NOT BAD PEOPLE, a contemporary Australian drama by debut author Brandy Scott @HeyBrandyScott

My first completed book of February is the slow-burning contemporary drama NOT BAD PEOPLE by debut author, Brandy Scott. The novel is set in the fictional country Victorian town of Hensley. My own hometown, the Mornington Peninsula, gets a brief mention, so I thought it was fitting to take my copy on a trip to my local beach. It was a lovely beach read!

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NOT BAD PEOPLE by Brandy Scott

“Three Friends. Too many secrets. Honesty is the best policy. Usually.”

Paperback, 464 pages

Published: January 29th 2019 by HarperCollins – AU

ISBN: 1460756177 (ISBN13: 9781460756171)

Source: HarperCollins – AU

 

“A clever, compelling debut novel with a unique premise of what happens when three best friends engage in what seems to be a harmless act, but instead results in tragedy, leading the women to confront buried resentments, shattering secrets, dark lies, and the moral consequences that could alter their lives forever.

Three friends, thirty years of shared secrets, one impulsive gesture…and a terrible accident.  

It’s New Year’s Eve, in a small town in the rich wine country outside Sydney. Thirty-something Aimee, Melinda, and Lou are best friends reveling in the end-of-year celebrations. And what better way to look ahead to the coming year than to let off Chinese lanterns filled with resolutions: for meaning, for freedom, for money? The fact that it’s illegal to use these lanterns is far in the back of their minds. After the glowing paper bags float away and are lost to sight in the night sky, there’s a bright flare in the distance. It could be a sign of luck—or the start of a complete nightmare that will upend the women’s friendships, families, and careers.

Aimee is convinced their little ceremony caused a major accident. The next day, the newspapers report a small plane crashed, and two victims—one a young boy—were pulled from the wreckage. Were they responsible? Aimee thinks they are, Melinda won’t accept it, and Lou has problems of her own. It’s a toxic recipe for guilt trips, shame, obsession, blackmail and power games.
They’re not bad people. But desperate times call for desperate measures.”

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There are three main characters in NOT BAD PEOPLE. Lou is a feisty single mum whose teenage daughter is causing almost as much trouble as she did when she was a teenager. Aimee has a seemingly perfect husband, children, winery, and life. Melinda is successful single businesswoman who has recently moved back to small-town Hensley from the big city.

The three thirty-something woman have been best friends since childhood, mostly because they are related to each other and their parents were friends with each other, just like most small town friendships are formed. Their lives begin to fall apart when an innocent incident on New Years Eve appears to cause an accident and now they are forced to deal with the consequences.

This is made far more complicated by living in small country town where no secret is ever truly safe and resentments have been left to fester for years, generations in some cases.

I really enjoyed NOT BAD PEOPLE and I felt that Brandy Scott set the scene of a small country town – quite similar to the one I grew up in –  perfectly. The characters were extremely well-developed and I found myself able to relate to all of the three main characters at different times.

I did find some of the longer chapters would have flowed better for me if they had just focused on one characters at a time rather than going back and forth between all three main characters, but that’s probably just a personal preference of mine.

NOT BAD PEOPLE is a delightful novel, perfectly encapsulating the way small towns react to drama, and hold onto their secrets and resents. I especially loved the dynamics between the three friends and the slow-burning pace of the action.

Perfect for fans of the Moriarty sisters and for relaxing with a nice glass of wine. 4 stars!

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NOT BAD PEOPLE by Brandy Scott and a lovely bottle of wine 

 

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A review ROAR by Cecelia Ahern (@Cecelia_Ahern), a book of feminist short stories

I was intrigued by the idea behind Cecelia Ahern’s book of thirty feminist short stories about thirty women. The book swag that came with it was also a lovely surprise!

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ROAR by Cecelia Ahern, plus some amazing book swag

“I’m here, I’m here, I’m here”. 

Hardcover, 352 pages

Published November 1st 2018 by HarperCollins

ISBN 0008283494 (ISBN13: 9780008283490)

Goodreads

“Have you ever imagined a different life?

Have you ever stood at a crossroads, undecided?
Have you ever had a moment when you wanted to roar?

The women in these startlingly original stories are all of us: the women who befriend us, the women who encourage us, the women who make us brave. From The Woman Who Slowly Disappeared to The Woman Who Was Kept on the Shelf and The Woman Who Returned and Exchanged her Husband, discover thirty touching, often hilarious, stories and meet thirty very different women. Each discovers her strength; each realizes she holds the power to make a change.

Witty, tender, surprising, these keenly observed tales speak to us all, and capture the moment when we all want to roar.”

