Carolyn’s Books of the Month – February

Best Read: The Pearl Thief by Fiona McIntosh

Severine Kassel is asked by the Louvre in 1963 to aid the British Museum with curating its antique jewellery, her specialty. Her London colleagues find her distant and mysterious, her cool beauty the topic of conversations around its quiet halls. No one could imagine that she is a desperately damaged woman, hiding her trauma behind her chic, French image. It is only when some dramatic Byzantine pearls are loaned to the Museum that Severine’s poise is dashed and the tightly controlled life she’s built around herself is shattered. Her shocking revelation of their provenance sets off a frenzied hunt for Nazi Ruda Mayek. Mossad’s interest is triggered and one of its most skilled agents comes out of retirement to join the hunt, while the one person who can help Severine – the solicitor handling the pearls – is bound by client confidentiality. As she follows Mayek’s trail, there is still one lifelong secret for her to reveal – and one for her to discover. From the snowy woodlands outside Prague to the Tuileries of Paris and the heather-covered moors of Yorkshire comes a novel that explores whether love and hope can ever overpower atrocity in a time of war and hate.

Crime: Second Sight by Aoife Clifford

Eliza Carmody returns home to the country to work on the biggest law case of her career. The only problem is this time she’s on the ‘wrong side’ – defending a large corporation against a bushfire class action by her hometown of Kinsale. On her first day back Eliza witnesses an old friend, Luke Tyrell, commit an act of lethal violence. As the police investigate that crime and hunt for Luke they uncover bones at The Castle, a historic homestead in the district. Eliza is convinced that they belong to someone from her past. As Eliza becomes more and more entangled in the investigation, she is pulled back into her memories of youthful friendships and begins to question everyone she knows … and everything she once thought was true.

Australian Author: The Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning

In 2016, fleeing London with a broken heart, Alexandra returns to Australia to be with her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm, when her grandfather is dying. With only weeks left together, her grandparents begin to reveal the family mysteries they have kept secret for more than half a century. In 1939, two young girls meet in Shanghai, the ‘Paris of the East’: beautiful local Li and Viennese refugee Romy form a fierce friendship. But the deepening shadows of World War Two fall over the women as Li and Romy slip between the city’s glamorous French Concession and the desperate Shanghai Ghetto. Eventually, they are forced separate ways as Romy doubts Li’s loyalties. After Wilhelm dies, Alexandra flies to Shanghai, determined to trace her grandparents’ past. As she peels back the layers of their hidden lives, she begins to question everything she knows about her family – and herself. A tale of female friendship, the price of love, and the power of hardship and courage to shape us all.

General: The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd

Twenty years ago, Dennis Danson was arrested and imprisoned for the brutal murder of a young girl in Florida’s Red River County. Now he’s the subject of a true-crime documentary that’s whipping up a frenzy online to uncover the truth and free a man who has been wrongly convicted. A thousand miles away in England, Samantha is obsessed with Dennis’s case. She exchanges letters with him, and is quickly won over by his apparent charm and kindness to her. Soon she has left her old life behind to marry him and campaign for his release. But when the campaign is successful and Dennis is freed, Sam begins to discover new details that suggest he may not be quite so innocent after all …

Thriller: All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson

On the eve of his college graduation, Harry is called home by his step-mother Alice, to their house on the Maine coast, following the unexpected death of his father. But who really is Alice, his father’s much younger second wife? In a split narrative, Peter Swanson teases out the stories and damage that lie in her past. And as her story entwines with Harry’s in the present, things grow increasingly dark and threatening – will Harry be able to see any of it clearly through his own confused feelings?

Thriller: The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time. She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy, and dangerous, alliance is born. It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret, can she outrun her past?

Saga/Romance: The House Across the Street by Lesley Pearse

Twenty-three year old Katy Speed is fascinated by the house across the street. The woman who lives there, Gloria, is the most glamorous neighbour on the avenue, owning a fashionable dress shop in Bexhill-on-Sea. But who is the woman who arrives in the black car most Saturdays while Gloria is at work? Sometimes she brings women to the house, other times they have children. Hilda, Katy’s mother, disapproves of Gloria. She wonders if these mysterious visitors have just been released from prison. Is Gloria secretly bringing criminals, or worse, into the heart of the community? Then one night, the house burns down. In the wreckage, the bodies of Gloria and her daughter are found. Katy is sure the unexplained visitors must be responsible until her father is arrested and charged with murder. Have the police arrested the correct person? Are the rest of the street safe? Can Katy find the truth before it’s too late?

 

eAudio Books

The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper (BorrowBox): The Arsonist takes readers inside the hunt for a fire-lighter. After Black Saturday, a February 2009 day marked by 47 degree heat and firestorms, arson squad detectives arrived at a plantation on the edge of a 26,000-hectare burn site. Eleven people had just been killed and hundreds made homeless. Here, in the Latrobe Valley, where Victoria’s electricity is generated, and the rates of unemployment, crime and domestic abuse are the highest in the state, more than thirty people were known to police as firebugs. But the detectives soon found themselves on the trail of a man they didn’t know.

The Arsonist tells a remarkable detective story, as the police close in on someone they believe to be a cunning offender; and a puzzling psychological story, as defence lawyers seek to understand the motives of a man who, they claimed, was a naf that had accidentally dropped a cigarette.
It is the story not only of this fire – how it happened, the people who died, the aftermath for the community – but of fire in this country. What it has done, what it has meant, what it might yet do. Bushfire is one of Australia’s deepest anxieties, never more so than when deliberately lit. Arson, wrote Henry Lawson, expresses a malice ‘terrifying to those who have seen what it is capable of. You never know when you are safe.’

Teacher by Gabbie Stroud (RB Digital): Watching children learn is a beautiful and extraordinary experience…. It is a kind of magic, a kind of loving, a kind of art. It is teaching. Just teaching. Just what I do. What I did. Past tense.In 2014, Gabrielle Stroud was a very dedicated teacher with over a decade of experience. Months later, she resigned in frustration and despair when she realised that the Naplan-test education model was stopping her from doing the very thing she was best at: teaching individual children according to their needs and talents. Her ground-breaking essay ‘Teaching Australia’ in the Feb 2016 Griffith Review outlined her experiences and provoked a huge response from former and current teachers around the world. That essay lifted the lid on a scandal that is yet to properly break – that our education system is unfair to our children and destroying their teachers. In a powerful memoir inspired by her original ground-breaking essay, Gabrielle tells the full story: how she came to teaching, what makes a great teacher, what our kids need from their teachers, and what it was that finally broke her. A brilliant and heart-breaking memoir that cuts to the heart of a vital matter of national importance.

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eBooks, eMagazines & eAudio from Blue Mountains library

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