31 May 2019

Fellow Reviewers Share Their 2019 Mid Year Favourites

As the end of the financial year draws near, I always find myself thinking about my reading year so far. What have been the stand out books so far in 2019? I thought I'd ask some of my fellow Australian reviewers about their favourite mid year reads and share them with you below.

Carol Seeley

My name is Carol and I share my book reviews at Reading, Writing and Riesling or you can find me on Facebook and Twitter. I am an eclectic and voracious reader. My favourite genre is crime fiction (and occasional true crime) however I like to keep my reading habits “fresh” and mix up my readings with a little taste from most other genres. My favourite authors (in no particular order) are: Michael Connelly, Karin Slaughter, Mark Billingham, Michael Robotham, J M Green, Anna George, Candice Fox, Sara Foster, Sulari Gentill, and Wendy James… I have recently discovered Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie crime series (if you haven’t already you must read this) and the debut by Suzanne Daniel, Allegra in Three Parts (a contemporary read that you should add to your TBR), I love discovering new authors. 

Gone by Midnight (Crimson Lake #3) by Candice Fox coverI prefer to read a physical book but appreciate the value of an ebook when I am travelling – in our caravan when on holidays or on other long journeys. I live in a rural area and like listening to the occasional audio book on long car trips. I hope you enjoy the two books I have chosen as outstanding reads of 2019 to date.

Gone by Midnight (Crimson Lake #3) by Candice Fox
Candice Fox is a very talented and versatile writer. I think that Gone by Midnight is her best work that I have read thus far. Crocodiles, swamps and a missing child are the perfect ingredients for an eerie, macabre, pulse-raising read. I love a character driven narrative and this read is filled with quirky, empathetic main characters. Flawed, damaged, gritty, strong and mostly honest, Fox’s protagonists are never boring. 

Amanda Pharrell has a murderous past (no spoilers here), she is socially awkward and speaks her mind, loudly, and often with unintentional hilarity. Amanda loves cats and has fabulous investigative skills and when teamed up with ex-cop Ted Conkaffey, who has been falsely accused of heinous crimes, these two social outcasts achieve the near impossible – solving mysteries and creating interesting alliances (and enemies) whilst somehow managing to heal a few of their own wounds.

The Little Girl on the Ice Floe by Adelaïde Bon book cover
This is a complex narrative – Fox subtly exposes the intricate emotions and complexities of relationships, both broken and those newly forming. Despite the gruesome truths exposed in this mystery it was a read that did not dwell on the violence and mayhem but satisfyingly concluded with hope. A great read. You can read my full review on my website.

The Little Girl on the Ice Floe by Adelaïde Bon, Ruth Diver (Translator)
This memoir packs a punch hitting you with all the big emotions – anger, grief, sadness, incredulity and ultimately with hope – and those are just the reader's responses to the horrific, depraved, calculated sexual assault on an innocent child, Adelaïde Bon.

Adélaïde Bon is a remarkable woman. Her story, though at times very difficult to read, is one of a life reclaimed, of personal strength, courage and growth; a story that will move you to tears and anger…it will move you, of that I have no doubt. It will open your eyes to the situations and feelings of so many silent broken adults and children (your capacity for empathy will also be bolstered by reading this incredible story) and by sharing her story perhaps this will help someone you know to begin their path to healing.
Unapologetically honest, it is a MUST read. This is an outstanding memoir, it has such power that its effect will remain with you for a lifetime. I do not hesitate in recommending this book to you. Want to know more? Read the full review on my website.

Theresa Smith

Writer, avid reader, keen reviewer, book collector, drinker of all tea blends originating from Earl Grey, and modern history enthusiast. I enjoy reading many genres but have a particular interest in historical fiction. I am the Historical Fiction Editor and team coordinator with the Australian Women Writers Challenge. You can find me and all of my book related news and reviews at Theresa Smith Writes, or on Facebook, GoodReads and Twitter.

