Review: The Other Half of Augusta Hope – Joanna Glen

The Other Half of Augusta Hope

Joanna Glen

Harper Collins Publishers Australia

The Borough Press

ISBN: 9780008314163

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

Augusta Hope has never felt like she fits in.

At six, she’s memorising the dictionary. At seven, she’s correcting her teachers. At eight, she spins the globe and picks her favourite country on the sound of its name: Burundi.

 

And now that she’s an adult, Augusta has no interest in the goings-on of the small town where she lives with her parents and her beloved twin sister, Julia.

 

When an unspeakable tragedy upends everything in Augusta’s life, she’s propelled headfirst into the unknown. She’s determined to find where she belongs – but what if her true home, and heart, are half a world away?

 

 

My View:

Intelligent, poignant, insightful, lyrical…this is a remarkable read.

 

This is a story, well actually two stories, that are the same but oh so different; modern England family life juxtaposed against lives in a war torn refugee camp.  A story of isolation, of family, of identity, of violence, of death and coming home….Beautifully imagined and executed, heartbreakingly poignant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Review: Khaki Town – Judy Nunn

Khaki Town
Judy Nunn
Penguin Random House AU
ISBN: 9780143795179

Description:
Khaki Town, Judy Nunn’s stunning new novel, is inspired by a wartime true story which the Government kept secret for over seventy years.

‘It seems to have happened overnight,’ Val thought as she pulled the beers. ‘We’ve become a khaki town.’

It’s March 1942. Singapore has fallen. Darwin has been bombed. Australia is on the brink of being invaded by the Imperial Japanese Forces. And Val Callahan, publican of The Brown’s Hotel in Townsville, could not be happier as she contemplates the fortune she’s making from lonely, thirsty soldiers.

Overnight the small Queensland city is transformed into the transport hub for 70,000 American and Australian soldiers destined for combat in the South Pacific. Barbed wire and gun emplacements cover the beaches. Historic buildings have been commandeered. And the dance halls are in full swing with jitterbug and jive.

The Australian troops, short on rations and equipment, begrudge the confident, well-fed ‘Yanks’ who have taken over their town (and women). And there’s growing conflict, too, within the American ranks. Because black GIs are enjoying the absence of segregation and the white GIs do not like it.

Then one night a massive street fight leaves a black soldier lying dead in the street, and the situation explodes into violent confrontation.

Brenda’s Review:
March 1942 in Townsville, North Queensland, and it was about to become inundated by US soldiers. Val Callahan owned The Brown’s Hotel where the soldiers and locals congregated for a drink and some company. The Australian soldiers were jealous of their American counterparts as they had more money and benefits than them; the local girls were more than happy to have the attention of the Yanks and the chocolates, nylons and all that came with it.

Val had no hesitation in allowing black and white soldiers to drink at her bar – men were men after all, no matter the colour of their skin. But the white US soldiers were used to subservience from the blacks and the anger was slowly rising. The black soldiers’ camp was out of town – Kelso – and after a series of fights in town, they were banned from leaving their camp; banned from going into town and having the entertainment and refreshments the men needed after a hard days’ work.

The riot was brutal, violent and deadly – the reason for the riot was a complex one based purely on racism, hatred and anger. But as the story evolved it was obvious to some that it would all be covered up. Would the truth ever be told?

Khaki Town by Aussie author Judy Nunn is another brilliant historical novel which in this case is based on factual events. The author mentions Khaki Town is about racism and she purposely hasn’t softened the talk. The language is true to the times which is needed for authenticity. All characters are fictional, except for the four American historical figures; some of the events mentioned did happen. I was totally engrossed in this novel, both fascinated and repelled at what was happening. The kindness, caring, love and beautiful music was one side of the coin, while the bullying, the brutality, the cruel taunting – the other. Khaki Town is extremely well-written by an author who has obviously done her research. Highly recommended. 5 stars.

