Review: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

 

Title: Elizabeth is Missing

Author: Emma Healey

Published: Viking: Penguin Australia July 2014

Read an extract

Status: Read on July 22, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Elizabeth is Missing by debut author Emma Healey is a poignant and gripping mystery about loss, memory and murder.

The narrative unfolds from the unique perspective of Maud Horsham, an eighty two year old mother and grandmother, suffering from progressive dementia. Maud relies on carefully written notes, and daily visits from a carer and her daughter Helen, to remember the things she forgets, but increasingly Maud’s concerns have narrowed to the lack of contact from her closest friend, Elizabeth. While Helen, and others, dismiss her fears as a senile obsession, Maud is convinced something awful has happened and embarks on an investigation to find her missing friend.

Told with extraordinary insight into the complexities of a failing mind I was effortlessly drawn into Maud’s muddled world. It is not an easy space to inhabit, especially if you have witnessed a similar decline in a loved one as I have, or fear a similar fate, as I do. Fleeting instances of lucidity add to the poignancy of the narrative as Maud slips between the past and the present, between remembering and forgetting.

Entwined with Maud’s search for Elizabeth, and her everyday struggle with her failing memory, is a second narrative that reveals in 1946 Maud’s married older sister, Sukey, vanished without a trace. It soon becomes clear that Maud’s fears for her missing friend, Elizabeth, are tangled with the memories of Maud’s sister’s disappearance, and to solve one mystery, will be to solve the other.

The suspense of both mysteries are well maintained through out the novel and the past and present narratives flow seamlessly into each other. Despite the distressing nature of Maud’s illness there are also moments of humour which helps to temper the bleak realities.

A clever and compelling novel, I thought Elizabeth is Missing was an engrossing read with an unforgettable protagonist. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

Elizabeth is Missing is available to purchase from

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Review: Better Homes and Hauntings by Molly Harper

 

Title: Better Homes and Hauntings

Author: Molly Harper

Published: Pocket Books July 2014

Read an excerpt

Status: Read from July 21 to 22, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

I’ve enjoyed Molly Harper’s sense of fun and humour in her Jane Jameson series and Naked Werewolf series so I leapt at the opportunity to read this new stand alone novel.

Better Homes and Hauntings is a paranormal romance/mystery that is set in a dilapidated haunted mansion on a private island off the coast of Newport. Crane’s Nest is the ancestral home of young software billionaire Deacon Whitney and despite a history of tragedy and hauntings he decides to renovate the mansion, hiring a team of professionals including his best friend and architect, Jake, Nina, a landscaper, and professional cleaner and organiser, Cindy. The project requires them all to remain on the island during the renovation and ignore the weird vibes and frightening dreams the house seems to provoke but that grows increasingly difficult as a malevolent spirit begins to make its presence known. Deacon’s cousin, Dotty is convinced that solving the mystery surrounding the death of her great-great grandmother, Catherine Whitney, will put the spirit to rest but they need to do so quickly, before history repeats itself.

Harper finds a good balance between creepy ghost story and lighthearted romance in Better Homes and Hauntings. There were moments when my skin prickled with goosebumps and times when I was smiling broadly at the snarky banter between her characters.

The mystery is well thought out, with missing diaries, stolen jewels and a ghostly murderer to find. Harper also integrates a real world element in the form of Nina’s vengeful ex-boyfriend, intent on sabotaging her success.

I though the mix of personalities worked well, the enforced isolation creating a quick and tight bond between the main characters. Two romances develop over the course of the novel, Deacon falls for Nina, while Jake is infatuated with Cindy. Both pairings are well suited and it is sweet to see them work things out.

A quick, light and engaging read, fans of Harper are sure to enjoy Better Homes and Hauntings and as a rare stand alone it’s a great way to test her appeal without committing to a series.

Better Homes and Hauntings is available to purchase from

Simon & Schuster I Amazon US I BookDepository I via Indie Bound

Review: The Queen of Tearling by Erika Johansen

 

Title: The Queen of Tearling {The Queen of Tearling #1}

Author: Erika Johansen

Published:  Bantam Press: Random House July 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from July 18 to 20, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Erika Johansen’s debut novel, The Queen of the Tearling, attracted notice months before its publication date. The film rights have already been bought by Warner Bros and Harry Potter actress Emma Watson has signed on as both executive producer, and its star.

