Book Club Book Reviews June 2023

The Liars by Petronella McGovern


A wife burning with resentment. A husband hiding the past. Their teenage daughter crusading for the truth. Who can we trust?

The close-knit community of Kinton Bay is shocked when fifteen-year-old Siena Britton makes a grisly discovery near a cave in the national park. Siena believes it’s a skull from the town’s violent colonial past and posts a video which hits the news headlines.

But her parents, Meri and Rollo, think the skull is related to their teenage parties in the Killing Cave back in the 1990s. And a school mate who went missing then.

None of them foresees the dangers that the discovery will create for their family. The dangers of past deceits, silences and lies that have never been resolved.


Set in a small country town on the coast of New South Wales after Covid 19, this is a story which revolves around the cases of three missing people from the 1990s.

When a skull is discovered, lives and lies begin to unravel; and events spiral out of control, especially in the Britton family around whom the story is focussed. This small community has been keeping secrets for many years and some in the community are haunted by their memories.

Only a few of our group read the whole story, having found the beginning very uninspiring. It was easy to read but ‘ordinary’ and ‘underwhelming’ was the group verdict; we felt that it would be better suited as a young adult read.

4/10 Read by Dundas Readers

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen


Welcome to Bascom, North Carolina, where it seems that everyone has a story to tell about the Waverley women. The house that’s been in the family for generations, the walled garden that mysteriously blooms year round, the rumours of dangerous loves and tragic passions.

Every Waverley woman is somehow touched by magic. Claire has always clung to the Waverleys’ roots,  tending the enchanted soil in the family garden from which she makes her sought-after delicacies – famed and feared for their curious effects. She has everything she thinks she needs – until one day she waked to find a stranger has moved in next door and a vine of ivy has crept into her garden…

Claire’s carefully tended life is about to run gloriously out of control.


Our group quite enjoyed this easy to read, fanciful story of a family of women with ‘magical’ gifts and an enchanted, backyard apple tree. It did remind us of a Hallmark movie and could imagine it also as a miniseries, even perhaps more suited to the young adult genre. There were some aspects of realism and conflict. We enjoyed the references to the language of flowers, the positivity of the environment as a healer and the hope and support that the women provided each other. The character of Evanelle was our favourite. She was eccentric, loving, somewhat ageless but a wise elder. The ending was predictable but satisfying.

Read by MJ Readers

Book Review Girt David Hunt


Girt. No word could better capture the essence of Australia…

Girt. No word could better capture the essence of Australia…

In this hilarious history, David Hunt reveals the truth of Australia’s past, from megafauna to Macquarie – the cock-ups and curiosities, the forgotten eccentrics and Eureka moments that have made us who we are.

Girt introduces forgotten heroes like Mary McLoghlin, transported for the crime of “felony of sock”, and Trim the cat, who beat a French monkey to become the first animal to circumnavigate Australia. It recounts the misfortunes of the escaped Irish convicts who set out to walk from Sydney to China, guided only by a hand-drawn paper compass, and explains the role of the coconut in Australia’s only military coup.

Our nation’s beginnings are steeped in the strange, the ridiculous and the frankly bizarre. Girt proudly reclaims these stories for all of us.

Not to read it would be un-Australian.


Girt by David Hunt is a different approach to presenting the history orfAustralia. There has been an incredible amount of research done by the author but, unfortunately, the style did not resonate with us. We found the writing to be demeaning, negative, flippant and condescending. In an attempt to be comedic or ironic, we felt the author trivialised women and gave no dignity to the people who forged our society. The only people who seemed to be presented positively were the ‘currency kids’ who are portrayed as hardworking and healthier than those who went before them, although they didn’t appear to value their own self worth.

The book felt very self indulgent and is not one that we would recommend.

Read by MJ Readers

Book Review The Thursday Murder Club

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman


In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.

But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?


We all enjoyed this highly implausible but engaging romp set in a retirement village in England. We felt that it was a fresh, authentic take on a murder mystery story where elderly characters were created with respect and dignity. There was a sense of community and commonality despite each main character coming from disparate backgrounds, each bringing a skill and perspective that allowed them to work cooperatively together. At the heart of the story is Elizabeth, a former spy, who manages the group’s investigation while Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim ably support her. Each character is interesting and sympathetically portrayed with a plot that keeps you guessing. We look forward to reading more books in this series.

Read by MJ Readers

Book Review Lessons In Chemistry

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus


Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing.

But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Forced to resign, she reluctantly signs on as the host of a cooking show, Supper at Six. But her revolutionary approach to cooking, fuelled by scientific and rational commentary, grabs the attention of a nation.

