Book Review: The Last Grand Passion by Emma Darcy

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Just to round out a couple of months devoted to romance novels, I’m going to review some Mills & Boon books that were a formative part of my young adult reading experience. That sounds a little weird but I am talking about the latter end of my teenage years. I don’t read romance anymore but I have reread these books for the purpose of these reviews. Enjoy!

*****

I first read this book more than two decades ago and included it on a list of my top ten books about fifteen years ago, writing, “Although romance isn’t always high class literature, it can have an actual plotline that means something. This is the kind of novel I aspire to write, with believable conflicts and an ending that makes your breath catch and your heart skip a beat with the absolute beauty and perfectness of it.”

The problem is that those are the only things to recommend it. There are a few books I’ve read that while I was reading them, I didn’t like them at all. And then because of a surprise ending that was jaw-dropping, it made me forget about the fact that I didn’t actually like the book. The Last Grand Passion falls squarely into this category. Continue reading

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Book Review: Freedom to Love by Carole Mortimer

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Just to round out a couple of months devoted to romance novels, I’m going to review some Mills & Boon books that were a formative part of my young adult reading experience. That sounds a little weird but I am talking about the latter end of my teenage years. I don’t read romance anymore but I have reread these books for the purpose of these reviews. Enjoy!

*****

This is the first Mills & Boon book I ever read. For some reason it was in the library at the senior campus of my high school and whenever I had a free period or nothing better to do, I would sit in the aisle and read it (circa the early to mid-1990s). Continue reading

Book Review: An Imaginary Life by David Malouf

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I first read this book in high school because it was one of many on that year’s reading list and it was chosen by the powers that be as one of four all students in my grade would study. I didn’t have great memories of it or any memories really and having read it again, I know why: it’s one of those books that make teenagers think they hate reading when really what they hate is poorly chosen books. Continue reading

Book Review: The Insult by Rupert Thomson

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What a strange, strange book this is! It suffers from many problems but the biggest is that the blurb in no way resembles what it ends up being about.

It opens in a medical clinic where Martin Blom wakes up to people telling him he’s been shot in the head and he is now blind. His neurosurgeon tells him that one of the potential complications is hallucinations as his brain adjusts to its inability to see. Then one evening as he’s wandering through the gardens of the clinic, Martin realises he can see in the dark. He’s completely blind during the day but the darker it gets, the better his eyesight is.

This is where the book’s first problem becomes obvious. The neurosurgeon has told him that he might hallucinate but Martin is convinced that what he’s seeing is real. So the reader is torn between wanting to believe and struggling to. The unreliability of the narrator is a constant concern. And when Martin’s paranoia kicks in and he starts to believe he’s actually part of a high-level experiment, you really don’t know what to think. Continue reading

Book Review: Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler

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I’ve racked my brain for a perfect one-word description for this book and the best I can come up with is this: pointless. It’s one of those books that is easy to read because it’s really well written. So clearly Anne Tyler knows how to write but given the complete absence of plot, I don’t think she knows what to write.

Back When We Were Grownups is narrated by Rebecca, a middle-aged woman trapped in her own life. Married at twenty after abandoning her high school/college sweetheart fora much older man who mesmerises her during a two-week courtship, she becomes an instant stepmother to three daughters, gives birth at twenty-one to a biological daughter and then is widowed at twenty-six when her husband dies in a car accident. Continue reading

Book Review: Kat Jumps the Shark by Melinda Houston

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Oh, with a title like that, Melinda Houston was just begging for poor book reviews to come rolling in!

For anyone who doesn’t know it (although surely everyone does by now), the Fonz jumped a shark while water-skiing in a latter season of Happy Days and it is considered to be the point at which pretty much everyone realised the show had its best times long behind it.

This book suffers from a pretty common problem – it’s a novel about the television industry written by someone who has worked in the television industry. Just like those novels written by actresses about an actress trying to make it in Hollywood. There’s a common saying to “write what you know” but often these types of books become inside jokes – only the people on the inside get it. And I suspect that’s the case here. Certainly the quote on the front cover from Kat Stewart, the well-known Australian actress, seems to suggest this. She calls it, “An irresistible cocktail of intrigue, egos and insider information.” Take out the word “irresistible” and I might agree. Continue reading

Book Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

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There are a lot of things that I just don’t understand why other people like them: Justin Beiber, Justin Beiber’s music, Justin Bieber’s hair, Game of Thrones. Unfortunately (I genuinely mean that, I am genuinely disappointed that I didn’t like this book more), I am adding Will Grayson, Will Grayson to the list.

The novel is narrated in alternate chapters by Will Grayson #1 and Will Grayson #2 (thus the title), two teenage boys struggling through their formative high school years. Will Grayson #1 is straight, single and attempting not to care about anything as a means of protecting himself from getting hurt. Will Grayson #2 is gay, desperately in love with his internet boyfriend and managing his depression diagnosis with medication and his mother’s help.

Perhaps a little strangely then, this isn’t actually Will Grayson’s story. It’s not even the other Will Grayson’s story. Both Wills are just supporting characters in a tale about the overweight, gay football player and musical enthusiast, Tiny Cooper. Tiny is Will Grayson #1’s best friend and Will Grayson #2’s potential love interest. Continue reading