Review: Can You Keep a Secret? by Caroline Overington

 

Title: Can You Keep a Secret?

Author: Caroline Overington

Published: Random House AU September 2014

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Status: Read from September 09 to 11, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

It happens on very rare occasions that I can’t quite figure out how to articulate my thoughts about a book. I have written and rewritten my thoughts about Can You Keep A Secret? a half a dozen times and still can’t pull together anything cohesive.

I think it is because I didn’t like it for reasons that are purely emotive. I know that when I finished the last page I dropped my Kindle in a mixture of frustration and incredulity. Some sort of trust had been broken between the author and myself that I can only partially attribute to the protagonist’s ‘secret’, and feels too complicated to explain.

Can You Keep a Secret? is available to purchase from

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Also by Caroline Overington reviewed at Book’d Out


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Review: Already Dead by Jaye Ford

 

Title: Already Dead

Author: Jaye Ford

Published: Random House AU September 2014

Status: Read on September 08, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“She was waiting for traffic lights at the start of rush hour on a Monday afternoon when a man opened her front passenger door, got in and pointed a gun at her chest…
‘Drive’.”

Miranda Jack (Jax) is stunned when a strange man climbs into her car and forces her to drive north on the highway at gunpoint. He is highly agitated, pressing the gun barrel into her ribs while looking frantically over his shoulder, and when Jax asks what he wants, who he is, he roars at her; I’m already dead. That’s my name now. That’s what they called me. That’s me. Nice to meet you. I’m Already Dead.”
Two hours later, Jax stands trembling on the roads edge, the man’s gun in her hand, surrounded by police, and trying to understand what just happened. Brendan Walsh, her abductor, is dead, and Jax is wondering how much of what he told her during their crazed journey is true. The investigating detective seems certain that Brendan’s ravings can be dismissed as the paranoid delusions of a soldier suffering PTSD but Jax, a journalist, isn’t so sure. She needs answers… but the questions she is asking may prove deadly.

Thrilling from the very first page, Already Dead, is an exciting tale of suspense. I read it in a single sitting, absorbed by the intensity of emotion, the fast paced action and the complex characterisation.

Jax is an interesting protagonist. Still struggling with her husband’s unsolved murder barely 12 months earlier, it is because she has no answers about his death that she becomes obsessed with investigating Brendan’s. Ford brilliantly captures Jax’s vacillating emotions through out the story creating a believable and appealing character who draws on her instincts and inner strength to expose the truth.

Ford’s exploration of the issues associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Already Dead gives added depth to this work of crime fiction. Walsh has struggled to readjust to civilian life after two tours in Afghanistan and people are quick blame PTSD for his accusations. Jax, in the wake of the abduction, is also suffering from the disorder’s symptoms – nightmares and anxiety, exacerbated by her still fresh grief and a history of tragedy. After her ordeal Jax, and Detective Aiden Hawke, are quick to dismiss her continuing sense of unease as a reaction to the stress, allowing events to quickly spiral out of control.

Well crafted with page turning appeal, Jaye Ford’s fourth novel, Already Dead, is a gripping psychological thriller. You will never feel safe idling at traffic lights again.

 

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Also by Jaye Ford reviewed at Book’d Out


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Review: The Moment of Everything by Shelly King

 

Title: The Moment of Everything

Author: Shelly King

Published: Grand Central Publishing: Hachette September 2014

Read an Excerpt

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

My Thoughts:

A charming, witty and romantic novel, The Moment of Everything is an engaging debut from Shelly King.

Unemployed, after being made redundant by a Silicon Valley tech start-up, Maggie Duprès spends her days reading bodice rippers in the Dragonfly Used Bookstore, owned by her landlord and friend Hugo, waiting for a fresh start. She imagines it will come from an offer to join a new start up or an opportunity brokered by her best friend, Dizzy, instead, Maggie discovers it in the margins of a tattered copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

The Moment of Everything is about love, loss and finding your own truth. It is an entertaining story, with occasional bittersweet moments and a real warmth and honesty.