With thanks to Penguin Random House AU for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Review: Cilka’s Journey – Heather Morris

Cilka’s Journey
(The Tattooist of Auschwitz #2)
Heather Morris
Bonnier
Echo
ISBN: 9781760686048

 

Description:

From the author of the multi-million copy bestseller, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, comes the new novel based on an incredible true story of love and resilience.

Her beauty saved her life – and condemned her.

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, in 1942. The Commandant at Birkenau, Schwarzhuber, notices her long beautiful hair, and forces her separation from the other women prisoners. Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly given, equals survival.

After liberation, Cilka is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to Siberia. But what choice did she have? And where did the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was sent to Auschwitz when still a child?

In a Siberian prison camp, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she makes an impression on a woman doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing. Cilka begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

Cilka finds endless resources within herself as she daily confronts death and faces terror. And when she nurses a man called Ivan, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.

 

Brenda’s View:

Sixteen-year-old Cilka’s arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau was followed by three years of heartbreak, torture and loss. It was also where she lost her innocence; where she met Gita, who was to be her best friend, and Lale the tattooist who marked her, and everyone else, with the number that identified her. At the time of liberation, in 1945, Cilka was interrogated and charged as a collaborator. Her punishment was to be 15 years in the notorious Vorkuta Gulag in the icy wastes of Siberia. Cilka’s life would change once more…

The hut that the women were housed in, where Cilka eventually formed friendships, was cold and miserable. Working in the mines was debilitating, exhausting work, but when Cilka met a compassionate woman doctor at the hospital and was asked to work there as her caring nature would be an asset, Cilka was grateful. Conditions were a little better but each night she returned to her hut after being confronted with death and shocking injuries. The fortitude and strength that Cilka held inside rarely faltered, but more was to come to test her. What was to be the outcome of this horror for Cilka? Would she ever know peace?

Cilka’s Journey by Aussie author Heather Morris is the sequel to The Tattooist of Auschwitz where we met Lale as he told his story. Once again, the author has based her new story on fact, with Cilka being a real person, set in history; the settings are horribly authentic; the bravery and courage of Cilka mentioned to the author by Lale when she interviewed him. The artistry of the author as she blended fact with fiction shows a great amount of research – her mention of that research and how much time was devoted to it, is at the end of the book. Cilka’s Journey takes us back to a shocking time in history, a time I hope is never repeated. It is also a historical novel I highly recommend.

With thanks to Bonnier/Echo and associated publishers for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

 

Review:The Burnt Country – Joy Rhoades

The Burnt Country

The Woolgrowers Companion #2

Joy Rhoades

Penguin Random House

Bantam

ISBN: 9780143793724

RRP$ 32.99

 

Description:

A scandalous secret. A deadly bushfire. An agonizing choice.

 

Australia 1948. As a young woman single-handedly running Amiens, a sizeable sheep station in New South Wales, Kate Dowd is expected to fail. In fact the local graziers are doing their best to ensure she does.

 

However Kate cannot risk losing Amiens, or give in to her estranged husband Jack’s demands to sell. Because the farm is the only protection she can offer her half-sister Pearl, as the Aborigines Welfare Board calls for her forced adoption.

 

Ostracised by the local community for even acknowledging Pearl, Kate cannot risk another scandal. Which means turning her back on her wartime lover, Luca Canali . . .

 

Then Jack drops a bombshell. He wants a divorce. He’ll protect what’s left of Kate’s reputation, and keep Luca out of it – but at an extortionate price.

 

Soon Kate is putting out fires on all fronts to save her farm, keep her family together and protect the man she loves. Until a catastrophic real fire threatens everything . . .

 

 

My View:

This was not the booked I expected to read!

 

Firstly I did not realise that this was the second in a series until I looked up the book details for my review. But don’t worry this reads perfectly as a stand a one.

 

Second – this is not the rural romance I thought it was going to be. There are relationships – but that is what life is about; the complex nature of our emotional resilience.

 

Thirdly – whilst this is a “historical” fiction the times are not that far away (late 1940s early 50’s). I found the social issues intriguing; women’s’ rights – financial, social, family, legal, work, domestic violence, the war, detention, The Stolen Generation… so so interesting and engaging.

