Friday, 28 July 2017

Book Review: THE TRICKSTER'S LULLABY by Barbara Fradkin

Author: Barbara Fradkin
July 2017
Expected publication: 26 September 2017
My Rating:🌟🌟🌟1/2

Book Description (Goodreads):

Amanda Doucette’s cross-Canada charity tour is in for a cold snap when she organizes a winter camping trip for inner-city young people in the stunning setting of the Laurentian Mountains. With a view to bridging cultural divides, she brings along a mixture of Canadian-born and immigrant youth.

Trouble begins when two of the teenagers disappear into the wilderness during the night: Luc, a French/English-Canadian with a history of drug use, and Yasmina, an adventurous young woman from Iraq who dreams of becoming a human rights lawyer. Although frantic, their parents are strangely secretive amid suspicions of drug use and forbidden romance. But when a local farmer turns up dead and terrorist material is found on Luc’s computer, the dangers turn deadly. Now in a battle against both the elements and police, Amanda and Corporal Chris Tymko discover a far greater web of secrets and deception.

As Amanda races to save the young people from danger, she finds herself fighting for stakes far higher than their own lives.

My musings:

Firstly, can I just say that this was cover love at first sight – what an absolutely gorgeous cover! I couldn't resist it! Plus, I have discovered a lot of fantastic reads published by Dundurn in the past, so picking this book up was a double temptation for me.

The Trickster’s Lullaby was my first introduction to the Amanda Doucette mystery series, and I really enjoyed discovering a new engaging, multi-layered female protagonist who stands out from other fictional amateur sleuths by offering an interesting past that drives a lot of her actions. Plus, she has an adorable canine sidekick, who is the perfect companion to a woman who spends a lot of time in the mountains.  In this latest instalment, Amanda is trying to enrich the lives of immigrant youths by exposing them to the Canadian wilderness, hoping that they will form some friendships in the process. Having experienced trauma in her own life, Amanda feels passionate about the youngsters, who each come from war torn countries and have lived through some hellish experiences. Even Luc, the only Canadian youth in the program, is battling with his own demons and substance abuse issues. It soon becomes obvious that things will not work out as Amanda has planned, and what better place for things to go awry than a wintry wilderness camp in a remote place!

I loved the scenes of slight discord as a diverse group of people are thrown together in a wild place, and the escalating tension as things spin out of control. To be honest, The Trickster’s Lullaby was not at all what I had expected, since I thought that the winter camp would feature for most of the story and focus on the group’s interpersonal relationships. It became very obvious in the first few pages that group dynamics would be an issue, and I loved how the author built the tension and the reader’s anticipation of conflict soon to come. However, the events in the camp only formed the first part of the story, and the scene soon shifted to a more political and current affairs arena, with other protagonists also featuring in the mystery and displaying a different angle to the story. Whilst I really enjoyed Amanda’s friends’ sleuthing and their various different characters, I admit that I would have preferred savouring the slow unravelling of the group and the escalating tension for a bit longer rather than the unexpected direction the novel was taking. Whilst the story was extremely well written and researched, and was certainly a topical issue, I admit I am not a great fan of politically based mysteries, and therefore perhaps not the perfect audience for this book.  

That said, there is action, adventure, armchair-travel, some very interesting characters and a great surprise in store for the reader, so this is certainly an author who knows how to deliver a multi-layered, well-plotted mystery that keeps readers frantically turning the pages. I would love to see Amanda and her friends back in future novels – the more remote the setting the better. In the meantime, I must read the first in the series to discover a bit more about this remarkable former aid worker, who makes for such a refreshingly different protagonist.

Thank you to Netgalley and Dundurn for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Sunday, 23 July 2017


I'm currently in between night shifts, which basically means that I am in zombie mode, obsessively trying to snatch a few hours sleep all day (if I go to sleep right now, I can get 5 hours sleep ... 4 hours sleep .... 3 hours sleep - OMG I'm gonna die!), and all night to keep my eyes open and muster up some enthusiasm. 

With my life on hold, plus trying to study for my ALS2 certificate at work, I have been getting very little reading or reviewing done all week. And, seeing that I can barely string a few coherent sentences together right now, I thought that I would have to abandon this week's Sunday Confessional altogether. But luckily, some of my bookstagram friends came to the rescue, and tagged me in the irresistible #10thingsiwouldneversay tag. Since I started the Sunday Confessional series to share a little bit about the blogger behind but books are better, this is perfect!

