April 25, 2015
Billed as chick lit/contemp romance, one would expect a light, fluffy, and … well, romantic type book. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The book starts off somewhat slowly and analytically as Our Heroine, Chloe, peruses the profiles and stats of possible matches on an Internet dating site.
It picks up the pace when she starts dating a number of these men, and at the same time, we read about her relationships with her two best friends, her family, and … her exes, particularly the most recent one.
Unsurprisingly, this is a book about relationships, or lack of them, and the author does a good job in portraying the very different types that Chloe has.
This story is written in the first person, and primarily present tense, but even so, we learn about Chloe’s past, and that of her friends and family as the story unfolds, yet without any distracting unnecessary information dumps. The skill in this story is showing the feelings and emotions of others through their interaction, emotions, and conversations with Chloe. Dialogue is one of the main techniques used to tell this story, and it is well done, with no overly descriptive tags or unnecessary adverbs. It moves on the story and our understanding at the same time.
Characters develop through the story, and we come to empathise with Chloe’s feelings and thoughts as she questions the way she is approaching online dating and her new relationships. The author takes us inside Chloe’s head so that we share the anticipation of each new date, and the self-doubt that follows. Will there be a repeat date? But not just Chloe, her friends Jess and Shelly, and her family, grow as we read through the book. We truly learn more about all the characters. Even the dates she has stamp their personality on the story.
There is judgement, criticism, argument, and inevitable disappointment. There is however no maudlin sentimentality, the author steers clear of that.
And the plot? Well, my predicted ending didn’t happen, although the actual ending felt a little unreal. Nevertheless, after an up-and-down, exciting, unexpected journey through online dating, the ending provides an optimistic finish, and it has to be said, an interesting one.
It’s a good story of the pervasive influence the internet has on our lives, even down to finding our partners in life.
In chick lit genre, it’s somewhat different from the expected norm, avoiding all the crass stereotypical portrayals of behaviour, while providing good character and plot development. In contemporary romance it holds its own, providing a realistic view of the highs and lows of online dating, and the assumptions people make about it.
Reviewed by Renee
I went from one serious relationship to the next, so I really enjoyed living out a casual dating experience vicariously though this novel. I really liked Chloe, she was the kind of person I could imagine being friends with. Going from one dating disaster to the next, I was just as excited to find out what would go wrong as what would go right. There were a lot of male characters to keep track of, and most didn’t last long, so I didn’t really get a chance to connect with any of them – but that’s casual dating for you.
I received this book free from Awesome Indies Book in exchange for an honest review. This is the second book I’ve read by the author and I’m looking forward to the next.
Reviewed by Nat Parsons
This review has slight spoilers that I felt necessary – you have been warned!
Chloe Thompson is a teacher, has been out with two very very absolutely lovely guys but is still not settled. Her mum likes to remind her of this. Chloe is therefore sensitive to this fact. She has also dated one complete arse.
She thinks it’s time she met a good guy (I totally agreed.) A guy she can not only feel safe with, but also feel the kind of passion she felt for the complete arse (go Chloe!) So she registers for online dating. BUT, it’s 2003!! Online dating is so new it’s almost embarrassing to admit to it. There’s stigma – her mum disapproves, her friends are full to bursting with advice, solicited or not. How is Chloe – and ONLY Chloe – going to decide on her future with so much background noise?
I enjoyed this book overall. This isn’t usually the type of book I would read because I read them too quickly! I usually opt for something different. But the cover and the 4 star rating persuaded me I should read and see. It was very worth it.
Because of the real relationships between Chloe and her friends the book is much deeper than I initially assumed, so props to KJ Farnham. It very maturely addressed the problems found in making decisions with a vocal and opinionated family-and-friend group. Both friends mentioned – Jess and Shelley – are well rounded and also go through character growth in the dating arena.
The book also addresses the sometimes difficult relationship between mother and daughter. It is hard to feel like an adult making decisions if your mother is always chipping in with advice/guilt trips. This book brings a nice resolution to that particular drama, and that’s sometimes difficult to do well or smoothly in fiction without too much preaching.
