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 ๐Ÿ‘‹๐Ÿผ

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!

Book Review: ‘Defy the Night’

โœ… Addictive

โœ… Great plot lines and tropes

โœ… 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰. 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 clichรฉ 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.

Book Review: ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’

I gave into the hype, I did it and I’m telling you … I really, really don’t regret it. If you have been hesitant like me about reading the ridiculously loved, discussed and recommended novel ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owen – I am here to vouch that this book is great! Buy it, loan it, read it and let’s talk about it ๐Ÿ˜โœจ

Clever. That is my overarching word, expression and summary for this book. Not only has Delia Owens written in a descriptive yet simplistic way, she has allowed us as the reader to connect with Kya who is our main character. We are also strongly invested in the death, or supposed murder of Chase Andrews.

Kya’s life isn’t easy. Her father has strong symptoms of PTSD, domestic abuse and alcoholism. Due to her family living within the deep marshland of North Carolina, the neglectful family environment goes unseen and unknown. Kya’s mother walks out on her uneducated, poor and scared children. Eventually, Kya is left to fend for herself and her father – constantly in a state of pining, grief and hoping her mother may return to the marsh. Eventually, her father also leaves and so Kya is left to completely fend for herself. We see her develop hands-on environmental intellect, sufficiency and resilience from a very young age and well into her teens – where she meets Chase Andrews, ‘the town golden-boy’.

Shifting back and forward of time is something I really enjoy in period novels. Delia Owens has perfected the technique as it provided the reader with suspicion, curiosity and a number of motives as to why/when/how/who may have been involved in Chase Andrews’ death.

The love expressed throughout this book – oh, how good it is!! Over time, Kya was exposed to and learnt how to feel supported and cared for by multiple people. It wasn’t just the assumed modern ‘love story’ scenario. Slang, twang and small town community culture/gossip held this novel in a different light. As the story takes place in the mid-1900’s, African American culture is hugely ostracised and rejected. Kya finds that her reputation as the ‘Marsh Girl’ pockets her in the same category – largely leading to the accusations and theories that spread about her and Chase.

Poetry, mother nature and the interesting scientific facts of insects, birds and animal relationships, really do complement the story. Clever – as I said at the beginning. Trust me, it will all make sense when you read it (which I throughly encourage you to do)! Reece Witherspoon was also behind the push for movie production/ book adaptation of Where the Crawdads Sing. I can’t wait to see this on film in 2022 ๐Ÿ“ฝ๐ŸŽž

Book Review: ‘Thread Needle’

August 2021

If you’re looking for a magical, witchy and addictive read, Thread Needle by Cari Thomas definitely needs to go on your TBR ๐Ÿ”ฎ

Thread Needle was recommended to me by a new friend out of my book club. Her and I have similar reading style and have bonded over our mutual love for everything Sarah J Maas. She said that Thread Needle was one of her favourite witchy books she’s read in a long time and … I have to agree with her.

Anna is our main character and has lived a quiet, simple and restricted life with her Aunt. Anna has always been told that her parents died due a tragic scenario of love and murder, where her father was held guilty of killing her mother. Aunt says the feeling of love is a curse and her parents deserved what they got. But why does her Aunt keep doors locked, wants to stop Anna using her magic and refuses to ever give her a straight answers?

Soon to turn sixteen, Anna is aware that the time to ‘bind’ her magic is inching closer. By binding her magic, Anna will be unable to cast spells, explore magical languages or tap into her Hira, a witches personal thread to their own unique magic. Anna can feel her magic resisting, twisting, knotting and itching to come out, but Aunt insists her magic will have deadly consequences. Unsure of her magical fate, Anna hides behind her ‘Nobody’ status at school until she meets Effie and Attis.

