Category Archives: Paper

Funny Story – Emily Henry

Funny Story – Emily Henry

I have read all of Emily Henry’s novels – and I was very keen to get my hands on this one.

Here’s the blurb …

Daphne always loved the way her fiancé Peter told their story. How they met (on a blustery day), fell in love (over an errant hat), and moved back to his lakeside hometown to begin their life together. He really was good at telling it…right up until the moment he realized he was actually in love with his childhood best friend Petra.

Which is how Daphne begins her new story: Stranded in beautiful Waning Bay, Michigan, without friends or family but with a dream job as a children’s librarian (that barely pays the bills), and proposing to be roommates with the only person who could possibly understand her predicament: Petra’s ex, Miles Nowak.

Scruffy and chaotic—with a penchant for taking solace in the sounds of heart break love ballads—Miles is exactly the opposite of practical, buttoned up Daphne, whose coworkers know so little about her they have a running bet that she’s either FBI or in witness protection. The roommates mainly avoid one another, until one day, while drowning their sorrows, they form a tenuous friendship and a plan. If said plan also involves posting deliberately misleading photos of their summer adventures together, well, who could blame them?

But it’s all just for show, of course, because there’s no way Daphne would actually start her new chapter by falling in love with her ex-fiancé’s new fiancée’s ex…right?

Emily Henry’s novels have heft – the characters have depth and the situations they find themselves in are reasonable. Plus the novels are witty, and the characters are articulate.

A review.

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Redhead by the Side of the Road – Anne Tyler

Redhead by the Side of the Road – Anne Tyler

I like Anne Tyler. I have read a number of her novels. This one is quite short, more of a novella.

Here’s the blurb …

Micah Mortimer isn’t the most polished person you’ll ever meet. His numerous sisters and in-laws regard him oddly but very fondly, but he has his ways and means of navigating the world. He measures out his days running errands for work – his TECH HERMIT sign cheerily displayed on the roof of his car – maintaining an impeccable cleaning regime and going for runs (7:15, every morning). He is content with the steady balance of his life.

But then the order of things starts to tilt. His woman friend Cassia (he refuses to call anyone in her late thirties a ‘girlfriend’) tells him she’s facing eviction because of a cat. And when a teenager shows up at Micah’s door claiming to be his son, Micah is confronted with another surprise he seems poorly equipped to handle.

Redhead by the Side of the Road is an intimate look into the heart and mind of a man who sometimes finds those around him just out of reach – and a love story about the differences that make us all unique.

This had all of the hall marks of an Anne Tyler novel – A Baltimore setting, a close look at an ordinary person. Micah is a very orderly man – he has a daily cleaning roster and he drives very carefully – and life has taken a bit of a toll on him. He left college early to start up a tech company, but couldn’t work with the investor, and several relationships have failed (and the one with Cass is looking doomed). He is a good man trying to do the right thing, he just doesn’t know sometimes what the right thing to do is.

A review.

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Kind of Sort of Maybe … but Probably Not – Imbi Neeme

Kind of Sort of Maybe … But Probably Not – Imbi Neeme

I bought this from a lovely book store while I was in Melbourne. I wanted a novel to read on the plane.

Here`s the blurb …

A charming, nostalgic, quirky, uplifting novel of people young and old finding their tribe, gaining courage to be themselves and perhaps falling in love, too.

Librarian Phoebe Cotton lives with misophonia. The sound of other people crunching an apple, slurping their tea or snapping chewing gum fills her with a rage that she buries deep within.

Mortified by her ‘Not Quite Right’ brain, she hides away inside 6 Salmon Street, the family home that her formidable grandmother Dorothy has abandoned for a more convivial life at the Western Retreat Retirement Village. But when Phoebe begins receiving mysterious postcards in the mail, she slowly, but surely, finds herself being pulled back out into the world and towards Monty, the sweet postal clerk.

Across town, Suze, a university student with a high distinction in study avoidance, is clinging to the hope that the neglectful J might actually be her boyfriend. When J’s attention turns to Ky, it sets Suze on a path that leads her to 6 Salmon Street and Phoebe Cotton.

Together with Suze and Monty, Phoebe goes on a mission to solve the mystery of the postcards but ends up finding much, much more, including acceptance, strength and love.

This was enjoyable, well-written and interesting. And the characters (the ones you are meant to like) were great. I particularly liked larger than life Charlie. I found it to be uplifting, with all our various quirks we can still find friends, and happiness.

A review.

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Audrey’s Gone AWOL – Annie De Monchaux

Audrey’s Gone AWOL – Annie de Monchaux

I read about this in the Open Book newsletter – and it seemed like the perfect novel to take on holiday.

Here’s the blurb …

It’s never too late to reinvent your life

Audrey Lamont has happily devoted herself to family life for the best part of 40 years, but lately she’s become aware that she lost herself somewhere between ‘I do’ and the weekly shop.  
Worse, her academic husband Simon has found time for romance – just not with Audrey.
Feeling invisible to everyone, even herself, she flees to her aunt’s home in rural France.  
While waiting for her sudden absence to spark a change of heart in Simon, Audrey finds solace in the charms of the French countryside and the company of her aged aunt and a cast of eccentric Bretons.  
But soon Audrey discovers going AWOL might do more than save her marriage, it might change her life …
 

Audrey’s Gone AWOL is a funny and beautifully observed story about losing yourself, finding yourself, and discovering joy.

