Reading Rewards - reviews

Romance Readers Awards

The winners of the 2014 Australian Romance Readers Awards (ARRA) have been announced. The nominations were open to all romance novels published in 2014. 

The awards are handed out annually in nine categories, and each year in the run-up to the awards, ARRA members are invited to choose and vote on three, special 'reader-selected' awards. This year those awards were handed out for Sexiest Hero, Favourite Cover, and Favourite New Australian Romance Author. 

Drum roll please …


Paranormal Romance — Shield of Winter by Nalini Singh
Sci-Fi, Fantasy or Futuristic Romance — Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews
Short Category Romance — The Honeymoon Trap by Kelly Hunter
Historical Romance — The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie
Contemporary Romance — Play by Kylie Scott
Erotic Romance — Down and Dirty by Rhian Cahill, Lexxie Couper, Jess Dee and Sami Lee
Romantic Suspense — Safe Harbour by Helene Young
Continuing Romance Series — Stage Dive by Kylie Scott
Favourite Australian Romance Author for 2014 — Kylie Scott

Favourite Cover — Play by Kylie Scott
Sexiest Hero — Adam in Outback Ghost by Rachael Johns
Favourite New Romance Author 2014 — Alli Sinclair

Deb.

Midnight is a Lonely Place

Midnight is a Lonely Place by Barbara Erskine

From the cover:  After a broken love affair, biographer Kate Kennedy retires to a remote cottage on the wild Essex coast to work on her new book - until her landlord's daughter uncovers a Roman site nearby and long-buried passions are unleashed!  In her lonely cottage, Kate is terrorised by mysterious forces. What do these ghosts want? That the truth about the violent events of long ago be exposed or remain concealed? Kate must struggle for her life against earthbound spirits and ancient curses as hate, jealousy, revenge, and passion do battle across the centuries.

If you like a good dose of haunting with an accompanying history lesson, Barbara Erskine is always an excellent choice.  I’ve read quite a few of hers – House of Echoes, the wonderful Whispers in the Sand and its follow-on, The Sands of Time, and Daughters of Fire.  They are absorbing reads, very evocative and occasionally quite scary, but most suffer, as did this one, from being just too long and drawn out.  At 77 chapters, Midnight is a Lonely Place would’ve been tighter and a bit more enjoyable with 10 or so chapters less.  However, Erskine’s talent at winding love/hate/jealousy and history into a modern day tale of an English seaside cottage roiling with passions long gone is an entertaining read, one I found hard to put down.  It was well narrated by the talented Rula Lenska – my only beef being her pronunciation of the word ‘grimaced’ which she read as gri-maced [rhymes with raced].  
Deb. 



Vale Sir Terry Pratchett

Popular fantasy sci-fi author, Sir Terry Pratchett, passed away yesterday (March 12, 2015) has died aged 66, eight years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.


Sir Terence David John "Terry" Pratchett, OBE (28 April 1948 – 12 March 2015) was an English author of fantasy novels, especially comical works. He is best known for his Discworld series of about 40 volumes. Pratchett's first novel, The Carpet People, was published in 1971, and since his first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic, was published in 1983, he wrote two books a year on average. His 2011 Discworld novel Snuff was at the time of its release the third-fastest-selling hardback adult-audience novel since records began in the UK, selling 55,000 copies in the first three days.

Pratchett was the UK's best-selling author of the 1990s, and has sold more than 85 million books worldwide in 37 languages. He is currently the second most-read writer in the UK, and seventh most-read non-US author in the US.

"The world has lost one of its brightest, sharpest minds," said Transworld publisher Larry Finlay. He enriched the planet like few before him and through Discworld satirised the world with great skill, enormous humour and constant invention," said Mr Finlay. "Terry faced his Alzheimer's disease (an 'embuggerance', as he called it) publicly and bravely," said Mr Finlay.

"There was nobody like him,” added author Neil Gaiman.  "Over the last few years, it was his writing that sustained him. His legacy will endure for decades to come." 

The library has so many Terry Pratchett novels in various formats that it is too extensive to individually link here.  Please click on the author's name at the top of this post to browse our catalogue entries.

Deb.