Love is a complicated concept for Maggie, being aware of her father’s affairs and her mother’s seemingly blind devotion and acceptance, she is cynical about romance and relationships. Meeting Rajhit, and falling hard for him, distresses her because she is always waiting for the betrayal she believes to be inevitable.

“I think I’d always been scared of what love meant in my life because I was afraid of it controlling me, of what I would have to give up for it.”

Maggie knows what she doesn’t want – a marriage like her parents or to work in a bookstore. She thinks she wants a casual, fun relationship and the status and wealth of a career in high tech. It is only when she decides to make the Dragonfly profitable while waiting for ‘the’ job that she discovers that the store is exactly what she needs, and only when she nearly loses it all, what she really wants, what will make her happy.

“I’ve always thought…that the moment right before you get what you want is often better than when you actually got it.”

Of course as a bibliophile, the setting of the novel holds enormous appeal. The Dragonfly offers everything beloved about second hood bookstores from the chaotic, musty stacks to the eccentric staff and quirky patrons, with a grumpy cat thrown in for good measure. It seems an obvious cliche but King infuses the Dragonfly with life and warmth and I would love to join Maggie, Hugo and Jason sprawled in the battered armchairs positioned in front of the window.

“The kind of people who come to the Dragonfly don’t just own books, they need them, crave them, find it impossible to breathe without them. They come because they are in love with the store itself, with its handled wares and their untold takes. They come because they are wondering about about the people who owned all these books before. The come because the people whose paths they cross are like the books they find, a bit worn around the edges, waiting for the right person to open them up and take them home.”

Well crafted with engaging characters and a heartfelt storyline, The Moment of Everything is a captivating novel I’d readily recommend.

The Moment of Everything is available to purchase from

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Review: The Children Act by Ian McEwan

 

Title: The Children Act

Author: Ian McEwan

Published: Nan A. Talese: Random House September 2014

Status: Read from September 03 to 04, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

Ian McEwan has been on my ‘must read someday’ author list for a while so I couldn’t pass up the chance to read The Children Act.

Fiona Maye is a well respected High Court judge presiding over family-related matters. Few of her cases are simple in that she must consider the matter of law with reference to the complexities of humanity, especially in circumstances where children are involved, but Fiona prides herself on presenting impartial and sensitive rulings. The case of a teenage boy, Adam, just months shy of his eighteenth birthday, in desperate need of a blood transfusion that has been refused by his parents on the grounds of religious belief, should be no more or less challenging than any Fiona has faced, yet it arises on the same day that her husband of thirty years demands the right to have an affair. Fiona, while struggling with her private betrayal and shaken confidence, hears Adam’s case but decides to visit his bedside before making a ruling and unwittingly forms a bond with the vulnerable young man.

In the Children Act, McEwan poses interesting questions about the separation, and relationship, between law and religious belief and how they apply to the welfare of a child. Fiona’s court is faced with devout Catholic parents refusing surgery to separate their co-joined twins, a woman seeking an order to prevent her Muslim husband from taking their daughter to a country from where he won’t be compelled to return, a Jewish couple in a custody dispute and the defining case, that of seventeen year old leukemia sufferer Adam whose parents are refusing a life saving blood transfusion due to their Jehovah’s Witnesses faith.

Also at issue are questions about personal freedom and responsibility which arise in both Fiona’s professional and personal lives. Who is responsible for the decisions Adam makes? Does he truly have the freedom to make a decision for himself? How responsible is Fiona for rulings she makes, and for what comes after? What responsibility does Fiona bear for the problems in her marriage? Does she have the right to deny her husband the freedom he requests?

McEwan’s style of prose is succinct yet surprisingly lyrical. There is impressive nuance within the narrative that communicates emotion without explicit description, like the offer of a cup of coffee as a truce. In terms of pacing however I felt as if the story would perhaps have better suited to the length of a novella, as the second half of the novel loses some momentum.

The Children Act is an interesting and provocative novel though not as compelling as I had perhaps hoped, however I can see how McEwan has earned his stellar reputation in the literary community.

