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keepingupwiththepenguins

keepingupwiththepenguins

Joined June 2019

Book reviews for the would-be booklover | Blogging all things bookish at https://www.keepingupwiththepenguins.com
review
keepingupwiththepenguins
56 Days | Catherine Ryan Howard
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56 Days is well written, well paced, with tantalising clues and a couple of truly excellent fake-out twists. The couple barely know each other when they‘re forced into the pressure cooker pandemic situation, so the reader gets two (or more?) very different perspectives on the same events. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/56-days-catherine-ryan-howard/

LeahBergen I want to read this! 😮 2d
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keepingupwiththepenguins
Know My Name | Chanel Miller
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This is an incredible read, on every level: as a tool for dismantling the patriarchy, as a masterfully-crafted narrative, as an account of crime and justice, and as a radical testament to the costs of survival. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/know-my-name-chanel-miller/

thewallflower0707 Incredible is the perfect word for this book. If she ever decides to write something again, I will buy it. What an amazing woman. 6d
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keepingupwiththepenguins
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Panpan

While I appreciated Buckley‘s choice of subject, and warmed to the nature of the characters she crafted, Lily Harford‘s Last Request fell a bit short for me. The dialogue was often stilted, exposition-heavy and unrealistic, and the “twist” ending was all too foreseeable. This one would resonate, though, for fans of Still Alice. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/lily-harfords-last-request-joanna-buckley/

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keepingupwiththepenguins
Educated: A Memoir | Tara Westover
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I found Educated to be a breathtaking read, in more ways than one. The dangers and horrors of Westover‘s childhood had my heart in my throat – but the moments of love and compassion shared within this bizarre family did, too. I was captivated by the way Westover was able to relate her story, with frankness and fairness. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/educated-tara-westover/

MrsMalaprop I loved this book & have been fascinated about the varied responses to it. I went down a bit of a rabbit hole after reading it, researching the family, setting and the author. 6d
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keepingupwiththepenguins
Murder Most Fancy | Kellie McCourt
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Mehso-so

It was a pleasant surprise to read a “glamorous” cozy mystery set at home, and McCourt also gets bonus points for crafting a clever murder mystery with no dead or missing girls. The pacing was a little off for me, though, and I think readers will enjoy this one more if they‘ve read the previous book - Heiress On Fire - first. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/murder-most-fancy-kellie-mccourt/

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This isn't a literary memoir, but I think that actually works in its favour. It feels more authentic, allowing Park‘s story to stand for itself. Plus, it gives the reader the opportunity to connect a lot of the broader dots for themselves.It‘s a powerful reminder of the voiceless cost of large-scale war games. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/in-order-to-live-yeonmi-park/

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Being Britney: Pieces of a Modern Icon | Jennifer Otter Bickerdike
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Otter Bickerdike reflects on Britney as “both a creator and a creation”, looking at the collective pressures that formed a diamond. This was a quick and fascinating read that I would recommend to anyone interested in the current shifts in celebrity culture. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

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This book feels like a boozy conversation with a friend, one that runs the full gamut and has you cracking open another bottle just to keep it going. That doesn‘t mean that it‘s fluffy or insubstantial. As well as exploring race and violence and sexuality, Union uses anecdotes from her life to discuss illness, death, fear, and vulnerability, too. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/were-going-to-need-more-wine-gabrielle-unio...

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The Library: A Fragile History | Andrew Pettegree, Arthur der Weduwen
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Mehso-so

Pettegree and der Weduwen‘s focus is more on the ancient, medieval, and Renaissance history of the library, when it largely existed as personal collections of the wealthy and powerful. I‘ll admit I skimmed some of those chapters, but if those eras of history make your heart sing, you‘re in luck. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

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keepingupwiththepenguins
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At first, I really enjoyed The Stranger Beside Me as a spooky read… but as the end grew closer, and the impact of Bundy‘s crimes became more tangible, it was no longer spooky so much as desperately sad. It‘s a mind-blowing excellent read, but it made me Feel A Lot Of Things (which is a testament, really, to its excellence, and Rule‘s skill as a true crime writer). Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/the-stranger-beside-me-ann-rule/

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keepingupwiththepenguins
7 1?2 | Christos Tsiolkas
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Mehso-so

