Review: All We Have Is Now by Kaneana May

 


Title: All We Have Is Now

Author: Kaneana May

Published: 7th April 2021, HQ Fiction

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy HarperCollins

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My Thoughts:

All We Have Is Now is Kaneana May’s second novel following her well-received debut, The One in 2019.

All We Have Is Now unfolds from the perspectives of Bree, Elsie and Olive, colleagues and best friends who run a wellness centre, ‘Healing Hands’. The success of their business has allowed them to relocate to larger premises where Bree, the life of any party, is a Pilates instructor; Elsie, happily married and newly pregnant, provides counselling services; and pragmatic Olive, a dietician, runs cooking classes.

While the centre is thriving, Bree, Elsie and Olive come under increasing personal stress and I quickly found myself invested in their stories. May skilfully develops complex, distinct characters whose behaviours and attitudes feel authentic. With her concealed past, I found Olive to be the most intriguing figure, while Elsie was the most sympathetic given her circumstances. It took me a little longer to warm to Bree, but I loved the depiction of the close, but not uncomplicated, friendship between the three.

May addresses a number of themes in the novel, such as friendship, family, love and romance, but it’s her exploration of grief that is especially thoughtful and sensitive. Each of her main characters are forced to find the courage to confront some difficult realities about loss in order to move forward with their lives. Though bereavement is not something that can be, nor should be, compared, Elsie’s is particularly heartrending given its immediacy.

There is a special sort of thrill in being familiar with the setting of a story. All We Have Is Now is primarily set in Wingham, which adjoins my own town of Taree, so I could easily envisage both the house in which the centre operates and the characters movements around their environs (the author herself is a local).

Thoughtfully crafted, heartfelt and poignant, All We Have Is Now is a pleasure to read.

++++++

Available from Harlequin/HarperCollins Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon


Linking to: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? at BookDate; Sunday Post @ Caffeinated Reviewer; and the Sunday Salon @ ReaderBuzz

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Life…

The past week has been uneventful, the next week is likely to be more of the same, though it’s my birthday midweek. My guess is no one will remember until they get hungry, it’s the one day of the year I refuse to cook. I have left them a clue – our menu board says SURPRISE ME! for Wednesday’s dinner 🙂

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What I’ve Read Since I last Posted…

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How To Fake Being Tidy by Fenella Souter

Something to Hide by Fleur McDonald

Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane

You Need To Know by Nicola Moriarty

All We Have is Now by Kaneana May

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New Posts…

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Review: How To Fake Being Tidy by Fenella Souter ★★

Review: Something to Hide by Fleur McDonald ★★★★1/2

Review: Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane ★★★★★

Review: You Need To Know by Nicola Moriarty ★★★★

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What I’m Reading This Week…

 

From the bestselling Australian author of The Hating Game comes the clever, funny and unforgettable story of a muscular, tattooed man hired as an assistant to two elderly women – under the watchful eye of a beautiful retirement home manager

Distraction (n): Something that turns your attention away from something you want to concentrate on. See: Teddy Prescott.

Ruthie Midona is twenty-four (going on ninety-four) and fully committed to her job at a luxury retirement village. Keeping herself busy caring for the eccentric residents means that Ruthie can safely ignore her own life – what little there is of it.

Teddy Prescott is practically allergic to a hard day’s work. When he rocks up as the retirement village’s newest employee, Ruthie is less than impressed. The last thing she needs is a distraction as irritating (and handsome) as this selfish rich kid.

Lucky for Ruthie, her favourite pair of mischievous residents need a new assistant to torture . . . so she hands over Teddy, ready for them to send him running.

Except Teddy may be about to surprise her – not just by surviving the old women’s antics, but by charming Ruthie so much, she starts to remember that there’s more to life than work . . . Could Teddy be far more than simply an unwelcome distraction?

++++++++

 

As a medical detective of the modern world, forensic pathologist Ryan Blumenthal’s chief goal is to bring perpetrators to justice. He has performed thousands of autopsies, which have helped bring numerous criminals to book. In Autopsy he covers the hard lessons learnt as a rookie pathologist, as well as some of the most unusual cases he’s encountered.

During his career, for example, he has dealt with high-profile deaths, mass disasters, death by lightning and people killed by African wildlife. Blumenthal takes the reader behind the scenes at the mortuary, describing a typical autopsy and the instruments of the trade. He also shares a few trade secrets, like how to establish when a suicide is more likely to be a homicide.

