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
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.”
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!
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
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.
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.
This riveting psychological suspense debut by Alex Dahl asks the question, “how far would you go to hold on to what you have?”
Cecilia Wilborg has it all–a loving husband, two beautiful daughters, and a gorgeous home in an affluent Norwegian suburb. And she works hard to keep it all together. Too hard…
There is no room for mistakes in her life. Even taking home a little boy whose parents forgot to pick him up at the pool can put a crimp in Cecilia’s carefully planned schedule. Especially when she arrives at the address she was given
and finds an empty, abandoned house…
There’s nothing for Cecilia to do but to take the boy home with her, never realizing that soon his quiet presence and knowing eyes will trigger unwelcome memories from her past–and unravel her meticulously crafted life…
“What would you do for the perfect life? Would you lie? Cheat? Or…kill?”
THE BOY AT THE DOOR by debut author Alex Dahl is full of atmospheric Nordic suspense that will keep you guessing until the very last page.
Cecilia Wilborg has the perfect life with her handsome husband and two gorgeous daughters in the picturesque Norwegian town of Sandefjord. When the tiny and abandoned 8 year old Tobias needs a place to stay Cecilia’s perfect life slowly begins to unravel before her very eyes.
THE BOY AT THE DOOR is a brilliantly twisty and turny debut from half-American, half-Norwegian Dahl. There were a couple of times that I did need to suspend disbelief, such as the explanation for how Tobias came to stay in the Wilborg home for such an extended period, but once I decided to go with it I was too caught up with the mystery and suspense to worry about it.
I loved the first person narrative style, particularly from Cecilia’s perspective. She really did begin the novel as the perfect rich bitchy Mummy type and brilliantly descended further into madness as the novel progressed. I particularly loved the scene where she threw a champagne bottle at some of her frenemies!
A delightfully suspenseful debut and I’ll be looking forward to reading more from Alex Dahl.
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a review copy.
About the Author
Half American, half Norwegian, Alex Dahl was born in Oslo. She graduated with a BA in Russian and German Linguistics with International studies and went on to complete an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, followed by an MSc in Business Management at Bath University. Alex has published short stories in the UK and the US as well as a novel, Before I Leave You, in Norway in 2013. Alexandra is a serious Francophile and currently lives between London and Sandefjord.
Sandefjord is the setting of Alex’s new novel, The Boy at the Door, a brilliant psychological thriller which has already attracted worldwide interest and book deals in UK, USA, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Czech Republic and Sweden.
From the author of The Fifth Letter comes a controversial and darkly comic story about the frustrations of being a childless woman in the modern baby-obsessed world… .
Poppy’s world has been tipped sideways: the husband who never wanted children has betrayed her with her broody best friend.
At least Annalise is on her side. Her new friend is determined to celebrate their freedom from kids, so together they create a Facebook group to meet up with like-minded women, and perhaps vent just an little about smug mummies’ privileges at work.
Meanwhile, their colleague Frankie would love a night out, away from her darlings – she’s not had one this decade and she’s heartily sick of being judged by women at the office as well as stay-at-home mums.
Then Poppy and Annalise’s group takes on a life of its own and frustrated members start confronting mums like Frankie in the real world. Cafés become battlegrounds, playgrounds become war zones and offices have never been so divided.
A rivalry that was once harmless fun is spiraling out of control.
Because one of their members is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And she has an agenda of her own . . .
THOSE OTHER WOMEN is a funny read that explores the complexities of female friendships and rivalries.
I think any woman will find themselves nodding along to this novel at some points, but I hope they will also gain a clearer understanding of the other side.
Poppy’s husband has left her for her best friend. To add insult to injury they are having a baby together when Poppy had thought they were both happy to remain childless. She teams up with her single and child-free work friend, Annalise, to complain about how easy they think it is for mums. Their colleague, Frankie, always seems to be able to get out of work whenever she likes and there is even a local mums group on Facebook that won’t let single women join. Poppy and Annalise start their own Facebook group for local single women, but things quickly move from companionship and the occasional vent to real-life confrontations and it becomes obvious that somebody in Poppy and Annalise’s group isn’t who she says she is.
