Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriaty

 

Title: Big Little Lies

Author: Liane Moriarty

Published: Amy Einhorn Books: Putnam July 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from July 27 to 28, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“Oh, we’re such a caring school,” the principal told me. Blah, blah. blah. Let me tell you the first thing I thought when I walked into that playground on that kindergarten orientation day was cliquey. Cliquey, cliquey, cliquey. I’m not surprised someone ended up dead. Oh, all right. I guess that’s overstating it. I was a little surprised.”

Big Little Lies begins with a death at Pirriwee Public School during a Trivia Night fundraiser, but the details are concealed as the narrative shifts to a period six months previously to introduce Madeline, Celeste and Jane, along with their offspring, at the Kindy orientation day.

It is at this inauspicious event that Jane’s son, Ziggy, is accused of bullying a classmate, Amabella, triggering a sustained campaign of hysteria by her high powered mother, Renata, to punish Ziggy for denying being at fault. Madeline, a veteran of schoolyard politics and never one to shy away from controversy, chooses to side with Jane, supported by her best friend, the beautiful and wealthy mother of twin boys, Celeste and as such declares war.

While the school drama escalates in the lead up to the Trivia Night, the three main protagonists have other important concerns to deal with. Madeleine’s teenage daughter from her first marriage wants to go and live with her father and his new wife, Celeste is barely holding together her veneer of perfection, and Jane is hiding a shocking secret regarding the paternity of her son. These complex characters are so perfectly formed it seems likely I could meet them at the school gate. This is unfortunately true too of the ‘blonde bob’ brigade, whom I am all too familiar with having endured 11 years of primary school politics (with four more still to go).

There is plenty of humour in this sharply observed novel of playground alliances, ‘mummy wars’ and domestic crises but as Moriarty slowly strips away the social veneer to explore truths about bullying, domestic violence, betrayal and infidelity its darker heart is exposed. As the tension builds, gossip swirls, secrets are revealed, alliances shift, and lies are found out. Ultimately of course the truth prevails, and the mysteries are resolved in the stunning climax.

Part noir suburban mystery, part domestic drama, Big Little Lies is compulsive reading. Thought provoking, clever, witty and wonderful, this is another wickedly brilliant novel from best selling Australian author Liane Moriarty.

Big Little Lies is available to purchase from

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Review: A Fatal Tide by Steve Sailah

 

Title: A Fatal Tide

Author: Steve Sailah

Published: Bantam: Random House July 2014

Status:  Read from July 22 to 25, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

An intriguing mystery set amongst the trenches of Gallipoli, A Fatal Tide is an impressive novel from debut author, Steve Sailah.

Thomas Clare is just sixteen when he discovers his father’s decapitated body under a tree in the paddock behind their home. The investigating Sergeant insists Constable First Class Jack Clare, a Boer war veteran, committed suicide, miscalculating the length of rope needed to hang himself, but it is obvious to Tubbie Terrier, an aboriginal tracker and family friend, that Jack was not alone when he died. A soldier’s boot print on his father’s face, and a hidden wartime document with a handwritten notation, are the only clues Thomas has to identify his father’s killer and so with the idealism and optimism of youth, Thomas and his best friend Snow, enlist in the raging first World War to find Jack’s murderer.

” Oh, what an adventure it would be.”

A Fatal Tide tales place in perhaps one of the most unusual settings I have encountered in a mystery novel. Though it begins in the Queensland bush, the majority of the story is set in the trenches of Gallipoli barely a month after the historic ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Corps) landing in 1915.

Sailah vividly illustrates what Thomas experiences after his arrival in Gallipoli. Like many of the men, and boys, who enlisted, Thomas and Snow had no real understanding of the horror of war, expecting adventure and easy victories, only to find themselves ankle deep in mud, corpses and gore, eating flyblown food, battling dysentery and under near constant enemy fire.

It is only then that Thomas appreciates his naivete in going to war to search for the men who murdered his father, not that he is deterred, especially when it becomes obvious that the enemy lies not only across the wasteland of ‘no man’s land’ but also somewhere amongst the trenches forged to protect him. Someone is desperate to recover the document in Thomas’s possession which reveals the shocking truth about the events that led to the execution of ‘Breaker’ Morant thirteen years earlier in Africa.

Despite the grim realities of circumstance, Sailah lightens the tone of the novel with a focus on the bonds formed between the men who fight side by side with Thomas and Snow, and the eccentricities of their characters – Teach, who spouts philosophy, and quick witted and loud mouth, Kingy. Humour also comes from Thomas and Snow’s adulation of Sherlock Holmes and his creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whom Sailah references often during the novel.

