Book Review of Whiskey, Words and a Shovel

WWand a SRupi Kaur, Instagram and a whole bunch of other modern cultural factors have led to a resurgence in a certain kind of poetry. I picked up this collection by R H Sinn in a bookstore on a whim, having opened up a few of the pages and found some of the words spoke to my heart. And some of them do – stories of love, loss and the turbulence of an examined life. You can find some of the better ones attached to this review. You might also enjoy the deep feminism in them – showing that men too can write poems begging for other men to treat women appropriately.Sinn 2.JPG

But there is just such a lot of pain here. Too much for me, making this a dense tome to get through. I’ll appreciate the poems I found that spoke to me, but I don’t think I will delve into any more of his collections.

Sinn 3.JPG


Book Review of Emotional Agility

emotional-agilityI really enjoyed this read by Susan David – and even more so, the feeling of it staying with me through her incredible Twitter posts.

Emotional Agility is all about taking charge of our emotions.  We can’t escape or supress our emotional reactions when life serves us those metaphorical lemons, but we can learn to control what we do with those reactions.  And this is the crux of Susan David’s work – studying the habits of happy people.  And these aren’t people for whom nothing bad has happened.  These were the people who made the metaphorical lemonade.

Although my reading of this was interrupted by hospital trips, I truly loved every minute I spent engaging with it.  First, she starts with the unhelpful narratives we tell ourselves when we encounter hardship and then begins to show how we can ‘unhook’ ourselves from these.  She even talks about the necessity of negative emotions – which are often perfectly normal and natural reactions.  Ignoring these is to our detriment – but so is staying in them.  We need to acknowledge our feelings, question their function (she calls this “what the func?”), question whether this reflects our authentic self and step out if needs be.

The beauty of this message too is compassion.  David begs us to embrace self-compassion and encourages small tweaks in behaviour, proposing that these have the best long-term staying power.  There are fantastic real-life examples throughout and the style and tone is readable and engaging.  She not only focusses on our personal lives, but the latter chapters have great tips for work and parenting.  And it’s perhaps in this final section that the clearest précis of her work is evident:

  • Emotions pass
  • Emotions are not scary and not bigger than you
  • Emotions are teachers that can help you figure out what matters to you

I could not recommend this tremendous book more.

Always Impressed Book Review of Lethal White

I love love love these Cormoran Strike novels that J.K. Rowling writes under the pen-lethal whitename of Robert Galbraith.  They are always cleverly plotted, rich in detail and the dynamic between the two main characters, Strike and Robin Ellacott is full of unspoken tension.  I even love Robert Glenister’s narration of these on audio – well worth a listen.

This book is the fourth in the series, and I maintain these are getting even better as they go.

Book 3 left as at Robin’s wedding, and I wont spoil the outcome of that, this next book picks up directly where the last one left off, and rapidly skips ahead a year.  Strike’s agency has so much business they need to hire more hands.  One day, a disturbed young man comes in claiming a murder cover up.  Shortly after, they discover a connection between this young man and a case.   Intrigued and disturbed, Strike decides they must investigate the young man’s claims.  Robin goes undercover again, once more putting herself in danger.

This novel combines politics, gangsters and complex family secrets.  While I guessed at one key connection, it is in no way predictable.

You’ll love this series whether you enjoy crime novels or are looking to re-indulge in the magic of the Harry Potter series.  Rowling proves once again she has more depth and range than many would imagine.

Book Review of Jasper Fforde’s Early Riser

early riserI found my first Jasper Fforde novel, The Well of Lost Plots in a bargain bin and a bookstore and was intrigued in the alternate world he had created in which books were the ultimate in culture and entertainment.  A world much like inside my own mind I suppose.  The name of this blog is not a coincidence. I fell in love with his incredibly well-realised alternate worlds and the blend of fantasy and literary humour I hadn’t quite experienced in my reading history.  I even like Shades of Grey, one oh his recent novels about a world in which the capacity to see colour determined social status. Apparently I was rare in enjoying this.

