2014 Reading Reviews Wrap-up

The Festive Season is upon us and the New Year is fast approaching so I thought I’d do a review and wrap-up of the books that I’ve read during 2014.

It’s been a busy year for me as I’ve moved interstate from Perth to Melbourne, and then overseas to China, where I’m based for the next 6 months. My reading was at times haphazard but I still managed to squeeze in a good selection of titles and genres over the past year. Books make great Christmas presents and so if you’re searching for inspiration then read on, you might find a book perfect for a friend or family member, or even for yourself.


While these were all good books, I have two favourites that stand out for me: The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson, and Don’t Point That Thing At Me, by Kyril Bonfiglioli.

The Orphan Master’s Son was a compelling and engrossing book to read. The characters are well crafted and the tale that unfolds is astonishing, entertaining and touching. Adam Johnson’s in-depth research has resulted in a story that carries weight, and it delves into different themes of romance, action, thriller and adventure with finesse.

Read my review for: The Orphan Master’s Son

Don’t Point That Thing At Me is a rollicking good read that had me laughing, snorting and chortling from the very beginning all the way through to the very end. My husband is currently reading the second book in the series After You With The Pistol and I’ll be wrestling it off him very soon. If you appreciate dry wit and humour in a book, then you simply must read this book.

Read my review for: Don’t Point That Thing At Me 

On a side note, I want to mention that Drowning on the Inca Trail is a short story, written by emerging writer, Pat Cahill. Pat’s a friend of mine, but friendships aside, her writing is very good and this is her first published story. It’s a snappy piece that will have you feeling breathless, frozen and dying for strip of bacon, just like the main characters as they struggle against impossible weather in an attempt to hike the Inca Trail.

Read my review for: Drowning on the Inca Trail


I managed to squeeze in a few biographies throughout the year, all of very different orientations and perspectives. Since the list is short, I’ll give you  a quick overview of all three.

Empress Dowager Cixi was a wonderful insight into the politics and facts surrounding Cixi and her influence and periods of power in China. Written by Jung Chang, the acclaimed author of Wild Swans (1992), and co-author of the critically received best seller Mao: The Unknown Story (2005), this book is well written, not bogged down by facts, and provides a refreshing  and original look at the woman who was demonised in China for many years.

Read my review for: Empress Dowager Cixi

I’ve been a fan of Anthony Bourdain ever since I first read Kitchen Confidential back in 2000. I love his more recent TV series focused on cooking and exploring food around the world. A Cook’s Tour is a great travel companion when your travelling, or if you want to do some armchair travel and experience food and fun at the same time.

Read my review for: A Cook’s Tour

Tsunami and the Single Girl is a combination of chick lit and travel memoir that manages to include a host of love affairs gone awry, expat excesses and the noble job of aid work in countries affected by disaster.

Read my review for: Tsunami and the Single Girl


I read these books as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014. They were all great reads but my personal favourites were Elemental, by Amanda Curtin and The Night Guest, by Fiona McFarlane.

Elemental follows the life of Meggie Tulloch, a vibrant, courageous young Scottish girl and her desire to leave her hometown and create a new life for herself out in the world. It’s a story of strength and endurance, and the writing is engrossing, carrying the reader on a wave of events. It was a book that I couldn’t put down, and when I reached the last few chapters I was truly sad because I knew the end of book was coming and I didn’t want to leave Meggie. I read Elemental at the start of 2014 and she still pops into my mind, scenes from the book are stark and vivid in my memory. Definitely worth reading.

Read my review for: Elemental

The Night Guest tells the story of Ruth, an old woman who hears a tiger huffing and panting in her lounge room in the middle of the night. Ruth lives alone in a rather isolated beach house, and the arrival of the tiger triggers a wave of memories from her youth when she lived in Fiji. Frida arrives in the midst this fraying of Ruth’s mental tapestry and she moves in under the guise of being a carer “sent by the government”. There are definite sinister undertones to Frida but she also strikes up a friendship with Ruth and the two develop a bond. The Night Guest has stuck in my memory over the past year, perhaps because the concept of hearing a tiger in the living room was so vivid, and the plot developments were unexpected. That and the writing was beautiful, well crafted and simply a joy to read.

Read my review for: The Night Guest


Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014 – Wrap-Up

awwbadge_2014This is the first year that I have participated in the Australian Women Writers Challenge and I have to say that it was a wonderful experience.

I committed myself to the Miles challenge – to read 6 books and write reviews for at least 4 books. Despite moving interstate, and then overseas and starting a new job in a new country, I was determined to meet my commitment, and I’m very happy that I succeeded. Not only did I read all 6 books, I wrote reviews for them as well. Participating in the AWW Challenge, I found myself searching for new books to read and in the process discovered some brilliant women authors whose work I had never read before, and also was able to read new works by authors who I already knew and admired. I encountered a host of vibrant characters: there’s Meggie Tulloch, the courageous fish gutting girl, with the flaming red hair, in Amanda Curtin’s Elemental; the aging Ruth who hears a tiger huffing and panting her living room, in Fiona McFarlane’s The Night Guest; Harry the Victorian dairy farmer, who has an affinity for bird watching, in Carrie Tiffany’s Mateship with Birds; the collection of short stories that convey the cultural differences between Australia and Cambodia, and highlights attitudes to life, relationships, death, superstitions and sex, in Laura Jean McKay’s Holiday in Cambodia; orphans Anna and Stephen Quayle and their interaction with middle class North Shore socialites, the Howard family, in post-war Sydney, in Elizabeth Harrower’s In Certain Circles; and young Lily, an outsider, who is mesmerised by the Trentham family and the artistic community they create in their home, in Emily Bitto’s The Strays. These characters and their experiences have travelled with me over this past year and reading their stories was a richly rewarding experience, one that I intend to repeat next year.