Monthly Archives: January 2015

Killing Me Softly, Nicci French

downloadThis is a one sitting read. 343 pages of addictive anticipation. A fraught, twisted plot, convincing and conniving characters and just enough sexual intrigue to keep things interesting. The quote on the cover declares:

“A chilling study of monstrous obsession … whose outcome is uncertain until the nail-biting climax” – Sunday Telegraph

I don’t entirely agree. I didn’t feel the monstrous element, although the obsession was clearly present.

A great read to occupy anyone who needs some distraction!

Love in The Time of Contempt, Joanne Fedler

love-in-the-time-of-contemptI started reading this book just as my eldest child leapt off the edge of tweenhood into the “vortex of adolescence”. It hasn’t been pretty, but Fedler’s book has come as somewhat of a salve at this precarious moment in my relatively short parenting career. I’m still not sure that I will survive the “intensity of adolescence” but at least I’m going into this war properly armed!

There are so many gems in Fedler’s book that I’m not quite sure what to share and what to withhold… As always, Fedler writes with unbridled honesty about subjects which are fraught with complexity and angst. By baring herself as a parent in this book, Fedler allows us all to be more honest about our own parenting and what we can realistically expect from ourselves and from our children. Underlying her various theses is the notion that we have to love and appreciate ourselves if we wish to impart any wisdom to our teens. We have to know and value our own strengths and weaknesses and we have to be firm in our values and beliefs. In reading this I was reminded of Sara Yocheved Rigler’s mantra – The only person you can change is yourself. As Fedler writes about raising teens: “We don’t control them but we do control the values with which we raise them.” Ultimately, in order to survive the journey through parenting adolescents we have to remember that we are the adults and that “our choices (will) ripple into our kids’ lives”, it is unavoidable and we are bound to “parent imperfectly”. Such is life.

Our role as parents is not to shelter and cushion our children. According to Fedler, our job is to teach our teens that “life will not break them” and in doing so, we need to constantly remind ourselves that it also will not break us and neither will our kids, although at times it might seem otherwise!

Ultimately, what I will carry with me into this sea is that I am not alone. That out there, perhaps across the street, next door or out in the virtual landscape, there are #amillionconnectedparents all battling just like me.

Black Out, Lisa Unger

BlackOut-cvr-thumbAnother Unger spectacular, a book filled with a riveting pace and a disturbing sequence of events which leave readers unsure of where reality ends and fantasy begins.

I have without doubt become a true fan of Unger’s writing. She has an amazing ability to weave a tale and draw readers into its depths.

I highly recommend for all thriller lovers.

The Escape, David Baldacci

The Escape (David Baldacci)I sat down and read this book with its 470 pages in almost one sitting. I had to stop after about 5 hours because my eyes went all blurry and started feeling as though I was going to vomit from exhaustion. I literally had to force myself to go to sleep. It was almost 2am and I was practically twitching to finish Military CID investigator John Puller’s journey.

I love a book like this, one which grabs you by the proverbial balls and holds you in its grip, leaving you thrashing with desperation to finish, to just get to that last page, that moment of relief that is the plot’s wicked resolution. There are times when a book like this is exactly what you need.

There wasn’t much depth, no complex themes or literary techniques to consider in Baldacci’s tome. Rather there was pace and intensity and the bubbling question of ‘who to trust’ – if anyone at all … There were, however, several poignant moments which I think Baldacci did well to include, all of which centred around the relationship between father and sons and Puller and his brother. These moments brought a nice balance to an otherwise very fast moving thriller.

If you want to be swept away by a book, taken on a wild journey, then this is the one for you!

Leaving Time, Jodi Picoult

Leaving_TimeI am a big Picoult fan. Always have been. I love the way that she weaves her tales, the depth and diversity of her characters and the intensity of her themes. I love the fact that her books are all so radically different yet so clearly ring with her unique voice.

I’m not quite sure how to even talk about this book. In some ways it was quite confronting – these lonely, fraught characters, all searching for something illusive. A mother, a daughter, a grandmother and elephants who despite their regal stoicism behave with more emotion and conviction than some of the people around them.

My heart went out to Jenna, the daughter, desperate to find her mother. I ached for her loneliness, and for the fragility and angst of the two unlikely characters she chooses to help her in her quest; Serenity Jones, a psychic, and Virgil Stanhope, an alcoholic Private Detective. And I felt for Alice, Jenna’s mother, whose life slowly unravels driving her to escape. The essence of all Picoult’s books is always people and their relationships and this book is no different:

“If you are a mother, you must have someone to take care of.

If that someone is taken from you, whether it is a newborn or an individual old enough to have offspring of its own, can you still call yourself a mother?

Staring at Kagiso, I realized that she hadn’t just lost her calf. She had lost herself. And although I had studied elephant grief for a living, although I had seen numerous deaths in the wild before and had recorded them dispassionately, the way an observer should – now, I broke down and started to cry.

Nature is a cruel bitch. …”

Underlying these human relationships is a web of complex emotions:

“‘I think grief is like a really ugly couch. It never goes away. You can decorate around it; you can slap a doily on top of it; you can push it to the corner of the room – but eventually, you learn to live with it.’

Somehow, I thought, elephants had taken it a step further. They didn’t grimace every time they entered the room and saw that couch. They said, Remember how many good memories we had here? And they sat, for just a little while, before moving elsewhere.”

I feel as though I can’t say much more without really destroying this book for those who choose to read it. So read it. You won’t be disappointed.

Darkness, My Old Friend – Lisa Unger

downloadI have very little to say about this book.

It was quite simply the best thriller I think I have ever read.

I sat down to start reading it at 6pm and 7 hours later I got up, finished, with a pain in my back from the tension and the incredible pace.

If you like an exciting and intense thriller then this is for you.

Monday Mourning, Kathy Reichs

Monday_MourningIt’s been a thrilling week! Thank you Kathy Reichs for giving me something a bit different to digest. I thoroughly enjoyed this read, although I think the Deaver I read last week was more gripping. Nonetheless, there was an insightful and thought provoking amount of forensic detail in this thriller which I found fascinating and I quite enjoyed the mixed cultural background of Montreal/USA.

An interesting read for someone wanting a good thriller with a bit of bite.

The Empty Chair, Jeffery Deaver

You’ve heard me say it before and I’ll not hesitate to say it again – sometimes you just need a good thriller. Something to sink into. Something terrifyingly addictive, confronting yet too gripping to release. An addictive plot which grabs you by the balls (if you have them) and doesn’t let you go right until the very last word … at which time it drops you there, off the edge of the cliff, leaving you shattered and broken on the sharp rocks below.

Deaver’s The Empty Chair did just that. When I started it, I was left with nightmares. Vivid images filled my dreamtime and left me disoriented and quaking the next morning. Yet I had to keep reading. I had to know what was going to happen next, where this narrative was heading.

So, if you feel like you need a great thriller. This one is for you!

Nine Days, Toni Jordan

downloadSo reading friends, I have discovered the awesomeness of overdrive and my local library. It’s not actually a new discovery, I’ve had the overdrive app on my iPad for the longest time. For some reason, I’ve just never used it. But lo and behold, the other night I was bored and found myself cruising the Randwick Library e-shelves and look what I found – miles and miles and miles of virtual books which are just waiting to be plucked and devoured by little old me. Who knew! It is like heaven, only better… and because I have multiple children, I have multiple cards which means no limit to the amount of books I can download at any one time … it’s overwhelming and dangerous and positively intoxicating for a reading fiend like me. So I downloaded some books for my kids – it’s their card after all – and then began browsing … ah the bliss! But before I succumbed to random book borrowing, I forced myself to consult my trusty and ever-growing Evernote list entitled “Books to Read”. I am too scared to count how many books there are on this list and I very rarely actually read these books. I simply add to the list. Often. Only occasionally erasing the odd book which I actually read. But somehow just having the list is enough to bring me the comfort of knowing that I won’t ‘lose’ the titles of those books which I just know I HAVE to read.

Anyway, back to business. Toni Jordan. One of the few Australian authors who can count me as their number one fan. She is simply stellar. A true genius, crafting softly worded tales about complex characters which punch you in the stomach, leaving you winded and on the verge of tears. She has a wonderful ability to truly capture a very Australian spirit without being cliche or kitsch. And while I generally loathe Australian fiction, Jordan does something that really grabs me – it is as though she brings to life the esse of a slippery Australian identity which is fraught with angst and loneliness and beauty.

Not only does Jordan weave a masterful story, but she does it so tenderly over generations. In this novel each of the central characters is given a chapter of their own which unfolds their role in the larger narrative. The Sydney Morning Herald calls Nine Days a “sprawling family drama” but I didn’t feel this sense of vastness or distance in Jordan’s telling. Quite the opposite, I felt a closeness that I see in many families; my own included. I found Jordan’s book to be sensitive, shocking at times and definitely loaded with a wonderful empathy that only became evident once the struggles of the individual characters had cleared to make way for the depth that hovers in this text. I loved that each character was so separated, described as having their own lives, their own problems and quirks, yet at the same time was so invested in the extended family – past and present – and so much a product of the influences of all these family members. “Like so many things that shape us, it’s the smallest actions that add up to leave the deepest marks.”

There are too many subtle themes in this book to convey them all in a short book review – family, love, friendship, honesty, belonging. One which resonated to me was exposed toward the novel’s end:

“‘Alec. You must know this. People disappear. They just go puff. Thin air. Every time you see someone, you never know if you’re seeing them for the last time. Drink them in, Alec. Kiss them. It’s very important. Never let anyone say goodbye, even for a little while, without kissing them. Press your lips against the people you love. Hands, they can touch anything. Open doors, hold cameras, hang clothes on the line. It’s lips that matter.”

I could share so many sections of this book that I have underlined for posterity but that would only give away the magic of this prose and ruin the dignity of the story which you have to discover for yourselves. Instead, I will leave you just with the last line of Jordan’s novel Nine Days:

“I can hardly believe my good fortune. Everything will be alright.”