All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Kingdom Of The Feared by Kerri Maniscalco

Kingdom Of The Feared (Kingdom Of The Wicked #3)
Kerri Maniscalco
Hodder & Stoughton
2022, 401p
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: Two curses.
One prophecy.
A reckoning all have feared.

And a love more powerful than fate. All hail the king and queen of Hell.
 

Emilia is reeling from the shocking discovery that her twin sister, Vittoria, is alive. But before she faces the demons of her past, Emilia yearns to claim her king, the seductive Prince of Wrath, in the flesh. Emilia doesn’t simply desire his body, she wants his heart and soul—but that’s something the enigmatic demon can’t promise her.

When a high-ranking member of House Greed is assassinated, Emilia and Wrath are drawn to the rival demon court. Damning evidence points to Vittoria as the murderer and she’s quickly declared an enemy of the Seven Circles. Despite her betrayal, Emilia will do anything to solve this new mystery and find out who her sister really is.

Together Emilia and Wrath play a sin-fueled game of deception as they work to stop the unrest that’s brewing between witches, demons, shape-shifters and the most treacherous foes of all: the Feared.

Emilia was warned that when it came to the Wicked nothing was as it seemed. But, have the true villains been much closer all along? When the truth is finally revealed, it just might end up costing Emilia her heart.

I really enjoyed the first two books in this series, and had been looking forward to this one coming out. The problem with reading books from the library is that sometimes you forget everything that has happened and I have to admit, I had forgotten where exactly the second book had left off. Had to go and re-read my reviews of the two previous books and try and piece it all together.

In this book, Emilia wants answers about her sister and the strange flashes she’s been getting sometimes. She’s about to discover who she really is, what happened to her and who the perpetrator was. At the same time, she’s navigating trying to claim her King as well, but there are many things that will have to happen before Emilia and Wrath can embrace being the King and Queen of Hell together.

Look, not going to lie – I enjoyed this but I didn’t love it. It’s 50% smut, 30% Emilia being kidnapped in various ways and Wrath tearing the world apart to find her or get her back and 20% actual plot, most of which occurs in the last part of the book. I’m not exactly complaining, I enjoy a good smutty read all the time but the first spicy scene starts in the opening pages and they get repeated with regularity. I’m not sure how time works in this land but they don’t sleep much and it makes the narrative seem slightly repetitive for a large part of it because Wrath and Emilia get busy, get summoned to a court to hear something or other, Emilia gets kidnapped or trapped in some sort of other spiritual plane and then she comes back and Wrath is so relieved to have her back that they get busy again annnnnnd so on and so on.

And like I said, I was mostly here for it. I like Wrath and Emilia and a lot of what was revealed in this book makes me want to go back and re-read their first interactions, when she first summoned him because I think they’d be so interesting. I don’t own copies of these, I read them all from my library which is the downside sometimes, when you cannot just go pull a book off a shelf at whim and re-read a portion that you suddenly see in an entirely different light. Maybe I’ll have to re-borrow the first two and do a proper re-read!

I grew to really like some of Wrath’s ‘brothers’ – specifically Envy, Pride and Sloth and I feel like some of them could definitely be explored in further books, especially Pride. But I sort of get the feeling that story could very much go one of two ways and I’m really only interested in it if it goes one of those ways. I feel as though there’s quite a bit that could be explored further in this world, if the author wants to and I’d definitely be up for reading some of it.

In terms of an ending this was satisfying for me, for Wrath and Emilia. I’m not sure this was the strongest book, in terms of the plot and it definitely didn’t feel like a 400p read but it was entertaining and it wrapped everything up and gave me a good indication of how the future will be.

7/10

Book #191 of 2022

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Review: Our Wives Under The Sea by Julia Armfield

Our Wives Under The Sea
Julia Armfield
Picador
2022, 240p
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: Miri thinks she has got her wife back, when Leah finally returns after a deep-sea mission that ended in catastrophe. It soon becomes clear, though, that Leah is not the same. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded on the ocean floor, Leah has brought part of it back with her, onto dry land and into their home.

Moving through something that only resembles normal life, Miri comes to realize that the life that they had before might be gone. Though Leah is still there, Miri can feel the woman she loves slipping from her grasp.

Our Wives Under The Sea is the debut novel from Julia Armfield, the critically acclaimed author of salt slow. It’s a story of falling in love, loss, grief, and what life there is in the deep deep sea.

Do you ever read a book, get to the end and then think to yourself ‘I have absolutely no idea what happened there?’

Yeah, that was me upon finishing this.

I think I heard about this in a podcast I was listening to and I was super pleased when I searched it up on my library’s database and found it on the shelf. I thought, from the brief amount I heard about it, that it sounded fascinating. I kind of love submarine stuff – I’ve watched a few movies centring around them and a TV show or two but I’ve never really read a book about characters on a submarine. There’s something about that feeling of being trapped under water should anything that go wrong, that lends the creepiest vibe – and in this book, something does indeed go wrong.

The book is told in two sections, alternating viewpoints between Miri and Leah. Miri’s viewpoint is mostly told in the present, after Leah has returned from six months or whatever it was, under the sea when she was only supposed to be gone three weeks. It does flash back to various points during Leah’s missing period but for the most part it deals in the after and what Leah is going through now. The other viewpoint is Leah herself and that is from her perspective during the doomed venture in the submersible – from the moment they realise they’ve lost power and are sinking to the bottom of the sea floor as well as the various incidents that happen during their time out of communication, the weird and the tragic.

