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: 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.

 

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.

Best Crime Fiction Reads of 2020

2020 was a year of unprecedented events and changes. For me I became more involved in my art than in reading but still read around eighty books. There were some stand outs which I will share with you over the next few days.

In no particular order – all great reads.

 

Please See Us: Caitlin Mullen

 

 

Long Bright River: Liz Moore 

 

 

The Janes: Louisa Luna

 

The Silent Wife – Karin Slaughter 

Summerwater: Sarah Moss 

The Good Turn  – Dervla McTiernan 

The Familiar Dark  – Amy Engel 

Red Dirt Country – Fleur McDonald

Trust – Chris Hammer 

House of Correction – Nicci French   

 

 

Review: Dog – Shaun Tan

Dog

Shaun Tan

Allen & Unwin

ISBN:981760526139

RRP $19.99

 

Description:

A beautifully poignant gift book exploring the relationship between man and man’s best friend, from the masterful Shaun Tan.

One day I threw my stick at you.

You brought it back.

Then we were walking side by side

as if it had always been this way.

World-renowned artist and storyteller Shaun Tan reflects on the nature of humans and animals in this exquisitely illustrated fable about owner and Dog. A perfect little gift book from an extraordinary talent.

 

My View:

This book clearly illustrates the power of pictures and words – this is such a simply presented yet powerfully poignant read – all dog lovers will be able to relate to this and those who have lost dogs will smile that bittersweet smile, you know the one, the one that says “yes, I get it. I understand. I miss you.” (And perhaps they will shed a silent tear in memory of their best friend, as I did).

A beautiful read.

 

Review: In the Bush Book and Jigsaw Puzzle – Roland Harvey

In the Bush Book and Jigsaw Puzzle

Roland Harvey

Allen & Unwin

                ISBN: 9781760878429

RRP $19.99

Ages 5-10

 

Description:

A fabulously entertaining book and jigsaw gift set from one of Australia’s favourite illustrators.

 

Wombat Flat’s the best!

We camped out near the Cascades, stayed up all night to see the sunrise, nearly got snowed in at Mt Misery … and rode across the Razorback.

And a squillion other things that you’ll find out when you come with us to Wombat Flat.

 

A delightful book and puzzle gift set of an Australian classic for the whole family to enjoy. The 400mm x 490mm jigsaw comprises 150 pieces.

 

https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/childrens/In-the-Bush-Book-and-Jigsaw-Puzzle-Roland-Harvey-9781760878429

 

 

My View:

This book and puzzle combination were something I was very excited to receive; previous to this I have only discovered one other similar combination, this is such a rare and wonderful find. Puzzles for this age group (150 pieces) are rare, it seems there are plenty of toddler age-appropriate puzzles everywhere you look; floor puzzles, wooden peg puzzles, children’s’ tv character related puzzles, puzzles of a maximum of about 20 pieces but puzzles that are suitable for the next age group – pre-schoolers are a hidden gem and I am glad I have discovered one more to add to the collection.

 

The puzzle component of this combination gift pack (excellent for Christmas – you still have time to order) has 150 pieces – perfect for those inquisitive minds; perhaps read the hilariously funny hardback book first then work on the puzzle together, discussing sections as you complete. This is a great resource – such a fun way to develop those comprehension, language and fine motor skills.

 

Review: Something Like This – Karly Lane

Something Like This

Karly Lane

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760529253

RRP $29.99

 

Description:

A spellbinding new rural romance from the bestselling author of the Callahans of Stringybark Creek trilogy and Fool Me Once.

 

 

Jason Weaver just wants to be left alone. It was a tough transition from his army days to civilian life, and he’s looking forward to settling into a solitary life.

 

Tilly Hollis is working two jobs to save for her dream career: running an equine therapy program. Tilly loves her horses more than anything, and after losing her husband and business partner just a few years earlier, she’s determined to make it work on her own.

 

When Jason walks into the cafe where Tilly works, they’re immediately drawn to one another. But can they overcome their pasts to find a future together?

 

 

My View:

I have had a few very restless/sleepless nights recently and so the last time I found myself still awake past midnight a pick up my copy of Something Like This and settled in to read for an hour or so before I went back to bed and sleep, I hoped. This was a major mistake. 173 pages later I did not want to put this book down!  I looked at the clock – gone 3 (well to be honest – it was a bit later than that but I am not admitting to that) 😊  I sighed and decided I really had to try and get some sleep, so reluctantly I left the book on the table and went back to bed, yes I did get a few hours sleep.

 

I loved this read!  The main characters were so engaging, their back stories poignant and heartbreaking yet not melodramatic, their everyday life relatable with an appeal that connects to the reader – this is a fabulous character driven narrative. There is more to this narrative than rural romance; this is a multi-faceted exploration of loss, grief, families, second chances and courage, the everyday courage of getting up and facing each new day when you least feel like it. It’s about cancer, about the aftermath of war, about hope, faith and building trust…and therapy horses, set in the back drop of small rural town life.

 

 

PS – I am even quoted on the back of this book 🙂

 

Review: Eddie Woo’s Magical Maths 2 – Eddie Woo

Eddie Woo’s Magical Maths 2

Eddie Woo

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781760981976

RRP $19.99

 

Description:

A bumper book of maths fun stuffed with things to draw, puzzle, invent, order, unscramble, code, decode for kids aged 7+ years from Australia’s best known maths man. There’s magic in maths – if you know where to look…

 

 

AUTHOR Eddie:

Eddie Woo teaches mathematics at Cherrybrook Technology High School, Sydney. He has been teaching maths for more than ten years.

 

In 2012, Eddie started recording his lessons and uploading them to Youtube – creating ‘Wootube’. Since then, he has amassed a following of more than 1 million subscribers and his videos have been viewed more than 60 million times.

 

In 2018, Eddie was named Australia’s Local Hero of the Year and shortlisted as one of the top ten teachers in the world.

 

 

My View:
This is the perfect book for your school aged child to engage them with the fun world of maths – and yes maths can be fun.  There are puzzles, word hunts, games, colouring in, “spot the differences” to name just a few of the fun exercises here …I think some of these can be played with younger kids if they are supervised/assisted by an adult.  My grandson (4 ½ years) and I will enjoy playing “sprouts” pps 158- 160 – a game about connecting dots. Because maths is all about patterns, and our universe is extraordinarily patterned, you will find something  here that can interest everyone. I learned my art practice is about fractals, so much fun to be had they won’t even know it maths they are learning 😊

 

 

Thanks, Eddie, for a fabulous fun and entertaining book.  I am glad I have discovered you and your maths books, now to discover your YouTube videos.

 

PS – this will make a great Christmas present for someone you know.