What Could Be Saved – Liese O’Halloran Schwarz

5 Fabulous Stars for this stunning book.

I loved this book so much, it honestly feels like there is a gaping hole in my heart where it used to sit.

Described as rich with mystery and family drama, this compelling novel delves into the extraordinary power of sibling love, rivalry and loyalty. 

The story begins with Laura, an artist struggling to find her rhythm again.  Out of the blue she receives a call from a complete stranger claiming to be her brother.  Laura and her sister Bea, now a mum to teenage boys, have not seen their brother Philip for over 40 years, since he vanished one day as a child when they were living in Thailand. 

Laura is instantly convinced it is him and insists on jumping on the first flight back to Thailand to bring him home.  No amount of push back from her sister and her partner will stop her.  From here we are thrown into a roller coaster of emotion.

Alternating between 1972, and the present day we learn the truth about this family tragedy all those years ago as the two timelines mesh together perfectly.

It is the time of the Vietnam War when their father Robert is offered the opportunity to move from the US to Bangkok with his wife Genevieve and three young children and after one year turns into three, there are inklings that Robert’s job “building a dam” may not be all that it seems.

Yet they have made a good life for themselves in Thailand and Genevieve has become renowned as the wonderful hostess who throws beautiful parties.  The children have also adapted to their new life, ferried around to one activity after another relishing their time in Bangkok, until suddenly their worlds are turned upside down. It is every parent’s worst nightmare when suddenly 8 year old Philip simply disappears and all the pieces this family have kept hidden from each other come tumbling out.

Forty years later, could it really be Philip on the phone?  After so much pain and false hopes could he really just walk back into their lives? 

This book is alive, it is vibrant, it is utterly mesmerising.  The writing is captivating and completely draws you into this family’s world.  It is also tragic and heartbreaking and for all these reasons, even at 450 pages I just couldn’t put it down.

I know it is only the beginning of the year but this is definitely going to be one of my absolute favourite books of the year, it is truly phenomenal!!  An absolute must-read!!

Thank you so much to Allen and Unwin for the opportunity to read this truly outstanding book.

*****

Dead Letters – Michael Brissenden

A dead politician, a mother’s letters from the grave, a daughter’s quest for answers.

OMG I freaking loved this book!!!!  Corrupt politicians, dirty cops, mafia links, gangs, counter terrorism………..seriously, what’s not to love.

I was a little nervous going into this one, it’s not the usual type of book I’m drawn to but honestly, once I started reading I couldn’t stop.  It was so compelling and so intriguing it had me hooked from the very first page.

When a politician is shot in the early hours of the morning, veteran officer Sid Allen, with his own closet full of skeletons, is called to the scene to investigate.  It’s not every day a politician is murdered.  What does it mean?  Is it terrorist related?  Is it gang related? 

Also poking around the death is journalist Zephyr Wilde who was only ten when her mother Shirley was murdered twenty years earlier.  Shirley was the owner of a local brothel and had contacts in high places, so why after all these years had the case of her mother’s death still not been solved?  Did someone want it to stay buried, no matter what the cost?

It’s not long before Sid and Zephyr’s worlds come crashing into each other and as the body count rises so does the tension.  The chapters were fact paced in this political thriller and the author has done a fantastic job of holding the reader’s attention right through to the nail biting ending.

As an added bonus, set across the fabulous city of Sydney, it was so good to read a book where I actually knew the name of the streets and the suburbs.

Thank you sooooo much Hachette Australia for the opportunity to read this 5 star book.  I highly recommend running out to the bookshop now to grab a copy.

*****

Stalking Claremont – Bret Christian

Exactly as the title states, this book is about the hunt for a serial killer. It is the true story of the disappearance and murder of three young women between 1996 and 1997 from an upmarket suburb of Perth in Western Australia after nights out at a local club.  Sara Spiers disappeared during the early hours of January 27th 1996, her body has still yet to be found.  Jane Rimmer disappeared on June 9th, 1996, she was found a few short weeks later brutally murdered.  Then in August 1997, Ciara Glennon disappeared, her body also found a few weeks later.

