"Men like him, they loved women. They understood the kid of life that suited women best. They knew what women really wanted. Proper women didn't want "Men like him, they loved women. They understood the kid of life that suited women best. They knew what women really wanted. Proper women didn't want to be out there in the world, having to shout the odds all the time. They wanted to build homes, take care of families, make their mark and exercise their power inside the home. Being women, not fake men."
Val McDermid's ninth novel, Splinter the Silence, reunites the formidable team of Carol Jordan and Tony Hill in the hunt for a stalker determined to teach feminists a lesson.
In the aftermath of the tumultuous events in The Retribution and Cross and Burn Carol Jordan has buried herself in rural Bradfield, spending her retirement renovating her late brother's property and drinking far too much. When she finds herself arrested for DUI there is only one person she can ask for help, Tony Hill, who is determined to dry her out. In order to distract Carol from her demons, Tony raises his concerns about the recent suicides of two women who had been the victims of a barrage of online vitriolic and threats. What begins as an abstract exercise quickly develops into a legitimate case and when Jordan is offered the opportunity to come out of retirement to set up a 'flying' major case unit, she can't resist. Calling on former colleagues including DS Paula McIntyre, computer whiz Stacey Chen and of course, profiler Tony Hill to join ReMIT, Carol and her new team dig deeper, identifying a cunning serial killer.
Splinter the Silence is evenly split between developing character and the investigative plot.
It's been a tough year or so for Carol in particular, who has faced several professional and personal challenges. Despite choosing to retire, it's obvious that left to her own devices she is spiralling downward, and she needs help to get it together.
Also very much in focus is the complicated relationship between Carol and Tony,
"She didn't think there actually was a word for the complicated matrix of feelings that bound her to Tony and him to her. With anyone else, so much intimacy would inevitably have led them to bed. But in spite of the chemistry between them, in spite of the sparks and the intensity, it was as if there was an electrical fence between them. And that was on the good days."
Readers familiar with the series will also appreciate catching up with Paula, Stacey, Ambrose and the introduction of new team members.
The investigation highlights a topical subject - that of the extreme cyber-harassment too often visited on women via social media. The ReMIT team tracks down some of the worst offenders who have hurled vile abuse and threats of violence at the victims in an effort to identify in what manner they may have contributed to their deaths as they try to formulate a case.
As their inquiry coalesces, McDermid gives the killer his own narrative to illuminate his motives and methods. While I think this reduces the tension somewhat, it does lend the mystery an interesting cat-and-mouse quality as the police team closes in.
Splinter in Silence is a well crafted tale from award winning McDermid. A strong addition to a popular series that fans should enjoy as I did, it's not one for a new reader to start with though. I'm looking forward to further developments in the series.
"Everyone is waiting for us in Charleston, South Carolina. That's a long way. We're going to drive there. Isn't that fun? Isn't that crazy? Mom thinks "Everyone is waiting for us in Charleston, South Carolina. That's a long way. We're going to drive there. Isn't that fun? Isn't that crazy? Mom thinks I'm crazy for doing this. I'm starting to think I'm crazy for doing this, and we haven't even pulled out of the driveway. Isn't that crazy? Yes, sir, it sure is. Yes, sir."
John Nichols is driving cross country with his son Ethan to attend his eldest daughter's wedding. He once dreamed of taking aimlessly to the open road, but this trip requires factoring in Ethan's restlessness, frequent meltdowns, bathroom breaks and stops for pickles at Cracker Barrel. Born with an extra chromosome resulting in global cognitive delays, Ethan is essentially a nineteen year old toddler and though John fiercely loves his son, he is exhausted by the demands of caring for him.
Little of John's life has turned out as he expected, at 57 he is an ex-basketballer player, ex-author, ex-philanderer, ex-husband, ex-high-school English teacher' but now John has an 'Overall Plan'. Phase I is getting to the wedding on time, Phase II will be a little more complicated.