The Queen of the Tearling is the first book in a trilogy featuring nineteen year old Kelsea Glynn, the newly revealed heir to the throne of Tearling. After a lifetime in hiding she must claim her birthright and defend her rule against her debauched uncle, corrupt officials and The Red Queen, a depraved sorceress who reigns the neighbouring land of Mortmesme.

In terms of plot there isn’t really much to distinguish this fantasy novel from those with similar tropes, but there is plenty of action with a surprisingly dark and gritty edge. Kelsea’s fight for her throne results in a wealth of political intrigue, involving spies at court, assassination attempts and attempts to circumvent Kelsea’s orders, which leads to multiple sword clashing confrontations. Magic shimmers in the air, but affords only a few its privileges, and there are also seeds of romance for Kelsea with a handsome rogue named Fetch.

Tearling is a realm rife with corruption, heavy with bureaucracy which favours the rich and exploits the poor. Initially I was puzzled by the setting but eventually figured out that despite the medieval detail, it is set not in the past, or an alternate universe, but the distant post-apocalyptic future of our own world. This creates an unusual landscape that blends a feudal society with reminders of modern life, which also embraces magic, but exactly how, and why, it came about is only hinted at.

I liked Kelsea well enough, she is a mixture of teenage insecurity, often naive and headstrong, but also compassionate, determined and well intentioned. She faces a myriad of ethical challenges with both the idealism and pragmatism of youth. I was a little disappointed at the emphasis both the author, and her character, place on appearance though.

The Queen of Tearling is an entertaining read and though it is not without its flaws as a novel, I can see its cinematic potential, and I’ll be interested to read its sequel.

The Queen of Tearling is available to purchase from

Random House Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US I Amazon UK

and all good bookstores.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

The Its Monday! What Are You Reading meme is hosted at Book Journey.

Life…

  Yesterday my oldest daughter flew to spend two weeks working with my younger brother, a DJ, event compere, promoter and sometimes actor,  in the Northern Territory.  It is not the first time she has been away, but it is the first time she has gone unchaperoned (my brother doesn’t really count) and as an actual adult (she just turned 18). It’s a little scary to be honest though I know the experience and the independence will be good for her.

I feel for the relatives of those on the Malaysia Airlines MH17 , whose loved ones won’t be coming home from their adventures.

 

What I Read Last Week

 

Family Secrets by Liz Byrski

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik  Backman

Chasing the Ace by Nicholas J Johnson

The Queen of Tearling by Erika Johansen

 

New Posts

(click the titles to read my reviews)

Review: Swimming in the Dark by Paddy Richardson ★★★★1/2

Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman ★★★★★

Review: Family Secrets by Liz Byrski ★★★

Review: Letters to My Daughter’s Killer by Cath Staincliff ★★★★

Review: Chasing the Ace by Nicholas J Johnson ★★★

Stuff on Sundays: Bookshelf Bounty

 

 What I Am Reading Today

On the eve of the 1898 Omaha World’s Fair, Ferret Skerritt – ventriloquist by trade, conman by birth – isn’t quite sure how it will change him or his city. Omaha still has the marks of a filthy Wild West town, even as it attempts to achieve the grandeur and respectability of nearby Chicago. But when he crosses paths with the beautiful and enigmatic Cecily, his whole purpose shifts and the fair becomes the backdrop to their love affair.
One of a travelling troupe of actors that has descended on the city, Cecily works in the Midway’s Chamber of Horrors, where she loses her head hourly on a guillotine playing Marie Antoinette. And after closing, she rushes off, clinging protectively to a mysterious carpet bag, never giving Ferret a second glance. But a moonlit ride on the swan gondola, a boat on the lagoon of the New White City, changes everything, and the fair’s magic begins to take its effect.

