Supermarket Monsters

Supermarket monsters: the price of Coles’ and Woolworths’ dominance by Malcolm Knox

This book shines a light on Australia's twin mega-retailers, exploring how they have built and exploited their market power. Knox reveals the unavoidable and often intimidating tactics both companies use to get their way. In return for cheap milk, he argues, consumers are risking much more.

I swear, after reading this book you will never buy a $1.00 carton of milk ever again!! Of course we all know that Coles and Woolies are evil conglomerates, but this book shows the depths to which they sink to increase their profits and market dominance. 

Through merciless price cutting Coles and Woolworths lure shoppers into their stores, and once there use this practice to increase their hold to petrol, insurance and hardware. Not only are vulnerable suppliers caught in the duopoly’s pincers but we as gullible consumers are being robbed of quality and diversity in our grocery choices. This book makes you want your next shopping trip to be not only to the supermarket, but broadened to the green grocer, the butcher and the old fashioned hardware store, just like the 'good old days'.



The Girl in the Spider's Web

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Millennium #4) by David Lagercrantz

Mikael Blomkvist is once again making headlines, but this time the media is claiming that his reign as a superstar journalist is over. Millennium is struggling and his lover Erika Berger has convinced him to sell 30 per cent of the business to a major news syndication called Serner, headed by an old rival from his temp days. But when he walks out of an important meeting, he is faced with the prospect of unemployment under the guise of being transferred to London.

Professor Balder has returned to Sweden with his research, intending to take charge of his autistic son August much to the anger of his ex-wife’s new partner, who has come to rely on child support payments to support his drinking habits. But Balder refuses to take no for an answer, despite not having legal custody of the boy, and takes August home. Uncommunicative up to this point, the child shows savant abilities after returning from a visit to his father’s friend and recreating a snapshot of a mysterious man they passed on their way home.

Meanwhile, Lisbeth Salander has taken on the National Security Agency, crossing oceans in order to uncover some dirty laundry. The head of security, Ed Needham, is furious and vows revenge on the hacker who has disrupted his carefully planned systems. But, like her, he finds himself dragged into the world of a cyber criminal group, headed by the mysterious Thanos, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on Professor Balder’s research.

Why We Love It:

It was one of the most successful thriller series ever, starting with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Author Stieg Larsson had intended many installments but completed only three before his untimely death. Now his publishers’ appointed successor David Lagercrantz does not disappoint Millennium trilogy fans with this slow-burning follow-up, The Girl in the Spider’s Web. 

Lisbeth Salander is back with a vengeance, and Lagercrantz’s depiction matches perfectly with her creator’s. With its brooding characters, darker tone and updated technology, his novel is enjoyable as both a continuation of the series and as the stand-alone sequel that Lagercrantz intended. The understandable differences in style between Lagercrantz and Larsson make this an interesting addition to the series. The inclusion of key elements that Larsson himself introduced in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest provides familiarity for readers, and a list of main characters makes it unnecessary to revisit the trilogy before reading the new instalment. With The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Lagercrantz brings Salander and Blomkvist to the present day, touching on technology not available during Larsson’s own lifetime.

from the Team at Better Reading.


Sisters in Crime - Davitt Awards

Big Little Lies by Sydney writer, Liane Moriarty, has won Sisters in Crime’s Davitt Award for Best Adult Novel. The book, which opens with a death at the local primary school’s trivia night, has sold a million copies in the US alone. Moriaty was the first Australian author to have a novel debut at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Film and television rights have been acquired by Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon who will both take roles in the production.

Walkely-award winning journalist, Caroline Overington, won the Davitt Non-Fiction Award for Last Woman Hanged, about Louisa Collins who was executed in New South Wales in 1889.

Brisbane-based author Christine Bongers took out the Davitt Best Debut Book Award for Intruder, and Sandi Wallace, who lives in the Dandenong Ranges outside of Melbourne, won the Davitt Readers’ Choice, as voted by the 660 members of Sisters in Crime, for Tell Me Why, the first instalment in her Rural Crime Files series. 



Tin Men

Tin Men by Christopher Golden

Economies are collapsing, environmental disasters are widespread and war the backdrop to life. And so the military has developed a force of elite soldiers to keep the peace. A force like nothing seen before ...codenamed Tin Men, soldiers are virtually transported to inhabit robot frames in war-torn countries. 

When PFC Danny Kelso starts his day shift in Syria, an eerie silence welcomes him and a patrol confirms the area is totally deserted. But when a rogue electromagnetic pulse throws everything into darkness, Danny's conscious mind is trapped within his robot body. The attack turns out to have been global - the world is facing a return to the dark ages with no electricity, no technology ...no safe zones. And the Tin Men face a race against time to save not only themselves but society as we know it.

