Review: Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry

 

Title: Church of Marvels

Author: Leslie Parry

Published: Hachette Australia May 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read from May 18 to 19, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Church of Marvels is an atmospheric and haunting tale set in New York during the late 1800’s that unfolds from the perspectives of four compelling characters, whose lives eventually converge.

Leaving behind her twin sister, Isabelle Church fled to Manhattan in the wake of the Coney Island fire that killed her mother and destroyed the Church of Marvels, the carny show in which Isabelle starred. No one knows why she left, where she is, or what secrets she keeps.

“I haven’t been able to speak since I was seventeen years old. Some people believed that because of this I’d be able to keep a secret. They believed I could hear all manners of tales and confessions and repeat nothing. Perhaps they believe that if I cannot speak, I cannot listen or remember or even think for myself – that I am, in essence, invisible. That I will stay silent forever. I’m afraid they are mistaken.”

With her mother dead, and her twin sister gone, only Odile Church remains at Coney Island, the spinning girl on the Wheel of Death. When a letter from her sister finally arrives she heads to Manhattan, determined to find her.

“At first glance the twins looked alike – they were both freckled and hazel eyed, with thick blonde hair and the snub nose of a second-rate chorus girl. But that was where the similarities ended, Unlike Belle, with her lithe and pliant acrobat’s body, Odile had a permanent crook in her neck and a slight curve to her spine.”

Sylvan Threadgill is nineteen, abandoned as a young child, he makes his living as a night-soiler, and boxes for a few extra pennies. One night he finds a baby girl half drowned in the effluent and rescues her.

“Under their breaths they called him Dogboy. He’d been puzzled over and picked apart all of his life – the skin of a Gypsy, the hair of a Negro, the build of a German, the nose of a Jew. he didn’t belong to anyone. They started at him with a kind of terrified wonder, as though he was a curiosity in a dime museum. One of his eyes was brown, so dark it nearly swallowed the pupil, and the other pale, aqueous blue.”

When Alphie Leonetti, once a ‘penny rembrandt’, is first introduced she is waiting for her husband, Anthony, to rescue her from the notorious Blackwell’s Asylum in the East River, the last thing she remembers is an argument with her disapproving mother in law. Desperate to escape she befriends a mute inmate with startling skills.

“Alphie curled up and covered her face with her hair, then cried her voice away. She couldn’t bear it; she’d come so far from her days a s a girl on the street, a bony runaway with shoes made from paper, waiting there on the corner with her paint stand and jars. And here she was, through some cruel reversal, sent back to the anonymous hive, trapped in a room full of women who were not missed and not wanted, who would wear the same dress every day until it disintegrated on their hungry frames-a dress she too wore, formless and smelling of some previous disease…”

With evocative phrasing Parry creates memorable characters and vivid settings, from the seedy shores of Coney Island to the dark, narrow streets of inner Manhattan, and the bleak horror of the asylum marooned in the middle of the East River.

A novel that demands attention, the lyrical prose of Church of Marvels tells a complex, suspenseful mystery that sometimes appears scattered, but is eventually brought to a stunning resolution.

“We can be a weary, cynical lot – we grow old and see only what suits us, and what is marvelous can often pass us by. A kitchen knife. A bulb of glass. A human body. That something so common should be so surprising – why, we forget it. We take it for granted. We assume that our sight is reliable, that our deeds are straightforward, that our words have one meaning. But life is uncommon and strange; it is full of intricacies and odd, confounding turns.”

 

Church of Marvels is available to purchase from

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Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

 

Title: Saint Anything

Author: Sarah Dessen

Published: PenguinTeen Australia May 2015

Status: Read from May 16 to 18, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“I was used to being invisible. People rarely saw me, and if they did, they never looked close. I wasn’t shiny and charming like my brother, stunning and graceful like my mother, or smart and dynamic like my friends. That’s the thing though. You always think you want to be noticed. Until you are.”

Saint Anything is a thoughtful contemporary tale exploring the themes of family, self discovery, belonging, and change.