Soon, a legion of overlooked housewives find themselves daring to change the status quo. One molecule at a time.


Lessons in Chemistry is the story of Elizabeth Zott, a chemist in the 1960s, trapped by her gender in a male dominated industry. She unwittingly finds herself the star of a TV cookery show.

Our book club thoroughly enjoyed this book. Some felt it was like a modern fairy tale but found it fresh with many interwoven layers. The themes of education, discrimination, relationships, love, loss, motherhood, science and protection are some of the complexities in Elizabeth’s life but it is a hopeful story.

Every character has a voice, even the dog, adding humour and a depth of understanding of human nature and how people cope with what they have been dealt with in life. A satisfying, absorbing read that we are happy to recommend.

Read by MJ Readers

Book Reviews

Take a look at all the amazing books our book clubs have been reading!

One Life: my mother’s story – Kate Grenville


While Nance did not think she led an exceptional life, she did exceptional things in her time.  From living more of her earlier years away from her family to getting an education, attending university, graduating, and then training to be a pharmacist; Nance then went on to open and operate two pharmacies successfully at a time when many believed a woman’s place was in the home.  Which Nance also did, raising 3 children and laying the bricks to build their family home. 

Kate Grenville writes a beautiful tribute to her mother.  It was a beautiful snap shot of what every day Australia was like growing up in the early 20th century, moving to the city, living through war and depression.  We really enjoyed this book.  We loved seeing the old photos, putting faces to the names mentioned in the story.    


Read by Cultcha Club

When She Was Good by Michael Robotham


Another great read from this author!  This is the second book in Cyrus Haven series, and we could not wait to read this one. 

When She Was Good, sees Cyrus looking for the person who found Evie. We find out how she ended up in a secret room of an abandoned house in the aftermath of a terrible crime.  But is he exposing her to more danger.  Should he be leaving well enough alone?

This one has us turning pages eagerly again as the narrative flicked between Cyrus and Evie.  Some parts were a little difficult to read, however, the author had us gripped to the end as the all pieces fell into place.  Wonderfully written. We love the main characters, Cyrus and Evie, and even the side characters too; Lennie, Sascha, the kids at Langford Hall and Poppy.  Would definitely recommend this one.  Made for a great holiday read. We can’t wait to read the next book in the series. 


Read by Cultcha Club

The Nowhere Child – Christian White


Quite an interesting psychological thriller however we felt there were too many separate threads that weren’t woven together very well.

A balancing act between hemispheres and cultures, cults and some unbelievable characters.

A good first effort!

Read by Dundas Readers

The Spy and the Traitor by Ben MacIntyre


The Spy and the Traitor is a true story about a Russian double agent, Oleg Gordievsky, who worked successfully against the KGB in the 1970s and 1980s.

Oleg was born into a staunch KGB family and was following in his family footsteps when he was approached by MI6 to spy for them against the Russians. Oleg had experienced the effect of the KGB on his family, the KGB as an organisation, the building of the Berlin Wall  and the Prague Spring, and had begun to question his allegiance.

This is a fascinating exploration into life in Russia, the workings of the KGB, MI6 and the CIA. His handling and eventual escape from Russia leave the readers on the edge of their seats. The information he provided on the KGB mindset for the UK and USA influenced world politics and policy. He opened the west to the inner workings of Russians, their paranoia and weaknesses.

His duplicity and defection eventually cost him all he loved. It was a high price to pay but hopefully, his sacrifice helped create a better world.

Read by MJ Readers

The Railwayman’s wife – Ashely Hay


This novel by Australian writer, Ashley Hay, is set in the beautiful little seaside town of Thirroul just after the second world war. The main character Ani Lachlan lives with her beloved husband Mac, a Scotsman, and her ten year old daughter Isabel. Their happy and settled existence is shattered when Mac is killed in a shunting accident at work. Ani’s grief is profound but she must provide a stable home for Isabel and when offered a job at the Thirroul library she takes it. The job, the love for her daughter and the beauty and peace of her seaside home, help her reintegrate into the community as a widow.

Two other characters returning after the war suffer grief of a different kind (called shell shock in veterans at the time). Roy, a quiet retiring man is an ex school teacher and an aspiring poet and his friend Frank is a GP. They are both struggling to come to terms with normal life after the horrors of war. Roy meets Ani in the library and they develop an unspoken fondness for each other fostered through a shared love of writing and reading.

Hay writes with such a light touch evoking grief ad melancholy in her characters while also leaving the reader with a sense of hope. Integral to the power of this haunting story is the sense of place which is where D.H. Lawrence wrote ‘Kangaroo’. Hay grew up in this area and her love for it’s beauty is eloquently expressed.


Read by Dundas Readers