Review: When Grace Went Away by Meredith Appleyard

 

Title: When Grace Went Away

Author: Meredith Appleyard

Published: May 18th 2020, HQ Fiction

Status: Read May 2020, courtesy Harlequin Au

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My Thoughts:

A thoughtful, well-crafted story of a mother and daughter at a crossroads, When Grace Went Away by Meredith Appleyard explores the themes of family, love, grief, regret, and forgiveness.

While financial analyst Grace Fairley is excited about her new posting to London, leaving behind her mother Sarah is difficult. Estranged from Grace’s father and siblings in the wake of tragedy, Sarah will be on her own in Adelaide, and Grace fears she’ll be needed and unable to help.

Sarah is happy about her daughter’s well-deserved promotion but once Grace is gone, the only link to her son, daughter and grandchildren is lost. With nothing keeping her in Adelaide she decides to return to Miners Ridge, the small rural town where her family still lives, and attempt to rebuild her relationship with her children.

Told from the perspectives of Grace and her mother, Sarah, one woman is faced with making decisions about her future, while the other is looking to reconcile her past. This is an emotional, layered story that explores a wide variety of issues including the process of grief, family dysfunction, addiction, illness, and long distance romance, as well as challenges related to farming, FIFO, career ambition, and small communities.

I think one of the reasons I enjoyed this so much is because the two main characters are of a ‘mature’ age – Grace is in her early 40’s and Sarah in her late 60’s – and even though I have little in common with either of them, I found it refreshing to have the focus on familiar contemporary themes and issues from the perspective of those closer to my age group. There is a sincerity and realism to the actions and emotions of the characters which meant I became invested in their journey.

I found When Grace Went Away to be an engaging, poignant, and satisfying read, and I enthusiastically recommend it to readers who enjoy contemporary women’s fiction.

++++++

Available from Harlequin/HarperCollins

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Review: The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser

Title: The Hunted

Author: Gabriel Bergmoser

Published: August 5th 2020, HarperCollins Australia

Status: Read May 2020, courtesy HarperCollins/Netgalley

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My Thoughts
:

The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser was not what I was expecting. Less a thriller than horror novel in my opinion, I’m a little lost for words.

After a blood-soaked young woman stumbles from a car into a remote, outback roadhouse, owner Frank, his teenage granddaughter, Allie, and a handful of unlucky customers are caught up in a horrifying night of violence not all of them will survive.

Unfolding from several perspectives over two timelines that eventually meet, The Hunted is fast paced, action packed and suspenseful. My first instinct is to describe it as a cross between the films Wolf Creek (2005) and Deliverance (1972), and I think this would do well if adapted to the screen.

But had I been aware of the explicit incidences of torture and violence that occur in this novel, I wouldn’t have chosen to read it. At least twice I was uncomfortable enough to consider not finishing it, but to be fair to Bergmoser I was equally uncomfortable not doing so… I needed to know how it would end for the characters, particularly Frank, Allie and the story’s anti-hero, Maggie.

It wouldn’t be accurate to say I liked The Hunted, but that’s a matter of genre rather than any particular flaws with the book. If horror is your thing, I think you’ll love it.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins Australia

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Review: The Long Shadow by Anne Buist

Title: The Long Shadow

Author: Anne Buist

Published: April 28th 2020, Text Publishing

Status: Read May 2020 courtesy Text Publishing

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My Thoughts:

The Long Shadow is an atmospheric, tense psychological thriller from Australian author Anne Buist.

While her husband, Dean, is contracted to investigate the financial viability of the community hospital in Riley, a small town in NSW’s far west, psychologist Isabel Harris has arranged to run a therapy group for struggling new mothers. At the end of her first session one of the women anonymously submits a note: The baby killer is going to strike again. Soon.

Tensions rise as Isabel attempts to make sense of the warning. She quickly learns the missive refers to the unsolved abduction and murder of a newborn from the community hospital twenty five years earlier, a tragedy that casts a long shadow over the town. But is the note a warning aimed at one of the women in her group, or a threat to the safety of her own toddler son?