Even though they cannot speak, the dead have a lot to say – and Blumenthal is there to listen.

+++++++

 

She never meant to be a hero…

In fact, Dreckly Jones has made a point her whole life to be exactly not that. The daughter of a forbidden union between an earth elemental and a selkie, her rare powers have meant she has always had a target on her back.

So Dreckly – a 40-something oyster shucker according to her fake documents, 140-something sprite if you’re going to get all nit-picky about it – has become an expert at many things. Chief amongst them: hiding.

When she meets a determined group of rebels who desperately need her help, she finds herself wanting to stick her neck out for the first time in a long while. Yet is she ready to be noticed? Is Dreckly willing to use her powers to stand up when it could cost her everything?

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Thanks for stopping by!

Review: You Need To Know by Nicola Moriarty

 


Title: You Need To Know

Author: Nicola Moriarty

Published: 7th April 2021, HarperCollins Australia

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy HarperCollins Au

++++++

My Thoughts:

Nicola Moriarty’s newest title, You Need To Know, is a gripping domestic drama centred around the members of a single family, Jill, her three sons – Pete, Tony and Darren; her two daughter in-laws – Mimi and Andrea; and her grandchildren – Callie, Tara, and infant twins, Elliot and James.

There’s more than one smashing twist in this dramatic story of a family on a collision course with secrets that threaten to shatter their bonds forever. The main action takes place over a period of about a month in the lead up to Christmas, interspersed with flashes which hint at the tragedy to come. Moriarty builds the tension slowly, with various dramatic plot elements that are both self contained, and play into the larger crisis, several of which unfold in unexpected ways.

Told from the perspectives of Jill, Mimi, Andrea, and Darren, Moriarty slowly reveals the varied stressors the family are experiencing, and secrets they are keeping, some of which are fairly mundane, others more explosive. I thought the author captured the dynamics of both the individual family groupings, and between the extended family very well. Despite the large cast, each character is distinctive, and there is no confusion as the narrative moves between them. I quickly became invested in the family members, eager to learn their fate.

You Need to Know offers a tense, well-crafted storyline, interesting, multifaceted characters, and a sensational climax. I think Nicola Moriarty has found her niche in the Aussie domestic thriller genre.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I HiveUK  I Amazon

Review: Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane


Title: Last Night

Author: Mhairi McFarlane

Published: 1st April 2021, HarperCollins UK

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy HarperCollinsUK/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

 

“That night was the last night of The Past, and we had no idea.”

 

I sat down to get a start on Mhairi McFarlane’s newest release and turned the final page just as my husband put his key in the door. The house was dark, the oven was cold, and I realised I hadn’t moved for the past three hours or so. While I very much enjoyed McFarlane’s previous novels, If I Never Met You, It’s Not Me, It’s You, and Don’t You Forget About Me, Last Night just felled me.

Though both romantic and funny, Last Night is much more than the romcom it’s marketed as. It’s a contemporary, captivating story exploring friendship, loss, secrets and love, told with McFarlane’s distinctive blend of insight, heart, and wit.

It would be far too easy to spoil the plot, which is why I’m avoiding my usual introduction to a review, but I can say it centres around four best friends since childhood – Eve, Susan, Justin and Ed, now all aged in their mid-thirties, faced with a shattering event that challenges their comfortable status quo.

There’s an authenticity and nuance to McFarlane’s characters that just appeals so strongly to me, even though I don’t necessarily have anything in common with them. Last Night unfolds from the perspective of Eve, single (and secretly in love with Ed), with an unfulfilling job, but nevertheless content with her life, largely due to her close relationships with Susan, Justin and Ed. The dynamic between the four friends is enviable, though not without its complications, which are brought to the fore in the wake of profound tragedy.

I’m not claiming Last Night is flawless, nor will it appeal to everyone, but it was near perfect for me for so many reasons. The author has a talent for natural dialogue and great timing, and I love McFarlane’s sharp, dry wit, but it’s her ability to evoke a full range of emotions that ensures I become invested in the story. I laughed and shed a tear, sighed and held my breath.