The last bit of props goes to the exploration of moving away from emotional bonds to a person previously dated. I’ve already mentioned the arse, but he serves a useful purpose. Through the mistakes Chloe makes we all get a masterclass in how to get rid of a clingy ex; don’t see him/her, definitely take away his key if he/she has one, forgoodnesssake don’t sleep with him/her, tell him/her not to call and perhaps even change your number if necessary BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY tell him/her why you’re doing what you’re doing. Tell him/her it’s finished and at least for the time being you don’t want to see him/her. Communication is key, people. Because it’s not only him/her that will be hearing this, it’ll also be YOU. It’s be good for YOU to hear this.
The sex: Chloe has sex. Oh yes she does. I’m afraid neither are the warm, safe, happy-ever-after encounters that happen in happy-ever-after rom-coms. The first is with Mr Arse, and the fact she shouldn’t be doing it and I knew that the guy was just taking advantage of her made me feel very sorry for our Chloe. I’m afraid it got worse after that – the second time was with an online date that date raped her.
I feel I need to mention this because it could be triggering for some readers.
I don’t know how that scene came across to others, but when a girl has almost passed out and says very clearly to the guy: I AM NOT GOING TO SLEEP WITH YOU and he does it anyway, I call rape. And I was also uncomfortable that this guy was portrayed as a good guy for the rest of the time he was around. It was confusing for me as a reader. I don’t know whether this was on purpose as a comment on how many times the girl blames herself for miscommunication and other things in a borderline abusive relationship, or whether the author didn’t quite communicate with readers that actually it wasn’t rape, for reasons that are unclear to me. I like to assume the former because that’s a more interesting story that the author could have gone into more detail about that perhaps she didn’t want to at this time. I hope she does one day. For this confusion, I have reduced my rating from 4 stars to 3.
The element of mystery given in the form of a reading by the Angel Lady of Vegas could have been introduced much sooner. It definitely would have added that extra layer of interest; which guy was closet to the reading? Was Chloe going to listen to the reading, her mother, her friends, or herself? Etc etc. I think as a reader I would have enjoyed that. Plus, having it introduced 80% of the way through (I read this on my Kindle!) feels like it was shoehorned in for the ending.
The writing style itself was so polished and consummately good. I never had any problems reading it, it was smooth and nothing ever stuck out or bothered me/brought me out of the story. Which always means good writing!! I was a very happy reader 🙂Chloe herself was a brilliant character with flaws, so she was real on the page. I enjoyed reading her point of view.
I was surprised by this book, because it had depths. I’m not sure what genre I would out it in other than women’s fiction. It’s NOT a rom-com, because it’s not romantic and it’s definitely not a comedy. It has comedic elements from time to time but not comedy. It’s about a women with serious flaws (all of us!) getting over herself (something we all need to do) to find her relationships again.
3/5 stars. Solid book, with a few flaws.
I (gratefully!) received this book free from Awesome Indies Books in return for an honest review.
July 6, 2012
This is a highly enjoyable, expertly written and thought-provoking work of contemporary fiction that looks at the reality of the post women’s liberation world. Women wanted the freedom to have a career, but the bottom line is that men can’t have the babies, so what women actually got was the burden of juggling two jobs–one to earn money and the other to bring up the children—often without the satisfaction of doing either job well. Karen Bell raises these kinds of issues in a delightfully entertaining read about a very real and easy to relate to woman.
Suze Hall is in danger of loosing her job, thanks to a reshuffle at work. A work mate who hates Suze as much as Suze hates her has been promoted and is now Suze’s boss. The company has been taken over and the stakes and workload raised. Wanda, the boss, gives Suze a task that is so out of her area of expertise that she is clearly meant to fail in order to give a good reason for Wanda to fire her.
At the same time, Suze’s husband, Bob, is leaving her and the three kids for a six-month sabbatical down under, and her best friend, Marcia, is involved with a new boyfriend, so Suze is alone with the kids. As well as this, David, the gorgeous artist who broke her heart at college has coincidentally popped back into her life and has what she desperately needs to keep her job. Suze is forced to confront old demons—her feelings for David—and new ones—negotiating office politics to avoid being sidelined by her career woman boss who is keen to make Suze feel inadequate and unnecessary.
