Best Reads of 2022

We all need a little miracle now and then. Tiny Uncertain Miracles

I still shake my head in disbelief that this actually happened. The Widow of Walcha

I shake my head…society has let down so many people. I Am A Killer What Makes A Murderer

Those who have discovered or have yet to discover their passion will love this. This is Not a Book About Benedict Cumberbatch

And one for the adults and the children to share. What to Say

Review: Bryce Courtenay: Storyteller – Christine Courtenay

Bryce Courtenay: Storyteller

Christine Courtenay

Penguin

Viking

ISBN: 9780143778851

Description:
Bryce Courtenay was a born storyteller. The success of his extraordinary debut The Power of One made publishing history, and in the years that followed Bryce continued to entertain and inspire thousands of devoted readers around the world with his sweeping epics and larger-than-life characters who embody the strength and triumph of the human condition.
What kind of man did it take to conjure these tales? What kind of life?


When Christine Courtenay began penning her own memoir during lockdown, she found herself increasingly drawn to the remarkable story of her late husband’s life and reflecting upon his astonishing literary legacy. From his humble beginnings in Africa to his dazzling success in advertising and as a bestselling author, Bryce’s extraordinary, rags-to-riches life story reads like one of his epic novels. It was a life marked by all the big themes – overcoming adversity, love, loss, hard-won success, fame and fortune, and holding tight to a dream.


In this telling Christine uncovers the events that shaped the man behind the stories – a man complex, driven and unfailingly positive, who never lost sight of his childhood dream to be a writer. Candid, intimate and insightful, Bryce Courtenay: Storyteller is a fascinating, loving tribute to the life and work of Australia’s most beloved and enigmatic writer. 

My View:

Bryce Courtenay was an extraordinary story teller, both in his writing and in his “in person ” interviews. I, like many, read and were moved by The Power of One. Over the years I have read many of Courtenay’s books, perhaps my verry favourite being Silvery Moon – inspiring, uplifting and personal. I could feel the charisma of Bryce Courtenay when reading Silvery Moon.

Reading “Storyteller” I was both filled with sadness and with optimism. Bryce Courtenay had the most horrendous start to life, echoes of his early years ripple through his books, look closely, listen. In the words of Bryce Courtenay “…you must understand, I don’t wany you or anyone to feel sorry for me. Sure my childhood was tough, but it made me the person I am. If my early life had been easy, I am certain I would not have set the bar for my self so high” p47 ( in conversation with Christine) Such wonderful messages of hope are contained in this book.

Bryce Courtenay was a writer, a storyteller. I salute you.

Review: Tiny Uncertain Miracles – Michelle Johnston

Tiny Uncertain Miracles: the most uplifting gift of a novel you’ll read this Christmas 2022

Michelle Johnston

4th Estate AU

Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9781460762714

RRP $32.99

Description:

Miracles are notoriously unreliable. But sometimes, just when they’re needed, they turn up – although not always in the form that we expect…

‘A novel luminous with love and hope that will change the way you see the world.’ Kathryn Heyman

Awkward, hapless Marick is still struggling with the loss of his wife, his child and his faith when he is reluctantly thrust into the position of chaplain at a large public hospital. Shortly after arriving, he meets Hugo, a hospital scientist and a man almost as lost as Marick himself, who is working in a forgotten lab, deep in the subterranean realms of the hospital. Hugo is convinced that the bacteria he uses for protein production have – unbelievably – begun to produce gold. Is it alchemy, evolution, a hoax or even … possibly … a miracle?

In the meantime, Christmas is approaching, the number of homeless outside the hospital is increasing, the Director of Operational Services is pressing Marick about his weekly KPIs, you can’t buy chocolate in the hospital shop anymore, and Marick keeps waking with nightmares at 4 am every night. If ever a miracle was needed, it’s now.

A tender, sweet, sad, gritty, slyly funny and unexpectedly uplifting novel about family, friendship, faith, love – and alchemy – Tiny Uncertain Miracles is a hopeful and luminous gift to all readers.