Stella Prize Shortlist

The 2015 Stella Prize shortlist has just been released, with three of the titles being debut novels by Maxine Beneba Clarke, Emily Bitto and Ellen van Neerven:


Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke
The Strays by Emily Bitto
The Invisible History of the Human Race by Christine Kenneally
The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna
The Golden Age by Joan London
Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven

The 2015 Stella Prize will be awarded in Melbourne on the evening of Tuesday 21 April. Stay tuned ...
Deb

Indie Awards Shortlist

The Indie Awards are chosen by panels of booksellers from entries nominated and voted for by independent bookshops across Australia. The shortlist is divided into categories:  



FICTION:
When the Night Comes by Favel Parrett (Hachette Australia)
Amnesia by Peter Carey (Penguin Books Australia)
Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett (Penguin Books Australia)
The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (Text Publishing)

DEBUT FICTION:
Lost & Found by Brooke Davis (Hachette Australia)
Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clark (Hachette Australia)
The Strays by Emily Bitto (Affirm Press)
After Darkness by Christine Piper (Allen & Unwin)

NON-FICTION SHORTLIST:
This House of Grief by Helen Garner (Text Publishing)
The Bush by Don Watson (Penguin Books Australia)
Where Song Began by Tim Low (Penguin Books Australia)
Cadence by Emma Ayres (ABC Books, HarperCollins Publishers Australia)

and a Children's and YA shortlist.

Winners, and the overall Book of the Year winner, will be announced on 25 March 2015. Stay tuned ...

Deb



The Children Act

The Children Act by Ian McEwen

Fiona Maye is a High Court judge presiding over cases in the family court. She is independent and intelligent, not to mention musical. She has the respect of her peers and plenty of experience. She knows how to weigh up the sensitive cultural and religious differences in court cases. What her colleagues don’t know however is that her marriage is crumbling and one night her husband asks her to consider an open marriage. After an argument he moves out of the house and she is adrift. She throws herself into work and finds herself involved in a complex case about a 17 year old boy, Adam, who needs a blood transfusion as he has leukaemia. The boy’s parents however refuse to allow him to have one as it conflicts with their beliefs as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Fiona has to make a choice.

This story was enjoyable and kept me interested right to the end. The domestic problems allowed a breather from the court scenes.  It would have been nice if we heard more of Adam’s history but  despite this I very much recommend the book.

Ali


Far from the Tree

Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon

Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so. Solomon's startling proposition is that diversity is what unites us all. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, as are the triumphs of love Solomon documents in every chapter. 

The central theme of this extraordinary book is the family and  how much parents, and society as a whole, should accept children for what they are and how much they should encourage them to be their best selves, even though the notion of a best self is imposed by others. Is 'normality' the only desired outcome for our children and us? Solomon has done a huge amount of research for each of the identities discussed, interviewed many families over the space of 10 years and weaves together the science, culture, ethics and a great depth of understanding, empathy and acceptance of all the differing views of each group without ever making light of the difficulties parents and children face.

I was only planning to read the chapters on deafness and autism but have read it all. Though some of the stories are sad, even harrowing, many more are hopeful even joyful, all are thought provoking and many of the parents say that raising their different children added a new depth of meaning to their lives.  

Elegantly reported by a spectacularly original thinker, Far from the Tree explores themes of generosity, acceptance, and tolerance-all rooted in the insight that love can transcend every prejudice. This crucial and revelatory book expands our definition of what it is to be human.

Take with you the wonderful picture of the young woman who spent her holidays reading some of her favourite books to her severely disabled brother "just in case" he could understand. 

Fay

The Meryl Streep Movie Club

The Meryl Streep Movie Club by Mia March

From the cover:  There are some summers you never want to end. The women of the Weller family, matriarch Lolly, cousins Kat, June and Isabel, have not had the easiest of relationships over the years. The cousins have gone their separate ways, but now, just as each faces a crossroads in her life, they are summoned home by Lolly for some earth-shattering news. As the women spend their first summer together in years, home truths and buried secrets begin to emerge. To ease the tension, Lolly proposes a series of movie nights dedicated to her favourite actress, Meryl Streep, and as the four women sit and discuss the parallels between films and real life, they gradually help one another confront the past and make difficult decisions about the future.

I don't read a lot of chick lit but sometimes it's good to dip a toe in the water after too many crime and mystery novels.  I enjoyed this book - set in Maine USA, it's a gentle read, it's not too girly girly as some can be, and you know right up front that with someone dying of pancreatic cancer that there's going to be tears somewhere.  