 

What I Plan To Read This Week

(click the covers to view at Goodreads)

Author of the beloved Half Moon Hollow series of vampire romances (Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs), Molly Harper has created a standalone paranormal romance in which a dilapidated haunted house could bring star-crossed lovers together—if it doesn’t kill them first! When Nina Linden is hired to landscape a private island off the New England coast, she sees it as her chance to rebuild her failing business after being cheated by her unscrupulous ex. She never expects that her new client, software mogul Deacon Whitney, would see more in her than just a talented gardener. Deacon has paid top dollar to the crews he’s hired to renovate the desolate Whitney estate—he had to, because the bumps, thumps, and unexplained sightings of ghostly figures in nineteenth-century dress are driving workers away faster than he can say “Boo.” But Nina shows no signs of being scared away, even as she experiences some unnerving apparitions herself. And as the two of them work closely together to restore the mansion’s faded glory, Deacon realizes that he’s found someone who doesn’t seem to like his fortune more than himself—while Nina may have finally found the one man she can trust with her bruised and battered heart. But something on the island doesn’t believe in true love…and if Nina and Deacon can’t figure out how to put these angry spirits to rest, their own love doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance.

 

‘Elizabeth is missing.’ Maud keeps finding notes in her pockets with this message scrawled on it, but she can’t remember writing it. That said, she can’t remember much these days: the time of day, whether she’s eaten lunch, if her daughter’s come to visit, how much toast she’s eaten. Still, the notes about Elizabeth nag at her. When was the last time she spoke with her best friend? It feels like ages ago.. Frustratingly, no one seems willing to help Maud find her: not the police nor Elizabeth’s son – not even Maud’s own daughter or granddaughter. It’s like they’re hiding something. Maud resolves to take matters into her own hands, and begins digging for the truth. There are many clues, but unhelpfully, they all seem to point to another unsolved disappearance: that of Maud’s sister Sukey just after the war. Could the mystery of Sukey’s disappearance lead Maud to the truth about Elizabeth? As Maud’s mind retreats into the past at a frightening pace, alienating her from her family and carers, vivid memories of what happened over fifty years ago come flooding back to give her quest new momentum.

A powerful novel set in Gallipoli, that’s part war-story and part mystery. ‘Amid Gallipoli’s slaughter he hunted a murderer . . .’ It is 1915 and Thomas Clare rues the day he and his best friend Snow went to war to solve the murder of his father. The only clues – a hidden wartime document and the imprint of an army boot on the victim’s face – have led the pair from the safety of Queensland to the blood-soaked hills of Gallipoli. Now not only are Thomas’s enemies on every side – from the Turkish troops bearing down on the Anzac lines, to the cold-blooded killer in his own trench – but as far away as London and Berlin. For, unbeknown to Thomas, the path to murder began thirteen years earlier in Africa with the execution of Breaker Morant – and a secret that could change the course of history . .

Only five still guard the border between the worlds. And when they fall, so do we all… The Oversight is a gothic fantasy that will appeal to fans of Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell “The end always comes faster than you think.” Once there were hundreds of members of the Oversight, the brave souls who guard the borders between the mundane and the magic. Now there are only five. And their numbers are dwindling further still. When a vagabond brings a screaming girl to the Oversight’s London headquarters, she might answer their hopes for a new recruit, or she could be the instrument of their downfall. In his first novel for adults, Charlie Fletcher (The Stoneheart Trilogy) spins a tale of witch-hunters, supra-naturalists, mirror-walkers and magicians. Meet the Oversight, and remember: when they fall, so do we all

 

Elf and Yoli are two smart, loving sisters. Elf is a world-renowned pianist, glamorous, wealthy, happily married: she wants to die. Yoli is divorced, broke, sleeping with the wrong men: she desperately wants to keep her older sister alive. When Elf’s latest suicide attempt leaves her hospitalised weeks before her highly anticipated world tour, Yoli is forced to confront the impossible question of whether it is better to let a loved one go

 While you are here…

Congratulations to the winners of  Colors of Gold by Kaye Dobbie

Australian: Maria P International: Denise D

Thanks for stopping by!

Stuff on Sundays: Bookshelf Bounty

It’s that time of the month or near enough,  so here is what I have added to my shelves recently.

