Book Review: The Good Mother by Rae Cairns

The Good Mother by Rae Cairns

‘Past and present collide on and off the page in this explosive debut’ Sunday Telegraph

‘This story wouldn’t let me go’ Michael Robotham

Shortlisted for the 2021 Ned Kelly Award for Best Debut Crime Fiction

She’s protected them from the truth. Can she save them from her past?

Sarah Calhoun is a regular Sydney soccer mum, but she’s keeping terrifying secrets from everyone she loves . . . and her past is about to catch up with her.

When two men from Northern Ireland hunt her down, she’s forced to return to Belfast to testify at a murder trial. Caught in the crossfire of an obsessive policeman driven by a disturbing past, and a brutal IRA executioner, Sarah faces an impossible choice: lie and allow a killer to walk free, or tell the truth and place her children in the line of fire.

With her family and innocent people at risk, Sarah must find the courage to fight for the truth. But righting the wrongs of the past just might cost her everything . . .

This fast-paced, explosive thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat to its gripping finale.

‘Show me a soldier who would fight harder than a mother to save her son.’

My Review

The Good Mother by Rae Cairns is a fast-paced thriller that had me on the edge of my seat until the very end.

Suburban mum Sarah Calhoun has kept her past a secret for years until it catches up with her in the worst possible way – through her children. She used to work as youth worker in Ireland during the 90s until she witnessed a murder by a brutal IRA member and had to leave because her own life was on the line. Now her children may have to pay the price of what she saw.

At first, Sarah comes across as a bit of a helicopter mum who doesn’t want to let her children out of her sight, but it soon becomes apparent that her fears are well-founded when an obsessive Irish policeman hunts her down and she is left with two choices: let the killer walk free or put her children’s and other innocent people’s lives in danger.

Not being a mother myself, I was a bit worried that I would find Sarah difficult to connect with, but I found her relatable in other ways. Particularly with her motivations around what she witnessed in the 90s and her fearless determination to make sure that the IRA didn’t get away with murder this time.

I also really enjoyed the setting of both the modern day and 1990s Ireland and I feel as though I learned a lot about The Troubles woven throughout the book in a natural way. The author’s own experiences have provided invaluable insight into such a complex period of recent history.

The good mother is a strong debut and was Shortlisted for the 2021 Ned Kelly Award for Best Debut Crime Fiction. I’ll be looking forward to reading more from this author.

Thanks to HarperCollins for my review copy

Details

Title: The Good Mother

Author: Rae Cairns

Published: HarperCollins AU 30/03/2022

Pages: 368

RRP: $32.99 AUD

Source: Publisher

Goodreads: The Good Mother

Book Review: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Drawing on Maggie O’Farrell’s long-term fascination with the little-known story behind Shakespeare’s most enigmatic play, Hamnet is a luminous portrait of a marriage, at its heart the loss of a beloved child.

Warwickshire in the 1580s. Agnes is a woman as feared as she is sought after for her unusual gifts. She settles with her husband in Henley street, Stratford, and has three children: a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. The boy, Hamnet, dies in 1596, aged eleven. Four years or so later, the husband writes a play called Hamlet.

Award-winning author Maggie O’Farrell’s new novel breathes full-blooded life into the story of a loss usually consigned to literary footnotes, and provides an unforgettable vindication of Agnes, a woman intriguingly absent from history.

New York Times Notable Book (2020), Best Book of 2020: GuardianFinancial TimesLiterary Hub, and NPR.

My Review:

Hamnet is a fascinating story about William Shakespeare, his wife, and the tragic death of their 11 year old son. Based upon the few historical facts known about Shakespeare and his family, O’Farrell has weaved a beautifully written dreamy story about how he met his wife Agnes and what happened when their much loved son Hamnet died of the plague. Shakespeare went on to name one of his most famous tragedies after his son, although the reasoning behind it isn’t revealed until the very end in an epic final scene.

I loved the dream-like quality of this story, especially about Agnes’s history. It’s a beautifully written story and I highly recommend it to all historical fictions readers.

Details:

Title: Hamnet

Author: Maggie O’Farrell

Published: March 31, 2020 by Tinder Press

Format: 372 pages, Paperback

Source: Own Copy

Goodreads reviews: Hamnet

Book Review: The Morbids by Ewa Ramsey

“Heart-wrenching, heartwarming and ultimately uplifting–a story about the power of a little kindness.”

