Review: House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland


Title: House of Hollow

Author: Krystal Sutherland

Published: 30th March 2021, Penguin

Status: Read May 2021 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia

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My Thoughts:

 

“Dark, dangerous things happened around the Hollow sisters.”

 

House of Hollow is a beguiling story of sisters, secrets, and shadows by Krystal Sutherland.

Iris Hollow has no memory of what happened during the month after she and her sisters disappeared from a suburban street in Scotland as children, but there is no doubt that they were changed by their experience. Not only did their brown hair turn white, their blue eyes darken to black, and each bear a half moon scar at the base of their necks, they also possessed an inexplicable sway over anyone who gets too close.

Ten years after they were found, 21 year old Grey is a celebrity supermodel turned fashion designer, and nineteen year old Vivi tours European cities with her punk band, while 17 year old Iris remains at home with their mother, finishing her last year at school, and dreaming of attending a University where no one recognises her. With the anniversary of their abduction nearing, the three sisters arrange to meet but Grey never shows.

Drawing on faerie folklore enhanced by her own creative twists, Sutherland weaves a haunting tale of mystery and magic as Vivi and Iris search for their missing sister. Following a strange trail of destruction and death flowers with a dangerous man in a horned mask stalking their every move, it’s a quest that will eventually expose the terrible truth of what happened to them as children.

I loved the grim, urban fairytale quality of this novel. Sutherland invites us to slip beneath a veneer of beauty, exposing a dark heart of rot. It’s a tale of contrasts – love and loyalty countered by lust and deception. It explores tragedy, grief, the base instinct for survival, and the spaces between life and death.

The writing is lyrical, with a rhythm that leaves you slightly off-balance as you’re drawn deeper into the story. Sutherland’s vivid imagery appeals to all the senses, evoking a visceral reaction of unease that occasionally tips into horror. There is a touch of humour too, flaring briefly in the dark.

Imaginative, atmospheric and intense, House of Hollow is a compelling read.

++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse 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 Update…

My youngest daughter has gone back to university, it was no easier to say goodbye this time than the last. It’s now a long four months til she’ll be home again for the mid year break.

My youngest son is delighted to be going back to work this week, the restaurant where he has a part time job is finally reopening after the floods.

My husband was also glad to return to Archery this past week. The club is in the middle of a state forest which has been closed since the floods, but they’ve just been given an exemption to operate. Thankfully they didn’t experience any flood damage, given they are still rebuilding after the fires destroyed it last year.

It’s my eldest son’s 17th birthday this week, I’m going to attempt to make him a medieval stronghold tower cake to take to his Dungeons & Dragons game.

My eldest daughter is keeping herself busy with work and friends. She’ll be turning 25  in two weeks.

It’s Mother’s Day this coming weekend but we haven’t made any plans yet. To be honest I’d sort of forgotten about it (sorry Mum), but I expect we’ll have lunch or something with my parents. Do you have plans?

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What I’ve Read Since I last Posted…

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Learning To Talk To Plants by Maria Orriols

Cunning Women by Elizabeth Lee

The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary

House of Hollows by Krystal Sutherland

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New Posts…

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Review: Learning To Talk To Plants by Maria Orriols

Review: Cunning Women by Elizabeth Lee

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #4

Review: The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary

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What I’m Reading This Week…


Gundagai, 1852

The powerful Murrumbidgee River surges through town leaving death and destruction in its wake. It is a stark reminder that while the river can give life, it can just as easily take it away.

Wagadhaany is one of the lucky ones. She survives. But is her life now better than the fate she escaped? Forced to move away from her miyagan, she walks through each day with no trace of dance in her step, her broken heart forever calling her back home to Gundagai.

When she meets Wiradyuri stockman Yindyamarra, Wagadhaany’s heart slowly begins to heal. But still, she dreams of a better life, away from the degradation of being owned. She longs to set out along the river of her ancestors, in search of lost family and country. Can she find the courage to defy the White man’s law? And if she does, will it bring hope … or heartache?