Jim Kokoris' fourth novel, It's. Nice. Outside. is a funny, honest and moving novel about family, love, regret, joy, doubt and hope.
The trip is fraught with emotion, reflection and re-evaluation, beset by crisis when Karen's wedding is cancelled, contention when youngest daughter Mindy joins them, and chaos when John finally reveals his Overall Plan to his ex-wife. John is convinced he is doing the right thing for his son, for his family and as he admits, for himself, but letting go maybe the thing that tears them all apart.
"I kept thinking that if we stuck together, we would eventually get to where everything was going to be fine. That we were going to make it, all of us. We were going to arrive someplace together and be fine.... A happy ending"
I laughed loudly at Stinky Bear ("a sassy, horny little teddy bear, full of insightful and often...outrageous comments about life, love, and the state of the civilisation." and was moved by John's frustrations and angst. Primarily though I felt compassion for the family's very real struggle to determine what is best for Ethan.
Kokoris's dialogue is sharp and snappy and the interactions between the various characters ring true. The author's sense of comedic timing is impeccable, clever and hilarious, though also often dark and acerbic. Well crafted, the pace of the story is great and events unfold naturally.
I was really impressed by It's.Nice.Outside. for Kokoris's wit and candor and the insight into a complicated family dynamic.
Little Girl Gone (also published as Remembering Mia) is a tense psychological thriller from debut author Alexandra Burt.
When Estelle *unfinished draft*
Little Girl Gone (also published as Remembering Mia) is a tense psychological thriller from debut author Alexandra Burt.
When Estelle Paradise emerges from a medically induced coma in the County Hospital with amnesia, she can't explain why she drove into a ravine three hours from home, how she sustained a gunshot wound to her head, or what has happened to her missing baby daughter, Mia. Committed to a psychiatric hospital, Estelle is desperate to unravel the mystery of Mia's disappearance, even if, as the police suspect, she is the one responsible.
Told in the first person, it becomes clear as Estelle trawls her memories for clues, that she has been suffering from undiagnosed severe post partum depression since Mia's birth. Burt adeptly portrays Estelle's increasingly disorganised thinking as she struggles to care for her colicky baby with little support from her husband. It is entirely plausible that Estelle could be the very monster she fears, but as Estelle begins to make sense of her fragmented memories the story twists and turns, and slowly Burt unravels a disturbing tale of
While I was caught up in Estelle's tragedy and turned the pages eagerly, I did think the story was a little overwritten. The middle of the novel drags and the drawn out ending is irritating....more
Preschooled is a funny, light and sardonic debut novel from Anna Lefler.
Thrilled when her daughter gains a place at the exclusive Garden of Happiness Preschooled is a funny, light and sardonic debut novel from Anna Lefler.
Thrilled when her daughter gains a place at the exclusive Garden of Happiness preschool in Santa Monica, Justine is eager to impress the center's demanding owner, Margaret, but is thrown when she runs into the man who once shattered her heart.
Margaret expects nothing less than slavish obedience from the parents who pay handsomely for privilege of a preschool education at The Garden of Happiness. Margaret is always in control, but when her soon-to-be-ex-husband betrays her by threatening to take away everything she has built, her tantrum will rival any recalcitrant toddler's.
Ruben's wife has gone back to work so he can work on developing a television script while looking after their twins, but he's struggling until he finds inspiration among the committee mothers of the Garden of Happiness.
As the narrative alternates between Lefler's three main protagonists it gently mocks the absurdities of preschool admission competition and privileged pretension, while also lightheartedly addressing more universal issues such as parenting, marriage strife and work/life balance.
Preschooled is a quick and entertaining read that doesn't take itself too seriously, and won't expect you to either....more
Is This My Beautiful Life? is the memoir of Jessica Rowe, best known as an Australian television news presenter, and ambassador for the organisation b Is This My Beautiful Life? is the memoir of Jessica Rowe, best known as an Australian television news presenter, and ambassador for the organisation beyondblue.
