Certain admissions

Certain admissions : a beach, a body & a lifetime of secrets by Gideon Haigh

In December 1949 the dead body of 22 year old typist Beth Williams was found on Albert Park beach. A short time afterwards police arrested the suave and handsome John Bryan Kerr, a commercial radio star and son of the establishment, for her murder. Kerr steadfastly denied the charge, despite a “confession” he claimed was fabricated by the police. After three dramatic trials attended by enormous crowds, Kerr, spared the death sentence by the State Governor’s clemency, was incarcerated in Pentridge Prison, where he spent the next 10 years. After his release he changed his name and fabricated a false history to disguise his past. Then, shortly after his death, another man confessed to the murder, but the truth of that confession too was just as doubtful.

Well known journalist Gideon Haigh does a wonderful job of recreating the restrictive social mores of Melbourne in the 1950s and 60s, planting doubt and uncertainty about who was lying and who was telling the truth – if indeed any of the main players were.

Even if you don’t usually enjoy true crime stories (like me), you will be enthralled by this tale of “Who really did it”?

~ Teresa Wight


A commonplace killing

Commonplace Killing by Siân Busby.

From the back cover:
London, July 1946. A woman’s body is found in a disused bomb site off the Holloway Road. She is identified as Lillian Frobisher, “a respectable wife and mother” who lived with her family nearby. The police assume that Lillian must have been the victim of a sexual assault; but when the autopsy finds no evidence of rape, they turn their attention to her private life… How did she come to be in the bomb site, a well-known lovers’ haunt? Why was her husband seemingly unaware that she’d failed to come home on the night she was killed? In this deeply evocative crime drama, Sian Busby strips away the veneer of stoicism and respectability in post-war Britain to reveal a society riven with disillusionment and loss. 

This story is told through the eyes of two main characters, Lillian Frobisher, and Divisional Detective Inspector Jim Cooper. Lillian is a desperate housewife who is missing something in her life, despite the fact that her husband Walter returned home safely from the war and that she has a loving son who is growing into a responsible young man. Lillian is represented as a spirited and attractive woman who craved independence and ultimately found trouble.

DDI Cooper is a Great War veteran who is a shadow of the man he once was. He feels irrational guilt for not participating in the recent war, he is broken-hearted and lonely after a love affair ended with his mistress, but yet despite his personal demons, he is determined to successfully solve his first murder investigation. A murder which is considered: “a commonplace killing”.

Busby delves into the minds, hearts and times of post-war England. The story is intriguing, and would be of interest to those who like historical mysteries.

This was Sian Busby’s second and final novel. Sadly she passed away while writing this story and never saw it published. Her husband, BBC Business Editor, Robert Peston, transcribed the book’s final few chapters from a notebook he found after her death. It was published shortly thereafter.



The Bone Season

Calling the Harry Potter Generation; did you grow up reading the Potter books, eagerly anticipating the next book release? Are you looking for something to fill the void and define your adulthood as Harry define your childhood? Then The Bone Season  by Samantha Shannon is the series for you.

Welcome to Scion

No place safer

In the year 2059, Paige Mahoney a nineteen year old, lives in a society where most of the world’s population is under the control of the security force known as Scion. With the unnatural ability of clairvoyance spread among the population and declared a crime, Paige, a rare kind of clairvoyant known as a dreamwalker someone who can freely move in and out of people’s mind, must live and
work in the criminal underworld simply to survive.
Paige’s world changes one rainy night when she is captured and sent to die within the confines of a 200 year old prison in Oxford. Under the watchful eye of a mysterious new race known as the Rephaite, who value clairvoyance as a commodity, Paige will have to fight for her freedom while surviving the harshest conditions. Sinister plans are in place and it is more than just Paige’s life on the line. In the place where she is meant to die Paige will discover extraordinary things that will change not only her life but the world as she knows it. The question is Paige strong enough to survive it?

What can I say about this book other than it was Phenomenal! A truly fantastic and original piece of writing that hooked me from page one right through to page 452.
The imagination and world building on the part of Shannon is nothing short of spectacular; the construct of this world is so detailed that maps and glossaries have been included (and are much appreciated) to help ease the reader into life in the Scion. While such a massive amount of detail is disorientating at first the further you read the more you become to appreciate the detail of this magnificently complex narrative.
Paige is everything you want in a protagonist; strong, adaptable, and independent. She is a girl who knows her own mind and is often conflicted because her views don’t always line up with the reality she faces. Warden is a mystery who intrigues, the guy you love to hate but can’t. The dynamic between these two characters is really what drives the story and I was relieved that Shannon steered cleared of any romantic clichés when it came to their relationship.
In an industry where “this book” is a copy of “that book” Shannon has managed to deliver a completely original and enthralling read. The emotions run high throughout, with so many unexpected plot twists, one cannot help but to become hooked.
Incredible. Intense. Mind Blowing. You must pick this one up immediately and be prepared for the read of your life.

Courtney :)


Invisible Library

I am always curious when I see a title with "library" in it.  Then the blurb for The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman, made me curious enough to pick it up and read it.