Set on timeless Wiradyuri country, where the life-giving waters of the rivers can make or break dreams, and based on devastating true events, Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray (River of Dreams) is an epic story of love, loss and belonging.

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Summer in New Orleans means hot days, long nights, spooky stories and surprising new beginnings.

Felicity Bell has struggled to move on after her marriage broke down. Her ex has found love again, her children have their own lives, and it’s beginning to feel like her only comfort comes from her dog and her job as a taxidermist. So when Flick gets an offer to work in New Orleans for a few months, she’s drawn to the chance to make a fresh start.

Zoe is ready to start a family with her husband, but when he betrays her, she’s left shattered and desperate for a change of scenery. Joining her mother on the other side of the world to drown her sorrows seems the perfect solution.

Although both mother and daughter are wary of risking their hearts to love again, Theo, a jazz bar owner, and Jack, a local ghost hunter, offer fun, friendship and distraction. But all is not as it seems in New Orleans…

A chance meeting with Aurelia, a reclusive artist who surprises them with lessons from her life, prompts Flick and Zoe to reassess what they want too. Can all three women learn from the past in order to embrace their future?

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When Elle Kinnaird takes the plunge and travels from her rural small-town life to the misty legends of her ancestors in the Scottish highlands, she finds that it’s a big world after all. A heartwarming novel about new beginnings, from the bestselling author of Fool Me Once.

It was a straightforward request. Take her gran home to her beloved Scotland.

In the space of a few days, Elle loses her job and her home and faces moving back in with her parents-where she knows she’ll hear a lot about how she is wasting her life, unlike her three siblings . . .

Then Gran’s will is read and everything changes.

It seems simple: a road trip across Scotland, a country Gran loved, to locate the family castle; meet some long lost cousins; oh, and work out what she wants to do with the rest of her life before returning home. Not a problem.

That is unless the family castle is a ruin that has pretty much been lost in time; the family Elle has never met seem to be hiding a mysterious secret; her over-achieving parents are breathing down her neck, and she’s running out of time to make a decision about her future.

Take Me Home is a glorious lesson in life, love and finding your true destiny.

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This is not just another novel about a dead girl.

When she arrived in New York on her 18th birthday carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen camera, Alice Lee was looking for a fresh start. Now, just one month later, she is the city’s latest Jane Doe, an unidentified murder victim.

Ruby Jones is also trying to start over; she travelled halfway around the world only to find herself lonelier than ever. Until she finds Alice’s body by the Hudson River.

From this first, devastating encounter, the two women form an unbreakable bond. Alice is sure that Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her life – and death. And Ruby – struggling to forget what she saw that morning – finds herself unable to let Alice go. Not until she is given the ending she deserves.

Before You Knew My Name doesn’t ask whodunnit. Instead, this powerful, hopeful novel asks: Who was she? And what did she leave behind? The answers might surprise you.

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Thanks for stopping by!

Review: The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary


Title: The Road Trip

Author: Beth O’Leary

Published: 29th April 2021, Quercus

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy Hachette Australia

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My Thoughts:

The Road Trip is Beth O’Leary’s third entertaining romcom novel, following her success with The Flatshare and The Switch.

Addie, her sister Deb and rideshare passenger, Rodney, have just begun the eight hour drive from Chichester to Scotland to attend a close friend’s wedding when they are rear ended by a Mercedes. The driver is Addie’s ex-boyfriend, Dylan, accompanied by his best friend, Marcus, heading to the same event. With the Mercedes out of action, Addie reluctantly offers the pair a ride in Deb’s Mini Cooper.

Unfolding from the alternating perspectives of Addie and Dylan in the ‘Now’ and the ‘Then’, the physically uncomfortable conditions created by five adults crammed into Deb’s car are almost secondary to the emotionally fraught atmosphere caused by the tumultuous history between Addie and Dylan in particular. I thought the narrative structure worked well to reveal to what happened between them in the past, and their current status with one another.

The road trip itself is beset by a chain of mishaps, from endless traffic (it’s a Bank Holiday weekend) to a breakdown, punctuated by Deb’s need to pump breastmilk, country music singalongs, and Marcus’s less obnoxious tantrums, providing plenty of humour. There’s always an edge of tension though as Addie and Dylan try to navigate their unexpected reunion, complicated by the presence of Marcus who played a significant role in their breakup.

O’Leary’s characters are interesting, all with their own lighthearted quirks, but many of them also struggle with serious issues such as clinical depression, alcoholism, addiction, sexual assault, and difficult family dynamics, making this story a little darker than her previous novels. And while there is a happy ever after for Addie and Dylan, as befitting the romance genre, it’s more mature than a fairytale ending.

Funny and engaging with a bit of edge, I enjoyed The Road Trip.

++++++

Available from Hachette Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound I HiveUK

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #4


Welcome to the fourth Monthly Spotlight for the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge!

Each month I’ll be highlighting some of the reviews shared for the challenge in the linky

Don’t forget to link each book you read as you read during the year!

I encourage you to support all participants who have shared what they are reading for the challenge. Give them a like, leave them a comment, share their posts on Facebook, twitter, or instagram #2021ReadNonFic

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In April…

[BIOGRAPHY]

Rennie at What’s NonFiction?  enjoyed Three Martini Afternoons at the Ritz by Gail Crowther about poet’s Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, “Crowther impressively shows how these women defied (or sometimes struggled with) the standards and expectations of their time while making art from pain, art that has been so meaningful to so many people. But it’s more of a compare and contrast exercise than about their personal relationship.”

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[FOOD]

Of The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World by Stephen Mansfield, Tina at Turn The Page wrote “There were so many, “Oh I didn’t know that, how interesting” moments that I would stop and call out to [my husband], “Listen to this” and proceed to share parts of this book.”

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[BIOGRAPHY]

Outback Legends by Evan McHugh, “gives a quick overall view of some outback heroes; people who have been stalwarts in their community and made such a big contribution that they deserve any honours they’ve received….This book makes me want to travel around Australia and visit some of the places mentioned.” says Suz of Suz’s Space

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[HOBBIES]

“I highly recommend this for armchair explorers who want a glimpse of a world that few humans will ever see.” writes Jen of the Introverted Reader of Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver by Jill Heinerth

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[SELF HELP]

Lifeofabookwormdoc thought Complete Guide To Self Care by Kiki Ely was excellent. “This is a beautifully photographed and laid out book which has good suggestions in each category of self care.”

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What will you be reading in May?

In case you missed it…

Join the challenge!

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #2

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #3

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #4

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #2

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #3

Review: Cunning Women by Elizabeth Lee

Title: Cunning Women

Author: Elizabeth Lee

Published: 22nd April 2021, Windmill Books

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy Windmill Books/ Netgalley UK

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My Thoughts:

“Observe your womenfolk for wantonness above their usual failing, watch for the meeting of covens without a man to give spiritual strength. You must keep an attentive eye for secret knowledge of herbuse, the mark of the Devil upon the skin, for these are the signs of Wickedness”

Set in Lancashire, England during the 1620’s, Cunning Women is a debut historical fiction novel of love, loss, superstition and fate from Elizabeth Lee.

Sarah Haworth remembers a time before her father was swallowed by the sea, when her mother was looked upon kindly by her neighbours, and sought out for her healing tinctures and potions, but now, each morning, Sarah wakes and frantically searches her younger sister’s body for a sign that the devil has marked her as a witch during the night, as she and her mother are marked by the red stains on their skin. Sarah’s greatest wish is that Annie be spared her own inevitable fate, and one day escape their tiny, derelict home on Plague hill to lead a normal life, like the villagers below who shun them.

During the reign of King James, a cunning woman, one with knowledge of cures and medicines, as well as charms and curses, was condemned as a witch, though in small villages, they were still often secretly called upon for aid. Lee sets her story amongst this climate of fear and superstition, in which Ruth Haworth, left destitute and vulnerable by her husband’s death, attempts to eke out a living for herself and her three children.

