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

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

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

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

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

++++++

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

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

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

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Amazon US I Amazon UK

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: The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

Title: The Satapur Moonstone {Purveen Mistry #2}

Author: Sujata Massey

Published: April 28th 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read May 2020, courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

As the only female solicitor in India, Purveen Mistry is uniquely placed to arbitrate a dispute between the mother and grandmother of the Satapur crown prince in The Satapur Moonstone, the second book in Sujata Massey’s engaging historical mystery series.

Temporarily acting as an agent of the British Raj, Purveen is tasked with traveling to the remote Satara mountains, southeast of Bombay, to make recommendations for the maharaja-to-be’s educational future. Purveen hopes to broker peace between the Dowager Maharani who insists that her grandson is to be educated within the palace as his brother and father were before him, and the prince’s mother who wants him to be educated in England, but the situation becomes more complicated when Maharani Mirabai confides she is concerned for her son’s safety.

Purveen has a knack for finding herself in the middle of intrigue, and in The Satapur Moonstone she quickly comes to agree that the life of the crown prince is at risk from someone in the palace. The mystery itself works well, and while it does build to an intense conclusion where Purveen finds her own life is at risk, I felt the pacing was off, with a very slow start.

Purveen is definitely out of her comfort zone – in the middle of the jungle, in the company of the local agent, Colin Sandringham, and among the acrimonious atmosphere of the palace – though she generally proves to be as dutiful and capable as ever, and I did think that perhaps at times she made some decisions that weren’t really in character. I found her unexpected connection with Colin to be quite intriguing and I’ll be interested to see if Massey builds on that in subsequent books.

As in A Murder at Malabar Hill, I found the social, political and cultural details of life in 1920’s India fascinating. The setting is a major strength of the novel, with the Satapur palace, made up of old and new and divided between the Maharini’s, reflecting the struggle of India between tradition and modernity, under British rule.

I enjoyed The Satapur Moonstone as much as I did Massey’s first book. Purveen is an appealing character, and the unique period and culture enrich the well-crafted storytelling. I hope the series continues.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

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

 

Also reviewed at Book’d Out by Sujata Massey

 

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge: Monthly Spotlight #4

I’m delighted with the response to the inaugural Nonfiction Reader Challenge so far, and since sign-ups are open until December 1st, a few more may decide to join us during the year.

If you hadn’t yet noticed, I’ve created a permanent page for the challenge, you can CLICK HERE, or select the menu link at top left.

The NEW Linky to add your review to can be also be found there. This new linky will remain active for the rest for the year’s submissions. Look for the text in orange.

On the first Saturday of each month, I am highlighting a handful of Linky submissions, but I encourage you to support all participants who have shared what they have been reading for the challenge. Give them a like, leave them a comment, share their posts on twitter, Facebook or instagram #2020ReadNonFic

 

During APRIL…

 

 

Denise Newton found I Want You To Know I’m Still Here: My family, the Holocaust and my search for truth by Esther Safran Foer, to be a moving and thought-provoking, “exploration of what it means to survive, to make decisions about whether to walk away from the past, to learn about it or to silence it…”

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Stray Thoughts
highly recommends Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam, she says, “I appreciated that Laura dealt in common-sense broad principles rather than a rigid system and that her examples came from home and family as well as work and career. This is a great book for learning how to “feel less busy while getting more done.”

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Maphead describes Black Wave: Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East by Kim Ghattas, as “outstanding”. They feel the author did a “superb job delivering the big picture with the perfect amount of detail” and may be their favourite non-fiction of 2020.

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Fake Law by The Secret Barrister writes, is the, ” distortion[s] of legal cases and judgments, spun and reformed for mass consumption.” It is evident everywhere, under every regime, and has a detrimental impact on the integrity of legal process, which is particularly noticeable in country’s where the judicial system is unduly influenced by political stakeholders. I, Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out, think this book offers a lot to explore, examine, and debate, and I’m happy to recommend you do.

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Do any of these interest you? What will you be reading in April?

Click here to see what else other participants have been reading!

 

In case you missed it….

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge: Monthly Spotlight #3

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge: Monthly Spotlight #2

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge: Monthly Spotlight #1

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Recommendations Part 1 #Memoir #DisasterEvent #Social Science #Related to An Occupation

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Recommendations Part 2 #History #Feminism #Psychology #Social Science

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Recommendations Part 3 #Nature #True Crime #Science #Published in 2020

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

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Booktopia I Amazon AU

Review: The Viennese Girl by Jenny Lecoat

 

Title: The Viennese Girl

Author: Jenny Lecoat

Published: April 28th 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read April 2020, courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Viennese Girl by Jenny Lecoat is inspired by the true story of Hedwig Bercu-Goldberg, a young Jewish woman who escaped the Nazi forces in Vienna, only to find herself trapped on Jersey, a small island in the English Channel, during the German occupation in 1940.

Hedy understands all too well the threat the Nazi’s presence poses to Jersey’s residents, and as a Jew, is desperate to escape their notice. Terrified and angry as conditions on the island worsen, she is forced to volunteer as a translator for the enemy, but uses the opportunity to wage a secret rebellion.

I wasn’t sure about Hedy to begin with, I didn’t like the way she took out her fears on her best friend or his sweet girlfriend, Dorothea, even though I was sympathetic to her anxiety. However I did like that Lecoat avoided characterising her as a saint, and as the story progressed I admired Hedy’s courage, her strength of character, and her resilience.

And while we are currently in the middle of a pandemic and are asked to remain at home, I can’t imagine how Hedy bore eighteen months hiding in Dory’s house sleeping in the attic, or under the floorboards knowing that should she be found it would mean death for herself and everyone she cares about.

The romance between Hedy and German Lieutenant Kurt Neumann is captivating, given as star-crossed lovers they literally risk certain death should they be discovered. Knowing that the story reflects the true circumstances of the couple definitely intensifies the emotion, and I think Lecoat’s portrayal of their relationship was well developed.

I actually would have liked for Lecoat to have taken more care to develop the character of Dorothea though. I didn’t feel as if I understood Dory, nor the relationship she and Hedy had, and I think that was a missed opportunity to add another layer of depth to the story.

Lecoat’s descriptions of the island during Nazi occupation do paint a vivid portrait, especially as she writes about the infrastructure the German’s built, and the deprivations the residents suffered as the soldiers appropriated their goods, livestock and food, leaving the populace to starve.

Despite the grim circumstances in which the novel is set, The Viennese Girl is a tale of hope, love and redemption. A well written and engaging piece of historical fiction.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin     RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

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