December Picks

Searching for SylvieKwok, Jean (2019) Searching for Sylvie Lee. Morrow. Golden girl Sylvie, flies to the Netherlands to visit her dying Grandmother, and then goes missing. Her distraught younger sister Amy sets off in search of her sister, retracing her movements and revealing long-hidden family secrets. At the heart of the mystery is Sylvie’s upbringing, raised until nine years old by her Chinese-Dutch relatives, before she rejoined her immigrant family in Queens. A sorrowful tale of identity, family, resentment and culture. Rating: 8/10.

Secret CommonwealthPullman, Philip (2019) The Secret Commonwealth: The Book of Dust, Volume Two. Pickling/Penguin. Lyra no longer a child is now an Oxford undergraduate, whose relationship with her daemon Pantalaimon has disintegrated beyond repair. Left daemonless she sets off on a search across Europe into Asia where the evil magisterium, and the elusiveness of Dust, has made the world an increasingly dangerous place.  While this second book in a trilogy slowly moves us ahead in time and space it leaves us hanging until Volume Three. A (very) long convoluted plot in a series that is not a match on His Dark Materials trilogy. Disappointing. For Pullman-Lyra fans only.  Rating: 8/10.

BrunyRose, Heather (2019) Bruny. Allen & Unwin. Astrid Coleman, a Tasmanian-born UN mediator, is called home after the bombing of the new Bruny Bridge. Her twin brother is the premier of Tasmania and he needs her help in resolving conspiracy theories around the bridge before the upcoming election. How far is the government willing to go to sell-out Tasmania, how far is Astrid willing to go to save it and her family’s legacy? An uneasy subversive geopolitical thriller. Rating: 8/10.

Girls like usAlger, Cristina (2019) Girls Like Us. Putnam. When her father dies in a motorcycle accident FBI agent Nell returns home to Suffolk County, Long Island, for the first time in 10 years. After scattering her father’s ashes she is called upon help in investigating the brutal murders of two young Latina women. As she becomes more deeply involved she discovers there are corrupt forces at play and that her father may be a prime suspect. Nell is a gutsy and empathetic protagonist. Gritty. Rating 8/10.

OystervilleWiggs, Susan (2019) The Oysterville Sewing Circle. Morrow. Caroline Shelby returns to her hometown of Oysterville, Washington, after a career defining scandal in the fashion world, with two orphaned children in tow. She is now the children’s legal guardian and must find a means to support herself and the children. With the support of her family and friends she establishes a design business, and sets up a support group for victims of abuse, the Oysterville Sewing Circle, as a tribute to the children’s mother. A heartwarming romance, with a #MeToo moment. Rating: 8/10.

PeaceDisher, Garry (2019) Peace. Text. Constable Paul Hirschhausen is a rural policeman in sunburnt South Australia, demoted to the area after his reputation is tarnished by corrupt city cops. In spite of the vast area he polices his life is mostly peaceful with a focus on building rapport with the locals and dealing with break-ins and petty crimes. As the Christmas season approaches he is caught up in a savage attack on miniature ponies, and two murders which brings an influx of federal and state police into his patch. The tension increases slowly driven by strong plot and character development, with the landscape as a backdrop. More wonderful Aussie rural noir.  Rating: 9/10.

Where the ForestVanderah, Glendy (2019) Where the Forest Meets the Stars. Lake Union. Joanna, a cancer survivor, is undertaking graduate research on nesting birds in rural Illinois when a mysterious ‘alien’ child shows up at her cabin. The child, Ursa, claims she has been sent to earth to witness five miracles. Jo sets out to unravel Ursa’s dangerous past, with Gab her reclusive neighbour, and comes to understand the healing power of redemptive love. Slow and curious, with a touch of enchantment. Rating: 7.5/10.

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