#ThrowbackThursday : The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin – 4*s

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. Throwback Thursday was designed as an opportunity to share old favorites as well as older books in our TBR. As I started reviewing on Goodreads long before I started my blog, it seemed a great way of sharing my earlier reviews (which I hope have improved since the early days).

So this week I’m revisiting The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Amma McPartlin,  first reviewed in July 2014.

Last Days of Rabbit Hayes

 

Here is a truth that can’t be escaped: for Mia ‘Rabbit’ Hayes, life is coming to an end . . .

Rabbit Hayes loves her life, ordinary as it is, and the extraordinary people in it.

She loves her spirited daughter, Juliet; her colourful, unruly family; the only man in her big heart, Johnny Faye.

But it turns out the world has other plans for Rabbit, and she’s OK with that. Because she has plans for the world too, and only a handful of days left to make them happen.

Here is a truth that won’t be forgotten: this is a story about laughing through life’s surprises and finding the joy in every moment.

My Review

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes, is exactly what it says it is. We meet Rabbit (Mia) Hayes as her family take her to the hospice as she loses her 4 year battle with cancer.

The book is at turns, poignant, funny and heartwarming though ultimately it is heartbreaking. From the beginning of her initial diagnosis of breast cancer, Rabbit had been upbeat and honest and sought to share her thoughts via a blog which helps her cope. Around her she has her siblings Grace and Davey;her friends; and her parents Molly and Jack who are constantly seeking a cure or a new drug trial as they refuse to believe she will die. She also has her daughter, Juliet who at 12 is her own particular reason for trying to fight her illness for as long as she can.

The book deals with how Rabbit is coping with her imminent death as well as how the wider circle of family and friends cope with the loss of a loved one. The story is not just about Rabbit’s present but also tells the story of her past, her hopes, her dreams and the love of her life.

The characters are all very real and likeable which makes it much easier to care for them as the book progresses. But ultimately it is Rabbit and her relationships especially with Juliet and Johnny that will touch your heart.

Given the subject matter it might be easy to treat the topic in a maudlin way, but this never happens. The story is as much a celebration of Rabbit’s life and achievements as about her illness. It is a heartwarming look at friendship and families and above all love, that will make you think about your own life and loves. It is emotional and heartbreaking but also full of warmth and humour and well worth a read.

I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

#ThrowbackThursday : The Kill by Jane Casey – 4*s

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. Throwback Thursday was designed as an opportunity to share old favorites as well as older books in our TBR. As I started reviewing on Goodreads long before I started my blog, it seemed a great way of sharing my earlier reviews (which I hope have improved since the early days).

So this week I’m revisiting The Kill by Jane Casey,  first reviewed in June 2014.

Kill

 

Their job is to investigate crime – not become the victims…

A killer is terrorising London but this time the police are the targets. Urgently re-assigned to investigate a series of brutal attacks on fellow officers, Maeve Kerrigan and her boss Josh Derwent have little idea what motivates the killer’s fury against the force.
But they know it will only be a matter of time before the killer strikes again.

My Review

The Kill sees a welcome return to DC Maeve Kerrigan along with her complicated private life and public relationships with her immediate superiors, DI Josh Derwent and Superintendent Godley. For lovers of the Maeve Kerrigan series you won’t be disappointed and if you’re new to this author, I urge you to go back and start with the first book, The Burning. While the books can be read as a standalone story, there are continuing themes between titles so it would be a shame to spoil the plots by reading retrospectively.

In this installment Kerrigan and Derwent are involved in a series of murders that personally impact on them (in ways I have no intention of revealing)when someone starts killing police officers. As with all of her previous book, Casey has the ability to draw you in from the beginning, not only with a compelling crime plot, that you need to see resolved, but also with her deftly drawn characters. Maeve Kerrigan and Josh Derwent are a great team, though on paper you would not expect it to be so. Maeve is the only female detective on the team and is subject to stereotypical sexist banter from her colleagues, though she is well capable of holding her own due to her undoubted ability and a nice line in finely honed clever comments. She is also vulnerable and fallible which makes her a realistic and sympathetic character. Derwent meanwhile is a fine example of unreconstructed man, with a sexist approach that would have most women in a rage. Despite this, there is a chemistry between them that works, not least because in the most unexpected moments Derwent has the ability to throw you off guard by producing a caring response or sympathetic phrase you would not believe him capable of. While there is jokey banter, tension and disagreements there is also an underlying respect (and I feel some festering sexual attraction).

