Review: The Light on The Water by Olga Lorenzo

 

Title: The Light on the Water

Author: Olga Lorenzo

Published: Allen & Unwin March 2016

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Status: Read from May 28 to 29, 2016 — I own a copy  courtesy of Allen & Unwin

My Thoughts:

The Light on the Water by Olga Lorenzo is a thoughtful novel exploring a myriad of the themes, most notably motherhood, grief, guilt and love.

Two long years after her young autistic daughter disappeared during an overnight hike, Anne Baxter is on the precipice of being charged with Aida’s murder. Shunned by her neighbours and vilified by the media, Anne waits…and hopes.

This is a story that focuses on character rather than action. Anne is a hugely sympathetic character, trapped in a hellish kind of limbo. The main figures of The Light on the Water are complex, and Lorenzo avoids many of the typical stereotypes of the genre, even with the dysfunction that plagues the members of Anne’s family.

Of particular note is the manner in which Lorenzo explores the response of the wider community to Anne’s plight. From almost the moment Aida is reported missing, Anne must endure the suspicion of strangers, all too ready to condemn her for any real, perceived, or even imagined action that has led to her daughter’s disappearance. No matter the truth of Aida’s fate, Anne is judged to be at fault.

The Light on the Water is a quietly compelling story. Simply written, it nevertheless evokes a wealth of emotion. The tension builds nicely as the story unfolds at a measured pace, though I felt the subplot involving the refuge was an unnecessary distraction.

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Review: This Was Not The Plan by Cristina Alger

 

Title: This Was Not The Plan

Author: Cristina Alger

Published: Touchstone Feb 2016

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Status: Read from February 06 to 07, 2016 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

I’ve delayed writing this review because I don’t really have a lot to say about This Was Not The Plan by Cristina Alger.

It’s a quick, light read populated by charming characters (especially young Caleb), but there isn’t anything particularly unique or memorable about it. Perhaps it is because it features a single father in a role more often relegated to a single mother, struggling with the work/life balance and difficult relationships, that it is receiving rave reviews online, or perhaps I have missed some profundity.

Not a bad read, just not a particularly special one.

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Review: The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield

 

Title: The Flood Girls

Author: Richard Fifield

Published: Gallery Books Feb 2016

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Status: Read from February 09 to 11, 2016 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield is an engaging story of regrets and redemption set in small-town America.

After almost a decade’s absence, Rachel Flood is back in Quinn, Montana (Population:956) to make amends for the devastation she wrought as a wild teen to an openly hostile collection of family, (ex) friends and enemies. After a week of scathing silence, pointed glares and outright threats, Rachel is on the verge of admitting defeat when her mother, Laverna Flood, the proprietor of one of Quinn’s two taverns ‘The Dirty Shame’, is targeted in a robbery and her injuries require Rachel to take her mother’s place behind the bar, and on the local women’s softball team.

This is a story full of family dysfunction, addiction, friendship, failure and forgiveness. Rachel’s search for redemption is complicated, and no-one is inclined to make it easy on her, least of all her self.

Fifield has created an eccentric and often outlandish cast, including the uncompromising Laverna, the frightening Red and Black Mabel’s (distinguished by a rotten smile), Rachel’s no nonsense sponsor, Athena, and the members of the softball team. The town’s three rookie firefighter volunteers are all named Jim, the Police Chief runs the local AA meetings, and Reverend Foote is determined to convert the town’s sinners.

Of all the characters however is Rachel’s neighbour, twelve year old Jake, who is the most endearing. A devotee of Madonna and Jackie Collins, with an individual sense of style and fashion, he is mature beyond his years, but his effeminate manner infuriates his brutal stepfather. Jake is one of the few residents of Quinn willing to give Rachel a chance, and a delightful bond develops between them.

Though the humour is a little uneven and the plot not particularly original, The Flood Girls is written with heart and a genuine feel for small town life. A strong debut.

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Blog Tour Review: All That is Lost Between Us by Sara Foster

 

Title: All That is Lost Between Us

Author: Sara Foster

Published: Simon & Schuster AU Feb 2016

Status: Read from February 03 to 04, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

All That is Lost Between Us is a compelling modern domestic thriller from Sara Foster.

Unfolding from the perspectives of the four members of the Turner family, it is a story about guilt, secrets, betrayal and loyalty.

