Australian fiction

All posts in the Australian fiction category

Blog Tour – Force Of Nature (Aaron Falk #2) – Jane Harper

Published February 9, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Five women go on a hike. Only four return. Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry, asks: How well do you really know the people you work with?

When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path.

But one of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker. In an investigation that takes him deep into isolated forest, Falk discovers secrets lurking in the mountains, and a tangled web of personal and professional friendship, suspicion, and betrayal among the hikers. But did that lead to murder?

What did I think?:

Well, this was a very pleasant surprise! Force Of Nature is the second book in Jane Harper’s Aaron Falk series, the first one being The Dry which I also had the privilege of being involved in the blog tour for so thank you once again to Kimberley Nyamhondera and Little Brown publishers for inviting me once more for the second book in the series. I have to admit, I approached this book with the same trepidation I always do for any follow up novel. I had enjoyed The Dry but had seen a few early reviewers saying that they had preferred it to this second offering. However, this just proves that everyone is their own person with their own individual tastes because I can say, hand on heart that I personally loved Force Of Nature even more! It’s a thrilling, white-knuckle ride of a book and one of those crime novels that you can really savour every moment whilst feeling quite bereft when it all ends.

Our main protagonist, Aaron Falk is back with a partner, Carmen and is investigating a financial crime of money laundering in a company managed solely by members of the same family. However, he becomes embroiled in quite a different sort of case when the woman assisting him (who works for the company), Alice mysteriously goes missing on a team building exercise with other work colleagues while hiking some notorious trails that have a rather murky history themselves. It is crucial for Aaron’s enquiries that Alice is found as she has some key information that will bring down the money launderers but of course, above all, Aaron is concerned for the woman’s safety. When the rescue teams struggle to find Alice, foul plays starts to be suspected. Especially when Aaron and Carmen dig a little deeper into the relationships between the work colleagues and find many dark secrets just waiting to be unearthed.

First of all, I adored the structure of this novel. In the present time, we see Aaron and Carmen struggling to discover what might have happened to their perfect informer Alice, and then in alternate chapters we go right back to the beginning of the expedition where there are five women about to set of on their adventure: Jill, Lauren, twins Beth and Breanna and of course, Alice. All women work together and from the very beginning, you can cut the tension in the air with a knife as there is already evidence of personal problems between many of the women. The reader knows at the very beginning that only four out of the five women return and two of them are injured so this is a tantalising little mystery that had me reading faster and faster to discover what exactly happened out there in the wilderness.

The characters are beyond perfect, all fleshed out completely with their own distinct personalities, agendas and perhaps strong reasons for feeling a little aggrieved? I loved all the unpicking of the many intricate relationships between the women which unfolded quite slowly as the narrative continues but with just enough bite to keep you guessing and keep you intrigued as you can almost taste the building of tensions within the group. With Force Of Nature, I am now an eager supporter of Jane Harper’s work and this is definitely a series I can see myself being invested in and reading instantly as each new novel is released.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Jane Harper is the author of The Dry, winner of various awards including the
2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, the
2017 Indie Award Book of the Year and the 2017 Australian Book Industry
Awards Book of the Year Award. Rights have been sold in 27 territories
worldwide, and film rights optioned to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna
Papandrea. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in
Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne. Force of Nature is Jane’s
second novel.

Find Jane on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/556546.Jane_Harper

on her website at: Janeharper.com.au

on Twitter at: @janeharperautho

Thank you once again to Kimberley Nyamhondera and Little Brown publishers  for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Force Of Nature by Jane Harper was published on the 8th February 2018 and is available from all good bookshops now. If you want some more fantastic reviews don’t forget to check out my fellow bloggers stops for some more fantastic reviews!

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34275222-force-of-nature?ac=1&from_search=true

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Force-Nature-author-Sunday-bestseller/dp/1408708205/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1517762972&sr=1-1&keywords=force+of+nature+jane+harper

Force Of Nature by Jane Harper was the twelfth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

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Salt Creek – Lucy Treloar

Published January 6, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

THE TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR

Salt Creek, 1855, lies at the far reaches of the remote, beautiful and inhospitable coastal region, the Coorong, in the new province of South Australia. The area, just opened to graziers willing to chance their luck, becomes home to Stanton Finch and his large family, including fifteen-year-old Hester Finch.

