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.
So much for starting the new year with a bang. First I published an overly-dramatic post about food and my weight. Then I accidentally got sunburnt when visiting the local pool for a friend’s birthday celebrations. (A no-no for me as my father ultimately died as a result of skin cancer. Sort of.)
But, as this morning rolled around and those gainfully employed prepared to return to work, I decided I’d start the year afresh and on a positive note. My university break was over and I’d already done the reading required for the coming week. I was due to head back to my over 50s exercise classes and my clothes were laid out ready.
I was part-way through My Best Friend’s Murder by Polly Phillips when it occurred to me it might be set in Australia. What I very much liked about that thought was not that it might be set in my home country, but rather it translated into any number of locations. An excellent idea for a debut author which would make the book relevant and relatable across a number of english-speaking markets. Of course there might (also) have been references to places or landmarks I missed or didn’t recognise!
I want something from food that it’s not giving me.
It’s been two years since I was employed full-time and I’m fairly sure I’ve spent most of that eating. In fact, it increasingly feels as if I am constantly scouring my cupboard and fridge for fodder but it’s finally come to a head.
Because nothing is tasty enough. Fulfilling enough. Nothing lasts long enough.
I enjoyed The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher more than expected. I think I’d assumed there would be some laborious backstory that resulted in Juno going to live with the Crouch family. That she obsessively idolised them in some single-white-female-stalker way (which she only does a little) or she’s coerced or kidnapped or similar.
Painting in the Shadows by Katherine Kovacic is the second in her Alex Clayton Art series. I met Katherine at the BAD Sydney Crime Writers’ Festival in September 2019 and she’d been nominated for a prestigious Ned Kelly Award for the first in that series, The Portrait of Molly Dean.
I bought that book soon after and very much enjoyed it. The Shifting Landscape was released in early 2020 and I assumed it was the sequel, forgetting about the time lag involved in award nominations. It wasn’t until I started that book I realised it was the third in the series and I’d missed one in between. That’s now been rectified and I’m glad I’ve read Painting in the Shadows as it’s probably my favourite in the series to date.
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.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m very bah-humbug about Christmas. I’m not Scrooge-like exactly but the entire thing leaves me kinda cold. Perhaps it’s because here in Australia we’re far from the traditional images we see on television of snow and crackling fires. Here – increasingly – Aussies are more about prawns on the BBQ or seafood by the beach.
Tell Me Lies is JP Pomare’s third novel and there’s always a level of uncertainty and suspicion about the unfolding plot. In the first of his books, Call Me Evie, readers were presented with characters offering different perspectives and unsure who to believe and trust. In the second, In The Clearing Pomare does someone quite clever with the timing and here… well, we know someone dies at the hands of someone else but Pomare cleverly includes snippets from media clippings and court testimony that could come from anyone at any time at all.