Reading Rewards - reviews

A Guide to Berlin

A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones

Six international travellers made up of two Italians, two Japanese an American and an Australian form a group while in Berlin. They meet regularly in empty apartments and share stories of themselves which they call “speak memories”. Each of the members is familiar with the work of writer Vladamir Nabokov (author of Lolita), who lived in Berlin in 1925 and wrote a short story called “A Guide to Berlin”. The strangers become friends and yet there’s always a polite respect within the group -   rules of the meetings seem to be implied, not overtly expressed. Berlin is the perfect winter host of the gatherings. The friendships evolve, and Cass, the Australian forms a close bond with Italian Marco. Then unexpected and devastating incidents pull the whole group, shell-shocked, apart. 

A Guide to Berlin was written in Berlin by Gail Jones during an “Artists Fellowship”. The wonderful descriptions of the city during winter really make Berlin like the 7th member of the group.  The city is fascinating – icy cold, snowy cold, bleak and grey, with reminders of its dark history making appearances here and there. There is a quiet assuredness to the characters - having a love of words and stories and with secrets which they may or may not reveal in their “speak memories”. The Nabakovian events which bring about the end of the group are surprising and satisfying.

A guide to Berlin is unique and wonderfully written. Highly recommended. 

~ Ali

Baileys Prize for Fiction

The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction is the UK’s most prestigious annual book award for fiction written by a woman. Founded in 1996, the Prize was set up to celebrate excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women throughout the world.

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney, who started her career as a writer with a blog about life on a council estate in the “arse end of Ireland”, has won the £30,000 Baileys Prize with her debut novel.

The other works of fiction shortlisted were:
Irish Fiction Laureate Anne Enright, favourite to win with her novel The Green Road; The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie; The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild; Ruby by Cynthia Bond; and the Man Booker-nominated A Little Life by Hannah Yanagihara.

~ Deb

This Must Be the Place

This Must Be The Place by Maggie O'Farrell

In Ireland to collect his grandfather’s ashes, Brooklyn-born Daniel Sullivan literally stumbles upon former movie star Claudette Wells and her son Ari where they live in a tumbledown house so remote, you have to open 12 gates before you reach it.  Claudette was formerly one of the world’s biggest movie stars, but she was stifled by fame and life with her Swedish filmmaker partner so that one day she simply took their son and disappeared. She became a recluse, hiding from the world, with the international media only speculating whether she was alive or dead. 

Claudette becomes Daniel’s second wife and Daniel, divorced and increasingly removed from his own two children, moves to the remote farmhouse where he and Claudette have two more children. One day, on his way to work in Belfast, Daniel hears a radio show featuring a former lover that is now deceased. This sends him on an odyssean journey to right the wrongs of his past...

Why we love it: 
We get extremely excited about a new Maggie O’Farrell novel. And This Must Be The Place lived up to all our expectations of the acclaimed writer, who with each novel becomes even more skilled at capturing the pitfalls and poignancy of modern life, marriage, separation and parenting.  Shot through with humor and wisdom, This Must Be the Place is a powerful rumination on the nature of identity, and the complexities of loyalty and devotion a gripping story of an extraordinary family and an extraordinary love.

~ from The Team at Better Reading

The Quality of Silence

The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton
Narrated by Harriet Carmichael and Rachel Atkins

From the cover:  On 24th November, Yasmin and her deaf daughter Ruby arrive in Alaska.  Within hours they are driving alone across a frozen wilderness, where nothing and no one lives, where tears freeze and where night will last for another fifty-four days.  They are looking for Ruby's father, travelling deeper into a silent land.  They still cannot find him. And someone is watching them in the dark.

I can't work out where this book would fit on my bookshelf - adventure, or crime thriller, or relationships, romance, environment, suspense, climate, geo-political, petrochemical/fracking, wilderness survival; is it YA or adult?  It doesn't really matter... it is without doubt my read of the year so far.

I borrowed the Playaway (audio) version and it is not only beautifully written but narrated brilliantly in the two voices that dominate the book - Yasmin, an astrophysicist who gives up her career when her daughter is born deaf; and Ruby, the grade six student whose silent world blossoms under the care of her wildlife photographer Dad (Matt), and Yasmin, who constantly urges her to "use your mouth words" rather than narrowing her relationships to those who can only use sign language with her or on social media.  

That doesn't sound terribly suspenseful or gripping, but it's that background which underpins the whole fraught story, one that ramps up in the bleakness of an Alaskan winter after police inform London-based Yasmin and Ruby that Matt has been killed in an explosion and fire in the village of Anaktue near the Arctic Circle.  Yasmin does not believe the scant evidence, and is furious that, despite horrendous winter weather, not enough is being done to find Matt, so (incredibly) she sets out, Ruby in tow, to rectify that.  And this is where a series of terrifying scenarios unfold, some more believable than others. 

It's difficult avoiding spoilers, but I can say that the author would have really enjoyed creating such a mix of characters! Ruby is the most engaging - her take on the world, personality, intelligence and use of social media is absolutely spot on and a joy to read. Yasmin is, pardon the pun, polarising.  So caring, brave, determined; so intelligent yet so bloody stupid at times it's almost unbelievable.  From the cops, to the ice truckers, petrochemical workers, Alaskan villagers, even the animals in Matt's wildlife documentaries - this is one hell of a read (despite having to look up a few foreign words, like  aputiak, which is a temporary winter shelter built by native Eskimos primarily for use in winter hunting camps).

Climate is everything in this book, and the way Rosamund Lupton has written it, you can feel every hair-raising, terrifying millimetre of the awesome emptiness that is Alaska. 

~ Deb. 


Changing Gears

Changing Gears: a pedal-powered detour from the Rat Race by Greg Foyster

Greg Foyster wakes one day and realises his job in advertising is hopelessly at odds with how he wants to live. Looking for inspiration, he and his partner Sophie decide to cycle from Melbourne to Far North Queensland (via Tasmania, naturally) scouting out ways to live more simply. 

On the road, the couple realise how preposterously under prepared they are – Greg is a camping klutz, while Sophie proves to be the practical one. They are spurred on by the many inspiring and eccentric characters they meet – including a forest activist living up a tree, an 18th-century woodsman, and a monk who spends his life walking barefoot through Queensland. 

Featuring eye-opening encounters with DIY downshifters and leading figures in sustainability, Changing Gears is a high-spirited adventure that explores an important question for the future: can we be happier with less?

I found this to be a highly enjoyable book!  I laughed out loud numerous times but also had moments of reflection comparing my own life and the materialism of it all.

~ Marsha

Happy People Read and Drink Coffee

Happy People Read and Drink Coffee by Agnès Martin-Lugand
translated by Sandra Smith

Diane is the owner of Happy People Read and Drink Coffee, a literary café in Paris. When her husband and daughter die in a car accident, her life is overturned and the world as she knows it instantly disappears. Trapped by her memories, she moves to a small town on the Irish coast. There she falls into a surprising and tumultuous romance with Edward, a taciturn photographer who lives next door.

I was so attracted to the title Happy People Read and Drink Coffee, but for me this book was a real let down as I could not connect with any of the main characters. 

Although I felt for Diane’s situation at having lost her husband and daughter in a terrible way, she really was the most sorry character in the book. Her ‘love interest’ Edward was just an angry person and didn’t seem to add anything to the story. The most entertaining character was Felix, her gay business partner. The whole book lacked a plausible story to it and left me wanting so much more.

I cannot understand how it is an international best seller, and apparently there's talk of taking it to the big screen; I think they would struggle to make a decent movie out of this book.

~ Janine


Rose's Vintage

Rose's Vintage by Kayte Nunn

When she arrives in Australia, Rose Bennett is ready for change. She’s made an impulsive decision to leave the life she knows behind, and start again as an au pair at a struggling winery in Shingle Valley. She’s hoping to forget both the wintery English weather, and the ex who broke her heart to smithereens.

Things in Shingle Valley aren’t quite what Rose expected. The weather, for one, is disappointing: ‘Home and Away had a lot to answer for’, and while she immediately connects with the young children, winery owner Mark Cameron remains a (ridiculously handsome) enigma. Just as she starts to feel at home and make her mark on the winery and the family, Mark’s estranged wife Isabella returns and Rose realises that she’s on the cusp of getting everything she wants - and may be about to lose it all...

Why we love it: Rose’s Vintage is a treat for romance fans, with a charmingly normal heroine, a couple you’ll root for and a delectable winery setting.