THOSE OTHER WOMEN explores the the ways that women can so often be so harsh and judgmental towards themselves, and each other, and the ways that social media can often make these situations so much worse than they need to be.
As a childless woman in my 30s I have definitely felt very uncomfortable about that and been excluded by some women, and I would say I’ve probably unintentionally done the same to some women with kids myself. Like Moriarty demonstrates by the end of the novel, both groups have their own challenges and some bits about our lives that are also pretty fantastic. We really should be more open minded about other people’s life choices and talk to each other in person, rather than letting things fester and get blown out of proportion on social media.
I really love the research bydanah boyd who explores how young people use social media for anybody who is interested in doing further reading about the methods and psychology of bullying via social media. It can often be far more insidious and hurtful than real-life bullying and danah’s research would be incredibly insightful for parents of teenagers so they can have a clearer understanding of some of the warning signs to look out for.
About the Author
Nicola lives in Sydney’s north west with her husband and two small (but remarkably strong willed) daughters. In between various career changes, becoming a mum and studying at Macquarie University, she began to write. Now, she can’t seem to stop.
Her writing was once referred to as ‘inept’ by The Melbourne Age. Luckily on that same day the Brisbane Courier Mail called her work ‘accomplished, edgy and real.’ So she stopped crying into her Weetbix, picked up a pen and continued to write. She has been fueled by a desire to prove The Age wrong ever since.
These days, she writes everything from novels to football stadium announcements to VW radio ad scripts and Home Loan EDMs to the occasional Mamamia article and the odd Real Estate advert.
Her first two novels, Free-Falling and Paper Chains were published by Random House Australia in 2012 and 2013. Free-Falling was translated into Dutch and German and was awarded the title of ‘Best Australian Debut’ from Chicklit Club. Paper Chains was later picked up for publishing in the U.S. by HarperCollins and will be released there in 2019.
Her romance novella Captivation was released both as an e-book and in print as part of a collection of romance stories titled, All My Love. She has since concluded that romance writing is not her thing. She also wrote two travel themed short stories for the U.K. Sunlounger anthologies, which were Amazon bestsellers.
While completing a BA with a major in writing at Macquarie University, she was awarded the Fred Rush Convocation prize for creative writing / literary criticism in Australian literature. This achievement made her glow with pride and happily took some of the sting out of The Age’s aforementioned criticism.
In 2017, Nicola released her third novel, The Fifth Letter. Published by HarperCollins in both Australia and the U.S. and by Penguin in the U.K, it was a top ten best seller in Australia and just snuck onto the USA Today Best seller list! It was translated into German, Dutch and Hungarian. In exciting news, film rights for The Fifth Letter were also optioned by Universal Cable Productions.
Nicola’s latest novel, Those Other Women was released in Australia, the US and the UK in 2018 and was an Amazon best seller. Marian Keyes had this to say about Those Other Women, ‘I devoured it, loved it and totally escaped into it … Fun and topical.’
She has four older sisters and one older brother and she lives in constant fear of being directly compared to her two wildly successful and extraordinarily talented author sisters, Liane Moriartyand Jaclyn Moriarty. Unless of course, the comparison is something kind, perhaps along the lines of, “Liane, Jaci and Nicola are all wonderful writers. I love all of their books equally.”
Other things of note are Nicola’s lack of fine motor skills, demonstrated by her inability to thread keys onto key-rings, tie balloons, braid hair and apply eyeliner. If you have taken the time to read this far, she would very much like to send you a Freddo Frog to show her appreciation. But she probably won’t follow through, because she’ll most likely eat all the Freddo Frogs before she gets the chance to post them. Sorry, she does mean well.