Books set in Australia

Wow, I hadn’t realized until recently just how many books I’ve read that are set in Australia! Here’s what I’ve read. Can you add to this list?

Alone – Lost Overboard in the Indian Ocean – Brett Archibald

The Dry by Jane Harper

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty


Check out these lists for additional books set in Australia:

Goodreads – Best Books Set in Australia

Tale_Away – Books Set In Australia: Australian Novels

Crime Reads – 10 Essential Australian Novels


For even more, visit my post More books set in Australia here.

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Audiobook Review: Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner, read by Ari Graynor and Beth Malone

Mrs. Everything
by
Jennifer Weiner

Read by Ari Graynor and Beth Malone

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started Mrs. Everything, Weiner’s 2019 decades-spanning family drama about two sisters who grow up in Detroit during the 1950s. I’d read All Fall Down and remembered it as a semi-light read that covered serious issues. In that sense, the two books are similar, but at 480 pages (and close to 17 hours of listening), Mrs. Everything covers a lot more ground.

Jo and Bethie Kaufman are young girls when their parents move them from a racially-diverse apartment in Detroit to a mostly Jewish, and safer residential neighborhood just outside the city. Early on, their stay-at-home mother tells them that “birds of a feather must flock together,” based on her own painful childhood experiences as the daughter of immigrant parents. When their father dies, Jo, Bethie and their mother must learn to fend for themselves.

Jo is tall, strong and athletic, the classic tomboy, and Bethie is rounder, pretty and loves everything girly. Both girls struggle to find their own way and face many obstacles. Jo knows she’s different. She only likes girls, but must decide between what was then an unacceptable lifestyle or the conventional route of marriage and children. Bethie, a promising singer and stage performer, learns early that being pretty can attract the wrong kind of attention and enters a ten-year-long period of self-destruction.

Mrs. Everything is historical in that in addition to cultural, political, and social references, it covers major national and political events, wars, civil rights protests and women’s rights movements. To add color to her story, Weiner also includes trends, fashions, music, popular foods, descriptions of homes and interior décor. Present-day problems focus on women’s struggles in the modern world and highlight the Me Too movement.

I don’t like criticizing a book that supports worthy issues, but Mrs. Everything is an exhausting read in that it covers every single bad thing that could happen to a family and is a certifiable man-hater book. Most of the men in the story are terrible people, with only two exceptions: the deceased father and Bethie’s husband, a minor character. I found this approach very one-sided and unrealistic. Although I didn’t try to verify every date and fact, other readers have been critical of the author’s inaccurate references to time and place. I will say that I think that the author is very casual with some of her descriptions and plot lines. Maybe that doesn’t matter. I found it a little annoying.

Reviews of Mrs. Everything are mostly positive (It’s a New York Times Best Seller), but I’m not alone in my opinion and best seller doesn’t always mean it’s good. In the end, I’d say that this type of book just isn’t for me. To help you make your own decision, here are three bloggers’ reviews.

Subakka Bookstuff
Read with Aimee
Becky’s Reading Journey

Have you read Mrs. Everything? What did you think? Leave a comment!

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Book Review: The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

The Mother-in-Law
by
Sally Hepworth

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really enjoyed The Mother-in-Law, an engaging family drama about money and secrets and a look at how adult children deal with problems. Set in Australia, the story opens with Lucy Goodwin, a stay-at-home mom with three children and her husband, Ollie. From the beginning, Lucy has never had a close relationship with her mother-in-law, Diana, who is cold and controlling, especially when it comes to the family’s vast fortune. And Diana has made it clear that Lucy doesn’t measure up. She’s also hard on Ollie and his sister, Nettie, denying them loans that would help them in their adult lives. She frequently points to the struggling women refugees she helps with her charity, her life’s passion. In contrast, Diana’s husband, Tom is friendly and generous, and has secretly loaned Ollie and Nettie money, setting up a complicated family dynamic.

When police discover Diana Goodwin’s body, the evidence suggests that she took her own life. Her family tells detectives that Diana, newly widowed, had breast cancer. But investigators think there’s more to the story.

In alternating chapters that jump between past and present, readers learn more about Lucy and Diana and begin to understand why Diana feels so strongly about withholding money from her children. After she denies Ollie a loan, Diana tells her husband, “I think Ollie could do with being a little hungry. A little hunger is good for young people.” She reminds Tom, “It was the making of you.” Readers also learn more about how the adult children regard their future inheritances and how the family relates to each other.

Despite its 340 pages, this is the type of book you can finish quickly because of its interesting storyline and characters. I especially liked seeing how the relationship between Diana and Lucy changes, offering an insight into how seemingly opposing characters are more connected than they realize.

