24.10.14

Before I Go to Sleep

Before I Go To Sleep  by S.J. Watson 

Each night when Christine Lucas goes to sleep her mind erases the day. Each day she wakes in a strange bed with a man she has never seen before. He explains that he is Ben, her husband, that she is forty-seven years old, and that an accident long ago damaged her memory. Each day she tries to reconstruct her life, her identity, her marriage. But how can she know who she is if she forgets her past? How can she love someone she can't remember? Are there things best forgotten? And why is she so frightened?

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love — all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.   Welcome to Christine's life.

This book is so far my top pick for this year, and again another debut author. I literally finished the last quarter of this book in one sitting, couldn't put it down, and really didn't see the twist coming at all. Fans of thrillers will love this, and I can't wait to see the film [starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman]. Hopefully it has done the book justice on the big screen. If this is an indication of this author's writing then bring on his next book!
Janine

23.10.14

Cross and burn

I am a fan of Tony Hill and Carol Jordan - characters from the books of Val McDermid and from the television series Wire in the Blood.  Think clinical psychologist working with the police on serious crimes.

I was devastated when in the last book, The Retribution, a horrific life-changing crime ended the relationship between them. I'm a sucker for a happy ending.

So when I realised that the next book was out - Cross and Burn - I quickly grabbed it to find out what had happened to these two and of course, to discover what mystery Val McDermid had to unfold.  So what did?

Someone is brutally killing women. Women who bear a striking resemblance to former DCI Carol Jordan. The connection is too strong to ignore and soon psychological profiler Tony Hill finds himself dangerously close to the investigation, just as the killer is closing in on his next target. This is a killer like no other, hell-bent on inflicting the most severe and grotesque punishment on his prey. As the case becomes ever-more complex and boundaries begin to blur, Tony and Carol must work together once more to try and save the victims, and themselves.

This is no quick and easy solution to the broken relationship between Tony and Carol.  The first three-quarters of the book explores the very separate journeys of the two main characters, whilst wrapped around the story of the crimes seen through the eyes of one of their team who is now working with another police unit. It is not until very late in the book that Carol and Tony even come across each other.

Val McDermid is an excellent storyteller, so even though I was wanting to see a solution with them, she wove an excellent tale around the crimes, leading you to think that you know what is going on, then discovering you don't. Coincidence wrapped in with ulterior motives makes for a riveting read and I had just had to keep turning the pages.

I guessed who the perpetrator was before the end, but was still surprised at some of the other turns the story took.  And it finished up really quickly, with all the loose ends tied up neatly in very short order.

As to whether Tony and Carol find a happy ending, you'll just have to read it to find out, but as a fan - I was satisfied.

~ Michelle

22.10.14

The Keeper

The Keeper by Sarah Langan 

From the cover:  Some believe Bedford, Maine, is cursed. Its bloody past, endless rain, and the decay of its downtown portend a hopeless future. With the death of its paper mill, Bedford's unemployed residents soon find themselves with far too much time to dwell on thoughts of Susan Marley. Once the local beauty, she's now the local whore. Silently prowling the muddy streets, she watches eerily from the shadows, waiting for . . . something. And haunting the sleep of everyone in town with monstrous visions of violence and horror.

Those who are able will leave Bedford before the darkness fully ascends. But those who are trapped here—from Susan Marley's long-suffering mother and younger sister to her guilt-ridden, alcoholic ex-lover to the destitute and faithless with nowhere else to go—will soon know the fullest and most terrible meaning of nightmare.

Earlier this year when I reviewed Sarah Langan’s debut novel, Audrey’s Door, it was Friday the 13th.   Now as we’re nearing Halloween, I’ve inadvertently picked up The Keeper, which is book one of a new horror suspense series by the same author.  

I’m undecided about this one.  On one hand it was very good, with some clever tricks of the trade employed to keep us a little off kilter, like the continual rainfall.  This is depressing and makes us feel trapped, hemmed in, knowing the streets will flood, cut the bridge, and no-one can get in or out.

Langan also employs onomatopoeia to great effect, with the constant undercurrent of ‘buzzing’, the ‘drip drip drip’ of water and the ‘slap slap’ of wet, heavy feet; something she used brilliantly in Audrey’s Door.  But there are some annoying things too, like what is in the woods that comes after Liz [can’t say here for fear of spoiling, but it has absolutely nothing to do with anything and never appears again!] and the pace of the book lurching between slow building suspense, to a feeling of ‘come on, get on with it’.  It definitely laboured in parts, yet finished like a runaway train.  Maybe even the author was getting sick of it by then herself.  

If I had to do a 5-star award review, this would probably be a 2½.
Deb.  

