Head in a book

Secrets: The Good House

If you’re looking for a book to gift to a bookish friend this Christmas, it sounds like Ann Leary’s The Good House (Allen and Unwin) might be just the ticket! Thanks to Jennie for this great review, wonderful teaser for a intriguing story…

***

Ann Leary is the author of a memoir & two novels, The Good House (Allen and Unwin) being the second. I was unfamiliar with her work until now, but will be seeking out her previous books.

the good houseThe Good House is written in the first person, the voice of our protagonist Hildy Good. Hildy is a woman in her 60’s, a divorcé, a mother of two daughters, a grandmother, a realtor & an alcoholic.

She lives in the small town, Wendover Crossing, where she was born & raised. Her family indeed trace back eight generations in the town, with her eighth great-grandmother one of the accused witches tried & hanged in Salem. Due to this piece of history it is generally rumoured by locals that Hildy herself has psychic powers, a rumour she likes to play with.

Hildy makes it her business to know everyone else’s business. She shares an office building with the town Psychiatrist, Peter Newbold. She confidently  tells him that she can learn more about a person by walking through their house than he can in a session with a patient.

We enter Hildy’s life two years following an intervention by her daughters regarding her alcoholism. This is, of course, not a reality that Hildy accepts! She’s not an alcoholic! She enjoys a drink or two at social events like everyone else. Well, there may have been a DUI, but that was just one! And phonecalls to people late at night – she just likes to chat with her friends after a few drinks, she’s a gregarious person, it’s lonely in her house when she gets home!

Despite her very rational, heartfelt arguments, her family talk her into a 28 day Rehabilitation session at Hazelden Clinic.

The entire town of Wendover Crossing know that a 28 day disappearance from town means that Hildy was in rehab. So, at every public function thereafter, Hildy is a cheerful teetotaller, knowing that every eye in town is upon her!

This is where our book of secrecy begins. A labyrinth of secrets involving several people in this close knit town.

Very early on we learn that Hildy has, as many alcoholics do, two lives. She is a veritable puritan at social events. She is funny, occasionally does her psychic tricks at dinner parties & “reads minds”, she is the perfect guest.

When she gets home to her two dogs however, she indulges in her ritual visit to her cellar & her secret supply of wine where she imbibes in “1 or 2” glasses. It is more like one or two bottles & she happily walks with her dogs to the nearby lake, strips off & plunges nude into the water. It is her beautiful escape.

Hildy feels she is putting on a pretty charade but is happily maintaining her alcoholic lifestyle.

The serious secrets start leaping from the pages from this point. As Hildy knows everybody in Wendover Crossing, she knows the details of very many family lives. She detects any changes very quickly. She also becomes friends with a new couple in town & a confidante to the wife.

The beauty of The Good House is in the descriptions of the town & the people through the eyes of Hildy who knows both intimately. It’s a colourful cast of characters in this small town & Hildy brings them all beautifully to life in exquisite detail.

There is Frankie, briefly Hildy’s High School beau, who tells it like it is and plays a large role in the town; Callie & Patch with their autistic son Jake who desperately want to sell their house (which is severely damaged by Jake’s outbursts); Peter Newbold, who she also knows from school & Rebecca McAllister, new to town but quickly close to Hildy.

The strength of the developing secrets in the book lie in the fact that we are strongly invested in these people. The Good House is gripping, wonderfully detailed & funny. Sometimes laugh out loud funny (which I did!). I wanted to turn the pages as fast as I possibly could by halfway through the book as secrets became exposed. I eagerly read to find out how each piece of the puzzle fitted together.

The ending has profound implosive impact as it all comes together. Unbelievably a massive surprise awaits us at the very end.

I highly recommend The Good House. It’s a lovely light read, gripping & funny. A good stocking-filler for the readers in your life.

***

You can find out more about The Good House, by Ann Leary here…

 

Meeting Steve Worland

Last night, we held another wonderful online conversation at TBYL, this time having a chat with the author of the explosive novel Combustion (Penguin) Steve Worland…

In case you weren’t able to tune in on the night, here’s a transcript of our chat with Steve…

Steve WorlandTBYL: My first question for Steve tonight is this… you’ve created a really interesting cast of characters in your novels. Do you have a personal favourite?