I have no hesitation in recommending The Kill, the plot was satisfying and as the tension cranked up towards the end, really merited the description “pageturner”. My only disappointment is that I now need to wait for the next in the series to follow-up unresolved issues.

I received an e copy of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

 

 

Book Haul – week ended 10th June

Away on holiday for the nex two weeks so hoping to actually read some of the books I keep adding to my tbr mountain. This also means my next book haul posting will be in two weeks time. Have been reasonably good about staying away from NetGalley but couldn’t resist the Elizabeth Buchan which I’ve had my eye on for a while.

Review Copies

 

New Mrs CliftonThe New Mrs Clifton by Elizabeth Buchan (courtesy of NetGalley

‘Wrapped in the roots of the sycamore was a skeleton; the remains of a woman, between twenty-five and thirty. She had carried a child . . .’

At the close of the Second World War, Intelligence Officer Gus Clifton returns to London. On his arm is Krista, the German wife he married secretly in Berlin. For his sisters, this broken woman is nothing more than the enemy. For Nella, Gus’s loyal fiancée, it is a terrible betrayal. These three friends wonder what hold Krista has over decent, honourable Gus. And, they ask themselves, how far will they have to go to permanently get her out of their home, their future, their England?

 

Kindle Purchases

 

Forgotten Little War

That Forgotten Little War by Daniel E Arias (FREE)

This is a story told from both sides of the Falklands Conflict. It is pure fiction and also pure fact. As the ten seemingly independent narratives weave together, blending fiction and fact, they come together to make up a powerful novel that leaves no-one indifferent.

 

 

Piggy Monk SquarePiggy Monk Square by Grace M Jollife (FREE) 

A policeman faces a grim death in a Liverpool inner city cellar. Only two little girls know where he is but they’re too scared to tell. Time is running out for the policeman. Will the girls get help before it’s too late?

Piggy Monk Square is a dark yet frequently very funny novel set in 1970’s Liverpool. The action takes place in the volatile period before the Toxteth riots burned much of the inner city down.

 

 

Treated as Murder

 

Treated as Murder by Noreen Wainwright (99p)

Set in 1931, Edith Horton is a former VAD who finds herself not only struggling with her inner demons, but with the presence of evil in her village in the Yorkshire Dales. Her brother is suspected of murdering an elderly wealthy widow, and sins of the past have echoes in her life and the lives of those close to her.

 

 

Peace of TimePeace of Time by Rose Rendle (FREE)

Jen and Mike Lucas are happily married, or so Jen thinks.
Recently Mike has been short tempered and cranky, but Jen puts it all down to his stressful job at a finance company.

Jen, on the other hand, loves her job as a teacher. She also makes more money than Mike, which he mentions at any given opportunity. As they drift further apart, Jen tries everything she can think of to save their marriage but all Mike wants to do is spend more and more time at the gym.

When one of Jen’s students, young Charlie Mayhew, suffers a terrible fall from his bike, Jen lends a helping hand to his father, Christopher, a single parent who lost Charlie’s mother to cancer.

Jen does her best to ignore the gossip that Mike was seen getting friendly with a red head at the gym, but a few days later, Jen discovers something that turns her world upside down.

After Mike moves out, Jen realises that she’s reached a crossroads in her life. Does she give Mike a second chance? Or does she take Christopher up on his offer of a date?

As the summer draws to a close, Jen has some life changing decisions to make and what she decides will shock everyone, but most of all herself…

 

Nobody's GirlNobody’s Girl by Tania Crosse (FREE)

The boom years immediately after the Great War bring nothing but happiness for wealthy industrialist Wigmore Stratfield-Whyte and his wife Clarissa – until tragedy robs them of their greatest treasure.

