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Rating Scale:

*****  Fantastic! You’ve gotta read this one!

****  Great. Well worth a look

***   OK. You may enjoy it.

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“The Hidden Girl” by Louise Miller

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TBA

“Christmas Eve and Cranberry Cross ” by Kate Forster

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Genre: Fiction: Romance/Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Read: October

TBA

“Billy Summers” by Stephen King

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TBA

“The Spirit Phone” by Arthur Shaltuck O’Keefe

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TBA

“Opening Pandora’s box” by Ferdie Addis

Rating: ****

Genre: Non-Fiction: Reference/Language

Read: October

A very entertaining examination of some commonly used phrases in the English language and their origins in (mostly) Greek and Roman mythology. Easy to read, informative and fun.

“Retirement Planning at 40 and Beyond” by Richard Holt

Rating: *****

Genre: Non-Fiction: Reference/Financial Planning

Read: October

I caught up with an old friend from school a couple of weeks ago. As we are both now in our fifties the topic of retirement planning came up, so this book arrived in my inbox at exactly the right time. “Retirement Planning at 40 and beyond” by Richard Holt (a financial planner) is a great starting point for anyone who needs some advice on planning for the retirement phase of their life. This easy-to-read guide (I read it over a couple of days), outlines more than just financial planning options. Holt covers off on all of the important items to consider when entering retirement, including keeping physically active, maintaining good health, health insurance, part-time and hobby work, mental health, travel and of course the financial aspects and investment options. The text is mainly aimed at the US market, but the advice is useful to anyone – you simply need to examine the superannuation plans, social security and tax options for your country. If you are thinking about planning your retirement (and especially if you are not) then this is a good place to start. You can get a copy of the book here.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

“Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression” by Richard Harris

Rating: *****

Read: September/October

Genre: Non-Fiction: Arts, Music

A brilliant photographic history of Blue Note records and the artists signed to the label. This is definitely one for the jazz fans. The book runs in chronological sequence and records the albums produced by the company and the featured artists on each. A joy to read.

“The Fast 800 Keto” by Dr Michael Mosley

Rating: ****

Genre: Non-Fiction: Medical

Read: September

The book was recommended to me by a friend who had achieved great success following the program. The book is well researched (with a searchable reference list) and provides some excellent general advice on dieting. The diet looks doable but tough. Having said that, it is clearly stated that the intense component is intended to be followed for a limited time period, and there are many caveats explaining who should not undertake the program (and why). It has got me thinking about the high number of carbs I consume on a daily basis. There are some great-looking recipes at the end of the book too.

“Mad, Bad and Dead” by Sherryl Clark

Rating: *****

Genre: Fiction: Crime/Thriller

Read: September

Judi Westerholme is working hard to get her life back on track and set up a gastro pub with friend Andre in the rural town of Candlebark. She has been receiving some threatening phone calls but is prepared to ignore them as a prank until her waitress, Kate is murdered. Judi is thrust into a new and dangerous mystery as she attempts to locate Kate’s missing daughter and provide safety for her young ward, Mia.

Mad, Bad and Dead is a rollicking ride that keeps you on your toes from start to finish. It is an easy read and a captivating story that is hard to put down. Clark offers a tantalising visual taste of rural life in Australia, with colourful (and accurate) descriptions of both rural Victoria and Melbourne. Her characters are well-rounded, deeply flawed and immensely likeable (well, most of them).

Mad, Bad and Dead is the third book in the Judi Westerholme series. It is a stand-alone story and can be read without the benefit of having read the first two (although once you start, you’ll want to.) It is a great addition to the growing collection of Australian Rural Noir. I am looking forward to going back to read the first two books in the series.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

“True Friends” by Patti Miller

Rating: *****

Genre: Non-Fiction: Creative non-fiction. Memoir

Read: September

“True Friends” by Patti Miller is a heartfelt and reassuring examination of how we develop, maintain, remember, and dissolve friendships. Miller reflects on her personal experiences of friendship over the years, especially her relationship with Gina. Miller describes every element from start to finish, describing with raw emotion, her self-doubt when things went wrong, and her hours spent ruminating about what she may have done or said, or not said.

