Death at Victoria Dock

Death at Victoria Dock by Kerry Greenwood

From the cover:  The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, beautifully dressed in loose trousers, a cream silk shirt and a red-fox fur has just had her windscreen shot out inches in front of her divine nose. But worse is the fate of the pale young man lying on the road, his body hit by bullets, who draws his final blood-filled breath with Phryne at his side. Outraged by this brutal slaughter, Phryne promises to find out who is responsible. She doesn't yet know how deeply into the mire she'll have to go - bank robbery, tattoo parlours, pubs, spiritualist halls and the Anarchists. Along this path, Phryne meets Peter, a battle-scarred, sexy Slav, who offers much more to her than just information. But all thoughts of these delights flee from her mind when her beloved maid, Dot, disappears. 

If you've been stranded on a desert isle for quite some time, you wouldn't have met up with this 1920’s St. Kilda-based detective.  The Hon. Phryne Fisher stars in at least 20 novels [and if you're anything like me, you would not have read them in order!] and has been a hit series on ABC TV.  In this, book 4 in the series, anarchists and politics make for boring bedfellows indeed, but luckily the talented Ms Greenwood wields her pen in other directions, bringing yet another light but entertaining  mystery onto our shelves.  We have this series in all formats - Stephanie Daniel narrates all the audio versions with her usual aplomb. 


A Long Way Home

A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley with Larry Buttrose

From the cover: When Saroo Brierley used Google Earth to find his long-lost home town half a world away, he made global headlines. Saroo had become lost on a train in India at the age of five. Not knowing the name of his family or where he was from, he survived for weeks on the streets of Kolkata, before being taken into an orphanage and adopted by a couple in Australia. Despite being happy in his new family, Saroo always wondered about his origins. He spent hours staring at the map of India on his bedroom wall. When he was a young man the advent of Google Earth led him to pour over satellite images of the country for landmarks he recognised. And one day, after years of searching, he miraculously found what he was looking for. Then he set off on a journey to find his mother.

This is a fascinating story about international adoption and how technology is helping adopted children find their birth parents. Saroo’s accidental journey across India on a train and his survival on the streets of Kolkata is an amazing story just on its own. However, it’s his achievement as an adult in Australia – combing through thousands perhaps millions of satellite images of India’s countryside for several years until he finds his neighbourhood – that’s just staggering.

A Long Way Home gives a remarkable glimpse into the culture clash that Saroo experienced when moving from an Indian orphanage to a comfortable middle-class life in Hobart. The book describes how his Australian parents adopted Saroo and another Indian boy, Mantosh, as a way to help children in need from developing countries, not because they were unable to have children themselves. It would have been interesting to hear more about the reactions of his friends and family – his adopted parents in particular – when he finally found his home town and embarked on the trip to India to find his birth family. However, A Long Way Home is certainly a very satisfying memoir. It is an inspirational story about never giving up hope.
Sandra E.


After Darkness

After Darkness by Christine Piper

From the cover: While working at a Japanese hospital in the pearling port of Broome, Dr Ibaraki is arrested as an enemy alien and sent to Loveday internment camp in a remote corner of South Australia. There, he learns to live among a group of men who are divided by culture and allegiance. As tensions at the isolated camp escalate, the doctor's long-held beliefs are thrown into question and he is forced to confront his dark past: the promise he made in Japan and its devastating consequences.

After Darkness is an Australian war story with a difference. It sheds light on the experiences of the Japanese who were sent to internment camps in remote Australia during World War II.

Dr Tomakazu Ibaraki was a medical researcher in Japan and started a new life in Broome after losing his job and his wife. A gentleman with great discretion, honour and loyalty, Ibaraki finds it difficult to open up to his colleague, Sister Bernice, in Broome and damages their friendship as a result. War breaks out and he joins the rest of his countrymen at an internment camp in South Australia.

Piper, who has a Japanese mother and an Australian father, brings the harsh Australian environment to life throughout the story. She deftly describes the highlights and low points of camp life such as the cleaning rosters, cultural performances, baseball competitions and internal politics. It is at Camp Loveday that Ibaraki begins to push aside his reserve and bury his demons so that he can support the angry and depressed young Australian-born men who are struggling with their incarceration. 

A compelling wartime tale from an alternate point of view, After Darkness won The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award 2014.

This was the first eBook I've borrowed through the Library's BorrowBox app and I was impressed with how easy it was to access. The novel is also available in hard copy. 
Sandra E.


Grace's Table

Grace’s Table by Sally Piper.