I was less satisfied by the tie-up at the finish and how the big reveal omitted details about the investigation and its resolution. I think this book fits better in the women’s fiction and family drama genres and is less of a thriller or mystery. A couple grammar problems (the old “between he and I” mistake) detracted from its polish, which was otherwise excellent. I would definitely read another book by Sally Hepworth.

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Book Review: The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
by
Kim Edwards

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I’ve been working my way through fiction set in Pennsylvania and just finished The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. First published in 2005, the story begins in 1964 in Lexington, Kentucky. Norah and David Henry, newly married are expecting their first child. On a snowy night, Norah goes into labor and David, who is a doctor, takes them to his clinic where the obstetrician will meet them. Because of the weather, the obstetrician doesn’t make it and David delivers a son they name Paul. To their shock, Norah gives birth to a second baby, a girl. As soon as she’s born, David recognizes that the baby has Down Syndrome and believes she will not survive long. While Norah is unconscious from the last dose of ether, he quickly hands the baby to his nurse, Caroline, and instructs her to take the baby to a home for the disabled. When Norah wakes, David tells her she had twins but that their daughter died. They name their lost baby Phoebe and move on with their lives. The title refers to a camera Norah gives David on an early anniversary, called the “Memory Keeper.” David becomes obsessed with taking pictures, perhaps to escape the real world.

Instead of giving her away, however, Caroline takes Phoebe to Pittsburgh and decides to raise the baby as her own. While Norah mourns their daughter and Paul grows up without his sister, David resolves never to tell. Readers learn David’s backstory and his reason for giving Phoebe away, an explanation of sorts. Meanwhile, Caroline keeps in secret touch with David, sending him updates and pictures, but mailing them from random locations so he can’t trace her. And David sends her money, to Post Office boxes her truck driver boyfriend has set up across the country.

Because of what hangs over the Henry family, David, Norah and Paul suffer in unforeseen ways, and they grow distant from one another. The story concentrates on the Henrys, but follows both families for twenty-five years.

The author also shows the difficulties of raising a child with Down Syndrome during the 1960s and 70s. Caroline becomes an advocate for children with learning challenges and fights for Phoebe’s right to a public education. As Phoebe grows to adulthood, Caroline must make important decisions about Phoebe’s future. The author does a good job showing Phoebe as a strong-minded young woman who falls in love and wants a life of her own. Caroline worries about Phoebe but knows she must plan for a time when Phoebe moves out.

That’s the premise of a story that starts out great, but loses steam as the characters settle into their lives. I became frustrated by several unrealistic plot lines and connections that no actual person would accept or make. So just an okay book, with a fair amount of repetition and a lot of minute description that makes the book overly long.

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Audiobook Review: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, narrated by the author

The Lovely Bones
by
Alice Sebold

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m trying to read a bunch of books that are set in Pennsylvania for a work event I’m hosting on March 24, so this week I listened to The Lovely Bones, narrated by the author. My book club read this when it was first published in 2002, so this is my second time around. In 2003, it won the American Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award for Adult Fiction. The 2009 film is directed Peter Jackson and stars Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Michael Imperioli and Saoirse Ronan. You can watch the trailer here.

The story begins in 1973 and is set in Norristown, Pennsylvania, when Susie Salmon is fourteen. On a shortcut home through a cornfield, Susie’s neighbor, Mr. Harvey, lures her to a secret place where he rapes and murders her. Now in heaven, Susie tells the story of her death, including the investigation and how her family and friends struggle with their loss.

Although they’re in the same house, Susie’s parents, sister and brother suffer distinctly apart from one another. Her father, Jack, searches relentlessly for Susie’s killer. Her sister, Lindsey, just a year younger, pushes her mother and father away, and her toddler brother, Buckley, clings to Jack. What’s the most upsetting is how Susie’s mother, Abigail, withdraws from Jack and her children. Abigail’s mother, Lynn, has her own idea about how to save the family, and it might just work.

In heaven, Susie thinks of what might have been. Just days before her death, a boy named Ray Singh had kissed her and now the promise of her first romance is lost. And when Susie dies, her spirit brushes past a girl named Ruth, who will carry an uncertain feeling with her until Susie helps her understand the link between the living and the dead. Susie also talks about Mr. Harvey, his victims and his habits. She includes details about his childhood, not to absolve him, but to explain how he became a predator.

Jack continues to watch for a break and Detective Len Fenerman waits for leads, but the investigation stalls. Only the reader knows of Mr. Harvey’s actions and some clues that may come to light, offering hope that Mr. Harvey will be caught.

Although the story begins with a murder, its mostly about how a family copes with loss, how they lose each other and find new ways to reconnect and move on without Susie. Sebold also offers a hopeful explanation of what happens at death and how sprits might communicate with the living.

