‘China Rich Girlfriend’ by Kevin Kwan

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Genre: Fiction

This is Kwan’s sequel to his immensely popular, Crazy Rich Asians which was published in 2013 and has a movie in the works.

Set two years after the first book the story focuses slightly less on the central couple, Rachel and Nick and instead delves deeper into the close-knit community of Singapore’s ultra-rich elite.

The characters vary in their personalities, occupations and likeablilities- everyone from politicians, to technological guru billionaries, to soap opera stars turned trophey wives.

The storyline of the sequel grips you as it describes the intriguing and virtually unknown world of high-class Asian society. The grotesque spending that these characters do leaves you 49% green with envy and 51% utterly flabbergasted. A perfect example are the persona car elevators used to transport residents to their high rise aparts…naturally.

A light, easy read this book is perfect to take to the beach this summer, though don’t be disappointed if you’re not staying in a 5+ star on your own private beach with a butler handing you gold champagne flutes!

Prepare to be green with envy (:

Love,
Vanessa

PERSONAL FAVOURITE ‘I, Robot’ by Isaac Asimov

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Genre: Fiction/Science Fiction

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Believe it or not (though those who know me would believe it) this is my first science-fiction book! I haven’t purposely been ignoring this massive genre of writing but I haven’t been overtly looking either….nonetheless, it’s been two days and I’m almost finish this one!
This book is a great introduction into the world of robotics and a neo-noir dystopian future (think ‘Blade Runner’ or ‘The Terminator’). Each chapter tells a different story of humans interactions with robots such as a mind reading robot, robots that have gone mad and one robot even questioning his own existence. The overarching storyline is an interview with retired Dr. Calvin, chief robopsychologist at U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc., the major manufacturer of robots as she reminisces of the changes to the robotics world between the 1990s-2040s.
Asimov’s novels changed the way readers’ perceived robots as he established the three laws of Robotics:
1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2) A robot must obey orders givein to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
The writing is magnificent as each chapter has me genuinely concerned for the characters involved (human characters, that is) as they deal with the robot, designed by them, but who is not what they wanted. Though a lot of science gargon is used in order for the characters to solve the problem is it very easy to follow and understand what has gone wrong in each case.
Highly recommended!
Love,
Vanessa

PERSONAL FAVOURITE ‘The Dangers of Truffle Hunting’ by Sunni Overend

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Genre: Fiction/Romance

This book was my holiday read- a book to sit by the pool, drink my bellini and soak up some good old fashion R&R. I’m glad to say that this book delivered.
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A story for the senses. A story to give you the feels. A story to make you feel glamorous! This is the story of Kit Gossard, who is a food photographer working for a food stylist magazine called Hamper. Kit comes from food royalty, with her owning one of the oldest and biggest wineries in Australia. She also is engaged a famous interior designer, Scott and to everynoe, they’re a perfectly stylish couple. Kit seems to have the perfect life, so why does she feel incomplete, unsatisfied, hungry for more? It’s only when a Raph, a new employee at the winery to arrive for Kit to realise that something is missing in her life- that her creativity and sexuality are being stiffled.
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What can only be described as a juicy, luscious read, it’ll have you craving breads, cheeses, trips to France and hot nights.
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Great for fans of Candace Bushell will love this book. It has lust, love, fame, wine, rich people, the whole shebang. What caught my attention was the beautiful settings! Gorgeous images of french countryside, picturesque vineyards and trendy city bars!
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Feast for the senses (:

Love,
Vanessa

PERSONAL FAVOURITE ‘Me Before You’ by Jojo Moyes

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Genre: Fiction/Romance

This book is impossible to ignore at the movie. Anyone who isn’t leaving under a rock will have seen the trailer for the upcoming film, starring Emilia Clarke (Game of Throne fans will know her better as Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons) and Sam Claflin (for Hunger Game fans that’s Finnick). So naturally, the book is in high demand.

The thing is, this book’s been out for a while, published in 2012, and it’s been popular since then.

The great thing about this book is, you’ll be so engrossed, you will finish it in the space of a weekend. This is an engaging, romantic story and not nearly as light-hearted and fluffy as some suggest.

