Review: The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s Hospital by Joanna Nell

 

Title: The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s Hospital

Author: Joanne Nell

Published: 29th September 2021, Hachette Australia

Status: Read October 2021 courtesy Hachette Australia

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My Thoughts:

 

The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s Hospital is an endearing and entertaining novel from bestselling Australian author Joanna Nell.

Though the decor is tired, the menu uninspiring, and the coffee bland, The Marjorie Marshall Memorial Cafeteria has served the visitors and employees of St Jude’s Hospital nobly for fifty years, its profits funding a variety of projects to benefit patients. Staffed by volunteers, septuagenarian Hilary Halliday has held the position of manager for a decade and runs a tight ship, but with her personal life recently upended, her role at the cafeteria has become a life raft, which is why she is rocked to discover that management is contemplating closing the cafeteria in favour of a popular ‘whole food’ cafe franchise.

The storyline of The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s Hospital is told through three characters – Hilary; probationary volunteer Joy, with a penchant for blue eyelash falsies and bright clothing, of similar age to Hilary; and seventeen year old student Chloe Foster-Pearson, reluctantly volunteering at the behest of her surgeon mother. Each slowly reveals their private struggles as they face uncertain futures. I enjoyed the process of getting to know these well drawn characters, very different from one another, who become united by their determination to save the cafeteria.

The themes of family, friendship, change, and identity are prevalent in The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s Hospital. Nell also sensitively explores issues related to ageing, particularly for women. There is a little dig at the commercialisation of hospital care, and the Millennial folly of style over substance.

Written with warmth and humour, The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s Hospital is a charming and cheerful read.

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Available from Hachette Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

Review: Treasure & Dirt by Chris Hammer

 

Title: Treasure & Dirt

Author: Chris Hammer

Published: 28th September 2021, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read October 2021 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

 

Though there are loose links to his bestselling Martin Scarsdale series (Scrublands, Silver, Trust) Treasure & Dirt is a standalone crime procedural from Australian author Chris Hammer.

“Maybe this is it. The sky is too big, the land is too big. Too many places for secrets.”

When the body of Jonas McGee is found crucified at the bottom of his opal mine in Finnegan’s Gap, Sydney homicide detective Ivan Lucic is sent to the remote town in north western New South Wales to investigate. Paired with Detective Constable Narelle Buchanan, who served the town in uniform, it seems prudent to first consider the rule of proximity placing a handful of suspects in the frame, but it’s not long before the suspect pool widens as their investigation exposes old grudges, new rivalries, and buried secrets.

“The body is stinking, leaking, a horrible parody of Christ.”

Taking place over a period of about a week, Hammer develops an intricate but coherent plot in Treasure & Dirt. Lucic’s murder investigation starts with McGee’s neighbouring claim owner and his son with whom McGee shares a tragic past, the dead miner’s former offsider, and an unidentified team of ‘ratters’, men who steal opals from unattended mines, as suspects, but rapidly expands to assess if a desperate daughter, members of a local religious cult, or a pair of warring billionaires, may have played a part in the man’s demise. The story twists and turns as Lucic and Nell try to reconcile the past with the present to solve the murder, and make sense of the additional crimes they uncover.

“This isn’t an opportunity, he realises, this is a test.”

Lucic is a methodical investigator, inclined to follow every possible lead to its end. He presents as an introvert, self contained and thoughtful, but also determined and dependable. With his partner, Detective Inspector Morris Montifore, under investigation by Professional Standards, and his own vulnerabilities due to a gambling habit, Lucic feels the weight of the case, and its implications for his own career.

Similarly Nell, an inexperienced but ambitious investigator, is determined to prove her worth, a goal that may be made difficult by her history in Finnegan’s Gap. I liked Nell a lot, as a police officer she is smart with good instincts, though her personal life would suggest otherwise.

“It’s not your average town. Too many men, not enough women. Too much grog, too many crims, too much opal lust. Too bloody hot.”

Hammer deftly captures the starkness of the outback landscape, scarred and barren, seared by the relentless heat, beset by flies. Finnegan’s Gap is a hardscrabble town, slowly dying as opal finds become rarer, its population increasingly made up of an antisocial element. We are introduced to a handful of rough country old-timers and some eccentric characters, however I noticed a lack of racial diversity amongst the cast.