Click on the cover images to view at Goodreads

For Review (print)

For Review (ebook)

Bought or otherwise acquired (giveaways, gifts etc)

Review: Chasing the Ace by Nicholas J. Johnson

Title: Chasing the Ace

Author: Nicholas J. Johnson

Published: Simon and Schuster Au

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from July 16 to 18, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Nicholas J. Johnson, who works as a performer, writer and consultant, exposing the world of con artists to the public to better protect themselves, has drawn on his knowledge and experience to author Chasing the Ace, his entertaining debut novel.

Told from dual first person narratives, Chasing The Ace introduces Richard, an ageing, world-weary con ‘artiste’ and Joel, a young, wannabe grifter who meet on the streets of Melbourne. Richard, contemplating retirement, decides to take Joel under his wing and the pair form a profitable alliance. Joel is eager to learn all he can, and is thrilled when the money starts rolling in, but when they accidentally scam an off duty cop, neither man is sure if they will be able to con their way out of trouble.

The novel is fast paced, with enough excitement and a few surprising turns to maintain suspense. I have to admit I didn’t predict the final twist, but found it a satisfying ending to the story, which also provides potential for a sequel.

I thought the main protagonists were well developed, with interesting backgrounds and distinct voices. Richard is jaded and cynical, Joel is initially enthusiastic and idealistic though slowly becomes increasingly disillusioned by the realities of the lifestyle, having fed his expectations with a diet of classic con movies like ‘The Sting’ and ‘Rounders’.

I might have been more impressed overall had I not just finished binge watching the entire series of Leverage, an American TV program about a crew who pull off sophisticated and complex cons in each episode. By contrast, the cons run in Chasing the Ace seem inelegant and somewhat distasteful, even if far more realistic.

A quick and entertaining read, I enjoyed Chasing the Ace…honestly.

Chasing the Ace is available to purchase from

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and all good bookstores.

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Review: Letters To My Daughter’s Killer by Cath Staincliffe

 

Title: Letters to My Daughter’s Killer

Author: Cath Staincliffe

Published: C&R Crime: Allen & Unwin July 2014

Status: Read from July 05 to 07, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

“I hate you. My first letter, and that is all I want to say. I hate you. But those three words can barely convey the depth, the breadth, the soaring height of this hatred.”

Letters To My Daughter’s Killer by Cath Staincliffe is a story of grief, anger and heartbreak, beginning with the brutal murder of a young wife and mother and exploring the consequences for those that loved her.

It unfolds in a series of letters written by Ruth Sutton to the man who bludgeoned her precious daughter, Lizzie, to death, four years earlier. In a desperate bid to recover some equilibrium, Ruth hopes that by writing to the killer, and asking him for answers to the questions that haunt her, she can purge herself of the fury that threatens to destroy her soul.

As Ruth relives the horror that began with a phone call, Staincliffe portrays the raw reactions of a grieving mother to her daughter’s violent murder with skill and compassion, exposing the shock and bewilderment which slowly gives way to anger and heartache as Ruth is forced to deal with the strain of the aftermath, including caring for her young grand daughter, and the police investigation, the killer’s capture, and the trial that follows.

Intense, shocking and poignant, Letters to My Daughter’s Killer is an emotionally taxing read.

 

Letters to My Daughter’s Killer is available to purchase from

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and all good bookstores.

 

Review: Family Secrets by Liz Byrski

Title: Family Secrets

Author: Liz Byrski

Published: Pan Macmillan Au July 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from July 12 to 15, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

When Liz Byrski turned fifty she keenly felt the lack of literature that reflected the lives of women in mid life, and drawing on her experience as a journalist and freelance writer, set out to change that by writing the sort of books that she wanted to read.

Family Secrets is Liz Byrski’s eighth fiction novel, a story about love, regrets, forgiveness and redemption.

After a long, debilitating illness, Gerald Hawkins passing is both a cause for sadness and relief for his wife Connie, and his adult children Kerry and Andrew. For decades they have lived their lives as Gerald, a dominant man, had wished them too and now that he is gone they are all forced to find their own way forward.

