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Review: The Neighbor Favor by Kristina Forest

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Lily is shy, bookish and completely fed up with the very extroverted members of her family who keep trying to set her up on a date. Fortunately, she has a secret. She has an email correspondence (and, one might say friendship,) with her favourite author. Then he ghosts her. Then her family put pressure on her to have a date for her sister's wedding. Then, Nick, her very cute neighbour offers to help. Then, the reader learns that Nick has a secret. He is Lily's favourite author and he's falling in love with her ... This was an entertaining romantic comedy. I found some of the characters a little annoying at times, though it is obvious that they were meant to be. Lily and Nick made for an interesting couple. She's from a wealthy, successful family but her career prospects aren't great--she has a dream to work in publishing but she feels like a diversity hire and she's been relegated to an undesirable branch of the company. Meanwhile, Nick grew up in poverty with n

Review: The Beauties by Lauren Chater

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The Beauties is most definitely my favourite novel by Australian author Lauren Chater. And that is no insult to her previous work, historical fictions that are always well written with interesting characters. The Beauties has those things as well. As well as offering a glimpse into the lives of women in an interest time in history, it offers a glimpse into the art world. And I think we all know that I'm a sucker for a good book about art.  Set in the seventeenth century we meet Emilia Lennox, a woman who has lost everything due to her brother in law, and the politics of the day. She has come to court hopeful of asking King Charles to restore her brother's estate. The king agrees, but with a condition--only if she will become his mistress. Knowing that her looks are the only thing that will give her any kind of currency, Emilia agrees but only if her portrait will hang among those of the Duchess's Windsor Beauties. We also meet the Duchness in a duel storyline that takes pl

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Review: Baby-Sitters Beware (BSC Super Mystery #2) by Ann M Martin

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Who would want to murder a group of seven girls who had formed a baby-sitting business? Well, someone does and it certainly isn't one of their charges or clients. Baby-Sitters Beware is one of the most chilling instalments in the entire BSC series. Branded a Super Mystery, this one is longer than the normal mystery books in the series and like all of the Super Specials chapters are told from the perspective of various characters. The premise is this. Nasty, creepy things are happening to the members of the BSC. Stacey is almost run down by a car. Claudia's kitchen catches fire. Someone throws a rock through Kristy's window. It seems that someone means them harm. And when Kristy, Stacey Claudia and Abby all head to Shadow Lake with Kristy's family for what is supposed to be a fun weekend getaway, the problems soon escalate. Well. This was certainly a revelation. Baby-Sitters Beware was published in December 1995, which is approximately seven or eight months after I stop

Review: Dress Rehearsals by Madison Godfrey

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Through Dress Rehearsals Madison Godfrey explores notions of femininity and performing womanhood. It is an interesting concept, told through prose poetry and by an author who is non binary. The collection is divided into three sections--part one tells of the author's younger days, of the teenage fangirl wanting to 'appear sexy' and being treated badly by men and accepting it. As one poem documents Mysogyny takes centre stage and no one walks out, not even me (page 19). In part two there is a greater awareness of self and a longing to be like another woman, while part three is interested in gender more generally. This was an interesting, thought provoking glimpse into a life that is quite unlike mine. Madison Godfrey writes beautifully and dives deep into their own experiences of both the internal and external self to ponder notions of gender. I read this over the course of three evenings, one per night and found myself impressed each time. Recommended. 

Review: Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

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Is there a word for re-reading an absolutely loving a book that you disliked the first time around? If so, this most definitely sums up my experience of re-reading Boy Swallows Universe. Published in 2018 to widespread acclaim, and winning multiple awards, Boy Swallows Universe is a semi-fictional account of author Trent Dalton's childhood with a dash of magical realism thrown in. We meet Eli Bell, an ordinary kid growing up in Brisbane in the 1980s, whose Mum is a recovering heroin addict. His older brother Gus hasn't spoken a word since their parents split up. Then there is his stepdad, Lyle, a drug dealer, and his babysitter just happens to be one of Queensland's most notorious criminals. But, at the heart of it all, they're all just regular people trying to get by as best they can under the circumstances they've been given. Circumstances, which get increasingly complicated as time goes on. And which have a truly innovative end. As previously stated, I found Boy

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Review: Trains by "Bluey" and illustrated by Rafferty Amor

