My 5 Favourite September Reads

5 Favourite September Reads

Of the 12 books I read in September, here are my five favourite (in no particular order). Click on the book title to read my review.


And The Birds Kept On Singing by Simon Bourke (4.5*)

A coming-of-age story that addresses the nature versus nurture debate as two alternative lives of the same boy are played out. In one, he is adopted by an English couple unable to have children of their own. In the other, he is brought up by his single-parent birth mother in Northern Ireland.   A powerful, emotional and grittily realistic debut novel.

Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech (5*)

Set against the backdrop of the floods that affected Hull in 2007, the protagonist of the novel is thirty-one-year-old, Catherine. Catherine can’t remember her ninth year, when her insomnia started or why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria. When she loses her home to the flood and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges… and changes everything. A spellbinding novel about memory, secrets and coming to terms with the past.

Stranger by David Bergen (5*)

When Íso‘s baby is stolen shortly after birth by the married doctor with whom she has been having an affair, Íso follows the trail north from Guatemala crossing illegally into the United States determined to reclaim her daughter.   An eloquent, compelling story about motherhood and the gulf between rich and poor in today’s world.

When It’s Over by Barbara Ridley (4*)

Set in WW2, the novel follows Lena Kulkova as she flees Prague to escape the approaching German army, forced to leave the rest of her family behind. She takes refuge in Paris shortly before its occupation and then in London, living through the Blitz. Based on a true story, When It’s Over is a moving, resonant, and timely read about the lives of war refugees, dramatic political changes, and the importance of family, love, and hope.

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke (5*)

Black Texas Ranger Darren Mathews must overcome his own personal problems and racial prejudice to investigate the murders of a black man and white woman. In the process, long-hidden secrets will be uncovered and the divisions within society will be exposed. The first in a new series based around Highway 59 in modern day Texas.

 

What were your favourite reads last month?

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Book Review: Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

BluebirdBluebirdAbout the Book

When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules–a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home. When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders – a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman – have stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes – and save himself in the process – before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt. A rural noir suffused with the unique music, color, and nuance of East Texas, Bluebird, Bluebird is an exhilarating, timely novel about the collision of race and justice in America.

Format: Hardcover (320 pp.), ebook (318 pp.) Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
Published: 28th September 2017                         Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk ǀ Barnes & Noble
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Bluebird, Bluebird on Goodreads

 

My Review

Attica Locke returns to familiar territory with a story of racial tension, inequality and separation in modern day America. However, there’s nothing tired about her exploration of these issues. In fact, they have fresh resonance against the background of the #TakeAKnee and #BlackLivesMatters campaigns.

I have to say the idea that, in this day and age, people should still be discriminated against openly because of their skin colour or that their deaths should matter less than those of people with a different skin colour is anathema to me. So I found the descriptions of racist language and attitudes in the book deeply unsettling. However, nothing shocked me as much as finding out that the white supremacist gang that features in the book – The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas – actually exists and is not a product of the author’s imagination.

The background of discrimination creates the tension at the heart of the book and its pervasive nature means it will need a strong character to stand up to vested interests unmoved by the ingrained racism and economic inequality. Darren Mathews’ commitment to his role as a Texas Ranger has created tension in his marriage and threatens his sobriety. He’s proud of the place he grew up and what his family have made of themselves. Well, not all of his family, because his birth mother, Bell, is a downbeat, manipulative drunk.

Propelled by a strong sense of justice, Darren refuses to be sidelined or thwarted in his search for the truth about the murders of a black lawyer and a white woman whose deaths may be linked.   His willingness to go out on a limb will bring him dangerous enemies – ‘Without the badge, he was just a black man travelling the highway alone’ – and result in long-buried secrets being uncovered.

The author has a natural way with dialogue that makes you forget you’re reading a book and imagine the action is playing out in front of you. Not surprising, perhaps, given that Attica Locke is an award-winning screenwriter.  She also has the ability to create characters that seem real. They may be flawed and not always likeable but they speak truthfully about the way some people live.

‘She was sitting on the concrete steps in front of the mobile homes, smoking a Newport and picking nail polish off her big toe. She had a beer at her feet, but Darren knew better. The real shit was in the house….Bell lifted a little bullet-shaped bottle of Cutty Sark and sucked on it like a nipple. They sold the little airplane-size bottles for fifty cents at the bait-and-tackle-shop, and Bell had them lined up on the window ledge like a loaded clip of rifle shells.’

