Category Archives: Reviews

Never Screw Up by Jens Lapidus – Review

Never Screw UpNever Screw Up (Stockholm Noir #2) was published in the US in June and the novel has received some great early reviews:

“A grand-scale portrait of Stockholm’s criminal world that shares James Ellroy’s hyperrealism and Richard Price’s blend of atmosphere and sociology.” Booklist (US)

“‘Svens’ (native Swedes) collide with immigrant groups, from Middle Easterners to ruthlessly organized gangs of ‘Yugos’ and ‘Turks,’ in the gritty second novel in Lapidus’s Stockholm Noir trilogy (after 2011’s Easy Money) /…/ its morally ambiguous characters and rough street argot will compel reader attention to the last page.”
Publishers Weekly (US)

“[Lapidus] sheds light on a rarely seen Stockholm—a city that is a ‘Mecca of thieves, drug dealers, and gangs,’ buzzing with ethnic tensions and social unrest.”
New Yorker (US)

“Amazing. The cleansing violence that swept through Stockholm in Easy Money has left the city no safer for three misfits who seem incapable of heeding this sequel’s title. … there’s no doubt that Lapidus creates a dark world that feels, while you’re immersed in it, like the whole world.”
Kirkus Reviews (US)

“This ambitious, bleak novel is set in a sordid, dysfunctional Sweden, awash in both corrupt police and ruthless indigenous and immigrant criminals. Lapidus is a criminal defense attorney, and his narrative demonstrates authentic criminal argot and mind-sets. … gripping and convincing. Marked by harsh and brash writing, authentic scenarios full of thugs and thug talk, this engaging novel will appeal to readers who like their crime fiction gritty and dark.”
Library Journal (US)

Weekly Lizard, a crime/mystery/noir/thriller website run by Vintage just posted a piece written by Jens, about the case that started it all. Please click the link below to read THE SPARK: http://www.weeklylizard.com/blog/2013/06/18/the-spark-jens-lapidus-and-the-case-that-started-it-all

 

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Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann – Review

Tigers in Red Weather

Set in bucolic, hoity-toity post-WWII Martha’s Vineyard, this unnerving literary thriller from the great-great-great-granddaughter of Herman Melville finds a family unmoored by an unsolved murder in their apparently porcelain community. At the debut novel’s center are two woman, Nick and Helena, cousins who grew up spending summers at their family’s cushy lakeside estate.

Once carefree girls, now jaded women, they’ve since returned to Tiger House with their families, but their lives have lost much of the rosy glow they had before the murder. Selfish and aloof, Nick can’t stay faithful to her husband, the devoted but emotionally stunted Hughes. Helena, living apart from her sycophantic filmmaker husband, prefers pills and booze to dealing with her poor excuse for a relationship.

Meanwhile, Nick and Hughes’s surprisingly well-adjusted daughter, Daisy, is engaged to a man with not so subtle designs on her nearly acquiescent mother, while Ed, Daisy’s childhood confidant and Helena’s creepy son, is hell-bent on ensuring Daisy is treated with respect, no matter what the cost. Told from the biased and often unreliable perspectives of each of these five players, Klaussmann’s carefully crafted soap opera skillfully commingles mystery with melodrama, keeping readers guessing about what really happened until the end.

While her characters’ duplicitous behavior will elicit strong reactions, Ed’s psychological progression is the most fascinating to watch. The shocking finale, seen through Ed’s all-knowing eyes, scintillates as much as it satisfies.

By Publishers Weekly, 25/06/2012

 

Dare Me by Megan Abbott – Review

Dare Me

I read Dare Me in a night, and it was amazing. Firstly, this is not a book about cheerleading. Much like her last novel, this is a dark and captivating psychological thriller, made all the more gripping by the fact that the main characters are teenagers.

The contrast between the purity of the cheerleading and the sinister goings-on in all of the character’s lives is what makes this hard to put down.  It’s an interesting look at the dynamics of the relationships between women from puberty onwards, and while it is not entirely an all female cast, it might as well be, as the men in the book are merely players in the game, either disposable objects of sexual attraction, or damaged and ruined objects of pity.

The central character of the book is Addy, who seems destined to stand in the shadows of her best friend, until a new cheerleading coach takes a somewhat inappropriate liking to her and causes a rift between the two, all the while drawing Addy into her personal life, which is chaotic and morally questionable. A lot of the plot centres around the covering up of a crime, and there are so many twists and turns that you will find this hard to stop reading. Megan Abbott does a wonderful job of nailing the darkness of teenage girls.

By Kylie Simpson

Lucinda’s Whirlwind by Louise Limerick – Review

Lucinda's WhirlwindLucinda’s Whirlwind (May 2012) is delightful. It’s warm and amusing, thoughtful and enlightening, and takes us from Brisbane shopping centres to Far North Queensland aboriginal communities to corn fields in the USA.

I picked up Lucinda’s Whirlwind because of the comparison with Liane Moriarty and, yes, the Australian family content, falling in love the quirky characters and a wholly satisfying ending are reminiscent of Liane’s books.

Lucinda’s Whirlwind is a very entertaining story about two grown sisters coping with the death of their mother. One sister, Jayne, is a self-sacrificing wife and mum with lots of friends; the other sister, Lucinda, is a cold fish who works in a museum and has a Mason and Pearson hairbrush but who hasn’t a friend in the world. The emotionally un-involved father plays a suitably fringe role with the odd visit to his nursing home.

The cast of characters includes a taking-for-granted husband, a runaway Dachshund, a homeless teenage boy who moves in, a single dad with an adorable Downs Syndrome child, a long-lost American friend, a South American housekeeper who addresses everyone only in Spanish, sly grog-running boys in an aboriginal community, and a multi-national assortment on a bus tour through the US.

Uncharacteristically, and to the great alarm of all, Jayne, the warm, cuddly sister ups and leaves for America to investigate some unresolved issues from their mother’s past. Jayne’s husband is missing at sea up north, and there’s no-one to look after the kids and the dog except for… you guessed it, the prickly sister Lucinda, who is thrown into a whirlwind of responsibility and domesticity – dirty laundry, Chicken Pox, calls to the school Principal, and, worst of all, having to join the Walking Train to St Barnaby’s primary school.

To make matters worse, museum exhibits in Lucinda’s care, namely a rare Eclectus Parrot and Dorothy’s red shoes –  the originals from The Wizard of Oz movie, no less! – go missing! The Smithsonian will have her head on a platter!

Thankfully, the solution to these mysteries, and all the other conundrums in the story, come together skilfully, and beautifully, at the end.

I particularly enjoyed the scenes in the aboriginal community – considered and very well done.

Lucinda’s Whirlwind leaves you with the hopeful impression that lives can work out, grief can be worked through, love can be found, shoes should be red, and that we live is a pretty good place!

By Jenny Mann

The House I Loved by Tatiana De Rosnay – Review

The House I LovedI have just finished ‘The House I Loved’ written by the wonderful Tatiana De Rosnay, one of my favourite authors.

Tatiana is best remembered for ‘Sarah’s Key’.

I enjoyed De Rosnay’s latest so much and I believe she should be taken more seriously in Australia, as her readership abroad tells us so: she was named one of the top 10 fiction writers in Europe in 2010! He writing is sublime. De Rosnay in ‘The House I Loved’ gives a sense of delicacy and a flavour of her beloved Paris, replete with treats for Paris lovers and indeed for anyone wedded to a special place.

‘The House I Loved’ and ‘The Seamstress’ are my fave reads this year. Tatiana De Rosnay and Maria Duenas are not unalike in their writing, as you can see they both share a true passion for story telling.

By Joy McIntosh

Celeste, Nick and the Magical Tea Party by Miss Dinkles – Review

Celeste, Nick and the Magical Tea Party

I loved it. There’s lots of descriptive language, for example ‘gurgled’ which is really figurative. It’s tempting and makes you want to read on. Its story is sad and gloomy but happy at the end. It’s a bit of a nature story that tells you how to be happy in life.

The pictures give you a review of the story. The pictures really suit the writing. It would be much prettier with more colour, but the colour appears in the pictures as the story goes along.

I’ll tell you the story.  There’s a lovely girl called Celeste who moves to a new city where she doesn’t feel comfortable and people tease her at school. She goes to school and comes home crying and crying. She finds an old radio in her shed and brings it to her room to keep her company. The next bit is the main bit. She turns on her radio, closes her eyes and lets the music flow around her. Then she feels like she’s floating up into the air into a land of happiness.

She finds a seedling that is struggling to survive so she puts her feelings into it and makes it grow. When she comes home she is feeling so happy and excited about the next day. She goes to the mystical land again with her new friend Nick and they help a lizard to survive. Together they discover that the more people they have, the bigger the seedlings will grow so they decide to have a tea party and invite everybody and the parents all help a lot. Celeste doesn’t feel lonely any more and in the end Celeste is happy in the real world and all the plants grow because she is happy.

It’s such an exciting book. It really is.

By Amber Mann, age 9

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan – Review

Glow

What would happen if every woman was infertile? What would happen if there were no girls under 16? Would boys 16 and under, suddenly left to fend for themselves, end up killing each other? How can the human race survive global warming? Is there a God?

I really was not prepared for how captivating and disturbing I found Glow, the first book in The Skychasers Trilogy. Once this book gets out there, not only will the teens be hooked on this new series, but also their parents and their teachers. Glow is Young Adult science fiction, but cross-over to general fiction is assured.

Glow is a huge book. Its themes are immense. Its scope universal. Glow intertwines Shakespearean drama and fundamentalist Christianity with the nightly news of environment, politics and ethics. We are forced to consider crime and punishment, sexuality, fertility, family, sustainable living, war, fidelity, friendship, religion, honour, leadership, division of labour, gender equality, loyalty, artificial insemination, astronomy, education, tribalism, courage, nutrition, and ultimately the survival of the human race. We also learn all about the effects of varying degrees of gravity on the human body. Like I said, this is a huge book.

Glow is set in the entirely believable future, where the only unpredictable life forms are other humans – no vampires, werewolves or aliens, just the same humans with the same failings as we see in history repeated. Unfortunately, we humans don’t seem to have learnt to get on any better than any time in history.

Earth has become increasingly uninhabitable and two large spaceships set off for New Earth, which is a couple of generations’ travel away. Waverly and Kieran, the eldest of the first generation born in space, are in love. Their ship is attacked, and they see strangers for the first time. When people are fighting for their lives, is it too much to ask that they remain civilised? Is it?

Frankly, after reading Glow, which highlights many of the unsavoury weaknesses of the human character, I sat, overwrought, thinking that human beings are despicable and we don’t deserve to survive. Let them fail to find New Earth! We are all sinners and not worthy! But of course, I now must read the sequel, so I guess we can stay around for a little while longer.

At the end of the book, the author reveals in her Acknowledgments that she based the major themes in her story on the book The Puritan Origins of the American Self by Sacvan Bercovitch, PhD. Well, that explains that, I thought. They can throw out the curriculum for senior high school culture and ideology studies and read The Skychasers Trilogy – and I’m sure they will.

By Jenny Mann