10 things I would NEVER say:

  1. I LOVE night shifts – please roster me on for more!
  2. No thanks, I don’t eat chocolate.
  3. Let’s spend the whole day in our pyjamas watching sport on TV! (well, the pyjamas bit may be something I would actually do, but with a book in hand).
  4. I’m not going to add any books to my TBR list for the rest of the year.
  5. Go for a hike? God, no! I hate nature. Let’s go to the nightclub instead!
  6. I would rather read a steamy romance novel than a murder mystery any day.
  7. I wish I lived in the city surrounded by lots of people!
  8. I have a great fashion sense – my daughter always tells me so.
  9. I hate the beach! All that horrible sand and salty water!
  10. A lazy morning lying in bed reading my book? No way, I need to get up early to do some housework (my husband will laugh soooo much at this!).

And to finish off this bog post on a positive note, I will share my other big passion apart from books - HIKING! Nature is one of the biggest healers in my life. Surrounded by nothing other than the sound of the wind, the waves and the birds, I can sort out my jumbled brain, forget some of the sad tragedies I see on a regular basis in my job, and just BE. So before heading back to work tonight, I am going to share some of my favourite hiking pics, and spend a moment in gratitude reflecting what a beautiful place I live in.

But, and here comes the biggest confession of them all - even though I take my book everywhere and have discovered some amazing reading places, my all-time favourite reading spot is still - MY BED!




Saturday, 22 July 2017

Book Review: THE ROOM BY THE LAKE by Emma Dibdin

Author: Emma Dibdin
Head of Zeus
July 2017
Expected publication: 10 August 2017
My Rating:🌟🌟🌟🌟

Book Description:

Having recently lost her mother after a long illness and watching her father drown his grief in alcohol, Caitlin flees England for New York in the hope of escaping her everyday life. Shy in the company of strangers, she finds that loneliness plagues her even in this seductive big city – until she meets Jake, a handsome stranger, in a bar one night. After only a couple of blissful days together, Jake asks Caitlin to come with him to the country to meet his parents. Despite some misgivings, Caitlin agrees, and they set off to a remote “house by the lake”, an old mansion Jake says has been in his family forever. But what Caitlin finds there is not at all what she expected ....

My musings:

I love discovering a new author who manages to draw me into the story within the first few pages, and Emma Dibdin managed to do just that. Everyone has had periods in their lives when things were not going well, when running away seemed like the only option, and Caitlin is portrayed with insight and feeling, making her an irresistible main protagonist I couldn’t help fear for. After her mother’s lifelong struggle with mental health issues, Caitlin is especially vulnerable to any signs that she, too, will one day succumb to this terrible illness, which makes part of her normal grieving process even scarier for her. Sad, lonely and far away from home, she makes the perfect target for a predator. What follows is a chilling account of a journey gone wrong, and I couldn’t put the book down as Caitlin’s life spiralled out of control in front of my eyes. Dibdin manages to create a constant undertone of menace and confusion, which had me questioning my own interpretation of events several times – I just love it when a book messes with my mind! The setting, too, was irresistibly creepy – a remote old mansion set in a dark forest on the shores of a lake – and gave the additional pleasure of some armchair travel to Upstate NY. There were perhaps a couple of moments when I felt I had to suspend disbelief a little bit, mainly to do with some characters’ motives, but this did not spoil my reading pleasure and I sat up reading late into the night to find out what would happen next.


The Room by the Lake is a gripping psychological thriller by a new author I hope to read a lot more from in future. I really enjoyed it and can wholeheartedly recommend it to all lovers of the genre. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Head of Zeus for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Book Review: OUR LITTLE SECRET by Darren O'Sullivan

Author: Darren O'Sullivan
HarperCollins UK
July 2017
Expected publication: 28 July 2017
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2

Book Description:

After the murder of his beloved wife Julia, Chris has lost all joy and hope for a better future and has decided to end his life by jumping in front of a train. He has planned it all right down to the last detail: a deserted platform in the middle of the night, a fast moving freight train, no witnesses, no trauma to anyone. Noone would miss him, and no one would have to bear witness to his final desperate act. Except that on the night, things don’t go to plan. A woman arrives on the platform just minutes before the train is due to arrive. And even though Chris tries his best to get rid of her, she refuses to leave. What should he do? Should he still jump and know that the traumatic images of his suicide will haunt this stranger forever?