I enjoyed the beginning of this – the atmosphere was really well done, Miri’s frustration in the present and her confusion about the weird behaviour that Leah is displaying as well as the frustration at the lack of communication from her workplace as well as the difficulty in contacting them or getting a single straight answer about anything. And Leah’s flashbacks for what happened were also interesting.

But my interest definitely began to wane the further I got into this. After a while the atmosphere and vagueness wasn’t enough for me. Miri is just…frustratingly blasé about the weirdness going on with Leah, her behaviour and strange habits since returning. And I get that okay, she thought she was dead after Leah was only supposed to be gone for six weeks and I’m sure she’s relieved and ecstatic to have her back again….but look, there are severe issues here and a lot of the book just seems to pretend that it isn’t happening or that it’s something that will pass.

I think if you’re the sort of person that is ok, or enjoys ambiguity and is happy to just sink into the aftermath and explore the relationship of the two women whilst almost ignoring the very weird things that’ll happen, this is a book you’ll enjoy. If you want some answers, if you want to know what happened to the submarine and why and understand exactly what is happening….this one is probably not going to be something you fall in love with. And honestly, I fall more into the second camp, if the book is going to set something up and revolve something around it, then I want to know why.

I finished this because it was a short read and I wanted some more answers and it was an easy read. But ultimately, I didn’t love it and I felt like I finished the book with more questions than answers. Some people love that. I have to say that a lot of the writing was quite good and I feel like the information the author chose to convey, she conveyed very well. But I wanted so much more from this in that I think I thought it was going to be a very different type of story than it was. And the ending left me just…..meh. And I don’t think that would’ve all been the intention.

5/10

Book #188 of 2022

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Review: The Boy From Boomerang Crescent by Eddie Betts

The Boy From Boomerang Crescent
Eddie Betts
Simon & Schuster
2022, 304p
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: It’s a long, hard road from the Nullarbor to the MCG.

How does a self-described ‘skinny Aboriginal kid’ overcome a legacy of family tragedy to become an AFL legend? One thing’s for sure: it’s not easy. But then, there’s always been something special about Eddie Betts.

Betts grew up in Port Lincoln and Kalgoorlie, in environments where the destructive legacies of colonialism – racism, police targeting of Aboriginal people, drug and alcohol misuse, family violence – were sadly normalised. His childhood was defined by family closeness as well as family strife, plus a wonderful freedom that he and his cousins exploited to the full – for better and for worse.

When he made the decision to take his talents across the Nullarbor to Melbourne to chase his footballing dreams – homesickness be damned – everything changed. Over the ensuing years, Betts became a true giant of the sport: 350-plus games, 600-plus goals, multiple All-Australian nods and Goal of the Year awards, and a league-wide popularity rarely seen in the hyper-tribal AFL.

Along the way, he battled his demons before his turbulent youth settled into responsible maturity. Today, the man the Melbourne tabloids once dubbed ‘bad boy Betts’ is a dedicated husband and father, a respected community leader and an increasingly outspoken social activist.

Sometimes funny, sometimes tragic and always honest – often laceratingly so – The Boy from Boomerang Crescent is the inspirational life story of a champion, in his own words. Whether he’s narrating one of his trademark gravity-defying goals from the pocket, the discrimination he’s faced as an Aboriginal person or the birth of his first child, Betts’s voice – intelligent, soulful, unpretentious – rings through on every page.

The very human story behind the plaudits is one that will surprise, move and inspire.

What an amazing person Eddie Betts is.

I’ve never followed any of the teams he played for (Carlton and Adelaide) so I never knew a huge amount about him personally but everyone who has watched their team play him knows what an absolute demon he was on the field. He kicked goals that no one should probably ever kick from ridiculous spots. He always seemed like a very personable kind of guy and I admired him for the public stance he took against racism. I have read a few articles and do remember a few horrid incidents but until reading this, I didn’t know just how much racism he had faced on the field and off. I shouldn’t be surprised, because there has been no shortage of disgusting incidents. I’m a Sydney Swans supporter, Adam Goodes is fresh in my mind and always will be.

This is a refreshing, frank account of a kid who grew up loving footy and wasn’t necessarily motivated to play at the top level at all. He loved playing with his family, his ‘brothers’ and being drafted was somehow something that happened to him rather than something he sought out. He was at times, by his own admittance, lazy in the offseason and didn’t stick to the diet and exercise plans he was given and he is also quite open about the fact that until the second year he played in the AFL, he actually couldn’t read very well, which is partially why he couldn’t stick to the plans – he couldn’t understand them. He was given literacy classes by the AFL which he attended with some other players (I think he noted all of them were of Aboriginal heritage, which is an indication of how Indigenous kids are slipping through the cracks in education).

He’s a super proud Indigenous man who loves his culture and his family and is big into preserving the culture and also, helping other young Indigenous players. He and his wife Anna (who honestly sounds like an equally amazing person) often open their home to young Indigenous players drafted from interstate as he knows how important it is for them to have some of their mob around them to help them adjust to a very different life. It seems like their home is a hub of support for anyone who needs it.

