Book Review The Hand That Feeds You

The hand that feeds you by A.J. Rich

Summary

I trusted you. This is how you repay me.

Morgan’s life is settled – she is completing her thesis on victim psychology and newly engaged to Bennett, a man more possessive than those she has dated in the past, but also more chivalrous and passionate.

But she returns from class one day to find Bennett savagely killed, and her dogs – a Great Pyrenees, and two pit bulls she was fostering – circling the body, covered in blood. Everything she holds dear in life is taken away from her in an instant.

Devastated and traumatised, Morgan tries to locate Bennett’s parents to tell them about their son’s death. Only then does she begin to discover layer after layer of deceit. Bennett is not the man she thought he was. And she is not the only woman now in immense danger …

Comments

This story is a collaboration between two women studying the links between victims and perpetrators with an emphasis on ‘pathological altruism’. The events are based on incidents in the life of a friend who died of cancer. The narrator, Morgan, returns home to find that her boyfriend has been killed and ripped to pieces by all or one of her three dogs. If this sounds horrific, it sets the tone of the book. An endless and complex tale peppered with violence and peopled by mostly unlikeable characters and their dogs. We all thought this to be a salacious and implausible story.

4/10 Read by Dundas Readers

Recently Read & Eagerly Anticipated

So many amazing books have been published in 2022, and we are only nearing the end of March.

Before my ‘to be read pile’ and ‘recently read’ lists become too large, I thought I would share with you some of my most recent reads, and the books I am eagerly awaiting.

I hope you enjoy browsing and find something new to attract your interest. All of the titles have been ordered for the library, so feel free to place a Hold; it’s free!

Happy reading,

Jody

Recently Read

Black cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

Eleanor Bennett won’t let her own death get in the way of the truth. So when her estranged children – Byron and Benny – reunite for her funeral in California, they discover a puzzling inheritance. First, a voice recording in which everything Byron and Benny ever knew about their family is upended. Their mother narrates a tumultuous story about a headstrong young woman who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder, a story which cuts right to the heart of the rift that’s separated Byron and Benny. Second, a traditional Caribbean black cake made from a family recipe with a long history that Eleanor hopes will heal the wounds of the past. Can Byron and Benny fulfil their mother’s final request to ‘share the black cake when the time is right’? Will Eleanor’s revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever?

I know it seems a bit early in the year, but I can already tell ‘Black Cake’ will be in my ‘Top 5’ list for 2022. From the very first page, I was pulled into the story. The writing is beautiful and seamlessly flows along throughout the book to tell Eleanor Bennett’s story, bringing a real depth to the narrative. – Jody

Cooper is not out by Justine Smith

In the Australian summer of 1984, in the small country town of Penguin Hill, Sergeant Roy Cooper is making a name for himself. He’s been batting for his local cricket club for decades — and he’s a statistical miracle. He’s overweight, he makes very few runs, he’s not pretty to watch, but he’s never been dismissed. When local schoolgirl Cassie Midwinter discovers this feat, she decides to take the matter further. The remarkable story finds its way into the hands of Donna Garrett, a female sports columnist who’s forced to write under a male pseudonym to be taken seriously. That summer, the West Indies are thrashing Australia, and the Australian people’s love of cricket has never been lower. But Donna’s columns on Roy Cooper capture the imagination of a nation, and soon there’s pressure to select him for the national team. This would see him playing at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, carrying the spirit of every small country town in Australia along with him. Could such a miracle actually happen? This is sport, after all, and who doesn’t love a good story?

A five star, uniquely Australian read! I loved the distinctly Australian language and characters. For a person who isn’t a cricket fan I found it hugely enjoyable. Great feel-good read. – Jody

The trivia night by Ali Lowe

From the outside the parents of the kindergarten class at Darley Heights primary school seem to have it all. Living in the wealthy Sydney suburbs, it’s a community where everyone knows each other – and secrets don’t stay secret for long. The big date in the calendar is the school’s annual fundraising trivia night, but when the evening gets raucously out of hand, talk turns to partner-swapping. Initially scandalised, it’s not long before a group of parents make a reckless one-night-only pact. But in the harsh light of day, those involved must face the fallout of their behaviour. As they begin to navigate the shady aftermath of their wild night, the truth threatens to rip their perfect lives apart – and revenge turns fatal.

The Trivia Night’ by Ali Lowe proved to be a difficult book to review. While I liked the writing and some of the characters, the story was too similar to ‘Big Little Lies’ by Liane Moriarty for me to be completely invested in the book or the characters. I think people who haven’t read ‘Big Little Lies’ will find the book an enjoyable read. I will also look out for Ali Lowe’s next novel as I did like the writing. – Jody

Eagerly Anticipated

Author Spotlight, Sally Hepworth

The Christmas break proved to be the perfect opportunity to finally read some of Sally Hepworth’s books. Sally Hepworth is one author who I have been wanting to read for a while. It is fair to say I had fairly high expectations of this author as her books are always in demand by library members and book clubs and I wasn’t disappointed.

I started my reading off with Sally’s latest book, ‘The younger wife’; which had the perfect mix of family drama and dark long hidden secrets.

Tully and Rachel are murderous when they discover their father has a new girlfriend. The fact Heather is half his age isn’t even the most shocking part. Stephen is still married to their mother, who is stricken with Alzheimer’s Disease. Heather knows she has an uphill battle to win Tully and Rachel over – particularly while carrying the shameful secrets of her past. But, as it turns out, her soon-to-be stepdaughters have secrets of their own.

The story is told from the view of the three main characters, sisters Tully & Rachel, and Heather, their dad’s new younger wife. I enjoyed this aspect of the book very much as it gave me the opportunity to get to know each character and decide if I like them or not.  While it was clear each of the characters in the books were holding onto some distressing secrets from their past, this was only slightly expanded on. Though the story touches on some serious issues such as rape, eating disorders, kleptomania and both verbal and domestic abuse it never delves deeper into the details and didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story. ‘The younger wife‘ left me eager to read more of Sally’s books. 

The next book I read was, ‘The family next door’. I was intrigued by the premise of the story.

The small suburb of Pleasant Court lives up to its name. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows their neighbours, and children play in the street. Isabelle Heatherington doesn’t fit into this picture of family paradise. Husbandless and childless, she soon catches the attention of three Pleasant Court mothers.

What better way to get a readers attention then to mention a close knit street and mothers!

I enjoyed this book from the start and found all of the women in the story likeable. I couldn’t wait to read on and find out what hidden secrets each of the women were holding onto. I finished this book in one sitting and enjoyed it from start to finish.

I am currently reading ‘The good sister’ and am loving it so far.

As you can probably tell by now, I consider myself a huge fan of Sally Hepworth’s books and will continue to read my way through all her books while I eagerly await the release of her next release which I hope will be in 2022.

Happy reading,

Jody

Should you wish to learn more about Sally Hepworth and her books take a look at her website. Sally is Dymocks ‘author of the month’ and there is a great Q&A interview to watch for those who are interested. 

Book Review Educated by Tara Westover

Another book reviews by the Dundas Readers, enjoy!

Summary

Tara Westover and her family grew up preparing for the End of Days but, according to the government, she didn’t exist. She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in hospitals.

As she grew older, her father became more radical and her brother more violent. At sixteen, Tara knew she had to leave home. In doing so she discovered both the transformative power of education, and the price she had to pay for it.

Comments

A marvelous autobiography by an amazing young woman. “Educated” is set in Idaho, USA where Tara and her sister and five brothers were brought up by  radical fundamentalist Mormon parents. Her father, who has complete control over the family, makes a living buying and selling scrap metal. Her mother is an untrained midwife who also makes and sells homeopathic herbal remedies. Tara and her siblings don’t attend school and her father forbids contact with doctors and hospitals.

in her early teens Tara begins to wonder and then to question their lifestyle and beliefs. She passes an admission test to attend University at the age of sixteen and begins an agonising search for self-hood. This is summed up in her own words: “what is a person to do, I asked, when their obligations to their family conflict with other obligations – to friends, to society, to themselves”.

A beautifully written and heart rending story of our times.

Read by Dundas Readers, our score – 8.5/10

Book Review Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Our MJ Readers book club enjoyed reading ‘Force of Nature‘ by Jane Harper this month. Read their thoughts below.

About the Book

Lost, Cold, Desperate … Danger Runs Deep

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew. (from the publisher)

Comments

As with Jane Harper’s other novels, we felt that the environment was a central ‘character’ in this story. It was a menacing force that emphasised the dysfunctional relationships, frailties, jealousies and paranoia that each character displayed in some degree. We were drawn in by the story and it kept us guessing to the end. The conclusion was cleverly tied up and there was healing and understanding of how regrets from the past impacted each character and their ongoing relationships. Another enjoyable read.

Read by MJ Readers