Sarah’s face is tear-stained as she arrives on the platform late at night. She has just broken up with her boyfriend and her life is a mess. She doesn’t even have enough change for the train ticket, let alone a cup of coffee, so waiting on the dark, windswept platform is her only option. She spots a lone, barefoot stranger standing on the platform, too close to the edge, swaying in the breeze, and recognises in him the same hopeless desperation she feels herself. Tentatively she tries to make contact – and changes both their lives with a simple act of kindness to a stranger.

My musings:

Apparently, there is an old Chinese proverb that states if you save someone’s life, you become responsible for that person and their actions forever. It’s an interesting premise, and one which would make for a lively discussion after reading Our Little Secret. Sarah is certainly taking her responsibility seriously, tracking down the stranger whose life she unwittingly saved, stalking him, trying to worm her way into his life. I really liked the way O’Sullivan portrayed this damaged woman, whose choice in men is reflected in her own lack of self-worth and despair. Told in alternating chapters from both Sarah’s and Chris’ POV, the story explores the dark places of the human psyche, which would drive a man to seek death as his only option and a woman to seek solace in trying to “fix” the life of a total stranger, whether he wants it or not. Underlying it all is the mystery surrounding Chris’ wife’s death, which has driven him to despair and adds an element of menace and danger underlying the storyline.

Although I had worked out some of the answers fairly early on, I really enjoyed O’Sullivan’s portrayal of his two damaged protagonists and their journey towards the inevitable finale. I really liked the author’s writing style, and his way of introducing little snapshots of his characters’ pasts, which added a constant undercurrent of darkness to the story. Perhaps some clues could have been withheld a bit longer to prolong the mystery for me, but it still kept me interested to the end.


Our Little Secret is a slow-burning psychological thriller exploring the deep dark corners of the human psyche – and how a simple act of kindness to a stranger can change two people’s lives forever. An enjoyable, character-driven debut novel – I look forward to reading more from this author in future.

Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Sunday, 16 July 2017


I recently read Ruth Ware’s great new novel The Lying Game, which I loved, and which brought back memories of a childhood game we used to play to entertain ourselves on the journey to school on a crowded train. It also threw up the age-old question: what is a lie, and what is fiction? Is it ok to embellish the truth for the sake of entertainment? Where would we be without the enjoyment of the great Aussie fishing story about the one that got away (or the one that never even existed)?

Looking for a bit of excitement

Having been a voracious reader as far back as I can remember, I realised very early on that my own sheltered and somewhat uneventful life would need a lot of fictional embellishment to make for interesting reading (or telling). I neither had four intrepid friends and a dog who would join me in catching criminals, nor lived anywhere near a wild and dangerous coastline where I could stumble across a pirates’ treasure or an old skeleton anytime soon. And even though I had suspicions that the strange man living on the first floor might have been a Russian secret agent sent to gather vital intelligence for the Russian space program, I knew that spying on my neighbours through binoculars and recording all my findings in a Harriette-the-Spy worthy notebook freaked my parents out. However, despite being a nerdy kid, I had earned a sort of strange popularity with the other neighbourhood children for organising elaborate fantasy role-playing games, which were so involved they took on the complexity of a filming of Lord of the Rings and added a bit of excitement to our city lives. Until our games came to an abrupt halt when some nosy adult discovered our secret lair, a little forgotten chamber in the cellar of the apartment block, where we had forged our blood-brother bond by branding our skin with a tyre iron heated over a candle flame. I’m not sure if it was the mother of a child presenting to A&E for a coin sized 2nd degree burn on his upper arm or the old lady on the second floor smelling the fumes from molten lead and burnt skin that ratted us out, but a huge padlock was fitted to the little chamber and our days of excitement were over.

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story

With life reduced to its normal, boring routine, I had to resort to fiction to add an interesting element to my life. Having been asked to write an essay about our Easter weekend by our third grade teacher, I chewed my pencil for hours, trying to think of something to say. It had rained all Easter and we had spent a lot of time indoors reading books and eating chocolate. How could I fill an entire A4 page with that? Perhaps it was a desperate cry for help of my inner frustrated author or sheer rebellion, but I made up a story of excitement and adventure that must have sounded credible to my teacher, because she asked me to read it out loud in front of the whole school at the next assembly. My initial euphoria and pride soon gave way to abject terror. My parents would be there, and they would know I had lied. Lied! A sin I would have to confess to our scary stern-faced priest at Sunday confessional, and one that a few Hail Mary’s would not be able to fix. I was terrified! Imagining lightning striking me as I stood at the podium reading, I worked myself up into such a state that I was physically sick, until my worried parents waived the usual rule of having to have a temperature of at least 39C before qualifying for a day off school, and sent me back to bed. Phew! That was a narrow escape. And whilst this may have been the beginning and end of my author career, it did teach me the value of a good fishing story. To quote a friend of mine: “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Just make sure to tell it when there is no one around to contradict what you are saying.

