4.8.15

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. 

Deb 


3.8.15

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.  

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

31.7.15

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. 

Teresa

30.7.15

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


29.7.15

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.

Janine

28.7.15

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. 

Narelle 

27.7.15

Orient

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.



Garden of Lies

Garden of Lies by Eileen Goudge


Rachel and Rose grew up worlds apart. Rachel, in the lap of Manhattan luxury, an ice princess determined to be a great doctor. Rose, in the New York slums, yielding to passion too young, and fleeing heartbreak to become a star lawyer. When they both fall in love with the same fascinating man, they are brought face to face with the truth about each other and themselves.

After reading a lot of Eileen's newer books, I have gone back to the beginning, and after reading this book can understand why Eileen was a NYT best selling author. This book had me riveted from the beginning, and I literally could not put it down.

The story of two babies switched at birth and what transpires is an emotionally engaging story. I felt for both of the girls involved and anyone who enjoys reading good family sagas will love this book. I can't wait to read the sequel as I just have to find out what happened to them!  Eileen you continue to be one of my favourite authors.
Janine

My Brilliant Friend

My Brilliant Friend: Book One - Childhood and Adolescence by Elena Ferrante

"My friendship with Lila began the day we decided to go up the dark stairs that led, step after step, flight after flight, to the door of Don Achille's apartment...I waited to see if Lila would have second thoughts and turn back. I knew what she wanted to do; I had hoped that she would forget about it, but in vain."


My Brilliant Friend is a ravishing, wonderfully written novel about a friendship that lasts a lifetime. The story of Elena and Lila begins in a poor but vibrant neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples. The two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else, sometimes to their own detriment, as each discovers more about who she is and suffers or delights in the throes of their intense friendship. There is a piercing honesty about Ferrante's prose that makes My Brilliant Friend a compulsively readable portrait of two young women, and also the story of a neighbourhood, a city and a country.

This novel was highly recommended to me by none other than Mem Fox, who was fascinated by it and couldn’t put it down! Book One in a series 'the Neapolitan novels' is by one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors. The books in order are My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of The Lost Child. The fourth and final volume is to be published in September 2015.

I loved this complex story of friendship and choices as the girls grow up together in a grungy part of Naples, with hints of the Mafia never far away. Lila is capricious, daring her friend to scary new adventures while Elena is the quietly serious narrator, who depends on her education rather than her looks as a way to escape. The competition between them is intense, and while each has their ups and downs and other distractions, the ties between them remain strong.  I’m really looking forward to reading the next installment!

Pru

24.7.15

The Hearing-Loss Guide

The Hearing-Loss Guide : Useful Information and Advice for Patients and Families by John M. Burkey

In an unusual new approach, audiologist John M. Burkey offers not only specific and up-to-date information based on his own extensive experience with patients, but also useful, first-hand advice from those patients themselves. 

The Hearing-Loss Guide presents clear, basic facts on hearing impairment and treatments, followed by candid personal recommendations from people who are coping successfully with hearing difficulties. 

I was in my late twenties when I first suspected there was a problem with my hearing.  Now a hearing aid veteran of more than 10 years, I still have trouble in certain situations.  

The Hearing Loss Guide written by John M. Burkley, a qualified audiologist, is full of information, advice and useful tips for those with a hearing loss, and those that live with someone who has a hearing loss. I picked up a few tips that I’ll be trying at home.

Written in a clear, basic language and without a lot of medical jargon; it’s easy to understand and find information relevant to your personal situation. I encourage anyone who has, suspects they have, or knows someone who has a hearing loss to have a look at this book.  

Leanne


The Liar

The Liar by Nora Roberts

Shelby Foxworth lost her husband. Then she lost her illusions ... The man who took her from Tennessee to an exclusive Philadelphia suburb left her in crippling debt. He was an adulterer and a liar, and when Shelby tracks down his safe-deposit box, she finds multiple IDs. The man she loved wasn't just dead. He never really existed. 

Shelby takes her three-year-old daughter and heads south to seek comfort in her hometown. But her husband had secrets she has yet to discover. Even in this small town, surrounded by loved ones, danger is closer than she knows. And an attempted murder is only the beginning ...