Connie chooses to revisit her past, announcing her plans to go to England for an extended holiday, hoping to reconnect with the woman she was before she married Gerald and gave up her dreams to become a dutiful wife and mother in Tasmania, and to rekindle her relationship with her childhood best friend, and Gerald’s sister, Flora, who has been estranged from the family for many years. Connie’s journey is not what she imagined it would be however, especially when she is confronted with some home truths about the choices she made and the person she has become.

Meanwhile her children are grappling with their changing futures. Andrew, disillusioned with his career and his marriage, is unsurprised to discover his wife’s affair but determined to protect his teenage daughter, Brooke, from the fall-out. Kerry, harbouring long held resentment and guilt about her father is at a loss when he dies, and is left struggling with the symptoms of clinical depression.

Byrski explores the way in which it is often difficult to be honest with ourselves, and others, and the corrosive nature of failing to accept the truth. Each main character in Family Secrets is challenged to reconcile their past and escape the shadow of Gerald’s legacy by taking responsibility for the people whom they have become, and making changes that allow them to reconnect with the people they love.

I thought Family Secrets was an engaging read, not especially gripping but a thoughtful and well told story of realistic domestic drama.

Family Secrets is available to purchase from

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and all good bookstores.

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Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Title: A Man Called Ove

Author: Fredrik Backman

Published: Atria Books July 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from July 15 to 16, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

A wonderful debut novel by Swedish author Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove had me laughing out loud, and blinking back tears.

“He was a man of black and white…. Ove wanted what was right to be right, and what was wrong to be wrong.”

Ove is a man who believes in order, routine and rules, he has worked hard all of his life, paid his taxes, taken care of his beloved wife and his house but now, forced into retirement and alone at 59, he no longer has any wish to continue on. He has made his peace, planned carefully for his departure, but is wholly unprepared for what follows after his new neighbours accidentally flatten his mailbox.

Undaunted by Ove’s inflexible opinions, gruff manner and short temper, Parveneh and her family make demands of Ove that he cannot resist. And then comes a mangy cat, a homeless teen and a man in a white shirt, and slowly, despite his best intentions, Ove begins to live again.

Simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting, this is a story about love, grief, life, death and Saab’s. Told with heartfelt emotion, wry insight and a sense of humour, Backman has created an endearing character, few will be able to dismiss.

“It isn’t what a man says that matters, it is what he does.”

For all that it made me feel, I’m declaring A Man Called Ove my favourite book of the year so far.

A Man Called Ove is available to purchase from

Atria Books I Amazon US I BookDepository I via Indie Bound

***

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via Booko

Australian Cover

 

Review: Swimming In The Dark by Paddy Richardson

 

Title: Swimming in the Dark

Author: Paddy Richardson

Published: Macmillan July 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read on July 02, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

An atmospheric psychological drama, Swimming in the Dark, the fourth novel by award-winning New Zealand writer Paddy Richardson, explores the themes of family, oppression, fear and the strength it takes to rise above them.

Set in New Zealand, this contemporary, haunting tale unites four women, Serena and her sister Lynette, and school teacher Ilse Klein and her mother, Gerda, struggling against a legacy of fear, shame and guilt.
Fifteen year old Serena Freeman is the youngest child of a family with a reputation for wildness and petty criminal behaviour in the suburbs of Otago. Studious and quiet, she has tried hard to avoid being tarred with the same brush, hoping to one day escape and create a new life, as her eldest sister, Lynnie, did seven years before. When Serena disappears no one seems to care but Lynette returns to Alexandra to search for her, determined to uncover the secrets her younger sister has been hiding.
Their worlds collide when Ilsa inadvertently learns Serena’s secret, a secret that revives terrible memories for Gerda of her time in Stasi Germany.

Beautifully written, this is a complex and gripping novel which I couldn’t put down. I’m loathe to reveal this story’s secrets, and at a loss to articulate its power other than to say I was held captive by the undercurrent of suspense, moved by the character’s struggles, and stunned by the novel’s conclusion.

Swimming in the Dark is available to purchase from

Pan Macmillan Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US I Amazon UK

and all good bookstores.

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