Adding some journalistic flair

My family have long gotten used to my “journalistic licence” in telling stories around the campfire, snickering quietly into their drinks but thankfully keeping quiet to point out the “slight exaggeration”. Is it a lie if you embellish the truth to make it more interesting? Or is it allowable for the sake of entertainment? There is nothing more boring than a real fishing story – I know this first-hand after having been forced to sit through hours of an uncle’s mind-numbingly boring slide-shows of his boat cruises as a child (they still haunt me in my nightmares!). But add a bit of drama, a shark circling the dark waters, a tornado descending on the beach, the fishing rod quivering under the weight as you landed Mobi the whale himself and dragged him all the way up the beach to the carpark, supplying enough meat to feed a whole village. What would you rather listen to? And in the way of a good fishing story, if you tell it enough times it begins to form its own memory, blends with the truth to take on a kind of realism of its own. Until you almost believe it yourself.

Never underestimate the value of a good fishing story

Fiction or Lie? It’s like one of those impossible moral and ethical dilemmas you read about on the internet. You decide. Just never underestimate the value of a good fishing story.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Book Review: FATAL MISTAKE (Lexie Rogers #3) by Karen M Davis

Author: Karen M Davis
Simon & Schuster AU
July 2017
My Rating:🌟🌟🌟1/2

Book Description:

Detective Lexie Rogers is tough, smart and at the top of her game. She's seen it all, from bikies, blood and betrayal to drugs, deviants and deception ... and the violent knife attack that almost killed her as a young cop on the beat.

Lexie's sent on the job of a lifetime -- to go deep undercover, as beautiful Lara Wild, a drug distributor, to expose a huge dealing ring among Sydney's most treacherous criminals. What she discovers is that being undercover is the safest place to be, especially when you're a cop with target on your head, but one false move means she'll die. And creeping from the shadows is the darkness of her past, something she can never outrun.

Lexie knows she can't trust anyone -- but the trouble is, she's not even sure if she can trust herself.

My musings:

I was initially a bit hesitant to pick up Fatal Mistake when I found out it was the third book in a series, but am happy to say that this didn’t affect my reading pleasure or understanding of the characters or the story at all. Whilst there are many established dynamics between the detectives, they were portrayed in a way that I could quickly pick up the necessary background information. The author’s intimate knowledge of police procedures and dynamics within a team really stood out, which made the interactions between colleagues look authentic and believable. I was fascinated by the details concerning the dark seedy underbelly of crime and corruption in the city, and the undercover operation to bust an established drug ring. Scary stuff!

Fatal Mistake is a police procedural that centres around various different colleagues from a branch of the NSW police targeting organised crime, and is heavily character driven, which made for a nice change from other books that focus on one particular case. Lexie Rogers is the type of tough, feisty female character that really drives a storyline, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her. The undercover angle was a great way to showcase the danger Lexie faced in her daily job, and the people she was up against: bikies, drug dealers, hitmen, rapists and murderers. There were some scary characters there!  Readers who have read the previous books in the series would have been familiar with Lexie’s colleagues, who all seemed to have a rich history together – whilst I did not have the background knowledge, I soon worked out the different dynamics and enjoyed getting to know details of the various detectives’ lives.

Davis’ approach of showcasing different police operations within the same storyline, and letting several characters tell their tale, worked really well for me and added depth to the story. I loved how all the threads came together at the end, and how the tension mounted before the breath-taking finale. There were a couple of moments in the middle of the book that dragged a little bit for me, and I didn’t care much for the character of Berni , although I realise her POV was necessary to bring the story together in the end. However, the pace really picked up in the last quarter and more than made up for it. It’s great to read a police procedural set in Australia, in a city I have visited and could visualise really well. I also loved the armchair travel to Byron Bay, a place I love, even though this was a side of the town tourists usually don’t get to see. 


Fatal Mistake is a fast-paced character driven Australian police procedural with a feisty female lead protagonist, which gives a unique insight into undercover operations fighting organised crime. Skilfully weaving together several different threads, the tension ramps up to cumulate in a breath-taking finale that left me stunned and slightly exhausted. Seeing that this is the third book in the series, I will definitely need to pick up the other two and find out what I have missed out on!