Irene is a dimension-hopping 'book spy' for the secretive Library. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, they're posted to an alternative London to retrieve a dangerous book. But some will kill to retain it. Stealing a book is standard, if required, but nothing has prepared them for the dangers in store. This world is chaos-infested, so the usual laws of nature have been bent to allow werewolves, fae and unpredictable magic. Irene's new assistant is hiding a few secrets of his own. And when they arrive, the book they seek has already been lifted - by a notorious lady cat-burglar. Plus London's underground factions seem prepared to fight to the death to get 'her book'. Soon, she's up to her eyebrows in thieves, murderers, secret societies, the fae and giant mechanical centipedes. Good thing Irene can call on the aid of a deer-stalker wearing detective (who bears more than a passing similarity to a certain fictional sleuth) for assistance. And when things get tough, Irene is more than ready to do whatever it takes. For this assignment could endanger The Library and the nature of reality itself.

Mix a bit of fantasy with intrigue, a murder mystery and a chase and you have the Invisible Library. Although it was a bit slow to start, the varying degrees of relationship between Irene and the other keys players were fascinating and once the action really started, I was hooked.

There is so much happening behind the scenes, with the 'bad guy' not who he seems to be, nor Irene's 'competitor' or her 'intern'. Throw in a stereotypical steadfast detective and you have an interesting mix of characters.

Through it all, Irene represents the profession well by being smart, savvy and persistent to the end.

Although not every part of the many storylines running through this novel was neatly tied up in a bow, it was still a very satisfying read and a wonderful journey to experience.

If you like fantasy, libraries, mysteries, zeppelins or any combination of these, you will really enjoy The Invisible Library.

~ Michelle

Chanel: an intimate life

Chanel: an intimate life by Lisa Chaney

By the end of the First World War, Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel had revolutionised women's dress. But dress was the most visible aspect of more profound changes she helped to bring about. During the course of her extraordinary and unconventional journey - from abject poverty to a new kind of glamour - Chanel would help forge the very idea of modern woman. 

Unearthing an astonishing life, this remarkable biography shows how the most influential designer of her century became synonymous with a rebellious and progressive style. Her numerous liaisons, whose most poignant details have eluded all previous biographers, were the stuff of legend. Witty, strange, mesmerizing, Chanel became muse, patron or mistress to some of the century's most celebrated artists, including Stravinsky, Picasso and Dali. Drawing on newly discovered love-letters, police records, and interviews, Lisa Chaney reveals the truth about Chanel's drug habit and lesbian affairs. She also answers definitively the long-running question about Chanel's German lover: was he a spy for the Nazis? 

Highlighting the designer's far-reaching connections with modernism and its artists, this book explores the origins, the creative power, and the secret suffering of this exceptional and often misread woman. Movingly, it paints a deeper and darker picture of Chanel than any so far.

This is an interesting, albeit a slow read. If you don’t know much about the legendary Gabrielle Chanel, aka Coco, you certainly will by the end of it. It will drown you with detail, too much detail in my opinion, which is probably why the book is a bit of a hard slog. [But if something was left out of a biography imagine the complaints!] I think the enjoyment factor of this book will truly be up to the reader and their level of interest.  I borrowed the audio version and Carole Boyd delivers a first class narration - her fluent French, together with the many other accents - English, American and German - are spot on!




Jilted by Rachael Johns

From the cover:  After more than ten years away, Australian soap opera star Ellie Hughes returns to the small town of Hope Junction, determined to fly under the radar while caring for her injured godmother, Matilda. But word spreads fast in the tight-knit community. It isn't long before the people of Hope Junction are gossiping about the real reason for Ellie's visit and why she broke the heart of golden boy Flynn Quartermaine all those years ago. 

Soon Ellie and Flynn are thrown back together, forced to deal with the unresolved emotions between them. Because Ellie is not the only one with secrets. Flynn has his own demons to battle, and Matilda is hiding something from her much-beloved goddaughter. When all is uncovered, can the ill-fated lovers overcome the wounds of their past? Or is Flynn destined to be jilted again?

I am a bit of a late starter in discovering Rachael John's books so am playing catch up! 

Ellie and Flynn are thrown together again through circumstances and people are not happy especially nurse Lauren who has Flynn firmly in her sights. Everyone has secrets that will come out. Rachael's characters are complex at times and she gradually exposes you to their inner feelings and secrets which is pleasing to the reader.

Rachael's latest release The Road to Hope follows on from Jilted. If you are a fan of Rural Romance then Rachael should be at the top of your list.



So, Anyway

So, Anyway by John Cleese

Cleese:  “I know that this book is supposed to be an autobiography, but the fact is that most of you don’t give a tinker’s cuss for me as a human being or feel for the many different forms of suffering that make me so special. No, you are just flipping through my heart-rending life story in the hope of getting a couple of laughs, aren't you?"

To an extent this is true and had Cleese just written about suffering the book would have been insufferable because of the sadness but in other ways the comment does his readers a disservice as I didn't want to read the book for laughs and there aren't many, but to get an understanding of a man who I consider a comic genius and who's work was an influence on my growing up, my love of comedy and appreciation of the absurdities of life.

