REVIEW: A DANGEROUS CROSSING, BY RACHEL RHYS

 

1939: Europe is on the brink of war when young Lily Shepherd boards an ocean liner in Essex, bound for Australia. She is ready to start anew, leaving behind the shadows in her past. The passage proves magical, complete with live music, cocktails, and fancy dress balls. With stops at exotic locations along the way—Naples, Cairo, Ceylon—the voyage shows Lily places she’d only ever dreamed of and enables her to make friends with those above her social station, people who would ordinarily never give her the time of day. She even allows herself to hope that a man she couldn’t possibly have a future with outside the cocoon of the ship might return her feelings.

But Lily soon realizes that she’s not the only one hiding secrets. Her newfound friends—the toxic wealthy couple Eliza and Max; Cambridge graduate Edward; Jewish refugee Maria; fascist George—are also running away from their pasts. As the glamour of the voyage fades, the stage is set for something sinister to occur. By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and Lily’s life will be changed irrevocably.

My Thoughts: For me, a crossing such as this would be the last thing I would choose. I get a bit claustrophobic when confined to any sort of space, and surrounded by water…well, I can imagine how every conflict would be exacerbated and tiny issues might become huge, and then there would be no escape.

Mix in personalities that should never be mixed…and nothing good will come of any of it.

Despite the glittering parties that could almost make someone like Lily feel carefree, there was always that sense of class distinctions beneath the surface, reminding her of her place in the world.

I disliked Max and Eliza immediately. They were fake and rude and abrasive. But for some reason, Lily was drawn to them.

I could understand her wanting to spend time with Edward, although his inconsistencies were annoying and mysterious. Maria was someone I felt sorry for…but I could also understand Lily’s reactions toward the end.

Ida, a cabin mate, was harsh and judgmental. And then there was George, seething with rage, an undercurrent of open hostility present in every word he spoke.

A pleasant and somewhat unexpected surprise awaits them all in Melbourne, when Eliza introduces them to the actor Alan Morgan and his wife Cleo (Bannister). * A little tidbit about how the author chose that moniker for a character came from the blogger Cleopatra Loves Books.

Aboard the ship was a mixed pot of trouble that could not help but boil over. The mysteries that unfolded in A Dangerous Crossing seemed inevitable and I couldn’t stop reading. There were parts in the middle that dragged for me, but I pushed on, knowing I would enjoy the ending. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: BIG LITTLE LIES, BY LIANE MORIARTY

81+iucjYd9L._SL1500_In Pirriwee, a beautiful little Australian village on a peninsula by the sea, a lovely school seems an unlikely place for the cauldron that is brewing.

It all comes to a climax on Trivia Night, a costume-like event that is a fundraiser, but also a finale for the storms that have been brewing since the beginning of the school year.

One little boy. A charge of bullying. A petition that has been circling. Secret domestic violence. Cheating. Big secrets coming to light. These and other conflicts have divided the mothers, the children, and the community.

Three women are the centerpiece of Big Little Lies. At a crossroads, they each have secrets and the lies they tell themselves are even bigger than the ones they tell others. Jane, the new mum, with her adorable boy Ziggy, is hiding horrific secrets about his paternity. Celeste, the beautiful rich mum, whose handsome husband Perry has a hidden dark side, has twins, Josh and Max. And Madeline, the most likable of them all, is sometimes loud, often boisterous, and seems to enjoy conflict. But she is very sad that her fourteen-year-old daughter Abigail has chosen to move in with her dad and his new hippie-like wife Bonnie, completely forgetting that he abandoned them for the first half of her life.

How will the tensions building between the families play out? What will Celeste do about the dangerous secret she is hiding? And how will Madeline deal with the latest foolish prank her daughter has pulled? And will Jane keep running, or can she finally accept the truth she has just realized?

There are peripheral characters, like Harper, referred to as one of the “blond bobs,” seemingly caricatures, but their behavior and attitudes reflect the dangers of the clique-like mentality of the parents in the school. And then there is Renata, a mum whose passion takes on a form of scariness.

The climactic Trivia Night came to a smashing conclusion, and even though I already knew many of the secrets by then, more came crashing down around the characters like a stunning blow. Nothing would ever be the same again for the community. But would some good come from the events, a healing kind of balm? The story had a hopeful ending, which I loved. If I could, I would grant ten stars to this book. 5.0 stars.