The Children Act is available to purchase from

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Review: Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan

 

Title: Apple and Rain

Author: Sarah Crossan

Published: Bloomsbury September 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read on August 31, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A poignant and touching story, Apple and Rain is a story about family, poetry, wishes and growing up.

Apple is thirteen and has lived with her grandmother since her mother left one Christmas Eve when she was two. Her Nan is loving but strict and Apple can’t help but imagine that her mother will one day return and that her life with her will be all she has ever wished for. When Annie does suddenly reappear on a grey afternoon, she offers Apple her hearts desire, a home of their own, and with barely a backward glance Apple packs her bags, excited that her imagined perfect life is about to begin. Apple finally has the mother she loves, and the freedom she craves, but neither are quite what she imagined, and then there is Rain.

Apple(her full name is Apollinia Apostolopoulou – named for her Greek father) is a sincere character with believable thoughts, motivations and actions appropriate for her age. I found her to be very sympathetic as she struggled to cope with a teens familiar disappointments – being excluded by a best friend, targeted by a mean girl and having an unrequited crush, as well as dealing with her mother’s homecoming, and the surprise of a little sister. As her new life begins to unravel, Apple takes comfort in poetry, inspired by a substitute teacher, and a new neighbour, Del, but must also confront some uncomfortable truths about her mother, her sister’s obsession and her own needs.

Apple’s first person narrative is genuine and appealing. Crossan’s plain writing style and natural dialogue is appropriate for her audience. The pacing of the novel is good and the story is well structured.

Apple and Rain is a bittersweet tale, exploring contemporary themes in a realistic and thoughtful manner. I’d recommend it for readers aged 12 and up.

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Apple and Rain arrived wrapped in brown paper with a warning label and a packet of tissues!

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Review: Craven by Melanie Casey

 

Title: Craven {Cass Lehman and Detective Ed Dyson #2}

Author: Melanie Casey

Published: Pantera Press May 2014

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Status: Read from August 29 to 31, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Craven, by Melanie Casey, is the sequel to Hindsight, featuring Cass Lehman, a woman with the psychic gift of retrocognition, and South Australian police detective, Ed Dyson.

As the book opens we learn that Cass has taken the leap and left home, securing a teacher’s position at a college in Adelaide. Cass is hoping for a fresh start but during her very first lesson she is recognised by her students and almost immediately becomes a target of gossip and derision.
Ed is conspicuously absent, it seems their romance stalled in the intervening months, though we soon learn that Ed is also in Adelaide, working with a local command on a year long secondment, and when Cass’s car is painted in blood with ‘Freak’ scrawled across the windshield he is the first person she calls. Thrown together as Cass’s stalker grows more violent, Cass is inevitably drawn into Ed’s latest case – a search for a serial killer.

Though I still really like concept of this series I was disappointed by the execution of this novel. I had issues with the uneven pacing and with what I felt were several underdeveloped elements in the plot. There was too much focus on the mundane details of Ed’s often circular investigation, and the obnoxiousness of his new partner. The identification of the stalker taunting Cass seemed come from nowhere since he barely rated a mention in the story.

The killer did have an interesting story and his motivations were suitably dark and twisted. There were moments of high tension, though much of the real action is crammed into the last few chapters when Cass is once again at the mercy of an insane murderer.

Despite the flaws in Craven I am still intrigued by the potential of this series and I hope Casey regains her footing in the third installment.

 

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Review: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

 

Title: Heir of Fire {Throne of Glass #3}

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Published: Bloomsbury September 2014

Status: Read from September 01 to 03, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Pushed into a corner by the tragic events that concluded Crown of Midnight Celaena Sardothien is forced to face her past and embrace her future as Queen Aelin Galathynius in Heir of Fire, the third exciting installment of the Throne of Glass series from Sarah J Maas.

At just over 550 pages, Heir of Fire is quite an epic with a stronger focus on character development and insight than story, though it still offers plenty of intrigue, danger, fast paced action and a touch of romance.

