Review: The Accident by C.L. Taylor

The Accident

 

Title: The Accident

Author: C.L. Taylor

Published: HarperCollins Avon UK April 2014

Status: Read from April 15 to 16, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

The Accident is a fast paced psychological thriller from debut author, C.L. Taylor.

Desperate to understand why her comatose 15 year old daughter would deliberately step into the path of a bus, Susan Jackson begins a frenzied hunt for clues amongst the secrets her daughter kept from her. As Susan slowly begins to piece together information from Charlotte’s diary, phone and friends, shocking evidence of betrayal and blackmail begins to emerge, along with ugly secrets from Susan’s own past.

The author nurtures an uneasy atmosphere from the first few pages of The Accident, building mistrust and dread as the story unfolds. Surrounded by secrets and lies, Susan doesn’t know where to turn or how to make sense of the information she learns but is certain she can find the truth, even if everyone else believes she is simply chasing ghosts.

Taylor quickly establishes Susan an an unreliable narrator, Susan is deeply distressed and confused as you would expect of a mother whose child is lying in a coma but it soon becomes obvious that she is also unusually neurotic, and paranoid. While the present day, first person narrative communicates Susan’s growing nervousness and fear, it’s Susan’s journal excerpts from 22 years earlier that helps to explain why she is so anxious.

A well crafted thriller, The Accident is fast paced and tense, culminating in a dramatic conclusion. A strong debut, I’d recommend it particularly to those who enjoyed Kimberly McCreight’s novel, Reconstructing Amelia.

 

CLICK HERE to read Writing What you Fear by C.L. Taylor posted earlier today on Book’d Out

 

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Review & Giveaway: Beached by Ros Baxter

Title: Beached {Aegira Chronicles #2}

Author: Ros Baxter

Published: Escape Publishing April 2014

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Status: Read from April 06 to 07, 2014 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Beached is the second book in Ros Baxter’s Aegira Chronicles, a fantasy trilogy with a creative twist on Norse legend. The first, Fish Out of Water, introduced Rania Aqualina, deputy sheriff of small town Dirtwater, and half mermaid. Her investigation into the discovery of a dead blonde with a fish tattoo on Main Street leads Rania to uncover a plot which could mean the end of her underwater home, Aegira, and her own life, at the hands of a crazed sorcerer, Manos.

In Beached, the focus of the story shifts to Rania’s sister, Princess Lecanora whom the Queen has sent to Land to find support for the battle against the Sorcerer from none other than the Presidential candidate. Lecanora, while struggling to adjust to the ways of the Land, joins her sister, mother and their allies to gain the candidates favour while dodging over zealous bodyguards, Manos’s army and saving two worlds.

The action is fast paced, as Manos launches his attack, determined to take Lecanora as his bride so he can rule over Aegira, and destroy any chance of the prophecy of ‘the Three’ thwarting him by killing Rania. The fight moves between land and sea, finally culminating in an epic battle in Aegira.

As in Fish Out of Water, there is a strong romantic element within the story and it’s Rania’s ex, Doug, who leaves Lecanora breathless. Peace loving Lecanora is baffled by her attraction to the gun toting, ex special forces, bad ass and the strange feelings he evokes. It’s insta-love of a sort, but not too badly done.

I enjoyed the humour which came from Rania’s snark, and Lecanora’s naïveté. Baxter writes well, with snappy dialogue and descriptive prose. I’d recommend reading Fish Out of Water before Beached though it’s not strictly necessary, Baxter provides enough back story to orient a reader new to the trilogy.

Beached, like Fish Out of Water, is a fun book, combining action, fantasy, humour and romance, which I really enjoyed. I’m looking forward to reading the final adventure in the Aegira Chronicles.

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Review: Simmering Season by Jenn J. McLeod

 

Title: Simmering Season

Author: Jenn J. McLeod

Published: Simon & Schuster April 2014

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Status: Read from March 30 to April 02, 2014 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Those who have read Jenn J McLeod’s debut, House for all Seasons, will be delighted to reunite with some of the characters met in the small Australian country town of Calingarry’s Crossing. It is however a minor character, Maggie Lindeman, that takes the lead in this, Jenn McLeod’s loosely linked sequel, Simmering Season.

