by Miriam Murcutt and Richard Starks
“I wasn’t looking for Marilyn Monroe when I bumped into her, even though I knew she was in town filming River of No Return…”
So begins In a Town Called Paradox, which asks the question: If each of us has a life story, then who determines how it unfolds and how it should end?
After her mother’s untimely death, the young Corin Dunbar is banished to live with her aunt Jessie, an obsessively religious spinster who runs a failing cattle ranch near a speck of a town called Paradox in southeast Utah. It’s the mid-1950s, and Corin hates her new life until the Big Five Hollywood studios arrive, lured by the fiery red-rock scenery that provides a perfect backdrop to the blockbuster Westerns they plan to film. Overnight, Paradox is transformed from a rural backwater to a playground for glamorous stars like Marilyn Monroe and Rock Hudson.
Seduced by the glitz of the movies, Corin finds work with the studios, but after a brush with the casting couch, she channels her growing ambitions into saving the ranch—the jewel of the Dunbar family for three generations. When she falls for a charismatic stranger, her future seems bright, but a tragic accident she believes is her fault wrecks her dreams and forces her to make an agonizing decision that will change the course of her life.
Told mainly by Corin—now a middle-aged woman haunted by this watershed moment—In a Town Called Paradox is a compelling read that redefines the meaning of love.
Set in the small desert town of Paradox, Utah, this is the story of Corin and Ark. Corin grew up in New York and has had to adjust to ranch life, while Ark was born to missionaries in tribal Africa. On opposite sides of the world they both lost parents and went to live with relatives in completely different environments to the ones they had grown up in. Eventually their paths cross and their story begins.
The book covers a lot of ground: loss; learning to adapt; the importance of belonging; racism; sexism and the hopelessness and helplessness that women experienced; the confining expectations and limited opportunities of living in a small community; science versus faith; and a few others. The book is mainly set in the 1950’s era when attitudes to almost every facet of life were very different, and particularly so in small towns.
I’m being careful not to give away spoiler details, but I loved Corin’s and Ark’s story line and where it took them and the decisions that needed to be made. Yiska’s story was particularly poignant. The injustices of the time were infuriating as well as heartbreaking. The subject matter covered has obviously been well researched and the book is well written.
I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.
In 1984, St Kilda is the heart and soul of Melbourne’s thriving music scene. Joel Reed, a brilliant young guitarist and songwriter, had followed his sister Karen to the bohemian beachside suburb to chase his dream of becoming a rock star. On the surface, it seems like Joel has got it all together. He’s in an up-and-coming rock ‘n’ roll band and is surrounded by people who want to see him succeed. However, he is also a high-functioning heroin addict and closet homosexual. Desperately lonely and dangerously self-destructive, he lives a carefully constructed lie lest he be discovered, outed and shunned by the city’s legion of hard rock fans.
When the band is forced to audition for a new frontman, Joel’s world is turned upside down. Harry Engel, the offbeat and disarmingly charismatic vocalist, rocks up to audition and Joel falls in love, but there’s no way he can tell Harry how he feels. He can’t do anything to jeopardise the band’s success and so he continues living the lie – until tragedy strikes and he realises the lie was never going to save them.
I was completely drawn into the story of Joel, founding member and guitarist in a band which is trying to secure a recording contract in the early 1980’s. Joel is also a heroin addict and closet homosexual in an era when it was still stigmatised. He knows that for the band to have any chance of success he can’t be outed as gay, but he’s drawn to the band’s new charismatic and talented front man, Harry Engels.
The music scene and the struggles of the band drip with authenticity. I can’t comment on the drug usage but it certainly seemed authentic too. The ups and downs of Joel and the band and his long-suffering but dedicated sister, Karen, who is also the band’s manager, absolutely hooked me.
I was rooting for this band and every step of the way!
Up in the attic, with views across the sparkling bay, she opens the lid of the carved trunk. Carefully moving aside the delicate linen wedding dress once worn by her great-aunt, she unpacks all the smaller boxes inside until she finds the leather-bound diary. She knows this will change everything…
All Zoey’s happiest childhood memories are of her great-aunt Ivy’s rickety cottage on Dune Island, being spoiled with cranberry ice cream and watching the tides change from the rooftop. Now, heartbroken from a recent breakup, Zoey can see her elderly aunt’s spark is fading, and decides to move to the island so they can care for each other.