21.10.14

Prime Minister's Literary Awards

The 2014 shortlist is out and the winners of Australia's largest [$600,000] shared prizemoney will be announced before the end of the year. As well as authors in Poetry, Young Adult and Children categories, those making the list are:


FICTION
A World of Other People by Steven Carroll 
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan 
The Night Guest Fiona McFarlane 
Coal Creek by Alex Miller 
Belomor by Nicolas Rothwell 

NON-FICTION
Moving Among Strangers by Gabrielle Carey 
The Lucky Culture by Nick Cater 
Citizen Emperor by Philip Dwyer 
Rendezvous with Destiny by Michael Fullilove 
Madeleine: A Life of Madeleine St John by Helen Trinca

AUSTRALIAN HISTORY
Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War by Joan Beaumont
First Victory 1914 by Mike Carlton 
Australia’s Secret War: How unionists sabotaged our troops in World War II by Hal G.P. Colebatch 
Arthur Phillip: Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy by Michael Pembroke 
The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright
Deb

20.10.14

You

You by Caroline Kepnes

Love hurts... When aspiring writer Guinevere Beck strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe works, he's instantly smitten. Beck is everything Joe has ever wanted: She's gorgeous, tough, razor-smart, and as sexy as his wildest dreams. Beck doesn't know it yet, but she's perfect for him, and soon she can't resist her feelings for a guy who seems custom made for her. But there's more to Joe than Beck realizes, and much more to Beck than her oh-so-perfect facade. Their mutual obsession quickly spirals into a whirlwind of deadly consequences. A chilling account of unrelenting passion, Caroline Kepnes's You is a perversely romantic thriller that's more dangerously clever than any you've read before.

Another debut author. This book had me hooked from the beginning. Book shop employee Joe is captivated by Beck as soon as she enters his store, thereafter he sets out to make her his, with devastating consequences. He literally takes over her life - from a distance- when she accidentally leaves her phone in a cab which means Joe has access to her email, facebook and twitter accounts. He stalks her and her friends and lures her into his fantasy world. This is a good example of how one's identity can easily be stolen by the wrong person and the effect it has on your life. Fans of Gone Girl will devour this in one or two sittings!
Janine


17.10.14

The Fisherman's Daughter

The Fisherman’s Daughter by Molly Jackson 

From the cover:   When Robbie Fraser receives an anonymous note saying 'Your father has disappeared' he is shocked beyond belief. As far as he knows, he has no father. Robbie travels to a small Scottish fishing village to find the man he never knew, but he is met with hostility and the claustrophobic insularity of a small-town community. Only Heather McBain seems to want to befriend him, and from her he learns of the bitter rivalry between their fathers. As she and Robbie start asking questions, buried secrets come to light which could destroy them all. 

I really enjoyed this book; it was different, with lots of atmosphere and absorbing characters to get into, plus a bit of a twist when you thought you had it all worked out. 

What is amazing is that Molly Jackson is really SAS soldier, Chris Ryan. Ryan was a part of the Bravo Two Zero operation during the first Gulf War. Along with fellow soldier-turned-writer Andy McNab, the eight-man patrol was sent behind Iraqi lines to destroy mobile Scud launchers. 

It may be his first romance but Ryan, 47, insists it will also be his last. "It took me two years to get it right,' he said. I tend to stick to a subject that I'm comfortable with but I wanted to see if I could do a classic family saga. I won't be doing it again. If it taught me something, it was don't go out of your comfort zone, so I think I'll stick to writing about what I know." 

Ryan has written more than two dozen books, including ten in the Alpha Force adventure series which is aimed at teenage readers. The UK-born writer's best-known character is Geordie Sharpe, an SAS sergeant who does battle with the IRA, the Russians, and the Iraqis. 
Deb 

16.10.14

The Silent Sister

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

From the cover:  Riley MacPherson has spent her entire life believing that her older sister Lisa committed suicide as a teenager. Now, over twenty years later, her father has passed away and she's in New Bern, North Carolina cleaning out his house when she finds evidence to the contrary. Lisa is alive. Alive and living under a new identity. But why exactly was she on the run all those years ago, and what secrets are being kept now? As Riley works to uncover the truth, her discoveries will put into question everything she thought she knew about her family. Riley must decide what the past means for her present, and what she will do with her newfound reality.

This is the second Diane Chamberlain book I have read - the author really knows how to weave a good plot into a storyline! This is a dysfunctional family with many secrets that quietly unfold as you read on. The main protagonist, Riley, is a school counsellor who has to return home to settle her late father's estate. She reunites with her brother, a recluse with mental issues, and while sorting out her father's belongings, questions begin to appear. She wonders about the family's hidden secrets and the lies that stood between her and the family she longed for. What is the truth behind older sister Lisa's supposed suicide? What lies under the surface of Lisa's privileged life as a music prodigy? How did their father manage to change the course of all of their lives by one series of actions? And who is Jade, living across the country in an alternate life?
This book will appeal to readers of Women's fiction, who enjoy a bit of mystery thrown in. 
Janine.

15.10.14

Man Booker Prize


The winner of the Man Booker Prize was announced at a ceremony last night, October 14, in London.  Prominent Australian author, Richard Flanagan, is the first Tasmanian to take out the £50,000 ($88,000) prize with his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North, which tells the story of prisoners of war on the Burma Railway. 

There have been only two other Australian winners in past years - Thomas Keneally in 1982 for Schindler's Ark and Peter Carey for Oscar and Lucinda in 1988 and True History of the Kelly Gang in 2001.

