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Walker Books Picture Book Round-Up

Walker Books Picture Book Round-Up

With our baby shower but a mere five weeks away, we have started thinking of everything we need to buy for Bub so that we can put together some kind of a gift registry. Funnily enough (not really, though), most people have already said, “Well, […]

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

I don’t read a lot of Young Adult work. I did when I was a young adult, and I know that there is a huge adult market for YA books, but they just aren’t my cup of tea. Enter, Dry. I had heard a lot of […]

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Much like Kate Morton, I live for Liane Moriarty books. I read Big Little Lies first a few years ago and from there, it was a very quick landslide working my way through the rest of her novels. Moriarty is the absolute queen of ‘domestic drama’, creating that sub-genre almost single-handedly. I love the mystery that surrounds each of her characters, their demons slowly unveiled as the story goes on. Liane’s writing is uncomplicated and completely consuming and with each of her books, once I started it was hard to not just hunker down for the day and read it from cover to cover. Though Nine Perfect Strangers certainly sucked me in like all of its predecessors, I have to admit that this one was a bit of a miss for me.

Much like my experience with The Clockmaker’s Daughter, I found that Nine Perfect Strangers could have used some tightening up (and some culling of pages). The book diverges from Liane’s usual domestic setting and takes place at a health resort ‘Tranquilum House’. Nine strangers all head to the retreat, located in rural Australia, to better themselves in one way or the other. Each of the attendees has a past (don’t we all?) that they are seeking to make peace with. Pretty quickly though, the group realises that something is amiss with both the retreat itself and the founder of Tranquilum House.

I will admit that I was a bit hesitant (but intrigued) that the story was not in her usual suburban setting and unfortunately for me, I was right to have felt that way. Many other reviewers out there really enjoyed the fact that the backdrop for the story was different to her usual, however I felt that this was the biggest downfall of the novel. So much of Moriarty’s strength lies in the conviction and descriptions of suburbia and the women, families and children who inhabit there. When I read both Big Little Lies and Truly, Madly, Guilty I was whisked back to my days in primary school, fondly remembering Mum picking my brother and I up every afternoon and the weekends spent by the pool of one of the other schoolyard mums and her three boys. So for me, without that signature solid baseline that I have come to expect from Moriarty, the story was already missing something.

None of the characters felt relatable to me, personally. Having said that, there was an incredible range of demographics amongst the characters which I appreciated and although none of them ‘spoke to me’ personally, I can see why many other readers out there would have loved it. Because I was not emotionally invested in the story or its players, I did find myself reading it at some points just to get through it.

Another thing that Moriarty has come to be known for is the way she draws out the core mystery and secret of the story; it is her ability to keep readers on the edge of their seats that has seen her shoot to international stardom. In all of her other books, I was hypnotised until the last page, always waiting for that extra plot twist (that always delivered). I found that the twist was revealed far too early, and when it was, it was both not terribly shocking and not plausible. Every other book of Moriarty’s feels so real, their conflicts and events have always been plausible and extremely ‘real’ whereas in Nine Perfect Strangers, I found it to be completely farfetched and, dare I say it, a little bit too fictitious. I just didn’t buy it, people. When the big reveal was made I actually said, “Really? That’s it?” out loud. Following the unveiling of the big mystery, the scenario that the characters then found themselves in was even more ‘out there’ and improbable that I found myself completely disinterested and just wanted to get through the rest of the book (which I cannot believe I am even saying about one of Liane Moriarty’s books).

Maybe that’s why I wasn’t such a fan of this one, because I can’t help but compare it to her previous books. Perhaps if this was a stand-alone release from an author who isn’t Moriarty, I would be more accepting of the things I wasn’t too keen on with this release. Unfortunately though, I have come to expect a certain calibre of chilling, psychological suspense from her books which this one, for me, just simply didn’t deliver on, far from it actually.

To put it simply, I really did not enjoy this book (at all), but it won’t stop me from reading her future books because she is, and I am hoping will continue to be, an extremely talented author.

And also, the title ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ is a bit misleading now that I think about it. Of the nine people that attend the retreat, there is a family of three and then another couple. So really the title should be, A Family of Three, a Couple and Four Perfect Strangers.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

I am madly in love with Kate Morton. Hideously, wonderfully and hopelessly in love. Not only does she look like Jessica Biel (and rocks a front fringe like no other), but she is possibly the most eloquent and beautiful writer that I have ever had […]

Killing Monica by Candace Bushnell

Killing Monica by Candace Bushnell

Pandy “PJ” Wallis is a renowned writer whose novels about a young woman making her way in Manhattan have spawned a series of blockbuster films. After the success of the Monica books and movies, Pandy wants to attempt something different: a historical novel based on […]

My Thoughts Exactly

My Thoughts Exactly

Lily Allen has been off the radar for a while now, but she will never stray far from my heart.

