Review: The Fallout by Rebecca Thornton

 

Title: The Fallout

Author: Rebecca Thornton

Published: December 5th 2019, HarperCollins Au

Status: Read December 2019, courtesy HarperCollins/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

In The Fallout, Rebecca Thornton’s third fiction novel, minutes after Sarah witnesses her best friend’s young son climbing a pole in a playground, and distracted, says nothing, the boy falls. Four year old Jack is badly injured, and Sarah is horrified, but can’t bring herself to admit to Liza that she may have been able to prevent the tragedy. Desperate to redeem herself for failing to tell the truth, Sarah vows to do everything she can to make up for her mistake, but lies have consequences, and there are some things can’t be forgiven.

Thornton explores several themes in The Fallout, including friendship, parenting, postpartum depression/psychosis, loss, and post traumatic stress. The story unfolds primarily from the perspectives of Sarah and Liza as they struggle with the fallout from Jack’s accident. Thornton also makes use of WhatsApp chat and interview transcripts in the novel to good effect. Amongst other things, they reveal the petty dynamic too often present among groups of mothers, and illustrate the varying social attitudes to parenting in general, as speculation about the fall, and who is to blame, runs riot.

Sarah is an exhausting character, and though I felt sympathetic towards her, I also found her frustrating, and irritating. Her frenzied anxiety, fed by residual feelings of guilt and grief, leads to impulsive, and sometimes irrational decisions, that worsens every situation exponentially, despite usually having the best of intentions. I did feel that the story got a little bogged down in Sarah’s spiral of panic, occasionally teetering on the edge of absurd, and slowing the pace.

Liza is also wound a little tight, not only because of the uncertainty surrounding Jack’s injury, and the complicated state of her marriage, but also due to a past event, which Thornton delays revealing until the very end of the novel. I’d guessed the circumstances that Liza was struggling with early on, so I found the reveal to be anti-climatic, but I liked the way in which the author acknowledged the impact of events on Liza’s husband’s.

The Fallout is a engaging read, I found the premise to be relatable, and I empathised with the characters.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

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Review: A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh

 

 

Title: A Madness of Sunshine

Author: Nalini Singh

Published: December 3rd 2019, Hachette Au

Status: Read December 2019, courtesy Hachette Au

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++++++

My Thoughts:

Best known for her popular paranormal romance series, Guild Hunters (of which I’ve read a few), A Madness of Sunshine is Nalini Singh’s first published foray into the genre of contemporary thriller/suspense.

In need of familiarity after heartbreaking loss, Anahera Rawiri returns from London to Golden Cove, the close-knit community on New Zealand’s West coast where she grew up. It seems to have changed little during her near decade long absence, but the town’s equilibrium is shattered when a beloved young local woman disappears while out jogging.

Will Gallagher, the sole police officer stationed in Golden Cove, is quick to launch a search for the missing teen, and when it proves fruitless, must consider that a local is responsible for Miriama’s disappearance. As an outsider, Will finds himself relying on Anahera to help unearth the secrets that may reveal a killer hiding in their midst.

A Madness of Sunshine offers more than one intriguing mystery, Miriama is not the first young woman to vanish in Golden Cove, around fifteen years previously three female hikers also disappeared, their bodies never found. Will is compelled to explore the possibility of a link, though Singh provides several red herrings to distract the reader as Will investigates, shedding light on the darkness of the past, and the present.

Anahera and Will are both complex, well developed characters, with interesting backgrounds. They share scars from life changing trauma, and have an attraction that is almost instinctual. I liked the relationship that developed between them, though it has only a minor role in the story.

The residents of Golden Cove are representative of a small town, with long-standing, often complicated, relationships. The author deftly includes elements of Maori culture within the story, communicating a sense of place without any awkwardness. Singh’s description of the isolated town and its wild environs are also wonderfully evocative, underscoring the vaguely disquieting atmosphere that intensifies as the plot unfolds.

A well crafted novel offering a compelling mystery and engaging characters, I really enjoyed A Madness of Sunshine.

++++++

Available from Hachette Australia

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

Review: The Strangers We Know by Pip Drysdale

 

 

Title: The Strangers We Know

Author: Pip Drysdale

Published: December 1sr 2019, Simon & Schuster Australia

Status: Read December 2019, courtesy Simon & Schuster/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

“Nothing is ever as it seems, is it?”

When Charlie Carter catches a glimpse of a man who looks like her husband on a dating app, she desperately wants to believe she is mistaken. Since their marriage eighteen months previously, Oliver has been the perfect husband…hardworking, attentive and loving, and she wants his unequivocal denial to be enough.

