That growing TBR pile …

I am guilty of taking books home from work because they sound FANtastic! They sound up my ally. They sound like the kind of books I will (one day) read. And I’m sure I will one day read them …

I type these words as I glance over to my overflowing bookshelf and the pile sitting next to the bookshelf. And the two piles of books sitting next to my tv. And the pile of books in my tv shelf. And if I move my head to the side a touch, I can see the growing pile of books on my bedside … AHHHH

Okay okay, so my immediate TBR right now consists of:

Kinda wanna read a fantasy tho .. aye aye aye – the struggle ๐Ÿคฃ What does your TBR pile look like right now?

๐Ÿ“ธ @shamelesspod

Book Review: ‘Sunbathing’ by Isobel Beech

I sit here, writing this review with a cup of Italian coffee and biscuit in tow. I do not think I could have a set up any more fitting. Isobel Beech has created a novel that draws you in from the very beginning. ‘Sunbathing’ by Isobel Beech, takes place mostly in Abruzzo, Italy. The setting is described in such an emotionally and physically connecting way that you feel the Italian breeze, smell the freshly cut tomato salad with basil and olive oil, hear the gurgling of fresh coffee on the stove in the morning, and can imagine the footfalls and efforts of love in the vegetable garden below your window.

I need to preface that this novel does surround the topic of suicide, therefore please read this review with caution and/or pop back onto the blog for another book review soon xx

“… ‘Sunbathing’ explores the workings of the self in the wake of devastation and deep regret, and reveals the infinite ways that the everyday offers solace and hope.”. Transcribed from the back cover of ‘Sunbathing’. In summary, this quote covers the essence of this novel completely.

After suffering the great loss of someone close, an Australian woman books a plane ticket to Italy. She is travelling to stay with her best friend, Giulia, and her fiancรฉ Fab, in their old stone village home. Isobel lets your mind wander as to the setting of this home, and I say home because this is the instant feeling the Beech portrays. It is a place of comfort, warmth, support and hope. We know there is a vegetable garden that Giulia tends to and waters from the buckets of water both the women go walking for every few days. We know that Fab is a writer and pops up to say “Ciao” whenever he hears his name being discussed, either inside or outside the home. We know Giulia and our female main character sit and talk over homemade meals deep into the evening, under the big shady tree in the back yard. We know our main character feels responsible for the loss of a significant figure in her life to suicide. We know that this feeling is one that plagues her mentally and emotionally. Her grief is incongruent to the way she believes is ‘expected’ of her – her grief does not follow a pattern.

It is incredibly unique how connected a reader can feel to the main character through the workings of their inner most thoughts and internal dialogue. The main character utilises online platforms to try and refresh her mind, yet only finds herself feeling more self-destructive after seeking it out. The online and in person conversations about suicide and taking ones life, she finds quite flippant. There is a sense of nobody knowing what she is going through, therefore nobody can help fix her and the significant shift to her life. However, the slow pace of life with Giulia and Fab in Abruzzo, learning to understand the language, making friends with a stray cat called Bric and taking care in planting, tending and caring for, then harvesting their own food and appreciating all it does for the human body, becomes her salvation. Day by day, the sun would rise, the coffee would boil and the routines would begin to heal her.

One of my favourite parts of this novel was seeing how the main characters perspective about Bric, the stray cat, changed over time. To begin with, Bric would only visit Giulia and Fab’s home every so often for food. He was more of a neighbourhood cat but this worried our main character. She was terrified that he wouldn’t return, he would become lost and starve. This became comparative to the loss of the significant person in her life. She felt that if she looked for Bric, fed him and cared for him, he would stay with her. Sadly, no matter how much nurturance and love she expressed to Bric, she couldn’t make him stay. Towards the end of the novel, our main character comes to accept Bric’s coming and going, taking the pressure off herself and understanding that Bric can only extend a portion of himself to her. Nor is he something she, and only she, can feel responsible for on her own.

I also really enjoyed the overarching concept of the old birthing room, turned guest bedroom, that our main character resides in while staying at Giulia and Fab’s home. Throughout the novel, our main character is rebirthing herself into a new person that lives with the loss and grief experienced in her life. It does not leave her completely, it just becomes a manageable part of the new person she’s growing into.

This is one of the most touching books I’ve read this year and I can see myself re-reading it in the future. It is surely one I will be recommending to my local literary book clubs. It is a novel to read with openness and care. I believe it is greatly worth it.

Book Review: ‘The Girls of Lake Evelyn’ by Averil Kenny

Before I jump into this book review, I would love to give one big hug and cheer out to Allen & Unwin, Echo Publishing and Averil Kenny for sending me this beautiful copy of ‘The Girls of Lake Evelyn’.

‘The Girls of Lake Evelyn’ is a story about a curse, a playwright and a runaway bride. It is a story that wraps you in hopes and dreams, and allows you as the reader to escape into a world where the essence of small community care, love and support trumps all adversity and challenge.

