Only daughter – Anna Snoekstra

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In 2003, 16 year old Rebecca Winter disappeared. 11 years later, a woman comes forward claiming to be Bec. The woman sleeps in Bec’s bed, plays with Bec’s brothers, and connecting with Bec’s parents. But as the woman becomes more involved in Bec’s life, she realises that things aren’t as they seem, and she may be in danger herself.

I was really excited to get my hands on this book after having it recommended to me by a classmate. The storyline reminded me of “Pretty Baby” by Mary Kubica. However, I found myself quite disappointed when I finished reading.

As I read the book, I felt the darker aspects of the story coming through – the lead-up to Bec’s disappearance, and what the woman experiences as she integrates into Bec’s life. When reading the story through Bec’s eyes, when she felt the hairs of the back of her neck stand up, I felt mine standing up too. I started to become a bit anxious about Bec, wondering what was going to happen to her. I also felt the anxiety for the woman as she delved into Bec’s life, and started to discover what had happened.

There wasn’t a lot of character development in the story – I learned as much as I was going to about the characters in the first 50-100 pages of the book. They were written in a way that lead to instant first impressions, and these impressions didn’t change for me as the book went on.

There were a few twists and turns in the story, however the ending, I felt, was disappointing. It had what I considered to be a bit of an open ending, and felt quite rushed. Even the lead-up to the ending was a bit hurried.

This book could easily have been longer. I would have appreciated more detail, a bit more character development, and an ending that tied the story together. While I enjoyed the storyline, it’s not a book that I would read again.

Venice – Nick Earls

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Venice is about love and the tensions that pull us apart: the love between Harrison and his uncle Ryan, who is in need of a person to belong to, Natalie, who is pulled between her art and her heart, and Phil’s awkward stilted love. Think, Nick Hornby’s About a Boy.

Quite an enjoyable novella! This novella, the second in a series of 5, is beautifully written and thoroughly enjoyable.

Ryan is a man who is down on his luck. He lives with his sister Natalie, her husband Phil and their son Harrison. Natalie is an emerging artist, and Phil is a dentist. Ryan and Harrison embark on a road trip to collect something for Natalie’s exhibit, and forge a strong bond.

Nick Earls has a way of writing novellas with a great amount of detail. When I finished reading Venice, I felt like I had read a 400-page novel! The descriptive language and the characters are fantastically written, and you really get drawn into the story. This novella will stay with me for some time.

Gotham – Nick Earls

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Published as Cargoes in Griffith Review 50 Tall Tales Short—The Novella Project III, Gotham tells of the encounter between music journalist, Jeff Foster and ‘boy pharaoh’, Na$ti Boi. It reveals how hollow celebrities cast their spell. Think, Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe.

Quite an interesting novella! This novella, the first in a series of 5, is beautifully written and thoroughly enjoyable.

A music journalist, Jeff, spends an evening with rapper Na$ti Boi. Although the story only covers a short amount of time, we get a really good insight into both characters and their lives, both personal and professional.

Nick Earls has a way of writing novellas with a great amount of detail. The descriptive language and the characters are fantastically written, and you really get drawn into the story. I felt like I was there, observing the character interactions! Gotham is a touching story that still sits with me.

The Good People – Hannah Kent

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Nóra Leahy has lost her daughter and her husband in the same year, and is now burdened with the care of her four-year-old grandson, Micheál. The boy cannot walk, or speak, and Nora, mistrustful of the tongues of gossips, has kept the child hidden from those who might see in his deformity evidence of otherworldly interference.

Unable to care for the child alone, Nóra hires a fourteen-year-old servant girl, Mary, who soon hears the whispers in the valley about the blasted creature causing grief to fall upon the widow’s house.

Alone, hedged in by rumour, Mary and her mistress seek out the only person in the valley who might be able to help Micheál. For although her neighbours are wary of her, it is said that old Nance Roche has the knowledge. That she consorts with Them, the Good People. And that only she can return those whom they have taken…

Another fantastic novel by Hannah Kent! I was very lucky to find a copy of this book at a library – it is quite popular!

Nora Leahy has lost both her daughter and her husband in the same year, and is left alone to care for her grandson, Micheal. Micheal cannot walk or talk, and as Nora finds herself struggling to care for him, she hires Mary, a 14 year old girl, to help.

Nance Roche has the knowledge. She has a connection to the Good People. She uses herbs and potions to help heal those who need her help. Nora and Mary seek out Nance’s help to heal Micheal, who they think has been taken by Them.

This novel is emotionally powerful, and it really draws you in. I felt that I was an observer in this story, and saw myself in the environment – feeling the mud on my feet, the heat of fire, the icy cold of the river. I found myself actually being in the story as a character in the background, rather than just reading the story.

Hannah’s writing style really draws you in. The story is quite intense, and not something you can read in only one or two days. However, it is really easy to follow, even as the narrative moves between characters. I also relished the fact that this book didn’t have a “happy ending”, but rather the ending was left open in a way that allows readers to wonder what might happen next.

I really enjoyed reading this novel, and it will stay with me for a long time.

Bro – Helen Chebatte

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Romeo knows the rules. Stick with your own kind. Don’t dob on your mates, or even your enemies. But even unwritten rules are made for breaking. Fight Clubs, first loves and family ties are pushed to their limit in Helen Chebatte’s explosive debut novel.

I discovered this book through my local library’s eBook collection. The main character, Romeo, gets into a fight with another boy at school over a girl. Then he is attacked by the boy and his friends after school one day, and then a final fight is organised between the two. But things get out of control, and end in tragedy.