Each chapter is written from one of the four main characters, and the use of discussing who did what and why in the Meryl Streep movies they all watch is a clever segue to sharing what is really happening in their own lives. The setting provides interest - The Three Captains - a bed and breakfast that Lolly, the family matriarch owns; a book shop, a houseboat - all are evocative and easily pictured. Well narrated by Laurel Lefkow, I can recommend this audio version,( available in MP3 and e-Audio), plus we also have this in hard copy and large print.
Deb. 

Keating: the biography

Keating: the biography by David Day


In the tradition of his bestselling 'Curtin' and 'Chifley', this is David Day's exhaustive biography of one of our most fascinating prime ministers. Paul Keating was one of the most significant political figures of the late twentieth century, first as Treasurer for eight years and then Prime Minister for five years. Although he has spent all of his adult life in the public eye, Keating has eschewed the idea of publishing his memoirs and has discouraged biographers from writing about his life. Undaunted, David Day has taken on the task of giving Keating the biography that he deserves. Based on extensive research in libraries and archives, interviews with Keating's former colleagues and associates, and walking the tracks of Keating's life, Day has painted the first complete portrait of Paul Keating, covering both the public and private man.

Via careful research and many interviews with Keating himself and those who knew him, Day tells the story of Keating from his childhood, through his glory years as federal treasurer and the Prime Minister and into his continuing role as political and social commentator.  Some little known facts emerge along the way… I did not know that Keating arrived in parliament in 1969 courtesy of a well organised branch stack! While Day generally paints Keating in a favourable light, he does not ignore the serious character flaws that ultimately lead to his downfall at the hands of John Howard in 1996.

If you enjoy revisiting the dramas of Australian political life during a period of massive reform in the 19980s and 1990s, and have an admiration (grudging or not) for this political giant, you will be enthralled by this book.

Teresa

Narrow Road to the Deep North

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

Richard Flanagan’s story, of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by a love affair with his uncle’s wife, journeys from the caves of Tasmanian trappers in the early twentieth century to a crumbling pre-war beachside hotel; from a Thai jungle prison to a Japanese snow festival; from the Changi gallows to a chance meeting of lovers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It takes its title from 17th-century haiku poet Basho’s travel journal.

This Man Booker Prize winner is a harrowing tale of a doctor's experience on the Thai Burma railway during World War Two. It tells the story of Dorrigo Evans, a doctor trying to survive and help soldiers in appalling conditions. This novel also tells the story of war through the Japanese sergeant’s eyes, and the colourful characters that Dorrigo tries to save from fever, infection, starvation and brutal beatings. It's also a love story of a love that can never be, a loveless marriage, and a life of infidelity. It is an epic novel that courses through the lives of people brutally affected by war. 

Sandra C


Diagram Prize

My favourite post of the year - it's Diagram Prize time!  The Bookseller/Diagram Prize for the Oddest Title of the year is a humorous 'literary' award that is bestowed annually in the UK by The Bookseller, a British trade magazine for the publishing industry.  The winner was initially decided by a panel of judges, but since 2000, it has been decided by a public vote on the magazine's website.  

The Bookseller magazine’s annual award highlights “a year of astonishing publishing depth, range and bat-guano eccentricity”, the magazine said. 

And the winner is ... drum roll please ... 
Divorcing a Real Witch: for Pagans and the people that used to love them by Diana Rajchel. 

Rajchel’s title was up against :
-  Nature’s Nether Regions by Menno Schilthuizen
-  Advanced Pavement Research: Selected, Peer Reviewed Papers from the 3rd International Conference on Concrete Pavements Design, Construction, and Rehabilitation, ed. Bo Tian
-  The Madwoman in the Volvo: my year of raging hormones by Sandra Tsing-Loh
-  Where Do Camels Belong? by Ken Thompson
-  The Ugly Wife is Treasured at Home by Melissa Margaret Schneider, and 
-  Strangers Have the Best Candy by Margaret Meps Schulte.

Deb

IMPAC Awards open

Each year public libraries throughout the world join together to submit titles for consideration in the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, one of the world's richest literary prizes with a €100,000 prize (AUD $145,000).

