Book Review: The Girl Before by JP Delaney

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Unreliable narrator warning! If you hate being lied to in your literature, do not read this book! Especially since it’s possible not a single character can be trusted.

Emma is the recent victim of a violent break-in who no longer feels safe in her apartment, so she and her boyfriend Simon are looking for somewhere new to live. After turning down everything within their budget, they are shown one last option: the minimalist, open plan apartment at One Folgate Street where everything is controlled by technology – security, lighting, water, heat, everything. There are no keys or taps or light switches; the house is “aware” and an app on a phone and a program on a laptop are how everything is accessed. Simon isn’t keen but Emma feels safe in the fortress-like environment. Continue reading

Book Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

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This is another one of those books that I only picked up because everybody else has read or is reading it. It’s nice to be able to report that quite a good proportion of the hype is justified. It’s certainly easy to see why Netflix were falling all over themselves to turn it into a movie.

Lara Jean Song Covey is the middle sister of three Korean-American girls. Her father is an OB/GYN and her mother died quite a few years ago so they’ve got their routine down pretty good now. Margot, the eldest, is the organisational expert, Lara Jean is her somewhat competent assistant and Kitty, the youngest, isn’t expected to do much yet. But that’s about to change because Margot is going away to college in Scotland.

But before Margot leaves, she breaks up with Josh, her boyfriend of two years who also happens to be the boy next door, because of something her mother said many years ago: never go to college with a long distance boyfriend because you’ll miss out on too many experiences. Which is all well and good for Margot. But Lara Jean is left behind with a heartbroken neighbour who is also one of her best friends. And if she’s honest, she’s always had a little bit of a crush on Josh herself. Continue reading

Book Review: Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah

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This is the first book by Sophie Hannah I’ve read and it will be the last. There may be an interesting mystery hiding in it somewhere but the execution is a massive fail, huge dumps of exposition, characters inexplicably figuring out the complex story in their minds with vague evidence and half-page monologues masquerading as dialogue. Continue reading

Book Review: Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility – The Screenplay & Diaries by Emma Thompson

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I found a mint condition first edition copy of this book in a second-hand store and snatched it up before anyone else could get their hands on it. It’s full of colour stills from the film, behind-the-scenes pictures from the sets, the screenplay (there are differences from the final film, no doubt due to last-minute directorial and editorial changes) and Emma Thompson’s witty and wonderful musings in her unique position as both screenwriter and lead actress.

Her Oscar-winning screenplay of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility was a labour of love and years in the making. Unlike variants of Pride & Prejudice, which are subject to endless debate on which is the best version, this is the unequivocal and unquestioned pinnacle of Sense & Sensibility adaptations. Continue reading

Book Review: Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty

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This is the second Nicola Moriarty book I’ve read and even though she is probably better known as Liane Moriarty’s sister, her work is more like a poor cousin. It must be hard to be endlessly compared to your more successful sister but I suppose that’s the risk she takes in writing such similar suburban stories without the deft touch that Liane displays.

Poppy, Annalise and Frankie all work for Cormack Millennial Holdings. Poppy is adamant she doesn’t want children and she thought her husband felt the same way. So she’s shocked when he and her best friend, Karleen, announce they’ve been having an affair and they’re going to have a baby. Annalise, who is happily child-free as well, steps into the vacancy left by Karleen and soon she and Poppy are spending all their time together, playing on the same soccer team, drinking at the pub and setting up a private Facebook group for women who don’t want children where they can vent about mothers who think they own the world.

Frankie is a mother of two with more on her plate than she can handle and a husband who doesn’t pull his weight. And even though she’s a member of a private Facebook group for mothers, she joins Poppy and Annalise’s group under a pseudonym where she enjoys pretending to be child-free. It’s one of the few pleasures in her busy life.

When the Facebook group for mothers gets wind of the non-mothers’ group and that they’ve been encouraging their members to stand up to mothers they think are lording their parental status over them, a game of tit for tat that starts online moves out into the real world. And when a blog post written anonymously appears, it’s clear that there’s a mole in Poppy and Annalise’s private Facebook group. And just like that, the women are at war.

If the characters in this book were teenagers, the things that they do might have been understandable but coming from grown women, they are petty, catty and juvenile. As a result of that, none of the characters are really people you want to spend time with. Because Poppy’s husband betrayed her, we’re supposed to be on her side but she’s not that interesting as a character. Annalise’s story is probably the more remarkable one but the way it is executed lets the whole book down terribly. And when Frankie’s kids go missing because of a missed message, it starts to feel very similar to Truly, Madly, Guilty, Liane’s book released two years before Those Other Women.

The story is supposed to be a commentary on how women should support each other regardless of their individual circumstances but the sisterhood is done a disservice here. The book starts slowly, the characters lack complexity and it all just goes on way too long without the poetic ending it needs to justify being forced to spend so much time on it.

I get the feeling that this is a book that will appeal to mothers because they will recognise their lives reflected on the page and the judgements they are constantly subjected to. I just wish it was a better tribute to them.

2 stars

*First posted on Goodreads 17 December 2020

Book Review: Poppet by Mo Hayder

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It’s been a good long while since I’ve read a Mo Hayder book but as soon as I picked this up, it felt like it had been no time at all. It’s nowhere near her best book but if you like Jack Caffery and Flea Marley, you’ll fall back into their stories with ease. But if you don’t know who Jack Caffery and Flea Marley are, then this isn’t the book to start with because it references lots of events from previous books in the series. Continue reading

Book Review: The Stalking of Julia Gillard by Kerry-Anne Walsh

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In 2010, Julia Gillard became the first woman Prime Minister of Australia after an internal Labor Party leadership spill. In 2013, Kevin Rudd returned to the top job he had been deposed from in the same way. What happened in between was a masterclass in backstabbing aided by a press corps with an agenda and few journalistic ethics. Kerry-Anne Walsh, a former political adviser turned reporter turned communications consultant, was taking detailed notes along the way.

It’s clear from the start that this isn’t a traditional political biography. Walsh is obviously left-leaning (having worked for the Labor Party in the early eighties) and her tone throughout is a mixture of biting sarcasm and disbelief at the decline of her former media colleagues, in particular how they seemed to be steering the news instead of reporting it (particularly fascinating in the context of how news consumers in 2020 are becoming more aware of the undue influence being peddled by Rupert Murdoch’s News organisation and other conservative publications). Continue reading

Book Review: Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff

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Boy, oh, boy, this is not going to be a book for everybody! If you’re looking for a standard political history, you won’t find it here. Not because of the writer but because of the people he is writing about. This is what politics would look like if the cast of The Bold and The Beautiful were suddenly in charge of running the US. This is about appearances, power, money and keeping your enemies very close so you can stab them in the back when the time comes (and it always comes eventually). Continue reading

Book Review: Quota by Jock Serong

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This book reads like it’s written by someone familiar with the realities and banalities of the Australian legal system. The problem is that Jock Serong has included it all in the story instead of filtering through them and including only the parts that make a great story.

Charlie Jardim is a prosecution lawyer on the outer. After calling a judge a heartless, corrupt, drunk, old prick during court proceedings and spending two nights in the cells on contempt charges, almost nobody wants to work with him and his mortified girlfriend (also a lawyer) has returned the engagement ring he gave her. (“I’m not going to give you that crap about it being me, because it isn’t,” she says. “It’s you.”) So he’s surprised when he’s assigned as junior counsel for a murder case in a little country town. Continue reading