It should be obvious by now that I adored Last Night, its going to be a favourite for this year.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins UK

Or from your preferred retailer via HiveUK I Book Depository I Booko

Review: Something to Hide by Fleur McDonald

Something to Hide by Fleur McDonald

 


Title: Something to Hide {Detective Dave Burrows}

Author: Fleur McDonald

Published: 30th March 2021, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy Allen & Unwin

+++++++

My Thoughts:

Something to Hide is the fourth engrossing rural suspense novel to feature Detective Dave Burrows, though the seventh in which he appears, by bestselling Australian writer Fleur McDonald.

Something to Hide brings closure to the undercover assignment investigating a stock theft ring that resulted in Dave being shot and the escape of the ringleaders,  brothers Bulldust and Scotty, in Without A Doubt. Set a few months after the events of Red Dirt Country, Dave’s relationship with his wife, Melinda, is just getting back on track when, while grocery shopping, she’s confronted by a stranger with a message for her husband.

Dave’s been expecting the ruthless brothers to seek their revenge ever since the judge carelessly revealed his identity during his testimony in the case, and now that they’ve finally made their first move, Dave is keen to end the threat. McDonald develops a tense, fast-paced plot as the inevitable confrontation between Dave and Bulldust edges ever closer. Not knowing when, or where it will take place, but assuming it will be deadly, ensures suspense remains high throughout the story, particularly as both men grow more reckless in their pursuit of each other.

Stonewalled by the Major Crimes squad tracking Bulldust and his brother, Dave’s partner, Bob, tries to distract him with another case involving stock theft, moving the action from Perth back to Barrabine, adding a further layer of interest to the novel. It also reunites Dave with his mentor and handler on the undercover case, Spencer, who, in a shocking twist, gets caught up in Bulldust’s vendetta.

The entire situation is the last straw for Mel who issues Dave an ultimatum, insisting he choose between her and the job. McDonald explores Dave’s struggle to make such a choice, and the fears that drive the spouse of a police officer to demand one. Though I do not find Mel to be a likeable character, McDonald’s skill with creating authentic characters ensures I do sympathise with her concerns. Unsurprisingly, Dave remains hopeful that he can still have it all, until tragedy ensures the decision is made for him.

Though Something to Hide could be read as a stand-alone, I wouldn’t recommend it given it provides closure to two major threads developed in the previous books, plus you’d be missing out on what is an excellent series. Well crafted, with exciting action, Something to Hide is a stellar instalment, and I can’t wait to discover how Dave moves forward from here.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

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If you’ve enjoyed this review, (and even if you haven’t) please consider donating to the charity Fleur McDonald founded, DV assist, which offers information, resources and practical support for those experiencing or concerned about others who may be experiencing domestic and family violence in regional, rural or remote Western Australia experiencing family and domestic violence.

Click here to learn more about DVAssist.org.au

Review: How To Fake Being Tidy by Fenella Souter


Title: How To Fake Being Tidy: and other things my mother never taught me.

Author: Fenella Souter

Published: 30th March 2021, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++++

My Thoughts:

How To Fake Being Tidy: and other things my mother never taught me from feature writer, Fenella Souter (who also uses the non de plume Dusty Miller), is an essay collection primarily comprised of columns first published in the Australian newspapers, Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Housework definitely not being my thing (I admit I prefer Erma Bombeck’s advice to Marie Kondo’s), I was lured by the title of this book, but was disappointed to discover that Souter doesn’t actually offer tips to fake being tidy.

This is not a how-to guide, it’s a collection of genteel, undemanding stories that centres around the domestic. Souter does offer some simple household management tips, like how to remove labels from jars, wine stains from fabric, and how to organise your linen cupboard, but the essays are generally less prescriptive and more ruminative, reflecting on the pleasure of crisp bedsheets, the trials of holding your own against a tradie, or relocating a beehive, for example.

A number of the essays also focus on food. Souter appears to be an accomplished cook, with sophisticated tastes and a generous budget. She includes a variety of recipes offered within the context of the essay’s, including those for Orange Marmalade, Broccomole, Hummus with Spiced Lamb, and Passionfruit Creams, to name a few.

There were a handful of essays that resonated with me, but as a whole, I feel the collection is rather bland, reflecting a rather white, upper middle class perspective, and would likely have more appeal for the ‘boomer’ generation than mine. 

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon


Linking to: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? at BookDate; Sunday Post @ Caffeinated Reviewer; and the Sunday Salon @ ReaderBuzz

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Life…

I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend, whether you observed the Easter rituals, or simply spent it with with family and friends. We had a lovely lunch with family on Sunday, (I really should remember to take photos), but otherwise we’ve done very little.