In this he details the highs and the horrible lows: winning goal of the year awards, making a grand final (losing that grand final), the horrific murder of one of his coaches, the ‘development camp’ that ended up being splashed across the media for all the wrong reasons, being separated from his family and playing during a pandemic, being told he wasn’t going to be offered a contract after his final year playing for Carlton and what came after footy. The book is printed directly as he would speak it so it is very much like listening to him telling you his life story. It works, because it showcases all of his personality in the narrative, how he feels at any given moment is so obvious and you can hear/feel the pain when he talks about being racially profiled by police or when someone threw a banana at him or took the time to mail him a letter calling him a racially charged name and you can also feel the joy when he talks about his family: his mother, his aunties, his brothers and cousins, his wife and their children. Eddie and Anna have five children, including twins and it seems like nothing fazes them! They initially struggled with fertility, having treatments to conceive their first two and then when they went for a third, got twins! Their fifth was a complete surprise, discovered when Anna was already over 20 weeks without any treatments at all. You can really feel the ‘more the merrier’ vibe and they happily cart their kids on overseas holidays and give them amazing experiences as well as keeping them grounded in their Indigenous heritage and culture, using Indigenous words and language etc.

I loved this. It was so interesting to learn about his life growing up, how he came to almost have playing in the AFL fall into his lap and all of the stuff he talks about away from footy as well. Incredibly enjoyable.

9/10

Book #187 of 2022

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Review: Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne

Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match
Sally Thorne
Hachette AUS
2022, 354p
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: For generations, every Frankenstein has found their true love and equal, unlocking lifetimes of blissful wedded adventure. Clever, pretty (and odd) Angelika Frankenstein has run out of suitors and fears she may become the exception to this family rule. When assisting in her brother Victor’s ground-breaking experiment to bring a reassembled man back to life, she realizes that having an agreeable gentleman convalescing in the guest suite might be a chance to let a man get to know the real her. For the first time, Angelika embarks upon a project that is all her own.

When her handsome scientific miracle sits up on the lab table, her hopes for an instant romantic connection are thrown into disarray. Her resurrected beau (named Will for the moment) has total amnesia and is solely focused on uncovering his true identity. Trying to ignore their heart-pounding chemistry, Angelika reluctantly joins the investigation into his past, hoping it will bring them closer. But when a second suitor emerges to aid their quest, Angelika wonders if she was too hasty inventing a solution. Perhaps fate is not something that can be influenced in a laboratory? Or is Will (or whatever his name is!) her dream man, tailored for her in every way? And can he survive what was done to him in the name of science, and love?

I only have myself to blame for this.

I told myself that after the last Sally Thorne novel, Second First Impressions, that obviously whatever it was that had made me love The Hating Game so much, was a one off. And that whatever Thorne was writing post that, had for me, none of its charm and chemistry. I didn’t even like the sound of this from the blurb but I was picking up some holds from my local library one day and I saw it sitting on the new release shelf. Honestly that alone should’ve probably been a clue, that such a new release was so readily available, from an author that had previously produced such a popular book. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided I would give it a look. It is, after all, quite a departure. It’s historical fiction, a sort of re-telling/re-imaging of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein where Victor Frankenstein has a sister named Angelika who is every bit as scientifically clever and brilliant as he is.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing brilliant or clever about this for me. It’s awkward. Angelika and Victor scour the morgue for fresh dead bodies that Angelika likes the look of, because they are building (and re-animating) her a husband. You see, Angelika is a bit ‘not-like-other-girls’ and despite being beautiful, exceedingly rich and clever, she makes men run screaming from her because she’s too eager in her attempts to woo them. She desperately wants a husband and children, especially now that her brother is getting married and another woman will become mistress of the family home. So they are building her one, because he’ll be so grateful she brought him back to life, saved him, that he’ll fall in love with her instantly.

Sure, the scene where they choose a guy because Angelika likes his face but another guy’s absolutely massive d*ck to mix ‘n’ match because haha, why settle for a mediocre one when you can have hung like a horse, the world is her oyster, am I right, is weird AF but the biggest problem for me was that Angelika and Will, her re-animated man with the monster penis, had zero chemistry. In fact, it’s written in such a way that Will’s new appendage really desires Angelika but he himself, the man with the brain, does not want to do physical things, in fact keeps almost trying to run away from her at every opportunity. And she’s so desperate, like she knows nothing about this guy other than she really liked his face – nothing about his past, his history. He’s even possibly married because he was wearing a ring on his finger (but his hands are on someone else now, haha!). Will talks about leaving, about finding out who he was, constantly (he is re-animated with no memory of his former self) and all Angelika can think about is how she’ll be so sad when he leaves even though she’s known him five minutes and dude is a blank slate, because as I mentioned, no memory.

I haven’t read Frankenstein (I own a copy, it’s on my list) but I think most people tend to realise that Frankenstein is the monster, not his creation and I’m not sure this book leans into that at all. Victor, Angelika’s brother, is downright insufferable and his relationship with Lizzie, his fiancee, is I think, supposed to be so cool and liberal and progressive for something written to be set in Victorian England but just comes off as very obnoxious. There’s very little here in terms of responsibility for actions and hey, maybe it’s not the best thing to just be bringing random dead people back to life and expecting them to love you for it? I think we are supposed to think that Angelika is so quirky and lonely because other people just don’t ‘get her’ and Will will get her if he could just try and see what she did for him, like she saved him but yeah, he didn’t ask for this and she had no idea of his life prior to her and honestly, when they do find out Will’s history it actually just makes the whole thing weirder. And explains why he kept running away from her.

I thought the religious aspect of Second First Impressions was weird, but the shoehorning of religious morals and actually just religion in general into the end of this, was incredibly jarring. You could argue that it’s Victorian England, everyone was pretty religious, the Church was a big thing etc but it’s made very clear that the siblings, especially Victor, shun all that and they are modern and believe in science. All the praying and the like at the end, felt like being lectured, like only through this action and by accepting religion and the like, could they get what they all truly want, etc. It was very strange and not at all in keeping with the rest of the book given what the siblings had been doing.

