help Beth?

Or should Dandelion House keep its last, long-held secret?

 

 

Brenda’s Review:

Beth had never heard of Calingarry Crossing but here she was, driving the long journey from Sydney to a tiny bush town in NSW, not far from the border of Queensland, to fulfil her beloved mother’s last wish. The spreading of her ashes in a particular section of Calingarry Crossing’s cemetery puzzled Beth, but she would do as her Mum wanted then leave once again…

After an inauspicious introduction to the town, Beth found herself in front of a sign which read Dandelion House Retreat – but it wasn’t the relaxing B&B she’d hoped for. The intriguing old place on the river would be central to Beth’s healing, although she didn’t know it yet. The meeting of a local farmer, Tom Dawson found Beth laughing more than she had in some time; but also Beth was fascinated in his stories about Dandelion House and its owner Gypsy.

Beth found herself confused; she didn’t understand her mother’s wishes – but would she find the answers she sought in this small out of the way place? There were secrets long buried; a story that began in 1974. Beth was grieving, lost and lonely – what was the truth to her past?

I thoroughly enjoyed House of Wishes by Aussie author Jenn J. McLeod with its loose links to two of her previous books, House for all Seasons and Simmering Season. Dandelion House has a life and heart of its own, and the author brings it to life as it wraps itself around those living there. Great characters fill House of Wishes; my particular favourite is Don. An emotional, heartfelt novel that kept me involved from start to finish, House of Wishes is one I highly recommend. I must mention the beautiful cover too. 5 stars.

With thanks to the author for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Review – The Other Wife – Michael Robotham

The Other Wife by Michael Robotham cover art

The Other Wife (Joseph O’Loughlin #9)

Michael Robotham

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733637933

 

Description:

A secret wife. A secret life. A killer who knows.

 

Childhood sweethearts William and Mary have been married for sixty years. William is a celebrated surgeon, Mary a devoted wife. Both have a strong sense of right and wrong.

This is what their son, Joe O’Loughlin, has always believed. But when Joe is summoned to the hospital with news that his father has been brutally attacked, his world is turned upside down. Who is the strange woman crying at William’s bedside, covered in his blood – a friend, a mistress, a fantasist or a killer?

Against the advice of the police, Joe launches his own investigation. As he learns more, he discovers sides to his father he never knew – and is forcibly reminded that the truth comes at a price.

 

Fresh from the highest selling book of his career, The Secrets She Keeps, multi-million-copy bestselling author Michael Robotham returns to his beloved Joe O’Loughlin series in this compelling psychological thriller that delves into the consequences of a tragedy, exposing a lifetime of shocking cover-up that is too close to home for the famous psychologist.

 

 

My View:

I love the Joe O’Loughlin series – I am invested in the main characters, their stories and the crimes they solve.  This episode centres on Joe and his family as suspects, victims and villains, what a read! And despite this book being number nine in the series it can just as easily be read as a standalone for those who are catching up with this series and author.

 

My enjoyment of this read was enhanced when I recently saw Michael Robotham at our local Readers and Writers Festival – what a great natural story teller he is.

 

 

 

Post Script: Secrets of The Springs – Kerry McGinnis

Secrets of the Springs

Kerry McGinnis

Secret of the Springs

Penguin

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143784586

 

Description:

When Orla Macrae receives a letter asking her to return to the family cattle property where she grew up, she does so grudgingly. Her estranged uncle Palmer may be dying, but he is the last person she wants to see, not when she’s made a new life far away from where she lost so much. But on his deathbed he utters a few enigmatic words about a secret locked away and a clue as to its whereabouts.

 

Intrigued, Orla decides to stay, reconnecting with old friends and taking a chance on a long-time dream of opening the homestead to tourists. Continuing the search for her uncle’s elusive secret, she discovers far more than she bargained for – a shocking truth about her parents’ marriage, and the confession of a chilling murder.

 

Set in the stunning countryside north of the Barrier Ranges near Broken Hill, this is an authentic tale of life on the land and a gripping mystery about old family secrets and finding love in the harsh Australian bush.

 

My View:

“Kerry McGinnis was born in Adelaide and, at the age of twelve, took up a life of droving with her father and three siblings. The family travelled extensively across the Northern Territory and Queensland before settling on a station in the Gulf Country. Kerry has worked as a shepherd, droving hand, gardener, stock-camp and station cook, eventually running a property at Bowthorn, near Mount Isa. She is the author of two volumes of memoir and now lives in Bundaberg,” https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1219708.Kerry_McGinnis

 

I have now read three (of eight books) Kerry McGinnis’s has written, all have been five star reads. In each the landscapes are diverse in location yet feature rural communities and vibrant likeable characters who you want to cheer on, to do well. McGinnis’s female leads are always strong, intelligent, resourceful women and the protagonist in this book, Orla Macrae fits this mould – strongminded, resourceful, a quick thinker and ahead of her times in commercial acumen (think Airbnb for farm stays set in the 1980’s.) Orla realises that to survive on the land diverse income streams are needed.

 

In this narrative, family dramas and dastardly revelations will surprise the reader, these were different times.

 

Each page is infused with McGinnis’s trade mark love of the land, it is infectious.  Slip under the cover of this impressive book and be transported, listen to the wisdom McGinnis shares: ‘You couldn’t change the past; that was a finished page, one turned over, done with, not to be rewritten. But by constantly harking back to it you could imbue it with the power to cause past deeds to impinge upon the future.’ p353

 

 

 

Post Script: The Rarest Thing – Deborah O’Brien

the-rarest-thing

The Rarest Thing

Deborah O’Brien

Lomandra Press

ISBN: 9780994634603

 

Description:

It’s 1966, and a mountain pygmy possum – a species that scientists considered to be long-extinct – is discovered in the Victorian High Country and transported to Melbourne where newspapers dub it ‘the world’s rarest creature’.

