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Book Reviews

Welcome to Book Lovers' Book Reviews! This is a new section of our site where we invite you to explore book reviews written by our staff and other library members, or submit a book review of your own.

Young Adult
Latest review: 19 February 2020

'Shallow Graves'
by Kali Wallace

"One day, a year after her death, Breezy wakes up. Not only is she back but she has a new talent. Breezy can sense murderers, and she can return the favour with a touch. Confused and with nowhere to go she sets out to find answers, why this happened to her, why she didn't stay dead, what it means and if there is a way back. She finds a world of monsters who can't be trusted and humans that are worse and she must navigate this unreliable new world and discover what darkness lies at the dark heart of it if she is ever to unearth the truth behind her own fate. This is a great, not quite zombie book that is well written, original and best devoured in one or two sittings."

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Non-fiction
Latest review: 4 December 2019

'Look What You Made Me Do'
by Helen Walmsley-Johnson

'This was the love I'd read about since I was a little girl - feeling overwhelmed by it, the breathless rapture and longing, the self-sacrifice - exactly how it was described in any book I'd ever read, film I'd ever seen, song I'd ever listened to.'

"This book is remarkable in that the author has a cache of documentary evidence charting the course of a relationship as it turned abusive in the form of daily letters, notes, faxes, and emails which she lays out what coercive control looks like in the words of both the abuser and the abused.

"Before I read this book I didn't fully understand why gender equity was the focus of domestic violence campaigns. Sure inequality is bad, but it's not really the biggest issue when it comes to domestic violence, right?

"Walmsley-Johnson shows how wrong that attitude is as she describes the ways in which the relationship was everything that she had been told she should want. The movie worthy romance of a man so in love that he can't be away from her for a few hours. He bombards her with love notes at work. He wants to be involved in every part of her life. The little put downs he uses to make her feel ashamed of not meeting an arbitrary standard of womanly self sacrifice or when she behaves in a way that he deems unfeminine show over and over again how seemingly harmless assumptions about gender can be weaponised by an abuser. We all have a role to play in disarming abusers by calling out the true intent behind these behaviours when we see them rather than buying the false romanticism that they hide behind."

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This book review was written in support of the 16 Days of Activism
campaign against gender-based violence.

If you or someone you know needs help, support is available.

Mystery
Latest review: 6 November 2019

'The Angel's Mark'
by S.W. Perry

"I can't resist a good Tudor mystery, but this one comes with another element exploring the ways that religion, superstition, and medicine combined. The arrogance of the medical profession at a time when most of what they knew about the body and its inner workings was no more than flawed guesswork is pricked, but it's also a fascinating twist on the forensic crime genre of modern times. This book poses the question, when the underlying medical and cultural assumptions about science are wrong, how can one doctor turn those assumptions to his advantage when investigating the murders of people who the establishment doesn't feel are worth protecting?"

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Thriller
Latest review: 27 February 2019

'The Nowhere Child'
by Christian White

"There is something fun about reading a book set in your own city, referencing locations and activities you can relate to in your daily life. This was the first thing I enjoyed about The Nowhere Child. However, from Coburg the action soon shifts to the United States as main character Kim Leamy investigates the possibility that she may really be Sammy Went, a two-year old child who disappeared from her home in Manson, Kentucky, 28 years ago. From the time Kim arrives in Kentucky, the story rapidly accelerates into a spiralling tale of trauma, cult, conspiracy, and memory in the vein of Gone Girl and Girl on a Train. If you enjoy this sort of twisty tale, switching between past and present, where every time you think you've got a handle on what's happening it changes, then The Nowhere Child is the book for you. A great escape read."