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Each story involves a different woman who is undergoing an issue that makes them feel uncomfortable, undecided, or angry told from a feminist perspective. In short, all the women in these stories want to roar!

The main idea behind these stories is wonderfully original, as they are told through allegories. Some of the situations are really quite outlandish, but they mostly managed to ring quite true.

I found myself able to relate to many of the characters and the universal everyday issues they experienced as women struggling to have it all, as we do often do in this day and age. None of the main characters were given names, and I felt this was a nice touch that really made the women feel like ‘every woman.’

ROAR is a refreshing and creative take on feminism. I did feel that it became somewhat repetitive, but the ideas behind it are fascinating. 4 stars!

Book Review: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen

I’ve been hoarding my beautiful Vintage Classic edition of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY for some time, so I was excited to make the time to revisit an old favourite during my month of selfish reading.

I was giving the gentlest of nudges to hurry up and get reading by the brilliant author of THE GIRL ON THE PAGE, John Purcell, who reminded me of the universality of Jane Austen’s novels in his bestselling debut. We have since bonded on Twitter over our mutual agreement that there is no problem in the world that can’t be made better by curling up my favourite classic author.

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SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen

“I do not attempt to deny,” said she, “that I think very highly of him – that I greatly esteem, that I like him.”

Paperback, 444 pages

Published: June 26th 2014 by Vintage Classics (first published October 30th 1811)

Original Title: Sense and Sensibility

ISBN: 0099589346 (ISBN13: 9780099589341)

Goodreads

“Elinor is as prudent as her sister Marianne is impetuous. Each must learn from the other after they are they are forced by their father’s death to leave their home and enter into the contests of polite society. The charms of unsuitable men and the schemes of rival ladies mean that their paths to success are thwart with disappointment but together they attempt to find a way to happiness.”

 

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It’s been years since I read SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, or any of Jane Austen’s novels, and it felt just like catching up with a good friend. Austen’s debut novel tells the story of two sisters, Marianne and Elinor Dashwood, who are about as  different as two sisters can be.

Marianne is the youngest and has the very strong opinions commonly found in teenagers. She is convinced that her future husband will love all the same things as she does, will sweep her off her feet in a whirlwind romance, and that it is only possible to truly love one person.

Elinor is far more sensible and spends a great deal of her time making excuses for Marianne’s rudeness to potential beaux and well-meaning neighbours alike.

The novel begins when Mr Dashwood’s death means that the girls and their mother are forced to leave their home to allow their elder half brother and his greedy wife to move in. This reflects Austen’s own life, as she was also forced to move due to unfavourable inheritances.

Marianne finds romance with the charming Willoughby, while scorning the elder and far more steady Colonel Brandon. Elinor is left wondering if her romance with her sister in law’s brother, Edward Ferrars, was all she thought it was when she encounters a rival she never knew existed.

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed reading SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. Even though this was Austen’s very first novel, it is a delightful read. I couldn’t help but think on this reading that a lot of the problems he characters went through were very British and could have been solved with a little bit of straight talking, but their polite inability to say what they really think is one of the reasons the rest of the world loves the British so much.

5 stars!

 

#BookReview: The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory – @PhilippaGBooks

I’ve made a commitment to myself to read selfishly in January. I know that I will be snowed under a pile of journal articles soon enough, so I’m doing my best to get around to all of the books that were shoved to the bottom of my TBR pile last year.

The first cab off the rank is THE LAST TUDOR by the bestselling historical fiction great, Philippa Gregory. I’ve been a big fan of Gregory’s Tudor novels ever since THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL took the world by storm far too many years ago for my liking, and I’ve been looking forward to reading Gregory’s take on the Grey sisters for ages!

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THE LAST TUDOR by Philippa Gregory

Paperback, 544 pages

Published: July 1st 2018 by Simon & Schuster UK (first published August 8th 2017)

Original Title: The Last Tudor
ISBN: 1471133079 (ISBN13: 9781471133077)

Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction (2017)

Source: Own Copy

Goodreads

“The latest novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory features

one of the most famous girls in history, Lady Jane Grey, and her two sisters, each of whom dared to defy her queen.

Jane Grey was queen of England for nine days. Her father and his allies crowned her instead of the dead king’s half sister Mary Tudor, who quickly mustered an army, claimed her throne, and locked Jane in the Tower of London. When Jane refused to betray her Protestant faith, Mary sent her to the executioner’s block, where Jane transformed her father’s greedy power grab into tragic martyrdom.