United States authors were included in this year's award for the first time.
Deb.



14.10.14

Death Mask

Death Mask by Kathryn Fox
Book 5 in the Dr. Anya Crichton series.

Forensic physician Dr Anya Crichton is presented with a patient who has returned from her honeymoon with multiple sexually transmitted infections. Her husband has none of them. She tearfully denies having had any other partners and Anya believes her. Is this a medical phenomenon or has something more sinister taken place? 

Anya's investigation into the case results in a ground-breaking study that attracts international attention. Her expertise leads to an invitation to New York to address over three hundred football players in the US Professional League. The enigmatic private investigator Ethan 'Catcher' Rye is assigned to assist Anya during the summit. When an alleged rape involving five football players takes place, Anya is commissioned to investigate. She is immediately thrust into a subculture of violence, sexual assault and drug abuse. No one is what he or she seems. Anya soon discovers a devastating truth about the players that threatens to shut down the eight billion dollar football industry. Now lives, including her own, are in danger...

I thought I had been reading this series in order, but apparently I missed no. 4, Blood Born.  Never mind, most of these can be read pretty much as stand-alone books which is a good thing. The first three – Malicious Intent, Without Consent, and Skin and Bone, were powerful, but good. In my opinion, this one is not.  It was a disturbing, uncomfortable read - brutal and sleazy.  The subject matter is definitely not entertaining, and the storyline wasn't engaging enough as a 'whodunnit' to bother sticking with it. Some other reviewers have said how good it was to have the many views in this book thrown into the public arena to create discussion, but for me ... I shouldn't have borrowed it and I’m glad to be moving on to something else.  

As an aside, I listened to the audio format and Jennifer Vilutec delivered an excellent narration.  I've heard her before on other titles and have been impressed with her characterisations, particularly male voices which she does very well, so if you see her name on an audio book you're in for a listening treat.
Deb. 

13.10.14

All the Birds Singing

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

Jake Whyte is an outsider haunted by her past. She has moved from outback Australia to a remote unnamed island off the West coast of England where she lives with only her dog, Dog. Here she works on a sheep farm but there is someone, or something, killing them off, one by one.

As she tries to unravel the mystery of her present, her past and why she ended up on the other side of the world is slowly revealed.

I really enjoyed this work of fiction which won the 2014 Miles Franklin Literary Award. The story is compelling and well structured with Jake’s past and present alternating with each chapter. The very different landscapes are evocatively described and the characters are mysterious.
Highly recommended.
Ali

10.10.14

Leaving Time

Leaving Time by Jodie Picoult

For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe that she would be abandoned as a young child, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice's old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother's whereabouts. Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest. The first is Serenity Jones, a psychic who rose to fame finding missing persons--only to later doubt her gifts. The second is Virgil Stanhope, a jaded private detective who originally investigated Alice's case along with the strange, possibly linked death of one of her colleagues. As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they'll have to face even harder answers. As Jenna's memories dovetail with the events in her mother's journals, the story races to a mesmerizing finish.

I was very disappointed with this book. After her great book The Storyteller last year I eagerly waited to read this new one. Firstly, the story was dominated by the history of elephants. If I wanted to know about them I would have picked up a non-fiction book! It really took away from the storyline and became quite annoying to me.

I won't give anything away but the usual "twist" at the end was really ridiculous and I thought very unbelievable. I will be reluctant to read any more of her books in the future which is so disappointing.
Janine

9.10.14

Almost French

Almost French by Sarah Turnbull    

From the cover:  After backpacking her way around Europe, SBS TV journalist Sarah Turnbull is ready to embark on one last adventure before heading home to Sydney. A chance meeting with a charming Frenchman in Bucharest changes her travel plans forever.  Acting on impulse, she agrees to visit Fredric in Paris for a week. Put a very French Frenchman together with a strong-willed Australian girl and the result is some spectacular - and often hilarious - cultural clashes. Language is a minefield of misunderstanding and the simple act of buying a baguette is fraught with social danger.

But as she navigates the highs and lows of this strange new world, from the sophisticated cafes and haute couture fashion houses to the picture postcard French countryside, little by little Sarah falls under its spell: passionate, mysterious, infuriating, and charged with that French specialty - seduction. And it becomes her home. 

I think the line on the cover: “the story of an Australian woman’s impetuous heart and finding love in a magical city” is quite misleading – this is not a chick lit romance but quite a deep-thinking, probing kind of read.  

I found this book an absolute treat.  Sarah’s journalistic skills not only make it an easy and enjoyable read, but her investigative mind continually probes to understand why the French are so ‘French’ and what makes them that way!  From her arrival - the search for work, lack of language and living in an insular outer suburb, to finally moving into a Paris apartment (six flights of stairs and no lift), while coming to grips with no car, no friends, and always perceived as a dreaded ‘Anglo-Saxon’ - this journey of one beach-going Sydney-sider in a pocket-size city of stone with bleak light has many rewards along the way.  We have this title in various formats and the Bolinda e-Audio download that I borrowed was very well narrated by Caroline Lee. It was très bon!
Deb.