I enjoyed it. A book about a mature heroine re-discovering her life after raising a family. And she goes to France and meets a cast of quirky characters (I want it to be made into a film so I can see Lilou’s outfits.). It is easy to read, well-written and has things to say about being a wife and mother (and the differences between how older women are viewed In France and Australia).

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North Woods – Daniel Mason

North Woods – Daniel Mason

I kept seeing this novel everywhere and I finally decided to buy a copy.

Here’s the blurb …

When a pair of young lovers abscond from a Puritan colony, little do they know that their humble cabin in the woods will become the home of an extraordinary succession of human and inhuman characters alike. An English soldier, destined for glory, abandons the battlefields of the New World to devote himself to apples. A pair of spinster twins navigate war and famine, envy and desire. A crime reporter unearths a mass grave – only to discover that the ancient trees refuse to give up their secrets. A lovelorn painter, a sinister conman, a stalking panther, a lusty as each inhabitant confronts the wonder and mystery around them, they begin to realize that the dark, raucous, beautiful past is very much alive.

In his transcendent fourth novel, Pulitzer Prize finalist Daniel Mason delivers a magisterial and highly inventive tale brimming with love and madness, humor and hope. Following the cycles of history, nature and even language, North Woods shows the myriad, magical ways in which we’re connected to our environment, to history and to each other. It is not just an unforgettable novel about buried secrets and inevitable fates, but a way of looking at the world.

This novel has an interesting premise and structure. First, it’s about a place. We meet all of the people who live in this place over time. From the very first white settlers to sometime in the near future. Second, all of the various accounts are told in different ways; a written history for posterity, ballads, almanacs, medical notes, letters to a friend, etc. I found it compelling (maybe not the ballads), but all of the other sections were well-written and moved the story along. It is also a bit mystical – there’s hauntings. It also has an environmental message; we see the forest slowly destroyed by various pests and diseases, and then global warming is the last nail in the coffin for several trees.

A review.

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The Other Bridget – Rachael Johns

The Other Bridget – Rachael Johns

This is my first novel by Rachael Johns. I haven’t read anything else because I thought she wrote outback or bush romance, which is not my thing. However, the blurb for this one appealed to me.

Here is the blurb …

A feelgood romantic comedy by Australia’s bestselling romance writer, ideal for fans of Emily Henry and Marian Keyes.

Named after a famous fictional character, librarian Bridget Jones was raised on a remote cattle station, with only her mother’s romance novels for company. Now living alone in Fremantle, Bridget is a hopeless romantic. She also believes that anyone who doesn’t like reading just hasn’t met the right book yet, and that connecting books to their readers is her superpower. If only her love life was that easy.

When handsome Italian barista Fabio progresses from flirting with love hearts on her coffee foam to joining the book club she runs at her library, Bridget prays her romance ‘curse’ won’t ruin things. But it’s the attention of her cranky neighbour Sully that seems to be the major obstacle in her life. Why is he going to so much effort to get under her skin?

With the help of her close friends and the colourful characters who frequent her library, Bridget decides to put both men to the test by finding just the right books to capture their very different hearts. She soon discovers that not all romances start with a meet-cute, but they might just end in happily ever after…

Written by Australia’s most beloved romance writer, The Other Bridget is a delightfully uplifting book about books, and a gorgeous celebration of the power and pleasure of romance novels throughout the ages.

There is so much to like about this novel. It is set in Fremantle (it is always nice to read about local places), it’s about reading and working in a library. There are a lot of book recommendations that I wish I had made a note of as I was reading (or if there was a book list at the end of the book along with the book club questions). It’s the classic ‘enemy to lovers’ trope (think Pride and Prejudice), which is one of my favourites. That and ‘friends to lovers’ (think Emma). It is witty, but with some depth.

A review.

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If on a Winter’s night a Traveller – Italo Calvino

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller – Italo Calvino

I read about this in Once Upon a Prime by Sarah Hart and reserved it from the library (it was a bit of a sprint to finish it before it had to be returned).

It has an interesting construction – story within story within story, and I was intrigued by each one, only to have them break off (which was the point I think).

Here is the blurb …

Italo Calvino’s masterpiece combines a love story and a detective story into an exhilarating allegory of reading, in which the reader of the book becomes the book’s central character.

Based on a witty analogy between the reader’s desire to finish the story and the lover’s desire to consummate his or her passion, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller is the tale of two bemused readers whose attempts to reach the end of the same book, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino, of course, are constantly and comically frustrated. In between chasing missing chapters of the book, the hapless readers tangle with an international conspiracy, a rogue translator, an elusive novelist, a disintegrating publishing house, and several oppressive governments. The result is a literary labyrinth of storylines that interrupt one another—an Arabian Nights of the postmodern age.

Because the story is lots of disjoint stories it is quite hard to know where you are when you pick up the book again after a pause. Not a good book to read when you have a spare five minutes.

