Crimson Lake by Candice Fox

Cynthia Crimson LakeAn unusual collection of characters are found in this story that has several dark mysteries to explore. There is a strong sense of place, the wild around Cairns, which matches the tone of the story. There are some really nasty people out there, able to hide their secrets – for a while!

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Swing time by Zadie Smith

amy-swing-time.jpgSwing Time is the story of two brown girls from London, who love to dance and have a complicated relationship. We follow them from childhood to adulthood, in London, New York and Africa. It is, as you would expect from Zadie Smith, beautifully written, and I never found it dull, but I was not entranced, either. The narrator, not named, is detached, without ambition, even shiftless, so I found the themes of parenthood, race, belonging, poverty, charity, fame, purpose, and meaning not, perhaps, as powerful as they might have been.

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Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

Amy GnomonYes, it took me two and a half months to finish this. I always find Nick Harkaway’s books dense, and I can’t race through them, but how I enjoy his convoluted, madcap, far too clever stories! Gnomon is a mystery, an adventure and a complex and confusing maze. Set in a near future of hyper-surveillance, it looks at what is important to self, to society, and what sacrifices are made to achieve the common good. I’ll miss it, now I have finished.

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Caroline: little house revisited by Sarah Miller

cynthia-caroline.jpgThe Little House books were among my favourites as a child, so when I saw this title I just had to read it. Sarah was able to capture the Ingalls’ journey across the prairie, but I did loose some of the story with the over detailed accounts of events. I could picture Caroline as she would of presented to Laura in her books, but internally have different thoughts and feelings. It was a good representation of what a mother and wife goes through, what it takes to hold a family together, the need to suppress your own feelings or to be a bit selfish.

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Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Cynthia StardustLife moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall – named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristran vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining . .

A very descriptive story with a great cast of magical creatures. It was quite dark in places. Help was given to Tristan whenever he needed it, which pushed him towards the story’s conclusion. I think watching the movie first helped me bring the book alive, even though there are many differences. The movie gives you a sweeping story whereas the book is more descriptive and matter-of-fact. I enjoyed both formats of the story.

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Slade house by David Mitchell

Amy Slade HouseEvery nine years, someone will find just what they have been hoping for at Slade House, a grand old house that almost appears out of nowhere, and then, they disappear. Beginning in 1979, and ending in 2015, we are those poor unfortunates as they discover the horrors behind the house. It is creepy, not really scary, and so very clever, as we get into the heads of needy people, just as things are turning around for them, then spectacularly turned upside down. You don’t need to have read his earlier book, The Bone Clocks, but if you have, it will be especially good.

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Harmless like you by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Amy Harmless Like YouYuki is a Japanese teenager, living in New York City in the late 60s; no longer belonging in Japan, she is also an outsider in New York. Her parents return to Japan, and she stays, with an almost friend, and for the next few years tries to be an artist. The story of her son, set in the current day, is also told, as he tries to adjust to parenthood, and wonders why his mother left him. It’s a quietly bleak story, with flashes emotion, of Yuki and Jay’s internal struggle for meaning and place, and for peace within themselves. The characters are deeply flawed, most are unlikeable, and it is a touch melancholy, but it is strangely suspenseful and compelling.

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Anatomy of a scandal by Sarah Vaughan

Amy Anatomy of a scandalAnatomy of a Scandal is a fast-paced, courtroom drama told from multiple perspectives. A powerful politician, happily married and living in London, is accused of rape, and we follow him, his wife, the prosecutor and a number of others, both now and during his time at Oxford, in events leading up to what has happened. It is clever, tight, suspenseful and very timely, dealing with the experiences of women, privilege, the abuse of power and the search for truth.

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