Cleese writes of his early years in Weston-Super-Mare, one of England's more boring towns, his love for his father and the more troubled relationship with his mother, who even if you discount some of his memories does seem to be best described as self-absorbed. He goes through his school and university years and the growing influence of comedy in his life to his decision right at the end of university to accept a position as a writer for the BBC rather than take up the legal job he had lined up. From there he goes on to describe his experiences in his early working career and the people he worked with. The book ends as the python years begin which is fitting yet frustrating. I would love to know if he was going to write a sequel covering the Python years and Fawlty Towers but there is no mention of this.

A reviewer from the Telegraph described his book as odd and troubled and that Cleese feels he has been short changed by life but these comments, though possibly correct, didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book. He IS an odd and troubled man but sometimes the dark humour that springs from this sets off a chord that resonates with me.  Available in print and CD audio format.



Miles Franklin Award 2015

The winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award 2015 is Sofie Laguna for her novel The Eye of the Sheep, a story of a family struggling to cope with their young son who has learning difficulties. 

Sofie will receive $60,000 in prize money for her book judged as being ‘of the highest literary merit’ and which presents ‘Australian life in any of its phases’. Named after Stella “Miles” Franklin , author of My Brilliant Career, the award was established in 1954 with a bequest from her will.

Other shortlisted titles were:




Hush by Karen Robards

From the cover:  When Riley Cowan finds her estranged husband Jeff dead in his palatial home, she's sure it's no coincidence. The police rule it a suicide, but Riley thinks someone's out for blood--specifically someone Jeff's father ripped off in one of the biggest financial fraud cases of all time. She suspects that someone is trying to send a message to Jeff's father: Tell me where the money is, or everyone you care about will die. Riley's in-laws might be billionaires, but she's afraid that not even their dirty money can protect her from an irate investor who will stop at nothing to get his hands on his misappropriated cash. 

Enter Finn Bradley, Philly-based FBI agent and Riley's love interest from way back when. Finn agrees to help Riley, and the two reignite sparks they both thought were extinguished long ago. But can they discover the killer's identity in time, before he resurfaces and strikes again?

Karen Robards combines romance and suspense, or ‘thrills and chills’ as she likes to call it, in her new standalone novel, Hush. I found this to be quite a page-turner; nearly every chapter starts or ends with action and suspense. This really has it all with CIA, FBI, handsome hero, seductive heroine, kidnapping, murder, greed, sexual encounters and enemies in abundance. Who the actual enemies are will keep you guessing. If you don’t mind a bit of spicy intrigue, then this is for you!

Karen Robards is a New York Times bestselling author of over forty novels. Fans of Karen Rose, Lisa Jackson and Iris Johansen will absolutely love this book!

~ Narelle


Silent Shock

Silent shock: the men behind the thalidomide scandal and an Australian family’s long road to justice by Michael Magazanik

IN 1962 Lyn Rowe was born in Melbourne, entirely without limbs. Months earlier, her mother Wendy was given a new wonder drug for morning sickness called thalidomide. In 2012, after almost 50 years of struggle and poverty, Lyn won a multi-million-dollar settlement from the drug's distributor, Distillers. It was the first compensation she ever received.

In Silent Shock, Michael Magazanik tells Lyn Rowe's story - and lifts the lid on how the thalidomide tragedy was allowed to happen. He shows how the guilty did their best to get away with it. He explodes the myth that the whole scandal was just a tragic accident, unavoidable within the safety standards of the time. And he exposes the disgraceful cover-up at the heart of Distillers' Australian thalidomide operation

Silent Shock is an epic account of corporate wrongdoing against a backdrop of heroic personal struggle and sacrifice. It is crucial, compelling reading.

Michael Magazanik is a journalist who worked on the legal case of Lyn Rowe.  He lifts the lid on how this tragedy was allowed to happen. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this story for me is that I was born just a few years before Lyn, and so this could have happened to me. It maybe could have happened to you too.



Dreaming Spies

Dreaming Spies by Laurie R King

From the cover:  It is a normal afternoon in Sussex when Russell and Holmes return home to find a peculiar addition to their garden: a beautiful stone that once occupied the Imperial gardens in Kyoto. The stone immediately recalls the spring of 1924, when, on their way back from India (The Game), Russell and Holmes agreed to perform a small but exceedingly dangerous job for the emperor of Japan. At the time, Russell encountered a young Japanese woman on board their ship who tutored the two foreigners about her country and guided them into a secret meeting with the Prince Regent himself. Now, when Russell heads for Oxford to resume her long-delayed studies, she comes face-to-face with that very same young Japanese woman--and quickly realizes Miss Sato Haruki is not all that she seems.

This latest volume in the long running Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series is a great read!  Based in the early 1920s and starting on a cruise from India to Japan, Holmes and Russell set out to foil a blackmailer who has set his sights very high. The description of their travels in Japan, at a time when western culture was meeting age-old traditions for the first time, was interesting in itself but the intrigue surrounding their travel adds to the story. On their return to England the pair realise the job has not been completed. They, and their Japanese friend Haruki, uncover forgers and blackmailers and solve the problem for their illustrious client. 