When Maggie’s father fell ill, she and her teenage son, Noah, reluctantly left husband, and father, Brian, in Sydney with plans to sell the family pub in Calingarry Crossing and reunite in a few months. But two years on, with no-one showing interest in the motel, Maggie is warming to the idea of making the move permanent, if only Brian, obsessed with chasing fame, would agree to join them. Frustrated by Brian’s excuses to remain separated from his family, Maggie’s loyalty to her errant husband is tested when her teenage crush, Dan Ireland, returns to Calingarry Crossing for the school reunion. But Dan’s return isn’t the only thing troubling Maggie, her son is growing restless, Amber’s headstrong daughter, Fiona, is her guest for the summer, and as the season wears on, simmering secrets begin bubbling to the surface.

While I thought things were a little slow to heat up in the Simmering Season as the author establishes the back story for the three main characters, Maggie, Fiona and Dan, once the school reunion gets underway, the story begins to move forward with surprising revelations and some dramatic moments, prompting the characters to make decisions about their future.

As in the House For All Seasons, the major themes of this novel examines the need to make peace with the past in order to move forward and the importance of knowing what you need, and want, to be happy within yourself.

In trying to accommodate what Maggie thinks her husband and son wants from her, instead of what she needs, Maggie has grown increasingly resentful, but is unwilling to admit it. At times I was frustrated by Maggie, while her sense of loyalty to her husband is admirable, it is so clearly misplaced that her angst was a little wearying and in protecting her son from Brian’s failures, she made herself a martyr. It took her a while but I was relieved when Maggie began to recognise her worth as the events that unfolded during Simmering Season forced her to reassess her priorities.

Dan has been punishing himself for years for the part he played in a fatal accident. Returning to Calingarry Crossing is difficult for him but he has to decide to let go of the things he can’t change, and do something about those he can including dealing with his high stress job as a police car accident investigator, reuniting with his father and pursuing Maggie.

I most admired Fiona’s growth during the story, a spoilt, spiteful princess with a (not entirely unwarranted) chip on her shoulder to begin with, she learns some hard lessons about the value of family and responsibility. Fiona is affected the most by the secrets her mother, Amber, kept and when they are revealed, she is finally able to make peace with her past and move on.

An appealing novel about self discovery and second chances, I enjoyed Simmering Season and I look forward to revisiting Calingarry Crossing again next year in the Season of Shadow and Light.

Learn more about Jenn J. McLeod and Simmering Season by clicking HERE

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Review: Terms & Conditions by Robert Glancy

 

Title: Terms & Conditions

Author: Robert Glancy

Published: Bloomsbury March 2014

Status: Read from March 18 to 19, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Terms & Conditions is a quirky*, black humoured story of a man** who lost his mind***, then regained his soul.****

* Makes extensive use of footnotes
** Franklyn Shaw, contract lawyer aka Executive X. Husband of corporate bimbo, Alice. Brother of conscienceless prat, Oscar and Malcolm, who is missing his pinkie finger.
*** Amnesia as a result of a car accident while in the midst of a nervous breakdown
**** This will all make much more sense when you have read the book. Which you should do.

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Review: The Wrong Girl by Zoe Foster

 

Title: The Wrong Girl

Author: Zoe Foster

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin AU March 2014

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Status: Read from March 16 to 17, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Wrong Girl is the fourth lighthearted chick-lit novel from Australian author Zoe Foster. Despite having several of her previous works on my shelves including The Younger Man this is the first book of hers I have read, though I do read her weekly column in the Sunday paper.

Reeling from an ill-advised one night stand with a friend, Lily makes a pact with housemate and gorgeous bikini model bestie Simone, to swear off men for at least six months. It’s hardly a stretch for Lily who has barely had a date in the last two years and besides she needs to focus on advancing her stalled career. Though she enjoys her role as a cooking segment producer on a popular morning television show, Lily is tired of her supervisor taking credit for her hard work and ideas. The only compensation in her job is the new TV chef, Jack Winters. Though they got off on the wrong foot when Jack first stole her parking space and then her kettle, twice, Lily can’t help but be charmed by his amiable personality and good looks. Maybe she is developing a little crush, just a teeny one, but by the time she decides to risk breaking her ‘SaBOYtical’ she discovers Jack is seeing someone else. Simone. Deflated, she throws herself into a special project aimed at gaining her the promotion she craves but when she is passed over despite its success, she realises it’s time to move on, not only from her job, but also from Jack.

The Wrong Girl is in many respects a coming-of-age novel on Gen Y terms. Nearing her thirtieth birthday, Lily feels as if her life has stalled. She has none of what she imagined she might at her age – a steady relationship, a progressive career, or her own home and Foster explores Lily’s struggle with her inertia and insecurities.

The love triangle, of sorts, between Lily, Simone and Jack is well handled. Lily wouldn’t dream of interfering in Simone and Jack’s relationship, even if she believes they are all wrong for each other.