I liked this story, despite its depressing subject, because it shows how characters cope with loss and conflict. The supernatural element was interesting to me and fit well into the story. Although The Lovely Bones is not a new book, I think it’s still a good read and I recommend it to readers who like family stories about grief and loss.

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Book Review: Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Ask Again, Yes
by
Mary Beth Keane

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I very much enjoyed this story about two families in a suburban town outside New York. A tragic event splits them apart and the resulting pain haunts them for decades. The story begins in New York in 1973 as Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope graduate from the police academy. Marriage and children follow and the two families become next door neighbors in the fictional town of Gillam. As the children grow, Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope become best friends and are on the verge of romance until the night that changes the course of both families’ lives.

After that night, Kate and Peter’s families are burdened with trying to move on and many other problems, including hushed family secrets and worries of history repeating itself. Each character wonders if the events could have been altered had they acted differently. They struggle with marriage, parenthood, and the rippling effects of mental illness, alcoholism and sexual abuse. And whether they like it or not, their families will always be interconnected.

What I liked most about this book is the way I got to know the characters and saw how they worked through situations over time, finding their way back to each other. But first, readers see how the families, engaged in daily life, don’t acknowledge their deeper problems until they lead to bigger crises. I also liked Brian’s brother, George, whose quiet resilience and self-knowledge is there for any of them to see, if they would only notice. By the end of the story, I felt like I understood why each acted the way they did.

I don’t want to give anything more away, because family dramas are much more enjoyable if you experience the events as they unfold. And although the families’ problems seem overwhelming, friendship, love, acceptance and forgiveness ultimately dominate.

Ask Again, Yes was voted a 2019 Summer Read by fans of Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show (read about that here). And for readers who like to know how authors develop stories, here’s a BookPage interview with Mary Beth Keane.

I recommend Ask Again, Yes to readers who like family sagas and stories about resilience. I think it would make a good book club book.

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Book Review: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

My Lovely Wife
by
Samantha Downing

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In this debut thriller/dark humor novel, a picture-perfect marriage has shocking secrets beneath its shiny facade. To outsiders, Millicent and her husband have the perfect life. They live with their two teenagers in Hidden Oaks, the good part of Woodview, Florida. She sells real estate and her husband teaches tennis at the country club. They have friends. They go to work. Their kids play sports. And they are loyal to their traditions: family dinners, movie night, a standing lunch date after Saturday soccer, and guaranteed ice cream after a trip to the dentist. But Millicent and her husband play a secret deadly game. And when the stakes and pressure rise, they take greater risks to keep their secret hidden, until the dynamics of their marriage betray them.

Narrated by the husband, we learn the couple’s backstory, how they met and fell in love, and their early years as young parents. We also learn about their disturbing second life and how it fuels their marriage. When they change course, their actions begin to affect their children and the people in town. Soon, the husband reveals his own secrets and we see the trust between them erode.

Sandwiched between Millicent and her husband’s schemes are the daily activities of a normal American family and the typical problems that arise for working parents, moody adolescents and the ever-growing presence of social media and the news media. Similar in mood to shows like You, Dexter and Ozark, the characters’ mundane problems in My Lovely Wife offer comic relief to stories in which people lead secret lives which would be too dark by themselves.

Despite the obvious creepiness and some disturbing violence, I liked My Lovely Wife. While its main characters are mostly despicable, the husband reveals a glimmer of conscience, something interesting to think about. Readers who search for at least one likable character will find a couple in the side characters. Several entertaining twists, including a big reveal in the final pages will force the reader to look back and decide who is bad, who is worse, who is a little of both and what the future holds.

I recommend My Lovely Wife to readers who like thrillers and dark humor and I look forward to more books by Samantha Downing.

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Audiobook review: The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn, read by Ann Marie Lee

The Woman
in the Window
by
A. J. Finn

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Here’s a quick audiobook review of The Woman by the Window by A. J. Finn, read by Ann Marie Lee. This is a suspenseful psychological thriller set in New York about a woman who has suffered an unexplained tragedy and now lives apart from her husband and young daughter. An agoraphobic, she hasn’t left her house in nearly a year. Instead, she watches old Hitchcock movies, drinks wine, self-medicates and spies on her neighbors through the zoom lens of a powerful camera. One day, she sees something terrible through the window of a new family’s home. When she tries to report it, no one believes her and she begins to wonder if she imagined it. Her increasingly frantic, and unreliable narrative places the reader (and listener) in the mind of an unraveling trained psychologist who can’t treat herself properly.