The issues are serious but the writing is light-hearted. The characters are delightful and very real. Suze goes through a kind of midlife crisis where she questions everything about herself and her relationships. The story raises all her insecurities, ones shared by woman of all ages throughout the western world, and her imagination throws up some romance novel options in her renewed relationship with David. They could lead her on a dangerous path but she’s smart enough to keep her cool.
One of my favourite bits is where Suze bemoans the fact that a woman no longer has the luxury of growing old, fat and respected—a kind of reward for her years of childrearing and the maturity and wisdom that comes from it. This would be a mature mother’s status in a matriarchal society and that’s how the story relates to elephants—not size, matriarchal society.
I recommend Walking with Elephants to every woman and I give it 5 stars and a place on the Awesome Indies listing.
September 10, 2013
Best novel I’ve read in years
Some books you know are going to be gold seal worthy from very early on, and this was the best metaphysical fiction I’ve ever read. The standard of the prose was excellent, (something for me as a writer to aspire to,) but more than that, the words had insight; they took you somewhere special – outback Australia. True, the physical setting is special, but not only does The Land Beyond Goodbye take you to the weather beaten back blocks of the Northern Territory, it also takes you into the land’s soul, ushered in by the aboriginal magic woman, Rose. One of my favourite lines from Rose is …
White fellah! Always thinkin’ stuff.
The Land Beyond Goodbye is about an English girl (pommie in Aussie lingo) who, as a young woman, spent some time working in an outback pub. Eighteen years have passed since she left and returned to London, but the death of an old friend has called her back. Darcy has left his place to her and she has no idea why? Or does she?
Her return brings back memories, particularly of the men, one in particular. She wonders if he is still around, if they could have had a life together if things had been different. She soon discovers that he’s around, but his life has fallen apart. He killed a man, an accident, of course, a punch up gone wrong, but her old flame, Jamie, spent time inside for manslaughter, and he’d started the fight to protect Jess’s honour. After he came out, he hit the booze big time, threw his life away, they say.
Jess has to go to Darcy’s place to fix up the legalities. Joey worked for Darcy his whole life, but all he gets of the fortune is the house Darcy built for Joey and his wife Sherry. Sherry doesn’t try to hide her hostility and after an argument, Jess, an emotional mess, drives into the bush. The Toyota stops on a road that no one uses and she can’t get it started. She ends up walking, get’s dehydrated, and falls, once, then again. She breaks her shin, thinks she’s going to die, and would have if Rose hadn’t come along and healed her. How? Jess isn’t too sure. It seems like magic, but it can’t be, can it? How could someone like Rose have such healing ability.
Jess is the kind of modern western woman we can all identify with, and the other characters are as well drawn, Rose, as is right for the character in just a few well chosen words. The author writes her as a wise, compassionate person without judgement, and Jess’s time with her cuts through her preconceptions and prejudice in a relatively short space of time.
And then there’s Jamie, Jinjat now; he arrives looking like the alcoholic Jess had been told he’d turned into, but that was a lie, just as, she discovers, her whole life is a lie. Jinjat has been unmade by Rose and her ancestors, stripped of pretensions and made whole. Jess feels stupid around Rose, because Rose says little, but what she does say shows an uncanny perception. At first Jess is repulsed by Jinjat’s appearance, the dirty clothes, the long hair and beard, but the longer she stays in Rose’s bush hut, eating bush tucker, living in the dust, the more her perception changes and she wonders if there could be something between them still.
Rose suggests that Jess needs fixing too. She agrees. Her life seems hollow now, compared to Rose’s wisdom and contentment, her sense of belonging and rightness with the world. But Jess has to go back to her responsibilities when the police are called to look for her. What is she going to do with this property, the mine and the huge amount of cash Darcy left her? But Jess’s time for fixing comes, and it’s no fun, but it works and Jess is remade. Her decision comes not from white fellah thinkin’ but from a place of knowing, made accessible to her by her time with Rose and her meeting with her ancestors, or demons, as Jess considers them.
This is quite simply the best book I have read in a very long time. Beautifully written, it is both an outer and an inner journey, one that captures the beauty and mystery of the outback and the depth of the inner experience that can come from immersing yourself in the rawness and vastness of the landscape, both outer and inner.
