Book Review: ‘Love & Virtue’

Where do I start with this one … I really feel like many more reviews will do this book justice and be able to articulate the pleasurable feeling and satisfaction of fine literature this book provides. I will say that my perspective is one from the outside.

I have not lived a life of luxury, much like Michaela.

I have not lived a life of dominant feminist perspective or political projections thrust in my face like many characters within this novel.

I have not lived a city, elite and/or privileged life. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware of how privileged I am for living where I do, experiences and opportunities in my life yet in comparison to some expressions and environments in this novel – they truely baffle me (maybe that’s the small town girl in me). What is more baffling, is that these places, events and types of personalities exist within the world. Basing this book in Sydney had a large impact on my perspective of elite social classes and their impact on society.

‘Love & Virtue’ by Diana Reid is an Australian debut novel. One of many stella novels to come from the new kids on the block, Ultimo Press. They are picking up and supporting bold, fresh and impactful Australian writers and they truely knew what they were doing with this one.

The focal themes in this novel are power, privilege, consent and well, love. We love who we love, even when their actions seek to destroy our sense of being. Michaela and Eve have an instant female friendship at university living across from one another in their dorms. This is their commonality yet their lives are completely parallel. Eve is transfixed, shines as the centre of attention and seeks to make an impact in this world – she wants change, particularly in the space of sexual consent and public recognition in their Sydney girls college. Eve believes that her writing and influential abilities on campus deem her the most appropriate person to share Michaela’s sexual experiences in her drunken O-Week. One experience that Michaela was still uncertain of her own standpoint, which in my eyes represented the misinformation of sexual consent and sexual behaviour within the realms of alcohol consumption and college/university behaviour. This, I believe was written well.

The voice of Michaela is so strong in this novel that I found it incredibly hard to remove myself from her talking and thinking. From listening to her navigate both friendship and intimate relationships, succumbing to the opinion of others and attempting to take a step back and view her world from an outside perspective when you’re stuck in this whirlwind/secluded world of privilege. Her character was so unique yet so perfectly placed for juxtaposition that you couldn’t not understand her point of view in comparison to Eve – subtile yet so clear. Social media and the power of technology is also evident and clever within the structure of this book – I liked the contemporary use of texting and Instagramming as dialogue.

I am temporarily leading our Literary Lovers Book Club and I had chosen this for our October read. I think it has challenged me and opened for a wide variety of conversational topics at our meeting. Some questions thus far will be:

  1. Did you connect with the primary voice of Michaela?
  2. What impact do you think the novel would have had being told from Eve’s perspective?
  3. Was there a scene that stood out to you the most? (I won’t tell you mine because it’s a spoiler***!)
  4. Do you think connecting sexual consent to a campus setting was a good move? Why?
  5. What are some of the ways Diana Reid represented elite privilege in characters, events and environments?

All in all, I really REALLY enjoyed this book and if I didn’t have so many books on my TBR, I’d safely say I’d go back and re-read this novel. I’m looking forward to discussing these questions and more at my book club meeting. Oh, and a HUGE congratulations to Diana Reid and Ultimo Press – what an epic way to burst onto the Australian book scene and get Australian society talking about timely topics that need serious attention!

Book Review: ‘100 Remarkable Feats of Xander Maze’

Oh Xander Maze, what a special and long-lasting place in my heart you’ve got. ‘100 Remarkable Feats of Xander Maze’ by Clayton Zane Comber has flown up there on my top 3 list of Australian Young Adult novels. I finished this book in four sittings as it’s amount of dialogue, perfectly paced character experiences/developments, as well as its heart-warming plot really pulled me in – and QUICK!

Xander Mazes’ Nanna is his #1 person he trusts in his life. His curated ‘Memory List’ includes numerous happy, warm and safe memories with her. But Nanna is terminally ill and has recently moved into end of life care. Xander recognised this new environment of Nanna’s because it has less beep and whir noises than the regular hospital. Xander notes that he will have to make a new mental map of this hospital layout while Nanna is a patient.

Nanna suggests Xander make a list of ‘100 Remarkable Feats’ and ticks them off in the wish it can help his Nanna feel better, yet Xander interprets this as a way he can help save his Nanna’s life and prevent loosing her forever. This list soon goes viral (thanks to the help of his clever Nanna) and Xander’s world is about to change.