Many years later, an horrific fatal accident brings young Meg Chandler, a spirited farmer’s daughter, into their lives. Meg wants nothing to do with them, but Clarissa is drawn irresistibly towards the bereaved girl and will move heaven and earth to help her. Will Meg allow Clarissa into her own shattered life, and can the two share a future happiness together? And will Meg’s new acquaintances bring her the contentment she craves – or seek to destroy her?

Set in the Kent countryside in the years leading up to the Second World War, this compelling saga tingles with drama, tension and an overwhelming sense of love.

 

Girl in te PaintingThe Girl in the Painting by Kirsty Ferry (99p)

What if you thought you knew a secret that could change history?
Whilst standing engrossed in her favourite Pre-Raphaelite painting – Millais’s Ophelia – Cori catches the eye of Tate gallery worker, Simon, who is immediately struck by her resemblance to the red-haired beauty in the famous artwork.

The attraction is mutual, but Cori has other things on her mind. She has recently acquired the diary of Daisy, a Victorian woman with a shocking secret. As Cori reads, it soon becomes apparent that Daisy will stop at nothing to be heard, even outside of the pages of her diary …

Will Simon stick around when life becomes increasingly spooky for Cori, as she moves ever closer to uncovering the truth about Daisy’s connection to the girl in her favourite painting?

 

#ThrowbackThursday : The Teashop on the Corner by Milly Johnson – 4*s

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. Throwback Thursday was designed as an opportunity to share old favorites as well as older books in our TBR. As I started reviewing on Goodreads long before I started my blog, it seemed a great way of sharing my earlier reviews (which I hope have improved since the early days).

So this week I’m revisiting The Teashop on the Corner by Milly Johnson, first reviewed in June 2014.

Teashop on the Corner

Life is full of second chances, if only you keep your heart open for them.

Spring Hill Square is a pretty sanctuary away from the bustle of everyday life. And at its centre is Leni Merryman‘sTeashop on the Corner, specialising in cake, bookish stationery and compassion. And for three people, all in need of a little TLC, it is somewhere to find a friend to lean on.

Carla Pride has just discovered that her late husband Martin was not who she thought he was. And now she must learn to put her marriage behind her and move forward.

Molly Jones‘sex-husband Harvey has reappeared in her life after many years, wanting to put right the wrongs of the past before it is too late.

And Will Linton‘s business has gone bust and his wife has left him to pick up the pieces. Now he needs to gather the strength to start again.

Can all three find the comfort they are looking for in The Teashop on the Corner? And as their hearts are slowly mended by Leni, can they return the favour when she needs it most?

My Review

I have never read anything by Milly Johnson before, but after reading this I’ll be going back to catch up on her other titles. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read, with a great cast of characters that had me hooked from the start.

The Teashop on the Corner has recently been opened by Leni Merryman and as well as serving tea and cake, offers a range of literature related stationary and accessories that delight her growing clientele.

The Teashop provides a haven of peace and respite for a particular group of people who gradually become friends and help each other through their assorted problems. While it might fall into the chick lit category and have a nice light-hearted cover, some of the themes that are covered are far from light and frothy. The various characters cope with a range of trials and tribulations including divorce, bankruptcy, bereavement, unemployment and child abuse, yet the subjects are dealt with in a sympathetic and caring way that neither trivialises or over dramatises the themes.

It is impossible not to warm to the characters and hope that they each get a happy outcome. As to whether that happens – you’ll need to read the book to find out.

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Book Haul – week ended 3 June 2017

Review Copies

Comfort of OthersThe Comfort of Others by Kay Langdale (via Bookbridgr)

Minnie and her sister Clara, spinsters both, live in a dilapidated country house in the middle of a housing estate, built when their father sold off the family’s land. Now in their seventies, their days follow a well-established routine: long gone are the garden parties, the tennis lessons and their suffocatingly strict mother. Gone, too, is any mention of what happened when Minnie was sixteen, and the secret the family buried in the grounds of their estate.

Directly opposite them lives Max, an 11-year-old whose life with his mum has changed beyond recognition since her new boyfriend arrived. Cast aside, he takes solace in Minnie’s careful routine, observed through his bedroom window.