Through interactions with her family, psychiatrist, online chess players, fellow agoraphobes, her physical therapist, neighbors and the man who rents her basement apartment, Dr. Anna Fox’s back story comes into focus. But while the details of her story may become clear, what isn’t clear is whether she saw what she thought she saw. Readers may want to believe her because she describes the details so vividly, but there’s a lot else going on with the neighbors and her tenant to cause suspicion. As Fox continues to drink recklessly and down her medications in fistfuls, Finn propels Fox towards a tense showdown between her own demons and others.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to The Woman in the Window. Ann Marie Lee is a fantastic narrator of this excellent story. She effectively portrays a wide variety of characters, scenes and emotions and I was gripped throughout. One particularly emotional scene towards the end is especially convincing. I also like how Finn ties the old movies she watches into the plot, particularly Rear Window and Vertigo.

The unreleased 2020 film of The Woman in the Window is directed by Joe Wright and stars Amy Adams and Gary Oldman. It’s scheduled to be released on Netflix in 2021. Read more about the film here and here. I’m looking forward to watching it!

I recommend The Woman in the Window to readers and listeners who like psychological thrillers, though I wouldn’t recommend listening while you’re driving – it’s that engrossing!

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Audiobook review: Still Alice by Lisa Genova, narrated by the author

Still Alice
by
Lisa Genova

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I recently listened to Still Alice by Lisa Genova, a fictional account of a woman who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The story begins with Alice Howland at the peak of her career. At fifty years old, she’s a renowned professor of psycholinguistics at Harvard University. She and her husband, John, a professor of biology, have spent their careers researching and teaching at Harvard. Despite some slight tension in their marriage over John’s lab schedule and a daughter who has skipped college to become an actress, everything is pretty good in the Howland family and with their two other adult children.

But then Alice starts forgetting things and gets lost after a jog, just minutes from her home. And worse lapses follow.

Alice and her family are stunned by the Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The book looks at the disease from Alice’s point of view and chronicles her inevitable decline. Genova also shows how the family reacts. John’s denial and then his aggressive search for the best medicines and trials are a reflection of his scientific mind. Because her strain of the disease is genetic, their adult children grapple with the news and results of their own testing. The Howlands rally around Alice, but they also take inward paths. John is sometimes supportive and other times he escapes into his career. Their children are just beginning their adult lives, a period that’s meant for them, not a sick parent. Genova presents an interesting dynamic between the siblings and their parents and shows how they step up, and back, in different ways.

Alice copes in surprising ways. Her brilliant mind has enabled her to use creative work-arounds, a strategy that has likely covered up her disease before she was diagnosed. She offers surprising insight as she devises a private plan to measure and face her decline.

Genova outlines this heartbreaking scenario with detailed scientific explanations and provides many resources for patients and families who suffer with Alzheimer’s.

While I found the story compelling and important, I was disappointed in its telling. Genova presents her story awkwardly. It’s a third-person look into Alice’s mind, using a lot of plain dialogue and coupled with long and scientific explanations of the disease, reading more like an informational pamphlet than a novel. I wanted to learn more about the Howlands and felt these characters could have been better developed, a missed chance that could have made the story great. I was also sorry to have chosen the audiobook version. Genova’s narration was plain with little inflection, making the characters all sound the same. A professional narrator would have made a huge difference.

Still Alice was adapted to film in 2014 and stars Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth and Hunter Parish. It was directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. The film won many awards and Moore won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.

All-in-all, I’d recommend Still Alice to readers who want to know more about how Alzheimer’s affects its patients and their families, but I’d steer you to the print version.

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Books on my radar for 2021

It’s that time of the year – you know, when we look to anticipated books of the new year. I found these in a recent post by The Bibliofile: The Best Books of 2021 (Anticipated). Here’s what I picked from Jennifer Marie Lin’s list. All blurbs are from Amazon:

Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson (March 23,2021)

I love psychological thrillers and this one caught my eye.

A bride’s dream honeymoon becomes a nightmare when a man with whom she’s had a regrettable one-night stand shows up in this electrifying psychological thriller from the acclaimed author of Eight Perfect Murders.


Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (May 25, 2021)

I enjoyed Reid’s debut novel, Daisy Jones & The Six so I was excited to see that she’s written a new book.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six . . . Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever.


The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (February 2, 2021)

I’ve read and enjoyed two books by Kristin Hannah, The Great Alone and Firefly Lane. I also have The Nightingale on my TBR shelf. I like when I find an author I enjoy because of the promise of new books to read.

From Kristin Hannah, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone, comes an epic novel of love and heroism and hope, set against the backdrop of one of America’s most defining eras―the Great Depression.


I don’t always like to line books up to read because I get discouraged when I can’t get to them right away. The publication dates of these are spread out so I’m hoping to be able to fit them in. I’ve also requested them on NetGalley so we’ll see if I’m lucky enough to be approved.

What books are you looking forward to reading next year?

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