Monday, 24 October 2016

Book Review | Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil | Melina Marchetta


I’ve wanted to read a Melina Marchetta book for a number of years now but time just hasn’t allowed for it. So, it was with anticipation that I opened this latest (her debut novel for adults) as I loved the premise of the novel and the fact that the blurb alluded to “suspense and heart-rending drama” – two of my favourite elements in fiction.

The novel opens with suspended Chief Inspector Bashir “Bish” Ortley receiving a telephone call informing him that his daughter, Bee, has been caught up in the midst of a bus bombing in Calais, France. With his mother, Saffron, accompanying him, they make their way across the channel - thankfully, Bee is unharmed but there are others who haven’t been so lucky.

When he recognises the name of another passenger, Violette LeBrac, his senses go on high alert because he and the LeBracs have a long history of acquaintanceship through the criminal justice system but before he has an opportunity to question her, she, along with one of the other students, Eddie Conlon, disappear.

Left to figure out if the bombing was an act of terror and Violette the perpetrator, Bish is immediately drawn into the investigation, albeit in his personal capacity as a father acting as a liaison between the French police and the children’s parents. He soon finds himself taking instructions from the Home Office and as he tries to find the missing Violette and her companion, he uncovers some discrepancies in the historical case of a supermarketing bombing carried out by Violette’s grandfather, once again coming face-to-face with her imprisoned mother, Noor LeBrac.

It is during the investigation that the conflict in his personal life comes into sharp focus and he begins to realise that he’s only half the man he used to be – still grieving the loss of his son, angry at the loss of his ex-wife to another man and seeking solace in the bottle, Bish also needs to put to bed the issues he has with his mother’s indifference towards him as a child as well as try and figure out his daughter’s distant behaviour towards him.

As mentioned at the beginning of this review, I loved the premise of this novel, so I was somewhat disappointed when I got off to a bit of a slow start. Something just hooked me though so I persisted and I’m so glad that I did because at about 25% of the way in I got the connection with the characters that I was looking for!

In addition to the main plot regarding the investigation, Melina Marchetta has layered her story with some great side plots that explore the complex relationships between her characters - those between fathers and daughters, ex-husbands and wives and mothers and sons - making it more than just another crime novel.

Whilst Bish may sound like a stereotype – divorced, still grieving the loss of his son, drowning his sorrows in a bottle and recently suspended from his job at the London Met (for reasons which become clearer along the way) – he is far from that and by the end of the book, he has come almost full circle.

The things that struck me most are Melina's unfailing ear for dialogue – especially with regard to her teenage characters – and her wry wit had me snorting with laughter a number of times.

At the heart of the story though is a feeling of general resentment towards the Muslim culture that has become all too familiar since the terror attacks of 11 September 2001 and Melina paints an unflinchingly honest picture of the times that we live in, where we have all possibly been guilty of stigmatising people based on colour and religion.

A morally complex tale that is rich with authenticity, this is, on the one hand a crime novel, but on the other, it’s about the relationships and the lives of those involved with Melina exploring family, marriage and repressed grief as well as the symptoms of racial prejudice such as fear, intolerance, segregation, racial profiling, displacement and discrimination.

Despite my slow start, Melina Marchetta is a great storyteller and this novel is very definitely worth a read. I look forward to reading more from her.

I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with an eARC galley proof of this novel.

About the Author

Melina Marchetta’s writing career took off in 1992 when she published her first novel Looking For Alibrandi. She later turned the story into a film script and the movie Looking for Alibrandi screened in theatres around Australia and the world from 2000.


Melina managed to combine writing with teaching English and History in secondary school for ten years up to 2006, when she committed to writing full-time. During that period, she released two novels, Saving Francesca and On the Jellicoe Road.

Her first fantasy novel, Finnikin of the Rock, was published in 2008.

The Piper’s Son (a companion novel to Saving Francesca) was released in 2010 and she has also written a children’s book, The Gorgon in the Gully, as part of the Puffin Pocket Money series.

Her novels have been published in 17 languages in at least 18 countries.

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil is her first adult crime novel.

Melina lives in Sydney where she writes full time.

About the Book

Melina Marchetta's gripping new novel Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil is a cracking fusion of suspense and heart-rending drama.