 
The State Library of Victoria invites you to help select Victoria’s titles from the list below:

A Million Windows by Gerald Murnane
Amnesia by Peter Carey
Asking for Trouble by Peter Timms
Challenge by Paul Daley 
Cicada by Moira McKinnon
Demons by Wayne Macauley
Goddess by Kelly Gardiner
Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett
Joyful by Robert Hillman
Merciless Gods by Christos Tsiolkas
Quota by Jock Serong
The Boy’s Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew by Eli Glasman
The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna
The Glass Kingdom by Chris Flynn
The Lost Child by Suzanne McCourt
The War of the Four Isles: The Ship Kings 3 by Andrew McGahan
The Word Ghost by Christine Paice
This Picture of You by Sarah Hopkins
Tree Palace by Craig Sherborne
What Came Before by Anna George

You can vote for your preferred title, one only please, at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MC8DZBB by close of business Friday 10 April.  The State Library of Victoria will put forward the top three titles to be in the running, with the winner announced 17 June, 2015. 

Deb

The Strays

The Strays by Emily Bitto

Evan Trentham is the wild child of the Melbourne art world of the 1930s. He and his captivating wife, Helena, attempt to carve out their own small niche, to escape the stifling conservatism they see around them, by gathering together other like-minded artists. They create a Utopian circle within their family home, offering these young artists a place to live and work, and the mixed benefits of being associated with the infamous Evan. 

At the periphery of this circle is Lily Struthers, the best friend of Evan and Helena's daughter Eva. Lily is infatuated by the world she bears witness to, and longs to be part of this enthralling makeshift family. As Lily observes years later, looking back on events that she still carries painfully within her, the story of this groundbreaking circle involved the same themes as Evan Trentham's art: Faustian bargains and terrible recompense; spectacular fortunes and falls from grace. Yet it was not Evan, nor the other artists he gathered around him, but his own daughters, who paid the debt that was owing.

I really enjoyed the story and characters, in particular the friendships between the girls. The discussions about new and frantic creativity brought an energy and excitement to the story which, for the time, was right at the forefront for art. The story is most likely inspired by the Melbourne art scenes of the time. A great read. 

Ali

The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

From the cover:  Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?"

This is a debut novel by a former journalist. Rachel witnesses something on her daily train journey, but with a history of alcoholism, a broken marriage, a lost job, who possibly would believe her? You hear the individual stories of the key characters in the book and how they are all linked into the disappearance of Megan, whose story begins one year before Rachel's. 

I must admit, initially it was a little confusing with the dates interspersed throughout the story, but you have to just go with it, all will be revealed! Megan's story seems to move quickly forward, while Rachel's, very slowly. I thought they were a perfect analogy for two trains on different tracks, bound to converge at some point along the way. And they do. 

Megan goes missing on a day Rachel has drunk herself into a blackout. What has happened to Megan and what does her story have to do with not only Rachel herself, but also her fantasy story of the perfect couple? Also, what about Rachel's ex-husband and his new wife who just happen to live five houses away, how have they become linked? You can't help but get involved in the individual character's lives and develop some empathy for them.

This is definitely a thriller that kept me moving quickly through the pages once the pace picked up. Think Gone Girl crossed with Rear Window!! It's no surprise that this book has already been optioned for a film version.

Janine

When the Night Comes

When the Night Comes by Favel Parrett

When the Night Comes tells the story of a young girl learning what is important in life and who to trust; and of a crewman on the Antarctic supply ship, the Nella Dan, a modern Viking searching to understand his past and find a place in this world for himself. When their paths cross, he teaches her the gift of stillness, of watching birds and shares tales of sailing south to the ice. She shows him what is missing in his life. Though their time together is cut short, the small gifts have been enough to set her path towards the sea. And maybe what they give to each other will mean they can both eventually find their way home.

Bo is a cook on the 'Nella Dan' while Isla and her brother have moved from the mainland to Tasmania with their mother for a 'better' life. It’s obvious there is a romantic relationship between Isla’s mother and Bo, but the real story focuses on the connection between Bo and Isla. 

The actual timeline of the story is brief - two summers. When the Night Comes is not a plot-driven story. The tension is understated. Emotion is the main focus. Parrett's characters are living, breathing, feeling human beings laid out on the page in a way that reminds the reader that the smallest happening can sometimes have the largest impact. 

It is said that everyone who enters your life is either there for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Bo opened up the world for Isla. He helped her to dream big dreams and to be unafraid of following them. Isla helped Bo realise that he wanted to have a family of his own and to raise them where he was raised, to share the traditions and experiences his father shared with him. The lives of these two characters were made better by simply knowing one another.