“Learn you to die,” was the advice Jane wrote to her younger sister Katherine, who has no intention of dying. She intends to enjoy her beauty and her youth and fall in love. But she is heir to the insecure and infertile Queen Mary and then to her half sister, Queen Elizabeth, who will never allow Katherine to marry and produce a Tudor son. When Katherine’s pregnancy betrays her secret marriage, she faces imprisonment in the Tower, only yards from her sister’s scaffold.

“Farewell, my sister,” writes Katherine to the youngest Grey sister, Mary. A beautiful dwarf, disregarded by the court, Mary keeps family secrets, especially her own, while avoiding Elizabeth’s suspicious glare. After seeing her sisters defy their queens, Mary is acutely aware of her own danger but determined to command her own life. What will happen when the last Tudor defies her ruthless and unforgiving Queen Elizabeth?”

 

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Philippa Gregory is well-known for her historical novels focusing on the Tudor and Plantagenet families and Jane Grey is such a fascinating character of this period, so I was excited to see how she portrayed the Grey sisters.

The book is split into three sections that tell the story from the perspective of each of the Grey sisters: Jane, Katherine, and Mary. Jane is a well-known historical figure, but I have to admit that I knew very little about Kathryn and Mary going in.

The eldest sister, Jane, was proclaimed queen for nine days by her scheming family and Dudley in-laws after the death of Edward VI. She was a devout Protestant, having studied with Kathryn Parr and the great grand-daughter of Henry VII through his daughter, Mary Tudor, Queen of France.

Her reign was swiftly terminated when Mary, the eldest daughter of Henry VIII, was able to form an army and win the favour of the Privy Council. Jane was found guilty of high treason and beheaded on February 12 1554, along with her husband, father, and other key members of the plot to put Jane on the throne.

The middle Grey sister – Katherine – was forced to remain in first Queen Mary’s court, then Elizabeth’s. She has almost no family remaining, her marriage was annulled, and she is treated as a threat by both queens. If she married and had a baby boy she would have as much as a claim to the throne as Jane had  before her.

While Elizabeth is busy staving of threats to her crown by her other cousins – Mary, Queen of Scots and Mary Douglas – Kathryn marries Edward Seymour in secret, and is imprisoned under house arrest once Elizabeth discovers their betrothal.

The third Grey sister – Mary – was a Little Person and the only Grey sister to survive Queen Elizabeth’s fear of a Tudor heir and have children of her own.

A lot of people complain that Gregory too often uses a writing trope ‘as you know, Bob’ where she includes too much information about story details by having characters that already know this information talk about it together.

I did notice it throughout the novel, but I don’t have an issue about it in this case. The families of this time period are complicated and confusing, and I would much prefer to have the slight irk over unrealistic dialogue than to get bogged down in figuring out who everyone is all the time.

I loved diving back into the Tudor world with Gregory, although I was sad to read that this might be her last novel that focuses on the Tudors as she is heading in a new direction now.

5 stars!

 

 

HOW TO BE SECOND BEST by Jessica Dettmann. A lighthearted romantic comedy highlighting the ups and downs of modern parenthood. #BookReview

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HOW TO BE SECOND BEST by Jessica Dettmann

Goodreads Description

A hilarious and heart-warming debut that captures the dramas, delights and delirium of modern parenting. This is Marian Keyes meets Allison Pearson, with a dash of Caitlin Moran.

Going from one child to two is never all that easy for a family, but when Emma’s husband simultaneously fathers a third child three doors up the street, things get very tricky, very fast.

No longer is it enough for Emma to be the best wife and mother – now she’s trying to be the best ex-wife, and the best part-time parent to her ex’s love child, and that’s before she even thinks about adding a new bloke to the mix.

Set in an upwardly mobile, ultra-competitive suburb, this is a funny, biting, heartwarming modern comedy that looks at the roles we play, how we compete, and what happens when we dare to strive for second-best.

‘Jessica Dettmann is a fine comic writer. She has an eye for the small details, irritations and inspirations of life which coupled with a truly original turn of phrase and great way with a gag makes for sparkling and heart-warming reading.’ Ben Elton

‘Sharp and crisp and funny. I was dazzled.’ Mia Freedman

Paperback, 368 pages
Published December 17th 2018 by HarperCollins – AU
ISBN 1460755960 (ISBN13: 9781460755969

My Review

A  lighthearted romantic comedy  highlighting the ups and downs of modern parenthood.

HOW TO BE SECOND BEST by Jessica Dettmann examines what happens when  Emma decides to be second best for a change.

She has been so busy trying to be the best at everything ever since her husband left her to start a family with another woman that she hasn’t realised just how much of a pushover she has become. By taking a step back from the competitiveness of modern parenting Emma’s life begins to fall into place, including in the romance department!

