20 Feb 2017

THE SILENT KOOKABURRA.

THE SILENT KOOKABURRA by LIZA PERRAT.

BACK COVER BLURB: 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.

FIRST SENTENCE {CHAPTER 1: 2016}: Knuckles blanch, distend as my hands curves around the yellowed newspaper pages and my gaze hooks onto the headlines.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {PAGE 57}: Mum took a Valium with her milk, the pills the doc had prescribed for anxiety and sleeplessness in those sad times after the unborn babies. She crushed part of another tablet into the bottle she made up for Shelley's night feed, along with a dose of Old Lenny's Coca-Cola.

SOURCE: Received for review from the author.

READ FOR: Not applicable.

MY THOUGHTS: YAY! With three previous works of amazing historical fiction under her belt, Liza Perrat does it again with, no, not another historical fiction, but this, a novel of psychological suspense. And my, is the suspense palpable.

In a total about-change from her previous novels which are set in rural France, The Silent Kookaburra, a truly chilling read made all the more so by the fact its narrated by eleven year old Tanya Randall, is set in 1970's Australia. 

Taunted by many of her peers and with a mother who has mental health problems, I saw much of my younger self in the pre-pubescent Tanya. But it wasn't Tanya, nor indeed her seemingly dysfunctional parents, who captured my imagination so much as Nanna Purvis. 

A relative many of us growing up in the early 1960's to late 1970's will recognise. An opinionated character who, 'tells it as she sees it', Nanna Purvis is as ignorant as much as she is prejudiced but, with her 'very cow's veins' and friendship with Old Lenny, provides some wonderfully light moments which considering the books themes - severe depression, adultery, paedophilia, the death of a baby, etc - are sorely needed. 

Every inch the tale of a family struggling with its demons .. past and present.  Though without a doubt dark, there is nothing gratuitous in the author's writing. Indeed I commend her wonderful story-telling for the fact that whilst of course I wanted Tanya's tormentor to get their comeuppance (who wouldn't?) at the same time a part of me came to understand that they too had their demons albeit ones that could never justify their heinous actions.



15 Feb 2017

THE GOOD LIAR.

THE GOOD LIAR by NICHOLAS SEARLE.

BACK COVER BLURB: This is a life told back to front.

This is a man who has lied all his life.

Roy is a conman living in a leafy English suburb, about to pull off the final coup of his career. He is going to meet and woo a beautiful woman and slip away with her life savings.

But who is the man behind the con and what has he had to do to survive this life of lies?

And why is this beautiful woman so willing to be his next victim?

FIRST SENTENCE {CHAPTER ONE: NOM DE GUERRE}: It is, Roy thinks, perfect.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {PAGE 127}: Eventually Bob came free with a sickening squish and Roy laid him on the blanket, taking care to not too look closely. The blanket had just enough play for Roy to use the corner to wipe away the girder end of the chassis on which Bob had been impaled.

SOURCE: A Reading Group read.

READ FOR: Not applicable.

MY THOUGHTS: There seems to have been quite a glut (mostly Nordic as far as I'm aware) of 'elderly folks behaving badly' novels recently. Not that the Roy of The Good Liar is always portrayed as elderly for as the story progresses we get to meet him at various stages of his life. And certainly, unlike as with all of the other characters in the 'Elderly Folks Behaving Badly' novels I've read, there isn't one thing about him that I found humorous, let alone, likeable.

For the most part, totally confused by this novel, the first by the author. A plot I found myself unable to follow, convinced as I was that at the turn of every page I thought I'd turned several, the whole story only coming together in the last few chapters.

As for characters?

I've long since come to the realisation that it isn't important for me to actually like the characters, as long as I feel something, anything, for at least one of them ... even if it is only a vague sense of interest or intrigue. Alas, I found myself thinking (much less feeling) nothing for Roy, very much the linchpin of the story, or indeed any of the others.

A book that will doubtlessly divide opinion. Initial reports from some of my fellow reading group members find ... 

  • One of them commenting this is the worst book we as a group have ever read 
  • One of them finding the basis for the story good but overall too convoluted a plot
  • Two of them (one of them totally unexpectedly) enjoying it.

10 Feb 2017

GREETING MY BIRTHDAY WITH NOT JUST A SNOW (AKA HUNGER) MOON BUT ALSO A LUNAR ECLIPSE

What a way to be greeting my birthday tomorrow.

Having risen at 4.44pm GMT tonight (10th February) only to set again at 7.30am GMT Saturday morning before rising again at 5.56pm GMT on Saturday evening (please remember that because the lunar month is on average 29 days long the dates will vary each year), yes, I shall be celebrating my birthday not just under any full moon but under a full moon known as a Snow Moon.