Thank you to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Book Review: 99 RED BALLOONS by Elisabeth Carpenter

Author: Elisabeth Carpenter
Avon Books UK
July 2017
Expected publication: 24 August 2017
My Rating:🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Book Description (Goodreads):

When eight-year-old Grace goes missing from a sweetshop on the way home from school, her mother Emma is plunged into a nightmare. Her family rallies around, but as the police hunt begins, cracks begin to emerge.
What are the secret emails sent between Emma’s husband and her sister? Why does her mother take so long to join the search? And is Emma really as innocent as she seems?
Meanwhile, ageing widow Maggie Taylor sees Grace’s picture in the newspaper. It’s a photograph that jolts her from the pain of her existence into a spiralling obsession with another girl – the first girl who disappeared…

My musings:

I love it when I accidentally stumble across a book that is EXACTLY the type of novel I love reading – and that keeps me up all night because I get so engrossed in it that I can’t put it down. It was the title that first attracted me to 99 Red Balloons, because I remember singing this song in the car with my sisters when we were growing up – Nena was a big name in those days! Plus, I can never resist a story about missing children even though as a parent they are pretty harrowing. My advice to readers is to go into this story blindly to make the most of the author’s brilliant plotting – so I am going to hide the rest of my review under the spoiler tag as I don’t want to be responsible for giving anything away.


Just having turned the last page, I am still reeling from the sheer brilliance of this book. It was just sooooooo good! Told in alternating chapters from the perspective of multiple characters, the book tells the harrowing tale of a family who are living through one of the worst nightmares a parent can ever imagine – the abduction of their daughter Grace. Each and every one of the characters in this amazing story has their own unique voice, and carries their own baggage, making for a rich cast of sympathetic, intriguing characters I couldn’t get enough of.  There is Emma, the girl’s mother whose own childhood is still shrouded in mystery but hints of neglect and trauma. Stephanie, her adoptive sister and aunt to Grace, is trying to support her sister but has been keeping some information from her that is still haunting her because she fears it could have a connection to Grace’s disappearance. Matt, the father, is angry and confused and not knowing where to turn. And then there is Maggie, a stranger to the family, whose own granddaughter Zoe has been missing for thirty years, and who follows Grace’s story on the news, reflecting on how Zoe’s abduction has destroyed her own family and cast a dark shadow over her entire life.  I am not going to say any more about the story or the other narrators for fear of giving away spoilers, except that the story held some amazing surprises in store that even my seasoned (and sometimes jaded) mystery lover’s nose did not sniff out. I love to be floored by unexpected   developments!

There were some harrowing moments in the book, and it was a very emotional read for me. Maggie’s story simply broke my heart as I imagined the pain and loss she had experienced as a result of her granddaughter’s disappearance. As a parent, I can imagine few things worse than not knowing what has happened to your child, and to feel guilty for not having been able to keep them safe. I particularly liked the way the author focused on the story from the family’s perspective, and only revealed details of the police investigation as they were being shared with family members. It added mystery and depth to the story, giving a hint of the fear and frustration the family would be feeling in that situation, thinking the police were keeping information from them.


If you are looking for a brilliantly plotted multi-layered mystery that will surprise and shock you, look no further than 99 Red Balloons. Brimming with intriguing characters, this emotional read will take you straight into a parent’s worst nightmare and keep you guessing throughout.  It is definitely on my list of favourite mysteries for 2017 and I can’t wait to read more from this author. Loved it and can’t recommend it highly enough! 

A big thank you to Netgalley and Avon Books UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Image result for 5 stars

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Book Review: WIMMERA by Mark Brandi

Title: Wimmera
Author: Mark Brandi
Hachette Australia
July 2017
My Rating:🌟🌟🌟 1/2

Book Description:

Set in a small town in rural Victoria near the Grampian mountains, Wimmera tells the coming-of-age story of two boys, Fab and Ben, whose friendship bonds them like brothers. Playing cricket in the backyard and going yabbying down the local creek, they support each other when either of them needs it: standing united against bullies, providing a safe shelter when Fab’s father has been drinking too much, discussing their changing bodies and having childhood crushes on girls or Fab’s mother. Until the day a newcomer arrives in town and their innocence is shattered forever.