That may seem like an overly dramatic and unnecessarily poetic statement, but I absolutely adore the woman. Her song Fuck You that absolutely tore George Bush to shreds; It’s Not Fair that rather wonderfully sums up that feeling of when you like someone but they aren’t great in bed and you don’t know what to do because they are a nice person etc.; The Fear that perfectly illustrates social conditioning and consumerism and nails it in one perfect line, “Now everything is cool as long as I’m getting thinner”. But the song that probably got me all hot and bothered over Lily Allen was He Wasn’t There which is about her dad, “You might have thought you didn’t teach me much but you taught me right from wrong. And it was when you didn’t keep in touch well, it taught me to be strong.”

I am all about Lily Allen.

She has come back onto the media scene ahead of the release of her autobiography My Thoughts Exactly, which I didn’t even know was a thing but of which I am desperately excited for. Allen posted the following image on instagram the other day, revealing that while her marriage was in the process of completely breaking down, she slept with female escorts. As I mentioned already, I had no idea that she was releasing a book, and although she has come to be known for her ‘partying’ ways I also didn’t know how much she has been through, lived through and experienced.

After I read the initial article (which actually made me swoon for her even more) (also don’t judge me that it is a news.com article), I did some more reading about the book and about her and I realised how much experience and life shapes her music and her words. Without going into everything that I read about, as you can just as easily read it for yourself, I want to focus on how even just this single instagram post made me feel incredibly powerful and far less alone. I can’t empathise with the specifics of the article, having never slept with a female escort, but what I can completely identify with is the desire to unveil one’s entire truth. How powerful, if not completely hideously scary it would be to bare everything to the masses, but also how liberating. Truly. I have done things and experienced things and made decisions and made mistakes that not even the people closest to me know about, and I am sure that many – if not all of you – could say the very same thing.

Far too often we hear of only the ‘shiny’ parts of people, mainly because that is all we choose to show others, only the parts of us that are deemed acceptable. When we do hear of someone’s actions that are perhaps a bit taboo or not in line with what is ‘morally acceptable’ to us, these admissions are followed by shame and ridicule and judgement and people asking, “What is wrong with you?”. When really these so-called flaws are what we should be celebrating most. If someone has worked up the courage to share with you elements of their darker person and have let you into a space that up until then was only reserved for themselves, I feel that respect should be given (and probably a hug). The term ‘demon’ is thrown around a lot, “Oh, you know, she had her demons.” Yeah, don’t we all? Even the term has negative connotations that we should surely be aiming to abolish.

People have often asked me why I like writing, or what it is about writing that draws me to it. The answer is is that it allows me to explain. Writing allows me to allow others in. Writing gives me the gift of not only sharing the ‘what’ but also the ‘why’. I have not lived my life in all of its chaos and wonder to be ashamed of it, and I take pride in how comfortable I am in being open and vulnerable to others. Reading and learning more about Lily Allen, even if it was sparked from a instagram post and a news.com story, made me realise that I still have a lot more to unveil and a lot more fear to shed if I am to follow in her footsteps. I have always wanted to ‘write my story’ and I think that it is a very human thing to do to want to share one’s own stories – more human than we give it credit for. It isn’t often that an autobiography is released where the subject is then ridiculed for what is in it. Audiences may be shocked, sure, but on the whole, most of the time these people are applauded for being so honest. Russell Brand with My Booky Wook, Anthony Kiedis with Scar Tissue, Kirstie Alley with The Art of Men, Piper Kerman’s Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison that has gone on to be one of the most well-known, loved and poignant TV series of our time. All of these stories, each of these lives, every single one of these people have been acknowledged for what they shared. Fuck, I was working at Angus & Robertson when Scar Tissue came out and to date it is probably the most talked about and requested book that I have experienced in its time. People went bloody mental for it; and what that was was a man owning up, unapologetically, to the decisions and experiences of his life.

What else struck me about Lily Allen and the brief details that I was able to garner from a search on the internet is that she is a woman who is prepared to talk about things that women are often stigmatised and HEINOUSLY judged for. Sexuality, substance abuse, Allen was also extremely open about the devastating effects of her miscarriage and stillbirth – something which is seldom spoken about no matter its universal reach. By simply sharing her own experiences, Lily Allen has opened up a dialogue that has previously been closed, she is starting a dialogue. With one single post she has backed up and reinforced everything that I wish to do with my writing, which is to make people feel safe in their own selves, choices, past and present.

There is so much that I want to share with you here and now as a result of Lily Allen’s ‘confession’ about female escorts, there is so much more that I wish to say and so much more gratitude that I want to bestow on her. But this is simply me starting my own dialogue, and this is only the beginning.

“When women share their stories, loudly and clearly and honestly, things begin to change – for the better.” This quote from Allen, taken from My Thoughts Exactly is everything that I stand for, everything that I, as a writer stand for, and everything that this business stands for.