Tag Archives: Allen & Unwin

Review: This Picture of You

this picture of youThis Picture of You by Sarah Hopkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: Uncorrected Proof courtesy of Publisher

It felt like it took me forever to read this book, especially the last half where I made myself to read at least 2 chapters per day in the fear that I’d never finished it otherwise. It’s not that it’s a terrible book –as you can see from my rating, it’s far from being a bad book, but rather it cuts too close to home. I am rather sensitive on some issues and once, I sort of guess the mystery, I became somewhat reluctant to continue reading. Sshhh, I peeked at the ending and decided that it was worth finishing.

My interest in the book is the mystery of Martin’s lack of memory. I knew this was not a case of amnesia but the thought of tracking back to the past captivated me. Unfortunately, one part of the past is usually something I’d avoid reading (it just makes me angry). This is a stumbling block for me because I quite liked the rest of the book. I enjoyed the descriptive language about the house, the New York memories, etc. This Picture of You is a powerfully shrewd read and I was lured to keep on reading by the language and certain characters.

What I appreciate most from this novel is the strong women characters. They are far from perfect but their strength are amazing and I wish they were more developed as they’d rather intrigued me. Maggie: as she struggles not only with Martin’s actual illness but also whatever that’s happened in the past that was hidden from her. Iris: a 74 year old lady, the rock of her family and community. And then, there’s Laini: a mother and a blogger; ‘nuff said 😉

So was the ending worth it? It was and it wasn’t. The very ending was so very sad and I felt quite disappointed that after this journey, that’s all that’s left but… it is life. I was quite happy at the direction of the ending; of how the ‘mystery’ was wrapped up though there were a couple of other loose threads which I wished were taken care of. Overall, it was a riveting read.

Thank you, Allen & Unwin for copy of Uncorrected Proof via The Reading Room

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Review: Infamy

infamyInfamy by Lenny Bartulin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: Courtesy of Allen & Unwin via The Reading Room

This time it wasn’t the blurb or the cover which grabbed my attention but the author. I’ve read and enjoyed his previous works which were very different from this altogether. The Jack Susko books were mysteries set in Sydney which had a slight noir atmosphere but modern setting. Infamy is historical fiction set in the early settlement days of Australia, specifically in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). Being an immigrant myself, this kind of story (particularly in Australia) appeals to me.

The blurb of this book compares author & this work to other authors & works of which I am unfamiliar with. Unfortunately, this is a point which I can neither support nor disagree with. ‘A Steamy love story’, however, it is not. Well, at least not what I think of what ‘a steamy love story’ is supposed to be. There was attraction at first sight type of thing, a damsel in distress and a hero to rescue but there wasn’t really any sparks that you’d expect from a romance.

The book follows quite a number of characters which encompassed practically all strata of society and from which we can appreciate the story from all different point of views. We can see the story unfolds from the top ruling class to the convicts and the outcasts. The numerous lines of story could have been annoying but the flawless execution of switches between characters made the read smoothly chronological.

One thing that I dislike about historical fiction is how hard life was then and at times, how totally unfair. Whilst Infamy does not shy away from the hard stuff, it also wasn’t that graphic (at this point, I’m referring to violence against women & natives). Let’s just say, things could have been a lot worse but the ending was not in any way distressing as I’d expect from this kind of novel.

Quotes of interest:

‘To be,’ Coyne had said, ‘one must become.’
~the words of a madman

Wells dropped the back of his head to the ground now, lay there and draped an arm over his eyes, felt the cold earth come up into his body. Where the hell was he? Fucking a boy beneath these stars, drunk in this place that he still couldn’t believe was real, drunk and undoubtedly about to die. He remembered once being among kindnesses, some distant and by now frayed and faded love, though he’d never been sure it was his own memory to begin with. More likely it was something pilfered; there was nothing Marcus Wells had ever had in his life that wasn’t already somebody else’s first. Maybe he’d looked into a window from the street somewhere back in England, cold and hungry like he was, seen a fire glowing and a mother sewing, children at her feet and a father dozing in a chair beside. Took it as his own. Did it matter? Could anybody have begrudged him the thieving? Well, he supposed it didn’t matter anymore now. And they had, by God. Begrudged him.
~just utterly hopeless