Over the course of the summer, both begin to tell their stories: Max through a Dictaphone, Minnie through a diary. As their tales intertwine, ghosts are put to rest and challenges faced, in a story that is as dark as it is uplifting.

Kindle Purchases

 

Everything I Never Told YouEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (99p)

Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee; a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue – in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the centre of every party. But Lydia is under pressures that have nothing to do with growing up in 1970s small town Ohio. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, and his ethnicity, and hers, make them conspicuous in any setting.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, James is consumed by guilt and sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to make someone accountable, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is convinced that local bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest in the family – Hannah – who observes far more than anyone realises and who may be the only one who knows what really happened.

One Perfect SummerOne Perfect Summer by Paige Toon (FREE)

A Dorset summer, a chance meeting, and Joe and Alice, both 18, fall into step as if they have known each other forever. But their idyll is shattered as quickly as it began. Joe leaves without warning; Alice heads off to Cambridge University and slowly picks up the pieces of her broken heart.

Years later, when she catches the attention of gorgeous, gifted, rich boy Lukas, Alice is carried along by his charm and swept up in his ambitious plans for a future together.

Until news of Joe reaches her once more, but he’s out of reach in a way that Alice could never have imagined. Life has moved on, the divide between them is now so great. Surely it is far too late to relive those perfect summer days of long ago?

 

Dark RiverDark River by I J Benneyworth (FREE)

Independence, a small town and county on the banks of the Hudson River, is a typical, all-American community with a proud history dating back to Colonial times. But just like anywhere else it cannot escape the darker side of human nature. Murder, violence, corruption; these and other crimes are not the exception in Independence. But Sheriff Amanda Northstar is determined that they don’t become the rule.

When the body of Judy Sterling, one of Independence’s most prominent councillors, washes up on the bank of the Hudson the first assumption is suicide. With her car abandoned near the county’s main bridge, a suicide note left inside, it seems that Judy willingly jumped to her death.

However, Amanda’s intuition tells her that there is far more to Judy’s death than first appears. As more evidence emerges and Amanda and her deputies piece together the growing collection of clues, they discover that Judy was caught up in a web of lies, desperation, betrayal and perhaps even murder.

Making SpaceMaking Space by Sarah Tierney (£4.99 was £1)

Why do we hold onto things we don’t need? And let go of the things we do? Miriam is twenty-nine: temping, living with a flatmate who is no longer a friend, and still trying to find her place in life. She falls in love with Erik after he employs her to clear out his paper-packed home. They are worlds apart: he is forty-five, a successful photographer and artist and an obsessive hoarder still haunted by the end of his marriage. Miriam has an unsuccessful love life and has just got rid of most of her belongings. Somehow, they must find a way to reach each other.

Burma's SpringBurma’s Spring by Rosalind Russell (£3.99 was 99p)

Burma’s Spring documents the struggles of ordinary people made extraordinary by circumstance. Rosalind Russell, a British journalist who came to live in Burma with her family, witnessed a time of unprecedented change in a secretive country that had been locked under military dictatorship for half a century.

Her memoir carries the reader through a turbulent era of uprising, disaster and political awakening with a vivid retelling of her encounters as an undercover reporter.

From the world famous democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to the broken-hearted domestic worker Mu Mu, a Buddhist monk to a punk, a palm reader to a girl band, these are stories of tragedy, resilience and hope – woven together in a vivid portrait of a land for so long hidden from view.

Chateau of Happily Ever AftersThe Chateau of Happily Ever Afters (99p due 7 June)

Wendy Clayton stopped believing in fairy tales a long time ago. Instead, she has a ‘nice’ life. Nice job. Nice flat. Absolutely no men. Until her life is turned upside-down when her elderly neighbour, Eulalie, passes away and leaves her the Château of Happily Ever Afters!

But there’s a catch: she must share the sprawling French castle with Eulalie’s long-lost nephew, Julian. And no matter how gorgeous he is, or how easily she finds herself falling head over heels, Wendy needs to find a way to get rid of him…

Because surely happily ever afters don’t happen in real life?

Late Summer in the VineyardLate Summer in the Vineyard by Jo Thomas (99p)

Emmy Bridges has always looked out for others. Now it’s time to put down roots of her own.