Sometimes you just know what’s best for you and you ignore it anyway. I shouldn’t have read this and now I truly need to just remember how much I love The Hating Game and ignore all that comes after.

I have no rating for this.

Book #186 of 2022

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Review: The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan

The Murder Rule
Dervla McTiernan
Harper Collins AUS
2022, 304p
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: First Rule: Make them like you.

Second Rule: Make them need you.

Third Rule: Make them pay.

They think I’m a young, idealistic law student, that I’m passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system.

They think I’m working hard to impress them.

They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row.

They’re wrong. I’m going to bury him.

This was…..an interesting one.

I’ve had this on my must-read list since it was released. I really love Dervla McTiernan’s three Cormac Reilly crime procedural novels and this one is something completely different and stand alone and I thought it sounded incredibly interesting. I requested it through my local library because I wanted to see if I was going to love it as much as the Reilly books and…well, look, that ended up being a good decision.

The Murder Rule takes place in two timelines – in 2019, we have law student Hannah, who emails the boss of the ‘Innocence Project’ group, run through the University of Virginia which handles miscarriages of justice. She tells him that she knows the places are all filled but she’s transferring there this semester and she think she’ll make an amazing addition to the team. Despite the professor emailing her back saying no, she manages to sort of blackmail? her way onto the team and she begins working with the organisation, sifting through the myriad of applications they get from prisoners asking them to look at their case.

Interspersed are the stories/diary entries from 1995 which are Hannah’s primary motivation for moving down to Virginia and volunteering as part of the Innocence Project. Whilst the Innocence Project are trying to free a man on death row, Hannah moves among them as a mole unbeknownst to them, because she’s there to make sure that man pays for his crimes and that he never sees the light of day.

It’s not that this is bad….it’s just that it requires an awful lot of looking the other way about things. And all fiction requires that to some degree but this one seems to require it more than a lot of others. This is an incredibly highly sought after volunteer position for those enrolled in law at University of Virginia, honestly the idea that Hannah could just randomly email the guy running it after the deadline and be like ‘well you need me!’ feels…..incredibly unlikely to pay off. There’s a sort of attempt at justification for her inclusion but for me, it wasn’t very strong. And that thread continues throughout the book right until the payoff at the end, which for me, was like Dervla McTiernan watched Legally Blonde one night and went…. “ok, but make it gritty”.

I think the problem for me is that most of this is so benign and nothing much is happening that you’re always looking for the twist, you’re waiting for it to come, because if it doesn’t then why else does this book exist. And when it does come (and there are a couple, one of which I’ll admit that I didn’t see coming), because I was always looking for the thing that was going to happen, knowing something was going to happen, that there was going to be some big dramatic reveal that would flip everything upside down, I think it lessened the impact when it did happen.

Also, Hannah. I’m not sure she carried this well enough for me. I am not sure if it was a deliberate tactic but we’re told almost nothing about her. She’s third year law in Maine or somewhere (this is the source of some amusement to the professor who is in charge of the Innocence Project, I assume Maine is low down the list for post-grad law schools) but we know almost nothing else about her except that she’s motivated to keep this one particular criminal in prison, for personal reasons. Because we know so little, sometimes it makes it difficult to grasp her being able to do the things that she does in the book, there’s nothing remarkable about her as such, she really does’t seem like she’s an outstanding student and she does prove she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead, including basically ruin the lives of innocent bystanders and then she keeps managing to put together things that other people do not. I get she has information (kind of?) that others do not but ironically she’s the only person who seems to firmly believe that the prisoner is guilty and should never be released.

This was readable and I did enjoy it but I didn’t love it. And I think that unfortunately, it’s the sort of book that doesn’t really hold up to scrutiny, the more you think about it the more you realise it crosses the line of unbelievability and it also seems to happen so quickly. They find these people that no one has been able to find for a decade and there are so few genuine obstacles in their path. A bunch of college kids beating lawyers and cops at their own game. And I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, just that the way in which it happens felt a little too easy for me.

6/10

Book #185 of 2022

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Review: Desire: A Reckoning by Jessie Cole

Desire: A Reckoning
Jessie Cole
Text Publishing
2022, 272p
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: What to do with the intensity of longing that occasionally arises? Sometimes I hug my pup so hard he growls. When my pup growls, I realise I need to find some other way of letting off steam. It’s easy to imagine I could just touch myself and be done with it, but no matter how many times I make myself come, that feeling of wanting doesn’t subside. A friend has a term for the need for touch—‘skin hungry’. Lots of people live without sex, but I find it a kind of deprivation.

What does it mean to be awakened? To want? To love? Jessie Cole is in her late thirties when she meets a man twenty years older than she is. They become lovers. Both passionate and companionable, fraught and uneven, their relationship tests her fears and anxieties. Through their interstate affair, through bushfires and the pandemic, she learns about herself, how her initiations into womanhood shaped who she is now, and how the shadow of family trauma still inhabits her body.

Jessie Cole has written an unabashed, thrilling exploration of the very nature of desire, a story about vulnerability and strength, loss and regeneration. A memoir of the body, Desire is a visceral book in which feeling and longing are laid bare.

I’ve been reading Jessie Cole’s books for…..about ten years now. I don’t even remember how I discovered them but so much about them has stuck with me over the years. Particularly her last book, a memoir about navigating the devastation of suicide in her family. I read that one over four years ago now and the rawness of the writing has stayed with me. I didn’t actually know about this book until just recently, after it was published and it’s another memoir, although this one is very much a memoir of adulthood.

It takes things that I don’t think I cannot even comprehend, to bare yourself in the way writers of memoirs do. To open up your pain and joy, your your experiences good and bad in life, for others to read. In many cases it is offering up the most intimate of information to strangers, including like in this one, your relationship with sex.

But although this book explores in quite intricate detail, Cole’s relationship with her body, sex and a long-distance relationship, it is also so much more than that. Her first memoir detailed her childhood growing up in the forest and now she’s an adult still living in the forest in a house that sounds honestly, unbelievable! A house that seems part of the forest and therefore, all the dangers that come with it. I think most will agree that the last few years have been a rollercoaster ride for most people and I remember the fires of 2019 vividly, because where I grew up and my family still live, were surrounded by them from about September on. That fire season was brutal but this year has been brutal in a very different way: flooding. There are areas that have flooded multiple times this year, including up and around the part of the state where Jessie Cole lives. This book deals with the threat of both fire and flood and the ways in which you are vulnerable to the whims of the weather patterns in ways that I think everyone can relate to at the moment, no matter where you live. We are currently in the middle of such a huge rainy season – well to be honest it’s more like a rainy year, and where I am there hasn’t actually been floods so I can’t imagine what it is like for people to watch their houses go under even once, let alone multiple times.

But as I mentioned, a lot of the book details with Cole exploring her complex feelings relating to sexual relationships and her own body. She details her first teen relationship and how she became a young mother, including an incredibly terrifying birth experience where I feel Cole nails the disconnect that can happen during childbirth, how you can be there but also not there in terms of understanding something. There’s details of break ups and other relationships before her meeting a man quite a bit older than her when she is in her late 30s. He lives in another city that seems quite far away and their relationship is limited to times one of them can take time to visit the other (mostly Cole, who seems to do around 95% of the work). I think there are moments in this connection that people will relate to as well, the push-pull factor, is he interested, is this going to happen, what does it mean, can we make this work etc. No matter your age you are vulnerable every time you step into something with someone new and Cole lays every single piece of that bare in this book, every thought of insecurity and worry, detailing how her body tends to betray her with anxiety at the thought of a new sexual relationship. I could relate to that deep anxiety and overthinking of things, although I don’t get the sort of physical response that she does, I get a huge anxiety response to certain new situations and meetings etc that makes me nauseous to the point of being incapable of doing anything. If I were ever not married anymore, I suspect I’d live the rest of my life alone probably. I’d never attempt to date or have a relationship in 2022 and beyond.

Once again, the writing in this book is just so vivid and beautiful, so raw and honest but also so intimate as well. When I read this, I felt like I was sitting down listening to her speak, having a conversation almost, about her life and her thoughts and feelings on different things. There’s just such a connect and so much I found relatable even in circumstances that are quite different to mine. Some experiences transcend that and there was a lot in this book where I was like ok, yes I feel that, it’s so comforting to know that someone else does too.

A new Jessie Cole book is always a pleasurable reading experience, and this one was no exception. I really will have to buy a copy so that it can join all the others on my shelf.

8/10

Book #182 of 2022

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Review: A Doctor In Africa by Dr. Andrew Browning

A Doctor In Africa
Dr Andrew Browning
Macmillan Australia
2021, 336p
Read via my local library/Borrow Box

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: Including a preface by HRH The Princess Royal, Princess Anne.

The Australian doctor saving the lives and dignity of thousands of women in Africa, one surgery at a time.

From Ethiopia to Sierra Leone, Tanzania to Togo, Dr Andrew Browning has been helping women affected by obstetric fistulas – a debilitating condition resulting from obstructed childbirth – for nearly two decades. Andrew began his African career in the 1990s working with the late Dr Catherine Hamlin and since then has started the Barbara May Foundation, which has built hospitals, trained staff and established programs to heal fistulas and also prevent them from occurring around Africa in the world’s most disadvantaged women.

Two million African women are estimated to be suffering with obstetric fistulas. They are often made outcasts in their own community, unable to leave their homes and left with little prospect of a happy, fulfilling life. Andrew’s operations, and the spread of fistula-skilled surgeons he is training across the continent, don’t just relieve the emotional and physical pain of the women affected, but give them hope and a future.

A Doctor in Africa is the uplifting story of Andrew’s life, from the challenges faced along the way to the stories of the women whose lives he has forever changed.

All royalties from the sale of this book will be donated to the Barbara May Foundation.

I knew I needed to find a medical memoir to read for my non-fiction challenge as it was one of the remaining prompts that I found more interesting and this one immediately intrigued me. I also enjoy reading non-fiction about Africa in general and healthcare in remote places is also something I find interesting to learn about and the differences in different systems and what people do and don’t have access to. It’s kind of shameful that before this, I wasn’t aware of the prevalent problem that African women face with obstetric fistulas, which is a hole between the bowel or bladder wall and the vagina which generally occurs after a prolonged obstructed childbirth. In western medicine these tears are usually easily repaired (if they even occur) right after birth but they aren’t prevalent as most women birth in a medical facility and medical intervention via C-section is usually implemented before the labour goes too long, for the safety of mother and baby. Many of the prolonged labours that cause these wounds (which lead to urinary or fecal incontinence, or both) result in the baby not surviving and the women that suffer end up outcasts in their communities or tribes, living alone in a hut and are even sometimes divorced by their husbands.

