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: 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 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.

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four-stars

Book review: All our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton

Monday, September 28, 2020 Permalink

Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe was one of my favourite books of 2018. Possibly my favourite book. I’ve long been a fan of Dalton’s writing and though I avoid non-fiction, am generally riveted by his pieces in weekend newspapers. Articles or non-fiction essays about seemingly ordinary people and places, made extraordinary through his telling.

Dalton’s second novel, All Our Shimmering Skies is quite different to his first. It’s far more fantastic and mystical. It’s deeper and requires more intellectual translation in many ways. As my taste is fairly prosaic and comprehension very literal I was probably less drawn to the plot. The characters however, are as bewitching as I expected and (again) Dalton’s writing is beyond beautiful.

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four-half-stars

Book review: The Killings at Kingfisher Hill by Sophie Hannah

Thursday, August 20, 2020 Permalink

I’ve talked before about discovering Agatha Christie in my teens. I snapped up faded copies of her books from second hand stores when home from University and devoured them. They’re books I’ve kept and—when I had hour-long* baths—were the perfect bath-reading fodder as I could easily read the exploits of Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot in a sitting.

I was excited when it was announced that Sophie Hannah would be reviving Poirot. The Killings at Kingfisher Hill is the fourth book following Poirot’s resurrection. I commented in my review of Closed Casket that Hannah has a different style to Christie… the books are much longer, the crimes more complex and Poirot feels more verbose but it’s wonderful to be reunited.

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three-half-stars

Book review: The Patient by Jasper DeWitt

Tuesday, July 7, 2020 Permalink

It’s been a while between books set in psychiatric facilities. There seemed to be a spate of them for a while. Books about current or former ‘institutions’ featuring some of horrific practices of the past and those remaining today (well, at least in the more sordid settings popping up in crime fiction and thrillers).

The Patient by Jasper DeWitt is written as if a first-hand account (via online forum) by a Ivy League graduate who—for various reasons—accepts a posting at an old and obscure mental health facility in Connecticut.

Our lead Parker uses initials and pseudonyms to talk about a patient and colleagues he comes across at the facility. He’s arrogant and he’s open about—what he believes to be—his superior intelligence and insight. It could make him unlikeable but he also acknowledges this arrogance and is honest in revealing his misjudgements and failings.

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three-stars

Book review: The Silent Wife by Karin Slaughter

Wednesday, July 1, 2020 Permalink

The Silent Wife by Karin Slaughter is the tenth in the series featuring Will Trent, and though I’d say I’m a Slaughter devotee I somehow missed the last one or two.

Interestingly, for long term fans… this could almost be badged as a Grant County book as Jeffrey Tolliver, the (former) Chief of Grant County Police and headliner of that series (along with Sara Linton) features prominently. Which could be perplexing if you’ve read all of those books.

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four-stars

Book review: The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser

Thursday, May 28, 2020 Permalink

This book is garnering a lot of praise and it’s deserved. It’s bloody exciting. Heart-in-mouth pacing. The action does not stop.

I recently watched the new Chris Hemsworth movie, Extraction on Netflix. At the time I commented that it felt like one long action sequence. I’m someone who normally fast-forwards car chases and fight scenes… waiting for the dialogue to recommence. That didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the movie. I did, but it was what it was.

I felt the same about The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser. It is almost one long action-packed scene. It wasn’t until later I discovered the author is also a scriptwriter and a film based on the book is already under development. The Hunted is certainly a very visceral experience. So perhaps he visualised the entire thing, as if an action-sequence.

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three-half-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.

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four-stars