Liar’s Candle by August Thomas

Book blurb…

In this brilliant debut thriller, set in the US embassy in Turkey, one young woman finds herself at the centre of a deadly plot and marked for death … An intelligent, fast-paced spy novel for fans of Olen Steinhauser and Joseph Kanon.

SHE IS THE WOMAN WHO KNOWS TOO MUCH …

Penny Kessler, a young intern at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, wakes up in a hospital on the morning of July 5th to find herself at the centre of an international crisis. The day before, the Embassy had been the target of a devastating terrorist attack that killed hundreds of Penny’s friends and colleagues. Not only has a photograph of Penny emerging from the rubble become the defining image of the event (#TheGirlwiththeFlag), but for reasons she doesn’t understand, her bosses believe she’s a crucial witness.

Suddenly, everyone is desperately interested in what Penny knows. But what does she know? And who can she trust? As she struggles to piece together her memories of the event, she discovers that Zach Robson, the young diplomat she’s been falling for all summer, went missing during the attack. Now his boss at the CIA, Christina Ekdahl, wants people to believe that Zach was a traitor.

In a race to keep from being killed and to uncover the truth, Penny reluctantly partners with Connor Beauregard, a rookie CIA officer on his first overseas assignment. But the two won’t survive unless they can outwit – and outmaneuver – everyone from the Turkish president and his daughter to Islamic extremists, to the US State Department, to the CIA itself.

My thoughts…

What I enjoyed about this story the most was not knowing who to trust.  Okay, so I guessed who was behind everything, but when Penny is on the ground trying to survive I could not figure out who she should trust.

Zach or Connor?

I did have some trouble with the names of places and the geography, but it looks like the author has done a lot of research to put me in the picture so let’s blame me for this.

Well done, I think!

If you are into spy stories with some action this might be one to consider.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Simon and Schuster Australia

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The Love That I Have by James Moloney

Book blurb…

‘WINTER CALLS FOR A GOOD BOOK, AND WE’VE FOUND ONE TO RIVAL THE BOOK THIEF’

– The Australian Women’s Weekly

Margot Baumann has left school to take up her sister’s job in the mailroom of a large prison. But this is Germany in 1944, and the prison is Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin.

Margot is shielded from the camp’s brutality as she has no contact with prisoners. But she does handle their mail and, when given a cigarette lighter and told to burn the letters, she is horrified by the callous act she must carry out with her own hands. This is especially painful since her brother was taken prisoner at Stalingrad and her family have had no letters from him. So Margot steals a few letters, intending to send them in secret, only to find herself drawn to their heart-rending words of hope, of despair, and of love.

This is how Margot comes to know Dieter Kleinschmidt – through the beauty and the passion of his letters to his girlfriend.

And since his girlfriend is also named Margot, it is like reading love letters written for her.

From award-winning Australian author James Moloney, comes a fresh and compelling story about love, loss and profound bravery. For fans of The Book Thief, this powerful and heartbreaking story set during WW2 stays with you long after the final page is read.

MORE PRAISE FOR THE LOVE THAT I HAVE:

‘a beautiful, heartbreaking and affecting read. … Definitely one for book club, just don’t forget the tissues.’ – Australian Women’s Weekly

‘a heartbreaking, harrowing and deeply hopeful story … for readers of The Book ThiefThe Boy in the Striped Pyjamas‘ – Books+Publishing

‘A compelling and emotionally charged story of young love and survival, bravery and humanity. The closing months of the Second World War in Germany are seen from a surprising and fresh perspective. I was holding back tears from page 72.’ – Shona Martyn, Spectrum Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald

My thoughts…

In the blurb above there is much advance praise from heavy players in the book biz. Having read this story I absolutely understand why.

This heartbreaking tale reminds me how grateful I am to live such a privileged life in Australia.

This story and the characters are so authentically told I was expecting an author’s note at the end to say the plot was based on some fact, or on a piece of history—an important story from the past that needed telling.

There seems to be a growing trend towards this sort of wartime tale. I can only assume from the absence of any author’s note (unless it isn’t included in the ARC copy I received) that the story — a simply beautiful and skilfully plotted novel — is courtesy of the author’s imagination.

Horrific in its war-time setting, the story could not seem more real to me.

The bravery in this story will make you cry, as will the love and devotion that finds its way through the terrible times that existed during the Second World War in Germany.

Thank you, James Moloney, and HarperCollins, for The Love That I Have.

