Tumble Turn – Doug MacLeod


Dominic Dear, an almost thirteen-year-old, is confused about life. He’s considered odd to his family and his school teachers. And he starts to fall in love in a very odd way.

The book is written in a series of letters between Dominic and his uncle Peri. We get to learn a lot about both characters – why Dominic is who he is, and why his family never talk about uncle Peri.

This book touches on a lot of relevant topics, including homosexuality. It touches on them in a way that makes you think. I was able to emotionally connect with both characters on a really deep level.

What happens in the end takes me totally by surprise. I highly recommend this novel!

Drink Smoke Pass Out – Judith Lucy


Judith Lucy’s second autobiography is brilliant. It’s witty and funny, and I feel really gives us a glimpse into Judith’s personality.

I read this book almost entirely in her voice. I found myself laughing a lot reading this – Judith is very funny! But the way she wrote it also allowed me to step into her shoes, and I could feel how she was feeling. There were times where I just wanted to reach into the book and give her a hug.

It was interesting to read about her experiences with spirituality. I guess each person has a different experience, but it was cool to read about what Judith experienced, within different forms of spirituality, all with her brilliant sense of humour and dry wit.

I haven’t read her first autobiography, but I will be getting my hands on it as soon as I can!

Are you seeing me? – Darren Groth


Twins Justine and Perry are heading on the trip of a lifetime. A year ago, they lost their father to cancer. And after the trip, Perry is moving to assisted accommodation, and Justine will no longer be caring for her brother. The trip doesn’t exactly go according to plan though, and things change between the pair.

I really enjoyed this novel! I really felt connected to Perry, but even more connected to Justine. Darren really brought the characters to life with his writing style. I just wanted to put my arms through the book and give Perry and Justine a hug! (Even though Perry wouldn’t really have liked that!).

I liked that the book was written through both Justine and Perry’s point of view. I got a real insight into both characters, and felt like I was a part of them both. I felt like I knew them intimately.

The story flowed really well. It didn’t feel rushed, but it didn’t feel slow either. It was a really enjoyable read!

Comfort Zone – Lindsay Tanner


Jack van Duyn, a Melbourne taxi driver, is on the job when he steps in to break up an altercation between two kids in a playground of a hise rise apartment complex. What he doesn’t realise that he will end up getting involved in drug dealing, national security, and violence. But he does it all for one woman, who he quickly falls in love with.

I think the title of this book is quite fitting. Jack is completely thrown out of his comfort zone – going from being an almost recluse to spending time with people socially, and also learns some new things about himself. He puts himself in situations that he normally wouldn’t even think about.

I felt like I was really part of the story. I could see Jack’s world through his eyes. The writing style really draws you in to the book and puts you right in the middle of the story. Living in Melbourne, I could also imagine the locations in the story.

The story also touches on some stereotypes, particularly racial stereotypes. The woman that Jack is infatuated with is Somali, and becomes entangled in family and racial issues. I think the book makes some important points, particularly that just because people move away from violence in their country, it doesn’t mean they always escape it.

Although the ending wasn’t exactly a happy one, it did instil a sense of positivity and hope. It shows how one experience or event can completely change someone’s life. It opened my eyes a bit more to what other people may be experiencing because of their culture or previous life experiences. I really enjoyed reading this novel!

Only daughter – Anna Snoekstra


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


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


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


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


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


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.