Mary Russell is a wonderful character, a myopic, blue-stocking adventuress who uses knowledge, intelligence and daring to solve mysteries. Holmes is not the two-dimensional character of the Conan Doyle series but an interesting character, fiercely intelligent but occasionally wrong.  Though the whole series is great reading, each book stands alone and can be enjoyed without having read the rest. Devote a weekend as you won't want to put it down once you've started it. 




The International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award is presented annually for a novel written in English or translated into English.  Now in its 20th year, the award aims to promote excellence in world literature. Books are nominated for the Award by invited public libraries in cities throughout the world - making the Award unique in its coverage of international fiction. 

Titles are nominated on the basis of 'high literary merit' as determined by the nominating library and the winner is Jim Crace for Harvest.  Other shortlisted titles were:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Horses of God by Mahi Binebine  [translated from the French by Lulu Norman] 

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

K by Bernardo Kucinski [translated from the Portuguese by Sue Branford] 

Brief Loves that Live Forever by Andreï Makine [translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan] 

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

Someone by Alice McDermott

Sparta by Roxana Robinson



Someone is Watching

Someone is Watching by Joy Fielding

Deeply shaken after a brutal attack, Bailey Carpenter struggles to reclaim control over what had once seemed like a neatly-ordered life. Unable to face her job, her friends, or even the world outside her apartment, Bailey is trapped with her thoughts, replaying the attack in a desperate search for a detail that will help the police uncover the identity of her unknown assailant. Bailey sees her attacker in the face of every stranger, and is unable to trust anyone other than her half-sister, Claire, and Claire's snarky teenage daughter Jade. 

To pass the time in her lonely apartment, Bailey plays with the binoculars she once used in her career as a private investigator, scanning the high-rise buildings around hers for entertainment. She quickly discovers a favorite source: a handsome, wealthy playboy in the apartment across the street. But she watches him strut around his bedroom, she starts to wonder if he's putting on a show - with her as his intended audience. 

Looking out the window late one night, she sees him looking tauntingly right back at her, binoculars in hand. Could it be the assailant she's been so desperate to identify has been right there, watching her, the whole time? The police, exasperated after Bailey's many paranoid false alarms, believe she's crying wolf, and Claire tries to convince her she's wrong. Doubting her own sanity, Bailey has only Jade left to turn to, and together the two hatch a dangerous plot to discover just what exactly is going on in the apartment across the way.

Joy Fielding cleverly entwines all that a victim goes through such as panic attacks, lack of confidence and paranoia after such a violent attack, while also showing her protagonist gradually normalising her life with a support network of an unlikely nature. One thing is for sure, no one ought to mess with this private investigator who decides to search out her own attacker, using what may seem unusual means. This is definitely a page-turning thriller with a surprising ending.

It is promised to be the first in a thrilling new Bailey Carpenter series by Joy Fielding. A must read for the lover of suspense and intrigue!

~ Narelle


The Sunlit Night

The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein

Shortly after her college graduation, Frances flees a painful breakup and her claustrophobic childhood home in Manhattan, which has become more airless in the aftermath of two family announcements: her parents' divorce and her younger sister's engagement. She seeks refuge at a Norwegian artist colony that's offered her a painting apprenticeship. Unfortunately, she finds only one artist living there: Alf, an enigmatic middle-aged descendant of the Sami reindeer hunters who specialises in the colour yellow...

Yasha, an eighteen-year-old Russian immigrant raised in a bakery in Brighton Beach, is kneading bread in the shop's window when he sees his mother for the first time in a decade. As he gains a selfish and unreliable parent, he loses his beloved father. He must carry out his father's last wish to be buried 'at the top of the world' and reconcile with the charismatic woman who abandoned them both...

And so Frances's and Yasha's paths intersect in Lofoten, a string of five islands ninety-five miles above the Arctic Circle. Their unlikely connection and growing romance fortifies them against the turmoil of their distant homes, and teaches them that to be alone is not always to be lonely, and that love and independence are not mutually exclusive.

Why We Love It:
The two different lives of these young people coincide after a disenchanted Frances journeys to a desolate artist colony north of the Artic Circle. When she meets Yasha, who by a twist of fate ends up at the ‘top of the earth’ too, they confront both their pasts and their futures.

Dinerstein, a 27-year-old from New York City, has an artist’s eye for setting, and this novel provides plenty of scope for evocative descriptions, set as it is during the long days of a Norwegian summer.  Indeed, it’s no surprise to learn that Dinerstein herself spent a year in an artist colony at Lofoten and has published a volume of poetry she wrote there.

The Sunlit Night is a poetically wrought tale about love and loss. It’s a debut novel that charms us with its whimsical young characters finding their way in a harsh, and sometimes disillusioning, world.

Though set in a moonless northern summer, The Sunlit Night makes a timely read as we approach the southern solstice at the end of this week – perfect reading to transport you to another world on a winter night.

From the team at Better Reading


House of cards

The US 'House of Cards' TV series, starring Kevin Spacey and Robyn Wright has been intriguing, so when I discovered that it was based on the book House of Cards by Michael Dobbs, I had to read it.