“Time we went to town. Time we started to set things right.”

Skilfully evoking a sense of place, offering realistic characters, and an intriguing storyline, Treasure & Dirt is a brilliant, engrossing read.

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Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$32.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon



Linking to: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? at BookDate; Sunday Post @ Caffeinated Reviewer; and the Sunday Salon @ ReaderBuzz

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Life…

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What I’ve Read Since I Last Posted…

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Treasure & Dirt by Chris Hammer

The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s by Joanna Nell

Before & Laughter by Jimmy Carr

Birds of a Feather by Tricia Stringer

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New Posts…

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Review: The River Mouth by Karen Herbert

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What I’m Reading This Week…

 


When Mim Squires and Mathias Vander are stranded together on a disrupted flight home to Perth, they are surprised to find that they have much in common. Mim owns a bookshop, Mathias is a writer, and both are at turning points in their lives. Mim’s childhood polio is taking a toll on her life. Mathias is contemplating a cross-continent move to be nearer his daughter.

But life back in Perth is not smooth sailing, with their respective family members going through their own upheavals. As Mim and Mathias both struggle to adjust to the challenges of being in their late seventies, secrets from the past that neither wishes to face rise to the surface, challenging their long-held beliefs in their independence and singularity.

At the end of the day, can they muster the wisdom and the courage they need to change?

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When a man is found savagely ‘crucified’ amidst a murky swamp in northern Australia, detective Dana Russo and her team are called to a shocking scene. The victim is a convicted rapist, just released from prison, who years earlier committed an atrocious crime yards from where he was killed.

Who murdered him – and why? With several potential leads, the investigation quickly becomes more complex, and sinister, than anyone imagined. And Dana realises she’ll have to confront her own troubled past to understand the true motives of the killer…

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Fingers and feelers and paws and wings,

Solving thrillers and chillers and secretive things!

In which animals help their animal friends, or human sidekicks, solve diabolical crimes and whimsical mysteries in 19 stories by Australian, American and Irish authors.

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Keeping secrets comes naturally to him … but will it ruin his chance at love?

Liam Castle knows the secrets of everyone in Bunyip Bay. As the owner of the pub, he’s heard it all – from marriage proposals and farming disasters to family rifts and everything in between. The locals love to confide in him, but no one knows he’s hiding a tragic past.

And he wants to keep it that way.

Agricultural pilot Henrietta Forward lives for her job, choosing work over romance. But when an incident in the air brings Henri home to Bunyip Bay earlier than planned, she finds herself questioning everything she believes about herself.

But Henri’s secret isn’t her only problem.

Her mother will stop at nothing to have her settled down back in the Bay, and while Henri had always known domesticity wasn’t the life for her, now she wonders what her future holds. So when Liam – always the first to lend a hand to those in need – agrees to play along with Henri’s scheme to ward off her mother, she has mixed feelings. What happens when a pretend romance starts to feel like the real thing?

Will Henri’s demons and Liam’s traumatic past prove too great a barrier to love?

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Thanks for stopping by!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR @thebookdate #SundayPost @Kimbacaffeinate #SundaySalon @debnance I’m reading #AtTheEndoftheDay #Prisoner #WhoSleuthedIt? #OutbackSecrets

Review: The River Mouth by Karen Herbert

 

Title: The River Mouth

Author: Karen Herbert

Published: 1st October 2021, Fremantle Press

Status: Read October 2021 courtesy Fremantle Press

 

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My Thoughts:

 

In Karen Herbert’s accomplished crime fiction debut, The River Mouth, a mother resumes her search for answers to the unsolved murder of her teenage son when the decade old case is reopened in the wake of the death of her best friend.

Sandra Davies is stunned when the police advise her that not only has the body of her best friend, Barbara Russell, been found in the Pilbara desert, but that routine tests discovered Barbara’s DNA matched a sample taken from the under the fingernails of her late son. Darren was shot dead by an unknown assailant while swimming in the river with friends ten years earlier, but what possible motive could explain Barbara killing a fifteen year old boy?