From the cover:  Grace has not had twelve people at her table for a long time. Hers isn't the kind of family who share regular Sunday meals. But it isn't every day you turn seventy. As Grace prepares the feast, she reflects on her life, her marriage and her friendships. When the three generations come together, simmering tensions from the past threaten to boil over. The one thing that no one can talk about is the one thing that no one can forget. Grace's Table is a moving and often funny novel about the power of memory and the family rituals that define us.

Ah, mothers and daughters.  Such a strong love/hate connection in a lot of cases, and one that is perfectly illustrated in this debut novel by Australian author, Sally Piper. [Grace's Table was short-listed in the 2011 Queensland Premiers Literary Award's emerging Queensland author category.]

This in-depth character study shows how there is more than one perception of actions and behaviour; what is the best way to handle something is definitely not right for another.  Families are notorious for distorting or twisting things, and years can be lost in bitterness and misplaced grief.  This would be a good choice for book discussion groups as there are many sides to many relationships here. There are some characters that are more than prickly, and others that just make you smile.  I enjoyed the mother/daughter chats while preparing vegetables - Mum likes it this way, daughter likes it that.  Yes - just like it was when I was with my Mum!
No action-packed thriller here, just an astute look at human nature.


Victor Hugo: Les Mis

The State Library of Victoria invites you [FREE] to:

Victor Hugo: Les Misérables – From Page to Stage panel discussion: The social conscience and the popular novel – Victor Hugo and his contemporaries.

Victor Hugo, Leo Tolstoy, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Charles Dickens were all bestselling authors of their time – Hugo’s Les Misérables sold 6000 copies a day when it was published in 1862. Each of these writers touched on themes of repression, poverty and political unrest in their novels. Did they deliberately tap into the current concerns of the day or were they just producing ripping good yarns?

Join Melbourne writer Jane Sullivan as she chairs a lively and entertaining discussion about the 19th-century novel and the social conscience. Jane's column ‘Turning pages’, about books and writing, runs in the Saturday Age. Her latest novel, Little people, was published by Scribe.

Panellists include historian Anna Welch, who worked as the assistant curator on our exhibition Victor Hugo: Les Misérables – From Page to Stage; Brian Nelson, Emeritus Professor of French Studies at Monash University, who is well known for his critical studies and translations of the work of Émile Zola; and world-renowned translator Julie Rose. Julie's 2008 translation of Les Misérables is the first full original unabridged English translation of the book.

Date: Thursday 28 August 2014, 6:00pm - 7:15pm
Cost: Free 
Bookings: Book online or phone 03 8664 7099 or enquiries@slv.vic.gov.au
Venue: The Courtyard, Main entry, Swanston St



The Silence of the Sea

The Silence of the Sea by Yrsa Sigurdarttir  

From the cover: 'Mummy dead.' The child's pure treble was uncomfortably clear. It was the last thing Brynjar - and doubtless the others - wanted to hear at that moment. 'Daddy dead.' It got worse. 'Adda dead. Bygga dead.' The child sighed and clutched her grandmother's leg. 'All dead.' A luxury yacht arrives in Reykjavik harbour with nobody on board. What has happened to the crew, and to the family who were on board when it left Lisbon? Thora Gudmundsdottir is hired by the young father's parents to investigate, and is soon drawn deeper into the mystery. What should she make of the rumours saying that the vessel was cursed, especially given that when she boards the yacht she thinks she sees one of the missing twins? Where is Karitas, the glamorous young wife of the yacht's former owner? And whose is the body that has washed up further along the shore?

This author is a master at creating a sinister atmosphere with a logical explanation. The characters and family relationships are subtle and believable. 
A quality follow-up to her I Remember.


The Shadow Tracer

The Shadow Tracer by M.G. Gardiner

From the cover:  Can a person ever really disappear for good by going off the grid? And what happens when vanishing is no longer an option? Sarah Keller is a single mother to five-year-old Zoe, living quietly in Oklahoma. She's also a skip tracer, an expert in tracking people who've gone on the lam to avoid arrest, prosecution, or debt-- pinpointing their location to bring them to justice. When a school bus accident sends Zoe to the ER, their quiet life explodes. Zoe's medical tests reveal what Sarah has been hiding: Zoe is not her daughter. Zoe's biological mother-- Sarah's sister, Beth - was murdered shortly after the child's birth. And Zoe's father is missing and presumed dead. With no way to prove her innocence, Sarah must abandon her carefully constructed life and go on the run. Chased by cops, federal agents, and the group responsible for Beth's murder, Sarah embarks on a desperate journey. 

The publisher’s blurb really doesn’t ramp up much excitement, and it should because this is one pacy, thrilling ride -  it would make a great movie! Even when the action is not full throttle, the characters are very well drawn and realistically portrayed, from the downright evil Worthe cult members Grissom Briggs and two of Eldrick Worthe’s granddaughters, Fell and Reavy; to our main protagonists (do we detect a hint of romance?) Sarah and Marshall Michael Lawless;  to 5-year old Zoe who has been implanted with a microchip bearing some very important cult information. From Oklahoma to Roswell New Mexico, there are some hair-raising chapters including a brutal murder in an isolated farmhouse during a snow storm, a dangerous car chase along a freeway and the extravaganza - a final bloody confrontation in that famous Texan aeroplane graveyard.  This action-packed crime thriller was brilliantly read by the talented female narrator, Laurence Bouvard.  Highly recommended in any format... Borrow now and buckle up! 
PS - Some of this author's titles are under the name Meg Gardiner, others as M.G. Gardiner.  The playaway version I borrowed had the initials.  


Concealed in Death

Concealed in Death.  Being book number 37 in JD Robb's 'In Death' series, one would think there is nothing new to bring to these futuristic mysteries!
But one would be wrong...

When billionaire Roarke takes the ceremonial first swing in the demolition of one of his buildings, he finds hidden behind a false wall the remains of two teenage girls. Luckily he's married to Lieutenant Eve Dallas, New York's top Homicide cop, who quickly uncovers more remains, 12 in total. It will take all of Eve and her team's considerable skills to crack this case; one that has twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the very end! 


Cop Town

Cop Town by Karin Slaughter

Atlanta, 1974:  As a brutal killing and a furious manhunt rock the city’s police department, Kate Murphy wonders if her first day on the job will also be her last. She’s determined to defy her privileged background by making her own way — wearing a badge and carrying a gun. But for a beautiful young woman, life will be anything but easy in the macho world of the Atlanta PD, where even the female cops have little mercy for rookies. It’s also the worst day possible to start given that a beloved cop has been gunned down, his brothers in blue are out for blood, and the city is on the edge of war.  Kate isn’t the only woman on the force who’s feeling the heat. Maggie Lawson followed her uncle and brother into the ranks to prove her worth in their cynical eyes. When she and Kate, her new partner, are sidelined in the citywide search for a cop killer, their fury, pain, and pride finally reach boiling point. With a killer poised to strike again, they will pursue their own line of investigation, risking everything as they venture into the city’s darkest heart.

This is another brilliantly written, evocative, deeply moving and exceptional read from the master of crime fiction. She is so good at her craft and makes writing and reading this seem easy, with well-developed protagonists and bad guys – there are many – which you simply hate! Slaughter captures the flavour of the 70’s and reduces it down to a piquant stock that flavours the entire narrative. The 70’s are a transforming time – not just in Atlanta but all over the world and she captures it so well. It gives a female perspective on being a police officer and the daily battles they must face not only from the criminals but also from within their own force.

This is a good standalone novel or perhaps the start of another series? She has definitely left the door open for us to read more of the Lawson’s story or Kate’s story. Devote an evening to Ms Slaughter’s fare – you will not be sorry.


The Broken Ones

The Broken Ones by Stephen M Irwin 

From the cover:  The world has descended into chaos. On the surface, everything looks the same, yet the unthinkable has happened. The dead have risen.

Everyone is haunted by a relative, friend, spouse, or stranger, and these spirits are unshakeable, silent and watching. Governments the world over fail to deal with the epidemic. Crime is rife, and murders commonplace. But who is responsible: the ghosts or the people?

Finding out is where Detective Oscar Mariani comes in. He stumbles onto a case that cuts through his apathy. A ritualistic, brutal serial killer is at work murdering young women and the evidence implicates those in high places. If Mariani can solve the case, and keep alive himself, he may be able to exorcise his own ghostly shadow, a dead young man who might have a message Mariani needs to hear. 

This Australian author has been making it big overseas – his debut novel The Dead Path (reviewed here back in 2011) was a great introduction to his trademark of blending genres.  This one is crime and mystery mixed with the supernatural, horror and some semi-dystopian elements.  I really enjoy a good ghost story, but initially I didn’t know whether to stick with this or not as it’s rather bleak and depressing.  It is, however, a powerful read ... it gains a sense of urgency and the ending came as a surprise. Well done Mr Irwin.  I enjoyed Grant Cartwright's narration on the Playaway format I borrowed.  We also have this title in hard print, CD, MP3 and e-audiobook.


Set Up

Set Up by Claire McNab 

From the cover:  Detective Inspector Carol Ashton is faced with three unsolved murders that seem linked by the fact that the victims' names appear under the heading Notable Deletions on the website of a radical international environmentalist group. Overseas, the entrepreneurs and magnates that the group, Gaia's Revenge, describes as environmental vandals have been dying mysterious deaths. Now it seems as if it's Australia's turn to play host to a hired killer. Three unsolved murders; her son, David, accused of selling marijuana; and a journalist hanging around, following her every move. Life is challenging for Detective Inspector Carol Ashton. 

I wished I had’ve seen the “this is the 11th book in the series” note in the catalogue, but alas, too late; I was already well into this story when I got the feeling that this might be the case. Who is Sybil never got answered.  Well narrated by Caroline Lee, this had the potential to be a good series, but it’s just a tad on pedestrian side and that's what stopped me from searching for Book 1.  However, having a female, gay police inspector who has a teenage son puts a new spin on things, and environmental radicals keeps it topical, so some may enjoy it.  But when all is said and done, this is a fairly average police procedural and there are too many other titles beckoning.   


East of Innocence

East of Innocence by David Thorne

From the cover:  One man. On the hunt for the truth. On the edge of London. And way outside the law. Daniel Connell is a disgraced ex-City lawyer now scraping a living in Essex, a man trying to escape the long shadows of his past. When an old childhood friend visits him, asking for his help with a case of police brutality, Daniel wants nothing to do with it. But obligations are obligations, and he soon finds himself on the wrong end of police attention, and dragged into the shady business of a local gangster. But there is far more at stake than he could ever have anticipated, including the mystery of what happened to his mother, who disappeared months after he was born. Daniel must keep ahead of his pursuers long enough to uncover the bloody mysteries of the past, and the fate of another young woman, too innocent to protect herself in the midst of a dangerous game. Welcome to Essex.

If you’re familiar with English crime shows in the realm of The Bill, The Minder, Blood on the Wire, that sort of thing, then you’ll know what this book was like - it packs a punch in more ways than one.

East of Innocence is incredibly violent, has more than its share of nasty criminals looking to inflict more than “a bit of bovver, Sunshine”, features a bent cop and his cronies, a gangster and his thugs, and is peppered with more foul four-letter words than a bad Scrabble day … mmmm … not quite your average cuppa tea: “fanks son, put the kettle on, ta” [without sounding the letter ‘t’ once]. 

Surprisingly, two characters in the book stopped me from returning it pronto. Our protagonist Daniel and his mate Gabriel, two seriously flawed mid-thirties guys who just happen to be doubles tennis champions.  Go figure.  Daniel, a lawyer, has been hurt in so many ways it tugs at the heart strings, while Gabe, an undercover sniper home from the war in Iraq, is minus the lower half of one leg.  Does it get any better than this?  How about Daniel’s mother – ah, but that would spoil it.
If you are liberal minded with your language and strong of stomach, you might really enjoy this book.  It’s very well written, and if you get the audio version as I did, Rupert Degas delivers an excellent narration.  



Bittersweet by Colleen McCullough

From the cover:  This is the story of two sets of twins, Edda and Grace, Tufts and Kitty, who struggle against all the restraints, prohibitions, laws and prejudices of 1920s Australia.  Only the submissive yet steely Grace burns for marriage; the sleekly sophisticated Edda burns to be a doctor, the down-to-earth but courageous Tufts burns never to marry, and the too-beautiful, internally scarred Kitty burns for a love free from male ownership. Turbulent times, terrible torments, but the four magnificent Latimer sisters, each so different, love as women do: with tenderness as well as passion, and with hearts roomy enough to hold their men, their children, their careers and their sisters.

Twins.  Hurrumph!  If anything is going to put me off a storyline, it’s one of twins! I have no idea why I borrowed this book but it is way better than the publisher’s blurb, so much so it would make a very enjoyable movie!  There’s a depth and intelligence to it that is not even hinted at - a strong commentary on the politics of the day runs through the story -  Joseph Lyons, Jack Lang, and a young ‘upcoming’ Menzies;  the Depression, which has such impact under this author’s pen, more so than others I’ve read; and the machinations of a running a hospital as opposed to those that populate one.  