Exploring the themes of duty, honour, mateship and humanity, Sailah weaves together a compelling story of war, friendship and murder in A Fatal Tide. It offers both an interesting mystery, and fascinating insight into the experiences of our Australian diggers in Gallipoli’s trenches.

A Fatal Tide is available to purchase from

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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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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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Review: Reservoir Dad by Clint Greagen

 

Title: Reservoir Dad

Author: Clint Greagen

Published: Bantam: Random House July 2014

Status: Read from July 07 to 09, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

In 2008, Clint Greagen resigned from his job as a youth worker to care for his first born child. Nine years later Clint is a stay at home dad of four young boys, Archie, Lewis, Tyson and Maki, and the author of Reservoir Dad, about his adventures in full-time parenting, first chronicled on his popular blog of the same name.

Written with humour, honesty and love, Reservoir Dad shares the exhausting challenges and unadulterated joys of raising four sons, from the seemingly endless sleepless nights, and a bathroom floor covered in wee, to the smell of a newborn head and wrestling matches in the lounge room. What I admire most is Greagen’s obvious dedication to his sons, and his relationship with his wife, the ever-patient Reservoir Mum (aka Tania), with whom he still shares a weekly date night, on a mattress in front of the TV.

As a stay at home mother, also to four children (three of whom were born in three years), I could certainly relate to Greagen’s experiences of parenting. I found myself giggling in recognition of the moments of crazy and wincing in well remembered sympathy at toddler tantrums and the lego induced injuries, which happens less often now that my youngest son is 8.

Divided into six parts with short chapters variously named with titles like ‘Hang Like A Man'; ‘Syncing Hormonally'; ‘The Grand Old Duke of…Puke?’ and ‘A Jim Carrey-Inspired Sex Education’ Reservoir Dad is a quick, easy read.

Funny, moving and insightful, Reservoir Dad would be the perfect gift for new parents, both as a warning of what is to come, and an assurance they are not alone.

Available to purchase from

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Want more? Visit This Charming Mum for her review

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Review & Giveaway: Colours of Gold by Kaye Dobbie

 

Title: Colours of Gold

Author: Kaye Dobbie

Published: Harlequin MIRA April 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from July 06 to 08, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Colours of Gold by Kaye Dobbie, also known as Sara Bennett and Lilly Sommers, is a captivating tale combining mystery, romance, history and a touch of ‘other’.

With the narrative alternating between the past and the present, Colours of Gold tells the story of a small girl found near death in a sealed barrel in the Murray River in 1867 and her connection to a present day art restorer’s discovery of a Trompe L’oeil in an old Melbourne hotel scheduled for demolition.

From the opening chapters of the historical timeline I was intrigued by the mysteries introduced by the author, namely the identity of the young girl rescued from the river, her extraordinary ability to see colours (aura) that warn her of a persons mood, misfortune or illness, and her fear of a tall man in a long dark coat that haunts her, day and night. Moving from the banks of the Murray, through the dusty streets of gold rush towns and finally to Melbourne, Dobbie deftly evokes the character and landscape of the historical period as Alice, and friend Rosey, struggle to escape their dark pasts, in hopes of creating a brighter future.

In the contemporary timeline, Annie Reuben is excited by the challenge presented by the conservation of the Trompe L’oeil found in the basement of the old Goldminer Hotel and intrigued by the people and the scenes it depicts, especially the figures of two young girls in the foreground. Despite the threat of interference by History Victoria, and a looming financial crisis, Annie is determined to solve the mystery of the painting, and find out what the sudden appearance of a man in a long dark coat means for her, and her daughter.

Well written, I thought the alternating chapters were particularly well structured, each advancing the story and merging neatly at the conclusion. Suspense is built carefully during the course of the novel, with the pace quickening as Alice and Annie get closer to solving the mysteries that concern them.

An entertaining and interesting novel, with appealing characters, I was surprised at how quickly I became invested in the story of Colours of Gold and how reluctant I was to put it down. This was a great read for me.

For your chance to WIN one of two copies of Colours of Gold CLICK HERE {open worldwide}

 

Colours of Gold is available to purchase from

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AWW Feature & Giveaway: Also Known As Kaye Dobbie

 

I am happy to introduce you to Kaye Dobbie today. Kaye  is a multi published Australian author who has written romance for Avon, as Sara Bennett, and Australian historical books as Lilly Sommers.