PRAISE FOR TINY UNCERTAIN MIRACLES

‘Johnston captures the brutal reality of life with a lyricism and gentleness that will touch many. Readers of Elizabeth Strout, Mitch Albom and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine will find similarities and enjoyment in Tiny Uncertain Miracles.’ Books+Publishing

‘Johnston articulates the biggest questions and the smallest human moments with rare beauty and precision. A stunning act of imagination and storytelling’ – Robert Lukins, Loveland

‘Emotionally rich, profoundly absorbing and entrancingly unique, this is a book you won’t be able to put down. Johnston’s sentences dance, her wit sparkles and her power arises from her authority and audacity. Intellectually rigorous and achingly poignant; Tiny Uncertain Miracles is a virtuoso performance by a writer at the height of her powers. I have not read anything as satisfying and stimulating for a very long time.’ Alice Nelson, The Children’s House

Tiny Uncertain Miracles is witty, profound and a joy to read. Johnston posits that believing in something is better than nothing, and that redemption can come from the least likely places. Invisible gods, alchemy, medical science – all have their place but none tops the marvel of people, in their own weird ways and often despite themselves, being pretty bloody marvellous’ – Paul Dalgarno, A Country of Eternal Light

‘Original, enchanting and ultimately hopeful – Tiny Uncertain Miracles is a dazzling tale that will get under your skin and into your heart, in the best way possible’ – Ewa Ramsey, The Morbid

My View:

Let me start with the cover – I love this cover, the tiny gold dots, it is perfect for this read, perfect.

This is a tender, sublime, character driven story, ultimately of hope. Until I read this I have never really considered what the “first responders”, our ambulance officers, fireman. women, priests, chaplains, emergency room doctors and nurses “do” with all the pain, grief and despair that encounter on a day to day basis. It must be heavy, it must be hard. Thank you all for what you selflessly do for humanity.

The narrative – is a slow and deliberate expose of the lives of a few who inhabit the space of the hospital – whether they be the cleaner, the volunteers in the kiosk, the food attendants, the chaplain, the homeless who seek shelter in the hospital grounds, the medical and allied staff and last but not least, the patients and their families. Johnston gently, subtly reveals their inner thinking’s, their personalities, their aspirations and sometimes their failures. The characters are all very credible.

The ending is one of hope and cant we all use a little of that these days?

Read, enjoy, reflect.

PS Did the author make a cameo appearance in this read? If you have read this book let me know if you considered that possibility?

Review: Wake – Shelley Burr

Wake

Shelley Burr

Hachette Australia

ISBN:9780733647826

Description:

EVERYBODY THINKS THEY KNOW MINA McCREERY.
EVERYONE HAS A THEORY ON WHAT HAPPENED TO HER SISTER.
NOW IT’S TIME TO FIND OUT THE TRUTH…

Mina McCreery’s sister Evelyn disappeared nineteen years ago. Her life has been defined by the intense public interest in the case. Now an anxious and reclusive adult, she lives alone on her family’s destocked sheep farm.

When Lane, a private investigator, approaches her with an offer to reinvestigate the case, she rejects him. The attention has had nothing but negative consequences for her and her family, and never brought them closer to an answer.

Lane wins her trust when his unconventional methods show promise, but he has his own motivations for wanting to solve the case, and his obsession with the answer will ultimately risk both their lives.

Superbly written, taut and compassionate, Wake looks at what can happen when people’s private tragedies become public property, and the ripples of trauma that follow violent crimes. Wake won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2019

My View:

Without doubt THE BEST crime fiction read of the year, in fact I could say the best I’ve read in may years!!! I don’t think I need to say anymore, do your self a favour, reignite your thirst for books, read this.

5 STARS *****

Review: Double Lives – Kate Mc Caffrey

Double Lives

Kate McCaffrey

Echo Publishing

ISBN: 9781760687564

RRP $29.99

Description:

This established WA-based writer examines notions of truth, gender, identity and acceptance in a compelling novel about a cold-case podcast.