Once wealthy political activists, the Finch family has fallen on hard times. Cut adrift from the polite society they were raised to be part of, Hester and her siblings make connections where they can: with the few travellers that pass along the nearby stock route – among them a young artist, Charles – and the Ngarrindjeri people they have dispossessed. Over the years that pass, an Aboriginal boy, Tully, at first a friend, becomes part of the family.

Stanton’s attempts to tame the harsh landscape bring ruin to the Ngarrindjeri people’s homes and livelihoods, and unleash a chain of events that will tear the family asunder. As Hester witnesses the destruction of the Ngarrindjeri’s subtle culture and the ideals that her family once held so close, she begins to wonder what civilization is. Was it for this life and this world that she was educated?

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the wonderful people at Gallic Press who got in touch with me via email and asked me if I’d be interested in reading a couple of their titles that they thought I would enjoy. The first title was Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar and caught my attention immediately from that beautiful synopsis that instantly made me feel like this book was begging to be read. Well, let me just say that Gallic Press have hit onto a real winner here with what they thought I might like, because I adored everything about this novel. Not only is there an absolutely stellar story within these pages but the novel itself is just so aesthetically pleasing with that gorgeous cover art and the fact that the jacket is slightly rough so you could almost believe you were running your hands through sand (which of course, connects with where our story is set!).

So I have to admit I was already inclined to like this novel on the outside but I’m not so shallow to believe that a pretty front cover is all it takes to make a fascinating story. Here is where I tell you that what is on the inside is just as good as the exterior. It is an epic tale of a large family who leave their home in Adelaide to live in a remote, isolated region of Australia near to some of the native Aboriginal tribes who call it their home. Stanton Finch and his family build their house from scratch, raise animals, live off the land and survive in quite harsh conditions as they enter financial difficulties, suffer their own personal tragedies and learn to co-exist with the native residents of Salt Creek in the mid to late 1800’s.

An integral part of the family is fifteen year old Hester Finch and we see a lot of the narrative through her eyes as she looks out for her younger brothers and sisters, tries to comfort her distressed mother (who did not anticipate leading such an impoverished life) and begins to learn a lot about the people on the land that seem to look so different and have different customs compared to her own family. It is during those years of hardship on their land and as the family’s fortune continues to dwindle that Hester begins to see a new side of some of the members of her family and realises that decisions she has made, in order to protect her family, may not be the best and healthiest decisions after all.

I’d love to say more but I simply can’t! The beauty of this novel is that you really don’t know where it’s going to end up and I was certainly surprised and delighted by some of the more obscure avenues that the author went down that I definitely didn’t expect. There is quite a slow pace at the start but please don’t be put off. Once the family become ensconced at Salt Creek and you get your head round the sheer number of characters in this family, you enter a world of gorgeous story-telling, worrying prejudices and unexpected events that have to be read to be believed. I loved the author’s description of the environment, it was so visceral I could picture everything that Hester sees in my mind and almost feel that oppressive heat on my back. At times, it made for quite tough reading, especially when our characters (either Australian or Aboriginal) go through difficult circumstances and I found some of the attitudes at the time particularly hard to stomach. By the end though, I left it supremely satisfied and almost as if I had gone through that journey myself with Hester and her family, which I can only give credit to Lucy Treloar for as it was she who provided such a rich and emotional reading experience.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Before This Is Over – Amanda Hickie

Published November 3, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

How far will a mother go to save her children? A twisting, edge-of-your seat drama that you’ll never forget.

BEFORE THIS IS OVER by Amanda Hickie is a powerful, thought-provoking drama that looks at one family in the heart of a devastated community and compels us to ask: how far would I go to save my children? ‘Shatteringly suspenseful…it’s impossible not to be super-glued to the page’ Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of PICTURES OF YOU

A normal family. A quiet, leafy street. A terrifying epidemic.

It’s been coming for a while: a lethal illness. With sons of five and fourteen to look out for, Hannah has been stockpiling supplies, despite everyone telling her that it’s unnecessary.

Then it arrives.

At first there are a few unconfirmed cases. Then a death. Now the whole city is quarantined. But Hannah’s family is not yet safe behind their locked front door…

Basics soon become luxuries, and neighbours become hazards. There are power cuts, food shortages and an ever-growing sense of claustrophobia. How will the family cope?

How would you cope?

How far would you go to protect your children? 