On a social level, the author shows clearly the kind of offhanded dismissal that many white Australian’s show for aboriginals, an attitude that arises from an ignorance much greater than that of any unschooled aboriginal. Without romanticizing the aboriginal situation, the story shows how completely we can miss the point. This is primarily a story of transformation and of how inner wealth is more important than outer wealth.
Perhaps the most wonderful thing about the writing is that, in some places, it actually evokes the state referred to, or perhaps it’s just that I know that place where the material things we usually deem important fade into insignificance.
Undoubtedly, 5 stars and a book that everyone should read, especially Australians.
Reviewed by S M Spencer –
Wow, I loved this book. Every bit of it. Highly recommended to anyone interested in Australia’s outback and original people.
Reviewed by Meredith –
This book was fantastic and fully-engrossing! I will definitely be getting more of Ms. Walter’s books after this.
I was a little worried as I began – lately the books that have managed to keep my attention will jump right into some intriguing action to hook the reader at the outset (and, if the author can keep up the pace, it works). This book had a beautifully descriptive yet surreal 3 paragraph prologue at the outset (first two sentences, as a taste: “Pearly pink evening light suffused the land, blurring the edges of the bush. The throb of the electricity generator kept time with her heartbeat and the Outback took possession of her soul.” ) and THEN jumped into some action. I was worried it wouldn’t be plot-driven enough, but my fears were thankfully unfounded.
The story line follows a Brit, Jess, as she returns to the Outback for the first time in the almost 20 years since she lived there in her early twenties to claim an inheritance surprisingly left to her. We follow Jess as she goes back to old haunts, gets reacquainted with friends she hadn’t spoken with again after leaving the first time…the disconnect is painful.
The mystical pieces and storyline are increasingly less distinct pieces as Jess progresses. At the outset, Jess greets everyone with “namaste,” and she is unable to bridge the gaps between herself and former friends. As she tries to flea again, her car breaks down and strands her in the Outback. With the lucky and mystical help of a stranger, Jess is forced to face, and reveal not just to the reader but herself as well, what led her to flea the Outback so long ago.
Will she deal with it or run away yet again?
There is plenty of soul searching and action in this book. The author deftly weaves the plot with beautiful prose, romance, ‘magic’, and some heart wrenching conflicts. It’s fantastic.
I received this book free from Awesome Indies Books in return for an honest review.
Reviewed by Vivian –
Interesting novel. I enjoyed reading about the Aborigines. In the end it comes together and leaves me wanting to find out what happens next.
Reviewed by Awesome Indies' Assessor
September 29, 2014
An illuminating tale beautifully told
The First Noble Truth is a tale told in the voices of two women. The author has made the interesting choice of giving us one voice in first person and the other in third person. Counterintuitively, I found the third person voice the more intimate of the two.
Krista, in first person, relates the circumstances of her life with some detachment; Machiko’s story is immersive, full of rich detail. Krista’s suffering is caused by large events—by loss, by grief; Machiko’s by the small injustices of daily life. Krista’s story is grim; Machiko’s is heartbreaking.
Krista and Machiko are very different from each other in superficial ways—race, nationality, family—yet the life of each woman is curtailed by suffering. Krista’s suffering prompts her to become an eternal vagabond, while Machiko’s affliction keeps her close to home, but each woman endures the loneliness imposed by her suffering, and in the end, it is the recognition of their shared experience that allows them to truly encounter each other.
What makes this book extraordinary is the power of the writing. It builds the worlds of these two women little by little, a piece at a time, until the reader finds herself woven into the fabric of the story, until the reader discovers herself in the lives of two strangers. This is a book that will change you.
Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor
September 16, 2013
The writing is exceptional. Pavarti Tyler brings the main character, Chelle, a thirteen year old girl from a dysfunctional family, who turns fourteen during the book, to life in this disturbing novel told from her point of view. She bares her soul in this book, and I really felt for her as she struggled to navigate an existence that no one would wish on any teenage girl, yet is undeniably real for some. This is not a book for the faint-hearted. It deals with complex, tough, even taboo subjects, and it does so extremely realistically. Chelle makes some bad choices, but from her viewpoint, her emotional outlook and need, they make sense in a rather disturbing way. That made White Chalk a compelling read, and a story and character I won’t ever forget.
