What Lies Between Us by John Marrs


Description

Nina can never forgive Maggie for what she did. And she can never let her leave.

They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.

Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.

But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way—even if it kills her.

Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.

My Thoughts:

Oh my word. I’m sitting here absolutely speechless having just finished reading this. This book had me hooked from page one and didn’t let up. I read it in one sitting because Nina and Maggie are such complex characters and their lives are so incredibly warped that I had to keep turning the pages to see what was going to happen next. We learn at the very beginning that they are mother and daughter sharing a house, but with the unusual circumstance of Maggie being chained so that she can’t leave. The story flits back and forth in time and between both Nina’s and Maggie’s points of view, slowly unraveling the hows and whys of how they arrived at their current situation, but thanks to the clear chapter headers it was never confusing. I always knew who was narrating and the timeline. The twists and turns and curveballs just kept coming but there’s no way of expanding on that without risking spoilers. I’ve been a fan of John Marrs since the first book of his that I read and they just keep getting better!

Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead by Olga Tokarczuk


Description:

One of Poland’s most imaginative and lyrical writers, Olga Tokarczuk presents us with a detective story with a twist in DRIVE YOUR PLOW OVER THE BONES OF THE DEAD. After her two dogs go missing and members of the local hunting club are found murdered, teacher and animal rights activist Janina Duszejko becomes involved in the ensuing investigation. Part magic realism, part detective story, DRIVE YOUR PLOW OVER THE BONES OF THE DEAD is suspenseful and entertaining reimagining of the genre interwoven with poignant and insightful commentaries on our perceptions of madness, marginalised people and animal rights.

My thoughts:

On the surface this is a murder mystery. Very little delving reveals layers of social commentary.

The narrator is a woman in her 60’s, Mrs Duszejko, a teacher of English at the local school in a rural Polish setting near the Czech border. She also caretakes the empty houses of the seasonal visitors to the area and translates William Blake in her spare time. She is also passionate about animal rights and an enthusiastic amateur astrologist, although her methodology and accuracy are very questionable. After the murders of three hunters she attempts to insert herself into the investigations by writing letters to the police, theorising that the victims were all killed by animals as revenge for the animals they hunted and backing her claims with her astrology findings.

I have to say that I initially found everything confusing. Was there some credibility to her claims? Where were her Little Girls? Was she hiding something? … Was the narrator merely eccentric or completely mad?

The beautiful writing kept me reading, as well as a developing affection for this very odd woman.

“With his help, the tree trunks revealed their secrets to me. The most ordinary stumps turned out to be entire kingdoms of Creatures that bored corridors and passages, and laid their precious eggs there. The larvae may not have been beautiful, but I was moved by their sense of trust – they entrusted their lives to the trees, without imagining that these huge, immobile Creatures are essentially very fragile, and wholly dependent on the will of people too.”

Slowly but surely the story started coming together. I guessed a good part of the reveal, but by then it didn’t matter because the telling was so clever and darkly humorous and slyly perceptive that I just wanted to keep reading right to the very satisfying end.

The Overstory by Richard Powers

“But people have no idea what time is. They think it’s a line, spinning out from three seconds behind them, then vanishing just as fast into the three seconds of fog just ahead. They can’t see that time is one spreading ring wrapped around another, outward and outward until the thinnest skin of Now depends for its being on the enormous mass of everything that has already died.”

“Life has a way of talking to the future. It’s called memory. It’s called genes.”

“Life will cook; the seas will rise. The planet’s lungs will be ripped out. And the law will let this happen, because harm was never imminent enough. Imminent, at the speed of people, is too late. The law must judge imminent at the speed of trees.”

“We’re cashing in a billion years of planetary savings bonds and blowing it on assorted bling.”

“The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm, is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or a better emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right.”

“She could tell them about a simple machine needing no fuel and little maintenance, one that steadily sequesters carbon, enriches the soil, cools the ground, scrubs the air, and scales easily to any size. A tech that copies itself and even drops food for free. A device so beautiful it’s the stuff of poems. If forests were patentable, she’d get an ovation.”

“Humans are so frail. How have they survived long enough to wreak all the shit they have?”