As Sandra tries to make sense of this unexpected development, convinced Barbara is blameless, Herbert unravels the past from the perspective of Barbara’s son, and Darren’s best friend, Colin. Darren is a high-spirited teenager, full of teenage bravado, with a sharp tongue, while Colin is more reserved and thoughtful. When Darren is not helping out his dad, a successful cray fisherman, the boys spend much of their time together, at school and on weekends, often joined by Tim, and occasionally Amy. While they occasionally cause mischief, and push against their parents’ rules, the group are fairly typical teenagers. I thought Herberts characterisation of the teens was realistic, and felt that she deftly captured their dialogue, attitudes and behaviours.

It becomes clear as the story unfolds that the insular Western Australian costal community in which Sandra lives harbours more than one secret that could have led to Darren’s murder, and Herbert uses these red herrings to good effect. The novel is well paced, with the suspense managed effectively across both timelines. Though the ambiguous circumstances of Barbara’s passing remains an irritant to me, I think the mystery of Darren’s death is satisfactorily resolved, even if the aftermath is somewhat non-traditional.

The River Mouth is an impressive debut, and a fine addition to the growing oeuvre of rural Australian crime fiction.

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Available from Fremantle Press

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

It’s Monday! What Are You Watching? #SundayPost #SundaySalon

 

Linking to: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? at BookDate; Sunday Post @ Caffeinated Reviewer; and the Sunday Salon @ ReaderBuzz

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Life…

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I’m late posting this week as I was making a desperate bid to catch up with writing and publishing reviews. Better late than never I guess.

After a snap lockdown implemented for my town this past week, a shock change in state leadership has meant that NSW has now blithely scrapped a bunch of Covid precautions, just as my region has recorded its first cases of the entire pandemic. One selfish freedumb idiot who traveled here from Sydney while infected has led to over 26 confirmed cases so far though the number is suspected to be higher as several of those have since been unwittingly active in the community, but the new premier is unconcerned and it’s infuriating!

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What I’ve Read Since I last Posted…

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The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

Larrimah by Caroline Graham & Kylie Stevenson

The Woman The Could Not Silence by Kate Moore

The River Mouth by Karen Herbert

Treasure & Dirt by Chris Hammer

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New Posts…

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Review: Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

Review: The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

Review: Larrimah by Caroline Graham & Kylie Stevenson

Review: The Woman The Could Not Silence by Kate Moore

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What I’m Reading This Week…

 


The Marjorie Marshall Memorial Cafeteria has been serving refreshments and raising money at the hospital for over fifty years, long after anybody can remember who Marjorie Marshall actually was. Staffed by successive generations of dedicated volunteers, the beloved cafeteria is known as much for offering a kind word and sympathetic ear (and often unsolicited life advice) as for its tea and buns.

Stalwart Hilary has worked her way up through the ranks to Manageress; Joy has been late every day since she started as the cafeteria’s newest recruit. She doesn’t take her role as ‘the intern’ quite as seriously as Hilary would like but there’s no doubt she brings a welcome pop of personality. Seventeen-year-old Chloe, the daughter of two successful surgeons, is volunteering during the school holidays because her mother thinks it will look good on her CV.

Chloe is at first bewildered by the two older women but soon realises they have a lot in common, not least that each bears a secret pain. When they discover the cafeteria is under threat of closure, this unlikely trio must band together to save it.

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I used to think that I’d escaped Southport . . .

Now I realised, Southport had been coming for me all this time.

Erin Sloane was sixteen when high school senior Andre Villiers was murdered by his friends. They were her friends, too, led by the intense, charismatic Ricky Hell. Five people went into West Cypress Road Woods the night Andre was murdered. Only three came out.

Ativan, alcohol and distance had dimmed Erin’s memories of that time. But nearly twenty years later, an ageing father will bring her home. Now a journalist, she is asked to write a story about the Southport Three and the thrill-kill murder that mesmerised the country. Erin’s investigation propels her closer and closer to a terrifying truth. And closer and closer to danger.

An unforgettable story of murder, trauma and childhoods lost, I SHOT THE DEVIL is a taut, page-turning debut novel from an electrifying new talent.

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Who will find you when you lose your place in the world?

Full of practical wisdom, this heart-warming novel from a bestselling author celebrates finding help where you least expect it as well as the ties between women that can change – and save – lives.