Stalking Claremont painstakingly takes you through the details of the disappearance and subsequent murders of these young women and what would become a twenty year man hunt by the Western Australian Police to catch who they would come to term as the Claremont ………

The author, Bret Christian, is noted as a newsman and reporter and it’s evident in his writing of this book.  It’s a long read which is thoroughly researched throughout, chronologically detailed from the early sexual attacks of women in the Claremont area in the early 1990’s through to the eventual charging and conviction of the perpetrator almost twenty years later. I cannot even begin to imagine the time and effort that must have gone into the writing of this book, such is the detail.

I’m a huge fan of true-crime documentaries and can often be found watching the Crime Channel on Foxtel as well as reading true-crime books and this one had me mesmerised from the very first page.  I felt horror, sadness, anger and such absolute frustration as I devoured every page.  Of course hindsight is a wonderful thing but to read through how much evidence was missed over the years, how many years were wasted on the wrong “suspects”, and how disjointed the investigation seemed to be over such a long time, I often found myself verbally yelling at the book as if it was to blame for not taking a particular piece of evidence seriously, or looking in the wrong direction for the killer.

Again, evident in the authors background, the book in no way sensationalises the story and is extremely respectful to all those involved in these horrible crimes, especially towards the victims and their families.  That is one of the things I loved most about the book, it was just a true factual story about how these poor girls died, how their killer was able to remain free for so long and ultimately how the police were finally after almost two decades, able to catch The Claremont Killer.

Broken down into short chapters, each detailing an important step in the investigation, Stalking Claremont is an absolute must-read for any true-crime or thriller fan.  Obviously it is at times distressing, with a few graphic and upsetting sections in the book about the sexual attacks and murders, more especially so knowing this is a true story, but again, the author keeps his story very fact based, it is not written for shock value.

Highly recommend grabbing a copy of what for me was a 5 star read.  Stalking Claremont is out today and I want to say a huge thank you to Harper Collins for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.

*****

A Necessary Death – Anne Holt

I managed to squeeze in another thriller before year end.  A Necessary Death is a Norwegian crime thriller set across the backdrop of Oslo and into Norway’s rugged mountain ranges.

More of a political thriller, the story follows Selma Falck, an investigator who takes up the challenge of looking into the mysterious death of her son in law, a death she does not believe was an accident.

Unfortunately for Selma, looking into something others would prefer she leaves alone could have deadly consequences.  When she wakes in the middle of a burning cabin a top a snow covered mountain in the middle of nowhere her nightmare begins.  Badly beaten and bruised, naked and left for dead, Selma barely makes it out of the cabin before it explodes.  How did she get there?  Clearly someone wants her dead, but who? Now she must work out how to survive and make her way out of the mountain without dying from exposure.

The book is set across a six month period and jumps between past and present as the storyline is built and we try to understand how Selma came to be in this cabin.  The political backdrop to this book plays heavily across the storyline.  Right wing vs left wing.  Fanatics and conspiracy theorists, back-room dealings with deadly consequences, all in the name of protecting the country. These parts of the book were a little heavy for me but I still found it enjoyable, I just had to concentrate a bit harder to follow who was who.

Selma herself is a very flawed character.  Brusque, damaged and with a no nonsense attitude to life I really found myself liking her.  She didn’t pretend to be anything other than how she portrayed herself, it gave her credibility as a character.

This was book 2 in the Selma Falck series but can absolutely be read as a standalone book.

Thank you so much to Allen and Unwin for the opportunity to read this one.  Definitely recommend to anyone that loves a really good political thriller.

Tell Me Lies – J.P. Pomare

This one was psychological suspense at its best,  You know the way the story is heading isn’t going to be where it ends.  You know the likely suspect you are being steered towards didn’t do it, but I loved the fact that even though I knew all that, I still didn’t know where it was heading.