Her current novel, Colours of Gold, is published by Harlequin MIRA (Australia), and is two tales in one. Firstly, a story set in 1866 about Alice a mysterious young girl found half-drowned in the Murray River, and secondly, a story set in the present day about Annie Reuben, a painting restorer, who uncovers the secrets of Alice’s life.

” The child has no name, she’s a little girl…lost and forgotten.

1867: Named by the wife of the paddle steamer captain who finds her half drowned in the Murray River, Alice must survive in a world that reviles her. Because Alice has a gift…or a curse. She can see an aura of colours around the people she meets — and those colours tell her of impending doom. With her friend Rosey, Alice runs away to the gold fields and then joins a troupe of entertainers where people pay to hear her predictions. But she can never escape her past…along with the frightening man in the dark coat who follows her wherever she goes…

Present: Annie Reuben is an art restorer in her father’s business, but times are tough. After being given a long-lost painting found in the basement of a condemned hotel, Annie becomes intrigued by the two girls who stare out at her from the ruined canvas.

Who were Alice and Rosey? And why does Annie find their lives so important? As Annie becomes caught up with finding answers from the past, she finds herself being stalked by the same frightening man in the dark coat who follows her wherever she goes…

A beautiful novel of a young girl’s life and adventures in the Australian goldfields — and how a painting revealed her story to the next generation of her family.

*****

My review of Colours of Gold can be read HERE , but first please READ ON and learn how you could WIN 1 of 2 copies of this wonderful novel.

AKA Kaye Dobbie

I seem to have been writing forever—yes, it has been a very long apprenticeship. From childhood diaries to a Last Will and Testament I drew up at the age of six, leaving my extensive doll collection divided fairly among my three brothers (I was the only girl). They still think it was hilarious.

When I was about fifteen I wrote a grand novel full of murder and mayhem and angst. The culprit turned out to be an elderly man in a wheelchair. Boy, I was clever. I bet no one guessed.

A publisher impressed by my dramatic flair suggested I try Mills and Boon, but it took me a while to come to grips with the happy ending. Once I did though, I embraced it whole-heartedly. At this time I was an at-home Mum, and those five romance books I wrote fitted into my chaotic lifestyle, as well as being the perfect learning experience for an aspiring writer. There isn’t a formula, in case you’re wondering. The happy ending is obligatory, but other than that you just need to focus on the main couple, and you can write them into whatever settings, situations or conflicts that appeal to you.

Later I wrote five books for various Australian publishers under the name Lilly Sommers. The publishers kept changing because 1) my editor moved to another publishing house and I followed her (reminder not to do that ever again) and 2) the industry was in flux and publishing houses were downsizing. The novels were mostly historical, but one of them had some ghostly elements and there was a novella about time travel in convict era Tasmania. I learned a lot during these years and I always felt privileged to be an Australian writing about Australia. It was one of the reasons I longed to publish another Australian-set novel.

For the last ten or so years I’ve been Sara Bennett, writing romance for Avon in the USA. Firstly Medieval books, with hunky knights and feisty ladies, and then moving on to the Victorian era, in particular a series about the daughters of an infamous courtesan. It has been a lot of fun but it came to a natural end. However I am planning to self-publish under my Sara Bennett name, when I have a moment. Romance is very life affirming and I love the happy endings.

Right now I’m writing under my own name, Kaye Dobbie. Colours of Gold is my first book with Harlequin MIRA (Australia). If I’ve been completing an apprenticeship, then I feel as if this book is the culmination of all those years of learning to be a writer. I haven’t finished, of course I haven’t. The growing and learning goes on.

And, finally, you ask, does Colours of Gold have a happy ending? Well, yes, it does, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few tears along the way.

Colours of Gold is available to purchase from

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***

GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of Kaye Dobbie

I have 2 editions of

Colours of Gold

to giveaway

1 x print edition for Australian residents only

1 x electronic edition for international (outside of Australia) residents  only

Please leave a comment on this post and then

ENTER HERE

Entries close July 20th, 2014

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Review: What Came Before by Anna George

 

Title: What Came Before

Author: Anna George

Published: Viking: Penguin Australia June 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from June 26 to 28, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

“My name is David James Forrester. I’m a solicitor. Tonight, at 6.10, I killed my wife.
This is my statement.”

In her remarkable debut novel, Anna George begins with the end in order to explore what came before. As David Forrester sits slumped in his car, and Elle Nolan floats over her broken body, George takes us back to the beginning of their relationship, witness first to the heady rush of attraction and then the slow, painful corruption of love.

