It was the night before Christmas in Brisbane, Australia, when the tsunami struck, taking lives and tearing families apart.

Frank Mercy lost his pregnant wife Natalie and several members of her family.

A former cop, Frank is assisting with rescue attempts when he finds two young boys in a purple van, almost submerged by water. The older boy insists that he take the younger one, and he carries him away.

There is something unique about the boy whom he calls Ian. A special gift that calms people down: a kind of telepathy. Has Frank taken him because something in the boy insists on it? Or does he know that he must protect him somehow?

After everything settles down in Brisbane, Frank takes Ian with him to Wisconsin, to his mother, Hope, and his sister Eden. They would settle in at Tenacity Farm and the horses that were part of his life.

At the ranch, Frank helps train the horses…and meets Claudia, a psychiatrist who is also an equestrian. She asks Frank to train her to perform on her horse.

But perhaps Claudia can also help with Ian, whose special gifts may have made him a target for sinister characters.

Two If by Sea was a book that captured my interest, for the most part, although it rambled on for longer than I would have liked, and there were sections, mostly those involving horse training, that I slogged through.

However, I had to keep reading, because I wanted to know what would happen to Frank, to Claudia, and to Ian and his brother Colin, who came to them from an orphanage in Australia.

There were surprises along the way, and a sense of dark foreboding that never lessened. And then, finally, after the whole family moved to England to start over once again, and in the face of a new form of the recurring danger, something truly mystical and triumphant would bring the story to its conclusion. 4 stars.

ratings worms 4-cropped***






Angela Gillespie has the perfect life…or at least it is according to her annual Christmas letter. And, for the most part, she has felt happy with her choices. But something has gone awry in the past year or so, leading to strange inexplicable feelings that suddenly come tumbling out as she types her annual letter. What if she told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but?

Thirty years on a sheep station in Australia was not the life she had planned.

Why is Nick shut away in his office all the time? Who is Carol and why are they Skyping continuously about the Gillespie family reunion in Ireland? Why is Nick obsessed with sorting out his family tree? And why is Angela suddenly imagining the life she might have had? If only.

In the midst of her cathartic letter, an emergency happens, and she leaves it on the computer, unsent.

What occurs next will lead to a rollicking and sometimes painful aftermath, when something totally unplanned turns into unimaginable consequences. Helpful hubby decides to send it (without reading it, of course).

And now, each of her three oldest children have had meltdowns of various kinds and ended up back at home, Twins Victoria and Genevieve have their own special communications and exclude their younger sister Lindy, much to her chagrin. Her whininess is unbelievably annoying, and as she sits sewing cushions and imagining her success, she becomes more than a little bit adolescent-like. Young Ig, who is ten, is the only one who truly should be behaving as a child, but he has a precocious nature that makes him seem odd to the others. And he has an imaginary friend.

Hello From the Gillespies feels like a family saga as it unfolds in layers and as we watch the characters deal with the lives they ended up with and as they learn to make the best of things. But then tragedy truly does strike, and everything does change even more in ways that none of them could have anticipated.

A story that takes the reader away into family moments they might recognize, with the sibling rivalries and sparring to the gradually changing relationships between the parents, and we also see how life chisels away at the bonds until it will take something dramatic to bring them all back to one another. Five stars.



Ruth Field is a widow in her mid-seventies, navigating the uncertain life that is hers without her husband Harry. In the years since his sudden death, she has formed some routines that carry her through the days, but sometimes, at night, she is awakened by what seem to be noises. At one point, she thinks of a tiger. She is afraid.

In the light of day, her fear fades away. But one morning, after a disturbing night, a woman appears at her door, announcing she is a caregiver sent by the government. Frida seems to be the efficient answer to Ruth’s needs, rigorously cleaning and organizing and cooking. Soon she is taking over the shopping and bill-paying. She is a strange mix of nurturing and cruel, in my opinion. She has a way of creating fears where there were none, and gradually Ruth is isolated, dependent, and fearful, all at the same time. Her confusion grows, and the uncertainties are fueled by Frida’s behavior.

Why does Ruth allow this strange woman to take over her home, her life, and her future? How is Frida able to finally persuade Ruth to do something so outrageous, when a part of Ruth—the part that has clarity—just wants Frida to go away?

A gripping and emotional read that reminded me of all the fragile people in the world, from the children to the aged, whose well-being can be destroyed in subtle ways by the very people who are charged with protecting them.

Set in Australia, but also flashing back to Ruth’s childhood in Fiji, The Night Guest: A Novel was easy to engage with and settle into. I wanted to protect Ruth fiercely, and felt such animosity towards Frida that I could scarcely contain myself. And the benevolent neglect of Ruth’s sons was appalling, even as I could understand how events came to this state.

In the end, some facts come to light, but long before then, I knew who Frida was and what she was about. Glaring red flags went up the moment she walked in, and I just wanted Frida out of Ruth’s home, wishing Ruth could once again have her small and simple life with her familiar routines. Five stars.