Thanks to Allen & Unwin via The Reading Room for copy of book

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Review: The Railwayman’s Wife

Railwaymans Wife, TheThe Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: Courtesy of Allen & Unwin and The Reading Room

I adore the first chapter as it sets the tone of this book. Slow as a small seaside town in the 30s-40s. The most important thing, of course, was that Annika Lachlan was reading… and I can feel myself being drawn into the story and looking through Annika’s point of view.

3 broken persons are seeking for healing, for themselves. Each of them had their own unique gut-wrenching heart-breaking experience and found themselves drawn to each other by the brokenness they sensed in each other. In the midst of all the sadness, there are also beauty- of sweet memories of love from the past, of the beauty surrounding them, of rows of words interlinking. It renders a bittersweet overtone throughout the book which was surprisingly maintained from the beginning to the end and left me with a gasp.

Thirroul is described so beautifully that makes me want to visit! I’m only about an hour’s drive away but due to the descriptions of the book, I’d like to catch a train there. I catch the train 4 days in a week and am not a fan of cityrail. Most Sydneysiders aren’t. However, I now want to go to Thirroul on the train just to be in the footsteps of Annika and to experience the beauty… though since the book is set in the 40s, I doubt I’d feel the same…

The engine is puffing and blowing, pulling hard, and the train presses on towards the archway that’s been carved to open up the mountain… They’re in darkness, the sound monumental, the speed somehow faster when there’s only blackness beyond the windows. And then they’re out, in the light, in the space, in the relative quiet. And there’s the ocean, the sand, the beginnings of this tiny plain that has insinuated itself, tenuous, between the wet and the dry.

It is a reminder of the beauty all around us which we really shouldn’t take for granted for there are also much brokenness. But brokenness are a part of life which makes the beauty of it all more precious.

Thank you, Allen & Unwin and The Reading Room for a copy of Uncorrected Proof of which I truly enjoyed

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Review: Only in Spain: In Search of My Heart’s Desire

Only in Spain: In Search of My Heart’s Desire by Nellie Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nellie Bennet went straight from school into the workforce. At first, it was meant to be a summer job but a few years later, she’s deep within the grind: wake up, rush to work, be on feet all day, go home and crash. Hhhmm… that somehow sounds familiar… And then one day, *WHAM* all she could think & see around her is Spain and flamenco. She took a chance, enrolled in a flamenco class, and it is a life-changing experience for her.

What an amazing courage to let go all that is secure and familiar to go for your heart’s desire! It wasn’t just at the beginning when Nellie started flamenco class but numerous time and even right at the end when it was just a heart-breaking decision (that even I don’t understand but it’s not my heart / life, it’s hers and she would know best). Nevertheless, I love this book as it has given me an adventure – vicariously but an adventure nonetheless.

Nellie Bennet has definitely got her love for flamenco across. I love to dance (am not very good but I’d like to anyway) and reading this book makes me want to dance flamenco! I would also love to go to Spain and eat all those wondrous foods she’s mentioned. It was a little bit disappointing when she first got to Spain as I didn’t think we’d experience the exotic food since she’s a vegan. But… Only in Spain…

I am envious of all the ojos (beautiful Spanish men) she’s come across though not so envious of her gypsy encounter. It was totally hilarious, in retrospect, but I wouldn’t like to be in her shoes while she was going through it. There are always some weirdos around, no matter where you are, so girls, be wary!

It was a delightful read about a young woman in search of her heart’s desire and risking it all to find whatever it is to make the best of her life.

Thank you, Allen & Unwin and The Reading Room for providing copy for me to read & review

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