Book review: A Gambling Man by David Baldacci

Friday, April 2, 2021 Permalink

I wasn’t a fan of David Baldacci’s Camel Club series* but have loved almost everything he’s published since. Indeed, his books take up quite a bit of real estate on my bookshelves. I particularly love his Amos Decker and Atlee Pine series but somehow I missed the first in his new historical crime fiction series featuring ex-con Aloysius Archer.

And I enjoyed this so much I’m going to be hunting down its predecessor, One Good Deed.

four-stars

Book review: The Mitford Trial by Jessica Fellowes

Saturday, November 14, 2020 Permalink

The Mitford Trial is the fourth in the series by Jessica Fellowes. Each of the books focuses loosely on one of the (in)famous Mitford sisters (of which there were five, as well as a brother). I hadn’t realised when I embarked on the first book in the series, The Mitford Murders that the Mitford family actually existed and that the girls in particular quite well known.

These books are fiction, but based on true events and Fellowes includes historical notes at the end of each book. The Mitford Trial is set over a few years in the early 1930s and we’re edging closer to the second world war. The mystery at the heart of this book very much reflects the involvement of Mitford family members drawn to fascism and communism and their allegiances with Hitler and Nazi Germany.

three-half-stars

Book review: The Burning Island by Jock Serong

Friday, October 2, 2020 Permalink

I’ve always regretted I didn’t read The Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong*. It won’t surprise those who know how literarily illiterate I am that – because it came out late in the year – I actually assumed it was one of the Christmas-time sports books aimed at an easy gift for dads. 🙄

I’ve only heard amazing things about it so leapt at the chance to read Serong’s latest release. What I hadn’t realised about The Burning Island however, was that it is historical fiction (which isn’t a favourite of mine) and that it is actually the sequel to his earlier work Preservation.

It meant I probably didn’t appreciate the story on offer as much as I might otherwise have but I could certainly appreciate his beautiful prose and vivid descriptions of the islands of the Bass Strait and harsh coastline and living conditions of the time.

four-stars

Book review: Spirited by Julie Cohen

Wednesday, July 15, 2020 Permalink

Julie Cohen’s two most recent books, Together and (The Two Lives of) Louis and Louise have both made my very short ‘favourite books of the year’ listing when released.

I knew her latest, Spirited was a little different and, as it combines a couple of elements I usually avoid—historical fiction and the supernatural—I was a tad nervous. And though it’s set in the 1850s its themes resonate today. Cohen’s books are often hard to describe but I saw this from a fellow author on Twitter and it seemed apt.

four-stars

Book review: Finding Eadie by Caroline Beecham

Sunday, July 5, 2020 Permalink

I realise I harp on about the fact I don’t read historical fiction. I occasionally make exceptions for books written in dual timelines (the then and now), but every so often I seem to accidentally read historical fiction and don’t hate it. In fact I quite enjoy it.

So, although mention of ‘the war’ (I or II) has me heading for the hills this is now the THIRD of Caroline Beecham’s novels I’ve read that’s been set during wartime and each time she has inexplicably lured me in with all sorts of interesting information I didn’t realise I enjoyed learning.

I’ve previously commented on her work being similar to that of Natasha Lester, in that there’s something ‘meaty’ (deep or educational) in her narratives. Beecham’s latest, Finding Eadie, brings readers yet more fascinating fodder about life during wartime. This time it’s centred around publishing, books and reading – which is akin to catnip for me. Though there’s also some insight into the less-palatable subject of ‘baby farming’ – illegal adoption / trafficking of babies.

four-stars

Book review: The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

Tuesday, June 9, 2020 Permalink

It’s no secret I’m a fan of Jane Austen. In fact, it’s almost exactly 11 years ago since I finally binge-read all of her work. I’d been away (at fat camp – long story) and took The Complete Works of Jane Austen with me. Devouring the tome easily.

It surprised me because though I’d loved the BBC miniseries of Pride & Prejudice and the Gwyneth Paltrow/Toni Collette movie version of Emma (my interest was predominantly piqued by Colin Firth and Jeremy Northam respectively), I’d not even considered reading her books. And I hate(d) historical fiction.

It was only then I understood the eloquent and witty genius of the woman (so) ahead of her time.

three-stars

Book review: Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates

Saturday, April 18, 2020 Permalink

I’m not sure why but I shy away from historical fiction. Though that’s probably an understatement. If I start reading a blurb and see reference to World Wars I or II or indeed anything pre-20th century I leap away as if it’s coronavirus-laden. I do, however, seem to make an exception for books unfolding in multiple timeframes. (ie. the ‘then’ and the now).

Very weirdly, with Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates I had read THREE books about World War II (including concentration camps and refugees), all within a week or two of each other. Obviously I didn’t plan it that way; it was just a weird coincidence that three Australian books were coming out at once, partially set at the same time.

four-stars

Book review: The Deceptions by Suzanne Leal

Friday, April 3, 2020 Permalink

I read Suzanne Leal’s The Teacher’s Secret when it was released in 2016. I enjoyed the novel and was particularly interested in the way Leal considered society (in general) via the microcosm of a small town.

Her latest release ponders similar societal issues, though subtly. It’s one that unfolds in two timeframes, during World War II (and immediate aftermath) and the present. Well, 2010 which apparently is a decade ago though doesn’t feel like it.

The thing I like most about Leal’s work and this book in particular, is that she also challenges readers, taking us to dark places and forcing us to consider complex issues. She doesn’t spoon-feed us life lessons or shove ethical and political / societal / cultural dilemmas of today down our throats, but they’re evident nonetheless and impossible not to ponder – perhaps long after we finish reading.

four-stars

Book review: The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester

Tuesday, March 31, 2020 Permalink

All of Natasha Lester’s novels have featured ground-breaking women. Those ahead of their time – battling society’s norms and often weighed down by the expectations of those they love.

Her books I’ve enjoyed most have probably featured women with more virtuous pursuits (and I don’t mean to imply beauty products/make-up or designing fashion aren’t lofty life goals). Her first book, A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald featured a woman battling to get into medical school in the early 1920s; her last, The French Photographer a female war photographer.

Her books unfold in multiple timeframes, usually the past and present(ish). Her latest, The Paris Secret is no different and is probably my favourite since her first. Not only did I enjoy the characters and their stories, but Lester’s writing is quite exquisite.

four-half-stars