Seventeen year old Georgia Turner, high school student and champion Fells runner, is preoccupied by a secret she can’t share, not even with her best friend and cousin, Sophia.
Anya is frustrated by her inability to connect with her increasingly withdrawn daughter who spurns both her concern and affection, as does her husband, Callum.
Callum, mired in unspoken resentments, has thrown himself into his voluntary work with the local Fells rescue team, and taken solace in the attentions of a younger colleague.
When Zac accidentally discovers a shocking photo hidden in his sister’s bedroom, he is at a loss as how to best deal with his discovery.

A hit and run incident involving Georgia and Sophia is the catalyst that drives the members of the Turner family to the brink of crisis. As suspicion grows that the actions of the unidentified driver was deliberate, Foster builds the tension as secrets begin to collide.

One of the main themes Foster’s story thoughtfully explores is the vulnerabilities of family. Emotional distance has frayed the bonds between husband and wife, parent and child, in All That is Lost Between Us. The strained relationships are sensitively and realistically portrayed, disconnected, they are each vulnerable in the crisis and struggle to bridge the gap to offer each other the support they need.

Georgia’s angst is well drawn, her increasingly fraught emotional state is believable as she obsesses over her secret with the self absorption of youth.
I empathised strongly with Anya, it is difficult to let your children pull away from you, to find the balance between encouraging them to make their own choices, and protect them from their inevitable mistakes. My oldest daughter is 19 and I too feel as if she is “breaking off a piece of my heart and taking it with her.” as she forges her own life.

Set in England’s Lake District, Foster’s descriptions of the landscape are vivid and evocative. The rugged beauty of the Fells, its craggy peaks and forested valleys and sheer cliffs, also reflects the changeable emotional states of the characters.

All That is Lost Between Us is a captivating read I’d recommend to both an adult and mature young adult audience.

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Review: The Big Rewind by Libby Cudmore

 

Title: The Big Rewind

Author: Libby Cudmore

Published: William Morrow Feb 2016

Status: Read from February 02 to 03, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

I couldn’t resist the premise of Libby Cudmore’s debut novel, The Big Rewind. I have a cracked vinyl case full of mix tapes, including the odd one or two given to me by ex-boyfriends that I have never been able to throw away, even though I haven’t had a working cassette player in more than a dozen years.

Wannabe music journalist Jett Bennet is rocked when she discovers the bloodied body of her neighbor and friend KitKat while dropping off a mis-delivered package containing a mix tape full of songs about love and heartbreak. Despite a lack of grounds, police suspicion falls on KitKat’s missing boyfriend Bronco, but Jett, who temps as a proofreader at a private investigation firm, speculates that the mysterious compiler of the mix tape may have motive, and with the help of her best friend, Sid, hunts for the sender.

The Big Rewind is a murder mystery and a love story. As Jett searches for the person responsible for KitKat’s murder, she reminisces about her romantic past, browsing her own collection of mix tapes from former lovers. On her mind is the one that got away -Catch, even as her feelings for best friend Sid begin to change.

“There isn’t a better feeling in the world-not an orgasm, not a first kiss, not even that glorious soaring sensation you get when those first few notes of a new song pierce your chest and fill your whole body with absolute bliss-than acknowledgement that your mix tape was not only received and played but enjoyed. It’s a dance of sorts, balancing songs you think the listener will love while trying to say everything that otherwise dries up in your throat before you can get out the words.”

I liked Jett, though given she is aged only in her mid twenties or so, her sense of nostalgia is a little excessive and her fixation on her lost loves is a little unhealthy. Her motovation for solving the murder is a little flimsy but she unpicks the mystery in a way that makes sense given her lack of experience.

The Big Rewind has a turn of the century hipster vibe what with Jett’s mentions of Trader Joe’s, French Press coffee makers, kale and pot brownies, and visits to vegan bakeries, strip joints, retro vinyl record stores, and basement clubs which is a little painful, but also kinda fun.

What I probably enjoyed most was Jett’s eclectic taste in music, dozens of songs mostly from the 1980’s are referenced throughout the novel, playing to mood and emotion.

The Big Rewind is a quick and easy read, quirky and fun.

Want a playlist to listen to while you read? You might like to start with the following songs mentioned:

Keep Me in Your Heart – Warren Zevon
What You Doing in Bombay – Tenpole Tudor
Simply – Sara Hickman
Champagne – July for Kings
Truly Madly Deeply – Savage Garden
Pure – Lightning Seeds
The Book I Read – Talking Heads
2 became 1 – Spice Girls
All for Love – Bryan Adams
She is My Sin – Nightwish
I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) – The Proclaimers
Bury My Lovely – October Projects
Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First) – John Mellencamp
Sunrise – Simply Red
Waiting for the Weekend – The Vapors

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Review: How to be Single by Liz Tuccillo

 

Title: How to be Single

Author: Liz Tucillo

Published: Simon & Schuster AU February 2016

Status: Read from March 28 to 29, 2010  – I own a copy

My Thoughts:

How to be Single has been re published to tie in with the movie release of the same name starring Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie, Leslie Mann, and Damon Wayans Jr.

