Just What Kind of Mother Are You? (Paula Daly)

Just What Kind of Mother Are You? (Paula Daly)Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly
Published by Grove/Atlantic, Inc. on 09-03-2013
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 256
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

What if your best friend's child disappears? And it was all your fault.

This is exactly what happens to Lisa Kallisto, overwhelmed working mother of three, one freezing December in the English Lake District. She takes her eye off the ball for just a moment and her whole world descends into the stuff of nightmares. Because, not only is thirteen-year-old Lucinda missing, and not only is it all Lisa's fault, but she's the second teenage girl to disappear within this small tightknit community over two weeks. The first girl turned up stripped bare, dumped on a busy high street, after suffering from a terrifying ordeal.  Wracked with guilt over her mistake and after being publicly blamed by Lucinda's family, Lisa sets out to right the wrong. But as she begins peeling away the layers surrounding Lucinda's disappearance, Lisa learns that the small, posh, quiet town she lives in isn't what she thought it was, and her friends may not be who they appear, either.

Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Readability: ★★★

I picked up Just What Kind of Mother Are You? as part of Dewey’s 24 hour readathon, about 4 hours before the end.  I hoped the mystery would help me squeeze one last book in before the end of the readathon, and it certainly did that!

The storyLisa Kallisto is an overworked, perpetually busy mum.  She forgets to buy the ingredients her daughter needs for food tech, is constantly juggling several things at once, and never has enough money for the animal shelter that she works at.  Her go to phrase is “Leave it with me, I’ll sort it”, even when she has no idea just how she’ll go about it.  She lives happily (if busily) with her taxi driving husband and their two kids.

Lisa’s best friend, Kate, is one of ‘those’ mothers.  The cake baking, never forgets anything, always smiling and put together mothers.  Despite their friendship, Lisa can’t help feeling a little jealous of Kate, and her perfect seeming life.  Through a series of miscommunications, Kate is left thinking that her daughter Lucinda is staying at Lisa’s for a night – but she’s not.  When she goes missing, Lisa blames herself – and so does everyone else.  Wracked with guilt and fear, Lisa watches hopelessly as the police try to find Lucinda.

The characters
The story alternates between first-person chapters from Lisa’s point of view and third-person chapters from Detective Constable Joanne Aspinall, with a few chapters from the kidnapper.

Lisa’s first person chapters are easy to get engrossed in, because let’s be honest, we all have days when we’re overwhelmed, when we forget things, where we look at someone else’s life and think it seems so easy. Lisa’s not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination – she makes mistakes, she sometimes doesn’t appreciate how amazing her own family life is and she struggles with feeling worthy.  Despite that, or perhaps because of it, she’s very easy to relate to.  There are moments where you’ll dislike her, and moments when you can’t help but feel so strongly for her because she’s a very three-dimensional character.

DC Joanne Aspinall is a steady, hard-working woman, trying to piece together the case of Lucinda, and the other missing girls.  She’s very likable, and although her chapters were perhaps slightly less emotional than Lisa’s, I think the story needed those breaks in order not to leave the reader just feeling burnt out.

It’s hard to comment on any of the other characters without giving away spoilers, as at points throughout the book, you may find yourself looking at EVERYONE!

final thoughtsJust What Kind of Mother are You? was truly gripping and engrossing, heavily emotional and with a twist filled-end.  Unfortunately, while the ending was definitely a twist, I wasn’t ultimately satisfied with it.  There are a lot of secrets kept throughout the town, which in itself I could have lived with, but there were certain secrets that I felt would have been impossible to keep quiet and so the ending felt less plausible the more I thought about it.  (I know that’s very vague, it’s impossible to say more without giving any spoilers away!).

Buy it? This is probably a library borrow for me.
In a nutshell: A hugely gripping, tense and emotional mystery.

Other Reviews of Just What Kind of Mother Are You?: The Infinite Curio | The Lost Ent Wife | Books and Reviews

One StarOne StarOne Star

The Last Savanna (Mike Bond)

The Last Savanna (Mike Bond)The Last Savanna by Mike Bond
Published by Mandevilla Press on 15-06-2013
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fiction
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

With Africa's last elephants dying under the poachers' guns, Kenya rancher and former SAS officer Ian MacAdam leads a commando squad against them. Pursuing the poachers through jungled mountains and searing deserts he battles thirst, solitude, terror and lethal animals, only to find that the poachers have kidnapped a young archaeologist, Rebecca Hecht, whom he once loved and bitterly lost.

McAdam embarks upon a desperate trek to save not only Rebecca but his own soul in an Africa torn apart by wars, overpopulation, and the slaughter of its last wildlife. Based on the author's experiences pursuing elephant poachers in the wilds of East Africa.