Jessica Rowe writes candidly about her unsettled childhood as a result of her mother's bipolar disorder, her legal battle with network Ten, the hurtful criticism leveled at her by the public and media, the loss of her job at Channel Nine, and her struggle to conceive via IVF. But it is her battle with post natal depression after the birth of her first child with 60 minutes journalist Peter Overton, that is the focus of this memoir.
Challenged by breastfeeding, uncertain about her instincts as a mother, and exhausted by the demands of a newborn, Jessica found herself overwhelmed. She is honest and open about being unable to admit to her increasing distress. She writes of her fears of developing a mental illness like her mother, of her feelings of failure, and her reluctance to reach out for help, despite the support of her husband and family.
Offering encouragement, sympathy and comfort to women who may find themselves struggling with 'having it all', Is This My Beautiful Life? is an open and touching read, addressing an important subject that affects around 1 in 7 Australian women.
"When you're ass deep in lemons, you start looking for a shovel, not a pitcher and a cup of sugar."
Thirty year old Mattie Wallace is homeless, jobless "When you're ass deep in lemons, you start looking for a shovel, not a pitcher and a cup of sugar."
Thirty year old Mattie Wallace is homeless, jobless and pregnant, so an inheritance from the grandmother she never met is an unexpected life line. With her worldly belongings crammed into six plastic trash bags, Mattie drives from the Florida panhandle where she grew up with her alcoholic single mother, to small town Gandy, Oklahoma. Stranded in town when her 1978 Chevy Malibu gives out, Mattie settles into her grandmothers house while waiting for probate to clear, and curious, begins to ask questions about her mother the locals are reluctant to answer. Determined to learn why her mother fled her comfortable life, Mattie sets out to solve the mystery of her mother's past, and perhaps forge a new path for herself.
The Art of Crash Landing by debut author Melissa DeCarlo is a hilarious, audacious and surprisingly poignant story about loss, regret, secrets and forgiveness.
"I have ninja skills when it comes to screwing things up. It's like a superpower only lamer."
Mattie is a bold character; snarky, foul mouthed and irresponsible, her former stepfather, whom she affectionately calls Queeg (as in Captain Queeg from The Caine Mutiny), compares her to a natural disaster. She has a history of dating deadbeats, drinking too much, and doing the wrong thing. Damaged by her difficult childhood, Mattie knows she is a mess, but feels destined to repeat her mother's mistakes. I loved her irreverent attitude, and snarky wit, she is smarter than she gives herself credit for, and I really enjoyed the growth of character over the course of the novel. Solving the mystery of her mothers childhood is what lets Mattie reconcile with her past and begin to change the course of her future.
"I don't know what she's thinking, but I'm thinking about how fluid the border is between crazy and interesting, and hard it is to decide who belongs where."
Mattie is both helped, and hindered, by a cast of several quirky characters. Queeg, Mattie's stepfather who remains in Florida, is the most endearing. Then there is Luke, the paraplegic lawyer; Tawny, the teenage wannabe bad ass; Mattie's mothers former best friend Karleen, librarian 'Aunt' Fritter, JJ and the doggie Winstons.
"We are all more than the worst thing we have done"
I laughed often, entertained by the witty banter, eccentric characters and occasionally absurd situations in The Art of Crash Landing, but I was also intrigued by the mystery surrounding Mattie's mother's past, and touched by Mattie's struggle to escape her mother's shadow.
"Sometimes well begun never has a chance to finish, and every once in a while, a bad beginning turns out okay."
DeCarlo's style is similar to that of Cathy Lamb, an author I adore, and I'm looking forward to more from her. The Art of Crash Landing is a great read I'm happy to recommend....more
As the wife of a police officer, Jamie Anderson uncomfortably lives with the risk that Mike may be hurt or killed while performing his duty and isn't As the wife of a police officer, Jamie Anderson uncomfortably lives with the risk that Mike may be hurt or killed while performing his duty and isn't sure how to best comfort her husband after his partner, and best friend, is shot and badly wounded. Just a few short weeks later Mike, stoic but still obviously distressed, is paired with a new hire, and finds himself in a situation that results in him shooting and killing a gun-wielding teenage boy. When the boy's weapon is not found at the scene, Mike's mental fitness given recent events is questioned, leading to an indictment for manslaughter, and sending Jamie into a panic as her cherished family unravels under the strain.
