The Lady Has Wonderful Eyes

Sophie and the Sibyl
Patricia Duncker
Bloomsbury
June, 2015, RRP $29.99

Sophie and the sibylBefore I start I should mention that there are a few minor spoilers within this review. So if you are sensitive to that sort of thing best look away now.

A long time ago I read a historical romance in which the heroine had, unbeknownst to her family, run off to live with an artist—our romantic hero—with no discussion of marriage. At one point in the novel they went to visit the beautiful and spirited lady novelist George Eliot, who, if I remember rightly, bestowed some words of wisdom about living with conviction, or something. It was meant to make the heroine feel better about not following the proper path for a young lady of her time. Continue reading

On the Beat

Tennison
Lynda La Plante
Simon and Schuster
September 2015, RRP$39.99

TennisonA long time ago—back when the term ‘on a school night’ actually referred to a night before attending a learning institution—I remember sticking a tape into a VCR recorder to capture the rest of the first Prime Suspect mini-series. It was after all a school night and Netflix was not yet the tiniest twinkle in a TV addict’s eye. I don’t remember the series in great detail; Helen Mirren striding down a corridor to visit someone in the cells, Helen Mirren drinking more than she should, Helen Mirren yelling. Basically, Helen Mirren is about all I remember. Continue reading

A New York Tale

Paradise Alley
Kevin Baker
Perennial
2002

imagesParadise Alley is an epic novel tracing the events of the days of rioting in New York City in July of 1863. It follows a number of characters—refugees from the Irish potato famine, a escaped slave, a newspaper reporter and a child prostitute, to name but a few. Think of Martin Scorsese’s film, Gangs of New York crossed with the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution—only more violent and barbaric.

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Formation, Transformation

Tom Houghton
Todd Alexander
Simon and Schuster
October 2015, RRP$32.99

tom-houghtonGrowing up is hard, for everyone, no matter the circumstances. At least that’s the impression I have taken away, and taken comfort in, from the many creative expressions which delve into the experience of growing up and coming of age. This theme is also at the centre of Todd Alexander’s novel Tom Houghton. Continue reading

Justice for All

Ancillary Justice
Imperial Radch
Ann Leckie
Orbit Books
Oct 2013

ancilI started reading science fiction with a copy of ‘Ringworld’ by Larry Niven that my brother owned. I went on to read the classics: Asimov, Clarke, Silverberg. When I attended the science fiction/Fantasy fan club meeting at university, I argued strongly on the side of SF in the debates ‘What is better, SF or fantasy?’ Clearly, it’s science fiction! Duh. Why is this even a thing? Though this was that days before Harry Potter and Mieville; I might have to concede defeat on those fronts.

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Writers Aren’t People Exactly

WEST OF SUNSET
Stewart O'Nan
Allen and Unwin, RRP$29.99
June 2015

West of SunsetEver find that you read one book about an era, event or group of people, and are then bombarded with a multitude of other books centred on the same theme. For me, I am never sure whether my book trends are actual publishing trends or mere coincidences. I suspect my current trend of books about the Jazz Age—more specifically the leading couple of that age, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald—is an actual publishing trend. It definitely feels like one, right?

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The Best Botanist on Mars

THE MARTIAN
Andy Weir, narrated by RC Bray
First Published 2011 (Self Published), Audio Version: Podium Publishing March 2013

The MartianI had a google fail recently and thought that The Martian the movie was being released in Australian cinemas in November—and so with this review would be giving you all a good lead time to read the book The Martian before watching the movie. Turns out the Australian release date is actually October 1st, so there goes that plan.

Well, you still have two days to cram in listening (or reading) Andy Weir’s novel The Martian before the movie based on Weir’s book, and starring Matt Damon, comes out on Thursday. The audiobook is a little under 11 hours, so it will be a bit of a push, but doable—especially once you get sucked into the life or death struggle of our Astronaut hero, Mark Watney, stranded alone on Mars. Continue reading

The Shadows of Suburbia are Long

THE LIVES OF WOMEN
Christine Dwyer Hickey
Allen and Unwin/Atlantic Books, RRP $27.99
May 2015

the lives of womenSome books have language that submerges the reader into their world from the first sentence. The Lives of Women by Christine Dwyer Hickey was one such book for me. One moment I was cracking open the cover for the first time wondering what was to come, the next I was ensnared in the world of our narrator Elaine.

