Review: Hush, Little Bird by Nicole Trope

 

Title: Hush, Little Bird

Author: Nicole Trope

Published: Allen & Unwin June 2015

Status: Read from July 02 to 05, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Nicole Trope’s fourth novel, Hush, Little Bird is a thought provoking and heartbreaking story.

Hush, Little Bird is told from the alternative first person perspectives of two very different women, both serving sentences in a minimum security prison, linked by the actions of one man, Simon, a former television celebrity, Birdy’s childhood abuser and Rose’s late husband.

It is a harrowing tale that details the suffering of a young, vulnerable girl at the hands of her abuser and the lasting consequences of his actions; and the implosion of a dutiful wife’s life when her husband’s shocking secrets are revealed. Trope gives each woman, both victims, a voice that ultimately shatters the silence
they have taken refuge in to protect themselves.

A story of innocence betrayed, regret, forgiveness and revenge, Hush, Little Bird is told with keen insight and compassion for the victims of abusers. Though this may be a confronting read for some, it is a story that needs to be told.

” I do not want them silenced. I want them to know that they have been heard.”

 

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Also by Nicole Trope (click cover to read my reviews)

Review: The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

Title: The Book of Speculation

Author: Erika Swyler

Published: St Martins Press June 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from June 27 to July 01, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

In Erika Swyler’s gorgeous debut novel, The Book of Speculation, Simon Watson receives an old ledger that once belonged to a traveling carnival in the mail, along with a note mentioning a connection to his late mother’s family. Struggling with his recent redundancy, the inevitable crumbling of his family home into the sea, and the return of his sister, Simon develops an obsession with the book which reveals a troubling history. For generations, the women of his family, all with a talent for holding their breath, including his mother, have drowned on the same date.

Dual narratives reveal Simon’s growing concern for his fragile sister as July 24th approaches, and the truth of the tragic curse that has haunted their family since the early 1800’s beginning with Evangeline, ‘The Atlantis Mermaid’. Similar themes are reflected in both tales – lust, guilt, love, betrayal, loss, and magic, and tangible connections are drawn with a tattered deck of tarot cards and the appearance of horseshoe crabs.

“At the corner of a page, just above a quickly jotted note about oppressive heat and fog, is a delicate brown illustration of a horseshoe crab. I shut the book and leave the house as quickly as my ankle allows. I need to get into the water, to clear my head….On the sand, crabs scramble around my feet and over each other. The tide has come up since the afternoon, hiding the thousands more horseshoes that lurk beneath.”

I loved reading about Peabody’s spectacular traveling carnival. The characters of The Wild Boy, the Seer, the Mermaid and Peabody himself are vividly drawn, their dark secrets are haunting and tragic.

“Heralded by a glorious voice, a troupe of traveling entertainers arrived. A mismatched collection of jugglers, acrobats, fortune-tellers, contortionists, and animals, the band was presided over by Hermelius H. Peabody, self-proclaimed visionary in entertainment and education, who thought the performers and animals (a counting pig deemed learned, a horse of miniature proportions, and a spitting llama) were instruments for improving minds and fattening his purse.”

The pace of the novel is measured, reflecting the melancholic, often close, atmosphere of the novel. The tension builds slowly in both timelines, as the truth of the curse is unraveled. The prose is often beautiful and enhanced by the illustrations that accompany it.

The Book of Speculation an enchanting tale.

“She knows that her name will find its way into his speculations. So will his. Because there are things you do for people you’ve known your whole life. You let them save you, you put them in your books, and you let each other begin again, clean.”

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Review: The Homestead Girls by Fiona McArthur

9780143799825

 

 

Title: The Homestead Girls

Author: Fiona McArthur

Published: Penguin June 2015

Status: Read from June 24 to 27, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Fiona McArthur’s, The Homestead Girls, is a heartwarming story of friendship, courage and compassion set in the outback of NSW.

In The Homestead Girls, Soretta Byrnes is struggling to keep her grandparent’s farm solvent in the drought, especially after her grandfather is badly injured in an accident, so when it’s suggested that she accept some boarders as a way to earn extra income, she agrees, determined to save Blue Hills Station.
Soretta is quickly joined by Daphne Prince, a flight nurse with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, eager to help the battling farmer; Dr Billie Green, with her rebellious teenage daughter in tow, who has returned to her hometown of Mica Ridge to fulfill a childhood dream by taking up a position with the RFDS; and eighty year old widow Lorna Lamerton, looking for company.
Despite their differences, the unlikely housemates soon become close friends, finding strength, support and happiness in their relationships with one another as they face a myriad of challenges.

