Review: The Nancy’s by R.W.R. McDonald

 

Title: The Nancy’s {The Nancy’s #1}

Author: R.W.R McDonald

Published:3rd June 2019, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read May 2021 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

I’ll be honest, as a preteen I much preferred Trixie Belden to Nancy Drew but I would leap at the chance to join The Nancy’s who feature in this delightful debut from New Zealand-born Australian author R.W.R McDonald.

Eleven year old Tippy Chan lives in a tiny town in South Otago. Her mother, Helen, a nurse at a local hospital, has won a two week cruise and so Tippy’s Uncle Pike, and his boyfriend Devon, have flown in from Sydney to look after her. It’s been a difficult year for Tippy after the death of her beloved father, and Tippy is a little anxious about her mother’s absence, increasingly so when first one of her best friend’s is badly injured in a fall from the town’s single lane bridge, and then her teacher’s naked headless body is discovered nearby. Tippy, a fan of the Nancy Drew mystery series, has the idea to investigate both incidents, a pursuit Pike and Devon indulge with a murder board written on a living room window in permanent texta, a mantra (Everyone’s a suspect), and matching t-shirts designed by Devon (after several attempts).

Calling themselves The Nancy’s, the three rely on their charm, insider’s knowledge (Pike grew up in Riverstone) of the town and its residents, and a little luck to try and solve the mystery but investigating a murder isn’t quite as easy as Nancy Drew makes it seem. The closer they get to finding the truth, the less Tippy is sure she really wants to know. I’m not sure how I feel about the mystery element of the novel, I thought the manner of death and the behaviour of the killer was unnecessarily outlandish, and it wasn’t as strong overall as I expected it to be, though it was satisfyingly resolved.

Whatever weakness there may be in the plot, I adored the main cast of The Nancy’s. Tippy is a delightful narrator – bright and quick, but still appropriately childish. She admires Nancy Drew for a number of reasons, so it’s no surprise she wants to emulate her. Still grieving the sudden loss of her father, the investigation is a way for her to gain some control over her life, and the things that scare her.

Uncle Pike, who looks like Santa Claus, only with tattoos, and Devon, described as Ken wearing Barbie, are outrageous characters with larger than life personalities. Irreverent, with a penchant for drink, swearing and innuendo, they are not really appropriate guardians for a child, but are warm, supportive, and fun which is exactly what Tippy needs. I found them absolutely hilarious, though I recognise their potential to offend.

There is variety in the supporting characters from elderly neighbours Mr and Mrs Brown and their granddaughter Melanie, an unctuous real estate agent, and a toothy tv presenter (who is also Pike’s ex-boyfriend), to a hard nosed journalist, a closeted policeman, and Tippy’s other best friend, Sam, and his family. The tiny community of Riverstone allows McDonald to explore the ironies of small town life, particularly as Pike and Devon make over goth girl Melanie to enter the annual beauty contest.

A murder mystery laced with mirth, The Nancy’s is a witty, warm, and wildly entertaining novel. I can’t wait to read about The Nancy’s next adventure in McDonald’s Nancy Business.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

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

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

 


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…

It’s been a quiet week.

It’s nearly officially the start of winter here (June 1st) and the weather is getting chilly. I unearthed my handful of long warm pants midweek, only to find the waist bands had perished in all of them. Despite my non existent sewing skills I decided to replace the elastic, it took me an entire day, and I have a bruised thumb from continually pushing the elastic (attached to a safety pin) through the casings, but the minute I put on my absolutely favourite pair, which I’ve had for nearly thirty years, it was all worth it!

Aside from my binging on the TV series Nikita after it came up in a post last week on Tessa Talks Books, hubby, I, and the only kid who voluntarily spends time in the same room as us, discovered two new-to-us trivia/quiz shows. ‘Insert Name Here’ is a British show hosted by Sue Perkins, and the Australian show ‘Think Tank’ hosted by Paul McDermott. We prefer game shows like these that have a comic bent, rather than overstylised productions like The Weakest Link or The Chase, though we do like Jeopardy too. We’ve actually been on quite the quiz show kick recently, Spicks and Specks, an Australian music quiz show hosted by Adam Hills, is back on air after a long hiatus, and we’ve been catching up with Hard Quiz hosted by Tom Gleeson too.

