The Accusation by Wendy James

Published: 20th May 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins Australia
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Genre: Crime
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Eighteen-year-old Ellie Canning is found shivering and barely conscious on a country road, clad only in ill-fitting pyjamas. Her story of kidnap and escape quickly enthrals the nation: a middle-aged woman with a crazy old mother has held Ellie in a basement, chained her to a bed and given her drinks from an old baby’s sippy cup. But who was this woman and what did she want with Ellie? And what other secrets might she hide?

When the accusation is levelled at local teacher Suzannah Wells, no one seems more bewildered than Suzannah herself … to start with. The preposterous charge becomes manifestly more real as she loses her job and her friends. And the evidence is strong: a dementia-affected mother, a house with a basement, a sippy cup that belonged to her long-dead daughter. And Ellie Canning’s DNA everywhere. As stories about Susannah’s past emerge, even those closest to her begin to doubt she’s innocent.

And Ellie? The media can’t get enough of her. She’s a girl-power icon, a social-media star. But is she telling the truth?

I love James’ writing because she creates these intriguing stories where you think you know where it is going but you’re also not 100% sure. In this case, there is a small part of your brain that wonders how good people are at covering their tracks and putting on a public face, or whether they are truly innocent. This is a great story because there’s arguments for both side and knowing which side is right changes how you look at the evidence presented.

All sorts of scenarios play through your mind: Ellie’s making it up, Suzannah is making it up, they’re both right and a third party is in play, Ellie is framing Suzannah. It’s a fascinating, mind boggling read where you want to know the right answer and find the truth.

James is skilled in making sure any exposition and history of people and places is slowly revealed through dialogue and conversations so readers aren’t inundated with a large amount of exposition. You learn about the characters and their intentions this way as well making the narrative flow naturally and with secrets and intentions remaining well hidden.

Mystery aside, I felt that the relationship between Chip and Suzannah was rushed. They both dive into their relationship quickly and is gets serious almost right away. It felt strange seeing them get close so fast but it isn’t completely unbelievable either.

Most of the story is told through Suzannah, but there are chapters where Honor has a voice as well. Scattered throughout are pieces of the Documentary that was released after the fact that includes transcripts and interviews which offers additional details and perspectives and demonstrates how wide spread this story goes on to become and how many lives become affected as a result.

With complicated, flawed characters there is a lot to unpack and make sense of. Another reason why this is such a compelling story. There is such a strong case for both sides to be right and you don’t quite know who is telling the truth which is where James’ storytelling brilliance stands out.

You can purchase The Accusation via the following

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 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park

Published: 4th December 1984 (print)/15th September 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Puffin Books/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 208/6 hrs and 14 mins
Narrator: Kate Hood
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Classic
★   ★   ★  ★ – 4 Stars

1478198Distraught over her parents’ separation, Abigail follows a strange child called Beatie Bow and time slips back a hundred years where she becomes involved with an Australian shopkeeper’s family.

I was unsure what to expect from this, I’d heard great things about this Aussie classic and since it was reasonably short I was intrigued. I enjoyed the story from the start, I liked how Abigail is defiant and independent, and I loved the relationship she had with her mother.

I was quite drawn into the story by the end, it feels like a longer story than it is and time stretches on but does not drag. Park has done a great job mixing the time periods and blending the historical with the contemporary. Despite being published in 1980, there is a wonderful 70s vibe through this story because it is the time of the women’s liberation movement and this comes across in the dialogue between Abigail and her mother. Limiting minor spoilers I loved how fiercely Abigail is trying to reason with her mother over her relationship with her father. It gave a wonderfully modern feel to the story and I think Park does a great job satisfying both parties with how she handles the situation.

I was surprised by the ending but Park makes this work in how she loops it back to the earlier story. It subjects your expectations and keeps a little of the magic alive, certainly giving a satisfactory feel as a reader as we too have become attached to these figures of history as we spend time with them as well.

Kate Hood does a great job as narrator. Her use of accents makes each character stand out, though Park’s writing does that well enough as it is, with each time period represented through dialogue, language and descriptions.

The historical aspect brings to light a side of Sydney I hadn’t thought about before. The reign of Queen Victoria and the fact Australia is still reasonably new are charming factors, and Park shows us a little of how life was during that time. I understood how Park makes it sound rather peaceful and fulfilling, while also showing the hardships. The balance between the current times and the olden days is surely the perfect way to live and seeing Abigail come to that realisation was great.