I found this book to be a well-paced, well thought-out thriller.  Every type of human emotion was covered in this gripping read.  If I have one complaint it’s that I found the characters a bit hard to keep track of – being set within the military, characters are referred to by their first name, last name, rank or nickname. Even with this ‘problem’ I thoroughly enjoyed the book, from the first page to the very satisfying conclusion.



Shopaholic to the Stars

Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella

Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) has stars in her eyes. She and her daughter, Minnie, have joined husband Luke in LA—city of herbal smoothies and multimillion-dollar yoga retreats and the lure of celebrity. Luke is there to help manage the career of famous actress Sage Seymour—and Becky is convinced she is destined to be Sage’s personal stylist, and go from there to every A-list celebrity in Hollywood! Red carpet here she comes! But things become complicated when Becky joins the team of Sage’s archrival without telling Luke. Will her ambition to make it in Hollywood cost too much?

This is the seventh book in the popular "Shopaholic" series by Sophie Kinsella. If you are after a feel good and funny chick-lit novel then this is the one for you. I have "read" all of these books on audio and was pleasantly surprised by this latest installment.  I'm wondering if there will be another after this as it tends to end in a bit of a cliff-hanger! 

Becky and daughter Minnie have moved to Los Angeles as husband Luke's career now has him managing a Hollywood star. Meanwhile, Becky is busy enrolling Minnie into playschool and trying to launch herself as a Hollywood stylist. Of course all of this is complicated by Becky's dad coming over from the UK to chase up a long lost-friend, the return of her arch rival who befriends her best friend, fitting in with the local clique of mums at the pre-school, witnessing a shoplifter, and desperately waiting for her moment on the red carpet ...need I say more???

I really think you have to read the whole series to totally understand the characters that appear in the book, but it is a light fluffy read nonetheless. We have all the titles in this series available in either hardcover, large print, Playaway or talking book format.



Close Your Eyes

Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham

Psychologist Joe O’Loughlin has given up investigating gritty crimes. He’s focusing on his family, wooing back his estranged wife and nurturing his young daughters - Charlie, who is about to go off to university, and ten-year-old Emma. He’s living with Parkinson’s disease and his beloved ex has her own health fears to face. But then comes a call from DCS Kray who desperately needs help with a brutal and mysterious double murder of a mother and daughter.

O’Loughlin knows he should say no, but Kray reels him when she tells him another bogus psychologist is using his name and stuffing up the case. He brings in his old partner, ex-cop Vincent Ruiz, but still the case won’t crack. In the meantime, a series of brutal attacks occurs, with each of the victims having ‘A’ for adulterer carved into the foreheads. The attacks may or may not be connected to the farmhouse murders.

Why we love it:
As if we didn’t already love Michael Robotham’s signature brand of clever, unputdownable thrillers, he has done it a
ll over again with a thriller that ticks all the boxes but is also tender, moving and insightful. 

The novel is a continuation of the O’Loughlin/Ruiz novels that Robotham fans know and love, but for newcomers Close Your Eyes can be read standalone. As usual, the pace is fast and it’s really hard to get to sleep at night with a Robotham thriller unread by your bed. This one keeps you guessing until the very end with a line-up of suspects that all seem plausible.

from the Team at Better Reading


Fall from Grace

Fall from Grace by Tim Weaver

From the cover:  When Leonard Franks and his wife Ellie leave London for a dream retirement in Dartmoor, everything seems perfect. But one afternoon, Leonard goes to fetch firewood and never returns.  With the police investigation dead in the water, Ellie turns to David Raker. Raker tracks down missing people for a living, but nothing can prepare him for this.  Because behind Leonard's disappearnce lies a deadly secret, buried so deep it was never meant to be found. 

As often happens to me, this book turned out to be one of a series!  It was easy to pick up that there was a 'back story' but the book stood alone quite well without knowing exactly what. 

Fall From Grace could have been an excellent read - the David Raker character is engaging, the storyline is intelligent, complex, with many twists and turns, and when you think you've worked out how it's all going to pan out, it doesn't! But oh my, the detail. Every tortuous piece of minutiae is exacted and drawn out over what I imagined to be pages and pages (I listened to the audiobook, very well narrated by Ben Allen) till I wanted to scream out loud "For crying out loud...Get on with it!!"  

So no five stars from me, but I've jumped on board the David Raker train and will do a whistelstop tour back through time. The series comprises: 2010 – Chasing the Dead, 2011 – The Dead Tracks, 2012 – Vanished, 2013 – Never Coming Back, 2014 – Fall From Grace and 2015 – What Remains.  



Ned Kelly Awards

The Ned Kelly Awards, held last Saturday night (22 August 2015) as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival, marked the 20th annivsary of the awards presented by the Australian Crime Writers Association. 

The top prize for True Crime was awarded to Helen Garner for This House of Grief, her account of the life and times, crime and trials of Robert Farquharson, the man who murdered his three sons by driving them into a dam.  Garner won the same prize 10 years ago for Joe Cinque's Consolation.