Truth is like a lens we apply to everything we see, it is malleable and transformative, we can bend it, mould it, shape it, vanish it. We do this to present the versions of ourselves we want the world to see, and to hide the versions we can’t bear to reveal.

Newly returned to Western Australia, journalist Amy Rhinehart pitches a crime podcast to increase her radio station’s ratings. Her idea: to use the listeners of the show as its co-creators, with live-time calls and suggestion boards. The case: Jonah Scott, charged and imprisoned for life for the murder of his girlfriend, transgender woman Casey Williams. Jonah went to great lengths to hide the body – but when arrested, confessed immediately and pleaded guilty, negating the need for a trial. Amy believes there is something darker at the heart of this case and sets about finding the truth, investigating a world of drugs, sex, gender identity and religious cults.

Threaded through the main narrative, the podcast transcripts represent a story-within-a-story, exploring the characters of Jonah and Casey and the relationship between them, interwoven with Amy’s investigation into the cult run by Jonah’s family and its potential involvement in Casey’s murder.

My View:

A captivating read. I really enjoyed this style of writing – the mix of “script/podcast” style of narration, of interviews, the investigative aspects, and the thought provoking, cotemporary issues surrounding gender and identity that are sensitively woven into the mystery.

This read also has a great sense of place. I can easily picture the the fruit picking regions, the cult, the farms, the rural isolated towns, the city radio stations and the competitive nature of the presenters time slots, it all has an authentic feel.

McCaffrey seamlessly weaves in many thought provoking movements in what is presented as an investigation into a murder, it is a search for the why not the who (or is it?), as we already have a self confessed, perpetrator in prison for the crime (to me this has a feel of a docu/mockumentary), I like this style. The protagonist is determined to discover the “truth”, and again we are drawn into a discussion about truth and how it presented, how we want to read it… how our opinions can be swayed.

I applaud the author, she does not shy away from presenting an ending that will be uncomfortable and maybe unexpected (it was for me) , an ending that doesnt neatly and mundanely tie the narration up into what we presume is going to be the outcome (no spoilers here) … it is too easy to give the reader an expected conclusion.

A great topical and contemporary read with more than a few surprises.

Review: The Girl in the Green Dress -Dr Jeni Haynes and Dr George Blair – West

The Girl in the Green Dress

Dr Jeni Haynes & Dr George Blair-West

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733644856

RRP $32.99

Description:

An unforgettable memoir from a woman who refused to be silenced. Jeni Haynes is an inspiration and her bravery and determination to live shows how MPD or DID saved her life. It is a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit.

I didn’t know that you’re only supposed to have one personality. I didn’t realise that having lots of voices in your head was abnormal. But you are protecting yourself. You are protecting your soul, and that’s what I did.’

An intelligent, poised woman, Jeni Haynes sat in court and listened as the man who had abused her from birth, a man who should have been her protector, a man who tortured and terrified her, was jailed for a non-parole period of 33 years. The man was her father.

The abuse that began when Jeni was only a baby is unimaginable to most. It was physically, psychologically and emotionally sadistic and never-ending. The fact she survived may be called a miracle by some – but the reality is, it is testament to the extraordinary strength of Jeni’s mind.

What saved her was the process of dissociation – Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) or Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) – a defence mechanism that saw Jeni create over 2500 separate personalities, or alters, who protected her as best they could from the trauma. This army of alters included four-year-old Symphony, teenage motorcycle-loving Muscles, elegant Linda, forthright Judas and eight-year-old Ricky.

With her army, the support of her psychiatrist Dr George Blair-West, and a police officer’s belief in her, Jeni fought to create a life for herself and bring her father to justice. In a history-making ruling, Jeni’s alters were empowered to give evidence in court. In speaking out, Jeni’s courage would see many understand MPD for the first time.

