#2018RoundUp: Worst Books

Sunday, 30 December 2018


Even a bad book is better than no book, right? Uh, no. Not at all.

REVIEW: A Well-Behaved Woman, Therese Anne Fowler

Friday, 28 December 2018


In 1883, the New York Times prints a lengthy rave of Alva Vanderbilt's Fifth Ave. costume ball--a coup for the former Alva Smith, who not long before was destitute, her family's good name useless on its own. Marrying into the newly rich but socially scorned Vanderbilt clan, a union contrived by Alva's bestfriend and now-Duchess of Manchester, saved the Smiths--and elevated the Vanderbilts. From outside, Alva seems to have it all and want more. She does have a knack for getting all she tries for: the costume ball--no mere amusement--wrests acceptance from doyenne Caroline Astor. Denied abox at the Academy of Music, Alva founds The Met. No obstacle puts her off for long. But how much of ambition arises from insecurity? From despair? From refusal to play insipid games by absurd rules? --There are, however, consequences to breaking those rules. One must tread carefully. And what of her maddening sister-in-law, Alice? Her husband William, who's hiding a terrible betrayal? The not-entirely-unwelcome attentions of his friend Oliver Belmont, who is everything William is not? What of her own best friend, whose troubles cast a wide net? Alva will build mansions, push boundaries, test friendships, and marry her daughter to England's most eligible duke or die trying. She means to do right by all, but good behavior will only get a woman so far. What is the price of going further? What might be the rewards? There's only one way to know for certain... 

REVIEW: Pulp, Robin Talley

Wednesday, 26 December 2018


In 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. It’s not easy being gay in Washington, DC, in the age of McCarthyism, but when she discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in Janet. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself—and Marie—to a danger all too real. Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet can’t stop thinking about her senior project and its subject—classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby’s own life are lost to the fictional hopes, desires and tragedies of the characters she’s reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym “Marian Love,” and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity. In this novel told in dual narratives, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley weaves together the lives of two young women connected across generations through the power of words.

REVIEW: Hardly Children, Laura Adamczyk

Monday, 24 December 2018


An eerie debut collection featuring missing parents, unrequited love, and other uncomfortable moments. A man hangs from the ceiling of an art gallery. A woman spells out messages to her sister using her own hair. Children deemed "bad" are stolen from their homes. In Hardly Children, Laura Adamczyk's rich and eccentric debut collection, familiar worlds--bars, hotel rooms, cities that could very well be our own--hum with uncanny dread. The characters in Hardly Children are keyed up, on the verge, full of desire. They're lost, they're in love with someone they shouldn't be, they're denying uncomfortable truths using sex or humor. They are children waking up to the threats of adulthood, and adults living with childlike abandon. With command, caution, and subtle terror, Adamczyk shapes a world where death and the possibility of loss always emerge. Yet the shape of this loss is never fully revealed. Instead, it looms in the periphery of these stories, like an uncomfortable scene viewed out of the corner of one's eye.

#2018RoundUp: Best Books

Saturday, 22 December 2018


Ta-DA! Here's what reading all year was all about - the creme de la creme, the diamonds in the rough, etc etc etc. If I am being honest, I read some pretty terrible books in 2018, but was it a bad reading year? No. Because I got to experience all of these and let me tell you, they're pretty bloody amazing.

REVIEW: Unquiet Women, Max Adams

Thursday, 20 December 2018


Wynflæd was an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who owned male slaves and badger-skin gowns; Egeria a Gaulish nun who toured the Holy Land as the Roman Empire was collapsing; Gudfrid an Icelandic explorer and the first woman to give birth to a European child on American soil; Mary Astell a philosopher who out-thought John Locke. In this exploration of some remarkable Рbut little-known Рwomen living between between the last days of Rome and the Enlightenment, Max Adams overturns the idea that women of this period were either queens, nuns or invisible. In a sequence of chronological chapters, a centrepiece biographical sketch is complemented by thematically linked stories of other women of the time. A multi-faceted and beautifully illustrated study of women's intellect, influence and creativity, Unquiet Women brings to life the experiences of women whose voices are barely heard and whose stories are rarely told.