I liked all the women in The Homestead Girls and delighted in their growing friendship. They all benefit from their living arrangements in both practical and emotional ways.

With such a large primary cast I did find some elements of the story a little underdeveloped. I’m not sure, for example, that the subplot involving Billie and her ex husband added anything to the story overall, the confrontation between the pair was anti-climatic and quickly overshadowed by following events.
Though there is romance in The Homestead Girls, for both Billie and Daphne, it doesn’t overwhelm the story. With both Billie and Daphne having been deeply hurt in past relationships they are wary of involvement and their romances with their respective partners, Morgan and Rex, develop slowly, though Daphne’s has been a long time coming.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service is an invaluable resource in regional Australia and McArthur highlights their stellar work in The Homestead Girls. The RFDS provides numerous services to outback communities from running immunisation and antenatal clinics in remote areas, to dealing with emergencies such as snakebites, heart attacks and vehicular accidents. I really enjoyed learning more about what it’s like to work for the service and reading about the team’s varied medical experiences.

An uplifting story of friendship and romance, The Homestead Girls is a lovely read I’d be happy to recommend.

CLICK HERE to read more about the inspiration for the setting of The Homestead Girls in Fiona’s guest post published earlier today.

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AWW Feature: The Outback, The Homestead Girls, and Fiona McArthur

fiona

I’m delighted to welcome Fiona McArthur to Book’d Out today to celebrate the release of The Homestead Girls.

Fiona McArthur has worked as a rural midwife for many years. She is a clinical midwifery educator, mentors midwifery students, and is involved with obstetric emergency education for midwives and doctors from all over Australia. Fiona’s love of writing has seen her sell over two million books in twelve languages. She’s been a midwifery expert for Mother&Baby magazine and is the author of the nonfiction works The Don’t Panic Guide to Birth and Breech Baby: A Guide for Parents. She lives on an often swampy farm in northern New South Wales with her husband, some livestock, and a blue heeler named Reg. She’s constantly taking photographs of sunrise and sunset and loves that researching her books allows her to travel to remote places. Her first rural fiction novel with Penguin Australia, Red Sand Sunrise, was published in 2014.

Fiona McArthur’s second novel, The Homestead Girls is a heartwarming story of friendship, courage and compassion in the outback.

9780143799825

“Moving to the outback to join the Flying Doctors will change Billie’s life forever.
After her teenage daughter Mia falls in with the wrong crowd, Dr Billie Green decides it’s time to leave the city and return home to far western NSW. When an opportunity to pursue her childhood dream of joining the Flying Doctor Service comes along, she  jumps at the chance. Flight nurse Daphne Prince – who is thrilled to have another woman join the otherwise male crew – and their handsome new boss, Morgan Blake, instantly make her feel welcome.
Just out of town, drought-stricken grazier Soretta Byrnes has been struggling to make ends meet and has opened her homestead to boarders. Tempted by its faded splendour and beautiful outback setting, Billie, Mia and Daphne decide to move in and the four of them are soon joined by eccentric eighty-year-old Lorna Lamerton.
The unlikely housemates are cautious at first, but soon they are offering each other frank advice and staunch support as they tackle medical emergencies, romantic adventures and the challenges of growing up and getting older. But when one of their lives is threatened, the strong friendship they have forged will face the ultimate test…”

My review can be seen HERE, but first, please read on to learn more about Fiona McArthur’s inspiration for the setting of The Homestead Girls.

****

Outback Inspiration

by Fiona McArthur

Hello and thanks so much for asking me back as I launch my new novel, The Homestead Girls. And speaking of being back, I’d like to chat about background setting and how it’s such an integral part of a book. People have asked why I set a book ‘inspired by’ Broken Hill so I thought I’d mull over some of the ways I used our visits to Broken Hill and why I loved it?

I read an article once where Broken Hill was called ‘The boldest of the outback towns… pressure-cooked through the mining years.’ I wish I’d written that – but I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment. It’s a unique and layered township and surrounds and my husband loved it so much he wondered if we could retire there after just two visits.

Here’s 10 things I used from Broken Hill and Outback NSW for the Homestead Girls.

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Mt Gipps Station mailbox

1/The Sky – Bluer than any you see in the city – in fact all of the colours are so vibrant it’s one of the main reasons so many artists live there. Think Pro Hart. Jack Absolom.

2/The Landscape from the air – imagine the vista the flight nurses and pilots see every day when they go to work. That great expanse of browns and golds and orange, with ribbons of empty creek beds, and then a station or tiny township coming up on the horizon. I took a fabulous one and a half hour flight with Silver City Scenic Flights and lots of notes – though notes were when I wasn’t hanging on – it was little bit bumpy!