This is an obvious choice of setting for Ms. McCullough; she started out as a teacher, librarian, then journalist, changed to medical studies at the University of Sydney then switched to neuroscience and worked in Royal North Shore Hospital. She eventually took a research associate job at Yale University, followed by ten years researching and teaching in the Department of Neurology at the Yale Medical School in New Haven, Connecticut, USA, where she first turned her hand to writing novels.  It comes as no surprise that this book has so much of her background underpinning it, and I think it’s stronger for it.  My only negative is the ending.  Is it an ending?  It is so open-ended I can’t help but think there’s a sequel.  Considering it closes just before the rumblings of Hitler and WWII, it’s the next logical step.


Ned Kelly's Shortlist

The Ned Kelly Awards are Australia’s oldest and most prestigious prizes honouring Australian crime fiction and true crime writing. The awards began in 1995 and is now run by the Australian Crime Writers Association.  The shortlist for 2014 is:

Angela Savage, THE DYING BEACH

Candice Fox, HADES
Ellie Marney, EVERY BREATH

John Kidman & Denise Hofman, FOREVER NINE
Eleanor Learmonth & Jenny Tabakoff, NO MERCY

Winners will be announced at the Brisbane Writers Festival on 6th September.


Everything to Lose

Everything to Lose by Andrew Gross.

From the cover:  Hilary Cantor has lost her job, is about to lose her house, and is running out of money to care for her son with Asperger’s syndrome. When Hilary is first on the scene of a car accident, she finds a satchel full of cash on the back seat. Her split-second decision takes her to the heat of a conspiracy involving blackmail and a powerful figure who’ll do anything to keep the past buried.

What would you do in this moral quandary? Such an interesting scenario that had me intrigued from start to finish. It made me wonder what I would do in this same dilemma and really made me connect with the main character, Hilary Cantor. During this story it provided fear and suspense which I quite enjoy. It's definitely a good read for those who love a thriller.  I listened to the audio version of this story narrated by Tavia Gilbert. It is also available in book format.
~ Narelle


Skin and Bone

Skin and Bone by Kathryn Fox

From the cover:  Detective Kate Farrer returns to duty after three months of stress leave. Fearing that she has lost her edge, she reluctantly partners homicide newcomer, Oliver Parke. They are immediately thrown into the investigation of a young woman who has been murdered and burnt beyond recognition. The post-mortem reveals she had recently given birth, but there is no sign of the baby. With homicide short-staffed and overloaded, Kate and Oliver are also ordered to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl. Suspicion falls on Mark Dobbie, a fitness trainer who is obsessed with the missing girl’s sister. When the detectives find drugs and photos of naked women in his apartment, they wonder if they have uncovered a serial date rapist-turned-murderer. While the pressure to find the missing baby and teenage girl escalates, Kate Farrer's past demons come back to haunt her. But she must fight them - her partner's life depends on it. 

This may well be Book 3 in the Anya Chrichton series, but if you’re hanging out for Anya to do her stuff you’ll be in for a disappointment.  This is the Kate Farrer show; Anya is overseas for 6 weeks, allowing the flinty detective a little ‘star’ time.  And that’s all good as this book is firstly, and best, Australian [Sydney setting].  It’s also fast paced, offers an interesting plot with a couple of twists, some seriously bad people with very big egos, and a little soul searching for our protagonist who must overcome what happened to her in Book 1, Malicious Intent.   

The author knows her stuff and it shows through in the writing.  Kathryn Fox is a physician with a special interest in forensic medicine. She says her time spent in forensic medicine forming relationships with murderers, victims, police, lawyers, and prisoners and their families gives her an insight in motivations and behaviours.  With 7 books so far published, I need to get a wriggle on and reserve more as I have been enjoying this series very much.  We have it in all formats and I highly recommend you put a hold on one if you like this genre.


I Am Malala

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb.

I chose this book to read as I wanted to find out more about this young woman who was the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. What I read was so much more.

I was intrigued by not only Malala’s story but that of her father which is described in detail during the book. In a society which prizes sons over daughters, Malala’s father wanted his daughter to be treated equal while also not compromising their religious beliefs. Together their fight for education of young girls, and establishing schools for children in Pakistan, was inspirational.
There is a lot of detail about the political environment of the times which set the scene and helps the reader understand and empathise with these two amazing individuals.

In October 2012, Malala Yousafzai was targeted by the Taliban and shot in the head while returning home on a school bus. She was targeted due to her very public campaign for the rights of young women to an education in Pakistan.