8.10.14

Fast track

Fast track by Julie Garwood.

Raised by her father after her mother's death when she was two, Cordelia is shattered when her father reveals the truth about her mother. She discovers the answers lie in Sydney, Australia. There she meets up with hotel magnate Aiden Madison, her best friend's older brother. He has troubles of his own - multiple attempts have been made on his life since he angered a Congressman when he refused to buy overvalued land.  It is a wild ride for them both.

Julie always writes good, exciting suspense.

~ Dot

7.10.14

GORGON

Gorgon by Greig Beck

Book 5 in the Alex Hunter series.
From the cover:  Alex Hunter has been found, sullen, alone, leaving a path of destruction as he travels across America. Only the foolish get in his way of the drifter wandering the streets late at night. Across the world, something has been released by a treasure hunter in a hidden chamber of the Basilica Cisterns in Istanbul. Something hidden there by Emperor Constantine himself, and deemed by him too horrifying and dangerous to ever be set free. It now stalks the land, leaving its victims turned to stone, and is headed on a collision course with a NATO base. The Americans can’t let it get there, but can’t be seen to intervene. There is only one option, send in the HAWCs. But Alex and the HAWCs are not the only ones seeking out the strange being, the Russian brute, Uli Borshov, who has a score to settle with the Arcadian, moves to intercept him, setting up a deadly collision of epic proportions where only one can survive.

I LOVE this series and I’m not sure why; it’s set on a US military base with personnel involved in covert global operations, it’s full of high tech gung-ho and it’s very violent – all of which is a total turnoff for me!  It’s probably the science, history and the characters that captivate me; that part of it is more your Indiana Jones/Six Million Dollar Man meets The Twilight Zone/Outer Limits crossover, and I do enjoy good supernatural/suspense/historical mythology/thrillers! 

This is no. 5 in the Alex Hunter series and it’s better in my opinion than the previous. Despite the content, which is contiguously spell-binding and repulsive, it’s good to welcome back a bit of humanity in our hero – he was becoming too mechanical and brutal there for a while.  I also enjoyed the return of our Paleo-linguistic hero, Professor Matt Kearns, and some other characters from previous books.  It seems like we’re not done yet with Alex Hunter, and I’m really looking forward to the next one - there’s some unresolved romance to happen yet!  If you're borrowing the audio - either CD, MP3 or downloadable e-audio, it is once again brilliantly narrated by Sean Mangan.  We also have this title in hard copy.  Well done to our Bondi author Greig Beck.
Deb.    

6.10.14

The Silkworm

The Silkworm is the second title in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith - the sequel to The Cuckoo's Calling.

I read the Cuckoo's Calling initially when I discovered that Robert Galbraith was the psydoneum for J.K. Rowling.  I read The Silkworm because I enjoyed Cuckoo's Calling.  And here's what The Silkworm was all about:

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days--as he has done before--and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home. But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives--meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced. When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before.

Although the novel is the second of the Cormoran Strike novels, you don't need to read the first to be able to follow the second. Having said that, you do get a better sense of the background behind the main characters if you do read them in order.

As for The Silkworm, there is much that is disturbing about the story.  The poisoning pen portraits are quite sexually graphic and provoking, but you can easily gloss over the sections that describe this if you wish. The Silkworm, as with The Cuckoo's Calling, is engaging, interesting and although I picked up on some of the twists, I was still a little surprised with who the villain ended up being.

Galbraith writes well, has an intriguing and macabre sense which come through well in this story, but despite the disturbing images that the crime makes you envision, I was really taken with the story and had to take time out to finish it all in one sitting, just to find out 'whodunnit' and why.

If you don't mind graphic scenes and like a good whodunnit with fascinating characters, then you really have to read the Silkworm.

~ Michelle

3.10.14

Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

From the cover: Pirriwee Public’s annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. One parent is dead. The school principal is horrified. As police investigate what appears to have been a tragic accident, signs begin to indicate that this devastating death might have been cold-blooded murder.  This book deftly explores the reality of parenting and playground politics, ex-husbands and ex-wives, and fractured families.  It also shows us the truth about what really goes on behind closed suburban doors.

This suspenseful novel is written with its shocking event revealed at the very beginning. The story is crafted to explain the events leading up to the death at Pirriwee Public’s annual school trivia night.  Big Little Lies takes us back and gives us a feel for the schoolyard politics, friendships, divisions, affairs and budding romances of the peninsula township, with little snippets from witnesses and other parents thrown into the mix.  

I thoroughly enjoyed Big Little Lies. Its short, punchy chapters make it a perfect novel for busy parents and, with children of a similar age, I related to plenty of the conversations and statements - “you get what you get and you don’t get upset!”  While it’s definitely a page turner, this is no lightweight. The book covers bullying, body image, the vulnerability of teens on social media, infidelity, custody battles and domestic violence. An enthralling suspense novel!
Sandra E



2.10.14

Bones Under the Beach Hut

Bones Under the Beach Hut by Simon Brett

From the cover:  Amateur sleuths Carole Seddon and her best friend Jude are drawn in to the mystery of human remains found under a beach hut at the affluent seaside resort of Smalting.  Their suspicions are many and varied, but when the bones are identified, the ghosts of the past are painfully reawakened and long-hidden secrets begin to surface.  It’s clear that there is more than one criminal in idyllic Smalting, and that more than one crime has been committed.