Candice Fox won the best fiction Neddy for her second novel, Eden, while former barrister Jock Serong won the Best First Novel award for Quota



“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travellers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

This book, is like a lost story from the Brother’s Grimm collection; a complete masterpiece. Seriously, the author HAS to be a magician that’s the only explanation. Fairy tale settings, ancient evil dark woods, handsome princes, immortal witch queen, council of wizards, a dragon (only he’s not an actual dragon…it’s like a stage name) whisking a young maiden of extraordinary talent off to his tower never to be seen again until after a decade. When the girls do come back, they’re different somehow; more polished and refined, and plenty more intelligent. Also, they never stay for long, bidding their loved ones goodbye even after not seeing them for 10 years and moving to the bigger cities to become something great; scholars, philosophers even famous courtiers! The main character of the stand-alone book seems to be a country bumpkin with next to no talent at all other than having the uncanny ability to get dirty in any scenario. Turns out there is a deeper reason to her disorderliness than obvious, that's right, MAGIC! The Dragon truly lives up to his name besides his bad-temper and abrupt manner of speaking; he is the most prized wizard under the king's rule but the most volatile.

I was a bit wary of this book with all its glowing 5 star reviews and thought that if this was just another hype-up book I might shoot myself. I was kind of glad to see some less than stellar reviews because the book then seemed more REAL to me. But it was most definitely an exception and deserved every 5 star review and more. It brought me and my struggling friend such colossal delight. My best friend’s mother is unwell and things were a really gloomy at home. This book was like a great pine tree growing in the middle of dead, burnt out land for her and, I can’t repeat this enough, am I ever glad I found it.

The great thing about the book is that the characters are allowed to have flaws - weak, hesitant, cowardly, greedy and even evil. The character development is fantastic, some characters completely transform from the beginning of the book to the end. Previously non-redeemable characters come out redeemable, even honorable. The writing style is flawless and beautiful, taking you back in time. You feel as if you're LITERALLY IN the book!

Uprooted is truly a gift to the world and I would recommend it to every living soul with access to the library or books to read it if it weren't for some of the mature content. But I'll have to stand with recommending it to 15+. I could almost say that I wish I haven't read it because this is almost an impossible book to beat or even stand on par with.

Work Experience Student: Intisar


The Secret Wife

The Secret Wife by Linda Kavanaugh

From the cover: The happiest day of her life...Laura Thornton had dreamed of this day. Saying her vows to the perfect man, in a beautiful dress. It was supposed to be perfect. Forever. The beginning of a nightmare...Behind closed doors, the man of her dreams reveals a dark nature so brutal that Laura has no choice but to leave and, when threats are made to her life, all fingers point to her husband. But what Laura thinks she knows is a lie. A dark secret from her past is reaching out, determined to destroy her. A past she soon discovers isn't all that it seemed.

This was a great book! It bounces back and forth from the present to the past and tells the story of two girls who grow up together in separate families but have something in common, they just don't realize what it is.

When Laura decides to get married to Jeff whom she has only known a few months, Kerry is immediately suspicious of his motives and tries to tell her friend that she is being a little hasty in making this decision so quickly. Laura of course is in love and flattered by Jeff's attentiveness, but soon it becomes evident that Kerry was right once the bruises started to show. Laura leaves Jeff but he pursues her relentlessly and she is constantly worried that he won't take no for an answer. It has turned into the marriage from hell.
Thank goodness she has Kerry to support her, that's what friends are for - or are they? This book was a real page turner and has a "domestic noir" flavour to it. I had not heard of this Irish author before, but I will be seeking out her other titles as well. Would appeal to lovers of Women's fiction and those who like a thriller. I read the hardcover but we also have it in e-book format.



Yes, Chef!

Yes, Chef! by Lisa Joy

Inspired by real-life adventures, this deliciously funny and romantic story reveals a tantalizing glimpse of the trendy restaurant scene: a world where chefs are treated like rock stars, and cooking isn't all that goes on in the kitchen!

Sassy foodie Becca Stone is over her job taking reservations for one of London's most successful restaurant empires. So when she is unexpectedly catapulted into working as PA to celebrity chef Damien Malone, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. Becca is quickly caught up in an exciting whirlwind of travel, reality TV, and opening nights, and even her usually abysmal love life takes a turn for the better. But as Becca is slowly consumed by the chaos of life in the spotlight, she begins to lose touch with her friends, her heart, and even with reality. 

Working with Damien has its challenges and she is soon struggling with his increasingly outrageous demands and sleazy advances, all while managing the ridiculous requests of his self-centered wife. It takes a disastrous trip to Italy for Becca to realize that she may have thrown away exactly what she's been looking for all along.