The other characters in the book are also well-portrayed, and as the story is from Chelle’s point of view, the reader must wonder at their motivations. Some of them take advantage of her; some seem to want to befriend and help her. It all adds to Chelle’s emotional confusion and self-doubt, and to my experience as a reader, because I had strong feelings about some of them.
I do not want to add any detail of the plot because that would spoil the story. White Chalk is for readers who want to be challenged emotionally and idealistically, mesmerized by great writing and a unforgettable characters, and be drawn deeply into a disturbed teenage girl’s life as it falls apart around her. I highly recommend it.
September 19, 2013
Read this book. Do it. Stop reading this review and click the button that will give you access to this enthralling read. This review will be waiting right here while you do.
Finished? Great. Here’s what you’ve just purchased: a heart-rending piece of fiction written in detached, almost clinical prose that takes the protagonist, one young doctor Bethan Jenkins, away from her afflicted husband and out on an improbable, amazing, hopeful and eye-opening journey through divided and corrupt Africa: specifically Zimbabwe.
I was hooked from the first troubling sentence, pulled apart by the home situation Bethan faces, thrilled and overcome by the fantastic storytelling, and at several points, quite amused. All this from me, a shameless genre lover who looks silly browsing through the YA section at the bookstore, writing silly yarns about superheroes. Pffff. This ought to be required reading. It’s the real deal, a poignant look at the lives of people lived in different ways, an in-depth portrayal of post-revolution Zimbabwe, an interesting look at the way land shapes perceptions as people shape the land, and a thematically strong read.
Seriously, read this.
NOTE: If you’re American, you will want to have a dictionary or web search handy. There are plenty of British-isms that pop up (marquee comes directly to mind), and I was glad to have my iBooks integrated dictionary to save me from frustrating confusion.
I received a copy of Fortunate to review for Awesome Indies and I couldn’t feel more fortunate that I had the opportunity to review it. Thank you, Andrew.
This is a stunning novel—interesting, beautifully written and hard to put down. Not only is it a great story, it also deals with deeper issues of dealing with a recently brain damaged partner and survival under a corrupt regime. Mr Sharpe offers the best of independent fiction – something truly unique. You’ll find entertainment and food for thought in this volume.
Review from Awesome Indies Assessor
December 24, 2014
The Ghosts of Eden by Andrew J. H. Sharp is, like the story of Joseph’s coat from the Hebrew Bible, of many colors. It is a story that zooms back and forth in time and across strains of characters’ lives, at times with the speed of a supersonic jet, and at others, languidly like an eagle gliding on wind currents.
On the one hand, it is the story of Michael Lacy, the son of English settlers in pre-independence Uganda, who at the opening of the story is a prominent surgeon in the UK. On the other, the story of the Katura brothers, Stanley and Zachye, two members of the Bahima tribe who are sent off to school to learn the ways of the Bazungu, or whites, in order to be able to survive in the Uganda that is to come.
Although fictional, The Ghosts of Eden gives the reader an in depth look at African culture and the strains between traditional tribal culture, and the ‘modern’ culture imposed by colonization. The characters are so well formed, we feel as if we know them – their dreams and desires as familiar as our own. Told from a semi-omniscient point of view, the author nonetheless allows us to glimpse inside key characters’ minds, adding significantly to the tension that builds steadily from the moment Michael’s seat mate on the plane as he’s returning to Uganda to speak at a medical conference, dies quietly in his sleep. There is action and mystery aplenty in Sharp’s narrative, but this is also a love story – one with more twists and turns than an English garden maze as Michael, Stanley, and Zachye all vie for the heart of the beautiful, but enigmatic Felice.
My only complaint about the book was the author’s habit of not indenting certain paragraphs within chapters, until I realized that this was signaling a change in the action. That realization came about a third into the second chapter, so this really doesn’t count as a distraction.
The Ghosts of Eden defies genre characterization. Mystery, thriller, romance, historical novel, or perhaps a better description is literary tour de force. An exceptionally well-written novel that, once begun, is hard to put down until you arrive almost breathlessly at the end – and as you close it, you say, that’s the way it should be.