“Enchantingly gifted” says the Sunday Times.  “One of the wittiest crime writers around” says Antonia Fraser. Hmmmm.  I really enjoyed Mrs Pargeter’s Pound of Flesh by Simon Brett (one of the now series of Mrs. Pargeter novels). It was a hoot with its colourful characters such as ‘Ankle-deep Arkwright’ and ’Stan the Stapler’, so I was gleefully looking forward to a good chuckle with this book. I liked the sound of the English seaside setting; a beach hut is certainly an original stage for a murder mystery.

Unfortunately, there’s neither humour nor much detecting joy in this unappealing story. Chief protagonist, Carole Seddon, is teeth-gnashingly annoying.  The storyline is grubby with its undertones of paedophilia and pornography, blackmail and corruption; and is populated with irritating characters who range from the bourgeois and smarmy, to downright pathetic and totally unbelievable. 

Definitely not a book to recommend.  Stick with Mrs. Pargeter for a good dose of English crime-foolery.
Deb.
PS: I have since found out that this is Book 15 in a series called The Fethering Mysteries. Hopefully the others are better.  

1.10.14

Point of Origin

Point of Origin by Patricia Cornwell

From the cover:  Dr Kay Scarpetta, Chief Medical Examiner and consulting pathologist for the federal law enforcement agency ATF, is called out to a farmhouse in Virginia which has been destroyed by fire. In the ruins of the house she finds a body which tells a story of a violent and grisly murder. 

The fire has come at the same time as another, even more incendiary horror: Carrie Grethen, a killer who nearly destroyed the lives of Scarpetta and those closest to her, has escaped from a forensic psychiatric hospital. Her whereabouts is unknown, but her ultimate destination is not, for Carrie has begun to communicate with Scarpetta, conveying her deadly – if cryptic – plans for revenge. 

This is Book 9 in the Scarpetta series, and I think I’ve read an earlier one but can’t recall which.  No matter, although there are previous references to past happenings and people, it doesn’t really detract from the story – it’s still scary and unsettling.  If you have a weak stomach it’s probably best to avoid this series.  There’s a lot of blood and guts, she is a medical examiner in the morgue after all, but some of the more gory scenes are outside in the normal day-to-day world.  That’s where the psychopaths are, mingling with the likes of us which is probably the most chilling thing.

After so many books, Cornwell is seemingly at the height of her prowess; this book is very well crafted and surprisingly, emotional - I needed the tissue box at one stage.  But the slow-building suspense that clinches your stomach muscles and does not let go is what makes it so good.   
Deb



30.9.14

Heston at Home

Heston Blumenthal at Home by Heston Blumenthal 

Until now, home cooking has remained stubbornly out of touch with technological development but Heston Blumenthal, champion of the scientific kitchen, changes all that with this radical book. 

With meticulous precision, he explains what the most effective techniques are and why they work. Heston's instructions are precise and easy to follow, with lots of helpful tips, and each chapter is introduced with an explanation of Heston's approach to 1) Stocks 2) Soups 3) Starters 4) Salads 5) Meat 6) Fish 7) Sous-vide 8) Pasta and grains 9) Cheese 10) Sides and condiments 11) Ices 12) Desserts and sweets 13) Biscuits, snacks and drinks. Heston Blumenthal at Home will change the way you think about cooking forever - prepare for a culinary revolution!

Don’t be put off by this chef’s reputation - none of these recipes require test tubes, liquid nitrogen, or a science degree. The “master” of culinary theatre has put together a collection of recipes true to the book’s name. You can cook these at home - I’ve done it (well, a few, anyway).

The dishes in this book are definitely not “weekday” dinners. They are special occasion meals - designed to impress. Be prepared to spend the best part of a day in the kitchen, and a lot of washing up. All of the recipes are accompanied by beautiful colour photographs, so you know how the dish is meant to look. No fancy equipment is needed, and the ingredients are not difficult to obtain. However I did need to travel to Knox to obtain “cornichons”, which turned out to be very similar to little gherkins.

These recipes are perfect for someone who loves to cook, and is happy to spend time to make something spectacular.
Kim S.

29.9.14

Tempting Fate

Tempting Fate by Jane Green

When Gabby first met Elliott she knew he was the man for her. In twenty years of marriage she has never doubted her love for him - even when he refused to give her the one thing she still wants most of all. But now their two daughters are growing up Gabby feels that time and her youth are slipping away. For the first time in her life she is restless. And then she meets Matt . . .

Intoxicated by the way this young, handsome and successful man makes her feel, Gabby is momentarily blind to what she stands to lose on this dangerous path. And in one reckless moment she destroys all that she holds dear.

Consumed by regret, Gabby does everything she can to repair the home she has broken. But are some betrayals too great to forgive?

