Zara lives in Sydney and works as a biographer, producing several commissioned works a year. She’s been married to Sergei, a Russian, for the past 22Zara lives in Sydney and works as a biographer, producing several commissioned works a year. She’s been married to Sergei, a Russian, for the past 22 years and they have no children. Whilst on holiday, they seem to ‘chance’ running into the wife of the brother of a friend. Zara’s radar goes off immediately – she can tell Caitt is dismayed to see her with Sergei and her predatory behaviour suggests that she has a plan and it involves Zara’s husband.
When they return to their home in Sydney they find themselves drawn into Caitt’s social circle, which enables her to get ever closer to Sergei. He doesn’t seem to see the strangeness of her behaviour and the worst of it is left up to Zara to experience as she watches helplessly as Caitt draws Sergei deeper into her web.
Zara’s sister Lili lives in London, working as a property agent. She’s been married to Will, a musician, for 10 years and the two of them have been developing and renovating their dream home in Turkey. Lili has poured so much into the property, lovingly sourcing the furnishings and funding the project. Then she discovers that Will is having an affair with a Russian pastry cook and as she investigates, she realises that Will’s plan goes much deeper than she realised and Lili stands to lose much more than just her marriage.
Their other sister Eve lives in Shanghai with her husband Henry and around the time that Zara and Lili are struggling in their own relationships, she discovers her husband’s affair with Chrystal, his ex-PA. She leaves their apartment to stay with a friend and whilst there, has her eyes opened up to a whole new world.
The Infidelity Diaries is three separate stories, each detailing the experience of one of three sisters as they discover that their marriage is not all that it seemed. For Zara, it’s the bold threat of a predator. For Lili, it’s a plan that is far more complicated than it first appears. And for Eve, it’s the realisation that something has been going on behind her back for a long time.
Zara’s story was first and I found it interesting for several different reasons, primarily because of Zara’s response to the threat. She does a lot of watching and waiting and trying to find ways to justify Caitt’s behaviour when really, there aren’t any – it is exactly what it looks like to her. Sergei it seems, cannot (or will not) see it and there is a past indiscretion of Zara’s in their marriage which I think has a significant bearing on Sergei’s inability to see what is going on, or inability to care. What I found amazing was how little Zara communicated to Sergei. I have to admit, I do find the character of the female predator a bit of a cliched one and Caitt seems to tick every single box there. Her two sides (one for Sergei, one for Zara) were almost laughable to read about at times and it didn’t show Zara in much light that she just kind of sat back and observed as Caitt wound Sergei around her little finger through a combination of lunches, drinks after work, many phone calls and emails. I think it said a lot about their marriage, this lack of real communication of their feelings and gave me the feeling that things were not resolved from the incident years ago. I found Sergei sullen and resentful, deliberately secretive and willfully ignorant. I enjoyed their story, despite the lack of affirmative action from Zara but I did find the ending a bit of a let down.
Lili’s was a darker story, one with more sinister motives – not from the ‘other woman’ but from her husband himself. I think I enjoyed this story the most, because of Lili’s actions. At first she’s concerned about her husband having an affair but when she realises the full extent of his plans and the repercussions for her, Lili swings into action and she is clearly one woman that you do not want to mess with. Her plans come together beautifully and I found her quite admirable actually. Lili is what I would call pro-active! I think in a lot of ways, Lili would be a role model for women who have found themselves a victim of a man like Will. She turns the tables and she’s sneaky about it but it’s clever and I found myself the most invested in this story. The tension was done really well, I found this story the most satisfying of the three.
I have to admit, the final story baffled me just a little bit. For me, it really lacked a backstory, which the other two stories gave us and it seemed a little pointless. I didn’t warm to Eve and I found her stumbling into this new world a bit weird and really out of left field. It felt like it had been thrown in because stories including that have been rather popular of late. It did nothing for me, it didn’t feel like it flowed particularly well or even made that much sense and the ending was….hmm. I think it was supposed to really shock me but it felt far too orchestrated and I felt too jaded to even really care. Perhaps if that was the first story, it’d have been more of a surprise but so many things had happened by the time I reached the end of the third book that it just felt like one more thing in a hugely long list. The third story was disappointing, which is unfortunate after enjoying the first two.
