Review: Tipping – Anna George

Tipping

Anna George

Viking

Penguin Books

ISBN: 9781760897789

Description:

An Instagram scandal at a grammar school sparks outrage in an exclusive bayside suburb and upends the lives of the families involved. However, it might also prove to be the tipping point required to change the school, and the wider community, for the better.

 

Liv Winsome, working mother of three sons, wife to decent if distracted Duncan, is overwhelmed. And losing her hair. Her doctor has told her she needs to slow down, do less. Focus on what’s important.

 

After Jai, one of her fourteen-year-old twins, is involved in a sexting scandal, Liv realises things need to change, and fast. Inspired by the pop-psychology books she devours, she writes a nine-page list of everything she does to keep the family afloat, and she delegates. She lets her boys’ conservative school know it has some work to do, too – partly, Liv suspects, because its leadership has a ‘woman problem’ (or, rather, a too-many-men problem).

 

Jai’s girlfriend, Grace, is at the heart of the sexting scandal and her mum, Jess Charters, up in arms as well, goes to the media. The women’s combined focus forces Carmichael Grammar to take action. To everyone’s surprise, and Liv’s delight, things actually start to improve.

 

Inspired by his wife’s efforts, Duncan rethinks the way he lives and works, too, despite the workaholic culture of his law firm and its scary managing partner, who’s also Duncan’s older brother. In unexpected ways, Liv and Duncan’s marriage and family life undergo their own transformations. Some new developments, though, aren’t entirely welcome.

 

Light-hearted and optimistic, Tipping is a novel for our times. It’s a story of domestic activism. Mum and dad activism. Because real change is possible. Sometimes all it takes is a tweak. And the will. And a bit of fun.

 

My View:

I did so want to love this. I have mixed feelings about this read. The premise is interesting but…I did not connect with any of the characters, I actually didn’t like most of them. I liked the ideas on how to make academic learning inclusive, on how to remove gender bias, on how to “fix” the broken school but it all seemed a little too simple to me, a little unrealistic in its execution. I did get some great ideas here that made me wonder if our local schools use any of these techniques?

 

However the read felt a little like a parable…a lesson being given wrapped up in contemporary narrative.

 

I think you will find this a great read for the train or the beach.

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing: As Swallow’s Fly- L P McMahon

As Swallows Fly

L P McMahon

Ventura Press

ISBN: 9781920727574

 

Description:

When Malika, a young orphan in rural Pakistan, is savagely attacked, her face is left disfigured and her self-esteem destroyed. Haunted by the assault, she hides from the world, finding solace in her mathematical theories. A few years later, her intellectual brilliance is discovered and she leaves conflict-stricken Pakistan for a better education in Melbourne, where she finds herself placed with Kate—a successful plastic surgeon facing emotional insecurities of her own.

Malika and Kate’s lives slowly intertwine as they find within each other what each has lacked alone. At first, Kate’s skills appear to offer a simple solution to Malika’s anguish, but when tragedy strikes, the price of beauty is found to be much higher than either of them could have known.

As Swallows Fly is a poignant portrayal of survival, identity and empowerment in a culture dominated by the pursuit of perfection. In a captivating and unforgettable debut, McMahon asks what might be possible if we have the courage to be flawed.

 

My View:

This is an amazing 5 star read! This character driven narrative will win your heart and have you staying up way too late to discover how the protagonists, Kate and Malika, resolve their dilemmas and continue their respective lives.

This is a spellbinding read.  Captivating and compelling; the story arcs deftly woven together taking the reader to unfamiliar places and at times harrowing events.  I found it unusual and refreshing that a work of contemporary fiction could be so compelling.

I highly recommend this read.

*****

Let me introduce you to Lawrie McMahon as he discusses A Doctor and writer, a disfigured girl from Pakistan. What’s the story?