This is a must read if you are at all inclined to historical fiction. I put this story up there with Laren Chater’s The Lace Weaver and Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network.  Don’t stop at one. Read them all. Highly recommended. Could NOT put this latest novel down (except to make coffee, stoke the warming fire, and grab a hot meal and feel grateful! You’ll understand this after you’ve read the novel.)

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Harper Collins Australia

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Our House by Louise Candlish

Book blurb…

On a bright morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought on Trinity Avenue. Nothing strange about that. Except it’s your house. And you didn’t sell it.

FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE.

When Fi Lawson arrives home to find strangers moving into her house, she is plunged into terror and confusion. She and her husband Bram have owned their home on Trinity Avenue for years and have no intention of selling. How can this other family possibly think the house is theirs? And why has Bram disappeared when she needs him most?

FOR RICHER, FOR POORER.
Bram has made a catastrophic mistake and now he is paying. Unable to see his wife, his children or his home, he has nothing left but to settle scores. As the nightmare takes grip, both Bram and Fi try to make sense of the events that led to a devastating crime. What has he hidden from her – and what has she hidden from him? And will either survive the chilling truth – that there are far worse things you can lose than your house?

TILL DEATH US DO PART.

My thoughts…

This plot is fascinating and well told, holding my interest until the last page.

That said, I’m not sure the ending was as satisfying as it could have been. It was one of those stories that leaves the reader wondering and, personally, I would have preferred the author tie up the final lose end. (But that’s just me.)

I felt for both Fi and Bram, although they both needed a kick in the backside as far as their relationship style goes.

The plot is one that highlights how doing one morally questionable thing leads, firstly to lies, and then to life spiralling out of control.

While well written, the conflict in the plot could have been resolved with a conversation and I became frustrated with characters that failed to take this opportunity.

Our House is still a good read and worth your precious reading time.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Simon and Schuster Australia

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The Accusation by Zosia Wand

Book blurb…

Eve lives in the beautiful Cumbrian town of Tarnside with her husband Neil. After years of trying, and failing, to become parents, they are in the final stages of adopting four-year-old Milly. Though she already feels like their daughter, they just have to get through the ‘settling in’ period: three months of living as a family before they can make it official.

But then Eve’s mother, Joan, comes to stay.

Joan has never liked her son-in-law. He isn’t right for Eve; too controlling, too opinionated. She knows Eve has always wanted a family, but is Neil the best man to build one with?

Then Joan uncovers something that could smash Eve’s family to pieces…

My thoughts…

The Accusation is a compelling story about love and control, with a mother and daughter as the lead characters.

I found myself swinging between feeling so much for Eve (the daughter) and her husband, Neil, and then wanting to shake both of them until they realised what was at stake.

The Accusation begins as one of those stories that just cruises along and then – BAM! The plot jumps into another gear.

A good read that may make you think twice about the people and their motives, and question what those who love you really want from your relationship.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Head of Zeus

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Dead Girls by Graeme Cameron

Book blurb…

I may not remember everything, but I know he won’t hurt anyone else.

I won’t let him.

It’s been two months since a serial killer brutally attacked police detective Alisha Green and left her for dead. Two months since she could effortlessly recall simple things, since her mind felt remotely sound. The nameless killer thinks he knows her, thinks she’s just another dead girl among many. Ali Green plans to show him he’s dead wrong about that.

Ali has two enemies now: the dangerous man she’s hunting, and her own failing memory. As explosive new evidence comes to light, and conflicting accounts from a witness and a surviving victim threaten both her investigation and her credibility, she begins to question what is and isn’t real. And now Ali has no choice but to remember the past…before it buries her.

A hypnotically gripping thriller that proves internationally bestselling author Graeme Cameron is one of the most unique voices in contemporary fiction today.

My thoughts…

I enjoyed this thriller and loved being involved in hunting down the killer.

The main character, Ali, is a detective struggling to do her job and she certainly has some challenges to overcome in this story. Ali is a strong female character who hunts down the bad guy.

Dead Girls follows the characters over a two month period and builds to a gripping climax.

This review is also published on Goodreads

 

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The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Ringland

Book blurb…

The most enchanting debut novel of 2018, this is an irresistible, deeply moving and romantic story of a young girl, daughter of an abusive father, who has to learn the hard way that she can break the patterns of the past, live on her own terms and find her own strength.

An enchanting and captivating novel, about how our untold stories haunt us – and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive. 

After her family suffers a tragedy, nine-year-old Alice Hart is forced to leave her idyllic seaside home. She is taken in by her grandmother, June, a flower farmer who raises Alice on the language of Australian native flowers, a way to say the things that are too hard to speak.

