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I have completely and irretrievably fallen in love with this book. I entered thinking one thing, and left feeling so, so much more. Billy at over one hundred years old, decides to look back over the loves of his life. Richard Lumsden has created a wonderfully rounded and appealing main character, surrounded by an equally gorgeous supporting cast. I slipped into the pages and just wanted to remain there, the past calls and cajoles, intriguing suggestions form and grow, before the present enters once again. There were times when my heart broke, each piece forming a collection of love just for Billy. The Six Loves Of Billy Binns is a beautifully readable and emotional tale, full of laughter and tears you really couldn’t ask for much more, highly recommended.
Written in Singlish - “a tossed salad of the different languages and Chinese dialects that the country’s multiethnic population speaks” - this exhilarating novel follows brazen Jazzy’s mission to marry a wealthy “ang moh” (white) man. Almost 27, she warns her friends that ”if we don’t get married, engaged or even nail down a boyfriend soon—my god, we might as well go ahead and book a room at Singapore Casket… But luckily for us, we still have one big hope: ang moh guys”, because “if you wear a tight tight dress or short short skirt, these ang mohs will still steam over you”. To this end, Jazzy’s life is an intense cycle of spending her days working for a newspaper editor who likes to “rubba rubba” his employees, followed by long nights at fancy clubs. Through her predatory attitude and enduring of a whole lot of objectification, this novel is razor-sharp on male entitlement, inequality, racial stereotypes and global capitalism. Indeed, Jazzy wasn’t always a Sarong Party Girl herself: “I would see women who are so obviously going after guys just for status and really look down on them. What kind of woman is so pathetic to chase after a husband just for the kind of handbag, car or condo they can buy them?” And then one night, it seems that enough is enough. Jazzy has an epiphany at dawn after a one hell of a wake-up call night out. What a fresh, funny and wildly acerbic treat this is.
When Levi and Charlotte McAllister’s mother dies, she suffers the post-death fate experienced by many a McAllister woman. After cremation, she re-appears and bursts into flame on the lawn. Fearing his sister is headed for the same end, Levi swears to “bury her whole and still and cold”, which prompts Charlotte to flee southward “towards the bottom of the earth”. What follows is a cleverly twisting story that crackles with intrigue and invention as the lives of an assortment of compelling characters collide. There’s the wildly eccentric coffin maker Levi commissions to make Charlotte’s casket, and the hard-drinking female detective he employs to track her down. There’s the wombat-farmer slipping into insanity, and the young woman who works for him and changes Charlotte’s life. Raw and real, yet also suffused in otherworldly magic, the author has conjured an elemental mythological landscape alongside the true-world Tasmanian setting. I raced through these blistering pages, but this is a book I shall undoubtedly return to.
Often lyrical, and always entertaining, this Norse-vibed YA debut has friendship, fear and coming-of-age conundrums at its heart. It tells the tale of a land ransacked by a civil war that saw a new religion and younger prince replace a brutal old regime. Some nine years later, in peacetime, friends Torny and Ebba remember nothing of the war, or life before the uprising. But with their land on the brink of fresh upheaval, the unforgettable female protagonists find themselves on separate tracks, with painful, testing, relentless repercussions. With a cast of characters that includes gods and spirits, shamans and magic-workers, the world-building is fabulous, and the dual narrative device (it alternates between Torny and Ebba) really adds to the drama and tension. Fantasy fans will be delighted to hear that a sequel is on its way.
If ever there was a book to fall completely in love with, this is it. Grace Atherton keeps certain parts of her deeply buried from everyone, yet it is the revelation of a joint secret that causes her life as she knows it to stop, how can she possibly restart it again? The first few sentences told me I was in for a real treat, I was intrigued, delighted in the style of writing, and then the end of first chapter… it was completely unexpected and caused my stomach to squirm. While this is a book to read with joy, it isn’t a gooey ride, it made me flinch, question and delve into thoughts. Anstey Harris has conjured such beautiful descriptions, they created a fully realised and vivid picture in my mind. Music and friendship pay a hugely important part in this book, the joy of each deeply embedded in the page, the words releasing themselves into my soul. I will admit to knowing next to nothing about cellos and violins, yet somehow I felt as though I did, I understood, I felt, I loved each instrument. I absolutely adore The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton, it is completely magical and I suspect that each time I read it (it is a book to return to), a slightly different story will await me. Highly recommended.
This fabulous debut will make you think twice before allowing a rumour or gossip to pass your lips! Sally McGown stabbed a little boy to death when she was ten years old, it is now 48 years later and rumour has it that she has a new identity and is living in town. Joanna has no idea that the rumour she helped start will spread like wildfire and have explosive repercussions for her and her family. Lesley Kara sets the scene beautifully, with Joanna telling her own story and introducing the local town folk. Another voice enters, quietly menacing to start, and as it flicks in and out the tension increases with crackling intensity. Wicked little thought traps and misdirections are scattered on the path in front of you, even if I tell you to expect the unexpected, you still may find yourself gasping as the action plays out. The Rumour is a beautifully readable, clever and thrilling tale with an ending that delivers a venomous sting!
