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.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase from

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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.

++++++

Available to Purchase via

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Also by Helen Fitzgerald on Book’d Out

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.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase from

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Click here to see other Jonathan Kellerman books reviewed on the blog

Review: The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J. Harris

 

Title: The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder

Author: Sarah J. Harris

Published: April 2018 HarperCollins Au

Status: Read April 2019, courtesy HarperCollins AU

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

I’ve long been fascinated by synesthesia, a condition where the brains perceptions of sensory input are blended. Synesthetes may taste sounds, smell colors or see scents.

In The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder, thirteen year old Jasper Wishart hears sounds as colours.

“Lawn mower: shiny silver; Car revving: orange; Aeroplane: light, almost see-through green; Radio: pink….; Dogs barking: yellow or red; Cats meowing: soft violet blue; Dad laughing: a muddy, yellowish brown; Kettle boiling: silver and yellow bubbles”

Unusually, Jasper also suffers from prosopagnosia, known as face blindness, and is probably also somewhere on the autism spectrum, given his literal manner and self soothing behaviours. His father doesn’t understand, and is perpetually frustrated by his son’s ‘weird’ ways.

When Bee Larkham moves into the Wishart’s Street, Jasper is enchanted by the colour of her voice-sky blue, the explosions of colour from the music she plays loudly in her living room, and most particularly, the flock of parakeets that takes up residence in her garden. However not everyone is happy with the disruption Bee causes in the neighbourhood.

“Bee Larkham’s murder was ice blue crystals with glittery edges and jagged silver icicles.”

The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder is essentially a murder mystery, the story of which unfolds through Jasper’s unique perspective. It is not a straightforward narrative, skewed by Jasper’s limited, and sometimes unreliable view, partially reconstructed by his ornithological log, and the paintings he creates to help him order events. I did feel the pace dragged sometimes but I was engrossed by Jasper’s distinctive voice.

A colourful and Interesting novel, Harris paints a vivid picture of an exceptional boy caught up in extraordinary circumstances.

++++++

Available to Purchase from

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Review: Accidental Death? By Robin Bowles

 

Review: Accidental Death? When things may not be as they seem.

Author: Robin Bowles

Published: Scribe Publications, May 2018

Status: Read January 2019

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

Robin Bowles has published a number of true crime books covering some of Australia’s most high profile crimes, including the death of toddler Jaidyn Leskie, and the abduction and murder of English backpacker, Peter Falconio. She seems most interested in cases where the facts are uncertain, and it is this ambiguity she explores in Accidental Death?.

Bowles presents six interesting cases in this book, some with which I was familiar from media coverage, some not. They are all tragic tales of lives cut short, in which absolute culpability is not easily ascribed. I found ‘26 Seconds’ particularly maddening, and ‘There is a Kid Under the Water!’ utterly heartbreaking.

While her research seems thorough, Bowles is not simply an objective reporter of the facts. Though not necessarily a bad thing, her personal bias is often evident in her storytelling, which is generally unusual for the genre.

I thought Accidental Death? was a thought provoking read, an interesting examination of blame, guilt, and justice, and the lack thereof.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase from

Scribe Publications or your preferred retailer

Review: Force of Nature by Jane Harper

 

 

Title: Force of Nature {Aaron Falk #2}

Author: Jane Harper

Published: Pan Macmillan September 17th, 2017

Status: Read March 2019

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

Force of Nature is Jane Harper’s second novel featuring Australian Federal Agent, Aaron Falk. Her first, The Dry, was a phenomenal success (you can read my review here) and Force of Nature is a solid follow up.

In Force of Nature, Falk, and his new partner Carmen Cooper, are investigating a company for money laundering. They are expecting to wrap the case in a matter of days, with help from insider, Alice Russell, when she goes missing during a corporate retreat.

The story unfolds through multiple perspectives, as it moves between the events leading up to Alice’s disappearance and the current active investigation. This allows Harper to introduce several possible motives for Alice’s disappearance, and develop an interesting mystery that kept me guessing until the end. Though I thought the pace was a little slow to begin with, the tension builds incrementally, and the plot is elegantly resolved.

Falk didn’t have the strong presence in this novel that I was expecting. He is peripheral to most of the action, and there were no new insights offered into his character. Neither was his partner, Carmen, particularly memorable.

I think I may have been more invested in the story if I had liked Alice. Though well drawn, she is an unpleasant character and I didn’t much care whether she was found, or not. I didn’t have any difficulty visualising Alice’s companions on the hike, Harper’s characterisations, and the dynamics between them, were interesting and complex.

Set largely in the Giralang Ranges of Victoria, Harper does a commendable
job of evoking the close, wet, and disorientating atmosphere of the Australian bush. As in The Dry, the setting is not simply the background of the story, but an integral part of it.

Force of Nature is well written, with a mystery that is skillfully crafted and compelling. I’m looking forward to Harper’s next Book in the series.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase @

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Learn more about The Dry, the first book in the Aaron Falk series

 

 

 

Review: Kindling the Moon by Jenn Bennett

Title: Kindling the Moon {Arcadia Bell #1}

Author: Jenn Bennett

Published: Pocket Books, June 2011

Status: Read July 2018

 

My Thoughts:

The Arcadia Bell series is another urban fantasy series that languished on my TBR list for far too long. I read the four books, Kindling the Moon, Summoning the Night, Binding the Shadows and Banishing the Dark, over a period of about a week.

Kindling the Moon introduces part owner of the demon-friendly Tambuku Tiki Lounge., and magician, Arcadia ‘Cady’ Bell. For the last seven years Cady has kept a low profile, avoiding the notoriety of her parents, two runaway renegade occultists accused of heinous crimes, but when they resurface her peaceful life is shot to hell. Ordered to prove her family’s innocence, or suffer punishment in their place, Cady has a near impossible task in front of her, one that may cost her everything.

The plot in Kindling the Moon is fast paced and offers plenty of action. Cady is not only challenged by the need to track down an elusive Æthyric demon, but also navigate complicated politics within the occult society, evade a ruthless bounty hunter, and master newly emerging abilities, all with a time frame of just two weeks. The main storyline is resolved with Kindling the Moon, though there are threads loosened which are picked up in later books. I did think the ending was somewhat anticlimactic but it was satisfying nevertheless.

Cady is an appealing heroine, with strengths and flaws which are well balanced. She is unique within her world, for her ability to kindle Heka from the moon, and her ability to see halo’s which identify Earthbounds. I enjoyed her wit, and her talent for kicking butt. She is strong and independent, but willing to accept help when she needs it. As her power develops, she also finds new reserves of fortitude and potency.

In Kindling the Moon, Cady reaches out for help to demonologist, Earthbound, photographer and single father, Lon Butler. It’s no surprise that Lon plays a role of ongoing significance in the series. He and Cady develop a mutual respect that soon turns into a romantic affection. I liked the relationship between the two of them, it’s a little different than the usual trope, particularly in that it involves Lon’s preteen son, Jupe, a fantastic character in his own right.

As a whole I thought the world Bennett created for her series to be imaginative and interesting. Set on the northern coast of California in a mid sized city, the population includes non magical humans, magicians and Earthbounds, Magicians, like Cady, use Heka (found in fluids such as saliva and blood) to power spells, and limited access to the Æthyric plane, while Earthbounds have knacks – a special skill or talent of varying strength.

In all, Kindling the Moon, and the rest of the series featuring Arcadia Bell, was an enjoyable read, that urban fantasy readers should enjoy.

Jenn Bennett is now making her name in YA fiction with titles like Night Owls and Serious Moonlight.

Review: The Cottage at Rosella Cove by Sandie Docker

Title: The Cottage at Rosella Cove

Author: Sandie Docker

Publisher: Michael Joseph January 2019

Status: Read March 2019

******

 

My Thoughts:

The Cottage at Rosella Cove is the second novel by Australian author, Sandie Docker.

Themes explored through the novel Include friendship, love, loss, grief, betrayal and hope. The story involves three timelines, which Docker handles remarkably well.

In the present, Nicole Miller arrives at Rosella Cove. In exchange for renovating a cottage on the bluff, she has a rent free six month lease during which she hopes to heal her wounds, and reimagine a new future. Despite planning on spending her time in the Cove alone, Nicole is quickly befriended by the community, particularly local family Mandy, Trevor, Jack, and family friend, Danny Temple, who cheerfully offer to help with the renovations. Nicole also strikes up a friendship of sorts with Charlie, widely considered to be a curmudgeonly old hermit, who has his own story to tell.

The near past timeline explains why Nicole felt compelled to flee to Rosella Cove. Docker explores Nicoles experiences thoughtfully, slowly revealing the reason for Nicole’s fragile emotional state.

The distant past, is revealed through a series of letters Nicole discovers hidden behind the fireplace. The letters are all written by the former owner of the cottage, Ivy Wilson, to her husband beginning in 1941, and continue until her death in 1976. These letters reveal the joys and heartbreak of Ivy’s life, and in part, help Nicole come to terms with the direction her own life has taken.

Docker’s Rosella Cove is a small coastal community, not dissimilar from those a stones throw from me. I can easily visualise the cottage, boathouse, and the towns general environs based on the authors descriptions. The inhabitants of the Cove, both in the past and present, are fairly typical of the genre.

I enjoyed The Cottage at Rosella Cove, the story was both sweet and poignant, and has a warm, genuine feel.

 

******

Available to Purchase from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

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Read an Excerpt

Review: The Helpline by Katherine Collette

Title: The Helpline

Author: Katherine Collette

Published: Text Publishing September 18th 2018

Status: Read on Feb 9th, 2019

My Thoughts:

Collette’s debut, The Helpline, is similar in vein to recent popular novels such as Simison’s ‘The Rosie Project’ and Honeyman’s ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’.

Senior mathematician, Germaine, is a self proscribed expert in sodoku, the value of efficiency, and the immutability of numbers, but she is also uncomfortably socially inept, and awkwardly naive. Unceremoniously dismissed from her job of some fifteen years for reasons that she never quite articulates, Germaine finds herself working for the local council on the Senior Helpline, determined to prove her worth, and rebuild her career. Quickly singled out by the Mayor for a ‘special project’, Germaine is eager to please, especially when she learns that the project involves her childhood hero, former Sodoku champion, Alan Cosgrove aka Don Thomas. For Germaine, the need to resolve the Mayor’s standoff with the Senior Citizen’s Center, which happens to adjoin Don’s Golf Club, is a matter of responsibility and efficiency, until her equations are complicated by the unpredictable nature of the human factor.

Though Germaine is not always a particularly likeable character, I did warm up to her. Her neuro-atypical traits are never specifically identified but her different perspective is clear. The slightly eccentric supporting characters are varied, from feisty senior citizen, Cecelia Brown, to biscuit hoarder, Eva, and the inevitable love interest, bare kneed IT guy, Jack.

Generally, The Helpline was an enjoyable read. I liked the overall plot and it’s Australian setting, council going-on’s are actually a ripe setting for pathos, and humour.

Available to Purchase from

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Review: Summer Harvest by Georgina Penney

 

Title: Summer Harvest

Author: Georgina Penney

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin Jan 2016

Read an Extract

Status: Read from January 24 to 25, 2016 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“‘A ticket to Australia,’ she said faintly.’Wonderful Gran, Louis, thank you so much.’ She forced her mouth to curve upwards into something resembling a smile.’This is great. Just great.'”

When Beth Poole’s grandmother gifts her an airline ticket from Yorkshire to Western Australia for her birthday she’s reluctant to vacation in a country in which every living thing seems to be lethal. Nevertheless, Beth books a months stay in a holiday cottage in George Creek looking forward to a few weeks of peace and quiet.

Loosely linked to Georgina Penney’s previous novels, Irrepressible You and Fly In Fly Out, Summer Harvest is a lovely contemporary romance novel set in the the south west winery region of Australia.

The focus of the story is on the relationship that develops between Beth and Clayton Hardy, whose family owns the winery next door to where Beth is staying. They enjoy an intimate holiday fling which becomes complicated when Beth reveals a secret she has been keeping. An additional subplot involves a fractious relationship between Clayton’s father, Rob Hardy and new winery hire, Gwen Stone, who have a history neither are willing to disclose. Both plotlines also explore the themes of loss, grief and moving on.

The characters are well drawn. Beth is a strong character, having survived the loss of her family and the desertion of her husband, as well as breast cancer, and Clayton is an appealing lead. I enjoyed the supporting characters including Beth’s outspoken grandmother Violet and Angie, the matriarch of the Evangaline Rest Winery, chatty Laura and her cheeky brother Jeff. Fred, the perpetually stoned farm hand, is good for a laugh too.

Penney’s writing style is warm, I enjoyed the very Aussie humour and the witty dialogue. The emotions are believable, the intimate scenes between Beth and Clay are well written and the story is well paced.

Summer Harvest is an engaging read and the ending satisfied the romantic in me.

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