Review: Good Riddance by Eleanor Lipman

Title: Good Riddance

Author: Eleanor Lipman

Published: Houghton Mifflin February 2019

Status: Read from Feb 6th to Feb 6th 2019

Daphne Maritch doesn’t quite know what to make of the heavily annotated high school yearbook she inherits from her mother, who held this relic dear. Too dear. The late June Winter Maritch was the teacher to whom the class of ’68 had dedicated its yearbook, and in turn she went on to attend every reunion, scribbling notes and observations after each one—not always charitably—and noting who overstepped boundaries of many kinds. 

In a fit of decluttering (the yearbook did not, Daphne concluded, “spark joy”), she discards it when she moves to a small New York City apartment. But when it’s found in the recycling bin by a busybody neighbor/documentary filmmaker, the yearbook’s mysteries—not to mention her own family’s—take on a whole new urgency, and Daphne finds herself entangled in a series of events both poignant and absurd. “

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My Thoughts:

Meh.

I was underwhelmed by ‘Good Riddance’. The yearbook, and it’s potential, was a great hook for a story, but I found the plot superficial and banal. So too was Daphne, Lipman’s main protagonist.It was her father, Tom, that I liked most, and who I thought had the most complete character arc.

A quick, easy read, but not one I’d recommend unless you are a particular fan of the author.

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Review: The Shadow Tracer by Meg Gardiner

 

Title: The Shadow Tracer

Author: Meg Gardiner

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin Australia June 2013

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Status: Read from June 21 to 22, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Shadow Tracer is a rare stand alone thriller from author Meg Gardiner who is best known for her popular series, one which features Jo Beckett, a forensic psychologist, and the other, Evan Delany a journalist with a law degree.

The protagonist in The Shadow Trace is skip tracer, Sarah Keller. Since the night Sarah sister was murdered and she was forced to flee with her newborn niece, Sarah has been careful to remain off the grid. For five years she has been living under an alias, raising Zoe as her own, staying one step ahead of the violent, criminal cult that want to claim Zoe for the family when a minor accident, which leads to Zoe being hospitalised for treatment, uncovers a shocking secret and with their cover threatened, Sarah is forced to take Zoe and run.

The cult wants Zoe not only because she is family and therefore one of God’s ‘chosen people’ but also because she is unknowingly a key to part of their criminal enterprises. Without the intervention of a rogue FBI agent with vengeance on his mind, Sarah and Zoe may have stood a chance of escaping the clan’s assassins but Agent Harker’s single minded agenda complicates everything.

Sarah is uniquely placed to avoid the attention of those who are pursuing her and Zoe having spent her years on the run working as a skip tracer. There is just enough character development to make sense of Sarah’s motivations. I really liked the way in which she was portrayed as capable, resourceful and fiercely protective of Zoe. Yet despite the burner phones and untraceable pre-paid credit cards, with both the clan and the FBI hunting her, Sarah is forced to reach out to US Marshal Michael Lawless, despite being wary of him and his motives.

Though the plot isn’t entirely credible, the breathless pace overrides any real concerns. With the feel of a movie script due to several cinematic action scenes including a brutal murder in an isolated farmhouse during a snow storm, a dangerous car chase along a freeway and a final bloody confrontation in an airplane graveyard, The Shadow Tracer is an action packed thrill ride. The villains are suitably scary given their amoral and relentless, deadly pursuit of a an innocent five year old. And though the focus is firmly on the the frantic action, Gardiner still finds the time to introduce a subtle element of romance, or at least chemistry, between Sarah and Lawless.

This stand alone novel should be welcomed by Gardiner’s fans and tempt new readers to delve into her backlist. The Shadow Tracer is an entertaining, action driven thriller from an author Stephen King endorses as a ‘suspense superstar’.

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Review: Into My Arms by Kylie Ladd

Title: Into My Arms

Author: Kylie Ladd

Published: Allen & Unwin May 2013

Status: Read from May 01 to 02, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

In her previous novels, Kylie Ladd has written with compelling insight into uncomfortable issues including adultery in After the Fall and death and grief in Last Summer. Into My Arms, her third novel, is similarly confronting while examining the complexities of family, love and desire.

It’s incredibly difficult to articulate my thoughts about Into My Arms while avoiding spoilers. The back cover hints at love at first sight followed by a passionate relationship which is then shattered by a shocking revelation but it is much more than that. Skye and Ben are nearly destroyed by a phenomena that challenges moral and societal conventions and Into My Arms explores it’s devastating effects on both the couple and their families.

What could have been a tawdry, sensationalistic subject, is dealt with carefully, shedding a compassionate light on a little known issue that is particularly relevant in modern society. There is no getting away from the fact that most readers will find it confronting but I think Ladd does a terrific job in humanising the issue by placing ordinary people at the center of the maelstrom.

While the controversial main plot will garner the most attention, there is a prominent subplot in the book not alluded to in the blurb. Zia is a pupil of Ben and Skye, a young boy from an immigrant Iranian family who is struggling to adjust to his new life. While Zia’s story is linked by the themes of family and estrangement, and he develops connections with the main characters, I thought it out of place somehow. Don’t get me wrong, it is interesting in and of itself, but I didn’t find it necessary and I wondered if it’s purpose was to blunt the confronting nature of Ben and Skye’s circumstance.

Regardless, I found Into My Arms to be a fascinating and thought provoking novel. I devoured it in hours and I suspect it will stimulate discussion amongst all who read it.

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