Sydney Stanford is used to living in the shadow of her charismatic, if rebellious, older brother Peyton, but when he is convicted and imprisoned for a drink driving offense that left a fifteen year old paralysed, she struggles under the burden of his reflected guilt.
Hoping to escape the gossip, and ease her parents financial burden, Sydney opts to transfer from her exclusive private school to a local public high school, where she befriends Layla Chatham and her brother Mac, after a chance meeting in the pizza parlour their parents own. Welcomed by the Chatham’s, and their friends, Sydney’s burden lightens but escaping her brother’s legacy will not be that simple.

Sydney feels as if she is the only one that carries the burden of Peyton’s actions. She is angry and frustrated by her mother’s seeming failure to acknowledge her brother’s guilt, or Sydney’s feeling about the situation, but can’t discuss the matter with her, as her mother is focused only on supporting Peyton.

“When she spoke again her voice had an hard edge to it. “It’s very scary. Especially for your brother, who is locked away, alone, with no support system other than us, his family….If he can deal with that for seventeen months,” she continues, “I think you can handle being slightly uncomfortable for a few hours. Don’t you agree?”

With her parents distracted, and Sydney unwilling to make demands on them, she finds freedom to be herself in her friendship with Layla, and her burgeoning romance with Mac. I really liked the way Dessen developed these relationships, which are warm and realistic and equally as important to Sydney.

But with a single mistake everything begins to fall apart. I was itching for Sydney to stand up for herself, both with her parents and Ames, but I think Dessen stays true to her character. Sydney has to develop the confidence and a surer sense of self before she can stand her ground.

“Why are you being like this?” I asked her. “I’m not a bad kid, and you know it, This was one night, one thing. One mistake. And I’m sorry. But you can’t-”
“Your brother started with one mistake as well, she replied. “Which led to another. And another.”
“I’m not Peyton” I said. It seemed crazy I’d have to say this, as all my life they’d made it clear it was the one thing they knew for sure.

Sydney’s story is one that would often be overlooked in favour of Peyton’s drama or his victim’s tragedy, but Dessen ensures it is just as important and affecting. Saint Anything is a quiet but emotionally powerful novel, thoughtful and beautifully written.

Saint Anything is available to purchase from

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and all good bookstores.

Review: A Court of Thorn and Roses by Sarah J Maas

 

Title: A Court of Thorn and Roses {A Court of Thor and Roses #1}

Author: Sarah J Maas

Published: Bloomsbury May 2015

Status: Read from May 14 to 16, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

As a huge fan of Sarah J Maas’s ‘Throne of Glass’ series, I’ve been excited about the release of A Court of Thorn and Roses, the first book in a new trilogy, blending fae lore with a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fable.

In the depths of winter, Fayre is fighting to keep her poverty stricken family alive when she kills a wolf, unaware he is a creature of the fae. Having unwittingly broken the centuries old treaty made between the humans and their kind, she willingly submits to the penalty to protect her family and is dragged to Prythia by the beast that demands it, expecting to be killed, enslaved or worse by the race that once slaughtered humans for sport.
Instead the beast, who is not exactly a monster at all but rather a High Fae with shape shifting abilities, offers her a life of ease in his court but can Fayre really trust the word of a Faerie, especially when something dark and wicked lurks close by?

I really liked the character of Fayre, she is a strong willed, fierce and passionate, though not without her vulnerabilities. She struggles to adjust to her new life in Prythia and is understandably slow to trust Tamlin but once she gives in to her fate she embraces it wholeheartedly.

It isn’t until Fayre is captive in Prythia that Tamlin reveals his true self, not just High Fae, he is the devastatingly handsome and powerful High Lord of the Spring Court. Tamlin though is also cursed, condemned to wear a masquerade mask with weakening powers, by what he explains to Fayre is a blight that has been poisoning the magic in the realm.