Pekkanen begins with a strong and provocative premise in The Things You Won't Say, exploring the personal consequences for Jamie and her family in the wake of the shootings. In particular she focuses on the breakdown of communication between Jamie and Mike, both of whom are under enormous stress, and afraid to open up to one another about their fears for the future.
I felt badly for both Jamie and Mike who are quickly overwhelmed by circumstances that can't control, and I was sympathetic to the issues that arose between them. I think the author captured the high emotions involved in the situation, however I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of nuanced characterisation, Jamie is hysterical much of the time, while Mike is withdrawn.
I also thought the core of the story was weakened by the addition of the perspectives of Christie, Mike's self absorbed ex girlfriend, and mother to their son Henry; and Lou, Jamie's younger sister, a zookeeper. While I liked both characters, who are very different, they are merely distractions, offering little support to the main plot.
Things You Can't Say isn't a bad read, but I felt it never really lived up to its potential. For me it lacked depth and focus.
The Enchanted Island is Ellie O'Neill's captivating second novel about self discovery, modern day malaise, and magic.
When apprentice solictor Maeve O' The Enchanted Island is Ellie O'Neill's captivating second novel about self discovery, modern day malaise, and magic.
When apprentice solictor Maeve O'Brien is sent to Hy Brasil, a tiny island off the coast of Ireland, to finalise a deal for a client, she's determined to prove herself. Sure, she has made some mistakes, betraying her best friend and burying herself in debt among them, but she's confident that this assignment will help her turn things around. All Maeve needs is a signature from Sean Fitzpatrick, so that the client's plans to build a bridge between the mainland and the island can go ahead, but the landowner proves to be elusive, and most of the locals uniformly unhelpful.
Stuck on Hy Brasil, determined to complete her mission, Maeve is initially panicked at the thought of being on her own, but without the distractions of retail therapy and her busy city social life, she begins to reevaluate what she is looking for in life. O'Brien pokes fun at our modern day obsession with packaged beauty, social media and consumerism. I really liked the way in which Maeve changes through the novel, letting go of her shallow obsessions, and becoming a more confident, authentic person.
And while many of the locals, especially the elderly are distinctly unfriendly, Maeve makes some new friends including two stoner app developers, a charming gay couple and the handsome local schoolteacher, Killian. It's not until she finally corners Sean Fitzpatrick though that she learns the secrets of Hy Brasil.
As in Reluctantly Charmed, O'Neill draws on the folklore of Ireland to add a touch of mysticism to this contemporary novel. Hy Brasil is an island of great, almost unspoiled, beauty, rumoured to offer you your heart's desire, but there is an underlying atmosphere of menace that makes Maeve uneasy. The locals are secretive, bone chilling cries rent the night air, and a dark sort of energy seems to lurk unseen.
With an appealing mix of humour, intrigue and romance, this is an entertaining read. Well written, The Enchanted Island is an enchanting novel....more
The Waiting Room is the debut fiction novel from Leah Kaminsky, a physician and best selling non fiction author.
Dina is a family doctor living in cont The Waiting Room is the debut fiction novel from Leah Kaminsky, a physician and best selling non fiction author.
Dina is a family doctor living in contemporary Israel with her husband and young son. Haifa is a world away from the Melbourne suburbs where Dina grew up, the only daughter of holocaust survivors. Eight months pregnant with her second child, Dina is exhausted and increasingly anxious. Her marriage is strained, she is tired of her patients needs, and she is terrified by an escalated terrorist threat in the city.
As Dina struggles to simply get through a single day, overwhelmed by traffic, a broken heel, demanding patients, and a promise to procure apples for her son, her behaviour becomes increasingly irrational. She finds no comfort in the casual assurances of her husband, nor the ghostly opinion of her long dead mother, who berates, cajoles and nags her daughter for her failings.
