Adult book reviews
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Just read Becoming, Michelle Obama's autobiography. Excellent, with an insight to her childhood years in South Side of Chicago to her progression through to Princeton university. Then to a top Chicago law firm where she mentored law student Barack Obama. The change of life's direction for her with marriage, and, as they say, the rest is history, but a wonderful read. What an enjoyable rollercoaster her life has been taken on. Not all easy for her at many times.
Reviewed by Margaret Mitchell
The Misenchanted Sword by Lawrence Watt-Evans
Published in 1985, this is the first in the Ethshar series of novels/novellas, that have a unique category of being the fantasy equivalent of a sci-fi short story where the author says 'now what if this simple thing changed, what would people do?'
The first in the series stars Valder, an ordinary but cynical soldier in a decades-long war. Out on a scouting mission and harried by enemy trackers, he stumbles across a hermit wizard who imbues an ordinary sword with magic to make Valder go away...but a mistake is made with the enchantment. Valder just wants to stay alive and live a simple life, but if you own a magical sword, can life ever be simple?
Reviewed by Valentine (Kiama Library)
Gone by Midnight by Candice Fox
They left four children safe upstairs.
They came back to three.
Gone by Midnight is the third installment in the Candice Fox ‘Crimson Lake’ series and in some ways the premise of the story reminded me of the Madeleine McCann investigation. Four eight-year-old boys are left alone in a hotel room while their parents go out to dinner. But when one of the parents returns to check on them, one of the boys is missing.
This is an addictive and pacey thriller set in the steamy heat of far North Queensland that is both intriguing and emotional. Even though it’s the third book in the series it can be perfectly well read as a stand-alone. You are given plenty of background information so you don’t really feel that you’re missing out.
I’m a big fan of the main characters, especially convicted killer turned private investigator Amanda Pharrell. Amanda is quirky, spiky mouthed and armed with an endless supply of social confidence, which unfortunately doesn’t work in her favour. With her partner Ted Conkaffey, an ex-cop who is trying to rebuild his life after a false accusation robbed him of both his career and life, they set out to find the boy before it’s too late and the search for the boy becomes the search for a body.
Reviewed by Jane Thompson (Kiama Library)
Am I Doing This Right? by Tanya Hennessy
A simple, entertaining and hilariously observant look at life through the eyes of a workaholic 30-something who doesn’t take things too seriously. Being of a similar age and having gone to the same university at the same time with crossover in our areas of study meant I found her outlook on life extremely relatable. Having also grown up in an age of Billabong wetsuit pencil cases and The Little Mermaid, Tanya’s pop culture references made me laugh out loud.
Structured as an A-Z guide to life, the book has a beautiful balance between making loads of embarrassing mistakes along the way, and then laughing as you learn from them.
Sufficiently self-deprecating as well as acknowledging sweetly all the people who have made her into the woman she is, Tanya’s book hilariously examines failure while also offering the reader hope that when failure happens, so too can growth.
Am I Doing This Right? assures the reader that everyone is, in fact, doing it right. A highly enjoyable and refreshingly light read.
Reviewed by Lauren Watkins (Kiama Library)
Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak
I recently read Bridge of Clay, Markus Zusak’s long-awaited and highly anticipated novel. It took him 11 long years to write after his very successful The Book Thief and, in my opinion, it was worth the wait. Bridge of Clay is an Australian family saga like no other I have ever read – I found it original and engaging from start to finish. It was not unlike being on an adventurous, emotional rollercoaster with strong themes of loss, grief, and love throughout. I enjoyed the beautiful, poetic and unique style of Markus Zusak’s writing and re-read many passages purely for the pleasure of enjoying his original way with words. Bridge of Clay, similar to The Book Thief, will not be everyone’s cup of tea – you will either love it or …not – but I think it’s definitely worth a try. If you make it to the end, make sure you have the tissue box on hand!
Reviewed by Elizabeth Skorulis (Kiama Library)
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
In this latest novel by Barbara Kingsolver, author of the much loved The Poisonwood Bible, the alternating stories of the inhabitants of a house unravel side by side, 140 years apart, echoing one another in provocative ways.
In both stories, the house in which the characters live is crumbling from the foundations. Likewise, larger changes - Darwin’s theory of evolution in the 1870s and climate change today - are shaking the characters’ world view to its core. To acknowledge difficult truths and rebuild rather than patch the cracks is the only real way forward.
Kingsolver suggests it’s never been easy to find ourselves unsheltered, cast out from the comforts of old beliefs about how the world works. But we’ve adapted before. With a little creative thinking and courage, we might do so again.
I loved this book. It was engaging, thought-provoking, intriguing and beautifully written. In hope you enjoy it too!
Reviewed by Catherine Taylor (Kiama Library)
Barefoot in Baghdad by Manal M. Omar
A fascinating and sometimes terrifying true account of life inside Iraq following the US led invasion of the country in 2003. Manal, an American international aid worker, tells of her time setting up an aid agency for women who are determined to rebuild their lives following the war and the sanctions imposed upon them. Despite the many obstacles and heartbreaks her tale tells of her hope for a better future and her growing devotion to the Iraqi people. Especially important to her are the special friendships she forms and the love that develops between herself and an Iraqi man. However, along with other aid workers, Manal is forced to flee the country leaving her work unfinished as the situation inside Iraq becomes more chaotic and reaches crisis point.
An insightful and worthy read!
Jenny Marshall (Kiama Library)