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Reviews for The Hutt Weekender – 19 August 2023

From a Shadow Grave by Andi Buchanan

Winner of the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novella/Novelette. This is no ordinary ghost story. Urban legend meets urban fantasy in this compelling alternate history.
Based on a Wellington teenager who was murdered during the Mt Victoria tunnel construction, in 1931, this story breathes life into the person behind the crime. It is a series of alternate histories following Phyllis Simons. Written with wit, insight and a deep sensitivity.
This novella is divided into four chapters, with the first imagining what Phyllis’s life might have been like in a sequence of events leading up to her murder, and her shadow existence afterwards as a ghost. Our sympathy is drawn for a poor, not well-educated, probably dyslexic girl struggling to find her way among the constrained economics of the Great Depression. The author evokes sympathy for the ghost, too, a lonely spirit stuck forever on Mount Victoria.
But this isn’t simply a ghost story. It’s more about what-ifs and possibilities. The first chapter is the starting point for the other three, each one a different direction the story could have gone after Symons’s burial.
A fascinating series of perspectives of what might have been, and how lives can be drawn together across time and (infinite) possibilities.
Highly recommended. Written in 2nd person.

Apple Pie and Arsenic by C.A. Phipps (Maple Lane Mysteries Bk 1)

Great read, especially if you love small towns and mysteries. Maddie has a great group of friends back home, and her grandma but she’s been trying to prove herself worthy in the big city. She has a few friends in the city but mostly she’s been working really hard to save money to open her own bakery. Getting a call that gran is not feeling well and needs some help, of course she runs home to see how she can help. But gran has a plan to keep her there.
When the body of her friend is found, Maddie is accused of the death. As the timer ticks down in the race to find the murderer before Maddie is put in jail, or the body count climbs, she enlists the help of her friends—one of the furry variety.
The sheriff is her ex-flame, and is just as confused as she is when the mystery heats up with another batch of clues.
The main character is a little annoying, as she would find then withhold information, which ends results in some unusual choices. I know this is typical for American reads and tv shows, and the author writes mainly for her US audience as a USA Today bestselling author. But that aside, it’s still and easy and quick fun read.

CA Phipps also writes other mystery series’. ‘Cozy Café Mysteries’ and ‘Beagle Diner Cozy Mysteries’ as well as a paranormal mystery series ‘Midlife Potions’. She also writes romance as Cheryl Phipps.

Out of the Ashes by Vanessa Evetts

A passionate marriage, two gorgeous children and a career she loved until they were ripped from her life in a hit and run. Thrust into a life she didn’t choose, she battles under the weight of her grief, and the conflicting desire to honour their memory. When she finds a handwritten bucket list in her son’s bedroom, she sells everything she owns and takes off on a quest that transforms her.
Conquering some of her greatest fears and insecurities, across three continents, Grace is faced with a decision. Does she keep living her life in survival mode, clinging to the memory of her husband and children, or does she release them from her tight grasp and build a new life without them?

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like this before.
The utter grief and despair Grace suffered at the death of her family was so heartbreaking, but I loved following her journey to reclaim her life and overcome the pain she’d endured.
Right from the first lines, you can feel her agony. You’re pulled into her torment with her. It’s raw and savage, and oh so real. And then slowly, one step at a time, her healing begins and she embarks on an adventure following a bucket list of sorts; one created with her family.
 With every new place she visits and each new adventure, she begins to come to terms with her grief and is able to find peace. It’s a roller coaster journey of emotions, and one I would recommend. -Reviewed by Stacey Broadbent.

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