Review & Giveaway: Quick by Steve Worland

 

Title: Quick

Author: Steve Worland

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin August 2014

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Status: Read from August 21 to 22, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Steve Worland’s newest novel, Quick, is a fast paced, octane fueled thrill ride set in the exciting world of international motor sport.

After a spectacular career ending crash, former V8 Supercar driver Billy Hotchkiss joined the police force hoping for opportunities to sate his craving for the adrenalin rush racing once gave him and when he stumbles across a diamond heist in action, he doesn’t hesitate to jump into the fray. Billy’s heroics captures the attention of Interpol who think he is the ideal candidate to track down the diamond thieves, convinced the Melbourne heist is connected to a series of diamond thefts by a crew associated with the Formula 1 World Championship. Billy, along with his reluctant partner, Claude, is sent in undercover, joining the ‘Iron Rhino’ racing team, and they begin closing in on the criminals, only to uncover an explosive secret. Suddenly, Billy and Claude find themselves racing along the streets of Monte Carlo to save thousands of spectators before everything crashes and burns.

Though I am not generally a fan of motor sport, I was caught up in the fast paced excitement from the opening pages of Quick. From Billy’s spectacular crash on Mount Panorama to his surfing an armoured truck being dragged down Melbourne’s busy streets and later sliding down the roof of the Mall of Emirates while being chased by a Uzi wielding diamond thief, the action is non stop both on and off the track. There are explosions, gunfights, car chases and car races, plus a black panther and a damsel in distress.

Worland’s fearless hero, Billy, is a likeable protagonist, forthright with a dry Aussie sense of humour. He misses the adrenaline rush of racing and, having survived a near fatal accident, isn’t afraid to take risks as he tries to stop ‘The Three Champions’ in their tracks. Billy is teamed with veteran Interpol agent Claude, a dour Frenchman who is initially unhappy with the assignment and his reckless new partner, but eventually see’s things Billy’s way.

I compared Worland’s Velocity to Con Air and Combustion to Die Hard 4, Quick could perhaps be described as a cross between The Fast and the Furious and Speed Racer, but there really isn’t anything quite like this on the big screen and there probably should be.

Quick is the perfect Father’s Day gift for race fans or anyone who appreciates a rip-roaring and racy adventure thriller. Take Quick for a spin, and enjoy!

 

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Review: Hindsight by Melanie Casey

 

Title: Hindsight {Cass Lehman and Detective Ed Dyson #1}

Author: Melanie Casey

Published: Pantera Press May 2014

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Status: Read from August 17 to 18, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Melanie Casey’s debut novel, Hindsight, has been on my wishlist since its release. It is the first book in a series to feature Cass Lehman, a woman with the psychic gift of retrocognition, and South Australian police detective, Ed Dyson.

For almost a decade, Cass Lehman has lived more or less like a recluse in the home she shares with her mother and grandmother. Travel is difficult when her gift of retrocognition means that when she passes over a place where someone has died in a violent or traumatic manner, Cass experiences their final horrifying moments. Now twenty eight and tired of her self imposed exile, Cass decides it is time to confront her demons and takes a huge risk by offering her services to the local police department after a woman is found murdered in an alleyway. The lead detective on the case, Ed Dyson, is scornful until Cass makes the connection between a handful of missing person cases and murders that has eluded Dyson for years, and the pair find themselves on the trail of a serial killer.

Cass’s ability is intriguing, and can be viewed as both a gift and a curse. She pays a high price for her ‘gift’, since she not only sees and hears what the victims experienced but also feels the physical pain and emotional trauma they suffered. I really like that Cass’s talent isn’t always useful, since Cass can only see what the victim saw in their last moments when the killer strikes from behind, for example, she isn’t able to offer much to a investigation.

The initial partnership between Cass and Ed is not an easy one. Ed is still struggling with the unsolved disappearance of his pregnant wife two years previously and doesn’t have the patience to humour Cass given his skepticism. Cass resents Ed’s easy dismissal of her, both because she believes she can help and because she is attracted to the detective.

Casey alternates between the first person perspective of Cass and third person perspectives from Ed, and the killer the pair are hunting. It’s an unusual narrative split but works well and I barely noticed the transitions. The plot is well crafted, and crucially Casey doesn’t allow the paranormal element to overwhelm the structure of a good crime novel. The pacing of the story is good with a tense, and somewhat gruesome, climatic ending that threatens the lives of both the protagonists.

Combining crime fiction with an interesting paranormal element and a touch of romance, I really enjoyed reading Hindsight. I’d particularly recommend it those who find the genre mix appealing and who might have liked Charlaine Harris’s Harper Connelly series. I’m looking forward to following Hindsight up with Casey’s second book, Craven.

 

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Review: The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

 

 

Title: The House We Grew Up In

Author: Lisa Jewell

Published: Atria Books August 2012

Read an Extract

Status: Read from August 11 to 12, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“They lived in a honey-colored house that sat hard up against the pavement of a picture-postcard Cotswolds village and stretched out beyond into three-quarters of an acre of rambling half-kempt gardens. Their mother was a beautiful hippy called Lorelei with long tangled hair and sparkling green eyes who treated her children like precious gems. Their father was a sweet gangly man called Colin, who still looked like a teenager with floppy hair and owlish round-framed glasses. They all attended the village school, they ate home-cooked meals together every night, their extended family was warm and clever, there was money for parties and new paddling pools, but not quite enough for foreign travel, but it didn’t matter, because they lived in paradise.”

Lisa Jewell’s newest release, The House We Grew Up In, is a poignant and absorbing story about the Bird family. As children, Megan, Bethan and twins, Rory and Rhys, delighted in their mother’s sense of whimsy, the kitchen walls papered with their artwork, and the annual Easter egg hunt in the garden. But as adolescence strikes, the children have less patience for their mother’s eccentricities, and the family bond begins to chafe. When tragedy strikes one Easter Sunday the family is devastated and as each member struggles to make sense of it, they turn away from each other and eventually go their separate ways. Years later, the remaining Bird family members gather at the house they grew up in and are confronted by old hurts, resentments and unresolved guilt.

The House We Grew Up In spans a time frame of about thirty years and shifts back and forth to reveal the Bird’s past and present, unfurling a complex tale of a family fractured by suicide, betrayal, adultery and mental illness. Their childhood home, once a comfortable, cosy haven becomes the physical manifestation of the dysfunction and turmoil which affects the family.

Each individual has their own secrets to tell that are teased out over the course of the novel. Jewell’s characters are realistically portrayed, though their flaws, from Lorelei’s obsessive hoarding to Rory’s irresponsibility, are more clearly in focus. The dynamics that play out between the family, as well as various lovers and friends, are believable and observed with keen insight into the complications of these relationships.

Heartfelt, provocative and powerful The House We Grew Up In is an engaging novel, well crafted by an accomplished author.

 

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Review: Hangtown by Karen Sandler

 

Title: Hangtown { Janelle Watkins, Private Investigator #2}

Author: Karen Sandler

Published: Sadly the publisher of Hangtown, Exhibit A, shut its doors just days before the book’s publication date and it was not released.

Status: Read from August 04 to 05, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Karen Sandler’s Hangtown is the second gritty mystery novel to feature private investigator, Janelle Watkins, picking up about a year after the events that took place in Clean Burn.

Janelle is still in Greenville, California, living in a trailer on the property left to her by her father, but with every intention of heading back to San Francisco as soon as she can scrape together enough money. In the meantime she picks up whatever work comes her way, from surveillance gigs to insurance jobs and skip traces, argues with the County building service, and reluctantly keeps an eye on her on and off again lover’s teenage niece. It’s Cassie who discovers the body of nineteen year old Zach Stinson hanging from a bridge on the border of Janelle’s property. At first the police, including Sheriff Ken Heinz, assume Zach committed suicide but something about that scenario doesn’t seem right and when Janelle is asked to investigate the disappearance of a young man who knew the victim, instinct tells her her the two cases are connected.