THE GIRL IN THE GREEN DRESS is an unforgettable memoir from a woman who refused to be silenced. Jeni Haynes is an inspiration and her bravery and determination to live is a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit. This is a unique and profoundly important book as it is not only a story of survival, it also includes incredible insight from Dr George Blair-West, Jeni’s psychiatrist and an expert in DID.

My View:
What an incredible read! Reading with one hand over your eyes…blocking out the horrific parts (dont worry you are given written notice of “triggers ahead”), this book is … amazing! The strength, the resilience, the power that Jeni now has in her life is such a contrast to that she had as a child.

I am calling this the best read of the year; powerful, evocative, sensitively written… a book that sheds the light on Multiple Personality Disorder/Dissociative Identity Disorder – the coping mechanism Jeni employed to protect herself from the atrocities she faced. If you get the opportunity watch this video. Hear Jeni and some of her “alters” speaks. So glad you made it through Jeni.

Review: So You Want to Live Younger Longer? – Dr Norman Swan

So You Want to Live Younger Longer?

Dr Norman Swan

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733648342

RRP $34.99

Description:

The ultimate guide on what you can do at any age to stay young and healthy longer, from Australia’s trusted, straight-talking doctor and broadcaster, Dr Norman Swan, bestselling author of So You Think You Know What’s Good for You?

Many of us dream of staying as young as possible as long as possible whether we’re in our 30s, 40s, 70s or even 80s, and there’s a growing Conga line of products and people offering you just that dream. The dilemma is, which of the pills, mental and physical exercise programs, diets and superfoods actually work? Some of them do help to keep us young, healthy and living longer, others may work when the researchers get the potions right and some are a downright waste of money. So how do you know what and who to trust? That’s the journey that Dr Norman Swan is going to take you on in So You Want to Live Younger Longer?

Deeply researched and written with his trademark wit, common sense and accessibility, Norman brings together what’s known, not known, hopeful but not harmful and harmful and not hopeful, summarised with quick takeaway messages backed up by the science and evidence. No matter what your age, So You Want to Live Younger Longer? gives you the information you need to make your own choices without wasting your time and money or even missing a nice dinner because you might be on a diet that is getting you nowhere.

Norman disentangles our ‘Book of Life’ – the genes we’re born with and what we subject them to later on – and shows that in the search for youth, genes matter much less than you’d think for most of us. In other words, we can overwrite our personal Book of Life and Norman’s book will help you do it.

We can live younger, longer – at any age – we’ve just got to know what to do.

My View:

An excellent, informative, well written, engaging read. So much science based, researched information presented with wit and humour. This is an author I would love to hear speak in person…his ability to connect with the reader/the room is amazing.

A great read.

Review- Marlo – Jay Carmichael

Marlo

Jay Carmichael

Scribe

ISBN: 9781925713695

RRP$24.99

Description:

A novel of two men, love, and aching loneliness.

It’s the 1950s in conservative Australia, and Christopher, a young gay man, moves to ‘the City’ to escape the repressive atmosphere of his tiny hometown. Once there, however, he finds that it is just as censorial and punitive, in its own way.

Then Christopher meets Morgan, an Aboriginal man, and the two fall in love — a love that breathes truth back into Christopher’s stifled life. But the society around them remains rigid and unchanging, and what begins as a refuge for both men inevitably buckles under the intensity of navigating a world that wants them to refuse what they are.

In reviving a time that is still so recent yet so vastly different from now, Jay Carmichael has drawn on archival material, snippets of newspaper articles, and photos to create the claustrophobic environment in which these two men lived and tried to love. Told with Carmichael’s ear for sparse, poetic beauty, Marlo takes us into the heartbreaking landscape of a relationship defined as much by what is said and shared as by what has to remain unsaid, and unlived.

My View:

I have mixed feelings about this book. I guess my biggest issue was inconsistency. Some of the writing is absolutely beautiful. But somewhere along the way it got a little lost, disjointed ( I got lost) the narrative was evocative, reads like a creative memoir – a “diary” of a time in the recent past that is largely missing from our (Australian) history books and for that point alone is worth reading.