I read this novel back in 2010 in my pre blogging days but posted some thoughts on Goodreads at the the time which I have shared below.

Maybe because I have never really been single, I just found this trite. From the perspective of being married, I want to tell these thirty something women to grow up and get over the princess in waiting attitude. I feel like most of the women have completely unrealistic expectations of what love and commitment are. Really if the reason Julie can’t get a guy is because she is only a size 6 and has cellulite – then how does that explain the hordes of happily coupled/married size 12 and up women?
Julie in particular is shallow and unlikeable, even before she decides that her true love lies in an already married man (no matter how open his marriage may be). I mean, really? I am wondering why she even bothered leaving her hotel when “researching” – somehow I think speaking to less than a dozen people in an entire country does not count as thorough investigation.
The girls who are left at home are much more interesting – Georgia falling apart in the wake of her husband leaving her, Ruby contemplating single motherhood, Serena acting like a total flake and Alice holding on to an ideal in the face of reality.
There were moments in this book – warm and humorous, but overall I think this book is irritating and I am not the least bit surprised that Julie remains single.

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Review: Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar

 

Title: Summer Skin

Author: Kirsty Eagar

Published: Allen & Unwin Feb 2016

Status: Read from February 01 to 02, 2016 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Summer Skin offers a ‘girl meets boy’ story, a typical trope in YA/NA fiction, but author Kirsty Eagar has stripped back the common artifice of the construct to present a love story that honest, unique and relevant.

I found Jess to be a particular refreshing character for the YA/NA genre, though a mess of contradictions, she reflects a realistic young woman still figuring out that life and its challenges are rarely black and white.

Mitch challenges Jess in interesting ways, at first glance he is everything Jess despises – an arrogant rugby playing sexist pig, and she holds tightly to that initial assessment, which she often uses as an excuse and justification throughout their relationship for her own behaviour, even as she learns that Mitch is a much more than that. They both struggle to define their relationship in terms of both their own identities, and each other.

There is real depth to this novel beneath the humor, mischief, drunken revelry, dress up balls, and instagram poses that exemplifies campus life. The author explores modern day feminism and how its meaning varies between individuals, illustrated by the differing attitudes and opinions of Jess and each of her close friends, Farren, Leanne and Allie. She captures the conflict many young women face when negotiating issues of lust, sex and intimacy in the age of the hook-up culture. Eagar also touches on several relevant issues affecting today’s young adults including the use, and abuse of social media, the way in which porn distorts attitudes to sex, the risks of speeding and drink driving, but she never preaches.

Aimed squarely at a mature young adult/new adult audience, Summer Skin is smart, funny, sexy and thought-provoking. There is nothing typical about it.

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@ Goodreads

Review: Numbered by Amy Andrews & Ros Baxter

 

Title: Numbered

Author: Amy Andrews & Ros Baxter

Published: Harlequin MIRA AU Jan 2016

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Status: Read from January 26 to 29, 2016 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

‘Where are the damn tissues?’ is what I wrote when I finished Numbered by authors Ros Baxter and Amy Andrews.

When twenty nine year old Poppy Devine finds a lump in her breast she decides to get a jump on her bucket list, and surprises herself by crossing off three items in one day – Number one: Jump out of a plane, Number ten: Have sex with a stranger, Number twelve: Eat a Mexican meal.

Numbered is an emotive story, the tragedy of Poppy’s terminal diagnosis can’t fail to tug at the heart strings, but it is ultimately a celebration of life as Poppy with the support of her best friend Julia and no-longer-a-stranger ‘Ten’ (aka Quentin Carmody) endeavour to fulfil her bucket list before her time runs out.

Most of the story is told from the alternating perspectives of Julia and Quentin. Julia is both furious and devastated when her best friend is diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer and is determined that Poppy will beat it. In the meantime she will do everything she can to ensure Poppy has whatever she wants, she just doesn’t think that Poppy is making a wise choice in keeping Mr-Rock-God-Surfer-Boy-Football-Legend around. Twenty two year old musician/short order cook Quentin Carmody has never had a relationship that has lasted longer than a few weeks but he’s found something special with Poppy, both in and out of bed, and he’s determined not to let her go.

