Saturday, February 16, 2019

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green - Book Review


Insta-fame. If you’ve ever had it, wanted it or been intrigued by the viral potential of the internet, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is an absolutely remarkable read.

This is a great little book written by Hank Green who is no stranger to Internet fame himself, with more than three million subscribers to the Vlogbrothers channel he created on YouTube with his brother John Green (author of A Fault In Our Stars and other young adult fiction).

The premise of this story is fantastical but enjoyable – imagine if the mysteries and riddles of the Da Vinci Code involved a giant Transformer named Carl and played out in front of the entire world.

At its heart, this is a story about humankind’s ability to use the Internet to unite or divide us. I understand a sequel is currently in the works.

Have you read An Absolutely Remarkable Thing? What did you think?

Synopsis from Hachette Australia: If you came across an absolutely remarkable thing at 3 a.m. in New York City, would you walk away . . . or do the one thing that would change your life forever?

The Carls just appeared. Coming home from work at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship - like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armour - April and her friend Andy make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world, and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the centre of an intense international media spotlight.

Now April has to deal with the pressure on her relationships, her identity and her safety that this new position brings, all while being on the front lines of the quest to find out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

Happy reading! 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Lost Man by Jane Harper - Book Review


My home town of Adelaide has been HOT these past few weeks, reaching as high as 46.6C (116F) to become Australia’s hottest capital city on record. 

So I’m thinking Jane Harper will feel right at home weather-wise when she visits in March for Adelaide Writers' Week (I’m hoping to take the morning off work – any other Adelaideans planning to attend too?) 

Harper’s latest book, The Lost Man, reaches similar temperatures set in the relentless heat of a remote station in the vast Australian outback. She writes with a vivid sense of place and her depiction of distance, space, heat, isolation and loneliness oozed into my pores as I read this book, adding to the mystery as it unfolded.

Synopsis from Pan MacMillan Australia: The man lay still in the centre of a dusty grave under a monstrous sky.

Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland.

They are at the stockman's grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last chance for their middle brother, Cameron.
The Bright family's quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn't, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects...
Happy reading!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton - Book Review


I feel like I’ve just played a game of Cluedo while experiencing some form of mind-altering substance*. There’s some weird stuff going on in this book and I loved it!

Author Stuart Turton describes The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle** as a “time-travel, body-hopping, murder mystery novel”. It has been likened to Agatha Christie meets Gosford Park meets Inception meets Black Mirror meets Groundhog Day. What a combination!

This is a refreshingly original murder mystery with a clever and intricate plot. I had no idea what was going to happen from one page to the next and it kept me guessing to the end.

Concentration is required to keep up with the time changes and body-shifting, and it’s helpful if you can read it in large chunks.

Have you read The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle? I’d love to know what you think. Happy reading!

*Disclaimer: I have never played Cluedo in the presence of a mind-altering substance. But if I did, I imagine the experience would be similar to reading this book.

**Interesting side note: In the US, this book has been released with the title The 7.5 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. The additional 0.5 is to avoid confusion with a similarly named (but completely different) book released last year, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. An odd coincidence! 

Synopsis from Bloomsbury Publishing: We have work to do,' he says. 'I have a puzzle which requires a solution.'

'I think you've mistaken me for someone else,' I say. 'I'm just a doctor.'

'You were a doctor,' he says. 'Then a butler, today a playboy, tomorrow a banker. None of them are your real face, or your real personality. Those were stripped from you when you entered Blackheath and they won't be returned until you leave.'

Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden can identify her killer.

But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different person. And some hosts are more helpful than others...

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth - Book Review


I’d love to meet Sally Hepworth, I think she’d be a lot of fun (note to Pan Macmillan Australia: please include Adelaide in Sally’s upcoming book tour!)

The Family Next Door is a gem of a book. It’s easy to read with likeable characters experiencing everyday challenges of motherhood and career, with a few curveballs thrown in.

I enjoyed Hepworth’s empathetic approach to her characters mixed with her sense of humour and gentle wit.

I particularly recommend The Family Next Door for mothers with newborns to provide reassurance that your experiences are normal and comfort that you’re not alone.

I’m looking forward to Hepworth’s new book, The Mother-In-Law, to be released later this month.

Synopsis from Pan Macmillan Australia: Do you ever really know your neighbours?

The safest suburbs often hold the deepest secrets. Such is the case for Essie, a mother of two. In a moment of maternal despair she once made a terrible mistake, one she will always regret. Essie has since recovered, but she fears what may still lurk inside her.

Her neighbours in Pleasant Court have their own issues. Driven and organised, Ange appears to have everything under control, except perhaps her husband. Practical, intellectual Fran can't stop running. For exercise, or something else.

One day in February, during an unprecedented Melbourne heatwave, someone new arrives. Isabelle is single and childless, when everyone else is married with kids. She is renting, when everyone else owns. Her job is mysteriously vague. Strangest of all, Isabelle is very curious about her neighbours. Too curious, some might say.

It soon becomes clear that Isabelle's choice of neighbourhood was no accident. And her presence might bring even more secrets to light...

Happy reading!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens - Book Review


I’ve rewritten this review so many times. Oh, the pressure of doing this book justice! So in the interest of just getting it out there, here are three things I want to share about Where The Crawdads Sing:

1) Every summer for the past 30-plus years I have been fortunate to holiday on the south coast of South Australia, in a town called Goolwa by the Coorong. It’s where the River Murray meets the Southern Ocean, a landscape that includes river, ocean, sand dunes and wetlands, inhabited by birds and marine life. Where The Crawdads Sing has given me a greater appreciation for this coastal wilderness on my doorstep.

2) The Coorong is also the setting for one of Australia’s best loved children’s books. If you enjoyed Storm Boy by Colin Thiele as a child, you will love Where The Crawdads Sing as an adult. Delia Owens tells the story of Marsh Girl, a young woman who lives in the coastal marshlands of North Carolina in 1950s America. It’s a story about loneliness, resilience, coming of age, the beauty of our natural world….and a possible murder.

3) This is a beautiful, stunning, wonderful book. Please read it! As my first book for 2019 I’ve set the bar high. Have you read Where The Crawdads Sing? I’d love to know what you think.

Synopsis from Hachette Australia: For years, rumours of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl.

But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved.

When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life - until the unthinkable happens.

Happy reading!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel - Book Review


What would you do if your child told you that he or she wanted to live as a she or he? 

This Is How It Always Is explores this journey through the eyes of two parents wanting to do the right thing by their child. It’s such a delicate topic which Laurie Frankel addresses with empathy, warmth and compassion. 

Every parent should read this.

Synopsis from Hachette Australia: This is how a family keeps a secret…and how that secret ends up keeping them.

This is how a family lives happily ever after…until happily ever after becomes complicated.

This is how children change…and then change the world.

This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess. When he grows up, Claude says he wants to be a girl.

Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.

Happy reading! 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

One Day In December by Josie Silver - Book Review


If you feel like reading a good love story, One Day in December by Josie Silver will hit the spot. 

It’s sweet and endearing and, while a little corny at times, I couldn’t put it down. 

A great holiday read that’s reminiscent of Jojo Moyes and One Day by David Nicholls with a little bit of Love Actually and Notting Hill.

Synopsis from Penguin Books Australia: Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn't exist. After all, life isn't a scene from the movies, is it?

But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there's a moment of pure magic...and then her bus drives away.

Laurie thinks she'll never see the boy from the bus again. But at their Christmas party a year later, her best friend Sarah introduces her to the new love of her life. Who is, of course, the boy from the bus.

Determined to let him go, Laurie gets on with her life. But what if fate has other plans?

Happy reading!