“You see, that’s the problem with trust issues: eventually you find you can’t trust yourself either.”

But it isn’t. To allay her lingering suspicions, Charlie sets a trap and is devastated when her worst fear is realised. Her marriage is over.

“And that should have been it: rock bottom. A cheating husband and broken dreams. Fair is fair. But no. Life was just getting warmed up.”

Fast-paced with some surprising twists, The Strangers We Know is an entertaining contemporary thriller from Pip Drysdale.

I really enjoyed the plot, and I’m loathe to spoil the surprises it offers. There is an unpredictability that is compelling, if not entirely credible, and I easily read it straight through.

Unfolding from Charlie’s first person perspective, Drysdale exploits the character’s profession as an actress in the structure of the novel, it’s easy to imagine this novel being adapted for the screen. It has a modern sensibility which will appeal to a younger audience, and a classic whodunnit twist to satisfy mystery fans.

Caught in a web of deceit and betrayal, and unsure who to trust, Charlie doesn’t always make smart decisions, which can be frustrating, but her naivety is also relatable, which makes her an appealing character. She is indubitably the star of this novel.

“But here’s the thing with life: You have to get through it. There’s no choice. Eventually, even in real life, the heroine has to win out in the end.”

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster Australia

Also available from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: Now You See Them by Elly Griffiths

 

Title: Now You See Them {Magic Men #5}

Author: Elly Griffiths

Published: December 3rd 2019, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Status: Read November 2019, courtesy Netgalley/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

++++++

My Thoughts:

I was delighted for the opportunity to continue with Elly Griffiths’s mystery series featuring police detective Edgar Stephens and magician Max Mephisto In Now You See Them, the fifth book of the Magic Men (or Stephens & Mephisto) series.

Unexpectedly, eleven years have passed since the events of The Vanishing Box. In the interim, Edgar Stephens has been promoted to Superintendent, and is happily married to (former Sergeant) Emma, with three young children, while Max Mephisto has become an American movie star and married a Hollywood starlet, with whom he has two young children. The pair are reunited in Brighton at the funeral of Stan Parks, aka The Great Diablo, but the separation has put some strain on their friendship, and both are too busy with their own interests to properly reconnect. Max is negotiating a role in a movie to be filmed in England with the country’s hottest teen idol, Bobby Hambro, while attempting to spend time with his grown daughter, Ruby, who is now the star of a popular television series, and Edgar is overseeing a search for the runaway teenage daughter of a local MP, and preparing for the May Bank Holiday, during which large groups of warring Mods and Rockers are expected to clash on the Brighton foreshore.

Suspecting that the missing teen is simply skiving to stalk Bobby Hambro at his London hotel with all the other young ‘Bobby Soxers’, DI Bob Willis, and WPC Meg Connolly are tasked with making inquiries, but Samantha Collins, a reporter at the local paper, thinks otherwise. She believes that Rhonda Miles is the third of three teenage girls who may have been abducted, and approaches Emma with her suspicions.

Emma, who has become increasingly restless in her role as only a housewife and mother, sees merit in the theory, and eagerly presents it to her husband, hoping she can perhaps be of help in the investigation. She’s hurt when Edgar barely acknowledges it, and so with the support of Sam, somewhat naively does some investigating of her own, children in tow.

The questions surrounding the fate of the missing girls is the core mystery in Now You See Them. The police have few leads and no real evidence of the connection, and Griffiths makes the most of the uncertainty, but it’s not until Ruby goes missing that any real urgency is introduced into the plot.

Now You See Them is far more about the characters than the plot though, Max and Emma in particular are at a crossroads of a type. I felt that Edgar was sidelined somewhat, but as a Superintendent he is no longer a hands on detective, so that makes sense. I enjoyed the time leap in character growth much more than I expected, and I also liked the introduction of the new WPC.

One of the strengths of this series remains its sense of time and place, the jump from the mid 50’s to the mid 60’s is deftly accomplished with Griffiths illustrating the cultural shifts in various ways.

Now You See Them can probably be read as a stand-alone but the experience will be much richer if the reader is familiar with the series. I enjoyed both the story, and reconnecting with the characters. Interestingly Griffiths seems to have ended with a hint of a new direction for this series that may see Emma and Sam in the forefront.

++++++

Available from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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Also by Elly Griffiths reviewed at Book’d Out

Review: The Diamond Hunter by Fiona McIntosh

 

Title: The Diamond Hunter

Author: Fiona McIntosh

Published: November 1st 2019, Michael Joseph

Status: Read November 2019, courtesy PenguinRandomHouse

++++++

My Thoughts:

From a ramshackle, dusty miners camp in Southern Africa, to the green countryside of northern England, and the bustling city of London, Fiona McIntosh takes us on a journey of heartbreak, trust, betrayal, and love in her latest historical fiction novel, The Diamond Hunter.