The nature and source of the ‘blight’ provides the major arc of conflict for the novel. I won’t give it away but I will say it surprised me. I enjoyed the action and drama of the story, particularly in the climatic final chapters, but I did feel that the story lagged somewhat in the middle. Fayre’s time in the Spring Court is largely uneventful, with most of the action happening ‘off the page’, while Fayre sort of wanders around with her easel.

And as to be expected, romance develops between Fayre and Tamlin. There are some intimate scenes between the couple, but nothing too explicit. There is also the potential for a love triangle of sorts with the introduction of the enigmatic High Lord of the Night Court, Rhysand.

While I wasn’t wholly enamored by A Court of Thorn and Roses I did enjoy the characters and the world Maas has built and I will be picking up the next book, as yet untitled, as soon as it is available.

A Court of Thorn and Roses is available to purchase from

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and all good bookstores.

Also by Sarah J Maas reviewed on Book’d Out


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

sundaypost

The Its Monday! What Are You Reading meme is hosted at Book Journey. In Sheila’s  absence I’m linking this post via Twitter at #IMWAYR, and the Sunday Post hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Life…

The last couple of weeks have been both difficult and busy.  I missed last Monday’s weekly post and I’m still trying to catch up in general with reviews. Things just seem to be piling up and I’m struggling to get out from under.

It’s not all gloom and doom though, my oldest son turned 11 last week, he had a small party with friends which included a trip to the movies to see The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Meanwhile my oldest daughter will be 19 this Thursday and she is having a superhero themed party on the weekend.

What I Read Last Week (and the week before)

Northern Heat by Helene Young

The Nurses by Alexandra Robbins

The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitor

Only We Know by Victoria Purman

The Lie by CL Taylor

Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland

A Court of Thorn and Roses by Sarah J Maas

New Posts

(click the titles to read my reviews)

Blog Tour: Introducing Northern Heat by Helene Young

Review: Northern Heat by Helene Young ★★★★

Review: The Nurses by Alexandra Robbins ★★★★

Review: Stay With Me by Maureen McCarthy ★★★★

Review: Where They Found Her by Kimberley McCreight ★★

Review:  What She Left by T.R Richmond ★★

Stuff on Sunday: Motherhood in Fiction

Blog Tour Review: The Lie by CL Taylor ★★

Review: The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitor ★★

Review: Only We Know by Victoria Purman ★★★★

Review: Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedman ★★

Weekend Cooking: Easy Weeknight Meals by My Food Bag and Nadia Lim

 

What I Am Reading Today


Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?
Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

 What I Plan To Read This Week

(click the covers to view at Goodreads)

A ravishing first novel set in the vibrant, tumultuous underworld of late-19th-century New York, about four outsiders whose lives become entwined over the course of one fateful night. New York, 1895. It’s late on a warm city night when Sylvan Threadgill, a young night soiler who cleans out the privies behind the tenement houses, pulls a terrible secret out from the filthy hollows: an abandoned newborn baby. An orphan himself, Sylvan was raised by a kindly Italian family and can’t bring himself to leave the baby in the slop. He tucks her into his chest, resolving to find out where she belongs. Odile Church is the girl-on-the-wheel, a second-fiddle act in a show that has long since lost its magic. Odile and her sister Belle were raised in the curtained halls of their mother’s spectacular Coney Island sideshow: The Church of Marvels. Belle was always the star – the sword swallower -light, nimble, a true human marvel. But now the sideshow has burnt to the ground, their mother dead in the ashes, and Belle has escaped to the city. Alphie wakes up groggy and confused in Blackwell’s Lunatic Asylum. The last thing she remembers is a dark stain on the floor, her mother-in-law screaming. She had once walked the streets as an escort and a penny-Rembrandt, cleaning up men after their drunken brawls. Now she is married; a lady in a reputable home. She is sure that her imprisonment is a ruse by her husband’s vile mother. But then a young woman is committed alongside her, and when she coughs up a pair of scissors from the depths of her agile throat, Alphie knows she harbors a dangerous secret that will alter the course of both of their lives…

