Boy Swallows Universe is the debut Australian best seller and multi award winner of 2019. I’m not usually a fan of stickers on book covers, but that certainly is an impressive number of awards there!
Set in the suburbs of Brisbane in 1985, Eli Bell is struggling to grow up in the midst of a very complicated life. His mum is a junkie, his step-father is a heroin dealer, his brother is mute, his absent dad is an alcoholic, his best friend is a notorious criminal, and his pen pal is the ex sergeant at arms of the Rebels motorcycle club.
All of a sudden, tragedy strikes, and Eli’s life becomes a lot more complicated. He needs all the help he can get from his brother, his friends, his father who has suddenly landed in his life, and an attractive young (but still far too old for Eli) journalist called Caitlin Spies.
Boy Swallows Universe is a heartbreaking, but triumphant, Australian novel that reveals the true horrors lurking underneath the surface of most suburbs, I suspect. I’m still reeling from the wild ride of the last few chapters and Dalton shines through as a simply brilliant storyteller. If you are in the middle of reading this book and are perhaps thinking that there is a bit too much description and it jumps around a bit too much, just wait til the end where all will be revealed.
Author: Trent Dalton
Published: June 18th 2018 by HarperCollins Publishers Australia
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!
“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.”
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!
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…
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
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.
Two women, two great betrayals, one path to redemption. A punchy, powerful and page-turning novel about the redemptive power of great literature, from industry insider, John Purcell.
Amy Winston is a hard-drinking, bed-hopping, hot-shot young book editor on a downward spiral. Having made her name and fortune by turning an average thriller writer into a Lee Child, Amy is given the unenviable task of steering literary great Helen Owen back to publication.
When Amy knocks on the door of their beautiful townhouse in north-west London, Helen and her husband, the novelist Malcolm Taylor, are conducting a silent war of attrition. The townhouse was paid for with the enormous seven-figure advance Helen was given for the novel she wrote to end fifty years of making ends meet on critical acclaim alone. The novel Malcolm thinks unworthy of her. The novel Helen has yet to deliver. The novel Amy has come to collect.
Amy has never faced a challenge like this one. Helen and Malcolm are brilliant, complicated writers who unsettle Amy into asking questions of herself – questions about what she values, her principles, whether she has integrity, whether she is authentic. Before she knows it, answering these questions becomes a matter of life or death.
From ultimate book industry insider, John Purcell, comes a literary page-turner, a ferocious and fast-paced novel that cuts to the core of what it means to balance ambition and integrity, and the redemptive power of great literature.
“Two women, two great betrayals, one path to redemption.”
THE GIRL ON THE PAGE by Australian publishing insider, John Purcell, exposes the seedy underbelly of publishing while pondering the meaning of great literature.
Amy Winston is a hard working and hard partying young editor who made her career launch off the ground by taking an average thriller writer and turning him into a household name. She is given the unenviable task of doing the same for literary giant, Helen Owen.
Helen and her husband, Malcolm Taylor, have been at odds with each other ever since Helen undertook the huge signing bonus to write the novel Amy has been told to edit into the commercial success of the year and moved them out of the tiny flat they had shared and written literary fiction in, even sharing an office, for more than 50 years.
When Amy walks into this complicated situation and agrees to stay at Helen and Malcolm’s flat until the novel is completed she bites off far more than she bargained for and is left to question her career, her principles, and what is the meaning of great literature.
THE GIRL ON THE PAGE was far more deep and meaningful than I expected from all of the buzz surrounding it. I’ve seen/heard a lot of comparisons to the television series “YOUNGER” and while they are similar in how they take us behind the scenes of the publishing industry, I don’t think that comparison really does “THE GIRL ON THE PAGE” justice. There were plenty of gritty sex scenes and a fascinating insider’s view of the publishing industry. John Purcell’s industry insider credentials are very strong, as he is the current Director of Books at Booktopia and owned his own bookshop for many years. I particularly loved the inside joke of the title of both this novel and the fictional “GIRL ON GIRL” novel. It does seem as though every second popular book at the moment has either “girl” or “woman” in the title!
“THE GIRL ON THE PAGE” is far more gritty, fast-paced, and shocking than “YOUNGER”. It will certainly cause you to ask yourself what does great literature mean to you? I particularly loved the final pages where Malcolm discusses what great literature means to him, and couldn’t agree more with his use of Jane Austen’s “EMMA” as an example of great literature.
About the Author
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing.
Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines.
Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection.
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.
“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!
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.
The most enchanting debut novel of 2018, this is an irresistible, deeply moving and romantic story of a young girl, daughter of an abusive father, who has to learn the hard way that she can break the patterns of the past, live on her own terms and find her own strength.
After her family suffers a tragedy when she is nine years old, Alice Hart is forced to leave her idyllic seaside home. She is taken in by her estranged grandmother, June, a flower farmer who raises Alice on the language of Australian native flowers, a way to say the things that are too hard to speak. But Alice also learns that there are secrets within secrets about her past. Under the watchful eye of June and The Flowers, women who run the farm, Alice grows up. But an unexpected betrayal sends her reeling, and she flees to the dramatically beautiful central Australian desert. Alice thinks she has found solace, until she falls in love with Dylan, a charismatic and ultimately dangerous man.