Last Tuesday I zoomed into a virtual author event held by my library with Ali Sinclair, author of Codebreakers, and Meg Bignell, author of Welcome To Nowhere River, which I enjoyed.

The only other excitement this past week is that my eldest daughter finally took delivery of her (new-to-her) car. It’s nothing fancy, given she actually hasn’t even got her full licence yet, but it’s a step in the right direction to independence given she’ll be 25 next month.

School holidays have started so my boys will be home for the next two weeks. Just as they go back, my daughter will be able to come home from uni for a week. I can’t wait to see her!

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What I’ve Read Since I last Posted…

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The Lady With the Gun Asks the Questions by Kerry Greenwood

The Best Things by Mel Giedroyc

The Plague Letters by V.L. Valentine

How To Fake Being Tidy by Fenella Souter

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New Posts…

Review: The Emporium of Imagination by Tabitha Bird

Review: The Last Reunion by Kayte Nunn

Review: The Lady With the Gun Asks the Questions by Kerry Greenwood

Review: The Best Things by Mel Giedroyc

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #3

Review: The Plague Letters by V.L. Valentine

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What I’m Reading This Week…


Eve, Justin, Susie, and Ed have been friends since they were teenagers. Now in their thirties, the four are as close as ever, Thursday night bar trivia is sacred, and Eve is still secretly in love with Ed. Maybe she should have moved on by now, but she can’t stop thinking about what could have been. And she knows Ed still thinks about it, too.

But then, in an instant, their lives are changed forever.

In the aftermath, Eve’s world is upended. As stunning secrets are revealed, she begins to wonder if she really knew her friends as well as she thought. And when someone from the past comes back into her life, Eve’s future veers in a surprising new direction…

They say every love story starts with a single moment. What if it was just last night?

Xxxxxx

The holidays are here. The extended family has gathered. The cars are packed and the convoy sets off. The cottage is a few hours’ drive – but not everyone will live to see it …

For Jill, her three sons, their wives and children, a terrifying road crash will tear apart their family.

The crash will be an accident but the shattering that follows has been long coming.

Because at the heart of this family lies a secret – concealed, wrestled with, festering and harmful – and nothing now can stop it coming out.

But will any of them survive it?

xxxxxx

Healing others is their calling, but what happens if they can’t fix themselves? A richly nuanced and empathetic examination of life, loss and courage from a talented new Australian author.

Health and wellbeing brought Olive, Elsie and Bree together. After five years, their bustling wellness centre is demanding expansion. A beautiful federation house nestled among the picturesque backdrop of their small town is the perfect place to grow their business. But they don’t count on their personal lives getting in the way.

Practical and pragmatic, Olive keeps her past hidden from her friends. But when an old high-school flame shows up, the secrets she’s worked so hard to bury threaten to tear her carefully constructed world apart.

Bree is the fun-loving one, although family tensions lurk behind her free-spirited facade. The reappearance of her troubled sister Winnie brings Bree’s priorities into sharp focus. Will she have to shelve her own happiness to save her sister?

Kind and maternal to all those around her, Elsie’s role as the practice’s counsellor comes naturally. But when tragedy strikes, her world tumbles down like a house of cards.

With everything they’ve built in disarray, their friendship is on the line.

xxxxxx

Eliza Bright was living the dream as an elite video game coder at Fancy Dog Games when her private life suddenly became public. But is Eliza Bright a brilliant, self-taught coder bravely calling out the toxic masculinity and chauvinism that pervades her workplace and industry? Or, is Eliza Bright a woman who needs to be destroyed to protect “the sanctity of gaming culture”? It depends on who you ask…

When Eliza reports an incident of workplace harassment that is quickly dismissed, she’s forced to take her frustrations to a journalist who blasts her story across the Internet. She’s fired and doxed, and becomes a rallying figure for women across America. But she’s also enraged the beast that is male gamers on 4Chan and Reddit, whose collective, unreliable voice narrates our story. Soon Eliza is in the cross-hairs of the gaming community, threatened and stalked as they monitor her every move online and across New York City.

