About: Let Me Explain You by Annie Liontas

Title: Let Me Explain You

Author: Annie Liontas

Published: Scribner July 2015

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LET ME EXPLAIN YOU begins with a letter: Stavros Stavros Mavrakis-Greek immigrant, proud owner of the Gala Diner, having had a premonition of death and believing he has just ten days left to live, sends an email to his estranged ex-wife and three grown daughters in which he lays out his last wishes for each of them. He then sets about preparing for his final hours. With varying degrees of laughter and scorn, his family and friends dismiss his behavior as nothing more than a plea for attention, a mid-life crisis of sorts, but when Stavros disappears without explanation, those closest to him-particularly his eldest daughters Stavroula and Litza are forced to confront the possibility of his death and the realities of their loss.

My Thoughts:

I’d read about a quarter of Let Me Explain You when I realised I’d lost interest, so I put it down and picked it up again the next day only to finally admit to myself almost halfway through that I didn’t care if I finished it or not.  Sometimes it just doesn’t work out and in this case I’m not sure why.

Let Me Explain You is available to purchase at:

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Blog Tour: A Time To Run by J.M. Peace

 

jm-peace-c-sheree-tomlinson-webI’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for debut novelist J.M. Peace today, introducing A Time To Run. 

An avid reader and writer from an early age, JM Peace wanted to be a writer. So she studied journalism figuring this would be a way of turning a passion into a job. Her career as a print journalist failed after a single year, and the experience completely sucked the joy out of writing for her. So she took a complete change of direction and became a police officer. Over the past 15 years, she has served throughout south-east Queensland in a variety of different capacities, including Intelligence and CIB. After her children were born, the dangers and stresses of the job made it unappealing. In the search for a new career path, she returned to her childhood dream. Carving a spare hour out of every day, she wrote the manuscript for A Time To Run whilst juggling her family commitments, police work and running a household. Jay currently lives on the Sunshine Coast with her partner, wrangling her two cheeky children, a badly behaved dog and an anti-social cockatiel.

Set in the Queensland bush, A Time to Run is a tense, gritty crime thriller featuring a cop-turned-victim and a chilling serial killer.

A GRUESOME GAME
A madman is kidnapping women to hunt them for sport.
A FRANTIC SEARCH
Detective Janine Postlewaite leads the investigation into the disappearance of Samantha Willis, determined not to let another innocent die on her watch.
A SHOCKING TWIST
The killer’s newest prey isn’t like the others. Sammi is a cop. And she refuses to be his victim.
A RUN FOR YOUR LIFE”

Please read on to learn more about J.M Peace and A Time to Run

*****

Why a Serial Killer?

My book involves a serial killer. I feel somehow inadequate by saying this. It seems like a bit of a cliché – that one murder is not enough these days, that you have to raise the body count. But it was the way the story unfolded and I’d like to explain why.

In my early twenties, I went backpacking around the world travelling solo a lot of the time. Yes, I used to hitchhike (shh, don’t tell my mum), and I put myself into some astoundingly stupid situations. If the wrong person had found me at the wrong time, things could have turned out very badly for me. It was before the days of email and global interconnectivity. I don’t know how long it would have been before I would have been reported as ‘missing’.

ivanmilat

Ivan Milat convicted of the Belangalo State Forest Murders

This was around about the same time that backpackers were being dispatched in Belanglo State Forest. When I got home nearly four years later, I read a bit about the Belanglo crimes. This is where the seed of the idea for this story began, with this question – what if it had been me? What if I had naively climbed into the wrong car and been taken out to some secluded forest by a psychopath? What would I have done? Could I have possibly survived it?

The story bounced around in my head for years. I used to dream up all sorts of possibilities. Could I have killed him? How? How could I have escaped? Who could find me? Could I trust them? These musings were still going on when became a police officer. This added a dimension to my ponderings. Would being a police officer give me an edge with my imaginary madman? What sort of advantage? What had I learnt as a cop which could help me?