The first thing that I discovered was that the book is UK based.

A dark tale of greed, corruption, and unquenchable ambition, House of Cards reveals that no matter the country, politics, intrigue and passion reign in the corridors of power. Francis Urquhart has his hand on every secret in politics--and is willing to betray them all to become prime minister. Mattie Storin is a tenacious young reporter who has a knack for finding the real stories hidden behind the spin. When she stumbles upon a scandalous web of intrigue and financial corruption at the very highest levels, she vows to reveal the truth. But to do so she must battle her own demons and risk everything, even her life.

One of the captivating things about the US 'House of Cards' is the character of Frank Underwood - who is based on Francis Urquhart in the book.  Whereas the TV series is focused on Frank, the book jumps around a range of characters without really focusing on any one with any dedication. Frank Urquhart is always in the picture, but the focus on him fades in and out throughout the story-line, as does the focus on Mattie Storin the reporter.

This jumping around is disconcerting and I didn't feel as if I could really connect with any of the characters because there was no chance to 'get to know' them.  However, the passion, politics, intrigue and power plays are explored very well, although from many different viewpoints. It can be slow at times, making it a bit of an effort to get through some parts, although the action at the end where all the story-lines come together makes it worth the effort.

The TV series has not yet ended, so it will be interesting to see if it ends the way the book does. Without giving anything anyway, I hope it doesn't as I felt the author took the easy way out.  Having said that though, it was well worth reading just to see where the inspiration for the TV series came from.

And now that I know that there was a UK version, I might have to explore that too.

~ Michelle



Sacrifice by S.J. Bolton

From the cover:  Moving to remote Shetland has been unsettling enough for consultant surgeon Tora Hamilton, even before the gruesome discovery she makes on a rain-drenched afternoon.  Deep in the peat soil of her field she uncovers the body of a young woman. The heart has been removed and marks etched into the skin bear an eerie resemblance to carvings Tora has seen in her own cellar. But as Tora begins to ask questions, terrifying threats start rolling in like the cold island mist.

"Sacrifice is a bone-chilling, spell-binding debut" shouted the publicity, and as I love a bone-chilling spell binder with an atmospheric setting and a mystery to solve, this boded well. I had read Bolton's second book, Awakening, quite a while ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.  She has since written many more in this genre, some of them now Award winners around the globe! Check out her other titles here.  Early on she wrote as S.J. Bolton but is now Sharon Bolton.  But, I digress.  Let's go back to the beginning with Sacrifice, and what a very complex story it is!  
The plethora of characters and their too many stories, as well as quite a lot of 'facts 'n figures' wallpapering the tale, did nothing to build suspense unfortunately. Those negatives aside, however, I thought it was a good beginning, with a satisfying mix of mystery, history, forensics, and the ancient legends of Scotland’s past making their presence felt.  Nice!



Great Gippsland Mysteries

Great Gippsland Mysteries by Grant Robinson

This book is the culmination of two years extensive research into some of the most intriguing mysteries from the Gippsland region in Victoria. Startling new evidence on the disappearance of Frederick Valentich in Bass Strait in 1978 is revealed through an exclusive interview with an eyewitness from Sale and the author offers up evidence to cast further light on who John Frederich really was. Featuring eight chapters of some of the most facinating accounts from Gippslanders, stretching back to the 1700's.

Tales from the past and recent times of the mysterious sightings and events in Gippsland: Tasmanian tigers, big cats, the disappearance of young pilot Frederick Valentich in Bass Strait, UFO’s, more about mystery man John Frederich, ghosts, odd deaths and maritime tales. Only a small book, it is packed with photos and eyewitness accounts of all these things and more - some that you may have heard about and some more obscure.

If you are intrigued by things that go ‘bump in the night’ or something strange that you catch from the corner of your eye, or just about people and history, then this is one fascinating read!



The Lost Swimmer

The Lost Swimmer by Ann Turner 

Rebecca Wilding is an archaeology professor accused of defrauding the university where she works.  Things at home with her husband Stephen are not as smooth as they used to be, either.  Could he be having an affair with Rebecca’s demanding boss and why is Stephen so secretive?  Despite these tensions, a trip away to Italy and Greece might just be what’s needed to put everything into perspective, and rekindle some of the passion that only briefly resurfaces in her marriage.

While travelling, Rebecca investigates the fraud herself but getting to the truth is not as easy as she assumed and when her husband goes missing off the Amalfi Coast everything she understands of her life comes under question.

Why we love it:

The Lost Swimmer is a smartly constructed, tense thriller that will leave you guessing until the very end. It’s a remarkable debut from former filmmaker Ann Turner, who’s destined to become a prominent name in Australian writing. 

Ann Turner’s characters are perfectly formed, her suspenseful plot is masterfully woven and her depiction of a variety of locations – the coast of Victoria, Greece, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast in particular – deftly transport the reader. We almost feel we are present with the characters, as the breathtaking scenery and confounding mysteries reveal themselves.

