Book review – Barracuda, The Dry, Bloom and more

This has been a long time coming! I can’t remember the last time I did a book review, and with so many to review I thought I’d change it up a bit. Instead of providing a summary, synopsis and my verdict, I’ll write a brief paragraph on each book, outlining my thoughts and highlights.

A lot of the books are surprisingly by Australian authors – and I say surprising not because I’m not a fan of Australian authors, but I just don’t get round to reading a lot of them. So I’m quite pleased to have discovered and revisited some fantastic Aussie talent. 

Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

I was introduced to Christos Tsiolkas by a friend of mine who lent me The Slap. I had read reviews of that book but the premise of it never really drew me in. However, I fell in love with Christos’ storytelling and how expertly he dissects Aussie culture without discrimination. Barracuda follows on the same tangent as The Slap, looking at the lives of a small group of people and how one action affects the lives of all. The difference is Barracuda focuses on the theme of redemption in light of failure – can you redeem yourself if you constantly define yourself by your failures? And how does society measure your failures, and can any small success redeem you from them?

It’s a bit hard to get into at first, especially as it flips back and forth from past to present, but once you understand the context and characters, it’s difficult to put down. With very accurate characterisation of Aussie stereotypes, it’s easy to relate to the stories and empathise with the lead character Dan Kelly.

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

Now this is a weird story. I am still struggling to understand what it’s about and if anyone can help me out here, please do!

All the reviews I read said this is a very feminist book, and I can see why, as it’s about how we crucify women for not adhering to our social norms of ‘female behaviour’. But i don’t understand what their prison-like environment symbolised –  a dystopic Handmaid-style state? What I really liked about the story was the different ways in which the women behaved to adapt to their new environment. It’s interesting because at first you hate them for their behaviour, but once you become accustomed to their setting you start to understand why they choose to act the way they do. Like I said, it’s a strange book and a very odd concept to get your head around.

I do recommend it though especially if you’re looking for something challenging and thought-provoking. The ending was tough – I was disappointed but at the same time, I understood why it had to end that way; a bit of mystery, a bit of reader imagination and a point of discussion.

Bloom by Esteé Lalonde

If you regularly read my blogs, you’ll know I’m a major Esteé fan. So when I found out she was releasing a book, I hopped on and joined the wait list immediately! I was so excited when it came in the mail I told everyone at work! I was a bit skeptical though as to whether it would contain content of any value but I was not disappointed.

Bloom is a beautiful book to give as a gift to any woman in your life. Esteé opens up about her life and experiences, and imparts some very good wisdom about growing up and acceptance. I read it all in one night, and a lot of what she said resonated with me. I love her honesty in this book and suggest you get to your nearest bookstore and buy two copies – one for you, and one for your BFF!

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I’d been wanting to read this for ages, and I finally got round to purchasing a copy. A few people who’d read this told me it was excellent and it had a strange plot twist which intrigued me. I’ve read my fair share of strange plot twists and I was keen to find out which variation this was.

If I had to rate this out of ten, I’d probably give it a 7.5. It’s a good book, and the storytelling is quality but I found it dragged a bit in a few spots, and the main character Rachel Watson becomes very annoying and inane at times. Maybe she’s meant to, but I find it hard to engage in a story when your main character becomes a bore. The plot twist? Didn’t see it coming, but the execution of it failed a bit for me. I feel the movie did a better job of presenting it than the book and that’s saying something. Overall, a recommended read and is probably a great one if you’re a novice to the crime/thriller genre.

The Dry by Jane Harper

Now this is a fantastic crime/thriller read! I found it hard to put down as the story become more and more sinister and complex. It leads you down many false roads and along the same lines at Christos Tsiolkas, does a great job of exposing Aussie culture and characters in that unforgiving manner.

I loved the start of the story, completely unexpected and also a tried-and-true way of introducing many characters and storylines in a succinct method. I think if you aren’t an Australian you would find it hard to get into the book, as it’s a very typical Aussie setting (country farm town with typical country characters and issues unique to Australia) but once you get past the first few chapters, you’ll be hooked. This is a compelling story and touches on a lot of issues many Aussies face today – drought and bankruptcy, gambling, lack of support for regional communities, and grudges and old history between friends and enemies. Buy or borrow this book if you can because it’s one of those rare reads that make your heart leap and sing.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

The world went absolutely mad when it was announced there would a sequel to the original Harry Potter series, and no one cared (except for the wannabe HP fans) that it was a script and not a novel. Of course I joined the many others on the Amazon waitlist and couldn’t contain my glee when it arrived!

This is a weird one, not the story but in terms of enjoying it. Personally, I loved it but I have had conversations with friends about how unrealistic some of the scenarios were and I agree. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read it, but just vaguely…. Lord V had a child? We all know that all the magic in the world couldn’t make that happen. But it’s fiction, and reality doesn’t count and it makes for a wonderfully captivating story anyway. I loved how Harry, Ron and Hermione have grown into these quirky adults who have outgrown some of their young character traits but still have a few of the best ones – like Ron’s lack of subtlety, and Hermione’s ever-amazing ability to be diplomatically assertive. If you want to read this, read and understand the first seven books because this won’t make sense without that context.

How to Read Paris by Chris Rogers

This is not a book I would typically go for or buy, but I love all things Paris. This is a wonderfully informative yet succinct guide on the architecture of Paris – it provides some history, architectural highlights as well as some trivia, the perfect guide for wandering the streets of Paris. Even if you don’t love architecture, it’s a nice book to flip through to understand how Paris has become the city it is today, and to even understand the social context of the city and how the different arrondisements are viewed in general.

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