The book is set out in six parts. The first is Malala’s early life before the Taliban came to Swat, Pakistan. Next is all about the political unrest when the Taliban arrived and extended their influence across Swat. Part three  is the time leading up to Malala being shot by members of the Taliban, part four was her journey between life and death, and the last two parts are about her life in England receiving wonderful medical treatment and rehabilitation services, and then her life that she is now living after her amazing and miraculous recovery.

To quote Malala, she says that her goal “in writing this book was to raise my voice on behalf of the millions of girls around the world who are being denied their right to go to school and realise their potential.”  She has certainly achieved being a great supporter, advocate and champion for universal access to education.

Definitely an inspirational and thought-provoking read.
~ Narelle


Recipes for a Perfect Marriage

Recipes for a Perfect Marriage by Kate Kerrigan

From the cover:  New York food writer Tressa returns from her honeymoon worried that she has married her handsome new husband out of a late-thirties panic.  In 1930s Ireland, her grandmother Bernadine is married off to the local schoolteacher after her family is unable to raise a dowry for her to marry her true love, Michael. 
During the first year of marriage, Tressa distracts herself from her stay-or-go dilemma by working on her grandmother’s recipes, searching for solace and answers through their preparation.

The title is deceptive, the audio narration by Caroline Lennon is great, and if you’re female, this is one book that may touch some nerves. The author digs into our sensitivities in this entertaining novel – why do girls want to be married; become inured to sharing our lives with that Man; staying with him for … 50 years or more? 

Interspersed with the occasional recipe, the story explores the lives and love of two women from different times and places. The interesting thing about this rather non-descript, easy-to-pass-over cover, is that it contains some observations so well drawn they can really make you wince.  
We have this title in print, Large Print, Audio CD and e-book. 



Cooked: a natural history of transformation by Michael Pollan

From the cover:  In Cooked, Pollan explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen. Here, he discovers the enduring power of the four classical elements, fire, water, air, and earth, to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink. In the course of his journey, he discovers that the cook occupies a special place in the world, standing squarely between nature and culture. Both realms are transformed by cooking, and so, in the process, is the cook.

I thought this author seemed familiar – he wrote, amongst others, The Omnivore’s Dilemma which I read last year.  It was very thought provoking and well done.  Despite the engaging blurb above, this one was a hard slog, though the Introduction is excellent and I can highly recommend that.  The book is split into parts 1-4: Fire (Creatures of Flame), Water (A recipe in Seven Steps), Air (The Education of an Amateur Baker), and Earth (Fermentation’s Cold Fire).  Pollan takes us on a journey through the fundamentals of cooking, uncovering the inner mysteries of everything from tiny specks of yeast to a whole hog roast.  There is also an Afterword and two appendices – one has recipes from each of the four above headings, and the other a list of other books on cooking.


A Change in Altitude

A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve

From the cover:

Margaret and Patrick have been married just a few months when they set off on what they hope will be a great adventure, a year living in Kenya. While Patrick practices equatorial medicine, Margaret works as a photojournalist.  A British couple invites the newlyweds to join them on a climbing expedition to Mount Kenya, and they eagerly agree. But during their harrowing ascent, the unthinkable happens. In a reckless moment, an horrific accident occurs and a life is claimed. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Margaret struggles to understand what happened on the mountain and how these events have transformed her and her marriage, perhaps forever.

Anita Shreve is a dab hand at writing - to date some 18 novels have gained her fans around the globe with bestselling titles like Light On Snow, The Pilot’s Wife and Rescue. (As an aside, she also wrote two non-fiction books back in the 1980s to do with working mothers and motherhood.) Prior to all this, among other jobs Anita Shreve worked for three years as a photojournalist in Nairobi, Kenya, and it is obvious that this eventually provided the setting of A Change in Altitude, though why it took her so long, I’m not sure.

We have this book in all formats, but I chose the Playaway version which was read by Laurence Bouvard (female).  She delivered an excellent narration, handling male, female, Dutch, British and many African accents with aplomb.  This added colour to what is a fairly slow character-driven story.  Apart from one incident, not much in the way of action happens, which is fine if you like this style of book.  At least the characters hold interest – equatorial medicine and photojournalism in areas from shanty towns to old colonial splendour are not your usual grist for the mill.  Throw in some politics, romance, geography, tribal factions, tropical weather, mountain climbing and AMS – acute mountain sickness or altitude sickness, and you will find you’ve reached the end of the book sooner than expected.  Which is very annoying because it doesn’t really end, it just stops abruptly leaving us hanging in limbo.  Is there going to be a sequel?  


