Eyrie – Tim Winton

Tim Winton is one of my favourite Australian authors and Eyrie is another of his works that I am slowly making my way through. Eyrie tells the story of Tom Keely. His life is a shambles. Divorced, broken, jobless and living off cask wine and prescription medication. His current state is not ideal and he floats through life in a hole his mother and sister try to pull him out of. Everything is turned upside down as he discovers his neighbour is a blast from his past. His past has a young grandson, Kai, and the two develop an unusual relationship that moves towards an urgent climax that affects them all.

 

A Tim Winton novel that I did not love? I was a little sad that this novel turned out that way for me. As always the prose is hauntingly accurate and his writing is masterful. Passages of this text are jolty and confusing leaving the reader almost with a headache, Winton perfectly putting the reader in the same state as the protagonist, Tom, Not many writers are capable of this but Winton does so perfectly. It certainly isn’t fun or necessarily enjoyable but the reader cannot doubt his skill. This was about the only saving grace in this novel for me.

 

My issue lies with characters. Tom and Gemma are two of the three focus characters in this novel an I just did not like them. There was not anything particularly redeeming about them. I didn’t actively dislike them as people but their actions were incredibly frustrating. Both of these characters made poor decisions and refused to help themselves, effectively creating their own problems that affected other, more helpless characters within the story. Their lack of grown up actions left me feeling quite frustrated for the duration of the novel. Unfortunately, in a story driven by the intricacies of the characters and not the plot this overtook any other thoughts about this novel. I found it difficult to immerse myself within the novel and enjoy the story.

 

Winton is still a favourite author of mine and I will continue to make my way through all his novels but this is definitely my least favourite so far. I would recommend this novel if you can look past characters and enjoy a good piece of prose. I can see how others really enjoy this novel, unfortunately for me it just is not my thing. I give Eyrie three of Kai’s birds, the masterful writing does save it somewhat for me.

 

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A Conjuring of Light – V. E. Schwab

Finally! The last instalment of my favourite fantasy series of 2016 is here. This was a highly anticipated read of mine and it certainly did not disappoint. A Conjuring of Light tells the third part of the story of Kell, Lila and the three Londons. I won’t go in to much detail describing the plot, assuming if you are bothering to read this you will have already read A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering Of Shadows. One thing I will recommend is if you have not read either of the first two books in a while you should definitely brush up on characters and events at the end of the second book before starting this one. I did not and I spend a good fifty pages trying to get my head back in this world and figure out what was going on.

 

I loved every minute of this last book. The book starts are a rather important cliff hanger and the plot doesn’t slow down from there. In fact looking at where the plot begins and seeing just how thick this book it you wonder how much can happen as it feels like you are near the end of this battle as the story begins. However, Schwab just keeps on giving and so much happens in this last instalment. The ending is quite satisfying and although these are adult novels (some very adult moments in the book that may leave you blushing if you read them in public) the ending still has a YA feel to it, essentially good does trump evil, everything you want to happen does indeed happen and while I won’t say that it is predictable, it is along the lines of what you might have expected. I certainly don’t mean this as a criticism. This is what I love about fantasy. Fantasy is my happy place and seriously, these books are my comforting, happy place.

 

What truly makes these novels my happy place are the characters. Nell, Lila, Rhy, Alucard, even Holland I find myself rooting for and loving in their own separate ways. Yes, Holland too because as much as he was always the bad guy, you always knew there was more to him, hoping he had something more to give. My favourite relationships are found in this series. You root for Kell and Lila long before they knew how they felt about it each other and the fact that it doesn’t happen right away adds to the built up tension. Another this I love about this novel is the relationship that existed between Rhy and Alucard, two males. These characters have such tension, which I loved from the beginning and even more so because it felt natural and not just something that Schwab added for diversity sake. Their romance is beautiful and fragile and makes your heart burst.

 

Basically I love everything about this books and know I will relive this series again and again in the future. Do yourself a favour and experience them yourself, particularly if you are a fan of fantasy. I give A Conjuring of Light five of Lila’s knives, ever deadly.

 

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Love & Misadventure – Lang Leav

Lang Leav was suggested to me by several people after I found myself wanting to read and enjoying poetry last year. A fellow Aussie? What could go wrong? I decided to start with her first collection, Love & Misadventure.

 

A Dedication

She lends her pen,

to thoughts of him,

that flow from it,

in her solitary.

For she is his poet,

And he is her poetry.

 

And so begins this collection with this dedication to her partner. Spilt into three parts: Misadventure, The Circus of Sorrows and Love. I loved this collection and marvelled in each of the poems. I loved that Leav’s work is slightly different to other poetry I have been reading and that it includes a bit of rhyme, makes it fun to read aloud, with a rhythm in your head. There was no set format to the poems, some are paragraphs, some are short, some rhyme. It kept the collection flowing and unpredictable. Changing it up, keeping my interest. The poems were short and snappy. Light and fun, despite some of the themes. The themes were relatable and the words true. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and look forward to reading more of Leav’s work, especially her upcoming debut novel, Sad Girls.

