‘House of Trelawney’ by Hannah Rothschild

A brand new book by Hannah Rothschild, who’s previous book ‘The Improbability of Love’ was a best-seller and one I reviewed a few years ago!

This book is a dazzling comedy about old money, new money and no money at all. Set in Trelawney Castle, once a jewel of the Cornish coast, it’s a satire combining the world’s of British aristocracy and high finance.

I’ve just started this book but so far I’m loving it. Essentially, it’s about the rundown Trelawney Castle, with the Trelawney family living an isolated existence and running out of options (how relevant at this moment in our world’s history!) Three events will hasten the demise of the castle; the arrive of a new and illegitimate relation an unscrupulous American determined to seek revenge and the 2008 financial crash.

The book is perfect for Downtown Abbey lovers, people who like to see behind the curtains of these beautiful estates and who can’t get enough of the British aristocracy.

It’s a classic story of a dysfunctional family- filled with complex characters and witty dialogue.

More to come with this review and look out for my Podcast radio review of it to come!

Love,

Vanessa x

‘When life gives you lululemons’ by Lauren Weisberger

A slow starter, worth the read!

The next instalment in the ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ series, following the world of Emily Charlton after her time at Runway.

Emily Charlton is a successful stylist and image consultant for Hollywood stars but with the rise of young millennial social media moguls, her clients are dwindling fast. To save her image, Emily relocates to the upmarket suburba Greenwich to help the reputation of model Karolina Hartwell, who has been publicly dumped by her husband Graham, a senator with presidential ambitions. All with the help of Emily’s oldest friend Miriam.

While I found this book a great, light read with a few good laughs, it’s definitely not one for the ages. The character development needed some work and the timeline didn’t seem to make sense. However, it’s a fun story that continues on from ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ seamlessly.

In these critical times, where we all need to play our part in protecting each other, I’m using this time to go through my bookshelf and read some books I normally wouldn’t.

I think out of all of Weisberger’s novels ‘Chasing Harry Winston’ was my favourite- what about you guys?

Love,

Vanessa x

‘Such a Fun Age’ by Kiley Reid

This a modern day story about racism, elitism and the struggles to find identity in a world where everything is documented. This is the story of Emira- a young 25 year old, black woman, who while in a supermarket, is accused of kidnapping the white child she is baby sitting. The event is caught on camera by a bystander. This night sets of a chain of events for Emira and the young family she works for.

I loved this book! It has all the elements of a good read- cultural relevance, romance, millennial banter. I also loved how this book showed the messy dynamics of privilege, specially from the perspectives of the Chamberlains, Emira’s employers. The mother, Alix, made a name for herself on social media emphasising the importance of women standing up for themselves.

I found this book from a Facebook bookclub I’m apart of and was interested in the range of impressions of this book. Personally, I really enjoyed it and have recommended it to my girlfriends for our bookclub.

This book is Kiley Reid’s debut novel and since being published in December 2019 has already reached critically acclaim being a 2020 NAACP Image Award Finalist and being recommended by Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club.

If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Love,
Vanessa x

‘The Kiss Quotient’ by Helen Hoang

A heart warming romance that challenges what we think we know about social stereotypes. Think ‘The Rosie Project’ but more sex! 

The story follows Stella Lane- a brilliant mathematician and economist focused on routine and her work- partly manifested by her Asperger’s. Stella has succeeded in her career, where she uses algorithms to predict customer purchases, a career that has given her more money than she knows what to do with.  What she doesn’t know about is men- what to do with them, how to pleasure them and how to keep them. So she hires a professional escort, Micheal and creates a set of check lists and lesson plans to help her along, from french kissing to how to give blow jobs. 

Before too long Stella and Michael’s no-nonsense partnership makes sense and Stella starts to appreciate all the feelings Micheal makes her crave. 

What I loved about this book is that it challenged social stereotypes. It did not hide Stella’s Asperger’s and in fact emphasises how it impacted her life in many ways but it also does not rule her. Many a times I forgot Stella has Asperger’s and simply thought she was a complex character with similar perfectionistic traits to myself.

Micheal was another surprisingly deep character. He doesn’t shy away from his job as an escort but does emphasis this isn’t something he had planned to do forever. His background of Vietnamese was an interesting flavour to the book- I was constantly craving Pho while reading the book because they were always making it! This cultural element did not feel forced or stereotyped and I appreciated how naturally Hoang incorporated this into the Californian setting.  

I’d like to finally mention the sex. I wasn’t expecting so much of it or that it would come with such waves of detail. I’m never going to shy away from the odd piece of erotic in a book, however it did occasionally feel too forced and unnatural. One could argue that this was part of Stella’s journey- going from hating to being obsessed with sex. However, for me, it started to feel ‘Fifty Shades’, but hey, whatever lights your fire. 

I’m curious to read Hoang’s next book ‘The Bride Test’ 

If you’ve read this book or are intrigued to, I’d love to hear what you think! 

Love, Vanessa  

‘Adèle’ by Leïla Slimani

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Another book teaming with my ‘Femme Fatale’ theme this month! This book was highly anticipated after the success of Slimani’s novel ‘Lullaby’. The theme of all of Slimani’s novels is sex but not the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey/Borderline Pornography’ sex but rather is tasteful. ‘Adèle’ emphasises a women’s control (or lack there of) when exploring their sexuality and desires.

This story follows Adèle, a woman living in Paris, who appears to have the perfect life- a surgeon successful husband, a beautiful son and a ever-rising career in journalism. However, Adèle is plagued with an insatiable desire for risk and sex in order to combat boredom. Surprise, surprise when her string of affairs start to come crashing down Adèle’s world crumbles.

