Book Review: What Was Left by Eleanor Limprecht

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New mother Rachel has a screaming baby, little support and fears for herself and her child. Coupled with her feelings of desperation is a deep seated issue of finding her missing father which compels her to abandon her baby girl and her bewildered husband.

It’s a heartbreaking story as the author explores family relationships and breaks down what is means to be thrust into motherhood. Rachel, an American, lives away from family and friends with her Australian husband in Sydney. The stress of adjustment is too much and she seeks out her friend in India where she attempts to sort herself out. Her journey takes her to Germany amidst the ire of her mother’s disapproval and her husband’s dismay.

Eleanor Limprecht writes well and gives us a moving yet unsettling story. Motherhood is often put on a godlike pedestal surrounded by unrealistic expectations and what new mother can’t identify with this? We feel for Rachel yet want her to desperately to come to her senses and this makes for a page turner. The discovery about her father is a shock although I wonder if her response to him in her psychological state might have made for a different ending.

All in all, an enjoyable and easy read.

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Book Review: Force of Nature by Jane Harper

After reading The Dry last year, I was keen to sink my teeth into Jane Harper’s second book. Force of Nature is another gripping crime novel featuring Detective Aaron Falk whom we grew to love in the first book.

Alice together with four female colleagues attend a work retreat in mountainous country where they are expected to trek for three days through remote wilderness without communication with the outside world. When they return to their designated point the women are distressed, injured and have no idea what has happened to Alice. Panic ensues and Aaron Falk and his sidekick Carmen Cooper who happen to be secretly investigating money laundering in the firm with Alice’s assistance, become involved in the search for her.

The story weaves back and forward into the point of view of each of the women hikers from the beginning of their journey then back into the Aaron’s present day point of view. It is a clever and engaging way of progressing the story compelling the reader forward as information is revealed bit by bit.

For me the premise seemed far-fetched and a little hard to believe. To put executives in such a situation without communication would be a health and safety issue and would hardly be accepted practice in today’s corporate world. There seemed to be no real purpose to the exercise and the company running the expedition would surely have been more involved. Nevertheless, if you disregard all this, it is an engaging enough story.

The intertwining relationships of the women’s private lives is really interesting but we learn little more about Aaron Falk whose personal story unfolded in The Dry except for his relationship with his father, which frankly for me wasn’t that interesting. I wanted more about him but he was as remote as the wilderness which, I might add, is very beautifully and accurately described.

Carmen who was an interesting character seemed a little out of place and a gratuitous romantic notion toward Aaron left me puzzled. However, the tension between the women and the bleakness of the environment was portrayed very well – I  felt for their misery and desolation.

The second half of the novel is gripping and makes for a fast paced read. Like The Dry it’s a page turner with twists and turns of the unexpected. I did enjoy this novel, but not quite as much as The Dry. I would however read another of Jane’s books again.

Book Review: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

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I read the first page late at night and although barely more than a paragraph, I put it down in fright. Not because it was bad but because it was so horrifying, I was scared to read more. A few days later, I picked it up again, moved past that first haunting page and read the next fifty pages in one sitting. I’m glad I did as there was a crowd of characters to keep track of and I knew then, this was not a book where you read a couple of pages a night. I reserved two to three hour reading sessions to remember who was dead, who was alive and what they all had to do with each other.

Nel Abbot is found dead in the Drowning Pool with a suspicion of suicide. It so happens that Katie, the teenage friend, of her daughter Lena was found dead, months earlier in the same spot which had been a place of many a woman’s death through the century’s, hence the name of the spot. Nel’s sister, Jules (who, we are repeatedly told doesn’t like being called by her correct name Julia) hasn’t spoken to her sister since she was a young teenager and is called back to her old home to look after Lena. The mystery of the deaths unravels from the point of view of ten characters and it becomes very clear that there is a vault of secrets and lies in the town.

There were moments of suspense which fell away as the clues came together. Some of the characters had little depth and I found it difficult to believe their behaviour in particular, Sean Townsend, the Detective Inspector and his wife Helen and even Katie. The inclusion of the mystic, Nicki, seemed to be a red herring which we could have done without. Jules seemed remote reflecting on her broken relationship with her sister and we learn very little else about this thirty something woman. Her reactions were self-centred enough to lose some credibility. I wonder if this book would have been better had there been less characters and a concentration of effort on Nel, Jules and Lena?

