Review: The Waiting Room by Leah Kaminsky

 

Title: The Waiting Room

Author: Leah Kaminsky

Published: Vintage: Random House Au September 2015

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Status: Read on September 01, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

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.

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Review: X By Sue Grafton

 

Title: X

Author: Sue Grafton

Published: Macmillan Au September 2015

Status: Read from August 30 to September 01, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

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.

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Review: The Simple Act of Reading Edited by Debra Adelaide

 

Title: The Simple Act of Reading

Author: Edited by Debra Adelaide

Published: Random House June 2015

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Status: Read from August 25 to 27, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“The idea for this book was simple, as simple as the act of reading itself: how compelling it is when authors write about books, other authors or just moments in their reading lives that have been significant for them.”

Edited by Debra Adelaide, The Simple Act of Reading is a collection of short personal essays from twenty one of Australia’s celebrated writers.

Luke Davies writes of childhood correspondence with Herge, the author of TinTin. Joan London praises The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower, while David Malouf recalls the first time he read Jane Eyre. Catherine Keenan shares the joy of her young daughter cracking the code of the written word, and Anita Heiss writes of discovering her love for reading when studying for her doctorate in her late twenties.

I recognised myself in several of the essays, I was just like Kate Forsyth describes herself, in ‘Books are Dangerous’;

“When I was a child, I was such a bookworm that I troubled and bewildered even my very bookish parents. I would borrow six books at a time from the local library, and have read them all by the following day. I used to walk home from school reading. I would become so absorbed in the book that I would walk past my turn-off, and some considerable time later look up, finding myself blocks away from home. I’d miss my stop on train journeys. I would not hear my name being called in class. I would read so late at night that I could hear the kookaburras’ weird cackle as I reluctantly turned the last pages.”

In fact little has changed :)

The Simple Act of Reading is an engaging collection that will appeal to book lovers everywhere.

And this, from Sunil Budami in ‘In Your Deams’ is the perfect retort for the question oft asked of bookworms;

” So, if you can recall the question: if we forget most of what we read, then why do we read? You might as well ask why we dream, or live at all, given how much we forget of our dreams and lives. Yet just as I cannot imagine being alive without dreams, I couldn’t dream of living without reading.”

All profits from The Simple Act of Reading will be donated to The Sydney Story Factory

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Review: We Never Asked For Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

 

Title: We Never Asked for Wings

Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Published: Ballantine Books August 2015

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Status: Read from August 21 to 22, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s debut novel, The Language of Flowers, was an impressive debut that captured my heart. We Never Asked For Wings is a similarly poignant and touching story.

We Never Asked for Wings is a story of redemption as Letty Epinosa picks up the mantle of motherhood when her parents decide to move back to Mexico. After years of benign neglect, she has to learn what it means to be a parent who is emotionally present in her children’s lives while providing for them as best she can. Letty makes a lot of mistakes as she negotiates her new responsibilities but slowly she begins to find her feet, wanting the best life that she can possibly provide for her fifteen year old son, Alex, and her six year old daughter, Luna.

Meanwhile Alex is falling in love for the first time and Letty is terrified he will repeat her mistakes, sabotaging his dreams with a teenage pregnancy. Alex however is far more responsible than his mother gives him credit for, but in trying to help Ysenia, an undocumented immigrant, escape the bullying she experiences at school, he unwittingly puts both their futures in jeopardy.

We Never Asked For Wings explores social issues including single parenthood, educational inequality, poverty and immigration, and themes such as family, love, regrets and redemption. Birds and feathers are symbols of migration, patterns, hopes and dreams.

Sensitively and beautifully written, Diffenbaugh paints a vivid picture of a family struggling to overcome adversity and forge a stronger, united future in We Never Asked For Wings. This is a wonderfully engaging and affecting novel that tugs at the heartstrings.

 

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Review: The Crushing Season by Peta Jo

 

 

Title: The Crushing Season

Author: Peta Jo

Published: August 2015

Status: Read from August 18 to 19, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

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.

Please CLICK HERE to learn more about Peta Jo and The Crushing Season

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Review: The Murderer’s Daughter by Jonathan Kellerman

 

Title: The Murderer’s Daughter

Author: Jonathan Kellerman

Published: Ballantine Books August 2015

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Status: Read from August 16 to 17, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

A rare standalone from an author best known for his long running series featuring child psychologist Alex Delaware, Johnathon Kellerman doesn’t stray far from the familiar in The Murderer’s Daughter.