This year has seen some terrific new releases, and to pick just two top reads so far was a real challenge. It should come as no surprise that the two books I've selected are historical fiction, but genre is the only thing they have in common. These two books couldn't be more different to each other, or to anything else I’ve read this year, hence them making the final cut.

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo book cover
First up is The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo. The Night Tiger was most likely always going to be a winner for me, but honestly, even with my love of tigers taken into consideration, along with a keen interest in colonial Malaysia (Malaya), I still didn’t anticipate that I would adore this novel as much as I did. It’s brilliant. 

Yangsze Choo writes with such a candid warmth, conjuring up the atmosphere of 1930s colonial Malaya to the point where you are almost experiencing it for yourself. Her characters are uniquely rendered, so memorable, and the plot of this novel! It’s so unique, a merging of history, culture, and spiritualism, all woven together into this mystery that comes about from a series of seemingly random, yet at once connected, deaths. The Night Tiger is a truly unforgettable novel, one I hope will be immortalised for all time, never out of print and always available to readers young and old. You can read my full review on my website.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson 

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson book cover

Next is The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. This novel merges two uniquely fascinating histories plucked right out of the wild Kentucky mountains. The dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse librarians born of Roosevelt’s New Deal Acts, and the true and gentle historical blue-skinned people of Kentucky. 

I’ve never read a novel that has taken the reader so deeply into a hidden history before, and done it with such a depth of understanding for the area being written about. Starkly beautiful in its prose, confronting and desperately painful to comprehend. That it’s so deeply grounded in truth just made it all the more profound. Cussy’s story made my heart hurt, yet despite the grim reality punctuating every single scene throughout the novel, hope sparked in the most unlikely of places. It’s an incredible novel. One of the best I’ve read. You can read my full review on my website.

Annie McCann

I am Annie McCann and I am based in Sydney, Australia. I am the founder of a network of readers called Read3r’z Re-Vu that just celebrated their 10th year in April 2019. I am an avid reader, blogger and emerging writer and you can connect with Read3r'z Re-Vu on Twitter or Facebook. I love YA and fantasy fiction, particularly stories that are inspired by mythology and culturally infused. I am passionate about multicultural diversity particularly in books and when I’m not doing any of that I’ll either be binging on my favourite TV shows: Grimm and The Big Bang Theory or embarking on long distance walks of up to 28km. 

Here are my two favourite books of 2019 so far.

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal book cover
An idle mind is the devil’s playground…
The epic debut from the Sands of Arawiya series set in a richly detailed world inspired by ancient Arabia, a gripping story of discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands.

I heard about this book a year ago and I purposely took my time to read this slowly so I really could really immerse myself in the intricate world of Arawiya. What drew me in was the ancient Arabian world, a strong female character, djinn and ifrit – elements of an epic Arabian inspired tale. The world building in the first quarter of the book did take a bit of time as the world of Arawiya is complex and made up of 6 main lands or kingdoms or sectors that we learn about as we learn about our characters however it was still very engaging. The landscape brought back vivid memories of the Arabian desert from my visit to Arabia a few years ago so this book is a personal love for me also. The characters really came to life in my mind from their clothing to their dining to their housing. This book is very clever and lyrical with multiple story lines blending together so eloquently and I came to care for the characters we met – particularly Zafira and Nasir. Zafira is the Hunter, Nasir is the Prince of Death. With epic plot twists luring me deeper and deeper into the story with a cliffhanger ending, I am invested in this series. You can read my full review on the website.

The Eyes of Tamburah by Maria V. Snyder

The Eyes of Tamburah by Maria V. Snyder book cover
I have been a fan of Maria’s work for some time. All of her books are great but I have to admit, this is a personal favourite. I guess this is due to personal taste in the books I love to read. The setting of this book reminded me of an amazing TV documentary called “Cities of the Underworld”, a show that takes us on a journey back in time to the ancient cities in the Middle East and the Cradle of Civilisation that have since been built up over time. 

I loved the flow of the book being a lot of dialogue and how easy it was to grasp this new world and terminology. I also enjoyed how the characters lived below ground as the sun was too incredibly hot and they have to travel up and down levels to simply move around. What made it interesting is different levels proved to be treacherous for various reasons. I enjoyed Shyla as a character, her job was mesmerising being able to read maps and ancient scrolls as a job but I loved her undying loyalty to her friend that was her motivation to set out on a dangerous journey to retrieve the stolen eyes of Tamburah. Her endurance and her strength made her a likeable character in my view. Her connections between Rendor and Banqui were also very interesting. 

Some of the scenes reminded me of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom which made it even more exciting to read. I feel this book really stands out from the other series I have read by Maria V. Snyder as I adore books that have an easy flow to read with and have an Arabian desert feel to it, this book has earned a special place with my book loves of 2019. This is will be published in June 2019 and you can see the full review on my website.

Wow, thank you so much Carol, Theresa and Annie for sharing your favourite reads with us. I loved the variety in your selections. You gave us recommendations from crime, translated memoir, historical fiction and fantasy genres and I'm sure you've convinced a few readers to pick up some of these titles. I haven't read any of these but I have enjoyed novels by Candice Fox and Maria V. Snyder in the past. Thanks again for being part of this mid year Carpe Librum collaboration.
29 May 2019

Review: The Accusation by Wendy James

The Accusation by Wendy James book cover
* Copy courtesy of Harper Collins *

I can't believe this is the first time I've read any Wendy James. The Accusation by popular Australian author Wendy James was domestic noir meets psychological thriller and I really enjoyed it.

Suzannah Wells is an ex soapie star and now the local drama teacher at Enfield Wash, NSW. Ellie Canning is an 18 year old kidnapping survivor who is in the media spotlight after escaping her female captors. Suzannah is accused of the crime and the book drives the reader towards the truth. Is Suzannah guilty or innocent of the crime?

I've gotta be honest, I was constantly flipping from character to character and then back again, each time certain I'd worked out who was responsible for Ellie's kidnapping. And it's safe to say I won't be making a great detective anytime soon because I didn't guess who the perpetrator was, or their motivations for the crime.

I've been reading quite a few Australian authors this year and Wendy James is right up there with the best. Her writing style is polished and engaging, no doubt coming from having written and published seven books prior; although this is a stand alone.

The story is told from two character points of view, with excerpts of a later documentary of the case dotted between the chapters. There's a clever use of news reports and social media in The Accusation to ratchet up the tension as Suzannah's character is torn to shreds.

I later discovered in the Author’s Note that The Accusation is based on the real 18th Century English mystery known as the Canning Affair. This is a modern day re-telling of the mystery and after learning about it online, I gained a new appreciation for what I’d just read.

If you enjoy a thrilling 'whodunnit' without a murder, then The Accusation by Wendy James is for you. Lovers of domestic noir and psychological thrillers will also find plenty to keep the pages turning. Highly recommended, and you can read a FREE SAMPLE here.

My rating = ****1/2

Carpe Librum!

P.S. Is it just me, but does the cover art evoke a little of The Handmaid's Tale vibe?
27 May 2019

Review: Beyond The Pale - Folklore, Family and the Mystery of Our Hidden Genes by Emily Urquhart

Beyond The Pale: Folklore, Family and the Mystery of Our Hidden Genes by Emily Urquhart book cover
Albinism is a rare genetic condition where pigment fails to form in a person's skin, hair and eyes. Those with albinism suffer from poor vision and sensitivity to the sun, often developing skin cancer.

When Emily Urquhart gave birth to a daughter with albinism in 2010, her life took an unexpected turn. Living in Canada, Urquhart set out determined to learn everything she could about the condition, and the implications for her daughter's health and wellbeing in the years to come. Beyond the Pale is Urquhart's memoir of this period of discovery and as the blurb says, it is part memoir, part cultural critique, and part genetic travelogue.

Urquhart consulted a myriad health professions and attended the NOAH (National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation) conference in the USA. She travelled to Africa to meet children with albinism and hear about their traumatic experiences first hand.+

Urquhart is a folklore scholar and journalist and I was very interested in reading about the superstition and folklore surrounding albinism in different cultures and across time. Unfortunately there just wasn't enough and given this was the primary reason for my reading, I was deeply disappointed.

The last section of the memoir covered Urquhart's efforts to map her family tree and trace the albinism gene back through the generations. She shares all the ins and outs of her family tree and I quickly lost interest in this geneology deep dive.

In hindsight, I think I'd have been better off spending 30 minutes learning about albinism online, rather than reading this specialised memoir. It really wasn't for me.

Recommended reading for:
- memoir lovers
- parents who have a child with albinism
- those with an interest in geneology

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!

In Tanzania, 1 in every 1429 babies born have albinism and the population believes those with albinism have magical powers. As a consequence, those with albinism are often hunted and their body parts are sought after for use by witch doctors to heal the sick. Tragically, it is sometimes the family members who offer their children to the albino hunters in return for money. Not something Urquhart's beautiful daughter Sadie will ever have to worry about.
24 May 2019

Review: Into the Night by Sarah Bailey

Into the Night by Sarah Bailey cover
RRP $32.99 AUD
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Into the Night is the second in the Gemma Woodstock crime series by Australian author Sarah Bailey. I was really hoping Gemma would get her act together in this one, but on page 2 she arrives to the first homicide of the book after just one hour's sleep having left the bed of a stranger in a hotel room. Her body aches for rest, she tastes wine on her breath and sex is still fresh on her skin (page 2). Surely the dead deserve better than this?

Gemma is now based in Melbourne and living in the inner city near the corner of Little Collins and Exhibition Streets. She has left her partner Scott and their son Ben in Smithson NSW and rarely goes home to see them. She drinks and sometimes goes to a hotel bar to pick up a stranger for sex. Gemma often turns up to work hungover or having had very little rest and I just wanted to scream. 

I can handle a flawed and promiscuous character, (The Girl on the Page by John Purcell immediately comes to mind) but I just wanted more of Gemma's exceptional detective work to counterbalance her self-destructive behaviour.

Working with Detective Sergeant Nick Fleet, they're leading a team to solve the high profile murder of a local Aussie actor starring in a Hollywood movie being filmed in Melbourne.

The bustling city of Melbourne was the real star of Into the Night in my opinion and Sarah Bailey does a great job of capturing the mood of the people and the urban setting. The crimes being investigated kept my interest and the nature of the suspects (actors, actresses, filming crew, PR people etc.) made for a refreshing cast of characters and definitely set it apart from The Dark Lake.

Into the Night is recommended for readers who enjoy police procedurals and crime novels within an Australian setting. The next in the series, Where The Dead Go is due for release in August 2019.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
21 May 2019

Review: Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein

Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein book cover
* Copy courtesy of Walker Books Australia *

Small Spaces was published in April 2018 and this debut novel by Australian author Sarah Epstein created quite a stir when it hit the shelves. A young adult psychological thriller for readers aged 14+, it was longlisted and shortlisted for no less than six awards. I missed the buzz last year, but thought it was time I picked it up.

Set in Port Bellamy NSW, our protagonist Tash Carmody was eight years old when she witnessed her imaginary friend Sparrow, lead six year old Mallory Fisher away from a local carnival. Mallory was missing for a week before she was discovered wandering through the bush 40 kms from where she was last seen. Mallory never spoke again and the Fisher family - along with Tash's friend and classmate Morgan - soon moved away.

After much therapy to help her deal with the problems she was having back then, Tash is now a teenager and at peace with the fact Sparrow was never real. Interspersed with transcripts of Tash's sessions with a child psychologist, she's doing much better now and is looking forward to a future in photography when she finishes Year 12. Unfortunately things begin to spiral when the Fisher family move back to Port Bellamy. Tash begins to see Sparrow again and develops feelings for Morgan.

Small Spaces contains a number of mysteries for the reader: what happened to Mallory Fisher? Did she wander off or was she abducted? Was Sparrow an imaginary friend, or was he real? Was he responsible for what happened to Mallory?

These questions made a compelling mystery and a gripping thriller but I was surprised by the level of darkness and danger at this reading age. Offset this with a contemporary coming-of-age element, I thought I had my suspect pegged but was happy to be proven wrong in a convincing reveal at the end.

All questions were answered in a satisfactory conclusion that had been building slowly throughout the novel. I did have to suspend my disbelief at some of Tash's actions throughout the novel and the level of autonomy she was given in the circumstances. It wasn't anything of major significance, but enough to prevent me giving this a full 5 stars.

Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein is definitely worthy of the swag of award nominations and will suit young adult readers wanting a dark psychological thriller featuring a teenage protagonist coming to terms with her past.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

P.S. Read a FREE extract here.
17 May 2019

Review of Little Gestures by Mari Andrew & Bookish Happy Mail

Little Gestures by Mari Andrew
Allen & Unwin RRP $24.99 AUD
Available in May 2019
I love stationery as well as sending and receiving snail mail or happy mail. Anything that makes you happy to receive it is happy mail.

Little Gestures: Cards For Any Occasion by Mari Andrew (courtesy of Allen & Unwin) is a delightful collection of 50 postcards presented in a cute little hardback book format complete with tabs to identify different occasions. The postcards are divided into a range of categories, including: thank you, congratulations, birthday, just because and empathy. 

The illustrations and artwork are appealing and the sentiments are heartfelt. I just know I'll enjoy sending these out into the world.

Bibliophile - An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount notecard setBibliophile - An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount is an incredibly successful collection of artwork with Jane's vibrant and instantly recognisable style. I particular like her carefully curated bookstacks and when I learned she had released a collection of notecards and envelopes showcasing various different book collections, I had to buy it immediately. When you combine a love of books with stationery, you get bookish stationery!

In fact, you could easily frame these cards or pin them to an inspiration board, they're so captivating. To be honest, I don't know if I can physically write in them, but here's hoping. I have a number of journals that are 'too nice' to use but life is short and I should just use up all my stationery so I can buy more! Right?

When I was a teenager, I loved writing notes to friends and sending letters to pen pals. Later, I sent letters home and now I enjoy sending cards and happy mail to friends and loved ones. If you'd like to receive a card, postcard or note from me - or know someone who needs a lift - feel free to email me or leave a comment below and I'll pop something in the post.

When was the last time you sent something nice in the mail to a loved one?

My rating for both products = *****

Carpe Librum

P.S. If you love snail mail and stationery, check out my review of Snail Mail: Rediscovering the Art and Craft of Handmade Correspondence by Michelle Mackintosh.
14 May 2019

Review: Anna of Kleve - Queen of Secrets (Six Tudor Queens IV) by Alison Weir

Anna of Kleve - Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir book cover
* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

Anna of Kleve - Queen of Secrets is another brilliant addition to the Six Tudor Queens series by historian Alison Weir. This is the fourth historical fiction novel in the series and is the story of Anna of Kleve, or Anne of Cleves as most of us know her.

The Author's Note is quick to inform the reader that Anne of Cleves actually signed her name 'Anna'. She also tells us that Henry VIII came to refer to her Anna, informing her decision to refer to her as Anna in this novel. Furthermore, Kleve is the German name of her town and Duchy, while Cleves is the anglicised form. Therefore, in order to be historically accurate, Anna should be referred to as Anna von Kleve. Who knew?

