book review

Living Proof: It Will Get Better

I don’t know about you, but TBYL Reviewer Carolyn has certainly sparked my interest with this review…

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Stella Gibney’s memoir, It Will Get Better (Allen and Unwin) is the story of a woman who has suffered more trauma and upheaval in her life than most, certainly more than many of characters I’ve read about. Through her lifelong habit of journaling, Stella Gibney has been able to come through the toughest of times and arrive at new beginnings with a positivity that I admired to the end.

It will get betterThe book starts when six year old Stella experiences the worst kind of trauma imaginable. A very naïve little girl suddenly has her innocence ripped away from her and this sets her on a course where she feels vulnerable and forever in a position of never being able to say no, especially to men. As a young girl, she witnesses terrible physical and emotional abuse from her alcoholic father towards her mother, as well as a series of strange encounters with her grandfather.

Gibney takes us through her life, detailing tumultuous teen years, marriage and motherhood, all occurring against the backdrop of frequent moves around New Zealand and Australia. She endures a lot yet remains upbeat about her life, all the way through the book.

“Although journaling didn’t change what was going on around me, it did highlight areas of my life that I needed to change, and if I was being completely honest with myself, then I would often see the ugly side of my behaviour that I needed to address.”

I was drawn to this book knowing that Gibney kept journals and used these to form the novel. I was a little surprised to see that she hasn’t used as many direct excerpts from her diaries as I thought she might. I wasn’t disappointed; when she does use actual diary entries they are honest and well written, but I did find myself wishing for more diary entries rather than the condensed version that this book is. I myself have been an avid journal-keeper over the years and just recently read the journals from my last two years of high school. This story really made me wonder how my story would come across if I were to condense all the emotions and events that happened to me over twenty years, from my journals? Personally I think this would be a very hard task, and to do so must take great skill. Because I found It Will Get Better a very easy read, I believe that Gibney has done this well.

Stella Gibney is the older sister to the well known actress Rebecca Gibney of “Packed to the Rafters” fame. Stella never talks too much about her sister’s success and only refers to her as a wonderful friend and support. She has two other sisters and a mother, all of whom are very supportive and even though this family experienced tough conditions when they were young, they remain a strong unit.

Most of the men in her life have been detrimental to her self-esteem yet she has given birth to three boys. Being a mother empowers her to be their friend and a role model and she shares with us in this book, the importance of teaching her boys to express themselves through writing rather than using violence and fear tactics. She includes letters and a song written by her sons and they express their love and respect for their Mum and her ability to overcome so much. It’s lovely to read.

It Will Get Better is a raw and honest account of a working class girl growing up in the 1960s and 70s in New Zealand. I admire the strength of Stella Gibney to stay so positive after so many confronting events, and her confidence to share these through her first novel. This book is quick to get into and does not take long to read. If you enjoy a memoir then I suggest you give this a go, it starts off with a bang, grabs you and then shows you how life can get better.

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You can find out more about Stella Gibney’s memoir, It Will Get Better 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…

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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.

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

 

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…

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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?

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

 

Buried? What the Ground Can’t Hold

Do you like neat resolutions? Tidy conclusions? Questions answered? If the answer is yes, maybe look away now…

But if, like me, you don’t mind a little open-endedness, a bit of mystery in your reading, then you’re going to love Shady Cosgrove’s What the Ground Can’t Hold (Picador).

what the ground can't holdWhen I first started this book I figured that the title could be taken both literally and metaphorically…

Two Americans are presumed dead and nine people are trapped in a cabin after an avalanche in the remote Andes… Among them is Emma, an Australian faced with an impossible decision that could see her parents jailed. Jack, a teenager obsessed with Jack Kerouac, guided by a skewed moral compass. Carmen, a tango dancer whose estranged father is dying of cancer. Pedro, the cabin manager who’s in hiding from those he loves most. And Wolfe, an American on a deadly family quest.

With food supplies dwindling, these unlikely companions are forced to extremes and discover they are bound by more than their surroundings – each has a secret that links them to Argentina’s Dirty War. ‘What the Ground Can’t Hold’ is a gripping exploration of the ways the past closes in on the present, and destroys the foundations upon which we build our lives.

The ground can’t hold you steady, the snow can bury – but does what is once buried, stay buried?

One thing’s for certain, what the ground can’t hold is secrets.

This story is full of skeletons in closets, guilt, loss and emotional baggage heavy enough to bury its carrier. Without exception, this cast of characters carry secrets with them that threaten to crush them. Through five narratives; Emma Woods, Hans ‘Jack’ Meyers, Carmen Conzalez, Pedro Cariman and Wolfe Goldberg, this novel deals with a series of heartaches as each character deals with the sins of the fathers’ and faces the truth of what these sins should mean to them now.

This deeply personal soul-searching is set against the claustrophobic backdrop of a very real, physical predicament. They sit together, trapped in the Andes and sheltered in Pedro’s refugio (cabin). The weather is unseasonal, the snow precarious. An avalanche has buried two of their party and more slides threaten to come down on them should they make one false move.

They are faced with a choice – stay and starve or walk out against soft snow and unstable ground. The comparison between their emotional and physical situation is pretty clear, and works well.

What the Ground Can’t Hold is a cleverly constructed story. It’s full of false leads, many of which are not revealed fully until the very final moments of this gripping novel. The characterisations are complex and as with all really interesting novels, it is difficult to decide whether to like each character or not. They are inherently fallible, haunted and sensitive humans. I’m sure that each reader will be endeared to different characters for different reasons.

I also think that this story will leave readers wondering about different aspects of history. I was fascinated as I knew little about Argentina before reading the book. I’m going to have to do some research – about the Dirty War, the fall of the Peso, the Andes – just to satisfy my new curiosity.

I’ll admit, I almost threw this book across the room as I reached its final page. I don’t mind the odd loose end, but even I was surprised by how much I still needed to know at the end of the book. Many ghosts haunted Emma, Carmel, Wolfe, Pedro and Jack and I’ve been left to imagine how they might be exorcised.

This of course, in and of itself, is very skilful storytelling. In my opinion Cosgrove’s novel is well worth reading, I’d recommend it highly.

If you’d like to find out more about Shady Cosgrove’s What the Ground Can’t Hold, visit here…

 

Bitey: The Night Has Claws

Over the last couple of years I’ve read a lot of books that would not have crossed my desk in the past. Not the least of these has been an incredible collection of young adult fiction.

The strength of the genre was yet to be established when I was a teen, and as I grew older I became a bit fixed on the classics. As a result I come with pretty fresh eyes to the world of YA adult writing and am particularly fascinated by the fact that writers and readers just can’t seem to get enough of paranormal adventures!

The night has clawsI’ve read quite a few vampire stories (e.g. Julie Kagawa) and a few zombie novels (e.g. Showalter) but today’s book has been my first werewolf tale!

The Night Has Claws, by Kat Kruger (Fierce Ink) is the second book in the Magdeburg Trilogy, following on from The Night Has Teeth and has us tied up in the unlikely troubles of Connor and Arden…

Connor Lewis and Arden LaTène are experiencing a reversal of fortunes. Arden, once a prominent werewolf, has been cured against his will. As a result, he’s now considered dead by his former pack and has lost his longtime girlfriend in the mix. Connor, a newly created werewolf whose DNA has inadvertently led to the creation of the cure, now has to make some important decisions about his future and is not sure who to trust. Should he join a pack or try to go it alone? 

It’s a struggle of brains, brawn and conscience as Connor is forced to choose sides. His confliction is palpable; should he help the scientists who have developed a cure, who can allow him to return to the human race, or should he fight for his new pack, fellow wolf-kind?

And of course, his decision is made all the harder by his interest in a girl…

When Connor is summoned by the Hounds of God to testify against the human scientist who developed the cure, he’s forced to choose sides. Comprised of humans bitten by werewolves, the Hounds have been the lawmakers and enforcers for hundreds of years, ensuring werewolves don’t endanger the lives of humans and exacting justice upon those who do. On the other hand, the pack werewolves have been persecuted for centuries and are seeking to tip the balance of power. Adding to his confusion is Madison Dallaire, the girl Connor has complicated feelings for, who has embarked on a path of corporate espionage.

I really enjoyed this book – it was fast-paced, lots of action, but intelligent too. I really liked Connor, and felt for him as he battled both his inner and outer demons.

You can find out more about The Night Has Claws and Kat’s first book The Night Has Teeth on the Fierce Ink website here. Read more about the work, and buy a copy for yourself.

In the meantime, I’m really pleased to be able to give-away one e-copy of The Night Has Claws to one lucky reader. All you need to do is to email info@thatbookyoulike.com.au with the subject line CLAWS and tell us what kind of paranormal creature you’d most like to be!

Entries are open until 10 October 2013 after which I’ll draw a winner at random. The winner will be notified by email. Please note, to enter this competition, you must live in Australia, Canada or the UK.

Good luck!

 

 

Breaking Point: Ambition

At our last reviewer get together, TBYL Reviewer Narelle grabbed today’s book the first chance she got, sure that she’d seen it some place before. And indeed she had…

Originally published in the 80s Julie Burchill’s Ambition has been recently re-released by Allen and Unwin in order, I can only assume, to attempt to satisfy the appetites of a new generation of readers who, in 2013 discovered an insatiable desire for erotic adventure.

No taboo is left unbroken, no fantasy left unfulfilled in this shocking expose of the lengths to which one woman will go become editor of the UK’s bestselling tabloid.

It’s a saucy adult read, but as you’ll see below, Narelle was most definitely of the opinion that this novel is also a compelling story, in retrospect almost a period piece, over and above the raunch…

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“I’m sick of breaking bimbos – it’s no fun, no challenge. Strong, hard career girls – they’re the new filet mignon of females. Girls like you. Oh, I’m going to have fun breaking you, Susan.”

ambition

Tobias Pope ruled his communications empire with fear and loathing – his employees feared him and he loathed them. But he may have met his match in Susan Street, the young, beautiful and nakedly ambitious deputy of his latest newspaper acquisition. As they fight, shop and orgy from Soho to Rio and from Sun City to New York City, getting what she wants – the top job – seems so simple. If she doesn’t break first.

Susan Street has the editorship of the Sunday Best, a London tabloid with rising readership, firmly in her sights.

Having done time in the deputy chair, she’s more than ready to take over – until the sudden death of her boss. With a new and fearsome owner in Tobias Pope, Susan suddenly has to prove her fierce ambition and willingness to do anything to secure the covered role.

Susan makes a Rumpelstiltskin-like bargain with Tobias, agreeing to perform 6 unnamed tasks. If she can complete them, the job she wants so desperately will be hers. Tobias sets out to “break” Susan and make her question just what she will or won’t do in the name of Ambition.

Though Julie Burchill’s novel is set and was written in the late 80’s, her sharply drawn portrait of modern workplaces, relationships and dilemmas is as relevant now as it was over 20 years ago. Reminiscent of Lee Tulloch and Candace Bushnell, Ambition is a rollicking read that offers both rampant escapism and biting social commentary.

If you’re looking for a read to take on holiday, on the train or even just to take you away from the world for while, go along for the ride with Susan Street – it’s a highly enjoyable one, fabulously adult – in the author’s own words, “…even now, it makes Fifty Shades of Grey look like Anne of Green Gables.”

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You can find out more about Ambition here…

 

Searching: The Sweetest Hallelujah

I’m always thrilled to read stories of readers being really moved by a book, being drawn in and touched by the plight of the characters.  It’s not surpising then that I very much enjoyed today’s review from Kate, of the wonderful period piece The Sweetest Hallelujah by Elaine Hussey (Harlequin)…

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It is 1945 in Mississippi, America is in the midst of racial violence and prejudice, it’s the time of KKK, lynch mobs and segregation. It is here we meet the once beautiful and renowned jazz singer Betty Jewel Hughes, who, now ravaged by cancer, is desperately and heartbreakingly looking for someone to take care of her 10 year old daughter, Billie, when she dies.

sweetestRecently widowed Cassie Malone lives on the ‘good’ side of town and despite her wealth and white upper class privilege is outspoken and sure of her beliefs against racial discrimination.

Desperate and feeling helpless Betty Jewel does the unthinkable and puts an ad in the local paper:

Desperate. Nowhere to turn. Dying woman seeks mother for her child. Loving heart required….

Cassie has had her fair share of heartbreak, and unable to have her own children is instantly captivated by the ad. Billie herself just wants to be a ten year old girl, playing hopscotch and dolls without having to think about her mama dying. She sets off on her own adventure to find the man who she believes to be her father, hoping that he might be able to take care of her and make things better.

Against all odds and a society that is defined by racial tension, a remarkable friendship is forged by an unrelenting quest to protect and save a little girl. Elaine Hussey has written a beautiful portrayal of friendship and love and the bond that can be formed between women amidst heartbreak and betrayal.

Littered with reference to the brilliant jazz musicians of the time against a backdrop of the beautiful American South, we are transported though time and place to another period altogether.

The characters are believable and memorable, and the story is written with humour, heartbreak and at times, brutal honesty. The Sweetest Hallelujah is a lovely read, but you will need a box of tissues at the ready! If you loved The Help and The Secret Life of Bees, this book is definitely worth the read.

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Find out more about The Sweetest Hallelujah by Elaine Hussey here…

In the wilds of Maine: The Poacher’s Son

Over the last month, I’ve been really lucky, recruiting a bunch of new TBYL Reviewers who, without exception love to read, read and read!

Today’s review is from our newest additions to the crew, Jennie Diplock-Storer. You can find out more about Jennie here, and today, you can read all about what she thought of The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron (Allen and Unwin)…

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I have a litmus test when it comes to assessing whether I’ll read books by authors unknown to me: I read the first couple of paragraphs. They have to grab me. Paul Doiron’s, The Poacher’s Son, did just that!

the poacher's sonSet in the wilds of Maine, this is an explosive tale of an estranged son thrust into the hunt for a murderous fugitive – his own father. Game warden Mike Bowditch returns home one evening to find an alarming voice from the past on his answering machine: his father Jack, a hard-drinking womanizer who makes his living from poaching illegal game. An even more frightening call comes the next morning from the police: they are searching for a cop-killer – and Mike’s father is their prime suspect.

Now, alienated from the woman he loves and shunned by colleagues who have no sympathy for the suspected cop killer, Mike must come to terms with his haunted past. He knows firsthand of his father’s brutality, but is he capable of murder? Desperate and alone, the only way for Mike to save his father is to find the real killer – which could mean putting everyone he loves into the line of fire…

The Poacher’s Son is placed in the genre of crime, but Doiron’s manner of writing makes it much more than that. His beautiful and detailed description of the Maine countryside through the eyes of the protagonist Mike Bowditch, is displayed throughout the book and adds much to it’s readability.

There is also much humour, a wonderful use of analogies, fulfilling descriptions of characters, (often making me smile), and a gentle prose.

Mike Bowditch is a Warden in Maine, legally protecting flora and fauna, and ensuring law abidence in waterways and hunting. Here is the obvious difference between father and son. Jack Bowditch is a poacher, estranged from his son since Mike was nine. The two occasions on which they were reunited stay stained in the memory of Mike by alcohol, violence, disrespect and blood.

It is obvious from the start that Mike has purposefully chosen a career in complete opposition to all his father stands for. Yet they both share a desire for seclusion, even if for different reasons. Jack has pathological differences with people of all walks of life and Mike chooses a “solitary & morbid profession” to avoid looking into himself and his past. Much of Mike’s decision to become a Law Officer was to make amends for his father’s petty crimes and violence.

So why then, when Jack Bowditch is accused of a double homicide, including the murder of a police officer known to Mike, then aggravated assault of a second officer as he escapes arrest, does Jack reach out to Mike and Mike fervently defend his father’s innocence?

Here is where things speed up, as Mike makes decisions impacting everything in his life to prove his father innocent.

History and storytelling amidst the chase of a suspect colours the book beautifully and is a bonus for the reader. The incredible description of the nature of Maine and the precise attention to detail stops this being a black and white crime book. We follow Mike Bowditch, who sees himself as not on the side of his dad or the cops but ” the rope in a tug of war”, as he tries to find the truth. It’s fast-paced, as Mike tries to find his father before the police do.

Published overseas in 2010, this was Doiron’s debut novel, met with much acclaim. He has since written two more. Now, with this Australian publication I highly recommend The Poacher’s Son to crime lovers, and to those who enjoy a good, well written book. Doiron hs certainly made it to my list of authors.

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If you’d like to find out more about The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron visit the Allen and Unwin website here…

Hide and Seek: The Shadow Tracer

Today I’m pleased to be able to welcome a brand new TBYL Reviewer to the team, Narelle Connell.  Narelle is a fellow book worm, and I can’t wait to hear what she thinks of the many books I’m going to send her way. Today she’s reviewing Meg Gardiner’s The Shadow Tracer (Penguin) a thriller, penned by ‘the next suspense superstar’ according to Stephen King (quite an endorsement, yes?)

Here’s what Narelle thought of this wild ride of a novel…

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shadow tracerWhen someone wants to find you badly enough, vanishing is no longer an option.

Sarah Keller is a young single mother living in Oklahoma with her five year-old daughter, Zoe. Her day job is to hunt out people on the run and bring them to justice. So imagine how it looks when a school bus accident sends Zoe to the ER and tests reveal Sarah can’t be Zoe’s mother.

Sarah has been living a lie for years and finally the truth is coming out. Who is she? Who were Zoe’s parents? And why does Zoe’s identity bring the FBI down on Sarah’s tail in mere minutes?

The FBI is the least of her worries, though. Sarah needs to keep Zoe off the grid, but with a sinister religious cult also preparing to attack, where on earth can they hide?

Something deadly lurks in Sarah’s past and its resurrection brings terror to all it touches.

Straight away, I was hooked by the premise of The Shadow Tracer, a fast-paced and intricately crafted thriller that focuses on Sarah Keller, a woman on the run with five year Zoe in tow. Sarah has spent the last five years raising Zoe on her own, making a living as a skip tracer tracking down people who don’t want to be found. Over time, Sarah has learned to lead a quiet life that draws no unwanted attention to herself and Zoe.

But, all this is shattered when Zoe’s involvement in an accident leads to information that threatens to reveal both their true identities and sets in motion a chain of events involving the FBI and a religious cult that is hell bent on finding Zoe and destroying anyone who gets in their way.

From the beginning I was both empathetic to and intrigued by Sarah’s character, wanting to find out more about the events that led Zoe to her and sent her into hiding. Gardiner takes the reader along on a rollicking ride through Texas and New Mexico as Sarah and Zoe become fugitives. Along the way, they encounter an FBI agent with his own reasons for wanting vengeance, a nun with some unusual skill sets and a US Marshal prepared to flout the rules.

The action and plot move almost as quickly as Sarah does across the desert, making this book a page-turner I was eager to keep reading until the end. I was especially intrigued by Sarah’s efforts to leave no trace behind and the methods she uses, contrasted with the underhand efforts of those on her tail to track her and Zoe down. Although the novel’s main focus is on the action, through her relationship with and fierce protection of Zoe we see a softer side to Sarah that keeps the reader hoping she can stay one step ahead.

texas“When Beth died, Sarah had thought nothing could be worse. How wrong she’d been. 

The sun glared white in the windshield. The highway arrowed to the vanishing point on a horizon of wind-bent grass. She wiped away tears with the heel of her hand.

Disappearing was possible. Look at the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. Those posters of sullen criminals showed men and women who had vanished. Some of them had been on the run for twenty years. If they could do it, so could she. 

That’s what he’d told her. Get out of here. Run. Hide. 

Five years earlier she’d done exactly that. Now she was doing it again. She blew past a road sign. WELCOME TO TEXAS, THE LONE STAR STATE. ” 

With surprising plot twists, well crafted characters and a heart-racing showdown, I thoroughly enjoyed The Shadow Tracer and definitely recommend it.

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Find out more about Meg Gardiner’s The Shadow Tracer here…