Clementine is just six when her well-born mother succumbs to malaria on the plains of Southern Africa where her father, James, has brought them, determined to make his fortune during the 1870’s gold rush in Africa. With his wife’s death, James obsession to prove his worth grows and he stakes a claim in a nearby diamond mine, but haunted by grief and guilt, both the working of the claim, and the care of Clementine, is largely left to his partner, Joseph One-Shoe, a Zulu warrior.

Just as Joseph uncovers a large diamond that will ensure a secure future for them all, tragedy strikes, and Clementine has no choice but to return to England in the care of her Uncle to claim her birthright as the only legitimate heir of the wealthy Grant family.

Clementine is a wonderful character, as a child she is sweetly precocious, adoring both her father, despite his obvious flaws, and Joseph One-Shoe, whose love for her is achingly tender. Though still only a child when she returns to a life of privilege in England, as she grows Clementine remains grounded, and I found her to be an appealing heroine.

Joseph One-Shoe is also a delight, a Zulu warrior with a largely unpronounceable name, it’s is Clementine that christens him due to his preference of wearing just one shoe in order to remain connected to the land. In her Author’s Notes, McIntosh reveals she based his character on a young African man who was hired to care for her and her family while they lived in a gold mining camp in Africa during the 1960’s.

Reggie Grant, Clementine’s Uncle, is perhaps the most complex character in the novel, neither a hero nor a villain, he is both laudable, and deeply flawed. His actions are the catalyst for the questions that arise surrounding the death of Clementine’s father, driving her to determine the truth.

There is a touch of romance introduced to the plot when Clementine meets Will Axford, an underwriter for Lloyd’s of London. While somewhat conservative in his thinking, Will is a good match for her, in that he is plain spoken and honourable, though perhaps to a fault. The unresolved nature of their relationship is unusual for McIntosh, and I wonder if perhaps the author has plans to return to this story.

As always, McIntosh’s deftly weaves historical fact into her fiction. The story is meticulously researched, and her descriptions evocative, particularly in terms of her depiction of the frenzy surrounding the diamond rush, and the settlement that grew around ‘The Hole’, which later became the capital city of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province, Kimberley. The author also includes some general insight into the diamond trade during the period, and alludes to Lloyd’s of London’s first steps in expanding beyond marine policies.

Beautifully written with authentic characterisation and detail, The Diamond Hunter is a captivating read from, as I’m quoted on the back cover, an extraordinary storyteller.

++++++

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Available from PenguinRandomHouse

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Also by Fiona McIntosh reviewed at Book’d Out

 

Review: Cry of the Firebird by T.M. Clark

 

Title: Cry of the Firebird

Author: T.M. Clark

Published: November 18th 2019, Harlequin MIRA

Status: Read November 2019

+++++++

My Thoughts:

When World Health Organisation consultant Dr Lily Winters is asked to evaluate a murdered colleague’s unfinished project in South Africa, she jumps at the chance to return to the country of her birth. Supported by her husband Quintin, a world renowned violinist, Lily is eager to investigate the inexplicable clusters of illnesses and deaths recorded by her colleague, but as she grows closer to the source, she finds herself caught up web of corruption, greed, and revenge, and the unwitting target of a ruthless cabal who will stop at nothing to protect their secrets.

Offering a multilayered plot that includes more than one thread of intrigue, Cry of the Firebird, is a fast paced and exciting thriller in which Clark explores several issues, among them drug tampering, profiteering, police corruption, AIDS, early onset Alzheimer’s, wildlife conservation (particularly with regards to flamingos), and displacement.

If I’m honest, the central intrigue of the book bothered me a little because it feeds the narrative of ‘big pharma’ conspiracists, and by extension anti-vaxxer’s. However after I finished the book I did a little research and I was horrified to discover that WHO estimates 1 in 10 medical products in developing countries are substandard or falsified.

I found the main characters of Lily, her husband Quintin, and San police officer Piet Kleinman, to be appealing and well developed. Lily is smart, dedicated and thoughtful, with a stubborn streak that ensures she won’t give up easily, even when threatened. I adored the relationship between Lily and Quintin, there is such a strong, supportive bond between them that I really delighted in. Piet is an interesting character, as a displaced Kalahari bushman (San) he has a fascinating background and unique skills that he uses as both a police officer and as a medicine man to help others, especially in the San settlement of Platfontein.