As this well crafted mystery slowly unravels, Buist explores a number of themes including family dysfunction, motherhood, racial and class tension, corruption, and addiction. I was easily ensnared by the anxiety and tension the author generated with skilful plotting, interesting characters and a close, evocative atmosphere.

The novel is populated with an array of complex characters, the most notable being Isabel and the diverse group of five women in her care, which includes the sister of the murdered infant, a police officer, an immigrant recovering from postnatal psychosis, the daughter of the local union organiser, and the wife of the town’s wealthiest family, all of whom reflect the tension that simmers within the small community. Isabel hopes that by developing an understanding of the group dynamic, she will be able to prevent another tragedy.

The rural setting of The Long Shadow, several hours from the nearest regional city, gives rise to feelings of claustrophobia. Riley is not a town that welcomes outsiders, and there are locals who resent Dean’s investigation who are not above using petty harassment and veiled threats as intimidation tactics. The sense of isolation is particularly heightened for Isabel who needs to be mindful of professional distance and is unable to seek solace in her strained marriage.

With a timely twist few would be able to guess, the story concludes with a burst of heart stopping violence and a deadly secret revealed. The Long Shadow is a gripping, entertaining and smart thriller.

+++++++

Available from Text Publishing

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Review: Who We Were by B.M. Carroll

Title: Who We Were

Author: B.M. Carroll

Published: April 28th 2020, Viper

Status: Read May 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

Who We Were is an entertaining, fast paced contemporary suspense novel from Irish born Australian author B.M.Carroll, (who pens womens fiction as Ber Carroll).

In organising their twenty year high school reunion, Katy Barclay invites her former school mates of Macquarie High to answer a few questions to create an update of their yearbook. Annabel is the first to receive a spiteful email with her questions completed by someone else, Grace is next. In both instances the mystery writer knows details about their lives that no stranger should. Katy initially dismisses it as a thoughtless prank but soon more of her classmates, notably members of a particular clique, are targeted.

Who We Were unfolds from multiple viewpoints giving each character the opportunity to share their current lives, and their perspectives on their shared past. Katy, as the reunion organiser, acts as the story’s anchor. Along with Annabel (and by extension her husband Jarrod) and Grace, whom have remained friends over the years, we also meet Melissa, Luke, Zach and Robbie. I found the characters recognisable, and even relatable, both as teenagers, (as it happens my highschool ‘Queen Bee’ was also named Annabel), and as adults (like Grace I’m a SAHM of four).

Most of the group harbour regrets from their high school days (I think there are few of us who don’t), and any one of them could have reason to be holding a grudge. Carroll carefully lays misdirects and red herrings as the threats escalate, which left me guessing as to the identity of the guilty party for most of the novel.

With a dramatic conclusion, a well crafted plot and interesting characters, I really enjoyed Who We Were, and I’m happy to recommend it.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

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Review: Radio Girl by David Dufty

Title: Radio Girl: The Story of the Extraordinary Mrs Mac, Pioneering Engineer and Wartime Legend

Author: David Dufty

Published: 28th April 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read May 2020, courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

Radio Girl by David Dufty is, as the tag line says, the story of the extraordinary Mrs Mac, pioneering engineer and wartime legend.

(Florence) Violet McKenzie née Wallace, who later came to be known affectionately to many as Mrs. Mac, was born in Melbourne in 1890, married in 1924, and died in 1982. While her childhood in Austinmeer, south of Sydney, was largely unremarkable she went on to make an outstanding contribution to Australian society over her lifetime.

Radio Girl is a fascinating tribute to an amazing woman who deserves far more recognition than she has ever been given. I was quickly absorbed in the tale of Mrs Mac’s life, inspired by all she achieved, and frankly annoyed that I’ve never heard of her.

