Review: Other Peoples Houses – Kelli Hawkins

Other People’s Houses

Kelli Hawkins

Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9781460759226

 

Description:

A stunningly tense, page-turning debut for all fans of The Woman in the Window and The Girl on the Train The perfect house. The perfect family. Too good to be true.

 

Kate Webb still grieves for her young son, ten years after his loss. She spends her weekends hungover, attending open houses on Sydney’s wealthy north shore and imagining the lives of the people who live there.

 

Then Kate visits the Harding house – the perfect house with, it seems, the perfect family. A photograph captures a kind-looking man, a beautiful woman she once knew from university days, and a boy – a boy that for one heartbreaking moment she believes is her own son.

 

When her curiosity turns to obsession, she uncovers the cracks that lie beneath a glossy facade of perfection, sordid truths she could never have imagined.

 

 

My View:

I don’t think I have come across such a unique narrator and unique plot; a mostly functioning alcoholic whose life is coloured with the raw grief of loss. Kate Webb is the most unreliable narrator I have come across yet her world is credible, the self-destructive behaviours understandable as her grief transcends her weak desire to function and exist in the world.

 

But this is not just a book about alcoholism and grief. Without giving away too much, this is a book about domestic violence in its worse form, its is about murders and psychopaths, about control, about relationships, about the glimmer of hope that just might sustain; it is a read where the nothing is as it seems.

 

And it is a read that will keep you up all night until you have discovered the truths. This is a compelling read and I will admit to shedding a silent tear as I finished this.

 

 

Review: Change Your Thinking to Change Your Life – Kate James

Change Your Thinking to Change Your Life

Kate James

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781760787738

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

Many of us experience feelings of being stuck in the wrong life and disconnected from our true selves.

Australian mindfulness expert and bestselling author Kate James has coached thousands of clients in similar situations.

Now, Kate introduces us to a range of techniques, based on her knowledge of mindfulness, positive psychology, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), creativity and neuropsychology, that will help us clarify our goals, realise our purpose and connect more fully with the wonder of life.

Change Your Thinking to Change Your Life will help you to:

– get to know yourself well

– overcome the thoughts and beliefs that inhibit inner peace and limit you in your life choices

– find your way to your version of a fulfilling life.

This is the perfect companion for negotiating transformation in an unsettled age.

Praise for Change Your Thinking to Change Your Life

‘Kate James is such an honest, warm and generous teacher. Read this book and you’ll be learning from one of the very best.’ Clare Bowditch

‘Kate’s writing is immensely practical. Rich with compassion and insight from her many years as a therapist, her books always offer life-enhancing tools that may be applied right away. Transformational wisdom at its best!’ David Michie, author of Hurry Up and Meditate.

 

My View:

This is a book that you will read piece by piece, or all the way through or just some of it depending on your individual life journey and how well you know yourself already.  And you will read it again and then read it some more.

 

A highlight for me – Chapter Eighteen – Boost Your optimism – is one we can all easily follow.  The exercises (which actually just read as common sense), give everyday easy to actualise, guidance on practicing gratitude to balance the negative bias of the brain. “The remedy is not to supress negative experiences; when they happen, they happen.  Rather, it is to foster positive experiences – and in particular, to take them in so they became a permanent part of you.” (p166 Buddhas’ Brain, Rick Hanson). Well said. Practice makes change.

 

This guide – and yes, it is a guide – is full of helpful exercises, written in accessible, positive language. This is a book that I will keep by my bed and pick up and read, often, over and over. I have highlighted so many paragraphs in this book that I want to return to later.

 

PS I love the cover art.

 

Review: Crackenback – Lee Christine

Crackenback

Lee Christine

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760878900

RRP $ 29.99

 

Description:

A thrilling tale of snow-bound crime and suspense, from the bestselling author of Charlotte Pass.

Detective Sergeant Pierce Ryder of the Sydney Homicide Squad is on the hunt for notorious fugitive Gavin Hutton.

After months of dead-ends, the breakthrough Ryder has been hoping for leads him back to the New South Wales Snowy Mountains on the trail of the suspected killer.

Meanwhile, when an injured man bursts into the remote Thredbo lodge managed by Eva Bell, her first instinct is to protect her daughter, Poppy. The terrifying arrival of Jack Walker turns Eva’s world upside down as the consequences of Jack’s presence become clear.