When she was twelve, Sarah learnt from her mother that she too is a cunning woman and as such an ordinary life as a wife and a mother is not hers to have. It’s a destiny Sarah does not want, actively rejecting her mother’s lessons, focusing on the wellbeing of Annie, the sister gifted to them by the woods. Sarah is a sympathetic character, barely fourteen her life is one of deprivation and humiliation, yet she clings tightly to a slender thread of hope that things can change.

Lee introduces romance into the story when Sarah encounters the local farmers son. Daniel is inexplicably drawn to Sarah despite the Haworth’s reputation, and the grudge held against her family by his father. I think Lee develops the relationship quite well within the demands of the story. As love blooms between the couple, Sarah begins to imagine that a new life is with her grasp, until tragedy threatens to rip it away.

It takes a little while for the narrative to gain momentum, but suspense is woven into several threads, and when one snaps it increases the tension among the others. There were a few elements in the plot that I didn’t expect, and the ending was somewhat of a surprise too.

I’ve read a few books set in this period with similar themes recently, and I think this story compares well. Cunning Women is a bewitching and atmospheric tale.

++++++

Available from Windmill Books

Or from your preferred retailer via HiveUK I Book Depository I Booko

 

Review: Learning To Talk To Plants by Marta Orriols


Title: Learning to Talk to Plants

Author: Marta Orriols Translator: Mara Fay Letham

Published: 3rd September 2020, Pushkin Press

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy Pushkin Press/Edelweiss

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My Thoughts:

“You said that talking to plants was a private, transformative act, an act of faith for those who don’t believe in miracles. I get up, take a breath, and add to my list: Learn to talk to plants.”

In need of a book for the Books In Translation Reading Challenge, Learning to Talk to Plants caught my attention in the Edelweiss catalogue. This debut won Spanish author Marta Orriols the Omnium Cultural Prize for the best Catalan novel in 2018, and has been skilfully translated into English by Mara Fay Letham.

Learning to Talk To Plants is a raw and moving story of love, loss and grief. Just hours after her partner of more than a decade informs Paula he is leaving her for another woman, Mauro is killed in an accident. Paula is devastated by his death but her mourning is complicated by her feelings of anger, hurt, and betrayal.

“Everyone assumed, during those weeks following the accident, that my stunned gaze, neglected appearance and lowered blinds were due to my sadness over losing the person who’d been my partner for so many years; no one realized that, clinging to the pain of his death, there was another grief, slippery but slow, like a slug able to cover everything— including the other pain—with its viscous trail that gradually saturated everything, ugly, so ugly that all I knew how to do was hide it, I was dying too with the shock of this new shame, even more shocking than the death itself.”

Orriols’ eloquent prose immerses the reader in her character’s intimate thoughts, moving between her struggle in the present and memories of her past. As a neonatologist who lost her mother at a young age, Paula is familiar with the fragility of life, but this loss is more complicated. Though grief unfolds in a predictable manner, from denial through to acceptance, Paula’s experience of it is so intensely personal. I found her situation intriguing, and had great empathy for her. I was particularly impressed by Orriols’ authentic and nuanced portrayal of Paula’s volatile emotions.

“My pain is mine and the only possible unit for measuring or calibrating it is the intimacy of everything that comprised the how. How I loved him, how he loved me. How we were, uniquely, no longer us and, therefore, how I could uniquely grieve him.”

The writing is eloquent, I highlighted at least a dozen sentences or paragraphs that struck me as particularly meaningful or profound. The momentum is steady, but not slow, moving the story forward over the course of about six months.

I may have selected Learning To Talk to Plants to ‘tick a box’, but I was rewarded with a tender, evocative and insightful novel that I would recommend.

++++++

Available from Pushkin Press

Or from your preferred retailer via Indiebound I HiveUK I Book Depository I Booko

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…

Good things:

*My youngest daughter is home for a whole week! I can’t express how full my heart is with everyone at the dinner table again.