The Landscape from the ground – the lookout at Mundi Mundi – what a view! The view from the ridge on Mt Gipps. What a place for a sunset drink! And a seduction scene.

3/The Racecourse. The Silver City Cup was first held in 1899, and is the oldest horse race in the region, and held towards the end of October every year. Unfortunately it was the wrong time of year for us but we walked outside the racecourse, peered at the stands and took photos for a scene I knew I would write there. I looked up all the photos of the racegoers after the event and they all had smiles on their faces. So did my characters when they went.

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Murals Palace Hotel

4/The Palace Hotel main street Broken Hill – had to go and visit and sit on the stairs and just look. Wow! Inside is decorated with fabulous oil-painted murals up and down the stair walls and ceiling, including a magnificently flamboyant depiction of Botticelli’s Venus above the staircase. These are the paintings famously featured in the movie Priscilla Queen Of The Desert.

5/Walking down the main street beautifully restored buildings were exactly like the apartment one of my characters would live in Mica Ridge and then there are the roses. Love the roses outside all the town buildings. ‘Billy had forgotten about the roses until she saw them again on the day she arrived back to her home town.’

6/The huge airport and the RFDS Base – all those trees surrounding the tarmac, the heat that belts off it on hot days. Rental cars parked under the trees. Though, just stating, the flying doctor base scenes are set in Mica Ridge Base, which is smaller than Broken Hill. 

7/Silverton – two of my characters visited the pub, as did my husband and I, funny that, which is stocked with memorabilia from movies made in the area such as Mad Max, A Town Like Alice, it’s a must visit place with history around every corner. A really fun atmosphere, but so spread out it reminds you how much is gone, and gives the impression of being deserted.

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Desert Sculptures

8/The Desert Sculptures – loved this hilltop, in the middle of the outback, art gallery – arranged with huge, truly inspiring sculptures. The paths, bushes, trees, and native flowers all complimented the different-themed stone carvings (stone sourced from Wilcannia) on the skyline. Loved that the artist’s interpretation was explained on discreet signage beside each artist’s work.

9/Mt Gipps Station and the Sturt’s Desert Pea – inspiration for Blue Hills Station in the book – and the best farm stay ever.

10/And of course the people. The wonderful, laconic, incredibly tough people in town and on the land. Then there are the flight nurses, doctors, pilots and everyone else who makes saving lives in the outback, happen with a minimum of fuss.

I really hope everyone enjoys The Homestead Girls and… so my answer is why wouldn’t I draw inspiration from Broken Hill?

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Highway Signs

 *****

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Review: The Forsaken by Ace Atkins

 

Title: The Forsaken { Quinn Colson #4}

Author: Ace Atkins

Published: Corsair: Murdoch Books June 2015

Status: Read from June 21 to 22, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

This is the fourth installment of Ace Atkin’s crime fiction series featuring former Army Ranger Quinn Colson, now Sheriff of Tebbehah County in rural northeast Mississippi.

The Forsaken begins a few short months after the tornado that devastated the county as Quinn and his deputy, Lillie, are faced with possible charges for the dramatic confrontation in The Broken Places that left a corrupt sheriff and his deputy from another county dead, and over $200,000 in cash from a decades old armoured car robbery missing.

It’s no surprise that Johnny Stagg is behind the investigation into the shooting but his motive is. It seems Stagg’s past is about to catch up with him and, needing Colson on his side for this particular battle, he has concocted an elaborate scheme to ensure Quinn’s support.

Doing his best to ignore Stagg’s machinations, which isn’t doing his chances for re-election as Sheriff any good, Colson is drawn into investigating a decades old cold case involving the rape and murder of a young girl, and the subsequent lynching of the black man accused of committing the crime. Finding evidence that the man was innocent, Colson is determined to identify the men and bring the members of the lynching party to justice.

The narrative moves between the past and the present, and once again, Colson’s professional and personal life become tangled when he learns that both his uncle, the former town Sheriff, and his absentee father, were most likely involved in the crime.

As I have come to expect, the dialogue is genuine, the humour quick and there is enough action to keep things interesting. The rural setting is well drawn and the details authentic. The characters are terrifically well drawn, often deeply flawed but interesting and nuanced.

Though The Forsaken could conceivably be read as a stand alone, I wouldn’t recommend it as familiarity with the primary characters and their history adds depth to the story. I continue to enjoy this gritty series and I’m looking forward to reading The Redeemers.