The Morbids by Ewa Ramsey

A story of friendship, love and what it means to truly live when, sometimes, it may seem easier not to.

Caitlin is convinced she’s going to die.

Two years ago she was a normal twenty-something with a blossoming career and a plan to go travelling with her best friend, until a car accident left her with a deep, unshakable understanding that she’s only alive by mistake.

Caitlin deals with these thoughts by throwing herself into work, self-medicating with alcohol, and attending a support group for people with death-related anxiety, informally known as the Morbids.

But when her best friend announces she’s getting married in Bali, and she meets a handsome doctor named Tom, Caitlin must overcome her fear of death and learn to start living again.

Beautiful, funny, and universally relatable this story of hidden loneliness and the power of compassion and companionship reminds us that life is an adventure truly worth living.

‘Mental illness captured with remarkable nuance and skill: The Morbids is a lively and often very funny book, and one that is hopeful and heartfelt. It is an assured debut, and a book that will mean a great deal to many people.’ – The Guardian

My Review:

Caitlin is struggling after a car crash convinced her that she was going to die. She thinks that she’s coping with things with her new waitressing job and her support group the Morbids, but she realises that she needs more help than she thought when she meets an attractive doctor and her best friend announces that she’s getting married in Bali.

I felt that the topics of depression and anxiety surrounding death in this novel were depicted accurately and sensitively. It’s not always an easy read, but I was drawn in by Caitlin and the people in her life and found the ending heart-warming and uplifting. The characters of the self-help group the Morbids often added a humorous touch, despite the difficult issues that they all faced around death anxiety. It was a bit like those kind of what if scenarios that I think everyone imagines sometimes times 1000.

Caitlin often walks around the streets of Sydney and I found the immersive description a wonderful touch. The ending was a lovely reminder of the importance of allowing the people in our lives to help us when we need it like we all do sometimes.

A touching and heart-warming read relatable for most people who experience depression and anxiety.

Details

Title: The Morbids

Author: Ewa Ramsey

Published: Allen & Unwin September 2020

Format: Paperback 368 pages

RRP: $29.99

Source: Own Copy

Goodreads reviews: The Morbids

The Morbids by Ewa Ramsey

Book Review: Nancy Business by R.W.R. McDonald

 The Nancys are back in another quirky and hilarious cosy mystery set in Riverstone, New Zealand

Nancy Business by R.W.R. McDonald and my cats.

Details:

Title: Nancy Business

Author: R.W.R. McDonald

Published: June 1, 2021

Pages: 360 pages, paperback

Genre: Cosy Mystery, Mystery, Crime, Contemporary

Source: Author

Goodreads

The Nancys are back again to solve another cosy mystery that has rocked the small town of Riverstone, New Zealand. It’s been four months since eleven year old Tippy and her wonderfully camp and risqué Uncle Pike and his partner Devon teamed up to solve a murder mystery and a lot has changed. Tippy is growing up and processing the events that occurred over Christmas, as well as her father’s death a year earlier. Uncle Pike and Devon have purchased the murder house near Tippy but can’t seem to agree on anything. In fact, it looks like they might even break up.

When an explosion kills three people and destroys the Riverstone town hall, the Nancys decide to go against the police who have already fingered a suspect who Tippy believes may have been framed — and Tippy’s mother — to get to the bottom of who was really responsible. Despite Uncle Pike’s and Devon’s rocky relationship and shocking revelations about the past that has Tippy wondering if she can ever trust anybody again, the Nancys stick together to solve the mystery and save Riverstone.

I loved hanging out with the Nancys again and really enjoy this contemporary adult’s version of the Nancy Drew mysteries. Despite their relationship troubles, Uncle Pike and Devon’s camp humour that mostly goes over Tippy’s head had me in stitches. I also really enjoyed the ways that Tippy is growing older and wiser as the series progresses. The ending and the resolution of the mystery were excellent, and I was pleased to see that the seeds have been sown for another instalment of this quirky cosy mystery series. I don’t think that it’s necessary to read The Nancys first, but you should anyway since it is brilliant and you will get to know the characters and their history before diving in.