Early Riser is another new world, one which imagines humanity as a species that hibernates.  We bulk up in warmer months to last winter hibernation and Winter Consuls train themselves to stay awake in order to protect us from external threats – and internal ones in the form of bad dreams.

Wonky is about to complete his first Winter as a consul, solely because doing so will give him lifelong access to the drug Morphenox, that prevents dreams and assists the sleeper to survive winter.  It has just one nasty side-effect – a small percentage of people on it go mad.

Stranded in a remote location, Wonky stumbles upon a mystery and a conspiracy that involves Morphenox, a supposedly mythical creature known as The Gronk and a dream that any people start to share…

It took me some time to get into this, but once I did I appreciated the cleverness of the plotting as well as the vivid depiction of this new world – once again so close to ours, yet also so alien.  Intriguing and entertaining.

Book Review of The Water Cure

water cureMy favourite read of this year so far is Naomi Alderman’s The Power.  I picked this book up with the idea that it might cover some of the same territory and perhaps reproduce some of the same magic.

It’s style is haunting, dark and compelling. Three young women live on a remote island – we are neither sure where nor when, only that their mother and a male father figure, ‘King’ tell them that the outside world is dangerous – women are treated without respect and the very air itself can cause them harm.  To “strengthen” their hearts and minds, they are subjected to what can only be described as mental and physical tortures.  But the reader can see that these ordeals rather keep them supressed, living both physically and emotionally with so little nourishment.

Once, women used to seek refuge here.  But now, they are alone.  One day, King disappears.  Shortly after that, two men and a boy wash ashore.  What follows is a taut but slow unwinding of relationships and lies – but no real truths.  I am still left wondering many things after closing the final page.

I found this lyrical and spare novel on the Man Booker Longlist – sadly it never made it to the shortlist.  In a sense, I can see why.  This book poses a lot of fascinating questions – enough to garner serious interest.  But without answers, the reader is left wondering as to the exact purpose and message of Sophie Mackintosh.

Book Review of Jane Harper’s The Dry

the dryThis is a reading choice based around the press and discussion around this title – and I have to admit, it’s quite a good story and wonderful to read a mystery so quintessentially Australian.

Aaron Falk is a Federal Investigator who follows the money – that’s his kind of policing.  But when he discovers that his childhood friend in the rural community of Kiewarra has killed his family before turning the gun on himself, Falk not only runs back to the town he never thought to revisit, but is drawn into the investigation.  While most of the town has written Luke Hadler off as a killer, there are tiny details about the crime scene that make just one cop doubt the perpetrator could have been so intimately connected to the family.  Falk cannot leave if there is even a chance of saving his friend’s reputation.

But staying in town isn’t easy either – Falk left under a cloud of suspicion about the disappearance of a young girl 20 years ago.  So while he works to exonerate Luke, he also has to delve back into the past, and confront things he has avoided for so many years.

It’s neatly done and engaging, not the book of the year, but worthy of turning Harper into a success.

Book Review of Theodore Boone

theodore booneTheodore Boone is a budding lawyer – hard to be anything else when his parents are partners in a law firm. Theo has grown up surrounded by the law, and is a welcome guest in the chambers of many judges in the local courthouse. He also gives free advice to his peers – which is what sparks the action of this light-weight but entertaining novel.

Theo is avidly following an exciting local mixer case playing out in his favourite judge’s courtroom, when he unexpectedly gets some crucial evidence from a source unwilling to be revealed. But without revealing that source, the information won’t be admissible. And Theo’s not sure he can let a murderer go free…

Just precocious enough to be impressive without painful, Grisham walks that fine line here in creating an eighth-grade Wunderkind, who still in the end recognises he can’t manage it all and must bring in adults at some point.

I read the entire book whilst holed up waiting for a small surgery. It was the perfect mix of simple but engaging to pass the time and keep that mind focused where I wanted it. Likely for younger readers and while I don’t read a lot of John Grisham, no doubt for his fans as well.  And the start of a whole series as well that might hook him a new audience.