The Perfumer's Secret is Fiona McIntosh's seventh historical tale of romance. Set in the Provence region of France during World War 1, it's a story of The Perfumer's Secret is Fiona McIntosh's seventh historical tale of romance. Set in the Provence region of France during World War 1, it's a story of duty, secrets, love, family and perfume.
Dramatic and romantic, the plot of The Perfumer's Secret centers around Fleurette Delacroix. To secure the futures of Grasse's eminent perfumery dynasties, Fleurette is forced to wed Aimery De Lasset by her eldest brother, Henri. Though resigned to her fate, it's a relief when war is declared before the marriage is consummated and De Lasset rides off to join the French troops marching against the invasion of Germany. With the men, including Fleurette's brother away at war, it is left to her to ensure that both family business continue to flourish, a challenge she is more than capable of, for Fleurette has 'the nose', a rare ability to distinguish over 3000 scents. But when Fleurette's husband's estranged brother, Sebastien De Lasset, appears in Grasse, he carries a secret that could destroy everything both families have built, and break Fleurette's heart.
Fleurette is a lovely character, from the first pages she demonstrates spirit, courage and patience, and continues to mature over the course of the novel. Given the era she has few options when Henri insists she marries Aimery, but she doesn't let it dampen her hopes that she will find a place in the family business, and she copes admirably with the scandal and tragedy that befalls her. Aimery is an uncomplicated villain, arrogant, boorish and misogynistic, while Sebastien is a traditional heroic character. The romance that develops between Fleurette and Sebastien is easy to root for.
McIntosh's deftly weaves historical fact into her fiction. The story is meticulously researched, in terms of location, period and the specifics of the perfumery industry. McIntosh describes the study she undertook in the back of the book, spending time in Grasse, interviewing perfumers, visiting museums, and creating a signature scent. I don't wear perfume (my husband is allergic) but I still found learning about its production and scents interesting.
An easy, engaging and pleasant read, The Perfumer's Secret is a grand historical love story ideal for francophiles and romantics. ...more
Prick With a Fork is a funny, lighthearted expose of the food industry from the point of view of a disenchanted waitress turned restaurant critic.
Fro Prick With a Fork is a funny, lighthearted expose of the food industry from the point of view of a disenchanted waitress turned restaurant critic.
From almost killing a stripper with a wayward steak knife to staging go slow's to frustrate obnoxious customers, Larissa Dubecki claims she was the world's worst waitress, unashamedly sullen, insolent, disinterested, and often hungover, yet she spent over a decade waitering in everything from cyber cafe's to gastro pubs throughout Melbourne.
In Prick with a Fork, Dubecki details working with psychopathic chefs, hostile customers, drug addled colleagues and bartenders on the take and reveals insider secrets about illicit trysts in coolrooms, cash hidden under registers, and unpleasant uses for carrots. Her anecdotes are hilarious, though often slightly nauseating, you may never be able look your waiter in the eye again.
Salted with confessions and peppered with pathos, Prick with a Fork is a light and entertaining read. ...more
Swimming Home is the sixth novel by Mary-Rose MacColl, her previous book In Falling Snow was a favourite read of mine in 2012.
Exploring the themes of Swimming Home is the sixth novel by Mary-Rose MacColl, her previous book In Falling Snow was a favourite read of mine in 2012.
Exploring the themes of family, belonging, regret, and redemption, Swimming Home is a gracious and engaging novel.
When fifteen year old Catherine is orphaned, her aunt, Dr Louisa Quick, insists she abandons her idyllic island home in the Torres Strait and move with her to London. An independent and busy surgeon, Louisa is determined to provide her niece with the opportunity to become a well educated and successful young lady, but Catherine is miserable in her exclusive day school, missing the warmth of her Islander family, and the ocean. It's not until Catherine swims the width of the Thames on a dare and Louisa is approached by the enigmatic banker Manfred Lear Black, that she reconsiders her plans for her niece.