Grace Blades is a respected psychotherapist who specialises in treating patients that have experienced extreme trauma. It isn’t uncommon for new patients to abandon a session, but Grace is curious when the body of Andrew Toner is found the morning after their first meeting. Tracing his last movements, Grace unwittingly puts herself in the cross-hairs of a ruthless killer.

Andrew Toner, Grace soon discovers, was born Typhon Dagon Roi, the orphaned son of a cult leader, who along with his siblings, Samael and Lilith, spent a brief period in the same foster home as Grace. Targeted by Andrew/Typhon’s killer, Grace, intelligent and resourceful, conducts her own investigation, while evading the men targeting her, leading her into a harrowing confrontation with pitiless evil.

The narrative alternates between the present, as Grace searches for for the killer, and the harrowing details of Grace’s troubled past.

Grace is an intriguing character. She was five when she witnessed her mother kill her father and then commit suicide, eleven when her foster mother, Ramona, collapsed and died in front of her. An incredibly bright child, she captured the interest of Ramona’s brother-in-law, psychology professor Malcolm Bluestone, and his wife Sophia, who later adopted her. Now in her mid thirties, she is independently wealthy, and successful in her field, but she has a dark side that comes to the fore when threatened.

The mystery runs a fairly predictable course, but Grace is a memorable character. Part fast paced thriller, part complex character study, The Murderer’s Daughter is a great read for Kellerman fans, and new readers alike.

 

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Review: The Guilty One by Sophie Littlefield

Title: The Guilty One

Author: Sophie Littlefield

Published: Gallery Books August 2015

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Status: Read from August 10 to 11, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

As a parent, facing the horror of your precious child being murdered is one thing, confronting the truth that your child is a murderer is another. In The Guilty One, Sophie Littlefield’s 15th novel, Maris Vacanti and Ron Isherwood wrestle with the loss of their only children under very different circumstances.

A year ago, Maris’s teenage daughter, Calla, was murdered, and shortly after Maris’s husband left her, declaring their marriage a sham. Too emotionally depleted to even feign normalcy, Maris has let her suburban life lapse but is at a loss as to how to move on when a random encounter offers her the chance to escape and start anew.

Ron was horrified when his son Karl, Calla’s ex boyfriend, was charged and later convicted for Calla’s murder. Though his son, and wife, maintain a plea of innocence, Ron is racked with guilt because he believes his son is responsible and worries that it is his legacy of explosive violence, and the mistakes he made as a father, that contributed to Karl’s actions.

An emotionally wrenching novel, The Guilty One is a character driven story that explores the themes of grief, guilt, forgiveness and redemption as Maris and Ron struggle to reconcile themselves to all they have lost, and find a way to move forward.

While the perspective of a bereaved parent of a murdered child has been examined often in fiction, the aftermath for the parents of the murderer have rarely been examined. To the best of my recollection, in most cases the killer’s parents are absent or highly dysfunctional. Ron and Deb are ordinary middle class people and I appreciated the author’s decision to humanise them, and acknowledge their grief and loss.

The pacing is measured, the writing and dialogue of a good standard. Though there is little in the way of overt action, Littlefield maintains a low hum of suspense, as Karl’s culpability is in question.

I found The Guilty One to be a touching and thought-provoking novel, with a bittersweet but satisfying conclusion.

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Blog Tour Review: The Hiding Place by John Burley

 

Title: The Hiding Place

Author: John Burley

Published: HarperCollins Avon UK August 2015

Status: Read on August 06, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

The Hiding Place (also published as The Forgetting Place) is John Burley’s second stand alone novel of suspense.

Dr Lise Shields has always accepted that Menaker Psychiatric Hospital houses some of America’s most dangerous criminally insane offenders, until Jason Edwards becomes her patient. There is something not quite right about his presence at the institution, and when her supervisor refuses to produce his file, Lise is driven to investigate. Her suspicions are seemingly confirmed when she is approached by two FBI agents who explain Jason is in hiding, and both she and her patient are now in danger.

With several twists in the tale, The Hiding Place is gripping novel. Whilst the story may require some suspension of belief during its reading, most nagging elements of discord are eventually resolved as the startling conclusion is reached. It may be a little slow to begin with, as Burley establishes the foundation for his story, the pace of The Hiding Place picks up considerably as the novel unfolds, building suspense that will keep you turning the pages.

“This, I realise, so often leads to our downfall. We press forward not because we want to know, but because we must know. It doesn’t matter how terrible that knowledge is, or what price must be paid for it. And it is not until the moment of revelation that we scurry back in horror and dismay…”

Dr Lise Shields is an interesting character, we are told she has been a psychiatrist at Menaker for five years, and leads a rather solitary life. Her choice of profession was inspired by an uncle that suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, and Lise is desperate to protect Jason from his pursuers in a way that she was unable to protect her uncle from his.

“We belong to our past, each of us serving it in our own way, and to break the tether between that time and the present is to risk shattering ourselves in the process.”

If you can avoid spoilers, The Hiding Place offers an impressive final twist, perhaps one I should have seen coming…but was neatly distracted from. This is a taut, page turning thriller.

“The past is what imprisons us. There are some things in this world that can never be undone. But they can be faced. They can be forgiven. And if we hold onto that, then there is a chance for us. A chance that someday…we will be free.”

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Review: Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

 

Title: Pretty Baby

Author: Mary Kubica

Published: Harlequin Au August 2015

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Status: Read from August 03 to 04, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Mary Kubica’s second psychological chiller, Pretty Baby, has been hotly anticipated since the success of her debut novel, The Good Girl.

When Heidi Wood spies a young homeless girl toting a squalling infant and a battered suitcase during a rainstorm on Chicago’s streets she tentatively offers her a raincoat, then a meal and on another cold and wet day, a place to stay. Heidi’s husband and daughter are horrified that she has invited a stranger into their midst, Willow could be a thief, a criminal, or worse, but Heidi sees only a vulnerable young woman and a beautiful baby girl desperately in need of refuge. A refuge she is determined to provide…but at what cost?

Pretty Baby unfolds from the perspectives of Heidi, her husband Chris, and Willow.
We learn Heidi works for a non profit organisation, Chris works in finance, traveling regularly for his job, and together they have a twelve year old daughter, Zoe, who is on the cusp of teenage rebellion. Their lives are comfortable and ordered, until it is upset by the introduction of Willow and her baby.

“Heidi was the first one in a long time who was nice to me.”

Willow claims to be eighteen, though Heidi suspects she is much younger. Willow is defensive and secretive, afraid of thunderstorms, she is bruised and scarred. The baby, Ruby, is just four months old. She resists the Wood’s prying into her past, but the reader is privy to it as Willow relates her history to ‘The lady with the long, silver hair, combed straight. And big teeth. Like a horse’s.’

“I didn’t want to hurt her,” I say. “Or her family.”

As the story progresses, tension grows. Chris and Zoe are irritated by Willow and Ruby’s presence, and while simply Zoe rolls her eyes, texting her displeasure to her best friend, Chris, who is absent more often than not, hires a private detective to investigate Willow. meanwhile Heidi is growing increasingly attached to Ruby, delighting in her infant gurgles and the warmth of her small body, as Willow watches silently. The dynamics between the characters twist and warp as Kubica takes the plot in a direction sure to surprise and unnerve.

“I peer down at the baby in my arms and think: Juliet is here. She is safe.”

An intense and engaging read, Pretty Baby offers an unpredictable story and intriguing characters. Recommended.

 

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Review: Six Degrees by Honey Brown

 

Title: Six Degrees: The Power of Attraction Connects Us All

Author: Honey Brown

Published: Jane Curry Publishing/Ventura Press August 2015

Status: Read from August 06 to 06, 2015 {Courtesy Simon& Schuster}

My Thoughts:

Six Degrees is a stunning departure from the psychological thrillers that have made Honey Brown a bestselling author. Subtitled ‘The Power of Attraction Connects Us All’, this book is a a collection of six loosely linked passionate and sensual short stories.

It begins with ‘Threesome’ and ends with ‘First Time’, each of the six stories exploring the tension and ecstasy of attraction, of connection, of desire. There is no judgement, no pretence. Brown’s tales are a celebration of shared lust and intimacy.

The characters are ordinary people, among them a cafe owner, a pharmacist, a bartender and a tyre salesman. They speak and behave in ways which are authentic and familiar. Though each story is related in the third person, the women are more often than not (the major exception being ‘Two Men’) in control, seeking pleasure, closeness and fulfillment.

Unusually, the subtle connection that links the characters in Six Degrees is the tragic death of a man – a stranger, a father, a best friend, a neighbour. Studies show that a craving for intimacy in the wake of loss is not uncommon, and sex is a natural way in which to instinctually deny death its power.

The expressive writing is explicit yet tasteful. The collection is erotic but not pornographic. The scenes of sexual intimacy are hot, sensual, and provocative but there is real depth to the characters and their circumstances.

Six Degrees is alluring, exciting and seductive.

 

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