Review: The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser

Title: The Hunted

Author: Gabriel Bergmoser

Published: August 5th 2020, HarperCollins Australia

Status: Read May 2020, courtesy HarperCollins/Netgalley

+++++++


My Thoughts
:

The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser was not what I was expecting. Less a thriller than horror novel in my opinion, I’m a little lost for words.

After a blood-soaked young woman stumbles from a car into a remote, outback roadhouse, owner Frank, his teenage granddaughter, Allie, and a handful of unlucky customers are caught up in a horrifying night of violence not all of them will survive.

Unfolding from several perspectives over two timelines that eventually meet, The Hunted is fast paced, action packed and suspenseful. My first instinct is to describe it as a cross between the films Wolf Creek (2005) and Deliverance (1972), and I think this would do well if adapted to the screen.

But had I been aware of the explicit incidences of torture and violence that occur in this novel, I wouldn’t have chosen to read it. At least twice I was uncomfortable enough to consider not finishing it, but to be fair to Bergmoser I was equally uncomfortable not doing so… I needed to know how it would end for the characters, particularly Frank, Allie and the story’s anti-hero, Maggie.

It wouldn’t be accurate to say I liked The Hunted, but that’s a matter of genre rather than any particular flaws with the book. If horror is your thing, I think you’ll love it.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins Australia

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Review: Fool Me Once by Karly Lane

Title: Fool Me Once

Author: Karly Lane

Published: April 28th 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read May 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

When cattle farm manager Georgie Henderson meets businessman Michael Delacourt at a B&S ball, she throws caution to the wind and accepts his invitation to spend the night. Barely a month later they are married during a holiday in Hawaii, but Georgie’s trust in her new husband is shattered just days later when she learns of his connection to the loss of her family’s farm, and her father’s subsequent suicide.

A story about loss, love, trust, and forgiveness, the tumultuous relationship between Georgie and Michael takes centre stage in Fool Me Once. Love-at-first-sight sours when Georgie believes Michael has lied to her, and refuses to let him to explain. Michael isn’t willing to give up on their marriage though, and waits patiently for his chance to convince her that what they feel for each other is true. I liked the whirlwind romance between the couple, and though a dramatic separation is predictable, their eventual reunion is satisfying.

Set in the New England region of NSW, I’m always impressed by the way Lane integrates the realities of farming life into her stories. In Fool Me Once she raises the issues of ‘corporate farming’ -where large company’s buy family farms, sometimes using underhand tactics in order to pressure a reluctant farmer to sell; and the increasing need for farmer’s to embrace technology and diversify in order to increase their operational incomes.

With it’s appealing characters, easy pace and happy ending, I found Fool Me Once to be another engaging and satisfying rural romance novel from bestselling author, Karly Lane.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

 

Also by Karly Lane reviewed at Book’d Out 

 

Review: Adult Conversation by Brandy Ferner

Title: Adult Conversation

Author: Brandy Ferner

Published: May 5th 2020, She Writes Press

Status: Read May 2020, courtesy SheWrites Press/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

Adult Conversation is an engaging and funny novel about a woman’s struggle with contemporary middle-class motherhood.

“Modern motherhood looked so much like anxiety, which was which?”

April doesn’t understand why she is finding full-time motherhood so difficult. She adores her children, eight year-old Elliot, and two year-old Violet, but is increasingly overwhelmed by her family’s endless demands on her time, energy and sanity. Desperate for advice she reaches out to a therapist who helps her to find some perspective

Ferner’s observations of motherhood are wry and honest. I well remember feeling exhausted, frustrated, and ‘touched’ out after a long day of caring for young children so I immediately empathised with April. Her concerns are so close to what my own were in the early years, and though the anxiety of wondering if you are doing it ‘right’ never goes away, thankfully time offers perspective.

April’s shift in perspective comes not only from the wise advice of her therapist to take time for herself without guilt, but an unlikely adventure in her company to Vegas. It’s perhaps a little absurd, with a rather shocking twist, but the trip is illuminating for April.

Told with wit and warmth I enjoyed Adult Conversations, I believe most mothers will relate with at least some aspect of April’s experience, and her desire to meet the needs of her family without sacrificing herself.