I‘m quite skeptical of writers writing about writers, and I must say this hasn‘t done much to change my mind. I wanted to be generous in my reading, and Tsiolkas is undeniably a talented writer, but 7 1/2 at its heart is one long lament about The Modern World. It‘s more masterfully written than a forwarded chain email that‘s been scanned by Norton Anti-Virus, but the vibe is the same. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

MrsMalaprop Interesting review 🤔. I have bumped this up my list because a good friend told me she needs to talk about it. 1mo
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keepingupwiththepenguins
Misery | Stephen King
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Mehso-so

Misery moves a lot faster than the other Stephen King novel I‘ve read, but that‘s not surprising really, given that it‘s a third of the length and only has two central characters. Unfortunately, despite having a narrower focus, King really doesn‘t flesh out his characters as fully as you‘d hope. Maybe I‘m jaded from reading too many more recent and more intricate thrillers. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/misery-stephen-king/

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Panpan

I think maybe The Audacity suffered from the fact that I‘ve read so many truly brilliant memoirs lately; by comparison, it fell flat for me. Something about Ryan‘s voice and approach just felt… off. She has a very matter-of-fact tone, which I‘d normally like, except it was coupled with 20/20 hindsight; she doesn‘t really bring the reader along with her. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

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Rebecca | Daphne Du Maurier
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This isn't a book to be read in a single sitting; space it out a bit to enjoy it properly. I think it‘s enduring appeal is due to the fact that it‘s a deeply multi-layered literary novel, disguised as romantic fiction. You come for the spooky Gothic love story, but you stay for the evergreen interrogation of women‘s subservience to (and subversion of) the rule of men. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/rebecca-daphne-du-maurier/

IuliaC Wonderful review! 2mo
MrsMalaprop Loved it 🥰 2mo
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Permafrost | S. J. Norman
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Mehso-so

The stories in this collection are chilling at times, erotic at times, and there‘s a lot of “young Aussie abroad” content (young restless people being angsty in various parts of Europe). The stories are all well written, but otherwise not much particularly sets them apart. They feel familiar, rather than brave or piercing. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

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Room: A Novel | Emma Donoghue
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Room is stay-up-all-night-to-finish-it readable (as, indeed, I did). You‘d be forgiven for being skeptical going in, figuring (once again, as I did) that the premise and the plot was too obviously horrifying to be truly immersive and that the pulling-of-heartstrings would feel contrived, but I can promise you you‘re in good hands with Donoghue. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/room-emma-donoghue/

Crazeedi Can't wait to read 2mo
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Mehso-so

I felt a bit silly when I realised that Widdicombe is British (I‘d assumed Australian, given the title, clearly forgetting that the Brits love Neighbours more than we do). Even though I appreciated the throwback to the communal experience of pre-internet television, the actual content of the pop-culture didn‘t have that ring of recognition for me. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

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Unfortunately, here we have another great book with wide appeal written by a man who turns out to be a bit of a shit. It‘s a real shame how often this happens. The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part-Time Indian was a good young-adult read, but art does not and cannot exist in a vacuum. Full review with more info: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/the-absolutely-true-diary-of-a-part-time-in...

TheLudicReader I loved this book…and whether or not we can or should separate art from artist was our topic in last week‘s Young Adult Lit class. So interesting. 2mo
plemmdog I love Alexis‘s writing. Jennifer Finney Boylan had an interesting piece about loving the art (and not the artist) in this past Sunday‘s NYT. Her takeaway was maybe we shouldn‘t elevate the artist so much (apparently Don McLean, who wrote “American Pie”, was also a prick) 2mo
keepingupwiththepenguins @TheLudicReader That sounds fascinating!! 2mo
keepingupwiththepenguins @plemmdog Ooooh I'll have to look that up, thanks for the tip! 😉 2mo
PaperbackPirate I just found this out recently and was like Noooo! 🤦🏼‍♀️ 2mo
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Puff Piece | John Safran
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Safran tackles the ethical ramifications, big and small, of multinational companies manipulating language to shimmy through legislative loopholes. It‘s funny, insightful, informative, ingenious – everything we‘ve come to expect from Safran. I thoroughly enjoyed this fascinating lifting-of-the-veil. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