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Well, it had to happen. Bluey, the phenomenally popular (and exceptionally well made) Australian children's television show, has branched out with a new line of merchandise. And it's such a good idea. Behold, Trains, the first Bluey chapter book. At eighty pages it is just the right size for readers who are moving past picture books and wanting to read chapter books on their own. (Plus there are still some cool illustrations.) The plot, of course, is based on the Bluey TV episode of the same name. In this one, we see some of the series trademark imaginary play, with Bingo taking on the part of a vet who has to get her child (her favourite toy, Poppy,) to childcare on the train, but everything seems to be going wrong for the poor old train driver (Dad/Bandit) mostly in the form of a badly behaved passenger who bares a remarkable resemblance to Bluey. What follows is chaos and all good fun. This one was an entertaining read. Obviously it is for kids, and it is designed so that

Review: Puberty Blues by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey

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'You're dropped.' For years, I have somehow managed to resist the allure of reviewing one of the most darkly comic--and controversial--YA novels to ever be published in Australia. Released in 1979 Puberty Blues soon threw its young authors into the spotlight for its explicit language and themes of peer group pressure, surf gang culture and teenage sexuality. Within a few years the book had been made into a film that has gone on to be an Australian classic in its own right. The authors would go on to have very successful and very different writing careers, with Kathy Lette's work showcasing her flamboyant style, while Carey's would be more serious and contemplative. For both, Puberty Blues was a stepping stone that would send them in different but equally successful directions.  Puberty Blues is short and set in the world of surf culture around the Sutherland Shire. Sue and Debbie are fourteen years old and desperate to be a part of ruling Greenhills gang, a group

Review: My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

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My Salinger Year offers a wonderful insight into the letters that people write beloved author JD Saligner (who famously never responds to any correspondence,) and the life of a twenty-three year old university graduate who finds herself working for Salinger's old-fashioned literary agent in 1996. It is a world where computers and technology are beginning to make their mark ... and Joanna Rakoff finds herself replying to some of the letters that readers are sending JD Salinger. This was an interesting read and insight into an unusual part of the literary world. Some of the anecdotes are startling--such as when the agent passes on beloved, best selling author Judy Blume's latest novel (especially as it went on to be a best seller). It is also a coming-of-age story of sorts for the author, who learns much in her personal life over the course of that year, especially in regards to romantic relationships. I thoroughly enjoyed reading My Salinger Year and found the authors account t

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Review: Enid Blyton A Literary Life by Andrew Maunder

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Andrew Maunder takes a look of one of the highest selling and, most surprisingly, controversial authors of the twentieth century Enid Blyton, in this latest instalment of the Literary Lives series. Enid Blyton rose to fame in the 1920s and by the advent of the Second World War was one of the highest selling authors in the United Kingdom and in many other Commonwealth countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Acclaim for the author soon turned to criticism with many pointing to the lack of depth in her stories and the peddling of values that as early as the 1960s were considered to elitist, sexist and racist. Following her death two biographies would draw an unflattering portrait of the author, portraying her as selfish and childish, first Barbara Stoney's biography and later, the more shocking A Childhood at Green Hedges written by Blyton's youngest daughter Imogen, in which she portrayed her mother as selfish and distant. Enid Blyton A Literary Life  acknowledges these cla

Review: My Brilliant Sister by Amy Brown

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Fans of My Brilliant Career are in for a treat with this clever and thought provoking novel that looks at the life of beloved Australian author Miles Franklin from a different perspective. Shaped as a novel within a novel, Amy Brown tells the story of three different women. There is Ida, whose writing career has been put on hold after she finds herself forced to take the greater share of parenting and to put her husband's career first. The next section of the novel focuses on the novel that Ida is writing, an alternate version of My Brilliant Career that focuses on Franklin's sister Linda and finally, the third section focuses on Stella, a woman who is both similar and completely different from Ida who has been forced to put her own brilliant career on hold due to the pandemic.  My Brilliant Sister is clever and innovative. Each time I picked it up, I found myself reading a few extra pages than I intended. The three protagonists are easy to identify with--in spite of the fact

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Review: Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli

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Under what terms and conditions should people be allowed to come out? Is it fair that some people have an easier time than others? Those are the questions at the heart of Imogen, Obviously the latest novel from bestselling American author Becky Albertalli.  Imogen is at her heart, a people pleaser. But is that the reason why, after her sister and best friend come out, she decides to up her ally game, joining her high school's LGBTQI+ club and becoming a bit part of the group? There, she makes friends with Gretchen, whose own coming out has been traumatic and eventually led her to changing schools. And when she discovers on a visit that her best friend Lili, who came out shortly before leaving for college, has lied to her new friends, not only claiming that she came out in high school but that Imogen is her ex-girlfriend, Imogen goes along with it. Then, just to complicate matters even more, Imogen finds herself falling for Tessa, a girl from Lili's college and she starts wonde

