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Winter - Ali Smith This second volume in Smith’s quartet picks up where Autumn left off. As with Winter, everything is stripped bare and the characters are forced to face up to previous life choices & their reasons for those choices. It is as if there is nowhere to hide and past fears and regrets intrude in their consciousness in unexpected ways.

Smith’s writing still has its lyrical quality and conveys not just the plot but the emotional drama. Once again, I look forward to the next instalment.

Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold

Mythos: A Retelling of the Myths of Ancient Greece - Stephen Fry I love Greek mythology so anything half way decent will easily get 4 stars from me. I love the way Fry tells the myths from the viewpoint of our modern sensibility. As a result he is able to underscore how far we have come and also how little has changed in terms of our sense of morality and justice.

The History of Bees

The History of Bees - Maja Lunde I enjoyed this novel, even though I could see how the plot was going to develop from very early in the story. The two male characters nearly lose everything because of their inability to see what is right before their eyes, but they do come good in the end. That seems to be one of a number of themes, nearly losing everything and coming good in the end, not just in relation to relationships, but in relation to nature, agriculture, and of course bees. And also resilience, that is the resilience of the natural world. I think another one is actually two perverse sides of the one coin: our ability to stuff up nature and our apparent omnipotence to make this right.

Each of the stories reaches its own conclusion, while leading onto the next timeline, the link between them all being the construction of beehives. But the distinctive character of the timeline in the future is the letting go of bee husbandry and letting them just be bees. And maybe this is the most powerful message of all, the healing power of being able to let something or another being be its true self without trying to bend it to our will or purpose so that it can flourish.

I have to concede that the two male characters were probably the most infuriating and the least attractive characters. But I think they travelled the furthest in terms of their personal development and their familial relationships. And I still cared about what happened to them and their families.

As with most novels about animals, or having animals as a central theme, they usually have a lot to say about human nature. And this novel isn't any exception, having something to say about how humans as a species may deal with the consequences of climate change, or any widespread change for that matter.


Autumn - Ali Smith I really enjoyed this book. It took a few passages to get into Smith's style, but once I got it I was hooked. It took me no time at all to read it.

The writing had a rhythm to it at times, almost like it was poetry. This often helped me figure out who was the subject of the particular passage. I really liked the different perspectives, especially the coming together of the perspectives of the mother and daughter.

I also liked the voice it gave to those outside the political process as opposed to those who report on the political process. This story illustrated how this current era of 'identity politics' just doesn't resonate with the lived experience of many in society. Smith underscored how this style of political discourse, as well as the politics practiced by those within the institutions of parliament really serves to alienate those who they pledge to represent and it risks becoming politics and policies by whoever has the best punchline rather than whoever has the best evidence. I think also the playfulness of Smith's writing helped to illustrate this as well and how the serious business of politics is being undone by this process.

I have Winter and am waiting for Spring and Summer to be released so I am looking forward to where Smith is going take me.

Fatal Storm: The 54th Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race

Fatal Storm: The 54th Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race - Rob Mundle This book is as good as any suspense/thriller novel I have read. Even though I don’t know much about sailing I have worked in pre/hospital care so I have some idea about rescues, effects of injuries. How there weren’t more fatalities is beyond me, the bravery of the competitors was astonishing & the skill, composure & also bravery of the rescuers left me speechless.

I come from Sydney, and this race is a big part of Christmas in Sydney, just as it is in Hobart, so this meant it had another means of interesting me.

Mundle’s writing is pretty good. You are immersed in the events. I was exhausted at times reading this book. But that is an indication of the quality of the writing. All up a good read.

Without America: Australia in the New Asia

Without America: Australia in the New Asia - Hugh White Very thought provoking essay.

City of Crows

City of Crows - Chris Womersley This is a really interesting book. I like the weaving of occult references into the story. Contained in them is always the hint that it is the actions of the characters that have steered their outcome, and their belief in dark magic driving events is simply their own attribution of a causal relationship.

A recurring theme seems to be the lengths that people will go to in order to prosper, to satisfy their desires or to protect their loved ones. Also whether a lofty ideal or aim justifies evil acts. Another theme is how those amongst us who are powerless, will go about trying to reclaim some of their power and agency, and the impacts on those around us.

I did enjoy the historical backdrop to all this, the thrown of Louis XIV wasn't known for its thrift, economy or frugality. It was as if Louis' lust was a contagion that spread to some parts of the city and some of its inhabitants.