I found each of the stories to be quite gripping, even the titles are good, and put together they make a good opening paragraph for another story.

This novel is for readers (and writers), it’s about the joy of reading, the frustration of the story being interrupted and finding other readers with whom to discuss your reading. Plus it puts reading and literature at the heart of a global conspiracy.

A review.

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The Sun Walks Down – Fiona McFarlane

The Sun Walks Down – Fiona McFarlane

I heard lots of people talking about this book, which (being contrary) put me off, but I did eventually cave in and buy a copy.

Here’s the blurb …

In September 1883, the South Australian town of Fairly huddles under strange, vivid sunsets. Six-year-old Denny Wallace has gone missing during a dust storm, and the whole town is intent on finding him. As they search the desert and mountains for the lost child, the residents of Fairly – newlyweds, landowners, farmers, mothers, artists, Indigenous trackers, cameleers, children, schoolteachers, widows, maids, policemen – explore their own relationships with the complex landscape unsettling history of the Flinders Ranges.

The colonial Australia of The Sun Walks Down is unfamiliar, multicultural, and noisy with opinions, arguments, longings and terrors. It’s haunted by many gods – the sun among them, rising and falling on each day that Denny could be found, or lost forever.

I enjoyed this novel, the writing is beautiful and I enjoyed all of the different character’s perspectives. The descriptions of the landscape and the sky and sun (particularly the sunsets) were lovely and very evocative. The characters are fully-fleshed out, with nuance and subtlety.

A review.

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The Dressmakers of Auschwitz – Lucy Adlington

The Dressmakers of Auschwitz – Lucy Adlington

I attended a (virtual) talk by Lucy Adlington – it was organised by Selvedge magazine. After that, I was keen to read this book. I found a copy in Busselton (in the local Dymocks). It did take me a while to get to it.

Here’s the blurb …

A powerful chronicle of the women who used their sewing skills to survive the Holocaust, stitching beautiful clothes at an extraordinary fashion workshop created within one of the most notorious WWII death camps. 

At the height of the Holocaust twenty-five young inmates of the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp—mainly Jewish women and girls—were selected to design, cut, and sew beautiful fashions for elite Nazi women in a dedicated salon. It was work that they hoped would spare them from the gas chambers. 

This fashion workshop—called the Upper Tailoring Studio—was established by Hedwig Höss, the camp commandant’s wife, and patronized by the wives of SS guards and officers. Here, the dressmakers produced high-quality garments for SS social functions in Auschwitz, and for ladies from Nazi Berlin’s upper crust. 

Drawing on diverse sources—including interviews with the last surviving seamstress—The Dressmakers of Auschwitz follows the fates of these brave women. Their bonds of family and friendship not only helped them endure persecution, but also to play their part in camp resistance. Weaving the dressmakers’ remarkable experiences within the context of Nazi policies for plunder and exploitation, historian Lucy Adlington exposes the greed, cruelty, and hypocrisy of the Third Reich and offers a fresh look at a little-known chapter of World War II and the Holocaust.

This is an extraordinary story that needs to be told and remembered. Not easy reading, I am not sure how anyone survived it and went on to live productive lives. And their treatment directly after the war was also heart-breaking.

It is well-written and researched, and with the death of the last survivor in 2021, we need books like this to remind us of the past.

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The Davenports – Krystal Marquis

The Davenports – Krystal Marquis

I was looking for something like The Gilded Age and The Age of Innocence and although this is set at the right time, it wasn’t what I was looking for. That just means I am not the right audience for this novel.

Here’s the blurb …

In 1910, the Davenports are one of the few Black families of immense wealth and status in a changing United States, their fortune made through the entrepreneurship of William Davenport, a formerly enslaved man who founded the Davenport Carriage Company years ago. Now the Davenports live surrounded by servants, crystal chandeliers, and endless parties, finding their way and finding love—even where they’re not supposed to.

There is Olivia, the beautiful elder Davenport daughter, ready to do her duty by getting married. . . until she meets the charismatic civil rights leader Washington DeWight and sparks fly. The younger daughter, Helen, is more interested in fixing cars than falling in love—unless it’s with her sister’s suitor. Amy-Rose, the childhood friend turned maid to the Davenport sisters, dreams of opening her own business—and marrying the one man she could never be with, Olivia and Helen’s brother, John. But Olivia’s best friend, Ruby, also has her sights set on John Davenport, though she can’t seem to keep his interest . . . until family pressure has her scheming to win his heart, just as someone else wins hers.

The first book in a breathless new series, The Davenports offers a glimpse into a period of African American history often overlooked, while delivering a totally escapist, swoon-worthy read. Inspired by the real-life story of C.R. Patterson and his family, it’s the tale of four determined and passionate young Black women discovering the courage to steer their own path in life—and love.

This book is about women (black women) finding their way in the world. Realising they don’t have to be only wives and mothers, or do what their parents want them to do. At first, I thought the romance parts were a bit predictable, but then it all gets twisted around and unexpected things happen (no spoilers). To be honest, I was looking for something a bit fluffier – more fashion and more society intrigue.

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