Though sent to Wendlyn by King Ardalan to assassinate the Ashryver royal family, Celaena, mourning the loss of Nehemia and the end of her relationship with Chaol, has her own agenda. She needs to confront Queen Maeve and convince her to help Celaena to destroy the King, or at the very least answer some of the many questions she has about the Wyrdkeys and her family. Maeve however will not entertain her niece until she has an idea of her worth and insists she proves her mettle by training at Mistwood, under the supervision of Maeve’s blood servant, fae warrior and prince, Rowan Whitethorn. And as Celaena works to control her magic at the remote demi-fae haven, King Ardalan makes his first move…

In confronting Queen Maeve, Caelaena earns herself a new ally in Rowan. It is not an easy relationship to begin with and later its boundaries are a little hard to define but I loved it. Rowan is exactly what Celaena needs to help her move past the self pity and stand up for all that has been lost.

While Celaena is absent from the Ardalan court, Dorian and Chaol struggle with what they have learned about the King. Chaol is faced with some difficult issues about trust, loyalty and friendship in his quest to protect Celaena. Meanwhile Dorian finally loses his heart, but in doing so risks losing everything.

The introduction of Manon Blackbeak, a fearsome witch readying herself and her kind for battle on the side of the King, was initially an unwelcome distraction, but I eventually found myself intrigued by her story. It is obvious Manon will play a crucial role in the battle to come and I look forward to witnessing it.

I have really been loving this series, I’ve become totally invested in the characters and lost in Maas’s world of magic and intrigue. I am assuming that the next book will be last in this series (though there is potential to drag it out) – I am both eagerly looking forward to its release and simultaneously dreading the approach of the series end.

Heir of Fire is available to purchase from

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Read my reviews for the first two books in the series


Review: Mothers and Daughters by Kylie Ladd

 

Title: Mothers and Daughters

Author: Kylie Ladd

Published: Allen & Unwin September 2014

Status: Read from September 01 to 02, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

A thought provoking and provocative story, Mothers and Daughters is Kylie Ladd’s fourth novel.

Caro, Fiona and Morag, joined by daughters Janey, Bronte and Macy, are looking forward to a weeks holiday near Broome to catch up with close friend Amira, and her daughter Tess. It should be a week of relaxation and recreation, but as the days pass, tension between mothers and daughters, and between the girls, rises, testing the bonds of family and friendships.

A novel driven by theme and character rather than plot, Kylie Ladd explores the complicated dynamics between mothers and their teenage daughters and the many issues that divide and unite them.

The relationship between Fiona and Bronte is one of the most interesting, I think. Fiona, hyper critical of her daughter, often laments that Bronte is nothing like her but in fact it is the similarities between them that provokes her. Bronte’s meekness reflects the powerlessness Fiona feels in her life and her marriage in particular and she directs her anger and resentment about the situation at her daughter. Despite Fiona’s blunt and often crass demeanor, exacerbated by her fondness for a drink, I developed some sympathy for her, and was happy to see the seeds of change.

Janey is the least likeable of the group, typifying the worst traits of teen ‘mean’ girls- vain, thoughtless, and self involved. Whereas Fiona is hyper critical of Bronte, Janey’s mother, Caro, eventually admits to willfully overlooking her daughters faults.

“I’ve been too soft on her. I’ve always told her how beautiful and clever she is, and now she believes it….I wanted her to be perfect, because it made me look good, so I acted as if she was.”

Ladd also explores the way that we often reflect our own experience of being mothered in our relationships with our daughters. Caro is anxious about being a perfect mother because hers never had the chance, Fiona essentially estranged from her own mother, has no idea how to close the gap between herself and Bronte.

Mothers and Daughters also comments on the way in which modern city/suburban life has encroached on our relationships with our children, underscored by the contrast between the relationship between Amira and Tess and the relationships between the mothers and daughters that remained in Melbourne.