A beguiling exploration of the joys of reading across boundaries, inspired by the author’s year-long journey through a book from every country. Following an impulse to read more internationally, journalist Ann Morgan undertook first to define “the world” and then to find a story from each of 196 nations. Tireless in her quest and assisted by generous, far-flung strangers, Morgan discovered not only a treasury of world literature but also the keys to unlock it. Whether considering the difficulties faced by writers in developing nations, movingly illustrated by Burundian Marie-Thérese Toyi’s Weep Not, Refugee; tracing the use of local myths in the fantastically successful Samoan YA series Telesa; delving into questions of censorship and propaganda while sourcing a title from North Korea; or simply getting hold of The Corsair, the first Qatari novel to be translated into English, Morgan illuminates with wit, warmth, and insight how stories are written the world over and how place-geographical, historical, virtual-shapes the books we read and write.

What secrets are hiding in the heart of Paris? At the famous Patisserie Clermont in Paris, 1909, a chance encounter with the owner’s daughter has given one young man a glimpse into a life he never knew existed: of sweet cream and melted chocolate, golden caramel and powdered sugar, of pastry light as air. But it is not just the art of confectionery that holds him captive, and soon a forbidden love affair begins. Almost eighty years later, an academic discovers a hidden photograph of her grandfather as a young man with two people she has never seen before. Scrawled on the back of the picture are the words ‘Forgive me’. Unable to resist the mystery behind it, she begins to unravel the story of two star-crossed lovers and one irrevocable betrayal.

In this astonishing book from the author of the bestselling memoir The Good Good Pig, Sy Montgomery explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus’ surprisingly complex, intelligent, and spirited creature: and the remarkable connections it makes with humans. Sy Montgomery’s popular 2011 Orion magazine piece, “Deep Intellect”; about her friendship with a sensitive, sweet-natured octopus named Athena and the grief she felt at her death, went viral, indicating the widespread fascination with these mysterious, almost alien-like creatures. Since then Sy has practiced true immersion journalism, from New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, pursuing these wild, solitary shape-shifters. Octopuses have varied personalities and intelligence they show in myriad ways: endless trickery to escape enclosures and get food; jetting water playfully to bounce objects like balls; and evading caretakers by using a scoop net as a trampoline and running around the floor on eight arms. But with a beak like a parrot, venom like a snake, and a tongue covered with teeth, how can such a being know anything? And what sort of thoughts could it think? The intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees was only recently accepted by scientists, who now are establishing the intelligence of the octopus, watching them solve problems and deciphering the meaning of their color-changing camouflage techniques. Montgomery chronicles this growing appreciation of the octopus, but also tells a love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about consciousness and the meeting of two very different minds.

A girl always remembers the first corpse she shaves. It is the only event in her life more awkward than her first kiss or losing her virginity. The hands of time will never move quite so slowly as when you are standing over the dead body of an elderly man with a pink plastic razor in your hand. From her very first day at Westwind Cremation & Burial, twenty-three-year-old Caitlin Doughty threw herself into the gruesome daily tasks of her curious new profession. From caring for bodies of all shapes and sizes, picking up corpses from the hospital morgue, sweeping ashes from the cremation machines (sometimes onto her clothes) and learning to deal with mourning families, Caitlin comes face to face with the very thing we go to great lengths to avoid thinking about – death. But as she started to wonder about the lives of those she cremated, and found herself confounded by people’s erratic reactions to death, Caitlin’s feelings began to evolve in unexpected ways. Now a licensed mortician, Caitlin tells the story of her fumbling apprenticeship with the dead. Exploring our death rituals – and those of other cultures – she pleads the case for healthier attitudes around death and dying. Full of bizarre encounters, gallows humour and vivid characters (both living and very dead), this eye-opening account makes this otherwise terrifying subject urgent and fascinating.

 

  ***********

 

Thanks for stopping by!

Weekend Cooking: Easy Weeknight Meals by My Food Bag and Nadia Lim

 

wkendcooking

I’ve decided to make the Weekend Cooking meme, hosted by Beth Fish Reads a semi-regular post at Book’d Out.

