Review: The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht

 

Title: The Passengers

Author: Eleanor Limprecht

Published: March 1st 2018, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read May 2019- courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

In Eleanor Limprecht’s captivating novel, The Passengers, a young woman is accompanying her grandmother from America to Australia after an absence of 68 years.

The narrative shifts smoothly between the present day, as the women journey on the cruise ship, and the past, as Sarah reminisces about her life.

“But Sydney isn’t home, love. Never was. Home is the farm we lost when I was sixteen.”

Hannah is fascinated by Sarah’s candid stories of her childhood on a dairy farm, her move to Sydney, her whirlwind romance with an American soldier during World War II, her journey in 1945 as a nineteen year old war bride on the USS Mariposa, and then her life in the US. Sarah shares her experiences both good and bad, of love and loss, and long held secrets. I was very invested in Sarah’s story which is beautifully told by Limprecht, and I was particularly interested in her experiences as a war bride, which I haven’t read a lot about.

“I wanted you close. I guess I hoped you’d want to talk about it, one day. I suppose it’s why I wanted to tell you about Roy. About the secrets I kept.”

While Hannah is ostensibly accompanying her 87 year old grandmother as a helpmate, Sarah hopes that by revealing her secrets on the journey that Hannah might do the same. I thought some of Hannah’s issues contrasted well with Sarah’s experiences, though her primary affliction was not one I found particularly effective in the context of this story.

Though it has its flaws, I thought The Passengers was a moving tale of joy, heartbreak, loss and adventure. I read it without pausing, and I will be looking for more by Eleanor Limprecht.

++++++

 

Available from Allen & Unwin

or from your preferred retailer via Booko

Also by Eleanor Limprecht reviewed at Book’d Out

6BEC9805-2571-41BF-9709-256727777305

Review: Running Against the Tide by Amanda Ortlepp

 

Title: Running Against the Tide

Author: Amanda Ortlepp

Published: March 1st 2016, Simon & Schuster

Status: Read March 2016 courtesy Simon & Schuster

++++++

My Thoughts:

Running Against the Tides is a story of suspense in which Amana Ortlepp explores themes such as displacement, addiction, bias, obsession, and betrayal.

Needing to make a fresh start after the breakdown of her marriage, Erin Travers is drawn to Mallee Bay on the Eyre Peninsula. She has fond childhood memories of the small coastal town, and hopes it will be a place that she and her two teenage sons, Mike and Ryan, can make a home.

It’s not the most auspicious of starts, their rental home is poky and unloved, but while Erin and nineteen year old Mike are determined to make the best of the situation, and soon begin to find their feet, fifteen year old Ryan refuses to make any effort, becoming increasingly antisocial.

Told from the perspectives of Erin, Ryan and Jono, the family’s new neighbour, Ortlepp builds the tension as things at home, and in the town begin to go awry. Erin is annoyed when a cheque goes missing, disturbed when her home is vandalised, and increasingly frightened as she receives a series of anonymous threatening notes. Meanwhile, a spate of thefts from the local oyster farms, including that which belongs to neighbour, and Mike’s new employer, has the locals frustrated and on edge.

Though I found the pace a little slow, I did appreciate the way in which Ortlepp crafted the story to build suspicion around several characters, and eventually both situations come to head with a dramatic, and somewhat surprising, conclusion.

++++++

Available to purchase from Simon & Schuster

Or your preferred retailer via Booko

Also by Amanda Ortlepp reviewed at Book’d Out

 

Review: The Land Girls by Victoria Purman

Title: The Land Girls

Author Victoria Purman

Published: April 23rd 2019, HQ Fiction Au

Status: Read May 2019

++++++

My Thoughts:

In Victoria Purman’s historical fiction novel, The Land Girls, It’s 1942 and World War II has spread from Europe across the Pacific. As fathers, brothers, husbands and sons fight on the frontlines against the Germans, Italians and Japanese, the women left behind are asked to do more than just tend their victory gardens, knit socks, and roll bandages. While some women heed the call and join auxiliary services like the WRANS or the WAAF, or take up positions in factories and shipyards, workers are also desperately needed to ensure Australia’s agricultural industry doesn’t collapse and thus, The Australian Women’s Land Army was founded.