All in all, I did enjoy this although for me it reads more like a collection of three separate stories, rather than characters linked together by family. They don’t cross paths that often in the books and when they do, it’s glossed over more than elaborated. The story bringing them together is told differently in each book but really I’m not overly sure it was a necessary part of it....more
Frankie is the daughter of the current Premier of Victoria, a woman who was chosen by her party after the previous Premier resigned to spend more timeFrankie is the daughter of the current Premier of Victoria, a woman who was chosen by her party after the previous Premier resigned to spend more time with his family. Now there’s an election coming up where the people have to vote to return Frankie’s mother to make her the first elected female Premier of the state. Everything in their life at the moment revolves around politics and image. Frankie’s mother is subjected to rather vicious attacks from radio and print shock jocks, there are always photo opportunities to go to, events to participate in. For Frankie and her younger brother, it’s somewhat second nature but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t intrusive.
But then something shocking surfaces about Frankie’s mother. She’s been caught in what could be a very awkward situation both for her politically and also for Frankie’s family personally. Even worse, her mother refuses to explain the photos. Frankie is subjected to humiliation at school, she’s harassed and badgered by the press outside her own home and she cannot bear the hurt her father must be experiencing. Her whole family is being dragged through the mud in public and on top of that she has a best friend who is acting strangely and then she discovers that the cute boy who likes her and that she might also like, is the one who betrayed her and her family in the worst way. Her entire life is falling apart and the one person who could fix it, utterly refuses.
One True Thing is the second YA novel by Nicole Hayes. In her first, The Whole Of My World she tackled football and this one takes a very different swing toward state politics. Frankie’s mother was Deputy Premier of Victoria until the Premier resigned and her party gave her the top job. Now it’s the public’s turn to decide whether or not to vote for her in and the election campaign is in full swing. One True Thing examines the effects being in such a public spotlight might have on a relatively normal family – mum, dad, 2 kids. Frankie and her younger brother Luke are constantly juggling their social commitments with events they need to ‘be seen’ at with their mother. Frankie lives with the constant presence of her mother’s staff and top advisers in her home, particularly given the election is so close. Some of these people have become just as close as family.
Frankie is half my age, but her passion is music, particularly the grunge bands of the 1990s – Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden etc which is basically playing my song. As I write this, I’m listening to a Nirvana album. Recently I went to one of the Readings bookstores in St Kilda and when I was in there, they were playing a live Nirvana CD and I’ve been listening to them and some other bands from my high school years on and off ever since. I go through cycles with music, revisiting high school and university likes regularly. Frankie’s dedication, particularly to Pearl Jam is admirable and impressive and reminds me of my own high school days locked in my room listening to the albums of those two bands and others from that era.
One of the biggest issues in politics is – how much is the public entitled to know about the private lives of those they vote into public office? It’s something that’s happened on all levels, from local members right up to the President of the United States of America. Are their personal lives really any of our business, if they’re good leaders (and even if they’re not?) What business is it of ours to know whether or not they like to sleep with people other than their spouses? It’s not illegal. That’s not something that relates to their job and should it only be something that need concern their spouse? Doesn’t stop journalists from latching on to the smallest whiff of scandal and running with it even if they have no idea what’s happening. In this story it appears as though Frankie’s mother is seeing a much younger man – there are pictures splashed across the papers while the social and political commentators (that seem largely based on people like conservative hacks Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt) spew whatever filth they consider their opinion with little regard for anything remotely concerning facts, let alone decency and discretion, particularly for the Premier’s family. Frankie in particular is subject to a lot of cruelty as her friends are older and more socially aware, better able to read between the lines and are more likely to be the audience. Although I could at times, understand her mother’s refusal to clarify her relationship with the man in question because why should she? It’s no one’s business apart from hers, his and possibly her husband’s, I do feel as though she made a choice that significantly affected her family with little real sight of what the consequences for her silence would be. And that choice made others, Frankie in particular, feel less important to her.