Under the watchful eye of June and the women who run the farm, Alice settles, but grows up increasingly frustrated by how little she knows of her family’s story. In her early twenties, Alice’s life is thrown into upheaval again when she suffers devastating betrayal and loss. Desperate to outrun grief, Alice flees to the dramatically beautiful central Australian desert. In this otherworldly landscape Alice thinks she has found solace, until she meets a charismatic and ultimately dangerous man.

Spanning two decades, set between sugar cane fields by the sea, a native Australian flower farm, and a celestial crater in the central desert, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart follows Alice’s unforgettable journey, as she learns that the most powerful story she will ever possess is her own.

‘Lush, powerful … This is an engrossing novel imbued with passion and reverence for the Australian natural world, with a cast of characters that inspire affection in the reader even as they make mistakes. Those who couldn’t put down The Natural Way of Things will find a gentler but no less compelling journey of female survival in this novel.’  Bookseller + Publisher

‘An astonishingly assured debut, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is a story of love, loss, betrayal and the redemptive power of storytelling … both heartbreaking and life-affirming.’ Kate Forsyth

‘The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is a book that glows – in the fire and heart of it; in the wonder and hope of it. Holly Ringland is a gifted, natural story-teller and her novel-about finding magic in the dark; about the power of freedom and the freedom of story-is truly a light-giving, tender thing. A vivid, compelling, utterly moving debut.’ Brooke Davis

“I loved this brave and beautiful book. Alice Hart has the strength and magic of an Australian wildflower in bloom.” Favel Parrett

‘This novel shines with courage, with heart, and with love. Infused with a tender ferocity, and the beauty and warmth of native flowers, it invokes great stories of loss, kindness and home.’ Ashley Hay

‘The best fairy tales traverse the darkest corners of the human heart, and this beautiful novel is no exception. Truth and illusion, devastation and triumph, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart will spit you out whole.’ Myfanwy Jones

My thoughts…

Well, high praise indeed, according to these advance reviews. But, what might the ‘average’ reader (me) make of this novel?

I sit in the middle of the glowing and the not so good.

I enjoyed most of the book. I thought it original and interesting (until I read reviews that referred to similarities to another book titled, The Language of Flowers).

The plot certainly deals with a dark topic and the use of flowers is significant and helps add some light, but as the book went on I found the overuse of the flowers (and the dictionary) more an interruption.

I love reading stories about strong women. I didn’t t feel the character delivered. Alice’s decisions are not necessarily in her best interest.  I would have also liked a little more rounding off and tying up of threads. The story seems rushed at the end.  I got to know characters that were left behind without resolution for me.

This novel is an interesting one to recommend.

*spoiler*

The ending was neither happy, nor was it devastating. I didn’t feel anything other than glad I’d finished. I can’t help but wonder if a happy ending (which I would have liked) would have bumped this book out of the coveted ‘literary’ genre???

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Harper Collins Australia

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The Greater Good by Tim Ayliffe

Book blurb…

He had never killed anyone who hadn’t deserved it. The means always justified the end. He didn’t need forgiveness.He needed justification. The greater good.

Battered war correspondent John Bailey is a man living on the edge. He’s haunted by nightmares of being kidnapped and tortured in Iraq and he’s drinking too much to drown the memories. As he battles to get his life back together, a story breaks that will force him back into the spotlight – and into the crosshairs of a deadly international player.

When a beautiful prostitute is found murdered in her luxury Sydney apartment, Bailey is ordered to cover the story by The Journal’s editor and his old friend, Gerald Summers, because he can’t trust anyone else.

One of the victim’s clients, a key advisor to the Defence Minister, is chief suspect in her murder and he’s on the run. When he contacts Bailey, claiming to have information that will bring down the government, the stakes become deadly. To complicate matters,the investigating police detective is the woman Bailey walked out on a decade ago.

When a ruthless CIA fixer turns up, followed by a murderous Chinese agent hot on his trail, Bailey realises he has stumbled onto the story of a lifetime – one that he may not live to tell.

My thoughts…

I love a good Australian-based story with a mix of crime and politics. Throw in a frighteningly real plot line and a battered war correspondent battling PTSD and I am a happy reader!

A suffering character makes for great conflict in fiction and what John Bailey goes through will make you wonder and weep.

This story is intriguing and will keep you guessing who the bad guys are and how deep the corruption goes.