Review: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

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Reader, be warned. Three Women is not easy reading. Is it compelling, however? Absolutely. Journalist Lisa Taddeo takes the difficult private lives of three very different women and turns it into a nonfiction novel and study of female sexuality. There is Maggie, who was sexually abused in high school by a teacher who is regarded as a pillar of the community, Lina who was drugged and raped by three boys at a party and later finds herself in an unhappy marriage and pining for her first boyfriend and Sloane who sleeps with other men while her husband watches.  Compiled over eight years, the author tells the stories of the three very different women, who have never met, who live in different parts of the United States and who have little in common, but for the fact that their sexuality is controlled by the people around them and fodder for gossip and discussion by others. There is an interesting look at class--Sloane who has money and who is married--is afforded a greater level of respect

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Review: End of Story by Kylie Scott

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Aussie author Kylie Scott serves up a romance with an intriguing premise in End of Story. Susie has inherited a beautiful house from her aunt. A beautiful house in need of restoration. She hires the best company in town to do the job, and one of the builders just happens to Lars, the best mate of her ex. Susie and Lars aren't exactly friends and Lars was one of the witnesses to Susie's very humiliating break up with her ex. If that wasn't complicated enough ... whilst pulling back wallpaper Susie and Lars discover a divorce certificate, dated ten years in the future with both of their names on it. What is going on? Is it a sick joke? If it is real, then why is Susie feeling more and more attracted to Lars when a relationship between the two of them is doomed. This one had a great premise and there are some truly fun moments. However the novel is let down a little by the pacing--it is very slow. It also becomes very obvious, very early on that Susie and Lars would work well

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Review: Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee

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Meet Noah. All he wants in life is romance. There's not much of that happening in his life--he's grown up as a closeted trans kid in a place where people like him aren't accepted. And so, he hits on a solution of sorts. He'll create a website filled with cute stories about how trans people met their partners in unusual circumstances and get their happy ending. The only problem is that he is claiming that the stories are all true ... and just as he moves to Denver to stay with his brother for the summer, a troll exposes his website as fraudulent. Lucky then, Noah has just has his own cute meeting with Drew, who is intrigued by the site and comes up with an idea--he and Noah will have a fake romance that they can post online, thus convincing everyone that the site is real. What could possibly go wrong? Well, everything, including the plot.  Unfortunately Meet Cute Diary starts out as a YA novel with a fun premise. The main character is a bit entitled, but as these things

Review: I Don't by Clementine Ford

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Australian feminist and author Clementine Ford takes a look at the history of marriage in I Don't and makes a provocative argument against an institution that was never originally about romance. The book makes an ambitious claim, that it not only wants to prevent marriages, but to end them. Ford takes a deep dive into the history of marriage, its relationship to the church and most importantly of all, probes whether marriage is in a women’s best interest. Like any work by an author who believes in what they say, and who has done extensive research to back it up, it is very difficult to argue with the case presented in this book.  I am familiar with the author's previous work. Sometimes I agree with what she says, and sometimes I disagree and, unsurprisingly, this is a reflection of my feelings about I Don't. It is hard not to feel angry when she shares accounts of women who are humiliated on their wedding day with casually cruel acts by the groom disguised as 'comedy&#

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Review: The Witch by Polly Esther Rayon

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The first novel in Sweet Valley satire series Saccharin Valley Twits and Fiends was so well done that of course I just had to read the sequel. This volume satirises classic Sweet Valley Twins title The Haunted House and the whole thing works so beautifully well that I found myself laughing out loud in multiple occasions.  In this one, the kids at Saccharine Valley Middle School have become convinced that the old Morrison Mansion, the one that has never been mentioned before in the series, is haunted. Everyone is afraid of the place, including twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wastefeld. When Fallon Morrison moves in to the mansion and enrols at Saccharine Valley Middle School, it follows that everyone thinks she is a witch and bullying soon becomes rife. Then, it turns out that Fallon may very well be a witch ... and she's intent on getting her revenge on these meddling, bullying kids. This one was pure fun. I like the way that it pokes fun at the original series, whilst offering a ne