Miller describes the process of recalling details of her relationships, and how her memories are somewhat fictional constructs based on her internal beliefs about friendship, her ideal view of the people in question and inaccurate recall of events. She describes how her memories are clouded by numerous variables and an internal retelling of the facts. Miller references The Epic of Gilgamesh and the many variations of this tale of friendship to help demonstrate how recall can alter over time. This proved to be an interesting example to me personally, as I recall reading/hearing a variation of this story as a child, but have no recollection of when and how I heard it.

“True Friends” had me examining my own friendships, my impressions of them and how we interact. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is thought-provoking and talks to the heart of anyone who has ever wondered about the loss of a friend. Simply brilliant.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

“The Hidden Girl” by Louise BassettBassett

Rating: *****

Genre: Fiction: Young Adult

Read: September

“The Hidden Girl” by Louise Bassett is an easy-to-read, fast-paced and engaging book. It is aimed at a YA audience, but with its solid mystery, themes of sex trafficking and breaking the rules for the good of others has a wider appeal.

Set in both Melbourne and Indonesia, Bassett provides rich and vibrant descriptions, allowing the reader to almost feel like they are in the scene. The characters are flawed, believable and deeply endearing. Bassett provides an intimate and accurate account of teenage angst, rebellion, and the difficulties some young people have trying to conform and fit in. There is a little of Mel in all of us.

Recommended for those who love adventure, a mystery to be solved, and a touch of romance.

“When I’m am Astronaut” by Dr Samantha Pillay

Rating:*****

Genre: Non-Fiction: Children

Read:August

“When I’m an Astronaut” by Dr Samantha Pillay is the third in the Inspirational Careers for Kids series. It is an absolute delight to see such a straightforward and universally accessible book adding wonder and adventure back into STEM subjects. The illustrations by Harry Aveira are engaging and add another dimension to the story. The joyous book has something to offer all children, everywhere. I hope that every library, childcare centre, pre-school and primary school stocks at least one copy of each book.

“The Writer Laid Bare” by Lee Kofman

Rating:

Genre: Non-Fiction/Writing

Read: August

“The Writer Laid Bare” by Lee Kofman is a frank and reassuring examination of the trials and tribulations of the writing process and the inner thoughts of the average writer. Kofman reflects on her personal experiences, writing successes and failures to describe the processes involved in developing an individual writing style, managing paranoia, disappointments and fear, and breaking through to provide honesty in writing, regardless of genre. 

For me, the discovery of “The Writer Laid Bare” was very much a case of the right book at the right time.  I found the book and its contents reassuring. I was able to relate to almost everything said and was relieved to find that my bouts of crippling self-doubt, fear of rejection and imposter syndrome are standard states for most writers.  

I would recommend this book to all writers, anyone planning to take on the writing journey and all those with interest in the world of literature.

“Seven kinds of people you find in bookshops” by Shaun Bythell

Rating: ****

Genre: Non-fiction: Writing/Humour

Read: August

Another enjoyable read and rather funny book by Shaun Bythell. This bite sized book offers his insights into the various types of customers he’s encountered at his second-hand bookstore. I sincerely hope that I don’t fit into one of these categories. A quick and easy read.

“Melbourne: Then and Now” by Heather Chapman & Judith Stillman

Rating: ****

Genre: Non-Fiction: History, Gift Book

Read: August

A lovely gift book full of interesting photos of Melbourne City’s landmark building and how they originally looked compared to the modern day. Although a lot of heritage buildings have been demolished in the past, it is surprising how many still stand. A great gift for tourists and locals alike.