Arelhekenhe Angkentye Women’s Talk

Arelhekenhe Angkentye – Women’s Talk, Second Edition

Poems of Lyapirtneme from Arrernte Women in Central Australia

Running Water Community Press

Distributed by NewSouth Books

ISBN:978-0-6480629-5-0

Lyapirtneme is an Arrernte word that means growing back, returning. It’s like if a bushfire went through the land, and all the trees burnt down, and the roots underground are still alive. When the rain comes you see little shoots growing out of the bottom of the tree, growing back again.’ – Therese Perrurle Ryder, Arrernte Elder. 

 “Lyapirtneme is an Arrernte word that means growing back, returning. It’s like if a bushfire went through the land, and all the trees burnt down, and the roots underground are still alive. When the rain comes you see little shoots growing out of the bottom of the tree, growing back again.” – Therese Perrurle Ryder, Arrernte Elder

Poems are written in both Arrernte and English. Includes an extensive Arrernte glossary

Features poems written by over twenty Arrernte women around the Arrernte concept of Lyapirtneme

In February and May 2019, a group of over twenty Aboriginal women from Central Australia wrote the poems in this book. The women are Central or Eastern Arrernte, or have strong connections to the Arrernte community. Some would describe themselves as writers but most would not. Most of the women are visual artists, and engaged in the daily work of maintaining the cultural life of Arrernte people and passing it on to the next generations.

These poems were developed in the yearly workshops organised as part of the NT Writers Festival. There is never an expectation that the poetry produced by these workshops will be published, however the resulting collection was so strong that production costs for a book were crowd funded in a matter of weeks.

There is healing in this poetry. 

These are our words. 

From our country. 

Our lands. Our spirits.

For all the troubles we face every day, we are a passionate people.

When we hear these poems, we know, we are lovers of life.

Aside from the very appealing cover this book of words and poems has some very evocative and emotional works that I am lucky enough to be able to share with you, thanks to Running Water Community Press, the authors and the publicists, DMCPR Media.

Sunflower

I’m planting a sunflower

in my garden

watering and watching

it grow

into a beautiful flower

Just like I am watching

my grandkids

grow up

like beautiful

pretty

butterflies

Carmelina Perrurle Marshal

Something I Felt

When I woke up in the morning

I walked outside.

Everything was wet –

drops on the trees

and the smell of the air was fresh.

It wa sncie and cool.

It was something I felt

in my heart – a relief.

A sadness had lifted.

My friend,

I thought about you.

Tisha Perrurle Carter

#Giveaway A Day: The Fatal Dance – Berntd Sellheim

For my birthday this year I decided to do something a little different – you get the presents- I am giving away a book a day – drawn randomly, sometime during the day/night…for the next few days…a lucky dip of books.

I hope you find something in this eclectic selection that sparks your interest. Open to Australian residents., thanks to DMCPR Media – its simple – just respond, “yes please” in the comments.

Description:

A dizzingly intelligent and compulsive work of fiction from an outstanding new Australian writer.
Redmond Campbell’s luck has just taken a turn for the worse. His dog’s dead, his wife, Bea, has landed in prison, and he has to look after Bea’s sister, Lori – a wildly disinhibited woman with Huntington’s disease – who hates him. And Redmond’s nephew, Mada, a PhD student searching for a cure for the disease that’s killing his mother, doesn’t give Red the respect he deserves. But Red is about to change all that. He’s got plans to become Sydney’s leading property agent and he’s about to make a connection that will line him up a killing. It’s legal too. Well, almost. What matters is that Red has a whiff of success, and he’s damn sure everything’s about to come up roses.

Funny and moving, profound and profane, both an intimate family drama and an incisive parable of capitalism and collapse, this is an anarchic, joy-filled and ribald read from one of Australia’s most exciting authors. A novel about the dance of the body through life, it is a story brimming with sting, hope, and gratitude for a world that is equal parts cruel and kind