(* If you don’t live in Australia and have a VPN you can watch all of these on ABC iView, or see bits and pieces on YouTube)

What’s your favourite quiz/trivia show?

 

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

Nonfiction Reader Challenge 6/12

Australian Women Writers Challenge 42/50

Aussie Author Challenge 11/20

Historical Fiction Challenge  12/25

Books In Translation Challenge 1/4

What’s in a Name Challenge 5/6

Cloak and Dagger Challenge 16/25

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What I’ve Read Since I last Posted…


Flash Jim by Kel Richards

The Menopause Manifesto by Dr. Jen Gunter

You Had It Coming by B.M. Carroll

The Girl Remains by Katherine Firkin

The Nancy’s by R.W.R. McDonald

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New Posts…


Review: Flash Jim by Kel Richards

Review: The Menopause Manifesto by Dr. Jen Gunter

Review: You Had It Coming by B.M. Carroll

Review: The Girl Remains by Katherine Firkin

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What I’m Reading This Week…

 


Darwin, Summer, 1963.

The humidity sat heavy and thick over the town as Senior Constable Ned Potter looked down at a body that had been dragged from the shallow marshland. He didn’t need a coroner to tell him this was a bad death. He didn’t know then that this was only the first. Or that he was about to risk everything looking for answers.

Late one night, Charlotte Clark drove the long way home, thinking about how stuck she felt, a 23-year-old housewife, married to a cowboy who wasn’t who she thought he was. The days ahead felt suffocating, living in a town where she was supposed to keep herself nice and wait for her husband to get home from the pub. Charlotte stopped the car, stepped out to breathe in the night air and looked out over the water to the tangled mangroves. She never heard a sound before the hand was around her mouth.

Both Charlotte and Ned are about to learn that the world they live in is full of secrets and that it takes courage to fight for what is right. But there are people who will do anything to protect themselves and sometimes courage is not enough to keep you safe.

xxxxxxx

 

When 24-year-old lawyer Romy learns that she is at her ‘optimal stopping point’ (the mathematically designated point at which one should select the next ‘best person’ who comes along in order to have the best chance at happily ever after), she knows it’s time to get serious about her love life.

Ruthlessly rational, with a belief in data over destiny, Romy knows that reliability and consistency are dependable options, while passion and lust are transitory and only bring pain and disillusionment.

That’s why sensible Hans the engineer is the right choice, as opposed to graphic designer James who exhibits the kind of behaviour that has got her into trouble before. Isn’t he?

The twenty-first century may have brought technological advances in how we communicate, but this warm and funny novel shows us that the search for love is as fraught as ever.

xxxxxxx

 

From the author of All That Remains, a tour through the human skeleton and the secrets our bones reveal.

In her memoir All That Remains, internationally renowned forensic anthropologist and human anatomist Dame Sue Black recounted her life lived eye to eye with the Grim Reaper. During the course of it, she offered a primer on the basics of identifying human remains, plenty of insights into the fascinating processes of death, and a sober, compassionate understanding of its inescapable presence in our existence, all leavened with her wicked sense of humor.

In her new book, Sue Black builds on the first, taking us on a guided tour of the human skeleton and explaining how each person’s life history is revealed in their bones, which she calls “the last sentinels of our mortal life to bear witness to the way we lived it.” Her narrative follows the skeleton from the top of the skull to the small bones in the foot. Each step of the journey includes an explanation of the biology—how the bone is formed in a person’s development, how it changes as we age, the secrets it may hold—and is illustrated with anecdotes from the author’s career helping solve crimes and identifying human remains, whether recent or historical. Written in Bone is full of entertaining stories that read like scenes from a true-life CSI drama, infused with humor and no-nonsense practicality about the realities of corpses and death.

xxxxxxx

 

Lara McIntyre and journalist Toby Paxton are thrust into the limelight when an accident puts the beating heart of their community in jeopardy.