About the Author

R.W.R. McDonald (Rob) is an award-winning author, a kiwi living in Melbourne with his two daughters and one HarryCat. His debut novel, The Nancys, won Best First Novel in the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Awards, as well as being a finalist in the Best Novel category. It was shortlisted for Best First Novel in the 2020 Ned Kelly Awards, and Highly Commended for an Unpublished Manuscript in the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. 

Nancy Business, his second novel was published 1st June 21. 

Me and R.W.R. McDonald at the launch for Nancy Business at Brunswick Bound in between lockdown numbers 5 and 6

The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall Book Review

THE MOTHER FAULT BY KATE MILDENHALL

Set in a dystopian Australia in the not too distant future, THE MOTHER FAULT is a cleverly crafted eco-thriller that had me on the edge of my seat all the way through.

Mim is a geologist turned stay at home mum with two children Essie (11) and Sammy (6) in a Victoria that is ruled by ‘The Department’. Her husband Ben is an environmental engineer at an Australian/Chinese mine in Indonesia. Climate change has begun to cause catastrophic damage, all citizens are microchipped ‘for their safety, and anybody who doesn’t comply with ‘The Department’ are shipped off to a place called ‘Best Life’.

When Mim receives a phone call to let her know that Ben has gone missing from the mine she packs up Essie and Sammy and sets of across the country, and then across the ocean, to find a way to get to Indonesia and find her husband. Even though she must put her family and her friends in serious danger, Mim is determined to get to Ben.

I thoroughly enjoyed THE MOTHER FAULT and found the dystopian Australia that had been ravaged by climate change to be frighteningly plausible. The vivid characters and fast-paced action make it a compelling reading experience.

Details

Title: The Mother Fault

Author: Kate Mildenhall

Published: September 2, 2020 by Simon & Schuster

Pages: 366 pages, paperback

Genre: Dystopian, Thriller, Eco-Thriller, Speculative Fiction

Source: Own Copy

Goodreads

GULLIVER’S WIFE by Lauren Chater

GULLIVER’S WIFE by Lauren Chater

GULLIVER’S WIFE is an imaginative and rich retelling of Jonathan Swift’s classic Gulliver’s Travels from his long-suffering wife’s perspective with a strong feminist flavour.

In London 1702 Mary Burton Gulliver is forced to raise her son and daughter alone while her husband is at sea. He is often gone for years, rarely keeping in contact, and each time he returns his stories become increasingly fanciful. Mary has no choice but to work as a midwife to make ends meet, even though that she is judged harshly for having to work as a married woman.

When her husband returns home from his long stint at sea feverish and making the most ridiculous claims yet, Mary has no choice but to take him in and to care for him. Even though it was difficult to survive while her husband was at sea, in many ways Mary found it easier to manage her household on her own. Her life without Lemuel was spent managing her household, working in her garden, and caring for the local women in her role as a midwife was mostly calm and orderly. Even before his outlandish ravings began Lemuel brought chaos and deception wherever he went, and his light fingers meant that Mary needed to try to hide whatever meagre money and valuables she possessed.

I particularly liked the character of Bess, Mary’s daughter. Bess is 14 years old and infatuated with her father. She believes his tall tales and false promises that he will take her sailing with him one day until his selfish behaviour puts her in danger this time. Mary hopes that she will train to become a midwife like herself and her mother before her. I think that the relationship between Mary and Bess perfectly captured the difficulties often found in the mother/daughter relationship during the tumultuous teen years when the daughter is trying to figure things out for herself and is desperate for her independence.

I thoroughly enjoyed GULLIVER’S WIFE and would highly recommend it to lovers of historical fiction with a strong feminist bent and touches of magic and wonder. The story is engrossing and skilfully weaved together.

Details

Published: April 1st 2020 by Simon & Schuster

Source: Own copy

Read: Paperback, February 2021

Pages: 416 pages

Rating: 5 stars

Goodreads

Amazon AU

About the author

Lauren Chater is the author of the historical novels The Lace Weaver and Gulliver’s Wife, as well as the baking compendium Well Read Cookies – Beautiful Biscuits Inspired by Great Literature.

In 2018 she was awarded a grant by the Neilma Sidney Literary Fund to travel to the Netherlands to research her third novel The Winter Dress, inspired by a real 17th century gown found off the Dutch coast in 2014. She has made appearances at the Brisbane Writers Festival, Storyfest, the Southern Highlands Writers’ Festival and the Tamar Valley Writers’ Festival, as well as many others. She is currently completing her Masters of Cultural Heritage through Deakin University.

