Category Archives: Book Reviews

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut – Audio Book Review

Read by James Franco

I had no idea what this book was about, just that I’ve been meaning to read it for years. I knew it was a classic, and I knew it was about war. I did not expect time travelling or aliens or… well, any of that. And wow. It’s pretty hard to describe this book succinctly, but it’s about the bombing of Dresden, about a group of American soldiers who were prisoners of ware and were there for the aftermath, about a man trying to write about it and then… yes, aliens and time travel and etc. etc.

Initially, I was disappointed that it was read by James Franco. He’s okay, but I found his voice a bit monotonous. But, as it went, I found that his voice was prefect for this text – it had the resigned tone of someone who has lived through hell and needs to tell of it, but also kind of can’t. The only issue I had with it as an audio book was I couldn’t get a strong sense of the structure of the story, but I still really loved it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

The Help by Kathryn Stockett – Audio Book Review

Read by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, Cassandra Campbell

I’ve avoided audio books for the longest time, because when I drive or walk or whatever, I tend to listen to podcasts on my tiny little old iPod nano. But recently when about to leave work for my usually forty minutes drive home and heard that there were accidents everywhere and it was likely to take me a lot longer to get home, and my iPod nano was flat. Boo. But, thanks to a lot of advertising my audible on many of the podcasts, I knew what to do. I downloaded the app and headed to the audible store. Just because it came up early on and I’ve been meaning to read it for ages. One thing I have found in general about audio books is that listening to them is quite different to listening to podcasts, for some reason. Often, I’ll be listening to podcasts and find myself drifting in and out of concentration, and have to flick to music. But audiobooks hold my attention for much longer. Interesting.

So, The Help. The book is written from several perspectives – from Skeeter, the white woman who wants to be a writer, who sees the society and the segregation around her differently to her peers and family, who starts to write a book telling the stories of the African American women who take care of the houses and children of the rich, white woman; then there are a couple of the maids, Aibileen and Minny, who are faced with these horrible women who are happy to let black women raise their children but refuse to share a toilet. I recall that I found the film of The Help to be quite light – yes, it was dealing with serious issues, but it was kind of fun and entertaining. I found the book far more intense, giving a greater sense of how potentially dangerous the actions of these women could potentially be. The reading was wonderful, especially having different voices for the different characters. It was certainly a great introduction to audio books.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Avalanche by Julia Leigh – Book Review

Like many women, Julia Leigh found she was unable to conceive in the conventional manner, and so needed IVF treatment. That part of the book was interesting, to a point. Leigh outlines the treatment she had, how she felt, what happened when things went right and when things went wrong. A big part of the story was the relationship that worked, and then didn’t and then did and when things went bad, we knew all about it.

I felt like this was an important book for Leigh to write, but I found it quite unpleasant to read. I think that she tried to be quite honest about her relationship (and certainly, she doesn’t come out all that well in many parts), but I felt like her ex doesn’t have the opportunity to have a right of reply, and he’s stuck with all that she has said just being out there. I just didn’t really enjoy reading it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Ghost River by Tony Birch – Book Review

9780702253775

It’s the late 60s, working class Collingwood in Melbourne. Ren’s life is changed when he becomes mates with Sonny next door – a rough kid with a drunk, violent dad and no fear. Ren and Sonny start hanging out at the river, a dangerous, fast place that Ren has been told to avoid. There they have adventures, they jump into the water from heights and they befriend a group of vagrants who tell them stories. But the joy of freedom and youth cannot remain the same.

The writing captures a world now gone with nostalgia, but also with honesty. The kids have the freedom to escape and be free when they are at the river, but they also have adults who bully both verbally and physically. Ren and Sonny are both innocent and world-weary, with much in their lives that they are trying to figure out without getting in to too deep. It’s a beautiful read, and I highly recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor – Book Review

41lwxi9t7kl-_sx322_bo1204203200_

Our society is fearful of death. Fearful of talking about death, fearful of debates around euthanasia, fearful of what this means for those who are facing death and those who are left behind. Dying: A Memoir is the story of Cory Taylor, a writer and mother who, after she has no further treatment options against melanoma, must face death.

The book is in three parts and it is no surprise that it is an emotional read. But it is beautiful, recounting her life, her family and the choices that they all face. I am sure many will avoid it, not wanting to face the difficult subject matter, but I urge you to look beyond this. Taylor’s writing is brave and entertaining. It is one woman’s truth and a truth that deserves reading.

Dying: A Memoir was long listed for the 2017 Stellar Prize.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire

9781743538579

It’s a small town outside of Sydney. Bella went missing and, after a few painful days, was found dead, abandoned on the side of a highway. Her older sister, Chris, finds herself in the middle of it all; an investigation, a heap of reporters, and a community within which may hide her sister’s killer.

The book follows a few weeks where, while Chris tries to deal with her grief, aided by her ex-husband and those around her, journalist May, working for an online newspaper, is trying to find her headline and escape her own emotionally broken life.

With so many books on the Stellar Prize long list being non-fiction, I started this thinking it was a true story and only a few chapters in, realised it was fiction. But it is based on the truth of so many small towns where violence occurs, and on the various ways people try to move on. The characters are not necessarily likable, yet Maguire writes them in such an empathetic way that I found myself wanting them to succeed, which I found almost appalling in the case of May; but it is the fact that she is almost self-aware… not quite, but enough that I, against my better judgement, find that I want to be on her side. In a way.

An Isolated Incident was long listed for the 2017 Stellar Prize.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

The Good People by Hannah Kent

the-good-people

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews