Review: The Lying Room – Nicci French

The Lying Room

Nicci French

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781471179242

RRP $29.99

 

Description:

Neve Connolly looks down at a murdered man.

She doesn’t call the police.

 

‘You know, it’s funny,’ Detective Inspector Hitching said. ‘Whoever I see, they keep saying, talk to Neve Connolly, she’ll know. She’s the one people talk to, she’s the one people confide in.’

 

A trusted colleague and friend. A mother. A wife. Neve Connolly is all these things.

 

She has also made mistakes; some small, some unconsciously done, some large, some deliberate. She is only human, after all. But now one mistake is spiralling out of control and Neve is bringing those around her into immense danger. She can’t tell the truth. So how far is she prepared to go to protect those she loves? And who does she really know? And who can she trust?

 

A liar. A cheat. A threat. Neve Connolly is all these things.

Could she be a murderer?

 

 

My View:

Extraordinarily twisty!

 

There was a point in this read (no spoilers here) when I was chilled to the bone, the unthinkable was looking like the answer… I had to stop and wait a day or two to pick the book back up … more twists but my fear was unfounded … a deliciously wicked red herring… this is such a twisty read.

 

Nicci French you have once again delivered a masterfully written read. How does this duo do it? It is flawless in its delivery and outstanding in its relevance to family, relationships and everyday life.

 

The relationship between parent and child is a standout for me. The murder – not so every day. J

Read, be thrilled and enjoy.

 

Review: The Confession – Jessie Burton

The Confession

Jessie Burton

Pan Macmillan Australia

Picador

ISBN: 9781509886159

RRP $29.99

Description:

The sensational new novel from the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist and The Muse.

 

One winter’s afternoon on Hampstead Heath in 1980, Elise Morceau meets Constance Holden and quickly falls under her spell. Connie is bold and alluring, a successful writer whose novel is being turned into a major Hollywood film. Elise follows Connie to LA, a city of strange dreams and swimming pools and late-night gatherings of glamorous people. But whilst Connie thrives on the heat and electricity of this new world where everyone is reaching for the stars and no one is telling the truth, Elise finds herself floundering. When she overhears a conversation at a party that turns everything on its head, Elise makes an impulsive decision that will change her life forever.

 

Three decades later, Rose Simmons is seeking answers about her mother, who disappeared when she was a baby. Having learned that the last person to see her was Constance Holden, a reclusive novelist who withdrew from public life at the peak of her fame, Rose is drawn to the door of Connie’s imposing house in search of a confession …

 

From the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist and The Muse, this is a luminous, powerful and deeply moving novel about secrets and storytelling, motherhood and friendship, and how we lose and find ourselves.

 

PRAISE FOR THE CONFESSION

‘Dazzlingly good. The Confession is that rare thing: an utterly engrossing novel which asks big questions without ever once losing sight of the storyteller’s need to entertain and move. I turned the final pages in tears and I know already I shall return to it again and again. Without doubt one of the best novels of recent years.’

Elizabeth Day, author of The Party and How To Fail

‘I haven’t enjoyed a book so much in a long time . . . I lost myself in the story, not wanting to come up for air. A bold, intelligent, wonderful novel’ Sarah Winman, author of Tin Man

‘Burton is asking important questions in The Confession – questions about motherhood, art and creativity, love, friendship – and in doing this, she has created three utterly fascinating characters. Connie, Elise, and Rose are complicated; complex in ways that women are so rarely allowed to be in literature, demanding that their stories be heard. This is a beautiful novel and one that will stay with me for a very long time’ Louise O’Neill, author of Only Ever Yours

‘an absorbing, intelligent piece of storytelling’ Guardian

 AUTHOR INFORMATION

Jessie Burton is the author of the Sunday Times number one and New York Times bestsellers The Miniaturist and The Muse, and the children’s book The Restless Girls. In its year of publication The Miniaturist sold over a million copies, and in 2017 it was adapted into a major TV series for BBC One. Her novels have been translated into thirty-eight languages, and she is a regular essay writer for newspapers and magazines. She lives in London.

 

My View:

I finished reading this last night – OMG!!!