This book also pokes a bit of sly fun at the ‘slogans’ politicians trot out whenever journalists are trying to take the focus off their message. In this case, it’s ‘Getting back to the business of running Victoria’. These slogans usually mean little and their continual usage only serves to irritate most people who would rather have clear and precise answers to their questions. It ties in with the above issue though – how much are we entitled to know? And unless the questions is about the message, about their issues and policies, is it even entitled to be asked? And if it is continually asked, then maybe they merely deserve the same tired old answer every single time.
I enjoyed this book a lot – I liked the presentation of politics through the eyes of an affected teen and the little extras with the romance and her friendships as well as the mystery behind what her mother was really doing. Another fantastic Aussie YA from Nicole Hayes....more
Somewhere in an English village, there lives a man. He has a lovely house with a detached garage, he drives a white van. He appears to be utterly normSomewhere in an English village, there lives a man. He has a lovely house with a detached garage, he drives a white van. He appears to be utterly normal in every way. Until you look a little closer. Under the garage is a reinforced room, with a cage. In the transit van are bolts and harnesses. This man enjoys taking people, taking women, and keeping them in the cage in the room under the garage until it’s time to play a game.
He’s not a monster though. He feeds them. He takes care of them. And if they win the game, they can go home, he promises.
Then the man meets a girl that’s different from all of the others. A girl that might be so special that he doesn’t want to hurt her, or anyone else anymore. The timing is unfortunate, because he still has a girl held in the special room beneath the garage and that girl is starting to play a game of her own. The net is closing in, the police are sniffing around, questioning him about other disappearances. It’s all starting to fall apart at the time he needs it to look perfect the most.
I saw this on NetGalley and the premise really intrigued me. I’ve read one or two books before with the point of view of the serial killer but I’m not sure I’ve read a book where the entire story is from that point of view, the one who would normally be the antagonist of a story. The novel doesn’t particularly hold back in painting the picture of what the unnamed protagonist does with his victims but it’s more suggestive rather than deeply descriptive. There are glimpses into his past and he gives a bold statement to the why:
“I was born and not made. A product of nature, and nurture be damned.”
Our unnamed man is in the middle of….disposing of his latest victim when he is interrupted by one of her friends. He takes her back to his home in order to have some fun with her later. He puts her in the cage in the room built specifically beneath his garage and when she won’t eat, goes out to shop specifically for the sorts of foods he believes she likes. It is there he meets a cashier at the 24 hour grocery store and he is instantly captivated.
For the first time, he feels interested in something more than kidnapping and killing. He wants to spend more time with the cashier and they do begin a relationship of sorts, complicated by the fact that he likes killing people as a past time and still indulges occasionally, despite the fact that he doesn’t get the same satisfaction anymore. There’s also the girl in his basement, who might’ve turned the tables on him as well as a couple of detectives who are investigating the disappearance of a local prostitute and have zeroed in on him due to his white van, similar to one seen on a CCTV near where the woman went missing. Each of these wouldn’t present a problem to him on their own probably but the fact that they’re all occurring at the one time he seems to want to ‘go clean’ so to speak, means that he’s going to have to take desperate measures to make the police go away. Then he has to decide what to do with the girl in his basement, the one who was not exactly as she seemed and may have homicidal tendencies of her own.
As the name of the book suggests, the main character is disturbing because of his normality. He has a nice, average looking house. He’s not prone to flashes of extreme temper or savage violence because he ‘loses it’. He’s calm. Measured. For most of the book, he’s unflappable, even when facing the possibility of discovery. His brain is always thinking, he’s always plotting his next move should he be discovered. In some ways, he’s probably just like a thousand people you’ve met before. I’m sure the cashier probably felt that way! But then you see what happens when he takes a girl out of the cage and you get reminded, rather savagely that he’s not in any way normal at all. That he’s a deeply disturbed psychopath who is perhaps all the more dangerous because of his giving of false hope, his gentle assurances that it’s ‘just a game’. He’s someone who comes across as one thing but underneath, is something else entirely.