A thoughtful, comical, thoroughly entertaining relationship story with a difference. Kelly is an introverted perfectionist, she is also a leading robotics engineer. When she feels overwhelming pressure from her family to find a date for her sister’s wedding, it makes complete sense to build her own boyfriend… doesn’t it? I instantly fell into the pages, this is such a delightfully readable tale, made all the more refreshing by Kelly’s family and friends. If this were a film, it would be billed as an offbeat Hollywood romcom. It borders on the quirky (perhaps more than borders with a robot as the romantic interest!). The chaos surrounding Kelly’s decision snowballs, creating smirks, and also intrigue, how on earth was she going to rescue the situation? While Sarah Archer embraces fantastical, she also focuses on legitimate thoughts and feelings, creating a wonderful and original balance. How to Build A Boyfriend From Scratch is a positive, smile-filled, engaging read, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
This light-hearted, easy-to-read tale set in the USA, is told through emails, texts, diary entries, and extracts from stories. When her relationship falters Crystal finds herself living back with her loving but interfering Mom. Crystal decides her mum needs a boyfriend and signs her up for a lifelike experimental robot, what on earth could go wrong?! I started reading with a slight hesitation but soon settled down as I got used to the texts and emails laid out on the page in front of me. The characters are inventively introduced by Crystal Hemmingway through different forms of electronic communication. The individual personality traits start to shine through and I was able to connect with them even with the limited descriptive detailing. I recommend throwing yourself and letting go, as Mom’s Perfect Boyfriend is a fun, bright and animated read.
The clever, seductive, fact and fictional blended story of Truman Capote and the women he placed (and came to rely on) at the very centre of his life. Truman Capote (author of works including novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s and non fiction piece In Cold Blood) could call among his friends and confidants the wealthy, famous and social elite. Their secrets were released to the world when he wrote a fictional piece that aired an awful lot of real life dirty laundry. Swan Song darts through the years, backwards and forwards, releasing information, filling in this breathtaking story. Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott apparently took ten years to research, and four years to write Swan Song. Capote’s swans are deliciously stimulating, and speak as one, revealing betrayal, scandal and lives full of emotional and physical excess. It is so wonderfully gossipy and fascinating, it’s all too easy to forget this is a novel (even though seeped in fact). Swan Song is a beguiling, fascinating dream of a read, and comes as highly recommended by me.
Marianne Power was stuck in a rut. Then one day she wondered: could self-help books help her find the elusive perfect life? She decided to test one book a month for a year, following their advice to the letter. What would happen if she followed the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? Really felt The Power of Now? Could she unearth The Secret to making her dreams come true? What begins as a clever experiment becomes an achingly poignant story. Because self-help can change your life - but not necessarily for the better . . . Help Me! is an irresistibly funny and incredibly moving book about a wild and ultimately redemptive journey that will resonate with anyone who's ever dreamed of finding happiness.
Life, love, wiping slates clean. When life hands her death, a 43-year-old woman sets the record straight with people she’s close to, with wildly unexpected results - and plot twists aplenty. “Why do we only appreciate what we’ve got when it’s put at risk?” This question simmers at the heart of this breezily written book that sees a woman deal with a diagnosis of terminal illness with a certain calmness. While there’s nothing Jennifer can do about her prognosis, she can do something to confront deep-rooted niggles about problematic romantic and familial relationships. And so after enjoying of an early act of wild abandon - an uncharacteristic event that will surely put smiles on readers’ faces - she sends letters to people who’ve hurt her. Letters that reveal all the things she should have said to her philandering ex-husband, to her self-centred sister, and to her flaky former boyfriend. Their responses lay bare their regrets and love, but also highlight their own failings and insecurities, before a succession of sweeping twists lead Jennifer to understatedly muse that it’s “funny how the worst thing to happen can end up being the best thing.” Prompting “what would you do...?” questions of the reader, this entertaining debut weaves in universal truths about the value of honesty and living life to the full to stave off future regrets, and will be enjoyed by fans of Jenny Colgan, Jill Mansell, Cathy Kelly and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
An absolutely fascinating dual-time frame novel focusing on the Italian Resistance in 1944, and what starts as an investigation into a hit and run accident in 1999. Sandro Bellini is just 18 years old when he falls in love with the wife of his commander during the Second World War. Michael Keats is determined to locate the man who had been having an affair with his wife before she was killed in 1999. Set in a valley near Lake Como in Northern Italy, these two time frames weave together to create a truly captivating tale. The first few chapters set my intrigue antenna on full alert. I have an interest in the Second World War, and wondered whether the story from 1944 would push 1999 to one side. Gordon Kerr however, ensures that the two time lines are equally gripping, particularly as events start to embrace. The characters feel entirely believable and their emotions beat and thrum across the page. The pace and tension increased throughout and I found the ending extremely satisfying. ‘The Partisan Heart’ is a well-written, clever tale focussing on intimate feelings during the most stressful of times.
Oh… my… word, this is one fabulous debut! I found a deceptively simple, and stark dystopian foray into a world blighted by bombs and sickness. Monster is completely alone until one day she finds a child. She becomes mother and passes on her knowledge, but are her mothering skills being received in the way she is expecting them to be? Told in the first person, Katie Hale has created short chapters where thoughts scatter, bounce, zigzag. I filed away feelings and emotions as I read, each within touching distance, lying in wait to prod and provoke. This feels honest, as though looking at a future just within grasp, or back to a history that has already happened. The feelings are raw, sometimes painful, yet relatable and believable. I found the premise of this novel absolutely fascinating, I explored interpretation of meaning, motherhood, and thoughts on the basic cycle of life. ‘My Name is Monster’ is poignant, moving and wonderfully different, it is also incredibly intimate, readable and surprisingly beautiful, I adored it.
Fabulous First-time Fiction
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