Review ~ The Slap, by Christos Tsiolkas

Hello you beautiful people, it’s been too long! Well, I’m back today with a review for a book that, and this is going to sound full of hyperbole, kicked my reading mojo back into gear.

Christos Tsiolkas, up until recently, was an unheard of author, to me. However, that is just a product of my ignorance as he is well known in Australia and has achieved great success. Recently, I was in Australia visiting family, and of course, when I see a bookshop, I HAVE to go in. I was browsing around and this book just popped out to me. Maybe it was the cover, maybe the simple title, or maybe it just happened to be in my line of sight… Well, I took a gamble, and unlike in the casino, it actually paid off!

Set in contemporary Melbourne (Australia), The Slap centers on a family/friend barbecue and a series of events that leads to the titular “Slap”. Now, this slap is given by an adult to a 4 year old. Harsh, you might say… Well deserved, you may also say… It is this act that reverberates amongst all the guests, both for those that are on side, and those that disagree. Lives will never be the same again, secrets are exposed, true colours begin to shine through.

The format of the story is frankly nothing new; the back and forth chapters that are told from various perspectives are common place, especially with authors such as Jodie Picoult and Liane Moriarty. However, in this case, it really works and is not overused.

Plot aside, it is the characters that really kept me glued to the page. Set in contemporary Melbourne, we are presented with composite of contemporary society and issues including, race, identity, drugs, sexuality, and immigration. Each character is so fully fleshed out, that they could easily each have their own book and story. In fact, the one negative to this book is that it left me wanting more, a lot more – and that’s saying something considering the book is almost 500 pages.

If you want to check out a new author, read a story that will stay with you for a long time afterwards, take you on an emotional roller coaster, then you could do a lot worse that picking up a copy of The Slap.

Well, I’m off to continue reading another Tsiolkas novel!

The Slap

Until next time,


Review: The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

Alrighty then. I didn’t expect that! Here’s a small Australian town with an outcast woman living uphill from a burning garbage heap, and the outcast’s daughter coming back after twenty years. For what? I think she misses her mom. Tilly does the good daughter thing, cleans up her incoherent and dysfunctional mother as well as the house she subsists in, and tries to find her place in a town that never wanted her. 

And then Tilly starts making beautiful dresses for the townspeople – because she’s a talented pro with haute couture training.  And they don’t pay her. And then we find out why Tilly left and why they all hate her so much. Personally I think they hate themselves and take it out on Tilly. 

A new dressmaker arrives on Tilly’s heels and seems to turn the town upside down. Maybe her flawed dresses symbolize the townspeople’s real characters: uneven, backwards, trying to be something they’re not. 

And from there on the story is a whirlwind of crazy. Affairs, financial ruin, secrets, deaths. I’m not sure how it all happened… I certainly didn’t expect any of it! 

It’s dark and grim and clever and funny. And if it’s a mirror of life, it’s downright scary. A smart – and bizarre – read. 



Review: Confessions of a Bad Bridesmaid by Jennifer Rae

Confessions of a Bad Bridesmaid saved me from book slump!

Olivia flies from Australia to England to be a bridesmaid in her best friend’s wedding. Since she has always felt less pretty and less appealing than her friends and sister, Olivia expects very little in the way of quality male attention. She puts on a party girl act to hide her low self-esteem.

When she meets Edward, all that begins to change. Olivia questions her insecurities and her reality…. As does Edward.

I’ll be honest. This was a nice bit of fluff. It’s a romance novel, a light one at that, predictable and a little bit repetitive, and not totally creative or original. The characters could’ve used more depth, blah blah blah.

But it was fun… Fun, and funny, and entertaining. Prior to COABB I had just finished two disappointing reads. I didn’t read for a week, and I was afraid to pick up another book in case it was as bad as the other two.

So I needed a rebound read. Badly. I needed a party girl and a handsome guy living in a castle. I needed an Of Course They Did happily-ever-after.