Fast paced and action packed, Hangtown is a well crafted, complex mystery. As Janelle begins her search for the missing boy, and it becomes obvious that Zach was murdered, a local doctor is killed in a suspicious accident, a nurse is hit by a runaway vehicle and Janelle, who has been receiving a series of threatening text messages, is attacked by an unknown assailant. Janelle, with the help of Ken, has to figure out what connects these seemingly unrelated incidents before someone else dies.

Though still in near constant pain, as the result of an accidental firearm discharge by a rookie cop that all but destroyed her leg and forced her resignation from the police force, Janelle seems to have quieted some of her demons after the last case and has managed to curb some of her more self destructive tendencies. I was really glad to see this growth in her character which I think is rendered believably. One of Janelle’s past vices does haunt her in Hangtown however, and has the potential to drive a wedge between Janelle’s tentatively renewed relationship with Ken.

Hangtown isn’t as dark as Clean Burn but it does offer a more elaborate mystery. I found it to be both entertaining and exciting and read it almost straight through. Janelle in particular is an intriguing character and makes a terrific protagonist, I’m already looking forward to joining her for her next case.

Sadly I just learnt that the publisher of Hangtown, Exhibit A, shut its doors just days before the book’s publication date and it was not released.  I hope that Karen Sandler is able to put it into the hands of a new publisher with all haste.

 

 

Review: Hamlet’s Ghost by Jane Tara

Title: Hamlet’s Ghost { Shakespeare Sisters #3}

Author: Jane Tara

Published: Momentum July 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from July 31 to August 01, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Another enchanting romance by Australian author Jane Tara, Hamlet’s Ghost, though ostensibly the third book in a series featuring the magical Shakespeare family (the first is Forecast and the second Trouble Brewing), works well as a stand-alone.

Frustrated by an acting career going no where, and heartbroken after finding her boyfriend in bed (well on a coffee table to be more accurate) with her best friend, when Rhiannon Dee discovers an abandoned, rundown theater in the small town of Hamlet she decides to reopen it. The Hamlet Majestic has stood empty for almost thirty years, after a ceiling collapse resulted in the tragic death of the former owner, Kip Daniels, during the opening night performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. His son, Tad, who inherited the property seems to have mixed feelings about the project but Rhi, despite Tad’s weirdness, and the objections of her witch of a mother, is determined to restore the Majestic to its former glory and breathe new life into Hamlet’s theater.

Hamlet’s Ghost is a lighthearted contemporary romance with a hint of mystery, and a paranormal twist.

Rhi is a witch, and though she is determined to disown her heritage in order to disassociate herself from her teenage role as ‘Witchlet’ and escape her mother’s overbearing influence, she learns there is no escaping who you are. I liked Rhi a lot, she refuses to wallow in self pity despite recent events and is determined to make a success of the theater. To do so she has to figure out how to help the former owner, Kip, who haunts the premises, move on.

But there is more than simply unfinished business keeping Kip earthbound, additional drama stems from the surprising links between Rhi’s mother, local cafe owner/tarot card reader Crystal, and the ghost. A major theme of the book is the need to make peace with the past, applicable not only to Kip but also several other of the main characters, including Rhi and Tad.

The misunderstandings that keep Rhi and Tad apart during much of the novel stem from an unusual situation. I don’t want to give too much away so lets just say a case of mistaken identity plays havoc with their developing attraction. While secondary love-match plots also play out for two of the characters in this story, Annie is torn between two men and Tye is waiting for the man of her dreams, surprisingly I didn’t feel the romance, though an important element, overwhelmed the story.

A bewitching read, Hamlet’s Ghost is charming and often funny story with appealing characters and a feel-good ending.

 

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Review: Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth

 

Title: Are You Seeing Me?