A good read. Highly recommended.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Simon and Schuster (Australia)

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Theo by Amanda Prowse

Book blurb…

There are two sides to every love story. Anna Cole grew up in care, and wants to start a family of her own. Theo Montgomery had a loveless childhood, and wants to find his soulmate. Then, one day, Theo meets Anna, and Anna meets Theo. Each shows the other how to love. And each shows the other what heartbreak feels like. This is Theo’s story.

My thoughts…

Before reading Theo, I read Anna’s story and here are some words used for that review. (Unique and utterly addictive. I am so glad I got the opportunity to read Anna’s story. What a clever concept. I can’t wait to read Theo’s story.)

Well, I have now read Theo’s story and the same must be said about this sweet and cleverly plotted story that focuses on the male character’s point of view.

I admit to not reading a lot of single POV stories in the past. Normally I get multiple points of view in one book, giving me the chance to get to know/understand/feel for each of the characters portrayed.  Theo, and companion novel, Anna, was a different reading experience.  While I was completely invested in the character, Anna, while reading Anna (and ditto for Theo), when reading Theo’s story, I felt disconnected from Anna as a character (and visa verse with Theo in Anna’s story). This is not a criticism; more an observation – one aspiring authors who want to better understand the importance of POV might want to experience for themselves. Learn and enjoy at the same time.

I’m not sure why the author chose the two-book structure. (It would be a big story if combined and employing alternate POV, but I would have liked that very much.)

Of course, both books – Anna and Theo – are enjoyable reads for the very prolific Amanda Prowse.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Head of Zeus

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I, Witness by Niki Mackay

Book blurb…

Meet Madison Attalee: an ex-police officer turned Private Investigator who will stop at nothing to solve a case.

They say I’m a murderer.

Six years ago, Kate Reynolds was found holding the body of her best friend; covered in blood, and clutching the knife that killed her.

I plead guilty.

Kate has been in prison ever since, but now her sentence is up. She is being released.

But the truth is, I didn’t do it.

There’s only one person who can help: Private Investigator Madison Attallee, the first officer on the scene all those years ago.

But there’s someone out there who doesn’t want Kate digging up the past. Someone who is willing to keep the truth buried at any cost.

My thoughts…

This gripping thriller hooked me straight up, adding strong characters and a plot line that escalates to a dramatic conclusion.

Madison Attalee, private investigator, is perfectly portrayed and brings this mystery to it’s sensational conclusion while dealing with her own issues.

Guessing who was good and who was evil was not easy. Well done.

All the characters had a purpose and the reader rewards were well placed within the plot, but guessing who was good and who was evil was not easy. Well done.

I felt for Kate and hated her brother and father. Family secrets did not help Kate at all.

There was a small theme of abuse in this story, however the more positive themes of happiness and freedom feature, making this an enjoyable read.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Orion

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Such Dark Things by Courtney Evan Tate

Book blurb…

A horrific recurring nightmare is threatening to steal her sanity…

Dr Corinne Cabot is living the American dream. She’s a successful ER physician in Chicago who’s married to a handsome husband. Together they live in a charming house in the suburbs. But appearances can be deceiving – and what no one can see is Corinne’s dark past. Troubling gaps in her memory mean she recalls little about a haunting event in her life years ago that changed everything.

She only remembers being in the house the night two people were found murdered. Her father was there, too. Now her father is in prison; she hasn’t been in contact in years. Repressing that terrifying memory has caused Corinne moments of paranoia and panic. Sometimes she thinks she sees things that aren’t there, hears words that haven’t been spoken. Or have they? She fears she may be losing her mind, unable to determine what’s real and what’s not.

So when she senses her husband’s growing distance, she thinks she’s imagining things. She writes her suspicions off to fatigue, overwork, anything to explain what she can’t accept – that her life really isn’t what it seems.

My thoughts…

Totally absorbing, this compelling thriller has a dramatic conclusion.  I certainly felt for the main character, Corinne, but disliked her morally deprived husband, Jude.  I know that for the plot to play out Jude has to be portrayed a certain way, but he was weak and unlikable.

Without taking away from the author’s talent for storytelling, my personal opinion is that the story is unnecessarily explicit, sexually. I was not expecting this and if I’d paid money I would have been disappointed. Books need to come with a warning, especially with the ‘ ‘ and ‘ ‘ word are both used so freely.

I almost stopped reading because of it. Of course, it’s the author’s choice, but with some thought I’m sure there would have been other words/ways.

If you like thrillers and don’t mind sexually explicit scenes / language, then you might enjoy the clever plot line.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by HQ Fiction

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