Another fantastic, realistic book from Jane Green. I can honestly say that I have enjoyed all her books. This story is about Gabby who is happily married with two daughters, but one night that changes everything, and she tells about the consequences and the impact it has on her once happy family. I listened to this on audio book which was narrated by Jane Green herself - she did a fantastic job.
Janine

26.9.14

Toyo

Toyo by Lily Chan.

Blending the intimacy of memoir with an artist's vision, Toyo is the story of a remarkable woman, a vivid picture of Japan before and after war, and an unpredictable tale of courage and change in today's Australia. 

Born into the traditional world of pre-war Osaka, Toyo must always protect the secret of her parents' true relationship. Her father lives in China with his wife; her unmarried mother runs a café. Toyo and her mother are beautiful and polite, keeping themselves in society's good graces. Then comes the rain of American bombs. Toyo's life is uprooted again and again. With each sharp change and painful loss, she becomes more herself and more aware of where she has come from. She finds family and belief, but still clings to her parents' secret. In Toyo, Lily Chan has pieced together the unconventional shape of her grandmother's story. Vibrant and ultimately heart-rending, Toyo is the chronicle of an extraordinary life, infused with a granddaughter's love. 

This is a beautiful tribute written by a granddaughter about her grandmother’s unusual story from her pre-war relationship.  It reads like a novel but blends the fascinating culture and history of the times. 
Pru 

25.9.14

Love, Rosie

Love, Rosie by Cecilia Ahern

Sometimes fate just can't stop meddling... Since childhood, Rosie and Alex have stuck by each other through thick and thin. But they're separated when Alex and his family move from Dublin to America. Their magical connection remains but can their friendship survive the years and miles? Misunderstandings, circumstances and sheer bad luck have kept them apart - until now. But will they gamble everything - including their friendship - on true love? And what twists and surprises does fate have in store for them this time? 

I really enjoyed this book. I read it because the movie version is coming out soon. It was first published as WHERE RAINBOWS END, but has now been filmed as LOVE, ROSIE. The majority of the book is told in either letter/instant message/phone call and is a traditional chick lit book by this popular Irish author. Highly recommended for light feel-good readers.
Janine

24.9.14

Shearwater

Shearwater by Andrea Mayes 

From the cover:  Cassie Callinan is a dutiful corporate wife, carefully preserving the safety of the status quo and her husband's camellias. When she learns she has lost her husband to a younger woman, she panics. Who is she, without the familiar props of her marriage? Fleeing her own life, Cassie finds herself amongst the eccentric inhabitants of Shearwater, an isolated coastal village. Against her will, she is gradually drawn into the life of the town with all its dramas, joy and secrets, and begins to discover who she really is. 

This is a depressing story, one that starts as character-driven then unwinding slowly to morph into a mystery but hardly a gripping one. The writing is quite lyrical at times, painting a picture of the sea and sand in all its seasonal forms and the birds...  I loved that.  But the rest is fairly pedestrian and basically it was a mildly interesting time-filler narrated well by Marie-Louise Walker.  This was a Bolinda e-audiobook download, but we also have it in hard copy and audio CD.
Deb.  

23.9.14

Clay Gully

Clay Gully: stories from an Apple Orchard
 by Sally van Gent

Sally van Gent wonders how to utilise the beautiful land of Clay Gully. Goats? A vineyard? Remembering the sweet fruit she ate as a child she decides to establish a heritage apple orchard. She sets to work - and soon enough, rains falter, bugs, birds and feral animals attack the trees, and a snake takes refuge in the leg of her jeans. As the drought takes its toll and animals in the surrounding bush begin to suffer, Sally fights to keep her orchard alive. 

This delightful biography, set in country Victoria would make a perfect gift.  It is beautifully illustrated with line drawings of her dogs, the wildlife and seasonal activities in the orchard with all its challenges - the drought settling in and her struggles to keep the orchard alive.  

Pru.

22.9.14

The Girl on the Landing

The Girl on the Landing by Paul Torday

From the cover:  A ghost story, a psychological thriller and a tale of love rediscovered, The Girl on the Landing is the gripping new novel from the author of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

The novel begins as Michael, a middle-aged man of means, is dressing for dinner at a friend's country house in Ireland. As he descends the grand staircase, he spots a small painting of a landing with an old linen press and a white marble statue of an angel. In the background is a woman clad in a dark green dress. During dinner, Michael comments on the painting to his hosts but they say there is no woman in the picture. When Michael goes up to bed later, he sees that they are correct. This is only the first in a series of incidents that lead Michael to question his grip on reality. His wife Elilzabeth is unsettled by the changes she sees in a man she originally married and she is aware that she has never really known him. Michael, in the meantime, is disturbed by events at his family's ancestral home in the wilds of Scotland and by a past that is threatening to destroy everything, and everyone, he has ever loved.   