The small country town of Bridgefield can’t manage without their general store and post office, but Lara can’t stomach the idea of out-of-town buyers running it into the ground either.

With the help of the close-knit community, they rally together to save the general store. Featuring a black tie ball, a fun run, a magpie called Vegemite and a snake-chasing kelpie called Basil, Magpie’s Bend is a story about rural lives, family, love and letting go.

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Thanks for stopping by!

Review: The Girl Remains by Katherine Firkin

 

Title: The Girl Remains {Detective Emmett Corban #2}

Author: Katherine Firkin

Published: 4th May 2021, Bantam Australia

Status: Read May 2021 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Girl Remains is the second crime fiction novel to feature Detective Emmett Corban from Katherine Firkin, following her debut novel Stick’s and Stones (2020).

When human bones are discovered on a beach in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsular, hopes are raised that they will reveal the fate of fifteen year old Cecilia May who vanished from the small coastal town of Blairgowrie two decades earlier after she’d become separated from her two best friends during a late night walk. Detective Leading Senior Constable Emmett Corban is tasked with re-investigating the crime, sifting through old evidence while searching for new leads. The local community are certain the girl’s killer has already been identified – a neighbour with a previous charge of child sexual assault, but Emmett soon suspects that Cecilia’s friend’s have yet to tell the whole truth about the night Cecilia missing.

Firkin creates an intriguing, complex plot with this cold case murder of a teenage girl at its centre. Though Emmett agrees Warren Turton is the main suspect, and is under some pressure to wrap up the case quickly, he and his team must still do their due diligence. As the police begin to discover new information the focus of Emmett’s investigation subtly begins to shift and more potential suspects enter the frame. I thought the murder mystery was well crafted and comfortably challenging to piece together.

While the investigation moves forward, the reader is given insight into the thoughts and behaviours of some of the case’s key players including Cecelia’s friends, Scarlett and Gina aka Gypsy, Scarlett’s father, the wife of the local priest, and an enigmatic young drifter whose interest in the town, and Cecilia’s case in particular, seems oddly intense. Firkin manages the large cast quite well,  and the additional perspectives provide tantalising pieces of information, adding depth to the storyline.

Emmett’s wife, Cindy, also becomes tangentially involved in the case as she continues to pursue photography as a career. There is still some tension between the couple after the events in Firkin’s debut, and it spikes again when her desire for an exclusive threatens to interfere with Emmett’s investigation.

A confident sequel to Sticks and Stones, though it can be read as a stand alone, The Girl Remains is a clever and absorbing crime novel.

++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

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

Review: You Had It Coming by B.M. Carroll

 

Title: You Had It Coming

Author: B.M. Carroll

Published: 13th May 2021, Viper

Status: Read May 2021 courtesy Viper/Netgalley UK

+++++++

My Thoughts:

 

“Someone else must hate him as much as we do.”

As paramedic Megan Lowe loads a patient suffering gunshot wounds into her ambulance she is stunned to realise she recognises the man. Twelve years previously William Newson was the barrister who successfully gained the acquittal of the two men who raped her, by labelling her and her best friend Jess as liars. Homicide Squad detective Bridget Kennedy is suspicious of the coincidence, but she quickly learns that plenty of people thought he had coming, defending sexual predators has won the dead man few fans, including among his family.

You Had It Coming unfolds from the alternating perspectives of Megan, Jess and Bridget. Instinctively on learning of Newson’s death, both Megan and Jess feel that he deserves his fate, still angry about his role in their trial. While the women were victims of the same crime, their reactions in the aftermath have been quite different. Jess has arguably coped better in the intervening years, but then the fall out could be said to have been more dramatic for Megan, regardless both are living quite different lives from what they had planned at 17. I admired Carroll’s portrayal of both women, who come across as complex, authentic characters.

Carroll offers us a glimpse into Bridget’s personal life, and the effect her work as a detective has on her family. With a teenage daughter and son of her own, Bridget can’t help but be affected by Megan and Jess’s experiences.