CarolynM Love John Safran. 2mo
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keepingupwiththepenguins
Beloved | Toni Morrison
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Beloved smacks of a book that needs to be re-read over and over again to be appreciated fully. I wanted to love it outright; everyone said that I would and that I should… but I didn‘t, really. In fairness, lockdown probably wasn‘t the right time for me to read it. There‘s some future me who will re-read it and find it completely wonderful and brilliant. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/beloved-toni-morrison/

CarolynM I admired it rather than liking it. I don't think rereading would change that. 2mo
keepingupwiththepenguins @CarolynM That's such an excellent way to put it! Yes! 2mo
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Apples Never Fall | Liane Moriarty
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Apples Never Fall is exactly what you‘d expect of a Moriarty novel: perfectly paced and totally readable, with town gossip and parallel timelines that keep you guessing. There‘s a cast of characters bound together, but each harbouring their own secrets. This is exactly what I'd hoped for when I picked it up: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

Cathythoughts Great review 👍🏻I just finished this one recently & it was my first by Moriarty… I thoroughly enjoyed it 3mo
keepingupwiththepenguins @Cathythoughts Fabulous! I highly recommend What Alice Forgot on audio - it was a great read! 2mo
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keepingupwiththepenguins
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Mehso-so

I didn‘t really enjoy Reading Lolita In Tehran but I don‘t think that‘s the fault of Nafisi or the book. I think I went in with the wrong set of expectations – perhaps the fault of misleading marketing. I thought this memoir would revolve solely around the book club. It‘s much broader in scope than that, and much more focused on Nafisi‘s own experiences. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/reading-lolita-in-tehran-azar-nafisi/

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The adventures of wacky mad-cap older folks are a balm to all the stresses of this year. Beth and Shirley are very Odd Couple: the cynic and the optimist, the conscientious planner and the free thinker. But Winnie, the sneaky and snarky great-grandmother, is my favourite of the lot. They all come together to save the day in this heart-warming and up-lifting read. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

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“Before my wife turned vegetarian, I‘d always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way.” Isn‘t that just… *chef‘s kiss*? It promises a fascinating story to come. The Vegetarian is “a beautiful, unsettling novel in three acts about rebellion and taboo, violence and eroticism, and the twisting metamorphosis of a soul”, and it‘s off to a strong start. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/the-vegetarian-han-kang/

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For a book about death (or at least the fear of it) Mortals is surprisingly positive and affirming. It‘s not so much about the Grim Reaper as it is about how to counteract the negative consequences of fearing death in order to live a better life. The chapter on suicide (trigger warning by the way) got a bit off track, I felt, but otherwise this was an interesting and informative read. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

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keepingupwiththepenguins
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Despite the looming specters of death and heart-break, Like Water For Chocolate reads like a well-written rom-com. It‘s certainly a lot more fun than, say, One Hundred Years Of Solitude. It‘s easy to read, but it‘s not without substance. The recipes are a neat hook, but that‘s not all there is to love about this short, bittersweet family saga. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/like-water-for-chocolate-laura-esquivel/

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Ill Feelings | ALICE. HATTRICK
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I loved Hattrick‘s insight and ideas in Ill Feelings. I was hoping, though, for more of a case study format, which might have made it easier to follow. I‘ll admit I embraced the skim for some dense sections of medical jargon. Ill Feelings is not an easy read, but it‘s an interesting and worthwhile one for anyone interested in the intersection of gender and disability. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

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Adele | Lela Slimani
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Mehso-so

Adèle is all effect, with little interrogation of the cause. It‘s interesting, it‘s a good conversation-starter, but it‘s not going to sweep you away or pull on any heart-strings. I‘d recommend this one for your book club if the chat has been a bit stale lately, but skip it if you‘re looking for something to curl up with on the couch. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/adele-leila-slimani/

LiteraryinLawrence That‘s very helpful! Thanks! 3mo
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keepingupwiththepenguins
My Body Keeps Your Secrets | Lucia Osborne-Crowley
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My Body Keeps Your Secrets is not an easy read, but I found myself nodding furiously the whole way through. Every other page offers a lightbulb moment or the kind of insight that will make you gasp. Osborne-Crawley deserves a wide readership; her tireless efforts to examine and self-examine will resonate for all readers, regardless of their own identities and histories. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

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Ultimately, it was a pleasure, once again, to immerse myself in Lila and Elena‘s “furious friendship“. The story naturally progresses beyond the bounds of their Naples neighbourhood and the youthful concerns of the previous Neapolitan novels, a very logical continuation akin to a well-written biography. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/those-who-leave-and-those-who-stay-elena-fe...