Numbered is as much a story about they way in which Julia and Quentin cope with Poppy’s inevitable death, more perhaps, than it is about Poppy’s courageous last days. I loved Julia’s feisty spirit and take no prisoners attitude, and the way in which Quentin sees past Poppy’s illness. Both strong personalities, Julia and Quentin want what is best for Poppy but they don’t always agree on what that is or how to make it happen. The bickering between them is often hilarious, providing much needed light relief, but is clearly edged with the pain and grief they feel.

Beautifully written with heart and humour, Numbered is a poignant yet life affirming novel about friendship, love, hope, grief and redemption, a wonderful read that will likely leave you smiling through your tears.

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Review: Summer Harvest by Georgina Penney

 

Title: Summer Harvest

Author: Georgina Penney

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin Jan 2016

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Status: Read from January 24 to 25, 2016 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“‘A ticket to Australia,’ she said faintly.’Wonderful Gran, Louis, thank you so much.’ She forced her mouth to curve upwards into something resembling a smile.’This is great. Just great.'”

When Beth Poole’s grandmother gifts her an airline ticket from Yorkshire to Western Australia for her birthday she’s reluctant to vacation in a country in which every living thing seems to be lethal. Nevertheless, Beth books a months stay in a holiday cottage in George Creek looking forward to a few weeks of peace and quiet.

Loosely linked to Georgina Penney’s previous novels, Irrepressible You and Fly In Fly Out, Summer Harvest is a lovely contemporary romance novel set in the the south west winery region of Australia.

The focus of the story is on the relationship that develops between Beth and Clayton Hardy, whose family owns the winery next door to where Beth is staying. They enjoy an intimate holiday fling which becomes complicated when Beth reveals a secret she has been keeping. An additional subplot involves a fractious relationship between Clayton’s father, Rob Hardy and new winery hire, Gwen Stone, who have a history neither are willing to disclose. Both plotlines also explore the themes of loss, grief and moving on.

The characters are well drawn. Beth is a strong character, having survived the loss of her family and the desertion of her husband, as well as breast cancer, and Clayton is an appealing lead. I enjoyed the supporting characters including Beth’s outspoken grandmother Violet and Angie, the matriarch of the Evangaline Rest Winery, chatty Laura and her cheeky brother Jeff. Fred, the perpetually stoned farm hand, is good for a laugh too.

Penney’s writing style is warm, I enjoyed the very Aussie humour and the witty dialogue. The emotions are believable, the intimate scenes between Beth and Clay are well written and the story is well paced.

Summer Harvest is an engaging read and the ending satisfied the romantic in me.

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Review: Confucius Jane by Katie Lynch

 

Title: Confucius Jane

Author: Katie Lynch

Published: Forge Books Jan 2016

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from January 22 to 22, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Confucius Jane is an engaging contemporary romance novel from debut author Katie Lynch.

It’s from the office window of her uncle’s fortune cookie factory that aspiring poet Jane first spies the blonde haired woman who regularly lunches at the noodle shop across the street but it’s only at the repeated urging of her 11 year old cousin Minette she finally introduces herself. Sutton St James is just weeks away from finishing her medical studies and is anxious about taking the next step in her career, she doesn’t have time for a new relationship, but is disarmed by Jane’s friendly approach.

The physical attraction between the couple is strong, illustrated by several steamy intimate scenes later on. And though they have very different backgrounds and ambitions, it is obvious as they get to know one another that Jane is the ying to Sutton’s yang.

Issues common to any relationship are explored such as trust, independence and commitment, and as expected in a romance novel, Lynch puts several obstacles in the couples path, the most challenging when Sutton is faced with a devastating family crisis. Lynch also touches on some more serious issues including medical ethics, Multiple Sclerosis and media exploitation. There is also a hint of Chinese mysticism related to the fortunes Jane writes.

Set in New York’s Chinatown, Lynch’s vivid portrayal of its community, from the people to its crowded streets and stores, are charming. Foodies will enjoy the delicious descriptions of fragrant noodles and hot Chinese dumplings, and may even be tempted to try fried chicken feet.

In general the writing is of a good standard, and I enjoyed Jane and Sutton’s flirty banter, though some of the dialogue doesn’t ring quite true, veering into cliched sentimentalism on occasion. The pacing is appropriate and the story concludes with a satisfying HEA.

Confucius Jane is the first commercial romance novel I have read featuring a lesbian relationship, and I found it to be an enjoyable read.

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