With a killer on the loose, Jack Walker and Ryder are tangled in the same treacherous web – spun across the perilously beautiful Crackenback Range.

 

My View:

Superb reading!

I feel like my reading year has really started well, this is another 5-star read and a book I will be recommending to all my crime fiction reading friends. How did I miss book one, “Charlotte Pass”? Luckily it is not essential to have read book one before you read book 2, the author does a great job of recounting many salient points so that you will not be lost.  I will definitely keep a look out for book 3 and put this author on my “Must Read” list.

 

I did enjoy this one; empathetic characters, wonderful settings (I will visit the areas mentioned in the book – one day), and a gripping narrative that had me staying up way past a reasonable bed time just so I could finish this…such a great read this was.

 

I highly recommend this read to all lovers of great, character based, crime fiction. Lee Christine, I look forward to book 3.

#FridayFreebie: The Paris Affair – Pip Drysdale

The Paris Affair

Pip Drysdale 

Simon & Schuster

 

https://www.simonandschuster.com.au/books/The-Paris-Affair/Pip-Drysdale/9781760854324 

She thinks love can kill you. It turns out she might be right. The dark and sexy new thriller from the bestselling author of The Sunday Girl and The Strangers We Know.

Harper Brown is an expert at picking locks, breaking her way out of car boots, talking her way out of trouble and she could run a masterclass on escaping relationships – her record for losing a guy is three minutes flat. She’s addicted to true crime podcasts and is the genius behind a micro-column called ‘How to not get murdered’.

After having her heart broken helping her ex follow his dreams, Harper has moved to Paris to fulfill hers. She’s talked her way into a job as an arts journalist, a stepping stone to her dream role as an investigative journalist. All she has to do is whatever it takes to get there. But then one night she meets the artist Noah X, and everything she thinks she knows is turned upside down.

Soon Harper finds herself entangled in a web of lies, hot on the trail of a murderer and the scoop of a lifetime. This is the story that could make her career – if the killer doesn’t catch her first.

*** I have one copy of the fabulous The Paris Affair  to give away – for your chance to win simply  leave a comment on this post with the title of another book written by Pip Drysdale. How easy is that? Entries open to Australian residents only, entries close  28th February 2021.  Thanks to the lovely people at Simon & Schuster and to the author for providing  this giveaway. ***

Review: The Paris Affair – Pip Drysdale

The Paris Affair

Pip Drysdale

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781760854331

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

She thinks love can kill you. It turns out she might be right.

Meet Harper Brown…

Occupation: Arts journalist

Dream job: Hard-hitting news reporter

Location: Paris

Loves: True crime podcasts, art galleries, coffee, whiskey

Does not love: fake people, toxic positivity, being told how to live her life by smug workmates who have no life (that’s you, Stan), her narcissistic ex

Favourite book: 1984

Favourite artist: Noah X. Sometimes.

Favourite painting: Klimt’s Schubert at the Piano

Special skills: breaking out of car boots, picking locks and escaping relationships.

Superpower: She can lose any guy in three minutes flat. Ask her how.

Secret: She’s hot on the trail of a murderer – and the scoop of a lifetime.

 

That’s if the killer doesn’t catch her first.

 

My View:

I loved this sassy, modern, exciting, captivating mystery. Set in Paris, this read makes you feels like you are in the city, at the art gallery, in the office, walking along the streets…the settings are brilliant. And the characters are just as well written. Visit the office and recognise some of the character traits Drysdale has instilled in Harper’s colleagues, you will recognise them.  Examine the friendships, the relationships are credible and some familiar.

Flawed yet resilient and strong, the protagonist Harper Brown is gutsy and likeable in a sometimes cringeworthy way. But you will like her. And a bonus – she has a great knowledge of art (or if not, she certainly talks the talk) 😊. And Noah X is …worth reading about.

The murders/mystery elements will keep you guessing.  There are so many well-placed red herrings you will not guess who did.

 

A great read.

 

Looking for the Perfect Valentine’s Day Read? Dinosaurs in Love – Feen Rosenthal & Hannah Jacobs

Feen Rosenthal (aged 3 when this was written) 

Art by Hannah Jacobs

Orchard Books

Hachette Australia

ISBN:9780316593335

 

Description:

Three-year-old Fenn Rosenthal’s viral song about love, longing, and loss has melted the hearts of tens of millions of people on Tiktok, Instagram, Spotify and even on the Jimmy Fallon Show. Now readers of all ages can enjoy Fenn’s heartfelt, poignant lyrics again and again in this irresistible, sing-aloud picture book that includes exclusive extras!