The story has great likeable characters, and life in her small town combines neatly with suspense, deception, and danger from her husband’s past following her. Another beauty from this most popular author. Enjoy!

Dot



23.7.15

Vale E. L. Doctorow

The often dubbed 'Literary Time Traveller' E. L. Doctorow [Edgar Lawrence] passed away on Tuesday 21/7 in Manhattan USA, aged 84, from complications with lung cancer.

The author penned a dozen novels including Ragtime, Billy Bathgate and The March, three volumes of short fiction and a stage drama, as well as essays and commentary on literature and politics.  Doctorow was widely lauded for the originality, versatility and audacity of his imagination.

 “I believe nothing of any beauty or truth comes of a piece of writing without the author’s thinking he has sinned against something – propriety, custom, faith, privacy, tradition, political orthodoxy, historical fact, literary convention, or indeed, all the prevailing standards together.”

Doctorow was inducted into the New York Writers Hall of Fame in 2012, and in 2013 received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation, and the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction in 2014.

Deb

21.7.15

Down Under

Down Under by Bill Bryson

Forget Crocodile Dundee, Castlemaine XXXX and the 2000 Sydney Olympics - Bill Bryson is the man to put Australia on the map. Bill Bryson, from New Hampshire USA, has traversed the length and breadth of Australia a few times now to bring us his first major new book since the bestselling A Walk in the Woods. What greeted Bill Bryson when he visited Australia was rather different to what he'd imagined. 

It is a country that exists on a vast scale. It is the driest, flattest, hottest, most dessicated, infertile and climatically aggressive of all the inhabited continents, and still it teems with life, a large proportion of it quite deadly! A country where even the fluffiest of caterpillars can lay one out with a toxic nip, where seashells will not just sting but GO for one! One may be fatally chomped by sharks, or crocodiles, or carried hopelessly out to sea by irresistible currents, or left to stagger to an unhappy death in the baking outback. Bill Bryson ignored such dangers, and promptly fell in love with the country! And who can blame him? The people are cheerful, the food excellent, the beer always cold, the sun nearly always shines. Life doesn't get much better than this!

If you need an antidote to being bogged down in your usual genre, then this book is it. It’s a generous, big-hearted, warm look at what ‘we who live here’ don’t really consider, let alone see. 

Aside from being an entertaining travelogue with many snippets of interesting information, there are some parts that are so side-splitting funny it’ll have you reaching for the tissues.  I think it’s more his style of writing than any incident – he’s just a born raconteur with a very dry wit; instead of alienating the Aussie reader with put-downs he twists a negative into a clever “who would’ve thought?” phrase.  It’s all very 'tongue-in-cheek' and very well done.  

His bafflement with the sport of cricket is priceless and I was punching the air with joy to find a fellow who voiced my feelings perfectly; while his bewilderment with politicians, the stolen generation, and the ‘out of sight out of mind’ attitude of most Australians gets an airing, but thankfully not too much to dampen the pleasure and fun in reading this delightful book.  

I downloaded the e-audiobook from our catalogue and it was narrated (almost) perfectly by William Roberts, so much so that you’d swear it was Bryson himself doing the reading   (the Aussie accent still proving tough to master). This book was just what the doctor ordered and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Deb. 

20.7.15

Kibble Literary Awards

The Kibble Literary Awards for Women Writers comprise two awards which are presented annually. The Kibble (currently valued at $30,000 recognises an established Australian author) has been awarded this year to Joan London for The Golden Age; and The Dobbie Literary Award (currently valued at $5,000 recognising a first published Australian author) went to Ellen van Neerven for Heat and Light.





Nita May Dobbie established the Nita B Kibble Literary Awards for Women Writers (with an emphasis on life writing) in recognition of her aunt, Nita Bernice Kibble, who raised her from birth after her mother died.  She was also the first woman to be appointed a librarian with the State Library of New South Wales and throughout her career (1919-1943) she worked hard to raise the status of the library profession.  She was a founding member of the Australian Institute of Librarians.

Miss Dobbie followed her aunt into the library profession and recognised the need to foster women's writing in the community and so established the Awards through her will.

Deb

17.7.15

National Biography Awards

Six powerful personal stories have been shortlisted for the 2015 National Biography Award.  This year Australia’s pre-eminent prize for biographical writing and memoir celebrates 20 years since it began. The shortlisted books for the $25,000 Award are:


An Unsentimental Bloke: The Life and Work of C.J. Dennis by Philip Butterss

Moving Among Strangers: Randolph Stow and My Family by Gabrielle Carey

Citizen Emperor: Napoleon in Power 1799-1815 by Philip Dwyer

To Begin to Know: Walking in the Shadows of My Father by David Leser

A Singular Vision, Harry Seidler by Helen O'Neill

The Feel-Good Hit of the Year: A Memoir by Liam Pieper

The winner will be announced on Monday 3 August at 11.00am

Deb. 


16.7.15

In the Quiet

In the Quiet by Eliza Henry Jones

Cate Carlton has died, though why or how remains a mystery for most of the novel. She leaves behind three growing children, and a husband, sister, mother, and friends, all struggling to makes sense of life without her. 

Cate narrates the story as she watches those she’s left behind on their rural horse property grapple with their intertwined lives and the heartbreak they continue to suffer. Her children – twin boys who turn 18 and a girl who turns 13 during the course of the novel – face the problems of adolescence without their mother, while their father faces their pain and his own each day. Complicating matters is a secret that only one child shared with his mother and this is teased out throughout the novel, leaving us hungrily turning the pages...

Why we love it!
While gritty and sad, In the Quiet by this wonderful new Australian author is an uplifting and heartwarming story. It’s a beautiful depiction of Australian rural life; a hymn to horses and a raw and compelling take on the challenges and realities of country life.
  
From the team at Better Reading


15.7.15

Six Degrees

Six Degrees by Honey Brown

From the cover:  Emotion, seduction and passion wind through six intricately connected stories, where strong Australian women embrace their most intimate desires, and men are more than just their suit and tie.
Apparent strangers are bound together by one tragic event, the effect of which is felt from the urban streets of Sydney to the dusty bars of Western Australia. Sexual attraction is discovered, reawakened and surrendered to in Six Degrees, written by critically acclaimed author, Honey Brown. 

As a Honey Brown fan, I was looking forward to reading this new release. What I read was not what I expected.

The usual Honey Brown psychological suspense is missing and replaced with sexual tension, sexual experiences of varying degrees, and short stories that subtly link. It consists of six short stories that link with a single event and many characters. It is not until you get to the last story that all the links between characters becomes clear. It is clever literature but personally I prefer Honey Brown’s other titles to this one.  If you want eroticism in various degrees, then this is a book for you.


~ Narelle

14.7.15

The Other Side of the World

The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop

English-born Charlotte is struggling with motherhood and trying to find time for her painting. Her Indian-born, poetry-professor husband wants things to be as they were and dreads the thought of another harsh English winter. As the distance between Charlotte and Henry grows, he grasps at the promise offered by a brochure proclaiming ‘Australia brings out the best in you’. Charlotte doesn’t want to leave her familiar home, but is too exhausted to fight, and gives in.

But their new life is not the answer either was hoping for, as Henry is increasingly isolated among his parochial university colleagues and Charlotte finds herself lost and anchorless in the Perth suburbs. What will she sacrifice to regain her feeling of ‘home’?

Why we love it!
Evocative and heartbreaking, The Other Side of the World kept us spellbound. It’s a beautifully told story of motherhood, marriage, creativity, identity, and nostalgia for place. Its vivid and gorgeous descriptions transported us from the wintry fields of Cambridge, to the intense light of a Perth summer and to the mud, dust and chaos of 1960s India.

Stephanie Bishop is a rising literary star, with critics singing her praises. In 2006 she was recognised as one of The Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian novelists, and Helen Garner has described her as ‘a striking new voice, calm and fresh.’

With its deep themes and emotionally charged ending, The Other Side of the World is a book to curl up and spend time with, and book clubs and reading groups will love it.

From the team at Better Reading

13.7.15

Delectable

Delectable by Adrianne Lee

Series: Big Sky Pie #1:  Montana real estate agent Quint McCoy will tell you that the most important thing is location, location, location. It's a lesson he learns all too well when he goes incommunicado for a four-week fishing trip to Alaska. While he's away, his mother Molly turns his office into the pie shop she has always dreamed of, Big Sky Pie. But that's not the only surprise in store for him.