 

This narrative packs a big punch – so many social issues, a tense engaging plot, relationships that felt real, I loved the way women supported each other and help raise each other up. The theme of fire was constant and added a cohesion to the overall plot and an uneasiness that anyone living in a dry, remote countryside will understand.

 

This read was surprising and amazing! I loved it and I hope you do too.

 

And I see a book to film in the future….

 

PS

I enjoyed the bonus recipes supplied at the end of the book.

 

 

 

Guest Review – Wolfsangel – Liza Perrat

 

Wolfsangel

Wolfsangel

Liza Perrat

Perrat Publishing

ISBN: 9782954168128

Description:

Seven decades after German troops march into her village, Céleste Roussel is still unable to assuage her guilt.

  1. German soldiers occupy provincial Lucie-sur-Vionne, and as the villagers pursue treacherous schemes to deceive and swindle the enemy, Céleste embarks on her own perilous mission as her passion for a Reich officer flourishes.

When her loved ones are deported to concentration camps, Céleste is drawn into the vortex of this monumental conflict, and the adventure and danger of French Resistance collaboration.

As she confronts the harrowing truths of the Second World War’s darkest years, Céleste is forced to choose: pursue her love for the German officer, or answer General de Gaulle’s call to fight for France.

Her fate suspended on the fraying thread of her will, Celeste gains strength from the angel talisman bequeathed to her through her lineage of healer kinswomen. But the decision she makes will shadow the remainder of her days.

A woman’s unforgettable journey to help liberate Occupied France, Wolfsangel is a stirring portrayal of the courage and resilience of the human mind, body and spirit.

 

Brenda’s Review:

The happiness that Céleste Roussel had taken for granted with her family on their farm had disappeared with the occupation of their small village of Lucie-sur-Vionne by German soldiers. Her father had been taken to a labour camp early in the occupation, so running the farm was left to Céleste, her mother and brother Patrick. He and his best friend Olivier quickly became part of the French Resistance, doing all they could to drive the Boche from their lives.

Céleste soon took the eye of a certain German officer, and found her feelings reciprocated. She knew it was wrong – the hatred felt toward the Boche was in them all. Her determination to assist the Resistance saw her embark on dangerous missions; all the while keeping her secret life hidden from all but a few. But the arrest and deportation of family members was the beginning of the end. Would the angel talisman which had been with generations of her family’s women, and now belonged to Céleste keep her safe? Would she ever see her family again?

Wolfsangel by Aussie author Liza Perrat is absolutely outstanding! The second in the Bone Angel series, nevertheless it can be read as a standalone. The Author’s Note at the end of the book was extremely interesting and shows, though it is complete fiction, Wolfsangel is based on a factual event which occurred on 10th June 1944. I didn’t think I could hear of more shocking atrocities committed by the Germans in WWII, but it seems I now have! Brilliantly written, and highly recommended. A 5 star read which will be in my top reads for 2018.

Post Script: The Right Side – Spencer Quinn

This is an outstanding read – it goes straight onto my “Best Reads of 2017 “list.

The Right Side

The Right Side

Spencer Quinn

Atria Books

ISBN: 9781501118401

 

Description:

 In this riveting new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of the Chet and Bernie mystery series, a deeply damaged female soldier home from the war in Afghanistan becomes obsessed with finding a missing girl, gains an unlikely ally in a stray dog, and encounters new perils beyond the combat zone.

 

LeAnne Hogan went to Afghanistan as a rising star in the military, and came back a much lesser person, mentally and physically. Now missing an eye and with half her face badly scarred, she can barely remember the disastrous desert operation that almost killed her. She is confused, angry, and suspects the fault is hers, even though nobody will come out and say it.

