Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Good People by Hannah Kent


Set in the Ireland in the early nineteenth century, The Good People takes place in a small town where religion is pushing out older pagan traditions. Nora Leahy is raising the child left behind when her daughter died, and suddenly, her husband also dies. The child is disabled – unable to walk, talk and constantly upset. Though talk of the villagers and the local herbalist, Nance (considered by some to be a witch), Nora becomes convinced that her child is a changling – a fairy child, left when the fairies took the real child. If she can find the right process, she will be able to get rid of this fake and get her one grandchild back – and the bad luck of the area will be reversed.

Hannah Kent’s previous book was Burial Rites, which I also loved. She is able to capture an essence of a time and find the characters who lived there. Her books are touching, leaving the reader desperately wanting to help the characters who seem unable to help themselves. It’s not a light walk in the park, but I’d highly recommend this wonderful book.

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As You Wish – Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes with Joe Layden and a foreward by Rob Reiner – Book Review


If you are like me, you grew up with The Princess Bride on VHS and watched it a lot. It has fabulous characters, great lines and you love it. You may have even read the book, and been lead to do online searches to try to figure out if it is real or not. You may be happy to watch the film over and over again, and are happy to ignore the dagginess of it – ridiculous ROUS or the obviously fake sets.

If you are like this, then this book is for you. It’s not some freaky reveal of secrets that will ruin the film for you – it’s just a whole bunch of stories from Carey Elwes punctuated by little stories from other cast and crew members. It’s fun, it’s light, it’s nice. And it is definitely for the fans.

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Q&A vs Slumdog Millionaire

Q & A by Vikas Swarup – Book Review


Just fabulous. If you don’t remember Slumdog Millionaire (the award-winning film based on this book) from a few years ago, the premise is pretty straight-forward. A Ram Mohammad Thomas from the poorest parts of India manages to get on to their equivalent of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and wins the whole way. But given that he has very limited education, the producers are suspicious and have Ram arrested and tortured. But, as he tells his story to a lawyer who appears to defend him, he doesn’t know very much, but events in his life have led him to know the answers to the questions which he is asked.

I can see how appealing it was to make a film from this – the story is simple but beautifully told, with a cinematic eye for detail, not too many characters, and it really is a great tale. It’s fun, at times tragic, at times hilarious. Absolutely worth getting your hands on.


Slumdog Millionaire – Film Review


This is a really enjoyable film. The actors are great, especially the delightful children who play the youngest versions of the characters. The story from the book was written so perfectly for adaptation, and even though there was a lot of detail from the book that was lost or changed to ensure a film that lasted 90 minutes rather than 500 minutes.

There were just a couple of tiny things that I found somewhat disappointing. The key one was that, in the book, the lawyer who helps the poor boy when he is arrested and being tortured is a woman, and this is significant in the book. Yet, for no really clear good reason, in the film, this is a man. I am always going on about women in films and wondering why there are not more women in many roles – and here was a perfect role for a woman and it’s given to some guy. Ok, not just some guy, Irrfan Kahn, a well known and respected actor. Still. Disappointing.

Slumdog Millionaire won Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Direction  (Danny Boyle) Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Picture – Original Score, Best Achievement for Music Written for Motion Picture – Original Song (Jai Ho) and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, and was nominated for Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Best Achievement for Music Written for Motion Picture – Original Song (O Saya).

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Me Before You vs Me Before You

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – Book Review


Lou Clark is a bit odd, a bit quirky and a bit useless. She’s stuck in a relationship with a guy she doesn’t really like that much, living at home and the café where she’s been working for several years has just closed. Her family is barely coping financially and so Lou is forced to take and remain in a caring job – being a companion for the grumpy and rude Will Traynor – ex high-flying CEO who is now paraplegic after a car accident.

I knew that this was going to be a tear-jerker. I also suspected that it might be somewhat offensive, in that there is a huge issue with representing disabled people as preferring to be dead than disabled. However I felt that Moyes represented things well in this book. It was clear that this is how this character feels, and clear that many other disabled people do not feel this way. I thought it was very clever the way it represented the way many able-bodied people treat people with disabilities – embarrassment, condescension, confusion, even anger. And I like that it might make people think about how they treat people around them.


Me Before You (2016) Film Review


The story is the same – quirky girl meets depressed and recently disabled man and they find a connection. And it was great – great in exactly the way the book was. Of course, it didn’t get into the depths of the book, and having read the book, I was slightly disappointed that some of the back story and motivation was missing, but I think had I seen the film first, I wouldn’t have missed it. But one thing I have to get out of the way – it was Khaleesi! I was stuck on who the actress was playing Lou, and was stunned to learn that it is Emilia Clarke who is also Khaleesi in Game of Thrones – such extremely different characters! My only real complaint was that I didn’t feel much chemistry between the two of them, which I think was really needed.

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Chinese Cinderella: The Secret Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah – Book Review


Adeline Yen Mah’s mother died giving birth to her in China in 1937 and from then, her older siblings considered her to be bad luck. Her father remarried a woman who disliked and treated all of his previous children badly, and none more than Adeline. The children fought for their own place in the world, and Adeline always had the worst of it, despite the love of her aunt and grandfather. This is her story.

As I read it, I felt it was quite a basic telling of the story. It told of some quite horrible events in the life of this poor, unhappy child, however it seemed quite lightweight. It was only later that I realised that this is the version of the author’s story that has specifically been written for younger readers – I’m thinking early teens, probably, or perhaps a bit younger. Adeline Yen Mah has also written an adult version called Falling Leaves, and I am now interested in reading this. I think this is an excellent account for a young reader, but I want more.

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The Memory Artist by Katherine Brabon – Book Review


Pasha Ivanov is a writer in Russia as it comes through Gorbachev and the end of the cold war, the fall of Communism. He recalls as a child, sitting in his family home as his parents and their friends, dissidents, met. Now, as an adult, he is struggling with his writing, with his relationships, with his connection to what the USSR was, what Russia is now, and what Russia has ever been.

I found this a very difficult book to engage with. I was surprised, as it was recommended by my mother who loved it and read it quickly, and is now wanting a reread. Often, we have similar tastes in books. But I found it hard to connect with Ivanov, I had trouble remaining in the time that each section was placed in, and I really struggled with what was dialogue and what was internal monologue. I usually have no problem with non-traditional representation of dialogue, and by this I suppose I mostly mean not using talking marks, but with this book I would think that a character had finished speaking and then realise a paragraph or two later that it was a longer story, and have to reread. Clearly, there is an audience for the book, but I’m afraid I’m not it.

The Memory Artist has been loved by many. It was listed within the Top Ten list from the ABCs “The Book Show” of books of 2016 as well as winning the Australian/Vogel Literary Award for 2016.

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The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna – Book Review


This is a tough book; not tough to read, because it is from the perspective of a young boy with some form of autism as he tries to make sense of the world. What is tough is that young Jimmy’s world includes an ill mother, a drunk and violent father, an angry brother and a lack of clear understanding of his place in this world.

I loved it. It’s beautiful in its descriptions of Jimmy’s world and that around him. It is the first book I’ve read that gives an account of autism that gives a real sense of what may be happening in the mind of a child. The lack of understanding of what other people are going through, the need to be “both too fast and too slow”. It’s so beautifully done, and so deeply heartbreaking. Oh, Jimmy.

The Eye of the Sheep was the 2015 Winner of the Miles Franklin Award.

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