HOW TO BE SECOND BEST is a great beach read. Dettmann has hilariously captured the craziness and competitiveness of modern suburban parenthood, which is often made more difficult with mixed families.  I particularly enjoyed the swimming pool scene!

The characters were incredibly well-written and I love the concept of teaching yourself how to be second best in a world where everything seems to be a competition.

5 stars!

About the Author

 

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Jessica Dettmann

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My #review of the spellbinding thriller “THE NEW GIRL” by debut author Ingrid Alexandra @IngridWrites

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THE NEW GIRL by Ingrid Alexandra

Goodreads Description

You’ve only just met.
But she already knows you so well.
When Rachel moves into the spare room in Mary’s flat, everyone is quick to jump to the conclusion that there’s something strange about her. Everyone apart from Mary.

And when Rachel starts sleepwalking, everyone’s fears grow. But there’s something about the new girl that Mary can’t help but trust, and having recently escaped a toxic relationship, she needs the support.

Rachel becomes a friend and an ally, and Mary soon discovers that they have more in common than she ever could have imagined.

In fact, Rachel seems to know more about Mary than she knows about herself…

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My Review 

Mary shares a flat with her long time best friend, Cat, and likable school teacher, Ben in a Sydney flat right by the beach. The room mates decide to bring in a new girl, Rachael, to help with the rent, but Mary is the only one out of the group who doesn’t think the new girl is a weirdo. As Mary gets to know Rachael she discovers that they have more in common than she first thought. They both have a troubled background full of secrets and betrayals, and Mary begins to grow closer to Rachael than she is with her best friend, Cat.

I don’t want to say any more about the plot of THE NEW GIRL in case I give away any of the crazy plot twists! I read this novel very quickly because I was constantly on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what was really going on. I never would have guessed the ending of this novel in a million years and the final reveal was so well done. 4 stars!

About the Author 

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Ingrid Alexandra, author of THE NEW GIRL 

Ingrid Alexandra was born and raised in Sydney and now lives on the New South Wales central coast.

Her work has previously been long-listed for The Ampersand Prize and while living in London, Ingrid had the privilege of being mentored by the Guardian First Novel Award shortlisted and Nestle Prize winning author Daren King.

THE NEW GIRL is her first psychological thriller novel. She is currently working on her second.

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My Book Review of quirky love story THE RULES OF SEEING by Joe Heap @Joe_Heap_

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THE RULES OF SEEING by Joe Heap

Goodreads Description

The Rules of Seeing follows the lives of two women whose paths cross at a time when they need each other most. Nova, an interpreter for the Metropolitan police, has been blind from birth. When she undergoes surgery to restore her sight her journey is just beginning – she now has to face a world in full colour for the first time. Kate, a successful architect and wife to Tony, is in hospital after a blow to the head. There, she meets Nova and what starts as a beautiful friendship soon turns into something more.

My Review 

“What you see depends on what you’re looking for”

I’m finding it hard to categorise THE RULES OF SEEING by debut UK author Joe Heap. It’s part quirky love story between two women with a lot going on in their lives, part thriller, and 100% a great read.

Nova works as a police interpreter, can speak five languages and has been blind her entire life until her brother convinces her to undergo and operation that will help her see the world for the first time.

While she is recovering from her operation she meets Kate who is an architect married to Tony, a police detective that Nova works with occasionally. Nova and Kate’s friendship could develop into something more if it was up to Nova, but they each have their own issues to deal with, including Nova’s difficulties with learning how to see and Kate and Tony’s relationship issues.

THE RULES OF SEEING is a fantastic debut novel and Joe Heap has done a brilliant job of covering a range of sensitive topics, including female romantic relationships, mental health, abuse, and  disability. A great debut and full of unexpected surprises. 4 stars!

 

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Joe Heap: author of THE RULES OF SEEING

 

Joe Heap was born in 1986 to a biology teacher and a drama teacher, and grew up in a house that was 70% books, 25% bags of unmarked homework, 18% underpants drying on radiators, and 3% scattered Lego bricks.

He is very bad at maths.

In 2004 Joe won the Foyle Young Poet award, and his poetry has been published in several periodicals. He studied for a BA in English Literature at Stirling University and a Masters in Creative Writing at Glasgow University, during which time he ate a deep-fried Mars Bar. It was okay.

Joe is now a full-time writer, but previously worked as an editor of books for kids and young adults. He has also been a subtitler for BBC News, a face painter at a safari park and a removal man for a dental convention. Before smartphones were invented, he manned a text service where people could ‘ask any question’, but he has since forgotten most of the answers.

He lives in London with his long-suffering girlfriend, short-suffering son, and much-aggrieved tabby cat.

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