Beartown (Beartown, #1)Beartown by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I did not read anything about this book before I began reading it, I loved A Man Called Ove so much, I just went on and randomly picked another by the same author. Despite being glad to have read this book, because it was amazing – I also wish that I had picked a different book because the story was quite difficult for me to read due to my own experiences.

Firstly, the writing style was wonderful. The way the author makes you see the intricacies of a small town and the politics that run through it – and why those run through it, was spectacular. In some parts, a little too repetitive, I really did understand why the town loved it’s hockey so much by a third of the way through, and didn’t need long paragraphs continuously explaining this to remind me.

Secondly, excellent characters. I feel we all have a friend like Maggan Lyt that we all want to pretend isn’t our friend. Character development was so well described, and even though there were quite a lot of characters, I knew each character thoroughly – including their motivators – as if they’d each been given a book. Writing teen characters can be tough, but this was perfect. Benji was my hero, and the hero of the story, and it was his exact character to carry the story without being it’s main protagonist – as that was his life, amazing writing.

Finally, the story itself. It’s the one we all know, the one we hate to know, and the one that is most difficult to read about because it’s so common ad we wish it wasn’t. The author did well presenting every part of the story, including the ending. I think the end result was actually quite neutral, and that in itself is almost a positive ending all things considered.

This is a scathing look at sports culture at its worst, and the repercussions of that culture. The male dominated world, the homophobia, the disregard of others, the feeling of dominance, the male aggression – it’s all there on display throughout this story.

I would recommend people read the blurb before buying, but I am almost glad I didn’t as this was so well-written. Loved it, was just a bit repetitive for the full five stars for me.

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Nine Perfect Strangers

Nine Perfect StrangersNine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I feel like this had so much potential, and the first half was quite good. I always enjoy the characters and settings that Moriarty creates, I feel like I know them and that is really skilful writing.
I thought the idea of Tranquillum House was just the right amount of health retreat mythologies, and touched on exactly the right people who would attend and why.
However, there were almost too many characters to keep up with. The story around Masha was so unresolved and in no way fitting with any of her motives or actions, I can’t understand why that was her backstory.
The story itself didn’t really come off due to the many inconsistencies, which is unusual for Liane Moriarty – she usually wraps it all up for us in a cohesive way. Definitely not her best effort.
Wouldn’t really recommend it, I feel like it was rushed and not well planned out.

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A Man Called Ove

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I haven’t been able to focus on reading for about a year, maybe just a little over – but this book, I could not put down. I adored Ove, not at first and that was intentional I think, but by the end I was so impressed by his character.
The writer did an amazing job of riding the line between light-hearted banter and feel good scenarios, and crushing emotional insights into a cruel world.
The story had a wonderful depth of empathy to it, and in our world where empathy is in short supply I really hope it is taken up by all the readers out there who may not always look at other people’s life and experiences when they judge and interact with others.
The epilogue was just enough of everything that I wanted to hear, it was perfectly ended in my opinion.

I laughed, cried, and got angry at some points of this story – it managed to fill me with all the emotions and I loved every second of it.

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Lethal White

Lethal White (Cormoran Strike, #4)Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I almost wished I had the time to read the whole series before I read the latest instalment as there was a lot of stuff I know I was a little hazy on throughout the book that had happened in the book before. Having said that, it didn’t impact on the story itself, which as always was extremely well plotted, and wonderfully written.
I love the characters – although, I feel like Robin needs something to change in her character as she is so passive and quite frankly, very annoying. I also feel that her character has been building to this moment, and that she has grown enough that I trust the process to continue. So despite being annoying, I also understand her and can see that she is progressing to somewhere.
I had a few theories that were not correct, and I think that there was enough in there that the ending was satisfactory in how it all unravelled, and I was suitably surprised and impressed.
As with all the others in the series, I had a feeling of constantly being full while reading due to the copious amounts of food and beverages being written about! I love that the author is able to craft such a response simply by picking something that the character does often and giving the details of this experience in a way that makes it meaningful for the reader.
Can’t wait for the next one!

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No Safe Place

No Safe Place (Detective Lottie Parker, #4)No Safe Place by Patricia Gibney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another good instalment in this series. Pacing was fantastic, there were not too many characters to keep track of – but enough that I was kept guessing.

Lottie can get a little frustrating, but this is what makes her such a great character – she is doing her best with what she has, and I know I always feel the struggle of working and looking after children on my own – and the small bits and pieces that get forgotten every day. She is good at her job, she has the grudging respect of her peers, and she has a working relationship with her children.

I was glad that the family history part of the series wasn’t at the fore in this instalment, I enjoyed having just the case to get into – I had actually forgotten what had happened at the end of the previous book, also why it was important, so it was good I didn’t have to re-read parts of the last book in order to just enjoy this one.

As always, I will look forward to the next one!

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The Ruin

The Ruin (Cormac Reilly, #1)The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really like Irish crime novels – and this one was great! Cormac was a great character, lots of depth in his portrayal, which I really enjoyed.
I found Aisling fairly annoying, and I didn’t really buy into her whole character.
Maude was fantastic, and I liked her character development.
Despite having a male detective at the heart of this story, it was really the female characters that came through with every other part of the puzzle. The female characters were all strong, independent women with sound careers and sound reasoning – the novel didn’t draw attention to this, and it wasn’t a theme, but I noticed and enjoyed this a lot.
The mystery itself was solid, and the pacing was good – we got the right amount of information at just the right moment. I liked Murphy, and the hidden motives for him are drawing me to the next instalment already.
Good read if you enjoy crime, and especially if you enjoy Irish crime.