~ from The Team at Better Reading

Wendy Whiteley & the Secret Garden

Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden by Janet Hawley

For more than twenty years Wendy Whiteley has worked to create a public garden at the foot of her harbourside home in Sydney's Lavender Bay. This is the extraordinary story of how a determined, passionate and deeply creative woman has slowly transformed herself. Wendy Whiteley was Brett Whiteley's wife, muse and model.

I loved this book! It is not only filled with luscious photos of the Secret Garden, but is also gives insight into the area and the lives of two vibrant, creative Australians. 

Wendy Whiteley and artist Brett Whiteley had a unique relationship. She was his wife, muse and model and he was an extraordinary talent. Wendy also was an artist. She decided though, to relinquish her own art to encourage and support Brett’s career which had taken off. They lived as a working couple in a house at Lavender Bay which is on the North shore of Sydney Harbour. Some of Brett’s paintings of the harbour are from the living room. 

The area was not affluent back then and the NSW Railways owned the land between the railway line, which hugs the water line, and the house. Over the years this area became increasingly derelict; litter filled and covered in layer upon layer of weeds. After Brett’s death, and then their adored daughter Arkie’s death, Wendy began to clear the land. This was how she worked through her grief. After 20 years of determined tireless hard work, through torrential rain and with the help of a group of dedicated volunteers, Wendy’s Secret Garden began to flourish. 

Wendy’s Secret Garden is a public garden for anyone to visit, anytime, which I did in January. The harbour views and that of the bridge and Luna Park are breathtaking. The land has now been handed over to the North Sydney Council on a 30 year renewable lease, which has secured its future. What a wonderful story and I can’t wait to go back there!

~ Ali

Miles Franklin Shortlist

Five Australian books shortlisted for the 2016 Miles Franklin literary have been announced, with four of the authors hailing from Melbourne.

The Miles Franklin Literary Award is Australia’s most prestigious literature prize. Established through the will of My Brilliant Career author, Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin (pic left), the prize is awarded each year to a novel which is of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases.

The five books shortlisted for the prestigious prize are Hope Farm by Peggy Frew, Leap by Myfanwy Jones, Black Rock White City by AS Patric, Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar and The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood. Each writer has won $5,000 for being shortlisted, and the winner – judged as being of “the highest literary merit” and presenting “Australian life in any of its phases” – will receive $60,000.

The final winner will be announced at the Melbourne writers festival on 26 August.

~ Deb

Dust on the Horizon

Dust on the Horizon by Tricia Stringer

1881. Joseph Baker works hard on his pastoral lease at Smith's Ridge in the beautiful but harsh land of the Flinders Ranges. For Joseph this lease, lost to his family in the early days of settlement, offers a future for his young family and that of his Aboriginal friend, the loyal and courageous Binda. Joseph is a clever man, but it is a hard land to work and drought is once more upon the country. 

New arrivals to the small rural town of Hawker, Henry Wiltshire and young wife Catherine open a general store and commission business. Unscrupulous but clever, Henry has plans to prosper from the locals' fortunes, and quickly makes powerful friends, but when he throws Binda's family out of his shop, his bigotry makes an immediate enemy of Joseph and a die is cast. Then the dark force of Jack Aldridge, a man torn between two worlds, crosses their path. Outcast and resentful, he wants what Henry and Joseph have and will stop at nothing to take it. As the drought widens and the burning heat exhausts the land, Joseph, Henry and Jack's lives become intertwined in a way that none could have predicted. In their final confrontation not all will survive. 

This sweeping historical saga takes us into the beautiful and brutal landscape of the Flinders Ranges and through the gold rush, following the fate of three men and the women they love. Men and women whose lives become intertwined by love and deceit until nature itself takes control and changes their destinies forever.

Why we love it:  
From bestselling author Tricia Stringer comes this compelling stand-alone historical saga, which can also be read as a sequel to Heart of the Country, the first book in the Flinders Ranges series. In Dust on the Horizon, Stringer returns to the beautiful but harsh Flinders Ranges in the 1800s with this vividly drawn and compelling tale of settlers and first peoples. When you’re in the mood for a juicy historical saga to sink your teeth into, this is just what you need.

~ from The Team at Better Reading

Other Side of the Season

The Other Side of the Season by Jenn J McLeod

When offering to drive her brother to Byron Bay to escape the bitter Blue Mountains winter, Sidney neglects to mention her planned detour to the small coastal town of Watercolour Cove. 