A more serious element of the story relates to Simone’s struggle with addiction. One quick drink turns into a three day bender, an Ambien to help her sleep needs countering by an upper to get her to work. Despite her stunning looks, her successful career and enviable lifestyle Simone is as insecure as Lily, who has none of her advantages.

Foster grounds the novel in Sydney with mentions of Bondi, Wonderland and the Harbour, recognisable landmarks to both locals and overseas visitors. I’m thankful the author avoided the irritating name/label dropping that usually accompanies novels involving television/celebrity/models, though there is the odd reference.

I enjoyed The Wrong Girl, well written with appealing, genuine characters, it is an entertaining and easy read.

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Review: The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

Title: The Divorce Papers

Author: Susan Reiger

Published: Crown Publishing March 2014

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Status: Read from March 13 to 14, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Edelwiess}

My Thoughts:

Utilising emails, letters, notes, memo’s and reports, the story of Divorce Papers nominally documents the legal dissolution of the eighteen year marriage between wealthy East Coast couple Daniel and Mia Durkheim by Mia’s lawyer, Sophie Diehl, but it is also a portrait of marriage breakdown, of family bonds and professional crisis.

Mia Durkheim (nee Meiklejohn) is stunned by her husband’s sudden demand for a divorce but by the time she seeks legal representation, Mia’s distress has given way to anger at her soon to be ex-husband’s behaviour. While she is most concerned with protecting their eleven year old daughter, Jane, Mia refuses to submit to the bullying tactics adopted by both him and his cut throat lawyer and is determined to ensure she gets what she is owed.

Sophie is the young criminal lawyer in a small but prestigious legal firm roped into representing Mia in the divorce despite her lack of experience, or even interest. As Sophie does her best to meet the needs of her client, with guidance from her boss and mentor, David Greaves, her emails to her best friend reveals not only her professional insecurities but also the personal issues provoked by the case.

It was the epistolary format of this novel that appealed to me but I recognise it won’t work for everyone. I admit to skimming over some of the contractual legalese and repetitive financial statements but overall I liked the unique format and found myself enjoying the mix of professional and personal correspondence. There are some flashes of wit, a few sharply observed scenes and surprises hidden amongst even the seemingly driest of documents though it was Mia’s notes that most often made me smile.

Though not without its flaws, I thought The Divorce Papers was an engaging read, approaching familiar themes in an original way. The epistolary format tends to divide readers, but if it’s a style you like then I recommend Reiger’s debut.

The Divorce Papers is available to purchase from

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Review: Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase by Louise Walters

 

Title: Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase

Author: Louise Walters

Published: Hachette March 2014

Status: Read from March 09 to 11, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy Hachette/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“I find things hidden in books: dried flowers, locks of hair, tickets, labels, receipt, invoices, photographs, postcards, all manner of cards. I find letters, unpublished works by the ordinary, the anguished, the illiterate. Clumsily written or eloquent, they are love letters, everyday letters, secret letters and mundane letters talking about fruit and babies and tennis matches, from people signing themselves as Majorie or Jean….I can’t bring myself to dispose of these snippets and snapshots of lives that once meant (or still do mean) so much.”

Roberta has always been intrigued by the ephemera she discovers trapped between the pages of the books that find their way into the book store where she works so when she discovers a letter in a book once owned by her grandmother, she is thrilled with finding such an unexpected treasure. But the letter, addressed to her grandmother, Dorothea, is puzzling for in it the man Roberta believes was her grandfather, Jan Pietrykowski declares he cannot marry Dorothea a year after she was led to believe he died in combat.

Dual timelines explores Roberta’s present and Dorothea’s hidden past, two stories of love, loss, heartbreak and joy.

I didn’t find Roberta’s story as interesting as her grandmother’s, in part I think because she is so self contained. Roberta is a reserved woman in her thirties who enjoys her position at the Old and New Bookstore but is otherwise lonely and untethered. She struggles to befriend her colleagues and has drifted into an affair with a man she isn’t sure she even likes. The mystery of the letter Roberta discovers in the suitcase given to her by her father gives her something to focus on, but with her beloved father dying and her 109 year old grandmother near insensible in a nursing home, she is not sure where to turn to for answers.

