- Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker
I adore Texan writer, speaker and podcaster Jen Hatmaker. Funny, intelligent, courageous and grace-filled, I listen to her podcast and follow her on social media. But I had not read her book ‘Of Mess and Moxie’ because I didn’t like the title.
Shallow, I know.
My sister Liz said that Hatmaker and I were so alike that reading her book made her miss me even more than usual. That made me curious, so I bought the Kindle Edition, read it in the car on the way to Coral Bay and loved it so much that I’m going to get the paper version when I get home. Just so I can hold it in my hands.
Of Mess and Moxie is a series of essays about childhood memories, family life, parenting, friendship, food, hobbies and faith. It is a hilarious and honest look into her life written with confidence and humility.
I have a lot more to say in support of Jen Hatmaker in general. Maybe a post for another day.
- The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
Australian author Kate Morton writes fat books that hurt your arms when you’re holding them above your face. A typical Kate Morton book is told in multiple voices, across many moments in time. At first, the threads of the story seem unrelated, but then by the end, they weave together and you see how the characters from the past affect those living in the present day. Morton writes beautifully and her history is very well researched. She is a very talented writer and obviously takes her craft very seriously.
Notice how I haven’t reviewed the book yet?
I’m struggling to admit that I didn’t love it.
I just didn’t care about the characters. The main one was a ghost and I have fantasy fiction issues that I blame on my mother. She wouldn’t let me read ooky-spooky stuff. I still haven’t even read Harry Potter.
But I don’t think I’m entirely to blame for not warming to it. There were just no characters to really love or root for.
I considered abandoning the book midway (during the chapters focused on the superfluous character Leonard Gilbert) but I love novels too much to do that. Plus, I paid over $20 for it at Dymocks.
In the end, it was okay, but a little bit disappointing considering this is the same woman who penned, The Shifting Fog.
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Now Eleanor Oliphant is a character I care about deeply! I devoured this book, wanting the very best for Eleanor; wanting her to flourish, to find love, to understand her world, to love herself the way Gail Honeyman loves her.
The themes; kindness, loneliness, abuse and friendship are explored in such a careful way and this novel made me want to be a better person.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is Glasgow author Gail Honeyman’s debut novel, written shortly after her 40th birthday. I’m not sure I can pull off something so wonderful, but it seems there’s hope for me yet.
- The Dry by Jane Harper
Winner of a swag of awards, including the CWA Gold Dagger Crime Drama award, The Dry is a sad but compelling story of the murder/ suicide of a farmer and his young family, and the cops who reveal the dark secrets of a town battling to survive a two-year drought. Set in the fictitious town of Kiewarra NSW, Harper presents the town as an isolated place full of anger, cynicism, bullying and violence, but not without hope; that the river would one day swell again, that good people would rise up and that justice would prevail.
The Dry’s narrative is very strong and the plot twists are clever and unpredictable. Usually I can guess how crime drama is going to end, but in this case, I only pulled all the threads together one page before Harper revealed ‘whodunnit’.
The Dry is Harper’s first novel, but it is clear that her career in journalism has caused her to care deeply about rural Australians whose livelihoods are at the mercy of the elements. Crime Fiction is my favourite genre and Australian authors are always at the top of my list. I highly recommend reading this novel as soon as possible, especially in the context of the current drought situation in NSW.
- The Dream of You by Jo Saxton
The Dream of You is a Christian expository text written for women who are struggling to find their sense of identity and purpose in the world. Jo Saxton identifies many of the factors that distort women’s views of themselves, such as body image, family of origin, rejection, bullying and marginalisation, as well as many of the reasons that women find themselves without a voice or sense of purpose in the world. In each chapter, Saxton uses Bible stories to show that scripture has something to teach us about all of these things. Saxton is also very open and generous with her own personal stories, revealing many painful encounters, times she has felt alone and defeated and ways God has helped her through.
I have read this book in a season of life where I am feeling pretty settled, aware of my purpose and confident in my calling. But I wish someone had put it in my hands even a year ago. It is one that I will definitely come back to, as I have experienced all of the issues that Jo describes at some point in my life and I know that I will again.
Jo Saxton is a mature and confident voice, highly regarded by many influential Christian thought leaders and a leader and mentor for many American Christian writers. Born in Nigeria, raised in London and now living in the USA, Saxton was raised by a foster carer for much of her childhood. It seems as though God has taken her through some very difficult life situations, given her wisdom and grace and a teaching gift and is using her powerfully. If you hear the name Jo Saxton, pay attention because God has planned big things for her to do.
- Alone on a Wide Wide Sea by Michael Morpurgo
Alone on a Wide Wide Sea is a novel aimed at children in upper primary school. Told in two parts, the first half of the story focuses on the life of Arthur, an orphan who is sent to Australia in 1940 to live on a remote outback station with a man who abuses Arthur, as well as his wife and the other children in their care. The Indigenous people who rescue some of the children are depicted as wise, kind and intelligent and it is the best feature of the book.
A religious theme is also developed in the novel and I found the treatment of the adult issues far too subtle for a children’s text. The husband, a former preacher has a lot of terrible ideas about God. While it is clear that he is a bad guy, I don’t think children would understand that the man has misinterpreted the Bible and twisted it to justify his evil. Particularly disturbing is when the abused wife confides in Arthur that her faithfulness to God means that she must submit to the abuse of her husband. Even as an adult, it was difficult to tell whether the author was reinforcing the idea that wives must submit, even to abuse (to my absolute disgust, this view is still reinforced in some churches) or showing how appalling it was to hold such a belief. Either way, it is a complex issue that does not belong in a children’s novel.
My 9-year-old got excited that I was reading a Michael Morpurgo book as her teacher had read her other novels by the same author, however, I would not be pleased about her reading this book. While the story was interesting, the adult themes did not match the simplistic way the story was told, and it was difficult to determine the motives of the author, who I suspect needs to take himself off to counselling to unravel his own confused theology.
I didn’t read Part Two- the story of the daughter, because it just wasn’t challenging reading and I wanted to move on to the next book.
- The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
Loved it! It took me a while to get my head around all the characters as many are introduced in quick succession, but this was a really tragic, well-told story. I read this one on the way home from holidays. Every now and then I stopped reading to tell Leigh what happened. He might have been faking it, but he did seem genuinely interested in the plot.
I love talking about the novels I’m reading. Can you tell?
- The Murder Stone: A Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery, Book 4 by Louise Penny
It’s Yvette Cherry tradition to read an Inspector Gamache mystery novel whilst in Coral Bay. I love Inspector Gamache and all of his lovely old Canadian friends. These series of novels remind me a little bit of Jessica Fletcher and the tv show Murder, She Wrote. It is slow-paced and gentle and features the same cast of characters in every novel. It is a bit odd that so many murders take place in the sleepy, remote town of Three Pines but if you can overlook that, then you have yourself a sweet series of murder mysteries to get through.