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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.

Mystery
Latest review: 17 May 2021

‘The Bluffs'
by Kyle Perry

A groups of missing school girls, a teacher found dishevelled and with concussion, and a local legend about “The Hungry Man” reputed to snatch eat stray wanderers on The Bluffs. It’s a recipe for a moody, atmospheric thriller from debut author Kyle Perry.

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Non-fiction
Latest review: 20 January 2021

‘On Doubt’
by Leigh Sales

"Is ‘doubt’ still relevant today in a modern Australia? ‘Black and white thinking,’ as my grandmother used to say, has become the norm. But are we still encouraged, or even inclined, to see things in shades of grey?

"I enjoyed this little book. It’s an essay which asks a lot of questions and challenges the reader a bit.

"Taking a broad overview, the essay begins with a personal account from Sales’ early life, as she explains ‘I was a bit of a handful at home, mostly because I insisted on questioning everything.’

"As one of Australia’s best-known ABC journalists, Sales is still asking ‘Why?’ and while we’re used to seeing her on TV, in this essay we see another of Sales’ talents: her writing. In On Doubt, she makes a strong case for being generally more doubting. Excerpts from speeches, letters, emails from well-known politicians, writers and journalists illustrate this point.

"Questioning the sometimes lack of doubt conveyed by many political leaders, Sales states that “strong leaders trust instinct and often find themselves loved and loathed in equal parts.” … and further on - “when politicians or journalists or commentators make doubt seem like heresy or stupidity… it sends a message to us all. It says: if you experience second thoughts or feel less than certain and confident in your own opinions at all times, you are weak.”

"The essay also explores the very personal questions, “What if I can’t do it? What if I muck this up?... These are natural, sensible and desirable thoughts. They prevent us from acting recklessly without regard for consequences.”

"In the current era of ‘post truth’ and times that are ‘unprecedented’, perhaps there has never been a better time to doubt...."

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General Fiction
Latest review: 9 December 2020

‘The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart’
by Holly Ringland

"The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is Holly Ringland’s debut novel. It was published in 2018 and won the 2019 Australian Book Industry general fiction book of the year award. In turns both lyrical and haunting, it is a story of love and loss, abuse and hope.

"Set in Australia, it tells the story of Alice Hart who, as a nine- year old, is sent to live with her grandmother on a flower farm after a family tragedy. She grows to adulthood knowing there are family secrets her grandmother will not or cannot share with her. Discovery of a devastating betrayal sees her fleeing, as a young woman, from her seemingly settled existence on the farm into the central Australian desert, where further life lessons await her.

"Flowers are the organizing metaphor of this book. Each chapter is headed by the name of a flower. The meaning of its name is given along with information about its properties. This in turn provides a clue to the emotional content of the chapter. Alice’s family have owned the flower farm for several generations and her grandmother hides behind the language of flowers rather than speak hard truths. And, of course, there is the central metaphor of the story itself: how Alice learns to blossom as a person.

"The writing is lush and lyrical. Fairytales are invoked and the stories of Alice’s family often have a fairytale quality to them – but in the original Brothers Grimm style, that is to say, dark and haunting. Indeed, such is the darkness that my copy of the book lists, at the back, the hotline number for 1800 RESPECT, the National Sexual Assault and Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service. So please be aware if you pick up this book that it addresses these issues. However, the book is also full of hope, so prospective readers should not necessarily be put off by the darkness.

"On a lighter note, one of the things I enjoyed most about this story is the way the author seamlessly weaves in characters and stories from various cultures, effortlessly illustrating the cultural diversity of Australia.

"This story reminded me of The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, and also, to some extent, The Color Purple by Alice Walker. You can borrow it from Kingston Libraries in print, ebook, audio-cd or e-audio format."

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Junior Fiction
Latest review: 26 August 2020

‘47 Degrees’
by Justin D'Ath

"I feel this is a really important novel that highlights the hardships of Australian bushfires and their impact on communities. Told from the point of view of thirteen year old Zeelie, the dangers and destruction of the Black Saturday bushfires are captured beautifully and draw emotion. Although the story is fictional, the story comes from the author's own experience in the days of the bushfire.

"The way it's written is phenomenal. Each chapter is fast paced, breathtaking and filled with hope. Zeelie and her father must make difficult/heartbreaking decisions, one of them leaving Zeelie's horse Remu behind. They haven't had contact with Zeelie's mum and brother since they called from the hospital, instead they just hope they are still in Melbourne.

"It's a great book for upper primary school readers and an easy read. I loved reading 47 Degrees and have read it many times over. The book includes a map of bushfire affected areas and towns and photos of Justin D'Ath's property and home destroyed in the bushfires. I would definitely recommend this book for reading!"

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Young Adult
Latest review: 12 August 2020

‘It Sounded Better in My Head’
by Nina Kenwood

"A wonderfully real coming-of-age story for YA readers. Set in Melbourne in that strange period between getting your year 12 results and finding out what course (if any) you get into for uni, this book is about 18 year old Natalie and her best friends Lucy and Zach. Natalie is a very relatable character dealing with her own insecurities about the future, first love, friendship and appearance. Chapter 33 ‐ wow! Recommended for 15+."

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Fantasy
Latest review: 11 March 2020

‘The Last Smile in Sunder City’
by Luke Arnold

"A noir detective novel full of magical creatures, but no magic. Humans couldn't resist the source of the magical creatures' powers and sought to harness it for themselves but instead they broke it. Now no one has any and Fetch Phillips, man for hire, is to blame. Six years on and the magical creatures are shells of their former selves and trying to come to terms with whatever life means when it's merely mundane.

"The Last Smile in Sumner City is a dry, sharp-witted detective potboiler. In a cheap and tawdry world of faded, formerly powerful beings starved of magic, Fetch Phillips ‘Man for Hire’ has a mystery to solve. Just how far will the monsters of old go to adapt for survival, strive for redemption or sacrifice of themselves for just a taste of the magic that made them who they once were?"

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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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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&semi 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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