I also appreciated the authenticity of Bridget’s investigation. She and her colleagues follow up on all the information that comes their way, sifting through evidence, leads and suspects. Carroll provides the reader with a number of potential suspects, and does well to keep many of them in play ensuring suspense is maintained, the stakes rising when the body of another man related to Megan and Jess’s case is discovered in suspicious circumstances.

Carroll explores a number of themes such as trauma, justice, shame, guilt and revenge. She also exposes the flaws of the justice system, particularly when it involves sexual assault, and illustrates how the consequences of the crime is rarely confined to just the perpetrators and victims. I felt her portrayal of all the issues was sensitive and respectful.

A blend of domestic thriller and police procedural, I found You Had It Coming to be a suspenseful and thought-provoking novel.

+++++++

Available from Serpents Tail

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

and Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Review: The Menopause Manifesto by Dr. Jen Gunter

 

Title: The Menopause Manifesto: Own Your Health with Facts and Feminism

Author: Dr. Jen Gunter

Published: 25th May 2021, Citadel Press

Status: Read May 2021 courtesy Kensington Books/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

 

“I demand that the era of silence and shame about menopause yield to facts and feminism. I proclaim that we must stop viewing menopause as a disease, because that means being a woman is a disease and I reject that shoddily constructed hypothesis. I also declare that what the patriarchy thinks of menopause is irrelevant. Men do not get to define the value of women at any age.”

After 38 years of regular but long, heavy and painful periods (minus 4 successful pregnancies and three miscarriages), I’ve actually been looking forward to menopause in some ways. At 48, I have now been experiencing the symptoms of peri menopause for about 18 months, and while I expected some of the more well known effects such as hot flushes, insomnia and irregular bleeding, I now realise, thanks to Jen Gunter and The Menopause Manifesto, that the inexplicable joint pain I have been suffering may also be related.

For the uninformed, menopause occurs when there are no more follicles in the ovaries capable of ovulating, meaning there are no more eggs, and menstruation ceases. The average age when this happens is 50-52 years. However the transition to menopause (often referred to as peri menopause) can start several years earlier, and the length, and the severity of symptoms, may vary significantly from woman to woman. There are dozens of common symptoms and conditions associated with menopause from an increased risk of heart disease to a decrease in libido, but they don’t just occur in a vacuum – they may be influenced by general health, age and lifestyle factors. Gunter provides detailed but mostly accessible medical facts about the biological process of menopause, its medical ramifications, and a comprehensive guide to treatment options. Useful chapter summaries in point form are provided if you are inclined to skim the denser scientific material. Personal anecdotes and blunt observations from the author ensures the material is rarely dry.

The Menopause Manifesto not only delivers the science but also explores how menopause is perceived (primarily in America and similar cultures). Gunter includes discussion about patriarchal medicine’s tendency to dismiss or minimise the experience of menopause, the culture of shame attached to the transition, and the lack of education surrounding the process. The feminist slant of the book is unapologetic as Gunter encourages women to empower themselves with knowledge so as to better advocate for their own health.

The Menopause Manifesto is a comprehensive, practical resource for all in possession of female reproductive organs. I wish I had read something like this five years ago and strongly recommend that women aged from in their early forties consider educating themselves about menopause well in advance.

++++++

Available from Kensington Books

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

Review: Flash Jim by Kel Richards

 

Title: Flash Jim: The Astonishing Story of the Convict Fraudster Who Wrote Australia’s First Dictionary

Author: Kel Richards

Published: 5th May 2021, HarperCollins Australia

Status: Read May 2021 courtesy HarperCollins Australia

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My Thoughts:

Though English has been considered the language of our country since it was invaded/colonised by the British in 1788, did you know that legally Australia has no official language? Neither did I! While our language today continues to adhere to the conventions of British English with regards to spelling and grammar, from very early on, Australian English began to develop its own unique quirks.

Slang, also known as flash and cant, was a term originally used to refer to the language used mostly by criminals in 16th and 17th century England and so it’s no surprise that it thrived in Australia, and took on a life of its own as British, Irish, and Scottish convicts mixed in the British penal colony.