There are some truly heartbreaking stories here and look, I just want to say that the work Dr Browning undertook in various parts of Africa, is incredible. To have a goal where he was basically like I want to fix this and help so I’m going to go and get qualified in order to do it, was remarkable. Any sort of medical specialisation is no easy feat I’m sure and he worked tirelessly not just to complete his qualifications but also to use them in remote (often quite difficult) locations, operating on numerous women a day who had often travelled for days to be able to see him. It also highlights the difference between medical procedures in the western world and where he was working in Africa – there’s no throwing out of instruments and equipment after one operation in the hospitals he works in and establishes in Africa. They clean, sterilise and reuse pretty much everything, making every donated dollar stretch as far as it can possibly go. I also admired his vision, to constantly seek out new places to build a facility to operate on more women and to train and recruit others to also work doing this. He also came up with some new methods of surgery because, this isn’t a common procedure done in the places that generate the most research so he had to read up on old techniques and basically use that to improve and develop.

This would’ve been a five star read for me but, honestly the religion got way too much. Dr Browning is deeply, deeply devout and I know this because he mentions it every other page. And that’s fine, but it just got really invasive into the story. It almost competes with the narrative of these women in various parts of Africa for top billing. He praises missionaries in Africa without acknowledging their problematic history (and to be honest, even a problematic present) and although the book doesn’t mention if the women have to be Christian for treatment, at one hospital they don’t have enough time to tell each patient specific aftercare instructions so they make tapes with those instructions on them….and bible stories.

I think the medical work being done is wonderful. I want to stress that. Because it’s quite clear that he has made a difference to the lives of thousands of women and that’s wonderful and important. I think this is a great story and everyone should be aware of this as a world issue. And I know for a lot of people their religion is so wrapped up in their work and who they are that they cannot separate it. But I found the religion in this to be quite a dominant part of the story, which for me personally, detracted from the stuff I really wanted to hear.

8/10

Book #169 of 2022

This is the sixth book read for the 2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge, hosted by Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out which means I complete the goal I set for myself at the beginning of the year, which was to read six books from the prompts. This is of course, for the medical memoir prompt.

1. Social History

2. Popular Science

3. Language

4. Medical Memoir

5. Climate/Weather

6. Celebrity

7. Reference

8. Geography

9. Linked to a podcast

10. Wild Animals

11. Economics

12. Published in 2022

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Review: Poly by Paul Dalgarno

Poly
Paul Dalgarno
Ventura Press
2020, 352p
Read via my local library/Borrow Bow

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: Chris Flood – a married father of two with plummeting self-esteem and questionable guitar skills – suddenly finds himself in the depths of polyamory after years of a near-sexless marriage. His wife, Sarah – a lover of the arts, avid quoter of Rumi, and always oozing confidence – wants to rediscover her sexuality after years of deadening domesticity.

Their new life of polyamory features late nights, love affairs and rotating childcare duties. While Sarah enjoys flings with handsome men, Chris, much to his astonishment, falls for a polydactylous actor and musician, Biddy.

Then there’s Zac Batista. When Chris and Sarah welcome the Uruguayan child prodigy and successful twenty-two-year-old into their lives they gratefully hand over school pick-up and babysitting duties. But as tensions grow between family and lovers, Chris begins to wonder if it’s just jealousy, or something more sinister brewing…

A searing and utterly engrossing debut, Poly is a raw, hilarious, and moving portrait of contemporary relationships in all their diversity, and an intimate exploration of the fragility of love and identity.

I’m just going to go right ahead and disagree outright with the last line of the blurb/publisher promo there for a multitude of reasons.

I’m not poly – I have no interest in being poly either. I’m annoying in that I like to be my husband’s favourite person (apart from our kids, they can share billing with me) and if he had a girlfriend or was seeing someone else, I’d not cope with that. It’s why I couldn’t be a sister wife, because I’d always want to be top dog. But I think that in many cases, for people with the right attitudes and personalities, it can work. But this couple? Yikes.

Chris does not have the right attitude or personality and I’m not even sure what the hell is going on with his wife. Chris as agreed to open up their marriage sexually because Sarah, his wife, doesn’t want to have sex with him anymore. He’s hoping that by kickstarting her libido by having sex with someone new (or multiple new people) that will help her rediscover sexual desire for him. I don’t even know where to start with that – Sarah keeps assuring Chris that she loves him but it seems her version of marriage has always been different to his and this is not the first time Sarah has played away.

My biggest problem is that if the two of them discussed this in any deep, meaningful way then the book doesn’t really show that to you. It seems to just be something they decided and as long as Sarah is ‘safe’ (has her partners wear protection) and tells Chris about her encounters in detail, that seems to be the only rules or boundaries. When Chris starts seeing someone else himself, this doesn’t seem to be talked about either. I am not entirely sure how much Chris has feelings for Biddy or if it’s a) because he’s desperate for Sarah to see him as a man that is admired by another woman or b) he wants to have sex because his wife isn’t providing. Chris is low-key obsessed with his wife and look, normally I find that kinda cute but in this it’s….sad? He’s always talking about how desperate he is for her and it consumes his thoughts and it seems clear that Sarah DNGAF about Chris at all. I honestly think Biddy was probably the only character I really liked in the book and felt like she really deserved better than Chris. Don’t lower yourself, Biddy.