This is a very conflicting novel.  Is it indeed a ghost story or a psychological thriller?  It is initially so mind-numbingly boring I can’t think why I stuck with it.  It’s so terribly, terribly English, said in my best Mayfair accent, with its Men’s club for dinner and bridge, a spot of golf, whiskey and water in crystal glasses and ‘shall we hunt deer on the weekend, what?’ Further in, it changes and we confront mental illness, schizophrenia and psychotic drugs and become aware of a rather menacing undercurrent.  By the end of it, it is a gripping thriller; and if that's not enough, a rather  haunting and disturbing epilogue winds it all up.  At one stage near the end, I had to Google ‘Lamia’, and now I wish I hadn’t. 

I listened to the playaway format which was cleverly narrated by Clare Wille as Elizabeth and David Monteath as Michael/Mikey but we also have this in other audio and print formats. 

The author, Paul Torday, passed away last year.   After the success of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen in 2006, he wrote The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce, then this one, followed by The Hopeless Life of Charlie Summers, More Than You Can Say, The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall, and Light Shining in the Forest. I wonder if all of them are as disturbing as The Girl on the Landing? 
Deb. 

19.9.14

The Hexed

The Hexed by Heather Graham
Book 13 of the Krewe of Hunters series.

Devin Lyle has recently returned to the Salem area, but her timing couldn't be worse. Soon after she moved into the eighteenth-century cabin she inherited from her great-aunt Mina—her "crazy" great-aunt, who spoke to the dead—a woman was murdered nearby. 

Craig Rockwell, known as Rocky, is a new member of the Krewe of Hunters. He never got over finding a friend dead in the woods. Now another body's been found in those same woods, not far from the home of Devin Lyle. And Devin's been led to a third body — by a ghost? 

Her discovery draws them both deeper into the case and Salem's rich and disturbing history. Even as the danger mounts, Devin and Rocky begin to fall for each other, something the ghosts of Mina and past witches seem to approve of. But the two of them need every skill they possess to learn the truth—or Devin's might be the next body in the woods

Another in the Krewe of Hunters series.  The Krewe is a branch of the FBI who specialise in paranormal cases and the setting for this one is Salem and the witch trials.  As well as lots of interesting information about that, there are old friends, new characters, murders, old ghosts and people who can see and talk to the dead.  It’s a good mystery with a unique twist.
Dot.

18.9.14

Flight MH370

Flight MH370: the mystery by Nigel Cawthorne

Just after midnight on 8 March 2014, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. At 01:19 it literally disappeared. It has never been heard from or sighted since. All 239 people on board are now presumed dead. 

Author Nigel Cawthorne has written a fascinating book about this unsolved mystery. The story still seems fresh in the mind, and the newspaper and television reports are easily remembered so there is strong motivation for the reader to “find out what really happened”. Of course, this book cannot and does not provide the ultimate answer, but it sure does weave an enthralling tale. Was it a terrorist attack? An aircraft malfunction? Pilot suicide? And did the Malaysian government “cover up” the true story? 

While the book is slight, it is a rollicking read that grips the reader from the first to the last page. It also makes you a bit wary of plane flight though!  A good book to finish off in a night’s sitting.
Teresa

17.9.14

Cooking the Books

Cooking the Books by Kerry Greenwood

From the cover:  Corinna Chapman, talented baker and reluctant investigator, is trying to do nothing at all on her holidays. Her gorgeous Daniel is only intermittently at her side. Jason, her baking offsider, has gone off to learn how to surf. And Kylie and Goss are fulfilling their lives' ambition auditioning for a soapie. It should be a time of quiet reflection for Corinna but she's bored. Scenting a whiff of danger, Corinna accepts an offer to do the baking for the film set of a new soap called 'Kiss the Bride' where Kylie and Goss have parts. Things that could only happen to Corinna ensue involving, bizarrely, nursery rhymes and a tiger called Tabitha. While on the other side of town, a young woman is being unmercifully bullied by her corporate employers, employers who spend a lot of time cooking the books.


Possibly more famous for her Phryne Fisher series, Kerry Greenwood still delights with her Corinna Chapman series [this is book 6].  Modern day baker, amateur sleuth, and a size 20 lovely lady who is adored for her curves by the delicious Daniel, Greenwood's light and entertaining mysteries are filled with recipes for murder, mayhem, smooching and munchies. 

Corinna's bakery, Earthly Delights, is set in Calico alley, a fictitious but totally believable laneway off Flinders Street in Melbourne and local landmarks feature aplenty, something I always enjoy in books – you can so identify with the location which puts you right there in the scene!  Couple this with a cast of colourful characters that share Corinna’s Romanesque apartment building; the bakery customers and laneway neighbours; her beautiful cat Horatio and the not so beautiful but heroic ‘mouse police’ that prowl the bakery at night; oh, and sundry ne’er-do-wells and you’re in for a pleasurable few hours entertainment!  I enjoyed the audio version narrated by the talented Louise Siversen, but we have this series in all formats.  In order, they are:  Earthly Delights, Heavenly Pleasures, Devil’s Food, Trick or Treat, Forbidden Fruit and this one, Cooking the Books.   Indulge!
Deb. 


