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

Book review: Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray

Thursday, March 11, 2021 Permalink

Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray is being compared to Gail Honeyman’s popular 2017 novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and I’d also suggest similarities to The Truth and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris and The Cactus by Sarah Haywood.

The likeness—I suspect—is drawn because the lead character Amy is quirky. And rather prickly. She’s a hoarder and her life has become so focused on her accumulation of things that she’s retreated into herself and her home, and adept pushing people away.

four-stars

Book review: The Family Doctor by Debra Oswald

Thursday, March 4, 2021 Permalink

I was surprisingly devastated by the events that open The Family Doctor by Debra Oswald. The author sets them up well and they trigger everything that comes after. I was worried however, that what did come next would be predictable: a cynical and distrustful woman driven mad by guilt and sadness and committing vengeful acts as a result.

Thankfully however, the book wasn’t at all like that. The two leads Oswald gives us are fabulously nuanced. And fears I had regarding ‘the family doctor’, GP Paula, being overly obsessed and paranoid were unfounded.(TW: domestic and family violence)

four-stars

Book review: The Valley of Lost Stories by Vanessa McCausland

Wednesday, December 2, 2020 Permalink

The Valley of Lost Stories by Vanessa McCausland arrived wrapped with a gold bow and handwritten note from the author. It was a lovely gesture from Vanessa and Harper Collins and an acknowledgement that 2020 has been pretty shitty for almost everyone and we should grasp any glimmer of light and joy we can get.

I read McCausland’s The Lost Summers of Driftwood last year and enjoyed it though took umbrage at a couple of references to the fact a character in her late 30s must have felt like a failure because she didn’t have a partner or child.

Her new novel similarly traverses women’s fiction – a group of women and the problems in their lives with parenting, relationships and their identities – but with a little suspense thrown in.

four-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.

four-stars

Book review: Kokomo by Victoria Hannan

Saturday, August 1, 2020 Permalink

I’d had Kokomo by Victoria Hannan for quite a while before I picked it up to read. It’d been garnering a lot of praise from from bookstagrammers, bloggers and reviewers so—although the cover looked like something out of Fifty Shades of Grey—I decided to give it a try.

three-half-stars