On the crows of the title, I understand the double-edged symbolism of these birds, essentially, their meaning for us depends on what characteristics we acribe to them, rather than their true nature. As an aside, I have a family of Australian magpies who frequent my garden. As much as I love them, I haven't seen any apparent displays of overt affection amongst them. I did witness one between two crows. After one had lost in a scrap with the magpies, it retreated to where its mate was perched. Its mate then proceeded to preen it and the vanquished crow appeared to lean into its mate accepting its preen and appearing to be comforted by it.

But then again, that could just be me imposing my own meaning on the situation. And that seemed to be something that occurred frequently throughout this story. Womersley teases and tempts you down a path of what is magic, what is real, who is good and who isn't, only to challenge that path you are on right at the very end.

I did enjoy this book very much. It's not perfect, but the twist at the end redeemed it and got me thinking about all of the above, which all good books do. But be warned, this is no feel-good story.

Forces of Nature

Forces of Nature - Brian Cox, Andrew Cohen Fantastic book. I love the way Prof Cox communicates. It's just what science needs at the moment.


HHhH - Laurent Binet, Sam Taylor Mullens I really enjoyed this book. What I think liked most of all was the way in which Binet told history. It allowed the reader to get a more fuller understanding of what evidence is available on which the author is relying, and what is their own invention generate a compelling narrative. And it works. The lead up to the assassination attempt and the aftermath was some of the best suspense writing I have read.

Moral Panic 101: Equality, Acceptance and the Safe Schools Scandal

Moral Panic 101: Equality, Acceptance and the Safe Schools Scandal - Benjamin Law Very interesting read post the same sex marriage survey.

Stella and Margie

Stella and Margie - Glenna Thomson I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. It’s a lovely piece of domestic drama. At its heart is the developing friendship between Stella and Margie. But it is about much more than that.

It is also the story of families and how they nurture and hold us but also how they exclude and damage us. Other enduring themes are domestic violence, ageing and grief.

This story isn’t a fast moving thriller. It’s a lovely gentle drama which signposts the healing that is possible in female friendships.

Game of Mates: How Favours Bleed the Nation

Game of Mates: How Favours Bleed the Nation - Cameron Murray This book is both compelling and depressing and will probably make most readers angry. Furthermore, it should be mandatory reading for everyone. The only downside is that some of the phrasing was a bit clumsy and there were quite a few typos. I initially wondered where their editor was, and then I realised, they probably didn't have one. The book doesn't appear to have been published by a publishing house, but rather by the authors themselves. I suspect that they probably had trouble finding a publisher for it so self-published it. For this reason, I am inclined to forgive them their clumsy phrasing and typos and give it full marks.

Force of Nature

Force of Nature - Jane Harper Actual score 2.5.

I have been thinking about this for a while before I wrote a review because I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t being overly critical, but I have to say I was a tad disappointed with this book.

It is hard not to make comparisons with The Dry, given it was the second in the series. But I didn’t get the same sense of Falk as a character from this book. It was easy to read, but it lacked the punch of The Dry. Falk wasn’t as in the story as much in this one, so I was looking for a bit more, like what exactly was it that the Bailey’s had done, or hadn’t done? What was in the accounts that was so crucial. I know Harper may have been holding something back for the next instalment, but I think she held too much back so it came off a bit bland. I think the plot surrounding the disappearance & the interpersonal stuff was spot on, but maybe condense it a bit more so it had more of a punch while leaving room for a bit more of a teaser.

As a result I was starting to notice things like how did Falk have a copy of Alice’s statements including transactions from the day she went missing? And why wasn’t Falk asked when he last saw her by the searching police? I would never have noticed these things if this story had the tautness of The Dry.

An Unremarkable Body

An Unremarkable Body - Elisa Lodato I really enjoyed this book; I t’s a gentle, intelligent story. It follows the lives of one woman, her ‘best friend’ and her family. While it isn’t a traditional thriller, it was a well paced story where the gradual unfolding enticed me to turn each page. And, unlike most thrillers, the focus isn’t on who did it. The embedding of the story within the phrases of an autopsy report was a clever device and served as a reminder that not only was the story a search for what happened, but why it happened. The exploration of this means the reader is given a glimpse into the world of its characters. None of the characters are perfect, they are all flawed and do daft things at different times. They also have their share of disappointments and inability or refusal to see their lives honestly at different time. However, this only increased my attachment to them, made them more real to me and kept me invested in the story.

Australian Property Law: Cases And Materials

Australian Property Law: Cases And Materials - Adrian J. Bradbrook Ho hum, another textbook.

Australian Real Property Law

Australian Real Property Law - Adrian J. Bradbrook It’s a text book. Thank goodness I’ve finished.