This book is about Lou, who lives a quiet contended life in a tiny village in England. Her life may not be exciting but it suits her perfectly. That is, until she loses her job and frantically has to find a new one. Enter Will Traynor. Lou takes a job as a carer for Will who became a quadriplegic after a horrible accident. This is there story as they try to find a rhythm in each others lives.

The story also has subplots woven throughout.

A definite must read! Particularly for anyone interested in the movie- you should read this first!

Have tissues ready (:

Love,
Vanessa

‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ by Gabriel García Márquez

 

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Genre: Fiction

A modern classic!

It was a customer who recommended this book to me and who introduced me to this brilliant author. I briefly knew of him because of his Nobel Prize Winning Love in a Time of Chlorea (on of those books on the ‘I’ll read eventually’ list) though One Hundred Years was the novel that had everyone excited when I’d mention the author.
To put it simply, this novel gives the entire history of Latin America through the history of a fictitious town called Macondo through a family. The Buendías are the founding family of the town and commandeer all the major events such as the entire town’s resettlement, building a railway and countless civil wars. Each generation of the family have something new to contribute- with some more kind than others.
This book has taken me a long time to finish, in fact if it didn’t grip me every time I pick it up again than I would have given up on reading it ages ago but there is something very raw and expressive in the writing that makes it unique to me. Having been translated from Spanish you can feel that every sentence has a driven purpose and every adjective used to describe something significant has been carefully chosen.
This is a very dense read but challenges you to think beyond your own understandings of what it means to be a family. Some parts are incredibly scandalous that had me even blushing but I suppose they’re the parts that keep me reading this great novel.

A challenge worth trying 🙂

Love,
Vanessa

PERSONAL FAVOURITE ‘Speaking Out’ by Tara Moss

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Genre: Non-fiction

In 2016 I interviewed Tara Moss about her recently released book ‘Speaking Out’ and had the opportunity to ask what the motivation behind the book was and the current reaction.

Tara Moss is an admirable woman. Being a journalist, author and TV presenter has given her a strong presence in media for nearly twenty years. Throughout that time she has felt the incredible highs the spotlight can bring but has also felt the intense, furious presence of sexism within the media and cyber abuse against women. Her experiences have championed her to take action against this. Tara is a human rights advocate and cyberbullying campaigner. Tara has also been an ambassador for UNICEF since 2007.

Having written 11 best-selling novels and her critically acclaimed non-fiction book ‘The Fictional Woman’ Tara is no stranger to writing. Her latest book Speaking Out continues her campaign to stop online abuse and help give women equal chances in a ‘man’s world’

Speaking Out is a step-by-step handbook for how women of all ages can openly voice their opinions in today’s society safely and confidently. It provides tips, instructions and personal accounts for women who have done just that, spoken out or written about something that has had it’s messages tainted not by the content but simply because of the sex of the speaker.

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The introduction to the book is all about why it matters that women should care about speaking out about issues that are important to them and Tara puts in a lot of statistics to back herself up e.g. wordwide less than ¼ people we hear about in the media are female and that men outnumber women in parliament by 4 to 1.

Considering that half of humanities perspectives, opinions and possibly solutions are being under-represented women need to learn how to have their voices heard

The book covers many topics:

*When to be paid for your writing and generally how much

*Legal rights

*Dealing with online abuse

*Tips on public speaking

It’s an interesting read, not necessarily something you do cover to cover but you can really appreciate where Tara is coming from. That the issued raised are from her own personal experience, as well as other women (so you get a broad perspective)

The main issue I have with this book is that it’s designed to be a reference for women to pick up when needed and be helpful. The problem is that it’s not set out well enough be like that. The topics are too intertwined and chapters are too dense with text to find what you’re looking for in a hurry or stressed

As a prominent female public figure if this book had had an online presence, in the form of a blog for instance, or had been an ongoing campaign where women could post and interact with one another regarding speaking out, I felt this would have been more effective but as a book, it’s limited.

That being said, I have picked up Speaking Out over the past year before job interviews, radio gigs and even before having difficult conversations to give myself clarity and remind myself of what I can do to made myself be heard.