In this historical fiction imagining of her life in the 1500s, Weir has provided an alternate history for Anna of Kleve and I predict it will be a polarising one for fans of Tudor history. I was open to an alternate storyline and wasn't scandalised by what the author has proposed here. Besides, historians can't be 100% sure about the secrets of a life lived in the 1500s - especially when it comes to women - as so little was recorded and much less has survived the ravages of time.

What is agreed, is that there has been much speculation that at the time of wedding Anna of Kleve, King Henry VIII was suffering from impotence. It has been posited that the reason the King didn't consummate their marriage is that he couldn't muster the will.

My favourite episode from The Tudors TV show is the night after King Henry is supposed to have consummated his marriage with Anna of Kleve. Cromwell asks the King: “How does your Majesty like the Queen?

He replies: “Surely My Lord, I didn’t like her very much before and I like her much worse now. She is nothing fair and she has evil smells about her. And I know she’s no maid because of the looseness of her breasts and other tokens. So I had neither the will nor the courage to prove the rest. I have no appetite for unpleasant airs. I left her as good a maid as I found her.

In the Author's Note, Alison Weir tells us more about what was actually said, and it wasn't much different. 
On the morning after his wedding night, the King told Thomas Cromwell: "I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse, for I have felt her belly and her breasts, and thereby, as I can judge, she should be no maid, which so strake me to the heart when I felt them that I had neither will nor courage to proceed any further in other matters."
For weeks afterwards, he made similar complaints to others, saying he "plainly mistrusted her to be no maid by reason of the looseness of her belly and breasts and other tokens", and stating, "I have left her as good a maid as I found her." Page 488
Of course, much has also been made of the portrait of Anna of Kleve painted by Hans Holbein and whether it was a true representation or not. This is also covered in the novel, as is the possibility King Henry didn't find Anna attractive as she wasn't skilled in dancing or playing music, which was much desired in a lady of her status at an English court.

Prior to reading Anna of Kleve - Queen of Secrets, my knowledge extended only as far as the King having their arranged marriage annulled and Anna being known from then on as the King's Beloved Sister. I've always admired that Anna seemed to deem it safer to acquiesce to King Henry's demands than to protest.

In Anna of Kleve - Queen of Secrets, we stay with her beyond this turning point in her life all the way through until King Henry's death in 1547 and her own death a decade later in 1557. I enjoyed reading and learning about the rest of her life, which I hadn't explored in fiction until now.

The proposed love affair between Anna and her cousin is bound to cause controversy, however the author makes a good argument for the relationship in her Author's Note.

I'm thoroughly enjoying this series and am already looking forward to the next one. No doubt it'll be the story of Catherine Howard and I know I'll be in Alison Weir's expert hands once again.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

See my reviews of previous novels in the Six Tudor Queens series by Alison Weir:
10 May 2019

Review: Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott book cover
* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

A psychological thriller set in a research laboratory? Featuring two highly successful and ambitious women? I'm in!

Kit and Diane were best friends in high school, but after Diane shared a deeply personal secret with Kit they drifted apart. Both girls were driven and ambitious and each pursued careers in medical research.

Kit is now working for one of the best female bosses I remember coming across in fiction, and it isn't long before Diane pops up in her life again; headhunted and recruited by her boss.

The novel is told from Kit's perspective with 'flash backs' to her teenage years and friendship with Diane. I thought Give Me Your Hand was going to be a thriller about Kit and Diane duking it out for a position or promotion, viciously competing with each other with dire consequences for one of them. Give Me Your Hand wasn't this and in fact was so much more.

Research at the laboratory is being conducted into Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), which is a severe form of PMS that includes physical and behavioural symptoms. I'd never heard of PMDD, so you could say this thriller was also educational.

I will say that the cover art doesn't adequately convey the setting of the novel in my opinion. I'd have preferred a white cover with out of focus laboratory and perhaps a smashed beaker with blood spattered around. Knowing they're researching PMDD, the blood has a double meaning. Furthermore, so much of the novel takes place in and around the lab that this was my mental image of the novel as I was reading it.