The author also creates a wonderful sense of place. Again, what she describes may not be the most attractive places you’ve ever been to but they come alive on the page – the sights, sounds and smells.

‘Behind the rear wall was the kitchen, where Dennis was working on a pot of oxtails. Geneva could smell bay leaves soaking in beef fat and garlic, onion and liquid smoke. Beyond the kitchen’s screen door lay a wide plot of land, red dirt dotted with buttercup weeds and crabgrass, rolling a hundred yards or so to the banks of a rust-coloured bayou that was Shelby County’s western border.’

Finally, Locke is brilliant at plot. I’ll be honest, I did not see the development in the last few paragraphs coming and it put a whole different perspective on one of the key relationships in the book.

I devoured Bluebird, Bluebird in just a couple of sittings and it left me entertained as a murder mystery story but with a profound sense of discomfort about some of the things I’d read. I guess that’s what the best contemporary fiction should do. The excellent news for fans (like me) of Attica Locke’s books is that Bluebird, Bluebird is the first in a planned series – Highway 59.  I can’t wait for the next one.

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of NetGalley and publishers, Serpent’s Tail, in return for an honest review.

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In three words: Compelling, powerful, thought-provoking

Try something similar…In the Heat of the Night by John Dudley Ball


Attica_LockeAbout the Author

Attica Locke’s first novel, Black Water Rising, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, nominated for an Edgar Award, an NAACP Image Award and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her most recent book, The Cutting Season, was published in 2012 to critical acclaim. Attica is also a screenwriter who has written movie and television scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros, Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, HBO, Dreamworks and Silver Pictures. She is currently a co-producer on the hit show Empire. She was also a fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmakers Lab and is a graduate of Northwestern University. A native of Houston, Texas, Attica lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and daughter.

Connect with Attica

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Book Blitz: Carry Me Home by Jessica Therrien

CarryMeHomeBlitzBanner

The spotlight today is on Carry Me Home by Jessica Therrien, an exciting novel inspired by the true story of a teenage girl’s involvement in several Mexican gangs in San Jose and Los Angeles. You can read an extract from the book below.

WinPlus there’s a giveaway (INTL) with a chance to win one of the following prizes:

  • 5 prize bundles of 10 books each (ebooks and at least 1 paperback per bundle)
  • Signed Hardcover of Carry Me Home by Jessica Therrien
  • Signed Hardcover of Oppression (Children of the Gods #1) by Jessica Therrien

To enter the giveaway, click here.

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CarryMeHomeEbookCoverAbout the Book

Lucy and Ruth are country girls from a broken home. When they move to the city with their mother, leaving behind their family ranch and dead-beat father, Lucy unravels. They run to their grandparents’ place, a trailer park mobile home in the barrio of San Jose. Lucy’s barrio friends have changed since her last visit. They’ve joined a gang called VC. They teach her to fight, to shank, to beat a person unconscious and play with guns. When things get too heavy, and lives are at stake, the three girls head for LA seeking a better life. But trouble always follows Lucy. She befriends the wrong people, members of another gang, and every bad choice she makes drags the family into her dangerous world. Told from three points of view, the story follows Lucy down the rabbit hole, along with her mother and sister as they sacrifice dreams and happiness, friendships and futures. Love is waiting for all of them in LA, but pursuing a life without Lucy could mean losing her forever. Ultimately it’s their bond with each other that holds them together, in a true test of love, loss and survival.

Praise for Carry Me Home

‘A riveting page-turner…Jessica Therrien broke my heart into a million pieces – and then put it back together again. This book will haunt and uplift readers long after they turn the last page.’ (Kat Ross, best-selling author of The Midnight Sea)

Format: ebook (356 pp.)                           Publisher: Acorn Publishing
Published: 26th September 2017             Genre: YA, Contemporary, Thriller

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk ǀ Amazon.com ǀ Barnes & Noble
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Carry Me Home on Goodreads

 


Extract: Carry Me Home by Jessica Therrien

“You ready for this, Guera?” he asks.

It’s a test, Guera. Only thing I can say is you’re allowed to fight back. Take ‘em out with everything you got.

I’d heard of people being jumped into a gang before, maybe it was Rosa who told me about it. As the girls start to descend from their spots around the room, slowly closing in like encircling wolves, I know what’s about to happen.

The realization takes hold in my chest, a quick plunge of the heart into an icy lake of fear. I back away slowly out of instinct, ready to run, but there’s nowhere to go. The sound of their skittering feet is the first thing I hear before they come at me. Me against all of them. Me against Rose Tattoo and Cigarette Twins. Me against the jealous novias. Ten sets of eyes glinting with the thrill of a fight. I flinch and turn my back to avoid the fists, but they’re all around me. One of them catches me by the shoulders, holding me in place as the other girls hit the back of my skull. My head flies forward, chin to chest.

At first I don’t know whether to swing or cover. I reach up to protect myself, but there are too many points of contact. The rush of adrenaline is intense. It blocks the pain, but there is a fiery need in me to get away. I try and kick or punch, feeling one or two connect, but the girls are everywhere. An elbow slams against my temple. My head splits and my ears ring. I go down.

Every infinite minute of being the enemy feels like it’ll never end.

Someone’s shoe stomps my thigh. Others strike my ribs. I heave and gag until I can’t breathe. But that kind of terror turns me into a resilient kind of crazy. The kind of rabid mad that is born of desperation. I scrape and flail until I’m on my feet, pulling hair and swinging my fists, making contact with whatever I can. I don’t realize I’m screaming until Toño calls them to a stop.

It ceases the moment the girls hear his voice, and I’m left there shaking and crazed, my breath dragging in and out of my lungs in a feverish effort to return to its normal rhythm. I pant and cry, as softly as I can, but it’s hard to deny my body the relief of all-out sobbing. My head hurts. My brain smashes against my skull with the pulse of too much pressure. I taste blood in my mouth, though no one has touched my face. Now that it’s over, the pain of it all rushes to the surface and makes me want to vomit. I feel like I could die.

Why am I here? Why am I doing this?

“She’s in,” Toño says, and the cheers of the group shock my senses and make me tense up.

They all rush me, and at first I’m terrified it’s about to start again, but instead they hug me and pat me on the shoulder all at once. Each hand on my back or squeeze around the shoulders rocks me with pain, but they’re so happy. Their laughter and cheering is contagious, it flows into me, filling me with a strange sense of pride and belonging. I can’t help my smile when I see their encouraging faces. I even start to laugh.


JessicaTherrienAbout the Author

Jessica Therrien is the author of the young adult series Children of the Gods. Book one in the series, Oppression, became a Barnes & Noble best-seller shortly after its release. Her trilogy has been translated and sold through major publishers around the world, such as Editions AdA (Canada), EditionsMilan (France), and SharpPoint Press (China). Aside from her Children of the Gods series, Jessica is the author of a kid’s picture book called The Loneliest Whale. Her award-winning stories can also be found in a published anthology of flash fiction.  Jessica currently lives in Irvine with her husband and two young sons. She is working on a YA suspense thriller series and a middle grade fantasy series.

Connect with Jessica

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Blog Tour: 10 Things I Loved About Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech

Maria in the Moon - Blog Tour Poster

I’m thrilled that it’s finally my turn (along with the lovely Chapter in my Life) to host today’s stop on the blog tour for Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech.   It seems like everywhere I’ve looked for about the past two months other book bloggers have been raving about this book. Do you know what? They were right.   My first act after turning the last page – apart from having a little sniffle – was to move Louise’s previous two books (The Mountain in my Shoe and How To Be Brave) closer to the top of my TBR pile.

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of Anne at Random Things Through My Letterbox and publishers, Orenda Books, in return for an honest review.

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MariaintheMoonAbout the Book

Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name. Then one day she stopped calling me it. I try now to remember why, but I just can’t.’

Thirty-one-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria. With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges… and changes everything.  Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…

Format: Paperback (276 pp.)                     Publisher: Orenda Books
Published: 30th Sep 2017                            Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk ǀ Amazon.com ǀ iBooks
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Maria in the Moon on Goodreads

 


10 Things I Loved About Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech

  1. Using the 2007 floods in Hull as a pivotal event. Having, thankfully, never experienced such a traumatic event personally, it really brought home to me the long term consequences for people affected. From practical things – like the length of time it takes to dry out a home or the shortage of trades people to carry out repairs – to less obvious things – like the sense of displacement, the trauma associated with having your home and personal space invaded, the loss of possessions with a sentimental value and the emotional scars that can persist for years afterwards. “The rain caused all sorts of problems.” He slurped his coffee. “People clearing out their ruined belongings remembered things long buried: affairs, given-up babies, secret abortions. We hear these stories every day.”
  2. The callers to Flood Crisis.  I found their stories moving and Catherine’s response to their stories even more moving. Thank God, such resources exist and that people exist to volunteer to take on such roles.  Their stories also form an extremely clever aspect to the book in a number of ways. For example, Catherine’s compulsion to listen to others’ problems, to fill her memory with details of their troubles, is a way to block out her own. ‘I remembered all the calls. While my memory discarded my own history, it had no trouble with people who needed me to remember.’
  3. The significance of names. That nothing is more annoying than deliberately getting someone’s name wrong every time you meet them (especially if they’re particularly annoying themselves – hello, Sharleen/Celine, we’re talking about you).  That nothing is more embarrassing then referring to someone by the nickname you’ve secretly given them, especially if it’s rather cruel. That the meaning behind names is important – like whether you’re “Mum” or “Mother” – and that we are to a certain extent characterised (at least for ourselves) by our names. That certain words can trigger painful memories.
  4. The humour.  The nicknames – Aunty Hairy, Jangly Jane, Condom Kath.  Catherine’s banter with Christopher, which supports my theory that if you find someone with whom you share a sense of humour that’s a sign of a good relationship.
  5. The supporting cast. My particularly favourites were Catherine’s best friend, the outrageous Fern, and Catherine’s lovely Aunt Mary.
  6. The acute observation of the writing about everyday things.  Like the ritual of formal family meals, when everyone’s trying not to say or do anything out of turn, but it won’t be long before someone does. ‘They were all in the dining room. Like actors in a weekly soap opera they’d assumed the usual positions: Mother at the top near the walnut cabinet that displayed her pottery creations, me next to Celine, Graham opposite us with his back against the wall where the Constable print hung. The best blue-and-white swirly china was being given its weekly outing, and a silk cloth hid the plain table.’  Like the kitchen drawers that can only be opened one at a time. 
  7. The character of Catherine. Yes, she’s spiky, a bit scruffy, rude to her mother and step-sister, clumsy, moody, thoughtless at times. But who hasn’t put their foot in it by saying the wrong thing or making a joke at an inopportune moment or laughed without thinking or meaning to when you should have expressed sorrow or horror? And Catherine has a wonderfully witty sense of humour, resilience and fantastic empathy with the callers to the crisis line. Most of all, she’s unbelievably brave.
  8. It made me think. About the nature of memory. About the things we choose to remember, those we choose to forget and those things we’ve even forgotten that we’ve forgotten. “We forget nothing – memories are always there. We’re just afraid to look. But why? Fear is just fear. All we have to do is look, and we won’t be afraid.”
  9. The ending. After all the emotions the author put us through as readers, I reckon we deserved that ending. To my mind, the sign of a great book is when the characters live so vividly in your mind that you feel as invested in what happens to them as (whisper) your own family.
  10. Finally, I loved that Louise Beech took the time to name check so many book bloggers and reviewers in her Acknowledgments. But, really, she doesn’t need to thank us because the joy we get from reading books as wonderful as Maria in the Moon is thanks enough.

LouiseBeech2About the Author

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe, was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both books have been number one on Kindle, Audible and Kobo in USA/UK/AU. She regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines.

Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012. She is also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show.

Connect with Louise

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WWW Wednesday – 27 Sep ’17

WWWWednesdays

Hosted by Taking on a World of Words, this meme is all about the three Ws:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Why not join in too? Leave a comment with your link at Taking on a World of Words and then go blog hopping!


Currently reading

MariaintheMoonMaria in the Moon by Louise Beech (review copy courtesy of Orenda Books)

‘Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name. Then one day she stopped calling me it. I try now to remember why, but I just can’t.’

Thirty-one-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria. With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges … and changes everything. Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…

WomanEntersLeftWoman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole (review copy courtesy of HF Virtual Book Tours)

In the 1950s, movie star Louise Wilde is caught between an unfulfilling acting career and a shaky marriage when she receives an out-of-the-blue phone call: she has inherited the estate of Florence “Florrie” Daniels, a Hollywood screenwriter she barely recalls meeting. Among Florrie’s possessions are several unproduced screenplays, personal journals, and—inexplicably—old photographs of Louise’s mother, Ethel. On an impulse, Louise leaves a film shoot in Las Vegas and sets off for her father’s house on the East Coast, hoping for answers about the curious inheritance and, perhaps, about her own troubled marriage.

Nearly thirty years earlier, Florrie takes off on an adventure of her own, driving her Model T westward from New Jersey in pursuit of broader horizons. She has the promise of a Hollywood job and, in the passenger seat, Ethel, her best friend since childhood. Florrie will do anything for Ethel, who is desperate to reach Nevada in time to reconcile with her husband and reunite with her daughter. Ethel fears the loss of her marriage; Florrie, with long-held secrets confided only in her journal, fears its survival. In parallel tales, the three women—Louise, Florrie, Ethel—discover that not all journeys follow a map. As they rediscover their carefree selves on the road, they learn that sometimes the paths we follow are shaped more by our travelling companions than by our destinations.


Recently finished

TwilightEmpressTwilight Empress by Faith L Justice (review copy courtesy of HF Virtual Book Tours)

Twilight Empress tells the little-known story of a remarkable woman: Placidia, sister to one of the last Roman Emperors. Roman Empress and Gothic Queen, Placidia does the unthinkable: she rules the failing Western Roman Empire. A life of ambition, power, and intrigue she doesn’t seek, but can’t refuse, her actions shape the face of Western Europe for centuries. A woman as well as an empress, Placidia suffers love, loss, and betrayal. Can her intelligence, tenacity, and ambition help her survive and triumph over scheming generals, rebellious children, and Attila the Hun?

AManCalledOveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (ebook)

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbour from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.


What Cathy (will) Read Next

TremarnockSummerTremarnock Summer by Emma Burstall (review copy courtesy of Head of Zeus)

Bramble Challoner has had a very normal upbringing. She lives in a semi in the suburbs of London with her parents and works at the call centre down the road. She still goes out with the boy she met at school. At weekends they stay in and watch films on the telly and sometimes hold hands. Bramble is dying for an adventure. So when her very grand grandfather, Lord Penrose, dies, leaving his huge, rambling house in Cornwall to her, Bramble packs her bags immediately, dragging along her best friend Katie. The sleepy village of Tremarnock had better be ready for its newest residents…

TheBookofForgottenAuthorsThe Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler (ARC courtesy of riverrun books)

Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It makes people think you’re dead. So begins Christopher Fowler’s foray into the back catalogues and back stories of 99 authors who, once hugely popular, have all but disappeared from shelves. We are fondly introduced to each potential rediscovery: from lost Victorian voices to the twentieth century writers who could well become the next John Williams, Hans Fallada or Lionel Davidson. Whether male or female, flash-in-the-pan or prolific, mega-seller or prize-winner, no author, it seems, can ever be fully immune from the fate of being forgotten. These 99 journeys are punctuated by 12 short essays about faded once-favourites: including the now-vanished novels Walt Disney brought to the screen, the contemporary rivals of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie who did not stand the test of time, and the women who introduced psychological suspense many decades before it conquered the world. This is a book about books and their authors. It is for book lovers, and is written by one who could not be a more enthusiastic, enlightening and entertaining guide.

TheCrowsofBearaThe Crows of Beara by Julie Christine Johnson (review copy courtesy of Sage’s Blog Tours)

When Annie Crowe travels from Seattle to a small Irish village to promote a new copper mine, her public relations career is hanging in the balance. Struggling to overcome her troubled past and a failing marriage, Annie is eager for a chance to rebuild her life. Yet when she arrives on the remote Beara Peninsula, Annie learns that the mine would encroach on the nesting ground of an endangered bird, the Red-billed Chough, and many in the community are fiercely protective of this wild place. Among them is Daniel Savage, a local artist battling demons of his own, who has been recruited to help block the mine. Despite their differences, Annie and Daniel find themselves drawn toward each other, and, inexplicably, they begin to hear the same voice – a strange, distant whisper of Gaelic, like sorrow blowing in the wind. Guided by ancient mythology and challenged by modern problems, Annie must confront the half-truths she has been sent to spread and the lies she has been telling herself. Most of all, she must open her heart to the healing power of this rugged land and its people.