Making a best friend, having a ‘yes’ day, asking out Ally (#1 prettiest girl ever), driving a car for the first time, learn to surf, go to a party, befriend weird neighbour Mr. Abramowitz, make Nanna proud – are just a few of the 100 feats. Xander’s development and journey is hard to draw your reading eyes away from. His innocence in the beginning really helps mould his character and maturity throughout the novel. I kind of felt like a proud Mum reading this book. I’m proud of what Xander achieved with his list and how it allowed him to bloom in this new world he created with the help of new friends and family.

I look forward to the day that I can visit Clayton Zane Comber’s book store/cafe ‘Bouqiniste’ in Kiama, NSW! I also look forward to reading more of his work. Okay now that’s me signing off to read ‘The Gilded Cage’ by Lynette Noni πŸ‘‹πŸΌ

Bookish Recommendation

I’m all about comfort when I’m reading. I will squirm, switch spots, cross and recross my legs and then huff that I’m in a good spot but then forget where I sat my coffee. Squirm, switch, cross, recross and huff I go again! Seriously, the life of a reader πŸ™„πŸ€£

Essentially, what I’m saying is that comfort is key to immersing yourself in a good book and feeling content. I recently researched, compared and purchased the most fabulous staple for book worms – a Reading Cushion!

Where did you get it Mel? Pillow Talk Australia or pillowtalk.com.au

How much was it? I purchased this striped, soft grey reading cushion at full price, HOWEVER, it is currently on sale for $47.95 (I would jump on that!)

How often have you actually used it? I’m not joking with you when I say that every time I pick up my book, I also pick up this reading cushion (see the handle). I’m hiking this bad boy with me everywhere!

Perfect for sitting perched up in bed, relaxing on the couch, or maybe even on the lawn while reading in the sun. I’m obsessed – you might be too!

Book Review: ‘Wandi’

‘Wandi’ is an Australian Junior novel that is beautifully written, descriptive and heart-warming. It shows pure connection between animals and humans. This new novel is perfect for ages 8 (good reader) and up.

Favel Parrett has broken into the Junior Fiction scene what a statement and her adult, award-winning literary writing really brings Wandi’s experiences to life.

Wandi is an a baby Dingo snatched from his home in the mountain. He is separated from his family and familiar surroundings with no idea of how to get back. A great eagle has clawed his back in the action of snatching him and Wandi is left injured and alone. He is soon discovered by a Human. This is the first Human that Wandi has smelt and seen before. His Mum and Dad always warned him of Humans, saying that they hunt dingos like Wandi for sport. It was cruel and unfair. Wandi was worried about this Human but the Human was kind, gave him warm hugs and made him feel safe and comfortable enough to fall asleep.

This Human lead Wandi on an important journey, one where Wandi was introduced to more dingos in a big dingo reservation. For a long time, Wandi felt different and like he didn’t fit in and that’s because he didn’t. He was special. He had special colours, special grub finding skills and special instincts. He was a rare species of Dingo that needed to be preserved. Wandi soon found another dingo – a female dingo, who was the same as him and had started to feel, as he did, that this new home wasn’t so bad. They got fed, they were comfortable, they had love and they were safe.

This story was SO beautiful – for both children and adults. It is short, snappy and displays such a strong perspective of what it is like, from an animals perspective, to be moved into a new home and environment. I really think that children will resonate with this story and find those special connections between animals and humans as something to learn from. It is also super important to mention and acknowledge that Wandi is actually a real dingo! He is a real Pure Alpine Dingo from the Victoria Highlands in Australia. He now lives a happy life at the Dingo Discovery Sanctuary in Toolern Vale, Victoria.

Book Review: ‘The Silent Patient’

I want to start by saying that if you choose to pick up this book, you will have it finished in either one sitting (if you’re spending the day reading) or in a matter of days. It was fast-paced, cliff hanger at the end of every chapter and twisted just the right amount to keep you guessing – but then totally shocked by the ending. ‘The Silent Patient’ is the first book, in a long time, that I HAVE NOT seen the ending coming. This impresses me – mainly because I am knocking over a book a week at this point in my life and most consist of pretty predictable story lines. This was predictable in some ways – yes, but it also had me gasping at the final reveal of who, what, when, where and why!