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My Mess is a Bit of a Life | Georgia Pritchett
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Pritchett‘s series of short, sharp anecdotes are like particularly hilarious and insightful contributions to a conversation over cocktails. The deadpan delivery of critical reviews she has received in her career were particular highlights. I can't think of anyone who won't relate to Pritchett's stories of navigating the highs and lows of life with anxiety. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

Hooked_on_books Love this cover! 4mo
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The Kite Runner: Rejacketed | Khaled Hosseini
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Mehso-so

The Kite Runner is a good read, and a newly-resonant one (given what has happened in Kabul these past couple of months), but there are too many convenient coincidences and foreseeable twists for it to really get my motor running. Go ahead and read it if you‘re interested, but steel yourself! Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/the-kite-runner-khaled-hosseini/

KCofKaysville I liked it on audio several years ago. @keepingupwiththepenguins 4mo
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keepingupwiththepenguins
The Heart Principle | Helen Hoang
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What puts The Heart Principle a head above Hoang‘s earlier novels is the dark turn the story takes at the end of Part One; it makes for an all-too-real jarring contrast between sex and sadness. Luckily, the story speeds towards an ending that is hopeful and happy, with a vital message about caring for the caregivers. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

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It would be impossible to read The Banksia House Breakout without finding your heart warmed and your funny bone tickled. It‘s a fun-filled adventure that showcases the very best of the kindness of strangers and highlights the importance of respect and independence. A sweet all-ages read that will have you cheering on a rag-tag group of fugitive octogenarians. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

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Northanger Abbey | Jane Austen
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This one is more bold and bawdy than some of her more-renowned offerings. While it hits a lot of the same notes as your Emmas and your Pride And Prejudices, it hits them a lot harder, and holds the pedal down for good measure. I think I preferred the subtlety of some of Austen‘s later work, but there‘s something to be said for the explicit humour of Northanger Abbey. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/northanger-abbey-jane-austen/

Ruthiella Nice review ! I liked the analogies. 4mo
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keepingupwiththepenguins
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Laurie‘s approach makes CSI Told You Lies a de-facto collection of Australian true crime stories told from a different perspective than we‘re used to, and I loved it. Some chapters meander, some conversations are tangential, but all are fascinating. A must-read for Murderinos who love to peek behind the curtain. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

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Girl, Woman, Other | Bernardine Evaristo
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It‘s not quite prose as you know it but it‘s not poetry either. She doesn‘t seem to use any strict formula for grammar, punctuation or formatting. Normally, I‘d find this super-annoying, but in Girl, Woman, Other I barely noticed. It was surprisingly readable, and all of the stories flowed very naturally. So, if that‘s normally your bug-bear, you needn‘t worry. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/girl-woman-other-bernardine-evaristo/

SamAnne Almost finished and loving this one. 4mo
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keepingupwiththepenguins
Nothing But My Body | Tilly Lawless
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This one steers hard into the skid of stream-of-consciousness; reading it is like listening to a friend who has been waiting for you and disgorges as soon as you‘ve arrived. It might be confronting for some people who aren‘t familiar with sex work (and that‘s possibly the “point”), but that didn‘t bother me. I just found it a bit too performative and self-involved to really resonate. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

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I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK. It‘s an issue novel, but one that doesn‘t beat you over the head with a foregone moral position. It‘s a psychological thriller, without the hack writing or “plot twists” you can sniff out a mile off. It‘s a family drama with a family that actually feels like a family. One of those rare much-hyped novels that actually lives up. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/little-fires-everywhere-celeste-ng/

Alora Yesss! One of my favourites. You need to watch the series now omg!!! So good 4mo
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Gilda's anxious apathy and her unsentimental delivery make an otherwise-dark story a hilarious and relatable read. Plus, it‘s got a quick and neat resolution, a relief after the intensity of the previous pages, and it ends on a hopeful note (but not a saccharine one). Loved it! Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

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keepingupwiththepenguins
The Yield | Tara June Winch
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Mehso-so