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General Fiction
Latest review: 13 February 2019

'The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club'
by Sophie Green

"Set in the Northern Territory of 1978, 5 very different women meet together for a book club on an isolated cattle station. Sybil, the matriarch of the ranch, begins the book club for her new English daughter in law, Kate, hoping that it will help her feel more at home in the alien Australian outback. Rita is a nurse for the Royal Flying Doctor Service who lives in Darwin. Sallyanne is a mother of three children and, with a disintegrating marriage, soon finds the book club to be a lifeline as she develops treasured friendships. Then we have Della, a Texan who is working on the land seeking to do what she is denied in her home country. Over time we see the characters survive life changing events that only deepens the bonds that have developed over time. I particularly liked the listing of events that greet the beginning of a new year. Come to Fairvale Station and be engaged by these characters and the landscape."

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Fantasy
Latest review: 28 November 2018

'Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day'
by Seanan McGuire

"This book is weird. That isn't what's wrong with it, it's just an observation. I usually love a weird book because it's refreshing to read something really original, but this one just fell short. While I liked the writing style, I found that the central premise of the book and the character's driving motivation too unnecessarily convoluted. It seems as though the author has confused her crisp, sparse writing that conjures places and characters in sharp focus with the amount of plot and character development required to carry the story - at just 182 pages there's plenty of room to develop further. I found this book unsatisfying as an introduction to McGuire's writing, but there are plenty of very positive reviews online so this may be one for the fans."

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Classic Fiction
Latest review: 31 October 2018

'Frankenstein'
by Mary Shelley

"How to describe this classic horror story written by the teenaged Mary Shelley on a dare? The very first science fiction novel is beautifully written and grapples with the true nature of man and monster; what makes us human, what drives us to despair and evil, what awful deeds might we accomplish in the name of science? It is an exploration of dark places that lay in wait for those who are willing to explore in man's flawed and hubristic need to conquer the limits of nature.

"Frankenstein is, ultimately, the story of genius obsessed with a single driving focus to uncover the secrets of the universe with no thought of the price of success. Too late he finds that his creation, while superhuman, can never be more to him than beast and a mockery of mankind. Thus ensues a struggle for survival between man and monster that will take them to the end of the earth and destroy them both."

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Science Fiction
Latest review: 29 August 2018

'Children of Time'
by Adrian Tchaikovsky

"This is the scaffolding of evolution, the incremental accumulation of knowledge, society and the relentless drive to create, to build and to understand. It's just not just for humans. After a series of devastating wars and environmental degradation Earth has been destroyed and the last of the humans venture out in search of a new world to call home, heading on a one way trip for the planets where the earliest experiments in terraforming had taken place. Worlds that did not stand still in the absence of humans. New species have fought their way to the top of the evolutionary chain and are intelligent, socially complex and ready to defend the home they have spent thousands of generations building. This book is beautifully constructed, weaving an elegant tapestry of what an Earth without monkeys to dominate it could have been, encompassing physical adaptation, the emergence of social structures for survival, the development of religion to understand the big questions in life, the role of technology, clashes with other species for dominance and movements to address fundamental injustice and prejudice. It is a hugely encompassing page turner, without question my favourite book so far for 2018."

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Romance
Latest review: 22 August 2018

'The Plumberry School of Comfort Food'
by Cathy Bramley

"I have to admit, it was the cover and inviting title of this book that won me over when scanning the shelves for a new read. It was bright and fun, immediately catching my eye, and the words within followed similarly. The Plumberry School of Comfort Food is exactly as its name suggests; a warm and delicious story, perfect to read under a blanket on the couch, with the dog at your feet and a cuppa in hand."

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Family Saga
Latest review: 10 January 2018

'Three Sisters, Three Queens'
by Philippa Gregory

"This book isn't really the stories of three Queens, but instead focuses on the life of Margaret Tudor and her consuming jealousy of her sister Mary and sister in law Katherine of Aragon. This is unfortunate as it would be difficult to find a less sympathetic heroine than Margaret. It's hard, being so far removed, to understand the all-encompassing sense of entitlement that came with being a Tudor princess, and while I did try to suspend modern ideas of monarchy while reading this book, I found that I was developing a deep rooted and increasingly militant case of republicanism as it progressed. Two stars."

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