16.9.14

Jacaranda Blue

Jacaranda Blue by Joy Dettman

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

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

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

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

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

15.9.14

Two for the armchair traveller

On the Slow Train Again by Michael Williams

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

The Inn at the Top by Neil Hanson

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

12.9.14

Peter Pan Must Die

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

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

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

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

10.9.14

Man Book Shortlist 2014

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


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

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

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

Howard Jacobson (British) - J

Neel Mukherjee (British) - The Lives of Others

Ali Smith (British) - How to be Both

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

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

9.9.14

The Happiness Project

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

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

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

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

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

Sandra

8.9.14

The Perfect Scent

The Perfect Scent: a year inside the perfume industry in Paris and New York by Chandler Burr

The Perfect Scent is the thrilling inside story of the global perfume industry, told through two creators working on two very different scents. The first is commissioned by the French luxury brand Hermés, and developed by a perfumer named Jean-Claude Ellena, who begins his search for the scent on the banks of the Nile. The second is a celebrity fragrance, developed in New York by movie star Sarah Jessica Parker and a team of perfumers from a global conglomerate. Chalder Burr's thrilling narrative follows each scent from the initial concept to the worldwide launch. The Perfect Scent is the story of two daring creators, two very different scents, and a billion-dollar industry that runs on the invisible magic of perfume.

This book gives an insight into what goes on in the ultra secretive multi-million dollar perfume industry. Chandler Burr, perfume critic for the New York Times, spent a year behind the scenes watching both creators at work. He has written a colourful and riveting account of the characters from Paris’ exclusive Hermes brand and New York’s Sarah Jessica Parker team vying  for a spot in the “celebrity perfume” market.  This was a great read!
Ali




5.9.14

The Accident

The Accident by Chris Pavone

From the cover:  In New York, literary agent Isabel Reed is turning the final pages of an anonymous manuscript. In Copenhagen, CIA operative Hayden Gray is suddenly staring down the barrel of a gun. And in Zurich, the author himself is hiding in a shadowy expat life. Over the course of one long, perilous day, these lives collide as the book begins its dangerous march toward publication, placing everything at risk – and everyone in mortal peril.

This very complicated plot requires attention to detail. The story exposes a fatal accident that could bring down a media mogul, if true.  Through a series of events, multiple people read the manuscript, such as Isabel’s assistant, a rights director, a grandiose film producer, and Isabel’s star editor, which in turn puts them all at risk. This thrilling read includes mystery, mayhem and murder.
I love a good read with twists and turns and this story has plenty of them. Plus the ending of the book was jaw-dropping! The Accident is definitely an intriguing and thrilling tale.
I listened to the audio book version of this story, narrated by Laurence Bouvard [female]. It is also available in Playaway format and in print. 
~ Narelle

4.9.14

Sane New World

Over 2 million Australians are affected by depression and/or anxiety in Australia each year.  For those who endure these conditions and for those who love them, it is difficult.  But help can be found by reading from those who endure the same.  One of those is Sane New World by comedian Ruby Wax.

Ruby Wax comedian, writer and mental health campaigner shows us how our minds can jeopardize our sanity. With her own periods of depression and now a Masters from Oxford in Mindfulness based Cognitive Therapy to draw from, she explains how our busy, chattering, self critical thoughts drive us to anxiety and stress. If we are to break the cycle, we need to understand how our brains work, rewire our thinking and find calm in a frenetic world. Helping you become the master, not the slave, of your mind, here is the manual to saner living.

As someone who has family members with depression and anxiety this book was both eye opening, very informative and with Ruby’s dry wit, often amusing.  She manages to make the topic interesting and understandable and gives you hope that there is a way through.

If you are one of the many Australians with mental illness or know someone who does, then Ruby gives you not only a good education on the topic (she studied neuroscience at Oxford to get it), but also hope for the future.

It is a difficult read at times because it is a subject I am close to, but it was funny as well, with laugh out loud moments.  Well worth the read.


~ Michelle

3.9.14

Midnight Bayou

Midnight Bayou by Nora Roberts 
From the cover:  Declan Fitzgerald had always been the family maverick, but even he couldn't understand his impulse to buy a dilapidated mansion on the outskirts of New Orleans. All he knew was that ever since he saw Manet Hall, he'd been enchanted - and obsessed - with it. Determined to restore Manet Hall to its former splendour, Declan begins the daunting renovation room by room, relying on his own labour and skills. But the days spent in total isolation in the empty house take a toll. He is seeing visions of days from a century past, and experiencing sensations of terror and nearly unbearable grief - sensations not his own, but those of a stranger. Local legend has it that the house is haunted, and with every passing day Declan's belief in the ghostly presence grows. Only the companionship of the alluring Angelina Simone can distract him from the mysterious happenings in the house, but Angelina too has her own surprising connection to Manet Hall - a connection that will help Declan uncover a secret that's been buried for a hundred years.

A few years ago I had a binge on Nora Roberts books.  I had been quite taken with her writing style and that little touch of ‘magic' that wound through her stories lifting them out of the routine romance genre.   She is a prolific author, with some 209 novels published to date. Many of these are series  – The Donovans, Dream, the Key trilogy, the Garden trilogy, Chesapeake Bay, the Gallaghers, Three Sisters Island etc. – and some stand alone titles, as this one was.  Once again I fell under the spell of her characters and the setting, and as I love a good haunted house story, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  The audio version was expertly narrated by James Daniels and Sandra Burr.
Deb.

2.9.14

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. 
Deb. 

1.9.14

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.

29.8.14

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.




28.8.14

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.
Deb. 

27.8.14

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

Deb

26.8.14

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.
Dot

25.8.14

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! 
Deb
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.  

22.8.14

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! 
Tara

21.8.14

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.
Janine


20.8.14

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.
Deb  

19.8.14

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.   
Deb.

18.8.14

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.  
Deb.

15.8.14

Bittersweet

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.
Deb. 

14.8.14

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:



BEST CRIME NOVEL
Garry Disher, BITTER WASH ROAD
Kathryn Fox, FATAL IMPACT
Adrian McKinty, IN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE
PM Newton, BEAMS FALLING
Stephen Orr, ONE BOY MISSING
Angela Savage, THE DYING BEACH

BEST FIRST CRIME NOVEL
Peter Cotton, DEAD CAT BOUNCE
Candice Fox, HADES
Alex Hammond, BLOOD WITNESS
Ellie Marney, EVERY BREATH

BEST TRUE CRIME
Paul Dale, DISGRACED?
John Kidman & Denise Hofman, FOREVER NINE
Eleanor Learmonth & Jenny Tabakoff, NO MERCY
Colin McLaren, JFK: THE SMOKING GUN
Duncan McNab, OUTLAW BIKERS IN AUSTRALIA
John Safran, MURDER IN MISSISSIPPI

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

13.8.14

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



12.8.14

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.
Deb. 

11.8.14

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

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