Thirty-five years earlier, Watercolour Cove was a very different place. Two brothers work the steep, snake-infested slopes of a Coffs Coast banana plantation. Seventeen-year-old David does his share, but he spends too much time daydreaming about becoming a famous artist and skiving off with Tilly, the pretty girl from the neighbouring property. His older brother, Matthew, has no time for such infatuations. His future is on the land and he plans to take over the Greenhill plantation from his father. Life is simple on top of the mountain for David, Matthew and Tilly until the winter of 1979 when tragedy strikes, starting a chain reaction that will ruin lives for years to come. 

Those who can, escape the Greenhill plantation. One stays-trapped on the mountain and haunted by memories and lost dreams. That is, until the arrival of a curious young woman, named Sidney, whose love of family shows everyone that truth can heal, what's wrong can be righted, the lost can be found, and there's another side to every story.

What a wonderful book this is, Jenn J McLeod's writing goes from strength to strength! The book is told in different timeframes for the characters. Sidney who comes to Watercolour Cove to search for her never-seen grandfather who has been in prison for some time. Sidney herself is recovering from a break-up with her partner and she and her brother Jake venture up together. She falls in love with the area, much to her mother's disappointment, and meets David who has a gallery and accommodation where he offers Sidney a job.  As Sid keeps digging further, the truth about her past slowly appears which has mixed consequences for all involved. 

The stories behind the characters in this book are well developed and intertwine beautifully. Even though there was a twist which I didn't see coming, I was not entirely disappointed at the conclusion of this great book and would encourage everyone who likes Contemporary Women's Fiction to read it.

~ Janine


**SPECIAL EVENT TONIGHT**

*** TONIGHT ***
THE DRESSMAKER: page to screen
with the author, Rosalie Ham and the film producer, Sue Maslin.

Hear how it all came about ...


In this special event to celebrate Library and Information Week, Rosalie will reveal her inspiration for the story; the writing process; her experience at being an extra in the award-winning film; and her other novels since the film’s outstanding success.  Sue will share why she produced the story; the screen adaptation process; and the triumphs and hurdles - from finance to casting. 

‘The Dressmaker’ has been hailed as ‘an Australian gothic novel of love, hate and haute couture’. It is set in a fictional country town in the 1950s. Filming took place in various locations around Victoria, and along with many locals, author Rosalie appeared as an extra alongside stars Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Hugo Weaving, and Liam Hemsworth.  The film has made over $20 million at the box office and won five AACTA awards. 

Come and experience the journey from page to screen. There is no cost, some tickets are still available, so BOOK NOW, print out your tickets and enjoy a memorable evening.  

Tonight - Thursday 26 May, 7-8pm followed by book sales and signing.
Rivergum Performing Arts Centre, 58-96 Fordholm Rd, Hampton Park.

PLEASE NOTE:  Some newspapers have erroneously published the event taking place at Hampton Park Library.  It is Rivergum Performing Arts Centre, 58-96 Fordholm Rd, Hampton Park.

Deb. 

The Trees

The Trees by Ali Shaw

'There came an elastic aftershock of creaks and groans and then, softly softly, a chinking shower of rubbled cement. Leaves calmed and trunks stood serene. Where, not a minute before, there had been a suburb, there was now only woodland standing amid ruins.' 

There is no warning. No chance to prepare. They arrive in the night: thundering up through the ground, transforming streets and towns into shadowy forest. Buildings are destroyed. Broken bodies, still wrapped in tattered bed linen, hang among the twitching leaves. Adrien Thomas has never been much of a hero. But when he realises that no help is coming, he ventures out into this unrecognisable world. 

Michelle, his wife, is across the sea in Ireland and he has no way of knowing whether the trees have come for her too. Then Adrien meets green-fingered Hannah and her teenage son Seb. Together, they set out to find Hannah's forester brother, to reunite Adrien with his wife, and to discover just how deep the forest goes. Their journey will take them to a place of terrible beauty and violence, to the dark heart of nature and the darkness inside themselves.

I seem to be (again) on a literary boat sailing through two ports - starboard are the haters, port are the lovers, and now it's up to me to decide which way to steer.  Without any hesitation I can say right upfront that this audio version (Bolinda e-audio download) has the most wonderful narrator, Ben Onwukwe.  His mellifluous voice and characterisations add so much to what is already an intriguing premise, Nature 1, Humans 0.  