Chief Inspector Bish Ortley of the London Met, divorced and still grieving the death of his son, has been drowning his anger in Scotch. Something has to give, and he’s no sooner suspended from the force than a busload of British students is subject to a deadly bomb attack across the Channel. Bish’s daughter is one of those on board.

Also on the bus is Violette LeBrac. Raised in Australia, Violette has a troubled background. Thirteen years ago her grandfather bombed a London supermarket, killing dozens of people. Her mother, Noor, is serving a life sentence in connection with the incident. But before Violette’s part in the French tragedy can be established she disappears.

Bish, who was involved in Noor LeBrac’s arrest, is now compelled to question everything that happened back then. And the more he delves into the lives of the family he helped put away, the more he realises that truth wears many colours.

ISBN: 9780670079100
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Pub date: 29/08/2016
RRP: AU$32.99

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Book Review | Watching Edie | Camilla Way


Sixteen years ago, Edie and Heather were best friends but then something happened that drove each of them away from each other and their home town.

Now, all these years later, Edie, a waitress, lives in a tiny little apartment, on her own, pregnant and estranged from her mother.

But the past has a way of catching up and, when her doorbell rings one afternoon, she is more than shocked to see Heather standing there. Reluctantly, she invites her in but soon realises that she’ll need to get rid of her before she begins to dredge up the past she has tried so hard to forget.

Unfortunately, Heather is persistent and not that easy to dismiss so when Edie finally brings baby Maya home, Heather reappears and cleverly insinuates herself in their lives when she realises that Edie is unable to cope with her new baby while the effects of post-natal depression drag her under.

Told from Edie’s perspective in the present (after) and Heather’s in the past (before), their history begins to unfold and we start to wonder what happened all those years ago to bring these two women so far from who they had aspired to be.

You’ve just got to love it when a psychological thriller makes you feel really uncomfortable and this one has discomfort written all over it.

With an almost gothic style of writing, Camilla Way knows how to keep her readers in suspense. Set against the bleakness of London and mainly in Edie’s apartment, Camilla uses her almost claustrophobic setting to great effect, creating an atmosphere edged in creepiness as she gets to the hard-hitting crux of the story.

Edie and Heather are both sympathetic characters and it’s obvious that their actions and the consequences of that fateful night have continued to gnaw away at them as they refuse to confront the horror of what happened. Keeping their secret close to their chests and focusing on their emotional states, it is this that Camilla uses to create suspense and drive her narrative forward, as she vividly captures the shifting dynamics between them.

Weaving the elements of her plot tightly, the explosive revelation of what really happened is well hidden until the denouement and goes to show how extremely talented Camilla Way is.

Complex, challenging and darkly fascinating, Watching Edie is a novel that brims with tension and a growing sense of unease as Camilla delves into toxic friendships, dysfunctional relationships, emotional parental neglect, obsession, guilt and mental health issues.

This one will pull you headlong into the dark secret that controls these characters’ lives and is a must-read for all fans of a good psychological thriller.

I wish to thank HarperCollins Australia for providing me with an egalley proof for review.

About the Author

Camilla Way was born in Greenwich, south-east London in 1973. Her father was the poet and author Peter Way.

After attending Woolwich College she studied modern English and French literature at the University of Glamorgan.

Formerly Associate Editor of the teenage girls' magazine Bliss, she is currently an editor and writer on the men's style magazine Arena.

Having lived in Cardiff, Bristol, Bath and Clerkenwell, she now lives in south-east London.

About the Book

THERE ARE SOME FRIENDS YOU’LL NEVER FORGET…
NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY

BEFORE
Edie is the friend that Heather has always craved. But one night, it goes terrifyingly wrong. And what started as an innocent friendship ends in two lives being destroyed.

AFTER
Sixteen years later, Edie is still rebuilding her life. But Heather isn’t ready to let her forget so easily. It’s no coincidence that she shows up when Edie needs her most.

NOW
Edie or Heather?
Heather or Edie?

Someone has to pay for what happened, but who will it be?

ISBN: 9780008159016
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Pub date: 01/08/2016
RRP: AU$34.99

Friday, 7 October 2016

Book Review | Labour of Love | Shannon Garner


While I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, I do enjoy a good memoir so when I was contacted by Shannon Garner and asked to review the account of her journey through surrogacy, I couldn’t resist.

Altruistic Surrogacy is a subject that has always fascinated me and, while books like Dawn Barker’s Let Her Go (which I loved), shed some light on it, Shannon Garner has been through it.

Happily married with two beautiful children of her own, Shannon’s determination to pursue her desire to be a surrogate drove her to carry out meticulous research for a complex and emotional process that remains, even in today’s day and age, a controversial subject.

With honesty and insight, she explores the highs and lows of being an altruistic surrogate in Australia and, in the process, gives the reader a glimpse into an oft misrepresented process with all its legal, clinical and ethical complexities along with the (not always positive) perceptions of friends, family and strangers.

Her joys, struggles and fears are all here and I take my hat off to Shannon because it’s not only a difficult decision – one that affects not just the surrogate but her wider family – but it’s also a journey that only a very special few are able to make and her dedication, commitment and self-sacrifice is to be commended.

With the flair of a natural storyteller, Shannon has lovingly documented her (and her family’s) profoundly personal journey, answering a lot of questions while writing with heart, humour and a light and friendly tone that sets a warm and intimate atmosphere - which leaves me in no doubt that this is who she is in real life.

An absorbing, insightful and inspiring memoir with contemporary relevance, Labour of Love is a story of love, family, hope, pure selflessness and the joy of giving that I highly recommend to anyone who is thinking of heading down the surrogacy path as well as those who, like me, just find the surrogacy world to be so fascinating.

Thanks goes to Shannon Garner for providing me with a hard copy for review.

About the Author

Shannon Garner is first and foremost a mother to two beautiful children, a wife, surrogate and then a writer, passionate about the craft of storytelling. She lives in a seaside town on the New South Wales north coast in a timber cottage complete with the white picket fence!

Shannon started concentrating on her writing in 2009 when her first child was born and hasn’t looked back. Her writer’s group encouraged her to delve into non-fiction after the birth of a surrogate child she carried for a gay male couple from Sydney and with that… her first memoir “Labour of Love” was born.

She is delighted that her memoir about her altruistic surrogacy journey was released on the 1st July 2016 and hopes you will enjoy her journey as much as she did.

Shannon has started writing her first fiction novel which is a family saga spanning many decades set in rural England and Australia, two places held close to her heart.

About the Book

A story of generosity, hope and surrogacy

Shannon Garner met and married the man of her dreams, had two gorgeous children and lived an idyllic life on the New South Wales coast. So why did she decide one day to pursue altruistic surrogacy? And what made her choose a gay male couple from Sydney?

Labour of Love is Shannon’s honest and engaging story – a rollercoaster of emotion set against the backdrop of a highly regulated ‘industry’. This is no account of heartache and conflict but an uplifting story of ‘a collective love’ – one that involves a handful of people from very different walks of life who end up being so much more than family.

As Shannon travels her journey of body, mind and soul, she lays bare the loving reality behind surrogacy, but also the trouble she found along the way.

Finding strength in unexpected places, Shannon pushed past the negativity of others to discover the courage she needed to selflessly carry and birth a baby that will not be her own – and to bring the gift of a precious life and soul into the world, to be loved and cared for by her new adoring parents.

ISBN: 9781925368604
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia
Pub date: 01/07/2016
RRP: AU$29.99

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Book Review | Nothing Short of Dying | Erik Storey


Clyde Barr just wants to disappear into the wilderness. After the last sixteen years, who can blame him - mercenary and hired gun on three different continents, prisoner on one - call him what you want, he's tired and needs to regain some sense of himself. He also doesn't really need the added complications of electronic communication like a mobile phone but, in this day and age, it seems to be a must-have.

Only problem is, the next call he receives is going to shatter his much sought-after solitude with a cry for help from his youngest sister who doesn’t even get a chance to let him know where she is!

In trying to figure out her whereabouts and who may have her, he finds himself teaming up with Allie, a bartender with her own reasons for running, who just might know the answer to that question. Together they begin the search! Travelling through wide open spaces and into the mountains looking for clues, they also find themselves fighting for their lives when they cross the paths of some ruthless drug dealers and are double-crossed by someone Clyde once called a friend!