Effie and Attis open her eyes up to the magical London within Anna’s grasp if she refuses bind her magic. Anna explores secret shops that sell memories, rumour spells, evil curses, magical libraries and covens. Her confidence grows leaving her quiet non-magical life behind. I think this magical adventure was well-paced, unique and refreshing for the genre of ‘witchy fantasy’. I am always wanting to read a good witch story as I think they make for such interesting and creative plots, language and characters. Thread Needle is expected to be part of a series and I really think I will be quick to pick up the second book. There was a YA feeling to this story but with the addition of some sex scenes and romantic angst, I see why it has been categorised as Fantasy. However, I would recommend this book to mature readers, 16 and up. Overall, a really enjoyable read โœจ

Book Review: ‘The Tribute’

August 2021

John Byron is a debut Australian Crime Author. The Tribute was our August book for my Crime Fiction Fanatic Book Club. We were all excited and anticipating this read as it’s out first ‘serial killer’ esk type of crime fiction. The Tribute has also been shortlisted for the Victorian Premiers Literary Awards of 2021. This inaugural award recognises Australian literacy for its writing, reading and standout factor.

The Tribute surrounds seven killings taking place in modern day Sydney. Each murder is displayed as a dissection, with a specific body organ or system being focused on by the serial killer. His planned, professional and sickening murders are inspired by and recreated from the Fabrica, the 16th-century foundation text of modern European anatomy.

This multi-perspective thriller/murder mystery had be gripped at the beginning. We meet Murphy who one of the main homicide Detective’s on the case. Murphy was a challenging character to read from as his air of male dominance, feminist-hate type behaviour, coercive control in his marriage to Sylvia, and persistent alcoholism makes him quite an unlikeable voice. As I believe, John Byron has purposely done. Flipping and seeing the story from Sylvia’s perspective at times also encourages the reader to gain insight into the manipulative control, questioning and uncertainly domestic abuse can inflict on a woman. Jo, who is Murphy’s sister is also a main character. She is a well educated woman in the field of Art History and teaches at the local university. Due to her increased knowledge around the Fabrica, the State Commissioner has funded her as a resource on the serial killer case – much to Murphy’s dislike as he refused to be shown up by any woman, including his sister.

The use of the Fabrica, I have to say was extremely clever, well researched and a unique element of this novel. I throughly enjoyed how interwoven the serial killers thinking patterns, plannings and actions connected to this historical resource. Sadly, at some points I did feel that aspects of the plot were predictable. I wasn’t kept at a gripping pace or in a page-turning frenzy to get to the end of this book.

I am interested to hear the thoughts of my book club soon. Did they feel slightly let down as I did? Did the despise Murphy as much as I did? Do they think that the women of this story got the justice they deserved in the end? Were they shocked by the ending?

Have you read this book? Comment below!

Book Review: ‘The Wattle Island Book Club’

August 2021

Sandie Docker’s novels always feel like a warm, comfortable and familiar hug to me. I am immersed in them within the first 3 chapters and next thing you know, I’ve been reading for an hour and have myself totally invested in the characters, their challenges and their experiences to come.

The Wattle Island Book Club is a dual perspective story following the wonderful Grace and Anne (with an e, just like Anne of Green Gables ๐Ÿ˜Š). We’re initially introduced to Grace and she is strapped in to bungie jump off a cliff! Writing and curating ‘Bucket Lists’ has always been a tradition for her and she believes that life is full of unexpected curve balls and challenges, therefore it is time to start ticking off some of these adventures. Grace is a librarian and prides herself in the founding and organising of library bookclubs. She gives regular recommendations, offers support and lives to help her members. One day she receives a call from Anne in need of her immediate assistance.

Anne’s character is multi-dimensional as we follow her life in present time, as she works to resurrect her Wattle Island Book Club, and in the past through the period of the 1940-50’s Australia. Anne is made an orphan from a young age and is shipped off to Wattle Island to live with her Aunt. The small, quiet and isolated island prompts her love for reading to grow. Anne’s life has been full of love, loss and trauma as we learn throughout the book and I really resonated with her character – she was so strong and still so kind!

The elements of book clubs, reading lists, book shop and art were so well woven into The Wattle Island Book Club, that I wouldn’t have asked for a better lockdown read. Sandie’s writing takes me away and puts my mind at ease. I always find myself finishing her novels too soon (this one before it is even published!!) and desperately craving more!

Sandies other books are:

The Kookaburra Creek Cafe

The Cottage at Rosella Cove

The Banksia Bay Beach Shack

All of which I have throughly enjoyed and would highly recommend ๐Ÿ“š