I really felt for Romeo when reading this book. I found that I could easily empathise with him – I have a similar character to Romeo, in that I really don’t like fighting or conflict, and try and avoid it as much as possible. Unfortunately, Romeo makes a bad decision, to fight another boy, which lead to the tragic consequences. Something that a lot of teenagers may consider, or get involved in.

Helen has written a fantastic debut novel about what many teens may face in high school. Her writing style allows you to be drawn into the story, and brings out powerful feelings and emotions. It wasn’t a book that I could devour in one sitting, but it will stick with me for a long time.

The Dressmaker – Rosalie Ham

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Tilly Dunnage has come home to care for her mad old mother. She left the small Victorian town of Dungatar years before, and became an accomplished couturier in Paris. Now she earns her living making exquisite frocks for the people who drove her away when she was ten. Through the long Dungatar nights, she sits at her sewing machine, planning revenge.

In the 1950s, Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage returns to her home town to care for her mother. She was run out of town after an incident in her childhood, and while she is back home she plans revenge on those who scorn her. While away she trained as a dressmaker in Paris.

The writing style of this novel left me confused. There were the occasional paragraphs that contained nearly every character, and what they were doing at that moment. There are so many characters in this book, it’s really hard to keep track of who’s who. For me, a book with too many characters is not enjoyable.

I also found some of the language used off-putting, particularly when describing male body parts. For example:
“She lifted the sheet and looked down at Evan’s squishy, orange, wet conger lolling on his thigh.”
I had to briefly stop reading – I haven’t come across it written like that before, and I found it quit disgusting!

Quite often, in novels that I’ve read before, when a person returns to a town they’ve been run out of, it’s revealed in a large way at the end of the novel, and it seems to tie everything up. In this novel, it seems just thrown in there, to add to the plot. And the ending was awful. Once I’d finished it, I just sat and shook my head for a moment.

I found myself wanting to stop reading after 50 or so pages, but stuck with it to see if it gets more interesting or funny. Unfortunately, I found the whole book to be a chore to read, and I couldn’t wait to be done with it so I could move on to another book. I’m really disappointed, as I expected it to be better than it was.

 

Burial Rites – Hannah Kent

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In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men.

Agnes is sent to wait out the time leading to her execution on the farm of District Officer Jon Jonsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoids speaking with Agnes. Only Toti, the young assistant reverend appointed as Agnes’ spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her, as he attempts to salvage her soul. As the summer months fall away to winter and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes’ ill-fated tale of longing and betrayal begins to emerge. And as the days to her execution draw closer, the question burns: did she or didn’t she?

This book was recommended to me by a librarian. When I first started reading it, I felt way out of my comfort zone. I usually read books set in modern times, and I tend to gravitate more towards books that have a more predictable story line and ending. This book took me in a completely new direction. Hannah’s way with words really allowed me to connect with the characters, and lead me into the world within the book.

Agnes Magnusdottir is sentenced to execution for playing a role in the brutal murder of two men. She is sent to a farm to await execution. While at this farm, we learn about Agnes’ life, but we also get to know a but about the family she lives with, as well as a priest who visits her. Although there are several characters, the book focuses mostly on Agnes. Each character plays their role, and the way Hannah has written each character’s narrative allows us to gauge the importance of them in the book.

The book’s transition between first-person (Agnes) and third-person perspectives is fantastic. I never felt confused as to which character we were following, as it is always clear – the perspective doesn’t shift within paragraphs. We also get to know each character a little bit, and that really drew me into the story.

Hannah’s style of writing really drew me in. I felt like I was right there, amongst the characters, and experiencing their lives. I could feel the snow on my feet, the smoke in my lungs, the taste of blood on my tongue. It’s very rare that a book can lead to activating my senses. Even as I write this, I can still taste the metallic taste of blood as I think about the book.

This book is not usually a book I would choose myself to read – I tend to stick to my comfort zone. However, I am really glad that I read this novel. It is one of the books that will stay with me for a long time.

Charity Reading Challenge

Hello again!! As 2016 draws to a close, I find myself thinking about what reading challenges I want to complete in 2017. I have already mentioned that I am completing the Australian Women Writers Challenge, and this post is to raise awareness of the Charity Reading Challenge that I am completing in 2017.

The charity/organisation I am supporting in this challenge is the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. For each book I read in 2017, including books that won’t be reviewed on this blog, I will be donating $1 to ILF. My goal is to read 100 books over the year, so I aim to raise $100.

If you would like to follow my progress and support me over the year, as well as support the ILF, please like my Facebook page, add me on Goodreads, and donate money through my fundraiser page. Just click on any of the links below!

Melly’s Charity Reading Challenge

My Goodreads profile

My fundraising page

Tell the truth, shame the devil – Melina Marchetta

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Chief Inspector Bish Ortley of the London Met, divorced and still grieving the death of his son, has been drowning his anger in Scotch. Something has to give, and he’s no sooner suspended from the force than a busload of British students is subject to a deadly bomb attack across the Channel. Bish’s daughter is one of those on board.

Also on the bus is Violette LeBrac. Raised in Australia, Violette has a troubled background. Thirteen years ago her grandfather bombed a London supermarket, killing dozens of people. Her mother, Noor, is serving a life sentence in connection with the incident. But before Violette’s part in the French tragedy can be established, she disappears.

Bish, who was involved in Noor LeBrac’s arrest, is now compelled to question everything that happened back then. And the more he delves into the lives of the family he helped put away, the more he realises that truth wears many colours.

This book is intense! Other books of Melina’s that I have read have basically been typical YA novels, but this book goes in a totally different direction. I was hooked from the first page. I devoured it in only 5 days! I really, highly recommend this novel, even if you’re not a fan of Melina’s other works. It keeps you gripped, and it’s well written.

5/5