Plot: ★★
Characters: ★
Readability: ★

I thought, with a blurb like that, that I would LOVE The Last Savanna.  Conservation is what I study, I love elephants, I have some very strong opinions on poaching and Africa is one of the most beautiful settings.  I expected some uncomfortable reading given that it’s about poaching, but I also expected a realistic, gritty but hopeful portrait of the fight against poaching.

Unfortunately, that’s not what I got.  I honestly feel like a lot of the blurb could be talking about a totally different book.  The poaching felt like a completely secondary part of the story.  MacAdam isn’t really hunting the poachers out of a love for elephants, in fact he doesn’t even really want to go along.  The Last Savanna is really all about MacAdam and Rebecca.  This is the story of MacAdam searching for Rebecca, of Rebecca’s feelings towards her kidnappers, of their current relationships with their partners, their prior relationship with each other, and their soul searching. Rather a lot of soul searching.  The Last Savanna is not a story of a man who loves Africa and risks his own life to take on the poachers and illegal wildlife trade.

I found MacAdam completely unlikable.  He lives with his wife Dorothy, who hates Africa and desperately wants to go home to England.  Their relationship is on the rocks, and MacAdam deals with that by….searching the country for his kidnapped ex-lover.  We spend a lot of time in MacAdam’s head, and to be honest, I didn’t enjoy it at all.  He alternates between these thoughts of how beautiful Africa is and how the only thing that really matters is killing.

Rebecca is flighty and frustrating, and I couldn’t get behind the romance at all.  Both characters are with other people now, which is always a bit of a risk, but something I could have coped with if done well.  What I couldn’t really cope with was that they spent so much time thinking about each other when I couldn’t really feel a connection. Physically, yes, but not romantically.

The most interesting character is Warwar, one of the Somali poachers who kidnapped Rebecca.  He grows throughout the novel, and I understood his motivations for the way he acted more clearly than anyone else’s.

As expected, the setting is beautiful.  The landscapes are vividly portrayed and Bond clearly has a love for Africa.  Bond shows his obviously intimate knowledge of Africa by using local terms for plants and animals, in much the same way as Anthony Lawrence does in his books.

My biggest issue with The Last Savanna was the writing style, which just did not work for me at all.  As I read an ARC copy, these issues may have been fixed, but the writing put me off the story the whole way through.  I’ve included a quote below which is an example of the ways the writing style bothered me.

“And this has broken my heart for so long now, because I’ve loved the wild, loved the animals, the forests, each tree and bush and river and hidden spring, those I know and those I’ll never see, each heath and wild shore and the herds of wilde-beest and zebra far as the eye can see, and then beyond, then beyond that, outspanned beyond time – the magnificent multiplicity of earth reduced now to these few outposts, these last cornered survivors of rain forest and savanna to be eliminated in my days, before my sons are old.”
[93% e-arc]

This sentence is so long and wordy, not the sort of writing I expected when I thought I was signing up for a drama filled desperate pursuit of poachers!  Secondly, this quote just comes back to my issues with MacAdam.  One minute he’s a rugged, disillusioned ex-SAS man “Only killing’s not false; only killing changes things” [64% e-arc] and then the next he’s waxing lyrical about the intrinsic value of Africa.  It feels like the two sides just don’t fit together well.

Both Ian and Rebecca spend a lot of time soul searching, and between that and the writing style, it felt like the author was trying too hard to make this book deep, meaningful and literary.  Sometimes I like that sort of thing, but not when I’ve picked up a book on poachers.

I struggled through the book, determined to find out what happens in the end.  I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I will say, most emphatically, that the ending did not redeem the story for me.

I definitely seem to be in the minority with my opinion, so perhaps it’s due to my own biases that The Last Savanna and I just did not click on any level.  I expected something great from Mr Bond, an environmental activist, but unfortunately I was disappointed.  Aside from providing a small insight into the motivation behind poaching at ground level, The Last Savanna does little to address the poaching crisis.  We see no insight into why the poachers would get paid so much for the ivory, no mention of the end users and not one method for stopping poaching (as opposed to simply hunting down the individual poachers).  I didn’t find The Last Savanna enlightening or hopeful.  It didn’t connect with me as an animal lover, as a conservationist or as a reader. Although the setting was beautiful, I didn’t enjoy the writing style, the characters or the romance.

If you’re looking for a character-driven slow building thriller with a literary feel, you will probably love The Last Savanna.  If you already know you like Mike Bond’s writing, (or the quote above didn’t put you off) The Last Savanna may be a new favourite.  But if you’re looking for a fast-paced tale of elephants and the men who try to protect them, I’d recommend putting The Last Savanna down and walking away.

Buy it? This is one I wouldn’t be willing to buy, or in fact, even borrow.
In a nutshell: I expected to love The Last Savanna but unfortunately it just wasn’t for me. Could not recommend.
I preferred: The Last Rhinos & The Elephant Whisperer

Other Reviews of The Last Savanna: Something Wordy | Bea’s Book Nook | Merry Meerkat Marginalia

One Star