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Book Reviews


Sydney Beaches - A History

Reviewed by Gillian, Berkelouw Books, Mona Vale

In 2009, historian Caroline Ford was awarded the NSW Archival Research Fellowship that allowed her to write her new book Sydney Beaches - A History. This means we get a thoroughly researched book tracing the history of European engagement with the beaches. Caroline is most thorough in expl... (continued)

This House of Grief by Helen Garner

Reviewed by Gillian, Berkelouw Books, Mona Vale

Any new book by Helen Garner comes with a great sense of anticipation and high expectations. Over her long writing career she has transformed from a writer of edgy fiction exploring Melbourne's urban life of the seventies to an independent, intelligent interrogator of events that capture h... (continued)

Golden Boys by Sonya Harnett

Reviewed by Gillian, Berkelouw Books, Mona Vale

The two families at the heart of Sonya Hartnett's new novel, Golden Boys, each have their problems. Joe and Elizabeth Kiley live in a three bedroom house. They already have six children and the oldest, Freya, is worried that another is on the way. They live frugally and when we meet them s... (continued)

Pandora Jones Admission by Barry Jonsberg

Reviewed by Tara -Berkelouw Hornsby

Barry Jonsberg has been shortlisted for, and won, numerous Children’s Literature awards. His previous novel, ‘My Life As An Alphabet’ won the 2013 Gold Inky and the Children’s Peace Literature Award. ‘Pandora Jones’ is his first young adult series. Pando... (continued)

Smoke And Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor

Reviewed by Tara -Berkelouw Hornsby

Laini Taylor is an American novelist whose career began with 2004’s ‘The Drowned’ in which she refined her signature style – a perfect mixture of fantastical folklore, old-world sensibilities and gothic themes. She was a National Book Award finalist in 2009 for ‘L... (continued)

52 Suburbs Around the World by Louise Hawson

Reviewed by Gillian, Berkelouw Books, Mona Vale

In 2012, photographer and blogger, Louise Hawson, set off with her 8 year old daughter Coco, on a year long trip around the world planning to visit and blog from 52 suburbs, in well known global cities, showing the underbelly, the counterculture and the glorious ordinariness of life wherever s... (continued)

The Italians at Cleat's Corner Store by Jo Riccioni

Reviewed by Gillian, Berkelouw Books, Mona Vale

Working in a bookshop is probably a terrible education for a budding novelist. You get to see first hand how many books publish every month and how few actually achieve significant success. That made the publication of Jo Riccioni's new novel quite an event for us. Jo used to be a booksell... (continued)

Divergent, by Veronica Roth

Reviewed by Reuben Roache-Dubois

The first book in a trilogy, Divergent is a heart breaking tale of extraordinary adversity and breaking the rules.  Set in a dystopian future, we follow a young girl about to face one of the most important decisions of her life.  Headstrong and independent, Tris defies the expec... (continued)

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Reviewed by Tara -Berkelouw Hornsby

Rainbow Rowell’s first novel, ‘Attachments’ was published in 2011, and was listed as one of the year’s outstanding debuts by Kirkus. Rowell’s young adult debut, ‘Eleanor & Park’ was named one of the best young adult fictions of 2013 by The New York... (continued)

Why we took the car

Reviewed by Em & Mel, Balgowlah

For readers who enjoyed Perks of being a Wallflower or Matthew Quick. Herman does the voice of a disgruntled judgemental teen so well. A story of a social nobody who does something completely off he radar for the attentions of the class beauty. A great coming of age story for 14 and up (not re... (continued)

The Enchanted

Reviewed by Em, Balgowlah

Rene Denfeld has written a book like none I’ve read before, combining the harsh and volatile reality of the American penal system with the magical, almost poetical narration by one of its death row inmates, a mute schizophrenic who creates a fantastical world in this bleak and unforgivin... (continued)

& Sons

Reviewed by Em, Balgowlah

This book is about the lives and fractious relationships of two upper east side Manhattan families. The fathers and sons, with all their disappointments and unsaid admirations, create a rich and ambitious storyline. The patriarch at the centre of this wors is a writer of Salinger-like proporti... (continued)

The Convent

Reviewed by Mel, Balgowlah

The convent is a story that will have you wishing you were one of the characters. It takes you back in time to meet three extraordinary women who barely know each other but are irreversably tied to the convent. This story highlights the devastating or wonderful consequences of the choices we m... (continued)

The Invention of Wings

Reviewed by Em & Val, Balgowlah

Based on the lives of the Grimke sisters, suffrogettes abnd civil rights activists who betrayed their sourthern upbringing and joined the abolisionist cause, and the life of their maid and family slave Hetti 'handful'. A power story of standing up for what is right , of conscious and c... (continued)


Reviewed by Fin & Mel, Balgowlah

We all absolutely LOVE this book. This is one of The Great Reads” a book that only occurs once a decade and redefines the genre.  I literally read non-stop until four in the morning in order to finish: about eight hours for those curious.  A Techno-Thriller that straps you ... (continued)

Coast: A History of the New South Wales Edge by Ian Hoskins

Reviewed by Gillian, Berkelouw Books, Mona Vale

I can't surf.  I'm not the greatest swimmer and I certainly can't sit all day on the beach. Like Woody Allen, "I don't tan, I stroke." Yet I feel keenly connected to the coast and enjoy living near the beach.  I can look at a map and see the nearest beach an... (continued)

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Reviewed by Gillian, Berkelouw Books, Mona Vale

Soon after Eleanor Catton won the 2013 Man Booker Prize her 800 page tome thudded onto the receiving desk. Much that I had read about the book suggested a dabbling with astrology so I started reading with some trepidation. How wrong  I was. Dive in. Catton's story centres arou... (continued)

Tatiana by Martin Cruz Smith

Reviewed by Geraldine Ash, Berkelouw Books Customer

  The investigative journalist, Tatiana Petrovna, falls to her death from a sixth floor apartment. Is this suicide or murder? After the death of the fabulously wealthy criminal, Grisha Grigorenko, cynical investigator Arkady Renko and his vodka-swilling partner, detective-sargeant... (continued)

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Reviewed by Gillian, Berkelouw Books, Mona Vale

Just closed the last page on this book. I am a slow reader so have been immersed in Tartt's massive new novel for a long time, so long that I have begun to think about the story as passing through seasons. We start with the moving portrait of a boy, Theo Decker, experiencing the tragic... (continued)

Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

Reviewed by Matt, Berkelouw Books, Mona Vale

In his latest novel, Christos Tsiolkas forgoes the stylish multi-perspective structure of his previous award-winning work The Slap to return to a more intimate, and indeed claustrophobic, focus on a single protagonist, much like his other novels Loaded and Dead Europe. Daniel Kelly, nickna... (continued)