*A zoom author talk with Tabitha Bird and Josephine Moon

*Two great TV shows, both of which were recommended on blogs I browsed last week (though I can’t remember whose). The first is The Irregulars, which my son and I enjoyed, and the second is Debris, which my husband and I are watching. I plan to binge Shadow and Bone with my daughter while she’s home this week.

It’s the last Monday of the month so time for a challenge update!

Nonfiction Reader Challenge 5/12

Australian Women Writers Challenge 34/50

Aussie Author Challenge 9/20

Historical Fiction Challenge  10/25

Books In Translation Challenge 1/4

What’s in a Name Challenge 4/6

Cloak and Dagger Challenge 10/25

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What I’ve Read Since I last Posted…


The Rose Daughter by Maria Lewis

The Chase by Candice Fox

Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke

The Jam Queens by Josephine Moon

Learning to Live with Plants by Marta Orriols

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New Posts…


Review: The Rose Daughter by Maria Lewis

Review: The Chase by Candice Fox

Review: Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke

Review: The Jam Queens by Josephine Moon

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What I’m Reading This Week…


Spring of 1620 in a Lancashire fishing community and the memory of the slaughter at Pendle is tight around the neck of Sarah Haworth. A birthmark reveals that Sarah, like her mother, is a witch. Torn between yearning for an ordinary life and desire to discover what dark power she might possess, Sarah’s one hope is that her young sister Annie will be spared this fate.

The Haworth family eke out a meagre existence in the old plague village adjoining a God-fearing community presided over by a seedy magistrate. A society built upon looking the other way, the villagers’ godliness is merely a veneer. But the Haworth women, with their salves and poultices, are judged the real threat to morality.

When Sarah meets lonely farmer’s son Daniel, she begins to dream of a better future. Daniel is in thrall to the wild girl with storms in her eyes, but their bond is tested when a zealous new magistrate vows to root out sins and sinners. In a frenzy of fear and fury, the community begins to turn on one another, and it’s not long before they direct their gaze towards the old plague village … and does Daniel trust that the power Sarah wields over him is truly love, or could it be mere sorcery?

xxxxxx

Addie and her sister are about to embark on an epic road trip to a friend’s wedding in the north of Scotland. The playlist is all planned and the snacks are packed.

But, not long after setting off, a car slams into the back of theirs. The driver is none other than Addie’s ex, Dylan, who she’s avoided since their traumatic break-up two years earlier.

Dylan and his best mate are heading to the wedding too, and they’ve totalled their car, so Addie has no choice but to offer them a ride. The car is soon jam-packed full of luggage and secrets, and with three hundred miles ahead of them, Dylan and Addie can’t avoid confronting the very messy history of their relationship…

Will they make it to the wedding on time? And, more importantly… is this really the end of the road for Addie and Dylan?

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Iris Hollow and her two older sisters are unquestionably strange. Ever since they disappeared on a suburban street in Scotland as children only to return a month a later with no memory of what happened to them, odd, eerie occurrences seem to follow in their wake. And they’re changing. First, their dark hair turned white. Then, their blue eyes slowly turned black. They have insatiable appetites yet never gain weight. People find them disturbingly intoxicating, unbearably beautiful and inexplicably dangerous.

But now, ten years later, seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow is doing all she can to fit in and graduate high school on time – something her two famously glamorous globe-trotting older sisters, Grey and Vivi, never managed to do. But when Grey goes missing without a trace, leaving behind bizarre clues as to what might have happened, Iris and Vivi are left to trace her last few days. They aren’t the only ones looking for her though. As they brush against the supernatural they realise that the story they’ve been told about their past is unravelling and the world that returned them seemingly unharmed ten years ago, might just be calling them home.

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From being a TV newsreader in Sydney to a hotelier’s wife in the heart of China – this is a true story of reinvention, love and finding your place in the world.

Nicole Webb and her husband, James, are always up for an adventure, so when James is offered a job in the ancient city of Xi’an in north-west China, they jump at the chance. Nicole, James and three-year-old Ava fly into a world they know nothing about ¬– a place where they know no one.

Touching down, culture shock hits Nicole head on. It feels as if all eyes are on her and Ava, the only blondes in the jam-packed arrivals hall, two foreigners so far from home.

With honesty and humour, Nicole takes us on a journey of daily life in the Middle Kingdom at a time when the whole world is looking towards China.

We follow her search for friendship and acceptance where she discovers, no matter what your culture or background, we’re connected the world over by the common thread of humanity.

CHINA BLONDE gives us a very personal insight, told with a journalist’s eye view, into the lives of those who embraced Nicole with open arms. Her experiences along the way will resonate with anyone who’s ever built a life in a new home – be it across the city or across the world.

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Thanks for stopping by!

Review: The Jam Queens by Josephine Moon


Title: The Jam Queens

Author: Josephine Moon

Published: 13th April 2021, Michael Joseph

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

 

A sweet novel to savour, The Jam Queens is the seventh charming contemporary fiction novel from Australian author Josephine Moon.

A year after the collapse of her marriage following a devastating loss, Agatha has decided to focus on growing her business, a cafe in the Barossa Valley which features the prizewinning jams Aggie, and the women in her family, are known for. The news that her Great Aunt Myrtle has sold Agatha the building in which Strawberry Sonnets operates is likely to upset Aggie’s mother, Valeria, and in order to both soften the blow, and celebrate Valeria’s seventieth birthday in the wake of a health scare, Myrtle has decided that the three women, along with Aggie’s adult daughter Holly, home on vacation from the US where she works as a teacher, and Myrtle’s best friend and erstwhile traveling companion, Dolce, will take a trip on The Ghan.

Unfolding primarily from the perspectives of Aggie, Myrtle and Valeria, Moon tells a story of family, regret, friendship, loss, and love as the group of women travel from Darwin to Adelaide aboard the famous overland train.

Aggie serves as the central character of the story. She has had a very difficult year and she’s hoping the trip will give her clarity on how to move forward with her life. She’s a very likeable character, who exhibits fortitude and kindness in the face of very trying circumstances. Myrtle is a delight, spirited and generous, if a little bit meddlesome. Both Aggie and her Great Aunt Myrtle hope the journey will help heal their fraught relationship with the uncompromising Valeria, but the complicated history between the trio is not easy to reconcile.

The story is quite busy, as in addition to the secrets and burdens the individual characters carry, and the fraught dynamics of their old, and new, relationships, there are also other important elements. One naturally involves the actual journey on The Ghan and the side excursions enjoyed by the group to places like Uluru and Katherine (Nitmiluk) George, all well described by Moon. Another centres around the role of jam-making in the family, and Aggie’s hopes of winning first place at the Adelaide Royal Show. Foodies will love the delicious recipes contained in the book, including one for Moon’s own blue ribbon winning strawberry jam.

Ripe with drama, romance, travel and food, The Jam Queens is a treat not to be missed.

++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

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

Review: Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke


Title: Girl, 11

Author: Amy Suiter Clarke

Published: 20th April 2021, HMH Books

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy HMH/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

 

“The cases have gone cold. The perpetrators think they’re safe. But with your help, I’ll make sure that even though justice has been delayed, it will no longer be denied. I’m Elle Castillo, and this is Justice Delayed.”

A former children’s social worker, Elle Castillo now hosts a popular podcast focusing on cold cases involving missing or murdered children. After four successful seasons where Elle proved instrumental in solving several crimes, she has opted to take on her most challenging case – identifying the elusive ‘Countdown Killer’, responsible for the ritualistic abduction and deaths of at least nine women and girls, each a year younger than the other, before disappearing when his 11 year old quarry escaped.

Girl, 11 unfolds through transcripts of Elle’s podcast, and a third person narrative. It’s an effective presentation, because it allows Clarke to share details from multiple perspectives, and both the past and present, in an organic way. It also supports an immediacy that contributes to the momentum of the narrative and the build up of suspense.

