Review: The Weight of Him by Ethel Rohan

 

Title: The Weight of Him

Author: Ethel Rohan

Published: June 1st 2017, Atlantic Books

Status: Read April 2019, courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

“I thought I had time. I was always going to stop bingeing and get fit the next Monday, and the next Monday, and the next. Then Michael, and … and, I don’t know … I couldn’t let it be for nothing. I had to make some kind of sense, some good, come of it. He died and I couldn’t save him, so I wanted to save myself, save what remained of this family. Then I realized I could save others, too, while I was at it.”

Billy Brennan is reeling after the suicide of his oldest son, Michael, even in hindsight he finds it impossible to make sense of his son’s death. Determined that no other family should experience such a tragedy, Billy decides to raise funds in support of suicide awareness and prevention programs, by losing half of his formidable 400lb body weight.

Billy’s crusade is all consuming, but neither his wife and remaining children, nor his parents, are supportive. Rohan tenderly explores grief and the ways in which individuals, and society as whole, experience it, particularly in relation to suicide. For Billy his plans for sponsored weight loss, a march, and a documentary, are ways in which he can honour Michael, while his family feels that they draw unwelcome attention, suspicion, and shame.

Also at issue in the novel is Billy’s struggle with obesity, with which I can empathise. Billy’s main motivation for weight loss is because he recognises that the health risks associated with his condition further threatens the instability of his family. Billy is terrified he will fail them, though none of them have any faith that he will be able to succeed. Rohan’s portrayal of Billy’s experience as an obese person feels authentic, as does her understanding of the struggle to lose weight.

Rohan draws parallels between the void that some obese people are trying to fill when they overeat, and the void that some suicidal people feel trapped in.

Though perhaps lacking in nuance, The Weight of Him is a heartfelt and eloquent novel about the challenges of grief, love and living.

++++++

 

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Review: Fall by Candice Fox

 

Title: Fall {Archer & Bennett #3}

Author: Candice Fox

Published: Random House AU December 2015

Status: Read from December 21 to 21, 2015   – I own a copy

 

My Thoughts:

As the third book in Candice Fox’s debut trilogy, Fall offers a riveting finale to the partnership of detectives Eden Archer and Frank Bennett.

Picking up a few months after Eden, Bennett and Archer, the latter of whom is still recovering from her injuries, are back on the job. A female jogger has been found brutally murdered in a park in Sydney, and she won’t be the last. The case is interesting, with the focus on the killer’s twisted motives.

The relationship between Eden and Bennett is no less complicated in Fall, despite Frank having saved her life in Eden. Bennett’s concern for his partner’s physical and psychological wellbeing is always tempered by the threat she poses. Bennett finally learns the truth about Eden in Fall, though it’s hardly a comfort.

“It’s always very present between us, the fact that Eden could at any time, and rightfully so, decide that killing me is the best thing for her future.”

Frank is less aware of the threat his girlfriend, police psychologist Imogen Stone, poses. Imogen, who solves cold cases in her spare time with less than altruistic motives, is investigating the twenty year old abduction of the Tanner children, an inquiry that will pit her against Eden, who will do anything to protect her secrets.

And then there is Amy ‘Hooky’ Hooku, a seventeen year old computer genius, who first came to Frank’s attention when her younger sister murdered their parents. As her father was a Detective, Amy enjoys a special relationship with the police department and is now a consultant of sorts, despite her tender age. Amy is an intriguing character who has an unexpected role to play in Fall.

“And if he couldn’t save her, he’d do the best he could to patch her up. The way he did with everything that came to him in the tip. She’d be crooked. She’d be hollow. But she’d be alive again.”

Fall is a gritty, compelling novel and provides a stunning climax to an outstanding trilogy. Candice Fox has proved herself to be a writer of remarkable talent and skill.

 

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Also reviewed at Book’d Out

 

Review: Dastardly Deeds by Ilsa Evans

 

Review: Dastardly Deeds (Nell Forrest #4)

Author: Ilsa Evans

Published: March 10th 2016, Momentum

Status: Read June 2016, courtesy Momentum

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

Dastardly Deeds is the fourth book in the Ilsa Evans cosy mystery series featuring columnist, mother, and amateur sleuth, Nell Forrest.