This is one I think every young woman should have in her bookshelf!

Love Vanessa

 

 

 

‘The Vegetarian’ by Han Kang

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Genre: Fiction

 I reviewed this book on the ABC radio program ‘Overnights’ in November 2016, contact me if you’d like to hear the full review!
This succinct novel is as poetic as it is disturbing. It shows how one person’s, seemingly simple, personal choice can be a catalyst for a family’s unravelling.
The book revolves around Yeong-Hye, an ordinary wife living in South Korea who’s husband describes her as, “completely unremarkable in every way”. The couple potter along with their lives, neither unhappy but neither driven by great hopes or dreams either. That is until one night Yeong-Hye’s husband finds her in the kitchen, in a disorientated state, throwing out all the meat from the fridge and declaring that she has become a vegetarian.
In a country where societal norms are strictly obeyed and where meat is gorged on habitually, Yeong-Hye’s decision is seen as a shocking act of disobedience. Her only explanation being, “I had a dream”. The book is seperated into three parts. Part one, is from Yeong-Hye’s husband’s perspective and shows the family and Yeong-Hye’s self coming to terms with her decision. Throughout this part, the reader gets snippets of Yeong-Hye’s dream that night and even though it reads like a poem, it shows of a bloody and violent provocation with an unknown creature. Frankly, it’s graphic enough to shock anyone awake.
Part two is told from the brother-in-laws perspective who is a struggling artist with a sudden obsession with Yeong-Hye’s body months after her turn to vegetarianism. This aspect of the book is slight unnerving with the brother-in-laws artistic intentions becoming perverse and Yeong-Hye being completly unfazed by his requests. Part three is the perspective of Yeong-Hye’s older sister In-hye, as she tries to pick up the pieces of Yeong-Hye’s spiral into what she thinks is a psychosis. This part highlights the strong Korean values of family unity and older sibling responsibility. Han Kang covers A LOT in such a short space of time. For me, this is the mark of a good writer. When you’re carried along with the story swiftly but without feeling rushed. This is Han Kang’s first novel to be translated into English and has been very well received! It won The Man Booker International Prize for 2016.
In 2014 at the London Book Fair had Korea as a guest of honour this was in the hope of tempting English-language publishers to seek out more contemporary Korean novelists.
A wonderful read for anyone who enjoys translated novels, Korea or simply who wants to delve into a culture so removed from their own. Highly recommended!
Love,
Vanessa

‘The Animators’ by Kayla Rae Whitaker

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Genre: Fiction

This story takes you on a tour around America through the eyes of animation duo, Sharon and Mel. The two girls met in art-college and ten years later are releasing their first full-length animation movie together. The novel follows the two women as they try to find a story for their next movie and the difficulties that goes along with using your own life and the difficulties of your past as inspiration. The two women are the classic chalk and cheese team- Sharon, is from East Kentucky who grew up as the stereotypical wallflower and Mel is the wild child who dealt with a drug addicted mother in Florida. The author, herself, grew up in Kentucky and paints a great picture of what this rust belt of America is truly like while also setting up the characters up in New York which ties in well with the classic trendy art scene for young, creative professionals. This is an interesting and unique narrative.

The major themes in the book are friendship, loyalty, homosexuality, dedication and overcoming personal difficulties. The narrative has a writing style. It’s informal, offbeat and filled with swearing, sex, drugs and popular culture references. This is suited to the intended audience, though at times I found unnecessary and unbelievable of the characters

Since one of the two main characters is gay, naturally this is a major theme in the book. What I appreciated the most was the juxtaposed approach Whitaker took to talking about it….it’s a major theme in the book while hardly being openly discussed. While ever presence, since Mel is gay, the actual topic is barely broached or the idea of Mel and Sharon becoming a couple is hardly mentioned

I found this book unique because of its’ offbeat writing style combined with an interesting narrative and well broached themes and societal issues. Whitaker dealt a lot of societal issues such as drug and alcohol addiction very thoughtfully, while you got to feel the experience of these issues because she puts a lot into the book she doesn’t focus on one in particular. You feel satisfied with the ending because everything is, not necessarily resolved but at least neatly tied up.