August‘s story was a bit of a let down. The innovative conceit of using Wiradjuri language in The Yield to communicate a story and connect with the reader was muffled somewhat by a bog-standard David and Goliath fight that fell a bit flat. It‘s a good story in the sense that it hits all the beats you‘d expect, but next to the dictionary and the letter, it didn‘t shine. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/the-yield-tara-june-winch/

CarolynM I'm so glad I'm not the only one who wasn't keen on this book! I liked the aboriginal language and historical bits, but I thought the modern story was quite weak. 5mo
keepingupwiththepenguins @CarolynM Yes! Exactly! I would've LOVED a version of this book that was just the dictionary! 5mo
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keepingupwiththepenguins
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Pickpick

If you were a drama kid in high school, The First Time I Thought I Was Dying by Sarah Walker is a must-read. This essay collection explores the body in art and society: sex and violence onstage, shape and Photoshop, revulsion and intimacy, advertising and anxiety. Walker writes towards the idea of dismantling shame through honesty and humour, encouraging us to “embrace our own chaos”. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

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keepingupwiththepenguins
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Mehso-so

I‘ve had this one on my shelf for a while, but it was the Sentimental Garbage podcast that inspired me to finally pick it up.I was disappointed that Gregory skipped over the dirty bits and plodded through all the politics before reaching an inevitable conclusion, but her creativity in imagining the role that Mary might have played at court made up for it. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/the-other-boleyn-girl-philippa-gregory/

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Panpan

138 Dates wasn‘t a difficult read, I chewed through it in one sitting, but something about the particular strain of girlboss feminism running through it didn‘t sit right with me. At times, it felt like Campbell was cloaking an advertorial about her business in a memoir about “love”. If you‘re looking for a memoir about how to find your soulmate, this probably ain‘t it. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

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The Swans of Fifth Avenue | Melanie Benjamin
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The Swans Of Fifth Avenue is exactly what you‘d hope of a novel about 1950s New York high society: heavy on the sparkle and scandal, the gossip and glitz. It\'s highly readable, the same way that Prosecco is highly drinkable on a sunny afternoon. I thoroughly enjoyed this delicious gossipy take on Capote‘s misdeeds. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/the-swans-of-fifth-avenue-melanie-benjamin/

Julsmarshall Great review! 5mo
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keepingupwiththepenguins
She Is Haunted | Paige Clark
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Mehso-so

I liked the stories where Clark nudged at the supernatural (or, to put it another way, when things got weird). This is also the first “post-pandemic” fiction I‘ve read that directly and explicitly describes the impact of COVID-19 (so CW for that, and also for dog death). This is a fine debut, showcasing glimpses of good things to come from a young Chinese-American-Australian writer. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

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I‘m really not sure how I feel about child abuse being used as a “big twist” in a novel, but… for all its problems, I couldn‘t stop thinking about it. Chbosky and Charlie‘s story really got under my skin. Of course, this should serve as a huge stinky trigger warning, but for those of us who can stomach it, this is a book that will stay with you. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/the-perks-of-being-a-wallflower-stephen-chb...

annahenke This was so powerful for me. 6mo
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keepingupwiththepenguins
The Five Wounds: A Novel | Kirstin Valdez Quade
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Don‘t be fooled by the quasi-earnest piousness of the first chapter. The Five Wounds is a drama without the gloss or glamour, just a three-dimensional view of real life. Amadeo really got up my nose – I enjoy an unlikeable character as much as the next girl, but sheesh! – and yet, I couldn‘t help but find myself strangely moved and deeply touched by this family saga. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

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Mythos is a fun and fact-filled read. It might be more of a beginner‘s guide version of Greek mythology, but I reckon even the more passionate Greek myth readers could read it just for fun. I'm about as far from a Greek myths tragic as you can imagine (I haven't even read Circe), so I appreciated Fry's accessible approach. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/mythos-stephen-fry/

AvidReader25 I loved this one! The “sequel” Heroes is great too! 6mo
Cuilin Love anything Mr Fry does. ❤️ 6mo
SamAnne I really enjoyed this one. 6mo
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Mercy Blain‘s story is one of overcoming fear and finding home wherever you are. Lock‘s alarmingly accurate depictions of Mercy‘s physical experience of anxiety were a little triggering, to be honest, but the wonderful rhythm of her writing carried me through the discomfort. This is one of the best books I‘ve read this year. Full review: https://keepingupwiththepenguins.com/new-releases/

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