Somewhat curiously for a fiction novel, along with a glossary, Clark includes some notes she titles Fact vs Fiction in the books last pages. Here she comments on where her novel is based in fact, and where she has used creative licence for the purposes of her story.

A compelling story which offers adventure, suspense, and heart, Cry of the Firebird is a terrific read I’m happy to recommend.

++++++

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Available from HarperCollins Au

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Review: House of Wishes by Jenn J. McLeod

 

Title: House of Wishes

Author: Jenn J. McLeod

Published: November 19th 2019, Wild Myrtle Press

Status: Read November 2019, courtesy the author

++++++

My Thoughts:

House of Wishes by Jenn J. McLeod is a captivating stand-alone novel with loose links to two of her previous five novels, House For All Seasons and Simmering Season.

Moving between two timelines, set forty years apart, House of Wishes offers an enjoyable and poignant exploration of grief, love, belonging and redemption.

The narrative shifts between Beth’s journey to understand her late mother’s wish to have her ashes scattered over an unmarked grave in the rural town of Calingarry Crossing in 2014, and farmer/stonemason/handyman Don Dawson’s connection to Dandelion House, a home for unwed mothers on the outskirts of town, and the two young women confined there in 1974, Lissy and Irene.

McLeod’s characters are vivid and appealing. An actress and dancer, mourning the loss of her marriage, a pregnancy, and her mother in quick succession, forty year old Beth is at a crossroads in life when she arrives in Calingarry Crossing, unprepared to discover a legacy of life-changing secrets, and find romance with local farmer, Tom.

Don is a sweetheart, a hard working young man who grows besotted with Lissy and is desperate to build a future with her and her baby. When tragedy strikes he does his best to hold on to that dream, but it eventually falls apart, and Don somehow has to find the will to go on.

The plot touches on several sensitive issues, such as the historical stigma of unwed motherhood, pregnancy loss, sexual abuse, suicide, and addiction, but at its heart I feel this is a story about family. Through the experiences of her characters, McLeod thoughtfully explores the strengths and failings of the family we are born into, and the family we choose, or who chooses us.

Well crafted with engaging characters, a strong sense of place and a thoughtful plot, House of Wishes is sure to delight both fans and new readers alike.

++++++

Learn more about House of Wishes by reading this guest post from Jenn J. McLeod

House of Wishes is available from 19th November.

For more information and special pre-release prices on both print and ebook, visit www.jennjmcleod.com

Also by Jenn J. McLeod reviewed at Book’d Out 

Review: Up On Horseshoe Hill by Penelope Janu

 

Title: Up On Horseshoe Hill

Author: Penelope Janu

Published: November 18th 2019, MIRA

Status: Read November 2019, courtesy Harlequin/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

A rural romance with a hint of suspense, Up On Horseshoe Hill is Penelope Janu’s third novel.

Set in the general area of Dubbo, NSW, Up On Horseshoe Hill features farrier Jemima Kincaid, known as Jet. I love that Jet is a farrier, my late father in law was a farrier/blacksmith and it’s a profession rarely credited even though it is a quintessential rural occupation.

There is often something very childlike about Jet, which is not unexpected given her background. One of the main themes Janu explores in Up On Horseshoe Hill is the tyranny of grief, and the struggle to move on from loss. Having lost her entire family in a series of tragedies by her late teens, and then being further traumatised by another incident, Jet is emotionally fragile. In conjunction with her severe dyslexia, and the well meaning support from a few key friends in the close knit community, Jet has been able to avoid confronting her issues and never really moved on with her life.

I’m in two minds about the relationship that develops between Jet and Finn. I liked Finn mostly, his unusual occupation as a jet setting veterinary geneticist adds interest to the story, and though he is almost the complete opposite of Jet I could understand why she would find him so attractive. Finn is generally patient and thoughtful with Jet’s vulnerabilities, and the couple share some nice moments together, but Jet’s emotional immaturity in some of their interactions occasionally made me uncomfortable.

The specifics of the element of suspense in Up On Horseshoe Hill is somewhat unusual for this genre, linking as it does from a local crime to an international issue. I was quite intrigued by what I learnt about the matter.

I enjoyed Up On Horseshoe Hill, it’s a well written and engaging story.

++++++

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Available from Harlequin AU

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Blog Tour Review: The Island On the Edge of the World by Deborah Rodriguez

 

Title: The Island On the Edge of the World

Author: Deborah Rodriguez

Published: November 5th 2019, Bantam Australia

Status: Read November 2019, courtesy PenguinRandomHouse

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Island On the Edge of the World is an engaging and thought provoking contemporary fiction novel from Deborah Rodriguez.

