Book Review: Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic

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Caleb Zelic is a private investigator and he’s been profoundly deaf since he was a child as a result of illness so he remembers what it was like to be able to hear. He wears hearing aids but they don’t give him perfect hearing and he relies more on lip reading. It’s an imperfect science so he misses a lot. He’s fluent in sign language but hardly anyone else in his life is. It sounds like it would be a problem for a private investigator. It is. He misses a lot. But as his ex-wife points out to him, he seems determined to “pass” for someone who isn’t deaf.

The story opens with Caleb in shock and cradling the body of his dead childhood friend, Gary, who was also a police officer. He’s called the emergency services and requested an ambulance – at least, he thinks he has because he couldn’t tell if anyone was actually on the other end of the line. The paramedics come and confirm Gary is long dead from a cut throat. The police want to know why Caleb was the one who found him. Because he received a text message from Gary saying, “Scott after me. Come my house. Urgent. Don’t talk anyone.” And so begins the mystery we spend the entire book trying to solve: who is Scott and why did he want Gary dead? Continue reading

Book Review: This House of Grief by Helen Garner

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Most Victorians – likely most Australians – would remember this case from the news. A car containing a father and his three boys veered off a highway and ended up in a dam on Fathers’ Day. Only the father escaped; the three boys drowned. Did he do it on purpose or was it a tragic accident as a result of a medical episode? Continue reading

Book Review: Conned by Matthew Klein

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In 2013, I was perusing a book store and came across No Way Back by Matthew Klein. I didn’t even read the blurb because I was hooked simply by reading the front cover. “They know everything. They control everyone. Even you.” I couldn’t resist. And even better, I read the book and loved it. Ever since, I’ve had the rest of his books on my Goodreads “Want to Read” list. So when I came across Conned (also known as Con Ed in some places) in a second-hand book store, I snapped it up.

Conned was Klein’s second book, published in 2007, so it’s nearly 15 years old now. The implausibly named Kip Largo (likely just so Klein can set up Key Largo jokes) has been out of prison for a year after serving a five-year sentence for what was essentially a pyramid scheme. He lives in a dump, works at a dry cleaner and hasn’t seen his now adult son Toby for a while. When Toby shows up and says he’s in trouble, Kip takes him at his word – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – but he doesn’t have any money and there’s nothing Kip can do about it. He’s trying to put his con days behind him and go straight. Continue reading

Book Review: Hangman by Jack Heath

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About 15 years ago, I saw Jack Heath at a writers’ festival when he was primarily known as a children’s and young adult writer. He was young himself, a bit of a prodigy. I can’t remember the context but he was talking about reading a book while on an airplane and it contained a description of a woman grinding her heel into a man’s crotch. The scene was so vivid – in his head at least – that he passed out at 30,000 feet. Boy, he must have come a long way since then because as the main character in Hangman, Timothy Blake is the new Dexter Morgan (only worse).

The most important thing to note about Hangman is that while Jack Heath has written umpteen books for children, THIS IS NOT ONE OF THEM. If books were given ratings, this one would be 18+. Continue reading

Book Review: Blackbirch – The Beginning by KM Allan

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I follow this author’s blog and I love the confidence she conveys on her website. Blackbirch, her debut novel, doesn’t have quite the same poise but you can see where she was trying to go and hopefully she will get there as the series continues.

I was given an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) in exchange for an honest review of this book. I read the ARC. It was okay. I wrote a review saying that. I offered the author the option of not posting it. She didn’t accept, which I thought was very gracious, but asked me to hold off on posting it until after the official release of the book. And then I watched as she posted tweet after tweet about all the changes she was making in the lead up to the release date. If it was changing that much, I didn’t think it was fair to post the review I’d written. So when the book came out, I bought a copy and read it again. I’m glad I did. It’s not an entirely different book and it’s not perfect, but it was enough of an improvement to make me want to rewrite my original unposted review. Continue reading

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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I can’t quite figure out this book. There’s a lot of young adult, more than a smidge of chick lit and loads of mystery. It’s also beautifully written. But the most interesting character is frequently ignored by all the others as well as the author and so much of her is left unexplored and unexplained.

Mia Warren and her teenage daughter, Pearl, have just arrived in Shaker Heights, Ohio. It’s a planned community, a little progressive but a little Stepford at the same time. They rent a home from the Richardsons and immediately become entangled in their landlords’ lives. Mother Elena is a local reporter, father Bill is a lawyer and the kids are spoiled and mostly ungrateful. And the youngest, Izzy, is also frustratingly rebellious. The book opens with her burning down her family home (she sets “little fires everywhere”) and then rewinds to the day the Warrens moved into town to show how all the events before lead up to that moment. Continue reading

Book Review: The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty

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I completely blame myself for focusing only on the author and not the title of this book when choosing to read it. I closed the back cover and thought indignantly to myself, “This was a romance!” No $#!@, Sherlock. It’s literally right there in the title! Having said that and despite romances not really being my cup of tea, as with all Liane Moriarty books, it’s better than the average. But it’s some way off her best. Continue reading

Book Review: Tampa by Alissa Nutting

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Let me say straight up, it was a challenge to get through this book. I felt physically sick for quite a lot of it. After all, it’s a first person account of a paedophile pursuing children for sex. It’s literature, it’s well written but don’t have any doubts about the fact that the subject matter is absolutely vile.

I think the reason that Nutting just manages to get away with it is because the paedophile in this case is a woman. Celeste Price is married, young, beautiful, sexy and absolutely the last person you’d think of when describing a paedophile. She is a junior high teacher in Tampa, Florida, for the simple reason that it gives her easy access to her preferred prey: fourteen-year-old boys. Continue reading

Book Review: Crimson Lake by Candice Fox

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As I was rushing out the door to the airport on my way to a holiday in Cairns, I grabbed this book from my “To Be Read” pile and I didn’t realise until I was on the plane and turning the first few pages that the story was set in… Cairns!

Crimson Lake is the fictional setting not too far from Cairns where Ted Conkaffey has just moved. There’s humidity (check), crocodiles (check), snakes (check), rednecks (check) and an assortment of colourful characters (check) so it feels somewhat real (at least to an outsider), even though it’s not, which is a credit to Fox.

The main character, Ted, is a former vice police detective from Sydney whose career was cut short when he was accused of abducting and raping a teenage girl. He was never convicted but he lost his wife, his child, his career and all his friends and everywhere he goes, he’s accused of being a monster. So he’s driven to the furthest place he could get and settled into a rented house where nobody knows who he is. Continue reading

Book Review: A Year Rewritten by Andrew Rogerson

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I’m pausing my year of reviewing Australian female writers to sneak this one in and will return to the promised reviews in August.

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I saw Andrew Rogerson at an open mike night where he read two poems (performed them from memory actually) and as soon as I got home, I bought this book (which he had spruiked). It’s a high concept book of poems where he wrote a haiku a day for an entire year. For those who don’t know, a haiku is a Japanese poem composed of three lines with the first line containing five syllables, the second line containing seven syllables and the third line containing another five syllables for a total of seventeen.

Sounds easy, right? Not even seventeen words, just seventeen syllables a day. (If all writers could get away with this kind of workload, they’d probably be a much happier lot.) But, of course, there’s very little about poetry that is easy, writing it or reading it.

A Year Rewritten is a very short book, necessarily because of the concept. It took less than hour to read and it’s a little like a verse novel with one obvious difference: I had no idea what the story was. There were hints of love and loss and illness but the haikus were quite obscure. Poetry like this is often difficult to interpret, so attempting to string it all together in my understanding as a linear story proved impossible. Continue reading