++++++

Available from She Writes Press

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Review: The Viennese Girl by Jenny Lecoat

 

Title: The Viennese Girl

Author: Jenny Lecoat

Published: April 28th 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read April 2020, courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Viennese Girl by Jenny Lecoat is inspired by the true story of Hedwig Bercu-Goldberg, a young Jewish woman who escaped the Nazi forces in Vienna, only to find herself trapped on Jersey, a small island in the English Channel, during the German occupation in 1940.

Hedy understands all too well the threat the Nazi’s presence poses to Jersey’s residents, and as a Jew, is desperate to escape their notice. Terrified and angry as conditions on the island worsen, she is forced to volunteer as a translator for the enemy, but uses the opportunity to wage a secret rebellion.

I wasn’t sure about Hedy to begin with, I didn’t like the way she took out her fears on her best friend or his sweet girlfriend, Dorothea, even though I was sympathetic to her anxiety. However I did like that Lecoat avoided characterising her as a saint, and as the story progressed I admired Hedy’s courage, her strength of character, and her resilience.

And while we are currently in the middle of a pandemic and are asked to remain at home, I can’t imagine how Hedy bore eighteen months hiding in Dory’s house sleeping in the attic, or under the floorboards knowing that should she be found it would mean death for herself and everyone she cares about.

The romance between Hedy and German Lieutenant Kurt Neumann is captivating, given as star-crossed lovers they literally risk certain death should they be discovered. Knowing that the story reflects the true circumstances of the couple definitely intensifies the emotion, and I think Lecoat’s portrayal of their relationship was well developed.

I actually would have liked for Lecoat to have taken more care to develop the character of Dorothea though. I didn’t feel as if I understood Dory, nor the relationship she and Hedy had, and I think that was a missed opportunity to add another layer of depth to the story.

Lecoat’s descriptions of the island during Nazi occupation do paint a vivid portrait, especially as she writes about the infrastructure the German’s built, and the deprivations the residents suffered as the soldiers appropriated their goods, livestock and food, leaving the populace to starve.

Despite the grim circumstances in which the novel is set, The Viennese Girl is a tale of hope, love and redemption. A well written and engaging piece of historical fiction.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin     RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

Title: Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Published: April 30th 2020, Penguin UK

Status: Read April 2020 courtesy Penguin UK/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

“We think we can easily see into the hearts of others based on the flimsiest of clues. We jump at the chance to judge strangers. We would never do that to ourselves, of course. We are nuanced and complex and enigmatic. But the stranger is easy. If I can convince you of one thing in this book, let it be this: Strangers are not easy.”

In Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell, the author of five NewYork Times Bestseller non-fiction titles, explores the factors at play when we make judgements about who people are, and why our interactions with strangers so often leads to misunderstanding and conflict.

“We start by believing. And we stop believing only when our doubts and misgivings rise to the point where we can no longer explain them away.“

By default most humans afford each other some level of trust, we must in order to operate within society, the advantage to human beings, in assuming that strangers are truthful, results in efficient communication and social coordination, argues psychologist Tim Levine. He calls this the Truth-Default Theory and in Talking to Strangers, Gladwell examines how this instinctive behaviour shapes our interactions with others, why it matters, and what happens when we get it wrong.

“Transparency is the idea that people’s behavior and demeanor—the way they represent themselves on the outside—provides an authentic and reliable window into the way they feel on the inside.”

Most of us believe we know when someone is telling the truth, or being deceptive – that we can tell by a person’s behaviour, demeanour, or even their attractiveness. Statistically however our ability to determine someone’s truthfulness seems to be quite poor, particularly when there is a mismatch between behaviour and intent. Gladwell discusses how this applies by looking at relevant high profile cases involving people such as Bernie Madoff, and Amanda Knox.

“Coupling is the idea that behaviors are linked to very specific circumstances and conditions.”

Gladwell also introduces the idea that context has a greater influence on our interactions with strangers than often considered. I found this information interesting but I think he overlooked the obvious, and more relatable, aspects of this argument.

In fact there were several issues I thought would be relevant to the discussion in Talking To Strangers that Gladwell barely mentioned, if at all, particularly in terms of how interactions are influenced by conditions such as narcissism and anti-social disorders (which matter when you are talking about politicians), and the difference between how men and women judge strangers. In fact the perspective of this book feels overwhelmingly masculine even though the subject of the book was inspired by the death of a woman, Sandra Bland.