Was it on par with Girl on a Train? It wasn’t as good but perhaps my expectation was heightened because of the first book. However, it was a compelling enough read and a page turner, perhaps because I wanted it to end. It held my interest but it wasn’t brilliant.

Book Review : Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

 

 

I’d heard about this book and closed the final page last night. It did not disappoint. What began as a slow boil exploded in the last quarter of the book and I was unable to put it down.

Eleanor is a thirty-year-old woman who lives on the fringe of society. She is a creature of habit, working at an office during the week, doing cross words, eating pizza and drinking vodka on the weekend by herself in her tiny flat. She cocoons herself away and you know there is something not quite right. She’s never known the warm touch of love and wonders what it might be like. Her observations of the world around her are comical, sad and poignant. What social interactions she has, is extremely awkward and naïve until she meets Raymond who works at the same company and takes the time to try to understand her.

To reveal too much would spoil it, but this novel is a study on loneliness and isolation which we often associate with the elderly, not someone of this age. Eleanor’s awkwardness and naiveté makes for some very funny moments. If you think the story sounds a bit morbid, it isn’t. Eleanor is a survivor and to watch her grow is glorious. The author cleverly hints about her childhood and builds on it until the explosive reveal toward the end, when we discover why Eleanor is the way she is.

It’s memorable and heart-warming. I really enjoyed it.

Reviews for Out of Nowhere: a collection of short stories

Goodreads is a community of book lovers. Readers and writers come together to share thoughts and feelings about books. As a reader, I’ve loved reading what others think of books. I’ve also taken the time to share my relections.

As an author, it can be a place of trepidation as readers tell you what they think of your book. Not every book can be liked by everyone. I generally write for myself and when others appreciate what I’ve written, it’s an added bonus.

I am therefore very humbled by everyone who left a review for my short story collection, Out Of Nowhere.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35152873-out-of-nowhere

Thanks to everyone who took the time to talk about it.

Book Review: The Choke by Sophie Laguna

This book is extraordinary.

I know that’s a big call but let me explain why after I explain the premise.

Justine is a child, abandoned by her mother when she was a toddler and barely noticed by her irresponsible and occasional father. She is brought up by her paternal grandfather who is haunted by his experience as a POW on the Burma Railway. The two desperately need each other, finding sanctuary with the chooks on an isolated property next to the Murray River. Justine is not just abandoned by her family but by the system too and lives as an outcast in the shadow of her father’s criminal activities. As she grows into her teenage self, she encounters great difficulties which make little sense to her until she makes a decision.

From the first page to the last, the writing is exquisite. Told from the point of view of Justine, Laguna masters the language to expertly capture the essence of young innocence and bewilderment in an aggressive and incomprehensible world of males. The drawing of the characters is masterful. You want to reach into the pages and pluck Justine from her surroundings and her poverty, to reassure her that life can be better. But we can’t, and when there are glimmers of hope, they’re dashed. Her pain is our pain as we observe Justine trying to make sense of her situation and when she decides to wrestle control of her life from the incompetence of others, it’s gripping.

The story and the writing resonated long after the book’s ending and remained with me, weeks after finishing.

I think this maybe my book of the year. Yet it’s only February.

Book Review: Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic

I’d heard about this book and the author, and when I saw it the other day, I just had to buy it. And no, it’s not on my list for 2018.

It’s another crime novel for me, (remember I only started reading this genre a few months ago) set in a fictitious town in coastal Victoria, Australia. I’m really getting into some truly wonderful stories. Resurrection Bay is no exception.

Caleb Zelic is a deaf man whose insights into people’s behaviour allow him to pick up clues when on the hunt for the killer of his childhood friend. As a private security investigator he works with his partner, ex-cop Frankie who has her own demons. All they have is the text message to Caleb from his dying friend. Caleb uses lip reading and facial expressions to communicate and is a master with body language. But he fails to see what’s going on behind his back as he stumbles headlong into danger. Along the way, he learns unpleasant truths not just about the people around him but himself as well.

From the first paragraph to the last, I was gripped by the authors writing. It’s fast paced and I found I had to slow down my reading to keep up with the many minor characters in the story. I loved the main characters particularly Caleb who refuses to allow his deafness to dominate his life. This is handled extremely well and gave a lot of insight into how deaf people deal with their environment.  There’s  a lot to like about Caleb and his vulnerability. I  found myself flinching as I almost yelled out loud telling him to watch out. Luckily, I was in the privacy of my own lounge room.

No wonder it’s won lots of awards. It’s well written and a quick and easy read. Give it a go. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.