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott is a gripping psychological thriller and I really enjoyed it.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
07 May 2019

Review: Boxed by Richard Anderson

Boxed by Richard Anderson book cover
* Copy courtesy of Scribe Publications *

Australian author Richard Anderson is a farmer from NSW and his experience of life on the land really shines through in his second rural crime novel Boxed. It's a no nonsense mystery thriller with an interesting premise and fast paced plot.

Dave Martin is a farmer beaten down by circumstances. His wife has left him and he's been neglecting his farm in favour of rattling around his run down house and drinking. Dave likes to order cheap tools online to kill the time but he starts to receive boxes in the mail that he didn't order.

The mystery of the boxes and the action that ensues really drives the novel forward and I was quickly caught up in the plot. Growing up in a rural community myself, I could totally relate to the farming district Dave lives in and his movements around the place and interactions with friends and family were 100% authentic Australian.

Boxed is for readers who enjoyed the Aussie settings in A Time to Run or The Twisted Knot by J.M. Peace, The Dry by Jane Harper or Scrublands by Chris Hammer. These are crime novels set in rural Australia from the perspective of a Police Officer, AFP Officer and a journalist all actively investigating crimes. However, Boxed is from the perspective of a bystander who finds himself in a lot of trouble and we the reader, then follow the choices he makes and the consequences of those decisions.

I really began to feel for Dave, and praised and cheered for him when he made a smart decision and cringed in worry for him when he didn't.

Reading Boxed marks the end of a 5 book Australian author binge for #AussieApril (and the two Australian reading challenges I participate in) and it's time to get back to some international authors.

I thoroughly recommend Boxed by Richard Anderson to crime and mystery lovers everywhere and will be keen to check out his next book.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
03 May 2019

Review of A Lovely and Terrible Thing by Chris Womersley and thoughts on Short Story Collections

* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

I don't read many short story collections. However, when an advance copy of Chris Womersley's first collection of short stories arrived bringing promise of 'twenty macabre and deliciously enjoyable tales', I decided to give it a go.

The majority of the stories in A Lovely and Terrible Thing were told in first person, and included characters of both sexes and a variety of ages, family demographics and socio-economic situations. Living in Melbourne I enjoyed the references to my city within the stories and recognised many of the settings.

By far my favourite of the collection was The Deep End. It was just such a brilliant short story and everything I love about the genre. It was tense with a sense of foreboding and had a terrific surprise ending I did NOT see coming.

On the flip side though, Crying Wolf had such a devastating ending as to make me cross. The story was building to a climax and instead of giving the two main characters an other-worldly mind blowing ending, Womersley tears it away from the reader at the very last moment by way of a selfish act by one of the characters. 

Perhaps this was done in an effort to show how easily lost opportunities can plague our lives and how close we can be to life changing events without the slightest hint of their existence or magnitude. Either way, I felt thoroughly robbed by the ending.

The other stories in the collection didn't really illicit much of a reader response from me and felt middle of the road. 
Perhaps this means short story collections aren't my thing or I need to read more of them.

Out of interest, I had a look back at my reading history and identified that I've only read six short story collections to date. Not a good track record really.


I can see a definite pattern here, and that's the fact that I've followed some of my favourite fiction authors (eg. Stephen King) into their short story collections. I picked up the collection edited by Neil Gaiman as a 'taster' of sorts and read the Rushdie for University.

While I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of short story collections yet, I do have some on my TBR pile that I'm looking forward to:
  • Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology by Danielle Binks
  • The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories by Angela Carter
  • The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue
  • The Brothers Grimm: 101 Fairy Tales by Jacob Grimm
  • The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
  • The Turning by Tim Winton
In summary, A lovely and Terrible Thing by Chris Womersley contained one outstanding short story, one infuriating one and eighteen others that were a solid read.

Do you enjoy short story collections? What would you recommend?

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

P.S. Check out my review of City of Crows by Chris Womersley