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Review: The Unbroken Line by Alex Hammond

 

 

Title: The Unbroken Line {Will Harris #2}

Author: Alex Hammond

Published: Viking Penguin Au June 2015

Read an Excerpt on Book’d Out

Status: Read from June 21 to 24, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Unbroken Line is Alex Hammond’s second legal thriller featuring defence lawyer Will Harris, following on from his Ned Kelly Award nominated debut, Blood Witness.

Will is still dealing with both the personal and professional consequences of the events in Blood Witness, when he and girlfriend Eva are brutally attacked by two masked men. They have a message for Will from their anonymous employer – back off. Angry and confused, Will has no idea what the men are referring to, but now he is determined to find out, and unwittingly becomes the target of a deadly conspiracy, headed by Melbourne’s elite.

With a well crafted and complex plot, The Unbroken Line is a fast paced story of corruption, violence, conspiracy and vengeance. As Will searches for answers to the attack on he and Eva, he must also defend his new law firm partner, barrister Chris Miller, when he is arrested for negligent homicide, prevent a judge’s teenage son from being charged with manslaughter, and repay his debt to the Ivanics family, all whilst under investigation by the Legal Commissioner for ethics breaches related to his actions in Blood Witness. With some surprising twists, Hammond reveals the links between these seemingly unrelated threads developing an exciting multi-layered storyline.

Will is an appealing protagoinist, flawed but intelligent, with a strong sense of justice. Under siege professionally, Will is faring no better in his personal life. He is still struggling to recover from the debilitating physical effects of the vicious stabbing that left him near dead in Blood Witness, and Eva, traumatised and scarred by the masked men’s attack, flee’s to New York. Though The Unbroken Line could be read as a stand alone, I’d recommend readers begin with Blood Witness, which establishes his relationships with Eva, Chris and several of the other other characters that appear in both novels.

I enjoyed The Unbroken Line, it is a well crafted and gripping legal thriller. Perfect for fans of John Grisham and Michael Connelly.

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Feature Excerpt: The Unbroken Line by Alex Hammond

Alex Hammond was born in South Africa and emigrated to Australia with his family as a child. He graduated in Law/Arts from Melbourne University in 2001 and worked for several leading law firms. Although, ultimately, the law didn’t take, he was exposed to many of the superstitions and sects of the profession and found himself fascinated by the culture, passion and grey moral world that lawyers inhabit.

The Unbroken Line is Alex Hammond’s second stand alone novel legal thriller featuring Melbourne lawyer Will Harris, following on from his Ned Kelly Award nominated debut, Blood Witness.

The violence of the past casts a long shadow – a dark legacy with lethal consequences.
When defence lawyer Will Harris is attacked by masked men with a clear message to back off, he has no choice but to listen. If only he knew what they were talking about.
Under siege as his fledgling law firm struggles to get off the ground, Will agrees to defend the troubled son of a family friend. But the case is far from clear-cut, and the ethical boundaries murky. Instead of clawing his way out of trouble, Will finds he’s sinking ever deeper.
At the same time, his search for his attackers unearths an unexpected source that points him towards Melbourne’s corridors of power. But motives, let alone proofs, are hard to find. It is only when those close to him are threatened that Will realises how near he is to the deadly truth.”

 My review of The Unbroken Line can be seen HERE, but first please read on for an excerpt of this exciting new thriller.