I was completely drawn in to Becca’s life with all its comradeship and work life. Becca and her friends had a rapport and honesty about them. They are not perfect; they make mistakes, have set-backs plus good times. The story is more about friendship and loyalty than it is about romantic love, although there is a decent dollop of that as well!  This is a rollicking romantic ride and lots of fun. 



Pretty Baby

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

Heidi Wood is charity personified. She works for a non-profit organisation, takes in stray animals and always has a few dollars in her pocket for the homeless. When Heidi finds Willow, a girl standing on a train platform cradling a baby to her chest, she can’t get the image out of her head. The next time she sees Willow, standing in the pouring rain, she persuades her to share a meal at a nearby diner. Through gentle persistence, Heidi convinces Willow to stay with her for as long as necessary.

So when she brings home Willow and her four-month-old baby, her husband Chris and 12-year-old daughter Zoe are horrified but not exactly surprised. While Zoe is happy that her mother is taking a step back from looking over her shoulder at every turn, Chris is worried that Heidi is being taken advantage of.

Chris’s suspicions about Willow lead him to hire a private investigator, but what he discovers will shatter any illusions about her being a harmless runaway. Meanwhile, Willow comes to realise that Heidi, having miscarried before, is far more interested in baby Ruby than in her.

As Heidi’s obsession with Ruby grows, Willow must make a choice – hand over the baby to Heidi and go on with her life, or reveal the sequence of events that has brought them to her doorstep before Chris does.

Why we love it: We love this intelligent psychological thriller about the motivation behind a charitable deed from the bestselling author of The Good Girl. With its simmering tension, intriguing plotlines and clever storytelling, Pretty Baby will stay with you long after the final page.

from the Team at Better Reading


Brother of the More Famous Jack

Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Traido

Stylish, suburban Katherine is eighteen when she is propelled into the heart of Professor Jacob Goldman's rambling home and his large eccentric family. As his enchanting yet sharp-tongued wife Jane gives birth to her sixth child, Katherine meets beautiful, sulky Roger and his volatile younger brother Jonathan. Inevitable heartbreak sends her fleeing to Rome, but ten years later, older and wiser, she returns to find the Goldmans again.

I picked this novel up the way I pick up so many; on the other side of the returns chute! (I work at Narre Warren Library.) The new sticker was bright and fresh on a title I had not heard of. I put it on hold. It was originally published in 1982 but seems to have resurfaced last year with new interest and stretched from the UK to the US and here.

It is an overwhelmingly honest novel about a young woman who is introduced and becomes part of an unconventional large family. It is a love story with very human characters that are ultimately superbly loveable, pitiable and real. The main character travels from the realms of early adulthood and her first broken heart to her thirties at a point when she is broken she gets back in contact with the family she had so loved.

The author’s characterisation is generous and beautiful, the individual voices of each character masterful in its consistency. We are presented with moments of great sadness and joy and loads of friction and sparring but the author provides us with all the information without a hint of judgement.  She is unapologetic in subject, covering topics that are even more highly controversial now, that would be shied from and probably avoided. She presents them without catching her breath or making them more than a small part of a great whole. Interestingly, the innocence with which she explores subjects that our modern prudity would want to label and judge is one of the only elements that makes this book seem dated, that and the honest and, at times, chauvinistic relations between the sexes (notice I had to label it!).

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to be caught up in the lunatic sanity of the Goldman family and the unpretentious and beautiful writing of Barbara Trapido.

Sam B


This House of Grief

This House Of Grief by Helen Garner

This is a book that is a must read for anyone wanting to see the workings of a trial, twice told! I bought it in one of the few bookshops left in Melbourne, Australia and it sat on the bookshelf for a while before I got around to reading it. Then I just had to finish it even though I knew what the end result was. It dominated the Australian media for years when the case ran. You cannot have been in Melbourne if you did not hear of it from Father's Day 2005 onwards.

It is such a compelling read which has Helen Garner, the observer, at the trial of Robert Farquharson who is convicted of the murder of his three children in revenge for his wife leaving him and taking up with another man. Garner makes many wry observations of the main characters or players in the story and leaves you wanting to read more. There is a sense that the book was finished after the first trial and Helen by then was exhausted. The re-trial doesn't have the same steam as the first but this masterful writer holds you in the whole time.

This should be a textbook on any law course involving justice and the court room process e.g. the manner in which the barristers play to the jury and how they lose them; how some witnesses parry with the barristers and some win or lose; and little things that seem to impact on a juror more than others. I found this an absorbing read and picked up many points that even with many years of court experience, I'd not fully noticed. This book would make a great film and it has to be one of the best books I've ever read. 

Thanks to Peter H. via our website


The Journey

The Journey by Josephine Cox

Three strangers are thrown together by chance.  When Ben Morris comes to the aid of Lucy Baker and her daughter Mary, he's intrigued by the story behind their visits to the local graveyard.  It's an encounter destined to change all their lives forever.  