When she arrives to find her cousin, Mark, sitting at the solid oak kitchen table, she knows why Aunt Ivy hasn’t been herself. Because Mark—next in line to inherit the house—is pushing Ivy to move into a nursing home.
With the cousins clashing over what’s best for Ivy, Zoey is surprised when the local carpenter who’s working on Ivy’s cottage takes her side. As he offers Zoey comfort, the two grow close. Together, they make a discovery in the attic that links the family to the mysterious and reclusive local lighthouse keeper, and throws doubt on Mark’s claim…
Now Zoey has a heartbreaking choice to make. The discovery could keep Ivy in the house she’s loved her whole life… but can Zoey trust that the carpenter really has Ivy’s best interests at heart? And will dredging up an old secret destroy the peace and happiness of Ivy’s final years—and tear this family apart for good?
A stunning and emotional read about old secrets, new love and never forgetting the importance of family. Perfect for fans of Mary Ellen Taylor, Robyn Carr and Mary Alice Monroe.
This was a lovely light read about relationships – with complex siblings, devious cousins, aunts with mysterious pasts, tricky teenagers, and hunky handymen. All in the idyllic setting of an old cottage in a small community on an island. It has all the ingredients I like and the romance wasn’t syrupy. Very enjoyable.
Yusra has spent a lifetime protecting her autistic brother, but when he falls gravely ill she discovers how little she really knows about his life. Now, not only must she come to terms with his secret world, but she must use what she learns to help save his life.
Part Paulo Coelho, part Lee Child… The Beekeeper of New York twists from philosophical and mystical to a more earthy thriller as Yusra’s quest to discover the truth and save her brother heats up.
Yusra’s earliest memory is from the vibrant marketplace in Al Hudaydah, when her autistic brother Someer is savagely beaten by a crowd who believe he is possessed by demons. Since that moment she has protected Someer and rejected gods and monsters, and all of the invisible forces that make people do cruel and unthinking things.
But now Someer is lying unconscious in a New York hospital bed, and Yusra is discovering his secret, invisible world that she had never imagined possible. But can she come to terms with her discovery and put her trust in Someer in time to save his life?
Slowly Yusra discovers that nobody in her life is exactly who she thought they were, and that help can arrive from the most unexpected places, if only she can develop a little faith.
“She wondered how it would feel to face death without faith. How it would feel to face a true ending, not just a transition between worlds. An ending with no hope of anything else to follow.“
I absolutely agree that this book has shades of Paul Coelho’s poetic and philosophical prose, but I failed to see a likeness with Lee Child, although I have only read one book by that author.
The story is deceptively simple. Yusra has an autistic brother, Someer, whom she is very protective of as he is incapable of looking after himself and his autism makes him vulnerable to harm. Someer falls off a building and is in a coma from which he may never recover. And Yusra begins to uncover things about Someer’s life that she had no idea about.
During the course of the book Yusra is forced to face some realities that she doesn’t want to. There is a question mark hanging over the cause of Someer’s fall from the rooftop and as Yusra begins to seek answers by looking into the life Someer had that was unknown to her, lots more questions arose.
The book is simply written but has unexpected depth. It is a very paced novel but I never found it to be boring and I became very invested in the characters and uncovering the truth of their lives. I absolutely recommend this lovely story, the debut by this author. I will be looking out for further books by her.
A sweet, funny romance set in rural New Zealand.
Nina is 36, single, and running out of time to start a family. She quits her advertising job, and moves into a small coastal town, in a tiny house on wheels. Surely, the laid back country life with organic veggies will turn back the clock for her. Now, she only has to find the right guy – and it can’t be her odd, new neighbour who doesn’t want kids. No matter how hot he is. This time, Nina is determined to follow the plan, not her heart.