I actually enjoyed this a little bit more than I expected to. The twist with the girl in the basement intrigued me and I was curious to see where that would go. I actually wish it’d gone on a bit longer than it did, but I think that the way in which the book played out worked. I wasn’t exactly sure how he paid for all these fancy basement reinforced rooms because although he mentions going to work, the reader doesn’t seem to see it or know what he does. My only criticism is that the narrative feels very detached. We’re supposed to be inside the killer’s head and I’m not sure if it’s trying to portray his utter lack of feeling and empathy toward his victims but even in the scenes with the cashier he comes to care for, it feels distant and vague. Like it’s talking about someone else, not him, not his feelings. I thought the point of writing from the point of view of the killer would be to get deep inside their head but this one only really scratches the surface. Maybe that’s because there’s nothing deeper, that there’s just killing because it’s fun and everything else be damned. But it did leave me wondering....more
Maddie works as an assistant at an events planning and PR company, in the same position she’s been in for ten years since she finished university. HerMaddie works as an assistant at an events planning and PR company, in the same position she’s been in for ten years since she finished university. Her boss is a nightmare but Maddie enjoys what she does, even if it does mean working for a reincarnation of Satan. She’s been single for two years and her ex-boyfriend is welcoming his first child with his new wife. Maddie has two best friends, Lauren and Sarah and when Lauren announces her engagement to boyfriend Michael, it’s naturally Maddie that she wants to help plan her wedding. On top of being a bridesmaid.
To further complicate matters, her place of employment has requested she apply for a job they’re advertising. It’d mean a promotion but Maddie is also aware that her friend Sarah intends applying as well. Not to mention she rather fears how her boss will react when she finds out. In order for Maddie to ‘prove herself’ on her own, her company set her a task of organising a christening for the child of a rather high maintenance couple. Soon everything is piling up overwhelmingly for Maddie and the three close friends find themselves at odds as personal and professional stresses get the better of them. Lauren is a bridezilla of epic proportions and Maddie is frantically juggling her outrageous demands as well as those of the christening couple and the friendship between the three is imploding due to external stresses, the wedding and the secrets that all of them are keeping. For Maddie, her chance to shine could mean risking everything she holds dear.
I really enjoy Lindsey Kelk’s novels and I think she has firmly established herself as a queen of this genre. This is a stand alone story featuring Maddie, a thirty-one year old whose life really hasn’t progressed much in ten years. Maddie is a very relateable character – her job stresses her out because her boss sucks, she lives alone after the disintegration of her last relationship and can’t be bothered cleaning up her flat now that it’s just her. She has two very close friends, although all three of them are very different and she likes a bit of a drink. When things get tough, Maddie gets the gin.
I had a pretty laid back wedding – no delusions of wanting to book Beyonce with a month’s notice here so I do have to admit that intensely grand weddings and the whole bridezilla thing does pass me by. I understand however, that every bride wants it to be perfect and that perfect is different for everyone. For Maddie, there’s a huge amount of pressure to deliver what her friend wants and this is basically a full time job that she’s doing unpaid for and in her spare time, on top of the full time job she already has. She’s also delicately balancing her friends, as just as Lauren is getting ready to walk down the aisle, Sarah’s marriage is falling apart and Maddie is having to pick up the pieces there, as Sarah doesn’t want to burden Lauren too much with her stories and emotions of what happens when it doesn’t work out. This does put Maddie in difficult positions, on occasion but it’s clear that she loves both her friends and is willing to sacrifice her sleep, her free time and many other things in order to be there for them in various capacities. I really enjoyed the friendship between the three women because both their closeness and the discord that develops felt very realistic and natural. Friends fight, it’s a way of life. People get stressed, they say things they shouldn’t, they keep secrets etc. All three of them play roles in the various tensions that escalate and all three of them also play roles in the various reconciliations, which shows the devotion that they all have to the friendship.
Like Kelk’s other books, there is some romance in this although it always remains in the background, second to Maddie’s development in her career and her relationship with her friends. Whilst attending a wedding she and her boss have helped organise, Maddie is roped into playing a waitress due to a staffing issue and meets two of the guests at the wedding. First impressions are rarely accurate and I have to say, I loved the way this played out. I was a big fan of one of the characters but there were some bumps in the road and the reader has to be patient for Maddie to catch up with them.