 

Shattered by one last blow—the sudden death of her hospital roommate, Marci—LeAnne finds herself on a fateful drive across the country, reflecting on her past and seeing no future. Her native land is now unfamiliar, recast in shadow by her one good eye, her damaged psyche, her weakened body. Arriving in the rain-soaked small town in Washington State that Marci had called home, she makes a troubling discovery: Marci’s eight-year-old daughter has vanished. When a stray dog—a powerful, dark, unreadable creature, no one’s idea of a pet—seems to adopt LeAnne, a surprising connection is formed and something shifts inside her. As she becomes obsessed with finding Marci’s daughter, LeAnne and her inscrutable canine companion are drawn into danger as dark and menacing as her last Afghan mission. This time she has a strange but loyal fellow traveler protecting her blind side.

 

Enthralling, suspenseful, and psychologically nuanced, The Right Side introduces one of the most unforgettable protagonists in modern fiction: isolated, broken, disillusioned—yet still seeking redemption and purpose—LeAnne takes hold of the reader and never lets go.

 

 

My View:

This is an outstanding read – it goes straight onto my “Best Reads of 2017 “list.

 

If you are expecting another narrative in the style of the Chet and Bernie series – think again. I strongly suggest that you begin this book as if you have just discovered a new to you author – just expect this to be a brilliant read – and then you will not be disappointed.

 

For me this is a book that demands to be read in one sitting. The characters are complex – the psychological revelations are insightful and useful.  You will navigate heartbreaking traumas to reveal the small ray of sunshine, of optimism that prevents this book from being morose and sullen.  The mysteries here will keep the pages turning and you will gain a few perspectives that might surprise you and make you think.

 

This is an outstanding read and I imagine one that will soon be transformed onto the big screen – I wish I had the $$ to produce this one. It will be a winner – guaranteed.

 

 

 

 

Post Script: Frame – AK Alliss

Amor Vincit Omnia!

frame

 

Frame

AK Alliss

Atlas Productions Pty Ltd

ISBN: 9780995377615

 

Description:

How far would you go to save someone who was already dead?

 

Hidden in the frame of a single photo, a content producer for social media sensation, Mathew Albrecht, discovers his possible ties to a global terrorist organisation. Could her client’s involvement also be linked to the death of her husband years earlier or is it something entirely more sinister in nature?

 

What is revealed may eclipse everything that she thought she knew, forcing her to confront the ghosts of her past in her pursuit of the truth.

 

Frame is a genre-bending thriller, set in a world poised on the brink of insanity.

 

 

My View:

I first read this remarkable narrative as a manuscript – I knew nothing of the author, or his style of writing or his track record but I was hooked from the moment I read these couple of sentences in synopsis; “Hidden in the frame of a single photo, a content producer for social media sensation, Mathew Albrecht, discovers his possible ties to a global terrorist organisation. Could her client’s involvement also be linked to the death of her husband years earlier or is it something entirely more sinister in nature?

 

Synchronicity was at work! In a previous life (as most of you will already know) I worked in the film and television industry, looking at images frame by frame…content producing… these terms/actions immediately connected and intrigued me. I had to read this and find out more.

 

And am I glad I took this opportunity? YES! This is an amazing read.  A thriller that is set in the future – but not too far in the future, in the foreseeable future – I can “see” the landscapes, the settings and the technology.

 

And technology is power – holders of this power can influence, control; domestically the power of social media dictates trends, projects individuals to celebrity status and a culture of hero worship by keyboard is encouraged. Politically, wars are won or lost based on control of information and technical fighting power. The landscapes created here are so real they make you feel uncomfortable.

 

The characters are vivid and realistic – I feel for the protagonist, Hannah – melancholy, trapped by a web of grief wound so tight she can hardly breathe…yet strong and resourceful and smart – a great female protagonist.

 

Love, grief, the importance of family, of emotional connections, ties that bind, are themes that are explored in depth in the novel. The words  love and family usually connatates positive emotions and responses but loss of love or the void death creates can also restrict, hold our emotional health to ransom and have the potential to destroy. Hope can empower and create change.  Ultimately  (no spoilers here) the lesson here is: Love Conquers All.

 

A meaningful and captivating read!