Elle is a few episodes into her examination of TCK when she is contacted by a man claiming to have information and evidence that will expose the serial killer, but before they can meet, he is shot dead in his apartment. Shortly after an eleven year old girl is brazenly abducted, and as details emerge and suspects are discounted, Elle begins to suspect that the Countdown Killer has returned.

Clarke’s portrayal of Elle, as her crusade tips into obsession, is done well. While her drive to close the case is admirable, Elle can be quite alienating at times, especially as her decisions grow more reckless and it’s not clear if she’s motivated by altruistic or selfish reasons. It’s hinted at early on that Elle has a personal connection to the case, but when her secret is revealed, it invites both sympathy and pity, simultaneously weakening, and strengthening her credibility.

There’s also some interesting commentary on society’s obsession with serial killers and they way in which their victims are overshadowed, as well as how that interest may play into the behaviour of a budding, or active murderer, who craves similar notoriety.

The Countdown Killer is a chilling adversary, and I think Clarke crafts a clever game of cat and mouse. I had some inkling of what to expect as the story unfolded, and correctly guessed the two big reveals, but I was surprised by other twists. And as the stakes rose personally for Elle, the tension had me in its thrall.

An impressive debut novel, Girl, 11 is a gripping psychological thriller with a premise that I think will particularly appeal to the many fans of true crime podcasts.

++++++

Available from HMH Books

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

Review: The Chase by Candice Fox


Title: The Chase

Author: Candice Fox

Published: April 2021, Bantam Press

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

 

It’s clear from its opening pages that The Chase by Candice Fox, is going to be a tense, fast paced, exciting thriller as a sniper threatens the lives of a bus load of innocent civilians unless the warden of the Pronghorn Correctional Facility releases not just one inmate, but all 653.

Captain Celine Osbourne is horrified as her colleagues, some of whom have family on the bus, open the cells and prisoners stream from the facility into the Nevada desert, including the men under her supervision on Death Row -every one a monster. Celine is more than willing to help track them down, but her focus is on recapturing John Kradle, a man whose crime haunts her.

In the five years since his incarceration, John Kradle has made preparations just in case a chance at escape presented itself. He doesn’t plan to live it up in Vegas nor flee to Mexico though, John just wants to stay ahead of law enforcement long enough to be able to prove himself innocent of the murders of his wife, son and sister-in-law.

As Kradle makes his way to his hometown of Mesquite, trailed by a terrifying psychopath, Celine teams up with an ex-inmate in her desperation to find him. Both of the main characters grew on me as the story unfolded. Fox uses flashbacks to provide information about them, and illustrate their shocking connection. Celine is a sympathetic character despite her flaws, and some foolish decisions. Kradle too earns sympathy as he endeavours to find whomever is really culpable for the deaths of his family, while trying to avoid capture by the law, a serial killer, a reward hunter, and Celine.

While many of the escapees are quickly recaptured, Fox highlights the adventures of a handful of prisoners on the loose,  including Kradles’s unwanted shadow, Homer, a serial killer known as The North Nevada Strangler; the elderly Raymond ‘The Axe’ Ackerman; and white supremacist Burke David Schmitz, as they make their bids for freedom. The actions of each men contribute to the tensions in the novel, though in very different, and disturbing, ways.

For the agent in charge of the extraordinary fugitive hunt, the largely unlikeable, bad-ass Marshall Trinity Parker, the priority is finding the man for whom the breakout was orchestrated, before he enacts whatever deadly event she is sure he has planned. She makes no apologies for her agenda, ruthlessly leveraging the inside man, Celine, and whomever else she deems necessary to identify her quarry, and track him down.

There are obviously a lot of moving parts to The Chase given the multiple characters and story threads, but Fox deftly integrates them into a compelling whole. The story unfurls at a fast pace, offering plenty of action, suspense and drama. The author’s quirky sense of humour is evident throughout, helping to balance the the impact of the violence.

Gripping, exciting and entertaining, I recommend you pursue a copy of The Chase at your earliest convenience.

++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

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