The sentiment of The Waiting Room is haunting and moving, relieved only by a rare glimpse of dark humour. The prose and dialogue is sharp and articulate. The pace builds until Dina's day reaches an explosive conclusion.
The Waiting Room is a short but powerful novel about survival, terror, love and death.
The Saddler Boys is another delightfully engaging rural romance from Australian author Fiona Palmer.
Natalie Wright is excited about taking up her firs The Saddler Boys is another delightfully engaging rural romance from Australian author Fiona Palmer.
Natalie Wright is excited about taking up her first teaching position in the remote farming community of Lake Biddy, and is determined to make the most of a years freedom from her parent's expectations. Welcomed by the locals despite her city ways Nat quickly falls in love with Lake Biddy and her adorable young charges, particularly shy and sweet Billy Saddler.
The development of the relationship between Natalie and single dad Drew Saddler is charming. It begins as a friendship sparked by Billy's admiration for Nat, and her interest in understanding what farming entails but the attraction between the two is quickly evident, even as they both try to deny it. The relationship is of course complicated by Natalie's engagement to Gary, whose character contrasts sharply with Drew's.
Additional drama develops as the government announces its intention to shut down Lake Biddy primary school, Billy's mother, who abandoned him as a newborn reappears demanding contact with her son, and Gary grows increasingly impatient with Natalie's desire for independence. These subplots all add a frisson of tension to the story, and depth by touching on topical issues such as regional school closures, drug abuse, and domestic violence.
While I really liked the wonderful characterisations of Natalie, Drew and Billy, I also loved the authentic feeling of community Palmer evokes in The Saddler Boys as the residents rally against the school closure and attend the raucous P&C fundraisers. She captures the generosity of country neighbours as Doris drops off Tupperware containers full of food, and friends trade babysitting duties during harvest and seeding.
Written with warmth, humour and spirit, The Saddler Boys is an lovely read about belonging, family, and love....more
Night Owls is a charming contemporary young adult novel from Jenn Bennet.
When aspiring medical illustrator Beatrix Adams meets a handsome teenage boy Night Owls is a charming contemporary young adult novel from Jenn Bennet.
When aspiring medical illustrator Beatrix Adams meets a handsome teenage boy while waiting for San Francisco's owl bus, she's surprised to learn he is responsible for the stunning word graffiti that has the city in an uproar. Busy putting together an entry for an art contest, and her summer job, Bex doesn't expect to see him again, but after Jack makes a grand gesture on her birthday, everything changes.
The romance between Jack and Beatrix is sweet and gentle. I liked the way Bennett developed their relationship, and even though the time-frame was fairly short, I believed in their progression. I enjoyed their banter during their first meetings and later, the support they offered each other. I was a little surprised by the sexual intimacy, but I think it was beautifully written.
The connection Bex and Jack make through their art is an important part of Night Owls. I love that Bex is an aspiring medical illustrator, it's such a unique choice and I really like the way Bennett worked the idea throughout the novel. Jack's graffiti art is intensely personal, and his motive very touching.
Though the romance between Bex and Jack is a major element of the story, Bennett also explores several important themes including divorce and mental illness. Bex and Jack's family's are very much a part of the story. Bex is close to her older brother Heath and her single mother but she is estranged from her father who left the family after an affair and is unsure when he reaches out to her. Jack's family situation is also complicated though in an entirely different, and heartbreaking way.
A witty, stirring, and poignant story about love, family, art and heart, Night Owls is beautifully written.
BEGIN, FLY, BELONG, JUMP, TRUST, BLOOM, CELEBRATE, ENDURE, RISE, LOVE
Starcrossed, by Carlo Caruso, is a contemporary romance novel mixed with suspense and magical realism.
Newly divorced and struggling with writer's blo Starcrossed, by Carlo Caruso, is a contemporary romance novel mixed with suspense and magical realism.