My work in Pakistan was in a voluntary capacity, helping out in a small mission hospital in a small town north of Lahore (Gujrat). People of all faiths were always welcome and it was chastening to see the way the villagers lived, what mattered to them, how they dealt with loss (often of their children), and the strictness of the culture. I saw their lives devastated by loss but, in a way beyond my capacity, they were able to continue and even rebuild.  These experiences were all key aspects influencing Malika’s character development. I realise now how the experience and memories have influenced my life too. The memories of that time remain crystal clear. I still find myself wondering what happened to the people I met there – young and old – and how life has changed for them. It remains an ambition to return.”

 

The progression from short stories to this debut….

The difference between short story writing and writing the novel could not have been more different.  I expect it to be the same for most writers. Complexity in both characters and plot were the main practical differences. My short stories focus on defined situations and experiences—the character is etched clearly and quickly, and the narrative progresses in its limited arc to the finish. It must be contained. The novel depends on the characters changing as the novel progresses. We see a much richer version of the humanity and flaws within the person. As a writer, I hope the difference is clear. In addition, the novel raised a whole series of challenges: subplots, subtleties of character and motive as they developed and were given their due. It remains a continued learning experience. A journey, as they say.

 

Thanks so much to Dr Lawrie McMahon and Ventura Press for these insights.

 

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.

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: 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.

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 🙂

 

##Friday Freebie: The Shearer’s Wife – Fleur McDonald

 

Thanks to the fabulous people at Allen & Unwin I have 2 copies of this excellent book to give away.  I f you have never read a Fleur McDonald book here is your opportunity to win a copy and see for yourself why I love this series so much.

In the comments simply tell me the name of the protagonist in this series. **This giveaway is open to Australian residents only. 2 randomly selected winners will be drawn on  3/12/020**

Review: The Shearer’s Wife – Fleur McDonald

The Shearer’s Wife

Fleur McDonald

Allen & Unwin Australia

ISBN: 9781760876814

RRP$29.99

 

Description:

2020: When the Australian Federal Police swoop unheralded into Barker and make a shocking arrest for possession of narcotics, Detective Dave Burrows is certain there is more to the story than meets the eye. But the Feds insist that Dave is too invested in the town and its people to see the truth of what is happening there.

 

1980: Rose and Ian Kelly arrive in Barker for supplies before they begin shearing at Jacksonville Station, a couple of hundred kilometres out of town. Rose, heavily pregnant with their first babies, worries that despite Ian’s impending fatherhood he remains a drifter who dreams of the open road.

 

The twins arrive early and while Rose recuperates in town after a complicated birth, Ian stays at the Station to finish the shearing. When Ian turns up at job’s end ready to collect them all and move on, Rose is adamant that she and the twins need the support of the community in Barker. Impatiently, Ian sets off alone, leaving Rose and the children behind.

 

2020: After many months of grief over her brother’s illness and death, journalist Zara Ellison is finally ready to begin a new chapter of her life and make a commitment to her boyfriend, Senior Constable Jack Higgins. But when she’s assigned to investigating the Barker arrest, Jack begins to believe that Zara is working against him.

 

It takes a series of unconnected incidents in Zara’s digging to reveal an almost forgotten thread of mystery as to how these two events, forty years apart, could be connected.

 

 

My View:

I wish I had “discovered” Fleur McDonald’s Detective Dave Burrows series a long time ago -unfortunately I judged the books by its cover and hastily disregarded these as “romance”. How wrong was I? Fleur McDonald writes rural crime fiction with a sensitivity and knowledge that makes her narratives believable and her characters empathetic and credible. Fleur McDonald knows small Australian towns.

 

I particular enjoy reading about her protagonist Detective Dave Burrows. Burrows is a knowledgeable cop who has good instincts about people and their intentions, is community minded and liked by most; I’d like to see him come to life on the small screen – I think he would have a big fan following.

 

The Shearer’s Wife is a poignant read. With a dual story time line and a mystery or two, there are so many moments that will cause you to reflect on how difficult life was/is for women in remote locations, whether they be small towns, farms or businesses. This is another intelligent, poignant, engaging mystery from this great writer of small town Australian mysteries. Detective Dave Burrows is my hero 😊

 

Review: Trust – Chris Hammer

Chris Hammer

Trust

Allen and Unwin

ISBN: 9781760877415

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

He violated her past and haunts her present.