After a few failed attempts at writing children’s stories, I realised I should be writing crime. And in a bit of a light bulb moment, I realised this story that I had been prodding at for years was the one I should write. It was just a matter of choosing which storyline was most engaging and believable. And so A Time To Run was born. The plot was pretty much in place before I even sat down at a keyboard. As I wrote the dual storylines of the abduction and the investigation, I’d switch between my backpacker experiences and my police officer experiences. But the question I’d ask myself was the same – “what would I do?”

I’ve written the sequel to this book and the plot for a third in the series exists. The body count is steadily dropping with each subsequent book. The serial killer idea has been done now and it’s not one I intend on revisiting. But this was how A Time To Run came into existence.

*****

Want to know more? Follow the tour!

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Review: Fast and Loose by Nicholas J Johnson

 

Title: Fast and Loose

Author: Nicholas J Johnson

Published: Simon & Schuster July 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from July 11 to 15, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the author/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Fast and Loose is an entertaining sequel to Nicholas J Johnson’s first novel, Chasing The Ace.

It begins around a year after Joel Fitch, a young, wannabe grifter, and Richard Mordecai, his world-weary con ‘artiste’ mentor, have parted ways. Joel has fled Melbourne and is sharing a flat with his father in Sydney when he is identified by a former mark, tabloid news producer Danny Hemming. Hemming, angling for a promotion, blackmails Joel into starring in a series of on camera exposé’s, showing the public how easily they can be conned by an accomplished swindler. But whom exactly is conning who?

“Victors. Villains. Victims. Once you figure out which one your target is, the rest falls into place.”

As the novel unfolds from the alternating perspectives of Joel and Danny, you can never be sure where the truth really lies in this fast paced story of secrets, betrayal, swindles and surprises.

Joel, who claims to have retired, seems to be floundering, as Hemming, chasing ratings, demands ever increasingly ‘flashy’ stings, progressing from conning university students in a mystery shopper scam, to swindling a bunch of drug dealers and exposing an insider trader scheme, in which Joel’s dad is involved.

There is action, humour, suspense and plenty of twists in the complex plot. The ‘cons’ are clever, and a little scary. The author draws on his own knowledge and experience as an expert on fraud and deception to show just how easily people can be fooled, and how often we deceive ourselves.

Though Fast and Loose can be read as a stand alone, I’d recommend reading Chasing the Ace first. A quick and entertaining novel, I enjoyed Fast and Loose…you believe me, don’t you?

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Review: Friday On My Mind by Nicci French

Title: Friday On My Mind {Frieda Klein #5}

Author: Nicci French

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin July 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read on July 11, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

I launched into Friday On My Mind, book five of the Freida Klein series by Nicci French, directly after finishing Thursday’s Children.

Fast paced and tense this is another page turning installment of the series. In Friday On My Mind, Frieda is accused of murder when the body of her ex lover, Sandy is found floating in the Thames, his throat slit. While the police focus their investigation on Frieda, she immediately suspects her obsessive stalker, Dean Reeve, is responsible and unable to convince the police of her innocence, goes on the run, determined to expose the killer and clear her name.

Frieda is of course expecting her search for evidence will lead her to prove Dean Reeve is alive and culpable, but as she delves into Sandy’s recent past, she begins to wonder if someone else could be responsible. In her methodical and fearless way Frieda insinuates into the lives of those closest to Sandy, doggedly hunting his killer all while trying to keep a low profile but as the mystery unfolds a shocking twist proves the murderer is closer than she thinks. Even though Frieda manages to stay one step ahead of the police, a reckoning with the killer has consequences for all of them, both deadly and unexpected.

“‘That’s part of Freida’s problem. She doesn’t want to get off. She wants the truth.'”