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The Book of Dust – ‘The Belle Sauvage’

La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust, #1)La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazing read – wonderful way of writing that gets across complex ideas in simple language. The characters were a joy to get to know – especially Malcolm, loved the way he was presented and developed throughout the story.

It has been a sufficiently long enough time since I read His Dark Materials, that I really can’t remember what happened – it was fantastic that this book made complete sense on it’s own. The hint of familiarity (especially of Pan) was just enough to provide comfort – like I was going back to a place I had visited and loved once.

I got a little worried about three quarters of the way through, because it got a little bit Faraway-Tree-ish, but that section came to an end just as I was getting a bit annoyed with it. And, it did play a role in the story which made it alright.

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The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge

The Secrets at Ocean's EdgeThe Secrets at Ocean’s Edge by Kali Napier
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was half ‘The Light Between Oceans’, and half ‘Cloudstreet’ – sounds like a great mix, right? Wrong. All this book succeeded in doing for me, was making me want to re-read those two books because they were so much better than this offering.

I am a fan of suspenseful and mysterious reads, and like the slow unravelling of secrets throughout a story, and at first this seemed like the perfect book to meet that requirement. The problem was my lack of interest in any character other than Ernie who didn’t get much air-time, my dislike of Lily who was a horrible person to everyone, and this ‘secret’ that was totally unremarkable and not worth reading until the end for.

Pacing was a huge issue for me, because at some point we need to know what exactly our secret means, otherwise why do we care about finding it out? This information came at too stunted a pace, and left me with a sense of complete disappointment when it wasn’t even that good.

With the mystery unravelling so slowly, it drew more attention to the fact the there was no other story – or to be more accurate, there was an interesting story in the town’s everyday workings, the author just didn’t tell it well. She focused instead on trying to be clever with her mystery, and it actually took away from the part that could have been good.

I wasn’t impressed, and would recommend people to either read ‘Light Between Oceans’, or ‘Cloudstreet’ instead.

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A Little Life

A Little LifeA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this in roughly four days, but if I’d had my way I would have called in sick to work and stayed with it the entire way through to finish it all in one or two days!
I became quickly obsessed with reading this book, and hours after finishing it, my heart is still aching from the loss of the characters and story that I had become so involved in. Which is a credit to the author, because at times, the history of Jude that she paints is unbelievably cruel, relentlessly heartless, and so obscene it must be unrealistic. Yet her portrayal of Willem, JB, Malcolm, Julia and Harold – are so realistic in their characteristics and motives that it somehow makes you a part of their circle. Like a wordless member of the group, and so you go along with it.
When looked at closely, JB, Malcolm and Willem all have fantastical stories that are unrealistic in their own way, but these seem to temper Jude’s horror childhood.
In a sense, it is a bit fairytale in some of the themes, and everyone seems to get a version of a happy ending – for a little while at least.
It hit home on quite a few of the more tangled and grey areas of friendship – where we know that we should act, but that act itself will be detrimental to the relationship, and may not even change the behaviour or outcome that we know should be faced.
Also, for those who have survived trauma in any of its shapes or versions; for those who have contemplated or acted in a self-harming way – this is a difficult read in terms of the understanding of behaviours associated with secrecy, shame and guilt the author captures.
I am wrecked after finishing it, and want another 700+pages, just to remain with these amazing people that I grew love. Especially Andy – my favourite character throughout.

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The Natural Way of Things

The Natural Way of ThingsThe Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this for a book club, and usually I don’t read any blurbs on book club choices so that it is a fresh read. I have to say that was a good thing with this story. I found this story disturbing, horrific, and completely absorbing. I’m glad I hadn’t read anything about it as I would have been expecting the subject-matter.

The part that I found the scariest, was that we are never given the full story of any of the women in the compound – yet I knew every story of the women in the compound. I knew them all, because they are so common, portrayed exactly as suggested by the media – and worse, the comments about these women that are remembered in the story are all comments I have read, made about such circumstances, all the time.

This story isn’t a walk-in-the-park type of look at women caught in ‘sex-scandals’ – it’s a brutal and confronting, in-your-face look at slut-shaming.

Wrapped around that is an even deeper story, as we realise no-one is delivering food to the compound, and their guards are just as trapped as the women – it takes on an almost Lord of the Flies feel. Except instead of the study of a group of young boys and their social structuring, we instead are given the study of a group of women with two easily-overpowered men, who are stuck in socially constructed, gendered roles – and how much of that becomes instinct, survival or rebellion.

I couldn’t stop reading, and had no clue how it would end. The writing was as brutal as the subject matter, and I had some issue with pacing and descriptions in some areas.

Yolanda and Verla are the eyes of the novel, and their individual insights are fantastic but at times repetitive. The author did well to keep them separate characters, and did well in continuing the story despite the madness creeping into their characters.

It wasn’t a pretty novel, but it is one that I will think about for a long time. I was especially impressed about this being an Australian novel, and love that it came from here. Would highly recommend to anyone who enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

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