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Title: Easy Weeknight Meals: Simple, healthy, delicious recipes

Author: My Food Bag and Nadia Lim

Published: Allen & Unwin April 2015

My Thoughts:

Founded in March 2013, My Food Bag is a service that aims to provide simple and healthy recipes, along with the all of the ingredients to create them, to families in New Zealand and Australia. Firm believers in the real (or whole) food philosophy, My Food Bag recipes rely on ‘farm-gate to plate’ ingredients which are ethically sourced and delivered fresh to subscriber’s doorsteps.

Easy Weeknight Meals is the company’s first cookbook. While all of the recipes have been developed by professional chef’s, a team led by Nadia Lim, My Food Bag claims all of the recipes have been tried and tested by home cooks.

The cookbook is organised seasonally, taking advantage of in-season produce in line with the company’s whole food policy. The recipes are well set out with a bolded list of ingredients (metric measurements), and have clear instructions for prepping, cooking, and serving the dish. Prep and cook times are included as well as the nutritional information for each recipe.

Each recipe is a complete main meal often including vegetable or salad sides, as well as sauces. Almost all claim a serving size of 4-5 persons (2 adults and three young children or 2 adults and two teenagers). All of the meals can be prepared and served within an hour, most within 30 minutes.

There is a strong Asian influence amongst the recipes in the cookbook with dishes like Asian Pesto Fish with Sesame Spring Toss and Coconut Rice, Korean Beef and Shitake Mushroom Bibimbap, Sticky Hoisin and Ginger Pork with Rice and Bok Choy and Chicken Katsu Skewers with Cabbage and Sugar Snap Soba Noodles.

Middle Eastern inspired dishes are also popular including recipes such as Baked Lamb Kofta with Tomato Pilaf and Yoghurt Dressing, Harissa Chicken with Fennel, Orange, Baby Beet and Feta Tabouleh, and Hummus, Grilled Haloumi with Israeli Couscous, Yams and Herb Vinaigrette.

SNAG-0046

© Allen and Unwin 2015

Traditional recipes are ‘upgraded’ with meals like Fish and Crispy Potatoes with Apple and Rocket Salad and Lemon Caper Aioli, Giant Pork, Pumpkin and Sage Sausage Rolls with Coleslaw, Venison Burgers with Roast Pepper and Blue Cheese, and Pizzettes with Olives, Feta, Oregano Oil and Greek Salad.

SNAG-0045

© Allen and Unwin 2015

If I’m honest most of the recipes in Easy Weeknight Meals are too ‘gourmet’ for my family’s taste, but for parents whose children are adventurous eaters, this cookbook could be a great resource for weekly meals. I also think Easy Weeknight Meals would be a useful reference for busy professional couples.

Available to purchase from

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Amazon AU

and all good bookstores.

Review: Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland

 

Title: Love and Miss Communication

Author: Elyssa Friedland

Published: William Morrow May 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read on May 14, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Edelwiess}

My Thoughts:

“No more stalking ­people on Google.
No more Facebooking exes.
No more reading twits on Twitter.
No more posting pictures and waiting for “likes.”
No more refreshing Gmail every thirty seconds.
No more hashtagging meaningless combinations of words.
No more Instagramming every instant.
No more Foursquaring her whereabouts.
No more bidding on eBay for the thrill of competition.
No more pretend job hunting on Monster.
No more blogs. (She was slandered on one, for God’s sake!)
No more watching two-­year-­olds boogie to Beyoncé on YouTube.
No more playing Scrabble against house-­bound Aspergians.
No more Candy Crush, that time-­sucking psychedelic mess of sugar balls. And, best of all, no more OkCupid, JDate, eHarmony, and Match.”

A modern story about life and love in the digital age, when Evie Rosen’s addiction to email derails her promising law career and a Facebook post breaks her heart, she impulsively decides to disconnect from the world wide web and reclaim her life.