As the bodies pile up and he and Allie grow closer, vignettes of a fractured family, abusive relationships and an obscure past begin to form the patchwork of history that is Clyde Barr.

This one had been glaring at me from my reading pile for some time and, not having read a “Jack Reacher” novel (to whom Clyde Barr has been compared), I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I picked it up anyway, thinking that I’d “expand my horizons” so to speak – and I’m so glad that I did because Erik Storey is a remarkable storyteller.

Not only does he give us non-stop action right the way through but in Clyde Barr, he introduces us to an extremely complex man, slowly peeling back the layers to reveal an honourable, albeit tough-as-nails hero. He’s rugged, a wanderer with a strong sense of justice, tough but soft when he needs to be and if there’s one thing he loves more than anything else, it’s his sisters – even if they’re not all on speaking terms with him. As a woman, I could just fall in love with Clyde - he's not afraid or ashamed to stand up for what's right, he keeps his word and will always defend the underdog!

There’s a lot to enjoy in this novel which provided me with a few hours of adventurous escapism such as getting to know our hero whilst exploring Erik’s lush setting of Colorado and the Appalachian Mountains that not only gives the reader a strong sense of place which is integral to the events unfolding around Clyde, but also shows that Erik knows it well.

Another big plus for me was that while there are a number of violent scenes (which is to be expected from the genre), Erik doesn’t expose the reader to too much guts and gore. And, once his characters have served their purpose, he has no qualms about expiring them along the way.

Clyde Barr is an appealing lead character and Erik Storey’s skill as a writer shines, making it hard to believe that this is a debut. He also strikes the right emotional balance so if you, like me, prefer your action thriller novels not to forsake depth, then don’t hesitate to get this one on your list so that you too can welcome knight errant, Clyde Barr, to the fold. 

With non-stop action right the way through and a skilfully crafted plot that picks up steadily, this is compulsive reading at its best from an author who is putting true adventure back into the action thriller genre. In saying that, I can confirm that I’m definitely a fan and that nothing short of dying will stop me from reading the next novel in the series!

I wish to thank Simon and Schuster Australia for providing me with a hard copy for review.

About the Author


Erik Storey is a former ranch hand, wilderness guide, dogsled musher, and hunter.

He spent his childhood summers growing up on his great-grandfather’s homestead or in a remote cabin in Colorado’s Flat Tops wilderness.

He has earned a number of sharpshooter and marksman qualifications.

Nothing Short of Dying is his first novel.

He and his family live in Grand Junction, Colorado.

About the Book

Sixteen years. That’s how long Clyde Barr has been away from Colorado’s thick forests, alpine deserts, and craggy peaks, running from a past filled with haunting memories. But now he’s back, having roamed across three continents as a hunter, adventurer, soldier of fortune, and most recently, unjustly imprisoned convict. And once again, his past is reaching out to claim him.

By the light of a flickering campfire, Clyde receives a frantic phone call from his sister Jen. No sooner has she pleaded with him to come rescue her than the line goes dead. Clyde doesn’t know how much time he has, or where Jen is located, or even who has her. All he knows is that nothing short of dying will stop him from saving her.

Joining Clyde in his against-all-odds quest is a young woman named Allie whose motivations for running this gauntlet are fascinatingly complex. As the duo races against the clock, it is Allie who gets Clyde to see what he has become and what he can still be.

Vivid with the hues and scents of Colorado’s backcountry, and thought-provoking in its exploration of how past, present, and future collide to test resolve, Nothing Short of Dying is, above all, a propulsive, action-driven race against the clock.

ISBN: 9781501124143 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pub Date:  August 2016 
Extent: 320
RRP: AU$26.00

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Announcement | Winner | Southern Ruby by Belinda Alexandra

                                Image Designed by Qeaql-studio - Freepik.com

So, my trusty competition friend, random.org has generated a winner!

Congratulations

Tien's Blurb

You have been selected as the winner.

Please could you contact me at marcia@bookmusterdownunder.com.au with your postal address details.

To everyone else who entered, a big THANK YOU.
I'm just so sorry that there could only be one winner - would love to have given you ALL a copy but I only had one spare.

Keep your eyes peeled for more giveaways that may come up in the next few months.

Until next time!