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Headline publishers for reaching out and asking me if I’d like to read a copy of this novel, originally published in Australia under the title An Ordinary Epidemic in exchange for an honest review. As soon as I read the synopsis, I knew I had to have it. I love stories similar in vein to Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel or an old classic, The Stand by Stephen King where a catastrophic world event explores how people in the modern day would cope. By and large, Before This Is Over fulfils all the briefs required of this type of novel – it’s entirely believable and it shows the extremes that people will go to when placed under extreme pressure if the lives of their loved ones are at risk.

The deadly event that I mentioned in this novel is in fact a virus (known as Manba), very similar in symptoms to our ordinary flu virus but fatal to the vulnerable (in particular the very old or the very young). However, this virus does not like to discriminate and spreads astronomically around the globe from the first reported cases across the other side of the world in Manchester, England to thousands of people becoming infected and succumbing to death on a daily basis in Sydney where our story is set. We follow one family, Hannah and Sean and their two boys, teenager Zac and five year old Oscar as the virus switches from being a background worry to a very real and terrifying presence in their lives. Industrious Hannah gives in to her extreme paranoia and has already started stock-piling foods in her pantry so they are quite well prepared when the family ends up barricaded within their own home. Before This Is Over follows the family over a period of seven weeks as their food supply dwindles, the water and electricity is turned off and they end up with a very tenuous connection to the outside world, struggling to survive.

As a survival story, this is a brilliant, realistic portrayal of how our contemporary life can be easily threatened with the removal of merely a few home comforts, many of the things that we take completely for granted. For example, a regular varied food supply, mobile phones and the ability to charge them, fresh water, a working fridge and the means to cook our meals and of course, our source of endless information and connection to others – the Internet. It made you think about how you would cope if you were placed in a similar situation and the thought of having to manage without basic necessities such as toilet paper is quite frankly, terrifying for me! If I’m being completely honest, I have to agree with a few other reviews I’ve seen and mention that I found some of the characters supremely irritating. I didn’t agree with a lot of the choices that Hannah and Sean made for their family and I found Hannah especially quite grating at times to read about, particularly in her attitude and lack of compassion to those around her that weren’t her immediate family. However, who knows how we would all individually react if we were placed in that situation and surely we would want to protect our own? I’m not sure….I’d love to know if anyone felt the same way. Apart from that minor niggle, this is a fascinating look at how one small family unit cope with such a frightening, life-altering event and I’m very glad I read it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

 

Blog Tour – Relativity – Antonia Hayes

Published January 20, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

‘Relativity is wonderful, a beautifully written, heartbreaking novel that I feel certain will find the huge audience it deserves.’ SJ Watson, author of Before I Go to Sleep and Second Life

‘Relativity is a novel of assured and measured empathy, a story of familial love and familial hurt that is fair, honest and remarkably non-judgmental. Hayes is a convincing writer and a true storyteller: her characters are alive.’ Christos Tsiolkas, author of THE SLAP

Ethan is an exceptionally gifted young boy, obsessed with physics and astronomy.

His single mother Claire is fiercely protective of her brilliant, vulnerable son. But she can’t shield him forever from learning the truth about what happened to him when he was a baby; why Mark had to leave them all those years ago.

Now age twelve, Ethan is increasingly curious about his past, especially his father’s absence in his life. When he intercepts a letter to Claire from Mark, he opens a lifetime of feelings that, like gravity, will pull the three together again.

Relativity is a tender and triumphant story about unbreakable bonds, irreversible acts, and testing the limits of love and forgiveness.

What did I think?:

First of all, many thanks to Little, Brown publishers for inviting me to take part on this blog tour and sending me a copy of Relativity in exchange for an honest review. On reading the synopsis, I was instantly intrigued. It sounded like a book packed with family drama, hidden secrets and interesting discoveries as well as something that would be touching to read. I got everything I was expecting from Relativity along with some surprises to boot so I can definitely count this as a great reading experience and one I recommend.

The novel tells the story of Claire and her son, Ethan who is highly gifted in physics and astronomy and a little bit different from other children his age, meaning that he goes through quite a tough time at school and struggles to make friends easily. Due to a traumatic incident in his past that also involves his absent father Mark, who left shortly after the incident occurred, Ethan is able to “see,” physics i.e. sound-waves, particles moving around in the air etc. This makes him very valuable to the medical professionals studying him when he undergoes a seizure but also very special to his loving mother, Claire who is just trying to do her best for him as a single parent.