Alicia Berenson has been silent for 6 years. It has been 6 years since she shot her husband, Gabriel in the face five times. What provoked her to to this? Why was he tied to a chair in their home when shot? Who influenced her decision? How has she not uttered a single word for 6 years yet been convicted of first-degree murder, referred to a mental institution and now sits in front of Theo Faber for a criminal psychotherapist session. Did she actually commit the crime?

Theo Faber has his own troubling past with relationships and is drawn to Alicia. Even more so when he discovers that his wife, Kathleen has been cheating on him with a younger, more fun version of himself. Throughout the book he follows and observes their meetings, yet never confronts either of their infidelity. In an unprofessional manner, Theo starts to dive deeper in the psychological and emotional motives behind Alicia’s silence and actions. What his finds creates a gripping, page-turning and suspicious number of suspects who have good reasoning to have thrown Alicia into the firing line.

I’m telling you, I was left reeling by this book. No joke, I sat in my reading chair just thinking, thinking, thinking. How did I miss this plot?! How did I not piece it together?! This was my Crime Fiction Fanatic Book Club pick for September and I am really looking forward to discussing it with my group. I’m making a big statement here and saying that it has been my favourite read of our book club yet!

Friday 24th September 2021

“You worked hard for this”

I found this online last night by @devsdoodlesco and it resonated with me. I don’t think we, as busy, bustling humans take much time to acknowledge where we’ve come from to where we are now. I try my best not to dwell on the past, depending on circumstance and the impact this has had on your current life/wellbeing/outlook. HOWEVER, I do think it is essential for us to be proud of what we have overcome in, gosh, even just the past year. The amount of resilience each and every person has within them is astonishing.

So maybe for today, before we start our weekends – try and reflect on where you’ve been and where you are now. It might help you feel a little lighter for your sunny weekend enjoying your hobbies, drinking coffee and seeing friends and family. It may even spark a little feeling of gratitude.

Book Review: ‘Defy the Night’

βœ… Addictive

βœ… Great plot lines and tropes

βœ… The beginning of a new series (which I will become addicted too!)

Defy the Night is a brand new novel from Brigid Kemmerer. If you are familiar to my reading tastes and blog, you will already know that I devoured Brigid’s trilogy ‘A Curse so Dark and Lonely’ not that long ago. I am officially a hard-core fan and will be reading any fantasy books she creates. I was lucky enough to read a pre-release of this new book through work.

The kingdom of Kandala is on the brink of disaster and life-threatening illness. Tessa and Weston have seen the illness first-hand and have become determined to help those who slip through the cracks and cannot afford medicine. Tessa and Wes live in the Wilds, or supposedly πŸ˜‰. Tessa is an apothecary and has adapted her late fathers elixir to make it go further and help heal more people. The elixir is made from Moonflower petal and it’s becoming extremely hard to find. Her and her smuggling partner, Weston Lark, make late night ‘runs’ to deliver the elixir but their actions are considered treason in the eyes of Kandala’s royal sector. One night, Tessa is riled with anger and determination to make change. She expresses to Wes that it’s time to lead a rebellion and take action regardless of the life-threatening danger. Wes goes on the run alone that night and he doesn’t return.

Bundled with despair, shock and anger with the loss of Wes, Tessa sneaked into the Royal Palace to seek out the King. She wants a chance to make change and maybe just a piece of revenge. What Tessa finds is not to be expected and from here we are honestly kept on our toes at the end of every chapter. Wes is not who he seems and throws the plot, politics and romantics into a spiral. A good spiral!

As rebellion breaks, Tessa and Wes are caught in a pull and tug of needing to keep up appearances yet doing what they believe is right. We’re introduced to a series of characters that play pivotal parts in keeping Tessa and Wes’ secrets, as well as supporting them through potentially fatal suspicion. We see royal trading politics and struggle for power. We question why the King is struggling to fight the ‘sickness’ and who is behind the planning of rebellious actions.

The romance element was great between Tessa and Wes. Of course it’s clichΓ© but hey, that’s why we read these types of books. They make you warn and fuzzy with imaginary ‘love to hate’ tropes. Give this a try if you want to be absorbed in a book this weekend. It was fun, fast-paced and gripping. Come back and tell me what you think!

