Book review: Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Tuesday, December 21, 2021 Permalink

I used to love Jodi Picoult’s books. Some felt a bit obvious or preachy, or perhaps overly spiritual but they were full of emotion yet subtly poignant. However… after some time they became a bit sameish and it felt like I was reading the same story, with different players and themes in a different setting.

Having said that I very much appreciated some of the themes she’s tackled in a nuanced way recently, such as racism in Small Great Things and women’s reproductive rights in A Spark of Light. I felt like her last book, The Book of Two Ways, was a bit of a departure and I’m afraid I put it aside, the detail of Egyptian history and language being too much for me.

Her latest, Wish You Were Here, is a difficult read to describe. You think it’s going to be one thing. But then it’s not. And for a while I really liked where it was heading. But then there’s a change of direction again. It was obviously an important book to her however and Picoult has written a note in the back describing why she felt impassioned to write it.

four-stars

Book review: Meet Me in the Margins by Melissa Ferguson

Sunday, December 12, 2021 Permalink

What a delightful read this was! It’d be easy to say that it’s predictable… which it kinda is, but I went into it expecting that. Wanting that. I needed a happily ever after.

The blurb suggests it’s You’ve Got Mail meets The Proposal. I’m not entirely sure how it relates to the latter other than being about the book industry but it also reminded me of The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary, in which love grows from notes left between two people sharing a an apartment – albeit at different times so never meeting.

three-half-stars

Book review: Happy Hour by Jacquie Byron

Friday, November 26, 2021 Permalink

Happy Hour by Jacquie Byron was a delightful surprise. It very much reminded me of other books I’ve loved, The Other Side of Beautiful by Kim Lock, Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray and  Saving Missy by Beth Morrey.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m ageing, but I appreciate books about older women (or men) and it’s a reminder that lives can be just as happy or messy or uncertain no matter whether you’re 20 or 70.

four-stars

Book review: The Little Cafe by the Lake by Joanne Tracey

Thursday, November 11, 2021 Permalink

The Little Cafe by the Lake by Joanne Tracey is the latest in a series of interlinked books – set across Australia, New Zealand and England.

These books and Tracey’s strength continues to be the relatability of her characters and the ease of her storytelling. I also appreciate that she paints players in shades of grey. Here there’s an unwelcome visitor and – though it’d be tempting to paint them in a cast them as completely villainous – she resists the urge, which has been the case in her previous books. And it’s surprising to find ourselves feeling sympathy or empathy for those responsible for others’ pain.

four-stars

Book review: The Five Year Plan by Jodi Gibson

Tuesday, September 14, 2021 Permalink

The Five Year Plan is the second book I’ve read by Jodi Gibson, who I know virtually through our shared love of reading and writing. Although this and her previous novel The Memories We Hide,  veer a little more towards romance than my usual reading fodder I enjoyed both. They’re quintessential summer reads. They’re comforting…. offering some reassurance that all will be well in/with the world.

In some ways you can predict how things will ultimately end up but it’s the getting-there that I very much enjoyed here, particularly as Gibson predominantly sets this in Bari, in Italy’s Puglia region. I’ve never been but (very) coincidentally was in Italy this time three years ago.

three-half-stars

Book review: The Other Side of Beautiful by Kim Lock

Wednesday, June 2, 2021 Permalink

The Other Side of Beautiful by Kim Lock was a delightful surprise. I particularly liked its lead, Mercy Blain. She’s in her mid thirties and well-established in her life and career, so relatable for me.

I’m loving the current trend of ‘normalising’ characters with quirks, phobias or mental health issues. Once upon a time it felt like they (we) were portrayed as victims or case-studies. Now their (our) idiosyncrasies and issues are merely part of who they (we) are. I commented in my recent review of Love Objects that I appreciated that the author, Emily Maguire, didn’t feel the need to rid her lead character of some of her obsessive (yet comforting-to-her) tendencies.

Here Mercy has become an agoraphobic – the result of a trifecta of things going badly in her life two years earlier. She’s barely left her house since but forced to do so when it burns down.

four-half-stars

Book review: How to Mend a Broken Heart by Rachael Johns

Sunday, May 9, 2021 Permalink

There’s often a bit of a discussion online in relation to the use of ‘women’s fiction’ to group books that mostly target female readers. I’ve got a long-buried post about the weirdness of it, given that we don’t say ‘men’s fiction’. And quite frankly I’d be insulted if many of my favourite crime fiction novels or thrillers were labelled thus. In some ways I’m torn about the issue*. I know some male readers and reviewers who do read books predominantly about women and women’s issues but at the same time recognise books like How to Mend a Broken Heart by Rachael Johns predominantly target female readers.

And here Johns offers us two leads for the price of one, with her latest novel centred equally around a mother and daughter at very different stages of their lives. She also introduces an older woman, who I very much enjoyed meeting.

four-stars

Book review: Escape to Curlew Cottage by Joanne Tracey

Wednesday, April 7, 2021 Permalink

I’m always nervous when I read a book by someone I know. Let alone someone I see as a friend. Thankfully every time I read one of Joanne Tracey’s books I come away a little agog – that someone I know could create something like this. Something magical. Something that makes me care. And something that makes me cry.

Escape to Curlew Cottage is loosely linked to Wish You Were Here, which I read in 2016. I spent much of last year in my self-absorbed little bubble so missed two books Tracey released in 2020, but her warm style of writing, her development of very real and likeable characters and yarn-spinning ability was exactly as I remembered. Although I didn’t remember that until I started reading…. if you know what I mean.

four-stars

Book review: Love Objects by Emily Maguire

Saturday, April 3, 2021 Permalink

Somehow I missed Emily Maguire’s popular and critically acclaimed An Isolated Incident so I was excited to receive her latest novel, Love Objects, for review. I realised as soon as I started reading that I wasn’t familiar with her writing. Her sentences are long, almost verbose*. And perhaps because of this, her prose is lyrical and quite lovely.

Very weirdly it was the second book I’d read about a hoarder in a couple of weeks. I’m not sure if the focus on minimalism has shone the light on its polar opposite or whether hoarder reality TV shows have inspired authors.

four-stars