“Haunted Ever After” by Juliet Madison

Rating: *****

Genre: Fiction/Romance, Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Read: August

Dedicated nurse, Sally is on a bridal shower weekend getaway to celebrate her up-and-coming wedding to Greg. Things are going swimmingly until the ghost of Greg’s ex-girlfriend decides to come along for the ride. It seems like the ghost is trying to upset Sally’s best-laid plans and to add to the confusion, in dances Ty, a stripper with a heart of gold. Sally must confront some concerning issues with her relationship with Greg, manage her blossoming feeling for Ty and help the ghost resolve their earthly issues before the weekend is down.

“Making Your Mark, Leaving a Legacy, And then…A Grand Exit That’ll Have Their Tongues Wagging'” by Peter Davidson

Rating: ****

Genre: Non-Fiction: Humour/Self Help

Read: July

Most of us reach a point in our lives when we start to wonder what we have done to add to the world. We consider the impression we have made on others (be it big or small) and contemplate what we are going to leave behind.  

Making Your Mark, Leaving A Legacy, And Then . . . A Grand Exit That’ll Have Their Tongues Waggin’ offers readers a range of ideas to help them make their mark. There is a good mix of the serious, socially conscious, and downright funny ideas, ranging from simple and cost effective, to extravagant and way out there. I particularly like the list of things you are not going to miss when you are dead, and the idea of holding a living wake. 

Writing about death is never easy, but Davidson has done so with the right blend of dignity, practicality, and humour.

“On The Same Page” by Penelope January

Rating: ****

Genre: Fiction: Romance/Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Read: July

Miles Franklin (named after the famous author) has a big secret. The introverted lawyer, struggling to make a living supporting low-key authors with their legal contracts is the very popular self-published historical romance writer, Emma Browning. When her PA enters here into a competition without her knowledge, Miles is thrust into a world of traditional publishing and loses control of her work. To top it all off, she meets Lars, her very own Mr Darcy. “On the Same Page” is a light, fun read, great for holidays and breaks from the everyday world. Lots of fun.

“The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman

Rating: ***1/2

Genre: Fiction: Crime

Read: June – July

The Cedar Close retirement community is about to expand. Still, the new development requires the removal of an existing cemetery – the burial ground of the former Sisters who were the original owners of the land. When the developers meet an untimely death, the four members of the secret Thursday Murder Club come to the rescue to assist the police in solving the murders. I must admit that it took me a while to get into this book, but having said that, there are some wonderful characters and many laugh-out-loud moments An entertaining read, but not the best example of the genre.

“Starstruck in Seattle” by Juliet Madison

Rating: ****

Genre: Fiction: Romance/Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Read: June

Anna is an aspiring actress searching for career success and true love. When she falls for her co-star she does everything she can to convince herself that he is the right one for her. But her guardian angel comes to earth to push her in the right direction. Fun, light and entertaining.

“I dream of Johnny” by Juliet Madison

Rating: ****

Genre: Fiction: Romance/Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Read: June

Mandy’s life is a mess. She’s in debt, her business is flagging and she has ended yet another relationship. When she discovers a magic lamp – a supposed joke gift from a friend – she wishes for a fabulous date to take to a friend’s wedding. A typo results in her Greek God turning out to be a Geek God. A funny novella about romantic expectations and the need to be careful what we wish for.

“My Evil Mother” by Margaret Atwood

Rating: *****

Genre: Fiction/Literary/Short Story

Read: June

A wonderful short story describing a daughter’s impressions of her mother as a teenager and how this impacts on her life and parenting. Entertaining, funny and engaging. Atwood never fails to produce the good.

“The Story of the Lost Child” by Elena Ferrante

Rating: *****

Genre: Fiction: Literary/Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Read: June

The final in Ferrante’s Neopoletan quartet does not disappoint. This book brings fills in the final stages of the story of the friendship between Elena and Lila into the 21st century and into their older years. It is a magnificent story covering women’s interpersonal relationships, good and bad decisions, the political and social climate in Italy (particularly Naples) and the process of coming to terms with ageing. I’m devasted to have finished reading the series. A must read.

“Fast Forward” by Juliet Madison

Rating: *****

Genre: Fiction: Romance/ Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Read: June

What a hoot! Imagine waking up on the morning of your 25th birthday to discover that time has moved forward a quarter of a century and you’re suddenly 50!. Kelli wakes to find that the life she planned for herself (international jet-setting model with a handsome photographer boyfriend) didn’t come to pass. She is married to the school nerd, has two children, some sort of office-type job and worst of all, a fifty-year-old body. Kelli must deal with her new circumstances, modern technology and SLIMFX body suits in order to work out what happened and why. Wonderful fun and endlessly entertaining.

“The Animals in That Country” by Laura Jean McKay

Rating: *****

Genre: Fiction: Sci Fi

Read: May

What a fantastic story! Australia is in the middle of a pandemic – this time its zooflu – a dreaded disease which enables humans to hear animals talk. The story is told through the eyes of Jean – hand drinking, rough as guts grandmother, working as an assistant at a wildlife sanctuary. The descriptions are excellent, the portrayal of animals and how they see the world is enlightening and the characters are believable and flawed. A must read.

“Angel of Death: Dulcie Markham, Australia’s most beautiful bad woman” by Leigh Straw

Rating: ****

Genre: Non-Fiction: True Crime

Read: May

“Angel of Death” offers insight into the Australian underworld during the first half of the 20th century by tracking the life of Dulcie Markham. Markham was notorious for her involvement in prostitution, sly grog and other criminal activities and was featured in the media at the time due to her incredible beauty and involvement (often peripheral) in multiple murders and acts of violence; hence the badge “Angel of Death”. This is a well researched, well-paced, honest look at the life of the women who lived and worked in the city slums of the day. Interesting and worth a look.

“Memories of May” by Juliet Madison

Rating: ****

Genre: Fiction/Romance

Read: May

Tarrin Bay resident, Olivia, is a single mother to Mia, a dutiful daughter, and a devoted granddaughter. She is the latest in a line of fabulous women who own and run the local bookstore. When her grandmother May is forced into high care nursing, Olivia decides to write a biography to celebrate her life, while she is still alive to enjoy it. When author and memoir writer, Joel shows up in town to teach a writing program, Olivia signs up. The events merge to create amazing changes for Olivia, including viewing her life differently, exploring her writing talent and introducing the prospect of romance. A pleasant, entertaining and uplifting read.

“Those who leave and those who stay” by Ellen Ferrante

Rating: *****

Genre: Fiction: Literary Fiction/Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Read: May

The third book in the Neapolitan quartet continues on where the story left off. The woman are now in their early twenties and are dealing with marital issues, child rearing, career development and most importantly trying to find their place in the world. Our protagonist has left Naples for greener pastures, but is constantly drawn back into her past. This is a wonderful examination of the socio-economic issues during the later 50s and 60s in post-war Italy as well as a gripping tale of friendship, love and loss.

“CSI told you lies” by Meshel Laurie

Rating: ****

Genre: Non-Fiction: True Crime

Read: April

An interesting and thoughtful look at the developments in forensic pathology and its impact on the legal system and relevance to victims and their loved ones. Laurie’s generous and conversational style of writing brings this heavily scientific discipline to the general public, without excessive gore, shock or disrespect to victims and their families. It is well researched and easy to read.

“The Inseparables” by Simone de Beauvoir

Rating: *****

Genre: Fiction/Literary

Read: April

A beautiful story about the friendship between Silvia and Andrée, and how they were so similar, so different and how they needed each other as they grew and took different paths. Beautifully written, engaging and deeply moving.

“Today a woman went mad in the supermarket” by Hilma Wolitzer

Rating: *****

Genre: Fiction/Literary

Read: April

What a wonderful collection of short stories. I absolutely adored this book. “Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket” offers a series of short stories, mostly written in the first person, describing seemingly ordinary day-to-day incidents in women’s lives. I laughed. I cried. I cheered.