Dinosaurs eat people, dinosaurs have a party, dinosaurs eat fruit and cucumber, but dinosaurs didn’t say goodbye! This sweet and deceptively simple story features all-new illustrations from Hannah Jacobs (the animator of the viral music video) that expand on Fenn’s lyrics and illuminate tender moments from these beloved dinosaurs’ journey. Also features an interview with Fenn as well as a bonus letter from her father and singer-songwriter, Tom Rosenthal.

Dinosaurs in Love is the perfect gift to share with anyone you’ve ever fallen in love with, whether it be your friends, your family, or even a treat for yourself.

 

My View:

The perfect, cutest Valentine’s Day read you will ever find.

After you have read the book, watch the Youtube video for another hit of cuteness. The world needs more smiles and this provides lots of them.

 

 

Review: Inside the hunt for a serial killer: Stalking Claremont – Bret Christian.

Stalking Claremont

Inside the Hunt for a Serial Killer  

Bret Christian

ABC Books

Harper Collins Publishers Australia

ISBN 978073338731

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

The gripping true story of the notorious Claremont serial murders and the nation’s longest and most expensive investigation to catch the killer

 

In the space of just over a year in 1996-7, three young women disappeared from Claremont, an upmarket suburb in central Perth. When two of the young women were found murdered, Australia’s longest and most expensive investigation was established. More than twenty years later, an unlikely suspect was arrested based on forensic evidence that also linked the murders to two previous vicious rapes. Stalking Claremont, by local newsman Bret Christian, is a riveting story of young lives cut short, a city in panic, an investigation riddled with error, and a surprising twist that absolutely no one saw coming.

 

Author Bret Christian adds:

“It is hard to dream up a worse way to write the definitive book on the Claremont serial killings. It was always an unfolding story. At our local newspaper we had been following and reporting on the Claremont serial killer cases since 1995. After an arrest was made I gave many interviews, one to news.com.au. Almost instantly I received a call from ABC Books commissioning a book.  I wrote it in three months, realising the urgency – Edwards might plead guilty or, being a very high-profile prisoner, something might happen to him in jail.

Publication had to wait three years for a trial to begin,  then another 10 months for the completion of the  court case. In the meantime, with new interviews and court submissions, much new information had to be woven into the original manuscript. Avoiding making the additions look stuck-on, resembling a coronavirus molecule, meant many headaches.”

Stalking Claremont presents as a detailed murder-mystery thriller, but it was written to provide the answers – to learn from the past in order to better face he future.  What went wrong in the hunt for the Claremont serial killer? What was really behind the focus on the wrong people? What finally went right? Can these lessons be universally applied to other unsolved crime mysteries?

 

 

My View:

 I predict a Walkley!

 

This is a book of powerful emotions. At first my interest was piqued as the crimes and circumstances happened in my home state, in social situations I was familiar with/was involved with …the narrative, like the crimes committed felt very personal.  As I started reading, I was surprised at how quickly I was transported back to that era and how suddenly I got the “chills” and locked my open sliding door opposite my seat on the lounge where I sat reading. I felt discomfort, no I felt fear.

 

This uncomfortable feeling, this apprehension did not leave but was overtaken by anger when I continued to read and discover the many civil liberties that were trashed, individual’s health and lifestyles destroyed, for no concrete reasons, during this lengthy and mostly narrow sighted investigation.  How did/could things go so wrong for so long? There are many questions that needed asking, an enquiry that needs to be made (if it’s not happened already/or is happening), reassurances that this sort of flawed investigating never happens again.

 

I continued reading, again aghast at why useful information was not made public, why first-hand useful information was ignored…then I read details of the murders that had not been released to the public…oh dear! These poor girls.  Sorrow, grief…so many more emotions.

 

This is a book that I highly recommend you read; this excellently researched and written book is astonishing in the facts it illuminates, the wrongs it sets right by clearly announcing to the general public that the publicly persecuted persons of interest were not at all involved with the crimes, and had no physical evidence linking them to the crimes, ever, etc (where is the public apologies? Where is the compensation, though how you can compensate for this level of distress and intrusion caused to blameless individuals I do not know)?  I am outraged as you may have gathered. And I hope that somehow, someone reading this book will recall a vital piece of information that will bring Sarah Spiers home.  I hope Bradley Robert Edwards is never released from prison.

 

What a read! I don’t think a book has ever incensed me like this.

 

I predict awards for Bret Christian. Thank you for shining the light on this controversial investigation.

Review My Best Friend’s Murder – Polly Phillips

My Best Friend’s Murder

Polly Phillips

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781761100178

RRP $29.99

 

Description:

You’re lying, sprawled at the bottom of the stairs, legs bent, arms wide.

 

If I squint, you could be playing Sleeping Bunnies. Or maybe Twister.

 

I wish I could tell you how the blood pooling around your head looks like a halo.

 

But you’re past listening.

 

I need to let the paramedics in. And then I have to be careful.

 

Because as the energy trickles out of your body it’s pumping into mine.

 

And while this could be a tragic accident, if anyone’s got a motive to hurt you, it’s me.

*

Bec and Izzy have been best friends their whole lives. They’ve been through a lot together – the death of Bec’s mother, the birth of Izzy’s daughter, Bec’s engagement.

But there’s a darker side to their friendship, too – and Bec is about to reach breaking point.

Then Izzy is found broken and bloodied at the bottom of the stairs.

It could have been an accident – perhaps she fell – but if the police decide to look for a killer, then Bec is sure to be their prime suspect.

*

This is The Rumour meets The Holiday, a compulsive thriller with a toxic but layered friendship at its heart that keeps you in the dark until the final few breathless pages . . .

 

My View:

This is a really interesting read on a few levels. It is a genre I like – crime/mystery/domestic noir, and it has an plenty of plot twists and red herrings to keep you guessing – in fact I didn’t work out the culprit – and was surprised when this was revealed (no spoilers). But for me this has been a significant read/discussion about relationships and has left me considering the toxicity of some of those relationships in my life.

 

For me this is a narrative about the stories we tell our self; of memory and how it is influenced by our own desires and need to fit, to belong, to be acknowledged. Reflection  sat heavily with me long after I finished reading this book. Thank Holly Phillips for creating a world that has shone a torch on my own relationships, toxic relationships are hiding within plain sight 😊 Now what to do about them…I don’t have stairs in my house😊 😊

 

PS Polly is a Perth writer – another reason t celebrate this read 😊

 

 

 

Review: The Schoolgirl Strangler – Katherine Kovacic

The Schoolgirl Strangler

Katherine Kovac

Echo

ISBN: 9781760686635

RRP $32.99

 

Description:
The shocking true story of a serial killer in 1930s Melbourne.

 

November, 1930. One sunny Saturday afternoon, 12-year-old Mena Griffiths was playing in the park when she was lured away by an unknown man. Hours later, her strangled body was found, mouth gagged and hands crossed over her chest, in an abandoned house. Only months later, another girl was murdered; the similarities between the cases undeniable. Crime in Melbourne had taken a shocking new turn: this was the work of a serial killer, a homicidal maniac.

 

Despite their best efforts, police had no experience dealing with this kind of criminal. What followed was years of bungled investigations, falsely accused men – and the tragic deaths of two more girls – before the murderer was finally caught and brought to justice.

 

With all the pace of a thriller, Katherine Kovacic recounts this extraordinary, chilling true story – of failed police enquiries, a killer with a Jekyll and Hyde personality, and the families shattered when four innocent lives were cruelly taken.

 

My View:

Katherine Kovacic is a talented writer, who, with the publishing of this work of non-fiction, has demonstrated her great skills and depth of writing and research. I enjoyed every aspect of this read- the cover art – which is perfect for the era of the crimes (in fact I will share a personal image with you that was used in a local “a stranger danger awareness” shoot back in the 1960’s.)

I love the chapters with the face/jigsaw puzzle slowly revealing the face of the accused.

The research led narrative is presented in easily digested vocabulary, and without personal intervention, I like this tyle op presentation for true crime writing.   I absolutely abhor true crime where the writer thinks that their opinions are valuable in the story, in my opinion, they are not, it should be the reader who decides what they take/believe/ understand from the facts presented.

 

This is another great read from the talented Katherine Kovacic.