Having already written her next book, Out of the Ice, Ann Turner is an author we’ll thoroughly enjoy reading for years to come.

A stunning debut about trust from a new Australian voice!

from the team at Better Reading


Double Fudge Brownie Murder

Double Fudge Brownie Murder by Joanne Fluke

Life in tiny Lake Eden, Minnesota, is usually pleasantly uneventful. Lately, though, it seems everyone has more than their fair share of drama - especially the Swensen family. With so much on her plate, Hannah Swensen can hardly find the time to think about her bakery, let alone the town's most recent murder. Hannah is nervous about the upcoming trial for her involvement in a tragic accident. She's eager to clear her name once and for all, but her troubles only double when she finds the judge bludgeoned to death with his own gavel and she is the number one suspect. Now on trial in the court of public opinion, she sets out in search of the culprit and discovers that the judge made more than a few enemies during his career. With time running out, Hannah will have to whip up her most clever recipe yet to find a killer more elusive than the perfect brownie.

The latest in a long series of cosy crime fiction, Double Fudge Brownie Murder sees Hannah, the bakery owner/mystery-solving heroine and her cohort of friends and family awaiting the outcome of her trial for a death-related tragic car accident which occurred in a previous book in the series. 

If you have not read any of the other books, some of the characters and plot lines might seem a bit hard to understand, but it is still quite a good mystery and the recipes at the end of the chapters well worth a try. The double fudge brownie recipe has been given the seal of approval by staff at a number of library branches though I would halve the amount of sugar if you want to try it yourself. Available in regular print and large print formats. 



A Gathering Storm

A Gathering Storm by Rachel Hore

From the catalogue: Photographer Lucy Cardwell's father, Tom, has passed away.  While sifting through his papers, she finds he'd been researching an uncle she never knew he'd had. Intrigued, she visits her father's childhood home, the once beautiful Carlyon Manor. She meets an old woman named Beatrice who has an extraordinary story to tell ...Growing up in the 1930s, Beatrice plays with the children of Carlyon Manor - especially pretty, blonde Angelina Wincanton, Lucy's grandmother. Then, one summer at the age of fifteen, she falls in love with a young visitor to the town: Rafe Ashton, whom she rescues from a storm-tossed sea. But the dark clouds of war are gathering, and Beatrice, Rafe, and the Wincantons will all be swept up in the cataclysm of events that follow. Beatrice's story is a powerful tale of courage and betrayal, spanning from Cornwall to London, and occupied France, in which friendship and love are tested, and the ramifications reach down the generations. And, as Lucy listens to the tales of the past, she learns a secret that will change everything she has ever known...

Overall I enjoyed this book. I loved the atmospheric setting of the house above the sea in Cornwall; the war years both at home (UK) and overseas; and was particularly interested to  hear about 'FANY' which I'd never come across in any reading before. Wikipedia says: 'It was formed as the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry in 1907 as a first aid link between the field hospitals and the front lines, and was given the yeomanry title as all its members were originally mounted on horseback. Unlike nursing organisations, the FANY saw themselves rescuing the wounded and giving first aid, similar to a modern combat medic. Their founder, Sergeant Major, later Captain, Edward Baker, a veteran of the Sudan Campaign and the Second Boer War, felt that a single rider could get to a wounded soldier faster than a horse-drawn ambulance. Each woman was trained not only in first aid but signalling and drilling in cavalry movements.'

The tale is told by the main character, Beatrice, as a great-grandmother in the modern day, and from her early days growing up in the 1930s.  This works well, but the bulk of the story is to do with the war years - so much so you get the feeling that the modern day part is just a tool to uphold the framework for the real story.  

Rachel Hore, a former editor at Harper Collins is an accomplished author with 7 novels to date under her belt; we have all her titles in all formats - hard copy and audio - for your enjoyment.  The Playaway that I borrowed was expertly narrated by Gerri Halligan, delivering a multitude of accents with savoir faire. 



Unholy Fury

Unholy Fury: Nixon and Whitlam at war by James Curran

In 1972, after a long period in opposition, the Australian Labor Party came to power in Australia, led by Gough Whitlam, a political giant intent on redefining Australia’s relationship with Asia, the world and the USA in particular. Whitlam’s new approach to the ANZUS alliance and his determination to no longer slavishly follow US policy set him at odds with Richard Nixon, the wily US President beset with the internal troubles of the Vietnam War, Watergate and student protests against his policies in Vietnam and Cambodia. Whitlam’s letter of protest against the US mass bombings of Cambodia in December 1972 caused a deep fracture in the alliance, which arguably never quite recovered.

James Curran uses just released top-secret American and Australian records and meticulous research to track this turbulent period when, for the first time since World War II, Australia sought to differentiate itself from the US in the new Asia. If you are interested in history and the Australia-US relationship this is an enthralling read.



Baileys Women's Fiction Prize

The 2015 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction has been announced in London.  Launched in 1996, the Prize is awarded annually and celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in a full-length novel written in English by a woman of any nationality . The winner receives a cheque for £30,000 and a limited edition bronze known as a ‘Bessie’.