Working for a wine-maker in France is the opportunity of a lifetime for Emmy. Even if she doesn’t know a thing about wine – beyond what’s on offer at the local supermarket.

There’s plenty to get to grips with in the rustic town of Petit Frère. Emmy’s new work friends need more than a little winning over. Then there’s her infuriatingly brash tutor, Isaac, and the enigmatic Madame Beaumont, tucked away in her vineyard of secrets.

But Emmy will soon realise that in life – just as in wine-making – the best things happen when you let go and trust your instincts. Particularly when there’s romance in the air…

The Missing WifeThe Missing Wife by Sheila O’Flanagan (99p)

Have you ever wanted to disappear?

When Imogen Naughton vanishes, everyone who knows her is shocked. She has a perfect marriage. Her handsome husband treats her like a princess. She’s always said how lucky she is. So why has she left? And how will she survive without Vince?

What goes on behind closed doors is often a surprise, and Imogen surprises herself by taking the leap she knows she must. But as she begins her journey to find the woman she once was, Imogen’s past is right behind her…

Will it catch up with her? And will she be ready to face it if it does?

Private Lives of the TudorsThe Private Lives of the Tudors by Tracy Borman (99p)

‘I do not live in a corner. A thousand eyes see all I do.’ Elizabeth I

The Tudor monarchs were constantly surrounded by an army of attendants, courtiers and ministers. Even in their most private moments, they were accompanied by a servant specifically appointed for the task. A groom of the stool would stand patiently by as Henry VIII performed his daily purges, and when Elizabeth I retired for the evening, one of her female servants would sleep at the end of her bed.

These attendants knew the truth behind the glamorous exterior. They saw the tears shed by Henry VII upon the death of his son Arthur. They knew the tragic secret behind ‘Bloody’ Mary’s phantom pregnancies. And they saw the ‘crooked carcass’ beneath Elizabeth I’s carefully applied makeup, gowns and accessories.

It is the accounts of these eyewitnesses, as well as a rich array of other contemporary sources that historian Tracy Borman has examined more closely than ever before. With new insights and discoveries, and in the same way that she brilliantly illuminated the real Thomas Cromwell – The Private Life of the Tudors will reveal previously unexamined details about the characters we think we know so well.

Leopard at the DoorLeopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh (99p)

Stepping off the boat in Mombasa, eighteen-year-old Rachel Fullsmith stands on Kenyan soil for the first time in six years. She has come home.

But when Rachel reaches the family farm at the end of the dusty Rift Valley Road, she finds so much has changed. Her beloved father has moved his new partner and her son into the family home. She hears menacing rumours of Mau Mau violence, and witnesses cruel reprisals by British soldiers. Even Michael, the handsome Kikuyu boy from her childhood, has started to look at her differently.

Isolated and conflicted, Rachel fears for her future. But when home is no longer a place of safety and belonging, where do you go, and who do you turn to?

Once Upon a Long AgoOnce Upon a Long Ago by Sharon Booth (FREE)

Lexi Bailey doesn’t do love. Having seen the war zone that was her parents’ marriage, she has no interest in venturing into a relationship, and thinks romance is for fairy tales. As far as she’s concerned, there’s no such thing as happy ever after, and she’s not looking for a handsome prince.
For Will Boden-Kean, that’s probably a good thing. He hardly qualifies as a handsome prince, after all. He may be the son of a baronet, and live in a stately home, but he’s not known for his good looks. What he is known for, among the residents of Kearton Bay, is his kind heart, his determination to fund Kearton Hall — and his unrequited love for Lexi.
While Lexi gazes at the portrait of the Third Earl Kearton, and dreams of finding the treasure that is reputed to be hidden somewhere in the house, Will is working hard to ensure that his home survives. When he goes against Lexi’s wishes and employs the most unpopular man in the village, she begins to wonder if he’s under a spell. Will would never upset her. What could possibly have happened to him?
As plans take shape for a grand ball, Lexi’s life is in turmoil. With a secret from Will’s past revealed, a witch who is far too beautiful for Lexi’s peace of mind, and a new enchantress on the scene, things are changing rapidly at Kearton Hall. Add to that a big, bad wolf of a work colleague, a stepmother in denial, and a father who is most definitely up to no good, and it’s no wonder she decides to make a new start somewhere else.
Then she makes a discovery that changes everything — but time is running out for her. Is it too late to find her happy ending? Will Lexi make it to the ball? Will Buttons save the day? And where on earth did that handsome prince come from?