Newly divorced and struggling with writer's block, romance author Simona Gemella agrees to accompany her best friend, Nessie, to an astrological health and wellness retreat on Kangaroo Island. Simona is hoping to relax and find inspiration for her next book, but she is unsettled by the presence of handsome marine biologist Denham Cobalt, and a series of odd, and increasingly sinister, events that begin to plague the guests at the Sea Star Manor.
Written in the third person, most of the story is related through Simona, however the narrative is also shared by fellow guests at the Manor; Nessie, Raquel and Jordana, and a fifth perspective identified only as 'Him'.
Caruso gradually introduces the idea something is not quite right at the Manor, building the suspense slowly, advancing towards the showdown on the night of the 'Blood Moon'. But while the author neatly links the fantastical elements to the retreat's focus on astrology, I thought each of the women had a little too much going on externally, which is a distraction to the main thrust of the plot.
Nessie is hiding a secret while flirting with the Yoga instructor, heavily pregnant Raquel is worried about her partner's fidelity, and Jordana, accompanied by her husband, with his own drama, is struggling with infertility. Simona, on top of being newly divorced, suffering from writers block, and stressing over the release of her debut novel, also has to contend with the anticipation of meeting her writing 'idol', Astrid's revelations, and of course, her attraction to Denham.
Overall I thought Starcrossed was a quick and engaging read but needed a little more focus.
The Patterson Girls is Rachael Johns first foray into general contemporary fiction, though she doesn't stray far from her literary roots in rural roma The Patterson Girls is Rachael Johns first foray into general contemporary fiction, though she doesn't stray far from her literary roots in rural romance.
The titular Patterson girls, obstetrician Madeleine, wife and teacher Lucy, professional violinist Abigail, and Charlotte, the self described under achiever, have come home to spend Christmas with their recently widowed father. Keenly feeling their mothers absence, none of them are surprised when he announces his plan to sell the family motel and willingly agree to help clear out their mothers things. As the sisters rummage through their mother's keepsakes, reminiscing over old photos, fashion and jewelry, their curiosity is piqued when they discover a reference to a Patterson curse. Wheedling the details from the reluctant Aunt Mags, the particulars of the curse stuns all four sisters, and becomes a catalyst that turns the Patterson's sisters lives upside down.
Told from the shifting third person perspectives of Madeleine, Lucy, Abigail and Charlotte, The Patterson Girls is a story of sisters, secrets, loss and love.
Vivid characterisation brings the personalities of the sisters to life. Each has distinct strengths and flaws, and are beset by their own personal challenges, from unrequited love to infertility. While I identified most closely with Charlotte, I also found Madeleine, Lucy and Abigail to be interesting and well rounded characters and I really enjoyed Johns skillful portrayal of their sisterly dynamic.
The plot blends domestic drama, romance and a hint of mystery. While it's clear from the outset that all of the sisters are struggling in one way or another, the revelation about the Patterson curse piles on the pressure, and provokes much of the drama that follows, particularly for Madeleine, Lucy and Abigail. Charlie is finally finding her feet when a twist in the tale threatens to shatter the happiness she has forged for herself. Meanwhile, romance proves to be troublesome for all of them. While Charlie's feelings grow for an old friend and Abigail meets the man of her dreams, Lucy's marriage is floundering, and Madeleine's love life grows increasingly complicated.
A well crafted, entertaining, contemporary novel with strong characters and an engaging story, The Patterson Girls should appeal to fans of Monica McIerney and Marian Keys....more
With a narrative alternating between the past and the present, Sweet Wattle Creek by Kaye Dobbie, also known as Sara Bennett and Lilly Sommers, tells With a narrative alternating between the past and the present, Sweet Wattle Creek by Kaye Dobbie, also known as Sara Bennett and Lilly Sommers, tells the story of Belle Bartholomew and Sophie Matheson, two women haunted by the secrets of their pasts.
