1. Book Reviews – 2019

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Rating Scale:

  1. *****  Fantastic! You’ve gotta read this one!
  2. ****  Great. Well worth a look
  3. ***   OK. You may enjoy it.
  4. **    Not so great. Either dull, badly written, or just plain awful. Not recommended
  5. *     Unspeakably bad. Couldn’t finish it

“Doggienauts” by Addie Broussard


Rating:  *****

Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Read:  March 2019

When Rami develops a superior cat detector for her science project the residents of Doggieland are overwhelmed with excitement. The president is so impressed that she offers Rani a top-secret assignment, to manage the Doggienauts’ spaceship controls on their maiden voyage to the moo. Their Mission: To reach the moon before Space Katz. The dogs complete their training and set off on their way. When they encounter interference from Space Katz, Rami must use all of her mental power to correct the error, set the voyage home on track, and save the day. Space Katz are left fuming, and start plotting their revenge.

“Doggienauts” is a fun adventure for all ages. It offers a range of strong female characters, and emphasises themes of inclusion and collaboration. There is a push for the benefits of maths and sciences too – always a good thing.

At 33 pages, it is a great length for bed time stories, and the plot is sophisticated enough to allow older readers to get into the book on their own.  The illustrations are brilliant, well drawn and show a great use of bright and appealing colours. Doggienauts will appeal to all children whether at pre-reading level or early school age. Coming soon to a store near you. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

“No More Dead Kids” by Thomas Marshall

 
Rating:  ****

Genre: Fiction – Young Adult

Read:  March 2019

TBA

“Mary-Alice Moves in” by Frankie Bow

Rating:  ****

Genre: Cosy Mystery

Read:  March 2019

“Mary-Alice Moves in” by Frankie Bow is the first in the Miss Fortune World series and serves as an introduction to Mary-Alice and the town of Sinful. Long time widow, Mary-Alice moves to Sinful after her house is burnt down by her cad of a grandson. When she arrives she quickly discovers the intricacies of parochial politics in the small town, including the role her sister-in-law, the town mayor. After the murder of a local Baptist priest, Mary-Alice learns that life in a small town is never boring. This is a wonderful cosy mystery, is easy to read, and is relatively short, which makes it very suitable for holiday and weekend reading. Settle in with a cup of tea and plate of chocolate biscuits for this one.

“Such Sweet Sorrow” by Richard Bell

Rating:  *****

Genre: Non-Fiction: Poetry

Read:  March 2019

When Richard Bell’s wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he set about documenting his emotional journey through his free-form poetry. “Such Sweet Sorrow” takes the reader with him, through his wife’s devastating diagnosis, subsequent death, and beyond. Anyone who has lost a loved one – to cancer or otherwise – will relate to this touching and deeply moving work. “Such Sweet Sorrow” is well presented in a fifty page, chapbook format. Definitely worth the read.

“Preservation Pantry: Modern Canning from root to Top & Stem to Core” by Sarah Marshall

Rating:  *****

Genre: Non-Fiction: Cooking

Read:  March 2019

This has got to be one of the best guides to preserving fruit and vegetables that I have seen in a while. In addition to easy-to-understand descriptions for preserving and canning, there are helpful suggestions for storage, recommendations for equipment and tools required, and even recipes using your preserves. Great range of preserving ideas. I am looking forward to preparing the white wine & tomato sauce for marina as soon as my tomatoes are ripe. I suspect that this will become an often-leafed-through book in my kitchen.

“The Frizz” by Jasmine Fogwell


Rating:  ****

Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Read:  February 2019

Sometimes kids with frizzy hair just hate it, but not young Jeanie. Every morning, before school, she goes into the bathrooms and imagines all of the fun and fabulous things she can do and be, all because of her frizzy hair. At least she does, until her mother comes in and tidies it all up.

This rather sweet story is complimented by brilliant and vibrant illustrations, making it a fun picture book for kids (and parents) of all ages. A must for a frizzy haired child. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

“The Sisters” by Kate Forster

Rating:  ****

Genre: Fiction: Chick Lit

Read:  February 2019

The young and gifted de Santoval triplets have been brought up in a world of fashion, money and privilege. Over the years the three have drifted apart, with Carlotta immersing herself in the horsey set, Grace in the art and auction house business, and Violetta in the party girl, reality TV life style.  When their father Leon, does the bunk with his long term mistress, and their mother Birdie is found unconscious and in a coma, the three sisters are reunited. Unaccustomed to adversity, the sisters must work together to rebuild their family business, and deal with family issues, support their ill mother, and maybe find love on the way.

The characters are a little annoying in parts, somewhat believable in others, with a few relatable traits in each.

With loads of sex, fashion, art and fun, “The Sisters” by Kate Forster is a wonderfully light read, suitable for days by the pool, weekend reading, and an escape from daily routine.  Good fun.

“Jar of Hearts” by Jennifer Hillier

Rating:  *****

Genre: Fiction: Crime

Read:  February 2019

Sometimes your first love can be a killer. A serial killer.

When the beautiful, popular and successful Geo Shaw is arrested for her involvement in the cold case murder of her best friend, her life turns upside down. She is forced to confront her involvement in the crime, and deal with her guilt surrounding the murder, and the subsequent murders committed by her ex-serial killer boyfriend. The story moves back in forth through time, between, the trial, prison, post-prison release readjustment, and teenage years when the murder was committed. The characters are believable (and in some cases relatable) with a mix of normal, shocking and endearing traits. The young Geo and her teenage friends really capture the depth of angst, self-doubt, and the need for acceptance that we experience at that age.  The story demonstrates the lengths that people will go through to support their dreams of the ideal, even when you know that they are wrong.