The Other UsThe Other Us by Fiona Harper (99p)

Forty-something Maggie is facing some hard truths. Her only child has flown the nest for university and, without her daughter in the house, she’s realising her life, and her marriage to Dan, is more than a little stale.

When she spots an announcement on Facebook about a uni reunion, she can’t help wondering what happened to Jude Hanson. The same night Dan proposed, Jude asked Maggie to run away with him, and she starts to wonder how different her life might have been if she’d broken Dan’s heart and taken Jude up on his offer.

Wondering turns into fantasising, and then one morning fantasising turns into reality. Maggie wakes up and discovers she’s back in 1992 and twenty-one again. Is she brave enough to choose the future she really wants, and if she is, will the grass be any greener on the other side of the fence?

Two men. Two very different possible futures. But is there only once chance at happiness?

Anti-Ageing KitchenThe Anti Ageing Kitchen by Hollie Power (FREE)

Rediscover your inner youth with the Anti Ageing Kitchen
After years of tirelessly trying to discover the secret of eternal youth, I stumbled upon the elixir, in my very own kitchen.
My wrinkles relaxed, my energy grew and I even lost weight.
This book teaches all the basics you need to understand how to look and feel younger, just by the way you eat.
Discover –
Pro ageing and how to avoid it
How to eat for younger skin
The anti ageing superstars of today
Anti ageing recipes
Skin care recipes
Hair care recipes
And so much more…
This book will simply guide you through the path to easily change your lifestyle.

 

#ThrowbackThursday : The Ties that Bind by Erin Kelly – 4*s @mserinkelly

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. Throwback Thursday was designed as an opportunity to share old favorites as well as older books in our TBR. As I started reviewing on Goodreads long before I started my blog, it seemed a great way of sharing my earlier reviews (which I hope have improved since the early days).

So this week I’m revisiting The Ties that Bind by Erin Kelly reviewed in May 2014.

Ties that Bind

Luke is a true crime writer in search of a story. When he flees to Brighton after an explosive break-up, the perfect subject lands in his lap: reformed gangster Joss Grand. Now in his eighties, Grand once ruled the Brighton underworld with his sadistic sidekick Jacky Nye – until Jacky washed up by the West Pier in 1968, strangled and thrown into the sea. Though Grand’s alibi seems cast-iron, Luke is sure there’s more to the story than meets the eye, and he convinces the criminal-turned-philanthropist to be interviewed for a book about his life.

Luke is drawn deeper into the mystery of Jacky Nye’s murder. Was Grand there that night? Is he really as reformed a character as he claims? And who was the girl in the red coat seen fleeing the murder scene? Soon Luke realises that in stirring up secrets from the past, he may have placed himself in terrible danger.

My Review

I have never read anything by Erin Kelly before, but was aware that her books are well received by those in the know. When I got the chance to read this via NetGalley (in return for an honest review) I was delighted. When I looked at the subject matter, I will admit I was not so delighted as on the face of it, it would not have been my choice of reading – 60’s gangland is not my genre. However I was drawn in from the beginning and I loved it.

Luke has “escaped” to Brighton to stay with a friend, to avoid an obsessive partner, who refuses to accept that their affair is over. The friend, who works for a letting agency, puts him up short-term in a recently empty property that does not appear on the books. Thus starts a mystery that Luke is determined to get to the bottom of, especially when he discovers that the property and the company is owned by Joss Grand. Grand ruled the Brighton gangland in the 60’s, along with his lifelong friend Jacky Nye, whose subsequent murder at the height of their reign was never solved. The Joss Grand of the present day however, seems far removed from the Joss Grand of the past, but is he all he appears, and what was the truth of Jacky’s murder. Luke seizes the chance to investigate in the hope of resurrecting his journalistic career with a Truman Capote style book about Grand.