Confessions of a Bad Bridesmaid was THE PERFECT REBOUND READ. I’m so happy! I’m no longer dwelling on those silly disappointments. I can move on! Thank you Bad Bridesmaid, thank you.

buy this $1.99 DEAL Confessions of a Bad Bridesmaid

Review: Bittersweet by Colleen McCullough

This is the first novel I’ve read by Colleen McCullough, and I am quite impressed with the breadth of information she is able to weave into Bittersweet. It’s a family drama, but it’s also social and political commentary… It’s where romance and feminism meet, and where the power of money makes a difference (for once) in local and regional healthcare.

The history McCullough wrote in — not just dates and places, but people and culture and anthropology – was wonderful. I gleaned as much about Australian politics, economics and society as I did about people’s need for love and acceptance. And McCullough didn’t just stick in facts where she could; she made them part and parcel of the dramatic story.

And dramatic it was. Four sisters, each with wants and needs and quirks… grating on, supporting, loving, misunderstanding, and even betraying one another.

The women rise to meet their fates, and two sisters face life with acceptance… after a few tweaks. The other sisters slap fate in the face, turn around and walk the other direction until they find something better, something real, something they are proud to own.

I really loved the family part of this story. Though no one was perfect, they did love each other immensely, and the author was able to make me feel it and believe it. I liked the Latimer family – flaws and all – because their flaws made them real to me.

The men in the story were less relatable to me, but they had a purpose. Each character, male or female, was more than just him or herself; they represented “Everyman” in their realm. Think of a stereotype, and McCullough represented it via a flawed but likeable character. A widow, a clergyman, a politician, a salesman, a smart (oooooh!) woman, a shrew, a rich man… and so many more. Though it took a bit for me to get through the political descriptions, the cleverly written characters sold me on this solid 4-star read.


Review: Fast Track by Julie Garwood

When you’re already laughing and crying in the first quarter of a book, you know it’s a good one. Once I got through my tears, Garwood had me on the edge of my seat. Fast Track was fast-moving through to the end, I’ll tell ya.

The complex plot included terrific friendships, happy couples, an impending romance, secret agents (well, two special agents and one guy who couldn’t be pigeonholed) and a family driven so deeply by greed that it colored black the relationships with their own blood! I loved every minute of the suspense.

The friendship among the women was good – they were real with each other. The guys related to each other pretty realistically, too. I didn’t love the hero… he had some personality quirks that just weren’t for me… but in the end his redeeming qualities shone through. The heroine was a strong woman who became a bit submissive when interacting with the love of her life – an annoying but understandable part of the story.

I struggled a bit with a few rambly parts … wordy pages here and there and some lengthy descriptions that I glossed over. I also noticed quite a bit of telling instead of showing. Besides that, the beautifully thought-out plot overwhelmed any shortcomings in the writing.



Review: Silver Bay by JoJo Moyes

20140427-162223.jpgI tend to stay away from books that are labeled “romance” as this one was in several other reviews. But, because the writer is the amazing JoJo Moyes, I had to add it to my list of books read. An older publication, this story centers mostly around Liza, along with daughter Hannah and aunt Kathleen as well as many other supporting characters. Living on the coast of Australia and running an inn as well as conducting whale watching tours, Liza lives a content life although there’s an air of tragedy around her. When a development company begins to make plans to build a modern, massive resort community in their little corner of paradise, Liza’s peace of mind is threatened. The love interest comes in the form of Mike, one of the major planners of the resort. Loads of drama follows along with several nice little twists that keep the story going. I’m not going to lie, this one wasn’t nearly as good as other books by Moyes that I’ve read. It doesn’t quite reach the level of Me Before You or The Girl You Left Behind. But it’s important to remember that this one has been on the shelves for many years. It’s not really fair to compare novels written so many years apart. Part of being an author is experiencing that growth that comes naturally over time. Being a huge fan of JoJo Moyes, I’m really glad I took the time to read this one.


