The Safe Place by Anna Downes

Book blurb…

Even paradise has a dark side.

For struggling actress Emily Proudman, life in London is not working out as planned – in fact, it’s falling apart. So when she is offered a live-in job working for a wealthy family on their luxurious coastal property in France, she jumps at the opportunity to start over.

The estate is picture-perfect, and its owners exude charisma and sophistication. But as Emily gets to know the family, their masks begin to slip, and what at first appears to be a dream come true turns out to be a prison from which none of them will ever escape – unless Emily can find a way to set them all free.

My thoughts…

PLOT

This is a very plausible plot and well written. With quite a bit of backstory, the placement is such that the flow remains unaffected; the pace increasing with the tension.

LANDSCAPE

Set in France, descriptive elements of the story not overdone, but enough to get a good feel for the house and surrounding landscape.

CHARACTERS

Characters are well-formed. Their goals, motivations and conflicts playing out clearly on the page and justifying decisions made. Not so the child, who I found to be a bit abstract.

OVERALL FEELINGS ABOUT THE STORY

I really enjoyed the story and found myself drawn in and even anxious as the drama ramped up towards the end.  I did anticipate the ending and Emily’s decisions.

NB: In reflection, I found the child’s lack of voice and the issues to be a little unbelievable.  In saying that, it did not detract from my overall enjoyment.

This review is also published on Goodreads

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A Conspiracy of Bones by Kathy Reichs

Book blurb…

It’s sweltering in Charlotte, North Carolina and Temperance Brennan, still recovering from neurosurgery following an aneurysm, is battling nightmares, migraines, and what she thinks might be hallucinations when she receives a series of mysterious text messages, each containing a new picture of a corpse that is missing its face and hands. Immediately, she’s anxious to know who the dead man is, and why the images were sent to her.

An identified corpse soon turns up, only partly answering her questions.

To win answers to the others, including the man’s identity, she must go rogue. With help from a number of law enforcement associates including her Montreal beau Andrew Ryan and the always-ready-with-a-smart-quip, ex-homicide investigator Skinny Slidell, and utilizing new cutting-edge forensic methods, Tempe draws closer to the astonishing truth.

But the more she uncovers, the darker and more twisted the picture becomes …

My thoughts…

PLOT

Perhaps not as strong as it could have been.  It took a long time to investigate and get answers about the corpse and how it got into the forest. Also, I struggled to understand what the aneurysm and migraines had to do with the storyline.

PACE

Not a fast pace.  Other, earlier, books by this author would have had me hooked. This one did not.

CHARACTERS

I was disappointed Ryan did not play a bigger part. As I recall from previous stories, the Ryan and Tempe team is what made the investigation exciting.

OVERALL FEELINGS ABOUT THE STORY

This will be the last Kathy Reichs I read.  I was quite disappointed and would prefer a more realistic mystery plot.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Simon and Schuster Australia

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Her Perfect Life by Rebecca Taylor

Book blurb…

Do we ever really know the ones we love? Reclusive Clare Collins crafts her novels like she crafts her life: perfectly. So the world is stunned when the famous author is found dead on a beach from a self-inflicted gunshot — the morning after her latest book hits the shelves. Her sister, Eileen, is at a loss. Clare led a charmed life: success, mansions, money… Why would she throw it all away? But while reading through her sister’s latest — and greatest — novel, Eileen discovers a clue that unravels the fiction and reveals the painful truth. Suddenly, the life that Eileen had envied doesn’t seem so sparkling… Her Perfect Life is a page-turning debut that reminds us that no matter the success, everyone has secrets. And some are more devastating than others.

My thoughts…

PLOT

While the overall story was engaging, I found the plot a little underwhelming.  Perhaps the blame is more laid with the publisher blurb as I was expecting intrigue. Ultimately however, the conflict was simply the discovery of something from the past which had little or no affect on Eileen’s life story in the novel.

PACE

Well-paced and easy to read but the plot lacked connectivity between the threads.  I expected things to weave together in the end, but it remained two stories and both came to their own end.

CHARACTERS

The story was predominantly about two sisters, Eileen and Clare; both living very different lives.

OVERALL FEELINGS ABOUT THE STORY

Re the plot? A little underwhelming.  That said, I did enjoy the story, but more detail around Clare and Eileen’s lives growing up, as well as the accident, may have created more intrigue.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Sourcebooks

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Elsa Goody, Bushranger by Darry Fraser

Book blurb…

Elsa Goody is a woman on a quest for buried treasure – and her own freedom. A thrilling historical romance adventure from a bestselling Australian author.

1896 Robe, South Australia

When Elsa Goody’s father and brother George die in quick succession she and her sister Rosie are in trouble. Pursued by an unpleasant suitor with dubious motivation, Elsa leaves for Victoria on the hunt for a fortune in gold coins that her brother has hidden. If Elsa can find it she will be able to save Rosie and herself from married slavery.

Their quest leads them on a cross-country journey to find the last man who saw her brother alive, Ezekiel Jones. But Elsa is not the only one looking for buried treasure. She and Rosie are beset by bushrangers and in the confusion Elsa is accused of being an accomplice. Luckily not everyone believes that Elsa is a criminal. When she finally catches up with Ezekiel, it’s clear that for him she can do no wrong.

But with everyone chasing her and bloody violence on the horizon, life is becoming increasingly complicated. Will she and Rosie ever manage to solve the mystery, find the gold and free themselves from a dark future?

‘Outstanding prose that flows and ripples through every page.’ Starts at 60

My thoughts…

PLOT

Centred around the lives of the Goody family in the Late 19th century rural Australia, Darry Fraser is meticulous in her character and story development, starting with a hook and ending with a sigh of satisfaction.

PACE

Darry manages to fill her pages with authentic descriptions of the era, the landscape, and the characters while still maintaining reader engagement and a page-turning novel.

LANDSCAPE

This is one of the key areas of enjoyment for me as I have travelled through the story’s location in current day.  Regardless of when I travelled the region, Darry Fraser was able to show me, through her storytelling, what the area was like in late 19th century Australia.

CHARACTERS

Women with grit combined with major conflict is the recipe for great characters and while I connected and enjoyed a few, I fell in love with Ezekiel. I almost wish I had lived in his time period – almost!!! (I’d still want my Kindle!)

OVERALL FEELINGS ABOUT THE STORY

This is an enchanting romantic adventure that drew me in from the beginning and did not release me until days after I finished the story.

This review is also published on Goodreads and is linked to Australian Women Writers Challenge

Published by Harper Collins Australia

Posted in Australian fiction, Historical Fiction, Rural fiction, Women's fiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer

Book blurb… 

It begins with the discovery of a tattered letter in the attic … A heart-tugging story of family secrets by the Top 10 bestselling Australian author

1959: Grace is a young mother with four children under four. All she ever wanted was to have a family of her own, but there are thoughts Grace cannot share with anyone in the months after childbirth. Instead she pours her deepest fears into the pages of a notebook, hiding them where she knows husband Patrick will never look. When Grace falls pregnant again, she turns to her sister, Maryanne, for help.

1996: When Beth‘s father, Patrick, is diagnosed with dementia, she and her siblings make the heart-wrenching decision to put him into care. As Beth is clearing the family home, she discovers a series of notes. Patrick’s children grew up believing their mother died in a car accident, but these notes suggest something much darker may be true.

My thoughts…

PLOT

Told using different time periods, the plot snakes towards the truth. The perfectly plotted dual timeline novel provides equally compelling story threads. This novel was well told but I had a preference for the 1959 time line as I felt it held the most emotional story elements / character arc.

PACE

A well-paced story.  I took a while to get into it, but for me that was likely because I favoured the 1959 period and wanted more of it.

CHARACTERS

I usually have a favourite in books I enjoy and in this case Grace and Marianne were the characters I was emotionally drawn to.  They were represented in the 1959 side of the story.  Beth (in 1996) kind of annoyed me as the story revealed itself. I felt for her situation, but I really did not warm to her.

OVERALL FEELINGS ABOUT THE STORY

A great read and an unforgettable story of motherhood.

This review is also published on Goodreads and is linked to Australian Women Writers Challenge

Published by Hachette Australia

 

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The Darkest Shore by Karen Brooks

Book blurb…

The independent women of Scotland stand up to a witch hunt, male fury and the power of the Church in a battle for survival in this compelling historical novel based on true events in early eighteenth century Scotland. 

1703: The wild east coast of Scotland.

Returning to her home town of Pittenweem, fishwife and widow Sorcha McIntyre knows she faces both censure and mistrust. After all, this is a country where myth and legend are woven into the fabric of the everyday, a time when those who defy custom like Sorcha has are called to account.

It is dangerous to be a clever woman who ‘doesn’t know her place’ in Pittenweem – a town rife with superstition. So, when a young local falls victim to witchcraft, the Reverend Cowper and the townsfolk know who to blame. What follows for Sorcha and her friends is a terrifying battle, not only for their souls, but for their lives, as they are pitted against the villagers’ fear, a malevolent man and the might of the church.

Based on the shocking true story of the witch hunt of Pittenweem, this multi-layered novel is a beautifully written historical tale of the strength of women united against a common foe, by one of Australia’s finest writers.

‘Meticulously researched and historically compelling… this fast-paced novel is a dramatic spy thriller that shines a spotlight on the inner workings of Elizabethan England.’ – BOOKS+PUBLISHING on The Locksmith’s Daughter

My thoughts…

PLOT: This novel is based on historical times in Scotland and the plot is linked to those events.

PACE:  The pace is slower than I would have liked. The story, however,  was well told.

LANDSCAPE:  I certainly got a sense of the town and its surrounding area. I could easily imagine the fishing village and feel the cold, wet conditions the townsfolk experienced.

CHARACTERS:  The characters were well-crafted and I felt for them as they endured difficult times under suspicion of witchcraft.

OVERALL FEELINGS ABOUT THE STORY:  It’s hard to say I enjoyed the story. The story was well told but may have had some unnecessary fictional elements.  Some descriptions were a little repetitive.  The historical facts in the story made for interesting reading and created feelings of disgust in relation to the treatment given to the women suspected of Witchcraft.

This review is also published on Goodreads and linked to Australian Women Writers Challenge

Published by Harper Collins Australia

Posted in Historical Fiction | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Gulliver’s Wife By Lauren Chater

Book blurb…

London, 1702. When her husband is lost at sea, Mary Burton Gulliver, midwife and herbalist, is forced to rebuild her life without him. But three years later when Lemuel Gulliver is brought home, fevered and communicating only in riddles, her ordered world is turned upside down.

In a climate of desperate poverty and violence, Mary is caught in a crossfire of suspicion and fear driven by her husband’s outlandish claims, and it is up to her to navigate a passage to safety for herself and her daughter, and the vulnerable women in her care.

When a fellow sailor, a dangerous man with nothing to lose, appears to hold sway over her husband, Mary’s world descends deeper into chaos, and she must set out on her own journey to discover the truth of Gulliver’s travels . . . and the landscape of her own heart.
 

My thoughts…

PLOT

Fiction entwined around a number of historical events and a fascinating, but disturbing insight into midwifery practices and the challenges of being a woman in the 1700’s. The infusion of fact and fiction, incorporating Gulliver’s travels, was intriguing.

PACE

I’d probably class this novel as erring more on literary. As such, I did not expect fast-paced storytelling. The outstanding feature of this book is the research. The story complexity and historical detail makes for an interesting and very different reading experience.

LANDSCAPE

The setting is London, 1702 – vividly described and so realistic, I was left both depressed and astonished by the dismal living conditions of the time.

CHARACTERS

Gulliver’s Wife is bursting with vivid description and complex characters. The main character, Mary Burton Gulliver, is a formidable women. I love a strong female character and I enjoyed the midwifery elements of the story, as shocking as some detail was to read.

OVERALL FEELINGS ABOUT THE STORY

I was quite invested in the plot, but felt removed emotionally. I guess that’s why I labelled this as more literary, rather than the story being an emotional journey. I did find the midwifery story line to be shocking and the historical detail was interesting, adding to my enjoyment. We sure have come a long way, thanks to the women in history who strived to make change.

This review is also published on Goodreads and Linked to Australian Women Writers Challenge

Published by Simon and Schuster Australia

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Where the Truth Lies By Karina Kilmore

Blurb…

She was slipping away. The further she fell, the closer the clouds seemed to come. Wispy transparent slipstreams of white. Cirrus. Pain smashed her head. Floating …

When investigative journalist Chrissie O’Brian lands a senior job at The Argus, she is desperate to escape the nightmares of her past. Her life has become a daily battle to resist numbing the pain. But her job is something she can do better than anyone else – and the only thing that keeps the memories at bay.

A face-off on the waterfront between the unions and big business is just the kind of story to get her career back on track. But after a dockworker who confided in her turns up dead, Chrissie becomes obsessed with unravelling the truth. When a gruesome threat lands on her desk, it’s clear someone is prepared to do anything to stop her.

But who is more dangerous – a ruthless enemy or a woman pushed to the edge? Used to fighting her own demons, this is one battle Chrissie is determined not to lose.

Where the Truth Lies was shortlisted for the prestigious Unpublished Manuscript Award in the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.

My thoughts…

PLOT

A well-plotted crime novel written by an author who brings authenticity to the storyline and to the role of an investigative journalist.

PACE

The pace was good throughout the story, although it wavered a little towards the end.  The author used a wedding in the final chapters to introduce new information. This slowed things down when I expected the tension to build.

LANDSCAPE

The author introduced me to a side of Melbourne I did not know.  I now have more of an understanding of the workings of the waterfront and some of the ‘shadier’ streets of Melbourne.