In this mesmerising and wildly imaginative novel, it doesn't take long before we're in full swing of a dystopian disaster and it is a very creepy scenario indeed.  Soon thereafter we become involved with our main players, then suffer somewhat of a lull as our protagonists tramp about the countryside.  This could have been boring, but there's a subtle menace underfoot creating unease, uneasy enough to keep going with it.  It's a very long book, split into parts 1-5 with many chapters taking us through fantasy, botany and zoology, murder, despotism, romance, and some beautiful, lyrical writing. 

The Trees is one very original story; it's totally left-field; and I think it beckons a sequel. Overall, I'm docking on the port side.

Deb.  


Good money

"Good money" is a first novel by J.M.Green, a Melbourne author who has set her mystery novel mostly in western suburbs of Melbourne.


"Introducing Stella Hardy, a wise-cracking social worker with a thirst for social justice, good laksa, and alcohol.  Stella's phone rings. A young African boy, the son of one of her clients, has been murdered in a dingy back alley. Stella, in her forties and running low on empathy, heads into the night to comfort the grieving mother. But when she gets there, she makes a discovery that has the potential to uncover something terrible from her past - something she thought she'd gotten away with.  Then Stella's neighbour Tania mysteriously vanishes. When Stella learns that Tania is the heir to a billion-dollar mining empire, Stella realises her glamorous young friend might have had more up her sleeve than just a perfectly toned arm. Who is behind her disappearance?  Stella's investigation draws her further and further into a dark world of drug dealers, sociopaths, and killers, such as the enigmatic Mr Funsail, whose name makes even hardened criminals run for cover.  One thing is clear: Stella needs to find answers fast - before the people she's looking for find her instead."

It was fascinating to read a mystery set in areas I know and could see in my mind's eye. The twists and turns in the story were amazing and kept me wanting to know more and read through right to the last page.  Green made the story all the more real by entwining Stella's background and personal life throughout the story, some of which made you admire what she was trying to achieve all the more.

There were times that I had to suspend my disbelief though, like with how did she manage to do all this investigation whilst still allegedly being in full time work, but otherwise it was a good story to read and well done as a first novel.

And the reason that I got onto this title in the first place, is that we will have J.M. Green visiting us soon for a talk.  Watch our website for more details coming soon.

Otherwise, if you love a good murder/mystery, you will do well by Good money.

~ Michelle


Vale Gillian Mears

Award-winning author, Gillian Mears, passed away recently after a long battle with multiple sclerosis.  

Born in 1964 and growing up around Grafton NSW, her work is well-entrenched within the tradition of Australian literature.  Her first novel, The Mint Lawn, won the Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award.  Amongst many other titles, she is most well known for Foal’s Bread which, in 2012, was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, took out the Gold Medal award by the Australian Literature Society, and won the Prime Minister's Literary Award.  

Her most recent book was The Cat with the Coloured Tail, a beautifully illustrated children’s fable.

Deb.



Australian Book Industry Awards

The Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) is an annual celebration that celebrates the connection between Australian readers and the ‘book makers’ – authors, editors, publishing professionals and retailers, who unite to create the must-read books of the year.  The awards are primarily for Australian writers and illustrators however there is one award for the International Book of the Year, plus two awards that acknowledge a significant contribution to book publishing and book-selling industry:

And the winners are:

Australian Book of the Year
Reckoning: A Memoir by Magda Szubanski (Text Publishing)

Biography Book of the Year:
Reckoning: A Memoir by Magda Szubanski (Text Publishing)

General Fiction Book of the Year:
The Patterson Girls by Rachael Johns (Harlequin Books)

General Non-fiction Book of the Year:
Island Home by Tim Winton (Penguin Books Australia)

Illustrated Book of the Year:
The Happy Cookbook by Lola Berry (Pan Macmillan Australia)

International Book of the Year:
Gut: the inside story of our body’s most under-rated organ by Giulia Enders (Scribe Publications)

Literary Fiction Book of the Year: The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop (Hachette Australia Books)

The Pixie O’Harris Award: This is a major award for a person who has given outstanding, distinguished and dedicated service to the development and reputation of Australian children’s books - Jackie French.

The Lloyd O’Neil Award: This is a major award for a person who has provided distinguished and dedicated service to the development and reputation of the Australian book industry - Brian Johns

~ Deb.