When her father commits suicide after losing his wealth during the post war depression, Belle Bartholomew is stunned to learn of the secrets he had been keeping. Eager to know more, she travels to Sweet Wattle Creek to claim her inheritance, a rundown hotel bequeathed to her by Martha Ambrose, and though Belle's questions put the locals offside, she is determined to solve the mystery of her birth.
Nearly sixty years later, reporter Sophie Matheson is enchanted by a vintage wedding dress donated to the Sweet Wattle Creek centenary celebrations. Intrigued by its mysterious provenance, Sophie begins to piece together the story of Belle and Charlie, and their connection to the old burnt out hotel on the town's fringe, unaware that her own past is catching up to her.
Both Belle and Sophie are appealing and sympathetic characters. Though their situations are very different they share a similar spirit, facing adversity with courage and determination.
Dobbie's portrayal of small town Australia during the 1930's is very well done. The community of Sweet Wattle Creek is still struggling with grief for their loved ones lost and injured in the Great War, and are worried about the impact of the post war depression, particularly as 'travellers' pass through their town. Dobbie skilfully communicates this tense atmosphere, and Belle's status as an outsider.
The mid 1980's is a fairly bland era by comparison but Dobbie is careful to ensure the period is reflected in the storyline. The local paper where Sophie works still uses a mechanical press to publish, archives are stored in the basement, and the single computer that saves data to floppy discs is still a novelty.
Most importantly, I thought the story was very well structured, both the historical and contemporary timelines complement each other well, and advance the plot as a whole. The pacing is good and the suspense builds nicely. There are some neat turns to the plot and I thought the conclusion was satisfying.
Sweet Wattle Creek is a well crafted and engaging tale combining mystery, drama and romance, and I'm happy to recommend it....more
Peta Jo's second novel, The Crushing Season, is an engaging story about friendship, family, love and loss.
Leah, May, Tate, Alex and Benny are the best Peta Jo's second novel, The Crushing Season, is an engaging story about friendship, family, love and loss.
Leah, May, Tate, Alex and Benny are the best of friends. They met in high school and more than fifteen years later, despite the separation wrought by their busy lives, remain close. When May is hit by a double crisis, her friends rally to support her, but none of them realise how badly she has been affected, until she does the unthinkable.
I became quite attached to all of the Crushing Season's protagonists, who are wonderfully developed characters. Tate is a feisty news editor, struggling to balance her commitment to her work and new motherhood. Leah runs her own successful restaurant, but is plagued with a history of bad relationships. Benny is a frustrated writer on the verge of giving up on his dreams. Laid back Alex is suddenly anxious about his future. May is the linchpin of the group, whose gentle and caring nature never hints at the dark secrets she holds close.
The dynamic between the friends is skilfully rendered. I enjoyed their rowdy reunion, their affectionate ribbing and bickering, and of course the way they supported each other in times of crisis. Even when their bond is complicated and strained, the connection is clear. In many ways, they remind me of my own close circle of friends whom I don't see as often as I would like.
Peta Jo's exploration of the books somber issues such as abuse, depression, suicide and guilt, are thoughtful and compassionate. Most importantly, the characters emotions are sincere, and their behaviour genuine. Though there is real sadness in The Crushing Season, there is also plenty of heart and humour, which often made me smile.
Well paced, with excellent characterisation and a strong plot, The Crushing Season is an affecting tale, both achingly poignant and truly heartwarming. ...more
A darkly imaginative and provocative tale, Menagerie introduces a new fantasy series from Rachel Vincent for an adult audience.
On her twenty fifth bir A darkly imaginative and provocative tale, Menagerie introduces a new fantasy series from Rachel Vincent for an adult audience.
On her twenty fifth birthday, Delilah Marlow's boyfriend presents her with tickets to Metzger's Menagerie, a travelling carnival, whose attractions include cryptids, creatures of legend and myth kept captive since the horror of The Reaping. Delilah has never been comfortable with society's treatment of cryptids, and she is horrified when she witnesses a keeper abuse a young female werewolf, but she is as stunned as everyone around her when her fury manifests physically.
