reading: 2016

✪ Wrapped up the delightful and also silly Patricia Wentworth: Miss Silver series:
   ⚬ Poison in the Pen
   ⚬ The Gazebo
   ⚬ The Fingerprint
   ⚬ The Alington Inheritance
   ⚬ The Girl in the Cellar

Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace

Alex Duncan: It’s a Vet’s Life – wee break from war and peace for something light and silly – and read all in one sitting.
Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace – hated every character and wished we’d fast forward a century or so (they’d soon be sorted out then).

March | April | May
Charles Duhigg: Smarter Faster Better – The Secrets of Being Productive – loved The Power of Habit so was excited to read this, but sadly didn’t find it as engaging (to be honest can’t even remember most of it).
Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace – more struggling through March – the entertaining crib notes at got me through. Rather more interested in April and May.

Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace OH MY GOD – COMPLETED! Epilogue 2 was exceptionally hard going
Dan Lyon: Disrupted: Ludicrous Misadventures in the Tech Start-up Bubble – an interesting read, found the author a bit entitled

July | August
Paddy Manning: Born to Rule: The unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull (strangely now doesn’t seem to be available on

I have a lot of feelings about this.

Bought in December when it was such a relief to have the urbane, educated, moderate Turnbull as PM after the National Embarrassment of Tony (SirPrincePhilip) Abbott. I’d really enjoyed Annabel Crabb’s 2009 essay on Turnbull – which I now realise was a bit of a hagiography – and expected kind of similar.

The book went on hold while I spent a few months ploughing through War and Peace. Started reading just before the Federal election was called and it took an age to get through. I think this was because the combination of the contents and the campaign left my with quite the sour taste and not a little loathing. Why I did not abandon it and move on to something else is something I need to work on!

And then it was onto something a little lighter:

Viveca Sten: Still Waters (Sandhamn Murders Book 1). Not terrible, not brilliant. I found it to be quite a bit like Camilla Lackberg, but admittedly that could be a translation thing.

Viveca Sten: Closed Circles (Sandhamn Murders). On a kick. Didn’t think this quite measured up to the first. Fortunately there were no more in the amazon store, else I would have probably bought them just to finish the series.

Elizabeth Edmondson: A Man of Some Repute (A Very English Mystery Book 1). Seduced by cover and ridiculously cheap price of $1.49. I suspect full of anachronisms, but I couldn’t be bothered confirming because I wasn’t that engaged. A little clunky and ham-fisted in parts, occasionally charming. I regret not book-marking some of the more terrible lines.

Elizabeth Edmondson: A Question of Inheritance (A Very English Mystery Book 2). Clearly I was engaged enough to lash out an extra $1.49 and read the next in the series. Again, thankfully there were only two. More clunky, less charming. Not awful.

Janie Bolitho: Plotted in Cornwall (Rose Trevelyan Series). Somewhat hard going. Desperately needed the services of a good editor. Another example of books being under $5.00 for a reason.

✪ It was here that I did something I rarely do – abandoned a truly dreadful book after the second chapter and requested a refund from Amazon. Even though the book cost, like $0.99, it was the principle of the thing. By all that is right and good, avoid Karen Charlton: The Heiress of Linn Hagh (The Detective Lavender Mysteries Book 1). Awful.

Jorn Lier Horst: Dregs (William Wisting Mystery). More Nordic. Another one of my bargains ($2.89). Rather more gritty than the Vivica Sten. I can’t say I was really engaged. This is a series, and miraculously I avoided getting the rest because …

Oh shiny! …

Liane Moriarty: Truly Madly Guilty. Pre-ordered as soon as amazon told me it was a thing. I don’t know what it is, but I really respond well to her characters – she does Sydney and its inhabitants really well.

Liane Moriarty: The Hypnotist’s Love Story. I then went on a bit of a Liane Moriarty frenzy and read the entire back catalogue. I guess I would call it charming (possibly a bit twee, but enjoyable twee).

Liane Moriarty: What Alice Forgot. The conceit of this is that Alice hits her head at the gym and loses her memory of the last 10 years. This lead to a whole lot of speculation of what 10 years ago carolbaby would think of current carolbaby’s life – which I should add to that list of things to post about (I’d actually been thinking about that .

Fave quote: “Whereas Alice was from the stodgy northwest, home to happy-clappy Christians, middle managers, CPAs and conveyancers”. Nailed it.

Liane Moriarty: The Last Anniversary. This is an earlier novel and I wasn’t a huge fan of it – though infinitely better than my bargain novels!

Liane Moriarty: Three Wishes. Least favourite – a little bit frenzied, verging on the manic (which kind of suited the characters, so perhaps intentional). Later novels are definitely better.

Clive Cussler: The Emperor’s Revenge: Oregon Files #11 (The Oregon Files) (oops – read #11 before #10) – deliciously terribly written and absolutely preposterous plots as ever. Fave quotes: “Because I’ve got my eye on a thirty-acre estate in Sydney”. “It caught him in midflight, chopping him to pieces in a spray of blood and gore. Nothing larger than a hand made it to the ground”.

August | September
Helen Russell: Year of Living Danishly
Bought after reading a sample chapter – though I can’t remember how I ended up there. Quite light and cute. Much hygge.

Richard Cornish: My year without meat Not just about not eating meat! I enjoyed this a good deal. Incredibly evocative descriptions of food which left me terribly hungry and desperate to run to the Fruit & Veg. Lots about how difficult it is for small producers to … ermm … produce and to remain viable. Strengthened my desire to eat more ethically / thoughtfully / sustainably.

Clive Cussler: Piranha
Clive Cussler: Ghost Ship
Clive Cussler: Havana Storm
Clive Cussler: Pharaoh’s Secret
Oh Clive (and co-writers) with your preposterously outrageous plots and dynamic, rugged, manful heroes who can’t be tamed. I have no idea why I love these books so much – they are so completely ridiculous. A small selection of quotes:
– “although they were technically mercenaries, killing in cold blood wasn’t part of their moral code”
– “like campers in a national park, they planned to leave no trace”
– “like a linebacker tearing through a paper banner before a football game”
– “she shifted her weight and stepped to the side, freeing her first to strike down at his crotch”
– “but like a truck that spent its days on the worksite instead of the garage, his face carried the miles in plain view”

Sue Grafton: X
Bought in December and had mostly forgotten I’d bought it – unusual as I generally can’t wait to get stuck in to a Kinsey Milhone novel. This is the first in the series where I felt anachronisms had crept in – like I’m pretty sure no-one was using the term “hoodie” in the 1980s. And was subway tile the fashion in 1980s kitchens? It was okay – not one of the best, at this point I’m just hanging on for the last two letters.

Celeste Ng: Everything I never told you
Bought in October and another forgotten one. Read in Tokyo in pretty much one sitting. This has really stayed with me and I’ve been reluctant to pick up anything else since. Very much worth a read.

Pia Edburg: The Cozy Life: Rediscover the Joy of the Simple Things Through the Danish Concept of Hygge
Lesson: I should know by now to avoid self-published books. It wasn’t too bad, but wasn’t too great either. The author is very sweet, but this is pitched to an audience that is not me. If you know a 12-14 year old, I think this might actually be pretty well suited for them.

Bill Burnett, Dave Evans: Designing Your Life: Build a Life that Works for You.
I didn’t really connect with the voice – kind of a hokey, jolly, bonhomie that I find a smidge grating. Nonetheless, I did get a good deal out of this – if only to pass on the learnings to my peeps at SML. I find I’m very oppositional to written exercises from books, being of the “screw you man, you can’t make me” school, but I did them in my head and was particularly challenged by the think of 3 alternative career paths exercise (as were my peeps). I’m still challenged, but I’m pretty convinced that I’d love to pursue private investigating as my wild and crazy option. Either that or be an assassin.

✪ I’m currently half way through Derren Brown: Happy – Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine .
Honestly, I’m struggling. I was compelled to buy it after the sample chapter brilliantly slammed The Secret, and there is very much good within – but it is so rambling and discursive that I can’t keep track of where I’m at. I’m totally down with the principles, and I’m enjoying learning more about stoicism, but this really, really, desperately needed a good editor (and a whole lot of culling).

Unusually, I’ve got three partially read books which I keep moving away from and sporadically coming back to:

Derren Brown: Happy – Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine. I mentioned in October that I was struggling through this. To my surprise I actually did put it down (generally I just try to plow through). I pick it up occasionally, read a couple of pages or a chapter and let it lie fallow again. It is pretty hard going and should be used as an example of the need for brevity. I’m close to abandoning. 66% completed.

Chade-Meng Tan: Joy on Demand – The Art of Discovering the Happiness Within. This can be really kind of corny – particularly the cartoons. It’s not awful and has good insights, but I’m struggling a little to engage with the text. I pick up and read bits here and there. I feel like this will take me a long time. 34% completed.

Willard Spiegelman: Senior Moments – Looking Back, Looking Ahead. Definitely won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I like this very much. The the virtual memories podcast episode is worth a listen to gauge whether it will be to your taste. The podcasts I listen to are all American and one thing I adore about them is the exposure to the huge variety of American accents. I had no idea such diversity existed because I grew up hearing GenericTVAmerican. I guess Spiegelman would be WellEducatedEastCoastWellOff – it delights me! I’m savouring. 74% completed.