In 1812 an opportunistic convict, James Hardy Vaux, heard the grumblings of the colony’s police and magistrates who were at a loss to understand much of the slang used among criminals, and always eager to press any advantage, presented his supervisor with ‘A New and Comprehensive Vocabulary of the Flash Language’ – Australia’s very first dictionary. Included as an Appendix in Flash Jim, browsing through the dictionary proves fascinating, revealing words and phrases both strange and familiar.

The bulk of Kel Richards Flash Jim however is a biography of James Vaux, drawing on several sources, mainly the man’s own published memoirs, ‘Memoirs of The First Thirty-Two Years of the Life Of James Hardy Vaux, A Swindler and Pickpocket; Now Transported, For The Second Time, And For Life, To New South Wales. Written By Himself.’

Flash Jim reveals a man who was an extraordinary character. Though born into a family able to provide him a good education and entry into a comfortable profession, James took his first step into a life of crime by embezzling from his employer at aged fourteen. Over the next few years, never satisfied with wages earned as a clerk, James indulged in a number of illegal activities from confidence scams to pick pocketing, with reasonable success, that is until inevitably, his luck ran out. Not that even being sentenced to transportation to New Holland on three separate occasions, seemed to deter his criminal impulses. Vaux, who used a number of aliases over his lifetime, seemed to have possessed an uncanny charm which often saw him turn even the most dire of circumstances to his advantage. I was absolutely fascinated by him, and his antics, marvelling at his ego and nerve, though as Richards regularly reminds us, Vaux’s own words can hardly be trusted.

It’s unclear just how much of Richards own creativity informs the retelling he has crafted, though I imagine he has taken some liberties. I thought it read well, though personally I would have preferred for the author to have found a way to integrate the story of the dictionary more fully into the narrative of Vaux’s biography.

James Hardy Vaux is the sort of incorrigible, dissolute character that Australians delight in claiming as part of our convict past so I’m surprised that I hadn’t heard of him before now, particularly given his twin achievements as the writer of Australia’s first dictionary, and the first true-crime memoir. I expect Flash Jim will be enjoyed by readers interested in Australian colonial history, the etymology of Australian English, or just a bang up yarn.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins 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…

My eldest turned 25 this past week, her three younger siblings (18, 17, 15) enjoyed tormenting her about being a quarter of a century old, and having been born last millennium. It certainly made her father and I feel ancient!

To be honest it’s been a high pain week for me so I’ve spent a fair bit of time watching TV as a distraction. I strongly recommend The Nevers (HBO) it’s a mix of scifi/fantasy set in Victorian England with a feminist slant.

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What I’ve Read Since I last Posted…

 

Vanished by James Delargy

Before You Knew My Name By Jacqueline Bublitz

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

Flash Jim by Kel Richards

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New Posts…

 

Review: Lost Property by Helen Paris

Review: Vanished by James Delargy

Review: Before You Knew My Name By Jacqueline Bublitz

Review: Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

Bookshelf Bounty

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What I’m Reading This Week…

 

Darwin, Summer, 1963.

The humidity sat heavy and thick over the town as Senior Constable Ned Potter looked down at a body that had been dragged from the shallow marshland. He didn’t need a coroner to tell him this was a bad death. He didn’t know then that this was only the first. Or that he was about to risk everything looking for answers.

Late one night, Charlotte Clark drove the long way home, thinking about how stuck she felt, a 23-year-old housewife, married to a cowboy who wasn’t who she thought he was. The days ahead felt suffocating, living in a town where she was supposed to keep herself nice and wait for her husband to get home from the pub. Charlotte stopped the car, stepped out to breathe in the night air and looked out over the water to the tangled mangroves. She never heard a sound before the hand was around her mouth.

Both Charlotte and Ned are about to learn that the world they live in is full of secrets and that it takes courage to fight for what is right. But there are people who will do anything to protect themselves and sometimes courage is not enough to keep you safe.

++++++

 

Just as she did in her groundbreaking bestseller The Vagina Bible, Dr. Jen Gunter, the internet’s most fearless advocate for women’s health, brings you empowerment through knowledge by countering stubborn myths and misunderstandings about menopause with hard facts, real science, fascinating historical perspective, and expert advice.