Later, invited into their home, Ben hears Lucy's remarkable tale - one she must tell before it's too late.  The story of Barney Davidson, his family and the part Lucy played in his extraordinary life, is one that still exerts a powerful influence in the present day.

This story is split into two parts – the modern day when Ben meets Lucy and Mary, and the 1930s when Barney and his family meet Lucy.   It is a frustrating book because some parts are just wonderful, some are plain tedious, and some are so saccharine and soppy I felt like throwing the Playaway out the window!  
We have this title in all formats; I borrowed the audio Playaway narrated by Carole Boyd and her expert delivery of the many English, Irish and American accents was a highlight.




Cadence by Emma Ayres

From the catalogue:  Lauded as an entertainer and musical expert, Emma Ayres is keen to break down the barriers surrounding classical music. In 1999 Emma 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 (ABC Classic FM) has written an uplifting and riveting account of a bicycle trip (on her bike Vita) that she embarked upon from London to Hong Kong. She took her 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 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 admirable  and inspirational. Highly recommended. Available in print, e-book and audio CD formats.



Missing You

Missing You by Harlan Coben

From the catalogue: It's a profile, like all the others on the online dating site. But as NYPD Detective Kat Donovan focuses on the accompanying picture she feels her whole world explode as emotions she's ignored for decades come crashing down on her. Staring back at her is her ex-fiancé; Jeff, the man who shattered her heart and whom she hasn't seen in 18 years. Kat feels a spark, wondering if this might be the moment when past tragedies recede and a new world opens up to her. But when she reaches out to the man in the profile, her reawakened hope quickly darkens into suspicion and then terror as an unspeakable conspiracy comes to light, in which monsters prey upon the most vulnerable. As the body count mounts and Kat's hope for a second chance with Jeff grows more and more elusive, she is consumed by an investigation that challenges her feelings about everyone she ever loved.

Harlan Coben’s books - dark twisting stories set against the backdrop of serene, domestic settings - have made him one of the most successful crime thriller authors writing in the world today.  I've read a couple of his before and really enjoy the mental stimulation of the mystery suspense genre.  However, on the odd occasion when books veer into physical or psychological torture or sadism is when I close the cover and move on to something else.  This book came very close to it, but I really wanted to know how the Kat and Jeff storyline played out, so I endured.  The ending, though no surprise, was not the way I wanted it to be so I felt a bit letdown for having stuck with it.

Coben fan or not, if you can handle a dose of brutality in amongst an absorbing storyline, you should enjoy it.  We have this title in book; large print; and audio MP3, CD, and Playaway formats.  

btw - The narration by the male Kerry Shale is surprising considering it’s Kat’s story, so some of the voices are quite grating... Probably better to go the print route.



Second Life

Second Life by S. J. Watson

From the cover:  Can you really know another person? And how far would you go to find out the truth about them? When Julia learns that her sister has been killed, she’ll do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of things. Even if it means jeopardising her relationship with her husband and risking the safety of her boy. Getting involved with a stranger online. Losing control. Perhaps losing everything. Set in Paris and London, “Second Life” is about the double lives people lead – and the dark places they can end up in. 

S. J. Watson’s previous debut novel, Before I Go To Sleep hit the bestselling list and made it onto the big screen. Second Life is his new and second novel. I was disappointed at first as it did not grip me the way his first book did. However about a quarter of the way into the story, the pace picked up enormously. From that point on I could not put it down!

I loved the fact that it used today’s technology to keep it real. Lots of references were made to online chat sites, the use of mobile phones, and tracking mobile phone locations using apps. As a reader, I got very frustrated with the main character, Julia, who has a tendency for addictive behaviour and making poor choices. But the fact that she was this way, made the story all the more interesting. Just when it seemed the plot was predictable, something unpredictable would happen. 

S. J. Watson is definitely a writer to follow. His ability to twist a plot, grip the reader, and add a sensual side to the storyline, all contribute to an intriguing fast-paced read, and a great psychological thriller.

~ Narelle


Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures: Anita Blake book 1 by Laurell K. Hamilton

From the back cover:  “I don’t date vampires. I kill them. My name is Anita Blake. Vampires call me the Executioner. What I call them isn’t repeatable. Ever since the Supreme Court granted the undead equal rights, most people think vampires are just ordinary folks with fangs. I know better. I’ve seen their victims. I carry the scars...But now a serial killer is murdering vampires and the most powerful bloodsucker in town wants me to find the killer.”

Back in the day when Buffy was learning which end of the stake was pointy, and before Bella Swan was born, Anita Blake was out there hunting vampires. Twenty plus books later, Laurell K. Hamilton’s best-selling series “Anita Blake – Vampire Hunter” is still going strong. 