Author: Darren Groth

Published: Woolshed Press: Random House Au August 2014

Status: Read from July 29 to 31, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

A heartwarming and touching novel from Darren Groth, Are You Seeing Me? is a story about siblings, family, love and understanding.

After losing their father to cancer just weeks shy of their eighteenth birthdays, nineteen year old twins, Justine and Perry, are heading to Canada for a holiday of a lifetime. Perry is hoping to find proof of the Ogopogo’s existence and visit the area where his favourite Jackie Chan movie, Rumble in the Bronx, was filmed. Justine, anxious about their impending separation, is determined this will be an adventure Perry won’t forget. Neither are fully prepared for the seismic events that will rock their world.

Are you Seeing Me? is told, with compassion and insight, from the alternating first person viewpoints of Justine and Perry. Justine, older than Perry by three minutes, is ‘neurotypical’, Perry, as Justine is often forced to explain, “…has a brain condition that can cause him to feel anxious or upset in different places and circumstances. He has trouble with people – mixing with them and communicating with them – and it sometimes results in inappropriate behaviours”. Since the death of their father, Justine has been Perry’s sole carer, their mother having abandoned the family when the twins were only four.

The unusual sibling dynamic is wonderfully portrayed, ‘Just Jeans’ and ‘Pez’ have a loving bond. Shortly before his death, the twins father made arrangements for Perry to move to an assisted living community, but Justine is struggling to accept the decision despite acknowledging Perry’s right to independence and Perry is determined to hide his reluctance to leave his sister in the belief that doing so will free her to live the life she put on hold to care for him.

I thought the twins were realistically depicted, and very likeable, characters. Justine is mature and capable but not perfect. Perry’s perspective is believable, though occasionally confusing given his occasional slip into an imaginary narrative.

There aren’t any real surprises in the plot of Are You Seeing Me?, but the story is well paced and believable. It is well written with natural dialogue and I particularly enjoyed the author’s dry sense of humour.

Are You Seeing Me? is an engaging read, appropriate for both mature YA readers and adults.

FYI: Groth dedicates this novel to his own daughter who, like Justine, is neurotypical while her twin brother, like Perry, has been diagnosed with autism (whom he honoured in Kindling)

 

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Review: What Would Mary Berry Do? by Claire Sandy

 

Title: What Would Mary Berry Do?

Author: Claire Sandy

Published: Pan Macmillan UK

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

My Thoughts:

Once again having failed to produce a showstopper cake for the school fair, Marie Dunwoody, wife, mother and dentist, vows that next year she will deliver a masterpiece that her children can be proud of. With Mary Berry’s Baking Bible in hand, and spurred on by an imagined rivalry with neighbour Lucy Gray, Marie is determined to work her way through the recipe book for the next year and return triumphant.

Despite first impressions, What Would Mary Berry Do? by Claire Sandy is about much more than baking the perfect Victoria Sponge or Doboz Torte, it is a warm and witty story about family, friendship and love.

Marie’s nine year old mischievous twin daughter’s, Rose and Iris, are happy to support their mother’s baking dreams but fifteen year old Angus is preoccupied with other matters including a secretive penpal, an attack of the ‘Clones’ and the attentions of a lovesick neighbour. Husband Robert is initially bemused by his wife’s new passion but when his position at work becomes tenuous he decides to turn to Paul Hollywood for consolation turning out perfect buns and muffins with which to impress his boss. Domestic goddess Lucy, Marie’s self proclaimed nemesis, is desperately trying to ignore the cracks in her marriage and make peace with her stepdaughter Chloe.

With appealing characters, snappy dialogue and lighthearted domestic drama, What Would Mary Berry Do? is a delicious treat for every reader.

PS. For those unaware, Mary Berry, along with Paul Hollywood, are real chefs and are the co-judges of The Great British Bake Off, a reality baking show on BBC

 

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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.

 

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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.

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Want more? Visit This Charming Mum for her review

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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.”

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