Flora, a 30 year old under-appreciated secretary, volunteers because while one of her brothers is serving overseas, the other cannot, and she is determined that no one will be able to accuse their family of not doing enough.

Betty, not quite 18, leaves her job as a Woolworth’s counter girl when her best friend, Michael, enlists, wanting to prove that she too can make a difference beyond selling cosmetics.

Lily chooses to join the Land Girls when her new husband must report for duty to the Airforce the day after their wedding, despite the displeasure of her ‘society’ parents who would prefer their daughter assist the war effort in a more seemly manner.

With warmth, humour and honesty, The Land Girls follows the journey of these three women from when, for meals, board, a brand new uniform, and thirty shillings a week, they are given their first assignments. It explores not only the challenges the women are faced with as they work long hours, largely unaccustomed to such intense physical labour, in unfamiliar surroundings with strangers, but also the emotional challenges of being separated from family, and their fears for their loved ones serving overseas. There are gains and losses, joy and heartbreak. All three of these women will be changed by their experiences as Land Girls, and the vagaries of war.

Well researched, The Land Girls is a wonderful tribute to the 6000 women who participated in the war effort as a member of The Australian Women’s Land Army between 1942 and 1945. It shamefully took more than fifty years for the Australian government to recognise the value of their contribution. I’m thankful Victoria Purman has shone a light on this admirable facet of history.

The Land Girls is a charming, edifying and poignant novel of Australian women in wartime and the important role they played on the home front, a story of resilience, tragedy and hope.

Read an Excerpt

++++++

Available to Purchase from HarperCollins AU

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko

 

Review: Four Respectable Ladies Seek the Meaning of Wife by Barbara Toner

 

Title: Four Respectable Ladies Seek the Meaning of Wife

Author: Barbara Toner

Published: April 2nd 2019, Bantam Australia

Status: Read May 2019 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse AU

++++++

My Thoughts:

Four Respectable Ladies Seek the Meaning of Wife is the sequel to Barbara Toner’s novel, Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part Time Husband.

In the intervening decade, Pearl McLeary has become a married mother of four, Adelaide Nightingale has been widowed, Maggie O’Connell is unhappily married, and not one of them is happy about the return of Louisa Worthington to Prospect.

Perhaps if I had read Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part Time Husband previously, I would have been more invested in the characters, and hence the story. But unfortunately I have to admit I mostly found this quite hard going, though I did read to the end as I wanted to know how the four women resolved their issues.

I expect that those readers who enjoyed Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part Time Husband, will also enjoy this.

Read an Extract

++++++

Purchase from Penguin Australia or your preferred retailer via Booko

 

Review: Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga by Todd Alexander

 

Title: Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga

Author: Todd Alexander

Published: February 23rd 2019, Simon & Schuster

Status: Read May 2019, won via BetterReading.com.au

++++++

My Thoughts:

I was delighted to win a signed copy of Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga to gift to my mother for Mother’s Day thanks to BetterReading.com.au. However I couldn’t pass it on without reading it first.

Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga is the story of Todd Alexander’s mid life tree change with his partner, Jeff, abandoning inner city living and highly paid careers, for a hundred acre farm in the Hunter Valley, to grow grapes, olives, and run a five star B&B.

Todd has dreams of channeling his inner Maggie Beer…cooking delicious meals from their own produce, sipping their own labeled wine, enjoying the spectacular views over their property, with Jeff by his side. After all, Todd is wont to say, how hard can it be?

It’s certainly not any where near as easy as Todd hopes. What do two gay city boys know about slashing acres of grass, empty water tanks, broken irrigation systems, eggbound chickens, and desuckering 12,000 grapevines? Not a lot as it turns out, but they are willing to learn, and determined to succeed.

There are failures and successes, mistakes and lucky breaks, all of which Todd shares with honesty and humour. I don’t envy them the years of renovation and building (though the results are stunning), or the back breaking work required to both maintain and grow a farm. But I enjoyed his anecdotes about both the joys and challenges of farm life, and particularly the affectionate descriptions of the couples beloved pets, like the titular Helga the pig.

Todd also shares information of a more personal nature, touching on his relationship with his children who are regular visitors to the farm, and I was moved by his support of his mother as she battled bowel cancer. He also discusses how his experiences as a farmer have resulted in him becoming vegan, and provides a dozen or so of his favourite recipes.

Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga is an entertaining and charming memoir, and might just inspire your own dreams for a new life, or at least for a nice glass of Semillon.

++++++

Available to purchase from Simon & Schuster

Or to purchase via Booko

 

Linking to #NonFictionFriday @ DoingDeweyDecimal

Review: The Accusation by Wendy James

 

Title: The Accusation

Author: Wendy James

Published: May 20th 2019, HarperCollins AU

Status: Read May 2019- courtesy HarperCollins/Netgalley

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

The Accusation is author Wendy James’ contemporary take on the Canning Affair, an eighteenth-century criminal case that titillated the Victorian public, a compelling story of trust and betrayal, guilt and innocence.

Susannah Wells, a high school drama teacher, has been living with her mother in the small rural community of Enfield Wash for a just a few months. It’s a quiet life, her mothers dementia driven outbursts aside, in contrast with the years she spent as a young starlet on a popular TV soap.

Susannah, like the rest of the residents in Enfield Wash, expresses her shock when news breaks that a frail, bedraggled young woman has been found on the outskirts of town, claiming to have been abducted, drugged and chained to a bed for more than a month. When presented with the initial results of the police investigation, Ellie tearfully confirms the identity of her captors- Susannah Wells, and her mother, Mary.

Susannah vehemently denies the accusation, but with her arrest, her friends, even her closest friend, her colleagues, the townspeople, and the public at large, judge her guilty. Only her lover, Chip, is willing to believe in Susannah’s innocence, but even his faith begins to waiver as seemingly irrefutable evidence against Susannah builds.

If Susannah is innocent, why was evidence of Ellie’s ordeal found in her home? If Susannah is innocent, what possible motive could a stranger, especially a beautiful and bright young woman like Ellie, have to accuse her? If Susannah is innocent, who is guilty?

I raced through The Accusation, utterly engrossed by the question of Susannah’s guilt or innocence. James skilfully keeps the reader guessing, even while probing the possibilities of truth and deceit.

The story is structured in three parts, covering a period of about 12 months, for the most part progressing linearly, with the occasional slip backward and forward in time. Primarily the narrative unfolds from the perspectives of Susannah, and Honor, Ellie’s PR representative, with brief excerpts from a documentary produced about the case, after its resolution.

Of particular interest is the way in which James explores the role of ‘spin’ and social media in contributing to Ellie’s new found celebrity status, and Susannah’s public vilification. It’s an all too real scenario that demonstrates how easily the public can be manipulated, and how easily truth is dismissed.

The Accusation is provocative and gripping, a contemporary psychological thriller that should be moved to the top of your reading list.

Read an Excerpt

++++++

 

Available to purchase from HarperCollins AU

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko

Also reviewed at Book’d Out by Wendy James

Review: The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

 

Title: The Summer Before the War

Author: Helen Simonson

Published: March 24th 2016, Bloomsbury UK

Status: Read May 2019 courtesy Bloomsbury/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Summer Before the War is a winsome and poignant historical novel by Helen Simonson.

After the death of her beloved father, aspiring spinster Beatrice Nash is grateful to find a position as the Latin instructor in the village of Rye, East Sussex. It is the summer of 1914 and not everyone believes a young single woman is capable of teaching Latin, but with the support of society matron Agatha Kent, and her visiting nephews, surgeon-in-training Hugh and carefree poet Daniel, and Beatrice hopes to make Rye her home.

A quintessential turn-of-the-century village, Rye is a tight knit community, home to a cross section of English society, where everyone knows their place. Simonson wonderfully depicts the petty feuds, scandals and luncheon parties that occupy the town’s aristocracy, the traveling gypsies that camp on the outskirts of the village each summer, the largely uninterested, and unwashed, boys of Beatrice’s class, and the townsfolk and servants going about their everyday business.

But it’s 1914 and impending war heralds change for Rye and it’s inhabitants. Simonson skilfully contrasts the innocence of that summer with the changes to come. War is an abstract concept for most of the villagers, and almost all are convinced that it will be over in weeks, if not days. Even the arrival of refugees from Belgium, billeted amongst the eager wealthy families who want to be seen to be doing their duty, fails to communicate the gravity of the situation, as the mayor’s wife’s ill judged parade stunt proves. It’s only as rationing begins, as the men of the village leave and fail to return, or return broken, that reality begins to puncture the seaside idyll.