While on the face of it, Grand agrees to the idea of the book, it is clear he wants it written on his terms and not on Luke’s, who is still trying to uncover the truth about Grand’s past for himself. Luke’s search uncovers truths that he might wish he’d kept hidden and not just for the sake of Grand’s reputation, but for his own safety.

The book was fast paced and very well written, with an eye for detail relating to Brighton of the past as well as the present. Once I’d started it, I just wanted to get it finished to find out the truth. As with all good thrillers, there was a twist and I didn’t see coming, or at least not from the direction it came.

I would thoroughly recommend this book and now can’t wait to read the titles I’ve missed.

 

The Silent Kookaburra by Liza Perrat – 4.5*s @LizaPerrat

All eleven-year-old Tanya Randall wants is a happy family. But Mum does nothing besides housework, Dad’s always down the pub and Nanna Purvis moans at everyone except her dog. Then Shelley arrives –– the miracle baby who fuses the Randall family in love for their little gumnut blossom.

Tanya’s life gets even better when she meets an uncle she didn’t know she had. He tells her she’s beautiful and could be a model. Her family refuses to talk about him. But that’s okay, it’s their little secret.

Then one blistering summer day tragedy strikes, and the surrounding mystery and suspicion tear apart this fragile family web.

Embracing the social changes of 1970s Australia, against a backdrop of native fauna and flora, The Silent Kookaburra is a haunting exploration of the blessings, curses and tyranny of memory.

My Review

The Silent Kookaburra is a touching, troubling and at times challenging story narrated by eleven year old Tanya. She is at the heart of the book, that relates the tale of a her dysfunctional family in small town Wollongong, Australia in the early 1970’s. Against a background of her mother’s repeated miscarriages; her father’s drinking; her grandmother’s sniping and playground jibes about her weight and appearance, Tanya appears to have a resilience that belies her years. When a baby sister finally appears, life would appear to be about to change, and it does, only not in a way that she, or anyone else could have envisaged.

It is a moving and compulsive read that explores emotional and difficult issues that as a society we often tend to shy away from discussing, such as recurrent miscarriage, post natal depression, alcoholism, bereavement and self-esteem. It is a sensitive and I would say, realistic portrayal of a family in crisis. It’s made more touching because we are seeing it through a child’s eyes, but with our adult perception of what is really happening.  In addition it does have a darker subtext of grooming, though initially that is something that as adults we are more cognizant of than Tanya, who is the target of a predatory ‘black sheep’ Uncle. For anyone else, who like me, who would normally prefer to avoid the subject of paedophilia, I will say, that while at times it did get dark and I definitely felt uncomfortable, it never crossed boundaries that I couldn’t cope with. The topic was to a degree made ‘worse’ because we could see with foreboding what Tanya was too young to understand.

While it might seem from what has been written, a rather unsettling and dark read, given it’s themes, the author cleverly balances the shade with lighter episodes and comic interludes. The curmudgeonly, racist and homophobic Nana Purvis is also a brilliant comic character with a range of irreverent  put downs and malapropisms that lighten the mood. Similarly adding light is the grumpy neighbour,  Old Lenny with his habit of turning up with something from his garage that he invariable got cheap from a mate.  While it might seem, that Tanya’s life is not the happiest, she still has her indomitable Nanna and the redeeming friendship of Angela, whose Italian family, embrace her as one of the family, feed her,  care for her and in more ways than one prove to be her salvation.

Although I have no knowledge of 1970’s Australia, the themes of small town life, and the prevailing social norms seemed universal, and they were very reminiscent of 1970’s Britain. The time and place were brilliantly described, the casual institutionalised racism and homophobia of the older generation as society became more multi-cultural felt very familiar. The references to food, sweets, biscuits, magazines and tv programmes also served to add to the authenticity of the period.

I’m not sure how I would categorise this book, in exploring the very realistic portrayal of a family in crisis, it is part psychological drama, part mystery and part nostalgia but the whole is an unsettling, but emotive and compelling read that had me gripped, right through to the end.

With thanks to the author for a review copy to enable this impartial review.