Steve: I love them all of course, but Corey and his cattle dog Spike would be my favourites. They’re funny and uniquely Australian, though I do love Severson, the out-for-himself-at-all-costs NASA executive, and Lola, the tough as nails Hollywood agent. I think they add interesting variations to the mix of characters. And that’s what you’re always looking for, an appealing mix that will give you conflict (even when the characters really like each other), lots of humour, insight into the human condition and that little something that feels genuinely unique and unexpected. Basically, I want the readers to love spending time with the characters, but to understand that they’re both heroic and flawed, often at the same time.

TBYL: Do you think there would be one particular character that readers would like most?

Steve: I think Corey and Spike give my stories an element that is humorous, heartfelt and genuinely Australian so they tend to be crowd favourites, certainly in Oz!

TBYL: I would think Corey would be very popular, wonderfully recognisable! I really liked Rhonda too!

Steve: Yeah, she’s great value. I kind of based her on my wife.

TBYL: Oh wow, that’s great! Can your wife fly a plane?

Steve: No, she’s an actress so she can pretend to do it!

TBYL: Perfect! Are the other characters based on real people too?

Steve: Well, the astronauts are all based on elements of real people. There’s a bit of Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, in Judd, and Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, in Rhonda. Lola, the Hollywood agent, is a little bit like my agent. So, you use parts of people you know and read about, then make up the rest!

TBYL: Steve, there’s an element of the bizarre in Combustion, adding to the fun. I’m talking especially in regards to Corey and his dog Spike. Why did you decide to add these elements to the story, rather than take a straight action/adventure path? 

Steve: I wanted to create a point of difference that was both humorous, heartfelt and genuinely Australian, and I think Corey and Spike give my stories that element. Interestingly, the idea for the duo comes from a very real place. I have many friends and family in country NSW and when you see the almost telepathic communication between the guys who work the land and their cattle dogs, it’s not a huge fictional jump to reach the relationship Corey and Spike have. Then to take that relationship and throw them into a big action-adventure story is a lot of fun.

TBYL: Did you spend time in rural Australia and LA to get a sense for how this duo would translate from one to the other?

Steve: Well I’ve spent a bit of time in country NSW because of family, but never more than about a week at a time. I lived in LA for a year at the start of my screenwriting career, which was an interesting experience.

TBYL: I would imagine so! How did you find LA, especially as a resident?

Steve: It was all work really. Not a lot of time for fun. Just working at Lightstorm (James Cameron’s company) or writing. It’s a real company town that way and it can consume you.

TBYL: A bit like a really long business trip?

Steve: Yes, the film business doesn’t sleep so you do need to be on the ball.

TBYL: I always find it interesting when someone moves from one type of writing to another, and so I was wondering… what made you decide to make the shift from script and screen to novel? How have you found the transition?

Steve: Making the shift was pretty easy. I had been working as a screenwriter for almost twenty years and felt that I needed to write something for myself rather than for a director, producer or studio. Screenwriting is really about creating a blueprint for someone else’s work of art, which is fine for a while, but I just reached that point where I needed a little more autonomy. Having said that, a movie I co-wrote (with the Director) is in production at the moment in WA so that is exciting.

TBYL: Ooh, can you say any more?

Steve: Sure, it’s a kid’s adventure movie that Sam Worthington is starring in called ‘Paper Planes’. It’ll be released in 3D in January ’15.

TBYL: I’ll have to take a look at ‘Paper Planes’, sounds interesting.

Steve: It’s a little way away but the idea is to make an Australian kid’s movie.

CombustionTBYL: Hypothetically speaking, if your book were to be made into a film, who would you have play Judd, Corey, Rhonda and Lola?

Steve: Well there are so many choices! In a perfect world: Chris Pine or Bradley Cooper as Judd, Hugh Jackman or Sam Worthington as Corey, Jennifer Lawrence or Rachel McAdams as Rhonda, Greg Kinnear or Jeff Goldblum as Severson and Eva Mendes or Mila Kunis as Lola.

TBYL: Oh wow, the book has just taken on a whole new dimension! I’m so glad I asked that question! Would you like to see it on screen?

Steve: Absolutely! I just have to convince someone to spend the money!

TBYL: Not too harder sell I wouldn’t think Steve, especially with that many explosions! Next question – Steve, do you love watches?

Steve: I do indeed! I’m old school, I’d prefer to look at my wrist than my phone to tell the time! I think watches are pretty much the only jewellery men can get away with so I find it interesting what guys wear. That’s why I often mention the watches people are wearing in my books. It’s a personal choice that says a lot.

TBYL: I wish I knew more about what makes for a good watch, it’d probably help me shop for my husband for Christmas!

Steve: Just ask me. I can send you in the right direction.

TBYL: I might just do that! Okay, I’ve one last question for Steve tonight… Can you tell us anything about the third instalment in the series?

Steve: Well the Judd and Corey will finally make it in to space but not in a way you would imagine. It will tie up a number of story strands set up in the first two books and will be, hopefully, a rollicking, humourous adventure along the way. It’s due Father’s Day 2015. Next year I have different action adventure novel coming out that is set in the world of Formula One. It’s has a new cast of characters and some huge action sequences so I’m really looking forward to getting out into the world. I’m in the middle of writing it now!

TBYL: That sounds really interesting – lots of fast and furious car facts? Are you enjoying taking a break from the series?

Steve: Yes, lots of big car action, and a lot more beside. I think it’s good to give the Judd & Corey series a short rest. I want it to be fresh and hopefully, by the time Book 3 comes out, more readers will have found it!

TBYL: I’m sure they will have!

***

If you’d like to find out more about Steve’s books, visit the Penguin site here. You might also enjoy his personal website which is here…

 

Waiting for Wednesday

Although I’m not sure if TBYL Reviewer Carolyn was completely convinced when I gave her Nicci French’s crime novel Waiting for Wednesday (Penguin) to read and review, I get the feeling from this review that she’s starting to come around…

***

Today’s review is of Waiting for Wednesday by crime writer Nicci French. It’s a very well written book and takes the reader on many twists and turns before the crime is solved.  This novel is one that I suspect lovers of crime fiction will enjoy.

waiting for wednesdayAlthough it took me a little bit of effort to get into this book, upon finishing it I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and that it has contributed to my growing interest of this genre.  I discovered early on that this novel belonged to a series. The storyline was new but characters had already been introduced in previous books in the series. As you might expect, this meant it took me a little to grab hold of the context, but once I got to know the characters, it was no obstacle to my enjoyment of the novel.

Ruth Lennox, beloved mother of three, is found by her daughter in a pool of her own blood. Who would want to murder an ordinary housewife? And why? 

Psychotherapist Frieda Klein finds she has an unusually personal connection with DCI Karlsson’s latest case. She is no longer working with him in an official capacity, but when her niece befriends Ruth Lennox’s son, Ted, she finds herself in the awkward position of confidante to both Karlsson and Ted.

When it emerges that Ruth was leading a secret life, her family closes ranks and Karlsson finds he needs Frieda’s help more than ever before.

But Frieda is distracted. Having survived an attack on her life, she is struggling to stay in control and when a patient’s chance remark rings an alarm bell, she finds herself chasing down a path that seems to lead to a serial killer who has long escaped detection. Or is it merely a symptom of her own increasingly fragile mind?

Because, as Frieda knows, every step closer to a killer is one more step into a darkness from which there may be no return…

Waiting for Wednesday is the third instalment of the Frieda Klein series.  The novel opens with a horrific murder of an ordinary middle-class wife and mother of three, which, on its own captivated me and had me re-reading passages looking for clues.  I was to some degree left wanting, as not many clues are given at the beginning of the story; instead the writer takes her time recapping incidents that occurred in the previous two novels, reintroducing characters and their relationships.  As a first time reader to this series, I found it hard to get into the story because of this ‘revisiting’ and kept putting the book down to find something else to do.  However, as Mandi was waiting for me to write this review, I knew I had to persevere and devote my time to psychotherapist Frieda Klein no matter what terrors she had experienced in the other books. I’m glad that I did.

Waiting for Wednesday is written by two people, Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. Together they write under the pseudonym of Nicci French.  I had no idea until after I finished the book that this author was in fact a married couple.  The writing is seamless and they are able to get into the head of the main character very well. The further into the novel I got and the more I got to know Frieda, the more I wanted to stop the book and start the Frieda Klein series from the first book, Blue Monday.  The second in the series Tuesday’s Gone suggests that there will be seven in this series and judging from how Waiting for Wednesday was written, I think it will be great.

If we take a look at this book on its own and not as one in a series, the crime that occurs takes up only a small part of the story and is a fairly straightforward case.  Waiting for Wednesday spends a lot of its time developing characters that have featured earlier in the series and I’m assuming will be present in future books.  This book is very much the hump day in the series.  It appears that a climax will happen when Frieda Klein gets to the weekend.  Nicci French touches on something dark and frightening, waiting in the shadows, which had me wanting to know more.

You can read Waiting for Wednesday as a stand alone book however I think it would be more enjoyable to read the other two books in the series first. I know that reading this latest instalment has made me want to go back and read the first two, and I’d certainly do just that before reading the next in the series.

***

If you’d to find out more about Nicci French’s Waiting for Wednesday you can visit the Penguin website here…

 

 

Touching: Grace has a Secret

I love it when a childrens’ book author takes the opportunity to communicate a really positive message, and I love it even more when that message is given real impact through gorgeous illustrations.

Grace has a secretGrace Has a Secret, by Prudence Holling and Philippa Ray, illustrated by Liz Braid is one of these storybooks – beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully written, it’s a must for your collection.

Grace has a lot of ideas about how she can make the world a better place. Her most recent idea, her big secret, is all about gratitude.

Grace is thankful for all the lovely things that people do – their lovely singing, their beautiful gardening, the hard work they do tidying up the neighbourhood – and she decides to express her thanks in a very special way…

Darting and dashing and scuttling and creeping, Grace delivered kindness while everyone was sleeping.

As the morning mist swirled magic at her feet, Grace pushed envelopes into every letterbox in the street.

Authors Prudence and Phillippa have written a beautiful story that bounces and sings. Parents will enjoy reading it and kids will soon be picking it up and reading it for themselves, either from the words, or from memory.

Liz Braid’s illustrations are gorgeous, a perfect blend of colourful college and watercolour. She has used a deft hand and subtle touch to get the balance just right. The vibrancy of the pages will be sure to grab the attention of the most energetic child and Grace is personified wonderfully, I can’t wait to get to know her more.

20131113-133653.jpg

 

Of course Grace Has a Secret contains an important message communicated genuinely and lovingly, but more than just that, this book is a whole lot of fun. It encourages kids to grab hold of their ideas, to be exuberant and to believe that they can make a real difference to the world around them.

For me, I couldn’t go past the fact that readers were invited to rediscover the art of the letter. I love a handwritten note and was absolutely rapt when I opened this thank-you note…

 

and then noticed this page…

20131113-133708.jpg

This book, and the note are now a very special part of my book collection…

Grace Has a Secret would be a perfect book for Christmas, and you can find out how to get hold of a copy at the Grace Has website here…

Suspend Your Disbelief: Strange Bodies

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s instantly attracted to pretty much anything bearing the name Theroux…

Whether it’s a book like The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux, a documentary by his son Louis, or a novel by author Marcel Theruox, the name is synonymous with quality, compelling storytelling, and more than it’s fair share of quirk.

strange bodiesMarcel’s most recent novel, Strange Bodies (Faber) is the first of his novels that I’ve read and I couldn’t put it down. I wasn’t quite sure where it was taking me, how it was going to pan out, but hey, that’s half the fun of reading isn’t it?

It’s an unusual premise, presented as matter of fact…

Nicholas Slopen has been dead for months. So when a man claiming to be Nicholas turns up to visit an old girlfriend, deception seems the only possible motive.

Yet nothing can make him change his story.

From the secure unit of a notorious psychiatric hospital, he begins to tell his tale: an account of attempted forgery that draws the reader towards an extraordinary truth – a metaphysical conspiracy that lies on the other side of madness and death.

As with most good magic realism, the bizarre is unapologetically posited as as mundane, the reader’s ability to suspend their disbelief is assumed. I find this type of reading really liberating – the requirement for me to relinquish control and go with the flow of the narrative, accepting these facts exactly as they are presented – is a wonderful type of escapism.

The main protagonist, Nicholas is a complex character. He is earnest, honest and hardworking and yet he is somewhat unlikeable in his awkward single-mindedness. Regardless, as I’m sure was intended by the author, I couldn’t help but feel his frustration and despair acutely, as he tries to reconnect with those he loves, both before and after ‘the procedure’…

“In all the startling discomfort of coming to my senses in a new carcass, I don’t recall a more agonising moment than this. All the shame and the pain and the pitying eyes of strangers. My awareness of myself as weak and hopeless. What made it harder was my perception that while I was broken and tearful, Leonora was speaking with a voice of reasoning tenderness. I was the one clinging to a fantasy about our marriage as insane as Roger N’s delusion that Mossad has implanted a radio transmitter in his brain.”

His physical and emotional pain throughout the novel is raw and quite terrifying, yet the book itself remains quite humorous. The comedy is black, obscure and entertaining.

Interestingly too, I learnt a great deal reading this novel. Marcel is obviously incredibly expert in the field of literature and history. His knowledge of the eighteenth century lexicographer Dr Samuel Johnson is beyond thorough, and his appreciation for random trivia relating to writers, texts and vintage health conditions is impressive. He had me googling names and references throughout the whole novel and I was fascinated as, page by page, I picked up random facts that I’ll probably never use again, but enjoyed completely.

Strange Bodies is a fascinating book, especially suited to those who love magic realism or who love shameless literary name-dropping (which, as it happens, I do). I’d say, take a look at this literary, science fiction, black comedy, high brow, fantastical novel – you won’t be disappointed.

You can find out more about Marcel Theroux’s novel at the Allen and Unwin website here.

 

Three eBooks, sure to please

Over the last 6 months I’ve been sent a number of eBooks to read and review. Interestingly, they seem to be the sort of books that I dip in and out of, typically while I’m on the move, and as such they get a bit stuck on my Reading Pile. They get read, but not reviewed, and that’s no good!

So, I thought tonight I might do a group review of a few of the great books that I have on my eReader at the moment, in the hope that it might give you some good ideas for what to read next.


Wicked Wind, by Sharon Kay

The first thing that I noticed about this fun paranormal action-story is that it kicks off with a fantastic fight scene, featuring two tough women ready to save the day. A brilliant start, followed up by a really nice premise – it’s lead protagonist’s unique special ability – the ability to command the wind…

wicked windSHE GREW UP THINKING SHE WAS HUMAN
Born with the ability to command the wind, Nicole Bonham spends her life hiding her gift. Deciding to take control of her power, she dispenses her own brand of vigilante justice in Chicago’s worst neighborhoods. Stealth and surprise are always on her side.

UNTIL A CHANCE ENCOUNTER WITH A WARRIOR DEMON
Lash demon Gunnar prowls Earth and several supernatural realms to help maintain peace among the immortal species. His chance encounter with Nicole creates a hurricane of sparks between them, and he can’t let her out of his sight until he discovers her true identity. In his two hundred years, he has never seen a creature like her.

PLUNGES THEM BOTH INTO A FIGHT FOR HER LIFE
Nicole and Gunnar race to discover who – or what – is stabbing the city’s most destitute residents and stealing their blood. The fire that forged their bond explodes into white-hot passion, their erotic dance weaving their souls together on an unexpected level. Haunted by the past, Gunnar’s fiercely protective instincts battle with her need to defeat the creatures she was born to fight. As they track the mastermind behind the attacks, will Nicole’s unique talent unwittingly send her straight into his lair?

Wicked Wind is packed full of special powers, feisty women, demons and romance. It’s really original, which makes it a very entertaining story and it’s a quick read, great for reading on the go, especially if you’re a fan of paranormal fiction. You can pick up a copy here, and follow Sharon on Facebook here…


Distance, by Nene Davies
This novel is very different to our first. A frank and intimate tale of new beginnings, Distance is the story a Welsh family, in particular wife and mother Isobel Richardson.  After her husband’s reluctancy, relocation to Australia becomes possible which in turns goes someways to satisfying her inexplicably itchy feet.  This story unpacks the adventures, challenges and wonders of relocating a family, moving from one side of the world to another.

distanceEssentially, Isobel is an impatient and curious character, anxious to explore new options and push the boundries…

“One of the saddest things in the world must be to get to the end of your life and wish you’d done things differently. ‘I wish I’d got married; I wish I’d never got married; I wish I’d got married to somebody else; I wish I’d taken this course, or tried that job, built a career, had children (or not); I wish I’d been kinder, thinner, richer; less selfish, more generous.’ Imagine lying on your deathbed and thinking ‘Damn! I didn’t do it after all.’ Isobel thought she’d rather die now than face that.”

Her drive to experience as much as possible is a sentiment I can certainly identify with, and although Davies assures us that Distance is not an autobiography, her novel has a wonderful authenticity about it. You can pick up a copy here, and take a look at Nene’s lovely website, it’s a beautiful accompaniment to her novel.


Peace, Love and Khaki Socks, by Kim Lock
I’ve got to be honest, it was back in May that I read this book, and haven’t put pen to paper to write about it until now. This is problem, as some of my impressions of the story are a little blurry. To solve this problem, I thought I’d share with you fellow blogger Monique’s take on the book…

peace, love and khaki socksAmy is 24 years old, living in the married quarters at the Darwin RAAF base; her boyfriend, Dylan, is a digger in the army. She’s a reluctant Army Wife – not reluctant to be attached to Dylan, who she’s been with since high school, but reluctant to play along with the rules of the Army Wife Mob. She’s also a pacifist, so she’s living a life of contradiction as the partner of a gun-toting soldier. When Amy discovers she’s pregnant, she’s completely shocked – this wasn’t what she planned.

Peace, Love and Khaki Socks is written with a relaxed, easy style with some wryly funny moments – like hearing a birth story from a friend. It will especially hold appeal for those who are pregnant and/or considering home birth options. I did enjoy reading it, especially for the trip down memory lane – it’s the novel’s biggest strength – and the insight to life in Darwin, a setting that was well drawn. 

I’d love for you to read her full review over at Write Note Reviews! She also recently posted an interview with the author, Kim Lock which you can read here. This article offers up real insight into the writing of this really touching book.

***

Three really different books, all fantastically entertaining stories. I’ve three more to share with you too, but I might save them until the same time next week.

Do any of these books tickle your fancy?

 

Out Now: November TBYL News plus this week’s winner

This month’s edition of TBYL News: All Things Bookish… is now out, complete with give-aways, new reviews and upcoming events at That Book You Like…

PicMonkey Collage2Last month we chatted with Claire Scobie, and this month we’re going have a great online conversation with the talented Steve Worland. You can find out more in this month’s newsletter, it’s a fantastic chance to get to know this fast-paced author a little better,

Also, there’s lots of new reviews to be read on the TBYL Blog, a chance to win a copy of the intriguing novel Driftwood, by Mandy Magro, and also a great event coming up at the TBYL Store.

Happy reading, enjoy our August edition!

Click here to read TBYL News: All Things Bookish… November 2013

If you’d like to subscribe to the newsletter, you can click here.

This’ll mean that you get our monthly news by email, on the first Monday of the month. Perfect!

PLUS…

I’ve drawn the winner of our Combustion give-away. To celebrate reaching 1500 likers on Facebook, I had a copy of Steve’s latest novel to send the way of one lucky reader. The winner of the competition is Gloria Bale. Gloria, I’ll be in touch by email shortly.

If you weren’t lucky this time, don’t despair, there’s another chance to win in this month’s TBYL News: All Things Bookish… click through to find out the details!

Apple Tree Yard

Today’s review from Kate had me intrigued… what kind of book could have you wondering on your own decision-making, and not just that of characters in the book?

Here’s what she thought of Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty (Allen and Unwin)…

***

I always love getting new books to review from Mandi, as I never know what I am in for when I begin reading. Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty was no exception, and it actually got me thinking about what makes us make the decisions we do….

apple tree yardWhat makes one woman who has a seemingly perfect life make one rash decision that changes her life forever?

Yvonne Carmichael is a geneticist, highly respected and regarded in her field who, one day , for no apparent reason other that a look from a stranger makes one very rash decision that leads to diabolical consequences.

He kept looking at me as he rose to his feet, if we had met before, the look might have said, ‘oh, it’s you’. But we hadn’t met before and so it said something entirely other – but still with an element of recognition, I looked right back, and all was decided in that instant, although I didn’t understand that for a very long time.

And so begins a torrid, unconventional love affair with a man as mysterious as he is captivating. Yvonne seems to lose all sense of herself and the life that she has built with her husband and becomes blind to the inconsistencies and elusive behaviours of her lover. Her actions spin out of control and lead to a vicious assault and unexpected violence that sees her facing murder charges along with her increasingly mysterious lover.

Part psychological thriller, part exploration of human nature and morality Louise Doughty has written a true page turner. From the streets of London to murder the trial in the Old Bailey the story is gripping.  As the story unfolds you can’t help but wonder why the main character is doing what she is doing and how it can all turn so horribly wrong. It made me what to shake her and say ‘can’t you see what he is doing’!!

This is the seventh novel by Louise Doughty, her last Whatever You Love, being short-listed for the Costa Novel Award and long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction. She has won awards for radio drama and short stories and is a cultural commentator for UK and international newspapers and broadcasts regularly on the BBC.

I’d definitely recommend this as a fast-paced, sometime perplexing read which would suit lovers of thrillers and crime fiction alike.

***

You can find out more about  Apple Tree Yard on the Allen and Unwin website, and more about the accomplished author, Louise Doughty here.

Explosive Action: Combustion

Sometimes you just need to take time out for a ripping read – something explosive, high octane, a story that moves at a cracking pace.

I’ve been overrun lately, finding it hard to find time to read. I needed a book that would suck me in, let me hit the ground running and keep propelling me forward so that I wouldn’t keep getting interrupted by the overwhelming to-do-list breathing down my neck.

Steve Worland’s Combustion (Penguin) was just the ticket! Wow, what a ride. From page one its storyline is earth-shattering (literally) and doesn’t skip a beat from chapter to chapter. Featuring our unassuming heros – Judd and Corey, who find themselves smack bang in the middle of Armageddon (otherwise know as L.A., the City of Angels) as the villainous Bunsen attempts to ‘burn it all down’!

CombustionLos Angeles. Traffic clogs the streets. Smog chokes the city. 
 
And Zac Bunsen is going to burn it all down.

On a ruthless quest to save the planet, Bunsen releases the Swarm, an airborne nanotech virus that targets combustion engines and detonates their fuel supply. It is spectacularly, appallingly successful.
 
Terror and chaos reign as the City of Angels explodes. Every vehicle is now a deadly bomb and every freeway a war zone littered with bodies and twisted wrecks.

NASA astronaut Judd Bell and his best mate, Aussie chopper pilot Corey Purchase, must navigate the burning city in a desperate mission to stop Bunsen before he can execute the last phase of his horrific plan and send mankind back to the Stone Age.

This wonderfully cinematic novel is the sequel to Steve’s first novel, Velocity, and offers a nice follow-on in the series. Corey’s Aussie turns of phrase had me giggling, whilst Judd’s reluctance to claim the mantel of hero was grounding, for the character and the story itself. Both these devices make the lead characters really approachable.

It’s got just the right amount of detail on time, place, weaponry and gadgetry to satisfy your hard-core action readers without alienating the less ‘specs’ driven reader like myself.

combustion 2Essentially, it’s a fun read. Its issues are current, its heros are likeable and the story is in the truest sense entertaining.

Now, last week we hit a new milestone over on the TBYL Facebook page and to celebrate the 1500 Likers milestone, I’ve a copy of Combustion to give away to one lucky reader. Here’s what you need to do…

(1) Email us at info@thatbookyoulike.com.au with the subject line COMBUSTION and tell us what you’re reading now, and what you plan to read next.

(2) Include an Australian postal address for delivery, should you win.

(3) Stay tuned to the That Book You Like Facebook page, as a winner will be drawn at random midnight 4 November 2013. You can enter any time until then. The winner will be announced on Facebook and will receive an email too.

As a bonus, if you invite a friend to enter, and they mention your name in their email, you’ll get an extra entry yourself.

If you’d like to find out more about Steve Worland’s Combustion, visit the Penguin website here.

The Returned

After reading the blurb of Jason Mott’s The Returned (Harlequin) I felt certain that it would be just the ticket for our reviewer, Tam Jenkin. I told her about the plot, and she agreed… she loves a good ‘undead’ tale as much as I do… and happily took the book off my hands.

It was, nonetheless not at all what she or I expected it would be…

***

I have to start by saying I was a little torn by Mott’s novel – it was not at all what I was expecting. I was very excited, being a bit of a fan of zombie stories, the prospect of the dead returning had me intrigued. Interestingly though, The Returned is not a story about the undead at all. Rather it is about segregation, about people fearing the unknown and about how people deal with, and heal after losing a loved one.

the returned‘Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That’s what all the Returned were.’

Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they’ve settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time … Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.

All over the world people’s loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it’s a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he’s their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

Whilst reading this novel, we find that Lucille and Harold have lived long unhappy lives since their eight year old son Jacob died in a tragic accident. Rather than remembering Jacob and leaning on one another as family, they have shut out their memories of him, in the hope that they wont hurt any more. This however changes, one random day, when their son arrives at their door, 50 years later. Only Jacob is still exactly as he was when he died – an eight year old boy.

Interestingly, Jacob’s arrival brings with it a twist to the story. Before his return home, aware of the arrival of these ‘returned’ loved ones, Lucille believes that the people who are coming back are devils, that they aren’t natural. But now that her son has returned she can’t deny that Jacob feels real, that he feels like her son.  It brings the reader to think ‘what would I do? Could I accept the returning of my loved one?’

At this point, the government gets involved and takes over the small town of Arcadia to fence The Returned in. The government don’t know how these people have returned, why they are here or what threat they may pose, and so they gather them together and lock them up.

I felt as though I was reading about a concentration camp. It felt as though it were about race and about civil rights. The Returned were treated poorly, the food was slop, the facilities were blocked and smelly and there were not enough places for them to sleep. They were denied visitors and they were denied their freedom, even though they had done nothing wrong.

Jason Mott tells this story in two perspectives, the “True Living” and “The Returned”. This was a clever way of showing the reader how those who’d lost and regained loved ones reacted and also showing how the ones who had returned felt, about their experiences on their return and also in the camp.

I did find the story flow a little clumsy at times and I was also left disappointed at the conclusion. There was no real resolution as to how the government resolved the situation of The Returned’s containment, and no explanation on how these people came about to return in the first place.

In saying that, the last few chapters of Mott’s novel did focus nicely, really effectively, on how The Returned had helped their loved ones to heal, to have a chance for one last moment together, to say what they had wanted to say since their passing, to amend regrets.  I was left wondering – how would you spend your time over if a loved one returned?

***

If you’d like to find out more about Jason Mott’s The Returned visit the Harlequin website here.