REVIEW: Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts), L.C. Rosen

Tuesday, 18 December 2018


Meet Jack Rothman. He's seventeen and loves partying, makeup and boys - sometimes all at the same time. His sex life makes him the hot topic for the high school gossip machine. But who cares? Like Jack always says, 'it could be worse'. He doesn't actually expect that to come true. But after Jack starts writing an online sex advice column, the mysterious love letters he's been getting take a turn for the creepy. Jack's secret admirer knows everything: where he's hanging out, who he's sleeping with, who his mum is dating. They claim they love Jack, but not his unashamedly queer lifestyle. They need him to curb his sexuality, or they'll force him. As the pressure mounts, Jack must unmask his stalker before their obsession becomes genuinely dangerous...

#2018RoundUp: End of the Year Reading Survey

Sunday, 16 December 2018


2018. Holy Christ, it has been... a year.

REVIEW: Still Lives, Maria Hummel

Friday, 14 December 2018


A young editor at a Los Angeles art museum finds herself pulled into the disturbing and dangerous world of a famous artist who goes missing on the opening night of her exhibition. Kim Lord is an avant garde figure, feminist icon, and agent provocateur in the L.A. art scene. Her groundbreaking new exhibition Still Lives is comprised of self-portraits depicting herself as famous, murdered women—the Black Dahlia, Chandra Levy, Nicole Brown Simpson, among many others—and the works are as compelling as they are disturbing, implicating a culture that is too accustomed to violence against women. As the city’s richest art patrons pour into the Rocque Museum’s opening night, all of the staff, including editor Maggie Richter, hope the event will be enough to save the historic institution’s flailing finances. Except Kim Lord never shows up to her own gala. Fear mounts as the hours and days drag on and Lord remains missing. Suspicion falls upon the up-and-coming gallerist Greg Shaw Ferguson, who happens to be Maggie’s ex. A rogue’s gallery of eccentric art world figures could also have motive for the act, and as Maggie gets drawn into her own investigation of Lord’s disappearance, she’ll come to suspect all of those closest to her. Set against a culture that too often fetishizes violence against women, Still Lives is a page-turning exodus into the art world’s hall of mirrors, and one woman’s journey into the belly of an industry flooded with money and secrets.

REVIEW: Talking Pictures, Ann Hornaday

Wednesday, 12 December 2018


Whether we are trying to impress a date after an art-house film screening or discussing Oscar nominations with friends, we all need ways to watch and talk about movies. But with so much variety between an Alfred Hitchcock thriller and a Nora Ephron romantic comedy, how can everyday viewers determine what makes a good movie? In Talking Pictures, veteran film critic Ann Hornaday walks us through the production of a typical movie—from writing the script and casting to the final sound edit—and explains how to evaluate each piece of the process. How do we know if a film is well-written, above and beyond snappy dialogue? What constitutes a great screen performance? What goes into praiseworthy cinematography, editing, and sound design? And what does a director really do? Full of engaging anecdotes and interviews with actors and filmmakers, Talking Pictures will help us see movies in a whole new light—not just as fans, but as film critics in our own right.

REVIEW: The Birthday, Carol Wyer

Monday, 10 December 2018


One hot summer's afternoon, five-year-old Ava Sawyer went to a party. She never came home... When five-year-old Ava Sawyer goes missing from a birthday party at a local garden centre, the police are bewildered by the lack of leads. That is until two years later, when Ava's body is found and another little girl, Audrey Briggs, goes missing. Audrey also attended that party... Leading the investigation is Detective Natalie Ward. A mother of two teenagers, this case chills her to the bone, and is a disturbing reminder of the last job she worked on. One that ended very badly. Natalie soon discovers that Ava's mother has some worrying gaps in her alibi and as she digs deeper, she's sure Ava's father is not telling the full story. And what did the owner of the garden centre Elsa see that day? Something that she's not telling Natalie... Just as Natalie is facing up to the grim possibility that Ava and Audrey were killed by someone close to home, another little girl from the party doesn't come home from her ballet lesson. Can Natalie find a way to stop this killer before more innocent lives are taken?

REVIEW: The Death of Mrs Westaway, Ruth Ware

Thursday, 6 December 2018


On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money. Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the centre of it.