A series of over twenty books can seem like a big commitment, but it’s worthwhile just to see the character development. Anita Blake from Guilty Pleasures (book 1) wouldn’t recognise the person she has become in the latest book (Dead Ice).  “Dead Ice” Anita would most likely get staked by “Guilty Pleasures” Anita, confusing her for one of the monsters.

Like most vampire-type books, the series is filled with all the usual things that go bump in the night.  It starts of fairly tame, but soon would make E.L James blush.  Not for the faint hearted, but a good read nonetheless.



Cold Cold Heart

Cold Cold Heart By Tami Hoag

From the cover: Dana Nolan was a promising young TV reporter until a notorious serial killer tried to add her to his list of victims. Nearly a year has passed since surviving her ordeal, but the physical, emotional, and psychological scars run deep. Struggling with the torment of post-traumatic stress disorder, plagued by flashbacks and nightmares as dark as the heart of a killer, Dana returns to her hometown in an attempt to begin to put her life back together. But home doesn’t provide the comfort she expects.

Dana’s harrowing story and her return to small-town life have rekindled police and media interest in the unsolved case of her childhood best friend, Casey Grant, who disappeared without a trace the summer after their graduation from high school. Terrified of truths long-buried, Dana reluctantly begins to look back at her past. Viewed through the dark filter of PTSD, old friends and loved ones become suspects and enemies. Questioning everything she knows, refusing to be defined by the traumas of her past, and struggling against excruciating odds, Dana seeks out a truth that may prove too terrible to be believed….

This was fantastic suspense fiction. The main character, Dana Nolan suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and lives with a traumatic brain injury after surviving a horrific abduction. Everyone says how lucky she is to be alive after surviving her ordeal, but Dana does not feel lucky as a victim of crime. When she returns to her family and hometown, there is rekindled interest in the missing persons’ case of her best friend Casey. Now a cold case, Dana’s investigative nature as a former TV reporter, gives her something to live for as she tries to solve what happened to her best friend. Was Casey a victim of a similar crime to herself, or was there something else that had transpired? Dana’s motto throughout the story is “where there is life, there is hope”. The hope is now for Dana to find peace in the truth of her friend’s disappearance. 

I loved the frantic pace of this read with the tease of suspense and danger along the way. Tami Hoag herself suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child and lives with the after effects of it on a daily basis which is where some of the inspiration for this story originated.

I listened to the audio book format of this story expertly narrated by Julie Whelan (Playaway, CD and MP3 formats), but it is also available in book and large print.



Davitt Awards Shortlist

Sisters in Crime Australia has announced its shortlist for the 15th Davitt Awards for best crime books by Australian women.

The Davitts apply to books published the previous calendar year. Named after Ellen Davitt, the author of Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud in 1865, the awards have played a pioneering role in getting women’s crime writing better recognised.

Twenty-three titles out of the record 96 crime books nominated are shortlisted for six different awards: Best Adult Novel; Best Young Adult; Best Children’s Novel; Best Non-fiction Book; Best Debut Book (any category); and Readers’ Choice (as voted by the 650 members of Sisters in Crime Australia). Four titles have been shortlisted twice as they’re debut books.

Vying for Best Adult categories are:

Fiction Novel

Honey Brown, Through the Cracks 
Ilsa Evans, Forbidden Fruit: A Nell Forrest Mystery (ebook)
Sulari Gentill, A Murder Unmentioned
Annie Hauxwell, A Morbid Habit
Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies
Malla Nunn, Present Darkness

Non Fiction

Megan Norris, Love You to Death: A story of sex, betrayal and murder gone wrong
Caroline Overington, Last Woman Hanged
Virginia Peters, Have You Seen Simone? The story of an unsolved murder
Julie Szego, The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama


Lollie Barr, The Adventures of Stunt Boy and His Amazing Wonder Dog Blindfold
Christine Bongers, Intruder
Candice Fox, Hades
Anna George, What Came Before
Rebecca Jessen, Gap
Virginia Peters, Have You Seen Simone? The story of an unsolved murder
Pamela Rushby, The Ratcatcher’s Daughter
Sandi Wallace, Tell Me Why 
Julie Szego, The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama

The awards, to be announced on Saturday 29 August, are handsome carved polished wooden trophies featuring the front cover of the winning novel under perspex. No prize money is offered.



The Marriage of Opposites

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

This forbidden love story set on the tropical island of St. Thomas is about the extraordinary woman who gave birth to painter Camille Pissarro; the Father of Impressionism.