Phantom Instinct

I have been a fan of Meg Gardiner since her debut award-winning novel "China Lake" in 2008.  Her novels have featured either lawyer-turned-freelance journalist Evan Delaney or forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett. However, her latest title, "Phantom Instinct" takes a new direction, with a one-off story with new characters and a slight change in writing style.

"An injured cop and an ex-thief hunt down a killer nobody else believes exists after a murder spree in a crowded L.A. club. When shots ring out in a crowded L.A. club, bartender Harper Flynn watches helplessly as her boyfriend, Drew, is gunned down in the cross fire. Then somebody throws a Molotov cocktail, and the club is quickly engulfed in flames. L.A. Sheriff Deputy Aiden Garrison sees a gunman in a hoodie and gas mask taking aim at Harper, but before he can help her a wall collapses, bringing the building down and badly injuring him. A year later, Harper is trying to rebuild her life. She has quit her job and gone back to college. Meanwhile, the investigation into the shoot-out has been closed. The two gunmen were killed when the building collapsed. Certain that a third gunman escaped and is targeting the survivors, Harper enlists the help of Aiden Garrison, the only person willing to listen. But the traumatic brain injury he suffered has cut his career short and left him with Fregoli syndrome, a rare type of face blindness that causes the delusion that random people are actually a single person changing disguises. As Harper and Aiden delve into the case, Harper realizes that her presence during the attack was no coincidence--and that her only ally is unstable, mistrustful of her, and seeing the same enemy everywhere he looks."

This book is fast paced and action packed, much like I have come to expect with Matthew Reilly's titles and as with his books, Meg Gardiner does it well.  The action is thick and fast, but not too overwhelming and the main characters respective histories and current situations are intricately woven into the story, making you barrack for them as they face adversity both together and apart and as their own interactions develop in a way that both scares and appeals to them.  Twists, turns, bad guys, good guys who have their own issues - it's all there and more.

Meg Gardiner is a multi-award winning author and she has proven her calibre yet again with this excellent story.  It was very hard to put down and finished well, if a little unexpectedly...... but you'll have to read it for yourself to find out how.  :)

~ Michelle


Stolen Moments

Stolen Moments by Rosie Harris

From the cover:   At eighteen, Kate Stacey accepts a post as nanny to Lady Helen Sherwood's daughters, and falls passionately in love with Lady Helen's brother, David. When the liaison is discovered, David is recalled to his father's industrial empire in the Welsh valleys, and Kate is dismissed. Following her heart to Wales, Kate is horrified by the squalid poverty on which the Owen fortune is built. Her sympathies lying with the increasingly rebellious workers, she finds herself dangerously caught up in the Chartist Movement. Meeting David again, Kate finds their love still endures. But is David strong enough to defy his autocratic father - and can Kate contemplate a future living on the proceeds of human misery?

Kate's quest and immeasurable time spent longing for David dominate this novel. The lovers spend very little actual time together but Kate palpably wishes to. The lightness of this read is demonstrated through the easy language and the dabbling in detail. The language within the novel includes local dialect which is very enjoyable, but I felt a fairly non-specific historical voice, as the only contextual date is on the last page (it's set in 1839 for other readers who might find this useful).  Interestingly, the author describes how Kate feels about the atrocities she faces (estranged love, rape, nursing sick men), but rarely details the atrocities themselves beyond what one would describe in a polite letter. The strongest moments are when the author's description allows Kate to express to us how she is feeling about what is happening to her as it is happening. For example she recounts being visited in the night by a sardonic man, but only describes that he does unthinkable things to her. We know that Kate covers her bruises with fine clothes and reveals to other characters what she has experienced, but not to the reader, which gives the impression that we do not really know her on an emotional level. We are told, rather than shown, many of Kate's experiences and we are sometimes left to feel less sympathy for her as a result. Contrastingly, heavily detailed recounts of the plight of the industrial workers are frequent and voiced actively. This pattern breaks for patches where Kate takes up work as a nurse and I wanted more of this description to exercise my empathy with the main protagonist.

I don't usually read romances but the inclusion of the Welsh country side and the historical/social uprising of the workers caught my interest so I thought I'd give it a try. What I found was a story that was an easy and enjoyable read but not life changing in any sense and left me longing for a deeper connection with the characters.


The Last Weekend

The Last Weekend by Blake Morrison  

From the cover:  A dark, haunting tale of friendship, passion and jealousy. When Ian receives a surprise phone call from an old university friend, inviting Ian and his wife, Em, for a few days by the sea, the couple agree to go. Their hosts, Ollie and Daisy, are a golden couple whose glamour and happiness drive Ian to distraction, and dangerous tensions quickly emerge. Beneath congenial yet charged conversation, the history of their relationship is uncovered. Ian and Ollie resurrect an almost forgotten bet made 20 years before. Each day becomes a series of challenges for higher and higher stakes, setting in motion actions that will have irreversible consequences.