For all rights enquiries, please contact Tara Wynne at Curtis Brown Literary Agency.

For all media enquiries, please contact the Marketing and Publicity department at Simon & Schuster Australia.

You can also connect with Lauren via Facebook and Instagram.

Book Review: The Single Ladies of the Jacaranda Retirement Village by Joanna Nell

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The Single Ladies of the Jacaranda Retirement Village

Blurb

A moving, funny, heartwarming tale of love and friendship, for anyone who loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe Keeper of Lost Things and Three Things about Elsie.

It’s never too late to grow old disgracefully …

The life of 79-year-old pensioner Peggy Smart is as beige as the décor in her retirement village. Her week revolves around aqua aerobics and appointments with her doctor. The highlight of Peggy’s day is watching her neighbour Brian head out for his morning swim.

Peggy dreams of inviting the handsome widower – treasurer of the Residents’ Committee and one of the few eligible men in the village – to an intimate dinner. But why would an educated man like Brian, a chartered accountant no less, look twice at Peggy? As a woman of a certain age, she fears she has become invisible, even to men in their eighties.

But a chance encounter with an old school friend she hasn’t seen in five decades – the glamorous fashionista Angie Valentine – sets Peggy on an unexpected journey of self-discovery. Can she channel her ‘inner Helen Mirren’ and find love and friendship in her twilight years?

My Review

The Single Ladies of the Jacaranda Retirement Village is a warm and uplifting book about love, friendship and the importance of growing old disgracefully.

79 year old Peggy Smart lives a beige and boring life at her retirement village. She is grieving for her late husband and growing increasingly frustrated with the way that her children and doctor are treating her as a frail old lady. She doesn’t want to be shipped off to a scary nursing home, and rightly so if you pay attention to what actually happens in those places! The only excitement in her life comes from her secret crush on an eligible bachelor until her old school friend Angie shows up at the Jacaranda Retirement Village and sets Peggy on a journey of self-discovery.

I enjoyed the ways that Peggy and the other elderly characters were portrayed as real people who were much more complex than almost any other elderly character I’ve come across before. Many of their issues and character arcs were related to their age, but they were so much more complex than that. It’s refreshing to see elderly characters depicted in this way and I commend Nell for the way she has crafted these realistic and lovable characters. I particularly enjoyed Peggy’s humorous Freudian slips and the politics that went on between the residents of the retirement village.

About the Author

joanna nell
Joanna Nell

Joanna Nell is a Sydney-based writer and GP. Her bestselling debut novel The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village was published in 2018 with rights sold internationally. Her second novel The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker was published 24th September 2019.

Joanna’s award winning short fiction has been published in a number of magazines, journals and short story anthologies including Award Winning Australian Writing. She has also written for The Sydney Morning Herald’s Spectrum and Sunday Life magazines.

Joanna’s third novel ‘The Great Escape From Woodlands Nursing Home’ will be in stores October 27th 2020!

Details

Published: September 25th 2018 by Hachette Australia

Source: Library

Read: Paperback

Pages: 400

RRP: $29.99

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New Release: Queen of Spades Trilogy by E.J. Dawson

queenofspades
Queen of Spades Trilogy by E.J. Dawson: Awakening, Darkening, Reckoning 

The first book in the Queen of Spades Trilogy, Awakening, will be available 10th of April 2020 and the pre-order is only 99 cents!

A scifi action with a side of romance, it has all the violence, banter, and tension of great character driven scifi with psychic abilities giving it an edge that keeps the story on its toes.

Ayla is a villain. With a gift that allows her to see when anyone will die, she’s remorseless in her profession as the perfect assassin. When she wakes up in a cryo-tank three thousand years in the future, and no idea how she came to be there, all that matters is survival.

Rescued by Leith and the crew of the Nuria, Ayla discovers a far evolved world of space ships and galactic colonization. But everything comes with a price, and though Ayla is no princess locked in an icy tower, she still has to pay for the rescue she didn’t know she needed.

Given over to Leith, a darkly handsome man who reads Ayla far easier than she’d like, they must work together if Ayla is to repay her debt. As the pair come to learn how dangerous one another are, so too grows a lustful bond that comes with rules of its own. Fighting to learn why she was frozen, Ayla’s dragged into Leith’s past with a criminal organization seeking to take over this sector of the galaxy. In order to survive, Leith will need Ayla’s help, but Ayla doesn’t know if she’s willing to pay what it will cost her…

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New Release: Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates

The latest ARC to land in my mailbox from the wonderful team at HarperCollins is Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates. Inspired by the author’s father, this thriller moves between Germany during and after World War 2 and present-day Adelaide.

I’m looking forward getting lost in a thriller, I’ve been loving novels set during WW2 lately, and I’m very intrigued by concept of the main character being based on the author’s father. I’ve spent a lot of time researching my own family tree lately and I think I could spend the rest of my life writing stories based on the fascinating characters that I’ve uncovered!

secrets
Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates

Inheritance of Secrets sprung from one character. Karl. Karl was inspired by author Sonya Bates’s own father, a German soldier during World War 2, who was drafted and went to war after his 18th birthday. He went to the front. Was in an American POW camp. Survived the war and then emigrated to America in the 1950s. Although Sonya’s father rarely talked about this period of his life, Sonya grew up aware of his participation in the war, and as she got older she speculated about what it would have meant for him personally. From this came the fictional character of Karl – who has his own powerful and moving story – and a thriller that moves between Germany during and after World War 2 and present-day Adelaide.

Inheritance of Secrets is Kate Furnivall meets Caroline Overington in a gripping, page-turning mystery.

 

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Sonya Bates

Sonya Bates is a Canadian writer who has made South Australia her home since 1997. She studied linguistics at the University of Victoria before obtaining a Masters degree in speech-language pathology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. Having worked with children with communication difficulties for over twenty-five years, she now enjoys sharing her knowledge with speech pathology students as a part-time clinical educator. When her two daughters were young, she started writing for children and has published several children’s books. Inheritance of Secrets is her debut adult novel, which was shortlisted as an unpublished manuscript in the inaugural Banjo Prize in 2018.

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Inheritance of Secrets ARC

Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates

Published: 20 April 2020

Imprint: HarperCollins

Format: Paperback; RRP: $32.99; ISBN: 9781460757857

eBook available

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Preorder Purchase Links 

 

New Book Release: The End of Cuthbert Close by Cassie Hamer

The end of cuthbert close
The End of Cuthbert Close by Cassie Hamer 

From bestselling author Cassie Hamer, comes a hilarious tale of warring neighbours in Australian suburbia, with a mystery at its heart.

‘Captures Australian suburbia perfectly. Has the reader gripped until the end. Perfect for anyone who wants to devour easy-to-read fiction, while also doing some detective work of their own.’ Mamamia

You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your neighbours. (Trad. proverb, origin: Australian suburbia)

Food stylist Cara, corporate lawyer Alex and stay-at-home mum Beth couldn’t be more different. If it wasn’t for the fact they live next door to each other in Cuthbert Close, they’d never have met and bonded over Bundt cake. The Close is an oasis of calm and kindness. The kind of street where kids play cricket together and neighbours pitch in each year for an end of summer party.

But no one’s told Charlie Devine, glamorous wife of online lifestyle guru, The Primal Guy. When she roars straight into the party with her huge removal truck and her teenage daughter with no care or regard for decades-old tradition, the guacamole really hits the fan.

Cara thinks the family just needs time to get used to the village-like atmosphere. Beth wants to give them home cooked meals to help them settle in. Alex, says it’s an act of war. But which one of them is right? Dead guinea pigs, cruelly discarded quiches, missing jewellery, commercial sabotage and errant husbands are just the beginning of a train of disturbing and rapidly escalating events that lead to a shocking climax.

 When the truth comes out, will it be the end of Cuthbert Close?

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

cassie hamer
Cassie Hamer

Cassie Hamer has a professional background in journalism and PR, but now much prefers the world of fiction over fact. In 2015, she completed a Masters in Creative Writing, and has since achieved success in numerous short story competitions. Her bestselling debut fiction title After the Party was published in 2019. Cassie lives in Sydney.

The End of Cuthbert Close  by Cassie Hamer

Published: 23 March 2019

Imprint: HQ Fiction

Format: Trade paperback | RRP: $29.99 | ISBN: 9781489257918 | eBook available

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