Their life is turned upside down once more when Ethan’s father, Mark returns into his life and attempts to forge a relationship for them both. This is difficult for both Ethan and Claire to deal with for reasons I won’t divulge but moved me deeply as a reader. I think what surprised me most about this book is that how I assumed I knew how it was going to progress and end. Well, let me tell you, I was completely wrong and the part that I was wrong about is hugely shocking when the big reveal occurs.

I really enjoyed this debut novel by Antonia Hayes. It was written beautifully with just enough pace to keep me turning the pages and her strength for characterisation was outstanding. I loved Ethan, Claire and Mark to bits – for different reasons and, especially with the latter of these, my opinions kept changing throughout the story. I’m actually a scientist “by day,” but my field is biochemistry and I was slightly worried that the physics aspect would be quite overwhelming for me. In fact, it was all written so intelligently yet simply that I had no reason to worry and actually learned a lot more about a subject that terrified me in school! Antonia Hayes is already a expert at writing a story with so much heart and dramatic tension that I can’t wait to read anything else she writes.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

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Antonia Hayes, who grew up in Sydney and spent her twenties in Paris, currently lives in London with her husband and son. Relativity is her first novel.

Find her on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8848755.Antonia_Hayes

On Twitter at: @antoniahayes

Her website at: http://www.antoniahayes.com

Once again, thank you so much to Little, Brown publishers for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a great time doing it. Why not check out the other stops on the tour today from my fellow bloggers down below? Relativity was released on 17th January 2017 and is available from all good bookshops now!

relativity_blogtour_twitpic_friday

Blog Tour – The Dry by Jane Harper

Published January 9, 2017 by bibliobeth

31560399

What’s it all about?:

Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well…

When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.

And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds start bleeding into fresh ones. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret… A secret Falk thought long-buried… A secret which Luke’s death starts to bring to the surface…

What did I think?:

Welcome to my post on the blog tour for this fantastic piece of crime fiction The Dry, set amongst a small community in Australia. A huge thank you to the publishers Little, Brown for inviting me to be a part of the tour and for sending me a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review. This is Jane Harper’s debut novel and after the strength of this thrilling story, I’m hoping for amazing things from her in the future.

Our main character is Aaron Falk, who escaped from his hometown Kiewarra to live in the city after a frightening incident that involved one of his best friends. I don’t want to say too much about that for fear of spoilers but let me tell you there are a lot of secrets in this novel for many different characters not just our protagonist and the way they are gradually uncovered are thrilling. He comes back to Kiewarra to attend his old best friend’s funeral after a shocking occurrence where two members of Luke’s family were brutally shot and then Luke himself appears to have committed suicide, also with the gun.

Aaron promises Luke’s father that he will look into the mystery and try to clear his friend’s name as it was assumed that Luke was the perpetrator of the crime. Furthermore, if it was the case that Luke did kill two of his family – what were his possible motives for doing such a terrible thing? There is much more going on in this little town than previously assumed however so be prepared for several shocks and surprises. Nothing or no-one is what it seems and the connection to events in Falk’s past is paramount and incredibly murky.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I thought this was a fantastic debut novel with lots of twists and turns – just how I like my crime fiction. I liked that it was set in Australia, I loved the variety of characters that we were given and I enjoyed that it wasn’t just about one event. Many things are linked in this story and there are lots of different aspects to be discovered and savoured, the latter of which I certainly did. Jane Harper has a real gift for spinning an exciting narrative and I can’t wait to see what she does next!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Visit Jane at her website: http://janeharper.com.au/

or on Twitter: @janeharperautho

A huge thank you again to Little, Brown Books for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. The Dry was released on 12th January in the UK and is available from all good bookshops NOW. If you’re interested, why not check out the other stops on the blog tour?

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The Natural Way Of Things – Charlotte Wood

Published December 17, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in an abandoned property in the middle of a desert in a story of two friends, sisterly love and courage – a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted.

Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a ‘nurse’. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl’s past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue – but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.

The Natural Way of Things is a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted. Most of all, it is the story of two friends, their sisterly love and courage.

With extraordinary echoes of The Handmaid’s Tale and Lord of the Flies, The Natural Way of Things is a compulsively readable, scarifying and deeply moving contemporary novel. It confirms Charlotte Wood’s position as one of our most thoughtful, provocative and fearless truth-tellers, as she unflinchingly reveals us and our world to ourselves.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to New Books Magazine and the Real Readers program for sending me a copy of The Natural Way Of Things which was not only a stunning piece of cover art as you can see from the image of the book but was also a thought provoking and, at times, terrifying read. The horror in this novel isn’t from anything supernatural or paranormal however, the monsters in this case are humans that commit the most atrocious crimes and appear to be completely lacking in moral fibre or decency. These are the scariest creatures to encounter, because it reminds you that these type of people do actually exist.

The Natural Way Of Things was inspired somewhat by The Hay Institution For Girls, a real life prison in Australia in the 1960’s that locked up young girls that wouldn’t comply with the strict regime in the Parramatta Girls Home. The routine that the girls had to go through was completely inhumane. They were forced to keep their eyes on the ground at all times, they were kept in cells better fitting an animal and made to undergo hard labour on a daily basis. This is pretty much the situation that two of our main characters, Yolanda and Verla find themselves in when they wake up drugged and isolated with just the Australian outback and a high electrified fence for company.

The two girls find they are part of a larger group of young women whom have all been taken away from the lives they once knew because of some sort of sexual scandal. Each girl is punished immediately by having their heads shaved and their diet severely restricted whilst undergoing back-breaking work in the vicinity of their prison. Their jailers are Teddy, Boncer and Nancy (who masquerades as a nurse, but believe me, doesn’t have a caring bone in her body!) and the girls are constantly mocked, threatened and even beaten if they step out of line. I don’t want to say too much more about the plot but I will say that things are not always as they seem. The jailers themselves end up in a tricky situation that they hadn’t anticipated, one girl becomes a plaything for brutal Boncer in order to receive greater favours and other girls start to go slowly and irrevocably mad.

There is so much darkness and despair in this novel, I fear it might not be for everyone. Some parts you’ll need quite a strong stomach, other parts might make you shake your head in disbelief at the humanity (or lack of) it all. What I can guarantee is that you won’t be able to stop thinking about this book. Parts of it might re-play in your heads for nights to come and the shocking ending might have you wondering, like me, what on earth would happen next if the author chose to continue the story? I haven’t read anything by Charlotte Wood before and this is in fact her fifth novel. What I am certain of is that I’ll be checking out her back catalogue now because if her previous novels are half as disturbing as this one, I’m in for one hell of a ride.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Short Stories Challenge – Corrugated Dreaming by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Published November 8, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s Corrugated Dreaming all about?:

Corrugated Dreaming is the story of a woman in prison, reflecting back on her life and the crime she committed to put her in the situation in which she now finds herself.

What did I think?:

I love starting a short story collection such as this one where I know practically nothing about the writer or her work, especially when the first story in the collection is as beautifully worded and presented like this one is. When we first meet our character she is in prison and she is looking back on a life that has been far from easy. The first thing we learn about her is that she is mute but she hasn’t always been this way. Her early childhood is described as the happiest time of her life where she played with her older brother Johnny in a scrapyard which acts as their garden filled with dis-used vehicles and corrugated iron. Her mother we are told, lives with a demon called Reg who is clearly a drunk and beats her mother in front of the children, one time throwing her into the iron in the yard.

Our character remembers that day very clearly as it is after this incident that Social Services arrives to take the children away and it is the last time that she sees her brother Johnny, who is the closest person in her life and the devastation of their separation is also the last time that she talks. Heart-breakingly, she is told that her cough is actually pneumonia and she is ashamed of her stomach which looks like: “five years of bad gas,” representing the very obvious neglect of her and Johnny under her mother and Reg’s care. Her life after this just gets worse and worse, being shipped out to various sets of foster parents but none whom she remembers as well as the last set, the God-fearing Maxwells who actually put the fear of God into her! They take great issue with her skin colour and she feels she has to make up for her entire culture being so full of sin and wickedness.

At school things are just as bad for her with a headmaster that takes a repulsive pleasure in punishing her often. After finding out some unbelievably horrid news concerning her brother Johnny it is no surprise that she continues her life in silence, after all what is there to be said about such an appalling life? I was surprised however by the turn the story took and the actual crime that she committed. I won’t say any more about that but it’s one of the saddest stories I’ve come across in my short stories challenge and I will probably be thinking about it for a long time to come. I’m just so glad I came across this writer, her use of language is phenomenal and she certainly paints a dramatic and spell-binding picture in a short space of time. She reeled me in with her poetic phrases and I loved the way in which corrugated iron is often referred to by the character as she compares events in her life (past and present) with something that plays a part in the happiest memory of her otherwise bleak childhood. Cannot wait for the next story in this collection – the bar has certainly been set high.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: Beachcombing by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles