Posts Tagged 'writing'

Favourite Books for 2017

Two thousand seventeen was a busy year, personally and professionally, and while I am happy with what I have accomplished – notably the completion of my adult crime thriller, re-writing a middle-grade science fiction novel and publication of my hi-lo YA novel Running on Empty (official release date Jan 23 2018) – I ha20180102_122245ven’t read as many books as I’d have liked. One of my goals for 2018 will be to make reading a priority, along with writing, and to post more reviews. But there are, as always, a few stand-outs, so here, in no particular order, are my favourite books for 2017.

Not necessarily published in 2017, but ones that I read in 2017.


A Cardboard Palace by Allayne L Webster – This emotional story for younger readers is set in a shantytown in Paris. Eleven-year-old Jorge is part of a gang who survive on the streets by begging and thieving – with their profits going directly into the hands of their controller, Bill. He lives day by day, not knowing when or if he will next eat. Within this harsh environment, Jorge shows conviction and tenacity as he dares to dream of a better life. But it is his courage and loyalty to his friends that endears him to the reader as bigger problems arise. His home (such as it is) is under threat, his friends in danger, and Jorge will not stand by and let it happen without a fight.

Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale – A historical saga spanning three generations, Palace of Tears is set in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales and follows the life of Adam Fox, his wives, his children, and his grandchildren. In 2013, Fox’s granddaughter, Lisa, seeks the truth about her mother’s past before she slides into the clutches of dementia and loses it forever. Told from multiple points of view and multiple time periods, gradually the past is unveiled, along with its tragedies, its secrets, and its lies. Until the mystery of the elusive ‘Angie’ is revealed.

Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon – A thriller set in post WWII East Berlin, this gritty novel depicts life in Soviet-held Germany after the war. Alex Meier, a young Jewish writer who fled to America before the war, returns to Berlin as an agent for the CIA in a desperate attempt to avoid deportation and the loss of his family. He is embroiled in an intrigue far bigger and more dangerous than he could ever have imagined. I picked this book up for its atmosphere and depiction of post-WWII Germany, but was thoroughly enthralled with the story.

With Malice by Eileen Cook – A fast-paced, intriguing YA thriller, With Malice was a fun read. Eighteen year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital bed after being involved in a fatal accident on a school trip to Italy. A trip she can’t remember. Not the trip, not what happened between her and her best friend Simone, and not the accident, in which Simone was killed. There are lawyers involved, media chasing her, and the question that hangs on everyone’s lips. Was it really an accident?

The Conjoined by Jen Sookfong Lee – The story starts out as social worker, Jessica Campbell is sorting through her mother’s belongings after her death and discovers the bodies of two dead girls in the freezer. But despite its macabre beginning, this is not a thriller. Set in Vancouver, Canada during three time periods – 2016, 1947 – 1959 and 1984 – 1988 – the story follows Jessica’s emotional journey and readjustment of her sense of self and family, as she discovers that her mother was not who she thought she was. Outwardly an ‘earth mother’ who fostered many children during Jessica’s childhood and beyond, Donna is not what she appeared to be, and Jessica is forced to look within herself and what she knew of her childhood as Donna’s past is revealed, along with the past of the two foster girls who Jessica had been led to believe had run away.

The Secret River by Kate Grenville – This is my current read, and I am thoroughly enjoying it.  Set in London, and then Sydney in the early 1800s, this historical novel follows the journey of William Thornhill, riverman and thief, as he is transported to Australia and struggles to carve out a life there for himself and his family. Once free, he settles on a piece of land up-river that he thinks is vacant. But the land belongs to the Darug people. An inspired look into Australia’s history.

Book Review: The Mercy of the Tide by Keith Rosson

I was provided with an ARC copy of The Mercy of the Tide, by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Debut novelist, Keith Rosson, has delivered a riveting character-driven tale that crosses the line between mild horror and alternate reality. Set in the small seaside town of Riptide Oregon, the time is late 1983. The town is grieving the loss of two women killed in a head-on car crash, leaving siblings Trina and Sam Finster motherless and Sheriff Dave Dobbs a widower. The blame for the accident is firmly laid on Melissa Finster, after beer cans are discovered in the back of the wreck, causing more anguish for her devastated family.

The story is told from the point of view of four characters in alternating chapters: eighteen-year-old Sam Finster, his nine-year-old sister Trina Finster who is profoundly deaf, Sheriff Dave Dobbs, and Deputy Nick Hayslip, a Vietnam veteran who grieves for Melissa Finster in secrecy, unable to reveal their affair in light of the tragedy.

Rosson’s characters are well-drawn and believable, each dealing with their grief in their own way, each with their own personality and their own voice, and the addition of several interesting secondary characters only makes the narrative stronger. I thought each of the characters was relatable, although I probably felt the least connection with Trina Finster, who deals with the loss of her mother by obsessing about the possibility of nuclear war, which seems an unlikely reaction for a nine-year-old, even a gifted one.

As the story unfolds, mutilated corpses of birds and animals are found about town and fear grips the tiny community, wondering what sort of animal or human could be responsible. However the discovery of a hundred-year-old skeleton of a Native American girl leads Deputy Hayslip to suspect that something darker and much more ancient is at work.

The descriptions in this novel are vivid. Rosson paints a picture of the town that is dark and cold and windswept, a fitting backdrop to the grief and melancholy that dominates the characters’ thoughts. I did feel the book was a bit of a slow burn, as the tension didn’t really build until the second half, the first half dedicated to setting the scene and building the characters. However, this didn’t seem to detract from the narrative. I kept turning the pages, and when the suspense rose to the ultimate climate, I was invested in the characters and genuinely anxious for their fate.

Overall, a highly enjoyable read. Recommended for readers who enjoy alternate reality, supernatural themes and mild horror.

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