Book Review: Ads R Us by Claire Carmichael

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This is one of those books where it seems like the author thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to write a book about the devastating effects of constant exposure to advertising?” but forgot that she needed a compelling story to go with it.

Ever since his parents died in a car accident when he was a baby, Barrett Trent has been raised by his uncle in a community called Simplicity. With a focus on sustainability and ethics, they farm their own food, reject technology and embrace knowledge. After his uncle dies in a ridiculously contrived incident, Barrett reluctantly goes to live in the “chattering world” (the city) with his aunt. Continue reading

Book Review: The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

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Oh, dear. My year of reading books by Australian female writers isn’t improving.

Deb, Trina, Eden and Joni have been friends since the start of high school and they’ve managed to stay friends through careers, husbands and kids. Once a year, they get together for a few days away from their families. This year, they have decided to write anonymous letters to reveal their deepest and darkest secrets without having to be judged. Except when the letters are finished, there are five. And the fifth letter is a doozy. One of the women harbours a murderous grudge against one of the other women. Continue reading

Book Review: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

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This year, I’m doing twelve reviews of books written by Australian female writers, starting with See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt. Some would say writing by Australian women is having a renaissance but that’s assuming it was ever this good before. There are so many stories getting a lot of attention, some rightfully, some less so.

I wish I could say this is one of those Australian female writers who deserves all the attention the category has been receiving but I found the book disappointing. On the back it says, “You know the rhyme. You don’t know the story.” I knew the story and this book doesn’t add anything to it. Not to the real story anyway. In fact, it adds a lot of fictional elements that just muddy the waters. Continue reading

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

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