On her way out of town, Callee McCoy only wants to say a fond farewell to her beloved mother-in-law. But Molly soon persuades Callee to stay and lend a hand at the new shop, even if it means heating up the kitchen with her soon-to-be ex. 
As Callee and Quint rediscover their recipe for love, they realize that some couples are so sinfully good together that one delectable taste is never enough . . .

Quint McCoy’s dad always told him “Quint, my boy, there isn’t a problem so big that a man can’t solve it with a piece of your mama’s sweet cherry pie in one hand and a fishing rod in the other.”  When Quint couldn’t cope with the death of his father, he remembered these words; and decided to run off to Alaska on an extended fishing trip. Four weeks later he returns to find his soon-to-be ex-wife, Callee, working with his mother who has begun her lifelong dream of owning a pie shop - by converting his real estate office!

Delectable is a typical romance novel, meaning you can already guess the ending.  That being said, it’s the journey that’s half the fun.  Adrianne Lee writes a quirky, funny book that has you laughing in places and cringing in others.  It’s far-fetched, unrealistic and outrageous but who doesn’t love a book where everyone lives happily ever after.

Leanne 


10.7.15

Why men don't listen and women can't read maps

I first picked up Why men don't listen & women can't read maps : how we're different and what to do about it by Allan and Barbara Pease when it was first published in 1999. I loved it then and it still is relevant 16 years later.


This look at the differences between the way men and women think is a sometimes shocking, always illuminating and frequently hilarious look at where the battle line is drawn between the sexes, why it was drawn and how to cross it. Read this book, and understand - at last! - why men never listen, why women can't read maps and why learning each other's secrets means you may never have to say sorry again.

Many secrets of how the different genders think, act and respond are revealed in this book, written by the acknowledged body language expert Allan Pease and his wife Barbara.  It is insightful, thought-provoking and absolutely hilarious.

Although it goes into depth about how the male and female brains work differently, it does so in an easy-to-understand way and the humour makes it all so easy to take on board.

Whether you read it for the information or for the laugh, you will get plenty out of Why men don't listen & women can't read maps.

~ Michelle

9.7.15

SH*T on my hands : a down and dirty companion to early parenthood

Sh*t on my hands by Bunny Banyai and Madeleine Hamilton.

You know the book will be a good read by the imagery and catchphrase that accompanies it, for example on the back cover it reads, 'Upside of being a parent: PURE LOVE. Downside: SH*T on my hands.'

I found this book in a book shop and knew it was meant for me. Being a first time mum I wanted to get all the facts without the hours upon hours of reading to get them. And of course there's the humour factor....

This brightly coloured book brings a certain quirky humour to your reading experience that gives you that entertained feeling and being educated at the same time! No wonder I was able to retain so many little facts that will no doubt come in handy as the imminent journey of parenthood approaches.

A nice little touch I found helpful was the compilation of these facts and handy tips; the information is collated by month milestones, such as "0-6 months". Even better was that you don't have to read this book from start to finish because it still makes sense even if you pick and choose what month or what chapter title you'd like to read about. That's of course if you do retain ANY information at all because this book will literally bring you into a hysterical laughing fit that may or may not be accompanied by tears.....

I was going to put a quote or two as an example but a laughing fit ensued and I had to put the book down. I couldn't choose because the whole book is brilliant and wonderful that for first, second or third time parents they would still get so much out of it. All the scary aspects suddenly don't seem so scary after all, you can manage this amazing parenthood journey AND cope with all its ups and downs, even with SH*T on your hands.....

~ Laura

8.7.15

Landline

If you got a second chance at love,
Would you make the same call?

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble- it has been in trouble for some time but Georgie doesn’t know how to fix it. She loves her husband and he her but it seems in the adult world that maybe love isn’t always enough.


Two days before they are supposed to visit family for Christmas Georgie gets pulled away for work, so her husband packs up the kids and leaves without her. Wondering if their marriage is finally over Georgie finds herself capable of communicating with her husband in the past with the help of a little old yellow phone. Can past Neal help Georgie save her marriage or will Georgie learn that her and Neal would have been better off if their marriage had never happened? A tale of love, life and all the problems that come along with it.