Book Review: ‘The Mother Wound’

“I have no words for this memoir – only this:

Whatever your gender or sexuality, read this.

Whatever your culture, religion or ethnicity, read this.

If you’re a human activist, domestic violence activist or women’s rights activists, read this.

God damn, if you’re an Australian politician and have legislative power for change – READ THIS BOOK!

We can’t create change unless we listen and learn.” (This is my caption from Instagram)

Amani’s story is so strong and important that it becomes truely challenging to separate yourself from the numerous events she recounts. It is also hard to ‘rate’ a memoir as I really think that every persons story is important – maybe that is the Social Worker in me.

Amani takes us on a journey through her childhood in a Lebanese/Australian household and family unit. Her parents relationship stuck her as upsetting, disordered and controlled at times but never threatening. Amani’s mother also confided in her, being the eldest of 3 daughters, about her father’s behaviours and comments from a young age. This made Amani weary and conscious of the fact that her mother was unhappy. As she grew older, her insight into the controlling nature of her father grew but only when she was 5 months pregnant did the tragedies of domestic abuse really hit hard. Amani’s mother was murdered and her family was now caught in a web of Australian legislations, horrible family delusions and a new form of motherhood, alone.

I don’t want to share too much of Amani’s story as I really feel that I will not do her memoir justice. Needless to say that domestic abuse surrounded and attempted to absorb her life. If I ever met Amani, I would just want to give her a big hug and say ‘My god, you are so strong’. I really recommend every person should read this book in an attempt to understand the devastation domestic abuse causes to ALL people, regardless of nationality, language, socioeconomic status or class.

‘The Mother Wound’ is hands down one of the best books I’ve read this year.

My 5 highly anticipated September New Releases πŸ“š

New release time in the book shop is always a highlight for me. The mountain of books continue to grow and grow. The environment swells and readers eyes light up when seeing their anticipated books hit shelves – I’m one lucky girl to see those anticipated books as soon as they jump out of a box. Here are my 5 highly anticipated September new releases:

‘Defy the Night’ by Brigid Kemmerer

“In a kingdom where sickness stalks the streets and only the richest can afford a cure, King Harristan and his brother Prince Corrick are forced to rule with an iron fist. Tessa Cade is a masked outlaw marked for death, but she likes it that way. Together with the mysterious, handsome Weston, she robs from the rich to help the poor, distributing food and medicine to those who need it most. As it becomes clear that the only way to save her people is to assassinate the King, Tessa must face a deadly mission that will take her to the dark heart of the kingdom … and force her to work with the very people she intended to destroy.”

I was incredibly lucky to get my hands on a pre-release edition of this novel. I was thrilled to learn that Brigid Kemmerer had a new series on the way as I adored her trilogy ‘A Curse so Dark and Lonely’. I have made a start on this one and I’m surprised to see that it has some Covidy elements to it. It seems like a lot of YA fantasy and contemporary will be pulling on our recent climate for inspiration in world building and environment.

‘Love & Virtue’ by Diana Reid

“Whenever I say I was at university with Eve, people ask me what she was like, sceptical perhaps that she could have always been as whole and self-assured as she now appears. To which I say something like: ‘People are infinitely complex.’ But I say it in such a way–so pregnant with misanthropy–that it’s obvious I hate her.
Michaela and Eve are two bright, bold women who befriend each other their first year at a residential college at university, where they live in adjacent rooms. They could not be more different; one assured and popular – the other uncertain and eager-to-please.
But something happens one night in O-week – a drunken encounter, a foggy memory that will force them to confront the realities of consent and wrestle with the dynamics of power.
Initially bonded by their wit and sharp eye for the colleges’ mix of material wealth and moral poverty, Michaela and Eve soon discover how fragile friendship is, and how capable of betrayal they both are.”

Now this one folks, is pretty exciting! Through my work I was invited to jump on a zoom meeting with the one and only Diana Reid and her publishers, Ultimo Press. What an incredibly talented human being and now debut author Diana is. Said to be the Australian Sally Rooney, I am very much looking forward to seeing how Diana has crafted life at university through the lens of women my age. Seriously pre-order this one book lovers, it’s going to be HUGE!

‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’ by Sally Rooney

“Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a distribution warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend Eileen is getting over a break-up, and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon are still young-but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?”