As Dorothea’s past unspools, the secret the letter hints at, kept from her son and granddaughter, is slowly revealed. Dorothea suffered a lonely childhood which she escaped, against her mother’s wishes, by marrying a young farmer, Albert Sinclair, envisioning a happy family with lots of children reared in the wholesome countryside. Sadly their initial happiness waned as it was blighted by repeated miscarriages and a tragic stillbirth until the couple could barely stand to look at each other, overwhelmed by their disappointment. On the eve of World War Two, Albert escaped by enlisting, leaving Dorothea to manage as best she could. To survive she took in laundry, and hosted a pair of ‘land girls’, resigned to a life devoid of love. Then a fighter plane crashes in her back yard bringing Polish Squadron Leader Jan Pietrykowski to her door, and slowly breathes new life into Dorothea’s barren existence. It takes a little time to warm to Dorothea, who like her granddaughter seems aloof and a little odd, but I found her sympathetic and became intrigued by her story. I would have preferred to spend more time with Dorothea in the past than with Roberta in the present.

The plot encompasses mystery, romance and tragedy in both the contemporary and historical settings but it is driven by character rather than action. The pace is measured, though the alternate chapters help to provide momentum. I thought the writing lovely, evocative and expressive without being overdone.

An impressive debut, Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase is a poignant novel about secrets, love, sacrifice and happiness.

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Review: Mountain Ash by Margareta Osborn

Title: Mountain Ash

Author: Margareta Osborn

Published: Random House March 2014

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Status: Read from March 06 to 08, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Mountain Ash is Margareta’s Osborn’s third appealing contemporary rural romance novel set in the Victorian Highlands, loosely linked to Bella’s Run and Hope’s Road.

Single mother Jodie Ashton craves security for herself and her precious daughter, Milly, too much to dismiss the attentions of the much older, wealthy landowner Alex McGregor. Despite his old-fashioned views, Jodie believes Alex is a good man but when he proposes a romantic relationship she needs some time to think it through. A weekend away with girl friends at the Riverton Rodeo offers her the time and distance she needs to make a decision and it’s there that she meets the friendly and handsome Nate with sky blue eyes, a stockman passing through town. Though she initially rebuffs his advances, passion flares and they spend a single night together before Jodie flees, chastising herself for having let her heart overrule her head. Determined to put the lapse behind her, she returns home but is no closer to making a decision about what she wants until her hand is forced by an unexpected discovery and Jodie believes that accepting Alex’s marriage proposal is the only sensible option. And then, on the eve of their hastily arranged wedding, Alex opens the door to his estranged son, Nathaniel, a man with sky blue eyes…

Vivid and realistic characterisation is again the highlight of Osborn’s writing. I always find myself intrigued by the mix of the protagonists flaws and strengths, no one is either all good or all bad and this is especially true in Mountain Ash.
To be honest I didn’t always like Jodie much. I could understand why she would have been tempted by all that Alex offers, including stability, security and legitimacy, and could even sympathise somewhat, some of her actions in this story are not very honourable.
Osborn skillfully reveals the two sides of Alex, who is both a gentleman and a tyrant. While his affection for Jodie is genuine, it becomes obvious he would not consider her a partner in their relationship and his past shows him as an uncompromising man.
Nate has a love ‘em and leave ‘em history but we warm to him as he proves his loyalty to Wal and then later, when Jodie steals his heart. He is the most likeable character and perhaps the least to blame for all that follows.

There are some surprising twists and turns in the story, though mostly reserved for last third or so of the book when shattering family secrets are revealed, along with Jodie’s deception. The final scenes are action packed and tense as tragedy strikes, not everyone gets a happy ending but Mountain Ash is essentially a romance so Jodie and Nate do find theirs.

Though perhaps not my favourite story from Margareta Osborn I did enjoy Mountain Ash. It is well written with complex characters and provides an interesting story of betrayal, family and love.

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Review: The Wardrobe Girl by Jennifer Smart

The Wardrobe Girl - cover image

 

Title: The Wardrobe Girl

Author: Jennifer Smart

Published: Random House March 2014

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Status: Read from March 08 to 09, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

There are very few Australians who wouldn’t have seen at least one episode of the nightly drama, Home and Away, currently in its 26th year of broadcast. Debut author Jennifer Smart, who spent five years working on the show as a Director’s Assistant and then scriptwriter, draws on that experience in this light-hearted novel that offers a behind-the-scenes peek at television production, and a close up of the action happening off camera.