The Unbroken Line – Excerpt

 © published with permission from Penguin Australia

One

It had been six weeks, almost to the day, since he’d had a drink. Remembering the last glass summoned images of that desperate night – the blade glinting under streetlights before it rose again, steaming with his blood in the winter air.
Will Harris took another sip from the champagne Eva had ordered for them.
‘It must feel good to be out of that wheelchair,’ Eva said, no doubt seeing the veil of memory descend across his face.
The restaurant had been Eva’s idea – a date to reboot the fraught circumstances of their meeting; a balance against her holding his wounds closed until the ambulance had arrived.
‘Adversity may have a way of bringing people together,’ she said, ‘but more often it fucks them up.’
Will nodded. ‘It does. No changing the way we met,’ he said. ‘Just what we do from here.’
Earlier they had watched as the setting sun bathed orange light over the pale gums that grew along the banks of the Yarra. From their place above the canopy they could see the turgid water as it traced its way through the wealthy suburbs towards the darkening city and on, again, into the black inevitability of the ocean.
With the arrival of dusk a low line of bats had emerged into the air and even now, as they waited for dessert, the procession continued.
Around Will, the other diners were talking and eating artfully arranged meals on oversized plates lying on bright, starched tablecloths. He drained the glass in his hand and focused his attention on the woman sitting in front of him. Her dark hair was lifted up off her shoulders while her fringe was swept into a wave. Her olive skin contrasted with her yellow silk dress. Its low neckline suggested something of the tone she’d set for the evening.
She smiled at him. He could bask in her warm gaze forever. To simply sit here, with her – that would be reward enough, for everything he had overcome. And yet he couldn’t help himself from speculating, from fantasising: the two of them carrying her boxes into his apartment; her hand clutching his at her first major exhibition; drunk nights and late mornings as the world was reduced to the circumference of their arms.
‘So let’s cut to the chase, champ,’ Eva said, clearing the glassware in front of her so she could reach a hand out to his. As she leant for- wards the light from the candles glowed in her eyes. Her lips parted, revealing the gentle upward curve at the edges of her mouth.
‘Now that you’re out of that wheelchair and able to drive a girl to a fancy dinner, is it safe to say you’re officially ‘able-bodied’?’ she whispered.
He leant in towards her, tensing his stomach muscles to ease the pain where the scars were still healing.
‘Oh, absolutely. I would say that I’m well on my way to a full recovery.’
‘Because I wouldn’t want to set you back. Given how fragile you are.’
Will felt something touch the inside of his thigh. Her foot. Freed from its stiletto it was sliding up the inside of his leg.
‘It’s been a long time, Will Harris. And it’s a terrible thing when a woman has to wait. Injured or not, there are repercussions.’
‘That’s completely understandable, of course. A man would have to make amends to a woman in this situation.’
‘Oh, you don’t know the half of it. Amends are barely the beginning.’ Her foot tapped on him as though she were distracted by some other thought. ‘Glad to see that I have your full attention.’ Eva winked.
‘Hey, Eva?’
‘Yes?’
‘Why are we whispering?’
‘I don’t know. Because it’s seductive?’ She broke into laughter.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ He grinned back at her.
‘You should have worked that out long before now.’
A waiter arrived beside their table with the dessert. ‘Coconut sago with caramelised mango and salted caramel semifreddo.’
‘Thanks,’ said Will, trying not to blush as Eva’s toes drummed across his erection.
‘One other thing, sir,’ the waiter said. ‘The chef was wondering if he could get a photo with you both? He’s thrilled to have you here.’
‘Sure,’ Will said. ‘On our way out?’
‘If that’s convenient?’
‘No problem,’ Will replied. ‘Could I grab an espresso? Sorry, two,’ he corrected, as Eva held up two fingers.
‘Of course, sir.’
Will paused until the waiter was out of earshot. ‘Those things still make me feel uncomfortable.’
‘The photos? You’ll be fine,’ Eva said between spoonfuls. ‘People will forget soon enough. Or you could just say no.’
‘But that feels rude.’
‘Then enjoy it. You deserve it. You brought justice to a murdered girl, caught her killer, gave her family peace.’
‘That’s not how I remember it. You’re leaving yourself out of that story.’
‘Meh. I was just along for the ride.’
‘Well, I hope they bring me my jacket first. I don’t really need to be standing there with a hard-on immortalised on their Facebook page.’
‘What a terrible dilemma,’ Eva said, smiling.

As they crossed the car park, Will had to struggle to keep up. Even though he’d performed his exercises daily, moving was still a painful effort. His physiotherapist had reiterated to him the seriousness of the damage – his abdominal wall had been significantly traumatised; with his core injured, he would find even basic movements challenging. Although he was out of the wheelchair it would be months before he could start to think about any strenuous activity. As Eva swayed in front of him, her dress gripping the contours of her body, it occurred to Will that even though he’d spent so many hours with her, grieved with her, almost died beside her, he was deeply nervous about the raw, animal truth of their compatibility.
Eva leant back against Will’s car, yellow outlined against the British racing green of the vintage Jag.
She pulled him forwards by the lapels, her body softening as she kissed him on the lips, her tongue penetrating deep into his mouth. He could taste the ethanol on her breath, smell the heady perfume that rose up from her to envelop him.
‘Fuck,’ she said, eventually pulling away. ‘I’ve been wanting to do that ever since we started dinner.’
‘Does that count for amends?’
‘It’s a start. I need you to take me home and fuck me.’
Will kissed her again as he pulled the car door open. Eva drew herself away from him and slid into the passenger seat. He moved as quickly as he could to the driver’s side and got in.
‘Are you okay to drive?’ she said, fastening her seatbelt.
‘I’m good.’
Will started the engine and Eva tucked her legs under her, turning towards him and placing her arm around his neck. He took them out of the car park and onto the road.
To their left was a steep bank leading down to the Yarra. A lone vessel, a party barge, drifted down the river. Flashing lights silhouetted its revellers and lit up the craft like a garish lantern on the dark water. To their right were old mill stacks, decaying warehouses and other modern ruins. With the streetlights passing overhead and Eva’s head leaning against his shoulder, Will felt at peace. He’d almost forgotten what this satisfied calm felt like. Eva started to hum to herself as he merged into the traffic that led to the Domain Tunnel.
A black SUV crept out from behind Will and accelerated towards the tunnel, trying to overtake him. He slowed the Jag to let it pass.
Eva stroked the side of his face, stopping when he turned his head away from her.
‘What’s up?’ she said, no longer humming.
Will looked into his side mirror at the SUV closing in. Something was off about the driver and the passenger sitting next to him.
They were both wearing black balaclavas.
‘Eva. Sit up.’
‘What is it?’ she asked, straightening in her seat.
‘Something’s wrong,’ he said, pulling the Jag into the passing lane and accelerating.
Eva looked over her shoulder at the SUV.
‘Shit, Will.’
He pushed the accelerator to the floor and swerved the Jag around a slow-moving hatchback.
‘How do you know they have anything to do with us?’
‘I don’t.’
But it’s the only possible explanation, he thought.
The SUV returned to their rear-view mirror, keeping pace with the old Jag. The tunnel entrance was drawing closer.
No turn-offs.
‘Jesus, Will, they’re still there.’
His hands were shaking. ‘Hold on.’
Will weaved around another car as the tunnel enveloped them. The bright strip lights raced overhead as the car started to shudder, mirroring the shaking of Will’s hands on the steering wheel.
The SUV was closer now, despite his best efforts. With a pounding inevitability it was closing in.
Will looked up ahead. Traffic was thin in the tunnel. He pushed the Jag to its limit, cresting 140 kilometres an hour. All he could hear was the noise from the engine and Eva as she shouted, ‘On the right!’
The SUV was just behind them. A truck was looming in front of them. They were about to be boxed in. Will’s foot was on the floor; the accelerator had nothing left to give. The SUV hustled forwards, its black bonnet glistening under the tunnel lights.
Not enough.
Will pulled the Jag around the truck with millimetres to spare.
The SUV hit the back of the Jag. The shuddering movement thrust Will and Eva forwards, seatbelts straining against the collision. Will’s hands tightened around the wheel as he struggled to keep the car on the road.
The truck whipped past them and Will had to swerve hard to avoid hitting a taxi. Its passengers stared dumbstruck as he hurtled past.
The SUV lurched forwards and touched the rear right panel of the Jag.
Eva was staring straight ahead.
The tunnel exit.
Almost there.
The SUV hit the Jag again. The car rocked and Will fought the wheel as it started to oversteer. A second thud as metal now caught on metal. Both cars were jammed together.
He slammed on the brake, hoping to tear them loose. The larger vehicle rammed them sideways, the concrete of the tunnel wall shredding the Jag’s passenger side. Its windows burst, shattering glass throughout the car. The Jag spun free from the SUV and turned side-on to the road, tyres stripping rubber.
They came to a violent, shuddering halt across the lane.
The SUV stopped 30 metres away. Its doors opened and the men stepped out.
‘Eva?’ Will’s voice broke as he spoke. ‘Eva, are you okay?’
She uncurled herself from the passenger seat, shaking shards of safety glass from her hair. She looked back up at him, bleeding from a cut in her forehead.
Will tried to shove the buckled car door. It didn’t budge. Steel locked on steel.
‘Eva, are you okay?’
‘I think so. You?’
‘Hard to tell. But I’m moving.’
The men were jogging now. Closing the distance.
From the road behind them the horns of stationary cars were blaring. The red warning lights of an accident in the tunnel flickered into life.
Eva pushed the door open and got unsteadily to her feet. Will clenched his jaw as he dragged himself through the shattered remnants of his side window. Pain shot through him as his stomach clenched around old wounds. It was as though razor wire had twisted down his torso.
He slipped as he stood. Oil and radiator fluid had flooded over the ground.
Will grabbed Eva by the hand and they started to run.
The men began to sprint.
Will had never seen anyone move so fast. Before they had even taken five steps the men were on them.
It took only seconds and his head smacked on the concrete. With blurred vision came memory loss – adrenaline and pain confusing the exact circumstances of his hitting the ground. All he knew was that dark eyes stared down at him through a black balaclava. The man was kneeling on Will’s chest.
‘Got your attention?’ the man barked.
‘Yes,’ Will spat.
‘Back off. This is your only warning.’
‘Back off what?’
A latex-covered hand hit hard and flat across his face.
‘Back off.’
‘I don’t know —’
The hand again. This time a fist.
Between the concrete and the blow Will didn’t know what had happened. His eyes rolled back into his head. He’d been KO’ed in the boxing ring before but never like this. The back of his head felt as though it had been engulfed by the ground while the warmth of his own blood was now flooding across his face.
Turning his head sideways, Will saw Eva in the arms of the second man. He felt like broken lead.
Slowly and deliberately the other man dragged the blade of a knife down both of Eva’s cheeks. At first it was as though nothing had happened but as the seconds passed, thin lines of deep red began to appear, giving way to a full flow.
Eva didn’t scream. Not at first. Only when she touched her face and her hands came back glistening.
Both men turned and ran. Beneath the warning lights a crowd had gathered. They all watched as Eva’s dress turned from yellow to red.

***

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Review: This House is Not For Sale by EC Osondu

 

 

Title: This House is For Sale

Author: E.C. Osondu

Published: Granta : Allen & Unwin June 2015

Status: Read from June 20 to 21, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

This slim volume from E.C. Osondu is less a novel and more a collection of short stories, similar to the author’s first work, Voice of America.

Set in Nigeria, centered around the ‘Family House’, the home owned by the unnamed narrator’s grandpa, each chapter tells a story linked to one of the many characters that reside there, from a thieving servant, to dissolute ‘uncles’, to orphaned children, and desperate widows.

The stories are mostly grim with themes such as adultery, murder, poverty, exploitation and rape, though there are flashes of dark humour. Some have a near myth-like edge but essentially reflect contemporary life in rural Nigeria. The stories are also said to reflect Nigeria’s political state, rife with corruption, injustice and poverty.

I have to admit that while I found it somewhat interesting, I didn’t particularly enjoy This House is Not For Sale.

Available to purchase from

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Seasoned Traveller 2015

Review: Chasing Chris Campbell by Genevieve Gannon

 

Title: Chasing Chris Campbell

Author: Genevieve Gannon

Publisher: HarperCollins June 2015

Status: Read from June 15 to 17, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Chasing Chris Campbell is Genevieve Gannon’s second novel, a contemporary story of love, travel and the adventure of finding one’s self.

When Violet Mason’s partner of nearly six years buys her a motorcycle instead of an engagement ring, she decides she has been waiting for her life to start for long enough, and when an email arrives from Chris Campbell, ‘the one that got away’, inviting her to ‘come to Asia’ she impulsively books a one way ticket to Hong Kong, hoping to reconnect with her lost love. Armed with an out of date tourist guide and plenty of hand steriliser, Violet plans to surprise Chris with her arrival, only to learn he has already moved on. Determined not to give up, Violet chases Chris through India to Nepal, back to Hong Kong and then to Vietnam, it is an adventure of a lifetime, but is it true love she finds?

Told in the first person, Violet, a sensible scientist with a mild phobia of germs, is completely out of her element as she travels through Asia. I thought Violet generally was a well developed and believable character. Though there are moments when she feels lost and lonely, with encouragement from her twin sister Cassandra, Violet slowly opens herself up to adventure. She makes friends with fellow travelers like the rather delicious Harry Potter (no, not that Harry Potter)and eventually learns a thing or two about herself. While I would never chase a guy half way around the world based on a few vaguely worded emails, I admired the fact that Violet took the chance and I vicariously enjoyed her adventures.

The author’s descriptions of the various places Violet visits are well written. I particularly enjoyed the journey through India, from Goa, to Delhi, to Varanasi.

Though there are flashes of humour, I have to admit I was expecting more given the novel is promoted as a romantic comedy. I found the writing tended to be a little stiff at times and the tone more often no-nonsense than lighthearted. The pace is good though and I appreciated the epilogue, which provided a satisfying ending.

For more information about Genevieve Gannon and  Chasing Chris Carson please CLICK HERE to read Genevieve’s guest post ‘Long Distance Love’.

 

Chasing Chris Campbell is available to purchase from

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AWW Feature: Long Distance Love, Chasing Chris Campbell and Genevieve Gannon

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I’m happy to introduce you to Genevieve Gannon today who is celebrating the publication of her latest novel, Chasing Chris Campbell.

Genevieve Gannon is a Melbourne-based journalist and author. Her writing was first published in the St Monica’s Primary School newspaper, The Monical, in the form of a mince pie recipe she completely made up. She lifted her standards of journalistic integrity and wrote stories for music and fashion street press magazines while at university before moving to Canberra to do a journalism cadetship. In 2011 she joined the national news wire, Australian Associated Press, where she covered crime, politics and entertainment. Her work has appeared in most major Australian newspapers including The Age, The Australian and The Daily Telegraph. She currently lives in Melbourne where she is a court reporter. At night time she writes romantic comedies.

Genevieve’s debut novel, Husband Hunters, was published in 2014. Chasing Chris Campbell is her second novel.

Violet is saving money: living on rice and beans and denying herself chocolate eclairs all in the name of saving for a home deposit. Once they save enough, she and Michael can buy a house, settle down and live happily ever after. But when Michael does the unthinkable, Violet is forced to rethink her life choices.

A chance encounter with Chris Campbell (first love, boy-next-door, The One That Got Away) spurs her into travelling to exotic locations she never dreamed she’d explore – Hong Kong, Vietnam, Varanasi – on a quest to catch up with Chris and lead a life of adventure. Armed with hand sanitiser and the encouraging texts of her twin sister Cassandra, will Violet find true love before it’s too late? Or will the nerve-wracking experience of travelling send her back to Melbourne in search of safety and stability? Can she work out what she really wants before she is left with nothing?”

My review of Chasing Chris Campbell can be seen HERE, but first please read on to learn more about Chasing Chris Campbell.

*****

The Tyranny of Long Distance Love

by Genevieve Gannon

Have you ever been in a long distance relationship? When I take a look around my group of friends, most of them have endured interstate or international love at one stage or another. With people travelling for work so frequently, or taking a year off to see the world, the number of opportunities for meeting people who don’t live where you live is great. I’ve had three long distance adult relationships and one transnational teen romance. They can be frustrating, stressful things. Even if you manage to strike some sort of balance with regular phone calls and visits, the inevitability of the situation looms over everything you do. At some point, one person will have to rip up the roots of their life and move, or the relationship will come to an end.
Distance can insert itself into relationships in ways other than those described above. In Australia, parts of the country have huge fi-fo sectors made up of fly-in, fly-out workers who spend a period of time away from their homes working in a regional area. They then fly home to spend time with their families. One partner is left behind to hold the fort while they’re gone. In the US and Canada, where young people travel far and wide to attend university, long-distance love is common. A 2013 Canadian study found that more than 40 per cent of university students were in long distance relationships.
Despite the fact it seems long-range love is all around, there’s not much written on the subject. Researching the topic, I found only one comprehensive study on the long distance love. In an interview, the psychologist behind the research said she was drawn to the subject because she was in a long distance relationship and found there was very little information or advice for couples grappling with the issues that come with conducting a romance from afar.
My first relationship, which bloomed when I was about 16, became a long distance romance when my family moved to the US for six months. At the time, it felt like an eternity. Looking back on it, six short months away from a boy I hardly knew doesn’t seem like a big deal. But my 16-year-old self keenly felt the sense of isolation, uneasiness, and uncertainty that became familiar feelings when I later found myself in relationships that straddled Melbourne and Hobart, Melbourne and Canberra and Melbourne and Sydney.
Because of this experience, I’ve always known a long distance romance was something I wanted to write about. But of course, writing about racing from the office to catch flights on a Friday evening and sending longing emails would make for a boring book. So I tried to investigate the themes in a different way with Chasing Chris Campbell.
For my naïve heroine Violet and her one-that-got-away Chris Campbell it is an interstate move that breaks up their relationship in the first place. Years later when they reunite, she decides she will travel to where he is to see if the one-time spark still burns. It’s an extreme example of something that is very common. But the core issues remain the same: the pressure and distortion distance can bring to a relationship. The fear of regret, the fear of making a the wrong choice. When I discuss what their long distance relationships meant to my friends, they speak of compromise, sacrifice and a need above all a need to communicate with the other partner.
Surprisingly, that one study I mentioned, from Queens University in Ontario, found that, if you can achieve these things, there is no reason a long distance relationship can’t work. While there were individual variations, broadly speaking, there were few differences between long-distance relationships and geographically close relationships.
The study found long distance relationships are not at an intrinsic disadvantage.
Its acknowledgement that this knowledge could help couples in long distances relationships seems to indicate those differences and challenges that do exist, are ones that can be soothed by reassurance and information. That is why my girlfriends and I used to love to talk and talk and talk about how we dealt with distance, and why I wanted to explore it in Chasing Chris Campbell.

Chasing Chris Campbell is available to purchase from

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