Growing up on idyllic St. Thomas in the early 1800s, Rachel dreams of life in faraway Paris. Rachel's mother, a pillar of their small refugee community of Jews who escaped the Inquisition, has never forgiven her daughter for being a difficult girl who refuses to live by the rules. Growing up, Rachel's salvation is their maid Adelle's belief in her strengths, and her deep, life-long friendship with Jestine, Adelle's daughter. But Rachel's life is not her own. She is married off to a widower with three children to save her father's business. When her husband dies suddenly and his handsome, much younger nephew, Fréderick, arrives from France to settle the estate, Rachel seizes her own life story, beginning a defiant, passionate love affair that sparks a scandal that affects all of her family, including her favorite son, who will become one of the greatest artists of France.

Why we love it:  Alice Hoffman’s strong female characters lead the way in a magical novel about love, destiny and breaking the rules. Rachel does as she pleases, befriending her African cook’s daughter, talking to ghosts and watching the turtles lay their eggs on the beach in the middle of the night.  The Marriage of Opposites is a mesmerising story that immerses you in another time and place, so that you won’t want this novel to end.

from the Team at Better Reading


The Little Paris Bookshop

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, translated by Simon Pare

On a beautifully restored barge on the Seine, Jean Perdu runs a bookshop; or rather, a ‘literary apothecary’, for this bookseller possesses a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe the troubled souls of his customers.

The only person he is unable to cure, it seems, is himself. He has nursed a broken heart ever since the night, twenty-one years ago, when the love of his life fled Paris, leaving behind a handwritten letter that he has never dared read. His memories and his love have been gathering dust – until now. The arrival of an enigmatic new neighbour in his eccentric apartment building on Rue Montagnard inspires Jean to unlock his heart, unmoor the floating bookshop and set off for Provence in search of the past and his beloved.  

This book is very reminiscent of Chocolat by Joanne Harris in that, aside from the "European feeling” of writing style, it evokes that strong feeling of time and place, the languor of a day’s passing, and the soulful heartache of love.  To my mind it was overly long and that perhaps is what created that slothful, dozy feeling; although meandering down a river on a barge, remarking on the gentle passing of the landscape and petting the two languid on-board cats adds more than a soupçon of tranquility.  This slightly sad, a little wistful but ultimately heart-warming book is very much character-driven, so if you’re looking for action or thrills, best to choose something else. 

Between the main half dozen characters, there is a lot of internalising, a lot of ‘what if’ and plenty of debate on the state of love, of being in love, gaining and losing love.  And of course, being a bookshop, many titles are mentioned to soothe the ills of the customers, so that’s a bit of a fun which proffers some much-needed humour to balance the story.  

There is a delightful addendum, an A-Z list of literary pharmacopeia “To be taken in easily digestible doses (between five and fifty pages) unless otherwise indicated and if possible, with warm feet and/or with a cat on your lap.”  It kicks off with Adams, Douglas, e.g.  ‘Effective in large doses for treating pathological optimism or a sense of humour failure. Ideal for sauna-goers with exhibitionist tendencies.  Side Effects? … a potentially chronic tendency to wear a dressing gown all day.” Or “Melville Herman. Moby-Dick. For Vegetarians.  Side Effects?  A fear of water.”  I think you get the idea. And, if one bonus is not enough, there is another!  Recipes, a la Provence!  From how to make a vegetable terrine, to lamb cutlets and pistou, Lavender ice-cream, and more. 



Dinner is Served

Dinner is Served: an English butler's guide to the art of the table by Arthur Inch and Arlene Hirst

Elegant entertaining is always in style, and who better to explain the finer points of the art of the table than Arthur Inch, a veteran English butler who served as technical advisor for the film Gosford Park? With a historian's appreciation for the traditions of fine English homes, he discusses the elements of the table, including flatware and silver, china and glassware, serving vessels, and table decorations, as well as table and serving etiquette. 

Dinner is served is a useful little book which answers some of life's most vexing questions. At a formal dinner party, what is the correct way to eat asparagus? If one is served snails how does one get them out of the shell? How does one tackle a pomegranate or a cob of corn without wearing said food on your face or on your lap?

Included are lots of diagrams on how to correctly set a table, the various pieces of flatware (cutlery to the rest of us), and serving dishes and glasses. 

But most importantly is the issue of cake - how is it served and how should it be eaten. Layer cake is always served on its side, as it's almost impossible to cut neatly if left standing up. And cake should always be served with the point facing towards the guest.  

PS - Corn is never served on the cob at dinner parties!


Elon Musk

Elon Musk: how the billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is shaping up by Ashlee Vance

An authorized portrait of one of the most dynamic entrepreneurs evaluates his role in the successes of such innovations as Tesla and Space X while evaluating America's technological competitiveness.

Elon Musk is acknowledged as one of Silicon Valley’s most dynamic entrepreneurs, trailblazing the industries of the future – electric cars, space travel for non-astronauts, and solar power. Like most business geniuses (think Steve Jobs, Bill Gates), he is also brilliant, impatient, rude and works like a demon. His story is fascinating as not only a “succeeding against all odds” story, but for the way it opens up the reader’s mind to the possibilities of creating a better future for the planet, and showing that it actually may be feasible to do it. 