So I will admit I considered passing this one by simply based on the fantastical plot line, however as a major fan of Rowell’s other works I decided I would give it ago and I am glad I did. This was a funny, heartfelt contemporary read with only a slightly paranormal aspect. While the idea of being able to phone the past is a bit far-fetched, Rowell manages to make it work; the magical phone simple is and no explanation is given for it past-phoning capabilities, which works because it allows the relationship between Neal and Georgie to really shine. This relationship between these two characters is what really drives this book with dramatic clichés avoided in favour of the realistic challenges of real life relationships. The characters are both likable but frustrating; part of the appeal of Georgie is her imperfections, the blatantly bad choices she makes in her relationship, which help define her character and make her more relatable in the eyes of those of us who have been there done that.

There is also a magic to Rowell’s writing that just engrosses you in her story and characters; so much so that the words simply jump of the page. In this case the emotional journey of these characters is engaging; the exploration of one’s hopes, fears, and dreams from the perspective of an optimistic young adult through to the jaded mature adult allows for a connection to readers of all ages. This is a book about growing up, from young adult to adult, and growing old; and all those pesky problems that we all must face. Landline is a refreshing read that will make you love, cry and reflect. This is one delightfully funny and unforgettable read.


Courtney :)

7.7.15

The Other Side of the World

Evocative and heartbreaking, The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop kept us spellbound.

It’s a beautifully told story of motherhood, marriage, creativity, identity, and nostalgia for place. Its vivid and gorgeous descriptions transported us from the wintry fields of Cambridge, to the intense light of a Perth summer and to the mud, dust and chaos of 1960s India.


English-born Charlotte is struggling with motherhood and trying to find time for her painting. Her Indian-born, poetry-professor husband wants things to be as they were and dreads the thought of another harsh English winter. As the distance between Charlotte and Henry grows, he grasps at the promise offered by a brochure proclaiming ‘Australia brings out the best in you’. Charlotte doesn’t want to leave her familiar home, but is too exhausted to fight, and gives in.

But their new life is not the answer either was hoping for, as Henry is increasingly isolated among his parochial university colleagues and Charlotte finds herself lost and anchorless in the Perth suburbs. What will she sacrifice to regain her feeling of ‘home’?

Stephanie Bishop is a rising literary star, with critics singing her praises. In 2006 she was recognised as one of The Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian novelists, and Helen Garner has described her as ‘a striking new voice, calm and fresh.’

Geordie Williamson, The Australian’s Chief Literary Critic, says ‘the story of Charlotte and Henry – the melancholy beauty of its prose and the sharpness of its insights into nostalgia and belonging – has stayed with me for weeks now.’

With its deep themes and emotionally charged ending, The Other Side of the World is a book to curl up and spend time with, and book clubs and reading groups will love it.

~ From the team at Better Reading

6.7.15

The Last Precinct

The Last Precinct  by Patricia Cornwell



Thwarting an attack by a suspected serial killer puts Virginia’s Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta in the harsh glare of the spotlight. As her personal and professional lives come under suspicion, she discovers that the so-called Werewolf murders may have extended to New York City and into the darkest corners of her past. A formidable prosecutor, a female assistant district attorney from New York, is brought into the case, and Scarpetta must struggle to make what she knows to be the truth prevail against mounting and unnerving evidence to the contrary. Tested in every way, she turns inward to ask, where do you go when there is nowhere left?

Sometimes you can be lucky to stumble across a book that you didn’t know was part of a series, and it stands alone as a good read.  This unfortunately was not the case - this is book 11 in the Kay Scarpetta series.  It is very much a link in the series with frequent and unexplained references to past storylines and characters and if you haven’t read them, you have no idea of what it is all about.  

That aside, the Scarpetta series is gritty crime with a twist of intelligence and although at times brutal and confronting, the stories are put together well.  

We have this title in all formats – I chose the audio and once again, narrator Lorelei King delivers an expert job with the many accents, particularly the male New York/Italian Detective, Marino.  Her voice portrait has him pictured as real and large as life right before your very eyes! 

Deb

3.7.15

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

2.7.15

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.

~Narelle

1.7.15

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 :)

30.6.15

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!

Deb

26.6.15

Jilted

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.

Janine

25.6.15

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.

Fay

24.6.15

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:








Deb

23.6.15

Hush

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


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