“Jar of Hearts” is the fifth by author, Jennifer Hillier, and the first I have read. It is a five star example of cross-genre suspense/mystery thriller and chick lit. The story has you captivated from start to finish, and leaves you wanting more. The horror of the murders, and details of Geo’s abusive relationship with the serial killer, is interspersed with her blossoming romance with a local Police Officer.  There is something for everyone here.

The short chapters make it great for reading in short bursts (like public transport rides), but I dare you to try and put it down. This page-turner is well worth the read, so pick up a hard copy or e-book today. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

“The Fast 800” by Michael Mosley

Rating:  ****

Genre: Non-Fiction: Health & Lifestyle

Read:  February 2019

A comprehensive review of the “Fast 800” health management plan. The book is well researched and referenced (list provided), includes details of the program and how to modify it for your lifestyle, and includes a handy menu planner and recipe guide at the back. Looks like a tough program to follow, but it seems to have a lot of positives.

“Baldessin/Whiteley: Parallel Visions” edited by Sasha Grishin

Rating:  *****

Genre: Non-Fiction: Arts & Culture

Read:  February 2019

Another quality publication from the NGV. This wonderful companion guide to the Baldessin/Whiteley exhibition features fabulous book plates and reproductions of the artwork, combined with concise and information narration. A must for lovers of Australian modern art.

“The Man Who Came Uptown” By George Pelecanos

Rating:  ****

Genre: Fiction: Crime/Thriller

Read:  January 2019

While serving term in the remand centre, awaiting trial, Michael Hudson discovers the joy of reading, and value of books. He is released after a key witness fails to testify, and promises himself that he will change his ways. When he is approached by a dodgy detective who asks him to participate in a crime, Michael is faced with a dilemma.

I really enjoyed the slow and even pace of this book. The characters are well-rounded and relatable (although, thankfully, not all likeable). It is not the best of Pelecanos’ work (in my opinion) but if is a good read, and not a taxing one. Worth a look, and makes for good holiday reading.

“Sh*t Towns of New Zealand” By Anonymous

Rating:  ****

Genre: Non-Fiction, Humour/Gift Book

Read:  January 2019

Marvellous! I hope this is going to be a series. I can see an immediate need for “Sh*t Towns of Australia” and the USA just for starters. I was immediately drawn to this natty little gift book, when I spied the endorsements on the front cover: ‘Offensive’ and ‘Pretty Funny’. Yep this was going to be a keeper. As much as I love New Zealand, it’s incredible natural beauty, and the towns and places I have been to, I must admit that some of these descriptions ring true. Great fun and well worth a read.

 “Boys will be Boys” By Clementine Ford

Rating: *****

Genre:  Non-Fiction: Social Commentary/Gender Politics

Read:  January 2019

Despite vehement protestations from various fringe-dwelling men’s movements, “Boys Will Be Boys” by Clementine Ford, is not a man-bashing manifesto, but more an in-depth examination into how our current cultural practices and ideals of manhood and mate-ship, are failing our boys (and in turn our girls).

The book is a follow up to her amazing and powerful memoir “Fight Like a Girl”, and is written in the same easy-to-read style. It is well-researched (she doesn’t make any statement or use any statistic without thorough referencing it) and contains many frightening real world examples. The letter to her son in the final chapter of the books is particularly heart-wrenching, and a reminder that we need to nurture and support our boys as they grow into men. A must for all parents, boys, girls, men and women.

“The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster” By Sarah Krasnostein

Rating: ****

Genre:  Non-Fiction: Biography

Read:  January 2019

“The Trauma Cleaner” is a two pronged tale about the life of business woman, Sandra Pankhurst. The book describes, in sometimes gory detail, the ins and outs of trauma cleaning. This is the cleaning of properties where a natural death, murder or a crime has occurred, or where a person with a mental illness or disability, has been unable to clean and is now living in the equivalent of a garbage dump. Kranostein describes the work processes undertaken by Ms Pankhurst and her team, and the lengths she goes to, to win the trust and engagement of her clients.

The descriptions of the cleaning business work are broken up with the tales of Ms Pankhurst’s life experiences. Krasnostein describes her life from her harrowing childhood, to her difficulties coming to terms with her gender identity, work in the sex industry, drug and alcohol addiction, managing a business, chronic illness, and family relationship. It’s a tale of tragedy and triumph, failures and successes, sadness and joy. This is well worth the read.

“101 Marvellous Movies You May Have Missed” by David Stratton

Rating: ****

Genre:  Non-Fiction: Arts & Culture

Read:  January 2019

I am a huge movie fan and was surprised to find that I had only seen six of the films mentioned in this book (Agora, The Birth of a Nation, Burke & Wills, The Deep Blue Sea, Mullet, and Road to Nhill – aside from ‘Agora’ and I guess “Birth of a Nation’ I didn’t find them particularly impressive). The book is set out with one film per two pages, offering a brief synopsis, background of the production and details of the release. It’s an interesting collection and I will certainly be making an effort to look for some of these films during the year.

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Previous Years Book Reviews: Archives

2018: BOOKS REVIEWED IN 2018

2017: 2017 Book Reviews by Sarah Jackson

2016: 2016-book-reviews

2015: 2015 Book reviews download

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