I didn’t particularly relate to Evie, whose behaviour more closely resembles that of my eighteen year old daughter than a woman, who at nearly thirty five, is closer to my age. She is, for the most part, self involved and superficial, and that is something that is very slow to change over the course of the novel. She’s horribly neglectful of her friendships, complaining because of missed e-vites and texts, but never makes much of an attempt to reach out. She pines over her ex-boyfriend, and whines endlessly about being single, without ever examining her own behaviour or attitude.

I did like the way in which Friedland developed Evie’s relationship with Dr Gold. He proves to be a great guy, though not perfect, and also a really patient man, given Evie’s neuroses.

The most charming aspect of the novel involved Evie’s relationship with her grandmother, a stereotypical Jewish Bubbe desperate to see Evie get married and have children.

Even though this is chick-lit, I thought there were missed opportunities to really explore what its like to be ‘unplugged’ in this day and age. Evie isn’t really challenged to live in the real world while ‘unplugged’, her generous severance payment gives her a lot of freedom, not that she really does much with it.

I am left with mixed feelings about Love and Miss Communication, the premise is great but Evie wasn’t a character I could root for and I felt the story was somewhat underdeveloped.

Available to Purchase From

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 Via Booko

Review: Only We Know by Victoria Purman

 

Title: Only We Know

Author: Victoria Purman

Published: Harlequin MIRA Aus May 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from May 08 to 10, 2015   – I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Full review to come

A rugged island. Two people. Family secrets.
When Calla Maloney steps on the boat to Kangaroo Island, she’s filled with dread. Part of it is simple seasickness but the other part is pure trepidation. She’s not on a holiday but a mission: to track down her estranged brother, who she hasn’t seen since her family splintered two years before.
Firefighter Sam Hunter left the island twenty years ago and has made a habit out of staying as far away as he can get. But when his father’s illness forces him home, he finds himself playing bad cop to his dad and reluctant tour guide to a redhead with no sense of direction.
As Sam and Calla dig deeper into their long-buried family secrets, they discover that no one is an island and that opening up their hearts to love again might be the most dangerous thing they will ever do.

Only We Know is available to purchase from

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and all good bookstores.

Also by Victoria Purman on Book’d Out

 

aww-badge-2015

Review: The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor

 

Title: The Daylight Marriage

Author: Heidi Pitlor

Published: Algonquin Books  May 2015

Status: Read from May 07 to 08, 2015   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

Hannah was the kind of woman who turned heads. Tall and graceful, naturally pretty, often impulsive, always spirited, the upper-class girl who picked, of all men, Lovell–the introverted climate scientist, the practical one who thought he could change the world if he could just get everyone to listen to reason. After a magical honeymoon they settled in the suburbs to raise their two children.
But over the years, Lovell and Hannah’s conversations have become charged with resentments and unspoken desires. She’s become withdrawn and directionless. His work affords him a convenient distraction. The children can sense the tension, which they’ve learned to mostly ignore. Until, after one explosive argument, Hannah vanishes. And Lovell, for the first time, is forced to examine the trajectory of his marriage through the lens of memory–and the eyes of his children. As he tries to piece together what happened to his wife–and to their lives together–readers follow Hannah through that single day when the smallest of decisions takes her to places she never intended to go. “

A Quick Thought:

Just an okay read for me. I didn’t care much for either Hannah or Lovell, and found the details of their middle class marriage woes rather tedious. I was sufficiently intrigued by the mystery  surrounding Hannah’s fate to keep reading though and thought the resolution was quite original.

Available to Purchase From

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 Via Booko

Blog Tour Review: The Lie by C.L. Taylor

 

Title: The Lie

Author: C.L. Taylor

Published: Avon: HarperCollins May 2015

Listen to an Excerpt

Status: Read from May 10 to 11, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A tense thriller from author C.L. Taylor, The Lie is a story of friendship, deception, secrets and betrayal.

“A couple of weeks ago I found a picture of the four of us, taken by a stranger outside Kathmandu airport…We all look so fresh faced and hopeful in the photo, and we were. It was supposed to be a holiday of a lifetime.”