Now he’s threatening their future.

She breathes deeply, trying to quell the rising sense of panic. A detective came to her home, drugged her and kidnapped her. She tries to make sense of it, to imagine alternatives, but only one conclusion is possible: it’s her past come to claim her.

Martin Scarsden’s new life seems perfect, right up until the moment it’s shattered by a voicemail: a single scream, abruptly cut off, from his partner Mandaly Blonde.

Racing home, he finds an unconscious man sprawled on the floor and Mandy gone. Someone has abducted her. But who, and why?

So starts a twisting tale of intrigue and danger, as Martin probes the past of the woman he loves, a woman who has buried her former life so deep she has never mentioned it.

And for the first time, Mandy finds denial impossible, now the body of a mystery man has been discovered, a man whose name she doesn’t know, a man she was engaged to marry when he died. It’s time to face her demons once and for all; it’s time she learned how to trust.

Set in a Sydney riven with corruption and nepotism, privilege and power, Trust is the third riveting novel from award-winning and internationally acclaimed writer Chris Hammer.

 

My View:

 This is an exceptional read from Chris Hammer – in fact I think it is the best in the series. The words that springs to mind is “smooth, like a fine whiskey” does that sound corny? It’s what popped into my head after I finished reading this one – how this writer’s style has really grown, matured, developed, progressed…it has a complexity that engages and carries the read along for this exciting ride. The writing appears effortless, smooth, intense.

 

This is a fantastic end (?) to the original premise – we now have fully developed back stories and characters, mysteries, suspense, some sadness and a very satisfying resolution. What more could you want except another drop? Hope there is another in the pipe line Chris Hammer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Either Side of Midnight – Benjamin Stevenson

 either-side-of-midnight


Either Side of Midnight

Benjamin Stevenson

Penguin Random House

ISBN: 9780143795643

RRP$32.99

 

Description:

An electrifying thriller with a mind-bending premise: One million viewers witness a popular TV presenter commit suicide live on air – yet his twin brother is convinced it was murder.

 

How can it be murder when the victim pulled the trigger?

 

At 9.01 pm, TV presenter Sam Midford delivers the monologue for his popular current affairs show Mr Midnight. He seems nervous and the crew are convinced he’s about to propose to his girlfriend live on air.

 

Instead, he pulls out a gun and shoots himself in the head.

 

Sam’s grief-stricken brother Harry is convinced his brother was murdered. But how can that be, when one million viewers witnessed Sam pull the trigger?

 

Only Jack Quick, a disgraced television producer in the last days of a prison sentence, is desperate enough to take Harry’s money to investigate.

 

But as Jack starts digging, he finds a mystery more complex than he first assumed. And if he’s not careful, he’ll find out first-hand that there’s more than one way to kill someone . . .

 

My View:

Brilliant!

 

Once more I am delighted by the back story – of the film making/tv making process – its so accurate 😊 But there is more to this read that the matter of how tv shows are made; there is a lot of depth to this narrative and the characters and surprising reveals that you will not so coming.

 

Bulimia takes a leading role in this edition; it was discussed in Greenlight but did not have a starring role as it does here. We really feel the daily struggles, the effect on daily life and on those around the afflicted. Its very eye opening.

 

This was a fast paced, compelling read.  The characters, good and bad are really fleshed out – I particularly liked how all had some redeeming feature, something that showed their humanity, no black and whites here, lots of shades of grey, just like life.  One paragraph really stood out for me, it is where a character gives some advice to Jack about dealing with loss, with grief and making peace …it really spoke to me.  (no spoilers here).

 

There is a shout out to social media responsibility/laws etc that flows like a current underneath the main storyline.  This too I thought was very enlightening and sad; how easily lives can be influenced and destroyed.

 

The overall message that I took from this – you don’t always know what is happening with someone from the surface, from the “face” they show to the world.  Ask that question – “Are you Ok?”

 

This is a great crime fiction read, it has so much depth. I look forward to the next book by this author.