Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

If I had the energy to rewind to all of the blog posts from December 2020 titled ‘Most anticipated books of 2021’, I suspect that Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid would feature heavily. Because even if Daisy Jones & The Six wasn’t your usual genre, there was something appealing about it – the nostalgia, the music alive on the page, the glamour and grunge of the industry.

Reid has used the same ingredients for her latest novel, Malibu Rising, but unfortunately the result lacks the magic of Daisy. I’m not sure why because the ‘ingredients’ are solid – professional surfers, Malibu beach, set in the eighties – but these scene-setters were diluted with too many superfluous characters, and a house party that is described in laborious detail (a stark contrast to the first half of the book which covers decades of the family’s history). Continue reading

Life After Truth by Ceridwen Dovey

Sometimes you pick up a book, thinking that it ticks all the boxes before you’ve even started. Life After Truth by Ceridwen Dovey was that book for me.

Campus-lit. Tick. A story about a group of friends. Tick. A reunion (allowing lots of time for mature adults to reflect on their less-mature-selves). Tick. An author whose work I have enjoyed previously. Tick. Continue reading

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Ordinarily, if a book I’ve read has thousands of reviews on Goodreads, I’ll do a literary mixtape instead of a review. Because really, what more can I say about a text if 20,000 others have shared their thoughts? Conversely, there’s always an audience for eighties music videos paired with some choice quotes (I think).

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee has 266,391 ratings and 26,202 reviews on Goodreads. But there will be no mixtape, for the simple reason that although I found this family saga engrossing in terms of plot, there was nothing particularly compelling about the style of Lee’s writing. It’s a really good story. It’s a memorable story. The writing is straightforward. Continue reading

Twenty-one Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks

You’ll either love the format of Matthew Dicks’s novel, Twenty-one Truths About Love, or it will drive you crazy. Personally, after labouring over two essays for uni last week while reading, a story written entirely in list format was light relief.

The story focuses on Dan – list-maker, bookstore owner, soon-to-be father. Dan needs to pull a rabbit out of the hat to save his failing business. Plus, there are things that are nagging him – his estranged relationship with his father, and the spectre of Peter, who was the first husband of Dan’s wife, Jill.

There will always be a part of Jill’s life that will remain a secret to me because you can only tell your second husband so much about your previous life with your dead husband. Continue reading

Milkman by Anna Burns

I need a special rating for books that I’m glad I read but didn’t particularly enjoy. Milkman by Anna Burns is such a book.

There’s much to admire in Milkman. Burns’s unwavering and meticulous stream-of-consciousness account of the Troubles is told through the eyes of our unnamed narrator, an eighteen-year-old girl who comes from a large family impacted by political violence. Although the narrator is trying to distance herself from the turmoil that surrounds her, she is drawn in after being accused of having an affair with a married man known as ‘milkman’ (this is despite the narrator having a ‘maybe-boyfriend’). In fact, the milkman is stalking the narrator, and it is soon revealed that he is a paramilitary figure who holds great power in the community.

As for the community, and my affair with the milkman according to this community, I was now well in it, that being the case whether I was or not. It was put about I had regular engagements with him, rendezvous, intimate ‘dot dot dots’ at various ‘dot dot dot’ places. Continue reading

Nothing But Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon

Hmmm… I haven’t pushed much grief-lit lately… So let me to introduce you to Kathleen MacMahon’s superb novel, Nothing But Blue Sky.

David is taking his first solo holiday since his wife, Mary Rose, died in tragic circumstances. Against advice of his friends, David decides to return to Aiguaclara, a small Spanish coastal town where he and Mary Rose holidayed for twenty years.

It was the place where we mended ourselves, marinating gently in a brew of salt water and sunshine. In Aiguaclara, we paused to take stock of our lives, coming to terms with the passing of another year and making plans for the one to come. Continue reading

The Biographer’s Lover by Ruby J. Murray

Every so often I read a book that was a hit for others and a total miss for me. Such was the case with The Biographer’s Lover by Ruby J. Murray. And I do want to stress the ‘hit for others‘ part because some of my blogging friends adored this book.

The book is about an unnamed writer, employed by a wealthy family, to write a monograph about their mother, artist Edna Cranmer. Edna was not known for her work in her lifetime, however her daughter is intent on changing that, by having her paintings of the  landscape, Australian’s at war, and intimate portraits recognised. As the biographer delves deeper into Edna’s life, she discovers seccrets that some family members have worked hard to keep hidden. Continue reading

The New Me by Halle Butler

It’s boring to begin a review of The New Me by Halle Butler with comparisons to Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation or Eileen but the books are all very similar in style and vibe (so it stands to reason if you loathe Moshfegh, Butler might not be your cup of tea).

Personally, I very much enjoyed The New Me, a novel that is tightly focused on a young woman, Millie, her temp job in an office, and her lonely hours after work.

I think I’m drawn to temp work for the slight atmospheric changes. The new offices and coworkers provide a nice illusion of variety. Like how people switch out their cats’ wet food from Chicken and Liver to Sea Bass, but in the end, it’s all just flavored anus. Continue reading

Kokomo by Victoria Hannan

I really, really wish Victoria Hannan hadn’t started Kokomo with a sex scene. The tone of the scene is not representative of the remaining 294 pages, which are insightful, subtle, and wonderfully atmospheric.

On the other hand, maybe that sex scene is exactly representative of the book – that all is not as it appears. The book takes it’s name from the Beach Boys song. Apt, because while we think Kokomo is a song about a tropical island paradise, it is in fact “…not even a real place … Well, it is, but it’s an industrial city in Indiana…” And like the song, the characters in Hannan’s novel appear one way, but their inner lives reveal something quite different – full of complexities, insecurities, desires. Continue reading