Review: The Wattle Island Book Club

The Wattle Island Book Club
Sandie Docker
Penguin Random House

My View:

Outstanding!!!

Add this author to your must read list. Do it.

Written with finesse, with gentle words, with kindness, gratitude and positivity, this book brought a few tears to my eye – and that was a good thing.

From the outset I knew this was going to be a read that would take me to uncomfortable places, I was expecting some of the scenarios presented here – but not all of them. Although tinged with sadness, a bitter sweet ending, I am so pleased the author wasn’t tempted to make this a (unrealistic) happy ever after.

It was indeed sad. It was indeed thought provoking. I did shed a (few) tears. But it was a stronger read for the realistic, poignant, ending. Bravo!!

Synopsis:

Review: The Other Side of Beautiful – Kim Lock

The Other Side of Beautiful

Kim Lock

HQ Fiction

ISBN: 9781867214915

Description:

Lost & Found meets The Rosie Project in a stunning break-out novel where a vulnerable misfit is forced to re-engage with the world, despite her best efforts.

Meet Mercy Blain, whose house has just burnt down. Unfortunately for Mercy, this goes beyond the disaster it would be for most people: she hasn’t been outside that house for two years now.

Flung out into the world she’s been studiously ignoring, Mercy goes to the only place she can. Her not-quite-ex-husband Eugene’s house. But it turns out she can’t stay there, either.

And so begins Mercy’s unwilling journey. After the chance purchase of a cult classic campervan (read tiny, old and smelly), with the company of her sausage dog, Wasabi, and a mysterious box of cremated remains, Mercy heads north from Adelaide to Darwin.

On the road, through badly timed breakdowns, gregarious troupes of grey nomads, and run-ins with a rogue adversary, Mercy’s carefully constructed walls start crumbling. But what was Mercy hiding from in her house? And why is Eugene desperate to have her back in the city? They say you can’t run forever…

Exquisite, tender and wry, this is a break-out novel about facing anxiety and embracing life from an extraordinary new talent.

My View:

This is a fabulous read- moving, engaging, authentic in setting and characters (particularly the caravanning community) and written with a vulnerability that is captivating. This book is such a delight to read.

Do you read a book and go – yes so and so will enjoy this? Or my sister-in-law/daughter /family/friend will love this? This is one such book. I loved it, and have recommended to so many. Now I am recommending it to you.

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.