 

This is such a sublime read full of emotional intelligence and elegant prose – I just wanted to highlight paragraphs and paragraphs – because of the skilled use of language AND because of the many astute revelations about life’s journey.

 

The narrative is engaging; a bit of mystery, a lot of coming of age, of learning to love oneself and live in the moment not the future, about acceptance, family, identity… this book has so much to offer.  READ IT! 10 stars!!!

Review: The Gift of Life – Josephine Moon

The Gift of Life

Josephine Moon

Penguin

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143791997

 

Description:

You’ve been given the gift of life, now go live it.

 

Gabby McPhee is the owner of The Tin Man, a chic new cafe and coffee roasting house in Melbourne. The struggles of her recent heart transplant are behind her and life is looking up – until a mysterious customer appears in the cafe, convinced that Gabby has her deceased husband’s heart beating inside her chest.

 

Krystal Arthur is a bereaved widow, struggling to hold herself and her two young boys together since Evan’s death, and plagued by unanswered questions. Why was her husband in another city the night he died? And why won’t his spirit rest?

 

Krystal is convinced that Gabby holds the clues she needs to move towards a brighter future. Gabby needs Krystal to help her let go of her troubled past. The two women must come together to try to unlock the secrets in Evan’s heart in order to set free their own.

 

By the internationally bestselling author of The Chocolate Promise, this is a profound and moving novel about the deeper mysteries of love and loss – and the priceless gift of life.

 

My View:

A fabulous read – engaging, informative, and poignant.

 

This is a very moving narrative; organ donation is subject that has recently received deserved attention in the media and despite that increased attention there seems to be so much more that is needed to be done.  https://donatelife.gov.au/about-donation/get-facts/facts-and-statistics   What I really enjoyed about this story was hearing the unique voice of the character who is a recipient – each day a gift but with that gift are so many caveats.

 

Then there is the mystery.

 

This is a very engaging read; life is exposed in all its fragile beauty – difficult, tiring, exasperating, frustrating, challenging, worthwhile, exhilarating, loving and precious.  Themes of family, friendship, love, loss, grief and second chances dominate this read. Josephine Moon has written characters that you will genuinely care about wrapped in a narrative that is complex and discusses many contemporary issues.

 

 

 

 

Review: Allegra in Three Parts – Suzanne Daniel

Allegra in Three Parts

Suzanne Daniel

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781760781712

RRP$29.99

 

Description:

From Suzanne Daniel comes an outstanding debut novel, capturing 1970s Australia with warmth, humour and a distinctive voice. I can split myself in two . . . something I have to do because of Joy and Matilde. They are my grandmothers and I love them both and they totally love me but they can’t stand each other. Eleven-year-old Allegra shuttles between her grandmothers who live next door to one another but couldn’t be more different. Matilde works all hours and instils discipline, duty and restraint. She insists that Allegra focus on her studies to become a doctor. Meanwhile free-spirited Joy is full of colour, possibility and emotion, storing all her tears in little glass bottles. She is riding the second wave of the women’s movement in the company of her penny tortoise, Simone de Beauvoir, encouraging Ally to explore broad horizons and live her ‘true essence’.

And then there’s Rick who lives in a flat out the back and finds distraction in gambling and solace in surfing. He’s trying to be a good father to Al Pal, while grieving the woman who links them all but whose absence tears them apart. Allegra is left to orbit these three worlds wishing they loved her a little less and liked each other a lot more. Until one day the unspoken tragedy that’s created this division explodes within the person they all cherish most. Suzanne Daniel is a journalist and communications consultant who has also worked for ABC TV, the Sydney Morning Herald, the United Nations, BBC (London) and in crisis management and social services. For the past twenty years she has served on community, philanthropic and public company boards. Suzanne lives in Sydney with her husband and family. Allegra in Three Parts is her first novel.

 

My View:

I am sitting here in my flares, a recent “op shop” purchase, I love flares, I am searching for the musical references mentioned in this novel; I love the music of the seventies.

At the time (the 70’s) I was too young to appreciate that I was growing up female in the middle of the Women’s movement, the liberation. The movement was happening around me and I largely benefited from the struggles of my peers. Helen Reddy’s powerhouse song “I am Woman” was the anthem we all sang. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rptW7zOPX2E

But I digress. I am meant to be reviewing Allegra in Three Parts – and in a     roundabout way I am.

Allegra in Three Parts has many story arcs – the Women’s Liberation movement being one of them; the setting up of women’s safe houses/refuges from family violence, the challenge of attaining equal pay and conditions, education for women, the harnessing of trade unions to improve work conditions…so much more is introduced to us by the characters of grandmothers Joy and Mathilde. Joy is at the forefront of the movement, with her Liberty Club. Mathilde clearly feels that education and a good job are the key to a woman’s success and independence and she is determined that Allegra will have those opportunities. They both want the best life possible for Allegra.

 

Suzanne Daniel also creates a space here to discuss the role of fathers in family and in particular as role models for their daughters when we are introduced to Rick – Allegra’s father. As the narrative progresses his influence on the family and Allegra increases – in a positive way.

 

The characters of Rick and the grandmothers are great devices to open up discussion surrounding grief, loss and resilience.

 

There are so many more social issues subtly probed in this novel – so gently are they introduced that you hardly are aware of the lessons being shared; on racism, multiculturalism, on being different, of bullying, of class and privilege…

 

More than issues this is a book about growth and healing, forgiveness, families and love and the importance of being loved.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omrGB4HgjEg

 

“There’s no formula for happiness that’s guaranteed to work

It all depends on how you treat your friends and how much you’ve been hurt

But it’s a start, when you open up your heart

And try not to hide, what you’re feeling inside

Just open up your heart.”  (p249, ‘Open Up Your Heart’ G W Thomas)

 

I loved this book!

 

 

 

Review: The Children’s House – Alice Nelson

The Children's House

The Children’s House

Alice Nelson

Penguin Random House Australia

Vintage

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

Marina, ‘the gypsy scholar’, a writer and academic, and her psychoanalyst husband, Jacob, were each born on a kibbutz in Israel. They meet years later at a university in California, Marina a grad student and Jacob a successful practitioner and teacher who has a young son, Ben, from a disastrous marriage. The family moves to a brownstone in Harlem, formerly a shelter run by elderly nuns.

 

Outside the house one day Marina encounters Constance, a young refugee from Rwanda, and her toddler, Gabriel. Unmoored and devastated, Constance and Gabriel quickly come to depend on Marina; and her bond with Gabriel intensifies.

 

When out of the blue Marina learns some disturbing news about her mother, Gizela, she leaves New York in search of the loose ends of her life. As Christmas nears, her tight-knit, loving family, with Constance and Gabrielle, join Marina in her mother’s former home, with a startling, life-changing consequence.

 

Alice Nelson skilfully weaves together these shared stories of displacement and trauma into a beautifully told, hope-filled, outstanding novel.

 

 

My View:

Can a book both be intense and yet subtle? Can it be meditative yet urge you to take action? Can stories of displacement, war and war crimes, isolation and suicide have a more or less happy resolution? This highly complex yet very easy and engaging read broaches many contemporary issues in an eloquent and unassuming voice; this is accessible literary fiction at its best.

 

A fantastic read.

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Restoration – Angela Slatter

Allow me to introduce to you a fantastic, Australian, new to me author, (and I ask WHY haven’t I heard about this author before now???)

angela slatter

Angela Slatter is the author of the urban fantasy novels Vigil (2016) and Corpselight (2017), and Restoration (2018) as well as eight short story collections, including The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales, Sourdough and Other Stories, The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, and A Feast of Sorrows: Stories. The third novel in the Verity Fassbinder series, Restoration, will be released in 2018 by Jo Fletcher Books (Hachette International). Vigil has been nominated for the Dublin Literary Award in 2018.

Angela is represented by Meg Davis of the Ki Agency in London: meg@ki-agency.co.uk

She has won a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, a Ditmar, an Australian Shadows Award and six Aurealis Awards.

Angela’s short stories have appeared in Australian, UK and US Best Of anthologies such The Mammoth Book of New Horror, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, The Best Horror of the Year, The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror, and The Year’s Best YA Speculative Fiction. Her work has been translated into Bulgarian, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Japanese, Polish, French and Romanian. Victoria Madden of Sweet Potato Films (The Kettering Incident) has optioned the film rights to one of her short stories (“Finnegan’s Field”).

Vigil has been nominated for the Dublin Literary Award in 2018.

She has an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing, is a graduate of Clarion South 2009 and the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop 2006, and in 2013 she was awarded one of the inaugural Queensland Writers Fellowships. In 2016 Angela was the Established Writer-in-Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre in Perth. She has been awarded career development funding by Arts Queensland, the Copyright Agency and, in 2017/18, an Australia Council for the Arts grant. (http://www.angelaslatter.com/)

She is the author of the novellas, Of Sorrow and Such (Tor.com) and Ripper (in Horrorology: The Lexicon of Fear).

And all of the above is why, when I was offered the opportunity to read the new release Restoration (part 3 of the Verity Fassbinder series) I leapt at the chance. Angela Slatter is possibly the most awarded writer I have ever had the pleasure to review.

 

 

           Restoration

Verity Fassbinder #3

Angela Slatter

Hachette Australia

Jo Fletcher Books

ISBN: 9781784294380

The Verity Fassbinder series is what may be compartmentalised as urban fantasy or paranormal fiction; looking closely, this called also be  called an engaging, quirky, Australian narrative about love, family, reconciliation, retribution and tolerance – yes there is a lot happening in this novel. Did I love reading this book, this series? Yes I did.

Snappy, sharp dialogue with contemporary pop culture references ensure this above all else this is a fun read. Larger than life characters, escapades, a few deaths, Verity Fassbinder’s life is busy. Add to the mix a new boyfriend, an ex she still works for and uncle with a third eye in the back of his head all living in downtown Brisneyland, Queensland, Australia and you have a cast and locations that will keep you entertained for hours!   (*Authors Note – The city is not the city. Though I do live in Brisneyland and have used as the backdrop…I must confess that I have played fast and loose with some of the details. I’m sorry West End and I am really sorry Gold Coast.  I’m a writer. It’s fiction…while the reader will recognise certain landmarks and suburbs, Verity’s city is not quite the city you know. It just looks a bit like it, seen through a glass darkly. Enjoy the journey) *Authors Note – page 7 Vigil

 

Reading this series reminds me that I have not read much in this genre since the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris. I did enjoy that series, for the most part, but Verity Fassbinder series is so much more. The snappy dialogue dripping with sarcasm, the locations,  the intrigue and above all – the honest and grounded character that is Verity Fassbinder make this a fabulous must read. I am sure you will enjoy it too.

 

Angela Slatter can be reached  here: me@angelaslatter.com

Guest Post – Sisterly Love by Helene Young

Sisterly Love 

Helene Young

 

Family relationships are very complex and for me the bond between sisters is one of the most fascinating. Part of the joy of writing Return to Roseglen was exploring that connection. The fact that I have a sister, and love her dearly, certainly coloured the relationship between two of the characters, Felicity and Georgina.

Return to Roseglen by Helen Young cover art

Felicity is ten years younger than Georgina and has always been the carer, working as a nurse for the last thirty years. Georgina is the trail blazer, a capable opinionated pilot who’s flying for an aid organisation in Europe. Nothing phases her until it comes time to care for their elderly mother, Ivy, an equally opinionated and indomitable woman.

 

Separated by distance the sisters have still remained close, but what will be the effect on that bond if Felicity decides it’s time to take charge? Will Georgina acquiesce or will she push back, an alpha female not prepared to give ground, even if her relationship with her mother is fraught?

 

Our patterns of behaviour are established early and can be incredibly hard to change. An older sister almost always sees her role as making decisions for a younger sister. That might be fine at first, but as they grow into adulthood and make their own way it can cause friction and estrangement. A once compliant younger sister can find a back bone of steel. How they navigate those early clashes can colour the rest of their lives.

 

Our sisters can be our harshest critics and our staunchest supporters. They can cut deep with their truths yet provide vital comfort at our lowest ebb. Being a sister is a job for life and the reward is knowing you always have someone in your corner.

 

 

Thanks Helene. Relationships are complex, again your words resonate. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog.