The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Published: 23rd October 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Macmillan Australia
Pages: 362
Format: Paperback
Genre: Crime
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

This is definitely my new favourite Jane Harper book. From the start I was immediately pulled in, the voice and tone drew me in and I wanted to stay in this story and keep reading.

Nathan doesn’t set out the solve the mystery of his brother’s death, but a few things don’t sit right with him and little by little he tries to fill in the gaps. This is not a police procedural story however, the focus is on trying to come to terms with his brother’s death and while the family wonder about what happened to him, it is also about getting through the grief together.

Harper hints at secrets and events, baits us into keep reading and honestly it works. Not quite so much to get answers, the anomalies are not followed up like a detective would, but the tone feels so comfortable that you want to keep following this narrative. She lays down clues and hints that you don’t even realise long before but at the same time once she has planted a seed the tone shifts and a whole other component is explored. It never felt out of place, or unconnected, and I couldn’t help but marvel at how she mixed everything together so seamlessly, never breaking from the flow of the story. She doesn’t focus constantly on speaking in riddles, she gets on with the story while making well placed and relevant hints about characters throughout which could easily mean nothing as they could everything.

Harper captures the outback environment brilliantly without resorting to long details and descriptions. She uses the characters and the story itself to reflect the harshness of the land and the dangers it holds. One great surprise was the blink and you miss it reference to some familiar faces from Harper’s debut novel, The Dry. I enjoyed the connection to the two stories but Harper also uses it to add an entire new layer to the characters as well.

I loved being in this story and I loved everything about this story. I loved these characters and their honesty and their secrets. I loved Nathan and his fractured, broken self but still with a strong family commitment buried deep inside. His character is one of honesty but also one of damaged resilience. Harper could have gone so many different ways with his personality but she dances on the edge of the line skilfully instead of making him cross it which I adored.

People are right when they say this is Harper’s best book to date because there is a comfortableness about this book, but it is one that still contains mystery and heartache, and complications that don’t overwhelm one another but coexist side by side remarkably, balanced back and forth as the story progresses.

You can purchase The Lost Man via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Published: 18th September 2018 (print)/18th September 2018 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Pan Macmillan Australia/Bolinda Publishing
Pages: 464/19 hrs and 9 mins
Narrator: Caroline Lee
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fiction
★ – 1 Stars

Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? Nine perfect strangers are about to find out…

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

The LONGEST, most TEDIOUS 19 hours of MY LIFE. I swear somewhere around chapter thirty it never progressed no matter how many hours I listened to it. It felt like I was trapped in the thirties forever and with a book of eighty chapters this was a nightmare scenario. I am quite convinced time stopped because I listened to it almost every day and I never seemed to get anywhere. Just when I thought I think I’d listened to it for another 3 or 4 hours I was only one of two chapters ahead. In the end, I had to bring it in from the car and put it on the computer so I could get it to play at double speed. Even then it dragged on. It’s an amazing feat that a book this long could have nothing happen in it.

I am not convinced it was only the fault of the audio either. I have generally enjoyed Lee’s narration, she has done every single other Moriarty book I have listened to. But from the initial chapters I knew this one felt different. It was slower, much slower than her other ones, and I couldn’t understand her decision with some of the voices she chose for the characters. Francis is one of the main characters who gets most of the perspective and I could not stand her from the very beginning. I did not like her portrayal but retrospectively I appreciate her character. She was bubbly and naïve, she was idealistic and at least she felt like a real person. It’s just that from the start I was on the wrong foot with the narration and these characters and unfortunately it never managed to recover. For having a dozen key characters I felt that maybe only a few were really fleshed out. Even if some got fewer chapters for us to get to know them, I was still able to grasp who they were as people. Some of the others who had multiple chapters gave me so little I have no real idea who they are.

But I also didn’t care enough to care.

I did not care about their personal journeys and while Moriarty deserves credit for the variety of characters she has included, the execution was lacking.

I am trying not to just dump on this book, but after hour upon hour of waiting for something to happen I feel let down as a reader and I am disappointed because this isn’t the writing I have come to expect from Moriarty. With no plot except listening to these people and their boring lives I was desperate to grasp onto any real story at all. Where was the Moriarty’s Reveal™ that she is renowned for? Where was the intrigue and the suspense? How can such a diverse range of characters hold so little intrigue?

There is a moment that Moriarty breaks the fourth wall later in the book through Francis and not only does it read like she is venting her own frustrations at her career and the writing process, it jars the flow of the narrative and it took me out of the story because it doesn’t sit right. And to be honest, by that point I was using all my effort to keep myself in the narrative.

The ending was stranger and even more ridiculous than the rest of the book. I had heard the ending was amazing and while it might be the only time it got actually close to something happening, it still failed to hit the low bar I had placed on it after listening to the other 18 hours.

I understand from talking to other people that this is a book that divides people. They either love it or they thought it was boring and terrible. I know people in both categories and with my history of Moriarty books I went in with an open mind. It seems though that this book is yet another of Moriarty’s that didn’t quite hit the mark with me. There aren’t enjoyable moments, there are simply moments that aren’t terrible.

You can purchase Nine Perfect Strangers via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Happy Australia Day! (+Giveaway) – DRAWN

It is so hot in Australia right now and this Australia Day long weekend is no exception. With temperatures going to be 36 degrees (97F) all weekend at my place I have grand plans to do nothing except sit under a fan and read because anything besides that sounds like a lot of effort.  I hope however you chose to spend today it is somewhere cool and enjoyable. We’ve got the new lamb ad to enjoy, but I actually haven’t bought a single lamington which in itself is a small disaster, but I am not going to make any or go out and buy some because obvious combustion will occur is I go outside. Instead, I will stick with my reading plan and maybe try to incorporate a Vegemite sandwich into my lunch.

Alongside this plan, I am also going to giveaway an awesome Aussie book which is much more interesting! The joy of having a blogiversary so close to Australia Day means that I will have two giveaways running so if you want some more variety, have a sticky beak over at my blogiversary post where I am running an international giveaway and maybe one of those will tickle your fancy.

Today though, in order to celebrate Australia Day and Aussie authors, I am giving away a copy of Jessica Townsend’s new book Wundersmith, the second book in her Nevermoor series.

Wunder is gathering in Nevermoor …

Morrigan Crow may have defeated her deadly curse, passed the dangerous trials and joined the mystical Wundrous Society, but her journey into Nevermoor and all its secrets has only just begun. And she is fast learning that not all magic is used for good.

Morrigan Crow has been invited to join the prestigious Wundrous Society, a place that promised her friendship, protection and belonging for life. She’s hoping for an education full of wunder, imagination and discovery – but all the Society want to teach her is how evil Wundersmiths are. And someone is blackmailing Morrigan’s unit, turning her last few loyal friends against her. Has Morrigan escaped from being the cursed child of Wintersea only to become the most hated figure in Nevermoor? 

Worst of all, people have started to go missing. The fantastical city of Nevermoor, once a place of magic and safety, is now riddled with fear and suspicion… 

To enter: Leave a comment on this post telling me your favourite thing to do on Australia Day, or maybe a favourite thing you used to do as a kid that had great memories for you.

Entries close on 11:59pm 2nd February and due to shipping costs it is for Australian residents only.

Good Luck!

The Farmer’s Wife (#2) by Rachael Treasure

Published: 1st April 2013Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Bolinda Audio
Narrator: Miranda Nation
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Rural Romance
★  – 1 Star

She got her fairytale ending — but life had other plans …

The Deniliquin Ute Muster had always been on Rebecca’s wish list, but with the farm and babies, she’d never managed to make it. Tonight, she decided to reclaim herself.

After ten years being married to larrikin Charlie Lewis and living on her beloved property, Waters Meeting, Rebecca is confronted by a wife’s biggest fear, a mother’s worst nightmare and a farm business that’s bleeding to death.

Can Rebecca find the inner strength she once had as a young jillaroo, to save everything she cherishes? Or is life about to teach her the hardest lesson: that sometimes you simply have to let go.

I leapt into The Farmer’s Wife after reading Jillaroo and I am so sorry that I did because it ruined everything that made Jillaroo wonderful. I listened to the audio book while I was driving which was great because I think I would have thrown the book at a wall more often than turning the pages.

I was aware that Treasure changes the personality of Charlie, does a complete 180 on him, but after finishing this book it was more than a 180, it was a completely new person. It was disgusting, really, having to listen to what he does and what he says, when he is nothing like the person in book one. In the beginning I could see where Treasure was coming from, I still can in a way, but even knowing where she was coming from does little to stop the sickening feeling in my stomach as I listened. I get it, the life with Rebecca isn’t the life Charlie wanted, but as the book goes on, he goes from being a scumbag, angry and rude, to being dangerous and abusive, pretty much a psychopath. It was horrible. I understood the ten year difference, life, kids, a farm, all could take their toll, but the direction I thought Treasure would take was nothing to what she does do.

It wasn’t just Charlie that was the problem, Rebecca had issues as well. She tries to cling onto the life she had, she makes some smart decisions and does the best she can for her kids, but I wasn’t a fan of some of her other decisions. The whole thing seems to go off the rails. I felt Rebecca lost who she was; she wasn’t the fighter she once was, she gives up too easy, and every time you think she is going to fight and pull herself together she doesn’t. The strong woman I fell in love with in Jillaroo becomes this uncertain, lost girl, granted with fleeting moments of strength but other than that, she too was a different person. Ten years on and both of them are unrecognisable as the people I knew in Jillaroo.

It was disgusting at times to listen to, and it was an appalling story. Nothing seemed to fit these characters and I felt there were so many cop outs and explanations and justifications that didn’t sit right. It was such a disappointment, to not even see the same values really that they once had.

Away from characters Treasure uses the book to teach us about the benefits of holistic farming, in detail, something I didn’t actually really mind because I found it interesting, but I can see how that would be annoying, it only kind of worked into the story, more telling than showing I think. This takes over Rebecca’s storyline in a way and you start to root for her again before she lets you down once more.

I liked some parts and put up with other bits, and as I say, felt sick for a lot of it and was confused about who these characters were. I get Treasure wants to show us the Cinderella story isn’t always a dream, but could we maybe have more tension and fights instead of abusive husbands and magic crystals? If you loved Jillaroo like I did. If you loved Charlie and Rebecca together, their story, her story, then don’t read the sequel. Or if you do, be warned, yes it does show you that the Cinderella story does settle into reality, but what Treasure does is so far from I think what’s believable in terms of these established characters, it is too much at times.

If Treasure wanted conflict there was plenty to work without destroying the relationship and characters she had built up so beautifully in Jillaroo. I may just have to reread that story and pretend this one never happened.

 

The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub

Published: 1st March 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 HarperCollins Australia
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Five teenagers. Five lives. One final year.

The school captain: Ryan has it all … or at least he did, until an accident snatched his dreams away. How will he rebuild his life and what does the future hold for him now?

The newcomer: Charlie’s just moved interstate and she’s determined not to fit in. She’s just biding her time until Year 12 is over and she can head back to her real life and her real friends …

The loner: At school, nobody really notices Matty. But at home, Matty is everything. He’s been single-handedly holding things together since his mum’s breakdown, and he’s never felt so alone.

The popular girl: Well, the popular girl’s best friend … cool by association. Tammi’s always bowed to peer pressure, but when the expectations become too much to handle, will she finally stand up for herself?

The politician’s daughter: Gillian’s dad is one of the most recognisable people in the state and she’s learning the hard way that life in the spotlight comes at a very heavy price.

Five unlikely teammates thrust together against their will. Can they find a way to make their final year a memorable one or will their differences tear their world apart?

I knew a Melina Marchetta recommendation wouldn’t let me down and a reading binge until 4am proves me right. The Yearbook Committee is a beautiful story that encapsulates how people from different situations can come together (albeit unwilling), and can have their lives changed forever.

The story is told through five character perspectives, across nine months of the school year, and reveals the ups and down of teenage life and the experiences of living in contemporary Australia. The joy of reading Aussie books is recognising the locations and references, and Ayoub captures that Aussie feeling, our language and our culture, making this story feel natural and familiar.

The layout revolves around the monthly yearbook meetings and the school terms, and Ayoub’s creative in getting information without needing it to be told in detail. Using character’s traits and personalities to her advantage, Ayoub provides the ideal amount of information keeping it feeling natural with the story at hand. The focus is centred on the yearbook and character personal lives, and though things are mentioned within this space, Ayoub never makes us feel like we need to see them play out.

Being a book about modern teenagers, there’s naturally a lot of social media to include and Ayoub integrates technology and texting seamlessly and creatively. Each character shift is broken up with a Facebook style post and it sets the tone for not only the coming chapter, but it fits into the overall and arching story. Ayoub also ends each chapter with a hanging question, a moment, or thought that can be profound or concerning. Each character is contemplating or observing and it’s a great tactic; it finalises their chapter and can have such an impact on what has happened or what is going to happen.

There are characters you like immediately and certainly those you don’t like for the entire novel. Then there are the few that grow on you as you read. The more Ayoub reveals about them and the more you get to know them your feelings shift until you grow to respect each one for who they are. Again, not everyone, some of them you want to kick in the face, those feelings don’t change. There were times when I wanted to reach into the pages and hug these people, even now having finished it I still want to give them all a massive hug. One part that I loved was that so many characters connect with each other and overlap and they don’t always know it. Friends of friends and relatives of others know one another and when you notice you realise how connected everyone is.

Getting to see each committee member’s point of view is a powerful tool. You feel sorry for them all in varying degrees and certainly for various reasons. Their life outside of school is opened up and the different struggles and conflicts they face are laid bare, making you realise everyone has something to hide and problems of their own. The Tolstoy quote Gillian posts is a perfect example: All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Each of these characters is unhappy in their own way and sometimes these unhappinesses can break your heart.

Ayoub doesn’t placate you with idealistic and fake endings; she offers you solutions and results, consequences and outcomes. And yet, there is also a delightful ambiguity remaining, taunting you with things left open and unanswered. Nothing that says there will be a happily ever after which is why, in those final emotional chapters when you can’t stand it anymore but have to keep reading, Ayoub delivers a realistic and perfect conclusion, one that suits these characters you’ve grown to love, one that feels real, one that crushes your heart and is feels just right, even when you’re trying not to cry.

My only criticism with this story (a minor personal desire), is that I wish that we could have seen the final yearbook layout. It would have been a bittersweet inclusion and if possible I would happily donate to a fund that gets this put into production. Until such time, I am content with this important, beautiful, and divine story that will open your eyes and move your soul.

You can purchase The Yearbook Committee via the following

Booktopia | Amazon Aust

Book Depository | QBD

AmazonDymocks

Readings | Publisher

A&R Bookworld| Boomerang Books

AWW16

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