With keen insight and deft characterisation, George exposes the dynamic of domestic violence from the perspective of both abuser and victim.

David frames love in terms of power and control. His rare concessions are manipulative, his few apologies calculated, his affection conditional.

“You cannot kill your wife because you have lost control of her.”

Elle frames love in terms of surrender, gradually conceding her wants and needs to David, desperate to recapture the limerence of their initial connection.

“If only she had held onto herself”

But of all the truths in narrative it is this that resonates the strongest with me…

“Looking back she wonders at his mastery. He’d said so little yet she had heard so much.

What Came Before is a finely crafted, provocative novel told with a powerful intensity.

“It’s only once the damage has been done that anyone bothers about what came before.”

What Came Before is available to purchase from

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Review: Let Her Go by Dawn Barker

 

Title: Let Her Go

Author: Dawn Barker

Published: Hachette June 2014

Status: Read from June 24 to 25, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Zoe is devastated when she learns that the disease she has battled her entire life has robbed her of the chance to have a child of own, so when her step sister, Nadia – already a mother to three healthy, adorable children – offers to be a surrogate for Zoe and her husband Lachlan, Zoe is thrilled and determined to make it work. Three years later, Nadia places a newborn baby girl in her sister’s grateful arms but is she really prepared for the reality of letting the child, her daughter, go?

Examining the ethical issues surrounding altruistic surrogacy, and the complications that can affect such arrangements, Let Her Go, by Dawn Barker, is an absorbing and thought provoking novel.

Barker’s characters are believable, ordinary people with familiar flaws and insecurities. My sympathies were torn between Zoe, desperate in her desire for a child, and Nadia, whose generous intentions are corrupted by an instinct she can’t control. The author portrays these two women, and their decisions and actions, with extraordinary sensitivity and compassion, acknowledging the complicated situation that extends beyond simple judgements.

“No one ever knows the effect on the future of the things we do now; we just have to do what we think is right at the time.”

In including the narrative of seventeen year old Louisa, Barker adds another layer of perspective to the issue and exposes the hubris of judging what is in a child’s best interest. The author asks, what happens when the child’s best interest conflicts with our own ability to provide it?

Other issues touched on in Let Her Go included mental illness, disability and domestic violence. These elements help to both flesh out the characters, and the motivations for the choices they make during the story.

Part family drama, part psychological thriller, the pacing of Let Her Go is ideal, with shifting timelines drawing out the subtle, but ever present, suspense. I was never entirely sure how the story would unfold, constantly anticipating the unknown.

A compelling, poignant novel about motherhood, family, loss and love, Let Her Go is a story that is hard to let go of.

Let her Go is available to purchase at

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Review: Lost & Found by Brooke Davis

Title: Lost & Found

Author: Brooke Davis

Published: Hachette June 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from June 24 to 25, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Three months after her dad became A Dead Thing, Millie Bird’s mother takes her to a department store and asks her to wait for her. Clutching her backpack stuffed with frozen juice boxes, texta’s, tea light candles, a Just In Case glass jar and her Book of Dead Things, Millie waits, huddled under a rack of Ginormous Women’s Underwear, for her mother’s gold shoes to come click clacking back.
Karl the Touch Typist, an 87 year old escapee from a nursing home still mourning the loss of his beloved wife, Evie, is looking for one last grand adventure and he finds it when a little girl, who has been abandoned by her mother, takes his hand.
Agatha Pantha has not left her home in seven years. She spends her days staring at her aging self in the mirror, listening to the static of the TV, and shouting insults at the people and things she can see from her living room window. Until the day a little girl with the red gumboots to match her curly red hair, knocks on her door.
These three unusual characters, lost souls who have somehow found each other, embark on a wild cross country quest to reunite Millie with her mother.

A quirky tale of loss, grief and love, Lost and Found is a touching debut from Brooke Davis. It confronts the taboo’s of death and aging with sharp observations and an unique sense of humour incorporating a madcap road trip, a one legged mannequin and stolen keyboard letters.

The characters eccentricities are delightful. Seven year old Millie is endearing in all her precocious innocence, struggling to understand where people go when they leave. Karl, whose fingers never tire of typing love letters to his deceased wife, searching for his lost youth and vitality, and Agatha, whose shouty abrasiveness prevents her from feeling lonely and unloved.

Charming and whimsical, poignant and wise, Lost & Found is a bittersweet reminder that though all things die, life is to be lived.

Lost & Found is available to purchase at

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