Place two couples and a wayward teenager in dilapidated and damp ‘holiday house’, mix in the fact that one distasteful guy married the other distasteful guy’s ex-girlfriend (who’s still carrying a torch for her), ramp up some old rancour that one is high class and the other an also ran, throw in a match and stand back to watch what happens.  
This rather boring novel dragged its feet, despite the author being hailed as a multi-award winning 'British Gem'.  There's not a lot to like about this book and I found it disappointing. Have you read it?  What did you think?

I listened to the audio CD format narrated by Elliot Levey, but we have this title in print, large print, e-audiobook and Playaway formats. 


'Written by Women' Top 20

Back in May 2014, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction U.K. launched the #ThisBook campaign to find out which books, written by women, have had the biggest impact on readers.

Following the launch, the judges took to Twitter to ask the general public to share their submission and thousands used the #ThisBook hashtag to take part and nominate the book that changed their life.  

Harper Lee’s timeless classic To Kill a Mockingbird took the top spot as the most influential book written by a woman, with Margaret Atwood’s dystopian fiction, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, taking second and third place respectively.  

Interestingly, nearly half of the top 20 were published before 1960, including Lousa May Alcott’s Little Women (8th) and Middlemarch (15th) by George Eliot. 

To view the top 20 list, click here
PS - More than a little surprised at what came in 4th spot!


The Universe versus Alex Woods

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

From the cover: A tale of an unexpected friendship, an unlikely hero and an improbable journey, Alex's story treads the fine line between light and dark, laughter and tears. And it might just strike you as one of the funniest, most heartbreaking novels you've ever read. 

Alex Woods knows that he hasn't had the most conventional start in life. He knows that growing up with a clairvoyant single mother won't endear him to the local bullies. He also knows that even the most improbable events can happen - he's got the scars to prove it. What he doesn't know yet is that when he meets ill-tempered, reclusive widower Mr Peterson, he'll make an unlikely friend. Someone who tells him that you only get one shot at life. That you have to make the best possible choices. So when, aged seventeen, Alex is stopped at Dover customs with 113 grams of marijuana, an urn full of ashes on the passenger seat, and an entire nation in uproar, he's fairly sure he's done the right thing ...

The universe versus Alex Woods is a wacky novel with far-fetched events, interesting scientific facts and an exploration of big issues such as euthanasia and one's right to be in control of their own destiny. 

I really liked Alex. He is an odd teenager who ends up with epilepsy after being hit on the head by a meteorite. He has time out from school and doesn’t relate well with his peers so he builds a support network of adult friends. His friendship with Mr Peterson is really strong and shapes Alex’s journey, including a daring road trip across Europe, to keep his long-held promise. 

The Universe Versus Alex Woods isn’t a page turner but has plenty to keep the reader interested. The novel has some dark themes but plenty of light moments too – especially when the meteorite tears a hole in the bathroom ceiling. 
Sandra E


The Playdate

The Playdate by Louise Millar     

From the cover:  Sound designer Callie Roberts is a single mother. And she's come to rely heavily on her best friend and neighbour, Suzy. Over the past few lonely years, Suzy has been good to Callie and her rather frail daughter, Rae, and she has welcomed them into her large, apparently happy family. But Callie knows Suzy's life is not quite as perfect as it seems. Its time she pulled away and she needs to get back to work. So why does she keep putting off telling Suzy? And who will care for Rae in the anonymous city street, the houses each hide a very different family, each with their own secrets. Callie's increased sense of alienation lets her to try and befriend a new resident, Debs. But she's odd and you certainly wouldn't trust her with your child, especially if you knew her past. 

This story, a kind of genre blend between chick lit and psychological suspense, dragged its feet initially but, unusually for me, I stuck with it.  Why I'm not sure, but at CD number 6 of 8, I became completely absorbed.  Clare Corbett does a brilliant narration, moving easily between different English accents, both male and female, and the American Suzy. There were a couple of twists in this book, one easier to spot than the other, and overall it was a good read though definitely would have benefitted with more diligent editing.  
We have this title in hardcover, large print, audio CD and e-book format.  To reserve a copy, just click on the title at the top of this post. 

Library Catalogue

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Search This Blog



Reading Rewards | Template by - Abdul Munir - 2008 - layout4all