My musings:

With his debut novel, Brandi combines two genres I love: a good coming-of-age story and a murder mystery. The two boys are likeable larrikins, facing the age-old and timeless problems of kids growing up in a remote Australia country town. As a mother of a boy, it was impossible not to feel maternal towards them! A large part of the book is set in the eighties, and there are some classic Australian elements in the story that will bring back many a reader’s childhood memories: the ageless  game of backyard cricket, for example, each boy striving to emulate their sporting heroes, which are all well-known names in Australian sporting history. Brandi sets a vivid, atmospheric scene, and I could picture it all very well: the dust, the heat, the flies and two boys drudging down the hill with their fishing nets and bait to catch some yabbies. And whilst both boys’ childhood is far from idyllic – Fab has a violent alcoholic father whilst Ben’s is somewhat remote and disinterested – their friendship usually sees them through.

There is a melancholic and bleak thread running through the story that has become a characteristic of some Australian crime novels and perhaps emulates the hardship faced by people living in remote locations with extreme climates and difficult economic situations. But Brandi takes it one step further, introducing a dark and sinister element which will set the story on its inevitable path of self-destruction. Be warned: there are some dark themes here. Domestic violence, racism, bullying, sexual abuse, suicide and murder, and a predator so depraved that he will change the boys’ lives forever. Whist Brandi is not shy at exploring some issues, he merely hints at others, which worked really well for me, as sometimes the things left to one’s imagination are more chilling than those spoken out loud. What starts as a happy-go-lucky tale of two boys growing up, soon takes on a worrying note, and I was terrified of what would happen to Ben. What didn’t work so well for me was the dual timeline, which abruptly changes mid-book and takes the story in a different direction. I was so invested in the first part, that I found it very difficult to change perspective. And the end – well, no spoilers, but it simply broke my heart! There were perhaps a few things that could have been explained a bit more to bring all the threads together, but generally I thought it was a gripping albeit very dark read.


Wimmera is a dark and melancholy coming-of-age story / murder mystery from a talented new voice in Australian crime fiction. Incorporating some iconic Australian elements, the story is like time-travel back to the eighties, capturing the quintessential rural Australian spirit of the time. With some very dark elements running through the story, it may not appeal to all readers, but I found it a gripping and haunting read and am looking forward to reading more from this author in future.

Thank you to Netgalley and Hachette Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Sunday, 9 July 2017


It’s been a bit of a rough week for me, but luckily I have a very short attention span and am already getting bored with wallowing in my misery. Besides, it’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? 

And what better way to deal with piss than taking the piss... especially of yourself! Sometimes you just gotta take one for the team!

The selfie injury

We get them a lot at work – the selfie injury. A diagnosis unique to the 21st century. People who, armed with phone and selfie stick, injure themselves in the pursuit of attaining the perfect digital self-portrait to post to social media. Just moving back one step to get a better angle, and they plunge off cliffs, get swept away by king waves, get bitten by snakes or mauled by lions (ok, not a real problem in our area, but it does happen elsewhere). 

I never understood such blatant disregard for personal safety until I joined bookstagram. Suddenly and inexplicably my brain has gone to mush! Soon my ordinary, everyday photos were no longer good enough. Have you been on Instagram lately? There is some tough competition out there! I needed to get better quickly, and adopt a more interesting persona than my otherwise rather unremarkable existence. 

Steve Irwin? Nah – don’t really do wild animals (and you saw how that one turned out for him).  Bear Grylls? Hmmm, as long as I don’t need to eat elephant sperm or shelter in the stomach cavity of a rotted camel, I could possibly get to a few rugged places that would  lend me a certain watered down adventure vibe. The key is rugged. Cliffs, waves, steep granite boulders. Where before the D for Danger warning light would have set all my senses on high alert, I can now picture the perfect background for my bookstagram photo. A high cliff – perfect! If I support my weight on one toe and stretch up a little bit hiiiiiigher, I will get just the right amount of cloudy sky peeking out from behind the rock to add interesting texture.

In pursuit of the perfect photo

There is an old farm shack down the road from us, a short bike ride along a dusty trail away. Rustic boards with old lead paint peeling from them, the glint of shattered glass littering the ground around it, a moss stained tin rook perched like a witches’ hat atop its crooked frame. Atmospheric. Spooky. Perfect. Except that it is surrounded by a tall fence, designed to keep bulls in the paddock. Plus, it borders a fairly busy country road.