"But if monsters could look like humans, and humans could look like monsters, how could anyone ever really be sure that the right people stood on the outside of all those cages?"
Vincent presents a stunning alternate reality in Menagerie where supernatural creatures are caged, enslaved and exploited by humans. Afforded no rights cryptids are feared and hated, blamed wholesale for an event known as The Reaping which killed hundreds of thousands of children decades earlier.
Delilah is utterly unaware she is anything but human until the night she plunges black talons into the skull of the abusive keeper, and is utterly terrified when she is arrested and then denied any recourse when the Sheriff sells her to Metzger's Menagerie. Vincent creates a powerful and disturbing portrait of Delilah's disenfranchisement as she is chained and caged, placed at the mercy of sadistic keepers who force her to become a sideshow attraction despite being unable to identify her 'type', alongside the circus's collection of trolls, ogres, mermaids, djinn, were creatures, and a rare minotaur.
Vincent spares little as she describes the conditions under which the cryptids live in Metzger's Menagerie. Abused, tortured, starved and drugged, their experiences are harrowing and for Delilah the dislocation is extreme. As she tries to hold onto her dignity, she displays courage, resilience and determination. Only one keeper shows her any kindness, Gallagher, who comes to believe that Delilah is the rarest of cryptid's, and the only one who can save them all.
Menagerie though is much more than just a thrilling tale of fantasy, it is a story that explores the concepts of humanity, and its capacity for savagery when threatened or fearful, injustice and vengeance. It reflects some of society's worst impulses such as the internment camps, acts of genocide, human trafficking and forcible slavery. This provocative edge to the story may be overlooked by some, but the parallels were clear to me.
With literally extraordinary characters, dazzling world building and a captivating plot, Menagerie is a sensational read. I can't wait for the story to continue....more
X is the 24th book in Sue Grafton's Alphabet series featuring private investigator, Kinsey Millhone. I've read all but three, and now there are just t X is the 24th book in Sue Grafton's Alphabet series featuring private investigator, Kinsey Millhone. I've read all but three, and now there are just two more books remaining.
X begins with Kinsey at a bit of a loose end, business is slow but she nevertheless soon finds herself caught up in three disparate mysteries.
The first involves finding the current address of a young man recently released from prison for his wealthy birth mother. The simple task complete, Kinsey doesn't give it a second thought until a local police detective alerts her that the hundred dollar notes she was paid with were registered as part of a blackmail case. Annoyed, Kinsey investigates, unraveling her clients lies.
The second relates to a pair of elderly new neighbours that raise Kinsey's hackles when they start to impose on Henry's generosity.
Meanwhile, Pete Wolinsky's widow asks Kinsey for her help in finding old financial documents requested by an IRS auditor. In amongst a box overflowing with paperwork, Kinsey discovers a padded mailer addressed to a priest and a coded list. Curious, Kinsey finds herself following up on the case, unprepared for the horrors she discovers.
W is for Wasted was a bit of a disappointment due to a rather lacklustre and longwinded plot, but X is much improved and more reminiscent of earlier books in the series. While there aren't any great surprises, the cases are interesting, and well thought out. I found the investigation relating to Pete the most compelling, there is real danger involved for both Kinsey and others.
The pace of X is measured, as all the books tend to be in this series. Set in the 1980's Kinsey's investigations are all about legwork in the pre internet, pre mobile phone era. Kinsey spends a lot of time browsing library archives, making phone calls and on stakeout.
Kinsey herself is not an excitable character, but she is a thoughtful and determined investigator that focuses on detail. I've always liked her but I was hoping for more personal development as the series approaches the end. Essentially Kinsey is a loner, Vera makes a brief appearance which I enjoyed and former romantic interests Dietz and Chaney rate a mention. But Henry and Rosie are really the only people she interacts with.
As a longtime fan of the series I was mostly satisfied by this installment and I'm eager to see how Grafton brings it to a close....more