The writing is lyrical, soulful, real. Parett’s storytelling is gentle, yet masterful, with its ability to draw you in so deeply with very little going on.

Lisa

ED: This is an abridged version of Lisa's review.  You can read the full review at
http://lisa-wardle.blogspot.com    Lisa's poetry and stories have been published in various literary magazines and journals. Her short story collection "Reflections" was published in Dec 2009 by Ginninderra Press.

The Anniversary Man

The Anniversary Man by R.J. Ellory

From the cover:  John Costello and girlfriend Nadia became victims of the deranged "Hammer of God" killer who terrorized Jersey City throughout the summer of 1984. This murderer went after young courting couples in an attempt to "save their souls." Nadia was killed, but John survived. Physically and psychologically scarred, he withdrew from society and now only emerges to work as a crime researcher for a major newspaper. No one in New Jersey knows more about serial killers than John Costello. So, when a new spate of murders starts - all seemingly random and unrelated - he is the only one who can discern the pattern that lies behind them. But could this dark knowledge threaten his own life?

This book is definitely in the suspense genre, but thriller it’s not. It’s so long and drawn out that you have to wait quite a while for the aforementioned suspense to kick in, but when it does, it packs a whallop.  It's also different; it’s gritty, and to my mind, more realistic than a lot of crime fiction which can be a bit too slick with relationships that work out, murderers all explained and nice pat endings tidied up and pigeonholed.  This police department is overworked, understaffed, hamstrung by politics and mayoral elections.  Our lead detective Ray Irving is frustrated, exhausted, still missing his significant other who passed away more than a year ago, sad, lonely and depressed with the lack of progress in identifying the serial killer that is playing games with him.  

I did read an interesting review that said Ellory, an award-nominated English thriller writer, is out of his comfort zone by setting this story in New York, Manhattan to be exact.  It mentioned the feeling of Ellory seemingly working his way through the Manhattan ‘Melway’ and that’s pretty much spot on. There are so many street references, it drives you nuts!!  

I listened to The Anniversary Man on Playaway and it is deftly narrated by Kyle Riley but we also have this in hard copy, large print and CD audio.   If you can stick with the almost 80 chapters, it is worth it.  Take note:  there is some full-on language and some graphic murder scenes, so it’s not a novel for the fair-weather crime reader. 
Deb

Outback Dreams

Outback Dreams by Rachael Johns


Faith Forrester is at a crossroads. Single, thirty and living on a farm in a small Western Australian town, she’s sick of being treated like a kitchen slave by her brother and father. Ten years ago, her mother died of breast cancer, and Faith has been treading water ever since. 

For as long as he can remember, Daniel ‘Monty’ Montgomery has been Faith’s best friend. When he was ten, his parents sold the family property and moved to Perth, and ever since, Monty’s dreamed of having his own farm. So for the last ten years, he’s been back on the land, working odd jobs and saving every dollar to put toward his dream. 

So when Faith embarks on a mission to raise money for a charity close to her heart, and Monty’s dream property comes on the market, things seem like they are falling into place for them both. Until a drunken night out ends with them sleeping together. Suddenly, the best friends are faced with a new load of challenges...

I don't usually read rural romances as I was disappointed with the first one by another Australian author, but this time I was pleasantly surprised after being lucky enough to receive a signed copy from Rachael herself! 

The story of Faith and Monty was good, and yes, it is a romance, but the story itself had a lot more substance to it. As well as getting into both sides of their families, I thought the autism storyline was very refreshing. I also liked the fact that it was not too predictable - just when you thought they were going to live happily ever after something happened!

The author now has two more books about the residents of Bunyip Bay and I'm hoping that Faith and Monty make an appearance in these too.

Janine

Are You Seeing Me?

Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth

Twins Justine and Perry are about to embark on the road trip of a lifetime in the Pacific Northwest. It's been a year since they watched their dad lose his battle with cancer. Now, at only nineteen, Justine is the sole carer for her disabled brother. But with Perry having been accepted into an assisted-living residence, their reliance on each other is set to shift. Before they go their separate ways, they're seeking to create the perfect memory. For Perry, the trip is a glorious celebration of his favourite things: mythical sea monsters, Jackie Chan movies and the study of earthquakes. For Justine, it's a chance to reconcile the decision to 'free' her twin, to see who she is without her boyfriend, Marc - and to offer their mother the chance to atone for past wrongs. But the instability that has shaped their lives will not subside, and the seismic event that Perry forewarned threatens to reduce their worlds to rubble...