Buy it Now: Silver Bay: A Novel

Review: The January Wish by Juliet Madison

20140102-152247.jpg The January Wish is women’s fiction, family drama, and romance all rolled into one — and set in Australia. I loved the plot: Sylvia reunites with the daughter she gave up for adoption 18 years ago. And I enjoyed the subplots: Sylvia breaks up with one guy and falls in love with another; Sylvia’s daughter experiences young love; small-town citizens support each other personally and in business.

I didn’t like the characters, though. I thought they were a little wishy washy, a little boring, a little unrealistic in their behavior. For example, we hear repeatedly (too many times, really) about Sylvia’s reserved and organized life – from her wardrobe to her car to her office – and then she lets loose dancing on the bar at a bachelorette party (hen night). That just doesn’t make sense to me. That kind if thing happens more than a few times. Later in the book, two conservative characters decide to play strip Scrabble. It just didn’t seem natural based on what the author told us about this couple… So why add it?

The unnatural dialogue hurt my ability to enjoy the book as well.

“Yes, she mentioned how she quite enjoys her acupuncture sessions now… But how anyone could enjoy having tiny needles stuck into their skin is beyond me!” Sylvia managed a friendly laugh.

Even if someone were to say those exact words, I imagine them said under the breath or out of the side of the mouth, not exclaimed and followed by laughter (and this is spoken by the reserved, boring gal).

The characters and dialogue just weren’t up to par and really hindered any enjoyment of the plot. The writing was so verbose and descriptive at times, I was distracted from the plot. (Um, recurring mentions of Mr. Benson — why? How did this relate to the story?) I started skipping paragraphs just to find something related to the plot or subplots.

All in all, I didn’t like the writing, characters or dialogue. Unfortunately, they took away too much from a beautifully thought-out plot.

— Calliope

Buy it now The January Wish

Review: The Girl in the Yellow Vest by Loretta Hill

20140103-110631.jpg Two great falling-in-love stories, a child custody case, and coal shipping on Australia’s eastern coast fill this novel with fun and adventure.

The characters of Will and Emily were well-developed, as were the secondary characters of Charlotte and Mark. Though their romances were the driving force of the plot, Loretta Hill impressed me with meaningful storylines about Charlotte’s sister Zara, Emily’s breakup with Trent, Mark’s grief, and the raucous nature of 200 men working on the coast away from their families.

Apart from the engineering and shipping explanations (they took up a lot of pages and I skipped over some), I was hooked on this novel and didn’t want to stop reading it. I finally put it down at 80% only because it was 1:30 a.m.! I was too tired to fully enjoy what I knew would be an excellent ending.

I finished the book just now with a full heart, as the characters came to heal their hearts with the love and support of friends and family — and a wild turkey. 🙂


Buy it now The Girl in the Yellow Vest

Review: Catch of the Day (Destiny Romance) by Carla Caruso

20131229-230706.jpg Winnie was sent from Sydney aaaallllll across the country to a small Australian coastal town in the matter of a couple of days. Her chic flat, her sophisticated nightlife, and her fabulous job at a fashion magazine were replaced by temp housing in a fishing village and a startup beach magazine with 2 employees. Winnie was not a happy girl.

…Until she met Alex, buff fisherman and talented photographer. They kissed, then thought better of it. They hooked up, then thought better of it. Each time the relationship changed, it went up a little higher and down a little further. It didn’t help that Alex was hiding secrets from his past, and Winnie lacked self-esteem.

Once Winnie formed some solid friendships and work relationships, she was ready to have a real relationship with Alex– but only if he would be honest and reliable. Once Alex dealt with his family secrets and put them out in the open, he was ready to welcome Winnie into his arms.

Cute story, maybe a little drawn out in some places. Reading Alex and Winnie’s texts was fun. Winnie’s desperate neediness was annoying, but it didn’t last long. I loved the beach setting, the Australian idioms, and the magazine life! Worth the $2 for fun, “destination” chick lit.


Buy it now Catch of the Day