Book review: Girl A by Abigail Dean

Friday, January 15, 2021 Permalink

There’s been a bit of buzz around Girl A by Abigail Dean. That can be both a good and bad thing. I read it earlier than planned as I was excited about it, but at the same time I probably had heightened expectations as a result.

For much of this book I wasn’t sure if I was reading about a cult, or about kidnapped children. Dean keeps it pretty vague for a while and readers are on edge, recognising that we don’t have the full story. Waiting for more.

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three-half-stars

Book review: The Last Thing To Burn by Will Dean

Tuesday, January 5, 2021 Permalink

I’d completely misunderstood the blurb for The Last Thing To Burn by Will Dean. I assumed it to be one of those kidnap victim sagas about someone abducted and held for many years (like Room and many books since). And it kinda is. But’s also about the far weightier and fraught topic of human trafficking, or at least its aftermath and its repercussions.

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four-stars

Book review: Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Wednesday, December 23, 2020 Permalink

When Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart won the 2020 Man Booker Prize I’d not heard of it. That (on the other hand) is not unheard of because I rarely read books featured on international literary prize lists. It was made more memorable for me because I joked that Stuart reminded me very much of Australian (dislodged from NZ) author RWR McDonald and we joked about it on Twitter.

I wasn’t convinced I would enjoy Shuggie Bain. I’m not a fan of weighty sagas about poverty and the plight of the working man. Particularly in that bleak bread, dripping and beer after a day of toiling in the mines way.

And initially I struggled a little with Shuggie. Well, not Shuggie himself but the book. There was no doubt however, it’s brilliantly written. But Shuggie’s story grew on me and Stuart’s writing enchanted me.

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four-half-stars

Book review: Contacts by Mark Watson

Wednesday, December 16, 2020 Permalink

Contacts by Mark Watson is going to be hard to review because though I enjoyed it – to an extent – my main issue with it is the content (underlining premise) itself. I can’t decide whether I think it’s ill-conceived, irresponsible and totally inappropriate or perhaps cathartic or helpful.

Either way it needs a big trigger warning as the entire book is about someone planning to suicide and how they got to that point.

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three-stars

Book review: The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor

Friday, November 27, 2020 Permalink

I’m not sure why I wasn’t drawn to The Miseducation of Evie Epworth earlier. I’m a sucker for a weird book title. Think, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. Not to mention almost everything by Swedish writer Fredrik Backman.

One of my friends loved this debut novel by Matson Taylor but it still took me months to get to it and I am so thankful I did. In fact, although I was keen for something light… a good psychological thriller about some murderous psychopath; from the opening lines of this novel I was transported into Evie’s world. It’s written in first person from 16 year old Evie’s point of view and almost akin to stream-of-consciousness thinking. Taylor gives Evie a really delightful voice and this is a quirky and often-funny read. At the same time however, there are moments of poignancy, some of which come as a result of life experience and realising things young Evie does not.

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four-half-stars

Book review: Flying the Nest by Rachael Johns

Saturday, October 31, 2020 Permalink

I think I’ve read all of West Australian author Rachael John’s standalone novels. She always offers readers interesting characters. They’re very real and complex. We often meet them at a time their world has been upended and they’re hitting rock bottom, but she ensures they are resilient. In short they’re generally women I think I’d like.

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four-stars

Book review: Honeybee by Craig Silvey

Monday, October 26, 2020 Permalink

I didn’t receive Honeybee by Craig Silvey for review but had only seen positive comments about it so leapt at the chance when a friend suggested I borrow her copy.

On contemplating this book I was very much reminded of a comment I made after reading Favel Parrett’s When The Night Comesabout people coming into our lives when we most need them. Here, for Sam it’s ostensibly Vic. But through Vic it’s also nurse by day and drag queen by night Peter / Fella Bitzgerald and Vic’s neighbour, young Aggie.

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four-half-stars

Book review: The Survivors by Jane Harper

Thursday, September 24, 2020 Permalink

I’ve actually just written an assignment for my Masters about Australian crime fiction and mentioned Jane Harper’s debut novel, The Dry and the rise and rise of rural or outback noir. Released in 2016 The Dry won much acclaim and a lotta love. It’s since been adapted for television and will hit our screens in 2021. And though I’m looking forward to it, I much preferred Harper’s 2019 standalone novel, The Lost Man.

Although her fourth book, The Survivors, has a different feel to Harper’s previous books, it occurred to me there’s a strong theme underpinning all of her novels (including the two Aaron Falk ‘detective-based’ books). It’s one of families, of childhood and long-past legacies, and the impact they continue to have many years later.

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four-stars

Book review: The Good Teacher By Petronella McGovern

Monday, September 14, 2020 Permalink

I very much enjoyed Petronella McGovern’s Six Minutes when it was published in 2019. It’s currently up for Ned Kelly and Davitt Awards, which are well deserved. And timely… as McGovern’s second book, The Good Teacher has recently been released.

I’d misunderstood this book to be about a well-meaning teacher erroneously accused of something horrendous and having to fight to clear their name… which felt like it’d been done before. But this book is not ‘that’ and includes a range of weighty but deftly-delivered themes.

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four-stars