Having endured a busy few years, what with her twenty-five-year marriage imploding, moving house, becoming a grandmother (twice), reconnecting with her estranged father, losing her sister to England, sabotaging a fledgling relationship, and being caught up in more than one murder, Nell is looking forward to escaping it all on a 10-day Mediterranean cruise. Unfortunately her mother, her ex-husband and his new partner, her ex lover, her sister, two of her five daughters, and a murderer decide to follow.

While I missed the quirky town of Majic, the exotic setting of Dastardly Deeds lends a little more colour to the story. The first death occurs in Rome, the second in Turkey, and Nell is convinced she is trapped on a cruise ship with a killer. The twists and turns of the mystery are convincing with plenty of suspects muddying up the waters. Nell really pushes her luck in this installment, very nearly becoming a victim herself. And then just when you think it’s over, there’s another surprise.

My favourite aspect of the Nell Forrest series remains the humour, from the ‘fan’ letters (Nell writes a syndicated newspaper column called Middle Aged Spread) that preface each chapter, to the exasperated snark Nell mumbles under her breath. I also enjoy the barely controlled chaos of her family, who are thoroughly exasperating and loving.

It’s been three years since Dastardly Deeds was released, but I still have hope that Ilsa Evans will revisit the series, I want more.

++++++

 

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Previous Installments

#1 Nefarious Doings I  #2 I’ll-Gotten Gains I #3 Forbidden Fruit

 

 

Review: The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction by M.A. Orthofer

 

Title: The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction

Author: M.A. Orthofer

Published: April 19th 2016, Columbia University Press

Status: Read April 2019- courtesy CUP/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

I like to think I am an eclectic reader, I read widely across genres, a mix of fiction and non fiction, but the truth is I read very little other than English speaking writers from Australia, UK and America. It’s the primary reason I participate in at least one challenge each year that requires I read world fiction.

In an effort to expand my reading horizons, I was interested in browsing through this reference book.

A short introduction speaks to the traditional challenges that affect the publication of translated fiction. These include political, cultural and economic forces, however the phenomenon globalisation, the ubiquitous influence of the internet, and the resulting digital book market, is contributing to its accessibility.

Organised geographically, the Guide then identifies fiction from the mid 1950’s or so, providing brief descriptions about each regions noteworthy authors and their works that are available in English translation. A few titles might be familiar, but likely most will not.

For the curious reader looking to broaden their fiction experience The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction is an excellent resource, which can be supplemented and expanded upon by the authors website complete-review.com.

 

++++++

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Review: Making It Up As I Go Along by Marian Keyes

 

Title: Making It Up As I Go Along

Author: Marian Keyes

Published: 11th February 2016, Michael Joseph

Status: Read March 2016, courtesy Penguin

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

I’ve long enjoyed the works of Irish author Marian Keyes, including her Walsh Family series. Making It Up As I Go Along is a collection of essays, blog posts and articles, it’s the type of book you can dip in and out of.

Covering musings and anecdotes on diverse topics, from eyelash extensions to Christmas to Yoga there is something for everyone. Mostly amusing, though sometimes poignant and insightful, this is an easy, entertaining read.

++++++

 

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Review: Viral by Helen Fitzgerald

Title: Viral

Author: Helen Fitzgerald

Published: 4th February 2016, Faber & Faber

Status: Read February 2016 – Courtesy Faber/Netgalley

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

“I sucked twelve c*cks in Magaluf.

So far, twenty-three thousand and ninety-six people have seen me do this. They might include my mother, my father, my little sister, my grandmother, my other grandmother, my grandfather, my boss, my sixth-year biology teacher and my boyfriend of six weeks, James.”

Helen Fitzgerald pulls no punches from the first line of this book, a contemporary novel that explores the consequences of a drunken indiscretion gone viral.

Su Oliphant-Brotheridge and her sister Leah, are celebrating the end of A-Level exams in Magaluf when a few too many drinks on their last evening abroad, results in Su on her knees in a nightclub. When a recording of the incident is uploaded to the internet, Su panics and goes into hiding, hoping not only to avoid, but also to protect her family from, the worst of the inevitable notoriety.

“#shagaluf is trending worldwide on Twitter. If you type the word slut into Google, I am the first news item to appear.”

It’s a nightmare scenario for any parent. To their credit, Su’s parents -Ruth and Bernie, are more concerned for their daughter’s wellbeing than shaming her for her mistake. Even as it begins to affect their own professional and personal lives, they frantically attempt to minimise the fallout which threatens to derail Su’s future. When it’s clear they losing the battle, Ruth, a court judge, grows increasingly furious that no one can be held legally accountable for the viral video that has caused such destruction, and takes matters into her own hands.

“Xano, you have been found guilty of filming the sexual assault of my daughter. You have been found guilty of sharing abusive images. You have been found guilty of sharing lewd images without consent. You have been found guilty of destroying the life of Su Brotheridge-Oliphant. Guilty of destroying her self-image, her confidence, her friendships, her past and future relationships, her sexual well-being, her career, and her entire future. In relation to destroying my career: guilty. My life, everything I’ve worked for, fought for, and loved: guilty. And last, on the count of the murder of Bernard Brotheridge: guilty.”

Meanwhile, Leah is ordered to find her sister and bring her home. Fitzgerald explores the troubled dynamic between the sisters as they wrestle with feelings of resentment, jealousy, guilt, and blame.

“I’ve spent years pussyfooting around you and all you’ve done is treat me like dirt. Did you spike my drink because your friends started liking me, Leah? Were you mad about that? You feel left out, that the order of the universe was shaken? Did you shout “go, go go” because you wanted me back in my place, because it was such a blast to watch me ruin myself?“

But this is really Su’s story as she tries to reconcile what she has done with who she is. It’s a compelling narrative which I thought Fitzgerald presented well…until the last few chapters.

“Don’t let it be the thing that defines you.”

I understood Su’s desire to search for her birth mother, but finding her was ridiculously easy, and the situation devolved from there. Similarly Su’s flight of fancy, after her return to Magaluf, was a bit silly.

Aside from those final missteps, I thought this was a well paced, thought provoking and relevant novel. Not her best, but I found it engaging.

++++++

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Also by Helen Fitzgerald on Book’d Out

Review: Outback Sisters by Rachael Johns

 

Title: Outback Sisters {Bunyip Bay #4}

Author: Rachael Johns

Published: February 2016 , MIRA

Status: Read March 2016, courtesy Harlequin AU

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

This is Rachael Johns fourth book in her rural romance series linked by the fictional community of Bunyip Bay. Readers familiar with the town will recognise Frankie Madden, the owner of a local cafe, and her sister, widowed mother of two, Simone, as the tititular Outback Sisters.

When a tall, ruggedly handsome and desperately sexy stranger strides into Frankie’s cafe and sweeps her into his arms with a bone melting kiss, she is stunned, and then a little disappointed to learn Logan Knight has mistaken her for her sister. Unbeknownst to Simone, her teenage daughters, Harriet and Grace, have been playing online matchmaker.

What follows is a charming, if slightly unconventional, tale of romance when Logan introduces the sisters to his older brother, Angus. Each of the four main characters are wary of love, having experienced hurt and loss in the past, and then there is the complication of their sibling bonds. I really enjoyed the way in which the author developed these relationships, it’s a tricky proposition but one which Johns achieves admirably.

Johns writes with a great ear for dialogue and a wonderful sense of humour. This ensures her characters feel authentic, including the teens. The relatable characters have been one of the strengths of the series.

It is satisfying as always to revisit Bunyip Bay, in this book we learn Faith and Monty (Outback Dreams) are expecting their first child, Ruby and Drew (Outback Blaze) are happily engaged, and we attend Adam and Stella’s (Outback Ghost) wedding.

The Bunyip Bay series has been a delight, I’m sad to see it end with Outback Sisters though it’s a wonderful note to close on.

++++++

 

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Review: Breakdown By Jonathan Kellerman

 

Title: Breakdown (Alex Delaware #31)

Author: Jonathan Kellerman

Published: February 2nd 2016 Ballantine Books

Status: Read February 2016

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

In the latest instalment of Jonathan Kellerman’s long running series featuring child psychologist Alex Delaware, the death of a former patient’s mother triggers an investigation into a missing child, and a string of unsolved murders. With the help of his best friend and unofficial partner, Lieutenant Milo Sturgis, Delaware slowly unravels a story of mental illness, family secrets, betrayal, and murder.

I generally prefer this series when the cases are focused on those which more fully involve Delaware’s speciality. Ovid, Alex’s former patient, is almost incidental to this story, other than as the catalyst for their curiosity. This is Kellerman’s 31st novel though, so I don’t begrudge the way in he changes things up from time to time.

The pace is a little slow at times, Alex and Milo spend a lot of time trawling through records, consulting experts, and speculating about the case. There isn’t a lot of suspense, but the investigation is well crafted and it’s always satisfying to have the mystery neatly solved with the killer brought to justice.

While not the strongest book in the series, fans should find Breakdown enjoyable enough.

++++++

 

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Review: The Year of the Farmer by Rosalie Ham

 

Title: The Year of the Farmer

Author: Rosalie Ham

Published: September 25th 2018, Picador Australia

Status: Read April 2019, courtesy Pan Macmillan Au

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

“The smell of sheep permeated the car and all around the plains were brown and grey. The air was perishingly dry and it was only eight in the bloody morning. And always, the stalking ravens on electricity wires and prehistoric eagles hanging overhead. Nothing was as it was supposed to be. Nothing exciting ever happened. The stupid drought came and everyone went broke or left town; those who remained succumbed to the drought and it just continued on and on…”

The Year of the Farmer could probably be best described as a tragicomedy. It’s set in a small Australian farming community caught in the stranglehold of drought, and is centred on a small group of the towns residents.

Mitch Bishop’s crops are failing, and his stock is half starved, but he refuses to give up on the land he loves. This could be his year- if Neralie comes back, if it rains. Mitch’s wife, Mandy, doesn’t share his optimism. She’s had it with the farm, with her business, and with the town that refuses to accept her, but she’s not quite done with her husband-yet.

“‘The farmers are appreciated and all water authorities aim to celebrate and support the farmers and the vital role they play in feeding, clothing and sheltering us all.”

So says the Water Authority, while their local representatives plot to line their own pockets at the farmers expense. Mitch isn’t fooled by the hard sell and empty promises, but the towns options, like its water supply, are dwindling fast. Ham does a commendable job of illustrating the flaws in the government scheme and its effects on a farming town at its mercy.

Neighbours bicker over land management, feral dogs run wild, sides are chosen, the sun shines and Mandy, well Mandy is just getting started.

The Year of the Farmer is a slow paced novel with a sly wit, which exaggerates and encapsulates, everyday life in a struggling farming town.

++++++

 

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Review: The Sparkle Pages by Meg Bignell

 

Title: The Sparkle Pages

Author: Meg Bignell

Published: April 16th Penguin AU

Status: Read April 2019, courtesy Penguin 

++++++

My Thoughts:

Susannah Parks is convinced her marriage of fifteen years has lost it’s spark and, from the comfort of her wardrobe, begins to formulate a New Years Resolution. She will be interested, and be interesting, she will be stylish and have great hair, she will be relevant and useful, and she will have passionate sex with her husband.

“We certainly had passion once. Sometimes I catch a fleeting flash of it again, but for the most part, passion just seems to have fallen by the wayside….(There are lot of good things by the wayside, if only I could find where it is – somewhere near the too-hard basket, probably.)”

It’s been a while since a book has both made laugh out loud, and moved me to tears.

As a wife and mother of four myself, I perhaps related better to Susannah than it is wise to admit. From the barely controlled chaos of Susannah’s days, to the tedium of cleaning, cooking and caretaking for a young family, to the dwindling priority of intimacy (ok..yes, sex) in a marriage. Unlike her though, I have always understood that marriage, and family life, has its ups and downs as it is a constantly changing dynamic.

This too is what Susannah eventually comes to realise, with the help of her best friend, the indomitable Ria, her family, her friends and her neighbour, Valda. It is Susannah who has lost her spark, buried under piles of wet towels, baskets of insecurity, and a load of guilt so heavy, it has all but been extinguished.

Though there is plenty of humour, and moments of sheer absurdity, to be found in this novel, the story also reveals a shocking truth and heartbreaking tragedy. The author’s writing shines as she deftly steers the reader through sadness and joy.

The Sparkle Pages is witty, wise, honest and moving, a glittering debut from Australian author, Karen Bignell, it’s my favourite read so far this year.

“Sparks. Passion and sparks. And when there are no sparks, at least just a little sparkle.”

++++++

#lovebetweenthepages

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