Some of Violet’s many accomplishments included becoming Australia’s first woman to earn a diploma in electrical engineering, owning and operating a successful store, the ‘Wireless Shop’, catering to amateur radio enthusiasts, and establishing the Electrical Association for Women.

However Violet’s most significant achievement was her contribution to the war effort. In 1939 Mrs Mac, as she was by then commonly called, created the Women’s Emergency Signalling Corps, ultimately training around 3000 women in Morse code. She became the driving force behind the creation of the Women’s Royal Australian Navy Service in 1941, which employed as many as a third of ‘her girls’ during WWII, and also trained thousands of enlisted and civilian men, from more than half a dozen countries, in signalling.

Suitable for the general reader, as well as those with specific interest in Australian military history or womens history, Dufty’s narrative reads well, it’s detailed without being dry, and informal in tone. Progressing chronologically through Violet’s lifetime, Dufty includes a dozen or so photographs, which I always appreciate. While it is unfortunate though that Violet could not directly contribute to this biography as I‘d be interested in the addition of a more personal perspective, the story of the Radio Girl and her achievements is nevertheless fascinating.

Radio Girl is interesting and informative and I’d like to thank David Dufty for ensuring Mrs Mac, and her admirable accomplishments are recognised in the present day, and recorded for history.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Also available from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: Fool Me Once by Karly Lane

Title: Fool Me Once

Author: Karly Lane

Published: April 28th 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read May 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

When cattle farm manager Georgie Henderson meets businessman Michael Delacourt at a B&S ball, she throws caution to the wind and accepts his invitation to spend the night. Barely a month later they are married during a holiday in Hawaii, but Georgie’s trust in her new husband is shattered just days later when she learns of his connection to the loss of her family’s farm, and her father’s subsequent suicide.

A story about loss, love, trust, and forgiveness, the tumultuous relationship between Georgie and Michael takes centre stage in Fool Me Once. Love-at-first-sight sours when Georgie believes Michael has lied to her, and refuses to let him to explain. Michael isn’t willing to give up on their marriage though, and waits patiently for his chance to convince her that what they feel for each other is true. I liked the whirlwind romance between the couple, and though a dramatic separation is predictable, their eventual reunion is satisfying.

Set in the New England region of NSW, I’m always impressed by the way Lane integrates the realities of farming life into her stories. In Fool Me Once she raises the issues of ‘corporate farming’ -where large company’s buy family farms, sometimes using underhand tactics in order to pressure a reluctant farmer to sell; and the increasing need for farmer’s to embrace technology and diversify in order to increase their operational incomes.

With it’s appealing characters, easy pace and happy ending, I found Fool Me Once to be another engaging and satisfying rural romance novel from bestselling author, Karly Lane.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

 

Also by Karly Lane reviewed at Book’d Out 

 

Review: Prey by L.A. Larkin

Title: Prey {Olivia Wolfe #2}

Author: L.A. Larkin

Published: April 22nd 2020, Clan Destine Press

Read: April 2020

+++++++

My Thoughts:

 

Investigative journalist Olivia Wolfe is back in L.A. Larkin’s latest exciting action thriller, Prey.

When the source that alerted her to a corrupt British Cabinet Minister dies in suspicious circumstances, Olivia ignores the warning from Global Threat Taskforce agent Casburn to drop the story, and instead chases it all the way to South Africa. With the help of friend and local police officer, Thusago, Olivia links the Minister’s tax haven account to a school principal in Soweto, and from there hunts down the powerful cabal who are playing a very dangerous and deadly game.

Short chapters and breathtaking moments of tension ensures Prey is a fast-paced read. Olivia’s investigation takes her across Africa as she tracks the clues that will lead to the mysterious head of the syndicate behind murder, money laundering and illegal poaching. And as Olivia attempts to avoid corrupt locals, and Casburn, with whom she has a complicated relationship stemming from the events in Devour, she’s unaware she has drawn the attention of a sadistic assassin sent to silence her.

The assassin is a horrifying character who takes delight in his macabre work, and streams it live over the Dark Web. Sensitive readers may want to skim a few descriptive paragraphs here and there, but his final confrontation with Olivia is a nerve-wracking encounter not to be missed.

While Olivia is not always sure who to trust, she does have allies in London, her mentor Butcher and his associate Ponnappa, helping her with investigation, and in South Africa, Vitaly Yushkov, Olivia’s former lover, steps in twice to save her life. I love that Olivia refuses to give up no matter the obstacles, she’s a kickass character who follows her conscience and the truth no matter the consequences.

While Prey is a sequel to Devour, which introduces Olivia in a similarly high intensity thriller, it’s not necessary to have read it to enjoy this (though I recommend you do).

An action packed story with a plot of intrigue and a dynamic lead character, Prey is a gripping and exciting read.

++++++

Available from Clan Destine Press

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Review: Southern Cross Crime by Craig Sisterson

Title: Southern Cross Crime: The Pocket Essential Guide to the Crime Fiction, Film & TV of Australia and New Zealand

Author: Craig Sisterson

Published: April 23rd 2020, Oldcastle Books

Status: Read April 2020 courtesy Oldcastle Books/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

I excitedly leapt at the opportunity to explore Southern Cross Crime, a long overdue guide to the crime fiction, film and television of Australia and New Zealand. Written by Kiwi Craig Sisterson, whose blog Crime Watch I’ve been following for close to a decade, Southern Cross Crime presents a comprehensive listing of authors, movies and TV shows from the last quarter of a century, with the inaugural Ned Kelly Awards as his starting point.

In the first section of Southern Cross Crime, Sisterson introduces authors whose settings range across the cities, suburbs and rural areas of not only Australia and New Zealand, but also international locales from Antarctica to Iceland. Long being a fan of crime fiction, I expected to be familiar with all but a few of the authors introduced by Sisterson, but just a few pages in I had a list of three author’s names to look up, and eventually added dozens more based on his succinct and tantalising descriptions of their work. You’ll not only find reference in Southern Cross Crime to internationally renowned author’s such as Michael Robotham (who also provides the Foreward), Jane Harper and Paul Cleave, but many others that may have slipped under your radar, as they did mine.

In the past year I’ve binge watched Blue Heelers, Water Rats, Rush, Murder Call, City Homicide and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (and none for the first time), which are a handful of the television series highlighted in the second section of Southern Cross Crime exploring some of the Antipodean produced and set crime on-screen TV and film over the past 25 years. Sisterson provides a short synopsis for each series or film, many of which are available to watch on various streaming services for both local and international audiences. Of those Sisterson has not mentioned I’d like to recommend Harrow (2018 – ), a TV drama featuring forensic pathologist Dr. Daniel Harrow, played by Ioan Gruffudd, and Stingers (1998-2004) which chronicled the cases of a deep undercover unit of the Victoria police.

The final section of Southern Cross Crime features thirteen well-known crime fiction authors whom Sisterson has interviewed, or reported on, in the last decade or so. This includes Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award winner Peter Corris, newcomer Emma Viskic, ‘The Kiwi Godfather’ Paul Thomas, and Sisters in Crime co-founder and President, Lindy Cameron. I very much enjoyed this section, learning a little more about the author’s I admire, and of whose work I have read.

I’ve been pleased to witness the growing popularity of Australian & New Zealand crime fiction over the last few years, and I’m thrilled that Craig Sisterson has taken the initiative to develop this essential guide which will further promote the genre both within our two countries, and on the international stage. Southern Cross Crime is a valuable and Illuminative resource for crime fiction fans everywhere.

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Southern Cross Crime is currently available as an ebook, with the publication of the paperback delayed because of Covid-19

To pre-order the print edition -available in September 2020

Oldcastle Books I Book Depository I Hive UK I via Booko

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Review: Something To Talk About by Rachael Johns

Title: Something To Talk About {Rose Hill #2}

Author: Rachael Johns

Published: April 20th 2020, MIRA Australia

Status: Read April 2020 courtesy Harlequin Au/Netgalley

+++++++

My Thoughts:

Something To Talk About is Rachael John’s second rural romance in the Rose Hill series, which began with Talk of the Town featuring the relationship between widowed dairy farmer Lawson Cooper-Jones and new storekeeper Meg, but reads well as a stand-alone.

