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Book review: I'm not crazy I'm just a little unwell by Leigh Hatcher

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Leigh Hatcher’s book about his years suffering with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome nearly had a completely different name.

But all along he’d felt the Matchbox 20 lyric I’m Not Crazy, I’m Just a Little Unwell seemed to resonate with his experience and so he went with his heart and it became the title of his best selling book.

And that’s something Leigh is good at, going with his heart, and he bares plenty of it in this riveting story of one man’s crash out of life and into a world of misunderstood and often mysterious sickness.

In his preface, Hatcher - one of Australia’s best known journalists, news presenters and authors - explains that ‘no two CFS stories will ever be the same’ and so it is fitting that he simply tells his story, with its backdrop of iconic political moments, Olympic excitement and the inner workings of television and radio.

In a tightly written book that moves along at a clipping pace but still manages to pack in plenty of detail, Hatcher describes his fascinating life…

Book review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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The comparisons for The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl are coming thick and fast and will do sales of the former no harm as it is published in Australia this month.

And there are plenty of similarities - the gradual denuding of all of the main characters in The Girl on the Train, so that their worst (and perhaps for some, their best) is gradually and in some cases terrifyingly revealed recalls the gradual descent into evil and despair so evident in the main relationships of Gone Girl.

The psychological double and triple plays ensure that even with the rapid fire chapters, the (slightly generous) reader will find themselves well and truly hooked. I read it in a day or two, for example.

The Girl on the Train plays on the fears and curiosity many of us would find familiar from modern life where we are thrust together randomly with people - often in close quarters - in trains, traffic, buses and housing, affording us the opportunity to be mutual voyeurs and wondering what night happen if …

Book review: Misfits Welcome by Matthew Barnett

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When Matthew and Caroline Barnetts' story first broke into Christian consciousness across the globe, it inspired many pastors and leaders to finally acknowledge the part of themselves they had been often taught to ignore.

It was unusual to hear of a large, popular, American, Pentecostal church that centralised radical engagement with the poor.

Most church experts would teach us that you can't build a church with 'people like that' but maybe, when your church was big enough and had a great building and shiny brochures then, perhaps, it could have such a ministry, in a small corner some where.

In his first book, The Church that Never Sleeps, a young Barnett turned that idea on its head and breathed life into many pastors and churches that had always struggled to justify their seeming indifference to the disadvantaged. For a while he was the flavour of the month, speaking at pastors conferences around the world and even now, many years later, there is increased intention…

Book review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

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Theo Decker, a 'god of layers' perhaps, and that is what he is, surviving a bomb blast that kills his mother, comforting a dying antique trader and following his delirious urging to take hold of a treasure that takes hold of him in so many layered ways.

There are times this book infuriates when characters fail to do what 99 per cent of people would do - what you the reader are urging them to do - and so end up in several long chapters of chaos.

And then there are the thousands of sweeping words that carry you forward, heart racing. Or the long ragings at the world or detailed vivisections of meaning that cut so close to the doubts of your own heart.

As a title, The Goldfinch suggests a stuffy but polite story of manners and it is a story of manners but never stuffy or polite and not what you would think at all.

It tells of the world we all might nearly belong to if our deceptions were allowed to fester a little longer. A world just beyond ours, that world we wonder about when …

Book review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

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The Rosie Project's lead character, Don Tillman, would be satisfied that I read on the Kindle platform of his project to find a wife. While reading I was informed of what percentage of the book had been completed and also was given the estimated time in the current chapter so I could adjust my optimal reading speed.

Despite these and other efficiencies I found my reading broke into my sleep allocation such that I finished the book at 4.13am. I determined not to adjust my daytime schedule but to increase by 29.7 per cent my intake of caffeine.

But seriously... it is perhaps a tribute to the steadiness of voice and rhythm of author Graeme Simsion and the sympathetic, human and lifelike characters that he has written, that I now find myself thinking and talking like Don, who is apparently non-the-wiser of being well and truly on the autism spectrum.

A professor of genetics, he undertakes to find a wife through the mechanism of a fool-proof 16 page questionnaire and as a res…

Novelist Liam Davison among Australians killed on MH17

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The devastation of a disaster like the shooting down of MH17 is indiscriminate and ruthless - with people of all walks of life cut off in an instance in the most horrific of circumstances.

Australia's literary community is particular mindful of the loss of novelist Liam Davison, who with his his wife Frankie, a much-loved teacher, were passengers on the doomed flight.

Mr Davison published eight books and was awarded the National Book Council's Banjo Award for Fiction in 1993 for Soundings, as well as being shortlisted for several literary prizes such as The Age Book of the Year Award and the Victorian Premier's Literary Award.

Reviewer Perry Middlemiss said of Soundings:
'This is an impressive novel, short, and beautifully paced. Its concept of landscape lingers long in the mind, clinging on like the mud of the bay.' He is known for his 'sharp and perceptive insights into Australian history and landscape' and also taught writing for many years at the Chi…

Book review in brief: The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

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For an Australian author like Richard Flanagan, there is material enough for a great novel just telling of the lives and suffering of Australian prisoners of war during World War 2.  Even more so considering his father was just such a prisoner on the Burma railway, something Flanagan speaks of 'imbibing' while growing up.

Instead he settles for a broader and more difficult panorama. Alongside the adept before and after descriptions of Australian soldiers - of love affairs and guilty confusion - we are also taken into the minds of Japanese officers and Korean soldiers and dystopian post-nuclear Japan.

Somehow it all rings as true as his depictions of Melbourne society and Tasmanian poverty. The heat of Adelaide is pitched against the humidity of Siam and the unresolved heroics of an Australian surgeon against the inconclusive brutality of Japanese prison commander.

It is not a triumphant book or a cheery one, and it offers little hope except that sometimes people survive, des…