 

If you are a fan of poetry I do recommend this collection. If you aren’t much of a petty reader, I still recommend this collection. Leav’s work is accessible and easy to read so Love & Misadventure is probably a good place to start if you haven’t read a lot of poetry. I look forward to reading this collection and again and working my way through her other works. I give Love & Misadventure four hearts, a beautiful journey we can all relate to.

 

 

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Big Little Lies – Liane Moriaty

Seeing as this book is everywhere these days due to the TV series, can I just say that it is most deserving of the hype surrounding it. Trivia night at Pirriwee Public as ended in shocking tragedy with a parent dead, physical altercations and several others in hospital. How did it end up here? Was this tragedy murder or a horrible accident? Who is to blame? It all began four months before trivia night with one little story.

 

I had little knowledge of the plot before I jumped into this book. I has been sitting on my shelf for months and thanks to the hype of the TV show I figured it was time to see what all the fuss was about (and to make sure I didn’t witness any spoilers). What I found was a novel with the perfect balance of light and dark. This novel deals with serious themes of violence, both domestic and sexual and yet it maintains a light parody of playground politics. Seriously, if you are a school mum or dad or a teacher pick this up if only for the acute stereotypes found within pretty much every school around.

 

Moriaty, in my opinion, writes an important portrayal of domestic violence. She reiterates that it can happen to anyone, it can go both ways, that you can still love the person doing it to you. If the depiction within Big Little Lies makes just one person reconsider what domestic violence is and how it can escalate and changes their actions, stands up for themselves, it is worth its weight in gold.

 

This novel has the perfect balance with a biting satire of parenting and schoolyard dramas. The friendships, politics, stereotypes, guilt and jealousy and, yet, it still retains a lightness and playfulness in this mocking. The format was another highlight, with the witness statements sprinkled throughout the novel doing much to inject the lightness, stopping this novel from becoming too dark. The pacing and mystery was perfect keeping me on my toes throughout the novel. I couldn’t put this down and given the opportunity  I would have likely devoured this in a single sitting.

 

The characters narrating the novel were all likeable and very relatable. My absolute favourite from the beginning was Madeline. She loved and cared too much, jumped to her friend’s defence whenever necessary and was full of pettiness of the kind we are all guilty of but probably never voice. She was completely relatable and always meant the best and I loved her form beginning to end. Celeste and Jane were great characters too along with the many supporting roles within the book. Moriaty slides in the Aussie cliches perfectly without making the novel confusing or inaccessible for readers of other backgrounds and I found myself giggling at these little Aussie-isms sprinkled across the pages.

 

I could not predict the outcome and at one point even had to physically put the book down after one (of the many) revelations. The writing was masterful and I look forward to reading more of Moriaty’s work in the future, oh, and watching the TV adaptation too. I give Big Little Lies five dangerously strong cocktails that turn Trivia Night upside down.

 

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The Suburbs of Hell – Randolph Snow

The Suburbs of Hell is one of many old Australian classic novels that Text Publishing have rereleased. The final novel by Randolph Snow, The Suburbs of Hell tells the story of a small English seaside town in the thralls of a serial killer. The killer appears to pick his victims at random and with no one safe the residents start turning their suspicions on each other to disastrous consequences.

 

At first I was a little disappointed with this novel, it wasn’t quite what I thought it would be. I had imagined it was more of a psychological thriller, a calculated killer stalking his victims in turn instilling fear in the reader as we follow his bloody trail and with this novel having been inspired by the stalking and killing of the Redlands monster I was surprised with what it really was. My disappointment didn’t linger upon finishing this short novel when I realised that, instead, this was a much more intelligent novel. Something different and much more striking. The Suburbs of Hells is more about the psychological terror of what it is like living in a town stalked by a silent killer. The way gossip can turn anyone into a murderous soul. The paranoia and constant living in fear and how that can wear down a soul. How despite the law looking into this terror, ultimately, they are powerless until the killer becomes careless. Yes, this novel was nothing what I expected but so much more.

 

The prose is beautiful, understated and aims true. I found the accent of the characters a little difficult to follow at first but in time did not notice it. I loved the way the chapters were set out, each ending in the same way: a creepy little window into the most terrifying moments. Without spoiling anything I will also say the ending was memorable and I though the way it was ended was perfect. It completely fit the tone of the novel and leaves the reader much to ponder. There is so much more I want to say to describe the atmosphere and quiet contemplativeness of this novel, yet, to do so would spoil aspects of the story.