Eve has been a partner in a Wallaby Bay fishing fleet as long as she can remember. Now they want her to sell – but what would her life be without work? She lives alone, her role on the town committee has been spiked by malicious gossip and she is incapacitated after surgery. For the first time in her life she feels weak, vulnerable – old.

When her troubled god-daughter Julia arrives at Wallaby Bay, she seems to offer Eve a reprieve from her own concerns. But there is no such thing as plain sailing. Eve has another house guest, the abrasive Lucy, who is helping her recuperate and does not look kindly on Julia’s desire for Eve’s attention.

But Lucy, too, has demons to battle and as each woman struggles to overcome their loss of place in the world, they start to realise that there may be more that holds them together, than keeps them apart.

But will these birds of feather truly be able to reinvent what family means? Or will the secrets and hurts of the past shatter their precarious hold on their new lives … and each other?

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In his mid-twenties, Jimmy was bored, boring, unfulfilled and underachieving. He wasn’t exactly depressed, but he was very sad. Think of a baby owl whose mum has recently died in a windmill accident. He was that sad. This book tells the story of how Jimmy turned it around and got happy, through the redemptive power of dick jokes.

Written to take advantage of the brief window between the end of lockdown and Jimmy getting cancelled for saying something unforgivable to Lorraine Kelly, this book is as timely as it is unnecessary.

Because you might be interested in Jimmy’s life but he’s damn sure you’re a lot more interested in your own, Before & Laughter is about both of you. But mainly him. It tells the story of Jimmy’s life – the transformation from white-collar corporate drone to fake-toothed donkey-laugh plastic-haired comedy mannequin – while also explaining how to turn your own life around and become the you you’ve always dreamt of being. At just 20, it’s cheaper than Scientology, quicker than therapy, and significantly less boring than church.

Before & Laughter contains the answers to all the big questions in life, questions like:

What’s the secret to happiness?

Is Jimmy wearing a wig?

What happened with that tax thing?

What’s the meaning of life?

Is Jimmy’s laugh real?

Can those teeth bite through vibranium?

And for readers in the West Country: yes, there are pictures (actually, sorry, there are no pictures, but there’s a book about a hungry caterpillar you’ll love).

Because it’s Jimmy Carr – recently scientifically proved to be the funniest comedian in the UK – there are jokes, jokes and more jokes throughout. If laughter really was the best medicine, the NHS would be handing out this book in Nightingale Hospitals.

Fascinating, thoughtful and insightful – are all words that appear in the book

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Thanks for stopping by!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR @thebookdate #SundayPost @Kimbacaffeinate #SundaySalon @debnance I’m reading #TheTeaLadiesofStJudesHospital #BirdsofaFeather #Before&Laughter #IShottheDevil

Review: The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore

 

Title: The Woman They Could Not Silence: Elizabeth Packard’s incredible fight for freedom, and the men who tried to make her disappear

Author: Kate Moore

Published: 28th September 2021, Scribe Publications

Status: Read October 2021 courtesy Scribe Publications

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My Thoughts:

 

“I, though a woman, have just as good a right to my opinion, as my husband has to his.”

The Woman They Could Not Silence is the remarkable and inspiring story of Elizabeth Packard’s fight to be recognised as more than her husband’s property, and against the laws that allowed it, by Kate Moore.

In June of 1860, Elizabeth Packard, a wife of 21 years, and a mother of 6, was forcibly committed to the Illinois State Hospital for the Insane in Jacksonville, Illinois by her husband, Theophilus Packard, a Presbyterian preacher. In recent months 43 year old Elizabeth had begun to object to being silenced by her husband whenever she dared to venture a thought or opinion of her own, behaviour “so different from her former conduct,” that Theophilus claimed she was suffering an “attack of derangement….the result of a diseased brain.” Furious with “his newly outspoken wife, with her independent mind and her independent spirit”, he made plans, as was his right by law, “to deprive her of her liberty, and to administer chastisement”, arranging for Elizabeth to be committed to an asylum for the insane. No doubt Theophilus expected Elizabeth would quickly repent and return home throughly chastened and made docile, but instead her incarceration became the catalyst for a life long campaign for the rights of women, and the mentally ill.

“It shall be one of the highest aspirations of my earth-life, to expose these evils for the purpose of remedying them,” she announced. “It shall be said of me, ‘She hath done what she could.’”