As a doctor, Louisa is intelligent and confident, but she struggles to relate to her niece and, uncomfortable with emotion, she makes some poor decisions when it comes to seeing to Catherine's well being. Though there is no malice intended, Louisa's actions have far reaching consequences and she suffers a crisis of conscience as the novel progresses. Louisa is not a particularly likeable character at times but I think MacColl portrays her well, and I was sympathetic to her flaws.
Catherine is resigned to her new life in London and wants to please her aunt, but she is lonely and homesick. Having spent almost everyday of her life swimming in the ocean, she jumps at the chance to swim to under Manfred Lear Black's patronage in New York. I felt for Catherine, whose loving and idyllic childhood came to such an abrupt end. She is remarkably stoic, but her longing is palpable and she obviously feels out of place, London contrasts sharply with her island home, as does the New York 'tanks' to her beloved ocean.
There are two subtle threads of mystery that run through the story, and a few surprises in the plot though Swimming Home progresses at a measured pace. What action there is stems largely from the Black's determination that Catherine will be the first woman to swim the breadth of the English Channel. MacColl weaves fiction with fact as she writes of Catherine's competitors, including Gertrude Ederle who was the first woman to swim the channel in 1926 and I enjoyed learning something about the birth of competitive swimming for women.
Set in an interesting period, with complex characters and a thoughtful story, Swimming Home is a finely written, poignant and pensive, but ultimately uplifting novel.
I generally choose not to rate memoirs for several reasons (but if I did, I'd give this 5 stars). Laugh out loud funny, poignant and a little crazy, re I generally choose not to rate memoirs for several reasons (but if I did, I'd give this 5 stars). Laugh out loud funny, poignant and a little crazy, read this and make yourself #FuriouslyHappy ...more
As a fan of The Big Bang Theory I couldn't pass up the chance to learn more about the endearing actor who plays Raj Koothrappali, actor Kunal Nayyar. As a fan of The Big Bang Theory I couldn't pass up the chance to learn more about the endearing actor who plays Raj Koothrappali, actor Kunal Nayyar.
Yes, My Accent is Real: and Some Other Things I Haven't Told You is a collection of stories and anecdotes from his life.
It begins with stories from his childhood in India spent dreaming of kissing Winnie from 'The Wonder Years' and playing badminton like a champ, before moving on to his time at college in the US, his interest in acting and landing the role of Raj on the The Big Bang Theory.
Kunar also writes about his family, especially his admiration for his father, his joy at marrying his wife, and his enjoyment and respect for the cultural traditions of his country. I was a little disappointed there wasn't more about his daily life as part of The Big Bang Theory cast though.
Kunal proves to be a sweet, genuine and self deprecating storyteller. Yes, My Accent is Real is a charming, funny and easy read.
The third and final installment in the Call of the Forgotten Trilogy, The Iron Warrior reveals not only Ethan's fate (after the cliffhanger ending in The third and final installment in the Call of the Forgotten Trilogy, The Iron Warrior reveals not only Ethan's fate (after the cliffhanger ending in the The Iron TraitorIron Traitor), but also the fate of NeverNever as it is called to war.
Drama and action abound as the Iron Prince (the errant son of Meghan and Ash) declares war against the Fae as the champion of The Forgotten, threatening not only to tear apart the NeverNever but also the human world. Ethan, with the help of Kenzie and many of the Iron Fey series beloved characters including Puck and Grimalkin, is determined not only to save faery but also his nephew. The quest sees our heroes travel through perilous regions of the Nevernever, the Between and the Dark Wyld, culminating is a heart-stopping showdown.
Though I have to confess I felt the overall resolution of this specific trilogy plot was a bit lacklustre, The Iron Warrior is a satisfying ending to the Iron Fey series and I'm looking forward to Kagawa's next work. ...more
"Men like him, they loved women. They understood the kid of life that suited women best. They knew what women really wanted. Proper women didn't want "Men like him, they loved women. They understood the kid of life that suited women best. They knew what women really wanted. Proper women didn't want to be out there in the world, having to shout the odds all the time. They wanted to build homes, take care of families, make their mark and exercise their power inside the home. Being women, not fake men."
Val McDermid's ninth novel, Splinter the Silence, reunites the formidable team of Carol Jordan and Tony Hill in the hunt for a stalker determined to teach feminists a lesson.
In the aftermath of the tumultuous events in The Retribution and Cross and Burn Carol Jordan has buried herself in rural Bradfield, spending her retirement renovating her late brother's property and drinking far too much. When she finds herself arrested for DUI there is only one person she can ask for help, Tony Hill, who is determined to dry her out. In order to distract Carol from her demons, Tony raises his concerns about the recent suicides of two women who had been the victims of a barrage of online vitriolic and threats. What begins as an abstract exercise quickly develops into a legitimate case and when Jordan is offered the opportunity to come out of retirement to set up a 'flying' major case unit, she can't resist. Calling on former colleagues including DS Paula McIntyre, computer whiz Stacey Chen and of course, profiler Tony Hill to join ReMIT, Carol and her new team dig deeper, identifying a cunning serial killer.
Splinter the Silence is evenly split between developing character and the investigative plot.
It's been a tough year or so for Carol in particular, who has faced several professional and personal challenges. Despite choosing to retire, it's obvious that left to her own devices she is spiralling downward, and she needs help to get it together.
Also very much in focus is the complicated relationship between Carol and Tony,
"She didn't think there actually was a word for the complicated matrix of feelings that bound her to Tony and him to her. With anyone else, so much intimacy would inevitably have led them to bed. But in spite of the chemistry between them, in spite of the sparks and the intensity, it was as if there was an electrical fence between them. And that was on the good days."
Readers familiar with the series will also appreciate catching up with Paula, Stacey, Ambrose and the introduction of new team members.
The investigation highlights a topical subject - that of the extreme cyber-harassment too often visited on women via social media. The ReMIT team tracks down some of the worst offenders who have hurled vile abuse and threats of violence at the victims in an effort to identify in what manner they may have contributed to their deaths as they try to formulate a case.
As their inquiry coalesces, McDermid gives the killer his own narrative to illuminate his motives and methods. While I think this reduces the tension somewhat, it does lend the mystery an interesting cat-and-mouse quality as the police team closes in.
Splinter in Silence is a well crafted tale from award winning McDermid. A strong addition to a popular series that fans should enjoy as I did, it's not one for a new reader to start with though. I'm looking forward to further developments in the series.
"Everyone is waiting for us in Charleston, South Carolina. That's a long way. We're going to drive there. Isn't that fun? Isn't that crazy? Mom thinks "Everyone is waiting for us in Charleston, South Carolina. That's a long way. We're going to drive there. Isn't that fun? Isn't that crazy? Mom thinks I'm crazy for doing this. I'm starting to think I'm crazy for doing this, and we haven't even pulled out of the driveway. Isn't that crazy? Yes, sir, it sure is. Yes, sir."
John Nichols is driving cross country with his son Ethan to attend his eldest daughter's wedding. He once dreamed of taking aimlessly to the open road, but this trip requires factoring in Ethan's restlessness, frequent meltdowns, bathroom breaks and stops for pickles at Cracker Barrel. Born with an extra chromosome resulting in global cognitive delays, Ethan is essentially a nineteen year old toddler and though John fiercely loves his son, he is exhausted by the demands of caring for him.
Little of John's life has turned out as he expected, at 57 he is an ex-basketballer player, ex-author, ex-philanderer, ex-husband, ex-high-school English teacher' but now John has an 'Overall Plan'. Phase I is getting to the wedding on time, Phase II will be a little more complicated.
Jim Kokoris' fourth novel, It's. Nice. Outside. is a funny, honest and moving novel about family, love, regret, joy, doubt and hope.
The trip is fraught with emotion, reflection and re-evaluation, beset by crisis when Karen's wedding is cancelled, contention when youngest daughter Mindy joins them, and chaos when John finally reveals his Overall Plan to his ex-wife. John is convinced he is doing the right thing for his son, for his family and as he admits, for himself, but letting go maybe the thing that tears them all apart.