๐Ÿ’ฌ Let’s talk main characters:

Vivienne Brinsley is a high society young women living in Sydney at the beginning of the novel. It is the night before her wedding to Sydney’s biggest catch and high market man – yet she’s torn with feelings of dread and despair at signing up to a life she doesn’t truely want. Her mother cannot stand to listen to her discontent, so Vivienne turns to her Uncle Felix. Uncle Felix helps Viv escape her loveless relationship and expected life. He sets her travelling on a path to a small town in tropical North Queensland. Here Viv will find her confidence again, explore new friendships and possibly even fall in love with a rugged, handsome and hilarious dairy farmer, Owen.

Josie Monash is a small town gem! Even as a young woman, she has grown up to be a pivotal part of her community. Side stepping her dreams of city starlight and broadway, Josie has remained on her family dairy farm to take care of her Father and two brothers after her mother passed away. Josies’ Grandmother plays a big role in guiding her life choices and has always been a headstrong woman (maybe this is where Josie gets it from). Her Grandmother is determined to see Josie’s theatre directing skills have hit reviews in Sydney’s biggest newspaper. Her Grandmother can see such potential and how tirelessly she works to help others – now it’s Josie’s turn to bloom. So when Vivienne arrives to town and starts swimming in the cursed Lake Evelyn, Josie’s hit play seemingly comes to life.

โœ๏ธ Let’s talk plot:

Not so many years ago, a beautiful movie actress, Celeste Starr, tragically died in the lake and it spawned a curse that has plagued the town ever since. Josie’s play is set to uncover the true story behind the life of Celeste, yet it will not come without some adversity and unsettlement from community members. Lake Evelyn has been barricaded off for years now because of community fear. Josie is up against a number of people who do not trust Lake Evelyn and its ghosts.

As Josie persists with the play, people will begin to show their true colours. A number of characters are not who they seem and their small, unsettling parts in the novel, eventually surface what true motives lie beneath. Long kept secrets slowly reveal themselves in the most well paced and slow burning way!

โญ๏ธ Final thoughts:

I loved that this novel, much like Those Hamilton Sisters by Averil Kenny (click on the title to read my Author Talks with Averil). ‘The Girls of Lake Evelyn’ has all the good things you’re looking for in a time period novel. Drama โœ… Mystery โœ… Romance โœ… Perfectly paced reveals โœ… Escapism โœ…

I’m not lying to you when I say we have had to restock this novel in the book shop over 5 times now! Averil is a hit!! Her writing is DEvine and captures the reader with such lyricism that it becomes hard to put her novels down. I am so incredibly grateful to see, hold and enjoy another novel from her and can only predict that Averil is set to continue creating beautiful stories in the future. She is an instant purchase for me and I will be recommending her until the cows come home (๐Ÿฎ I hope this was an Owen approved pun!).

Book Review: ‘The Night She Disappeared’

I can safely say that since forming and leading our local Crime Fiction Fanatic Book Club, my standard of crime fiction reading has boosted. Anddd… maybe I’m becoming a little more picky and snobish about which crime fiction novels actually peak my reading interests. I believe these feelings are arising due to the variety of novels we’re choosing to read and discuss – I’m really starting to find which themes, plots and character perspectives I like to read.

‘The Night She Disappeared’ by Lisa Jewell follows three perspectives. Tallulah is a 20 year old woman, mother, social studies student and in a relationship with Zach. They share a one year old son, Noah. He is the sole reason their relationship has found new life. Tallaluh does not feel that Zach’s forceful and controlling behaviour in their relationship is something she can foresee for her long-term future.

Kim is Tallulah’s mother and we also hear from her. Tallulah, Zac and Noah are currently living with Kim and she sees them as a happy couple and family trying to make things work. Until, Tallulah and Zach go out for an evening to the local pub, leaving Noah at home with Kim, and there is no reason for them not to come home after an enjoyable dinner and a few drinks – so where are they at 1am and the next 24 hours? Kim starts to question how healthy Tallulah and Zac’s relationship actually was.

Sophie is new to the little english village where this novel is set. She is our third perspective. She’s a writer of detective novels and is currently in the process of trying to write her next book. Her and her partner have moved into temporary teacher accomodation (with some sneaky history to it, you’ll find out if the final chapter ๐Ÿ˜‰). Her partner is the new head teacher of the local college that Tallulah and Zac attended, and somehow, it’s a bit like their stay was set up … When Sophie comes across a note at her back gate saying “Dig Here” she is thrown into uncovering clues connected to the disappearance of Tallulah and Zac. Things start to play out a bit to much like her own crime fiction novels … IS somebody setting her up?

I won’t be giving too much away in this review, as I know some of my book clubs members read my blog and I don’t want to sway their reading process! However, what I will say it that this definitely wasn’t one of my favourite novels we’ve read this year. I felt it lacked something for my reading tastes and I wasn’t overly ‘wow’ed’ by the ending or characters. It did have good twists and turned but now, after reading around 6 crime fiction books this year, it’s hard not to start comparing. Our meeting, as it usually does, may change my point of view. Here are a few questions I intend to provide the group:

  1. How did you view Tallulah and Zac’s relationship?
  2. What did you think of Sophie being a crime writer herself and how this tied into the plot?
  3. Did you view Scarlett as a manipulative character or a product of her environment?
  4. Tallulah’s sexuality played a major role in this book. What do you think would have happened if her relationship with Zac continued?
  5. Arachnophobia: the extreme and intense fear of spiders. How did you predict this statement would tie in?

Happy reading folks! ๐Ÿค“