Keep You Close

Keep You Close by Lucie Whitehouse

Rowan and Marianne Glass were great high school friends, but they haven’t spoken for ten years after a major fall-out. When Marianne dies falling from the roof of her family home, Rowan can’t believe it really was an accident – Marianne suffered terrible vertigo and had always been terrified of going near the edge.

As much as we tried to figure out this intricate plot, we didn’t see the final, startling, twist coming. Whitehouse is highly skilled at withholding just the right amount of information so that we’re madly turning the pages wondering what’s going to happen next.

Why we love it: A clever and chilling psychological thriller, Keep You Close kept us guessing until the very last page as we tried to put together the many pieces of its shockingly original plotline. We’ve heard many novels compared to Gone Girl recently, but this really did remind us of Gillian Flynn’s popular novel. We even dare to venture… this is better!

~ from The Team at Better Reading

Our Tiny, Useless Hearts

Our Tiny, Useless Hearts by Toni Jordan

This fast-paced, screwball comedy takes place at the home of Caroline and Henry in semi-rural suburbia. Caroline's sister Janice is trying to help out as Caroline’s marriage falls apart. Janice is from the city, single and childless, a microbiologist used to looking after only her beloved bacteria, when she is suddenly thrown into the chaos of her sister’s crumbling marriage.

Caroline’s husband Henry is about to walk out on the marriage to take up with Martha, their children’s primary school teacher.  When Henry and the youthful Martha fly off to Noosa together, Caroline makes off in hot pursuit to save her marriage, leaving Janice to look after the children, astute Mercedes and the youngest, Paris, who is coping with it all by refusing to speak.

While Janice tries to cope herself, she has to deal with Caroline’s smug, uber-healthy neighbours Craig and Lesley who, behind the façade of their lovey dovey marriage, are dealing with their own serious relationship issues and won’t leave Janice alone. When Craig gets into Janice’s bed thinking she is her sister Caroline, Janice is aghast. As if that weren’t enough, Janice’s ex Alec, who she’s never come to terms with parting from, arrives at the house unexpectedly...

Why we love it: Toni Jordan's latest is a hilarious bedroom farce interwoven with serious threads that will strike a chord with many.

~ from The Team at Better Reading

Man Booker International Prize

Korean novelist Han Kang will share the Man Booker International £50,000 prize with translator Deborah Smith, for her ‘lyrical and lacerating’ story "The Vegetarian". This is the first year the prize has been awarded to a single book, with previous awards honouring an author's body of work. 

"This compact, exquisite and disturbing book will linger long in the minds, and maybe the dreams, of its readers. Deborah Smith’s perfectly judged translation matches its uncanny blend of beauty and horror at every turn."
      Boyd Tonkin, chairman of Man Booker International Prize 2016 judging panel



Deb

Twisted River

Twisted River by Siobhan MacDonald

From back cover:  Kate and Mannix O’Brien live in Limerick, Ireland, in an unusual house they can barely afford. Their son Fergus is bullied at school and their daughter Izzy wishes she could protect him. Kate decides her family needs a vacation, and is convinced her luck’s about to change when she spots an elegant Manhattan apartment on a home-exchange website. 

Hazel and Oscar Harvey and their two children live in Manhattan. Though they seem successful and happy, Hazel has mysterious bruises, and Oscar is hiding things about his dental practice. They, too, need a change of pace, and Hazel has always wanted her children to see her native Limerick. The house swap offers a perfect way to soothe two troubled marriages.

But when Oscar finds the bloodied body of a woman in the trunk of his hosts’ car, it’s just the start of what will be anything but a perfect vacation.

This is a story of two families in crisis who decide that a family holiday will be the answer to their problems. Instead, the home-exchange holiday becomes the stem of yet more problems. Secrets are gradually revealed as MacDonald takes us chapter by chapter through the lives of the four main characters; Kate and Mannix O’Brien and Hazel and Oscar Harvey. It is great the way MacDonald provides us with individual perspectives on each character, building up a story that both intrigues and horrifies.

The end left me speechless and allows enough unanswered questions to warrant a sequel. It is a psychological thriller with a twist. A great debut novel that takes us on a crazy ride, leaving you wanting more.

Highly recommended for fans of Girl on the Train, Before I go to Sleep and Big Little Lies.

~ Narelle



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