CHARACTERS

The story’s main character, investigative journalist Chrissie O’Brian, narrated the story, but I didn’t feel anything for her, I didn’t admire her. I didn’t like what she brought to the story.  Her background story was a sad one and yet I felt quite removed. She seemed distant. I didn’t much care about her.

OVERALL FEELINGS ABOUT THE STORY

Overall, I enjoyed this novel, I understood the plot, and I was a little surprised by the ending. Unfortunately, I was not compelled to keep reading at the end of each chapter.  I was happy to put it down until my next opportunity to read.

This review is also published on Goodreads  Published by Simon and Schuster Australia

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Where Fortune Lies by Mary-Anne O’Connor

Book blurb…

An epic and lyrical tale of love, adventure and gambled fortunes that ranges from the wild cloaked woodlands of Ireland to the Victorian Alps of colonial Australia from a bestselling Australian author. For fans of Nicole Alexander, Colleen McCullough, and Fiona McIntosh.

1879: ‘Invisible’ Anne Brown fears she’ll never escape the harshness and poverty of her life in County Donegal, Ireland. Until, one heartbreaking Beltane night, her life is changed forever and she leaves to seek her fortune in far-flung Australia.

Upon the death of their father, charismatic Will Worthington and his beloved sister Mari are stunned to find he has left all their money and a ticket to the far shores of Australia to an enigmatic painted woman. It seems their only hope for a brighter future also lies in Australia, where together with Will’s best friend, the artist Charlie Turner, they seek their fortunes.

Charlie finds love with a mysterious exotic dancer, yet there is trouble on the horizon. His new friends up in the Victorian Alps might be teaching him to run with the wild horses and find his talent with a brush at last, but life in a bushranger gang is a dangerous game.

As Charlie struggles to break free from his fate, all four are left with impossible choices as fortunes waver between life and death, loyalty and the heart.

My thoughts…

PLOT

Tight plotting, to me, means no unnecessary or irrelevant detail or padding, but a story with threads coming together to create a satisfying ending. Where Fortune Lies delivers perfectly. I was always keen to get back to it and did not want to stop reading.

LANDSCAPE

I love an Australian landscape and this author painted wonderful pictures of Victoria’s vast and stunning High Country. I felt at one with the characters as they rode their mounts over the terrain. Having visited the towns mentioned in the story, experiencing the same places in late 1880’s was a bonus.

CHARACTERS

This is a story where almost every character captures your heart.  They all have solid backstories and a purpose.  I loved them all and understood their plights.

OVERALL FEELINGS ABOUT THE STORY

In case you did not pick up from my previous comments how much I enjoyed this story, understand this!  A fantastic read and a book for your to-be-read pile this year.

This review is also published on Goodreads

This review is linked to Australian Women Writers Challenge  and Published by Harlequin Australia

 

 

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The River Home by Hannah Richell

Book blurb…

The river can take you home. But the river can also drag you under…

‘It’s something she learned years ago – the hard way – and that she knows she will never forget: even the sweetest fruit will fall and rot into the earth, eventually. No matter how deep you bury the pain, the bones of it will rise up to haunt you … like the echoes of a summer’s night, like the river flowing relentlessly on its course.’

Margot Sorrell didn’t want to go home. She had spent all her adult life trying not to look behind. But a text from her sister Lucy brought her back to Somerset. ‘I need you.’

As Margot, Lucy and their eldest sister, Eve, reunite in the house they grew up in beside the river, the secrets they keep from each other, and from themselves, refuse to stay hidden. A wedding brings them together but long-simmering resentments threaten to tear the family apart. No one could imagine the way this gathering would change them all forever. And through the sorrow they are forced to confront, there is a chance that healing will also come. But only if the truth is told.

The new novel from bestselling author Hannah Richell. A wise and emotionally powerful story of a broken family and the courage it takes to heal.

My thoughts…

PLOT

Well-constructed, full of conflict, a great read until the last page.

PACE

The first half of this story I felt was quite slow. Only because I have read the author’s previous books did I persist, convinced something wonderful was waiting. I was not disappointed. The last half of the story packed more than a punch.

LANDSCAPE

I do love vivid landscapes. But there was not a lot of time spent describing the river house or setting, which I had expected. The story focused on what happened in the river house.

CHARACTERS

Each of these characters are well-rounded and with good internal conflict.

Margot was the primary character and I did struggle to understand why she didn’t want to help herself until that second half of the story.

OVERALL FEELINGS ABOUT THE STORY

I enjoyed this book and hope other readers persist and don’t let the slow start stop them because they will miss out on a great story about characters with some major baggage to unpack.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Hachette Australia

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