For inexplicable reasons, there’s a guy called Zac (supposedly) in this book and he ingratiates himself into Chris and Sarah’s life and quickly becomes to the point where he’s practically living there and doing things like picking up their two quite young children from daycare or pre-school or where ever the hell they are without Chris or Sarah having honestly, any idea who this guy really is. It takes about two minutes for the reader to discern that Zac is a manipulative liar, whispering this into Chris’ ear and presumably the opposite into Sarah’s. By the time this storyline goes anywhere, when Chris finally gets suss that Zac isn’t who he says he is (or more to the point, I think someone tells him? I can’t remember, I read this weeks ago now) it becomes like a farce trying to trap him in his various lies and Sarah refusing to believe it for the longest time and Sarah, you’ve known him three and a half minutes and all the stuff he is constantly saying cannot all be true. I don’t know why this story is included here, it doesn’t really make much sense (other to highlight other ways in which Chris and Sarah are horrible people) and the resolution is weak and unsatisfying. Also like the rest of the book, to be honest.

The thing that really annoyed me though, is what Chris discovers about Sarah and her various extramarital relationships. He’s angry, furious (so is Biddy) and rightfully so but Sarah honestly appears to have zero remorse or even care that a) she’s broken an agreement, a hard line that she and Chris apparently agreed on prior to this and b) that she’s endangered people she supposedly cares about, like, you know, the father of her children, the guy she proclaims every other page to love. I see no evidence of this throughout the book – even when Chris just wants his alone time (another scene that appears out of nowhere to be honest) Sarah makes it all about her in the guise of concern but she just clearly keeps not listening to what Chris is saying until she drives him to say something stupid which means she has to involve external forces.

For me this does not even remotely resemble a poly relationship of any type – there’s no thought and consideration to people here, not from anyone. The ending doesn’t convince me either, that this isn’t going to continue to be a complete clusterf*** for the future and I feel sorry for Chris and Sarah’s children, who have their parents and random people drift in and out of their lives on a whim depending on whether they can parent that day or prefer to outsource it to someone else.

1/10

Book #168 of 2022

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What I Read On Holiday, Part 4

Thank You For Listening
Julie Whelan
Avon Books
2022, 432p
Read via my local library/Libby

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: For Sewanee Chester, being an audiobook narrator is a long way from her old dreams, but the days of being a star on film sets are long behind her. She’s found success and satisfaction from the inside of a sound booth and it allows her to care for her beloved, ailing grandmother. When she arrives in Las Vegas last-minute for a book convention, Sewanee unexpectedly spends a whirlwind night with a charming stranger. 

On her return home, Sewanee discovers one of the world’s most beloved romance novelists wanted her to perform her last book—with Brock McNight, the industry’s hottest, most secretive voice. Sewanee doesn’t buy what romance novels are selling—not after her own dreams were tragically cut short—and she stopped narrating them years ago. But her admiration of the late author, and the opportunity to get her grandmother more help, makes her decision for her. 

As Sewanee begins work on the book, resurrecting her old romance pseudonym, she and Brock forge a real connection, hidden behind the comfort of anonymity. Soon, she is dreaming again, but secrets are revealed, and the realities of life come crashing down around her once more.

If she can learn to risk everything for desires she has long buried, she will discover a world of intimacy and acceptance she never believed would be hers.

Chances are if you even have a remote passing relationship with audiobooks, you’ve listened to one that is narrated by Julia Whelan. She has narrated so many, including books for top authors like Jojo Moyes, Emily Henry, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Gillian Flynn, Nora Roberts and honestly, too many more to list (her audible page runs for nineteen pages). She of course, narrates this book but she also wrote it. I read it in eBook form but I think the audio would’ve been more fun (just to hear the Brock McNight voice lol).

I enjoyed this – it’s a lot of fun. Sewanee was a promising actress before a terrible accident and now she does a lot of voice work. She used to narrate romance novels but has since moved into other books. She’s returning to her old romance stomping ground to narrate the last novel of an old favourite author which will be dual narrated – the male voice will be the romance novel sensation, Brock McNight. Sewanee is at first, reluctant but the payday will allow her to give her beloved grandmother a higher level of care, which is a powerful motivator.

This is a book where the two main characters know romance so they openly discuss tropes and how to lean into them and also subvert them. I thought it was so good and it was going to be a 5-star read for me until the bit where Brock/his alter ego (because of course that’s not his real name, seems most narrators do romance and possibly other genres under a pseudonym) says “this is the grovel” and….it just wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted more from it! All in all this was good but it lacked that something between the characters – I thought it was there when they were texting but it fizzled out when they meet in person and realise who the other is which meant is wasn’t great for me.

8/10

Book #163 of 2022

The Torrent (Detective Kate Miles #1)
Dinuka McKenzie
Harper Collins AUS
2022, 333p
Read via my local library/Borrow Box

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: A loving husband lost to devastating summer floods. A teenage girl injured during a robbery. Two seemingly unconnected cases that will push a detective to the brink. 

In Northern New South Wales, heavily pregnant and a week away from maternity leave, Detective Sergeant Kate Miles is exhausted and counting down the days. But a violent hold-up at a local fast-food restaurant with unsettling connections to her own past, means that her final days will be anything but straightforward.

When a second case is dumped on her lap, the closed case of man drowned in recent summer floods, what begins as a simple informal review quickly grows into something more complicated. Kate can either write the report that’s expected of her or investigate the case the way she wants to.

As secrets and betrayals pile up, and the needs of her own family intervene, how far is Kate prepared to push to discover the truth? 

I had seen this around a little bit on blogs and on social media since it was released so when I was scrolling through the apps looking for some more books to borrow and saw this was available, I snapped it up and ended up reading it in an afternoon. I started on the balcony (we were on the 19th floor of an apartment building) but do you know how windy it can get up that high? The answer is VERY – we were there in spring and spring winds are a thing but yeah, the balcony was unusable 80% of the days we were there as winds are strong up that high and also…cold. First world problems, I know!

I loved the setting of this one – it’s set only a few hours north from where I grew up and the area is quite similar so it felt very familiar to me. The main character Kate is heavily pregnant with her 2nd child and in her late 30s I think and she is feeling it. It felt incredibly realistic to me! Kate has a young son with her husband who does provide most of the primary care whilst Kate works outside the home as a Detective and she’s exhausted, in pain and sleep deprived. And I felt every bit of that – it took me back to being pregnant with my youngest in the final days and I wasn’t running around investigating cases!

I enjoyed the mystery and the way everything unfolded and I actually cannot wait to read the next one. The ending built the suspense and tension in an excellent way.

8/10

Book #164 of 2022

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What I Read On My Holiday, Part 3

Husband Material
Alexis Hall
Sourcebooks Casablanca
2022, 432p
Read via my local library/Libby

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: Wanted: 
One (very real) husband
Nowhere near perfect but desperately trying his best

In BOYFRIEND MATERIAL, Luc and Oliver met, pretended to fall in love, fell in love for real, dealt with heartbreak and disappointment and family and friends…and somehow figured out a way to make it work. Now it seems like everyone around them is getting married, and Luc’s feeling the social pressure to propose. But it’ll take more than four weddings, a funeral, and a bowl full of special curry to get these two from I don’t know what I’m doing to I do.

Good thing Oliver is such perfect HUSBAND MATERIAL.

This Summer 2022, you’re invited to the event(s) of the season.

I really enjoyed Boyfriend Material. It’s actually been by far my most favourite of Alexis Hall’s novels. I love opposites attract and Luc’s general brand of chaotic shitshow and Oliver’s kind of uptight manner are like my kryptonite. I was looking forward to more from them.

For the most part, I really enjoyed this. It was funny, with all the things that made me laugh from the first book and the added sweetness of Luc and Oliver being in a proper relationship which is going well. Then they get engaged and everything kind of….goes downhill there as the stress of the wedding and what it means begins to take its toll.

For me, the late conflict was poor – in its introduction, its timing and its resolution. It almost made me feel like reading the book was kind of a waste of time, it undid almost everything and look they were probably better off for it in the end I guess, as they didn’t need the development. But…it seemed like a long, arduous and ultimately pointless way to get there.

6/10

Book #159 of 2022

The Couple At No. 9
Claire Douglas
Penguin
2021, 400p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: It was the house of their dreams. Until the bodies were found . . . 

BODIES FOUND UNDER PATIO

When pregnant Saffron Cutler moves into 9 Skelton Place with boyfriend Tom and sets about renovations the last thing she expects is builders uncovering a body – two bodies, in fact.

POLICE INVESTIGATE

Forensics indicate the bodies have been buried at least thirty years. Nothing Saffy need worry herself over. Until the police launch a murder investigation and ask to speak to the cottage’s former owner – her grandmother, Rose.

OWNER QUESTIONED

Rose is in a care home and Alzheimer’s means her memory is increasingly confused. She can’t help the police but it is clear she remembers something.

A KILLER AT LARGE?

As Rose’s fragmented memories resurface, and the police dig ever deeper, Saffy fears she and the cottage are being watched.

What happened thirty years ago?

Why did no one miss the victims?

What part did her grandmother play?

And is Saffy now in danger?

I think I heard about this as a sponsor piece in a bookish podcast I was listening to and it sounded really interesting and when I looked it up on Amazon, the kindle version was only $3.99. So it was one of the few books I read whilst away that I’d bought, rather than borrowed from the library or from Kindle Unlimited.

I started this on the plane but only read about 25% of it because I had only gotten 2 hours sleep the night before and was so tired. I didn’t end up picking it back up until almost a week later, on the beach and it took no time to sink right back into the story. Saffy and Tom are a young couple, who have escaped the prices of London to a cottage given to them by Saffy’s mother that belonged to her mother, Saffy’s grandmother. Living abroad means Saffy’s mother has no use for it and she’s happy to help them out. The they commence reservations to add an extension, the skeletons of 2 people are found in the backyard beneath a concrete slab.

There are quite a few narrators: Saffy, her mother Laura and Rose, the owner of the property who lived in it with her young daughter during the timeframe that fits when the bodies would’ve been buried on the property are the more main narrators and then we also have Theo, a chef who finds his father’s interest in the discovered bodies very curious. Saffy is obviously incredibly distressed when the bodies are found, especially when she realises that the timeframe could put one of the people she loves the most firmly in the frame. She and Tom really just want a peaceful life but it’s turned upside down with journalists trying to get a comment, as well as neighbours upset at the intrusion into their own lives as well. Saffy wants to know what happened though – who the bodies are and more importantly, who put them there and why. And hopefully those answers will exonerate her beloved gran, who she cannot see as a person who would ever have done such a thing.

I really liked the way the relationships between the women were explored – Saffy often feels quite distanced from her mother and she was definitely a lot closer it seems, to her gran growing up. She is struggling with her grandmother’s illness and I think sometimes resentful her mother doesn’t seem to care as much as she does.

There were some great twists and turns in this, it definitely kept me engaged and there were things I did not predict! One thing in particular, took me a bit to wrap my head around, but I think everything worked really well and it was a fun suspense novel perfect for a morning at the beach!

8/10

Book #160 of 2022

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