The themes of The Summer Before the War focus on the the Edwardian structure of gender and class, exploring Beatrice’s desire for independence, and a bright young gypsy boy’s wish for further education, amongst other circumstances, both directly and obliquely. Simonson also explores notions of duty, to oneself, to family, to others, and to the country in a time of war. And there is love, a slow-burning romance that takes two characters by surprise.

The pace is languid, reflecting the long days of summer, quickening as Simonson takes us to war. At over 500 pages some seem to find the story drags, but I was invested in the characters, and enjoying the subtle wit and rhythm of the language, so I didn’t really notice.

Engaging and endearing The Summer Before the War is a novel to enjoy at a leisurely pace on a warm spring afternoon.

++++++

Available to purchase from Bloomsbury UK

Or your preferred retailer via Booko or  Indiebound

Alternate covers

Review: When It All Went to Custard by Danielle Hawkins

 

Title: When It All Went to Custard

Author: Danielle Hawkins

Published: April 15th 2019, HarperCollins

Status: Read May 2019 courtesy HarperCollins AU

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

“…what’s yellow and very dangerous?….Shark-infested custard “

Having enjoyed Dinner at Roses and Chocolate Cake for Breakfast, I was delighted to have the opportunity to read Danielle Hawkins fourth novel, When It All Went to Custard.

Learning of her husband’s affair with their neighbours wife, Jenny Reynolds is surprised to realise that the end of her marriage will be a relief. In the wake of the separation her priorities are ensuring the happiness of her two young children, and figuring out how to keep the family farm she loves.

Between her ex-husband’s attempts at emotional blackmail, nonsensical knock knock jokes, a lazy farmhand, a lonely old man plying her with chokos, a demanding sister, a high-strung dog, her part time job as a building control officer, and an attractive, and now single, neighbour, Jenny tries to hold it all together and find her footing.

Hawkins has a talent for creating charming and relatable characters, her personal experience of the joys and hardships of farming provide authenticity to the setting, and her skill with genuine dialogue results in great pacing.

Laden with warmth, honesty and humour, When It All Went to Custard is an engaging contemporary story of family, farming and romance in rural New Zealand.

Read an Excerpt

++++++

Purchase from HarperCollins Australia or your preferred retailer via Booko

Also available via HarperCollins US

 

Also by Danielle Hawkins on Book’d Out 

 

Review: Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet by H.P. Wood

 

Title: Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet

Author: H.P. Wood

Published: June 7th 2016, Sourcebooks Landmark

Status: Read April 2019 – courtesy Sourcebooks/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet is an engaging novel set in the early 1900’s on Coney Island, New York.

It’s 1904, and seventeen year old Kitty Hayward finds herself stranded in Coney Island when her ailing mother, and all their belongings, inexplicably disappears from the hotel room they were sharing. Friendless, homeless, and penniless, she must rely on the kindness of a stranger who introduces her to the extraordinary employees and hanger-ons of Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet.

“Theophilus P. Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet is just an ugly old building with blacked-out windows and a faded sign. Thousands of souls may visit Coney Island, but few of those souls are hearty enough to peer inside Magruder’s heavy oak door.”

The characters of Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet are extraordinarily rendered, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Magruder’s is a rundown dime museum crowded with oddities, staffed solely by Zeph, a legless black man. Upstairs lives Timur, a reclusive inventor, and Rosalind, who has a carny act as a half woman half man in a tent on the boardwalk. In the basement of the building is an unlicensed pub which welcomes the unusual employees of the Coney Island attractions after hours. It is with this eccentric family, which also includes Rosalind’s lover Enzo, and a mute orphan boy the call P-Ray, that Kitty unexpectedly finds refuge, and help.

“That’s what we call you…normal people. You call us Unusuals, freaks, monsters… Did you never think we’d have our own name for you? Dozens. As in, dime a.”

Wood takes a little liberty with some of the historical elements in this novel, but the story is richer for it. Coney Island becomes the epicentre of an outbreak of plague (inspired by a similar event which actually occurred on the country’s west coast) threatening both ‘freaks’ and ‘dozens’ alike. It is this tragedy that drives much of action, as the wealthy owners Coney Island’s businesses attempt to hide the virulent disease they call the ‘Calcutta Cough’ in order to protect their profits, and their employees are left to fend for themselves as the dead pile up around them.

