The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

Book blurb…

Nina McCarrick has it all: a loving husband, two beautiful boys, a well-appointed home and more time than she knows what to do with. Life is perfect. Until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina’s life of luxury quickly disappears and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

Stirring and empowering, this novel from bestselling author Amanda Prowse once again plumbs the depths of human experience in this tale of one woman’s loss and love.

My thoughts…

The Art of Hiding is so gripping I had to read it in one day just to find out what the character would face next. I don’t want to say too much except and spoil the story for others. This is the story about a woman who has everything and nothing and it takes a series of ‘challenges’ for her to realise her full potential. And when I say challenges (in the same breath as Amanda Prowse) I’m talking jaw-dropping plot twists and OMG! moments.

The scenario in this book is so possible for any one of us. It’s a story that will make you reflect on your own life and have you counting your blessings.

This review is also published on Goodreads

 

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Leaving Ocean Road by Esther Campion

Book blurb…

Twenty years ago, Ellen O’Shea left her beloved Ireland to make a new life in Australia. Now a popular local in a small coastal town, but struggling to cope with the death of her much-loved Greek husband, Nick, Ellen finds her world turned upside down when an unexpected visitor lands on her doorstep. The arrival of Gerry Clancy, her first love from Ireland, may just be the catalyst that pulls Ellen out of her pit of grief, but it will also trigger a whole new set of complications for her and those she holds dear.

Home is where the heart is – but where exactly is home? Can Ellen and Gerry’s rekindled romance withstand the passage of time, family, young adult children with their own lives, and the shock disclosure of a long-held secret that will put all their closest relationships at risk?

Set in Ireland, Greece and small-town coastal Australia, Leaving Ocean Road is a warm-hearted, poignant story about treasuring our memories while celebrating our new beginnings.

My thoughts…

It is great to see another debut Australian Author writing about love and family relationships and giving readers everything they need in a story to curl up with.

This book certainly shows how characters lives can ‘turn on a dime’ and how resilience (and a little humour) helps overcome, no matter what is thrown at them.  In this case, not only is Ellen dealing with the tragic loss of her husband, but also her daughter’s grief.

If you like heartwarming stories that included adventures in Greece and Ireland, then be prepared to snuggle up with this one.

Leaving Ocean Road is a sweet story and an easy read, bringing light and humour to the topic of loss and grief.

Review also published on Goodreads and Australian Women Writers Challenge

Published by Hachette Australia

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Beneath the Skin by Melissa James

Book blurb…

I’m coming for you. This time, it’s forever…’

Flying Doctor Elly Lavender has spent years on the run from a violent stalker. Her obsessive former patient will do anything and threaten anyone in his campaign to force her to love him. When her most recent cover is blown, she runs for help to the childhood friend she could never get out of her mind — outback cop Adam Jepson.

Isolated, hurting, all Adam wants is to forget. After the deaths of his wife and son three years before, he’s moved to the outback with his young daughter, Zoe, to put the past behind him for good. But when Elly walks into his station, she reminds him of all the childhood joy and love he’d forgotten. Soon, he’s lost in a desire he never knew could exist. And while his guilt at leaving Elly behind years ago and the vow he made to his dying wife means he can never be the man she needs, he can’t stop caring, can’t stop trying to make Elly’s life right. Though the whole town seems against them, he can’t stop wanting the forbidden.

But when anonymous harassment escalates to murder, Elly knows her presence in Macks Lake has put Adam and Zoe’s lives at risk. Everyone’s safer if she remains alone — a fact that her stalker is very much counting on as he gets ever closer to his prey…


My thoughts…

The characters in Beneath the Skin are haunted by their past, and by decisions made (both their family’s and their own).  The two main characters, Adam and Elly, are young (first loves) but their backgrounds and their families mean their fate is uncertain.

Adam, as an adult, has a very emotional journey and this had the greatest impact on me. The male point of view was well handled and added to the authenticity the author delivers. The writing has some beautiful prose, despite the darkness of the plot. With Elly I did feel like I was on a seesaw quite a bit: Will she stay? Will she go? Will she live or will she die? Even though throughout the story readers are constantly reminded about the characters’ earliest childhood love (and how this determines their futures), by books-end I had a better understanding of Elly and her issues.

Overall, this novel is easy to follow and one for readers who enjoy the pursuit of the bad guy  mixed in with the love of the good guy.

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

Published by Harlequin (Australia) Mira

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The List by Michael Brissenden

Book blurb…

Revenge and the war on terror collide.

Sidney Allen is a Fed. Part of the Australian Federal Police’s K block, a unit doing whatever it takes in order to stop terrorist attacks on home soil.

But when young Muslim men on the Terror Watchlist start turning up dead, Sid and his partner, Haifa, have to work out what’s going on.

Sectarian war? Drugs? Retribution? For Sid, there’s nothing unclear about a bullet to the head and a severed hand. Someone is sending a message.

Deciphering that message reveals a much wider threat and Sid and the agency have to decide just how far they’ll go to prevent a deadly attack.

Time is running out … for them and Australia.

My thoughts…

This plot is quite confronting with regard to the possible future of terrorism in this country.  Whilst I know it is fiction and these subjects should be discussed, I wonder if by putting these atrocities out there we might be inviting people to see these terror plots as real possibilities. It happens in both book and crime shows on TV, I know, but this was a little too real for me. The author has kind of done the job of planning an attack for them!

Both Sid and Haifa seem to carry their own share of baggage with them whilst they are investigating the killings. So much so, I found myself wondering why they were working for the AFP’s K block, as neither seem to be happy in their work!

I did get a little lost at stages in the story when I felt like the narrator was ‘teaching’ me about terrorism and the Muslim cultural connections in Sydney.  I did not like the way the Prime Minister is portrayed in such a negative light.

Overall, a lot of conflict that ultimately comes to a head and I guess the bad guys get everything they deserve, or do they? The author leaves this open.

This review is also on Goodreads

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Friend Request by Laura Marshall

Book blurb…

When Louise Williams receives a message from someone left long in the past she feels sick.Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook.Because Maria Weston has been missing for over twenty-five years. She was last seen the night of a school leavers’ party, and the world believes her to be dead. Particularly Louise, who has lived her adult life knowing herself responsible for Maria’s disappearance. But now Maria is back. Or is she?

As Maria’s messages start to escalate, Louise forces herself to reconnect with the old friends she once tried so hard to impress, to try to piece together exactly what happened that fateful night. But when another friend’s body turns up in the woods outside their old school, Louise realises she can’t trust anyone and that she must confront her own awful secret to discover the whole truth of what happened to Maria . . .

My thoughts…

This is a story that at its core is bullying and manipulation.  The life Louise lives is based on guilt and a lack of belief in herself from her school years right through to the choices she makes during her adult life.

Overall, a great read that will keep you wondering who is behind the Friend Request: an old school friend (I use that term loosely) or a dead school friend.  I did not have a clue until I was ninety percent through the story.

I would not have thought this book to be a debut novel.  It was so well plotted and paced.

I would recommend this to you if you like a thriller (but maybe not is you use Facebook!!)

This review is also on Goodreads

 

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The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham

Book blurb…

The life she wanted wasn’t hers . . . The compelling new psychological thriller that will break your heart into tiny pieces, from world-renowned author Michael Robotham.

Everyone has an idea of what their perfect life is. For Agatha, it’s Meghan Shaughnessy’s.

These two women from vastly different backgrounds have one thing in common – a dangerous secret that could destroy everything they hold dear.

Both will risk everything to hide the truth, but their worlds are about to collide in a shocking act that cannot be undone.

My thoughts…

Michael Robotham has written a compelling psychological thriller that will have you reading into the small hours of the morning. This story was full of tension and I devoured it, desperate to know where it was going.

I loved the two points of view and I was drawn into each character’s life.  Both Agatha and Meghan have secrets and for Meghan it’s a question of what direction her life will take after Agatha enters the picture.

An intriguing plot that weaves the lives of these two women together and has you wondering if good or evil will prevail.

The Secrets She Keeps is highly recommended but is devastatingly close to real life.

This review is also on Goodreads

This book is published by Hachette Australia

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Wimmera by Mark Brandi

Book blurb…

SMALL TOWN. BIG SECRET.

An unforgettable debut that brings the darkness in an Australian country town vividly to life, as it slowly reveals its devastating secrets.

In the long, hot summer of 1989, Ben and Fab are best friends.

Growing up in a small country town, they spend their days playing cricket, yabbying in local dams, wanting a pair of Nike Air Maxes and not talking about how Fab’s dad hits him or how the sudden death of Ben’s next-door neighbour unsettled him. Almost teenagers, they already know some things are better left unsaid.

Then a newcomer arrived in the Wimmera. Fab reckoned he was a secret agent and he and Ben staked him out. Up close, the man’s shoulders were wide and the veins in his arms stuck out, blue and green. His hands were enormous, red and knotty. He looked strong. Maybe even stronger than Fab’s dad. Neither realised the shadow this man would cast over both their lives.

Twenty years later, Fab is still stuck in town, going nowhere but hoping for somewhere better. Then a body is found in the river, and Fab can’t ignore the past any more.

WIMMERA is the 2016 Winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger (UK).

My thoughts…

I knew this book would haunt me from the beginning, I just did not comprehend how or why.  Now I know!

The language (very strong – a male point of view, including that of an adolescent boy) was an issue for me in the beginning, but I fell into the story and still enjoyed the read. (If ‘enjoy’ can be used with the themes in this tale!!) The subject matter is dark but sometimes such matters must be discussed and fiction is a safe place to do that.

The Author handled the revelations of the two boys very well, leaving the reader to interpret the behaviours and actions without having to be too explicit.