I am totally pathetic when it comes to being a law-abiding citizen, and just the thought of a speeding ticket can give me an anxiety attack. So even though trespassing onto a deserted farm property to take a photo would be relatively minor transgression in the big scheme of things, planning it immediately took on the dimensions of plotting a diamond heist. Trying to adopt an inconspicuous pose may as well have seen me wearing a balaclava with a bright neon signs flashing over my head: “Burglar!” A burglar clutching a book under one arm – who says that criminals can’t be literate? 

Cars are now slowing down and people are looking at me.

My palms are sweaty.

My heart is beating at about 200 bpm every time I hear a car in the distance.

I am actually having chest pains (I mentally triage myself as an ATS2 and rehearse how I will explain this to my colleagues when I am being brought to the ER in an ambulance).

Suddenly this whole adventure seems like a bad idea. My courage is flagging. After a lot of mental pep-talk, and satisfied that there is no car approaching, I finally muster up the courage to grip the top rung of the fence, ready to haul myself over to claim my photo opportunity.

Bang! An almighty flash. A tearing pain in my right arm. I am being flung through the air. Lying on my back and dazedly staring at the sky a fleeting thought flashes through my mind: “F*#K! Someone SHOT ME!” The photo shows a piece of sky at a weird angle and the concerned face of a motorist leaning over me: “You’re all right, mate?”

When planning my photo heist, I hadn't figured in the electric fence!

The moral of the story – in the DRSABCD of a bookstagrammer, I failed at D!

What lengths will you go to to get that perfect bookstagram photo?

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Book Review: THE LYING GAME by Ruth Ware

Author: Ruth Ware
Random House UK - Vintage Publishing
July 2017
Expected publication: available now!
My Rating:🌟🌟🌟🌟1/2

"It's not a game," she said. "It's the game. It's the Lying Game."

Book Description:

There is no friendship as intense as when you’re fifteen. Isa, Thea, Fatima and Kate were inseparable at boarding school, a tight unit, invincible in the company of each other. At first their game seemed like innocent fun – the Lying Game, invented by Kate and Thea to prove that they could get away with anything, make people believe what they wanted them to. Until it went too far and it was no longer a game. Seventeen years later, one lie is still haunting them, threatening to destroy their lives ....

My musings:

Netgalley has come through for me again, with another fantastic read – The Lying Game, by Ruth Ware. After really enjoying The Woman in Cabin 10, this book has been on my wishlist ever since I spotted it on Goodreads. I’m glad to say my little happy dance on receiving an ARC was fully warranted! Within the first two pages, the author had set a scene so vivid, and so compelling, that I was hooked instantly. I love mysteries which take you on armchair travel trips to mysterious locations, and although the small fishing village of Salten is not on any “real” maps, I could picture it so clearly that I feel I have been there: an old tidal mill house on a deserted sand spit, crumbling away into a hungry sea. Delicious!

Apart from the location, the premise of the story holds its own unique pull. Four women, who had been inseparable friends when they were fifteen, reunite after seventeen years. What has kept them apart for so long? And what is the terrible secret that still holds such power over them after all this time that they will drop everything and rush to a friend’s aid when she asks them to? I was duly intrigued, loving the main protagonist Isa’s flashbacks to the time the four girls attended boarding school together. And if you haven’t had enough classic British scenery yet, the boarding school, Salten House, is like a mixture of Hogwarts and Malory Towers. My inner child was delighted – who can resist a good boarding school story, even as an adult? I felt a certain sense of longing reading about the teenagers’ friendship – you never quite feel the same intensity of loyalty again that consumed you at  fifteen, when your friends were your whole universe.

To cut a long ramble short, the book had all the elements to make for a riveting, irresistible mystery. And Ruth Ware does it so well! With her ability to create a tense atmospheric setting and highly strung, somewhat neurotic characters who drive the story with an urgency lacking in other protagonists, the book had me enthralled from beginning to end. Each women brings with her a unique and diverse element that makes this bunch of friends very interesting indeed – and even though this book did not need a “twist you will never see coming” to make it memorable, it had a few surprises in store. Whilst this is a slow-burning, heavily character driven story, there is a constant undercurrent of tension and melancholic longing running through the storyline that made this an extremely compelling read. If anything, I would have loved to find out more about that endless happy summer the four girls spent at Salten, and their individual lives. I was sad when it ended! 


The Lying Game is a slow, character driven mystery in an atmospheric setting that had me hooked from start to finish. I loved it! With her ability to present interesting characters in a tense and atmospheric setting, Ruth Ware is quickly making her way onto my favourite authors list, and I will be eagerly looking out for future mysteries from this talented writer. 

