Review: A Decline in Prophets

A Decline in Prophets
A Decline in Prophets by Sulari Gentill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I seem to be entrenched in 1930s Australia! It began, of course, with the first book of the Rowland Sinclair series, A Few Right Thinking Men, For Love of Country, The Big Smoke, then Razor: Tilly Devine, Kate Leigh and the Razor Gangs and now, this book! I was excited though to see a couple of the Razor gangs crims showing up in A Decline in Prophets -it was within the right setting, of course, time and location wise. I guess I was a lot more excited because I’ve just finished the book, Razor, so they are very familiar historical personages.

This review is in relation of the second book in the Rowland Sinclair series but there won’t be any spoilers from book 1

This novel opens with the return journey of Rowland Sinclair and his friends from abroad. They have been away for 8 months and are keen to return home to Sydney. This journey over the seas, though filled with interesting characters, was fraught with danger especially to Rowland. He found himself, yet again & again, implicated in matters that blacken his family name; to the displeasure of his older brother.

My first impression of this series was that it could’ve been a mix between Lord Peter Wimsey and Phryne Fisher. This series is set roughly around the same era (1930s) though in Sydney and there are familiar traits in characters etc however whilst Miss Fisher styled herself as an investigator, Rowland Sinclair just happened to have the knack of being at the wrong place at the wrong time at a criminal rate. He is rather an amateur sleuth which, at times, rather frustrated me as a reader. And being rather conservative myself, I’m leaning towards his brother and at times, just do not understand their chosen lifestyles which made it harder to sympathise with these characters. I am not judging anybody their chosen lifestyles as I’m sure you’ll wonder at my chosen lifestyle. However, I just want to be clear that this is the reason I like rather than love this novel, in that I found it hard to put myself in their perspectives.

A most pleasant surprise, however, is the humour. I actually chuckled out loud a couple of times and this rarely ever happens with my reading. I don’t recall the first book being this humorous. I think there were probably real historical personages in book 1 too except that I wasn’t that familiar with political characters… but these 2 factors are what I enjoyed most so far in the series, the historical personages popping in and the humorous interaction between Rowland and his friends.

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Review: Winter Journey

Winter Journey
Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A reading challenge addict – that’s ME! These days I try to fit books from my insurmountable TBR into reading challenges but this time, I wanted to fit an Australian author into a non-Australian setting. That was a terrible exercise as it means I’ve added at least a dozen books to my TBR! However, it has also led to some amazing discovery which included this book, Winter Journey.

It was slow to begin as the first 20% of the audiobook had to set up a lot of background for the main character, Halina Shore. Then, there were Sydney cases she was involved in and certain incidents to happen before she was rather driven to go overseas. However, once she reached Poland, I couldn’t stop listening (even to my son’s complaints in the car, I did not stop the audiobook). It wasn’t that it was a hard mystery to solve but I have rather enjoyed the story telling (good narrator helps) and couldn’t wait for the discovery by the character.

I had to take away a star because of some sexual content… not because the content itself but I just thought it was rather gratuitous and took away from the punch of the horrifying events. If the concern was to take away some bitterness, I felt that this could have been done in another way. Also, there seems to be the confusing issue about the character’s age; supposedly in her 40s but according to time settings etc, she really should be in her 60s? (I’m not the only one to notice this either, review

I was a fan of Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta and Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan so the mention of a forensic dentist appealed to me as I’m a mystery buff. Combined with a historical forensic investigation and a self-discovery journey, this book was powerful & heartbreaking! It did not shy away from the terrible things of the Holocaust and I didn’t expect this part of it; this really shook me.

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Review: The Storyteller’s Muse

The Storyteller's Muse
The Storyteller’s Muse by Traci Harding
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am having a bit of trouble sorting of what I think about this novel. Traci Harding has been on the top of my fave Aussie author since the late ‘90s when I first discovered The Ancient Future which I’ve re-read many times. Most of her works are serial (she’s written a handful of trilogies) and rather more New-Age feel to them (as opposed to ghostly / gothic). The haunting premise of this novel (plus the Gorgeous Cover) is really promising a good ghost story.

The novel began quite well with an interaction between the main character, Peter, nurse & aspiring writer, with Penelope, elderly & well-known author. This first encounter wasn’t well in itself but it established a rocky beginning of a student-teacher relationship. I love Penelope; her crabby attitude is a protective shell of a creative and nurturing mind. Of course, I also love (as a reader) her meddling in the young ‘un’s business. I, however, neither liked nor disliked Peter. He was a nice guy but I don’t feel for him, at all.

The ghost story or the mystery behind this ghost story started quite well and I was quite intrigued at the beginning. Unfortunately, I’ve guessed the secret too early on in the piece which disturb my enjoyment of the whole mysterious air. In a way, this has a slight gothic feel but it was very hard to me in imagining a dark gothic air in the Australian sunshine… This might make me sound strange but maybe I should have saved this reading for late nights only!

I did enjoy the references to books & writing though. This made me feel like I was invited into a writers’ lair and being let in into some secrets (not really!). There were some funny parts, romantic parts (quite a few awkwardness on Peter’s side), and a bit of tension. The Storyteller’s Muse was an easy and fairly enjoyable read. And if you don’t like ghost story, it’s not that scary at all…

Thanks to HarperCollins Publishers Australia for copy eARC via NetGalley in exchange of honest review

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Review: Black Rock White City

Black Rock White City
Black Rock White City by A.S. Patric
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fascinating Mystery.

Mesmerising Prose.

Admirable characters; flawed & broken but they are Survivors! Things that happened to them could easily break a person (and a relationship) but though they have been changed and hardened & life continues to flow around and through them, the future dim, they are alive and have hung on to each other, for better for worse.

A comment on the cover which I thought were a close-up shot of a beautiful white flower but which according to the note inside the book is Furious Angels by Smitty B from the series “Failing the Rorschach Test” and made me think, what does this say about me? In any case, it was just an interesting point to me… What do YOU think of the cover?

Note to self: never judge a person by their jobs!

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Review: The Amber Shadows

The Amber Shadows
The Amber Shadows by Lucy Ribchester
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I saw this title on NetGalley, I was first intrigued by the silhouettes on cover then I read the description and I was sold especially since I’ve just finished binge-watching The Bletchley Circle! I wanted to read a novel in that setting, Bletchley Park. The mystery spin in The Amber Shadows just made it more appealing as it is closer in description to the tv series. The differences being actual time setting and a slightly ‘mystical’ nature of the mystery.

Honey Deschamps was haunted by the mysterious and seemingly glamorous past of her parents; especially her father’s who she barely knows. So when she receives mysterious packages from Russia, she can only assume that they came from him. There were many questions surrounding the packages and many insurmountable barriers to climb to find the answers she needed to make the decision on these packages. There is a World War going on…

The author has successfully transported me into the world of time past; it was almost always dark, it was confusing, it was scary, and it was definitely not the time to be mysterious or nosy! Whilst I was left a little disappointed that the resolution wasn’t as glamorous as I’d wish it to be, it was very realistic. I guess I was just as carried away as Honey with her wishful conception of her father.

The Amber Shadows is a gripping mystery novel with a most thrilling setting. Whilst it’s not quite The Bletchley Circle and it wasn’t quite what I was looking for, it was still an enjoyable read.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for copy eARC via NetGalley in exchange of honest review

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Review: The Big Smoke

big smokeThe Big Smoke by D’Arcy Niland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: hardcover copy borrowed from library

My interest in D’Arcy Niland was only sparked when I read Ruth Park’s autobiography, A Fence Around the Cuckoo & Fishing in the Styx which of course, referred quite a bit to Niland being a happily married couple who also spurred each other on in their writing jobs. Unfortunately, most of his books are out of print except for one, The Shiralee. Thankfully, my library has a decent collection and carried a few of his works.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel as there wasn’t much information online about it. I’ve amended the Goodreads page with the blurb from the inside jacket noting the only other review about this book noted (uncertainly) that it was set in 1950’s Sydney but… it’s not. It is actually from beginning of 20th century to mid ‘20s. It is a novel of interconnected stories surrounding “Jack Johnson’s boy”.

The story began, of course, just before the conception of this boy from the perspective of a fight promoter, Chiddy Hay, who never really made it and is down on his luck. It ended, at a full circle, with Chiddy Hay, a pensioner still down on his luck (though this was during the Great Depression) and the boy grown. Out of the 10 chapters/stories, only one short one is from the perspective of the boy. All other 9 stories are told from people connected to him either directly or indirectly but most assuredly connected by living in the Big Smoke (ie. City of Sydney).

This novel really isn’t about the boy or anyone in particular but rather of the city and its effects on the residents of said city.

”…this city is a character. It talks. It works on its own. It plays fair and it plays foul. I’m what it’s done to me.”

The variety of the characters, their warmth and vitality, was just amazing. At the end of each chapter, I want to know more about that particular character though of course, we’d have to move on. There was a steeplejack, a street sweeper, owner of a burger joint, a night watcher, a housewife, and many others who work in and for the city. Yet, despite everything they do, the city lives on when they fade away.

Sydney, of course, is my city, my home and I have loved each moment I read this novel as I imagine myself as life was back in the last century. These characters expressed what each city dwellers would have felt at one time or another; the beauty of the city, the smog, the loneliness, etc. The Great Depression surely was not a good age to live in but each of these characters felt so real and their stories (regardless of whether it ends well or not) were heartfelt.

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Review: For Love of Country

for love of countryFor Love of Country by Anthony Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source; paperback copy courtesy of publisher

Whilst I read quite a number of memoirs, I’ve never actually read any ANZAC related ones so this is a first for me and really quite heartbreaking. The author has done a fantastic job in pulling all your interest for this particular family who has lost so, so much in building and protecting this country we call home. There were quite a few things that you could just assume from the outset but still when they happened, I felt teary just like I was part of the family.

For Love of Country tells the story of the Eddison family as they sought a new home and their struggle in and for this home. Captain Walter Eddison did not come from a wealthy family. Even though, his uncles and aunts managed to prosper in their endeavours, his father did not. And when he and Marion met, Walter also has not succeeded in any of his toils but he is not afraid of hard work. As they sought for opportunities outside of England, the war (WW1) broke out as Walter was visiting Australia. He, cajoled by his jackeroo colleagues, enlisted along with them. Thus began the family’s military journey.

Despite their struggle with the work of the land, they loved it nonetheless. And while young men are drawn by the glory of military careers, they come quickly to the realisation of how their services protect their families and home and this only spurred them further. There is no predictable outcome for the soldiers. There is no guarantee of coming home. Yet, we always hope. I wanted this so much for the Eddison family and my heart broke for them.

It does not matter if you don’t know your history well because Anthony Hill have done a marvellous job is summarising the wars and how they affected the world and more particularly, the Eddison family. ”Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13) But their deaths were for all Australians, then and now.

Thanks to Penguin Random House Australia for paperback copy in exchange of honest review

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