“The Bowtow” by Joe O’Neill

Rating: ***

Genre: Fiction: Mystery/Crime

Read: April

I found this book a little difficult to read. Many of the sentences lack a pronoun, and the letter “I” appears in lower case where it should be in upper case. I was pulled out of the story by this style as I needed to work out which character was performing what action/thought. It is almost as if the book has been run through a translation program and not proof read. I am assuming that this is the author’s particular style of writing as they appear to be a native English speaker. A+ for artistic merit, if this is the case.The mystery/thriller aspects of the story are interesting and the book is well researched and characters believable. The descriptions of place are also visually engaging. Not my style of book, but I appreciate the efforts made by the author. You may enjoy this. I received a copy of this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers in exchange for a fair and honest review.

“The Woke Illiad” by George Boreas

Rating: ***1/2

Genre: Fiction: Satire/Comedy

Read: March/April

The tiny nation of Moldovia has now become a nuclear power thanks to a forgotten Soviet-era storage facility. In an effort to negotiate with the people (considered to be backward/old fashioned/traditionalist), the USA sends forth their envoy, Helen. When Helen is held hostage the Woke forces of the world send an army to retrieve their heroine and enlighten the nation. This irreverent look at Woke culture in its extreme has something to offend everyone while providing a few laughs. Think Sasha Baron Cohen films. If you like “Borat” and “The Dictator” then this is definitely for you. Again, not one for the politically correct and may not have appeal to younger readers.

“The Story of a New Name” by Elena Ferrante

Rating: *****

Genre: Fiction – Literary Fiction/Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Read: March

“The Story of A New Name”, Ferrante’s second book in the Neapolitan quartet, continues where “My Brilliant Friend” left off, covering the characters’ lives from their teens to early twenties. It is breathtakingly brilliant, beautifully written and ever endearing. Expect to be reading late into the evening. I can’t wait to get stuck into book three. A must read!

“Ruddy Gore” by Kerry Greenwood

Rating: ****

Genre: Fiction -Cosy Mystery

Read: March

“Ruddy Gore” by Kerry Greenwood is the seventh book in the Phryne Fisher mystery series. During what should have been a gala performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore, two cast members are poisoned. Phryne must delve deep into the theatre scene and Melbourne’s China Town to find the solution to the mystery of the poisonous attacks and mysterious theatre ghosts. Good fun as always.

“The Snapshot Killer” by Duncan McNab

Rating: ****

Genre: Non-Fiction, True Crime

Read: March

“The Snapshot Killer” is the true story of serial killer, rapist and all round pervert, Christopher Wilder. He committed crimes across America and in Australia and is a very credible suspect for the 1965 Wanda Beach killings. He lured victims (almost exclusively young teenagers) by posing as a professional photographer and modelling agent. The book is well written and thoroughly researched.

“Adrift in Melbourne” By Robyn Annear

Rating: *****

Genre: Non-Fiction: Social History/Walking Tours

Read: March

A must for residents and visitors to Melbourne, Australia. I thoroughly enjoyed this well written and informative guide to exploring the streets, laneways and history of Melbourne’s CBD. I look forward to undertaking all 7 of the suggested walks. Entertaining and informative.

“You’re doing it wrong: A history of bad & bonkers advice to women” by Kaz Cooke

Rating: *****

Genre: Non-Fiction: Social History/Humour

Read: February

“You’re doing it wrong: A history of bad & bonkers advice to women” by Kaz Cooke is both hysterically funny and shockingly true all at the same time. Sadly I recall being offered some of this advice as I was growing up (and hope that young women today are spared the same). It is a lighthearted (but still serious) look at some of the more ridiculous expectations of women since the (Western) Industrial Revolution. Cooke makes sure to cover off on some of the even more offensive and ridiculous expectations of women of colour throughout history too. It is well researched, dotted with Cooke witticisms, and replete with many amusing (and mortifying) historical photos. A great read, but a little disturbing at times – read it anyway!

Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto” Edited by NGV

Rating: *****

Genre: Non-Fiction: Fashion/Art

Read: February

A wonderfully presented look at the life and times of Gabrielle Chanel. The content examines the development of her fashion style and her contributions to the fashion industry (other elements of her private life are mentioned, but not covered in detail). This version was issued to complement the NGV International (Melbourne, Australia) Chanel exhibition. One for lovers of fashion.

“My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrante

Rating: *****

Genre: Fiction: Literary Fiction

Read: February

The delightful and engaging story of Elena and her friendship with Lila. Told from Elena’s point of view, she describes with elegant beauty, life in post war Naples, growing up in poverty, the trials tribulations of going through puberty, all in the company of her brilliant friend. A wonderful read and I look forward to reading the rest in the series.

“The January Wish” by Juliet Madison

Rating: *****

Genre: Fiction: Women’s Contemporary Fiction/Romance

Read: February

A lovely light and endearing romance (actually you get two romances for the price of one). Local Tarrin Bay Doctor, Sylvia, makes a wish at the fountain during the seaside town’s post-Christmas festival. Within days her life is turned upside down. The child she adopted out as a baby comes to town to meet her, her boyfriend dumps her, and the new medical profession at her surgery turns out to be a naturopath (and a handsome one to boot). Sylvia’s life has taken a turn for the best as she deals with her past choices, opens her mind to new medical opinions and meets the love of her life. Fun and wonderful holiday reading.

“Falling in Love, Again” by Marilyn Forsyth

Genre: Fiction: Women’s Contemporary Fiction/Romance

Rating: ****

Read: January

A fun and easy read about a young woman who rediscovers her first love in the Opal fields of Australia. Gemma is trying to acquire an opalised fossil for the museum she works for, when she realises that the owner is her first love and the father of her child (unbeknownst to him). The book is full of very real examples of the emotional immaturity of our young selves and how poor decision-making results in lost opportunities – especially in the romance department. Entertaining and engaging.

“Untamed” by Glennon Doyle

Rating: *****

Genre: Non-Fiction: Creative Non-Fiction/Autobiography

Read: January

An eye-opening, semi-autobiographical examination of social norms and how they dictate our thinking and behaviour. Doyle beautifully describes how our socially structured and imposed systems of belief cloud our innate personal judgement, preventing us from being our genuine selves and living our true lives. This is a relevant, inclusive, non-threatening and inspiring book. This is a great starting point for all (especially Gen X and Boomers who may find some feminist style writing a little alarming and smash-the-state). A must-read.

The Writer Says: Quotes, Quips and Words of Wisdom” ed Kevin Lippert

Rating: ****

Genre: Non-Fiction: Coffee Table Book/Writing

Read: January

This lovely gift book is a compendium of quotable quotes from successful writers. Some are motivating, some thought-provoking, and others, downright funny. A must for any writer, from beginners to established authors.

“Old Vintage Melbourne” by Chris Macheras

Rating: *****

Genre: Non-Fiction: Coffee Table Book/Social History

Read: January

A remarkable collection of photos showing the development of the city of Melbourne (Australia). The commentary is informative, full of fun and interesting snippets and often accompanied by amusing observations. This is a must for residents and lovers of the city.

“My Cool Scooter” by Chris Haddon

Rating:    ****

Genre: Non-Fiction: Coffee Table Book/Social History

Read:  January

A fun look at the development of the scooter as a mode of transport and a fashion item. There are plenty of pictures of original scooters, true-to-original restorations, and artistic paint jobs. It’s not just Vespas and Lambrettas – the book covers a range of models and styles. A must for the fan of the scooter.

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PREVIOUS YEAR’S BOOK REVIEWS

2021: Sarah’s 2021 Book Review List

2020: Sarah’s 2020 Book Review List

2019: 2019 Book Reviews 

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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