As the violent power of an angry male collective descends upon everyone in Eliza’s life, it becomes increasingly difficult to know who to trust, even when she’s eventually taken in and protected by an under-the-radar Collective known as the Sixsterhood. The violence moves from cyberspace to the real world, as a vicious male super-fan known only as The Ghost is determined to exact his revenge on behalf of men everywhere. We watch alongside the Sixsterhood and subreddit incels as this dramatic cat-and-mouse game plays out to reach its violent and inevitable conclusion.

This is an extraordinary, unputdownable novel that explores the dark recesses of the Internet and male rage, and the fragile line between the online world and real life. It’s a thrilling story of female resilience and survival, packed with a powerful feminist message.

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Thanks for stopping by!

Review: The Plague Letters by V.L. Valentine


Title: The Plague Letters

Author: V.L. Valentine

Published: 1st April 2021, Viper

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy Viper/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

 

The Plague Letters is a debut historical mystery from V.L. Valentine set in 1665 as the Bubonic Plague sweeps through London.

I came perilously close to DNF-ing The Plague Letters at about the 10% mark, though I can’t really articulate why, however since I make a point of reading at least 100 pages before giving up on a book, I persevered. It’s wasn’t a decision I regretted exactly but in the end I thought the story as a whole was lacking.

The premise of the mystery is strong. Among the victims bought to Reverend Symon Patrick’s churchyard for mass burial as the Plague spreads through his parish, is a young girl whose body is marked by more than the weeping buboes characteristic of the Black Death. Fresh bruises, cuts, inked lines, and strange circular burns mar her skin, while twine is wound tightly around her wrists and ankles. The Reverend notes the horror, but it’s not until more similarly violated body’s are discovered, that something is considered seriously amiss.

Suspicion falls on the members of the Society for the Prevention and Cure of Plague with which the Reverend is associated – physician Dr Alexander Burnett, surgeon Lodowick Mincy, apothecary William Boghurst, and Valentine Greatrakes, a mystic healer. Any of the men seems capable of the crime, every one a buffoon, occasionally a source for horrifying hilarity, they are uniformly arrogant, ambitious, and essentially amoral, all of whom display the casual indifference to human life common to medical men of the 17th century, (except where it may reflect on their status within society). This, however, is where the issue lies with the plot for me, though there are at least five suspects proved capable of committing these crimes, I believe there is an absence of specific clues that suggests a single guilty party. It’s certainly possible I overlooked something, but I experienced no feeling of vindication or surprise when the guilty party was revealed, one or the other of which I personally find necessary for a mystery novel.

Sadly few of the characters did little to engage me either. Symon seems to have very little agency in the novel. He is a weak man, who spends most of his time trying to be invisible, largely ignoring the plague and his parishioners, distracted by daydreams about the attentions of a married woman. Having little inner strength or courage, Symon is easily led, which is just as well for Penelope, who has rather more than you’d expect from a 17th century, young, orphaned, homeless girl.

Penelope is really the catalyst and driving force for the development of the plot. Though she’s rather an improbable character for the times, her remarkable intelligence, determination, and bravery ensures that the dead girls aren’t ignored. She wedges herself into Symon’s life, refusing to allow him to shirk his responsibility, and relentlessly pushes for someone to be held account. With her brazen attitude and surprise gifts, I found Penelope to be the strongest and most appealing character.

Where I think the author excels in The Plague Letters is in their vivid descriptions of London under siege from the plague. The imagery is at times disturbing, though accurate, of victims tormented by the deadly progression of the disease, and the desperate acts of the medical men to stop it, of bodies piled in ‘dead carts’ chased by hungry dogs down the street, of pits dug in churchyards, tended to by young boys, filling with layers of the dead sprinkled with caustic lime as the overburdened ground begins to rise. Between each chapter a map shows the spread of the disease through the city and the mounting death toll. All of this also invites comparisons to the current pandemic, which may be uncomfortable for some.

In the end, I’m not sure the strengths and weaknesses of The Plague Letters quite balance each other out, as historical fiction I might recommend it, as a mystery I’d not, so overall sadly, somewhat disappointing.

++++++

Available from Serpent’s Tail

Or from your preferred retailer via HiveUK I Book Depository I Booko I Amazon

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #3


Welcome to the Monthly Spotlight for the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge!

Each month I’ll be highlighting some of the reviews shared for the challenge in the linky

Don’t forget to link each book you read as you read during the year!

I encourage you to support all participants who have shared what they are reading for the challenge. Give them a like, leave them a comment, share their posts on Facebook, twitter, or instagram #2021ReadNonFic

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In March…

(BIOGRAPHY)

You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington by Alexis Coe comes highly recommended from Gofita’s Pages, “I had a lot of fun reading this. I got to know a little more about Washington, good, bad, and the in-between.”

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(FOOD)

If you love Peanut Butter, then Tracey of CarpeLibrum suggests Peanut Butter – Breakfast, Lunch Dinner Midnightby Tim Lannan & James Annabel. She writes, “This recipe book is beautifully presented and contains a fun and innovative layout to extend the recipe options. It’s also full of enticingly delicious recipes and drool-worthy colour photographs.”

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(SELF-HELP)

Barbara of StrayThoughts feels that Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies is full of wisdom and good advice for Christian’s, laying down a biblical foundation with clarity about usefulness and purpose of productivity.

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(ESSAY COLLECTIONS)

Rennie at WhatsNonfiction offers a review for two essay collections, Festival Days by Jo Ann Beard and Leaving Isn’t Hardest Thing by Lauren Hough. Of the first she writes, “Beard’s talent is undeniable, and it’s worthwhile just to witness what she does with form – bending time, imbuing quiet moments past with breathing life, and putting so much into words about love and pain that’s both beautiful and heartbreaking.” Of the latter, essays written about the author’s experience growing up in The Children of God cult and the challenges she has faced since, Rennie opines this is a, “book that’s going to help a lot of people through understanding, acceptance, validation, and humor: those with stubbornly lingering depression or substance issues, or experienced discrimination for sexuality, “othering” factors, or in the broken American systems of poverty and imprisonment.”

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(INVENTIONS)

One of the titles I reviewed this month for the challenge was Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature by Angus Fletcher. I thought “Wonderworks provides a way to understand literature that moves beyond its construction and practicalities. It’s an interesting and thought-provoking study of narrative and the significance of fiction to both individuals and society.”

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What will you be reading in April?

In case you missed it…

Join the challenge!

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #2

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #3

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #4

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #2

Review: The Best Things by Mel Giedroyc


Title: The Best Things

Author: Mel Giedroyc

Published: 30th March 2021, Headline Review

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy Hachette Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

“It’s the story of a family who lose everything, only to find themselves, and each other, along the way.”

The book’s strap line provides the perfect summary of The Best Things, the entertaining debut adult novel from British comedian, actor, and presenter, Mel Giedroyc.

Living in a palatial home in Surrey’s most exclusive gated community, hedge fund CEO Frank Parker is proud that his financial success ensures his wife, Sally, and teenage children, Chloe, Stephen, Michaela (Mikey) and (niece) Emily, want for nothing. Sally is conscious of the privilege Frank’s wealth affords her, but with household tasks managed by a contemptuous, territorial housekeeper, her mothering outsourced to an insolent Australian nanny, and her workaholic husband often absent, she’s popping prescription pills to avoid facing the emptiness of her days.

When the financial market suddenly goes to hell, Frank has a nervous breakdown,  and when Sally learns they are going to lose everything they have, she realises she has to regain control of her life before she loses her family too.

Giedroyc draws on the familiar cliche’s of ‘money can’t buy happiness’, and of course, ‘the best things in life are free’ in this ‘riches to rags’ story. The pace is a little slow to start as we are introduced to the Parker family, but begins to picks up as their life begins to fall apart. While I thought the plot was fairly predictable, they were some small surprises, some a little absurd, but there was not really much in the way of tension. There is however plenty of humour in The Best Things, as you’d expect from an author who made a living as a comedian, with some cracking quips and amusing banter.

Giedroyc leans quite heavily into the stereotypes of wealthy people, mocking their extravagant excesses, snobbery, and petty , and while I do think many of her characters tend to be quite shallowly drawn, there is some nuance to be found. Frank’s love for Sally, for example, is deep and genuine, even if the expression of his adoration, by removing any stress or challenge from her life, is wholly misguided. I wanted to like Sally more than I did though, I think Giedroyc took a little too long to have her shed her ennui and take some responsibility for her family and their situation. The children were a surprise though, they were probably the most genuine, and sympathetic, characters in the book.

I enjoyed The Best Things, it’s lively, funny and ultimately uplifting.

++++++

Available from Hachette Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I HiveUK I Amazon

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