16.9.14

Jacaranda Blue

Jacaranda Blue by Joy Dettman

From the cover: For 44 years Stella Templeton has been a dutiful daughter and a good citizen living in Maidenville, population 2800, a town where nothing happens. Until one hot summer afternoon... 

An ugly act has lifted the respectable skirts of Maidenville and mystery starts to surround the daughter of the local minister. Then the disappearance of a 16-year-old boy adds to the neighbourhood's confusion. Does something sinister lurk behind the neatly trimmed hedges and white picket fences that divide this sleepy town? 

No one comes close to knowing the horrifying truth - but after 44 years of self denial and duty, Stella Templeton is finally beginning to blossom.

Stella Templeton's quaint small town and suppressed existence is thrown into disarray after an intense and violent act. This is a very engaging story involving a murder mystery and the prying eyes of well-drawn characters. 

The audio book version (read by Deidre Rubenstein) is very good and highly recommended.
Ali

15.9.14

Two for the armchair traveller

On the Slow Train Again by Michael Williams

Michael Williams spent a year travelling along the rail byways of Britain and this book is the result.  A pleasant read for those who like to take their armchair on a road less travelled - you will go from the far north of Scotland to the west of Wales.  Good fun!  Fay

The Inn at the Top by Neil Hanson

In the late 1970s, Neil Hanson and his wife decided on a whim to take up innkeeping at the highest pub in Britain, located on a very windswept hill in the Yorkshire Dales where the locals have many words for ‘rain’.  Despite a complete inability to understand the dialect of the sheep farmers who were the local customers; despite the howling wind, their inexperience at innkeeping and that the pub was awful, they fell in love with the Dales on the spot.  Well worth the read!  Fay

12.9.14

Peter Pan Must Die

Peter Pan Must Die is the fourth in the Dave Gurney series by John Verdon

Dave Gurney is a retired NYPD homicide cop with amazing skill to solve the most puzzling of murders. In Peter Pan Must Die, Gurney is encouraged by a former police colleague, Jack Hardwick, to assist finding the truth to a shocking murder that couldn’t have been committed the way the police say it was. He becomes immersed in the mystery and intrigue to determine the guilt or innocence of a woman already convicted of killing her powerful politician husband – who was shot in the head while delivering the eulogy at his mother’s funeral.

Consisting of multiple murders and startling twists and turns, this novel is brilliant in delivering a thrilling plot. I have not read the first three books in the Dave Gurney series, but will be sure to read the others now, and continue to look for further novels by John Verdon in the future! 

I would thoroughly recommend this to fans of thrillers and murder mysteries. It was fine to read as a stand alone title. Readers should note however that there is some harsh language used.  
~ Narelle

10.9.14

Man Booker Shortlist 2014

The £50,000  Man Booker Prize for Fiction embraces "the freedom of English in all its vigour, its vitality, its versatility and its glory wherever it may be".  Judges consider authors from anywhere in the world, so long as their work was in English and published in the UK.  Just announced:  



Joshua Ferris (US) - To Rise Again at a Decent Hour

Richard Flanagan (Australian) - The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Karen Joy Fowler (US) - We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Howard Jacobson (British) - J

Neel Mukherjee (British) - The Lives of Others

Ali Smith (British) - How to be Both

Chair of the 2014 judges, AC Grayling, commented on behalf of the judges:
‘We are delighted to announce our international shortlist. As the Man Booker Prize expands its borders, these six exceptional books take the reader on journeys around the world, between the UK, New York, Thailand, Italy, Calcutta and times past, present and future.'

We have all these titles on our shelves - why not click on one to borrow and you be the judge - "Booker Prize or not?"
Deb. 

9.9.14

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project: or why I spent a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my closets, fight right, read Aristotle, and generally have more fun by Gretchen Rubin

From the cover: One rainy afternoon, while riding a city bus, Gretchen Rubin asked herself, “What do I want from life, anyway?” She answered, “I want to be happy” — yet she spent no time thinking about her happiness. In a flash, she decided to dedicate a year to a happiness project. The result? One of the most thoughtful and engaging works on happiness to have emerged from the recent explosion of interest in the subject.
The Happiness Project synthesises the wisdom of the ages with current scientific research, as Rubin brings readers along on her year to greater happiness.
In fact, Rubin’s “happiness project” no longer describes just a book or a blog; it’s a movement. Happiness Project groups, where people meet to discuss their happiness projects, have sprung up across the US — and across the world.

Lawyer-turned-writer Gretchen Rubin lives in New York City with her husband and two young daughters. She spends one year trying to increase her happiness in all aspects of her life with mixed results. Each month she decides on area that she will target such as "health", "love" or "money" and shares with the reader her trials and tribulations as she test-drives various theories and puts her happiness plan into action.

The Happiness Project is well researched and includes heaps of practical suggestions for increasing your wellbeing and, ultimately, your happiness. I particularly enjoyed Gretchen's daily adventures as she searched for both serenity and excitement amid the mundane routines of parenthood.

While her quest could seem self indulgent, the book is written in a lively way and has plenty of food for thought for anyone who would like to take time out from their busy lives to enjoy what really matters.

Sandra

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