Though Frieda is determined to protect her loyal friends from the fall out of the case, they rally to support her, even when it puts them at risk of prosecution. Karlsson in particular faces trouble when he defends Freida against the vindictive police commissioner and his pet psychiatrist. Josef shrugs off threats of deportation, doing everything he can to aid Frieda’s fight, and even the emotionally fragile Sasha doesn’t hesitate to offer her refuge.

“‘I just follow where the evidence leads me, and in this case the evidence suggests that where Frieda Klein goes a trail of chaos follows. What her precise role in this happens to be has always been difficult to pin down. As you will probably discover, Frieda Klein also has some strange associates. How these things happen, I don’t pretend to know, but they happen, and they continue to happen'”

I’m looking forward to learning what happens next.

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Review: Thursday’s Children by Nicci French

 

Title: Thursday’s Children

Author: Nicci French

Published: Michael Joseph Penguin March 2014

Read an Extract

Status:  Read from July 09 to 11, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

The fourth book by Nicci French (the pseudonym for husband and wife team Nicci Gerard and Sean French) to feature Frieda Klein forces the enigmatic psychotherapist to confront the demons of her own past when an old classmate begs her to help her troubled daughter.

“Don’t think of telling anyone sweetheart. Nobody will believe you.”

When fifteen year old Becky reveals she was raped in her own bed, Frieda is stunned by the similarities to her own experience as a teenager, twenty three years before. Compelled to investigate the link, Frieda returns to her hometown of Braxton where she reconnects with her both her estranged mother, and her high school peer group in search of answers.

Thursday’s Children is another enjoyable psychological thriller offering plenty of drama and intrigue as Frieda tracks down a murderous rapist who has evaded detection for more than two decades.

The setting of Thursday’s Children is also an opportunity for the author to expose the roots of Frieda’s cold and reserved demeanour, often remarked upon by readers. When Frieda returns to Braxton she reluctantly visits her mother, and her interaction with the woman who raised her provides important insight into the psychotherapist’s personality.

“‘There are things I’ve run away from all my life. My father’s death. My rape. Things that happened after. But it seems as though I’ve run in a perfect circle and I’m back with it again. In the thick of it.'”

While Freida grapples with her past, her loyal friends, Josef, Reuben, and Karlsson among them, rally to support her, even though Frieda is as always determinated to go it alone. The only element of the storyline that had me puzzled was Frieda’s seemingly sudden rejection of Sandy, I could guess at the psychology of it but it was rather abrupt and I still can’t quite make sense of it.

Unsurprisingly, in the background of Thursday’s Children, lurks Dean Reeve, the murderous sociopath obsessed with Frieda. He is never far from Freida’s awareness and as the series is at the midway point, a final confrontation between the pair approaches.

I couldn’t recommend Thursday’s Child as a stand alone read but for fans of the Frieda Klein series, it is an unmissable installment. I’m excited to move straight on to book 5, Friday On My Mind.

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Review: The Trivia Man by Deborah O’Brien

 

Title: The Trivia Man

Author: Deborah O’Brien

Published: Bantam Au June 2015

Status: Read on July 09, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Trivia is a serious business, not a social occasion’

Kevin Dwyer is a socially awkward middle aged forensic accountant whose obsession with collecting information informs his only hobby – trivia. When Kevin, on his own, blitzes the other teams on the first night of competition at the Clifton Heights Sports Club he is feted by his competitors, but Kevin isn’t a team player, until he meets Maggie Taylor.

Deborah O’Brien’s novel unfolds from the perspectives of Kevin, Maggie and Kevin’s sister, Elizabeth, set over the twelve weeks of the trivia competition that brings together Kevin and Maggie.

Sweet and artless, Kevin lives alone, his only friend his eight-year-old nephew Patrick. Kevin knows he is different, never having understood the social ease of others but he is largely content with the status quo. O’Brien paints a sympathetic picture of a good man who slowly blossoms as the story unfolds.

Maggie, a teacher of high school French and Latin in her early fifties, is single after a decade pining over a lost love. She’s a lovely character, who befriends Kevin almost by accident, but is preoccupied with the reappearance of the aforementioned ‘one who got away’.

Kevin’s sister Elizabeth has always been embarrassed by her brother and she is horrified when the similarities between Kevin and Patrick behaviour are pointed out. I didn’t care for Elizabeth at all but Kevin is determined to show Elizabeth he can be ‘normal’, especially when she stops him from seeing Patrick, believing him a ‘bad influence’.

Smaller subplots play out amongst the members of ‘Teddy and the Dreamers’, filling out the story. Trivia buffs should enjoy answering the questions posed by the MC, and recognise the dynamics of the teams.

Comparisons to Graeme Stimson’s The Rosie Project are inevitable given the behavourial similarities between Don Tillman and Kevin, though O’Brien approaches both her characters and the story with a more serious and realistic tone. The humour is subtler, and Kevin’s quirks are not the focus of the novel.

I did enjoy The Trivia Man, it’s a sweet, uplifting read about friendship, acceptance and love.

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Review: Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton

 

Title: Little Black Lies

Author: Sharon Bolton

Published: Transworld UK July 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read from July 07 to 09, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Little Black Lies is a taut, twisty thriller from Sharon Bolton. It begins when a child goes missing, the third in three years from the sparsely populated Falkland Islands.

The narrative is divided into thirds, unfolding from the perspectives of three unique and complex characters. For Catrin the disappearance is an inconvenience. She has a schedule to keep, plans for the woman she blames for the tragic death of her young sons as an anniversary approaches. Callum, an ex-soldier with PTSD, has a theory about the abducted children that the local police are choosing to ignore. Rachel, who spends most of her days in bed, is largely oblivious until her youngest son goes missing.

The well crafted plot, which I don’t wish to elaborate on, reveals the links between these characters, whose lives have been tainted by grief and tragedy, and their connection to the missing children over a period of five days. Though the pace is measured, the story is propelled by cinching tension and breath taking twists.

The setting is atmospheric, the isolated island itself has great presence in the novel from its rugged coastline to its rocky terrain, and its history, as the site of the bloody if short lived war for sovereignty between Britain and Argentina in the early 1980’s, also plays into the story.

Fans of poetry should enjoy the references throughout the novel to ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Bolton skilfully utilises the imagery the verses evoke.

Since then, at an uncertain hour,
That agony returns:
And till my ghastly tale is told,
This heart within me burns.

Little Black Lies is a tense, dark and disturbing story about revenge and redemption, that leads to a stunning conclusion. I could hardly put it down.

Available to purchase from

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Seasoned Traveller 2015

Review: Set in Stone by Ros Baxter

 

Title: Set in Stone

Author: Ros Baxter

Published: Harlequin MIRA June 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read on July 07, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“Lou was being brought home, finally, to face the music”

Louise Samuels swore she would never to return to Stone Mountain, but twenty years later she’s tossing back Tequila, dancing to Acca Dacca, and kissing the one man she hoped to avoid, Gage Westin, at her high school reunion. And despite her plan to return to the city with her best friend Sharni within twenty four hours, Lou is nursing a hangover when she learns her estranged mother is in the midst of a crisis and she feels compelled to stay.

Ros Baxter’s newest novel, Set in Stone combines romance with a touch of suspense in a rural setting.

The suspense is derived from two plotlines. The first involves a mining company which seems determined to exploit Stone Mountain vulnerable because of drought, perhaps by any means. It’s a topical issue of interest in regional areas that Baxter integrates well.
The second is the painful secret that has haunted Louise for twenty years, which continues to affect her relationship with her mother, Skye, and Gage. The eventual reveal is a surprise, but explains Lou’s wariness with both of them well.

Louise’s romance with Gage has been simmering for twenty years and their reunion is passionate, but complicated in a believable way. Baxter develops their relationship nicely and I enjoyed the tension between them.

“Because it was the kind of kiss that you get lost in – not just lost in time and place, but lost in another person. It was a kiss that took all the pieces of your identity and common sense, and scattered them like petals on the breeze, right at the same time that it anchored you in the brutal, beautiful moment.”