"I kept thinking that if we stuck together, we would eventually get to where everything was going to be fine. That we were going to make it, all of us. We were going to arrive someplace together and be fine.... A happy ending"
I laughed loudly at Stinky Bear ("a sassy, horny little teddy bear, full of insightful and often...outrageous comments about life, love, and the state of the civilisation." and was moved by John's frustrations and angst. Primarily though I felt compassion for the family's very real struggle to determine what is best for Ethan.
Kokoris's dialogue is sharp and snappy and the interactions between the various characters ring true. The author's sense of comedic timing is impeccable, clever and hilarious, though also often dark and acerbic. Well crafted, the pace of the story is great and events unfold naturally.
I was really impressed by It's.Nice.Outside. for Kokoris's wit and candor and the insight into a complicated family dynamic.
Little Girl Gone (also published as Remembering Mia) is a tense psychological thriller from debut author Alexandra Burt.
When Estelle *unfinished draft*
Little Girl Gone (also published as Remembering Mia) is a tense psychological thriller from debut author Alexandra Burt.
When Estelle Paradise emerges from a medically induced coma in the County Hospital with amnesia, she can't explain why she drove into a ravine three hours from home, how she sustained a gunshot wound to her head, or what has happened to her missing baby daughter, Mia. Committed to a psychiatric hospital, Estelle is desperate to unravel the mystery of Mia's disappearance, even if, as the police suspect, she is the one responsible.
Told in the first person, it becomes clear as Estelle trawls her memories for clues, that she has been suffering from undiagnosed severe post partum depression since Mia's birth. Burt adeptly portrays Estelle's increasingly disorganised thinking as she struggles to care for her colicky baby with little support from her husband. It is entirely plausible that Estelle could be the very monster she fears, but as Estelle begins to make sense of her fragmented memories the story twists and turns, and slowly Burt unravels a disturbing tale of
While I was caught up in Estelle's tragedy and turned the pages eagerly, I did think the story was a little overwritten. The middle of the novel drags and the drawn out ending is irritating....more
Preschooled is a funny, light and sardonic debut novel from Anna Lefler.
Thrilled when her daughter gains a place at the exclusive Garden of Happiness Preschooled is a funny, light and sardonic debut novel from Anna Lefler.
Thrilled when her daughter gains a place at the exclusive Garden of Happiness preschool in Santa Monica, Justine is eager to impress the center's demanding owner, Margaret, but is thrown when she runs into the man who once shattered her heart.
Margaret expects nothing less than slavish obedience from the parents who pay handsomely for privilege of a preschool education at The Garden of Happiness. Margaret is always in control, but when her soon-to-be-ex-husband betrays her by threatening to take away everything she has built, her tantrum will rival any recalcitrant toddler's.
Ruben's wife has gone back to work so he can work on developing a television script while looking after their twins, but he's struggling until he finds inspiration among the committee mothers of the Garden of Happiness.
As the narrative alternates between Lefler's three main protagonists it gently mocks the absurdities of preschool admission competition and privileged pretension, while also lightheartedly addressing more universal issues such as parenting, marriage strife and work/life balance.
Preschooled is a quick and entertaining read that doesn't take itself too seriously, and won't expect you to either....more
Is This My Beautiful Life? is the memoir of Jessica Rowe, best known as an Australian television news presenter, and ambassador for the organisation b Is This My Beautiful Life? is the memoir of Jessica Rowe, best known as an Australian television news presenter, and ambassador for the organisation beyondblue.
Jessica Rowe writes candidly about her unsettled childhood as a result of her mother's bipolar disorder, her legal battle with network Ten, the hurtful criticism leveled at her by the public and media, the loss of her job at Channel Nine, and her struggle to conceive via IVF. But it is her battle with post natal depression after the birth of her first child with 60 minutes journalist Peter Overton, that is the focus of this memoir.
