The Saddler Boys by Fiona Palmer

Published:  23rd September 2015 (print)/11th August 2016 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Penguin Australia/Wavesound
Pages: 371/9 discs
Narrator: Danielle Baynes
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Rural Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Schoolteacher Natalie has always been a city girl. She has a handsome boyfriend and a family who give her only the best. But she craves her own space, and her own classroom, before settling down into the life she is expected to lead.

 When Nat takes up a posting at a tiny school in remote Western Australia, it proves quite the culture shock, but she is soon welcomed by the swarm of inquisitive locals, particularly young student Billy and his intriguing single father, Drew. 

 As Nat’s school comes under threat of closure, and Billy’s estranged mother turns up out of the blue, Nat finds herself fighting for the township and battling with her heart. Torn between her life in Perth and the new community that needs her, Nat must risk losing it all to find out what she’s really made of – and where she truly belongs. 

A big reason why I had a hard time enjoying this was the narrator of the audiobook; she made Natalie sound like a constantly cheery childish girl which was annoying. I know she was meant to be 22, but it changed my perspective of her when she sounded so innocent and naive all the time even when she wasn’t meant to. I had read the first few chapters in a physical book and was really engaged, I think switching to audio changed my enjoyment in part.

There were good parts that I enjoyed, Palmer portrays the country lifestyle well and the characters were interesting. Some parts were predictable but I was surprised by other parts. It was a nice wholesome story that touched on some more serious topics. Even when it did that it didn’t feel as serious though, maybe that was because of how it was read too, I don’t know.

Palmer includes a few different dramas, a few I felt had to be there because it gave Natalie more justification for her decisions rather than a believable character choice. I think a different approach would have been better. But for the most part, I enjoyed the different dynamics, young single father, a child with a few special needs, interesting supporting characters. It worked well on that front.

I was surprised by the ending, I was waiting for a sudden change but Palmer followed through which was impressive. Overall it’s not the best rural story I have read, but it wasn’t too bad either. I’m almost tempted to reread it as a book just to see if I enjoy it more…almost.

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You can purchase The Saddler Boys via the following

Dymocks | Booktopia

Book Depository | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust

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Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Published:  10th September 2013 (print)/10th September 2013 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Little, Brown and Company/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 336/10 discs – 12hrs
Narrator: Morven Christie
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Historical Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution. Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard. 

I quite liked this book. It was slow but not unenjoyable. Kent uses her language with intent and there’s weight behind her choice of words making you feel everything she is telling you with importancemakes you feel the drawn out winters and longer periods of time. The house and the surrounding environment are described in vivid detail that make you understand the close knit quarters and the family dynamic. There is a great sense of heaviness as you read as well; the looming sentence and fear over Agnes’ head, the reluctance of the family, the ostracisation by them towards Agnes, not to mention the mystery over what actually happened.

I enjoyed the historical era that the story is set, the true history it is based on is fascinating as well. I enjoyed learning about the region and the farm as well as the culture and history. It was a lot better than other literature and acclaimed novels I’ve read. I can see how it won the awards, and I’m surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did. I wasn’t blown away, but it kept my attention and even surprised me at times.

You can purchase Burial Rites via the following

Dymocks | Booktopia

Book Depository | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel or These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach

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Published: 15th April 2005 (print)/ 1st April 2013  (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Vintage/Clipper audiobooks
Pages: 288 pages/1 disc
Narrator: Nina Wadia
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
★   ★  – 2 Stars

When Ravi Kapoor, an overworked London doctor, reaches the breaking point with his difficult father-in-law, he asks his wife: “Can’t we just send him away somewhere? Somewhere far, far away.” His prayer is seemingly answered when Ravi’s entrepreneurial cousin sets up a retirement home in India, hoping to re-create in Bangalore an elegant lost corner of England. Several retirees are enticed by the promise of indulgent living at a bargain price, but upon arriving, they are dismayed to find that restoration of the once sophisiticated hotel has stalled, and that such amenities as water and electricity are . . . infrequent. But what their new life lacks in luxury, they come to find, it’s plentiful in adventure, stunning beauty, and unexpected love.

I think the best summation of this book is ‘eh’. I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it. I’m not even 100% I liked it. I felt like it had the potential to be so much better. I think I liked 1 maybe 2 characters, the rest I felt I could have if they hadn’t’ve been so…themselves. The writing is at times cringeworthy, the characters are certainly racist and sexist, whether or not this is just their character “charm” as it is sometimes portrayed, but it’s gross to listen to. And India is turned into some mystical place that is romanticised by these white British while subsequently criticised by them on the next page. 

The book’s title has been changed to coincide with the movie, it was originally These Foolish Things, but I think most physical books are retitled now too.  Very rarely is this the case, but I have to say, the movie is so much better. Just watch that. This isn’t even really like it at all, it’s not overly enjoyable, there’s more parts that are offensive in some way or another, and there isn’t a grand plot to keep you interested. I listened to the audiobook and to her credit, the narrator was quite good, she used distinctive voices and emphasis as she told the story, and she brought to life each character’s individuality. It was just a shame that that what she brought to life wasn’t very enjoyable.

 

You can purchase The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel via the following

Book Depository | Dymocks

Amazon | Amazon Au

Booktopia | Wordery | Barnes & Noble

 

Raw by Scott Monk

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Published
: 1st April 2005Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Random House Australia
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Brett Dalton is filled with hate and not afraid of a fight, but when he is sent to The Farm, his only opponent is himself. Brett Dalton is a tough guy—hardened, angry, uncaring, and always ready to use his fists. When the world hates you, you might as well hate it back. But when Brett is busted by the cops for stealing and sent to The Farm for rehab, there are no fences to keep him in and anger—and love—get in his way. Brett’s trapped in a grave new world, a world where he’s not hardened at all; he’s raw.

What disappointed me most about this book is how much I didn’t really like it. I adored Monk’s other book, Boys ‘R’ Us, and it’s a shame that didn’t happen with this one.

Brett is a hard character to like, he demands things, he never listens or learns, and you want to yell at him yourself for a lot of the book. He fights against those trying to help him, which is to be expected, but he isn’t someone you want to root for either. Just when you think he is starting to learn he goes and does something stupid again. It just makes you hate him even more.

It’s the standard story, Brett hates the world, gets into trouble a lot, gets sent to a rehab facility to straighten him out and befriends the man in charge who uses tough love and friendship to get him to change his ways. It leaves you feeling unfulfilled and while there is character development, it’s unsatisfying and a bit cheesy at times.

It wasn’t overly bad, but Brett manages to get himself in a lot of situations that are sometimes his fault and others they aren’t. It’s a typical story that was enjoyable enough but not one I would read again. It has been on my TBR list for about 15 years so at least I can say I finally crossed it off if nothing else.

You can purchase Raw via the following

Dymocks | Book Depository

BookWorld | Kobo

Booktopia | Audible