The Baileys Prize, which has changed names several times, was previously known as the Orange Prize for Fiction.

Ali Smith has been awarded this year's prize for her novel, How to Be Both, a story all about art's versatility.

Borrowing from painting's fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it's a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There's a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There's the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real - and all life's givens get given a second chance.




Cadence by Emma Ayres

Listeners nationwide wake up to her honeyed tones on ABC Classic FM delivering fresh perspectives on timeless classics, introducing listeners to new composers, and telling tales about her BMW motorbike and her love of exotic travel. She is lauded as an entertainer and musical expert, who is keen to break down the barriers surrounding classical music. In 1999 Emma cycled - yes, cycled - from England to Hong Kong, with a only a small violin for company. ln Cadence, Emma tells this story and reveals a life filled with adventure, contrast, unpredictable events and, always, music. From learning violin in small-town England to performing in one of the greatest musical and historical events of the 20th century; from poverty-stricken student days in dank London to studying with maestros in Cold War West Berlin; and whether cycling one of the world's greatest deserts with only Elgar for company to playing in the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Emma Ayres' life has always been about the music. 

The very brave, fit and funny Emma Ayres has written an uplifting and riveting account of a bicycle trip that she embarked upon from London to Hong Kong in 2000. With her she took a violin, called Aurelia, for company. The journey went through Europe, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India and China and into Hong Kong. Not only does the book cover her escapades and interactions with mostly friendly locals but is interspersed with music musings. 

Although some of the information about major keys, minor chords, flats, sharps and en-harmonic was beyond me, Emma Ayres didn’t dwell too long on this and moved on to philosophical questions about music and life, or gears, cogs and cadence. I found this book most enjoyable and unique. The author is both admirable and inspirational and I can highly recommended this title. Available in print and e-book format. 



Northern Heat

Northern Heat by Helene Young

In remote northern Australia, Conor Stein is living under an assumed name and rebuilding his shattered life. Working at Cooktown's youth centre has given him the chance to make a difference again, and a chance to flirt with Kristy Dark. When he finds himself dragged into a murder investigation, with more lives at risk, he fights to the death to protect those he loves. 

After tragedy tore her family apart, Dr Kristy Dark fled home to the steamy north with her feisty teenage daughter, Abby. She hoped being part of the small community would help them both heal. When late one sultry night Conor staggers into the emergency department supporting a local fisherman with a gunshot wound, she has no inkling her world is about to be turned on its head. 

As a cyclone tears through Cooktown, cutting them off from the world, the real killer moves to silence any witnesses. With their lives on the line, Kristy will have to summon her courage and place her trust in Conor, or they'll both lose someone they love.

Why we love it!
Gritty and full of suspense, Helene Young's Northern Heat brings together two people with tragic pasts, against the backdrop of steamy Far North Queensland and a brewing cyclone. While her heartbreaking portrayal of domestic abuse is a major theme, readers will find comfort in the magnetic attraction between a mysterious deckhand and the local doctor.

From the Team at Better Reading


The Last Dance

The Last Dance by Fiona McIntosh

The impoverished Stella Myles is a dance partner in a Piccadilly ballroom where she meets the enigmatic Montgomery who orchestrates a job for her as governess for the wealthy Ainsworth family in Sussex. In entering the mansion of Harp's End, Stella struggles to fit in above or below stairs - although nothing proves so challenging as restraining the illicit love that ignites between herself and the mysterious Douglas Ainsworth. When Douglas announces that they are all to voyage aboard a cruise ship bound for Morocco, tensions reach new heights and Stella finds herself caught up in a family at war and in a world on the edge of another. She is now the keeper of an incendiary document smuggled out of Berlin, one which must reach London at all costs. From the rolling green hills of the Kentish Weald to the colourful alleys and bazaars of Morocco, this is a thrilling story of intrigue and danger - and a passion to risk dying for.

Why we love it!
Fiona McIntosh’s latest spellbinding romance captivated us from its compelling start to its intriguing journey through 1930s London, Berlin and Morocco. With its steady build-up of tension and suspense, The Last Dance had us greedily turning the pages, impatient to know what was coming next.

from The Team at Better Reading


R.I.P. Tanith Lee

The British science fiction, fantasy and horror author, Tanith Lee,  died peacefully in her sleep after a long illness on May 24, 2015.

Lee was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award, in 1980, with her novel Death’s Master, the second in her Tales from the Flat Earth fantasy series. She was the author of over 90 novels and 300 short stories, a children's picture book (Animal Castle), and many poems. She also wrote two episodes of the BBC science fiction series Blake's 7. 

Tanith Lee won World Fantasy Awards for Best Short Story in 1983 and 1984 and recipient of Lifetime Achievement Awards from both the World Fantasy Convention in 2013 and the Horror Writers Association just this year.

Born in 1947 to dancer parents, Lee published her first novel 1971 - a children’s book called The Dragon Hoard. She also wrote under the pseudonym Esther Garber, and her first adult book was The Birthgrave, in 1975.