Congratulations to this debut Australian author, Mark Brandi.  This well-plotted tale lets the reader see how evil can be so pervasive and affect the lives of innocent children, but also how true friendship can alter your life forever.

If you like reading stories that will stay with you for days, put this onto you’re to be read list.

This review is also on Goodreads

Published by Hachette Australia

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The Good Teacher by Richard Anderson

Book blurb…

A sensible small town. An accident and a secret. They say a good teacher is hard to find …

Stony Creek is a quiet farming community where good manners, good will and fairness must be upheld at all costs. No one embodies these values more than married P&C president, Jennifer Booth. Though her only child is long graduated from Stony Creek Primary School (one teacher plus casuals), Jennifer prides herself on leading by example. But when she has passionate, unexpected sex with the new principal, Brock Kelly, just before a P&C meeting, on his office desk, no one is more surprised than she. And when an accident at the school looks like sabotage, then they’ve really got trouble on their hands.

Fellow committee member Sarah Howard, gifted with a highly developed intuition, takes one look at the guilty parties and knows her children’s futures are in jeopardy. Everyone always says that a child’s education should not be compromised and nothing about this scandal will end well for the school, the teacher or the community. Does disaster loom for Stony Creek?

My thoughts…

It’s impossible to put some books down, especially those so full of characters who have moral compasses so utterly out of whack. I was totally hooked by The Good Teacher and was gob smacked at how deceitful the people in this town could be.

The Good Teacher is not a big book and don’t expect me to mention the amazing descriptions of the town or the landscape because if there was any such detail I was too sucked into the characters’ lives to notice. I saw nothing other than what the narrator wanted me to see and I read well into the night because I could NOT put this story down.

A great read. Lots of lessons to learn from The Good Teacher!!

This review is also on Goodreads

Published by Harlequin (Australia)

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Beneath the Parisian Skies by Alli Sinclair

Book blurb…

A sweeping saga about love, truth, grief and passion — and what it takes to fulfil a dream.

Paris, 1917

Ballerina Viktoriya Budian narrowly escapes Russia with her life. She arrives in Paris determined to start afresh with the famed Ballets Russes but her newfound success is threatened when her past returns to haunt her. Forced to choose between love and fame, Viktoriya’s life spirals out of control and the decision she makes seriously affects the lives of many for years to come.

Paris, present day

Australian dancer Lily Johansson returns to Paris, the city that broke her heart and destroyed her ballet career, hoping to ease the guilt over her fiancé’s death and to make amends with her estranged sister, Natalie, a ballerina with the Bohème Ballet. Terrified of loving again, Lily nevertheless finds herself becoming entangled with talented composer Yves Rousseau.

Meanwhile, vying for the role honouring Viktoriya Budian, Lily’s sister Natalie develops an unhealthy obsession. As Natalie’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic, Lily fears for her sister’s safety and sanity. When Natalie goes missing, Lil and Yves set out on a desperate quest across France to find her and, along the way, battle their own demons.

Could the search for her sister lead Lily to realise that ballet — like love and life — should not be abandoned so easily?

My thoughts…

I loved being swept up into the world of ballet, especially under Parisian Skies!

This story is told over two time periods and I was particularly taken with the 1917 story thread and the struggles these characters endured. It’s not hard to fall in love with characters when they are strong but vulnerable at the same time. The present day characters have lessons to learn in order to grow.  Sometimes life’s lessons are too hard and Lily, Natalie and Yves certainly have challenges.

The author’s passion for dance blends with beautiful storytelling to make this a compelling tale of love.

This book has also been reviewed on Goodreads and also placed on Australian Women Writers Challenge

Published by Harlequin (Australia)

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Monster In The Closet (The Baltimore Series Book 5) by Karen Rose

Book blurb…

A mother is dead, and now her killer hunts the child that witnessed the brutal crime…

Private Investigator Clay Maynard locates missing children for clients, but has nearly given up hope of finding his own daughter, cruelly stolen from him by his ex-wife twenty-three years ago.

Equine therapist Taylor Dawson has chosen to intern at Daphne Montgomery-Carter’s stables so that she can observe the program’s security director – her father, Clay Maynard. Trying to reconcile the wonderful man she’s getting to know with the monster her mother always described, Taylor never expects to become the target of a real monster, the man who murdered the mother of the little girls she works with at the stable. Neither does she expect to fall for Ford Elkhart, Daphne’s handsome son, who is dealing with his own demons. As family and friends gather for a wedding, Taylor starts to imagine a permanent life in Baltimore.

My thoughts…

The writing, in particular the special bond that builds and the reconnection had me a blubbering mess, and not a third of the way into the book! I loved all the characters in this story with one exception! You will have to read the story to know who this is! And Taylor is a character that any reader will love, simply because she is strong, capable, but also vulnerable.

The father/daughter relationships tugged at my heartstrings more than once as I read, bumping this novel up into ‘page-turner’ category.

This story is well worth your precious reading time.

Review also posted on Goodreads

Published by Hachette Australia

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