Through the differing perspectives of Ladd’s characters, other issues raised in the novel include friendship, step-parenting, sex, marriage, home, and social issues such as cyber-bullying. Inspired by the setting, Ladd also explores racism and indigenous culture and community.

I glimpse elements of my own relationship with my mother, and my teenage daughter, in this story of these women and girls, and pieces of mothers and daughters I have known in the characters.

Mothers and Daughters is available to purchase from

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Also by Kylie Ladd {click the cover for my review}

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Review: Murder 101 by Faye Kellerman

 

Title: Murder 101 {Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus #22}

Author: Faye Kellerman

Published: William Morrow: HarperCollins September 2014

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Status: Read from August 28 to 29, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

I have missed the last two books in the Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus series, largely because they have been released since I started blogging and my reading time has rarely since been my own, so I jumped at the chance to rejoin the series with Murder 101.

It’s been six months since Peter retired from the LAPD and he and Rina are now living in upstate New York, closer to their adult children. Peter is working for the local police force which is rarely troubled by anything more than drunken college students, while Rina has made herself at home within the community. When the body of a young coed is discovered brutally stabbed to death, Decker is the only member of the Greenbury Police with the experience to investigate. He quickly connects the dead woman to a recent theft from a crypt and, teamed with an obnoxious rookie, Tyler McAdams, Decker suddenly finds himself in the midst of a case involving stolen art, Russian assassins and international politics.

I so enjoyed reconnecting with the characters of this series, I love that Kellerman has aged them in ‘real time’…it has been 27 years since The Ritual Bath was first published. The children Decker and Rina share, including foster son Gabe, are now grown up and on their own, Decker’s old partner Marg has left the LAPD for quieter pastures and Decker and Rina are adjusting to the changes their move has wrought.

In this book Decker is partnered with Tyler McAdams, a Harvard graduate with a silver spoon in his mouth and a chip on his shoulder, who initially drives Peter crazy but eventually, with Decker’s gruff guidance, proves useful.

I wouldn’t expect anything less from Kellerman than a well crafted mystery which requires shoe leather, rather than luck, to solve. Decker’s investigation is all about following leads, face to face interviews and a bit of hard earned cop instinct. The murdered girl is the first homicide to occur in Greenbury in twenty years so it makes sense that Decker is placed in charge, and in his usual bulldog manner, Decker is determined to solve the case even when his life, and Rina’s and Tyler’s, are threatened.

Murder 101 is another well paced, solid installment in the Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus series, which is likely nearing its conclusion, but proves that Decker isn’t quite ready to give up his badge just yet.

Murder 101 is available to purchase from

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Review: Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett

 

Title: Golden Boys

Author: Sonya Hartnett

Published: Hamish Hamilton: Penguin Au August 2014

Read an Excerpt

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

My Thoughts:

When the affluent Jenson family move in to the neighborhood they quickly attract the attention of the local children. Colt and Bastian have a playroom full of toys, a swimming pool and a charismatic father, all of which they seem prepared to share. The Jenson home quickly becomes a haven for twelve year old Freya and the neighborhood boys, Avery, Garrick and brothers Syd and Declan, eager to escape their working class homes marred by violence, poverty and neglect, but before long the boys sense something is not quite right, and the golden aura of the Jensons begins to tarnish.

Golden Boys is set in the early to mid 1970’s, in an outer suburban locale, a landscape familiar to readers who freely roamed their neighborhood during long summer days. It explores the complex dynamics of family, childhood and friendship, and the disquieting undercurrent of violence and abuse seething beneath their ordinary facade.

Freya Kiley, struggling to understand her large family’s dynamic, sees Rex Jenson as a possible saviour, but her brother’s, Declan and Syd, begin to sense Rex is not quite what he seems. Colt is all too aware of his father’s failings but at a loss as to how to admit, or cope with them. Garrick has no such hesitation, the neighborhood bully, he, like most children, is simply certain that someone has to pay for doing wrong by him.

With finely crafted characters and evocative storytelling threaded with subtle tension, Sonya Hartnett’s Golden Boys is an artful novel.

Golden Boys is available to purchase from

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