Best friends since university, Emma, Al, Daisy and Leeanne, are heading to Nepal for the holiday of a lifetime, where, in between exploring Kathmandu and treking in Chitwan, they are planning on spending a week relaxing at an isolated spiritual retreat. ‘Ekantra yatra’ initially seems to be everything the brochure promised but within days the friendship between the four girls sours, corrupted by the charismatic leader, Issac.
Five years later Jane Hughes receives an anonymous note, ‘I know your name’s not really Jane Hughes’. Whoever sent it knows the truth, ‘Jane’ is really Emma, but do they know she has been lying about more than her identity?

Jane/Emma has been keeping the whole secret of what really happened in Nepal for five long years. When the anonymous note is followed by sinister texts, purportedly from Daisy, Jane reaches out to Al, the only other member of their foursome who returned from ‘Ekantra yatra’.

“I was lying to myself when I said that your past doesn’t shape your future. Or maybe it was wishful thinking. Your memories are the one thing you can’t run from, the one thing you can’t change.”

As the narrative shifts between the past, revealing what actually happened five years previously at ‘Ekantra yatra’, and the present, Taylor skilfully builds suspense in both timelines. As Jane/Emma’s carefully constructed life in Wales is falling apart in the face of escalating threats from her stalker, the friendship between the four best friends begins to disintegrate in Nepal. Within days of their arrival at ‘Ekantra yatra’ it’s clear the retreat is not what it seems. Manipulated by Issac who preys on their insecurities and petty resentments, the girls turn on each other with frightening ease and as their friendship implodes, the danger escalates.

“How had our holiday gone so wrong? We’d arrived at Ekanta yatra as friends, friends with issues rumbling beneath the smiles and excitement, but ours was a friendship that had outlasted uni and survived relocation, jobs and relationships. Or so I thought. And yet the bonds I believed were strong were only ever superficial and, like a game of Jenga, all it took was one false move and everything collapsed.”

With a strong premise, supported by interesting characterisation, The Lie is a well paced, dramatic and atmospheric tale of psychological suspense.

 

Available to Purchase From

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 Via Booko

BlogTour

Also by CL Taylor reviewed on Book’d Out

The Accident

Stuff on Sunday: Motherhood in Fiction

 

A list of ten recently published fiction titles featuring the diverse experience of motherhood

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The day Mum didn’t get dressed and went on strike, Dad called her ‘a Wild Thing’ and Mum said ‘Cook your own dinner’ and stomped off upstairs to have a bath . . …In this hilarious, touching homage to Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, a worn-out mum finds herself floating across time and space to the place where the Wild Mums are. Dazzled by her party tricks, they crown her Queen of the Wild Mums and try to entice her to join their conga . . . But Mum has just remembered who she loves best of all …

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 Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband Bruno and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Zürich. Though she leads a comfortable, well-appointed life, Anna is falling apart inside. Adrift and increasingly unable to connect with the emotionally unavailable Bruno or even with her own thoughts and feelings, Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters into with an ease that surprises even her. Tensions escalate, and her lies start to spin out of control. Having crossed a moral threshold, Anna will discover where a woman goes when there’s no going back.

****

You make deals with God. You make deals with the Devil. You’re not fussy. But as a wise man once said: It’s the saying you don’t care what you get what gets you jiggered.” So you say it, and you’re jiggered, but what you give birth to is a hedgehog. It’s prickly and its cry is a noise so terrible that you wish someone would scrape fingernails on a blackboard to give you some relief.
In a fairytale, the only good mother is six feet under. All the others are bad news. A fairytale mother will exchange her first-born child for a handful of leafy greens. And if times get tough, she’ll walk her babes into the woods and leave them there. But mothers of today do no such things? Do they? In this collection of heart-breakingly honest stories, the mothers of the Brothers Grimm are brought – with wit, subversiveness and lyrical prose – into the here and now. Danielle Wood turns four fairytales on their heads and makes them exquisitely her own.