“But the requirement of humanity means that we have to tolerate an enormous amount of error. That is the paradox of talking to strangers. We need to talk to them. But we’re terrible at it…”

I wasn’t entirely convinced in regards to some of Gladwell’s analysis, but I found the narrative to be accessible and the subject thought-provoking. I know I will likely be more conscious of my thought process the next time I talk with a stranger.

++++++

Available from Penguin UK

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Review: The Origin of Me by Bernard Gallate

 

Title: The Origin of Me

Author: Bernard Gallate

Published: March 17th 2020, Vintage

Status: Read March 2020 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Origin of Me is a contemporary, quirky coming of age tale from debut Australian novelist Bernard Gallate.

Fifteen year old Lincoln Locke has a nub. It began as a tiny dark spot above the crease of his buttocks, but it seems to be growing as quickly as his list of problems. Looking for answers, Lincoln stumbles across a memoir by the one-time star of Melinkoff’s Astonishing Assembly of Freaks, Edward Stroud, and as Lincoln slowly reads ‘My One Redeeming Affliction’ he discovers solutions for questions he never even thought to ask, and a past he never knew.

With a large cast of characters, both eccentric and genuine, Gallate explores several themes, among them family, change, friendship, and self acceptance. Lincoln is struggling with a number of issues including the loss of his grandfather, his parents separation, a new school, and of course the growing nub.

Quite a chunkster at 400 pages, the novel is well paced but I think the length will deter a young/new adult audience from picking it up, which is a shame because though it’s ostensibly marketed at adults, I think young men in particular would find Lincoln relatable and enjoy his journey of self discovery.

Told with humour, heart and imagination The Origin of Me is an enjoyable read.

++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: Little Wonders by Kate Rorick

Title: Little Wonders

Author: Kate Rorick

Published: March 17th 2020, William Morrow

Status: Read March 2020 courtesy William Morrow/Edelweiss

++++++++

My Thoughts:

“In dark moments, when Quinn Barrett looked back and analyzed what caused the destruction of her entire life, she should have known that it would happen at the Little Wonders Preschool Happy Halloween Costume Parade (and Dance Party).”

After a long, trying day, Little Wonders Preschool Parent Association President, Quinn Barrett loses her temper when her three year old refuses to wear the Halloween costume she’d spent hours making. When her tantrum is caught on camera by another parent and inadvertently goes viral, Quinn’s perfect life begins to spiral out of control.

Little Wonders is an entertaining novel exploring the pressure on mothers to present a facade of perfection.

Honestly Quinn is the type of woman many of us both envy and resent, she seems to have it all and manage it without any visible effort. Her fall from grace is somewhat satisfying as the viral meltdown exposes her tenuous control over the various areas of her life, including her career and her marriage. But forced to consider what it is she really wants, Quinn earns her redemption, and in the end I found her to be a very sympathetic character.

New to Little Wonders and Boston, Daisy is struggling to fit in. Her electric blue hair, tattooed arms and love of Star Wars marks her as obviously different amongst the traditional moneyed class of Boston society. She’s unwittingly the reason for Quinn’s viral infamy as the ‘Halloween Mom’, and has her own lessons to learn about how far she will go to fit in. I identified more with Daisy than Quinn, or Shanna (Quinn’s sort-of nemesis), and I’d love to play a game of D&D with her.

In this Instagram age, where appearance is often more prized than truth, Little Wonders is relevant and often relatable, even if predictable. I loved the snarky preschool newsletters, (having written a few of those in my lifetime, the truth is definitely in what you leave out), and I enjoyed the geeky fandom/rpg references too.

Witty and winsome I enjoyed Little Wonders finding it an easy, engaging read.

++++++

Available from William Morrow: HarperCollins

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

Review: The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day

Title: The Lucky One

Author: Lori Radar-Day

Published: February 18th 2020, William Morrow

Status: Read February 2020, courtesy William Morrow/Edelweiss

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day is a twisty thriller of betrayal, murder, and dark family secrets.