In Something To Talk About, Tabitha Cooper-Jones, Lawson’s younger sister, has created a life she is proud of. She’s refused to let the loss of her arm to cancer hold her back, developing a thriving gourmet ice cream business, operating a successful cafe, and volunteering as a St John’s emergency assistant, but what she wants most is a family of her own, and despairing of ever finding a partner in the small town of Walsh, she’s chosen to become pregnant via donor insemination.

Fergus McWilliams is looking to escape the fallout from a broken engagement when he accepts a short term teaching position at Walsh Primary School, but he’s unprepared for the attention a single man in a small town attracts. Not looking for another relationship so soon, a ‘friends with benefits’ arrangement with Tabitha, despite her unusual circumstances, is a convenience for them both, but their plan to keep it casual goes awry when their hearts become involved.

I loved the chemistry between Tabitha and Fergus. Sparks fly at their very first meeting and as the story develops their growing affection for one another feels organic. Johns’s characters, both main and supporting, always feel genuine and elements of their situations relatable. The obstacles between Tab and Fergus are not insignificant, but I thought they were resolved convincingly.

The residents of Walsh add texture to the story from the members of Stitch & Bitch, to the children of Fergus’s class. The Western Australian setting is always a thrill for me, having been born there. I’ve holidayed in Bunbury and I’m familiar with the tiny farming towns in the southwest where community really matters.

Readers should be aware that several of the characters in Something To Talk About are affected by cancer, but the story really centers around the themes of independence, resilience, forgiveness, and trust.

Without fail, I finish each book by Rachael Johns with a sigh of satisfaction and contentment for a story well told, and it’s no different here. This is a book I am happy to talk about.

++++++

Available from Harlequin Australia

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Also by Rachael Johns reviews at Book’d Out

 

 

Review: Thrill Me by Lynette Washington (Ed.)

 


Title: Thrill Me: Suspenseful Stories

Author: Lynette Washington (Editor)

Published: April 4th 2020, Glimmer Press

Status: Read April 2020 courtesy Glimmer Press

++++++

My Thoughts:

Thrill Me is a provocative short story collection contributed to by thirty-one Australian storytellers, edited by Lynette Washington, the owner of Glimmer Press.

The thirty-five original stories within this anthology aim to surprise, provoke, shock, or scare the reader in imaginative ways. They push the boundaries of the traditional thriller, eschewing cliche’s while still eliciting the heightened emotion that characterises the genre.

I found a handful of stories to be particularly affecting, including Mrs Meiners Has Gone to Get Chalk by Stephen Orr, featuring a classroom of bewildered children, and Top Deck by Doug Bray, whose ending makes a splash (or not as the case may be). Not unexpectedly, there were a few tales that didn’t resonate with me for one reason or another but are sure to capture another’s imagination

Offering a variety of thrills and chills to suit a wide audience, Thrill Me is entertaining reading.

The Authors: Katherine Tamiko Arguile | Joanna Beresford | Carmel Bird | Doug Bray | Ben Brooker | Lauren Butterworth | Elaine Cain | Brid Cummings | Kate Shelley Gilbert | Ashleigh Hardcastle | Alys Jackson | Michelle Jäger | Riana Kinlough | Melanie Kinsman | Gay Lynch | Amy T Matthews | Rachael Mead | Susan Midalia | Ruairi Murphy | Stephen Orr | Cameron Raynes | Caroline Reid | Fiona Robertson | Andrew Roff | Polly Rose | Justine Sless | Angela Sungaila | Reg Taylor | Alex Vickery-Howe | Sean Williams | Jonny Zweck

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Available from Glimmer Press or Wakefield Press

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

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