The only thing predictable about menopause is its unpredictability. Factor in widespread misinformation, a lack of research, and the culture of shame around women’s bodies, and it’s no wonder women are unsure what to expect during the menopause transition and beyond.

Menopause is not a disease–it’s a planned change, like puberty. And just like puberty, we should be educated on what’s to come years in advance, rather than the current practice of leaving people on their own with bothersome symptoms and too much conflicting information. Knowing what is happening, why, and what to do about it is both empowering and reassuring.

Frank and funny, Dr. Jen debunks misogynistic attitudes and challenges the

over-mystification of menopause to reveal everything you really need to know about.

++++++

 

 

When 24-year-old lawyer Romy learns that she is at her ‘optimal stopping point’ (the mathematically designated point at which one should select the next ‘best person’ who comes along in order to have the best chance at happily ever after), she knows it’s time to get serious about her love life.

Ruthlessly rational, with a belief in data over destiny, Romy knows that reliability and consistency are dependable options, while passion and lust are transitory and only bring pain and disillusionment.

That’s why sensible Hans the engineer is the right choice, as opposed to graphic designer James who exhibits the kind of behaviour that has got her into trouble before. Isn’t he?

The twenty-first century may have brought technological advances in how we communicate, but this warm and funny novel shows us that the search for love is as fraught as ever.

++++++

 

 

Tippy Chan is eleven and lives in a small town in a very quiet part of the world – the place her Uncle Pike escaped from the first chance he got as a teenager. Now Pike is back with his new boyfriend Devon to look after Tippy while her mum’s on a cruise.

Tippy is in love with her uncle’s old Nancy Drew books, especially the early ones where Nancy was sixteen and did whatever she wanted. She wants to be Nancy and is desperate to solve a real mystery. When her teacher’s body is found beside Riverstone’s only traffic light, Tippy’s moment has arrived. She and her minders form The Nancys, a secret amateur detective club.

But what starts as a bonding and sightseeing adventure quickly morphs into something far more dangerous. A wrongful arrest, a close call with the murderer, and an intervention from Tippy’s mum all conspire against The Nancys. But regardless of their own safety, and despite the constant distraction of questionable fashion choices in the town that style forgot, The Nancys know only they can stop the killer from striking again.

The Nancys is gripping and glorious, a heart-warming novel for anyone who’s ever felt they were on the outside looking in. At its heart it is about the family we make and how we must summon the courage to face the truth, no matter what the cost may be.

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Thanks for stopping by!

Bookshelf Bounty

Every third Sunday of the month I share my Bookshelf Bounty – what’s been added to my TBR tile recently for review from publishers, purchases or gifts.

This month I’m linking up with Mailbox Monday

Click on the cover images to view at Goodreads

For Review 

(My thanks to the respective publishers)

 



 

 

Won

 

Thanks Reinvented Reader

Review: Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

 

Title: Mother May I 

Author: Joshilyn Jackson

Published: 13th May 2021, Raven Books

Status: Read May 2021 courtesy Raven Books/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

Mother May I is a gripping, fast paced domestic thriller from Joshilyn Jackson.

“A note. Handwritten in large block print. IF YOU EVER WANT TO SEE YOUR BABY AGAIN, GO HOME—“

When Bree Cabbat realises her ten week old son has been abducted, the only thing she can think to do is exactly as the kidnapper demands in the note left for her. So she goes home, leaving her teen daughters with a friend, assuming Robert is being held for ransom given both her lawyer husband, Trey, and his family are conspicuously wealthy, feeling certain that once the demands are met her son will be returned safely to her. Waiting for Bree is a gift bag hanging from her front door, inside is a cell phone and a bottle of pills.

The phone rings and Bree learns the woman on the phone who has her son doesn’t want money, she claims to want justice. All she asks of Bree is to follow a few basic rules and complete a relatively simple task that will allow for redress against the man, Bree’s husband’s friend and colleague, who hurt her daughter, and then she’ll return Robert to her. But Bree soon realises the woman isn’t seeking justice, she wants revenge, and if Bree wants her son back, she will have to learn why he was taken, and decide how far she will go to ensure his return.

