Book Review: Hell Island by Matthew Reilly

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Hell Island was released in 2005 as part of the Books Alive promotion – the only way to get it at the time was to buy another Australian book in order to receive it for free. Given Matthew Reilly’s popularity at the time, it was a brilliant idea. People (including me) were desperate to get their hands on it. (I bought a Phryne Fisher book by Kerry Greenwood – didn’t like it but love the TV series that is based on the book series.) That was when I first read it.

The story is part of the Shane Schofield narrative, Reilly’s heroic US Marine who always seems a little smarter, a little stronger, a little more strategic than everyone else around him and one hell of a survivalist. In the Schofield chronology, it takes place after Scarecrow and before Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves but is easily removed from it. And enough is regurgitated to make this a stand-alone book. Continue reading

Book Review: Something Missing by Glenice Whitting

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Glenice Whitting is the master of character studies. I’ve read both of her novels now (the latest being Something Missing, the first being Pickle to Pie) and if there’s one thing she surpasses almost all other writers in, it’s unravelling the intricacies of people living ordinary lives.

In Something Missing, the two main characters living ordinary lives are Diane and Maggie. Diane is Australian, a hairdresser, has a daughter from her first marriage, is onto her second marriage and is travelling in outback Australia with her family. Maggie is American, an unacknowledged research assistant to her academic husband, mother to two grown daughters and thirty years older than Diane. When they cross paths on their travels in the 1970s and exchange addresses, it’s the start of a decades-long pen pal friendship. 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: Paula and Me by John “JJ” Jeffery

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Full disclosure time:

*I was engaged and paid to edit this book (although that means I’ve read it five times so I feel very qualified to review it).
*JJ and my father worked together and played football together during their twenties (about forty years ago and before I was born so JJ and I have never physically met).
*This is the first autobiography/memoir I’ve read in a long time so I have nothing to compare it to. I guess I’ll just have to review it on its own merits.

Told in linear chronology, Paula and Me is the story of John Jeffery’s life. It starts out ordinarily enough, a little boy growing up on the fringes of a big city’s suburbs, riding bikes, kicking a football, spending as much time with his friends as possible, bored by school and dreaming of some kind of adventure. It’s terribly evocative of the innocence of the 1950s and 1960s, of times that now seem alien to us. But it’s also obvious that it is simply building up to something else because, as JJ admits in the introduction, “the story of my life is – for the most part – the story of my life with Paula.” Continue reading

Book Review: The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

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I’d never heard of this book until it was made into a movie but it’s so often the case these days. I haven’t seen the movie, which is the way I like it, so I can do a review rather than a comparison. It’s surprising that I hadn’t heard of it, though, because it was written by my father’s best friend’s daughter’s husband’s aunt. Less than seven degrees of separation and yet…

Perhaps the reason I hadn’t heard of it was because, despite the hype, as a story it’s really nothing exceptional. Pleasant, yes. Unregretted, yes. Exceptional, no. Continue reading

Book Review: I Came to Say Goodbye by Caroline Overington

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This doesn’t happen to me often but there is a moment in this book when my jaw dropped open, like a scene from a cheesy, poorly-acted TV movie, and stayed open and I couldn’t close it. I had to cover my mouth with my hand until the ability to move my face returned to within my control. There aren’t too many books I can say that about. There aren’t too many things in life in general I can say that about.

I Came to Say Goodbye is the second Caroline Overington book I’ve read. I was extremely impressed with the first one, Sisters of Mercy, and you can read my review of that book, too. I keep doing this thing lately, which is being in the middle of a long and difficult book and thinking I’ll just read something else for some light relief and then choosing, unknowingly, to read a book that might be less dense but offers no relief at all. Continue reading

Book Review: allmenarebastards.com by Allison Rushby

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There are some books that are destined not to be remembered and allmenarebastards.com falls into that category. Not because it’s bad. It’s okay. But because it isn’t timeless. It’s about a very specific period in time. It’s a little like the Sue Grafton books with Kinsey Milhone dropping off reels of film for photographs to be developed. It was published in 2000 and its foray into the online world is dated now – the sounds of the dial up modem, having to disconnect from the internet to make a phone call, people having “homepages”. The world has come a long way since then.

Gemma, our main character, and Sarah are typical late twenty-somethings, unlucky in love, drowning their sorrows in Friday night margaritas and keeping a list of every bastard who has ever done them wrong. It’s twenty pages long, stained and falling apart, so to ensure its continued existence, Gemma decides to put it on her homepage. Overnight, it becomes an internet sensation. Before long, it’s a website of its own (with the same name as the book) and Gemma gives up her freelance graphic design job to become its full-time administrator as the advertising revenue begins rolling in. Continue reading