Description:

An artist inherits a hundred years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies, and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. An Air Force crewmember in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan.

This is the story of these and five other strangers, each summoned in different ways by the natural world, who are brought together in a last stand to save it from catastrophe.

My Review:

There are some books that come along and just take your breath away, and that’s what this book did to me. The first half of the book reads like a series of short stories, each about a different person who develops a special, almost mystical, affinity with trees. In the second half of the book their stories become entwined as they join in a great environmental war. The author takes his time and makes sure the reader really knows the hearts of these very diverse characters, where they have come from and why they feel the way they do. The prose was almost lyrical while at the same time imparting a vast amount of knowledge to the reader. I wanted to highlight entire passages on almost every page just because they were so beautiful and insightful.

The Day She Came Back by Amanda Prowse

Description:

From the bestselling author of The Girl in the Corner comes a story that asks: how do you forgive the family that lied to you, and love the mum you never had?

When her loving, free-spirited grandmother Primrose passes away, Victoria is bereft, yet resilient—she has survived tragedy before. But even her strength is tested when a mysterious woman attends Prim’s funeral and claims to be the mother Victoria thought was dead.

As the two women get to know each other and Victoria begins to learn more about her past, it becomes clear that her beloved grandmother had been keeping life-changing secrets from her. Desperate for answers, she still struggles to trust anyone to tell her the truth.

To live a full and happy life, Victoria knows she must not only uncover the truth, but find a way to forgive her family. But after so many years, is trusting them even possible?

My review:

This is my first Amanda Prowse book and it will not be my last. The characters are so beautifully drawn, some with detail and others more sparingly, and yet each person becomes familiar to us.

Victoria has a wonderful relationship with her maternal grandmother, Prim, who brought her up after her mother’s (Prim’s daughter’s) death when Victoria was still a baby. Prim has been the rock in Victoria’s life until the unthinkable happens and Prim dies unexpectedly. From this moment on Victoria’s well ordered life begins to unravel, starting with Prim’s funeral when a woman appears, claiming to be Victoria’s ‘dead’ mother.

What I particularly loved was the time spent introducing Prim into the reader’s life. Her death is such a catalyst for what follows that it was very important for us to know and understand the place she held in Victoria’s life to be able to understand the impact of losing her.

I didn’t always like Victoria but her actions were believable for a teenager suddenly cut adrift from the parental tether of the grandmother who raised her. I strongly recommend this book.

The Last Dance by Martin L. Shoemaker

Description

At the heart of a mystery unfolding in space, the opposing forces make a treacherous journey between Earth and Mars.

In space, mutiny means death—that’s why Inspector General Park Yerim is taking her investigation so seriously. The alleged mutineer is Captain Nicolau Aames, whose command of the massive Earth-Mars vessel Aldrin has come under fire. The vast System Initiative says he disobeyed orders, but his crew swears he’s in the right.

En route to Mars, Park gathers testimony from the Aldrin’s diverse crew, painting a complex picture of Aames’s character: his heroism, his failures, even his personal passions. As the investigation unfolds, Park finds herself in the thrall of powerful interests, each pushing and pulling her in a fiery cosmic dance.

Corruption, conflicting loyalties, and clashing accounts make it nearly impossible to see the truth in fifty million miles of darkness, and Park faces danger from every direction. All eyes are on her: one way or another, her findings will have astronomical implications for the Aldrin and the future of space travel.

My Review:

Rounded up to 4.5 stars.

The story is centred around General Inspector Park Yerim, on whose shoulders it has fallen to investigate allegations of mutiny brought against spaceship Captain Nick Aames. The story is told predominantly through a series of ‘off-the-record’ accounts by crew members of previous events in which the captain played major parts. It is through these accounts that the investigator and the reader come to form an understanding of the complex character of Captain Aames. Interspersed with these accounts the story reverts to the present and the investigation. Inspector Parks is in a difficult position – under pressure from all sides and finding herself being stonewalled and under threat.

Each account is almost a short story in itself and very interesting. The writing, dialogue, character-building and scene-setting were all brilliantly done. And I loved the very ending despite guessing it.

I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a book this much. This author was previously unknown to me, but I will now be looking up his back-catalogue.