****

Sometimes I’m with the baby and I think: you’re my heart and my soul, and I would die for you. Other times I think: tiny moron, leave me the fuck alone
A year has passed since Ari gave birth and still she can’t locate herself in her altered universe. Sleep-deprived, lonely and unprepared, she struggles through the strange, disjointed rhythms of her days and nights. Her own mother long dead and her girlhood friendships faded, she is a woman in need. When Mina – older, alone, pregnant – moves to town, Ari sees hope of a comrade-in-arms. Perhaps the hostile terrain could be more easily navigable together. With purifying anger and outrageous humour, Elisa Albert unleashes on a culture that turns its new mothers into exiles, and expects them to act like natives. And as she defines the raw experience of motherhood, Albert offers a hilarious and devastatingly honest examination of how we become the women we are.

****

Spare and unsparing, God Help the Child—the first novel by Toni Morrison to be set in our current moment—weaves a tale about the way the sufferings of childhood can shape, and misshape, the life of the adult. At the centre: a young woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life, but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love. There is Booker, the man Bride loves, and loses to anger. Rain, the mysterious white child with whom she crosses paths. And finally Sweetness, Bride’s mother herself, who takes a lifetime to come to understand that ‘what you do to children matters. And they might never forget.’

****

Successful hubbie? Tick. Facebook-worthy baby? Tick. Bikini-body six weeks after giving birth? Um . . . not so much. Fashion PR exec Ally Bloom got her happy ending. Okay, her marriage might be showing the odd crack, her battleaxe mother-in-law might have come to stay, and she might not be the yummy mummy she’d imagined, but it’s nothing a decent night’s sleep and a firm commitment to a no-carb diet won’t fix. But when Ally returns to work and finds she’ll be reporting to a 22-year-old airhead, she decides to turn her back on life as a professional fashionista and embrace her inner earth mama instead. So it’s out with the Louboutins and champagne and in with the sensible flats and coffee mornings with the Mummy Mafia. From attending her first grown-up dinner party only to discover that placenta is top of the menu to controlling her monster crush on local playgroup hottie Cameron, Ally must find her feet in the brave new world of the stay-at-home mum.

****

Four mothers. Four teenage daughters. An isolated tropical paradise with no internet or mobile phone reception. What could possibly go wrong? There’s tension, bitchiness, bullying, sex, drunken confessions, bad behaviour and breakdowns – and wait till you see what the teenagers get up to… How can we let our daughters go to forge lives of their own when what we most want to do is hold them close and never let them go? How do we let them grow and keep them protected from the dark things in the world at the same time? And how can mothers and daughters navigate the troubled, stormy waters of adolescence without hurting themselves and each other?

****

Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity; the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children’s advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear, and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for.
Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends’ couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen’s and Jenny’s lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.

****

What if you began to suspect your child of an unspeakable crime? When Dawn introduces her family to her new boyfriend, Rud, they hide their unsettled feelings because they’re glad that Dawn, always an awkward child, seems to have finally blossomed. Then Dawn’s parents are savagely beaten in their own bed, and though Hanna survives, Rud stands trial for Joe’s murder. Claiming her boyfriend’s innocence, Dawn initially estranges herself from everyone she knows, but when Rud wins an appeal, Dawn returns home saying she wants to support her mother. Hannah knows that if she could only remember the details of that traumatic night, she could ensure her husband’s murderer remains in jail. But Hanna hadn’t realised that those memories may cause her to question everything she thought she knew about her daughter..

****

Georgie Henderson doesn’t want to have kids, but her best friend, Nina Doherty, has wanted to have a baby for as long as she can remember. Sadly, Nina’s uterus refuses to cooperate. One drunken evening, Nina asks Georgie for the ultimate favour: would she carry a baby for her? Georgie says yes – and spends the next nine months wondering why! With intense bacon-and-egg roll cravings and distant memories of what her feet look like, Georgie tries to keep it all together in her dream job as the editor of Jolie magazine. Her love life’s a mess – and sauvignon blanc’s off the menu – leaving Georgie to deal with twists in her life she never expected.

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