“We must keep those hotels filled, miss! Keep those dancehalls crowded, keep that Shoot the Chute flying down the track. And if you develop a slight cough, if your complexion goes a bit lumpy? The men in masks will scoop you up and take you away…”

Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet is a thoughtful exploration of oppression, corruption, belonging, and compassion. Often delightful and charming yet also dark and challenging, its also a story of perseverance and redemption in the face of tragedy.

With lively characters, a colourful setting and a rich and interesting plot I found Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet to be an entertaining and enchanting read.

++++++

Available to Purchase via

Sourcebooks I Indiebound I Amazon US

Booko

Review: Hush Hush {Harriet Blue #4} by Candice Fox and James Patterson

 

Title: Hush Hush {Harriet Blue #4}

Author: Candice Fox and James Patterson

Published: May 7th 2019, Century

Status: Read May 2019 courtesy Penguin

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

The release of Hush Hush gave me the perfect excuse to get acquainted with Detective Harriet Blue. I raced through Never Never, Fifty Fifty and Liar Liar over a day or two and was all caught up. This is a series which requires you to read the books in order.

Hush Hush picks up a few weeks after the events of Liar Liar. Making good on his promise, Deputy Police Commissioner Joe Woods has had Harriet charged with a litany of crimes, including the murder of serial killer Regan Banks. Denied bail and imprisoned, Harriet is targeted daily by inmates and guards alike, only the prison doctor shows her any kindness.

When Woods demands a private interview, Harry is braced for more threats and violence, but instead the Deputy Commissioner offers Harriet a deal. He will have Harriet released, and the charges against her dropped, if she can find his missing daughter and granddaughter, alive.

Harriet’s first instinct is to refuse, she has no desire to do Woods any favours, but when the prison doctor is stabbed to death shortly after their conversation, Harry agrees, determined to not only find Tonya Woods, and two year old Rebel, but also whomever is responsible for the murder of Doctor Goldman.

Reunited with Chief ‘Pops’ Morris, who is on leave after his heart attack, Detective ‘Tox’ Barnes and Detective Edward ‘Whitt’ Whittaker, both of whom are on suspension for their role in the takedown of Banks, Harry and her fellow outsiders begin to chase down leads.

As with the previous instalments of this series the pace is breakneck, perhaps more so here with two quite different cases under investigation. The team must divide to conquer, and short chapters follow their activities as they variously confront uncooperative suspects, hired thugs, angry bikies and hostile ex colleagues. Both cases require hard work, and with limited legal resources available, the team, particularly Tox, have to get quite creative. Honestly, Hush Hush, as with Never Never, Fifty Fifty and Liar Liar, requires some suspension of belief, but you’ll enjoy the experience more if you don’t overthink things.

Fox’s influence on the creation of Harriet Blue is obvious, the character shares many traits with Eden, the main character of the author’s Archer and Bennett series. Harriet though is impulsive and reckless, emotion often overriding rational thought. To be fair, Harry has been under enormous stress for the last few months, she’s been targeted by two different serial killers, lost her brother, been shot, been declared a rogue officer, and unjustly imprisoned. In Hush Hush, unless she can find Tonya and Rebel she will spend at least a decade in prison, if she can survive that long, yet she also insists on hunting for the Doctors killer, even though her priority should be appeasing Woods.

Despite the frantic pace of Hush Hush there are some unexpected developments for Tox. His past transgressions, hinted at in previous instalments, are finally revealed as he forms a relationship with a doctor who treated him for the injuries he sustained in Fifty Fifty. Whitt, still fighting to remain sober, also has an admission to make, and is unsure about how it will be received.

Hush Hush feels like it could be the end of the Harriet Blue series, though there is potential for it to continue, and I hope it will. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the characters, and I find the plots entertaining.

Regardless, it seems the partnership between James Patterson and Candice Fox is far from over with an excerpt for a new stand alone book, named The Inn, by the duo at the end of the book.

Read an Excerpt

++++++

Purchase from Penguin AU or your preferred retailer via Booko

The Harriet Blue Series

Previous Older Entries