As an adult Elaine has returned to care for her invalid father in her childhood home, a place where her teenage life remains a ghostly overlay. The landscape of family and the family home are clearly spaces which Elaine has been detached from—both emotionally and physically—for many years and it is time to unravel the cause of this detachment. The adult Elaine’s narrative is interspersed with snippets of her younger life as a teenager coming of age in a suburban estate during the 1970s and her life as an adult in New York and Paris. The different threads of Elaine’s life slowly reveal the tragedy which occurred during her last summer living with her parents. Continue reading

Being Cruel to be Kind

THE KINDNESS
Polly Samson
Bloomsbury Circles, RRP $29.99
May 2015

the_kindness_4Last year I wandered to the cinema with my housemate, and regular movie viewing buddy, to watch the film adaption of the latest book sensation Gone Girl. I was breaking my own rules of not reading before watching but I didn’t think it would matter so much as, one: rules were made to be broken, and two: I don’t read much in the crime or thriller genre anymore. Or so I said then.

The movie of Gone Girl was actually really absorbing (colour me surprised) and it got me thinking about dipping my toe back into what I label ‘twisty’ fiction. Though not technically crime or thriller, The Kindness by Polly Samson fits into the purview of the Edie-created genre of ‘twisty’ fiction and so down the rabbit hole I went emerging a very happy reader. Continue reading

Never Judge a Book by its Cover, Literal vs Philosophical Applications

A YEAR OF MARVELLOUS WAYS
Sarah Winman
Hachette Australia/Tinder Press, RRP $29.99
July 2015

Winman

 

Never judge a book by its cover.

Ok, that is both a useful and true statement in many ways but, to be perfectly frank, I love an appealing book cover and I really don’t care if that makes me seem shallow. Many a time I have run my eye over a shelf, or table, or pile of books, and it has come to rest on a particularly interesting book cover—be it the colour, the font, or the image—and this has been the introduction to another joyful reading adventure. And this visual shallowness is how I came to get my hands on a copy of Sarah Winman’s new novel, A Year of Marvellous Ways. The blue page-ends, and then the cover image caught my eye, and that was that. Continue reading

Love and Leather… and Vampires

The ShadowsThe Shadows (Black Dagger Brotherhood Book 13)
J.R. Ward
Piatkus, March 2015, RRP $29.99

I can’t remember if I’ve already outed myself to the MRB readers as a romance genre reader. In real life everyone knows, and are mostly accepting, though I get a few comments about ‘those shirtless dudes’ on the covers.* As a genre, romance is huge, and made up of a multitude of subgenres. Thus finding your way into the genre, let alone into the subgenres can be a really tricky process. One of the large sub-genres that has been extremely popular over the last few years is paranormal romance. Vampires, werewolves, zombies and a whole host of other supernatural creatures have all made their appearance in different iterations.

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The Grand Sophy

THE GRAND SOPHYGrandSophy

Heyer, Georgette (The Book Club, edition 1951 (orig 1950), ISBN – n/a)

I was at a social event back in the 1990s and someone was reading a copy of The Grand Sophy.  Soon there was a collection of us standing around laughing and giggling in reminiscence of it’s amusing scenes. The boyfriend of one of the girls wandered over to see what we were talking about.

“Oh,” he said. “A romance book.” And he attempted to walk off. The poor man, he never understood till then exactly how offending a bunch of nerds can go down so very badly.  He was sat down and lectured for about two hours on the merit of Georgette Heyer and how, while romance was part of it, it was a genius comedy he was dissing out of hand. I believe I recall his feeble excuse was that his mother had some Georgette Heyers. We all then agreed his mother must have excellent taste in books. Continue reading

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