 

I will leave you with this: read this book if you want a novel that is psychologically demanding in an unusual way, read this is you want a different take on a crime novel. Just do not go into The Suburbs of Hell expecting your typical psychological thriller because you may be disappointed (or pleasantly surprised in my case). This was a great read and I’m glad that Text Publishing have brought this gem back. I give The Suburbs of Hell three rifles, the killers weapon of choice.

 

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Wine & Words Wednesday 31/05

Wine & Words Wednesday is back and we are ever close to my favourite season of the year: red wine season. Let celebrate with a bottle of the good stuff. Today’s bottle comes from a new favourite cellar door. Artwine‘s beautiful cellar door is located in the Adelaide Hills, with wine grown there and in the Clare Valley. Their cellar door was filled with friendly staff who were all too happy to oblige in any way they could. I had a great tasting (all the wines I tasted were delicious) and even ended up buying a glass to drink there so I could sit and read in the sun. What did I sit and drink there? Well the focus of today’s pairing, The Temptress 2016 Rose, grown in the Clare Valley. This Rose is made from Tempranillo with aromas of strawberries and florals and yet some savoury spice, stopping it from tasting too sweet. This Rose is delectable and I couldn’t help myself walking away wth a bottle and a glass for there. What might I pair this delicious and pretty wine with?

 

Well, with a name like Artwine you cannot go past a book that combines these two great things: art and wine. Okay, so maybe wine isn’t a heavy focus in this book but the characters definitely drink some wine in this novel. The Muse by Jessie Burton is a great read that follows two storylines, both heavily influenced by art. Odelle is a typist working at a fancy gallery when a mysterious piece of artwork is discovered. Olive is the young daughter of a famous art dealer who believes that women can’t be artists. This is an addictive and captivating novel that I highly recommend. Is there a temptress in this book too? Why, yes there is. Another fitting example of why this book and wine should be paired together. Who that temptress is, and if there is one or more, well you will have to read to find out.

 

Had a bust week at work? Need to unwind after a long day? Chill a bottle of The Temptress and transport yourself to London in the 60’s and Spain in the 30’s and lose yourself in this fascinating book, while pleasing your palate at the same time. Have the opportunity to visit the cellar door? Well, don’t delay, bring the Muse along and settle in with a glass and one of their amazing looking platters and take in the beautiful views of the Adelaide Hills.

 

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The Piper’s Son – Melina Marchetta

A companion book to Saving Francesca the reader finds themselves reunited with some familiar faces and a few new ones in the Piper’s Son. Tom is grieving his uncle who died in an explosion on the London Tube. He dropped out of uni, walked away from his music and turned his back on his friends, including the one he can’t forget, he one who can’t stand him after the “one and a half night stand”. Living with his single, pregnant aunt he tries to piece back his life together while trying to accept his alcoholic father back into his life.

 

This novel is like a walk down memory lane, or as a good friend put like “putting on a pair of comfy old pants”. We are welcomed back into the lives of Tom, Francesa, Justine and the gang. What is interesting is seeing where they all are five years down the track. Is it where you thought they would be? This answer will be different for everyone but it is fascinating nonetheless. With the switch and focus in perspective on Tom you see the old characters in a new light but with plenty of references back to the familiar old days that will have the reader grinning along at all the in-jokes. For all you die-hard Marchetta fans there is a easter egg hidden within the novel. One I congratulated myself on picking up with a subtle reference until the following pages made it a lot clearer. All I will say is when you find it, it will make a little too much sense and leave you feeling a little lighter.

 

Despite all my references to the past this is a complete stand alone novel that anyone can read and enjoy. I myself found it quite difficult to get into initially because of my previous ideas about the characters and didn’t really settle into it until about halfway through. I did find myself falling back in love with these characters who have grown and matured in so many ways. I also fell in love with some of the newer characters, Tom’s family in particular. His aunt Georgie was a gorgeous character to follow through her highs and lows of pregnancy as a single woman with a complex history. Ned was another highlight, the poetic chef who hates rhyming.

 

This novel deals with themes of grief that manifest in different ways. We watch how Tom and the rest of his family move through the the different stages of accepting the death of a family member. A death that occurred on the other side of the world. A death that left not even a body to bury. Marchetta understands the complexities of family relationships strained by years of smaller tensions, stretched in these circumstances.

 

Once again I found myself caught up in Marchetta’s words and her characters. There is something about her writing that gets under my skin and I find myself enjoying her novels every single time. I do recommend the Piper’s Son, particularly if you are aquatinted with her earlier YA novels but also a snapshot of grief and how it can consume you. How it can set fire to the pages of your life while you watch it turn to smoke. This is an unflinching, yet heartwarming novel with the buoyancy of youth. I give the Piper’s Son three of Tom’s guitars.

 

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