Challenged by breastfeeding, uncertain about her instincts as a mother, and exhausted by the demands of a newborn, Jessica found herself overwhelmed. She is honest and open about being unable to admit to her increasing distress. She writes of her fears of developing a mental illness like her mother, of her feelings of failure, and her reluctance to reach out for help, despite the support of her husband and family.
Offering encouragement, sympathy and comfort to women who may find themselves struggling with 'having it all', Is This My Beautiful Life? is an open and touching read, addressing an important subject that affects around 1 in 7 Australian women.
"When you're ass deep in lemons, you start looking for a shovel, not a pitcher and a cup of sugar."
Thirty year old Mattie Wallace is homeless, jobless "When you're ass deep in lemons, you start looking for a shovel, not a pitcher and a cup of sugar."
Thirty year old Mattie Wallace is homeless, jobless and pregnant, so an inheritance from the grandmother she never met is an unexpected life line. With her worldly belongings crammed into six plastic trash bags, Mattie drives from the Florida panhandle where she grew up with her alcoholic single mother, to small town Gandy, Oklahoma. Stranded in town when her 1978 Chevy Malibu gives out, Mattie settles into her grandmothers house while waiting for probate to clear, and curious, begins to ask questions about her mother the locals are reluctant to answer. Determined to learn why her mother fled her comfortable life, Mattie sets out to solve the mystery of her mother's past, and perhaps forge a new path for herself.
The Art of Crash Landing by debut author Melissa DeCarlo is a hilarious, audacious and surprisingly poignant story about loss, regret, secrets and forgiveness.
"I have ninja skills when it comes to screwing things up. It's like a superpower only lamer."
Mattie is a bold character; snarky, foul mouthed and irresponsible, her former stepfather, whom she affectionately calls Queeg (as in Captain Queeg from The Caine Mutiny), compares her to a natural disaster. She has a history of dating deadbeats, drinking too much, and doing the wrong thing. Damaged by her difficult childhood, Mattie knows she is a mess, but feels destined to repeat her mother's mistakes. I loved her irreverent attitude, and snarky wit, she is smarter than she gives herself credit for, and I really enjoyed the growth of character over the course of the novel. Solving the mystery of her mothers childhood is what lets Mattie reconcile with her past and begin to change the course of her future.
"I don't know what she's thinking, but I'm thinking about how fluid the border is between crazy and interesting, and hard it is to decide who belongs where."
Mattie is both helped, and hindered, by a cast of several quirky characters. Queeg, Mattie's stepfather who remains in Florida, is the most endearing. Then there is Luke, the paraplegic lawyer; Tawny, the teenage wannabe bad ass; Mattie's mothers former best friend Karleen, librarian 'Aunt' Fritter, JJ and the doggie Winstons.
"We are all more than the worst thing we have done"
I laughed often, entertained by the witty banter, eccentric characters and occasionally absurd situations in The Art of Crash Landing, but I was also intrigued by the mystery surrounding Mattie's mother's past, and touched by Mattie's struggle to escape her mother's shadow.
"Sometimes well begun never has a chance to finish, and every once in a while, a bad beginning turns out okay."
DeCarlo's style is similar to that of Cathy Lamb, an author I adore, and I'm looking forward to more from her. The Art of Crash Landing is a great read I'm happy to recommend....more
As the wife of a police officer, Jamie Anderson uncomfortably lives with the risk that Mike may be hurt or killed while performing his duty and isn't As the wife of a police officer, Jamie Anderson uncomfortably lives with the risk that Mike may be hurt or killed while performing his duty and isn't sure how to best comfort her husband after his partner, and best friend, is shot and badly wounded. Just a few short weeks later Mike, stoic but still obviously distressed, is paired with a new hire, and finds himself in a situation that results in him shooting and killing a gun-wielding teenage boy. When the boy's weapon is not found at the scene, Mike's mental fitness given recent events is questioned, leading to an indictment for manslaughter, and sending Jamie into a panic as her cherished family unravels under the strain.