After a very public end to her celebrity relationship of three years, Tess Appleby has fled the UK and returned home to Australia, exchanging her role as a costumer designer with the BBC for a wardrobe assistant position on the iconic Australian soap opera, Pretty Beach Rescue. Hoping for a fresh start, Tess is content to leave the drama to the professionals but it seems she is destined to always end up center stage. On her very first day she attracts the lustful attention of the show’s leading man, and the ire of his co-star girlfriend, and within weeks she is back in the gossip pages, her showbiz pedigree outed with her life veering wildly off script. And then she discovers that Pretty Beach Rescue’s new director is Jake Freeman, her ex-fiancé whom she hasn’t seen in eight years but has never forgotten…

Tess’s real life rivals the melodramatic story lines of any soap with her secret celebrity parentage, a penchant for trouble and of course, her disastrous relationship history. Despite her talent for self sabotage, I liked Tess for her lack of pretension, her patience with her awful Mother and sister and her She makes mistakes, big ones even, but she is never intentionally malicious, mostly just confused and eventually she gets it together.

Though Tess is well developed, Smart does tend to rely on stereotypes for many of the cast and crew of Pretty Beach Rescue – the aging diva, the womanising leading man, the beautiful but shrewish starlet and the producer who has one eye on the figures, both financial and female- but in a way its part of the fun, emphasising the soap opera experience. I enjoyed the dynamics of the cast and crew ensemble, which revealed the camaraderie, rivalries and politics of the show.

The only real issue I had was with the portrayal of Tess’s sister as I didn’t understand why Emma was so nasty towards her, their interaction seemed suggest something beyond ordinary sibling rivalry but there was no explanation offered to confirm that.

Smart pokes fun at the Australian television industry as she gives the reader a peek behind the scenes. Though the show’s crew have been condensed into a more manageable cast for the novel, she gives you an idea of the people involved in producing a show, their roles and the work environment.

Ideal for fans of chick lit and soap operas Jennifer Smart’s debut, The Wardrobe Girl, is an entertaining read combining humour, romance and tabloid melodrama.

Click HERE to read a guest post from Jennifer Smart posted earlier today at Book’d Out

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Review: Werewolf Sings the Blues by Jennifer Harlow

Title: Werewolf Sings the Blues {A Midnight Magic Mystery #2}

Author: Jennifer Harlow

Published: Midnight Ink March 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from March 06 to 07, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Werewolf Sings the Blues is the second book in Jennifer Harlow’s Midnight Magic Mystery series but not at all what I expected after reading the first, What’s a Witch to Do?

“Vivian Frances Dahl, daughter to Frank and Michelle, I am here to protect you and deliver you to safety. No harm will come to you, I swear on my life, but we must leave now. Please get in the car. Now.”

When a pair of US Marshall’s turn up at a gig to ask singer Vivian Dahl questions about her father, she is surprised, given she hasn’t seen or heard from the man in nearly thirty years, but it’s not until one draws a gun and the other forcefully grips her arm and starts dragging her through the underground car park that she realizes something isn’t quite right. Moments later, her captors are trading gunfire with the hot, built, blonde Adonis -with a paw?! -she suspected of stalking her and she is forced to make a quick decision. What follows is a wild cross country road trip as Vivian learns her estranged father is a the Alpha of the North American werewolf pack, her saviour, Blondie aka Jason, his second in command, and adopted son, and she is in grave danger from a rogue wolf making a bid for power.

Luckily Vivian is no princess, her rebellious teen years and party hard life style as a wannabe singing star means she can hold her own when things get difficult. Vivian is not your typical heroine, self absorbed, not averse to (more than) a few drinks, a hit of cocaine or a casual shag, I didn’t warm to her initially. She carries a lot of anger due to her father’s desertion, her mother’s disinterest, the failure of her career to launch and the breakdown of two marriages. Viv freely admits she is selfish and bitter but spending time first with Jason and then the Pack in her father’s Virginian compound her attitude begins to change.

I was surprised by the increase in action and violence in this story, particularly during the final scenes, when contrasted with the first book. What’s a Witch to Do? had a paranormal romance/ cosy mystery feel, this is much darker in content, more like urban fantasy, though with more focus on the romance than is usual for the genre. I felt there wasn’t a lot of mystery in the story either, the identity of the mole is obvious from the moment of his introduction. It does still have the snark and biting humour familiar to readers of the author’s backlist though.

I also found it odd that this installment takes place eight years earlier than What’s a Witch To Do? Though Adam and Mona, amongst other characters from the F.R.E.A.K.S. series, make an appearance, the link between the two books in the series isn’t clear and I’m wondering in which direction the author plans to take the series next.

Despite the unexpected direction in which Harlow chose to take this series, and the unconventional characterisation of the protagonist, I did enjoy Werewolf Sings The Blues. It’s a fast paced, action packed easy read with plenty of humour to balance the darker moments.

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