I was such a fan of Kindling that I was automatically interested in reading Are You Seeing Me? I was not disappointed.  The author's use of the twin's father’s letters and journal add an extra layer to this dual narrator story, and the theme of independence is a big one. 

During their trip, Perry predicts an earthquake and his prediction comes true. Justine is hurt during the earthquake. She isn’t breathing. Perry, rather than melting down in this high stress situation and failing to function, revives Justine using CPR and gets the help of a stranger to get her to the hospital. These are things he would normally have problems with, things Justine would never expect him to be able to deal with on his own, but he does.  

Perry has far more self-awareness and empathy than those around him can understand. There is a difference with being independent and being interdependent. Independence suggests you do everything for yourself without the need for assistance. Interdependence is the skill of being able to ask for the help you need when you need it. I believe this is far more important and Perry proved he is capable of doing just that. He saved his sister’s life. She has to respect and admire him for that. He is not the ’little’ brother she’s always taken care of anymore, he’s much more than that. He’s a man.

Groth has created a story with heart. Family is the main focus, but in particular, forgiveness.

Lisa

ED: This is an abridged version of Lisa's review.  You can read the full review at
http://lisa-wardle.blogspot.com    Lisa's poetry and stories have been published in various literary magazines and journals. Her short story collection "Reflections" was published in Dec 2009 by Ginninderra Press.


What Came Before

What Came Before by Anna George
From the cover: David sits in his car, sick to his stomach and barely able to order his thoughts, but determined to record his statement of events. His wife, Elle, hovers over her lifeless body as it lies on the laundry floor of the house they shared. David thinks back on their relationship - intimate, passionate, intense - and what led to this violent endpoint. Elle traces their shared past as well and her version of events gradually reveals how wrong she was about the man she'd loved.

Although this novel has a grim beginning, I found it to be a fascinating and compelling read.

What Came Before is set in the inner western suburbs of Melbourne and revisits the early days of the relationship of scriptwriter/director Elle and solicitor David. It is a passionate relationship that descends fairly quickly into domestic violence. The author has used the unusual technique of one character narrating from the afterlife while hovering over her battered body on the laundry floor.

The novel gives a remarkable insight into this intimate relationship and enables the reader to get a better understanding of how these situations are never black and white. It can happen to anybody. Abuse is not always physical. And it's not just a matter of leaving - it often takes several attempts to make the break.

The passionate nature of the relationship between Elle and David reminded me a little of Amy and Nick's connection in Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl- although thankfully neither character is as warped or manipulative.
What Came Before was one of 10 Victorian books selected for The Summer Read, an initiative of the State Library of Victoria.

Sandra E

Love in the Time of Contempt

Love in the Time of Contempt by Joanne Fedler

Welcome to the world of parenting teens. This new era is about enduring intermittent bouts of contempt and not taking it personally. It's about picking the fights that are worth having because through them your kids get to know who you are as a person, what you stand for and what you won't tolerate. Love in the Time of Contempt is not a how-to manual on parenting 13-19 year-olds. It is a gritty look at the day-to-day interactions with teenagers in which Joanne Fedler takes us on a journey from frustration, to confusion, to elation and back again.

Joanne Fedler's latest offering is part pep-talk, part personal memoir and an open invitation to consider yourself a part of the club devoted to the 'Raising of Teenagers'.

The book can be enjoyed from many points of view; that of the parent in the midst of raising teens, that of the parent who is done with that particular challenge, and that of the parent (or non-parent) remembering their own teenaged years. The stories in this book can't help but jog your memory about your own behaviour during those tumultuous years, and your feelings about your parents at the time. 

Fedler's writing is honest, humorous, and insightful. She shares her experiences generously, without being didactic. With warmth and a touch of irony she gives the reader that sense of solidarity and support that, during what is often one of the most difficult stages of parenting, we are not alone. In the end we are all in this together. As parents, we just have to do the best we know how to do, learning on-the-job, while staying open and available to our teenagers. 

I highly recommend Love in the Time of Contempt.

Lisa

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