Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Crime, Family Drama, Friendship, Literary Fiction

Boy Swallows Universe Trent Dalton 4* #Review @TrentDalton @BoroughPress @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK #LiteraryFiction #Comingof Age #FamilyDrama #Friendship #Romance #Magic #Crime #UrbanFiction #Australia #Brisbane

Brisbane, 1983: A lost father, a mute brother, a mum in jail, a heroin dealer for a stepfather and a notorious criminal for a babysitter. It’s not as if Eli’s life isn’t complicated enough already.

But Eli’s life is about to get a whole lot more serious. He’s about to fall in love. And he has to break into prison on Christmas Day, to save his mum.

A story of brotherhood, true love and the most unlikely of friendships, Boy Swallows Universe will be the most heartbreaking, joyous and exhilarating novel you will read all year.

Amazon UK

Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction – Borough Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I’m always a little wary of critically acclaimed, and over-hyped books, often they are not as good as they are reputed to be. So I started this one with trepidation. Initial impressions are that is honest, raw, and full of experiences of urban life in Brisbane that do not make easy reading.

Eli and August, are brothers, their carers’ lives are driven by drugs, and the boys have to constantly battle adversity to keep the family together. Despite the family’s dysfunctionality, the love the boys feel for their mother and each other dominates this story and puts into perspective many of the bizarre and often frightening experiences they endure.

At the end of this lengthy book, there is a note from the author, about how the story came into being, what it means to him and the story’s themes. It is, on reading this that you appreciate, it is more of a memoir than fiction, although seen through a young child’s and then young boys eyes. I wish I’d read this note first because it grounds this complex story, and makes it more relatable.

There is a great deal of imagination in this story, magic if you like, which I attributed to a young boy’s need to escape from the harshness of his life, and give himself the power to overcome some its more sordid aspects.

I’m still not sure if I liked it, but the writing is engaging and authentic, the story moves forward in an understandable way, and it gives an insider view of Australian life, particularly life in Brisbane and Queensland, through a young person’s viewpoint.

The characters are the lifeblood of this story, and the author indicates that they are based on people he knows or a medley of them, in his personal and journalistic life. Many are not likeable, and the danger the children are exposed to is disturbing, but they are real, and the reality of this story is what stays with you.

An unusual tale of growing up and surviving life in a gritty urban setting. With a cast of characters, covering the spectrum of humanity, and the humour, love and magic required to reach adulthood.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, International Thriller, Mystery, Thriller

Gone By Midnight – Candice Fox- 5* #Review @arrowpublishing @candicefoxbooks

 

They left four children safe upstairs.
They came back to three.
__________________

On the fifth floor of the White Caps Hotel, four young boys are left alone while their parents dine downstairs.

But when one of the parents checks on the children at midnight, they discover one of them is missing.

The boys swear they stayed in their room. CCTV confirms that none of them left the building. No trace of the child is found.

Now the hunt is on to find him before it’s too late – and before the search for a boy becomes a search for a body…

Amazon UK


I received an electronic advanced reading copy from Random House UK Cornerstone- Century via #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The third book in the Crimson Lake series, which reads well as a standalone book, features the hunt for a missing child.  

Ted, a former detective with a nightmare past, and his partner Amanda are the only ones likely to find the answers but everything is a constant battle, as they face conflict both internal and external before they can solve the mystery.

Ted and Amanda are clever and haunted, you empathise with them because of the past and continuing injustice the endured. It is their current mindset that makes them willing to take risks to get to the truth. Both their personal lives seem more optimistic at the end of this book, but you’re left wondering whether they can ever rebuild their emotional lives.

An atmospheric plot and setting are intrinsic to this intense crime, mystery thriller. It’s like working out a route in a maze. How did the boy disappear? Has he run away or been abducted? If so, who took him? Is he still alive? The plot unwinds with multiple possible outcomes and a multitude of probable suspects. The final twist is exciting and menacing with a surprising ending, worthy of this well- thought out story.

If you want to see what I thought of Redemption, the second book in the Crimson Lake series click here for my review.

 

Posted in Book Review, Crime, International Thriller, Mystery, Thriller

Gone By Midnight – Candice Fox- 5* #Review @arrowpublishing @candicefoxbooks

They left four children safe upstairs.
They came back to three.
__________________

On the fifth floor of the White Caps Hotel, four young boys are left alone while their parents dine downstairs.

But when one of the parents checks on the children at midnight, they discover one of them is missing.

The boys swear they stayed in their room. CCTV confirms that none of them left the building. No trace of the child is found.

Now the hunt is on to find him before it’s too late – and before the search for a boy becomes a search for a body…

Amazon UK

I received an electronic advanced reading copy from Random House UK Cornerstone- Century via #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The third book in the Crimson Lake series, which reads well as a standalone book, features the hunt for a missing child.  

Ted, a former detective with a nightmare past, and his partner Amanda are the only ones likely to find the answers but everything is a constant battle, as they face conflict both internal and external before they can solve the mystery.

Ted and Amanda are clever and haunted, you empathise with them because of the past and continuing injustice the endured. It is their current mindset that makes them willing to take risks to get to the truth. Both their personal lives seem more optimistic at the end of this book, but you’re left wondering whether they can ever rebuild their emotional lives.

An atmospheric plot and setting are intrinsic to this intense crime, mystery thriller. It’s like working out a route in a maze. How did the boy disappear? Has he run away or been abducted? If so, who took him? Is he still alive? The plot unwinds with multiple possible outcomes and a multitude of probable suspects.
The plot unwinds with multiple possible outcomes and a multitude of probable suspects. The final twist is exciting and menacing with a surprising ending, worthy of this well- thought out story.

If you want to see what I thought of Redemption, the second book in the Crimson Lake series click here for my review.

 

Posted in Book Review

A Place to Remember – Jenn McLeod – 5* Review

A multi-generational contemporary romantic saga set in a cattle ranch in Central Queensland, Australia.

A man loses five years of his life. Two women are desperate for him to remember.

Running away for the second time in her life, twenty-seven-year-old Ava believes the cook’s job at a country B&B is perfect until she meets the owner’s son, John Tate.

The young fifth-generation grazier is a beguiling blend of both man, boy and a terrible flirt. With their connection immediate and intense, they begin a clandestine affair right under the noses of John’s formidable parents.

Thirty years later, Ava returns to Candlebark Creek with her daughter, Nina, who is determined to meet her mother’s lost love for herself. While struggling to find her own place in the world, Nina discovers an urban myth about a love-struck man, a forgotten engagement ring, and a dinner reservation back in the eighties. Now she must decide if revealing the truth will hurt more than it heals…

Links to buy

 Amazon: http://amzn.to/2GuGNjy

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2EJp6Ag

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2HyCS6U

iBooks: https://apple.co/2odYDRn

A Place to Remember

Extract

Candlebark Creek, 1985–6

Chapter 1

Young Ava

The massive slab of varnished wood was the biggest tabletop twenty-seven-year-old Ava had ever seen. Still, she almost doubted it could hide the nervous jig in her legs that both hands pressing firmly on failed to stop. She hoped the folder’s contents would be enough to convince the lady of the house that she was perfect for the position.

‘I did say on the telephone that the role is a varied one and not all cookery and not only when we have guests staying. No one on a property like Ivy-May can afford to be picky or precious about their jobs.’ It was fifteen minutes into the interview, and the woman’s expression had yet to shift into anything close to a smile. ‘Your time off is your own, but we all do our share.’

Marjorie Tate paused before slowly rolling up her sleeves as if driving home the point. The action offered Ava a glimpse of hardworking hands: stubby and tanned with a simple gold wedding band and bitten-down nails. Somewhere around forty or forty-five, the B-and-B operator wasn’t old, just plain, as though all her effort went into something other than herself.

‘I do consider myself versatile, Mrs Tate, and I’m always keen to learn new things. I’d also have little need for days off in a town like Candlebark Creek. There aren’t many places to go or things to do.’

For that careless statement, Ava got a raised eyebrow and a minute of the clock ticking above the stove.

‘You seem young to have had so many jobs, although you have provided an impressive CV and an extensive portfolio of dishes.’

‘Thirteen years in the workforce.’ Ava sat straight and proud. ‘The last eleven in hospitality.’ She could see the woman mentally subtracting eleven from twenty-seven. ‘And I was never fired from a job,’ she added, sounding a little too enthusiastic. ‘Some were set contracts, some seasonal. Hospitality can be like that.’

‘Ivy-May B-and-B might be small and out of the way, but I’m aware of the industry’s many facets.’ Marjorie Tate flicked through the plastic sleeves of the folder. She stopped again on the résumé at the front. ‘You have no school certificate listed.’

‘I left school when I turned fifteen.’

‘Before exams?’ Another raised eyebrow, another flick through the folder’s many photographs.

Never before had Ava’s lack of formal qualifications been an issue. Hands-on experience was what landed you a kitchen job, and every role, from waiting tables to making desserts, had added to Ava’s expertise and skills. As confident as she was about her abilities, she still sat with her hands clasped between her knees, fingers crossed.

‘Our son finished high school a couple of years ago and did well. John’s a bit of a dreamer, although there’s no doubting his passion for the land.’ The grazier’s wife with the moon-shaped face – taut, shiny skin, rosy cheeks – reminded Ava of a wooden babushka doll, with its rotund face and multiple hidden layers. The unexpected softness in her voice when she’d spoken her son’s name revealed one. ‘Naturally, he was keen to finish studying early to work with his father. John’s very capable and quite mature for his age. Children in these parts tend to grow up quickly,’ she added. ‘No choice out here. Operating heavy machinery and working bulls requires a sensible head on robust shoulders. But as much as the property had needed more hands at the time, I insisted John stay on at school.’ She peered over the top of thick black spectacle frames. ‘The value of a proper education should not be underestimated. Dreams are more achievable with a thorough education, and it shows discipline. Smart employers insist on such qualities.’

Ava nodded, forcing a smile. Was the woman telling her she was no longer a suitable candidate? Should she try speaking to her feminine side and explain what had happened to drive her from the city to hide in an out-of-the-way country town? Marjorie Tate was more likely to find fault because Ava had allowed herself to be put in such a position in the first place. Unfortunately, Zac had not come with a warning plastered on his forehead. At least he couldn’t find her here and affect her employment chances.

Could he?

My Thoughts…

It’s rare for a story to make me cry, but this tale of lost chances and the abiding love of a mother and daughter did. An epic tale, set in Queensland, Austrailia, Ava and Nina’s story spans over thirty years. You can’t recapture the past, but Ava finds it is not the case but is she prepared to risk her heart again?

Vividly described, you get a sense of the wildness and beauty of the dramatic setting, but mostly the land is unforgiving and demands everything from those who work it. I’ve never visited Australia and probably never will, but this story lets me travel there in my imagination.

It takes a while to get into this story, but each twist and heartbreak and risk Ava takes, draws you into her world past and present until you are emotionally involved and want her to have a happy ending, even when it seems unlikely.

The characters are believable, and their life events realistic, not everything falls into place as Ava’s past collides with her present, but there is hope. She is successful in her career and more importantly her family life, even though she has never forgotten the man she loved and left.

I read the ‘Thorn Birds’ about forty years ago when I was a teenager and still remember it now, and similarly, I think the emotion and poignancy of this story will stay with me too. If you get the chance, read this.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

JENN J MCLEOD photo

After leaving the corporate working world, Jenn J. McLeod decided to travel Australia in a fifth-wheeler caravan and fulfil her lifelong ambition to write. She has since published four novels.

Website: https://www.jennjmcleod.com/

Twitter: @jennjmcleod

Facebook: JennJMcLeod.books