This for me was just one of those books that has you invested from start to finish. There are some laugh out loud moments but there are also some sad moments, especially between the three friends and in particular for Sarah. I loved the evolution of Maddie’s romantic life as well as her struggles with her career and trying to prove herself. A lot of the time Maddie is a victim when things go wrong, generally at the hands of her boss who doesn’t ever want Maddie to advance past being her assistant. She even sends Maddie to have a mammogram to report back on what they’re like before she’ll go and have one herself. My theory on that was probably Maddie’s boss knew just how good Maddie was at her job and didn’t want to lose her and all the endless hours that she put in, which would definitely result in an increased workload for her boss.
Always The Bridesmaid is another stellar release from Lindsey Kelk – smart, warm and funny....more
Alba is comfortable with her life as it is. She lives with her mother in a small town, behind the bakery her mother runs. There’s comfort in her routiAlba is comfortable with her life as it is. She lives with her mother in a small town, behind the bakery her mother runs. There’s comfort in her routine, waking up and helping prepare the day’s treats. She has a closeknit group of friends and although it seems that they’re all planning their futures once they finish year 12, Alba doesn’t want to think about that. She doesn’t want to think about them all possibly being separated and having to move somewhere else, somewhere that isn’t behind the bakery. Somewhere that isn’t home.
Alba’s comfortable life is about to get complicated. Firstly, a friend that long ago disappeared has come back into her life and he’s much changed. This seems to have affected the other boy in her life, Grady, who is now acting very strangely. Her comic book panels aren’t coming together the way they should, which makes her worry even more for the future. And the weirdest thing of all is that someone has predicted the world is going to end and the only place that might be safe is Alba’s small town, which leads to an influx of colourful characters.
But the impending end of the world is the least of Alba’s problems. She needs to figure out herself and what she wants before she can focus on whether or not it’s going to be her last day on Earth.
I read Melissa Keil’s Life In Outer Space and absolutely loved it – it was one of my top 10 YA reads of that year. I was a little slow to pick up this one. To be honest, I haven’t bought anywhere near as many books this year as previous years. I think it’s mostly because the experience of going into a local bookstore and browsing has basically been taken away from me. If I want to do that now, I need to go into Melbourne and that’s something I usually have to plan to do, although I don’t live all that far from the city. Recently we have made 2 trips to bookstores in Melbourne and I’ve probably purchased more books in those two trips than I have the for the rest of this year! And this book, The Incredible Adventures Of Cinnamon Girl, was one of them.
Perhaps it was how much I loved Life In Outer Space that any book Keil released after that was going to have a terrible time living up to that one. It’s not that this isn’t a good book or that I didn’t enjoy it – because it is and I did. But I have to admit, I didn’t love it as much as I expected. Although Alba’s voice is very fresh and casual and appealing, there are times when it verges on the manic, even at the beginning of the novel before the complications begin.
The characterisation is very well done though and I did like the character of Alba. She’s creative and fun – I am not a comic book reader but I did like the inclusion of the details of the panels that Alba works on. Her passion for it it is wonderful and I enjoyed seeing her creative process. Her eclectic little group of friends felt very realistic and I thought the dynamics of their friendship had a lot of thought put into it and was well constructed. Keil manages to build really strong relationships, between Alba and her mother, between Alba and Grady, without taking a huge amount of time to establish backstory. It’s small moments captured, that leads the reader to see the intimacy and closeness, as well as the discord when it begins to show.
I have to admit, the end of the world plot didn’t do a huge amount for me. It does very little other than to serve as the way in which an old friend comes back into Alba’s life and add a cast of ‘colourful’ peripheral characters to the story, none of which really have any bearing on the plot and few of which are necessary. The core friendship group is really all it needs and is what drives it forward. Although Alba is loveable she’s also very frustrating because she’s so clueless. She doesn’t know what she wants, she doesn’t know what those around her want, even when it’s so glaringly obvious! But even that felt real, because I remembered times in my past when I’d become frustrated at friends of mine, wanting to shake them and yell ‘Don’t you see?’
There were ebbs and flows in the bulk of the story but I have to say, the ending is amazing. It’s one of those scenes you want as a reader, where all of the angst and frustration and longing between the characters pays off in one emotionally charged declaration or moment. In this book, it is absolutely fantastic and with that I was able to invest in the characters and story in a way that I really hadn’t been able to up until that point....more