At her beloved grandmother’s insistence that her estranged mother is in trouble, Charlie reluctantly agrees to a trip to Haiti to find her, though she doubts April has any need of them since it’s been more than a decade since they last heard from her. On their journey to Port-au-Prince, Charlie and Bea meet Lizbeth, a Texan widow in search of her late son’s girlfriend, Senzey and their child. Together the women make their way through the colourful, confronting, and chaotic streets of Haiti, finding friendship, family, and forgiveness.

Unfolding primarily from the perspectives of Charlie, Bea, and Lizbeth, Rodriguez’s characters are interesting women with strong motives for undertaking the challenging journey to Haiti. Bea feels strongly that Charlie needs to reconnect with her mother if she is going ever to move past the consequences of her difficult childhood, and while deep down Charlie recognises she has a need for some sort of closure, she believes she is simply humouring her grandmother’s ‘visions’ when she agrees to the task. Meanwhile Lizbeth is still grieving after tragically losing both her husband and son in quick succession. When she learned that her son fathered a child with a local girl while working in Haiti with a NGO, she impulsively decided to search for them, but far from her comfort zone Lizbeth is quickly overwhelmed by the task in a country that lacks familiar infrastructure.

Rodriguez’s depiction of Haiti and its vibrant yet disordered culture is vivid and thoughtful. The country has yet to recover from the devastating physical damage caused by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010, nor of the well meaning assistance that followed, much of which has done more harm than good, perverted by ignorance, corruption, and the clash of Christian dogma with the nation’s Vodoun beliefs. The author touches on a number of sensitive subjects that plague the country including human trafficking, child slavery (Restavek), labour exploitation, and prejudice. Yet the people of Haiti fight to survive, and thrive, against all odds, and the Haitian characters of Senzey and Mackenson, the women’s translator/driver, illustrate this admirable spirit of strength and bravery.

Despite the serious elements within the novel, there is also humour and plenty of heart in The Island On the Edge of the World. This is a charming and thoughtful read with a social conscience.

++++++

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Available from PenguinRandomHouse

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Review: The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes

 

Title: The Giver of Stars

Author: JoJo Moyes

Published: October 1st 2019, Michael Joseph

Status: Read October 2019, courtesy Penguin Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

“So, what the Sam Hill is a travelling library, anyway?”

The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes is historical fiction inspired by the remarkable women who worked for the WPA Packhorse Library in rural Kentucky from the mid 1930’s to the mid 1940’s. For around $28 a month, these travelling librarians rode into the Appalachian Mountain through difficult terrain and all types of weather delivering books to homes and schools.

“It’s women doing the riding. Delivering the books.’

‘Women?’

‘By themselves?’ came a man’s voice.

‘Last time I looked, God gave ’em two arms and two legs, just like the men.”

Moyes sets her novel in the fictional small mining town of Baileyville in southern Appalachia, where the newly founded Packhorse Library attracts a group of diverse women into its employ. Though nominally headed by Mrs. Brady, it’s Margery O’Hare, a fiercely independent Mountain woman who takes charge of the library. She is joined by Alice Van Cleeve, the new English bride of the mine owner’s son, who is regretting the whirlwind courtship that brought her half way across the world, Beth, the daughter of a local farmer, who dreams of one day escaping Kentucky, Mrs. Brady’s reluctant daughter, Izzy, new widow Kathleen, and Sophia, a young black woman who becomes the library’s clerk.

“I believe sending young women out by themselves is a recipe for disaster. And I can see nothing but the foment of ungodly thoughts and bad behaviour from this ill-conceived idea”

Moyes portrays the community and its residents in a believable manner, highlighting the hard scrabble life of its poorest, and the arrogance of its richest. She explores common prejudices of the era, especially against women, and the environmental and social impact of unregulated mining, but most importantly the author shows how access to books and reading can change the lives of people for the better.

“The Baileyville WPA packhorse librarians were a team, yes, and a team stuck together.”

Of course, the focus of The Giver of Stars is really on the women of the Packhorse Library, the trials they face, and the friendship, support, and strength they offer one another. The characters are well developed, each strong, admirable women who earn the gratitude and trust of those they serve as they often go above and beyond their job description.

“She loved it here. She loved the mountains and the people and the never-ending sky. She loved feeling as if she was doing a job that meant something, testing herself each day, changing people’s lives word by word.”

A captivating story of friendship, love, identity, and justice, The Giver of Stars is a wonderful read.

++++++

Read an Extract

Available from Penguin Australia

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Also by JoJo Moyes reviewed at Book’d Out 

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