Books, Flicks & Netflix: August 2016

Well, it’s been Game of Thrones Central around here over the last little while, but in between beheadings and boobs I’ve managed to read some excellent books, including a fantastic debut novel by a promising Australian author.

What have you been reading and watching this month?


We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

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There are books you hear about long before you read them.

This was one of them for me.

I’d heard several cryptic comments about this book so I tried very hard to approach it with an open mind.

I’d been told it was annoying. That the “twist” was so maddening that a friend threw the book across the room.

I was intrigued but a little apprehensive.

So when I eventually gave it a go, I found a very well written book that starts in the middle and slowly reveals the beginning and then the end.

I rather enjoyed it but I can also see why it doesn’t appeal to everyone.

Without giving anything away, I wasn’t expecting the story to play out the way it did either but I did find the subject matter very interesting and thought provoking. I felt better educated for having read this so that’s a good sign in my book.

The post script by the author was fascinating too and gave interesting details about how the book came to be written.

I reckon this would be a great book for book clubs too as it tends to polarise readers.

And as far as titles go, I reckon this is a ripper too.

The Strays by Emily Bitto

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This book, written by Melbourne author Emily Bitto, won the Stella Prize in 2015.

It took me several weeks to read but not because it wasn’t interesting – I was seriously waylaid by GoT but more on that below.

Once I was almost halfway though, I made an effort to devote some blocks of time to reading and it paid off in spades.

Set in 1930s in Melbourne, this novel centres on artist, Evan Trentham, his wife Helena and their three teenage daughters, Bea, Eva and Heloise.

Told from the perspective of Eva’s friend Lily, it provides a fascinating account and insight into an artist’s colony of sorts – Evan, his family and the “strays”, of which she is one.

It also charts the intense female friendship between Eva and Lily, which reminded me at times of the friendship at the centre of the Neapolitan books by Ellena Ferrente (which you can read about here).

I really enjoyed this book on all levels once I got going. I found it to be easy to read, well researched and thought provoking.

I also loved reading about the artists, their work and how they all related to one another, knowing that at some point, things would unravel.

I recognised and have been to some of the venues listed in the book too (Surrey Dive which is next to Box Hill pool and other Melbourne locations) which added a sense of familiarity.

I’d recommend this to anyone but particularly those who live in Melbourne or who have some interest in the art world.

Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty

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I couldn’t wait to read the latest book by the fabulous Liane Moriarty.

Set in the suburbs of Sydney in the present day, the entire story hinges on what happens at a suburban BBQ at which 6 adults and 3 children are present.

While it was easy to read, I found the first half of the book frustrating and intriguing in equal measure. I kept thinking that something pretty terrible or at least monumental better have happened and I kept wondering what that might be instead of paying attention to the fall out.

It definitely picked up pace in the second half but I was left a little wanting at the end – it was all tied up a bit too neatly and unconvincingly for me.

It also lacked the lightness and humour of some of her other books – which still also deal with serious social issues – which made it much heavier going. Her treatment of important social issues and mental health however, were handled with her usual skill.

There weren’t as many characters as some of her other books too, and I didn’t feel any great affection for any of them, except perhaps, Vid.

All that said, this is still a good read but nowhere near the heights of Big Little Lies for me (you can read my review of it here).

The Dry by Jane Harper

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A few of my Instagram followers told me about this book – thank you if that’s you!

The debut novel of print journalist Jane Harper, it begins with the apparent murder/suicide of a young farmer, Luke Hadler and his young family in a fictitious Victorian country town.

It’s a small country town which has almost been crushed by the drought and where everyone knows each other’s business.

His friend, Aaron Falk, now a Federal cop with whom he shares a dark secret from their childhood, returns home to the country town they both grew up in and finds himself facing both the past and present circumstances.

I won’t say much more other than the story is well written, carefully told and maintains a good pace. The writing is economical insofar as there’s never really ever a lull in the story without it ever feeling rushed or contrived.

The effect of telling two stories – the current investigation and a mystery from twenty years earlier – adds layers and more interest too.

This is a great read – not to mention an excellent debut – and I’d highly recommend it. It’d make a great holiday read too.


Well, what can I say.

In the last 6 or so weeks, Mr SnS and I have powered through all 6 seasons of Game of Thrones.

Yep, we’ve barely been out and regularly watched three or four episodes on a single night (our kids are in bed reading by 7pm but we had the remote in hand just in case – Hashtag Very Inappropriate).

With ten or so eps per season, it meant we were able to watch a season per week on average, sometimes nearly a whole season over a weekend if we weren’t out or we cancelled our plans (just kidding!).


Winter is coming and so are fur capelets.


Needless to say I’ve been dreaming of Jon Snow, shivering as I watched the terrible shenanigans at Castle Black and been gobsmacked by all the terrible ways you can die in Westeros and it’s neighbouring kingdoms.

I can’t say I’ve developed a tolerance for all the violence but I did find the boobs per episode quota seemed to drop slightly as the seasons went on if you’re wondering about that.

I’ve also spent a lot of time hiding behind what became my GoT cushion.

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As I wrote earlier, I found it hard to watch at first, but once we hit our strides in Season 2, there was no turning back. And the final episode of Season 2 was an episode I’ll never forget.

I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t watched it or are only part way through but I reckon Seasons 3 and 4 were the strongest and the second half of Season 6 was excellent too.

Since we finished, I’ve been a bit bereft, so I’ve watched a few documentaries about the GoT production and have been googling all I can about Season 7.

I’ve read two books since, but I think it’s time for a new series.

Or another great book.

Any recommendations? I’m thinking something funny, perhaps a bit lighter than GoT and preferably no full on violence. Although after GoT, I reckon my threshold has increased considerably!

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Over to you. What have you been watching and reading this month? Anything you’d recommend or recommend avoiding?