Jay is used to solitary life. After his father’s death, he tries to keep the farm running, even if he’s more comfortable with the veggies than people. But who needs social skills? In the backside of Raglan, nothing ever happens. Until a cute, Finnish blonde moves into the neighbouring lot, in a ridiculous tiny house. Can Jay work out his issues and take a chance on the most exotic thing that’s ever walked into his life?
Work, life, love and all those other big questions that vex us are are tackled in this humorous and thought-provoking book, which will stay with you long after you reach the end.
This was a lighthearted and enjoyable read. Nina and Jay are well-fleshed out characters with their own quirks and insecurities which, in the best tradition of romances, keep them apart until they are finally brought together. I absolutely loved the setting. I’ve always fancied living in a tiny house in a field. While it’s not practical for me I can still live vicariously through books where others do it. The rural setting of Raglan in New Zealand is about as grass roots kiwi-culture as it gets, and it was entertaining to read how someone from a different country sees us 😉
They say your past can come back to haunt you. For Detective Megan Carpenter, her past might just come back to kill her.
Detective Megan Carpenter is no stranger to horrifying crime scenes, but when she arrives at the home of a woman whose body has been brutalized, Megan is shocked to discover that she knows the victim. Monique Delmont helped Megan when she was in danger years ago. And the killer has left a disturbing calling card… two laminated photographs of a sixteen-year-old high school girl – Megan.
Someone is taunting her in the worst way possible and Megan is convinced she knows who is responsible. She just has to find him.
With the help of her new partner, Deputy Ronnie Marsh, Megan begins to unravel the clues that will lead them to the killer including links to three female murder cases from nearly twenty years ago – one of which was Monique’s daughter.
But to protect those closest to her, Megan must continue to hide the dark truth of her past, even if that means lying to her team about her connection to Monique.
When two photographs of a teenage Megan are found at her boyfriend’s place in Snow Creek, she knows the killer is circling and ready to strike again.
Can she get to him before he finds her? And will she pay the ultimate price for trying to keep her terrifying past buried?
I didn’t know this was the third book in a series when I requested it from Netgalley, and for a while I was confused because it felt like the continuation of a series but the recaps were so many and detailed that it also felt like a standalone giving the character her backstory.
I got frustrated with the main character outright lying to everyone around her and withholding vital information in a murder case. I have to be honest and say I didn’t like her very much. She was very egocentric.
My favourite character was Ronnie without a doubt. She is smart and I look forward to her character and role development in future books. And I liked the small town setting.
The story was good and a page turner.
James Chiltern boards the 23:50 sleeper train from London to Edinburgh with two pork pies, six beers and a packet of chocolate digestives. At 23:55 he sends a message to all 158 people in his contacts, telling them that he plans to end his life in the morning. He then switches his phone to flight mode. He’s said goodbye. To him, it’s the end of his story – and time to crack open the biscuits.But across the world, 158 phones are lighting up with a notification. Phones belonging to his mum. His sister. His ex-best friend. The woman who broke his heart. People he’s lost touch with. People he barely knows. And for them, the message is only the beginning of the journey.
Funny and wise, tender and deeply moving, Contacts is a beautiful story about the weight of loneliness, the importance of kindness – and how it’s never too late to reach out.
This is a powerful cautionary tale. James has reached the end of his emotional endurance, feeling insignificant and shunned or forgotten by his friends and family. He decides to end his life and sets off on an overnight train journey to the place he has chosen to die. En route he sends a text message to the 158 contacts on his phone, and then switches it to flight mode so that he doesn’t have to deal with any responses.
From here the story is told from the points of view of his former best friend, his ex-girlfriend, his flatmate, his sister, and his mother as they reflect on their relationships with James and where they may have failed him or done better, interspersed with James reflecting back on the pivotal moments in his life that have brought him to this point. The chapter headers show the clock ticking toward 7.30 a.m. when the train will arrive at its destination, which enhances the sense of urgency.
I can honestly say there were elements to almost every point of view that I could relate to, and some hit close to home in this era of everyone being busy and how easy it is to lose touch with loved ones because we always assume there is more time. As a result I felt emotionally invested in the outcome and sat up to find out how it ended. Which is all I will say as I don’t want to give away the ending.
The afterword by the author sums it up well:
“‘Contacts’ is about the fact that, for all its dangers, the age of instant communication gives us what is basically a superpower … If only we choose to use it.”
From the bestselling author of Dumped, Actually comes a laugh-out-loud story about saving your job…and maybe saving the planet in the process.
Meet Ellie Cooke. When it comes to all things environmental she’s, well, a bit ‘green’. It’s not that she doesn’t care about things like climate change and plastic pollution, it’s just that life has always got in the way of that sort of thing.
But when the PR firm Ellie works for is taken over by keen environmentalist Nolan Reece, it’s clear that if she wants to save her job, she’s going to have to get serious about being green—or face being recycled.
Going green is no walk in the park, though. It involves a lot of big changes, tough choices…and at least one case of accidentally showing your knickers off to your boss.
Can Ellie do enough to save her job, and maybe do her bit to help save the planet while she’s at it? And what will Nolan think of her, now that she can’t stop thinking about him…?
The story opens with Ellie working for a failing PR company which is taken over by a new ‘green’ minded boss, Nolan, and there are going to be lay-offs. Despite having no green aspirations Ellie comes up with a strategy to keep her job – pretend to be an eco-warrior and impress the boss.
The rest of the book follows Ellie in her often misguided attempts to impress, while being attracted to Nolan. There is slapstick humour and there were some genuine laugh-out-loud moments, like the incident with the ebikes.
Alongside the humour is Ellie’s slow awakening to the fact that what she is doing as a ploy to remain employed is actually important to the planet and increasingly to Ellie herself.
If I have one niggle it was the mentions of Nolan’s physical likeness to Adam Driver. Once was enough but several times was too much. As someone who doesn’t find him attractive (sorry, Adam Driver) this was very distracting and a bit off-putting, and as a reader I prefer to come up with my own mental images of what a character looks like, based on a description.
This was a very light, fun read with a satisfying conclusion.
I’ve already written reviews for the first two books in this series, Malice and Valour, but I’ve decided to write a review for the series as a whole because the four books make a perfect whole. I don’t often give 5-star ratings, but this series deserves it. The Faithful & The Fallen has jumped into my top three favourite series. All four books maintained the high standard of writing, tight story arcs, and great character development, and the series just kept getting better and better with each book.
It’s great to read a series where there are no weak women. Each one is strong and skilled in her own right and holds her own against the strong male characters.
I have a huge book hangover after finishing Book 4 this morning. I may come back and write more, but really there’s nothing else I can think of to say except I am grateful to Petrik whose Goodreads review of Book 1, Malice, made me take a chance on this series.
Veronica McCreedy is about to have the journey of a lifetime . . .
Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick.
Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.
She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting
instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’).
Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.
But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this.
At 86 years old Veronica is the epitome of stubborn and humourless. She leads a life where everything must be just so, although it is down to her long-suffering ‘daily’, Eileen, to achieve this for her. With no children other than a now deceased son that was adopted out shortly after his birth, Veronica realises that at her age she should be considering what to do with her considerable fortune. With Eileen’s help she discovers that the son she didn’t know also had a son, Patrick, and Veronica decides to meet him. Patrick is not at all what Veronica is expecting and their brief meeting leaves them both feeling disappointed. Now feeling as though she now has no outlet for her to devote her life and money to, Veronica decides to turn her full attention to the plight of a dwindling population of Adelie penguins on a remote and inhospitable island in the Antarctic that she has been following in a nature documentary series on television.
This was the point at which the story switched from being enjoyable to being thoroughly entertaining and engaging. We alternate between Veronica’s excursion to visit the penguins, depositing herself into the lives of the three horrified resident scientists on the island, and Patrick’s humdrum, unfulfilling existence in Bolton as he tries to recover from his girlfriend suddenly leaving him for another man. Much of Veronica’s back story is given to us through the journals she wrote as a teenager in war-torn Britain and which she gave to Patrick to read.
This is without doubt the sweetest, most charming book I have read this year. It has made me cry and it has made me laugh out loud. And now that I’ve finished it, even though it concluded perfectly, I am feeling a little bereft because I want to know more about what the future holds for Veronica, Patrick, the scientists and, of course, Pip the penguin!