Dating back to the times when the Native Americans named each of the full moons in order to keep track of the seasons, February's full moon is known as Snow or Hunger Moon as it is very often the month to see the most snow making hunting harder due to the inclement weather conditions.

But that's not all. 

Doubly blessed with a second celestial event visible in the UK over my birthday (not that tonight's moon will look unusual as unlike several of the other moons it is not a scientific phenomena ...

The Penumbral Lunar Eclipse will be visible from 10.30pm on February 10, peaking at 0.43am on February 11 and ending at 2.52am.

But what of the other months? 

According to the Native Americans ...

  • January: Wolf Moon. Representing the wolves who were often heard howling outside of the villages at this time of year
  • March: Worm Moon. As the temperature begins to warm so the ground begins to thaw, the earthworms to rear their heads
  • April: Pink Moon. Named for the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring
  • May: Flower Moon. Representing the flowers now in full bloom
  • June: Strawberry Moon. For the month which sees strawberry picking at its peak
  • July: Buck Moon. In honour of the buck beginning to grow their antlers
  • August: Sturgeon Moon. Named by the fishing tribes for the sturgeon, most readily caught at during this month
  • September: Harvest Moon. Named for the corn typically harvested at this time of year
  • October: Hunter's Moon. A time when the hunters rode easily over the land, animals easily spotted
  • November: Beaver Moon. A time when the beavers are busy preparing for winter, the tribes set traps hoping to ensure a good store of fur
  • December: Cold Moon. The month when temperatures typically plummeted, winter taking a firm hold.
2017 GMT dates and times here. U.S EAST & UTC here.

7 Feb 2017

THE NIGHTINGALE.

Not always able to get hold of a copy of the book that they are reading, I was delighted that not only had I previously read last month's book, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children (see my post here, Kelly's, here) BUT that I was able to reserve a copy of this months book which actually came in plenty of time for me to read and review ...


THE NIGHTINGALE by KRISTIN HANNAH.

BACK COVER BLURB: Bravery, courage, fear and love in a time of war.

Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their child. But when the Second World War breaks out and Antoine is conscripted to fight, Isabelle is sent to the country by their father to help Vianne.

As war develops, the strength of the sisters' relationship is tested. With life changing, and confronted by unbelievable horrors, Viann and Isabelle will find themselves responding in ways they never thought possible, as bravery and resistance take differing forms in each of the two sisters.

FIRST SENTENCE {ONE ~ APRIL 9, 1995, THE OREGON COAST}: If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are. 

MEMORABLE MOMENT {PAGE 267}: Rachel stood in the black, yawning entrance of a cattle car, her face and hands still smeared with her daughter's blood. She scanned the crowd, saw Vianne, and raised her bloody hand in the air, and then she was gone, shoved back by the women stumbling in around her. The door to the cattle car clanged shut.

SOURCE: A library book.

READ FOR: Not applicable.

MY THOUGHTS: First things first, why oh why the minute print?

Though I can't obviously comment on every edition, the size of print in this 2015 Pan edition was ridiculously small.

OK, so perhaps not ALL of the themes/situations covered in The Nightingale (it is after all an epic novel, its 400 plus pages packing in a lot of history) will have featured in every book of its kind but nevertheless I didn't find anything here that I hadn't read in countless other books. 

Set largely in the small French village in which Vianne resides, for such a rural village there did seemed to be an awful lot occurring, including a lot of SS 'top brass' stomping around - indeed, as a friend of mine who was reading the book at the same time commented, she was only surprised that Hitler himself wasn't billeted with Vianne and her daughter at some point.

In fact, all rather cliched. The author's writing cleverly if blatantly (I'd argue perhaps too blatantly) calculated to elicit certain responses (typically that of sadness or anger) rather than letting the author explore their own feelings.

Though told from the point of view of the two sisters (and therefore jumping around in both time and place) essentially the plot was easy enough to follow. The sisters, and in particular some of their actions, however didn't always ring true, at times seeming contrived merely as a way of manipulating the reader in much the same way the eliciting of certain emotions did.

Why then (to use GoodReads star rating system) my rating of 4 stars/'I really enjoyed it'?

A sucker for this genre. 

Despite my misgivings, there are no two ways about it, if not necessarily the best of writers of this kind of fiction, a good story-teller. I found myself totally caught up in Vianne's and Isabelle's world, moved by their plight, as well as that, of course, of their family, friends and co-conspirators. 

PLEASE NOTE ... As always please be sure to look out for Kelly's review which she typically posts the day after the group meets which is tonight.