Drawing upon varied resources, including Elizabeth’s journals written on, “tissue paper, brown paper, and even scraps of cotton cloth”, during her time at the asylum, correspondence, reports, court documents, and news articles, Moore details Elizabeth’s revolutionary challenge of a society permitted to declare women insane upon the whims of their husbands or fathers. She provides insight into the operations of asylums in the late nineteenth century, the understanding of and treatment (or more accurately the lack of) for mental health conditions, and how Elizabeth not only survived but thrived in an environment designed to break her.

“It is hereby ordered that Mrs. Elizabeth P. W. Packard be relieved of all restraint incompatible with her condition as a sane woman.”

By the time of her death in 1897 Elizabeth could claim responsibility for the passage of at least thirty-four bills in forty-four legislatures across twenty-four states resulting in law reform, and widespread, long-lasting change, related to the operation of Insane Asylums, including granting married women the right of jury trial before being commitment. Her legacy should not be underestimated nor forgotten, especially as the battle is still far from won given outspoken women are still labeled ‘crazy’ in an effort to silence them.

Meticulously researched with a readable narrative, The Woman They Could Not Silence is a fascinating expose of history and powerful biography of a courageous, noteworthy woman.

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Available from Scribe Publications

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

 

Review: Larrimah by Caroline Graham & Kylie Stevenson

 

Title: Larrimah: A missing man, an eyeless croc and an outback town of 11 people who mostly hate each other

Author: Caroline Graham & Kylie Stevenson

Published: 28th September 2021, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read October 2021 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

“The police poster has all the grim details. Full name: Patrick (Paddy) Moriarty. Approximately 178 centimetres tall. Black and grey hair. Age seventy. Last sighted at dusk on Saturday, 16 December 2017, when he left the Larrimah Hotel on his quad bike with his dog, Kellie. She’s pictured on the sign too -the red-and-brown kelpie looks young, friendly, with her tongue sticking out.”

To be honest I requested this thinking it was fiction, however Larrimah is non-fiction, a true crime investigation into the fate of a missing man, and the town he lived in.

Larrimah is a tiny outback town, spread over an area less than 1kmsq, in the Northern Territory on Wubalawun land, and at the time of Paddy’s disappearance, the population numbered just 12. It was a few days before he was officially reported missing, and wherever he had gone, he had taken nothing with him but the dog, not even the hat that rarely left his head.

Paddy’s disappearance may have gone largely unremarked by the wider world except no one can make sense of it. In essence this is a ‘locked room’ mystery. A thorough forensics investigation turned up no clues, neither did days of searching by foot, or from the air. Despite extensive police interviews, international media scrutiny, and an inquest, there has yet to be any answers.

There are theories of course. One of the most enduring is that 1 (or more) of the remaining 11 Larrimah townspeople murdered Paddy. Fran Hodgetts, whose home and tea house is situated across from Paddy’s house, was immediately a prime suspect. The two had a long history of acrimony – trading barbs and claims of harassment, but Larrimah is no stranger to feuds. At any one time it seems half of the town is at war with the other, whether it’s over the provision of pies to the passing trade, the leadership of local ‘progress’ committees, the massacre of a buffalo, or the theft of Mars Bars. There is also speculation that Paddy was abducted by drug dealers, swallowed by a sinkhole, or simply did a runner and has started a new life elsewhere.

In an attempt to understand the case, and hopefully solve the mystery, journalists Graham & Stephenson spent five years investigating the story (before this was a book, it was a Walkley award winning podcast called Lost in Larrimah), spending time with the residents of Larrimah, while also endeavouring to piece together a clearer picture of who Paddy was. In trying to answer their questions, this book develops into a portrait of both the missing man and the town of Larrimah, the two seemingly inseparable.

Rich with detail, whimsical and poignant, Larrimah reads like an Aussie yarn with its abundance of colourful, eccentric characters and unlikely sounding events, except this is a true story… well, in so far as the truth can be known.

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Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$32.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

Review: The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

Title: The Last Graduate {Scholomance #2}

Author: Naomi Novik

Published: 28th September 2021, Del Rey Books

Status: Read October 2021 courtesy Penguin /Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

A cross between Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, The Last Graduate is an imaginative, exciting and darkly funny fantasy, full of magic and monsters.

The Last Graduate picks up where A Deadly Education left off with Galadriel ‘El’ Higgins now a senior. In just a few months she and her fellow classmates will leave Scholomance, a sentient school built in the void to educate the children of the magical community, forever – assuming they survive the traditional attrition of graduation day.

I was delighted to rejoin El, her allies, and enemies, at Scholomance, where navigating every activity, from bathroom visits to classroom assignments, is a matter of life and death. As a member of the graduating class, El’s focus should be on passing finals, building manna, and shoring up her alliances in preparation for graduation, but Scholomance seems determined to make her life difficult, throwing mals (monsters), and hapless freshmen, in her path. It’s some time before El recognises the school’s motive for what it is – not a curse, but a plea.

While there is plenty of action as the students prepare for the graduation day gauntlet, the lulls allow for character development. El, once friendless, now has a strong pact with Liu and Aadhya, and the support of the New York enclave, thanks in part to her somewhat complicated relationship with Orion Lake, but is still reluctant to trust others, or her self. I really like El, but I was glad to see some character growth. She remains a pessimist with a quick temper and a sarcastic wit, but also proves resourceful, determined, loyal, and a little less guarded.

I felt there was more emphasis on the themes of privilege, inequality and competition vs cooperation in this novel. The latter is of particular importance as the events in The Last Graduate suggest a twist to the prophecy that warns El, with her prodigious magical strength, will be responsible for the destruction of the enclaves.

There is no denying that the cliffhanger ending is hugely frustrating, and as it will likely be another year until the third book is released, it’s going to be a long wait, so I hope the pay off will be worth it!

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Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

Review: Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

 

Title: Apples Never Fall

Author : Liane Moriarty

Published: 14th September 2021, Macmillan

Status: Read September 2021 courtesy Pan Macmillan Australia

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My Thoughts:

Unfolding from multiple viewpoints, Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty is an engrossing, intimate domestic drama.

Sixty-nine year old Joy Delaney hasn’t been seen or heard from for a week before her four adult children, Amy, Troy, Logan and Brooke, notice. Their father, Stan, has no good explanation for her absence, or the scratches on his face, and the siblings, aware things have been tense between their parents for some time, struggle to defend him when the police suspect he has murdered her.

As the timeline moves between the present and the past, Moriarty unravels the complex dynamics of the Delaney’s, it’s disruption by a mysterious interloper, and the puzzle of Joy’s absence.

Though the intrigue regarding Joy’s disappearance is central to the story, Apples Never Fall is a very much a character driven novel. I always appreciate how authentic and grounded Moriarty’s characters are, each with distinct and nuanced personalities. I found Joy’s frustrations, worries and hopes to be relatable, while Stan is more of a traditional patriarch. Their children, despite a rather extraordinary childhood, are fairly ordinary adults, with an interesting mix of strengths and flaws, accomplishments and regrets.

As with most family’s, the Delaney’s relationships are a mix of love and rivalry, secrets and lies, resentments and guilt. I really liked the way in which Moriarty shows how each member has differing perspectives on the same incidents, and how that plays into how they define themselves, and each other. It’s with keen insight that Moriarty also explores a wide range of issues from empty-nest syndrome and domestic violence, to the pressures of elite sport, and the weight of family expectations.

This is not a fast paced story, but there are plenty of surprises in Apples Never Fall. I’ve read more than a few complaints about the ending(s) of the novel (especially with its reference to the pandemic) but I thought there was a subtle and clever implication in it.

Offering compelling characters, authentic emotion, and sharp wit, I found Apples Never Fall to be an entertaining, incisive and absorbing novel.

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Available from Macmillan Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon

 

Linking to: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? at BookDate; Sunday Post @ Caffeinated Reviewer; and the Sunday Salon @ ReaderBuzz

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Life…

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October already!? Though YAY for the start of daylight savings, I love the extra hour of sunlight in the evening, the end of the year is not that far away.

This month I’m planning to focus on catching up on review books I haven’t had time for during the year, there’s…well…a lot. It should mean I’m then ready for Nonfiction November, because I have quite the reading list. Speaking of nonfiction…

I’ve been considering plans for next years Nonfiction Reader Challenge, and I think I’m going to make it more inclusive. For those who want to be pushed out of their comfort zone, the three tier category challenge will remain, but there will also be a fourth option for the casual nonfiction reader, so they can participate without any real pressure, by reading what they want. I hope you will be joining me in ‘22.