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is a story about stories: those we inherit, those we select to define us, and those we decide to hide. It is a novel about the secrets we keep and how they haunt us, and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive. Spanning twenty years, set between the lush sugar cane fields by the sea, a native Australian flower farm, and a celestial crater in the central desert, Alice must go on a journey to discover that the most powerful story she will ever possess is her own.
THE LOST FLOWERS OF ALICE HART is a haunting tale of family secrets, betrayal, and how the stories of the past impact the future.
Alice Hart grows up with an abusive father and downtrodden mother who still does her best to protect her daughter and teach her the language of native Australian flowers that she had learned from her mother in law. When tragedy strikes Alice is taken in by her grandmother, June. June is a flower farmer who takes in women doing it tough and caretaker of the language of flowers created by her ancestors and their family history. When Alice takes of to the Australian desert where she discovers that she is doomed to repeat the tragic history of her past unless she is able to come to terms with her own story.
I loved the language of Australian native flowers that Ringland created to tell this story. Each chapter begins with a description of a different native flower and what it means in the language created by Alice’s family. THE LOST FLOWERS OF ALICE HART is a brilliantly crafted debut novel that will definitely appeal to a wide audience.
*Thank you HarperCollins Publishers for sending me a copy to review.
About the Author
HOLLY RINGLAND grew up barefoot and wild in her mother’s tropical garden on the east coast of Australia. Her interest in cultures and stories was sparked by a two-year journey her family took in North America when she was nine years old, living in a camper van and travelling from one national park to another. In her twenties, Holly worked for four years in a remote Indigenous community in the central Australian desert. Moving to England in 2009, Holly obtained her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. Her essays and short fiction have been published in various anthologies and literary journals. She now lives between the UK and Australia. To any question ever asked of Holly about growing up, writing has always been the answer.
New York Times bestselling author Lauren Weisberger returns with a novel starring one of her favorite characters from The Devil Wears Prada—Emily Charlton, first assistant to Miranda Priestly, now a highly successful image consultant who’s just landed the client of a lifetime.
Welcome to Greenwich, CT, where the lawns and the women are perfectly manicured, the Tito’s and sodas are extra strong, and everyone has something to say about the infamous new neighbor.
Let’s be clear: Emily Charlton, Miranda Priestly’s ex-assistant, does not do the suburbs. She’s working in Hollywood as an image consultant to the stars, but recently, Emily’s lost a few clients. She’s hopeless with social media. The new guard is nipping at her heels. She needs a big opportunity, and she needs it now.
Karolina Hartwell is as A-list as they come. She’s the former face of L’Oreal. A mega-supermodel recognized the world over. And now, the gorgeous wife of the newly elected senator from New York, Graham, who also has his eye on the presidency. It’s all very Kennedy-esque, right down to the public philandering and Karolina’s arrest for a DUI—with a Suburban full of other people’s children.
Miriam is the link between them. Until recently she was a partner at one of Manhattan’s most prestigious law firms. But when Miriam moves to Greenwich and takes time off to spend with her children, she never could have predicted that being stay-at-home mom in an uber-wealthy town could have more pitfalls than a stressful legal career.
Emily, Karolina, and Miriam make an unlikely trio, but they desperately need each other. Together, they’ll navigate the social landmines of life in America’s favorite suburb on steroids, revealing the truths—and the lies—that simmer just below the glittering surface. With her signature biting style, Lauren Weisberger offers a dazzling look into another sexy, over-the-top world, where nothing is as it appears
WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS is the perfect book to unwind, relax, and treat yourself to something indulgent.
Emily Charlton, everybody’s favourite assistant from Lauren Weisberger’s bestselling novel and major motion picture THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA is back! Emily has successfully developed her own company working as an image consultant to the stars. She is happily living in LA with her hunky husband, Miles, until she starts to lose her biggest clients to a young social media savvy rival. While Emily takes refuge in the suburbs of Connecticut with her former high-power lawyer turned full time mum friend, Miranda, she can’t help but take on a new client. Karolina Hartwell is a former supermodel in the midst of a nasty divorce with her husband, a newly elected New York senator with presidential aspirations. At first, Emily is bored and slightly horrified by the plastic surgery obsessed Lululemon wearing Connecticut housewives, but life in the suburbs begins to grow on her as the friendship between the three women develops.
WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS is a lighthearted and seriously funny look inside the glitz and glamour of the wealthy Connecticut suburbs filled with on-trend pop culture references. As Emily observed, this world is a lot like THE REAL HOUSEWIVES reality series with a bit less yelling. But, Weisberger successfully includes insightful social commentary on the craziness of this world, the importance of strong and supportive female friendships, and the ways our priorities and confidence in ourselves change as we grow older along with all the fun and action. I loved the guest appearance of the devil in Prada herself, Miranda Priestly, and it was nice to learn that she hasn’t changed a single bit.
Thank you to HarperCollins Publishers Australia for sending me a review copy.
I have a copy of WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS to one lucky Australian reader.
To enter, simply let me know in the comment section your favourite way to indulge yourself while you read.
Competition is open to Australian residents and entries will close July 24th, 2018.