Also like most business geniuses, he has weathered his share of near death financial crises, times when he was literally days away from economic ruin and failure. This is a truly exciting story which is engrossing and ultimately hopeful. 



The World Without Us

The World Without Us by Mireille Juchau

A North Coast hinterland community is in crisis after a commune mysteriously burns down. Bees are dying; the air and water is polluted, and the soil is degraded from overuse and mining. The Müller family is in turmoil too – mother Evangeline is acting strangely after losing her beloved youngest child, Pip. Her beekeeper husband Stefan is losing his colonies to unknown malaises, and adolescent daughters Tess and Meg grieve for their sister, but also for their mother who disappears each day to who knows where.

At the heart of the novel is a mystery that’s not solved until the final pages. What happens in the bee community is a subtle reflection of the Müller family and the whole community – one thing goes awry and everything is affected. The World Without Us touches on infidelity, love, loss and grief but also healing, hope and what it means to be human in the contemporary world.

Why we love it!
After reading The World Without Us you could turn the book over and start again. It’s one of those novels that stays with you long after reading. There's a cast of characters we come to know and love by the novel’s close, drawn with honesty but also subtle humour. Poignant and sad, yet poetic and uplifting, it’s truly a novel of its time.

from the Team at Better Reading


A Time to Run

A Time to Run by J.M. Peace 

The hunt is on.  A GRUESOME GAME - A madman is kidnapping women to hunt them for sport.  A FRANTIC SEARCH - Detective Janine Postlewaite leads the investigation into the disappearance of Samantha Willis, determined not to let another innocent die on her watch.  A SHOCKING TWIST - The killer's newest prey isn't like the others. Sammi is a cop. And she refuses to be his victim.  A RUN FOR YOUR LIFE - A stunning, tautly written thriller from police officer turned writer, J.M. Peace.

I was lucky enough to win this book from the author in her online book launch! I am always very supportive of a new voice in Australian fiction and was not disappointed. The author is a serving Queensland policewoman and I'm sure she weaved some police experience into this book, and it showed.

Sammi has an argument with her boyfriend and decides to have a night out with a girlfriend.  Little does she know the consequences of that night out. Bored with what was going on in the nightclub, she foolishly accepts a lift to her friend's house with the barman whom she has just met, and that's the last we see of her.

What the barman doesn't know is that Sammi is a policewoman who should have known better and has to endure the consequences of her foolish decision. What transpires is a game of cat and mouse with the barman treating Sammi as a pawn in his very twisted game. Meanwhile the police are trying to find her with very little to go on. Will she survive or has she perished already and they are too late? 

I'll let you find out when you read this great novel. It's set in time-lapse chapters and it was VERY hard to stop reading and go to bed. If I'd had the opportunity I could have easily read this in one sitting.  I eagerly look forward to her next book in 2016.



The Wrong Man

The Wrong Man by Kate White

From the cover: Bold and adventurous in her work as owner of a boutique interior design firm in Manhattan, Kit Finn couldn’t be tamer in her personal life. While on vacation in the Florida Keys, Kit resolves to do something risky for once. When she literally bumps into a charming stranger at her hotel, she decides to make good on her promise and act on her attraction.  But back in New York, when Kit arrives at his luxury apartment ready to pick up where they left off, she doesn’t recognize the man standing on the other side of the door. Was this a cruel joke or part of something truly sinister? Kit soon realizes that she’s been thrown into a treacherous plot, which is both deeper and deadlier than she could have ever imagined.  

I chose this book after reading a great review on it. The statement above is not an exaggeration - this is a true page-turner with many twists, many teasers for the reader as to who the villain may be, but the true villain is not revealed until very late in the book. The main character, Kit Finn, is an unassuming protagonist who finds true grit, strength and bravery as the plot unfolds. I love a story with a brave, strong female and this is one of them. I will definitely be looking for more books by this author. I loved the story-line, it was adrenaline-charged and filled with harrowing twists at every turn. 




Orient by Christopher Bollen

At the very tip of Long Island, New York, lies a small town called Orient.  It’s home to loyal year-rounders who protect their little hamlet like it’s the last bastion of community.  But when 19-year-old runaway Mills Chevern is brought in to town, his unwelcome presence coincides with a series of sinister, and possibly linked, murders.  Year-rounders don’t like visitors, and now the town is being overrun by New York City arty types, but who stands to gain and lose the most in Orient?

Why We Love It:

It’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil meets Jonathan Franzen.  While the whodunnit mystery will keep you guessing until the very last pages, it’s the dissection of small town American life that had us truly hooked – for all 600 pages. Christopher Bollen's second novel beautifully captures the angst, desperation, innocence and dark side of small town life. 

from the Team at Better Reading.

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