The kidnap of a child is an emotive hook, a nightmare scenario every mother has likely imagined. Through the first person narrative, Jackson nurtures our sympathy for Bree, appealing to our own protective instincts. From the moment Robert is taken we are on Bree’s side, eager for mother and son to be reunited, and quick to judge his abductor as an irredeemable human being. It’s not that simple of course, the woman who has taken Bree’s son is a mother too, and she is convinced she is granting her daughter justice. The ambiguity of her character, as we learn bits and pieces of her story, is challenging.

The themes of motherhood, justice and privilege are crucial elements of the story. Jackson explores questions about the lengths a mother will go to protect and defend her child, and where the line is drawn between justice and revenge. She exposes the disparity between the rich, who are so often insulated from their mistakes, and the poor who are not. She reveals the privilege of men who, in never facing the consequences for their actions, believe there are none for their victims.

Jackson introduces suspense from the first page of Mother May I, and it never fades as Bree fights for the life of her infant son. With the spectacular pacing, and steadily increasing tension I flew through the book. Though realism is a little elastic at times, I enjoyed the twists, willingly suspending disbelief where required.

Addictive, dramatic and thought-provoking, I found Mother May I to be a sharp and satisfying read, equal to her genre debut, Never Have I Ever.

+++++++

Available from Bloomsbury Raven Books

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

Review: Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz


Title: Before You Knew My Name

Author: Jacqueline Bublitz

Published: 5th May 2021, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read May 2021 courtesy Allen & Unwin

+++++++

My Thoughts:

On the same day that eighteen year old Alice Lee stepped off a bus from Wisconsin into the hustle of New York City hoping for a fresh start, thirty six year old Ruby Jones flew into New York from Melbourne seeking the same. Barely four weeks later, Ruby finds the battered half naked body of a nameless young girl while jogging along the Hudson River. Her name is Alice Lee.

“Her body was found by a jogger. Such a famous line. Two anonymous women connected by just seven words. Just how close had they come to each other that morning? Close enough to change roles, play each other’s parts?”

Before You Knew My Name is narrated by Alice, whose spirit still lingers after her death. She tells both her own story and that of Ruby, two women who find each other by chance, or perhaps it’s fate. Alice’s voice is achingly poignant as she asks to be heard, to be known.

“…maybe you’ll wish this for every dead girl from now on. The chance to speak for herself, to be known for more than her ending. Wouldn’t that be something. After everything we’ve lost.”

Bublitz deliberately centers Alice in the story, not her murder, nor her murderer. Everyone can name a serial killer, probably a dozen, but few will remember their victims names, or anything but the barest details about them, except for how they died. Here Bublitz ensures we know Alice, a bright, curious young woman who, despite experiencing hardship and tragedy, has hopes and dreams for her future.

“She does not know how to be this other person. How to be someone who discovered a body.”

Ruby, already lost, is further disoriented by discovering the body. She finds herself reevaluating her own sense of safety. She relives her own shock and fear, and dwells on the horror of what she imagines of Alice’s last moments. She thinks about what sort of man could beat, strangle and rape a girl. And then, finally she begins to wonder about the girl. Helping to identify Alice, learning about her, gives Ruby the purpose, and connection she came to New York to find.

“There is no name to be spoken, but I am recognised by each of the women present, clasped around their lifted hands, heavy on their hearts. I am their fears, and their lucky escapes, their anger, and their wariness. I am their caution and their yesterdays, the shadow version of themselves all those nights they have spent looking over shoulders, or twining keys between fingers.”

Much of the novel speaks to women’s experience, particularly of men. Not just how we are reduced by them, as Alice is by her killer, or how we choose to reduce ourselves, like Ruby does for her lover, but also how society reduces female victims of violence, designating some worthy, and others not. Both Alice and Ruby are women we recognise, in ourselves, and in others.

“I wanted to start over. I wanted to disappear. But that’s not the same as being forgotten. To be clear, I never, ever wanted that.”

An impressive debut, this is ultimately a story of a life, not a death. I found Before You Knew My Name to be eloquent, deeply moving, and insightful.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

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

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