Then there were the memoirs to keep me motivated through the first week of not drinking. There are a lot out there and I read many, many sample chapters from books in this genre which I would not recommend at all!

Jill Stark: High Sobriety – my year without booze. I remember being really taken by the her article in The Sydney Morning Herald in 2011. I’d had no idea this had morphed into a book. This was a pretty good examination of the drinking culture in Australia. My favourite of the ones I read.

Lucy Rocca: Glass Half Full – A Positive Journey to Living Alcohol-Free. Not bad, not great – very cheerful. Couldn’t entirely relate to the author’s experiences – but at $3.69 I’m not complaining.

Sarah Turner, Lucy Rocca: The Sober Revolution – Calling Time on Wine O’Clock. Again not bad, not great. A fair bit of it was repeated from Glass Half Full. Again I often couldn’t relate. Again $3.69 – no complaints.

Rebecca Weller: A Happier Hour. Maybe it’s just the Australian drinkers I relate to? The author can periodically verge on the annoying (and is all about the monetising), but I quite liked it.

Jenna Hollenstein: Drinking to Distraction. Ended up being more a “how I became a buddhist” memoir. Another one I couldn’t really engage with. Another that wasn’t really awful, and another inexpensive one, so again can’t complain.

I think I’m thankfully totally done with the Sobriety Memoirs!


Then there were a bunch (probably about 10) sample chapters of self-improvement type books – all discarded and deleted.

And I’m pretty sure I really don’t want to read eat, pray, love


Then it back to some of the books I bought in the kindle sale back in July.

I blame having a rotten cold for some of my further purchasing decisions!

Melodie Johnson Howe: Mother Shadow (An LA Murder Mystery). I started off not really liking this much at all. It’s a really pretty average, bog standard mystery but by the end of it I’d bought the next in the series (of 2). Not because I was hooked, but just because I was interested to see where it was going to go …

Melodie Johnson Howe: Beauty Dies. Pretty standard detective fiction, not terrible, but I can’t say that I’d recommend. And then started on the next series:

Melodie Johnson Howe: Shooting Hollywood. This is a collection of short stories from Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Middle-aged actress as protagonist. Not too bad and definitely a case of write what you know about as the author is a former actress. By then I couldn’t stop myself and bought the next:

Melodie Johnson Howe: City of Mirrors. The best of the bunch, I like the middle-aged actress and her defiantly blonde hair. Would read more. Extremely disconcerting when the author re-used a name from a character in the short stories for a different character in this novel.

By then I’d exhausted everything available by Melodie Johnson Howe on Amazon Australia, so moved on to …

Michael Hambling: Dark Crimes. Police Procedural. Again, not hugely great. I’m struggling to think of instances where a male author writes a female protagonist well. This definitely was not a well-written female – I found her pretty cliched. And the writing really didn’t resonate with me. I was hugely entertained by the glossary of english terms for US readers in the back! I thought the second in the series might get better, so pulled the trigger.

Michael Hambling: Deadly Crimes. The second in the series didn’t get better. There were two more books, but I just couldn’t bring myself to read them.

James Crumley: The Last Good Kiss (C W Sughrue 1). This was written in 1978 and was all hard-boiled, hard-living detective. Super-gritty – loads of booze, drugs, sex and violence. I would say it is Chandleresque – well I would if I had read any Chandler. Totally needs to be read with the voice of Tom Waits in your head. Started off challenging, but once I was immersed I LOVED it. FINALLY! A good book from the bargain bin!

Ulla-Lena Lundberg: Ice. I’m 25% in. As I bought this so long ago, I couldn’t remember what this was about and was waiting for a murder or mystery to occur. It’s so gentle and slow-paced that I couldn’t see this happening any time soon. I checked out the description on amazon and I’m fairly sure there aren’t going to be murders or mysteries – though there could be some deaths. It’s set in post-WW2 on an island off the coast of Finland and I feel like it is going to soon get pretty bleak and grim. I may set this one aside as I’m in the mood for neither bleak or grim.

December was all about Binge Reading!! And carrying the kindle with me everywhere – reading while doing the dishes, folding laundry, cooking &etc.

As anticipated, I stopped reading Ulla-Lena Lundberg: Ice because it was going to a depressing place that I had no time for – my mellow not needing to be harshed right now.

Rather than seek out something new, I thought I should get onto the rest of the books sitting untouched on BelovedKindle-y (he really needs a name).

Peter Corris: Salt and Blood – Cliff Hardy 25 Bought 26 July 2015(!) for $1.93.

WHY DID NO-ONE TELL ME ABOUT THESE NOVELS?!?! I mean, I was kind of aware they existed, but knew next to nothing apart from a vague awareness that they were set in Sydney. The private investigator protagonist is of the crusty, pragmatic, thoughtful, unlucky in love, not-quite-heart-of-gold, law-bending, often-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-police, justice-seeking type. Much boozing, fighting, occasional shooting – you know the sort of thing.