Alice Fine has only vague memories of being kidnapped from her front yard as a toddler. Rescued within hours by her father, then a police officer, she has always considered herself one of the lucky ones to be reunited with her family, no harm done. Conscious of her good fortune, Alice uses her spare time to participate in the online Doe Network -a website which aims to identify missing persons- where one evening she unexpectedly comes across the face of her abductor. Wanting answers Alice, with the help of two other amateur websleuths, decides to learn more about him. When her search leads her to cross paths with Merrily Cruz, who is worried about her missing former stepfather, the pair realise they are both looking for the same man and the shocking truth about who he is will unravel their past, and their future.

The story unfolds from the alternating perspectives of Alice and Merrily, who seem to have almost nothing in common except for a tenuous connection to the missing man. Neither of them have any idea of the danger that will place them in as they begin to dig into his past in order to understand their own. To be honest I thought the characterisation overall was a little weak and sometimes inconsistent, particularly in relation to Alice, however I was interested in how Alice and Merrily would be affected as the truth was revealed.

The mystery is well plotted offering a few intriguing twists. I thought the pace was a little slow until the lives of Alice and Merrily intersected, but Rader-Day does effectively build tension, and I was engrossed in the unraveling lies, secrets, and betrayals. I thought the major twist was unique and unpredictable, leading to a satisfying conclusion.

With its original premise, I thought The Lucky One was a decent thriller.

++++++

Available from William Morrow

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Review: Mountain Road, Late At Night by Alan Rossi

Title: Mountain Road, Late at Night

Author: Alan Rossi

Published: February 1st 2020, Picador

Status: Read February 2020 courtesy Pan Macmillan Au

++++++

My Thoughts:

When a young couple, Nicholas and April, are killed in a car accident on their way home from a party, questions arise over who will raise their four year old son, Jack.

Nicholas’s brother, Nathaniel and his wife Stefanie, are willing to step up, but no one, including them, are sure they are ready for the responsibility. Nicholas and Nathaniel’s parents, Katherine and David, have the resources to provide for their grandson but their marriage is on shaky ground, while Tammy wants the chance to atone for the mistakes she made as a young, single mother to April.

Unfolding in four parts, Rossi takes us into the minds of Nathaniel, Katherine, and Tammy in the days following their loss as they grapple with their grief, anxieties, regrets, and mortality, while facing the decisions that must be made as life continues.

I was impressed by the authenticity of each voice, but I also found it exhausting to be so immersed in the unfiltered thoughts of these characters. Nathaniel’s angst, Katherine’s confused grief, and Tammy’s guilt are intensely felt as they hold somewhat circular discussions with themselves, and others, about what they are, and should, be thinking, feeling, and doing.

It was the final devastating chapter though that affected me the most as Rossi takes us into the mind of Nicholas, badly injured and trapped in his upturned car for hours, as he contemplates the life he has lived, and what he will leave behind.

Though this is not really the sort of reading I prefer, objectively I can recognise the literary merit of Mountain Road, Late at Night, I and admire what Rossi has accomplished.

++++++

Available from Pan Macmillan Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: Can You Hear Me? By Jake Jones

Title: Can You Hear Me? A Paramedic’s Encounters with Life and Death

Author: Jake Jones

Published: February 6th 2020, Quercus UK

Status: Read February 2020, courtesy Quercus/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

“Every occupation carries its own mythology. This one has the sparkle of excitement, but don’t be dazzled. Not all flashing lights mean there’s a disco going on.”

In Can You Hear Me?, Jake Jones (writing under a pseudonym) draws on his decade of experience as a paramedic in the UK to share the reality of what he encounters each day (and night) when he dons his green uniform.

The stories are told with compassion and humour, representing the mundane and miraculous, the triumphs and tragedies. Jones effortlessly evokes emotion as he relates tussling with an uncooperative drug addict, helping an ill man into clean pyjama’s, kneeling beside a man without a pulse, and cradling a newborn in his arms.

Jones also writes of the physical and emotional stress he (and his colleagues) experience, and must learn to manage, to avoid burn-out. I found some of his musings a little tedious, interrupting the flow of the narrative, but I appreciated his honesty. Of particular note are the author’s comments about the increasing strain placed on the ambulance service caused in large part by non-emergent calls, including those which require mental health, rather than medical, intervention.

Can You Hear Me? is an interesting and thought-provoking memoir exposing the challenges of paramedic work.

++++++

Available from Quercus UK

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