Margot is a psychologist with a successful practice in Melbourne.  A loving husband, teenage children and a beautiful home.  She seemingly has it all.


So why would she suddenly push one of her patients into the path of a train on a busy platform in front of hundreds of witnesses?

  
The suspense in this one is palpable, You can almost reach out and touch it.  I’m going to be deliberately vague regarding the storyline and not going to divulge anymore , trust me, the less you know, the wilder the ride.


The pages keep turning, hours are lost and before you know it you have finished the book thinking wow, what just happened?  And that ending!!!!


A huge thank you to Hachette Australia for the opportunity to read this one.  A 5 star read for me, I loved it and will definitely be adding the authors previous books to my tbrlist.

The Girl Before – JP Delaney

This is my third JP Delaney read and I think it’s my favourite so far.  It’s a few years old now but I’m trying to read his entire backlist because seriously, this guy is insanely good, and this book was insanely good, with emphasis on the word insane – lol.

The master of psychological thrillers, JP Delaney has written one messed up crazy story here.  I think what freaked me out the most was just how easily something as frightening as this could happen.  He is a master at developing characters, you understand them so fully and feel so completely what they feel that it’s as if everything is happening right in front of you, you don’t have to imagine it, you are literally immersed in the story.

Enter the world of One Folgate Street.  An award winning home designed by the mysterious architect Edward Monkford.  After losing his wife and child, he believes in simplicity, in a minimalistic lifestyle.  Everything he owns can fit into one small bag.  This lifestyle carries over into the house he has built, and anyone who wishes to take on the lease and live is this beautifully sleek dwelling with its clean lines, and stone surroundings must be willing to follow the rules, no exceptions made.  For all its beauty though, the house has a deadly past and choosing to live there is not for the faint hearted.

The book alternates superbly between the two main characters, Emma, the girl before, and Jane, the girl now.  We move between the past as we witness the unravelling of Emma, and the present day as we follow Jane trying to piece together the house’s history.  What were the circumstances of Emma’s death, was it really an accident?  What secrets was this house holding?

Oh there is so much more I want to say, so many things about this story I want to talk about, but going into this one blind is was made it sooooo good.  The twists and turns kept me riveted.  I never knew which way the story would bend and what fresh secrets the house would spill.

This is an absolute must read for any psychological thriller fans out there, you won’t be disappointed.

*****

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – V.E Schwab

What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said?  What can I say about this book that would even begin to do it justice?  Nothing, okay, end of review.

Seriously, this is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read.  I finished it a few days ago now and it actually feels like there is a great big empty space where Addie should be. 

Desperate to be free to live her own life, make her own choices and set her own path, it’s 1714 and Addie makes a deal that will change her life forever.  As is so often the case, this freedom comes at a price.  Whilst she may now be beholden to nobody, she is now also remembered by nobody.  Seen, and yet instantly forgotten.  No memories left, no footprints behind her, nothing.  She is nothing. 

Until she meets Henry.  The unassuming man who runs the local bookshop in New York City.  It’s 2014 and after nearly 300 years, Addie is finally remembered.  After 300 years meandering through the world, through wars, through celebrations, through unforgettable moments in history, he remembers her.  Why?  Who is he?  What does it mean?  Addie will push all these questions away to savour these feelings as long as she can.

Lyrical, magical, simply stunning.  There is honestly nothing I can say that will do this book justice.  If you haven’t read it yet, pick it up, find somewhere comfy and dive right in.  This book will stay with you forever.

5 bright beautiful stars for this one.

*****

The Christmas Killer – Alex Pine

We usually think of warm toasty reads when we think Christmas.  Love stories and happy endings.  Well not this Christmas read…..12 days of Christmas and 12 dead bodies, bring it on.

Firstly I have to admit I’m a total sucker for British crime dramas.  My Foxtel IQ is full of police and detective series and that is why I loved this one.  This felt exactly like I was watching one of my favourites, complete with that memorable line that every crime show seems to have….. “Where to now guv?”

It’s the lead up to Christmas and a killer is on the loose in the small village of Kirkby Abbey.  Not only is he is on the loose, but he’s taunting the police, and a few of the locals, by sending them creepy Christmas cards, and trust me, these aren’t Christmas cards you want to receive.

Twelve Days of Christmas and twelve murders, our killer has a hit list and it would seem, a score to settle.  Who would have a vendetta against any of the residents of this sleepy little hamlet?  Certainly not the warm welcome our new resident detective was expecting having left London to escape the evils of his past case and live a somewhat quieter life.

Very much procedural driven we follow Detective James Walker step by step through his investigation while he follows up leads and conducts his interviews.  Even with the heavy detail, the story still skips along pretty rapidly.

Although for some reason I found the Detective’s wife Annie beyond irritating (is it wrong I was hoping she was on the killer’s hit-list?) I still found this a quick and enjoyable read, almost like reading an episode of Midsomer Murders.

Thanks to Netgalley and Avon Books UK for the opportunity to read this one, and the excuse to grab a few of my Christmas decorations out of storage.

****

The Year of the Witching – Alexis Henderson

I cannot believe this is a debut novel.  Alexis Henderson has built an atmospheric tale that is impossible not to lose yourself in.

With the perfect amount of eeriness, creepy vibes, and a chilling haunting feel to it I was completely mesmerised by the entire story.

Set in the town of Bethel that borders the Darkwood where it is rumoured the spirits of four evil witches lie in wait for their latest prey, where entering the woods marks certain death or madness, where the town folk follow only the words of their Prophet and any who would dare speak against him or the Church must surely lean towards witchcraft and therefore must burn on the pyre. 

Argh, how good does that sound!!  I’m in!!!

In a world where a girl’s sole purpose is to bleed and therefore be ready for the cutting ritual.  Where the prophet can take as many wives as he likes to serve his needs, and women have no purpose other than to obey, Immanuelle stands apart.

Raised by her grandparents after her mother was killed for consorting with witches and her father burned on the pyre as a traitor to the Church, she constantly feels the pull to the Darkwood.  When one day this pull becomes to strong Immanuelle’s future will be changed forever.  After a dark and chilling encounter with the witches, as terrifying plagues start to befall the township of Bethel, is Immanuelle to blame?  Can she stop them or should she watch them all suffer for all they have put her family through?

This is so descriptive and beautifully detailed.  I was absolutely captivated and although not a huge fan of horror, and trust me, it’s interwoven into this one, I honestly could not put it down.

I was soooo excited to read that the author is currently locked away writing the sequel.  I can’t wait.

5 fabulous witchy stars for this one.

The Girl From Widow Hills – Megan Miranda

Oh I so wanted to love this book, I tried and tried but in the end it just wasn’t for me.  The synopsis sounded so good, perfect for thriller season but something was missing.

Even a dead body in the front yard didn’t peak my interest.

It was really well written, and I think that’s what kept me going to at least finish the book.  I wanted to see where the storyline went but for me the main issue was that nothing really happened, it didn’t really go anywhere.  An accident that occurred 20 years ago, that yes, while traumatic for our leading character Arden or Olivia, didn’t really seem to have any connection or link to her life now.  It just didn’t make sense to me.

The focus of Olivia’s current life and the supposed spooky stuff that was happening to her seemed to get lost amongst the strangeness of her past, which she didn’t really remember anyway so again, made it all fall a little flat.

Random characters that came and went also had me scratching my head a little.

I knew when I reached the last few chapters and honestly didn’t care “whodunit” in the end that this wasn’t going to be one that stuck around in my memory.  And the ending, argh, the less said the better.

Again, well written, and great sounding synopsis, but it just didn’t make sense to me.