Review: The Night Tiger

In depth ★★★★½ The Night Tiger is a sprawling tale of superstition, dedication, love and balance set in 1930s Malaysia. Drawing on traditional culture and folklore, the story has a thrill of magical realism mixed in with a series of gruesome deaths and an urgent quest to return a severed finger. Readers should note this…

Review: The Familiars

In brief ★★★★ Halls’ debut is a thrilling, nuanced exploration of power, gender and defiance, deftly told. Drawing on true historical lives (fictionalised), she has woven a gripping account of the Pendle witch trials with vivid detail and imagination. Readers should note trigger warnings for miscarriage. 1612: Fleetwood Shuttleworth, aged seventeen and mistress of Gawthorpe…

Review: The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers

In brief ★★★★ The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers is a sweeping tale of love, ballet and class set against Petrograd (St Petersburg) from 1914-1917. As Turner’s debut, it shines with life and passion, and I stayed up way too late to devour it in one sitting. Valentina Yershova’s career in the Imperial Russian…

Review: Louis and Louise

In brief Louis and Louise is a brilliant concept well executed, probing the boundaries of gendered experience and drawing broad conclusions about the course of life. It is also a cracking tale, showing sophistication of both ideas and writing, while dealing with complex social issues. A child is born in 1960s Maine to Irving and…

Review: Once Upon a River

In brief ★★★★½ There’s something wonderful about falling into the hands of a master storyteller, and getting swept away somewhere new. Once Upon a River gave me just that experience, full of all my favourite story elements – magical realism, a gothic vibe, intriguing characters and a historical setting. Swoon. When a young girl is…

Preview: Louis & Louise

I was lucky enough to win this copy of Louis & Louise from Hachette and Books on the Rail, and am so excited to tell you all about it. The premise has echoes of Orlando and Auster’s 4321 (which still languishes, unfinished, on my shelf), by establishing two realities – one where Peggy and Irving…

Review: Unsheltered

In brief ★★★½ In Unsheltered, Kingsolver has written an overtly didactic book – one that asks readers to hold a mirror up to their values, attitudes and lives. She questions all crumbling assumptions about 21st century life (including that we can continue to consume endlessly without consequence), then excoriatingly parallels those ‘head in the sand’…

Book stacks: 5 star reads 2018

I can’t believe how quickly this year has disappeared, but, looking back, I’ve been lucky enough to fall into some incredible stories. Here’s a quick summary of the ten 5-star reads I adored this year (most have more detailed reviews linked in the title). The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley – I found this…

Review: Bridge of Clay

In brief ★★★★½ Confession: I read The Book Thief when it first came out, and haven’t re-read it or seen the movie. So when I picked up Bridge of Clay, I felt like I was coming to it fresh. Thirteen years in the making, Zusak’s latest novel is an Australian tour-de-force with so much heart…

Review: Beautiful Revolutionary

In brief ★★★★ In Beautiful Revolutionary (published in time for the 40th anniversary of Jonestown) Woollett unleashes her forensic, compassionate intellect on those caught up in Jim Jones’ world. I was only vaguely familiar with the Peoples Temple’s history prior to reading Woollett’s short story collection, The Love of a Bad Man, which imagines the…