A huge thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK - Vintage Publishing for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Book Review: THE SCANDAL by Fredrik Backman

Title: The Scandal (also published under "Beartown")
Author: Fredrik Backman
Penguin UK - Michael Joseph
July 2017
Expected publication: 28 August 2017
My Rating:🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Late one evening, toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else's forehead, and pulled the trigger.

This is the story of how we got there.

Book Description (Goodreads):

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

My musings:

The only one good thing about being sick is being able to stay in bed and read all day – and I couldn’t have chosen a better book to read than Fredrik Backman’s The Scandal (also published under the title Beartown). As I emerged, many hours later, blinking dazedly into the fading light like a bear just emerging from hibernation, all I can say is: Wow! What an emotional rollercoaster ride this book has been for me! I am not sure if I need to sit for a while to process the whole story before writing this review, or gush out my emotions whilst they are still raw, but one thing I know for sure – this book will leave a deep imprint on me for some time to come, and it will feature strongly on my favourites list.

I have only recently come across Backman’s books by picking up A Man Called Ove (and instantly kicked myself for not doing so sooner). The Scandal is a very different book in many ways, but shows off Backman’s innate skill of portraying human nature in its rawest form. May it be through a lovable curmudgeon like Ove, or through the many varied characters of Beartown, who jump from the pages like flesh and blood people I have known all my life. Absorbed in the story, I no longer felt like a reader, but a participant. I could describe Beartown to you as if I had walked the icy streets in the dark myself, so vividly did it play out in my mind.

If anyone had told me even a week ago that one day I would swoon over a book about hockey, I would have laughed in their face. I am not a sporty person – ask my husband! Whilst he can sit for hours watching the golf (and what is more boring than golf on TV, honestly!), I struggle to point out the difference between football and tennis. The closest I ever came to being sporty was giving birth to one of my children on football grand final day, and neither my husband nor the doctor (who arrived in the birthing suite dressed in his team’s colours and muttering something that sounded suspiciously like: “Couldn’t you at least wait until half-time?”) have ever fully forgiven me. But saying that, whilst hockey features very strongly in Backman’s book, the story is about so much more. The themes that particularly stuck out for me were about the responsibilities of parenthood, of peer pressure, of trying to belong to something. The phrase: “We can’t protect our children” stuck in my head for days – who, as a parent, hasn’t felt that way when your child was hurting and you couldn’t fix it, pave the way for them? Backman has a way of exposing people’s deepest fears that will resonate with readers of all backgrounds and ages, as we see a little bit of us in each character we encounter.

The story is told in many different POVs, and some of the various characters couldn’t be more different. In a book culture which seems to favour unlikeable characters at the moment, Backman’s strength lies in making even the most unlikeable characters sympathetic, even just in the tiniest spark of humanity shown in small acts of kindness or contrition. Despite themes that are troublesome and disturbing, each and every human being has some redeemable characteristics that stop the reader from being able to hate them – even though I wanted to at times! So despite the battle lines being drawn and a town coming to the brink of disaster, the one message that shone through for me was always that of hope, and forgiveness. I loved the way Backman seamlessly switches POV without losing the flow of the narrative, which added a new dimension to the book by exploring different perspectives of situations encountered. Each voice was authentic, and Backman strips his characters bare, exposes their deepest thoughts and feelings for everyone to see. There aren’t many books that can make me cry, but I sobbed unapologetically through this one, which felt strangely cathartic by the time I got to the end. 


The Scandal (or “Beartown”) was easiest one of the best books I have read all year, which took me on a gut-wrenching emotional roller coaster ride like only few books can. Whilst hockey features strongly in the story, this book is about so much more than sport. Tapping right into the heart of small town life, the book explores what makes ordinary people tick and strips its characters bare until their raw emotion is exposed for everyone to see. With a variety of POVs and small snippets of wisdom and insight sprinkled among the pages, readers from different walks of life will be able to relate to various aspects of the story. A must read, very highly recommended!


We become what we are told we are.

His love of the camaraderie of the sport was grounded in a fear of exclusion.

People feel pain. And it shrinks their souls.

For me, culture is as much about what we encourage as what we actually permit.

Being a parent makes you feel like a blanket that’s always too small. No matter how hard you try to cover everyone, there’s always someone who’s freezing.

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A huge thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.