Book Review: Blackbirch – The Beginning by KM Allan

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I follow this author’s blog and I love the confidence she conveys on her website. Blackbirch, her debut novel, doesn’t have quite the same poise but you can see where she was trying to go and hopefully she will get there as the series continues.

I was given an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) in exchange for an honest review of this book. I read the ARC. It was okay. I wrote a review saying that. I offered the author the option of not posting it. She didn’t accept, which I thought was very gracious, but asked me to hold off on posting it until after the official release of the book. And then I watched as she posted tweet after tweet about all the changes she was making in the lead up to the release date. If it was changing that much, I didn’t think it was fair to post the review I’d written. So when the book came out, I bought a copy and read it again. I’m glad I did. It’s not an entirely different book and it’s not perfect, but it was enough of an improvement to make me want to rewrite my original unposted review. Continue reading

Book Review: First Person by Richard Flanagan

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I keep getting sucked into reading these books of Australian “literature”. Yes, okay, it’s my own doing and I do it in the hopes that one writer will redeem the rest of his or her colleagues. I’m still waiting for redemption.

Kif Kehlmann is an aspiring writer from Tasmania. Married with a young daughter and twins on the way, he’s plugging away at his first novel but he’s lucky to write a few hundred words a day and that’s mostly because he’s not very good and knows it, even if he refuses to admit it. To pay the bills, he works odd jobs for the local council and as a labourer. It’s the early 90s and mortgage rates are skyrocketing; he doesn’t know how he’s going to make the required repayments, especially once he gets fired from his council gig.

Then late one night, he gets a call from an old friend. Ray works as a bodyguard and general dogsbody for Siegfried Heidl, a conman who’s been arrested for a $700 million bank fraud. The money has disappeared, never to be repaid, and Heidl has six weeks before he’s going to jail. He wants to write his memoirs in the meantime and he needs a ghost writer. Continue reading

Book Review: One Way by SJ Morden

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This book has such an interesting premise but I suspect it will be endlessly compared to The Martian by Andy Weir and it doesn’t quite stack up.

Franklin Kittridge is serving a life sentence in prison for killing his addict son’s drug dealer. His wife divorced him soon after he was jailed and he hasn’t seen his son since. Franklin is sure he did the right thing, the only thing he could, but jail is alternatively boring and violent. So when he is offered the opportunity to leave, he takes it. Continue reading

Book Review: Company by Max Barry

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Max Barry is the king of satire and this is another in a long string of his books that deserves high praise. But the problem with satire these days is the world is so ridiculous that satire now resembles the horrible reality. So anyone who has ever had a job will read the first half of this book and recognise the hell that is being an employee. Continue reading

How Much of Our Characters Are Really Ourselves?

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When I was ten years old, I was in a car accident. My mother, stepfather, siblings and I were on a freeway driving out of the city after visiting my grandparents when a drunk driver side swiped us.

Considering it happened over three decades ago, I still have a pretty clear memory of it. The car was a green and creamy white van, possibly ex-army, with lots of khaki double bench seats and an aisle down the right side. Big families need big cars. Because there was so much room, we kids tended to move around a lot, even while we were in transit. Because of that, we weren’t always wearing our seatbelts when we should have been. Continue reading

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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I can’t quite figure out this book. There’s a lot of young adult, more than a smidge of chick lit and loads of mystery. It’s also beautifully written. But the most interesting character is frequently ignored by all the others as well as the author and so much of her is left unexplored and unexplained.

Mia Warren and her teenage daughter, Pearl, have just arrived in Shaker Heights, Ohio. It’s a planned community, a little progressive but a little Stepford at the same time. They rent a home from the Richardsons and immediately become entangled in their landlords’ lives. Mother Elena is a local reporter, father Bill is a lawyer and the kids are spoiled and mostly ungrateful. And the youngest, Izzy, is also frustratingly rebellious. The book opens with her burning down her family home (she sets “little fires everywhere”) and then rewinds to the day the Warrens moved into town to show how all the events before lead up to that moment. Continue reading

Book Review: How to Make a Movie in 12 Days by Fiona Hardy

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This book has the best crafted opening chapter I’ve read in a long time. From there it settles into a pleasant middle grade novel with enough touches of brilliance to make up for a few problematic areas.

Eleven-year-old Hayley is obsessed with films and wants to be a director. She and her grandmother were writing the script for a horror film about a killer rose bush, which her grandmother was also going to star in, when she unexpectedly died. Hayley is devastated. But part of Hayley’s inheritance is a brand new video camera so that she can start making her movie. Hayley suggests to her mother that they throw a party to celebrate her grandmother’s life and screen the movie at it. The only date they can get at the function hall leaves Hayley just twelve days to film all the scenes, edit them together and finalise the movie. Thus the title of the book. Continue reading