The writing is accomplished, with genuine dialogue and good pacing. I loved that Baxter headed each chapter with a song title, though I was stuck with the resulting earworms for a while.

I really enjoyed Set in Stone, the characterisation is genuine, the plot, and subplots, well thought out and the distinctly Australian setting is appealing. A great read, recommended for fans of contemporary and rural romance.

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Review: The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White

 

Title: The Perfect Son

Author: Barbara Claypole White

Published: Lake Union Publishing July 2015

Status: Read from July 05 to 07, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

When Ella Fitzwilliam is hospitalised after a life threatening heart attack her workaholic husband, Felix, is forced to assume the daily care of his teenage son, Harry. Harry is a bright, handsome sixteen year old, with Tourette Syndrome, ADHD and anxiety, and father and son struggle to cope in Ella’s absence.

Told from the perspectives of White’s three main characters, Harry, Ella and Felix, The Perfect Son is a heart warming and poignant story about family, acceptance, trust and love. The changing dynamic of the Fitzwilliam family is beautifully crafted and White writes with insight and compassion for the complexities of a family in crisis.

Ella has always been her son’s advocate and his strongest supporter. She doesn’t regret devoting her life to ensure Harry’s well being but hovering between life and death she is forced to let go and trust her husband and son will find their way.

As a perfectionist who is uncomfortable with both physical and emotional disorder, Felix struggles to negotiate both the everyday and extraordinary challenges involved in parenting Harry. Initially Felix is largely an unsympathetic character, while devoted to his wife, his attitude towards his son is cold and critical, however as White reveals his painful back story I began to understand his inability to relate to his son, and I really enjoyed the way in which the author developed him.

Harry is a wonderful character and I was impressed with White’s well rounded portrayal of him. Harry’s neurobiological issues are a part of who he is, but that isn’t all he is. Like any other teen Harry is contemplating his options for college, falling in love, learning to drive and testing parental limits. He deals admirably with the extra pressure of his mother’s illness and his father’s cluelessness and is a special and genuine young man.

White’s secondary characters are also a delight. Ella’s closest friend, Katherine, the family’s feisty elderly neighbour, Eudora, and in particular Harry’s best friend, Max, add humour and sentiment to the plot.

Tender, funny, sad and sweet, The Perfect Son is a wonderful story that pulls at the heart strings and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

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Review: The Other Side of The World by Stephanie Bishop

 

Title: The Other Side of the World

Author: Stephanie Bishop

Published: Hachette June  2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read from July 01 to 02, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Stephanie Bishop’s novel, The Other Side of the World, is garnering much praise amongst critics and readers alike.

Exploring the themes of home, longing, identity and love Bishop presents the story of a Charlotte, a wife and new mother who reluctantly agrees to emigrate from England with her husband, Henry, a British Indian, in search of a fresh start in the sunny promise of Australia.

I admired Bishop’s poetic descriptions of both the physical and emotional landscape experienced by her characters. The writing is lyrical and evocative creating a close atmosphere that envelops the reader.

But this is a character driven novel and I failed to connect with Charlotte in particular. Rather than developing empathy for her longing for England, or more honestly for the life she had before children, I was irritated by her self absorption, horrified by her behaviour towards her daughters, impatient with her self pity.

“But that is all she has; there is the brightness of the outside world and then the starved, dark space of her own consciousness”

I found Henry to be a more likeable and interesting character, his struggle with his identity, of his yearning to belong, well articulated.

“Once more no one knows quite who, or what he is meant to be. He experienced this in England, but it was worse here – with his Queen’s English and his strange-coloured skin….his voice and appearance do not fit. Not here. Perhaps not anywhere.”

Though I appreciate the elegance of Bishop’s writing, the insightful exploration of themes, and finely wrought characterisation, I have to admit I didn’t really enjoy The Other Side of The World.

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