 

Thirty-year-old Dr Katharine Wynter is a palaeontologist who’s more comfortable with ancient bones than live human beings, particularly men – an exotic species of which she has little personal experience, apart from a predatory professor who has made her working life hell.

 

Having studied the tiny possum in fossil form, Katharine is curious to see it in the flesh, but her much anticipated visit is disrupted by the presence of wildlife photographer, Scott King, taking pictures for an international magazine.

 

Before long, Katharine finds herself thrown together with Scott on a quest to locate the miniature marsupials in their habitat – the rugged Australian Alps. Along the way, the timid scientist discovers a side to her character she never knew existed, while the dashing photographer abandons his bravado and confronts memories he’s hidden for decades.

 

As for the elusive possums, the cute little creatures lead their pursuers on a merry chase…

 

My View:

For this review I will try something a little different – I will start with the cover and work through the elements of the book I enjoyed – and I did enjoy this read.

 

To begin with I was approached by the author Deborah O’Brien to see if I was interested in receiving a copy of her latest book and perhaps reviewing it on my blog. This began a series of communications where I was introduced to the lovely Deborah, her new project and the mountain pygmy possum.  As a book reviewer and blogger there is nothing more pleasurable than establishing a working relationship with an author.  Relationship established I will now commence my review.

deborah-obrien_

Deborah O’Brien

 

“Looking along the Blue Rag Range towards Mt Hotham, the inside front and back covers: Wildflowers at Blue Rag Trig with Mt Feathertop in the background.” This is the special gift edition paperback with a 360 gsm cover (which won’t curl), coloured endpapers and other non-standard features. (It is also be available as an eBook), though you won’t get the same depth of vision with an eBook copy. This cover is stunning and allows the reader to imagine themselves into the setting of the book, Victorian High Country.

cover immage

The next page – the author states this book is inspired by a true event – “the discovery of a creature thought to be long extinct. It was such a big event at the time that the Guinness Book of Records featured the mountain pygmy possum as ‘the rarest animal on Earth’ in its 1967 edition.” (Author’s correspondence).   And prefaces the prologue with this quote by Oscar Wilde: “To live is the rarest thing in this world. Most people exist, that is all.” I was primed to read this book, to immerse myself in the isolated natural settings and all things 1960’s.

The rarest thing

 

And what followed was totally unexpected. The prologue, set in Sydney 1941 details a rich and loving relationship between a father and his young daughter (the protagonist, Kathy, as a child).  Here the father plants the seed that the daughter can be anything she likes, even a palaeontologist (and don’t forget this is 1941 – such ambitions for a woman were unheard of). I loved the relationships described in this opening – there is love, laughter, respect and mutual admiration and support. Further, the elements of family, conservation and feminism are subtly woven into the prologue and are to become important themes in the narrative.

 

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.  (See Zoë Morrison’s Music and Freedom for more on this theme).

 

So despite the sumptuous cover, the elegant introduction and the heart-warming scenes of family in the early pages, this narrative has a dark core that will surprise you. There are plenty of meaty issues within these pages to affect the discerning reader and a number of twists and some references to an unreliable narrator that will keep you on your toes.

 

This is a surprising read; at times it reads almost as a journal, private and personal. Yet the narrative is larger than just the personal, this multilayered drama is peppered with pop culture references, history, conservation, social issues, isolated beautiful settings and is written with a feminist bent. This is a story that will fully engage you, surprise you and at the same time shock you as family secrets are revealed.

 

A most enjoyable read. Thank you Deborah O’Brien – it has been a pleasure to discover your writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Script: You Will Know Me – Megan Abbott

You Will Know Me

You Will Know Me

Megan Abbott

Pan Macmillan Australia

Picador

ISBN: 9781509817276

 

Description:

Katie and her husband Eric have made their daughter Devon the centre of their world. Talented, determined, a rising gymnastics star, Devon is the focus of her parents’ lives and the lynchpin of their marriage. There is nothing they wouldn’t do for her.

 

When a violent hit-and-run accident sends shockwaves through their close-knit community, Katie is immediately concerned for her daughter. She and Eric have worked so hard to protect Devon from anything that might distract or hurt her. That’s what every parent wants for their child, after all. Even if they don’t realize how much you’ve sacrificed for them. Even if they are keeping secrets from you…

 

A mother knows best… doesn’t she?

 

 

My View:

You might think you know what is going to happen, you might think you know what really happened…but you dont!

 

This is a book where the tension and the mystery sneaks up on you, it starts of feeling a little bit ordinary, an interesting fly on the wall perspective of elite sports; the sacrifices all family members make for the potential success of just one, the tight knit community dedicated to winning/to their child…to the sport but this is so much more.

 

This is a mystery, a story of guilt, parenting, family, love and winning at all costs! What a delightful wicked read! I loved how the author manages to sucker you in; you feel you know what is going to happen next, you anticipate the big reveal or should I say reveals? You think you know best…but you don’t!  Surprise after surprise!

 

This is an author I will definitely add to my Must Read List.

 

PS did I mention this very quiet unassuming character – the younger brother –Drew? Watch out for him – listen to his voice…