Now I haven’t actually read any Sally Rooney myself. I have ummd and ahhed about reading her debut novel, ‘Normal People’, (I watched the mini-series #whoops) but for some reason my brain keeps saying, no don’t do it – it is too literature for you. I know her stories are hard hitting but blurry at the same time which I don’t always enjoy in a novel. ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’ has already been a stand out this year in pre-orders and now it has hit shelves. I am mainly thinking of reading it to see what all the hype is about …

‘Build Your House Around My Body’ by Violet Kupersmith

“1986- The teenage daughter of a wealthy Vietnamese family gets lost in an abandoned rubber plantation while fleeing her angry father, and is forever changed by the experience.

2011- Twenty-five years later, a young, unhappy American named Winnie disappears from her new home in Saigon without a trace.

The fates of these two women are inescapably linked, bound together by past generations, by ghosts and ancestors, by the history of possessed bodies and possessed lands. Barrelling through the sweaty nightclubs of Saigon to ramshackle zoos, colonial mansions and haunted forests, Violet Kupersmith’s heart-pounding fever dream of a novel deftly combines Vietnamese history and folklore to create an immersive, playful, utterly unforgettable debut.”

Emma Roberts the awesome actor, actually runs a feminist/intelligent woman/inspiring/culturally diverse book club called Belletrist (you should really check out some of their picks). This is her September read and my gosh, doesn’t it sound gooooddd!!

‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’ by Florence Given

“Florence Given will explore all progressive corners of the feminist conversation; from insecurity projection and refusing to find comfort in other women’s flaws, to deciding whether to date or dump them, all the way through to unpacking the male gaze and how it shapes our identity.

Women Don’t Owe You Pretty is an accessible leap into feminism, for people at all stages of their journey who are seeking to reshape and transform the way they view themselves. In a world that tells women we’re either not enough or too much, it’s time we stop directing our anger and insecurities onto ourselves, and start fighting back to re-shape the toxic structures of our patriarchal society.”

Now when I saw this land in store, I was so pumped! ‘This Small Edition’ is a brand-new shortened version of Florence’s most important and poignant points throughout her book Woman Don’t Owe You Pretty. For those of us who are short on time (me πŸ‘ˆπŸΌ) and has over 50 book on her TBR (meπŸ‘ˆπŸΌ, hehe) finding an awesome short and sweet version of this book was a must-have!! A friend of mine originally recommenced this to me and suggested I follow her social media – I highly recommend you do the same. She’s a real change driver and helps you to start rethinking all we have been taught in a male ruling society.

3 DNF’s (did not finish) in August

Reading tastes are like a wave, they come and go, they morph and evolve. And you know what readers, this is okay! In my opinion, it can mean that you are growing as a person 🌱 What you may have enjoyed a month, 6 months or a year ago is now different. It can also mean that your environment or situational experiences at the current time of your book selection just didn’t correlate with your feelings at the time. And again, this is okay! Books draw you in at different times of your life – that’s why I find it hard to let go of them πŸ˜‰πŸ“š

Legendborn by Tracey Deonn

At the moment, this YA Fantasy isn’t for me. Myself and a lovely friend were planning on marathoning this book for the month of September but sadly, it’s not gripping me.

I give a book 100 pages before sinking my teeth in and settling in for the reading ride. I gave this 111 and still wasn’t feeling connected. The magical language, environment and events of the first 100 pages lost me… I will give it another go soon.

Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane

I was looking for a romance book, then it turned sad! REAL QUICK! This isn’t a bad thing and I can see that the book has potential. I’ve laughed and been left thinking about some scenes throughout this book but again, it wasn’t giving me the feels I was looking for.

DNF’ed for now. I purchased this on Kindle when it was on sale, therefore I am not overly upset about setting it aside. It will stay on the Kindle until it jumps out to me again.

Careless by Kirsty Capes

Now, now, now – this book is temporarily on hold but I am determined to finish it! A debut novel with stunning reviews, young adult challenges and first person fictional experience of the foster care system in the UK. These are all topics that interest me, yet at the moment I’m looking for something with quick, fast-paced and immediately immersive writing. This has beautiful lyrical writing that I want to savour. I’m sadly just not wanting that in my reading this month therefore, Careless is staying very close to my bedside and ready to resume next month πŸ“š