I’d love to hear what others thought of this book!

Love,
Vanessa

PERSONAL FAVOURITE ‘Cairo’ by Chris Womersley

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Genre: Fiction

“I know how tragic it can be to fall for the wrong person. The pain that person can inflict on you when you imagine what it would be like to be with them, the ways you could complement each other. The future you might have together.”
―Chris Womersley, Cairo

Melbourne has fast become the most popular city to set Australian fiction. It’s quirky nature and unique ambience inspires originality in everyone living there. So imagine what it would have been like in the 1980s…before instagram, facebook and google made it accessible to everyone. Introducing Tom Button, who retells his story of being 17 and moving from the country into the big city in 1986.

He moves into an apartment building named “Cairo” where he meets residents Sally and Max. He takes refuge in their friendship, their spontaneity and creativity introducing him to all the hot spots of Melbourne (perhaps even forcing him to grow up too quickly)

This book has all the ingredients of gripping fiction: drugs, sex, theft as well as love and loyalty.

Why did I love this book? It made me feel immersed in the time! It reminded me of cherishing the friendships I have. This book is for art lovers, Melbourne lovers or just someone who likes a good twist.

I felt retro reading this book and since turning the last page I cannot pass art deco apartment blocks without thinking of this book 🙂

Love,
Vanessa

‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara

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Genre: Fiction

I reviewed this book on the ABC radio program ‘Overnights’ in May 2016, contact me if you’d like to hear the full review (:

“He will be someone who is defined, first and always, by what he is missing.”
―Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life

This is a novel take keep on your radar! Yanagihara is an up and coming American novelist and this is her second novel. A lot of publicity has been surrounding this book recently as she was a key speaker at the Sydney Writer’s Festival this year.

Set in New York this story follows four male friends after they graduate and move to New York: Jude, Malcolm, JB and Willem. You learn about the characters in different chapters. However, as the story progresses it narrows down to focus on one friend in particular, Jude as he establishes his life as a litagator and as we learn about his horrific childhood or torment and abuse. As the reader, we learn about how Jude learns to deal with these tragedies and we really understand the value he feels for his three friends as they are such a comfort to him.
There’s a mystical and fantasy elements to the which heightens both the good and the bad in the story. For example, the friendship of the four boys is so incredibly rare, the things they do for each other and how they realise early on that they need to actively work to keep their friendship alive. Even Yanaighara mentioned that this friendship was something she envied. Also some of the heroes of the book such as Harold even feel like the fairy godmother.These  almost feel like fairy god parents, too good to be true. This adds to the fable like quality of the story- like Jude being raised in a monastery- sometimes I felt like you needed to remove a sense of realism This of course in juxtaposed with some incredibly challenging personal events that these characters go through.
The torment in the book isn’t there without purpose, each event shaped Jude. So even though it can feel like it’s one blow after the other in the end you see how each event has forced him to act and behave in different ways in order to appear “normal”

Time is very elastic, sometimes it moves quickly (almost too fast, you feel like you’ve skipped a page) and other times she dwells on an evening page after page after page. Ironically, Yanighara has the intense structure for the book- 3 parts, 3 sections within these parts and then 3 sub-sections (that I actually had to go back and look over after heard her explain)

This is a reason I think she chose New York. It’s the only city where the characters could have both raging success and anonymity. The fantastical quality of “if you can make it hear you can make it anywhere” gives the sense of hope to the characters that she couldn’t get if she’d chosen a smaller, less cosmopolitan city

The ending felt incredibly satisfying, not tied up neatly like other books that deal with these kind of issues but instead like the story had reached fruition

This book is not for the faint hearted. Yanagihara mentioned in a review that it’s not an author’s responsibility to make her readers feel good, her job is simply to tell a story no matter how challenging that story is. In fact, Yanagihara even received some hate mail from readers saying the story has too much saddness. No matter how you feel about the book, one thing that cannot be denied is Yanagihara’s ability to get a reaction!

Love,
Vanessa