Lee’s website now displays simply the dates of her birth and death and a quote from her writings:

 “Though we come and go, and pass into the shadows, where we leave behind us stories told – on paper, on the wings of butterflies, on the wind, on the hearts of others – there we are remembered, there we work magic and great change – passing on the fire like a torch – forever and forever. Till the sky falls, and all things are flawless and need no words at all.

Pictured above:  Tanith Lee at a fundraiser for the Alzheimer's Research Trust as part of the Match It For Pratchett campaign in the UK, 4 September 2011.



Big Brother

Big Brother by Lionel Shriver

When Pandora picks up her older brother Edison at her local Iowa airport, she literally doesn't recognize him. In the four years since the grown siblings last saw one another, the once slim, hip New York jazz pianist has gained hundreds of pounds. What happened? Worse, Edison's slovenly habits, appalling diet, and know-it-all monologues drive her health-and-fitness freak husband Fletcher insane. 

After the big blowhard of a brother-in-law has more than overstayed his welcome, Fletcher delivers his wife an ultimatum: it's him or me. Putting her marriage and two adoptive children on the line, Pandora chooses her brother -- who, without her support in losing weight, will surely eat himself into an early grave. Big Brother tackles a constellation of issues surrounding obesity: why we overeat, whether extreme diets ever work in the long run, and how we treat overweight people.

I have tried many a time to read the books of Lionel Shriver without success so I decided to try this one on audio book, narrated by Alice Rosengard.  Based on the author’s brother and his real life death from morbid obesity, some reviewers say it is her best yet.  

Basically this is a book about troubled families and how much and when do we stop intervening in peoples lives. The themes are told through Pandora, and at times are emotionally raw and other times very funny. I found the audio book easy to relax into the brilliant poetry of Shriver’s words. Available in audio, print and large print formats. 

Sandra - Emerald Library Team Leader



Open: an autobiography by Andre Agassi

Agassi's incredibly rigorous training begins when he is just a child. By the age of 13, he is banished to a Florida tennis camp that feels like a prison camp. Lonely, scared, a ninth-grade dropout, he rebels in ways that will soon make him a 1980s icon. He dyes his hair, pierces his ears, dresses like a punk rocker. By the time he turns pro at sixteen, his new look promises to change tennis forever, as does his lightning-fast return. And yet, despite his raw talent, he struggles early on. 

After stumbling in three Grand Slam finals, Agassi shocks the world, and himself, by capturing the 1992 Wimbledon. Overnight he becomes a fan favorite and a media target. 

Alongside vivid portraits of rivals from several generations - Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Agassi gives unstinting accounts of his brief time with Barbra Streisand and his doomed marriage to Brooke Shields. He reveals a shattering loss of confidence and recounts his spectacular resurrection, a comeback climaxing with his epic run at the 1999 French Open and his march to become the oldest man ever ranked number one. 

In clear, taut prose, Agassi evokes his loyal brother, his wise coach, his gentle trainer, all the people who help him regain his balance and find love at last with Stefanie Graf. From nonconformist to elder statesman, from dropout to education advocate to delivering one of the most stirring farewells ever heard in a sporting arena, Open is a treat for ardent fans. It will also captivate readers who know nothing about tennis. Like Agassi's game, it sets a new standard for grace, style, speed, and power.

What a fantastic biography of Andre Agassi! This book tells his story from the time he was a child and was definitely a victim of the "ugly parent syndrome" with his father absolutely obsessed with him being a tennis player, even though he wanted to play soccer.

His playing career was so interesting, talking about the behind the scenes confrontations with his fellow players, his ill-fated marriage to Brooke Shields, and eventually his marriage to Steffi Graff whom he is still with today.

It was so interesting to know that although he was a top-ranked player and achieved so much during his playing life, he really didn't enjoy playing tennis, but as he admitted he had no other skills to do anything else as he was not encouraged to pursue schooling because of his father.

I have the utmost respect for Andre who has founded an academy for disadvantaged children in his home town of Las Vegas and the other charity work that he conducts. This is a great read for any tennis fans out there.



The Most Borrowed Books

To kick start celebrating this year's Library and Information Week (25-31 May), the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) asked Libraries across the country to provide their top five most-borrowed books (including both print and eBooks) for the first quarter of 2015. The lists were compiled into four categories : adult fiction, adult non-fiction, young adult, and children's books.

Two British writers topped the adult fiction and non-fiction lists: Lee Child's thriller, Never Go Back, and foodie wunderkind Jamie Oliver for Jamie's 15 Minute Meals; while Americans topped the Children's and Young Adult lists: Jeff Kinney for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Suzanne Collins' blockbuster series for young adults - The Hunger Games.

Interestingly, Australian writers accounted for half of the most popular adult fiction list, which were:

1. Never Go Back by Lee Child (British thriller)
2. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion  (Australian humour)
3. The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connolly (American crime)
4. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Australian contemporary literature)
5. Eyrie by Tim Winton (Australian contemporary literature)
6. The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Australian contemporary literature)
7. Inferno by Dan Brown (American thriller)
8. The Rook by Daniel O'Malley (Australian science fiction)
9. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (American thriller)
10. A Wanted Man by Lee Child (British thriller). 


Library Catalogue

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