For a time before young adult books were really a thing, this is a good coming of age story that fills in the gaps between kids and teens, for those early years before becoming a fully-fledged teenager and are still trying to navigate growing up and moving on from childhood.

You can purchase Playing Beatie Bow via the following

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Little Puggle’s Song by Vikki Conley

Published: 1st September 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
New Frontier Press
Illustrator: Helene Magisson
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Puggle the echidna has just one wish: to sing. But every time he tries to make a sound, nothing comes out.

Can Puggle find his voice in time to join the bush choir?

This is a beautiful story and it is the perfect length that it makes you emotionally invested in this event and magical story. Puggle desperately wants to sing in the bush choir but as Puggle is well aware, echidnas have no song.

Conley introduces us to a host of wonderful native birds and wildlife, a great selection other than the standard Australian animals that are depicted in these types of books. There are Willy Wagtails, Cassowaries, and Blue Wrens, but there are also the iconic kangaroos, cockatoos, and koalas.

Through the story you learn about the different noises and sounds the animals make but Conley keeps it within the narrative. It never becomes comical or mean, the animals are honest and sympathetic about Puggle having no sound but there isn’t much they can do about it. I love Conley’s gentle approach that is filled with heart and is the perfect balance between engaging, sweet, and educational.

Magisson’s illustrations are incredible and so sweet. I love her realistic depictions of the Australian animals but there is also a magical element as well. The colours are bright and detailed, showing off the variety of animals and bushland surroundings. Some pages were filled with gorgeous colours and beautiful scenes, the small details are delightful as well with other animal expressions just some of the evidence where Maggison has gone that little extra mile.

Another thing I loved is that Conley doesn’t change who Puggle is, he is still able to wish and hope and Conley ends it on a beautiful note which is a nice surprise to the reader. I truly loved this book and both times I have read it I became emotional and swept up in this dear little echidna’s story. A true gem of a book that everyone should read.

You can purchase Little Puggle’s Song via the following

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A Lifetime of Impossible Days by Tabitha Bird

Published: 4th June 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Viking
Pages: 395
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Meet Willa Waters, aged 8 . . . 33 . . . and 93.

On one impossible day in 1965, eight-year-old Willa receives a mysterious box containing a jar of water and the instruction: ‘One ocean: plant in the backyard.’ So she does – and somehow creates an extraordinary time slip that allows her to visit her future selves.

On one impossible day in 1990, Willa is 33 and a mother-of-two when her childhood self magically appears in her backyard. But she’s also a woman haunted by memories of her dark past – and is on the brink of a decision that will have tragic repercussions . . .

On one impossible day in 2050, Willa is a silver-haired, gumboot-loving 93-year-old whose memory is fading fast. Yet she knows there’s something she has to remember, a warning she must give her past selves about a terrible event in 1990. If only she could recall what it was.

Can the three Willas come together, to heal their past and save their future, before it’s too late?

This is a beautiful story filled with magical realism, love, family, forgiveness, finding yourself. Told over  a few months and across a few decades, Bird explores the fascinating ability to change the past from the present and affect the future from the past. It’s amazing how through a simple action so much can change and I love how Willa knows it works in the future, but she doesn’t understand how it works in the past.

I loved Willa from the very start. I love her at 93 when she is trying to live the wild and quirky life she wants, but she also is struggling with losing her memory and generally being old. From early on Bird gives us a great insight to who she is with her thoughts and language and how she interacts with those around her.

Willa’s forgetfulness weaves into the writing quite well and you have to pay attention because it shifts so suddenly it feels real. One moment knowledge is there, the next it has drifted away. When you see it happening it is quite sad, but that is also what makes this story work, it keeps the reader in the dark for later secrets to come out and it plays into whether Willa is reliable, dreaming, making up stories, or all three. Something which helps understand those around her as well.

I also loved young Willa and middle Willa for their own reasons. Eight year old Willa is strong and fierce, she is a devoted sister and seeing her trying to do her best but be stuck in the body of a child breaks your heart, but it makes you love her more as she takes on the responsibility and burden of saving her family and herself.

As the story progresses you see the changes in each of the Willas; not just because of events that have happened or haven’t happened, but seeing them grow. There is a clear tone difference in how Bird write them which is wonderful. You can clearly see the different ages and life experiences coming through.

There is no chance of confusing the three different life stages as Bird separates each perspective with the date and age of Willa with each alternating chapter. But even when they are together they seamlessly interact and each has a descriptive name which helps identify them. There are also beautiful pen decorations throughout which are not only beautiful, but help keep track of where and when they story takes place. Gorgeous title pages also break up the different months to help understand the events are happening at the same time but over different years and lives.

One this Bird does remarkably well is managing the overlapping nature of the story. The things we’ve seen come back again and the present day is also the past. We’re teased with snippets of information, uncertain memories and information about characters and history that are in the past but also in the future. It was an excellent exercise of the mind because you keep these three people in your head, each their own character, own person with own lives, but they are also one in the same.

I adore the imagination that Bird has explored in this story. It has magic and it has heart and love, but there are also serious issues happening. The way Bird has approached these issue is with restraint but doesn’t shy away from the realities either.

You can purchase A Lifetime of Impossible Days via the following

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Every Time He Dies by Tara East

Published: 5th November 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Self-Published
Pages: 477
Format: ebook
Genre: Paranormal/Crime
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Daphne Lawrence is haunted. Two years ago, her fiancé died in a terrible accident, her mother passed away from cancer and she stopped speaking to her father. As an embalmer, Daff is used to the company of dead people, but she isn’t used to them talking back. In fact, Daff isn’t used to anything that could be considered woo-woo including, but not limited to: psychics, crystal, meditation, tarot cards, vision quests and coincidences. Too bad that’s everything she’s experiencing.

Daff is forced to confront her own long ignored grief when she discovers a haunted watch buried in the sand at Golden Beach. The problem is, her ghost has no memory of his former life or how he died.

As Daff seeks to discover the spectre’s identity, dangerous truths and hidden secrets are revealed. Soon, she finds herself in the middle of an on-going homicide investigation led by Detective Sergeant Jon Lawrence, her father. A story about grief, time and identity, Every Time He Dies will leave you wondering whether our dearly beloveds ever really depart.

Note: I received a copy of this book for review

East has created a captivating and engaging story that brings together humour, love, family, and a little bit of the unknown. Told from dual perspectives we get to see Daphne’s life and the perspective of her estranged father, Detective Lawrence, on the cusp of his retirement from the force with an ongoing battle against old adversaries. Daphne on the other hand, is still coming to terms with, and in a way running from, her own grief after her fiancé Tom dies.

The structure of the story is done incredibly well because East leads us into the story providing detailed yet simple backgrounds about characters and situations, but then also throws us into the unexpected and uses these new situations to slowly pull out further detail making a well-rounded and beautifully complicated story.

I loved how we are introduced to this new phenomenon of Daphne’s and her realisation she can see a ghost. That first encounter was wonderful and the ideal draw card to get you intrigued into the supernatural aspect of this story and with a realism and humour that stays through the whole narrative. East’s descriptions are vivid and I could picture every scene as if it were playing out in front of me. From the start I fell comfortably into this narrative and it felt believable, even with the supernatural elements East anchors it in reality and possibility with a touch of the unknown but ever possible.

The characters are complicated and have deep personal issues and worries but East balances it perfectly and while there are ongoing references and emotional moments, it never felt over the top or overly dramatic. The emotions of these characters comes and goes at natural intervals, often with realistic and believable prompts and it is a great example how the death of a loved one never really leaves you no matter how much time has passed.

The dialogue is natural which was a huge plus for me. There is emotion and frustration, cheek and humour but it felt like conversations people actually had. The voices were great too because they are distinct and each character became their own person. One thing that impressed me was that East captures the detective voice so well without being stereotypical and cleverly manages to shift it between policeman and father and still make it feel like the same person. I believed Lawrence to be an aging cop, on the brink of retirement, still wanting to do his job but also able to see how much things have changed in his time on the force.

I liked Daff as a character too. She was grieving but trying to push the pain down, and East shows us the hurt is still there but she also wants to move on with her life. Even Liam who didn’t remember his own name or who had no memory of his life was a character of depth. I fell in love with him almost immediately and he and Daphne make a great pair. His personality shone through and his interactions with Daphne were some of my favourite parts of the story.

I loved this story from start to finish; East grabs your attention straight away with one storyline but then manages to pull you in further and hooks you with two others. It is most definitely a story about love and family, but it’s also about ghosts and the mystical and a fascinating police procedural with bikies and murder which becomes wonderfully and complicatedly intertwined as these things often do.

You can purchase Every Time He Dies via the following

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