What absolutely made this for me is that the Cliff Hardy character lives in Glebe – pretty much around where we lived. And his office is located a block away from where I lived with Fenton in 2001-2003(ish). I don’t know what it is, but I really get a kick out of books set in familiar locations “I know that street!”, “hey, that’s our pub!”.

I drank some wine and felt almost instantly better the way you do, although the alcohol hasn’t had time to get into the bloodstream. The taste promises that it will and promises are soothing in themselves right up until they’re broken.

Peter Corris: The Marvellous Boy – Cliff Hardy 3 Purchased in the buying frenzy of 23 June 2016 – not having remembered buying the one above (this is how bad my kindle library is).

A little dated, a little more gritty and a little less delightful. Made me continue from #25, rather than starting back at #1. Still full of glorious bits though.

I could see a big garage at the end of the drive which held a brace of European cars.

I passed the dark, satanic chimneys that landmark St Peters.

Peter Corris: Master’s Mates – Cliff Hardy 26 So now I was hooked and the real bingeing began!

This one partially set in Noumea! Hey, I know these places too!

He didn’t resist and I dumped him on the third bottom stair the way you handle a bag of clothes destined for St Vinnie’s.

I brushed the leaves and unidentifiable pollution from one of the two deck chairs. Word, this is my life – though I’m mostly hosing unidentifiable pollution from things.

Peter Corris: The Coast Road – Cliff Hardy 27. Readable, engaging. No highlighted passages for this one.

Peter Corris: Taking Care of Business – Cliff Hardy 28 (Cliff Hardy Cases). This was a collection of short stories, which I didn’t realise initially and was getting annoyed in the way that you do when there are inconsistencies across a series of books (just me?). Even when I realised what it was, I wasn’t a huge fan of this – killer quotes though:

“Name it, mate”. Like most Americans, he couldn’t get the accent or the rhythm right and I mentally deducted points for his even trying. It’s taken Don 14 years to not sound silly saying “mate”.

“What’s wrong in Petersham?” I asked. “Everything”.

and drove into Melbourne along the freeway that always looks to me to be congratulating itself. Hey, Sydney, it seems to say, bet you wish you’d arranged things like this.

Peter Corris: Saving Billie – Cliff Hardy 29. It was readable, but again not a huge fan. I feel like there was a sweet spot for these novels and we’ve moved ever-so-slightly beyond it.

Peter Corris: The Undertow – Cliff Hardy 30. Nope. Pretty odious characters all ’round. It was Still persisting in search of the earlier magic.

Peter Corris: Appeal Denied – Cliff Hardy 31. I’m beginning to feel like I’m flogging a dead horse. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it as I did with the earlier books. Perhaps the result of the binge?

Do you two city types understand that I’d never really been to Sydney at all? You can’t imagine what growing up in the west(ern suburbs) is like. You know the water’s that way and the mountains are over there, but they don’t seem to have anything to do with you. You wouldn’t think this is true, but it totally is.

✪ Ooops … I appear to have skipped purchasing #32.

Peter Corris: Open File – Cliff Hardy 33. Yeah, I didn’t really care for this either. Interesting concept of reviewing a past case, but yeah, no. I felt like it didn’t really fit in too well with the overall arc of the series – almost like filler because the author couldn’t really decide what to do next.

Because my love was on the wane, and the acquisition of the Cliff Hardy canon was beginning to mess with the Extreme(Moderate)Fruagilty project, I stopped (for now) and moved on to …

Matthew FitzSimmons: The Short Drop. Another purchased in the sale frenzy of 23 June 2016. This was a bit of a page turner, slightly preposterous. Not too bad at all. Still deciding whether to go for the next in the series.

Sue Monk Kidd: The Secret Life of Bees Eeep – purchased 10 October 2015! Not on sale, but it was on all sorts of lists and I thought I should mix it up a bit (I really must quit with the digital hoarding). Charming and very sweet. Heartwarming even.

Tracy Crisp: Black Dust Dancing. From my most excellent Imaginary Internet Friend adelaide from adelaide. I meant to read this when it was first published (in 2009!), but you know how I am with actual paper books. Finally found a digital version on amazon (hurrah!) in July 2015, but kept forgetting I had it. It’s pretty great and absolutely captures people and place. She’s a very good writer, you should read this. Really. I’m not just saying that.

✪ Wrapped up Willard Spiegelman: Senior Moments – Looking Back, Looking Ahead while lounging in a deck chair on the upper balcony enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. Delightfully curmudgeonly toward the end. Quite amazing as it made me briefly consider reading poetry. Briefly. (I know – I’m a complete philistine).