The story started off very thin and difficult to get into, however, the slow burn of the character development  makes for a satisfying climax of the story.

I’m very interested in reading Slimani’s first novel ‘Dans le Jardin de l’ogre’ which tells the story of a woman who loses control of her life due to her sexual addiction.

Feelings bold and want something a little risque? Give this a go!

‘My Sister, the Serial Killer’ by Oyinkan Braithwaite

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This book has been a literary favourite and a social media sensation.

The story is set in Lagos, Nigeria during a corrupt and disruptive time for law and order. The author’s personal history with this town, being her hometown, gives an authentic and rich flavour to the writing. From the comfort of my Sydney, urban balcony when reading this book I can hear the trucks going along dusty roads and rain pelting so hard it breaks umbrellas. It is a fascinating observation of women living in Nigeria in 2019 and an obvious reason why this novel was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019 and the Manbooker Long List of 2019.

This is the story of Korede, a respectable nurse in her community who has a beautiful, little sister called Ayoola who has a nasty habit of leaving a string of murdered ex-boyfriends behind her…all in the name of self defence.

In order to survive and protect her family, Korede must don the rubber gloves and bleach to clean up after Ayoola. Korede is happy to turn a blind eye to Ayoola’s dangerous hobby until Ayoola catches the eye of Korede’s handsome and favourite doctor as the hospital she works at.

This story is rich in subtle layers. The chapters and prose are short and witty and character inner monologues provide intriguing perspectives.

A good read for those wanting to break into the genre of dark satire.

‘Heather, the Totality’ by Matthew Weiner

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Genre: Fiction, Novella

Weiner was the creator, writer, executive producer and director of Mad Men and this is his first novel. This story is about the Breakstone family, a wealthy Manhattan family who arrange their lives arrange their daughter Heather. But as Heather gets older and her empathy sharpens and her radiance attracts more and more dark interest. Meanwhile a very different life, one raised in poverty and violence, is beginning its own malign orbit around Heather.

The major themes of the story are obsession, commitment, family and money. The book plays on these themes in their extremes through the lives of the two major characters Heather and Bobby.

The overall message of the book: love can be all encompassing and all consuming or it can be a feeling that grows with time and nurturing.

The writing style is succinct and has short paragraphs to set scenes. Each chapter changes character perspectives which suits the story because it highlights how Heather is a powerful force through people’s lives.

An informal writing style but a very specific layout. The informal style makes the book flow and read easily, while the structure allows for Weiner to project all he wants about the characters in a very short amount of time.

The mood is bleak and ominous throughout the story and this literary device is used to create ambivalence throughout the book. Even the opening line ‘Mark and Karen Breakstone got married a little late in life’ creates ambiguity. Are they one of the lucky ones who found each other or was it through tiredness and desperation that they got together?

Even the setting is a literary device that Weiner has chosen. New York is a dichotomy of wealth and poverty, of opportunity and adversity. The author was successful at fleshing out well-rounded characters in a short amount of time. He highlighted how uncomfortable consequences occur when two dichotomies collide and how it creates upheaval in someone’s simple world.

Being a novella, everything is succinct and this carries through to the book’s ending- short and punchy

I would recommend this book because it’s a deceptively complex story. The characters feel real because you see into their world through eyes which highlights the sometimes depressing realism we have when exposed to their honest thoughts.

What do you think? Would you read this?

Love,
Vanessa

GREAT MODERN WRITERS: Virginia Woolfe, ‘Mrs Dalloway’

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Genre: Classic Fiction

I’m starting off my book challenge with an old favourite! I read ‘Mrs Dalloway’ in high school and though it had an impact on me with it’s definition of ‘the perfect hostess’ rereading the book has given me greater insight and appreciation for this classic.

To summarise, ‘Mrs Dalloway’ takes place in the space of a single day back in 1923 as Clarissa Dalloway, an upperclass English wife, prepares for a party she is hosting that evening. As the day progresses, we learn more about Clarissa’s past with the visit of an old lover Peter Walsh and we learn about her present as we’re introduced to her husband, the conservative and respectable Richard Dalloway and her adolescent daughter Elizabeth.

This is one of my favourite novellas because of its transformative power. When reading it I can see the clothes, imagine the London streets and envisage myself preparing to host a glamorous dinner party. However, with this comes a dark undercurrent of reality, realised when you read the perspectives of each of the characters.

Mrs. Dalloway is Woolf’s first complete example of what she describes as the “luminous envelope” of consciousness: displaying inside the mind as it plays over the brilliant surface and darker depths of reality.

A fascinating and subtly powerful read.

Have you read Mrs Dalloway?

Love,
Vanessa x

‘Beautiful Malice’ by Rebecca James

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Genre: Fiction

This read is a long time coming! I remember reading a great review of this book in the MUST READ section of a Women’s Weekly magazine back in 2010. Then, a few weeks ago I found a mysterious copy in my mother’s library and believed the universe was giving me a nudge to read it.

This book is about Katherine, a 17 year old girl who has recently moved away from her shattered family to start afresh in Sydney. Katherine keeps her head down and a low profile until she is befriended by the wild and party-loving Alice. Alice brings Katherine out of her shell and into the real world…but there’s a dark side to Alice, something threatening and soon Katherine will learn the truth about Alice a dark twisted side which brings explosive and devastating consequences.

This is an intense and addictive psychological thriller. It is an easy read, however, at times is frustratingly unrealistic in it’s depiction of living in Sydney and Katherine needs to be more unlikeable in order to have more substance.

The depiction of friendship is something that is truly worth value.

I don’t know why I remember a book review from 8 years ago but it was worth remembering!

What’s a good psychological thriller you’ve read?

Love,
Vanessa x