Pekkanen begins with a strong and provocative premise in The Things You Won't Say, exploring the personal consequences for Jamie and her family in the wake of the shootings. In particular she focuses on the breakdown of communication between Jamie and Mike, both of whom are under enormous stress, and afraid to open up to one another about their fears for the future.
I felt badly for both Jamie and Mike who are quickly overwhelmed by circumstances that can't control, and I was sympathetic to the issues that arose between them. I think the author captured the high emotions involved in the situation, however I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of nuanced characterisation, Jamie is hysterical much of the time, while Mike is withdrawn.
I also thought the core of the story was weakened by the addition of the perspectives of Christie, Mike's self absorbed ex girlfriend, and mother to their son Henry; and Lou, Jamie's younger sister, a zookeeper. While I liked both characters, who are very different, they are merely distractions, offering little support to the main plot.
Things You Can't Say isn't a bad read, but I felt it never really lived up to its potential. For me it lacked depth and focus.
The Enchanted Island is Ellie O'Neill's captivating second novel about self discovery, modern day malaise, and magic.
When apprentice solictor Maeve O' The Enchanted Island is Ellie O'Neill's captivating second novel about self discovery, modern day malaise, and magic.
When apprentice solictor Maeve O'Brien is sent to Hy Brasil, a tiny island off the coast of Ireland, to finalise a deal for a client, she's determined to prove herself. Sure, she has made some mistakes, betraying her best friend and burying herself in debt among them, but she's confident that this assignment will help her turn things around. All Maeve needs is a signature from Sean Fitzpatrick, so that the client's plans to build a bridge between the mainland and the island can go ahead, but the landowner proves to be elusive, and most of the locals uniformly unhelpful.
Stuck on Hy Brasil, determined to complete her mission, Maeve is initially panicked at the thought of being on her own, but without the distractions of retail therapy and her busy city social life, she begins to reevaluate what she is looking for in life. O'Brien pokes fun at our modern day obsession with packaged beauty, social media and consumerism. I really liked the way in which Maeve changes through the novel, letting go of her shallow obsessions, and becoming a more confident, authentic person.
And while many of the locals, especially the elderly are distinctly unfriendly, Maeve makes some new friends including two stoner app developers, a charming gay couple and the handsome local schoolteacher, Killian. It's not until she finally corners Sean Fitzpatrick though that she learns the secrets of Hy Brasil.
As in Reluctantly Charmed, O'Neill draws on the folklore of Ireland to add a touch of mysticism to this contemporary novel. Hy Brasil is an island of great, almost unspoiled, beauty, rumoured to offer you your heart's desire, but there is an underlying atmosphere of menace that makes Maeve uneasy. The locals are secretive, bone chilling cries rent the night air, and a dark sort of energy seems to lurk unseen.
With an appealing mix of humour, intrigue and romance, this is an entertaining read. Well written, The Enchanted Island is an enchanting novel....more
The Waiting Room is the debut fiction novel from Leah Kaminsky, a physician and best selling non fiction author.
Dina is a family doctor living in cont The Waiting Room is the debut fiction novel from Leah Kaminsky, a physician and best selling non fiction author.
Dina is a family doctor living in contemporary Israel with her husband and young son. Haifa is a world away from the Melbourne suburbs where Dina grew up, the only daughter of holocaust survivors. Eight months pregnant with her second child, Dina is exhausted and increasingly anxious. Her marriage is strained, she is tired of her patients needs, and she is terrified by an escalated terrorist threat in the city.
As Dina struggles to simply get through a single day, overwhelmed by traffic, a broken heel, demanding patients, and a promise to procure apples for her son, her behaviour becomes increasingly irrational. She finds no comfort in the casual assurances of her husband, nor the ghostly opinion of her long dead mother, who berates, cajoles and nags her daughter for her failings.
The sentiment of The Waiting Room is haunting and moving, relieved only by a rare glimpse of dark humour. The prose and dialogue is sharp and articulate. The pace builds until Dina's day reaches an explosive conclusion.
The Waiting Room is a short but powerful novel about survival, terror, love and death.