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What I’ve Read Since I last Posted…

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The Moon, the Stars and Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan

The Whale in the Living Room by John Ruthven

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

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New Posts…

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Review: The Unusual Abduction of Avery Conifer by Ilsa Evans

Review: The Moon, the Stars and Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan

Review: The Whale in the Living Room by John Ruthven

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #9

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What I’m Reading This Week…

 

A dying town, a missing man. One of Australia’s greatest mysteries – two whodunnits, twisted together.

Larrimah: hot, barren, a speck of dust in the centre of the nothingness of outback Australia. Where you might find a death adder in the bar and a spider or ten in the toaster. Maybe it’s stupid to write a love letter to a town that looks like this, especially when it’s someone else’s town. A town where there’s nothing to see, nothing to buy and the closest thing to an attraction is a weird Pink Panther in a gyrocopter whose head falls off intermittently. A town steeped in ancient superstition and pockmarked with sinkholes. It’s Kadaitja country. People go missing in the bush there, the traditional owners say.

It’s doubly stupid to write a love letter to a town where someone did go missing and one of the remaining residents might be a murderer. A town at the centre of one of the biggest mysteries outback Australia has ever seen – a weird, swirling whodunnit about camel pies and wild donkeys and drug deals and crocodiles, a case that’s had police scratching their heads for years, while journalists and filmmakers and Hollywood turn up, from time to time, to ask what the hell happened here.

And it makes no sense to fall for a place when the town is crumbling into the dust and it looks a lot like your love letter might end up being a eulogy. But whatever happened in Larrimah, it’s strange and precious and surprisingly funny. Journalists Kylie Stevenson and Caroline Graham have spent years trying to pin it down – what happened to Paddy Moriarty and his dog, how they disappeared, how they might take the whole town and something even bigger with them.

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The tale of a forgotten woman whose journey sparked lasting change for women’s rights and exposed injustices that still resonate today.

Elizabeth Packard was an ordinary Victorian housewife and mother of six. That was, until the first Woman’s Rights Convention was held in 1848, inspiring Elizabeth and many other women to dream of greater freedoms. She began voicing her opinions on politics and religion — opinions that her husband did not share. Incensed and deeply threatened by her growing independence, he had her declared ‘slightly insane’ and committed to an asylum.

Inside the Illinois State Hospital, Elizabeth found many other perfectly lucid women who, like her, had been betrayed by their husbands and incarcerated for daring to have a voice. But just because you are sane, doesn’t mean that you can escape a madhouse …

Fighting the stigma of her gender and her supposed madness, Elizabeth embarked on a ceaseless quest for justice. It not only challenged the medical science of the day and saved untold others from suffering her fate, it ultimately led to a giant leap forward in human rights the world over.

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In the desolate outback town of Finnigans Gap, police struggle to maintain law and order. Thieves pillage opal mines, religious fanatics recruit vulnerable young people and billionaires do as they please.

Then an opal miner is found crucified and left to rot down his mine. Nothing about the miner’s death is straightforward, not even who found the body. Sydney homicide detective Ivan Lucic is sent to investigate, assisted by inexperienced young investigator Nell Buchanan.

But Finnigans Gap has already ended one police career and damaged others, and soon both officers face damning allegations and internal investigations. Have Ivan and Nell been set up and, if so, by whom?

As time runs out, their only chance at redemption is to find the killer. But the more secrets they uncover, the more harrowing the mystery becomes, as events from years ago take on a startling new significance.

For in Finnigans Gap, opals, bodies and secrets don’t stay buried for ever.

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Fifteen-year-old Darren Davies is found facedown in the Weymouth River with a gunshot wound to his chest. The killer is never found. Ten years later, his mother receives a visit from the local police. Sandra’s best friend has been found dead on a remote Pilbara road, and Barbara’s DNA matches the DNA found under Darren’s fingernails. When the investigation into her son’s murder is reopened, Sandra begins to question what she knew about her best friend. As she digs, she discovers that there are many secrets in her small town, and that her murdered son had secrets too.

 

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